What fun reading your response to Dennis' ever-so-productive teaser on the
bog-body. (He credits me with making August lively, but it seems to me that
the thanks should be laid wholly at his own doorstep.)
Helen McKay wrote:
you have to understand where your author is coming from philosophically and
> religiously before
> you can begin to assess the statement for any validity beyond that.
LRF: I think this goes in any case, for any work on history. Histories
represent our attempts to reconstruct the past according to our likings,
agendas and mindsets. There was (I am told) an exhibition one time in the
British Museum on forgeries. Famous forgeries were analyzed and shown to
subtly betray features which reflected the forger's own era. Try as we
might to insinuate ourselves into the mindset of a given people of the past,
we are always bound by our own contemporary frames of reference. The famous
(in Ireland) Revisionist controversy has been shown to have fallen prey to
the same thing. Far from making their New History unassailably objective,
data-based, 'scientific', their work has been shown to have been just as
much a prey to the prejudices of their time as anyone else's.
> Lenore, you did make me smile, and I think you and I should book a
> nice fireside for a month or two, in order to swap stories of crazy sad
> and funny things said.
LRF: Great idea. Somewhere in Samoa, or would Easter Island be roughly
half-way between us? Oh, how I used to love to travel.
One book on Pictish matters that shall remain nameless but is famous, is
quite strange --
LRF: this may not be the text your talking of, but one work full of
wonderfully half-baked theories is Anthony Jackson's quite easily obtainable
*The Symbol Stones of Scotland*. I throw this in, not to push you into
betraying your pet peeve, Helen, but in the hopes of stimulating some input
from some of our Scottish Listmembers.
> OK, back to sacrifices. I notice that Prof Kelly
LRF: Ned is Keeper of Antiquities at the National Museum; he gives lectures
here and there, but he is not involved in teaching and holds no
professorship. In a way maybe that's been bad for him, since people in the
teaching end of things are, in theory at least, continually challenged by
their students to defend their basic tenets.
> But why not sacrifices? well, no evidence anywhere to start with - no
> archaeology, no mythology. Just a couple of statements by classical
> commentators whose political motives are highly suspect.
LRF: Hang on a sec, what about the Three-Fold Death scene that recurs in the
Irish king tales? A king, whose death has been foretold by a woman, usually
at a banquet, dies a) because the house he's in catches fire, b) because a
spear cast through the wall/door of the house pierces him in the side, and
c) because he simultaneously falls into a vat of mead and drowns. If that
isn't a case of our mythology recording a memory of ritual sacrifice, what
> In this Irish bog body case, the first one appears to be a large high-
> status male killed by a knife to the heart. But, he also has a defence
> wound on his arm
> The second bog body is another high status male, but this chap was
> killed by an axe blow down through the front of his face.
LRF: Very strong counter arguments. Another thing I'm not happy about is
that quite a number of the bodies found in Denmark, anyway, are female. We
have a lot of Sacred King/Mother Goddess stuff in our heads going back to
models put forward in the nineteenth century, but while they call for
regular ritual sacrifice of young men, I don't recall that any of them
expect women to be sacrificed.
I'm going to have to get back to polishing up our poem for final
presentation. Nobody has started talking about 'what we'll do next', so I
guess that's a hint that people are waiting for me to get on with doing the
right thing by our current work. Next couple of days are very busy, though
My best to you, Helen, and to all,