Wednesday 31 January 2024

Caelestis - a reminder of the ultimate futility of borders

Build the wall ................... In control of our borders ..................... Get Brexit done 

There was a time in our land's history when there were no borders. Joined to the continent by "Doggerland" as the North Sea had not yet been formed, people were free to settle in what was to become the British isles. As land and sea found new levels following the retreat of the ice sheets the Britain we know today was formed.

I was reminded of this by the release last year of an album by Kathryn Tickell and The Darkening, in particular a song inspired by a Latin inscription found by Hadrian's Wall. This is perhaps our most famous boundary as the Romans brought in a number of legions made up of soldiers drawn from all parts of their empire. The inscription mentions Syria and Libya along with reference to their gods, "Caelestis".
1900 years ago soldiers stood on that desolate wall protecting those living to the south from attacks from the cold north. They came from warmer lands so it must have been a very unpopular posting. In time, forts and towns were built and communities flourished in the lee of the wall. Soldiers became assimilated into the local population and with the passing of the centuries the wall lost its reason for being. That's the thing about borders, they have a time limited relevance and as our political leaders keep pumping their bile about foreigners they forget that we all originate from immigration. 

I come from a tradition of compassion not hate and this song inspires in me a hope that we can shake off the politics of xenophobia:

Kathryn Tickell is well known to many ........ a Northumbrian pipe and fiddle player and composer who explores with fellow musicians the rich vein of musical history in the North-east of England. With this haunting song, "Caelestis" she links the thoughts and dreams of the Roman soldiers by weaving musical influences of Northumbria with those of the native lands from which the soldiers came.

What will future generations think of Trump's Wall or the Boris Johnson/Farage Brexit ........... or the emergent desire to expel ethnic minorities from Central Europe? They will no doubt see it as a futile attempt to hold back the tide of history The Romans soon realised that Hadrian's Wall needed gates to allow the people of north and south to continue with their social and commercial lives.

The Roman Empire took over 3 centuries to desert their wall but we have precious little time to tear down ours. As we roast the planet we continue to blame those who are displaced because of our selfish actions. The USA drifts towards an election dominated by the cowardice and fear of self centred interest whilst in the UK we also have succumbed to the jingoistic fantasies of politicians whose only interest is to remain in power. Thankfully, on both sides of the Atlantic ideas of love for our planet and humanity are coming into a majority.