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The Meaning of Fleetwood Mac’s “Rhiannon”

Stevie Nicks with Fleetwood Mac in 1977. Photo by Michael Putland.

Fleetwood Mac’s “Rhiannon” was famously written by Stevie Nicks near the end of 1974, just a few short months before she first joined the band with Lindsey Buckingham in 1975.

The track initially appeared on Fleetwood Mac’s self-titled album in 1975, which introduced the new sound that Buckingham and Nicks brought to the table and subsequently became the number one album in America.

According to an interview with Stevie Nicks dated back to the mid-70s, she wrote “Rhiannon” after coming across the name in the novel Triad by Mary Bartlet Leader. She said that she stopped for a moment and thought to herself that it was such a pretty name, and then ten minutes later she had written the entire song.

The Triad character, Rhiannon is a witch who possesses the main character of the novel, and so Fleetwood Mac’s “Rhiannon” has come to be known as a song about a witch. Stevie Nicks and her mysterious, witchy appearance and voice certainly lend themselves to that interpretation.

As a result, “Rhiannon” has become somewhat of the signature song for Stevie Nicks, and is one of the most memorable Fleetwood Mac songs.

In a 1976-77 interview with radio host Jim Ladd, Stevie Nicks further discussed the meaning of “Rhiannon”, and she mentioned something she learned after writing the song that further lends itself to the idea of the witch. She speaks of the Welsh witch named Rhiannon created in the 1972 fantasy novels, The Song of Rhiannon by Evangeline Walton.

The novels dictate the story of this witch named Rhiannon, and Stevie says that the character from the stories lines up exactly with what she pictured when she wrote the song, though she hadn’t heard of the story until after writing the lyrics.

That makes two stories containing witches named Rhiannon that have become interwoven with this song:

And, um, so I wrote this song and made her into what I thought was an old Welsh witch. And then I had just, just found out ~ because somebody from Phoenix found a whole trilogy of books written in 1972 on Welsh mythology ~ that Rhiannon was a Welsh witch.There’s a whole ~ there’s a trilogy of books written about her called the song of Rhiannon.Which is pretty weird because I never saw that. And yet the song is exactly about that.

So it is ~ it’s just about, it’s just about a very mystical woman that is finds it very, very hard to be tied down in any kind of way ~ and she’s uplifting all through the song. That’s ~ that’s what I wanted to get and that’s what the band got really well was that uplifting of wings kind of a feel, you know ~ when you feel like you see a seagull and she’s, she’s like lifting up. Well, that’s, that’s Rhiannon. Rhiannon ~ yeah ~ she’s moving up.

Stevie Nicks on the lyrics to “Rhiannon,” 1976-77.

Stevie herself has said many times that “Rhiannon” is one of her favorite songs, and would sometimes refer to the mystical tune as a “she” rather than as a song.

When asked by a journalist at Rolling Stone in 1979 why she does this, she replies: “Well, because…I don’t know why. She is some sort of reality. If I didn’t know she was a mythical character, I would think she lived down the street.”

It has long been known that Stevie Nicks has a thing for the mystical and supernatural. The story goes that she spent a lot of time at home under the influence of her mother, who taught the young Stevie lots of fairytales and ghost stories that stuck with her as she grew up.

Part of this was Stevie dressing up as a witch for Halloween, and later it showed in her playing the role of an enchanting witch as the singer of Fleetwood Mac.

“Rhiannon” is just one of many songs that Stevie Nicks wrote in Fleetwood Mac that emerged as some of their best songs, with “Landslide” being another example from this same album, and “Dreams” from Rumours as another shining example.

Her presence in Fleetwood Mac brought them from the status of a decent blues rock band, to the legendary act that they are remembered as today.

Listen to “Rhiannon” by Fleetwood Mac below.

4 comments on The Meaning of Fleetwood Mac’s “Rhiannon”

  • May 30, 2023 at 11:00 pm

    My dad named me Rhiannon on April 20, 1978 . He didn’t like the original spelling of it so he changed it a little bit to Reihanan. Which is also beautiful when written down. My daughter Summer had got me and her surprise birthday tickets for me 4 months before the concert. However tragically my 19 year old only daughter died in a tragic ATV accident 2 months prior to the concert. I wasn’t going to go I was devastated but something kept pushing me to go and I’m glad I did. Because what happened can’t be explained in words. Mid through the show Stevie asked if there were any Rhiannon’s in the audience that night, there were hundreds until she said a proof of ID would be required and only 3 hands we were brought onstage to do a part of Rhiannon with her and given a souvenir. The other two girls both had Summer as part of their names and my souvenir was signed with, your dream came true with a burst of Summer! I nearly collapsed!

  • May 9, 2023 at 9:22 pm

    I would love to meet her I have been infatuated with her my whole life and I’m 69 years old But I do not know how or if I could ever do that before I leave this earth I sure wish I could I love you Stevie and it’s very genuine 💗🦋🎱⚾️🐧

  • December 23, 2022 at 12:10 am

    I saw her in 2022 @ The Hollywood Bowl in California. I have Seen her with Rod Stewart their also. When she made her last solo album. Also with Fleetwood Mac when they made the Tusk album with the USC Marching Band at the Forum and her with Fleetwood Mac without Christine McVie at either the Forum or Arrowhead Pond. A total of 5 concerts. Their music brings back so many good memories in my life. My daughter has taken me to 2 of them as a birthday gift. We are both Geminis born a week apart and Stevie is also a Gemini ♊️. I just love that band. Sorry to hear about Christine McVie’s passing.

  • July 20, 2022 at 10:56 pm

    Stevie nicks is my opinion the greatest song writers of all time
    Her courage and passion, heart and love come through in all the lyrics she writes
    She opens her soul and her light shines on us all we are better for knowing her
    I was blessed to see her June 12, 2022 front row
    She had a brilliant performance all were on their feet I danced the whole show
    High priestess of rock and roll