Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Sometimes Myths Are Real

It's been a rough winter in the UK--storms and floods have devastated counties like Somerset. One small positive thing that's come of it all, though, is the curious reappearance of a submerged forest of the coast of Wales:



Composed mostly of oak and pine, the forest is believed to date from the Bronze Age. It was buried under a peat bog 5,000 to 6,000 years ago, then inundated by rising sea levels until this winter's violent storms stripped away the covering of peat and sand. The high level of alkaline and lack of oxygen in the peat has preserved the wood in an almost pristine state. 
A walkway made of sticks and branches was also discovered. It's 3,000 to 4,000 years old and was built, it is believed, to cope with rising sea levels back then. "The site around Borth is one where if there is a bad storm and it gets battered, you know there's a good chance something will be uncovered," says Deanna Groom, Maritime Officer of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales, who helped find the site. 
But what's really interesting about this is the location of this submerged forest: Cardigan Bay, in the area of the fabled Cantre'r Gwaelod--the "drowned hundred" of Gwyddno Garanhir, a legendary king, who may (or may not) be the same as the historical 6th century ruler Gwyddno ap Clydno of Meirionydd.

The earliest account is found in the Llyfr Du Caerfyrddin:
Seithenhin sawde allan.
Ac edrychuirde varanres
Mor. maes guitnev rytoes. 
Boed emendiceid y morvin
Aehellygaut guydi cvin.
Finaun wenestir mor terruin.
Seithenhin, stand thou forth,
And behold the billowy rows;
The sea has covered the plain of Gwydneu.
 
Accursed be the damsel,
Who, after the wailing,
Let loose the Fountain of Venus, the raging deep.

Briefly, a girl named Mererid fails at her duties of keeping the floodgates closed, and the land is subsequently drowned.

There are several Celtic legends like this: Ys at the bottom of Douarnenez Bay in Brittany, Lyonesse in Mount's Bay in Cornwall, and finally Cantre'r Gwaelod in Cardigan Bay, which, as it happens, is the same area as this newly-exposed forest that's been under water for five thousand years.

But this isn't the only lost land found again; a forest was found in Mount's Bay, Cornwall. As the BBC reported:
Remains in Penzance, Cornwall, can be seen after sand was ripped from beaches by a series of storms which hit the coast in the new year.
Geologists believe extensive forests extended across Mount's Bay in Penzance between 4,000 and 6,000 years ago.
The shifting sands have also revealed wrecks, an iron age settlement in Devon and wartime explosives in Devon, Somerset and Dorset.
Remains of ancient forests have also been seen on Portreath beach, Daymer Bay in Cornwall and Bigbury Bay in Devon.
...
St Michaels Mount in the bay is known in Cornish as Karrek Loos yn Koos - which means Grey Rock in the Wood.
This is the area often associated with Lyonesse, the drowned land that was home to Tristan.

On the one hand, we can't say for certain that the memory of these lost lands were carried down for thousands of years, but we do know that Britain has been continuously inhabited for at least ten thousand years, since the end of the last Ice Age. It's a leap, but not an entirely unreasonable one, to suggest that the stories later preserved by the Celts were memories of the culture that predated them, passed on, influencing their myths.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

If you like Icelandic sagas (and I do), this is pretty cool.

Chapter 18: Concerning Leia and the Sons of Dítú
A woman was named Leia; she was the daughter of Beilorgana, king of the Aldiran Regions in Ireland. Relations were cool between Beilorgana and Falfadinn, for Falfadinn, King of Norway, claimed to be King of Ireland as well, and he raided widely in the Aldiran Regions.
There were many chieftains in many lands who greatly disliked King Falfadinn, but did not like Jabbi, King of the Danes, either. Many went to new lands, to the Faroes or to Iceland or to the Hebrides or to the Orkneys or to the Shetlands. But the army of Falfadinn was great, and he had many large warships, and he raided the lands of those who would not acknowledge his absolute authority. He had many good men killed, and others he enslaved. He was a very unpopular king. And because King Falfadinn wanted to intimidate all who stood against him, he ordered to be built the greatest ship which men had ever seen upon the seas, and that ship held such a store of men and weapons that they could pillage an entire large city. And a name was given to that ship, and it was called Daudastjarna (Death-Star).
--from Tattúínárdǿla sagaStar Wars as an Icelandic saga, and other fun with Old Norse 

You know, every time I think I'm burned out on Star Wars, something like this happens, and it's very much up my alley.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Oh hey, so ancient Rome and China had some contact

Which you maybe already knew (I did, but only in a vague sort of way, and the fact that Ptolemy's Geographia mentions China and Japan). But I haven't actually read the source text for the Chinese side, the Weilüe (魏略), until today, thanks to io9:


The kingdom of Da Qin (Rome)1 is also called Lijian.2 It is west of Anxi (Parthia) and Tiaozhi (Characene and Susiana), and west of the Great Sea.3
* * *
The ruler of this country is not permanent. When disasters result from unusual phenomena, they unceremoniously replace him, installing a virtuous man as king, and release the old king, who does not dare show resentment.18The common people are tall and virtuous like the Chinese, but wear hu (‘Western’) clothes. They say they originally came from China, but left it.19
They have always wanted to communicate with China but, Anxi (Parthia), jealous of their profits, would not allow them to pass (through to China).20 

There's a lot more to be found at the site (and the notes are awesome), but one thing I found interesting is that they called Rome Da Qin (or Ta-Ch'in)--meaning essentially that Rome, being the other large empire at the other end of the known world, was The Other China.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Universe Wants Me to Listen to Foghat

I'm having one of those weird days of serendipity, and it's all about Foghat.



  • Two different stations were playing Foghat this morning as I drove to work; 
  • There was a reference to them on the lastest episode of the podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour that I listened to at work today; 
  • I just now started watching MST3K episode Pod People, which also tosses off a reference to Foghat. 


This is more Foghat in one day than in my entire life. I don't even own any of their records.

Yep, this has nothing to do with the Celts or Philly or anything else. It's just kinda weird.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Cernunnos: Looking Every Which Way

Ceisiwr Serith has adapted his article "Cernunnos: Looking a Different Way" (from the Proceedings of the Harvard Celtic Colloquium) into a documentary, Cernunnos: Looking Every Which Way. This is the full-length version; he also has divided it up into eight parts, if that's more convenient for you. Check it out:

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

On My 34th Birthday, I Am Given a Bow and Arrow Set

Because I am a very mature, adult woman, my husband naturally gave me a bow and arrow for my birthday today. How he did it was fun.

Since I had the day off, and he didn't, he gave me my gifts last night: a new mess kit (very much needed), a pair of earrings, and a lego set (a very cool wizard and his pet dragon). So I wasn't expecting any other gifts tonight.

When we got home from dinner (sushi) tonight (about an hour ago), I went upstairs to change into something more comfortable--which, eh, is a sweatshirt, not what that phrase implies. Came back downstairs to watch last night's Daily Show, and Den says to me, "So, did you get everything you wanted for your birthday?"

"Yeah, I had a good one."

"Good." Looks behind me, to the bookcase. "What's that? What's behind you?"

So I whip around, and see, half-hidden behind the bookcase, a long package. "Huh--looks like Birthday Santa left an extra package!"

"Oh. My. God."

Because this should sound a little familiar, at least for Americans:


Yep--he Christmas Story'ed me. I couldn't be happier.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

TWC drama--Hurricane Sandy makes people testy.



Saw this this morning on the Weather Channel; Steph and Mike are on shaky ground, guys...

(Video made by my husband. Hooray for working iphones.)