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Folklore Posts by Rhiannon

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King and Queen Stone (Natural Rock Feature)

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))

... 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.

Pendeen Vau (Fogou)

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))

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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.

Rath Cruachan (Artificial Mound)

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

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.

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

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.

The Hole Stone (Holed Stone)

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)

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.

Oweynagat (Souterrain)

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))

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)

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)

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.

Sallachy Broch

Just to warn you, if you see a horse here. Just leave it alone.
The Seven Herds of Sallachie and the Water-horse.

Lang syne, when men, and flocks, and herds were plenty in Sutherland, there were seven herds watching their flocks by Loch Shin, and it was evening. They all quarrelled among the others. Said one herd to the other, "That is my father's horse." "No, it is my father's horse": and they fell to fighting (for the horse looked different to each of them). The first jumped up. "There is room for two," said the second, and jumped up also. The others were angry.

"It is a bonny horse, too," said a girl that came by, when they were all up but one. And she patted its shining skin, but her hand stuck to it.

"Oh! Annach," cried her brother,"will ye die with the others, or want your hand?" "Oh! take off the hand and let us run."

So he took the hand off, and they two ran home, and the seven herds of Sallachie were never seen again.

Mr Young, Lairg.
It's a bit ghastly isn't it, with hands being chopped off and magic water horses willfully drowning people. Excellent.

From Miss Dempster's "The Folk-lore of Sutherlandshire" in The Folk-Lore Journal volume 6.

Caer Bran (Hillfort)

From Mr Borlase's article in The Cornish Telegraph, 27th April 1864:
Having obtained the kind consent of William Rashleigh, Esq. of Menabilly, Cornwall (to whom the property belongs), I visited Chapel Uny on the 10th of August, 1863. The ground above and around was intersected by the low dilapidated walls of an ancient British village somewhat similar to, but in no way so perfect as, those at Chysauster (where there is also a cave), at Bossullow Crellas, and other places in the neighbourhood.

In two places the ground had fallen in, disclosing in the one a portion of the side of a circular subterranean building; and in the other a deep and dark cavity. It appears that for the last century the cave has remained in exactly the same state as it is at present. Traditions of the place aver that it terminates beneath a huge 'cairn' [where] treasure is concealed; and also that it leads to the fortification of Caer Bran, which is about a quarter of a mile distant: but the former of these curious traditions has already proved to be incorrect.
I guess he's suggesting the fogou at Carn Euny connects with this spot.
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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: