Steampunk fiction, reviews and interviews

Posts tagged “trees

#MythpunkMonday: Tree Punk

Happy MythpunkMonday! A while back in September, we looked at the mythology and folklore of trees and I shared an extract of some of my tree-based mythpunk Opre! I promised then that I would spend another post looking at working trees into our Mythpunk, so here we go…

As comfortably as trees sit within the heart of many world Mythologies, they don’t lend their image so readily to the realm of punk, at least not at first glance.

We tend to associate trees with the countryside, with high fantasy or historical settings, they might be used in writing to create the feel of tranquillity or terror but we seldom see trees being used to create a gritty urban backdrop for a dystopian situation, or being the catalyst for a postmodernist plot. Fictional trees that speak, tend to speak like old men and women, or very occasionally naive young girls. I would like very much to see a Mohawk sporting, forty-something, jaded Willow Tree hurling cans at litter louts in a psuedo-park in central New London…

That’s an extreme and slightly comical example of course, but I think it’s a good hammer with which to smash our preconceptions about trees in mythic fiction. Trees are, to my mind, too often portrayed as benign life givers, old fonts of wisdom and healing, sources of magic, resources to be used and abused. But they have other faces too ; they can poison, choke, harm, barb, wound, unbalance, tear down and destroy … I mentioned Tolkien’s Ents in the last post in relation to anthropomorphism, but I do very much like their verve!

Our historic abuse of trees and their land surely has enough fodder in it for gritty, feral, subversive voices to rise up from the asphalt and the concrete, the timber frames, furnace and cellulose packaging and bite back so, here is a little list of tree-mendous (had to be done) tree-punk to give us some inspiration, click on each title to follow the links and feel free to share your own ideas, examples and gawd-awful tree puns in the comments! XD

BLADES IN THE DARK

I very much like the trees described in Blades In The Dark ; Jayan Park in the Charterhall district is full of beautiful alchemical abominations in a sunless world, deadly to touch and utterly useless for supporting life, but still revered.

“The great alchemist for whom this park is named contrived to formulate soil and seeds that could produce real, growing trees, without sunlight or radiant energy. They are horrifically toxic to all living things and must not be touched but they still grow beautifully here, over 100 years later.” – Blades In The Dark P262.

Evil Hat Productions EHP0030 Blades in The Dark RPG, Multicoloured

WHEN WE ARE VANISHED

In a world not so different from our own, a vigilante group of techies have shut down all the computer systems on the planet in an attempt to put an end to the war and destruction orchestrated by technology. But where there’s a will, there will always be a way and a new ‘cellulose tech’ has now been developed. But using living plant cells in communications technology leads to some disturbingly sentient systems… and then the people begin to vanish…

 

A POISON TREE

This poem by William Blake is, of course, not actually about a tree but I find the imagery and metaphor strongly evokes a punk sense of proactive subversion; the vengeful gardener, the poisoned fruit / the bright lure to death – in many ways the song of technology to the heart of human kind;  the two fingered punk salute at the end…

I was angry with my friend;
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.
And I waterd it in fears,
Night & morning with my tears:
And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles.
And it grew both day and night.
Till it bore an apple bright.
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine.
And into my garden stole,
When the night had veild the pole;
In the morning glad I see;
My foe outstretched beneath the tree.

 

THE LAST TREE

Here’s a suckerpunch one for you, this one got me right in the windpipe when I saw it so I’m only going to post the link in the title and you can follow it to the picture. It’s inspiring my WIP at the moment!

WIND TREES

This broke my heart, appalled and held me enthralled with grim fascination when I first saw it a few years back. The video gives one side of the coin, click the title link for the other…

 

PUNK TREES

And just as a fun note to end on – Yes they do exist!

 

I hope you enjoyed this #MythpunkMonday post, do feel free to join in and share your own work or that of others, using the hashtag and post your own thoughts and tree-punk wisdom in the comments 🙂

 

 


#MythpunkMonday: Arise!

Photograph by Kovacs Orsi from www.freeimages.com

Happy #Mythpunk Monday!

Today I’m going to talk about trees! I find few things more inspiring than walking through a forest where the trees seem anthropomorphic. Coming from a spiritual tradition which taught me from the earliest age that all trees were living sentient beings with their own spirits and personalities, I find it interesting that people seem to be drawn more to commune with trees like oak and hawthorn who twist their trunks more readily into gnarled semblance of faces or limbs than, say, the linden, ash or birch who mostly grow straight up to the sky. Of course there are stories of slender-limbed, silver-skinned birch dryads; pretty young maidens dancing lithe and beautiful in wooded glades, but why do we only seem drawn to trees if we can view them as being in some way like ourselves? Even Tolkein’s Ents had a human-likeness about them…

The phenomenon of Pareidolia may be in some way to blame here – the inherent nature of the brain to seek familiar patterns (particularly those of faces) in dissociated stimuli ; fire, clouds, tree bark, wall paper, rock surfaces, waves … it is a natural survival mechanism developed even before we are born to help us seek out our care givers, our kin and our kind.

But even as we grow older and are able to reason beyond our instinctive drives, wondering and questioning whether a tree spirit would or could or should look anything like us in order to be taken seriously and communed with… I know I am sometimes still guilty of being drawn to those tress who do.

Having said that, the tree spirit I have had the deepest relationship ever was a beautiful, strong, generous and resilient beech tree with little to no anthropomorphic qualities whatever – so perhaps there is a lesson for me eh?!

On the other hand, perhaps it depends on your tradition. Mine, as I say, teaches that trees are beings in their own right and unrelated to humans, although communion can and should be sought with them, but perhaps other pathways view things differently? Perhaps trees twist themselves into human like faces in order to try and communicate with us? Who knows? I’d be interested to hear other thoughts on this if you have them 🙂

What we do know and can say for certain is that we have worked trees into the heart of our mythologies and spiritual traditions since we first began imagining the beginning of ourselves and our world. Without trees we wouldn’t have the planet as we know it and we seem to have been aware of this long before it was scientifically proven.

Many religions incorporate the idea of a World Tree, stretching its branches into the heavens and its roots down into the underworld, for example  égig érő fa in Hungarian Mythos, the Norse Yggdrasil, Ağaç Ana in Turkish Mythology, The Slavic oaks which even today form the Zapis tree-temples, the Hindu Ashvattha and the Chinese Jianmu.

Leaving aside the great and the grand of world religions and moving in to a more local level, trees have always played an important part in folklore too. Cloutie trees (as we call them here) can be found all over Europe ; trees where folk can leave a small offering in exchange for the tree’s protection, blessing, healing or as a sign of thanks or respect.

My family made a great thing of visiting one of these shrines and leaving a rag of clothing and the story went that an old man was resting one day in his cloak when a poor child came by with none. The man took of his cloak – his last scrap of clothing – and gave it to the child. The tree saw the kindness of the man and sheltered him from the elements that night so no harm came to him. Then in thanks the man returned next year and tied a piece of his cloak to the tree and now all folk thanks the tree for it’s kindness, but anyone who robs the tree will be cursed! I remember my little sister being too scared to go into the shrine in case she touched a rag and it fell!

Another tradition is to hammer pennies into the trunks of trees in exchange for wishes. This tradition has always rather angered and confused me as it must harm the tree, but a few years back, while visiting a fairy tree near Scar Fell, I was happy to learn the roots of one such tradition – it started some time around the 17th century during times of great famine when there wasn’t enough work and many poor people were going hungry. Rich people in the area were encouraged to hammer coins into felled tree logs and wish for better times to come, then after dark (to spare their pride) the poor were encouraged to come and take the coins. The rich either believed or (more likely) played along with the notion that the fairies and taken their offering and were granting their wish and so things began to slowly improve. Of course it wasn’t a solution to the problem but it is still a nice story about communities working together to help one another.

If you’re interested in some really excellent research on the subject, look out Ceri Houlbrook’s ‘Coining The Coin Tree’ here: https://www.research.manchester.ac.uk/portal/files/54558281/FULL_TEXT.PDF

 

We’ve talked a lot of myth today, soon I’m going to have a good look at how we incorporate tree Mythos into Mythpunk, because at first glance it’s not an easy fit. But for now, I’ll leave you with a little extract from my own tree-punk endeavours…

This extract is from Opre! which means Arise! It was written for Romani Family History Month and the Opre Roma! movement and it draws parody between the Romani people, (caught and enslaved both literally throughout history as in our enslavement in Eastern Europe and almost complete annihilation during Baro Porajmos (in some cases still today such as Italy ) and metaphorically today where many of us are still unable to live full lives with basic human rights simply because of who we are) and the trees which our ancestors, and still many of us today, revere in a spiritual way (caught and butchered and poisoned and ‘put to use’ by humanity)

But there is a hopeful beauty here too – the roots which push up the paving stones, the seeds which find root in the cracks between tarmac, the branches and leaves which coil over boundaries and fences… so our people have not been destroyed because we shoulder what the world throws at us and we carry on, we find a way to survive, and one day I believe we will arise, not to conquer or steal or enslave others but just to stand on equal ground as all people should…

 

OPRE

Our splintered marrow guards your precious ground

Not bought in blood, but taken in the twilight

When ‘taking’ was a thing we did not understand

Now sentinels bound, subservient you think we stand

Down inside those ringlets blacked by damp

Not the wind—kin to your own cur breath—

But the jewels it carries, diamonds, our inheritance,

We feel

Touching, unveiling in our stripped-bare bones

Kali …

 

If you liked this extract you can read the rest of it here on Vocal: https://poets.media/opre

Or in my Mythpunk collection Mahrime: Mythpunk For Monsters

 

Thanks for joining me for another #MythpunkMonday!  Feel free to leave me your own thoughts on trees, mythology and mythpunk in the comments and to join in and share your own Mythpunk, or someone else’s that you’ve enjoyed, using the hashtag or in the comments below 🙂


Morning Cuppa: When We Are Vanished

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome back to Max and Collin’s exuberantly ostentatious and divinely deliquescent parlour located within the splendidly scenic city of Lancaster.

True, some have called it a cracked pot, inhabited only by the dregs of society’s teacup but we consider that such people are merely embittered that they have not yet received an invitation.

You find me all alone this morning, my Very Quiet Gentleman Friend having dressed himself as a Gypsy Queen and set himself down at the docks in an attempt to earn some rent money… Hm? What’s that you say? Oh no, nothing like that, he is attempting to sell all those flower remedies we made last week…. Hm? Then why does he have to dress as a woman? …. I… well, that is I…. look, I’m sure Max has his reasons for doing the things he does, I just don’t always have the stamina to enquire.

Whatever the case, I hope you will join me for a criminally delightful cup full of Moriar-Tea from Cottage Botanicals, inspired by Conan Doyle’s arch villain, and stay and take a peek at the marvellous book I am reading, which this morning is

vanished

 

You may already be in love with Nimue Brown’s acts of Steampunk Splendidness, you may have been seduced by the uncanny wisdom of her books on Druidry and Paganism… but did you know she is also the queen of Magic Realism?

In a world not so different from our own, a vigilante group of techies have shut down all the computer systems on the planet in an attempt to put an end to the war and destruction orchestrated by technology. But where there’s a will, there will always be a way and a new ‘cellulose tech’ has now been developed. But using living plant cells in communications technology leads to some disturbingly sentient systems… and then the people begin to vanish…

This book is for the intelligent, the deep thinking, the ones who like to reach the end of a novel and gasp “oh my I must read that at least a dozen more times until I have absorbed everything it is saying!” There is a cunningly woven mixture of darkness and light, dystopia and paradise, becoming lost and found / discovered and vanished  which fans of writers like Iain Banks will immediately comprehend and appreciate. A definite must for lovers of dystopian science fiction and magic realism.

Now I suppose I ought to see what our little oracular pet has plucked from the aether for us this morning…

 

Well, there you have it, you could all be taken over by trees much sooner than you think! But I hope you aren’t vanished away too quickly or I shan’t have anyone to talk to. Except Max of course… I wonder how he’s getting on?

I hope you will join us for elevenses tomorrow, until then please, be always,

Utterly Yourself


Elevenses: Steampunking the tree

Good morning ladies and gentlemen and welcome to Max and Collin’s treemendously treerific parlour filled with only the most tantalising treets.

True some have called it a pithy place inhabited by a branch of the family tree which is barking mad and ought to have been severed years ago, but those people are Max’s parents and so we pay them no heed whatsoever.

You find us this morning still ferociously celebrating Wizmas and filled to the brim with maniacal cheer as we construct our Wizmas tree in the centre of the parlour.

We hear that in your dimension you have a similar tradition during the winter months, well, let me take a moment to tell you how the Wizmas tree came about…

Long before Wiz defeated the Goddess, plants and trees that remained green all year had a special meaning for people in the winter.

People believed that evergreens were the favoured plants of snow pixies, who brought gifts and granted wishes around the time of the Winter Solstice to cheer people up at the midpoint of the cold, dark season. They would bring an evergreen Tea Tree into the home and hang teacups and treats from its branches.

Gaul is credited with starting the modern Wizmas tree tradition. In the 16th century, devout students from the collegiums of Munster brought nuts, bolts, wire and cogs into their dormitories and shaped them into pyramids resembling trees in an attempt to symbolise the evergreens of Siberia where Wiz is said to have defeated the Goddess.

Tina Thrumler, wife of the 16th-century reformer Nathaniel Thrumler, first added lighted candles to a wizmas tree. Walking toward her home one winter evening, she was awed by the brilliance of stars twinkling amidst the pit heads of the local treacle mines. To recapture the scene for her family, he erected a tree from pistons and cogs in the main room and added candles to the tiers.

To the Mor Ire Puritans Wizmas was sacred and this new custom of the Wizmas Tree seemed too much like the Tea Trees of old; Wizmas was a time for snow and sobriety, not prancing around the parlour. 

Bradley Williford, of the House Of Tea Time Lords, wrote that he “tried hard to stamp out this pagan mockery of the observance of Wiz’s victory, penalizing any frivolity, carol warbling, spoon jousting, feasting and spurtling most severely.”

But the public persisted and in 1846, even Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, were sketched in the Illustrated Lichfield News standing with their extended family around a Wizmas tree, spoons in one hand and oat cakes in the other.

Hm? No I am not giving a history lesson, Max, I am simply…. oh alright then… Max says I should ‘put a cork in it’ and show you some Wizmas trees (you know, for a Very Quiet Gentleman, Max can be extremely dictatorial at times) Well you can see some splendid examples of the sort of thing we’re talking about here…

Autumn Steam

Vintage With Lace

Laurart

 

Moving swiftly on then to some seasonal music to usher in the afternoon…

 

and because we can’t really ever get enough of this ‘Doctor’ of yours…

We wish you a treemendously splendid afternoon and we will see you on Thursday when we will be All Punked Up With Now Place To Go so until then please be always

Utterly Yourself