Ghosts – The Battle of Olney Bridge

Oh the English Summer – what a joy to burble about on a Sunday dreaming of the England of yester-year…oh how my mind is haunted…..

To explain – I was going for a walk to Emberton, Bucks because it was a nice day and I had spent too long slaving over a hot computer (so hot it got stuck).

The way to the country park was over a bridge. On the bridge I paused because I saw a plaque, and the plaque said that on the bridge back in 1643 The Battle of Olney Bridge took place. This had my blood racing, for I realized that at this place I was in the land of my ancestors.

I knew that at least one or two of my family were involved in the English Civil War, but  Civil War records were not kept properly, if at all.

The connections hinge on one Sir Samuel Luke who was the head honcho at the Newport Pagnell barracks. He was a staunch Parliamentarian and Puritan – to the point that some wit wrote a satirical poem about him in a rather unflattering way.  ‘Hudibras’ published after the restoration of the monarchy in 1663 by Samuel Butler was basically a mock heroic poem criticizing the Puritans – later the style was called ‘Burlesques’. Butler actually worked as a secretary for Sir Samuel Luke – its as if he was stalking him for a literary attack in his own home!

Sir Samuel Luke was also the squire at the Manor of Haynes, the residence of my folks in the early 1600s. Being a smallish place the gentry would have known and employed the village people. By 1643 the Luke family had been in Haynes for two generations and my family would also have been there for two generations. Or would they?

The records are a jumble- the oldest son was always named after the father….and theories can fail.

Sir Samuel Luke

Ice Cream and Iron Age Huts

The hot summer sun eventually slid from behind the clouds and the sky changed from a blue bruise, to the blue that accompanies lashings of ginger beer. A quest was sort, a quest was made, but nothing from the quest was gained. Not materially anyway!

To explain – the Reckless Relic fraternity set out for a car boot and on arrival at the country farm destination – no one had ever heard of it!

I believe it happens frequently that someone has a good idea, tells the world via the internet, then forgets to let the world know when the idea falls through. So on a lovely hot day we ended up in a nature reserve, the fish were jumping, the kids were playing and someone had slapped together a reconstructed iron age hut that looked like it would probably dissolve in the next squall of wind and rain. We spotted some heavy duty screws and some plastic, so I predict it will be half the disaster it could have been, but on the day of its demise it is still going to look right sorry.


I sometimes wonder how people managed back in those days – what a hard, short life. Nothing like the constant pressure of survival to make a person value what little they own and what little time they had got on the planet. Our ancestors would scoff at us for our little gripes about trivial things.

Mind you – I bet they wouldn’t have said no to a minty Cornetto – you know the day can’t have been a dead loss when ice cream is involved!

The Queen and the Emperor

Catching up with friends meant a trip to Rochester and peering into the wonderful cathedral brought me eye to eye with Her Majesty The Queen – two huge images of her in what is called the Jubilee Photo Mosaic, commissioned to commemorate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Made from five thousand photos, it was quite stunning. The artist was Helen Marshall, aided by Polly Tiles, a computer art expert. The piece is exhibited in the Nave of Rochester Cathedral from 8 to 19 August.

Finding pictures for my books is never easy but I came across a fantastic artist who has allowed me to use a picture in a book about the Emperor Tarot Card. Her name is Steph Roche and her website is:

She studied at Blackheath School of Art in London, then went on to Leeds. A copy of her contribution is shown here, I believe she has called it ‘Underworld Duality’ and for me it gives an evocotive view of early man’s perception of leadership, representated by a figure wearing stag’s antlers seated on a throne (as we know the Stag is the Lord of the Forest). So I am over the moon that Steph has allowed me to use her brilliant picture.

Steph Roche is currently exhibiting her amazing art at ‘Postcards From the Astral’
La Terre, 22 High Street, Glastonbury, Somerset.
From 14 Aug to 30 Sept 2012

Picture By Stephanie Roche
The Queen at Rochester Cathedral

Scythian Art

Who were the Scythians?

The Scythians were originally tribes of nomadic warriors who roamed the land known to us as Southern Siberia. In the fifth century BC, Herodotus wrote of monuments showing that the Scythians were related to the Cimmerians, an older culture of the ancient steppe. Many tribes shared the same economic and cultural existence over a very wide area. By 200 BC Scythian culture had been flourishing for three hundred years and their influence spread from China to the Black Sea, where, on northern coastal flatlands, the Scythians buried their dead in earth burial mounds called ‘kurgans’.

From the sixth to the third centuries BC, the Scythians occupied the steppes between the Don, the Volga and the Urals, their culture linked tribes of Eastern Kazakhstan and the High Altai.

Culturally, the Scythians were regarded as excessive drinkers, who did not water down their wine like the Greeks. Heredotus observed Scythian ‘vapour baths’ where, inside a tent, hemp seeds smouldered in order to intoxicate the occupants. Living in prototype caravans, their lifestyle required little furniture, although they appreciated a good carpet.

The Altai mountain region forms the border for Russia, Kazakhstan, China and Mongolia and it is here, in these mountains that Scythian burial tombs have been discovered, preserved in the permafrost. The tomb chamber is typically a wooden room built at the bottom of a deep hole. The mummified body rested in a tree trunk coffin surrounded by possessions. Their well preserved grave-goods show fine artistic development. Sacrificed horses have been found outside the tomb chamber but still within the grave shaft, facing east.

Scythian warrior society had no interest in writing, but developed weapons, using a powerful, superior bow used in warfare. Mounted archers achieved the complete destruction of their enemies and in the fifth century BC the Scythians had the capacity to sack Nineveh, Assyria’s main city.

Everything you wanted to know about Scythian Art but were afraid to ask!

The Scythians learned about horses and improved their riding skills on the grassy steppes of Siberia, covering vast distances from Mongolia to the Black Sea as they managed large herds of sheep and cattle. Horses wore festive head-dress, they were also sometimes sacrificed as part of a warrior’s grave goods. A chieftain’s gold torque discovered in a Crimean grave and dated to fourth century BC depicts a bearded horseman, wearing an ankle length caftan tied at the waist, with long trousers held by a strap beneath the boot. The horse had a harness and bridle, but was ridden bare-back without stirrups.(Gold pectoral of a Scythian king from the Tovsta Monyla burial mound (near the city of Pokrov), 1.14kg, 4th century BC). 

Scythian Art

Scythians art can be seen from textile decoration to rock art. Craftsmen excelled at metal work, utilizing Siberia’s rich metal ores. Techniques included casting, forging, and inlaying, and they worked gold, bronze and iron. (SCYTHIAN WORLD by Boris B. Piotrovsky, Soviet archaeologist)

Scythian art is notable for specific motifs such as the reclining deer ,and it absorbed ancient Eastern imagery such as the holy tree with it’s attendant divinities and fantastic animals.

In 1830, on the straits connecting the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov, a stone vault was uncovered beneath a fourth century BC burial mound. It contained Greek-made jewellery that used Scythian motifs. Included were figures illustrating a Greek legend about the founding of the Scythian dynasty. A short Scythian dagger was found in a burial mound excavated in 1763. It’s scabbard and hilt was decorated with fantastic animals and ‘anthropomorphic deities’, gathered around a sacred tree. Artefacts such as horse gear, iron weapons and beads, were found in Scythian burials of the Black Sea region, and similar have been discovered in Armenia and ancient Urartu. Further, a seventh century BC tomb containing the “Ziwiyeh treasure” was located in Iranian Kurdistan, with Scythian burials in the Ukraine yielding a number of Thracian objects.

Kurgans, from the coastal steppes to the Kuban region, all reveal magnificent Scythian art and it has been suggested that the reclining deer with branch-like antlers and the panther MAY have been tribal symbols.

In the words of the Soviet archaeologist, Aleksandr Shkurko, an authority on early Scythian art,

“The artist was not unduly concerned with modelling the animal’s body or adding precise detail.

What held his attention was its inner qualities : its strength, speed and essential wildness. The decorative treatment of the horns and the compactness of the composition confer on the image an almost heraldic appearance.”


Bodies discovered in Scythian burial tombs are extensively tattooed. Designs include fantastic animals, birds and dots perhaps suggesting a system that used acupuncture.

A tomb discovered in Pazyriyk in the Altai mountains of Siberia held the oldest known pile carpet yet discovered and with it were five heavily tattooed individuals.

The site, high in the remote Siberian Ulagan Valley was first excavated in 1929 by two scholars from Leningrad. They returned in 1947-49, discovering perishable artefacts, frozen and preserved for almost two and a half thousand years. The mummified bodies of men and women were found with a ceremonial chariot and horses in rich trappings.

One elderly Pazyryk chieftain was embalmed, his skin portraying a lifetime of intricate tattoos. Beasts, real and imaginary, pranced and tumbled down his arms and other parts of his body. The frost preserved the designs which were made with soot rubbed into pin pricks made into the skin. Designs are shown in the book, “Frozen Tombs of Siberia” by Sergei I. Rudenko ©J.M. Dentand Sons, London1970

More tattoos were found on a mummy that became known as the Siberian Ice Maiden.

Also recovered from a Pazyryk grave, this Iron Age woman was discovered in 1993 on a plateau in the Ukok Mountains, in the modern Republic Of Altay. Dressed in expensive Chinese silk, she probably died around the age of twenty five. cancerIt is assumed that she was a shaman or from a high ranking family, and that this is reflected in the design of her tattoos.

Her tattoos, from her shoulders down to her hands, are assumed to indicate a certain social status, and maybe denote which tribe she belonged to. It is suggested that the animals represent the living and the after-world. A mythological animal on her arm represents a deer with griffon’s beak and goat antlers, a panther with sheep’s legs and a deer’s head. Two warriors buried nearby had tattoos that matched. It is believed that a person always had their first tattoo on their shoulder, usually the left one. The number of tattoos could have been linked to age, as older people had more. The Siberian Ice Maiden has among the most complex tattoos discovered on a body dating from this period.

The Siberian Ice Maiden is now kept in a Mausoleum at the Republican National Museum in Gorno-Altajsk, the Republic of Altai.

Art was indeed in the people’s blood. And the images of animals and birds, whether wild or domesticated, real or fantastic, which figured in their decorations were more than brightly coloured ornaments. They revealed the spirit of the people, their beliefs, the way they looked at things. In their travels abroad, the ancient Altaians absorbed what was best in their neighbours’ art, and then added their own local colour and interpretations. Thus, they found place in their own creations for griffins and sphinxes borrowed from Western Asia, and for patterns of lotus flowers, ornamental palm-trees and geometrical designs whose origins were in the countries of the near East and in Egypt” Mariya P Zavitukhina

The Scythians were superseded by the Sarmatians by 200 BC who became known to Greek trading colonies along the coast north of the Black Sea. At their peak in the 1st century AD, Sarmatia, the Sarmatians territory, corresponded to western greater Scythia.

This information gathered from article :

The Scythians: nomad goldsmiths of the open steppes, The Unesco Courier

A Storm In A Tea Cup

Its a frustrating thing when you just want to get on and the weather puts a stop to your plans. Three days in a row I have had to turn off the computer because the rumble of thunder is just too close. And therein lies the frustration – I am unable to carry on with my projects and have to think about boring things like housework. I have danced in the rain already last week, and marvelled at the rainbow that went over the house – (then the sky went a very peculiar orange!)

Plans to go camping have been scuppered (especially after seeing how badly the Isle of Wight Festival went this year). As for a getting a tan – don’t make me laugh! I’m an English girl and the weather is my constant companion.

So to make up for the lack of sun, or exercise – and the interruptions to writing my book and setting up this website, I invited my cousins around for tea, during which time my cousin Andrew was DJ for the Diamond Seeds Pod Cast (number 3) which became a Cousins Edition.

The night ended on a jolly as we looked at some family pictures I had scanned onto the computer. These were among the first pictures I had tried to restore and the early attempts were not too successful. Hence there was general hilarity at one picture of my grandmother, whose face I had cleaned up successfully, but had not got round to her neck and shoulders! (I think she was wearing a ball gown). My cousins saw the mistake and found it very funny!

So having an evening off with family was all very well, but now I have found another job waiting to be done – and still the thunder rolls which has me dashing for the off button and the plug socket!

Some days its better to just pick up the guitar and write a song!



A Double Rainbow means twice as much good luck?

About Reckless Relic

Reckless Relic

Reckless Relic, a name coined from a curious nature, an inquiring mind. The magic of discovering art in  museums all over the world. The psychological impact, the pondering of history. Marvelous stories and wonder at the variation within  human culture. Reckless Relic was always going to end up on clothes. An appreciation of art that you can wear!

The project

The website became a shop, but it is also a place to share pictures and information about  fantastic objects. Life drives and seduces a person into many directions, but Reckless Relic will continue while we write books and make music. It is part of the creative structure of our lives.

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