Loving Your Fiend
Last weekend I had the pleasure of seeing Steeleye Span live in Chicago. I don’t go to many live musical events but this I couldn’t pass up. A trip into my past with my dear friend, Jean (heartfelt thanks), with whom I worked at the Ren Faire singing Steeleye Span songs circa 1980. Steeleye Span did not disappoint.
Their music was phenomenal, still, and Maddy Prior’s voice was richer with her maturity. If you are not familiar with Steeleye Span, they play old English and Irish folk songs done in a modern way. Some of the songs are cheerful but many are dark and deep. Like the old fairy tales. The venue was packed with passionate fans.
In a song intro, one of those dark ones, Maddy Prior referenced Jung. Wow! Who does that? But I think this is a major part of why I was so drawn to them as a teen, and why they are so powerful today. The songs and stories are intensely evocative, rich, sometimes dark and transformational. Magical… I’ve always been drawn to the magical side, dark and light. Even as a teen, those dreamy, powerful days, between childhood and adulthood, I was a somewhat odd child and young woman (you can see it, I think, in the photo above.) Before life’s bumps sadly taught me to shut-off some of those magical avenues.
Later they played King Henry. Listen to the song with lyrics here. (I like this version because the lyrics are posted.) A song about a fiendish beast-witch from hell who appears in King Henry’s hall with ghastly demands. King Henry chivalrously obliges each horrific, bloody request, even taking her to his bed and finally marrying her. In the morning she is revealed as a beautiful lady. His chivalry, love, and willingness transforms her. Despite its dark side, the song IS humerous!
I am drawn to this song for its expressiveness and musicality (ripping, rough, fiendish guitar with Maddy’s haunting back-ups.) but also for its magical transformational theme. It’s about accepting and even loving our own deepest fiendish self. The fiend representing the beastly part of Henry is separated out, when he welcomes her in there is wholeness, unity (marriage) and beauty.
In part the power of faerie and folktales, and these songs, is that you don’t even need to intellectually understand the transformational symbolism. The stories just resonate and do their magic.
By the way, if you love this sort of thing you will love Myth and Moor. The website of Terri Windling. She writes of folk and faerie tales and life. On Mondays she features music.
And what else? Jean and I got to DANCE WITH MADDY PRIOR!