|Combourg - chateau and park|
Thursday, June 06, 2019
Tuesday, June 04, 2019
|Ile St Gildas|
After mass the bishop of St Brieuc and Tréguier and his acolytes processed the short distance to the paddock, mounted a special platform and blessed baskets of bread which he then fed to each horse to ensure its good health and good behaviour during the coming year.
Monday, May 20, 2019
The town is all dressed up for the event with his family's yellow and black flag (thanks to a crusader grandfather) displayed everywhere together with sheaves of yellow broom and hundreds of lily flowers studded into hedges along the way.
Sunday, May 12, 2019
Thursday, April 18, 2019
There are 12 texts, with French translations, including a visual display of a close in words. The following are short extracts from what are much longer texts that obviously need to be read in entirety for best effect and all the intricacies of sound and structure.
Sunday, March 24, 2019
|St Yves in judge's garb|
Unusually for a Breton saint, Yves was both a real person (in the late 13th century), and an actual official saint, canonised by the pope in 1347. Renown for his passion for helping the poor which led to giving away most of what he had and favouring them in decisions he made as an ecclesiastical judge, he was a synonym for justice and truth. At some point by the early 17th century this reputation had developed a very particular application in the form of St Yves de Verité (Erwan ar Gwirinez or Santik (little saint) ar Wirione in Breton), with a case attested in 1620 when a woman sought vengeance on the landlord who had accused her son of arson. This was indeed the purpose of the cult: a petitioner who felt himself wronged would make a bargain with the saint, calling down vengeance on the guilty party. If his accusation was false, he would suffer the same punishment - death within a year.
The ritual consisted of pilgrimage (in a state of fasting) to the chapel at Trédarzec on three consecutive Mondays as night fell. The petitioner then grasped the shoulder of the statue of St Yves and shook it sharply. This could be because the place was ill-frequented and Yves might have dozed off a bit, but in fact violent treatment of saints' statues by worshippers was widespread in Brittany. Whilst doing this, the petitioner would say the portentous words 'You are the little saint of truth. I make this vow to you. If he is right condemn me. But if I am right let him die within the appointed time.' A coin marked with a cross would then be placed at the foot of the statue, before the customary prayer of a vow would be said BACKWARDS, a clear echo of pagan magic ritual where curses often employed this method. Three ritual circuits of the chapel then followed. Another account says a cobblers' awl was left handy in the chapel for piercing the statue three times, to make a little dust, so anticipating the fate of the guilty party.
|Skull of St Yves - Tréguier cathedral|
The matter was somewhat blurred by the great folklorist Anatole le Braz, who wrote in 1893 that the cult had originally been of St Sul and the chapel destroyed after a notorious murder case in which an old woman claimed to have been asked to carry out a vow of vengeance. In fact the chapel had already been destroyed by then, but a nearby oratory, which still exists, may have caused some confusion. There is also reference to Notre-Dame de la Haine by Emile Souvestre in 1836, but perhaps this was a casual deduction from the standard 'Ave Maria' to be said three times in the course of the ritual.
The attempted destruction of superstition was always an act of folly by the Church - it is the very strength of Breton faith whose tenets are set by the people and their will. God himself would be hard pressed to make impositions on a Breton. Let's not forget we live in a world where recently made statues of unknown saints are said to be working miracles. Today there is apparently a freemasons' lodge at Tréguier with the title Erwan ar Gwirionez. Good luck with that.
Wednesday, March 06, 2019
|Christophe and I at Combourg with 'our' book|
I first got to know the work of Christophe's late brother Marc Deceneux, an historian of repute, who wrote extensively on the area around Dol and Combourg. During a month's stay for research of my own in Combourg years ago I was introduced to Christophe and his charming wife Jacqueline, and through them became friends with the La Tour du Pin family, owners of the famous chateau. These connections have been of immense importance to me, and my attachment to Combourg remains profound.
Christophe's interests were wide, but recently focused on the curious, alchemic and esoteric. He published Finis Gloriae Mundi de Fulcanelli, La Révélation in 2016. More recently he was working on a novel in conjunction with another writer. The research that brought us together, on the 'location' of the literary forest of Brocéliande in the tales of Arthurian knights, made a big impression on me, going against received notions here in Brittany that the forest of Paimpont was the original inspiration - not at all likely, as Christophe demonstrated convincingly. Exploring the Dol/Combourg area to follow up his leads was an adventure and a revelation.
I will never forget his kindness and enthusiasm for history and imagination. I shall sorely miss sitting in his garden talking over the latest research and going on a little trip of exploration with both Christophe and Jacqueline, as we did one happy day not so long ago. It seems long ago now, the separation of death harsh and decisive. But I was very lucky to know him.
Sunday, February 10, 2019
|My primary school reports|
The first book I wrote was at the age of 8/9. It was about, of all things, the Greek islands. I still have it. Of course I'd never been there or anywhere outside of Gloucestershire and Wales. The Homeric tales and Greek mythology had generated the interest, and islands were an excitingly stimulating whilst unknown phenomenon. My method was organised and surprisingly good: books collected from home and the local library, extensive notes made, a process of selection and then a text in my own words. Not that far from what I do now, except today I have the luxury of airing original thought as well as words. But I did pretty well then without the element of personal experience or widely acquired knowledge.
But here I want to honour someone who had an enormous influence on my writing career. When I was 10 years old, he arrived as a student teacher at the primary school I attended in Stonehouse. His name was Mr Patch. Not only did he teach my class daily English lessons, but we also had extra individual lessons together as my mother had quarreled violently (her speciality) with the RE teacher and withdrawn me from all religious teaching. As I had consistently avowed my desire to be a writer, it was deemed fitting that I concentrated on this in these spare lessons. What lovely and sensible people there were in that school!
Mr Patch set me a series of imaginative and demanding exercises, to write in different styles, to develop character studies, to describe places, to produce dialogue and most of all to stimulate my already maturing imagination. I remember now a newspaper article about an imaginary accident and the physical description of a Red Indian chief and desert setting. I realise now that he must have been an avid writer himself. He praised, corrected, encouraged and challenged me throughout. He gave me scope with discipline. He made me feel like a writer, with a serious purpose and a process of development to follow. He wanted me to be my best self in a context that has mattered to me more than other as my life has progressed.
What gifts for a solitary, serious, hyper-sensitive and hyper-imaginative 10 year old child! Recently finding my primary school reports stimulated this memory of a man who had an enormous influence on my writing, although I have never forgotten him. I'd thank Mr Patch from the bottom of my heart, if he wouldn't gently respond with a word or two about cliché.
Sunday, January 27, 2019
The substantial fontaine, dating from the late 16th century, is a prophetic one. The rituals vary but pieces of bread are of the essence, If you have been robbed and have your suspicions about the culprit, take three pieces of bread, name each one and throw them into the water. The one that sinks will be the guilty person. This tradition has muddled itself with another concerning engaged couples, who are also to throw in three pieces of bread. If two come together without the 'saint' (or third bit) intervening, they will be happy. Obvious you might think, but rumour has it that the bread used should be stolen... In fact, the same ritual with the magic number three is used to answer any question there - will I marry, will my husband survive a sea voyage, will my child live - but in this case the answer is yes if two of the pieces float towards the third saintly morsel. Ah, the finesse of ritual.
Enora, the deserted wife, showed admirable spirit in following the virginal Efflam and landed a little way off near Le Yaudet where she was picked up in a fisherman's net. She was soon running from the local tyrant, who chased her lustfully back towards Efflam's haunt of Lieu de Grève. There a miraculous paralysis overcame the pursuer: he swiftly repented and was released from his plight by Efflam himelf. Enora established her own oratory near that of her husband and remained close but chastely separated from him until her death.
Saturday, January 12, 2019
|Temple complex Fanum Martis|
Some solid work on the parish close exhibition has been achieved in the first days of January and I can now see the whole thing 'in the round' and connnections between the different pieces are clearer. There have also been new poems, so something in my head is still working - an encouraging and surprising discovery.