Scottish Academic: Runes are Hate Symbols, also Anti-Celtic

A free download from the journal Temenos: “Pagans, Nazis, Gaels, and the Algiz Rune: Addressing Questions of Historical Inaccuracy, Cultural Appropriation, and the Arguable Use of Hate Symbols at the Festivals of Edinburgh’s Beltane Fire Society”

The abstract:

Although Beltaners – members of Edinburgh’s Beltane Fire Society (BFS) – can trace the immediate origins of their society’s festivals to the collaborative efforts of anarchist performance artists and folklorists reacting against the Thatcherite government policies of the late 1980s, the ritual celebrations they routinely re-enact in the present ultimately derive from much older traditions associated with Scotland’s highly minoritised Gaelic-speaking population, a cohort to which few modern Beltaners belong. Performers at today’s festivals often incorporate runes into their regalia – a practice which does not reflect Gaelic tradition, but which is not unknown among ideologues of the far right. This paper interrogates rune use at BFS festivals, asking whether the employment of Germanic cultural elements in Celtic festivals by non-Celtic-speakers represents a distortion of history and debasement of an embattled ethnic minority, and whether it is ethically acceptable for an explicitly anti-racist organisation to share a symbolic repertoire with representatives of known hate groups.

Based on data derived from fieldwork consisting chiefly of participant observation and on the consultation of relevant academic literature, this paper evaluates the potentially problematic nature of BFS ritual performers’ rune use and related behaviours by analysing the intentions that underlie their actions, the consequences that have resulted from them, and the historical interaction of runes, ethnonationalism, and the occult that has shaped perceptions of runic meaning among those who use runes in modern times.

The runes may be part of your spiritual practice, or maybe you enjoy their literary history, but watch out: Adam Dahmer thinks that they are “problematic.”

Secrets of the Gundestrup Cauldron

The Gundestrop Cauldron is one of the best-known Pagan artworks from Iron Age Europe. You can even buy inexpensive replicas.1)Just for information — I get no commission on this,  and I see that it is out of stock at the moment anyway.

What the reproductions will not have are the “ghosts,” as detailed in this post from the Balkan Celts blog:

While extensive academic attention has been paid to the cauldron’s iconography and origin over the past century, one fascinating element has been completely overlooked until recently. Scientific research on the back of the cauldron’s silver plate, using a ?bre illumination unit, as well as silicone rubber moulds, epoxy resin replica and macro photography, have revealed ‘Ghost Images’ unseen to the human eye for over 2,000 years.

The images, drawn lightly into the backs of the silver plates with a scriber and which are almost invisible to the naked eye, include a male figure 4.4 cm. discovered in the lower right corner on the back of inner plate C6572. The man is depicted in pro?le and blowing a horn instrument. It is worth noting that this instrument looks quite different from the relatively much longer instruments played by the three carnyx players depicted on the front of inner plate C6574.

Given that this was such a prestige item, I would have expected a better final polish job. 🙂

Notes   [ + ]

1. Just for information — I get no commission on this,  and I see that it is out of stock at the moment anyway.

Pagan Basics: How You Talk to Your Food, How You are Buried, and Other Linkage

Graves in the necropolist of Bouc-Bel-Air (Bernard Sillano, Inrap).

The slow abandonment of Pagan religion might be reflected in burials from early medieval France. “Within some of the tombs, the archaeologists discovered objects that suggest the persistence of pagan rites, even though Christianity was becoming more prevalent.” None of the articles that I have read give dates for these burials, so I am guessing they were from earlier than 1000 CE.

Women like the witch archetype because she is powerful. “On some level, all of the contemporary trappings of witchiness tap into that desire to feel powerful.”

Now you know. I suppose that it had to be said, and that my readers are mature enough to deal with this knowledge.

• Be buried in the Neolithic way so that your descendants may venerate you properly. It’s now possible in Britain.

She was a Celtic warrior-woman, in a sense — but not in Britain, Ireland, or Gaul.

“Animism at the Dinner Table.” From Sarah Lawless’ blog — really, this is the basic basic level of a Pagan life. It is more important than pantheons, Lore, texts, dressing up like the ancestors and all the stuff that people get worked up about.

What if we didn’t strive to be like the ancients, whose true ways are long lost and whose skills are beyond many of us at this time, but instead decided to bring the philosophy of animism to the dinner table? What would it look like? To be honest, it would look foolish to an outsider as it would involve talking to plants and animals, talking to our food sources, as if they were sentient and could understand us. Most of the old prayers collected as folklore weren’t really prayers at all, they were people talking to plants and to wild spirits.

Read the rest.

More Links — Hand-Forged Ones At That

Utility seax from Fay’s Forge

• At Fay’s Forge you may buy “knives, swords, and do castings from the Celtic, migration, Anglo Saxon, and Norse cultures.” Support your local shieldmaiden.

Probably it would be more accurate to say that the planned Black Mass terrifies some Christians in Oklahoma. And before you dump on Oklahoma, remember that Harvard University backed down from a similar proposal!

• I have ordered this book: Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms: Journeys Into the Disappearing Religions of the Middle East.

With Daesh slaughtering and enslaving Yezidis and Mandeans, etc., “disappearing” may not be an exaggeration. As a long review in The Revealer asks,

Will the funeral pyres of the Zoroastrians still alight the dusks of Iran and India? Will the Copts still maintain the well where Mary and Joseph quenched Jesus’ thirst upon the flight into Egypt? Will the Samaritans still smear the blood of the lamb upon their lintels as their ancestors in bondage did? Will the wooden idols of the Kalasha look out at the unforgiving and cragged landscape of the Kush? What of the Yazidis who believe that God is so benevolent that even the devil can be saved? Or the Mandaeans who whisper secrets in the language of the Magi and the Chaldean wizards?

Magic in Philadelphia, Worshiping Game Characters, and a Holy Mountain in Scotland

exhibitions_magic1

Photo: Penn Museum

• If you live in or near Philadelphia, visit the U. of Pennsylvania museum for “Magic in the Anciet World,” an exhibit that “explores some of the magical objects, words, and rituals used in ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, and Rome.”

• When a Chinese grandmother left an offering at a statue of a video-game character, social media there lit up. But was she merely carrying on tradition?

• “Last temple of the Celts” might be overstating the matter just a little, but it’s an interesting article about a holy mountain in Scotland.

How Do You Wear a Torc?

ChieftansTorc

“Chieftain’s torc” from The Crafty Celts (click to visit site).

So you are feeling sort of Iron Age-ish and want to wear your best torc for a night of feasting. Do you go with the twist-on, twist-off style or for the more sophisticated hidden hinge?

Let the experts at the British Museum help you with your fashion dilemma.

A re-enactor friend of mine has told me that he often puts a torc on from the front, and then twists it round to bring the terminals to the front. I’ve tried with replicas, and I tend to slip mine on from the back, so there are different ways of doing it.

Whichever style you choose, it’s easier than tying a full Windsor knot in a necktie, that’s for sure.

“Trace What It Means To Be Celtic”

In their book Pop Pagans: Paganism and Popular Music, Donna Weston and Andy Bennett use the term “cardiac Celts . . . people who feel in their heart that they are Celtic.”

They are not the only ones who use it — but I wonder if this new British Museum exhibit will name-check Marion Bowman, who teaches religious studies at The Open University, the scholar who first employed the term in an  essay  included in the book, Paganism Today 1)Marion Bowman, Cardiac Celts: Images of the Celts in Contemporary British Paganism,” iPaganism Today, ed. Graham Harvey and Charlotte Hardman (London: Thorsons, 1995), 242–51.

I still look at “Celtic” as identifying a language group — to be Welsh, for instance, is an ethnicity, but “Celtic” is not. That term covers too much time and space to mean anything useful as an ethnic tag. Nevertheless, since the late 18th century, there have been many attempts to use it that way, and I suspect that this exhibit — which I will probably never see — will examine them.

Maybe I can get the published catalog, if there is one.

Notice how drumming is always the aural cue for “barbarians.”

Notes   [ + ]

1. Marion Bowman, Cardiac Celts: Images of the Celts in Contemporary British Paganism,” iPaganism Today, ed. Graham Harvey and Charlotte Hardman (London: Thorsons, 1995), 242–51.

Was Lugh a Comet?

Here is the trailer for an Irish television “documentary,” (in Irish with English subtitles), “Gods from the Sky,” which argues that celestial events changed ancient Irish religion.

And if that sounds a bit familiar, perhaps you are remembering Immanuel Velikovsky’s (1895–1979) somewhat similar thesis that the planet Venus entered our solar system twice: “Periodic close contacts with a ‘cometary Venus‘  (which had been ejected from Jupiter) had caused the Exodus events (c. 1500 BCE) and Joshua‘s subsequent “sun standing still” (Joshua 10:12 and 13) incident.”

Other planets caused catastrophes on Earth as well, he claimed.

Pictish Writing Discovered?

Some researchers now think that decorative carvings on Pictish memorial stones in Scotland may actually represent a form of writing.

The highly stylized rock engravings, found on what are known as the Pictish Stones, had once been thought to be rock art or tied to heraldry. The new study, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society A, instead concludes that the engravings represent the long lost language of the Picts, a confederation of Celtic tribes that lived in modern-day eastern and northern Scotland.

“We know that the Picts had a spoken language to complement the writing of the symbols, as Bede (a monk and historian who died in 735) writes that there are four languages in Britain in this time: British, Pictish, Scottish and English,” lead author Rob Lee told Discovery News.

“We know that the three other languages were — and are — complex spoken languages, so there is every indication that Pictish was also a complex spoken language,” added Lee, a professor in the School of Biosciences at the University of Exeter.

I have known some people who claimed to be practising Pictish Witchcraft. If the carving is indeed writing and is deciphered, then they will have to go back and revise their greatnth-grandmother’s Book of Shadows.

The ‘Fifth Branch’ of the Mabinogion & Some Plagiarizing Pagans

In 2008, an English academic who works with ancient and modern Celtic languages created “a piece of Iolosim,” in other words, a pseudo-ancient tale in the spirit of the Welsh literary forger and Druid revivalist Iolo Morganwg.

Written in Middle Welsh and “translated” into English, it purports to be a hitherto-unknown section of the Mabinogion, a famous collection of medieval Welsh tales with possibly older roots.

Imagine his surprise when he finds the whole thing—uncredited, of course—on a website devoted to “Keltic mysteries” and the revival of ancient Welsh Paganism, or some approximation thereof.

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.

Anyone who read the “Fifth Branch’s” introduction carefully would have seen some signals that it was bogus—there is no “Judas College” at Oxford University, for one thing—but who reads carefully on the Internet when they are busy cutting and pasting?