Showing posts from 2017

Grandfather Frost

This poem has been rather slow in the writing (it's taken  me about three years to finish it off, and many might not think it worth the time!)
I'm not wholly happy with the final verse, but it seems quite long enough as it is - but maybe I'll rewrite that verse in time. The poem is offered as a sort of pagan alternative to The Night Before Christmas, with a nod to Hans Christian Anderson on the way, and fuses Russian myth with British folk figures. You can regard it as a Frankenstein mess, or as reflective of the near-global pagan practice of syncretism. Or just class it as a daft kid's poem!
The sled pack will eventually appear in another poem of their own, as they do not wish to be thought of as a one trick husky team. The metre, whilst similar to some Irish forms, is a random one I made up for the purposes of the poem - call it robinian metre if you fancy using it in a work of your own!

Grandfather Frost

“Sleep my son, sleep, on this darkest eve, Outside the White M…

The Snow Queen

This is my much-shortened adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's story 'The Snow Queen', which I've recorded to celebrate the winter solstice (I appreciate that such a morally upstanding Christian story is an odd way of marking a pagan celebration, but there's no point expecting me to make sense).

I particularly like Andersen's idea of the warping mirror, and I might shamelessly steal the idea and use it in other ways at a later date. There's a lot to be said for the idea of a poisonous presence working its way into the hearts of people and distorting their view of the world (bit like social media, really). Is it a warning against self-absorption or against the dangers of self-hatred? The Snow Queen herself also needs an opportunity to chew the scenery far more than she gets to do in either my version of the story or the original one. She certainly enjoyed her incarnation as Jadis in Lewis' books about Narnia.

Snow Maiden

A little light froth for the winter season with a Russian story. Last day of lecturing before the Christmas holidays for me (a productive conference on the ethics of substance misuse - which has stimulated a lot of thought for me, hearing what the other speakers had to say). I may write more on that later, thinking of an animist ethos in drug use (which was largely the angle that I spoke on). It was lovely catching up with people that I used to work with a decade back.

This story is one version (there are several) of the Snow Maiden Snegurochka, and her adventures with Ded Moroz, Grandfather Frost. This version is the one that Ostrovsky worked into a play and Rimsky-Korsakov later converted into a popular opera. Love sometimes comes at a high cost, as this take indicates. Old Moroz strikes me as a far more interesting figure than the western Santa Claus.

Valuing nature

It's been a while since I recorded anything for the Introduction to Paganism series. After a request, this is an addition on the theme of reverencing nature (both our own human nature and the wider picture). It isn't any more coherent than previous podcasts, but will hopefully provide a topic or two for further debate amongst listeners.

Defining dog

It's been a while since I recorded a story (crap month, but now it's December so let's try and move on!). Last weekend I told stories at a fundraising event in Suffolk for the Dogs Trust. The organiser baked up a plethora of excellent cakes and ran raffles and all sorts. The attendance wasn't big, and therein resides a tale in itself about community and why its like trying to get blood from a stone, but the hall hire was covered and some cash is winging its way to the Trust to feed a few hungry hounds.
This short story is one that I didn't tell at the event, but it's nice and short - the account of how five brothers - the Pandavas - and their shared wife Draupadi (a rare example of polyandry) go on a pilgrimage up the Himalayas and encounter a seemingly very ordinary old dog. Things are never quite what the seem, and it always pays to be nice to wandering hounds (you never know who might be looking at you out of those big brown eyes).

Who's story?

Today Whoids the world over celebrate the ancient festivity of the First Materialisation when our Time Lord and Frequent Saviour first manifested on the screen. I wanted to say something profound and insightful, but I left my brain at the office. So instead, a brief aside into John Locke's philosophy of identity.
Back in 1689 Locke wrote An Essay Concerning Human Understanding which, in part, explored the notion as to what identity means when human nature is so changeable. the cells of our bodies regenerate over time, such that the body I have today is not cell-for-cell the same as the body I inhabited twenty years ago (for one thing, there's rather more of it). Not only is my flesh different, but my mind has changed. I have filled my head with a thousand books and hundreds of stories and have been emotionally changed by the people I've met in those two decades - some for the better, and some much for the worse. Whilst some things have remained constant, such as devotion …

Pooka's Pageant 2017

This Saturday, 18th November, will be the annual celebration of mythology through storytelling, song, and poetry. Doors at Oddfellows Hall open at 10am (close at 4pm), and tickets are £4 with any profits going to animal charities.

A link to the programme can be found here with performances from Fiona Dowson, Shaun Ibbs, and Robert Lummis, plus music from Carys and two story sessions with me (one about underwater deities and the other about the spectral doings of dark and deadly entities).

Hope to see plenty of people there.

The Devil's Bridge

A short and mildly spectral tale for the Halloween season. There are several variations of this story from around the world, accounting for unusual stone landscape features. This version is from Ceredigion in Wales and explains how the original bridge across the Mynarch was made (not the modern bridge, whose origins are rather more prosaic).

The Dybbuk

With Halloween just around the corner I am going to record one or two gruesome stories. A friend, Nick, suggested something about a dybbuk - the dibbukim are ghostly entities that possess living flesh, often because they have some task left incomplete in this world that must be done (frequently connected to the idea of teshuva, repenting for wickedness as the dybbuk are decidedly unhappy, often unpleasant ghosts). This tale is a combination of several short anecdotal accounts - too brief to make stories in their own right - overlaid with a brief and ugly snippet of recent history. If you want to understand what a greifer is, have a look here.
I hope mashing up stories does not offend any Jewish people who might listen to it (let me know if there's a better version of a dybbuk story that I could record if this one does give offence). I thought about making this tale more graphic, but decided better of it.

Mithering on

The eighth part of the prattle about basic paganism reflects some thoughts and notions around festivals and rituals - why we celebrate, what we celebrate, and how we celebrate. Cake is the answer to most of it.

And another thing!

Seventh part (I know I keep saying each will be the last one, but keeping keep asking questions). Picking on further on paganism and healing, this time looking at animistic concepts within healing and also touching on Ancient Greek ideas around mental illness (it gets weird).

Health and Fitness

The sixth, and one sincerely hopes final, installment of pagan waffle in response to a query from my acquired nephew Tom (who is studying medicine) who wanted to know about pagan views on healing. I was going to record a story about an octopus, but that seems to have gone astray somewhere. I'll try again tomorrow night. It's been a long week (hence the incoherence).

Blah, blah, blah

The trouble is, once I start waffling it's very difficult to shut me up. This fifth part of the Introduction to Paganism series looks at ideas around magic (at an abstract level - it's not some kind of teen Wiccan's guide on how to cast spells!) and also touching a tiny bit on pagan metaphysics.

I don't know whether to go into a bit more detail on the different types of paganism - I think it would be better to see Heathens, Wiccans, Kemetics etc. making their own recordings about what they do/believe rather than me recording something. Room for a collaborative effort, maybe?

Eisteddfod change

Unfortunately we have had to postpone the eisteddfod that was happening this weekend. It will now take place on February 10th, venue to be confirmed shortly. The themes for poems and stories remains the same. More details to follow soon.

May the fourth be with you

It's been a long day (no thanks to bloody Abellio trains canceling their service this evening - makes a change from just running late as per) and six hours of semi-coherent lectures. So tonight's quasi-coherent waffle around differing pagan ethical codes may be the least intelligible of the lot. Don't know if I'll stretch to a fifth, as I'm not sure what kinds of things people want to know about (or if I've run out of things worth saying).

Dog stories

I will be taking part in an event on November 25th to raise money for The Dogs Trust, held at Cockfield Village Hall (Church Lane, IP30 OLA in deepest Suffolk) from 7pm to approximately 9pm (storytelling standard time).

I will be recounting canine myths and legends from around the world. Tickets are £4 in advance, £5 on the door (contact Kathryn Vernon 01284 827553 to book). Refreshments and a raffle will be available.

Do pass the invite on to anyone from the area who might be interested.

Enough already!

Part three of the Introducing Paganism spiel - I promise to leave your ears unassailed for a few days before foisting the fourth part on you. I am not wholly sure where this is going, beyond my indulging the sound of my own voice. If there are specific aspects of general paganism that people would like covered, do say. This section is addressing nature worship, the role of ancestor reverencing, and touches a tiny bit on ethics.

A bit more paganism

There was a bit of positive feedback from the first introductory spiel about paganism, so here is a follow up. When I've found the missing kitchen utensil, I may do a third part!

Introducing paganism

Following a discussion on social media with a friend who was looking for resources to explain paganism to non-pagans (who may not always want to wade through a book), I recorded this to see if it woud be of use. If it is I may add one or two additional recordings later - if not, I won't!

Excuse the fact that it is all a bit Fanny Craddock, as I was multi-tasking at the time (too many things to do, not enough time to do them in).

National Poetry Day

Today is National Poetry Day. I was invited to attend an event, but got home late and missed the start - so this is my contribution by way of getting my finger out and making more of an effort.
The recording features two of my own poems appearing in the collection Moon Poets - The Song of Mr Tumnus & Setka Waits. I was hoping to write something new for today, but I left my brain on the train so the inspiration may be as erratic as our erstwhile transport network (I still blame Dr Beeching) in terms of when it arrives.
The last poem is by Hilary Llewellyn-Williams, who lives in Wales and writes quite a few poems inspired by the folklore and magical landscapes of the country. Her poem is called Changeling and appears in her 1997 collection Animaculture. She is a great poet and I recommend her work. I'll be including at least one of her compositions in the talk I am giving in December on Celtic poetry at West Suffolk College for the series of Edmunds Lectures.

Equinox tales

The autumn equinox is almost upon us, which has significance for several pagan traditions - though strangely very few ancient myths directly associated with it. From a secular viewpoint, it was the date on which the French abolished their monarchy and became a republic in 1792. I am not a republican myself (world politics is not currently enthusing me as to the joys of following such a political route), but do know of one pagan myth - or legend, at least (inasmuch as it depicts a purportedly historical event with no reference to magical or mystical goings on) - about how a much older civilisation became a republic.
This is the tragic tale of Lucretia, a Roman matron subjected to horrible treatment by the lecherous son of King Tarquin. I rarely tell historical tales, so this is not particularly well told. The events accounted for the Roman historians do not take place at the equinox, so the only tenuous connection to this time of year is republicanism.
The response she takes to the te…

Eisteddfod 2017

On Saturday 7th October, 11am to 4pm, the seventh annual Suffolk Eisteddfod will be held in the long room at PJ McGinty's pub in Ipswich, adjacent to the central bus station. If you are unfamiliar with the concept, an eisteddfod is a contest for poets and storytellers to flex their skills. Our contest is divided into two rounds, one for the poets (who must compose an original work on the theme of A LIFE CHANGING EVENT) and a longer round for the storytellers (who must regale an original - or their personal spin on a traditional - tale on the theme of THE WILD WOOD).

Alongside performers, there is plenty of room for audiences to cheer their favourite (and help them to win, because judges take audience reaction into account), all whilst enjoying a Guinness or two from the bar. The pub provide bar meals as well, so you can enjoy a snack between the rounds.
The two winners get awarded the title of Chief Skald of Suffolk - a skald being rather like the Anglo-Saxon version of a Celtic …

Gates of Dawn

The Wind in the Willows is one of my favourite books - the wonderful passion for the countryside,
the humorous and well-drawn characters, the fact that nothing much really happens but it is nonetheless as engaging as a sunny afternoon picnic As well as the book, I have several audio recordings by different actors. They are all abridged and all exclude Chapter Seven - quite my favourite part of the book and a total divergence from the general capering of the rest of the book. as I find reading the book therapeutic (and it's been one of those weeks where I need some therapy), I've recorded it both for my own enjoyment and to hopefully inspire a few listeners to go out and lay paws to their own copy of the novel.
So far as I know Kenneth Grahame was not pagan, but the whole tale is redolent with a pagan love of the land and its denizens - culminating in the epiphany on the island (the sort of thing most pagans only dream of... or only fleetingly recollect and dismiss as a pipe d…

Dangerous Dogs

On the evening of Thursday 17th August, my two elderly dogs and I were walking on Broom Hill, Ipswich (the side close to Valley Road & Westwood Avenue). Two large off-leash rottweilers appeared out of nowhere and attacked both my dogs and me, as I fought to kick the damned things off. The owners were way behind and were clearly not rushing even though they must have heard these monsters baying, my dogs screaming in pain, and me bellowing at the things to fuck off.
By some miracle the little Jack Russell was bruised but not otherwise wounded. My husky was badly bitten on his head, stomach, flank and rear, and had to be taken to the vet for stitches - costing £370. The damage to his belly was seconds away from disembowelling him. My leg and hand were bitten (blood everywhere by the time we got home) and I was given a tetanus booster and antibiotics.
The irresponsible buggers made no effort to apologise or ask if either I or my dogs were harmed. What makes this matter worse, for me,…

Tree tales

On Saturday past the Pagan Council held a Tree Walk around the Ipswich Arboretum in which I shared myth, poetry, folklore, and pagan magical traditions connected to the species of tree that we saw. There was a nice turn out on the day, the weather held well, and it raised just over £20 for the Woodland Trust (every little helps). Afterwards we had tea and cake in the cafe in Christchurch Park. It was a lovely, relaxing afternoon and we may well run something similar next year, going on a different route with other trees and their folklore.

This story is a short version of one of the most famous Irish tragic sagas, Deirdre of the Sorrows. I include it here because of the appearance of the trees at the end of the tale. There are several versions of the saga, each with slight variations (not all include the trees, for example). One day I might do a fuller version of this story, fleshing out some of the characters that just get glossed over in this recording.

Soul Food

I recorded a rather rambling podcast for the Pagan Federation virtual moot. This is almost the same, but in this version I remembered to say what I forgot to say in their version. The theme set was 'Food for the Soul' and so I've reflected on the way in which storytelling - from novels to family narratives to mythical sagas - shapes our lives (scop's them, if you want an Anglo-Saxon pun) for the better or worse. We feed our bellies with bread, but our souls with sagas.

One day I might transmute these disparate ideas into something cohesive, but at the moment you'll just have to endure the meandering version. I've been asked to write something a bit clever for an anthology ardently read by people who are very, very clever (and some who just think they are). I'm wary of doing so because they also seem to relish ripping one another apart in the way that posturing academics and pseuds in equal measures are prone to do. If I ever manage to produce a chapter, i…

Festival of Paganism 2017

This Saturday at Oddfellows Hall, High Street, Ipswich, the Ipswich Pagan Council will be holding a free event to build bridges with other pagan communities around East Anglia, help people new to paganism find their feet (pssst... they're on the end of your legs), and answer questions on paganism from those who are just curious.
This is a free event which runs as follows -

10.00       Doors open
10.15       Pagan Suffolk, with Robin Herne
11.00       Tales of the Native American nations, with Robert Lummis
12.00       Music and poetry over lunch
1.00         The Feast of Lupercalia, with Robin Herne
2.00         Paganism & Politics, a panel discussion
3.00         Greek mythology storytelling
3.30         Ethics of Healing, a panel discussion
4.00         Thanks & Farewell

Refreshments will be provided throughout the day. There will be displays on different branches of paganism, activities for children, and a friendly welcome for friendly faces. Just drop by and enjoy the …

Falling in love again

The announcement of Jodie Whittaker as the new Doctor Who has flooded social media with rivers of bile, both from those who loathe the idea with every ounce of their being and equally those who love it but despise those who are even slightly equivocal on the subject. As so often, some people make a great show of tolerating everyone - except those who hold a different opinion.
I have seen a lot of rather sneering claims that large swathes of science fiction fans are lost in a world of fantasy and emotionally inadequate because of it (or vice versa, depending on whether a given pontificator thinks the chicken came first or the egg). Observing these shenanigans, I have been reminded that many readers openly wept when they read the death of Little Nell when Dickens' serial hit the stands in 1841. When one business tycoon read A Christmas Carol two years later, he was so stung by his own similarity to Scrooge that he immediately gave his wage slaves the rest of the day off. People famo…

Journey of a thousand miles

Tomorrow night I have been asked to give a talk on Kemeticism (Egyptian paganism) at the Lowestoft Moot - which takes so long to get to on the train it might well feel like a journey of a thousand miles. However, the title of this post refers to a story about how the goddess Aset (Isis) began her long expedition across Egypt to flee from the vengeance of her brother Setekh. The opening part of the story - I suspect there were probably many sections to the saga at one point in time, but much of them have been lost, or at least remain untranslated from their hieroglyphic status - details how she acquired her seven golden scorpions.

If you are in Lowesoft tomorrow, come along to the Telecom Social Club, Clapham Road South, Lowestoft NR32 1QR between 7pm and 9pm.

Time to study?

A couple of recordings to make potential students aware of the degrees which I lead at the University of Suffolk. If you know of any possible Religious Studies and/or Ethics students, do share the link - or get them to contact me via



Speaks for Wolf

Should have posted here earlier, but work has been manic.... On Saturday 17th June, 7.30pm at the Ipswich Oddfellows hall on the High Street I will be telling myths and legends involving wolves as a means of fundraising for the UK Wolf Trust (which looks after a number of wolves in their sanctuary and does a lot of educational and environmental work as well).

Turn up, bring alcohol if you want it (I will provide tea/coffee) and make a donation to the charity tin. Stories are drawn from various cultures and sources - Roman, Irish, Greek, and assorted others.


I wrote this poem some years ago, and it appeared in the Moon Books anthology (published in 2014). It was inspired by the Greek myths of the sea deities Poseidon, Nerites (who was transformed into a sea snail), and Proteus the seal herder - a lovely idea, of a god looking after seals and steering them through the oceans.
I'm recording this because 2017 is the anniversary of the decriminalisation of gay sex in the UK and so this year is being marked with various events, films etc. Also recording this because I'm sick to death of the General Election, but also more than a bit perturbed by the sudden elevation of the very hard line anti-LGBT Irish political group, the DUP, to the position of "king makers". So, this poem is my attempt to focus on a more positive view of such issues.

London Pride

Watching the unfurling horrors in Manchester and London, I am as bewildered as anyone else by the level of hatred and malevolence on display. I was born in London and still have family and friends there, so yesterday's incident is particularly close to the bone.

London is a city rich in mythology and legend (I'm sure Manchester is too, but I know very little about its stories) and the incident brought to mind both a favourite song - I am an admirer of the Golden Age of music from the 20s, 30s and 40s, including the Noel Coward number below, which I heard delivered to great effect by Kitt Hesketh-Harvey and Dillie Keane some years back. The song in turn brought to mind a semi-prophetic folk story from London's wide raging traditions. My spin on the story is included below - I hope it does not feel "too soon" to tell it.


A revolting little story, of which there are several variations in different regions of Italy. Not recommended as an aperitif, nor for those of an anti-capitalist disposition (though you could chose to see it as an indictment of the degree to which the rich will not be parted from what is theirs, no matter what).


We held a day long seminar on Greek mythology and its continuing influence in literature, film, psychology, politics, medicine etc. at West Suffolk College today (part of the ongoing programme within the Religious Studies & Ethics department). It was an enjoyable day (for me, if not the people attending!) and to make the most of my good mood after a rather heavy week, I've recorded this Greek myth about the life and demise of Ixion. It's a somewhat lurid tale and not suitable for any younger viewers.

Academic conference

On Tuesday 16th May the Religious Studies & Ethics department have organised their annual conference, at which I will be one of the speakers (talking about Roman and Greek notions of sexuality). The theme for this year is Gender & Sexuality. It is a free event - contact me at if you wish to attend. The programme of speakers is as follows: