Algae and boars in Brittany

Superstitious sailors consider pigs to be unlucky because they have cloven hooves like the Devil and are terrified of water. Pigs would not be carried on boats. Fishermen often regarded pigs as harbingers of bad luck: a fisherman seeing a pig on his way to work would rather turn round and go home.

This even extended to a prohibition of the word “pig” on board a vessel. This is why the animals were referred to, across North East England, as “gissies”.

Across the trench, Brittany’s “killer” green algae has been affecting the rugged north Breton coastline for decades but has increased in recent years, causing the death of a worker who was clearing it in 2009, as well as killing dogs and a horse walking on the beach.

A wild boar on Brittany's shoreline. Around 31 boars have been found dead recently on the coast, suspected of drinking water contaminated by green algae. Photograph: Damien Meyer/AFP/Getty Images


Fears are growing over potentially lethal green algae piling up on the north Brittany coast following corpses of wild boars washing up at the picturesque tourist destination of côtes d’Armôr.

Three dead boars were found floating in the water or slumped on muddy banks of the Gouessant estuary at Morieux on Wednesday last week after 18 were found dead the previous day. A total of 31 animals have been found dead this last month.

Local campaigners say nothing will change unless Brittany’s powerful agriculture and food industry cuts its nitrates use. More from the Guardian

"Dogs look up to man. Cats look down to man. Pigs look us straight in the eye and see an equal." - Winston Churchill

The ecologist Paul Shepard helped pave the way for the modern primitivist train of thought, the essential elements being that “civilization” itself runs counter to human nature – that human nature, as Shepard so eloquently stated, is a consciousness shaped by our evolution and our environment. We are, essentially, “beings of the Paleolithic”.


“The boar is the beast of death” – Robert Graves in The White Goddess


In the Welsh Mabinogion, the introduction of pigs to the British Isles is discussed…

“I have heard tell that there have come to the South such creatures as never came to this  island.”
“What is their name?” said he.
“Hobeu lord.”
“What kind of animals are those?”
“Small animals, their flesh better than the flesh of oxen”
“To whom do they belong?”
“To Pryderi  son of Pwyll, to whom they were sent from Annwyn by Arawn king of Annwyn.”

What the writer does not make clear-perhaps he does not realize it–is that Annwyn is the Celtic underworld, the land of the dead, and Arawn its king. And that these creatures ‘as never came to this  island’ must have travelled over water…