|Publisher|| Faber & Faber (UK)|
Creative Age Press (US)
The White Goddess: a Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth is a book-length essay on the nature of poetic myth-making by author and poet Robert Graves. First published in 1948, the book is based on earlier articles published in Wales magazine, corrected, revised and enlarged editions appeared in 1948, 1952 and 1961. The White Goddess represents an approach to the study of mythology from a decidedly creative and idiosyncratic perspective. Graves proposes the existence of a European deity, the "White Goddess of Birth, Love and Death", much similar to the Mother Goddess , inspired and represented by the phases of the moon, who lies behind the faces of the diverse goddesses of various European and pagan mythologies.
Graves argues that "true" or "pure" poetry is inextricably linked with the ancient cult-ritual of his proposed White Goddess and of her son.
Many of the book's themes are also explored in a fictional form, through his depiction of a future society dominated by Great Goddess religion in the 1949 novel Seven Days in New Crete .
Graves first wrote the book under the title of The Roebuck in the Thicket in a three-week period during January 1944, only a month after finishing The Golden Fleece. He then left the book to focus on King Jesus, a historical novel about the life of Jesus. Returning to The Roebuck in the Thicket, he renamed it The Three-Fold Muse, before finishing it and retitling it as The White Goddess. In January 1946 he sent it to the publishers, and in May 1948 it was published in the UK, and in June 1948 in the US, as The White Goddess: a Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth.
Graves believed that one could be in the true presence of the White Goddess when reading a poem, but in his view, this could only be achieved by a true poet of the wild, and not a classical poet, or even a Romantic poet, of whom he spoke critically: "The typical poet of the 19th-century was physically degenerate, or ailing, addicted to drugs and melancholia, critically unbalanced and a true poet only in his fatalistic regard for the Goddess as the mistress who commanded his destiny".
Graves described The White Goddess as "a historical grammar of the language of poetic myth". The book draws from the mythology and poetry of Wales and Ireland especially, as well as that of most of Western Europe and the ancient Middle East. Relying on arguments from etymology and the use of forensic techniques to uncover what he calls 'iconotropic' redaction of original myths, Graves argues for the worship of a single goddess under many names, an idea that came to be known as "Matriarchal religion" in feminist theology of the 1970s.
The Golden Bough (1922, but first edition published 1890), an early anthropological study by Sir James George Frazer, is the starting point for much of Graves's argument, and Graves thought in part that his book made explicit what Frazer only hinted at. Graves wrote:
Sir James Frazer was able to keep his beautiful rooms at Trinity College, Cambridge until his death by carefully and methodically sailing all around his dangerous subject, as if charting the coastline of a forbidden island without actually committing himself to a declaration that it existed. What he was saying-not-saying was that Christian legend, dogma and ritual are the refinement of a great body of primitive and even barbarous beliefs, and that almost the only original element in Christianity is the personality of Jesus.
Graves's The White Goddess deals with goddess worship as the prototypical religion, analysing it largely from literary evidence, in myth and poetry.
Graves admitted he was not a medieval historian, but a poet, and thus based his work on the premise that the
language of poetic myth anciently current in the Mediterranean and Northern Europe was a magical language bound up with popular religious ceremonies in honour of the Moon-goddess, or Muse, some of them dating from the Old Stone Age, and that this remains the language of true poetry...
Graves concluded, in the second and expanded edition, that the male-dominant monotheistic god of Judaism and its successors were the cause of the White Goddess's downfall, and thus the source of much of the modern world's woe. He describes Woman as occupying a higher echelon than mere poet, that of the Muse Herself. He adds "This is not to say that a woman should refrain from writing poems; only, that she should write as a woman, not as an honorary man." He seems particularly bothered by the spectre of women's writing reflecting male-dominated poetic conventions.
Graves derived some of his ideas from poetic inspiration and a process of "analeptic thought", which is a term he used for throwing one's mind back in time and receiving impressions.
Visual iconography was also important to Graves's conception. Graves created a methodology for reading images he called "iconotropy". To practice this methodology one is required to reduce "speech into its original images and rhythms" and then to combine these "on several simultaneous levels of thought". By applying this methodology Graves decoded a woodcut of The Judgement of Paris as depicting a singular Triple Goddessrather than the traditional Hera, Athena and Aphrodite of the narrative the image illustrates.
Graves also argues that the names of the Ogham letters in the alphabet used in parts of Gaelic Ireland and Britain contained a calendar that contained the key to an ancient liturgy involving the human sacrifice of a sacred king, and, further, that these letter names concealed lines of Ancient Greek hexameter describing the goddess.
Graves' "Tree Calendar" has no relation to any historical Celtic calendar.His interpretations rather rely on the book Ogygia by the 17th-century bard Roderick O'Flaherty.
In The White Goddess, Graves proposed a hypothetical Gallic tree goddess, Druantia, who has become somewhat popular with contemporary Neopagans. Druantia is an archetype of the eternal mother as seen in the evergreen boughs. Her name is believed to be derived from the Celtic word for oak trees, *drus or *deru.She is known as "Queen of the Druids". She is a goddess of fertility for both plants & humans, ruling over sexual activities & passion. She also rules protection of trees, knowledge, creativity.
The White Goddess has been seen as a poetic work where Graves gives his notion of man's subjection to women in love an "anthropological grandeur" and further mythologises all women in general (and several of Graves's lovers in specific) into a three-faced moon goddess model.
Graves's value as a poet aside, flaws in his scholarship such as poor philology, use of inadequate texts and outdated archaeology have been criticised.Some scholars, particularly archaeologists, historians and folklorists have rejected the work – which T. S. Eliot called "A prodigious, monstrous, stupefying, indescribable book" – and Graves himself was disappointed that his work was "loudly ignored" by many Celtic scholars.
However, The White Goddess was accepted as history by many non-scholarly readers. According to Ronald Hutton, the book "remains a major source of confusion about the ancient Celts and influences many un-scholarly views of Celtic paganism".Hilda Ellis Davidson criticised Graves as having "misled many innocent readers with his eloquent but deceptive statements about a nebulous goddess in early Celtic literature", and stated that he was "no authority" on the subject matter he presented. While Graves made the association between Goddesses and the moon appear "natural", it was not so to the Celts or some other ancient peoples. In response to critics, Graves accused literary scholars of being psychologically incapable of interpreting myth or too concerned with maintaining their perquisites to go against the majority view. (See Frazer quote.)
Some Neopagans have been bemused and upset by the scholarly criticism that The White Goddess has received in recent years,while others have appreciated its poetic insight but never accepted it as a work of historical veracity. Likewise, a few scholars find some value in Graves's ideas; Michael W. Pharand, though quoting earlier criticisms, rebutted, "Graves's theories and conclusions, outlandish as they seemed to his contemporaries (or may appear to us), were the result of careful observation."
According to Graves's biographer Richard Perceval Graves, Laura Riding played a crucial role in the development of Graves's thoughts when writing The White Goddess, despite the fact the two were estranged at that point. On reviewing the book, Riding was furious, saying "Where once I reigned, now a whorish abomination has sprung to life, a Frankenstein pieced together from the shards of my life and thoughts."
Edward James Hughes was an English poet, translator, and children's writer. Critics frequently rank him as one of the best poets of his generation and one of the twentieth century's greatest writers. He was appointed Poet Laureate in 1984 and held the office until his death. In 2008 The Times ranked Hughes fourth on their list of "The 50 greatest British writers since 1945".
The Wheel of the Year is an annual cycle of seasonal festivals, observed by many modern Pagans, consisting of the year's chief solar events and the midpoints between them. While names for each festival vary among diverse pagan traditions, syncretic treatments often refer to the four solar events as "quarter days" and the four midpoint events as "cross-quarter days", particularly in Wicca. Differing sects of modern Paganism also vary regarding the precise timing of each celebration, based on distinctions such as lunar phase and geographic hemisphere.
Robert von Ranke Graves was a British poet, historical novelist, critic, and classicist. His father was Alfred Perceval Graves, a celebrated Irish poet and figure in the Gaelic revival; they were both Celticists and students of Irish mythology. Graves produced more than 140 works in his lifetime. His poems, his translations and innovative analysis of the Greek myths, his memoir of his early life—including his role in World War I—Good-Bye to All That, and his speculative study of poetic inspiration, The White Goddess, have never been out of print.
In Celtic cultures, a bard was a professional story teller, verse-maker, music composer, oral historian and genealogist, employed by a patron to commemorate one or more of the patron's ancestors and to praise the patron's own activities.
In Greco-Roman mythology, Leuce, also spelled Leuke, was a nymph and a daughter of the titan Oceanus. Hades fell in love with her and abducted her to the underworld. She lived out the span of her life in his realm, and when she died, the god turned her into a white poplar which he placed in the Elysian Fields. To celebrate his return from the underworld, the hero Heracles crowned himself with a branch of this tree.
Ceridwen or Cerridwen was an enchantress in Welsh medieval legend. She was the mother of a hideous son, Morfran, and a beautiful daughter, Creirwy. Her husband was Tegid Foel and they lived near Bala Lake in north Wales. Medieval Welsh poetry refers to her as possessing the cauldron of poetic inspiration (Awen) and the Tale of Taliesin recounts her swallowing her servant Gwion Bach who is then reborn through her as the poet Taliesin. Ceridwen is regarded by many modern pagans as the Celtic goddess of rebirth, transformation, and inspiration.
The Golden Bough: A Study in Comparative Religion is a wide-ranging, comparative study of mythology and religion, written by the Scottish anthropologist Sir James George Frazer. The Golden Bough was first published in two volumes in 1890; in three volumes in 1900; and in twelve volumes in the third edition, published 1906–1915. It has also been published in several different one-volume abridgments. The work was aimed at a wide literate audience raised on tales as told in such publications as Thomas Bulfinch's The Age of Fable, or Stories of Gods and Heroes (1855). The influence of The Golden Bough on contemporary European literature and thought was substantial.
A dying-and-rising, death-rebirth, or resurrection deity is a religious motif in which a god or goddess dies and is resurrected. Examples of gods who die and later return to life are most often cited from the religions of the ancient Near East, and traditions influenced by them include Biblical and Greco-Roman mythology and by extension Christianity. The concept of a dying-and-rising god was first proposed in comparative mythology by James Frazer's seminal The Golden Bough (1890). Frazer associated the motif with fertility rites surrounding the yearly cycle of vegetation. Frazer cited the examples of Osiris, Tammuz, Adonis and Attis, Dionysus and Jesus.
In many historical societies, the position of kingship carries a sacral meaning, that is, it is identical with that of a high priest and judge. The concept of theocracy is related, although a sacred king need not necessarily rule through his religious authority; rather, the temporal position has a religious significance.
The Triple Goddess is a deity or deity archetype revered in many Neopagan religious and spiritual traditions. In common Neopagan usage, the Triple Goddess is viewed as a triunity of three distinct aspects or figures united in one being. These three figures are often described as the Maiden, the Mother, and the Crone, each of which symbolizes both a separate stage in the female life cycle and a phase of the Moon, and often rules one of the realms of heavens, earth, and underworld. In various forms of Wicca, her masculine consort is the Horned God.
Lebor Gabála Érenn, known in English as The Book of Invasions, is a collection of poems and prose narratives in the Irish language intended to be a history of Ireland and the Irish from the creation of the world to the Middle Ages. There are a number of versions, the earliest of which was compiled by an anonymous writer in the 11th century. It synthesised narratives that had been developing over the foregoing centuries. The Lebor Gabála tells of Ireland being settled six times by six groups of people: the people of Cessair, the people of Partholón, the people of Nemed, the Fir Bolg, the Tuatha Dé Danann, and the Milesians. The first four groups are wiped out or forced to abandon the island; the fifth group represent Ireland's pagan gods, while the final group represent the Irish people.
Euhemerism is an approach to the interpretation of mythology in which mythological accounts are presumed to have originated from real historical events or personages. Euhemerism supposes that historical accounts become myths as they are exaggerated in the retelling, accumulating elaborations and alterations that reflect cultural mores. It was named for the Greek mythographer Euhemerus, who lived in the late 4th century BC. In the more recent literature of myth, such as Bulfinch's Mythology, euhemerism is termed the "historical theory" of mythology.
Maia, in ancient Greek religion, is one of the Pleiades and the mother of Hermes by Zeus.
The Greek Myths (1955) is a mythography, a compendium of Greek mythology, with comments and analyses, by the poet and writer Robert Graves. Many editions of the book separate it into two volumes. Abridged editions of this work contain only the myths and leave out Graves' commentary.
The Holly King and Oak King are personifications of the winter and summer in various folklore and mythological traditions. The two kings engage in endless "battle" reflecting the seasonal cycles of the year: not only solar light and dark, but also crop renewal and growth. During warm days of Midsummer the Oak King is at the height of his strength; the Holly King regains power at the Autumn equinox, then his strength peaks during Midwinter, at which point the Oak King is reborn, regaining power at the Spring equinox, and perpetuating the succession.
Greek mythology is the body of myths originally told by the ancient Greeks, and a genre of Ancient Greek folklore. These stories concern the origin and nature of the world, the lives and activities of deities, heroes, and mythological creatures, and the origins and significance of the ancient Greeks' own cult and ritual practices. Modern scholars study the myths to shed light on the religious and political institutions of ancient Greece, and to better understand the nature of myth-making itself.
Celtic is the mythology of Celtic polytheism, the religion of the Iron Age Celts. Like other Iron Age Europeans, the early Celts maintained a polytheistic mythology and religious structure. For Celts in close contact with Ancient Rome, such as the Gauls and Celtiberians, their mythology did not survive the Roman Empire, their subsequent conversion to Christianity and the loss of their Celtic languages. It is mostly through contemporary Roman and Christian sources that their mythology has been preserved. The Celtic peoples who maintained either political or linguistic identities left vestigial remnants of their ancestral mythologies that were put into written form during the Middle Ages.
Alphito is a supernatural being first recorded in the Moralia of Plutarch, where "apotropaic nursery tales" about her are told by nursemaids to frighten little children into behaving. Her name is related to alphita, "white flour", and alphitomanteia, a form of divination (-manteia) from flour or barley meal. She was presumably old, with white hair the color of flour.
The Land of Maidens is a motif in Irish mythology and medieval literature, especially in the chivalric romance genre. The latter often also features a castle instead of an island, sometimes known as the Castle of Maidens.