General

In an interview with Tyler Wilcox, Alasdair says,
I suppose that when I was writing the songs [on Spoils] I was spending too much time alone reading things like that, also the Book of Ezekiel, as well as Jungian stuff, particularly "Seven Sermons to the Dead" "Seven Sermons to the Dead" and Emma Jung's book on the grail legend, Gnostic texts, "The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz" as well as a lot of mythological stuff – The Irish Tain (Cattle Raid of Cooley in Colm Toibin's splendid translation) and the Welsh Four Branches of the Mabinogi (in Sioned Davies recent great translation), as well as the Grimm stories, traditional Scottish folk tales from the late Duncan Williamson and Robert Graves' collections of Greek myths ... and a book of mediaeval Gaelic poetry in translation called "Songbook of the Pillagers" and Alexander Carmichael's "Carmina Gadelica", all things which will have continuing interest for me... and listening to a lot of Scottish, English, Irish traditional singers and songs, at the same time trying to absorb and explore some of my German heritage by listening to Wagner and reading Thomas Mann and Goethe und so weiter ... all of which influences seeped into the songs to some extent ... although it's hardly Wagner, haha!!!

The Flyting of Grief and Joy (Eternal Return)

  • '[This] song in some ways explores the idea of "eternal return" – I was reading Mircea Eliade on the subject, and Nietzsche obviously wrote about it – I became obsessed with the idea and the various ways in which it could be configured. There's obviously the classic image of the ouroubouros serpent... but I was also think about it in terms of the myth of progress – when what we think of as progress is actually destruction. Like Kekule's ring, Benzene. And the fact that I personally constantly return to Song as a form of "expression" or creation rather than, say, improvisation or composition. This extends into another theme of the record in the song about Ned Ludd, the idea that "technology" is an emancipatory force...'I suppose [the question of whether the songs are rooted in one period or timeless] comes back to one configuration of the idea of "eternal return" – of history repeating. War and pestilence have always been and will always be – the Crusaders of yore have their parallels in the present day and in the distant past. War and wrongness have always and will ever be ... as will love, kindness and altruism, one likes to believe.' interview with Tyler Wilcox
  • A sistrum is a musical instrument of the percussion family, chiefly associated with ancient Iraq and Egypt.
  • Chamber lye was urine collected from chamber pots, used for stain removal and pre-wash soaking, and also for removal of natural oils from wool, and set dyes, not to mention its many uses in medicine (source).
  • "Zoraster and Mithras" — Mithras/Mithra seems to have multiple and sometimes vague uses. In Zorastrianism "the first day of the month Dey, known as khoram ruz or khore ruz (the day of sun) belongs to God (Ahura Mazda). Since the days are getting longer and the nights shorter, this day marks the victory of Sun over the darkness. The occasion was celebrated in the ancient Persian Deygan Festival dedicated to Ahura Mazda, and Mithra on the first day of the month Dey." (source) Mithra (Miθra) is the Avestan language name of the Zoroastrian divinity (yazata) of covenant and oath. But see also sol invictus:
    Sol Invictus ("the undefeated Sun") or, more fully, Deus Sol Invictus ("the undefeated sun god") was a religious title applied to at least three distinct divinities during the later Roman Empire; El Gabal, Mithras, and Sol. A festival of the birth of the Unconquered Sun... was celebrated by the Romans on December 25. On this, the first day after the... solar standstill of the winter solstice, the duration of daylight first begins to increase..., interpreted as the "rebirth" of the sun. With the growing popularity of the Christianity, Jesus of Nazareth came to be given much of the recognition previously given to a sun god, thereby including Christ in the tradition. This was later condemned by the early Catholic Church for associating Christ with pagan practices.
  • 'The first song has specifically Jungian references to the "sermons seven" and mandalas... it's like a quest song against conflict and towards individuation. I know a lot of people with strong political or religious convictions whose musical and artistic practice is guided by that – in some ways I envy that kind of certitude, but I suppose my thing is always about flexibility, multiplicity, confusion wanting to reflect the turmoil of reality... always trying to remember that the oar in the ocean is a winnowing fan on dry land.' interview with Tyler Wilcox

So Bored Was I (Dark Triad)

  • Dark Triad (or the dark triad of personalities) is a group of personality traits which people would generally define as undesirable. It is called a “dark triad” because it consists of three main personality deficiencies: narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy.
  • 'there's a reference to a very specific contemporary piece of psychological research I'd read about, the idea of the "dark triad" of personality types which meet in the Alpha Male – narcissism, sociopathy and Machiavellianism, which I kind of conflated with the idea of the Three Ages of Man singing together.' interview with Tyler Wilcox
  • 'The idea of "the great unveiling" in one song I suppose is a reference to some idea of imminent revelation; these do seem like dark and turmoiled times. It's hard to comprehend the vastness and purpose of the cosmos and one's place in it, the point of one's endeavours in whatever field. I don't subscribe to any particular belief system but I suppose some of these songs are interrogations of faith and so on... the idea that there might be some innate religiosity to which certain people are predisposed... (I don't subscribe to any particular faith but I wonder whether one day that might change in some great unveiling) and the idea of the "Celtic"... not wanting to sound too pompous about it.' interview with Tyler Wilcox

The Book of Doves

  • Columba also known as Colum Cille (meaning "Dove of the church")... was an outstanding figure among the Gaelic Irish missionary monks who, some of his advocates claim, introduced Christianity to the Picts during the Early Medieval Period.
  • The Book of Doves, a painting or paintings by the Russian, Nicholas Roerich
  • Angels of Mons "On 24 April 1915, an account was published in the British Spiritualist magazine telling of visions of a supernatural force that miraculously intervened to help the British at the decisive moment of the battle."
  • In the song, the Book of Doves is found in the Candida Casa, the church established by St Ninian in Whithorn, Galloway, southern Scotland, in the mid fifth century AD.

Hazel Forks

  • Troy-Town maze: many turf mazes in England were named Troy-town... presumably because, in popular legend, the walls of the city of Troy were constructed in such a confusing and complex way that any enemy who entered them would be unable to find his way out.
  • 'There are some very specific contemporary references on the record – "empty browsers" being a prominent one' interview with Tyler Wilcox

Under No Enchantment (But My Own)

  • Dog's mercury: Mercurialis perennis, commonly known as dog's mercury, is a woodland plant found in much of Europe, but almost absent from Ireland, Orkney and Shetland. It is highly poisonous.



Christianity