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

Get the TMA Images feed
Rhiannon

Latest Posts
Showing 1-50 of 4,219 posts. Most recent first | Next 50

Garth y Foel (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork) — Folklore

Back at Croesor, where you parked, is the spring Ffynnon Elen. It's named after Saint Elen, who features in the Mabinogion. She was Romano-British, and noted for founding churches in 4th century Wales. Since Garth y Foel looks like something out of Welsh mythology, here's some local folklore.
The following story is handed down, generation after generation, in this parish, of Cidwm and Elen Lleuddog. When Elen was marching with her army from the south to Caer Eryri, her youngest son marched his men from Segontium to meet and welcome her. One of her sons, whose name was Cidwm, - the Welsh for wolf, - was an impulsive and prodigal fellow; he was filled with a deep rooted jealousy toward his youngest brother, and was ever planning to take away his life.

He had heard of this march, and had hid himself on the high and precipitous cliff on Mynydd Mawr, close by Llyn Tarddeni, beneath which ran the Roman road. He had watched his opportunity, bent on shooting his unsuspecting brother as he passed with his men.

In the meantime Elen had marched as far as the hills which join the hills of Nanmor, and was resting herself and her men by a sweet, clear spring on the roadside, in the parish of Llanfrothen. In marching through Nant y Bettws, her son had taken the rear of the regiment, and walked behind them all.

Cidwm's opportunity had come, but as he emerged from his hiding-place, one of the soldiers saw him and recognised him. His bow was bent, and his arrow aimed, before his cruel intention flashed upon the mind of the soldier, who, as soon as he could collect himself, shouted, "Llech yr Ola'" (Last man, hide). Quick as lightning was the cry taken up by the whole regiment; but before the last man had time to take in the warning, the arrow of the fratricide had dealt him a deadly blow.

The sad news was immediately conveyed to his mother by a batch of soldiers, and when she heard it she threw down her sword, lifted up her hands, and cried, "Croes awr, croes awr i mi!" ("Sad hour, sad hour for me!").

The well at which she sat is called "Ffynon Croesor" (Croesor Well) to this day, and the village which has grown within a couple of hundred yards of it has been named "Croesor" from it.
From Bedd Gelert: its facts, fairies and folk-lore. by D E Jenkins, 1899.

Moel Hebog (Barrow / Cairn Cemetery) — Links

British Museum


The perfect condition Late Bronze Age shield found in a bog near Moel Hebog in 1784. So many circles.

Drombeg (Stone Circle) — Folklore

The Stone Circle is situated two miles east of Glandore and half a mile south of Kilfaughnabeg Roman Catholic Church. It is composed of fourteen stones, arranged in the shape of a large circle. Some of the stones which form the circle are small and others tall. There is one horizontal stone inside the circle on the west side and if you stand on that stone with the rising of the sun on a May morning the sun points to a stone on the south east side of the circle and if you stand on the same horizontal stone on the morning of June 21st the sun points to a stone in the north east of the circle.

Some of the old people say that Cliodna is buried here and that each stone has certain meaning.

The stone circle was ancient when St Patrick came to Ireland and it is the unwritten history of our ancient civilisation.
Seán Ó Cárthaigh, as part of the 1930s Schools Collection of folklore. Digitised at Dúchas.ie.

Castletimon (Standing Stone / Menhir) — Folklore

There is an Ogham stone on Castletimon road between Dunganstown and Ballinacarrig, and it is believed that a Queen was buried under it. There is no writing on it except lines and strokes. It is also believed that there is money under it. It is about two and a half yards long and two feet wide.

A story is told of a woman who took that stone to make a doorstep, but on the following morning she found it had returned to the place from which she had taken it.

Another story relates that when the Wicklow pier was being built, men were travelling through the county, gathering up big stones to help to build it, and a man named Dickenson now residing in Rathnew brought the Ogham stone in Co. Wicklow and wondering at the marks that were on it, showed it to a priest who told him to take it back to its former place. It is also believed that a priest explained the meaning of the marks thus:- "Here lieth a princess; she was possessed of the devil."
Kathleen Lott retells her grandfather's stories for the 1930s Schools Folklore Collection. dúchas.ie.

Castleruddery (Stone Circle) — Folklore

This is the field on the opposite side of the road from the 'Druidical Circle' in Castleruddery Lower.

There is supposed to be a big crock of gold hidden in Tutty's Terrace field. The name of the man that put it there is Pat Kenny.

One time there were three men who went to dig up the gold. The names of those men were Tom Cullen, Peter Condron and Jim Toole. But when they dug down they met a big stone, and then a goat with three legs came running across the field. The men paid no heed to the goat. But when they went to raise the stone, the goat leaped in on them and killed one of the men. The other two jumped out and filled in the hole and no one made any more attempt to dig for the gold.

And another strange thing about that same place is that there is a light seen at three special times of the year. The light goes all around the place for about a quarter of an hour and then it disappears again.
Larry Daly recounting his father's stories in the 1930s, for the Schools Folklore Collection. Digitised at dúchas.ie

Proleek (Portal Tomb) — Folklore

Proleek is suituated about four miles from Dundalk. To reach the big stone you have to travel over some fields before you arrive at the spot. There are three massive horizontal stones in shape on which the big stone rests which weighs a few tons. Not far away from the stone is the giant's grave.
The people of the district tell us, that if you can place three stones without falling on top of the big stone you will be married inside a year. Old people warn us to clear out of the place before 6'oclock or wee people will carry you away for ever.
It is said to be a great meeting place of the fairies. The old people tell us that they have often seen the small red man.
Collected from Betty Bowden of Drogheda, in the 1930s. Now digitised at Dúchas.ie.
Another informant says:
This is an outstanding monument in the district. In consists of three upright stones about eight feet in height supporting an enormous boulder of about 50 tons. It is locally called the giant's load and it is said the giant who put it up got his death of drinking of waters from the river these being poisoned by an enemy. Others say it is a monument over some mighty chieftain of old, but in truth little is known about its origin.

Giant's grave.
About 100 yards from the cromlech is an enclosure in the shape of a grave. It is locally called the "giant's grave" meaning of course that the giant who met his death as the result of the poisoned waters lies in it.

Moylisha (Portal Tomb) — Folklore

The name of the monument is variously given as Lob-in-a-sigh, Leaba an Sidh; on the Ordnance Survey map it is recorded as Labbanasigha. O'Donovan says the monument was called "Leaba na Saighe (Lectus canis venatica) where it is supposed a famous huntsman of old interred a favourite greyhound bitch." Perhaps it is not unreasonable to suggest in the light of the discovery of the javelin mould that the name may have some connection with the Irish word saighead (spearhead).
When the cairn was excavated, there were found two halves of a sandstone mould for a loop-socketed spear head, in the base of the cairn at the east end of the main chamber.

In 'The Moylisha Megalith, Co. Wicklow' by Gearóid Ó h-Iceadha, p119-128 in The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland Vol. 76, No. 3 (Oct., 1946).

There are many sites in Wales with 'Filiast' in their name: also meaning 'Greyhound Bitch'. I think Leaba an Sidh would mean the bed of the fairies?

Calverley Woods (Natural Rock Feature) — Folklore

Calverley Woods at one time had a wishing well, of the ebbing and flowing type, and more than a local reputation for the quality of its water.

Also in the woods was a rocking stone. This was a huge block of stone which at the slightest touch rocked.

On wild, dark nights it was said that a headless horse rider could be seen. The rider was supposed to be Sir Walter de Calverley, who murdered his two sons, Walter and William, but the locals added: "It had to be very dark," or you could not see him, he rode so fast.
Shipley Times and Express, 26th May, 1943.

I'm thinking the rocking stone could be the same thing as the Hanging Stone? There's a picture of this at the Leodis photographic archive. It certainly looks precarious.

All in all it sounds a strange spot, and not entirely encroached upon by the quarrying and industry that was once there, an exploding fireworks factory and the gardens of big houses that are very close by.

Calverley Woods (Natural Rock Feature) — Links

The Northern Antiquarian


Details of the cup-marked rocks lurking in these woods.

Sharpitor Nutcrackers (Rocking Stone) — Folklore

"Have you any pixies in this neighbourhood?"
A rustic, who hesitated at first, shook his head, and said he "didn' think any ov 'em was left now," induced a woman standing by to say, "Ees there was;" and she pointed to a high ground covered with granite boulders (the scene was at Lustleigh), and said "You may go and zee the pixy holes for yourself up there. They comes there be night, and people goes to zee 'em; but they don't come out by day."
"Did you ever go? did you ever see them?"
She did not like to go there by night, but she had herself seen the "pixy holes," and she "knaw'd that volks did go there, and did zee 'em in the moonlight."
One of the company asked what they could find to eat in that wild place? and the answer was, "Perhaps 'twas mushrooms."
"Oh," said one of the listeners, "then they did not get any thing to eat for more than six weeks of the whole year," when a rustic wit responded, "Perhaps they larn'd how to pickle 'em."
Rustics and their quaint spelling. From "Devonian folk-lore illustrated", by John Bowring. In Reports and Transactions of the Devonshire Association vol. 2, 1867-68.

Sharpitor Nutcrackers (Rocking Stone) — Links

Legendary Dartmoor


The familiar annoying tale of a perfectly good logan stone being messed with. The Coast Artillery School turned up to put things right and somehow allowed it to topple down the hill. But there's some confusion - perhaps that was an adjacent stone and the Nutcrackers still survives?

Knocklearoch (Standing Stones) — Folklore

Knocklearoch, in Islay, stands for Cnoc-Cleireach - i.e., the Hill of the Clerics. The following tradition regarding the locality, as told by Mr Hector MacLean of Ballygrant, Islay, is cited by Captain Thomas: "There is a tradition that two clerics were hanged, and that the day on which they were hanged was remarkably stormy. So it has been a byword in Islay ever since I remember, when a cold and stormy day came on, 'This day is worse than the day on which the clerics were hanged.' At Knocklearoch are two monoliths called Na Cleirich, 'The Clerics,' and under these, tradition relates, the two clerics were buried. (PSAS vol. xvi, p267).
From The influence of the pre-reformation church on Scottish place-names, 1904, by J.M. Mackinlay.

Knocksouna (Hillfort) — Folklore

I couldn't find out how old the earthworks on this hill are. But I'm hoping because it's a weird lump with folklore I might be allowed it until someone shows it's too modern and it is deleted mercilessly. Its name is 'Cnoc Samhna' (the Hill of Samhain, now aka Halloween) and connected with Mongfind, a queen from Irish mythology.
Cnoc-samhna (Knocksouna) is a hill on the south of Kilmallock. There is an opening in the side of the hill and a person could enter it. Often, at night-time a hunt in full cry has been heard round about the hill.

also:
There's no doubt about it, the fairies are there. My own daughter saw them in a field near Knocksouna - a host of them, little people wearing red coats. Of course they never appear to people in sin, and they never harm the innocent.
1930s folklore digitised at Dúchas.ie and here.

Carnroe (Chambered Tomb) — Folklore

A big giant long ago threw a large stone from Carn Roe outside Scotshouse to Shontamon Mountain in the County Cavan. The giant was about nine feet high and had two heads. He was afterwards buried under a big stone on Carnroe because Carn was the highest hill in the district. There is some mark on the stone which can still be seen.
From Jack Donohoe, Scotshouse.

There are many versions of this story in the neighbourhood. Some say the giant threw a stone from Sliabh Glah in Cavan to Carnroe, whilst others say it was from Cuilcagh Mountain he threw the stone. All are agreed that the giant was buried in the old "Giant's Grave" on Carnroe.

There is a "giants grave" on my father's farm in the townland of Carnroe. There are three stones, two standing upwards and one across. One of the stones is about four feet long and the others about three feet long. On one of the stones the letter "J" was cut, but it is not to be seen now. It is at the head of a field beside the road. - Edmund Burke.
From the 1930s collection of schools folklore, now being digitised at Dúchas.ie. The information via the Historic Environment Viewer map says: "Located on a W-facing slope of Carn Hill. Three stones, representing two sides of chamber are situated on the E side of a N-S field bank and drain at the edge of wood. Two other stones on the W side of the field bank c. 10m further S could also be part of it at the edge of a disused trackway to W of Cairn Hill wood. The remains are insufficient to allow a closer classification."

The Hanging Stone (Natural Rock Feature) — Folklore

From the Lichfield Mercury, 9th March 1906.
From the summits of a hill in the Deer Park at Swythamley two great stones which manifestly must be heavily counterpoised at the other end project themselves some eight feet into space where they hang in the air as if they were the beetling brows on the head of this pine-clad eminence.

Here they have hung through untold centuries - local tradition says, ever since they were left there by the Flood; when, maybe, they frowned upon the slow subsidence of the sullen waters.

Two centuries ago, however, it was proved by a local antiquarian that the construction is palpably an artificial one; that it constitutes what has been called a "Charemluach," or Hill-altar, such as certain ancient races were accustomed to offer their sacrifices upon. This Staffordshire example of a Charemluach is known as The Hanging Stone, a name to which the word Stone-henge is literally equivalent.
In the 21st century the 'literally' makes the author sound all the more desperate to connect their local stoney site to the famous druidy sacrifice place in Wiltshire. I think I'd prefer a trip here though; it looks solidly monumental and cool.

Nine Stanes (Stone Circle) — Miscellaneous

Sir,
- It is unfortunate that the Office of Works should have disregarded the Garrol stone circle, so nobly situated, and so impressive. On my last visit (the 15th) I was shocked to find that the woodmen in clearing up the cut wood had piled and burned a large quantity of heavy brush in the very centre of the circle, thereby cracking, displacing and disfiguring the stones and chamber slab of the inner circle.

I could be scathing at this juncture, but it is seldom fruitful of happy results. I will only say that if rude men were the builders (by no means proved), our present civilisation is turning out ruder and cruder ones to whom nothing whatsoever appears to be sacred.

I foresee, too, that during re-afforesting by the Department further disfigurement will take place - and possibly complete obliteration.

This circles is a source of great interest to strangers, as I well know, and therefore a valuable asset to a locality endeavouring to popularise itself. But apart from this cheap side-view, the Garrol circle is an inspiring object, fascinating and fruitful of thought, and of the highest human and historical interest. May some kind hand protect it!

-Arthur F. Leslie Paterson,
Birkwood, Banchory.
The fight for Stones goes on. A letter in the Aberdeen Press and Journal, 24th July 1936.

Balfarg (Henge) — Folklore

An Historical Sketch of Markinch.

Boulder Stones.

About five hundred yards west from the farm of Balfarg, which is situated about one mile from Markinch, are two large stones, one about six feet in height and the other a little less.

According to legendary lore they are two 'tackets' which have fallen from the boots of a great giant who had been taking a quiet walk in that part of the district.

Another version is that the devil was carrying a quantity of stones in his apron when one of the strings broke, thus scattering his load on the ground. He picked them all up except two of the smallest, which he thought he would leave to puzzle the brain of geologists and antiquarians. Kind old gentleman!

Some folks suppose they are two Druidical stones but we think that they are two stones of the Siberian strata, which lies below the old red sandstone. In many parts they lie above the lighter limestone formation which, according to geology, ought to be the uppermost of the two. The explanation which science gives regarding the boulder stones is that they have been deposited there by icebergs or glaciers.
From the Fifeshire Advertiser, 29th July 1887.

It's quite strange to look at an old map of this area from when it was all farm and fields, and then now with all the houses circling the henge.

Machrie Moor — Folklore

There is more than one tale told of 'Domhnull-nam-mogan's' encounter with a 'bocan'. A bocan is one of those dreaded visitants from another world, sometimes taking human form, sometimes animal form, and sometimes the form of inanimate things such as a ship. Domhnull-nam-mogan, a religious man who lived in Tormore, was returning late from a visit to a friend in Machrie, by way of Machrie Water and Tormore Moss, when he was met at a spot near the standing stones by a 'bocan'.

The bocan was of such a size that Donald could see all Aird Bheinn between his legs. Quite undaunted by such stature, Donald requested that the 'bocan' assume the size and appearance he had when living on earth, and the latter complying, Donald immediately remarked that he now recognised him.

He further remarked that the 'bocan' must be in possession of the secrets of a good many mysteries. 'Would he say what had happened to Angus Dubh when the latter was lost on a journey from Lamlash to Shisken [Shiskine] by way of the Clachan [Clauchan] Glen? He (the bocan) in all probability had a hand in doing away with Angus.'

The 'bocan' denied that he had any hand in the crime, but he knew plenty about it, and who did hurl Angus over a certain cliff. Donald then asked to be shown a treasure, and was told to come to a certain place in Gleann-an-t-suidhe on the following night, but without the darning needle in his bonnet, the little dog at his heel, and the ball of worsted in his pocket. Donald took counsel as to the advisability of such a course, and as a result did not keep the appointment.
From The Book of Arran, volume 2, p275 (1914).

King's Cave (Carving) — Folklore

There is a legend about the King's Caves to the effect that there is a subterranean passage from the caves to somewhere else in Arran. An adventurous piper undertook to explore this passage, armed only with his bagpipe and accompanied by his dog. After he had proceeded some distance he met with enemies, because the following wailing words were played loudly upon his pipe, which clearly indicated that he could proceed no farther.

Mo dhith! Mo dhith" 's gun tri laimh agam.
Bhiodh da laimh 'sa phiob 'us lamh 'sa chlaidheamh;

which might be literally rendered in English -

Woe's me, woe is me not having three hands,
Two for the pipe and one for the sword.

He, the piper, never returned; his dog, however, made his way out, but bereft of his hair.
From The Book of Arran, volume 2 (1914), p273.

Clauchlands (Stone Fort / Dun) — Folklore

This story actually applies to the next hill but despite being called a 'Dun', it's not marked on Canmore's map as such. Clauchlands, or Dun Fionn, is marked as a vitrified fort. It might be advisable to take your darning needle with you on an expedition to either.
A hill at Corriegills, called Dundubh (Black Mount), was said to have a cave in which the fairies lived, and this cave was full of treasure. To this home of the fairies an old man called Fullarton would betake himself, as often as he felt inclined. He frequently took a stocking with him and sat knitting and talking with the fairies. But the fairies were not always inclined to let any one away if they could detain him. Fullarton was aware of this fact, and always placed a darning needle in the collar of his jacket, or took a piece of rowan with him; when these precautions were taken by a person, the fairies had no power over them. On one occasion, however, he had omitted to take either of these objects, with the result that the cave nearly closed before he could escape.
From The Book of Arran, volume 2, by W.M. Mackenzie (1914), page 269.

Lamlash Stone Circle — Folklore

Three men were returning home in a cart, when, at the top of the hill on the road between Lamlash and Brodick, the horse stood still and snorted, and showed signs of fear, and as though it saw something it did not want to pass. After much urging on the part of the driver, the horse made a bolt forward past a certain spot. The men looked back to see what had frightened the animal, and saw a number of small figures, twelve to eighteen inches in height, on the road behind them. The fairies did them no harm beyond taking the door off the cart. This occurred within the last fifty years, and the relater heard it from one of the men who had been in the cart.
From The book of Arran, volume 2, by W.M. Mackenzie (1914), page 269. These stones definitely seem to be at the highest point of the road and surely must contribute to any high strangeness at the spot. The Fairy Glen is also not far away.

Oscar's Grave (Chambered Cairn) — Folklore

In bygone days it is said a battle had been fought near Slidderie Water between Fionn's forces and some others. A great many were slain and buried near the field of slaughter.

This had become a dreaded place by the natives, as it was said to be haunted, owing to the ground having been tilled, which disturbed the rest of these dead warriors.

The shades of the dead that traversed these quiet regions in the lone hours of night were awesome in the extreme, and had evidently been visible not only to persons but also to animals; and the following instance is related.

A certain man had been on the road with his horse and cart, when without warning the horse stood still and would proceed no farther. His ears stood up, while he snorted and was sweating from evident fear. The reason of this soon became known, for there rose before the man's vision like as it were a small cloud or mist, which grew larger and larger till it became a great size, but it was not only a cloud; whether in it or of it the cloud had taken an uncanny form of a wraith.

This man had met this unwelcome thing more than once.
In The book of Arran, volume 2, by W.M. Mackenzie (1914), p252.

Schiehallion (Sacred Hill) — Folklore

Here's a video (on YouTube) which is a clip from a documentary called The Fairy Faith. Steve Oldale(?) recounts his encounter with two of the Good People near Schiehallion. He was just sat down enjoying the scenery; he saw a rainbow and a strange cloud; he started hearing the noise of the stream as music - then lo and behold there are two wizened creatures trying to roll up his shadow. He sounds as surprised about it as you'd be.

King and Queen Stone (Natural Rock Feature) — Folklore

Bredon Hill Ramble.

Members of the Cheltenham Rambling Club enjoyed a ramble to Bredon Hill. Alighting from the train at Ashchurch they went to Tewkesbury by road. The party then divided, some members taking the river path to Twyning whilst the others went via Shuthonger Common.

The whole party then crossed the river by ferryboat, and made their way by fieldpath to the picturesque village of Bredon. After lunch the ramblers ascended Bredon Hill and spent some time examining the King and Queen Stones reputed to be capable of curing rickets. ...
There's something about squeezing through a gap that works in these cases isn't there. Is it like popping out reborn? Reported in the Gloucestershire Echo, 29th May 1945.

Kinderlow (Cairn(s)) — Folklore

... A later generation than the old wife has been known to pour out a libation of good red port to "whatever gods may be," during the exhilaration which followed reaching the highest point of our county - the cairn on Kinderlow. There was folk lore in this too. The climbers were of a hard, sceptical kind, believing in nothing, not even in themselves, yet they wasted good wine on this ritual. There on the top, against the sky, the present day world had dropped away and there was a feeling of being surrounded by they know not what elemental forces moulding the timeworn world.
Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal, 30th April 1920.

Boar's Den (Round Barrow(s)) — Miscellaneous

Ascending Parbold Hill and proceeding eastward in the direction of Standish, says [Mr Price, honourary secretary of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire], a slight decent is made into the ravine called Sprodley Wood, locally known as Fairy Glen, and along this wood runs Sprodley Brook. Shortly after passing over Sprodley Brook, in a field on the left may be seen a grass-covered mound, which from time immemorial seems to have been called Boars Den.

[...] From this plateau a magnificent view presents itself at every point of the compass. Northwards, beyond the silver streak of the Ribble estuary, rise the Cumberland Hills; nearer, and trending eastwards, may be seen Pendle Hill, Bleasdale Moors, Longridge Fells, Rivington Pike, and Anglesark Moors; southwards, Standish, Billinge Beacon, and Ashurst; and westward stretches a vast plain, with the Welsh mountains faintly outlined across the Mersey estuary. Few sites in Lancashire could rival this in its command of the ancient landmarks and beacons of the county, and the estuaries of the Ribble, Mersey, and Dee.
In the Wigan Observer, 25th May 1904.

Pendeen Vau (Fogou) — Folklore

The house in which Dr. Borlase, the famous antiquary, was born, was the next place of interest to be visited [Pendeen Manor House], and here Mr. Millett read a paper dealing with the history of the old mansion and its most interesting features. He reminded his hearers that there was a tradition to the effect that John Wesley had once preached in that very farmyard, bu the founder of Methodism makes no allusion to the fact in his diary, and it rests on very slender evidence.

A hundred yards or so from the house is Pendeen Vau, an artificial cave of considerable extent, which according to local legends, stretches many miles under the sea. Some have even said that you can, if you only know the way, and have sufficient courage, enter the cave at Pendeen and emerge from it at Scilly!

The explorations of our antiquaries did not extend so far, but they traversed the cave from one end to the other, without finding one particle of the "fairy gold" which is said to exist in its walls, or seeing any of the "little people" who are reported to haunt it.
In the Cornish Telegraph, 9th August 1888.

Heapstown (Cairn(s)) — Folklore

In Heapstown which is near Lake arrow there is a large heap of stones which is higher than a house. It is said that they came there in one night. It is also said that a prince is buried under it and that everybody who went to the funeral placed a stone over the grave.
From the 1930s Schools Collection of folklore, which has been put online at Duchas.ie.

Boleycarrigeen (Stone Circle) — Folklore

In a townland, named Boleycarrigan, in this locality, there is a place called "The Griddle Stones". The stones are standing around in a ring, on which Finn Mc Cool was supposed to have made his griddle cakes. In the centre of this ring there is a cave leading through the hillside on to Killranelagh, which highway men used to retreat with their gold, when they would be after robbing some man on the road or mountain passes. Old people say the gold is hidden there still.

Annie Byrne, Keadeen. My father, Joseph Byrne, aged about 49 years, told me this story
From the School's Collection of folklore, being digitised at Duchas.ie.

Mr Michael Toole of Kelsha, Kiltegan tells me that not far from the 'griddle-stones' in the land owned Mr James Reilly of Ballycarrigeen, is a cave just a few yards out from these larger stones referred to earlier on in this book as "Finn MacCumhail's griddle-stones."
Mr Toole knows where the cave is but says that it is now closed up. There was a passage leading down to it, stone steps, and underneath was a spacious room.
This was written by the teacher at Talbotstown school, R. Mac Icidhe. The other mention reads as follows:
On the western side of Keadeen Mountain is a place where Finn Mac Cumail and his wife are supposed to have died. The remarkable thing about it is that even when the rest of the mountain looks green in the distance, the two brown patches stand out in contrast to the rest, and appear like two huge giants reclining on the mountainside.
In this townland also is a group of large stones so arranged as to form a circle.
These go by the name of Finn Mac Cumail's Griddlestones.
The scanned images are here and here.

Craig Dorney (Hillfort) — Folklore

Ah, Craig Dorney. I feel sure he was in that programme with whatshisface? No, Rhiannon, the name means 'Stony Hill', from Creag: hill and Dornach: stony, as you can read amongst many other local etymological gems in Celtic Place-Names in Aberdeenshire by John Milne (1912).

Onagh (Portal Tomb) — Folklore

This is all very strange and interesting but the handwriting is so hard to read! Perhaps you can decipher it better.
Between this cromlech and the top of Knockree there is a 'Giant's Stone' which has not a flaw in it.

It is said that the druids used worship here and here two kings held council when forming up and making a [drove?] to the top of the hill and down the far side and then up the valley to a fort.

Those taking part went on foot and horseback and it is said they went that route up to 30 years ago. Old people said they heard them regularly. Two men told J- S- that they used see bright lights under this cromlech.

The horses made a great noise galloping over the rocky hill and down by Lacken.

The wood of Lacken situated on the hill was replanted with young trees 80 years ago but after two years the ghostly route was mysteriously burned from the top to the bottom of the hill. Not a tree grew till it was replanted again 5 years ago.

[?] (says Mr J- S-) that half of the trees on the old route are now dwarfed and the other half are dead.
From the 1930s Schools Collection of folklore, now being digitised at Duchas.ie. Perhaps the Giant's Rock is the impressive quartz outcrop depicted on Megalithomania. It's rather interesting that Fourwinds mentions possible alignments at the site when there's folklore about fairy/druids lines / ghosts heading across the landscape.

Carrickclevan (Portal Tomb) — Folklore

In the townland of Carrickacleven there is a little garden and in it there is a rock shaped like a mouth. It is said that there is money under it, and an old woman minding it and there is to be a life lost at the getting of it.

In the same townland there is a house with five big stones and the one on top is said to bear the weight of six tons. A long time ago there were priests and ministers at it and they said there is an old chieftain buried there and all his riches with him in a crock coffin.

Some people came to it one night after they heard what was under it. They dug until they came to a flag that is over the chieftain and they could get no further. So no one ever went near it after that.
From the 1930s Schools Collection of folklore, now being transcribed at Duchas.ie. There is a photo and description in the 1972 Survey of the Megalithic Tombs of Ireland but I don't know how it's faring now.

Mihanboy (Portal Tomb) — Folklore

In a field in Meeambee in the parish of [?], there is to be seen a cromlech. It is called locally Leabaidh Éirn.
There were four upright slabs, some of which are now fallen, topped by a huge oblong slab, many tons weight.
Near at hand there is a circular raised mound of earth enclosed by bushes called "The Fort" which his believed to be visited by the fairies. None of the bushes have been cut down, lest some dire misfortune should follow. A chieftain named Earn is popularly supposed to have lived in this district.
From an informant for the 1930s Schools Collection of folklore, now being transcribed at Duchas.ie.

The information via the Archaeology.ie mapviewer says that the huge chunky 3x3m, 60cm thick roof stone has subsided to the north, with one north sidestone and two sidestones and the septal-stone surviving on the south side. Also that there is a headstone 3m east of the tomb with a date of 1748 and an otherwise illegible inscription: this is reputedly made from the missing portal stone.

Star Carr (Mesolithic site) — Links

White Rose University Press


Marvellously, you can read online or download for free, two brand new books about the site that analyse Chantel Conneller, Nicky Milner and Barry Taylor's excavations between 2003-15.

Volume one is called 'A persistent place in a changing world' and the second is 'Studies in technology, subsistence and environment'.

The site was occupied / used for about 800 years. The first people there deposited worked wood, articulated animal bone and flint tools into the lake. The next period was the main phase of occupation, in which large timber platforms were made at the lake's edge, and items were still being deposited into it. And in the last phase both the dry land and the wetland margins were still being used, "often for craft activities," and making axes and tools - and the oldest known British Mesolithic art - a shale bead - was found there. I love a shale bead, me. They're in chapter 33 of the second volume. The famous antler frontlets are in chapter 26.

Rath Cruachan (Artificial Mound) — Folklore

Old people believe that at regular times during the year the fairies hold important horse fairs. One special 'fairy' man near this village relates how he was ordered to get up in the middle of the night to change horses from Mount Mary near the town of Ballygo down to Rathcroghan near Tulsk.

Hundred of horses with small 'mineen' riders galloped down across the country in the moonlight November Eve.

The great grandfather of the present blacksmith had his instructions to be always ready on Halloween night to put on shoes on the little travellers' horses.
One night he was dozing by the fire when a shout + tramp of horses wakened him. He was going to lift the horse's hind foot, when he noticed the animal had only three feet. "I can't shoe this horse" he said. "It's all right we will help you" said a score of little riders. The work was done and away went the fairy host, galloping like the wind, on their way to Rathcroghan for the great horse fair.
From the 1930s 'Schools Collection' of folklore, now being digitised at Duchas.ie. It seems like another one of those half-told tales (the three footed horse) where you are supposed to be in the know already and instinctively understand what it means from all the other three-legged animal tales you know. I'll have to work on it.

County Meath — Folklore

Elf Stones:- The following account is given by Michael Fitzsimons, age 75, Doon, Tierworker, Bailieboro.

Elf stones were supposed to fall out of the air with a shower of rain. They are a grayish white colour nearly like a sea-shell. If any of them fell on a cow she would get into a sickness called Paralysis. It was said that people would cure the cow of the sickness if they got nine of these elf-stones in a porringer or any other suitable vessel and go to a stream bordering two counties before the sun rises in the morning and get some of the river water in the vessel along with the elf-stones and bring them home and go round the sick cow three times.
While doing so keep praying some special prayers. Before very long the cow would be better.

A man named Philip Carry, Doon, Tierworker, Bailieboro, Co. Meath had two sets of Elf-stones and all the people round this locality used to go to Philip Carry's for the elf stones when they had cows sick. Elf stones are kept at certain houses yet. The nine stones were in the Prophet Malcolmson's house. Then a man named Andrew Clarke Lisnasanna, Kingscourt, Co. Cavan got them to make the cure and another named Connor Muldoon, Cordoy, Kingscourt got them from Clarke to make the cure and they remain in that house yet.

When they are given away to make the cure the man that gave them away could not take them back to keep, unless to make the cure or they would be no good. They are kept at some houses yet. It was a good cure for paralysis.

When cows were struck with those stones they were said to be "elf shot". The hair would stand on them and they would be unable to move until the cure was made.
From the Schools' Collection of folklore, made in the 1930s, and now being transcribed at Duchas.ie. Elf stones can also be interpreted as Neolithic arrow heads. But you never know.

Pennance (Entrance Grave) — Images (click to view fullsize)

<b>Pennance</b>Posted by Rhiannon<b>Pennance</b>Posted by Rhiannon<b>Pennance</b>Posted by Rhiannon

St Samson-sur-Rance (Standing Stone / Menhir) — Folklore

There's an article on this massive stone by Serge Cassen and colleagues in this month's edition of the Cambridge Archaeological Journal (v28:2, 259-281 - 'The 'historiated' Neolithic stele of Saint-Samson-sur-Rance'). Eight meters'-worth sticks out of the ground at 42 degrees, and the four sides are aligned to the points of the compass. It's made of granite, the nearest source of which is 4km away.

The researchers recently used various lighting and 3D techniques to highlight the carvings on the stone, and conclude that those on the different sides represent different aspects of the world (viz. an empty boat (east), human artefacts (south), wild animals (west) and domesticated animals (north). Whether you agree with this analysis is up to you… the depictions look a bit ambiguous to me but what do I know. There are also 100 cupmarks (none on the east face).

They talk about the folklore too, which is mostly from a 1902 article by Lucie de Villers ('Le Menhir de Saint-Samson pres Dinan' in Revue des Traditions Populaires 17(6)):

The vein of quartz diagonally crossing the stone was supposed to be from the devil's whip, or perhaps from the chains he used to try to drag it into hell. The devil wanted to use the stone as a key to open up hell (so he could pop some sinners in there) - but Saint-Samson and his pal Saint-Michel chased him away before he'd completed his evil plan.

There are various beliefs about a flood in Armorica: Ys is a legendary city in the bay of Douarnenez - it was submerged when the key of the dyke protecting the city was stolen from the king. In the 19th century local people said the stele was the key to the sea, and if the stone was removed, the sea would flood across the whole of France.

In other legends the stone is only one of three keys to the sea (one of the others was stolen by an evil woman from Breton in cohoots with the devil, and the third was kept in a distant country - or perhaps the other two were lost, or in the hands of a witch). The reason the stone is at such an angle is because the devil tried to take it away but didn't succeed. If someone dares to turn the stone, the sea will bubble out from under it and cause more trouble than Noah's flood.

One of the alternative names for the stone is 'Pierre Bonde' - bonde is the same word as the wooden bung used to seal a barrel.

Despite all this connection to the sea, the stone is about 20km from the sea and 55m above it. It's suggested in the article that it's at the point of the river where the maximum extent of the tidal wave would have been in the Neolithic, and that points to the reason for its location.

Cley Hill (Hillfort) — Fieldnotes

I've not been up here for a very long time. Perhaps you're guilty of the same sort of thing - tending to overlook local places for new and exciting ones that are further away. But my sister and I found this excellent, complete with its air of weirdness. (A couple of vaguely peculiar things happened while we were here, although normal people wouldn't have given them a second thought. Maybe you find more weirdness when you're expecting it.)

It was exposed here but dry, and we could see great globs of low dark cloud moving across the landscape, pouring on less fortunate places. There's a 360 degree view - quite uncommon round here where lots of high spots are joined onto bigger bits of land like Salisbury Plain.

We were mostly here for the wildlife (we saw kites, a yellowhammer and oil beetles among other things) and specifically for the snails. It got hilariously competitive as we hunched over little chalky scrapes out of the wind, my sister triumphantly brandishing a tiny shell a few millimetres high - What?! Why haven't I got that one... (Competitive snailing eh, whatever next. But it's amazing how much variety there is, and because they're empty, you don't have to feel too guilty about collecting a few shells.)

On reflection I suppose we climbed the hill in a spiralling way like the shape of a shell. Much nicer than the more ghastly straight-up approach - it's precipitously steep in places. Most of the hill is so windswept and open, but the quarried area on the south is such a strange muddle of lumps and bumps. They loom up over you and it feels strangely enclosed and surprisingly claustrophobic. But the quarried area doesn't take up the amount of space that you expect from the carpark. It's only a little area really.

There are other earthworks too -the Iron Age ridge that circles the hill for one. It doesn't feel very usefully defensive but maybe the slope would be enough to put most people off storming up. I did start to wonder, did anyone ever really live up here? The top isn't particularly big or flat like nearby Scratchbury and Battlesbury. You can imagine people in their huts there but not so much here. Yet Martin and Dave from the National Trust did find some here with their resistivity experiments.

This strange isolated hill advertises itself from all sorts of spots for miles around. You'd want to know who was in charge of it. And who was buried in the Bronze age barrows on top? It's funny to sit in their lea and have the same sort of view that people have seen for thousands of years (if you ignore industrial agriculture). There's also a linear dyke that's said to cut across one of the barrows, dating it at least a bit.

We also walked down the amazing sunken lane on the hill's south (part of the Mid-Wiltshire Way) - recommended as another numinous spot.

Tolmen Stone (Constantine) (Natural Rock Feature) — Miscellaneous

The Tolmen of Constantine.
Mr. R. Edmonds called attention to this rock - the finest of its kind in Britain; it is ten time as large as the Logan Rock, which is estimated at 70 tons. The Tolmen (or holed-stone) is about 33 feet long, 19 broad, and 15 high. Of this fine relic, Mr. Edmonds said that unless a subscription be immediately set on foot to purchase the rock, together with that portion of the cairn which it covers, there is reason to fear that the fragments will soon form part of the national buildings now in progress at Chatham or Plymouth, as the granite quarries have already reached within a few feet of it. If the three Royal Societies of Cornwall were to interest themselves in the preservation of this noble monument and effect its purchase, the comparatively small sum thus expended would confer honour on all its contributors, but if it were suffered to perish, the disgrace to our native county would never be effaced.
A warning against complacency when it comes to believing other people will look after the best interests of our monuments in their landscape. In the Royal Cornwall Gazette, 12th October 1849.

The Hole Stone (Holed Stone) — Folklore

For the young antiquary. Series IV.

Hole stones are more abundant in Ireland than is generally supposed, and we have some fine examples in the North. The best I know is "The Holestone," Doagh, County Antrim, a very massive galean of basalt, with a bevelled hole through the upper part, bevelled on both sides so that the actual hole or centre of the stone is not large. Whatver may have been the original use to which this stone was put, one legend says criminals were chained to it, others that it was a contract stone, contracts of various kinds being ratified by joining hands through the hole. In later days it seems to have been - and possibly still is - used by engaged couples to ratify their engagement. It stood when I last saw it very close to the edge of a quarry that was rapidly approaching it. I trust that it may not follow other fine prehistoric memorials of the same area destroyed through the ignorance or apathy of the farmers on whose land those memorials stood. [...]
Robert J Welch encouraging the youth in the Northern Whig, 20th March 1924.

Devil's Ditch (Dyke) — Folklore

The line of the Devil's Ditch and the county boundary runs pretty straight towards Park House (still a hotel, on the old line of the A303), which sounds like where Park Gate must have been, and presumably the stone. So it makes you wonder if this huge stone did have some significance. I can't see it marked on a map so not sure quite where it was - it's hard to tell which direction the 'narrow lane' was heading (possibly NW back along the boundary but who knows). Now the area is carved up with roads so I fear it won't be there any longer. But it sounds impressively big.
The county boundary at Clarendon Hill, about a mile west of North Tidworth, turns towards the south along an old landmark called the "Devil's Ditch," on the western side of Beacon Hill, down to Park House. The burial mounds called barrows abound in the direction of Ambresbury; and no wonder, for we are approaching what was once the fashionable burying-ground of eminent Ancient Britons.

[...] At Park Gate, on the county boundary, on the road between Andover and Amesbury, there is, or was, in a field abutting on a narrow lane leading from the roadside inn, a flat stone, of large dimensions, 11ft. long, 12ft. in breadth, and 5ft. in thickness. One of the many traditions about Stonehenge is that the great Sarsens came from Andover, and this Park Gate stone, in order to help the tradition, is quoted as having been on its way thither but abandoned.
From 'Notes on the Border of Wilts and Hants' by the Rev. Canon J.E. Jackson, in WANHM v21, 1883.

Stonehenge (Stone Circle) — Miscellaneous

The following letter from "The Proprietor of Stonehenge" appeared in the Times, of Thursday last:-

In a recent impression of the Times "A Visitor to Stonehenge" complains of the general damage done in thirty years past, and of particular damage done on the day of his visit. I believe no one of our old monuments has suffered less during the period first mentioned, and, considering the thousands who annually visit it, I think the public deserve much credit for the very little damage done.

On inquiry I find that about a fortnight ago an individual of the mechanic class brought a large sledgehammer, and, notwithstanding the remonstrances of a person who is usually at the stones holding horses, persisted in breaking the corners of two of the fallen stones. This is the only recent damage I can find, after a careful inspection. If I knew his name and place of residence, I should assuredly try what the law could do in such a case of wilful mischief; but, speaking generally, and judging from results, I believe an appeal to the public interest in such monuments and to the good feeling so generally entertained is the best preservative.

In the few cases of attempted mischief I am bound to say that the operative class are not those principally implicated. A member of the professional classes was one evening found, in the interests of science, as he asserted, endeavouring to ascertain the depth of the foundations. He apologised in the county paper, and the matter dropped.

A respectable paterfamilias, who arrived in a well-appointed barouche, was heard by a relative of mine asking for "the hammer and the chisel." On being requested to desist from the intended operation, the answer was, "And who the deuce are you, Sir?" On being told the petitioner claimed to be the proprietor of the threatened institution, he declared he had always believed it "public property."

In another instance three young men, being found on the top of two of the standing stones, stated they were about to carry off a piece of what is called the Sarsen stone for a relative of one of them, who was a distinguished archaeologist. On my writing to that gentleman, depracating a renewal of his relative's visits with such intentions, he assured me no relative of his would be guilty of such an act, adding, as a further assurance, that the act was unnecessary, as he already possessed a piece of the stone in question; he added, "given him by a friend."

I think I can re-assure the public mind as to the question, and I may surely ask those who take an interest in it, when they see attempts of the sort, to offer one of those good-natured remonstrances which will carry weight with the offender, and are sure to enlist the sympathy and assistance of the great body of bystanders.
Re-reported in the Salisbury and Winchester Journal, 23rd September 1871. I love the dry retelling of the anecdotes. And the final paragraph surely still holds as good advice today.

Hollingbury Hillfort — Miscellaneous

A few weeks since, a labourer employed in digging flints, near Hollingbury Castle (the ancient earthwork or camp on the summit of the hill between Brighton and Stanmer), discovered an interesting group of antiquities, placed very superficially in a slight excavation on the chalk rock. It consisted of a brass instrument, called a celt; a nearly circular ornament, spirally fluted, and having two rings placed loosely on the extremities, and four armillae or bracelets for the wrist, of a very peculiar shape. All these ornaments are composed of a metallic substance, which, from the appearance of those parts where the green patina, with which they are encrusted, has been removed, must have originally posessed a lustre but little inferior to burnished gold. They are clearly either of Roman or Anglo-Roman origin, and probably were buried on or near the site of interment of the individual to whom they belonged.
From the Salisbury and Winchester Journal, 7th February 1825. It seems they're in the British Museum now: I found their photo here. Not quite so flash as a gold torc but I like them. They've got a very modern minimal look about them.

Oweynagat (Souterrain) — Folklore

That night the three heroes [Laegaire, Conall and Cuchulain] were given as good a feast as before, but they were put to eat it in a room by themselves. When night came on, three enchanted monsters, with the shape of cats, were let out from the cave that was in the hill of the Sidhe at Cruachan, to attack them.

When Conall and Laegaire saw them, they got up into the rafters, leaving their food after them, and there they stayed till morning. Cuchulain did not leave his place, but when one of the monsters came to attack him, he gave a blow of his sword at its head; but the sword slipped off as if from a stone.

Then the monster stayed quiet, and Cuchulain sat there through the night watching it. With the break of day the cats were gone, and Ailell came in and saw what way the heroes were. "Are you not satisfied to give the Championship to Cuchulain, after this?" he said. "We are not," said Conall and Laegaire; "it is not against beasts we are used to fight, but against men."

...


There was at Cruachan the Hill of the Sidhe, or, as some called it, the Cave of Cruachan. It was there Midhir brought Etain one time, and it is there the people of the Sidhe lived; but it is seldom any living person had the power to see them.

It is out of that hill a flock of white birds came one time, and everything they touched in all Ireland withered up, until at last the men of Ulster killed them with their slings. And another time enchanted pigs came out of the hill, and in every place they trod, neither corn nor grass nor leaf would sprout before the end of seven years, and no sort of weapon would wound them. But if they were counted in any place, or if the people so much as tried to count them, they would not stop in that place, but they would go on to another. But however often the people of the country tried to count them, no two people could ever make out the one number.
From Lady Gregory's 'Cuchulain of Muirthemne' (1902), page 68 and page 148.

Mutiny Stones (Cairn(s)) — Folklore

Mr John S. Leitch, Longformacus, told the party of an old tradition about the stones and said that this was that "Auld Nick" had undertaken to build a cauld at Kelso across the Tweed. As he could not get the material at Kelso, he had gone to Dunbar for it, and there he had filled his mittens. As he had flown back from Dunbar one of his mittens had rubbed against the top of a hill with the result that the mitten burst and the contents fell where they now saw the stones. So angry had "Auld Nick" been that he had refused to build a cauld at Kelso.

Mr Leitch went on to tell the company that during the last war a German bomber had dropped 27 bombs close behind the stones, killing three sheep. He had told an old man in the village about this and the old man's reply was that it was not the first time things had been dropped at Byrecleuch. (Laughter.)
From a trip of 70 members of the Berwickshire Naturalists' Club, reported in the Berwick Advertiser, 26th May 1949. I didn't know the word but a cauld is a weir or dam on a river.

Creeg Tol (Natural Rock Feature) — Folklore

On the way back to the carriages [from the Boscawen-Un circle] the party visited Careg-Tol, a fine pile of granite rocks not far from the Circle, commanding an extensive view. Thereon are some shallow rock basins, the outline resembling a human foot, and which, being of superhuman size, are locally called giant's or devil's footprints.
From a report of an excursion of the Penzance Natural History and Antiquarian Society, in the Cornubian and Redruth Times, 3rd September 1869.

Pendle Hill (Sacred Hill) — Folklore

Some stoney folklore from the hill (not unfamiliar from elsewhere):
On a farm called Craggs, near Sabden, on the sloping side of Pendle, is a mass of sandstone rocks, which have fallen down from the scar above. On one side of the big stones are two marks side by side, about two feet six inches long, and about six inches wide. They resemble gigantic footmarks, and are said to be those of the Devil. However, when he alighted on the stone he must have crossed his legs, for the left footprint is on the right side of the stone. The outline of this foot is quite perfect, but the other is ill-formed. This is accounted for by the well known fact that the Devil has a club foot.

About a mile from the "Devil's Footprints," and on the crest of the hill above Ashendean Clough, not far from the Well Springs public-house, are a quantity of stones scattered about on the ground, locally known as "The Apronful." Nearly in the centre of them is a hollow in the ground, and the writer is inclined to think that these stones were formerly built into a rude wall round the hollow as a base for a beacon fire, and that they have since been scattered about as they now lie.

The local legend however, is as follows. One day the Devil was coming with an apronful of stones for the purpose of knocking down Clitheroe Castle. He stepped from Hambledon Hill on to the side of Pendle, where he left the footmarks on Cragg's Farm before alluded to. His next step was to the Apronful. Here being in view of the Castle, he took one of the stones and threw it towards Clitheroe; but just as he was in the act of doing so, his 'brat string' broke, and all the stones he was carrying were tumbled on to the ground. [The stone he was throwing] fell short of the mark, and may now be seen, with the marks of his fingers on it, in a field above Pendleton.

The breaking of the apron-string is a very common incident in folk stories. It occurs in connection with the building by the Devil of a bridge near Kirkby Lonsdale; and in an Ormskirk legend of the Devil.
From a piece in the Burnley News, 8th January 1916.
Showing 1-50 of 4,219 posts. Most recent first | Next 50
This hill, it has a meaning that is very important for me, but it's not rational. It's beautiful, but when you look, there's nothing there. But I'd be a fool if I didn't listen to it.

-- Alan Garner.


...I'd rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn...

-- William Wordsworth.


I'm currently mad on visiting Anglo-Saxon and Norman carvings and enjoy the process of drawing them:
http://wiltshirewandering.blogspot.co.uk/

and I've been helping digitise the Schools' Collection of the National Folklore Collection of Ireland... you can also at
http://www.duchas.ie/en

Some interesting websites with landscape and fairy folklore:
http://earthworks-m.blogspot.co.uk
http://faeryfolklorist.blogspot.co.uk

My TMA Content: