Sunday, 1 May 2011

May - the force be with you

May Day, Beltane, International Workers' Day - call it what you will, it's a special day.

Poles will be danced around, men with bells on will entertain crowds and ancient folklore traditions will be enacted again as they are at this time every year.

It has been said that there is nothing new under the Sun (that's the one in the sky, not in the newsagent's) and that everything draws upon whatever has preceded it. Traditions evolve of course - they change names and familiar rituals take on different significance, depending on who is doing the interpretation. But behind all the hullabaloo, there is something potent that speaks to us without words.

Writing, at its core, is an attempt to convey something from inside the mind and heart of the writer - sometimes clearly and sometimes deliberately obscured - so that the reader can fathom the riddle and reach the treasure. Folk tales once gave us moral guidance and warnings, even as they entertained us. And in recent times some of those tales have been reinterpreted so that new secrets can be laid bare.

The distant past and the societies that existed then knew a thing or two about life and its mysteries, even if they didn't have our technological advances. There was and still is wisdom in those tales of old. Beowulf, Odin, Arthur, Gawain, Eochaid and a cast of hundreds of others - take your pick and drink deep from the well of our literary and folkloric heritage.

The books that really speak to us, be they ancient or modern, whatever their genre, the ones that follow us for days after we have turned the final page, they keep the fires of inspiration burning brightly for the writers yet to come.

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