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~ Jethro Tull, Celtic or English? ~

By Neil R. Thomason

"I would give the guy "Songs From the Wood" and "Heavy Horses," and although there are some driving rock-style songs not usually associated with Celtic music, to me these CDs in their entirety, conceptually capture the Celtic "spirit" more than anything else Tull has probably done."
* A.Coigreach in the St. Cleve Chronicle.

Celtic Tull? Not really. Tull hasn't really done that much Celtic material; certainly not albums. I think Celtic is confused with English, which is a mistake. 'Jack-In-The-Green' is an English character, as Ian acknowledged numerous times on stage. Some have argued here that the song relates to the Green Man. I'd disagree, but in any case, the Green Man is a figure of English, not Celtic folklore. Okay, there's some cross-over, but as generally understood, he's English. 'Cup Of Wonder' does indeed have a Celtic theme, as does 'Ring Out, Solstice Bells'. And that's about all for 'Songs From The Wood'. The other songs are either purely English or just generic 'rural' material. 'Pibroch' has a Gaelic title, but no more.

"Especially the elemental earth/forest imagery of stuff like 'Jack in the Green', 'Velvet Green', and 'Hunting Girl' "

Earthy, in the sense of being a little coarse, maybe, but not elemental. I can understand there being deeper meanings in 'Velvet Green', but I don't understand what you're reading into 'Hunting Girl'. Similarly for the Heavy Horses album. 'Acres Wild' refers to Skye (the Winged Isle), but there's nothing specifically Celtic about any of this album. Tradition and the loss of rural values are investigated, but that applies toany culture. You say the Celts were particularly 'lusty', but the maypole and morris dancing are English traditions, remember! I particularly disagree with the idea of 'Heavy Horses' (the song) being Celtic - it's so English!

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"In fact, I think just the album titles themselves would be kind of intriguing for a Celtic Music lover..."

Well, they're in English, for a start! Just to clarify, Celtic refers to the cultures of Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Cornwall, Brittany, part of Spain and a couple of enclaves I've probably forgotten - the point is, NOT ENGLAND! The arrival of the Saxons drove the Celtic nations, and hence cultures (in Welsh, the word for 'nation' is the same as for 'language') into their current locations, replacing the previous cultures or at best assimilating them to the point of their being unrecognisable. The Norse and Normans complicated English culture still further, so by the 'rural heyday' celebrated by 'Songs From The Wood' and 'Heavy Horses', the Celtic influences had virtually been lost.

* Neil A. Thomason; First published in the SCC of March 5, 1998

A comment by Andrew Jackson

I would have to disagree with the statement that "the May-pole and Morris dancing" are English traditions."Morris dancing" is certainly an English tradition, although it has its roots in ritual sword-dances performed by the Maruts of ancient India and by the ancient Greeks, in both cases to accompany fertility rites. Morris dancing is thus closely related to the Scottish sword-dance, although it is true to say that Morris is a uniquely English development of the ritual. The May-tree is central to European folk-culture. Usually a fir-tree was brought into the village, set up, and decked with ribbons: the community would then dance around the tree during their May-day celebrations. In some countries (J.G. Frazer gives Sweden as his primary example), the fir-tree is stripped of its branches before being decorated with leaves, flowers, ribbons and so on. Thus the tree becomes a "pole", by default! It serves exactly the same symbolic function, of course. It would take an exceptional scholar to prove that the first individual or community to strip the branches from the May-tree before setting it up was English . . . or Swedish, or German, or French, for that matter. The veneration of tree-spirits was so widespread that any distinction between "English"and "Celtic" in this instance is meaningless. The root-system of European folk beliefs and practices is just too complex! It is true to say that the May-pole has in England as part and parcel of the curious Morris dancing tradition, and has not survived in Scotland, Ireland or Wales. However, the Celts were as tree-worshipping as the next man in their day! "Tradition" does not originate from or belong to a single country, in this instance.
* Andrew Jackson

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