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The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth
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Nell Grey (nellgrey) | 1682 comments The poem that appears as dedication at the beginning of the book is here: The White Goddess. I thought I'd better not just copy and paste, as I know Carcanet are very protective about copyright, having paid to use The Song of Blodeuwedd for both editions of The Golden Web.


message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

Nell, I'm so delighted with you starting this thread! To me, this book is a treasure trove of mythical and spiritual knowledge. :) Georgina.


Nell Grey (nellgrey) | 1682 comments It is, it is! I'm going to start re-reading tonight. It would be lovely if we could start something special here - come one, come all....


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When I first delved into The White Goddess (TWG from now on for me, too long to type!), I did it index first.

It is just so jam-packed with information I couldn't approach as I usually would. I love non-fiction books and history books in particular but this is something else. It's not just remembering and linking people and places it requires a deeper understanding of the parts to understand the whole (hope that makes sense).

I cross-referenced with Graves' Greek Myths (again great index first), with books on Celtic Lore, Sumerian mythology, anything I could get my hands on. The book shops loved me!

Then I honed in on the Beth-Luis-Nion Godelic Tree calendar. 'The Battle of the Trees', thirteen lunar months of the year and one dead day. As in 'And he travelled for a year and a day'.

Then everything fell into place. The seasons. The cycles of man and woman both physically and spiritually. The rituals and how and why they evolved, their origins. The references to the Gods and Goddess linked to each month.

This is the pre christian calendar. The new year begins after the dead day (Mid winter).

The astrological year also corresponds (at least in the Northern Hemisphere). For example, the seventh month of the Tree Calendar is Duir (Oak), the eighth is Tinne (Holly or scarlet oak). Duir and Tinne are the twins--Gemini. They are also the 'Little White Boys Clothed in Green' in 'Green Grow the Rushes Oh'.

There are so many interesting threads of possible exploration with this book. I'm still deep in it after buying it close to twenty years ago. And I still use the index to get around too!


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Thought I'd add for any one who hasn't read it but wants to get straight to the Tree Alphabet/Calendar/The Song of Amergin, Chapter 10, p165 through to chp 13 sums it all up pretty well.


Nell Grey (nellgrey) | 1682 comments The first time I read TWG I began at the beginning, and felt that I had to understand the Battle of the Trees before I could move on. Notebook and pencil helped. I already had some background knowledge of The Mabinogion, The Golden Bough and Celtic mythology, but Graves' knowledge is awesome, and a bibliography would have been helpful. I'd never have thought of starting with the index, but it sounds from your experience as though that might be the best approach.


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And armed with many bits of paper on which to scribble notes and insert between relevant pages!

I've cut and pasted the Beth Luis Nion Calendar in here (from the appendix of my own novel in which I use the calendar):

The Goidelic Ogham alphabet and Druidic Tree calendar.
The year is comprised of thirteen lunar months of twenty eight days, and one dead-day that falls after the Winter Solstice (hence the saying; a year and a day.) Please note the vowels are omitted. For a complete listing see Robert Graves—The White Goddess.

1.)B. Beth—Birch
(* The New Year begins after the Winter Solstice and the dead-day, when the days begin to lengthen again. The annual Oak King is crowned.)
2.)L. Luis—Rowan
3.)N. Nion—Ash
4.)F. Fearn—Alder
(* Month includes the Spring Equinox.)
5.)S. Saille—Willow
6.)H. Uath—Hawthorn
7.)D Duir—Oak
(* Month includes the Summer Solstice. The Holly Knight battles the Oak King. The waxing half of the year gives way to the waning.)
8.)T. Tinne—Holly or Scarlet-Oak
9.)C. Coll—Hazel
10.)M. Muin—The Vine
(* Month includes the Autumn Equinox.)
11.) G. Gort—The Ivy
12.)P. Peith—Dwarf Elder
13.) R. Ruis—Elder
(* Month ends with the Winter Solstice and the dead day, before beginning anew. The annual King is slain and his blood is returned to the land in sacrificial offering.)


message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

The Celtic Wisdom Of Trees Mysteries, Magic And Medicine by Jane Gifford

^^ This book also deals with this calendar, and the photographs are beautiful too.


message 10: by Nell (last edited Mar 09, 2012 12:55PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nell Grey (nellgrey) | 1682 comments Thanks Georgina - I've added it to my TBR shelf.

I like The Celtic Tree Oracle A System of Divination by Colin Murray The Celtic Tree Oracle too - book and cards - good for dipping into.

Which of your novels features the calendar?


message 11: by [deleted user] (new)

Thanks Nell, just added that one too!

My gothic fantasy series. I name my thirteen isles after the alphabet, but the ideas are a background reference too. 'Sorrow's Child' is basically (although only people who know the references will probably see it) a Persephone story.


message 12: by [deleted user] (new)

The Celtic Druids' Year Seasonal Cycles of the Ancient Celts by John Robert King

This one has great illustrations of the Celtic year with the corresponding alphabet letter. Also the festivals and the attributions of the solstices and equinoxes.


message 13: by Nell (last edited Mar 09, 2012 01:10PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nell Grey (nellgrey) | 1682 comments I'll look out for it :)

Edited to add that this post refers to your own book - due out on 1st April, according to GR.


message 14: by [deleted user] (new)

Thanks Nell. :)

I'll see if I can add the astrological signs to that list that I cut and pasted in. It's very interesting. Then of course the whole thing can be seen in the Great Solar Year. Which I find fascinating when you view human history in regards to the sign of that time.


message 15: by Nell (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nell Grey (nellgrey) | 1682 comments I'd love to know what you think about Mike Nichol's theory on the turning of the Wheel of the Year and the birth of the God of Light at the Winter Solstice. I read it years ago, when researching for The Golden Web, and it really blew me away.

The original Yahoo page has disappeared, but I found his new site - the page is here: The Death of LLew


message 16: by [deleted user] (new)

Printing it out and reading it now. Duir and Tinne.


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And cross-referencing with Graves...


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Seriously lost in tangents for a little while there. :) But I'm back to the question.

I think the deaths being positioned at the equinoxes not the solstices makes a lot of sense, especially when you look at the Mysteries of Dionysus and Persephone/Kore/Hecate.

The astrological links are amazing too aren't they? In terms of the Great Solar Year, I feel it marks our past evolution and future transitions as humans. So the secrets hidden in these mysteries are paramount to us understanding and evolving. My take anyway.

I'm back to writing for a while, but I'm thinking on that article. I think this closing sentence is spot on:
"we have barely scratched the surface."

Nell, do you think we could also set up a thread for the Enochian language of John Dee? I use it as the magical language in my series (written not phonetic of course). I'd also love to chat to people about it. I'm not big on rituals but I'm very interested in learning more about it.


message 19: by [deleted user] (new)

Yes Nell, I very much like the idea that Mike Nichols put forward. It makes sense.


message 20: by Nell (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nell Grey (nellgrey) | 1682 comments The astrological links to the story of Blodeuwedd are simply stunning, but perhaps we shouldn't be surprised - after all, that's how knowledge was encoded and kept safe, to be understood by initiates into the Mysteries.

I've recently reread Aryan Sun Myths: The Origin of Religions, which might interest you - it's not so much an original work as a collection of relevant writing from the work of others - again, the astrological connections are amazing.

Re. John Dee, on the Introduction thread Ancestral said:

Just a note to everyone: Feel free to start your own threads in the appropriate section; you don't need my permission.

If there is any doubt, first I'll contact the participants, then it will either be put it to a group poll, or, in the very worst case, deleted - this has occurred only once in my term as moderator.

So, please, please, create discussions, add photographs, create polls, invite people, post events and, most of important of all, have fun!!!


I think we can take that as a 'Yes'! :)


message 21: by [deleted user] (new)

Nell wrote: "The astrological links to the story of Blodeuwedd are simply stunning, but perhaps we shouldn't be surprised - after all, that's how knowledge was encoded and kept safe, to be understood by initiat..."

Great! Added that book too. :) Georgina.


message 22: by [deleted user] (new)

I wanted to add this quote, which I found again yesterday, while reading The White Goddess. I attributed it to Plutarch but of course it is an ancient hymn.

“In Springtime, O Dionysos,
To thy holy temple come,
To Elis with thy Graces,
Rushing with thy bull-foot, come,
Noble Bull, Noble Bull”


Plutarch


message 23: by Nell (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nell Grey (nellgrey) | 1682 comments The sun is shining and it feels very like spring here today. There's a rather lovely description of the ancient celebration over at Sacred Texts, here.


message 24: by [deleted user] (new)

Nell wrote: "The sun is shining and it feels very like spring here today. There's a rather lovely description of the ancient celebration over at Sacred Texts, here."

Printing it out now. :)


Old-Barbarossa | 591 comments Now here's a cat amongst the pigeons...
the tree alphabet/calender only has a pedigree as far back as the 17th cent...this would be fine and dandy if we were talking Enochian/Dr Dee stuff...but we're not, Graves claims an ancient heritage for it that just isn't there.
Does this matter?


message 26: by Nell (last edited May 03, 2012 03:13PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nell Grey (nellgrey) | 1682 comments Hi OB, this is what Wikipedia has to say, but if your info is more comprehensive please elaborate. I'd have thought Graves would have been discredited if he'd misled readers in this way, but it simply says that '...his theories have been disregarded by modern scholars'.

As for whether it matters, I guess that depends on whether it's effective - what are your thoughts?


message 27: by Ancestral (new) - added it

Ancestral Gaidheal (gaidheal) Nell wrote: "... but if your info is more comprehensive please elaborate. ..."

There are plenty of sites that will break it down that you can google, but a quick read can be found here.


Old-Barbarossa | 591 comments Graves wasn't writing for the archeo/anthropologist or even linguistic community and even notes that it was "loudly ignored" by them.
His grandfather (Charles Graves, a Bishop of Limerick) was an authority on the ogham. Yet Graves seems to have ignored his writings which, amongst other things pointed out that all surviving ogham was from the xstian era.
Don't have many sources nearby but will look some more out.

As to whether it's effective I'm with yon auld beastie:
“In this book it is spoken of the Sephiroth and the Paths; of Spirits and Conjurations; of Gods, Spheres, Planes, and many other things which may or may not exist. It is immaterial whether these exist or not. By doing certain things certain results will follow; students are most earnestly warned against attributing objective reality or philosophic validity to any of them.”


message 29: by Nell (last edited May 04, 2012 05:42AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nell Grey (nellgrey) | 1682 comments Ancestral wrote: "
There are plenty of sites that will break it down that you can google, but a quick read can be found here."


Thanks Ancestral - that seems like a very straightforward explanation, and an excellent site for further reading too.

To be honest I'm pretty shocked by Graves' integrity (or lack of it) - I trusted him, and it didn't occur to me to check on the veracity of the tree calendar.
Perhaps we'll have to rename it 'Graves' Neo-Ogham Tree Calendar'.

But... all that apart, although I can't claim to have worked more than slightly with Graves' tree alphabet (some study and use of The Celtic Tree Oracle: A System of Divination), for once (or twice) I'm in agreement with 'yon auld beastie'. And things evolve, even traditions (unless that's an oxymoron). After all, if we throw out all the 'Neo' from Paganism, what would be left? I wonder...


message 30: by [deleted user] (new)

Very interesting. I'll look into those links when I have a moment free. :) Georgina.


message 31: by [deleted user] (last edited May 10, 2012 07:18PM) (new)

Agreed, very surprised by the fact that Graves ignored the cautions and continued on ahead!

From the article that Ancestral quoted:

"There are several problems with this calendar. First, he begins the year on December 23, not November 1--this is plainly wrong. He does this so as to coincide with the birth of the sun god. However, the Celts did not worship the sun per se, much less as a male sun (the word for "sun" in Irish is grainne--feminine, and the name of a goddess). Even if sunworship were involved, the year still began on Samhain, not midwinter. Now, he is somewhat correct in having months of 28 days; but the Celts would actually vary the lenght of the months, depending on the moon--Graves does not do this, but keeps the plan rigid."

These points make sense. I also agree with 'yon auld beastie'. And with Nell's comment: " And things evolve, even traditions (unless that's an oxymoron). After all, if we throw out all the 'Neo' from Paganism, what would be left? I wonder..." :):)


message 32: by Neil (new)

Neil Hocking | 20 comments Please could someone explain how Celts varied length of the months according to the moon. If info is already above just ignore me (I haven't had time to read all comments yet)


Old-Barbarossa | 591 comments Neil wrote: "Please could someone explain how Celts varied length of the months according to the moon. If info is already above just ignore me (I haven't had time to read all comments yet)"

I imagine the month just lasted as long as the lunar cycle, therefore it was the same thing. You looked at the moon and that was your calendar.
Don't see any reason for it to be more complex than that.


message 34: by [deleted user] (new)

Yes, moon phases. The year and a day is also set down in myths, 'And he travelled for a year and a day.'


Old-Barbarossa | 591 comments Something to remember, or at least consider, is the fact that many old calendars were a wee bit rubbish by modern standards.
Also, the idea of a homogeneous "Celtic" culture is slightly shifty.


message 36: by [deleted user] (new)

Yes to both! Good point earlier that things were orally transmitted, not written.


message 37: by Neil (new)

Neil Hocking | 20 comments Old-Barbarossa wrote: "Neil wrote: "Please could someone explain how Celts varied length of the months according to the moon. If info is already above just ignore me (I haven't had time to read all comments yet)"

I imag..."


I suppose the issue arises when you want to it down and tie it in with the solar year, since 13 lunar months is 12 days longer than a solar year. The whole thing with calendars is trying to fit square pegs into round holes.


message 38: by Neil (new)

Neil Hocking | 20 comments Old-Barbarossa wrote: "Something to remember, or at least consider, is the fact that many old calendars were a wee bit rubbish by modern standards.
Also, the idea of a homogeneous "Celtic" culture is slightly shifty."


Yes, I read somewhere that it was more of a fashion/style rather than a specific culture - I need to read up a bit more I think.


message 39: by [deleted user] (new)

Exactly. :)


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I was more sure of it, when I was sure of Grave's research. I'm still a fan of The White Goddess, and of his Greek Myths, but I will have to do more research into the 'Tree Calendar' now.

Remember though, that a lunar month is twenty eight days, not 30 odd.


message 41: by Laurel (new)

Laurel I really liked The White Goddess, but being a historian as well as a pagan, I know not to take everything an author says as 100% truth, because everyne has their own biases, angles etc. That said, I wouldn't be too hard on Graves as he was primarily a poet, so some poetic license is expected. So when I read the book I was inclined to take it in that spirit, it worked on that level for me even though I could poke holes in his arguments if I put my scholastic hat on!


message 42: by [deleted user] (new)

Laurel wrote: "I really liked The White Goddess, but being a historian as well as a pagan, I know not to take everything an author says as 100% truth, because everyne has their own biases, angles etc. That said, ..."

I like this reply. Yes, he was a poet, first and foremost. I still love the book! :)


message 43: by Bryn (new)

Bryn Hammond (brynhammond) | 252 comments That's how I always understood The White Goddess too (er, I'm at the disadvantage of not having read the book - but I like his poetry) - that his myths are very much his own, and this is to do with his theory of poetry and the spirituality of poetry... is that more or less the case?


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Graves says: "My thesis is that the language of poetic myth anciently current in the Mediterranean and Northern Europe was a magical language bound up with popular religious ceremonies in honour of the Moon-goddess, or Muse, some of them dating from the Old Stone Age, and that this remains the language of true poetry--"true" in the nostalgic modern sense of "the unimproved original, not a synthetic substitute".'

He also states: "But it is only fair to warn readers that this remains a very difficult book, as well as a very queer one, to be avoided by anyone with a distracted, tired or rigidly scientific mind."


message 45: by [deleted user] (new)

I think the historically 'true' claims, are where he falters, the themes and ideas are beautiful in themselves though.


message 46: by [deleted user] (new)

Also would like to add, in terms of comparative religions, Graves is fascinating. This, and the writer himself, remain my favourites. The Greek Myths: Combined Edition are brilliant, and I, Claudius, Claudius the God and His Wife Messalina, are great reading.


Old-Barbarossa | 591 comments Count Belisarius
King Jesus: A Novel
Hercules, My Shipmate
Are all top stuff too.
But they are all novels and attempt to be nothing more.
The Claudius books being based on The Twelve Caesars and Belisarius being based on (if memory serves) The Secret History...both sources historically suspect yet great fun to read for all the scandal. I seem to remember Graves himself referring to the Claudius books as "pot boilers".


message 48: by [deleted user] (new)

The Claudius books are fun. :) Thanks, will add the others.


message 49: by Old-Barbarossa (last edited Feb 15, 2013 05:58AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Old-Barbarossa | 591 comments Jaq wrote: "...but the tree correspondences are generally accepted..."

Aye, but by "occultists" not by historians etc.


Old-Barbarossa | 591 comments OK, time for a re-read.
So far Graves (and I am a fanboy for most of his other work) is coming across as an arrogant arse.
He seems to use the No True Scotsman attitude when discussing poetry (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_true_...). He discounts any poetry as not being real or true poetry if it doesn't conform to his standards.


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