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?
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NEW from Heart of Albion
Sacred Places: Prehistory and popular imagination
by Bob Trubshaw
This book looks back at the days of At the Edge and other 'Earth Mysteries' 'zines and provides detailed discussions of many of the topics outlined here.
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- Jeremy Harte
Churches moved by night (Supernatural church relocation legends.)
It was a fragment of tessellated pavement. The vicar handled it curiously while the farmer fumbled in his bag for more. 'We been finding them everywhere, sir, down in Hocbery furlong'. In loco Hocbery vocato, wrote the vicar, who hadn't been to college for nothing. Later that year (it was 1630) he wrote the whole thing up for the parish register, in an elegant Latin which I shall spoil by translating. 'The village people told me that they had often come across silver and brass coins here, without having any idea what they were; but it was handed down from the older generation, that Rodmarton village used to stand on this spot and was afterwards removed to where it is now. Clearly there was a Roman camp here once'.
- Alby Stone
A pagan Gothic ritual
The Goths - who appear to have migrated to eastern Europe from Sweden and the southern shore of the Baltic from around 150 onward - seem to have been adhering to a tradition brought with them from their native lands. Tacitus, writing toward the end of the first century, describes the worship of Nerthus, whom he characterises as 'Mother Earth', among the Germanic tribes of northern Germany:
'They believe that she takes a part in human affairs, riding in a chariot among her people. On an island of the sea stands an inviolate grove, in which, veiled with a cloth, is a chariot that none but the priest may touch. The priest can feel the presence of the goddess in this holy of holies, and attends her with deepest reverence as her chariot is drawn along by cows. Then follow days of rejoicing and merrymaking in every place that she condescends to visit and sojourn in. No one goes to war, no one takes up arms; every iron object is locked away. Then, and then only, are peace and quiet known and welcomed, until the goddess, when she has had enough of the society of men, is restored to her sacred precinct by the priest. After that, the chariot, the vestements, and (believe it if you will) the goddess herself, are cleansed in a secluded lake. This service is performed by slaves who are immediately afterwards drowned in the lake. Thus mystery begets terror and a pious reluctance to ask what that sight can be which is only seen by men doomed to die.'
Full text of A pagan Gothic ritual
- Bob Trubshaw
The fifth direction - sacred centres in Ireland
Anyone who starts to take an interest in the medieval texts relating to Ireland quickly picks up the idea that the country was divided into 'fifths'. Indeed, the Gaelic word cuigeadh still means 'fifths' (singular coiced) and the modern-day Gaelic expression which translates literally as 'the five fifths of Ireland' refers to the political divisions of Ulster, Connacht, Leinster and Munster. Yes, you have counted correctly. There are only four 'fifths' in Ireland. The early legends subdivided Munster into east and west, but this is an artificial adjustment. The earliest clearly datable references to the cuigeadh relate to the kingdoms which emerged in the fifth and sixth centuries. At this date Ireland is considered to be divided into fifths but only four functional divisions are recognisable.
Full text of The fifth direction - sacred centres in Ireland
- Michael Behrend
Oxhide tales - a worldwide trick
The oxhide tale is an example of a folk tale in which land is gained by deception. The trickster asks for as much land as can be covered by the hide of an ox (or other animal) and, when this seemingly modest request is granted, cuts the hide into a single thong, encloses a large area of ground, and successfully claims it. The story is known in many parts of the world. Usually the trickster is presented as a settler from a distant country, who takes advantage of the natives. For example, the story is told against European settlers in Asia, South Africa and North America. As one Canadian story puts it, 'This is the way the white man does. He cheats the Indian'. So too the English are said to have got land in Calcutta, the Spanish in the Philippines, and the Dutch in both Formosa (Taiwan) and Cambodia.
- Bob Trubshaw
Exploring past and place - where next?
If Dr Julian Thomas, one of the front rank of the 'new thinkers' in academic archaeology, could address The Ley Hunter Moot in October 1995 then, thought I, it is time the 'alternative archaeologists' put in at least a nominal presence at the holy-of-holies of serious prehistorians. The 17th conference of the Theoretical Archaeological Group (TAG to all in the trade) at the University of Reading in December 1995 offered the best part of four days of heavy-going presentations. Most of the time there were four parallel sessions to chose from, with hectic session-surfing being the norm.
However, TAG is not what it used to be. Gone are the savage debates between Processualists (the now-outmoded 'New Archaeology' of the 60s and 70s) and Post-Processualists (the philosophically-correct, post-modernist doyens of deconstruction and hermeneutics). Indeed, the chief protagonists of Post-Processualism at early TAG conferences, such as Christopher Tilley and Michael Shanks, were absent. In their place we were offered a few papers which offered some high-level overviews but most of the papers offered innovation while avoiding areas of dispute on theory.
- ABSTRACTS - nearly three pages of summaries of articles in academic journals, newspapers, etc.
- Nigel Pennick: CELTIC SACRED LANDSCAPES
- John Darrah: PAGANISM IN ARTHURIAN ROMANCE
- Michael Dames: MYTHIC IRELAND
- Robin Holdgate (ed.): CHILTERN ARCHAEOLOGY
- Jean Marie Chauvet et al: CHAUVET CAVE
- Nigel Pennick: SECRET SIGNS, SYMBOLS AND SIGILS
- Bill Griffiths: MEET THE DRAGON
- Arnaud d'Apremont: YGGDRASILL
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Created February 1998; updated November 2008