Folking welcomes in the May 2014 at Butser Ancient Farm

To celebrate the May (or Beltane) this year, folking took ourselves down to Butser Ancient Farm which nestles into the rolling hills of the South Downs National Park in Hampshire, England.

Beltain (as the organisers spelt it – still trying to find out the differences between the two variations if anyone knows) is one of the most popular events in the Butser Ancient Farm diary. The gathering marks the start of summer by burning a 30ft-high Wicker Man at sunset.

The ancient farm site (usually just contained to the ongoing constructions of Iron Age buildings, a Roman villa and the rare breeds animal pens), was skillfully extended for the festival to include craft, birds of prey and weaponry displays, hot food stalls and a central live music stage area.
ancient_music_musicians_2014.JPGThe artists performing were: Feckless, local singer-songwriter Aimee. The Pandemonium Drummers (who played at the opening of the Olympic Games) and the Ancient music musicians (shown in the photo on the right).

They had a great pint of Bowmans “Swift one” ale on tap and as the day rolled on, I could have done with a “take your time” one as they seemed to be going down far to easily…

It was time to make a wish and enter the raffle to light the wicker man. The 30 ft high Butser Man was fenced off until 6.00 pm. After six, each hand written, rolled up wish (fastened by string) could be placed within the wicker frame of the man or his boar.

By eight, unfortunately most the excellent food had run out, two pigs had been spit roasted, the paella stall had been decimated and all the veggie curry had been consumed. I had convinced myself that somewhere was selling mead, but alas… that was to be a figment of my imagination so I charged my glass with red wine in preparation to celebrated the changing of the season.

The lighting of the Wicker Man took an age as the chap picking out the raffle ticket winner was only audible to the people directly in front of him. However, a winner finally came forward and they were sent off up the field to light the feet to chants of “burn him” from the waiting crowd.

It felt that you were part of something ancient, wishing fertility on the land for a good harvest and prosperity in the coming season.

Was that a face that appeared above briefly within in the flames?

Or the passing of Winter as the flames from the darker nights escape?

Or perhaps it was just a burning Wicker Man, too many “swift ones” and too much Game of Thrones. To find out more about the excellent Butser Ancient Farm visit – http://www.butserancientfarm.co.uk/

folkmaster May 2014

Gjallarhorn SjofnThe Scandinavian band Gjallarhorn’s song Suvetar has always been my cinematic backdrop to welcoming in the May.

I love the light and dark imagery and themes of the piece. The daughters of the earth: Suvetar the corn golden goddess, Manutar on the surface pulling and pushing up the roots and the underground crone shaking herself from the dark winter months and turning over the peat and forcing the seeds from the dark depths of the earth.

New beginnings and ends to the circle of life that effects us daily, some too painful to talk about and other so joyous that they have to be shared. As different and as changeable as the seasons themselves.

Gjallarhorn’s music finds its roots in the Swedish folk music of Finland. The material (especially the album Sjofn)  features a layered style of mythical medieval ballads, whirling minuets, prayers in runo-metric chants and Icelandic rimur epics. There are some moments of sheer improvisation and others that are “composed” and influenced in the classic Indian style.

Suvetar, fine matron
Arise to see the seeds
Raise the matron´s corn
So that we may be spared pain

Manutar, matron of the earth
Lift up the shoots from the ground
New shoots from the stumps
So that we may be spared pain

Feed us with honey-hearts
Give us honey-drink
Delicious honey-grass
On a blossoming knoll

Suvetar, fine matron
Arise to see the seeds
Raise the matron´s corn
So that we may be spared pain

Manutar, matron of the earth
Lift up the shoots from the ground
New shoots from the stumps
So that we may be spared pain

Feed us with honey-hearts
Give us honey-drink
Delicious honey-grass
On a blossoming knoll

You have shining silver
You have glistening gold
You have shining silver
You have glistening gold

Suvetar, fine matron
Arise to see the seeds
Raise the matron´s corn
So that we may be spared pain

Manutar, matron of the earth
Lift up the shoots from the ground
New shoots from the stumps
So that we may be spared pain

Feed us with honey-hearts
Give us honey-drink
Delicious honey-grass
On a blossoming knoll

You have shining silver
You have glistening gold
You have shining silver
You have glistening gold

Rise up, O maiden black from the soil
Rise up, O maiden black from the soil

Underground crone
Most ancient of Nature´s daughters
Make the peat shoot forth
And the ground turn over

Underground crone
Most ancient of Nature´s daughters
Lift up a thousand seedlings
To reward my efforts

Suvetar, fine matron
Arise to see the seeds
Raise the matron´s corn
So that we may be spared pain

Manutar, matron of the earth
Lift up the shoots from the ground
New shoots from the stumps
So that we may be spared pain

Feed us with honey-hearts
Give us honey-drink
Delicious honey-grass
On a blossoming knoll

You have shining silver
You have glistening gold
You have shining silver
You have glistening gold

Rise up, O maiden black from the soil
Rise up, O maiden black from the soil

Underground crone
Most ancient of Nature´s daughters
Make the peat shoot forth
And the ground turn over

Underground crone
Most ancient of Nature´s daughters
Lift up a thousand seedlings
To reward my efforts

Twin fiddles or fiddle and viola add depth and variation and a wonderful slide-didge creates a shamanistic pulse that underpins many of the compositions. Jews Harp is also used to produce really interesting effects and Afro-Cuban, Indian and Middle-Eastern percussion heightens the dance as the drum beats out a trance-like rhythm.

Gjallarhorn are: Jenny Wilhelms (Vocals, fiddle), Christopher Ohman (Viola, mandola, vocals, Kalimba), Tommy Mansikka-Aho (Didgeridoo, slideridoo, jews harp, udu, djembe), David Lillkvist (Percussion, Kalimba).

If you never had the pleasure of getting your hands on the album then you can order it form the Amazon link below.

folkmaster – Welcoming in the May 2013


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Folking.com’s very own Paul Johnson, and the Folking.com team look forward to covering the New Forest Folk Festival again this year with bigger and better coverage.

Paul will be at The New Forest Folk Festival bringing folking.com coverage and as many of his audio interviews with the performers as he can grab and Lewis Beech will be face-booking, insta-gramming and Tweeting from the festival all weekend. ~ find out more here ~

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