[HNW] vines/Welsh needlework

Ipsley1@aol.com Ipsley1 at aol.com
Sun Mar 23 19:03:34 PST 2003


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Gerald to the list, greeting,
Inhabited vines:
The style is charcterized by a scrolling vine, with leafy  bits, and it may
have bunches of grapes or berries as well.  There are beasts and birds
peeking out of the foliage, and in fact, there's a lot more vine than
leaves--the vine usually is mostly a frame for the beasties.  The vine
frequently issues from a pot, which gives rise to the thought that it might
be an example of Coptic influence, but I doubt this.  The Copts are south of
Egypt, and in the period when the style is popular (800s or so), the Islamic
empire is substantially inhibiting trade with them--in fact, they're forced
to trade mostly with India.  I find that there are at least two major
influences known to be in Romanized Britain (England and Wales): first, the
Romans, who had among the motifs in public buildings, scrolling vines.  After
the Romans left, Britons continued to re-use dressed stone and brick from
those buildings until well after 1200 (A monograph appeared recently that
wanted to push medieval brick-making in England back to 1100, but that
presumes that prior to that time, re-use of Roman material is standard.)
Scrolling vines were non-pagan enough to be fine for church use. There was a
lot of need for church building because England is nominally Christian as the
Romans leave, but then becomes much more pagan as the Anglo-Saxons conquer by
600 or so, and then re-converts between 600 and 700. A second influence
present in England is pagans who worshiped in groves, that is, both Druids
and Anglo-Saxons.  It's not very surprising that a tree of life design would
appeal to them, even after conversion to Christianity.  The pots just give a
place for the tree/vine to start, and you don't have to deal with roots or a
piece of ground in the design.

 Because the beasts and birds peeking out of the vines are drawn in a style
similar to that of the Book of Kells, a nearly contemporaneous object known
to be produced by Celts, I consider the inhabited vine design to be the last
of the Celtic styles.  It is superseded by the very florid Winchester Style,
after about 900.  Finding the tunic with inhabited vines in Llangorse, a
Celtic area, strongly supports it as a Celtic design, even though, like many
or most other Celtic styles, it is borrowed from and shared by other peoples.
 Those who insist that only Celtic-originated styles could be considered
Celtic would do well to remember that spiral designs are derived from the La
Tene styles, that is, from the Etruscans, and that interlace comes to the
British Isles with the Saxons.

Gerald of Ipsley, OL, OP



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