Exploring new interpretations
of past and place
in archaeology, folklore
Articles on archaeology, folklore and mythology
Full index to At the Edge issues 1 to 10.
Contents of back issues of At the Edge
Why At the Edge merged with 3rd Stone.
What was At the Edge?
What was Mercian Mysteries?
UPDATE November 2018
Thanks to Isaac Koi and the Archives for the Unexplained team the complete issues of At the Edge have been scanned as searchable PDFs.
At The Edge No 1
At The Edge No 2
At The Edge No 3
At The Edge No 4
At The Edge No 5
At The Edge No 6
At The Edge No 7
At The Edge No 8
At The Edge No 9
At The Edge No 10
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Green Men and tree veneration special issue
- summaries of articles in academic journals, newspapers, etc.
- Jeremy Harte
How old is that old yew?
'Dark yew that graspest at the stone And dippest towards the dreamless
head . . .' wrote Tennyson in a funereal mood. The human race is born
and dies, but yew trees live forever. You do not have to be a Tennyson
to respond to their deep, disturbing, uncalculated age. William Watson
certainly was not poet laureate material, but the silent presences
of Merrow Down’s yew wood inspired him all the same:-
Old emperor Yew, fantastic sire,
Girt with thy guard of dotard kings
What ages hast thou seen retire
Into the dusk of alien things?
A profound question. Let us spoil the poetry by answering it.
There was once a man who was called up to join the army. They asked
him all the usual questions, down to the last one on the form: what
was his religion? 'Methuselahite', he replied. Come again? `It means’,
said the reluctant soldier, 'that I’m going to stay alive as long
as I bloody well can'. Now the yew tree is the original Methuselahite,
and everything about it is framed to live forever.
Jeremy Harte provides historical and archaeological evience that recent estimates of the age large yew trees are probably out by a factor of two. Therefore, despite the claims made, the yew trees do not predate the churches which stand alongside.
Full text of How old is that old yew?
- Philip Quinn
Sacred trees in the Bristol landscape
Trees have a power denied to other plant life. There is a global ubiquity
in their being guardians, possessors of latent powers, resting places
for human souls and silent central players in the affairs of mankind.
A culture without its sacred groves and ‘world trees’ is scarcely
a culture at all. Trees have excited the passing interest of folklorists
but, with few exceptions, there appears to have been little attempt
to go further and construct a model of the distribution and nature
of sacred trees in the English landscape. The very mortality of trees
and the ease with which they can be erased from the landscape and
the memory is no doubt a key factor in their peripheral role. However,
through the topographical and place-name archive the memory of our
sacred trees lives on, peppering the modern landscape with a tantalising
glimpse of what must have been a common phenomenon.
By taking the former county of Avon as an example I hope to demonstrate
the surprising amount of surviving tree lore and the degree to which
trees have sometimes become repositories for human souls. I hope too
that the material I present will inspire others to delve beneath familiar
landscapes and resurrect the world of the sacred tree.
- Paul Wain
Tree veneration in the Peak District
Features connected with nature court powerful beliefs and weird tales.
Worldwide trees were and are venerated and linked to myths and legends.
People still ‘touch wood’ to avoid misfortune. Many tales relating
to tree lore have been told in the Peak District of Derbyshire; this
article draws attention to a few examples.
- Ruth Wylie
The Green Man - variations on the theme
‘The Green Man’, a name coined by Lady Raglan in 1939, is a mediaeval
image usually found in churches. Carved in stone or wood, depicted
on stained glass, illuminated manuscripts and where else, he can be
recognised as a face, often grotesque, with foliage sprouting from
his mouth, nose, eyes or ears. Alternatively, he may be a face composed
entirely of leaves. Exterior or interior, he features on capitals,
corbels, choir stalls, bench ends, fonts, screens, roof bosses - indeed,
any surface open to ornamentation.
Full text of Ruth Wylie's article with photo-feature of fourteen striking examples of foliate faces in British churches.
- Bob Trubshaw
The facts and fancies of the foliate face
A rambling review of:
The Green Man
Boydell and Brewer 1978; reissued 1996
In Search of the Green Man in Northamptonshire
Orman Publishing 1996
- Clare Prout
Save Our Sacred Sites
Back in October '95 a Wiltshire local paper printed a story about
the National Trust (NT) employing security guards to ensure that visitors
to West Kennet long barrow behaved 'properly'. This was necessary,
we were told, because of increasing damage to the barrow. West Kennet
long barrow is a favourite monument of mine and I was alarmed at the
thought that security guards, too often uniformed thugs, would be
able to turf me out of the barrow if they did not like the look of
me, and that the ultimate in 'management' of such sites seems to be
to put a fence around them and prevent people from wondering at the
beauty and awesome engineering skills involved.
So I took a trip to the barrow to see the damage for myself. I left
feeling that the best course of management would be to put an electric
fence and a pack of Dobermans around it.
- Graeme Chappell
Report on Durham Rock Art Conference
Durham University 9th June 1996.
Speakers included Richard Bradley, Robert Layton, Stan Beckensall and Paul Frodsham.
- Rodney Castleden - THE CERNE GIANT
- Andrew Collins - FROM THE ASHES OF ANGELS
- Peter Hill - IN SEARCH OF THE GREEN MAN IN NORTHAMPTONSHIRE
- Kati-Ma Koppana OF TREE AND ROCK short glimpses of Finnish deities
- Lawrence Main - IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF KING ARTHUR
- John Michell - THE TRAVELLER'S GUIDE TO SACRED ENGLAND
- Stephen Pollington - THE ENGLISH WARRIOR from earliest times to 1066
- Danny Sullivan and Jo-Anne Wilder ANCIENT AND SACRED SITES OF THE COTSWOLDS
- L.M. Wright - JESUS THE PAGAN SUN GOD
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