‘…all the great thinkers recognise the importance of rational thought and also the importance of getting beyond the rational and that’s where the myths and fairy stories come in…’ – The Heart of Albion
Ancient terms of measurement are fascinating not least because many of them successfully encompass the apparently yawning gulf between the microcosm of the human body and the macrocosm of the universal…
It is quite possible that the humble barley seed, or kush, whilst representative of one second in time was also the basis for the staple of our first civilisation.
They have the ‘ring’ of authenticity about them these terms which must once have stood at the pinnacle of the human endeavour to comprehend.
To ‘fathom’ means to measure but also to understand and is roughly equal to the length of a ‘grown man’s’ outstretched arms.
Finger tip to finger tip…
Something which is ‘fathomless’ then means something too big for you to get to grips with, quite literally.
It is also the preferred length measurement for sounding depths.
Perhaps, because the outstretched arms span the heart?
There is an inherent value judgement here which must be very old.
Depth is harder to understand than length and harder to measure.
So it must be worth more in terms of expended effort.
The vertical carries more weight than the horizontal.
A yard is not quite so hard to compass.
Finger tip to heart…
Because of the nature of league tables we had always assumed that leagues were a depth measurement but apparently not, they too refer to length.
But what of ‘Seven League Boots’?
Sensibly, they should allow a stride of twenty-one miles or perhaps a jump of forty-two but they do neither.
In the Folk Record they are used to keep pace with Giant’s who step from hill to hill or from site to site which map out the lay of the land.
In real time such sites appear to mark the natural thresholds of eye-sight, and the daily trek on foot…
In other words they make the step up from feet to miles.
The distance they cover then is far vaster and their ramifications even more so but not without possible compass for the finely tuned mind to consider.
‘…The Demon Lord Bali had overcome Indra, Lord of the Gods and was enjoying the Empire of the Three Worlds.
The assembly of the Gods, distressed with fear, went to the Hermitage of the Perfect where Vishnu was engaged in contemplation:
‘Bali, the son of Virocana,’ they said, ‘is performing a sacrifice, what benefit for the gods is there in this?’
Thus petitioned, Vishnu adopted a Dwarvish form approached the Demon Lord and begged from him the boon of three small paces which were granted him.
With the first step Vishnu re-assumed his normal aspect and occupied the Whole Earth, with the second step he broached the Eternal Atmosphere, and with the third, the Everlasting Sky… He made Bali, the son of Virocana a Dweller in the Underworld and gave the Empire of the Three Worlds back to Indra…’
If anyone does ever come across a pair of Seven League Boots, we’d be grateful were you to let us know!