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(shahv) 1. Mother of Oisin. She was enchanted into the form of a deer on refusing the love of Fear Doirche, but she found he had no power over her while she was within the dun of the Fianna. Bran and Sceolan, Fionn's (her husband) hounds did not attempt to kill her when the Fianna found her out hunting. She was brought home, but later she was lured out from the protection of the house and she was enchanted once more, by the Druid Fear Doirche. After seven years, the hounds found a little boy, Oisin, Sadbh's son, who remembered his deer-mother. She was made to follow Fear Doirche and leave her son to the elements. 2. (sôv) Daughter of Ailill and Medb. # 166 - 267 - 454
SAFFRON WALDEN MAZE
The maze in the beautiful little gardens at Saffron Walden which were presented to the public about 1830 by Mr. L. Fry, M.P., and are known as Bridge End Gardens, is still in excellent condition, although suffering in places from the illicit short-cuts made by impatient visitors. It is locally believed to be a replica of that of Hampton Court, but is of very different plan and is, in fact, much more elaborate. The fame of the Saffron Walden maze, and of the fighting giants Tom Hickathrift and the Wisbech Ogre on the parget-work of the Old Sun Inn, have tended to obscure the fame of the Saffron Walden Monster. This monster was a cockatrice, hatched from a cock's egg by a toad, and vested with the power to kill all on whom it looked with its glance. The hero who liberated Saffron Walden was a famous knight who despatched many such creatures by walking among them in a special armour made from reflecting mirrors, 'whereby,' writes the seventeenth-century natural historian Topsell, 'their owne shapes were reflected upon their owne faces, and so they dyed.' The maze, on Saffron Walden common, has a convoluted pathway over 1,500 metres in length. The maze is so large that it is difficult to see the formal pattern clearly from the ground, but in the church of St Mary, whose tower may be seen from the maze, is a most lovely tapestry kneeler in crewel wool, which reveals the pattern clearly. # 462 - 702
A Knight of the Round Table whose father was King of Hungary and in whose veins flowed the imperial blood of Constantinople. His brothers were both bishops, while his sister Claire was saved from a couple of giants by Guinglain. He had a lover named Niobe and he was the father of a child by the Irish princess Orainglais. See: WHITE STAG. # 112-156-418-604
The leaders of the Celtic Church were called saints - few of them have actually been canonized; the term was used widely - in the sense that Paul used it in referring to his fellow Christians. In Britain the term also meant 'revered' or 'learned'; and as education was in the hands of the Church the term 'saint' came to imply anybody who could read and write. Because we have come to associate the term purely with those men and women who have been nominated by the Catholic Church at Rome for evincing some miraculous, supernatural intervention in the course of their earthly existence, we no longer recognize the principle that no man is more peculiarly divine than his fellows. If the Celtic use of the word 'saint' were to be translated into Hebrew terminology, it would appear as Rabbi (teacher) or Abba (father). The leaders of the Church lost to us, acted as teachers and parents to their followers; above all, they were men and women beloved for their charity, patience and good sense. They lived in troubled times when pestilence and plague were rife, and when famine was so acute that in the 440s people in England were actually fighting each other for food. Yet the Christian 'saints' remained faithful to the golden rule of Christ's love, and were convincingly close to both the unseen world of spiritual truths and to the material density of the earth and her creatures. Above all, they followed out the injunction of Micah, 'to do justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with thy God.' They were people of great humility. The advisers of kings, they forbore to ride horses when they went on their journeys lest they touch with the common people. They followed a religion that was primarily concerned with the relations between people, a religion of an isolated rural landscape, in which to meet a fellow human being is to hail him. In Whitby in 664 we traded that for a city-based religion, and in the cities people are amassed in crowds, to be manipulated, no matter how benevolently. Now that we are realizing the deadly dangers of our mass technological society, it is time to turn back and consider the humanity of the men and women of the Celtic Church. Their Church could have been our inheritance - as it is, we can still visit the places associated with it, look at some of the things that were made by its adherents, and catch something of the spirit of its leaders in the descendants of the people who were their friends. # 676
SAINTS, THE COMING OF
Stories of the coming of saints into the world (recorded in the Lives of the Saints) have a great deal in common with those of the 'secular' heroes. Their births are foretold by an angel, another saint, or a druid. St Beuno's father and mother had been continent for twelve years before the saint was begotten in their old age. St David and St Cynog were the products of rape, St Cadoc's mother was abducted and St Lonan's mother was tricked into having intercourse with a man other than her lover. St Budoc's mother was accused of infidelity. St Cennydd and St Cuimine Foda were born of incest and St Declan's ancestry was traced back to the incestuous Clothra. St Finan's mother was impregnated by a 'redgold salmon' when she was bathing in Loch Lein. In several cases, the saint's mother has a vision or dream at the time when her child is conceived. She sees a star falling into her mouth, a ball of light descending upon her head, or 'her bosom full of gold and her paps shining like snow'. During her pregnancy, St Columba's mother received from an angel a marvellous mantle which then floated away from her to heaven. St Senan's mother, like the Buddha's, was delivered from the pains of travail, and other miracles are characteristic of the births of saints. The child may speak at birth, or a spring may burst forth and he is baptized in it.
There is often a plan to kill the child and in some cases, like those of St Budoc and St Cennydd, he, or his mother before he is born, is set adrift on the sea. When St Brendan was born, a cow cast thirty calves and they were given to him. When he was five years old, a wild doe came daily to provide him with milk. St Cennydd was fed in the same way; Saints Ailbe, Bairre and Ciwa were all suckled by wolves. Needless to say, tales of this kind are not peculiar to Celtic mythology. They are the common stiff of birth myths the world over, and if one went into detail one would find strange similarities between the Celtic stories and stories collected from the far ends of the earth. Lest anyone should too readily dismiss the visions of saints' mothers as the fanciful imaginings of Christian hagiographers, we will just mention that a Chinese dynasty traced its origin to an egg, dropped by a heaven-sent bird, which was swallowed by a girl while bathing; that several Tartar tribes ascribe their lineage to a virgin who was awakened one night by a light which embraced her and, entering her mouth, passed through her body. The Aztec deity, Huitzilopochtli, was conceived by a mother who caught and hid in her bosom a little ball of feathers that floated down to her through the air. Her children conspired to kill her, but Huitzilopochtli, issuing forth from her womb all armed, like Pallas from the head of Zeus, slew them and enriched his mother with their spoils. The virgin mother of the great Mexican hero, Quetzalcoatl, was visited by a god who breathed upon her and so quickened life within her. The mother and father of the Hindu god Krishna were imprisoned in a castle because it was prophesied that their son would kill the king, his own mother's brother. When he was born, the boy stood up before his parents in the full glory of his divinity. He then became a human child again, the doors were opened and his parents were freed of their fetters. The father took the child across a river, which rose as they went through it and almost overwhelmed them, and he left it to be reared by cowherds. Tales of this kind could be multiplied indefinitely without touching either Classical or Biblical sources, and they could be augmented by stories of heroes born of incest and of heroes set adrift at birth or reared with animals. # 55 - 190 - 291 - 332 - 498 - 528 - 529 - 548 - 699
The site in Malory of Arthur's final battle. It is first placed there in the VULGATE MORTE ARTHURE. See also: ARTHUR KING, THE HISTORICAL. # 156
Believed to be one of the oldest creatures in the world, the salmon was particularly sacred to the Celts and was a form for Metempcychosis and associated with the sacred wells. It was consulted for its wisdom and foreknowledge. In Celtic lore eating the salmon of wisdom conferred supreme knowledge, as in the case of Fionn. The Salmon in the Well of Segais into which the five hazel nuts dropped from the sacred hazels, with five sweet streams flowing from the well, symbolize the five senses which give knowledge. It was prophesied that Finegas should catch and eat it, thus gaining all knowledge. However, it was roasted by Fionn, Finegas' apprentice. He burnt his thumb while preparing it and so cooled it in his mouth and was the recipient of its power. This salmon was called Fintan. The salmon is an attribute of the god Nodons. It takes the place of the Serpent of other traditions in being the means of contact with otherworld powers and wisdom. # 161 - 439 - 454
SALMON OF LLYN LLW
A gigantic fish which took Kay and Gwrhyr on its shoulders to rescue Mabon from his place of incarceration. See: EAGLE OF GWERNABWY. # 156 - 346
A universal symbol of preservation, eternity, and of goodwill. See also: PROTECTION AGAINST FAIRIES. # 100
(sô'van - or - SHAH-vin) The Celtic festival which marked the New Year and was held on 1 November, corresponding roughly to Hallowe'en. Samhain eve was associated with the opening of the Sidhes and was a time of the dead. The feast marked the beginning of winter proper and its name may be related to 'summer's end'. At this time beasts were slaughtered for winter store and to conserve herds during the lean months: beasts were brought into winter pasture or into outbuildings. But most especially it was the inception of winter when the Cailleach ruled. In a curious early Irish text we hear of a strange boardgame which the boys of Rome play. At one end of the board is a cailleach with a dragon which she sends against a maiden with the lamb. The game was instituted by the sibyl, says the story, and explains why Samhain is so called. This contest is a clear remembrance of combat between winter and spring, which in Celtic terms were governed by the Cailleach and Brigit respectively. See: OIMELC and: LUNANTISHEE. # 166-438-454
(sôh'vil dàn'ah) 'Many Talents'. One name applied to Lugh Lamfada. # 166
# 454: (d 565) Bishop of Dol, Brittany. He was a Welshman who was trained by Saint Illtyd. He became a hermit on Caldy Island. One of the Scilly islands is named after him and it is on this spot that Tristan fought the Morholt. Like many other Celtic monks he was a great missionary. It is possible that he fled to Brittany due to the political unrest following the passing of Arthur at Camlan. His feastday is 28 July.
# 678: According to the earlier biography, Samson left Illtyd while he was still a young man and established his own monastery on Ynys Pyr (Caldey Island). While he was there he was visited by some 'distinguished Irishmen' returning from a pilgrimage to Rome. Samson went to Ireland with them, and while he was there he obtained an Irish 'chariot', some sort of horse-drawn cart, in which he could carry his books on travels, and it accompanied him wherever he went. He returned to Caldey but did not remain there for long. He planned a journey that would enable him to visit many places in Cornwall before sailing for Brittany from Golant. We are told that Samson heard that he had been elected Bishop of Dol, while he was still with Illtyd at Llantwit Major. He was said to be so distressed at the thought of leaving his beloved master that he wept bitterly, his tears falling into a stream 'that still bears his name'. Dol himself honoured Samson with a stained glass window made in the thirteenth century. It shows the Welsh saint on his travels with two companions. The boat is under full sail and captained by a cherub. # 454 - 678
Chief Bard of Ireland. # 562
A barbarian people who inhabited Russia in Roman times. One of their tribes was the Alans, whose descendants, the Ossetes, still live in the Caucasus today. The Ossetes have a story very similar to that of the passing of Arthur. It tells how the hero Batradz received his death wound and told two others to throw his sword into the water. Twice they pretended to have done so but the third time the sword was actually thrown in and the water became turbulent and blood-red. If this story was current among the ancient Sarmatians, they could have brought it to Britain for Sarmatian soldiers served there in the Roman army under the command of Lucius Artorius Castus. The tale of Batradz may have been transferred to this Artorius and he may have been subsequently confused with Arthur. # 31 - 156
The holy city of the Grail, so named because it was once a city of Saracens (or alternatively, of Gypsies - the followers of Sara). Here the three Grail Knights came with the body of Perceval's sister, Dindrane, and here Galahad, after looking within the Grail, died in an odour of sanctity and was buried within the great abbey. # 434 - 454 - 461
The general term accorded the Teutonic invaders of Britain who fought against the Britons. These stories refer to the historical invasions of Britain by Saxons, Angles, Jutes and, possibly, Frisians which began between AD 440 and 460. They were barbarous folk at this time, with neither armour nor cavalry. Bede divides them into three original groups as follows: 1. Saxons: East Saxons (Essex) - South Saxons (Sussex) - West Saxons (Wessex). 2. Angles: East Angles - Middle Angles - Mercians - Northumbrians. 3. Jutes: Kentishmen - Vectians (Inhabitants of the Isle of Wight). As to their places of origin, Bede gives regions probably intended to mean North Germany (Saxons), Schleswig (Angles) and Jutland (Jutes). The evidence for Frisian involvement comes from the Byzantine historian Procopius (died? AD 562). The Saxons may have been descended from the German tribe of Chauci. The languages they spoke coalesced to form the tongue referred to as Old English by Oxford scholars. These races became the ancestors of the modern English. # 61 - 156
In Welsh: Llychlyn. In Irish: Lochlann. # 156
(scou'ha - or - SKAH-thakh) A female warrior who lived in Scotland or on the Continent; CuChulain's instructor in the use of arms. According to one account, her sister Aife was mother of Connla by CuChulain. She was eventually bested by him and he was given her daughter, Uathach as his wife. Scathach is the eponymous goddess of Skye. She prophesied CuChulain's fame as a hero. # 166 - 266 - 454
She was the wife of Craiftine the harper and was the cause of his helping to kill Cormac because she was his lover. # 454
(shkeolawn) As Finn's second hound, Sceolon was bound to him by a hidden blood-tie, for he was born while his mother, Finn's aunt, was in the form of a hound. See: BRAN AND SCEOLAN. # 100
(1175? - 1234?). See: WIZARDS. # 100
(1535? - 1599) The author of two books, both original in conception and treatment, of which the second, THE DISCOVERIE OF WITCHCRAFT (1584) concerns the Celtic origin. Scot, after going down from Hart Hall, Oxford, spent a quiet, studious life in his native Kent. He was not, however, entirely abstracted from public business and concerned himself in local affairs to good purpose. In the course of his public services he became much concerned at the cruelty and injustice with which old women suspected of the practice of witchcraft were treated, and he set himself to expose the superstitions and fallacies on which the witchcraft beliefs were founded. This he did with great learning, and in a racy and engaging style which captured popular attention. # 100
The Romans never conquered the Highlands of Scotland. In Arthurian times, the country was divided amongst three peoples: Britons in the Lowlands that had once been Roman territory and, north of Hadrian's Wall, the Picts and Scots, the latter having arrived from Ireland. Geoffrey says that Scotland was ruled in Arthur's time by King Auguselus. According to Boece in SCOTORUM HISTORIAE, the king was Eugenius, an ally of Modred. The HISTORIA MERIADOCI makes Urien the King of Scots. Historically, the kings of the Hiberno-Scottish kingdom of Dalriada at this time were Fergus More, Domangort, Comgall and Gabran, but their actual dates are uncertain. It is rather more difficult to discover who was ruling the Britons of Strathclyde at the time, as reliable lists do not exist. For Pictish rulers see: PICTS. # 156
SCOTT, SIR WALTER
(1771-1832) The author who was the great originator of the Romantic Revival in the nineteenth-century English literature. He received the impulse as a boy from Percy's RELIQUES and was ever after entranced by myths and legends and historical traditions, more particularly in his own native Border Country.
The first book he published, THE MINSTRELSY OF THE SCOTTISH BORDER, contained traditional ballads that he had collected and slightly refurbished, as well as some literary poems on traditional subjects. Vol. II is notable for his essay on 'Fairies of Popular Superstition', an important contribution to the fairy-lore of Scotland, which shows how much he had profited from his collecting expeditions in the Border Country and farther afield in the Scottish Highlands. THE MINSTRELSY contained versions of Young Tam Lin and True Thomas, but the long introductory essays were the most valuable part of the book. The essay on the fairies was later supplemented by Chapters 4-6 in DEMONOLOGY AND WITCHCRAFT (1830), which is full of interesting references to the fairies in the witch trials and to fairy references in early literature. In 1805, a poem which established Scott's fame, THE LAY OF THE LAST MINSTREL, appeared. It is founded on the tricks played by Gilpin Horner, a Boggart-like Hobgoblin who haunted one of the Border farms. His cry of 'Lost! Lost!' is borrowed from the Shellycoat who haunted Eskdale, but in the poem he is supposed to be a devil who had been called up by Michael Scot and had escaped. This was the only one of the poems which used a folk theme for its subject, but in THE LADY OF THE LAKE, which was perhaps the most popular of all, a complete fairy ballad was introduced as the ballad sung by Allan Bain, Douglas' harper. This poem, 'Alice Brand', introduces many interesting pieces of fairy tradition, the perilous state of unconsciousness in which mortals can be snatched away into Fairyland, the shifting appearance of the fairies, the unluckiness of wearing green near fairy territory, the possibility of rescuing captives in Fairyland by the use of objects sacred to Christianity, the Cross, a Bible, Bread, with its sacramental connection. Throughout his poems and novels snatches of folk-belief and tradition are to be found. The generous interest he took in fellow authors, in James Hogg, Chambers, Crofton Croker, the Grimm brothers and many more, gave prestige to folklore studies everywhere. # 100-584-585-661
A good many pagan heroes were born from the maternal sea, which was symbolized by the Cauldron of Regeneration and was referred to in Scandinavia as 'the Mother's womb.' Scyld, ancestor of Beowulf, was deposited on a beach by sea waves as a newborn infant; so was RigHeimdall; so was Merlin. Little Gwion (Taliesin) was swallowed by Cerridwen, Goddess of the Cauldron, and given rebirth when she sent him forth again 'from the sea in a bag of skin,' meaning that he would be a spiritually gifted person because he was born with the caul. People 'born with the caul' were always considered highly magical, with great spiritual powers and the gift of second sight. 'The caul' meant a portion of the amniotic membrane, which sometimes covers the head of an infant as it is born. When this occurred, superstitious mothers or midwives would carefully preserve the caul, believing that its possession would bring great good luck. # 343 - 701 p 351 ff
Story-tellers in Ireland. See also: Cyfarwyddion. Storytellers and bards often travelled in circuits, moving around the land and being maintained by patrons. Other seanachies were permanently attached to socially-important households. Today, in parts of Gaelic Scotland and Ireland, the story-teller's house may also be the CEILIDH house, where the community comes of an evening to hear stories, make music and sing songs. # 437 p 12 ff
It is generally supposed that fairies can present themselves to human sight if they wish to do so, but there seem to be also certain times when they can be caught unawares. One of the most general means is by a four-leafed clover, or by the use of the well-known fairy ointment, compounded of four-leafed clovers, which disperses the glamour that fairies can cast over human senses. Once a human eye has been touched by the ointment it can penetrate fairy disguises, and this power is only removed by a blast of fairy breath or the more vindictive blinding of the seeing eye, as occurs in one of the Midwife to the Fairies stories. There are, however, certain people who have permanent or sporadic power of seeing fairies without fairy permission. These are the 'second-sighted' Highlanders, or those called 'gifted' in Somerset or the southwest, and 'sighted' in Ireland. John Aubrey made some researches into the beliefs about second-sighted men in Scotland, and gives the result of them in his MISCELLANIES. He issued a questionnaire, like those later used by folklorists, posing such questions as whether second sight consists in 'the discovery of present or past events only, or if it extend to such as are to come', and, 'If the objects of this knowledge be sad and dismal events only; such as death and murders? or, joyful and prosperous also?' The answers vary, as ones comes to expect in folklore research. In Kirk's SECRET COMMONWEALTH there is frequent mention of second-sighted men, who either have the gift by nature or aquired it by magical art. Often they find the gift very onerous. There are certain times which are specially suitable for seeing the fairies. Twilight is one of them, midnight and the hour before sunrise, and noon, when the sun is at its meridian. It is said, too, that you can only see the fairies as long as you can look at them steadily; that is why captured Lepracauns try to make people look aside. If you hold a fairy in your eye it cannot escape, but if you so much as blink it vanishes. # 38 - 100 - 370 - 474
A Court of the kindly fairy host. 'Seelie' is blessed. The malignant fairies were sometimes called the Unseelie Court. The Seelie Court is mentioned in earlier works as the fairies with their purely benevolent activities, such as gifts of bread and seed corn to the poor and the help they are given to their favourites. # 100
The son of Rigru Roisclethan. The otherworldly youth sought by Conn who required the blood of a boy of sinless parents to fructify the wasteland of Ireland. He gave unstinted affection to Conn and was even willing to die for his sake, but he was saved by his mother Rigru. # 188 - 438 - 454 - 548
SEGURANT THE BROWN
Uther's mightiest knight, called the Knight of the Dragon; a Knight of the Old Table. # 156 - 238
SELF BORED STONES
These stones, meaning stones with a hole bored through them by the action of water, not only formed an aperture through which one could look at fairies, but hung up over the stalls of stables very close to the horse's back, were effective in brushing off the fairies, who were fond of riding the horses round the field at night and exhausting them. Aubrey gives this recipe. See also: PROTECTION AGAINST FAIRIES. # 38 - 100
He was the master of wisdom who dwelt in Murias, one of the four cities from which the Tuatha de Danaan came to Ireland. He gave the cauldron of knowledge and satiety to the Dagda. See: HALLOWS. # 454
SENCHA MAC AILLELA
(shen'ha môc il'yil la) The wise man of the Ulster cycle, corresponding to Nestor of the Iliad, and somewhat to Merlin of the Arthurian legends. # 166
SENNAN HOLY WELL
See: SEVEN KINGS OF CORNWALL.
or external soul. The separable or external soul is a magical strategem generally employed by supernatural wizards or giants. Somewhat allied to this power is a generally invulnerability like that enjoyed by Llaw Llew Gyffes in the MABINOGION, who could only be killed in circumstances so peculiar that the opportunity had to be elaborately engineered. However, the separable soul was the more usual expedient. For this, the giant or wizard removed his life, or soul, from his body and placed it in an egg, which was concealed in the body of a duck, in the belly of a sheep, hidden in a stock or under a flagstone or in some comparable series of hiding-places. Most of the British stories in which this motif occurs come from the Highlands and bear a general resemblance to each other. Examples are 'Cathal O'Cruachan and the Herd of the Stud' in Macdougall and Calder's FOLK TALES AND FAIRY LORE. 'Green Sleeves' comes from Peter Buchan's ANCIENT SCOTTISH TALES, just outside the Celtic area. It is on the usual plot of NICHT NOUGHT NOTHING with the Swan Maiden motif added, and the unusual addition of the separable soul, contained in this tale in an egg hidden in a bird's nest. J. F. Campbell's tale, 'The Young King of Easaidh Ruadh', contains all the elements of the story in a comparatively concise form, beginning with the gambling challenge as in the Mider and Etain story, except that in this case the first challenge was the hero's. The young king of Easaidh Ruadh, after he had come to his kingdom, resolved to go and play a bout of chess games against a Gruagach called Gruagach carsalach donn - that is, the brown curly-haired Gruagach - who lived in the neighbourhood. He went to his soothsayer about it, who advised him to have nothing to do with the Gruagach, but when he insisted on going told him to take nothing as his stakes but the cropped rough-skinned maid behind the door. He went and had a good reception, and that day he won the game, and named as his stakes the cropped rough-skinned maid behind the door. The Gruagach tried to make him change his mind and brought out twenty pretty maids, one after the other, but the young king refused them all till the cropped rough-skinned maid came out, when he said, 'That is mine.* So they went away, and they had not gone far when the maid's appearance changed, and she became the most beautiful woman in the world. They went home in great joy and contentment and spent a happy night together; but the next morning the young king got up early to spend another day with Gruagach. His wife advised against it. She said that Gruagach was her father and meant him no good, but he said he must go. She advised him, if he won, to take nothing for his prize but the dun shaggy filly with the stick saddle. That day he won again, and when he put his leg over the filly he found she was the best mount he had ever ridden. That night they spent together in great enjoyment, but the young queen said that she would rather that he did not go to the Gruagach that day. 'For,' she said, 'if he wins he will put trouble on thy head.' He answered that he must go, so they kissed each other and parted. It seemed to him that the Gruagach was glad to see him that day, and they settled to gaming again, but this time the Gruagach won. 'Lift the stake of thy game,' the young king said, 'and be heavy on me, for I cannot stand to it.' 'The stake of my play is,' said the Gruagach, 'that I lay it as crosses and spells on thee that the cropped rough-skinned creature, more uncouth and unworthy than thou thyself, should take thy head, and thy neck if thou dust not get for me the Glaive of Light of the King of the Oak Windows.'
The young king went home heavily and gloomily that night, and, though he got some pleasure from the young queen's greeting and her beauty, his heart was so heavy when he drew her to him that it cracked the chair beneath them. 'What is it ails you that you cannot tell it to me?' said the young queen; so he told her all that happened and of the crosses laid on them. 'You have no cause to mind that,' she said. 'You have the best wife in all Erin and the next to the best horse, and if you take heed to me you will come well out of this yet.' In the morning the young queen got up early to prepare everything for the king's journey and brought out the dun shaggy filly to him. He mounted her, and the queen kissed him and wished him victory of battlefields. 'I need not tell you anything,' she said, 'for the filly will be your friend and your companion, and she will tell you all that you must do.' So the young king set off and the filly galloped so fast that she left the March wind behind her and outstripped the wind in front of her. It was far they went, but it did not seem far until they got to the court and castle of the King of the Oak Windows. They stopped then, and the dun filly said, 'We are come to the end of our journey, and if you listen to my advice you can carry the Sword of Light away. The King of the Oak Windows is at dinner now, and the Sword of Light is in his chamber. I will take you to it; there is a knob on its end; lean in at the window and draw out the sword very gently.' They went to the window. The young king leaned in and drew out the sword. It came softly, but when the point passed the window-frame it gave a kind of 'sgread'. It is no stopping time for us here,' said the dun filly. 'I know the king has felt us taking out the sword.' And they sped away. After a time the filly paused and said to him, 'Look and see what is behind us.' 'I see a crowd of brown horses coming madly,' said the young king. 'We are swifter than those ones,' said the dun filly, and sped on. When they had gone some long way she paused, and said, 'Look, and see what is behind us.' 'I see a crowd of brown horses coming madly,' said the young king, 'and in front of them is a black horse with a white face, and I think there is a rider on him.' 'That horse is my brother and he is the swiftest horse in Erin. He will come past us like a flash of light. As they pass his rider will look round, and try then if you can cut his head off. He is the King of the Oaken Windows, and the sword in your hand is the only sword that could take the head off him.' The young king did just that and the dun filly caught the head in her teeth. 'Leave the carcass,' she said. 'Mount the black horse and ride home with the Sword of Light, and I will follow as best I can.' He leapt on the black horse and it carried him as if he were flying, and he got home before the night was over, with the dun filly behind him. The queen had had no rest while he was away, and be sure they got a hero's welcome, and they raised music in the music place and feasting in the feasting place; but in the morning the young king said, 'I must go now to the Gruagach, and see if I can lift the spells he has laid on me.'
'He will not meet you as before,' said the young queen. 'The King of the Oaken Windows is his brother, and he will know that he would never part with the Glaive of Light unless he was dead. He will ask you how you got it, but only answer that if it were not for the knob at its end you would not have got it, and if he asks again give the same answer. Then he will lift himself to look at the knob and you will see a wart on his neck. Stab it quickly with the Glaive of Light, for that is the only way in which he can be killed, and if it is not done we are both destroyed.' She kissed him and called on victory of battlefields to be with him and he went on his way. The Gruagach met him in the same place as before. 'Did you get the sword?' 'I got the sword.' 'How did you get the sword?' 'If it had not been for the knob on its end I had not got it.' 'Let me see the sword.' 'It was not laid on me to let you see it.' 'How did you get the sword?' 'If it were not for the knob that was at its end I got it not.' The Gruagach lifted his head to look at the sword; the young king saw the mole; he was sharp and quick, he plunged the sword into it and the Gruagach fell down dead.
The young king went back rejoicing, but he found small cause of rejoicing at home. His guards and servants were tied end to back, and his queen and the two horses were nowhere to be seen. When the king loosed his servants, they told him that a huge giant had come and carried away the queen and the two horses. The young king set off at once to find them. He followed the giant's track all day long, and in the evening he found the ashes of a fire. He was blowing it up to spend the night there when the slim dog of the green forest came up to him. 'Alas,' he said, 'thy wife and the two horses were in a bad plight here last night.' 'Alas indeed,' said the young king. 'It is for them I am seeking, and I fear that I shall never find them.' The dog spoke cheerily to him and caught him food. He watched over him through the night, and in the morning he promised that the young king had only to think of him if he was in need, and he would be there. They wished blessings on each other, and parted. The young king travelled on all day, and at night found the ashes of another fire, and was cheered, fed and guarded by the hoary hawk of the grey rock. They parted with the same promise of help. The third night he spent with the brown otter of the river, who fed and guarded him as the others had done and was able to tell him that he would see his queen that night. Sure enough he came that night to a deep chasm in which was the giant's cave, where he saw his wife and the two horses. His wife began to weep when she saw him, for she was afraid for his safety, but the two horses said he could hide in the front of their stable and they would make sure that the giant would not find them. They were as good as their word, for when the giant came to feed them they plunged and kicked, till the giant was almost destroyed. 'Take care,' said the queen. 'They will kill you!' 'Oh, they'd have killed me long ago,' said the giant, 'if I'd had my soul in my body, but it is in a place of safety.' 'Where do you keep it, my love?' said the queen. 'I'll guard it for you.' 'It's in that great stone,' said the giant. So next day when the giant had gone out, the queen decked the stone with flowers and cleaned all around it. When the giant came back at night he asked why she had dressed up the stone. 'Because your soul is in it, my dear love,' she replied. 'Oh, I see you really respect it,' said the giant. 'But it's not there.' 'Where is it then?' 'It is in the treshold.' So next day she cleaned and dressed up the treshold. This time the giant was really convinced that she cared for him, and he told her where it was hidden - beneath a great stone under the treshold there was a living wether, and in the wether's belly was a duck, and in the duck's belly was an egg, and in the egg was the giant's soul. When the giant was fairly away next morning they set to work. They lifted the great stone, and the wether leapt out and escaped, but she was fetched back by the slim dog of the green forest and the duck was caught by the hoary falcon and the egg found and brought back from the sea by the brown otter. By this time the giant was returning; the queen crumbled the egg in her fingers and he fell dead to the ground. They parted lovingly from their helpers and returned to the young king's castle where they had a hero's banquet, and lived lucky and happy after that. - This type was used by G. Macdonald in one of his fairy-tales, THE GIANT'S HEART. The motif of the vulnerable spot was used by Tolkien in THE HOBBIT. # 100 - 115 - 130 - 414
The name of one of Arthur's swords. # 156
# 701: Several mythologies had the Tree of Life or Tree of Knowledge guarded by a serpent sacred to the Goddess, such as Ladon, the mighty serpent who guarded Mother Hera's life-giving apple tree in the Garden of the Hesperides. The intimate relationship between the Goddess and her serpent consort was often believed to be the reason for his death- lessness. Gnostic mysticism turned the Great Serpent into OUROBOROS, the earth dragon living forever in the UNDERWORLD.
# 161: The snake was an important Celtic cult creature, appearing with deities. The ram-headed serpent is the most frequent attribute of the Horned God, Cernunnos, as incarnating virility and fertility. The serpent again appears as an emblem of the Great Mother, the Celtic Bride, who had a festival at which the Snake Goddess was worshipped. She was later adopted by Christianity as St Bridgit. # 161 - 701 p 388 ff
Earliest name of CuChulain; 'the little pupil' harries Medb's hosts. # 562
SEVEN KINGS OF CORNWALL
In Cornish folklore, allies of Arthur with whose help he was able to overcome the Danes at the battle of Vellendrucher. Afterwards, they worshipped at Sennan Holy Well and had a banquet at the rock called the Table Man. Merlin foretold that the Danes would return, that a larger number of kings would see this and that it would be the end of the world as we know it.#156
SEVEN LEAGUE BOOTS
Magical footwear enabling the wearer to take strides of seven leagues (twenty-one miles). They were invented by Merlin. # 156
SEVEN WHISTLERS, THE
These are allied in people's minds with the Gabriel Hounds, the Wish Hounds, and others, but are not thought of as hounds with a spiritual huntsman but as seven spirits, death portents like the Banshee. William Henderson in FOLKLORE OF THE NORTHERN COUNTIES quotes a Folkstone fisherman who well knew what caused the sound, but still thought it ominous. 'I heard 'em one dark night last winter,' said an old Folkestone fisherman. 'They come over our heads all of a sudden, singing "ewe, ewe," and the men in the boat wanted to go back. It came on to rain and blow soon afterwards, and was an awful night, Sir; and sure enough before morning a boat was upset, and seven poor fellows drowned. I know what makes the noise, Sir; it's them long-billed curlews, but I never likes to hear them.' Wordsworth in one of his sonnets mentions the Seven Whistlers, and connects them with the Gabriel Hounds:
And counted them!
And oftentimes will start,
For overhead are sweeping Gabriel's hounds,
Doomed with their impious lord the flying hart
To chase for ever on aërial grounds.
There was formerly a castle at this Northumberland location beneath which Arthur, Guinevere and Arthur's knights were supposed to be sleeping. A bugle and a garter were lying nearby and, in order to rouse the knights, it was necessary to blow the bugle and cut the garter with a stone sword.# 156
(skayv sulish) Light of Beauty. Daughter of Cairbry, wooed by son of King of the Decies. # 562
Tatter Foal or Shag Foal which are practically the same, are the Lincolnshire members of that tribe of Bogy or Bogey Beasts that are adept at Shape Shifting, can take many forms but seem to prefer to go about as shaggy, fiery-eyed horses, foals or donkeys. The Picktree Brag and the Hedley Kow are famous examples. Examples are given in COUNTY FOLK LORE, VOL. V by Gutch and Peacock: SHAG FOAL. - An old lady used to talk of a mysterious phantom like an animal of deep black colour, which appeared before belated travellers. On hearing that we had been attacked at midnight by a large dog, she eagerly inquired: 'Had it any white about it?' and when we assured her that it had a white chest, she exclaimed in thankfulness: 'Ah! then it was not the shag foal!'
Here the old lady makes no distinction between the shag and the shag foal. Eli Twigg in the next extract sticks closer to the usual type: TATTER FOAL. - 'Why, he is a shagg'd-looking hoss, and given to all manner of goings-on, fra cluzzening hold of a body what is riding home half-screwed with bargain-drink, and pulling him out of the saddle, to scaring an old woman three parts out of her skin, and making her drop her shop-things in the blatter and blash, and run for it.' # 100 - 276
Another name for Astolat, made well known to English readers by Tennyson's LADY OF SHALOTT. This form of the place name occurred as Scalot in the Italian LA DAMIGIELLA DI SCALOT and as Scalliotta in LANCIALOTTO PANCIANTI-CHIANO, whence English Shalott. # 156 - 238
The shamrock or three-leaf clover is now claimed by the Irish as a symbol of their country generally. However, worship of the shamrock vastly predated Christianity in Ireland and other Celtic lands. Its three heart-shaped leaves were supposed to be a natural reference to the Triple Mothers of Celtic lore, sometimes called Three Brigits or Three Morgans, the 'mother-hearts' of Celtic tribes. # 701 p 452
A learned man, a historian, a story-teller. # 166
SHANNON, THE RIVER
Myth of Sinend and the Well of Knowledge accounts for the name of the Shannon river. # 562
A magical accomplishment, common in a greater or lesser degree to fairies, wizards and witches. Not all fairies are shape-shifters. The small, powerless fairies like Skillywidden have no power to take any other shape or even to alter their size, as Spriggans can do, and Cherry of Zennor's master. Some, like the Eash Uisge, have two forms at their disposal, a young man or a horse. The Cornish fairies whose habits are treated in such detail in 'The Fairy Dwelling on Selena Moor' seem to be able to assume only the form of a bird, and the pay for each change by a diminuition in size. The fairies into whose house the human Midwife to the Fairies is brought can change their appearance and the appearance of their dwellings, but this is probably not a real shape-shift, only the effect of glamour, a kind of hypnotism which affects the senses of the beholder, and a hypnotism against which Saint Collen was armed by his sanctity. The Bogy or Bogey Beasts and all their kind are true shape-shifters, and so are such Hobgoblins as Puck. They exercise their powers for mischief rather than for malevolence. A typical story is that of the Hedley Kow. Wizards, and particularly Supernatural Wizards, are the true shapeshifters, able to change the form of other people as well as to shift from one shape to another. The ordinary fairy people seem as helpless as humans against this kind of magic, as Etain was when the wizard turned her into a midge. Some fairies, however, presumably those who had studied magic, had the power. Uchtdealb turned Tuiren into a dog and herself into the appearance of Finn's messenger. The second seems to have been an illusion, the first a real change of form, for Tuiren's off-spring were irrecoverably puppies. Human wizards as well as supernatural creatures are capable of becoming masters of shape-shifting according to the fairy-tales, and to some legends.
A Celtic tale of which there are a good many variants is that of which McKay's story, 'The Wizard's Gillie', to be found in MORE HIGHLAND TALES, is a good example. A man apprentices his son to a Magician for a stated period of years, which is afterwards extended and then extended more indefinitely, until the son does not return at all and his father goes out to look for him. He finds him a captive of the magician's and manages to get him away by recognizing him in his transformed shape. The father and son go off together, and in order to gain money the son transforms himself into various creatures whom the father sells, but he must always retain the strap by which the creature is led, for the son's soul is in that, and as long as his father has it he can always resume his own shape and return. The wizard is the purchaser each time, and each time the gillie escapes until the father is so much elated by the magnificent price paid that he forgets to remove the strap and his son is thrown into harsh captivity. By his ingenuity he manages to escape, the wizard pursues him and the two engage in a transformation combat, at the end of which the wizard is destroyed. The theme is roughly the same as that of the folk song 'The Coal Black Smith'. Other tales on the same plot are 'Taliesin' where Cerridwen pursues Gwion Bach through a cycles of shapes, an in 'The King of Black Art', a particularly good version collected by Hamish Henderson from John Stewart, and 'The Black King of Morocco', from Buchan's ANCIENT SCOTTISH TALES. Tales of people changed into another shape by a wicked enchantment are very common. Many of them are variants of the Cupid and Psyche story. 'The Black Bull of Norroway' is the best-known of these, but there are others, such as 'The Hoodie'. Escapes by temporary transformations are another use of shape-shifting. Morgan Le Fay used this expedient once in Malory's MORTE D'ARTHUR. Ordinary witches were commonly accused of shape-shifting, generally into stereotyped forms such as hares or hedgehoes. # 100 - 115 - 419 - 464
According to Dineen's Irish-English Dictionary: Sighle na gcíoch, as a stone fetish, supposed to give fertility. But the derivation of the name has never been fully explained, except for the main opinion in Ireland that the name derives from some of the 'unspoken' words describing an 'displaying' woman whose gesture would avert evil and bring about good luck. The image of the Sheela-na-Gig adorns walls and doorways of churches throughout Normandy, the British Isles, especially in Ireland. She is shown naked, some with large breasts but always holding her legs apart to reveal her vagina. She is one of the few actual depictions of Irish deities and represents the primal earth mother herself who gives birth and death. Her image was incorporated into churches to remind the faithful of their oldest allegiance.#13
The ship symbol can be traced to about 4000 BC, in Babylonia, where every deity had his own special ship (that of the god Sin was called the Ship of Light), his image being carried in procession on a litter formed like a ship. This is thought of Jastrow in THE RELIGION OF BABYLONIA AND ASSYRIA, to have originated at a time when the sacred cities of Babylonia were situated on the Persian Gulf, and when religious processions were often carried out by water.
In W. C. Borlase's DOLMENS OF IRELAND we read 'that the typical design of an Irish dolmen was intended to represent a ship. In Minorca there are analogous structures, there populary called Navetas (ships), so distinct is the resemblance. And from sepulchral tumuli in Scandinavia we know actual vessels have on several occasions been disinterred. In cemeteries of the Iron Age, in the same countries, the ship was a recognized form of sepulchral enclosure.' According to this we have here a very strong corroboration of the symbolic intention which is attributed to the solar ship-carvings of the Megalithic People. # 562
An Irish pagan practice of throwing a woman's shoe over the head of a new tribal chief, symbolizing his physical marriage to the Goddess of the Land.
# 701 p 154 ff
The principal female fairy, who acts as a spokeswoman of the rest in the LIFE OF ROBIN GOODFELLOW. She speaks for herself and her sisterfairies: 'To walke nightly, as do the men fayries, we use not; but now and then we goe together, and at good huswives fires we warme and dresse our fayry children. If wee find cleane water and cleane towels, wee leave them money, either in their basons or in their shoes; but if wee find no cleane water in the their houses, we wash our children in their pottage, milke or beere, or what-ere we finde; for the sluts that leave not such things fitting, wee wash their faces and hands with a gilded child's clout, or els carry them to some river, and ducke them over head and eares. We often use to dwell in some great hill, and from thence we doe lend money to any poore man or woman that hath need; but if they bring it not againe at the day appointed, we doe not only punish them with pinching, but also in their goods, so that they never thrive till they have payd us. # 100
Changeling. # 100
SIDHE SITH SI
Pronounced 'Shee'. It means literally the People of the (Fairy) Mounds. The Gaelic name for Fairies, both in Ireland and the Highlands of Scotland, as in the Bean Si or the Daoine Sidh. # 100 - 562
A seat at the Round Table. Merlin gave it its name and said it was reserved for a certain knight. Brumart, a nephew of King Claudas, tried to sit on it and was destroyed. When Galahad, the destined knight, sat on it, his name appeared on it. # 156 - 418 - 434
Perceval's cousin in Wolfram. In Chrétien, she was an unnamed damsel whom the hero met but once. In Wolfram, Perceval met her both before and after his visit to the Grail Castle. On the second meeting, she upbraided him for lack of sorrow over Amfortas' suffering (though in Chrétien she chided him for not asking whom the Grail served). On the first encounter, she was carrying the body of her slain husband, Schionatulander. In time she became a recluse and was buried next to her husband. # 156 - 748
More of a cone than a hill, and entirely built by human hands in prehistoric times, Silbury Hill in Wiltshire is clearly part of the Avebury complex of stone circles and embankments, the larger part of which is visible from its summit. No-one knows why it was built, though some occultists suggest that it was the sighting point for stellar phenomena, much like the circles of stones elsewhere. It remains one of the most tantalizing mysteries in the British landscape. # 702
The affection of most Welshmen for their native 'Bro' or birthplace is something that has been apparent since the earliest Welsh literature. The author of ANCIENT SILURIA says in the Introduction. 'Thus I make no apology for wielding my pen, however clumsily, in praise of these haunts of ancient beauty. For such a small work this book has been a long time in the writing, myself being the main beneficiary, as I've read about and visited all the sites herein described, and my boots can boast the mud of almost every South Wales parish in the twenty or so years I have been 'hunting the wild megalith' as H. J. Massingham described his Cotswold studies. In my forty years I have been fortunate enough at one time or another to have lived near almost every one of the sites described beginning with the cairns and tumili of my earliest playground on the hills above the Rhondda and summer holidays spent on the Gower coast. At school, the picture of Pre-historic man as an "uncouth savage" had been fleshed out by Allan Sorrels pictures of skin clad louts lurking aimlessly around Stonehenge, like skinheads in a shopping precinct; later in the mid sixties the Neolithic inhabitants of these Isles had suddenly become elevated to 'gods' from outer space, plotting flight paths of stone over the greensward of Wiltshire or the moors of Orkney. Somewhere between these two conflicting images lies the truth. It is certainly time to bury the skin-clad lout, and see the mound of his burial as part of a ceremonial landscape where: "The traditional music was heard and the appropriate seasonal episode in the mythic cycle was enacted, the life of the community was ritualized and held in harmony with the rhythms and power of nature". It is with some difficulty that urbanised modern man can visualise such a world. Traces of this ceremonial landscape still remain however, in scool playgrounds and in the shadows of coal tips, on lofty hilltops and lush meadows; ancestral footsteps can still be traced, all over ancient Siluria.
The following is only one of the many monuments described in the book. The Sweynes Howes, Rhosili Down. A brisk walk uphill from the car park at Rhosili, brings us to the group of Bronze Age cairns known as "The Beacons" and the highest point in all of Gower from which a fine view is to be had of Gower and Carmarthen Bay. It was customary at one time to carry a stone to add to the largest cairn; this must have amounted to quite a heap as cartloads of stone were removed from here early this century to build the chapel in Pitton village. The ridge is peppered with cairns most of which are very badly eroded; one that will be noticed is a kerbed platform cairn situated near the path; look out for the quartzy white stones forming a circle that was originally the outer kerb of a Bronze Age cairn. A little further along the track, the jumble of large conglomerate boulders that make up the Sweynes Howes can be seen, a little way down the hillside, possibly to be out of the prevailing wind. The Sweynes Howes are two chambered cairns, the South cairn is in a very ruinous state and gives little clue to its original structure; both tombs were oval mounds with a megalithic chamber placed off centre. At the North tomb the chamber with its fallen capstone can still be made out. The name stems from a local legend that one Sweyne, a Viking warrior from whom the port of Swansea is said to get its name, is buried there. Howe is Nordic for mound, and although not used as such locally, the name crops up at several other sites that have witnessed Viking intrusions. An alignment toward the mid-summer sunrise between the North chamber, the two stones at Burry and the enclosure on Cefn Bryn has been noted by Col. L. L. Morgan. # 771
A wood situated in the Lowlands of Scotland, and the site of one of Arthur's battles. # 156 - 494
(shin'an) The River Shannon. # 166
Goddess, daughter of Lir's son Lodan. # 562
Welsh bard, compiler of BARDDAS. # 562
He was the druid who, in the form of a smith, tested the sons of the King of Tara, to see which should be king. He tested them by setting his forge on fire to see what they would bear out from it. While four boys brought out various items still in the making, kindling, a barrel of ale and other items, Niall alone thought fit to bring out the blacksmith's tools - the hammer and anvil. In a further test, Sithchean sent them off into the forest as armed men for the first time to see how they would fare. In need of water, each boy came to a well guarded by a hideous hag who refused a drink until one of them kissed her. Only Niall complied and found himself embracing the goddess of Sovereignty, who declared him the rightful king. # 454
(sheean) The Gaelic name for the fairy hill, or Knowe seen from outside. If it opens on pillars, the interior is called the Brugh. # 100
Fairy. Elf. The Dwelly's illustrated Gaelic dictionary tells us that 'The sithich is the most active sprite of Highland mythology. It is a dexterous child stealer and is particularly intrusive on women in travail. At births many covert and cunning ceremonies are still used to baffle the fairies power; otherwise, the new-born infant would be taken off to fairyland, and a withered brat laid in its stead. They are wantonly mischievous, and have weapons peculiar to themselves, which operate no good to those at whom they are shot. A clergyman of the kirk, who wrote concerning fairyland about the end of the 17th. century, says of these weapons that, 'they are solid earthy bodies, nothing of iron, but much of stone, like to a yellow soft flint spur, shaped like a barbed arrow-head, but flung like a dart with great force'.' SITHICHEACH: Fairy-like. # 214
Square-shouldered vessels in bronze or glass. # 730
SIZE OF THE FAIRIES
The fairy people are good and bad, beautiful and hideous, stately and comical, but one of the greatest of their many variations is that of size. This variation is sometimes within the control of the fairies; by shape-shifting they can monstrously enlarge themselves or shrink into midgets of their own volition, but this is not always so. Some of them seem to be controlled by the very essence of their being and to be small, powerless creatures of the class of diminutive fairies. The OXFORD DICTIONARY, by defining a fairy as 'one of a class of beings of diminutive size', seems to cast its vote for the small elves so much beloved in Jacobean England, and this indeed is one true element in folk tradition. Among the tiny medieval fairies are the Portunes described by Gervase of Tilbury, which, as far as one can make out, were about a finger's length in size, or such as the Danish troll which occurs in the Ballad of 'Eline of Villenokor' quoted by Keightley in THE FAIRY MYTHOLOGY:
Out then spake the tinyest Troll,
No bigger than an emmet was he;
or the tiny fairies visited by Elidurus in Geoffrey of Monmouth, and little Malekin, described by Ralph of Coggeshall as the size of the tiniest child. All these are medieval fairies, although the fashion in fairylore in earlier times laid more stress on supernatural creatures of human or more than human size, White Ladies, Fays, Hags, Magicians, Giants and fairy Knights like the one in the story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. These never disappeared from tradition, and were reinforced by the Fairy Godmother who invaded England from the courtly French tales, like those of Perrault. The commonest fairies of country tradition, however, are generally described as of the size of a three-years' child, the smaller size of human kind; or the smaller ones, 'a span and a quarter in height'. The insect-sized fairies are rarer in tradition, though very common in literature. In Hampshire, in the tale of 'I Weat, You Weat', we have fairies so small that a grain of wheat is a burden; the Muryans of Cornwall reach the size of an ant only at the last stage of their appearance on earth. In that very interesting description of the conditions of fairy life, 'The Fairy Dwelling on Selena Moor', the captive in Fairyland explains that every time one of the Small People of Cornwall changes its shape - turns itself into a bird, for instance it is rather smaller when it returns to its natural form, so that it gradually dwindles, until when it reaches the size of a muryan, or ant, it passes out of that state altogether. The fairies of variable size are all those with powers of shape-shifting, the Heroic, the White Ladies, many of the hags and Bogles and Hobgoblins, the Giants and Wizards. The Spriggans of Cornwall are generally tiny, but are capable of shooting up into monstrous size, as in Hunt's story of The Miser on the Fairy Gump. #100-246-362
SLEEPING LORDS AND WARRIORS
# 454: The many famous, legendary or heroic characters who are said to sleep under various hills in the British Isles seem to have been a persistant tradition from Cronos to King Arthur. Bran the Blessed is also one of their number, while Vortimer is another. The tradition of an undying champion who sleeps beneath the land ready to wake in time of national danger may testify to an ancient concept of regnal sacrifice, by which the king would voluntarily agree to become the tribal representative in the Otherworld, thereafter being paid supreme honours and joining the ranks of the gods.
# 100: The theme of a sleeping champion in a cave under a hill is common through Europe. Sometimes the hero is Charlemagne, sometimes Barbarossa, sometimes King Marko, sometimes Holger the Dane. In Britain it was most commonly King Arthur in the Matter of Britain legends, or in Ireland it was Finn Mac Cumhal, though sometimes it was a mysterious, unspecified champion. At Sewing Shields in Northumberland, between the Roman Wall and the ancient military road, there is a persistent and ancient legend that King Arthur, with Queen Guinevere and all his knights, lies in an entranced sleep awaiting a champion who shall awake them. An account of the time when they were nearly awakened is to be found in the Denham Tracts. The tradition was that the warriors would be aroused if a champion could find his way into the vault where they lay, blow a horn that was lying near the king, and cut a garter lying beside him with a stone sword, but no one knew where among heaps of briar-covered rubble the entrance could be found. One day chance disclosed it to a shepherd, who was sitting knitting on one of the mounds. His ball slipped off his knee and rolled down a deep and narrow hole. The shepherd was convinced that he had found the entrance, and, cutting the thorns and brambles that covered the hole, he found a way down wide enough for him to enter, and soon found himself in a vaulted passage. The floor was covered with toads and lizards, bats brushed against his ears, but he followed his clew of wool downwards in the darkness, and at last saw a distant light. Encouraged by this, he made his way towards it and found himself in a huge vaulted room lit by a fire that burned without fuel. On a hundred rich couches round the room lay the sleeping bodies of King Arthur, Queen Guinevere and the king's knights; in the dim light behind the fire, sixty couple of noble hounds lay sleeping, and on a table in front of it were a horn, a stone sword and a garter. The shepherd went up to the table, drew the sword softly from its sheath and cut the garter. When he touched the sword all the company stirred, and as he cut the garter they rose up sitting on their couches, but as he pushed the sword gently back into its sheath sleep came over them again, and they sank on to their beds. Only the king lifted his hands and said in a strong voice:
'O woe betide that evil day
On which the witless wight was born
Who drew the sword - the garter cut,
But never blew the bugle-horn.'
Some of the story-tellers have it, that when the king stirred and began to speak, the shepherd was scared to death, but managed to find his speedy way out of the caves, and then missed the great opportunity to, by blowing the horn, really awaken the legendary king and his host. Another place where Arthur is said to be sleeping is in a smooth hill called Round Howe in Richmond in Yorkshire. A potter called Thompson was walking round the howe one night when a stranger met him and conducted him into the vault beneath it. He began to draw the sword, but put it hastily back when the company stirred. A great voice cried out,
'Potter, Potter Thompson,
If thou hadst either drawn
The sword or blown the horn,
Thou'd been the luckiest man
That ever was born.'
The Somerset legend of Arthur and his knights at Cadbury Castle is different. No one visits them, and anyone who tries to dig up the Round Table will fail, because it only sinks deeper into the earth. But every Midsummer Eve, King Arthur and his knights come out of the mound and ride round it on horses shod with silver, as Earl Fitzgerald does at Mullaghmast. According to a Welsh legend recorded by John Rhys, King Arthur's knights sleep without him in a cave on Snowdon. Once a shepherd looking for a sheep found the entrance to it and made his way in timidly, but as he went through the door he brushed against a bell which rang out and waked the sleepers, who started up with such a monstrous din that the shepherd fled from the cave and never recovered from his terror. There are legends of a wizard seeking for horses for the sleeping host, one told of Alderly Edge in Cheshire, where an anonymous wizard, probably Merlin, is seeking to make up the full number of white horses sleeping in the stables until the time should come for them to ride out and save England. It was Thomas of Ercildoune, better known as Thomas the Rhymer, who was buying horses, black ones this time, for the sleeping place under the Eildon Hills. This time poor Canobie Dick, a horse-coper from whom Thomas had bought several horses, made a fatal error by blowing the horn before he had drawn the sword. All the sleeping knights started up, drew their swords and made for him. A great voice cried out:
'Woe to the coward, that ever he was born,
That did not draw the sword before he blew the horn!'
A whirlwind sprang up and swept him out of the cave and down a precipice, where he had only time to tell his story to the shepherds that found him before he died. We cannot be sure who True Thomas' warriors were. There is one legend of Finn Mac Cumhal, 'The Smith's Rock in the Isle of Skye'. It is told by J. Macdougall in WAIFS AND STRAYS OF CELTIC TRADITION, VOL. III. The Fenians in this tale are Giants: There was a report that the Fians (Fingalians) were asleep in this Rock, and that if anyone would enter it and blow the Wooden-Crier (Whistle), which lay beside Finn, three times, they would rise up alive and well as they formerly were. A Smith who lived in the island heard the report, and resolved that he would attempt to enter the Rock. He reached the place where it was; and, having formed a good idea of the key-hole, he returned to the smithy, and made a key which fitted in the hole. He then went back to the Rock, and, as soon as he turned the key in the hole, the door opened, and he saw a very great and wide place before him, and exceedingly big men lying on the floor. One man, bigger than the rest, was lying in their midst, having a large hollow baton of wood lying beside him. He thought that this was the Wooden-Crier (Whistle). But it was so large that he was afraid that he could not lift it, much less blow it. He stood for a time looking at it, but he at last said to himself that, as he came so far, he would try at any rate. He laid hold of the Wooden-Crier, and with difficulty raised its end up to his mouth. He blew it with all his might, and so loud was the sound it produced that he thought the Rock and all that was over it came down on the top of him. The huge unwieldy men who lay on the floor shook from the tops of their heads to the soles of their feet. He gave another blast on the Wooden-Crier, and with one spring they turned on their elbows. Their fingers were like the prongs of wooden grapes, and their arms like beams of bog-oak. Their size and the terrible appearance they had put him in such fear that he threw the Wooden-Crier from him, and sprang out. They were then crying after him, 'Worse have you left us than as you found us, worse have you left us than as you found us.' But he looked not behind him until he got outside and shut the door. He then drew the key out of the hole, and threw it out into the lake which is near the Rock, and which is called to this day the Lake of the Smith's Rock. In the above mentioned stories we may recognize some of the ways in which we in both ancient and modern psychology and cosmology may be able to find the paths into our deepest and still sleeping and hidden Overself, with all the hazardous guardians of the threshold. Sometimes we are able to pass that threshold and we can 'blew the horn', while we at other challenges must realize that we still lack some experiences in our life, to wake up our 'Sleeping Lord'. # 100 - 439 - 454 - 691
(sleigh beargar) or the 'Little Folk'. A name given to the fairies in the Manx tongue, though they are more usually spoken of as 'the Li'l Fallas', 'Themselves', or 'Them That's In', which covers Bugganes and other sinister characters as well as the fairies. Another Manx name for them is the Ferrishyn. # 100
(slev) A mountain, mountainous district. # 166
(slev loo'ah ra) A mountainous district on the border of Kerry and Cork in Ireland. # 166
Murna takes refuge in in the forests of Slieve Bloom, and there Demna (Fionn) is born. # 562
(sleeve fuad) afterwards Slievegallion. Invisible dwelling of Lir on Slieve Fuad. CuChulain finds his foe in this dwelling, and Fionn slays a goblin there. # 562
A Fairy mountain. See: SLIEVE FUAD. # 562
(slooa) (or the Host). This is the Host of the Unforgiven Dead. They are the most formidable of the Highland fairy people. There are several accounts of the host collected by Evans Wentz in THE FAIRYFAITH IN THE CELTIC COUNTRIES from named informants. A few of them regard 'The Host' as fallen angels, not the dead, but on the whole their accounts correspond closely to that given by Alexander Carmichael in CARMINA GADELICA, VOL. II: SLUAGH, 'the host', the spirit-world. The 'hosts' are the spirits of mortals who have died. The people have many curious stories on this subject. According to one informant, the spirits fly about in great clouds, up and down the face of the world like the starlings, and come back to the scenes of their earthly transgressions. No soul of them is without the clouds of earth, dimming the brigthness of the works of earth. In bad nights, the hosts shelter themselves behind little russet docken stems and little yellow ragwort stalks. They fight battles in the air as men do on the earth. They may be heard and seen on clear frosty nights, advancing and retreating, retreating and advancing, against one another. After a battle, as I was told in Barra, their crimson blood may be seen staining rocks and stones. ('Fuil nan sluagh,' the blood of the hosts, is the beautiful red 'crotal' of the rocks melted by the frost.) These spirits used to kill cats and dogs, sheep and cattle, with their unerring venomous darts. They commanded men to follow them, and men obeyed, having no alternative. It was these men of earth who slew and maimed at the bidding of their spirit-masters, who in return ill-treated them in a most pitiless manner. They would be rolling and dragging and trouncing them in mud and mire and pools.
In a report by Evans Wentz, Marian MacLean of Barra distinguishes between the fairies and the Host.
Generally, the fairies are to be seen after or about sunset, and walk on the ground as we do, whereas the hosts travel in the air above places inhabited by people. The hosts used to go after the fall of night, and more particularly about midnight. # 100 - 136 - 711
King of Brittany and Arthur's great-grandfather, according to Gallet's pedigree. See: NASCIEN. # 55 - 156
A kingdom in Arthurian tales. Its king was called Gloier and its capital Sorhaut. There are various suggestions as to its location Sutherland, South Wales and the Isles of Scilly. # 156
The name of the capitals of Gore and Sorelois. # 156
See: PERIGLOUR. # 676
A strangely misspelled word, the last syllable being mistaken for the word reign. It may stem from the French 'souverain' which is nearer the Latin word (supreme over all). Our word has fairly given rise to the punning etymology 'so-ever-reign.' The concept of the sovereignty-bestowing goddess is especially marked among the Celtic peoples and their stories. Originally Lady Sovereignty was called by the name of land e.g. Eriu or Logres. Only the rightful kingly candidate could 'marry' her in a symbolic union representing the king's obligation to the land and its peoples; thus he have tested by having to encounter and embrace Sovereignty who appeared as a loathsome hag. Her response was to become her own beautiful self and announce his rightful kingship to the people. The king who misused his power or who became maimed or mutilated ruptured the mystic union with the land and therefore with the Sovereignty. The result of his continuing reign was a wasting of the land - a theme central to the Grail legend. See: WASTELAND; WOUNDED KING; NIALL. The Lady of Britain's Sovereignty is Brigit or Brigantia, though Brigantia has latterly assumed this function. # 97 - 282 - 439 - 454 - 461
The brilliance of the White Sow and her seven porcine attendants is prominent in the Celtic myth of the Princess Goleuddydd, 'Bright Day,' mother of Culhwch, whose name meant something like 'womb, or hiding place, of the pig.' It retained the essential episode of Goleuddydd giving birth in a sow's lair. 'Obviously she is the sowmother, the sow Goddess, and Culhwch is the young hog that she carries in her sow's hiding-place, her womb.' Later Culhwch stole a comb from the head of the magic boar, Twrch Trwyth, who may have been a sow originally; because 'he' lay in 'his' lair with 'his' seven piglets-something that only a female pig would do. The Welsh saints Dyfrig, Kentigern, Cadog, and Brynach all were said to have founded monasteries at places where they were led by a magic White Sow. This is fairly good evidence that all of them were only pseudosaints, or loosely Christianized versions of earlier pagan heroes, Men of Sow. # 701 p 389 ff
Celts conquer Spain from the Carthaginians, and the latters trade with Spain broken down by the Greeks. There are found place-names of Celtic elements in Spain, and dolmens found round the Spanish Mediterranean coast. Equivalent Spain is The Land of the Dead. In Arthurian sources, Spain was variously the realm of Alifatima, Savari, Claris and Tristan. Historically, in Arthurian times a Visigoth kingdom existed there, ruled by Alaric II (AD 484-507), Gesalaric (AD 507-11), Amalric (AD 511-31) and Theudis (AD 531-48). # 156 - 562
In the legends of the Holy Grail it was related that Longinus's spear was set upright in the divine vessel, making a design suspiciously similar to Oriental lingam-yoni. The Christianized Grail stories based this symbolic lingam on the pagans' holy Spear of Lugh, which 'had such destructive force that its head has always to be immersed in a cauldron so that the town where it was being kept did not go up in flames'. Since the cauldron was always a womb symbol, and the spear both lightning and a phallus, the sexual implication of this symbolism is clear. # 701 p 30
(1552-99) See: FAERIE QUEENE.
Both single and double spirals were among the most sacred signs of Neolithic Europe. They appeared on megalithic monuments and temples all over the continent and the British Isles. Spiral OCULI-double twists resembling eyes - appear prominently in places like the treshold stones at New Grange in Ireland. - The spiral was connected with the idea of death and rebirth: entering the mysterious earth womb, penetrating to its core, and passing out again by the same route. Sacred dances imitated this movement, which is why so many pagan-derived European folk dances use the spiral line of dancers circling into a center and out. Spiral labyrinth designs were also common in cathedral decoration, transposed from the older shrines formerly located on the same sites. The magical staff called LITUUS, used by Roman augurs (diviners) to mark out sacred areas such as temple sites, usually terminated in a spiral. See also: LABYRINTHS AND SPIRALS. # 701 p 14
Grotesquely ugly fairies which seems to act as the fairy bodyguard. Bottrell says about them in his descriptions of the various types of Fairy: The Spriggans, quite a different class of being, are the dourest and most ugly set of sprights belonging to the elfin tribe; they are only to be seen about old ruins, barrows, giants' quoits and castles, and other places where treasure is buried, of which they have the charge. They also steal children, leaving their own ugly brats in their place, bring bad weather to blight the crops, whirlwinds over the fields of cut corn, and do much other mischief to those that meddle with their favourite haunts. According to Hunt, the Spriggans are the ghosts of the old giants, and though they are usually very small, they can swell to enormous size. # 84 - 100 - 331
Ambassador sent to the People of Dana by Firbolgs. He was the Firbolg who was responsible for cutting off Nuadu's hand, thus rendering him unfit for kingship. # 454 - 562
Although the island of Staffa, Strathclyde, was regarded as one of the great natural wonders of the ancient world, and interwoven into the mythology of both Scotland and Ireland, it was 'discovered' in modern times as late as August 1772 by Sir Joseph Banks. It was the same Sir Joseph who had been the companion of Captain Cook on his first voyage round the world, and who encouraged Cook to name Botany Bay in Australia on the grounds that all the plants there were new to science. Thus, at Donald MacCulloch points out, Sir Joseph has left his name with the northern Hebrides (by way of Staffa) and with the southern Hebrides (the 'New Hebrides'), among which is a group of islands called 'Banks Islands'. In his first report of the discovery of Staffa he remarks that it 'is reckoned one of the greatest natural curiosities in the world: it is surrounded by many pillars of different shapes, such as pentagons, octagons etc. They are about 55 feet high, and near five feet in diameter, supporting a solid rock of a mile in length, and about 60 feet above the pillars. There is a cave in this island which the natives call the Cave of Fingal: its length is 371 feet, about 115 feet in height, and 51 feet wide..
The Giant's Causeway in Ireland, or Stonehenge in England, are but trifles when compared to this island...' Who was this Fingal after whom the remarkable cave had been named? For an answer to this question we must turn to Irish mythology, which seems to have given birth to this semi-legendary leader of men who not only had the Staffa cave named after him, but was even said to have constructed with his own hands the entire magical island itself. Finn MacCumhaill (sometimes, Fin MacCoul) is the earliest name of Fingal, who was so renowned as a 'builder' that he is said to have erected many of the stone circles in Scotland. Finn was more than a mythological king, he was also a magician, who learned the power of magic-making almost by accident (see BRODICK ARRAN). Perhaps this is one reason why a natural break in the wall of basaltic columns above the Causeway of Staffa is called 'Fingal's Wishing Chair', and why it is said that anyone who sits in this cavity and makes a wish will have this wish come true. Fingal is the central hero of the Ossianic cycle, the mythical ruler of a race of giants called the Fianna, a sort of Celtic equivalent of the British Arthurian knights. Those who claim Fingal to have been a living leader of men, rather than a product of mythologizing, say that he died towards the end of the third century AD. The original epic of Fingal was said to be written by the third-century Ossian, whom many claim to have been the son of Fingal, but there was much dispute about the authorship of this fragmentary verse. James Macpherson's FINGAL, published in 1761, and supposedly adapted from the 'original version' by Ossian, was challenged by Dr Johnson. It is certain that one of the reasons why Dr Johnson made his famous tour of the Hebrides was in order to accumulate proof that there was no poetry by anyone named Ossian. See also: LOCH ASHIE. # 702
# 701: The Stag was probably one of the earliest versions of the Horned God as sacrificial consort of the Goddess of woodland creatures. Horned animals, especially stags, were associated with male sexuality. Phallic amulets were often carved of staghorn. Because of its treelike horns the stag was also depicted as a male spirit of the forest.
# 161: The stag is an important cult animal in Europe, especially in Celtic tradition where it is associated with the Horned God Cernunnos, Nurturer of Animals, with the Hunter God Cocidius and with Ossian. It is the attribute of the warrior and is virility, solar power and fertility; it is also therapeutic. In mythology stag hunts often lead to some supernatural meeting or situation. In solar cults it is often depicted with the Bull, Horse and Swan. In Norse tradition the four stags of the Yggdrasil represent the four winds. # 161 - 701 p 390
STAG OF REDYNVRE
One of the helping beasts in CULHWCH AND OLWEN. # 562
The practice of erecting standing stones is certainly a very ancient one, and their uses through the ages were no doubt considerably varied. In Genesis 28:18, we can read that Jacob took the stone that he used for a pillow and set it up as a pillar. Mention of the erection of stones can also be found in several other parts of the holy scriptures. According to ancient Welsh laws, the Maen Gobaith or Guide Stone was erected as a guide to travellers over mountains and derelict tracts of land in the absence of well-defined roads. Removal or destruction of these stones was punished by death. The same applied to the Maes-yBrenin (The King's Post or Stone) which was erected to display public notices or proclamations. Another type of ancient stone was the Maen Terfyn or the Boundary Stone, the removal of which was also punishable by death: 'Cursed be he that removeth his neighbour's landmark.' Wherever the boundary of an estate terminates at some particular stone it may be fairly assumed that such a stone is a Maen Terfyn of the old Welsh laws. The oldest stones of all are the meinhirion which can be found in many parts of the world. Their exact purpose is still a mystery although many remarkable theories have been suggested. Traditionally the meinhirion are said to have been erected to indicate the burial place of some distinguished person. During the Dark Ages it was customary to bury important chieftains beside a road or track in the absence of churchyards. The meaning of the word maenhir has been translated by some to mean a tall, upright stone; yet others believe that the word hir (long) signifies a longing or a regret and it is therefore applicable as a memorial. It has also been suggested that the stones were erected as gathering places for men serving as warriors at a time prior to the Roman invasion. Sometimes the stones were brought long distances, for the type of rock of which they are formed does not exist in the neighbourhood where they have been erected. A large number of standing stones consist of a strange material known as 'pudding-stone', which seems to have been chosen by the ancients for reasons known only to themselves. There are legends in some parts of Britain that 'puddingstone' has the ability to grow in size.
The small lumps in the stone were once believed to multiply and the stones were often called 'growing stones' or 'mother stones'. Many of the standing stones in Britain must have disappeared over the ages, having been broken up for making roads or incorporated into buildings but stories are often told of farmers who have tried to remove a standing stone by digging around the bottom and hitching a team of horses or a tractor to the stone - without success. Some modern writers have expressed a theory that the stones were once part of an incredible system of energy transmission which fell into disuse many thousands of years ago. People have even claimed to have received electric shocks from the stones and photographs have been taken that show rays of light exuding from the monoliths. There are many recent books written on these mysteries, such as EARTH MAGIC by Francis Hitching, which are of great interest to anyone wishing to learn more about standing stones. In folklore the stones are often given peculiar personal attributes. Sometimes they are believed to be able to move from place to place without mortal aid, or to move uneasily when disturbed by humans, or expand or contract at will. Some stones are even said to cling to people who touch them with a guilty purpose. Others are said to have the power of making people invisible or filling one's pockets with gold. Some stones are also accredited with healing powers, particularly those with a hole in them. In such cases people at one time used to insert their rheumatic limbs through the holes and would often claim an improvement in their condition. Geoffrey of Monmouth writing in about 1136 claimed that the stones of Stonehenge, which he referred to as the 'Giant's Dance', had healing powers. In his famous HISTORY OF BRITAIN, he had Merlin say to Aurelius: 'Laugh not so lightly, king... for in these stones is a mystery and healing virtue against many ailments.' # 49 - 311 - 470
The Star-strong King refers to Christ who, in Celtic tradition, is often adressed as 'King of the Elements'. # 437 p 29, XVIII
In his IRISH FOLK & FAIRY TALES OMNIBUS, Michael Scott points out that a fairy maiden are able to feel and make love to a mortal man, but never can bear his child. In 'The Return of Oisin' Niamh GoldenHair have some reflections about that matter, when she bid Oisin farewell before his return to his own world:
'And once again, for the thousandth time, the princess of Tir na nOg longed to belong to the world of Man once more so that she might fully experience the love of Oisin. But that was impossible; everything had its price, and the price of eternal life was sterility.' # 582
Throughout Britain, particularly in the lonely parts of western Scotland, there are literally hundreds of stone circles, varying in size from about 12 feet in diameter to very large areas several hundred feet across. Some scientists, such as Professor Alexander Thom, have carried out experiments to prove that the circles had been constructed with such incredible accuracy that it is possible to make use of them to calculate the movements of the sun, the moon and the stars during the year. It is accordingly believed that the people responsible for erecting the circles must have had a thorough knowledge of Mathematics. The 'circles' are not always perfectly round in shape but are often flattened circles and ellipses. Stone circles were built long before Christian times, yet when the churches were later established many of them were built within these ancient circles. Such is the case of Tregaron and Llanddewi Brefi churches in Dyfed. Sir Mortimer Wheeler once wrote, 'It is likely enough that some of the stone circles were like medieval churches, used for communal secular, no less than for religious purposes in an age when the two were essentially one and indivisible.' Many people believe that stone circles were erected in connection with astronomy. In view of the great difficulty of transporting these huge blocks of stone and raise them into position, one wonders why wood was not used for the purpose. However there is a great deal of support today for the theory that these prehistoric stone structures were erected to capture and store some form of energy which was then transmitted across the land from stone to stone along the mysterious system of ley lines first noticed by Alfred Watkins. # 49
STONE OF ABUNDANCE
Equivalent, the Cauldron of Abundance. Appears plenty in Celtic mythology as for instance as the Grail in Wolfram's poem. Similar stone appears in the Welsh PEREDUR, which correspondences the Celtic Cauldron of the Dagda. And in the Welsh legend, Bran obtained the Cauldron. - In a poem by Taliesin the Cauldron forms part of the spoils of Hades. # 562
STONE OF DESTINY
Otherwise LIA FAIL, or Stone of Scone. One of the treasures of the Danaans, which they brought from one of the four cities, Falias. It was the Stone of Destiny on which the High Kings of Ireland stood when they were crowned, and which was supposed to confirm the election of a rightful monarch by roaring under him as he took his place on it. The actual stone which was so used at the inauguration of a reign did from immemorial times exist at Tara, and was sent thence to Scotland early in the sixth century for the crowning of Fergus the Great, son of Erc, who begged his brother Murtagh mac Erc, King of Ireland, for the loan of it. An ancient prophesy told that wherever this stone was, a king of the Scotic (i.e., Irish-Milesian) should reign. This is the famous Stone of Scone, which never came back to Ireland, but was removed to England by Edward I in 1297, and is now the Coronation Stone in Westminster Abbey. # 562
The Coronation Stone at Westminster Abbey is identical with the Stone of Scone. See: STONE OF DESTINY. # 562
A large circular array of stones on Salisbury Plain, one of many found in western Britain. Stonehenge was not its original name, the name merely dating from medieval times. It was built in three stages: in about 2800 BC, a ditch and bank with the Heel Stone; in about 2000 BC, bluestone pillars, perhaps brought from the Prescelly Mountain in Wales, transported by sea and up the Avon, and then overland, possibly put up by the Beaker People; and in about 1500 BC sarsen trilithons put up, probably by the Wessex culture.
One of the legends says Stonehenge was brought from Ireland at the suggestion of Merlin, to be used as a memorial for the dead. It is possible that this account contains some trace of an oral tradition that it was transported over water. Professor Rhys suggests that Myrddin was worshipped at Stonehenge. Without doubt, the ancient circle of Stonehenge is the most enigmatic of all the mysteries bequeathed us by the ancients, and it is not surprising that some people believe the stones to have been carried from distant places by magical means. It has been recognized from very early times that Stonehenge was built to mark calendrical periods - the ancient Roman author Diodorus Siculus wrote of the Sun God visiting the circle once every 19 years. Within a day or so, the 19-year period does measure a cycle of considerable importance to Stonehenge for it measures a period-return of the moon's node to a solar point. The movement of the nodes of the moon is in a gradual circling of the ecliptic (which of course marks the movement of the sun), in contrary direction to the planets. This 'lunar node cycle' is 18 years and seven months. In three of these nodal revolutions, which take a sequence of 56 years, the moon completes a circuit of eclipses and then begins the same sequence again. The cycle describes a complete relationship between sun and moon. The arrangement of uprights at Stonehenge is designed (among other things) to mark this periodicity of 18 years and seven months, which Diodorus Siculus rounded-up to 19 years. Some authors - most notably Professor Gerald Hawkins of Boston University, who followed outline plans drawn up by earlier investigators have treated the arrangement of stones as though it were a complex graphic computer of critical solar and lunar positions. In his STONEHENGE DECODED, Hawkins claimed that 10 of the alignments of the circle point to significant positions of the sun, within an accuracy of under one degree, while a different set of 14 alignments point to extreme positions of the moon. Further, he claims, that when the winter moon rises over the horizon above the Heel Stone, then an eclipse of sun or moon will follow. The eclipse of sun and moon is one of the most obvious pointers to the 19-year cycle of Diodorus Siculus, for the lunar node is actually the point where the path of the moon crosses the path of the sun (the ecliptic). Hawkins' own conclusions have been subjected to a battery of criticism, yet there may be little doubt that in some mysterious way the circle of stones was raised as a ritual centre, its stones marking out significant solar-lunar positions, the most important of which was linked with the '19-year' cycle. Cotsworth of Acomb recognized at the end of the last century that for the stone circle to measure precisely the full range of amplitude for sunrise and sunsets at the Winter Solstice, another stone (long removed) should have marked the direction of sunset at the south-western end of the axis line which marked the period of the Yuletide (Christmas) festival. A fallen stone, now dramatically and quite erroneously called the 'Slaughter Stone', once stood erect, and, through the resultant aperture it formed with a nearby stone, the sun could be seen to set on the shortest day. Cotsworth proposed that this fallen stone formerly stood erect in line with the vertical Friar's Heel stone, to align the amplitude of the Summer Solstice. His propositions appear to confirm Sir Norman Lockyer's view that, 'Not only does the sun rise on June 21st, at one end of the axis or line which divides the circle of Stonehenge, but it also appears to set at the other end of this same axis at the time of the shortest day (21 December)' - Cotsworth derived much pleasure from the fact that this orientation appears to have been echoed in the arrangement of the central tower of York Minster. He took the matter of orientation a step forward, however, by pointing to the two vertical stones which had not attracted the attention of earlier writers, and had therefore not been explained, even though they fell on the winter sunrise and summer sunset axis. After a careful examination of these orientations, he was convinced that these marked the ancient Druidical festivals of Beltane and Hallowe'en, so important in the ancient rites. As in many later cathedrals and churches, and as mentioned above, not all the structures that we see today at Stonehenge were built at the same time. As the result of excavations we can now divide the history of Stonehenge into several periods, covering a span of about twenty centuries between about 3100 and 1100 BC. The first Stonehenge comprised the bank and ditch enclosing the Aubrey Holes. There was probably a ceremonial gateway on roughly the present alignment. There may have been a timber building in the centre, but no evidence for this survives. The site was, as mentioned, built around 3100 BC, but was in use for only about 500 years, after which it reverted to scrub. The second development stage occurred around 2100 BC when Stonehenge was radically remodelled. The about 80 bluestones from the Preseli mountains in south-west Wales were set up at the centre, forming an incomplete double circle. The entrance was widened and a pair of Heel Stones erected. The nearer part of the Avenue was built, aligned with the midsummer sunrise.
The third phase of Stonehenge about 2000 BC saw the arrival of the sarsen stones, which were arranged in an outer circle with a continuous run of lintels. Inside the circle five trilithons were placed in a horseshoe arrangement, whose remains we can still see today. The axis of the monument pointed to the midsummer sunrise and was marked externally by a single Heel Stone inside a smaller circular ditch. The next stage involved the selection of about twenty bluestones, which were shaped and erected in an oval setting inside the sarsen horseshoe. At least two miniature copies in bluestone were made of the great sarsen trilithons. Their separated components still survive. Sometime later, around 1550 BC, two rings of holes were dug to form once again a double circle of bluestones but the project was abandoned. The final stage of Stonehenge took place soon after 1550 BC when the bluestones were rearranged in the horseshoe and circle that we see the remains of today. About 60 bluestones were used, but very few survive. The largest bluestone, the Altar Stone probably stood as a tall pillar on the axial line of the monument. # 34 - 35 - 151 - 156 - 295 - 562 - 702
See also: CYFARWYDDION, SEANACHIES, and BARDS. The story-teller acted as a guardian of otherworldly traditions, revealing the inner meaning through skilled retelling. Along these established pathways, seekers were enabled to explore their own problems and frustrations in a creative way, finding empowerment and help in time of trouble. It is to the source of the 'saving story' that we too are drawn today: people find the companionship of the story in scriptures, poetry and novels, for these may reveal deep wells of nourishment in times of need. There is no greater healing than to be told a story that answers our present condition or predicament. Each of us has a story to which we can respond wholeheartedly and which will teach us wisdom. The repitition and 'giving' of that story may provide us with clues about the purpose and direction of our own life, as well as imparting initiatory teaching to others. # 437 p 11 ff
STORYTELLERS REPERTOIRE, THE
Though the ancient storytellers were doubtless aware of the existence of the separate 'cycles', each with its distinct DRAMATIS PERSONAE, there is no mention of them as such in the extant literature. In the classification of tales that has survived, the stories are not grouped according to cycles, nor are the events in the life-stories of individual personages arranged chronologically, as they are in the Lives of the Saints. Instead the stories are grouped according to the subjects with which they are concerned - as in a modern index of folktale types. There is no way of estimating the antiquity of this mode of classification. All that can be said is that the two extant medieval versions of it, nowadays designated List A and List B, are probably derived from an original which was already in existence in the tenth century. The order of classification is different in the two lists, each of which contains some subject-headings which are absent from the other. List A contains seventeen types of tales, List B fifteen, thirteen types being common to both. There is no reason to suppose, however, that types recorded in only one of the lists, such as Conceptions and Births, Voyages, and Tragic Deaths, are less authentic than the others, and little weight can be attached to the omissions. The two lists may be collated as follows:
Types in Lists A and B:
- Destructions (Togla)
- Cattle-raids (Tána)
- Courtships (Tochmarca)
- Battles (Catha)
- Feasts (Fessa)
- Adventures (Echtrai)
- Elopements (Aithid)
- Slaughters (Airgne)
- Irruptions (Tomadma)
- Visions (Físi)
- Loves (Serca)
- Expeditions (Sluagid)
- Invasions (Tochomlada)
Types in List A only:
- Caves (Uatha)
- Voyages (Immrama)
- Violent Deaths (Oitte)
- Sieges (Forbassa)
Types in List B only:
- Conceptions and Births (Coimperta)
- Frenzies (Buili)
A preamble to List A in the Book of Leinster indicates that the poets memorized the tales under these headings:
'Of the qualifications of a Poet in Stories and in Deeds, here follows, to be related to kings and chiefs, viz.: Seven times Fifty Stories, i.e. Five times Fifty Prime Stories, and Twice Fifty Secondary Stories; and these Secondary Stories are not permitted (assigned) but to four grades only, viz., an ollamb, an anrath, a cli, and a cano. And these are the Prime Stories: Destruction, and Cattle-raids, and Courtships, and Battles, and Caves, and Voyages, and Violent Deaths, and Feasts, and Sieges, and Adventures, and Elopements, and Slaughters.' After listing the tales under these twelve headings, five more headings are introduced with the statement that: It is as Prime Stories these below are estimated; namely, Irruptions, and Visions, and Loves, and Expeditions and Invasions.' While the preamble asserts that there were 250 Prime Stories and 100 Secondary Stories, less than 200 of the Prime Stories, and none of the Secondary Stories, are listed. It is possible that certain categories of Prime Stories are missing from both lists. For example, a section of the TÁIN is devoted to the MACGNIMARTHA (Youthful Exploits') of CuChulain, and there is a tale called MACGNIMARTHA FINN. In any case, the absence of any reference to the nature of the hundred 'Secondary Stories' (Foscéla) constitutes a serious gap in our knowledge. The omission of these tales from the lists, together with the fact that they were the prerogative of the first four grades of poets, suggests that it may not have been considered proper to tell them to the public generally, and there seems to be no justification for regarding them as 'secondary' in any pejorative sense. Again, the body of the traditional lore recounted at the Assembly of Carmun includes such subjects as Assemblies, Annals, Prohibitions, and Divisions, which do not seem to be fully covered by the headings in the Lists. It also mentions the important class of tales known as Dindsenchas, stories of places, to which there is no reference in the lists. Thus, important as they are as an indication of the way in which the poets organized their material, the lists as we have them cannot be regarded as a complete canon of the traditional literature, though evidence we have considered suggests that List A with its seventeen types made up of twelve plus five may be an attempt to arrange the tales in accordance with a cosmological pattern. Again, storytelling was a feature of the celebration of seasonal festivals, while it has been the custom at wakes for the dead, at christenings, and at weddings down to our own day. We may believe that originally there were tales appropiate to each occasion. We have noted that at the Assembly of Carmun, and probably at other great ceremonial gatherings, the whole repertoire of tales was declaimed. In this respect the custom among the early Celts may not have been very different from what it is in our Christian ritual. But outside the ritual the deeds of mythical heroes cannot be repeated by mortal men. # 352 - 503 - 548 - 650
STRAITS OF MOYLE
(between Ireland and Scotland) It was here Aoife executed her cruelty to her step-children (CHILDREN OF LIR). # 562
An Arthurian kingdom, perhaps identical with East Wales, ruled by Brandegoris. # 156 - 418
A British kingdom in the Lowlands of Scotland in the traditional Arthurian period. The names and dates of the kings are uncertain. # 156
STRAY SOD, THE
Sometimes called 'The Lone Sod' or Foidin Seacrain. The Irish version of the state of being Pixy-led or Pook-ledden. It is not effected by lights or voices; the general explanation is that a fairy spell is laid on a piece of turf so that the human stepping on it is unable to find his way out of a well-known spot, and wanders helplessly, often for several hours, until the spell is suddenly lifted. References to this phenomenon are to be found in many of the learned writings of the seventeenth century, but the fullest modern account is given in THE MIDDLE KINGDOM by D. A. Mac Manus, who devotes a short chapter to 'The Stray Sod'. Several anecdotes illustrate the belief, among them one of a rector who was called out one Midsummer Night to visit a sick parishioner who lived about seven miles off by road. A pleasant footpath more than halved the distance, so the rector determined to walk there. The footpath led through a strong gate to a field with a fairy oak in the middle of it and a stile at the other end of the path. The rector walked straight through the field, but when he got to the other side of it, the stile was not to be found, and what was more the path had gone. The rector walked along the hedge, feeling for any possible gap, but there was none. When he got back the gate had gone as well as the stile. He walked round and round the field, following the hedge for several hours, until suddenly the spell lifted and he found the gate. He went through it and home, where he took his bicycle and went by the road. The usual spell in Ireland as in England against fairy misleading is to turn one's coat. The rector did not try the spell of Turning Clothes, but D. A. Mac Manus says that it has been tried with the stray sod and has failed. About how to get hold of a fairy, see: FAIRY SPELLS. # 100 - 407
The traditional name for a paralytic seizure. It was a shortened version of 'fairy-stroke' or 'elf-stroke'. It was generally believed that the victim had been carried away by the fairies and what Kirk calls 'a lingering substituted image' left in his place. This was sometimes supposed to be a fairy baby or an aged fairy or, alternatively, a Stock, a roughly-carved wooden image which was given by Glamour the appearance of the victim. It was sometimes supposed to happen to cattle and other stock. An example occurs in 'The Tacksman of Auchriachan', told in Stewart's POPULAR SUPERSTITIONS OF THE HIGHLANDS. An example of a human image of wood occurs in the story of Sandy Harg's Wife. Honey-dew, the excreta of aphides, was also called 'stroke', and was associated with the smaller Trooping Fairies who were supposed to feed on it. See also: BLIGHTS AND ILLNESSES ATTRIBUTED TO THE FAIRIES. # 100 - 370 - 621
SUALTAM MAC ROIG
(soo'al tah môc ro'eh) The reputed father of CuChulain, and the mortal husband of Dechtire. His severed head called warning to the men of Ulster when Medb attacked them. Bran's head gave similar warning and protection to Britain. # 166 - 454
Legends of secret underground passages are always fascinating. There are many of these stories to be heard in Wales. Generally they seem very far-fetched, particularly in view of the incredible distances involved and the amount of labour that would be required to engineer such routes. But in a few cases the legends have been proved to be based on an element of truth. We often read in the newspapers of workmen, engaged on road repairs or excavation work, who have by chance broken into stone-lined subterranean passages. Unfortunately in most cases they are found to be blocked by roof falls after a short distance. - Churchyard, writing about his visit to the ruins of the Roman city of Caerleon in 1587, recorded, 'I have seen caves underground that go I know not how far, all made of excellent work and goodly great stones both overhead and underfoot.' Today there are several legends of mysterious underground passages associated with Caerleon and it would seem that in Churchyard's day they were still accessible. Throughout Britain there is an abundance of these stories and many of them are linked with tales of buried treasure which is generally supposed to be guarded by dragons, fierce eagles or nasty ghosts. There are other legends that concern an inquisitive fiddler or hornblower who enters an underground passage. People on the surface listen to him playing his instrument and follow his movements until the playing stops but he is never seen again. During times of unrest or persecution some tunnels are reputed to have been utilized by people in order to escape from their enemies. At Machynlleth there is supposed to be a secret passage from the Royal House (which used to be the town gaol) to the river. It is said that Charles I was once held prisoner here and was helped to escape by way of this passage.
A few miles away is Mathafarn House where an underground tunnel is supposed to link with Owain Glyndwr's old Parliament House at Machynlleth. - Near Knighton the monks from Monaughty are believed to have escaped when their monastery was attacked, by making their way along an underground passage to Pilleth. A similar story occurs on Gower where a secret passage is supposed to lead from Penrice Church to Sanctuary Farm where a nunnery once stood. Llansteffan Castle, Dyfed. Stories are told of an underground passage leading from this old castle to a mansion called Plas Llansteffan. Apparently in olden days many attempts were made to complete the journey down this mysterious passage - but always in vain, for a ghost blew out the candles of everyone who entered the passage after proceeding a certain distance. No attempts in modern times with the use of flashlight have been reported. - The Culver Hole, near Port Eynon, West Glamorgan, is one of the strangest places in Wales. It is reached on foot by following the coast around to the north from Port Eynon. Sixty feet of rough masonry have been built to seal up a cleft in the rocks. A tricky scramble gives access to a steep stone staircase leading to a smaller upper chamber. The purpose of this construction has never been satisfactorily explained. Some say that it was a smuggler's cave but surely it was far too obvious for that purpose. Others claim that it was built as a columbarium where pigeons were bred for food. Or was it some sort of castle built by the pirate John Lucas? There is a legend of a secret passage to the Salthouse which he is said to have built. In 1850 the local curate dug up several mammoth bones and a skull so large that he was unable to get it out of the cave. So he buried it again. Whether it has since been removed is not known. # 49
Robert Kirk calls those Highland fairies that live under the fairy hills, or Brochs, Subterraneans. They do not always inhabit the same hill, but travel from place to place, moving their lodgings always at quarter day. In this they seem to differ from those fairies that live constantly under some human habitation and seem to resemble the Roman LEMURES in being the spirits of ancestral inhabitants. Kirk says, however, that the Highlanders believe these mounds to be the homes of their dead ancestors and therefore sacred. In their 'flitting' times, therefore, they may be equated with the Sluagh. # 100 - 370
We know that 'Sulis' was the name of the native goddess, from her inscriptions, and that she was linked to the thermal waters at Bath who was twinned with Minerva at the Roman occupation, which is the only reference we have to Sulis, but this is not surprising, as Celtic or British deities often had a strictly local identity relating to the environment. Her cult was evidently well-established since the Roman temple incorporated the worship of other deities apart from herself. Sulis was a goddess of hot springs, the Underworld, of knowledge and prophesy. She includes in her name the meaning 'orifice or gap'. She was responsible for therapy. There is no reason to assume that Sulis, with the three basic attributes that we have, was any different from other aspects of this type of goddess, and there is plenty of additional evidence to support the theory that she was, indeed, a pre-Roman deity similar to the fierce and powerful beings that we know from Irish, Welsh, and other native traditions dating back to magical and mythical originals. Her eternal fire was supposed to have been brought by Aeneas from the sacked city of Troy, a theme that recur in the legend of the founder of Bath, King Bladud who, disfigured by a leprous skin-disease, bathed in the hot mud which pigs used to heal their own sores. He founded Sulis' temple over the spot. The restored Roman temple is most impressive, incorporating all levels of building and indicating the vast spiritual resources available at that site. # 627
A name for the otherworld kingdom ruled over by Melwas. He abducted Guinevere to this land and Arthur rescued her. It may be a source for the county of Somerset. # 454
Among the Celts the sun was known as Sol or Sul or Sulis. Her rites were celebrated especially on hilltops overlooking springs, like the springs of Bath, which used to be called Aquae Sulis. The Romans set up altars to her under the name of Sul Minerva. Various priestesses dedicated to her entered Celtic mythology as sun-women, like Iseult, Grainne, and Deirdre. Many of the old pagan festivals involving bonfires, torches, candles and other lights were originally dedicated to the Goddess-as-Sun, or to the Goddess as controller of the sun and its cycles. # 701
To the Celts she was Sul or Sulis, from SUIL, the sun's eye. At doomsday, she would give birth to a daughter sun who would illuminate the new world to come. In England she was worshiped at Silbury Hill (Sulisbury) and at Bath, where the Romans identified her with Minerva and built altars to Sul Minerva. # 701 p 221
It might have been an anticipation of the Sun-goddess of the next universe that placed her symbol on the rock faces of Celtic megalithic monuments, such as New Grange in Ireland, where she appears as a dotted and rayed sun sign. # 701 p 14
It can be difficult at times to distinguish the true supernatural wizard from the wizard who has acquired his skill, however unusual, from practical experience and training and some inborn aptitude. The wizards of the Sidhe, such, for instance, as Bresil, the druid who laid the spell of diminishment on Etain, may be counted as minor supernatural wizards, and so may the Giant wizards who have their lives hidden away in a separable soul, such as the wizard giant in 'The Battle of the Birds'; but the true supernatural wizard is he who started as a god. Gwydion is an example of this; so is Bran the Blessed. # 100
A kingdom, perhaps identical with Sorelois, of which Galehaut made himself master. When Arthur was living with the False Guinevere, Galehaut gave the genuine Guinevere the kingdom of Surluse. The River Assurne marked its boundaries with Logres. # 156
Celtic swan divinities are solar, benificent and sacred. They are prominent in Celtic symbolism and have magic powers of music, also the therapeutic powers of the sun and waters; they also represent love and purity. Swans can be shape-shifters and can assume human form, a theme which appears frequently in myth and fairy tale; they can be recognized by having gold and silver chains round their necks. As a creature of the three elements - earth, air and water - the swan can command all three. The children of Lir were transformed into swans by their step-mother and lived thus for 900 years until at last Saint Mochaomhog's churh bells released them. # 161
The swan maiden story has currency all over the world, but in Britain it occurs most often in Celtic fairy-tales. In the general run of the stories, the enchanted maidens are the daughters of a royal Magician. The hero sees them bathing or dancing, falls in love with one of them and steal her feather cloak. A swan is one of the most usual forms for the maidens to assume, but they are often doves or partridges. In the main type of the swan maiden tale, the hero is set tasks by the wizard father and helped by his future wife. The story often follows the same pattern as Nicht Nought Nothing, with the obstacle flight, the destruction of the wizard and the breach of Taboo which causes magical forgetfulness resolved by the motif of the bartered bed. Hartland in THE SCIENCE OF FAIRY TALES analyses the swan maiden tale in detail and treats the Seal Maiden legend as a variant of the same tale. This, however, is a much simpler tale, the seal-skin is a more necessary part of the seal maiden's life, the finding of the skin and escape into the sea is intrinsic to the seal maiden story, although it occasionally occurs in the pure swan maiden type. A representative example of the Scottish swan maiden story is to be found in WAIFS AND STRAYS OF CELTIC TRADITION, VOL. III, the tale of 'The Son of the King of Ireland and the Daughter of the King of the Red Cap'. # 100 - 288 - 691
The appearance of a person as a death omen in Cumberland. Mentioned by William Henderson in FOLK LORE OF THE NORTHERN COUNTIES. The Yorkshire equivalent is Waff. # 100 - 302
Swine played an important part in the life of the Celts. Its flesh was regarded as food for the gods at otherworld feasts. The pig was the attribute of Manannan, whose pigs provided supernatural food since when they were killed and eaten they returned daily to supply more. The Celtic sow goddess Ceridwen, the 'Old White One', is a Great Mother and Phaea, the 'Shining One', represents the moon and fertility. Maccus was a swine-god and the worship of the pig was widespread. Some tribes abstained from swine-flesh and it was not eaten by the Galatian Celts and little eaten in the Highlands of Scotland, although it was eaten in Ireland. The boar was ceremoniously hunted and killed by the Celts. The black sow is death, cold and evil. See also: BOAR, and PIG. # 161
(d. 862) Bishop of Winchester. He was the tutor of King Ethelwulf who later made him Bishop. Swithun is popularly credited with control of the weather. He particularly asked to be buried outside Winchester Cathedral but was later transferred inside the church on 15 July; such was the heavy rainfall and accompanying miracles, that he was moved back to his original resting-place. If it rains on that day it is believed that rain will continue falling for another forty days. # 454
Swords of heroes and sacred kings typically came out of a stone, a tree, or water, having been forged in fairyland or under the earth by magical beings. On the hero's death, the sword returns to its origin. Some famous magical or holy swords include Arthur's Excalibur, Lancelot's Arondight, and Beowulf's Hrunting. # 701 p 31
SWORD OF STRANGE HANGINGS
A sword which once belonged to King David of Israel. His son Solomon placed it aboard his ship, his wife having made the hempen hangings for it. Later these were replaced by Perceval's sister who made hangings for it with her hair. # 153 - 156
The bridge which separates this world and the Otherworld. It first makes its appearance in CULHWCH AND OLWEN where one of Arthur's allies, Osla Big-Knife, lays his knife down over a river in order to help Arthur and his host cross. It passed into the mythos of Lancelot who has to cross such a bridge to rescue Guinevere from Melwas. It also becomes one of the tests which the Grail Knights have to undergo in order to reach the Castle of the Grail. CuChulain learns to cross a similar bridge when he is trained by Scathach. # 272 - 418 - 434 - 451 - 454 - 517