30 October 2011

Dante In Russia

A photo I took near the base of Mt. Elbrus last autumn
Breathe life into this feeble heart
Lift this mortal veil of fear
Take these crumbled hopes, etched with tears
We'll rise above these earthly cares

Cast your eyes on the ocean
Cast your soul to the sea
When the dark night seems endless
Please remember me

~Loreena McKennitt, “Dante’s Prayer”

As promised, here’s a song that, for me, really gets to the heart of what Samhain is all about: the thinning of the veil between the Here and the Other. This time of year I can feel the ancestors reaching from the other side, pushing the boundaries, straining to communicate with their descendants and pass on the knowledge and wisdom of the centuries.

McKennitt describes briefly the events as she was writing the song in the video below (traveling through Russia, reading Dante’s Inferno). Having done both activities, although not simultaneously, I can see elements within the song of its larger context. However, the way the song makes me feel—her haunting vocals, the melancholy strings—whispers Samhain to me all the way. Certain lines especially (“When the dark night seems endless, please remember me”) evoke words the ancestors call out from the Other, asking to be remembered and revered as they watch over their progeny. That’s just one of many fabulous things about poetry; it’s all subject to interpretation.

Without further ado, Lorenna McKennit, performing “Dante’s Prayer” live:

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