The Pagan Music Movement - Then and Now

by Ceridwen Seren-Ddaear, AD/RDG

This is the time of year that my thoughts drift back to the life and death of my friend, Gwydion Pendderwen. He left the physical realm on a weekend in early November, just after Samhain, and – in the interest of keeping his memory alive and also in introducing him to those of younger generations, I offer the following…

Gwydion Pendderwen was my first exposure to Pagan Music. In fact, I believe he was one of the first to put out a Pagan Music album (yes, the vinyl album!), and I wore out several copies of it in the '70's! He was the first "Official Bard" of the "Church of all Worlds", and a dear personal friend of mine whom I've stayed with in Ukiah - his forested ranch property was adjacent Oberon Zell-Ravenheart's and Morning Glory's and Orion's, and many other Pagan big names of the times.

They were forerunners in the California Pagan movement, and fellow Druids, in the way they had the annual Winter Solstice tree plantings (redwood and incense cedar trees), which Pagans from around the country would attend, and the hot tub parties were always a delight!

Gwydion's first band was called the "California Wicca Blues Band", and considering how long ago it was when they were popular - before the fancy musical technology we have today - they had a distinctly "homegrown" and "earthy" sound, which may sound quite "primitive" to modern ears, but I still appreciate it to this reminds me of those outdoor Pagan festivals where the music was necessarily acoustic because there was no electricity...

Gwydion was also one of the first teachers of the "Faery Tradition" of Witchcraft - being an initiate of Victor and Cora Anderson who began the tradition. His lineage tended to emphasize the Celtic elements of Feri. (I've been to his workshops, which generally took place at the annual Pan Pagan Festivals, and believe me, you really did learn to see Faeries in this workshop! :)

He also gave me my first Welsh book - and was instrumental in my learning to speak Welsh (it was his heritage, and he kept a house in Carmarthenshire,

One of his poems is called "Goodbye." (This was recited across the country when he died in an accident in 1982 - we lit a white candle (as did hundreds of other Pagans across the country) and read all his poetry and sang his songs in memorial...his shrine is his old house - the "Shaggy Mushroom", a little cabin he lived in on a hill called "Old Fluffy" - upon whose rain washed out road his truck slid off during a storm and rolled over and over downhill, where he died - I had just seen him at a Samhain party hours before...). Here are the words:

"Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft star that shines at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry.
I am not there. I did not die."

He had also written a song about how he wanted his body disposed of after he would die - some of the words were:

"Plant an acorn on my grave, and pass the whiskey around..."

Anyway, this following link tells something about Gwydion, and be sure to read all the pages, as they contain some song lyrics and CD ordering information:

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Pagan Music movement, and have therefore missed out on the unique spiritual beauty and inspiration of such music, I have compiled for you just a few of the many links out in cyberspace of some of my favourite sources of pagan music:

The Weird Sisters website has a list of wonderful Pagan musicians - many of the best are on here:

Circle Round Music has many songs and focuses on raising children in Goddess traditions:

Libana - an all female ethnic music group - here is some info on their most "witchy" album, where you can actually listen to samples of all the cuts:

"Best of Pagan Song" CD, featuring many famous pagan artists and songs:

Gypsy, Salem's High Priestess of Song and a Witch from Salem, has this beautiful CD that includes rituals, initiations and trances and chants (you can even listen to samples on this page):

Loreena McKennitt is a Canadian musician who plays beautiful and trancey harp music, and sings with a Faery-like voice of the magickal places she has traveled to, and her inspired perceptions of the spirituality of the Earth mother, standing stones, and Pagan Holidays:

Circle Sanctuary (with whom I lived a short time when I was in southern Wisconsin)...I especially recommend the final four examples from this page - the ones by Jim Alan - truly unique ones that really take you somewhere! (Most of these were done LIVE, and I think some of my drumming and chanting can be heard on them in the background!):

This is, of course, just a small sampling of the Pagan music available out there. It is amazing to me how much the Pagan Music Movement has grown since those early days when Gwydion was one of the only sources.

May it continue to grow and thrive…