Archive for the ‘Queen of the Faries’ Category

The Elf Knight & The Faerie Queene

Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme;
Remember me to the one who lives there,
He once was a true love of mine.

Tell him to make me a cambric shirt,
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme;
Without any seams or needlework,
Then he’ll be a true love of mine

Tell him to find me an acre of land,
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme;
Betwixt the salt water and the sea sand,
Then he’ll be a true love of mine.

Tell him to reap it with a sickle of leather,
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme;
And bind it all in a bunch of heather
Then he’ll be a true love of mine

Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme;
Remember me to the one who lives there,
He once was a true love of mine.
Lyrics of Scarborough Fair- World Tree Music.

Scarborough Fair is a traditional ballad of Great Britain which presents an unusual tale of unrequited love, as a young man tells the listener to ask his former love to perform a series of impossible tasks, such as making him a cambric shirt without a seam and washing it in a dry well, if she completes the tasks he will take her back….
In the version as sung by Gretchen Cornwall of World Tree Music,
the roles are reversed, the singing narrator and task setter is the young woman herself.
Many suggestions concerning the original plot have been proposed, including the hypothesis that it is a song about the Black Plague
(1348 +1350), but these are not proven.

The ballad appears to have derived from an earlier Scottish ballad, ‘
The Elfin Knight‘ the oldest extant version of this ballad being c 1600-1650 and may well be earlier, in which an Elf filled the role of the young man, but here he threatens to abduct the young woman to be his lover unless she can perform an impossible task, no longer an unrequited love but an obsessive, demanding one.
The association with Elves is significant, they appear in many ballads of English and Scottish origin as well as folk tales which often involve trips to Elphame or Elfland (the Álfheim of Norse mythology), a mystical realm in these accounts portrayed as an eerie unpleasant place. Such Elves were considered to be accountable for many mysterious occurrences in earlier times, including the stealing of brides.

However and contrastingly, according to Nick Caffrey, the earliest noted versions of ‘The Elfin Knight’ tell of a young maiden who magically summons the Elfin Knight to her bedroom to become her lover..

The Elf Knight
‘The elfin knight sits on yon hill
Ba, ba, ba, lilli ba
He blaws* his horn both loud and shrill *(blows)
The wind hath blown my plaid awa’…

(This verse appears to be taken from ‘Lady Isabel and the Elf-Knight‘, in which the Elf’s horn is magic and arouses desire in the hearer.)

‘I wish that horn were in my kist* *(chest)
Yea, and the knight in my armes two

She had no sooner these words said
When the knight came to her bed.’…

But he tells her she is too young and sets her impossible tasks for her to perform to deter her. When she counters with demands of her own the Elf Knight declares that he is already married with children, at which point she rejects him and he disappears.
As Nick states and is especially true for the English versions of the song, it is important to establish this full story because many of the later versions retain only the de-contextualized tasks which by themselves do not always make any obvious sense.
He also notes that The riddles in British folk-songs and ballads usually take the form of a confrontation with the supernatural, or the Devil in some versions, where the soul of the mortal, marriage or seduction may be the prize. (The Living Tradition, Folk Music)

Queen Elizabeth Ist; Gloriana-The Faerie Queene

Although there is no stated link between these ballads and the English Courts of the time, in Spenser‘s famous poem The Faerie Queene (c 1590+1596) which celebrates the Tudor dynasty with Queen Elizabeth Ist featuring as Gloriana-The Faerie Queene and encompasses a presentation of 12 virtues through the Arthurian knights in a mythical Faerieland
(based on the virtues of Aristotle’s ethics), Spenser described the men of Faerieland as called Elves, the women as Faeries.
Spencer’s association of Queen Elizabeth 1st with the Faerie Queene is particularly relevant as she took occasional counsel from the famed Alchemist John Dee who straddled the worlds of science and magic and devoted much time to attempting to commune with angels and bring about the pre-apocalyptic unity of mankind.
Following Mary Queen of Scots death in 1558, Elizabeth succeeded to the throne and became famous for her virginity to such an extent that she was called The Virgin Queen, was allegedly married to her country, and a cult grew up around her which was celebrated in the portraits, pageants, and literature of the day.

Acrasia’s seductive Bower of Bliss

In canto 1 of the second book of Spenser’s Faerie Queen, ‘he was an Elfin born of noble state’ sets the otherwise apparently human nobleman and Knight, Sir Guyon, as the Elfin Knight. The Fairy Queen ordered him to locate and destroy Acrasia’s seductive Bower of Bliss, which he completed sucessfully and thus became an embodiment of the virtue of Temperance.

The similarities between Caffreys’s earliest version of the Scottish ballad and Spenser’s English Court literature, that they both uphold the same honor of temperance, or chastity, suggests that there is a causal link between them.

There may not have been much discourse between Scottish folk musicians and English Courts at this time due to various animosities including the former being predominantly Catholic and the latter Protestant.
However, if the poem preceded the ballads, because the Scottish had had strong associations with the French since 1295 (the first treaty forming the “Auld Alliance” between Scotland and France against England) they may have heard of the poem by these means.
Should the ballad versions alternately precede the literary, this could equally be interpreted as showing how high culture often draws upon local traditions and stories to structure its intellectual endeavors, giving local anchorage to their more wide reaching concerns and perhaps shows more sharply how English tradition has similarly drawn on the Scottish over time…

Tam Lin & The Faery Host –

In another Scottish version, the Tale of Tam Lin the Elf Knight, Tam Lin was enchanted and kidnapped by the Elf Queen to Faerie land where he was bound by her spell. He explains all this to a mortal maiden who fell in love with him, and he was rescued by her because the steadfast love of a mortal woman broke the Elf Queens enchantment over him. That the Elf Queen is here wicked and the mortal woman good, could possibly be another political reference of the times.

In explanation of the subsequent de-contextualised English versions of the ballad, which appear to present the moral inversions of a less virtuous Elf/young man who seeks by impossible means to entrap his intended, and the conversion of the intemperant Acrasia replaced by a more virtous woman, Queen Elizabeth’s fame as a virtuous Virgin Queen and her popularity in England would have likely made the earlier accounts of the ballad, with its virtuous and Scottish Elf Knight and immoral woman, less than attractive to a country who supported their Queen and possibly used such popular ballads to celebrate contemporary culture as well as carry mythological moral messages.
In this view it may be that the English versions do not just represent de-contextuallised accounts of an earlier tale, but had actually been rewritten to purposefully demonstrate popular allegiance to an English Queen and her Country.

In the English version, the ballads title refers to a trade fair that took place in the resort town of Scarborough during the medieval times and one possible explanation for use of the refrain ‘Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme’ based on the speculation that the four herbs held healing properties (parsley to remove bitterness, sage to cleanse, thyme for courage, and rosemary for love) is that these meanings were intended to develop as the song was sung, to remove curses and create a protection against evil enchantment.
It has also been suggested that these herbs were specifically used to ward of the Black Plague, particularly the smell of the dead or dying, because according to popular belief in Medieval times, it was the smell of the plague which was carried infection and the use of these herbs would cleanse air.

Plague Doctor carrying Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme

However alternate refrains from the oldest versions of ‘The Elfin Knight’ contain the phrases ‘my plaid away, my plaid away, the wind shall not blow my plaid away’ (or variations thereof ) which reassertion of the lady’s protection of her chastity, suggests that the use of ‘Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme’ may therefore be an alternate rhyming refrain for the English version with specific intention to act as a Charm of protection of her virtue ‘My maidenheads I’ll then keep still…Let the Elphin knight do what he will…’.

The earliest commercial recording of the ballad was by actor/singers Gordon Heath and Lee Payant who recorded the song on the Elektra album Encores From The Abbaye in 1955
Paul Simon learned the song in London in 1965 from Martin Carthy, who had picked up the tune from the songbook by Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger. Art Garfunkel then set it in counterpoint with “Canticle” with new, anti-war lyrics and it became the famous lead track of the 1966 album
Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme.

be you elf, knight, maiden or Queene
~ Bright Blessings ~

Blessed Beltane 1 May 2010

Beltane 2010 is Saturday 1 May 2010 in the Northern Hemisphere

Beltane was an important festival in the Celtic calendar.
The name originates from the Celtic god, Bel meaning the ‘bright one’, and the Gaelic word ‘teine’ meaning fire, giving the name ‘bealtain’, meaning ‘bright fire’.
Beltane, and its counterpart Samhain, divide the year into the two seasons, Winter (Dark) & Summer(Light).
As Samhain is about honoring Death, Beltane, its counter part, is about honoring Life.
It is the time when the Sun is fully released from Winter and rules over Summer & life again.
Beltaine then Signifies The Awakening of New Life & The Start of the Bright part of the year.

This date has long been considered a ‘power point’ of the Zodiac,& is symbolized by the Bull, one of the ‘tetramorph’ figures featured on the Tarot cards, the World and the Wheel of Fortune.
(The other three symbols are the Lion, the Eagle, and the Spirit.)
Astrologers know these four figures as the symbols of the four ‘fixed’ signs of the Zodiac (Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius).
Christians have adopted the same iconography to represent the four gospel-writers….

At Beltane the Pleiades star cluster rises just before sunrise on the morning horizon (Winter (Samhain) begins when the Pleiades rises at sunset).
The Pleiades is a cluster of seven closely placed stars, the ‘Seven Sisters’ in the constellation of Taurus, standing very low in the east-northeast sky for a few minutes before sunrise.

video by paganboynuneaton.

Beltane is one of the three ‘Spirit-Nights’ of the year when the ‘faeries’ may be seen…it is a time of ‘No Time’ when the two worlds intermingle and magic abounds!
The Queen of the Faeries rides out on her white horse on Beltane eve & will try to entice people away to Faeryland…
Legend has it that if you sit beneath a tree on Beltane night, you may see Her,if you hide your face She will pass you by, but if you look at Her, She may take you.

To our ancestors Beltane was the coming of summer and fertility.
Much of ancient Celtic magic was sympathetic, meaning that actions were performed to simulate the desired result.
May was the time to encourage the untamed forces of nature to expand their power and cause crops, animals, and people to grow and reproduce abundantly.
Couplings among unmarried partners, often outdoors or in wooded areas, was one way to encourage this result, but it was considered unlucky to marry at this time of disorder….

For the crops, it is however still a precarious time, as they are very young and tender, susceptible to late frost and early blight…

The lighting of bonfires on ‘Oidhche Bhealtaine’ (the eve of Bealtaine) upon mountains and hills of religious & tribal significance was one of the main activities of the festival.
The lighting of a community Bealtaine fire from which individual hearth fires are then relit was therefore observed as the Druids of each community would create a fire on top of a hill and drive the village’s cattle through the fires to purify them and bringing luck ‘Between the two fires of Beltane’.
People would also pass between the two fires to purify themselves.

When the Druids raised these Beltane fires, they were performing an act of sympathetic magic, as the fires were lit in order to bring the sun’s light down to earth.
When the wood burst into flames, it proclaimed the triumph of light over the dark half of the year.


May Day – Beltane Traditions
Beltane is a time of partnerships and fertility.
New couples proclaim their love for each other on this day.
It is also the perfect time to begin new projects.

The Maypole – a phallic pole planted deep in the earth represents the potency and fecundity of the God, its unwinding ribbons symbolize the unwinding of the spiral of life and the union of male and female – the Goddess and God.
It is usually topped by a ring of flowers to represent the fertile Goddess.
(The Puritans banned maypoles during the 17th Century)

Hanging May Boughs of Hawthorn and crosses of Birch and Rowan twigs over doors on the May morning were left until the next May to bless & protect the home.
Hawthorn blossom symbolises female fertility, with its creamy/ white, fragrant flowers.
Hawthorn blossom was also worn during Beltane celebrations, especially by the May Queen.
It is believed to be a potent magical plant and it is considered unlucky to bring the blossom inside the house, apart from on May eve.

Pilgrimages to holy wells are also traditional at this time, and offerings and prayers to the spirits or deities of the wells are usually part of this practice. Crafts such as the making of equal-armed rowan crosses are common, and often part of rituals performed for the blessing and protection of the household and land.

Beltane Cake, baked with eggs. – oatcakes baked with eggs, coated with a custard made of cream, eggs and butter – were cooked over open fires and anyone who chose a misshapen piece or a piece with a black spot referred to as the ‘Beltane Carline’ would be set upon by the others who would attempt to throw them on the fire.
This would be prevented by the rest of the festivalgoers.
The unlucky person would be considered a symbolic sacrifice and referred as being dead for the rest of the evening.

The ‘Obby ‘Oss, at Padstow, Cornwall – still carried on today, consists of a processional dance with the participants wearing animal skins & is believed to be a relic of a Pagan sacred marriage between earth and sky, the dance enacts the fertility god sacrificed for the good of his people.

Going ‘A-Maying’ meant staying out all night to gather flowering hawthorn, watching the sunrise and making love in the woods.

The dew on the May day morning is believed to have a magical potency –
wash your face and body in it and remain fair all year, and guarantee your youth and beauty continues.

Bright Blessings & Happy Beltaine !

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