our greatest blessings come to us by way of madness Phaedr. 244a

2013/10/12

"All true poetry-- true by Housman's practical test-- celebrates some incident or scene in this very ancient history... "

I think Robert Graves is right. Only the masks change. He's also right that they come up in dreams and in vision quests and active imagination.
"....The fact is that though the Anglo-Saxons broke the power of the ancient British chieftains and poets they did not exterminate the peasants, so that the continuity of the ancient British festal system remained unaffected even when the Anglo-Saxons professed Christianity. [...]
"... The Theme, briefly, is an antique story, which falls into thirteen chapters and an epilogue, of the birth, life, death and resurrection of the God of the Waxing Year; the central chapters concern God's losing battle with the God of the Waning Year for love of the capricious and all-powerful Threefold Goddess, their mother, bride, and layer-out. The poet identifies himself with the God of the Waxing Year and his Muse with the Goddess; the rival is his blood-brother, his other self, his weird.
"All true poetry-- true by Housman's practical test-- celebrates some incident or scene in this very ancient history, and the three main characters are so much a part of our racial inheritance that they not only assert themselves in poetry but recur on occasions of emotional stress in the form of dreams, paranoiac visions and delusions.
"The weird, or rival, often appears in nightmare as the tall, lean, dark-faced spectre, or Prince of the Air, who tries to drag the dreamer out through the window, so that he looks back and sees his body still lying rigid in bed; but he takes countless malevolent or diabolic or serpent-like forms.
"The Goddess is a lovely, slender woman with a hooked nose, deathly pale face, lips red as rowan-berries, startlingly blue eyes and long hair... Her names are innumerable...."
~Robert Graves, The White Goddess