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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Robert Graves

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 Robin's nest with a brown-headed cowbird egg - Bing Gallery

A Religion of Converts?


One might, on the face of it, think that most New Pagans are—in effect—converts.

Some seventy-five years into the Pagan Revival, I suspect that, still, the vast majority of us didn't grow up this way. I myself was, as they say in New Crete, “hatched in the wrong nest.”

And yet, if they asked you, “When did you become pagan?”, would the most honest answer really not be, “This is who I've always been”?

In my travels, I've met a spare handful who became pagan as the result of (if you'll pardon the comparison) a “road to Damascus” experience: the overwhelming, life-changing epiphany of a god or, more often, goddess.

But the fact remains that, for most of us, becoming pagan is not so much a matter of becoming something that we weren't before as it is of discovering a name for who and what we've always already been.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs



Waking from the Abrahamic Nightmare


You live in the City of the Goddess, a world wholly pagan. One night, you fall asleep. When you awake next morning, you find yourself instead in a place entirely Christian, the Lady's temples desecrated.


One day, the West fell asleep and awoke to find itself changed. Into this world poet Robert Graves was born; but, sensing from the beginning that something was missing, he set out on a quest to find it: the Quest for the Goddess.

(One thinks of the Quest for the Holy Grail: Christendom's ongoing and persistent sense that, deep in its core, something vital and utterly intrinsic is lacking. The Quest for the Holy Grail is none other than the Quest for the Divine Feminine, what Goethe called die Ewig Weibliche, “the Eternal Womanly.”)

Graves tells the tale of his spiritual quest in In Dedication, the poem which (in later editions) prefaces his magnum opus The White Goddess. (The reader will not fail to note the title's multiple applications: the poet's dedication both to his quest and to its goal, the book's dedication to that selfsame Muse.) In it, he presents himself as a spiritual explorer in the mold of “19th” century Britain's world explorers. As Graves sees it, he too is exploring a New World:


It was a virtue not to stay,

To go my headstrong and heroic way

Seeking her out at the volcano's head,

Among pack ice, or where the track had faded

Beyond the cavern of the seven sleepers:

Whose broad high brow was white as any leper's,

Whose eyes were blue, with rowan-berry lips,

With hair curled honey-colored to white hips.


Since knowledge of the Goddess has been lost in the West, he searches the rest of the world for her: from the tropics (“at the volcano's head”) to the poles (“among pack ice”). His quest leads him not only through place, but also time: “beyond the cavern of the seven sleepers.” To find the Goddess, he travels into the deep past, before the beginning of the West's Abrahamic nightmare.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs


It's a byword in New Crete, Robert Graves' Goddess-worshiping utopia of the future: “Nothing without the hand of love.” Love is the culture's central value.

In New Crete, love's opposite is not hatred, but unlove: self-interest disregarding of others. “How utterly unloving!” say the New Cretans of such actions, shuddering.

In 1961, W. Holman Keith—protegé of Gleb Botkin, founder of the Long Island Church of Aphrodite—observed in his ground-breaking Divinity as the Eternal Feminine that any Goddess-based religion must necessarily adopt love as its central principle.

Doreen Valiente would seem to have felt the same when, in the late 1950s, she drafted her well-loved prose “Charge of the Goddess”, in which the Lady of Witches tells her people: “My law is love unto all beings.”

Doubtless this intriguing dictum restates the Thelemic principle “Love is the law, love under will”, but let us ask: What does the Lady's Law of Love mean? What are its implications for the actions of Her People?

Does she mean that we should love viruses and flatworms? Does she mean that we should all become vegan? Does she mean that we should love the deer as we shoot it? If the latter, what does it mean to love what you kill?

In a sense, the statement is a commonsense observation about all living things that reproduce sexually.

More broadly, though, I think that she's talking about a general approach to life. Taking love as your central principle and prime motivator will change the way that you think about what you do. Next time you make a decision, ask yourself: What is the loving thing to do here?

The Lady's Law of Love governs not only our behavior toward others of our own kind, but those not of our kind as well: other humans that we perceive as not being like us, as well as our larger family of kin, animals, plants, and ultimately the entire “non-living” world.

Lest you think the concept of a Love Culture redolent of hippie-dom or naiveté, let me cite another proverb of New Crete:

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  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I think it was in an issue of Natural History magazine that I read an article about St. Hubertus. It mentioned that traditionally

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 Why Does A Propane Flame Burn Blue? | Blue Flame

I've sometimes wondered if the eponymous White Witch of C. S. Lewis' 1950 The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe—whom Lewis describes as “white as paper”—was inspired by Robert Graves' The White Goddess.

TWG having been published in 1948, this remains chronologically possible, though (admittedly) tight. Whether or not Lewis was familiar with Graves' magnum opus I do not know, though as a study in mythology, it does seem right up Lewis' alley. Although the White Witch is never (to my memory, anyway) spoken of in explicitly lunar terms, the implied contrast with the lion Aslan, the solar Narnian Christ, permeates the book.

The White Witch also appears—offstage—in the 1951 Prince Caspian. Waiting for assistance from an Aslan who never seems to show up, a hag and a werewolf propose that the Narnians invoke the power of the White Witch for aid.

When the king's adviser observes that, as all the stories agree, the Witch is dead, the hag counters, “Oh, bless his heart, his dear little Majesty needn't mind about the White Lady—that's what we call her—being dead....who ever heard of a witch that really died? You can always get them back.”

Call her up,” says the werewolf. “We are all ready. Draw the circle. Prepare the blue fire.”

Invoking the White Lady in a drawn circle? Do we see here shades of anti-Wiccan polemic? Although Gerald Gardner's Witchcraft Today was not published until 1954, accounts of Wicca had begun appearing in the popular British press early in the 1950s, and—given his interests—it seems at least possible, if not likely, that Lewis will have been aware of them.

Was arch-Christian C. S. Lewis polemicizing against a resurgent White Goddess and her latter-day witch-cult in his Narnia series? Well, it shouldn't be difficult to find out, one way or the other.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs



Good old English. What a language. What an inheritance.

Consider the prefix un-, which undoes (ahem) the meaning of the noun, adjective, or verb that follows it.

We got it from Latin, but a similar prefix is common to pretty much all languages of the Indo-European family; in Sanskrit, for example, it's a- (as in a-himsa, “un-violence”).

One of the things that I love about un- is that, while it negates what comes after, the resulting word does not, however, constitute an opposite. The prefix thus lends itself to non-binary thinking, a lesson which the West cannot learn too quickly. In New Crete, Robert Graves's fictional Goddess-worshiping utopia of the future, where love is the central cultural value (“My law is love unto all beings”), the primary sin is not hatred, but unlove.

I once heard a friend describe him and his ex as “unfriends.” That's good. Not enemies, but two people whose relationship consists of not having a relationship. That's a pretty articulate distinction to be able to make in just one word.

Or consider “unbeautiful.” What is unbeautiful is not ugly, but neither is it just plain “plain.” What is plain, is; what is unbeautiful, isn't. Another subtle distinction.

I love un-'s readiness to play. One could even call it egalitarian. You don't have to be a philologist or a linguist to spontaneously create new un-words. The man, or woman, in the street does it all the time.

Case in point: I have no great interest in either politics or professional sports, but I've always kind of liked Novak Jock-ovic, in an unthinking, superficial kind of way. Hey, I like guys, he's kind of cute, with that athlete's sheen to him: that's enough.

Still—although they thoroughly botched the execution—I think that Australia's decision to deport the unvaccinated A-hole was spot-on. Like everyone else, I'm weary of the double standard that permits to Big Names what is denied the rest of us.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Robert Graves - Novelist & Poet |


How do you tell when you're in the presence of a pagan elder?

Hear what biographer Richard Perceval Graves has to say of his uncle Robert Graves (1895-1985), author of The White Goddess and prophet of the Return of the Goddess:

Graves's dedication to the Moon Goddess meant that at times...he had seemed to bring with him a breath of the ancient world, and in his presence Deyá [RG's longtime residence in the island of Mallorca] itself would sometimes appear to be a land of ancient days.

There it is. A pagan elder is one in whose presence—at least sometimes—you gain the sense of an older world, a pagan world, the way things once were.

Note also the corollary: that this elder's presence transforms his—or her—very environment.

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 Best Chocolate Cake | Handle the Heat


In the dream, I've gone with two friends to observe the year's last day of classes at a new experimental school.

I know nothing about the school, but learn that they share a central premise with Robert Graves in The White Goddess: that in order to make the social and cultural changes that we must make in order to survive, we need a new religion. So the staff of the school have made a new religion, and the students have enthusiastically embraced it.

They call it Hinduism—something of a steal, I think, since what I see has little resemblance to actual Hinduism. It's a polytheistic religion, though (I hear with disapprobation) that they call the gods “saints.” So far as I can tell, they seem to have drawn their pantheon largely from Indigenous Central America, and the ancient court-ball game of the Americas figures large in their observance.

There's a subdued sense of celebration in the air as I wander around, and platters of a delicious-looking chocolate cake circulate freely among the groups of students. One of my friends is already sitting at a table along with many of the best-looking young men in the school.

“Well, that's in character,” I think, a little jealous that he's already managed to insert himself into the life of the school. Myself, I need to do more observation; I'm waiting for my other friend to join me.

The school's principal—clearly the driving force behind the social experiment—stands up and offers a reasoned rationale for what they've achieved, but I find myself out of sympathy with what he says. “He's trying to walk it back," I think.

Over my shoulder, though, I hear a young man talking about the whole project, and why it has to be religiously-based. “Religion motivates people as nothing else can,” he says. “With this religion, we've been able to accomplish all sorts of amazing things.” (He names several collective achievements; the environmental ones are particularly noteworthy.) “Without it, we would never have have been able to do all this.”

“This is exactly the point that Graves makes at the end of White Goddess," I think, "and here we see the proof." Secular environmentalism will never offer sufficient motivation to make the hard changes that need to be made; only religion can provide the necessary driving social force to do that.

The friend that I'm waiting for still hasn't turned up—he too, I suspect, has begun to enter fully into the life of the school—but I've already reached a conclusion.

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