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 5)

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

Pic: BBC
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.

Dr Jane Downes of the Archaeology Department, Orkney College, UHI, and Dr Colin Richards of the University of Manchester are the project directors.

Dr Downes said:

Because so little is known about the Ring of Brodgar, a series of assumptions have taken the place of archaeological data.

The interpretation of what is arguably the most spectacular stone circle in Scotland is therefore incomplete and unclear.


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Bronze Age Sweat Lodge or Sauna Saved

Burnt Mound at Cruester
Pic: Shorewatch.co.uk
A Bronze Age structure thought to have been used as a sauna has been saved from destruction by the sea after a team of archaeologists moved the entire find to a safer location reports the Scotsman.com.

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 in the summer of 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.

The central structure was carefully dismantled and each stone numbered before being moved to a site a mile way next to Bressay Heritage Centre.

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22nd Annual Scottish Festival and Highland Games

Pic: Haggis hurling

The Chicago Daily Herald tells us that on June 20-21 the Highland Games will be in full fling in Chicago. When it comes to celebrating Celtic culture around Chicago, people of Scottish descent always seem to be overshadowed by the Irish.

There’s no national holiday like St. Patrick’s Day when “everyone is Scottish for one day.” It would also be impossible to dye the Chicago River plaid.

Yet Scottish culture and traditions strongly persevere locally, thanks to efforts of the Illinois St. Andrew Society, a nonprofit charity organization dating back to 1854. The society’s biggest and highest-profile event is the annual Scottish Festival and Highland Games, now celebrating its 22nd year.

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Prehistoric Scotland had links to lands overseas

Upper Largie Footed Food Vessel
Upper Largie Footed Food Vessel
Pic: Culture 24
Back in February 2008, Culture 24 reported on a discovery made in Upper Largie which provided exciting evidence of 4,000 year-old links between prehistoric Scotland and the Netherlands. Upper Largie is near Kilmartin in Argyll and Bute and the original excavations took place in 2005.

Analysis of the pots by Alison Sheridan, of National Museums Scotland, has revealed early international-style Beakers of the type found around the lower Rhine, which is the modern-day Netherlands and a strange hybrid of styles that suggest Irish and Yorkshire influences.

These finds are very rare.

said Martin Cook, the AOC Archaeology Project Officer, who oversaw the excavations in 2005.

I think there are three or four other examples that early in Scotland. We initially didn’t realise how unusual they were, as it is so unusual to find three beaker ceramic vessels in the same feature.

The actual structure was very unusual, there’s only been one other grave excavated like that in Scotland – you just don’t get features like that generally.

The excavations revealed two graves within a complex Neolithic and Bronze Age ritual landscape composed of monuments including an Early Neolithic cursus (long earthwork) and an Early Bronze Age timber circle.

The grave is so early and the style of ceramic is so rare for this period that it’s either an immigrant or a first or second generation descendant who still knows these techniques. The pots are made from local material which certainly suggests an immigrant or a second generation person.

Travel at this time would have been difficult with few established tracks and thick forests covering much of the British Isles – much of it populated by some dangerous wild animals. Seaward travel to or from Yorkshire and Ireland to pick up these influences would have been the slightly easier option.

I think it just re-emphasises the importance of Kilmartin as a centre during this time.

added Martin.

For more information about the work of AOC Archeology Group, see www.aocarchaeology.com

To read the full article, please go to Culture 24.

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Highland Folklore: The Secret Commonwealth Revisited

Study for The Quarrel of Oberon and Titania
Pic: Wiki
It is just over three hundred years since Robert Kirk, minister of Aberfoyle, died at the age of fifty two. But the question remains, did he really die or was he ‘taken’? Taken, that is, by the Good People, the elusive folk who lived under the earth in the green hills.The youngest and seventh son of James Kirk, Robert studied theology at St. Andrews and took his master’s degree at Edinburgh.

He became the minister of Balquidder and moved to Aberfoyle in 1685, having published a psalter in Gaelic the previous year. He had also been involved in preparing a Gaelic translation of the Bible.

We might expect a man of his background to have been a staunch supporter of established orthodoxy but this was no ordinary preacher. He recorded his thoughts in a manuscript dated 1691 entitled “The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Fairies“.

Descriptions of the Faerie World

There is no mention of hell and damnation, just a fair and reasonable account of the unseen world. There is nothing sentimental in his writing, and those seers who had the ability to witness the people of peace regarded it as an affliction rather than a gift. The Tabhaiser, or Seer,

“is not terrified with their sight when he calls them, but seeing them in a surpryse (as often he does) frights him extreamly”.

These are clearly not the tinselled fairies of Victorian England but the wild and elemental spirits of nature.

Two ways of gaining the second sight are described. The first is to acquire a tedder (tether) of hair which has bound a corpse to the bier. With this wound round the waist one must stoop down and look back through the legs until a funeral passes. The alternative is to find an accomplished seer who will place his right foot over the candidate’s left and lay his hand upon his head. This confers the power to see and seems not unlike descriptions of admission to a witch coven.

Kirk’s account of the secret commonwealth combines the banal with the surreal. They live in houses underground that are large and fair, lit with lamps and fires but without fuel to sustain them. They may abduct mortal women to nurse their children. Their clothing and speech is that of the country they live in. Their life span is longer than ours, but eventually they die. They have rulers and laws but no discernible religion. Moreover, unlike us, they do not have a dense, material form but have, in Kirk’s words,

“Bodies of congealed Air”.

Every Quarter they travel to fresh lodgings, a reference perhaps to the elemental tides of the seasons.

It is possible that Kirk employed seers to give him information about the dark and silent world, just as Dr. Dee relied upon Edward Kelly a century before.

What really happened to Robert Kirk?

An odd story of what became of the minister of Aberfoyle remains. His successor, the Rev. Dr Grahame, describes how Robert Kirk was walking one day on a fairy hill. He collapsed and was taken for dead. After the funeral, his form was seen by a relative. The spectre urged him to go to their cousin Grahame of Duchray.

Kirk was, he explained, not dead but a captive in the elemental world. His widow was pregnant and he foretold that if Duchray came to the christening, he, Robert Kirk, would appear. Duchray must then throw his dirk over the head of the apparition. If this was done, Kirk would be freed.

Sure enough, the birth and the christening came. Grahame of Duchray was there, just as he had been bidden. During the ceremony the outline of the former minister could be seen. Duchray was so taken aback that he failed to throw the dirk. And the author of the Secret Commonwealth disappeared, never to be seen again


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