The White Goddess
(1997)
    
A tree calendar underlines the 13 months and a day that make up the lunar year, dear to the goddess Danae of the childlike smile. She taught the early celts music and poetry.

     1 - The woman of Ireland   6.21
     2 - Beating   3.31
     3 - Linda   4.31
     4 - Niamh   5.45
     5 - The Green Jacket   2.55
     6 - Leda and the Swan   3:12
     7 - Up and Down   5.04
     8 - Soldier Song   3.47
     9 - Sister Lament   5.00
     10 - Welcome song   3.06
     11 - Pandora   3.11
     12 - Sister of the moon   4.19
     13 - The Hag   3.08
     14 - Eileen   4.09
Irish Music Magazine, Dublin, 1996, Jim Kelly

'...it is most interesting to listen to the interpretation of Irish tunes by people with superb musicianship and no ethnic connection whatsoever. If there are still people with a doubt about the international appeal of Irish music then this CD should convince them...definitely one for the treasured collection.'

Danae...it's the name of the great goddess of the Danai, mother of life, brought by Argo to Ireland by the matriarchal peoples existing before the Achaeans. Under the name of Dana, goddess of the Tuatha de Danaan, she reveals to the first bard Amergin, the sounds of the alphabet of the trees sacred to her. These give the name to the thirteen months and a day that make up the lunar calendar. A favourite theme for poets and musicians, she crosses time white as the moon, by the name of Erin, Niamh, Linda...but she is also Scotia the dark one, who arrived from Cyprus to the British isles; black as soot she is Morrigan; she is Bera with an old hag's face...It's her, with her sweet smile and disturbing glance, the inspiring muse of all who are voted to follow her, bewitched and fascinated by her like Sean O'Riada even to Seela na Gig, the womb dug in the earth where the great Irish poet rests.
*
Woman of Ireland, my fingers search on the bronze of the strings for your love melody... guide me as I try to put together the traces of the ancient tree-alphabet sacred to you...
What is the order of the trees of the forest that give the names to the 13 months of the lunar year?
What is your name during the months that accompany the equinoxes and solstices? And what is your aspect as the lunar phases succeed one another? And what are the letters that scan the suspended time of last day waiting for the new year? Goddess, from whom life comes, through whom the sun appears and the earth gets nourishment, guardian of the sky and the sea, I call your name to sing the secret you revealed to Amergin when he set his foot in Ireland with his companions. When the island appeared the strings of the harp were unloosened by your message of love and the bard's song rose from the thick saltiness of the wood, singing to you Dana, white mother, goddess of the Danai and the Tuatha de Danaann.

Tree Alphabet and Calendar

1 B Beth
2 L Luis
3 N Nion
4 F Fearn
5 S Saille
6 H Uath
7 D Duir
8 T Tinne
9 C Coll
10 M Muin
11 G Gort
12 NG Ngetal
13 R Ruis
14 AOUEI Ailm, Onn, Ura, Eadha, Idho

Giulia Lorimer voice and fiddle
Vieri Bugli fiddle
Stefano Corsi celtic harp, mouth organ, harmonium, 12 string guitar, voice
Massimo Giuntini uilleann pipes, low and tin whistle
Pietro Sabatini guitar, bouzouki, cittern, bodhran, pedal bass pipe, voice

Guest musicians
Lorenzo Greppi tin whistle in Linda and Niamh
Aldo Mugnai fiddle in The Green Jacket and The Hag

Dedicated to Sean O'Riada and Robert Graves

All titles are by Whisky Trail except * traditional and ? by Whisky Trail and lyrics by W.B.Yeats.
 
1. The Woman of Ireland

There are seven points on the horns of a stag in the first month of beth.
The birch tree puts out its first leaves and the sun-rays lengthen while light lingers on the earth. At night, the moon, white with new birth full of fiery love, old with black death inspires poets and moves all feet to dance.
 
2. Beating

Brr! What icy weather! The storm blows as strong as ever, every shining furrow is a river and every crossing place a brimful lake. Birds flying in flocks cannot find cover; in truth the white snow reaches one's buttocks. The quick ice has blocked all roads: after a fierce battle near the stone of Colt the storm spreads everywhere, all one can say is : Brr! What icy weather! It's the month of luis, of the sorb tree, the second month of the year, a month of flooding waters; the wild duck swims in the meadows; grey is the colour of the water during the floods and so is the colour of the sky heavy with rain.
On the day of Imbolc a fire is lit for the first time in the year; half a way through the moon's journey is the feast of the swan-shaped goddess Brigit, triple muse of poets and patroness of the awakening of life.
 
3. Linda

The wind is strong and cold; low is the sun and short its race. The sea is swelling, white hailstorm.
With ash oars the boats strike the waves in the month of nion, the third month of the year. While the sun is still in the care of the night a woman's song softly spreads in the air; her notes cross the air and fade away through the branches of the trees on the sand, in the sea.
Come love, come to me, move softly to my door. We will fly together. May my love be safe.
I sold my rock, I sold my reel, I even sold my spinning wheel, to buy my love a sword of steel.
I dyed my petticoat, I dyed it red, I wish that I was young again, if that were so I wouldn't complain...
Next morning Linda, white goddess with a child's sweet smile, traces her light steps on the horizon's straight line in the red and gold of the first sun.
 
4. Niamh

In the great house there is a girl surpassing every woman in Ireland. She moves forward with her golden tresses, more beautiful than the swan on the waves. Every man's heart is torn for the love and desire of her. Golden-haired Niamh is her name in the fourth month of the year, the month of fearn; The sun is still young and struggles through the mist to open a path and come through to heat the earth.
Red is the bark of the alder; that paints faces a fiery-colour. The sun has started to dry the winter floods and free the earth of water: the day of the equinox has grown to adulthood: seagulls meet in the fields now. The young goddess shows herself in all her white beauty; she is about to choose the king for that year and lie with him...there is expectation in the air.
 
5. The Green Jacket

What a beautiful and noble season is May! The little bird has launched its song, from the tip of its yellow beak. The bees carry on their feet the bundle plucked from the flowers. The ant gathers great stores; the trunk of a willow tree offers its branches as a nest for the wryneck; this is the tree dedicated to the month of saille; it prefers water; the moon has chosen it among others; it is sacred to poets and it is ready to be given over to able hands that will turn its wood into a harmonious sound-box for a harp; the woods are already filled with music from harps getting ready for the day of Beltine, when hundreds of feet are raised and stamp the ground in time, light feet brushing the magic dew on the meadows paying homage to the spring; at night the witches, riding willow sticks, take flight in the air on their mysterious movements while the hawk flies high on the cliff .
 
6. Leda and the Swan

In the summer the brown brook narrows down while the long hair of the heather spreads over the banks.

A sudden blow the great wings beating
Above the staggering girl her thighs caressed
By the dark webs her nape caught in his bill
He holds her helpless breast upon
Her breast upon his breast
A sudden blow the great wings beating
Above the staggering girl

How can those vague fingers push
The feathered glory from
Her loosening thighs I wonder how
I wonder how they can

And how can body but feel
The strange heart beating where it lies?
So mastered by the brute blood of the air
A shudder's in the loins
Did she put on his knowledge being so caught up
Before the indifferent beak could let her drop
Oh didn't she?

There is much dancing around the pole strung with hawthorn flowers, the most beautiful tree of the month of uath. Miming with swan's gestures in the suspended air, the divine rape relives while pressing to the earth in the whirling dance, the body is caught in the music, shining is the glance; how can one tell the dancer from the dance?
 
7. Up and Down

Summer is here, exuberant and free; the doe skips and jumps, the golden beach lies smiling. Flowered and thick and leafy are the bushes in the oak grove. The blackbird who has inherited the spiky wood, sings vigorous melodies in the seventh month of the year, the month of duir, the long awaited solstice.
The midsummer moon smiles more widely than at other times and in the night fires are lit with oak branches during the feast of Lughnasad. Black figures dance swiftly in and out in the acrid smoke from fiery logs.
For her, arms intertwine, bodies move and stir in unison the air, while feet raise clouds of grey dust and grey eyes look for her: Erin of the white face, familiar figure, name dug in the earth and in the minds of all men.
 
8. Soldier Song

A well trained army of starlings changes direction, pivots smartly, suddenly, right or left, without calls or orders.
Thus are battles won in the month of tinne, the eighth month of the year, while the crown of the sharp holly leaves is in bloom and sleep is disturbed by rough nightmares.
The goddess has taken on the form of a crow; Morrigan is her name. She incites with sudden cries the crash and the sound of swords and lances; she appears in the heat of battle, black as soot, cross-eyed, limping...
Alone and without direction, on the outskirts of a wood, a soldier tells his story; he smiles bitterly thinking of the perfidious game that was his undoing, wondering if he threw his life away for money or for pride when he tried to imitate the doings of the dog snarled warrior Cuchulain, the noble-looking hero who vanquishes whole armies, a recurrent dream in the month of tinne, the eighth month of the year.
 
9. Sister Lament

In the sweet summer, high the sun, the salmon sparkles in the water. The month of coll, the hazelnut, is waited for anxiously. Anyone eating the fruit of the tree belonging to the ninth month of the year disappears from sight and obtains wisdom and knowledge. Thus a girl was stolen by the queen of the fairies, with a handful of delicious nuts, and her friends looked for her in vain. One day her sister, tired from the long search, lay down on a meadow and had just placed her head on a grass mound when she heard a voice coming from below the ground:
Sister, dear sister, hear my lament...
I am here in a little hut, low and narrow, with no thatch for the roof and no rope to bind the thatch; the rain beats heavily on my little house and bends it... sister hear my lament.
Nevertheless, some time after, passing through the neighbourhood and watching carefully, one could see, scores of small feet lifting and bending their heels and toes, and among those fairy shoes one could see two lovely legs dancing away gracefully and a pale face smiling sweetly.
 
10. Welcome song

The yellow bee goes from one hollow to another. Happy is the meeting in the hive during the tenth month of muin; it is the time of the grapevine, a plant that the Danai brought to Ireland. The equinox makes the sun softer and it's time to harvest fruit.
Joy is everywhere and so is passion. And passion fires up the goddess and makes her become mortal to invoke Suibhne, the mad poet, who in the throes of a wild delirium, covered with feathers, flies like a bird among birds in the frenzy of autumn.

Welcome to thee thou guileless mad one
Thou art the most welcome man of the earth
Though at ease am I my body is wasted
Since the day I heard of thy ruin
If a choice were given me
Of the men of Erin and Alba
I would still rather be alone with thee
Feeding on clear water and watercress

I would fain that we were together
And that feathers might grow on our bodies
In light and in darkness I would wander
With thee each day and each night
If a choice were given me
Of the men of Erin and Alba
I would still rather be alone with thee
Feeding on clear water and watercress

Though the king's son were to lead me
To blithe banqueting great halls
I would still rather sleep in a tree's
Narrow hollow beside you my man
If a choice were given me
Of the men of Erin and Alba
I would still rather be alone with thee
Feeding on clear water and watercress
 
11. Pandora

Soft pale blue is the mist on the hills; light blue is the smoke rising from the burning weeds; light blue is the sky before the November rains in the month of gort; the year has started its decline; the boar's hairy fury shows on the autumn's heavy morning dew; the ivy is master of all plants, it dresses them with small leaves. Dark wood grouse rise from the red heather. The sun goes down every day more rapidly: at night the movement of wild shapes before Samain becomes frenetic. By the light of the fire, black-caped Scotia with powerful leaps guides the dance
 
12. Sister of the moon

In September wild geese fly
From the cold days until May
There they forage nest and hide
In ivy in the brown wood
I know it's you sister of the moon

Underneath October twilight
They rise and climb the air
There behind sweet water sounding
Wings flapping of clamorous swans
I know it's you sister of the moon

In November hounds are coursing
And loud stags bellowing
Running through the woodland paths
Leaving tracks in frost and snow
I know it's you sister of the moon...

White Goddess, splendid swan in the month of ngetal of the bending rush.
 
13. The Hag

The stag bellows; there is snow in winter and the cold catches the wings of birds. Frost reigns; reddish is the heather and the wild goose cries. The sea is full; the ocean spills over. The strong dark wave struggles with the sky. The crow mourns the death of time in the last moon of the last month of the year. It's now, in the month of ruis that the white lady appears as Bera, with a hag's face; she rides a branch of knotty elder; her grey and thinning hair is like the lichen of an ancient tree growing on her skin; thin and bony are her arms holding the flying wood; she skips rhythmically and her jumps are light and elegant. But time presses and vertigo overcomes her; without stopping she draws sharp figures moving her flabby legs; devastating is her dance in the sky...It is terrifying to see her, in the end, falling down from high above, hitting the ground with a noise like thunder, raising a cloud of dust...Then when it's all over, suspended in the air there remains, sweet obsession, a young girl's giggle.
 
14. Eileen

The measure of the thirteen moons; a year and a day, the winter solstice, the last day of the year: the day of ailm, the silver fir tree, of onn the gorse tree, of ura the heather, of eadhna the poplar, of idho the yew tree; five pillars that complete the alphabet sacred to the goddess.
On this day the goddess seems hidden; she gets ready to be born again in the new time of the new year. A mortal woman, however carries on her face the perfect trace of the white beauty that all love: Eileen.
And in the suspended time of solstice, five minstrels draw harmonious notes of a beautiful melody: with agile fingers they pluck bronze chords on hollow wood, with bows of horse hairs they make snares for you Eileen, mortal woman, with a pale lunar face and the immortal beauty of a goddess.