"The Old Ways": reason behind the lyrics

"The Old Ways" is one of my favourite songs, and is one of the most successful in Loreena's career.

I've always wondered what was the reason behind its mysterious lyrics, and I came to a list of possible interpretations:
1) it tells about the end of a passional love story, somehow destined not to be happy;
2) it tells about loss and the death of a person you love(d);
3) it tells about the contact between the human world and another ghostly, spiritual world "on a dark New Year's night";
4) it tells about a moment of "fascination" and spell, when Loreena can estabilish a connection with a distant past, and then suddenly she comes back to the present...

I'd really like to know what other members of this forum think about this song... please share your thoughts! Smiler
Original Post
To quote LM's liner notes for "The Old Ways,"

I spent a most haunting New Year’s Eve in Doolin, County Clare, Ireland some years ago, and was moved by the antiquity of some of the celebrations. I was met by deep reminders that they may be the remnants of the old world meeting the "new."

I think this song is open to many interpretations, which is a hallmark of a well-written song, IMHO.

These are my favourite lines from the song:
"...Your world was not mine, your eyes told me so
Yet it was there I felt the crossroads of time
And I wondered why."

While this could be interpreted as a relationship between two people, I have often thought of this piece as representing an inner experience, about a journey of the Self, the old Self departing, leaving room for the new, like a journey of personal transformation.

"As you turned to go I heard you call out my name,
You were like a bird in a cage spreading its wings to fly
"The old ways are lost," you sang as you flew
And I wondered why."

I feel as though we are meant to continue to wonder, as this is the essence of life.

Hello vale!
I love this song, it's one of my favourites. It's so mysterious and can have so many meanings, depending on what mood I'm in. Donna is right, that is a hallmark of a well-written song.
I get the impression that it is a commbination of 1) and 3) with a little of 2) and 4) mixed in. Somehow I like the thought of a love affair between a person of this world and a person of another world, so maybe that's just my interpretation. I would say that, in compossing this song, Loreena was remembering that night in Ireland and in thinking on how the events transported her into the old world, she came up with a story of a mortal maid and a man of another world, and mixed some philosophy in with it. Or maybe she actually had an encounter like what the song talks about! Wink
I think there's a lot of good ideas here...

There is a version of the international folktale that goes by the designation of "Cupid and Psyche" that is popular in Ireland, in versions like the Brown Bear of Norway, the White Hound of the Mountain, and so forth, in which an enchanted otherworld man must find a woman who will marry him and not ask questions. When various taboos are broken, he departs from her, usually in the form of a bird, and she eventually goes in search of him and disenchants him so that they (him, her, and their children) can all live happily together. The bird imagery at the end of the song suggests this to me, whether the parallel was intentional or not.

I do take the whole song as a sort of aisling or "dream/vision" of the Otherworld in some sense, perhaps demonstrating the conflict between the spiritual and historical-cultural impulse of being interested in the wonderful things of the past, and yet the ways in which the modern world have no respect for--and can't possibly allow for--the old world and the old ways...and yet the repeated line "and I wondered why" in both verses of the song suggests a synthesis. Why can't we have it "both ways" now, the old way and the new way? And in that sense, the song "The Old Ways" itself is a bit metatextual: it is a modern song, it has traditional elements in it, the story somehow draws upon those old elements as well as being grounded in both real-life experience and a modern view of these subjects...

In a way, one might even read it as a "manifesto" of sorts for modern "eclectic Celtic" movements of all sorts, whether in music, spirituality, or everyday culture.

Or not...!
Originally posted by Liliesfair:

These are my favourite lines from the song:
"...Your world was not mine, your eyes told me so
Yet it was there I felt the crossroads of time
And I wondered why."

Exactly Donna, this phrase is the heart of that song..!! So marvelous,so beautiful..
As Loreena sings this, you can feel the sorrow that Loreena expresses via the song, the FLAME of her voice !!!


On further reflection, another parallel occurs to me: the selkie myth, the "were-seal" in essence who comes ashore and sometimes takes a lover, and then is drawn irresistably back to the sea. "The thund'ring sea is calling me home" and the parts of the verses that are all about the sea and such seem to reinforce this sort of interpretation. Some sort of "transformation," and otherworld travel or transits of some kind, seem to be suggested by the lyrics.

Anyway, just some further thoughts.
What hit me about this song is the sadness that we have lost some important threads that makes our lives complete. Loreena is going back in time researching what the Celtic people have brought with them, music, poems, recipes, and I too have felt that in today's world much of the old traditions (i.e. healing) have been lost and I am sitting here wondering "why?"
My oppinion about the song's meaning is that we may actually be over analising it...In many cases, i doubt that a song writer, such as loreena, would sit down and worry about a deeper meaning. The lyrics do seem as though she did, but i think that sometimes the deepest wisdom is a stroke of luck, not anything that has been thought over for a long time. I think that this song in particular is one that does have deeper meaning. This meaning was not likely an intentional thing, i think that it came from a deeper, more subconcious source. Perhaps she used it as a way to move on after a death or something...to show herself that they were still connected, even from a distance, but that she had to move on and live life.
maybe it isnt even a relationship between people. maybe it is more of a spiritual thing. maybe it actually has something to do with the old ways...maybe she feels connected to them, but is accepting that they arent relevent to life anymore... or back on the two people theory, maybe she is letting go of an old life that she knows will never return. if i am sure of anything, it is that the song has to do with letting go...

Hello everybody !

I'm an old Loreena's addicted, writing from Verona, Italy , who is looking for infos about any future performance / concert anywhere in the world.
Today I was listening to this song once again and I discovered this old topic.
Allow me to give my idea, what I have always thought from the very beginning.

In my opinion in this song Loreena is simply (and in the most sublime way)  dialoguing with herself and Ronald Rees about that very last day which unfortunately changed her life forever.
And I think that symbols are even quite simple, especially for somebody so used to them as she is.

It was the beginning (for her) of a sad new life's cycle (On a dark new year's night), she was preparing her new album when she suddenly had a vision in front of her.
Her fiancé, who was always pervading her music suddenly took her far away in a corner of her homeland (Ireland = Canada), in front of a pounding sea (=Lake Huron during the tempest)
The rest is the most poetic way to describe a tragedy without mentioning it, never . He, sinking trapped in his canoe, (You were like a bird in a cage spreading its wings to fly) and she, wondering why all along the eternity.

and now, she goes on reminding herself and him and all of us that any pounding sea calls her to go back home, home to him...

I'm maybe crazy, but that's why I almost cry every time I hear to this song, which for me is just a miracle  

Ciao/ Bye everybody from Romeo and Juliet city   

and a special, enormous hug to one of the most romantic Juliet in the world  

Thanks, Loreena

Thanks for your tips, Jovena.

I read that story  and I have a question for you to think about: maybe I'm right, maybe you're right, or both... nobody will never know, apart from Loreena, but .... but... at the end of which of the two possible "tales" would you write these lines : "...Your world was not mine, your eyes told me so
Yet it was there I felt the crossroads of time
And I wondered why."

At the end of which experience would you wonder "why?"



Add Reply

Likes (0)