The Selkie, via here
The song featured below captured my mood today with the dark skies and decisively non-Spring weather. Loreena McKennitt’s voice just wraps around me and carries me far away. She was born in Canada but her music is a magnificent expression of the Celtic lore. The old ways she sings about in that particular song are very important for the Irish, who are a proud folk deeply rooted in their traditions. The song reminds me of Ondine, a magically atmospheric film by Neil Jordan, about an Irish man who one day finds a girl caught in his net. His daughter believes her to be a selkie, a creature which lives as a seal in the sea but sheds its skin to go onto the land and live among humans. Yet she cannot stay long on land because the sea will always call her back. The film ends happily but the song I am featuring today contains the idea of loss and longing that cannot be fulfilled, which is more in tune with the nostalgic Irish mythology. It is not only the loss of love that she seems to sing about but also the loss of the old ways, the ancient culture when people lived and breathed in a sacred mythical space. The sound of the thundering waves and the pounding ocean seems to call back the old ways when they were interpreted as words of the gods. Being obsessed with Loreena McKennitt, I read her biography and found out that this particular song was actually written before the tragic accident at sea that claimed the life of her fiancée. Still, she must be thinking of him when performing that song.
Loreena McKennitt, The Old Ways
The thundering waves are calling me home unto you
The pounding sea is calling me home unto you
On a dark new year’s night
On the west coast of Clare
I heard your voice singing
Your eyes danced the song
Your hands played the tune
T’was a vision before me.
We left the music behind as the dance carried on
As we stole away to the seashore
And smelt the brine, felt the wind in our hair
In sadness you paused.
Suddenly I knew that you’d have to go
Your world was not mine, your eyes told me so
Yet it was there I felt the crossroads of time
And I wondered why.
As we cast our gaze on the tumbling sea
A vision came o’er me
Of thundering hooves and beating wings
In clouds above.
As you turned to go I heard you call my name,
You were like a bird in a cage spreading its wings to fly
“The old ways are lost,” you sang as you flew
And I wondered why.
A scene from Ondine, Colin Farrell finds a girl in his net