30th August 2012
Please bear with me while I make some changes to this site over the next few days
'Blood for the Gods/Human Sacrifice' has now been aired. I was pleased I was asked to appear on the programme, even if at many points while watching it I was wishing more could have been said to back up the views of myself and the other academics involved. For instance the reconstructed rite involving 'Freyr and Nerthus', although visually interesting, needed to be backed up with more of the research - it wasn't enough to hint that Tacitus had mentioned such a rite, as he patently does not!
I am now back at my summer job, working as a custodian at Richborough Roman Fort near Sandwich, Kent. I am hoping for time this season to begin making notes for my University of Kent course for 2010/11 which is entitled 'The Age of Stonehenge'. This will kill two birds with one stone - not only filling in the gaps in my knowledge ready for a series of guided tours of Wessex I hope to be doing next year - but also providing research time for my 'River of Milk' book which has been on the backburner for a few months.
I love this time of year, when you start to get the first long sunny days, and I always get the urge to pack my tent and head off for Stonehenge or Avebury. Last year I slept in the Avebury avenue in just my sleeping bag under the night sky and woke to see a barn owl flitting about the stones. It was truly magical. This year I am heavily commited to Richborough in April, and so am praying for a glorious May when hopefully I can get a run of days off and go and explore some of the sites I'll be reading about over the next few weeks.
I have just heard that 'Blood for the Gods' will be aired next week - I am intrigued to see how I, and my ideas, come across - intrigued and nervous, and half expecting not to appear. The first two parts are being shown back to back with the final part to nbe shown at a later date.
I have managed to write the first quarter of my 'River of Milk' book - which I have reallyt enjoyed doing, especially without a dead-line, having been writing without a book deal in these times of recession. My reading at the moment has taken me in the direction of Ancient Egypt - especially the figure of Hathor and her connection to an ancient cow deity associated with the Milky Way...
Over the summer I have been itching to get back into writing, and I'm glad to say that with the approach of autumn I may find the time to settle down and start my next project. This centres on the ancient mythological motif of the 'river of milk' found in many European myths, especially Celtic - and whose symbolism seems to be rooted in very ancient astronomical thinking.
The book will focus on a number of ancient British and Irish archaeological ritual sites and by the use of astronomy to 'decode' them reveal that the stars played a much larger part in ancient ritual and belief than is usually given credit - and what's more, this stellar connection is there in the myths for all to see.
The intriguing thing is the similarity between the ancient astronomical myths and those of other ancient cultures such as Egypt and Greece that lead us to positing either some kind of contemporary connection (through trade?) between these cultures or the existence of some kind of ancestral 'cult' from which all three are descended - perhaps one spread with the practice of farming during the neolithic.
Anyway - I won't go into too much detail here as the project will involve some rather complex astronomical calculations as well as, hopefully, a few field trips to ancient sites, and I will mention these as I tackle them! The appearance at this time of year of Orion striding over the horizon, followed by Sirius aside the Milky Way has always been an arresting site for me - how much more so would it have appeared to our ancestors. These three heavenly features - the huntsman and his companion beside the river of milk, are, I hope to show, integral to understanding the world view and beliefs of the past.