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Sacred Places: Prehistory and popular imagination
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At the Edge / Bob Trubshaw / bobtrubs@indigogroup.co.uk
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Issue 7

September 1997

Contents


  • Nigel Pennick
    • Leys as Ideology

    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.


PLUS:
  • ABSTRACTS - summaries of articles in academic journals, newspapers, etc.
  • LETTERS
  • REVIEWS:
    • 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