UDC 820.111


Dzhaparova Edie Karimovna
Crimean Engineering and Pedagogical University
PhD in Philology

The myth characters which form R.Graves’s “lyrical pantheon” are analyzed in the article. The author of the article proposes and their systematization. The degree of their similarity and difference is revealed on the basis of female characters. The result of the investigation shows that Robert Graves, using the myth characters from the Celtic pantheon gives his own original female myth characters interpretation.

Keywords: Celtic pantheon, female Godhead, Goddess, leitmotives, myth character

Category: 10.00.00 Philology

Article reference:
Female myth characters in Robert Graves’s creative activity // Modern scientific researches and innovations. 2014. № 12. P. 3 [Electronic journal]. URL: https://web.snauka.ru/en/issues/2014/12/40833

View this article in Russian

One of the characteristic features of the 20th century is the emergence a number of studies involving complex issues related to important contemporary literary problems. The works of the famous English poet, researcher of Celtic mythology Robert Graves were especially popular in this period.

Many foreign scholars have studied and continue to explore the creativity of Robert Graves.  They are: J. Birlayn, D. Dey, R. Richman, M. Seymour, M. Smith, J. Smedz, J. Steiner and others. The investigations of Russian scientists such as J.L. Borges, A.A. Tahoe – Godi, T.M. Fadeyeva are devoted to the philosophical views of Robert Graves and mark the one-sidedness in his works. In Ukrainian literary brief information about the creative activity of R. Graves can be found in the writings of A.S.Kozlov and T. Shadrina.

 Robert Graves is the researcher who tried to use the new method to solve several fundamental problems of poetry, as well as proposed the original approach to the analysis of poetic works. The purpose of this study is to give brief describtion of female deities and detect the range of Goddesses, most strongly associated with mythological motives in poetry and to order the symbols and other verbal and figurative leitmotivs  which accompany and form women’s “lyrical pantheon” of R. Graves.

Achieving this goal involves cataloging female deities from the Robert Graves’ closest Celtic mythological tradition, as well as the determination of the degree and nature of the conformity and the discrepancy of the female Celtic pantheon with priority female figure in R. Graves’ mythopoetics.

The main female myths’ character in R. Graves’ critical writings is the White Goddess (she is the Great or Triple Goddess of the Moon). Therefore, it is advisable to start the analysis of Graves’ lyric heroines with the cataloging female deities known to the poet.

Pantheon Celtic goddesses or magic patronesses of individual classes and individual localities, as well as “miraculous” women from Celtic legends represented by the following deities:

1. Aobh – the adopted daughter of the second most important Supreme Irish god Bodb Dearg, the wife of the god of the sea Lear.

2. Aoife – The second wife of the god Lear; for witchcraft against Lira’s children from his first marriage she was turned into a raven by her father – a bird of fate and death.

3. Aefron – Welsh goddess of war; patroness of the valley of the River Dee Scottish.

4. Banba – the wife of the Irish god Mack Kuila, one of a triad of goddesses of fate, the patroness of the island Ériu (Ireland).

5. Blatnad – the daughter of the Irish god Midhira and wife of Irish sorcerer-king Ku Roy.

6. Bloduedd (Bloduved, Blodeuvedd) – Welsh goddess of flowers. For the betrayal of her husband, “Sunny” Llew was transformed into the darkness bird – the owl.

7. Boann (Boyne) – wife of the first value Supreme Irish god Dagda; goddess of waters; patroness of the Valley of Irish river Boyne.

8. Branwen (Branveyn) – Welsh goddess, wife of the Irish god of Newerth Matolfa. Died from grief after the death of his brother and husband.

9. Brigitta (Brigitte, Brigid) – Irish goddess of heights and elevations; patroness of learning, crafts and poetry, as well as the sacred fire and hearth.

10. Domnu – Irish goddess of darkness and the dark forces.

11. Grainne – the daughter of the Irish High King Cormac Mac Airth; the wife of Diarmid, a son of the Supreme Goddess of Dawn (Danu).

12. Ianuariya (Yannuria) – Gallic (Burgundy) goddess of music, the patroness of healing and healing areas of Beir la Chatel.

13. Karridven (Karridveyn, Karridven) – Welsh goddess of fertility, wisdom and inspiration; owner of the “all-seeing kettle”Her symbol is a pig.

14. Cloud (Clyde) – Irish goddess, patroness of valley of the Scottish river Clyde (originally – the land of Irish immigrants to Scotland, the Scots).

15. Kroyddilad – the daughter of a Welsh god Lud, alternately wife of twin brothers, that embody the light and darkness, Guinea and Gvitira.

16. Morrigen (Morgen) – mother goddess; female druid; patroness of fertility and healing.

17. Nantosvelta – wife Gallic god of wine Sukkelosa; patroness of home and hearth. Also the goddess of death.

18. Nementona – Romano-Celtic (Brittany) goddess and patron of sacred groves.

19. Rhiannon – Welsh goddess of the dawn, and / or the moon; wife of the Welsh god of the underworld Newerth Pwyll.

20. Rosmerta – Gallic and British goddess of material prosperity and well-being.

21. Sadbh (Saar, Sabiya) Doe face (one who has a doe’s look) – the embodiment of fallow deer in the female human form (or on the contrary – a woman in the guise of a doe).

22. Sekvena – the goddess of Gallic origins of Seine river. Her symbol – wild duck.

23. Sionan (Sinayn (en) – Irish goddess, patroness of valley Shannon river, granddaughter of the Irish sea god Lear.

24. Sirona – Gali goddess (literally.) “Star”; goddess of healing, renewal, fertility.

25. Sulis – goddess and patroness of healing Breton source Sulis (modern. Eng. The Bath city).

26. Fand – the wife of the Irish god of Newerth and sea Manannan Mac Lira (ie son Lira); beloved “divine smith” Cuchulain.

27. Fotla – Irish goddess of fate; incarnation and one of the names (perhaps tribal eponyms) Ireland.

27. Fotla – Irish goddess of fate; incarnation and one of the names (perhaps tribal eponyms) of Ireland.

28. Epona – one of the supreme deities of Gaul; goddess and patroness of horses and fertility, abundance, fertility.

29. Ériu – one of the 3 Irish rival goddesses of fate; gave his name to the country of Ireland (Erin).

The analysis gives grounds to assert that historically and scientifically documented goddess of the Moon (Rhiannon) doesn’t take the main place in Celtic pantheon (as she was supposed following the concept of  R. Graves) but only part of the group of astral female deities. However, the main Celtic Mother Goddess (Danu or Don) does not belong to the group of astral deities.

The largest group is represented by the “goddess”, who tied to a particular location and their natural objects. These are the goddess and patroness of the sacred groves and rites, rivers, river valleys and sacred springs (Aefron, Boyne, Sulis), the goddess of entire land (Ériu et al.).

The  large group of goddesses includes the patroness of matriarchal studies or crafts: divination, “poetry” (Brigitta), treatment (Ianuariya, Morgen, Sulis etc.), pottery and clay utensils (Nantosvelta), maintain a fireside and, consequently, household (Brigita, Nantosvelta, Rosmerta, etc.). No less traditional and a group of goddesses who embody (and thereby control) the productive forces of nature.

Two groups of goddesses definitely associated with death. One group personify death as a social (often military) violence. The second group represents death as a natural phenomenon, like the extinction of cosmic forces.

However, the given mythological directory corresponds with the R. Graves’ myth of the Great Goddess only partially. Among the matches are:

- Combined motif of life-death;

- Communication female motif with the motif of seniority (mentoring, maternity);

- Cosmic of female myths’ characters (most, but not all of them);

- Their eroticism (i.e. female fertility and / or female aggression).

Thus, the “Women’s mythology” in a critical exposition of R. Graves is  “older” and “younger”  real and are the historical women’s myths of the ancient Celtic nations.

Similar methods of creating of myths’ female characters can be seen in the poem “Cat-Goddesses”. Here the main character becomes myths’ female character   from eastern (Egyptian) mythology:

A perverse habit of cat-goddesses

-Even the blackest of them, black as coals

Save for a new moon blazing on each breast,

With coral tongues and beryl eyes like lamps,

Long-legged, pacing three by three in nines

- This obstinate habit is to yield themselves… [5, с. 171]

Such a lyrical myths’ female character occurs in the poem “Rhea”, in the title of which the author uses antique mifonim:

On her shut lids the lightning flickers;

Thunder explodes above her bed,

An inch from her lax arm the rain hisses; [5, с. 171]

Illustrative in this aspect are also a poems “Side of the Moon” and “Song: The far side of your moon”. In both poems the author reveals myths’motive of dual nature of women, magic and love. In the first poem, “Side of the Moon”:

Never forget who brings the rain

In swarthy goatskin bags from a far sea:

It is the Moon as she turns, repairing

Damages of long drought and sunstroke… [5, с. 189]

In the second poem «Song: The Far Side of Your Moon»:

The far side of your moon is black,

And glorious grows the vine;

Ask anything of me you lack,

But only what is mine…  [5, с. 189]

Thus, Graves again and again emphasizes the ambivalence of his lyrical female character. So he creates such a female image that would combine the mythological tradition, that has an opportunity for different interpretations and the reflection of R. Graves’ own psychological states. As the example we can address to R. Grave’s poem”In Her Praise” where lyrical character develops from these two components:

This they know well: the Goddess yet abides.

Though each new lovely woman whom she rides,

Straddling her neck a year or two or three,

Should sink beneath such weight of majesty

And, groping back to humankind, gainsay

The headlong power that whitened all her way …

 [5, с. 196]

Thus, on the basis of the analysis, can be done the following conclusions:

1. Myths’ female characters in the R. Graves’ lyrics coincide with the female pantheon of mythologies investigated by Graves only partly.

2. R. Graves cuts and reduces some groups of goddesses or “magic” women, and brings to the forefront other groups, not so important in the real historical, scientific and evidenced myths and legends.

2. Lyrical characteristic of R. Graves’ heroines, dating back to the mythological prototypes, also has some similarities, and even more essential features differ from these prototypes.

3. The author explicates and significantly enhances the aesthetic and psychological characteristics of female characters, which for myth are not typical at all, or are optional, or presented in a rudimentary form.

4. This author’s strategy of the in the lyrical heroines’ characterization suggests a specific strategy in the relationship between the author and reader.

5. The reader of R. Graves, if he received a classical education, could be aware of the main (but not peripheral) ancient female deities, “miraculous” heroines and their mythical attributes and plot twists and turns. The rest of the readers should be sent by the author to his comparative-historical books on mythology, or are forced to take mythopoetical world of Graves as a lyricist more “poetic” than “mythological”.

6. Graves as a lyricist managed to reconstruct significant features of the ancient mythological thinking and mythological perception. Among them may be mentioned the specific atmosphere of the “holy terror”, the unity of delight and attraction, underlined “objectivity” when describing subjective feelings and moods; absolute magic ritual superiority matriarchal women, which were unable to cancel even the next (patriarchal) social norms.

  1. Грейвс Р. Белая Богиня: Историческая грамматика поэтической    мифологии/ Пер. с англ. Л.И.Володарской. – Екатеринбург: У –Фактория,  2005. –656с.
  2. Грейвс Р. Белая Богиня: Избранные главы / Предисл. Х. Л. Борхеса; Пер. с англ. И. Егорова. – СПб.: Амфора, 2000. – 382 с.
  3. Грейвс Р.Собрание сочинений: В 5 т. Т. 3 / Пер. с англ. Т. Печурко; коммент. А. Николаевской. – М.: ТЕРРА–  Книжный клуб, 1998. – 384с.
  4. Грейвс Р.Мифы Древней Греции  / Под ред. и с послесл. А.А. Тахо-Годи. – М. Прогресс. 1992. – 624 с.
  5. Graves R. Poems Selected by Himself / Robert Graves. – Edinburgh., Penguim Books., 1966. - 222p.

Artice view count: Please wait

All articles of author «Эдие Каримовна Джапарова»

© If you have found a violation of copyrights please notify us immediately by e-mail or feedback form.

Contact author (comments/reviews)

Write comment

You must authorise to write a comment.

Если Вы еще не зарегистрированы на сайте, то Вам необходимо зарегистрироваться:
  • Register