Damh the Bard is a pretty amazing guy. Aside from holding an important post within the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids, Damh is the host of Druidcast, the most consistent and intellectually stimulating Pagan podcast I know of. As if that weren’t enough, Damh the Bard is one of the foremost Pagan musicians of recent years. His music reflects his love for myth, the spiritual power of his native Britain, and beautifully honest homage for the gods of nature. A good dose of Damh’s music will enhance the spirituality of any Pagan household, regardless of its Pagan tradition.
Last month, Damh released his newest album, Antlered Crown and Standing Stone. More than any of his other work, this album is devotional. Playing it feels more like an act of worship than of passive listening, and each song expresses an inspirational spiritual love for the gods and the land and the mythologies that bind us all together.
The title track may well be the most impassioned love song to the Horned God that anyone has released yet. While Damh has released many pieces that honor various incarnations of the Green Man/Cernunnos/Herne/Horned God (check out his wonderful Green and Grey), this one really comes from a place of pure love. It is a heartfelt hymn to nature, life, and the God’s walk with us through this life:
I am lover, I am father,
I am Horned God and King,
I’m the life in all of Nature,
That is reborn every Spring,
Call of stag and cry of eagle,
I am Child of Barleycorn,
And I am the Antlered Crown and Standing Stone!
Under a Beltane Sun is an unexpected tune for our most rollicking Sabbat. Instead of going with the obvious high energy, sexual themes, Damh opts for a poetic homage to the opening beauty of nature that bursts forth every May. The music is melodic and peaceful, once again emphasizing awe and worship of the cycles of life and the inspiration available in every small piece of the natural world.
Then, the album takes a turn toward the artist’s true love for his homeland. Brighid honors the three aspects of the Celtic healing and forge goddess. Branwen’s Lament is a love letter between Branwen and her brother Bran after the god has sacrificed himself to save his beloved sister. This song does not merely retell the myth. In fact, it doesn’t retell anything. Instead, it focuses on the power inherent in the familial bond between the divine siblings as Bran sacrifices his life and kingship to save his sister disgrace:
Sister I heard you calling to me,
O’er the Irish sea,
I brought a war to those foreign shores,
For to set you free,
Now I feel I’m dying poison in my veins,
But for you my dear Sister I’d do it again.
Sons and Daughters (of Robin Hood) continues the themes on impassioned love for Damh’s land and his people. This may be his most overtly political song. It pointedly accuses Great Britain’s politicians of being power hungry, corrupt, and really not very different from each other despite party affiliations (sound familiar in this election year, fellow Americans?). Yet, the chorus calls the people of Britain to action, reminding them of their ancestral connection to the world’s most beloved outlaw. This is an understated call for revolution, and Parliament appears to be the modern version of the Sherriff of Nottingham.
Other songs of note include The January Man, in which Damh follows one man through the course of a year, creating his own mythology of the land as it cycles through a turn of the Wheel. The Dreaming changes gears a bit, altering the focus to Australia, a land where Damh has travelled as a musician many times. In The Dreaming, Damh honors the local Land, Sea, and Sky of the Land Down Under.
Here where the land still is king,
Beneath red sand the Ancestors are dreaming,
And a Mother knows which song will be sung,
When a new life has begun.
A serpent made a path across the land,
Formed the rivers and mountains where they stand,
These songs are in the kookaburra’s call,
But she’s laughing at us all.
And the Southern Cross shines down on where I stand,
And I hear the voices from the Singing Land.
Finally, Damh turns back to the core of his Druid roots with the powerful Cerridwen and Taliesin. The trials and transformation of Taliesin are familiar to any regular listener to Damh’s podcast and anyone who has some background in Celtic mythology, but this song takes a different perspective on a familiar myth. The core of the myth, the archetypal chase of Gwion by the angry mother Cerridwen, is only one section of this retelling.
The song actually begins with a description of Cerridwen’s suffering at the ugliness of her own son, and the desperate lengths she is willing to go to in order to give him some form of solace for his suffering. So this time, when Gwion licks his thumb and absorbs the Awen that was brewed out of love for her son; we feel her pain, anger and suffering. When we finally get to the chase, a part of us roots for Cerridwen as she promises to transform into whatever it takes to “tear you from your skin.” This version of the myth portrays Cerridwen more as a grieving mother than a fearsome hag.
Damh the Bard never fails to come out with new, fresh, excellent Pagan music. Antlered Crown and Standing Stone is Damh’s version of pure devotion, offering passionate reverence to the spiritual forces within the Earth, within the gods, and within each of us. If you are looking for the perfect Yuletide gift for a Pagan on your list, I highly recommend this beautiful new album.
Incidentally, Damh the Bard is in the process of trying to organize a Pagan music concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Royal Albert is the Carnegie Hall of the UK, one of the most prestigious venues in the world. A Pagan concert there would represent an incredible new step for alternative spirituality. If you’d like to support Damh in this effort, check out his webpage and Like the project on Facebook.