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 Contents - I. Preliminary - II. Amphibious Fairies - III. Elves and Gnomes - IV. Magicians - V. Men of the Second Sight ------------I. Preliminary What is 'Folk-lore'? To some minds it is almost identical with superstition; because it consists largely of the mysterious doings of the fantastic people of Fairyland. But what is superstition? To many persons it means a belief in Beings and powers that do not exist. Let this be granted, then there are two kinds of superstitionists - a positive and a negative, i.e., those who believe that things and creatures have been created, and are sustained by numerous intelligent Beings, such as Gods, Angels, Demons, et al., who exist only in the imaginations of the credulous; and those who believe that all things have been created, and are sustained by numerous unintelligent Powers and Abstractions or Negations, such as Motion, Gravitation, Evolution, Struggle-for-Existence, Survival-of-the-Fittest, etc., etc. These are all names for phenomena of Nature, but the name of an appearance is the name of a pure abstraction or negation, which has no existence of its own, apart from the agency which produces the phenomenon. No observation can become possible without at least four factors - the agent, the medium, the action, and the observer. The agent, or actor, is always unseen; the visible body which it uses is the medium; the movement of the used medium is the action; and the one who sees the action is the observer. The action is a pure abstraction or negation, which has no existence, per se, apart from the agent and the medium. The terms Motion, Gravitation, Evolution, Struggle-for-Existence, Survival-of-the-Fittest, etc., are all names given to various kinds of action, and are therefore pure abstractions or negations, which have no actual existence, hence it is absurd to consider them as creative causes. Even Force is the energy exerted by some entity or agent. Yet it is the negative superstitionists who think they are the most positive, and pride themselves in thinking that they believe but little which they do not know to be true. But as a matter of fact, they believe just as many things which appear to other competent minds to be quite as absurd as the things believed in by the positive superstitionists. Indeed, we ordinary people know almost nothing, and we do not know anything fully. Our knowledge, even of the things that we are most intimate with, is only very slight. Nothing is detached, separate. All, even the tiniest atom, is a part of the whole, and contains all the essential elements of the Whole. No one, therefore, can know all about the tiniest atom until he knows all about the whole Universe; for no one can comprehend a part without knowing the whole. Superstition would be more correctly defined as an irrational belief. This would include both the positive and the negative varieties. The person who can believe that the human eye, for example, to say nothing of the human soul, is the fortuitous result of the
action and interaction of blind and unintelligent 'Abstractions and Negations' is certainly quite as irrational, if not more so, than the person who believes that the human eye, as well as the human soul, was designed and created by an omnipotent Being, although both may be wrong. If those persons who think themselves free from superstitious beliefs, but believe in the Omnipotence of 'Abstractions and Negations,' would meditate upon it for a moment seriously, they would see that the human mind can create nothing. It may assemble existing things in a manner in which they were never assembled before, but they have then created nothing but the ensemble, which is not a thing but a name for a combination of things. If there is anyone who does not believe this, let him try to create something which he has never seen or heard of before. He may imagine a monster with a million feet, a thousand eyes, and a hundred wings; but this is only an assemblage of things already known to him. Or he may imagine all sorts of invisible beings, and endow them with all kinds of powers, but he will not be able to furnish or enrich them with powers, qualities, or faculties with which he is not already acquainted. Those who think that the 'ignorant, primitive savages' have the power to create new things, certainly endow them with powers which they do not themselves possess: and one of the strongest proofs of this is that the Folk-lore of the World differs locally only as it is colored by the varying peculiarities of the folks in different places who modify or elaborate it. The essential elements of Folk-lore are everywhere the same, from Japan to Scandinavia, from Russia to India or the Cape of Good Hope, or from Canada to Cape Horn. Names differ, but the characters of the denizens of the Inner World differ in no greater degrees than the characters of the peoples who describe them. Andrew Lang, a high authority says: "However much these nations may differ about trifles they all agree in liking fairytales." And he goes on to say that: "In Homer's Odyssey you will find the witch who turns men into swine, and the man who bores out the big foolish giant's eye, and the cap of darkness, and the shoes of swiftness that were worn by Jack the Giant-Killer. These fairy tales are the oldest stories in the world, and they were first made by men who were child-like for their own amusement, so they amuse children still." We are not quite sure about this origin for all fairy-tales found in Folk-lore. Some of the silliest stories were doubtless first told by childish people, but we greatly suspect that the better sort were written, or told, by very wise men, who knew a great deal about human nature and the constant warfare that is being fought between the God and the Demon within the breast and brain of every human being who is trying to realize the highest in his own nature. Such a one has no difficulty in recognizing the witches (gluttony and greed) that turn men into swine, and many other witches who turn men into many other kinds of animals. And when the battle reaches its greatest intensity, the fiercest and most terrible 'dragons' imaginable could not exceed the ferocity of the demons that have to be encountered. Nor could enchanted swords, nor caps of invisibility, nor shoes of swiftness, nor any other imaginable god-like powers, surpass the fighting qualities of the unconquerable Warrior within, who has to slay them. In this light the greatest feats of the Arabian Nights' Entertainments are perfectly true; exaggeration is impossible. The principle factors in all Folk-lore are Fairies, Magicians, Witches, Goblins, Ghosts, etc. 'Fairy' usually is a generic term, which covers a multitude of fairyland species, of varied character and habits. In Scottish Folk-lore the principle characters are
called Fairies, Little-folk, or Goodpeople, who are not always good. These are general terms which include Brownies, Nymphs, Kelpies, Sirens, Mermen and Mermaids, Doane Shee, Dracae, Elves, Gnomes, Bogles, Goblins or Hobgoblins, and Bogies. Then there are the denizens of the graveyards and their environs, called Phantoms, Specters, Wraiths, Ghosts, etc. Besides these there are the Magicians, Witches, and the Men of the Second Sight, who are in a class by themselves; and not the least familiar, or interesting, are the Devil and his Imps. It is to be regretted, however, that these interesting little people of Scottish Fairyland, as well as all the other characters, even including his Satanic Majesty himself, have to be spoken of in the past tense. They have all left the 'Land o' Cakes,' or, at least, they no longer frequent the haunts of men, or make their presence visible to the present generation of matter-of-fact materialists. But once upon a time, and that not so very long ago, they were a very populous brood, and were to be seen almost anywhere during their hours of mundane activity, which were generally between the hours of sunset and sunrise. To do it justice, Scottish Folk-lore should be told in the tongue which gave it birth the Scottish dialect, or the Highland Gaelic: but the latter is now understood by only a very few living persons, while the former in its purity, is scarcely intelligible to English-speaking people. The jargon that is usually given to the public, and called 'Scotch,' is but a mongrel lingo, which is neither Scotch nor English, but a discredit to both. Pure Scotch is now spoken by only a very few people in Scotland. The Scottish Text Society decided at their annual meeting, in 1908, that pure Scotch is spoken only in the district of Buchan, East Aberdeenshire, which has an area of less than five hundred square miles (see The Weekly Scotsman, July 18, 1908). And even in this small area it is only spoken by the lower classes, and there, as well as elsewhere, it is fast becoming anglicized; and, indeed, it is not strange. For several centuries there have been few illiterates in Scotland, and all educational instruction is imparted in pure English, and not only the aristocracy, but doctors, lawyers, preachers, school teachers, wealthy farmers, bank clerks, and even many of the store clerks in the cities, all talk English; and no Scotsman of any class would ever think of writing a letter in Scotch; and practically all printing is done in English. Both Scotch and Gaelic publications are quite rare. Even the poems of Burns are far from being pure Scotch. He never hesitated to use English words when such were more convenient for rime, rhythm, meter, or melody; and, to save explanatory notes, his editors of later editions have anglicized his poems still further. Language is the most common and convenient medium for the conveyance of the aspirations, ideas, thoughts, and feelings of the soul; and for the transmission of these, by different peoples, one language is not as good as another. Every language derives its peculiarities of sound, color, and phrasal form from the angle of vision of the souls of the people who produced it. Therefore, not only the sounds of the words, but the construction of the phrases, and the accents of a language, give a deep insight into the character of the people who gave it birth and being. Indeed, there are few better means of acquiring a knowledge of universal human nature than a study of universal language. For these reasons all literature suffers deterioration by translation, but perhaps poetry and folk-lore suffer most of all; and, of course, Scottish Folk-lore is no exception; indeed, it is far other than an exception. In the Scottish phraseology there is couched a vast fund of subtle humor, which cannot be translated, and which is sometimes called 'unconscious'; but there is nothing unconscious about it. None appreciate it more than the Scots themselves. Although the Scots enjoy hilarious mirth, they prefer the quiet subtle humor which makes them grin inwardly. Their southern neighbors have said that the Scots cannot see a joke without a cranial operation, but Max O'Rell, who had a wide experience, said that it was just the other way around. He maintained that the Scots, especially in the North, seized the point of a joke more quickly than any people he had ever addressed. They never permitted him, he said, to finish his jokes. They always saw the point before he reached it,
and overwhelmed him with applause. But in the southern half of the Island, he said, the applause came tardily after the last word of the joke had been uttered. The principle secret of Carlyle's peculiar literary style is, that his English is couched in Scotch phraseologic form, and his phrases are surcharged with the same subtle humor, rhythm, and melody which characterize those of the Scottish dialect. One of his critics has said that "Carlyle wrote neither poetry nor history." To those who appreciate and understand him, he wrote both poetry and history of the highest order. The whole of his writings are prose-poems, full of rhythm and melody, and bubbling over with humor in every sentence. Those who cannot see these things in his writings, miss by far the better half of Carlyle. Some have thought that his style was an affectation; but it was perfectly natural. He merely put the words of his vast English vocabulary into the phraseologic forms of his mother tongue. One who knew them both, said that he had only known two literary men who spoke precisely as they wrote; and these were Carlyle and Goldwin Smith - the two greatest then living masters of the English language. Carlyle, in conversation, according to Froude, even in his stern denunciations of cant, sham, and hypocrisy, was always tenderly disposed, and there was a constant effervescence of subtle humor bubbling up from the kindly heart of the man; not the kind of humor that makes you laugh outwardly, but the kind that makes you grin with satisfaction inwardly. Without his vocabulary and skill in phrase-craft, Scottish Folk-lore cannot be rendered in English without loss of pathos, poetry, and humor. ------"Though my mind's not Hoodwinked with rustic marvels, I do think There are more things in the grove, the air, the flood. Yea, and the charnelled earth, than what wise man Who walks so proud as if his form alone Filled the wide Temple of the Universe, Will let a frail mind say. I'd write i' the creed O' the sagest head alive, that fearful forms, Holy or reprobate, do page men's heels; That shapes, too horrid for our gaze, stand o'er The murderer's dust, and for revenge glare up, Even till the stars weep fire for pity." Before beginning to tell about the fairies of Scotland, it will be of interest to quote, in part, a description of them written by the Rev. Robert Kirk, Minister of Aberfoil, in the year 1691. It is interesting because it is the dry chronicle of a learned man's opinion of fairies, and of Fairyland, which, no doubt, fairly represents the prevailing beliefs of some two hundred and fifty years ago. He says: "The Siths, or Fairies they call Goodpeople, it would seem, to prevent the dint of their ill attempts, are said to be of a middle nature betwixt man and angel, as were the demons thought to be of old, of intelligent studious spirits, and light changeable bodies (like those called astral), somewhat of the nature of a condensed cloud, and best seen in twilight. These bodies be so pliable through the subtlety of the spirits that agitate them, that they can make them appear or disappear at pleasure.... They remove to other lodgings at the beginning of each quarter of the year, so traversing till doomsday, being impotent of staying in one place, and find some ease by journeying and changing habitations. Their chameleon-like bodies swim in the air, near the earth, with bag and baggage; and at such revolution of time, Seers, or men of the second sight (females being seldom so qualified) have very terrifying encounters with them, even on highways, who,
therefore, awfully shun to travel abroad at these four seasons of the year, and thereby have made it a custom to this day among the Scottish-Irish to keep church duly every first Sunday of the quarter to hallow themselves, their corn and cattle, from the shots and stealth of these wandering tribes; and many of these superstitious people will not be seen in church again till the next quarter begins, as if no duty were to be learned or done by them, but all the use of worship and sermons were to save them from these arrows that fly in the dark. "They are distributed in tribes and orders, and have children, nurses, marriages, deaths, and burials in appearance, even as we (unless they do so for a mock show, or to prognosticate some such things among us). They are clearly seen by these men of the second sight to eat at funerals and banquets. Hence many of the Scottish-Irish will not taste meat at these meetings, least they have communion with, or be poisoned by, them. So they are seen to carry the bier or coffin with the corpse among the middle-earth men to the grave.... "Their houses are called large and fair, and unperceived by vulgar eyes, having fir lights, continual lamps, and fires, often seen without fuel to sustain them. Women are yet alive who tell they were taken away when in child-bed to nurse fairy children; a lingering, voracious image of them being left in their place (like their reflection in a mirror).... When the child is weaned, the nurse dies, or is conveyed back, or gets her choice to stay there. But if any superterraneans [earth-folk] be so subtle as to practice slight for procuring the privacy to their mysteries (such as making use of their ointments, which, as Gyges' ring, make them invisible, or nimble, or cast them in a trance, or alter their shape, or appear at vast distances, etc.), they smite them without pain, as with a puff of wind, and bereave them of both the natural and acquired sights in the twinkling of an eye (both of these sights, when once they come, being in the same organ and inseparable), or they strike them dumb.... "Their apparel and speech is like that of the people and country under which they live; so are they seen to wear plaids and verigated garments in the Highlands of Scotland, and suanachs (plaids) in Ireland. They speak but little, and that by way of whistling, clear, not rough. The very devils conjured in any country do answer in the language of that place.... Their women are said to spin very fine, to dye, to tossue, and embroider; but whether it be as manual operation of substantial refined stuffs, with apt and solid instruments, or only curious cobwebs, unpalpable rainbows, and a phantastic imitation of the actions of more terrestrial mortals, since it transcends all the senses of the seer to discern whether, I leave to conjecture as I found it.... "They are said to have aristocratical rulers and laws, but no discernible religion.... They do not all the harm which appearingly they have the power to do, nor are they perceived to be in great pain, save that they are usually silent and sullen. They are said to have many pleasant and toyish books, but the operation of these pieces only appears in paroxisms of antic, corybantic jollity, as if ravished and prompted by a new spirit entering into them at that instant, lighter and merrier than their own. Other books they have of involved and abstruse sense, much like the Rosicrucian style. They have nothing of the Bible, save collect parcels for charms and counter-charms, not to defend themselves withal, but to operate on other animals, for they are people who are invulnerable by our weapons, and albeit werewolves' and witches' true bodies are (by the union of the spirit of nature that runs through all, echoing and doubling the blow towards another) wounded at home, when the astral assumed bodies are stricken elsewhere [repercussion] - as the strings of a second harp, tuned in unison, sound, though only one be struck - yet these people have not a second or gross body at all, to be so pierced; but as air which when divided unites again; or if they feel pain by a blow, they are better physicians than we are, and quickly cure. They are not subject to sore sickness, but dwindle and decay at a certain period, all about an age....
"Their weapons are most-what solid earthly bodies, nothing of iron, but much of stone, like to yellow soft flint spa, shaped like a barbed arrow-head, but flung like a dart with great force. These arms have somewhat of the nature of thunderbolt subtlety, and mortally wounding vital parts without breaking the skin, of which wounds I have observed in beasts, and felt with my hands. They are not infallible Benjamites, hitting at horse-hair breadth; nor are they wholly unvanquishable, at least in appearance.... "As our religion obliges us not to make a peremptory and curious search into these abstrusenesses, so the history of all ages [gives?] as many plain examples of extraordinary occurrences as to make a modest inquiry not contemptible. How much is written of pygmies, fairies, nymphs, sirens, apparitions, which though not the tenth part be true, yet could not spring from nothing." -------Here we have a minute description of the nature and habits, and of the political, social, and domestic relations of the little people of Fairyland, as accepted by learned men of two or three hundred years ago. We will now proceed to give specific instances of their relations and encounters with the Scots. In Scottish Folk-lore, however, there is a much greater variety of fairy-folks than the Reverend minister's description would lead us to believe. Some are Home Fairies, like the Brownies; other species are woodland; others prefer the hills and mountains; and some are underground fairies; other varieties are amphibious and inhabit the ocean, the seashore, the harbors, or the streams, lakes and rivers: some are wholly friendly and benign, others are capricious and are regarded with suspicion; and some are wholly bad, mischievous, and malignant; but nearly all are diminutive and are generally clad in green, although all have the magic power of presenting themselves in almost any shape or color. The Fairies proper were mostly capricious little fellows, who inhabited the interior of green hills, and were also found among the mountains and woods. When a green patch, nearly circular in form, was seen among the trees or the hills, there was no doubt about its being a fairy ring, on which they lead their dances by moonlight. "And now about the caldron sing, Like elves and fairies in a ring." It was very dangerous to be found on one of these magic rings* after sunset; and to go to sleep within one of these charmed circles was about the same thing as the end of earthly existence. ---------* Some types of mushrooms or funguses also grow perennially in large diameter circles and are called "fairy rings." - dig. ed. ---------In the seventeenth century a scion of the noble family of Duffers, inadvertently stepped within one of these fairy rings, near his own house, after the forbidden hours. Directly he heard the noise of a whirlwind, and the sound of voices crying, "Horse and Hattock" - a call of the fairies when they remove from one place to another - whereupon he also cried, "Horse and Hattock," and was immediately caught up and carried through the air, and the next morning he was found in Paris in one of the French King's cellars, with a silver cup in his hand. He said that the fairies had treated him very kindly, that he had spent a glorious night, banqueting and dancing, and that he had drunk rather heartily, and had fallen asleep, and did not awake till his fairy companions had gone. The King gave him the cup which was found in his hand, and dismissed him. It is affirmed that the cup is preserved to this day, by Lord Duffers, and is known as the fairy cup.
To remove a sod from one of these fairy rings was also a most dangerous deed, and was sure to be followed by calamity. Early in the seventeenth century, John Smith, a farm laborer, near Merlin's Craig (Rock), was sent by his employer to cut sod from one of these mysterious rings. He had only been at work a short time when a little lady about eighteen inches in height, robed in a green gown and red stockings, with long yellow hair hanging down to her waist, appeared before him and demanded how he would feel if she sent her husband to uncover his house, and at the same time commanded him to replace every sod as he had found it. The terrified man quickly obeyed, and went and told his master what had happened. The farmer laughed at his delusion and superstition and ordered him to take a horse and cart and bring the divots (sods) home immediately. John reluctantly obeyed. There were no immediate consequences; but on the same day of the following year, as John was going home with a pitcher of milk in his hand, he was spirited away and did not reach home till seven years afterwards, when he returned, pitcher in hand, on the very anniversary of the unfortunate day. The account that he gave of his captivity was that on his way home he suddenly fell ill, and sat down near Merlin's Craig to rest. He soon fell asleep, and when he awoke, as he thought, about midnight, he found that there was a troop of fairies, male and female, dancing around him. They insisted upon his joining the sport, and gave him, as a partner, the finest girl in the company. He soon became so happy that he felt no inclination to leave. The amusements were protracted till he heard his master's cock crow; when the whole troop immediately rushed to the front of the Craig carrying him along with them. Then the little woman who first appeared to him, when he was casting the sods, came and told him that the grass had again grown green on the roof of her house, and if he swore an oath which she would dictate to him, never to reveal what he had seen in Fairyland, he would be at liberty to return to his family. John took the oath and kept it religiously, but it was observed that he would go a mile out of his way rather than pass Merlin's Craig, after the sun had gone down. Brownies were the much-beloved home fairies. Like most other fairies, they were active diminutive little fellows; but they were said to have had a brown, shaggy, and a rather wild appearance. They were very good-natured, however, and performed all sorts of useful services about the houses and barnyards, such as sweeping, churning, and even threshing oats in the days of the flail - no easy task. These services were all done at night when no one was around. But the Brownie was no hireling. He scorned reward; and if anything of that nature were offered him, he immediately took offense, and left the premises never to return. It is told of a particular Brownie who had served long and faithfully a border family, now extinct, that on the occasion of a new arrival by the stork route, the lady fell suddenly ill, and a servant was ordered to ride, in all haste, to Jedburgh for the midwife. He showed no great alertness in setting out, so the Brownie slipped on the domestic's overcoat and rode to town on the laird's best steed, and returned with the midwife forthwith; who, by the way, had a rather exciting experience during the journey. Notwithstanding the Brownie's haste, during the short space of his absence, the Tweed, which they had to ford, had risen to a dangerous height; but this was no obstacle to the Brownie. He plunged through the stream with the terrified woman, and quickly landed her where her services were needed. Having put the exhausted horse into the stable, he proceeded to the room of the tardy servant, whose duty he had performed, and finding that he was just in the act of putting on his boots, he gave him a merciless drubbing with his own horsewhip. This important and timely service aroused the gratitude of the laird; and, having heard that the Brownie had expressed a wish to have a green coat, he ordered a vestment of that color to be made and left in the Brownie's haunts. The green coat disappeared, but so did the Brownie, for that was the last that was ever heard of him.
It is said that the last of the Brownies in Ettrick Forest was the faithful servant of a family at Bodsbeck; a wild and solitary spot near Moffat Water. After many years of loyal service the scrupulous gratitude of an old lady induced her to repay the devoted Brownie, by placing in his haunt a pitcher of milk and a piece of money. The whole night thereafter the Brownie was heard howling "Farewell to bonnie Bodsbeck," which he left for ever. --------II. Amphibious Fairies There were several species of amphibious fairies among the Scottish varieties, called Nymphs, Kelpies, Mermen and Mermaids, Sirens, etc. Although Greek in origin, the Nymphs were once well-known in Scotland. They were all females, and inhabited mountains, forest, and meadows, as well as lakes and streams. They were wholly beneficent, and were well beloved. Shakespeare hits them off well when he implores: "Nymph, in thy orisons Be all my sins remembered." The Kelpies were little horse-like creatures, with semi-human intelligence, who had the gift of prophecy. They inhabited the streams, lakes, and rivers, and even the 'little burnies' (small creeks) in country places. Their prophetic instinct enabled them to display lights, and to make hideous noises in order to forewarn persons who would otherwise have been drowned. On the river Conan, in the woods near Conan House, there are the ruins of an 'auld papist kirk,' in the midst of an 'auld kirkyard,' which once upon a time was the haunt of a water kelpie; but that was about two hundred years ago, when the kirk was entire, and a field of oats grew near by. One day during the harvest when the Highlanders were reaping the oats, they heard a voice at high noon coming from the river, crying "The hour has come but not the man." The startled harvesters looked towards the river, and there, sure enough, was the Kelpie standing in the midst of the false-ford, just beside the 'auld kirk.' In the middle of the ford there was a treacherous ripple which looked like shallow water, but was nevertheless so deep that a horse might swim. There stood the Kelpie, and again it repeated, "The hour but not the man has come"; and darting through the water like a drake it disappeared in the pool. The harvesters stood wondering what the creature might mean, when presently there came a man on horseback, in hot haste, making straight for the false-ford. They had now no doubt as to the meaning of the Kelpie's prophetic warning, and four of the stoutest of the Highlanders rushed in front of the rider, and warned him of his danger, telling him what they had seen and heard, and urged him to take another road. But the rider was both skeptical and in a hurry, and would have crossed the ford, had the Highlanders not determined on saving him whether he would or not. They gathered around him, pulled him from his horse, and to make sure of his safety they locked him up in the church. When the fatal hour had gone by they flung open the door, and told him that he might now safely continue his journey. But they got no answer. They called a second time, and still there was no reply. Then they went to search for him, and found him lying with his face immersed in the water of the baptismal font, a stone trough which is still to be seen in situ among the ruins to this day. His hour had come to be drowned, and all the efforts of both Kelpie and Highlanders were futile to avert his doom. The Mermen and Mermaids of Scotland were not only amphibious but they were
polymorphous as well. They preferred to live among the Islands, where they had submarine openings to subterranean chambers where they spent the most of their time as home-keepers, and appeared to be very much like human beings. These habitations were beautifully ornamented with pearl and coral productions of the ocean. When they appeared above water, however, they could assume the well-known mermaid form human to the waist and terminating in the tail of a fish; or they could take a form so seallike that they were often mistaken by seal-hunters for these animals. This accomplishment was due to an extraordinary inherited power, which their ancestors had possessed for many ages. By this magic power they could enter the hides of seals in such a manner that they not only assumed the seal form, but they also became completely identified with the skin; yet whether they were entering or leaving the seal-skin it took no more than a moment of time. Thus they were as perfectly at home in the ocean as seals, or they could land on some rock and relieve themselves of their sea-dress, resume their human form, and explore the haunts of men. Unfortunately, however, they each possessed but one seal-skin, and if that garb happened to be stolen in their absence they were doomed to remain in the upper world as terrestrial inhabitants, for without their seal-skins they could neither take to the sea, nor return to their underground home. A story is told of a boat's crew of Shetland seal-fishers, who landed on a small island for the purpose of hunting seals for their valuable fur coats. After they had caught a number of seals and stripped them of their skins, a tremendous swell arose, and all made haste to reach their boat with their skins, leaving the carcasses on the rocks. One of their number imprudently lingered to get another hide, till it was too late. His comrades tried to save him, but the surge had increased so fast that after several attempts had been made to reach the unfortunate wight, they had to leave him to his fate. The abandoned Shetlander saw no prospect in store for him but death from cold and hunger, or of being swept into the sea by the breakers, which threatened to overwhelm the small island. At length he perceived many of the seals that had escaped the huntsmen approach the skerry, disrobe themselves of their amphibious hides, and resume the shape of the sons and daughters of the ocean. He was amazed to observe that their first object was to revive their friends who had been stunned by the huntsmen, having been in that state while they were deprived of their skins. When the flayed seals had regained sensibility they assumed the forms of Mermen and Merwomen; and began a mournful lament for the loss of their sea-dress, which would prevent them from returning to their beloved coral mansions beneath the sea. But their chief lamentation was for Ollavitinus, the son of Gioga, who was one of the unfortunates who had been stripped of their seal-skins. In the midst of their dolorous dirge, they observed the unfortunate Shetlander shivering with cold, and frantic with despair. Gioga immediately conceived the idea of rendering the safe return of the man subservient to the recovery of the seal-skin belonging to her son Ollavitinus, and proposed to carry him safely to Papa Stour, for the recovery of the precious skin. A bargain was struck and Gioga donned her amphibious garb, and offered to take the man on her back. But the Shetlander became alarmed lest the fury of the waves should wrench them asunder, and for his greater safety prudently begged the matron that he might be allowed to cut a few holes in her shoulders and flanks, in order to get a better hold for his hands and feet, between the skin and the flesh. The request was granted, and she soon landed him safely at Acers Gio, in Papa Stour, from whence he proceeded to Hamna Voe to get the precious skin, and honorably fulfilled his part of the contract; and Gioga returned contentedly to the skerry with her treasure. On one occasion, a citizen of Unst while walking along the sandy margin of a voe saw a band of Mermen and Maids dancing by moonlight, and their seal-skins lying on the
ground beside them. At his approach they immediately rushed into their marine garbs, and plunged into the sea. After they had gone the Shetlander saw a seal-skin lying at his feet, which he conjectured belonged to one of the dancers who had wandered from the rest, and had not yet taken to the ocean. He took the skin with him and placed it in concealment, and returned to the shore to see what would happen. On his way he met a damsel, fairer than had ever been seen by mortal eyes, lamenting the loss of her ocean garb, for she knew that she must be an exile in the upper World until she found it. She implored the Shetlander to return it, but he was inexorable, for he had become so deeply enamored with her that nothing could have induced him to part from her. He begged her to accept his protection and become his betrothed spouse. The Merlady perceiving that she must remain an inhabitant of the earth, concluded that she could do no better than comply with his request. The Shetlander's love for his Merwife was unbounded, and the strange attachment continued for many years, and the couple had several children. But the lady was not contented. She would often steal away to the seashore, and hold converse with a large seal, in an unknown tongue. At length, while one of her children was at play, he found a seal-skin concealed beneath a rick, and thinking it a great prize he ran with it to his mother, who immediately recognised it as her own long-lost treasure. Her eyes glistened with rapture as she burst forth into an ecstasy of joy at the thought of returning to her beloved home and husband. Her joy was only moderated as she thought of her children, whom she must leave behind. She hastily embraced and kissed them all, and fled to the ocean. The Shetlander, perceiving what had occurred, ran to overtake her, but he only arrived in time to see her transform herself and bound into the sea, and soon the big seal appeared by her side. Before she dived to the depths of the ocean she cast a parting glance at the wretched man, saying: "Farewell! may all good attend you. I loved you very well, but I always loved my real husband better." Long ago, in the far North, near John O' Groat's House, there lived a man who gained his livelihood by catching all kinds of fish: but, on account of the long price that he got for their skins, his speciality was seals. As this narration will prove, many of these animals are neither dogs nor cods, but true fairies. It happened one evening, after this notable fisher had returned from his day's efforts, that he was visited by a stranger who represented himself as the agent of a sealskin dealer, who was in immediate want of a large number of skins; and who wished to see the fisher that very night. Pleased at the prospect of a good bargain, and never suspecting duplicity, he willingly consented to go with the stranger. Both mounted a steed, which the stranger had in readiness, and took the road with such velocity that although there was a strong wind in their backs, the fleetness of their movement made it appear to be strongly in their faces. Soon they came to a stupendous precipice overhanging the sea, where the stranger stopped his steed and ordered the fisherman to dismount. "But where is the seal-skin trader?" he asked. "You shall see him presently," replied the guide; and immediately hurled him into the abyss below. After sinking down, and down, no one knows how far, they at length reached a door, which being opened, led them into a range of apartments filled not with people but with seals, who, nevertheless, could speak and feel like human folk, and the seal-killer was surprised to see that he himself had become as one of them, but he was reconciled to the transformation for it was quite plain that he would have died for want of breath in his natural form. The seals were all very melancholy, and appeared to be in distress, but perceiving the seal-killer's terror they assured him that he had nothing to fear from them, although
they had many grievances against him. But he was by no means appeased, for his conscience began to trouble him sorely when he remembered how many seals he had murdered. At length the stranger, his guide, confronted him with a joctaleg, saying, "Did you ever see this knife before?" The guilty fisherman instantly recognized it as his own knife, which that very day he had stuck into a seal, that escaped, knife and all. He saw that denial was useless, and at once acknowledged that it was his own. "Well," said his guide, "that which appeared to you to be a seal was my father, who is now dangerously ill from the wound you gave him, and without your aid he cannot be saved. I trust that my filial duty will be ample excuse for the artifice I have practiced to bring you hither." The trembling seal-killer was led into another apartment, where he saw the identical seal which had escaped with his knife earlier in the day, suffering grievously from a tremendous gash in his hindquarters. The seal-killer was then requested to cicatrize the wound with his hand. This being done, the seal immediately arose from his bed in perfect health; not even the mark of a wound remained. The demeanor of the seals changed from mourning to rejoicing, and all was mirth and glee. Very different, however, were the feelings of the unfortunate seal-killer, for he expected to remain a metamorphosed man for the rest of his days and that he would see home and kindred no more. But in this he was mistaken. His guide now addressed him, saying: "Now Sir, you are at liberty to return to your wife and family, to whom I am about to conduct you, but it is upon the express condition, to which you must bind yourself by a solemn oath, that you will never hereafter maim or kill a seal in all your allotted days." To this condition, hard as it was, he joyfully assented, and the oath being administered in all due form, he bade his new acquaintances most heartily and sincerely a long farewell. Taking hold of his guide, they issued through the door, and swam up and up till they reached the very cliff from which they had descended earlier in the evening; at the top of which stood the same steed, ready for a second ride. The guide breathed upon the fisherman, and they both became like men. They mounted the horse, and fleet as they came, they returned twice as fast. In an instant the honest fisher was at his own doorcheek, where his accomplished guide made him such a present as far more than compensated him for the loss he made through his resolution to kill no more seals. ------The Scottish sirens were quite different from the Greek sea-nymphs of that name. In Scotland they were found chiefly along the seashore, about the mouths of rivers, or in harbors. Their ordinary form appears to have been based upon that of the Manatee, or the Dugong, known to zoologists as Sirenia; but, like other fairies, they had the magic power of accommodating their forms to their environment, and often appeared quite like human beings. They were among the most malevolent of all the fairy brood, and have often been known to lure mariners to destruction upon the rocky shores, for, as Pope has said: "Their song is death, and makes destruction please." The Doane Shee, or Daoine Shie, are also said to have loved the water, but they were not true amphibians. Though not wholly malevolent, they are said to have been a peevish, repining, and envious race, who preferred subterranean recesses and a kind of shadowy splendor. The Highlanders were very unwilling to speak of them at all times, but especially so on Fridays, when their influence was particularly extensive. They were supposed to be invisibly present at all times, and had to be spoken of with respect.
A long time ago a pious clergyman, after administering spiritual consolation to a dying member of his flock, at a late hour of the night was returning to his home. On his way there lay a lake for a considerable distance along the road. Near the end of the lake he was much surprised to hear the melodious strains of music coming over the waters. Filled with pleasure and curiosity he sat down to listen to the beautiful and harmonious raptures of the minstrelsy. Being a conscientious minister of the Gospel, he feared neither spirits blessed, nor goblins damned. As the sound of the music approached, he could discern a dim light gliding across the lake towards him, but instead of taking to his heels, as any faithless wight with a troubled conscience would have done, he calmly awaited the issue. Presently the light and music drew near, and the pastor was able to distinguish an object resembling a human being, walking upon the surface of the water, attended by a group of miniature musicians, some with lights, and others with musical instruments, from which came the celestial melody. When they reached the beach the leader of the band dismissed his attendants, and walked up to the minister, saluted him gracefully, and apologized for his intrusion. The pastor returned the compliments and invited him to be seated by his side, to which the mysterious stranger complied with thanks. Without further ceremony the parson asked: "Who art thou, stranger, and from whence?" The fairy replied, with downcast eye, that he was one of the Doane Shee, or men of peace; and further explained that he was originally angelic in his nature and attributes, and was once a sharer of the indescribable joys of the regions of light and love, but that he had been seduced by Satan to join him in his conspiracies and ambitions, and, as a punishment for his transgressions, he had been cast down from the realms of the blest, and doomed, along with millions of his fellow transgressors, to wander over the face of the Earth and, through seas and mountains, until the coming of the Great Day. Their greatest tribulation, he continued, was in the uncertainty of their fate, for they feared the worst; and, with great anxiety, he appealed to the learned minister of the Gospel, saying: "The object of my present intrusion is to learn your opinion, as a competent Divine, as to our final destiny." Here the Scottish minister entered upon a long and hair-splitting disquisition, touching the essential principles of faith and repentance, but getting no very satisfactory responses he asked the Doane to follow him in repeating the Pater noster. In attempting to do this, it was a little remarkable that the fairy could not repeat the word 'art,' but said 'wert' in heaven. This gave the holy man an ominous clue, and being an honest, sincere, and outspoken minister of the Gospel, and perceiving the precarious condition of the anxious inquirer, he resolved not to puff up the seditious brood with presumptuous and perhaps groundless expectations, and communicated to the fairy the precise nature of his sentiments. He told the unhappy being that their crime was of so deep a hue that he could not take it upon himself to hold out any hopes that it would admit of pardon. On hearing this the condemned sith uttered a shriek of despair, and plunged headlong into the loch, and the pious minister resumed his homeward way. The Dracae also were an amphibious species of malicious fairy people. Their chief mode of attack upon mankind was to inveigle women and children into the recesses which they inhabited beneath the lakes and rivers, by alluring them with treasures and trinkets, such as gold rings, or cups, which they caused to float temptingly on the surface of shallow waters, and the women and children who saw these attractive objects, apparently within easy reach, were caught in their efforts to appropriate them. The women thus seized were employed as nurses, and after seven years, were allowed to return again to Earth. Grevase mentions one woman in particular, who had been allured by seeing a wooden dish float past her as she was washing clothes in the river. Just as she attempted to grasp it, she was seized and conducted to a cavern beneath the river, which she
described as magnificent. Here she was employed as the nurse of one of the brood of the hag who had allured her. During her service in this capacity, she accidentally touched her right eye with an ointment made from serpent's grease. This magic ointment opened her inner vision, so that she could see the Dracae in their invisible form which they assumed when they intermingled among men. After having completed her seven years' term of servitude, she returned to her former earthly habitation, where she could see all the machinations of the Dracae, invisible to other people. By her own indiscretion, however, she soon lost her mystic power. She incautiously addressed her ghostly mistress while in her invisible form, who, by a touch of her finger, instantly deprived her of her exalted vision. It is noteworthy that this story is current in every part of Scotland, Lowland and Highland alike, with no other substitute but that of fairies for Dracae, and the cavern of a hill for that of a river. Dr. Johnson, who admitted the existence of standard fairies, is cited as disputing the authenticity of an apparition merely because it assumed the shape of a teapot and a shoulder of mutton. It may be his incredulity would have been removed if he had known of the antics of the Dracae. ---------III. Elves and Gnomes The Elves inhabited the mountains, hills, and woods of Scotland; they were very small and mischievous, but not malicious; naturally, their garments were green. They were always grateful to their friends and benefactors, and never forgot them. On one occasion a poor man from Jedburg, when going to the market to purchase a sheep, suddenly heard an unaccountable noise which seemed to proceed from a number of female voices, but no woman was visible. Amid howling and wailing there were sounds of mirth, but nothing articulate could he gather, except that occasionally he could distinguish above the din the cry: "O there's a bairn born, but there's no clothing for it." The astonished rustic was no longer in doubt that the occasion of this elfish concert was no other than the birth of a fairy child, at which the elves, with the exception of two or three who were distressed because there was nothing to cover the little innocent with, were giving vent to their joy in the approved manner well known to characterize such events. On hearing the distressful wail again and again, he at length bethought himself of his plaid, which he stripped off and cast upon the ground. It was immediately snatched by an invisible hand, and the wailing instantly ceased, but the mirth continued with increased vigor. Satisfied that what he had done had pleased his invisible friends, he resumed his journey to the market. The sheep which he purchased turned out to be a remarkably good bargain, and he found that he had no cause to regret his generosity in bestowing his plaid on the needy fairies, for every day after that his wealth multiplied surprisingly, and he finally became a rich and prosperous man. The Gnomes loved the subterranean recesses and caverns of the hills and mountains. Like the Brownies, they were very friendly to human folk, and were the guardians of mines and quarries, and often performed useful services in such places. The Rev. Robert Kirk tells us that in the year 1676, when there was a scarcity of grain, there happened in the next parish to that of his residence "....a marvelous illapse of vision which struck the imagination of two women in one night, living at a good distance from one another, about a treasure hid in a mount called 'Fairy-hill.' In each case the appearance of a treasure was first represented to the fancy, and then an audible voice named the place where it was to their waking senses.
Whereupon both rose, and meeting accidentally at the place, discovered their design; and jointly digging, found a vessel as large as a Scottish peck full of small pieces of good money, of ancient coin; and halving betwixt them, they sold in dishfuls for dishfuls of meal, which they gave to the country people. Very many, of undoubted credit, saw and had of the coin to this day." The revelation of the coin was attributed to the trusty Gnomes, who lived in the fairy-hill. As further proof of the beneficence, industry, and faithfulness of these subterranean people, he tells us that Welsh authors "....relate of Barry island, in Glamorganshire, that laying your ear into a cleft in the rocks, blowing of bellows, striking of hammers, clashing of armour, filing of iron, will be heard distinctly, ever since Merlin enchanted those subterranean wights to a solid manual forging of arms to Aurelius Ambrosius and his Britons, till he returned, which Merlin being killed in battle, and not coming to loose the knot, these active vulcans are there tied to perpetual labor." Thomas of Ercildoun and Elfland Thomas the Rimer is a high authority on Elfland, for he had a wide experience. He flourished in the latter half of the thirteenth century, during the reign of Alexander III. When he was not among the Elves he lived on his estate of Ercildoun, in Lauderdale, Berwickshire. Thomas Learmount was called 'The Rimer' on account of having composed a poetical romance on the subject of 'Tristram and Isolde,' which is the earliest specimen of English poetry known to exist, having preceded Chaucer by about a century. Like all other men of talent of that period, Thomas Learmount was suspected of Magic; he was also said to have the gift of prophecy, due to his Elfin relations, which had their inception one fine summer afternoon as Thomas lay on Huntley Bank, at the foot of the Eildon Hills, which raise their triple crest above the celebrated monastery of Melrose. Here he met a lady so extremely beautiful that he thought she must be the Virgin Mary herself. Her equipments, however, were rather those of an amazon, or goddess of the woods. She was mounted on a steed of surpassing beauty, and at its mane there hung thirty silver bells and nine, which sent forth enchanting music on the winds as she paced along. Her saddle was of ivory, overlaid with gold, and her stirrups and dress, and the whole magnificence of her array, were in perfect harmony with her celestial beauty. She had her bow in her hand, and her arrows in her belt, and led three greyhounds in a leash, while she was closely followed by three scenting hounds. The raptured Thomas immediately desired to pay her homage, but this she disclaimed and rejected. Passing from one extreme to another, Thomas became a bold and fervent suitor; but the lady warned him that he must become her slave if he persisted in pressing his suit. But, for the moment, such slavery appeared to the enchanted Thomas as perfect bliss. Before their interview terminated, however, he had good reasons to modify his sentiments. The beautiful lady was soon changed into the most hideous hag imaginable. An old witch from an ogre's den would have appeared a goddess in comparison. Hideous as she seemed, Thomas felt that he had placed himself in her power, and resolved to risk her sway; and when she bade him take leave of the sun, the flowers, and the forest, he felt it necessary to obey. He followed his dreadful guide into a cavern, which hitherto had escaped his observation, though he knew the spot well. As they advanced into the subterranean passage, it soon became dark and dismal as Stygian night. On they traveled through this awful inferno, for three days on end, without stop for sleep or refreshment; sometimes
walking through rivers of blood, while terrifying sounds, like the rolling of thunder or the booming of a distant ocean, fell upon their ears. At length they emerged into a perfect paradise, where the light shone from an unseen source, but it was more glorious than that of the noonday sun. They entered a most beautiful and luxuriant orchard, and Thomas, exhausted for want of rest and almost fainting for want of food, stretched out his hand towards the tempting fruit which hung in great abundance and variety on all sides; but his conductress warned him that these were the fatal apples which lured man to his fall, and forbade him as much as to touch a single one of them. Ravenous as he was, Thomas gave heed to her advice and restrained himself. But to his amazement and delight, when he turned to look at his guide, he again beheld her not merely in her former splendor, but far fairer and more beautiful in every way than he had seen her at the foot of the mountain; and she began to explain to him the character of the country. "Yonder," said she, "is the Right-Hand Path which conveys the spirits of the blest to Paradise; and yon downward, well-worn way leads sinful souls to perdition. The third road to yonder brake conducts to the milder place of purgatorial redemption. But see a fourth road sweeping along the plain towards yon splendid castle! Yonder is the road to Elfland, whither we are now bound. The Lord of the castle is the King of this country, and I am his Queen. When you enter there you must observe absolute silence. I will answer for you by saying that I took your speech from you in middle Earth." They then proceeded to the castle, and, on entering the kitchen, they found themselves in the midst of such a scene of festivities as might well become the palace of a king, which can be easier imagined than told. After regaling themselves, they entered the royal hall, where stately knights and fair ladies, dancing by threes, occupied the floor of the gorgeous place; and Thomas, forgetting his fatigue, went forward and joined the revelry. After a period which seemed very short to him, the Queen spoke with him apart, and bade him prepare to return to his own country. "Now," said the Queen, "how long think you that you have been here?" "Certes, fair lady," answered Thomas, "not above seven days." "You are deceived," replied the Queen, "you have been in this castle just seven years, and it is full time that you were gone. Know, Thomas, that the Archfiend will come to the castle tomorrow to demand his tribute, and so handsome a man as you could not escape his eye. For all the world I would not suffer you to be betrayed to such a fate; up therefore, and let us be going." This terrible news reconciled Thomas to the prospect of his departure from Elfland. There was no long and fearsome return journey. In less time than it takes to tell it the Queen had placed him again on Huntley Bank, where the larks were singing in the dawn of a beautiful summer morning. To ensure his reputation, she bestowed upon him the tongue that could not lie, before leaving him. Thomas in vain objected to this inconvenient and involuntary adhesion to veracity, which, as he protested, would make him unfit for church or market, for king's court, or lady's bower. But the Elfish Queen disregarded all his remonstrances, and Thomas the Rimer, could lie no more. Whatever he said thereafter was certain to come to pass, and it was no wonder that he gained credit as a prophet. For many years afterwards he lived in his own tower at Ercildoun, and enjoyed the fame of his predictions, many of which are current to this day. At length, as the prophet was entertaining the Earl of March, there appeared a hart and a hind, which, contrary to their shy nature, came quietly onwards through the village towards the tower of the prophet. Thomas quietly arose from the festive board, and acknowledging that fate had summoned him, he accompanied the hart and the hind to the forest, and though he may be occasionally seen by his favored friends, he has never again since that day mixed familiarly with mankind.
------IV. Magicians Thomas Learmount and Canobie Dick Magicians and Witches were at one time, and that not so very long ago, quite numerous in Scotland. There were all degrees of them, from the amateur artist who could do but one or two magical tricks, to the finished Magician whose powers were almost boundless. Doubtless many of them were merely men or women of more than ordinary talent, who were suspected of having dealings with the prince and father of Magicians, for it was a foregone conclusion that abnormal powers could only be acquired by those who were in league with the Devil. According to popular belief there were no 'White Magicians' in Scotland; all 'magic' was 'black-art,' which was probably too true, or had been too true, for many a long year. That there was magic, plenty of it, no one can doubt, but the mystic schools were kept very secret, and to the ignorant, the superstitious, and the uninitiated, they were all mysteriously connected with the denizens of Hell and were therefore regarded not only with suspicion and distrust but with horror and contempt. But the very name 'black-art,' implies a 'white-art' as well; and the chief difference between the two is the difference between selfishness and altruism. Whoever uses the powers which he possesses, as far as he knows how, for selfish purposes, is a Black Magician: while he who uses all the powers at his command to help the onward march of human progress, is a White Magician. Looking over the past history, not only of Scotland but of every other country in the world, it is easy to see that White Magicians have not been a majority at any time or anywhere during the historic period, but it is not so certain that there have been none at all, either in Scotland or elsewhere. One of the most famous of Scottish Magicians was Thomas Learmount of Ercildoun, better known as Thomas the Rimer, of whom we have spoken already, who, according to tradition, may be still alive. At least there is no record of his death, and he is reputed to have been seen from time to time during the centuries that have passed since he was seen to go into the forest with the hart and the hind that called for him, towards the close of the thirteenth century. One of the most remarkable of his reappearances was on the occasion of his relations and dealings with Canobie Dick, which are the subject of our present tale. Canobie Dick was a typical, old-time, Scotch horse-cowper, reckless and fearless, and admired but dreaded amongst his neighbors. One moonlight night, as he rode over Bowden Moor, on on the west side of the Eildon Hills - a favorite rendezvous of Thomas the Rimer - having a brace of horses which he had not been able to dispose of at the right figure, he met a man of venerable mien and ancient garb, who, to his surprise, asked his price and began to dicker for a bargain. To Canobie Dick a dealer was a dealer, and he would have sold a horse to old Nickie Ben himself, and, more than likely, would have cheated the Devil in the bargain. The stranger, whether cheated or not, paid the price agreed upon, but the thing that puzzled Dick the most in the transaction was, that the gold which he received was in unicorns, bonnet pieces, and other ancient coins, having a relic as well as an intrinsic value. Dick, being no fool, saw the chance of a double profit, and accepted the obsolete currency without a murmur. But the first deal with this strange trader was by no means the last. Many like profitable bargains followed: the curious customer only stipulating that Dick should always come at night, and alone; to which conditions the fearless Dick raised
no objections. After Dick had sold many horses in this way, without improving in the least his acquaintance with the mysterious merchant, his curiosity was aroused to the pitch of investigation, and he resolved to try to unmask the mystery by means of the friendly cup; so he began to complain that 'dry bargains' were 'unlucky,' and hinted to the strange buyer that since he must live in the neighborhood, he ought, in the courtesy of dealing, to wet the bargain. "You may see my dwelling if you will," said the stranger, "but if you lose courage at what you see there, you will rue it for the rest of your life." Dick laughed the warning to scorn, and having secured his horse, he followed the strange man up a narrow footpath which led them up the hills to the singular eminence sticking out between the southern and center peaks, called, on account of its resemblance in form to such an animal, the 'Lucken Hare,' which is almost as famous for witch-meetings as the windmill of Kippilaw. Here Dick was startled to observe that his guide entered the hillside by a cavern which he had never seen or heard of before, though he knew the spot well. "You may still return," said his guide, looking ominously back upon him; but Dick scorned to show the white feather, and on they went. After a long and gruesome journey along the dark cavern, they entered a long range of stables; in every stall stood a coal-black horse, and by every horse lay a knight in coal-black armor, with a drawn sword in his hand: but all were as silent, hoof and limb, as if they had been marble statues. A long row of torches lent a gloomy luster to the range of stables, which, like those of Caliph Vathek, were of large dimensions. At length they arrived at the upper end, where a sword and horn lay on an antique table. "He who shall sound that horn and draw that sword, shall, if his heart fail him not, be King over all broad Britain. So speaks the tongue that cannot lie"; said the stranger, now intimating that he was no other than the famous Thomas the Rimer of Ercildoun. "But," he added, "all depends on Courage, and much on your taking the sword or the horn first." Dick was much disposed to take the sword, but his realization of the presence of the great Magician, and the supernatural terrors of the great hall, had awed his bold and daring spirit, and he thought that to unsheath the sword might be construed as defiance, and give offense to the powers of the mountain. So with trembling hand he took the horn and blew a feeble note, but loud enough to produce terrible results. Thunder rolled in stunning peals through the immense hall; horses and men started to life; the steeds snorted, champed their bits, stamped, and tossed their heads; the warriors sprang to their feet, clashed their armor, and brandished their swords. Dick's terror was complete. When he saw the great army, which had been silent as the grave, now in an uproar and ready to rush upon him, he dropped the horn and made a feeble attempt to grasp the enchanted sword; but at the same instant a voice proclaimed aloud the mysterious words: "Woe to the coward, that ever he was born, Who did not draw the sword before he blew the horn." At the same moment a hurricane of irresistible fury howled through the long hall, and swept the unfortunate horse-cowper clear out of the mouth of the cavern, and hurled him over a steep rickle of loose stones and landed him, almost lifeless, on the plain below. In the morning the shepherds found him with just breath enough to tell his terrible tale before he expired. Michael Scott
Another of Scotland's famous Magicians was Michael Scott. Stories of his mysterious powers are still told in every nook and corner of the land. There is no agreement with regard to the time when he lived, but there is no doubt that the scenes of his activities covered a wide area of Scotland, as well as the environs of Edinburgh. In the early part of his life he was in the habit of going to the metropolis for the purpose of being employed in his capacity of mason. On one occasion while he and two companions were journeying thither with a common object, they had occasion to pass over a high hill, the name of which has been forgotten, but it is supposed to have been one of the Grampians; and being fatigued, they sat down to rest themselves. No sooner had they been seated than they were warned by the hissing of a huge serpent that their life was in danger. The serpent, they observed, was winding towards them with great velocity. Terrified at the monster, Michael's two companions fled for their lives, while he, on the contrary, prepared to combat the deadly reptile. The appalling monster approached the young Magician with distended mouth and forked tongue, and throwing itself into a coil at his feet it raised its head to strike, but just as it was about to inflict the mortal sting, Michael, with one stroke of his stick, severed its body into three pieces. Rejoining his affrighted comrades, they resumed their journey. When they arrived at the next inn it was late, and the travelers being weary, they decided to remain there for the night. Naturally, before retiring, Michael's exploit with the serpent became the subject of the conversation; and the landlady, who was remarkable for her 'arts,' happened to be present. Her curiosity became excited, and she began to inquire about the size and color of the serpent. When told that it was white, she offered any one of them, who would procure for her the middle piece, such a tempting reward that one of the party was instantly induced to go for it. On reaching the spot he found the mid and tail pieces where Michael had left them, but the head piece was gone. The landlady on receiving her coveted piece was highly gratified, and over and above the promised reward she regaled her lodgers most generously with the choicest dainties in her house. Fired with the spirit of curiosity to know the lady's intended purpose with the serpent, the wily Michael Scott feigned that he had been seized with a severe attack of indisposition, which he affirmed would be greatly benefitted if he might be allowed to sleep near the fire. Never suspecting Michael's duplicity, and naturally thinking that a person so ill would feel little curiosity about culinary affairs, the landlady allowed his request. As soon as her guests had retired, the sorceress resumed her darling vocation, and in his feigned state of illness Michael had a favorable opportunity of closely observing all her actions through the keyhole of her alchemical laboratory. He could see the rites and ceremonies with which the serpent was put into the oven, along with many mysterious ingredients. Later, the unsuspecting woman placed the dish by the fire (where lay the distressed traveler) in order to let it simmer till morning. Once or twice in the night, the enchantress, under the pretense of nursing her sick lodger and administering renovating cordials, the beneficial effects of which Michael gratefully acknowledged, took occasion to dip her finger into the saucepan, which was curiously coincident with the crowing of the cock. This wrought so powerfully upon the imagination of Michael that he could not dissipate the desire to try it himself. Although he more than suspected that Satan had a hand in the pie, he wanted very much to get to the bottom of the mysterious conjurations: and thus his reason and curiosity combated and clashed for several hours. At length the desire for knowledge conquered, and Michael, also, dipped his finger in the saucepan, and applied it to the tip of his tongue, and immediately the cock announced the deed with a mournful clarion. Instantly his mind was illuminated in a manner that he had never dreamed of before; and the amazed and undeceived sorceress now found it in her interest to admit her sagacious lodger to a full knowledge of the remainder of her secrets.
In addition to his own natural brilliancy, sagacity, and courage, Michael was now endowed with a complete knowledge of all the magic arts, good and evil, and of all the 'second sights' and 'second hearings' that can be acquired. No wonder he left the country inn next morning feeling assured that he had the Philosopher's Stone safely in his pocket. By a series of new and original discoveries, of a recondite nature, he continued daily to perfect himself in his supermundane attainments, until at length he became more than a match for the Earl of Hell himself. Indeed, he succeeded in changing some thousands of Satan's finest workmen - the very 'imps o' Hell' - and converted them into good and useful fairies, friendly to humanity, and engaged them in his own employment. These, with marvelous success, he trained to great perfection in the science of architecture and in all the arts and crafts connected with building and construction. But his greatest achievement of all was, that after he had trained his devoted workmen to the highest degree of perfection in skill that it was possible for them to attain, he inspired them with such faithful and industrious habits that their capacity for building operations was more than sufficient for all the architectural work of the whole Empire. The truth of this can easily be established by simply referring to some of the remains of their workmanship, still existing, both north and south of the Grampians, some of them stupendous bridges, built by them in one short night, with no other visible agents than two or three workmen. Indeed, Michael's greatest difficulty was in keeping his workmen employed, so industrious and capable were they. On one occasion work was getting scarce, as might naturally have been expected, and, as they were wont, his workmen flocked to his door, clamoring for - "Work, work, work." Michael, at his wits' end of finding useful employment for them, told them to go and build a dry road from Fortrose to Arderseir across the Moray Firth. The fairies were immediately appeased, and went to execute his order, and, Scott thinking that the employment he had given them would keep them going for many a long day, retired, laughing in his sleeve, to enjoy himself at his favorite occupations. Early next morning, however, he got up to take his usual constitutional walk at the break of day, and, to divert himself, he took a walk down the shore to view, as he thought, the fruitless labors of his zealous workmen. But to his amazement, on reaching the scene of their efforts, he perceived that already they had almost finished their more than herculean task, which he had allotted to them. Realizing that a dry road across the Moray Firth would be a barrier to navigation, he ordered his workmen to demolish the greater part of their work, consenting, however, to leave the Point of Fortrose as a monument to prove to posterity the prodigious powers of Michael Scott's Fairies. This being done, they were again thrown out of employment, and resumed their clamor for work; nor could Michael, with all his sagacity, devise a plan to keep them usefully employed. Finally, he commanded them to go down to the sea-shore and manufacture a rope of oat-shells and sea-sand, that would reach to the back of the moon. Thereby Michael found the employment problem completely solved. When all useful employment failed, he had only to dispatch his industrious workmen to the rope manufactory. But although the fairies failed to make substantial ropes from oat-shells and sea-sand, their efforts were by no means contemptible, as can be well seen by some of their ropes that lie by the sea-side to this day. Towards the close of his long career Michael Scott had a violent quarrel with a person who had done him a great injury, and he resolved to send his adversary to the proper place reserved for evildoers. Setting the proper machinery in motion to convey the unfortunate man thither, he was rapidly transported to the nether regions, and had he been sent by any other means than those of Michael Scott, no doubt he would have been given a warm reception. But when Satan learned who was his billet-master, he would no more receive him than he would receive the Wife of Bath. Instead of treating the unfortunate man with his characteristic severity, the Archfiend showed him considerable civilities. He even went so far in his hospitality as to introduce him to his 'Ben Faigh,' (housekeeper)
and directed her to show his friend any interesting curiosities that he might wish to see, hinting very significantly that he had provided suitable accommodation for their mutual friend, Michael Scott, and suggested that a view of the quarters assigned for his future comfort might give the visitor some satisfaction. The polite housekeeper accordingly conducted the stranger through the principal apartments of Hell, and many a gruesome sight did he see. But the bed of Michael Scott! - words fail. His greatest enemy, with omnipotent power, could have added nothing to make it more complete. It was far too horrible to be described. It was filled promiscuously with the hellish elements of all the most awful brutes imaginable. Toads, leeches, lizards, lions, were there; and not the least conspicuous were huge serpents, with mouths gaping wide open. But with revenge more than satiated, the terrified stranger had seen too much, and begged to be led to the outer gate. On returning to Earth, the entertainment that awaited his friend Michael Scott was too spicy a piece of news to be left untold, but Michael did not appear at all perturbed by his friend's intelligence. He affirmed that he would disappoint all his enemies in their solicitude for his future diversion; and to prove the truth of his asseveration, he gave the following instructions: "When I am just dead, open my breast and extract my heart: carry it to some place where the public can see the result. You will then transfix it upon a long pole, and if Satan will have my soul, he will come in the likeness of a black raven and carry it off; and if my soul will be saved, it will be carried away by a white dove." His friends faithfully obeyed his instructions, and his heart being impaled as directed, there came from the East a large raven, with exceeding swiftness, and with equal speed there came a white dove from the West: the raven made a furious dash for the heart, but, missing its aim, the momentum of its velocity carried it far beyond its mark; meantime, the white dove gently carried the heart away, amid the rejoicing of the numerous and joyous friends of Michael Scott. How Michael Scott Abstracted the Knowledge of Shrove-Tide from the Pope: and How He Ended the Need of Going to Rome to Obtain that Knowledge. * When the country of Scotland was ruled by the Pope, the inhabitants were very ignorant, and nothing could be done or said by them without the consent of the Pope. ----------* Adapted from the Rev. Duncan M. Campbell's translation from the Gaelic in Waifs and Strays of Celtic Tradition; by Lord Archibald Campbell. ----------The Feast of Shrove-tide regulated all the feasts that followed it during the year. So when the date of Shrove-tide was known, the date of every other feast during the year could be fixed. On Shrovetide Lent began; six weeks after that was Easter; and so on unto the end of the year. So, when Shrove-tide drew near a man left each Pope-ruled country for Rome every year for the purpose of ascertaining the knowledge of the date of Shrove-tide, which appeared to be arbitrarily fixed by the Pope, no one having observed its relation to the phases of the moon. On the return of the Scottish messenger, and after his telling the date of Shrovetide, an intelligent, fearless, clever, prudent, and well-bred man was selected to go to Rome on the following year to ascertain the important date. On a certain year Michael Scott, a learned man and famous, was chosen to proceed to Rome to obtain the knowledge of Shrove-tide; but because of the many other matters he had to attend to, he forgot his duty until all the feasts of the year were over at Candlemas. There was not a minute to lose. He betook himself to one of the fairy riding-
fillies, and said to her: "How swift are you?" "I am as fleet as the wind," she replied. "You will not do," says Michael. He then asked the second one, "How swift are you?" She replied: "I am so swift that I can outspeed the wind that comes behind me, and overtake the wind that goes before me." "You will not do," answered Michael. The third one he asked, said she was as fleet as the "black blast of March." "Scarcely will you do," said Michael. He then put the question to the fourth, and she answered: "I am as swift as the thought of a maiden between her two lovers." "You will be of service," said Michael; "make ready," said he. "I am always ready if the man is in accord with me," said she. They started. Sea and land were alike to them. While they were above the sea, the fairy said to him: "What say the women of Scotland when they quench the fire?" "You ride," said Michael, "in your master's name, and never mind that." "Blessings to thyself, but a curse upon thy teacher," replied she. "What," said she again, "say the wives of Scotland when they put their first weanling to bed, and a suckling at their breast?" "Ride you in your master's name, and let the wives of Scotland sleep," responded Michael. "Forward was the woman who put the first finger in your mouth," said she. Presently Michael and his fairy steed arrived at Rome. It was in the morning. He sent swift message to the Pope that the messenger from Scotland was at his door, seeking knowledge of Shrove-tide, lest Lent would go away. The Pope came at once to the audience-room. "Whence art thou?" he said to Michael. "I am from thy faithful children of Scotland, seeking the knowledge of Shrove-tide, lest Lent will go away," said Michael. "You are too late in coming," said the Pope. "Early that leases me," replied Michael. "You have ridden somewhat high," said His Holiness. "Neither high nor low, but right ahead," said Michael. "I see," said the Pope, "snow on your bonnet." "Yes, by your leave, the snow of Scotland." "What proof," said the Pope, "can you give me of that? Likewise, that you have come from Scotland to seek knowledge of Shrove-tide?" "That," said Michael, "a shoe is on your foot that is not your own." The Pope looked, and on his right foot was a woman's shoe. "You will get what you want," said he to Michael, "and begone. The first Tuesday of the first moon of Spring is Shrove-tide." Thus Michael obtained knowledge of the secret that the Pope had hitherto kept to himself. Before that time the messenger was given but the knowledge that this day or that day was the day of Shrove-tide of the current year; but Michael obtained knowledge of how the Pope himself came to ascertain the day. History has lost the record of Michael's return journey, but no one doubts that he found means of getting back home in good time. -------V. Men of the Second Sight
Men of the 'Second Sight,' so common in the western Highlands and Isles of Scotland, were in no sense magicians or sorcerers, nor were they members of any of the various schools of magic, white or black; they were generally unsophisticated illiterates, whose exalted vision, though spasmodic and involuntary, was as natural and innate as ordinary ocular vision. This sublimated sight, though not so common, is better known in the United States as Clairvoyance. Though it came naturally to many of the Highlanders and Islanders, the second sight could not be induced by volition, nor sustained by those who were surprised or excited by its occurrence. The Rev. Robert Kirk, writing at the end of the seventeenth century says: "The men of the Second Sight do not discover things when asked, but by fits and raptures, as inspired with some genius at that instant, which before did work in or about them." Naturally they play a prominent part in Scottish Folk-lore. C.F. Gordon Cumming, in his In the Hebrides, says that in the western Highlands and Islands their name was legion, and that men of the Second Sight were to be met, at every turn, in his day (1886). Of recent years, however, second sight has fallen into disrepute. All such abnormal powers are now under the ban of both Church and State, and although second sight is still far from extinct, its possessors are by no means looked upon as sages, or even with deference, but rather as being somewhat uncanny, or perhaps with scorn. It is certainly not regarded as the legitimate and proper thing, as it was towards the end of the seventeenth century, when the Parish Minister visited the distant Isle of St. Ronan, where the people greeted him, in the most natural manner, with the assurance that he had been expected, because they had beheld him by the second sight. This is but one of the many traits which these Celtic people have in common with the people of the East. During the Indian Mutiny of 1857 the staff officers of the British army, situated several days' journey, by the most rapid means of transit, from the scene of conflict, were amazed to find that the natives in their vicinity always knew accurately the results of a battle as soon as it had ended. The means by which the natives obtained their information kept the officers speculating for the rest of their lives; and, to this day, the problem has never been officially solved. The prosaic Kitchener, in his Egyptian campaigns, encountered precisely the same conditions. These are matters of official history. Of course it was the Men of the Second Sight who saw and described the denizens of the Inner World; although these were often seen by persons who were not accredited second-sight seers, whose vision penetrated to regions far more recondite than the realms of fairyland. Distance, either of time or space, seemed to be no barrier to second-sight seers. They could see things happening at great distances, things that had occurred, or things that were about to occur. Second sight was possessed in all degrees of perfection, or imperfection; from the accomplished seer of sustained vision, whose descriptions and prophecies were reliable and accurate, to the mere novice who got but momentary glimpses, far too meager for intelligent comprehension or reliable description. Lord Tarbat, who, in the middle of the seventeenth century, spent several years in the Highlands and Islands for the special purpose of investigating the second sight, writing generally says: "I heard very much but believed very little of the Second Sight; yet its being assumed by several of great veracity, I was induced to make inquiry after it in the year 1652; being then confined in the North of Scotland by the English usurpers. The general accounts of it were that many Highlanders, yet far more Islanders, were qualified with this second sight: and men, women, and children, indistinctly, were subject to it, and children where parents were not. Sometimes people came to age who had it not when young, nor
could they tell by what means produced. "It is a trouble to most of them who are subject to it, and they would be rid of it, at any rate if they could. The sight is of no long duration, only continuing so long as they can keep their eyes steady without twinkling. The hardy, therefore, fix their look that they may see the longer, but the timorous see only by glances - their eyes always twinkle at the first sight of the object. That which is generally seen by them is the species of living creatures, and of inanimate things, which be in motion, such as ships, and habits upon persons. They never see the species of any person who is already dead. What they foresee fails not to exist in the mode, and in that place where it appears to them. They cannot well know what space of time shall intervene between the apparition and the real existence. But some of the hardiest and longest experience have some rules for conjectures, as, if they see a man with a shrouding-sheet in the apparition, they will conjecture the nearness or remoteness of his death by the more or less of his body that is covered by it. They will ordinarily see their absent friends, though at great distance, sometimes no less than from America to Scotland, sitting, standing, or walking in some certain place; and they will conclude with an assurance that they will see them so, and there.... These generals I had verified to me by such of them as did see, and were esteemed honest and sober by all the neighborhood, for I inquired after such for my information. And because there were more of these seers in the isles of Lewis, Harris, and List, than in any other place, I did entreat Sir James McDonald, Sir Norman McLoud, and Mr. Daniel Morison (a very honest person), to make inquiry in this uncouth sight, and acquaint me therewith, which they did, and all found agreement in these generals, and informed me of many instances confirming what they said, but though men of discretion and honor, being but second hand. I will choose rather to put myself than my friends on the hazard of being laughed at for incredible relations" [narrations]. It appears that these seers invariably lost their clairvoyant powers when they emigrated to a foreign country. Lord Tarbat continues: "Several did see the second sight when in the Highlands or Isles, yet when transported to live in other countries, especially in America, they quite lose this quality, as was told me by a gentleman who knew some of them in Barbados, who did see no vision there, although he knew them to be seers when they lived in the Isles of Scotland." He then proceeds to give a number of instances of second sight in which he had himself taken part, and of which he had, therefore, no doubt at all as to their authenticity, of which the two below are typical. "I was once traveling in the Highlands, and a good number of servants with me, as is usual there; and one of them, going a little before me, entering into a house where I was to stay all night, and was going hastily to the door, he suddenly stepped back with a screech, and did fall by a stone which hit his foot. I asked what was the matter, for he seemed very much frightened. He told me very seriously that I should not lodge in that house, because a dead coffin would be carried out of it, for they were carrying it when he was heard cry. I, neglecting his words, and staying there, he said to the other servants that he was sorry for it, and that surely what he saw would shortly come to pass. Though no sick person was then there, yet the landlord, a healthy Highlander, died of an apoplectic fit before I left the house." Again: "In the year 1653 Alexander Monro (afterwards Lieutenant-Colonel to the Earl of Dumbarton's regiment) and I were walking in a place called Ullapool in Loch Broom, on a
little plain at the foot of a rugged hill. There was a servant walking with a spade in the walk before us; his back was to us and his face to the hill. Before we came to him he let the spade fall, and looked towards the hill. He took no notice of us as we passed near by him, and perceiving him to stare a little strangely, I conjectured him to be a seer. I called at him, at which he started and smiled. 'What are you doing?' said I. He answered, 'I have seen a strange thing: an army of Englishmen, leading of horses, coming down the hill; and a number of them are coming down to the plain, and eating the barley which is growing in the field near the hill.' This was on the 4th day of May, 1653 (I noted the day), and it was four or five days before the barley was sown in the field he spoke of. Alexander Monro asked him how he knew they were Englishmen. He said because they were leading of horses, and had on hats and boots, which he knew no Scotchman would have there. We took little notice of the story as other than a foolish vision, but we wished that an English party were there, we being at war with them, and the place almost inaccessible to horsemen. But in the beginning of August thereafter, the Earl of Middleton (then Lieutenant for the King in the Highlands) having occasion to march a party of his towards the South Highlands, he sent his foot through a place called Inverlawell; and the foreparty, which was first down the hill, did fall off eating the barley which was on the little plain under it, and Monro, calling to mind what the seer had told us in May preceding, he wrote of it, and sent an express to me to Lochslin, in Ross (where I was) with it." After giving a number of instances, such as these, he concludes thus: "These be matters of fact, which I assure you are truly related. But these and all others that occurred to me, by information or otherwise, could never lead me into a remote conjecture of the cause of so extraordinary a phenomenon. Whether it be a quality in the eyes of some people in these parts, concurring with the air also; whether such species [images] be everywhere, though not seen by the want of eyes so qualified, or from whatever other cause, I must leave to the inquiry of clearer judgment than mine. But a hint may be taken.... from Aristotle in the fourth of his Metaphysics (if I remember right, for it is long since I read it), as also from the common opinion that young infants, (unsullied with many objects) do see apparitions which are not seen by those of elder years." (The Theosophical Path, September, 1918 - January, 1919) --------------------