FRI / June 1804:00 p.m. – 06:00 p.m.CONCEPTS OF WATER

Elizabeth Hodson (Glasgow)

Affrug o' the Sea

From the Selkies of Scottish mythology to its kin the Mananan mac y Leir and Urusig, there are tales of spirits that find their homes in the waters of Scotland. These are cosmological seas (Strang 2015) which are not just the dwelling places of mischievous and capricious spirits, but beings that move between the land and sea who heed a warning about reverence and respect, revealing a longstanding quest for agency and equality that finds its voice in tales and stories long before the anthropocene was a galvanizing political and ecological concern (Davis and Turpin 2015). The Selkie in particular, as a creature that is trapped on land but will with the possession of her seal skin return to the water from where she came, is the embodiment of an intersubjective space or narrative which speaks of how land and water are bound together (Kovats 2014). In this paper I will draw on current ethnographic research that explores the myths and ritual practices of the west coast of Scotland as they are revealed through contemporary art. Here I will delineate their significance and specifically, how myths and tales coalesce with present day issues around climate change and ecology. Artists are capitalizing on recent shifts towards posthuman, materialist discourses which privilege the voice of landscapes and seascapes which surround us. Through exploring how artists work with both the myths of the past and the fears of an anthropocentric future I want to ask how each are interwoven with the other through the narratives embedded in waters and shorelines.