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That's a link to an article by a Renaissance scholar who's been living in Florence for the last year, discussing what was so important about Machiavelli.

It's a lovely article; well written and surprisingly touching.
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"When I was 10", I told her, "I wanted my birthday to move from September to December just so there was the slightest chance I could wake up on the morning of my 11th birthday and open my curtains to a snow filled landscape."

There's been a lot in my head this year about mythologies; the stories that shape us. Andrew Rilstone (who writes very well, especially about Doctor Who, quotes Laurence Miles in this post saying that Doctor Who is his native mythology. Rilstone also quotes Ursula LeGuin talking about the language of the night and the language of the day; the symbological as well as the literal; two strands of language going on at once in one story.

Doctor Who was never my mythology. That's not to say it wasn't part of my childhood. I have a very strong memory of when we got our first portable television - Rebecca must have been about 5, I'd have been 10. Somewhere about 1978 or '79, so we'd have been watching Tom Baker. Why was the portable important? It was in the kitchen, and Doctor Who was on at the same time that Dad would have been watching the news in the living room, or Mum would have been watching her soaps. Back in the days of one television per household, we watched children's TV until 5.30 when the news started, and then control of the TV passed to your parents unless a combination of advanced diplomacy, foot stamping and cries of 'But everyone at school will be watching it! You're so unfair!' could wrest control back.

I remember the excitement of the portable television. Black and white, of course, and with only three channels, but under our control. We could watch whatever we wanted. (For a given value of 'whatever', of course - in actuality, we could watch BBC2 while Mum was watching ITV.) I remember watching the Young Ones on that TV, and the first series of Blackadder - Monday night comedies on BBC2; half an hour of anarchy. I remember watching Doctor Who and, as the end credits rolled, turning off the kitchen lights and turning up the brightness on the TV so the explosion that closed the credits lit up the whole room.

I remember the Who stories, of course, but not well, because I didn't internalise them. I didn't make them part of the mythopoeic landscape that I was building inside me, unconsciously at the time, but building it nevertheless. The bricks of that landscape were shaped by Ursula Le Guin, by Michael Praed, by Herne the Hunter and Ged the wizard. And by Will Stanton, of course; youngest of the Old Ones, 11 years old on a snow-clad morning, ancient and young all at once.

Susan Cooper describes Britain as myth-haunted, and that resonates as truth with me.

So I've never felt the pull of Who that so many of my friends have. For me, the myths of my childhood are both ancient and modern. Take Robin of Sherwood, for example. There have been Robin Hood stories for a long time, one of the quintessential underdog tales. But it wasn't until the 80's TV series, silly hair and all, that the overtly pagan Herne got added in to the story in the popular conscience. He's in the Dark is Rising stories too - master of the Wild Hunt, neither Dark nor Light but above and beyond both. I often wonder if the writers of RoS had read the Dark is Rising stories, or if both they and Cooper were merely drawing from the same stewpot of ideas.

I think it's the reason that I fell so heavily into LRP at the Gathering, to be honest. If I'd been in a different faction, I'm not sure it would have held my attention for as long as it did. But I was in the Lions, and then the Harts - fighting for Albion - the parts of England that were Arthur, and Robin, and Herne and the Swords of Wayland. I never felt the need to portray anything but human either - being part of the stories of my own mythology was enough.

The fact that we were adapting and creating our own stories had its own funny repercussions; the webmaster of the Harts website once received an email from someone in the USA demanding that we take down the story of how the Swords of Wayland came to be because her coven was the actual holder of the seven swords, handed down to them through the Middle Ages. I believe she may have been pointed at the interview with Richard Carpenter where he said that he'd made them all up, including their names, out of his imagination. She was, I think, treated more politely than I would have, at the time.

I think it's also one of the reasons why Odyssey, the LRP I was at a couple of weekends ago, didn't resonate. Mediterranean Mythology does little for me; keeping track of which God turned into which thing to sleep with which woman never really had much appeal for me.

So I’ll chase my own mythologies; outside of a costume, possibly outside of a mask. I’ll listen to the stories which resonate; some with truth, others with beauty, the occasional one with both. And I’ll listen to both the language of the night, and of the day, when the storyteller speaks.

And occasionally, just occasionally, I’ll tell a story of my own.
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[livejournal.com profile] poliphilo has been writing about the Scouts, it being the 100th anniversary of the first Boy Scout camp on Brownsea Island and the start of the Scouting movement, and it dug up an awful lot of generally very good memories.

So I went to the web and in a fit of nostalgia, typed in "Telford South East Shropshire" - that being the name of the Scouting district I was a member of.

We got to wear two badges when I was a Scout - County and then District. The county badge is the Shropshire one - royal blue and gold with three lions heads - instantly recognisable to anyone from the county. It's actually the Salop (ie Shrewsbury) badge, and it goes back to at least the 1600s.  It's a badge with a great deal of history attached to it, and I'm very glad to hear that it's still extant.

The Telford South East Shropshire (There's a name to conjure with) badge is more complicated. It's a reasonable rule of heraldry that the more complicated the blazon is, the newer. All the old simple designs have been used up, and Telford is a new town (started in the late 60s, but with roots going back a bit earlier to the inter-war years.)

But while Telford is new, the land it covers isn't, and the badge reflects that. In the upper half is the Royal Oak - a popular pub name where I grew up, because of the story of Charles the Second (wrong but romantic) hiding from the Roundheads (right but dull) by climbing an oak tree in the grounds of Boscobel House after his defeat at the Battle of Worcester. He told Pepys that a Roundhead soldier had passed beneath the tree while he was up it; a narrow escape indeed.

The second part of the TS-ES badge is, of course, the Iron Bridge. Built by Abraham Darby in 1776 for the sole purpose of giving local schools a cheap place to do day-trips to, and the scene (and cause) of my first foray into costume (in a delightful electric blue knickerbocker and tailcoat outfit, with a powdered wig to top off my representation of the young Mozart. It's also the reason why I'm so certain that the first LP I ever bought was Eine Kline Nachtmusik.) The Severn runs underneath, as is only right and proper when it comes to bridges and rivers.

That's the thing about badges and heraldry. They should have meaning. You can't really tell from the picture I have here, but the animals on the Shropshire badge are Talbot's hounds - and Talbot is a name that's had associations with Shropshire since William the Bastard turned up. Those two badges on my arm placed my scout troop in the context of nearly a thousand years of history and geography.

It is therefore with great sadness that I read that the Telford South, East Shropshire district of the British Scouting movement is no more - extinct, according to the badges website that these two images come from. Oh - the troop I was part of - 1st Woodside - still exists, and is now part of the Severn and Teme District, but their badge doesn't tell me the story that my one did. 

A little bit of my past has become history.
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[livejournal.com profile] valkyriekaren just posted a link to the Continuing Education pages at Birkbeck college. She's more interested in Victoriana, but it's the medieval history diploma that caught my eye.

Especially this course (careful - that's a pdf ...)

It will come as no surprise to many of you that I read the syllabus for this 24 week course and thought to myself "why isn't this entitled Ars Magica Background: 101?"

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