The Train Timetable

” Paradise was, in Christian medieval thinking, a special and meaningful place, both in time and space: It had been there since the very beginning of history when God created it as a home for the first human beings-and would still be there at history’s end. Revelations 2:7 alludes to it’s role at the end of times, promising

He that hath an ear, let him hear what the spirit saith unto the churches, To him that overcometh will I give to eat the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.

Considering this, paradise had to exist through all time, thus also in the present- some-where on earth but unreachable. ”


F. Schmieder, Paradise Islands In The East and West- Tradition and Meaning  In Some Cartographical Places on the Medieval Rim of the World., In T. Jorgensen & G. Jartiz (ed.) Isolated Islands in Medieval Nature, Culture and Mind 


I realized last night I have no idea how to get to Iona. I now find I catch a train from Edinburgh to Glasgow a connecting train to the ferry terminal for Mull and then from Mull a further boat ride to the Island Itself.

As with the planning for any journey I appear to have more stuff than I can fit in the small backpack I like to travel with.

I have until the summer to work out what to take, what to leave behind and draw up a map.

Mechanical Encounters

The Theory of Affordances 

“I have described the environment as the surfaces that separate substances from the medium in which the animals live. But I have also described what the environment affords animals, mentioning the terrain, shelters, water, fire, objects, tools, other animals, and human displays. How do we go from surfaces to affordances? And if there is information in light for the perception of surfaces, is there information for the perception of what they afford? Perhaps the composition and layout of surfaces constitute what they afford. If so, to perceive them is to perceive what they afford. This is a radical hypothesis, for it implies that the “values” and “meanings” of things in the environment can be directly perceived. Moreover, it would explain the sense in which values and meanings are external to the perceiver.

The affordances of the environment are what it offers the animal, what it provides or furnishes, either for good or ill. The verb to afford is found in the dictionary, but the noun affordance is not. I have made it up. I mean by it something that refers to both the environment and the animal in a way that no existing term does. It implies the complementarity of the animal and the environment. The antecedents of the term and the history of the concept will be treated later; for the present, let us consider examples of an affordance.

If a terrestrial surface is nearly horizontal (instead of slanted), nearly flat (instead of convex or concave), and sufficiently extended (relative to the size of the animal) and if its substance is rigid (relative to the weight of the animal), then the surface affords support. It is a surface of support, and we call it a substratum, ground, or floor. It is stand-on-able, permitting an upright posture for quadrupeds and bipeds. It is therefore walk-on-able and run-over-able. It is not sink-into-able like a surface of water or a swamp, that is, not for heavy terrestrial animals. Support for water bugs is different.

Note that the four properties listed—horizontal, flat, extended, and rigid—would be physical properties of a surface if they were measured with the scales and standard units used in physics. As an affordance of support for a species of animal, however, they have to be measured relative to the animal. They are unique for that animal. They are not just abstract physical properties. They have unity relative to the posture and behavior of the animal being considered. So an affordance cannot be measured as we measure in physics. Terrestrial surfaces, of course, are also climb-on-able or fall-off-able or get-underneathable or bump-into-able relative to the animal. Different layouts afford different behaviors for different animals, and different mechanical encounters.”


James J. Gibson, The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception.

Monolith In Altered State



“After the coming of Adomnan now, a good woman is not deprived  of her testimony  on earth, if it is secured by righteous deeds. For a mother is a venerable treasure, a mother of saints  a mother is a good treasure, the mother of saints and bishops and bishops and just men, one deserving of the kingdom of heaven and a propagation on earth.”

This section from the 10th or early eleventh century narrative incorporated into a 7th century legal text comes directly after a description of an imagined pre-christian Ireland and its female warrior cast.

“her bag of provisions hung on one side of her, infant on the other side; her wooden pole was on her back, thirty feet , with an iron hook at one end which she would plunge into the hair of another woman of the battalion.”

These contrasting images of daughters of life and daughters of death, are also reflected in Adomnan’s act of life giving, in resurrecting the slain warrior woman in the field of slaughter. Here Adomnan, the head of Iona’s family is presented as a life giver. Iona’s monastic family of monasteries was the prime mover in introducing the cult of Mary across its sphere of influence, the Western Isles of Scotland (extending into the Pictish communities of Mainland Scotland)  and Ireland. Marian cult and its association with birth and life the source of the saints power to transform.


The retrospective nature of the narrative is captured in the altering naming convention of the text. Originaly the law was termed Lex Inoccentium (the law of the Innocents) a legal text seeking to protect non-combatants (women, youths and the clergy), this shifts to the Law of Adomnain with its increasing focus on one particular group of non-combatants.

Adomnan clearly provided the political muscle to enact the Law and is the chief driving force behind the enactment of such measures, the shift in emphasis  of naming convention reflects the movement of Adomnan from life into death, where he alters in status becoming a saint and also transforms physically becoming a relic.

Movement from an emphasis on the plaintive to an emphasis on the saint in the naming conventions of the text reflects an alteration in the institution and ritual practices of the church and the growth of the cult of relics. This movement in ritual practice occurring over the lifetime of the saint.

The physical presence of the saints relics, which move on a circuit throughout Iona’s sphere of influence, dictate the space and the time in which these laws are enacted. Laws referred to as Cain, are temporary enforcement’s the physical presence of the saints relics, reinforces the authority of the church in these created spaces and moments in which it’s order will be enforced.

By the time the narrative is written the law is no longer enacted, the authority of the saint  and his association with and transformation of the role and status of women the emphasized factors.

The Processes of Composition

“Well then Adomnan,” said Ronnat, “it has been given to you now to free the women of the western world. Neither food nor drink will go into you’re mouth until the women have been set free  by you.”

“No living creature can be without food,” said Adomnan. “If my eyes see it, my hands will reach out for it.”

Then Ronnat went to Burgach son of Deda and got a chain from him. She put it around her son’s breast under the bridge of Loch Swilly in Cenel Conaill, the place where the covenant had been made between his mothers kindred, i.e. between Cenel nEndai and (Cenel) Lugdach, so that whoever should fulfill it would dwell with Adomnan in heaven. And she takes a stone which is used for striking fire, it filled her hand. She puts it into one of her sons cheeks, so it was his satisfaction in food and drink.

After that at the end of eight months, his mother came to see him, and she saw the top of his head. “My little son there,” she said, “is like an apple on the wave. Little is his grasp on earth, and he has not a prayer in heaven, but salt has burned him and the gulls have shat on his head. And I see that women have still not been freed by him.”

“Its my lord who ought to carry the blame, dear mother,” he said. “For Christ’s sake, change my suffering!”

This is the change of suffering she made for him, and not many women would do this to their son: she buried him in the chest of stone in Raphoe of Tir Choniall, so that maggots ate the root of his tongue, and the slime of his head burst out through his ears. After that she took him to Carric in Chulinn, and he stayed there another eight months.


G. Markus (ed. & trans.) Law of the Innocents