“...... [Australian Aborigines] only believe the country exists when they could both see it and sing it by chanting the relevant ‘Dreaming track’ or so-called ‘song line’.
“There must be a mental concept – the words of the song – before the landscape can be said to exist. James Cowan reports being driven along ‘Dreaming tracks’ accompanied by local guides, who only recognise where they are if they can ‘sing up the country’.” 
Six years since his last book, Sacred Places: Prehistory and Popular Imagination (HOAP, 2005), Bob Trubshaw is back in print with a new book with an overall aim to inspire us to widen the way we think about the past, particularly the Neolithic monuments of the Avebury landscape.
During that time Trubshaw has relocated into Avebury, moving into a house actually built in to the henge bank of the monument. If living there with the freedom to walk the Avebury landscape at all hours far from the madding crowd does not inspire I don't know what would.
Trubshaw will need no introduction to Earth Mysteries aficionados; in 1989 he was instrumental in forming the Mercian Mysteries Group arranging regular field trips and a quarterly A5 magazine called 'Mercian Mysteries' under the editorship of Paul Nix. At the sixth issue Trubshaw took over as editor and by Issue 13 the magazine had expanded in to a substantial 40+ page A4 format. After 25 issues the contents had changed steadily and became less Midlands biased. At the same time, the multidisciplinary approach of 'earth mysteries' was evolving, covering aspects of archaeology, folklore and mythology. Consequently Mercian Mysteries had outgrown its humble beginnings and Trubshaw produced a new magazine named “At The Edge” in 1996. At the Edge was a short-lived periodical, and after ten issues merged with “3rd Stone” magazine in 1998 under the editorship of Neil Mortimer. Trubshaw now had time to concentrate on writing and his publishing company Heart Of Albion Press.
The evocative title of this new book is inspired by Bruce Chatwin's book “The Songlines” following two trips into the Australian outback in the 1980's. In the preface Trubshaw quotes from Chatwin's book:
“'Sometimes', said Arkady, 'I'll be driving my “old men” through the desert, and we'll come to a ridge of sandhillls, and suddenly they'll all start singing.' “What are you mob singing?” I'll ask, and they'll say, “Singing up the country, boss. Makes the country come up quicker.”
Trubshaw suggests it is doubtful that the Aboriginal elders actually used the term “songlines” as in Chatwin's fictional account, they would more likely have used terms such as “Dreaming Tracks”, or “Footprints of the Ancestors”; ethnologists have adopted the term “song-routes”.
Trubshaw says he uses the term “songlines” in the subtitle because this has popularised awareness of such mythopoetic relationships with the landscape, but, he adds, this gives the assumption that only traditional cultures (such as the Aborigines) possess such myths which have long since been lost to Western civilisation. In this book he sets out to demonstrate that such myths of place have been lost more because too few people recognised what there was, rather than because they were never recorded. However, he argues we have always had a dreamtime in every traditional tale that commences “Once upon a time....”
This book continues ideas set out in his previous work, Sacred Places: Prehistory and Popular Imagination. Later in the book he introduces the concept of the past not simply as something to be studied or known but as something that we have a 'conversation' with, which strongly colours not just what we talk about but the way in which we discuss it too. Thus, creating distinct and different chapters, each aiming to offer an introduction to a particular topic, that perhaps the reader should consider as a conversation with several experts in a specific field.
In the Preface, he invites us to skip chapters, or read them out of sequence, and to even read the final chapter first “to see where it's all going”, stressing that if we read from start to finish in the normal order, we may well wonder at times where the book is leading.
Subsequently, in the final chapter, Trubshaw endeavours to weave all these ideas together into a 'Dreamtime' narrative, or 'songline', to explore a journey that is both in the physical landscape and in the 'mindscape'; whether this follows the 'footprints of the ancestors' or simply creates a new set of tracks the author is happy to leave unresolved.
|Sunrise at south entrance to Avebury henge.|
Cover photograph by Bob Trubshaw.
Continuing from where scholarship usually stops and using instead the approaches of storytelling, the final chapter weaves this wide variety of ideas together as a 'songline' for the Avebury landscape. This re-mythologising of the land follows two 'dreamtime' ancestors along the Kennet valley to the precursors of Avebury henge and Silbury Hill.”
Parts of Singing Up the Country draw heavily on the research of Andrew Collins (The Cygnus Mystery), Michael Dames (The Silbury Treasure, The Avebury Cycle) Alan Garner (By Sevenfirs and Goldenstone) and the late Margaret Gelling (Placenames in the Landscape) and will be an inspiration to all those interested in prehistory, mythology or the Neolithic monuments of the World Heritage Site at Avebury.
1. Prehistoric wayfaring
2. Journeys with significance
3. Myths of place
4. The king alone stood on the mound
5. Do you ken the queen of the Kennet of her kith and kin?
6. By green hill to the broad ford
7. Anglo-Saxon sacred places
8. The hills are alive...
9. Swans and their celestial songs
10. The rivers of life and the cauldrons of creation
11. Towards a Kennet dreaming.
12. A Kennet dreaming
ISBN 978-1-905646-21-0 September 2011
203 pages, 64 b&w photos, 29 line drawings, paperback.
Heart of Albion Press
1. Bob Trubshaw, Thinking about Places, Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies in History and Archaeology, Vol. 1, No. 2, pp. 35–50.
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