Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Lore of the Land

Medieval literature scholar Dr Carolyne Larrington examines the enduring relevance of the creatures of British folklore: BBC Radio 4.

Modern Ireland in 100 Artworks: 1969 – The Táin, by Thomas Kinsella and Louis le Brocquy

Modern Ireland in 100 Artworks: 1969 – The Táin, by Thomas Kinsella and Louis le Brocquy

The poet and the artist collaborated to produce a blunt, muscular reimagining of the Ulster legend of the Cooley cattle raid 

One of the odder effects of the explosion of youth culture in the 1960s and early 1970s was what might be called a second Celtic Revival in Ireland. In the search for an alternative, anti-establishment aesthetic, the notion of a pre-Christian “Celtic” world promised a kind of authenticity that dovetailed with the international counterculture. It manifested itself in everything from jewellery to the graphic art of Jim Fitzpatrick (see 1968) to the invention of “Celtic rock”. 

This interest in turn gave an unexpectedly contemporary energy to one of the most prestigious high-art projects of the era: the collaboration between the poet Thomas Kinsella and the painter Louis le Brocquy (see 1951) on a translation of the old Irish epic Táin Bó Cúailnge (The Cattle Raid of Cooley).

The Táin is the centrepiece of the Ulster Cycle of legends, describing the mythic conflict that erupts when Queen Medb of Connacht invades Ulster to capture its most prized treasure, a great brown bull. Ulster is defended by its youthful champion, Cúchulainn.
Read the entire article at The Irish Times.



Tuesday, 29 September 2015

The Celts: Blood, Iron and Sacrifice with Alice Roberts and Neil Oliver

The BBC in the UK is airing a new series, starting 5 October 2015 at 21.00.  A link to The Celts: Blood, Iron and Sacrifice with Alice Roberts and Neil Oliver on BBC iPlayer can be found here.
Anthropologist Prof. Alice Roberts and archaeologist Neil Oliver go in search of the Celts - one of the world's most mysterious ancient people. In Britain and Ireland, we are never far from our Celtic past but in this series Neil and Alice travel much further afield, discovering the origins and beliefs of these Iron Age people in artifacts and human remains right across Europe, from Turkey to Portugal. What emerges is not a wild people on the western fringes of Europe, but a highly sophisticated tribal culture that influenced vast areas of the ancient world - and even Rome. Rich with vivid drama reconstruction, we recreate this pivotal time and meet some of our most famous ancient leaders - from Queen Boudicca to Julius Caesar - and relive the battles they fought for the heart and soul of Europe. Alice and Neil discover that these key battles between the Celts and the Romans over the best part of 500 years constituted a fight for two very different forms of civilisation - a fight that came to define the world we live in today. In the first episode, we see the origins of the Celts in the Alps of central Europe and relive the moment of first contact with the Romans in a pitched battle just north of Rome - a battle that the Celts won and that left the imperial city devastated.

Celts and Romans - Start the Week

Available on BBC iPlayer here.

On Start the Week Mary Ann Sieghart explores how far leaders and governments have shaped our world. Matt Ridley dismisses the assumption that history has been made by those on high, whether in government, business or religion, and argues for a system of evolution in which ideas and events develop from the bottom up. The historian Tom Holland revels in the antics of the house of Caesar, from Augustus to Nero, and how this imperial family greatly influenced the ancient world. Barry Cunliffe tells the story of the beginnings of civilisation across Europe and the Far East over the course of ten millennia while the curator Julia Farley concentrates on one of those groups - the Celts - and celebrates their distinctive stylised art in a new exhibition at the British Museum.

Producer: Katy Hickman.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Natural Histories: The Nightshades

Listen to BBC Radio 4's programme, in partnership with the Natural History Museum, on this group of fascinating plants.

It is hard to think of a more diverse and wonderful group of plants. They enchant us, poison us, make us feel sexy, give us hallucinations, heal us and feed us.  The screaming mandrakes in Harry Potter and the shamanistic dreams of tribal elders eating giant trumpet flowers testify to the magical powers of this group.

Its culinary properties enhance the ever intricate flavours of modern cuisine while its fatal attractions have been used by murderers, most famously Dr Crippen.

This is the group that contains mandrake, potatoes, chillies, aubergines, deadly nightshade and tomatoes. These are the plants that have entered our culture through food and medicine, drugs and love.

It is strange that the European plants in the group are mainly poisonous yet those that grow in the New World are often spicy and enriching.

Fearing anything that looked like nightshade the first plants that were brought here from the New World were regarded with suspicion, yet quickly we adopted them, so much so that it is impossible to conceive of Italian food without tomatoes or Friday night fish and chips, yet they are aliens in a strange land. We have a lot to thank this group for.

It soothed us before anaesthetics, sent our imaginations flying and tempted us with alluring flavours - and they are still pushing the frontiers of both medicine and food today.

Tha fios fithich agad

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

The Craft of Scottish Witches

I have decided to treat myself and attend this lecture.  It has been such a long time since I been to Treadwells, and, well, the subject of Scottish Witches is of particular interest to me.