Skip to Content Skip to Navigation

Darren Raleigh: Origin Myth

One day in the 1960’s, a perfectly normal baby was spirited away as a gift to the Queen of Faerie, and I'm what you got in exchange.

Okay, that’s probably not true.

I started working on my interpretation of the work of the ancient Celtic Bard - the Celtic harp, storytelling, singing, poetry, and spending as much time as possible around trees – after an experience in the 1980's which I have been assured by a Lakota shaman was a medicine dream of serious power.

Well okay then. I bought a harp and started learning to play it; I began researching Celtic history and myth and began my lifelong interest in the work of the great mythologist Joseph Campbell. I learned the term, "shamanic crisis."

A couple of years later I performed my first Celtic-legend-with-music, “The Three Champions of Ulster” as a guest speaker in a series of lectures on Celtic mysticism at the Philosophical Research Society in Los Feliz, California. Since I got out of there alive - which was all I really wanted - I kept going and wrote my first original work - “Torna’s Harp” – which I presented in 1987. It’s a classic-style archetypal journey-of-the-hero tale with music.

These days I consider it unutterable trash, but it did get off the ground and fly for a while. That taught me something.

Since that time I've continued to work on gathering more music, poems, and stories. I've performed at lots of different - some of them very different! - places:  I've been a street musician on the sidewalk - busking, as it's called in Europe. I've busked at Renaissance Faires, I've played coffeehouses, parties, and weddings.

I've given the eulogy and performed at a wake for a friend.

I've been a Featured Teller at the Two Rivers Storytelling Festival in Des Moines, the Story! festival at Story City Iowa, I’ve done concerts at Living History Farms in Urbandale, Iowa. I've appeared at the Celtic Festival and Highland Games of the Quad Cities.  I was interviewed by Ben Kieffer when he ran the Iowa Public Radio show Talk of Iowa.

I still get out and busk from time to time. It's a spiritual exercise for me - one of the realest things I can do; a genuine act of faith: playing music for anyone wants to listen, with no promise of recompense. I give what I do as a gift and if it touches something in someone that inspires them to give me some money, well, nobody is stopping them from dropping some in The Hat.

I began public speaking as a child, then moved to theatre and film. My theatrical resume includes Petruchio in “The Taming of the Shrew,” Banquo in “Macbeth” Andrew in "Sleuth" and Valmont in “Les Liaisons Dangereuses.” I'm a member of the Screen Actors Guild and I've appeared in some very silly motion pictures, though none sillier than “Robin Hood: Men in Tights,” directed by Mel Brooks.

In 1991 my best friend - Elaine - and I observed that we married, and so we went ahead and had the ceremony.  It was she who suggested that I learn to fly helicopters, having observed that I didn't want to just pretend to be the guy having the adventure; I wanted to get out and do real things.

I learned to fly, became an instructor for a few years, then came to the Midwest to be a pilot/reporter for the NBC affiliate in Des Moines and for three years and a bit I was “Captain Darren Raleigh in Chopper 13.”

After than I went to flying Emergency Medical Services helicopters, taking patients from accident scenes and from little hospitals to big hospitals.

Again seeking adventure, I took a brief stint away from medical flying to fly helicopters in Afghanistan as a filthy mercenary civilian contractor pilot. We carried coalition soldiers and cargo between Forward Operating Bases around Paktika province.  I got out without a scratch, though I can tell you that Taliban rockets make a godawful boom if they land close enough - the day after I left one of them hit my tent and made an awful mess. 

These days I’m back flying medical helicopters flying patients to where they need to go - fast.

But I've never forgotten that medicine dream; that shamanic crisis that made me pick up that harp the first time, so I keep working on adding new tunes and performing when I can.

This is Aoife and I at that Iowa Public Radio appearance I mentioned, at The Java House in Iowa City: