Showing posts from 2019

The Binding

Just to kick start my brain after too much Christmas cake and gin, I have had a crack at writing a supernatural tale in the style of M. R. James - a favourite writer of mine.

Monty set many of his stories in Suffolk (having spent many holidays in this county), and I have followed suit here not only with the setting but also drawing on an element of local history (the real version of the museum exhibit mentioned can be seen in the Norwich Castle museum). Those of you who also like his works will probably pick up on various elements of his tales woven into the story.

For those who prefer to read, the text is below. For those who like to listen, an audio recording is added.

The Binding
Dr Paxton had planned his trip to Suffolk at the very beginning of term, assiduously organising a room at the Dunning Arms commanding a view of the local church and then arranging in turn access to the parish records, the remains of Dunning Manor itself, and the archives of the local museum. Dr Paxton had n…

Golden tale

I recently celebrated my 50th birthday (with a trip to the Eastern Angles theatre to see their excellent spoof of Enid Blyton, "Four and a Half go Wild in Thetford Forest" - if you have yet to see it, book a ticket... lots of new acting talent performing who will doubtless become much better known in future. Drama schools obviously train their graduates well. Edward Kaye playing the clueless posh boy in snug shorts was worth the price of admission alone. Loved seeing Queen Boudicca trundling around in her battle wagon demanding an exit from the Roman Empire and promising millions of sestertii for the NHS. There was even a visit from an eerily accurate version of Ed Sheeran). The prospect of Thetford ending up half under water in two decades' time might not distress too many people, but we may all have to get used to a lot of changes as the environment alters around us.

I wanted to record a story for my birthday, but other things got in the way - so here is my belated tal…

Old Winter

This Saturday evening from 7.30pm onwards at the Oddfellows Hall on the High Street, December 14th, I'll be dressing up like a loon (an 18th century loon, to be precise) to regale people with Suffolk stories and legends whilst in the persona of the mysterious Old Winter, the cunning man of Ipswich mentioned in a number of historical texts.
Tickets are £5, with profits going to the Dogs Trust. Mike, owner of King of Cups brewery, will be retailing wines, mead, and other beverages for the discerning imbiber. There will be a mince pie or two as well. You can pay on the door or order your tickets in advance. Feel free to circulate the details to anyone you think may enjoy attending.

The Skull

I know a couple of stories about Robin Ddu, a cunning man from North Wales who may either be a wizard or a con man (depending on your point of view). Apologies for the erratic pronunciation of Welsh words - still working that. I'll record other tales in due course but this one recounts how he uses a skull to recover the jewels of the landed gentry. This character has definite echoes to the 18th century Ipswich cunning man, Old Winter, about whom I have written on a number of occasions and the TV characters of the Crowman (from Worzel Gummidge) and Catweazle, both rural magicians brought to life by the late Geoffrey Bayldon back in the 1970s.
Speaking of which, I contributed a short chapter to Tis Magic (an anthology about the Catweazle show). My copy arrived in this morning's post -

Pooka 2019

Pooka's Pageant will be Saturday 16th November, 10am till 4pm at Oddfellows Hall in Ipswich. The Pageant is a celebration of mythology and mysticism through storytelling, poetry, music, and other performing arts.

10.00 Welcome & toast to the Pooka 10.15 The Dagda’s Harp – a talk by Robin Herne
11.00 Fable-ous Fruit – stories by Malcolm Busby

12.00 Poetry share
12.15 Lunch
1.15 Fifth Season – music with Carys
2.00 Poetry share
2.15 Music & Mayhem – music, poems & stories with Sheila & David
3.00 Break
3.15 By Land, Sea & Sky – stories with Robin Herne
4.00 Thanks & farewell toast

Tickets are £5, with profits going to various animal charities. Please spread the word if you know anyone who would like to attend.

Halloween 2019

A ghoulish tale for Halloween - was aiming to record several, but am struggling to string three cohesive thoughts together at the moment (wish it were otherwise). This one draws on Arabic folklore and warns against trusting strange women found in deserts. The folklore of that region is replete with horrors, and I really must learn a few new tales to turn stomachs with.
If I find any time or mental capacity this evening I will add up another story to help get people in the mood for the cavorting of dark forces (and I am managing to avoid a single Brexit joke here).

Infernal Parliament

I am aiming to record a few short stories to set the tone for Halloween 2019, something I started doing a couple of years back. I am starting this seasons tales with this reading of Saki's short story 'The Infernal Parliament' in which a recently deceased British politician finds a home from home in the Underworld - something that will come as a surprise to very few people.
Subsequent stories will most likely either be ones that I have made up on the spur of the moment or based on mythical or traditional accounts of a gruesome nature (like a frazzled wedding reception DJ at the end of a long evening, I take requests should you wish to put in a polite suggestion or two!).

Five men and a dog

I recorded this in 2017 and was convinced I had uploaded it to the blog, but it seems that I haven't. It is a section from a Hindu epic involving the five Pandara brothers (who I have mentioned in another story elsewhere, told at the request of an Indian subscriber to my YouTube channel) depicting the devotion and loyalty of the dog... who turns out to be a great deal more than a four-legged friend. Nepalese Hinduism has an entire festival in November devoted to the dog, Kukur Tihar, which I have mentioned previously on this blog. When I told my hound about it he demanded a day or worship with a flower garland and a feast - typical!

Gallifreyed III

With Halloween just around the corner I have recorded threee short reviews of classic Doctor Who adventures with an occult flavour to them.

The Daemons is a Third Doctor adventure set in the fictional village of Devil's End where a satanic cult led by the Master tries to conjure up an ancient entity that may look like something from Hell but is actually an alien scientist that has been experimenting on humanity.

The Image of the Fendahl is a Fourth Doctor story line featuring another dodgy cult, this time devoted to the worship of an alien entity, the last of its species, which consumes all life. Once again a benevolent old witch comes to the Doctor's aid in fighting both cultists and monsters alike before a sinister skull evolves into a more deadly form.

Finally the Fourth Doctor, this time accompanied by Sarah Jane Smith, encounters another deranged cult, the Brethren of Demnos, in an adventure called The Masque of Mandragora. Shenanigans unfurl in 15th century Italy as wick…

Into the Labyrinth

The Greek myth about the birth of the Minotaur is a rather grim one which certain graphic questions (such as how on earth did Queen Pasiphae survive either the conception or the birth). It is, in part, a salutary tale about the dark consequences of breaking oaths with the Gods.
Some historians have connected it to bull-leaping ritual displays amongst the Minoans, others suggest that it an account of the cessation of human sacrifice (perhaps as a result of a rebellion against whichever priesthood and accompanying regime were in favour of it. There is also doubtless an account of historical political conflict between the Minoans and Athenians, given a storyteller's spin.
It is a curiosity that a bull-headed creature should be regarded as a carnivore rather than a herbivore, but a fair number of cultures round the world have demonic, dangerous monsters with bovine heads. Why this should be so... well, something for future reflection.
Older viewers may recognise the reference in the …

Healing tales

Today was supposed to be a workshop on the uses of storytelling, but unfortunately too few people wanted to attend to cover the costs of hall hire etc. so it was cancelled (but at least I got to have a lay-in!) This recording is partly for the benefit of those who did want to go, but also for some other friends overseas who have expressed an interest in learning more about potential uses of story in healing.
This meander takes in a little of the ideas of Victor Frankl, founder of logotherapy, and some brief snippets from Michael White and David Epston who developed narrative therapy - mostly, however, it reviews Eric Berne's ideas on life scripts (those of Sisyphus, Hercules, Arachne, Baucis & Philemon, Tantalus, and Damocles) and starts to consider ways in which storytellers (not professional therapists) can start to use myths, legends, folktales, and original works of their own to get members of their audience to think about their live anew.
There are other aspects of this …

The Antlered One

Some years ago I had a dream - I was meditating but fell asleep and this is what I remember on waking up in a heap. There are no known surviving stories featuring the deity known only from a single inscribed (and incomplete) dedication found in France. Similar images of an antlered man with attendant wild animals appear on iconography around Gaul and Britain, though there is no guarantee that they all represent the same divine personage. Whatever the paltry nature of the historical evidence, he is a figure that stands large in modern paganism and has captured the hearts and souls of many.

This story is probably no more than the by-product of a disordered mind, but it may interest some viewers nonetheless as a story with mythic elements to it. I have only told it two or three times since the dream, including earlier today in front of a tree in darkest Suffolk that may have been a portal to Narnia or more likely somewhere much stranger. It was definitely listening.

Astride the River

As a break from wading through research methodologies (a subject designed to cure insomnia and eviscerate the soul) I recorded the tale below at the suggestion of several friends. It is an excerpt from the Second battle of Mag Tured, a great epic of Irish mythology in which the Gods (who have not long knocked the earlier inhabitants, the Fir Bolg, into place) take on the monstrous Fomori who dwell in the ocean depths. This excerpt mostly focuses on the encounter between the corvid goddess Morrigan and the jovial Dagda at the crossing of the River Unius.

Part of a lecture series I am giving later in October to a community group in Suffolk will deal with the topic of titanomachy (wars in Heaven). Cosmic clashes between rival forces can be found in many mythologies. The Irish version is very much centred upon Earth rather than in paradisaical realms. It may be a topic to post about after the lecture series is over and I've had chance to reflect on the specifics of the Irish take rat…

Game of Crones

This Saturday evening, 21st September, I am hosting a storytelling event in Ipswich at the Oddfellows Hall as a fundraiser for Age Concern. Tickets are £5 (you can pay on the door) for an evening of myths and legends centred on old women, be they sweet grandmothers or flesh-eating hags that are mad, bad, and dangerous to know. Stories may not be suitable for young children, so parental discretion advised.

The programme of international stories for the evening is as below, running from 7.30pm to roughly 10pm (car parking is available a few minutes walk away) -

The Cauldron of Ceridwen The Witch of the Woods INTERVAL Frau Holde’s House The Old Woman of Winter Anansi and Enum

Refreshments will be provided, but feel free to bring a bottle and chuck a few coins in the charity tin and get use of the glasses and suchlike in the hall. Spread the word to anyone you think would enjoy attending!

As an update, we raised just over £25 for Age Concern. Not a huge turn out, but a jolly one and people see…


Term is about to restart and I am slowly getting back into the swing of things. I was going to record a philosophical witter, but my remaining brain cell needs warming up first! This poem was written by Charles MacKay, detailing the fate of a fickle article who falls for the charms of a Kelpie. It appears in a book given to me Christmas gone, the Book of Fairy Poems, and was written some time prior to 1872 - though I haven't pinned down the exact year.

The rather charming illustration inset left is by Warwick Goble, whose work appears in the same book that I have the poem in. Most descriptions of kelpies do not seem as pleasant or whimsical as the one in the one Goble came up with - but who can say for sure what they look like (given that few people ever live long enough to tell)?


I had what might be best described as a narrative dream in the early hours of Monday. A long standing friend died back in January and, in the dream, she was telling me the story - although I couldn't, as such, see her. She was more a voice "off stage" and I was watching the events she was describing without participating in the dream world ~ the story of the prince, recorded here. This isn't word-for-word what was said in the dream because most of it is a bit vague. However the sequence of events and some of the phrases use are the same.

I am not sure why my friend should tell this story, because none of what happens is relevant to her life - however dreams, as Jung wrote  ton of texts telling us, are full of cryptic meanings and layered symbolism. I awoke with the sense that the story needed to be told - though without any idea of who to, so it may be that any meaning within it is more important for someone else to hear than it is for me (though it has relevance fo…


About a year ago one of the people who subscribes to my YouTube channel, Akesh Suresh, requested that I record the story of Ashwathama, which forms part of the Hindu epic The Mahabharata - a poem so long and complex it makes Game of Thrones seem like 'Room on the Broom' by contrast.
This is not the full story, just running from his birth up to the avenging of his father's death. Apologies to any Indian viewers for the poor pronunciations, but I haven't heard enough people telling these stories to get the pattern of sound. For anyone unfamiliar with the background plot, the short version is that the land of Kurukshetra descends into war as two rival dynasties (who are cousins) rip each other apart - the Pandavas and the Kauravas. Corpses pile up all over the place, including that of our hero's father. This carnage is the background to this short tale.
The descriptions of the divine weapons do sound like something out of a sci-fi movie, but I have tried to resist th…

Gallifreyed II

Not that I think anyone else gives a toss about my views of Doctor Who episodes, but I'm enjoying the self-indulgence of wittering about classic adventures that I enjoy. So here are three more reviews. First up, back in 1964 the First Doctor (William Hartnell) encounters a race of telepathic geriatrics on the strangely named Sense Sphere who live in fear of humanity (can't think why)...

Then there is this review of a Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton) story from 1968 which is bereft of peculiar-looking aliens but instead deals with the deadly monster that is politics as a sinister politician destroys no end of people in his quest for power and wealth, with slight shades of how the Eloi and Molochs from H G Wells' Time Machine started off.

Finally (until the reviewing bug bites again) Tom Baker strides forth in a battle against the evil of Sutekh in the 1975 adventure Pyramids of Mars where Egyptian mythology, Gothic romance, and alien menace combine to great effect.


I was asked to conduct the funeral of a Wiccan lady, which took place this afternoon. The family had chosen a number of poems, including this excerpt from Percy Shelley's 'Adonais'. I've recorded it here because it is a beautiful piece and it might well be useful for anyone else who might be organising a funeral for a pagan or a pantheist at some point and need inspiration.

Path of Dogs

My husky's ashes came back from the crematorium yesterday and will be interred after a suitable plant has been found to the garden centre today. This story is mostly therapy for me (the research into it has also kept my mind occupied), but also might prove off interest to other canophilists.

The Chukchi people are an ancient tribal group living in the far north-east of what is now Russia, and one of their claims to fame is having bred huskies for some 3000 years now - hence my decision to record one of their dog stories. Unfortunately I have found it nigh on impossible to dig up such a story, just anecdotal scraps about their mythology and how certain themes recur in many different cultures - Yuri Berezkin's research was very helpful in this regard, along with a book by Yuri Rytkheu. Quite a lot of tribes have stories of otherworldy rivers composed of curious substances, with a number of references to seven rivers (though I could not dig up a reliable account of what all seve…


When not writing books or advising students I've been enjoying listening to assorted people on YouTube reviewing Doctor Who, discussing plot lines and the like (Geek Pride, I'll happily wear that badge). So I've joined the throng and reviewed a few classic episodes myself, which is likely to be of minimal interest to the handful of people who follow this blog - but for the one or two who enjoy British science fiction here are my thoughts on serials that I have enjoyed (the aim is to talk mostly about the things I like and hope to see more of in future, rather than being overly critical of what I dislike).

I will sporadically add more reviews in future...or do I mean past... it's all so timey-wimey I get confused. This is more self-indulgence than any realistic sense that anyone gives a damn what I think about a TV show, but if anyone has adventures they like that they want to suggest for review do say. It's nice to share a geeky enthusiasm every once in a while.


Goodbye old friend

My 18-year old husky (pictured snoozing on holiday a couple of years back) died yesterday morning after suffering a very debilitating stroke that robbed him of his ability to walk. He was my friend and companion for nearly two decades in good times and bad and seeing him fall so very ill and die broke my heart. I miss him.
I wanted to tell a story about huskies from Chukchi lore (the tribe that have been breeding snow dogs for 3000 years) and have looked into a few obscure myths, but the detail is scanty and my ability to create is at an all-time low (and it was never that high to start with). I include below a poem for him, which unfortunately uses rather forced rhyme due to my inability to come up with anything better. It is followed by another poem written to commemorate Gwynn by Terry Stannard-Smith.

For my Boy Gwynn
Blue the eyes that held my heart, Closed now – darkness veils with sleep, How long shall we be apart, Till once more our meeting keep?
Your empty bed now grows chill, The le…

Rock and a hard place

This rather graphically violent story, worthy of a Quentin Tarantino film, is a composite version (drawing on elements from several differing versions, but mostly that written down by Pausanias) of the mountain-spirit Agdistis who was born both male and female - but "adjusted" by Dionysus for reasons that are never wholly clear. When the dual-sexed Agdistis is forcibly made wholly female she becomes identified as the goddess Cybele. The story extends to include the episode with the handsome Attis and the wedding from hell.

There are a number of King Midas's associated with the kingdom of Pessinos, and I have decided rather arbitrarily to make this Midas the same as the infamous gold-fingered one. That Midas has a daughter named Zoe, though in the Pausanias version of the myth the blushing bride is not directly named.

Quite what this story means you will probably need a team of psychoanalysts to work out. It has strong connotations to the kinds of surgery that used to be…

A Dunwich Horror

Today being the summer solstice we made the annual pilgrimage at silly o'clock in the morning (which is why I look like death warmed over) to Dunwich beach in Suffolk to watch the sunrise and pay tribute to the Shining One. Being so far east we get to see the sun before pretty much anyone else in Britain.
For absolutely no sensible reason beyond sleep deprivation I have decided to record a tale I have not told in a long while of how the American author H P Lovecraft paid a visit, as a sensitive and some might say overly imaginative young man, to his English relatives - and included a fateful visit to the seaside. Lovecraft is now famous for his eldritch horror stories whilst Marcus Rushbridger, who was mildly more successful with his tales of boys' own adventure in the far flung reaches of Empire, is now quite forgotten and out of print. Doubtless the envious Howard enjoys a smirk from beyond the grave.
All of this is, of course, as absolutely true as any electioneer's pr…


This story was not originally set at any specific time of year, but I've put it at midsummer to celebrate the solstice. It is a Scandinavian tale that has a lot of variations, in which the princess Agneta is wooed (or bewitched) by the Merman who is sometimes also referred to as Sjokunungen, the Sea King.
He charms her in to the waters where she finds a new life - at least for a while. The ending is somewhat harsh (or is likely to be thought so by any child with a parent so little interested in them) - some interpreters see it as an allegory for a young woman being led astray from her Christian faith before eventually hearing the call and going back to the fold. Others give it a feminist spin of the girl again being seduced, somewhat like Kore or Red Riding Hood, before overcoming the "brain washing" of her abductor and returning to her true life. You may see something entirely different in it.

The at work is by John Bauer, a wonderful illustrator of fairy tales. Both t…

A little music

On Wednesday 19th June I am giving the final talk in the public lecture series at West Suffolk College (free to attend, starts at 6pm - but arrive a little earlier for refreshments - and will also include local flautist Clare Mellor playing Debussy's "Syrinx", and Greek cakes and snacks being sold by the lovely people at Cafe Kottani). Drop me a line at work, so that I know how many people to expect -

The talk is on The Great God Pan and his influence in literature, mythology, poetry, theology, art etc. It will last an hour, and I take no responsibility for what might ensue if he turn up to listen to what is being said about him! To get in the mood for that, here is my recording of another one of Saki's wonderful short stories, "Music from the Hill", in which a very silly woman and her lugubrious husband find out why one should never offend ancient deities... especially when in the woods.

The Ferret God

Some while ago a friend, Mike the Mead-maker, suggested I record a favourite tale of Saki's, Sredni Vashtar, which raises the question of Divine Functionality (is the simple definition of a deity simply that at least one other person treats it as divine, regardless of whether it does anything remotely divine or not?) as well as being an entertaining warning to overbearing adults.

I wonder if Steven Moffat was inspired by the name when dreaming up the alien menace of the Vashta Nerada that hunted through the Library in Doctor Who? Though aside from the name, they have nothing else in common.


This poem is an excerpt from the much longer poem, "Plea from the Midsummer Fairies" by Thomas Hood. With midsummer just around the corner, it seemed appropriate. When my brain starts working again - hopefully this side of Ragnarok - I will write something original and record that.

The Cynotaph

This poem comes from the Ingoldsby Legends collection, and exists as a somewhat odd counterpoint to the mournful Power of the Dog poem by Rudyard Kipling. Like that, this is inspired by the death of a dog but takes a comedic route and provides the poet with the opportunity to take a swipe at the funeral practices of the great and good.

Together forever

This is the tale of how the stunningly handsome Hermaphroditus met the beautiful but unbalanced bunny boiler Salmacis, and eventually became the being we know today. As an account of  obsessive love, it is rather disturbing given that the victim can never escape the clutches of their "stalker". A less unsettling interpretation might be that this describes a psychotic fracture where the fixated Salmacis internalises an imago of Hermaphroditus (his falling into her pool) forever in her unconscious, partially losing her own individuality along the way. Whilst the real man legs it stage left, she spends the next thirty years rocking and twitching in a room whose walls are smothered with photographs of her idol, refusing to wash the hand that touched his cheek.
The traditional myth speaks of the curse on the pool at Caria, near the bottom of Mount Ida where the waters feminised men. Given today's gender politics this view would doubtless be lambasted as sexist, patriarchal, …

Bards and Ballads

I gave this talk in 2018 as part of the public lecture series run at the college I lecture in - each month a different person spoke on a wide variety of topics (history, science, politics, art etc.). This talk explores concepts of Celtic identity and culture through the medium of poetry, with a number of readings from various different poets - Welsh, Irish, Scottish etc. and one English (me).
My Gaelic is dreadful, but bear with!

Aslan's tail

One of the subscribers to the YouTube channel said she had enjoyed the recording of a chapter from Wind in the Willows and requested something from the Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe. I don't know what the copyright situation is with doing a whole book (besides which, it would take an age), but I think it is OK to do an extract without infringing ownership issues. So I have recorded Chapter 14, in which Aslan is sacrificed by Jadis as her followers shriek and watch.

It is a dramatic crux in the tale, very visually striking, and a dubious one from a pagan viewpoint - given that Lewis uses a lot of pagan imagery to represent evil, from the stone circle to many of the odious creatures cavorting around. In fairness, he also uses a lot of creatures from pagan mythology to represent the forces of goodness, so I shouldn't complain.

Anyway, below if the chapter replete with silly voices. If you can hear asthmatic wheezing, it is not me but my ancient Jack Russell snoring off came…

Ipswich Pagan Day 2019

This Saturday, 25th, from 12 noon till 4pm the Ipswich Pagan Council will be hosting an Open Day at EEFA Office, 47 St Helen's Street, Ipswich, IP4 2JL (limited parking available at the rear of the building).  This is entirely free and open to any well behaved adults (child friendly activities included if you wish to bring your sprogs) who are either pagan themselves or just interested in knowing more about what we do and believe. You don't have to stay for the whole day, just drop in for what interests you.

The running order for the day is as follows -

12.00 – Welcome
12.15 – History of Pagan Suffolk, with Robin Herne
1.00 – Storytelling & Poetry (various)
1.45 – The Pagan Kitchen (various)
2.15 – Music (various)
2.45 – Ancestors and Deities, with Craig Cordiner
3.30 – Plenary
4.00 – Ritual to Honour the Guardian Spirit of Ipswich

The ritual at the end is optional, and will be explained in more depth earlier in the day. If you want to come along, let us know so we can buy sufficien…

Ethics of Storytelling

A few somewhat incoherent thoughts about some of the ethical issues that arise for traditional storytellers and the sorts of things that people might want to think about when choosing and performing stories.
If I get some constructive feedback then that will help shape which topics to examine in any future podcasts about the philosophies and issues underpinning storytelling.

A Side Note

Following the horrible inferno at Notre Dame Cathedral, I looked up some folklore connected to that great place and recorded this short story (rather padded out from the original anecdote) about a blacksmith called Biscornet - the Two Horned - who supposedly created the ironwork on the side doors.
At the time of posting I do not know if the ornate doors have survived the raging inferno or not. I have come across an article by some modern blacksmiths admiring the artwork and saying how they bewildered to think how the original smiths could have created such things with the technology available to them in the mid-1300s (which, whilst being great praise, does not bode well if the doors do need to be replaced in a manner in keeping with the original).
It is not currently known how the fire started. A testimony to human decency - there is already a sizeable fund to help restore the cathedral, though this work is likely to be enormously expensive and take a great time to do (erecting it in…

Wilde Words

Saw a staged version of the Picture of Dorian Gray at The Wolsey theatre, which was very well done. Still trying to decide what story to record next so, to get back in the habit of podcasting, I decided to do some of Oscar Wilde's poems.
The first poem is the relatively short The Harlot's House,a beautifully rhythmic piece which was done (far better) by Vincent Price as part of one of his touring plays several decades ago. For those listeners who have the patience for long poems, the second piece is the obligatory Ballad of Reading Gaol which Wilde wrote in the late 1800s to make readers understand how awful his prison experience was and how dreadful execution was. whilst in prison Wilde rediscovered his Christian faith, though his approach to Christ was decidedly more Hellenised than most people's. His spirituality infuses the poem, and observant listeners will note certain phrases that both poems have in common - it could just be that Wilde liked certain words and reuse…