READ ✓ The White Goddess A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth

The White Goddess A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth

Robert Graves Á 1 READ

Oetic and religious scholarship Graves explores the stories behind the earliest of European deities the White Goddess of Birth Love and Death I came for the witchcraft I stayed for the poetics While I was on my one day book procurement trip to the booktown of Hay on Wye Wales I stopped at Richard Booth’s bookshop among many others and picked up Robert Graves’ The White Goddess I knew vaguely that the book was about the witch cults of Great Britain and something about druids and that’s about it I had read several works that referenced Grave’s book so I thought I’d cut to the source and see what all the fuss was about I had expected an erudite study of witchcraft and its antecedents replete with thorough bibliography and oodles of footnotesNot soIn fact the book hardly mentions witches by name at least at all and there is no bibliography There are some footnotes but they are sometimes even cryptic and self referential than the text itself But I was far from disappointedThe White Goddess is one of those books like Gödel Escher Bach or Hamlet’s Mill a rumination of sorts that only a genius will fully understand on the first read through a work rife with speculation and some arguably false jumps in logic but a brilliant work nonetheless It is above all Grave’s very well informed opinion I’ve read other reviews panning the work and I had my problems with it but I don’t think that it should be rejected wholesaleIt is a deep deep well to draw the waters of knowledge from Yes Graves jumps from god to goddess from tree species to alphabetic characters from stag cults to bull cults then from the masculine bull cult to the feminine partridge cult implicating everyone from Achilles to Christ in the process and ends with a horribly trite last couple of chapters about politics and religion that could and should have just been abandoned Graves isn’t apologetic about his promulgation of his own opinions and the fact that he is openly exploring the subject as he writes either I find it commendable actually that at one point he openly admits that some of the answers to the uestions he was exploring came to him as he was meditating as in doing a formal meditative practice He’s not beholden to the sometimes stultifying idea that ideas need to come in some sort of controlled laboratory environment In fact Graves shows a certain disdain toward formal academia especially as it dulls the poetic senses there are no poetic secrets now except of course the sort which the common people are debarred by their lack of poetic perception from understanding and by their anti poetic education unless perhaps in wild Wales from respecting Such secrets even the Work of the Chariot may be safely revealed in any crowded restaurant or café without fear of the avenging lightning stroke the noise of the orchestra the clatter of plates and the buzz of a hundred unrelated conversations will effectively drown the words – and in any case nobody will be listeningI wonder somewhat though whether or not Graves was trying to inoculate himself against arguments from the outside that perhaps the rigor of his research was lacking? While I feel sympathy and agreement with Grave’s anti University tirades he has a couple in the book both reflective of some of the feelings I had and have about graduate school I also fear that populist anti intellectuals might use his arguments as justification for their own usually racist andor misogynistic goals Though Graves only really argues against the problems of formal college education his sentiments could easily be twisted into anti intellectual arguments the sort of which feed reactionary movements But since he takes a secularized view of Christianity and in fact pushes for a further split between the views of the Historical Jesus and the Mystical Christ such reactionary movements are likely to become very confused by Graves’ work Besides the gaps in Graves' arguments regarding early Christianity are big enough to drive a semi through Still I like his chutzpah and the fact that he's willing to play the provocateur as he forces the reader to think about exactly why he's wrong It's almost like he's taunting his audience into reactingAs a result of all this deconstruction and reweaving of myth it is very difficult to pin down Graves theses One thesis is that of the poetic continuity of the worship of The White Goddess in ancient times through the Irish and Welsh poetic traditions by way of the Greeks mainly the Dannites if I understood correctly and even further through the cult of Mary and Jesus Much of the last half of the book is dedicated to these arguments I found them somewhat convincing but I still have strong doubts about a few of his inferences regarding some sects of Christianity and the Jewish tradition from which they stemmedAnother thesis that I find of great interest is that the true language of the goddess is traceable through the correlating of evidences in the Ogham alphabet relating to certain trees which correspond in turn with positions on a dolmen which correspond with calendrical events which correspond with the fingers and palms of the hand which correspond with certain animals which Yes it gets exhausting at times My interest waned and was about to leave me altogether when the book posits that specific positions on the fingers and palms of the human hand correspond with specific letters in the Ogham alphabet When I read this and the example given it clicked This was Thieves’ Cant or a mystical esoteric euivalent Hidden coded messages couched in a poetic language of signs Of course this was 300 pages in but well worth the waitThough there are many other sub theses that I will not address the third thesis that I found to be of most interest was probably incidental than central I also found it to be the most poignant It has to do with methodology and echoes with some of the same laments as the earlier uoted paragraph Graves says What interests me most in conducting this argument is the difference that is constantly appearing between the poetic and prosaic methods of thought The prosaic method was invented by the Greeks of the Classical age as an insurance against the swamping of reason by mythographic fancy It has now become the only legitimate means of transmitting useful knowledge And in England as in most other mercantile countries the current popular view is that ‘music’ and old fashioned diction are the only characteristics of poetry which distinguish it from the prose; that ever poem has or should have a precise single strand prose euivalent As a result the poetic faculty is atrophied in every educated person who does not privately struggle to cultivate it very much as the faculty of understanding pictures is atrophied in the Bedouin Arab TE Lawrence once showed a coloured crayon sketch of an Arab Sheikh to the Sheikh’s own clansmen They passed it from hand to hand but the nearest guess as to what it represented came from a man who took the sheikh’s foot to be the horn of a buffalo And from the inability to think poetically – to resolve speech into its original images and rhythms and re combine them on several simultaneous levels of thought into a multiple sense – derives the failure to think clearly in prose In prose one thinks on only one level at a time and no combination of words needs to contain than a single sense; nevertheless the images resident in words must be securely related if the passage is to have any bite This simple need is forgotten what passes for simple prose nowadays is a mechanical stringing together of stereotyped word groups without regard for the images contained in the The mechanical style which began in the counting house has now infiltrated into the university some of its most zombiesue instances occurring in the works of eminent scholars and divinesI may not agree with the vociferousness of Grave’s obvious rancor but I agree with the premise We have lost the mindset of poetics having surrendered to a stiff logic that doesn’t allow for the breadth of poetic expression and in fact mocks it as an obfuscation of clarity But this obfuscation was intentional meant to keep the secrets of the mystical cults of the past to hide the mysteries of life and the universe to all but the initiated The initiated have been suppressed in the modern age As a result the skill of poetic interpretation has died on the vine and we may never be able to bring it back However I feel that there will always be a poetic underground that does the work necessary to carry on the essential esoteric tradition of the bards I hold a hidden hope

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The White Goddess is perhaps the finest of Robert Graves's works on the psychological and mythological sources of poetry In this tapestry of p OK so Graves was dead wrong about the Celts Still the White Goddess thesis that patriarchal invaders suppressed the mother goddess religions of the Aegean and Ancient Near East traces of which managed to survive in Europe especially in the minstrel lore of Ireland and Wales is thanks to Graves now part and parcel of the modern The real fun of the book isn't so much in its truth as the getting there a waterslide ride of educated guessing crossword logic and speculative buccaneering that reads like a postmodern novel than straight up scholarship Graves's is the grandmammy of all conspiracy theories setting the stage for Pynchon Eco and us

DOWNLOAD ´ SIGMAENCLOSURES.CO.UK Á Robert Graves

Who was worshipped under countless titles He also uncovers the obscure and mysterious power of pure poetry and its peculiar and mythic languag Whilst some have disputed Graves historical inaccuracies im not reading this for its historical account but rather for its mytho poetical inventiveness and inspiration of which I would say that it delivers handsomelyThe attempt to reconcile the Ancient Hebrew Greek and Celtic civilizations with an AegeanTuath De Danaan Diaspora is fascinating and demands that the reader have a fairly wide background in cultural and mythological studies Speculating on the Cad Goddeu The Battle of the Trees a medieval Welsh poem from the Book of Taliesin that the trees that fought in the battle in which each tree had a meaning and significance of its own Graves argues that the original poet had concealed Druidic secrets about an older matriarchal Celtic religion for fear of censure from Christian authorities and that the 'battle' was probably not physical but rather a struggle of wits and scholarship They did this he claims by employing the secret sign language called Ogham in this case the Tree Ogham in which each tree holds a representative symbol sound meaning set of mythologies and etcThe particular poem and its meanings is he claims further concealed by the device of being 'pied' or mixed up with a further four poems only those in the know would be able to correctly untangle and decipher their original orderHowever and due to the excessive overloading of references and origins at times it seems that Graves has almost become one of his ancient Cambrian Awenyddion' the magical minstrel poets who disguised their wisdom under the pretence of being possessed by spirits as they did not deliver the answer to what is reuired in any connected mannerbut the person who skillfully observes them will find after many preamblesand incoherent though ornamented speeches the desired explanation conveyed in some turn of wordHe could not have described his own method perfectly persist and you will find his meanings become clearerNevertheless despite the erratic over rich and often obscure prose his reconciliation of the Tree Ogham Alphabet with the calender of the Year the stations of both sun and moon is an inspiring and potentially convincing demonstration of how the ancient mythographers may havecreated meaning and managed the seasonal and social rituals of their timesReaching further his exposition and extrapolation of Biblical and earlier mythologies and their themes is remarkableI value and recommend this work to any serious and patient reader who is preferably well read mytho historicallyfor its hidden gems its tremendous scope and its imaginative inspirational ualities Bright Blessings By Stone and Star Celestial Elf


About the Author: Robert Graves

Robert von Ranke Graves born in Wimbledon received his early education at King's College School and Copthorne Prep School Wimbledon & Charterhouse School and won a scholarship to St John's College Oxford While at Charterhouse in 1912 he fell in love with GH Johnstone a boy of fourteen Dick in Goodbye to All That When challenged by the headmaster he defended himself by citing Plato Gr



10 thoughts on “The White Goddess A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth

  1. says:

    OK so Graves was dead wrong about the Celts Still the White Goddess thesis that patriarchal invaders suppressed the mother goddess religions of the Aegean and Ancient Near East traces of which managed to survive in Europe especially in the minstrel lore of Ireland and Wales is thanks to Graves now part and parcel of the modern The real fun of the book isn't so much in its truth as the getting there a waterslide ride of educated guessing crossword logic and speculative buccaneering that reads like a postmodern novel than straight up scholarship Graves's is the grandmammy of all conspiracy theories setting the stage for Pynchon Eco and us


  2. says:

    Rambling nonsense when he steps beyond what he knowsMost of his ideas on the tree alphabet are his own and sourceless Unfortunately a lot of the celtic magic industry owes too much to this as a gospel of sorts Better and scholarly book are out there if you can be bothered looking But they are without the glamour of Graves which I suppose is part of the attraction to the sidhe huggersEditThis is a dreadful bookyet I’ve read it twice the 1st time in the early ‘80s and again in ’13 It hasn’t gotten any better On the re read I read critically and cross ref’d him After the 1st read I had a bee in my bunnet about his made up tree alphabet nonsense see above review on the 2nd read I now realise he just made up pretty much everything else tooGraves and I am a fanboy for most of his other work comes across as an arrogant arseHe seems to use the No True Scotsman attitude when discussing poetry He discounts any poetry as not being real or true poetry if it doesn't conform to his standards He seems to be saying you have to be of celtic stock whatever that means and a heterosexual male to be a poetand only if you write on certain themes and have muse like inspiration at that'cause that's all women are good forwell that and the orgies and temple prostitution obviouslyAnd he makes no mention of Burns or Yeats who pretty much fit his definition sour grapes on his part?I like his fiction but I have the feeling he was a bit of a dickBut this book isn’t really about poetry or historyyet it claims to be The historical evidence is hammered and moulded to fit his hypothesis with contradictory ideas ignored or glossed over Graves bases a chunk of his arguments on a re ordering of the old Welsh poem Cad Goddeu yet he has no Welsh and uses in his own words DW Nash's mid Victorian translation said to be unreliable but the best at present availableThen he goes ahead and juggles the orderSee what's going on here?He's making it up based on a poor translation hammering the facts to fit his hypothesisIf someone had no understanding of any other text's original language and then used a poor translation prior to re ordering the entire text to fit an idea would we be as tolerant?I hope notAnd this techniue isn’t limited to this one poem it is his default methodHe says amongst other things this must be a mistake and a stanza has been suppressed when he isn't getting the confirmation of his hypothesis he wants He has re arranged entire poemsThere's a lot of perhaps likely seemed suggests obviously evidently in this bookthey miraculously transform into what Graves sees as solid fact at the end of ch7 conclusive proof Yet he has claimed fact is not truth but a poet who willfully defies fact cannot achieve truthSniff sniffwhat's that smell?Also he seems to show little demarcation between deities x appears to be y who is actually z but on closer inspection is really the same as a who was worshipped as b etc etc etc This syncretism is all well and good but when the Venn diagram of deities ignores everything but the bits that fit his hypothesis and the focus is purely on the overlap I start to smell shite in the argumentI'm with Francis Bacon when he says“The root of all superstition is that men observe when a thing hits but not when it misses”Rambling havering keechdata ignored or manipulated poems re ordered poets sneered at women paradoxically praised and dismissed in eual measurehad he just been chucked by his wenchbirdmuse prior to this or something?I got the impression Graves was a bit xenophobic homophobic and sexist OK I don't know if he actually was homophobic etcbut he occasionally makes comments that are a bit off Now there may be a part of this due to him being a man of his timebut considering the hypothesis in TWG it jars a bit But there's an irony here though isn't there? That a foundation text for modern wicca and neo paganism both fairly female friendly is this way How do folk suare it in their heads? I think there's some cognitive dissonance going onAs a foundation text for modern paganism it often appears in bibliographies and notes to bolster neo pagan ideasyet it has little substance itself Many of them unuestioningly use TWG as a source and assume an authenticity and robustness to Graves’ arguments that just isn't therelike building in a bog without making sure the pilings are solidHe has become an authority figure and this text is used again and again when discussing ideas around goddessy and sacred king type ideas yet on examination many areas he explores in TWG are his own with little basis in ancient tradition I wonder if many folk that have read this have actually paid attention I mean critically read it? Or if most just assume Graves is correct and then use him as ref?He seems as enthusiastic about ritual killings and orgies as he is about the whole treecalendaralphabet thingyet I've never known anyone that has read this book wax as lyrically on those subjectsAnd the drivel he spouts on lame kings is interesting but still drivelBut I can get Graves’ text as a personal mythology and as something to give insight into his other workand I get the fact that he had no intention of starting a pagan revival see his disdain for wicca and neo paganism in general in some of his work But for me it is pretty much all supposition based on guesswork based on reworking of bad translationsNow I shall put this away and never touch it againafter I have driven a stake through the textthe stake obviously of a wood that has suitably mythopoeic resonances for true poets


  3. says:

    All right let me honest and start by saying this was totally my favorite book in the entire universe when I was like 11 Hands down It gave me my first sense of what scholarship might be if it were actually funNow I did end up becoming a professional scholar and one who probably does have too much fun for his own good so perhaps a word here is in orderThose people who say the book provides zero evidence for its points all I can say is yeah that's right It's kind of a joke Or well Graves does insist that poetic truth is not a totally different truth not to be judged by prose criteria of truth but that it should always be at least true on the prose level and also something that something being magical profound etc etc But the uestion is always is that very assertion part of the joke as well Because what is magic? It's something that's both true and a fraud a trick but it's true because you can carry it off And what makes Graves so much fun is that he can always carry it off When he says that he's solved some ancient mystery why are fish used as a symbol for Christ by time traveling in a poetic trance and overhearing a conversation between two Roman literari c100 AD he's obviously not asking to be judged by normal scholarly standards He's having fun and saying well tell me it isn't true What I love about Graves is that he writes about religious devotion of utter subordination to a terrifying entrancing but ultimately destructive goddess muse in such a way as to imply absolute subordination but in fact turns it into a license to do absolutely anything he pleases His biographers always seem to miss this presenting him as a sort of pathetic wimp in the sway of all these headstrong domineering women In fact you read books like this or even perhaps his essays on poetry and you meet someone utterly different someone who is having fun than any professional scholar would ever be allowed to sounding off on any topic in a way that's simultaneously outrageous ground breaking profound world shattering and probably on some level also ridiculously untrue What's the real game and what's his aim in playing it? That's half the fun You can never be completely sure But like any great theorist and to be honest I sometimes think Deleuze and Derrida etc are really doing exactly the same thing the point is not to spend the rest of our lives deciding whether we adore him like a god or revile him but to take it as a demonstration that it's possible to have just as much fun ourselves That's what I did without ever realizing that's what I was doing And in retrospect I'm not sure my career was better for it but my writing was and probably arguably the world is if only slightly


  4. says:

    Graves's phrase for what he does is poetic scholarship and I'm tempted to be generous and believe that what he means here really is thought that is associative and fleet as opposed to simply lazy The scholarship borders on parody Graves's assertions are made on what is essentially zero evidence But he follows his hind without faltering once and by the time 500 pages is up you do feel a sort of Palace of Wisdom effect has been achieved Where does that leave us? For me reading this book is like walking through the preserved home of a reclusive genius Look there's his astrolabe his roomful of scrolls his private exercise room full of bright orange pogo sticks You can distance yourself from his conclusions but the actual motion of thought is undeniable The book's a feat a thing but above all I think Graves would probably agree with me here a solution Like many great solutions it sounds as much like a riddle as the thing it solved


  5. says:

    I came for the witchcraft I stayed for the poetics While I was on my one day book procurement trip to the booktown of Hay on Wye Wales I stopped at Richard Booth’s bookshop among many others and picked up Robert Graves’ The White Goddess I knew vaguely that the book was about the witch cults of Great Britain and something about druids and that’s about it I had read several works that referenced Grave’s book so I thought I’d cut to the source and see what all the fuss was about I had expected an erudite study of witchcraft and its antecedents replete with thorough bibliography and oodles of footnotesNot soIn fact the book hardly mentions witches by name at least at all and there is no bibliography There are some footnotes but they are sometimes even cryptic and self referential than the text itself But I was far from disappointedThe White Goddess is one of those books like Gödel Escher Bach or Hamlet’s Mill a rumination of sorts that only a genius will fully understand on the first read through a work rife with speculation and some arguably false jumps in logic but a brilliant work nonetheless It is above all Grave’s very well informed opinion I’ve read other reviews panning the work and I had my problems with it but I don’t think that it should be rejected wholesaleIt is a deep deep well to draw the waters of knowledge from Yes Graves jumps from god to goddess from tree species to alphabetic characters from stag cults to bull cults then from the masculine bull cult to the feminine partridge cult implicating everyone from Achilles to Christ in the process and ends with a horribly trite last couple of chapters about politics and religion that could and should have just been abandoned Graves isn’t apologetic about his promulgation of his own opinions and the fact that he is openly exploring the subject as he writes either I find it commendable actually that at one point he openly admits that some of the answers to the uestions he was exploring came to him as he was meditating as in doing a formal meditative practice He’s not beholden to the sometimes stultifying idea that ideas need to come in some sort of controlled laboratory environment In fact Graves shows a certain disdain toward formal academia especially as it dulls the poetic senses there are no poetic secrets now except of course the sort which the common people are debarred by their lack of poetic perception from understanding and by their anti poetic education unless perhaps in wild Wales from respecting Such secrets even the Work of the Chariot may be safely revealed in any crowded restaurant or café without fear of the avenging lightning stroke the noise of the orchestra the clatter of plates and the buzz of a hundred unrelated conversations will effectively drown the words – and in any case nobody will be listeningI wonder somewhat though whether or not Graves was trying to inoculate himself against arguments from the outside that perhaps the rigor of his research was lacking? While I feel sympathy and agreement with Grave’s anti University tirades he has a couple in the book both reflective of some of the feelings I had and have about graduate school I also fear that populist anti intellectuals might use his arguments as justification for their own usually racist andor misogynistic goals Though Graves only really argues against the problems of formal college education his sentiments could easily be twisted into anti intellectual arguments the sort of which feed reactionary movements But since he takes a secularized view of Christianity and in fact pushes for a further split between the views of the Historical Jesus and the Mystical Christ such reactionary movements are likely to become very confused by Graves’ work Besides the gaps in Graves' arguments regarding early Christianity are big enough to drive a semi through Still I like his chutzpah and the fact that he's willing to play the provocateur as he forces the reader to think about exactly why he's wrong It's almost like he's taunting his audience into reactingAs a result of all this deconstruction and reweaving of myth it is very difficult to pin down Graves theses One thesis is that of the poetic continuity of the worship of The White Goddess in ancient times through the Irish and Welsh poetic traditions by way of the Greeks mainly the Dannites if I understood correctly and even further through the cult of Mary and Jesus Much of the last half of the book is dedicated to these arguments I found them somewhat convincing but I still have strong doubts about a few of his inferences regarding some sects of Christianity and the Jewish tradition from which they stemmedAnother thesis that I find of great interest is that the true language of the goddess is traceable through the correlating of evidences in the Ogham alphabet relating to certain trees which correspond in turn with positions on a dolmen which correspond with calendrical events which correspond with the fingers and palms of the hand which correspond with certain animals which Yes it gets exhausting at times My interest waned and was about to leave me altogether when the book posits that specific positions on the fingers and palms of the human hand correspond with specific letters in the Ogham alphabet When I read this and the example given it clicked This was Thieves’ Cant or a mystical esoteric euivalent Hidden coded messages couched in a poetic language of signs Of course this was 300 pages in but well worth the waitThough there are many other sub theses that I will not address the third thesis that I found to be of most interest was probably incidental than central I also found it to be the most poignant It has to do with methodology and echoes with some of the same laments as the earlier uoted paragraph Graves says What interests me most in conducting this argument is the difference that is constantly appearing between the poetic and prosaic methods of thought The prosaic method was invented by the Greeks of the Classical age as an insurance against the swamping of reason by mythographic fancy It has now become the only legitimate means of transmitting useful knowledge And in England as in most other mercantile countries the current popular view is that ‘music’ and old fashioned diction are the only characteristics of poetry which distinguish it from the prose; that ever poem has or should have a precise single strand prose euivalent As a result the poetic faculty is atrophied in every educated person who does not privately struggle to cultivate it very much as the faculty of understanding pictures is atrophied in the Bedouin Arab TE Lawrence once showed a coloured crayon sketch of an Arab Sheikh to the Sheikh’s own clansmen They passed it from hand to hand but the nearest guess as to what it represented came from a man who took the sheikh’s foot to be the horn of a buffalo And from the inability to think poetically – to resolve speech into its original images and rhythms and re combine them on several simultaneous levels of thought into a multiple sense – derives the failure to think clearly in prose In prose one thinks on only one level at a time and no combination of words needs to contain than a single sense; nevertheless the images resident in words must be securely related if the passage is to have any bite This simple need is forgotten what passes for simple prose nowadays is a mechanical stringing together of stereotyped word groups without regard for the images contained in the The mechanical style which began in the counting house has now infiltrated into the university some of its most zombiesue instances occurring in the works of eminent scholars and divinesI may not agree with the vociferousness of Grave’s obvious rancor but I agree with the premise We have lost the mindset of poetics having surrendered to a stiff logic that doesn’t allow for the breadth of poetic expression and in fact mocks it as an obfuscation of clarity But this obfuscation was intentional meant to keep the secrets of the mystical cults of the past to hide the mysteries of life and the universe to all but the initiated The initiated have been suppressed in the modern age As a result the skill of poetic interpretation has died on the vine and we may never be able to bring it back However I feel that there will always be a poetic underground that does the work necessary to carry on the essential esoteric tradition of the bards I hold a hidden hope


  6. says:

    Wow I finished it That may not mean much to you but it really feels like an achievement to me especially given that I have a long history of not reading this book Let me explain I received this copy from one of my favourite English teachers in the latter years of high school back in the mists of time He was a wonderfully mad Celtic poet who I imagine shared a number of similarities with that whacky scholar bard Robert Graves himself Indeed he called this strange tome ‘his bible’ and I imagine he sent this my way since my major project for his class was a one act play about Merlin and the grailthough I can’t remember if he gifted it to me or lent it and I never returned it Let’s go with the former if not mea culpa Mr Lafferty At the time my 16 17 year old self really couldn’t make heads or tails of it and it has since sat on my bookshelf as little than a memento of a favourite teacher not to mention standing in my mind as a representation of the world of crazy oddball ideasThe ostensible purpose of the book at least in its early parts is to decipher an enigmatic Celtic poem regarding a war between the trees which Graves believes holds the key to unlocking a secret poetic alphabet that itself contained the mysterious and secret name of the divine It opens out into much however since in order to do this Graves dives headlong into the mythic historical and political mysteries of the past in a truly heroic attempt to apparently syncretize all mythic and therefore poetic truth into two warring factions the ‘true’ and ‘original’ feminine centred worship of the titular White Goddess in her many many forms characterized by the cyclical phases of the natural year the predominance of inspriation and intuition and the subserviant role of the male principal as both son and lover ultimately personified in both king and poet; and the Apollonion male centred worship of the paternal Father or thunder god characterized by an adherence to logic political necessity and the following of clearly defined codes of law both religious and social as opposed to the loosely understood taboos of the earlier tradition which subsumed into itself many of the original ruling characteristics of the ancient Mother after it had apparently won the war in the hearts and minds of humanity thoughts of ‘Hemispheres’ by Rush are of course now running through my headI wonder if Neil Peart read Graves? Probably not or if he did his ‘solution’ vastly differs from the one proposed by GravesGraves’ first and perhaps most significant hurdle involves uncovering the nuggets of poetic truth apparently buried under an accretion of ancient stories and traditions both historical and mythic He is in essence an archaeologist of myth and I must admit that I find myself fascinated by Graves’ brand of anthropological mythography or is it mythographical anthropology? which is one of his primary methods for uncovering the ‘truth’ behind the many myths and stories he uses as his sources Stating the problem himself Graves says The poetic language of myth and symbol used in ancient Europe was not in principle a difficult one but became confused with the passage of time by freuent modifications due to religious social and linguistic change and by the tendency of history to taint the purity of myth – that is to say the accidental events in the life of a king who bore a divine name were often incorporated in the seasonal myth which gave him the title to royalty 101Not surprisingly given the poem he is starting from Graves begins with the Celtic tradition tracing his understanding of its sources and meanings and can I just say that I find it intriguing that a man who apparently had no specific background in Celtic studies and I believe could not read or speak any Celtic tongue wrote so authoritatively on the hidden mysteries and ‘true meaning’ behind a seminal Celtic poem and the supposed poetic alphabet that it concealed? Perhaps surprisingly is the fact that Graves soon calls on his real area of expertise the Greek myths drawing direct parallels between them and the Celtic mythic ideas he claims to see in the poem Graves doesn’t stop here however and in addition to an apparently large Greek and by extension Roman influence he also sees parallels in Biblical Hebrew myths and ideas all of which he draws upon in his interpretation of the mysterious riddle poetry of the Celtic bard Gwion Taliessin A truly syncretic creation or discovery indeed Perhaps it simply speaks to the breadth and depth of the education of earlier generations or to Graves’ belief in a syncretic theory of universal mythology as tied to poetic truth He has no issue with euating the mythological traditions of Greece and the Mediterranean with the Celtic and pre Celtic mysteries of ancient Britain and Ireland For Graves it appears that all ancient worshippers of the White Goddess and the sun gods and solar heroes that at first served and then superseded her are apparently ultimately part of the same cult and inheritors of the same traditions however garbled and changed by time and distance due to the aforementioned “tendency of history to taint the purity of myth” 101I have to say that to me at least Graves comes across as eual parts confident scholar and raving madman with an idée fixe Is he grasping at straws or uncovering actual mysteries of ancient poetic religious traditions? I am obviously not educated enough to fully appreciate Graves fully or give any kind fo final judgement He uotes Latin and Greek with no translations and often no gloss and habitually makes passing reference to some obscure or erudite ‘fact’ with which he assumes the reader is fully familiar or perhaps which he presents as an assumption to silence those unwilling to admit their ‘ignorance’ Please allow me to uote an extended though I would say representative example No one familiar with the profuse variants of the same legend in every body of European myth can have doubts about her identity She is the mother of the usual Divine Fish Child Dylan who after killing the usual Wren as the New Year Robin does on St Stephen’s day becomes Llew Llaw Gyffes ‘the Lion with the Steady Hand’ the usual handsome and accomplished Sun hero with the usual Heavenly Twin at his side Arianrhod then adopts the form of Blodeuwedd the usual Love Goddess treacherously as usual destroys Llew Llaw – the story is at least as old as the Babylonian Gilgamesh epic – and is then transformed first into the usual Owl of Wisdom and then into the usual Old Sow who eats her farrow; so feeds on Llew’s dead flesh But Llew whose soul has taken the form of the usual eagle is then as usual restored to life Oh of course Robert that old chestnutwell why didn’t you just say so? I don’t necessarily disagree with Graves and certainly am not able to in any way assert that he is wrong but his tone to me at least leaves something to be desiredI don’t like feeling that I am being shamed or bullied into agreeing with a theory The apparent ease with which Graves presents solutions like this daring his reader to disagree and often supplying little to no actual citations is a bit disturbing from a scholarly point of view This is not to say that he never references a source or uotes an authority but he is very free in making his own logical leaps and statements of ‘fact’ that come from sources often left mysterious to the reader Graves leans heavily into Fraser’s Golden Bough which in itself may raise warning signs as to the currency or accuracy of his conclusions That being said I have to admit that I was often reminded of points or at least ideas made by David W Anthony regarding the migrations and traditions of the Proto Indo European societies in the much recent The Horse the Wheel and Language in many parts of Graves’ argument though I didn’t recall the specific details sufficiently to see if these similarities were than superficial or even imagined by meIt generally seems to me as though one god or hero morphs into another with little to no exceptions Hermes over here becomes Herne down there who also happens to be Anubis in this placeand of course Hercules is peeking from behind his eyes as well One begins to wonder if there were any fundamental differences between any of them or if they are all simply one ur god which begs the uestion at least in the context of numerous gods from the same tradition why differentiate them at all? It certainly seems to minimize the need for proof or evidence for many of his ‘findings’ when he can simply pull the characteristic from one ‘version’ of the figure and apply it to another Ironically enough Graves will freely criticize another scholar for making a complicated argument that of course does not gibe with his theory without epigrammatic evidenceGiven the subtitle of the book I think it is important to discover what exactly is Graves’ definition of a poet I think this comes down to a twofold definition and a ‘true’ poet is one who is devoted to the Muse the White Goddess in her guise as inspirational lover and whose ultimate or sole? poetic theme is the nature of this female goddess and her relationship with her sonlover the seasonal year god In his own words “The poet was originally the mystes or ecstatic devotee of the Muse; the women who took part in her rites were her representativesPoetry in its archaic setting in fact was either the moral or religious law laid down for man by the nine fold Muse or the ecstatic utterance of man in furtherance of this law and in glorification of the Muse” 447 To Graves poetry must be heterosexual of man’s love for woman THE woman the moon goddess who will ultimately be his bane and kill him as the price of her love and the wisdom and elouence she beueaths It is lunar as opposed to solar Dionysian with it understood that this god is the inferior and victim of his Lady as opposed to Apollonian The poet cannot exist without the muse nor can ‘true’ poetry exist unless it conforms to this themeIn the final pages of the book Graves then makes a giant leap to me at least and opines that all of the problems of our modern society stem from our abandonment of the goddess Graves sees the only solution to the ‘problem’ of modernity and our wrong headed allegiance to Appollonian modes of thought the deification of logic and the mangling of mythic truth with political necessity to be a pastoral apocalypse that will reinstate the sovereignty of wild Nature and the divine Mother Goddess that presides over itUltimately I find myself very ambivalent about this book part of me can’t help but raise my eyebrow with scepticism and look for any inconsistency and confusion not necessarily a difficult task especially for the latter and the other finds himself fascinated and drawn to the seemingly effortless manner in which Graves is able to pull together an almost elegant theory from the admittedly complex mare’s nest of ideas he works with I’m glad I read it but would warn prospective readers that they are likely in for an arduous journey


  7. says:

    I would call this Joe Campell's Power of Myth for grownups I've been thinking about this book recently but I have to admit I never got than halfway with it Nobody else I know has either but what I did take from it was worth the struggle Hopelessly inadeuate summary Graves belives that literature and poetry are magic real magic These arts objectively conjure effects the same way a ritual is supposed to work to make a deity present in the mundane world through a charm a rhythm even invoking a god's true name as opposed to Artemis or Hera In short a very unfashionable opinion even when it was written And the hip postmodern professors would laugh their heads off at this book if they had ever read it that is Why do I think this is worth your time especially given the absurd difficulty of the thing? Well it may be that Graves has touched on a failure of modern literature avant la lettre the language has lost its ancient ablity to conjure Nobody believes in it and nobody knows how to do it any and the art is as Graves says a discipline like biology or genetics Graves was one of the last to see therigor in literature and poetry this way The other important feature Graves brings out is how few and very precise are the archetypes that excite and thrill us again through invokation not clever clever plot devices and intellectual tile patterns I often wondered why that experience of being moved deeply through words is so rare in contemporary literature Now I think I know why I'm only giving it four stars because of the unnecessary difficulty


  8. says:

    this is a massive endeavor and will take an eternity to read while i love cross referencing the divine feminine through the mystical traditions i can only take this book in small doses imagine the densest darkest fudge this is not for the faint of heart but a great resource i don't want to have to give it back to ira unread so wish me luck


  9. says:

    Whilst some have disputed Graves historical inaccuracies im not reading this for its historical account but rather for its mytho poetical inventiveness and inspiration of which I would say that it delivers handsomelyThe attempt to reconcile the Ancient Hebrew Greek and Celtic civilizations with an AegeanTuath De Danaan Diaspora is fascinating and demands that the reader have a fairly wide background in cultural and mythological studies Speculating on the Cad Goddeu The Battle of the Trees a medieval Welsh poem from the Book of Taliesin that the trees that fought in the battle in which each tree had a meaning and significance of its own Graves argues that the original poet had concealed Druidic secrets about an older matriarchal Celtic religion for fear of censure from Christian authorities and that the 'battle' was probably not physical but rather a struggle of wits and scholarship They did this he claims by employing the secret sign language called Ogham in this case the Tree Ogham in which each tree holds a representative symbol sound meaning set of mythologies and etcThe particular poem and its meanings is he claims further concealed by the device of being 'pied' or mixed up with a further four poems only those in the know would be able to correctly untangle and decipher their original orderHowever and due to the excessive overloading of references and origins at times it seems that Graves has almost become one of his ancient Cambrian Awenyddion' the magical minstrel poets who disguised their wisdom under the pretence of being possessed by spirits as they did not deliver the answer to what is reuired in any connected mannerbut the person who skillfully observes them will find after many preamblesand incoherent though ornamented speeches the desired explanation conveyed in some turn of wordHe could not have described his own method perfectly persist and you will find his meanings become clearerNevertheless despite the erratic over rich and often obscure prose his reconciliation of the Tree Ogham Alphabet with the calender of the Year the stations of both sun and moon is an inspiring and potentially convincing demonstration of how the ancient mythographers may havecreated meaning and managed the seasonal and social rituals of their timesReaching further his exposition and extrapolation of Biblical and earlier mythologies and their themes is remarkableI value and recommend this work to any serious and patient reader who is preferably well read mytho historicallyfor its hidden gems its tremendous scope and its imaginative inspirational ualities Bright Blessings By Stone and Star Celestial Elf


  10. says:

    It's almost impossible to read the Plath study without this book; apparently it was a huge influence on Plath while she was at Cambridge in the flat where she died there was a poster of the White Goddess tacked to the pantry door The book is interesting for the mythological and folkloric tidbits than the unifying thesis at this point I think the mythological connections are sound but I have some trouble believing that each and every true poet since the advent of Christianity has been engaged in a covert effort to conceal the heretical evidence and practice of true poetry from the masses If you don't attach any meaning to the words Dog Roebuck and Lapwing thank meThe accounts of superstitions though and the tracking of certain myths across cultures are fascinating and I can definitely see Graves' influence on Plath's sensibility and especially diction Also he has a number of theories referencing Shakespeare that could blow some texts wide open


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