It is now the middle of the day on midsummer’s day, 2016. It has been a rather unsummery & harsh fortnight or so – the European monsoon season that kicks in every June putting in an appearance once again. However, on other fronts it has been a pretty cool month. Axis & Allies is, as a formulated poem, complete. All the titles & dates are in neat positions & in bold, there is no stanzetta that needs converting into verse. I’ve sent it to a coupel of people including an American poet named Dana Gaio or something who like my Language of Birds, heaping praise upon my traditional style, then completely clammed up about A&A – refusing to acknowledge a word. Its quite an interesting trait in poets when faced with A&A – its like complete denial. I have flicked through the poem, & I know already there’s a few touches & edits that need to happen – but in all sense of structure & passion, the poem is finished.
Music wise, the band is getting better all the time. Me & Al have finished draft two of the album- ie sorted out bass & guitars – while we’ve played two big gigs in the past few weeks. The Meadows Festival on a glorious sunday afternoon where I could see folk filling up the entire mile or so of greenery before me – all listening to my litle old band. What was funny was Kennys insistence on taking a line of Luke’s stuff, presuming it was an upper (it wasnt) & wobbling off stage at the end of the gig. Cue me thinking he’d had a heart attack & was in hospital, when all along he’d just got back on stage with the final band – Nipple of Venus.
Five days later we are at Eden festival & the Furry Chillum, a gig which Kenny was late for, but kicked off a great Mumble review & good old time, including a brilliant jam for my 40th birthday at Jonny’s bus. It was also mine & ems’ anniversary, & we were joined at the hipp all weekend, very much in love & happy as larry. You can read all about the festival here. Since Eden, we’re welcoming Al’s pal, Bill, to the band on sax. This Friday we go for draft 3 of the album – but Ali from the Matta has thrown a strop & we can’t use Mindis a Make-up or Ceasefire. Instead we’ll bring Poppadom back & record Matty Grooves at Steves. There’s also a gig this weekend in Glasgow @ Nice & Sleazys, after which we’ll chill for while.
In the real world, the English beat Wales in the Euros, but Wales topped the group, while Jo Cox was murdered by some bell-end, but her martyrdom should swing Thursday’s coming referendum on Europe towards the ‘Remain’ camp. Back in my world, I’ve been Mumbling hard in anticipation of August, & I’ve had a wee surge of sonneteering. It began on the train to Burnley where I began the first of 3 sonnets which tie the Humanology project into the rest of the Silver Rose. In essence, there will be 6 grand sequanzas of 196 sonnets each, giving a grand total of 1176. Check this out, my birthday is : 11-6-76. That is some pretty fucked up numerology if you ask me.
Burnley was great n’all – Ems had bought me a ticket for the Stone Roses & I went with my sister & Simon to the Etihad stadium. It was awesome gig – much better than Heaton Park, & one in which the first album was played in its entireity – a great moment really seeing as I’m trying to emulate it at the moment. Yeah, what a gig, the best I’ve ever been to in my life, I think, the Etihad was like a modern Collosseum & my favorite gladiators were on cracking form – their new single, All For One, if a little plastic in the recording was majestic in such an environment. Aye, I love the Roses me!
On the train back after the gig, I penned the third of my three sonnets n’all, & getting home found they fit into the Silver Rose schema perfectly. Weird that it happened the weekend I saw the Roses n’all. So in essence as A&A is an Iliad, & The Silver Rose is the Odyssey. In the 80s, Alex Fergusson of Man Utd said;
My greatest challenge is not what’s happening at the moment, my greatest challenge was knocking Liverpool right off their fucking perch. And you can print that.
For me its a case of knocking Homer off his perch (if indeed one guy wrote the poems) x
A couple of posts back I gave a detailed explanation as to why I thought the Attacotti were the original Pictish tribe who settled in Britain, builders of the brochs which mark their territories – from Caithness & Sutherland, through the Orkneys & on up to the Shetlands. I also postulated that the name Attacotti has a meaning of ‘both acotti,’ but gave a vague suggestion that this would be connected to Gethus & Gothus, Pictish King who settled the Orkneys. In this post I would like to show you my most recent findings on the matter, & as usual it begins with something I missed in my own researches. In his ‘History & Chronickles of Scotland’ Boece writes;
Nocht lang efter, a banist pepill, namit Pichtis, come furth of Denmark, to serche ane dwelling place ; and, efter that thay war inhibit to land baith in France, Britane, and Ireland, thay landit in Albion. Sum authouris sayis, thay come first in Orknay ; and, sone efter, in Cathues, Ros, Murray, Mernis, Angus, Fiffe, and Louthiane : and expellit all the pepill, that inhabit that region afore thair cuming. Thir pepill war callit Pichtis, outhir for thair semely personis, or ellis for the variant colour of thair clething ; or ellis thay war namit Pichtis, fra the Pichtis namit Agathirsanis, thair anciant faderis. In probation heirof, Orknay wes calht the auld realme of Pichtis. Siclike, thee seeis betwix Cathnes and Orknay war namit Pentland Firth ; and all the landis, quhilkis ar now callit Louthiane, war callit than Pentland.
Boece’s Agathirsanis are the anciently recorded’ Agathyrsi,’ mentioned by the father of history himself, Herodotus, in the middle of the 5th century BC. Of course, chispologically the name is a fit to my theory of ‘both acotti’, for acotti & agathy are philologically nigh identical. In addition the ‘gath’ element really does suggest it is behind the names of kings Gethus & Gothus.
So who were the Agathyrsi? A number of Pictish legends sees the name being used for the ‘Cruithni’ – ie the earliest Picts who came to Britain. So far, so good, for Gethus & Gothus also belonged to this group. The idea, then, is that it the elements of the Agathyrsi somewhere Herodotus migrated to the far north of Britain. Herodotus tells us that by his time they were of mixed Dacian-Scythian origin, who dwelt in the plain of the Maris (Mures), in Transylvania, Romania.
From the country of the Agathyrsoi comes down another river, the Maris, which empties itself into the same; and from the heights of Haemus descend with a northern course three mighty streams, the Atlas, the Auras, and the Tibisis, and pour their waters into it.
Kaspar Zeuss has suggested that the Hunnish ‘Acatir’ tribe is based on these Agathyrsi, which mirrors my assumption that the Acotti are also based on them.
Herodotus describes the Agathyrsoi as, ‘the most luxurious of men and wear gold ornaments for the most part: also they have promiscuous intercourse with their women, in order that they may be brethren to one another and being all nearly related may not feel envy or malice one against another. In their other customs they have come to resemble the Thracians.’ He also pontificates on a Pontic Greek myth that describes the Agathyrsi as being named after a legendary ancestor Agathyrsus, the oldest son of Heracles.
Upon this he [Heracles] drew one of his bows (for up to that time Heracles, they say, was wont to carry two) and showed her the girdle, and then he delivered to her both the bow and the girdle, which had at the end of its clasp a golden cup; and having given them he departed. She then, when her sons had been born and had grown to be men, gave them names first, calling one of them Agathyrsos and the next Gelonos and the youngest Skythes; then bearing in mind the charge given to her, she did that which was enjoined. And two of her sons, Agathyrsos and Gelonos, not having proved themselves able to attain to the task set before them, departed from the land, being cast out by her who bore them; but Skythes the youngest of them performed the task and remained in the land: and from Skythes the son of Heracles were descended, they say, the succeeding kings of the Scythians (Skythians): and they say moreover that it is by reason of the cup that the Scythians still even to this day wear cups attached to their girdles: and this alone his mother contrived for Skythes. Such is the story told by the Hellenes who dwell about the Pontus.
We must now ask ourselves is it a coincidence that in the very place where Boece places the Agathirsanis,we find an island called Sketis (also Ocitis), & that the brother of Agathyrsos is called Skythes.
It makes sense. The Picts were at least part ruled by their druids, & there are several notices in the annals that the Agathyrsi are clearly Pictish:
1 – Virgil tells us the they tattooed their bodies (picti, Aeneid iv. 136), describing ‘Cretans and Dryopes and painted Agathyrsians, mingling around his altars, shouting.’
2 – Aristotle tells us (Problemata, xix. 28), ‘Why are the nomes which are sung so called ? Is it because before men knew the art of writing they used to sing their laws in order not to forget them, as they are still accustomed to do among the Agathyrsi?’ The same method of memory was also used by the Druids, of which number some were attached to the Picts.
3 – In the first century, Pliny alludes to the blue hair of the Agathyrsi : ‘Leaving Taphrae [a town near Crimea], and going along the mainland, we find in the interior the Auchetae, in whose country the Hypanis [the Bug river] has its rise, as also the Neuroe, in whose district the Borysthenes [the Dnieper river] has its source, the Geloni, the Thyssagetae, the Budini, the Basilidae, and the Agathyrsi with their azure-coloured hair. Above them are the Nomades, and then a nation of Anthropophagi or cannibals (Pliny the Elder IV, 26).’ This echoes the poet Claudian’s description of Britain as being “… clothed in the skin of some Caledonian beast, her cheeks tattooed, and an azure cloak, rivalling the swell of Ocean, sweeping to her feet (On the Consulship of Stilicho:2)
4 – In the 380s, in his Res Gestae Ch. 22, writes;
The Danube, which is greatly increased by other rivers falling into it, passes through the territory of the Sauromatae, which extends as far as the river Don, the boundary between Asia and Europe. On the other side of this river the Alani inhabit the enormous deserts of Scythia, deriving their own name from the mountains around; and they, like the Persians, having gradually subdued all the bordering nations by repeated victories, have united them to themselves, and comprehended them under their own name. Of these other tribes the Neuri inhabit the inland districts, being near the highest mountain chains, which are both precipitous and covered with the everlasting frost of the north. Next to them are the Budini and the Geloni, a race of exceeding ferocity, who flay the enemies they have slain in battle, and make of their skins clothes for themselves and trappings for their horses. Next to the Geloni are the Agathyrsi, who dye both their bodies and their hair of a blue colour, the lower classes using spots few in number and small—the nobles broad spots, close and thick, and of a deeper hue.
Again, that the Agathysi nobility’s have more tattoes reflects the Picts, whose name, according to Isidore of Seville ‘(Origines, Book XIX Part 23 No. 7) ‘is taken from their bodies, because an artisan, with the tiny point of a pin and the juice squeezed from a native plant, tricks them out with scars to serve as identifying marks, and their nobility are distinguished by their tattooed limbs.’
It is clear that the Picts & the Agathyysi are drawn from the same stock, & there is even a mention of them migrating to Britain made a thousand years before Boece. Roundabout the year 400, the Roman grammarian Maurus Servius Honoratus was a late fourth-century and early fifth-century grammarian wrote a commentary on the works of Virgil. In it, he relates that in about the year 300 AD the Agathyrsi sent across a contingent over the sea to Scotland, where it became identified with the Picts, the most formidable warriors who would exhaust all who stood against them. It is this slim bit of information that seems to prove everything I have been aiming at. Not long after 300 AD the Attacotti appear in the annals. That means not long before then, one of the two Acotti tribes must have blended with the other. Thus the Agathyrsi arriving among the Picts c.300 AD are these. Simple, but absolutely fascinating.
Yesterday was the last day I will ever compose an Axis & Allies tryptych. In fact, I did 5. The first three were in the morning, walking in glorious sunshine before settling down at the lake. Rhondendrum bushes were in full bloom, bluebells were still regnal in visual lucidity, great hosts of insects were covering the lake like clouds of sealike-spray. As I finished my last line I entwined its meaning with Arthur casting Excalibur into a lake after his death at Camlann. It was a bit like Prospero snapping his wand in the Tempest as, after pacing by the lake a few moments & milking the moments, I tossed my pen into the lake & watched the bubbles from its falling slowly pop into nothingness. Getting back to the ranch, I then realised that there were, in fact, two stanzas still to write – one’s on the 9-11 ‘attacks’ that I wanted to include to reflect my own studies into the actual events of 9-11, not those force fed us by the media only moments after the towers were hit.
So its done, or at least the research & writing is done. 900 tryptychs, 100 cantos & .one lovely, long, luxurious epic poem. My work is done. I’ve summarised all history up to my time, & reflected the zeitgeist as best as I can, even projected into the future in the best epic tradition. All that remains is a singular read through – I’m at Charlemagne at the moment – neatening, improving, etc. I admit, this is a process that may take a lifetime – & thats my perogative. But I have to draw the line at some point, & with the poem fresh in my mind & having reached its final form, then that time is just about now. Plus I turn 40 in 9 days.
The day before I turn 40, by the way, still in my 30’s, Tinky Disco play Eden. A week before that (in 3 days) we play the Meadows Festival & at the moment we are in the process of recording our first album. We put the drums down the other day, & we were gonna finish everything off with Cliff in Germany. Unfortunately he got all Teutonic on its ass, demanding we only work with half the tracks. So we’re not going now & gonna finish it off ourselves. We gonna stay at the Lane Studios in Prestonpans, the producer, Colin, is a sound, enthusiastic guy & I reckon he’ll deliver the goods.
So for the next few weeks I’ll be reading through A&A & recording the Tinky Album. The latter begins like Sergeant Peppers & finishes like the Stone Roses first, two models of some quality on which to place the piece. It reminds of something I read in Machiavelli.
Men nearly always follow the tracks made by others & proceed in their affairs by imitation, even though they cannot entirely keep to the tracks of others or emulate the prowess of their models. So a prudent man should always follow in the footsteps of great men & imitate those who have been outstanding. If his own prowess fails to compare with theirs, at least it has an air of greatness about it.
Here’s a few images from recent days, such as the Hibs first cup Scottish win in 114 years, plus some videos from last Friday’s Tinky gig;