Fantasy, Fiction, ireland, Lore, love, Magik, Nordic, Orkney Islands, scottland, Seals, Selkie

Romance of the Scottsh Sea: Selkie Lore

“As soon as the seal was clear of the water, it reared up and its skin slipped down to the sand. What had been a seal was a white-skinned boy”
-George Mackay Brown


Selkie
is the Orcadian dialect word for, “seal”. The word derives from earlier Scots, selich, (from Old English, seolh) So, selkies are a very common sight across Orkney. Heads bobbing above the waves, they are often seen  by the shore, watching  inquisitively with uncannily human eyes.

In the Faroe Islands there are two versions of the story of the Selkie or Seal Wife. A young farmer from the town of Mikladalur on Kalsoy island goes to the beach to watch the selkies dance. He hides the skin of a beautiful selkie maid, so she can not go back to sea, and forces her to marry him.
He keeps her skin in a chest, and keeps the key with him both day and night. One day when out fishing, he discovers that he has forgotten to bring his key. When he returns home, the selkie wife has escaped back to sea, leaving their children behind. Later, when the farmer is out on a hunt, he kills both her selkie husband and two selkie sons, and she promises to take revenge upon the men of Mikladalur. Some shall be drowned, some shall fall from cliffs and slopes, and this shall continue, until so many men have been lost that they will be able to link arms around the whole island of Kalsoy. Unlike the Finfolk, who retained their malicious tendencies  throughout the years, the selkie-folk have come to be regarded as gentle  creatures,  with the ability to transform from seals into beautiful, lithe  humans.

In the surviving folklore, there is no agreement as to how  often the selkie-folk were able to carry out the transformation. Some tales say  it was once a year, usually Midsummer’s Eve, while others state it could be  “every ninth night” or “every seventh stream”.

Regardless of how often they were able to transform, the  folklore tells us that once in human form, the selkie-folk would dance on  lonely stretches of moonlit shore, or bask in the sun on outlying skerries (rocks).

The selkie skin

A common element in all the selkie-folk tales, and perhaps  the most important, is the fact that in order
to shapeshift they had to cast off  their sealskins. Within these magical skins lay the power to return to seal  form, and therefore the sea.

If this sealskin was lost, or stolen, the creature was  doomed to remain in human form until it could be recovered. Because of this, if  disturbed while on shore, the selkie-folk would hastily snatch up their skins  before rushing back to the safety of the sea.

Amorous encounters

. The selkie-men were renowned for their many encounters with  human females — married and unmarried.

A selkie-man in human form was said to be a handsome  creature, with almost magical seductive powers over mortal women. According to tradition, they had no  qualms about casting off their sealskins, stashing them carefully, and heading  inland to seek out “unsatisfied women”.

Should such a mortal woman wish to make contact with a  selkie-man, there was a specific rite she had to follow. At high tide, she  should make her way to the shore, where
she had to shed seven tears into the  sea.

The selkie-man would then come ashore and, after removing  his magical sealskin, seek out “unlawful love”.

In the words of the 19th century Orkney folklorist, Walter  Traill Dennison, these selkie males:

“. . . often made havoc among thoughtless girls, and  sometimes intruded into the sanctity of married life.”

There is a folk song called, “The Maiden & The Selkie,”  that is a very lovely and tribal depiction of the romance of the Selkie-man to the women of the Orkneys, to hear it click the link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=om8LzIcFmbA

If a girl went missing while out on the ebb, or at sea, it  was inevitably said that her selkie lover had taken her to his watery domain —  assuming, of course, she had not attracted the eye of a Finman.

But while the males of the selkie race were irresistible to  the island women, selkie-women were no less alluring to the eyes of earth-born  men. The most common theme in selkie folklore is one in  which a cunning young man acquires, either by trickery or theft, a selkie-girl’s  sealskin.

This prevents her from returning to the sea, leaving the  seal-maiden with no option but to marry her “captor”.

The tales generally end sadly, when the skin is returned,  usually by one of the selkie-wife’s children. In
some accounts, her children go  with her to the sea, while others have them remaining with their mortal father. Tragic and connective the lore of the Selkie is a profound representation of the human connection and longing for the sea.

Literature

The Great Silkie of Sule Skerry or The Grey Selkie of Suleskerry is a traditional folk song from Orkney. The song was collected by the American scholar, Francis James Child in the late nineteenth century and is listed as Child ballad number 113.

“The Great Silkie of Sule Skerry.”

An earthly nourris sits and sings,
And aye she sings, “Ba lilly wean,
Little ken I my bairns father,
Far less the land that he staps in.”

Then ane arose at her bed fit,
And a grumly guest I’m sure was he,
Saying “Here am I, thy bairns father,
Although I am not comely.”

I am a man upon the land,
I am a silkie in the sea,

And when I’m far frae every strand,
My home it is in Sule Skerry.”

“It was na weel”, the maiden cried,
“It was na weel, indeed” quo she,
“For the Great Silkie of Sule Skerrie,
To hae come and aught a bairn to me!”

Then he has taken a purse of gold,
And he has laid it on her knee,
Saying, “give to me, my little young son,
And take thee up thy nouriss fee.

It shall come to pass on a summer’s day,
When the sun shines hot on every stone,
That I shall take my little young son,
And teach him for to swim the foam.

And thou shalt marry a proud gunner,
And a very proud gunner I’m sure he’ll be,
And the very first shot that e’re he shoots,
he’ll kill both my young son and me.”

An interpolated 5th stanza has also been heard:

‘Twas weel eno’ the night we met,
When I’d be oot and on my way,
Ye held me close, ye held me tight,
“Just ane mair time ere the break o’ day!”
Phrase Key

nourris = nurse
ken = know
 staps = stops
bed fit = foot of the bed
 grumly = strange

The version I like best of this was done by Joan Baez. To hear it click below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6zZy2Q3QY0Q&list=PL4593CF2488169FD8

Great books for more on Selkies:

  • Thomson, David. The People of the Sea: A Journey in Search of the Seal Legend
  • Katharine Briggs, An Encyclopedia of Fairies, Hobgoblins, Brownies, Boogies, and Other Supernatural Creatures
  • Williamson, Duncan (1992). Tales of the seal people: Scottish folk tales
  • “The Brides of Rollrock Island” by Margo Lanagan

Source material: http://www.orkneyjar.com/index.html

http://www.stolaf.edu/people/hend/VictoryMusic/July-MusicTrad_SelkieLore.htm

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American ghost story, American Hauntings, American Lore, autumn, Bell Witch, Bell Witch Haunting, fall, Fantasy, Fiction, Ghost, Halloween ghost story, Haunting, Kate Batts, Lore, love lost, Magik, mischief, paranormal, Paranormal activity, Poltergeist, prophesy, spirits, Tennessee Lore, Uncategorized, Witch Ghost

American Ghost Story: Kate Batts, Witch & Poltergeist

THE ULTIMATE POLTERGEIST

So to prepare for the onset of All Hallows Eve, I have found for you a tale most intriguing. This juicy local lore hails from the south, deep in the history of Tennessee, from a small town called Adams.  It’s about a witch, whose name was Kate Batts, and about her grudge-match with the head of a family by the name of Bell.  The Bell family was comprised of what has been recorded and acknowledged as, “good folks.” The torment of the father, Ol’ Jack Bell, as the witch spirit called him, was shared by all of his loved ones on the estate, but especially his daughter Betsy, who was forbidden by the ghost to marry  the man she had planned on. It was said that the witch ghost, was a woman who had been cheated by John Bell, and was hell bent on revenge and planned to act as executioner.

The Goodspeed brothers wrote a local history in 1886, and it said the following:

“A remarkable occurrence, which attracted wide-spread interest, was connected with the family of John Bell, who settled near what is now Adams Station about 1804. So great was the excitement that people came from hundreds of miles around to witness the manifestations of what was popularly known as the “Bell Witch.” This witch was supposed to be some spiritual being having the voice and attributes of a woman. It was invisible to the eye, yet it would hold conversation and even shake hands with certain individuals. The feats it performed were wonderful and seemingly designed to annoy the family. It would take the sugar from the bowls, spill the milk, take the quilts from the beds, slap and pinch the children, and then laugh at the discomfort of its victims. At first it was supposed to be a good spirit, but its subsequent acts, together with the curses with which it supplemented its remarks, proved the contrary.”

For four years the family of John Bell was forced to endure what has come to be called a “noisy spirit” or poltergeist of a type which was unique
when compared with similar events documented before or after it. Developing the ability to speak, the spirit soon began to call itself “Kate”, after an odd local woman named Kate Batts. People in the community  referred to it as “Kate Batts’ witch”, though its physical form, if any, was never truly identified. The center of the unseen entity’s activity was John’s youngest daughter, Elizabeth (Betsy) Bell, a very attractive girl, who suffered from physical abuses brought on by the spirit which included merciless beatings, scratching, slapping, and constant mental anguish brought about by the spirit’s seemingly inexhaustible mischief and verbal harassment. It consistently ridiculed the choice of Joshua Gardner as her future husband, and induced in Betsy, and her father, a sickness, the symptoms of which included odd physical disturbances that eventually resulted in the death of John. The spirit could read the thoughts of those around it, describing in great detail the backgrounds of total strangers. It could accurately describe simultaneous events in other areas of the world within moments of being asked. Kate could move objects, sing, preach, and accomplish the most baffling pranks without detection. Its knowledge of the universe was astonishing, yet curiously incomplete in many details. Upon being exposed to both Baptist and Methodist doctrines, Kate began to display violent and contradictory behavior resulting, no doubt, from the many differences of those philosophies. Perhaps the spirit’s most astonishing manifestation occurred when four other spirits named Blackdog, Mathematics, Cypocryphy, and Jerusalem appeared briefly during the later years of the haunting. All seemed to be subservient to Kate and were invisible as well. It was during this period that the spirit’s mischief grew more intolerable with each passing day. Its evil hatred was often matched in kind with benign understanding and kindness, making it, in essence, a great paradox in the spirit realm, and an unwelcome guest in the intensely religious community it had chosen to haunt.
 (http://bellwitchlegend.blogspot.com/)

There were many superstitious people in the country who believed the witch was a reality, something supernatural, beyond human power or comprehension, which had been clearly demonstrated.  This is the way many reasoned about the mystery.  Kate arrogantly claimed to be all things, possessing the power to assume any shape, form or character, that of human, beast, varmint, fowl or fish, and circumstances went to confirm the assertion.  Therefore people with vivid imaginations were capable of seeing many strange sights and things that could not be readily accounted for, which were credited to the witch. Kate was a great scapegoat.
The goblin’s favorite form, however, was that of a rabbit, and this much is verified beyond question, the hare ghost took malicious pleasure in hopping out into the road, showing itself to every one who ever passed through that lane.  This same rabbit is there plentifully to this day, and can’t be exterminated.  Very few men know a witch rabbit; only experts can distinguish one from the ordinary molly cottontail.  The experts in that section, however, are numerous, and no one to this good day will eat a rabbit that has a black spot on the bottom of its left hind foot.  When the spot is found, the foot is carefully cut off and placed in the hip pocket, and the body buried on the north side of an old log.
(http://bellwitch02.tripod.com/index.htm)

As the story grew in popularity people would come to visit the witch and people would travel hundreds of miles to come and see the effects she had on the Bell family’s life. Until one day in 1820 when the witch spirit accomplished her task! John Bell died.
At his funeral it was aid that she danced, laughed, and made quite  spectacle of herself. It took a while for the strange things to end though, and it is still said that her spirit took up residence in what is now referred to as the Bell Witch Cave. Others believe that it is the point from which she entered the world.  Regardless, after John’s death, she said she would be back in seven years….and she was.

In 1828, Kate Batts reappeared. She visited the home of John Bell Jr. She conversed with him about the past, present, & future as well as making some predictions. She also said that there was a reason for John Bell Sr.’s death, and that she would return once again in one-hundred & seven years hence. That places a re-occurrence in 1935, of which nothing that I know of has been found. But there are those who say that after her second return, that she never really left, that her spirit, mischievous, still lingers on, and that if you go to the Bell Cabin site or the Bell Witch Cave, that you are certain to get a little pinch!

Movies made based on the lore:

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

Bell Witch Haunting (2004)

An American Haunting (2005)

Bell Witch: The Movie (2007)

The Bell Witch Haunting (2013)

For more information on the Bell Witch lore,  you can check out these sites:

http://www.bellwitchcave.com/

http://www.bellwitch.org/story.htm

http://bellwitchlegend.blogspot.com/

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Fantasy, Fiction, greek, imps, ireland, Lore, Magik, mischief, scottland, Uncategorized

Imps In The Pantry: LORE OF THE MISCHIEVOUS


“We have a task before us which must be speedily performed. We know that it will be ruinous to make delay. The most important crisis of our life calls, trumpet-tongued, for immediate energy and action. … It must, it shall be undertaken to-day, and yet we put it off until to-morrow, and why? There is no answer, except that we feel perverse, using the word with no comprehension of the principle. … [Then] The clock strikes, and is the knell of our welfare. At the same time, it is the chanticleer note to the ghost that has so long overawed us. It flies—disappears—we are free. The old energy returns. We will labor now. Alas, it is too late!”

–Edgar Allan Poe

The Imp of the Perverse is a metaphor for the urge to do exactly the wrong thing in a given situation for the sole reason that it is possible for wrong to be done. The impulse is compared to an imp which leads an otherwise decent person into mischief. So to further understand these creatures, let us explore the definition of them:

imp noun \ˈimp\
: a small creature that plays harmful tricks in children’s stories

: a child who causes trouble in a playful way : a mischievous child

Full Definition of IMP

1.obsolete : shoot, bud; also : graft
2. a : a small demon : fiend
2.b : a mischievous child : urchin

Origin of IMP

Middle English impe, from Old English impa, from impian to imp
First Known Use: before 12th century

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/imp

“The creature known as an Imp is a sentient beast not more than two fores tall that is said to resemble a thin lizard-like goblin with wings. Additionally, the Imp has an unusual looking face that resembles a smooth, bone-like mask with glowing red eyes. Imps have been favoured as intelligent and loyal familiars among many archmages over the centuries…” -Santharia

Originating from Germanic folklore, the imp was a small lesser demon.

It should also be noted that demons in Germanic legends were not necessarily always evil. Imps were often mischievous rather than evil or harmful, and in some regions, they were portrayed as attendants of the gods. Imps are often shown as small and not very attractive creatures. Their behavior is described as being wild and uncontrollable, much the same as fairies, and in some cultures, they were considered the same beings, both sharing the same sense of free spirit and enjoyment of all things fun. It was later in history that people began to associate fairies with being good and imps with being malicious and evil. However, both creatures were fond of pranks and misleading people. Most of the time, the pranks were harmless fun, but some could be upsetting and harmful, such as switching babies or leading travelers astray in places with which they were not familiar. Though imps are often thought of as being immortal, many cultures believed that they could be damaged or harmed by certain weapons and enchantments, or be kept out of people’s homes by the use of wards.

Imps were often portrayed as lonely little creatures, always in search of human attention. They often used jokes and pranks as a means of
attracting human friendship, which often backfired when people became tired or annoyed of the imp’s endeavors, usually driving it away.
Even if the imp was successful in getting the friendship it sought, it often still played pranks and jokes on its friend, either out of boredom or simply because this was the nature of the imp. This trait gave way to using the term “impish” for someone who loves pranks and practical jokes. Being associated with hell and fire, imps take a particular pleasure from playing with temperatures.
To this end, it came to be believed that imps were the familiar spirit servants of witches and warlocks, where the little demons served as spies and informants. During the time of the witch hunts, supernatural creatures such as imps were sought out as proof of witchcraft, though often, the so-called “imp” was typically a black cat, lizard, toad, or some other form of uncommon pet.
Imps have also been described as being “bound” or contained in some sort of object, such as a sword or crystal ball. In other cases, imps were simply kept in a certain object and summoned only when their masters had need of them. Some even had the ability to grant their owners wishes, much like a genie. This was the object of the 1891 story The Bottle Imp by Robert Louis Stevenson, which told of an imp contained in a bottle that would grant the owner their every wish, the catch being that the owner’s soul would be sent to hell if they didn’t sell the bottle to a new owner before their death.

Imps can be found in art and architecture throughout the world, usually carefully and painstakingly hidden under the eaves of a church or the foot of a ceramic cup, so they can only be found by the most interested and observant of people.
Imps may be described as an evil spirit or demon. They frequently appear in children’s stories such as ‘Silvia’ in which she is followed by a black Imp. Since their time, they have become more overlooked as not many people actually know what they are.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imp

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apollo, daphne, Fantasy, greek, Lore, love, love lost, Magik, mythology, poetry, Short story, Uncategorized

The Chase: The Love Story of Apollo & Daphne

“It was not brought about by accident, but by the malice of Cupid. The frustration of the gods is inevitable and cruel as Sun God learned…”

 One day the Sun god, Apollo saw the boy, Cupid, playing with his bow and arrows full; and being himself,  prideful with his recent victory over Python, he said to him,

“What have you to do with warlike weapons, saucy boy? Leave them for hands worthy of them, Behold the conquest I have won by means of them over the vast serpent who stretched his poisonous body over acres of the plain! Be content with your torch, child, and kindle up your flames, as you call them, where you will, but presume not to meddle with my weapons.”

Venus’s boy heard these words, and replied,

“Your arrows may strike all things else, Apollo, but mine shall strike you.”

So wise Cupid, climbed upon the rock of Parnassus, and drew two arrows of from his quiver. Each arrow had its own usage, and were made for this express purpose. The first was an arrow that would make anyone fall in love, but the second arrow, were anyone to be shot by it, then the one who was shot with the former arrow would only ever be someone to spite and resent. The love arrow was made of gold and was crafted to be very sharp. The second arrow was made with a rounded head, so as to be blunt, and was made of lead.  So, angry Cupid, nocked his lead arrow and aimed for  the nymph Daphne, who was the daughter of the river god Peneus. Then turning with a smile, he aimed the arrow love at proud Apollo, an sot him straight through the heart. Immediately Apollo was overtaken with love for an obsessive love of Daphne, and upon seeing the lusty greed in his eyes, she immediately was appalled and quite afraid of the love-struck god.  Her delight was in woodland sports and in the spoils of the chase… lovers sought her, but she spurned them all, ranging the woods, and taking no thought of Cupid nor of Hymen. She, hating the thought of marriage as a crime, with her beautiful face tinged all over with blushes, one day threw her arms around her father’s neck, and said,

“Dearest father, grant me this favour, that I may always remain unmarried, like Diana.” He consented, but at the same time said,

“Your own face will forbid it.”

Apollo loved her, and longed to obtain her; and he who gives oracles to all the world was not wise enough to look into his own fortunes. He saw her hair flung loose over her shoulders, and said,

“If so charming, in disorder, what would it be if arranged?”

He saw her eyes bright as stars; he saw her heart shaped lips, and was not satisfied with only seeing them. He admired her hands and arms, naked to the shoulder, and whatever was hidden from view he imagined more beautiful still. He followed her; and she fled, swifter than the wind, and delayed not a moment at his entreaties.

“Stay,” said he, “daughter of Peneus; I am not a foe. Do not fly from me as a lamb flies the wolf, or a dove the hawk. It is for love I pursue you. You make me miserable, for fear you should fall and hurt yourself on these stones, and I should be the cause. Pray run slower, and I will follow slower. I am no clown, no rude peasant. Jupiter is my father, and I am lord of Delphos and Tenedos, and know all things, present and future. I am the god of song and the lyre. My arrows fly true to the mark; but, alas! An arrow more fatal than mine has pierced my heart! I am the god of medicine, and know the virtues of all healing plants. Alas! I suffer a malady that no balm. can cure!”

The nymph continued her flight, and left his plea half uttered… And even as she fled she charmed him. The wind blew her garments, and her unbound hair streamed loose behind her. The god grew impatient to find his wooings thrown away, and, sped by Cupid, gained upon her in the race. It was like a hound pursuing a hare, with open jaws ready to seize, while the feebler animal darts forward, slipping from the very grasp. So flew the god and his temptation- he on the wings of love, and she on those of fear. The pursuer is the more rapid, however, and gains upon her, and his panting breath blows upon her hair. Her strength begins to fail, and, ready to sink, she calls upon her father, the river god:

“Help me, Peneus! open the earth to enclose me, or change my form, which has brought me into this danger!” She found herself saying though in her mind and heart she felt differently.

Scarcely had she spoken, when a stiffness seized all her limbs; her bosom began to be enclosed in a tender bark; her hair became leaves; her arms became branches; her foot stuck fast in the ground, as a root; her face became a tree-top, retaining nothing of its former self but its beauty, Apollo stood amazed. He touched the stem, and felt the flesh tremble under the new bark. He embraced the branches, and lavished kisses on the wood. The branches shook under his lips.

“Since you cannot be my wife,” said he, “you shall assuredly be my tree. I will wear you for my crown; I will decorate with you my harp and my quiver; and when the great Roman conquerors lead up the triumphal pomp to the Capitol, you shall be woven into wreaths for their brows. And, as eternal youth is mine, you also shall be always green, and your leaf know no decay.”

The nymph, now changed into a Laurel tree, bowed its head in graceful acknowledgment. At last he had her, but was it really her?

This is the tragedy and beautiful melancholy of the chase of Daphe by the one who would love her…

History & Facts

That Apollo should be the god both of music and poetry will not appear strange, but that medicine should also be assigned to his province, may. The poet Armstrong, himself a physician, thus accounts for it:

“Music exalts each joy, allays each grief,
Expels diseases, softens every pain;
And hence the wise of ancient days adored
One power of physic, melody, and song.”

The story of Apollo and Daphne is often alluded to by the poets. Waller applies it to the case of one whose amatory verses, though they did not soften the heart of his mistress, yet won for the poet wide-spread fame:

“Yet what he sung in his immortal strain,
Though unsuccessful, was not sung in vain.
All but the nymph that should redress his wrong,
Attend his passion and approve his song.
Like Phoebus thus, acquiring unsought praise,
He caught at love and filled his arms with bays.”

The following stanza from Shelley’s “Adonis” alludes to Byron’s early quarrel with the reviewers:

“The herded wolves, bold only to pursue;
The obscene ravens, clamorous o’er the dead;
The vultures, to the conqueror’s banner true,
Who feed where Desolation first has fed,
And whose wings rain contagion: how they fled,
When like Apollo, from his golden bow,
The Pythian of the age one arrow sped
And smiled! The spoilers tempt no second blow;
They fawn on the proud feet that spurn them as they go.”

Version inherited from Bulfinch’s Mythology, and Metamorphoses by Roman poet Ovid

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Fantasy, Fiction, ireland, Lore, Magik, scottland

Scottish Lore: The Kelpie or Waterhorse

A WATERKELPIE is a creature that lives in the deep pools of rivers and streams and is not to be confused with Loch Ness, who is theorized as many other things. The name may be from Scottish Gaelic, “cailpeach,” or, “colpach,” meaning: heifer and colt. Kelpies have been described as a young, sleek, handsome horse black or brown in color who can shapeshift into human form. It is said the creature’s skin is like glue and once enticing a rider onto his back they are stuck to be dragged to their water death and eaten. The Water Horse in other Celtic myths refers to the creature as, “A beautiful white mare who lures riders unto it’s back before running into the water and sometimes off cliffs, drowning their riders.”

Rhiannon, the Welsh goddess of horses, is said to ride a White mare as well which leads some to think of her as a Goddess of death because of the Water Horse story. Some tribes also refer to the “Water Horse” instead of Death who “Rode upon a pale horse.”

In many of the deep pools of the streams and rivers guardian-demons were believed to reside, and it was dangerous to bathe in them. It was the common opinion that some rivers and streams were more bloodthirsty than others, and, therefore, seized more victims than their milder companions. When an accident did happen, comparisons of course were drawn between the number that had been drowned in this and the next stream or river, and the stream or river was spoken of with a sort of awe, as if it were bloodthirsty and a living creature and much of this was attributed to the ever hungry Kelpie.

But I is also said that a Kelpie might be caught, and when caught, could be made to do all of the heavy work on one’s farm. If you were the one planning to catch the Kelpie, you would want to watch for an opportunity of casting a bridle over their head on which had been made an, “X,” or a star. When this was done the creature would become quiet. And when you set him free, be sure to look him square in the eyes, repeating the words–

“Sehr back an sehr behns. Cairrit a’ the Brig o’ Innerugie’s stehns.”

There are accountings and stories alike, quite old, of a men who had an encounters with a Kelpie:

Sometimes, when a castle or mansion was being sacked, a faithful servant or two contrived to rescue the plate-chest, and to cast it into a deep pool in the nearest stream. On one occasion a diver went to the bottom of such a pool to fetch up the plate of the neighboring castle. He dove, saw the plate-chest, and was preparing to lift it, when the Kelpie ordered him to go to the surface at once, and not to come back. At the same time the Kelpie warned him that, if he did come back, he would forfeit his life. The diver obeyed. When he reached the bank he told what he had seen, and what he had heard. But others caustically threatened him and promised him a large reward, so the man dove again. The others looked on from the embankment, and within just a moment or two the diver’s heart and lungs rose and floated on the surface of the water. They had been torn out by the Kelpie of the pool.

Another tale of a Kelpie encounter:

“A hardy Highlander was returning home on one occasion from a sacrament. He was on horseback. He had charge of a number of horses that were at pasture on the side of a lonely loch. The loch lay on his way home, and he would pass it, and see whether it was all well with the animals. One afternoon he came upon them all in a huddle, and to his astonishment, he saw in the midst of them what he thought was a large grey horse that did not belong to the herd. He looked, and in the twinkling of an eye, he saw an old man with long grey hair and a long grey beard. The old man turned with a wicked glare in his eyes hungry and threatened, and started after the farmer. The farmer, fearing for his life, immediately started off, and for miles, over rocks and rough road, the farmer galloped at full speed until his home was reached and he was certain the grey man was no longer following him.”

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cat, Fantasy, ireland, Lore, Short story, Uncategorized

Cat Sidh or The Cat King

Young Peter Black was a good man but,

everyone said he had one big fault.

He loved to tell wild stories.

Peter was the sexton at the Church of St. Thomas the Believer,

there in the little town of Tabby-on-Thames.

He stayed in the cottage behind the church,

right next to Father Allen’s house.

Many were the jobs he’d held before that,

but with his wild stories, he’d managed to lose every one.

Father Allen had warned him.

“Peter, this is the last job you’re likely to get in this town. If you want to keep it, your wild stories must stop!”

One night Peter couldn’t sleep.

He tossed and he turned and at last got up to make himself some tea.

But when he glanced out his window, he saw the windows of the church ablaze with light.

“What in the world . . . ?” muttered Peter. “There shouldn’t be anyone there, this time of night.

And how’d they get in, anyway?”

Peter pulled on a coat, crossed the yard, and quietly unlocked the back door.

As he crept through the vestry, he heard a sound from the church.

Meow, meow . . . .

“Sounds like a cat,” murmured Peter, “but I never knew a cat to light a candle.”

He peered around the curtain hung at the church entrance, and what he saw made him gasp.

There was not one cat, but hundreds of cats, of every size and coloring.

They filled the pews, and all of them sat upright just like people.

On the steps to the altar, a big black cat—the biggest cat Peter had ever seen—was kneeling with his head bowed.

Standing above him with paws upraised was a black cat in bishop’s robes, intoning, “Meow, meow . . . .”

An altar kitten approached with a velvet pillow on which lay a small golden crown.

The bishop lifted the crown and solemnly placed it on the kneeling cat’s head.

The church exploded with cries of Meow, meow!

Peter didn’t wait to see more. He raced through the vestry and back to his cottage,

where he jumped into bed and stayed trembling under the covers till morning.

Bright and early, Peter was over to see Father Allen.

The priest was reading in the conservatory, his black cat Tom curled up on his lap.

“Good morning, Peter,” said the priest. “What brings you here so early?”

“Father Allen, I came to tell you about something terribly weird in the church last night.

I saw these lights and I went over to check, and I heard a meow—”

“Meow,” said the priest’s cat, Tom.

“Yes, just like that,” said Peter.

“And when I looked, there were hundreds of cats in the church.

And there was this one big black cat, and he was kneeling in front, and their bishop was crowning him—”

Father Allen was looking at him sternly.

“Peter, do you remember what I told you about wild stories?”

“Of course I do, Father.”

“Then let’s have no more of this, all right?”

“But, Father—”

“Listen, Peter, I have an errand for you.

Will you walk over to Brambleton today and deliver a message to Father Rowan?”

Peter would and Peter did.

But he didn’t get to it till late afternoon, and by the time he started home, it was already dusk.

He decided to take a shortcut cross-country.

He was halfway through a meadow and up to a stand of trees when he heard a commotion.

From beyond the meadow came the barking of a dog and a chorus of,

Meow, meow.

“Is it those cats again?” said Peter in alarm, ducking behind a tree.

An Irish setter raced into the meadow, barking for all it was worth.

Right behind were a dozen cats with bows and arrows, riding—yes, riding—on the backs of bridled foxes.

The big black cat at their head was wearing a golden crown.

At first Peter thought the setter was leading the cats on the trail of their quarry.

Then he realized, No, they’re hunting the dog!

As the cat with the crown rode by a large rock, his fox tripped and stumbled and the cat went flying.

He struck his head on the rock and lay still.

The other cats gave up the chase and crowded anxiously around him.

Then with loud, mournful cries of Meow, meow,

 they laid him over the back of his fox and returned the way they had come.

Peter stood shaking till they were out of sight, then nipped off home as fast as his wobbly legs would bear him.

He found Father Allen at supper, with his cat, Tom, nibbling from a dish by the table.

“Father, it’s about those cats. I was crossing a meadow, and I heard a dog barking and all these cats crying meow—”

“Meow,” said Tom.

“Yes, just like that,” said Peter.

“And then the cats came riding into the meadow on foxes,

all of them chasing this dog, but then the cat with the crown fell off and hit his head and . . . and . . . and . . . . Father, why’s Tom staring at me like that?”

Father Allen put down his fork.

“Peter, I’ve warned you often enough about your wild stories.

Now, if you come to me talking like this again, I’m going to have to let you go. Do you understand?”

“But, Father, it’s no story. I swear it!”

That’s enough, Peter!

Now, I’m sorry to ask you so late, but I have another chore for you.

Mrs. Pennyweather has passed on suddenly, and tomorrow’s the funeral. I need you to dig her grave—tonight.”

So it was that Peter was digging in the graveyard by the light of the full moon.

It was hard work, and he had to keep resting, and it wasn’t till right around midnight that he finished.

Just as he was about to climb out, he heard a distant Meow, then again, Meow, and again,Meow.

“It’s the cats!” declared Peter. He scrunched down in the grave, then carefully peered over the edge.

Coming across the graveyard was the black bishop cat, and behind him were six more black cats,

carrying on their shoulders a small coffin.

The box was covered with a pall of black velvet, and sitting on top was the golden crown that Peter had seen twice before.

The cats walked slowly and solemnly, and at every third step cried, Meow.

Their path went right by the grave where Peter hid, and when they were but a few feet away,

the bishop held up a paw for a halt.

Then he turned and stared straight at Peter and spoke.

“Tell Tom Tildrum . . . that Tim Toldrum’s . . . dead.

Then he lowered his paw, and the cats walked on, and at every third step cried,

Meow.

Well, Peter scrambled out of that grave and bolted for Father Allen’s.

He pounded on the door, shouting, “Father! Father! Let me in!”

At last the door opened and Father Allen stood there sleepily in his nightshirt.

“Peter, what’s going on?

“Let me in, Father, please, and I’ll tell you.”

Father Allen led him into the library, where Tom yawned and stretched on his cat bed.

The priest lit a lamp.

“Now, what’s this all about, Peter?”

“Father, you’ve got to believe me. I was out digging Mrs. Pennyweather’s grave when I heard a meow—”

“Meow,” said Tom.

“Yes, just like that,” said Peter.

“And I looked and saw seven black cats, and one was the bishop, and the others were carrying a coffin with a crown,

and they came right up next to me,

and the bishop stopped them and stared at me just like Tom there and . . . and . . . and . . . . Father,

why’s Tom staring at me like that?”

“Peter—” began the priest.

“But, Father, I tell you, he spoke to me!

And he gave me a message.

I’m to tell Tom Tildrum that Tim Toldrum’s dead.

But how can I tell Tom Tildrum that Tim Toldrum’s dead when I don’t know who Tom Tildrum is?”

“Peter, this is the last straw.

I’ve warned you again and again—”

“Father! Look at Tom! Look at Tom!”

Tom was swaying, and Tom was swelling, and Tom was standing on his two hind legs, and then Tom spoke.

“What? Tim Toldrum dead? Then I’m the King o’ the Cats!”

Tom leaped toward the fireplace, and with a single Meow, he bounded up the chimney and was gone.

Never to be seen again.

* * *

Of course, after that, there was no more talk of Peter losing his job.

But as for Father Allen . . . .

Well, Father Allen was a good man, but everyone said he had one big fault.

He loved to tell wild stories—about Tom, the King o’ the Cats.

Meow.

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Fantasy, Herbology, Lore, Uncategorized, yule

The Holly & The Ivy


               

 I believe that many, if not most of us are familiar with the song of the Holly and the Ivy.

It is a favourite amongst Yuletide holiday songs, and here I have found  a wonderful Pagan rendition of that piece and a bit of history to accompany it. 

The Holly and the Ivy

The Holly and the Ivy
When they are both full-grown
Of all the trees that are in the wood
The Holly/Ivy bears the crown
Chorus:
The rising of the sun
And the running of the deer
The rounding of the shining moon
The weary worn hunter
 
The holly bears a blossom
White as the lily flower
And ivy bears the blackest buds
To pull him to her power
 
The holly bears a berry 
As red as any blood
And ivy bears the greenest leaves 
         To wrap him in her hood
 
    The holly bears a prickle 
As sharp as any thorn
And ivy bears a clinging vine 
To  encircle the morn
 
The holly bears a bark
Bitter as any gall
And ivy bears small nectar flowers
To sweeten all his fall
 
The holly and the ivy
When they are both full-grown
Of all the trees that are in the wood
These two shall wreathe as one
 

European Holly:

In Gaelic: cuileann, was a sacred to druids; who associated it with the winter solstice, and masculinity of the horned God as we await for him to be reborn into the Spring. For the Romans, holly was considered the plant of Saturn, and thence used in rituals and the celebration of Saturnalia

Ivy:

Pagan women carried ivy with them to promote fertility. Ivy was also thought to bring good luck to the carrier and ensure fidelity of their loved ones. Wands were decorated with ivy or made from ivy wood for use in nature spells and fertility ceremonies. Roman poets were crowned with a wreath of ivy so they would think clearly and creatively. Virgil spoke of the gold ivy that had yellow berries; this ivy is all but extinct today. Brides and grooms in Greece wore crowns of ivy as a representation of fidelity. Ivy is the plant dedicated to Bacchus, God of wine or intoxication. It is said that a handful of bruised ivy leaves boiled in wine will make it so the wine cannot intoxicate the drinker.
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