Celticsprite’s Blog


“Touches of Sweet Harmony” by Danny Carnahan
August 31, 2009, 4:08 pm
Filed under: Reviews, Reviews on Celtic Tunes by Danny Carnahan
“Touches of Sweet Harmony” was previously issued on The Acoustic Mandolin Magazine, and posted under the author’s kind permission. All rights reserved. Tune reviewed : “Banish Misfortune” – melody line [Click here for printable notation] – harmony line [click here for printable notation].

A quote from Celtic Sprite: I still recall my first audition of this tune…it was performed by The Chieftains and featured as opening track on their second album in a lovely set along Gillian’s Apples.

In past columns I have explained a little about how Celtic music developed through the centuries and how various instruments including the mandolin have been absorbed into the tradition. I want to deal this time with harmonies, but we need to start with a little historical perspective first.

There are several parallel Celtic musical traditions, developed for different reasons and on different instruments. For centuries harpers would use their diatonic instruments to play melodies with arpeggiated chordal coloration. But until very recently harpers did not mix with other folk musicians. Their function was more courtly and formal. In fact, it wasn’t until our generation that classically-trained traditionalists like Sean O’Riada and Paddy Moloney of the Chieftains began combining Irish harp in ensembles with fiddles, flutes, and pipes and finger-style guitarists turned O’Carolan tunes into standards.

Speaking of pipes, there are the two very different worlds of Scottish Highland pipes and Irish uilleann pipes, neither of which mixed much with other instruments beside drums until this century. Again, it was our generation that recognized Highland pipes as one of the great rock and roll instruments ever and bands like the Tannahill Weavers and the Battlefield Band blazed loud and boisterous new directions to take both military and dance tunes in.

The quieter uilleann pipes, played by pumping a bellows with one elbow with the drones pointing down to one side and the melodic chanter on the knee, were used both for dance tunes and for haunting set pieces and slow airs. Developed and improved upon during the Industrial Revolution, some uilleann pipes began to feature valve keys called regulators which could change the pitch of the drones and, within strict limits, supply chordal accompaniment to the melody. But like the Highland pipes, uilleann pipes did not play with fiddles and flutes in ensembles as a rule until very recently.

Then there are the dance tunes—the jigs and reels and hornpipes written on and for fiddles, flutes, whistles, and free reeds—which most mando players are most drawn to. These, too, have been treated primarily as a straight melody art form if you don’t count the oom-pah accompaniments played by accordions a century ago and then imitated by pianos on through the 20th century right up to the modern folk revival.

The old recordings of the great fiddlers of the 20s like Michael Coleman are often hell to listen to today, because of the stultifying and ham-fisted piano accompaniments. But as guitars gained popularity in sessions, new chordal voicings and possibilities got experimented with and it became permissible to break step with all the unison players and toss in some harmony. And now to our general delight, the harmonic fun that Celtic musicians have with even the simplest tunes passes the old masters by leaps and bounds.

Mandolins and citterns are among the most versatile instruments in modern Celtic music simply because one minute we can whip out melodies complete with cool ornaments and the next we can drive tunes with chords and rhythmic emphasis. We can also borrow the drone idea from the pipes and create implied chord changes by moving melodic phrases against open strings. We’ll have some fun with that next time.

But for this issue, let’s take a popular jig and see how much mandolin-friendly harmony we can pack into it. The jig I have in mind is “Banish Misfortune,” one the truly great tunes and one that you’ll hear in every Irish session on earth. It’s a three-part tune in D major that rolls along as happy as can be. Without changing or adding a single note, the melody is very satisfying and offers abundant opportunities for ornamentation using triplets, turns, and anticipatory snaps. [Click here for printable notation]

In this notation I’ve included a few triplets, both ascending and descending. As always, you should feel free to play or omit ornaments as you see fit. If you’re looking for good places to try adding other triplets, try “tripletizing” just about any quarter note. All the quarter notes in “Banish Misfortune” hit on a 1 beat or a 4 beat. And since these are the emphatic beats that drive the jig forward, digging in a little extra with a nice same-note triplet ornament is entirely appropriate.

Now for the harmony line [click here for printable notation]. This harmony, or one very much like it, is widely popular in the pub sessions. You’ll notice that the harmony is not simply a parallel line above the melody. It crosses the melody and occasionally plays in unison, though the beginnings and endings of each phrase convey a happy harmonic lilt with implied chords.

So what might you do with this harmony in a pub session, once you’ve got it under your fingers? My advice is always to start out simple, then make the tune a little more fun each time. I’d play straight unison all the way through once, then perhaps break into the harmony line on just the last three bars of each part the next time through. Then, harmonize all the way through each 8-bar part but not on the repeats. Then, if the band is still up for it, go hogwild and harmonize all the way through. Mixing it up is always fun. And everybody in the session will enjoy a little energy boost.

Of course, not all Irish and Scottish tunes lend themselves equally to harmony lines. I find tunes that sound like they were written for Highland pipes among the hardest to do anything with harmonically. “Gravel Walks” from the Fall 2000 issue, for example, is a tune that seems most effective playing against a strong drone tonic. Whenever I try to harmonize horizontally it sounds needlessly busy.

But others love a little harmony. “The Pinch of Snuff” cries out for a close harmony. Again, like in “Banish Misfortune,” I’d let the harmony come and go, alternating harmony phrases with unison phrases to keep it interesting. And in “The Coleraine Jig” I like to wait until the B part of the tune and harmonize about the first four bars, just for a dash of sweetness at the most melancholy melodic moment.

Try harmonizing some of your favorite jigs and reels. Remember that you don’t have to harmonize all the way through—that even two or three notes in passing can give a tune a lovely splash of color while you make it more your own.

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Faerie Lore : The Swan Maidens Motif : “The King of Ireland’s Son and the Enchanted Daughter”
August 27, 2009, 3:29 am
Filed under: Uncategorized
Hi to all…enjoy this well known tale regarding the Swan Maidens Motif : “The King of Ireland’s Son and the Enchanted Daughter”. Posted from the book “The King of Ireland’s Son”by Padraic Colum[b. 1881 d. 1972.] with illustrations and decorations by Willy Pogány [b. 1882 d. 1955].New York, H. Holt and Company [1916] . (Obtain this full work and many more backups by clicking here!) They came, they flew down, and when they touched the ground they transformed themselves into three maidens and went to bathe in the lake. The one who carried the green scarf left her swanskin under a bush. The King’s Son took it and hid it in a hollow tree. Two of the maidens soon came out of the water, put on their swanskins and flew away as swans. The younger maiden stayed for a while in the lake. Then she came out and began to search for her swanskin. She searched and searched, and at last the King’s Son heard her say, “I would do anything in the world for the creature who would find my swanskin for me.” Then he came from where he was hiding and gave her the swanskin. “I am the Son of the King of Ireland,” he said, “and I want you to show me the way to your father’s dominion.” “I would prefer to do anything else for you,” said the maiden. “I do not want anything else,” said the King of Ireland’s Son. “If I show you how to get there will you be content?” “I shall be content.” “You must never let my father know that I showed you the way. And he must not know when you come that you are the King of Ireland’s Son.” “I will not tell him you showed me the way and I will not let him know who I am.” Now that she had the swanskin she was able to transform herself. She whistled and a blue falcon came down and perched on a tree. “That falcon is my own bird,” said she. “Follow where it flies and you will come to my father’s house. And now good-by to you. You will be in danger, but I will try to help you. Fedelma is my name.” She rose up as a swan and flew away.
The blue falcon went flying from bush to bush and from rock to rock. The night came, but in the morning the blue falcon was seen again. The King’s Son followed, and at last he saw a house before him. He went in, and there, seated on a chair of gold was the man who seemed so tall when he threw down the cards upon the heap of stones. The Enchanter did not recognize the King’s Son without his hawk and his hound and the fine clothes he used to wear. He asked who he was and the King’s Son said he was a youth who had just finished an apprenticeship to a wizard. “And,” said he, “I have heard that you have three fair daughters, and I came to strive to gain one of them for a wife.” “In that case,” said the Enchanter of the Black Back-Lands, “you will have to do three tasks for me. If you are able to do them I will give you one of my three daughters in marriage. If you fail to do any one of them you will lose your head. Are you willing to make the trial?” “I am willing,” said the King of Ireland’s Son. “Then I shall give you your first task to-morrow. It is unlucky that you came to-day. In this country we eat a meal only once a week, and we have had our meal this morning.” “It is all the same to me,” said the King’s Son, “I can do without food or drink for a month without any hardship.” “I suppose you can do without sleep too?” said the Enchanter of the Black Back-Lands. “Easily,” said the King of Ireland’s Son. “That is good. Come outside now, and I’ll show you your bed.” He took the King’s Son outside and showed him a dry narrow water-tank at the gable end of the house. “There is where you are to sleep” said the Enchanter. “Tuck yourself into it now and be ready for your first task at the rising of the sun.” The King of Ireland’s Son went into the little tank. He was uncomfortable there you may be sure. But in the middle of the night Fedelma came and brought him into a fine room where he ate and then slept until the sun was about to rise in the morning. She called him and he went outside and laid himself down in the water-tank. As soon as the sun rose the Enchanter of the Black Back-Lands came out of the house and stood beside the water-tank. “Come now,” said he, “and I will show you the first task you have to perform.” He took him to where a herd of goats was grazing. Away from the goats was a fawn with white feet and little bright horns. The fawn saw them, bounded into the air, and raced away to the wood as quickly as any arrow that a man ever shot from a bow. “That is Whitefoot the Fawn,” said the Enchanter of the Black Back-Lands. “She grazes with my goats but none of my gillies can bring her into my goat-house. Here is your first task–run down Whitefoot the Fawn and bring her with my goats into the goat-shelter this evening.” When he said that the Enchanter of the Black Back-Lands went away laughing to himself. “Good-by, my life,” said the King of Ireland’s Son, “I might as well try to catch an eagle on the wing as to run down the deer that has gone out of sight already.” He sat down on the ground and his despair was great. Then his name was called and he saw Fedelma coming towards him. She looked at him as though she were in dread, and said, “What task has my father set you?” He told her and then she smiled. “I was in dread it would be a more terrible task,” she said. “This one is easy. I can help you to catch Whitefoot the Fawn. But first eat what I have brought you.” She put down bread and meat and wine, and they sat down and he ate and drank. “I thought he might set you this task,” she said, “and so I brought you something from my father’s store of enchanted things. Here are the Shoes of Swiftness. With these on your feet you can run down Whitefoot the Fawn. But you must catch her before she has gone very far away. Remember that she must be brought in when the goats are going into their shelter at sunset. You will have to walk back for all the time you must keep hold of her silver horns. Hasten now. Run her down with the Shoes of Swiftness and then lay hold of her horns. Above all things Whitefoot dreads the loss of her silver horns.” He thanked Fedelma. He put on the Shoes of Swiftness and went into the wood. Now he could go as the eagle flies. He found Whitefoot the Fawn drinking at the Raven’s pool. When she saw him she went from thicket to thicket. The Shoes of Swiftness were hardly any use to him in these shut-in places. At last he beat her from the last thicket. It was the hour of noon-tide then. There was a clear plain before them and with the Shoes of Swiftness he ran her down. There were tears in the Fawn’s eyes and he knew she was troubled with the dread of losing her silver horns. He kept his hands on the horns and they went back over miles of plain and pasture, bog and wood. The hours were going quicker than they were going. When ‘he came within the domain of the Enchanter of the Black Back-Lands he saw the goats going quickly before him. They were hurrying from their pastures to the goat-shelter, one stopping, maybe, to bite the top of a hedge and another giving this one a blow with her horns to hurry her on. “By your silver horns, we must go faster,” said the King of Ireland’s Son to the Fawn. They went more quickly then. He saw the Enchanter of the Black Back-Lands waiting at the goat-house, now counting the goats that came along and now looking at the sun. When he saw the King of Ireland’s Son coming with his capture he was so angry that he struck an old full-bearded goat that had stopped to rub itself. The goat reared up and struck him with his horns. “Well,” said the Enchanter of the Black Back-Lands, “you have performed your first task, I see. You are a greater enchanter than I thought you were. Whitefoot the Fawn can go in with my goats. Go back now to your own sleeping-place. To-morrow I’ll come to you early and give you your second task.” The King of Ireland’s Son went back and into the dry water-tank. He was tired with his day’s journey after Whitefoot the Fawn. It was his hope that Fedelma would come to him and give him shelter for that night


Faerie Lore : “Invocation” by Robin Williamson
August 21, 2009, 6:50 pm
Filed under: Faerie Lore, Robin Williamson
This is one of my beloved poems from the Scottish musician Robin Williamson, it belongs to the track of the same name issued on the double album “U” while being member of the Incredible String Band in 1970. The poem recited by Robin, was recorded with an ambient musical background that reflects indeed a sheer invocation to Faeirie dwellers.


You that create the diversity of the forms
open to my words
you that divide and multiply it
hear my sounds
I make yield league to you
ancient associates
and fellow wanderers
you that move the heart
in fur and scale
I join with you
you that sing bright and subtle
making shapes that my throat cannot tell
you that harden the horn
and make quick the eye
you that run the fast fox and the zigzag fly
you sizeless makers of the mole and of the whale
aid me and I will aid you

I make a blood pact with you
you that lift the blossom and the green branch
you who make symmetries more true
you who consider the angle of your limbs
who dance in slower time
who watch the patterns
you rough coated who eat water
who stretch deep and high
with your green blood
my red blood let it be mingled
aid me and I will aid you

I call upon you
you who are unconfined
who have no shape
who are not seen
but only in your action
I will call upon you
you who have no depth
but choose direction
who bring what is willed
that you blow love upon the summers of my loved ones
that you blow summers upon those loves of my love
aid me and I will aid you

I make a pact with you
you who are the liquidness of the waters
and the spark of the flame
I call upon you
you who make fertile the soft earth
and guard the growth of the growing things
I make peace with you

You who are the blueness of the blue sky
and the wrath of the storm
I take the cup of deepness with you
earthshakers
and with you the sharp and the hollow hills
I make reverence to you
round wakefulness we
call the earth
I make wide eyes to you
you who are awake
every created thing both solid and sleepy
or airy light
I weave colours round you
you who will come with me
I will consider it beauty

Robin Williamson © 1970. All rights reseved by the author



Galicia and Asturias: Celtic Nations with Celtic Heritage!
August 20, 2009, 7:04 pm
Filed under: Celtic Culture, Celtic Leagues in the '80s
Being a Galician descendant it’s very annoying for me to accept that the Celtic League and the Celtic Congress conceive the possession of a Celtic Language as ‘the principal’ element of our Celtic Nationality, subscribing to the present concept of “nation” used in this context to mean a group of people associated with a particular territory who share a common identity, language or culture, and is not synonymous with “country” or state“; in brief the most common criterion for Celticity, that of having a Celtic language.

Due to this resolution Galicia and Asturias aren’t among the six nations considered as the heartland of the modern Celts, even though their archeological, historical, and ethnic celtic past prove the contrary.

Ironically, it should be noted that within these areas, the majority speak English (in Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and The Isle of Man), Scots (In Scotland), or French (In Brittany). Brittany, Ireland, Scotland and Wales contain areas where a Celtic language is still used in a community (see Gaeltacht on Ireland, Gàidhealtachd, and compare also Breizh-Izel and areas by Welsh language known as Y Fro Gymraeg).Generally these communities are in the west of their respective countries, in upland or island areas, and a very low percent are speaking native languages:


(Gaeilge) Irish
Northern: 10.4%) Republic: 42%
(Cymraeg) Welsh
(Cymry) 20.8%
(Brezhoneg) Bretons
(Breizhiz) 3%
(Gaelg) Manx
(Manninagh) 2.2 %
(Gàidhlig) Scots
(Albannaich) 1.2%
(Kernewek) Cornish
(Kernowyon) 0.1%

I had always conceived language as a vehicle, the means for retelling lore from one generation to another.

One of the sheer methods for people’s identification, but is it language so important as to enable ourselves to detect a Celtic heritage?.

Hadn’t people such as Irish been obliged to study English to emigrate and be employed by English patrons?.

Didn’t Welsh people suffer the Welsh Not English penal laws even at school?.

I agree that English is adopted today as an international means of communication between bilingual cultures, in fact it is through English Language that I am now having contact with you and this doesn’t make worthless our celtic experiences. And if we play the role of purists, should we label those so called “Celtic Bands” less folk or less Celtic for their employment of lyrics in English .

I agree with the C.L. that we must encourage ourselves and restore our native celtic language (in the case of Galician language it comes out from celtic and non-celtic sources) But…I don’t believe that by writing and speaking and thinking in celtic language will lead us all to Celtia…

It shall do no good for us to speak Celt not knowing ourselves as thoroughly celts.

Galicians preserve a lot of Celtic words in the Galician Language such as: Adobiar (‘to mend’), Berro ( ‘scream’)-,Bico (‘kiss’), Callau (‘peble’), Camiño (‘road’) –Rego (‘track’) –Virar ( ‘turn back’), etc.
Even Pre-celtic words such as: Moroa (‘dark hair, hip ‘)- Bousa (‘moimd’) carballo (‘oak’) –pala (‘cave’) ,etc.

In fact our aims should go further, let us talk about it.

The tight polemic at the Celtic League 1987 A.G.M. recalls me the same one raised upon the definitions of ‘Nation’ stated by Giuseppe Mazzini, his concept of Nation associated to the ethnic and historic relations, which stand out a nation as people amongst others, as Mazzini wished.

But its also necessary for that people to crown their image with the knowledge of identity and the wish to play it’s role. We should stress here our objectives add ideals, subjective, creative, and voluntary elements.

As a comment to the above, the Celtic heritage of Galicia’ s history, and of her folklore, are plainly revealed, though they don’t make way to alter her present linguistic status into a celtic-speaking nation.

Since that…, what argument can we bring up to justify our unusual idealism?.

We dont neglect the weight of numbers, but once consummated, english, french, or romanic pressure, the results are parallel.

We cannot leave aside to wonder why Galician transculturalization (which continued till 11th Century AC with the help of britonic inmigration slightly expanded up to Galician northern coast), must be essentially considered so different from cornish, which extends till the end of XVIIIth Century.

Certainly it’s true that cornish remembrance still lasts, some engraved monuments still existent, in brief, the struggle anyhow continues, no one is dead while he fights, even though Cornish is oftenly considered a dead language. Yes, that ‘ s true; but it’s also true that we Galicians, withstand against cornish will and remembrance, with our own. Maybe we will be called crazy at first, but presently we’re many, all thinking that the Utopia is pregnant by the future.



Suggested Albums : Robin Williamson – "The Iron Stone" (2006)
August 19, 2009, 4:49 pm
Filed under: Robin Williamson, Suggested Albums
Robin Williamson: “The great adventure of life”. (Excerpt of the Review Published in “La Mano” Magazine, Argentina, in 2007). Interview in conjunction with the release of the album “The Iron Stone” (ECM, 2006) by Alfredo Rosso and Pipo Lernoud. Translated from the original post in Spanish featured at mundorosso.blogspot.com


Williamson faced an active career during the last decade. Besides participating in the brief reunion of the Incredible String Band original trio (2000-2002), Robin recorded a remarkable number of albums on his “Pig’s Whisker” label and also joined the ECM catalogue, a hallmark for jazz and experimental music, renowned for generating a special atmosphere in their recordings, which are always performed live in the studio with minimal instruments and overdubs, in order to express the artist in his most natural and naked way as possible.

“The Iron Stone” is the third album for ECM Records, as in his previous two, “The Seed-at-Zero” (2000) and “Skirting the River Road” (2002), the repertoire for this album is a combination of his own works along some musical scores for poems from poets of the great Anglo-Saxon literature. However, the extent of their sources, the wealth of sensations and areas that recreate the fifteen subjects, The Iron Stone is far from being another album on Williamson’s discography, but it shows a peak of artistic sensibility.

From his home in Wales, Williamson recounts some details of “The Iron Stone”:
“Regarding the three albums recorded for ECM, the working concept was based on the creation with different types of texts and songs. In this case I wanted to take lyrical poems and improvise music to accompany them. In some works, such as the ballad ‘Sir Patrick Spens’, which is supposedly based on actual facts, I replaced some words of the original song, but altered the whole music, in order to address it from another angle. The sounds flow without a formal melody, as in jazz. I liked this, instead of working a song with chords and melody, making the music go step by step. Even the songs themselves on this album were faced in a new way. Arguably The Iron Stone in the text is fixed but the music is free, whereas in the old days of the’60s tended to let the words flowing like water, letting them move freely. Now I try to do the same with music. “

In conjunction with that spirit of spontaneity, The Iron Stone was recorded entirely based on first takes, with the help of Mat Maneri on violin and Viola, the bassist Barre Phillips and Swedish Ale Möller in a variety of instruments including mandola, accordion, clarinet, Jewish harp and various types of flutes.
The Iron Stone begins with “The Climber,” an esoteric story about the last will of a climber, urging their three children to climb the clouds, nothing less. Two of them die in the attempt but the third gets the goal, using a rope made of light from the moon.

The metaphor of Williamson |is accurate for establishing the central motif of The Iron Stone: the eternal search for meaning for our earthly days and our compulsion to reach the heights in pursuit of that elusive dream. In turn, “Sir Patrick Spens” – a traditional story of sailors who stirred the ghost of predestination: Despite warnings, the king of Scotland insists on sailing in the middle of winter raging sea to complete the commitment of carrying the Norway’s king daughter back to her land. The gloomy atmosphere of the stanzas anticipate the predictable disaster: the ship sinks and along with it will also pique the real arrogance.

Clouds, waves, rocks, iron … Williamson is the spell that makes the steam and the blue salty sea become as real to the listener as for the characters of those stories. But the core of his stories is always the man, any man, all men…

The Iron Stone’s content is also varied. “Wyatt’s song of reproach” belongs to a sixteenth-century poet who was also a diplomat in the service of King Henry VIII. It is a poem that laments the inexorable passage of time and growth of children who will ultimately forge its own identity no longer dependent on their parents. Another poet that brings his work to this album is Sir Walter Raleigh, who many associate with that rather navigator and explorer of the court of Elizabeth I that introduced tobacco in England. “It would have to pay multiple accounts, right?” Says Williamson. “Some consider him a pirate, plain and simple. The poem that he recorded, ‘Even such is time’ (This is the time) wrote on the eve of his execution.”

And what of “Bacchus”, the Ode to the American wine composed of Ralph Waldo Emerson, who was able to sponsor another great poet, Walt Whiltman. “In my opinion,” said Robin, “a poem is not only about wine but about the spirit of life. I no longer drink, but I love this poem because it speaks of the wine and living the life ..”

But while The Iron Stone refers to minerals such as iron and stone, is a charming presence in their animal subjects, such as The Badger, from the English poet John Clare. Robin: “It is a very sad poem because is about a very cruel sport which, fortunately, is no longer practiced, the hunting of badgers. Threw a pack of chasing the badger and seeing how many are reveling kill dogs cornered the animal and then kill him without mercy. Bloody sport that has disappeared, but the poem comes, by extension, how life is slowly eroding into a human being. In the same way that the badger is tormented, often human beings mortify to each other…”

The other animal present in the disc is the mountain hare, with which say that you need to be very nice if you found it, because it brings bad luck to be rude to her. Seamus Heaney inspired me on ‘The praises of the mountain Hare’, a famous Irish poet who won the inspiration from an Anglo-Saxon poem. For my part, I also took the liberty of writing my own version of the story. ”

Williamson agrees with our view that the central theme of The Iron Stone is the human condition and the passage of time. “Life does not last forever,” says former Incredible String Band. But in addition to the selected poems, Robin brings a handful of ideas, among which are “To God in God’s absence” (God, in the absence of God) and “Political lies”, a topic was originally Robin composed for his album Ten of Songs, 1989. There is a Nuance existentialist in its stanzas, which include without bitterness but with a touch of irony, the passing of the years and the tripping of the Politicians that govern nowadays.

About the various outrageous political campaigns we asked him about his point of view of the Clash of civilizations and Cultures that put the world in check at this time. He said: “I think the world today requires to be optimistic, as if this would be an act of magic. Because if you look at the facts coldly, there is not much grip to be optimistic. But we must try to trust in the essential goodness of human nature, even when there is not much evidence to support this view. If one goes by the world realizes that humans are basically good, and when you find one, anyone can be your friend. It is only when they are together in large groups, committees and governments, when things start to go wrong. ”

In recent times there was a Folk Revival in the British Isles. What does Robin Williamson thinks of the legacy of his old group, The Incredible String Band and their influence on emerging artists?

“I love much of the music we did in those days. They were good times, no doubt, but I’m always looking ahead. Now I’m recording a new album with my wife Bina, who also plays and sings. We want to make a record about the spirit of life, with music and mystical magic, without dogmas. Will the coming months and will have songs from India and also the subjects of traditional Celtic and American Folklore. All subjects held, in different ways, the magic of being alive. We have already Recorded nine songs and we finished in the next weeks. Also in my future plans is a recording of spoken works and the publishing of a book. “

By way of farewell we confess our feeling that Williamson has concentrated more in the spiritual life of late, talking again, as in the days of the Incredible String Band, “to the music of laughter, the song that water sings.”

“That is very true,” he says with a thoughtful tone. “I have sixty-three years and put my life in the hands of the Great Creator. I didn´t create the universe, so-just-me support in the very spirit of life. I am very happy to be alive. I think that birth is an adventure. Being alive is an adventure. And anything coming in the future will also be an adventure.

— A Quote from Celtic Sprite: “The Iron Stone” is also the title of a song penned by Robin Williamson and featured in the double album “Wee Tam & The Big Huge”, hereby it’s first stanza, that in fact reflects the spirit of the above commented Iron Stone album.

A long wind a weaving mind
Over all the land the wild flowers grow,
Echoing kind to kind
On that day when I found the iron stone
Heavy in my hand in the sloping rain
Ever the seas rolled on and o’er my heart
They roofed their slates of grey
The iron stone I found it on that day



Faerie Lore: “The Swan Maidens”
August 14, 2009, 4:41 pm
Filed under: Celtic Culture, Faerie Lore, Robin Williamson
Commonly these enchanted maidens are the daughters of a royal magician. Legendary heroes are featured spying them bathing or dancing, and marvelled by their beauty, they steal their feather cloak.

A Swan is the most usual form of the maidens to assume but they’re often doves or partridges. In the main type of the Swan Maiden tale, the hero is set tasks by the Magician or rather Wizard’s father and helped by his future wife. He always follows the same patterns, with the obstacle flight, the destruction of the Wiz and the breach of Taboo qhich causes magical forgetfulness resolved by the motif of the bartered bed.

– Hereby a link to the well known legend is the one of “The King of Ireland’s Son and the Enchanted Daughter”.

A variant from the Swan Maiden type is the Seal Maiden, more simple with the stealing of the skin and the discovering of the lady’s hollow back.

A very nice storytelling regarding Swan Maidens has been recorded by Robin Williamson, on his Four Gruagach CD album, resembling the classical ways of retelling and structure with additions that make the whole stories more interesting and exciting including Celtic subjects and mythology.

This version of the story of “Prince Dougie”, recalls me of two folk motifs.

The legend of “Nicht Nough Nothing” appears in the motif :”There once lived a king and queen. They were long married, and had no bairns; but strangely, the queen had a bairn, when the king was away in far countries.” up to here some basic coincidences. The other is referred to “Green Sleeves”. The hero, son of Scot’s King, who finally arrives to tho river ‘Ugie’ to intercept the three daughters of Green Sleeves who would come to bathe as swans. We may think of certain character parallel between Dougie and Ugie.

The legends included on Robin’s CD are :

1. Fisherman’s Son & The Gruagach of Tricks

2. Blind Rafferty & The Jealous Hero

3. Rory Mor & The Gruagach Gaire

4. Prince Dougie & The Swan Maiden

To purchase a copy click here.



Faerie Lore: “The Swan Maidens motif” – (“The King of Ireland’s Son and the Enchanted Daughter”)
August 14, 2009, 4:16 pm
Filed under: Celtic Culture, Faerie Lore

Hi to all…enjoy this well known tale regarding the Swan Maidens Motif : “The King of Ireland’s Son and the Enchanted Daughter”. Posted from the book “The King of Ireland’s Son”by Padraic Colum[b. 1881 d. 1972.] with illustrations and decorations by Willy Pogány [b. 1882 d. 1955].New York, H. Holt and Company [1916] .

(Obtain this full work and many more backups by clicking here!)

They came, they flew down, and when they touched the ground they transformed themselves into three maidens and went to bathe in the lake. The one who carried the green scarf left her swanskin under a bush. The King’s Son took it and hid it in a hollow tree.

Two of the maidens soon came out of the water, put on their swanskins and flew away as swans. The younger maiden stayed for a while in the lake. Then she came out and began to search for her swanskin. She searched and searched, and at last the King’s Son heard her say, “I would do anything in the world for the creature who would find my swanskin for me.” Then he came from where he was hiding and gave her the swanskin. “I am the Son of the King of Ireland,” he said, “and I want you to show me the way to your father’s dominion.”

“I would prefer to do anything else for you,” said the maiden. “I do not want anything else,” said the King of Ireland’s Son.

“If I show you how to get there will you be content?”

“I shall be content.”

“You must never let my father know that I showed you the way. And he must not know when you come that you are the King of Ireland’s Son.”

“I will not tell him you showed me the way and I will not let him know who I am.”

Now that she had the swanskin she was able to transform herself. She whistled and a blue falcon came down and perched on a tree. “That falcon is my own bird,” said she. “Follow where it flies and you will come to my father’s house. And now good-by to you. You will be in danger, but I will try to help you. Fedelma is my name.” She rose up as a swan and flew away.


The blue falcon went flying from bush to bush and from rock to rock. The night came, but in the morning the blue falcon was seen again. The King’s Son followed, and at last he saw a house before him. He went in, and there, seated on a chair of gold was the man who seemed so tall when he threw down the cards upon the heap of stones. The Enchanter did not recognize the King’s Son without his hawk and his hound and the fine clothes he used to wear. He asked who he was and the King’s Son said he was a youth who had just finished an apprenticeship to a wizard. “And,” said he, “I have heard that you have three fair daughters, and I came to strive to gain one of them for a wife.”

“In that case,” said the Enchanter of the Black Back-Lands, “you will have to do three tasks for me. If you are able to do them I will give you one of my three daughters in marriage. If you fail to do any one of them you will lose your head. Are you willing to make the trial?”

“I am willing,” said the King of Ireland’s Son.

“Then I shall give you your first task to-morrow. It is unlucky that you came to-day. In this country we eat a meal only once a week, and we have had our meal this morning.”

“It is all the same to me,” said the King’s Son, “I can do without food or drink for a month without any hardship.”

“I suppose you can do without sleep too?” said the Enchanter of the Black Back-Lands.

“Easily,” said the King of Ireland’s Son.

“That is good. Come outside now, and I’ll show you your bed.” He took the King’s Son outside and showed him a dry narrow water-tank at the gable end of the house. “There is where you are to sleep” said the Enchanter. “Tuck yourself into it now and be ready for your first task at the rising of the sun.”

The King of Ireland’s Son went into the little tank. He was uncomfortable there you may be sure. But in the middle of the night Fedelma came and brought him into a fine room where he ate and then slept until the sun was about to rise in the morning. She called him and he went outside and laid himself down in the water-tank.

As soon as the sun rose the Enchanter of the Black Back-Lands came out of the house and stood beside the water-tank. “Come now,” said he, “and I will show you the first task you have to perform.” He took him to where a herd of goats was grazing. Away from the goats was a fawn with white feet and little bright horns. The fawn saw them, bounded into the air, and raced away to the wood as quickly as any arrow that a man ever shot from a bow.

“That is Whitefoot the Fawn,” said the Enchanter of the Black Back-Lands. “She grazes with my goats but none of my gillies can bring her into my goat-house. Here is your first task–run down Whitefoot the Fawn and bring her with my goats into the goat-shelter this evening.” When he said that the Enchanter of the Black Back-Lands went away laughing to himself.

“Good-by, my life,” said the King of Ireland’s Son, “I might as well try to catch an eagle on the wing as to run down the deer that has gone out of sight already.” He sat down on the ground and his despair was great. Then his name was called and he saw Fedelma coming towards him. She looked at him as though she were in dread, and said, “What task has my father set you?” He told her and then she smiled. “I was in dread it would be a more terrible task,” she said. “This one is easy. I can help you to catch Whitefoot the Fawn. But first eat what I have brought you.”

She put down bread and meat and wine, and they sat down and he ate and drank. “I thought he might set you this task,” she said, “and so I brought you something from my father’s store of enchanted things. Here are the Shoes of Swiftness. With these on your feet you can run down Whitefoot the Fawn. But you must catch her before she has gone very far away. Remember that she must be brought in when the goats are going into their shelter at sunset. You will have to walk back for all the time you must keep hold of her silver horns. Hasten now. Run her down with the Shoes of Swiftness and then lay hold of her horns. Above all things Whitefoot dreads the loss of her silver horns.”

He thanked Fedelma. He put on the Shoes of Swiftness and went into the wood. Now he could go as the eagle flies. He found Whitefoot the Fawn drinking at the Raven’s pool.

When she saw him she went from thicket to thicket. The Shoes of Swiftness were hardly any use to him in these shut-in places. At last he beat her from the last thicket. It was the hour of noon-tide then. There was a clear plain before them and with the Shoes of Swiftness he ran her down. There were tears in the Fawn’s eyes and he knew she was troubled with the dread of losing her silver horns.

He kept his hands on the horns and they went back over miles of plain and pasture, bog and wood. The hours were going quicker than they were going. When ‘he came within the domain of the Enchanter of the Black Back-Lands he saw the goats going quickly before him. They were hurrying from their pastures to the goat-shelter, one stopping, maybe, to bite the top of a hedge and another giving this one a blow with her horns to hurry her on. “By your silver horns, we must go faster,” said the King of Ireland’s Son to the Fawn. They went more quickly then.

He saw the Enchanter of the Black Back-Lands waiting at the goat-house, now counting the goats that came along and now looking at the sun. When he saw the King of Ireland’s Son coming with his capture he was so angry that he struck an old full-bearded goat that had stopped to rub itself. The goat reared up and struck him with his horns. “Well,” said the Enchanter of the Black Back-Lands, “you have performed your first task, I see. You are a greater enchanter than I thought you were. Whitefoot the Fawn can go in with my goats. Go back now to your own sleeping-place. To-morrow I’ll come to you early and give you your second task.”

The King of Ireland’s Son went back and into the dry water-tank. He was tired with his day’s journey after Whitefoot the Fawn. It was his hope that Fedelma would come to him and give him shelter for that night.