Uri Geller Plans to Excavate the Ancient "Egyptian" Treasure of Fictitious Princess Scota on a Scottish Island He Owns
A long time ago, before I was born, Uri Geller was famous as a spoon-bender, and it is rather astonishing that “spoon-bender” was ever a profession, even if he was technically supposed to be some kind of telekinetic. His repertoire of tricks was always rather threadbare, and I can remember amazing my New Age classmates in anthropology classes by doing the spoon-bending trick and making objects move with the power of my “mind.” I performed such tricks—based on physics and misdirection—because one of my classmates claimed with a straight face that Buddhism had given him telekinetic powers, and he tried the same prestidigitation but called it a spiritual miracle. He also claimed he could levitate, but only when no one else was around to see.
I bring this up only by way of introducing Geller’s latest attempt to try to remain relevant four decades after his heyday. Back in 2009 Geller bought the tiny Isle of Lamb in Scotland’s Firth of Forth, and now the septuagenarian psychic is planning an archaeological dig on the island because he had a vision that the land hides the lost Egyptian treasure of the fictional Egyptian princess Scota, the retroactive eponym of Scotland. “When I was on the island, I felt it,” Geller told The Mirror this week.
Geller said that he became convinced of the existence of the lost treasure during his one and only visit to the island in 2010, in which he paced the 100-yard-long island with dowsing rods. Nevertheless, he is sure that the treasure is there. “It will shatter the idea of Scottish historians that the Egyptians never came to Scotland,” he said.
You don’t need to worry about paradigms shifting anytime soon, however. Geller is planning an excavation in 2019, assuming he receives the right permissions from the relevant authorities. A lot depends, weirdly enough, on the mating habits of seabirds and whether Geller might disturb them.
The search for Scota is one of those eccentric quests that animate the antiquarians of the British Isles. It originates in a medieval confusion, in a time when Ireland and Scotland were both known as “Scotia,” and the Christianized myths of the Celts tried to connect these lands back to the events of the Bible. While the developed form of the Scota myth first occurs in the Book of Leinster, an Irish chronicle of the twelfth century, the earlier Historia Brittonum of Pseudo-Nennius makes reference to the Scota story (though in but one recension; the others speak only of a Scythian exile from Egypt and not his royal wife), demonstrating that it has a rather early medieval provenance. Scholars speculate that the story arose in order to support Scottish claims to independence, a counter-myth to the more famous but equally false story of how Brutus of Troy, descendant of Aeneas, settled Britain and connected England back to the Classical world and the founding family of the Roman Empire.
If you are really interested, you’d probably like to know that the account of Pseudo-Nennius seems to derive from Henry of Huntington’s Historia Anglorum, which in turn drew upon Bede’s Historia Ecclesiastica and the Vatican recension of the Historia Brittonum (which predates the one referenced above), all of which traced the origins of the peoples of Ireland and/or Scotland back to “Scythia,” though not always to Egypt. Across the texts, we see a gradual accretion of details as the myth became increasingly Biblical with each novel detail tacked on over the course of a century or two.
The myth of Scota is so dubious that even the British Israelists, who look for connections between the British Isles and the Middle East, laughed at it. Here, for example, is British Israelist F. R. A. Glover in 1861 explaining why Scota could not have been the namesake of Scotland:
A lady is honoured as being the cause of this effect: Scota, the daughter or wife of Gathelus. But as she and her illustrious companion are assigned to very early times, and the word Scotia was never heard of as a name for Ireland earlier than the third century after Christ, that celebrated lady may be set aside with all the other ladies, whose names were always at hand, with Bards and Annalists, to give a name to Ireland whenever a reason had to be assigned for what chroniclers had heard of, as an adjective descriptive of their Island, and they were unable otherwise to account for.
The story wasn’t good enough for a man who literally tried to argue that the British were the Biblical Jews, but it’s good enough for Uri Geller—who adds the completely bonkers detail that Scota was the half-sister of King Tutankhamun! That claim doesn’t appear in any major fringe books I can find, but it shows up on Scottish nationalist message boards, Pinterest groups, and other fringes of the fringe. Amazing, isn’t it, that a so-called psychic had a totally 100% legit vision of a fictional character?
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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