Archive for the 'Education' Category

Feb 24 2014

Who was the mysterious sub-Saharan Beachy Head Lady?

Beachy Head Lady

Beachy Head Lady

Pic: Eastbourne Museums

Eastbourne Ancestors project has uncovered a rare archaeological discovery, a skeleton with African ancestry dating to the Roman period, providing further proof of the ethnic diversity within the province of Britannia reported Eastbourne Council. The Heritage Lottery Funded project, which has seen a detailed analysis of the origin, health, diet and social status of human skeletal remains, produced surprising results when the remains of the ‘Beachy Head lady’, discovered near Eastbourne’s most famous beauty spot in 1953, were proven in October 2013 by Oxford University to be that of an African lady from around AD245, the middle of the Roman period in Britain.

The results of this and many more finds, will be shown in a fascinating Eastbourne Ancestors exhibition which opens mid December.

The ground-breaking project, which is the first time an extensive analysis has taken place on one collection in the UK, will use 2D and 3D cranio-facial forensic reconstructions, allowing modern day people to gaze into the eyes of their ancestors.

The exhibition aims to put the flesh on the bones of individuals from Eastbourne’s distant past, and discover a little of their life story. Working with leading Universities, Radio-Isotope Analysis also examines bones and teeth for trace elements absorbed from food and water during an individual’s lifetime, giving a geological fingerprint to the region in which they grew up.

Facial Reconstruction

Facial Reconstruction

Pic: Eastbourne Council

Heritage Officer, Jo Seaman said:

This is a fantastic discovery for the south coast. We know this lady was around 30 years old, grew up in the vicinity of what is now East Sussex, ate a good diet of fish and vegetables, her bones were without disease and her teeth were in good condition.

Without the context of seeing the burial site or grave goods, we don’t yet know why she was here, or her social status. However based on what we know of the Roman era and a similar discovery in York, it’s possible she was the wife of a local official or mistress of the extensive Roman villa which is known to be close to Eastbourne Pier, or she may have been a Merchant, plying the trade routes around the Mediterranean up to this remote European outpost. Another theory is the rather more upsetting possibility that this lady may have been a slave, we just don’t know at this stage.

Our next step is to carry out more research to establish tangible facts about the nature of her burial site and her discovery in 1953. However, from what we have so far established, this is a major find for Roman archaeology in Britain and a highly significant one for the story of Eastbourne and for the Ancestors project in general.

Eastbourne Ancestors project began in 2012 with around 300 skeletons dating from the Bronze Age to Middle Saxon Period , each cleaned and analysed to give an ‘osteo-biography’ or story for each individual. Detailed testing of bones and teeth identifies their national or regional origins, age, gender, size, state of health, diet and in some cases, how they died. This information has been combined with data from excavations relating to their burials and grave goods to also explain their social status and possibly what they did in life.

Eastbourne Borough Council Cabinet Member for Tourism and Leisure, Cllr Carolyn Heaps said:

This fascinating exhibition will be a fantastic addition to our busy Heritage programme which ranges from Saxon events to Napoleonic re-enactments, 1940’s wartime themes and daily cannon firing in summer.

The skeletons in the project are all discoveries from targeted archaeological digs or have been rescued from construction sites across Eastbourne and its downland, and have been handed to the Heritage Service for safe keeping.

The Eastbourne Ancestors exhibition opens mid December at The Pavilion on Eastbourne seafront, running until November 2014. For more information on Eastbourne Ancestors visit Eastbournemuseums.co.uk/ancestors, or contact the Eastbourne Heritage Service on 01323 415396 or localhistory@eastbourne.gov.uk.

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You can also now download a Celtic Myth Podshow App from the iTunes store. This is the most convenient and reliable way to access the Celtic Myth Podshow on your iPhone or iPod Touch. You’re always connected to the latest episode, and our App users have access to exclusive bonus content, just touch and play! To find out more visit the iTunes Store or our Description Page.

 

iphone

You can now also find an Android version of the App which works identically to the iPhone version. You can find it on Handster at http://www.handster.com/celtic_myth.html or by using the QR code opposite. It’s also found on the Opera Marketplace in the US.

You can now also find the Windows 8 Phone App in the Windows 8 Phone Store.

Windows 8 Phone App

If you come to the site and listen or listen from one of our players – have you considered subscribing? It’s easy and you automatically get the episodes on your computer when they come out. If you’re unsure about the whole RSS/Subscribing thing take a look at our Help page.

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Feb 19 2014

Study an Accredited, Web-Based Celtic Study Programme at home

Celtic Chi Rho

Celtic Chi Rho

Pic: St. Francis Xavier Uni.

We’re proud to bring you this superb overview of Celtic Studies courses available on the Internet by our special Guest Blogger, Robert Olsen. He writes:

Flourishing scholastic programs in Irish Studies and Celtic Studies have been distinctive elements in the UK collegiate arena since the 70s. But did you know that folks can earn diplomas and obtain college credits in Celtic Studies from the convenience of their own residencies?

Modern innovations in learning technology now lure the world’s most distinguished higher-education institutions to deliver their degree programmes and courses to a wider audience. As a result, online Celtic Studies is currently the newest trend whacking the UK and the Americas for college students who want to find out about Irish linguistics, humanities, art history, paleontology and days of yore.

Learn Irish Studies in Celtic Dialects on the Web

Enrolment figures at the world’s most-poplar, web-based, Irish Studies programs prove that graduate intellectuals have become more intrigued with Scottish Gaelic, Irish and Welsh languages.

Internet-based Irish Studies in Celtic offers these post-graduate students with an approach to get to know Irish history and society with a dialect component added to the course, less the necessity of having to travel to the UK to learn it.

Where can folks find these programmes?

Celtic Studies may not get on every college student’s wish list, but for those intellectuals who wish to discover the diversity of the Irish culture through collegiate work and who own a desire to understand more about Irish society of today and yesteryear, registering in a web-based Irish studies program is the way to go.

Degree Jungle, a prominent online search engine for locating the best accredited, web-based programmes, has assembled a line-up of the most popular Celtic Studies degree courses out there. Let’s have a look at what they found!

Irish Studies at Regis: BA in Celtic Studies

This course presents college students the chance to look into the history, society, literary works and nation-wide politics of the Irish people through online classes. Electronic lessons prioritize notable historical events, the Irish church, distinctive fine art, Celtic engineering and Celtic music, taught by some of Ireland’s most renowned geniuses.
NUI Galway

NUI Galway

Pic: NUI Galway

The University of Wales Trinity Saint David: MA in Celtic Studies

Uni. of Wales: Trinity Saint David

Uni. of Wales: Trinity Saint David

Pic: Uni. of Wales: Trinity Saint David

UWTSD grants a one-of-a-kind, distance-learning regimen that is broadcasted to the homes of individuals who are fascinated with Welsh and Celtic Studies. This recognized Master of Arts degree concentrates on humanities and social heritage in Celtic territories. The degree also enables college students to research a wide range of topics, including early and late gothic history, monasticism and iconography. No prior understanding of Irish dialects is needed for this course, as learners examine course books in translation, and the course is taught through in the English language.

Cardiff University: Early Celtic Studies (MA)

Cardiff university students possess numerous opportunities to get to know Welsh, and e-learning instructors are experts in the areas of Celtic prehistory, history and folklore. Students are given a carefully monitored foreword to all digital assets, and lessons are taught in modest clusters over the web. Each enrolee takes a series of core modules, which are managed in combination with other MA and MSc certifications from school’s departments of History, Pre-history, Religion and the School of Welsh.
Cardiff University

Cardiff University

Pic: Cardiff University

Regardless if it’s wanting to tackle Welsh or Scottish Gaelic dialects or just wanting to master Celtic Studies in English, those individuals who work all day or have full-time households can oftentimes respect what the Irish studies programs listed above have to offer.

About the Author: Robert Olsen

Robert Olsen is a freelance education and technology writer with almost 5 years experience writing for tech publications, specializing in the future of distance education. A frequent contributor to educational resource website Degree Jungle, Robert and his family of three are based out of Portland, Oregon.

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You can also now download a Celtic Myth Podshow App from the iTunes store. This is the most convenient and reliable way to access the Celtic Myth Podshow on your iPhone or iPod Touch. You’re always connected to the latest episode, and our App users have access to exclusive bonus content, just touch and play! To find out more visit the iTunes Store or our Description Page.

 

iphone

You can now also find an Android version of the App which works identically to the iPhone version. You can find it on Handster at http://www.handster.com/celtic_myth.html or by using the QR code opposite. It’s also found on the Opera Marketplace in the US.

You can now also find the Windows 8 Phone App in the Windows 8 Phone Store.

Windows 8 Phone App

If you come to the site and listen or listen from one of our players – have you considered subscribing? It’s easy and you automatically get the episodes on your computer when they come out. If you’re unsure about the whole RSS/Subscribing thing take a look at our Help page.

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Feb 04 2014

Butser Ancient Farm – Researching Prehistoric and Celtic Agriculture and Building techniques

Butser Ancient Farm in Hampshire

Butser Ancient Farm in Hampshire

Pic: Butser

If you fancy a visit to a working Iron Age Farm, then you cannot do better than a visit to Butser Ancient Farm. Situated just north of Portsmouth on the South Coast of the UK, Butser boasts a unique experimental archaeological site and a fascinating day out. Nestled into the rolling South Downs National Park, this ancient farm displays ongoing constructions of Iron Age buildings based on real sites, crops from prehistory and rare breeds of animals.

The Butser Ancient Farm

Butser Ancient Farm is not just a great Hampshire day out – they are also one of the most interesting archaeological sites in the UK, a real working farm that they use as an open-air research laboratory to explore the ancient world. The farm’s directors are Maureen Page and Simon Jay. They run the business as Butser Education Community Interest Company, a not-for-profit company. Their education staff are experienced, full of fascinating information and passionate about what they do.
Re-enactment at Butser Ancient Farm

Re-enactment at Butser Ancient Farm

Pic: Butser

Leading groups in hands-on activities they encourage children and teachers alike to get the most from their day with them.

Education at Butser

Ideally set up for school visits from Keystages 1-4 they provide complete Risk Assessments for activities involving Archaeology, Chalk carving, Clunching, Jewellery, Mosaics, Pottery, Spinning, the Villa tour and Wattling. It is a perfect venue for outdoor learning and a great way to bring history alive – 15,000 pupils visit Butser Ancient Farm every year, so why not bring your class too? Inspire their curiosity to find out more about the past! They are embracing the new curriculum and activities are now available for Stone Age, Bronze Age, Anglo Saxons and Vikings as well as the Celts and Romans.

Kids loving the adventure!

Kids loving the adventure!

Pic: Butser

Not only the Kids, but Teachers love:

  • the quality of our enthusiastic team, who will lead you through an adventurous day transporting your pupils back to ancient times.
  • our carefully planned activities that tie in with different aspects of Key Stages 1, 2, 3 and 4 – from history and art to DT and maths.
  • our atmospheric Great Roundhouse and impressive Roman villa.

 

What are you studying? Celts, Romans, Invaders and Settlers, Anglo-Saxons and Vikings, Houses and Homes, Discovery for Reception Age, Medicine through Time, Sustainable Technologies or Archaeology? Our stunning site and inspiring staff will bring the past to life. Your class can sit beside a large open fire in a roundhouse that is actually based on real archaeology. They can touch, smell and see what life would have been like.

Adult Education and Workshops at Butser

Butser Ancient Farm workshops take you right back to life in Britain during the Iron Age and Roman times.

These inspiring sessions provide hands-on experience in ancient crafts and archaeological techniques in an atmospheric setting. All necessary tools are provided and workshop prices include materials. The following workshops are available during the year: Hedgelaying, wood frame building, coracle making, felt making, prehistoric metallurgy, home herbal apothecary, Roman cooking, archaeology, Bronze Age axe/gold sun disk/sword making, flint knapping, bushcraft skills, cooking over the Roundhouse fire, silver bracelet making, cave painting.
Guided Coracle activities

Guided Coracle activities

Pic: Butser on Facebook

Special Events and the Friends of Butser

Samhain at Butser

Samhain at Butser

Pic: Butser on Facebook

Beltain is their hugely popular festival to mark the start of summer, with a 30ft-high Wicker Man burned as the sun sets. Craft displays, hot food, live bands and a stunning setting make it a night to remember. Join them for their ancient celebrations of spring and our Fairy Festival to mark the ancient Quarter Day of ‘Mid-Summer.’ Samhain celebrates the Celtic New Year in October, with a folk band, story telling, fire sculpture and ghost tours. See the Great Roundhouse decorated at the end of December ready for the Tales of Winter Magic round a roaring fire.

Another highlight is Open Night at the Museum, an opportunity to visit the farm in the evening. They also have a Dig It Archeology Day for children.

This is an astounding site to visit and you can find out more about the facilities, prices and opening times on their main website, as well as more about joining the Friends of Butser – a charity (reg.no. 1039961) that helps keep the Butser Ancient Farm Project running. Membership is open to all those who wish to support Butser Ancient Farm, to promote interest in all aspects of its work, or who simply want to be part of a unique project. You can also find more details on Facebook and on YouTube.

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You can also now download a Celtic Myth Podshow App from the iTunes store. This is the most convenient and reliable way to access the Celtic Myth Podshow on your iPhone or iPod Touch. You’re always connected to the latest episode, and our App users have access to exclusive bonus content, just touch and play! To find out more visit the iTunes Store or our Description Page.

 

iphone

You can now also find an Android version of the App which works identically to the iPhone version. You can find it on Handster at http://www.handster.com/celtic_myth.html or by using the QR code opposite. It’s also found on the Opera Marketplace in the US.

You can now also find the Windows 8 Phone App in the Windows 8 Phone Store.

Windows 8 Phone App

If you come to the site and listen or listen from one of our players – have you considered subscribing? It’s easy and you automatically get the episodes on your computer when they come out. If you’re unsure about the whole RSS/Subscribing thing take a look at our Help page.

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Jan 30 2014

Amazing website has over 30,000 Oral Records made in Scotland from 1930s onward!

Search Districts in Scotland

Search Districts in Scotland

Pic: Tobar an Dualchais

The Tobar an Dualchais (http://www.tobarandualchais.co.uk/#) website contains over 30,000 oral recordings made in Scotland and further afield, from the 1930s onwards. The items you can listen to include stories, songs, music, poetry and factual information. You can search their wonderful website using their interactive version of the Scottish Map pictured left. They say:Tobar an Dualchais/Kist o Riches is a collaborative project which has been set up to preserve, digitise, catalogue and make available online several thousand hours of Gaelic and Scots recordings. This website contains a wealth of material such as folklore, songs, music, history, poetry, traditions, stories and other information. The material has been collected from all over Scotland and beyond from the 1930s onwards.

The recordings come from the School of Scottish Studies (University of Edinburgh)BBC Scotland and the National Trust for Scotland‘s Canna Collection.

Please note that not all material from the School of Scottish Studies Archives is available on the website.

Examples from these collections include

  • Stories recorded by John Lorne Campbell on wax cylinders in 1937
  • Folklore collected all over Scotland by Calum Maclean in the 1950s
  • Scots songs recorded by Hamish Henderson from travelling people in the 1960s
  • Conversations recorded on Radio nan Gàidheal

Please note that the sound quality is variable on of some of the recordings due to the sound recording equipment available at the time.

The project will ensure that Scotland’s rich oral heritage is safeguarded and made widely available for educational and personal use for future generations.

[source]

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You can also now download a Celtic Myth Podshow App from the iTunes store. This is the most convenient and reliable way to access the Celtic Myth Podshow on your iPhone or iPod Touch. You’re always connected to the latest episode, and our App users have access to exclusive bonus content, just touch and play! To find out more visit the iTunes Store or our Description Page.

You can now also find an Android version of the App which works identically to the iPhone version. You can find it on Handster at http://www.handster.com/celtic_myth.html or by using the QR code opposite. It’s also found on the Opera Marketplace as well as AppBrain in the US.

If you come to the site and listen or listen from one of our players – have you considered subscribing? It’s easy and you automatically get the episodes on your computer when they come out. If you’re unsure about the whole RSS/Subscribing thing take a look at our Help page.

Originally posted 2013-02-09 06:22:18. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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Jan 13 2014

Amazing project to produce 3D images of all the Ogham Stones


Video: Dublin IAS

A team at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies lead by Dr. Nora White are creating a publicly accessible database of 3D models of 400 Ogham Stones. This amazing project is not only cataloging each stone with details of its’ inscription, but adding a commentary, details of the stone’s location and situation, a map, a video and now – most incredibly – a 3D model of the stone that you can spin in your browser to look at all angles of the chisel-marks of the Ogham inscriptions! They have been using an Artec Eva 3D scanner to produce these models which are not only going to be viewable online at the DIAS website but they will be making high detail *.OBJ files  available for download for further study.

So What is the Ogham?

Ogham stones are among Ireland’s most remarkable national treasures. These perpendicular cut stones bear inscriptions in the uniquely Irish Ogham alphabet, using a system of notches and horizontal or diagonal lines/scores to represent the sounds of an early form of the Irish language. The stones are inscribed with the names of prominent people and sometimes tribal affiliation or geographical areas. These inscriptions constitute the earliest recorded form of Irish and, as our earliest written records dating back at least as far as the 5th century AD, are a significant resource for historians, as well as linguists and archaeologists. Seminal work has already been carried out on Ogham inscriptions, most notably by Damian McManus (Professor of Early Irish, Trinity College Dublin and author of A Guide to Ogam) on the linguistic aspects and by Fionnbarr Moore (Senior Archaeologist, National Monuments Service) on the archaeological perspective. To date, the Ogham inscriptions have been recorded using drawings and conventional photography. The Celtic Inscribed Stones Project (CISP) also includes many of the Ogham stones in its on-line database.
Ogham Stone at Boleycarrigeen

Ogham Stone at Boleycarrigeen

Pic: Nora White

The Ogham in 3D project focuses exclusively on Ogham stones, bringing all of the available information together in a single searchable archive and adding a crucial new dimension to the work already carried out in the form of 3D models of the stones.

Known Ogham Inscriptions

There are more than 400 known orthodox Ogham inscriptions. These are Ogham inscriptions on stone recording the names of individuals, sometimes accompanied by their parentage and/or tribal affiliation, as opposed to later ‘scholastic’ Oghams, which derive from the manuscript tradition and do not descend directly from orthodox Ogham. Orthodox Ogham stones appear to have primarily served as memorials and/or boundary markers as well as indicators of land ownership. Possible associations between the commemorative function of Ogham stones and actual burials, and how these may have changed over time or geographical area, is an ongoing area of study. The inscriptions themselves were usually carved along the natural edge of the stone, generally starting at the bottom left-hand side of the face and reading upwards, across the top and down the right-hand side (up-top-down). However, there is a good deal of variation in this pattern, such as upward readings on both edges (up-up, e.g. CIIC 146. Ballineanig, Co. Kerry).

There is a fascinating amount of information as well as access to all of the collected work so far on the DIAS 3D Ogham Project website.

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You can also now download a Celtic Myth Podshow App from the iTunes store. This is the most convenient and reliable way to access the Celtic Myth Podshow on your iPhone or iPod Touch. You’re always connected to the latest episode, and our App users have access to exclusive bonus content, just touch and play! To find out more visit the iTunes Store or our Description Page.

 

iphone

You can now also find an Android version of the App which works identically to the iPhone version. You can find it on Handster at http://www.handster.com/celtic_myth.html or by using the QR code opposite. It’s also found on the Opera Marketplace in the US.

You can now also find the Windows 8 Phone App in the Windows 8 Phone Store.

Windows 8 Phone App

If you come to the site and listen or listen from one of our players – have you considered subscribing? It’s easy and you automatically get the episodes on your computer when they come out. If you’re unsure about the whole RSS/Subscribing thing take a look at our Help page.

No responses yet

Dec 22 2013

New Stonehenge £27m Visitor Centre opens with stunning experience

Stonehenge and its 360-degree experience

Stonehenge and its 360-degree experience

Pic: Stonehenge

In December 2013, English Heritage unveiled its new visitor centre to the public. The Telegraph reports that it has been decades since visitors to Stonehenge were able to experience what Neolithic man did when he first set foot inside the gigantic stone circle. With tourists and day-trippers barred since the late Seventies from entering the circle in order to protect the stones from damage, there has been a fierce and long-running debate on how the site should best be displayed.

But on Wednesday a new £27 million centre opened at Stonehenge with a 360 degree cinema at its heart where visitors can “experience” standing in the ancient circle. Builders and landscape contractors have been putting the final touches to the Visitors Centre, built one and a half miles from the stones, which can be revealed for the first time here.

More than 200 steel columns support the gently undulating canopy, under which sit two “pods” which house the cinema, exhibitions, café and shops. The 360 degree cinema – 100ft in circumference compared with about 300ft in the actual stone circle – is one of several audio visual attractions built to bring the 5,000-year-old monument to life. The 360 degree cinema – 100ft in circumference compared with about 300ft in the actual stone circle – is one of several audio visual attractions built to bring the 5,000-year-old monument to life.
The New Stonehenge Vistor Centre

The New Stonehenge Visitor Centre

Pic: Telegraph

Audio-Visual Presentations

These include a 32ft “landscape wall”, on to which computer generated images of the countryside around the circle and other ancient earthworks will be projected. In addition, there will be five “people films”, shown on screens in one of the two vast pods built to house the visitor centre. These will provide information about the monument and prehistoric items on display. There will also be films exploring the conflicting theories over the establishment and use of the circle and the most advanced forensic reconstruction of an early Neolithic man’s face.

Prehistoric Objects on Display

Reconstructed Face of a 5,500 Year-old Man

Reconstructed Face of a 5,500 Year-old Man

Pic: Stonehenge

Hundreds of prehistoric objects from the Stonehenge World Heritage Site are on display at the visitor centre. Here we have selected just nine of them for you to explore in more detail. All the objects are on loan from Salisbury & South Wiltshire Museum and Wiltshire Museum, Devizes. We recommend a visit to these two museums to find out more about the prehistory of the Stonehenge area. [English Heritage]. There are also nearly 300 prehistoric artefacts on display, all of which were found inside the World Heritage Site, with many on public display for the first time.

Outside the centre, replica Neolithic dwellings have also been built, where visitors will be able to see how early inhabitants of the sites lived. Using archaeological evidence and authentic materials, the buildings are intended to provided visitors with an insight into life 4,500 years ago. Among the exhibits is a reconstruction of the wooden roller system which many archaeologists believe primitive man used to transport the huge stones at least part of the journey from quarries in south west Wales, 240 miles away.

Major renovations of surrounding area

The new visitor centre, designed by architects Denton Corker Marshall, is part of a major project to transform the site, which will include removing the existing car park, old visitor centre and fencing, restoring the landscape and shutting down the road. As a result of the closure of the A344 the monument will be reunited with The Avenue – the ancient processional approach to the stone circle. In January work will start on removing the existing facilities and returning the car park to grass, to be complete by the end of June next year.
Reconstruction of Roller System

Reconstruction of Roller System

Pic: Telegraph

A shuttle will now take visitors from the new centre up to the stone circle, which they can view, although those who prefer to walk will be able to complete the last section of the journey on foot. English Heritage’s chief executive Simon Thurley said:

This world famous monument, perpetually described as a mystery, finally has a place in which to tell its story.

A Modern Druid’s Perspective

For some years now the famous monument has been at the centre of controversy between some pagans and some archaeologists regarding both the treatment of the human skeletal remains discovered on or near the site and access to the site, with some heated arguments on both sides. Corwen Broch, renowned Druid and Ancient Music Scholar/Practitioner from the Ancient Technology Centre writes about the new centre. He says:

Corwen Broch - Ancient Music Specialist

Corwen Broch – Ancient Music Specialist

Pic: Kate & Corwen

Firstly some thoughts about the location and the building. The new visitor centre is a considerable distance from the stones. The stones can’t be seen from it, although it has some good views of the surrounding countryside. The building is interesting, a single roof covers two distinct ‘pods’, one of which, clad with timber, holds the ‘gallery’ (museum) and the other made of glass holds the cafe and shop. The space between the two makes a fairly wide atrium which holds the ticket booth, and to be honest is a bit of a wind tunnel in the winter, though it will be wonderful in the summer when the majority of visits are made. The tickets now cost around £15 for adults, almost twice what it cost before. I think this reflects the improved facilities, but is a little overpriced. I’d have been happy to pay £10 to £12. Once the Neolithic buildings are finished it will feel better value perhaps as there will be more to see.

The shop is large and has a very good selection of books, including some of the more thoughtful Pagan and Druid books and a lot of history and archaeology books. I know I’ll be going back for these. The new guidebook by Julian Richards is £4.99 and very good value, well written, informative and brilliantly illustrated. I wasn’t able to buy a copy of the exhibition guide as they were out of stock.

Step out of the circular cinema and ahead is a group of interpretation boards with the grand name of The Meaning Totems. These have some quotes on them, and there are more diverse literary quotes on the wall too. There is also a film playing in this area on four screens, which has a potted history of the various interpretations antiquarians and archaeologists have made of Stonehenge over the last few centuries. The film includes a disappointingly brief reference to how some modern people think the site is important, annoyingly misusing the word ‘spiritualism’. This absence of the contemporary is a big gap in the permanent exhibition.

Honouring the Ancient Dead

Now some background to the debate; for several years a Pagan pressure group called Honouring the Ancient Dead (HAD) have been campaigning to encourage reburial or failing that the sensitive display of human remains. HAD have consulted with both Pagans and museum professionals and drawn up a code of best practice for the display of human remains, which you can read here. Also more recently Mr Arthur Pendragon and his allies have been campaigning vigorously to have the cremated human remains found in one of Stonehenge’s Aubrey Holes reburied rather than displayed in the visitor centre, and indeed they were protesting outside the visitor centre today.

I personally am not opposed to the display and retention of human remains providing they are displayed sensitively. In fact I’d go so far as to say I am in favour of the display of human remains as I feel they can be a tangible link to the lives of our ancestors in a way nothing else can. All that said however the remains at Stonehenge are not displayed sensitively. They are in the same cases as antler picks and reconstructed arrows which seems to symbolically reduce them to the status of inanimate objects rather than what was once the remains of a thinking feeling human being. One person’s bones in particular are wired together and displayed upright fixed to a board in a way that made me viscerally uncomfortable. It is extremely saddening to me that English Heritage did not take a middle way with these remains and at least abide by HAD’s best practice guidelines. The current lack of sensitivity seems almost calculated to prolong the controversy and the protestations and plays into the hands of those most opposed to the display of human remains whilst making it difficult for those of us in favour of display to defend English Heritage.
Finished Reconstruction

Finished Reconstruction

Pic: Stonehenge

Waiting for the Land Train

The only fly in the ointment at the Henge end of things was the long wait for the land train to pick us up. Today the wind was blowing strongly and it was raining quite hard, pretty usual conditions for Salisbury Plain, yet there is no shelter of any kind or even a fence to break the wind while you wait. We stood in the rain for 10 minutes whilst the tourists around us began to shiver and shake in their thin clothes, unprepared as they were for an extended period outdoors in the British weather. My advice then is to wrap up very warm and bring waterproofs as an umbrella will probably not cut it in Salisbury Plain’s famous wind…

So to conclude the visitor centre is vastly improved. The exhibition succeeds in its aim of setting Stonehenge in its context and answering the most commonly raised questions whilst providing a more in depth experience for those who seek it. The shop is good and the cafe although basic is serviceable and not overpriced. The Neolithic buildings when finished will be very interesting and really enhance the visitor’s experience. The setting of the Stones themselves is enormously improved.

If the human remains were displayed more sensitively I would be completely happy.

Read the rest of Corwen’s superb review and thoughts about the new visitor centre on his and Kate’s blog – Kate & Corwen’s Blog.

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You can also now download a Celtic Myth Podshow App from the iTunes store. This is the most convenient and reliable way to access the Celtic Myth Podshow on your iPhone or iPod Touch. You’re always connected to the latest episode, and our App users have access to exclusive bonus content, just touch and play! To find out more visit the iTunes Store or our Description Page.

 

iphone

You can now also find an Android version of the App which works identically to the iPhone version. You can find it on Handster at http://www.handster.com/celtic_myth.html or by using the QR code opposite. It’s also found on the Opera Marketplace in the US.

You can now also find the Windows 8 Phone App in the Windows 8 Phone Store.

Windows 8 Phone App

If you come to the site and listen or listen from one of our players – have you considered subscribing? It’s easy and you automatically get the episodes on your computer when they come out. If you’re unsure about the whole RSS/Subscribing thing take a look at our Help page.

One response so far

Dec 06 2013

Unique opportunity to study Welsh Mythology online with Dr. Gwilym Morus!

The White Stag

The White Stag

Pic: vsvevg

How do you fancy a chance to take part in an 8-week course on the Symbolic Keys of Welsh Mythology with Dr. Gwilym Morus, a renowned expert in medieval Welsh Bardic Culture and Welsh Mythology in a small group over Skype? I know I’d love the opportunity! Well, the chance will come up on 8th January 2014! Dr. Morus gained his doctorate at the School of Welsh at Bangor University and currently lectures at Aberystwth University and is a well-known Guest Blogger on this site.

We can join him as he explores the Four Branches of the Mabinogi in great depth by placing them in the context of the Bards that created the stories and the society that listened to them. He is also going to explore the symbols used in the tales with the aid of Carl Jung‘s psychological understanding of symbols. Dr. Morus also draws upon the work of Joseph Campbell, author of The Hero with a Thousand Faces, to help us understand the role of mythology in understanding our own lives and how it fits in with the stories as they were told to medieval audiences and how they have evolved over the centuries.

The Four Branches of the Mabinogi

The Four Branches of the Mabinogi are amongst the most fascinating Celtic myths. Written down sometime in the 12th century, they are the remnants of a much older oral tradition that has its roots in the pre-Celtic cultures of Europe. They preserve in symbolic form the native wisdom tradition of the Welsh, the ancient lore of the medieval Welsh bards – a class of powerful poets and councillors who were themselves descendants of the druids. But these treasure troves of Welsh medieval literature do not give up their riches easily. The Four Branches are dense and stratified texts, containing within them many levels of meaning not necessarily grasped on the first, second or even third reading. As Dr. Morus says:

I was exposed to these tales as a child, and I have worked with them in creative and academic contexts for most of my adult life, yet I still find new paths of meaning to follow each time I venture into this ancient otherworld.

What’s So Special About This Course?

In two words: Personal Contact! We can interact with Gwilym and ask him questions about what he is teaching us, find out more about how we interpret these symbols and establish a personal working relationship with our tutor! All of this in a group no larger than 8 people. Now that’s cool!The aim of the course is to guide us towards an understanding of the Symbolic Keys within the tales. Symbolic Keys that unlock deeper levels of meaning. Access to these deeper levels of meaning can be achieved by meditating upon the symbolic significance of characters, events and relationships that feature in the tales. These symbolic keys can then in turn unlock the deeper structures of the branches, revealing greater themes that explore profound spiritual and philosophical truths.
Gwilym Morus

Gwilym Morus

Pic: Welsh Mythology

Once we have glimpsed the strange, half-lit otherworld contained within, once we have touched on the greater truths the tales explore, we can begin to see their deeper meaning and purpose.

The Mabinogi are one of the most important branches of Celtic mythology – a medieval collection of Welsh myths that have their roots in an ancient Celtic oral tradition – and this course offers you a rare opportunity to explore them in depth, to learn about the Welsh bardic tradition and the symbols hidden within these fantastical tales.

What’s in the Course?

Gwilym has made a superb introductory video to tell us exactly what is going to happen each week. Check it out below…

Each week students will be invited to take part in a 90 minute online discussion led by Dr Gwilym Morus via Skype. Each discussion will refer to a file of course materials sent via e-mail before hand.

Week 1 – Defining our terms
Week 2 – The Welsh Bardic Tradition
Week 3 – The Four Branches of the Mabinogi
Week 4 – The Symbolic Keys of the First Branch
Week 5 – The Symbolic Keys of the Second Branch
Week 6 – The Symbolic Keys of the Third Branch
Week 7 – The Symbolic Keys of the Fourth Branch
Week 8 – Unlocking the lower levels

The Welsh Bardic Tradition

As has been said many times these last few centuries, there is much more to the Welsh myths than first meets the eye. The Mabinogi, the medieval collection of earlier Celtic British tales, is clearly a dense, multilayered text always hinting at deeper layers of meaning.

Most of these deeper meanings can be unlocked if we view the myths from the perspective of the tradition that gave birth to them, that is the Welsh bardic tradition. The poetry of medieval Wales is deeply intertwined with the Mabinogi, with much of the court poetry of the time drawing heavily on these native sources of myth and lore.

It is clear that the bards were in part storytellers; likewise the storytellers were often bards of some kind or another. The bardic schools were involved in maintaining the native myths, which they preserved, renewed and retold. In doing so, successive generations of apprenticed bards refined the oral tradition they inherited from their teachers, each generation in turn reducing the ancient materials to more potent and condensed forms.

As a result, the texts themselves have developed many levels of meaning, as each generation’s collective meditation upon these ancient symbols has been slowly fossilised in the strata of the myths’ geology. When we find these fossilised symbols buried in the medieval text of the Mabinogi, we can use them to unlock the deeper, stratified levels of meaning that would otherwise remain hidden.

By viewing the Mabinogi from within the context of the Welsh bardic tradition, Dr Gwilym Morus reveals the symbolic keys embedded in these native tales, and explores the great psychological sophistication and wisdom, bringing to light the deeper purpose of these myths.

More about Dr. Gwilym Morus

Gwilym singing in traditional Bardic metres

Gwilym singing in traditional Bardic metres

Pic: Welsh Mythology

He began his studies in Welsh medieval literature in 2002 as a mature student enrolled on the Welsh literature degree course at The School of Welsh, Bangor University. He then went on to complete a Masters and a Doctorate at the department. His particular area of expertise is medieval Welsh bardic culture and Welsh mythology, two strands that feature heavily in his music. During his studies he worked as a research fellow at the Library of Congress, Washington DC. He is one of the few practitioners of traditional Welsh bardic declamation. He currently runs online courses on Welsh Mythology and the Welsh Bardic Tradition and lectures at Aberystwyth University. Find out more about his beautiful music and superb contribution to the Welsh Music Industry on his music website, caneuon.com.

Find out more about this superb (and very reasonably priced!) course on the website at welshmythology.com. The Course Requirements are that each student will require a Skype account with which to take part in the discussions and the ability to access the internet during the discussions. Discussion times will be agreed upon before hand. As much as possible, students from similar timezones will be grouped together. There will be sessions for both UK and US time-zones.

To register for this course or talk to Dr. Morus, please visit his Contact page.

I want a place, please! :)

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You can also now download a Celtic Myth Podshow App from the iTunes store. This is the most convenient and reliable way to access the Celtic Myth Podshow on your iPhone or iPod Touch. You’re always connected to the latest episode, and our App users have access to exclusive bonus content, just touch and play! To find out more visit the iTunes Store or our Description Page.

 

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You can now also find an Android version of the App which works identically to the iPhone version. You can find it on Handster at http://www.handster.com/celtic_myth.html or by using the QR code opposite. It’s also found on the Opera Marketplace in the US.

You can now also find the Windows 8 Phone App in the Windows 8 Phone Store.

Windows 8 Phone App

If you come to the site and listen or listen from one of our players – have you considered subscribing? It’s easy and you automatically get the episodes on your computer when they come out. If you’re unsure about the whole RSS/Subscribing thing take a look at our Help page.

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Nov 24 2013

Looking at Symbols in Celtic Mythology, by Guest Blogger Dr. Gwilym Morus

Cernunnos, from the Gundestrup Cauldron

Cernunnos, from the Gundestrup Cauldron

Pic: Wiki

We’re very proud to bring you a Guest Blog by Dr. Gwilym Morus, whose Doctorate in the field of medieval Welsh Bardic Culture and Welsh Mythology makes him uniquely qualified to help us explore the meaning of Celtic symbols. When looking at the symbols in the wonderful image of ‘Cernunnos’, the Celtic God, on one of the panels of the Gundestrup Cauldron, for example, we have to be deeply immersed  in the symbols in the image to gain an understanding of their meaning. Symbols such as the Antlers, the Torc and the phallic-like, ‘horned’ serpent carry many subtle and deep meanings. Here he examines how mythological symbols are closer to living beings than dead archaeological remains.

Being at a Distance from the Culture that gave Birth to the Symbol

When trying to interpret myths and their symbols we usually find ourselves doing so at some distance from the culture that gave birth to them. Surviving texts have very often been long separated from their original social contexts, orphans of a long dead mother tongue. With such a lack of contextual information, often our only guide is our own intuition. When we do come across motifs and symbols we don’t understand, they don’t necessarily stay meaningless for very long. Our minds are naturally stimulated into interpreting what we see, and ascribing meaning is an instinctive human response. If we stare at it for long enough, a particular symbol will always inevitably slip into one meaningful context or another, be it a simple day dream or a full blown giant leap of understanding. That’s because each one of us carries around inside ourselves a deep pool of reflection from within which we will invariably draw a Rorschach meaning. Clearly, a purely personal interpretation of a mythological symbol won’t always tell us much about the source culture that gave birth to it, especially if we are greatly removed from that culture. Its reasonable to look for comparators in such cases, similar symbols either from within the source culture itself, or if that’s not available to us then symbols from other similar cultures.

The Importance of Recognizing Subjective Assumptions

But even these comparisons tend to be selective readings, where we find ourselves inevitably making quite subjective assumptions that we can mistake for objective comparisons. Although great care needs to be taken when interpreting such elusive things as myths and their symbols, it is far better if we can admit to our more subjective responses before we assume them to be common facts. Only after doing so will we be able to see our subjective responses clearly enough to separate them from the actual material itself. But after separating them out, we should neither neglect to consider these shadowy, internal responses. Interpretation of mythological and symbolic material is sometimes automatic and instinctive; that has some value if handled the right way.
Subjective Perception

Subjective Perception

Pic: Mythic Dreams.org

If we are correct in regarding at least some myths as collective works of great art, dense and stratified texts with layers of accumulated and condensed meanings, attempting to grasp them without using our own creative intellect would seem to be missing the point.

A useful approach in trying to understand a myth and its symbols is to look at the situation in which they arose. But making assumptions about a myth by re-creating its social context isn’t as straight forward as it sounds, and generally its impossible to do so without leaning somewhat on our own innate common sense regarding what a symbol can and cannot do, what it is and what it isn’t. It is a mistake to think that any old legend can simply be analyzed like an antique box, prodded and tinkered with until it finally pops open to reveal its hidden curiosities, all without any creative engagement by the researchers themselves.

If this is the best that can be done, it will be very difficult to really get to grips with the material: an overly objective, classificatory investigation is usually doomed to be quite boring. To get to grips with the material we need to let it sink in and stir up our own subjective responses. Either we approach myths and their symbols as active, engaging, stimulating cultural artifacts or we simply classify their perceived forms and leave it at that.

Myths are more akin to Living Animals than Dead Constructs

Human Brain as a Machine

Human Brain as a Machine

Pic: H+ Magazine

A mythological symbol is probably more akin to a living animal than a dead construct, yet there is a danger of assuming that symbols and myths have almost machine-like workings. That is an unfortunate and pervasive influence of some of the natural sciences: depicting the human body as a mechanical thing does not mean that everything it creates, even its ideas, are necessarily mechanical constructs. That is a very difficult position to unknowingly start from if you wish to investigate what is essentially the subjective, generationally condensed and often instinctively created myths of a whole culture of sophisticated, conscious (and subconscious) animals.

As well as holding on to the rational, more objective techniques of study that we have refined over the millennia, its important to remember that the interpretation of myth and symbol is more of an art than a science: a great myth, like any great work of art, can only ever truly be grasped by the creative imagination. The tendency to narrow the concepts of myth and symbol to simple mechanics of meaning needs to be avoided. Just because a word has a set dictionary definition, does not imply that all vessels of meaning, including symbols, allegories and metaphors have similarly two-dimensional definitions.

As Jung pointed out some time ago, (1) it is far too simplistic to see symbol and defined meaning as two sides of the same straight-forward equation. The Saussurean concept (the view that language is a network of inter-related elements in contrast) is a useful spring-board for developing ideas about language, but symbols tend to be more complex than simple signs pointing to clearly defined signified counterparts. Language – just like myth and symbol – is not a binary code. A complex, long lived symbol will give birth to multiple meanings, and will sometimes evolve beyond its more superficial cultural boundaries. As a result, very often comparative mythology can only ever be a guideline; it may even only serve as a creative primer for a more direct, intuitive interpretation.

Taking an in-depth look at what any mythological symbol means is far more complex than the closed sign / signified duality. A myth and its embedded symbols are quite often multifaceted, containing many dimensions of meaning at the same instant, with significances from the personal to the collective and encompassing much of what lies in between. All of these dimensions need to be brought into view if we are ever to succeed in interpreting a symbol honestly, and come close to discerning some of its history and development.

(1) There’s a great essay that discusses Jung’s position here: http://theredbookofcgjung.blogspot.co.uk/2009/12/jung-on-symbols-and-self.html

Read the full article and more about the Myth And Symbol in Welsh Mythology on Dr. Morus’ Blog.

 

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You can also now download a Celtic Myth Podshow App from the iTunes store. This is the most convenient and reliable way to access the Celtic Myth Podshow on your iPhone or iPod Touch. You’re always connected to the latest episode, and our App users have access to exclusive bonus content, just touch and play! To find out more visit the iTunes Store or our Description Page.

 

iphone

You can now also find an Android version of the App which works identically to the iPhone version. You can find it on Handster at http://www.handster.com/celtic_myth.html or by using the QR code opposite. It’s also found on the Opera Marketplace in the US.

You can now also find the Windows 8 Phone App in the Windows 8 Phone Store.

Windows 8 Phone App

If you come to the site and listen or listen from one of our players – have you considered subscribing? It’s easy and you automatically get the episodes on your computer when they come out. If you’re unsure about the whole RSS/Subscribing thing take a look at our Help page.

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Nov 02 2013

The Serpent Grail and the Lady of the Lake By Philip Gardiner and Gary Osborn

lady-of-the-lake
Pic: Yvonney
Is there a mystery here to be unravelled? Is there a serpent code being held by the Grail myths? Can we uncover this code by taking a look at the Lady of Lake? The answer is yes to all these questions, for held within the folds of the coiled snake we shall discover the truth of the origin of the Arthurian tales and the strange watery Lady who was to give Arthur his sword.

There are various names attributed to the ‘Lady of the Lake;’ Nimue and Vivienne are the two most used, but most pertinent to us here is ‘White Serpent.’ Nimue is probably Mneme or Mnemosyne, who is one of the Muses or ‘water nymphs’ from Roman and Greek mythology and who gave out weapons – just as the Lady of the Lake did. Vivienne in all likelihood comes from Vi-Vianna or Co-Vianna the ‘water goddess’ or Coventina of Celtic origin (‘Coventina’s Well’ also had a skull offering discovered which is important in the worship of snakes and wisdom [1].) Continue Reading »

Originally posted 2009-02-22 10:58:50. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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Oct 17 2013

The Mythology of the Green Man An excerpt from “The Mythic Forest, the Green Man and the Spirit of Nature” By Gary R Varner

Celtic Myth Podshow Logo When we hear the word “mythology” we always think of stories, fables, fairy tales. But myth is not make-believe. Myth is based on true events and real people—somewhat exaggerated true—but not fairy tale. Mircea Eliade defined “myth” as “’living’ in the sense that it supplies models for human behavior and, by that very fact, gives meaning and value to life.” (1) It was only with the predominance of Christian thinking that myth came to mean “fiction” and “illusion”, and worse as “falsehood”. Eliade noted that myth came “to denote ‘what cannot really exist’” in our contemporary society. (2) The mythology of the Green Man is a living mythology. The “meaning and value” it gives to our lives continues to unfold and evolve for us.

The Significance of Green

Green has been known for untold ages as the color of the fairy. Green was so universally recognized, as the color of the fairy that many in Scotland refused to wear it as to do so would be to invite the anger of the fairy folk. “Greenies” and “greencoaties” were common euphemisms used in Britain for the fairy. Green was a color shunned by many as being associated with evil fairies and witches. But why green? Green is also associated with nature, with ripening life, with fertility and that is the reason.

During the formation of Christianity nature was seen to exist for the pleasure and consumption of man. That nature should exist as an entity unto herself, with powers beyond mans, was a thought that put fear into many. Later, nature was viewed as evil and anything associated with nature was seen in a similar way. That green represented the power and fertile life of nature slowly came to be associated with evil, and thus Pagan, forms bent on the torment of mankind. Thus fairies, who were mischievous entities of the underworld, part of the Old Race which inhabited many parts of the world prior to man’s arrival, became, if not outright evil, close relatives of evil. The December 28, 1850 issue of the English periodical Notes and Queries reported, “In a parish adjoining Dartmoor is a green fairy ring of considerable size, within which a black hen and chickens are occasionally seen at nightfall.” Black hens were often considered as embodiments of evil.

But, green as a color has been symbolic as well with the symbolism of new growth and greenness and it is this association which the fairy have their link. But it is also this link that humankind has lost over the centuries which has been re-established through the Green Man, the Wild Huntsman and the other legends and images of the super-natural. Green is, according to the Doel’s, an “extension to the natural world—and the supernatural in both its ‘Otherworld’ and afterlife elements.” (3)

Brian Stone, a Reader in English Literature at the Open University, most succinctly defines the importance of the color of green in regards to the Green Knight, “it surprises me that no critic has picked up one very important medieval theological reference to green as the colour of truth…evergreen…is the colour assigned to ever-living and eternal truth.” (4)

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

One of the best-known stories of the 14th century is that of the nephew of King Arthur, Sir Gawain. Written during the peak of popularity of the Green Man stone and wood carvings, the author of this famous poem remains unknown but is believed to have been a resident of north-western England. The poet is also a sophisticated and talented alliterative stylist, which was a common style during the older Anglo-Saxon period. The poetic story, as summarized by Richard Cavendish (5):

“At Camelot on New Year’s Day there rode into Arthur’s hall a gigantic green warrior on a towering horse, holding a holly branch in one hand and an immense battle-axe in the other. His skin was green, his hair was green, and even his horse was green. He had come to play what he called a game. Any champion who dared could strike him one blow with the axe, on condition that a year later the champion submit to a return blow from the green knight. Gawain took up the challenge and struck the green knight a blow that cut his head clean off his shoulders and sent it rolling to the floor. The green knight calmly picked up his head by the hair and turned the face towards Gawain. The eyelids opened and the mouth spoke, telling Gawain to meet him for the return blow a year later at the Green Chapel.”

Eventually the year passed and Gawain set out on his journey to the Green Chapel to meet the gigantic green knight.

“After a long journey he came to a noble castle, where he was welcomed by the jovial Sir Bercilak and his lovely young wife. He stayed there until New Year’s Day, royally entertained by Bercilak and, though sorely tempted, resisting the persistent attempts of Bercilak’s wife to seduce him.

On New Years Day Gawain went as he said he would to the Green Chapel. There

“the green knight appeared and Gawain bravely bared his neck for a stroke of the axe. The green knight raised the axe high, but struck Gawain only a glancing blow, which nicked his skin. He then explained that he was Sir Bercilak, transformed into the green knight by the magic of Morgan le Fay, who had planned the whole adventure in the hope of discrediting the Round Table. Gawain had been spared because he had honorably refrained from making love to Bercilak’s wife and had shown himself to be the most faultless knight in the world.”

An interesting note about the Green Chapel, according to J.D. Wakefield, is that it was not a structure but rather a green mound situated in a valley beside a stream of bubbling water. Wakefield believes that the Green Chapel was, in reality, Silbury Hill—a sacred man-made mound in Cornwall not far from West Kennett Long Barrow and Avebury—two other ancient sacred sites. (6)

How do we associate the green knight to the Green Man? This was obviously a test for Gawain, and one he passed, but this is also a story of “truth-bringing” through a mixture of pagan ritual and the confused teachings of medieval Christianity. The poem also is an alliterative telling of the turning of the year, taking place at a time between two winters, which signifies a time of death of vibrant vegetation, and then a changing back to life through renewed growth, and then again, returns to death. The green knight is beheaded and through his sacrifice he shows that life still goes on and, as John Matthews notes, “he challenges us to honor the sacrifice he makes every winter.” (7) In addition, according to Matthews, the poem tells us that “one of the gifts of the Green Man is that he instructs us in how to face our deepest fears and conquer them. In this way he becomes a companion as well as a challenger, a dual role that is present in the archetype in virtually all of its manifestations.” (8)

Other associations with the Green Man are found in the green knight’s long hair and beard, both green of course. His beard

“is like a bush…his long green hair covers his chest and back…down to his elbows. He carries a holly branch in one hand…” (9)

As the poem reads:

“Men gaped at the hue of him
Ingrained in garb and mien,
A fellow fiercely grim,
And all a glittering green.

“And garments of green girt the fellow about –
And verily his vesture was all vivid green,
So were the bars on his belt and the brilliants set
In ravishing array on the rich accouterments
About himself and his saddle on silken work.
…Yes, garbed all in green was the gallant rider,
And the hair of his head was the same hue as his horse…”
(10)

Brian Stone, in his essay on the Green Knight, also discusses this mixture of the Green Knight’s character:

“…the Green Knight’s combination of greenness, hairiness, energy, earthiness and mainly rough, imperative speech incline us irrevocably to think of two common medieval types, one an outcast and the other a rural deity.

The wild man of the woods, the ‘wodwose’, was often an outlaw who…had developed sub-human habits and the fierce unpredictable behavior of a wild beast. The green man, on the other hand, was a personification of spring, a mythological supernatural being who persists to this day in English folk dance and in the name of many pubs.” (11)

The green knight is a mixture of the heroic tales of knights, of Christian value teaching and of the lore of the pre-Christian god of vegetation. The tale of the green knight continues into “modern” times through the festivals of the Mummer Plays, which have been popular folk celebrations for at least 300 years and probably further back in time, and the Sword Dances. These folk festivals occur around Christmas and are known for the green leafed “Wilde Mann” and other green festooned figures such as the Burry Man who are an integral part of the celebrations. I do not believe that we can interpret the green knights actions in this poem as easily as Matthews seems to but Sir Gawain and the Green Knight does indicate that the underlying archetype was equally important in the 14th century to the literate and peasant classes in England, through storytelling and carved images, as he is universally important today among mankind as exhibited through carvings, novels and other forms of expression.

The Green Man of Fingest

The Green Man of Fingest was in reality a ghost. According to Daphne Phillips, in 1321 Henry Burghersh, bishop of Lincoln, was granted 300 acres of land for the development of a park as well as a large “extent” of land which surrounded the Manor of Fingest which was designated as “free warren”—or hunting rights—to the bishop. However, this large tract of land had been land in common use by the villagers who had used it to raise beef and mutton to pay taxes to the crown. In 1341 over sixty families had resided in this area and had also used the land for their livelihoods. When the bishop had taken control only a third of the land remained in the villagers use. Phillips notes that “the bishop, not surprisingly, had ‘many a bitter curse in his lifetime and after his death” (12) at the end of 1343.

Legend had it that soon after his death the bishop was seen as a “keeper in a short green coat with…bow, quiver of arrows and horn by his side”. He was, by his offensive actions in life, doomed to be the park keeper until the land was again opened up to the people. Not long after this the “banks and pales (were) thrown down and the ditches…filled up again”, the land was once again open for public use. Is this the end of the ghost stories of the bishop? No. As recent as 1898 it was recorded that the ghost was still to be seen in the churchyard, dressed in the green keepers dress. He is seen in the role of a protector of the land and it is thought that the legends of the ghostly bishop have been reformatted as a more recent version of the Lord of the Wild, or, as Phillips believes, “a god (converted) into a repentant bishop.”

The Islamic Legend of Khidr

According to legend, Alexander the Great happened to obtain a copy of Adam’s will which mentioned that God had created a magical spring behind Mt. Oaf, the mountainous barrier around the world, which was located in the Land of Darkness. The water of this spring “was whiter than milk, colder than ice, sweeter than honey, softer than butter and sweeter smelling than musk.” (13) It also granted eternal life to those who drank from it. Khidr, taking Alexander’s army with him, entered the Land of Darkness and found the spring. He bathed in the water, drank of its sweetness, and became immortal. However, when he attempted to show Alexander his find it had become lost once again. Another version of this legend states that Khidir fell into the Well of Life, gained immortality and became the Green Man. (14) Khidr is regarded among the Sufi followers as the Guide to the Sufi Path and is said to appear before Sufi adepts, in their sleep or in person, to help them on their way.

Khidr was also, in legend, a companion to Moses. Khidr’s name, according to lore, is associated with the color green and it is said that even the rock upon which he prayed turned to green. (15) Like the Green Man, Khidr

“is perceived as a representative of nature and as a source of supernatural wisdom who lives both inside and outside time and is therefore immortal.” (16)

The Green Man of Hughenden

The Green Man has reportedly physically manifested himself in England as late as 1986. An article in the South Bucks Star newspaper on September 26, 1986 entitled Phantom of the Forest read:

“A ghostly figure dressed in green startled two motorists as they drove past a crematorium just before midnight.

“The apparition suddenly loomed up at the side of the road sending shivers down the spine of driver Mark Nursey and his girlfriend Allyson Buleptt, who was in the car behind.

“Mark, of Hepplewhite Close, High Wycombe, said: ‘The most uncanny thing was the way it stood. It seemed to be wearing what I can only describe as a big green jumper. I couldn’t make out the head or hands. It seemed to be stooping but was about 5ft 11ins tall and well built.’”

The article goes on to theorize on the origin of the apparition:

“One theory is the figure was the spirit of the forest, a green man, as depicted on a number of pub signs in the Chilterns. He is also related to Herne the Hunter, spirit of the forest as depicted on TV’s Robin of Sherwood.”

The October 17th edition of the South Bucks Star saw an additional account of the “phantom”:

“Another witness of the phantom of the forest has recalled his terrifying ordeal. The seven-foot tall green ghost was seen by warehouseman Phil Mullett just yards from where 21-year-old Mark Nursey saw the figure on Four Ashes Road, Cryers Hill, near High Wycombe.

“Phil said: ‘It gave me quite a shock to read it (the previous report in the Star). The account was so close to my own. It was about 9.30pm when I drove into Four Ashes Road and on turning my car lights on full I saw this green person appear from the right hand side of the road. It drifted out to the centre of the road and turned towards me. It waved its arms, not to frighten but as if to warn me to keep back. It drifted into the hedge on the other side of the road but as I got closer it came out again to the centre, turned and lifted its arms. I knew I was going to hit it. I think I cried out or shouted something.’”

According to the news account Mr. Mullett did hit it but when he got out of the car to check, there was nothing to see. He described the apparition, as “bright green but appeared to have no legs or hands. The body was solid and it stood about seven foot tall. Instead of a face there was just a misty grey round shape.”

Green Children

One interesting report of Green Children has often been repeated over the years. The earliest account given is that of Thomas Keightley in his 1878 publication The Fairy Mythology.(17) Keightley notes that this story was “as quoted by Picart in his Notes on William of Newbridge. We could not find it in the Collection of Histories, etc., by Martenes and Durand,–the only place where, to our knowledge, this chronicler’s works are printed.”

The story, in its entirety:

“ANOTHER wonderful thing,” says Ralph of Coggeshall, “happened in Suffolk, at St. Mary’s of the Wolf-pits. A boy and his sister were found by the inhabitants of that place near the mouth of a pit which is there, who had the form of all their limbs like to those of other men, but they differed in the colour of their skin from all the people of our habitable world; for the whole surface of their skin was tinged of a green colour. No one could understand their speech. When they were brought as curiosities to the house of a certain knight, Sir Richard de Caine, at Wikes, they wept bitterly. Bread and other victuals were set before them, but they would touch none of them, though they were tormented by great hunger, as the girl afterwards acknowledged. At length, when some beans just cut, with their stalks, were brought into the house, they made signs, with great avidity, that they should be given to them. When they were brought, they opened the stalks instead of the pods, thinking the beans were in the hollow of them; but not finding them there, they began to weep anew. When those who were present saw this, they opened the pods, and showed them the naked beans. They fed on these with great delight, and for a long time tasted no other food. The boy, however, was always languid and depressed, and he died within a short time. The girl enjoyed continual good health; and becoming accustomed to various kinds of food, lost completely that green colour, and gradually recovered the sanguine habit of her entire body. She was afterwards regenerated by the layer of holy baptism, and lived for many years in the service of that knight (as I have frequently heard from him and his family), and was rather loose and wanton in her conduct. Being frequently asked about the people of her country, she asserted that the inhabitants, and all they had in that country, were of a green colour; and that they saw no sun, but enjoyed a degree of light like what is after sunset. Being asked how she came into this country with the aforesaid boy, she replied, that as they were following their flocks, they came to a certain cavern, on entering which they heard a delightful sound of bells; ravished by whose sweetness, they went for a long time wandering on through the cavern, until they came to its mouth. When they came out of it, they were struck senseless by the excessive light of the sun, and the unusual temperature of the air; and they thus lay for a long time. Being terrified by the noise of those who came on them, they wished to fly, but they could not find the entrance of the cavern before they were caught.

“This story is also told by William of Newbridge, who places it in the reign of King Stephen. He says he long hesitated to believe it, but he was at length overcome by the weight of evidence. According to him, the place where the children appeared was about four or five miles from Bury St. Edmund’s: they came in harvest-time out of the Wolf-pits; they both lost their green hue, and were baptised, and learned English. The boy, who was the younger, died; but the girl married a man at Lenna, and lived many years. They said their country was called St. Martin’s Land, as that saint was chiefly worshiped there; that the people were Christians, and had churches; that the sun did not rise there, but that there was a bright country which could be seen from theirs, being divided from it by a very broad river.”

This story is interesting on several counts. The hidden world through which the children traveled through a huge cavern is reminiscent of those legends of passages to the Underworld through sacred wells and caves. (18) An unknown race of green skinned people whose total diet consisted of vegetable matter is a mixture of fairy lore and lore associated with the Wild Folk. That Keightley’s account claims that the children’s country was Christian and that they worshipped St. Martin is obviously a Christian elaboration of a possibly older tale. One similar group of earth spirits are the Daome-Shi, a subterranean form of fairy that “dwell in burning mountains, or occupy themselves in mining, and the storing of treasure” who also dressed in green. (19)

Green Women of the Woods

Legends of Wild Men and Wild Women are abundant around the world. While the Wild Man may be more directly linked to the Green Man archetype, the Wild Woman is also an important, and ancient, link to the primordial Mother Earth. The Green Woman, the Wild Woman, is seen in numerous carvings in both the Old and the New World. Alexander Porteous wrote that “Wood-Wives”, another name for the Wild Women, “frequented the old sacred forests or groves, and apparently it had been they who had formed the court or escort of the ancient gods when they sat enthroned on the trees. These Wood-Wives were principally found in Southern Germany, but varieties of them are mentioned in Northern Germany and Scandinavia. They were the quarry of the Wild Huntsman but were saved from him if they could reach a tree with a cross on it.” (20)

This story is another Christianized version of an ancient tale. The Wood-Wives are spirits of the forest, free spirits of nature. The Wood-Wives have many of the characteristics given to the fairy (21) and elves. They often give gold for food or kindness and may cause innumerable disruptions of human life through rapid changes in weather or other mischief. Porteous notes, “very often the colour of these spirits was green, and their skin of a mossy texture…”. (22)

Some of these wood-spirits were known to possess the secrets of herbal medicine and protected various species of trees. While Porteous states that these Wood-Wives, these Wild Women, populated the Northern Germanic and Scandinavian countries, in reality they exist in most folklore around the world. Matthews wrote, “they appear frequently as gentle spirits of trees and woodland, dressed in leaves, their flowing hair contrasting with their wizened faces.” (23) These female wood spirits are not depicted as often in architectural motifs as the Green Man but they are there. Chesca Porter, writing in John Matthews’ book Robin Hood: Green Lord of the Wildwood (24), believes that the ancient Sheila-na-Gigs carved in many of the old churches of France and England are representatives of the Wild Women and are “possibly a medieval manifestation of the goddess of life and death, a reflection of the feminine power of the land itself.” Many of the Sheila-na-Gigs have been destroyed over the years due to their overt sexual connotation and their direct linkage to Goddess worship.

Feminine faced Green Women carvings are rare, however there are many carvings of women who appear to be sprouting from the stalks of plants, their lower bodies actually part of vegetation. These are as meaningful as the imaginative Green Man foliate-heads, which are more common. These carvings of female human-plant beings are symbolic of our link to nature in its primitive and innocent beauty and Mother Earths life giving force.

A fine example of a Green Woman carving is that of the Spring Maiden created during the 14th century at Exeter Cathedral. Green Women were also goddesses. The Libyan goddess Neith is depicted with a green face as well as the symbols of fertility, the bow and arrow, which also represent lightning and rain. Likewise Green Demeter was the goddess of growing corn—an obvious symbol of fertility and renewed life. Another Green Woman carving can be found at Shepherdswell church in Kent which dates back to 944 CE.

The Wild Man

The Wild Man probably is based in reality. During the Middle Ages a sub-culture existed on the fringes of society made up of outlaws and social outcasts. At times individuals made their way into the towns and cities and the Wild Man, Wild Folk, stories began. At the same time the terms also were applied to the mythical race of dwarves who were also called “Moss-Folk”. One folklorist wrote, “they are considered to be dwarfs, and they live in communities. They are grey and old-looking, and are hideously overgrown with moss, giving them a hairy appearance.” (25)

There is another aspect of the Wild Man as a creature removed from accepted society more closely associated with the Green Man. It was Lady Raglan in 1939 who coined the term “Green Man” and who assigned the term to the Wild Man, Jack in the Green and Robin Goodfellow. The Wild Man subculture came to represent those things rejected by the “civilized” elements—those being natural elements found in animal and vegetable life as well as those more “primitive” aspects of humanity. These very basic characteristics of nature came to be those most feared by the Christian society of the day. The many illustrations of the Wild Man of the Middle Ages show a naked individual completely covered in long, shaggy hair with only the face, hands, elbows (and the breasts of the female) exposed. Other illustrations show this very same individual but covered in leaves instead of hair or fur. Matthews believes that the Wild Man “expresses as aspect of the Green Man that is angry”…angry due to the denial of humankind of the rightness of nature. Angry due to the attempts at dominating nature by Christian civilization which promotes the “divine right” of man to subdue the wild. In North America the Wild Man is seen in the ancient legends of Big Foot and Sasquatch—huge human-like figures covered in long hair and leaves. Nineteenth century American folklore tells of a family of Black Foot who attacked a group of gold miners in their California cabin one evening, totally destroying the building and tearing the men apart. Was this a response to the encroachment of “civilized” man? The characteristics of the two are very similar and the react in the same ways. As Matthews writes of the Wild Man that “he can only dwell in such wild spots and avoids those places tamed by humankind, retreating ever deeper into the wilderness to escape the excesses of civilization—its cruelty, greed, and hypocrisy”. (26) So too do these mythic figures in the North American lore.

Clive Hicks, however, noted that the Wild Men and Wild Woman “are not necessarily malevolent and are depicted as helping humanity in some cases…The wild man represents an asset in each of us, the whole reservoir of qualities with which each of us is endowed…”. (27)

Do these mythical “wild men” exist? I believe so. They are part of the mythos of nature and appear at times of stress in the world. They may not be an everyday event but they exist in two worlds at separate times. They are a part of the Green Man spirit and act and react to protect the small wilderness that is left in this teeming world.

CHAPTER NOTES

 

1. Eliade, Mircea. Myth and Reality. New York: Harper Torchbooks 1963, 2

2. Ibid, 1

3. Doel, Fran & Geoff. The Green Man in Britain. Gloucestershire: Tempus Publishing Ltd. 2001, 25

4. Stone, Brian. “The Common Enemy of Man”, in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, trans. by Brian Stone. London: Penguin Books 1974, 123

5. Cavendish, Richard. “Lancelot and Gawain”, in Legends of the World. New York: Barnes & Noble Books 1994, 243

6. Wakefield, J.D. Legendary Landscapes: Secrets of Ancient Wiltshire Revealed. Marlborough: Nod Press 1999, 95-96

7. Matthews, John. The Quest for the Green Man. Wheaton; Quest Books 2001, 88

8. Ibid 90-91

9. Doel, op cit 79

10. Stone, Brian, editor. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. London: Penguin Books 1974, 26, 27

11. Ibid, 122

12. Phillips, Daphne. “The Green Man of Fingest”, in Strange Buckinghamshire, http://www.cleaverproperty.co.uk/strange’bucks/fingest.html 11/15/2000

13. Elwell-Sutton, L.P. “The Islamic World: The Two Horned One”, in Legends of the World. Edited by Richard Cavendish. New York: Barnes & Noble Books 1994, 116

14. Ibid

15. Ibid

16. Matthews, op cit. 30

17. Keightley, Thomas. The Fairy Mythology: Illustrative of the Romance and Superstition of Various Countries. London: G. Bell Publishers 1878

18. Varner, Gary R. Sacred Wells: A Study in the History, Mythology and Meaning of Holy Wells and Waters. Baltimore: PublishAmerica Publishers 2002

19. Bonwick, James. Irish Druids and Old Irish Religions. New York: Barnes & Noble Books 1986, 90 (A reprint of the 1894 edition)

20. Porteous, Alexander. The Lore of the Forest: Myths and Legends. London: Senate Publishers 1996, 91 (A reprint of the 1928 publication Forest Folklore published by George Allen & Unwin, London)

21. Fairies were not always the diminutive and mischievous, green-clad folk of legend. Originally they were the People of Danu, the Tuath-de-Danaan who were the legendary, magical and learned inhabitants of Ireland. After the Milesians gained control of the island they became gods and over time became what we now regard as the Fey, or Fairies. Many of the kings and queens of the Tuath-de-Danaan became the Old Ones, the Gods and Goddesses of Ireland. The Dagda, the Good God, was one of their kings and Boann, his wife, one of their great Goddesses. After the Tuath were defeated by the Milesians, the Dagda became the King of the Fairies and the Fey melted back into the earth, living in the many Fairy mounds and other Otherworld locations.

22. Porteous, op cit, 90

23. Matthews, op cit., 110

24. Matthews, John. Robin Hood: Green Lord of the Wildwood. Glastonbury: Gothic Image Publications 1993, 201

25. Porteous, op cit 93

26. Matthews, John. Quest for the Green Man, op cit 110.

27. Hicks, Clive. The Green Man: A Field Guide. Helhoughton: COMPASSbooks 2000, 7

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Authors Den of Gary R. Varner

Gary is a folklorist with a background in archaeology & anthropology. He writes of the continuation of ancient traditions into contemporary society.

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Originally posted 2009-07-21 08:05:43. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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