Trepanned Skulls in Oxford: “the gods can talk to them.”

Thanks once again to @hisdorkmaterials, we have some very special pictures of Oxford to share: the trepanned skulls at the Pitt-Rivers Museum in Will’s (our) Oxford, or at least those currently on display. Some, he said, had been removed for cleaning (perhaps attracting too much dust, as trepanned skulls do, according to Lyra’s alethiometer), or I suspect, for traffic flow purposes in this place on the Museum floor. Notice the precision of this operation, one voluntarily undergone by shamans and sorcerers as a way to facilitate conversations with spirit voices.

Trepanning is mentioned only briefly at the beginning of Golden Compass/Northern Lights; the fourth chapter of The Subtle Knife, when Latrom meets Lyra, is titled “Trepanning.”

It is also rumored that witches can be trapped in bottles. @Hisdorkmaterials provides an example from the Pitt-Rivers:

Pullman discusses these in an essay in The Guardian, “The Limits of Reason: Why Philip Pullman Believes in Magic“:

But could there be a Varieties of Magical Experience? Could the mental universe that produced witch bottles and sigil, and grimoires, and the whole idea of magic itself, be rich enough to sustain an examination of that sort?

Pullman believes so, describing an exhibit devoted to the subject at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford:

Whether witches were “filthy quislings” or harmless village healers, they and those who believed in witchcraft and magic existed in a shared mental framework of hidden influences and meanings, of significances and correspondences, whether angelic, diabolic, or natural. Everything in the exhibition testifies to a near-universal belief in the existence of an invisible, imaginary world that could affect human life and be affected in turn by those who knew how to do it; and so do millions of other objects of similar kinds collected, exhibited, studied, or uncollected, unknown, lost, throughout the world and every period of history. As do legends, and ghost stories, and folk tales. If anything is a permanent fact of human nature, this is.

I find it endlessly fascinating, and I call that world “imaginary” not to disparage or belittle it. Imagination is one of our highest faculties, and wherever it appears, however it “bodies forth / The forms of things unknown” (Theseus in A Midsummer Night’s Dream), I want to treat it with respect.

Could the Republic of Heaven be The Secret Commonwealth?

Exeter, aka Jordan College

From Jon at the enthusiastic Twitter @hisdorkmaterials come these pictures of Exeter College, aka as Jordan in His Dark Materials. Just as the novels do, the video release of the trilogy, His Dark Materials, begins at Jordan [Exeter} college and is shot on location. From Yaxley Quad, it is possible to look up at the building where Pullman the student had his rooms.

For this picture Jon stood in the Quad looking up to the second window at the top from the far left, right near the waterspout, and what appears to be a chimney or turbine, and the gutters and roof.One can easily imagine a lithe teenager deciding exiting by the window and avoiding the stairs and questions of older scholars not too bad an idea, and so Lyra’s journeys on the rooftops may have been not entirely imaginary. His would have been the rectangular shaped windows.

exeter-chapel-jon-2-atraight

These two pictures show the Chapel of Exeter. Tilting the one allows for the pathway and steeple to show, as well as conveying the sense that all the buildings abut one another.

Was it in these vaulted halls that Pullman first contemplated Dust? Or in such grandeur rejected  a rich and demanding presence obscuring the nature of spiritual life, which has naught to do with fine trappings and political powers?exeterart

exeter-chapel

exeter-chapel-front

All credit for these lovely pictures: the generosity of Jon @hisdorkmaterials. Follow his accounts of what is happening on the ground there.

You are also invited to join the open public Facebook group, Compounding His Dark Materials https://www.facebook.com/groups/2376856019242919/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Greetings from Oxford University!

A kind reader sent me some pictures to share of contemporary Oxford University of the epicenter of Oxford University in Lyra’s and our world.

First up, is a picture of the Bodleian Library.


This is the University Museum, of great significance in The Subtle Knife (Pitt-Rivers). Below is Hertford College with welcoming banners.

The Radcliffe Camera of the Bodleian. Our kind reader toured a bit of its tunnels, which I hear are quite extensive and used for storage and safety.

Here is Brasenose College’s lawn with a view of the Radcliffe Camera. Brasenose is letter R on John Lawrence’s map in Lyra’s Oxford. Hertford is letter G. Jordan (unlike the other two, not of our world) stands in for Exeter and is represented by the letter H. So Jordan is north of Brasenose, which is west of Hertford, and all are south of the museum and north of the Botanic Garden.

Here’s an Oxford skyline:

And finally, the bench in the Botanic Gardens on which Will and Lyra said goodbye before he left for his world, with the sculpture of Will’s cat daemon Kirjava and Lyra’s pine marten, Pantalaimon.

Many thanks again to the kind reader who prefers to remain anonymous. If you want to join the public group page on this blog and you use Facebook, it’s here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2376856019242919/ .

Scene 1: Dining Hall of Jordan College

The picture above is of Oriel Dining Hall, c. 1865. Jordan College’s would look much the same: “The three great tables that ran the length of the Hall. . .[with]  the long benches . . . pulled out ready for the guests. Portraits of former masters hung high up in the gloom” (page 1). Slightly raised, running the width of the hall, would be the High Table with fancy chairs (rather than benches) suited for the College masters. 

When I was at University College, the long benches facilitated some camaraderie among the students, primarily about the food. It included some kind of meat and potatoes (often prepared two ways at the same meal), something like Brussels sprouts, and a salad in which a piece of iceberg lettuce was topped with Spam or some other potted meat.

Young men were to wear jackets and ties to dinner, and ladies, dresses. I have no idea what I wore, but if hose and heels were required, I must have looked a sight.

And there was no ice.

Has anything changed?

Image: Oriel Dining Hall, c.1865. Andrew Dickson White Architectural Photographs Collection, Cornell Univ.