Hello, and welcome to the Folklore & Fiction newsletter. In this edition, I'll be introducing you to folklore genres with help from scholars Alan Dundes and others, discussing how the concept of genre can be both helpful and problematic, detailing a few ways to classify genres, and showing you how to use this information as a writer.
What is folklore?
In 1846, British writer William Thoms coined the word "folk-lore" in a letter written under the pseudonym Ambrose Merton to a literary magazine called The Athenaeum. Thoms contributed little else to folkloristics, but because he gave the discipline its name, we remember him for it. Indeed, he would not have had it any other way. Alan Dundes writes that among other self-congratulatory gestures, he was given...more
Welcome to Folklore & Fiction, the Internet home of scholar and author Ceallaigh S. MacCath-Moran | C.S. MacCath. I'm a PhD student of Folklore at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the author of two collections of short fiction and poetry. Folklore & Fiction replaces the old C.S. MacCath website but contains all of the original content thanks to the phenomenal web development skills of my beloved husband and business partner, Sean, who built and themed what you see here.
Some things to know:
First and foremost, the Folklore & Fiction newsletter will launch tomorrow with "An Introduction to Folklore Genres." The focus of this newsletter is folkloric scholarship for writers, and it will be published on the first Folklore Thursday (#FolkloreThursday) of the month except in June and December, when I'll send subscribers an update on my publishing activities. These updates will go out on the summer and winter solstices. ...more
Editor Rhonda Parrish has announced the title of the next instalment of the ALPHABET ANTHOLOGIES series, which will be F IS FOR FAIRY. I've known about this for some months and have already started work on my own contribution, which will be set in the north of Iceland in the year 1625. Here's the link to Rhonda's announcement.
E IS FOR EVIL had a book birthday today! This instalment of the ALPHABET ANTHOLOGIES series contains my story "H is for Hindsight/He Who Steals the Sun Shall Bear its Gravity." Here's the first paragraph:
If Katus watched the sun set, a red stain slipping over the rocky lunar plain of the dome, if he stood transfixed like a tourist by its white companion shining in the distance, he might ignore the way people were staring. An artificial breeze lifted the perfume of the flower garden below. He leaned over the parapet and breathed it in. A small, pure memory for a mind unworthy of it. Somewhere in the outskirts of the Capèmont binary system, the Sun Thief was besieging the most formidable military in known space with all the patience of an...more
This semester I opted to complete a pedagogical project for my Music 7007: Race Gender and Class course in lieu of writing a traditional term paper. This project required me to prepare a graduate-level lecture and teach it to a group of classical musicians. I'll teach that class on Tuesday, and it will be my first time teaching Master's-level students, which is exciting for me. My topic will be the Norwegian metal scene in the 199os, how it shaped European metal thereafter, and the ways Northern European symbols like Thor's Hammer and the Elder Futhark have been used in metal music.
I won't be able to upload the materials for that class to Academia.edu, since the platform doesn't really support the sharing of pedagogical materials. So I'm uploading them here. Please feel...more
I will bloom in the autumn,
When the sun is fat and golden,
And the night is not quite cool.
My petals will uncurl
On a too-warm evening
Still clinging to daylight.
My perfume will be heady;
Crushed juniper needles,
Home-bottled rose hip syrup,
Wind over canyon stone,
And that blossom, full and redolent,
May yet become fruit.
Watch for a late harvest, easy to gather
From a hardy, thornless vine
On the last cold days before the frost.
- C.S. MacCath
This semester, I'll be writing a paper on performance theory, activism, and scholarship using the work of a few well-known activist scholars but primarily that of Dwight Conquergood. My research question, while not fully formed yet, will have something to do with positioning the self in scholarship when the topic is familiar, or even dear to the researcher. I'm presently in this position and will continue to be so throughout the remainder of my PhD research and writing, since I'll be studying the beliefs and performances of animal rights activists in Canada.
For those of you who aren't familiar with the idea of subject positioning, Bronwyn Davies and Rom Harre define it as:
...the discursive process whereby selves are located in conversations as observably...more
I undertook a bit of primary research last semester on the topic of unverified personal gnosis among Heathen women. The results of that research became the underpinning of a PhD term paper I've uploaded to my Academia.edu account. Here's the abstract:
Contemporary Northern European-inspired Neo-Paganism (also called Heathenry) is a vernacular religion practiced by individuals and small groups which thrives, in part, on gnostic experiences mediated by the individuals who have them. This gnosticism, sometimes labeled "unverified personal gnosis," is a nuanced supernatural transmission of knowledge rooted in a substratum of supernatural beliefs and practices which are part of Heathen religion for many adherents.
My research on this topic synthesizes the surveys of six Heathen women about unverified personal gnosis with selected critical literature on the ethnographic study of belief. The gnostic experiences of these women are highlighted in the contexts of...more
During Yuletide, I made a set of runes using birch wood I brought back from Iceland in April of last year. Because I'm a folklorist, I thought it might be interesting to document the process in pictures and share them with you. The tools and the burning/soldering kit (not shown) were gifts from my husband (I've needed proper electric tools for a while now), the cutting board oil is made of coconut oil and essential oils that smell faintly of lemongrass, and the velvet comes from my grandmother's quilting stash, which I inherited in the late nineties before she passed away.
I usually allow a set of runes to germinate for at least four seasons; two to cure the wood, one to make the runes, and one to let them rest before blessing them. I prefer to make runes at Yuletide, and I'll bless this set on May 1st when I return from Newfoundland. Meanwhile, it sits on the altar in my studio at home in Nova Scotia, sleeping as the snow falls outside.
This is a particularly sacred...more
2017 was incubative for me. Nearly all of my energy was spent on the two semesters of graduate school I completed, which required a level of engagement I'm not certain I could adequately describe if pressed. I've told friends if Sean hadn't cooked my meals and washed my clothes while I was studying, I'd have eaten tinned soup and worn dirty jeans, and that's the Gods' own truth. But I produced a great deal of writing during those semesters, which taught me what I was capable of, and that's a valuable lesson. I also came close to cementing my dissertation topic, and while I have a bit of tweaking to do on that score, I can tell you with some certainty that I'll be researching Canadian animal rights activists and activism. Finally...more
There’s a reason I use the word “fuck.” I was raised without the word and several others like it by conservative, religious parents and a grandmother who said “h-e-double-hockey-sticks” when she meant “hell.” But as an adult who valued the full richness of not just my own mother tongue but that of all languages, I came to resent limitations placed on my use of certain words for the sake of other people’s (real or feigned) linguistic fragility (I don’t worship your god, and mine don’t care which words I use).
To some extent, that fire has mellowed, though I do still actively defend my right and that of others to use the entirety of whatever language we’re speaking. I also believe minority language preservation and propagation is crucial to understanding the full range of human expression, past and present. That’s at least part of the reason for my interest in Gàidhlig and Gaeilge.
I learned yesterday that the Trump administration has cast the authority of the...more
Went for a drive on this blue and gold autumn day with a bag of Sugar Mama's cookies in the car. Passed a flock of about a hundred crows and stopped beneath them on my way back. I got out of the truck and tossed cookie bits on the ground under the electrical line some of them were sitting on. They watched...and watched...and watched. I ran out of patience, turned around, walked to the truck, and looked over my shoulder to find about fifteen flapping their black wings and fighting over my offering.
So I moved the truck a few feet away, rolled down the window, and tossed out another broken cookie. Oh, they wanted that one, and I was clearly in the truck, so a handful figured it might be safe. They swept down, one or two at a time, and gave me the side-eye while they bobbed forward. One...more
You are the Kintsugi of our fragments,
Golden Joiner, come and mend what has broken.
To the liberal transgender woman and the blue collar conservative, come.
To the factory farmer and the cow, come.
To me and to those for whom I have enmity, come.
To all who do not want to heal, who cannot find the way, come.
Oh Lady, please, I beg you.
In this hour when I am small and in the middle of my life,
in this place where my two hands can only do so many things,
paint gold between the broken pieces of the whole that was severed.
Reunite us with the rest of ourself, remind us that we are but one vase -
meant to hold this Earth, this life, together.
One flawed and shining union of souls.
Sean took this gorgeous photo here in Cape Breton a couple of days ago, and I thought it would make a good visual image for a post about the end of summer.
It's been a busy one. A sick and recovering kitty, a return trip to Iceland, the writing of my first peer-reviewed publication, the writing of my first space opera short story, writing conferences, funding proposals, household repairs, and other important and sometimes stressful (but less public) issues.
Now our return to Newfoundland looms large, and we're really looking forward to it; Internet that isn't buggy as hell, dinner at the Peaceful Loft, blueberry picking (with the appropriate fairy abduction avoidance gear in our pockets), reunions with friends, and...more
First and foremost, I want to make something clear. As a person of Western and Northern European descent, I condemn and repudiate Neo-Nazism, Neo-Nazi ideology, and President Donald Trump's support of them both. Neo-Nazis and other racists aren't saving the world for me, and I never want to benefit from what they're creating.
I've been Pagan for thirty-two years, so I've weathered my share of misunderstanding as a result of my faith. But I wore the symbols of that faith proudly even so; the pentacle when I was practicing Wicca in my twenties, the Celtic cross when I practiced Druidry in my thirties, and the Thor's Hammer I wear now as a Heathen. I always believed, and still do, that it was important to...more
I'm a revivalist Heathen, academic, and fiction writer, which makes for an interesting approach to cosmological and theological ideology and practice. In short, I recognize that there are substantive holes in the lore, but I honor what we have, and I also honor my own process of interaction with the transpersonal. As a longtime solitary practitioner, that process of interaction is decidedly personal, which is to say that I haven't studied with any particular Heathen organization or individual. With this in mind, and because I do have a specific process for undertaking seidh work, I thought it might add to our ongoing revival of the practice to write about it here. I'll start with some relevant personal background, followed by a discussion of...more
After the US presidential election last fall, a conversation circulated among my writing colleagues about the kinds of stories we ought to be writing and reading in the face of that terrible moment in history. The conversation wore a number of faces. "Writing as activism" was an important one, where artists were encouraged to make art that reflected their perspectives on world events. Another pointed to the recent spate of post-apocalyptic novels, which were no longer so far-fetched. Still another presented a more practical question: What do readers want to read now, and what do writers want to write?
At the time, I was so busy with my first semester of university that all I could manage were a couple of poems posted to my blog. But now I'm working on a story for the next...more
I've extended the solstice book sale of The Longest Road in the Universe: A Collection of Fantastical Tales until July 1st. You'll find the purchase link below.
Between June 16th and 20th, you can download my first collection for free from Amazon, and you can buy my second collection at a reduced cost. You'll find the links below.
In my first blog post about the huldufolk, I wrote about my recent research into the hidden people of Iceland and offered some thoughts about Icelandic belief in the otherworld. In this post, I'll conclude the discussion with lore I gathered about the hidden people and offer some book and website suggestions.
The Huldufolk and Their Lore
Note that all of the lore I gathered came from the oral accounts of my informants, except where noted.
Trolls are the guardians of the great places; mountains, glaciers, and waterfalls. They may be helpful or harmful to humankind. I have a vague memory, not captured in my notes, of an informant telling me that...more
Last year, Sean and I went to Iceland as tourists. This year, we returned as friends to participate in a knowledge exchange with the owner of the northernmost vegan and raw food restaurant in the world. You see, Sean makes tofu from scratch, and the owner of the restaurant wanted to learn the trick of it. Conversely, she's a raw food wizard, and Sean wanted to spend some time in her kitchen. I offered to update the restaurant's web site, which was in need of attention, in order to help make her offer of free room and board more equitable. But when she learned that I had recently written a paper on Newfoundland fairy abduction legends and...more
Belated Merry Beltane to you, and welcome to issue #22 of my newsletter, e-mailed to subscribers in May 2017.
"D is for Duel / One Who Dies as a God Dies"
"D is for Duel / One Who Dies as a God Dies" is available now in D is for Dinosaur, the current installment of the Alphabet Anthologies series. Editor Rhonda Parrish asked her authors to record excerpts of their stories for publication on her blog, since most of us couldn't come to the book launch. You'll find mine here, and if you're interested in reading the whole story, you can purchase paperback...more
We arrived in Reykjavik at 6:00 AM yesterday morning during a spring snow squall that made the road to Akureyri impassable. But our friends Vigdis and Sveinn took us in, fed us Icelandic pancakes, and sent us to bed, for which we were grateful. We're on the road today after a good night in the company of good people and two sweet-tempered cats who curled around us while we slept.
Iceland isn't a foreign country to me anymore, breathtaking because I have never seen her before. Now her snow-covered mountains and spring-brown soil are familiar, even welcoming. I love this place from volcanic bones to glacial crown. She is a young queen among geological elders, still showing off to the world.
I said something to Vigdis about that love that I think is worth...more
I am in liminal space as I write this post. Behind me, the successful completion of my first year as a PhD student of Folklore; a discipline for which I have genuine passion in a department full of committed professionals. Ahead, ten days in Iceland, a place of unparalleled beauty for which I feel something akin to the reverence one might reserve for a god. Afterward, a five-day meditation retreat at home in Cape Breton and a summer of writing both fiction and non-fiction pieces already slated for publication in their various anthologies and journals.
And while the demands of graduate school are everything you've heard and more, I've had a good, fallow season to rest the spiritual and creative aspects of my character. In February, I retired from my volunteer position as a...more
Because we're spread out all over the world, Rhonda Parrish asked us to record an excerpt reading of our D IS FOR DINOSAUR stories for publication on her blog. Mine went live this morning. I recorded in a closet with my new voice recorder in one take, so it isn't perfect. But it was hella fun to do. Have a listen!
For all that 2016 was a problematic year on the world stage, it was a good one for me. I became a Canadian citizen, I was admitted to Memorial University of Newfoundland's Folklore PhD program, and I spent two weeks in Iceland, among other things.
On the writing front, things were less busy but still productive. My novelette "T is for Three (At the End of All Things)" appeared in the C is for Chimera anthology, and my second collection The Longest Road in the Universe: A Collection of Fantastical Tales was...more
Click here for Kindle, Apple, Nook, Kobo, and other purchase options.
Over the years, I've withheld one story from my collections of previously published work. It was originally printed in The Stolen Island Review in 2003, but it wasn't Pagan enough for The Ruin of Beltany Ring, and it wasn't quite mature enough stylistically for The Longest Road in the Universe.
But I'm a completist, and it isn't a bad tale, though I think it reads a bit more like an outline for a longer story than a fully-fledged story itself. If you're interested, I've made it available again for a buck at the vendors listed above. You might give that link a few days to become active; I just...more
I'm in DC this week and missed participating in the cover reveal for the next Alphabet Anthologies installment, but here it is now. This installment contains my story "D is for Duel/One Who Dies as a God Dies" along with a pile of great fiction by fellow contributors. You can follow the book on Goodreads and LibraryThing, and you can read more about it below.
For the fourth installment of Rhonda Parrish’s Alphabet Anthologies, contributors were challenged to write about dinosaurs. The resulting twenty-six stories contain widely different interpretations of the dinosaur...more
I should be catching up on writing career things while I'm between semesters, but now that I have my studio back, this blog post is crowding the front of my mind. So I'm going to get it out of the way first, and then I'll work on that story stamping its feet in the queue.
So, Trump will likely be president, barring some Electoral College miracle. But even if somehow Hillary Clinton takes the oath of office, we've learned something about the level of right-wing ideology in American1 culture, and it's higher than we thought. Of course, people of color and members of the LGBTQ community have been shouting this at the tops of their collective lungs for years now. Meanwhile,...more
The LibraryThing giveaway for THE LONGEST ROAD IN THE UNIVERSE is live, so if you're a LT user and want to win a copy, check out this link and scroll down the page until you find it.
I'm still writing poetry. It's been cathartic for me to make political art for its own sake and publish it to my blog. Here's another piece.
You cannot always be drowning.
You cannot sink forever in a bottomless sea.
Brine fills the lungs, but these are finite vessels,
and the body cannot endure that awful fullness.
It spasms, pinches the larynx shut, blackens the mind.
You do not want to die.
Even the small fish of the deep make plans,
zipping past your body toward a story you cannot fathom,
while the whales who pursue them sing in tongues -
too profound for any human understanding.
Fight the flailing of your limbs.
Fight the clenching of your throat.
Fight the darkness at the edges of your sight.
There is a vault above, and in it there are -
yellow leaves browning on the earth,
winds like herons' wings upon your...
I've been writing this poem since Remembrance Day. I'm still so conflicted about what has happened, what is happening now in the States. I think this piece reflects that. Make of it what you will.
By then, her knuckles were thick and gnarled,
but the needle piercing her quilt scraps -
was sure as an old woman's prayer.
"Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah," she would intone -
over the television, as if President Jimmy Carter -
spoke with the voice of Almighty God.
"Never voted Republican once in my life."
Neither have I. It wasn't enough.
I should be there now.
Her talk of Japs and negroes was an embarrassment.
She begged me not to marry "a German."
World War II and the Civil Rights Movement -
writ small on a woman I loved.
"Greatest country on Earth," she would say,
omitting subject and verb, as the...
From now until the end of the year, I'm going to donate all of the profits I make from the sale of The Longest Road in the Universe: A Collection of Fantastical Tales to Planned Parenthood. I'm doing this because American women are facing the greatest challenge to reproductive health I've seen in my lifetime, and I want for Planned Parenthood to be there for them, just like it was for me. I'm also doing this because it's something I can do besides sit and stew in my own fury at the election of Trump/Pence (which I'm already doing in spades). I have to do something.
Ebook sales make me about $1.50 apiece (depending on the retailer), and paperback sales make me $2.55. So it might not be much. But it's money I make from my own art, and I want for my art to count for something. I'll also match...more
I've settled into my PhD program and thought I'd post about it. I haven't had much time to do more than keep up with my class work and release my collection, but today I'm taking a minor breather to get a haircut and go see Dr. Strange before the big push to write term papers begins. So I thought I'd post a quick update about my life so far in St. John's.
The Folklore Department and Discipline
I like these people, every one. They remind me so much of the U of T Celtic Studies Department in the late 90's; personable, invested in scholarship, interested in my education. I think I might really succeed here, and that makes me so happy. I also enjoy the discipline quite a bit. I learned in field school to conduct interviews, write field notes, and archive materials. Now I'm peering beneath the surface of ballads, legends, personal narratives, jokes, parables, and other kinds of folklore to see how they work, and I'm gathering the theoretical tools necessary to...more
Merry Samhain to you, and welcome to issue #21 of my newsletter, e-mailed to subscribers on Samhain 2016.
A Book Is Born
The Longest Road in the Universe: A Collection of Fantastical Tales is now in print! I'm so proud of this book, and I'm equally proud of Nancy Farmer's cover art and Kimberly Mayfield's cover design. I hope you enjoy reading these tales as much as I enjoyed writing them. Here's where you can buy the collection:
Release day is tomorrow, and this is my last post about the kind things other writers and editors have said of The Longest Road in the Universe: A Collection of Fantastical Tales. This one is from Nebula Award and Shirley Jackson Award finalist Mike Allen:
Brace yourself, reader – before you in these pages lie delightful, terrifying, uncompromising monsters, ready to claw wounds into flesh and soul. Drawing deeply from mythology to weave tales of hard-earned spiritual enlightenment, C.S. MacCath demonstrates an uncanny talent that crosses all genre boundaries. Whether she’s spinning the story of a witch who can speak to everyone’s demon double, a space traveler who sells pieces of his body in exchange for history's revelations, or a shape-shifting, guilt-wracked human bomb, MacCath brings their struggles and triumphs to fierce and...more
Release Day is nigh, and I only have two more posts about the kind things other writers and editors have said of The Longest Road in the Universe. This one is from author and editor Rhonda Parrish:
The Longest Road in the Universe is packed full of lush worlds, lyrical prose, three-dimensional characters and honest emotions. It is an immersive experience best enjoyed with a cup of tea in hand and a storm outside, but even lacking those things every science fiction fan should make time to read this collection. It is, in short, amazing.--Rhonda Parrish, editor of the Alphabet Anthologies and Magical Menageries
Also, a reminder that the collection is now available for pre-order in most digital formats:
For Kindle: https://goo.gl/lY6Qld
I'm reading a science fiction trilogy right now which has begun to annoy me. It has a great plot and an interesting protagonist, but the story itself is told via a litany of social justice issues. It's as if the author had a list while she was writing and went down it, item by item, until she had thoroughly covered them all. I could play a drinking game to this series - "Drink a shot every time the author beats you over the head with her ideology," - but I'd end up in the hospital with alcohol poisoning.
Mind you, I'm good with fiction which has embedded messages, but I'm not good with message fiction. There's a difference. All fiction carries the imprint of its author's mind, just as all children carry the DNA of their parents. That imprint is sometimes ideological, which is...more
Why are pre-orders important to writers?
Because on release day, they're all processed at once as if they were placed on that day, which can offer a nice boost in sales ranking, especially on Amazon. This boost can increase the book's visibility to other new readers, which can further increase sales.
So if you're planning on buying the The Longest Road in the Universe anyway, would you consider pre-ordering it? Thanks!
Here's where you can do that:more
I've been posting these to social media, but I thought I ought to be sharing them on my blog as well. So here's the third of five posts about the kind things my fellow authors have said of The Longest Road in the Universe. This one comes from Alex Bledsoe, who writes:
This collection of short stories has a rich texture and a profound appreciation for human courage and decency, even when its characters aren't entirely human. From avenging sentient bombs to former slaves struggling to remember their ancestors' humanity, it's a vivid, epic and touching journey.--Alex Bledsoe, author of The Hum and the Shivermore
A is for Apocalypse, which contains my WSFA-shortlisted story "N is for Nanomachine" is going to be a part of the 'Buy Two Get One Free' Halloween sale at Kobo between October 13th and October 18th. So if you're up for a great set of scary reads that includes several varieties of apocalypse, I hope you'll check it out!
Today we are bombarded with confusion and messages contrary to the values of our ancestors and our folk. The AFA would like to make it clear that we believe gender is not a social construct, it is a beautiful gift from the holy powers and from our ancestors. The AFA celebrates our feminine ladies, our masculine gentlemen and, above all, our beautiful white children. The children of the folk are our shining future and the legacy of all those men and women of our people back to the beginning. Hail the AFA families, now and always! - Matt Flavel, Alsherjargothi, AFA
Down-thread, one commenter asked:
Belated Merry Lughnasadh to you, and welcome to issue #20 of my quarterly newsletter, e-mailed to subscribers in August 2016.
The Longest Road in the Universe Cover Reveal!
I'm delighted to reveal the cover for my forthcoming collection The Longest Road in the Universe: A Collection of Fantastical Tales. The art is a piece entitled "The Ash Room" and was originally commissioned from the brilliant Nancy Farmer by Murky Depths for the title story when it was first published in Issue #7 of that magazine. The equally brilliant Kimberly Mayfield of KFX Graphic Design turned the art into a book cover, for which I'm most grateful. Even better, the collection itself will contain the other piece of art commissioned for the title story...more
I'll be at When Words Collide next week, and here's my schedule. There isn't much on it, which is just as well, since it's my first time at the con, and I'm leaving for Newfoundland shortly after I return:
1:00 (Waterton) A Dialect for Your Alien Character
Did Star Wars get it right? Yoda switches word order. Chewbacca grunts. Jar Jar Binks is unintelligible. Or are there better ways to demonstrate through dialogue that your alien characters are from out of this world?
Rhonda Parrish invited me to read my story from the C is for Chimera anthology during the Sirens launch, but it looks like the one panel I'm on conflicts with that. What a bummer!
Last summer, I participated in a great scriptwriting workshop here on the island. What follows is part of the work I did during that time, since I thought it turned out well. The first chunk of text is a true, if tragic story from my life, and the second is the vignette I wrote from that experience. I hope you enjoy it.
The Story Behind the Story
It was perhaps 3:00 a.m. on a summer night in 1998, somewhere between Toronto and Windsor on a warm, dry, mostly empty highway. I had been sleeping under a pair of quilts in the back of the station wagon while my husband drove, but now it was time to switch off, so we stopped at a rest area for the washroom and a cup of coffee.
Afterward, Sean settled...more
In recent weeks (since the Orlando shooting), I've read a great deal of frustration from people where it concerns offering thoughts and prayers to tragic situations. I understand where this frustration comes from. It's easier to 'like' a post or write a quick note of sympathy and get on with the day than it is to engage a tragic situation, so offering thoughts and prayers can seem trite to people who are suffering.
But it isn't always possible to support the people and things we care about as fully as we might want. Sometimes posting an offer of thoughts and prayers online is all we can do because of our personal circumstances. Having said that, one of the cornerstones of spiritual teaching is that we introspect first, which makes thinking and...more
On the 14th of September in 1607, Neill of Tír Eóghain, Rory Ó Donnell of Tír Chonaill and about ninety followers left Ireland for mainland Europe after several years of crushing defeat at the hands of the English. In the wake of their departure, the old Gaelic world began to collapse, and with it, the system of patronage that kept a hereditary class of Gaelic poets housed and fed. In the generation after this Flight of the Earls, the complex meters of Gaelic poetry gave way to freer, more melancholy verse as poets no longer had stable homes from which to compose. In time, this unique contribution to the world's literary craft was abandoned by its caretakers, since they simply did not have the support they needed to continue writing in the...more
Belated Merry Beltane to you, and welcome to issue #19 of my quarterly newsletter, e-mailed to subscribers in May 2016.
A Messenger Traveling Northward
In an early fifteenth-century address to a messenger given by Dubhthach Mac Eochadha entitled A theachtaire théid bhu thuaidh (O messenger who goes northwards) and recorded in the Leabhar Cloinne Aodha Buidhe, the messenger is instructed to pass on exactly what is told to him, not missing a word. This means that Dubhthach Mac Eochadha would have recited his message, and the messenger would have learned it by heart. (Literacy in Medieval Celtic Societies, 251) Such was the way of these things, that a messenger would have been required to learn the messages he carried, just as poetry was largely an oral tradition during this time, since few members of...more
"Her name is Alejandra Maria Yaotl, and she is desperate to squat here, in this ribbon of grass between armies, to defecate. But her knees do not permit squatting, and she knows the desperation is only a great, killing mass in her bowels making demands of the failing body it consumes from the inside out, a little more every day. So she walks; strands of white hair blowing about her eyes, bent spine unable to straighten, papery hand gripping the rough wooden knob of a cane. The punishing sun shines down on a spill of engine oil, a pool of chlorophyl, a gob of intestine crushed into the soil. Behind, there is a shuttle with a weeping grandson at the helm who begged her to stay home and die in peace. Ahead, there are the towering gates of a city-state that teaches its people how to...more
Aaron Pound of Dreaming About Other Worlds has offered the most comprehensive review to date of The Ruin of Beltany Ring: A Collection of Pagan Poems and Tales. Among other things, he writes:
"At a mere eighty-two pages, this collection ends much too soon. C.S. MacCath's short stories have a raw and almost visceral feel that hones directly into the travails and triumphs of everyday life, casting light onto the ways in which those living such lives might turn to Pagan spirituality to help guide them through their days. The poems, on the other hand, display a...more