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

Latest Posts — Folklore

Previous 25 | Showing 2051-2075 of 2,926 folklore posts. Most recent first | Next 25

Maen Ceti (Dolmen / Quoit / Cromlech)

A very short distance away at SS497899 there is a holy well. According to Marie Trevelyan's "Folk-lore and folk-stories of Wales" (1909) it is "a spring which is said to flow with the ebb and flow of the tide. It is called Ffyn[n]on Fair, or Our Lady's Well. The water therefrom was lifted in the palm of the hand while the person who drank it wished."
The site is not miles from the sea in any direction, as it is on the Gower peninsular, but it's still hardly close, so its alleged ebb and flow would make it rather special.

I have later found out that Camden mentioned this in his 'Britannica':
They are to be seen upon a jutting at the north west of Cefn Bryn, the most noted hill in Gower; their fashion and posture is this, There is a vast unwrought stone, probably about 20 tons weight, supported by six or seven others that are not above four feet high, and these are set in a circle, some on one end, and some edgewise or sidelong, to bear the great one up. The great one is much diminished of what ithas been in bulk, as having five tons or more by report, broke off it to make millstones, so that I guess the stone originally to have been between twenty-five and thrity tons in weight.
The common people call it Arthur's Stone; under it is a well, which, as the neighbours tell me, has a flux and reflux with the sea."
Could it be true about the millstones? Or would it be unnecessary bother?
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
11th May 2005ce

Cottrell Park (Standing Stones)

Standing stones supposed to be of Druidical or memorial origin are seen in Glamorgan near Cottrell, the seat of Mrs. Macintosh, wife of the Macintosh of Macintosh. The story about these stones is that some women had sworn falsely against an innocent man, who was put to death on the gallows on Bryn Owen Mountain, subsequently known as the Stallingdown. These women were turned into stones on their way home.

(the other stone is possibly the one at Redland Park). From Marie Trevelyan's "Folk-lore and folk-stories of Wales", published in 1909 and online at V Wales:
http://www.red4.co.uk/Folklore/trevelyan.htm
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
11th May 2005ce

Cryd Tudno (Rocking Stone)

[A] stone on Orme's Head is known as Cryd Tudno, or Tudno's Cradle. It is supposed to have been a rocking-stone, but has long since been dismounted. People said two centuries ago that if any mothers wanted their children to learn to walk quickly, they should put their babes to crawl three times in succession once a week around the cradle of Tudno.
From Marie Trevelyan's "Folk-lore and folk-stories of Wales", published in 1909 and online at V Wales:
http://www.red4.co.uk/Folklore/trevelyan.htm

She mentions another stone linked to the saint, otherwise known as 'Hogalen Tudno':
The whetstone of St. Tudno, near the ancient oratory on Great Orme's Head, was included among the thirteen curiosities of the Isle of Britain. It was said that if the sword of a brave man were sharpened on it, anybody wounded thereby would surely die; but if the sword of a coward were sharpened on it, the blade would hurt, and not kill.

Is this a handy confusion with the whetstone of Tudwal Tudclud? which is mentioned as being one of the thirteen precious things in the basket of Gwyddneu Garanhir (see Lady's Guest's Mabinogion notes at http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/mab/mab17.htm)
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
11th May 2005ce

Bleary Pate (Round Barrow(s))

Bleary Pate is a round barrow 6+ft high, crowned by a tree and a pesky trig point. It is called 'Bleary Pate' on the modern OS map - but old maps have it as 'Bloody Pate'. Leslie Grinsell collected the grisly rhyme that "the blood ran down the hill from Bloody Pate up to the second straddle of the gates", and says the name change was a euphemism of the prim Victorians, who didn't quite get it. Bleary pate doesn't even make sense. Pate is a word for 'head' - so what's the full story? Were people allegedly having their heads chopped off on the mound? Is it another story connected with giants? More research required.

Somerset Historic Environment Record:
http://webapp1.somerset.gov.uk/her/details.asp?layer=smr&PRN=34182
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
10th May 2005ce

Long Meg & Her Daughters (Stone Circle)

It's thought that there were once two cairns in the middle of the circle (about 9 ft high?) - mentioned by Burl in his 'Great Stone Circles', who feels it is unlikely they were just the product of field clearance or suchlike. Bainbridge, writing in c1600, said "Ther are within the compasse of these stones two great heapes of small stones under the wiche, they say, that the dead bodies were buried ther." Stukeley, even more gruesomely, thought the stoney patches that remained in his day were the place where sacrifices had been burnt. Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
4th May 2005ce

The late Col. Lacy, it is said, conceived the idea of removing Long Meg and her daughters by blasting. Whilst the work was being proceeded with under his orders, the slumbering powers of Druidism rose in arms against this violation of their sanctuary; and such heavy rain and hail ensued, as the fell-side never before witnessed. The labourers fled for their lives, vowing never more to meddle with Long Meg.. ..All lovers of antiquity must be thankful for the providential throwing of cold water on so wicked a design.
I'm not quite sure who Burl is quoting here, but it's in his 'Great Stone Circles' book. Lt-Col Lacy, owner of Salkeld Hall and Long Meg in the late 18th century, consequently tidied the site up by removing the fence that crossed it E-W. He must have been quite ruffled..

Before this in 1725 Stukeley mentioned that the northern half of the site was planted with crops, and the south side a common. "Many [stones] are standing, but more fallen, and several carried away; but lately they have destroyed some by blasting, as they call it, ie blowing them in pieces with gunpowder; others they have sawed for millstones."
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
4th May 2005ce

Via Barrow (Round Barrow(s))

According to local tradition mortal remains from the Stones of Via were re-interred here. wideford Posted by wideford
3rd May 2005ce

Stones of Via (Burial Chamber)

Local tradition says bodies or bones from the Stones of Via were re-interred at the barrow (HY258401609) you see by the roadside. wideford Posted by wideford
3rd May 2005ce

Castlerigg (Stone Circle)

The only folklore I've read is that it's impossible to count the stones and come up with the same number on two consecutive occasions.
Old hat - how many stone circles have that old chestnut accorded to them?
The Eternal Posted by The Eternal
30th April 2005ce

Carn Galva (Natural Rock Feature)

A giant once lived at Carn Galva. (I'm warning you. This is another one of those depressing Cornish stories about giants. Don't read it if you're feeling delicate).

A giant once lived at Carn Galva, and he was a nice chap. He had a human friend from Choone, who used to take a turn over to the carn every now and then, just to see how the giant was getting on and to cheer him up a bit, or play a game. One afternoon they'd been playing quoits and when it was time for his friend to leave, the giant patted him on the head. "Same time tomorrow then?" But unfortunately the young man dropped down dead. The giant's fingers had gone right through his skull. He tried to plug up the fingerholes, but it was a bit late.
"Oh, my son, why didn't they make the shell of thy noddle stronger? A es as plum as a pie-crust, doughbaked, and made too thin by half. How shall I ever pass my time without thee to play bob and mop-and-heede?" And the poor giant was never happy after that. He pined away and died seven years later (probably the blink of an eye to a giant).

You can see how big the giant was, because his logan stone was just at the right height to sit on, with his feet comfortably on the turf below.

(story from William Bottrell's 'Tales and Hearthside Traditions of West Cornwall' (c 1870?)quoted in Katherine Briggs' 'Folklore and legends of Britain')
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
29th April 2005ce

St. Agnes Beacon (Cairn(s))

Women can be cruel. But you expect better from a saint.
There lived then in that part of the country a famous Wrath or Giant, by name Bolster, of that ilk. He got hold of the saint [Saint Agnes], and obliged her to gather up the stones on his domain; she carried them in three apron-fulls to the top of the hill, and made with them three great heaps, from which the hill is now called, sometime Carne Breanich, sometimes St. Agnes' Beacon.

At last this Giant or Wrath, attempted to seduce her; she pretended to yield, provided he would fill a hole which she showed him with his blood: he agreed to this, not knowing that the hole opened into the sea; she thus cunningly bled him to death, and then tumbled him over the cliff. This they still call the Wrath's Hole. It is on the top of the cliff, not far from St. Agnes' chapel and well; and, enlarging as it goes downward, opens into a cave fretted-in by the sea, and, from the nature of the stone, streaked all over with bright red streaks like blood.

After this she lived some time here, and then died, having first built her chapel and her well. The water of this well is excellent; and the pavement, they tell you, is coloured with her own blood, and the more you rub it, the more it shows, = such being, indeed, the nature of the stone.

She likewise left the mark of her foot on a rock, not far from it, still called St. Agnes' foot, which they tell you will fit a foot of any size; and indeed it is large enough to do so. These monkish stories caused great resort here in former days, and many cures are pretended to have been done by the water of this well, so blest by her miraculous blood." Polwhele's History of Cornwall, i, 176-7
Found in the 'Poetical Works of Robert Southey' v1, 1843 - on Google Books.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
29th April 2005ce
Edited 18th October 2007ce

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
Previous 25 | Showing 2051-2075 of 2,926 folklore posts. Most recent first | Next 25