Mythoarchaeology fieldnotes: Ar, Ars, Art and Archaeology

The data emerges...

The data emerges…

Geopoetic Flow
Geopathic Stress relief is a New Age growth industry based on the idea that localised problems from plant decay, chronic human fatigue, skin problems, unemployment, suicide, noisome neighbours etc., are caused by negative energies emanating from the ground, often beneath the home. This is the current variation on a now-familiar theme which links a nebulous network of post-rationalist ideas known collectively as New Age thought with the land, in the form of mysterious subterranean energies. The theme emerged in the 1960s out of extant ‘ley’ theory, older myths of ancient ‘fairy paths’ as, writes W.Y. Evans Wentz in 1911, “magnetic arteries, so to speak, through which circulates the earth’s magnetism”, Feng Shui, the ancient Chinese system of rules oriented in relation to the flow of qi energies, and Aimé Michel’s notion of orthoténie, which proposed that UFO sightings occur in alignment with a system of lines that exists in relation to vast geometric shapes traced and centred on the earth, an idea suggested by Michel’s friend the Surrealist poet, writer and artist Jean Cocteau. (How stimulating that a myth that is so widely embraced was imagined into being by someone who sees life in terms of poïesis not patheia.)

The idea that these energies are somehow harmful seems to me to be a contributing factor to the problem Geopathic Stress experts claim to be able to diagnose and cure. So, did you see what I did there? I changed ‘pathic’ to ‘poetic’ and ‘stress’ to ‘flow’, a remedial move (or trick) that may be compared to how what is pejoratively dismissed as the ‘placebo effect’ is looked at differently, and becomes a more interesting research subject, when it is viewed in less negative terms as the ‘healing response’. Same thing, big difference.

Talking of words…

Ar, Ars, Art and Archaeology
According to one expert, Christopher Stevens – not the Associate Professor of Linguistics at UCLA but the one who writes for the Daily Mail – the etymological root of the ar sound in certain words – e.g., art and archaeology – relates to the penetration of compact soil in preparation for growing crops: to plough. By root, I mean not just Greek (aratron) or Latin (aratrum). Accordingly, the persistence of the ar sound in those languages in relation to arable farming, as well as Aromanian (where ar still means plough), and throughout the spread of Indo-European language suggests Neolithic origins. To briefly expand on this, the original meaning of dhr, which begat Dharma, was to hold firm without moving – conveying the idea that all power and identity is derived from land. So Dhr is related, at least conceptually, to another ar word: farm.

Or is this an example of apophenia, where we start with a compelling idea and then set about attributing ‘meaningful’ evidence to it in the form of false positives? Such as with ‘ley’ hunting, where a line drawn between distant points brings significance to other landscape features, generating intuited ‘revelations’ of meaning, intention and agency.

Perish the thought.

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2 thoughts on “Mythoarchaeology fieldnotes: Ar, Ars, Art and Archaeology

  1. That is very interesting, however the nature of Indo-European languages mean they have the same root, hence ‘ar’ is a more widely adopted ‘original’ form, where communities were unfamiliar with the concept of digging to plant food and adopted the introduced words (such Giraffe in India, or even variants of ‘thank you’ in modernity).

    It would be monstrously disingenuous to state that hunter-gatherer communities hadn’t dug before the onset of farming, think of drainage ditches surrounding roundhouses late Mesolithic or of the construction of water-holes to attract game; even in late Mesolithic Japan there were semi-permanent structures which show evidence of earthworks. A universal grammar may of course be related to the first Out of Africa migration, but who knows?

    Furthermore the consistency of the soil is equally important. Digging heavy clay soils, rocky soils, dry sandy-soils, etc. all have different sounds depending on the tools used (coming from an over-obsessive gardener!). This may be one planet but by no means is it constant, various fauna and flora now extinct would have also effected soil consistency.

    Even still, that was very interesting – thank you!

    • Thanks Amritpal, and apologies for not replying sooner. Although I like the idea I posited above, and suspect there’s something in it, the fact that there must be many ‘ar’ words that bear little or no relation to ploughing leads me to think that I might be right about seeking positive connections. (Which fits nicely with the rest of my project.) I found your remarks about different soils having different sounds especially interesting; this reminded me of Alfred Gell’s “The Language of the Forest: Landscape and Phonological Iconism in Umeda”, in Hirsch, E., and O’Hanlon, M., (eds.), The Anthropology of Landscape. Oxford: Oxford University Press (1995).

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