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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in The White Goddess

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

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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Posted by on in Culture Blogs





 Thoughts on Some Names in Robert Graves' 'Seven Days in New Crete'


The Moon, the White Goddess herself, proclaims a savage truth:

The only permanence is impermanence.

This is the theme of British poet-novelist Robert Graves' 1949 utopian-dystopian novel of the Goddess-worshiping future, Seven Days in New Crete (published in the US as Watch the North Wind Rise). In it, he creates the ideal civilization of the eco-matriarchal future: Goddess-centered, socially stable, ecologically sustainable. Then he destroys it.

Impermanence is the only permanence.

The Goddess, you see—whose very nature is dynamism—has grown weary of the stagnation inherent in her perfect pagan society of the future. So she calls up a messy agent of instability from the messy past—Robert Graves himself—to plant a seed of life-giving chaos in a future that has become terminally tidy.

Robert Graves was something of an outlier in “20th” century English literature: deeply (if crankily) religious in an anti-religious age, anti-modernist in an age of modernity, a New Pagan voice before the rise of the New Paganisms.

In Seven Days in New Crete, as in Robert Graves' life as a whole, there are two important characters: Graves himself and the Goddess, whom he thought of as being temporarily incarnate in whichever woman he happened to be in love with at the time. (Just how psychologically healthy such a psycho-dynamic may or may not be, I leave to the reader to decide.) In the novel, the Robert Graves character appears as poet Edward Venn-Thomas, and the White Goddess as (among others) his former love-hate interest Erica Yvonne Turner. (“Only these days I don't use the 'Yvonne'” she says.)

Graves has chosen these names carefully. Though they look like regular names on the surface, they are anything but. As a poet, Graves always insists on verbal precision, even when, as here, it is cunningly cloaked in the ordinary.

(The novel is filled with little jokes of this sort for those who have the linguistic savvy to recognize them. The Israeli anthropologist who provides the initial impetus for what, in the end, becomes the New Cretan civilization—remember that the state of Israel was founded in 1947, only two years before the publication of 7D—is named ben Yeshu: “son of Jesus”!)

I always tell students that Seven Days in New Crete is The White Goddess in novel form, and much that reads mysteriously in the former is handily elucidated in the latter. As it happens, both Erica and Yvonne allude to the sacred Tree Calendar which lies at the very heart of TWG. Erica is Latin for “heather,” and Yvonne derives ultimately from the French word for “yew." These sacred trees represent, respectively, the Goddess in her orgiastic, erotic Springtime character and her death-dealing (though promising rebirth) Winter persona.

The only constant is constant change. This truth the Lady of the Moon, “that nightly changes in her circled orb,” embodies. She is, indeed, the epitome of the shape-shifter: the Turner. Hence Erica Yvonne Turner: she who changes form, alternately life-giving and deadly.

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In Which Our Intrepid Blogger Bites His Thumb at Robert Graves

You may recall the scene in Romeo and Juliet in which a servant of the Montagues publicly twits servants of the Capulets with a rude gesture.

SAMPSON [to Gregory]: ...I will bite my thumb at them, which is disgrace to them if they bear it. [Bites thumb.]

ABRAHAM: Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?

SAMPSON: I do bite my thumb, sir.

ABRAHAM: Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?

SAMPSON [aside to Gregory]: Is the law of [on] our side if I say 'Ay'?


SAMPSON: No sir, I do not bite my thumb at you, sir, but I bite my thumb, sir. (1.1.43-52)

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Recent comment in this post - Show all comments
  • Tasha Halpert
    Tasha Halpert says #
    Too funny and interesting too. Thanks! Tasha

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The White Goddess: Her Seal

It's an icon of the new paganism, really, known to millions all around the world: the Triple Goddess sigil on the cover of Robert Graves' White Goddess.

It's also a prediction.

It could almost be a Minoan seal, although it's not. In fact, it was designed by Graves' gifted friend and secretary Kenneth Gay ( Karl Goldschmidt, 1912-1995) to Graves' precise specifications; Graves stood at his elbow throughout the making of the image.

In it, we see the Triple Goddess herself: three bare-breasted women in flounced Minoan skirts, their arms intertwined around each others' shoulders. But this is the Three that is Nine, Graves' Ninefold Muse: above her, three cranes, below her, three linked spirals. In each of the Three Realms, She is sovereign: Heaven, Earth, the Sea.

Standing before her in adoration and supplication, we see a long-haired youth, naked (except his for belt) and ithyphallic. He is her worshiper, her consort, her poet. Above him, we see the signs of his twin natures: the fivefold star of life, and the spotted serpent of prophecy and death, the light and the dark together. For he is his own twin and contrary.

But this is no simple scene of adoration that we see before us: it is the making of an agreement between the Goddess and her Poet. The seal seals the deal. For she bestows upon him a gift, the reception of which marks his fealty to her: an eye.

For love, she gives insight: the age-old covenant.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Aline "Macha" O'Brien
    Aline "Macha" O'Brien says #
    I do indeed. Since this past Spring when I was helping Jo write and design the Green Pulse Oracle based on Fred Adams' work, I've
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Remember when, if you wanted more about the Goddess, The White Goddess was the only place to turn? Yikes. Talk about Memory Lane!
  • Aline "Macha" O'Brien
    Aline "Macha" O'Brien says #
The Five-Petaled Primrose: A Magic Charm by Robert Graves

Poet and novelist Robert Graves (1895-1985), author of The White Goddess, generally eschewed magical practice.

I am no mystic, he wrote in 1960, I avoid participation in witchcraft, spiritualism, yoga, fortune-telling, automatic writing, and the like (Graves 1966, 488).

But we know that at least once, when asked for a magic charm, he complied, with interesting results.

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