Folkbyte Newsletter May 2024

Greetings, All!

Welcome to the May 2024 Folkbyte newsletter. The clock is ticking on my dissertation defence, which will likely be scheduled for early June. So with apologies, there will be no audio updates in May or June for my work on The Songwriter's Guide to Folklore. Nevertheless, I do have some interesting news to share this month. Onward!

"Magic Systems in the Making"

I've just heard from the SFWA Nebula conference committee that I'm slated to be a panellist this year for "Magic Systems in the Making." I'll get to talk about supernatural belief, charms, curses, magic in folklore, etc. It's an online-only panel, so everyone who registers for the conference can attend. I'm looking forward to it! Here's the conference schedule: 2024 Nebula Conference Schedule

"Child Ballads in Folklore & Fiction" and "Lead On, Wild God"

I've been completely remiss in sharing music news with you, so do let me remedy that now. I'm working on two projects at the moment. The first of these is Child Ballads in Folklore & Fiction, which is a re-recording and remastering of every Child ballad I sang for the Folklore & Fiction podcast except "Cruel Johnny," which is already on the Shatter and Rise EP. None of the current versions are available as standalone recordings anymore pending the completion of this work, but you can still listen to them as part of their companion podcast episodes by signing up for a free account at I know a few of you were glad to have the Appalachian version of "Tam Lane" in particular, and I wanted to do it and all of the other ballads justice, so watch this space for updates on the EP.

Speaking of EPs, I'm working on a second set of three original songs for an EP titled Lead On, Wild God. I'm writing the poetry for it now, and I'll start turning that poetry into music in the summer. Here's an excerpt of "Prayer of the Living," which I just completed:

Hidden, hidden are the mysteries of death,
for no one, no one in the world to ever know.
And dancing Shiva, spinning in the cosmic night -
upon the answers that we crave,
smiles upon us here, below.

I expect to release this EP sometime in 2025, so again, watch this space for updates.

The Songwriter's Guide to Folklore

I posted two audio updates for patrons last month. "Death Metal Perspectives: A Songwriter's Guide to Folklore Update" is the first of two discussions about the ethnomusicology theory underpinning the project. "The Role of Reflexivity in the Aesthetics of Performance: A Songwriter's Guide to Folklore Update" is the second. Both are a bit chewy, but I've tried to make them interesting. =) You can listen to excerpts at the links above, or you can listen to the updates in their entirety by becoming a patron.

Forthcoming Webinars

I've released three Folkbyte videos this year, and frankly, I hate it. I'm breaking up a more substantive idea into ten-minute segments and trickling them out over several months, I'm not providing the level of scholarship I want to offer, you don't have the opportunity to ask questions, and the cost in time isn't worth the benefit these videos offer any of us. So I've stopped producing them, and I'm forging ahead with a webinar series I've had in the works for a while. These webinars will be about an hour long each, and there will be time for questions afterward. I'm planning to offer four this year. Two will be canned and uploaded to Patreon at $25 each; these are workshops I've offered at When Words Collide and want to make available for those of you who want the material. The other two will be new, and I'll be delivering them live at a cost of $35 each. I'll have more information in due course, and you can expect about four webinars from me per year going forward.

Let's Talk About Witchcraft

There was an interesting discussion about the intersections of folklore, Paganism, and witchcraft on my Facebook page and in the Folklore & Fiction group last week. As I mentioned there, I'm fairly unambiguously Pagan, and my work in Folklore & Fiction has always had Pagan touchstones. But I've been thinking about moving the project more solidly in the direction of the intersections between folklore, Paganism, and storytelling. I've been Pagan almost forty years, I'm a Druid-Grade member of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids and former mentor, and I'm a Nordic Animist who practises a revivalist variety of Northern-inspired witchcraft called seiðr. I know my faith and my craft, and I'm willing to answer questions about it as a practitioner and a scholar. However, I've watched with growing alarm as people without much knowledge or indeed much sincere interest capitalize on the popularity of witchcraft, so I care that I'm at least honest about my own spiritual practice, and I wonder what I have to offer that might be useful to honest seekers.

What I didn't write in these posts is that I'm not the only person having this conversation. I co-moderate a private Discord for Heathen academics, and I also belong to a close-knit circle of seasoned witches here at home. We have this conversation fairly regularly, and we're all concerned about the matter. In some cases, we're seeing an uncritical and often commercial use of terms related to our beliefs and practices, which is problematic because so many of us have endured discrimination for using those words to describe ourselves. In other cases, we're seeing a proliferation of bigotry and conspiracy thinking woven into online discussions about Paganism and witchcraft. In still other cases, we're seeing newcomers pass themselves off as experts and teach what they do not know. As a folklorist, it's my job to analyze belief in all its forms without disparagement. As a Nordic Animist and witch, I want to become the sort of voice I needed thirty years ago. Surely there is a middle ground between these two pillars, and I'd like to use the Folklore & Fiction platform to find it.

I received a great deal of support and encouragement for these posts when I made them, and a number of people offered suggestions for the kinds of things they'd like me to talk and write about. I'm tremendously grateful to everyone who commented, both publicly and privately. I rarely discuss my personal concerns in public spaces, but I will tell you that I've been treated badly so often for being Pagan that it was difficult to be this open about my spiritual life. Finding a wise, warm audience for my posts was straight up medicine. So you can at least expect webinars at the intersections of folklore, Paganism (belief and performance studies), and storytelling (narrative studies) going forward. I'm tinkering with a few book ideas as well. (Gods, I can never die. I have too much to do.) I'll keep you posted.

That's all for now. Thanks so much for your interest! I'll be back in your inbox next month.


Folklore & Fiction Facebook Group

Are you a storyteller with an interest in folklore? If so, the Folklore & Fiction Facebook group might interest you.