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Author Topic: Customs and Traditions, Myths and Legends  (Read 18854 times)
Stirling Thompson
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« on: September 11, 2008, 07:50:37 AM »

Intesesting odd bits you might run across that you'd like to pass along? I'll start us off with two ancient, but apparently still practiced, traditions.

Wish Trees and Clootie Wells

A Wish Tree is an individual tree, usually distinguished by species, position or appearance, which is used as an object of wishes and offerings. Such trees are identified as possessing a special religious or spiritual value. By tradition, believers make votive offerings in order to gain from that nature spirit or goddess fulfillment of a wish.

One form of votive offering is the token offering of a coin. One such tree still stands near Ardmaddy House in Argyll, Scotland. The tree is a hawthorn, a species traditionally linked with fertility, as in 'May Blossom'. The trunk and branches are covered with hundreds of coins which have been driven through the bark and into the wood. The local tradition is that a wish will be granted for each of the coins so treated.

On the island of St Maol Rubha or St Maree, in Loch Maree, Gairloch in the Highlands is an oak Wish Tree made famous by a visit in 1877 by Queen Victoria and its inclusion in her published diaries. The tree, and others surrounding it, are festooned with hammered in coins. It is near the healing well of St Maree, to which votive offerings were made. Records show that bulls were sacrificed openly up until the 18th century.

Full article is here: http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/Wish+Tree

Clootie wells (also Cloutie or Cloughtie wells) are places of pilgrimage in Celtic areas. They are wells or springs, almost always with a tree growing beside them, where strips of cloth or rags have been left, usually tied to the branches of the tree as part of a healing ritual. In Scots nomenclature, a "clootie" or "cloot" is a strip of cloth or rag.

When used at the clootie wells in Scotland and Ireland, the pieces of cloth are generally dipped in the water of the holy well and then tied to a branch while a prayer of supplication is said to the spirit of the well - in modern times usually a saint, but in pre-Christian times a goddess or local nature spirit. This is most often done by those seeking healing, though some may do it simply to honour the spirit of the well. In either case, many see this as a probable continuation of the ancient Celtic practice of leaving votive offerings in wells or pits.

In Scotland, near the villages of North Kessock and Munlochy, 1 mile west of Munlochy on the A832, is a clootie well at an ancient spring dedicated to Saint Curidan (or Curitan), where rags are still hung on the surrounding bushes and trees. Here the well was once thought to have had the power to cure sick children who were left there overnight. Craigie Well at Avoch on the Black Isle has both offerings of coins and clooties. Rags, wool and human hair were also used as charms against sorcery, and as tokens of penance or fulfilment of a vow.

Full article is here: http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/clootie+well
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Stu
Barbara
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« Reply #1 on: September 11, 2008, 05:09:36 PM »

Thanks Stu for that bit of Scottish history.  You have added so much of interest to this forum, thanks again.

Barbara
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Stirling Thompson
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« Reply #2 on: September 16, 2008, 05:37:12 AM »

Jock Tamson's Bairns
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"We're a' Jock Tamson's Bairns" (Lowland Scots for we're all John Thomson's children) is a popular saying in Scotland and the far north of England, and is known in other parts of the world. Nowadays, the phrase is often used to mean "we're all the same under the skin".

It has been suggested as a euphemism for God, so the saying could mean "we are all God's children". The expression "We're a' the bairns o' Adam", conveys exactly the same meaning, see Freedom Come-All-Ye a song written by Hamish Henderson. Scottish Gaelic also has the shorter saying "Clann MhicTamhais" (Thomson/MacTavish's children/clan). This is a common egalitarian sentiment in Scottish national identity, also evident in the popularity of the Robert Burns song A Man's A Man for A' That.

Although Jock Tamson's Bairns is used as a personification of the Scots nation, it is also used to refer to the human race in general.

It is also used when people think one of their number is showing off, or considers himself better than his peers: "Who does he think he is? We're all Jock Tamson's bairns." The downside of this egalitarianism is the traditional lack of acceptance of anyone from a small community who moves on and up, socially or professionally, even if they display no conceit. "Too good for us now, are ye?"

One explanation of this phrase (as recorded in the History of Duddingston Kirk) is that the Reverend John Thomson (Jock Tamson, Thamson), minister of Duddingston Kirk, Edinburgh, from 1805 to 1840, called the members of his congregation "ma bairns" (cognate with Geordie me bairns; English: 'my children') and this resulted in folk saying "we're a' Jock Tamson's bairns" which gave a sense of belonging to a select group.

"Jock Tamson" (John Thomson) would have also been a very common Scottish name, and would have been equivalent to such phrases as "John Doe", "John Smith", "Joe Bloggs" etc.

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Stu
Stirling Thompson
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« Reply #3 on: September 17, 2008, 06:49:53 AM »

Horseman's Word
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Horseman's Word was a secret society operating amongst horse trainers, blacksmiths, ploughmen, and other horsemen in Scotland from the 18th century until as late as the 20th century. They taught horse whispering and other magic, and like the Toadmen of East Anglia, they were believed to have been taught to control horses by a secret word, as well as by use of scented substances, or by the use of a toad's pelvis bone.

The initiation rituals into the society incorporated a number of elements such as reading passages from the Bible backwards, and the secrets included Masonic-style oaths, gestures, passwords and handshakes. Like the similar societies of the Miller's Word and the Toadmen, they were believed to have practiced witchcraft.

The Horseman’s Word was a trade union formed in Northern Scotland in the late 18th century whose goal was to protect horse trainers and ploughmen, along with their trade knowledge, from the threat of an encroaching economic system in which the resources for production were becoming privately owned and wages and prices for goods and services were being taken out of the skilled laborers control and put into the hands of large farm owners. The formation of the Horseman’s Word also coincided with the draft horse becoming the primary working animal in the farming areas of Northern Scotland. As a result, the ability to raise and control these animals became a valued skill and people possessing this ability were in high demand. This created a desirable form of well paid and respectable work. The trade union, aside from protecting trade knowledge, wanted to ensure that the men engaged in this profession were efficiently trained and that the quality of their work was consistently good and that the remunerations for that work were appropriate.

After the candidate completed the initiation ceremony he was then given a word that was supposed to give him power over horses. So aside from being a secret society "The Horseman’s Word" was actually a spoken word. This secret word, which varied by location, was said to have magical and mystical qualities which would allow the keeper of the word to possess the ability by merely whispering it to bring horses under their complete control. Apart from gaining knowledge of the secret word more practical information and techniques about controlling and training horses was also passed on to members of the society. These methods were kept secret and done in such a way that the horseman maintained their reputation as having unique and even magical power over horses.

Until the initiation ceremony and induction into the society and the receiving of the word, the horseman who were not members of the society but potential candidates would have trouble with horses. This would often be caused by older ploughmen who were members of the society tampering with their horses. They would put things like tacks under the horse's collar to cause it to behave irrationally. This would be unknown to the potential candidate as the techniques for training and controlling the horses were not yet given to him. Most of these techniques were based on the horse's sharp sense of smell. Foul substances placed in front of the horse or on the animal itself would cause it to refuse to move forward. This technique is known as jading and is still used by horse trainers today. There were also pleasant smelling things that were used to make a horse move forward or calm down. If the substance was an oil it could be wiped on the trainer's forehead, they would then stand in front of the animal and the smell would draw it towards them. This practice was often used in taming unruly horses. There were also pleasant smelling and inviting materials, such as sweets, that the horseman could keep in their pocket in order to calm, attract, and subdue a crazed horse. Keeping these techniques secret, along with the myth that there was a word that only the horseman knew that gave them and them alone power over horses helped guarantee their reputation, prestige, job security, and pay. The same type of logic and protection of trade secrets can be seen among modern magicians who keep their tricks secret and only share them with other members of their trade.


Complete article is here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horseman%27s_Word
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Stirling Thompson
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« Reply #4 on: September 18, 2008, 07:34:23 AM »

Fairy Flag
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Fairy Flag (in Scottish Gaelic, An Bratach Sith) is a fragment of cloth owned by the Clan MacLeod and preserved at Dunvegan Castle on the Isle of Skye in Scotland, where it is on display. The MacLeods consider it a magical artifact and family treasure.

Waving the Fairy Flag is said to provide salvation to the Clan MacLeod in the event of disaster, by summoning a fairy army. The flag has been waved twice, in the Middle Ages, but only one wave is left.

In the first waving, the MacLeods were greatly outnumbered in battle with the MacDonalds. At the exact point when the chief waved the Fairy Flag, the battle turned in favor of the MacLeods.

In the second waving, the clan's cattle were dying of pestilence. To avoid starvation, the chief summoned the fairy armies, who magically restored the cattle to health.

The 28th Chief, Dame Flora MacLeod of MacLeod, offered to wave the Fairy Flag over the cliffs of Dover should the Germans look victorious. MacLeod fighter pilots were known to have carried pictures of the flag with them, and it is said that not one was shot down. Dame Flora is also remembered for cutting off pieces of the flag for soldiers during this time.

Many legends exist on the origins of the fairy flag. In one such story, the chieftain's baby son was wrapped in the cloth by a fairy lady; in another, the chieftain took a fairy woman as a wife and she brought the cloth to the marriage, however she could only stay for seven years, after the seven years were gone she left, but she left the flag to protect her children; in a third, the banner was brought to Dunvegan by a MacLeod chieftain after years spent with the Sidhe.

A popular version of the legendary origin of the Fairy Flag is that there is truth in all of these stories: an early clan chieftan spent some time in the fairy realm. In his time there, he fell in love with the daughter of the fairy king, and they were married. Clan duty called, and he and his bride returned to the mortal realm. However, the fairy princess could only live in there for 7 years. Towards the end of this time, she gave birth to a baby boy, whom she tearfully left behind with the chief. Just before crossing over the fairy bridge back into her world, she begged that the baby never be left alone, as the sound of his crying would be too much for her to bear. That night, the clan had a feast, to distract the chief from his grief. As the MacLeods are famous for their piping and dancing, the nursemaid in charge of the baby snuck away from the nursery to join the party. When she was discovered, the chief immediately ran up to his son, only to find his fairy wife already there, singing the child back to sleep. When the chief entered the room, the fairy vanished, but left behind a blanket on their son, which became the Fairy Flag. The song she was singing is still sung within the clan, known either as the Dunvegan Lullaby or the Fairy Lullaby.

A long version of a second tale is available at the Fairy Flag page on Seoras.com. However, true believers in the Fairy Flag legend may prefer this tale about Sir Reginald. When he had the Fairy Flag mounted in its current frame, he hired an expert from the V&A. The expert told him that the Fairy Flag was very likely the Land Ravager. Sir Reginald replied that, although he respected the expert's opinion, he himself knew that the flag had been given to his family by the fairies. The expert politely deferred to Sir Reginald's superior knowledge.


Complete article is here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairy_Flag
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Stirling Thompson
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« Reply #5 on: September 24, 2008, 11:11:44 AM »

"Selkies", or "Seal People".

The folk of the Shetland and the Orkney Islands have many tales of these beings who are seals in the sea, but who can sometimes shed their seal-skins and become as other men and women. There are tales of the Selkies in the Western Isles as well, and even on the Scottish mainland. There were three brothers in the clan country of the Macraes who lived at Carr on Loch Duich, and they were said to have married selkie women. Two of the brothers hid their wives’ sealskins when they discovered that their wives were selkies, having found skins which the wives had tucked away. But the wives found the hiding places and disappeared into the sea waves , never to be seen again. The third brother found a wet seal-skin which his wife had failed to hide after one of her afternoon disappearances, and picking it up, he folded it and left it on a chest, saying to his wife that "someone" might have need of that skin from time to time. She stayed with him through the years and finally, in old age ,disappeared into the sea. She had given him a son, who would often swim out to the rocks and stay there through the night, and many of the fishermen would speak of the beautiful young male seal on the rocks on a moon-lit night. As the man came to his old age and could fish no more, his son always kept him in fish, and finally when the man died, the son was seen stripping down and plunging into the waves.
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« Reply #6 on: September 24, 2008, 08:27:13 PM »

The Wounded Selkie

Like many stories of the seal-people, this one is about a fisherman. A dour fisherman, who lived alone and did not greatly care for anything. He was particularly un-fond of seals. The way he saw it, seals were the competition. They eat fish, the same fish he spent his days trying to catch The way he would fish was this; he had a number of bouys moored a long the coast, and he would row from bouy to bouy, pulling up the net tied under it, checking the catch, then putting the net back into the sea. When he got to the end of the line of bouys he would go back to the beginning and start again.

Some days the catch was good, and he would eat (and drink) well; some days, not so good - but that was the fishing. One time he began to notice that the catch was dwindling away from one net - day by day it grew smaller, until all that he was pulling up was a few shells, the odd fish bone and a lot of sea-weed. He had a good look at the net, and noticed that there were several big tears in it, and that the ends of the twine showed signs of something gnawing it. 'It's those bloody seals, I'll be bound', he said to himself. The seals were stealing his fish. Well, he decided he wasn't having this, and that the time had come to do something about it. So, the next morning, rather than checking the nets one by one, he just dropped anchor in sight of that one buoy, loosened his knife it it's sheath and settled down to watch. The morning wore into afternoon, and the rocking of his boat on the gentle swell had almost lulled him to sleep, when he heard a splash and a gurgle. The buoy was swaying rapidly from side to side, then it disappeared beneath the waves altogether.

Taking a deep breath, he stood up and dived over the side of the boat, naked knife in hand...and saw a big seal worrying at the net. He swam down to the seal, and plunged his knife into it, pulling it through the seal's flesh with all his might. Blood billowed out of the wound, making a red fog in the water, and , even wounded, the seal proved stronger than the man. It wriggled and twisted, and wrenched the knife handle out of his hand, then disappeared in the now murky water.

Spluttering and gasping, the fisherman hauled himself back into his boat. 'Well', he thought, 'I might not have killed it, but that's one seal that'll trouble me no more. Problem solved'. But the next day, all of his nets were empty...and the next, and the next. By the end of the week, he was running out of money, and hungry as well, and could hardly be bothered to put out to sea anymore. So, when a stranger came up to him in the harbour and said, 'I hear you're a man as can lay their hands on some seal skins', the fisherman was only too ready to help. 'I certainly can,' he said, ' I don't owe them nothing. I'll be wanting a good price, mind'

'Well,' said the stranger, 'as to price, I can't speak to that, you'll have to come with me and meet my master'. This the fisherman was glad to do, and the pair of them walked out of the harbour, and along the coast path. As they reached the top of the cliffs, the stranger stopped, made a funnel of his hands around his mouth, and sang
'Hey an dah
Hey an dah
Hey an dah
Ho dah dah
Hyun dan dah
Hyun dan dah
Hyun dan dah
Ho dah dah'
.even before the stranger had finished the call, the sea below the cliffs was boiling with more sleek, black seals than the fisherman had ever seen in his life. The stranger grasped him tightly by the shoulders, and jumped clean off the cliff, pulling the fisherman with him. The instant the stranegr touched the water, he changed into a big, powerful bull seal, and the fingers on the fishermans shoudler became teeth. Try as he might, and he tried mightily hard, the fisherman Could not break that grip, and his chest beagn to ache with the effort of holding his breath, as he was dragged deeper and deeper. Now his chest brued as though it was on fire, and a blackness nibbled at the edges of his vision. Then, he knew, he was beaten, and with a gasp he opened his mouth, and the sea filled his lungs.

But that is not the end of the story. After some time, the fisherman awoke. His chest ached, and his head too. He felt around him, and felt damp rock. As he grew used to the dim light, he saw the stranger standing over him. The seal man helped the fisherman to his feet, then said, “'There is someone I would like you to meet,” and led him towards the back of the cave. There, on a rough bed of kelp, lay a young man. His chest was cut open in a wound that ran from shoulder to hip.

'This is my son,' said the seal man, 'and, if he is not healed soon, he will die. Oh, and I believe that this is yours' and he reached down beside the bed, and pulled from beneath the kelp the fisherman’s knife. The fisherman was now deeply afraid, and begining to feel ashamed. 'Have you brought me here for vengeance ?', he asked the seal-man. 'What can I do to you, other than kill you ?', replied the selkie 'And if I did that, would that help my son ? No, I have brought you here to help, if you will. Only the hand that casued the wound can heal the wound' The fisherman looked at the youth, at his pale flesh and the cruel gash across his chest. He thought of how he had resented and hated the seals. But still he said 'What must I do ?' 'Simply touch his hurt' said the seal-man.

And so, the fisherman bent forward and touched a trembling hand to the start of the wound, on the youth's shoulder. The flesh was deadly cold, and, as he drew his hand slowly along the gash, the fisherman felt an icy, burning pain crawl across his own chest. But, as his hand passed allong, the wound closed, as easily as you would close a jacket, and the flesh grew warm and the colour seeped back into it.

By the time he was halfway along the wound, the fisherman could hardly breathe for the pain in his own chest, and, as he reached the hip, and the wound was finally closed, he fell to his knees, gasping and panting. It seemed as though hsi own life had flowed out of his hand and into the young seal-man. He fell forward, and slept, exhausted. When he awoke, he was lying on the shore, at the foot of the cliffs. A little brusied and battered, but alive. He told those who asked that he had slipped, and fallen over the cliffs. Some believed him , some did not. But he never told another soul that, when he awoke, lying next to him on the shingle was a neat pile of his nets. Not only mended, but better than ever - and they always gave him a good catch. And on top of the nets was a creel. Inside were two of the biggest lobsters he had ever seen

From that day on, he was one fishreman that never hurt hair or hide of seal, and, if he was a few fish short from one net or another from time to time, he woudl shrug, and smile, and say 'Why not ? They have to live as well'
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Stirling Thompson
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« Reply #7 on: October 03, 2008, 10:48:58 AM »

The Kelpie of Loch Garve

The story of the Kelpie of Loch Garve (so it's technically an Each Uisge, but we'll keep it as Kelpie for this story) tells of a Kelpie that lived at the depths of the loch with his wife.

Now the Kelpie obviously loved his cold wet lair at the bottom of the loch, and was well settled in his element. Although he would make trips on land (most likely hunting mortals) he was always glad to get home. His wife, however, was less impressed. She always felt the terrible cold, and shivered endlessly in that miserable lair at the bottom of the murky loch. At first the Kelpie put this down to her making a fuss over nothing, but as time went by she became more and more unhappy. Fearing that she might leave him, and worried about her welfare, the Kelpie racked his brains wondering what to do.

The very next day he made a decision. He went to shore and transformed himself into a handsome jet-black stallion (as kelpies mostly do) and made for the cottage of a local famous builder. The Kelpie tramped at the hearthstone until the man came out. Seeing this handsome black stallion standing before him, the man, either against his better judgement or oblivious to the warnings of waterhorses, was enticed to climb upon the horse's back. Immediately he became stuck fast, and the Kelpie galloped at high speed towards the loch with the terrified builder on his back. The Kelpie plunged into the icy waters, his tail pounding the surface like a thunder crash. As the two made their descent the reluctant passenger uttered a prayer. In what seemed like an age the builder was carried down into the black waters, but for some reason did not drown.

When they reached the bottom the Kelpie let the builder dismount, explained his predicament, and promised no hurt upon the builder or his family. He made a bargain that if the builder would do a small favour, then he and his family would have a plentiful supply of fish until the day he died: they would never want for food from the loch.

 So the builder - in accordance with the Kelpies wishes - set about building a huge magnificent fireplace and lum the like of which no mortal eyes had ever seen. The great chimney twisted upwards through the dark waters to almost the surface, to carry the smoke far away from the lair. Then the fireplace was lit and a great fire sprang up and began warming the submerged home. When the Kelpie saw the sheer delight upon his dear wife's face, he knew that the builder had fulfilled his bargain and more!

He took the builder back up through the dark, icy waters, and to his house, as if nothing had gone amiss that night - for time in the lands of the faeries does not have the same meaning here. True to his word the Kelpie never forgot the work of the tradesman. The builder and his family were never unable to put fish on the table, and lived like royalty.

But what of the Kelpie and his wife? Well, when the loch freezes over in the midst of the coldest winters, some say there is still to this day a patch of water that never freezes; a small patch of water that never cools like the rest of the loch. Perhaps where a tall lum nearly reaches the surface. This is because a fire still burns merrily in the lair of the Kelpie and his happy wife.

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Stu
Donna
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« Reply #8 on: October 03, 2008, 12:39:04 PM »

Stu,
I enjoy the poems, and the jokes really brighten my day, but I LOVE these stories!

Donna
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Barbara
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« Reply #9 on: October 04, 2008, 03:31:42 PM »

That was a great story Stu.  Shows what wonderful imaginations our ancestors had.  Smiley

Barbara
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Stirling Thompson
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« Reply #10 on: October 08, 2008, 03:20:42 PM »

A bold tale of the Borders...

The Weird of the Three Arrows

Sir James Douglas, the companion of Bruce, and well known by his appellation of the “Black Douglas,” was once, during the hottest period of the exterminating war carried on by him and his colleague Randolph, against the English, stationed at Linthaughlee, near Jedburgh. He was resting, himself and his men after the toils of many days’ fighting-marches through Teviotdale; and, according to his custom, had walked round the tents, previous to retiring to the unquiet rest of a soldier’s bed. He stood for a few minutes at the entrance to his tent contemplating the scene before him, rendered more interesting by a clear moon, whose silver beams fell, in the silence of a night without a breath of wind, calmly on the slumbers of mortals destined to mix in the melée of dreadful war, perhaps on the morrow. As he stood gazing, irresolute whether to retire to rest or indulge longer in a train of thought not very suitable to a warrior who delighted in the spirit-stirring scenes of his profession, his eye was attracted by the figure of an old woman, who approached him with a trembling step, leaning on a staff, and holding in her left hand three English cloth-shaft arrows.

“You are he who is ca’ed the guid Sir James?” said the old woman.

“I am, good woman,” replied Sir James. “Why hast thou wandered from the sutler’s camp?”

“I dinna belang to the camp o’ the hoblers,” answered the woman. “I hae been a residenter in Linthaughlee since the day when King Alexander passed the door o’ my cottage wi’ his bonny French bride, wha was terrified awa’ frae Jedburgh by the death’s-head whilk appeared to her on the day o’ her marriage. What I hae suffered sin’ that day” (looking at the arrows in her hand) “lies between me an’ heaven.”

“Some of your sons have been killed in the wars, I presume?” said Sir James.

“Ye hae guessed a pairt o’ my waes,” replied the woman. “That arrow” (holding out one of the three) “carries on its point the bluid o’ my first born; that is stained wi’ the stream that poured frae the heart o’ my second; and that is red wi’ the gore in which my youngest weltered, as he gae up the life that made me childless. They were a’ shot by English hands, in different armies, in different battles. I am an honest woman, and wish to return to the English what belongs to the English; but that in the same fashion in which they were sent. The Black Douglas has the strongest arm an’ the surest ee in auld Scotland; an’ wha can execute my commission better than he?”

“I do not use the bow, good woman,” replied Sir James. “I love the grasp of the dagger or the battle-axe. You must apply to some other individual to return your arrows.”

“I canna tak’ them hame again,” said the woman, laying them down at the feet of Sir James. “Ye’ll see me again on St. James’ E’en.”

The old woman departed as she said these words.

Sir James took up the arrows, and placed them in an empty quiver that lay amongst his baggage. He retired to rest, but not to sleep. The figure of the old woman and her strange request occupied his thoughts, and produced trains of meditation which ended in nothing but restlessness and disquietude. Getting up at daybreak, he met a messenger at the entrance of his tent, who informed him that Sir Thomas de Richmont, with a force of ten thousand men, had crossed the Borders, and would pass through a narrow defile, which he mentioned, where he could be attacked with great advantage. Sir James gave instant orders to march to the spot; and, with that genius for scheming, for which he was so remarkable, commanded his men to twist together the young birch-trees on either side of the passage to prevent the escape of the enemy. This finished, he concealed his archers in a hollow way, near the gorge of the pass.

The enemy came on; and when their ranks were embarrassed by the narrowness of the road, and it was impossible for the cavalry to act with effect, Sir James rushed upon them at the head of his horsemen; and the archers, suddenly discovering themselves, poured in a flight of arrows on the confused soldiers, and put the whole army to flight. In the heat of the onset, Douglas killed Sir Thomas de Richmont with his dagger.

Not long after this, Edmund de Cailon, a knight of Gascony, and Governor of Berwick, who had been heard to vaunt that he had sought the famous Black Knight, but could not find him, was returning to England, loaded with plunder, the fruit of an inroad on Teviotdale. Sir James thought it a pity that a Gascon’s vaunt should be heard unpunished in Scotland, and made long forced marches to satisfy the desire of the foreign knight, by giving him a sight of the dark countenance he had made a subject of reproach. He soon succeeded in gratifying both himself and the Gascon. Coming up in his terrible manner, he called to Cailon to stop, and, before he proceeded into England, receive the respects of the Black Knight he had come to find, but hitherto had not met. The Gascon’s vaunt was now changed; but shame supplied the place of courage, and he ordered his men to receive Douglas’s attack. Sir James assiduously sought his enemy. He at last succeeded; and a single combat ensued, of a most desperate character. But who ever escaped the arm of Douglas when fairly opposed to him in single conflict? Cailon was killed; he had met the Black Knight at last.

“So much,” cried Sir James, “for the vaunt of a Gascon!”

Similar in every respect to the fate of Cailon, was that of Sir Ralph Neville. He, too, on hearing the great fame of Douglas’s prowess, from some of Gallon’s fugitive soldiers, openly boasted that he would fight with the Scottish Knight, if he would come and show his banner before Berwick. Sir James heard the boast and rejoiced in it. He marched to that town, and caused his men to ravage the country in front of the battlements, and burn the villages. Neville left Berwick with a strong body of men; and, stationing himself on a high ground, waited till the rest of the Scots should disperse to plunder; but Douglas called in his detachment and attacked the knight. After a desperate conflict, in which many were slain, Douglas, as was his custom, succeeded in bringing the leader to a personal encounter, and the skill of the Scottish knight was again successful. Neville was slain, and his men utterly discomfited.

Having retired one night to his tent to take some rest after so much pain and toil, Sir James Douglas was surprised by the reappearance of the old woman whom he had seen at Linthaughlee.

“This is the feast o’ St. James,” said she, as she approached him. “I said I would see ye again this nicht, an’ I’m as guid’s my word. Hae ye returned the arrows I left wi’ ye to the English wha sent them to the hearts o’ my sons?”

“No,” replied Sir James. “I told ye I did not fight with the bow. Wherefore do ye importune me thus?”

“Give me back the arrows then,” said the woman.

Sir James went to bring the quiver in which he had placed them. On taking them out, he was surprised to find that they were all broken through the middle.

“How has this happened?” said he. “I put these arrows in this quiver entire, and now they are broken.”

“The weird is fulfilled!” cried the old woman, laughing eldrichly, and clapping her hands. “That broken shaft cam’ frae a soldier o’ Richmont’s; that frae ane o’ Cailon’s, and that frae ane o’ Neville’s. They are a’ dead, an’ I am revenged!”

The old woman then departed, scattering, as she went, the broken fragments of the arrows on the floor of the tent.
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« Reply #11 on: October 22, 2008, 08:58:21 AM »

Redcaps

A Red Cap or Redcap, also known as a powrie or dunter, is a type of malevolent murderous dwarf, goblin, elf or fairy found in Border Folklore. They inhabit ruined castles found along the border between England and Scotland. Redcaps are said to murder travelers who stray into their homes and dye their hats with their victims' blood (from which they get their name). It is said, redcaps must kill regularly, for if the blood staining their hats dries out, they die. Redcaps are very fast in spite of the heavy iron pikes they wield and the iron-shod boots they wear. Outrunning the buck-toothed faeries is supposedly impossible; the only way to escape one is to quote a passage from the Bible. They lose a tooth on hearing it, which they leave behind.

The most infamous redcap of all was Robin Redcap. As the familiar of Lord William de Soulis, Robin wreaked much harm and ruin in the lands of his master's dwelling, Hermitage Castle. Men were murdered, women cruelly abused, and dark arts were practised. So much infamy and blasphemy was said to have been committed at Hermitage Castle that the great stone keep was thought to be sinking under a great weight of sin, as though the very ground wanted to hide it from the sight of God.

Yet Soulis, for all the evil he wrought, met a very horrible end: he was taken to the Nine Stane Rigg, a circle of stones hard by the castle, and there he was wrapped in lead and boiled to death in a great cauldron.

The boiling to death end of Lord Soulis by his infuriated vassals is only Scottish folklore. In reality William De Soulis was imprisoned in Dumbarton castle and died there, following his confessed complicity in the conspiracy against Robert the Bruce in 1320.

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« Reply #12 on: October 22, 2008, 12:44:51 PM »

Stu,
Now give us something about the Brownies!  I understand they were known to help with the chores.   Are there any other Scottish wee folk with a more benevolent nature?

Donna
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« Reply #13 on: October 23, 2008, 05:18:24 AM »

Just for you Donna... There seem to be some differences of opinion regarding their nature.

The Brownies

From Wikipedia...
A brownie/brounie or urisk (Lowland Scots) or brùnaidh, ùruisg, or gruagach (Scottish Gaelic) is a legendary kind of creature popular in folklore around Scotland and England (especially the north, though more commonly hobs have this role). It is the Scottish and Northern English counterpart of the Scandinavian tomte, the Slavic domovoi or the German Heinzelmännchen.

Customarily brownies are said to inhabit houses and aid in tasks around the house. However, they don't like to be seen and will only work at night, traditionally in exchange for small gifts or food. They take quite a delight in porridge and honey. They usually abandon the house if their gifts are called payments, or if the owners of the house misuse them. Brownies make their homes in an unused part of the house. They were also known as the guardians of dragons.

The ùruisg had the qualities of man and spirit curiously commingled. He had a peculiar fondness for solitude at certain seasons of the year. About the end of Harvest he became more sociable, and hovered about farmyards, stables and cattle-houses. He had a particular fondness for the products of the dairy, and was a fearful intruder on milkmaids, who made regular libations of milk or cream to charm him off, or to procure his favour. He could be seen supposedly only by those who had the second sight, though instances where he made himself visible to people not so Gifted have been rumoured. He is said to have been a jolly personable being with a broad blue bonnet, flowing yellow hair, and a long walking staff.

Every manor house had its ùruisg, and in the kitchen, close by the fire was a seat, which was left unoccupied for him. The house of a proprietor on the banks of the River Tay was even at the beginning of the twentieth century believed to have been haunted by this sprite, and a particular apartment therein has been for centuries called "Seòmar Bhrùnaidh" (Brownie’s room). When irritated through neglect or disrespectful treatment he would not hesitate to become wantonly mischievous. He was notwithstanding, rather gainly and good-natured rather than formidable. Though, on the whole, a lazy, lounging hobgoblin, he would often bestir himself on behalf of those who understood his humours, and suited themselves thereto. When in this mood, he was known to perform many arduous exploits in kitchen, barn and stable, with marvellous precision and rapidity. These kind turns were done without bribe, fee or reward, for the offer of any one of these would banish him forever. Kind treatment was all he ever wished for, and it never failed to procure his favour.

In 1703, John Brand wrote in his description of Zetland that:

“Not above forty or fifty years ago, every family had a brownie, or evil spirit, so called, which served them, to which they gave a sacrifice for his service; as when they churned their milk, they took a part thereof, and sprinkled every corner of the house with it, for Brownie’s use; likewise, when they brewed, they had a stone which they called ‘Brownie’s stane’, wherein there was a little hole into which they poured some wort for a sacrifice to Brownie. They also had some stacks of corn, which they called Brownie’s Stacks, which, though they were not bound with straw ropes, or in any way fenced as other stacks used to be, yet the greatest storm of wind was not able to blow away straw off them.”
The brownies seldom discoursed with man, but they held frequent and affectionate converse with one another. They had their general assemblies too, and on those occasions they commonly selected for their rendezvous the rocky recesses of some remote torrent, whence their loud voices, mingling with the water’s roar, carried to the ears of some wondering superstition detached parts of their unearthly colloquies. In a certain district of the Scottish Highlands, "Peallaidh an Spùit" (Peallaidh of the Spout), "Stochdail a’ Chùirt", and "Brùnaidh an Easain" (Brownie of the little waterfall) were names of note at those congresses, and they still live in legends which continue to amuse old age and infancy. Every stream in Breadalbane had an ùruisg once according to Watson the Scottish place name expert, and their king was Peallaidh. (Peallaidh's name is preserved in "Obair Pheallaidh", known in English as "Aberfeldy".) It may be the case, that ùruisg was conflated with some water sprite, or that ùruisg were originally water sprites conflated with brownies.

British folklore also included a figure, Billy Blind, much like the brownie, but appearing only in ballads.


From Compass Rose...
The Scottish Brownie formed a class of being distinct in habit and disposition from the freakish and mischievous elves. He was meagre, shaggy, and wild in his appearance. Thus Cleland, in his satire against the Highlanders, compares them to
    “Faunes, or Brownies, if ye will,
    Or Satyres come from Atlas Hill.”
In the day-time he lurked in remote recesses of the old houses which he delighted to haunt, and in the night sedulously employed himself in discharging any laborious task which he thought might be acceptable to the family to whose service he had devoted himself. But the Brownie does not drudge from the hope of recompense. On the contrary, so delicate is his attachment that the offer of reward, but particularly of food, infallibly occasions his disappearance for ever. It is told of a Brownie, who haunted a border family now extinct, that the lady having fallen unexpectedly ill, and the servant, who was ordered to ride to Jedburgh for the sage-femme, showing no great alertness in setting out, the familiar spirit slipped on the greatcoat of the lingering domestic, rode to the town on the laird’s best horse, and returned with the midwife en croupe. During the short space of his absence, the Tweed, which they must necessarily ford, rose to a dangerous height. Brownie, who transported his charge with all the rapidity of the ghostly lover of Lenore, was not to be stopped by the obstacle. He plunged in with the terrified old lady, and landed her in safety where her services were wanted. Having put the horse into the stable (where it was afterwards found in a woful plight), he proceeded to the room of the servant, whose duty he had discharged, and finding him just in the act of drawing on his boots, he administered to him a most merciless drubbing with his own horsewhip. Such an important service excited the gratitude of the laird, who, understanding that Brownie had been heard to express a wish to have a green coat, ordered a vestment of the colour to be made, and left in his haunts. Brownie took away the green coat, but was never seen more. We may suppose that, tired of his domestic drudgery, he went in his new livery to join the fairies.
The last Brownie known in Ettrick Forest resided in Bodsbeck, a wild and solitary spot, near the head of Moffat Water, where he exercised his functions undisturbed, till the scrupulous devotion of an old lady induced her to “hire him away,” as it was termed, by placing in his haunt a porringer of milk and a piece of money. After receiving this hint to depart, he was heard the whole night to howl and cry, “Farewell to bonnie Bodsbeck!” which he was compelled to abandon for ever.


From Mysterious Britain...
A widespread name for a fairy or supernatural creature, they were small in appearance and wore brown coloured clothing.

Like many mischievous spirits they were thought to be attached to houses or families and could be helpful in menial household tasks. If offended they became malignant and mischievous, creating poltergeist activity and generally making a nuisance of themselves.

To get rid of brownies all you had to do is leave them a new cloak and hood, they would take it and never be seen again.

The brownies were found in both England and Scotland as far as the Shetland Isles.
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« Reply #14 on: October 24, 2008, 10:09:36 AM »

Merrow
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Merrow (from Gaelic murúch) or Murrough (Galloway) is the Scottish and Irish Gaelic equivalent of the mermaid and mermen of other cultures. These beings are said to appear as human from the waist up but have the body of a fish from the waist down. They have a gentle, modest, affectionate and benevolent disposition.

There are other names pertaining to them in Gaelic: Muir-gheilt, Samhghubha, Muidhuachán, and Suire. They would seem to have been around for millennia because according to the bardic chroniclers, when the Milesians first landed on Irish shores the Suire, or sea-nymphs, played around them on their passage.

The merrow were capable of attachment to human beings and there are reports of them inter-marrying and living among humans for many years. However, most times they eventually return to their former homes beneath the sea.

Merrow-maidens are reputed to lure young men to follow them beneath the waves where afterwards they live in an enchanted state. Merrows wear a special hat called a cohuleen druith which enables them to dive beneath the waves. If they lose this cap, it is said they have no power to return beneath the water. Sometimes they are said to leave their outer skins behind, to assume others more magical and beautiful. The merrow has soft white webs between her fingers, she is often seen with a comb parting her long green hair on either side. Merrow music is often heard coming from beneath the waves.

An old tract found in the Book of Lecain states that a king of the Fomorians, when sailing over the Ictean sea, had been enchanted by the music of mermaids until he came within reach of these sirens .... then they tore his limbs asunder and scattered them on the sea. From Dr. O'Donovan's Annals of the Four Masters - entered in the year 887 A.D. there is a curious tale of a mermaid cast on the Scottish coast - Alba - She was 195 feet (59 m) in length and had hair 18 feet (5.5 m) long, her fingers were 7 feet (2.1 m) long as was her nose, while she was as white as a swan.

Most of the stories are about female beings; however, there are some about mer-men who capture the souls of drowned sailors and keep them in soul cages under the sea.[2] Female Merrows were considered very beautiful, but the mermen were basically ugly, another reason why Merrow women sought out human men. In most cases, the female Merrow had a cap or cape, normally red, and if a human could capture and hide either so the Merrow never found it, then she would remain on land without a fuss. But if the Merrow should ever find her cap or cape, she would feel compelled to return forever to the ocean, leaving entire families behind.

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