Friday, 23 March 2012

Gamekeeper turned Poacher

I quote from the cheerfully insane and inimitably swollen-headed website of Welsh we're-not-witches 'Y Plant Don' (no need for the article, dears, because the proper name makes it definite). It's tedious, but hang in there for the delicious twist:

* * *

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.

sun in S
sun in W
sun in N
sun in E
sun in S

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


I've been reading Harold Bloom's latest, The Shadow of a Great Rock: a Literary Appreciation of the King James Bible, which is repetitiously full of his usual tics but also very much worth reading. The oddest verses quoted have to be Jeremiah 4:19-20, which remind me strongly of that episode of food poisoning I had in late January:

My bowels, my bowels! I am pained at my very heart; my heart maketh a noise in me; I cannot hold my peace, because thou hast heard, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war.

Destruction upon destruction is cried; for the whole land is spoiled: suddenly are my tents spoiled, and my curtains in a moment.

The first verse is self-evidently appropriate, but I can vouch that there was a point about 3am on that apocalyptic night when the chintz might well have been at risk also.

Four new songs

Wasting time

Playing with my new iMac. It has a creepy function on photobooth which gives you the eyes of an insect (or of Gaga in Bad Romance) but it also makes a lovely Coptic icon. Here is me as Abbot Makarios the Terminally Dim.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Exeter College Homophobia

I am LIVID, here, thanks to the most egregious breach of LGBT rights in Oxford that I can remember. I'm not a tremendous banger of the gay rights drum personally (I used to feel quite lukewarm about gay marriage, for example) but current events have me hopping mad.

It's common for Oxford colleges to make cash in the holidays by renting out student rooms and their facilities as conference venues. Exeter college, which is right next door---I can practically touch it from my kitchen window---has, in its wisdom, signed a contract with a Christian group of such staggering nastiness that it leaves me speechless. 'Christian Concern'---forgive me not linking to the scumsucking bastards---will be descending on Exeter in the next few weeks, for dinners in hall and all sorts of jolly discussions. No doubt of things like 'corrective therapy' for gay people, which they have publicly supported---A QUACK 'THERAPY' WHICH CONSISTS OF THE TORTURE OF VERY VULNERABLE PEOPLE, let's not forget---and how they can carry on opposing every single advance in human rights for LGBT people tabled in the UK or US.

This is not a free speech issue, as this kind of organisation usually tries to claim. I think their views are repellent and damaging but they are welcome to hold them. But what should never have been allowed is that they should have been given a forum by a constituent college of the University of Oxford, complete with the patina of respectability that confers. The University makes it absolutely clear that it opposes discrimination, values diversity, and works to provide a space where LGBT students and staff can feel safe. I doubt I'll feel very safe with people scheming ten yards from my flat to get my human rights rolled back, or get me sacked because of my sexual orientation, or liken me to a paedophile, thanks (all things which Christian Concern and its allied bodies have supported). How is it possible to 'value' your LGBT staff and students and allow this?! What were Exeter thinking?!

Exeter's Rector, an apparently fundamentally incurious economist called Frances Cairncross, seems to have shown no understanding at all in her public statements of the seriousness of the situation in which she finds herself. There needed to be a grovelling apology and a cancellation, immediately. Instead, Cairncross---who seems adept at pouring soothing oil onto troubled flames---released a statement of stump-like immovability, saying, effectively: 'they've agreed to abide by our rules while they're in College, but we're not going to check.' Perhaps we'll see neo-nazis at Exeter next, hosting conferences on the enduring value ofThe Protocols of the Elders of Zion. After all, the College has to make money somehow, and if such people abide by the College's rules while they are under its roof, what's the problem?

The bottom line: if Cairncross is not considering her position as Rector, she damn well should be.

Hanging On

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.

The Lleu in the Hay

I am at present merely surviving until the end of term, eight days hence. Addled with tiredness, I keep coming out with non-sequiturs and randomised riffs. Yesterday began with my graduate Math uab Mathonwy class, in which we had the passage where Lleu Llaw Gyffes describes to his wife the elaborate, folktale circumstances necessary for him to be killed:

'It is not easy to kill me with a blow. It would be necessary to spend a year making the spear with which I would be struck, working on it only during Sunday Mass....I cannot be killed indoors, nor out of doors; I cannot be killed on horseback nor on foot.'

'Well', she said, 'how can you be killed?'

...'By making a bath for me on a riverbank, and constructing an arched roof above the tub, and then thatching that well and watertight. And bringing a billy-goat, and standing it beside the tub; and I place one foot on the back of the billy-goat and the other on the edge of the tub. And whoever would strike me in that position would bring about my death.'

I began my usual brand of rambling commentary. (In order to follow what happened, you have to understand that I had recently seen this video of the lunatic lisper Tim Tebow reading Dr Seuss.)

'So, we have an elaborate, deliberately bizarre series of unfulfillable stipulations here. Lleu can't be killed on horseback, nor on foot, and he has to be in an environment which is doubly liminal between land and water (on the tub's edge and on the riverbank). With a bit of thought we can reconstruct the 'destiny' about his death which we have never in fact seen sworn upon him in the text itself---presumably with Math or Gwydion as the source of the magical conditions: neither inside nor outside; neither on water or land; neither on horseback nor on foot. The version we have in the text has clearly drawn more matter to it at some point in transmission, with the 'addition' of tub, thatched structure, and those puzzling goats, which as we have seen Patrick Ford has elucidated for us. Not that that makes much difference to poor Lleu: after all, he does not like it with a goat, he does not like it in a coat; he does not like it in a bath, he does not like it on a path; he does not like it in a box, he does not like it with a fox; he does not like a killing spear, he does not like it there or here, he does not like it in a tree, he does not like it in the sea; not in the sea, not in a tree, not with a spear, not there or here, not with a fox, not in a box, not on a path, not in a bath, not in a coat, not with a goat---he DOES NOT LIKE IT, Sam I Am!!'

[Tumbleweed. Bo is taken away by some nice people for a long lie down and some special pills.]

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Being a Medievalist

I've posted this before, but by God it resonates.

From A. S. Byatt, The Game, p. 18.

'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.'

Snow White and the Huntsman

Looks thrilling!
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