An Introduction to Geomythography

Geomythography

The interpretation of prehistoric and later societies through a combination of oral tradition, place-names, landscape analysis and archaeology. The process is a means of finding new perspectives and interpretations to hopefully further the understanding of such societies.

The process of Geomythography is rooted in the awareness that the passing on of tradition in pre-literate societies is predicated on certain realities. In many cases, such as Scotland, communities have survived within the same environment over remarkable periods of time. This has created a rootedness, not just in terms of physical environment but in socio-psychological terms that have led to considerable depths of continuity between the generations. This can perhaps be understood as an ongoing cultural relationship with the physical environment which exists simultaneously at an individual and communal level. One way of understanding this is to see ‘ancestor worship’ not as something inherently religious but something much more akin to respect, respect for those who paved the way for contemporary society, physically – by handing on prepared ground with the knowledge of how to use it, much as understanding of how to read the weather was passed on – and significantly, in the field of human inter-relatedness with that environment. The respect for the ancestors in traditional societies is accompanied by a sense of responsibility towards coming generations who are expected to perpetuate the continuity of the community. In pre-literate societies the mode of transmission of such cultural values is oral tradition. This can be understood as not only referring to traditional stories but also specific data such as site-specific weather lore and place names. While, many place-names are essentially topographical. i.e descriptive of the landscape, others have mythological or ritual connotations. (see Appendix B)

We must also remember that humans are animals and that the rootedness of such communities is matched by the rootedness of individuals within such communities and the physical environment. This in turn created an attachment to the land that was essentially visceral rather than intellectual. What is known as Diaspora poetry and song underlines this cultural reality in many cultures.

In Building The Great Stone Circles of the North, Colin Richards makes the following point when writing about folklore associated with ancient monuments,

’objects become invested with meaning through the social interactions they are caught up in. These meanings change and are renegotiated through the life of an object…..those things are always in the process of becoming; in this sense we can say, monuments are always in the making through discourse.’ [2013, p292]

This is particularly relevant in those societies and locales where the population remain essentially localised over long periods of time as appears to have been the situation in most of Scotland pre the 18th century. People lived on the land inhabited by their ancestors. Within the clan system, which arose directly from earlier forms of tribal society, local beliefs may well have been handed down over truly remarkable lengths of time. It has been established in Australia that some of the traditional stories of the aboriginal population may well have originated over thirty thousand years ago1.The dates of flint scatter from Elsrickle at 12000 BCE suggest the possibility that some of the localise material in Scottish folklore tradition may well have considerable antiquity. Some underlying ideas, such as the apparent understanding of existence being in some way based in an understanding of feminine fertility are likely even older, perhaps having already been par of culture when humans first arrived here. What is of considerable import is that as Richards points out ‘the monuments are in the making” and effectively have been for a long time, This can only have helped to reinforce important locales within contemporary culture time and again. So places associated with supernatural figures like the Paps – breast-shaped hills (infra) – have become the focus of a range of sociological and communal constructs and as they are still prominent in the landscape their everyday cultural relevance continued till very recently, and even, arguably, the present day. Appendix A shows the variety of constructs that can be, and have been associated with some of these sites, going far beyond the out-dated notion that everything on the top of a hill must have been a military structure.

There is also a level of practicality that can be discerned in much of what is considered to be mythological thinking. How was the land created? Where did humans come from? Who controls the weather? These are fundamental questions for all human societies and in much early mythological construct we can see that the explanations of such deep questions are based on a practical approach to the environment and how to survive in it. It is a fundamental tenet of the geomythographic approach that we retain an awareness of both practicality and continuity in dealing with early human society. It is also of considerable importance to note that so many supernatural figures, mythological, legendary and religious are clearly derived from human prototypes

In The Pagan Symbols of the Picts (2013 Luath Press, Edinburgh passim) I presented an interpretation of the symbols based on the concept of an underlying Weltanschaung based round the idea that life itself was driven by a force that was essentially feminine. This idea was specifically based round interpretation of material relating to those sites known in Scotland as Paps. These breast shaped hills, perhaps deliberately echoed in localised ritual mounds, are the locales of what I have referred to as ‘clusters”(see Appendices A and B) These clusters include a considerable range of different examples of human interaction with these specific locales and include the breast shapes themselves – perhaps perceived of as deliberately shaped by the Goddess figure associated with landscape creation; the stories of powerful female (and sometimes male) figures associated with the locales; ancient monuments suggestive of ritualised behaviour; place-names referring to mythological and legendary figures and ritual behaviour; oral traditions referring to weather patterns linked to the role of the powerful female figures as weather-workers.

What is clear is that these Pap sites conform to the ideas suggested by Bradley in The Archaeology of the Natural Places (2000 Routledge N.Y.) where he suggests that significant locales stand out from the landscape because of ‘their striking topography” (p6). It has also become clear (see Carlin Maggie below) is that some sites seem to have been the foci of a further level of interaction where specific viewpoints of the site bring extra levels of interpretation. Just as the Paps themselves were the focus of belief through stories of the powerful supernatural beings associated with them, so it seems they had extra layers of meaning when seen from specific locales. The extent of how much this interfaces with solar and lunar alignments – as appears to be the case with the Carlin Maggie site – is something that merits further investigation.

The process arose initially from analysing traditional oral material associated with specific sites of antiquity, often ancient monuments 2. Over time a pattern emerged where it was clear that specific shapes (initially Paps) were repeatedly associated with certain supernatural figures. Most dramatically these were the Cailleach in Gaelic-speaking areas and the Carlin in Scots-speaking areas which I have written about extensively elsewhere. The activities of these figures in landscape-shaping, weather working and their association with significant geophysical realities and events in the landscape e.g. Ben Nevis, the Corryvreckan Whirlpool, North Berwick Law etc., illustrates the depths of their rootedness in communal belief. What became apparent was that certain sites and locales had become not just significant in themselves but had attracted cultural aggregations that speak of their importance. The repeated association of mountain top sites with supernatural females is particularly obvious. It is also apparent that many such places were the sites of rituals. Echoes of such ritual behaviour can be seen in place names like Lomond – deriving from the P-Celtic llumon a beacon or chimney 3 and Craigshannoch on Bennachie deriving from the Scots shannack, Halloween fires 4 .Similarly there are a number of Bel names across the country which appear to refer to the activities associated with Beltain. Through understanding that such sites and locales were the foci of ritual and belief it became clear that further interpretation is possible. I have discussed this elsewhere but am now in the position of giving this process of inter-disciplinary interpretation itself the name of Geomythography and as an illustration of how the process can be productive I include here recent discoveries made in the physical landscape of Scotland.

 

Uamh nan Deargan, Scarba

I have been vising the island of Scarba for several years with a study group that focuses on the Corryvreckan and its role in mythology, tradition and literature. The name Uamh nan Deargan translates as Cave of the little Red One and I visited it the first time in 2009 because in the tale of Mac Iain Direach in Campbell’s Popular Tales of the West Highlands (1994 reprint) V2 p93 collected circa 1860, the action, while supposedly set on Jura, actually starts at Creagan nan Deargan, the rock of the little red one, which is on Scarba. This anomaly intrigued me and consulting the OS map (Pathfinder No 365) I noticed the cave there. The tale is full of interesting mythological material, some of it linked directly to the Paps of Jura, which are themselves of some significance in pre-Christian thought. The story also includes references to the Seven Big Women of Jura who in some respects conform to the model of Nine Maidens. Coming toward Baigh (bay) nan Deargan you walk through a natural stone arch in the outcrop known as Creagan nan Deargan and are immediately below the entrance to a cave.

Stone arch looking north east

Cave

The cave is not far from the opening of the Gulf of Corryvreckan, between Scarba and Jura, which contains the world’s third biggest whirlpool and is associated with the Cailleach, a supernatural female figure, the traditions regarding whom suggest she was originally a goddess figure. A major fault line which cuts across the entire island runs through the roof of the cave and its name Uamh nan Deargan, the Cave of the Little Red One, may be related to the fact that the northern side of the cave is composed of red-streaked rock. The fact that the floor of the cave is flat and smooth is clear indication of human activity here, and initial investigation suggests at least as far back as the Neolithic. The evidence of human occupation is confirmed by scorch marks from a long term hearth fire on the northern wall.

Skull

Within the cave itself is a naturally-occurring outcrop of stone closely resembling an upside down human skull. It is approximately the right size for a new-born baby and is in the cleft of rock that forms the cave itself. The cave’s name. the upside down skull shape and the red-streaked rock combined. lead to the speculative possibility of this having been some sort of birthing site. It’s proximity to the Corryvreckan and its association with a goddess figure perhaps reinforce this, especially as the Cailleach in some surviving tales is clearly presented as a dual figure whose other half is Bride, the Goddess of Summer and a striking symbol of fertility and rebirth. Bradley’s ideas regarding the archaeology of natural places would suggest this is a site that would have evoked strong reactions in the early occupants.

Lochnagar

In the summer of 2011 I went to Lochnagar with my son Roderick. The intention was to look at Meikle Pap. The name Lochnagar was given to the mountain in the 19th century supposedly to avoid embarrassing Queen Victoria (for whom Prince Albert purchased the Balmoral estate in 1852) by using its earlier name Beann na Ciochan, the hill of the paps or breasts, there being Little Pap south of Meikle Pap. This is of course similar to the name of Bennachie, which is likewise named for its prominent nipple shaped peak nowadays known as Mither Tap, but earlier as Mither Pap. This underlines the association with the Cailleach/Carlin the landscape-shaping and weather-working supernatural female of both Gaelic and Scots tradition. She is commemorated on the Lochnagar massif by the place-names Caisteal na Caillich – another lesser peak of the massif – and Allt na Cailleach the stream which runs northwards along Glen Muick. The name Glen Muick may also have some significance as I have pointed out in The Pagan Symbols of the Picts (p60ff) that there were strong traditional associations between early Goddess figures and porcine animals in different societies. Another nearby place name is Coire na Ciche – the Corrie of the Pap and further north on the massif above the river Don there is Creag nam Ban, The Rock of the Women which may denote a site of fertility rituals, as are associated with similar named places elsewhere.

Sadly there are no extant tales regarding the Cailleach relating to Lochnagar but this may well be due to the fact that the surrounding glens were cleared of their indigenous populations to make way for the shooting estates set up in the 19th century. However on reaching the top of Meikle Pap I was struck by the odd shapes of the rocks which. like Carlin Maggie and other significant hill-top sites, are composed of dolorite. Dolorite takes on smooth and fascinating shapes over time, very often appearing to be taking on aspects of the human form (Fig1). On the topmost rock of the summit there are two holes which look like eyes.(Fig2) Such holes were thought in previous times to have happened naturally but this seems unlikely. It may also be relevant that in many cultures the eye is seen as a specific symbol of goddess figures 5. Whether there is any link between the concept of Lochnagar as sacred site and the annual Midsummer Solstice pilgrimage is unclear and I can find no references to the event before the 20th century. At the least these ‘eyes’ present what Bradley refers to as ‘striking topography’ though if they are man-made (or enhanced) their location on the summit of Meikle Pap is remarkable.

Cnoc Brannan

In the summer of 2013 I was on the summit of Ben Ledi, part of the summit of which is called Cnoc a’ Cailleach and where there are reports of Beltane fire ceremonies as late as the 19th century. I noticed what appeared to be an unusually regular-shaped hill to the east in Glenartney. Such symmetry hints at human involvement and on consulting the map I discovered this was Cnoc Brannan. Now Brannan is potentially a variant of Brendan or Bran, both of which names have a significance in early Christian and pre-Christian materials from Scotland, Ireland and Wales. The Welsh connection to Bran is particularly interesting because of the shared linguistic/cultural heritage of the Welsh and Southern Scottish P-Celtic speaking tribes (and probably Pictish tribes to the north) of the 1st Millennium. It is possible that the Q-Celtic derived Brandan variants are rooted, like so much early Christian material from these islands, in earlier constructs. I then researched the area further finding that the stream to the west of Cnoc Brannan was Allt na Caillich and that there had been a couple of cup-marked rocks found in the area. I then went to Glenartney and walked up the burn. I found the following site just a couple of hundred metres from the bridge. It appears to be an unrecorded disturbed chambered cairn.

It was through the combination of landscape reading, place name analysis and an awareness of the depths of tradition associated with this particular name that I noticed the Allt na Caillich and by following that up made the discovery of the unrecorded chambered cairn. This is a precise example of how the process I refer to as geomythography can be of use in archaeology.

Carlin Maggie

On the side of Bishop Hill overlooking Loch Leven in Fife there is a dolorite stack or pillar called Carlin Maggie. A local tale recounts how Maggie was the leader of the witches who regularly gathered in the Lomond Hills and she became so sure of her own powers that she ended up fighting the Devil himself. Now as in all such tales there could only be one conclusion and it is said that Maggie, getting the worst of the struggle, ran off and was turned into this stone pillar by a blast from Auld Hornie. Now the Lomond Hills are known as the Paps of Fife and like other similar places are clearly associated with pre-Christian ritual belief and in all likelihood ritual activities (above and Appendix A). The Carlin in Scots tradition is a match for the Cailleach in Gaelic tradition and there is sufficient evidence to suggest that surviving folklore attached to them denotes them having been goddess figures in pre-Christian times6 . In 2014 I decided to visit the stack, which is on a very steep part of Bishop Hill in an area that has been extensively scarred by quarrying. All photographs I had seen of Carlin Maggie to that point had been taken from the south and showed a somewhat phallic pillar of rock. I approached from the south west and headed north past the stack, it was then I noticed something quite remarkable about this particular dolorite pillar. Viewed rom the west it has a shape that is strikingly redolent of the well known ”Venus” figures from Malta and elsewhere. This further underlines the potential association with an early goddess figure here and further research has shown there is more to be investigated in the landscape of the Lomond Hills. Loch Leven and the Ochil Hills to the west..

On a subsequent visit to a potential ‘natural site’ a few mile s east in the Ochil Hills 7 further aspects of the Carlin Maggie site were noticed and these will figure in the next stage in the development of the Geomythograpical approach will be an in-depth analysis of the Central Fife and Ballachulish areas.

Appendix A Cluster sites

Bennachie

Initially Beinn a Cioch, the hill of the nipple or pap.

Craigshannoch, Rock of the Samhain Fire

Maiden Stane

Maiden Causeway

Mither Tap

Stone circles at Chapel of Garioch, Chapel o Sink, East Aquhorthies and Hatton of Ardoyne.

Standing stones at Hatton of Ardoyne, Monymusk and Tombeg

Symbol Stones at Logie

Whitecross

Whitewell

Lochnagar

initially Beinn a Ciochan, the Hill or Mountain of the Breasts

Alltcailleach Forest

Caisteal na Caillich

Carn an t-Sagairt Beg and Mor. Cairns of the Priest

Cnapan Nathraichean, The Knoll of the Adders (Bride or Druidic reference?)

Coire na Ciche, Corryof the Nipple or Pap

Glen and Loch Muick, from Muc, a pig or swine

Little Pap

Meikle Pap

White Mounth

Paps of Fife

East and West Lomond Hill. Acc CPNS Lomond means beacon

Maiden Bower – geophysical feature used in fertility rite

Maiden Castle – not a fortification

The Carlin and her daughter – geophysical feature: Carlin is Scots for Cailleach

Devil’s Burdens – geophysical feature

Early church site at nearby Orwell

Earthwork in Glen Vale

Early Christian Symbol Stone with fish and cross on W. Lomond Hill

Fort on East Lomond Hill

Scotlandwell and its priory

White Craigs

Paps of Jura

Jura is originally Norse and means Deer Isle

The Paps are three mountains one of which is Beinn Shantaidh, the Holy Mountain.

One of the others Beinn an Oir, has Sgriobh na Cailich where a hag is said to have slid down the side of the mountain.

This location is also associated with the Seven Big Women of Jura, who in tradition had the Glaibh Soluis, the Sword of Light. They may have originally been 9 in number (see McHardy 2003).

Jura is probably the site of the Columban Hinba.

The Corryvreckan at the north end of the island has many Goddess associations and traditions and is one of the world’s seven significant whirlpools. Its spiral shapes, thrown into the Atlantic Tide are the Breath of the Goddess under the Waves and may have inspired northern European use of the spiral motif.

On the east of the island at Small Isles Bay there are Rubha (point) na Caillich and Rubha Bhride and Eilean Bhride.

Paps of Lothian

Used to describe North Berwick Law and Arthur’s Seat

North Berwick Law is a major landmark and linked to 17th century witch activity.

Arthur’s Seat has wells, hill-forts (?), a chapel and an ancient fertility site, the Sliddery Stanes..

Appendix B Cluster elements

Significant elements in locating potential Goddess sites. It is suggested the significance of these elements increases with frequency and proximity.

Wells – particular noteworthy dedications are St.s Brendan, and Bride, Ninewells but wells are significant in themselves.

Antiquities – most hilltop sites are given as forts but their significance as Beltane/Samhain fire sites may be more significant; likewise earthworks of various kinds and cairns can be of significance, particularly if associated with specific names –e.g. Shennach, a variant on Shannach, the Scots for Halloween. Stone circles are always a sign of a sacred site whereas without other supporting evidence it is impossible to be so definite about single standing stones.

Early church sites – particularly when on mounds – virtually proof of a previous site of sanctity.

Dens – many dens are associated with early saints, witches, supposed serpent worship. Their continuance as places of local activity can be construed as an example of social continuity.

Landmarks – instances like figures in the natural landscape or particular shaped hills reminiscent of the female body often have a placename element referring to this significance – or have associated ideas/tales in local history and folklore.

Islands – in both lochs and sea islands, probably because of being surrounded by water – water is the stuff of life and this can be seen as the virtual blood of the Goddess, underlining the importance of wells.

 

Placename elements.

White/Fin – white is traditionally seen as the colour of sanctity.

Nevay/Navay/Navie – as a separate word or word ending this refers back to nemeton – a sacred grove. Can be difficult to spot as in Slocknavata in Galloway.

Bride/Bridget /Breedie – can be first or last element. A Mother Goddess, symbol of fruitfulness and regeneration, specifically associated with Summer and independently existing in England, Ireland and Scotland.

Cailleach/Cally –in many forms.

Ban – particularly as in nam ban , of women.

Ciochnipple.

Dun – generally assumed to mean fort but see above.

Law – often distintively-shaped and standing alone, many laws have folklore associations or distinctive names, suggesting they have a meaning beyond “hill”.

Mambreast

Nathrach – meaning the adder.

Pap – there are quite a few of these and like e.g Mither Tap on Bennachie often have “colusters” around.

Seat/Suidhe – again these names tend to have specific significance.

Witch/Witches – significant if associated with other elements.

White in placenames occurs frequently near ancient sacred sites throughout the UK

Note. At Bennachie there is the name Bruntwood Tap and at the back of Fannyhill near Muckhart we have Burnt Wood. This could be a reference to the burning of ceremonial fires at Samhain and Beltane as Lomond surely is.

Notes

On first investigation Cnoc Brannan itself showed little of significance other than a stone scatter on its western slope which may bear further investigation.

Appendix A

Bennachie

Initially Beinn a Cioch, the hill of the nipple or pap.

Craigshannoch, Rock of the Samhain Fire

Maiden Stane

Maiden Causeway

Mither Tap

Stone circles at Chapel of Garioch, Chapel o Sink, East Aquhorthies and Hatton of Ardoyne.

Standing stones at Hatton of Ardoyne, Monymusk and Tombeg

Symbol Stones at Logie

Whitecross

Whitewell

Lochnagar

initially Beinn a Ciochan, the Hill or Mountain of the Breasts

Alltcailleach Forest

Caisteal na Caillich

Carn an t-Sagairt Beg and Mor. Cairns of the Priest

Cnapan Nathraichean, The Knoll of the Adders (Bride or Druidic reference?)

Coire na Ciche, Corryof the Nipple or Pap

Glen and Loch Muick, from Muc, a pig or swine

Little Pap

Meikle Pap

White Mounth

Paps of Fife

East and West Lomond Hill. Acc CPNS Lomond means beacon

Maiden Bower – geophysical feature used in fertility rite

Maiden Castle – not a fortification

The Carlin and her daughter – geophysical feature: Carlin is Scots for Cailleach

Devil’s Burdens – geophysical feature

Early church site at nearby Orwell

Earthwork in Glen Vale

Early Christian Symbol Stone with fish and cross on W. Lomond Hill

Fort on East Lomond Hill

Scotlandwell and its priory

White Craigs

Paps of Jura

Jura is originally Norse and means Deer Isle

The Paps are three mountains one of which is Beinn Shantaidh, the Holy Mountain.

One of the others Beinn an Oir, has Sgriobh na Cailich where a hag is said to have slid down the side of the mountain.

This location is also associated with the Seven Big Women of Jura, who in tradition had the Glaibh Soluis, the Sword of Light. They may have originally been 9 in number (see McHardy 2003).

Jura is probably the site of the Columban Hinba.

The Corryvreckan at the north end of the island has many Goddess associations and traditions and is one of the world’s seven significant whirlpools. Its spiral shapes, thrown into the Atlantic Tide are the Breath of the Goddess under the Waves and may have inspired northern European use of the spiral motif.

On the east of the island at Small Isles Bay there are Rubha (point) na Caillich and Rubha Bhride and Eilean Bhride.

Paps of Lothian

Used to describe North Berwick Law and Arthur’s Seat

North Berwick Law is a major landmark and linked to 17th century witch activity.

Arthur’s Seat has wells, hill-forts (?), a chapel and an ancient fertility site, the Sliddery Stanes..

Appendix B Clusters

Significant elements in locating potential Goddess sites. It is suggested the significance of these elements increases with frequency and proximity.

Wells – particular noteworthy dedications are St.s Brendan, and Bride, Ninewells but wells are significant in themselves.

Antiquities – most hilltop sites are given as forts but their significance as Beltane/Samhain fire sites may be more significant; likewise earthworks of various kinds and cairns can be of significance, particularly if associated with specific names –e.g. Shennach, a variant on Shannach, the Scots for Halloween. Stone circles are always a sign of a sacred site whereas without other supporting evidence it is impossible to be so definite about single standing stones.

Early church sites – particularly when on mounds – virtually proof of a previous site of sanctity.

Dens – many dens are associated with early saints, witches, supposed serpent worship. Their continuance as places of local activity can be construed as an example of social continuity.

Landmarks – instances like figures in the natural landscape or particular shaped hills reminiscent of the female body often have a placename element referring to this significance – or have associated ideas/tales in local history and folklore.

Islands – in both lochs and sea islands, probably because of being surrounded by water – water is the stuff of life and this can be seen as the virtual blood of the Goddess, underlining the importance of wells.

 

Placename elements.

White/Fin – white is traditionally seen as the colour of sanctity.

Nevay/Navay/Navie – as a separate word or word ending this refers back to nemeton – a sacred grove. Can be difficult to spot as in Slocknavata in Galloway.

Bride/Bridget /Breedie – can be first or last element. A Mother Goddess, symbol of fruitfulness and regeneration, specifically associated with Summer and independently existing in England, Ireland and Scotland.

Cailleach/Cally –in many forms.

Ban – particularly as in nam ban , of women.

Ciochnipple.

Dun – generally assumed to mean fort but see above.

Law – often distintively-shaped and standing alone, many laws have folklore associations or distinctive names, suggesting they have a meaning beyond “hill”.

Mambreast

Nathrach – meaning the adder.

Pap – there are quite a few of these and like e.g Mither Tap on Bennachie often have “colusters” around.

Seat/Suidhe – again these names tend to have specific significance.

Witch/Witches – significant if associated with other elements.

White in placenames occurs frequently near ancient sacred sites throughout the UK

Note. At Bennachie there is the name Bruntwood Tap and at the back of Fannyhill near Muckhart we have Burnt Wood. This could be a reference to the burning of ceremonial fires at Samhain and Beltane as Lomond surely is.

Notes.

  1. Isaacs, J 1980 40,000 Years of Australian Dreaming Lansdowne Press Willoughby NSW
  2. McHardy, S.A. 2003 The Quest for the Nine Maidens; 2005 On the Trail of Scotland’s myths and legends, Chapter2 ; 2012 The Pagan Symbols of the Picts, Chapter 7. Luath Press Edinburgh
  3. Watson, W.J 1986 (repr) The Celtic Placenames of Scotland Birlinn Edinburgh p 212
  4. The Concise Scots Dictionary 1985 Aberdeen University Press p 605
  5. Crawford,O.G.S. 1958 The Eye Goddess, MacMillan NY
  6. The Pagan Symbols of the Picts passim
  7. This site on Dochrie Hill is above Meikle Seggie, the starting point for so much of Ricky De Marco’s involvement with landscape art, which had a seminal effect on me in the 1960s.
Image

Poemstone

Poemstone

Burns Speaks

Despite generations of lickspittle Establishment types denying it, there seems little doubt that Burns did write the Tree of Liberty, a paean to democracy. Compare it with the other works here and make up your own mind. At a time when Scotland’s future is in our own hands we would do well to remember the struggles of earlier generations to try and achieve democratic representation.

For more similar works see The Radical Works of Robert Burns at

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Radical-Works-Robert-Burns-ebook/dp/B009FMVU6C

 

 

The Tree o Liberty

Heard ye o the tree o France,
I watna what’s the name o’t;
Around it aw the patriots dance,
Weel Europ kens the fame o’t.
It stands where ance the Bastille stood,
A prison built by kings, man,
When superstition’s hellish brood
Kept France in leading strings, man.
“Upo this tree there grows sic fruit,
Its virtues aw can tell, man,
It raises man aboon the brute,
It maks him ken himsel, man.
Gif aince the peasant taste a bit,
He’s greater than a Lord, man,
And wi the beggar shares a mite
O aw he can afford, man.
“This fruit is worth aw Afric’s wealth,
To comfort us ’twas sent, man:
To gie the sweetest blush o health,
And mak us aw content, man.

It clears the een, it cheers the heart,
Maks high and low gude friends, man;
And he wha acts the traitor’s part,
It to perdition sends, man.
“My blessings aye attend the chiel,
Wha pities Galliaws slaves, man,
And staw’d a branch, spite o the deil,
Frae yont the western waves, man.
Fair virtue water’s it wi care,
And now she sees wi pride, man,
How weel it buds and blossoms there,
Its branches spreading wide, man.
“But vicious folk aye hate to see
The works o virtue thrive, man;
The courtly vermin’s banned the tree,
And grat to see it thrive, man;
King Loui’ thought to cut it down,
When it was unco sma, Man,
For this the watchman cracked his crown,
Cut off his head and aw man.
“A wicked crew syne, on a time,
Did tak a solemn aith, man,
It ne’er should flourish to its prime,
I wat they pledged their faith, man,
Awa they gaed wi mock parade,
Like beagles hunting game, man,
But soon grew weary o the trade,
And wished they’d been at hame, man.
“Fair freedom, standing by the tree,
Her sons did loudly caw, man,
She sang a song o liberty
Which pleased them ane and aw, man.
By her inspired the new born race
Soon grew the avenging steel, man;
The hirelings ran — her foes gied chase
And banged the despot weel, man.
“Let Britain boast her hardy oak,
Her poplar and her pine, man,
Auld Britain aince could crack her joke,
And oer her neighbours shine, man,
But seek the forest round and round,
And soon ’twill be agreed, man,
That sic a tree can not be found,
Twixt London and the Tweed, man.
“Without this tree, alake this life
Is but a vale o woe, man;
A scene o sorrow mixed wi strife,
Nae real joys we know, man,
We labour soon, we labour late,
To feed the titled knave, man;
And aw the comfort we’re to get
Is that ayont the grave, man.
“Wiplenty o sic trees, I trow,
The warld would live in peace, man;
The sword would help to mak a plough,
The din o war wad cease man.
Like brethren wi a common cause,
We’d on each other smile, man;
And equal rights and equal laws
Wad gladden every isle, man.
“Wae worth the loon wha wadna eat
Sic halesome dainty cheer, man;
I’d gie my shoon frae aff my feet,
To taste sic fruit, I swear, man.
Syne let us pray, auld England may
Sure plant this far-famed tree, man;
And blythe we’ll sing, and hail the day
That gave us liberty, man.”

Sic a Parcel o Rogues

Fareweel tae aw our  Scottish fame
Fareweel our ancient glory
Fareweel even tae our  Scottish name
Sae famed in martial story
Now Sark rins tae the Solway sands
An Tweed rins tae the Ocean.
To mark whaur England’s province stands
Sic a parcel o rogues in a nation

 

What  force or guile could  not  subdue
Through mony warlike ages
Is wrought now by a coward  few
For hireling traitors wages
The English steel we could disdain
Secure in valour’s station.
But English gold has been our bane
Sic a parcel o rogues in a nation.

 

O would, ere I had seen the day
When treason thus could sell us
My auld grey heid had lain in clay
Wi Bruce an loyal Wallace
But pith and power ‘till my last hour
I’ll mak this declaration.
We were bought an sold for English gold
Sic a parcel o rogues in a nation.

Scots Wha Hae

(written with Thomas Muir and the Radicals in mind)

Scots wha hae wi Wallace bled
Scots wham Bruce has often led
Welcome to your gory bed
Or to victory
Now’s the day an now’s the hour
See the front o battle lour
See approach proud Edward’s pow’r
Chains an slavery

Wha will be a traitor knave?
Wha can fill a coward’s grave?
Wha sae base as be a slave?
Let him turn an flee!
Wha, for Scotland’s king an law,
Freedom’s sword will strongly draw,
Freeman stand or Freeman faw,
Let them follow me!

By oppression’s woes an pains,
By your sons in servile chains,
We will drain our dearest veins,
But they shall be free.
Lay the proud usurpers low!
Tyrants faw in ev’ry foe!
Liberty’s in ev’ry blow!
Let us do or die!

Aside

Sang fer Scotland

It’s been three hunner year an mair

Nou at last the time has come

The people o this land maun say

What it is that shuid be done

 Chorus

It’s up tae us, this is oor land

Democracy is people pouer

Nou ye ken ye’ll hae yer say

Come the day an come the hour

 

Monie stories hae been tellt

O wha we are an whence we came

But nou we’ll tell anither tale

How liberty cin rise again

Chorus

The heroes o the past are gone

But we will neer forget their fecht

‘Twas siller no swords that dang us doun

The time has come tae put that richt

 Chorus

There’s them aye spreadin fear an lies

O hou we cannae staun oor lane

But Jock Tamson’s bairns are canny fowk

It’s time tae rule oorsels again

Chorus

 

 

Darlin Dear

Darlin Dear ye tell us

Whit ye think shuid come

But whit maks ye think that we’ll listen

When we ken fine whit ye’ve done, Darlin Dear

 

Fer Darlin dear wis it no you

That wis the bankers’ pal

An let aw thae city slickers loose

Tae rob an cheat an steal, Darlin Dear

 

Oh licht touch regulation

That wis yer fix-aw stroke

An yer banker buddies prospert

An we aw endit broke, Darlin Dear

 

Sae why for shuid we listen

Tae sic a busted flush

Jist dae us aw a favour

An simply shut yer puss, Darlin Dear

 

Aye Darlin Dear jist sit ye doun

Awa an bile yer heid

Ye must shairly think that we’re a daft

Tae follae sic a leid, Darlin Dear

 

Aye Darlin Dear we ken ye

A straicht up bankers’ man

As much help as chocolate sodjer

Fer the future o Scotland, Darlin Dear.

 

Me and Paul Robeson

One of my most treasured possessions is a page torn out of the autograph book I had as a child. It simply says ‘I hope to see you next year, Paul” Paul Robeson that is.  My father got him to sign my book after I had missed going to his concert in Dundee’s Caird Hall in 1958 because I was in hospital after a wee accident on my brother’s bike. Luckily he came back next year and I got to see him and hear him sing. To this day I can still remember the power of that remarkable voice – it was as if I could feel it in my chest. It was a remarkable and inspirational night. My family and I were there because my parents were Communists and thus supporters of Paul Robeson. People forget but at that time the western media were virulently anti-communist and the 2,000 seater Caird Hall had only a few hundred people gathered that night to hear one of the world’s greatest singers, and I believe one of the world’s great human beings.

Now there is no doubt that Paul, funny how in our family we thought of him  as Paul, was an absolute favourite of my father, was blind to the limitations of the Soviet Union. Like may father I have no doubt he was what I would call a real Communist – somebody who believed that human societies should be run on the principles of ‘from everyone, according to their ability, to everyone according to their need’. Probably on his visits to the Soviet Union Robeson only ever met people who assured him that it was in fact an egalitarian and democratic society. His own experience of the western media would have made him dubious of any claims they made to the contrary.  My father certainly believed that the Soviet Union was democratic and egalitarian, and dismissed all reports to the contrary in the Western media as propaganda. As someone who has been lecturing in history for a long time now I am well aware that history itself is all too often little more than propaganda, but neither my father nor, Paul Robeson would ever have condoned  the brutal dictatorship masquerading as a worker’s republic if they had realised the truth. Truth is a word that is of course amorphous but as an example of the times I recall around that time a new teacher coming to take over our class. She asked if there was anything she should know about as and quick as a flash one of the other kids had her hand up. ‘Yes what is it?,’ she smiled. Dramatically the girl turned and pointed at me and said in a very loud voice, ”Stuart McHardy is a Communist miss.’. She knew even less of what it meant than I did, but clearly had been influenced by her parents. Fortunately it didn’t affect how that teacher dealt with me afterwards but it does illustrate the paranoia of the times.

Now Paul  Robeson may have been lulled into a false sense of reality by the apparatchiks of the Soviet Union but it didn’t affect who he was. This was a man who as a fighter for not just black people, but all people he saw as working class, was a shining example of integrity.

 

It has always struck me that when America is relaxed enough about itself to give respect to the likes of Paul Robeson, that it will begin to fulfil the egalitarian and democratic foundations it was raised on, and with the re-election of the first black president that day should be getting closer. However as long as Fox News and other mainstream media act as cheerleaders for the super-rich, I fear that day is still far off.

Propaganda and the Scottish media

 

Deprive the people of their national consciousness, treat them as a tribe and not a nation, dilute their national pride, do not teach their history, propagate their language as inferior, imply they have a cultural void, emphasise their customs are primitive, and dismiss independence as a barbaric anomaly.

 

These are the words Reihnhard Heidrich the  Director of the Reich Main Security Office in 1930s. Much has been made recently of how the Mainstream media have been treating the independence debate. However their incapacity to deal fairly with matters of Scottish history and culture is nothing new. Back in the 1992 as a reaction against the Tories wining a Westminster election with no Scottish representation the need for a Scottish Parliament became manifestly clear and the movement towards greater devolution gathered strength. A demonstration was called for the 12th of December which on the day was attended by over 25,000 people, which at the time was seen as truly momentous. One of the groups actively promoting the cause was the Vigil for a Scottish Parliament which maintained a permanent presence outside the gates of the  old Royal High School – originally the designated home of the hoped for Scottish Parliament – from the 10th April 1992 till the Labour General Election victory in 1997. Now the Vigil was non-party single issue concept but those involved, and I was one of them, were concerned about how Scottish history has been dealt with in the period since the Union. When the date of the march was decided we were aware that this was in fact a significant anniversary. Precisely two hundred years earlier there had been a Convention of the Scottish Friends of the People held n Edinburgh calling for parliamentary reform. The upshot of this meeting was that a group of men, known thereafter as the Scottish Political Martyrs were transported to Botany Bay for sedition after a series of blatant show trials presided over by the utterly venal Henry Dundas, Viscount Melville who kept an iron grip on all levels of Scottish public affairs on behalf of William Pitt’s Westminster government.

Now anniversaries have long been a staple of the media so it was decided to inform all media outlets in Edinburgh of this significant anniversary. A for page briefing document was put together and delivered by hand to every television and radio station and all newspaper and news agency offices in the capital. The upshot? Nothing. The Radical agitation of the 1790s – which included specific calls for the overthrow of the Act of Union  – was not something the MSM wanted to deal with. Or should we consider the matter in the light of the opening quotation above? The simple truth of the matter is that much of Scotland’s history has been deemed unsuitable for public consumption by the Gatekeepers who have so avidly supported the status quo which suits their nest-feathering self-interest so well. Later this year my book Scotland’s Future History? which looks in detail at the process of how our history has been distorted and suppressed, will be published by Luath Press,but for present purposes a couple of instances should suffice to exemplify the pattern.

The role of the Scottish Radicals, of whom Robert Burns was one, in Scotland of the 1790s and their inks to later political agitation has been virtually ignored and it is a telling point that the most significant monument tin Calton Cemetery at the East End of Edinburgh’s Princes Street – the monument to the transported Martyrs which toers over the cemetery and was raised by public subscription in the 1840s – does not even rate a mention on the board at the gate which lists the notable people buried within. There is no need to censor those who are happy to censor themselves.

Heidrich suggests it is a good idea to “propagate their language as inferior”. This is precisely what was done via the Education Scotland Act if 1872 where is was stipulated that the language of education was to be English, effectively disbarring Scots and Gaelic form the education system entirely. This was thought to have finalised the process – which had accelerated during the Enlightenment with those who considered themselves the ‘elite” in Scotland –aping the manners, attitudes and language of the southern ruling class. In later years, once the assimilation of Scotland into Britain was assumed to be complete, it became acceptable to take an inters tin Gaelic and later in Scots. The fact that the languages have survived and are now taught in our schools to some extent is iIlustrative of the virr and smeddum of our indigenous tungs, despite the best efforts of the gatekeeping classes. The languages if Gaelic and Scots were assumed by the Gatekeepers in the 19th century to have been driven from all important areas of society and could be safely left to slowly die out on the tongues of the great unwashed. If you wanted to get on you spoke English – an attitude that has left deep cultural scars across Scotland.

I mentioned that there was a strand of nationalism apparent amongst the Radicals f the 1790s and later but an earlier period of our history also suggests this was nothing new. The representation of the ’45 as a doomed Romantic adventure by the dying remnants of an anachronistic society has long been a cornerstone of British history. The fact that the Highlands were not truly pacified until almost a decade after Culloden, that much of Lowland Scotland was under military occupation till the same time  and that Charles Edward Stewart was still actively trying to regain the thrones of his ancestors till the late 1760s have been conveniently ignored by mainstream historians, happy to go along with the notion of British history – which has never been more than English history with a few sops to the ‘fringe’ nations of these islands. And along with this suppression there has been no attention paid till very recently to the reality that many of the Scots who came out in the ’45, from Lowlands and Highlands were heirs to a tradition of nationalism that had built on the resentment of the people to the Union of 1707. Most of the Jacobite leaders at the time would have been happy to have a Stewart king of Scotland, free of all ties to our southern neighbour.

So we should not be surprised that the MSM in Scotland, thirled as they are to the preservation of the status quo, should be so biased, they perceive it to be in their own interest. They have been pro-Establishment for centuries and the Establishment in Scotland has existed on the back of the Union. Hamish Henderson regularly quoted Gramsci saying ’politics follows culture and never the other way round” and there is no doubt that we have seen a Scottish cultural revival over the past few decades. And history is a cornerstone of culture – the more we know of how we have been lied to, the more we are liable to insist on taking control of our own lives, and our own land. Yes independence is about the future but as the old cliché has it, how can you tell where you are going if you know not where you have been?

 

 

Video

An Ode to Darling