Scottish Media Lab Newsletter

The recent changes to Facebook are making it harder to keep in touch with those visiting Facebook Pages. So much so that even the Like, Follow, See First option isn't getting Page posts into feeds.

Facebook may reshuffle, but I guess that only happens when we see the replacement content they've talked about and that eventually gets compared to how things were before. For now Facebook pages like Scottish Media Lab risk quietly slipping below the horizon, as the posts don't get served-up routinely.

I reckon the obvious thing to do is to open up other often used options and a newsletter delivered by email on a monthly basis seems worth a go. What would that included . . .

  1. A short round-up of the most visited posts and links from each month.
  2. A post on history or myth exclusive to the newsletter.
  3. Recently made images and the odd extract from course booklets.

Clearly along the way readers would be routed back to the Facebook page if they've been missing posts.

If a routine way to get taken back to the Facebook page and an occasional extra dose of history and culture sounds OK, please leave an email in the pop-up or via the Contacts page where email is set as the only required field.

Almost done, but I wouldn't want to leave out a touch of colour, which should open up to a larger size if you click on it. (Dunnottar Castle).

The plan is to send out the newsletter at the start of each month. The Contacts page/ form are linked here.

Camster and the Cailleach?

While Ness of Brodgar my yet prove to be older, as things stand Caithness' Camster Cairns show the 'Scottish' Megalithic sequence developing from as early as 3,600BC. Tracing the connections between the Neolithic in Caithness and Orkney are problematic, as there are both significant differences and key similarities. Whatever the pattern that emerges through further archaeology the Camster Cairns mark a very significant point of arrival for the European Neolithic bundle, as the site has monumental cairns, passage chambers and is set within a naturalistic liminal landscape.

Ashley Cowie's video takes a look right inside the cairns . . . the camera is necessarily a touch shaky, but the video seems well worth watching. The commentary is certainly interesting/ covers a few intriguing points. For example, the location at the source of the region's river system; the notion of a Neolithic 'abundance'; a 'tomb' where figurative 'rebirths' took place. Taken together much of this commentary is quite consistent with the information we have in terms of the careful choice of site within a broader naturalistic and conceptual framework.

The site raises familiar questions, which archaeology is starting to unravel:

  1. Why was the monument situated with such care within the broader community?
  2. Why was so much effort put into the construction?
  3. What meaning did it have in terms of being such a focus for communal effort?
  4. Was it constructed or conceived as a single monument?
  5. What was the site used for/ what went on there?

Nevertheless, we can see some of the complications involved in interpreting ancient monuments, as we try to fit our understandings of what might have been going on to the archaeology - and find it tempting to go well beyond the known archaeology.

For example, it is not known with any certainty whether or not the Camster Long Cairn was built in one phase or more and we have limited information on early systems of belief. At the same time the same Neolithic culture is related to Ness of Brodgar, Brú na Bóinne in Ireland and later Callanish - and so we might reasonably look for points of comparison or contrast between the sites.

Callanish

For example, at Callanish, (built in about 2,600BC), we find standing stones aligned to allow the moon to process over the top of the stones at 18.5 year lunar standstill. At the same time this transit is matched to the figure of the Veiled One/ Cailleach envisaged within a hillside lying behind the standing stones. The figure certainly resembles the form of a reclining female - and so serves as a compelling backdrop when the moon moves over the standing stone. Essentially, the human monument, the actions of 'the heavens' and the totality of the living landscape are being brought together or synchronised.

As shown in the video below the lunar standstill event is a compelling sight to see - you may wish to turn the sound down/ choose your own soundtrack, as the music isn't to everyone's taste.

What might that have to do with Camster . . . on the basis Camster is part of a cultural bundle, including the Veiled One, that at least in part carries on through to the development of Callanish . . .

This is a (composite) image of Callanish at the lunar standstill as the moon descends into the face of the notional Veiled One, Cailleach or - in the context of abundance - the Girl in the Wheat.

And this is an image of the Long Cairn at Camster . . .

So, both locations use rebirth metaphors; both sites share the same Neolithic bundle; both sites are related to the naturalistic worship of the landscape . . . and both monuments take a quite similar and quite distinctive form.

Unfortunately, much as it is appealing to see a potential consistency of design between the two monuments we don't have any archaeological evidence to back up an appealing but largely visual connection. Equally, while the identification of the landscape with a 'feminine sovereignty' through the Cailleach/ Girl in the Wheat is ubiquitous across Scotland to this day, (from the Pap of Glencoe over to the prudish Victorian relabeling of Lochnagar from Beinn Chìochan (mountain of breasts), we can't assume that an early point of origin for the Neolithic bundle in Caithness included any connection to the Cailleach.

Consequently, the apparent visual correspondence of face - breasts - mound - thighs found at Callanish cannot be considered as tracking all the way back to the earliest developments of the Neolithic across Britain. The similarity could be no more than a coincidence. That said it is possible to look at piecing together more of what went on within the Neolithic to continue to build-up a picture of how communities and cultures connected-up. And in the context of investigating developments it is reasonable to state that it would be well worth keeping an eye out for more pronounced examples of possible architectural or geographical links to the elusive Girl in the Wheat.

The Neolithic and the Girl in the Wheat will be featuring large in Scottish Media Lab's next course:

Ancient Scotland - Standing Stones and Stardust

Mermaid

Mermaid

The mermaid, or, as she is called in Gaelic, Maid-of-the-Wave, has great beauty and is sweet-voiced. Half her body is of fish shape, and glitters like a salmon in sunshine, and she has long copper-coloured hair which she loves to comb as she sits on a rock on a lonely shore, gazing in a mirror of silver, and singing a song in praise of her own great beauty. Sometimes, on moonlight nights, she takes off her skin covering and puts on sea-blue garments, and then she seems fairer than any lady in the land.

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Scotland - 10,000 Years

Over the last couple of hundred years Scotland has developed an set of frequently used symbols or icons based on a largely Victorian view of Scotland. For the most part these emblems represent Scotland as a land of whisky, golf, bagpipes and haggis . . . once overseen by kings and castles.

Led by the mythical Nessie, the most familiar symbols appear on countless calendars, menus, mugs and tea towels. They serve both as decoration and as emblems mapping attachments to parts of Scottish culture. It seems likely these emblems will remain part of Scotland's iconography for as long as they are part of life in Scotland.

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Corruption v2

Tabletop RPG, and clone of the Original Game, Corruption switches to the familiar Player's Handbook, Gamesmaster's Guide and Monsters approach.

The new version uses fresh colour images and slots in new gameplay options. That includes extra classes, additional monsters and expanded worldbuilding.

Corruption acts as a set of OSR resource booklets, so if you’re not looking for a system you can just grab the monsters or the campaign building. Everything plugs straight into most other Old School systems.

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Best Practices For Web Design For Kids

Best Practices For Web Design For Kids

Designing websites and related media for kids presents plenty of opportunities for Web designers. Openings are available at many businesses and schools, as well as through parents and kids themselves, giving designers many ways to find work on electronic and print projects that appeal to kids. The types of work range from interface designs for video games to websites for birthday parties.

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Sovereignty

Sovereignty

The statement below, made at the 2016 oathtaking in the Scottish Parliament, has been widely interpreted:

"Pledges loyalty to the people of Scotland, in line with the Scottish constitutional tradition of the sovereignty of the people."

The sovereignty of the people - OK the tradition goes back a long way and a few red herrings need cooked before getting started.

There are longstanding misunderstandings about the roots or origins of the sovereignty of the land linked to the early medieval period at the Scottish stronghold/ 'capital' at Dunadd in Argyllshire - when Scots were living in Antrim and Argyllshire.

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Captain James MacRae and The Pirates of Malibar

Captain James MacRae and The Pirates of Malibar

Not a lot is known about James MacRae's early life. He was born in Ayrshire in 1677 and moved to Ayr with his widowed mother at the age of five. With no formal education, and only a life of poverty ahead, he left home and sailed to India.

A relatively uneventful early career, (if only because it went unrecorded), changed on August 17, 1720 - when MacRae, as Captain of the Cassandra, encountered the infamous pirate Edward England near the Comoros archipelago to the north of Madagascar.

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The Northern Lights

The Northern Lights

A recent search for pages on legends linked to the Northern Lights brought up a few short descriptions of myths from around the world. However, few pages mentioned the Scottish version and I couldn't find one covering the full story. Which begins with a nod to a slightly mysterious figure from Scottish and Irish myth.

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Myths and Legends - Fact and Fiction

Myths and Legends - Fact and Fiction

A recent report on the origins of many legends and fairy tales has found stories such as Jack and the Beanstalk are thousands of years old.

The brothers Grimm held much the same view and we find other examples such as the Egyptian Cinderella - Rhodopis - dating to 1350BC or earlier. (I'll add a copy at the end of the post).

It, therefore, looks safe to say that many tales and legends have offered entertainment and insight for millenia. As part of that they have held a universal appeal in terms of being handed on fairly intact from one generation to another.

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