For days when you need to hear or hum a blessing

In 2007, a new edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary was published. 40 words had been dropped, to make space for more “relevant” language – attachmentblogbroadbandbullet-pointcut-and-paste, and voice-mail. The “lost words” that were no longer being used enough by children to merit their place in the dictionary, included:  acornadderbluebelldandelionfernheronkingfishernewtotter, and willow.

Many grieved this, as a sign that our relationship with nature, the wild world, was becoming further frayed.

Welsh artist, Jackie Morris, had an idea – to summon those words back into existence. She collaborated with the nature writer Robert Macfarlane to make a “spell book” to conjure back twenty of these lost words, and the beings they name, from acorn to wren.

The book, and also the energy behind it – of protest by creation – created a wave of momentum – people fundraised to get a copy in every school in Scotland, murals of the art were painted on hospital walls, a group of musicians created an album full of music inspired by it. The book serves as a platform for school lessons and projects. Kids are memorizing the poems. The Lost Words spoke to a growing grass-roots movement to re-wild childhood across Britain, Europe, and North America.

This song was suggested by musician Karine Polwart – the idea was to craft a blessing that borrows images and phrases from many of The Lost Words spells by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris (Bluebell, Dandelion, Fern, Heather, Heron, Kingfisher, Lark, Otter, Raven and Starling), as well as from new spells (Goldfinch and Grey Seal). The form is inspired by blessings in Scottish Gaelic, particularly from a beautiful collection of charms and incantations called Carmina Gadelica.

It’s been playing for me for the last week. There’s something solstice-apt about singing blessings, naming names, letting go. So I thought I would share.

Enter the wild with care, my love

And speak the things you see

Let new names take and root and thrive and grow

And even as you travel far from heather, crag and river

May you like the little fisher, set the stream alight with glitter

May you enter now as otter without falter into water

Look to the sky with care, my love

And speak the things you see

Let new names take and root and thrive and grow

And even as you journey on past dying stars exploding

Like the gilded one in flight, leave your little gifts of light

And in the dead of night my darling, find the gleaming eye of starling

Like the little aviator, sing your heart to all dark matter

Walk through the world with care, my love

And sing the things you see

Let new names take and root and thrive and grow

And even as you stumble through machair sands eroding

Let the fern unfurl your grieving, let the heron still your breathing

Let the selkie swim you deeper, oh my little silver-seeker

Even as the hour grows bleaker, be the singer and the speaker

And in city and in forest, let the larks become your chorus

And when every hope is gone, let the raven call you home

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