When I’m here in Glasgow, I attend an open public circle at each of the major holidays. At each ritual, the name Clutha is invoked, spoken of as the Spirit of this Place, but for some reason, it that name had never quite settled into my bones before. At our Spring Equinox ritual, the name echoed in my soul in a new way. It reverberated in my mind as I left the park where we meet. It wound its way through me over the rest of the afternoon. I have no idea why I hadn’t looked up the name before, or even wondered who this Clutha was, nor do I know why this time the name would not leave me.
At night I lay in bed turning the name over and over in my head. The name of the pub where the helicopter accident happened in December was The Clutha. Perhaps that’s why it rattled in my head so. I realized that when I’d heard of the tragedy, even though I was far away in Spokane, Washington, I’d known exactly which pub it was and had a perfect picture of the place in my head. It wasn’t a pub I’d ever gone inside myself, and yet the image of it was clear as day in my head even before I’d seen news images. Maybe it wasn’t the tragedy that had solidified the name in my mind, but the name that had made me aware of the place where the tragedy happened.
Clutha. Clutha. Who was Clutha? Or who is Clutha? I wanted to reach for my phone and look up the name, find out what folklore was attached, but I knew that wasn’t the best way to find information right then. I needed to ask Clutha himself.
Within seconds of deciding not to look up the name online, the connection was made in my head. The phoneme TH often shifts to D over time. The A sound is often spelled with an E at the end of a word. The sound U is made by a letter that looks like a Y in Cyrillic writing. That might be a “natural” phoneme shift as well, or it might be a sound which has shifted because of writing. I know little to nothing of the philology of Scots or Scots Gaelic. I can only make guesses from what I know of other languages. And those guesses, those connections, became a mental animation of the names Clutha and Clyde swapping back and forth.
As soon as I’d made the connection, I could see the river in my mind. I could also feel the energy of the river surge up and through my body. “Yes, yes,” it seemed to say, “You’ve figured it out.”
I stayed in my bed, eyes closed, breathing deeply and watching the images of the river that flowed through my mind. I relaxed as I felt what it would be like to lie down on raft in the centre of the river and flow downstream with the water. I felt myself embraced by the river, felt myself engulfed by the water and then felt myself deposited back on land again, over near the Glasgow Cathedral. I felt the energy of the river as it stretches out onto land, as it touches the city beyond its banks.
At last, I’d learned one of the river’s older names, and I knew that we had only been acquaintances before. Now we knew each other a bit better.