An Old Welsh Witch

Tonight I’ll be seeing Welsh witches in my dreams, or maybe a Celtic goddess.  Rhiannon is a Welsh Horse Goddess, her name means White Witch or Great Queen.  She is an inspiring figure invoked by Poets, Artists, and Singers.  She possesses deep magic and can manifest her dreams and desires for the good of all.  She is a good witch, a Healer.  Stevie Nicks read the name Rhiannon in a novel and she really liked it and thought, it was really a beautiful name.  Nicks read the book Triad by Mary Leader, which is about a woman who believes she is being possessed by the spirit of a woman named Rhiannon.

Is it possible that Nicks experienced some type of bibliomancy, a mystical practice dating back to the 1700s, which says that if a book is picked up and opened to a page at random, the first word or sentence one sees will reveal some kind of epiphany. Whatever the case, she wrote the melody at a piano and then she sat down, tap, tap, tap and about 10 minutes later, she had  written the song ‘Rhiannon’.  Nicks said that when she was finished writing this song, Lindsey Buckingham came in and she said, “We have to go to a park and record the sound of birds rising”, and he looked at her like she was crazy.  The song is about a very mystical woman that finds it hard to be tied down in any kind of way.  This legend of Rhiannon is about the song of the birds that take away pain and relieve suffering.  I am not sure if I will ever win, but I would love to love her.

Rhiannon is a horse goddess depicted in the Mabinogion, which is a collection of stories that were compiled in Middle Welsh during the 12th–13th centuries from earlier oral traditions.  Rhiannon was married to Pwyll, the Lord of Dyfed.  When Pwyll first saw her, she appeared as a golden goddess upon a magnificent white horse.  Rhiannon managed to outrun Pwyll for three days, and then allowed him to catch up, at which point she told him she’d be happy to marry him, because it would keep her from marrying Gwawl, who had tricked her into an engagement.  Thus Rhiannon the goddess of fertility and the moon, shuns a god and marries a mortal man instead.  Rhiannon and Pwyll conspired together to fool Gwawl in return, and thus Pwyll won her as his bride.  Rhiannon possessed a set of magical birds, who could soothe the living into a deep slumber, or wake the dead from their eternal sleep.  The birds appear in various Celtic symbols, standing for freedom and transcendence, having the power to soar up into the heavens, bringing messages of guidance and prophecy from the gods down to the earth, making them mediators between humans and the heavens.  Stevie Nicks uses this imagery in her song, “takes to the sky like a bird in flight”, “rules her life like a fine skylark”, and she is ultimately “taken by the wind”.

The song is always referred to as simply ‘Rhiannon’ on Fleetwood Mac albums, but the title ‘Rhiannon (Will You Ever Win)’ was used only on single versions in some countries.  Stevie Nicks wrote this song with some help from her boyfriend, Lindsey Buckingham.  At the time, they were recording as Buckingham-Nicks and they were about to release the track on their second album, but they joined Fleetwood Mac instead and recorded it with them.  Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks met as teenagers at a religious-group gathering after high school, and they became romantic and musical partners, eventually teaming up in the duo Buckingham Nicks.  In December 1974, Mick Fleetwood called up Buckingham to join the already-established Fleetwood Mac, as he was looking for a replacement for the band’s guitarist, Bob Welch.  The guitarist insisted that he and Nicks were a package deal, and both would join and appear on the band’s self-titled 1975 album, which resurrected the group, as this became their first international smash and U.S. Number One.  Fleetwood Mac are a British-American rock band, formed in London in 1967.  They have sold more than 100 million records worldwide, making them one of the world’s best-selling bands.  Fleetwood Mac worked on a follow-up, which would become Rumours, but Buckingham and Nicks’ relationship, as well as the marriage of bandmates Christine and John McVie, began to implode.  Nicks officially ended things, deciding to go her own way.

This song always seems to energize me, because of all of the passion that Stevie sings with and in a way the build-up in this song is reminiscent of ‘Free Bird’ by Lynyrd Skynyrd.  ‘Rhiannon’ was voted as one of the top 500 songs of all time.  Stevie Nicks jump starts this song with the image of a bell ringing at night.  Bells call people to gatherings, and Rhiannon does this as well, so how can one not fall in love with her.  I love to watch birds and who hasn’t thought about taking “to the sky like a bird in flight”. As Rhiannon is outrunning Pwyll on her magnificent white horse day after day, he continues to chase her. Finally he calls out, “Lady, in the name of the man you love best, stop.”  She stops her horse, turns around and says, “Gladly.  And it would have been much better for your horse had you asked much sooner.”  This part may have prompted the lines, “All your life you’ve never seen A woman taken by the wind”, because she was riding so fast, it was like she was taken by the wind.

Celtic mythology holds that a god or a goddess cannot marry a mortal being or else they would lose their superhuman powers.   Stevie Nicks ponders, “Would you stay if she promised you heaven? Will you ever win?”, as the guy may not end up with everything that he desires.  Nicks says about Rhiannon, “She is like a cat in the dark and then She is the darkness” making good use of a simile followed up by a metaphor.  Cats are mystical and they are associated with witches and a black cat in the dark can blend in so well that it becomes invisible and thus is part of the darkness.  Saying that Rhiannon “rules her life”, might relate that she is not going to stay in a relationship too long, so she will fly away like a skylark, leaving somebody heartbroken.  She is most strongly present when the sky is starless, that is when Rhiannon can be seen by others, because she also shines like a star.

The following lyrics were added in later versions of this song.  “Once in a million years a lady like her rises Oh no, Rhiannon, you cry, but she’s gone Your life knows no answer, your life knows no answer”.  I guess this means that if you miss the boat with Rhiannon, that you probably won’t get a second chance.  Will he ever win her love?  Dreams about what love can be, don’t always work out as planned, they can unwind, unravel, fall apart and you realize that love is just a state of mind, and in the end, you wonder if it ever really did exist.

Rhiannon rings like a bell through the night and
Wouldn’t you love to love her?
Takes to the sky like a bird in flight and
Who will be her lover?

All your life you’ve never seen
A woman taken by the wind
Would you stay if she promised you heaven?
Will you ever win?

She is like a cat in the dark and then
She is the darkness
She rules her life like a fine skylark and when
The sky is starless

Once in a million years a lady like her rises
Oh no, Rhiannon, you cry, but she’s gone
Your life knows no answer, your life knows no answer

All your life you’ve never seen
A woman taken by the wind
Would you stay if she promised you heaven?
Will you ever win?
Will you ever win?

Rhiannon
Rhiannon
Rhiannon
Rhiannon

She rings like a bell through the night and
Wouldn’t you love to love her?
She rules her life like a bird in flight and
Who will be her lover?

All your life you’ve never seen
A woman taken by the wind
Would you stay if she promised you heaven?
Will you ever win?
Will you ever win?

Rhiannon
Rhiannon
Rhiannon

Taken by
Taken by the sky

Taken by
Taken by the sky

Taken by
Taken by the sky

Dreams unwind
Love’s a state of mind

Dreams unwind
Love’s a state of mind

Dreams unwind
Love’s a state of mind

14 thoughts on “An Old Welsh Witch

  1. This is one of my favorite Fleetwood Mac songs, and I feel kind of stupid admitting this, but I never really thought about the actual lyrics and what they meant. I’m glad you shared this, Jim. It adds a whole new dimensionto the song for me.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I have only learned about the songs history ( particularly Rhiannon’s history)
    until watching American Horror Story where Stevie Nicks is in a few episodes of the Witches Coven series ( and wow is she still forever gorgeous ) I was born in 78’ but my mom listened to Fleetwood Mac and then I became obsessed with Stevie Nicks uniquely beautiful voice and inspired by the actual words of her songs.
    Landslide probably my favorite, & of course Gypsy, Edge of Seventeen, & White Winged Dove- CLASSICS 💕⭐️🌙
    I believe Stevie herself is a White Witch & I mean that with absolutely no disrespect it’s just a feeling I get from the words of her songs & how they move burn in my heart & move my soul❤️
    Carisa Maria🌸

    Liked by 1 person

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