Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Celtic Yodeling Telegraph

First, I would like to dispose of a fundamental error.  Our cultural concept of priest and priestesses is profoundly conditioned by two millennia of a politically powerful Christianity that even in internal schism still attempted to express itself through political action.  That was not the picture you find elsewhere.  More often you find learned men advising the political powers that are in place.  They were philosophers in the true sense, reflective of spiritual realities and holders and teachers of traditional knowledge.

Since one individual in a hundred would actually be capable of undertaking the training which is seriously no different than today, it was always in danger of destruction as inflicted by the Romans.  The problem with that of course is that it only has to happen once.  Recall the recent destruction of Chinese traditions at the hands of the communists and the actual effective preservation of India’s tradition through the British.  Thus recalling Druidic culture is one serious challenge.

This appears to be a good beginning and I will be looking for this book.

Another aspect of this body of knowledge easily forgotten is that it is surely derived from the Atlantean world and reflects all that.  This was a global culture largely lost and surely severed in 1159 BC.  Thus the established geographic lines from the Stonehenge culture will be related.  This work makes it abundantly clear as to why.

It was all about practical signaling.  They yodeled.  That almost surely also used flags and mirrors as well but those needed clear lines of sight and ridge to distant ridge in a straight line is a great start.  We can be sure they added crude watch towers to make it work better.

Yodeling has the advantage that the sound can reflect of valley sides as well and be heard from other less convenient locations such as by a herder in a nearby pasture.  Thus we have a distance signaling system that works best at night over long distances.  This also clearly explains the alpine horns which have zero entertainment value.

This is a great piece of information that clarifies the connectivity of the Celtic world and their inevitable straight line road or trail system.

What did the Druids ever do for us? An interview with Graham Robb

/ OCTOBER 11, 2013 / 

Graham Robb says that the idea for his latest book, The Ancient Paths: Discovering the Lost Map of Celtic Europe, ”arrived one evening like an unwanted visitor”. He was planning a cycling trip along the Via Hereklea, the “fabled route of Hercules from the ends of the earth … across the Pyrenees and the plains of Provence towards the white curtain of the Alps”, when it struck him that the transcontinental diagonal described by the Heraklean Way corresponded exactly to the “angle of the rising sun at the summer solstice” 2,000 years ago. What he had stumbled upon was a “transcontinental masterpiece of sacred geography”, the work of Druids and Druidesses, the priests and scientists of the Celts. The Heraklean Way, it turned out, was the royal road to an understanding of the lost civilisation of Celtic Europe.

This is not Robb’s usual terrain, however—he is best known as a historian of 19th-century France. So I began by asking him if he’d approached the subject with trepidation.

If I’d still been an academic I wouldn’t have been able to write it, because, as you say, it isn’t my period. It reminds me of someone at Queen’s College in Oxford who had a question about the New Testament—I can’t remember what it was; something Jesus had said. So he asked the college chaplain, and the college chaplain said, “Well, it’s not really my period.” But when I was working on my book The Discovery of France, I was drawn backwards in time to the Gaulish period. And it’s nice working on a different period and discovering the different traditions associated with that form of scholarship. That was quite a release. Archaeology seems a much more congenial discipline—they’re not always trying to slag each other off. The only drawback is that lots of archaeologists prefer the spadework and never get round to publishing what they’ve found.

But this book isn’t just a summary of the state of archaeological research into Celtic Europe is it? There’s an argument being made here about the status of myth. You say that it’s an “uncanny characteristic of Celtic myths … that they often turn out to be true”. 

It shows how well the Druids’ education system worked that they used memory and verse to preserve their history. But despite the catastrophes that there were in between it did survive amazingly well—especially in Ireland and Wales. It was fascinating to see how much is recoverable without me inventing it or imagining it.

Are you trying to rescue Celtic history and Celtic myth from the condescension of posterity, specifically from the condescension of Roman and Greek historians?

Yes, especially the Romans. The book does have an evangelical side: it’s appalling how influential a few writers have been, especially Caesar. And we’ve made it even worse. You see this all over the place, in museums and books—the idea that the Celts were illiterate. And it’s simply because Caesar said the Druids considered it sacrilegious to write down their teachings. Then he goes on to say in the same sentence, “But for all other purposes they use the Greek alphabet.” We know that they were an unusually literate society for the time. Even relatively uneducated people knew how to write. But we’re so determined to believe that they were practically Stone Age people. They are associated with pre-history, almost as if they were pre-human.

So this book is an act of retrieval then?

I didn’t realise to what extent it was going to be a retrieval because I didn’t know if this was going to turn out to be true. The subject was an embarrassment to me at first, because one thing you realise about people who are interested in ley lines and Druids is that they’re quite hostile to scientific knowledge. I was interested in the provability of things which seemed to have disappeared.

You’re particularly interested in the ways in which information was transmitted in the Celtic world aren’t you?

We tend to think of the efficient transmission of information as a feature of our own society. But one of the things that seems to have amazed the Romans is the way that the different [Celtic] tribes could form alliances at very short notice over huge distances. So, yes, I’m interested in the transmission of information, but also how that information has failed to be transmitted down the centuries.

Are you implying that much of what you discuss here has failed to transmit itself to the self-declared inheritors of the Druidic tradition today? 

Yes. It’s a bit like 2,000 years in the future trying to capture what it meant to be Catholic based on 16th-century Protestant propaganda.

You devote two chapters to the Druidic education system, what you call the “Druidic Syllabus”. Did you feel there as if you were having to correct a thousand years of accumulated misconceptions about the Druids?

Yes, and some of them were my own misconceptions. I hadn’t really thought about the basic chronology, before. Stonehenge can’t have had anything to do with the Druids. It’s a completely different civilisation, from before even the Bronze Age. I don’t really know much about neo-Druids, though I can see that the affiliations go back to medieval Wales and then Victorian illustrations and science fiction. Once I started reconstituting what the Druids had taught and putting the pieces together, I was excited by the fact that I hadn’t read this assembled in the same way. Since I used to write academic books, I wanted there to be a strong background to the book, something recoverable.

Have you had any contact with specialist academics working in this area?

There was an archaeologist who I was friends with in Oxford. We had conversations about neo-Druids, and he was complaining about the fact that now, when they dig up ancient remains, neo-Druids will be represented on the relevant committee of English Heritage or whatever, because they think the remains ought to be reburied in the proper fashion. And this drives archaeologists mad. Understandably.

In your account, the Druids were philosophers, learned men. Was there anything as coherent as a Druidic worldview?

There were hundreds of Celtic gods but they seem to have codified things to such an extent that certain major divine figures emerged, which played a political purpose. One of the main parts of the Druidic curriculum was political science. One thing that surprised me, even though it was sitting there on a plate, was that Caesar’s best friend in Gaul was a Druid. He doesn’t say so himself but we know from Cicero that he stayed at his house. The Druids also played a legal function—they set boundaries, settle disputes between different tribes.

One sentence that caught my eye is the following: “The keys to the Celtic mysteries usually lie in an observable reality rather than a vague superstition.” The picture you’re offering us is of the Druids as what we might once have called “natural philosophers”, with a proto-scientific outlook.

Yes, though there I was thinking specifically of Celtic art, which looks like swirling mists, like art based on an individual’s fancy. It’s sometimes said that Celtic patterns come from hallucinations. But once you study it, you realise that each individual figure is part of a bigger pattern. You’re just seeing part of it but you can deduce the larger pattern from the little figure. Celtic art was an analysis of patterns that they found in nature, in observable reality. It’s very geometric. If you look at oak trees and start to analyse the patterns, you realise that it looks like Celtic art. It’s Pythagorean: they were asking, “Can we deduce eternal, unchanging mathematical patterns from the ways in which natural objects reproduce them ourselves?”

Graham Robb’s “The Ancient Paths: Discovering the Lost Map of Celtic Europe” is published by Picador (£20)

The Ancient Paths: Discovering the Lost Map of Celtic Europe, review from ‘The Telegraph’

Tim Martin has his eyes opened by an enthralling new history that argues that Druids created a sophisticated ancient society to rival the Romans

A 1570 map of Europe, from Abraham Ortelius’ atlas (detail) Photo: Alamy
By Tim Martin7:00AM BST 12 Oct 20137

‘Important if true” was the phrase that the 19th-century writer and historian Alexander Kinglake wanted to see engraved above church doors. It rings loud in the ears as one reads the latest book by Graham Robb, a biographer and historian of distinction whose new work, if everything in it proves to be correct, will blow apart two millennia of thinking about Iron Age Britain and Europe and put several scientific discoveries back by centuries.

Rigorously field-tested by its sceptical author, who observes drily that “anyone who writes about Druids and mysteriously coordinated landscapes, or who claims to have located the intersections of the solar paths of Middle Earth in a particular field, street, railway station or cement quarry, must expect to be treated with superstition”, it presents extraordinary conclusions in a deeply persuasive and uncompromising manner. What surfaces from these elegant pages – if true – is nothing less than a wonder of the ancient world: the first solid evidence of Druidic science and its accomplishments and the earliest accurate map of a continent.

Robb begins his journey from a cottage in Oxfordshire, following up a handful of mysteries that had teasingly accrued as he assembled his Ondaatje Prize-winning travelogue The Discovery of France.

They had to do with the Heraklean Way, an ancient route that runs 1,000 miles in a straight line from the tip of the Iberian Peninsula to the Alps, and with several Celtic settlements called Mediolanum arranged at intervals along the route.

After examining satellite imaging (difficult for the private scholar even a decade ago) and making several more research trips, Robb bumped up against two extraordinary discoveries.

First, the entire Via Heraklea runs as straight as an arrow along the angle of the rising and setting sun at the solstices. Second, plotting lines through the Celtic Mediolanum settlements results in lines that map on to sections of Roman road, which themselves point not to Roman towns but at Celtic oppida farther along.

Viewed in this light, the ancient texts of the Italian conquerors begin to reveal sidelong secrets about the people they supplanted. Piece by piece, there emerges a map of the ancient world constructed along precise celestial lines: a huge network of meridians and solar axes that served as the blueprint for the Celtic colonisation of Europe, dictated the placement of its settlements and places of worship, and was then almost wholly wiped from history. We are, to put it mildly, unused to thinking like this about the Celts, whose language is defunct and whose reputation was comprehensively rewritten by those who succeeded them.

Greek travellers from the sixth century BC onwards described a nation of sanguinary brutes and madmen who threw their babies in rivers, walked with their swords into the sea and roughly sodomised their guests. “It does not take an anthropologist to suspect,” Robb observes drily, “that what the travellers saw or heard about were baptismal rites, the ceremonial dedication of weapons to gods of the lower world, and the friendly custom of sharing one’s bed with a stranger.”

Later on, clean-shaven, toga-sporting Roman visitors to what they called Gallia Bracata and Gallia Comata – Trousered Gaul and Hairy Gaul respectively – were horrified by the inhabitants’ practical legwear and love of elaborate moustaches, and marvelled to hear them discoursing not in gnarly Gaulish but in perfect Greek.

As the Roman military machine rolled over Europe, depicting the Celt as a woods-dwelling wild man became not just a matter of Italian snobbery but one of propagandist utility. According to Robb, when the Romans arrived this side of the Alps, they found a country whose technical achievements were different from, but competitive with, their own.

Mapped and governed by a network of scholar-priests according to a template laid down in heaven, covered by a road network that afforded swift passage to fleets of uniquely advanced chariots (“nearly all the Latin words for wheeled vehicles”, Robb notes, “come from Gaulish”) and possessing astronomical and scientific knowledge that would take another millennium to surface again, Gaul remained a deeply enigmatic place to its military-minded conquerors. When Julius Caesar swept through, on a tide of warfare and genocide that would lead his countryman Pliny to accuse him of humani generis iniuria, “crimes against humanity”, much of its knowledge retreated to the greenwood, never to emerge.

Most significantly, suggests Robb, Caesar failed to work out the Druids. To most of us even now, the word conjures up the image of a white-robed seer with a sickle, an implausible hybrid of Getafix and Glastonbury hippie. (Robb suggests, following the design on a Gaulish cauldron, that they tended more towards a figure-hugging costume patterned like oak bark: much better for melting like smoke into the trees, a trait of Druid-led armies that Caesar vigorously deplored.)

The Druidic curriculum took two decades to train up its initiates, but these men of science put nothing in writing. Like their wood-built houses, their secrets rotted with time. How could we hope to reconstruct them?

Remarkably, Robb has an answer to this, and it forms the centre of a book almost indecently stuffed with discoveries. One of the most consistently baffling things about Celtic temple sites to modern surveyors is their shape: warped rectangles that seem none the less to demonstrate a kind of systematic irregularity. Using painstakingly reconstructed elements of the Druidic education, which placed religious emphasis on mapping the patterns of the heavens on to the lower “Middle Earth” of our world, Robb comes up with an astonishing discovery: these irregular rectangles exactly match a method for constructing a geometrical ellipse, the image of the sun’s course in the heavens. Such a method was previously thought to be unknown in the West until the 1500s.

Other suggestions follow thick and fast, backed by a mixture of close reading, mathematical construction and scholarly detective work. Building on meridians and equinoctial lines, the Druids used their maps of the heavens to create a map that criss-crossed a continent, providing a plan of sufficient latitudinal and longitudinal accuracy to guide the Celtic diaspora as it pushed eastward across Europe.

The swirls and patterns in Celtic art turn out, Robb surmises, to be arranged along rigorous mathematical principles, and may even encode the navigational and cartographic secrets that the Druids so laboriously developed.

Robb manages his revelations with a showman’s skill, modestly conscious that his book is unfurling a map of Iron Age Europe and Britain that has been inaccessible for millennia. Every page produces new solutions to old mysteries, some of them so audacious that the reader may laugh aloud. Proposing a new location for Uxellodunum, the site of the Gauls’ final losing battle in France, is one thing; suggesting where to look for King Arthur’s court, or which lake to drag for Excalibur, is quite another. But both are here.

Amid such riches, readers of The Discovery of France – a glorious book that mixed notes from a modern cycling tour with a historical gazetteer of pre-unification France – may still be itching for the moment when the author gets back on his bike. Beautifully written though it is, The Ancient Paths can tend to dryness at times, but some of its best moments come when the author gets out into the field.

One example will suffice. Certain references in Caesar’s writing indicate that the Gauls operated a vocal telegraph, composed of strategically placed teams yodelling news overland to one another, which passed messages at a speed nearly equivalent to the first Chappe telegraph in the 18th century. To judge how this might have worked, Robb takes himself off to the oppidum above Aumance, near Clermont-Ferrand, where he reports on the car alarms and the whirr of traffic still audible across countryside four kilometres away.

He goes further. Aumance was one of around 75 places once known by the name Equoranda, a word with an unknown root that resembles the Greek and Gaulish for “sound-line” or “call-line”. All the Equoranda settlements Robb visits turn out to be on low ridges or shallow valleys, and would, he writes, “have made excellent listening posts”. Examined in this light, one word in Caesar’s account becomes fruitful: he observes that the Gauls “transmit the news by shouting across fields and regios”, a word that can be translated as “boundaries”. An ancient Persian technique for acoustic surveying, still current in the 19th-century south of France, involves three men calling to one another and plotting their position along the direction of the sound. Put the pieces together and you end up – or Robb does – with “the scattered remains of a magnificent network” that could have acted not just as a telegraph system but as a means to map the Druids’ boundaries on to the earth.

It’s a magnificent piece of historical conjecture, backed by a quizzical scholarly intellect and given a personal twist by experiment. So, for that matter, is the whole thing. Robb describes in his introduction the secretive meetings with publishers in London and New York that kept a lid on the book’s research until publication, and watching its conclusions percolate through popular and academic history promises to be thrilling.

Reading it is already an electrifying and uncanny experience: there is something gloriously unmodern about seeing a whole new perspective on history so comprehensively birthed in a single book. If true, very important indeed.

For Britain the book is titled The Ancient Paths: Discovering the Lost Map o

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