At The Well of A World’s End

Identifying A Second and third Book is not going to be so easy.

The plan was this winter to focus on context and look at a very early example from Irish law which I suspect has a relationship with the development of the wild- man. The confeal. Sometimes translated by the modern term werewolf but the literal translation is ‘to go a howling’, she is part of a trinity of three figures,  one dumb, one howling, and the conreachta  (wolf/dog/ human). An animal that seems capable of reason (reachta has associations with reason, law, rule) a non-literal translation may be the wolf or dog who speaks with a human voice.

It’s the earliest group of figure’s I have identified in relation to Ireland, Scotland and Wales and its narrative tradition.

The confael  in the law tracts is entitled to compensation for injury while she is engaged in cattle- theft. Compensation has to be paid as her act of vengeance is justifiable, although that payment is at half the normal claim.

She does fit the criteria in many ways and seems to conform to a pattern associated with the social organization of a segmentary or clan based society. i.e displaced from land and attempting to violently reclaim or engage in a series of economically damaging reprisals.

Aggressive use of legal legislation, placing subject clans at economic disadvantage, placed against the wider organizational pressure of the need for elites to constantly expand land- holding and promote internal segments to ensure stability (without constant expansion the organizational structure consumes itself and fragments violently).

These arguments and debates are used comparatively in relation to Gaul alongside the archeology and contemporary comparative data from ethnography. Identifying accurately what form of social organisation is involved determines what comparative material is deployed, the subject has yet to reach consensus, opinion and the evidence base varies across a spectrum of differing sources according to perspective.

So far so good. Staying on context, looking at the arguments in fuller detail.

I shifted from my original plan from staying in a specific historical context, but the wider background is needed to identify issues and debate surrounding contemporary historical arguments. That requires rather a lot of diverse reading.

This subject is not hard science, it is based on models and thesis. Which raises for me a circular issue.

I am not just interested in tracing medieval examples of wild men and related kin but in how the narrative develops and appears to entangle itself in later descriptions of man-like apes.

Defining the boundary of any network is always a rather difficult task. I use my own ignorance as a full stop.

Largely based on an irrational fear of philosophy and a prejudice in regard to science history, which I found when I attempted to read the subject many years ago to be horrifically conservative and ahistorical. Never fully recovered from that first impression.

I stop when European perception of the subject moves from being a non-empirical, unobserved creature to one of science. Its relationship with scientia is not of recent historical origin. Relationship between imagination and observation seems a constant factor in examining how this creature is drawn in art.

In returning to the start of my subject, looking at the wider philosophical arguments here and contrasting them with recent conversations between science and philosophy, I find myself at it’s end.

I need to find a History of science title without a medieval framing introduction that makes me want to run out the door screaming and something from philosophy that does not have to relate but allows me to relax and deal with what is for me a very alien form of narrative and method of communication.

Reluctance to deal with these subjects is not with what they have to say but the way in which they say it.





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