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Earth, Air, Fire, Water.
Robin Skelton and Margaret Blackwood.
Arkana £7.99. 

Robin Skelton is a fine poet and anthologist, who is active in the Craft in Canada. He has written several books on aspects of the Craft and occult matters. His earlier book, Spellcraft, is an essential book for anyone wanting to write their own spells, as it is a poet's account of the poetic structure of spells and how this structure gives them power. (Added 2005. I give an appreciation of his writings in this article).

The current book is subtitled "Pre-Christian and pagan elements in British songs, rhymes, and ballads". It is an anthology of ballads, nursery rhymes, and poems from authors ranging from Herrick and Jonson to modern poets such as Walter de la Mare and Kathleen Raine. An introduction talks about the Old Religion, and notes at the end give specific information on the material in the poems and on related topics. Pagans who like poetry will find this book, with its wide and well-chosen selection and its interesting comments, a most welcome addition to their books.

The book contains several of the great magical ballads, including The Two Magicians (and also more well-known ones such as Tam Lin and Thomas the Rhymer), which are surprisingly little-known by pagans; they can also be found in books of ballads (some of which are currently in print), but of course they are best appreciated in sung versions by such people as Martin Carthy and Frankie Armstrong.

I could not help noticing that, though modern poets are included, the vast majority of poems are not in copyright. I have myself collected over the past few years a wide selection of poems in which I feel the Goddess is present in one of her many individual or seasonal aspects. My collection includes many modern poets, often unexpected or little-known ones (several poems by Patricia Beer and Ruth Fitter, for example). Because of the difficulty (and cost) of getting extensive copyright permissions, it is unlikely that I will ever publish this.

Wood and Water 33, Autumn 1990
© Daniel Cohen

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