REVIEWS & ENDORSEMENTS
a fascinating snapshot of how modern Paganism has become inextricably merged into the fabric of Britain's folkloric and artistic culture... an enjoyable and informative read ... should entertain any reader interested in British folklore and the Pagan revival. ~ Jerry Bird, Merry Meet
Moved by your warm-hearted book—a real Rural Rides (William Cobbett) for now !
~ Peter Please www.peteralfredplease.co.uk, author of The Chronicles of the White Horse, The Holine Trilogy, & others
Bard on a bike Kevan Manwaring takes a motorcycle tour around festal Britain to see how people mark the changing seasons with customs ancient and modern
Here we have a fascinating insight into the quotidian psyche of a busy and successful writer, a diary kept, significantly enough, to celebrate twelve months of sacred time in the fortieth year of his life during which he immerses himself in Britains cultural and creative heritage.
Kevan Manwaring, also a teacher, storyteller and poet, is the author of more than a dozen books including the Windsmith Elegy (in four volumes with a fifth to come), The Bardic Handbook, Lost Islands and The Way of Awen: Journey of a Bard, and is a former Bard of the city of Bath, UK.
In his new book, Turning the Wheel: In Search of Seasonal Britain on Two Wheels, a chapter for each month takes us through a host of festive occasions, from mummers at Marshfield, Gloucestershire, and May Day at Padstow, Cornwall, to the cutting of the Glastonbury Thorn and the Lammas games at Avebury – havens of the great British eccentric maybe, but a celebration nonetheless of the myth and magic which feeds our life springs.
Only Writer Following the True Bardic Tradition
If the highest purpose of art is to inspire, then Manwaring certainly has done that in writing a book that will encourage you to visit such events and recognise the wheel of the year yourself - from solstice to equinox, from midwinter to midsummer, from megalith to maypole - in a similar spirit of creativity and mafficking. Its much more than a simple folkloric travelogue around the Celtic ritual calendar; its a critique of contemporary life refracted through the eyes of a man on both spiritual odyssey and love quest.
About contemporary Druidry itself, of which the Bardic Chair movement is part, Manwaring is disarmingly down-to-earth. He casts a jaundiced eye on some of the Druidic events he attends, and is not afraid to question their motives and validity – but he does this from a position of strength because he is perhaps the only writer today following the true bardic tradition.
Everything these days is about speeding up, he complains rightly, as though faster somehow equals better. He demonstrates admirably how slowing down has distinct advantages, not least in the ability to stand and stare, in the words of William Henry Davies, the poet of the tramps, whose acute and intense response to the natural world finds a counterpart in Manwarings own perceptive observations. By coincidence, Davies last home was at Nailsworth in the same part of Gloucestershire that Manwaring lives in.
Meaningful Changes of Scene, Atmosphere and Relationships
Manwaring cuts a romantic but often a seemingly solitary figure, despite the social whirl and biker ethos, on this, his latest journey of a bard. His poets sensitivity, and even possibly his vulnerability, to meaningful changes of scene, atmosphere and relationships is gently revealed, without qualm, as the pages of the book go by. This vulnerability which one intuits – a sense of loss, which he explains, is central to the book – does not problematise but actually deepens the reading experience for it opens the artists receptivity and thus his expressiveness, too.
Particularly poignant and affecting is the section towards the end of the book when the feeling of solitariness ebbs as Jenni, a woman Manwaring had met fleetingly on a previous occasion, re-enters his life unexpectedly at a poetry workshop in Worcestershire. He finds she is his soulmate, and the book is dedicated to her.
Manwarings openness to experience brings its rewards, and he feels enriched by the events of his year. Part of their specialness, however, was their very transience, and coming home was often just as important as going away. While we have bodies we should enjoy them, enjoy the realm of the senses, he tells us. To do otherwise, to deny life, is an insult to creation. We should savour, then move on.
So the wheel must turn. More than anything, Manwaring reminds us to cherish our own sacred time.
Manwaring, Kevan, Turning the Wheel: In Search of Seasonal Britain on Two Wheels. O-Books, 2011. UK £15.99 / US $26.95. ISBN 978-1-84694-766-7.
~ Geoff Ward, Suite 101
Read more at Suite101: Book Review: Turning the Wheel - Seasonal Britain on Two Wheels | Suite101.com http://geoffward.suite101.com/book-review-turning-the-wheel---seasonal-britain-on-two-wheels-a401244#ixzz1jl3J5aio
Turning the Wheel is, on the surface simply a travel book featuring places you can go to in the UK where interesting seasonal events take place. However, there is a vast amount more going on. This is such a layered, complex piece of writing that I’m tempted to say ‘just read it’. Any attempt to break it down for review will inevitably do it a disservice.
The seasonal celebration aspect is very much the core of the narrative thread. We follow Kevan through his fortieth year as he roams the countryside in search of different ways of celebrating. The focus tends towards traditional gatherings, or at least revivals, but has plenty of newer traditions thrown in for good measure. Rather than a dry account of who does what when, this is a personal, individual perspective of specific events in 2010. That makes it far more readable than some kind of ‘where to go’ book.
How you relate to Kevan’s interpretation of events will depend on your own tastes. If you like things to be done to the letter of the tradition, following a tight script, then you may not get along with his descriptions. However if, like me, you are more into living tradition, this is great reading. I like my traditions vibrant and heartfelt and care far more for that than exactly how old they are and whether anyone made bits up. All human activity derives from making bits up, and celebrating this kind of creativity is, from my perspective, wonderful.
Kevan is one of the few (possibly the only) modern bard writing books about what it means to be a bard today. This draws me to his work, and I feel his contribution is very important for anyone on a bard path. While the focus of this book is not being a creative person, what you do get is an ongoing expression of how a creative person interacts with, and responds to their own experience. It won’t tell you how to be a bard, but there is, if you will excuse the pun, a roadmap here for developing your own bardic life. For anyone stepping away from conventional, banal ways of doing, just reading about someone else’s adventures is a source of courage and inspiration. Living unconventionally is hard work, and reading this book I felt a lot of gratitude for the sense of connection it gave me. The reminders that there are a lot of other people out there following the way of awen, following their dreams and their muses, and not being dictated to by the mainstream materialist, commercialist souless pap. There is also a great deal of thought provoking comment as Kevan reflects on the meanings of experiences so for anyone with a philosophical leaning, there’s some good material for pondering here.
When it comes to druid issues, there’s a rather delicious complexity. Kevan talks with considerable disdain of the overdressed, inebriated, media obsessed wing of druidry. The folk who happily turn up 2 hours late, pose for the cameras and have little capacity for reasoned thinking. The tragedy for me, is that this visible, self promoting end of the druid community has clearly formed Kevan’s opinion of who we are and what we do, so much that he’s writing about us in those terms. Everything I read about the author’s attitude to spirit, creativity and celebration resonates with me. I recognise him as being, from my perspective, wholly druidic and I can see why, from his perspective, he might not be. It raises some big questions for me about representations and perceptions of druidry in the wider world. I can’t say it was wholly comfortable to read, but this is perhaps a wakeup call that many of us could do with.
I was conscious, reading Turning the Wheel that the author clearly wasn’t worried about offending people. Bards of old were supposed to satirise the foolish and inept, after all. There’s also a remarkable degree of emotional honesty in other regards too – a real baring of the soul. To be human is not always to be cast in the best possible light. Reading the book has made me rethink the way I represent myself, and how I represent my community. There’s a challenge to take up here, for anyone who cares to – to go further, do more, offer up the warts as well as the shiny bits.
I have no doubt that this book is going to affect every reader differently. Depending on belief and experience, different moments will chime, or jar – and both are productive experiences. We shouldn’t be afraid to be shaken up once in a while. I feel personally that I have been much enriched by reading Turning the Wheel, and will keep it to re-read. I recommend it absolutely, but it is not a sop to the collective druid ego!
~ Nimue Brown , The Druid Network
~ Phil Rickman, Phil the Shelf BBC Radio Wales
Meeting the Man behind the Wheel
~ Richard, Customer, Amazon
This book sets out one mans experience of the many seasonal festivals and celebrations across the UK. Neatly packaged within one turn of the calendar, we join in his visits to both well-known and obscure ancient sites, and encounter a rich variety of cultural expressions.
When I received this book, courtesy of the publisher, I started reading, eager to discover which sites and festivals were mentioned, and wondering which one I would most wish to visit for myself... To me, the success of this book is that when I finished reading it, I felt like I had also encountered Kevan the man, and really hope to be able to experience his live poetry-reading and story-telling some time soon.