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The White Goddess (1948)

de Robert Graves

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This book, first published more than sixty years ago, was the outcome of Robert Graves's vast reading and research into strange territories of folklore, mythology, religion, and magic. Erudite and impassioned, it is a scholar-poet's quest for the meaning of European myths, a polemic about the relations between man and woman, and also an intensely personal document in which Graves explores the sources of his own inspiration and, as he believed, all true poetry. Incorporating all of Graves's final revisions, his replies to two of the original reviewers, and an essay describing the months of illumination in which The White Goddess was written, this is the definitive edition of one of the most influential books of our time.… (més)
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Es mostren 1-5 de 21 (següent | mostra-les totes)
Sometimes it's hard to tell erudition from bullshit, and at times, The White Goddess seems to me to sort of walk that line. Certainly it is packed full of erudition about ancient history, religions, languages, trees, and customs/rituals, but the breezy way in which Graves strings these things together sometimes seems suspect. It's not so different from what I've read of Frazer's The Golden Bough (whom Graves cites here and there, at times with the modest assertion that old Frazer in his giant work simply hadn't carried things forward to their obvious conclusions), so perhaps there is tradition or prior art for this sort of work.

The book reads at times like the explication of a mythic conspiracy theory -- I can almost see Graves with scrolls and bits of papyrus pinned to his wall with lengths of yarn strung from piece to piece to demonstrate the thousands of connections he makes across myths and histories and languages. Often enough, it felt as if he had an idea in mind and that he interpreted his inputs (or often lack of inputs) to accord with his idea. At times it also reads like the ramblings of an old grandpa who starts in one place and then meanders sort of aimlessly before pausing to ask "now where was I?" and moving on to the next topic.

It is a pretty readable -- that's not to say an easy -- book in spite of its meandering. I'll confess that I didn't delve deep into the logic by which he made various numerological connections to build several variants of ancient alphabets based on tree taxonomy and linked to bardic cyphers and finger languages. I read the words and understood the general idea and trusted that I could come back to it later if ever I decided he was taking me for a ride and I wanted to try to verify for myself. Nor did I carefully cross-reference the thousands of name and story variants he breezily tossed out as if they're common knowledge (they were a veritable alphabet soup to me). Again, I trusted that he was an ok source and otherwise contented myself to be a willing victim to his knavery. I'll further confess that I skimmed some of the particularly name-heavy sections. These shortcuts are what made it readable and helped make the book a pleasure rather than a labor for me.

It's rare for a book to send my mind in so many directions with such enthusiasm. I've walked away from The White Goddess wanting to read The Mabinogion, learn more about Welsh and Irish history, research augury, and maybe get off my ass and learn Latin so that I can read the likes of Catullus in the original. I mean, I won't do most of these things, but a book that's sufficiently stimulating that it makes me want to is one that really struck a chord for me. ( )
1 vota dllh | Jan 6, 2021 |
> LES MYTHES CELTES (La déesse blanche) de Robert Graves (Éd. du Rocher)
Se reporter à l’article d'Albert SARALLIER [101 livres clés]
In: (1990). Nouvelles Clés, (12), (Juillet-Août 1990), pp. 43-50… ; (en ligne),
URL : http://www.librarything.fr/work/25615548/details/191575938
Le livre de référence sur la tradition celte. --Nouvelles Clés
  Joop-le-philosophe | Oct 12, 2020 |
A curious extended attempt to discern a unifying body of knowledge and attitude between three poetic universes. He uses the Celtic and Greek canons for his reference corpus. There are many interesting insights, but I did not find the unity that Graves was proclaiming. Still, I have not investigated these lyrics to any great depth, nor read any of the quoted originals. Quite an interesting read, however. My copy was the 1966 edition from Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and the book has had reprints since then. ( )
1 vota DinadansFriend | Dec 27, 2019 |
Graves presents us here with his thesis on the meaning of the mythology contained within ancient Welsh literature, including the Book of Taliesin and the Mabinogion, and most importantly the poem of the Battle of the Trees. What we have of these works was written down in medieval times, but Graves believes that they preserve the poetry of a much older oral and bardic tradition, which created riddles to preserve an even older mythology stretching back into pre-Christian and pre-historic times. To the casual listener or reader these works do indeed present a riddle, which Graves believes was both an expression of ingenuity of the bardic mind, and a deliberate effort to avoid censorship of pagan themes within an increasingly Christian culture.

By teasing out the meanings of these works, Graves links in the themes to the wider European body of mythology. He posits an explanation for the riddle in the Battle of Trees, in that it relates to a calendar system with each tree representing a month. He explains why each tree relates to a specific month, linking in the related mythology associated with each tree and its cultural significance. This is then tied in with some non-arboreal riddle like poems that he believes also relate to a calendar system, which he links in to his notion of the White Goddess who is represented by the calendar.

Graves presents at length his evidence for an older common religious substratum, based on the White Goddess, present across Europe and the near East before historical times. He shows us examples taken from Welsh literature, Greek, other European and near Eastern mythology, which support his theory. He believes this female-deity led religious system predates the male deity-led systems which superseded them, and finds traces of this origin preserved in mythology and names.

He goes on to suggest that the White Goddess, the ancient prehistorical source of inspiration, life, and death, is the basis of all true poetry, acting much like an archetype of the unconscious as Jung would have it (though in a rare oversight in what is a well-researched book, he does not seem to have connected his idea specifically with Jung here).

In places this book is quite hard-going, with a lot of densely presented information, many names, aliases, myths, and parallels to keep hold of in the mind simultaneously, in order to follow Graves' arguments fully. In this sense it has much in common with Frazer’s Golden Bough, which Graves notes was an important source of inspiration and reference in his writing of this work.

Whether or not the arguments presented here are convincing or not will perhaps depend to a large extent on how patient the reader is in following protracted arguments, or alternatively how much we are willing to accept at face value from the author. This is a complicated, dense, and lengthy work to read, but it does at least bring to light hidden themes present in European mythology, whether or not we accept them as meaning exactly what Graves says that they do. It also presents a style of thinking, poetic thinking as the author calls it (as opposed to scientific thinking), which he believes was a route to a different type of truth (at least so in historic times before it was largely lost), peculiar to the creators and keepers of bardic lore, mythology, and religious secrets in pagan times, who he discusses throughout this work.

This book contains much of interest in terms of poetry, literature in general, mythology, anthropology, and history, whether or not we accept Graves’ argument in its details. Many readers however will find the content tenuous and overly complex, and if we do not take the author’s word for things, the arguments are often too tangled to easily follow. This is probably not for the casual reader, but if you have an interest in the themes and plenty of time to wade through it and read it patiently, it might be rewarding. ( )
1 vota P_S_Patrick | May 23, 2019 |
LA DIOSA BLANCA : TOMO II

Puesto que los Siete Pilares de la Sabiduría son
identificados por los místicos hebreos con los siete días de
la Creación y con los siete días de la semana, uno
sospecha que el sistema astrológico que vincula cada día
de la semana con uno de los cuerpos celestes tiene una
contraparte arbórea. El sistema astrológico es tan antiguo,
general y consecuente en sus valores que vale la
pena de examinar sus diversas formas. Su origen es
probablemente, pero no necesariamente, babilónico
La segunda lista que se publica aquí es la de los sabeos
de Harran, que tomaron parte en la invasión del norte
de Siria por la gente del mar hacia 1200 a. de C.,
establece la relación entre la lista babilónica y la
occidental...
  FundacionRosacruz | Sep 18, 2018 |
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Nom de l'autorCàrrecTipus d'autorObra?Estat
Robert Gravesautor primaritotes les edicionscalculat
Lindop, GrevelEditorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat

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IN DEDICATION

All saints revile her, and all sober men 
Ruled by the God Apollo's golden mean - 
In scorn of which I sailed to find her 
In distant regions likeliest to hold her 
Whom I desired above all things to know, 
Sister of the mirage and echo. 

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-coloured to white hips. 

The sap of Spring in the young wood a-stir 
Will celebrate with green the Mother, 
And every song-bird shout awhile for her; 
But I am gifted, even in November 
Rawest of seasons, with so huge a sense 
Of her nakedly worn magnificence 
I forget cruelty and past betrayal, 
Heedless of where the next bright bolt may fall.
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Since the age of fifteen poetry has been my ruling passion and I have never intentionally undertaken any task or formed any relationship that seemed inconsistent with poetic principles; which has sometimes won me the reputation of an eccentric.
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...I cannot make out why a belief in a Father-god's authorship of the universe, and its laws, seems any less unscientific than a belief in a Mother-goddess's inspiration of this artificial system. Granted the first metaphor, the second follows logically--if these are no better than metaphors....
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This book, first published more than sixty years ago, was the outcome of Robert Graves's vast reading and research into strange territories of folklore, mythology, religion, and magic. Erudite and impassioned, it is a scholar-poet's quest for the meaning of European myths, a polemic about the relations between man and woman, and also an intensely personal document in which Graves explores the sources of his own inspiration and, as he believed, all true poetry. Incorporating all of Graves's final revisions, his replies to two of the original reviewers, and an essay describing the months of illumination in which The White Goddess was written, this is the definitive edition of one of the most influential books of our time.

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