The Processes of Arrest

There is no processes by which the future can be predicted scientifically, nor even one which enables us to discuss whether one hypothesis about it is better than another…..

And yet without leaving the present, without reasoning about this future, which seems for ever condemned to escape our reason, we should be unable to act at all. Experience shows that the framing of a future, in some indeterminate time, may, when it is done in a certain way, be very effective, and have very few inconveniences; this happens when the anticipations of the future take the form of those myths , which enclose with them the strongest inclinations of a people…..


Kimball Young, Source Book for Social Psychology, New York, 1927

Professor Young’s early 20 th century student handbook is interesting and hair- raising in equal measure. It seems a good place to start tracing the trajectory of the scientific treatment of myths, Historically in the first instance as it gives me a better fix  on the way social and cultural attitudes of the writers surface in the texts.

Distance from the period is helpful here. I may not cite the references to delusion and belief so extensively. Its somewhat problematic and will take some considerable digestion.

Effectively I am searching for a demon, one that will provide me with continuity and a unifying principle of place. I need to get my house in order.

Reading about the early 20th century and modern beliefs about the nature of myths before turning back to medieval perceptions of time, in relation to myth, legend, history and the past and future.

Myth stands apart from history and legend in regard to its relationship with time. We can at any time be, in the time of myth. One of the most described features caused by entering such spaces in Scottish folklore is a profound alteration in time perception

In oral-narrative time is the significant feature that allows the subject to be identified. Its peculiar quality of being out of time or being enfolded within an altered perception of it.

Legend and history we can re-create in ritual and become absorbed within,  mythical space fully consumes and can be entered directly from the present in folk belief but it not of our time.

I think about these things in a very medieval way. But I think this quality holds for thinking about and identifying modern myths. In regard to a more modern emphasis on truth and falsehood as a tool of classification. I will have to read the books under the heading ‘delusion and belief’ to gain insight into this perspective.

L0076363 A compendium about demons and magic. MS 1766.

L0076363 A compendium about demons and magic. MS 1766. Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images Compendium rarissimum totius Artis Magicae sistematisatae per celeberrimos Artis hujus Magistros. Anno 1057. Noli me tangere. Watercolour c. 1775 Published: – Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0

I think identifying myth as having an altered sense of time in relation to legend or history is more helpful and avoids the need to engage in metaphysical debate.

Culturally alien concepts can certainly be highly disconcerting and anxious things, when we do not understand the processes at play in the creation and maintenance of them. When we cannot discern the appropriate cultural response to such things, myth provides a perfect vehicle to express and place our uncertainty on familiar cultural ground.


I have no real idea of what it represents. I have another example of an ape urinating on a mortar and pestle standing on a fish. A medieval pilgrim badge but bears a resemblance to a shop sign. Further representations from the 18th century of a non-demonic nature seem to suggest the activity the Giant Rooster is involved in, is best described as a draining of the vital fluids.

Urine was used a medical diagnostic, but the container is not a urine flask so I think I can rule out the notion the Roaster is having a standard medical consultation with his Doctor. This does point to the fact that contemporary viewers would have multiple points of cultural association to digest and suggests a population with high levels of ‘literaracy’ .

In humans this would signify death, with the vital juices depicted flowing on the ground. Here some magical transfer of the vital juices appears to have been planned, presumable to aid future occult research and experimentation.

Then as now with research and experimentation  things don’t always turn out as planned.

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