Allu Mari:
An Example of Wiccan Folklore and History
(with Italian seasoning)

I was re-reading Hutton's Triumph of the Moon (2001) and stumbled across something that reminded me about a song I'd heard circa 1986 at a Yule celebration. (More below about what I'd read in Hutton.) The song went something like The wicked women dancing... and had a long string of words from some European language. The performer briefly mentioned this song contained words of an old chant to the Goddess.

A musician friend of mine, "Maugorn the Stray" [Support your wandering musicians; buy their CD's], has a huge file of sundry folk music, Renaissance, fantasy music, and sundry other music. I emailed him and asked if he knew the song. The man knows his subject matter. He emailed me back with the title of the song I heard in the mid 1980's--Allu Mari.

With a web search, I found lyrics. Eventually I found that the lyrics were credited to Catherine Madsen. Catherine very kindly gave me permission to put the following lyrics in this article. (Some versions on the web are written phonetically.)

Allu Mari

English words (c) 1982 by Catherine Madsen BMI. The Italian chorus comes from a footnote in Mary Daly, Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism (1978).
Music: "Resurrezione" from Laudario 91 di Cortone (13th-century Italian manuscript, recorded on Nonesuch H-71086 in about 1965)

Allu mari mi portati
se voleti che mi sanati,
allu mari, alla via
cosi m'ama la donna mia.
Allu mari, allu mari,
mentre campo, t'aggio amari.

To the sea, to the sea let me follow
to save me from burning and heal my sorrow,
taking the way of sand and water,
the tideway, the last way to love my mother.
   Allu mari, allu mari,
   mentre campo, t'aggio amari.

Down the dunes with sister and stranger,
the wicked women who dance in their danger,
craving the blessing all together
of grass and seaweed, shell and feather.
   Allu mari, allu mari,
   mentre campo, t'aggio amari.

So in love does my lady enjoy me
that death by drowning cannot destroy me.
Life on the tide will run before me,
the long wave, the grey wave will cry my story.
   Allu mari, allu mari,
   mentre campo, t'aggio amari.
--Catherine Madsen on her 1982 The Patience of Love album.

After I located the first version of lyrics, I did some further googling and asking other people I know, as well as asking on sundry list serves. One "clue" led to another, so to speak.

This short article shares what I found out about this modern Wiccan/Neo-Pagan legend.

The story behind this song is a tale found in the writings of Feminist author, Mary Daly.

According to Hutton's Triumph of the Moon, Daly took two footnotes from the same page of William E. H. Lecky's book History of European Morals (1869). She took a note about women at the seashore dancing the tarantella--supposedly caused by a hysterical condition--plus another comment about witches in the same time period who supposedly committed suicide in their cells. With these two bits, Daly created a tale of witches, fearing arrest, agonizing torture, and execution, chose to walk or dance into the sea in groups and drown themselves. (Ronald Hutton,Triumph of The Moon, 2001, p.344)

One could classify Daly's tale as "pseudo-history," or possibly "fake-lore."

("Fake-lore" is a folklorist term for tales that are made up and/or written in a book and promoted as genuine folklore. Genuine folklore has been collected from a group of people who spread information orally, or by other informal means. Genuine folklore can be spread by writing. In these days of electronic medium, folklore can be spread by email from friends to friends.)

Catherine Madsen took Mary Daly's revisionist history as inspiration and wrote her own English lyrics which reflected the tale promulgated by Mary Daly.

It is important to note that large numbers of 19th century psychiatrists/psychologists had labeled dancing the tarantella, a common Italian folk dance still performed at weddings today, as a form of mania. Catherine Madsen told me her primary inspiration was Mary Daly's work, "but I think I did look up the reference in Hecker." (private correspondence March 3, 2008) She was referring to JFC Hecker Epidemics of the Middle Ages, (1865).

Christiane on the sent me this information

I found the text of Allu mari in a footnote of a 19th century book called "Epidemics of the Middle Ages." The author, a JFC Hecker, says one of the symptoms of tarantism (which allegedly was caused by the bite of a spider), was that the victims expressed an ardent longing for the sea. Thus, music was chosen for them that were songs about the sea. Whether they were love songs or no, if they mentioned the sea, they seemed to be good.
(February 2008)
Starting with a trend in the 19th century and continuing up through the 1940's and 1950's, the discipline of psychology had a very dim view of ANY religious fervor. People who heard messages from the Divine were schizophrenics, who are incapable of distinguishing reality from delusion and fantasy. Anyone who danced till exhausted, and claimed to see a vision of the Virgin Mary, Jesus, or another divine figure was experiencing a severe mental disorder involving hallucinations. In other words, ecstatic religious experience was dangerous, and anyone who experienced it might be experiencing an episode in which she/he could be a danger to themselves and/or others.

Never mind that several cultures had had ecstatic experience as part of their religion for centuries. Psychiatric thought was firmly rooted in modern Rationalist thinking and an emphasis on science of the mind. Hence, when psychologists read historical descriptions of people behaving in an ecstatic manner, they labeled the behavior as symptomatic of an irrational disorder.

Hence, the descriptions of Veitanz (St. Vitus Dance), tarantella, etc. was clear proof of a mania involving dancing.

Some scholars have speculated that the tarantella was used as part of a religious dancing ritual or as a healing Spirit dance.

If you are interested in more on the tarentella read:

Tarantella, Dancers, and Tarantism


This modern song has been released on three different albums. It first appeared in 1982 when Catherine Madsen released it on her Patience of Love album. In 1984, it was on an album called Deepening put out by Aeolus Music. The song's full title on that recording was Allu Mari, Mi Portati and it was sung by Ruth Barette and Cynthia Smith. It was later released in 2003 and 2007 by the Goth/Neo-Pagan band Unto ashes on the Empty Into White CD as Allu Mari.

These three recordings made the song popular. Neo-Pagans and Wiccans would then sing the song at open mike events, or they would tell friends either about the album The Patience of Love, or Deepening (during the 1980's), or later Empty Into White (during the 2000's).

At this point, the tale popularized by the song actually became modern folklore. I mean it was spread through informal methods, often by word of mouth and at open mike performances, etc.

Here is some of the modern folklore attached to the song which I found via googling for lyrics and other information:

The Italian words inside the song were part of a chant used by Italian witches. The chant is an invocation to the Goddess, personified by Mari (the sea). These witches chose to drown themselves in the ocean waves, singing and dancing their praises to the Goddess, returning to the Mother, rather than renounce their faith or being burned as heretics during the Inquisition. The title Allu Mari means "To the sea."

Incidentally some of this same modern folklore or modern legend is found in the song, The Burning Times, by Charlie Murphy:

And the tales are told of those who, by the hundreds,
holding together, chose their deaths in the sea.
Chanting the praises of the Mother Goddess,
a refusal of betrayal, women were dying to be free.
Historically, this incident never happened in Italy.

I also regret to report that there is no corresponding legend in Italian folklore about wicked women drowning themselves in the Burning Times to escape the Inquisition. Neither are there legends about Italian witches dancing on the seashore. Nor is there an Italian song about groups of women committing suicide in the ocean.

The Italian words in the refrain Allu Mari are, however, from a 19th century Neapolitan folksong. As stated earlier, Catherine Madsen explained that the Italian chorus came from a footnote in Mary Daly's Gyn/Ecology. Nevertheless, the Italian folksong simply doesn't have anything to do with witches, sea Goddesses, or women committing suicide. The title Allu Mari does mean "To the sea." (The standard Italian word for "sea" is mare, but mari means "sea" in this Italian dialect.)

Here is a translation sent to me by Sabina Magliocco, author of Witching Culture (2004):

Allu mari, mi portati
Take me to the sea

Se voleti che mi sanati
If you want me to be healed

Allu mari, alla via
To the sea, to the road

Cosi m'ama la donna mia
That's how much my girl loves me

Allu mari, allu mari
To the sea, to the sea

Mentre campo t'aggio amari
I'm gonna love you as long as I live.

It was around these 19th century lyrics that Catherine Madsen wrote her own powerful English lyrics, reflecting the scenario written by Daly.

This song, the tale by Mary Daly, and the accompanying modern folklore, serve as a gem of an example of invented tradition.

It must be noted that we (Wiccans/Neo-Pagans) can still enjoy the song, and be moved by the tale.

I liked the epic of Star Wars, too, and find a lot of significance and depth in that story--but it didn't happen either. (I knew of the Wiccan tradition that drew its mythological names from the Elven language from Lord of the Rings.)

As Catherine Madsen wrote, "At one level that matters and at another it doesn't; the Arthurian legends and the Lord of the Rings aren't historically true either, but that doesn't prevent them from being moving. Minority political and religious movements do have to be careful to know the difference--otherwise they can get so absorbed in their alternative histories as to become intellecutally self-enclosed, which isn't good for the intellect--but there's another kind of validity to imagining one's way into an experience, even if the experience never really took place. That's really what myth and fiction and theatre are about." (private correspondence March 3, 2008)

Remember, the girl named Snow White or Schneewitchen never ate a poisoned apple. The heroine in The Twelve Wild Swans never made a bunch of shirts for her brothers who were turned into birds. That doesn't mean the stories doen't have value, power, or purpose.

It's the same with this song, Allu Mari.

One of the strengths of Neo-Paganism and Wicca is that we can accept the power and beauty of the allegory of myth and legend and faery tale without falling into the trap of literalism.

copyright 2008 Myth Woodling

In 2008, Catherine Madsen has a new book coming out--In Medias Res: Liturgy for the Estranged, which uses a basically Neo-Pagan ritual structure to work with ecological and cultural themes.

Support your wandering musicians; purchase Maugorn the Stray's CD of assorted folksongs Patches !! :

Check out his other CD's; consider hiring him to perform at your next event; contact him at:

Sources and other useful information

Ronald Hutton, Triumph of the Moon, 2001.
William E. H. Lecky, History of European Morals, 1869.
J. F. C. Hecher, Epidemics of the Middle Ages, 1865.
Mary Daly, Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism, 1978.
Catherine Madsen, The Patience of Love album, 1982.
Ruth Barette and Cynthia Smith, Deepening album, 1984.
Unto ashes band, Empty Into White CD, 2007.
Robert Bartholemew, Rethinking Dancing Mania, Skeptical Inquirer, Vol. 24, No. 4, July/August 2000,
Myth Woodling, Tarantella, Dancers, and Tarantism, 2007,
Mary Santagelo, Tarantella, 2005,".

Links to interesting songs:

I thought I'd share a bit of silliness, I found while looking for information on Allu Mari. I found Calamari, not Allu Mari, a paradoy of Allu Mari For more information and other parodies, see Parody lyrics (c) 3/28/2007 by Bob Kanefsky. All rights reserved. The copyright of the original lyrics and music remain with the holder(s) of the original copyright.