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Into The Underworld
Leaves turn in the canopy, time turns in the houses and so it is that this month we prepare for the winter ahead. Pausing between the celebrations on the turn of the wheel, we take a left at bonfire night, squirrel treats into the cupboards, don a warm jumper and settle on the sofa until the solstice, pulling around us the blankets that were once draped on the back of the sofa and disappearing into our own personal underworlds.
In story, underworlds are dark, dank places, places long cut off from the light afforded the upper world, places where nothing good will occur. Social constructs reinforce this. The need to continue being productive, continue with the routine and fill the space with neon lights to convince ourselves we do not need the dark of the underworld. That is not so.
Darkness is a very necessary place and if we play by their rules and do not lose ourselves to theses spaces, then underworlds can offer us a sanctuary.
Be sure of yourself and do not look back. Behave with reverence within the liminal space. Only take what you need and you will emerge from the underworld wiser and stronger.
That time between the magic of Samhain and the dark days of the winter solstice are a time of quietutde for me. A time of contemplation, recharging and preparation. A time to retreat to the underworld.
Modern life and rhythms of work do not always allow a total immersion in the coming dark in order to recharge, but in one way or another there is a time of hunkering down, even if it’s just the acts of stacking wood in the wood store, making jars of mince meat, adding the thermal covering to the chicken’s coop and feeding the Yuletide fruited cake.
November is a quieter month for storytelling too but I have a few events this month, which you will find below. I’m also starting a new project with Portsmouth Education Partnership that I would love to tell you more about, but we’re not quite ready to announce it yet. I promise as soon as it’s live I will be letting you know.
A second piece of exciting news is that I have been commissioned to write my next book for the History Press - ‘The Little History Of Storytelling’. This is going to involve a lot of research and will be a chunky project so my deadline’s a generous one. The book’s unlikely to be out in the world until late 2025 at the earliest but I can’t wait to get stuck in and I’ll be sure to share research trips and pondering along the way with you in Behind The Scenes posts for paid subscribers.
Coming up this month on Substack for paid subscribers, ‘Notes From The Downs: Yellow Is The Colour’ and a new audio book: ‘One For The Rook’ the second novella in the Blake Hetherington Mysteries. In addition, podcast extras will include ‘Kitchen Witching: 'Fruit Of The Underworld’, a themed playlist, and a transcript of the folklore section from the episode.
Linda Pastan’s poem ‘The Months’ describes November perfectly and so I shall leave you with her words. Read on to find out what stories, events and recommended reads I have for you this month.
leaves, their wet
against the window
or falling past—
I count them
in my sleep,
absolving even death
who knows as I do
of the season.
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Upcoming Events For November/December:
18th & 19th November - Winter Cheer Workshop at the South Of England Show with Slake Spirits - Book Here
30th November - Christmas Fair - Ewhurst Park - More Info Here
1st December - Yuletide Folktales - Slake Spirits, Worthing - Book Here
9th & 16th December - Family Fun Days - Red House Museum - Book Here
18th December - Kings Of The Winter Woodland - Butser Ancient Farm - Book Here
19th, 20th, 21st December - Yuletide Folklore & Stories - Weald & Downland - Free with entry ticket, book your ticket here
31st December - New Year’s Eve - Online Show - More Info Coming Soon.
For more information visit my events page using the button below.
‘Stories Of The Sun’, is now available to pre-order! The book is due to be published next March by The History Press and you can pre-order via most bookshops but if you click on the book cover below it will take you to bookshop.org where you can pre-order a copy and support independent bookshops at the same time.
October’s Paid Subscriber Content. Available In The Archive:
Of Hearths & Halls - Samhain - 21st Century Guising - Watch Here
Preview - Brand New Retelling Of Stingy Jack - Watch Here
Podcast Extras, which include: a recipe, playlist and a transcript of the folklore in the episode - Available Here
Thank you for supporting this newsletter through October. Supporting my work in this way allows me to continue to write freely and authentically and I thank you from the bottom of my storytelling heart.
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I have had this book on my physical (don’t get me started on the digital) TBR pile for an embarasisingley long time. I keep picking it up and then something else comes along that I have to read for research or I’m just too tired to absorb it properly and so my mission this month is to read this internationally renowen tome. It just seems like the right time to read Rob McFarlane’s Underland as it fits so well with November. It’s got to be done.