Fire and water, steam and iron – elements transmuting from one way of being to another; huge and impressive machines from a time now past. One thing I learned from Pete Jennings’ excellent book was the different names given to different kinds of smiths – we’ve all heard of gold and silversmiths, but there are also names for those who work with copper and bronze, or the white metals, such as tin.
It’s much easier to understand the magic of metalcraft, the romance of the huge engines of the Industrial Revolution, than it is to get excited about, say, a silicon chip, symbol of our times (although there are interesting connections to consider here: to quartz in standing stones, for example).
Another part of my fascination was with tales of the forging of ancient, magical swords, drawn from stone. Jennings makes it very clear that what I had long suspected – the magical art of pouring molten bronze into a stone mould and then withdrawing a sword must have been awe-inspiring – in fact, having seen that done on TV once, it still is: truly a shamanic act. I met a re-enactor at Sutton Hoo a few years ago who was kind enough to explain how his sword was made. I was fascinated to see that the strips of twisted metal form serpentine or even dragon-like shapes within the magical blade itself.
The book is part of the “Pagan Portals” range from Moon Books, intended as entry-level reads for those interested in pagan topics, but I think any general reader would enjoy it. I would have liked more analysis, but that’s unfair as that’s not the intention of the book.
I was particularly interested to read of connections between the Cyclops, who pre-date even the Olympian gods, and the art of the smithy. I loved, too, the stories Jennings has collected from all over the world, often showing the cleverness of the blacksmith against his hapless enemies – including the devil.
Very good value for money on Amazon, particularly the Kindle edition, priced at just over £3.00. Well worth a read.