Thursday, April 25, 2019

"The Ancient Yew" or "Otzi, We Barely Yew Thee"

My photo of one of the yews at St. Mary's Cusop, Herefordshire on the border with Wales.
Many people come to the yew tree with preconceived notions. Modern-day Druids want to believe the yews in British churchyards are from pre-Christian origins as they "return" to the ancient practices that were mostly made up by the Romans in their anti-Celt cultural wars. The author of the yew book* before last tried to convince the reader and perhaps himself that the British yews were all planted in churchyards by the Normans, or maybe the Saxons at a stretch.

My latest dive into yew lore is The Ancient Yew: A History of Taxus Baccata, by Robert Bevan-Jones (Oxbow Books, Oxford 2017). The author is amazing in his comprehensive assembly of the evidence. I think it is all there as well as can be gathered. There are extensive, footnoted sources. However, the writing style is a bit jumpy as is the presentation of the evidence. Bevan-Jones is strongest in his theme that the churchyard yews are "at least" 1500 years old which places them right at the time of the establishment of Christianity in Britain by the Celtic Saints. He first discusses the botanical challenges of the strange growth patterns of the tree and then presents the best estimates by charts and graphs to support his Celtic-Saint-planting theory.

But then came the Iceman. In the final chapter, "Yew: an Archaeological Perspective" (which perhaps should have come earlier at least in a chronological sense):

Sunday, April 14, 2019

I Can't Fix America

Very few people read me. Fewer are convinced by me. That doesn't change the facts that America is corrupt at the top with the trump criminal conspiracy, down through the greedy hordes who want more by denying others, and the hypocrisy of the religious right that deals with the devil to promote its agenda.

Politics may have to do with out me for a while as I concentrate on other things. The fires of progressive rebellion still smolder in me. But with apathy, hypocrisy, and corruption all around, I will shrug off the latest tweets and news of the day and go with my new GIF:

Saturday, April 6, 2019

The Daffodils Are Out!

Finally!


It is a wet Spring after late snow and we're only a month or so late for St. David's Day (Dydd Dewi Sant). Now I have the opportunity to share a poem I've been saving along with my dozens, if unfortunately not thousands, of daffodils:

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Religion, Superstition, and Rationality in Scotland

Book Report: The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg (1824)

Flag of Presbyterian Covenanters, National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh
It's great to find a literary classic that I hadn't known before. Reading all I can devour about Scotland helps me be a better tour guide. This one intrigued me as it was listed as an odd book, a religious-psychological thriller that had served as inspiration to another Scot, Robert Louis Stevenson, in writing Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It has sword fights, murder, mayhem, and a couple of strange games of tennis. What's not to like?

Saturday, March 9, 2019

The Holy Yew Becomes Holier

"That shady city of Palm Trees. . . ."

Palms don't grow in Britain. There are some surprising palmetto-types along the south and western coasts as the temperate climate is warmed by the Gulf Stream. And as Basil Fawlty explains, Torquay is the Riviera of Britain. . . .

So what do they use for Palm Sunday?

Yes, the Holy Yew!

My distant cousin, Henry Vaughan, knew this. And surprised I was to learn that when he wrote of the Palm Tree, it was the Yew! That poem makes so much more sense now so I share it here thinking of that peaceful resting place below the Yew in Llansantffraed Churchyard.


Saturday, February 9, 2019

Not Killing Babies

It is burned into my brain what I saw with my wife on that operating table at the end of her sixth planned pregnancy. You were not there and I will not describe it to you. We could have lost either or both lives. Our doctor was brilliant and blessed as she knew exactly what she was doing. Had it come to it and without a moment's hesitation I would have directed the doctor to save my wife, my life-partner, the mother of five living children.