Interpretation of Stairway to Heaven
Article by M Teresa Clayton
Have you ever wondered what the hidden meaning is beneath the words of Stairway to Heaven? So many, along the ages since its release by Plant/Page, have tried to interpret it. Even Plant admits he was in the process of automatic writing and has no clear or absolute meaning. I suppose it will be forever dissected and each of us may see or hear something different between the words. I have been mesmerized by song my entire life. As a synesthetic, I have always tried to make sense of what I see, feel, hear, etc. when a particular song is played and it captures my mind and holds it there for the duration and long after.
This is my personal interpretation. There will be others. We may never truly know the truths it holds – but be sure of this – there are truths within these lines and every word is a magic spell.
There's a lady who's sure all that glitters is gold
And she's buying a stairway to heaven
And when she gets there she knows if the stores are closed
With a word she can get what she came for
There is a lady, not just any lady, a special lady that stands out among all others. Perhaps we should emphasize that by writing it thus: Lady.
The Lady is sure, all that glitters is gold. It would take quite an optimist to see the world in this way. Perhaps the Lady knows something we do not. She is buying a stairway to heaven.
In this, I see a metaphor. Heaven is not the heaven we would think of in biblical or religious terms. In my humble opinion, I believe she is believing that glittery things are gold (valuable) but she has only stated something to distract from the last two lines.
But before we get to that, there is the “buying” of a stairway to heaven. I would interpret “buying” as “sacrificing” to enter into another realm where she will find what she needs to find.
As stated, And when she gets there she knows if the stores are closed – metaphorically, all the doors are closed to her and she is searching for the open door, the one that holds all the answers to all the questions ever asked. Her magic lies in a word. One word. If she uses it, the correct door will open and she can proceed to get what she came for.
There's a sign on the wall but she wants to be sure
And you know sometimes words have two meanings
In a tree by the brook there's a songbird who sings
Sometimes all of our thoughts are misgiven
Ah, but it is never so easy as just uttering one word. Let’s proceed.
The Lady sees a sign on the wall, but she isn’t so sure about its meaning, she wants to be sure
And you know sometimes words have two meanings.
We can all take a paragraph from any novel and read it, explain it, and no two will be the same interpretation of the words. This is especially true of Mystic Verse. Take, for instance, the word – LOVE – and define it. Take the word, HATE, and it will be defined differently depending on context and intention and definition… shall I go on? Be careful what you read, what you listen to, what you see – our senses will lead us astray very quickly because they are so limited. The Lady is wise enough to understand this.
In a tree by the brook there's a songbird who sings
Sometimes all of our thoughts are misgiven
Some would say that the songbird sings the next line. I do not. These two lines are purposely placed to confound. Yes, maybe there is a tree by the brook where a songbird sings, but I believe that line is place there simply to redirect. Let’s get back to the message at hand – “Sometimes all of our thought are misgiven.”
I’d say that more often than not - our thoughts are misgiven. What does that mean? Intention. How many times have you asked a question and received an answer only to find out that it didn’t mean anything like what you heard? Sometimes, we purposefully twist our words or other’s words to fit our needs. What if we had to say exactly what we mean? I think it would be disastrous if we were only allowed to speak in absolute truths, never mind our thoughts. But – here is the “blow your mind” possibility: what creates our reality and truth (individually) but our thoughts? Something to consider. The Lady pays attention.
There's a feeling I get when I look to the west
And my spirit is crying for leaving
In my thoughts I have seen rings of smoke through the trees
And the voices of those who stand looking
Now our interpreter speaks of his own experience, telling us that There's a feeling I get when I look to the west and my spirit is crying for leaving.
There is that saying that the East is new birth, given the sunrise on a new day filled with new opportunities and that the West is death, leaving, moving on… he is obviously torn knowing that days are numbered and we never know how many we have, but every time he looks to the west he sees the end……. Of this story, this realm, this reality – everything beyond that is unknown.
He might also be looking forward to it and hungering for it, crying out – take me!
In my thoughts I have seen rings of smoke through the trees and the voices of those who stand looking.
In his THOUGHTS he has seen rings of smoke through the trees (fog, mist, cloud, smoke from fires that burn on the horizon? But, here is where it gets weird – And the VOICES of those who stand looking. People are speaking as they watch him watching the rings of smoke. Did he dream this, imagine this, hallucinate this, foresee this? Or is he actually experiencing this in real time? Are they waiting for him? And where is the Lady? She is still trying to buy a stairway to heaven. Perhaps these people are our ancestors who are awaiting our arrival.
And it's whispered that soon, if we all call the tune, then the piper will lead us to reason.
Ah, a new twist. Not just the man and Lady are looking for truth and/or reason. He hears it whispered that soon we will all call out and the piper will lead us there. We all know that we must pay the piper something… Hold that thought.
I have a quote: “The blind will see, the deaf will hear, but those who choose reason will never understand what lies behind the veil. MTC”
Sometimes, reason misleads us when all we really had to do was trust our instinct.
And a new day will dawn for those who stand long and the forest will echo with laughter.
A new day dawns – from the east – so there is a longing he has, knowing he is separating from this reality and perhaps this body to move on to another realm. If we just hold on, believe, we will join him there where the forests will echo with laughter. Sounds like a beautiful place. Sounds like heaven (however you define that word).
But, for some reason, it makes him “wonder”. That could be one of those words that may be misgiven.
If there's a bustle in your hedgerow don't be alarmed now, it's just a spring clean for the May Queen.
Considering that most of Led Zeppelin’s lyrics are based in old Celtic lore. Who is the May Queen (before Christianity got hold of it)?
Here is one example: Sunset to Sunset.
Beltane honours Life. It represents the peak of Spring and the beginning of Summer. Earth energies are at their strongest and most active. All of life is bursting with potent fertility and at this point in the Wheel of the Year, the potential becomes conception. On May Eve the sexuality of life and the earth is at its peak. Abundant fertility, on all levels, is the central theme. The Maiden goddess has reached her fullness. She is the manifestation of growth and renewal, Flora, the Goddess of Spring, the May Queen, the May Bride. The Young Oak King, as Jack-In-The-Green, as the Green Man, falls in love with her and wins her hand. The union is consummated and the May Queen becomes pregnant. Together the May Queen and the May King are symbols of the Sacred Marriage (or Heiros Gamos), the union of Earth and Sky, and this union has merrily been re-enacted by humans throughout the centuries. For this is the night of the Greenwood Marriage. It is about sexuality and sensuality, passion, vitality and joy. And about conception. A brilliant moment in the Wheel of the Year to bring ideas, hopes and dreams into action. And have some fun..... There are many more stories, but most are just slightly changed.
Bustle: move in an energetic or noisy manner... excited activity and movement. Hedgerow: a hedge of wild shrubs and trees, typically bordering a road or field. It was also the hedge that bordered a community and a “hedge-witch” was a shaman woman who would be a healer and have her herbs and plants at her disposal.
In the days of olde, the Celts celebrated the new life of Beltane by cleaning up after a harsh winter and preparing the ground for the consummation of the May Queen and King, a prelude to sowing the seeds of life.
Yes there are two paths you can go by but in the long run, there's still time to change the road you're on.
This may the most truthful and obvious statement in the song. Yes, you have two paths, you have many paths, and you can choose – you are compelled to choose – and if you choose the wrong path you can always change your mind and take another, and another. But, what does this have to do with the May Queen? Could he be talking to her? The Lady?
Your head is humming and it won't go in case you don't know. The piper's calling you to join him.
He assures the listener, perhaps the Lady, that he understands her head is spinning trying to find that door. Yet, there is the Piper and he is calling her to join him. I believe the Piper is neither good nor bad, but he is exacting in his intention and his intentions benefit him. The piper again, calls to us. Be careful, the choices one makes can be costly.
Dear Lady can't you hear the wind blow and did you know your stairway lies on the whispering wind.
So, our interpreter/writer finally tells us who he is speaking to – the LADY – and he tells her to listen to the wind blow and asks her to wake up! Did you know your stairway lies on the whispering wind? He helps her break that trance the Piper tricked her into listening to. REMEMBER THIS LINE: And it's whispered that soon, if we all call the tune, then the piper will lead us to reason. And then remember that words have two meanings and you can take this path or that path, the piper is calling you to join him.
There is a tie-in here. A Piper who misleads? Do we listen to the Orators and Charlatans? Or do we silence our minds and listen for the whispers upon the winds? Both will lead us somewhere.
And as we wind on down the road
Our shadows taller than our soul
We are winding down a westward road and our shadows are growing taller than our souls. How do I know this? The sun is setting and casts our shadow behind us as we face the west.
There walks a lady we all know who shines white light and wants to show, how everything still turns to gold…
There. Over there. Is a Lady we all recognize she will shine a light for us because she wants us to follow her to a place where everything still turns to gold. (Metaphorically) Has she found the door? Opened it with the word? And now bids us to follow her with a light and not the seduction of the Piper?
And if you listen very hard the tune will come to you at last
You will have to listen hard because it is a whisper, but if you do and you pay attention, you will know the turn and will begin to sing it – opening all of the doors.
When all are one and one is all to be a rock and not to roll
JUST WHAT IT SAYS – when all are one and one are all.
To be a rock (firmly planted in the ground and in your convictions) and not to roll.
SHE HAS BOUGHT YOU A STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN – in other words, she is offering you the right path, the right word, the right song to open the right door and lead you to the right reality where truth is truth no matter how you say it.