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Graves's sources for The White Goddess
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Tami Whitehead
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Joined: 28 Sep 2002
Posts: 41
Location: Southeast Texas

PostPosted: Tue Dec 10, 2002 3:11 am    Post subject: Re: Cad G. Reply with quote

Mark Carter wrote:
Hello again,

After rethinking the subject matter of the Cad Goddeu I tend to agree with you about the Cabalistic influences. I had originally thought that the author would not bother to include just a couple of hints at the Cabala in an otherwise Celtic poem but I'm no longer sure. Despite what some people claim, I believe the Cad G. is a late poem. I think it's certainly late enough to be impacted by the influx of Arabic learning and the rise of interest in the Cabala which happened in the later middle ages. It's very possible that the author mixed his Celtic, Biblical and Cabalistic symbolism for whatever reason. Either to show off his knowledge or in an attempt to tie Celtic traditions into Biblical history. The Auraicept certainly contains attempts to tie Celtic history into Biblical history with it's story of the tower of Babel.


Hi Mark, sorry for the delay in replying, things have been busy around here.

I am glad you see what I mean about the Kabbalah etc in CG. The more I look at it, the more I am sure it is the case, and I am checking into some things...I will keep you posted on the specifics as I go along Smile

But, yes, the Riddler in CG and HT was definately showing off his 'vastly superior knowledge,' and would certainly include contemporary esoteric teachings from other sources, including Arabic and Biblical references. I have also started to explore the possibility there are some outright Celtic astronomy mixed in...I wouldn't be surprised! Especially if indeed the calendric elements bear out in Grave's spin on Ogham...Ideas anyone??

Mark Carter wrote:

I'm currently reading The Art Of Memory by Frances Yates and it covers several memory systems used in the middle ages. It deals in part with the Cabala as a memory system and it would seem that these systems could easily be adapted to Celtic bardism. So, maybe the author of Cad G. was drawing on the Cabala as some sort of memory aid, or attempting to fit Cabalistic images into Celtic poetry...or visa versa....trying to fit Celtic themes into a Cabalistic memory system.


Hmm...yes, that may be so. It is indeed a wonderful system for classification...

Mark Carter wrote:
We already know the bards were expected to memorize vast ammounts of material and I suspect the later bards were in some way impacted by these later memory systems. I see no reason why bards would spurn a new memory system if it was easier for them. We already know that bardism was a growing, evolving art. We have to assume that it was impacted by current ideas on education and memory. If Celtic poets were experimenting with a Cabalistic system, it wouldn't shock me at all.


Excellent points. I wonder if we can find any sources that would address this memory system point. You may be onto something Mark.


Mark Carter wrote:

It only seems logical that the bards had some sort of memory system and it would only seem logical that this system was something like those used by the rest of Europe. The Celts were not in some intellectual back water as some people would believe. They exchanged ideas with the rest of the world and I would think that they would draw on Greek or Roman memory systems if they encountered them. Kevin pushes for a exchange of ideas along trade routes in Gaul which may have carried a early form of Ogham which he believes to have existed. Could such a route also have carried one of these Greek/Roman memory systems which we know to have been used at the time? I have bounced this idea off Kevin in an Email and am waiting for a reply.


I agree. In particular, it is easy to see the more pronounced Greek or classical elements in the CG and HT and Ogham, and the trade route theory I think is a plausible one. Certainly the Celts were pretty worldy guys, and would have been exposed to numerous things, especially folks who were interested in such things as language and lore and memory systems (the bards and scribes etc.)

Meanwhile, I am having a good time grooving with my replaced copy of WG, and am getting together some questions and points for another post...let me know what the Venerable Kevin says on your email!

Talk to you later,
Tami
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Tami Whitehead
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Joined: 28 Sep 2002
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 14, 2002 7:13 am    Post subject: Vas pleimaj urgenstein mun gietze Reply with quote

Ok, lots to go over, so I will just jump in. Please forgive the disorganization of thoughts and stuff...I will try to not bore!

In answering some riddles in the Hanes Taliesin, I came to a rather sideways idea, and I could use a little feedback, to either push me in the right direction, or keep me from frittering time down another rabbithole.

For instance.
"I sat in an uneasy chair above Caer Sidi" which Graves thinks has something to do with the Puffin Islands or a bench at Caer Idris...
Um. Why is it not Caer Sidi, the Zodiac or Ecliptic? (In Celtic astronomy, the Zodiac is called the Caer Sidi, although I have not yet dated the term)Then the Uneasy Chair would be the hub of the Zodiac, Earth, or the Hub of Existance, which is implied by the association with Caer Arianrhod. Which old tales certainly have spinning...

Mark and I have been talking about the (likely) Kabbalistic and astronomical elements in the HT and other of the Welsh Riddle poems etc, and I found what I think may be more substantive 'proof' of this...or at least, that the hermetic sciences were not unknown or unfamiliar...in the Romance of Taliesin, Graves tells us that Cerridwen brews a cauldron of inspiration, adding *magical herbs gatherd at their proper planetary hours.* Well, that's just about as kabbalistic and astronomical a reference one could hope for, though I wonder, is the Vergil of Toledo (who gave Cerridwen the recipe) is the same that lived in Cisalpine Gaul and wrote the Aeneid...That Virgil was highly regarded as a dispenser or holder of wisdom is well noted, he guided the postulant the Dante's Inferno, and was privy to much 'natural wisdom,' so who knows? Well, whoever Vergil or Virgil of Toledo was, the fact remains that we have an old reference to planetary hours in connection with magick in Welsh/ British lore. I don't believe that, whatever the source, the bards and fili etc would be unfamiliar with the notion in one context, if it were already established in another. I mean, if the writer of the Romance knew of planetary hours, then it is likely he knew 'which' planetary hours, or know the system itself (which would likely be Ptolemic astronomy, but I am still checking--it will be interesting to see just which system, if any, is used) Just how closely did Celtic astronomy follow the well-established Occidental and even Levantine or Arabic I am still checking up on.

Now would be a really good time for someone with other knowledge, that knew I was going down the wrong path, to jump in and say, "Ah, no, for see so and so said this and such in this text, showing a radical diversion from the accepted yada yada yada..."

OK, so the astronomical is definately something to be explored...because, like Graves, I think the real key is calendric. Besides, we are all in agreement on the astronomical achievements of the neolithic Britoi and the Celts, etc. It would only be natural for them to be interested in, seek out, and adopt any ideas or learning they though was right, or added to the already established format. There does seem a noticiable abscense of the Julian or Augustine reforms in the 'peasant' British calenders, if I am looking at them right--a streak of nationalism? While they may have resisted the 'Imperial' calender, they seem very in touch with the running element in Northern/Western European notions on those lines...

Which is my other crisis...the blending of the Northern Scythian Danaan tide and the Spanish/Gaulic/Mediterraenean tide... or tides...and then there are the different Biblical traditions for Britain, from the Grail Bloodline to the Lia Fahl. These guys were all over the place, and at different times...Aaarrghhh!

Also, I would like some input/information on Ollathair/Dagda, who apparently put the seasons in order when he played a magickal oaken harp (how many strings? isn't that a planetary reference or allusion?) And he was the father of Oghma...Well, does the 'putting the seasons in order' have to do with the reordering, adding to, etc, of Ogham alphabets, and would that be a result of (7?9?5?) strings on a harp of oak being 'played' correctly? IOW, observance of the movement of the planets (astronomy) leading to a new re-ordering of the letters, already old in use from Greek contact, to more match a 'correct' or 'logical' scheme of the calendric year, in accordance with the current Celtic mythic form and reflective of various esoteric traditions. (Yikes, that looks awfully like a thesis statement...hmmm...)

Comments? Ideas? Links?
Tami
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Mark Carter
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 17, 2002 9:04 pm    Post subject: Some points regarding WG Reply with quote

Hi Tami (and the rest);

Jeez, where do I start? Tami, you're starting to become one of those rambling theorists that I try to avoid in these sort of talks. Wink

1st of all, regarding the line "I sat in an uneasy chair above Caer Sidi"; this is something I try to address in my book. A quick look at the actual poem will confirm that the line reads "Caer Sidi" but Graves links Caer Sidi to Cader Idris.

Cader Idris, as Graves claims, is one of the highest mountains in N. Wales and there is a local legend that anyone spending a night there will wake up dead, mad or a poet. Graves probably found this legend in Edward Davies's Celtic Researches (1801). Davies tells the same legend and Davies was a big source for Graves as he wrote WG.

What is interesting is that Davies carries the idea further and creates a stronger link to astrology/astronomy by suggesting that there may have been a Celtic observatory on Cader Idris. Astrological hints in Celtic poems aren't uncommon and it has been suggested that "whirling round without motion" and "I know the names of the stars from North to South" both imply some sort of astrological/astronomical knowledge. It's odd that Graves doesn't follow up on this idea. The only reason I can image why Graves doesn't is that it would conflict with his desired outcome for the Hanes Taliesin. In order for Graves's Ogham theory to work he had to attribute this line of the poem to Rhea and not to Idris. Put simply, Graves wasn't at liberty to examine anything outside of the results he wanted to reach, which were predetermined.

You have to be aware of the ammount of bias Graves displays in WG. He knew ahead of time that he wanted Hanes Taliesin and Cad Goddeu to reveal the Ogham. Evidence of any other theory had to be overlooked. I have a feeling Graves would have loved to link in Davies's observatory idea but it was too far outside of his own theory of hidden messages in Celtic poetry.

Quote:
in the Romance of Taliesin, Graves tells us that Cerridwen brews a cauldron of inspiration, adding *magical herbs gatherd at their proper planetary hours.* Well, that's just about as kabbalistic and astronomical a reference one could hope for


True, it is clearly a ref. to some sort of occult knowledge, but I don't find this too shocking. The Romance of Taliesin is a late tale and was easily written late enough to have included some sort of occult tradition. Magical manuscripts were being circulated by the 12th century, esp. among the courts, where the author of the romance probably told and 1st recorded his story. I suspect the Romance Of Taliesin was compiled by someone in a court, who had a fairly decent education and had seen at least a couple typical occult manuscripts. By making the ref. to Cerridwen gathering herbs in their hours he was trying to show off the fact that he had seen some of those occult manuscripts which were so taboo. He was also linking the stereotypical witch image to Cerridwen. The stock image of witches gathering herbs by night was well established by this time. Whoever wrote the Romance of Tal. was trying hard to make it fit its genre by including hints at occult tradition.

Quote:
I wonder, is the Vergil of Toledo (who gave Cerridwen the recipe) is the same that lived in Cisalpine Gaul and wrote the Aeneid...That Virgil was highly regarded as a dispenser or holder of wisdom is well noted, he guided the postulant the Dante's Inferno, and was privy to much 'natural wisdom,' so who knows?


The mention of Virgil is closely tied to the idea of gathering herbs in their hours and the Virgil mentioned is almost certainly the author of the Aeneid. This Virgil was also credited with writing a herbal guide which was highly popular in medieval times. It's only logical that the same Virgil who was credited with the herbal book was credited with knowledge of gathering herbs in their correct hours.

Somehow (in a complex way I still don't understand) Virgil became credited with all sorts of magic powers in medieval times. I suspect it was because his herbal was one of the oldest and was full of healing charms. Either way, later occult manuscripts never failed to throw in his name. From there he worked his way into fiction as a master magician. This is why he appears in the Romance Of Tal. Again, the author is trying to tie his story into the genre by mention of "Virgil of Toledo" who wrote a magical book.

Toledo was the stereotypical home of all things mystic in medieval times because it was seen as the source of much of the Arabic learning that came flooding into Europe at the time. Supposedly there were schools there teaching "the black arts" and most Europeaners believed this because most of them could never hope to visit the place and confirm or deny the fact 1st hand. Back then saying you had a copy of the magic book of Virgil of Toledo was like saying you have a copy of the real and secret Necronomicon today....it's a way to impress people who don't know any better.

I don't mean to discredit your idea that the author knew something of the occult tradition. Indeed, he certainly had to know something of it in order to throw in these lines. However, what I do mean to imply is that you shouldn't give much credit to the lines themselves. There was no Virgil of Toledo and the book mentioned in the story probably doesn't exist, altho it is based on typical magic manuscripts of the time.

What is really interesting is that in another version of the tale this book is called the Book of The Pheryllt. Pheryllt has been translated as "metal workers" and metal workers were credited with magical powers in Celtic tradition. This is why St. Patrick's prayer asks for "protection from metal workers" and Skene's translation of Cad Goddeu asks for freedom "from the oppression of the metal workers" as well. Modern author Douglas Monroe claims to have a copy of the Book of The Pheryllt, but he won't let anyone see it and only reveals its contents in the form of his own historical fiction books. I guess you can still use Virgil, Toledo and the Pherylly to impress people who don't know any better.

Lastly, the Romance Of Tal. has some corruptions from Iolo Morganwg, the famous Celtic forger. I'm not sure just how much he contributed to the story but Guest draws on his versions for her book, so her version may be esp. late and corrupt. It has even been suggested that Iolo wrote nearly all of the Romance, but I forget where I had read that so I can't be sure. I know at least some of the material is in Skene's Four Ancient Books, so he couldn't have forged it all.

OK. That's a lot to digest in one post. Just in case you're wondering, I am not some expert on this subject. I drew everything above from Skene's Four Ancient Books of Wales, Nash's Taliesin: Or The Bards And Druids of Britain and Richard Kieckefer's Magic In The Middle Ages. It's amazing what you can learn in your spare time when you don't own a TV. Very Happy

Quote:
OK, so the astronomical is definately something to be explored...because, like Graves, I think the real key is calendric.


I'm going to shock you again, but I don't think there's much calendric material in the Ogham. At least not in the way Graves lays it out. For that matter, I don't think the Ogham is hidden in either Hanes Taliesin or Cad Goddeu either. I think maybe Cad Goddeu was used as some sort of memory aid for something, but not the Ogham. Ogham was no secret by the time Cad Goddeu was written. There was no need to hide it in a poem. The Auraicept was already floating around in Ireland, altho it may have been harder to learn the Ogham in Wales.

Besides, the math doesn't add up. Look at the Nash translation of Cad Goddeu which Graves worked from. There is a total of 31 plants mentioned a total of 35 times. (Four trees are repeated.) The complete Ogham, including the Forfeda, contains 25 characters. If we disregard the Forfeda as Graves does, we have only 20 characters. Graves has to discard several plants from the poem and he just happens to discard exactly those trees not linked to the ogham by popular tradition. These unneeded trees are cleverly placed into another poem which Graves claims is concealed within Cad Goddeu. Yet, even after discarding those trees he doesn't need Graves still can't produce the Ogham out of the remaining trees because their order is wrong. So, instead, he claims the trees have been substituted with other trees. Graves starts off with a poem of 237 lines and ends with a 52 line poem. Only by disregarding 3/4 of the poem and reordering the rest of the lines can he produce the Ogham from the poem.

Quote:
Which is my other crisis...the blending of the Northern Scythian Danaan tide and the Spanish/Gaulic/Mediterraenean tide... or tides...and then there are the different Biblical traditions for Britain, from the Grail Bloodline to the Lia Fahl.


You've finally stumped me on this one. Tribal movements of people isn't high on my list of things I've been able to learn. Nor is Arthurian legend. All I can say is that the Grail Bloodline theory is late and probably very corrupt. I really don't know much about the whole Arthurian world but I know most of it is late and not an accurate reflection of the 5th cent. or Celtic beliefs. Then, when you throw the grail and Joseph of Arimathea into it, it becomes a total mess. Honestly, I wish I could remove 99% of the Arthurian influence in studies of Celtic paganism because IMHO it doesn't belong there anyway.

OK. I think I finally reached the end of this post. Here are some new questions. Maybe Tami can answer them for me because she's reading WG again. I just need someone to give me some page numbers to save me from scanning the whole book for the items I want. (The index to WG is hardly complete and often worthless, IMHO.)

Is there any evidence that Graves read either Richard Payne Knight's Discourse On The Worship Of Priapus (1786) or Thomas Wright's The Worship of The Generative Powers (1866)? In particular, does Graves mention the finger gesture known as "the fig", the belief that fern seeds cause invisibility or the cowrie shell used as a symbol of female sexual organs? Lastly, can someone refer me to the page of WG in which Graves mentions the primitive rituals of human sacrifice and the chanting of "blood, blood, blood"? It's probably one of the most vivid images in WG, but now I can't find it.

Thanks everyone;
Mark
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ian
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 18, 2002 8:32 am    Post subject: Re: Some points regarding WG Reply with quote

Mark Carter wrote:
Lastly, can someone refer me to the page of WG in which Graves mentions the primitive rituals of human sacrifice and the chanting of "blood, blood, blood"?


In Chapter 8: "Hercules on the Lotus", the whole ritual is described in detail.

I think the section you're after though is:

Quote:
Poetry began in the matriarchal age, and derives its magic from the moon, not from the sun. No poet can hope to understand the nature of poetry unless he has had a vision of the Naked King crucified to the lopped oak, and watched the dancers, red-eyed from the acrid smoke of their sacrificial fires, stamping out the measure of the dance, their bodies bent uncouthly forward, with a monotonous chant of: ‘Kill! kill! kill!’ and ‘Blood! blood! blood!


However, I can't get you a page reference until the new year (sorry!).
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Tami Whitehead
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 18, 2002 7:43 pm    Post subject: Re: Some points regarding WG Reply with quote

Mark Carter wrote:
Hi Tami (and the rest);

Jeez, where do I start? Tami, you're starting to become one of those rambling theorists that I try to avoid in these sort of talks. Wink



Rambling Theorist?? Moi??? Is that like the Homer Simpson Award? Do I get a donut?? Pray forgive me...would you be more comfortable if I limited my posts to one point or query each? I admit I threw a number of things into my latest post, but more in an effort to stimulate posting from others, you know, give every one something to bite into...


Quote:
Cader Idris, as Graves claims, is one of the highest mountains in N. Wales and there is a local legend that anyone spending a night there will wake up dead, mad or a poet. Graves probably found this legend in Edward Davies's Celtic Researches (1801). Davies tells the same legend and Davies was a big source for Graves as he wrote WG.
What is interesting is that Davies carries the idea further and creates a stronger link to astrology/astronomy by suggesting that there may have been a Celtic observatory on Cader Idris.


I would be very interested in reading the supportive material. However, I reserve judgement until then. It still seems a tenuous link at best, that an observatory on Caer Idris would equate to what was observed, ie. Caer Sidi. I would be interested to read why Caer Idris, rather than any other observatory sites in Britain, would be the choice for 'Caer Sidi,' even if it is merely because it was 'the highest point.' I have a theory I hesitate to propose, until I have the sources to back it up (the Rambling Theorist in me is not above basic research techniques, such as supporting theories with outside sources) Wink

Quote:
Astrological hints in Celtic poems aren't uncommon and it has been suggested that "whirling round without motion" and "I know the names of the stars from North to South" both imply some sort of astrological/astronomical knowledge.


My point exactly. As I have said before, it seems a very clear reference to me. I am glad to see that it is indeed common knowledge. Very validating. I do feel that the astrological/astronomical elements warrant more research.

Quote:
Quote:
in the Romance of Taliesin, Graves tells us that Cerridwen brews a cauldron of inspiration, adding *magical herbs gatherd at their proper planetary hours.* Well, that's just about as kabbalistic and astronomical a reference one could hope for


True, it is clearly a ref. to some sort of occult knowledge, but I don't find this too shocking. The Romance of Taliesin is a late tale and was easily written late enough to have included some sort of occult tradition. Magical manuscripts were being circulated by the 12th century, esp. among the courts, where the author of the romance probably told and 1st recorded his story.


Well, shock wasn't precisely my reaction. Actually I expected it, and would have been shocked otherwise. You'll recall that it was I who pointed out the kabbalistic and other hermetic elements I had noted within the texts in question, and my supposition that it would only be natural for the Riddler to show off his eclectic knowledge. I am particularly looking into just which hermetic texts were available to the Riddler and his fellows. Wouldn't it be something to find an Arabic text from the appropriate period that said exactly "Toad with a thousand claws" or some other equally puzzling reference in the texts, and say "Aha! I see where this came from, now let's see why..."


Quote:
I suspect the Romance Of Taliesin was compiled by someone in a court, who had a fairly decent education and had seen at least a couple typical occult manuscripts. By making the ref. to Cerridwen gathering herbs in their hours he was trying to show off the fact that he had seen some of those occult manuscripts which were so taboo. He was also linking the stereotypical witch image to Cerridwen. The stock image of witches gathering herbs by night was well established by this time. Whoever wrote the Romance of Tal. was trying hard to make it fit its genre by including hints at occult tradition.


The court connection within HT is hardly contested. However, I do think there is indeed another element at work with the portion dealing with Cerridwen's brew...yes, yes, stock images of witches gathering herbs by night, well established...but what I find of interest is the Planetary Hours.

Planetary hours are something quite interesting in the history of magic, and a bit outside the germain of the village herbwife. Planetary hours are a bit complex, a bit Ptolemic, and a bit Goetic. It is IMHO, something that herbwives and midwives and rustic witches would not be facile with, even if they had access to the information. It presupposes a knowledge of not only herbs and the associations, both planetary and elemental, but also of a rather sophisticated system of planetary and angelic associations. I see the inclusion of the ref to planetary hours and Virgil of Toledo as a somewhat clear indication that the knowledge was imported and late, which fits with the other things we have discussed in this thread.

I agree that there was likely no real Virgil who gave Cerridwen a recipe...which would suppose that Cerridwen, Gwion and Afagdu etc were historical and not mythical characters...and the Toledo connection again backs up nicely what I was saying earlier about such imports of hermetic elements. Yes, I thought that the Virgil ref was more to add credibility and authority to the text.

Quote:
I don't mean to discredit your idea that the author knew something of the occult tradition. Indeed, he certainly had to know something of it in order to throw in these lines. However, what I do mean to imply is that you shouldn't give much credit to the lines themselves. There was no Virgil of Toledo and the book mentioned in the story probably doesn't exist, altho it is based on typical magic manuscripts of the time.


I didn't think he was, though your point is well taken. My interest was, by linking to the author of Aenid, who did not give Cerridwen a recipe, does the author imply the 'wise guide of Classical Myth' has carried over at that time to Planetary or Hermetic lore in Britain. I am aware these lines are not to be taken literally Wink Now, as for there being an actual book, I don't think there was one written by Virgil, but I do think there was some book, some table or list, to supply planetary hours and herbal associations, probably of Arabic origin though I won't swear to it, and *that* would provide more insight into the question at hand. What did they know, and where did they learn it?


Quote:
OK. That's a lot to digest in one post. Just in case you're wondering, I am not some expert on this subject. I drew everything above from Skene's Four Ancient Books of Wales, Nash's Taliesin: Or The Bards And Druids of Britain and Richard Kieckefer's Magic In The Middle Ages. It's amazing what you can learn in your spare time when you don't own a TV. Very Happy


Thanks for the references!

Quote:
Quote:
OK, so the astronomical is definately something to be explored...because, like Graves, I think the real key is calendric.


I'm going to shock you again, but I don't think there's much calendric material in the Ogham. At least not in the way Graves lays it out. For that matter, I don't think the Ogham is hidden in either Hanes Taliesin or Cad Goddeu either. I think maybe Cad Goddeu was used as some sort of memory aid for something, but not the Ogham. Ogham was no secret by the time Cad Goddeu was written. There was no need to hide it in a poem. The Auraicept was already floating around in Ireland, altho it may have been harder to learn the Ogham in Wales.



Maybe. However, my supposition of a calendric key is not based entirely on Graves, but on my own independent study of calenders and epigraphy in other systems. There are obvious holes in Graves arguement, which I will discuss at length as we go on, but the basic premise, that the letters represented the progression of a mythic cycle reflected in the marking of seasons and keeping of sacred or feast days, sacrifices, sowing and harvest etc, is not that far-fetched in my opinion. Now, whether CG or HT or other texts contain Ogham, I am still digging into, but I don't think we should throw the baby out with the bath water. I question some of Graves' stuff on this, but I think there is still a lot there, and shouldn't be overlooked. Hell, even where he may be plain old wrong, he still points us down some good roads to explore.

Your point on the math is well taken. I will adress that at length in the days to come. Hang on True Believers, as Stan Lee would say...


Quote:
Quote:
Which is my other crisis...the blending of the Northern Scythian Danaan tide and the Spanish/Gaulic/Mediterraenean tide... or tides...and then there are the different Biblical traditions for Britain, from the Grail Bloodline to the Lia Fahl.

You've finally stumped me on this one. Tribal movements of people isn't high on my list of things I've been able to learn. Nor is Arthurian legend. All I can say is that the Grail Bloodline theory is late and probably very corrupt. I really don't know much about the whole Arthurian world but I know most of it is late and not an accurate reflection of the 5th cent. or Celtic beliefs. Then, when you throw the grail and Joseph of Arimathea into it, it becomes a total mess. Honestly, I wish I could remove 99% of the Arthurian influence in studies of Celtic paganism because IMHO it doesn't belong there anyway.


That's my point. So much of it is drek or misleading, the Lapwing at work I s'pose. I am focusing more on Tribal Movements, more easily researched and supported, than de-layering the Arthurian etc. elements.

Quote:
Is there any evidence that Graves read either Richard Payne Knight's Discourse On The Worship Of Priapus (1786) or Thomas Wright's The Worship of The Generative Powers (1866)? In particular, does Graves mention the finger gesture known as "the fig", the belief that fern seeds cause invisibility or the cowrie shell used as a symbol of female sexual organs? Lastly, can someone refer me to the page of WG in which Graves mentions the primitive rituals of human sacrifice and the chanting of "blood, blood, blood"? It's probably one of the most vivid images in WG, but now I can't find it.


The Fern seed ref in on p 42 of the amended enlarged. BTW, there is also the tradition of flax seeds used for the same purpose. There is a nice Hercules sacrifice ritual in Chapter 8 of the same, but I found no references to Kill or Blood in my copy.

You have been a good sport, Mark, and thank you for playing Poke the Poet!

Tami
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Tami Whitehead
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 28, 2002 8:07 pm    Post subject: Fern Seeds and Invisibility Reply with quote

Hi Mark,
You had asked about fern seeds and invisibility in WG, and I found another ref to it besides the one I posted previously. On pg. 182 of the Amended Enlarged, Graves cites the source for the fern seed eating ref as Book of St. Albans, or rather, a recipe that has a similar result of eating fern seed...you might want to check it out.

You know, it may be entirely unrelated, but somewhere long ago I came across a charm for invisibility, a little verse to be said while scattering flax seed on the surface of a pool of water, to bring invisibility. It may be unrelated, or it may be an evolution or variant of the fern-seed eating...I am wondering which fern is supposed to be used...and besides, ferns don't have seeds per se, they have spores or something, don't they?

Things like this usually turn out to have an interesting 'sympathetic' reference or operant. What is it about fern seed or or hazel rods that would make one invisible?

Tami
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Mark Carter
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 01, 2003 10:32 pm    Post subject: I'm back....finally. Reply with quote

Hi all,

I finally found some time to get back to this page. Over the last several days I had started to write a reply no less than 3 times, but was interrupted each time and never finished. I feel like I'm repeating myself now as I write it yet again. Confused

1st I must thank Ian for finding the quote for me. He didn't give the exact page number but he narrowed it down enough that I was able to find it without flipping thru the whole book. This was a great time saver. Personally, I find the index to White Goddess to be a little lacking. However, I have to admit that in this case I wasn't sure exactly what to look for in the index anyway.

Quote:
would you be more comfortable if I limited my posts to one point or query each?


No, fire away with everything you have. I just have to give you a hard time now and then. It's in my contract. I have nothing against throwing out all the ideas you have...but if you start to connect anything in WG to bigfoot, UFO's or Elvis I'm going to pretend I don't know you. Twisted Evil

Quote:
I would be very interested in reading the supportive material.


Well, Edward Davies is worthless as historical evidence. His only value lies in the fact that Graves read him as a source for WG and therefore Graves drew on some of Davies's ideas. However, even Graves called him "hopelessly erratic". It was Davies who suggested the trees in Cad Goddeu represented letters in a sort of puzzle. He also suggested the existence of an observatory on Cader Idris, as I mentioned.

Quote:
It still seems a tenuous link at best, that an observatory on Caer Idris would equate to what was observed, ie. Caer Sidi. I would be interested to read why Caer Idris, rather than any other observatory sites in Britain, would be the choice for 'Caer Sidi,' even if it is merely because it was 'the highest point.'


Personally, I dobut there was an observatory on Cader Idris to start with. (Maybe someone with some archeological background can confirm or deny the fact for us?) What Davies really said was that there was a natural formation there, much like a chair, which was called "the chair of Idris". Anyone spending the night there would wake up dead, mad or a poet. Idris himself was called one of the 3 happy astronomers and because of this tradition this natural feature came to be called the chair of Idris, just as other odd features have taken on simular names. (There are several places in Wales with simular legendary names equally unfounded in history.) I suspect that Davies simply used this fact to suggest the existence of an observatory on Cader Idris, without having any hard evidence. I know this is a heavy charge to lay against a (so called) expert historian....but a quick look into any of his books will confirm the fact that he made wild guesses based on little or no evidence. Davies had his own pet theory of a "helio-arkite" religion and he would twist anything to fit it.

OTOH, if there was an observatory on Cader Idris, it would not surprise me if it eventually became known as Caer Sidi. If such an observatory did exist, and was famous among the ancient Celts, then it would certainly pick up some pagan religious significance. I can't think of any pagan culture that has looked at the stars and not put a religious interpretation on their movements. We've already seen that the Celts had some sort of astrology and this would be reflected at Cader Idris, if it did in fact contain an observatory.

My guess would be that such an observatory would be seen as the connecting point between heaven and earth, the nearest point on earth to the stars. This would esp. apply to Cader Idris because of its hight. It would be seen as a link to Caer Sidi, a gateway where those still living could go to witness the turning of the wheel 1st hand. They could visit the "Spiral Castle" without actually dying. If such an observatory did exist it would have religious aspects and probably be controlled by the druids. After all, besides being the religious caste of the Celts, the druids were also the intellectuals. Either way, religious aspects aside, the druids would have been the logical people to control such an observatory. I can see all sorts of options here....options for various druidic rituals based on the wheel of the sky...but I'll not go into them here. As I said, this is all just guesswork. I suspect there was never an observatory there to begin with. What is your theory, Tami?

What I want to know is this, when did Graves read Davies's Celtic Researches and why did he read it? What was Graves looking for? We would assume that Graves read Davies as part of the research for White Goddess, but I'm starting to think he read Davies sooner than this. Besides his claim that the Cad Goddeu symbolized a battle of letters, Davies also suggested that the tree dance credited to Orpheus was a dance of letters. Graves makes the same suggestion in his Golden Fleece. So, was Graves reading Davies as part of his research for Orhpeus to be used in his Golden Fleece, or was Graves simultaneously researching WG and Golden Fleece? Either way, it throws light onto how Graves wrote WG. Now we can see why he stopped drawing lines across his big maps of Greece and started to scribble out the 1st draft of WG. He had already been reading Davies's idea about the dance of letters and had also came across Davies's solution to Cad Goddeu.

Quote:
I am particularly looking into just which hermetic texts were available to the Riddler and his fellows.


I forget exactly what date has been placed on Cad Goddeu but I know it was late. I suspect most of the hermetic and cabalistic manuscripts had already been written by this time. The author of Cad Goddeu could have drawn from any of the better known sources I suspect. I say this not to totally undercut your theory but to support it in some ways and undercut it in others. Yes, the author certainly knew something of the occult tradition, but OTOH, he could have gathered it from any one of several manuscripts of the time and he may have had no real special knowledge. In much the same way, modern Europeaners know of the existence of typical magical rituals, such as pins in dolls, but they may not know the exact ritual used by any particular group of people doing so.

Quote:
Planetary hours are something quite interesting in the history of magic, and a bit outside the germain of the village herbwife. Planetary hours are a bit complex, a bit Ptolemic, and a bit Goetic. It is IMHO, something that herbwives and midwives and rustic witches would not be facile with, even if they had access to the information.


True, it may be a trick to figure out planetary hours, but notice that the author of the Romance Of Taliesin never actually explains how to do it. He only makes mention of the existence of planetary hours. Sort of like what I said above about pins in dolls...people know it goes on but outsiders may not know any exact ritual. For that matter, I know of the existence of X-rays and radio waves and I can talk about them....but I have no idea how they work.

Quote:
I do think there was some book, some table or list, to supply planetary hours and herbal associations, probably of Arabic origin though I won't swear to it, and *that* would provide more insight into the question at hand. What did they know, and where did they learn it?


Yes, there were certainly magical manuscripts floating around at the time. As for discovering exactly what ones the author of the Romance of Taliesin actually saw, that may be hard. It would be interesting tho to date the Romance, then compile a list of known occult works which were already written by that time and then look for the most famous, or most popular within Welsh courts, which also contained a ref. to planetary hours. Could be interesting. I wish I had time to follow it up.

I have some other questions regarding WG but I will hold off for now and wait for the return fire. Very Happy

Mark
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Tami Whitehead
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 13, 2003 4:55 pm    Post subject: Chairs and Harps and Planetary Hours Reply with quote

Howdy howdy, Mark and all!

Mark, before I forget, I was digging around in Frazer's GB the other day, and read what he had on fern and fernseed, and it seems all related to solar references and has to do with the discovery of gold or treasures. Frazer lists about a page of folk charms using fernseed and 'plundered fern seed' etc. Check it out, it is in his index under fern. No mention of invisibility...

BTW, LOL, feel free to give me a hard time, anytime! I enjoy playing "Poke the Poet" it keeps me from taking anything too serious, something I am prone to do sometimes Cool BTW, there is no real reason Elvis could not be the Messiah, and an ambassodor from the planet Nbiru, and he will arrive with blaring trumpets and a host of little grey men to take us all to Graceland...mmmmm...moonpies takes on a whole new meaning...LOL!

Now, onto Davies and the Questionable Chair at Caer Idris...I am with you about the likelihood(not) of an observatory on the site in question, and am familiar with the stone seat there and the legend around it. But like I said in other posts, I think it is a tenuous link at best, and wonder what Graves had in mind when he concluded it was the Uneasy Chair, or that the Uneasy Chair was in fact the Caer Sidi in the riddle...Other than the fact that it is a 'chair,' and has some strange poetic/maddening properties, I think the association comes off a bit forced, don't you?

You asked my theory, and I don't have one per se, but I do have a premise, which I am checking out...it is this: That Caer Sidi is not in Welsh or Celtic lore a physical feature of landscape or place, but is precisely what it is (in Welsh lore), namely, the name the Celtic/Welsh astrologers called the Zodiac. That being so, I think it likely that the other part of the riddle, the Uneasy Chair, would also be astrological/astronomical, ie, a constellation or somesuch, or at least, a physical(perhaps) thing in specific relation to an astronomical feature...

If indeed the Caer Sidi is the Zodiac, then an Uneasy Chair above the Zodiac would be the hub of the wheel, so to speak. Dig it. The Hub of the Wheel would be an Uneasy Place, since the Wheel in the Sky keeps on turning as the song says. We know from physical and mechanical science that the hub of a wheel turns relatively faster than the outward edge of a wheel, and extending that idea, observing Manifestation of Heavenly or Worldly affairs is a dizzying occupation. One seated in this Uneasy Chair would have a (dizzying) view of Manifestation (for want of a better word) and to keep one's feet so to speak would be a mark of great wisdom and constitution...mystically, or even esoterically, this would be so. So, going on the astrological slant, I have turned up several Welsh/Celtic constellations that are called Chairs, which suggests 2 things to me...that there was an established tradition of Chairs in Welsh astrology (which means to me that it is likely the whole riddle is astrological and refers to some established lore) and that the Chairs may be one of those, or another I have not yet come across.

I am looking into the question of these other Welsh astrological chairs, and of course, who sat in these, since the answer may indeed be a 'neater fit' into that particular riddle. I have the idea that the riddle may revolve around displaying the Riddler's knowledge of astrology, perhaps a claim to Druidic or other knowledge, and maybe even a double stroke, since I think that the answer will also have a biblical or classical parallel, and be a sort of double entendre for the Riddler (see, not only am I a master of the stars of this land, but also the stars of other lands, am I not worthy of praise, sorta...I can see him boasting this)

So. That's my premise, working it into a theory... Smile

I agree with you about the Spiral Castle, and do think that the whole Idea was to visit it without dying, sort of along the lines of Orphic or Eleusian ideas.

The Kabbalistic text question I am still hashing out. I know that much of the texts were available by the time Cad was written, however, I still wonder which ones were readily available to the authors of the Cad, and if so, in what language...I think that if we can identify certain definate elements, we may find that some of them are (surprise) much older than the CG, and if so, it would be enlightening to see how early, and which ideas, were embedded in Welsh/Celtic lore, if any. Were they familiar with the compilation of Sepher Yetzirah and Zohar, or were they familiar with earlier fragments? Was it from the assumed translations of clerical scribes for the Church, or a more direct source?

Also, as Graves points out, some of the references seem to be from texts that were available to them but lost to us. That is the real reason for my back-tracking...which is which and when? This goes with my query about planetary hours, not the "how did they do it?" part so much as the "where did they get their planetary hours?" Was it from the same neo-platonic source as our modern hermetic planetary hours, or perhaps more Hebrew or Arabic? What did they keep of it, and what did they blend with their own astrological lore? As you say, the logical step seems to be to date the Romance and other pieces, and then date available occult or mystical texts. I am working on that, though it may be awhile before I have it laid out, and then there is the nasty problem of being pulled down rabbit holes as I come across new clues and such...I am so easily distracted.

Something else, and I will have to consult WG and Hebrew Myth to see just what he said, but the question of Enoch keeps nagging at me.

Yes, I have come across Orpheus Tree Dance before, and also Bran's ordering of the seasons with an Oaken harp. I must say, I kinda think there is something there. Smile

Anyhow, that is enough for now. Do you know any links or sources I should look at for the astrological stuff? Or the Enochian?

Have a great day!
Tami
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Mark Carter
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Joined: 01 Jun 2002
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Location: Bloomington, IL, USA

PostPosted: Mon Jan 13, 2003 10:22 pm    Post subject: Uneasy chair and other items.... Reply with quote

Hello all,

Tami, thanks for the fern seed ref. To be honest, I can't even remember why I asked about it now. It was something I was trying to link into another idea at some point. It's all in my notes tho so I will eventually get back to it. Right now I'm working on a couple other ideas.

Quote:
BTW, there is no real reason Elvis could not be the Messiah,


There's actually a futuristic "cyberpunk" novel with exactly this plot. I just glanced at it at the bookstore 2 days ago. It's set in this bleak future world along the lines of a Philip Dick novel. A couple of people go back in time to bring Elvis forward to save the human race. The problem is, Elvis turns out to be a total jerk and unwilling to work with them. It sounds like a great plot to me....I can't stand Elvis anyway. Twisted Evil

Quote:
I think it is a tenuous link at best, and wonder what Graves had in mind when he concluded it was the Uneasy Chair, or that the Uneasy Chair was in fact the Caer Sidi in the riddle...Other than the fact that it is a 'chair,' and has some strange poetic/maddening properties, I think the association comes off a bit forced, don't you?


Yes, but a lot of the points in WG are forced and this isn't the worst of them. The ref. to the "uneasy chair" is found in Cad Goddeu so at least we know Graves didn't simply create it. Nor did he create the connection between the uneasy chair, Cader Idris or Caer Sidi. Davies did that. So Graves is using earlier sources, even if they're not the best sources in the world.


Quote:
That Caer Sidi is not in Welsh or Celtic lore a physical feature of landscape or place, but is precisely what it is (in Welsh lore), namely, the name the Celtic/Welsh astrologers called the Zodiac.


I agree with you there. Caer Sidi was clearly never intended to be understood as a typical fortress, or even a real place.

Quote:
That being so, I think it likely that the other part of the riddle, the Uneasy Chair, would also be astrological/astronomical, ie, a constellation or somesuch, or at least, a physical(perhaps) thing in specific relation to an astronomical feature...


Maybe. It's certainly possible and I won't rule it out. However, now that I think of it, I wonder if it's not more likely to be an expression of his emotional state. "I've been in an uneasy chair" could be like saying "I've been between a rock and a hard place", "I was beside myself" or some other such saying. If the author was really refering to some mystical experience he had which included some sort of "cosmic vision" (for lack of a better term) then he might very well be uneasy.

Quote:
If indeed the Caer Sidi is the Zodiac, then an Uneasy Chair above the Zodiac would be the hub of the wheel, so to speak. Dig it. The Hub of the Wheel would be an Uneasy Place, since the Wheel in the Sky keeps on turning as the song says. We know from physical and mechanical science that the hub of a wheel turns relatively faster than the outward edge of a wheel, and extending that idea, observing Manifestation of Heavenly or Worldly affairs is a dizzying occupation. One seated in this Uneasy Chair would have a (dizzying) view of Manifestation (for want of a better word) and to keep one's feet so to speak would be a mark of great wisdom and constitution...mystically, or even esoterically, this would be so.


Exactly. That's pretty much my point except that I'm not sure the uneasy chair was a real place or even a constellation. It's certainly possible that the author was trying to relate some sort of vision which made him uneasy tho. He could have had exactly the sort of vision you are talking about but that doesn't mean there is going to be any real place called the uneasy chair which he named after that experience. OTOH, as I said, it's totally possible and can't be ruled out.

Quote:
So, going on the astrological slant, I have turned up several Welsh/Celtic constellations that are called Chairs, which suggests 2 things to me...that there was an established tradition of Chairs in Welsh astrology (which means to me that it is likely the whole riddle is astrological and refers to some established lore) and that the Chairs may be one of those, or another I have not yet come across.


It's possible. I tend to think however that the author is trying to relate some vision of the Celtic "other world". He had some sort of vision which made him feel omniscient and during this vision he saw the battle of Cad Goddeu just as it is described in the poem. One army is led by a man with magical powers, the other side is led by a woman with magical powers. Trees become human and do battle, or even do battle in the form of trees.

All of this he saw after going thru several transformations himself. Before the battle he was a sword, a star, a word in a book and so on. He tries to establish the fact early on that he is all knowing and all seeing and he's seen this mystic battle that nobody else has witnessed. Later on he brags about his own power "I was enchanted by Math/Before I became immortal/I was enchanted by Gwydyon". So on and so forth. The author is trying to relate some mystic vision he had. However, that doesn't really rule your idea out. There may still be a real historic spot or a constellation named after the vision.

Quote:
Were they familiar with the compilation of Sepher Yetzirah and Zohar, or were they familiar with earlier fragments?


I think the Sepher Yetzirah and Zohar predate Cad Goddeu. I'll look into this for you. I just read it somewhere but can't recall it off the top of my head.

Quote:
Was it from the same neo-platonic source as our modern hermetic planetary hours, or perhaps more Hebrew or Arabic? What did they keep of it, and what did they blend with their own astrological lore? As you say, the logical step seems to be to date the Romance and other pieces, and then date available occult or mystical texts.


You might start with a look into Agrippa and see when he published his works. I think he was too late but you might try to see if you can find what sources he drew from. They were certainly neo-platonic. He was the biggest neo-platonic writer of the era and he drew from earlier sources which are probably documented somewhere. I can't be sure without some study tho. I have Agrippa's works but have never got around to reading them.

I guess that's it for today. In other Robert Graves related news....I just finished reading Pat Barker's Regeneration. I also found a 1st edtion of But It Still Goes On a couple days ago. I also found S. Sassoon's The Heart's Journey at junk booksale. I couldn't believe it. I got it for less than $2. I'm not enough of an expert to tell if it's 1st edtion or not but it appears to be and it is inscribed to someone with a date matching the date of the 1st edtion. (The inscription is from nobody famous however.) I wonder if it's worth anything. Very Happy
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Mark Carter
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Location: Bloomington, IL, USA

PostPosted: Thu Mar 06, 2003 4:32 pm    Post subject: Peter Ellis attacks Robert Graves... Reply with quote

Hello everyone,

No big rant from me today. I have a killer headache. Evil or Very Mad

I just wanted to share this link for those who haven't yet found it. It's a rather good article from Peter Ellis in which he attacks Graves's ideas of a Celtic tree calendar. Every now and then I do a search for "Robert Graves" on the web and I can't believe I've missed this article before. The article itself dates to 1997 but I suspect it was only recently put on the web.

http://cura.free.fr/xv/13ellis2.html


Enjoy!
Mark
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ian
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 07, 2003 9:54 am    Post subject: Re: Peter Ellis attacks Robert Graves... Reply with quote

Mark Carter wrote:
Hello everyone,

No big rant from me today. I have a killer headache. Evil or Very Mad

I just wanted to share this link for those who haven't yet found it. It's a rather good article from Peter Ellis in which he attacks Graves's ideas of a Celtic tree calendar. Every now and then I do a search for "Robert Graves" on the web and I can't believe I've missed this article before. The article itself dates to 1997 but I suspect it was only recently put on the web.

http://cura.free.fr/xv/13ellis2.html


Enjoy!
Mark


That's an interesting find Mark. I'm reading the article now but a couple of things immediately jumped out.

First, Ellis writes that TWG was published in 1946. It wasn't. It was published in 1948. The second, Graves did not read Classics for a year in 1913 before going to war. He did not attend St John's as a student until after the war.

These are minor details, granted; however, since Ellis then goes on to describe whom Graves used for his sources, one has to wonder about the veracity of those details in light of the errors in the others.

I'm not defending Graves as an "acolyte". TWG is a "crazy" book as Graves himself has said. It is also a poetic book, as such, Graves has license where an historian does not. I think it's dangerous to read TWG without the constant reminder that it is a book by a poet, for other poets, and about poetry.

Ellis' frustration seems perhaps to be with the interpreters of Graves moreso than with Graves himself?

Ian
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Mark Carter
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 12, 2003 7:51 pm    Post subject: The historic v. the poetic reader... Reply with quote

I noticed the error regarding the year of publication but I must confess that the other error slipped by me. As I’ve said many times, I’m not the expert here. Very Happy However, Ellis’ errors bring up a good point IMHO.

It seems to me that nobody can really hope to understand TWG unless they are both an expert on Graves and on Celtic history. Ellis is able to find multiple flaws in TWG’s historical argument but he oversteps his bounds when he starts talking about Graves’ personal history. By the same token, a lot of people who are experts on Graves are unaware of the historical flaws within TWG. This goes right to the heart of one of Graves’ own complaints, the lack of communication between specialized fields.

The end result is that readers are divided into two groups:

#1: Those, like Ellis, who attack TWG on historical grounds and are unable to debate the poetic side.

#2: Those who defend Graves’ rights as a poet and are unaware of (or forgive him for) his historical errors.

It seems to me that neither side can grasp TWG as a whole. To do so would require being both a Celtic historian and an expert on Graves’ own works and his personal life. In the end the only person who really has a chance of understanding TWG as a whole is Robert Graves himself.

Ellis does make his errors in his article and he would have been better to limit himself to the historical argument, but does that invalidate his entire article or make us question his claims on Celtic history? Ellis has written a whole stack of books on Celtic culture and when he makes a statement within that field I’m sure he’s on target. Yet, when he starts talking about Graves’ personal life I tend to question him, just as you do. After all, he’s an expert on Celtic culture, he’s devoted his life to that field, and when he wrote this article he only researched Graves’ personal life in order to flesh out the article a little. Personally, I didn’t expect Ellis to provide me with any in depth details of Graves’ biography any more than I expect a biography of Graves to debate the historical problems of TWG. Maybe it’s just me but I don’t trust anyone once they step outside of their own field anyway. Very Happy

We could always play devil’s advocate. How many people on this board have read the sources Graves cites in TWG? Has anyone here read Nash or Davies? I have asked a couple of questions regarding them and their impact on TWG and have gotten no answer. I assumed it was because nobody here has delved into their works. Not that I blame them. Davies was a nut and his books are rightfully forgotten today. Nash was slightly better but I can’t expect the people of this board to have poured over his book looking for places where he might have impacted TWG. It would be interesting if someone did exactly that though. I suspect that someone, somewhere has already done this and I am simply not aware of their works.

However, may I play devil’s advocate slightly longer and ask the questions which have bothered me for some time?

#1: Has anyone been able to explain why Graves repeatedly incorrectly cites Auraicept Na N-eces as Hearing of The Scholars instead of The Scholar’s Primer? Graves claimed he was working from the Calder translation, yet he misquotes the title at least twice in chapter 14. I have the book myself and The Scholar’s Primer is written plain as day on the cover. I’ve been led to believe Graves never had this book in front of him as he wrote and was depending on faulty second hand accounts. Additionally, in a footnote in chapter 7, Graves cites a “manuscript version of the Hearing Of The Scholars in the Advocates’ Library, Edinburgh”. How did Graves not only incorrectly cite the title of the Calder translation but then apply this incorrect title to the manuscript version at Edinburgh?

#2: Has anyone else noticed that chapter 3 of TWG opens with a quote which Graves claims came from Myvyrian Archaeology, but which in fact comes from Nash’s Taliesin? With the exception of the introduction, the Myvyrian Archaeology is entirely in Welsh. Graves freely admits he knows nothing of Welsh. He depended on Nash’s translations of Cad Goddeu and the quote in question is found on p. 222 of Nash’s Taliesin. Does anyone else consider this misleading or faulty on Graves’ part?

#3: Did anyone else notice that Graves cleverly dodges a more complete translation of Cad Goddeu in order to uphold his argument? Graves depends on Nash’s translation despite the fact that he calls it “unreliable but the best at present available”. Later he admits that there are 8 lines of Cad Goddeu which Nash was unable to translate. Graves never admits that Skene offered a more complete translation in his Four Ancient Books of Wales. I suspect Graves knew of Skene’s work but found it detrimental to his own theories and therefore refused to acknowledge it. Interestingly enough, Skene also quotes the exact same Nash passage which Graves claims to have come from Myvyrian Archaeology at the opening of chapter 3 of TWG.

#4: Did anyone notice that Graves quotes A.B. Cook’s Zeus in chapter 14 of TWG and then goes on to reconstruct Cook’s claims about Diana and Nemesis in nearly identical terms as Cook? Graves goes so far as to include a footnote in TWG regarding the “Wheel of Fortune” found in depictions of Greek temples and still found in some churches today. Cook had included a nearly identical footnote to his own passage on Diana and Nemesis within his own Zeus.

I understand Graves’ refusal to cite his sources when dealing with poetic interpretations. Everyone has a right to read a poem and decide for themselves what they think it means or what they will take away from it. He has a right to mix up his poetic symbolism any way he wants to uphold his own spiritual ideas. However, does Graves not have some obligation to cite his sources correctly when he reconstructs a historical argument? Does poetic freedom let him off the hook for misquoting the title of Calder’s book not once but twice? Does it allow him to quote Nash and credit Myvyrian Archaeology instead, or to rebuild Cook’s argument step by step, including footnotes, and not acknowledge it?

That’s just my 2 cents worth and my attempt to stir up some trouble in the ivory towers. Twisted Evil Despite my complaints I really love TWG. The never ending debate is exactly what I love. You can flip to any page in TWG and find something interesting to argue about. I have poured over it for a couple of years now and finally feel like I’m making sense out of it from both the historical and the poetic sides. I feel like I’m narrowing the gap between the two groups I mentioned above. Yet, on the other hand, nobody else is doing it and I don’t understand why.
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Mark Carter
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PostPosted: Mon May 26, 2003 10:52 pm    Post subject: Article: The Moon’s my constant mistress Reply with quote

Here's another article I turned up on Robert Graves and The White Goddess. Has anyone else seen this? The article is © 1999 by Roger James Bourke. It seems Bourke is sole proprietor of Quarto Publishing Services and attended St John's College, Cambridge. I'm surprised that I only recently found the article and that Bourke isn't a member of the forum here. Or maybe he's lurking and I simply don't know it? Smile

You can read his article here:

http://www.quarto.iinet.net.au/QUARTO-MISTRESS.pdf


Enjoy!
Mark
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David_Hannaford
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 04, 2004 2:17 am    Post subject: Graves' sources Reply with quote

Graves said (please forgive the lack of an exact citation) that the goddess was to be found just below the surface everywhere in literature, and that having found her somewhere, she is apparent everywhere. This is so.
Any deep study of any academic field will lead to the goddess, provided that a moment of insight also occurs.
Examples: a latin scholar will eventually find Lucius Apuleius, who gives more or less specifically, the beliefs and rites of the last-surviving goddess temple, the temple of Isis in Alexandria.
: a mathematician might investigate the Greek mathematicians, and amazed by their achievements, conclude that they were the result of longstanding cooperative development, and note that, in Archimedes' words, their efforts were for "the lady we serve".
: students of poetry are on the fast track to the goddess, because Keats, Yeats, Morris, Rossetti, Spenser, Shakespeare, Goethe, Rilke etc have been before them.
: students of painting have Botticelli, Courbet, Corot, Morris, Burne-Jones and the Pre-Raphaelites and a swag of Victorians including Leighton, Bouguereau and Alma-Tadema whose works went beyond mere reference to the goddess to statements of interpretive position, that is to say, in the late 19th century the goddess was the subject of wide debate.
: students of etymology are also on a fast track. Words and writing come from the ancient temples of the goddess. This approach (philology) was used by Bayley (The Lost Language of Symbolism 1912) which I suspect was a major source for Graves. Though the central concept (all our words come from and contain an ancient mother-tongue, the significance of which is recoverable, and can be used to recover meaning from ancient and modern words) is no longer credited by linguists, Bayley's work arrives at similar conclusions to Graves, and is presented in a similar way. The parallel structures of TWG, The Lost Language, and Frazer's Golden Bough, and their common intent (the awakening of goddess knowledge by presenting abundant clues so that you may discover it for yourself) makes me think these the principal sources of TWG, if not of Graves' enlightenment.

Other possible sources are the secret societies...the Freemasons, the Theosophical society, the Apostles poetic group spoken of by Lytton Strahey, the Golden Dawn... Graves denies being part of any such group, though this may be a refusal to support their various agendas, rather than a statement that he learned nothing from them.

Laura Riding claimed that she was responsible for TWG. This is barely credible, though I would credit her with having shown RG how to live.

The last possible source of RG's enlightenment is the shamanistic one...the hallucinogenic drugs. He was into this before and during the hippy era and in famous company. The White Goddess predates these activities, and the only influence seems to have been some minor re-editing of the book.

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notarius
bard


Joined: 25 May 2002
Posts: 63
Location: Bristol, England

PostPosted: Sun Jan 04, 2004 5:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

David,

I have read some nonsense about Graves, on these pages and elsewhere, but I think that your statement "...though I would credit her [Laura Riding] with having shown RG how to live." must 'take the biscuit', to date!

No offence intended, but I'd have thought that someone who allegedly caused Graves's first wife and their family to live in Hammersmith barge, led to Robert jumping from a 3rd floor window and then a decade later drove him to mental despair from which he only recovered with the gallant help of his second and late-lamented wife, Beryl, was hardly showing Robert Graves "how to live".

That Laura Riding showed Robert Graves "how to write" poetry, in particular, I'd be more willing to accept, (but not totally), for her regime was certainly a severe and uncompromising one, which I think Graves both acknowledged and appreciated. Tom Matthews and others have chronicled her power and influence over the writing of others, including Graves. But I think that it was Robert Graves who always had the more decisive and realistic approach to life and how it should be lived. It was he who after the experience of the Great War decided that he would live only by the pen in future; it was he who knew that his and Riding's income from poetry had to supplemented from his novels and autobiography that Riding dismissed as 'potboilers'. It was Graves who, years later, chose an alternative lifestyle; Riding had nothing to do with that. No-one showed Robert Graves "how to live"; he found his own course through life, with the assistance of Nancy, Laura, Beryl and others.
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