I am very fortunate where I live as the neighbouring fields are often frequented by a small population of hares. It is a real joy to watch them about their daily life or, early in the morning, racing down the lanes. As we we see, the hare can evoke a number of different emotional responses in us. Although, in many ways similar to the rabbit – on first sight, our initial reactions are often, ‘is that a hare or a rabbit?’ – the engender an altogether different set of emotional and psychological associations.
It is apt that the hare has an equally emotive, some times poignant, and sometimes enigmatic place within biblical and post-biblical tradition.
On Day 2 we saw that, within the biblical world, frogs shared a rather ambivalent relationship with humans. Today, we see that this ambivalence continues among our feathered friends, and none more so than with the raven.
Possibly the most redolent sound of summer is that of the soft, lazy hum of bees among sun-warmed lavender. Out of all flying insects, it could be argued that bees are the most well loved – or at least well tolerated. I’ve known people renowned for distractedly swatting away flies, wasps and all kinds of insects, sit for (what seems like) hours patiently coaxing a grounded bee to with sugar water or honey.
The recent concerns over declining population has also helped to promote a re-assessment of the bee and our attitudes to it. Tracey Thorn’s recent tweet exemplifies this beautifully.
Today’s post is a little bit of a cheat. But I really like goats (they are one of my research topics) and, although I know we don’t really have any wild goats left in the UK, I feel slightly vindicated by a news report covered by the BBC in March this year announcing that ‘Wild goats flock to Llandudno in bad weather‘!
Goats, along with sheep, have long been a part of human culture and economy and therefore also an intrinsic part of the human landscape (for a brief readable overview see Borowski, 1994 or Sasson, 2014). Encountering their rugged form on some bleak wilderness scarp can give us a very real impression of wildness and freedom, even though they are in fact indicators of the exact opposite. Nevertheless, I have enjoyed many a packed lunch on some windswept Welsh mountainside sharing Marmite sandwiches with a feral goat or two.
Nettle – חָרוּל (charul), סִרְפָּד (sirpad) and possibly קִמּוֹשׂ (qimmos)
Over the years my attitude to nettles has changed. As a lad, they were ubiquitous, lurking menaces that, no matter what I did to avoid them, inevitably stung me and sent me racing to find a nearby dock leaf. Moreover, they were found in areas that I tended to associate with the least conducive for play; those boggy, shadowy, overgrown areas, thick with snail and slug slime. In those days they were just ‘stingers’ and the places they were found were the strange and dank-smelling ‘stingers patch.’ However, more recently, I have grown more and more attracted to these places and, particularly on hot, dry days, actively seek out these proud plants with their delicate, understated flower heads, and their heady, fresh scent. When so much is appearing to struggle for life, it is good to find something that celebrates its hardiness and its tenacious and spiky hold on life.
The sound of the dove on a late summer’s afternoon, when velvet shadows begin to stretch over a freshly cut lawn, is one of those magical, lazy, sounds of summer. There is something special, something strangely soporific and hauntingly melancholic, about the dove’s call. As we shall see, it is something that also touched the heart and imagination of the ancient Hebrew writers of our biblical literature too.
Snails are fairly hard to miss at this time of the year. Following a June rain shower or on a dewy morning and they are almost everywhere. We are, probably, all familiar with that horribly uncomfortable crunch underfoot as we inadvertently tread on one. As vegetable plots and gardens begin to flourish, the gardeners amongst us will have a particular affinity (or should that be antipathy?) with this rather strange creature; a relationship that quite often can degenerate into all out warfare!
In many ways, the snail is a singular creature and so it is fitting that its appearance in the Bible is no less singular and perhaps even a little baffling. Continue reading →
About this time of year (June), millions of tiny froglets, that have just developed from tadpoles, will be making their first forays onto land. Frogs typify our often ambivalent relationship with nature. For many, they are the epitome of ‘otherness’ (the non-human). Continue reading →
June 1st sees the launch of theWildlife Trust’s ‘30 Days Wild Challenge‘ that encourages everyone to get outside, reconnect with the natural world and to “do something wild every day throughout June”. To celebrate this initiative and to take up their challenge, I have decided to attempt to post a blog every day relating to an animal or plant that is familiar to us, and perhaps we might encounter on our own ‘30 Days Wild Challenge‘, but that can also be found in the Bible.
The natural world and the Bible
The natural world permeates the writings of the Bible. Its imagery and language are informed by the landscape, the weather patterns, the pulse of the seasons, the flora and the fauna, of the land in which the texts were produced.1 Jewish scholar and botanist, Nogah Hareuveni, goes so far as to argue that an intimate knowledge of (particularly ancient) Israel’s nature and landscape is essential to a proper understanding of the Biblical writings (Hareuveni, 1974, 1991). Continue reading →
WE ARE SORRY TO ANNOUNCE THAT UNFORTUNATELY THIS EVENT HAS BEEN CANCELLED
at Newman University
National Institute for Christian Education Research
Newman Research Centre for the Bible and its Reception
Thursday 27th June 2019 9.30 a.m. to 4.00p.m.
In recent times there has been a retrieval within faith communities of a sense of scripture as a source of the inner life of faith, and its importance on examination syllabi has been strongly emphasised in recent curriculum reforms. How can RE classrooms, with their diverse and plural pupil populations, be spaces for fruitful dialogue with scripture and for serious reflection on its relevance for contemporary political discourse?