TWH — The goddess Brigid is not a jealous goddess – at least the Irish/Celtic goddess of poetry, healing and smith craft is not such a deity on Land and Legend, the latest album by the Australian band Spiral Dance. “I know Brigid’s walking with me when the wild flowers have come,” the Australian-born Adrienne Piggott sings on “Goddess of the Southern Land.” The lyrics continue with “and the wattle flowers into life the color of the sun. In misty mountain bush land the smell of eucalyptus after rain and bark fall signal that it’s time to celebrate Beltane.”
As the croaking drone of a didgeridoo and gentle djembe and guitar open the song which opens the CD, Piggott unveils a confession: despite remaining rooted to her ancestors in the British Isles and to Brigid, she is on a vision quest to discover and connect to a new goddess: the “rainbow serpent mother protector of the land” where Piggott lives in the Mount Lofty Ranges near Adelaide Hills in South Australia. The tone of Spiral Dance’s aptly-titled, mesmerizing ninth album is set from the start: connecting, or staying connected, to land and legend in the midst of an increasingly mobile global culture, in an age when a modern-day shaman’s dance is a mundane reality for so many humans who literally walk — or jet — between two worlds. It’s a topic of deep import for Pagans, polytheists and members of earth-based religions, especially those in the United States.
TWH — On the song “Descent to the Realm of the Dead” by the duo Nemuer, singer-guitarist Michael Zann chants and growls, “Ušellâ mītūti ikkalū balṭūti,” but only a handful of scholars in the entire world will know, without looking at the liner notes of the band’s new album Gardens of Babylon, that Zann is singing, “I will raise up the dead so that they devour the living.”
That’s because the Czech-born Zann isn’t singing in his native tongue, some other Slavic language or Klingon. Rather, he’s singing in Akkadian, the extinct language that was all the rage in Mesopotamia from 3000 B.C.E. to 1000 B.C.E.
Evocations of flesh-eating, netherworld denizens aside, Nemuer (pronounced Ne-moo-er) isn’t some black metal band. Instead, Zann and his mate Katarina Pomorska call themselves “an atmospheric dark folk duo.” Their bio proclaims that “in order to keep the atmosphere utterly immersive, they use solely authentic dead languages or lyric-less primordial chanting.”
Zann’s co-writer for “Descent to the Realm of the Dead” was some anonymous, ancient Babylonian scribe who carved the tale of the goddess Ishtar and her descent to the netherworld onto a clay tablet some three millennia ago. That song and the rest of Gardens of Babylon are certainly atmospheric and dark, but it’s the darkness of shadows and sorrow, of dread and the Dark Side of the Moon rather than something overtly sinister or evil – even if the band did use the term “Lovecraftian atmosphere” to describe some of their earlier work. Cross-breed the sound textures of that Pink Floyd classic with the mythopoeic world music ensemble Dead Can Dance, then mix in the story of how Ishtar, the ancient Mesopotamian goddess of love, sex, fertility and war, ventured into the netherworld, and you have an idea of Gardens of Babylon.
SANTE FE, N.M. — When Wendy Rule led a full moon ritual on Jan. 1 at her home in Santa Fe, some 1,200 people took part as the Australian-born Witch tapped her snake-emblazoned frame drum to invoke the spirits of air, fire, water, and earth. But those 1,200 ritual participants didn’t have to crowd into or around the 1930s adobe home that Rule shares with her husband, Timothy Van Diest, below the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Instead, Rule said, her fellow ritualists were participating through their “crystal balls.”
Those ritualists watched as Rule, a musician who proudly identifies herself as both Witch and Pagan, picked up her guitar and performed her gentle ballad “My Sister the Moon.” Then, over the next hour, Rule continued to weave music, myth, meditation, magic and magical affirmations before closing the sacred circle by expressing gratitude to the Goddess, “moonlight, sunlight, the light within us” and . .
TWH — When Pagan musician Mama Gina landed in a St. Louis hospital while touring in the summer of 2016, doctors told her they had to amputate one of her toes due to complications from her diabetes. But the singer-guitarist knew the real cause: ’Twas the dragon! “This crazy song came out of me in August 2015 and it actually took several months to write,” Mama Gina said by phone from her home in Tampa. “This story was circulating in my brain about this bard who has a curse on her that nobody can remember her name – which totally sucks if you’re a bard.
TWH – Now that the season has turned and we are nearing the end of the 2017, we look back, one last time, to review this historic year. What happened? What didn’t happen? What events shaped our thoughts and guided our actions? In our collective worlds, both big and small, what were the major discussions?