Charcoal Burners, Black Sails & Magic

Uskglass Charcoal Burner

Admittedly I’ve not left the house since I got here, but don’t let my indolence fool you! I am ready to rise to the opportunity and sure enough, I will be. Thanks to Cailleach’s Herbarium mentioning it on Facebook, I got on the waitlist and now have ticket in hand to attend ‘The Supernatural in Early Modern Scotland’ this Friday. A workshop at The Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh, it looks to be a fascinating day (see the whole list of speakers here).

So many interests colliding in useful ways! It’s great to have the feeling you’re in the right place at the right time.

And speaking of collisions: the above illustration is of course the lovely Charles Vess. It’s for the last story in Susanna Clarke’s collection The Ladies of Grace Adieu. In my usual way I had hoarded the last few stories last summer, thinking when I read them there would be no more of her writing to read as she has nothing else out at present (yes, that’s how my brain works). I didn’t know the interest I would develop in charcoal burners in the meantime! So it was the first thing I read when I got back here. A delightful tale with saints (including Brigit), Uskglass and of course the titular charcoal burner.

Total collision count: dissertation subjects, two forthcoming conference papers, and the new all-consuming medieval project, Rauf Coilyear. I’m teaching Rauf in the upper division medieval class this fall. I love it when a plan comes together.

Meanwhile I am playing dolls with Miss C and catching up on Black Sails with my sweetie. Life is good.

Ca’ canny an’ flee laigh

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Henry Meynell Rheam: The Sorceress (1898)

The Scots Language Centre posted a photo this week that gave me a new motto:

This windae is in a leebrary in Aigle (‘Edzell’) in Angus. Caw cannie an flee laich is an auld saw that micht be set in Inglis as “Go carefully and don’t take on too much.” Tak tent that the ‘apologetic apostrophe’ kythes in the spellings here. The spelling laigh shuid be soondit as ‘lay-ch’ (wi the ‘ch’ as in loch).

Photie taen bi Steve Murdoch.

The Proverbs of Scotland give a slightly different version:

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And I was struck by a similar note in Jessica Abel’s email today (if you’re not following her posts on making a success of your creative life, you’re missing out) lamenting how easy it is to forget these resolutions:

 I keep telling you that taking on too much is a recipe for things not happening, so why do I think I’m immune? I’m coughing my lungs up; I’m clearly not immune to anything. Life has taught me this lesson over and over again. When will I learn?

I am doing better on the whole at not taking on ever-more stuff. I know that seems ironic given yesterday’s announcement, but the way I’m handling that project is the model for how to do things now: clear timelines (giving myself space to finish what I’m working on  now), careful collaboration with trusted people (knowing you can count on people is half the battle), not doing everything myself (this is opening the doors for others).

But there are always temptations: the more I delve into Medieval Scots literature and culture, the more intrigues I find, like Nicnevin and the Weird Sisters…

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Coming Up: Divine Write & We The Humanities

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Beginning of the semester is always busy and this one is no exception. Things coming up where you might run into me — apart from as always the productive Write 4 a Day sessions — include the 2nd Sunday @ 2 reading in Troy, as well as two new events.

Divine Write is a new series of readings + workshops featuring local writers at the Beer Diviner Tap Room. I’m planning to hit the first one tomorrow to get a feel for things because I’ll be on stage with Jim LaBate in February. Come along, try the beer and bring your pen. Yes, books will be on offer.

I’ve also thrown my hat in the ring to be a host for @WeTheHumanities the week of February 6th. I’ll be curating the discussions that week which means throwing out topics, responding to commentary and trying to keep a world wide conversation going on between all my usual activities. Madness, I know. I got a taste of how fun/nerve-wracking it can be guesting a couple times for  @FolkloreThursday — including the day the Beeb decided to cover them, eek!

If you’re on Twitter, be sure to follow along, ask questions and get involved in the discussion. The aim of the activity is to reach beyond the communities of academics and show how the humanities enrich our lives. In a time when rhetoric, history and literature provide some of the best material for speaking truth to power, that may seem easy, but conversation only works when a variety of voices join in.

So start thinking of the topics and questions you have. Me? I’m trying to stick to staying on top of work, but then my mind wanders to things like:

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Reflections on Celts

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I dropped by the McManus to check out what was on and caught the Reflections on Celts exhibit which combined a few of their own treasures with borrowed items from the British Museum and the National Museums of Scotland. You can see my pictures here (along with the other two exhibits on) and read more about it here. I was unable to resist buying things in the shop but mostly kept myself to buying cards to send off to other people and a book on medieval Scotland because that is a woeful lack in my knowledge (and a potential site of new research). As you can see, Duncan’s Riders of the Sidhe has come down from the upstairs gallery to gallop through this exhibit.

Mindful Hands Exhibition

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While in Venice I went to an exhibit at the Fondazione Giorgio Cini on the isla San Giorgio Maggiore called ‘Mindful Hands’ which offered up a real feast of medieval manuscripts. If that’s not your thing you may yawn, but those who enjoy these beauties may swoon over the album here. A beautiful day, a beautiful location and such beautiful pages. It’s sad to see pages ripped from their original bindings but it was how they happened to be collected, so what can you do? At least no more violence should be done to them. There was also an excellent film showing how medieval manuscripts were made from goat to binding (:-o) which I thought would be great to show students — well, with some warning about the poor goat. I didn’t even realise how some of the colours were made. Things like lapus lazuli making blue I knew, but burning bones for black was news (oak gall is also used for black ink). So glad I got to see the exhibit: it was much more extensive than I expected.

Revisiting Anglo-Saxon Magic: #FolkloreThursday

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The days are just packed! So forgive me if I offer a little repeat: my first two posts for Witches & Pagans as ‘History Witch’ dealt with Anglo-Saxon traditions of magic and healing. Just the thing for the #FolkloreThursday madness.

Introduction to Anglo-Saxon Magic, Part 1

Introduction to Anglo-Saxon Magic, Part 2

Check out all my posts at W&P to find out about magical history. Or you could just buy Rook Chant (click image):

Lammas

From Leechdom, Wortcunning and Starcraft of Early England, a compendium of wonderful folk knowledge of early Anglo-Saxon England, a charm using bread [hláf] hallowed on August 1st [hláfmæsse-dæg] the traditional grain harvest day:

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Summer’s last hurrah this month: in sunny Dundee the flowers still bloom:

But the rowan berries have come too, and they spell my doom:

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