Sunday, October 29, 2006

Word Of the Day: Mabinogion

I was able to extricate myself from the house for a few hours of solitude on Sunday, and headed first to one of the two used bookstores in town. If you're into paperback mysteries or romances, this would be the place for you, but since I'm not a fan of either, I found myself, after spending fifteen minutes in the children's section (because as soon as I'm away from the kids, the first thing I tend to do is shop for them), looking through the non-fiction historical section. I picked up an old book, something to do with Celtic history or lore and felt something rumble deep, deep within a forgotten passageway of my brain: "Oh right....yeah...that's like the...what's it called? what's that word? I used to know that word, that big word, that book...Rhiannon....Stevie Nicks....M...M-something....?"

After I left and was driving to my next retail destination, I remembered the word, and it flashed across my brain it its original, Welsh spelling with all those extra "y"s, which would read something like, "Mabynogwyian," because that's just how my brain likes to file things: the more arcane and hard to spell, the better. I used to know this word well, and was proud of knowing it. I remember once, perhaps in a college class, or in a crowd of other English majors, rolling it off my tongue and making reference to it in context with some other old book and giving myself a little pat on the back for my ability to flash my academic wit on cue.

But the truth is, I didn't come to know this word through any academic research, discovered while hunkered down late one night in a library study carrel, poring over forgotten texts from the basement. Instead, all the credit for knowing about the Mabinogion has to go to the White Witch herself -- Stevie Nicks. A long, long time ago, back when the world was full of unicorns and rainbows and crystals and white lace, there was me, in a bedroom, alone with my copy of Stevie's Belladonna album. I could probably write another post detailing my love for Stevie, and how I admired her billowing gowns and her rings and just her whole darn tambourine-shakin', girl singer-songwriter gig. For a while there, before I caved in to the pressure to be dark and ironic, and way before I got seriously down and gritty with my rock and roll, Stevie was my It Girl, and I devoured every bit of information about her that I could get my hands on.
Ah, Stevie. For a while, it was just you and me, girl.

So anyway. With my desire to inhale every bit of Stevie lore and trivia, I'm sure this is how I first learned of the Mabinogion. Maybe it was in some old copy of Rolling Stone from the 70s. Maybe it was in one of her late-night radio interviews with Jim Ladd on KMET (Whoo-Ya!), that I recorded by holding my tape recorder up next to the radio. Somehow, I learned that her Fleetwood Mac song "Rhiannon" was based on a character from Welsh mythology. I'm about 98% sure that Stevie didn't reference the word "Mabinogion" herself, but that little tidbit about the Welsh myth would have been enough to send my nerdy, obsessed little self scurrying to the library or bookstore to look it up and learn more. Basically, the Mabinogion is a collection of some very, very old Welsh legends, some based in historical fact, and some supposedly pre-dating the King Arthur legends, and if you want to know a little more, you can click here.

All of this led to a pleasant little stream-of-conciousness moment, just thinking about Stevie, and the Mabinogion, and the novel The Mists of Avalon, which, for some forgotten reason, prompted me to ink a blue crescent moon on Stevie's forehead on the very large poster which took up a wall in my bedroom. And all of that led me to think of all those gothic-y British things, of druids and castles and wuthering heights and Kate Bush singing "Heathcliff! It's me, Cathy, let me in at your window!" And I remembered all my passions, how large they were back then, all of that adolescent stuff that filled the room, the emotions that buffetted me about helplessly like a little sailboat. God, it was intense to be sixteen. And then I thought of how it will be November soon, and for me, November has always been the season for listening to Zeppelin's "Battle of Evermore," in all of it's Tolkien references-mandolin-strumming glory. And then I remembered that if it's November, and it's Zeppelin-medieval-gypsy influences and mandolin strumming that I want, then it's obviously time for Heart's Little Queen. Another album cover that I spent many an hour gazing upon:
I miss having all of that time on my hands, hours and days and weeks of crushing boredom that I filled by staring at album covers and memorizing the lyrics to sweeping ballads and posing in front of the mirror and reading novels about Lancelot and the Lady of the Lake. I miss the time, but I certainly don't miss the age. And thank goodness I finally did grow out of my Stevie obsession, otherwise, if I'd held true to the vow I made back then, my daughter would be named Rhiannon Jade, and I'd still have my ribbon-bedecked tambourine hanging on a nail above my bed. (It really was lovely though, the way the low winter sunlight would hit the big round crystal hanging in my window just so, sending shards of rainbows scattering about the bedroom walls.)


Anonymous Becky said...

Well, I can't even begin to know how to pronounce that word.
And yes, I remember all that time lost in my own head. Nothing I was required to do as a kid consumed much mental energy, so I could go to school, clock in at Winchell's and never leave that made-up world.
Re: Kate Bush. Don't forget Pat! "Hi, It's me. I'm Cathy. I've come home."
Oh, yeah, I vividly remember walking down a Garden Grove street, heading toward a friend's house, clutching "Hell Is for Children."

8:57 AM  
Blogger Kelly said...

Oh no, no, no, Becky....the Pat version just doesn't cut it for me. Not nearly sweeping and emotional and, well, British enough, even if the original Kate Bush version teeters really close to being quite shrill.
Funny, Winchell's was quite the hang out for us ditchers in Whittier, too.

3:00 PM  
Anonymous Becky said...

So Pat was COVERING Kate Bush? I didn't know that.

Well I didn't quite convey in the previous post how well you capture that misty, other-worldliness of teenage life. Um, is there a story there?

7:13 PM  

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