Wednesday, 10 August 2011

The White Goddess


Whilst some have disputed Graves historical inaccuracies in The White Goddess, 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 handsomely. pdf here.
The attempt to reconcile the Ancient Hebrew, Greek and Celtic civilizations with an Aegean/Tuath 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 etc..
The 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 order.

However 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 required in any connected manner..."but the person who skillfully observes them will find after many preambles...and incoherent though ornamented speeches, the desired explanation conveyed in some turn of word"
He could not have described his own method more perfectly, persist and you will find his meanings become clearer.


Nevertheless, 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 have)created meaning and managed the seasonal and social rituals of their times.
Reaching further, his exposition and extrapolation of Biblical and earlier mythologies and their themes is remarkable.

I value and recommend this work to any more serious and patient reader (who is preferably well read mytho-historically) for its hidden gems, its tremendous scope and its imaginative-inspirational qualities.






2 comments:

  1. this is a basic textbook for wiccans and neo-pagans of all persuasions. i also valued the chapters on the ogham alphabet and the tree calendar.

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  2. It is a very interesting book indeed...though Graves admitted he was not a medieval historian, but a poet, and thus based his work on this premise. It is a pity he didn't included texts like the Hanes Taliesin a 16th-18th century text which Graves believed originated centuries earlier, and the use of out-dated archeology have been criticised.Some scholars, particularly archeologists, historians and folklorists have not received the work favourably.

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