Wednesday, December 21, 2016

21st December - or Solstice Day

People belong to places rather than places belonging to people;  Michael Newton

Well good news this morning President Obama, has at last used legal means to protect the Arctic and Alaska from further drilling for oil and gas...of course we will all have to wait to see if Trump can overturn it.

"Barack Obama has permanently banned new oil and gas drilling in most US-owned waters in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans, a last-ditch effort to lock in environmental protections before he hands over to Donald Trump.".

Our fracking appeal appeal in North Yorkshire unfortunately  failed yesterday but the anti-fracking people are still fighting on - watch this space.

Another interesting facet as we fight for the rights of our environment is that in New Zealand the River Whanganui and all its tributaries has been granted Personhood, which means it has the same legal rights as an ordinary person, therefore the Maori people can go to law to protect the river.  In 2008 Ecuador became the first nation in the world to recognise the legal rights of its mountains, rivers and land, and subsequently in 2011 the River Vilcabamba came before the judge of Loja, to stop an adjacent road being widened forcing debris into the river.  The court case was successful.

So where am I going with all this, well as it is Solstice Day, and the dark turns towards the light a fascinating article in my magazine Resurgence by Madeline Bunting caught my eye, not only for the beautiful photographs but the thoughts expressed about the island of Jura in the Hebrides - Language of the Land.

Does land have a language? of course it does, evocative, it will speak to us like the tree whispering its secrets, laughing at us short-lived humans who bring our dreams to it, the land patiently endures us, only in the high and mighty mountains does it holds on to it's wilderness. 

Some land like the islands of Scotland are so poor in our terms for farming, but not of course in their own ecology, that people do have a hard time surviving on them, especially in the teeth of the gales and storms that sweep over from the Atlantic, and trees are almost non-existent. It requires a special kind of nature to survive and perhaps more importantly a sense of community.  It is expressed in the word Duthchas.....

"The Gaels of the Highlands held a very ancient tradition and belief stretching back into pre-history, it is what lay behind the origins of the Highland Clan. This tradition is known in Gaelic as ‘duthchas’ and in Welsh as 'cynefin'. It is impossible to accurately translate the meaning of those words into English, but it expresses a sense of belonging to a certain area of land, of being rooted by ancient lineage to a particular place that was communally held by all the people of the clan. This idea of holding the land communally was never written down as was the custom of the time, it was simply an idea that was accepted by all as being the natural order of things."

Do we not see strands of the same thinking in the Indians at Standing Rock?

The Gaelic way of life is an antithesis to the way of capitalism, people work together but not in competition, we often see this on television programmes, the crofters gathered together to bring the sheep down from the high pastures, dipping them, and the rather marvellous way each person in the community may have a series of jobs serving the island so that the infra structure runs smoothly.

A famous story well known,  Lord Leverhulme had bought a large estate on Lewis, he wanted to bring the slippery thongs of capitalism to the islands, he promised jobs in his new canning fishing factories.  New homes, electricity and railways, but he was not prepared to let his land become communal and was taken to court.  A crofter stood up in court and spoke these words;

"You have bought this island.  But you have not bought us, and we refuse to be the bond slaves of any man.  We want to live our lives in our own way.  Poor in material things it may be, but at least it will be free of the factory bell; it will be free and independent".

Freedom of course is the answer but within the strict terms of the community......

A friend has just emailed a time to remember the Nattie Fonten well, so here are his words taken from TMA for the Old Wives Well; A Happy Solstice everyone xxx

"In 270 a.d., the Emperor Aurelian declared worship of the sun god, Sol Invictus, an official religion throughout the empire. He dedicated the Sol Invictus Temple in Rome on December 25th., 274, and declared that day Dies Natalis Solis Invicti – the Day of the Birth of the Unconquered Sun. Our midwinter festival has been held on 25th. ever since. 

If this spring had previously hosted a winter solstice festival, then the Romans patrolling the nearby Wade's Causeway would have referred to it as Fontana Natalis – the 'Birth Spring', or 'Winter Solstice Spring' (the winter solstice being the birth of the year – in the Welsh language, Christmas is Nadolig, in Cornish it's Nadelik, both words derived from Latin natalis - 'birth'). 

Centuries later, a folk rendition of Latin fontana natalis (perhaps influenced by Norman French 'fontein') was all they could manage. But it's there to this day – Nattie Fonten. Roll on, roll on."


  1. I read about the failure of the fracking protest in today's Times Thelma - do hope everyone keeps fighting.
    Yes - the Solstice and so much to wish for. I suggest you go to
    look at a short poem on Sue in Suffolk 's blog - it is by Susan Cooper and is called 'The Shortest Day' - I intend to read it at our Poetry meeting this afternoon - not a brilliant poem but some good sentiments in it.

  2. In case you don't blog with her, her blog is on my side bar and is called 'Our quiet life in Suffolk.'

  3. Thank you Pat, found the poem, is that the Susan Cooper who wrote The Dark is Rising I wonder, must look it up. Rather tired after having lunch out...