— VOTF02 The Cremation Fields

General Remarks

  • Once again, our narrator has no proper name, only the alias of Usin. Since the actual Usin also appears as a character, the narrator will for brevity’s sake be referred to as Nusin (short for not-Usin).
  • The date given is 2500 B.C., thus 1,500 years have passed since Hob’s Hog.
  • Since much of this chapter is split into parallel timelines, the sections will be labeled with letters as well as numbers. A is the narrator’s “present”, B relates her approach to Northampton, C is flashbacks to her earlier life, D follows the progress of Usin’s corpse, E relates Nusin’s dreams, F her waking reveries.
  • It’s unclear what the indicated map location is meant to represent, as a great deal of ground is covered in this chapter. Possibly Olun’s hut, or Beasthill?
  • Northampton is now named “Bridge-in-Valley” (S2).

Section 1(A): “Floating downstream,…”

  • “it’s like a big white hand” – This refers to Usin’s corpse. Nusin is dehumanizing her victim.

Section 2(B): “‘Do you go as…'”

  • “for safety” – Usin is making the assumption that, as Nusin is a fellow woman, she represents increased safety. This is a poor assumption.
  • “cunning man” – An archaic word for shaman, linguistically similar to last chapter’s “Gleaner-man”.
  • “up track from Bridge-in-Valley, past the Great North Woods, far as the land’s edge, where the cold grey sea begins.” – Creating this track was the shamanic plan that Hob was part of, though in their day they only envisioned it going as far as the Great North Woods. Clearly, they were not only successful, but the track has been extended since.
  • “There is a short path” – Shortcuts are proverbially a bad idea.

    Faience beads from Ptolemaic or early Roman Egypt.
  • “blue fancy-beads” – The somewhat extraneous word ‘fancy’, may be meant to evoke faience, a (relatively) modern word for this ancient form.

Section 3(A): “Now it is almost…”

  • “spawn … belly, swollen” – These words are evocative of pregnancy; an odd choice for describing a corpse. Of course, this corpse will “give birth” to future plot developments.
  • “willage” – While most of the vocabulary in this chapter is modern English, this word is a notable exception. From context, it clearly means “village”, but why the different spelling? Perhaps it is related to last chapter’s frequent use of “will” as “penis”. Is Moore suggesting that the word for village in this culture could be rendered more literally as “place of men”? Interesting, especially in light of the female narrator.

Section 4(B): “‘How do you like…'”

  • “how… the men make ore-fires…” – The method described seems to be a variant of slag smelting.
  • “sea-grass” – Seaweed.

Section 5(A): “Lifting my elbows up…”

  • “the wetness” – This is Usin’s blood. Again, Nusin is distancing herself from the act of murder.

Section 6(B): “‘Your father does not…'”

  • “many hides of land” – “Hide” is a very old English term of measurement, approximately equal to 120 acres.

Section 7(A): “Drying myself with dead…”

  • “tooth” – Knife.
  • “blade on blade” – That is, cleaning the blade of the knife on the grass-blades of the rushes.

Section 8(B): “‘Oh no,’ says she.”

  • “Usin” – The name may be related to the mythological Irish figure Oisín, whose name means “little deer”, though it seems a stretch. It is phonetically close to “using”, which seems apropos.
  • “The ear. The thumb.” – Nusin is heartless enough to torture Usin by cutting off body parts, but not quite callous enough to fully describe the process.
  • “Birds scatter…” – Presumably in response to Usin’s screams, again, not directly talked about.
  • “Olun” – Perhaps related to Olund, a Swedish name meaning “river grove”. Phonetically suggests “old one”.
  • “Be quiet now.” – Presumably,  this is when Nusin cuts Usin’s throat.
  • “stripping off its clothes” – Again, Nusin refers to Usin as “it”, dehumanizing her.
  • “There are no spirit-women … no gods…” – Though cynical Nusin does not believe in such things, she is nonetheless aware of them as part of the general culture.

Section 9(A): “They look so pretty,…”

  • “pretty, blue” – Nusin is wearing Usin’s blue fancy-beads.
  • “my brown throat” – Earlier (S1), Usin’s corpse was described as “white”, though it had of course lost a lot of blood. Presumably Nusin is a “tanned and weathered” sort of brown, not a “from Africa” sort.
  • “Her boots alone are not a fit for me but must be folded in my bag” – Why does Nusin bring these boots if they don’t fit? Perhaps she thinks they are valuable enough to sell.
  • “sting-weeds” – Possibly stinging nettles.
  • “dog-flower” – Possibly snapdragon?

Section 10(C): “Wading through ash, among…”

  • “Wading through ash” – This appears to be a forced migration caused by the fallout from a volcanic explosion, possibly the H-4 eruption of Hekla, in Iceland (currently dated to c. 2310 BC).
  • “among the highland mountains” – Research suggests that volcanic ash from Iceland affected settlements in Scotland, which is consistent with the use of the word “highland”, and the “copper hair” mentioned a few sentences on.
  • “people gather in to raise the stones” – Presumably stone circles.
  • “an old straight track” – Again, this may be part of the trade system first created by Hob and his fellow shamans.

Section 11(A): “The track is wider…”

  • “How many dead men’s feet does it demand to make it so?” – In the previous chapter, Boy was mystified as to how a track could be created without many people walking over it (S7). This could be done with song and sacrifice, but that did involve the bones of the dead. And now, fifteen centuries later, the path has been trod by many feet, and exists physically,  not just as a symbol.
  • “fire maggots” – Glow-worms.

Section 12(D): “Somewhere downstream it rushes…”

  • No notes.

Section 13(A): “East, along the rim.”

  • “A circle given shape…” – These are the remains of the large animal-pen “making” from the previous chapter.
  • “What are they burning there” – See Closing Remarks.
  • “No, not calling,  but a lower noise that has less sense to it.” – Religious chanting, presumably.

Section 14(A): “Usin. The sound of…”

  • No notes.

Section 15(A): “Ahead, the path crawls…”

  • “man-in-kind” – A doll.
  • “needle-picture” – Tattoo.

Section 16(A): “Bridge-in-the-Valley.”

  • “willeins” – Villeins, an archaic term for peasants (from which the modern “villain” is derived).

Section 17(A): “There is a watch-hut…”

  • “hands shivering” – The multiple references to his palsy suggests that it isn’t just accidental. Perhaps some of the dyes he worked with were heavy metals — and slow poisons.
  • “corpse-bird” – Probably a carrion crow.
  • “Hob-man” – Apparently a local word for shaman, presumably after Hob, from the previous chapter. Nusin may or may not be familiar with it, but betrays no surprise.
  • “making say” – This appears to approximately mean “prophesying”.
  • “Coll” – As an English word, “coll” can mean “to embrace (a person)”.
  • “Garn” – As an English word, “garn” can Be an interjection expressing disbelief or mockery — as Garn certainly may be said to do.
  • “The brother’s name is Garn.” – Like any practiced con-artist (even in prehistory), Nusin is quick to note important information.
  • “Queen Mag” – Reminiscent of Queen Mab, the fairy queen described by Mercutio in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Phonetically suggestive of maggots and madness.
  • “Bern and Buri” – Reminiscent of the Norse gods Borr and Búri, Odin’s father and grandfather. Perhaps more directly relevant,  their names could be read as “burn and bury”, not only threatening, but also epitomizing the religious conflict within the village (see Closing Remarks).
  • “A monster birth” – Many cultures have regarded twins as special,  often in a negative sense.
  • “a sickness eating him within.” – We don’t know what this sickness is, or whether it is physical, psychological, or something else. Whatever it is made Olun believe he was dying, but that there was time before his death to send all the way to Scotland for his daughter, and to teach her his wisdom once she arrived.

Section 18(A): “A cold blue line…”

  • See Closing Remarks.

Section 19(A): “The words he speaks …”

  • “Every word, he stops to catch his breath.” – His speech patterns are therefore similar to those of Swamp Thing, the protagonist of one of Alan Moore’s early comic book works.
  • “”Your son”” – It seems we are hearing some mutated version of Hob’s story from the previous chapter. Again, there is resonance with the binding of Isaac. The ‘pig’ of Olun’s story was Boy, who is transformed from a pig just as, last chapter, Boy related a story of pigs becoming logs.
  • “‘When next the light is come we have one day to stack the wood.'” – This covers sections 28-45.
  • “‘We have one day to stalk the pig.'” – This covers sections 46-51.
  • “‘We have one night to please the gods.'” – This covers from section 52 to the end of the chapter.

Section 20(C): “Father dies of bee stings…”

  • “dies of bee stings” – Bee stings can cause fatal allergic reactions for about 3% of adults.
  • “Still the bird is singing. From its perch up in the high woods there it may look down and see… As in one flat picture it observes us” – This notion of three dimensions looking like a simple plane from above will be central to Jerusalem.

Section 21(A): “The hag-queen wheezes…”

  • No notes.

Section 22(D): “Your daughter trails her…”

  • “She’s far beyond this place by now” – Nusin thinks this, but is mistaken.

Section 23(A): “He stares at me.”

  • “Hurna” – No direct meaning, but phonetically suggestive of both “burner”, relating to her religion, and “hernia”, related to the labor she performs dragging Olun.
  • “his tow-horse” – Domesticated horses in Britain are known to date to at least 2,000 BC. This chapter is earlier than that, but not implausibly so.
  • “seek mates among the further lands so that it gives a strongness to the blood.” – This is called hybrid vigor.
  • “dye-well” – Possibly a reference to the well which gave Scarletwell Street its name (or a similar such well). The Scarlet Well is depicted in the Jerusalem chapter “X Marks the Spot“.
  • “a tunnel in the under-willage” – Northampton is known to have several tunnels beneath it, though none are known to be this old.
  • “Jebba” – Possibly a variant of the name Jubal.
  • “stilt-settles by the drownings” – See chapter three, “In the Drownings”.
  • “as from a torture-hole” – It seems Nusin has familiarity with such places.

Section 24(C): “There in Little Midden…”

  • “A black man in a robe whose colour is outside my power to name” – Presumably a trader from Africa, whose robe is dyed with materials/colors not available in Britain at this time.
  • “In Dullard’s Way they curse me still” – It seems unlikely that Nusin would know this, but in character for her to boast of it.
  • to wake with … gizzard cut” – Presumably, having his throat cut didn’t bother him for very long…
  • “mums the splitting of a tick” – “Mums” seems to mean “mimes”. The implication seems to be that Olun’s complaints of local criminals has made Nusin remember, all in an instant, her litany of crimes.

Section 25(A): “Inside the great bellhut’s…”

  • This hut seems considerably larger than Hob’s, and in a different location (see notes to S30, below).
  • “strange birds, dead yet un-rotten” – Presumably via some early form of taxidermy.
  • “A snarl of … rats all knotted at the tail” – This is a rat king. A rat king featured in an early Moore work, The Ballad of Halo Jones.
  • “Rocks finger-marked by monsters” – Possibly fossilized dinosaur tracks.
  • “hazard-footed screehills” – Scree is a mass of fallen small stones and gravel that accumulates at the base of a mountain, which is fairly unstable and hazardous to walk on. Here, a metaphorical description of Olun’s piles of possessions.
  • “scarps” – Steep slopes, continuing the geological imagery.
  • “Is this like something seen before” – In Jerusalem, this sort of deja vu is a central theme.
  • “sailsheets” – A curious bit of language, as sail technology is not known to exist in Britain at this time. The sail had been invented in Egypt by now, however,  and there is the suggestion that Nusin met an African trader during her travels (S24).
  • “a god that swallows us” – See Closing Remarks.
  • “passion” – Hurna’s god is one of death and resurrection, like Jesus, whom the term “passion” is most closely associated with in Christian culture.
  • “passion, ash…” – The sound of “ash” is contained within “passion “.

Section 26(E): “The ashfields.”

  • No notes.

Section 27(A/E): “Start awake.”

  • “Beasthill.” – The former “big making” for keeping animals, now a ritual site.
  • “Urned with queens…” – See Closing Remarks.
  • “the colour flukes” – Unclear what “flukes” means in this context; none of the standard definitions seem to apply. This may be intentional, to help signal the gradual transition into a dream state.
  • “a big black dog” – Presumably a shagfoal, see notes to Hob’s Hog, S3.

Section 28(A): “Light. Morning light.”

  • “chines”: “Chine” has two main meanings, both of which are metaphorically apropos: “The backbone of an animal as it appears in a joint of meat”, matching Nusin’s frequent meat imagery, and “A mountain ridge “, reflecting her almost-as-frequent geological imagery.
  • “He watches me … take the dagger…” – Nusin’s familiarity and skill with a dagger may perhaps be the first real clue that Olun notices.
  • “a cunning of the land and all its lie.” – “Lie” is probably meant in at least two senses here.

Section 29(C): “No sire or dam…”

  • No notes.

Section 30(A): “My grip is sore…”

  • “‘Cack’ and ‘Wet'” – Shit and piss.
  • “‘My way of learning is my path… from vault to treasure hole.'” – Nusin consistently misses the point of Olun’s philosophy. She thinks his talk of learning being a path is metaphorical, when Olun means it quite literally. Conversely, she thinks his ‘treasure’ is literal gold, when he almost certainly means it as a metaphor for his wisdom.
    • There is room for argument here. It seems likely from the rest of Olun’s conversation in this section that there are physical tunnels beneath the village, and there may well be physical treasure stored in them. It seems probable, however, that he views any such treasure as far less significant than his wisdom.
    • Olun’s philosophy here is notably similar to Alan Moore’s take on psychogeography.
  • “outcast rat-shacks” – This may refer to ratty houses of exiles, or “outcast” may be being applied more generally in the sense of “far-flung”.
  • “relic stones” – Possibly megaliths, such as the one seen in chapter one.
  • “gill-halls” – Brothels?
  • “Urken-tracks beneath the soil.” – Approximately, “Faerie roads in the Underworld”. See Hob’s Hog, S2, for more on the Urk-kine.
  • “the Hob or the Hob-wife” – Hob has progressed from a name to a title. “Hob-wife” may refer to the literal wife of a Hob, or possibly to any female performing the role of a Hob, or both.
  • “dog-dreams” – Possibly dreams that include shagfoals; mystic visions.
  • “a crop of solid land … like an island in a lake of reed” – This “Hobfield” seems to be where the original Hob had his hut (and bonfire).
  • “this is not a child that lies between them but a boy-in-kind, whose empty rags they stuff and poke with straw” – The sacrifice in Hob’s Hog, replacing one boy for another, has grown more sophisticated yet; now it seems that they replace the real boy with a dummy — at least during normal years. This dummy prefigures the effigies of Guy Fawkes (or the Pope) that children of England will make and then burn in future centuries. (For more on Guy Fawkes, see chapter 7, Confessions of a Mask.)

Section 31(F): “The old man tells…”

  • This section is a fantasy of Nusin’s, while dragging Olun around.

Section 32(A): “This is their bridge…”

  • “Big black logs that smooth together down across the ages” – Presumably, few if any of the current logs remain from the original construction, all these centuries later. Still, like Theseus’ ship, it may be said to be the same bridge.
  • “a little pit … long since gone.” – This formerly contained the corpse of the bridge-sacrifice; see Hob’s Hog, S9.
  • “It startles me…” – Nusin is indeed a skilled wielder of fiction. This account of hers is notably more detailed and poetic than the one which Usin related to her back in S4.
  • “It is some game they play … which is no great concern to me.” – Nusin is very wrong about that.
  • “a patchen stole” – A patched scarf.
  • “they have not rhyme, nor a device.” – This alteration of the common phrase “neither rhyme nor reason” must itself have some reason. Perhaps Moore wishes us to be more aware of the words that make up the phrase, rather than just taking in the phrase simply. In the previous chapter, “rhyme” had only just been invented, not yet named, while Boy was either unfamiliar or uncomfortable with all the meanings of “device” (“making”, “marking”, plan, or lie).

Section 33(D): “Boiled fish her breasts.”

  • “Weir” – A barrier across a river designed to alter the flow. Here, the purpose is not human, as the ‘weir’ is beaver dams.
  • “sticklebacks” – A kind of mall carnivorous fish.

Section 34(A): “The old man bids…”

  • “as still as heel-stones” – “Heel-stones” is probably a term for standing-stones/sarsens. There is still one stone called Heel Stone (and another monument called Hell Stone).
  • “Hotland” – Some country to the south that is hotter; the name may be general 0r specific.
  • “‘Her throat is cut…'” – It seems that the Hob-man’s job includes being a detective of sorts, and this chapter is, in part, a Bronze Age police procedural.
  • “hackling” – “Causing one’s hackles to rise”; uncanny.
  • “the woman’s neck is banded by a stain, mould green. It is not there when she’s thrown to the river, save it’s hidden ‘neath the blood since sluiced away.” – Unluckily for Nusin, it was there all along, hidden beneath the blood. Copper-based jewelry, when worn long enough, leaves a green stain upon the skin. Which is a fact that Olun is familiar with, and Nusin is not. (Though she may once have known it, see notes to S51.)
  • “though yet without a face.” Perhaps symbolizing that Olun now knows there is a murderer about, but not yet who it is.

Section 35(F): “No. No, not me.”

  • “What are dog-dreams?” – See note in S30.

Section 36(A): “After a while, big Hurna…”

  • “dream-while” – Cognate with the Australian notion of dreamtime.

Section 37(F): “There are no spirit-women…”

  • “If it be gods, they have queer sport.” – This is generally referred to as The Problem of Evil.
  • “spirit-bear” – Bear worship is thought by many to go back to Paleolithic times.
  • “a tree they fancy speaks to them” – Tree worship also appears to be ancient.

Section 38(A): “Small children shriek and dart…”

  • “earth-bear” – Possibly a badger, given that it is described as having a white stripe on its brow, and “shovel-like” paws.
  • “They seem like … severed heads” – In later eras, the north gate of Northampton will see such heads. This particularly comes up in chapter seven, Confessions of a Mask.

Section 39(F): “This is the last age…”

  • “This is the last age of the world, for we are come as far now as we may along our path from what is natural.” – A sentiment much heard today. Of course, it has also been much heard throughout recorded history. Moore here implies that it was a not uncommon idea even earlier. (As a 1929 quote puts it: ‘When our first parents were driven out of Paradise, Adam is believed to have remarked to Eve: “My dear, we live in an age of transition.”‘)

Section 40(A): “Across the reaches, lush…”

  • “a stream as dull as tin” – Tin is, of course, an important component of bronze, and thus vital to a Bronze Age metalworker like Garn.
  • In one hock fist” – “Hock” is short for “hamhock”, whose size she is comparing is fist to.
  • “beating block” – Presumably the stone precursor to an anvil.
  • “the embers cool and film across with mothdust” –
    "mothdust" ash"
    “mothdust” ash”

    When burning wood cools, a layer of gray ash (“mothdust”) is often revealed.

  • “lights” – An archaic term for lungs.

Section 41(F): “Unease.”

  • No notes

Section 42(A): “Beasthill, fen and torsos.”

  • “as many huts as claws upon an owl’s leg” – Four.
  • “the great black swine that run before the deadgod’s hunt” – Possibly some early version of The Wild Hunt. It is unclear whether Nusin is referring to a myth or an actual cultural/religious practice.
    • In 12th century English account, the leader of the Wild Hunt is King Herla, a name which is interestingly similar to Hurna.

Section 43(F): “If fire burns a willage…”

  • “nor is there a sympathy ‘twixt flesh and field” – Nusin doesn’t believe in sympathetic magic. It seems clear, however, that Moore does (though Nusin’s reductive explanations may also be true).
  • “We die. The track endures.” – What Nusin fails to realize is that the physical manifestation of the track was only made possible by the spell of the shamans. Thus, while she thinks she is saying “People die; only the physical world endures”, on another level she is actually saying “Vita brevis, ars longa.”

Section 44(A): “The shifts, the crumbles …”

  • No notes.

Section 45(E): “A big dog turns…”

  • No notes.

Section 46(A): “Scream and sunlight both …”

  • “ribboned mouths” – Catfish have dangling feelers from their mouths, which look something like ribbons.
  • “river-raddled” – “Raddled” literally means “showing signs of age or fatigue. In this context, it is probably best read as “decayed”.
  • “How may he know a bruise is there or not by touch alone?” – Strictly speaking, he couldn’t – but he could detect the presence /absence of swollen tissues.
  • “gill-caul” – Hymen.
  • “these same-seeming brothers and the corpse they peck about” – We earlier drew a paralell between Bern and Buri and Odin’s ancestors; are they now standing in for Odin’s two ravens?
  • “It’s bittering scent” – “It’s” seems like a typo for “Its”.
  • “sail of cloth” – See notes to S25 on the use of the word “sail”.
  • “the stripe of bright stump-water green” – See notes to S34. Olun, Bern, and Buri are all aware that something is odd about this copper-stain.
  • “children chase a painted pig” – This would seem to be part of the ceremony that evolved from Boy’s sacrifice in chapter one.
  • “What hope may there be for anything so shrill and bright? No hope.” – Nusin herself is rather shrill, and the necklace she wears is bright.

Section 47(F/A): “There is a fearfulness …”

  • “more is meant than what is said” – True of all literature, and all life.
  • “missel-sprig” – Presumably mistletoe.

Section 48(A): “For a change, the journey …”

  • “turf is skinned … earthmeat … a man-deep wound” – For someone so materialistic, Nusin uses a surpising amount of earth-as-living-being imagery here.
  • “earth-axe” – Shovel.
  • “Tunny” – A “tun” is a barrel, such as Tunny might use in his tattoo work.
  • “the skin is turned … blue” – This is called cyanosis, and results from a lack of oxygen, usually due to malfunction of the heart or lungs. Given Olun’s sedentary lifestyle, he might have deep vein thromboses in his legs, which are a risk actor for pulmonary embolism.

Section 49(D): “Beneath the soil she lies…”

  • No notes.

Section 50(A): “Outside, beyond the cluttering …”

  • “his gaze … seems fixed upon my chin or shoulders” – In fact, Olun stares at her neck, and at the conspicuously small (and thus new) green copper-stain upon it. This is the moment at which he puts everything together and realizes the truth of whom he buried today, and whom he speaks to now.

Section 51(A/E): “The rounded woods still press …”

  • “a ring of bright blue flowers about its throat … leave stains of vivid green” – It would seem that Nusin’s subconscious is trying to remind her of the copper-stain clue she has overlooked.
  • “The bulging skin is painted everywhere with images of birds…” – Nusin has almost deciphered the secret of Olun’s crow designs. The final revelation comes in S54.

Section 52(A): “My eyes are open now …”

  • “Olun’s wake” – Unclear whether Hurna means “wake” in the Irish sense, or whether she means that her funerary rites will cause him to “wake” in the realm of the gods.
  • “A strange excitement hangs upon the settlement” – Presumably, this is in anticipation of the imminent climax of the pig-ritual. “We have one night to please the gods.”
  • “‘That’s where everybody goes tonight'” – Clearly an exaggeration;  Nusin passed villagers on the way in. Also, as we shall see, Hurna and some of her followers are not there.

Section 53(E): “The pig-night.”

  • No notes.

Section 54(A): “Blanched rushes, pale and craven…”

  • “a skull of brain-grey flint” – This would appear to be the same rise upon which Hob had his hut, and performed the first pig-night sacrifice.
  • “It is a child.” – It is ambiguous whether this is only a momentary misperception, or whether Nusin is actually seeing Boy.
  • “‘Who does their tattoos now is not for me to know.'” – Actually,  it’s not clear that anyone is currently doing that job, since Olun’s tattoos are somewhat faded. Perhaps this is another tradition that “kids today” don’t have time for, so is falling by the wayside
  • “‘Who does that one about your throat?'” – It is not a tattoo, but a copper-stain; see notes to S50.
  • “Tunny … lifts one hand and gestures to his gullet. Both the brothers nod.” – Bern and Buri seem to be putting together the same clues Olun did, especially regarding the copper-stain.
  • “one as skilled in resurrection as myself” – “Resurrectionist” is an archaic term for a grave-robber. Nusin reminisced about grave-robbing in S24.

Section 55(E): “Inside of me, the dark thing…”

  • No notes.

Section 56(A): “Forget the willage.”

  • “grass that looks like slivered metal underneath the stars” – Or, to put it another way, like knives.
  • “He is pleased as well.” – It is ambiguous whether or not Olun told Hurna of Nusin’s crimes.

Closing Remarks 

  • The “crow designs” as a map of the village, are well established and foreshadowed:
    • S18: “A cold blue line that severs him in twain from balls to brow.” – The river Nene.
    • S18: “A red wheel drawn above his heart with many smaller rings about.” – Probably the roundhouse this scene takes place in (the ‘heart’ of the village), surrounded by the smaller huts of the village. This interpretation is also supported by the location of the burn wound in S42 (“below one shrivelled nipple”).
    • S18: “Crosses and arrow points, loop within loop” – Less clear, but at least some of these are paths around the village.
    • S18: “pale green patchwork” – Probably agricultural fields.
    • S18: “star-scalped” – Olun’s bald head may represent the Dome of heaven. See also S32: “His firmament skull”.
    • S18: “The likeness of a womb upon one palm.” – Meaning unclear???
    • S20: “Still the bird is singing. From its perch up in the high woods there it may look down and see… As in one flat picture it observes us” – The first of many allusions to the unique perspective of birds.
    • S23: “‘This willage is too much a part of me… like a babe’s'” – This whole passage is explicit about the connections between parts of the village and Olun’s body.
    • S28: “Three small fish-marks drawn bright red upon one lid” – Possibly referring to the scarlet dye well (see notes to S23).
    • S32: “On his leather cheek, a patchen stole of coloured scars.” – Probably the “patchworked fields all hemmed with bramble” mentioned in S54.
    • S32: “The worm-blue mottle of his shoulder, bowlined red from nipple across to spine” – Unclear. Possibly a bog and a path across it?
    • S32: “scribbled jowl, fern-cornered lips” – Unclear.
    • S46: “Overhead a single crow looks down in passing … something that may not be seen save from that soaring vantage” – More about bird’s perspective.
    • S48: “Crows wheel above, charred flakes of noise that scatter and reform against an empty sky” – “Noise here may be taken to be “the opposite of signal”; the crows as pixels of static on a dead channel. The crow signal is tattooed on Olun’s skin, but will soon be reduced to noise.
  • Although not made explicit until the end of the chapter, one significant religious difference between Olun and Hurna is the matter of disposition of corpses. Olun believes in burying them in the earth, which is a long-established tradition. Hurna and her co-religionists worship a newer god (or gods?) of fire, and believes that corpses should be cremated, so that the spirit will be reborn among the gods, its “spirit-ore” refined (S25). This new custom may ultimately be derived from the pig-night ritual that Hob established 1500 years ago. Many phrases in S27 refer to cremation: “Urned with queens” (repeated in S44) probably refers to the storage of the ashes (or, just possibly, is a misheard “burned”); “The cheated worm” – cheated of a buried body to eat; “Bones milled and raked”; “sparkborn”. Hurna and her folk are seen chanting around Beasthill fires in S30, then again in S34, where Olun alludes to their distaste for earth-burials. Hurna speaks explicitly about fire-worship in S36, contrasting “grave-soil” and “the bright track into dream-while”. In S44, Hurna speaks again of her belief in the superiority of fire, and of the dead “resting” on Beasthill. In S46, Hurna refers to an earth-burial as a “filthy rite”. Finally, in S52, Hurna speaks of Olun upon “the bright path”, and assures Nusin that the “funeral matters are in hand”.
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