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

Temple of Anaitis


"The Waternish road turns off to the north at Fairy Bridge, whence it runs along the valley of the Bay river. On the left of the road, though at some little distance from it, where the river cleaves its way through a gorge to the sea, stands the mound which is now all that remains of the 'Temple of Anaitis' (so called). What form of prehistoric building it was or of what period is not known. But Dr. Johnson visited Waternish to see it in 1773 and it was a mystery then as now. Its old Gaelic name is said to have been 'Teampuill-na-Annait', and so to have given rise to the Anaitis legend. This name of Annait or Annat is found all over Scotland. It has been interpreted as meaning the 'Water-place' from Celtic 'An' = water, because many are near water. Others suggest 'Ann' = a circle (Celtic) and claim that most Annats are near standing stones. The most-favoured derivation seems to be from Ann, the Irish mother of the Gods, and those who hold this view claim that the Annats are always near a revered spot, where either a mother-church or the cell of a patron saint once stood. Probably Annat does, in fact, come from an older, pre-Celtic tongue, and belongs to an older people whose ancient worship it may well commemorate. The curious shape of the Waternish Temple of Anaitis and its survival make it seem likely that it was something of importance in its day, built with more than usual care and skill. Perhaps the Temple tradition is correct - but whose, if so, and to what gods? One cannot help wondering if cats played any part in its ritual, and if so, if any faint memory remains, for the nickname of the people of this wing was 'Na Caits' = The Cats, and not far off, by one of the tributary burns on the right of the roadway, there stands a small cairn, crowned by a long, sharp stone somewhat resembling a huge claw. This is the 'Cats' Cairn'."

- Otta F. Swire, Skye: The Island and its Legends, 1961, pp. 94-5.

The Cats' Cairn (NG271526) is said to mark the grave of a young eighteenth century boy, who was buried where he died. Whilst sheltering from a storm in a derelict cottage one day he saw three cats that transformed themselves into witches. They "put the fear" upon him, so that he would tell no-one of what he had seen, promising to kill him if he breathed a word of them. His terror was so great, however, causing him to stop sleeping and eating, that his mother knew something was wrong and persuaded him to reveal all. A year later he was found dead on the moor: "he appeared to have been done to death by long, sharp claws" (Swire, p. 97).

A further example of this kind of Annait place-name can be found elsewhere on Skye at Clach na h'annait.
TomBo Posted by TomBo
28th June 2004ce
Edited 30th June 2004ce

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