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All Souls' Night (Loreena McKennitt) (Canada)
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A beautiful Celtic ballad about All Souls' Night in Ireland. A video with northern lights, beautiful images of Ireland and the Celtic traditions described in the song.

Bonfires dot the rolling hillsides
Figures dance around and around
To drums that pulse out echoes of darkness
Moving to the pagan sound.

Somewhere in a hidden memory
Images float before my eyes
Of fragrant nights of straw and of bonfires
Dancing 'til the next sunrise.

I can see the lights in the distance
Trembling in the dark cloak of night
Candles and lanterns are dancing, dancing
A waltz on All...All Souls' Night.

Figures of cornstalks bend in the shadows
Held up tall as the flames leap high
The Green Knight holds the holly bush
To mark where the Old Year passes by.

I can see the lights in the distance
Trembling in the dark cloak of night
Candles and lanterns are dancing, dancing
A waltz on All...All Souls' Night.

Bonfires dot the rolling hillsides
Figures dance around and around
To drums that pulse out echoes of darkness
Moving to the pagan sound.

Standing on the bridge that crosses
The river that goes out to the sea
The wind is full of a thousand voices
They pass by the bridge and me.

I can see the lights in the distance
Trembling in the dark cloak of night
Candles and lanterns are dancing, dancing
A waltz on All...All Souls' Night.

I can see the lights in the distance
Trembling in the dark cloak of night
Candles and lanterns are dancing, dancing
A waltz on All...All Souls' Night.

BONFIRE= A fire that is made just for fun and celebration. (see picture)

DOT= If some things dot an area, they are spread over the place. Here, from the distance you can see many little bonfires all over the place, like little dots in the landscape, so the bonfires dot the landscape.

ROLLING HILLSIDES= A hillside is a hill, and they are rolling because they are smooth, without edges. (see picture of rolling hills)

FIGURES= People (but you can't see them distinctly).

DANCE... TO DRUMS= Dance to the sound of drums.

PULSE OUT= Create sounds that are like beats, like a heart beat (which creates the pulse of a person).

PAGAN= /pgən/ A belief, custom or tradition coming from before Christianity.

FRAGRANT= Having a pleasant smell.

'TIL= (also TILL) Until (usually colloquial).

SUNRISE= When the sun goes up and night turns into day.

IN THE DISTANCE= Far away.

TREMBLING= Quivering, shaking. Moving like when you are very cold and all your body moves quickly and involuntarily.

CLOAK= /kləʊk/ A cape (see picture). The dark cloak of night is a metaphor for the night.

CANDLES= see picture.

LANTERNS= see picture.

WALTZ= An elegant ballroom dance typical from Vienna.

ALL SOULS' NIGHT= The night right before "All Souls' Day" (Nov 2nd), a Christian festivity to honour the dead and pray for their salvation. But in Celtic times this was a day (several days) where the spirits of the dead (ghosts) came to hurt the living, so bonfires were built to scare them away (the tradition of Halloween comes from here).

CORNSTALKS= The stalk or stem of a corn plant (usually wheat/corn in UK or maiz/corn in US).
Scarecrows (see picture) are made like this, with old clothes filled with cornstalks and/or straw.

HELD UP TALL= If something is held up tall, something (like a pole) or somebody is holding them high.

LEAP= Jump.
If the flames leap high, the fire is growing and consuming the figures from bottom to top.


THE GREEN KNIGHT= 'The Green Knight holds the holly bush' is from the Arthurian legends. The knight is thought to refer to the green man, a pagan symbol of nature. (specially famous for the old book "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight")

HOLLY= /hɒlɪ/ (not to be confused with "holy" /həʊlɪ/ = sacred) is a bush with spiky-shaped leaves used in Christmas for decoration (see picture).

BUSH= plants which looks something between a plant and a tree (see picture)

In some parts of the world ancient pagan traditions, some thousands years old, still survive mixed with Christian tradition. Ireland is one of those places, and this song is about those traditions that take place when the sun is down and everything is dark. It was called the Samhain festival.

Samhain marked the end of the harvest, the end of the "lighter half" of the year and beginning of the "darker half". It was traditionally celebrated over the course of several days. It has some elements of a festival of the dead. The Gaels believed that the border between this world and the otherworld became thin on Samhain; because so many animals and plants were dying, it thus allowed the dead to reach back through the veil that separated them from the living. Bonfires played a large part in the festivities. People and their livestock would often walk between two bonfires as a cleansing ritual, and the bones of slaughtered livestock were cast into its flames.

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