New Terrestrial Effigy Discovered: The High Ham Pig

September 11, 2013

On the fringe of the famous Glastonbury Zodiac – close to the Leo and Gemini figures, and the ‘Girt Dog of Langport’ which guards – Cerberus-like – the Zodiac, another creature can be seen peering over the riverine boundary of the Otherworld. It is delineated for the most part by the River Cary, brooks and ‘rhynes’ (drainage ditches). Look carefully… Why does the 1838 map of High Ham parish in Somerset (from here) appear to present the simulacra of a pig looking over a gate?

High Ham PorkerLest there be any doubt about what James Joyce called ‘Geoglyphy’s twentynine ways to say goodbett an wassing seoosoon liv’ (FW 595.7-8), here’s the same map with the outline of the pig drawn on (with apologies for the cack-handed pen-work – like doing eek-a-sketch with one finger, without a mouse and with severe hand-cramp – I changed my mind about colouring it in).High Ham Porker doctoredIn heraldic terms, the pig is issuant – we only see its top half issuing from the Somerset Levels, an area which centuries ago was either under water or a quagmire. Its back and shoulders around Beer, defined by the River Cary, which also delineates the crown at Henley, as well as the face and nose. Rhynes pick out the sticky-up ears. The chin and jowl by rhynes which run on to define the leg and trotters at Langport Union Workhouse and Picks Hill. The Mill Brook (flowing past Paradise Mill) delineates the rest of the leg and the chest. This part is coincident with the tail of the Girt Dog – note Wagg Rhyne by the Workhouse. It seems appropriate to name this configuration ‘the High Ham Pig’, after the village at its heart.

As I only came across this configuration today, by accident, while scrolling through images related to St Werburga and her Geese, I’ll leave it to others to follow things up, but here’s a few preliminary thoughts (unreferenced and unchecked, but with a subtle debt to researchers like Mary Caine and Michael Dames, etc.)…

Pigs in Myth and Archaeology

The association of pigs with waters is attested in the legend of the founding of Bath by the swineherd, Bladud, whose herd made a ‘bee-line’ for the hot springs. The Neolithic palisaded enclosure by the River Kennet, near Silbury Hill and Avebury, appears to have been a giant pig pen with ritual overtones. Is the High Ham landform a manifestation of the Sow Goddess, Cerridwen, remembered in the River Cary? Or is it the magical boar, Twrch Trwyth, hunted by Arthur and his companions in The Mabinogion?


Original image by mauricedb from here

Edit 13/9/13 – Someone has pointed out the passing resemblance of this landscape form to a bear and the coincident village name of Beer. That’s triggered a recollection of a letter to The Ley Hunter (about 1979-80?) where the author (Molly Carey, if I remember rightly) cryptically alludes to a ‘Great Bear’ figure she had found in the Somerset landscape. Hmmm… ‘The Beer Bear’?

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