The Pilgriming Vine

I’ve been fairly obsessed lately with the voice of Basia Bulat. She’s so wholly original that I find it hard to make comparisons with other musicians. Embracing one of the widest ranges of traditional and obscure instruments I’ve ever seen, singing one song entirely in Polish just because she can, giggling with the most disarmingly genuine smile when you least expect it…well, she really must be seen to be believed.

The song that won’t leave my head currently is The Pilgriming Vine. I was surprised to see that though this tune has been around since at least 2008, there is very little discussion about it. The few interpretations I found seemed utterly wrong to me, talking more about crossing over into the realm of death and hoping your surviving lover isn’t “down, ” ie: sad at your passing. The pilgriming vine, in this view, is the earth reaching up in the spring for their dead bodies.

Though I like the supernatural interpretation, I feel like the true meaning may be somewhat more earthly. I think the song is about taking a lover for the first time and hoping he doesn’t stray to another.

The end of a snowy morning is the end of the purity of virginity. Divining is a sort of magical insight that allows you to foresee the future. I see this as a young girl sensing the end of her maidenhood as adult thoughts and sexual tinglings begin to tempt her.

The maypole itself is a huge phallic symbol, being thrust into the fertile womb of mother earth. The pilgriming vine is the new life resulting from their mating. I think the fear in the song is more the uncertainty a young girl would have at this stage of life, crossing over from childhood into the unknown territory of adulthood, sexuality and motherhood.

Since dancing around the maypole was a fertility rite, where potential lovers were often discovered, her hope that he doesn’t look down at the maypole is about the fear of betrayal and also reminding herself not to stray into the arms of someone new.

One thought I had about the rubies and silver: the fancy, ribbon-bedecked maypoles most people probably picture are a fairly modern creation. Originally they were practically bare but were also sometimes painted in vivid red and white stripes to represent menstrual blood and semen.

Either way, it’s a powerful song. A live performance and the lyrics are below, I’d love to hear your own interpretations!

Some time now I’ve been divining the end of a snowy morning
Some time now I’ve been afraid that the pilgriming vine is finally coming to take me
I could be one of them waiting
I could be one of them falling down below
So quietly wishing my only
Never looks down by the maypole if he goes
Never looks down if he goes

Tomorrow I’ll know if there’s silver in your eyes
Crossing down on your cheek
And tomorrow I’ll know by the rubies in your voice
They’ve been calling your name to me lately
You have been one of them waiting
I have been one of them falling down below
So tell me you’re always my only
Never look down by the maypole if I go
Never look down if I go

Some time now I’ve been divine in the end of a snowy morning
Some time now I’ve been afraid that the pilgriming vine is finally coming to take me
Taste it and tell me it’s savory
Hold it up high to the light and let it grow and
Tell me I’m always your only
Never look down by the maypole if you go
Never look down if you go.

One thought on “The Pilgriming Vine

  1. I think this is the best song ever! So much emotion in it. Don’t really get the meaning but it’s like a cup of water after a day I the desert.

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