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.)

Aftermath of the storm? Not what I was expecting.

So after all that, getting through Hurricane Sandy, never losing power, what did I do? I dropped my iphone into the bowl of french toast mix I was making, to celebrate the hurricane being gone. And now it has no sound unless you plug in headphones--speakers aren't working, and I can't hear anyone if you call me. So it's sitting in a bowl of rice, and hopefully I won't have to buy a new phone, because apparently "liquid damage is not covered under warranty".

And if I do have to buy a new phone, I need to wait two weeks before I'm eligible for the subsidized upgrade from Verizon.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

New Resources Hit the Net

The British Library Journal is now available for you to read; and lucky for anyone interested in Celtic subjects, there's a brand new article on Lewis Morris and the Mabinogion.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

New Chartres Tablets!

Via the Continental Celtic language list, I've learned that two new Gaulish-language tablets have been found in the city of Chartres. This is quite exciting--really, any new finding of Gallo-Brittonic, anything that can fill in the gaps, is worth celebrating.

P-Y. Lambert will be publishing a study on it soon; this article looks like a preview (unfortunately, I read it through Google Translate, because my French is pretty terrible). It's largely a list of names, and aparently might be a defixio, which is a magical curse tablet.

Here's a video--in French, unfortunately, but the only one I know of--about the new tablets:

Monday, October 8, 2012

A Crash-Course in the Druids

Just in time for Halloween, the Radio 4 program In Our Time--a round-table discussion program that focuses on topics of history or the history of an idea--spent the September 20th program on a subject dear to my heart: DRUIDS.

Melvin Bragg's guests were Barry Cunliff, Miranda Aldhouse-Green, and Justin Champion. Cunliff, and Aldhouse-Green are well-respected archaeologists, the latter also known for her popular histories on the subject of the Celts, and Champion is a historian of early modern Britain, when the druids reemerged in the public consciousness.

The program itself sticks to an overview of the druids largely in the context of Greco-Roman records due, obviously, to the lack of contemporary records by the Celts themselves--though they did touch on the lingering of druid beliefs and myths in the bardic traditions of Ireland and Wales, a subject I wished they'd have gone into further. And unfortunately they really didn't speak much to the existence of druids in Ireland potentially into the seventh century; the program was largely focused on druids in Britain. 

There was no sensationalism in the subject matter; lurid stories of bloody human sacrifices were treated as what they likely were-fairly rare, but also not abnormal (with the note that the Romans themselves only outlawed the practice in the 90s BCE).

Over all, it was a good, fluff-free introduction to the druids. The format itself is, by its nature, a bit dry (which In Our Time can often be), but the subject matter makes up for that.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Why I Fell Off the Face of the Earth

While it's hardly the first time I went a long time without posting, I feel like I should explain that I'm having an incredibly exhausting year.

In February, my husband and I went to California, followed by a trip to Ireland in April. I was intending on posting about the trip to Ireland, since it's in this blog's wheelhouse. But then in late May, we suffered a tragedy: my stepfather, with whom I was very close, suffered a stroke. He'd been with us in Ireland, and the stroke came as a shock. He lingered for a couple of weeks in a coma before dying. And to be honest, I haven't been the same since.

Meanwhile, I started a new job--a full-time job at that--a week before the stroke, and that's taken up a large chunk of my time.

I still intend to post about the trip to Ireland; aside from visiting places like Newgrange and Inis Mór, we also met my mom's cousins, who still live on the farm my great-grandfather left to come to the States. It was a wonderful trip, and I have some pretty cool pictures to post, but like I said, my heart hasn't been into it.

But I guess the depression is starting to lift, and I'll be able to start posting again.

Arthur, King of the Arctic?

The Heroic Age points to an idea that I wasn't really familiar with before: that King Arthur was, at one point, credited with conquering the New World via Greenland.

According to Thomas Green, John Dee, when conjuring up precedent for a British Empire, relied not only on stories about Prince Madoc and St. Brendan, but also upon the idea that Arthur himself ruled the whole of the North. Now, Geoffrey credited him with conquering Scandinavia, but went no further--indeed, who knows what Geoffrey even knew of Greenland?  Scholars believed that Dee had invented this story, but Green points out that apparently it does predate Dee:
§7.  Mercator included a legend to his great wall map of 1569 that referred to Arthur in the following way:
Touching the description of the North parts, I have taken the same out of the voyage of James Cnoyen of Hartzevan Buske, which allegeth certain conquests of Arthur king of Britaine, and the most part, and chiefest things among the rest he learned of a certain priest in the king of Norway's court, in the year 1364. This priest was descended (in the fifth generation) from them which King Arthur had sent to inhabit these Islands
The article discusses whether this ultimately goes back to Geoffrey's Scandinavian conquest story, or whether it perhaps goes back to an even earlier tradition of a frozen Otherworld to the north. Of course, it's no surprise that anyone would connect a mythical conquest of the North with the Norwegian settlements of North America, and concoct a story of King Arthur doing the same, but earlier. And how irresistible the idea would be to an incipient British Empire.

Monday, February 20, 2012

This Could Be Gre--No, It's Probably Gonna Suck

So I come across this today:
Michael Fassbender and screenwriter Ronan Bennett are developing a feature film about the legendary Celtic warrior Cuchulain, with Fassbender set to play the leading role.

Cuchulain is the central character in the Ulster Cycle, an epic series of Old Irish legends that date from around the 8th century.

Set in the northern part of Ireland, the saga relates the story of the Ulaid tribe headed by King Conchobar, and particularly its conflict with the rival Connachta tribe led by Queen Mebh.

The most prominent figure in the legends is Conchobar's nephew Cuchulain, who has semi-divine ancestry and superhuman fighting skills. In the most famous story, known as the Cattle Raid of Cooley, he is the only man capable of resisting the vast army sent by Medb to steal Conchobar's prize white bull.

Now, this isn't meant to be a knock on Fassbender or Bennett, but it's not as if there've been many successful adaptations of mythology lately--not the dreadful remake of Clash of the Titans, nor the inexplicable Immortals, and especially not 2004's laugh-fest King Arthur.

I'm always wary of adapting mythology--which ultimately was (and still is) someone's religion. Usually in these big-budget adaptations, the gods are an evil to be defeated by mortals (which is an ugly bastardization of the meanings of those myths), or they're written out altogether (as in the otherwise watchable Troy). I can easily see this as being a "defeat the gods" film, given that the Morrigan is an antagonist, while Lugh, Cuchulain's divine father, could easily be ignored or forgotten. Really, the only film that hasn't been automatically dismissive of gods was Thor, and they aren't exactly gods, but aliens with god-like abilities.

And while ancient stories are all the rage, it's rare they aren't big, bloated, painful messes. I rather liked Tristan and Isolde--it wasn't a great film, but because the action was smaller and the conflict personal, it wasn't a terrible film, either. I dread to think of the Cattle Raid of Cooley being turned into 300.

On the other hand, the last film I saw that delved into Irish myth and history was the absolutely fantastic Secret of Kells, so it's not as if the task is impossible.

New Link - Tairis Tales

I'm adding a link to Tairis Tales, a new(ish) blog by Seren (of the site Tairis), which will
collate all of the tales, myths, legends, lore and more from the Gaelic countries – those of Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man 
 Already she's covering stories I've never gotten to, and will be linking to from my own site.

The Road Goes Ever On and On

So this has been and will be a season of traveling. Last October, I drove up from Florida with my sister on an errand; and recently (as in last week) I was in California:

Why yes, California *does* know how to party

In the spring, I'll be in Ireland with my family, and in September, I'll be down the shore.

This is my half-assed way of explaining the recent lack of posting, and upcoming lack of posting; not that it explains the overall lack of posting--that's mostly laziness mixed with a lack of inspiration.

If you're interested, some pics from my trip are over at my Tumblr.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Rethinking Imbolc

Weaving St. Brigit's Cross from JustWeaving

Today is the feast of St. Brigit, which coincides with Imbolc, a Ráithí Fírinneacha na Bliana--"One of the True Quarters of the Year" (along with Samhain, Beltane, and Lughassadh, and as opposed to the solstices and equinoxes). It's the first day of spring by the Irish reckoning, and given that it's in the mid-sixties here in Philly, it certainly feels like spring.

Groundhog's Day is definitely related to Imbolc, and if that damned groundhog says we have six more weeks of winter, when we haven't had even one week, it's time to string up the rat.

Anyway, I wrote a paper on the Irish holiday of Imbolc; here's a taste:

While Imbolc is undoubtedly a feast of spring, and a feast celebrating Brigit, there is, I think, a third element to the feast which is sometimes overlooked—it is likely that Imbolc is a feast of purification, and perhaps represents a longer period of purification, analogous to several other Indo-European and even Christian festivals. Moreover, this feast of purification is intimately bound up with the holiday’s other meanings honoring spring and Brigit—that all three are important to understanding the origins of Imbolc. 
The four main feasts of the Celtic calendar—commonly known by their Irish names Samhain, Imbolc, Beltane, and Lughnassadh—when their themes are examined, form a series of corresponding concepts. Samhain is a feast of winter, death, and the ancestors, while Beltane is a feast of summer, sexuality, and fertility.

If Hamp is right, and Imbolc is analogous to the February period of purification found in Roman and Christian tradition, then perhaps Imbolc, like Lughnassadh, was a period and not a single day. It is currently impossible to prove that the pre-Christian Irish observed Imbolc as such a period, but as we have seen, we have analogous ideas in neighboring cultures, and even a Gaulish month called “purification” which falls around the time of February

You can read the whole thing at Scribd