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Maeshowe (Chambered Tomb)

In 1888 Geo.Marwick recalls when a boy being told by an old gentleman that after sunset on a full moon the able-bodied married women would take a 'caisy' of ashes and earth, which being dumped on the top or sides of "Mae-howe" would stengthen the mound to keep the bad folk in. And to show their contempt they would also leave their excrement there ! wideford Posted by wideford
20th January 2006ce

Creswell Crags (Cave / Rock Shelter)

According to W B Dawkins' 1880 "Early Man in Britain" (an excerpt online at,
the 'Pin Hole Cave' is so called because people used to drop a pin in (for luck? for a wish? as an offering?) - part of the ritual being that they took away a pin left by another visitor previously.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
18th January 2006ce

A spooky modern story connected with the Crags, summarised from Liz Linahan's account in her 'More pit ghosts, padfeet and poltergeists' (1995):

One evening a couple were driving home past the crags, and stopped at some temporary traffic lights just near the visitors' centre. The woman glanced out of her window and caught sight of a pale blurred circular shape in the briars next to her, about 2ft from the ground. As she watched it started floating back and forth (though the briars were really dense) and she saw it begin to take on the features of 'an old hag' with dark eyes and a beaked nose, and then hollow cheeks and long hair. At first she thought it must be a prank - but then felt scared and became convinced it was 'something paranormal'. The face moved towards the car and the woman (not unreasonably) screamed, causing her husband to turn round - he said he saw the face briefly before stepping on the accelerator. The woman was so shaken when she got home that the doctor had to be called, and her husband and some police went back to the crags to investigate. They were bemused because entry inside the brambles was nigh on impossible, and one of the policemen ripped his coat trying to do so.

Also that night, around dawn, a lorry driver was driving along the same stretch of road when he had to brake hard and swerve to avoid a 'dark mysterious figure' crossing the road from the visitors' centre side, where it disappeared into the bushes. Shaken, he described it as 'floating' and 'seemingly headless'. He described it as female although there were no particular features that made it so.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
18th January 2006ce

Markland Grips (Hillfort)

One evening in the early 1900s a miner, who had just finished working at Creswell Colliery, thought he'd call in on his fancy woman in Creswell. He was safe because her own husband had just started his shift down the pit. After a bit of courting he set off for his own home in Clowne. He was striding up over Markland Craggs when he looked up ahead of him - and there was the Devil standing there, silhouetted by the full moon. Now really you'd think the Devil would be impressed by a bit of philandering, but apparently he cursed the man, and sent him home white-haired and mumbling gibberish. His own wife was not impressed and he was of no use to man nor beast thereafter.

This tale is described in Liz Linahan's 1996 'More Pit Ghosts, Padfeet and Poltergeists'. Her informant told her he'd heard it from a woman who'd been told it in the 1920s, and liked repeating for the benefit of her poor husband. Even if it's only a scare story to put off straying husbands, perhaps it still suggests that Markland Grips is not the sort of place you'd want to be on a dark night.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
14th January 2006ce

Linnahowe (Artificial Mound)

Marwick ("The Orkney Herald" 11/7/1888), rather fancifully, in my opinion, asserts that Linahowe means "the goddess of love and marriage". He records that local tradition says the Church of Rome sent a priest called Mohr to the Bay of Skaill to convert the pagans, and that he set up a church near by Linahowe. wideford Posted by wideford
9th January 2006ce
Edited 10th January 2006ce

Ring of Bookan (Henge)

Marwick records the tradition ("The Orkney Herald" 11/7/1888) that folk went to the Bookan farmhouse for "the road and perhaps the order of the [pre-marital and marital] services" (Orkney Norn for the former service being 'buikin'). wideford Posted by wideford
9th January 2006ce

The Rollright Stones (Stone Circle)

In Christine Bloxham's book 'Folklore of Oxfordshire' (published by Tempus 2005), There is another version of the witche's rhyme, associated with the Rollright stones involving a Danish General and goes thus:
Said the Danish General
If Long Compton I cou'd see
Then King of England I shou'd be
But replied the British General,
Then rise up hill and stand fast Stone
for Kind of England thou'lt be none
Bloxham's book also tells that the stones can never be counted. A victorian baker, determined to count them accurately, brought a basket containing a pre counted number of loaves and put down one in front of each stone. But he either had not included enough loaves or they mysteriously vanished because he failed in his task.

Another legend says that if anyone can count the same amount of stones three times in a row, they shall have any wish granted.

The witch is said to have changed herself into an Elder tree. A festival of cakes and ale used to be held on Midsummer's Eve, when the Elder was in bloom. People stood in a circle around the tree and as they cut the trunk it would weep red sap, resembling the witch's blood, (blooding a witch is said to rid her of her magical powers) and the King Stone would move his head and watch the spectacle.

The last tale retold in Bloxham's book tells of the Dowser Enid Smithett, who when dowsing at the site of the Rollrights, felt faint and dropped her pendulum in the long grass. Instead of flopping to the ground, it stood rigidly, for some time....

A Farrier from Hook Norton tells of how the King Stone got its unusual shape by saying an immoral king tricked Wayland Smithy into making enchanted armour for him, but upon wearing it he was twisted and deformed and turned to stone, for only the faeries could don that armour without risk of harm.
jacksprat Posted by jacksprat
8th January 2006ce
Edited 15th January 2006ce

Knockfeerina (Sacred Hill)

Taken from Sacred Ireland by Cary Meehan

"is traditionally known as the 'Hill of Truth'. It is said to personify Donn Fírinne, the Celtic God of death and fertility. In folklore he is seen as a giant or the Fairy King. He is said to live at the bottom of a deep hole in the hillside called 'Poll na Bruinne' and anyone trying to investigate this entrance to the Otherworld will not come away unscathed and may even be drawn in, never to be seen again. There are many cautionary tales to deter the curious. However, good custodians are rewarded. One local farmer was granted temporary entrance to Donn's world under the hill where he met with a brother and sister, both of whom had died many years before.
Donn is closely associated with weather omens. He is said to collect the clouds on his hill and hold them there for a while to warn of approaching rain. Sometimes he is said to be in the clouds if the weather is particularly bad. He is also said to be flying abroad when someone dies.
There is a cairn on the top of Knockfeerina called 'Buachaill Bréige', meaning 'the false or lying boy' and it was the custom, and indeed the duty, of local people, to carry a stone up the hill to put on this cairn once a year. The hilltop has traditionally been a popular Lughnasa assembly site visited at harvest-time, and at this time freshly picked berries and flowers were strewn around the cairn as offerings for the hill's fairy inhabitants. On the eves of the festivals of Bealtaine and Samhain, young girls used to leave gifts high up on the side of the hill below the western ridge called 'the Stricken'.
Like the hills to the east, Knockfeerina is also associated with the adventures of the Fianna. On the Stricken is a large ring-fort called 'Lios na bhFian' or 'Fort of the Fianna'. One such adventure is named after the 'Palace of the Quicken Trees' where the Fianna become the victims of an act of revenge after being lured to a feast in an imaginary palace.
A little wary of the invitation, Fionn had left his son Oisin and a number of the Fianna behind. And sure enough, while they waited for the food to arrive, the fire began to send out black clouds of evil-smelling smoke. The palace around them disappeared and they found themselves sitting on the hillside and fixed to the ground, unable to rise.
Fionn put his thumb to his month, which he did when he wanted to see to the heart of things, and found that the spell that held them had been cast by the three kings of the Island of Torrent. These kings where marching on the palace to kill them and only the blood of these three kings could undo the spell.
When Oísín and the other Fianna came to see if they were alright, Fionn warned them not to come in. He explained what they must do to stop the kings. Evenutally the Fianna managed to intercept and then kill the three kings. They took their heads and sprinkled the blood around their companions. Thus the spell was broken.
Issues of revenge and death are common in Fianna stories. This particular story also illustrated the dark side of Knockfeerina and its reflection in the human psyche. On a lighter note, folk tradition has it that Donn and his followers fought battles on behalf of the countryside. They might take the form of a cross-country hurling match against the fairy people of Knockainy. The winner would take the best of the potato crop to their side of the county"
bawn79 Posted by bawn79
4th January 2006ce

The King Stone (Standing Stone / Menhir)

A quote from Aubrey Burl's 'Rites of the Gods':
Up until the eighteenth century, a 'barren wife' might visit the circle during the night "in the hope that by baring her breasts and touching the Kingstone with them" she would be made pregnant.
Does this mean you actually become pregnant as a result of touching the stone - what Burl surely implies? He doesn't specify his source. You'd imagine it more likely that the stone would make you more fertile and so more likely to get pregnant via the usual method. But maybe I'd never really thought about this (not uncommon?) idea before: maybe it is the former that was believed? Especially with the stone being male - the King in fact.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
3rd January 2006ce

The Auld Wifes Lifts (Natural Rock Feature)

F.R. Coles wrote this about the stones in 1906
"Auld Wives' Lifts belong, in the megalithic folk-lore, to the section which comprises legends of women, or witches, or carlines, who transport through the air masses of stone, great or small, and here and there drop them ; thus forming cairns, groups of standing stones, or single groups of enormous blocks, like the pierres levies
'at Poictiers and other French localities. This remarkable group on Craigmaddie Muir has also associations with another phase of superstition ; for Mr Robertson observes that it is " still necessary for all strangers visiting this enchanted place for the first time, to creep through it, if they wish to avert the calamity of dying childless." He notes the old spelling was Craig-madden, and translates madden as
= moid/lean, entreaty, supplication : The rock of prayer."
fitzcoraldo Posted by fitzcoraldo
30th December 2005ce

Dinas Dinlle (Cliff Fort)

Could this be the place mentioned in 'Math Son of Mathonwy' in the Mabinogion?
Then they went towards Dinas Dinllev, and there he brought up Llew Llaw Gyffes, until he could manage any horse, and he was perfect in features, and strength, and stature. And then Gwydion saw that he languished through the want of horses and arms. And he called him unto him. "Ah, youth," said he, "we will go to-morrow on an errand together. Be therefore more cheerful than thou art." "That I will," said the youth.

Next morning, at the dawn of day, they arose. And they took way along the sea coast, up towards Bryn Aryen. And at the top of Cevn Clydno they equipped themselves with horses, and went towards the Castle of Arianrod.
The notes of Lady Guest's translation imply she thought so:
"DINLLEV*: DINAS DINLLE is situated on the sea-shore, about three miles southward from Caernarvon, in the parish of Llantwrawg, on the confines of a large tract of land, called Morva Dinlleu. The remains of the fortress consist of a large circular mount, well defended by earthen ramparts and deep fosses."
*Probably 'Dinlleu' with a u, not a v? to tie in with Lleu Llaw Gyffes?

She also adds: "The Rev. P. B. Williams, in his "Tourist's Guide through Caernarvonshire," speaking of Clynnog in that county, says: "There is a tradition that an ancient British town, situated near this place, called Caer Arianrhod, was swallowed up by the sea, the ruins of which, it is said, are still visible during neap tides, and in fine weather."

Indeed, there is a stack off the coast (no doubt visible from Dinas Dinlle?) called Caer Arianrhod.

You can read the story courtesy of the brilliant Sacred Texts Archive:
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
23rd December 2005ce

Cholesbury Camp (Hillfort)

From the website which Kammer links to below:
..a somewhat spooky story I unearthed about Cholesbury Camp a while back. Ever heard of the 'Screaming Pigs of Cholesbury'? Well the story is told of strange 'unearthly noises' emanating from Camp and the reluctance of even the most fearless of the men of the village to enter the Hillfort after dusk. So if anyone fancying a stroll as darkness falls is welcome to test out this theory let me know what happens!
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
23rd December 2005ce

Bossiney Mound (Artificial Mound)

Neil Fairbairn, in his 1983 'Travellers guide to the kingdoms of Arthur', mentions a Christianised version of the story. He says that at the end of the world the golden round table will rise to the earth's surface and be carried up to heaven. The saints will sit round it to eat, and Christ will be the waiter and serve them.

He also mentions that at its yearly midsummer appearance, a flash of light from it briefly illuminates the sky, and then it sinks again. Nah that'll just be the earthlights I reckon.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
14th December 2005ce

Clivocast (Standing Stone / Menhir)

The Canmore record has a spot of folklore about this 9'10" stone from the Name Book of 1878: "It is said to mark the spot where the son of the Viking Harold Harfager was killed some time around 900AD. He is said to have been buried in the tumulus to the southwest." I guess this tumulus must be the chambered cairn you can see on the OS map, which is on the island on the other side of the Skuda Sound. Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
13th December 2005ce

Mattocks Down (Standing Stones)

Practically in Exmoor, one of the standing stones here (at SS601439) is 2.5m high - or at least it was before being struck by lightning very recently. The other (at ss603438) lies down and is 2.8m long (with another bit unattached slightly to the north, according to the SMR Magic record). Also on Mattocks Down, in the vicinity of the first stone, are four round barrows.

Lilian Wilson's 1976 book 'Ilfracombe Yesterdays', gives the local view of the standing stone: "This is a rock believed to be a 'Gathering Stone' around which chiefs and tribes of that part of Devon met in times of trouble, or when they had matters to discuss."
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
13th December 2005ce

Ballochroy (Stone Row / Alignment)

The 'Alternative Approaches to Folklore' bibliography at
mentions that the stones at Ballochroy were thrown by Brownies (one assumes the little people type, not the bobble-hatted sort). Do you know more about the story? Tiny Cara Island, just across the Sound of Gigha, has its 'Brownies' Chair'. Perhaps they threw them from there (though you wouldn't normally think them so strong).
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
12th December 2005ce

Dinas Emrys (Hillfort)

Near Dinas Emrys, Owain ap Macsen fought with a giant. As they were equal in fighting with tree trunks, Owain leapt up a hill on the other side of the river and cast a stone which fell at the feet of the giant, who cast it back. They then tried wrestling. Owain became enraged, threw down the giant, who shattered a huge stone in the fall and a piece entering his back, he was killed. In dying he crushed Owain to death.
From T Gwynn Jones's "Welsh Folklore and Folk Custom" (1930), from a Welsh 1875 source.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
9th December 2005ce

Churn Milk Joan (Standing Stone / Menhir)

I grew up just down the hill from Milk Churn Joan (as we were taught it by local farmers, etc). The story I heard as a kid was that Joan who had two very sickly parents went out in a very bleak and fierce winter in search of milk. I forget the details but she meets the devil who (perhaps) offers an exchange of life for the life of her parents. She accpets and that is her to this day on the hill.

As for donating a penny on top, this is indeed true and me and a friend would regularly go up there to stand on each other's shoulders to claim the cash. A local farmer (no doubt spuriously) presented a very large old whiskey bottle full of pennies claiming they had all come from the top of Milk Churn Joan to inspire further looting.
Posted by Tirath Singh
9th December 2005ce

Dingieshowe (Broch)

The trows/trolls meet here on Midsummer's Eve - and over by Newark Bay about a-mile-and-a-half as the crow flies is Trowietown (not far from the burnt mounds etc. of HY50SE 2). wideford Posted by wideford
9th December 2005ce

The Wimblestone (Standing Stone / Menhir)

From Ruth L Tongue's 'Somerset Folklore'.
Zebedee Fry were coming home late from the hay-making above Shipham. It were full moon, for they'd worked late to finish, and the crop was late being a hill field, so he had forgot what night 'twas. He thought he saw something big and dark moving in the field where the big stone stood, but he was too bone-weary to go chasing any stray bullock. Then something huge and dark in field came rustling all alongside lane hedge, and Zebedee he up and dive into the brimmles in the ditch till it passed right along, and then he ran all a-tiptoe to reach Shipham. When he come to the field gate he duck two-double and he rush past it. But, for all that, he see this gurt stone, twelve feet and more, a-dancing to itself in the moonlight over top end of field. And where it always stood the moon were shining on a heap of gold money. But Zebedee he didn't stop for all that, not until he were safe at the inn at Shipham. They called he all sorts of fool for not getting his hand to the treasure - but nobody seemed anxious to have a try - not after he'd told them how nimble it danced round field. And nobody knows if 'twill dance again in a hundred years. Not till there's a full moon on Midsummer Night.
This was told to Tongue by a schoolfriend, who'd heard it from her Mendip great grandmother, who was 90 at the time.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
7th December 2005ce

Craglea (Natural Rock Feature)

Taken from Sacred Ireland:
This crag is traditionally the home of 'Aoibheal', meaning 'the glowing one' and goddess of this place. It is a powerful nature sanctuary. 'Carrickeevul' meaning 'Aoibheal's Rock' is a 20 feet high projecting rock. She was the goddess protectress of the Dál gCais clan and this was her power place, high above their ancient seat at Greenanlaghna. The story goes that Aoibheal appeared to Brian (Boru) on the night before his death at Clontard in 1014. In her role as 'bean sí' or 'banshee', she foretold his death. Towards the end of the battle the next day, when the king's attendants suggested to Brian that he move away from the fighting (he was 73 years old), he said no, he would stay because Aoibheal had already predicted his death. She is said to have left Craglea when the old woods were cut down. New forests have been planted, so she may have returned. The fort of Greenanlaghna down below is overgrown and dilapidated, but a special place none the less.
bawn79 Posted by bawn79
5th December 2005ce
Edited 6th December 2005ce

Dunmail Raise (Cairn(s))

The armies of the Saxon King Edmond and the Scottish King Malcolm joined forces to fight Dunmail, the King of Cumberland in AD 945, and won. It is said that Edmond himself killed Dunmail at the place where the cairn now stands.
He ordered his prisoners to collect rocks to pile on Dunmail's body, thus forming the cairn.
As Dunmail lay dying he shouted, "My crown - bear it away; never let the Saxon flaunt it."
A few of his warriors fought their way through the Saxons and bore his crown up the fell to Grisedale Tarn, where they threw it into the depths. They said, "Till Dunmail come again to lead us."
Every year the warriors return to the tarn, retrieve the crown, and carry it down to the cairn on Dunmail Raise.
They hit their spears on the top of the cairn, and a voice issues from inside, saying "Not yet, not yet; wait awhile my warriors."
The other legend of the cairn is that when two armies were about to join in battle each soldier from both sides placed a stone on the spot. Those who survived returned and removed a stone.
And I thought it was Bronze Age.
The Eternal Posted by The Eternal
4th December 2005ce

Hare Stone (Standing Stone / Menhir)

I had been wondering if "Hare" and "Harrow" had the same etymology and looked up Harrow in John Field's book 'Place Names of Great Britain and Ireland'. The entry for Harrow-on-the-Hill says it means "Heathen Shrine on the Hill". Posted by Zeb
2nd December 2005ce

Grange / Lios, Lough Gur (Stone Circle)

When this stone circle was being excavated by archaeologists an old woman in the area who was renowned for psychic powers happened to be on her way home from Limerick. She stopped at the site and immediately fell into a trance. In her trance she saw men sacrificing a woman at an altar. She awoke from her trance before they actually cut the woman.
No evidence has ever been found for sacrifice at this site so maybe she was just telling people what she thought they wanted to hear.
bawn79 Posted by bawn79
29th November 2005ce
Edited 30th November 2005ce

Knockadoon Circle K (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork)

Lough Gur is packed full of folklore. Plus check out those fadas!

Taken from Sacred Ireland

"It is said that Lough Gur was formed by the goddess Áine who appears here in different forms as mermaid, young woman and hag. As mermaid she rises from her traditional home beneath the sacred waters of the lake, as maiden she empowers the land's human custodians, and as hag she defends her realm.
There was a stone bridge called Cloghaunainey on the Camoge river north of the lake, said to have been demolished in 1930. A story is told of her meeting by this bridge with the 1st Earl of Desmond, the local landowner. Traditionally, it was required of the tribal chief at his inauguration that he seek acceptance of the goddess of the landscape. This was ritualised in a ceremony in Celtic society called a 'feis' which literally means 'to spend the night'. A 'geasa' is a magical prohibition or taboo. When someone is put under a geasa, the penalty for breaking it is usually death.
The story goes like this: the Earl found Áine by the water combing her hair. He crept up on her and took her cloak which immediately put her in his power. She agreed to bear him a son who was be called Géaroid , but warned him that he must never be surprised by anything the son did. ('Iarla' means 'Earl' but 'iarlais' means 'changeling')
The child was born and given to the Earl and grew up excelling in everything. One evening there was a big gathering at the Earl's castle in Knockainy village. A very accomplished young woman appeared out of nowhere and engaged his son in a contest. She leapt right over the guests and the tables and called him to do the same. He hesitated, but his father, wanting him to be bested by a woman, persuaded him to show what he could do. However, he went even further than his father had expected and astonished everyone by jumping into a bottle and out again. His father was so surprised that he broke the geasa put on him before his son's birth. "Now you have forced me to leave you"said the son. And with that he disappeared into the fairy realm.
It is said that he lies sleeping beneath Knockadoon with his knights waiting for a time when they will ride forth and gain freedom for all Ireland. But for the moment he must content himself with riding across the surface of the lake on a milk white horse with silver shoes. According to legend, he must do this once every seven years till the silver shoes are worn away.
Another legend holds that once every seven years the enchanted lake dries up and then the sacred tree at the bottom of the lake can be seen covered with a green cloth. An old woman of the lake can be seen covered with a green cloth. An old woman (Áine as hag) keeps watch from beneath the cloth. She is knitting, recreating the fabric of life. One time a man came riding by just as the lake had disappeared. He snatched the cloth from the tree and rode away. The woman called out and the waters rose, pulling back the cloth and half the horse with it. So Áine continues to protect her realm helped by the waters of the lake."
bawn79 Posted by bawn79
29th November 2005ce
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