Monday 1 May 2017

Look Again: Landscape

Tradfest is a twelve day celebration of Scotland's traditional arts.  As part of this festival, the National Library of Scotland today hosted a talk about landscape and culture in Scotland. John Murray was slightly overenthusiastic in his use of the swirling text effects on Powerpoint in his interesting though overly erudite talk on stories and landscapes. He presented a lot of Gaelic poetry (with often the English translation only appearing briefly on the swirling Powerpoint slides). It would have been nice to have had time enough to read the translations, not just to listen to the Gaelic (beautiful though that is). The most interesting part of his talk was how he sketched out the patterns of journeys made in Scottish (mostly Gaelic) literature and the parallels he drew between these journeys and the waulking songs sung in the old days by women to keep in time as they waulked the cloth to shrink and soften it. 

Stuart McHardy talked specifically about how many of the hills and mountains of Scotland look like reclining figures or female breasts and how this has influenced mythology, particularly the figure of the old woman who lives on the top of mountains and controls the weather. He talked about how the mythologies are formed by people's interpretations of the landscape (I think this is probably common to indigenous cultures across the world) and how knowledge can be passed down through long generations. As people start to live in a more global world and are less likely to stay in the same village as their parents and their parents before them then this cultural inheritance is lost.


Simon Douglas Thompson said...

Thinking in a new way about the breast like hills of Kirkcudbrightshire - Screel, Ben Gairn etc lol

RG said...

Interesting - I just returned from some time at the "Sleeping Lady" in Leavenworth, WA.

sage said...

Sounds like some interesting talks. I am getting excited about heading to Scotland in late June.

Anonymous said...

It is impossible to translate Gaelic poetry well. It is much better in the original and the translations don't convey the flavour at all.

I usually have the opposite problem with Gaelic poetry - far too much emphasis is lain upon the translation and there are connoisseurs of Gaelic poetry who never learn any of the language. In some ways they are two very different languages. Poetry really has to be heard, and it is often better to hear it in the original even if you can't understand the language in question.