The Witch of the Westmereland
1. noun: a seller of ballads, esp on broadsheets.
2. Noun: a writer of mediocre poetry.
Back in the early 1980's I lived in an old farmhouse I rented from Jack Mattison, who owned a dairy farm I worked at for a spell after high school. I raised goats and chickens and logged the woods for a living. One morning while milking the goats I heard this song on a folk radio program, WCAS I believe, and I was, pardon the reference, enchanted by the song.
It really is a beautiful modern ballad written by the great Archie Fisher that tells a story of an ancient time.
History & Synopsis
Cedric's Pagan Thoughts
A few years ago, I [Cedric] wrote music reviews for The Rising Wind magazine. This is one that I wrote at the time, though it turned more into an analysis of the lyrics than an actual music review, so it was never published. Still, I think it's interesting, so I'm going to share it with you now.
Many casual listeners assume that this ballad of a wounded knight seeking redemption and healing is an actual medieval piece, but it was written in the twentieth century by Archie Fisher. However, just like the great Arthurian tales, "Witch of the Westmereland" is written on two levels; a spiritual metaphor lies within a fantastic adventure.
At the song's outset, we meet our hero, a knight who is wounded and battle-weary; he could be a veteran of virtually any war in any era, and his war need not have been literal. Visitations from animal guides including ravens (sacred to Odin) and a hare (sacred to Eostre) inform him that his wounds cannot be healed by any normal means. His are spiritual wounds which will require supernatural healing. Both creatures direct him to seek out the "maid who dwells by the winding mere." An owl (sacred to Athena and a symbol of wisdom) further instructs the knight in the method of finding the witch he seeks: He must cast goldenrod into the witch's lake.