Mar 27 2014

Ancient Butter found 2,500 years later in a Bog at Shancloon in Ireland

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Bog Butter in Wooden Urn

Bog Butter in Wooden Urn

Pic: Cork Butter Museum

Experts from the National Museum of Ireland believe that the ‘Bog Butter’ found in the bog at Shancloon, north of Galway, could be 2,000 to 2,500-years-old. The butter was found when Ray Moylan from Headford was having his annual turf supply cut by contractor Declan McDonagh. Moylan, a bus driver, contacted the Office of Public Works, Headland Archaeology in Galway and the National Museum of Ireland when he made the discovery.

The butter which was found in timber keg, made from the trunk of a tree, weighed almost 28 pounds. The keg was built using Iron Age implements. It was buried three to four-foot away.

An assistant keeper with the National Museum of Ireland, Padraig Clancy, said that the butter could be up to 2,500 years old. Clancy along with Karena Morton conservator at the National Museum of Country Life, removed the butter from the bog. It will be brought to the National Museum’s facility in Lanesboro. Clancy said:

The type of vessel it is in usually helps us to date the period the butter is from, and this one could date back to the Iron Age.

Archaeologist Ross MacLeod commented on the quantity of butter discovered in Galway. Speaking to the Irish Times he said:

It would have been a substantial loss to the family that buried the butter in the bog that they never recovered it. Perhaps the person who buried it died or forgot where it was left… That might have been stored up by a family during the summer and put into the bog for use during the cold winter months. Its loss could have been a tremendous one for some family a long, long time ago.

Bogs were used as a primitive form of refrigeration by people in the past. The peat creates a vacuum around buried material.

Read more: http://www.irishcentral.com/news/bog-butter-find-believed-to-be-2500-years-old-121769889-237387291.html#ixzz2x9uRgxF3

Votive Offerings

Another theory that is sometimes seen with the discovery of Bog Treasures like this, is that the object would have been a votive offering – an offering to the Gods. Butter, no doubt seen as a highly valuable and prized commodity, would have been ideally suited as an offering and 2,500 years ago the Butter would have been placed in watery marsh, and probably not buried. Bogs tend to develop as the marshland dries out. Rather than thinking that this Buttery treasure had been forgotten by its owner, it seems far more likely to me that the churn was gifted to the Gods in the hopes of gaining their favour, much as other votive offerings have been found throughout Celtic Europe. Jane McIntosh, Handbook to Life in Prehistoric Europe, p. 256 refers to…

packages or pots of “bog butter” (that) have been found, probably placed in bogs or lakes in the Bronze or Iron Age. These may have been votive offerings or simply placed in water to keep cool in summer months and never retrieved.

Rubicon Heritage continues. Theories about the origins of Bog Butter deposits are divided between two schools. The first suggests ritual `votive offerings´ – the deliberate deposition of the casks in honour of/supplication to a deity. The second school proposes `human error´ – accidental deposition either as a result of forgetfulness or the death of the owner. Bogs would have acted as a reliable form of refrigeration for a winter stock of butter surplus and the unfortunate owners of the butter failed to adequately mark the stockpile.

The IPCC (Irish Peatland Conservation Council) lists a reference to a recipe for Bog Butter from an account of Irish food written by Dinely in 1681: ‘Butter, layed up in wicker baskets, mixed with a sort of garlic and buried for some time in a bog to make a provision of an high taste for Lent’.

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Mar 25 2014

Confessions Of A Westcountry Witch-finder – lost book finally discovered

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Jason Semmens

Jason Semmens

Pic: Academia.edu

AS if by magic, an important 50,000-word manuscript for an unpublished book on Cornish folklore, assumed long-destroyed, has just been rediscovered This is Cornwall reported in 2009. The guest speaker at the Winter Festival of the Federation of Old Cornwall Societies, Jason Semmens, pictured left, announced the news to an audience of 200 members in Wadebridge Town Hall.

He said that quite by chance the federation’s publications officer, Anne Knight, had received the missing manuscript to catalogue as part of her work for Cornwall Library Service. It had been deposited at the Cornwall Centre in Redruth after being found and rescued during a house clearance.

Mr Semmens – whose book, The Cornish Witch-finder: William Henry Paynter And The Witchery, Ghosts, Charms And Folklore Of Cornwall was published by the federation last year – said he had been looking for the lost manuscript for many years.

He said the book, entitled Abracadabra, or Confessions Of A Westcountry Witch-finder, had been written by Bill Paynter, who died before it could be published.

It contains a wealth of folklore information collected in the early 20th Century. Founder of Callington Old Cornwall Society, Mr Paynter was made a bard in 1930 and chose the name Whyler Pystry (Seeker of Witchcraft).

Mr Semmens announced the discovery during a talk on the theme of witchcraft, conjurors, cunning folk and charmers in Cornish folklore.

You can visit the Federation of Old Cornwall Societies and learn much more about some of the old histories of Cornwall. You can also find them on Facebook.

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Mar 07 2014

The Wild Men of Europe bring fertility to the land

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Sauvage at carnival in Switzerland

Sauvage at carnival in Switzerland

Pic: Charles Fréger

They become bears, stags, and devils. They evoke death but bestow fertile life. They live in the modern era, but they summon old traditions reports Rachel Hartigan Shea for the National Geographic. A primal heart still beats in Europe. Deep beneath the gloss of cell phone sophistication lie rituals that hark back to harvests and solstices and fear of the winter dark. Monsters loom in this shadowy heart, but so does the promise of spring’s rebirth and fertile crops and women cradling newborn babes.

It turns out that Europe—at least pockets of it—has not lost its connection to nature’s rhythms. That connection is rekindled during festivals that occur across the continent from the beginning of December until Easter. The celebrations correspond to Christian holidays, but the rituals themselves often predate Christianity.

The roots are difficult to trace. Men—and until recently, it has almost always been men—don costumes that hide their faces and conceal their true forms. Then they take to the streets, where their disguises allow them to cross the line between human and animal, real and spiritual, civilization and wilderness, death and rebirth. A man “assumes a dual personality,” says António Carneiro, who dresses as a devilish careto for Carnival in Podence, Portugal. “He becomes something mysterious.”

Photographer Charles Fréger set out to capture what he calls “tribal Europe” over two winters of travel through 19 countries. The forms of the costumes that he chronicled vary between regions and even between villages. In Corlata, Romania, men dress as stags reenacting a hunt with dancers. In Sardinia, Italy, goats, deer, boars, or bears may play the sacrificial role. Throughout Austria, Krampus, the beastly counterpart to St. Nicholas, frightens naughty children.

But everywhere there is the wild man. In France, he is l’Homme Sauvage; in Germany, Wilder Mann; in Poland, Macidula is the clownish version. He dresses in animal skins or lichen or straw or tree branches. Half man and half beast, the wild man stands in for the complicated relationship that human communities, especially rural ones, have with nature.

The bear is the wild man’s close counterpart—in some legends the bear is his father. A beast that walks upright, the bear also hibernates in winter. The symbolic death and rebirth of hibernation herald the arrival of spring with all its plenty. For festival participants, says Fréger,

Becoming a bear is a way to express the beast and a way to control the beast.

Festival of Bears, France

Festival of Bears, France

Pic: Charles Fréger

Traditionally the festivals are also a rite of passage for young men. Dressing in the garb of a bear or wild man is a way of “showing your power,” says Fréger. Heavy bells hang from many costumes to signal virility.

The question is whether Europeans—civilized Europeans—believe that these rituals must be observed in order for the land, the livestock, and the people to be fertile. Do they really believe that costumes and rituals have the power to banish evil and end winter? “They all know they shouldn’t believe it,” says Gerald Creed, who has studied mask traditions in Bulgaria. Modern life tells them not to. But they remain open to the possibility that the old ways run deep.

See the original article with all of Fréger’s photographs at the National Geographic website.

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Mar 05 2014

Brandy, Baccy & Laces – Smugglers In Cornwall

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Cornish Smugglers

Cornish Smugglers

Pic: Daphne Du Maurier – Jamaica Inn

It is difficult to separate the myth from the reality with smugglers Cornwall Calling tells us. Were they free traders, organised crime, villains, local heroes? Cornwall was suitable for smuggling in that it had a long expanse of rocky, virtually uninhabited coast, with few revenue men to patrol it. The goods smuggled included tea, brandy, gin, rum and tobacco. Following numerous increases in tea tax, tea could be bought in Europe for 1/6th of the price in Britain, while French brandy was only 1/5th of the price.

Initially, smuggling took place fairly openly with cargoes landed directly on the shore. This was made possible by the involvement of all sections of the community, from the local landowner downwards. The involvement of the gentry would range from turning a blind eye, to full scale involvement. The Killigrew family who established Falmouth, was one family whose money and influence came from smuggling and piracy.

Smuggling boomed until the end of the 18th century. Some sources say 500,000 gallons of French brandy per year were smuggled into Cornwall. In addition ships returning from the far east would heave to off shore and sell china, silk and cotton goods free of tax to local boats. In 1763, three East Indiamen in Falmouth harbour, are said to have sold £20,000 of goods in this way. However from around 1800 the Revenue men became more organised and proactive.

Smuggled goods had to be dropped off in remote coves, and picked up again when the coast was clear. Tunnels and passages were dug out of the rocks to expedite movement. The risks involved in smuggling were high. A minimum penalty of transportation to colonies such as Australia, was common, and often the penalties were much more severe. Robert Lang, a smuggler from Veryan, is recorded as being hung at the crossroads of Ruanlanihorne and St. Mawes as an example to others. Once landed, much of the contraband made its way up country.

On the windswept wastes of Bodmin Moor Jamaica Inn is perhaps the best known of all smuggling haunts, thanks to Daphne Du Maurier‘s novel. It is surrounded by barren country and often hemmed in by chill winds and thick mists, and the approach is perhaps more spectacular than the building itself.

Famous Smugglers

Perhaps most famous of the smugglers at this time was the Carter family of Prussia Cove, where John the eldest son, because it is said, of his deep admiration for Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, named the cove so. His activities were legendary, but he eventually “retired in the early 1800s.

The brother and sister team, Fyn and Joan, were notorious smugglers, who used Looe Island as their base. Black Joan, as she was known, was the more violent of the two and is believed to have murdered a Negro whose ghost now haunts the island. Looe Island has had various owners, it was an ecclesiastical centre, then it passed to the Mayows in the 16th century and the Trelawneys from c 1600, and it was tenants of Trelawney who ran the trade in smuggled goods from the Channel Islands to Looe for over 80 years from the 18th to the 19th century.

One story names the pair as Hamram, and his daughter ‘Tilda’; another account makes them brother and sister, Fyn and Black Joan. The pair stored contraband in a hidden and the smugglers paid a fee for each tub concealed.

Customs Smuggler by William Heath c1830

Customs Smuggler by William Heath c1830

Pic: Old Cornwall

Baring-Gould in “A Book of Cornwall” relates a story of a tavern keeper, an evil faced man, who had been a smuggler in his day: He and his men were rowing a cargo ashore they were pursued by a revenue boat. Tristam Davey,the smuggler, knew this bit of coast perfectly.

There was a reef of short slate rock that ran across the little bay, Tristam knew how to clear the reef,but the revenue boat following did not. It hit the reef, and Tristam shot the mate of the revenue boat, leaving the rest to fend for themselves in the water.

Another legendary smuggler was “Cruel Coppinger”,whose biography was written by Rev RS Hawker. reputed to have coerced villagers through fear and intimidation, into smuggling, when he came to live in Cornwall after shipwrecking on the safe houses, in villages throughout the north coast. His son is said to have inherited his barbarous ways and to have laughingly killed his playmate as a young child.

Smugglers Beaches in Cornwall

Prussia Cove in Cornwall

Prussia Cove in Cornwall

Pic: Cornwall Guide

In 1765 a beach 2 miles west of Padstow was in use as a landing point, and William Rawlings wrote in that year to the earl of Dartmouth that his servants encountered 60 horses carrying a cargo from the beach some 3 miles from St Columb…’having each three bags of tea on them of 56 or 58lbs weight’.

When pepper was taxed heavily, it became a popular item for the Cornwall smugglers, and tiny Pepper Cove a little way north of Porthcothan takes its name from the boatloads of spice that were landed there. 4 miles south of Padstow. Walk across the beach, and South along the cliff path for about 600 yards.

Pepper Cove is the 3rd inlet. It’s an archetypical smugglers’ cove: the entrance from the sea is narrow, and fringed with jagged rocks; once inside, a smuggler’s vessel would be totally hidden by the high cliffs, so that unloading could be a safe and leisurely activity. The beach is sandy and free of rocks, and the gradient is sufficiently gentle that even a large boat could have been beached quite easily.

Nearby is Wills Rock where smugglers left a revenue man on the rock to drown in the rising tide; but the officer lived to tell the tale. On the coast north of Hayle, the B3301 coast road to Portreath passes several landing points: Hell’s Mouth some 5 m from Hayle,was a landing spot; and Ralph’s Cupboard (named after a smuggler), a mile outside Portreath at was used for storage. And there is a report of James Bawden of Gwithian being tried in 1801 for smuggling.

Hayle was a landing place for smugglers, and in the garden of a house that was formerly the local youth hostel there is a tunnel that was probably used for smuggling. A sloping trench leads down from ground level to the arched tunnel entrance, where the hinges for a gate or door can still be seen.

The tunnel is still open, and runs due north for hundreds of yards. It is possible to walk along it. It seems authentic as any: it is the right shape; it runs towards the coast; it even has a drainage gulley along its length to keep the flat floor dry.

Cornish Smugglers Landing

Cornish Smugglers Landing, George Morland, 1793

Pic: Sailing By

At St Ives Bay, the collector of customs was a John Knill, who dabbled in smuggling a little himself. When he was mayor (in 1767) he paid for the fitting out of a privateer, which was used as a smuggler. One story links Knill to a boat loaded with china that ran aground at the Hayle side of Carrack Gladden. The crew escaped, and someone removed the ship’s papers since they implicated Knill and a squire from Trevetho. Roger Wearne, the customs man of the time, helped himself to some of the cargo, but as he was climbing down from the vessel , one of the locals noticed his bulging clothes, and a few well-aimed blows ensured that the china was worthless.

The Blue Bell Inn at St Ives was once the haunt of a Dutch smuggler called Hans Breton. It was said that he was in league with the devil, and that he paid duty on only one keg of brandy. This, however, never seemed to empty, and lasted him 22 years. Also at St Ives in 1851, a notorious local smuggler called James ‘Old Worm’ Williams landed smuggled Irish whisky close to the St Ives breakwater, and hid the barrels in fishing boats and pig sties near the water.

Later that night, three carts collected the haul, a coastguard drinking in the George and Dragon in the market place noticed them, but he was bound and gagged by locals. After some time, though, he managed to free himself, but could not find the carts full of contraband. The case was dismissed for lack of evidence.

The Batman

The “Batman”

Pic: Old Cornwall

At St Ives in the 1870s a local boat called Old Duchy smuggled rum from Holland. The trips ended when the excisemen put spies among the fishermen. At Trencrom Hill, Lelant, one of two granite cottages once known as New Castle was used as a 19th century kiddlewink — a beershop. Smugglers excavated a cave alongside for the concealment of contraband.

The cottages still stand on the hill, but are private houses — there is no public access to them. The church at Lelant was also used for the storage of contraband spirits. At St Just, a short two smugglers – Oats and Permewan – were active around 1818. They employed a middle-man, who paid the merchants in France. But the middle-man, Pridham, got greedy, kept the payments and threatened to report the smugglers to the authorities. An eventual court case never got anywhere.

Sennen was a centre of the free-trade. The inn was owned by the farmer who ran local smuggling operations, with the help of the landlady of the inn, Ann George, and her husband. The Georges fell out with their landlord, and later testified against smugglers in a court case. In 1805 when the excise men impounded a large cargo — 1000 gallons each of brandy, rum and gin, and a quarter of a ton of tobacco. The owner of the cargo eventually appeared in court. The main witness for the prosecution was Ann George, but she was regarded as such a malicious gossip that the case was dismissed.

The Penzance revenue men were ineffective in early years. In 1767 nine smugglers’ vessels, including armed sloops, sailed from Penzance harbour in broad daylight; a man of war looked on, powerless to stop them. Five years later a customs boat from Penzance was plundered and sunk by smugglers, and in the same year, another smugglers’ boat captured the revenue cutter Brilliant, which was lying in Penzance harbour with seized goods on board. The excisemen were weak, and the smugglers had strong local support. In 1770 the Mayor of Penzance was bound over with a large financial surety, to cease smuggling.

At Ludgvan, two miles north east of Penzance, the customs officers could not sell seized liquor in 1748, because of the vast quantity smuggled in. Smugglers were asking 3/3 a gallon for the illegally imported liquor: the reserve price on the seized goods was 5/6. Mousehole is the most westerly of the Mount’s Bay smuggling villages. Contraband was carried around openly during the day — when asked why he had not apprehended the villains, the preventive assigned to the town said he had been pelted with stones, and lay in his bed recovering. Around 1780 charges were brought against the Mousehole officials for accepting bribes and cooperating with the smugglers. Richard ‘Doga’ Pentreath of Mousehole was described by the Penzance Collector of Customs as ‘an honest man in all his dealings though a notorious smuggler’.

Another smuggler, Thomas Mann, was also described as honest. Buildings at Helston were frequently pressed into service to house smuggled goods in transit from the coast. George Michell drove a cart load of silk up to the Angel In pub, but the landlady warned him of a party of searchers, awaiting his arrival. Michell sent his son round to the yard with the cart, walking brazenly into the bar, and bought the crowd of searchers a drink.

Michell spun out the conversation for a good while, eventually, they heard a rumble of cart wheels, and, rushing to the window, the searchers saw an old horse-drawn hearse driving off which they dismissed as a pauper’s funeral. Not surprisingly when the officers eventually got round to searching Michell’s cart, they found only innocent provisions. Mullion Cove at the east of Mounts Bay was a favourite landing place for contraband. On one occasion, Billy of Praow was bringing brandy ashore, when the cargo was captured by a government brig.

Smugglers Rest Inn Sign

Smugglers Rest Inn Sign

Pic: Cornwall Calling

News of this spread, and the local people raided an armoury at Trenance, and opened fire on the brig in the bay until the cargo was returned. The Spotsman, a prominent local smuggler was returning from France with a cargo of brandy, and landed the goods between Predannack Head and Mullion Cove, at a spot called locally ‘the Chair’. On discovering that the excisemen were planning to raid his beach, he hid the casks in a mineshaft.

On another occasion the Spotsman was slow to reply to a challenge by another smuggler, and was mistaken for a revenue man and shot. Fortunately he lost only his thumb in the encounter. There is further background on this smuggler in this information. Lieut Drew, the chief Coastguard for the Mullion area, is credited with smashing the smuggling ring in the district. Drew and a fellow coastguard interrupted a run, and hauled in 100 tubs that had been hidden at sea. Later Drew interrupted another attempt to run goods in at Angrowse Cliffs and recovered nearly 100 tubs that had been sunken by the ship.

By 1840 the game was effectively up. At Gunwalloe a little way to the north, caves on the beach were said to be linked by a tunnel to the belfry of a nearby church, and another passage joined the Halzephron inn to Fishing Cove, the home of a local smuggler called Henry Cuttance. Porthleven. Local legend tells that tunnels connect caves in the cliffs to Methleigh Manor a mile or so away.

The Ship Inn at Porthleven was rumoured to have numerous escape routes; these must be very cunningly concealed, because a search by the present landlord revealed no trace. Falmouth area. The smugglers of Falmouth operated on an extraordinary scale. In 1762 three East Indiamen returning to Britain from China anchored in the bay, and for a fortnight held a regular on-board bazaar, selling silk, muslin, dimityes, china, tea, arrack, handkerchiefs and other goods.

Falmouth Postal Packet Ships

Falmouth Postal Packet Ships

Pic: Cornwall Calling

The Falmouth postal packet ships were also heavily implicated in smuggling. War led to larger crews on the packet boats, and this in itself was good for trade in Falmouth. In 1739 one commentator could scarcely conceal his glee at the prospect of imminent war with Spain…

There is something to be hoped, past experience teaching us that the Town will flourish in a French war, 1743

though, brought an unexpected crack-down which strangled Falmouth trade. A Times report of 1786 tells of a skirmish between the “Happy Go Lucky”, a smugglers boat from Falmouth, and the revenue cutters.

Newspaper reports for 24 May 1839 tell of a schooner loaded with coal docking in the harbour. The coals were gradually unloaded. But a suspicious customs officer bored holes in the hull with a gimlet. Withdrawing the gimlet, the customs officer received a face-full of brandy, from a tub stowed in a cavity between the false interior of the hull and the outside. Altogether there 276 barrels of brandy and gin in the space.

The ship had been operating for 3 years without detection. The creeks south of Falmouth, notably at Gweek and Helford, also proved useful to smugglers seeking privacy for their activities, as did the beaches and small fishing ports at Porthallow, Porthoustock, Godrevy Cove, Coverack, Black Head and Kennack Sands. Smugglers. In September 1840 a 30-strong gang of smugglers using several carts broke open the custom-house at Helford, and removed 126 half ankers of Brandy, which had been confiscated a few days before at Coverack.

They worked from 1 to 1.30, but generously left 3 barrels for the excisemen. The customs-man on station heard the doors being forced, but was powerless to do anything. The tubs had been seized from the Teignmouth — they were lashed to the outside of the boat (although this technique was common in Kent, it was less convenient for the long crossing to Cornwall). When the vessel reached the beach at Gweek, the crew hailed two men on the beach for help — they proved to be customs officers, who drew their pistols and arrested crew, ship and cargo.

Just to the south of Mylor, at Penrhyn, local legend tells of a tunnel linking the shore to St Gluvias’ Vicarage, and farther down the creek on the south side, there are two caves used for storage. A tunnel on the same site has now been blocked.

Near to one of these creeks in 1801 a mounted smuggler carrying two ankers of spirits was surprised by a customs man. The smuggler rode off at speed and eventually plunged into the water to escape. The smuggler escaped, but his horse drowned and with the help of the ferry-man the preventive rescued the barrels.

Carn Brea Smuggler's Cave

Carn Brea Smuggler’s Cave

Pic: Wiki

Close to Truro, Sunset Creek, opposite Malpas, was the site of Penpol Farm, which featured a sunken road, and hiding places in caves and woodland. Tresillian Creek to the east and Mylor creek to the south were also popular landing places: at Mylor can still be seen a memorial dated 1814 to a fishermen who had the misfortune to be shot in error by revenue men.

Smuggling stories here centre around the St Anthony’s Head, and the peninsula of land leading to it. One story tells of a St Mawes customs officer who realized that the Porthscatho smugglers operating in Gerrans Bay kept watch on hills overlooking St Mawes harbour, so that they had time to disperse if a revenue boat approached around the headland.

By carrying a small boat across the isthmus, he mounted a surprise attack. St Mawes was the base for Robert Long, a seventeenth century smuggler who met an untimely end — he was executed, and his body was hung in chains on the road from the town to Ruan Lanihorne. Like Cawsand, Mevagissey was a town renowned for its boat builders.

The large vessels built here in the 18th century when smuggling still took place relatively openly were capable of tremendous speeds, and could make the crossing from Roscoff in France in a day or less. Fowey. The story of an abortive 1835 landing close to Fowey and its court sequel is interesting. Two coastguards from Fowey went to Lantick Hill, and hid in bushes near Pencannon Point. After a wait, at least 100 men arrived on the beach — 20 of them batsmen.

One of the coastguards went to get help, and when reinforcements arrived the party of six preventives challenged the smugglers, and there was a fierce battle; one of the coastguards was knocked unconscious, but 5 smugglers were eventually arrested.  party from the revenue cutter Fox eventually met up with the six coastguards, and captured 484 gallons of Brandy. When the case came to court, the defense argued that the clubs were just walking sticks, the local vicar was called as a character witness for one of the accused, and local farmers vouched for the good name of the others.

The Ghost of battling Billy

The Naval Coastguard

The Naval Coastguard

Pic: Old Cornwall

The jury acquitted, adding that they did not consider the clubs to be offensive weapons. Contraband from this abortive landing may have been headed the Crown and Anchor Inn on the quayside at Fowey, since the smuggler Richard Kingcup was at one time the landlord there. Polperro The Polperro smuggling museum houses a small collection of pictures and other items associated with the free-trade. A colourful Polperro legend involves ‘Battling Billy’, who ran the Halfway House Inn.

Billy used a hearse to carry his contraband inland. One day while brandy was being loaded by daylight, the revenue arrived, Billy was shot in the neck and he was killed instantly, but his whip-hand continued to urge the horses on. When they reached Polperro, the dead man drove straight down the main street, off the quayside and into the harbour. Battling Billy’s ghost still haunts the narrow cobbled streets.

Another tale involves the Lottery, a Polperro smuggling vessel wanted by the customs authorities. When the Cawsand customs men saw the ship becalmed half a mile from Penlee Point, they put to sea several rowing boats. The crew of the Lottery, opened fire when they were still some distance away. One of the crew in the King’s boat died of his wounds.

The crew of the Lottery became outlaws in their home town. Eventually the prime suspect, Tom Potter was arrested and executed. The village of Talland was at one time a thriving community, and the bay was a favourite landfall for smuggling boats from the continent. All that now remains of the village is the church high on the steep hill above Talland Bay. Near the door of the church in the south west corner there is an interesting tombstone commemorating Robert Mark.

Local legends differ about Mark’s identity. One story has it that while on a smuggling trip he died from wounds inflicted by a revenue man’s pistol ball. A smuggler of the same name was sentenced in May 1799 for resisting arrest when the smuggling vessel Lottery was captured. However, another account makes him not a free-trader but a revenue man who was shot in a cellar on dry land; Jonah Puckey, the ringleader of a smuggling gang, reputedly fired the shot that killed him.

The open beaches of Whitsand Bay made a fine landing when the coast was sufficiently clear for covert runs, but smugglers seeking a more discreet approach headed for Looe, and brought the goods ashore on Looe Island.In West Looe Ye Olde Jolly Sailor was a smuggler’s haunt, and here too the story is told of how the quick-thinking landlady once concealed an illicit keg beneath her petticoats during an unexpected search.

While the preventives searched, she calmly knitted. Cawsand and Kingsand.

The vast natural harbour of Plymouth had a naval presence throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. The city itself formed the largest market for contraband in Cornwall, so it’s not surprising to find some notorious villages nearby.

The Tubman

The Tubman

Pic: Old Cornwall

Goods brought in to the twin villages of Cawsand and Kingsand there could be easily ferried across the harbour to Plymouth. A Times report of 1785 tells of a naval officer killed by smugglers. Both towns were hotbeds of smuggling — in 1804 the revenue services estimated that 17,000 kegs of spirits had been landed here in just one year.

Harry Carter, a famous Cornwall smuggler, often used Cawsand for his smuggling activities, and on one of these trips his boat was boarded by sailors from a man-of-war anchored nearby. In the hand-to-hand fighting that ensued, he sustained a cutlass wound that almost killed him.

Article source: http://www.cornwall-calling.co.uk/smugglers.htm

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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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Feb 22 2014

Exhibition of our Ancestors at Eastbourne for 2014!

A Story of Life from the Bones of the Past

After archaeological digs, thousands of hours of scientific analysis, investigation, planning and 3D reconstruction, the ground-breaking Eastbourne Ancestors exhibition opens from 1 February 2014 at The Pavilion.

Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, this project began in 2012 with bone analysis dating back to Neolithic times, and is the first time such an extensive examination has taken place on one collection in the UK. With 12 skeletons selected for further analysis, discover their story, when you visit the Eastbourne Ancestors.
Reconstruction of Saxon Man

Reconstruction of Saxon Man

Pic: Eastbourne Museums

Discover your ancestors at this ground-breaking new exhibition

It’s a Free exhibition, currently open from Thursdays to Sundays 10am to 4pm (open daily from 1 April). From our extensive collection of Roman and Saxon remains, discover…

  • What they looked like?
  • What did they do for a living?
  • What social status were they?
  • What did they eat?
  • Had they suffered illness in life & how did they die?

2D & 3D Cranio-Facial Reconstructions

Eastbourne Ancestors Face Reconstruction

Eastbourne Ancestors Face Reconstruction

Pic: Eastbourne Museums

Gaze into the eyes of our ancestors through our extensive cranio-facial reconstructions conducted by leading UK experts. There has been a rare and unexpected discovery in the UK of a sub-saharan African dating back to Roman times, found at Beachy Head. Analysis has shown that she grew up in the area. We wonder what her story was?

Read the original article on the Eastbourne Museums 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.

 

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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.

 

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Dec 31 2013

Scotland’s first Celtic ‘Loch Village’ has been discovered

Loch Village at Black Loch of Myrton

Loch Village at Black Loch of Myrton

Pic: History Extra

The remains of an Iron Age ‘loch village’ have been discovered in south west Scotland reports History Extra. During a small-scale excavation of what was initially thought to be a crannog in the now-infilled Black Loch of Myrton, archeologists found a settlement of at least seven houses. AOC Archaeology Group, which worked on the dig along with local volunteers, discovered evidence of multiple structures making up a small village. What appeared before excavation to be one of a small group of mounds transpired to be a massive stone hearth complex at the centre of a roundhouse.

The timber structure of the house has been preserved, with beams radiating out from the foundation. The village, which covers an area 60m in diameter, is the first of its kind to be found in Scotland. The site has been radiocarbon dated to two phases of activity: one in the middle of the first millennium BC, perhaps in the 5th century BC, and the other in the last two centuries BC.

Graeme Cavers of AOC Archaeology, co-director of the site, said:

What is so exciting about this site is the fact that it has the potential to tell us how everyday buildings in Iron Age Scotland were furnished and used, how they were repaired and rebuilt and even what activities took place in different parts of each building. In Iron Age archaeology, for the most part we deal with dried out and decayed roundhouses that preserve very little of the original structure – generally only a few post holes or occasionally a hearth will survive.

At Black Loch of Myrton we have the posts that held up the building, as well as the reeds and branches used to floor and furnish the structure. Waterlogged wood also offers the opportunity to date the structure very accurately using dendrochronology – or tree ring counting – to give a date accurate to within a few years or even months, rather than the decades or centuries usually provided by radiocarbon dating.

Mr Cavers added:

We found a few fragments of a quern stone – used for grinding grain – as well as some fragments of pottery. Although these aren’t too spectacular of themselves, they tell us that the site was probably a domestic one and that the remains of everyday life are likely to be found there. Pottery is extremely rare in Iron Age Wigtownshire, so this may be an indication of how well preserved the site is.

The full article can be read on the History Extra site – let’s hope we hear more about this exciting discovery in the future!

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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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Dec 29 2013

The term ‘Celtic’ was an invention of the 18th Century claims Dr Simon James

Ancient Celt with Carnyx Trumpet

Ancient Celt with Carnyx Trumpet

Pic: Wikimedia

Dr. Simon James, writing on the BBC website, claims that the Romans, the Iron Age peoples and modern archaeologists would all agree that they were not ‘Celts’. This was a term coming from around 1700 from a reference to a Gallic tribe. The picture on the left is a depiction of a Celtic warrior from the period 100-300 CE. It is credited as a modern reenactor portraying an Ancient Celt (Vacomagi tribe, a.k.a Caledonian/Pict/Briton) with carnyx trumpet, crested helmet, chain mail (chainmaille), and woad circa 100-300 AD. The carnyx was used for war (signaling and intimidation), and ritual occasions as depicted on the Gundestrup cauldron.

The costume, helmet and appearance were inspired by contemporary depictions and written accounts. Dr James writes that:-

At the end of the Iron Age (roughly the last 700 years BC), we get our first eye-witness accounts of Britain from Greco-Roman authors, not least Julius Caesar who invaded in 55 and 54 BC. These reveal a mosaic of named peoples (Trinovantes, Silures, Cornovii, Selgovae, etc), but there is little sign such groups had any sense of collective identity any more than the islanders of AD 1000 all considered themselves ‘Britons’.

However, there is one thing that the Romans, modern archaeologists and the Iron Age islanders themselves would all agree on: they were not Celts. This was an invention of the 18th century; the name was not used earlier. The idea came from the discovery around 1700 that the non-English island tongues relate to that of the ancient continental Gauls, who really were called Celts. This ancient continental ethnic label was applied to the wider family of languages. But ‘Celtic’ was soon extended to describe insular monuments, art, culture and peoples, ancient and modern: island ‘Celtic’ identity was born, like Britishness, in the 18th century.

The Confusion between ‘Celtic’ languages and ‘Celtic’ culture

However, language does not determine ethnicity (that would make the modern islanders ‘Germans’, since they mostly speak English, classified as a Germanic tongue). And anyway, no one knows how or when the languages that we choose to call ‘Celtic’, arrived in the archipelago – they were already long established and had diversified into several tongues, when our evidence begins. Certainly, there is no reason to link the coming of ‘Celtic’ language with any great ‘Celtic invasions’ from Europe during the Iron Age, because there is no hard evidence to suggest there were any.

Archaeologists widely agree on two things about the British Iron Age: its many regional cultures grew out of the preceding local Bronze Age, and did not derive from waves of continental ‘Celtic’ invaders. And secondly, calling the British Iron Age ‘Celtic’ is so misleading that it is best abandoned. Of course, there are important cultural similarities and connections between Britain, Ireland and continental Europe, reflecting intimate contacts and undoubtedly the movement of some people, but the same could be said for many other periods of history.

The things we have labelled ‘Celtic’ icons – such as hill-forts and art, weapons and jewellery – were more about aristocratic, political, military and religious connections than common ethnicity. (Compare the later cases of medieval Catholic Christianity or European Renaissance culture, or indeed the Hellenistic Greek Mediterranean and the Roman world – all show similar patterns of cultural sharing and emulation among the powerful, across ethnic boundaries.)

Read the full discussion on the BBC website.

The Celtic Languages

The Celtic languages are descended from Proto-Celtic, or “Common Celtic”; a branch of the greater Indo-European language family. The term “Celtic” was first used to describe this language group by Edward Lhuyd in 1707. Celtic languages are most commonly spoken on the north-western edge of Europe, notably in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Brittany, Cornwall, and the Isle of Man, and can be found spoken on Cape Breton Island.
Celtic Branch of the Language Tree

Celtic Branch of the Language Tree

Pic: Breizh.net

There are also a substantial number of Welsh speakers in the Patagonia area of Argentina. Some people speak Celtic languages in the other Celtic diaspora areas of the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.[ In all these areas, the Celtic languages are now only spoken by minorities though there are continuing efforts at revitalization. Welsh is the only Celtic language that isn't classified as "endangered" by UNESCO.

During the 1st millennium BC, they were spoken across Europe, in the Iberian Peninsula, from the Atlantic and North Sea coastlines, up the Rhine valley and down the Danube valley to the Black Sea, the Upper Balkan Peninsula, and in Galatia in Asia Minor. The spread to Cape Breton and Patagonia occurred in modern times. Celtic languages, particularly Irish, were spoken in Australia before federation in 1901 and are still used there to some extent. There are, however, still arguments as to the exact development of the Celtic languages.

Scholarly handling of the Celtic languages has been rather argumentative owing to scarceness of primary source data. Some scholars (such as Cowgill 1975; McCone 1991, 1992; and Schrijver 1995) distinguish Continental Celtic and Insular Celtic, arguing that the differences between the Goidelic and Brittonic languages arose after these split off from the Continental Celtic languages. Other scholars (such as Schmidt 1988) distinguish between P-Celtic and Q-Celtic, putting most of the Gaulish and Brittonic languages in the former group and the Goidelic and Celtiberian languages in the latter. The P-Celtic languages (also called Gallo-Brittonic) are sometimes seen (for example by Koch 1992) as a central innovating area as opposed to the more conservative peripheral Q-Celtic languages. [Wiki]

The Modern Celtic Identity

Traditional Galician gaiteiros

Traditional Galician gaiteiros

Pic: Wiki

A modern Celtic identity emerged in Western Europe following the identification of the native peoples of the Atlantic fringe as Celts by Edward Lhuyd in the 18th century. Lhuyd and others equated the Celts described by Greco-Roman writers with the ancestors of the pre-Roman peoples of France, Britain and Ireland. The Irish and ancient British languages were thus Celtic languages. The descendents of these languages were the Welsh, Gaelic (Irish, Manx and Scottish variants), Cornish and Breton languages. These peoples were therefore modern Celts. Attempts were made to link their distinctive cultures to those of the ancient Celtic peoples.

The concept of modern Celtic identity evolved during the course of the 19th-century into the Celtic Revival. By the late 19th century it often took the form of ethnic nationalism particularly within the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, where the Irish Home Rule Movement resulted in the secession of the Irish Free State in 1922. There were also significant Welsh, Scottish and Breton nationalist movements, giving rise to the concept of Celtic nations. After World War II, the focus of the Celticity movement shifted to linguistic revival and protectionism, e.g. with the foundation of the Celtic League in 1961, dedicated to preserving the surviving Celtic languages.

The Celtic revival also led to the emergence of musical and artistic styles identified as Celtic. Music typically drew on folk traditions within the Celtic nations. Art drew on decorative styles associated with the ancient Celts and with early medieval Celtic Christianity, along with folk-styles. Cultural events to promote “inter-Celtic” cultural exchange also emerged.

In the late 20th century a number of scholars criticised the idea of modern Celtic identity, sometimes also arguing that there never was a common Celtic culture, even in ancient times. Michael Chapman’s 1992 book The Celts: The Construction of a Myth led to what the archaeologist Barry Cunliffe has called a “politically correct disdain for the use of ‘Celt’” The extent to which a modern Celtic identity remains a useful concept continues to be debated. [Wiki]

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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.

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Dec 27 2013

Mad Vikings wait until the Solstice to burn the Gävle Goat!

The Christmas Goat in Gävle from Pixel Productions on Vimeo.

Every year, the town of Gavle, Sweden, erects a giant goat called the Gävlebocken. And most years that goat burns to the ground. In fact, in the 47 years that the town has erected Gävlebocken, it’s been set on fire 26 times reports the Smithsonian Mag.

The Origins of the Yule Goat

The Yule goat is a Scandinavian and Northern European Yule and Christmas symbol and tradition. Its origin may be Germanic pagan, and the figure has existed in many variants during Scandinavian history. Modern representations of the Yule goat are typically made of straw. The custom of wassailing is sometimes called “going Yule goat” in Scandinavia.

Folk Depiction of Father Christmas riding a goat

Folk Depiction of Father Christmas riding a goat

Pic: Wiki

The Yule goat’s origins might go as far back as pre-Christian days. A popular theory is that the celebration of the goat is connected to worship of the Norse god Thor, who rode the sky in a chariot drawn by two goats, Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr. The last sheaf of grain bundled in the harvest was credited with magical properties as the spirit of the harvest and saved for the Yule celebrations, called among other things “Julbocken” (the Yule goat). A man-sized goat figure is known from 11th-century remembrances of Childermas, where it was led by a man dressed as Saint Nicholas, symbolizing his control over the Devil. The function of the Yule goat has differed throughout the ages. In a Scandinavian tradition similar to wassailing, held at either Christmas or Epiphany, young men in costumes would walk between houses singing songs, enacting plays and performing pranks. This tradition is known from the 17th century and continued in places into the early 20th century. The group of Christmas characters would often include the Yule goat, a rowdy and sometimes scary creature demanding gifts. [wiki]

But this year, local officials are confident that they can keep the goat alive. According to The Local, the new goat is made from sturdier stuff and soaked it in anti-flammable liquid. The last two years, they did this the goat survived, but even with the precautions officials aren’t going to hold their breath this year:

“You never know, we’ve made it from material that’s a little stronger this year, so it should be much harder to burn down,” a spokesperson at the Gävle tourist office told The Local.

“But we’re aware that the goat is only famous because it gets burned. It would be great if it didn’t actually burn down this year, because that would be the most unexpected result. Then we might really get a lot of attention.”

Last year, the goat only made it to December 12th before going up in flames. And according to Allison Meier at Atlas Obscura, it’s not just fire that people throw at the poor goat, “in the past it’s been hit by cars, attacked by a Gingerbread Man, and almost stolen with a helicopter.” Meier also explains why this town erects a 40 foot tall goat in the first place:
Burned Goat of 2006

Burned Goat of 2006

Pic: Wiki

The Gävle Goat is a towering version of the Yule Goat that is a popular Christmas tradition in Scandinavia. It has pagan origins and was once depicted as the companion bringer of holiday gifts with Saint Nicholas before Santa ruined the fun. While the tradition of waiting for the goat to burn has become as popular as the Gävle Goat itself, the town has far from embraced this unruly rite of winter. Instead, security continues to be added and it is monitored with a live web cam (which, alas, tends to just capture the quick flame destruction of the heap of kindling).

To keep up with the goats status, you can follow it on Twitter. Should it go down in flames, we’re hoping there are some exceptional live Tweets.

Sadly all we saw on the 21st December was a very sad farewell tweet from the stricken Goat…

I’m so sad my friends that I have to leave you now! Thank you for this year! Take care and have a Merry Christmas and a happy new year!

The History of the Goat

In 1966, an advertising consultant, Stig Gavlén, came up with the idea of making a giant version of the traditional Swedish Yule Goat and placing it in the square. The design of the first goat was assigned to the then chief of the Gävle fire department, Gavlén’s brother Jörgen Gavlén. The construction of the goat was carried out by the fire department, and they erected the goat each year from 1966 to 1970 and from 1986 to 2002.

The first goat was financed by Harry Ström. On 1 December 1966, a 13-metre (43 ft) tall, 7-metre (23 ft) long, 3-tonne goat was erected in the square. On New Year’s Eve, the goat was burnt down.

A group of businessmen known as the Southern Merchants (Söders Köpmän) financed the building of the goat in subsequent years, many of which were also subject to arson attacks. In 1971, the Southern Merchants stopped building the goats. The Natural Science Club of the School of Vasa began building the structure. Their goat was around 2 metres (6.6 ft). Due to the positive reaction their Yule Goat received that year, they built another one the following year and from then on. The Natural Science Club’s Yule Goat were also burnt and vandalised, one year it was run over by a car.

Proud Gavle Goat  of 2013

Proud Gavle Goat of 2013

Pic: Smithsonian

The Gävle Goat is erected every year on the first day of Advent, which according to Western Christian tradition is in late November or early December, depending on the calendar year. Because the fire station is close to the location of the goat, most of the time the fire can be extinguished before the wooden skeleton is severely damaged. If the goat is burned down before Lucia (feast day of Saint Lucy, 13 December), the goat has been rebuilt. The skeleton is then treated and repaired, and the goat reconstructed over it, using straw which the Goat Committee has pre-ordered.

From 1988 onward, English bookmakers took bets on the goat’s survival. In 1996 the Southern Merchants introduced camera survelance to monitor the goat 24 hours a day. On 27 November 2004 the Gävle Goat’s homepage was hacked into and one of the two official webcams changed to display “Brinn Bockjävel” (translation: Burn, fucking goat) in the left corner of its live feed. One year, while security guards were posted around the goat in order to prevent further vandalism, the temperature dropped far below zero. As the guards ducked into a nearby restaurant to escape the cold, the vandals struck.

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