12 people have been murdered in France by terrorists: most of the dead are journalists, a couple of them bodyguards. The killers were enacting an extreme religious hatred against freedom of speech.
The Daily Mail said:

For millions around the world, the first reaction to the horrific news from Paris can only have been profound shock.
Shock that such a thing could happen in a modern, civilised European capital. Shock at the cold-blooded ruthlessness of the killings. Shock at the medieval motive for the murders.

The tag ‘mediaeval’ implies it was especially characteristic of the Middle Ages for bully boys to attack a group of unarmed people and murder them. motivated by religion. Yet Nazism fostered just this action in the 20thC, and I could find examples in almost any century quite easily. Nor do I think the examples would be more frequent in the mediaeval period.

There were plenty of violent raids which happened with considerable frequency in the Middle Ages, in Wales, England, Scotland, Ireland, across Europe. Many were not so violent, more like bar brawls on a Saturday night in a country town today. Often the motive was theft of cows or horses or pigs. But some were very violent, including rape, killing and torture. Not many though were motivated by religion. The more aggressive Vikings did seem to target monasteries, but they were probably focused on the rich pickings of gold and treasure in the (undefended) churches.

The tag “mediaeval” is unjustified, and it is used far too often to mean uncivilised, brutal, inferior, as is Neanderthal with even less eveidence to support the usage.

But I cannot just comment here on the French murders without stating my opinion on the event. That would be dishonest. In 2006 when the cartoons of a naked Mohammed appeared by a Western Danish cartoonist, reproduced by the French editor who has just died for it, I said it was wrong. It was stupid, nasty, crass and immature to publish such pictures.
I would say the same of publishing naked cartoon pictures of the Pope, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama, the UK Queen, any President of any country, or indeed any public figure. Some of those people are to me, rubbish; in my eyes they do more harm than good in society.. I’m allowed to discrimate in who I respect and who I do not. That doesn’t give me the right to inflame their devotees because the result could be innocent people getting hurt. Behaviour likely to lead to a breach of the peace is illegal in the UK, and rightly so. Deliberately insulting a beloved leader is likely to lead to breaches of the peace. We can say we detest what they represent, what they teach, what they have done. We could show them perhaps in a silly costume like a clown. But nakedness is peculiarly demeaning is displayed in public in a hostile way.

But behaviour likely to lead to a breach of the peace is punished by fines or a short prison sentence. Not death.

The killers in this case were far more deeply wrong. There is rightly an upwelling of grief and anger and fear at what they did. Massive candlelit vigils are taking place. The perpetrators should pay the price to the full extent of the law.

The outrage I have seen expressed is about the attack on ‘democracy;’ on ‘freedom of speech.’ Rightly so. Other news offices in France have offered free desk space to the remaining staff of the victim magazine, so they can continue publishing. Bless them for that.
Suzanne Moore on the Guardian calls for the killers to be pilloried, humiliated by humour. Many public comments are calling for Western newspapers and media to combine in solidarity, to all together publish the offending cartoons. A symbolic war using humour.

That is unwise. It will trigger more angry immature young people to pick up guns and bombs. We cannot place a ring of high security around all our centres of news media. If we do that, the killers have won.

Instead, concede the cartoons were bad, stupid, wrong – though not illegal and should not be. But something far more important ha snot been said anywhere. This was an attack by armed men on defenceless unarmed men and women. THAT is the atrocity here.

We need to condemn that, utterly, and it has nothing to do with religion or any other ‘reason.’ The same thing has been wrong when Western soldiers kill civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria.

I want to see COWARDS in the biggest capital letters possible on the front oages pf our news – everywhere. Also when any other people do the same.

The Duchess

John and I were now sick of being ripped off by bad places to stay if we dared to go away. Conferences were going to mean we had to stay overnight quite often or it would be too tiring to do the journey. Coupled with an unreliable temporary car since the disability office threw me into crisis and I wrecked my usual car … and the result is our glorious Duchess.

Her true name is Gwenhwyfawr – great lady of whiteness though she is actually pale gold. She soon became the Duchess.

My lovely golden Duchess car

The Duchess, Oct. 22 2014

She’s an estate with lots of room, if we want we can sleep in her.  She’ll get me to Swansea in high style and comfort. She’s big, beautiful, comfy and just SO lovely.

I was intimidated at first as she’s a lot bigger than what I’m used to. It took me 10 days to drive her slowly in a car park. But a few days later I was on the motorway and all was well.

WordPress experiment

I like XF forums a lot less nowadays and most academics seem to like blogs, so I decided to try and use WordPress to coordinate my online Mabinogi resources.

WP is at least well established so support should be possible.

My trusty helpers at Nimbus Webhosting had it running in an hour or so, though we had some trouble with directory names. I settled down to customise. The backend is much better than last time I tried WP.

Othering a Guest

Othering a Guest   Shan Morgain.

(The Self and the Other: Swansea, 10 October 2014)

Actually managed to get the pics to work this time. All went well except for having to climb THREE flights of stairs because no one fixed the lift.

Matt Wall chaired my panel and sent me feedback. I won’t give all the detail but here are the main points:

You presented with considerable authority and passion for your subject, you used humour and had a style that was informative, while inviting and informal.

The visuals/slides that you used were informative and nicely designed, while there was a little trouble with the software at the beginning of the talk, you overcame this well.  [groan]

Matt thought I should have made my concept of othering more specific.  The 20 mins time limit is a tyranny! but the criticism is an important one. Perhaps a quick image display next time.

Even more interesting Matt questioned me on whether the othering of Guest was by academic or popular response? I did not know how to answer at first which shows how good the question was.  I returned to it later, and explained that the attitudes I had seen were in the Introduction sections of the Mabinogi books, including popular translations. So although the othering is at its core, academic, there are readers ‘in the wild’ who do read introductions and ould be influenced by them. Also key points like Guest being an English upper class lady are on many websites where the Mabinogi is briefly  introduced.

Thanks Matt for a generous review and thoughtful critique.

Sioned Davies Narberth tour

21 Sept. 2013 A tour of the Mabinogion sites with Sioned Davies.

Beginning/End location: The Old School car park, Narberth, SA67 7AG
Price of ticket: £10 (£8 for Academy members)
Food and drink: Not included. There will be an opportunity to buy lunch on the trip.
Recommended clothing: Comfortable shoes; warm clothing; raincoat.

Contact Literature Wales to book a place on the trip:
029 2047 2266

Here Be Dragons! (Aberystwyth)

Dwy iaith, dau ddiwylliant? / Two languages, two cultures?
Sept 6 Council Chamber, National Library of Wales.
Coordinator: Mary Constantine.

Finally my first presentation this time round in my second postgrad life. Very nice to return to CAWCS at Aberystwyth as a (junior) presenter. With dear John at my side of course.

The hotel was rubbish, the dinner booked on arrival was not at all as ordered. No breakfast in the morning, most unpleasant man who when we left (on time) at 9am ordered us to go which we were glad to do. Then we got in early, tested my presentation images, all worked fine. But no breakfast did mean being tired as the long morning passed. When it was my turn the tech stubbornly refused to run! No carefully prepped pics. Embarrassing.

Everyone was extremely kind about it, and understood. In the end my little piece “Here Be Dragons” on the bridging between two languages and its challenges, was well received.  M. Wynne Thomas turned out to be not at all a stuffed shirt trailing titles, but a canny and generous elder statesman. Mary Constantine was strikingly efficient and welcoming. The debate was fascinating; it reminded me of early feminist days when we felt so grateful of chances to get together. Good to feel less isolated.

Eisteddfod 2014 with Christine James as Archdruid

My second visit to the Eisteddfod and this time it was a very great delight to watch our beautiful Christine leading the traditional Gorsedd ceremony. The Guardian gave it a Witness page which was nice, but considering it’s the largest arts festival in Europe one wonders why it didn’t make the news? Too peaceful? No nasty incidents, no crime or muck, just an awful lot of people having a fantastic time?  Not commercial, all done by volunteers? Or just not English even though tremendously successful, happening right in Britain?

Two PICS John took.

Christine James, Archdruid, 2014,  by John Davies.

Christine James, Archdruid, 2014, by John Davies.

John and I very much enjoyed our first Eisteddfod in I think 2008. It’s such a well organised event so you can trust it to keep you safe, comfortable, and greatly entertained.  To see Iolo’s ceremony actually happen is to join the tide of history.

But this year it was noticeably even better. I would not have thought it possible but there were so many little touches that showed kindness at work. I could sit down every 50 yards or so, there were always chairs – big item for me so I could stay and enjoy it for longer. As we left a steward greeted us by the door to ask us if all had gone well, such a caring detail that demanded a lot of volunteer time. I teased Christine afterwards that her characteristic motherliness was evident everywhere which I think she liked.

Eisteddfod 2014 by John Davies

Eisteddfod 2014 by John Davies


The Guardian page which has these two and more pics. Sadly the lovely accounts contributed have not been saved.