The Powys Society Conference 2021

Due to covid-19, our conference will be replaced by two Zoom events:

Our annual conference scheduled for 13–15 August 2021 will regrettably not take place as a residential weekend. It seems certain that, even following widespread roll-out of the covid-19 vaccine, social distancing and mask wearing will remain a requirement for indoor events (assuming large group meetings are permitted), and this makes impossible any meaningful convivial interaction.

Saturday 14 August 2021 — Discussion of JCP’s novel The Brazen Head
Chapter XXII, The Oracle

This event will be HELD ONLINE by ZOOM at 15:00 BST (Max 1.5 HOURS to 16:30).
  • If any member wishes to join the Zoom discussion, please e-mail Kevin Taylor at ksjer.taylor@btinternet.com. Kevin will be hosting the meeting and will send you joining details in due course.

The Brazen Head was written between May 1954 and September 1955 and published by Macdonald in 1956. The novel had specific personal significance for JCP — the events take place in 1272 in his home territory of Wessex (Bacon was born in Ilchester just a few miles from Montacute). In 1955 in a letter to his friend Nicholas Ross JCP said: “My romance centres round far the most important figure of the Middle Ages, namely ROGER BACON who succeeded in doing what no other human being has ever done before or since. That is to say Friar Roger Bacon, who was infinitely greater than Francis Bacon, [and who] imitated God and created a living soul!

The Brazen Head CoverThis late novel, composed when JCP was in his eighties, demonstrates how well Powys, in old age, could still evoke a powerful sense of the historical past. JCP researched the period of the thirteenth century in depth studying books on medieval history and theology. Readers, however, may notice some technical weaknesses such as various plot inconsistencies and other strange anomalies. The novel features the priest scientist Roger Bacon (1220-1292) and his invention of a metallic head with the potential to deliver oracles but much of the narrative is also concerned with the conflict between the two barons Sir Mort Abyssum and Sir Maldung. Friar Bacon is opposed by the fanatical Franciscan priest, Bonaventura (1221-1274) and by Petrus Peregrinus de Maricourt (fl.1269), an advocate of “scientific magnetism” who seeks to defeat Bacon’s Trinitarian philosophy and destroy the metal image.

In the last chapter of The Brazen Head, entitled The Oracle, JCP brings together at a purely thematic level many of the key concepts already introduced in earlier parts of the book. Here the reader will find a confession of JCP’s own belief that “all living creatures have a consciousness of being themselves”, a cast of colourful characters, as well as historical figures such as Albertus Magnus (1200-1280) and Bonaventura, references to the conflict between Greyfriars and Blackfriars, rebellious serfs, the rivalry between landowning Barons and their ancestral castles (JCP’s original title for the book was The Two Barons), elements of medieval theology, the co-existence of science and magic, zodiacal signs, experiments in magnetism, and an apocalyptic confrontation between beneficent powers and sinister forces: Friar Bacon declares the brazen head is the magical protector of Britain; the “insane voice” of Petrus Peregrinus exclaims “I am Anti-Christ”. At the end of the chapter the “image of brass” and Petrus Peregrinus are destroyed in a fiery conflagration which, according to G Wilson Knight, marks the defeat of the Christian-theological theme of the book by the “sexual Antichrist of Welsh affinities and occult powers.”

Chris Thomas, Hon. Secretary

Sunday 15 August 2020 — Powys Society AGM

TO BE HELD ONLINE by ZOOM 15:00 BST (Max 1 HOUR to 16:00)

The Annual General Meeting will be convened as a Zoom video meeting, for those who wish to join by that method. All paid up members of the Powys Society are welcome to participate in the AGM.

  • If any member wishes to join the AGM, please e-mail Kevin Taylor at ksjer.taylor@btinternet.com. Kevin will be hosting the meeting and will send you joining details in due course.

We long to return to our much loved conference venue

Glastonbury is surrounded by four hills with potent mythological and legendary associations. St. Edmund’s Hill, Chalice Hill, Wirral Hill and the Tor all feature prominently in A Glastonbury Romance and can all be easily reached from our conference venue. St. Edmund’s Hill may once have been a prehistoric solar or lunar observatory but is now covered by a modern housing estate. In a key passage in A Glastonbury Romance Mr Evans sits on a heap of turnips in Edmund Hill Lane and obtains knowledge of the double natured First Cause. Chalice Hill overlooks the mythical burial place of the Holy Grail. As we discovered during previous conferences in Street, Wirral Hill offers visitors an excellent vantage point for a view of Glastonbury, the Abbey ruins, the Tor, the Somerset levels, and the surrounding landscape of Insula Pomorum. But the Holy Thorn on Wirral Hill, which John Crow in A Glastonbury Romance thinks is ‘the queerest dead tree I’ve ever seen’ has now been removed leaving only a remnant of its damaged trunk. The Tor however remains a safe haven for an abundance of flora and fauna including butterflies, wildflowers, skylarks, swallows, swifts, badgers, rabbits and foxes and also offers panoramic views of the Avalonian landscape.

Chris Thomas, Hon Secretary

Our Conference Organisers: Anna Rosic (l) and Louise de Bruin (r)
look forward to seeing you in 2022!

anna pawelko & louise de bruin (powys conference organisers)