MYTHOLOGY OF THE BRITISH ISLES
JIS Of The Week
Once a force to be reckoned with and a group of fierce plunderers that dominated much of Europe from 1000-225 BCE, the Celts were reduced to scant numbers after the Roman invasions until their only cultural stronghold was Ireland and northern Britain. The six descendant groups of the Celts are the peoples of Ireland, Scotland, the Isle of Man, Wales, Cornwall, and Brittany (in France). By the way, the Gauls were a Celtic subset that lived around France. Iron age Britain and France, bosom buddies!
The noble priestly class of the Celts was known as Druids, and they served also as judges, teachers and advisors. They were also believed to have supernatural powers. From here on out, supernatural will be referred to as wyrd, because it amuses me.
Let’s color the ancient Celtic culture a bit. Celtic warriors also had a few women in their ranks, which is awesome. Boudica is a famous warrior queen who led the British Iceni tribe againct the occupying forces of the Roman Empire.
The sexual freedom of women in Britain was noted by Cassius Dio:
...a very witty remark is reported to have been made by the wife of Argentocoxus, a Caledonian, to Julia Augusta. When the empress was jesting with her, after the treaty, about the free intercourse of her sex with men in Britain, she replied: "We fulfill the demands of nature in a much better way than do you Roman women; for we consort openly with the best men, whereas you let yourselves be debauched in secret by the vilest." Such was the retort of the British woman.
Sexually free women were awesome in antiquity and they’re awesome today. Sadly, it would seem that most Celtic men of that period weren’t into ladies so much as they were into macking with other guys—although those could just be misinterpreted bonding rituals.
Oh yeah, and there was a bunch of tribal warfare, too.
Since pre-Christian Celtic culture is preserved only through the writings of Romans and other people who had no incentive to depict history accurately, we can’t know much for certain about the ancient Celts. Since the Celts had no real homogeneity in their beliefs, spread out as they were over the whole continent, and they weren’t politically or even really ethnically unified, that muddles the study of their mythology even more. However, there were some universalish beliefs. The three offshoots of this framework were the ancient Gaulic and British deities, Irish and Scottish myth, and Welsh and Breton myth. Many of the Celtic/Gaulish offshoot mythologies’ gods were Christianized into being heroes and kings.
NOTE: All of the following gods, heroes and tall tales have many, many variations. If we’re wrong, we’re not, you just know a different version. Okay, we’re probably wrong (there has to be a first time). Blame it on the transcribing monks. Also, this is NOWHERE NEAR everything about the mythology of the British Isles, this is just a sampler. If you’re interested, walk that Wiki walk. Especially if you want to learn about Arthurian legend, because none of it will be in this podcast. No Robin Hood here either.
The Dagda, God of Life and Death, or the “good” god and all-father in Irish mythology. His magic cauldron could resurrect dead people. The Celts enjoyed their wyrd bottomless cauldrons, and the Dagda’s was named the Undry. The Dagda could also revive people with the handle of his wyrd club, which could kill nine people with a single swipe. Most endearing was the Dagda’s pigs, one of which always grew, and the other constantly roasted. God of life and death, indeed.
Cool goddesses include the three Goddesses of War—together the Great Queen Morrigan—and separately her aspects Badb, Nemain and Macha, who appeared as crows in the battlefield and each represented a different trope of warfare.
In the lead up to a battle with another divine race (the chaotic and wild Fomorians), the Dagda once banged the Morrigan in exchange for a plan of battle on Samhain, (the Gaelic harvest festival everyone sees as ye olden equivalent of Halloween). Considering that the Dagda was often depicted as carrying his huge penis along the ground, you can understand how he might have satisfied a tripartite goddess. No wonder he did it on the harvest festival. Don’t start thinking the Dagda was too much of a catch, though, as he was more often than not also depicted as a bare-rumped buffoon and village idiot type—the perfect Irish father god.
Speaking of the war against the Fomorians, another up-there God named Lugh defeated the Fomorian leader with a poisonous, all-killing eye, Balor, by driving it out the back of his head with a well-aimed slingshot stone, and thereby kills the Fomorian army holding up Balor’s rear. If that isn’t Wile E. Coyote physics in my mythology, I don’t know what is.
Also check this shit: “Lugh was responsible for the death of Bres. He made 300 wooden cows, and filled them with a bitter, poisonous red liquid which was then "milked" into pails and offered to Bres to drink. Bres, who was under an obligation not to refuse hospitality, drank it down without flinching, and it killed him.” I love it.
Epona, the horse goddess, and protector of horses, donkeys, and mules. As you have probably surmised, she was also a fertility goddess (but then, if you squint practically every god’s got some fertility going on). The worship of Epona, "the sole Celtic divinity ultimately worshipped in Rome itself,” was widespread in the Roman Empire between the first and third centuries CE. However, most gods were linked to specific tracts of land, not to specialized skills or roles. Fun fact, the veneration of Epona might be the root of the English aversion to eating horsemeat. Also, the Uffington White Horse is a great hook to use a bleeped Bruce Willis “fucking”: the ___ington White Horse
The Welsh mythological counterpart to Epona was Rhiannon—there’s a cool Welsh midwinter tradition called Mari Lwyd (lit. Grey Mare) undergoing a revival, wherein a person disguised as a horse from house to house (including pubs) and sing at each door in the hope of gaining admittance and being rewarded with food and drink. Naturally this was too drunkenly and paganly awesome for the church.
The otherworlds were scarcely accessible utopias where gods lived, beautiful women with ladyboners for brave adventuring heroes resided, and people never aged, if they could find it. The Celts believed that humans could enter this enchanted place through burial mounds called sidhe, through caves or lakes, or after completing a perilous journey to the Fortunate Isles on the western seas. After reaching the otherworld, they would live happily for all time with nary a single day of winter or sickness. The Otherworld was variously called Tír na mBeo ("the Land of the Living"), Mag Mell ("Delightful Plain"), and Tír na nÓg ("Land of the Young"), among other names. There were multiple otherworlds, in other words.
**The Heroic AgeEdit
Precursor to Arthurian legands, Finn Mac Cumhail, or Finn Mac Cool, leader of a band of bold warriors known as the Fianna.
>>>Slamacow! Insert relevant AT clip<<<
By the way, cumhail is what Eva Braun did whenever she climaxed. I like how Finn was trained in the art of hunting and combat by a warrior woman named Liath Luachra. Finn also gained immense knowledge when he helped a leprechaun named Finnegas catch and cook the Salmon of Knowledge, the fish that knew absolutely everything; while cooking it, Finn burned his thumb and sucked on it, thereby receiving the knowledge he needed to avenge his father’s murder. From then on, whenever he sucked on his thumb, he could call on the salmon’s all-encompassing wisdom. That fish itself lucked upon its own knowledge hax (an ordinary salmon ate nine hazelnuts that fell into the Well of Wisdom (aka Tobar Segais) from nine hazel trees that surrounded the well)
Salmon hax aside, Finn was a consummate badass. In order to keep himself from falling asleep when faced against a fire-breathing arsonist fairy who lulled victims to slumber with song, Finn embedded the tip of his spear into his own forehead! And that’s how he proved himself and became a bawse. It’s said that Finn and the Fianna never died, they’re just sleeping in a cave somewhere beneath Ireland, and will rise up when Ireland needs them most as invincible heroes (which means Ireland’s worst hour is yet to come. Fuck me the Irish have it hard). Finn was kind of a dick too though, he purposely let the husband of a chick who spurned him die after a joint boar hunt gone bad.
Then there are some myths about Finn re giants. In one, a giant comes to fight Finn, and Finn has to hide disguised as a baby in the household’s cradle. His wife tells the giant, boastful of its strength, that Finn eats her griddle-cakes all the time no problem, and then hides irons in the girddle-cakes the giant eats. The giant chips its teeth, but the baby is able to eat them just fine. When the giant uses its middle finger—the source of its power—to feel how sharp the baby’s teeth are, Finn uses that opportunity to bite the giant’s finger, and the giant shrinks down to ordinary size. In other tales, Finn himself is a giant—he’s said to have scooped up part of Ireland to fling it at a rival, but it missed and landed in the Irish Sea—the clump becoming the Isle of Man, the pebble becoming Rockall, and the void becoming Lough Neagh.
Another Irish mythological hero, named Cu Chulainn, is notable for his super-powered berserker rage called riastrad, translated as “warp-spasms,” wherein he’d kill fucking armies of champions single-handedly. Cu Chulainn was later reimagined as the same boastful giant Finn defeated by biting its middle finger.
It was part of the duty of the medieval Irish bards, or court poets, to record the history of the family and the genealogy of the king they served. This they did in poems that blended the mythological and the historical to a greater or lesser degree. The resulting stories form what has come to be known as the Historical Cycle, or more correctly Cycles, as there are a number of independent groupings. The greatest glory of the Historical Cycle is the Buile Shuibhne (The Frenzy of Sweeney), a 12th century tale told in verse and prose. It’s pretty great.
The pagan king Sweeny gets ticked off at the sound of the bishop Ronan’s bell. Sweeney stormed to the church naked (as you do) and nearly kills the bishop for this unbelievable slight, but he’s called out to war (presumably Sweeny didn’t rush out to the battlefield nude as well). Bishop Ronan blessed the troops with holy water, but Sweeney took this as yet another slight and hurled an irritable spear at him, destroying the bell. His saintly patience apparently having waned, Ronan cursed King Sweeney: from now on, whenever he heard a sharp sound, Sweeney would fly into madness. I didn’t know bishops could do that, but then I guess it’s not very hard to put a curse of madness on a naked guy in a church who would have killed you over the sound of your bell. Ronan also placed a curse on Sweeney that he would die at spear point, since Sweeney had killed one of his psalmists. When the battle began, Suibhne went insane. His weapons dropped, and he began to levitate like a bird. I don’t think even Ronan saw that coming. That’s what happens when you curse a madman with madness.
From that point on, Suibhne leapt from spot to spot, like a bird. Also like a bird, he could never trust humans. His kinsmen and subjects sent him mad with fear, and he could only flee from place to place, living naked and hungry. After seven years in the wild, Suibhne's reason was briefly restored by his kinsmen, who very gently coaxed him back to earth, but, while recuperating, a mill hag taunted him into a contest of leaping. As Suibhne leapt along after the hag, he again took flight and returned to madness. Eventually, after travels throughout Ireland and Western England, Suibhne was harbored by Bishop Moling. He lived, broken and old, with the bishop, and the bishop entrusted his care to a parish woman. Unfortunately, that woman's husband, a herder, grew jealous and killed Suibhne with a spear. On his death, Suibhne received the sacrament and died in reconciliation.
Get a load of this from the Wikipedia article on Welsh mythology:
An interesting start point for anyone truly interested is Land of my Fathers written by Gwynfor Evans of Aberyswyth University. Of particular note are the opening chapters dealing with early Welsh history and the intercultural work of the Welsh Celts and the Romans who admired the poetry and prose, fighting spirit of the Silurian Celts and our advanced culture. There are even references to ourselves in the Old Testament Bible wherin are certain special King was 'sent to the furthest islands in the West to learn astronomy' and other related sciences. Stonehenge being built by South Walians 1500 years before the first Egyptian pyramids, recently admitted to and proven after a six to seven year excavation of the site by the Oxbridge unviversities, afterall which is no small feat of the time.
Not very encyclopedic, is it?
First branch of the MabinogiEdit
Prince Pwyll exchanges places for a year with Arawn, ruler of Annwn (the Welsh otherworld) and kills Arawn’s warring rival king Hafgan for him. Before they exchange places, Arawn gives specific instructions to Pwyll to kill him with one stroke and no more. In the past when Arawn had battled and had struck Hafgan nearly to his death, Hafgan had begged him to give another stroke, and when Arawn had done so, Hafgan recovered from his injuries and was in good health for battle again the next day. Then Pwyll gets the drop on Hafgan by disguising himself as Arawn, and doesn’t repeat his mistake. Later on, the tale of Pwyll recounts how his wife, Rhiannon, was framed for killing their missing son by her negligent ladies-in-waiting and forced to carry guests on her back as punishment (the kid had actually been kidnapped by a monster, go figure). It’s slain by the kid’s foster parents, they realize the kid is Pwyll’s, and everyone lives happily ever after, barring the emotional scars of a kid who was kidnapped by a monster, only then to have that monster killed on him, and his new mom has knee-shaped dents on her back. And also he grows at a wyrd pace, because of plot convenience.
Second branch of the Mabinogi
The King of Britain’s sister, Branwen, is given to the king of Ireland as his wife. That king, Matholwch, mistreats Branwen terribly, degrading her with beatings and the like, so Branwen trains a bird to take a message back to her brother, Bendigeidfran, so that he may wage war against Matolwch as king of Britain. Bendigeidfran’s other name is Bran the Blessed, but I’m going to call him Bendy. His army crosses the Irish Sea in ships, but Bendigeidfran is so huge he wades across—that probably should have been brought up earlier, Wikipedia. The Irish try to Trojan it up by building an enormous house with bags of “flour” for Bendy as a gesture of peace, but the bags are actually hiding warriors. That would seem to me to be fairly easy to deduce. “There’s no white powder anywhere, and all those bags are shivering and groaning ‘don’t poke me with that pike, man.’” The warriors are all killed by squeezing their skills.
The one who did the squeezing of the warrior bags was Efnisien, half-brother of Bendy. Efnisien was a sadistic anti-hero and a huger dick than the Dagda. He insulted Matholwch by randomly mutilating his horses just because his permission wasn’t asked for their marriage—this is obviously before Matholwch beat Branwen into a servile drudge, mind. Bendy gave Matholwch a wyrd resurrection cauldron in compensation.
So as to make peace between the kingdoms, Branwen and Matholwch's young son, Gwern, ascends to the throne of Ireland and, during the feast held in the Great House in his honour, is called in turn to his uncles Bran, Manawydan and Nisien. He is then called to Efnysien who, seemingly without motive, throws the boy into the flames, burning him to death. Again: Efnisien freakin’ throws Branwen and Matholwch’s son into a fire for no reason. Fighting breaks out, then Efnisien hides among a mound of corpses and sacrifices his life to destroy the cauldron so the Irish can’t keep reviving their dead. Only seven men, all Britons, survive the battle.
Five pregnant women survive to repopulate Ireland. ßLOL
Bendy himself is dying from a mortal wound in the foot, and orders that his head should be cut off and buried in London. When the survivors return to Britain, Branwen dies of grief from believing that she was the cause of the war.
For seven years the seven survivors are entertained by Bendy's head, which continues to speak. Eventually, as instructed they take the now silent head to the Gwynfryn, the "White Hill" (thought to be the location where the Tower of London now stands), where they bury it facing France so as to ward off invasion. The imagery of the talking head is widely considered to derive from the ancient Celtic "cult of the head"; the head was considered the home of the soul.
The Greek historian Diodorus Siculus, writing in the 1st century BCE, described how Celtic warriors "cut off the heads of enemies slain in battle and attach them to the necks of their horses." Strabo meanwhile commented in the same century that until the Roman authorities put a stop to it, amongst the Celts, "the heads of enemies held in high repute they used to embalm in cedar oil and exhibit to strangers." Archaeological evidence indicating that the Celts did indeed behead humans and then display their heads, possibly for religious purposes, has been unearthed at a number of excavations; one notable example of this was found at the Gaulish site of Entremont near to Aix-en-Provence, where a fragment of a pillar carved with images of skulls was found, within which were niches where actual human skulls were kept, nailed into position, fifteen examples of which were found.
One of the survivors is Pryderi, the kid that was raised by a monster. Another survivor, the prince Manawydan, marries his mom Rhiannon, I bet with the proviso that he not entertain any riding on her back fetishes he might have had. While hunting, a white boar leads them to a mysterious castle. Pryderi, against Manawydan's advice, goes inside, but does not return. Rhiannon goes to investigate and finds him clinging to a bowl, unable to speak. The same fate befalls her, and the castle disappears. Manawydan returns to England and tries sowing fields of wheat, but they keep getting ravaged by mice; on the third night he stays up to catch the leader of the mice and decides to hang it. A scholar, a priest and a bishop in turn offer him gifts if he will spare the mouse, but he refuses. When asked what he wants in return for the mouse's life, he demands the release of Pryderi and Rhiannon and the lifting of the enchantment over Dyfed. The bishop agrees, because the mouse is in fact his wife. He has been waging magical war against Dyfed because he is a friend of Gwawl, whom Pwyll, Pryderi's father humiliated.
When not at war, a king named Math (so math!) needed to rest his feet at the lap of a virgin, lest he perish. Now that’s a hard life for both him and the virgin.
Math's nephew Gilfaethwy had fallen in love with Goewin, Math's footholder. The magician Gwydion (Gilfaethwy's brother), devised a plan to make Goewin available to rape by preoccupying Math with war (lovely, I know). Gwydion told his uncle about an animal that was new to Wales, otherworldly pigs, and how he could get them from their owner, Pryderi. He took a band of men, including his brother, and disguised themselves as bards to gain audience with King Pryderi. Having so charmed the king, Gwydion offered to trade the pigs for some horses and dogs, which he had conjured through magic. Pryderi agreed to the trade and Gwydion and his men took the pigs back home, but his trickery was revealed and Pryderi waged war against Gwynedd. While Math went to battle, Gilfaethwy raped Goewin. The things we do for horny brothers. Though I imagine Math was raring for a war, so that he could finally take a nice stroll.
The war ended when Gwydion killed Pryderi in single combat. Upon his return to his castle, King Math went to rest his feet in Goewin's lap, but could not, as she was no longer a virgin. He took her as his wife to save her honor, and then as punishment, banished his nephews, turning them into a breeding pair of deer for a year. He then turned them into wild boars for the next year and wolves the year after that. But after that, they were in the clear, I guess.
Math needs a new foot-holder, and Gwydion suggests his sister, Arianrhod, but when Math magically tests her virginity (by having her step over his magician's rod), she gives birth to two sons. One, Dylan, immediately takes to the sea and becomes a sea god (I was not aware that was an option).
The other child (born as a "lump of flesh" and concealed in a chest until maturity) is raised by Gwydion, but Arianrhod, still butthurt about her humiliation, curses him he will never have a name or arms unless she gives them to him, and refuses to do so. Way to take it out on the kid, lady. But Gwydion disguises the nameless boy and tricks her into naming him Lleu Llaw Gyffes ('Bright, of deft hand') after she admires the lad’s killing a bird with a single stone. She then tells him he will never have a wife of any race living on earth, so Gwydion and Math make him a wife from flowers, called Blodeuwedd. (With her curses, Arianrhod denied Lleu the three aspects of masculinity: a name, arms, and a wife.)
But Blodeuwedd falls in love with a hunter called Gronw Pebr, and they plot to kill Lleu. Blodeuwedd tricks Lleu into revealing the means by which he can be killed, since he can not be killed during the day or night, nor indoors or outdoors, neither riding nor walking, not clothed and not naked, nor by any weapon lawfully made. He reveals to her that he can only be killed at dusk, wrapped in a net with one foot on a cauldron and one on a goat and with a spear forged for a year during the hours when everyone is at mass. With this information she arranges his death. But when Gronw attempts to do the deed, Lleu escapes, transformed into an eagle.
Gwydion finds Lleu and transforms him back into human form, and turns Blodeuwedd into an owl, renaming her Blodeuwedd and cursing her as well in the process. Gronw offers to compensate Lleu, but Lleu denies and insists on returning the blow that was struck against him. Gronw pleads to hide behind a rock when he attempts to kill him. Lleu agrees. He kills Gronw with his spear, which is thrown so hard it pierces him through the stone he is hiding behind.
In summation, WTF.
Cad Goddeu, the Battle of the Trees
An agriculture god, Amatheon, steals animals from Arawn of the otherworld. Yet another war instigated by the theft of kingly fauna. Back then, people really had nothing better to do in paradise.
Gwydion fights alongside his brother and, assisted by Lleu, enchants the "elementary trees and sedges" to rise up as warriors against Arawn's forces. The alder leads the attack, while the aspen falls in battle, and heaven and earth tremble before the oak, a "valiant door keeper against the enemy". The bluebells combine and cause a "consternation" but the hero is the holly, tinted with green.
A warrior fighting alongside Arawn cannot be vanquished unless his enemies can guess his name. Gwydion guesses the warrior's name, identifying him from the sprigs of alder on his shield.
Lludd and Llefelys
Lludd is a king of Britain who has to deal with three separate ordeals. The first plague is a race known as the Coraniaid, who come to Britain and cannot be forced out, as their hearing is so good that they can hear anything the wind catches. The second plague is a horrid scream that comes every May Day and causes all pregnant women in Britain to miscarry. The third plague involves disappearing provisions: no matter how much Lludd may put in his stores, it will have vanished over the course of the night. Lludd takes his fleet to France to ask his brother's advice.
With the aid of a brass horn that prevents the Coraniaid from hearing their conversation, Llefelys offers solutions to each plague. The Coraniaid, he reveals, can be killed by a mixture made from a certain insect. This mixture is harmless to the Britons, so Lludd must convene a meeting of both groups and throw the mixture over everyone, thereby destroying the invaders. The second plague is caused by a dragon that is embroiled in combat with a foreign dragon. Lludd must set a trap for them at the exact center of the island, put them to sleep with mead, and then bury them underground in a stone chest. The third plague is caused by a "mighty magician", who casts a spell to make the whole court fall asleep while he raids their stores. Lludd must confront him, keeping himself awake with a vat of cold water.
Lludd returns home to Britain. He destroys the Coraniaid with the insect mixture and confines the dragons at Dinas Emrys. Finally he fights the "mighty magician", who submits to him to become his loyal servant.
The first sentence in Wikipedia on “Scottish mythology” states that: “Scottish mythology may refer to any of the mythologies of Scotland” – thanks for that clarification.
Several origin legends for the Scots were created, serving various purposes.
One Scottish origin legend relates that settlers from Greek Asia Minor sailed the seas and arrived at Cruachan Feli “the mountain of Ireland”. After some time, they crossed the Irish Sea to invade Caledonia North of Roman Britain. The territory that was conquered was then named Scotia after Scota, the Egyptian wife of Spartan commander Nél or Niul, and St. Patrick converted the people to Christianity. Thus, a lot of Scottish mythology seems to incorporate Irish myths and legends.
Once the Picts (a group of Late Iron Age and Early Mediaeval Celtic people living in ancient eastern and northern Scotland) adopted Gaelic culture and their true characteristics faded from memory, folklore filled the gaps of history. Their "sudden disappearance" was explained as a slaughter happening at a banquet given by Kenneth MacAlpin (known as the king of the Picts and, according to myth, first king of Scots) and they were ascribed with powers like those of the fairies, brewing heather from secret recipes and living in underground chambers. In the eighteenth century the Picts were co-opted as a "Germanic" race.
"Fairies" were originally the pre-Christian divinities of Gaelic Scotland. They eventually came to "co-habitate" the conceptual spiritual world with Christianity, generally diminishing in power and prominence over time. Folk beliefs about the Banshee also reflect aspects of these beings.
A banshee is a feminine spirit who is usually seen as an omen of death and a messenger from the Otherworld.
In legend, a banshee begins to wail if someone is about to die. In Scottish mythology the creature is called the bean sìth or bean-nighe and is seen washing the blood stained clothes or armour of those who are about to die. Alleged sightings of banshees have been reported as recently as 1948.
Another figure in Irish/Scottish mythology was the Kelpie (not the Australian cattle dog). The kelpie is a supernatural water horse from Celtic folklore that is believed to haunt the rivers and lochs of Scotland and Ireland.
The fable of the kelpie differs depending on the region where it is told. However, the horse's appearance is usually strong, powerful, and breathtaking. Its hide was supposed to be black (though in some stories it was white) – thanks for that specificity, and smooth and wet when touched. The kelpie will appear to be a lost pony, but can be identified by its constantly dripping mane.
Water horses are known to transform into beautiful women to lure men or children into their traps. It does this by encouraging people to get on its back and ride itThe kelpie's skin then becomes sticky and it dragsthem into the bottom of the water. There it devours them—except the heart or liver.
The water horse creates illusions to keep itself hidden. It is advised to keep away from them (der).
Storm Kelpies, also known as The Blue Men of the Minch were believed to occupy the stretch of water between Lewis and mainland Scotland, looking for sailors to drown and stricken boats to sink.
Changelings are another part of Irish/Scottish mythology.
A changeling is a creature typically described as being the offspring of a fairy, troll, elf or other legendary creature that has been secretly left in the place of a human child. Sometimes the term is also used to refer to the child who was taken.
Often, it was thought, a baby would be snatched and replaced with a simulation of the baby, usually a male adult elf, to be suckled by the mother. The real baby would be treated well by the elves and would grow up to be one of them, whereas the changeling baby would be discontented and lethargic.
The reality behind many changeling legends was often the birth of deformed or developmentally disabled children. The greater proneness of boys to birth defect correlates to the belief that boy babies were more likely to be taken.
The wulver is a kind of werewolf that is exclusively part of the folklore of the Shetland Islands of Scotland. The wulver kept to itself and was not aggressive if left in peace, and appeared to be a sort of immortal spirit. It has been written that "The Wulver was a creature like a man with a wolf's head. He had short brown hair all over him. His home was a cave dug out of the side of a steep knowe, half-way up a hill. He didn't molest folk if folk didn't molest him. He was fond of fishing, and had a small rock in the deep water which is known to this day as the 'Wulver's Stane'. There he would sit fishing sillaks and piltaks for hour after hour. He was reported to have frequently left a few fish on the window-sill of some poor body."
A similar un-hostile werewolf is the Faoladh from Irish folklore. The Faoladh was said to protect children and stand guard over wounded men.
Loch Monsters (including the Loch Ness Monster) also have a history in Scottish folklore. The first sighting of the Loch Ness Monster was in 565 AD. The Irish monk Saint Columba was staying in the land of the Picts with his companions when he came across the locals burying a man by the River Ness. They explained that the man had been swimming the river when he was attacked by a "water beast" that had mauled him and dragged him under. They tried to rescue him in a boat, but were able only to drag up his corpse. Hearing this, Columba stunned the Picts by sending one of his followers to swim across the river. The beast came after him, but Columba made the sign of the cross and commanded: "Go no further. Do not touch the man. Go back at once.” The beast immediately halted and fled in terror, and both Columba's men and the pagan Picts praised God for the miracle.
Closely linked to Germanic mythology; famed for Beowulf; quite polytheistic.
In Anglo-Saxon England, elves (aelfe) were viewed as malevolent beings who could bring harm to humans. In the 10th century Metrical Charm "Against a Sudden Stitch," it states that various forms of sickness, such as rheumatism, could be induced by "elfshot" - arrows fired by elves. I like that.
Emma's arthritis is really painful right now, so those elves can go fuck themselves
English folklore has Germanic, Celtic and Christian influences.
Black dog, a big demonic mutt with glowing eyes that portends your demise. A specific one is said to roam the coastline and countryside of East Anglia, and its name is Shuck. It’s got big, red, saucer-like eyes, which you should imagine for a second.
Jesus Christ, that is one scary fucking mutt. But sometimes it’s only got a single, cycloptic eye, which makes it more funny than scary. There’s also a black dog called Barghest that haunts Troller’s Gill, which I think is apropos.
BTW, the "Big Dog" (usually black) is a cryptid that is familiar to many cultures.
A flibbertigibbet is a Middle English word referring to a flighty or whimsical person, usually a young woman. Today it is used as a slang term, especially in Yorkshire, for a gossipy or overly talkative person. Its origin is in a meaningless representation of chattering. Flibbertigibbet similarly features as a name in a local legend around Wayland's Smithy. According to the tale, Flibbertigibbet was apprentice who greatly exasperated his master.Eventually his master threw Flibbertigibbet down the hill and into a valley, where he transformed into a stone.
Speaking of stones',' Adder stone is a type of stone which is usually glassy, with a naturally occurring hole through it. In Britain they are also called hag stones, witch stones, serpent's eggs, snake's eggs, or glain neidr in Wales, milpreve in Cornwall, adderstanes in the south of Scotland and Gloine nan Druidh ("Druids' glass" in Scottish Gaelic) in the north. In Egypt they are called aggry or aggri.
Adder stones were believed to have magical powers such as protection against eye diseases or evil charms, preventing nightmares, curing whooping cough, the ability to see through fairy or witch disguises and traps if looked at through the middle of the stone, and of course recovery from snakebite. According to popular conception, a true adder stone will float in water.
Three traditions exist as to the origins of adder stones. One holds that the stones are the hardened saliva of large numbers of serpents massing together, the perforations being caused by their tongues. The other claims that an adder stone comes from the head of a serpent or is made by the sting of an adder. The third is more modern (and much easier to attain). It details that the stone can be any rock with a hole bored through the middle by water. Human intervention (ie, direction of water or placement of the stone) is not allowed.
Adder stone was in high esteem amongst the Druids. It was one of their distinguishing badges, and was accounted to possess the most extraordinary virtues. There is a passage in Pliny’s Natural History, book xix, minutely describing the nature and the properties of this amulet. The following is a translation of it:
"There is a sort of egg in great repute among the Gauls, of which the Greek writers have made no mention. A vast number of serpents are twisted together in summer, and coiled up in an artificial knot by their saliva and slime; and this is called "the serpent's egg". The druids say that it is tossed in the air with hissings and must be caught in a cloak before it touches the earth. The person who thus intercepts it, flies on horseback; for the serpents will pursue him until prevented by intervening water. This egg, though bound in gold will swim against the stream. And the magi are cunning to conceal their frauds, they give out that this egg must be obtained at a certain age of the moon. I have seen that egg as large and as round as a common sized apple, in a chequered cartilaginous cover, and worn by the Druids. It is wonderfully extolled for gaining lawsuits, and access to kings. It is a badge which is worn with such ostentation, that I knew a Roman knight, a Vocontian, who was slain by the stupid emperor Claudius, merely because he wore it in his breast when a lawsuit was pending."
Matter of Britain
The Matter of Britain
The Matter of Britain is the collective to the body of literature and legendary material associated with Great Britain and its legendary monarchs, including Arthur.
The name distinguishes and relates the Matter of Britain to the "Matter of Rome", and the "Matter of France" which describes some episodes of warfare. While Arthur is the chief subject of the Matter of Britain, other lesser-known legendary history of Great Britain, including the stories of Brutus of Britain, King Cole (Emma sang a song about Old King Cole in her school choir), King Lear, and Gogmagog, is also included in the Matter of Britain.
Most people know about King Arthur, so here’s some info about the other stories.
Geoffrey of Monmouth, who wrote the Historia Regum Britanniae ("the History of the Kings of Britain"). Naturally, it’s more story than history, but so it goes.
Geoffrey's narrative begins with the exiled Trojan prince Brutus, after whom Britain is supposedly named. Brutus is a descendant of Aeneas, the legendary Trojan ancestor of the founders of Rome, and his story is evidently related to Roman foundation legends.
Geoffrey relates that after the war, Aeneas (hero of the Trojan War) fled the ruined city of Troy to Italy with his son, Ascanius.
Ascanius became king after his father's death, and fathered Silvius. Silvius married a niece of Lavinia and made her pregnant. Ascanius called in soothsayers to discover the sex of the child. The soothsayers declared she would give birth to a boy who would cause the death of both his father and mother. In addition, this boy would rise to the highest honor after wandering in exile for this deed.
The mother died in childbirth, and when Brutus was 15 he and his father were hunting together. Brutus accidentally shot his father with an arrow below the breast, killing him. His relations exiled him for the act.
After this, Brutus spent some time in Greece where he became a popular and heroic warrior and leader for The Trojans.
Eventually Brutus and the Trojans sailed away from Greece, and landed at an uninhabited island. They came to a deserted city and found a temple of Diana. A statue of her in the city gave answers if anyone questioned her through it. The party returned and told Brutus of the statue and suggested that he should ask of the place where they should go for a safe dwelling place.
The statue spoke of an island once occupied by giants, and Brutus ended up in Africa. They landed in Mauretania. Then they came upon descendants of exiles from Troy, led by Corineus, "a sober–minded man, wise in counsel, yet great of courage and audacity. If he were to come up against a giant he would overthrow him as easily as if he were fighting against a mere boy. As soon as they realized that his stock was of such antiquity, they took him into alliance with them straight away, together with the people over whom he ruled. Later Cornwall was called after the name of this leader. In every battle he was of more help to Brutus than anyone else."
So there were more battles, and eventually Brutus and his fleet came ashore at Totnes. At this time the island of Britain was called Albion and uninhabited except for a few giants. It was attractive because of its forests of game and rivers full of fish. Brutus and his companions were filled with a great desire to live there.
Brutus called the island Britain from his own name and his companions he called Britons. A little later, their language which had been known as Trojan or Crooked Greek was also called British.
Now, going back to Corineus (Brutus’ second in command and the dude who Cornwall is supposedly named).
Corineus loved wrestling with the giants. One particularly repulsive one was called Gogmagog and was twelve feet tall.
Once, when Brutus was celebrating a day dedicated to the gods in Totnes, Gogmagog, along with twenty other giants, attacked him and killed a great number of Britons. However, the Britons gathered from around the area and overcame the giants and killed them all except for Gogmagog. Brutus ordered that his life be spared because he wanted Corineus to wrestle him (just for shits and giggles).
Corineus was delighted in this and threw off his armour and challenged Gogmagog to a match. The contest began. Gogmagog gripped Corineus with all his might and broke three ribs.
Corineus was infuriated by what had happened and summoned all of his strength and heaved Gogmagog up on to his shoulders and, hurrying as fast as he could under his weight, ran for the nearby coast. He climbed a cliff and hurled the deadly monster far out into the sea. The giant fell on the sharp rocks below where he broke into a thousand pieces. The place where Corineus hurled the giant to his death is called Gogmagog's Leap to this day. There are also stories of giant’s bones (including Gogmagog’s jawbone) being dug up around this area, but turns out they’re a gigantic load of poppycock.
Another character referred to in The Matter of Britain is King Cole. This is yet another nebulous identity in British mythology.
Coel Hen, (“Coil Hen”) which can be translated as "the Old" or "the Ancestor", is noted in Welsh legend as a leader in the "Old North" (parts of southern Scotland and northern England during or after the period of the Roman withdrawal). Projections back from available information suggest that Coel Hen lived around AD 350–420
"The early tradition is that Coel ruled the whole of the north, south of the [Hadrian's] Wall, the territory that the Notitia assigned to the dux [Roman military leader]. It suggests that ... he was the last Roman commander, who turned his command into a kingdom."
Emma’s stories about Hadrian’s wall (with apologies to Joe and all other citizens of The USA):
· Better name
· Dog on the wall
He is credited with founding a number of kingly lines in the North and was regarded as an ancestor figure. Later writers associated Coel with the father of Saint Helena of Constantinople, who was the mother of Constantine the Great. He was also considered to be the father-in-law of Cunedda, founder of Gwynedd in North Wales, by his daughter Gwawl.
BTW, it seems the song that Emma sang in the school choir is a relatively well known nursery rhyme about Old King Cole.
Lastly we come to King Lear. As well as being a Shakespearean drama, King Lear was a legendary ancient king of the Britons, whose story was, once again recounted by Geoffrey of Monmouth.
According to Geoffrey, Leir is the founder of Leicester, called Cair Leir in Old Welsh, where Leir (along with Anglo-Saxon Legra or Ligora) is a hydronym (the proper name for a body of water).
The date of Leir’s reign is not clear, but Geoffrey says that Leir's father lived at the same time as the Biblical prophet Elijah (892-832 BCE).
Leir produced no male heir to the throne but had three daughters: Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia, whom he liked the most. As he neared his death, he planned to divide the kingdom among his three daughters and their husbands. Goneril and Regan flattered their father, and as such each was promised half of the kingdom to inherit. Cordelia, however, refused to flatter her father, feeling that he should not need special assurances of her love, and was given no land to rule.
After some marriages and family feuding/Jerry Springer style action (including Goneril and Regan reducing his body guards to virtually nothing and some nasty arse son in law shit), Leir feared his two older daughters, and fled to Gaul in France. Nearing insanity, he was nursed back to health by Cordelia, after which he was held in high honour by the leaders of Gaul, who vowed to restore him to his former glory. Leir, Cordelia, and Aganippus (her husby) invaded Britain . Leir reclaimed the throne and reigned for three more years until his death. He was succeeded by Cordelia, who buried him in an underground chamber beneath the River Soar near Leicester. Every year people celebrated his feast-day near Leir's tomb.
Ys, Brittany’s sunken city of wonders, doomed by the sin of Dahut, she of the all-night orgies. She also got off on killing her lovers in the morning. A knight dressed in red, actually Satan, tricks Dahut to steal her father the king’s key as he sleeps during a raging storm. With the gate opened, a wave as high as a mountain collapsed on Ys. At the urging of a doomsaying saint who’d warned against Dahut’s sin, the king bitchslapped his daughter Dahut off his horse into the roiling tide. The ocean then presumably turned puke yellow from Dahut’s panoply of venereal diseases. Actually, she turned into a morgen, a man-drowning water sprite. Hopefully she gave them a good time during their last moments.
Ankou, personification of death, basically the grim reaper. The grave yard watcher, they said that he protects the graveyard and the souls around it for some unknown reason and he collects the lost souls on his land. The last dead of the year, in each parish, becomes the Ankou of his parish for all of the following year. When there has been, in a year, more deaths than usual, one says about the Ankou:
("on my faith, this one is a nasty Ankou")
Every parish in Brittany is said to have its own Ankou. In Breton tradition, the squealing of railway wheels outside of one's home is supposed to be Karrigell an Ankou or The Wheelbarrow of Ankou. Similarly, the cry of the owl is referred to as Labous an Ankou or The Death Bird.
Cornwall enjoys a proud tradition of folkloric creatures that love to cause cave-ins in the mines.
The knocker or bucca (Cornish) is the Welsh and Cornish equivalent of Irish leprechauns and English and Scottish brownies. About two feet tall and grizzled, but not misshapen, they live beneath the ground. Here they wear tiny versions of standard miner's garb and commit random mischief, such as stealing a miner's unattended tools and food - they were often cast a small offering of food - usually the crust of a pasty to appease their malevolence. Death by cave-in is generally not worth a Cornish pasty.
Other times, the knockers were just practical jokers, and the knocking sound before a cave-in (actually timber buckling) was the Knockers warning them.
In the 1820s, immigrant Welsh miners brought tales of the knockers and their theft of unwatched items and warning knocks to western Pennsylvania, when they gravitated there to work in the mines. Cornish miners, much sought after in the years following the 1848 gold rush, brought them to California. When asked if they had relatives back in Cornwall who would come to work the mines, the Cornish miners always said something along the lines of "Well, me cousin Jack over in Cornwall wouldst come, could ye pay ’is boat ride", and so came to be called Cousin Jacks. The Cousin Jacks, as notorious for losing tools as they were for diving out of shafts just before they collapsed, attributed this to their diminutive friends and refused to enter new mines until assured by the management that the knockers were already on duty. Belief in the knockers remained well into the 20th century. When one large mine closed in 1956 and the owners sealed the entrance, fourth, fifth, and sixth generation Cousin Jacks circulated a petition calling on the mineowners to set the knockers free so that they could move on to other mines. The owners complied.
The Wicker Man (to be inserted into the Celtic culture segment)
A wicker man was a large wicker statue of a human used by the ancient Druids (priests of Celtic paganism) for human sacrifice by burning it in effigy, according to Julius Caesar in his Commentarii de Bello Gallico (Commentary on the Gallic War). Caesar reports that some of the Gauls built the effigies out of sticks and placed living men inside, then set them on fire to pay tribute to the gods. Caesar writes that though the Druids generally used thieves and criminals, as they pleased the gods more, they sometimes used innocent men when no delinquents could be found.
In the modern world, wicker men are used for various events. The figure has been adopted for festivals as part of some neopagan-themed ceremonies, without the human sacrifice element. Effigies of this kind have also been used as elements in performance art, as display features at rock music festivals, as thematic material in songs, and as the focal point of a cult British horror/mystery film, The Wicker Man. Much of the prominence of the wicker man in modern popular culture and the wide general awareness of the wicker man as structure and concept is attributable to this film.
Cult classic eerie, haunting musical from the 70s about a devout Christian cop getting sent on an assignment to an island where British paganism is still practiced to pursue a murder case, and he eventually gets sacrificed inside of a giant "wicker man" effigy. The Nick Cage remake was atrocious except for its value as lulz.