Tuesday, December 01, 2020

The Lost Spells book: images, stories, magic...

Words, images, music: they are all things in and of themselves. They also are -- or can be -- gateways, doorways, thresholds, pathways, and means of connection.

As a visual artist, Jackie Morris knows this. When she heard certain words were going to be taken out of a popular children’s dictionary, she decided to create a book of a series of illustrations calling the words and the animals and plants they represented back into our lives.

She asked author Robert Macfarlane if he’d write an introduction to a book of such illustrations. He came back with another idea. What if he wrote poems to go along, spells or charms if you will...

The result of their exchange became the book The Lost Words. Eventually, sparked by ideas and support from the people of the Folk by the Oak Festival, a collaboration of musicians, a series of concerts, and a recording came about, too: The Lost Words: Spell Songs.

I’ve told you parts of this elsewhere here at Music Road.

Now, there’s more to the story.

First, there’s another book, again a collaboration between Morris and Macfarlane.

It’s called The Lost Spells. Some of the stories continue on with characters you met in The Lost Words (each book stands quite well on its own, though) and some are new.

Word and image mix, as they do in the The Lost Words, but then again, in not quite the same way.

The Lost Words is an oversized book, certainly great for sharing and exploring with others -- children for example; it is used quite a bit in schools. The narrative structure of the illustrations is both intricate and direct.

The Lost Spells is, by contrast, a small book, one you can easily hold in your hand and readily keep in your bag. You can, indeed share the illustrations with others, including children. It will likely be more of a sitting shoulder to shoulder or cuddling up on the couch, though, things that the bigger book does not invite in quite the same way.

Okay, you are saying, but what’s in the book? What is it about?

It is about the wild right next to you. The community of jackdaws and jays, the lives of gorse and moths, the sharp energy of the gannet, the elusive yet engaging presence of the red fox, which are all nearby but often out of mind and perhaps just on the edge of sight.

If you have been feeling a bit cooped up of late, The Lost Spells will help expand your horizons. If you have been out for walks near or far, the images and ideas may expand what you look for and how you take note of those things, too.

The Lost Spells is a thoughtful and thought provoking book, good for readers of any age. In fact its companion The Lost Words has been used in primary schools as well as in care comes for elders.

There are extensive online resources for The Lost Spells, too, good for educators, home schoolers and curious independent leaners.

Word comes, too, that the musicians who collaborated to create The Lost Worlds Spell Songs recording are beginning to work on songs inspired by The Lost Spells. They are Scottish musicians Julie Fowlis, Karine Polwart, Rachel Newton, and Kris Drever, kora master Seckou Keita, stringed instrumentalist Beth Porter, multi-instrumentalist Jim Molyneux, and producer Andy Bell.

-->Update: Spell Songs II: Let the Light in is on the way, planned for release in December. Follow the links to the Folk by the Oak website in this story for more, and stay tuned here at Music Road for further informaitona as well.

That said I will leave you with songs from that project, and a link to what I had to say about the Spell Songs album. There’s more music to listen to in that piece, too.

-->Your support for Music Road is welcome and needed. If you are able to chip in, here is a way to do that, through PayPal. Note that you do not have to have a PayPal account to do this. Thank you.

You may also wish to see
Laws of Motion from Karine Polwart
Alterum from Julie Fowlis
’In the Name of Stillness from Aine Minogue
Kris Drever’s album Where the World Is Thin
The Spell Song artists join for a video of the song Willow, as part of the story at Wandering Educators you will find at this link

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posted by Kerry Dexter at


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