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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

Lough Gur Wedge Tomb

Taken from Sacred Ireland
"It is said that when archaeologists removed the bones from this site, every banshee in Ireland could be heard wailing."

An old woman is said to have lived in this wedge-tomb which is also referred to at the site. However this wedge tomb faces west and so the old woman could be the goddess in her hag form as the setting son. As far as I can recall Michael Dames refers to this idea in Mythic Ireland.
bawn79 Posted by bawn79
29th November 2005ce

Aconbury (Hillfort)

This hill fort was inhabited from about 200BC to after the Romans arrived, though it seems that it's known locally to be a 'Roman Camp'.

On the NE side of the hill is a spring with certain magical powers, dedicated to St Ann. As usual it's especially good for the eyes - but you had to collect the first bucket of water at the stroke of midnight on twelfth night, to ensure the best efficacy.

(Folklore of the Welsh Border, J Simpson 1976)


Caer Rhain is another name for Aconbury.

Baring-Gould suggests the Rhain of the name was Rhain Dremrudd, King of Brycheiniog. He translates 'Dremrudd' as red-eyed, but could it be more subtle than this? Trem is (I believe) Welsh for sight or gaze; could it not imply he got the red mist sometimes, rather than conjunctivitus. I dunno. Perhaps he should have visited the well (see above). All this etymology. It's a minefield.

(Baring-Gould, 'Lives of the British Saints' v4, p 108. 1913)
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
25th November 2005ce
Edited 2nd February 2009ce

Mauherslieve (Sacred Hill)

The Silvermines

The Twelve Mountains of Ebhlenn (Evelyn)

Dha Sliabh Deag Ebhlinne

Taken from Sacred Ireland by Cary Meehan

"Ebhleen was a mythological figure, married to a king of Cashel. She fell in love with her stepson and eloped with him.
Right in the heart of these mountains is a small peak called Mathair Shliabh or Mother Mountain which has a cairn of stones on top called 'the Terrot'. Those climbing the mountain would carry a stone from the bottom to add to this cairn. The cairn was said to cover the grave of a young man who refused to go to mass one Sunday and went hunting instead. Although it was June – June 29th to be exact – he was caught in a snow-storm and his body later found at the spot now marked by the Terrot.
There was a traditional outing up the mountain here until the 1920s. It involved the usual Lughnasa activities of berry-picking, singing and dancing, though the date was 29th June. The monks of Kilcommon were to have started it but it is more likely that they changed the date from Lughnasa to the earlier date which is the Feast of SS Peter and Paul (The Festival of Lughnasa)"
bawn79 Posted by bawn79
23rd November 2005ce

Cnoc Aine (Sacred Hill)

Cnoc Aine

Taken from Sacred Ireland by Cary Meehan

"According to Celtic tradition, this is the sacred hill of the goddess Aine and her place of power. To some people the hill itself is shaped something like a female form with three rings or barrows in her belly. The barrows represent the dwellings of the ancestors of the munster tribe, the Eoghanachta: Fer I, Eoghabhal and Eogan. In this particular context Aine is their daughter. To the Celts the cairn on the summit was her palace and the entrance to the Otherworld.
However, the cairn is Neolithic and the barrows probably Bronze Age, so this would have been a ceremonial site long before Celtic times. Aine's presence here is most likely a continuation of a much earlier sun deity tradition. By making her their daughter, and the barrows the dwelling places of their ancestors, the Eoghanachta tribe were creating a divine lineage for themselves. At certain times in the Celtic year, usually the night before the major festivals, the entrance to this Otherworld would open and human lives could be touched for good or ill by spirits or Faerie beings. This could, of course, happen at any time but the eve of
A festival such as midsummer was a particularly potent time.
As the inauguration site of the Eoghanacht kings, it was here that they came to be united with the spirit of their kingdom, Aine. While the king lived in harmony with the Otherworld, the kingdom was blessed, but when customs or taboos were broken, everyone suffered.
The following story explains how the king Ailill came to be called 'Ailill O-lom' or Ailill One Ear'. It has echoes of the inauguration rite described in the story from Lough Gur. Once again the rules are broken by human failing and not without repercussions.
The king was having a problem as, every night when he went to sleep, the grass would disappear. His Druidess, Ferchess, advised him to visit Knockainy the next Samhain Eve. He did as she suggested but fell asleep, lulled by the drowsy sound of the cows grazing on the hillside. Walking disoriented in the middle of the night, he saw a beautiful maiden coming from the cairn with her father, Eoghabhal. Forgetting all about why he had come, and overcome with lust, he raped her. She, in her outraged anger, bit off his ear and in doing so, maimed him. This meant that he could no longer, by Celtic tradition, be King (The Festival of Lughnasa)
While the king had an obligation to maintain harmony with the Otherworld, the people had responsibilities as well. Until 1879 men used to bring flaming bunches of hay or straw on poles to the summit of Knockainy on Midsummer's Eve. They would carry them clockwise round the three barrows which they called 'the Hills of the Three Ancestors'. Then they would take the brands and run around the cultivated fields and pastures in the area to bring good luck to the animals and crops. It was believed that they were emulating the fairies who also performed this rite under the direction of Aine as she impregnated the land with her solar energy once the humans had gone.
Sometimes people reported seeing her leading the human procession. She was seen on the hill as the 'cailleach' or wise woman and there are many stories of her taking human form. Those who treated her with kindness prospered."
bawn79 Posted by bawn79
23rd November 2005ce

Dinas Emrys (Hillfort)

Local lore adds more about Merlin. He stayed on for a while after Vortigern left. When he left himself he filled a golden cauldron with treasure and hid it in a cave, blocking the entrance with a stone and a heap of earth. The treasure is intended for one particular person, a youth with blue eyes and yellow hair. When he approaches, a bell will ring and the cave will unblock itself. Other treasure seekers have been repulsed by storms and sinister omens.
p89 in Geoffrey Ashe's 'The Landscape of King Arthur' (1987).
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
21st November 2005ce

Cadbury Castle (South Cadbury) (Hillfort)

According to legend the ghosts of Arthur and his knights make a periodic nocturnal ride over the hilltop and down to Sutton Montis below, where their horses drink at a spring. This is reputed to happen on Midsummer Eve or Midsummer Night, or Christmas Eve, or every seventh year, so the ghosts may be difficult to catch riding.

I have kept the vigil twice without seeing them, but perhaps I chose the wrong night; and I do recall walking along the uppermost rampart in pitch darkness, and hearing, far below in the woods, the sound of a flute.
p45 in 'The Landscape of King Arthur' by Geoffrey Ashe (1987). Hmm. A flute - or maybe pan pipes?? Spooky.

The name of the highest part of the plateau can be traced to at least the same kind of time (1586): 'Arthur's Palace'. Curiously, (although no trace was known before excavation) there actually was a timber hall on that spot in the 5th century - the era that an 'Arthur' would have lived. There was also a gatehouse (in the gap in the top rampart to the SW) and the whole perimeter was protected by a 16ft thick fortification made of stone and wood. Such a type and size of structure is apparently very unusual for this period - so 'Camelot' is actually quite credible as the headquarters of a king or regional chief, according to Ashe's book.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
21st November 2005ce

Glastonbury Tor (Sacred Hill)

To this day you can hear local tales of a chamber below the summit, or a well sinking far into the depths, or a tunnel running all the way to the Abbey, a distance of more than half a mile. Rash explorers are supposed to have found a way in and to have come out insane.
From 'The Landscape of King Arthur' by Geoffrey Ashe (1987).
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
21st November 2005ce
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