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The History, Folklore and Myth of Toadstone

When we were writing the first Toadstone album it was important to us that a lot of the songs were quite narrative; this fed into our compositional style at the time where we were interested in writing music that would reflect the emotional content or events in the story in the same way as a film soundtrack or an opera. It was also quite important to us that the stories felt authentic and traditional so to that end we turned to actual historical events and genuine folklore that interested us and we felt encapsulated the style that we wanted to convey.

The following are brief explanations of the stories behind the songs that were inspired in this way:

Knights of the Cross

This song was influenced by the real life events that ended with the downfall of the Knights Templar.

The Knights Templar were founded in the crusades and originally were set up to protect pilgrims in the Holy land. As time went on the Templar became one of the wealthiest and most powerful groups in Europe and became one of the world's first banking organisations. The power, wealth and military strength of the templar was problematic for King Philip IV of France who used the secretive nature of the order to accuse them of such heretical acts as worshiping the idol of Baphomet and eating the ashes of the dead. With the support of Pope Clement V the order of the Knights Templar was dissolved and it’s members arrested, tortured and executed. The Grand Master of the Templar, Jacques de Molay, was burned at the stake on an island in the Seine in 1314. Upon his death he is said to have cursed both Philip IV and Pope Clement V.

Death and the Maiden

This song was inspired by the common medieval artistic motif of death and the maiden but uses the ancient Greek myth of Persephone being abducted by Hades and held prisoner in the underworld to provide a narrative. The idea was to use the Greek myth as a basis but tell the story from a more anglicised perspective. In the myth, Persephone had to refuse all food and drink while she was held captive in the underworld or be doomed to stay there forever. Eventually she gave in to temptation and ate six pomegranate seeds. However, despite this, Hades agreed to let her leave for six months of the year and keept her in the underworld for the remaining six. With this resolution the myth offers an explanation for the changing of the seasons which ties in quite nicely with the pastoral qualities of our music.

The Call of the Horned Piper

Painswick is a village local to us with a lot of interesting history and folklore.This song was inspired by the activities of Benjamin Hyett and the resulting events. Hyett was a member of the local gentry in the early 1700s with a fascination in neo-paganism and in particular the god Pan. He is now best known for creating Painswick’s Rococo gardens which still has a statue of Pan in its grounds.

Less well known is that he built the mysterious Pan’s Lodge in an area of local woodland called The Frith. The purpose of the lodge is not known for sure but, due to its location and Hyett’s interests, it seems likely that it was used to debauched parties and occult practice. Unfortunately the lodge no longer exists but can be seen in drawings and paintings by Thomas Robbins from the 1750s.

Hyett Started a procession to Pan in the village which involved the people of Painswick carrying around a statue of Pan while shouting “highgates”. The tradition lasted until the 1830s when it died out. However the tradition was restored by the village’s new vicar W.H. Seddon in 1885 who was under the impression that it was an older tradition. The procession then survived up until 1950 when another new vicar took exception to the practice and had the statue buried in an unknown location.

White Stag

The white stag is a rare and elusive creature. Believed by the Celts to be otherworldly it could be a portant of important events or change yet to come. In Arthurian legend the animal represented a quest, although the beast was unobtainable and could never be caught.

The Lambton Worm

The tale of the Lambton Worm originates from the north of England. It concerns the exploits of John Lambton who on one occasion as a youth goes fishing in the River Wear instead of going to church. Instead of fish John catches a strange eel-like creature which he believes to be the Devil and throws it down a well to dispose of it.

Time went on and the worm was forgotten, when he was old enough John went off to fight in the crusades as a way to atone for his rebellious youth. However while John was away the worm, now much larger, emerged from the well to terrorise the locals. It ate the livestock and was so large that it could coil itself around one of the local hils. John’s father managed to appease the worm by giving it the milk of nine cows daily and many knights died trying to kill the worm, a difficult task due to the worm’s ability to reattach its own severed flesh.

Eventually John returned from the crusades to find his Father’s lands ravaged by the worm. He resolved to try and kill the creature himself and consulted a local wise woman on how he should go about it. Her ingenious idea was that he should fight the creature in the River Wear while wearing armour covered in spear tips, every time the worm tried to wrap itself around John the spear tips would slice off parts of it’s flesh which would be washed away by the river so that they could not rejoin. She also warned John that for killing the worm his family would be cursed for nine generations unless he killed the first living thing he saw after dispatching the worm. John’s solution to this was that on killing the worm he would blow his hunting horn three times, a signal to his Father to release his favourite hunting hound which he would then kill. John’s father however, overjoyed at learning that the worm was vanquished, forgot to release the hound and ran to meet John himself. Unable to kill his own father, the next nine generations of Lambtons were cursed to not die peacefully in their beds.

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