Exploring new interpretations
of past and place
in archaeology, folklore
Articles on archaeology, folklore and mythology
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Sacred Places: Prehistory and popular imagination
by Bob Trubshaw
This book looks back at the days of At the Edge and other 'Earth Mysteries' 'zines and provides detailed discussions of many of the topics outlined here.
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- summaries of articles in academic journals, newspapers, etc.
- Nigel Pennick
The subject of leys or ley lines has a long history, and like any
history, it can be interpreted in several ways. Geomantic writers
over the years have tended to interpret it in an uncritical way, recounting
the historical personages and events without attempting to conduct
an overall evaluation of the system. The history of a subject presupposes
the existence of that subject as a real and coherent area of study.
We may study the history in at least three ways. Firstly, it can be
a chronology of who did what and when. Secondly, we can describe the
genesis and evolution of ideas within the area we call ley hunting.
Both of these approaches can be made uncritically or critically. Thirdly,
we can analyse the history of ley hunting in its wider socio-psychological
context, seeing it as a belief system which may or may not correspond
with objective reality. Contemporary studies in folklore and history
undertake far more rigorous critical analyses of folklore and urban
folklore than do most earth mysteries studies. Unlike earth mysteries,
academic studies do not rely upon secondary sources, but go to the
originals to discover the essence of what is meant. When we analyse
ley hunting in this way, we can gain new insights into what we have
done in the past and what we are doing now.
- Alby Stone
- A Dream World? - Archaeology and the Indo-European world view
Georges Dumézil’s discovery of the tripartite Indo-European (IE) social
structure, and kindred phenomena in myth and religion, has provided
much fuel for controversy. Even now, nearly seventy years after the
first stirrings of the trifunctional theory, historians of IE myth
and religion are deeply - sometimes bitterly - divided on the issue. This is in spite of Dumézil, and those who have followed
and developed his theory, being able to draw on a considerable body
of ancient literature as evidence. If the trifunctional theory is
accepted for historical IE peoples, then its range and sophistication
at the time of the earliest IE literature (possibly as early as 1500
BCE, if linguistic evidence for Vedic and Hittite is any guide), then
it ought logically to have had its roots in prehistory.
- Jeremy Harte
- Blood and Soil - The Tribe in early English society
From the academic point of view, J.R.R. Tolkien must have been a disappointing
investment. After decades supposedly devoted to teaching ancient languages,
he turned out to have been far more interested in imaginary ones.
The creative energies intended for Middle English had been diverted
to Middle Earth, and all were delighted except , perhaps, his employers
at Oxford University. As his secret world grew more persuasive, even
the sober philological work came to reflect a tinge of elvish glamour
- to the detriment of its historical insight. Few other specialists
can have felt that the cnihtas of Beowulf were ‘members of societies
of noble knights’ as Tolkien did in 1940, rejecting less emotive words
- ‘too many warriors and chiefs beget . . . the far more inept picture
of Zulus or Red Indians’ .
These thoughts are notionally addressed to the translators of Beowulf
- a select band - but in defending the heroic idiom Tolkien is really
grappling with a more insidious foe. The poisoned voice of Saruman
whispers ‘Dotard! What is the house of Eorl but a thatched barn where
brigands drink in the reek!’. Similar reflections
will cross the mind of anyone moving from the high speech of Anglo-Saxon
heroic verse to the murky archaeological details of grubenhauser and
middens. Under these circumstances, the choice of words becomes very
important. The Saxons are, after all, the founding fathers of English
identity. If we talk about their kings, knights, priests, halls and
peoples, they look like respectable ancestors. Think instead of chiefs,
warriors, shamans, huts and tribes, and the picture is much less appealing.
- Gavin Smith
- A Lost Class of Central Places - A Gazetteer of Sacred sites in Surrey
A county-based study which provides more detailed evidence to support his article Recovering the lost religious places names of England in At the Edge No.3.
- Bob Trubshaw
According to one interpretation of the Bible, the world has just celebrated
its 6000th birthday. Back in the seventeenth century the Archbishop
of Armagh, James Usher (1581–1656), deduced from Biblical evidence
that the world was created in 4004 BC. To the significant number
of fundamentalist followers of Biblical ‘Creation Science’, mostly
in the USA, this is all that needs to be said about the timescale
of the world and human society.
Those of us who do not believe in ‘Creation Science’ live within a
more complex but just as fanciful concept of time. This article explores
the way modern Western society has created concepts of time as chimeral
as those of ‘Creation Science’.
The creation of chronologies - especially those based on absolute
dates - is of quite recent origin. The concept of time used in chronological
studies needs to be differentiated between, on the one hand, the way
time is marked by human experience and, on the other hand, how abstract
time is measured. Abstract time consists of equal segments, endlessly
repeated. Experienced time creates ‘recurrent moments’, which together
comprise the relationship to the past which makes up the ‘traditions’
of a society.
Want to read on? Go to the full text of Making time.
- Jon Appleton
- Rhiannon Rides on Uffington White Horse
Inspired by the Mabinogion tale of Prince Pwll and his encounter with Rhiannon, Jon Appleton investigated the local landscape of the Uffington White Horse and discovered that 'Rhiannon' still rides on the White Horse at the winter solstice dawn. The bringing together of ideas from a number of different disciplines let to a surprising and exciting conclusion!
- Terence Meaden
- Shinto Toriii Arches and the Trilithons of Stonehenge
An ancient, easily-recognised symbol of Japan’s Shinto religion is
the torii arch or gateway. Traditionally made from two vertical posts
with a third as a lintel, it has the shape of a door-frame except
there is no door because the gate is always open. The torii is the
way to the Great Mother. At Shinto temples it is her vulvar arch,
with the sanctuary and security of her womb on the other side.
The torii is both an entrance and an exit. Sometimes it is set up
alone at a sacred place in the countryside or by the sea, as for instance
at the two Futamigaura Wedded Rocks which represent the founding deities
of Japan and which at times of ceremonial are physically joined by
the traditional twisted rope. Or, again, on the Feast Day of the Dead,
an arch may be raised on a river-bed, with the idea that tiny boats
filled with messages and food to which the spirits of departed souls
are invited, are floated on the regenerative water through the yonic
gap. In all events, the torii denotes the passage to a consecrated
region of space whether the shrine be permanent or temporary.
- Simon James and Valery Rigby BRITAN AND THE CELTIC IRON AGE (British Museum Press 1997)
- Miranda Green EXPLORING THE WORLD OF THE DRUIDS (Thames and Hudson 1997)
- Nigel Pennick THE CELTIC CROSS (Blandford 1997)
- Martin and Nigel Palmer SACRED BRITAIN - A Guide to the Sacred Sites and Pilgrim Routes of England, Scotland and Wales (Piatkus 1997)
- Bruce Osborne and Cora Weaver THE SPRINGS, SPOUTS, FOUNTAINS AND HOLY WELLS OF THE MALVERNS (Cora Weaver, rev. edn 1997)
- Alby Stone YMIR'S FLESH (Heart of Albion Press 1997)
- Kathleen Herbert PEACE-WEAVERS AND SHIELD-MAIDENS (Anglo-Saxon Books 1997)
- Eamonn Kelly SHEELA NA GIGS - The Origin and Function (Country House Books 1996)
- Lawrence Main WALKS IN MYSTERIOUS OXFORDSHIRE (Sigma 1997)
- Andrew Gree HAUNTED SUSSEX TODAY (S B Publications 1997)
- John Matthews SECRET CAMELOT - The Lost Legends of King Arthur (Blandford 1997)
- Caerdroia No.28
- Place No.s 1 and 2
Please note that Issue 7 of At the Edge is now out of print.
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Created February 1998; updated November 2008