Tag Archives: Emma Restall Orr

Working with Stories

One of the things that myths give us, are stories that we can use to measure and make sense of our own lives. Relating personal experience to mythic archetypes it can be possible to find ways through hard times, answers to challenging questions, and ways of being. We can take the myths as role models, or as ‘what not to do’. Most of us will find times in our lives when we are out of inspiration, hope, or a sense of direction. In seeking mythic parallels, we can find answers to that, or at least the sense that others have faced challenges before and survived.

This is a notion I’ve been contemplating for a while, thinking about how pagan writers use myths to explore contemporary life – Emma Restall Orr uses the theme of Gawain and the Loathly Lady extensively to explore ideas of femininity in Kissing the Hag while Kevan Manwaring uses the Taliesin myth to explore his own bardic path in The Way of Awen. This is something any of us can do, at any time, for any reason. What prompted me to think of it was a suggestion from Ness on facebook (thanks Ness!) that I put my trials into the hands of a goddess for a while.

Crashed out for an hour this afternoon, I contemplated the stories of goddesses, and waited for inspiration. I remembered the story of Rhiannon- falsely accused of killing her child, and then made to bear people on her back like a horse, and tell her story to them. It would be fair to say that there are no close parallels between that and my own life, but it is story about endurance, staying true to yourself, and justice being done in the end.

Rhiannon endures with good grace. Her circumstances make me think of modern women accused of infanticide because their children have died from cot death. There were some high profile cases in the UK a few years ago. It’s the worst thing that could happen to a mother – to lose your child and then be blamed for it. Rhiannon is blamed. She has no way of defending herself and does not even know what has happened. She has no way of resolving things. All she can do, is endure with good grace, which she does, and tell her story.

There is a power in telling stories. In the end, the stolen child is recovered, Rhiannon’s good name is restored to her, and the real villain is punished. This is only possible because she has endured, she has survived and lived long enough to see things righted.

Normally I tend to favour active solutions to problems, rather than characters who wait for a rescuer, or for fate to return the balance. I don’t have a very trusting nature, and I feel safer when I’m doing something. But Rhiannon’s is a tale in which there is no scope for doing anything at all. There are no clues, nothing to go on. She’s not like Demeter, who is able to go and seek information about the missing Persephone. The child has gone, and there is no one who can tell Rhiannon how, aside from the mysterious thief. Rhiannon’s is a tale of powerlessness, and if any character had justification to despair, she would be the one. And yet, she gets through, somehow.

This is a story about not giving up, even when there is no visible reason for hope. That’s a very powerful message to turn to when there seems to be no way forward. It is also a tale about grace and a certain kind of quiet courage. Rhiannon does not dishonour herself in any way, despite what she is made to endure. She shoulders her burdens, literally, and she gets through. So may we all.

Hot News Item: Pagans Request the Reburial of Bones!

How do you feel about your Ancient Ancestors being dug up, being plopped out, and being stuck inside some horrible basement somewhere because no one knows what to do with them?


Thanks to Bryn Colvin, we received this link and video of Pagan Emma Restall Orr speaking for a Pagan cause. The video is featured on BBC news, so please check it out and tell us what you think.

Should our Pagan Ancestors be returned to the Mother Earth?

Click for Video

Walter William Melnyk – Interview

I first encountered Walter William Melnyk through his collaboration with Emma Restall Orr in The Apple and The Thorn. Hearing he has a new book out – The Marsh Tales, I was keen to read (they are great, proper review at www.druidnetwork.org)

Bryn:  First up then. This is your second book (that I know of) set around the marshes that once surrounded modern Glastonbury. From the way you write, it seems to be very much in your blood, so I wondered what your personal experience of it has been? Given it’s a landscape that isn’t strictly speaking there anymore.

Bill: I first visited Glastonbury in July of 2003 when I led a ritual for Christians and Druids at Stonehenge.  I had recently become a Companion of the Chalice Well, so my wife and I stayed in the new lodge and spent much time in the gardens in the quiet of the evening.  I was impressed by the bold power of the Tor, but was even more moved by the quiet power of the springs, and felt an immediate kinship with the surrounding Somerset levels.  As I began to visit the ancient marshes through the eyes and memory of Eosaidh during the writing of The Apple and the Thorn I began to feel a sense of “coming home,” although I had never lived there before. In this life.  The dark mystery of the old marshes sank deep into my heart and touched something that certainly was already there.  I have to believe that some old part of me once knew the marshes as home.  Perhaps there is a memory of ancient worlds in all of us.

Bryn: And what drew you to Eiosaidh? Is it that he is stood between the Christian world and the Druid one, or are there other things in his story that speak to you?

Bill: Eosaidh and I are not the same person, but there is a great deal of autobiography in his character.  He is very much a product of his own traditions, yet he has seen enough of the wide world over many years to know that truth is broader, deeper, more profound, and much more elusive than any one person, or any one people, can imagine.  But, more importantly, he knows that human relationship is more deeply important than matters of dogma or ideology.  This is certainly true in his relationship with his crucified nephew, as well as with the woman who lies beneath the persona of the Lady of Affalon.  In my best moments I hope I am a little like Eosaidh.

Bryn: Was The Apple and the Thorn your first foray into fiction writing, or have you done other books before?

Bill: The Apple and the Thorn was my first novel.  I’d published some poetry previously (and “The Promise of all Living” is a book of poems currently available on Amazon.)  It was originally intended to be a non-fiction exploration of the connection between early Celtic Christianity and pre-Christian Celtic spirituality.  But I thought no one would read that, so I decided to tell a story instead, and invited Emma to join me in the project.

Bryn: Are you working on anything at the moment?

Bill: Now that “Marsh Tales and Other Wonders” is in print, I am beginning work on adapting “The Apple and the Thorn” into a screen play.  It’s my first venture into that genre, but I think the tale would work well on screen.  I have four outlines for novels, but haven’t yet decided which one to go with.  Right now I’m spending a lot of time walking in the woods with Rudy, our Schnoodle.

Bryn: That’s a very exciting prospect. I can also imagine it working well on radio, there are such strong voices there. Who do you like to read?

Bill: Thanks for the kind words.  Of course I love reading my collaborator, Emma Restall Orr.  JRR Tolkien and Marion Zimmer Bradley have been great inspirations for me.  Also Diana Gabaldon (The Outlander series), and Terry Pratchett.

Bryn: Where can people find you online?

Bill: www.TheAppleandtheThorn.com Also on Facebook under William Melnyk and Walter William Melnyk.