Song Beneath the Song: Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” as Tarot Card Reading




PLENTY OF PEOPLE, and most music critics, regard “Stairway to Heaven” as a childish indiscretion, a song we enjoyed in our shameful adolescence because we didn’t yet know how to change the road we were on. Lester Bangs is one of those people. Erik Davis, who wrote the (superb) 33 1/3 book on Led Zeppelin’s untitled fourth album[1. Technically, the title of the album is the four glyphs, which means the title of his book is the four glyphs as well, but italicized. We don’t have the budget for that, so I shall refer to it here as Led Zeppelin IV.], is one of those people. Heck, Robert Plant is one of those people. In interviews with him on the subject, he comes off a bit like William Shatner in that great SNL sketch where he addresses the gathering of Vulcan-eared Trekkies: “You turned an enjoyable job I did as a lark for a few years into a colossal waste of time!”

I do not hold with the haters. I think “Stairway to Heaven” is an unequivocal masterpiece, and I love it without irony or qualification. I love the hauntingly beautiful opening guitar part; that it was supposedly lifted from Spirit’s “Taurus” doesn’t bother me any more than the plot of Romeo and Juliet being appropriated from a cheesy Arthur Brooke play.[2. Though it does give new meaning to “My Spirit is crying for leaving.”] I love the way the song builds and doesn’t hew to the usual verse-chorus-verse-chorus formula. I love the way Bonzo’s drums come in when they do. I love the bustle in the hedgerow. And I love that it conjures up memories of high school dances and Battles of the Bands and adolescent wanting and the glory of teenage night.

The song, and Led Zeppelin in general, represents, along with Charlie Chaplin, Michael Jordan, Breaking Bad, and beignets from Café du Monde, one of those rare instances where larger-than-life hype is completely and totally deserved. Like the beignets, “Stairway” is a guilty, decadent pleasure. Like Chaplin, it’s universally popular—but more so in America than in Britain, where it was born. Like Jordan, it never loses. Whenever classic rock stations trot out their “Most Requested Songs” gimmick, “Stairway” is always, always, always number one. The only suspense, once the top five is breached, is whether the second track will be “Satisfaction” or “Hey Jude.” As Davis argues in his book:

“Stairway to Heaven” isn’t the greatest rock song of the 1970s; it is the greatest spell of the 1970s. Think about it: we are all sick of the thing, but in some primordial way it is still number one. Everyone knows it… Even our dislike and mockery is ritualistic. The dumb parodies; the Wayne’s World-inspired folklore about guitar shops demanding customers not play it; even Robert Plant’s public disavowal of the song—all of these just prove the rule. “Stairway to Heaven” is not just number one. It is the One, the quintessence, the closest [album-oriented rock] will ever get you to the absolute.

And like Breaking Bad, it presents both the very best and the very worst of the human condition. If there is light in “Stairway,” there is also darkness. Specifically, the Prince of Darkness, my sweet Satan. For we cannot write about “Stairway to Heaven” without discussing its alleged diabolical undertones. While the Devil rumors are silly, they are also sticky, so we may as well address them up front.

Ozzy Osbourne played in Black Sabbath, a band named for the Satanic mass. He allegedly bit the head off a live bat, and otherwise behaved as though he was in fact possessed by daemons. As a solo artist, he wrote a song called “Mr. Crowley,” as in Aleister Crowley, the notorious occultist and black magician. Later, he starred in a reality show with his family, elevating his talentless daughter Kelly to the status of C-list celebrity—which could only have happened in some sort of soul swap with Our Dark Lord. The dude’s basically spent the last 40 years jumping up and down shouting, “Hey, guys! I worship Lucifer! Look! See how I’m making devil horns with my hands?!” And yet no one seems to object, probably because Ozzy is not, and should not be, taken seriously. Jimmy Page, meanwhile, evinces a scholarly interest in the occult, buys Crowley’s lakeside estate, maybe sneaks in some vague Satanic messages on an album, but otherwise keeps whatever sinister religious beliefs he may have to himself…and he’s somehow the antichrist. How does that compute?

Certainly Page cultivated an air of mystery, which his alleged devil worship served to enhance, but his allegiance to Lucifer is overblown. That’s not just my opinion. Pamela des Barres, his companion around the time the fourth album came out, had this to say about the Zeppelin-as-Satanists rumor: “Absolutely not true. The only band member into anything occult was Jimmy, and he was intrigued with Aleister Crowley and his ‘do what thou wilt’ message….Jimmy definitely tiptoed along the edge of darkness and danger, but never once did I hear any mention of Satan!” If Page was into the devil, he certainly wasn’t proselytizing.

But then, it may be that the sneaky way in which Zep’s Satanism (supposedly) reveals itself is what gives the rumors legs. Unlike Sabbath, whose very name announces its daemonic affiliations, Led Zeppelin’s alleged allegiance to the Devil is backmasked on “Stairway to Heaven”—a song that insists that “words have two meanings” but that “if you listen very hard, the tune will come to you at last.” For confirmation, we must play the record backwards, in just the right spot, and all is revealed. Sort of.

What’s interesting about this, to me, is not that backmasked appeals to “my sweet Satan” can be heard—they can—but that this was discovered in the first place. Who the hell was the originator of this allegation, the prime mover who presumably sat around playing rock records backwards, seeking out Satan in his humming head? In 2014, this sort of thing would be tracked back to some blog post on some obscure website, or perhaps a stray tweet, written perhaps by this guy. Before social media, news traveled more slowly—it, ahem, winded on down the road. Like occult secrets, it was distributed solely by word of mouth. Davis traces the backmasking rumors as far back as 1981, to a Michigan minister, Michael Mills, who announced the findings on Christian radio, ten full years after the album’s release. While Mills was certainly the one who brought the infernal brouhaha into the mainstream, I have difficulty believing that he stumbled upon this himself. I asked des Barres about it[2. Via our Weeklings music editor Joe Daly, who interviewed her on these pages.], and she confirmed my suspicions. “The rumors started way before ’81,” she said, “when Robert’s son died unexpectedly and Robert was involved in a terrible car accident,” in 1977 and 1975, respectively. This bit of arcanum was known to Zep cognoscenti for years, then, perhaps leaked to a select few by the band’s mad genius manager, Peter Grant, a big believer in Word of Mouth. What better way to compel thousands of people to buy a ten-year-old record than a hidden endorsement from Satan Himself? How many copies did Mills personally buy, only to destroy them by playing them backwards? Did this idea originate with Page? Grant? Producer Andy Johns? Was it a complete coincidence? We’ll never know, and in the end, it doesn’t matter.

“The fact is that, within two minutes of singing, ‘Stairway to Heaven’ contains at least seven reversed phrases of a suggestively devilish nature,” Davis writes, “…buried in a tune about pipers and whispers and listening really hard, a tune that, for a spell, ruled the world. I’m not saying supernatural forces are afoot. I’m just saying it makes you wonder.”

All of which would be more relevant to the task at hand—deciphering the meaning of the song—if the lyrics were written by the guy des Barres says was the only member of the band into the occult.

But Jimmy Page didn’t write the words to “Stairway to Heaven.” Robert Plant did.



Plant was born in August of 1948 in the Black Country of the West Midlands. His father was a civil engineer. His mother was of Romany descent—the people known popularly as gypsies. He left home at 16, immersed himself in the blues, and four years later had hooked up with Jimmy Page to form Led Zeppelin. He was twenty; Page was almost five full years older—an important fact to remember, when considering the dynamic between the guitarist and the front man.

As a teenager, Plant studied stamp collecting and the history of Roman Britain. His well-documented immersion into the blues meant that he hung around with a lot of guys like Steve Buschemi’s character in Ghost World. He read poetry and mythology and Tolkien. If Dungeons & Dragons had existed, he would have played it obsessively. Simply put, the guy was a nerd, albeit one packaged in the body of a self-styled “golden god.” Just as he wore low-rise jeans 30 years before they became popular, he was the prototype of the cool geek.

The lyrics for “Stairway” were written at an old stone castle called Headley Grange, Davis reports, a dismal place that Plant did not like but Page thought was boss, late in the year 1970. The two of them were sitting by the fire one night, perhaps high on something perhaps not, and Plant scribbled down the first words to the song. He would later report that they came to him as if written automatically.

So: “Stairway” was composed by a 22-year-old closet geek, a Lord of the Rings fanboy who knew all about Vespasian’s run as governor of Britannia, while his de facto older brother, who may or may not have worshiped the devil but certainly liked to dabble in the occult, was beside him, in a 200-year-old stone building that was once a poorhouse, in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the night. This sort of information is relevant to our reading of the lyrics.

Few songs have offered such a wide range of interpretations as “Stairway to Heaven.” The comment board at Songfacts contains any number of them, many interesting, many insane. Some find Satanic messages lurking; others read it as a Christian parable. RapGenius is all over the Biblical allusions. Plant himself remarked that his own interpretation changes all the time, and he wrote the freaking thing. As Davis describes the lyrics: “It’s a zoo in there.”

But go back to the fireside, where Plant sat with his pen and paper, Page hovering demonically nearby. Is it possible that there was a deck of Tarot cards on that table? If Page owned rare Crowley manuscripts and first editions, he was certainly familiar with the Oswald Wirth book on Tarot. It’s inconceivable that he did not own a Rider-Waite deck, given that everything about the design of the fourth LP derives from the Tarot.

The cover of the album is a stylized version of the ninth major arcana card, The Hermit, while the inside cover—that is, the poster that your roommate had on your wall freshman year in college—is almost identical to the Rider Deck image:



Also, the four “runes” that comprise the album’s title represent the four tarot suits…


…Swords, Cups, Pentacles, and Wands/Staves, respectively.

Here’s Davis on the runes:

The first thing that must be said is that there are four of them, and that they appear on the fourth record released by a quartet, a record that features four songs on each side…all these fours suggest the most fundamental of occult quaternities: Earth, Air, Fire, and Water, the four elements once believed to make up the whole of material reality…decisively linked to the four suits of the Tarot deck by the French magus Eliphas Levi….Levi expanded magic’s network of correspondences by correlating Earth, Air, Fire, and Water to, respectively, [Pentacles], Swords, Wands, and Cups.

The band famously insisted that there be no writing on the cover at all, no band name or album title. This invites us to read the lyrics as symbols, or rather as interpretations of various symbols. My theory is that “Stairway to Heaven” is a Tarot reading, a draw of the 13 cards that comprise one version of the Celtic Cross. Plant and Page may have laid the cards on the table as they were working out the words…who knows? As in actual Tarot readings, the story of the cards doesn’t cohere exactly, and lends itself to multiple interpretations.

“Stairway” as Tarot card reading would go like this:


1. The Empress


There’s a lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold, and she’s buying a stairway to heaven.

The Empress rules the empire, holds sceptered sway over all material things. Note the golden orb on her staff. The stars on her tiara suggest an otherwordly quest.


2. Five of Pentacles


When she gets there she knows, if the stores are all closed, with a word she can get what she came for.

This card is about lack, about not having. Here, beggars brave the elements outside a warm church, unable to go inside and enjoy the bounty.

In Tarot readings, the first two cards drawn form the querent’s central conflict: in this case, that of having great riches, and having nothing. The reading, and the song, is about resolving the conflict between material and spiritual gain.


3. Nine of Swords


There’s a sign on the wall, but she wants to be sure, [be]cause you know sometimes words have two meanings.

The card of despair. The “sign on the wall” are those swords, more swords than anyone could use, nine swords of Damocles ready to fall and cause injury.

The third card in the sequence is the root cause of the problems. In this case, a feeling of dread that likely has deeper meaning than a lack of material resources. All the glittering gold in heaven’s vault cannot buy the cure for the querent’s ailment.


4. Nine of Pentacles


In the tree by the brook, there’s a songbird who sings, sometimes all of our thoughts are misgiven. And it makes me wonder.

Pentacles are about material things, generally, and this card is one of mastery. The falconer controls the falcon. This is someone at the height of his powers. But the fourth position is the past, an influence that is receding. This loss of control, too, plagues the querent. The falcon cannot hear the falconer; things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.


 5. Three of Wands


There’s a feeling I get when I look to the West, and my spirit is crying for leaving.

This card is pretty much about the spirit crying for leaving. Which happens to be the attitude told by the card in the fifth position. The querent is ready to move on.


6. Five of Swords


In my thoughts I have seen rights of smoke through the trees, and the voices of those who stand looking.

The scene on this gloomy card appears to be the aftermath of a battle (“the pain of war cannot exceed / the woe of aftermath”). It indicates hope and learning from negative experiences.

The sixth position indicates the future, the coming influence. So, to recap, the mastery of the past has been lost, the present is all gloom, but the future suggests hope.


 7. Judgement [sic]


And it’s whispered that soon, if we all call the tune, then the piper will lead us to reason.

By making the correct choices—and “Stairway” is all about choices—we can enter the Kingdom of Heaven. By stairway, perhaps.

The seventh position concerns self-reflection—how the querent sees herself. Here, she seeks salvation, and hopes, but is not sure, that she is worthy.


8. Ten of Cups


And a new day will dawn for those who stand long. And the forests will echo in laughter.

The best card in the deck, perhaps, the Ten of Cups is the wish fulfillment card. All is right with the world. Peace and prosperity are here!

Unfortunately for the querent, this is illusory. The eighth card indicates how others view her, not as she views herself. She does not really have it all, even if she seems to. All that glitters is not gold!


9. Queen of Wands


If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow, don’t be alarmed now. It’s just a spring clean for the May Queen.

Wands/staves/rods correlate to the earth, to the vernal renewal process. The Queen of Wands rules the spring, which makes her, yes, the May Queen. Her cheerfulness permeates everything. (“Bustle in the hedgerow,” incidentally, means literally that a piece of a Victorian woman’s dress has been discarded in the garden—the remains of last night’s orgy).

The ninth card indicates a factor that the querent has overlooked. In this case, her buoyancy of spirit.


 10. The High Priestess


Yes there are two paths you can go down, but in the long run, there’s still time to change the road you’re on.

The High Priestess stands for mystery, the occult, hidden knowledge—all the stuff Jimmy Page is into. The “B” and “J” on the pillars behind her stand for Beelzebub and Jehovah—Satan or God, the binary choice.

The card in the tenth position indicates the outcome of the conflict, in this case the clash between material wealth and spiritual lack. But the High Priestess is fuzzy. There is no clear outcome. All is vague. Like the song.


 11. The Fool


Your head is humming and it won’t go…in case you don’t know, the piper’s calling you to join him.

The Fool is not one in the modern sense of the word, but is more of an innocent, a naïf. He goes where his impulses take him, without a thought to the consequences, or to the dangers.


12. The Moon


And as we wind on down the road, our shadows taller than our soul.

The Moon symbolizes things that go bump in the night: our deepest fears, terrifying illusions that turn out, in the light of day, to be nothing but shadows.


13. The Hanged Man


When all are one, and One is All. To be a rock, and not to roll.

The Hanged Man is still. He surrenders to his fate, and in his surrender, finds enlightenment.

Cards 11-13 comprise a summary of the reading. Here: the Fool is ready for his journey, encounters his deepest fears which give him pause, and winds up hanging from the tree of knowledge.

The final movement of “Stairway” achieves the same purpose, summarizing the querent’s conflict. The Fool winds on down the road, the “shadows taller than our souls” the fears that paralyze him. But he finds enlightenment. The key phrase is: “the tune will come to you at last.” This is a passive outcome. The querent does not come to the “tune,” but the other way around. Enlightenment is only achieved by stillness, quiet contemplation, and surrendering to the nature of things—”to be a rock and not to roll.”

The reading determines that the solution to the conflict between material abundance and spiritual salvation is the yogic pose of stillness. Or something like that. Like all Tarot readings, the lyrics only cohere to a certain point. Which is, ultimately, what Plant was going for with the words: that they have two (at least) meanings.


About Greg Olear

Greg Olear (@gregolear) is a founding editor of The Weeklings and the author of the novels Totally Killer and Fathermucker, an L.A. Times bestseller.
This entry was posted in Saturday Music, Song Beneath the Song and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

54 Responses to Song Beneath the Song: Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” as Tarot Card Reading

  1. Sean Murphy says:

    I’ll keep my comments brief and to the point: THE HERMIT.

    Game, set, match: Olear.

  2. barabas.morpheus says:

    interesting work, but where does the reversed (or “back masked,” if you want to remain ignorant of EVP) lyrical content coalesce here? this is a little piece I’ve been working on, and i’ve taken the exact opposite approach here in the in-progress piece- that of ignoring the lyrics in the “forward” or “temporal regular” mode:

    I respect your probably hopefully pandering to your audience, whoever they are (i haven’t looked over your site yet), but i am assuming you have an actual interest in this in a broader sense and if not, perchance take a gander at the publish dates on both our essays and note the synchronicity. happy ash wednesday. (I’m in nola).

    • The Editors says:

      Your ability to generate an entire lyrical poem out of listening backwards is remarkable. Thanks for sharing. Although I don’t know that a careful analysis of rock lyrics is “pandering to [my] audience” just because I analyze the lyrics that are actually sung, and also printed on the sleeve of the LP.

  3. Richard Klin says:

    Led Zeppelin is long, long overdue for a critical reappraisal. One of the more interesting takes on their music–kudos.

  4. jana says:

    that you put this in the canon with beignets from Cafe du Monde is such a delicious point. But I would argue that those beignets are as much sublime as they are decadent, and as elements of the sublime — in the most classic sense of the word — are somewhat transcendent, and thus, as such, also implying the duality of darkness on the other side of the light. I’d never thought of beignets this way before, but they actually may well be the Stairway to Heaven of fried dough.

    • The Editors says:

      An excellent point, Jana…and a tasty one. The blue plate special should include beignets for dessert.

      And if they are not the “Stairway to Heaven” of fried dough, they are certainly the “Kashmir.”

  5. jackon and boaz pillars says:

    nice try ,cute but not correct, as you are streching and searching for your own fit , but the fact is the song is about a real woman who once upon atime had a real experience with the man who penned it . truth .

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  7. barabas.morpheus says:

    you said with a slight (ironic) condescension: “Your ability to generate an entire lyrical poem out of listening backwards is remarkable. Thanks for sharing. Although I don’t know that a careful analysis of rock lyrics is “pandering to [my] audience” just because I analyze the lyrics that are actually sung, and also printed on the sleeve of the LP.”

    firstly, the song itself asks you to listen backwards, the lyrics are quite hearable with very small variation from ear-to-ear with a small amount of patience, and the lyrics themselves are logical and straightforward.

    This is scary, if you want it to be, but actual and objectively-obtainable with little effort, and verifiable through ALL media and mutual experience of the listener.

    Your explication above is speculation, nothing more, however the lyrics themselves are not. The forward “jacket” lyrics are printed, sure, but in them they literally tell you to listen to reversed song too. Ignorance of this should be below your mental ability for skepticism, and that it is not should cause some sort pause in your intellectual ego.

    Semiotics: you can ignore a sign; you can be ignorant or unaware of the meaning of a sign- it does not change the meaning; does not lesson or diminish it at all. The sign will always mean what it means.

    The beauty of STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN is in the mystery… or lack thereof. You can choose to listen to what is there- or you can make it up as you go (like this essay, as opposed to mine.).

    • The Editors says:

      We are told that words have two meanings, and that if we listen very hard the tune will come to us at last, and that there’s still time to change the road we’re on, but we are never explicitly instructed to listen backwards. Have I missed something? Please show me where in the lyrics it says this.

  8. barabas.morpheus says:

    it’s quite interesting that you can be so typical and reactionary despite your professed willingness to be open to ideas not expressed originally by yourself. I have gleaned this from reading a few of your articles after finding you STAIRWAY piece via some similar message board thread, and i stand by that notion despite your refusal to take the step forward past belief in this matter here (perhaps and i hope solely because of the public nature of this threading.). If such is the case, i’m not opposed to your contacting me through less public forum where you can be unafraid of dialectic context. Regardless, the reversed lyrics of the song are quite distinguishable to any untrained ear, logical in progression (because, as the song itself intones, it’s all math), and a simple video search never mind anyBing will bring up verification of lunatics and educated alike all “discovering” very very sameness with deliberate muchitude. To answer your question, the lyrics, reversed (and for third party verification: literally open with “Play (it) backwards/Hear why ’tis sung here, oppositioner…” so there you go.

  9. barabas.morpheus says:

    hey guy check your security. my 20 year old email address has been accessed, and you are the only new player in my mail town. you have been made vulnerable. fix that before it gets bad.

  10. Kathy says:

    NEW AGE Metaphysical interpretation

    There’s a lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold
    (Reference to Consumerism)

    And she’s buying a stairway to heaven.
    (She’s trying)

    When she gets there she knows, if the stores are all closed (realization that she can’t buy her way into Heaven because there are no stores open)

    With a word she can get what she came for.

    Ooh, ooh, and she’s buying a stairway to heaven.

    There’s a sign on the wall but she wants to be sure
    ‘Cause you know sometimes words have two meanings.
    (Reference to how we will need to decipher misinformation)

    In a tree by the brook, there’s a songbird who sings,
    (Songbird sings of peaceful thoughts)

    Sometimes all of our thoughts are misgiven.(our thoughts are wrong)

    Ooh, it makes me wonder,
    Ooh, it makes me wonder.

    There’s a feeling I get when I look to the west,
    (Reference to the Western world)

    And my spirit is crying for leaving.(Saddening to see, feeling of wanting to go home)

    In my thoughts I have seen rings of smoke through the trees,
    (Reference to orbs and spirits)

    And the voices of those who stand looking.(only voices because they are not visible)

    Ooh, it makes me wonder,
    Ooh, it really makes me wonder.

    And it’s whispered that soon, if we all call the tune, (tune ourselves to the right frequency and vibration)

    Then the piper will lead us to reason. (Pied piper played music and made things happen- the piper is the Om sound of vibration or the tune of source).

    And a new day will dawn for those who stand long,
    (Those who stay true to themselves)

    And the forests will echo with laughter. (Reference to how it will be when love overcomes greed and we are all in tune with nature)

    If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow (mind) don’t be alarmed now,

    It’s just a spring clean for the May queen. (Earth and individual cleansing into the new world of 5th dimension- shed worldly concerns)

    Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run
    (Duality, one path love, other path ego and greed)

    There’s still time to change the road you’re on. (When we decipher this song, it’s still not too late to change your path)

    And it makes me wonder.

    Your head is humming (with theories)and it won’t go, in case you don’t know,

    The piper’s calling you to join him, (Source God is calling you by his tune, a higher vibration, we need to tune into Source energy)

    Dear lady, can you hear the wind blow, and did you know (the tune is in the wind blowing

    Your stairway lies on the whispering wind? (Reference from the whisper above that soon the piper will be calling)

    And as we wind on down the road (try to find our path)
    Our shadows taller than our soul.(when we rise into Heavenly plane/dimension, the shadow on the ground gets bigger the further away you are. Like what we see when we see our shadow and as we back away the shadow gets larger)

    There walks a lady we all know (Mother earth)
    Who shines white light (metaphysical white light of protection) and wants to show
    How everything still turns to gold (we have no limits and can manifest all our desires)
    And if you listen very hard
    The tune will come to you at last.( reference to attunment )

    When all are one and one is all (YAY)
    To be a rock and not to roll. (After we are attuned to the pipers tune, there will be no more doubts about our path)

    And she’s buying a stairway to heaven.

    • MiMiMeems says:

      I like this one too. Lovely.

    • Jonathon says:

      Pretty close, I say. But the lady we all know is most definitely the moon. She is a rock that does not roll. She turns to gold, i.e. the sun. She represents enlightenment, and so she “buys” our stairway to heaven which lies on the whispering wind. She is also one with heaven, not apart from it. She shines the light which shows our souls to be shorter than our shadows — because they are illusory, impermanent, mortal, false. It is through the loss of our souls, our egos, that we are saved. This is a Zen interpretation.

    • Marie says:

      Love your interpretation. The world needs more love and acceptance and less hatred.

  11. DN says:

    My thoughts on the meaning of the lyrics of “Stairway to Heaven” are pretty simple.
    ( I ) think the lyrics to be somewhat a written mental reverie that ‘s loosely connected, although connected to tell a tale.
    The beginning lyric “There’s a Lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold ,and she’s buying a Stairway to Heaven”.
    State the theme of the tale.

    One believes in western culture that (buying a way to heaven) isn’t possible, but most try to do that very thing, intentionally or not.
    So that is that.

    By analogy you could take the phrase “my kingdom for a horse” from Richard the 3rd….and you know here, it’s a dire situation…
    A very dramatic statement with word, and one assumes that the story is tragic from those words alone, at least for that character, no matter what events happen in-between.
    So it is with “the Lady”, in Stairway.
    The enchanting reverie of a lyrical tale continues until …
    the thematic statement is affirmed again at the end, the last lyric of the song. ….
    “And she’s buying a Stairway to Heaven…..”
    Which can be anyone.
    Really, it could be thought of as a poignant morality play of a meandering tale, if you recognize the fact it’d been sung and played before record players , technology and popular minstrel soothsayers.

  12. John says:

    Back to the real world and where normal people who likes the LP buys it to listen to it in a normal fashion: Who on earth cares to listen to a warped version of a beautiful song by destroying his record player needle or the record or dismantling a cassette? If you want to hear Satan’s name in music, you have 1,000’s of LP’s to choose from, available anywhere. How come those are not singled out and criticized. This is a waste of space and time…

  13. Tony Rose says:

    Very nice, indeed. I was so suspicious about the imagery I also started googling around to see if the song was tarot-related. Nice analysis.

    I agreed with everything except I thought that *maybe* the ‘May Queen’ is Venus, referring back to The Empress (= Venus, which rules Taurus (May 16-Jun 15)), and the ‘Spring clean for the May Queen’ is the Tower (upright), not the Queen of Wands. Just a thought.

    But again, sparkling analysis!

  14. Mike Dougherty says:

    Central theme: There are two paths you can go down in life, one leads truly to happiness/heaven and the other has veils of happiness/goodness but really lead to sadness/hell. It is key to know that the stairway to heaven the misguided lady thinks she can buy is really a highway to hell. The central figure of the song, the lady, IS going down the wrong path but is told there is still time to change the road you are on. Robert Plant highlights this when he has sung the song live when he calls it “a song of hope” and mid-song tells the audience “there is good news” and to “remember that” after there is still time to change the road your on lyrics. I explain more below…

    There’s a lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold. And she’s buying a stairway to heaven. When she gets there she knows, if the stores are all closed. With a word she can get what she came for. (Some Tolkein lyrics. All that glitters is enticing but not really gold. You can’t buy your way into heaven. These lyrics tell us of a misguided lady who is enticed by materialism and the glittery trappings of this world. Plant confirms the materistic nature of this lady. She is used to getting what she wants. She thinks her own will and buying into this materialistic world will bring her the happiness she really wants but it doesn’t.)

    There’s a sign on the wall but she wants to be sure. ‘Cause 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. (These are the lyrics that confirm that the lady is not sure it is really a stairway to heaven. Words can have two meanings and what we think is true may not be. The songbird is your conscience telling you that you are off track. Just because it feels right and looks like it will make you happy, doesn’t make it so. What people bank on leading them to heaven and happiness is really leading them to sadness and hell.)

    Ooh, it makes me wonder,
    Ooh, it makes me wonder.
    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. (What is Plant wondering about? I think it is important to note that Plant has sung “I really want to know” instead of “it makes me wonder”. Plant is longing for knowledge on spiritual reality. This thought goes further in this verse. The West is a symbol of the end of life or better yet the afterlife as it is in JRR Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings. Plant is not satisfied with this life and yearns for knowledge on what the afterlife could provide. The “rings of smoke” through the trees, which are objects of this earth, is activity in heaven. Some people cant see the forest for the trees, objects of this world. Gandolph, the Godly wizard in Lord of the Rings symbolizing Jesus, blew rings of smoke. And the voices of those stand looking are others who have spiritual awakening.)

    And it’s whispered that soon, if we all call the tune,
    Then the piper will lead us to reason.
    And a new day will dawn for those who stand long,
    And the forests will echo with laughter. (The pied-piper is a mystical spiritual being that I believe symbolizes Jesus here. Pied-piper sometimes has negative connotations but remember, words have two meanings. Some people view Jesus and spiritual reality negatively. Jesus calls us all to live along the same guidelines, following a similar path. If we all call the tune of the piper and follow Jesus, then all will be right with the world such that the trees, objects of this world, will echo with laughter like that of an innocent child. Live, Plants says “remember laughter” as in remember the innocence of youth. Jesus says we must be like a child to enter heaven. Those that stand long are not swept away by the trappings of this world. It has been spoken that if we all follow Jesus then heaven will come to earth and all people will be truly happy. Jesus came that we could all live life to the fullest…if we accept Him.)

    If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow, don’t be alarmed now, It’s just a spring clean for the May queen. 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. (Here is the verse that Plant tells the audience that there is good news. A hedgerow is a border of a property or the border of the being of a person. The bustle is from the winds of change that we can allow Jesus ro make or positive changes that others are making around us. It’s like a Spring clean and newness of life in the Spring. Wind also symbolizes the Holy Spirit that can enter us and make us new. The change to clean up our lives to make this world a better place, to prepare for end of life, or prepare for the second coming of Christ as the May Queen. And finally the lyric tells us we could still be trying to buy what is actually a stairway to hell no matter how enticing it appears or we could change our lives by following the path Jesus leads us to happiness and heaven.)

    Your head is humming and it won’t go, in case you don’t know, The piper’s calling you to join him, Dear lady, can you hear the wind blow, and did you know
    Your stairway lies on the whispering wind? (The humming is your conscience again that won’t leave you alone. It is from the call of Jesus and the Holy Spirit to change how you are living. Can you hear the call of the piper? For changing your life by allowing the power of the Holy Spirit and following Jesus is the only way to find happiness and the real heaven.)

    And as we wind on down the road
    Our shadows taller than our soul.
    There walks a lady we all know
    Who shines white light and wants to show. How everything still turns to gold.
    And if you listen very hard
    The tune will come to you at last.
    When all are one and one is all
    To be a rock and not to roll.
    (As we get older, we get weighted down more by our sin and the trappings of this world causing our shadows, the weight of our sin, to overwhelm our soul, former child-sized innocence. It can get tougher to change. The lady this time is Satan, who continually is trying to make the trappings of this world look more enticing than allowing ourself to change and follow Jesus. But if you listen real hard, you can still hear the call of Jesus. The call that would allow us to live as the one body of Christ in harmony with each other. We must stand strong like a rock against what Satan and the world offers and not let it sweep us away with its trappings.)

    And she’s buying a stairway to heaven. (The lady has not changed yet and followed the call of Jesus. She could be lulled into thinking she has more time to change the road she is on. Don’t get caught in that trap as well. Time runs out and then it is too late.)

    It’s not a song of hope if we don’t heed the call to change our lives and follow Jesus.

  15. Dave Henley says:

    @Mike D. Interesting view on this song. I like to believe that what Satan uses for evil can be turned around and God can use for good. I am not sure salvation was on the minds of Page or Plant when this was written.

    It’s a conspiracy to believe Americans have been purposely dumbed-down by the education system, but if you read the lyrics to Stairway and compare that with either rap or rock music of the past few years you can see there is no resemblance.

  16. dave says:

    @john.. im a skeptic. Ive heard of these satanic reversed messages however i never known what songs nor did i care. If i had heard the message long ago well i didnt not know it was stairway and i mustve assumed itvwas faked or maybe i actually listened to a hoax i dont know. However, stairway is one of my favorite songs. When i heard about the message i had to hear fir myself. Dude. Its clear. And theres no possible way led zep could’ve planned that. Any other song would sound like absolute giberish backwards. Even if you heard a “satan” or something in another song i mean it wont be a clearly structured sentance as the messages in stairway. Its way too perfect, the best editors in the world couldnt do that without wrecking the integrity of the song played normally.

  17. Brent Bryan says:

    You guys aren’t following the rules. And if you listen VERY HARD. Isis Is Sothis was thus a destructive and greatly feared goddess (perhaps akin to Sekhmet, or an Egyptian equivalent of Kali). Iachen was said to be an Egyptian magician who ‘tamed’ the power of Sirius and transformed it into a life giving power (just as the flood fertilised the land of Egypt with fresh Nile mud). When he died he became the centre of a cult which kept a flame burning on his altar. Sothis shines down the main pyramid once a year and This is where Allister Crowley, who Jimmy Page was right into has said he spoke to Nuit. A demon from hell. So There’ walks a lady we all know… Sothis. Who shines white light and wants to show… Shines in pyramid, How everything still turns to gold…. Pyramids rumored to be gold capped and evidence of such. That if you listen very hard, maybe backwards? The tune will come to you at last, Polarity of evil being good, Positive negative. To be a rock and not to roll…. To love the song but not roll with the message it’s laying down. That’s my interperetation.,

    • MiMiMeems says:

      I thought Nuit was the mother Goddess of all Egyptian Gods/Goddesses.
      Isis, I understood to be the mother goddess in the Egyptian nuclear family myth, isis married to Osiris begat horus, isis sister nepthys marries set a major downer who kills Osiris etc etc..all pre genesis, pre greek but the same vibe of jealousy/ego etc.
      I could be wrong, but that is the lore I have read. Perhaps what you are referring to is another variation on the story. I should find it.
      Thanks for a great interpretation.

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  19. Shiloh says:

    There’s only “one lady” who understands the underlying currents & message of this song and she is still considering the road to choose. She knows the prophetic timeline is beginning to narrow and time is of the essence. She, The Daughter, is instructed by The Father in Psalm 45:10 to consider and to incline her ear. Since Psalm 45 is “A Song of Loves” she understands very well this refers to music and it’s connotations it represents. “And if she listens very hard, the truth will come to her at last.” “For the piper is calling her to join him” (Psalm 45:11) She is “The Queen in Gold of Ophir” of Psalm 45:9

    “Prophecy” in Jewish Gematria Equals 666
    “Ophir” in Jewish Gematria Equals 207
    666 – 207 = 459
    Psalm 45:9

    “The Queen in Gold of Ophir” in English Gematria Equals 1458 (Soft Filter)
    45 + (1 + 8) = Psalm 45:9

  20. Shiloh says:

    Nov. 8th of this year, 2016, marks the 45th anniversary of the release of the song “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin. The correlations & parallels are staggering.
    A Song Within A Song.

  21. MiMiMeems says:

    I feel that it is Qabalistic, which is directly related to tarot/hermetics/the occult(a love of both plant and page).. It’s the journey up the tree of life from Malkuth (manifest world) to Kether/beyond. For example from the hear and now, the manifested world, directly to our true spiritual nature..that we are God. It has psychological reference to Jung, a most esoteric psycho analyst in” as we wind on down the road , our shadows taller than our souls” . It goes on to say,”.. there walks a lady we all know, who shines bright light and wants to show.”.is likely the high priestess card which is the path from Tiphareth to Kether (the middle path on the Qabalistic tree of life). this lady we all know may also be Binah the supernal mother sephirot. It goes on “ everything still turns to gold (alchemical process of manifestation/spirit to earth and back again) ” etc etc.
    By the way the B and J on the high priestess card are Boaz and Jachin pillars outside of the temple of solomon. pillars of severity and mercy. Those are the two paths, but there is a third choice and still time to change the road your on, i.e. the middle pillar/path. The “lady we all know” could be Shekinah, the Hebraic feminine.
    I think some of the other references to the May Queen and The forests echoing with laughter do harken back to plant’s love of the golden bough and druidic/celtic lore, and of course good ole Tolkien.
    This is how I visualize this song and it is a masterpiece which I still am lost in when I hear it. I think it would be a wonderful basis of a ballet which represents the qabalistic tree of life path. anyhoo that’s all this she wrote ;)

    • MiMiMeems says:

      oh and the “tune that comes to you at last” is enlightenment that all are one and one is all..we are all one all God stuff.
      To this day I cannot figure out what the hell they mean by “to be a rock and not roll” ??? someone help me with that please.

      • Wendel says:

        I think “to be a rock and not roll” refers back to the beginning of the song (what not to do). The rock has to roll (Change) to be alive and not stuck. Duality comes to mind. To Rock and Roll was an old reference about the act of sex (therefor offensive). The rock can’t make life happen without the roll. Also it’s obviously a reference to what music Led Zeppelin is making.
        I agree that “The forests echoing with laughter” is a reminder of the old pagan religion versus christianity….perhaps.

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  23. Shiloh says:

    “Coming Queen” in Jewish Gematria Equals 459
    Psalm 45:9

    “Tribe of Ophir” in Jewish Gematria Equals 459
    Psalm 45:9

    Genesis 10.29 + Revelation 19.7 = 29.99
    2 x 9 = 18
    18 x 9 = 162
    162 x 9 = 1458
    45 + (1 + 8) = Psalm 45:9

    “Twin Pillar Destruction Ritual: 911 & 322 Skull & Bones”
    The Conspirators Always Leave They’re Signature
    911: Place The 9 Behind The 11
    119 – Psalm 45.11 = 73.89 (Reverse Modified Formula)
    9 x 8 = 72
    72 x 3 = 216
    216 + 7 = 223 (322 Skull & Bones)

    Psalm 45:11 (4 + 5 = 9)

    King Tower 1368 ft. (Google)
    Queen Tower 1362 ft.
    “The Queen” in Jewish Gematria Equals 433
    1362 – 433 = 929 (9 + 2 = 11)

    “Israel” in Jewish Gematria Equals 205
    205 – Psalm 45.9 = 159.1 (5 x 9 = 45)
    Psalm 45:11

    Eloah (Strong’s Hebrew Concordance)
    “Eloah’s Daughter” in Jewish Gematria Equals 579
    579 – Psalm 119.9 = 459.1
    45 + (9 + 1) = Psalm 45:10

    “Future Hebrew Queen” in Jewish Gematria Equals 1459 (Psalm 45:1,9)
    45 + (1 + 9) = Psalm 45:10

  24. The Wendy lady says:

    Its because I wont leave my kids

  25. Bruce says:

    At least the Death card wasn’t used. :)

  26. Bruce says:

    Well, I can rest easy that the Death card wasn’t used. :)

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