"Cup Of Wonder" as written by and Ian Anderson....
May I make my fond excuses for the lateness of the hour,
but we accept your invitation, and we bring you Beltane's flower.
For the May Day is the great day, sung along the old straight track.
And those who ancient lines did lay will heed the song that calls them back.
Pass the word and pass the lady, pass the plate to all who hunger.
Pass the wit of ancient wisdom, pass the cup of crimson wonder.
Ask the green man where he comes from, ask the cup that fills with red.
Ask the old grey standing stones that show the sun its way to bed.
Question all as to their ways, and learn the secrets that they hold.
Walk the lines of nature's palm crossed with silver and with gold.
Pass the cup and pass the lady, pass the plate to all who hunger.
Pass the wit of ancient wisdom, pass the cup of crimson wonder.
Join in black December's sadness, lie in August's welcome corn.
Stir the cup that's ever-filling with the blood of all that's born.
But the May Day is the great day, sung along the old straight track.
And those who ancient lines did lay will heed this song that calls them back.
Pass the word and pass the lady, pass the plate to all who hunger.
Pass the wit of ancient wisdom, pass the cup of crimson wonder.


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"Cup of Wonder" as written by Ian Anderson

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Cup Of Wonder song meanings
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  • +1
    General Comment'Beltane's flower' = fire (the Bel fire), representing the sun which, at Beltane, is stirring plants to renewed life.

    'May Day' is the modern name for the ancient pagan festival of Beltane.
    'The old straight track' may be a reference to the ritual causeways that led to ancient standing stone circles (not all circles have these causeways).

    'Those who ancient lines did lay' may refer to the designers and/or builders of the causeways and standing stone circles.

    The 'cup of crimson wonder' is a cup or chalice which represents the womb for the purposes of the Beltane ritual. It represents the womb of women, of animals, of the earth. In other words, that which nurtures and gives life to all that lives. It is crimson ('fills with red') to represent blood: the blood which nurtures the unborn, the blood which is spilled at birth, and the blood which runs in the veins of all animals, without which they could not live. Blood = life and life-giving. (Hence also, 'pass the lady' as the cup represents Woman, and women's life-giving potential.)

    The Green Man is an ancient nature spirit / god. He is often represented either as a face peering through foliage, or, more commonly, as a face which is almost entirely composed of foliage, with vines emerging from his mouth. He is also sometimes represented with deer horns. He is the god of green and growing things: the Year King who sleeps/dies through winter only to return or be reborn with the spring. Where horned, he is also the god of the hunt, where he is both the hunter and the hunted.

    'The old grey standing stones that show the sun its way to bed' are the ancient monoliths of the UK, of which the best-known example is Stonehenge. Some are arranged in circles while others are not. Many standing stones are calendars, aligned with the sun's path at certain times of the year, often solstices, such that the rising sun on a particular day each year passes over a certain stone and/or lights a specific point on another stone. Standing stones may be aligned with, or intended to highlight, another specific point in a ritual landscape at a particular time of year. The Neolithic Callanish (Calanais) Stones, for example, are oriented towards a range of hills which, from that angle within the stones, look like a reclining woman. Callanish plots the progress of the moon, rather than the sun. At a specific point every 19 years, the rising moon appears to emerge from between her thighs, which is interpreted as the moon being born.

    'The lines of Nature's palm' are ley lines.

    'Stir the cup that's ever filling with the blood of all that's born': The cup is again a clear reference to the womb, and possibly also a reference to menstruation. 'Stir' probably refers to having sex, which is a traditional Beltane activity, and also to fertilisation of the womb (causing it to stir to life).
    Megaeraon October 25, 2014   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis has always been one of my favorite Jethro Tull songs, despite being a lesser-known piece.

    The song references multiple religions and walks of life meeting over a great banquet. Ian challenges the listener to question everyone there as to why they follow that particular religion, so the listener may make an informed choice on his own path.
    Krendall2006on January 11, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Comment?
    This song references one religion.
    Beltane and May Day are the same thing, from the Celts.
    The green man is a Celtic thing.
    Anything ancient that is in Britain is Celtic.
    They are singing about their real roots and how they want to learn more about it :D
    Johnationon August 07, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General Comment"the old grey standing stones that show the sun his way to bed", "Walk the lines of nature's palm" and "sung along the Old Straight Track" are references to Ley Lines - straight lines in the landscape supposedly marked by ancient monuments: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    BoultersCanaryon October 18, 2009   Link

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