With the solstice here and the new year on-coming, Rosa and I have agreed to prepare some stories of our cultures to share with the other in our new years celebration. The plan is, drink home-brewed mead and tell stories. I’m looking forward to it. And in an effort to provide something more than what I already knew and had likely already shared with her, I decided to dig into my culture’s history a wee bit more. I wanted stories. I wanted tales and legends of great heros and paths crossed with gods.
When I was researching the old Norse history – with which my culture is in some way intertwined – I found lots of stories and incredible tales which were all (thankfully) preserved more or less as they were told at the time. For the history of England and the British isles, there wasn’t so much readily available. I had to dig deeper. Once you get past the impressively difficult to read Mabinogion (old Welsh literature), there’s not much to find that’s on show. And, let’s be honest, the Mabinogion was tainted by the astute for the era but generally narrow view of the noble who translated it.
So I had to get to work. And I managed to turned over quite a bit in the end. I’m glad about that. I won’t divulge too much of what I’ve found because Rosa reads this blog and I don’t want to give away any spoilers for our story-telling sesh. What I really want to put across here is two-fold, I think.
First, I’d say that it’s a shame that there is so little of the cultural and religious history of my culture available. That’s partly due to it being oral tradition and partly due to the spreading of Christianity – a thing which is many ways has been more of a scourge than a force for good. Though, as Rosa pointed out, it did stop human sacrifice with one final hurrah.
Second, I’d like to point towards the fact that as I’m learning more and more about this I find curiosities… Things like the stories of the lorry that got stuck in a bog during WWII when they tried to build this fort on the island of Anglesey. As far as I know, it got stuck on this chain which they then used to pull the lorry from the bog with. The chain was a slave chain, with larger links to hold the slaves in custody. The impulse is to shrink away at the mention of slaves. But I would bring forward the reminder that slavery itself was only abolished in 1838. 178 years ago.
And, we all know that slaves across the world in the more recent eras where slavery was prevalent were in fact, people from other countries and traditions. So we had this thing that other types of people weren’t as good as us just because they were born on a different bit of rock and dirt sticking out of a different bit of the same vast body of water which – may I also bring to the forefront of thought – is capable of drowning each one of us equally effectively should be spend long enough submerged in it.
The reason I think this is significant is that, you know, above all the clever things we, as a species, pat ourselves on the back for, we are still barely out of the mud. For all the money we’ve made and innovative discoveries we’ve made, we are still barely out of the mud. We have so many ideas in our heads and we’ve done so many things yet as a species now we are so barely out of the mud.
And I think the acknowledgement of that may just help with any pervasive arrogance should we actually accept it.