The Modern Antiquarian. Ancient Sites, Stone Circles, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic Mysteries

Latest Posts — Folklore

Previous 25 | Showing 2051-2075 of 2,916 folklore posts. Most recent first | Next 25

Carlungie (Souterrain)

One evening the Laird of Balmachie was riding home from Dundee, to see his wife who was ill in bed. It was getting dark, and he took a short cut off the road, riding across the knolls called the Cur-hills, near Carlungy. He suddenly came across a troop of fairies, who were apparently carrying a human being on a kind of litter. As he got nearer he drew his sword, and bravely demanded "In the name of God, release your captive." The fairies disappeared, and he found it was his wife they had been carrying. He put her on his horse and they rode the short distance home.

Arriving at his house, a servant hurried to attend to his wife, and he went upstairs to help prepare the bedroom. To his amazement, his wife appeared to be still in her bed, complaining away at being neglected by him. Pretending to be most concerned, the Laird told her she should sit by the fire while he had her bed changed. She claimed she couldn't get up - but he picked her up and shoved her on the fire! "She bounced like a sky-rocket, went through the ceiling, and out through the roof of the house, leaving a hole among the slates." (They could never satisfactorily fix this hole, either: once a year the mended slate would come off). His poor real wife explained that some time after sunset a multitude of elves had come in at the window, thronging like bees from a hive. They filled the room, lifted her from the bed and carried her out the window, after which point she remembered nothing until she saw her husband at the Cur-hills.

Story in Gibbings' 'Folklore and Legends, Scotland', quoted in Katherine Briggs' 'Folklore and legends of Britain'.
See http://www.gutenberg.org/files/17071/17071-h/17071-h.htm (page 57).

It's interesting it should have the motif of fairies as bees - also see Twmbarlwm in Wales.


So watch it at the Cur-hills - they are only on the opposite side of the road from Carlungie. The Carlungie souterrains would seem the inspiration for a fairy story - but they were only discovered (or discovered by archaeologists, at least) during ploughing in the 1940s. So I figured there must be older tales to account for the area's strange reputation, and found this in the Statistical Accounts for the Parish of Monikie Years 1791-99
Near the 8th milestone, E. from Dundee, there is a ridge of small hills, called the Cur-hills, where within these 14 years several stone coffins have been found. In the vicinity of the same place, were found upward of 6 feet below the surface of the earth, several trees, oak, fir and birch. There were also found urns, covered with broad stones, below which were ashes, supposed to have been human bodies reduced to that state by burning. To the south of the Cur-hills were found several heads of deer, and horns of a very large size, among marl, about 9 feet below the surface.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
29th April 2005ce
Edited 24th November 2008ce

Linton Hill (Hillfort)

Linton Hill is a outlier of the Cheviot hills. In the 12th century it was the home of the Linton Worm. You might think that the slight earthworks here are the remains of a fort - but actually they are where the Linton Worm squeezed the hill. With its bad habits of breathing fire and poisoning cattle with its breath - not to mention the latest development of it growing wings, local people were getting a bit fed up of the worm. Its reputation reached a man called Somerville, and he travelled north to see it in person. He went to the 'Worm's Lair' - the hollow on the NE side of the hill where the worm liked to hang out. The worm looked up, stared him straight in the face, opened its mouth, and.. went back indoors. You or I would then have left the creature to get on with its life, but Somerville decided he was going to kill it. Ooh so brave. He rigged up a lance with some burning peat and galloped at the worm, sticking the lance down its throat. As the poor animal writhed its death throes it squeezed the hill. For this act of animal cruelty the cad Somerville was given a knighthood, made Royal Falconer and Baron of Lintoune.

(details from JF Leishman's 'Linton Leaves' quoted in 'British Folktales and Legends' by Katherine Briggs)

To the south of the fort are a number of cairns, and to the east, a little clump of trees called 'Poky Knowe' - surely the haunt of the local fairies?
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
29th April 2005ce

Dowsborough (Hillfort)

Dowsborough is a hillfort in the Quantocks. It's covered in oaks, but perhaps there are some places you can look out and see the views along the coast. Inside the bank and ditch is a round barrow from the Bronze Age (possibly later reused as a beacon mound) - so this prominent hill wasn't ignored in times before the fort.

To the south on the curiously named 'Robin Upright's Hill' is a spring called Lady's Fountain; to the south of this a prehistoric dyke known as Dead Woman's Ditch. One theory has it that the dead woman was a woodcutter's wife - he was hanged for her murder in the 1780s. But the info on 'MaGIc' says that a map exists with this name on it from before this date - maybe an insight into how folklore gets updated over time.

As the wood continues north of Dowsborough it becomes Shervage Wood, and this was the home of the infamous Gurt Vurm - a dragon who used to eat six or seven ponies and sheep at one sitting before settling down for a nap curled around the hills. He was as fat round as two or three great oak trees. Things were fine for a while, but then local people started noticing that their livestock was disappearing. A few went up the hill to see what was going on. They didn't come back. Everyone else was a bit loathe to go up there after that.
Every year there was a fair, the Triscombe Revel, and one old lady made all her money for the year by selling wort (bilberry?) tarts there. This year she was getting rather anxious as she couldn't go up to check on the berries, and no one was daft enough to volunteer. Eventually a woodsman from Stogumber came by looking for work. She convinced him that he should go up to the wood and packed him off with some sarnies and some cider. After the steep climb he sat down for his lunch, on a comfy looking log. He'd just got nicely started when the log started squirming under him. "Hold a bit!" he said, picking up his axe. "Thee do movey, do thee? Take that, then." And he hit the 'log' so hard, it was cut in two. One end ran off in one direction, the other the opposite way. The two ends couldn't find each other - so the poor gurt vurm died.
The woodman made his way back to the old woman, carrying a hatful of worts. "There were a dragon there fust go off," he said, thoughtfully. The woman tried to look innocent - didn't he realise? hadn't anyone told him? "Her were a Crowcombe woman," he said later. (Can this whole story just be and excuse to have a dig at another village?!)

Story derived from version by Tongue in 'Somerset Folklore'


The Taunton Community Action website has yet another tale:
"The wood also has other legends and may have been always had a reputation of being otherworldly. A pool known as Wayland's Pool is traditionally where the smith god cooled the horseshoes he made to shoe the horses of the Wild Hunt, Odin's nocturnal ride across the skies to search for the souls of the damned. Horses are said to be wary of this area, perhaps not wishing to join their spectral companions!"
http://www.can-taunton.com/somersetlegends.php

I can't see this pool on the map - but perhaps you may know it? This is mentioned by Tongue as well (see above). If you had the courage to leave your pony and not look back he might shoe it for nothing. 'It is a strange thing' (said a farmer to Ruth Tongue) 'how still a horse will stand at Wayland's Pool. Why you can dismount and walk away, and they won't move.'

Local Traditions of the Quantocks , by C. W. Whistler, in Folklore, Vol. 19, No. 1. (Mar. 30, 1908), pp. 31-51, says that 'Wayland's Pond' stands 'at the intersection of four ancient boundaries'. Which of course must make it an even spookier spot.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
29th April 2005ce
Edited 7th October 2006ce

Maen Llia (Standing Stone / Menhir)

The StonePages link below mentions two apparently standard folklore tales connected with Maen Llia. But are they more complex than at first sight?

One legend has it that whenever a cock crows, the stone goes to drink in the River Nedd. Look at the map and you will find this is rather perverse, because the stream that runs right near the stone isn't the Nedd Fechan at all. It would require a strenous walk up over the hill Fan Nedd, and then down the other side.

According to another story, the stone visits the River Mellte for a swim on Midsummer morning. The Mellte runs through the village of Ystradfellte to the south - it's the same watercourse as that near the stone, but up there it is surely called Afon Llia? So does the stone wander all the way down to Ystradfellte? I have read that the stone is actually visible from there. Besides, it's probably worth the trek - it's a pretty strange river. The whole area is full of caves and shake holes, and the river actually disappears into a cave (Porth yr Ogof) - to flow underground for 300 yards before reappearing at the surface in the mysterious Blue Pool!
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
26th April 2005ce
Edited 27th April 2005ce

Druid Stoke (Burial Chamber)

When 'discovered' in 1811 by the Rev. John Skinner, the site lay in a field. By 1880 it had been incorporated into the grounds of Druid Stoke House, and around this time was apparently used as a place of annual assembly by a sect of Druids. In 1904 the grounds were divided up and sold, and the present house was built in 1907. The (by then unfashionable?) druidic connection was incorporated into the houses and streets that were built: the Druid Stoke suburb grew in the 1930s with Druid Road, Druid Stoke Avenue, and Druid Hill.

The stones were probably part of a longbarrow with a false front entrance, and chambers along the sides. As they are 'dolomitic conglomerate' it's thought they may have come from Henbury or Kingsweston Hill. Although it's difficult to imagine now, the barrow is on a western spur of Durdham Down, and overlooked a stream. This origin fits nicely with the folklore Skinner collected from a local farmer. He was told that two giants had fought - one being at the Rock at Henbury, the other at St Vincent Rocks, Clifton. The Henbury giant threw a stone at his rival, but it fell short - and that's the capstone at Druid Stoke. His name was Goram, or Gorm, and he's also associated with the Giant's Grave longbarrow at Holcombe, Maes Knoll, and Wansdyke. You can visit 'Goram's Chair' at Henbury, and the cave of the other giant, Vincent, beneath the fort at Clifton.

(info from the 1979 volume (97) of Bristol + Glouc. Arch. Soc. Trans.)
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
19th April 2005ce

Wyck Beacon (Round Barrow(s))

This round barrow still stands about 2.5m high, perched on top of the hill. Today it apparently sports a triangulation pillar.

Grinsell and O'Neil's research for the 1960 'Gloucestershire Barrows' found that it was considered to be the grave of a famous highwayman from Westcote village. Perhaps you know more?
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
19th April 2005ce

Temple of Diana

Further to RiotGibbon's post, I found this in Peter Ackroyd's "London the Biography":

In the records of St Paul's Cathedral the adjacent buildings are known as 'Camera Dianae'. A 15th century chronicler recalled a time when 'London worships Diana'. She was the goddess of the hunt, so perhaps linking with the ceremony "that took place at St Paul's as late as the 16th century: a stag's head was impaled on a spear and carried about the church; it was then received upon the steps of the church by priests wearing garlands of flowers upon their heads."
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
8th April 2005ce

Castle How (Hillfort)

The Iron-Age fort at Castle How has fairly unusual rock cut defensive ditches, and the top of the knoll is artificially levelled too - surely no small task. The top is known as 'the fairy glen', and - you've guessed it - is the haunt of the little people.

The Bords describe two anecdotes about the site in 'Secret Country'. The first is about a man who was climbing up to the top of the fort. He stumbled, and in doing so overturned a rock. Clambering on, he happened to look back, and there was a man dressed in green sitting on the same stone. When shortly he turned to look again, the figure was gone.

Secondly, they tell of some children who (no doubt searching for treasure) were spending the day digging on the fort. They found a hut with a slate roof. Returning to the spot after their lunch they could not find the hut, though the spades appeared to be in the same place they'd left them nearby. A few days later the children's father was walking his dog on top of the hill, when he saw two tiny figures dressed in green. In a rather unfriendly gesture he set his dog on them, but the poor animal stopped in its tracks before it reached them, and returned nervously. The man then saw the figures 'step into the ground'.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
7th April 2005ce

Robin Hood's Butts (Somerset) (Round Barrow(s))

From Mathews' "Tales of the Blackdown Borderland", 1923.
Many years ago when passing by the spot I was told that an old couple, who got their living by making brooms from the heather so plentiful hereabout, actually dug themselves a big cave in one of the barrows, and used it for a dwelling place for some years.
They obviously weren't afraid of the ghosts - he also mentions how "A great battle took place there long ago and hundreds of Cromwell's soldiers are buried there" and that "a tradition of ghostly possession persists" with children (and faint-hearted adults) not daring to pass the mounds at night.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
4th April 2005ce

Pole's Wood South (Long Barrow)

The antiquarian Reverend David Royce (a Victorian rector of Nether Swell) said the barrow had been "seen at times, by those gifted with second sight, swathed in unearthly flame".

Blimey.

('Gloucestershire Barrows' - Grinsell and O'Neil - Proc Brist Glos Arch Soc 1960)
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
4th April 2005ce

Windmill Tump (Long Barrow)

Leslie Grinsell collected a couple of stories about the barrow. Mrs Clifford, who excavated the site, heard there was a tradition of an underground passage here extending for some distance from the Tump. He also spoke to a Mr Rymer of Cherington in 1960, who told him of the belief that a golden coffin lay buried inside.

('Gloucestershire Barrows' - Proc Brist Glos Arch Soc 1960.)
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
4th April 2005ce

The Grickstone (Long Barrow)

The 'Grickstone' itself is apparently a stone alone with no hint of a barrow. Grinsell and O'Neil'*s source said it "was put up when the Greek wars were in England" and "a Greek officer is supposed to have been buried under it."

Not far away there was Grickstone Farm long barrow at ST782832. Its three chambers were excavated in 1844, revealing many skeletons. You could still see some slabs of stone at its SE end in 1960. The photo on the Megalithic Portal just has it as a bump in the ground. Their photo of the stone though makes that look worth visiting - and it's conveniently next to a footpath.

(*'Gloucestershire Barrows' - Trans Brist Gloc Arch Soc 1960.)
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
4th April 2005ce
Edited 26th March 2011ce

Lamborough Banks (Long Barrow)

It is said that a mysterious passageway lies beneath Lamborough Banks.

(Grinsell and O'Neil: 'Gloucestershire Barrows' - Proc Brist Glos Arch Soc 1960.)
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
4th April 2005ce
Edited 18th August 2005ce

The Giant's Stone (Long Barrow)

"Men have had the terrifying experience of seeing headless human beings [here] which have vanished."
(Thank god they vanished, eh. Mentioned in Trans Brist Glouc Arch Soc 1931.)

Also, a look at the map shows that the stones are in 'Battlescombe' - you can't help speculating that they might be caught up in a story about people (or giants?) killed in battle - many megaliths are said to be such graves. Maybe if you live locally you know more??
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
4th April 2005ce

Oldwalls Farm (Long Barrow)

This barrow is on the edge of a slight spur and is 56m long, orientated ESE-WNW. It's been rounded down by ploughing but a 1947 aerial photograph shows it trapezoid shape, with the wider end at the east.

In the 1940s, rumour was that the barrow had been opened 70 years previously in search of a golden coffin.

(info from Magic / 'Gloucestershire barrows' PBGArchSoc 1960)
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
4th April 2005ce

Lodge Park (Long Barrow)

Traditions of an underground passage at the site were noted by Grinsell and O'Neill in their 'Gloucestershire Barrows' edition of the Trans Brist Glouc Arch Soc for 1960. Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
4th April 2005ce

Hazleton Long Barrows

The eminent Leslie Valentine Grinsell spoke to a local farmer in Puesdown Inn in 1959. He told him that the older farmers in the area would say that when the plough went over one of these longbarrows, the ground sounded hollow.

The south barrow used to have 2 upright stones at its SE end, but these were gone by the 1920s. Got in the way of the plough probably. Oh well. But they kind of indicate the 'megalithic' nature of the barrow and hence that it might well have sounded hollow, maybe having a chamber inside.

(Trans Brist Gloc Arch Soc 1960 - Gloucestershire Barrows)
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
4th April 2005ce

The Merry Maidens (Stone Circle)

"I do know a story about the Merry Maidens, and it is a true story".

"In 1907 an emmet (an outsider) from England bought the farm where the Merry Maidens stone circle stands. Thinking that the stones lessened the value of the field, the new owner ordered one of his workers to pull them down and add them to the stone walls surrounding the meadow".

The worker, a Cornishman, protested, but the Englishman insisted: "This is my field, and I'll do with it what I please, and you'll do as I say!"
Next day the Cornishman hitched up three shire horses to a chain and began the task. Anyway, while pulling over the first stone the lead horse panicked, reared up, then fell over dead.
Reporting this to his master, the Cornishman asked if he should fetch another horse for the task.
"No," said the landowner. "Set the stone back upright. We'll pull the lot of them down later."

But the stone circle was left undisturbed, and remains so to this day.

Daniel Bowen Craigue. May 2002.
stubob Posted by stubob
28th March 2005ce

Crousa Common Menhirs (Standing Stone / Menhir)

Slimmed down a little from:
Robert Hunt's "The Crowza Stones."
"Popular Romances of the West of England. Volume 2". 1903.


St Just, from his home in Penwith, being weary of having little to do, except offering prayers for the tinners and fishermen, went on a visit to the hospitable St Keverne, who had fixed his hermitage in a well-selected spot, not far from the Lizard headland.

St Just gloried in the goodly chalice from which he drank the richest of wines, and envied St Keverne the possession of a cup of such rare value. Again and again did he pledge St Keverne; their holy bond of brotherhood was to be for ever.

The time came when St Just felt he must return to his flock; he departed. St Keverne sending many a blessing after his good brother.

St Just had not long left before St Keverne missed his cup. Diligent search was made in every corner of his dwelling, but no cup could be found. At length St Keverne could not but feel that he had been robbed of his treasure by his friend.

His rage was excessive. St Keverne felt that his wisest course was to pursue the thief inflict summary punishment on him, and recover his cup. St Keverne started in pursuit of St Just. Passing over Crowza Down, some of the boulders of "Ironstone" which are scattered over the surface caught his eye, and presently he whipped a few of these stone pebbles into his pockets, and hastened onward.

Near Tre-men-keverne he spied St Just. St Keverne worked himself up into a boiling rage, and toiled with increased speed up the hill, hallooing to the saintly thief; who pursued his way for some time in the well-assumed quiet of conscious innocence.

Long and loud did St Keverne call on St Just to stop, but the latter was deaf to all calls of the kind and on he went, quickening a little.

At length St Keverne came within a stone's throw of the culprit, and calling him a thief and adding some of the most choice epithets from his holy vocabulary. Taking a stone from his pocket, he let it fly after St Just. The stone falling heavily by the side of St Just, convinced him making all the use he could of his legs. He quietly untied the chalice, which he had fastened to his girdle, and let it fall to the ground.

St Keverne came up to where his cup glistened in the sunshine. He had recovered his treasure. Therefore he took, one by one, the stones from his pockets--he hurled them, fairly aimed, after the retreating culprit, and cursed him as he went.

There the pebbles remained where they fell, the peculiarity of the stone being in all respects unlike anything around, but being clearly the Crowza stones, attesting the truth of the legend; and their weights, each one 'being several hundred pounds, proving the power of the giant saint.
stubob Posted by stubob
28th March 2005ce

Devil's Quoit (Dolmen / Quoit / Cromlech)

From Robert Hunt's "Popular Romances of the West of England. Volume 1" Published 1903.

"It is curious to find one tradition directly contradicting another. We are told, on the one hand, that The devil never came into Cornwall.

Because, when he crossed the Tamar, and made Torpoint for a brief space his resting-place, he could not but observe that everything, vegetable or animal, was put by the Cornish people into a pie.

He saw and heard of fishy pie, star-gazy pie, conger pie, and indeed pies of all the fishes in the sea. Of parsley pie, and herby pie, of lamy pie, and piggy pie, and pies without number. Therefore, fearing they might take a fancy to a "devily pie," he took himself back again into Devonshire".
stubob Posted by stubob
28th March 2005ce

Bowerman's Nose (Natural Rock Feature)

The monumental mass of granite on Dartmoor, known as Bowerman's Nose, may hand down to us the resting-place and name of a giant whose nose was the index of his vice; though Carrington, in his poem. of " Dartmoor," supposes these rocks to be

"A granite god,
To whom, in days long flown, the suppliant knee
In trembling homage bow'd."

Let those, however, who are curious in this problem visit the granite idol; when, as Carrington assures us, he will find that the inhabitants of

"The hamlets near
Have legends rude connected with the spot
(Wild swept by every wind), on which he stands,
The Giant of the Moor."


"Popular Romances of the West of England" Robert Hunt. 1903.
stubob Posted by stubob
28th March 2005ce
Edited 29th March 2005ce

Gigmagog's Grave Ballywillin, Coleraine (Wedge Tomb)

The Farmer whose land it is on says the field has always been known as Gigmagog's field, although has never known the identity of Gigmagog. Posted by hashi
28th March 2005ce

Nine Maidens (Troon) (Stone Circle)

"Tradition says the stones indicate the graves of nine sisters. Hals (?) appears to think some nuns were buried here".

Robert Hunt's "Popular Romances of the West of England. Vol 1". 1903.
stubob Posted by stubob
28th March 2005ce

Zennor Quoit (Dolmen / Quoit / Cromlech)

"I was in the neighbourhood of Zennor in 1859, and by accident came across the Zennor cromlech, and was struck with the mode of its construction (not having heard of its existence before), and thinking it bore some resemblance to the Druidical altars I had read of, I inquired of a group of persons who were gathered round the village smithery, whether any one could tell me anything respecting the heap of stones on the top of the hill. Several were in total ignorance of their existence.

One said, 'Tes caal'd the gient's kite; thas all I knaw.' At last, one more thoughtful, and one who, I found out, was considered the wiseacre and oracle of the village, looked up and gave me this important piece of information,

--'Them ere rocks were put there afore you nor me was boern or thoft ov; but who don it es a puzler to everybody in Sunnur (Zennor). I de bleve theze put up theer wen thes ere wurld was maade; but wether they was or no don't very much mattur by hal akounts. Thes I'd knaw, that nobody caant take car em awa; if anybody was too, they'd be brot there agin. Hees an ef they wus tuk'd awa wone nite, theys shur to be hal rite up top o' th hil fust thing in morenin. But I caant tel ee s' much as Passen can; ef you 'd zea he, he 'd tel he hal about et.'"


From Robert Hunt's "Popular Romances of the West of England. Volume 1". 1903.
stubob Posted by stubob
28th March 2005ce
Edited 15th June 2005ce

Rudston Monolith (Standing Stone / Menhir)

Folklore from 'DF' at Driffield Online http://forum.greatdriffield.co.uk/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=1062
Many moons ago - when I was small, we were led to believe that if you ran round the stone backwards 100 times an Angel would appear from the top, blowing a trumpet. Many's the time that my friend and I got to 99 times but never dared to run the last lap!!
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
23rd March 2005ce
Previous 25 | Showing 2051-2075 of 2,916 folklore posts. Most recent first | Next 25