Friday, 17 August 2012
At college I had a wise, melancholy friend called Peter. Perhaps a little bit on the spectrum, he had a vast, kindly, and humane intellect, and I learned a great deal from him. We were one of three students reading for Classics and English in our college and had a cheerful rivalry, making topic choices for Finals that absolutely thumbnail us. Peter went for Satire and Victorian Receptions of Classical Literature, wading through The Unfortunate Traveller and Marius the Epicurean; I chose Pastoral and Medieval Welsh, struggling haltingly from Mantuan to the Mabinogi. We both did Ovid, for which were taught by a magnificent old dame who was as bald as an egg and who imparted in me a deep and abiding loathing of that clever-clever Roman lickspittle.
Peter once impressed me deeply by outlining his book of short stories, to be entitled Failures of Nerve, all of which were about doom-blasted self-thwartings in rainy Midlands towns, spun with wry despair. (The tone was Sophocles-reincarnates-as-Alan-Bennett.) I was in awe at the idea that anyone I knew might actually become a creative writer, having not an ounce of ability in that direction myself. Years earlier, at school, I'd been flung into an envious funk by a GCSE English classmate who announced smugly that he'd written a novel. Sheer native invidiousness has burned the title---No Drums, No Trumpets---into my mind, seventeen years later. I never read a word of it but (in the permanent state of elemental shame that characterized my teens) I was certain that I was falling behind, would never amount to anything, et relicta.
So I retreated into an involuted mental landscape of dodgy Celtic antiquarianism, mist-shrouded dolmens, and dangly druidical tat. I can still improvise a Carmen Gadelicum on the spot: 'I bathe your brows in the juice of the wild bee, in the milk of the rasps, in the fruit of the loom! Sea-cast of the seventh wave be to you, sea-fruit of the ploughed field be to you, sea-weed of the sea-like sea be to you! May the Encompasser encompass you about, from day until dark, from dark until day!'
Still, romanticism (as Natalie Barney said) is a disease of childhood: catch it young and you become robust.
Books and failing nerves are on my mind at the moment: absolutely shattered by the process of finishing the current chapter in Ireland's Immortals, currently standing at 20,000 words on 'Fiona Macleod', James Stephens, James Cousins (interesting man but a dreadful poet, by the way), W. Y. Evans-Wentz, and others. That's still only half the length of the previous chapter I wrote but it was almost more work: lots of secondary material in Scottish Gaelic (thank GOD I did that paper on the language in 2004), biographies for most of the major figures, much more theory. I've also been aspiring to a more polished writing style with less clunkiness to it. I've been waking in the pit of the night and wondering if I can actually pull the damn project off: 1500 years and hundreds of primary texts. Ronald Hutton does this sort of thing with marvellous, Zen-like ease---I've watched him working at the kitchen table and it verges on the uncanny---but I'm finding it more like a hair-raising bronco ride. Still, as Tom Paulin says, don't get it right, get it written.
Back to ‘Alasdair MacGilleMhìcheil agus Cultar Dùthchasach’...
Thursday, 9 August 2012
Monday, 16 July 2012
Monday, 9 July 2012
Tuesday, 3 July 2012
Saturday, 30 June 2012
Wednesday, 27 June 2012
Monday, 25 June 2012
Monday, 18 June 2012
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* When I got home on Saturday I went to open a door near the front of the house. 'Don't open that!!' hissed my father. 'It's full of bees.' What next? A gnu under the stairs? Clockwork Nazis in the attic?! It baffles science.
Saturday, 2 June 2012
Monday, 14 May 2012
Tuesday, 8 May 2012
[...deities, as they seem, are not numinous powers inhabiting faraway worlds who rescue humans from danger, although their manifestations appear thus; if we understood the true nature of mind, gods or deities would reveal themselves to be not other than our mind. Given that we live in duality and in a want of understanding, deities will enter the theatre of duality thus establishing a closeness between the worshipper and the gods. Imagine a god whom one has met in a dream: both the deity and the dreamer (that is, yourself) seem to exist. But in truth he who perceives the deity and the deity are both manifestations of a single inexpressible essence, namely mind itself. The true nature of mind is the mind's nature in itself, as it is, empty and free from elaborations or errors or the images of thought. Why is the nature of mind termed 'divine'? On account of its freedom from suffering and its lack of disturbances, and because it is superior bliss; this bliss is not that relative bliss of this world, which is a sense of happiness resting on things which pass away, but a bliss which is inherent in mind itself, beyond duality.]
Thursday, 19 April 2012
Monday, 2 April 2012
Friday, 23 March 2012
Now to the realities of Cosmic Order.
The earth orbits our star, the Sun, in an anticlockwise direction, and indeed spins in a similar motion on its axis every 24 hours. After noon, therefore, WE travel from the Sun's light in an anticlockwise movement, and after the depth of night, WE travel back towards the sun - still in an anticlockwise motion. (All planets orbit anticlockwise and our entire galaxy rotates in this manner.) This is Nature's reality.
With this in mind we should now start to doubt the validity of compass points which are arbitrary, as our luminary does not rise in the East, nor sink in the West. Of the five main compass points, only the fifth (upon which all the others depend for existence & meaning) remains certain and sure - the point HERE!
1. While facing the sun (usually called South) our position is simply 'AT NOON'.
2. Having rotated in a quadrant away from the sun in an anticlockwise direction, we are at the so-called East of OUR journey, while the Sun is to our so-called West. Subjectively, the important thing is we are still here, but - during EVENING.
3. Similarly the commonly termed North of our circle is our NIGHT, with the Sun behind us.
4. The common position of West in our anticlockwise journey in twenty-four hours is simply our position at MORNING as we continue our spin back to noon. Therefore in all our dealings, on one natural truth we can rely without fear of error - WE ARE ALWAYS HERE. And with that statement the star of our system will smile in agreement!
To fully appreciate the issue one should investigate it diagrammatically on paper then, if required, walk it through. The basic benchmark is this - keep the Sun behind you in your working.
The V points in the direction you are standing as you rotate through each quadrant anticlockwise.
Sun in S, W, N, E = the position the sun appears to be at - TO YOU.
Are there hints in the Legends pointing to this genre of thought? Indeed Yes. In the Legend of Amaethon Uab Dôn, we read: "‘He will come from the south’, said Lleu, ‘he and his finest men and his hosts.'"
He refers here to Arawn the Lord of The Underworld, Otherworld or Invisible Realms - the kingdom of protyles whence the High Deities are invited. And at night, the sun is in the North as is Kaer Dathyl, the home of Gwydyon (Sun God) who has inherited the seat from Math. Arawn confirms this as he says: " ‘I will send you as a messenger’, said he, ‘to your lord, Gwydion son of Dôn, where he is in Caer Dathl.'"
* * *
I've been cackling like a witch for the last twenty minutes. The ancient 'Legend of Amaethon Uab Don' quoted here as evidence for this mystic cosmological bollocks was penned over a month or so by yours truly, c. 2008, while glugging back the diet coke in Jesus College Oxford computer room. The website of this bunch of chumps not only has copied my entire text (in English and Middle Welsh), but also begins with a long and pompous screed about how wicked it is to steal other people's material. You only have to read my original introduction---or do a little googling!---to see that Amaethon was an act of homage, a piece of Iolosim. And, significantly enough, my name (even as supposed 'editor' of this 'rediscovered' text) is not mentioned anywhere.
Whatever else 'Y Plant Don' may be, they're thieving dolts.
Thursday, 15 March 2012
Sunday, 4 March 2012
Spectacular remix of a favourite song: Pat Grossi's beautiful falsetto with its recurring trilling, upward phrase and the occasional melismatic vocalise, all meshing in a thrumming, passionate, choral texture. I love it. It's even more beautiful than the unremixed version.
Thursday, 1 March 2012
'Like most mediaevalists she had chosen her subject out of an essentially Romantic preoccupation with the satisfactory remote violence of both the religious and the secular literature of the Middle Ages. She had come to Oxford hungry for the absolutely worked drama of Lancelot and Guenevere, Tristan and Iseult; she had slowly transmuted this into a passion for the symbolic possibilities of the Grail Legend. She combined the mediaevalist's love of the strange with the mediaevalist's passion for precision. The complexities of existence were the interrelations of roots and roses, strange beasts and fruits, in a walled garden, outside which a sea rose in formally dangerous peaks. She had elaborated, and believed, a network of symbols which made the outer world into a dazzling but comprehensible constellation of physical facts whose spiritual interrelations could be grasped and woven by the untiring intellect; suns, moons, stars, roses, cups, lances, lions and serpents, all had their place and also their meaning. This network was overlaid by another network interweaving other roots, footnotes, cross-references, bibliographical data, paleographical quirks. [Emphasis mine]. Somewhere, under the network, the truth shone; Cassandra had come, like many others looking for final Authority, logically to see it in the Church. This was a symbol, and also real; it was a guarantee. A passion for symbols is in some cases an automatic precursor of a passion for theology. Cassandra had embraced both.
But now and then, in certain moods, Cassandra remembered the root of this passion in the wash of romantic feeling with which she had first seen Oxford, having read indiscriminately in Walter Scott, Tennyson, Morris and Malory, looking for a life as brightly-coloured as books. She had not then had an interest in the conventions of the courtly love of the Roman de la Rose; she had cared about the feelings of Lancelot and Guenevere, disturbed in their blood-stained sheets. She had come, not from Ritual to Romance, but in the other direction, from romance to ritual. Her feeling for completeness had betrayed her to a way of live she had not quite chosen; the academic life had become almost accidentally a branch of the contemplative life. She had cultivated her walled-garden skills at the expense of any others she might have had. We become what we are, she told herself, by a series of involuntary half-choices; if this was not what she had meant, she did not know what else she could have done.'
Sunday, 19 February 2012
I dreamt last night that I came across an imaginary perfume while in Selfridges, called VENISONWOOD. Red and black packaging, with a design of black bare trees against a scarlet sky, and tissue paper in the box the colour of dried blood. The fragrance itself (my dreaming perfumery nose said) was a rich oriental, heavy on the incense and with a peppery smokiness. If you think 'caramelising, brambly red wine jus' you're halfway there, but the fragrance swerved off into inedibility thanks to a dominant resinous-smoky accord. The notes were thus: