The Crossroads of Time


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

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18 Responses to The Crossroads of Time

  1. Don says:

    Those lyrics are sheer beauty. Marvellous post – thank you.


  2. great post monika, the song is hauntingly beautiful, i love this type of music

    some of the Appalachian folk music originates from celtic roots
    check out this link for the film Songcatcher
    it features this musical genre beautifully


  3. The Selkie is the subject of one of my favorite films ever, “The Secret of Roan Inish.” If you haven’t seen it I would recommend it- this is a scene from it revealing the Selkie:


  4. The sweet feeling of (not too heavy) melacholia, always a source for creativity. As you prove.
    Nice image of beautiful girls coming out of the sea and dropping their sealskins. I will watch carefully next time at the beach here :), (or are the only emerging from misty Irish seas?)


    • Yep, melancholia is what I am feeling today.
      Selkies are much more than hot beach girls, though. I think they are symbolically related to my post on crumbling ruins and underwater palaces. They are creatures caught in between two worlds: the creative sea matrix and our physical realm. This is why they are so fascinating to me.


  5. What a powerful female voice and message. Like the powerful female presence in The Fountain.
    I have always had a particular tolerance for ending on mystery, ambiguity or wonder, or sadness. The Enneagram world understands this… so does the art world. The open-ended longing in Celtic music seems like it is in contrast to Celtic design, which all seem like complex variations of a circle– completeness. Or perhaps Celtic music and art are closer than I think…


  6. Pingback: The Crossroads of Time | the echo of the whole sea

  7. beautiful, thank you, had to share (hope you don’t mind!) — have a lovely weekend, E


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