Ring Cairn

Votadini ring cairn, circa 300, Caerketton Hill, Edinburgh, Scotland

“Votadini” was the name Roman occupiers used to refer to those Iron Age hill tribes, nearly lost to history, whose descendants were celebrated in the ancient Welsh war-poem Y Gododdin:.

Men went to Catraeth at dawn:
All their fears had been put to flight.

Happy solstice.

Staff, Inkwell

There is absolutely no use for a hiking staff in the flatlands except for playing wizard. I don’t play wizard anymore. Now all the muscles in my forearms and triceps are sore from forgetting how to prevent a fall.

Satan’s Kingdom (recently rechristened “Sen Ki”, I wonder why), Westwood, MA

A riddle: Why does one drill a six-inch hole into a granite ledge?

Answer: To drop in a stick of dynamite.

Whenever anybody wants to build a McMansion around my childhood home, or to transform a formerly reasonably-sized, non-ugly house into a FrankenMansion, they first must blow up some beautiful granite ledges. It’s been going on since I was a kid. I have not yet cried about it for the last time.

This one, thank god, seems to have been forgotten about for long enough that I can now thank the Westwood Land Trust and Hale Reservation that I’ll never have to worry about it again.

The original inkwell

God I Hope the End Is Near

How many jokes/invocations/questionably ironic references/panicked remonstrances will I hear this year about the coming end of the world? When they’re talking about it on The View and the Nightly News with Brian Williams, it’s time to give up counting. How much more mainstream can a nutso newage conspiracy theory get? Consider Y2K. That apocalypse was about Jesus and Revelations; its poor conclusions and minimal research were drawn from the mythology of (one of) the world’s most popular religion(s). This apocalypse is about obscure blood-drinking deities last best personified by Hernán Cortés and a religion legitimately practiced by far less than 0.01% of humanity. Yet already the 2012 hype seems to have far outstripped the 2000 hype. Blame the internet, I guess. It was a far tamer place 12 years ago than it is now, that’s for sure. For the title of last bastion for shamanistic folkloric mythmaking on earth, the competition is hot between the internet and one tiny uncontacted village in the Amazon.

I’ve already done all the debunking of the Mayan apocalypse I’m going to do on this blog, at great length and with much windbaggery, in posts such as Circular Time and No Apocalypse. I also have a little sidebar essay about it (as applied fancifully to the plight of the working writer) in A Working Writer’s Daily Planner 2012, available from Small Beer Press in print-on-demand and ebook form.

Instead I want to talk about how great it would be if there actually was an apocalypse.

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The Olmec Toad

Monument 68 at Tak’alik Ab’aj, Retalhuleu, Guatemala, Middle Preclassic

Starting things off slowly here for Guatemala Travelogue Part II… The Olmec Toad, yet another alternate title for this blog. Who knows but someday the Skull will go away and the Toad will take its place.

The Olmec were the original advanced civilization of the Americas, formerly considered semi-mythic, identified with Atlantis, the Easter Island civilization and the like. Many wonderful art works and sacred offerings survive, but no written language, so the question of how this particular toad figures in their mythology is up for debate.

Tak’alik Ab’aj is K’iche for “standing stones”; it’s a sprawling archaeological site occupied continuously from 1000 BCE or so through 1000 AD, first by Olmecs, then Maya, situated on a set of ridges between two rivers on Guatemala’s Pacific slope. It’s only partly excavated; half the ruins have coffee and rubber trees planted on top of them. The site is relatively little-known and hard to get to, the monuments much-worn and less epic in stature than places like Tikal and Palenque, so I guess the land turns more profit more used for farming than trying to lure money from archaeologists and archaeo-nerd-tourists (me). Nobody on staff spoke English, and the day I visited I was the only white guy there.

The cicadas were deafening.