Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Moon Comes Gliding: It's all about the Trobairitz

It's been too long. I have been burning midnight, early morning and midday candles on a variety of writings-much on research for my next book-a fresh look at Parzival no less, and the preperation for this weekends two and a half day telling of it. Think of me around sunday lunchtime, that can be when i start to wobble.Still the spirit-birds of the feathery 12th C keep me upright if i leave enough words for them to feast on.

The research has brought me back to the amazing Trobairitz, heroines of mine. Plucky, fiesty, almost unimaginable in the era. I suggest you get a copy of Meg Bogin's book (below), all about this tiny (scattered) group of female troubadours. Written in 1980, and with the full flush of 70's feminism in her sails it is an interesting read. Concise. Also reading George Steiner's 'After Babel' which so far is good,unruly thinking.So i am throwing in some of my notes on the two areas-they are just personal so lacking much flair-but may lead to further reading.

Hey-please join us over at:


it's like a mythic facebook. The School of Myth has its own group and its a chance to exchange ideas, arguements and any thoughts on how to create a small moonshine whisky distillery.That last bit is quite serious.

There is also a 4 page interview with myself in Kindred Spirit magazine(google will get you to them)this month.

So notes below-see you next week with some more on metaphor.
M x


George Steiner makes an explicit link between language and the erotic;

Eros and language mesh at every point…are there affinities between
pathological erotic compulsions and the search, obsessive in certain poets
and logicians, for a ‘private language’, for a linguistic system unique to the needs and perceptions of the user? (Steiner, G (After Babel, Oxford University press),1975,p38-40)

In the context of my own writing,i'm not seeking a specifically ‘private language’, otherwise its very contribution would be rendered void by its unintelligibility to all but the author (although folks tell me this on occasion). However, I would suggest that with the use of metaphor,the prose certainly seeks to encourage the imagination, and where can the erotic begin except with imagination?

Steiner goes onto suggest; “womens speech is richer than men’s in those shadings of desire and futurity known in Greek and Sanskrit as optiative; women seem to verbalise a wider range of qualified resolve and masked promise” (ibid,p41)

When writing 'Lightning Tree' one passion was (and is) the poetry of the twelfth century poets of southern France, the Troubadours. Whilst predominantly male, a small group, around twenty, were female, often referred to as the ‘Trobairitz’. The writer Meg Bogin, in her book, The Women Troubadours, claims that far from Steiner’s, “shadings of desire”, the women troubadours were far more direct and less disposed to symbology than that of their male counterparts.

She adds; “the language is direct, unambigious and personal…unlike the men who created a complex poetic vision, the women wrote about their own intimate feelings” (Bogin, M, The Women Troubadours, W.W. Norton, 1980, p67-68)

When shall I have you in my power?
If only I could lie beside you for an hour
And embrace you lovingly-
Know this, that I’d give almost anything
To have you in my husband’s place,
but only under the condition
That you swear to do my bidding

The Countess of Dia, (Ibid, p89)

The Countess of Dia sounds pretty clear. It is worth noting that all of the Trobairitz, came from aristocratic backgrounds, and would have experienced ad infinitum the intricacies of their male counterparts verse, often having being the very object of their affections (within the restrictions of verse and courtly love at least). I would speculate that the women, enjoying a far more respected role (within the confines of court at least-if not the wider era), would have have felt freer to explore a more literal,gritty approach when surrounded by men constructing verse laden with mysticism and double-meaning, (when not weeping, kissing feet and offering Shiatsu and Jasmine tea- ok,i made the last bit up)

This again illustrates the oldish Jungian belief that that we contain both masculine and feminine elements within, in fact to approach myth in the way this writer suggests, this association is vital.(and Wolfish elements, wild storm elements and Kingfisher elements)

So it may be that Steiner would regard the “shadings of desire” hopefully imbued in the metaphor of any decent writing as the feminine aspect of the author communicating itself. Steiner continues his associations of the feminine with loquacity; “The alleged outpourings of a women’s speech, the rank flow of words,
may be a symbolic restatement of men’s apprehensive, often ignorant awareness of the menstrual cycle.” (Steiner, G. 1975, p42)

To think mythically around Steiner’s idea,we would now associate verbosity (rather, I suggest, eloquence), with the passage of the Moon.

The medieval phrase, ‘to drink down the moon’ suddenly becomes the chant of all storytellers in this light. However, as i wrote in the aformentioned book;

The word “moon” actually derives from the German der mond, connected to the word “Man”. We find male moon deities frequently, Tecciztecatl of the Aztecs, Mani of the Germanic tribes, Thoth of the Egyptians, Tskuyumi of the Japanese and Rahko of the Finns are just a small selection. (Author, ibid, p200)

However, when you get to 'La Luna' it takes off in another direction again...

It could be said that to know the moon is to be connected to thievery. Even his glow is stolen sunlight, reduced 500,000 times. Not content with stealing sunlight, the moon also has a penchant for pilfering colour. The gold of a cornfield or the crimson of a rose are quietly replaced by greys and blues, when moonlight's fingers fall on them. A lover of letters, he steals into books read at dusk-as we read in the gloom, words become indistinct as he scoops them up and carries them off. Night is the time of break-ins, affairs, slow time-ruptures to the agitated clock of light. At the same time however, we know that Moon replaces everything the next day, just as we left it-so he appears a cheeky thief rather than a savage robber. The Moon is also a friend to lovers, his inky sky covers them as a blanket, but his light offers a tiny trail to the sweethearts door. So to draw down the Moon brings a certain wiliness, a kind of cunning. (Author, ibid, p233)

Whatever cultural associations we have with the Moon, or which gender we regard as the most subtle in verbal nuance, the mythological certainly places metaphor as its key tool. In some respect we are returning to connotation not denotation. Metaphor contains generosity towards the reader’s imagination. It is a set of open doors impacted within the text, It is an offering from the storyteller to the reader.

No comments: