Thursday, 31 October 2013

Accessing C. G. Jung 6(b). The contextual archaeology of symbols

Armorican Celtic coin, Series Xn, with a head
showing  three pellets within circles on the cheek
Colin Haselgrove, Iron Age coinage and archaeology, in Celtic Coinage: Britain and Beyond (bar), Oxford, 1992, p.123, says:
"On their own, a collection of Iron Age coins from a particular site can only tell us so much. It is commonplace among numismatists that to interpret particular features of a given collection, we need a knowledge of the normal pattern of coin losses found on sites in the region. Many questions will be better phrased in relative terms. specifically, what kind of similarities and differences do we find in the coin lists from different types of sites in a given circulation area or with sites occupied at different times? When we find a case of marked departure from the normal pattern, this gives us something on which to base our interpretation of the material..."
In a transdisciplinary manner, we can apply this method to the study of individual coins by substituting an archaeological site with a coin. The site finds in this application become the coin's design elements and motifs. In many ways, the data become more reliable on the coins than do the finds at an archaeological site: coins are multiples, so when a coin is struck off-centre or is worn or damaged other examples might be found struck from the same dies which will provide the missing details -- typically, those coins might also have other missing details and so, through a number of examples, the complete die design can be recovered. Archaeological site that are related to each other, like Roman temples, will share certain features but are not multiples like coins and the points of similarity will be less and the reconstructions less reliable.

The coin pictured in the last section is from the same series as the one pictured here. This is determined from the great number of shared similarities -- other coin series can also be grouped together by their distribution patterns, but series Xn is mostly known from the Jersey hoards and the coins in these hoards were gathered, after the Gallic war, from many locations. They were intended to be recycled at Hengistbury in England, but the Romans put an end to this trade in about 10 -15 AD, destroying the mainland Coriosolite port in the process. This put an end to the Durotriges silver source and their coinage was only copper after that. After Caesar's visits to England, Roman trade, as evidenced from amphora types, moved north of the Thames and the trade agreement was probably arranged, as part of the terms of surrender, by Cassieuellaunos.

In the two coin varieties there is an important substitution of motifs: on the cheek, the lyre symbol and the three pellets within circles are exact substitutions because of their positional context. These are sometimes called "tattoos", but there is no evidence to support this designation. A symbol might also identify a particular group, for example, many coins of the Dobunni share an otherwise unique tree design. Lyres, however, are commoner motifs and can be found on the coins of many tribes. The lyres show a great many variations: sometimes they are more realistic to the musical instrument; the number of "strings" vary; they might have extra details, and so on. The actual, rather than coincidental, groupings can be seen by examining the coins for other shared
"Treviri" gold coin
elements and motifs and the greater the number, the more certain is the grouping. The closest lyres to those on Series Xn are those on Coriosolite coins, and other design elements and motifs are also shared by these two types and both are in the Armorican style, generally. Next in similarity come some coins of the Baiocasses, and a few other rarer Armorican coins such as a gold coin (BN 6760) found near Rennes (Redones). An "outlier" is also interesting (pictured right). It is a gold coin attributed by D. F. Allen (Germania 49) to the Treviri, but might belong to an unnamed tribe in the vicinity. An earlier issue (without the lyre) was the prototype of the Armorican style and was first used, there, by the Aulerci Cenomani, who had moved down from the north bringing the motif of the human-headed horse with them (a statuette of one was found at Trier). Moving even further away, and in time also, the Coriosolite/Xn style lyres which are highly abstracted and have four "strings" are paralleled with varieties in rock art at the Megalithic Newgrange in Ireland, associated with the roof box which lets the dawn light enter the inner chamber at the winter solstice dawn. Other motifs at Irish Megalithic sites can also be seen on some Armorican coins. That the Armorican lyre might be a cosmological symbol is also supported by Macrobius (Sat. i. 19), who said that the four strings of Mercury's lyre represented the four seasons.

While I could write more about these connections, these examples should serve as an example of how useful this transdisciplinary method can be for the interpretation of symbols.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Accessing C. G. Jung 6(a). The contextual archaeology of symbols

Armorican Celtic coin, Series Xn, with a
head showing a lyre symbol on the cheek
Because of its complexity, this will be a multi-part article -- one post each weekday.

At the beginning of this series, I said that Man and his Symbols appeared to be the first book that most people purchased about Jungian psychology. I then offered a couple of alternatives that I feel would be a better choice. One of the reasons for my not recommending Man and his Symbols is that the information is not always reliable. I can illustrate this point with a diagram that appears in the article, Symbolism in the visual arts, by Aniela Jaffé. First, download the PDF article. It might take a few minutes, so be patient. Next, scroll down to the diagram that appears opposite page 301. The photographs and drawings are accompanied by the following caption;
"Right, Roman coins used in places progressively further away from Rome. On the last coin (farthest from the controlling centre), the face has disintegrated. This strangely corresponds to the psychic disintegration that such drugs such as LSD-25 can induce.Below, drawings done by an artist who took this drug in a test held in Germany in 1951. The drawings become more abstract as conscious control is overcome by the unconscious."
The best thing that could be said about any part of the information given in this caption is that it is debateable. Some of it is utterly wrong. Let's deal with it all in order. First of all, none of the coins are Roman. The first coin is Greek. It is a gold stater of the type first issued by Philip II of Macedon (the father of Alexander the Great). From the photograph, and that only the obverse is shown, I cannot tell its exact variety  From the style of the head, I would guess that it is a Macedonian issue, perhaps minted at Pella. It might well be a posthumous issue and some of these were minted after the death of Alexander. Gold staters of this type were minted at many places from Europe to Asia Minor. The design is prototypical to many Celtic coins, first in gold, and later in other, baser, alloys. The second coin (and all the rest) is Celtic, a large-flan type of the Ambiani (around Amiens, France) dating to the late 2nd to early 1st cent BC. The third coin is a Celtic gold stater (Class V) of the Parisii tribe, who gave their name to Paris, and is from that area. It dates ca. 70-60 BC. The last two are in the Belgic style, but I cannot easily attribute then from the photographs. These types were issued from northern Gaul toBritain between the 1st centuries BC/AD. The changes in the designs are due, not to the distances between any places, but to the date of the coins. Rome is completely irrelevant. An earlier class (1a) of the Parisii coin can be seen here which is of the same period of the Ambiani coin.

Next, any controlling centre for the Celtic coins will reside within the territory of the issuing tribe, and the changes to the prototypical image have nothing to do with disintegration, neither artist nor psychic. The idea that these images have devolved in any way suggests that the artists were increasingly unable to attain the Greek artistic ideals represented in the prototypes. In actual fact, the transitions are more evolutionary and the artists have gradually been able to express Celtic styles and symbology while retaining the subject matter of the prototype. In the later period, identification with the prototype became less important and the designs were greatly simplified.It's original importance was because Celtic troops were paid with coin of the Philip types in the Italian campaigns (mostly against the Romans) and the copied type became a status symbol that hearkened back to that heroic time in Celtic history before the Romans sent them packing back to Gaul.

For the part about the drawings, following onward from the disintegration issues, let us light a couple of joss sticks, see if we have any old macramé pot hangers and bead necklaces in the attic, listen to some sitar music and talk of LSD-25. But perhaps we should go a little earlier than this, as the German experiment was conducted in 1951. I have chosen the Handbook for the Therapeutic use of Lysergic Acid Diethylamide-25 Individual and Group Procedures, 1959, - D.B. Blewett, Ph.D. & N. Chwelos, M.D. While this publication dates eight years later than the German experiment, there is enough in it that dates earlier than the experiment to reveal the flaws in the caption statement. Most importantly, it was well-known that the effects of LSD-25 were variable, subject to subject, so it is a pity that we do not know what the artist was actually experiencing while drawing. I would have asked him or her and then recorded the responses. Perhaps, the artist was merely playing with abstraction in a conscious, and not unconscious, manner: I can see some very possible influences in these drawings that might include Braque, Miro, and Kandinsky to mention just a few possibilities. It would appear that the artist had attended an art-school and had some familiarity with other 20th century art. Then we should, in a postmodern manner, look at the text relative to the time that the book was written: social disintegration was a great concern of that time -- is it that which was being given a convenient Jungian veneer? Was this a conscious decision of the caption writer, or was it the effect of a meme? We cannot answer these questions with the information that has been given us. About all that we can do with this diagram, with a good degree of certainty, is to say that it is bunk!

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Accessing C. G. Jung 5. Jungian novels and other influences

Matthias Stom, fl. 1615 - 1649
Young man reading at candlelight
No work by Jung captured the public imagination as much as Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle. Mind you, the principle was little understood and most saw it as little more than "meaningful coincidence", and that could (and was) easily dismissed by the skeptic. Perhaps this misunderstanding was a psychic defence -- the idea that thoughts can suddenly play out in the physical world seems like something from the realms of magic -- but skeptics have a tendency to be extraverts and, by definition, do not like to look inward.

Synchronicity is where part of the unconscious is stimulated, and then a corresponding reality suddenly occurs. But it is just part of a much wider phenomenon because the unconscious can also be contacted in other ways. Jung used  techniques of active imagination with his patients. The poet, too, can frequently contact the unconscious -- Carrie was surprised when I showed her a number of important elements from Celtic mythology and iconography that were appearing in her poetry, as she had little contact with anything Celtic before she met me. She then started to look at early Welsh poetry. Later, she built the first online Celtic Coin Index.

I was about twenty five years old when I first read The Glass Bead Game: (Magister Ludi) by Hermann Hesse. I did not know that its author had both known and had been strongly influenced by Jung. I knew very little of Jung at that time -- only that he was a psychologist. The book gave me the strongest feeling that I now knew the secrets of the universe, but I could not put my finger on them, it was if some sort of veil was in the way. Of course, the work had touched my unconscious -- but I had no knowledge of the unconscious, It was all symptoms and no answers! Next, I read Demian: The Story of Emil Sinclair's Youth, the very first of Hesse's Jungian novels -- but I did not know that. I continued to read Hesse, of course.

Time passed, and one afternoon I was working at Crown Surplus. It was a typical afternoon, I was filling some orders for Sten gun parts to go to the U.S. They had been "demilitarized", of course -- the breech blocks were always bought in pairs: one with a weld cut at the front, the other at the rear. While I was working, I was chatting with a customer about Chinese porcelain. A man was standing nearby looking at me intently. He looked a bit like a pirate, swarthy, with black hair, beard and moustache and very tough-looking. Instead of a pirate's cutlass, he wore a large "Crocodile Dundee" knife on his belt. He seemed out of place in the twentieth century. When I had finished with the orders and chatting with the customer, he introduced himself as "Bill", and said that he, too, collected Chinese porcelain. We soon became good friends. He was Professor William G. Blackburn, and he taught Shakespeare, science fiction and children's literature. He was also an expert in 16th. century magic, a swordsman (épée), and a black belt in Taekwondo. He had worked, once, as a bodyguard for the children of a Sultan. He introduced me to the works of Joseph Campbell. He seemed to have modelled his life on Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton KCMG FRGS (19 March 1821 – 20 October 1890) and once gave me a copy of Fawn Brodie's The Devil Drives: A Life of Sir Richard Burton, which I have to this day. He got his Master's from McGill and his doctorate from Yale. I was looking after his house and his dog "Pizzle" once, while he was taking a vacation -- a strange (Shakespearean) name for a female dog. He claimed that she knew more about Shakespeare than many of his students, as she attended all of his lectures. He came home in a black mood: his marriage had come to an end. We sat and drank whisky for a few hours. Perhaps it was just that, and the loss of the custody of his children, but Bill went into a gradual decline afterwards. I think that he also developed a severe medical problem, and after losing contact with him many years later, I heard that he had died while teaching in Thailand. Bill was unappreciated by many of his more conservative students, and he did not suffer fools gladly, but he was a major influence in my life -- one of my closest friends, and I will never forget him.

Carrie had attended the same university where Bill taught, and knew of him, but she got to know him better and he sometimes came to the house to visit. I met Carrie through an ex-student of hers, Scott McClelland. She once wrote a poem about him: The Magician after Hours Scott and I had both acted in a strange combination of  audience participation theatre and a "side-show" haunted house called "The Black Castle". It was the brain-child of Charles Porlier, but does not appear on his CV. Carrie introduced me to the works of my second Jungian novelist, Robertson Davies, and, in particular, his greatest work: The Deptford Trilogy, which, unlike Hesse, is not coy about being a Jungian work. Scott reminds me a bit -- in spirit-- of a magician that is part of the subject of the last book in the trilogy: Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin. Of course, by that time, I was a Jungian mythologist, myself -- Thanks to Bill and Joseph Campbell. The influences continue -- Basarab Nicolescu (Manifesto of Transdisciplinarity (Suny Series in Western Esoteric Traditions) , was a follower of Wolfgang Pauli.

It is said that life imitates art. I have found that to be very true.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Accessing C. G. Jung 4. Jungian Mythologists

of Athena wearing a helmet decorated with Skylla
hurling a stone and Herakles wrestling the Nemean lion
Image courtesy  of Classical Numismatic Group Inc.
"They are all given here, in these volumes, with many clues, besides, suggesting ways in which they might be put to use by reasonable men to reasonable ends -- or by poets to poetic ends -- or by madmen to nonsense and disaster"
Joseph Campbell, On completion of The Masks of God .

I could not possibly start an introduction to Jungian mythologists with anyone other than Joseph Campbell. Not only is he the most accessible of all mythologists, but it was through his work that I first became became familiar with the works of Carl Jung.

There are two outdated and erroneous ideas about the nature of mythology that still linger on in popular opinion and even in the minds of a few academics: that mythologies are based on historical events, but they are so changed over time that they contain no truth, or that they are a sort of primitive science which tries to explain nature. The very word "myth" is most commonly used to label misconceptions (apparently, people are unfamiliar with the word "misconception"). These opinions are not merely saved for cocktail party chatter but extend as far as trying to plot the voyages of Odysseus trying to return home to Ithaca.  Granted, the places described by Homer might, in part, be based on actual locations, but the subject usually misses the point of the stories: Odysseus is hero and husband idealized; Penelope is the perfect wife and Telemachus the perfect son. But it goes beyond that -- to achieve such states, one must have "wrestled with the Nemean lion" -- faced one's own demons in the depths of the unconscious. How could the story have such currency if that were not the case? Yet it is rarely a known metaphor -- we are drawn to it because it contacts the upper levels of the unconscious -- it is quite literally, part of us. Yet, most westerners, understanding this, stop at the point of metaphor as if it is only a convenient explanation. Read this Wikipedia account of the Lankavatara Sutra, which includes:
"On the contrary my teaching is based upon the recognition that the objective world, like a vision, is a manifestation of the mind itself..."
Essentially, we discover that the objective world is really the subjective world. This thought carries through to our time in the discussions between Jung and Pauli that I quoted in an earlier post, and in an interview with Louwrien Wijers in On Creativity (Routledge Classics) p. 141, David Bohm said: “We have got to see that thought is part of this reality and that we are not merely thinking about it, but that we are thinking it”.

The scope of Campbell is vast: from the Palaeolithic to James Joyce; from East to West, he covers it all, but The Masks of God first brought me to Jung, and it is his defining work.

The second Jungian mythologist is Carl Kerényi. Others might well place him first as he actually collaborated with Jung in Essays on a Science of Mythology. besides that title. I highly recommend Dionysos: Archetypal Image of Indestructible Life. In addition to being the most detailed work on Dionysos, its Introduction is an essay: Finite and Infinite Life in the Greek Language, which is on the subject of bios (βίος) and zoë (ζωή) -- two words, which stripped of their psychic import and those wonderful nuances that are the Greek language have come down to us (in a pedestrian fashion), in the two English words, biology and zoology.

Finally, although there are many other Jungian mythologists, I have to mention Jung's wife, Emma. Carl Jung once said that he would not cover the Celts as that was an interest of his wife. He was not talking about the pre-Roman La Tène Celts, I believe that I am the only person who writes on their mythology -- Miranda Aldhouse-Green focuses on the, later, Roman period. Jung was not referring to that either, but the even later Welsh stories included in The Mabinogion (Penguin Classics). For thirty years, until her death in 1955, Emma Jung researched and wrote The Grail Legend, which was finished by Marie-Louise von Franz, the greatest of all Jungian psychologists and a scholar who wrote (just to mention this topic) on the Jungian analysis of fairy tales.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Accessing C. G. Jung 3. Personality types

Charles Le Brun, 1619 - 1690
The four temperaments 
A great way to access Jung is to let the old man analyze you. Considering that he died in 1961, that might seem to be impossible, and I am certainly not advising the hire of a "medium"! Instead, there is a class of expert systems called a personality analysis. Sometimes, these are called "tests", but a test implies that you can pass or fail, and that is absurd in this case. A well-known cult actually gives young or gullible people a "free personality test", and then offers to "cure" them -- for  a price, of course, as a part of their indoctrination process.

One of the best personality analyses, in my opinion, is based on Jung's Personality Types, which he first published in 1921 and which can be found in The Portable Jung (see my last post). I am not going to summarize it here, that would be well-nigh impossible, best let the old man tell you about it, himself. This was cleverly turned into an expert system called the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) after its inventors which underwent its own evolution over time. It has received some criticism, I think unfairly, because it is used in business to test for suitable employees -- there's that word, again. This is really just a misapplication, and should not be used to criticize Jung's work. The MBTI also added a fourth set of two terms to Jung's original three: judging and perceiving. There are also other analyses which are based on Jung's work and use the same four-letter designations. Some of them are free, and you can take one of those here. You can also Google MBTI and find others. I have taken a couple of them, and while the actual percentages vary somewhat, the results are the same down to the level of whether a particular characteristic is expressed slightly, moderately, or distinctively. It is also said that the best way of all is to have the test administered by a professional. That may well be true, but the advantage to taking a free on-line version is that you will likely be more honest than you would in front of an actual person -- that is also part of the many problems one finds in survey questionnaires. Of course, a well designed analysis, conducted by a perceptive and knowledgeable practitioner should be able to avoid such problems, if you can be sure that you are getting such a person!

Among the temptations that such web sites and businesses fall into for various reasons -- not the least of which is public demand, is the identification of personality types of celebrities and famous people in history. I have to admit, they are certainly entertaining, and they do credit to Jung's work by showing that there are no good or bad personality types, as each can be expressed healthily, or not so much, in each person; personalities have their plus points, but they can also have their shadow (another Jungian term you will eventually become familiar with). I will give you a personal example: I am an INFJ, the rarest of all personality types (considered by most to be only about 1% of the population and, even then, mostly encountered in females. It is Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Judging. (think: female intuition). To be more precise, in both tests that I took, I am the following:
* slightly expressed introvert
* distinctively expressed intuitive personality
* moderately expressed feeling personality
* slightly expressed judging personality
There are many web definitions of an INFJ, this one is mostly very good, but others mention different traits that also have validity.

So, I found a site that gives famous people's types (the link goes to my own type). Looking at the top line, I see: Plato; Jung, himself; Niels Bohr; and Mahatma Gandhi -- now there's an ego boost! But scrolling down, the ego glow soon dissipates when I see: Adolf Hitler; Ayatollah Khomeini; Osama bin Laden... -- well, it was fun while it lasted! You might remember from the movie "In Cold Blood", where Truman Capote, after interviewing on of the killers, said: “It's as if Perry and I grew up in the same house. And one day, he stood up and went out the back door, while I went out the front." Truman Capote is often listed as an INFJ, too. Jung also pointed out that the differences between a good and an evil person are not as extreme as most would imagine --as if only a thin veil separated the two.

Jung's identity as an INFJ might be questioned -- in the video, yesterday, he clearly says that he is Intuitive, but also cites Thinking and says he had "a definite difficulty with Feeling". Now, the latter might be interpreted that he had no Feeling and thus that part was taken up by Thinking which certainly goes along with what he says about Thinking, but it also might mean that his Feeling function was only slightly expressed -- you see how difficult assigning another's type can be? That he was an Introvert is obvious -- he not only looked inward for answers, but sung the praises of doing such in his ideas and practice. Today, Jung is mostly called an INFJ, but in the past, there was some discussion about whether he was INTJ or INTP (as might well be questioned from  what he said of himself in the video. However, he also said that the personality type changes over time, and he was mostly talking about his younger years. I might add, also, that there is that old saying: "A man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client". You will notice that even lawyers usually hire other lawyers for their own problems. Analysts do the same sort of thing -- you have to be a bit removed. Jung had no choices in developing his own techniques, he was thus forced into self-analysis after his break with Freud, and before he had trained others. Personally, I think he was, or soon became, an INFJ.

Of all the characteristics, the core is Extravert or Introvert -- this is how one initially approaches life's problems: The seer, the philosopher, the highly creative artist, all look inward for inspiration; the analytical chemist, the accountant, the field archaeologist, all look outward -- at the material -- "Just the facts, Ma'am" Physicists are a mixed bunch. Mathematics is certainly an extravert profession, and while physics, also, is dealing with the material universe. it is also involved in building conceptual models. Quantum physics is certainly more introverted than Einsteinian, and the latter is more introverted than Newtonian. I think that in the spectrum of quantum physics, The Implicate Order of David Bohm, is far more introverted than String Theory, as the latter postulates immeasurable strings of energy, while the former cannot say whether energy even exists, as we understand it, below the levels of perceivable reality. Bohm was also a mystic and close to Krishnamurti. Wolfgang Pauli, as readers of my blog, will realize -- is a bit of a paradox. While ostensibly an extravert with a finely tuned concentration on mathematics, was yet first a patient, then a friend and collaborator with Jung. None of this is absolute, if you are an accountant, you might well take the personality analysis and find out that you are an introvert! Nature can best advance with unusual solutions -- we are not automatons.

There is another important Jungian definition within his personality types and that is the rational and the irrational -- their definitions are quite different from what you will find in any dictionary. This Jungian has a firm grasp on the situation, and his whole blog is well worth your exploration.

This brings us to another core subject in Jungian psychology: the objective and the subjective -- I covered this previously, in discussing Pauli. I will leave you with a brain teaser: Jung, in the interview, said he knew that God existed, but he was always rather coy about that subject. I think I know what he was thinking, and it all has to do with objectivity and subjectivity. But he never revealed the nature of that paradox, and neither will I.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Accessing C. G. Jung 2. Jung's writing

On the Nature of the Psyche resting on The Red Book
I often take On the Nature of the Psyche to read on journeys, as it my favorite of all Jung's works, but I never take the The Red Book. In fact, the latter does not even fit on my desk and I have to read it at the kitchen table. If you order the latter, free shipping is an obvious bonus! It is the largest book that I own and I had to adjust the height of a bookshelf to accommodate it. The story of the publication of The Red Book makes fascinating reading, and you can also listen to a series of eighteen audio lectures on 'Jung and The Red Book: Liber Novus', presented by Lance Owens MD. and watch a four hour web seminar: "The Red Book of C. G. Jung - Its Meaning for Our Age" presented by Dr. Stephan A. Hoeller to a conference of the Theosophical Society in America on November 20th, 2010. This gives you an idea of the importance of this work.

However, I would not recommend either The Red Book or On the Nature of the Psyche as your first introduction to the writing of C. G. Jung. Instead, I have chosen two works that I feel are the perfect introduction to Jung's psychology. Which one you read first is up to you -- get them both and then decide.

The first is The Portable Jung (Portable Library). It is edited by Joseph Campbell, and his sixteen page Editor's Introduction is essential reading before you delve into its contents. He starts:
"The first task, on approaching such a mobile model of the living psyche as Carl G. Jung's, must be to become familiar as quickly as possible with its variables. To this end I have opened this anthology with papers introducing the elementary terms and themes of Jung's Psychology. Once acquainted with these, the reader will be prepared to range at will through The Collected Works; and my second aim, consequently, has been to provide a usable guide to that treasury of learning. For Jung was not only a medical man but a scholar in the grand style, whose researches, particularly in comparative mythology, alchemy, and the psychology of religion, have inspired and augmented the findings of an astonishing number of the leading creative scholars of our time."
For those of you who commonly skip introductions, I must say that Joseph Campbell's introduction, which includes a biography of Jung, is not only informative but is delightful reading. It could stand as a publication in its own right.

My second recommendation is Memories, Dreams, Reflections. The blurb at the link says it all.

One of the problems in buying Jung's works is that the papers selected by various editors for their volumes varies considerably so unless you only purchase his major works you will end up with a lot of duplication. Campbell's collection, with its introduction, is inexpensive and so well ordered that this should be of no concern in that respect, but the best way to avoid the problem for subsequent purchases is to focus on volumes of The Collected Works. Besides, they will look much more orderly on your bookshelves! The Wikipedia link also includes the other works that are not part of that series.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Accessing C. G. Jung 1. Introduction

Carl Jung standing in front of Burghölzli
clinic, Zurich in about 1909
"He dreamed that, instead of sitting in his study and talking to the great doctors and psychiatrists  who used to call on him from all over the world, he was standing in a public place and addressing a multitude of people who were listening to him with rapt attention and understanding what he said. . . ."
John Freeman, in his Introduction, C. G. Jung (ed.), Man and His Symbols (various editions and formats)
The quote reveals the impetus for Jung's conception and production of Man and His Symbols. Whenever I have asked anyone if they have read anything by Jung, they have told me that the only work that they own is this one.  This makes me wonder how successfully Jung's dream was realized by this work. Jung, himself, wrote only the first part, he thought it better that his associates should write the rest of it -- feeling, perhaps, that they were closer to the public mind than himself. This is a problem shared by almost anyone who has originated a subject or a philosophy over many years: it becomes so much a part of themselves that they have a great difficulty adopting the role of an observer seeing it for the first time. They cannot see the forest for the trees.

Yet, the influence of Jung is most strongly expressed by those who had managed, directly, or indirectly to access the mind of Jung to a great degree, and this influence is frequently carried forward with great success. Almost everyone has seen at least the first of the Star Wars movies, but  a very small percentage of that number realize that it is a Jungian work. The mythologist, Joseph Campbell was strongly influenced by Jung, and he, in turn, influenced George Lucas and Star Wars was born. But the influence was not restricted to just getting an idea for a movie -- Lucas, himself, was changed by these connections.

My own, conscious, interest in Jung came also from Joseph Campbell. I say conscious, because I had previously come into contact with the work of authors who had also incorporated Jungian psychology in their work, although I did not know it at the time. So when I encountered Campbell, and later Jung, there was already something familiar and comfortable about what they wrote. There will be more on this subject later in the series. I now have to ask myself if my first contact with Jung would have been Man and His Symbols, would I have traveled the same road?

Perhaps you have noticed that in all the links I have given here, so far, none are to articles about Jung, himself. This is not an oversight. Instead, if you are willing, you can be part of an experiment. In this series, I plan to expose you to the work of Jung in a more "organic" manner -- through many connections. Jung has had a profound influence on my own thinking and, of course, I own many books written by him. Not just "Man and His Symbols".

It is axiomatic to postmodernism that all philosophies are revealed through text, and that to understand the text, you really should understand something of the writer of that text, for the two cannot be separated. Accordingly, if you have not already done so, go back and read the article about John Freeman that I linked to at the start of this post. Of course, one could follow a never-ending chain and learn something of  the writer of that article, and so forth, but I would not recommend taking that path -- at least, not too far!

Once you have done this, then watch the following video interview of Carl Jung by John Freeman at Jung's house in Switzerland, and our own journey will continue tomorrow.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

La Danse - by Carin Perron (1957-2003)

[This year is the tenth anniversary of the death of my wife, Carin Perron. I had intended to write a post about a medallion in my collection, but as Carrie had already written this article, I decided to use it instead. Besides, I could not have done better. It was the cover article in a publication that we produced twenty years ago: "The Informed Collector". 1993 was a couple of years before we had a website, or even owned a computer, and to reflect the time, it appears without hyperlinks. I did, however, include a photo of the medallion at the end of the article]

Isadora Duncan, by Henri Dropsy
Art Nouveau Bronze Medallion, uniface, issued by V. Canale,
1912   100mm, featured on the cover
 This lively little masterpiece catches a moment in the dance of Isadora Duncan in a way that brings her art full circle. Inspired by the dances portrayed on Greek vase painting, Isadora Duncan created the modern dance style that broke away from the codified ballet dance style, towards more natural free-flowing movements expressive of the dancer's inner emotions.

Henri Dropsy, in this medallion, has returned her to her original inspiration: she has become, now, one of the those Greek vase paintings, but,-- vive la différence!

Isadora Duncan (the professional name of Dora Angela Duncan, born May 27, 1878 in San Francisco), was a free spirit, and no stranger to scandal. She lived her life as vigorously as she pursued her dance, and infused her every movement with her own inimitable vitality.

Dropsy here has captured that essence of liveliness: in drawing the medallion for the cover, I found Isadora's pose curiously difficult to capture. There's her leg, now -- no, look-- it's moved upwards; what about her hands? Her fingers flex and relax before the pencil can catch them. She smiles, then looks moodily within, then with a shrug of her shoulder, her tunic shifts, catches the light, and her toes kick toward you. Trying to recreate Dropsy's bas-relief was like wrestling with the Angel: worth the effort, but a surreal struggle.

Isadora Duncan left no codified series of movements, so her dance is lost. Every school she founded (Berlin in 1904, Paris in 1914, Moscow in in 1921, also those in Vienna and elsewhere) has died out. Her two young children died before her in a freak accident; she met a similarly bizarre end.

But the idea that a dancer should mover her body in a natural way; that movement could be inspired by waves, winds, birds, insects, and everything that has life; that the dancer needs no scenery but what she creates with her body that love, like the dance, was not to be fettered, but free; that the impulse of life, the improvisation of the moment was as valid as anything written in a book -- these ideas all live on long after her.

Isadora, herself was known for her diaphonous tunics, inspired by the Greek, her feet bare, her hair unbound, dancing to the music of Beethoven and Gluck. People were scandalized when she had daughter by British stage designer Edward Craig, and then a son by Paris Singer (American heir to a sewing machine fortune). Then, in 1913. when the car her children were ridng in stalled, and the driver got out to crank the engine, accidentally leaving it in gear, and the car rolled into the Seine, where the little ones were drowned, tongues wagged even louder. What kind of mother was this? what kind of woman was this?

She was a woman who went for her dream, and she turned the world of dance upside down. She débuted in Chicago in 1899, then toured Europe and the U.S. in dance recitals. She was tired of artificial forms, and wanted a simple and natural dance. She founded many schools of dance, and had an enormous impact on dancers and choreographers, like Agnes De Mille, Martha Graham, Ruth St. Denis, Ted Shawn, and George Balanchine, and gave rise to the new art of interpretive dancing. Through her influence on Russian-born choreographer Michel Fokine, she greatly influenced 20th century ballet; so, in the end, she enriched the art she was accused of destroying.

She married Russian poet Sergey Yesenin in 1922, but they separated shortly thereafter, She lived in poverty for many years, but made one final dramatic appearance in Paris before her death; then, on September 14, 1927, in Nice, France, she was strangled when her outrageously long flowing scarf (another trademark) caught in the wheel of her car.

She wrote two books: My Life, published in 1927, and The Art of the Dance (a book of essays). Russian-American writer and musician Victor Serov wrote a biography of her entitled, The Real Isadora.

Henri Dropsy, the medallist, was born January 21, 1885, in Paris. Educated at École Nat. Superieure Des Beaux Arts, becoming a professor there in 1930. In 1911, he married Suzanne Boutin; he held the title of officier, Legion d'honneur, and became a member of the Academie Des Beaux Arts, and the Inst. de France in 1942. He is well known for his outstanding medallic art. This bronze medallion is, I believe, transitional from Art Nouveau to Art Deco: the sensuous, organic form is here made stronger by the bold use of space and form.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Celtic chain mail hook from Champagne

I bought this about seven years ago in an on line auction from France. The seller was from Champagne and was mainly selling modern gold jewelry, but also had a small collection of Roman and Celtic coins that appeared to be a consignment from a collector, rather than an accumulation of metal detector finds. This particular piece was listed as: "Objet en bronze ornementé 68 mm à identifier" and I won it for just under 30 Euros. I recognized it as Marnian Celtic and probably early third century BC.

Reverse of a silver coin of Cunobeline showing a
ram-headed "hippocamp"
The object is decorated similarly on both sides and is in the form of a ram-headed serpent with a fish tail. The decoration is of a typical "Marnian-scroll" with rounded rectangular beading at both ends and a band (torc?) at the neck. Parallels were difficult to find on artifacts, but a coin of the Ambiani showing a "sea monster" is very close. The subject (coiled serpent) of another coin, an extremely rare silver coin of Cunobeline illustrated with only a single specimen in the the Celtic Coin Index is also resolved by this piece as it can now be seen as ram-headed.

I am identifying the object as a Celtic chain mail hook because of its strong resemblance to the much later Roman Lorica hamata hook, a good example of which can be seen here. Chain mail was a Celtic invention and dates approximately to the time of this object.

When I learned that the seller was from Champagne, I checked I. M. Stead and V. Rigby, The Morel Collection. Iron Age Antiquities from Champagne in the British Museum, London. 1999, to see if I could find anything similar. There was nothing there, but the small details of the rod issuing from the nose and the beading finds parallels in fibulae illustrated on Plate 5, especially, No. 1604. The scroll appearing on No. 1614, seems a later development but is very interesting because of the apparent "fish tails" in the design. Both of these fibulae are dated to La Tène 1b.

For references to related objects and the subject of Celtic chain mail see Jope, Plates 201 and 287 g, h, and corresponding text. (see under Jope in library link)

Friday, 18 October 2013

London's goodbye gift to me

A mythic life is only realized late. As we get older, and if the circumstances are just so, the interconnectedness of the universe becomes apparent. Perhaps it is simply that we forget the inconsequential, but once a mythic life is realized, then the future events that reflect that life proliferate as if all is part of a matrix. Life then becomes magical. Of course, when I was thirteen, events just happened and were connected by nothing at all.

It was 1963, and my family was about to move away from London to a village in Essex. Most of my life had been focused on Wood Green in north London -- perhaps about once a week my parents took me to places not that far away from Wood Green, and there were Christmastime trips to the West End and summer holidays at the seaside. It was not until I was old enough to travel on my own that my horizons expanded. One of my favorite places was Hertford and I often went fishing nearby. So a move to Essex was drastic --even though the distance to my new home was only about thirty five miles, it might just as well have been the other side of the world to me at that time.

I never took to trainspotting like some of my friends. I tried it, but it bored me. Trains were OK, but there were only two of them that captured my attention: the Flying Scotsman and the Mallard.  I lived very close to Wood Green (Alexandra Park) railway station, and like many local kids, I grew up enjoying walking across the footbridge to the station and waiting for those two express trains to pass. They never stopped at Wood Green -- but why would they? Their passengers had much greater horizons, places that I would never see. The bridge was lined by a wooden fence with boards set very close, but you could peer between the boards to the tracks below. We used to position ourselves above the rails that carried those trains, and as they passed, we were enveloped in their steam. The greatest excitement was achieved when the Mallard passed by. It was the world's fastest steam locomotive, and its speed record has never been broken. Originally painted blue, and now restored to that colour, I knew it as Brunswick Green but now I can find only one photograph of it from those days. It was streamlined and very Art Deco and it seemed to scream as it passed by.

It was late April or early May of 1963 when I decided to visit Hertford for the last time, although I always went there with friends, that day, I decided to go alone. I was waiting on the platform for the train. The steam trains were starting to give way to the new diesels, but the latter were rather unreliable and very prone to breakdown. So it did not surprise me much when the train was late. When the train finally pulled into the station, my jaw dropped and my heart started pounding -- It was the Mallard! She had recently been retired but on that day, she was being moved -- literally under her own steam. There was no other engine available so she was making an unofficial last run.

I don't remember what I did when I reached Hertford, but I will never forget the journey. I don't know if it was just because the scheduled train was running late or whether the engineer had thought: "Let's see what this baby can do!", but I soon found myself travelling faster than I had ever traveled before -- well over 100 mph (160+ kmh).

Searching for a video that  best expresses (no pun intended) that journey, I had to settle for this simulation:

The scenes that show the countryside passing from within the carriage are spot on, as are the sounds. That is what the train ride was like. She made a run or two much later, during her retirement, and the following video shows her, sedately at first, then faster -- but still slower than what I remember from that wonderful day:

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Ruth Megaw

Ruth and Vincent Megaw after the publication, in 2001 of the second edition of their study Celtic Art from Its Beginnings to the Book of Kells. Between them is the ragstone head wearing a neckring with buffer terminals, from Mšecké Žehrovice, in the Rakovník District of the Central Bohemian Region of the Czech Republic. Op. Cit. Plate XVII. Photo:  Multimedia Unit, Flinders University Library
By Vincent Megaw

Ruth Megaw (née Miller) who, on 13 July, died suddenly at the age of 74 in an Adelaide nursing home, managed to re-invent herself several times in a distinguished academic career.

Born in Kilsyth to a Welsh teacher and a Scottish minister of the Kirk, she was Dux of Hutchesons Girls Grammar and went on to obtain a First-Class Honours degree in History at Glasgow. Then in 1961 she sat the British Civil Service examination and was placed second in the whole of the United Kingdom, becoming the youngest Third Secretary in the UK Foreign Office by whom she was sent to the University of Poitiers to perfect her French; she was awarded the Diplôme d'Etudes Françaises, Mention Très Bien, avec Félicitations du Jury. Her first experience of archaeology in the raw was on Charles Thomas' legendary Gwithian excavations, the down-side being that as a result of marriage (to Vincent Megaw) she had to resign from the Foreign Office.

Major move no.1 was when the Megaws, plus infant son, moved to Sydney.  Ruth juggled bringing up baby with the demands of a post-graduate scholarship which lead to successful completion of a PhD on the early days of  US-Australian relations and a succession of appointments in her field.

Move no.2 was when the Megaws returned to the UK and Vincent to the Chair of Archaeology at Leicester.  Towards the end of a decade in the East Midlands when Ruth had established a new American Studies department at what was then the Nene College in Northampton, she also decided to assist Vincent out of something of a writing block and thus began some twenty-five years of collaborative writing.

Move no. 3 was when the Megaws returned to Australia, this time to Flinders University in Adelaide where they developed a joint interest in Indigenous Australian art while continuing to publish widely in the field of early Celtic art.

Following the first publication of their Celtic art from its beginnings to the Book of Kells, where more than half of the text was written by Ruth, and in 1990 a monograph on the famous Base-Yutz find which the the Society of Antiquaries of London produced as volume 46 of its Research Reports, Ruth announced that 'Now we should do something serious'. This was a proposal for a supplement to Paul Jacobsthal's magisterial Early Celtic art which first appeared in 1944; the Delegates of Oxford University Press received the proposal with enthusiasm but the project awaits completion...

Flinders has marked her passing by establishing an annual lecture, the Ruth and Vincent Lecture in Archaeology and Art.

British chariot-suspension attachment

Chariot-suspension mount, ca. 1st cent BC - 50 AD. One-piece cast copper alloy
This, belonging to a friend, appears to be a British-chariot suspension attachment. For details about Celtic chariot suspension (with a diagram) see, Raimund Karl's Irish Medieval Chariots: 1300 years in the making.

The base is recessed to accommodate a pole; the back with an indentation, perhaps to fit over a rivet or stud to secure it better to the vehicle; the hole for the suspension-rope. The decorative horse's head has eyes reminiscent of the Stanwick horse mask. I know of no other example of this sort of British chariot furniture, although other chariot-using cultures have comparable mounts, although of completely different designs. Its apparent uniqueness is probably due to the fact that it is a massive piece of bronze and, after the chariot was no longer used in Britain, other examples would likely have been recycled. Each chariot would have had at least a pair of these, although other culture's chariots or wagons sometimes had four of them.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

The coins formerly attributed to Prasutagus, husband of Boudicca of the Iceni

An example from the Henry Mossop collection
For many years, some coins first found in the Joist Fen, Suffolk, hoard had been attributed to Prasutagus on the basis of the reading of the legend as Sub Rii Prasto/ Esico Fecit. (mixed Latin and Brythonic, taken to mean "Under king Prasutagus, Esico made this". Most of these coins were badly chipped and otherwise damaged, which made reconstructions of the legends difficult. In recent years, a couple of new specimens in excellent condition have been found and the legends of these are now read as: SVB ESVPRASTO / ESICO FECIT. For the background, so far, see this article by Amanda Chadburn.

A more recent find (CCI-00261)
showing a clearer legend
With the new reading, comparisons were made with legends on some Corieltauvi coins which gave variations of ESVP ASV, IISVP ASV, ESVP RASV, IISVP RASV. The substitution of II for E is common in British Celtic coin legends. Not mentioned by Chadburn is a gold stater which reads IVSPP [RA]SV (CCI 01.0421); a copper alloy core which reads ESVS [A]SV (CCI, 86.0408) which seems a direct reference to the Celtic deity, Esus: and a silver unit which reads [?]SVP [?]T (CCI 65.0014) -- providing a possible "Prasto".

The assumption is made that Esuprasto is a ruler's name (which includes an element drawn from the Celtic god Esus) and that ESICO FECIT (Esico made this) is a "signature" of the issuing magistrate or a die engraver. In a discussion with the Celtic linguist David Stifter at the University of Vienna, I asked for a translation of "Esuprasto" and questioned the interpretation of ESICO FECIT as the word Latin word fecit seems to have no other similar usage in ancient numismatics. His reply can be seen quoted here. In the message, he offers a suggestion for Esuprato:
"Could it be that prastu- is a spelling for *brasto- (vel sim.), as in British and Irish bras "fat, big", the b/p variation being due to an uncertainty as to the correct spelling of the initial consonant? A fluctuation between signs for voiced and voiceless consonants in the spelling of Gaulish and other old Celtic languages can be observed, which is sometimes explained as being due to Celtic having a different type of opposition in its obstruent system (not voiced : voiceless, but tense : lax or something like that). Think of pairs like Gaul. carbanto- : Latin carpentum, or Latin gladius, probably a loan from some Celtic word beginning with *klad- (cp. OIr. claideb), but also within Gaulish arganto- vs. arcanto- etc. ...Could it then be that Esuprasto means "fat/big through Esus"? Are there other personal names with the element bras as second compound member?"

Fecit does appear on some Roman coins in a completely different context, referring to the Cerealia, a feast to honour Ceres -- the Roman equivalent of Demeter, mother of Persephone whose legends were adapted to Ceres. The interpretation, "Esico made this [coin die/ issue]" is probably influenced by the same convention on antique prints where it names the artist. Roman pottery from Gaul also uses fecit on a
subsidiary stamp together with a name. These names are thought by some to be of slaves working at the pottery and presumably is some sort of tallying system. Signed ancient coin dies usually have a very small
Image courtesy  of Classical Numismatic Group Inc.
name or an initial, often hidden in the design and nowhere as a prominent legend. Magistrates names often have a greater prominence on coins than artists signatures. The republican denarius uses the word fecit in commemorating a person who was the first to create the Cerealia  festival. Today we would be more likely to use instituted, held or even produced. Fecit is an archaic term, but its last common usage was in the 17th and 18th centuries on prints and clock mechanisms, and this is the meaning that has been assumed for the coin legend.

Already, we have two points of similarity: the Celtic coin legend refers to a god's name (something unusual in Celtic coinage), and the term fecit is used on both the Celtic and the Roman coin, but apparently has little usage outside of that save for the tallying of slave production at a pottery.

The Celtic god Esus  is first recorded in Lucan's Pharsalia:
"immitis placatur sanguine diro Teutates, horrensque feris altaribus Esus, et Taranis Scythicae non mitior ara Dianae
"harsh Teutates is cruelly propitiated with blood, and dread Esus on savage platforms, and the altar of Taranis, a match for that of the Scythian Diana"
This passage has been used to postulate the existence of a Celtic trinity -- Teutates, Esus, and Taranis. The theory goes that it is not only of very long Indo-European tradition, but these three deities were also propitiated with human sacrifices of the Indo-European "three-fold death"

The Pharsalia was written about the plight of Caesar, and Lucan appears to have tailored much of this passage to reflect various connections with Caesar. It was certainly not intended to be any sort of study of Celtic religious beliefs. The reference to the "Scythian Diana" is especially pointed -- Caesar owned a villa near her sanctuary which was 25 km south-east of Rome. She is "Diana Nemorensis"

The primary source for connecting Lucan's account with human sacrifice and thence to the threefold death comes from Lactanius. Unfortunately, Lactanius was a Christian Apologist who, like others of his nature, criticized the various mystery cults with many stories of their barbarity and human sacrifice. Today, he is favored more for his rhetoric style than for any accuracy. Copernicus said of him:
"Perhaps there will be babblers who claim to be judges of astronomy although completely ignorant of the subject and, badly distorting some passage of Scripture to their purpose, will dare to find fault with my undertaking and censure it. I disregard them even to the extent of despising their criticism as unfounded. For it is not unknown that Lactantius, otherwise an illustrious writer but hardly an astronomer, speaks quite childishly about the earth's shape, when he mocks those who declared that the earth has the form of a globe. Hence scholars need not be surprised if any such persons will likewise ridicule me. Astronomy is written for astronomers."
The best site on the web about Esus is by Michael J Dangler. I have been working on a mythological analysis of Esus, but that will have to wait (perhaps) for some other time.

It seems to me that the "Prasutagus" coins were issued by Esico (does his name contain an Esus element?), and were commemorating his sponsorship of a feast dedicated to Esus with a coin legend using a Roman convention that had been applied to the Cerealia. Comparisons between sites containing these coins and sites from other regions without the coins, but with other similarities to the sites containing those coins are favorable but details of that, also, will have to wait for another time. Perhaps I will make it another series -- we will see.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Robert Van Arsdell, Celtic Coinage of Britain now on line

Van Arsdell (VA) 216-1 Atrebatic Abstract Type gold stater

For many years, Robert Van Arsdell's Celtic Coinage of Britain, Spink, 1989, has been a difficult book to obtain and used copies were sold for many times the original price. Now, he has built a revised, on line version:

Although there is still more work to be done, and more recently discovered types to be added, all of the 1989 listings are there (with revisions where applicable).

Congratulations, Bob, for this excellent work!

Monday, 14 October 2013

Losing it: the myth of archaeological context in British early Celtic art

When I first announced my discovery of the British Plastic Style finial, one archaeology blogger who was of the opinion that I should not have purchased it at all said: "a piece of datable metalwork as part of a specific site assemblage may have yielded information if that findspot was noted."

While there is a very small chance that the comment was based on ignorance, I think it more likely to be part of a modern created myth. It gave me a laugh, but I suppose that a beginner to the subject of early Celtic art might have taken it seriously -- envisioning, perhaps, some "princely grave" that is well- known for continental early Celtic art. Contextual archaeology has gained mythic status in recent years - far beyond its practical usefulness, but that might be a subject for some future post. For now, though, I want to focus on the real nature of context in British early Celtic art. The information is not difficult to find:

"A key feature of discussions of  British and Irish Early Celtic art has been the separation between considerations of this material and the rest of the evidence from the Iron Age. The lack of graves in Britain for much of the Iron Age means that the majority of the finds counted as Celtic art are from dry land hoards or wet contexts, with a minority from settlements or burials, so they lack the sorts of contextual details that can link them to other aspects of the archaeological record. Dating is also a problem. Even where burials are found, such as in East Yorkshire, Cornwall or Central East Scotland, they are generally poor in grave goods compared to those in other parts of Europe. This paucity of finds in settlements or graves, together with the lack of  Celtic art motifs on pottery or bone, means that the corpus of Celtic art has been cut off from more general considerations of the archaeological evidence, becoming a specialized area of study in its own right."  Chris Gosden and J. D. Hill, Introduction: re-integrating 'Celtic' art, in: Rethinking Celtic Art, Oxford, 2008. p. 1.
Or, if you prefer, this from Ruth and Vincent Megaw:
"Our knowledge of the Iron Age in the British Isles is also hampered by the nature of the evidence. Burials with clearly datable grave goods are rare; most weapons come from hoards or single finds deposited in or near water, and many ornaments such as brooches are scattered finds. Even that commonest of artefacts, pottery, rarely comes from securely dated sources and attempts to translate relative pottery sequences into absolute dates are largely useless before the firs century BC. Few sites produce evidence for radiocarbon or dendrochronological (tree ring) dating. How much the archaeological evidence can tell us about invasion is also dubious. Those momentous events in early history, the two campaigns of Caesar or later, the Norman Conquest, have left virtually no traces in the archaeological record, and it is possible that archaeologists have detected too few rather than too many invasions" Celtic Art: From Its Beginnings to the Book of Kells, Thames and Hudson, 2001, p. 190.

Martyn Jope says much the same sort of thing in various sections of his Introduction in Jope, E. M., Early Celtic Art in the British Isles, Oxford, 2000.

A myth is not a supposition as popular definition states, it is a primal sort of psychology. Modern myths, in turn, reflect the psychology of the originator and are then passed as memes into the general population. Most often, modern myths are created by those with a particular ax to grind. They are generally insidious and deliberately misleading. A good example being the common phrase "There is no scientific evidence that...". Very often, if you take the time to look into the claim, you will find that no science had actually been done on the subject, or it is a subject that does not yield to the scientific method.

Archaeology is, according to the Merriam-Webster definition:
"1:  the scientific study of material remains (as fossil relics, artifacts, and monuments) of past human life and activities
2:  remains of the culture of a people"
A particular definition of contextual archaeology comes from the Oxford Dictionary of Archaeology:
"An approach to archaeological interpretation proposed by Ian Hodder in the mid 1980s in which emphasis is placed on methods of identifying and studying contexts in order to understand meaning. This involves two lines of enquiry. The first is to consider the environmental and behaviour context of action; understanding an object, for example, by placing it in relation to the larger functioning whole from which it is drawn. Second, it involves looking at the networks of associations that objects were placed within in the past and attempting to read meaning from such groupings as if the objects were words in text. The analogy here is that words on their own mean relatively little; it is only when they are put together in structured ways that the overall meaning becomes clear."
As British early Celtic art mostly lacks the first line of inquiry, we all have to rely, greatly, on the second -- and to a degree, this is also true for Continental early Celtic art because even the evidence in "princely graves" do not always inform us of the source of some of the objects. Generally, high status objects can travel much further than locally-produced humble objects like bronze brooches or pottery. The context used in the subject of early Celtic art is mostly the comparisons of design elements and motifs, but other considerations can also come into play such as metal alloys and their trace elements. Where the high status object ended up is of less importance and its interpretation, without corroborative evidence, is only speculation.

Paul Jacobsthal, in Early Celtic art, Oxford, 1944 (second edition, 1969), instituted the use of Patterns (PP) in his work which were line drawings of the motifs and elements found on the objects, and since then scholars of early Celtic art have used such comparisons (whether defined by numbered patterns or within their text) to trace the sources of stray finds or archaeological site examples of early Celtic art. So, of course, this is also contextual, but with a greater scientific basis than merely noting what other objects were found nearby. There is a great measure of subjectivity in the latter, as Hodder, himself, is quick to point out.

One of my favorite quotes about the definition of archaeology is from David Clarke, quoted here:
"[Archaeology is] the discipline with the theory and practice for the recovery of unobservable hominid behavior patterns from indirect traces in bad samples."
One of my own definitions is that archaeology is the study of what has been lost or abandoned, but that is somewhat "tongue-in-cheek". Nevertheless, most of what we find are the things that are most prone to loss -- in early Celtic art, these include brooches, sword pommels, coins, chariot linchpin terminals. and so on -- things which might break from their parent object in use, or are small and easily dropped. Second, (in instances) are hoards of various sorts.

There are, of course, problems: much does not survive because of corrosion and other sorts of decay, or because the material is commonly recycled. So it is a study of losses, not so much of creations. Another problem with the format picked by Jacobsthal and some others since, is that the material is divided, primarily, by the type of object and only secondly by the patterns (PP). This is not an insurmountable problem, but it does make navigation through the material more difficult.

As for the myths -- always look to the underlying psychology and motives.  In other words (wait for it) look at the context in which the statements appear!