Happy #MythpunkMonday! Last month we talked about the power of Mythpunk, this week I’m going to ask how we wield that power responsibly – or if we even need to? I’m going to look at one particular Mythpunk song by my favourite singer/songwriter, talk about my own journey in Mythpunkery and give you a little snippet of one of my own Mythpunk stories.
So, last week we looked at the power of myth and the importance of Mythpunk as a subversive form that can challenge mainstream culture and instigate social change.
That makes Mythpunk powerful too and – as all us true geeks know – ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ (cheesy but true, guys, cheesey but true!)
So what responsibility do Mythpunk creators have and to who?
It’s not an easy question and the answer is likely to be a very personal one for all of us – different for each punk who puts pen to parchment. But I think it’s vital for us all to consider and to create ongoing discourse around this point.
From my own point of view, I came to Mythpunk (although I wasn’t aware of the phrase at the time) feeling as though I wanted to bite back at the restrictive, prejudiced, tired and boring old tales I had grown up hearing. I was carrying fire in my blood and in my head and it flowed out through my pen in rage against the morals and values inherent in those tales, all of which seemed to say that ‘people like me’ were not acceptable, could not be heroes, needed either rescuing or destroying and would certainly get our comeuppance one day … etc etc.
So I wrote to bite back, I wrote to destroy and obliterate and to replace all that ancient, old hat, prejudiced nonsense (as I saw it) with my own values, morals and world-view.
As I got older, I learned a revelation that made me stop and think. It didn’t make me regret what I’d written before, but it did make me proceed from that point onwards in a different way… I learnt the history of my people – a history which my family had been forced to hide from us because of deep rooted and continued prejudice against our people, a history which, I now realise, had been partly encrypted in story and song and passed down through generations in the hope that one day we would understand… and here I was taking a scythe to it all in anger.
Worse still, I soon found – as I now hungrily hunted for more stories, myths, tales, legends and songs which would tell me more about our culture and history – I came up blank ; most of it has been lost and what remains has been twisted and manipulated (not ‘punked’ which is something quite different) out of all recognition by other cultures in order to maintain the myth of the ‘Gypsy Creature’ by people who are not even Romany.
I felt hurt and lost and angry and guilty and very many other things as well and eventually those feelings lead me to write Mulengi Sinija (a tale of cultural appropriation and white-washing which shows how a less powerful culture can be forced to hide themselves while the dominant culture wears their clothing and beliefs like an exotic mask, until eventually the grandchildren of the less dominant culture have forgotten who they are. ) and also The Road Back Lost, which I’m going to share an exert of today.
So after that point I decided that although there really were parts of my culture that needed to evolve, so much had been lost that I wanted my Mythpunk to focus on preserving the good, the beautiful, wise and historic aspects to make tales worthy of passing on to my own children.
I’m still on uncomfortable ground here – there are definitely dark moments when I ask ‘do I have the right to do this?’ and I can only comfortably answer ‘yes’ because it is my own culture and belief, my own experience, the voice of my own blood that is singing through me. I am not certain I could always give a resounding ‘yes’ if that were not the case.
I think that, for me, the subject boils down to questions of Power,Voice and Ownership – does the mythology I’m punking from exist in enough written forms that its power and voice resound through history and are unlikely to be altered / obliterated forever by my work here and now? – does the culture which this mythology hales from have enough power and voice on the world stage to protest against my meddling with it, should it choose to do so? – and lastly, is the culture my own?
But this is just my story, my journey, my own evolving view on things, – I’d be really interested to hear what you think on the subject! Should Mythpunk be a free-for-all? Is it OK to punk from other cultures? Should we not punk at all? Or is there a middle road and if so, how do we stay on it?
It’s a Mythpunk’d version of the child ballad The Raggle Taggle Gypsies / The Gypsy Laddie / Black Jack Davy, a ballad I grew up with, which tells the tale of Lady Cassillis and her lover the Romanichal folk hero and Rom Baro Johnnie Faa.
In that folk tale, the Earl of Cassillis marries his young wife against her will, but her lover, Johnnie Faa, or Black Jack Davy, rescues her and they run away together. The Earl eventually catches them, hangs Faa and his brothers and imprisons his wife for the rest of her days. There isn’t any truth in the tale as far as Faa and Cassillis are concerned, and of course there are aspects of it which seem wonderful and other aspects which seem dreadful.
Here’s the song and above it I’ve included Heather’s introduction/ explanation of it as well – I’ve chosen it because, as with the original, there’s a lot about it that I love from a fun and feminist perspective and also a lot that feels uncomfortable … see what you think?
And finally here’s the excerpt I promised from The Road Back Lost, if you like it and want to read the whole things you can find it on Vocal… https://poets.media/the-road-back-lost
THE ROAD BACK LOST
Do you know what it is like to gut a wolf, child? Do you think you have the stomach for the knife? If you are a daughter of the wood, you ought at least to have that. But perhaps the tool they have given you is not up to the task? Faced with the breath, the lure of iron scent, the clinging claret clots that call to your own quickened pulse, the sharp, sharp teeth a grotesquery of your
Perhaps you would rather flee?
Or perhaps that dilation of your dark and precious orbs betrays your lust to leave this wood and simply be devoured, melting on a hot tongue, melting in a hot belly, melting like a shadow into night? How many times have you tried to lose yourself that way? How many times have you wandered from the path, waiting for your wolf?
Here she is, child, here she sits; white throat waiting to welcome you home.’
Thanks for joining me for another #MythpunkMonday and please feel free to join in a share your own / others Mythpunk either in the comments or using the hashtag – let’s fill every Monday with marvellous Mythpunk madness 😀
Hello! Mrs Albert Baker here, otherwise known as The Last Witch Of Pendle. Obviously there is no Pendle any more, since those dreadful land pirates , The Chronic Agronauts, utterly destroyed it with treacle and sprats, but I’ve set myself up quite nicely here in Lancaster, running this little soup kitchen for the street urchins. There certainly are a lot of them and I’m always looking for helping hands to cook up and serve something delicious!
Now I am extremely honoured this morning because Faerie Tale Minstrel, Alexander James Adams has very kindly agreed to help me dish up some soup for our poor unfortunate orphans here in Lancaster. Good morning Alexander! Can I take your hat and coat? This is supposed to be spring but nobody has told the weatherman as usual!
Oh, and who is this you have brought with you?
While not always visible except to such discerning folk as yourself, my Lady, my feline familiar Bartholomew Dragon Master is always with me since he became a ruler of the Sun. When he ascended from this realm in 2015 during Samhain, he made it known to me to have his name inscribed on my neck where he liked to rest his paw when sleeping and the ink used was to be infused with his ashes so now he is a part of me and I of him.
Oh what a touching tale! Well you are both most welcome. Have a seat here by the fire and I will put the kettle on, and here of course is a saucer of cream for Bartholomew. Now do tell me, how was your journey here from your own dimension?
Wonderous and unthreatened. That is not always the case when traveling, but you gave very safe directions so I was able to avoid the Unseelie Court and Their kind. They like to invite me to Their parties, but I try to have other things to do so as not to be tempted so often to do mischief with Them.
Oh dear me yes, there are many who delight in leading the unwary traveller astray! But of course you must be quite used to time and space travel by now; from Victorian, Medieval and Renaissance times on earth to the realms of Fairyland, your music speaks of a most exciting and adventurous life! Are there still more stories to tell?
Yes. I have been to many magical places, not the least of which was the Land of Fae Itself where I was abducted to by the Fae at the time of my birth. A changling took my place bearing the name of Heather Alexander and she dwelt among the Mortals for forty years or so enchanting folk with her magical music. Then she got bored and returned home, where upon I saw my chance, challenged the Queen of Faeries in a dual of fiddles, won my freedom and came here to the realm of Man. I plan on traveling to more and more magical realms to collect new songs and stories. The lands of Steampunk, furry talking animals who walk upright like humans, and even the Realm of Aegis, a new world of high adventure and canticles where I bear the name of Everon the XIII, a false immortal bard who battles for the Light of the World:
Goodness it all sounds so exciting! And certainly puts my own meagre adventures to shame! But it is so kind of you to brave the trip to our blighted Isle Of Ire to come and help me out this morning in my humble little kitchen , tell me have you brought some soup along to share with the orphans?
I brought my favourite! As a musician and sometimes empty pocketed, I have learned to make the most of what I have and can save for a hard time ahead. I call it Boiled Bone Soup. I use the frozen bones from various dinners previous, reboil them til I can strip every little bit of meat from them, toss out the bones, add rice, cloves, cinnamon, brown sugar and nutmeg to taste, plus any vegetables I have around. If I’m really lucky, I‘ll have a little port or red wine to add. Stir and cook until it’s all soft and warm and serve with fresh homemade bread. The next day, it will be almost solid and becomes a casserole until it’s all gone, but it’s so good, that doesn’t take too long at all.
Oh how delicious! Let us take out my largest cauldron then and make a double batch so we have plenty for tomorrow as well. Now while that is simmering away nicely, why don’t you tell us about your exciting new Steampunk project?
It will be a huge event. A kind of Cirque du Soleil presentation with musicians, elaborate settings and four to five “Mechanical Technicians” to run “Hypnotica’s Magical Mind Machine”. It is a form of stage hypnotism themed in a setting of Steampunk and done by music and singing rather spoken suggestions. It won’t be just simple entertaining parlour tricks and making folk do silly things either. Everywhere they “travel” in the machine will give them an experience that will give them a sense of accomplishment and fun. I want to make sure that everyone who comes, whether they volunteer for hypnosis or not, are transformed and empowered by the show. Hypnotism does work much like real magic. It is a way of allowing your brain to accept a specific suggestion and then believing it to be real. If done with proper intent and respect, it can change the way a person thinks and behaves for the rest of their life. When folk see the Magical Mind Machine, they will learn that with the power of their own minds, they can change life for the better. That’s good magic, right there.
That certainly sounds like a marvellous thing to look forward to! When do you hope it will be released?
The musical album should be out by the end of summer this year. The show itself will take a little more time, but we hope to see a version of it come out next year. The producer himself, Mark Maverick, is a Manchester man, so we hope to have the show in London in the first year, if possible.
Oh how exciting! Now I know you’re rather a legend in the folk / filk arena but this new project isn’t your first Steampunk album is it?
Not entirely. I released a faerietale/steampunk combination album in 2014 called Summer Steam. It combines the 5 songs of Summer Releases from that year and 4 songs called Clockwork Collection all bundled to make a 9 song album.
I have heard it playing on Max and Collin’s spirit radio, it really is marvellous! But tell me my dear, what first sparked your interest in Steampunk in particular? Was it the tea?
Indeed, the tea is exceptional, but I really love the old ways of air travel like with dirigibles and hot air balloons. They seem so much more connected to the air and the magic of flight. Also, it is a genre where the gentlemen can have as much fun with clothing as the ladies and I’ve always enjoyed accessorizing!
Oh indeed! You know I think you would get on very well with our dear Captain of The Chronic Agronauts, he shares both those views entirely! But, I do find it very curious that so many people who have their roots in folk eventually find themselves drawn towards Steampunk, do you think there may be some intrinsic link between the two?
Perhaps. While Steampunk does involve the machinery and innovations of Man, it works so much more intimately with Nature and the land, leaving a much lighter footprint, so to speak, which the Folk culture tends to favour. If we had been smarter and more respectful of our world when we first started inventing, perhaps we would have become more like the world Steampunk represents.
Now there’s an interesting thought indeed… Ah, now the kettle is boiled, what is your hot beverage of choice, my dear, and how do you take it?
Hmm…I think some hot chocolate with a twist of brandy would be good, if you please.
Splendid, there you are. I’m afraid I cannot indulge in the brandy myself though, it’s my husband Albert who is the drinker. Now while we are waiting for your new release, where can we see you performing this year?
I will be traveling to the Renaissance period for the month of May performing for the Queen in Castleton, Muskogee, Oklahoma and then just popping in and out of many realms and times as I am invited to do for the rest of the year.
Most of the friends that gather here can actually see me bi-monthly if they wish through the magic of a service called Concert Window.
I try to perform an online concert from my home every other month and I ask my friends via the Book of Faces for their favourite dates and times during a given weekend. If those gathered here contact me through the Book of Faces under my full name of Alexander James Adams, I will be happy to arrange a time where this side of the pond will be more awake to attend.
Oh that is splendid news indeed! I know many of us here were thrilled to see you perform a few years ago when you visited the UK as part of Tricky Pixie, do you have any future plans to pay the UK another visit?
If I get an invitation and some help with the travel, I would jump at a chance. The Steampunk CD will bring me to Scotland to mix and master it with my good friend Fox Amoore so perchance this summer I will schedule a gig there and possibly elsewhere if I get information and the schedule to make it happen. If any one of your friends can help, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s talk!
That sounds promising indeed! And for those of us who are trapped in another dimension entirely and cannot make it out to your live performances, where can we purchase recordings of your marvellous music?
Through my web page:
or direct download through Bandcamp:
They can also get access to music, videos and art that no one else can if they wish to join my Patreon subscription:
It starts at 1 dollar US currency per month but it will be helping to pay the monthly fee on my live-in Pro Tools Studio which I hope to have built by the end of this summer so I can make even more music and magic than before.
Splendid! Now I know that the little street urchins were hoping you might play a song for them before we eat?
This being May and still a little chilly, I recommend a “Good Beltaine Fire”!
Oh marvellous! Well thank you so much for coming to help out in the soup kitchen today, Alexander, it’s been delightful chatting with you and I hope you will come back and see us again sometime. Now I must say that soup smells delicious. I think it must be about ready so shall we start dishing it up?
Please, and thank you so much for inviting me today! May your soups always be fulfilling to the soul!
Thankyou all of you for joining us today, I hope you will come back again next week and until then,
Blessings on your brew my dears!
Oh and before I go I must take a moment to apologise for the absence of Max and Collin this week, apparently their participation in the de-flowering festival has resulted in their home-made-steam-powered-wagonette crashing into a farmer’s barn and setting the whole thing on fire. They are now walking home, keeping to the woods and ditches to avoid said irate farmer, and should hopefully be back in the parlour next week – in my opinion it serves them right for fraternising with wayward cultists but, you know how it is, boys will be boys…