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Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Those sacred springs..........

As followers of this blog will know, I have often had cause to investigate the claims by Profs Darvill and Wainwright that the eastern end of Preseli (especially the area around Carn Meini) was full of sacred springs, even back in the Neolithic, and that this gave rise to the idea that the rock around these springs was also special or magical -- thereby giving a incentive for the locals to quarry it from Carn Meini and cart 80 or so bluestones all the way to Stonehenge.

Type in "sacred springs" into the search box on this blog and you'll see some of my previous posts.  One of them is here:

A few days ago a lady called in for a chat about her research.  She is acting as a field researcher for a new book on the sacred springs of West Wales, mapping them very carefully, finding the locations of "lost springs" and trying to work out why certain saint's names were given to them, in addition to asking whether some of them might have been pre-Christian.  I was able to help her with some of the locations and names.  We got talking about various parts of Pembrokeshire, and she confirmed that in eastern Preseli there is not a single sacred spring in the area referred to by the two professors.  To the best of my knowledge there are only two or three that actually have names, and they are not saint's names.  So the idea that the area was "specially revered" is in her view sheer invention, and this matches what both Robin Heath and I have been saying.

It's funny how senior archaeologists keep on inventing the evidence which they need to support their preposterous fantasies............  maybe they expect people to believe them, just because they have the word "Professor" in front of their names?


Anonymous said...

Saints preserve us!

CADFAEL aka Ellis Peters

TonyH said...

I see Alice Roberts is, since February 2012, University of Birmingham's first Professor of Public Engagement in Science (!!). Readers of Brian's blog will remember Alice was mentioned in despatches at the time she did a mini - series for the BBC from sites and research around the country. She visited Carn Meini when these two Profs were excavating that "auspicious" alleged grave in 2011. (more follows)

TonyH said...

There are of course loads of holy springs in Cornwall and Devon which are associated with various Celtic Saints. I had great fun trundling around North Devon on my little motor bike, when our family migrated down there in the 1960's. Some, at least, of those Saints may have represented elements of the last vestiges of the old Celtic population surviving on into the Saxon period. Of course, quite a few of the Saints seem to have crossed over the Bristol Channel as their dedications are in Wales as well as South Western England.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Please don't mention Alice. She is probably a very nice lady, and she probably knows something about something, but I am still squirming after reading a piece of total nonsense which she wrote about the Ice Age and climate change in the Observer a few weeks ago. Why don't people like her stick to writing and speaking on topics they understand, instead of displaying their ignorance in public?

Phil morgan said...

But does the research interview lady know what was held sacred in Neolithic times?

BRIAN JOHN said...

Ye, of course there are many sacred springs associated with the Celtic saints. Because of the Christian obsession with anointing and baptising, the water cult was very strong, and sacred places were very good for the tourist (sorry -- pilgrimage) industry in the Dark Ages and the Middle Ages. But let's stick to the facts and the place-name heritage that we know about. We don't even know that there was an Iron Age reverence for sacred springs or holy wells, let alone a Neolithic one.

chris johnson said...

I think Phil hits the nail on the head. The legends that have survived about springs are relatively recent and we do not know what neolithic people might have thought.

Fact is that sites like Gors Fawr and Glandy are surrounded by springs, even immersed in them. Brian will point out that there are many springs - a number of rivers have their headwaters in this general area - and he would be correct.

My feeling is that in Prescelli that the presence of spring water was important for circle monuments Whether that qualifies sites to be sacred is another matter and I look forward to the learned professor's inputs - although they are rather delayed so perhaps they have nothing additional to say.

The monuments like Pentre Ifan do NOT seem to have any particular association with springs as far as I know, but then they are much earlier I think.

I don't find it too extraordinary that springs were considered important in early time - fresh water would have been more important then than today when we simply open a tap.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Ah -- you are in danger of straying into romantic fantasies here, Chris. "My feeling is that in Prescelli that the presence of spring water was important for circle monuments..." You are getting as bad as the dear professors! Evidence please?

Of course springs were important -- but there were hundreds of them. Maybe those that NEVER ran dry would have had some strategic importance.

TonyH said...

'Alice's Adventures with Archaeologists' was really titled "Digging For Britain" and the episode I alluded to in my first comment above was broadcast in December 2011 and called "Ice & Stone". It's easily retrieval [for those with strong stomachs] if you check out Alice's Wikipedia entry and go to the references at the bottom. Then you will easily be able to see the aforementioned Sainted Profs at work at Carn Meini, whom now-Prof Alice interviews obsequiously.

Myris of Alexandria said...

All this talk of Alice, Springs to mind desiccated thoughts of boat race regattas held on dry land.
(The appointment of said eponymous Glassy figure was not universally greeted at Brum with hysterical laughter but then not with total joy either, especially in the lucky department where she has an office).
But I am not one for gossip unless it is deeply malicious. But there must be a hell reserved for experts who stray away from their field of expertise and so become the very worst sort of amateur.
No 'experts' in their own field who are amateurs are the very worst.

Bucolic M

Jon Morris said...

But there must be a hell reserved for experts who stray away from their field of expertise and so become the very worst sort of amateur.

That puts Einstein, Copernicus and Newton firmly in their place?


TonyH said...

Stonehenge, in particular, is inundated with visitors from countries where the Roman Catholic Church predominates: notably, those countries in Mid - and South America.

Darvill and Wainwright's claim that the bluestones came from the "Land of the Healing Springs" is probably accepted without question by many visitors from these faith backgrounds as they arrive in their coaches.

And so another myth is easily assimilated by the world's trusting tourist visitors. Maybe Alice Roberts should consider this effect as she completes her 1st year in the post of Professor of Public Engagement in Science at Birmingham University, and then decide to take a cool, dispassionate view of the claims for prehistoric healing springs in Eastern Preseli. Happy Christmas, Alice.

Myris of Alexandria said...

We are lucky for scientific giants have broad shoulders, walk over larger steppes and for them the rules do not apply.
I know too little of Copernicus to know if he should be with the other two or from which expertise-heartland he successfully strayed. Flower-arranging?
For most of us my little rule is solid rhodium (or for our French friends Platinum).

Anonymous said...

“Professor of Public Engagement in Science”.

Is that a 'propagandist' position? Like, turning myth into fact?


chris johnson said...

Be Gentle Kostas at this time of Goodwill to all men and women.

Alice, formerly of the orange hair, and currently with extraordinary ability to walk backwards on rough ground and read a teleprompter while waving her hands expressively - she is very proud to be a professor. I would be too - to become a professor, that is, of anything. Walking backwards over rough ground at my age is not advised. I might just be able to read a teleprompter...

When you think of Alice, remember she did not write her own words, and have another mince pie..

BRIAN JOHN said...

Thinking of professors, I went down to town today and met Prof GW on the pavement. I say "met" -- "passed" would be a better word. He steadfastly refused to make eye contact with me, although he knows perfectly well who I am. Perhaps, in this season of good cheer, his seasonal good cheer has become somewhat frozen. What have I done to upset him, I wonder?

TonyH said...


I'm walking backwards
For Christmas
Across the Irish Sea
I'm walking backwards
For Christmas rather quickly
'cause like Swans and certain exotic reptiles
If you do it fast enough
And flap your arms furiously as make-shift wings
You can achieve Take-Off
After the notorious fashion
Of certain Professors
who shall remain

* Q.I. Christmas Edition 21 Dec 2012

BRIAN JOHN said...

Ah, in memory of the Goons. Brought a tear to the eye.....

TonyH said...

The asterisk * was meant to have appeared against "Swans and certain exotic reptiles", as we at all times try to be as educational as possible on this blogsite and to display our sources* at all times.

* or should that sometimes be "sauces", as in Frankie Howerd, etc.