Temporal dysphoria

I was at Ludlow Castle in Shropshire this weekend, donning the codpiece and giving it some hey nonny no at their Medieval Fayre. We were spared last year's sub-zero temperatures though there was a bitter wind blowing through my liripipe.

It was while warming ourselves in the green room that conversation turned to the role of bagpipers in history.

It seems that right up until the Early Modern period, every village would hold regular Church Ales, big communal piss ups with all money raised going to help the local poor. Entertainment was, naturally, provided by pipers who, unlike most people, had free license to travel beyond the parish boundaries. There was, in other words, a good living to be made as a bagpiper - their services were in demand, even if they were often disreputable folk.

And in that moment, I had it. I put a name to a feeling I've had all my life, the feeling of being born in the wrong era. We're familiar with gender dysphoria, being born in the wrong body. Perhaps we could talk about temporal dysphoria too?

Freudians would no doubt remind me that life was pretty grim back then and say it's all projection, wish-fulfilment, a neurotic's fantasy.

Jungians would view things more positively and suggest that I need to integrate the archetypal force bubbling up from my unconscious. For medieval minstrel, read trickster. Let him in or find he'll trip you up.

But parsimony has led me to conclude that the transmigration of souls is really the only viable explanation.

When first I picked up a set of pipes I didn't do it because I wanted to be a medieval minstrel. No, I did it because I already knew that's what I was. It's taken twenty years to get over the shock of finding that the world thinks otherwise.


  1. That's it exactly!
    I've definitely got that too...
    The thing about it though is that it's not for an exact time in history - for me anyway - more of a sense of then, when bagpipers crossed boundaries...
    It's way deeper than dressing up isn't it.

    I had a stall at Ludlow some years ago and remember the funny scenes in the loo-queues with monks and lepers and halbardiers in trainers all waiting for the chemical toilet.

  2. I think you've got it spot on, and know the feeling too. In that bit of the past, whenever it was, when things were how they should be, I can be what I want to be, storyteller, musician - all the things I feel a bit awkward as the me of today.

    It was great to have brief catch up with you at Ludlow, and a pleasure to see you play as always. Thinking about what you've written I now realise why I felt a teeny bit out of place amongst the revelry there, as it would have been more natural to be part of it rather than an audience member of today.

    And, yes, it was bagpipes that helped me to find my comfortable place in the past.

    Tom x

  3. The character in the penultimate photo looks like a medaevil variant of Daevid Allen in his recent Zero the Hero costume!

    [If you missed the 2009 Gong shows, see http://www.egigs.co.uk/photos/2009/Gong-LemonGrove-091120-KW11.JPG]

    Come and Wodulate in Canterbubble!

  4. I too just put my finger on this feeling I've had all my life, which led me to google "temporal disphoria" which is how I found this page. I used to think I belonged in medieval times, except now I think that I belong in a future that has a similar 'feel' about it, people going back to the land and living simple off-the-grid lives due to things like earthships and assembler/recyclers, free to live and create without the false trappings of "modern" society, without being forced to work pointless jobs we hate anyway for money we shouldn't have to need to survive.
    Just my 2 cents really, but I'm so glad to find there are others out there who feel similarly temporally displaced!



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