Invoking the Spirits of Place

On Saturday the 2nd of April 2016 Calderstones Mansion in Calderstones Park, Liverpool was home to #SpiritsOfPlace. This was a multidisciplinary symposium with nine guest speakers, all of whom took their cue in one way or another from the Neolithic stones which give the park their name.

Image

I was the organiser of the event and my talk "Invoking the Spirits of Place" served as a kind of introduction and mission statement for the day. Based in part on my earlier Calderstones article, a piece I wrote about the genesis of the event for #FolkloreThursday, and even in some small way something I wrote for WarrenEllis.com, I present here the full text of my talk.


Welcome to South Liverpool, to Calderstones Park, and to Spirits of Place.

South Liverpool is where I was born, where I grew up, and where I live still. It is a place full of green-spaces. Its abundance of woodlands, parks, cemeteries, playing fields and golf courses are linked by an intricate network of narrow, bramble-lined public footpaths and overgrown roadside verges. The more romantically inclined might be tempted to call them faerie paths, or corpse roads, and perhaps some once were; back when an Iron Age fort stood on top of Woolton's Camp Hill, or perhaps longer ago still.

The area is bursting with history to the point where many of its residents seem to have become immune to the strange sites and artefacts they pass every day. Many people are dimly aware that the ornamental lake in Princes Park is filled by one of the city's many “lost” subterranean rivers, the River Jordan. There is an extant 17th century chapel just round the corner from the same park where astronomer Jeremiah Horrocks was once schooled by a member of the Mather family who later emigrated to America and played a large part in the infamous Salem Witch Trials. Williamson's Tunnels - an uncharted labyrinth of vaulted, brick-lined tunnels constructed under the orders of an eccentric 19th century tobacco magnate - lay buried and largely unexplored beneath Edge Hill. There's a 15th century Holy Well in Wavertree, right next to a swing-park, which bears a Latin inscription translating to “He who here does nought bestow, The Devil laughs at him below”. Allthis is normal, commonplace stuff in South Liverpool, it seems. So much so that even more ancient monuments are sometimes taken for granted.

Robin Hood's Stone stands on the pavement at the junction of Booker Avenue and Archerfield Road surrounded by green painted metal railings. During term time in the summer months an ice-cream van is often parked next to it, ready to supply the kids from Booker Avenue school with frozen treats on their way home. Robin Hood's stone was given its name on account of a series of deep grooves in its surface once believed to have been used for sharpening arrowheads. The grooves are now considered to have ... Read More »

Life After Life: A Discussion of the Near-Death Experience

For those interested in the near-death experience (NDE), the 30 minute film above is well worth a watch. It features video from the January 2016 'Life After Life' discussion at which skeptic Chris French and NDEr Raymond O’Brien talked about the topic, and is interspersed with pieces of footage from short films:

Life after Life was a short film and discussion event presented by Rich Pickings at London Short Film Festival 2016. The event examined the phenomenon of Near Death Experiences (NDEs) and how they can affect people’s lives. It featured a programme of short poetic films about life, death and what may or may not lie beyond. These films were a jumping off point for a discussion with two guests with very different approaches to the subject.

You can learn more about the event, and view the full versions of the videos that were cut into the discussion, at the Rich Pickings website. One of those videos is "Crossing Over: The Art of Jeremy Down", which is a beautifully told story of one man's encounter with death, and the experience he had during it (embedded below).

Related stories:

News Briefs 06-04-2016

Into another place...

  • Has Graham Phillips found the location of King Arthur's tomb?
  • Ireland inhabited 2,500 years earlier than thought.
  • The Sun may have stolen Planet Nine from another star.
  • White skin developed in Europe only as recently as 8,000 years ago say anthropologists.
  • 'Strange creature' filmed swimming in the Thames.
  • The Hobbit gets a little older, and science a little wiser.
  • This artist paints with bacteria, and it's strangely beautiful.
  • Strange magic: The story behind Auckland's Temple of Higher Thought.
  • Has Hannibal's route across the Alps been uncovered? Scientists use 2,000-year-old trail of dung to track legendary general.
  • The Ural region in Russia could hold key to Europe's ancient origins.
  • World's smallest diode is made of DNA.
  • Researchers just discovered a new state of matter.
  • 1.5 years to Mars? Russia could do it in 1.5 months.
  • Is the brain's awareness of the world all or nothing?

Quote of the Day:

It is all true, or it ought to be; and more and better besides.

Winston Churchill

Vallee Collector's Edition Crowd-Funding Campaign - Last Chance to Order a Copy

Golden Orbs from 73BCE

Late last year we linked to a crowd-funding campaign to help fund high-quality UFO research through the sale of a collector's edition of Jacques Vallee and Chris Aubeck's Wonders in the Sky.

Though the campaign didn't reach its financial target before the end date, Jacques was encouraged enough by the amount of interest from collectors to go forward with the publication of the limited edition, and while doing so started a secondary campaign for those that might have missed the chance to grab a copy first time around.

That second campaign is now at 97% of its target funding (just $385 short of its goal), with only two days to go before it finishes. So if you want to grab your own copy of this special edition from one of the legends of ufology (only 500 copies will ever be printed), you can help get this crowd-funding campaign over the line by heading to the IndieGoGo page and making a pledge now.

We have re-launched our campaign based on the initial success with early collectors, who have already reserved the first 150 books. Their contributions have enabled us to finish the research and the layout for the book, which is now being printed in China, with an expected release date in the US of late May 2016.

Wonders in the Sky is a collector's limited edition book by world-leading UFO researchers Jacques Vallée and Chris Aubeck, which presents the scientific research and artistic beauty of 424 UFO sightings prior to the Industrial Revolution. This is the new benchmark in UFO research.

Under our contract with the initial publisher of the paperback edition of Wonders in the Sky (Tarcher-Penguin) we have agreed no more than 500 copies of this exceptional, Limited Edition will ever be printed.

The text has been augmented with many new cases, a new round of analysis of all previous cases, and stunning new iconography in high-resolution color.

Jacques tells me has just reviewed the final proof of the book, and printing will take place next week - so those who have ordered themselves a copy should begin receiving their books in late May and early June. Get in!

Link: Wonders in the Sky: A Breakthrough in UFO Research

News Briefs 05-04-2016

Today's news has a weird science infection. Please wash your eyeballs with soap and warm water when finished reading...

Quote of the Day:

The man who never alters his opinion is like standing water, and breeds reptiles of the mind.

William Blake

Your DNA is the Size of the Solar System

DNA Coding

When it comes to humility, science can dish it out with a big spoon: we've often heard of the inconsequential nature of human beings compared to the size of the cosmos (and in fiction, Douglas Adams riffed on this idea in coming up with the Total Perspective Vortex in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy).

While there's plenty of criticism that could be directed at this idea - that physical size is the be-all and end-all of importance (vs intelligence, imagination, purpose etc) - an interesting aside is the fact that, while our bodies seem like specks of dust, they contain systems that are cosmic in size.

One such example is human DNA: our body contains approximately five trillion cells, with 'long' strands of DNA immaculately folded into the tiny space within the cell walls. If you were to take all the DNA in just one person, straighten it out and put it end to end, it could stretch from the Sun to beyond the heliosphere (which some use as the demarcation of the 'edge' of our Solar System). Or to put it another way, the DNA molecules in your body could be stretched out to cover the distance from the Earth to Jupiter and back, ten times over.

But perhaps an even more amazing aspect is the way in which this massive length of DNA molecules is compacted within our tiny cells - it needs to be folded via biological origami in specific ways, so that our genes can work together in different ways.

If you have a gene it is often controlled - like, turned on or off - by another piece of DNA, that can be located very, very far apart from this gene. The chromosome is folded in such a way that the switch which turns the gene on or off is actually touching the gene. So all the DNA in between is looped.

These amazing aspects of DNA are discussed in the fascinating science short below, presented by the esteemed science writer Carl Zimmer:

You might also like:

News Briefs 04-04-2016

That moment when you drop the bass...

Quote of the Day:

Not every pony grows up to be a pegasus.

Atmosphere

A New Approach to Death and Funerals

If you're likely to die at some point in the next century, I highly recommend this interesting TEDx talk by undertakers Claire and Ru Callender, who are calling out the 'corporate' funeral industry and suggesting we reinvent the way we send off our dearly departed (and ourselves when it gets to that point).

Claire and Ru Callender are self taught, award winning ceremonial undertakers and sextons who set up The Green Funeral Company in 2000. Their stripped back, naturalistic approach is informed by their own experiences of bereavement and the unsatisfactory funerals that followed, and their practice has unusual and diverse influences including the natural death movement, rave culture, Quakerism, hospices, punk, and crop circles.

They aim to create rituals that are practical, satisfying and unique but feel profound and genuine, and their intentions can be summed up in three words: Honesty, appropriateness and participation.

They have strong feelings about the funeral industry, particularly embalming, current cremation practice and design, family disempowerment, corporate takeovers, assembly line rituals, faux Victorian aesthetics, inappropriate religious services and exploitative and unnecessary prepayment schemes.

You can read more about Claire and Ru's thoughts in this Vice magazine interview from last year.

Samurai Visiting the Sphinx in 1864

Samurai standing in front of the Great Sphinx

Like the Daily Grail on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter for more fascinating posts like this one.

Over the years there have been many great images of the Great Sphinx and Pyramids in Egypt, but this 1864 photo by Antonio Beato may be the best ever. Now over 150 years old, it shows a diplomatic mission from Japan dressed in full samurai regalia - swords and all - standing in front of the Great Sphinx.

From Wikipedia:

The Second Japanese Embassy to Europe, also called the Ikeda Mission, was sent on December 29, 1863 by the Tokugawa shogunate. The head of the mission was Ikeda Nagaoki, governor of small villages of Ibara, Bitchū Province (Okayama Prefecture). The assistant head of the mission was Kawazu Sukekuni.

The objective of the mission was to obtain French agreement to the closure of the harbour of Yokohama to foreign trade. The mission was sent following the 1863 "Order to expel barbarians" enacted by Emperor Kōmei, and the Bombardment of Shimonoseki incidents, in a wish to close again the country to Western influence, and return to sakoku status. The task proved impossible, as Yokohama was the center of foreign presence in Japan since the opening of the country by Commodore Perry in 1854.

On the way to France, the mission visited Egypt, where the members of the mission were photographed posing before the Sphinx by Antonio Beato, brother of the famous photographer Felice Beato. The members of the mission were abundantly photographed in Paris by Nadar.

The mission returned to Japan in failure, on July 22, 1864.

Fantastic image of an amazing location - right up there in my list of favourites with this 1920 photograph of two elegant ladies viewing an Egyptian sunset from the top of the Great Pyramid.

Related stories: