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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in carols

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Carol of the Swallow

In English, it's called Carol of the Bells, and has become a regular part of the December soundscape.

But the Ukrainian original—like folk carols all over Europe—although sung at Christmas, doesn't have anything to do with Christmas.

Or bells.

Instead, it's about spring.

And fertility.

And sex.

Which is to say: it's thoroughly pagan, through and through. Because to pagans, Yule isn't just a self-referential blaze that sits in its own golden halo at the end of the year; it's the first spark of what comes next, a collective turning towards spring, and the growing season to come.

Last modified on
A Yule Carol by (I Kid You Not) Margaret Murray

Early 20th-century maverick archaeologist Margaret Murray (1863-1963) needs no introduction, her 1921 Witch-Cult in Western Europe having been instrumental in getting the whole witchcraft-revival wheel turning.

Before becoming a revisionist historian, however, she was first and foremost an Egyptologist. Her somewhat libertarian translation of a 19th Dynasty hymn to the Sun’s rebirth makes a charming (if rather ponderous) addition to the repertoire of Yule carols, especially for those of us weary of “little Lord Sun God, asleep in the hay”-type rewrites.

For the non-Egyptians among us, I've appended a de-Kemetized version as well.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Haley
    Haley says #
    But, of course! Thank you.
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Good question, Haley. Judging from the lyrics, I could imagine something joyous, triumphant, maybe a little bombastic, rather like
  • Haley
    Haley says #
    Thank you, Steven. What sort of tune do you have in mind with this?

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Sing Holly, Sing Ivy

 A few posts back, I wrote about the need for more Ivy carols to replace those that we've lost. Well, here's a new one. For reasons best known only to my poet's intuition, I've cast it in the form of an Elizabethan art song. I've tried to remain true both to botanical reality and to the genre's traditional (if playful) gender wars. There's a tune waiting out there somewhere, I'm sure of it.

Sing Holly, Sing Ivy

 

Of all the trees

that in winter be green,

sing Holly, sing Ivy,

if Holly be king,

then Ivy is queen.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Holly Seeketh Ivy

At this time of year in the English-speaking world, one hears a lot about Holly and Ivy. As usual, the songs preserve the old lore.

In medieval England—and possibly earlier—Holly and Ivy were shorthand for "Male" and "Female." It used to be that when there was a birth in a household, you'd announce the newborn by hanging at the door a branch of holly for a boy or a wreath of ivy for a girl.

So what all those songs about the Holly wearing the crown are really about is male dominance.

But don't go grinding that double ax just yet. As usual, that's just the beginning of the tale.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Death or Glory Wassail

As if the Yuletide weren't already dangerous enough, here come the Thug Wassailers.

Forthwith, yet another comedic masterpiece by the Grand Master of satirical British faux-ksong, Sid Kipper, here heard in redoubtable performance by Blanche Rowen and Mike Gulst.

Shell out and you won't be harmed.

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Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
Music of the Longest Night

To many, winter is a time when the grief of loss strikes hardest.  The symbolic death of spring and summer combined with the cold have us turning inward, some seeking a spiritual hibernation.

For me, this grief has been compounded by my mother's December birthday.  This year she would be turning sixty.  One of my friends grieves both her parents today, while another sits in a hospital waiting for her mother's unconscious body to relinquish its hold after a stroke.

...
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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Dreaming Spring

They say that at Winter's midpoint, Spring walks the earth for a single night. (Or maybe it is her Dreaming that walks.) Look for her footprints in new snow. At her passing, they say, sleeping animals stir in their burrows and dens. At her passing, they say, seeds stir in the frozen soil, and dream of germination.

This playful Appalachian (originally English) folk carol, with its charmingly medieval-sounding minor tune, tells the story of the growing season to come, from plow to winnow. Originally sung at an already oversubscribed “Christemas,” we've reassigned it—for reasons that seem good to us—to Candlemas instead.

Generally we sing this song while standing in a circle, with lots of stomping, clapping, and percussion to help wake the animals and seeds. Each in turn jumps into the center, mimes a verse, and then jumps out again.

After all, there's no reason why making magic shouldn't be a raucous, joyful experience.

No reason at all.

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