Celtic Myth Podshow News

Bringing the Tales and Stories of the Ancient Celts to your Fireside

Tag: Scottish Gaelic and Hebridean Mythology (Page 1 of 4)

Scotland – Gaelic language school a victim of success

PUPIL numbers at Glasgow Gaelic School are at an all-time high. But the popularity of the school has landed education bosses with a problem – they cannot find enough fluent Gaelic-speaking teachers. This year the secondary school has around 62 students on the roll but next year that number is set to rise to 100.
Over 70 children will enroll in the primary school next term.

Gaelic Language Schools

Glasgow was the first council to provide a dedicated Gaelic secondary school, recognised nationally as a ground breaking approach.

Margaret Doran, executive director of education and social work, admitted the shortage would hit lessons.

She said:

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The Cailleach, or Hag of Winter by Stuart McHardy

The Hag of Winter is known in Scotland and Ireland as The Cailleach, of which Cailich is variant, though there are many more stories and place names associated with her in the latter, as was pointed out by the great folklorist Katherine Briggs over fifty years ago.The idea that The Cailleach was imported into Scotland from Ireland is another instance of reality contradicting accepted notions. If the Cailleach did in fact originate in Ireland why do we in Scotland have so many more stories of her?

Her name in Gaelic means the hooded, or veiled one and after Christianity arrived became the accepted term for a nun. This has led to an interesting situation where confusion arises between a figure who was part of ancient Mother Goddess belief and Christian nuns. In ancient belief she was particularly known for spreading the harsh weather of winter and for living on mountain tops.

The Oral Lore of the Cailleach

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Scottish Celtic Sweat Lodge – Sauna saved and re-built

News at the Scotsman.com reports pic that a Bronze Age structure thought to have been used as a Celtic sweat lodge has been saved from destruction by the sea after a team of archaeologists moved the entire find to a safer location. The building, which dates from between 1500BC and 1200BC, was unearthed on the Shetland island of Bressay eight years ago. It was found in the heart of the Burnt Mound at Cruester, a Bronze Age site on the coast of Bressay facing Lerwick.

But earlier this summer (2008), because of the increased threat of coastal erosion, local historians joined archaeologists to launch a campaign to save the building and to move it somewhere safer. A third of the mound had already been lost to sea erosion.

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Saltire Annihilation Part 1 – Scotland’s Superhero returns in a tale of Dark Age horror!

We met the Big, Blue,Red-Headed Immortal Guardian of Scotland, Saltire – the first real Scottish Superhero in the style of the classic Marvel and DC greats, in his first outing Saltire: Invasion. His second adventure starts in the follow-on Graphic Novel – Saltire: Annihilation Pt.1!With John Ferguson still penning the adventure and a new artist, Claire Roe, at the helm this Graphic Novel plunges us into the Dark Ages and a time of conflict between the Saxons and Clans of the North. Into this maelstrom of political turmoil, an ancient evil awakens and begins to prey upon the Clans.

A Proud Heritage Reborn!

Once more the Clans and their Guardians call upon Saltire, our Immortal Hero, to awaken and come to their rescue. The action is fast and furious as a bloody swathe is cut across the Highlands and Valleys of Saltire’s land!

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Scottish Merlin was born and bred in Glasgow

Scottish Merlin?

Scottish Merlin?

The BBC reports that the legendary wizard Merlin has been added to a list of famous Glaswegians, it has emerged. The council included the wizard, who featured in Arthurian legend, on a list of well-known figures from the city. A council spokeswoman admitted that like most mythical figures, it was difficult to trace Merlin’s origins. But she said the wizard had been added to its website list after an amateur historian suggested Merlin had lived in the Partick area of the city.

He joins Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh and comedian Billy Connolly on the list of famous characters, both real and fictional.

‘Glorious history’ of the Scottish Merlin

Merlin has his very own category on the list – filed under wizard.

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Neolithic Orkney Stone Circle to be uncovered

The BBC have just reported that a major archaeological investigation is getting under way at one of Western Europe’s most impressive prehistoric sites.The Ring of Brodgar in Orkney is the third largest stone circle in the British Isles, but little is known about it.

The project will involve the re-excavation and extension of trenches dug in 1973. Geophysical surveys will also be undertaken to investigate the location of standing stones.

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Launch video from the beginnings of BBC Alba


There has been an important development in terms of Celtic language television broadcasting with the launch of the new Gaelic TV station BBC Alba. The video above from YouTube is a reworking of Runrig’s “Alba”, first tune on the opening night on Scotland’s new TV channel, BBC Alba.

The new channel is initially available on Sky satellite TV channel 168 and also on Freesat. The station will also become available on the digital terrestrial service Freeview. However the Freeview launch will not take place until 2010 at the earliest which is disappointing.

The Head of BBC Alba, Margaret Mary Murray, has said the channel was not just for Gaelic speakers.

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Regaining a sense of ‘Clan’ at Clan Gathering

Halystorm’s Head
The Daily Pilot reports about the 76th Annual Highland Gathering and Festival at the OC Fair and Expo on Sunday, along with many other clans. What a day this must have been!Daniel Telford, the correspondent says:The weekend festival invited a number of the major Scottish clans that have representatives in the U.S. to have booths and inform the public about their heritage. The booths lined the streets of the expo, offering information, T-shirts, trinkets and the chance for some to trace their genealogy.

There were also Scottish bands and music, as well as boutiques and kilt stores.

One of the highlights of the festival was the Scottish athletics competition, as men tried to prove that some of the strongest are those wearing kilts. They competed in a number of events, including the caber toss, where contestants take a long log and launch it in hopes of turning the log end over end while keeping the log in a straight line.

Gary Herbold, a member of the Ferguson Clan, represents the Ferguson Clan at a number of Scottish Festivals across California and has been involved in Scottish events for nearly two decades. He said:

A lot of people that you get, it’s their first time. Their grandmothers or uncle was in [a particular clan] and they never thought much about it. They are usually very thrilled to tie something in their personal life to something bigger.

You can read more about the story here.

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Stone of Destiny: An Improbable Story About Key Event In Scottish History

Stone of Destiny - new film
Pic: City News.
Canada’s City News reports that: It’s an improbable story, and one tailor-made for Hollywood.

So it’s surprising that the true account behind the Stone of Destiny is just coming to the big screen now, nearly six decades after the original events occurred.

It was Christmas Day, 1950, when Glasgow University student Ian Hamilton and his friends broke into Westminster Abbey to steal a 300 lb block of sandstone. Called the Stone of Destiny, or the Stone of Scone, Edward I seized the stone from Scotland in 1296 as part of his spoils of war. For hundreds of years it sat in a compartment underneath St. Edward’s Chair, upon which monarchs were crowned.

That never sat well with the Scots, and though over the years many talked about taking back the stone no one ever did – until Hamilton and his friends.

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Gruagach – Fairy Queen of the Highlands by Stuart McHardy

Queen of the Bad Faeries by Brian Froud

Queen of the Bad Faeries by Brian Froud

The Scottish supernatural helper, the Gruagach, has generally been presented as a form of the better-known “brownie”. In fact what we seem to find in the Gruagach are remnants of traditions that are of extreme antiquity and are perhaps directly linked to ancient pagan belief in the specific form of Mother Goddess worship. Much of the material considered here came to my notice in the research for a study on the Nine Maidens, a motif that occurs with startling frequency in Classical, Celtic, Norse and other mythological and legendary sources. In the course of my researches I came across references to the Gruagach as possibly being linked to other beings and was intrigued..

In Old Scottish Customs, E.J. Guthrie (1895, repr.1994) introduces the Gruagach:

“Some time ago the natives of some of the Western Islands firmly believed in the existence of the gruagach, a female spectre of the class of brownies, to whom the dairy-maids made frequent libations of milk. The gruagach was said to be an innocent being who frolicked or gambolled among the pens and folds. She was armed solely with a pliable rod, with which she switched any who would annoy her either by using bad language, or depriving her of her share of the dairy produce. Even so late as 1770 the dairymaids who attended a herd of cattle in the Island of Trodda [off Skye], were in the habit of placing daily a quantity of milk on a hollow stone for the gruagach. Should they ever neglect this duty they were sure to feel the weight of the brownie’s rod on the following day”.

F. Marion McNeill in The Silver Bough (1957) tells us of these creatures:

In Tiree, Skye and elsewhere, the tutelary spirit of both cattle and cattle fold is called the Gruagach, and in Skye, Gruagach stones, where libations were formerly left, are still pointed out. One of these is at Sleat, formerly the residence of the Lords of the Isles, and the Gruagach attached by tradition to the Castle is said to have been frequently seen in the vicinity of the stone”.

Several commentators have suggested that this helper might in fact be a decayed belief of a previously more substantial figure. J.A. McCulloch (The religion of the ancient Celts, 1911) had this to say:

“Until recently milk was poured on ‘Gruagach stones’ in the Hebrides, as an offering to the Gruagach, a brownie who watched over herds, and who had taken the place of a god”.

Evans-Wentz in The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries (1911) also describes the Gruagach, again stressing the link with cattle:

The fairy queen who watches over cows is called Gruagach in the islands, and she is often seen. In pouring libations to her and her fairies, various kinds of stones, usually with hollows in them, are used. In many parts of the Highlands, where the same deity is known, the stone into which women poured the libation is called Leac na Gruagaich, ‘Flag-stone of the Gruagach’. If the libation was omitted in the evening, the best cow in the fold would be found dead in the morning”.

There are many instances of the association of cows with powerful female figures in the traditions of the Celtic-speaking peoples, one of the most significant perhaps being the cow at  Calanais who came from the sea in a time of famine and gave all the locals sufficient milk to survive, until a greedy witch, disappointed in not getting more than her share milked the cow using a bottomless bucket, which caused the cow to disappear.

Tales of such supernatural cattle occur in many European and Asian locations as shown by Hilda Ellis Davidson (Roles of the Northern Goddess, 1998). The importance of cattle in Scottish Highland society has been well-documented and like the many instances Davidson mentions, appears to be of considerable antiquity. Evans-Wentz tells us that the Gruagach “is often seen”. This was written in the first decade of the 20th century and suggests that the belief in the Gruagach was still extant at that time, or shortly before.

In J.F. Campbell’s Popular Tales of the West Highlands (1860/1) he writes of a spirit called locally ‘Greogaca’ which is clearly the same as the Gruagach but here the helper is presented as male. In this story, the Gruagach helps to look after the cattle, but only if an offering of warm milk is left for him in a nearby knocking-stone. This repeats the familiar motif in which farm workers, usually the milk-maids, leave libations of milk in nearby hollow stones.

In some cases it is clear that these stones are cup-and-ring marked rocks. Such rocks are believed to have been the focus of some sort of ritual activity in the far past and are generally considered to have been carved in the Stone Age. This is as yet incapable of being proved, but archaeologists do agree on their great antiquity. This raises the possibility that the libations being placed in such stones was descended at some point either from specific rituals associated with such stones or that the sanctity of the stones themselves was the reason such practices arose.     To read more of this fascinating article visit  Goddess Alive


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