Yarrow (a charm)

by Lori Watson



I was leaving Radio Borders one night and met Walter Elliot (poet, historian, archaeologist) at the door, he handed me some words and said I might like to do something with them. A few weeks later I had absorbed the words and they had taken a slightly different shape as a song, a few years later and here it is: The poem Walter gave me was his own, called Yarrow (a charm) and inspired by the translation of a Scottish Gaelic poem that described some of the properties of Yarrow. The Yarrow plant has been used in medicine for centuries and has a reputation as a sacred plant with numerous healing and magical properties. It is found around the world and in the Yarrow valley. As a poet with a keen interest in social history, Walter says: “There’s a huge tree of knowledge that has more or less been lost. The reason I write books is to pass on the knowledge I have collected.”

At the heart of this song are the female roles of caretaker, and as objects of beauty, purity or eroticism: we now renegotiate our roles with the world around us, showing ourselves, and each other, what femininity is and that it shouldn’t be dictated by the conventions around us. The girl, the woman, the leader, the servant, the submissive and the aggressor are the same beautiful, complex person here; the same voice. The familiar idea that we need something outside of ourselves in order to be enough is wrong: she’s already enough just as she is. Wouldn’t it be good if our ambitions were free of all this?


I will pluck the smooth Yarrow
that my shape be more neat
That my lips may be warmer
and strawberry sweet

That my voice be more cheerful
and warm all around
As clear as the sunbeam
as it heats the cold ground

Or may I be an island
that floats on the sea
A hill on the land
that's what I could be

May I be a star
When the moon it wanes
May I be a staff
to the weak and the lame

With the power o the Yarrow
So strong will I be
I will wound every man
Ah but no man will wound me


released March 10, 2017
Poem by Walter Elliot
Music by Lori Watson
Vocals by Lori Watson
Harmonium by Duncan Lyall
Recorded and mixed by Duncan Lyall at Red Deer Studios
Mastered by Nick Cooke at Nim Mastering
Photo/cover image by Lori Watson


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