Monday, August 25, 2008

Manda Scott, Boudicca and Neolithic Blades

A writer named Manda Scott, known initially for her crime novels, wrote a rather extraordinary series of books about Boudica, ancient warrior queen. Admittedly fiction because little in terms of original sources exists as far as biographical material is concerned, she yet captures a sense of the period, both for the native tribes and the invading Romans.

She is a very spiritual writer, actually and much of the series, including the titles of the books, deals with the various religions of the period. The titles of the books in the series refer to Mithras and the rituals and symbols of that god. The Eagle, Bull and Hound are animals intricately bound to the myth of Mithras. Mithras, although known as the 'soldiers' god' was the focus of one of the mystery religions of the period. As a mystery religion, its rituals were secret but much has been uncovered in caves devoted to the god in the form of carvings and murals depicting rites of initiation. Like the modern Masons, Mithraic traditions included a number of ascending degrees of initiation. This created an international community of members who obeyed their superiors above and beyond any secular authority unless the two coincided.

Although the traditions of Mithras are very much a part of this series, it is Boudicca who is at the heart of it. The author depicts her as a woman who is not only an incredible warrior and leader but one who is attuned to the mysteries of the gods and like many who can walk between the worlds, a talented metalworker and smith.
This aspect of the books appeals to me personally as a lifelong collector and lover of edged weapons.

Every blade has a soul and Manda Scott is able to conjure the magic of the smithy to life. Is it no more than imagination or does she have a finger on the pulse of the spiritual universe, with a real and profound connection to every living creature, whether animate or inanimate? I would like to think that it is more than imagination that fuels her lyrical descriptions in this series.

Here is a link to Manda Scott's site:

Boudica by Manda Scott

In any event, while reading the third book in the series, a small group of neolithic Danish stone blades/tools came into my hands. I am including a photograph of them here.

A very interesting experiment, and one that I have performed again and again throughout my life, is one that attempts to uncover the 'spirit' of an object simply by holding it and connecting with it. A parlour trick perhaps but it is interesting how each object conjures different emotions and pictures. Perhaps it is nothing more than the imagination exerting its pull but surely even that is worth exploring.
Boudicca was not a woman of the neolithic period by any means. She lived in a fairly modern era, the time of the emperors Claudius and Nero. Weapons were by no means primitive on either side of the conflict... Even so, it was a period when metalworking was personal to some extent and when both Romans and native British tribes believed in the efficacy of the 'spirit' of a weapon.

The neolithic blades in this set appear to me to have been tools rather than weapons. They may or may not have been used. Very often, blades and tools would be crafted only to be discarded at or near the site where they were made. I have quite a few arrowheads that never were used because they were 'seconds'. Nonetheless, being of stone, each has its own 'song' if you believe in animism. It may not be a powerful song, but every pebble is different, and when a human hand has intervened, whether succesfully or unsuccessfully, it leaves its own mark on that stone as well.
The reason I am attracted to the set is the variety of stone in the pieces, not because they represent exceptional tools or blades. Until I actually held them in my hands, though, they did not 'live' for me. Each 'sings a different song' and the song is different for each individual who holds one.

I have to confess that I have an absurdly romantic view of the distant past. Even knowing intellectually that a man or woman who fashioned a tool in neolithic times could have been a real 'plodder', somehow devoid of imagination or creativity with nothing in mind but the need to perform a banal task, my heart and soul seek to convince me otherwise. It is like the old joke about ancient Egypt, that almost every one who claims to have lived in ancient Egypt fancies himself/herself to have been a prince or princess... what happened to the spirits of all the peasants???
Wishful thinking very much fuels astral projections in many cases, but despite that, I have encountered a few who appeared to have had some genuine contact with the past.

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