Figures from the ‘Sibylline Geography’ Chapter of The World’s End

August 20, 2015

Here are Figures 12 and 13 from an early draft of the last chapter of The World’s End, which came to be headed, “‘The maudlin river then gets its dues’: Charting the Sibylline Geography of Rock Art”. Apart from the photograph of the carved rock at Hopeman and the page from Splendor Solis, these illustrations weren’t included in the final edit.

Image (92)

Figure 13 (below) shows the redness of the rapids of Allt Dearg (‘red stream’), at Cawdor, photographed at sunset. Cawdor, like the river name, Calder, means ‘hard water’ or ‘rapid stream’. Cawdor Castle – family seat of Macbeth – is adjacent to this fast stretch of Allt Dearg.

Image (93)

Much was made in this chapter about the association of red rocks, rapid streams and an alignment of sites with spiral carvings, found by archaeologist, Paul Frodsham (Frodsham 1986). This alignment included the red sandstone monolith, known as Long Meg, quarried from a rapid stretch of the River Eden some miles away. Long Meg of Westminster, legendary heroine of ballads and chapbooks dating from the sixteenth century, reputedly accompanied the king’s troops to France as a laundress (Menefee 1996: 81).

The ‘Sibylline Geography’ chapter focused on places associated with ‘uncanny women’ – fairy guardians of animals, of wells and springs, as well as the supernatural ‘death messenger’ known as the Banshee. The Banshee, and the death messenger known as The Washer at the Ford, is sometimes associated with the mundane activity of doing the laundry, with some accounts of Banshee apparitions reporting her at the riverside beating the laundry with a wooden bat known as a ‘beetle’ or ‘paddle’ (Lysaght 1996: 130-135).


Anati’s survey of images carved on the Great Rock of Naquane, Val Camonica. There is a preponderance of ‘paddle’ motifs, including a dense array of them above the labyrinth motif. Image found on this site.

Red Clyde

Emmanuel Anati notes that some researchers contend that the ‘paddle’ motifs on the Great Rock at Naquane were depictions of the paddle used for beating laundry, ‘like those still today in different areas of central Europe’ (Anati 1964: 203). If so, I wonder whether there are allusions here to the ‘uncanny’ dimensions of the mundane activity of beating the laundry, embodied in the Gaelic name of the River Clyde (Clota – ‘The Washer’), and evident in the testimony of the accused witch, Isobel Gowdie of Auldearn (a village few miles from the carved rock pictured in Hopeman), in her account of a spell to raise the wind.

Angelo Fossati (2008) links the toponomy of Naquane to that of Aquane, uncanny female beings in the folklore of the central-eastern Alps, known by diverse names, such as: Anquane, Enguane, Gane, Laganes, Sagane, Aivane and Vivane (Fossati 2008: 40). This connects to Aganippe, the nymph and eponymous spring on Mount Helicon (ibid.), brought forth when the hoof of Pegasus struck the rock.

A birch washing bat from Norway (c.1770).

A birch washing bat from Norway (c.1770).

I fancied I’d found a reference to the Great Rock at Naquane in Finnegans Wake, as Joyce describes a manifestation of Anna Livia Plurabelle (ALP), in the guise of the Prankquean/the Two Temptresses/Lililiths/Peena and Queena, implicated in the fall from grace of Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker (HCE):

alongsoons Panniquanne starts showing of her peequuliar talonts. Awaywrong wandler surking to a rightrare rute for his plain utterrock sukes, appelled to by her fancy claddaghs.

(FW 606.29-32).

With the word, ‘utterrock’, is an allusion to the German unterrock: ‘petticoat’, as well as, perhaps, an attribute of the Aquane: ‘women who can change into otters’ (Fossati 2008: 40). I also suspect a ‘rock of utterance’, like the Lorelei rock on the Rhine, or ‘the chair made of rough stone, overlooking the river Finnisk at Modeligo, Co. Waterford’, which ‘could be a seat of the Banshee’s manifestations’ (Lysaght 1996: 127). Joyce incorporates here too the prophetic poise of Ota, the wife of the Viking invader, Thorgil, (McHugh 2006: 552), who took to the high altar of Clonmacnois cathedral to utter her prophecies:

and she sass her nach, chillybombom and forty bonnets, upon the altarstane. May all have mossyhonours!

(FW 552.29-30).

The ‘fancy claddaghs’ which lure HCE are presumably the red flannel petticoats traditionally worn by the women of Claddagh, a community in Galway (Sheffield 1998: 108). In the fusion of the Italian word for clothes, panni (ibid.) and the great rock of Naquane, is a suggestion of the panic the Aquanic presence may induce. In the Greek term, πᾶν – pan – meaning ‘throughout’ or ‘everywhere’, it should be no surprise that an Aganippic element accrues to Anne Boleyn’s Well, in Carshalton, Surrey, created when the hoof of Anne’s horse struck the ground.

Anne B Well


Anati, E. 1960. La Grande Roche de Naquane. Paris: Masson et Cie.

Anati, E. 1964. Camonica Valley (Trans. L. Asher). London: Jonathan Cape.

Fossati, A. 2008. Following Arianna’s Thread: Symbolic Figures at Female Rock Art Sites at Naquane and In Valle, Valcamonica, Italy. In Nash, G. and Children, G. (eds.) The Archaeology of Semiotics and the Social Order of Things. Oxford: Archaeopress, pp. 31-44.   (Link here).

Frodsham, P. 1996. Spirals in Time: Morwick Mill and the Spiral Motif in the British Neolithic. Northern Archaeology 13/14, pp. 101-141.

Lysaght, P. 1996. The Banshee: The Irish Supernatural Death Messenger. Dublin: O’Brien Press.

McHugh, R. 2006. Annotations to Finnegans Wake. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Menefee, S. 1996. Meg and her Daughters: Some traces of Goddess-beliefs in Megalithic Folklore? In Billington, S. and Green, M. (eds.) The Concept of the Goddess. London: Routledge, pp. 78-90.

Sheffield, E. 1998. Joyce’s Abandoned Female Costumes, Gratefully Received. Cranbury, NJ: Associated University Presses.

%d bloggers like this: