Lindow Manchester


More Bog Body Poetry

Recent contributions of poetry relating to Lindow Man seem to have struck a chord. Earlier this week I had a letter from the writer and artist, Eve Coxeter, who tells me she bumped into Joan Poulson and heard about the Lindow Man exhibition.

Like Joan, Eve was inspired by the bog body phenomenon to write a novel about Tollund Man. Eve visited Silkeborg some years ago to see his body and actually met P.V.Glob, who wrote the seminal work The Bog People, with its beautiful black and white photographs of bog bodies and associated discoveries.

Joan writes that Prof.Glob was elderly but still used his own plane to fly up to his farm near Silkebord every weekend. There were even burial mounds on his property, she says. Eve’s novel was intended to bring Torlund (the medieval name) to life.

Although it remains unpublished, the script can be accessed via Eve’s website, http://www.evecoxeter.com,  and anyone interested can see the novel under ‘Novels:Torlund?’ . Eve has also kindly allowed me to post a copy of her poem on the Blog and reproduce her drawing and a sculpture of Tollund Man. So thanks to Eve for allowing me to share this:-
TORLUND THE MAN GOD
By Eve Coxeter

Torlund
how sunken are you?

Dredged from the peat
where you have slept
through autumn mists.
fog sweep your soul
yet rise so whole
in face and foot
not man made flesh
but gods returned
your incomplete reality.

How past gives back
presents your face to man
in all but breath.

You speak
through humic acids
no words commune
unconscious host
fen sacrifice noosed
for a lost goddess
your sacred seed
germinating the archaic
silence in us all,

Convey, tell that which
human knowledge would compel
our hoped communication
divided from you at last
by the glass case
only of time.
Which reminds me that there is a copy of a novel ‘Lindow End’ by local writer Christine Pemberton in Susan Chadwick’s section of the Lindow Man exhibition. This contemporary thriller involves ancient bog body DNA and a test tube baby. I don’t want to give anything away but I haven’t been able to look Christine in the eye since I read her book.



A Poem from the Lindow Man Offerings Box

This is one of several poems placed in the Lindow Man offerings box as a mark of respect for Lindow Man

“Crumpled, folded, left lying for the peat
Flesh becomes water, became earth
Became stone in time.
No hope of that now, leather man, stone
Interrupted,
Your journeys unexpected direction?
To offer us questions
It’s always questions, that’s what we have of you.
Maybe questions are what we need
No certainties, no mysteries finally revealed”

“It’s spring outside now,
The frogs have broken the hibernation dream
And fill the world with bubbling, copulating life
I would bring you flowers and new shoots,
Pussy willow and hope.
But they cannot, could not, touch you in you
Sealed crystal coffin, defying even handsome princes
So I bring you the dream of spring and the wind
that blows over the hills, with the rain and
the sudden sleet, And I offer you, spring mornings
and the air full of promise, stones warming
slowly under a glowing sun.
I feed you dreams and a blanket of memories,
A thicket of hope to shelter you from the
Endless staring eyes in that cold, climate controlled
Bubble
We will hold a space for you in the dancing circles,
A place at the table, a welcome in the Feast for the Dead

With love, Gordon the Toad”



Another Lindow Man Poem

I spent this morning looking at the evaluation of the Comments Cards in the Lindow Man exhibition for October to December 2008 and there, as an example of a reflective comment from a visitor is this poem:-

It started out as a lovely day,
Birds were flittering amongst the hay,
For someone’s satisfaction I was slain,
My life was lost, they didn’t gain.
Distorted and squashed I’m here in the west,
It doesn’t stop the crowds,
I’m not at my best,
Cruel in life,
Crueller in death.
Washed down stream,
Flowing with river,
Caught in the floods,
Settled in moss,
Aged and weathered,
Man of the hills,
Mountains Loss,
The destruction of Cairns and Mounds.

This is one of a number of poems deposited in the exhibition’s offerings box as a mark of respect for Lindow Man.



Lindow Pete 1983 Poem

Anna Bunney, Curator of Public Programmes, has passed on a letter from a member of the public, Paul Broadbent, who apologizes for not being able to attend the Lindow Man poetry night that Anna organized earlier in the year and includes the following poem:-

I were lay there warm and ‘appy, no one gave a toss
Till some peat cutta, wi’ welly’s on, dug me up on Lindow Moss
Glacial sand and gravel, me spring part of me bed
A nice layer o’peat, surrounds me body, and round me ‘ed
Not far, from the Black Lake, sometimes blue algae grow
Wild life In’t much bothered, dun’t stop them come and go
I were just enjoying the peace and quiet 2000 years you know
Then bundled off to London, no choice, I had to go
The’ were Doctors an’ folk all running tests, to see how I were dead
A knotted rope, a cut throat, and three bumps to me head
Me belly were full of ceral, wheat, barley, and some bran
The mistletoe gave Druids away, I were a sacrifical lamb
Now I’m back in Manchester, museum have a space
A part of hist’ry from Lindow Moss, your interest in’t human race.

Thanks to Mr Broadhurst for allowing us to reproduce this. This is one of a number of poems produced in response to seeing or hearing about Lindow Man.



More Lindow Man Poetry

Maria van Daalen recently visited the Lindow Man exhibition and emailed me after talking to Chris, our Visitor Services Assistant, who was on duty in the gallery. She wanted to say how much she enjoyed the exhibition and reading the poetry section on the Blog. Maria has herself written poetry that speaks of the times when the bog people were killed. She hasn’t written anything on this topic recently, but she says she’s very much intrigued by the phenomenon. She suggested looking at the following websites http://www.bogpeople.org/ and

http://www.civilisations.ca/media/docs/fsbog01e.html for information on the five bog people found in her native Holland and the exhibition ‘Bog People’, some years ago. “I’ve often gone to visit our bog people in their museum in the province of Drente (The Netherlands)” she said. Maria believes that they were sacrificed, saying that places that are neither water nor land, are sacred: they are a natural border between this world and the Other World. I think this is very similar to what Dr Melanie Giles, who contributed to the Lindow Man exhibition, talked about in her interview and also in a paper at a Manchester Museum conference on human remains in November 2006. Maria said: “Your way of exhibiting makes meeting the Lindow Man a very intimate happening: I loved that! My compliments for the exhibition.” Maria’s website is www.mariavandaalen.nl, so people can look her up.

Maria’s kindly allowed us to reproduce her poem and she adds this note by way of introduction:-

“Here underneath you’ll find my poem from around the times of Lindow Man.


NOTE: There was something really spooky about this poem, and about writing it (winter 1986). It’s from the very first series of poems I ever wrote. I ‘saw’ it happen in a vision. The names ‘Brigha’ and ‘Norbert’ came to me without me knowing anything. I had to do a lot research afterwards, before understanding, that the poem speaks of Sawhain, which I didn’t know anything about at the time, and that there really was a tribe of the Brigantes, and that ‘Brigha’ might be another name of the Goddess. I guess that my poem means to say, that there was at least one warrior named after Her, possibly Her personal warrior, who had his life sacrificed to Her. Apparently, seeing the poem, he bought the life sentence with the dead of a child. I myself always had strong moral objections against this poem. But I couldn’t write on if I didn’t publish it. So the Goddess won out in the end. As She always does, I understood — I talked with Gordon The Toad at length about Her.
I never found any ‘Norbert’. That is, there are so many, that it wasn’t conclusive.
Oh: ‘Brigha,’ when that name came to me, was spelled with a ‘-X-‘, but the sounds was ‘-gh-‘, just like in runes, right?

 

WOLF PIT

At night I go down

to the dark pit and stand.

 

They approach in groups of eight, of four,

clad in the gray skins,

half-heads over their own.

Who’s carrying the sacrifice? Brigha.

Norbert the knife, me the goblets.

 

Before it bleeds it is prayed for

to the cold goddess beside the stone,

waiting, demanding in the moonlight

of November, time of the beginning.

A single cry is muffled away.

 

It is freezing when we turn

our backs to the pine forest. Bespattered. Substantiated.

 

*Poem ‘WOLF PIT’ from the poetry volume ‘RAVESLAG’ (Ed. Querido, Amsterdam, 1989). Poet MARIA VAN DAALEN.

**Translation by Ms. Wanda Boeke (1996).

Thank you to Maria for allowing us to reproduce the poem.



A Poem to Honour Lindow Man
Offerings Box in the Lindow Man exhibition

Offerings Box in the Lindow Man exhibition

On 2nd September I wrote about the Offerings Box in the Lindow Man exhibition here at the Manchester Museum. The following poem was written on a card with original artwork and put in the box during the pagan ceremony to welcome Lindow Man back to Manchester back in April. It was taken out in one of our periodic reviews of the box contents to clear away comments cards, sweet wrappers, organic offerings and the like.  With the permission of the writer I am now pleased to be able to share it with readers of this Blog. The card will shortly be returned to the box.

Card with original artwork and poem for Lindow Man from Gordon the Toad

Card with original artwork and poem for Lindow Man from Gordon the Toad

Words to Lindow Man

Was the world changing,
As you went into the Moss?
Did you feel the world
shake as the Romans moved
across the land?

Were those first Christians
arriving, even then, to build
their cells, ascetic in caves,
shrivelling thier souls, unasked
on our behalf, out-talking
even the Druids?

Were the Irish kings sending
raiding prties to test the
boundaries of the sea?
Were the threads of the
familiar unravelling, fraying
into the wind the shapes of
the societies that you knew?

And had the children of
Lyr, shed their swan
feathers and, telling
thier ancient tale, at last,
withered and died by
Patrick’s feet?

Did the Holy People take
you and bind you and
feed you to the wildness
and wideness?

Or were you just waylaid
one night, fallen in with
thieves, the gold of your
status stolen and all your
promise dropped into the cold,
dark-gold, deep-mead waters?
And did sheer chance pull
you from the peat?

Or have you been sleeping,
watching and waiting for the
moment to come back and
face a changing world again?

The threat and promise of
change echo between our
centuries and I would sit
with you watching the sunset
over distant hills.

Whatever the change, the mint
still curls over the lingering
mosses and rain still falls on
the bleak hills,

Perhaps ghost and flesh we
would share the courage to
face past and future
change together.

Islands still float
in glory
beyond the edge
of the world.

Gordon the Toad

Card with poem and original artwork left as an offering to Lindow Man

Card with poem and original artwork left as an offering to Lindow Man

This is just one a number of interesting things that have been placed in the offerings box over the last few months and we’re hoping that there will be a study of the material as part of the evaluation of the exhibition. I don’t know that this has been done before. Very often offerings in museums and on historical sites are disposed of and no record is ever made of them. I remember seeing a flower offering at the West Kennet long barrow site a few years ago. It had obviously been put there deliberately but it would have disappeared or been tidied away fairly quickly. We are photographing organic offerings that might harbour pests that might cause problems at the Museum and sending them – respectfully and with the help of Gordon – to Lindow Moss. It is remarkable just how big an outpouring of poetry Lindow Man seems to have inspired.



A Lindow Man Poem

When we were working on the Lindow Man exhibition last year, at one point I got very interested in poetry and the way archaeological discoveries often inspire poets. One has only to think about Seamus Heaney and the bog poems for example. For various reasons we didn’t pursue the poetry angle but now there’s a chance to look at poetry again.

A lady called Joan Poulson has contacted the Manchester Museum about the Lindow Man exhibition. She expresses mixed feelings about showing the remains of the man she knows as Pete. He has been one of her four favourite ‘exhibits’ in the British Museum for many years and in fact she rarely goes to London without paying him a visit. Joan is intending to visit the Museum soon.  Joan has built up her own story around this man and was a little worried to find out Pete was displayed at another museum. She says she was relieved to find out that the Manchester Museum aims to treat human remains with respect & dignity.  Joan has been working on a poem called ‘Relics’ which focuses on Lindow Man. Two years ago, in 2005, it was entered in a national poetry competition organised by Scintilla (the annual literary journal) and it came second. Joan has very kindly allowed us to post it on the website. My sincerest thanks to Joan for agreeing for us to reproduce her poem here.

Relics

I’ve been thinking about Pete. I often do:
his discovery in the bog not far from here,
the lonely museum coffin.

One of my neighbours, he’s Swiss, is also Pete,
Once ran an art gallery. I see little of him
or others in the three-man household
but the way they peg out washing always entertains.
One man is German. Sometimes we discuss that war,
the one to end them all.

We talk of children, of Rwanda and Iraq.
Pete was garrotted. He must have died in terror.
When I visit I robe him in white light, see it seeping
through his leathery skin, absorbed into his bones.

Circling the case I wonder if we’d put the body
of a World War II pilot on public view.
My neighbour talks of his show Relics in Berlin.

We’ve both seen exhibitions of conceptual art,
symbolic icons, both curious about Joseph Beuys.

Did Pete and his tribe take trophies?
Were their raiding parties ‘peace initiatives’?

An American friend has never been able to grow
her hair long. As a child she ripped it out
and stuffed it in her mouth, almost choking  –
lost without the father on peace missions in Vietnam.

I met a Vietnamese photographer in Vermont,
his face and hands distorted, formidably scarred
despite years of plastic surgery.

He didn’t want to talk of the past, just his book
of colour photographs: images of children
over 25 years, none showing pain or fear or despair.

I am ambushed by his anguished wife and children.

Joan Poulson




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