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The Auld Wifes Lifts

Natural Rock Feature


In Tom Weir's Scotland the famous mountaineer and walker gives the legend in the chapter, on page 49, entitled:

Craigmaddie: The Secrets of the Muir

"The folk tale is that three witches wagered each other as to who could carry the heaviest stone in their aprons. Two managed to put their stones down side by side, but the third one capped their efforts by placing her larger stone on top of the other two in the form of a roof. A variation of the same tale is that it was a trial of strength to see who could throw a stone the farthest, and the biggest landed on top of the other two."

He also mentions Hugh MacDonalds book "Rambles Around Glasgow" giving his 19th century beliefs.

"By some this gigantic cromlech is supposed to be a Druidical altar, whereon, in a dim prehistoric era, the dark rites of pagan worship may have been celebrated". On an old map it was shown as a "Druidical Cromlech," and the cavity between the stones was thought to be for the reception of human remains after blood sacrifices.

Weir goes on to say that he noticed initials and dates at first. The next day he was startled to find 8 carved heads that he didn't notice the previous day. His good friend Prof. Alcock, of Glasgow University said that even his students had missed the faces. He then continued:

"I think it's not beyond the bounds of possibility that the capstone was placed on top of the two smaller stones by the Celtic people who carved those heads. The vertical lift is not a big one , and it could have been done with wooden rollers"

Weir asked if the people who erected the stones worshipped at it. The professor answered:

"I think we could call them people under Roman influence. The carvings recall the severed heads of Gaul-one of the leading images of the Celtic religion. Notice too, that the heads are confined to the east and north, while the two most arresting of them look out from the north-eastern and south-eastern edges. That would be a remarkable coincidence if the heads were the work of casual visitors."

To be fair to Weir he gets independent views from Dr. Rolf and Dr. Ingham of Glasgow University. "They were in no doubt that the stones were of a glacial origin, but beyond that they were not prepared to speculate."

First published in 1980.
drewbhoy Posted by drewbhoy
7th May 2009ce
Edited 7th May 2009ce

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