The Woman Elizabeth Windsor and the Cult Image of Queen Elizabeth

These women’s scandalous way of life was observed by a sculptor, Pygmalion. Sick of the vices with which the female sex has been so richly endowed, he chose for a number of years to remain unmarried, without a partner to share his bed. In the course of time he successfully carved an amazingly skilful statue in ivory, white as snow, an image of perfect feminine beauty – and fell in love with his own creation. This heavenly woman appeared to be real; you’d surely suppose her alive and ready to move…

Orpheus’ Song: Pygmalion, Metamorphosis by Ovid (translated by Henry Raeburn)

The story of Galatea, first attested in Philostephanus’s De Cypro (The Story of Cyprus) but most well-known from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, is deeply tied to the history of the Cult Image. The sculptor Pygmalion crafted the statue of a woman from ivory. He was so taken with his creation that he fell in love with it: he prayed to the gods to make her real. Aphrodite heard, and granted his request. Various misadventures followed, and as is the case in mythology, variants emerged over time – but the central concept of a statue brought to life following the wish of the sculptor remained.

It came to mind with current events.

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Gourock Coat of Arms Public Consultation

The following post is an expansion on my response to Inverclyde’s Historical Links to Slavery Working Group: Gourock Coat of Arms Public Consultation. I have written on the Gourock Coat of Arms before, and I have a deep personal interest in it stemming from an early age. Therefore I felt it would be beneficial to share my response on this site. Inverclyde Council had pre-emptively planned to remove the Coat of Arms, concurrently with plans to de-colonise the Watt Institute’s museum collections.

I encourage any Gourockian readers to fill out the survey & hand it in by Wednesday 24th November.

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We Do It To Ourselves

I’ve found great difficulty mustering the heart & will to post anything on the blog in the past few months. Everything since the election has seemed so counter-intuitively dark and dreich, a sense of failure clad in the gaudy rainments of victory. For all the gains we made since 2014, we still keep failing somehow. Almost as if I’m starting to understand the Cringe.

Image courtesy of the McLean Museum & Art Gallery

This is – was – the Duncan McPherson Centre.

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Vulgar Tongues

NICOLA Sturgeon was the first politician to be sworn into the sixth session of Holyrood as the new parliament formally got under way, with affirmations and oaths taken in a record number of languages.

Returning and new members took an oath or affirmation following last week’s election in which the SNP was returned as the biggest party for the fourth consecutive term.

Many MSPs made their vows yesterday in second languages, including Urdu, Canadian French, Scots, Gaelic, Orcadian, Doric, Welsh, Arabic and Punjabi.

It is believed to be a record variety of languages used in the swearing-in ceremony to date with newly elected SNP MSP for Edinburgh Central Angus Roberston taking his in German. Fellow SNP MSP Karen Adam made her affirmation in British Sign Language – a first for the parliament.

– The National, 14th May 2021

As an outward-looking, internationalist nation, it is a sign of good faith and sincerity in those traditions for Members of the Scottish Parliament to take oaths & affirmations in languages that are important to them. Nominally speaking, it underscores Scotland’s place as a nation among nations throughout the world, where languages of those nations and our own are acknowledged and highlighted, threads in the fabric of our national tapestry.

In an ideal world, this would be wonderful, a cause for great celebration and much rejoicing. But Scotland is not independent, and the affirmation every MSP took yesterday was not one in the spirit of internationalism, nor of solidarity with the people of Scotland within and without its borders – it is an affirmation of obedience, supplication, and surrender.

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Remembering Forgotten Histories

The Fisk Jubilee Singers, 1875: B.W. Thomas, Julia Jackson, Maggie L. Porter, Ella Sheppard, F.J. Loudin, H.D. Alexander, Georgia Gordon, Jennie Jackson, America W. Robinson, Thomas Rutling

Current events often inspire an itch in me to go back to history. Given the global situation, this means going through my own library, or diving into the internet for digitised offerings.

One such gem is The Singing Campaign for Ten Thousand Pounds by Gustavus D. Pike. This 1875 book covered the journey of the Fisk Jubilee Singers, a choir of former slaves who toured the world to fundraise for education for freedmen and other black Americans:

And yet again, I found myself surprised that Scotland – Gourock itself – plays a tiny role in this amazing story.

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The Streets Where We Live

In case it wasn’t obvious from recent posts (and ones not so recent), I wholeheartedly support the movement which has led to protests against systemic injustices around the world in the past few days. That it should be even necessary to state this is purely because too many people are either conditional in their support, or outright silent, & I didn’t want to leave any ambiguity on my part. I value the lives & wellbeing of my BAME relatives, friends, colleagues, and fellow people, than I do “accommodating” or “keeping the peace” with people who disagree.

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Condemning a Murderous Arsonist for Jaywalking

One of Cummings’s Vote Leave fraternity said: “We need him. We took three years to get the gang in there. We can’t throw that away now.” When one of his acolytes was asked what would happen if Cummings shot someone dead in the street, the reply came: “It would depend whether anyone saw him do it.”

The Times

You may have noticed a dearth of posts lately. This is because every time I tried to write this one, I had to stop before I defenestrated my computer.

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Blazoned Across The Stars: International Women’s Day 2020

Grannies are formidable figures in Scottish culture, hence why this 4,000 year old megalith is affectionately titled “Granny Kempock.”

Men have sat at the feet of women down the ages and our civilization, bad or good, we owe to the influence of women.
Robert E. Howard, letter to Harold Preece, December 1928

I watch Suffragette back when it came out, knowing it was going to be rather difficult to get through. I’m not good with historical dramas which centre around oppression and unfairness: I keep wanting to leap into the screen and sort everything out. Because in cinema, that’s how things work: charismatic individuals with right on their side just get things done with rousing speeches or acts of defiance. It’s why heroes like Zorro and Superman are so popular – the will and the determination to change things for the better with the strength & ability to make those changes. The strong should use their strengths to carry, not to crush – but it has been bred into us to suffer some tyranny for some security.

I still profess to having a childlike view of such things. I don’t like it when the strong use their power to keep those weaker than them down. But worse, to me, are those who just stand by and let it happen – because I know there have been times when I was one of those bystanders. When women were beaten by policemen with truncheons, sympathetic men and women did nothing. When women are imprisoned, their husbands are ashamed to pay their bail. When women go back to work, they are disciplined – by their employers, or their husbands – for their insubordination. That was at best. At worse, they were complicit in the social exclusion that the state fostered against the agents of change. Alienating. Shaming. The violence against their bodies is bad enough, but the violence done to their minds and souls is what truly cuts.

And we, as a species, are still at it. For all we’ve made strides in many nations, there are still too many where women and girls are forbidden from basic freedoms, forced into “marriage” (how anyone can define such a union as marriage is beyond me), where abhorrent treatment is a fact of life. Being part of a global community carries responsibilities – otherwise, it is a community without collective consequences. All throughout history, women made their mark, from Sappho and Elpinice to Aspasias of Athens and Thargelia of Miletus: and this is no less true in Scotland, from the Caledonian Period to the Middle Ages, on through to the present leader of our nation. Even my own little hometown of Gourock can boast women writers, artists, politicians, journalists, and war heroines. – to say nothing of my mammy, my sister, my niece, my granny, my aunties and great-aunties and cousins, and my many brilliant female friends who are such an inspiration to me.

The least I could do is be as brave as they are.

Woman have always been the inspiration of men, and just as there are thousands of unknown great ones among men, there have been countless women whose names have never been blazoned across the stars, but who have inspired men on to glory.
– Robert E. Howard

 

Wretched Things

We men are wretched things, and the gods, who have no cares themselves, have woven sorrow into the very pattern of our lives.
– Achilles, The Iliad

For whatever reason, the people behind the theft of our democracy wanted us all to share, comment, & get very worked up about this video, from a TV programme that came out seven years ago. That this should be amplified so widely now rather than any point in the last seven years immediately puts me on edge.

I’m not a classical scholar by any means: my use of a Latin quotation from an Ancient Roman source in this site’s header is merely because I prefer, when possible, to use the original source – one not obscured by the unavoidable bias of translation. I’m deeply suspicious of people who overuse (or improperly use) certain words & phrases from dead languages, which you’d think would put me at odds with my great appreciation for history & classical scholarship. As expected, there was a clamouring of “he’s rambling,” “gibberish,” “terrible pronunciation,” and whatnot, while others responded with “actually not bad,” “brilliant,” “didn’t understand a word of it but it was highly entertaining.” For the most part, to my immense frustration, the vast majority of comments on either side were deeply unhelpful – mostly pronouncements of credentials (“I’m an ancient Greek scholar & what he said was nonsense/flawless”) without anyone providing something that would be useful – like, say, providing the bit of the Illiad he was speaking, saying why it was nonsense/flawless, old-fashioned stuff like evidence, you know. You’re just expected to believe them because they said so, rather than because they prove their case forensically. That it was both sides doing this shows why we’re in this mess.

I find the whole episode highly instructive on many levels.

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