Gaelic Mythology

May 28, 2015 by

gaelic mythologyGaelic Mythology by Hector MacLean was originally published in 1879. Awesome amazing book filled with information I have not been able to find in other places. Long lost and unavailable I’m so happy to have found this treasure.

a few paragraphs from the intro for you:

“The belief in the animation of inorganic nature still lingers in several parts of the Highlands, as well as the belief in fairies, ghosts, metamorphoses, and sorcery. Every hill, knoll, valley, dell, wood, river, lake, brook, well, bay, or rock seems to have had its spirit ; and sea, sky, winds, and clouds were imagined to be endued with a certain amount of consciousness, at a period not very remote from our own day in this part of Great Britain. In Campbell’s “Popular Tales of the West Highlands,” vol. ii, p. ’67, we find a short story that recounts how one of four men in the Island of Barra, who were watching cattle, struck a dog that they saw, although cautioned by his companions, and immediately lost the power of his hand and arm. He consulted an old woman who had some knowledge of those matters, and she told him that there was no remedy to be had for a year and a day ; but, at the end of that time to go to the knoll, where he struck the dog, and say to it ” If thou dost not let with me the strength of my hand, I or my race will leave neither stick nor stone of thee that we will not drive to pieces.” At the end of the stated time he did as the old woman directed him to do and so recovered the power of his hand and arm.

This story is followed by another, which tells how a woman went to a knoll for shelter and began to fix in it the tether-peg of the tether of two calves of hers, when the knoll opened and a woman put out her head and all above the middle, and rebuked her for what she was doing. The owner of the calves apologised and pleaded weakness and poverty as an excuse. The inhabitant of the knoll directed her where to feed her calves and told her that if she acted as she was bidden she should not be a day without a cow as long as she lived. She took the advice of the woman of the knoll, and was never thereafter without a milk cow.

These and many other such stories were related in Barra, Uist, and several other districts in the Highlands, in the year 1859 and subsequently by men and women who believed in them, who could neither read nor write, and could speak no other language than Gaelic. Many phrases still live in Gaelic in which the seasons, the weather, and the various powers of nature are spoken of as living persons. The cold weather of winter is spoken of as a hag or old woman, who prevents the grass from springing up by beating it down with a large mallet. This mallet she throws away on the 1st of February, St. Bridget’s day. After the 15th H. Maclean. — Gaelic Mythology. 3 of February come the ” three days of the Leaked female ;” these are followed by the ” three days of the whistling female ;” the three days of the lame, white work-horse succeed these ; lastly, the ” three days of the sweeping female. Up with the spring !” The “carrying south of the year” is mentioned in a Gaelic poem : the last fortnight of summer and the first of autumn are named ” The Keys ;” the former locks summer and the latter unlocks autumn. Gaelic myths, evidently then, like other Aryan myths, were evolved from animism and metaphorical expressions to a considerable extent, as the preceding instances, quoted from a multitude, would seem to show clearly : personifications of physical powers, and a belief in their being animated.


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