St. Andrews, the Old Course

This weekend, players from around the world will  play in the British open at the Old Course at St. Andrews.   This is the oldest course, as far as anyone knows, in golf.  Originally it had 22 holes on it, and at some point it was decided that four of the holes were too short.  They were consolidated into the others, resulting in an 18 hole course that became the standard.  Scots played golf here in the early 1400’s, and the game was actually banned for a time because King James (II) thought young people were playing too much golf while they should be practicing their archery.

The course is particularly unique, in that there are 18 holes but only 11 (I think) greens.  Most of the holes going out share greens with holes coming back in; I think they have both red and white flags on the shared greens to differentiate which hole you should be aiming at.

Why — why on earth am I posting about golf on this website?

I have played some golf; it is as frustrating as it is addicting.

It originated in Scotland at a time when the true (elven) royalty of Britain, first in England and later in Scotland, had been or were in the process of being thrown from power (I cant say definitively because it’s unclear when the game was actually first introduced).  The Roman Church, which had backed the Norman invasion, had become firmly dominant on the islands and the elves of the Isles had entered the winter of their existence.

An interesting footnote here, Nicholas de Vere points out that there was a period that the elves, the faeries, or, who we remember as elves and fairies,  who during an earlier age had been the nobility, the celebrity class, had been pushed out beyond the edges of civilization and were all starving to death; and there is actually a letter written in 1848  by antiquarian John O’Donovan that speaks about a specific “elven” family.  This letter is reproduced on Wikipedia.  (For once, thank you Wikipedia!)

“John O’Donovan

“In her capacity as banshee, Cleena is mentioned by the Irish antiquiquarian John O’Donovan.  Writing in 1849 to a friend, O’Donovan says:

“When my grandfather died in Leinster in 1798, Cleena came all the way from Ton Cleena to lament him; but she has not been heard ever since lamenting any of  our race, though I believe she still weeps in the mountains of Drumaleaque in her own country, where so many of the race of Eoghan Mor are dying of starvation.”

I may need to translate a bit.  Ban, in Gaelic, means female, Sidhe, pronounced ‘Shee,’ meant elf.  A banshee was a female elf.  A screaming banshee was a female elf who “keened” (wailed) at a funeral.  This John O’Donovan is talking about a keening elf-girl who was hired to wail at the funeral of his grandfather.  Her family, identified in the letter as the Eogan Mor, had been the ruling dynasty of southern Ireland from the 2nd (or 3rd) century till the 16th (!).  Now they are, according to this letter, starving to death, probably a few generations after having lost their jobs as rulers over the land.

Nicholas de Vere talks about a period in which previously well-to-do and respected elven families, who had previously been involved in the administration of communities found themselves  extricated, found themselves exhiled to the outskirts of new, Christian, townships.  As the weather got cold, these elves/fairies (as we remember them) would descend on the townships and threaten the townspeople with the application of hexes in hope of extricating provisions for the coming winter.  This really happened, and we remember it at the end of October when we celebrate Halloween.  (Trick or Treat!)

What does all this have to do with golf?

Maybe nothing, but I have a, well, crazy theory.

It was merely a few centuries between the time that William the Conqueror conquered England  and the game of golf was introduced in Scotland.  Scotland was once called Alba, or Albany, i.e. land of the elves.  William’s usurpation of the English throne was the watermark in a shift in power from elven dominance to Catholic-backed warrior dominance.  William threw the  (elvin) Aethelings off of their throne (alluded to in Alice in Wonderland)  and replaced the previous Anglo-Saxon aristocracy  with his own Norman friends and cousins.

One day it occurred to me that maybe the soon-to-be-extinct elves of medieval Scotland taught the game of golf to the usurping Norman aristocracy … in an act of revenge.

 

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