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Archive for July, 2009

lughnasa

Lughnasa

Tomorrow (August 1st) is the Celtic harvest festival called Lughnasa (or Lughnasadh).

Mythology

There were four major feasts or festivals in the Celtic Year: Samhain (Nov 1st), Imbolc (Feb 1st), Beltain (May 1st) and Lughnasa (Aug 1st).

Lughnasa was the feast of the Celtic God of Light, known as Lugh in Ireland and Lleu in Wales. In Ireland, the festival was celebrated for a whole month (usually mid July until mid August).

Lleu appears in the Mabinogion, a collection of Welsh legends, as Lleu Llaw Gyffes, the son of the goddess Arianrhod. He marries Blodeuwedd, a women made from flowers, but she betrays him for her lover Gronw Pebr. They attempt to kill Lleu, but he shapeshifts into an eagle, and the magician Gwydion turns him back into a man.

“Nasa” or “nasadh” means commemoration, and the festival commemorates or mourns the passing of the god-king, and the rebirth of the god-king or sun.

About the festivities

At Lughnasa, tribes would gather together, marriages would be arranged and games and festivities would be held (Lugh is associated with chess, ball games and horse riding). The games would include wrestling, horse riding, dancing and other games and sports which became associated with the festival over the years.

Traditionally, in Ireland, the festivities were held at sites with distinctive natural features, either in high places such as mountains, or beside water features such as wells, springs and lakes, or in locations which had both height and water such as mountain lakes.

In Ireland the festivities have continued in various forms for hundreds of years, and Maire MacNeill’s book on Lughnasa collects folk memories of the Lughnasa feasts from across Ireland.

Harvest Festival

Lughnasa was a harvest festival. In Ireland the festival celebrated gathering in the most important food crop in Ireland: potatoes (although this was originally corn, as potatoes were only introduced to Ireland in the seventeenth century).

In the last few weeks before the new harvest, most households had very little food remaining, and therefore the harvest festival was a joyous celebration of food. Some people believed it was important to eat well on the first day of the feast to ensure being well fed for the rest of the year (just as people today sometimes believe that what you do on New Year’s Eve affects the rest of the year ahead).

Lammas

Lughnasa was added to the Christian calendar by the Anglo Saxons, and named Lammas (which means loaf-mass).

Neo-Pagans

Nowadays, many neo-pagans and Wiccans celebrate the Celtic festivals, as part of the natural cycle of the year.

Rain

Finally, I should mention that according to Maire MacNeill’s book, rain was often associated with the Lughnasa or Lammas feast day of the 1st of August!

Sources

Sarah Costley and Charles Kightly: A Celtic Book of Days. Thames & Hudson: 1998. Kept in the Welsh Library (Shankland Reading Room in Main Arts Library, College Road) at Bangor University, at shelfmark X/AA 4 COS.

John King: The Celtic Druids’ Year: Seasonal Cycles of the Ancient Celts. Blandford: 1994. Kept in the Welsh Library (Shankland Reading Room in Main Arts Library, College Road) at Bangor University, at shelfmark X/AA 4 KIN.

Maire MacNeill: The Festival of Lughnasa. Oxford: 1962. Kept in the Welsh Library (Shankland Reading Room in Main Arts Library, College Road) at Bangor University, at shelfmark X/DA 97 MAC.

Caitlin Matthews: The Elements of the Celtic Tradition. Element Books: 1989. Kept in the Welsh Library (Shankland Reading Room in Main Arts Library, College Road) at Bangor University, at shelfmark X/AA 4a MAT.

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Copy of Gregynog and OPening The Book 004All pics by me (this top one cropped and edited).

In early June, I went to the annual Gregynog conference for library and IT professionals in Wales, along with some library colleagues.

My favourite session was not actually library related, although it fitted in well with a theme on designing new buildings and learning spaces which ran through the conference. The presentation was given by Phil Horton from the Centre for Alternative Technology near Machynlleth, about the experience of building the new Wales Institute for Sustainable Development (WISE).

The Centre for Alternative Technology runs short courses and postgraduate courses, and due to increased demand over the years, has insufficient space at the centre for teaching. WISE is being built to satisfy this need for space, and, like existing buildings at CAT, will act as an example of what can be achieved using ecologically friendly building methods and design.

I read about WISE a year or so ago, so was very interested to hear how work was progressing, and was gripped by the presentation which included many photos of the different techniques being used, such as rammed earth walls, under floor heating, solar panelled roofs and low impact IT facilities. It was great to see this showcased at the conference, and I hope the Welsh IT and library sector will draw on some of these ideas if engaging in new builds, and also make use of the new facilities for future events. WISE, which will contain a lecture theatre, bedrooms, and study spaces, is due to open sometime in 2010.

My second favourite session was a talk by Paul Bevan from the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth about the library’s Web 2.0 strategy, which was of interest to me as I am currently working on a scoping study exploring how we can use Web 2.0 tools here at Bangor University library.

My third favourite session was not a presentation at all, but the morning yoga class run by Alyson Tyler from Cymal, it was so fantastic to wake up and stroll downstairs and do yoga, and really set me up well for the day. I’ve always thought about incorporating some basic stretching or exercises into teaching sessions, as I think we all sit still at computers far too much. Thanks very much to Alyson for running the yoga session, it was very beneficial!

Alyson also delivered a session called If Libraries Ruled the World, where we worked in small groups exploring what we would do if we had endless money to spend on our libraries, and creating an overall strategy on flipchart paper. The purpose was for Alyson to align our ideas with a strategy Cymal (Museums, Archives and Libraries Wales) is currently preparing for libraries in Wales, called Libraries for Life. The groups in the room all came up with very similar themes which overlapped with Cymal’s plans, basically we all wanted better buildings more adapted to the needs of library users (including social spaces, reading spaces, and so forth), and more money and time to spend on staff training and development. Libraries for Life will make a number of grants available to help libraries achieve these goals.

Cymal staff also delivered an interesting presentation on the Welsh libraries marketing plans for the next year, revealing that a celebrity was being lined up to front the new library marketing strategy, but not telling us who it would be! Since Gregynog, the celebrity library champion has been revealed as Ruth Jones. Last year, they ran the successful Happy Days campaign, which won an award, this year the marketing campaign with be an art competition. More information to follow on the blog when the competition launches.

I also enjoyed hearing Lyndsey Savage from my own institution, Bangor, talk about the Bangor Repository, which collects research publications by Bangor academic staff from 2000 onwards, and found Alison Walker’s session on the Welsh Video Network interesting, especially when she spoke about the use of video conferencing to get Welsh authors to talk to school children and adult learners across Wales. Once again, ecological impact was on the agenda here, with Alison reminding conference delegates that video conferencing can help save time, money and the environment.

Ruth Thornton and Toni Kelly gave an interesting presentation on turning libraries into new “learning spaces”, which along with web 2.0 technologies seems to be one of the current buzz topics in the library world, and Toni Kelly talked about developing new learning spaces in Birmingham.

Presentations from the conference are online here, click on the underlined blue links to open Powerpoints.

The venue itself was quirky and unique, but for academic conferences where I have to be professional, I prefer staying in modern hotels which have hot water in the mornings, and the food was so horrible I went straight to Tescos on the way home and bought lots of ciabatta bread and other treats! On the good side, Gregynog was well organized, and best of all, there were rabbits…

babbit babbitrun

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Members of Bangor University may not know that the library has a collection of films and videos. In the Main Arts Library on College Road, you head straight up the staircase opposite the library entrance, turn left, and just before the Richards Reading Room, there is a door on your left labelled Film Room.

The collection is…eclectic (a great word meaning varied / assorted / random!). There are some old films, some classics, some new films, some world cinema, and some educational films. Amongst the collection, there are some gems.

Today’s recommendation is a film adaptation of a true story about mountains, danger and a fight for survival. The film is called Touching the Void, and is based on Joe Simpson’s book of the same name. I haven’t actually watched many documentaries, and never any survival films or mountain adventure movies, but I was completely gripped by this when I first saw it. A word of warning, it doesn’t make for easy viewing!

The library catalogue entry for Touching the Void is here, with further information about the film, which won Best Film in the Evening Standard Best Film Awards a few years ago, and Joe Simpson’s website is here.

touching_the_void

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This is a Refworks training session presentation for a group of research students at Bangor University, to take them through the initial process of signing up to Refworks, saving references and creating a bibliography.

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