Saturday, 28 March 2015

Taking Inspiration from a Head of Stone

Some objects are spookily fascinating. There is a stone head in the National Museum of Scotland on Chambers Street in Edinburgh. (I can't find a picture of it - if anyone knows of one, please let me know! The picture here is of a vaguely similar one from Ireland).

The stone has three faces, and a dent in the top of the head. It was found somewhere around here. It arrived at the museum from 'Lairg', but the whole of North West Sutherland has Lairg as our postal address, so it could have come from anywhere up here. Being stone it is impossible to date, but by association with other stone heads it is probably Iron Age.

Around the time Pytheas visited here, people had a strange fascination with heads. See this article, for example. I seem to have inherited that fascination although I hasten to add that I don't make a habit of cutting people's heads off and posting them on stakes around the boundary of the croft, as some Celtic warriors were reputed to do.

One of the faces on the Lairg stone seems to have a moustache. I think he was probably up to no good. I call him The Master. I think the other two faces are The Sage and The Boy, making three generations of stone man. I wonder what on earth the people back then believed. I wonder who carved it. I write these wonderings into stories and weave them into my novel.

When I'm in Edinburgh I sometimes go and stare at that head. It is in a glass case in among a host of other strange, ceremonial objects from our distant past. I wish it were outside, gathering moss, or in a cave, with a drip of water falling into the hollow on the top of its head, or in a temple, with libations to the gods being poured into it. But perhaps it is safer in a glass case, where no sacrificial blood is shed.

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