Places are people too?

Charles Butler hannibal at
Thu Nov 18 18:55:23 EST 2004

I don't find the idea of sentient landscapes, hills, etc half as odd as I
probably ought to. Nor am I at all sure where metaphor stops and reality
begins in such matters. Certainly people *feel* about places with all the
passion (love, hate, or whatever) that they use for people: are they being

It's too late at night to think about all this properly. Instead, I'd like
to quote this couple of paras from the article by Jeremy Harte for which I
gave the URL a couple of months back:

"The controversy between those who accept that the supernatural has rights,
and those who focus exclusively on the human, came to a head not long ago in
the Hebrides. The backbone of the island of South Harris is West Stocklett
Hill, the Hag Mountain, in the form of a giant woman reclining in sleep or
death. The Hag has a guardian in the geomantic researcher Jill Smith - 'for
me, the mountain is one of the ancient Dreamtime ancestors, the Grandmother
who rose from the magma at Creation' (Smith, Billingsley and Dilworth 1996).
In 1995 the work of Creation was revised; a hole was carved at the location
of the Grandmother's navel by the artist Steve Dilworth, in order to set in
a sculpture of his own. Not many people saw it in situ, but the installation
was afterwards shown in a Stornoway art gallery. Smith doubled up in pain at
the violation of the mountain. Dilworth was puzzled to encounter a negative
response - 'I see it as a way of acknowledging our connection with the earth
we stand on'. For Smith, the mountain is a person, and has rights. For
Dilworth, the mountain is a canvas.

"Hardly surprising, then, that the controversy should have flared up over a
female figure. There was a time when a woman, like a cat or a stone circle,
had no legal personality. A man might violate her without committing an
offence, unless he infringed the rights that some other man held in her. The
difference between women and mountains is simply that the former have won
the right to speak for themselves, while the latter are dependant on
trustees or guardians - in this case Jill Smith, who is currently struggling
to prevent Redlands Aggregates from further mutilation of the holy hill."

My own experience suggests that there may be some other significant
differences between women and mountains (the Paps of Anu notwithstanding),
but you know what he means.


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