Wednesday 13 July 2011

Druidic Lore in the Hebrides

It may come as something of a surprise, given that Alexander Carmichael was so immersed in the spiritual and religious life of the Gaels, that it would appear that he did not gather a great deal of oral traditions about druids. Perhaps the real reason behind all of this is that there was not a great amount to be had. The age old connection of the Druids with fairy mounds is made apparent as well as their important rituals that were held during the quarter days. Carmichael, it seems, was rather intrigued for he notes down a woman called Beathag in Berneray whose name, it may be presumed, was passed on to him as someone who knew more about these traditions and may have also been an authority on local lore in Berneray itself. It remains unclear whether Carmichael ever managed to visit this woman for if he had then presumably he would have taken down a great deal more material about this fascinating subject:

Duns in L[ong] Isle erected by the
Druids not tilling – nothing but
siothan & iasg. Worship at
end of each quart[er] met not at
the baile but in a glen & kind[led]
a fire upon a sithein far
fr[om] houses & they went round
the brudh. They held each others
hands & cont[inued] for a trath[?] then
one of the no [number] wou[ld] put into the fire
an iobradh. La[tha] Beall[tainn] La[tha]
Luineasdal La[tha] Samhna La[tha] Ille
Bride. Hence arose the naming of sith
ein & the supposed fires & sup[erstition]. A
Sithein at Fī-leum Stronind. A
mound green in a moss
Croc-sonari a sithein See Beathag
in Bearnara. This is in Bear[nar]y.

CW90/58, f. 22v.
Image: Sketch of a Druid.

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Stone whorls WHM 1992 13 2.4

Stone whorls WHM 1992 13 2.4
Stone whorls collected by Alexander Carmichael, held by West Highland Museum (ref. WHM 1992 13 2.4). [©]