Thursday, October 9

Samhain Blessings: Owain Phyfe

Mama Stacey, back when she was a brand new mommy, held a very small sleeping Doodle Bug in her lap.  We were snuggled together underneath my long black cloak as it was a chilly, drizzly evening and I had retreated to the large pavilion that is Caffeina's Cafe at Wisteria (a pagan-friendly campground in southern Ohio).  It was perhaps 2004 and we were at the Pagan Spirit Gathering for Litha, as we always were back in those days, back when it was just me and my son, exploring the world in a mini-van. 

We sat bundled on a chair near the empty corner stage, enjoying the twinkle-lights strung up in the rafters.  I was sipping something warm when the drizzle suddenly decided to take itself seriously and drown the campground.  It was very late and I almost packed it in, when a huddled mass of people began to flood the cafe.  The crowd parted and a man with a neat beard and wet cloak crunched the gravel as he made his way to the stage, strange little guitar in hand.

How could I know, in that moment, that I would love that guitar for the rest of my life?


Faithful followers helped this man to set a large mug of wine on a stool beside himself and to settle on the stage.  The chair that Doodle Bug and I sat in became surrounded by people.  We couldn't move, he was sleeping, and I hadn't finished my drink... so I sat there as this man began to play.

Selena Fox, matriarch of the famous Pagan organization Circle Sanctuary, sat at the table beside me, cheeks rosy from whatever was in her tankard.  Owain began to strum his guitar lightly and he spoke.  He told the tale of what it would be like to be an English soldier fighting against the Spanish army and drowning your sorrows in a French tavern.  He shared the words with us and prompted us to repeat them:

"We be, soldiers three.
Pardona moy je vous en pree.
Lately come forth of the low country,
with never a penny of mony."

Owain forgave us for butchering the French lines, but explained that it only lent to the authenticity of the song... for we were but drunken English soldiers, were we not?



As fantastic as Owain and the New World Renaissance Band's albums are, they are missing that one important element that the live performances always held: the stories.  Owain shared tales from around the world and tidbits of jokes and cultural innuendo before each song.  He brought the music into perspective and made you feel it even deeper in your soul.

Doodle Bug and I would frequently make trips to Medieval festivals and Renaissance faires where Owain was performing, driving up to 6 hours round trip just to hear him play 15 minute sets while sitting on a tree stump or playing on a stage no bigger than my dining room table.


When I wanted to purchase some music, Owain and his beautiful wife, The Lady Paula, walked me through each album. We bought 'Where Beauty Moves and Wit Delights' because, upon seeing young Doodle Bug, Owain explained that the song Fuggi, Fuggi, Fuggi (if you've heard Owain live,  you may know it as the Fa La La La La La song) had been recognized as beneficial for children's brain development.  Owain was humbled by the song's inclusion on a lullaby CD that was sent home with newborn babies. 

I have bought many more of Owain & TNWRB's albums since then, however 'Where Beauty Moves and Wit Delights' will always be my favorite.  It houses the first song I ever heard Owain play, it has the Fuggi song, and Mama Stacey's all time favorite: 'Since First I Saw Your Face'

Owain and Lady Paula, became bright beacons of light wherever we went.  Doodle Bug and I would smile from afar, knowing how popular Owain was and never wanting to be a bother.  We began to recognize the various hats Owain wore, and always... the guitar.  That beautiful instrument that I now know is called a chitarra battente (an Italian pre-guitar).


I will never forget walking down Merchant's Row early one morning at a festival, many years after that first night, and seeing him sitting at his campsite wearing nothing but boots and a medieval cap.  He was eating olives and offered up a sleepy smile.  We both nodded and I continued my journey.

During the summer of 2012, a message appeared on Owain's Facebook page, stating that he needed to cancel a musical performance because he was feeling a bit under the weather.  On various message boards within the community, we heard that it might be a mysterious stomach thing.  Love outpoured and we all wished him well.

It was not a "stomach thing".  When it was announced that Owain was fighting cancer, people across the nation sent him money.  As a traveling performer, his health insurance situation was not the best.  At the time, I had $3 to spare and sent it.  This man was a very important part of my life, whether he knew it or not.

On August 7th, 2012, Owain posted his thanks on Facebook.


29 days later... Owain left this world.  And we cried.  The Oakland Press

Tribute CDs and webpages were created.  Many are still available through various organizations.


The stage at the Greater St. Louis Renaissance Festival dedicated their stage to his memory.



Half Clef stage at the Florida Renaissance Festival.


Owain is the bottom right in red.


Michigan Renaissance Festival.


Owain is central with guitar.

The 2013 Donegal Dogs album.




Sandart at the Texas Renaissance Festival.



Ohio Renaissance Festival.



Guinness Pub in Michigan.


In the House of Mama Stacey, my first Owain CD adorns the Samhain altar, because I will forever miss him.  Baby E will grow up listening to his voice, the same as Doodle Bug has.  I like to imagine that Owain is enjoying a cigar and an unending glass of wine.  I pray that he is able to send blessings to his family as the veil grows thin. 


"And my eyes, like some fountain, the tears over flow."