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The totem bird for this letter is besan, the pheasant; colour ban, white; dates, December 24 to January 20. Associated with Di-domhnaich, the Day of the House of Don and the creatorgod.
BÀ. BÀTH, obs. good, simple-minded; now: foolish; deadly talk, gossip, from bàs, death. Confers with Lat. faut. See bas. Cf. Lat. fatuus. BACH, drunkeness, from Latin god Bacchus. Alcoholic beverages were considered to be full of god-spirit and were adjuncts of fertility rites. BACHALL, BACHUILL BUIDHE, AN, bachall, a shepherd's crook, a crozier, old shoe or slipper, from the Latin baculum, a rod of power. Confers with G. bac, a crook and bacach, lamed; buidehe, yellow, Latin badius, the English bay. The yellow staff of magic. Confers with bach, drunkenness and the Lat. Bacchus, the staff-carrier, and a noted drinker. Wooden crooks were often carried by the Celtic gods, by druids and by the Daoine sidh as symbols of power and as devices for directing the gisreag, or “fire-magic.” In more recent times the aoghaire, or “shepherds” have been considered uncanny because the carried the crooked staff preferred by Cromm “the Crooked.” The goddess Macha, the Befind of future events, carried one of these in her guise as the Cailleach Bheurr, or “Winter Hag.” Those who saw her pass said that the staff of power shed snow and storms of ice, and when she pointed it at men, her energies discharged
through it as life-taking lightning. The crooked rods of the ancient Gaels were seen to be too potent to destroy, so Christian "saints" confiscated them, re-dedicated them to the use of An Tighernmas, "The One God", and represented them as pastoral staffs. Because they were remnants of "living-wood", housing the totemspirits of their carriers, these rods had a limited life span and only a few remain. One of their number was obtained by Saint Filian, who died in Scotland about the year 703 A.D. It was considered so highly as a relic it was entrusted to the Dewar family, the traditional keepers of magical implements. There were once five hereditary Dewars of Saint Filian, whose descendants include the millionaire peer Evelyn Dewar, third Lord Fortevoit, of Perthshire. When Filian's staff began to crumble under use, the crooked head was encased in bronze, and this was re-encased in silver. In 1336 the head of Clan Menzies declared Donald MacSobreil, dewar Cogerach, the magic staff then being known as Coigreach, "A Stranger," "one who comes from a neighbouring province." This was because the staff was often carried into remote parts, for it was law that any inhabitant of the parish of Glendochart could call for its help if his property was stolen. The Dewar of Coygerach was required to have it come and "sniff out" the thief. It was well known that the crozier had the ability to follow the goods, or cattle, wherever they happened to be taken within the bounds of Scotland. In return for carrying the staff, the dewar was given a yearly supply of meal by the parish, and each applicant rewarded him with four pence, a pair of shoes, and food for the first night on the trail. Apparently the fee was never adjusted to allow for increases in the cost of living for the dewar who carried it in the reign of Charles II was so reduced, he sold the Coigreach itself to Macdonnell of Glengarry, who venerated it as a Catholic relic.
Succeeding Dewars were not at rest until this thinly disguised pagan device came back to Breadalbane. In 1782, the official dewar was a day-labourer but as late as 1795, Presbyterian highlanders were in the habit of coming in from the hills to the town of Killin to procure water that had been in touch with the crozier. In 1818 Archibald Dewar emigrated to Canada and took the magic rod along with him. In this country he was persuaded to produce the magic-water which seemed helpful in treating the diseases of cattle and men. In 1876, this dewar consented to transfer the old pagan staff to the Society of Antiquities of Scotland, "on trust to the benefit and enjoyment of the Scottish nation." All that remains for the current Dewars is their heraldic insignia, featuring a pair of crossed pastoral rods. Another of this kind is the Bachuil Mor, or “Great Staff,” picked up at an early date by Saint Moluag and entrusted to the dewars of Lismore in northern Scotland. It was, for many years, encased in corroded copper, thus its nick-name Bachuil Buide, the “Yellow Staff." At the old Samhuinn (Nov. 1) the Barons of the Bachuel , the Livingstones of the Isle of Lismore, hosted a gathering at which spring-water was solemnly stirred using this staff. "...thereafter the water was carefully decanted into bottles which were distributed to the relatives present. The belief was current that this was "holy water" which would serve as a talisman against all ills throughout the year." Interestingly, Molaug was a nick-name for Saint Lughaidh, a Christian who died among the northern Picts in 592 A.D. His name is a combination of Lugh and Aod, two patently pagan sun-deities. It seems apropos that his "light" was extinguished on June 25 at an eclipse of the sun. His name translates, roughly as "the gleaming light of day." St. Molaug's bachuel was entrusted to the dewars of the clan Macleay or Livingstone. BACHAILLE NAN EILEANAN, "bachuill carriers of the islands."
the Morrisons, judges of the western isles of Scotland. The bachuills were magic staffs, remnants of pagan days rededicated to the use of the Christian clerics. See bachuill and britheamh. BAD, a cluster, thicket, similar to the Gaelic bod, the penus; cf. Bry. bod, a grape cluster or thicket. Thought of Pictish origin. The Eng. bud, earlier bodde, also bast and bass, a tree. Badhal, wandering, all perhaps from the root ba, to go. Having reference to the Quarter-Day activity of seeking sexual solace in a solitary place. See next.
BADB, BADBA, BADH, BAOBH, BHOABH, BOAGH, (bhuv, Ir. bibe, rhyming with “jibe”), a wicked woman, a witch, a hag, the carrion-crow of western Europe, any species of hooded crow, particularly the Royston crow of highland Scotland (“a sly, familiar, very knowing bird”), one of the little people, a scold. EIr. badb, a crow, a female demon from Badb, the Gaelic goddess of death in battle. She was also termed Medb or Maeve, and was the prototype for the English Queen of the May. Note also the Cy. bod, the bird called the kite and their goddess Bod. This was the deity called Bodv or Bodvo-gnatus by the Gauls. All similar to the Old Norse boo, war and possibly from Skr. badas, famine. Anciently, the Badb was considered one of the bas-finne, or bafinne, corresponding with the classical trio called the Fatum, or Fates and with the Norse Nornr. She was considered the goddess of current events as against her less mature form, termed the Mhorrigan, and the completely developed Macha, sometimes called the Cailleach-Bheur, or Winter-Hag. The former had control of events in the past and the latter control of the future. The devotees of this trionaid, or trinity, sometimes collectively called the Bafinne,
were themselves the individual befind, invisible god-like spirits assigned to men and women at their birth. The crow-goddess was pictured in mythology as a full-armoured adventuress and an adept shape-changer. She had the ability to become either the younger Mhorrigan, or the older Macha at will. In addition, she frequently travelled as her totem bird appearing before enemy warriors when their time on earth wore thin. She often slept with her allies among men, thus gifting them with some of her spirit through the sex act. In the end, it was her clan that acted as the runners to men (and the "gods"), "visiting upon them good gifts or ill", fortune or poverty, long life or short, and happiness or unhappiness. At the historic battle of Clontarf, 1014 A.D., when the High King Brian Boru defeated the Vikings, the Badb appeared shrieking above the heads of the defeated enemy. It would appear that the badb, boadb, boabh, bhoabh, or bhuabh belonged to a diverse group of characters, which the English might have termed the boo-men, boo-baggers, boggers (not to be confused with buggers), or bogeymen. "Bo" (plural "ba") was Gaelic for cow, and this was often combined with adjectives to produce compound words such as "bo-aire", the high cow, a person of importance and "bodubh", the black cow, which is to say, a witch or wizard. The English "boo" is related to the Celtic "bo", both being interjections, presumably meant to imitate the lowing sound of a cow. In earlier days, such sounds were used in the field to signal friends, express contempt or aversion for enemies and to startle or frighten them. The Anglo-Saxons created an entire tribe of elfin-folk to people the dangerous bog lands where their boo-people were forced to live. A short list of their kind would include the boo, boogle, bogle, boggart, bugill, bug, pug, bugbear, bugleboo, bull-beggar, bugaboo, puck, pouke, pawkey, puckle, peregrine pickle, little pickle, poake, puck-hairy, pugsy, and pixie. This is exclusive of the Irish phooka and the Welsh pwcca, which are obvious relatives. It is impossible to characterize these legendary little people in any complete
way but they were, at least, troublesome spirits. Almost all lived in out-of-the-way places, and delighted in leading travellers, by means of distracting lights or uncanny noises, "into ditches, bogs, pools and other such scrapes, and then sets up a loud laugh and leaves them quite bewildered..." 1 There are strong suspicions that the elfs, fairies and the sidh represented actual races conquered and banished to the outback by more powerful neighbours. When Leighton Houghton visited St. Ninian's Cave near Whithorn, in southern Scotland, he found it locked and barred because of the pilfering of artifacts by visitors. He knew, however, that relics of the bronze age had been discovered there along with stone axes, spindle whorls and hammer heads, showing it had been inhabited long before the Anglo-Saxons came to Britain. This led him to comment that: "There are still tales in Scotland of the pixie folk, who inhabit lonely caves in the mountains, emerging to graze their tiny cattle or to steal a baby for a slave. When the Gaels and the Britons seized our islands in the dim ages of the past they drove the small dark Iberian natives into the distant safety of the mountains and these ancient folk-stories may be dim memories of these primitive cave-dwellers. 2 This idea is reinforced by Gaelic legends which tell of the Tuatha daoine, who battled against the Celtic Milesian invaders in Meath and again at Taillte, Ireland. In both cases, the residents were defeated, their Queen Eire losing her life in the opening fray. In all three kings and three queens of the danann, or daoine, were slain, and what was left of that race fled into the remote hills. "Possibly the glimpses of some of these fugitive hill-dwellers and cavedwellers caught in twilight and moonlight, by succeeding generations of Milesians, coupled with the seemingly magical skill which they exercised (at avoiding the
Keightley, Gnnomes, Fairies, Elves and Other Little People,
Houghton, In The Steps of the Anglo-Saxons, p. 158.
conquerors), gave foundation for the later stories enchanted folk, fairies, living under the Irish hills." 3
BADB CATHA, the “Battle Raven,” see above entry. Similar to the Gaullish (C)athubodva. A goodess of domesticity and war. Spirit-possessed ravens were actually trained to attack the eyes of enemies in battle.
BAFINN, BEFINN, BEFIND, BE FIND, BASFINN, pl. Basfinne, ba, bath, foolish, from bah, deadly with speech, a spell-caster; “deadly through talk,” bas, death, fionn, white, finne, maidens, finnean, a buzzard. Eng. befind. cf. G. beathan, life, the latter being the alternate face of death. From this the surname Beathag. Confers with beo, living; as an adj., lively, alive, and fitheach, a raven. Similar to the obsolete fidh, a stake driven in the ground to hold sacrificial victims. Sometimes given as the best friend of Lady Cassir, who accompanied her her on a sea-voyage into the western ocean from the Mediterranean just before the World Flood. More often, the triad-goddess, whose aspects were Mhorrigan, Badb and Macha.. Also the followers of this goddess, supernaturals given the duty as acting as the guardians of men and the gods. A caste of supernaturals,
MacManus, The Story of the Irish Race, p. 10.
the sidh-guardian born to each child, "those who predict its future and endow it with good or doubtful gifts." a spirit, now referred to as "the guardian angel." One aspect is the beansithe, bean-sighe or maighdeann unaine, known in English parts as the green or the white lady. The guardian of the Gaels nationally as well as individually. Named after a sister of the goddess Boann. It was said that she mated with Idath and became the mother of Fraoch, the most handsome warrior in Ireland. These are the Gaelic Fates. The Roman Fata were attached to the Greek Parcæ but the latter did not survive transplantation in Italy. The Italian Fates are the Moeræ (confering with the goddess Mhorrigan) and they are distinguished as the Befana, the Maratega and the Rododesa. The Befana is the best known of the three, appearing as a Yule-tide character who climbs down chimneys to leave sweets for good children and coal for bad ones. She can only be seen during one night in January but is otherwise occupied weaving in a dark cave or hidden chimney corner. The three spinning women are all “extremely old and often very ugly or disfigured.” All are shape-changers: the Maratega being noted for being able to stretch her body to incredible heights, while the Rododrsa can change her fingers into sweets which she uses to lure children to their doom. The “spinners of doom,” are variously known in western Europe as the Metten, Parzae or Nornr. They are the Witte Wijven in Holland, the Trois Maries in Switzerland, Urd, Skulld and Verdandi in Scandinavia, the Bonne Dames in France and the Miri of Athens. According to folklore, these invisible spirits were apportioned (somewhat unequally) to men and women at birth. They sometimes assisted in the act of childbirth and often forecast the major events in the life of the individual in general outline at this time. Individuals particularly favoured sometimes received additional bafinne, thus the hero Cúchullain had two invisible warriors always at his call, while St. Patrick had the ear of several guardian angels.
While Saint Patrick's two guardian-angels provided him with nothing beyond theological advice, those at the call of the Celtic hero Cuchullain supported him in battle. When he was near death at the hands of Ferdiad, one came to either side and soon his opponent "felt the onset of the three together smiting his shield...Then Ferdiad remembered that Cuchullain had an unusual number of invisible helpers and complained, "Thy friends of the sidh (elf or fairy folk) have succored thee, and thou did not disclose this." "Why complainest thou here, O Ferdiad, thou hast the invincible horn skin (armour) whereby to multiply feats and deeds on me, and thou has not explained how that may be opened or closed!" With these words, Cuchullain dismissed the advantage of having Dolb and Indolb support his cause, and went on to kill his combatant. On the Island of Iona, the Christain saint named Columba retired to pray at "the hill of visions" near Portna-Curiach. Until recent times the villagers said this was a dwelling-place of the little people, "and at certain seasons the farmers would gallop their horses three times about it for luck..." The Gaels called it "Sidhchaillinn", the hall of the sidh. More significantly, Saint Patrick is supposed to have been allowed two guardian angels, who he consulted on every important career move. In 432, Patrick founded a mission at St. David's Head in Wales, a place central to the Gaelic kingdoms, but he moved from here when his angel explained that this place had been reserved for David, who would be born in thirty years' time. "When Patrick showed signs of sulkiness, the angel appeased him with the promise of Ireland instead."
The bafinn travelled into the past and the future to gather espionage which might be of use to its human host, and had the ability to move instantaneously to points at a distance in the present, in the interest of protecting and favouring its co-walker. Unfortunately, most people were not "gifted" and received the reports of the bafinn as rude
sensory perceptions. Better placed individuals could actually make contact with other places through the eyes (or ears, or taste buds) of their bafinn, opening themselves to visions (or other extra-sensory phenomena) which informed them of events past or about to be. In sleep, and in the altered state of severe illness, the primary soul or anim was thought to unite with this secondary soul and travel in parallel worlds. At death, the bafinn and the anim were reunited and went "to earth" for a rest period after which the two might be reincarnated as a new individual entity. In the worst case, a death trauma sometimes separated the internal from the external soul, in which case the latter might remain abroad on the land as a revanter or ghost. The Eng. befind had the duty to appear before its human at birth, but in that almost insensate stage most men had no means of recognizing it. Throughout life, this invisible creature, one of the Daoine sidh, travelled as a forerunner or hindrunner of the primary soul. In the former case, it sometimes announced the coming of its cowalker by banging about the outer walls of a house which was soon to receive a visitation. Those gifted with "the two sights" could see this invisible herald and infer that the person represented would soon appear in the flesh. Infrequently, the befind was able to shapechange into an almost corporeal double of the human it represented, and this accounts for cases where doppelgangers were sometimes seen at locations remote from a place where a person was known to be at a given time. These "ghosts of the living" also appeared as simple balls of light energy and occasionally took the form of the totem animal of a given family. The befind was aware of the approaching death of its host, and would appear face-to-face with the primary soul to prepare it for the inevitable. In this form, the befind was the bean-sidh, which the English call the "banshee". The banshee may have been seen as a wailing woman dressed in white (after the fashion of the original Bafinn), although it often appeared as the totem animal. With the
death of the individual, the befind had the final duty of taking news of the passing to the closest relatives. To do this, this spirit often took the form of a "dead-light" or "corpse-candle" which traced the pre-destined route of the body from the death-site to the home, to the burial place. At the home, the death was announced by the three death knocks, which brought the inhabitants to an empty door. Barring an exceptional death, the bafinn then went "to earth" with its host. When the Scots invaded the land of the Picts, the Bafinn alternately migrated between Ireland and Scotland. In folklore, she is represented as the goddess of Fate, but she was never a free entity, her decisions awaiting the judgement of the sun-god Lugh, thus: "At last came the message from Lugh that Bafinn had awaited. It was not good word. The world had gone upside down with evil-doing. Discord; war; lustful depravity; sexual abberation. Bafinn was therefore instructed to punish evil with evil. That she did. She imposed cold and frost in every region and land. There was no growing grass, trees, plants and vegetation of the earth anywhere. Long before the cold and frost had lifted away, everything had decayed - men and beasts were not to be seen. Bafinn left the fairy-holm at Ath Leodair and took a trip across to Ireland to find fresh news. The fresh news was not good. A message came from Lugh and Nuada that a race of evil and savage men called the Fearlaich were spreading westward...The religion of these savages was stupid and untruthful. After these came the three Samhanach tribes (worshippers of the Samh), the arrogant Samhnaich, the despot Samhnaich, the rancid Samhnaich. These savages were due to destroy the civilization of wise men in every land they visited." (The Hebridean Connection, pp. 464-465). In the interval of invasions, predicted to require three thousand years, Bafinn was told to withdraw her protection from all men, retiring to Ard Leodair, in northern Scotland. In some schemes of reckoning, the retirement of the national goddess is nearly at an end. Notice that the Bafinn is An Cailleach Bheurr, the Winter Hag (which see). In a
Gaelic tale told by the Kennedys of Cape Breton Island two of the bafinne, opponents of Finn mac Cumhail are identified: "And it seems they were in a battle and he got assistance. The opponent used the Strange Adversaries (Daoine sidh), and when they came to attack Finn he could not see them...but he prevailed." (Tales Until Dawn, p. 36). The Nova Scotian folklorist, Helen Creighton, was conscious of her befind saying: "It was during my twenties that I became aware of a guiding spirit, a hunch if you like, and surely everyone experiences hunches? One day in Halifax I knew I should cross to the other side of the street. Therewas no apprent reason and the side I was on was more pleasant and less congested. Nevertheless, the urge was strong, and for curiosity's sake more than anything else, I obeyed. The reason was given immediately when a friend got off the tram and upon seeing me looked greatly relieved and said, "I've been trying all day to get you on the telephone." The message was important." "Ever since then I have listened when this advice has come. It is not a voice that I hear nor a vision that I see, but a knowing that a certain thing is advisable. If I heed it, the reason is soon apparent. If I decide to go my own stubborn way I soon see my mistake. This gift I believe may be encouraged and developed. Or it may be confused with wishful thinking, and that can be dangerous. But when it comes in the manner I so often experience, and usually when least expected, it is something to be treasured and respected." The Abenaki Indians of Atlantic Canada described these attendant-spirits as a "ghost-bodies": "For a man or woman it looks like a black shadow of a man or woman. It has hands and feet, a mouth, a head and all the other parts of a human body. It drinks and eats. It puts on clothes, it hunts and fishes and amuses itself." Although this was not the only form of the English home-shadow, it was considered a possible manifestation. On overcast days, the guardian was observed to be entirely invisible and was presumed to be free to travel as far ahead of, or behind, its human as it might wish. In this situation, the spirit often
materialized as the totem-animal of the clan to which the individual belonged. In a few situations, where it might serve the interests of that person, the shadow appeared as his or her double. This "doppelganger" was supposedly responsible for individuals being seen in two widely separated communities at the same time. Very important individuals were born with two or three guardians. and might be observed simultaneously in as many as four diffrent places. Even when it was invisible, the shadowman often heralded the arrival of his or her human by by knocking on the walls or door of a house about to be visisted, or by shuffling its feet in a hallway. If left too long separated from its host, the spirit became restless and might resort to opening or closing doors, or swinging on them, to pass the time. In the elder days it was considered a impolite and perhaps hostile to shut a door quickly behind a visitor, an act that might separate the shadow from helping his master. Very few of our ancestors were aware of their double, exceptions being "gifted" individuals; those born with a double part, or a widow's (or devil's) peak of hair between the eyes; those delivered into our world with eyes of differing colour, which eventually merged into one; and posessors of the caul, fylgia, or birth membrane. Usually the caul, which is a portion of the amniotic sac becomes separated from the child at birth but sometimes it is intact over the head. Folklore insisted that this was a favourable omen, and the mother was expected to walk upon her child's caul and hide it for fear it might be taken. At one time, midwives supplemented their income by stealing cauls which were offered in the black-market for purposes of witchcraft. If this was avoided, the caul was sometimes placed beneath the threshold stone of the home for safekeeping. The baby would then be blessed with help from a very powerful attendant spirit. In addition, children who were gifted were protected against death by drowning, fire or lightning strikes, and this advantage extended to the house. As adults, these lucky people usually carried their cauls on their person, or kept them close at hand. In
Maritime communities, the caul-carriers were sought after for work in lumber mills or on ships at sea, since no damage could come to either while these men were about. Helen Creighton has noted that females were made to take a few stitches in their caul as soon as they were able, thus assuring their abilities as seamstresses. It was claimed that gifted people had the ability to see their shadowduplicates, and to direct them to their advantage. Normal individuals usually bumbled through life aware of their runners on a subliminal level, when they implanted vague notions of danger in the minds of their wards. Most were unable to see the runner until it materialized before them as a warning of impending death. Particularly clumsy people are still accused of "tripping over their own shadow", but few realize this once considered a fact rather than a figure of speech. The relationship between the home-shadow and the human was entirely symbiotic, injury or death to one reflecting very rapidly upon the other. The runner has been identified as the residence of a second-soul in European folklore. It has been suggested that those who sleep, hallucinate, or are in a trance-state have projected their internal soul upon this external double. In the case of the witch, this external soul often occupied an animal body and was commonly called a familiar. All those who were psychic, or gifted, shared the witches' ability to see through the eyes and hear through the ears of this shadow-creature. In earlier times, the home-shadow was called a runner, or a fetch, from its use as errand-boy or girl. The mortal-god Wuotan possessed two familiars in the form of ravens which sat upon his shoulders. As black as shadows they departed each morning to gather intelligence for this "father of the gods". One of these he called Hugin (thought) and the other Munin (memory). At dusk they returned to him and whispered news of the world into his ears. He was keenly aware of their value: "Hugin and Munin fly each day over the spacious earth. Always I fear for Hugin that he come not back, Yet more anxious am I for Munin." If the familiar of the witch, or the runner of one who was gifted, was sent to observe
the future, then that shadow-creature was called a forerunner, and the ability was known as foresight. If the runner was sent into the past, it was called a hindrunner and the craft of the human was named hindsight. A third function of the runner was to act as a telescope for his human, allowing distant views of activities taking place in the present. The Anglo-Saxons called this ability clearsight; the Normans, clairvoyance. Forays in the past were usually considered most informative, the craft being referred to as fortune-telling in the Anglo-Saxon world, and as divination among the Normans. In eastern North America, the Abenaki's consulted "those who know in advance", a class they called the nikani-kjijitekewinu. While the seers could call upon their shadow-people at will, views of future events were often forced on ordinary individuals. In Maritime Canada, these unexpected foresights have been common. Called tokens or visions, they were frequently connected with impending death or disaster. Aside from meeting their own runner face-toface some have seen the shades of friends or relatives prior to death. Others have observed pending ecological disasters, the erections of mines, running of railways and creation of manufacturing plants, in days when the land consisted of nothing more than forest. The Gaels called the ability "an da shealladh", the double vision, or second-sight, because the phenomena has been described as the imposition of a view of the future upon a present-day landscape. When Helen Creighton was researching folklore in 1956 she was, "amazed to find this strange faculty possessed by so many people." The shadow people possessed all of the five senses normally attributed to man so it is not surprising that gifted individuals often received auditory tokens, or sounds from the past or the future, the ability being named clairaudience. Others could feel or smell aspects of other times and places. Hence, a Cape Bretoner once rubbed his lips and said, "indeed I feel the itch of a kiss (or perhaps a dram) today." Our ancestors knew that a forerunner was
shaking hands with a stranger when they felt a sympathetic itch of the right palm. Again, a quiver of the left eyelid meant bad news lay ahead. Motion in the right eye was taken as a good omen, and it was presumed that the runner was looking at something favourable to fortune. Where the contact between a guardian and his ward was tenuous, he was forced to resort to shorthand; hence heat in the right ear meant unfavourable rumors were being passed about a person. If his left ear burned, this was also the case, but he could be sure his reputation was being defended by a friend. Tasting the past, or the future, was not a particularly useful ability, but a few Maritimers had their lives saved by forerunners who warned them of fire by allowing them a early-warning smell of smoke. The guardian, or follower, continues to have a place in the affairs of men. The folklorist Helen Creighton has expressed belief in "a guiding spirit": "One day in Halifax I knew I should cross to the other side of the street. There was no apparent reason and the side I was on was less congested and more pleasant. Nevertheless the urge was strong and...I obeyed. The reason was given immediately, when a friend got off the tram and upon seeing me looked greatly relieved and said, "I've been trying all day to get you on the telephone." The message was important. Since then, Creighton claims to have reacted to all "hunches". "If I go my own stubborn way I soon see my mistake." She has described this "gift" as a "fortudinous thought", or sense of advisibility, rather than a directing voice or vision. She says the experience have been rare, and that obedience to an implanted suggerstion, does not mean that one no longer thinks for oneself, but is, instead, reacting to "advice from a higher source", working "with this guiding spirit as a team." In 1917, Creighton's spirit-guide strongly suggested that she duck under the bedclothes. There was a tremendous noise, and the breaking of glass, and she emerged to find the window casing on her pillow, nails ripped into the cloth
where her head had been a few moments before. A munition's ship had collided with another in Halifax Harbour and the Great Explosion had taken place.
BAGAIR, threaten, denounce, evil, terrify, usually followed by the prep. air, from the Cym. bwg, a spectre, whence the Eng. bogie, bogle, etc. Allied with bac, a crook, a crookcarrier, an aoghaire or shepherd, a sigh, a sidhe or “fairy.” Note that the death god was sometimes identified as Cromm “of the Crooked Rod.” BAGA BRIGDE, bagaid, a cluster; the “cross” of the Bridd, or Bride. A cross of straw placed under the cottage thatch on Bride’s Day (February 2) to ensure good luck. Bagaid brigde; bagaid, a cluster of things, a troop + Bridd, Brigit, the goddess of hearth and home, a daughter of Dagda. Originally a rosette or swastika made from the last standing grain in the fall. Thought to harbour the spirit of the goddess, cornered here in a corner of the field at the harvest. Later a cross. Placed beneath the cottage thatch to bring good fortune in the coming year. BAIBEIL, fables, lying, sttammering (a nervous untruth), given to telling false stories, from the Eng. babble. Bailisdeir, a babbler, cf. Scand. balderdasher. The Norse god Balder is represented in this word. A god of sun and summer he was the preferred son of Odin and Frigga. His death was arranged by Lokki and his spirit was never completely won back from the Underworld. As a result we now have winter. This type of tale was considered distinct from history, myth and legends. BAINISG, a little old woman, a female satirist, a musical mermaid, from ban + eisg, woman + learned person. See aoir-ceairde, above. Note correspondence with bandrui, a female druid and with bainidh, madness, which was thought inspired by evil spiriits invading the body of a man or woman.
BAIL, thrift, goodness, good management, luck, prosperity, residence, allowance from a mill to benefit the poor. Related to bal, immediately below. Bailc, seasonable rain, showers. All based on the god Bil. BAILE, “Townsman,” the lover of Ailinn. At their tragic deaths, a yew tree reportedly grew from the grave of one and an apple from the other. The tops of the branches inmtertwined and formed arbors which had the shape of the people’s heads. BAINNE, milk, milky, also boinne, after the goddess Boyne or Boanne. Note also bo, cow. Her people were the boabhe, the cow people who lived near the Boyne. Boabh, an individual witch-woman. The English bane, a weregild. See ban, “white.” "If you find yourself accidentally in a byre when milking is going on, or in a dairy where the churn is at work, it is on the safe side to say, "May God bless everything that my eyes see and that my hand touches." (Otherwise there is danger of being accused of some form of witchcraft if things go awry.) It is not right to hurry a dairy-maid to milk cows (since they were considered divine). To avert harm (the milker) she says - "Hurry the women of the town beyond (the Daoine sidh)." A variant of this is, "Hurry your mother-in-law," a repartee of immense effect. If a person suspected of the Evil Eye should speak to one while milking it is not right to make any answer as doing so established rapport." "If a cow is lost through illness it is not right to distribute any of the beef raw. It must be boiled otherwise the "dosgaich" (loss) is spread. If a cat cries for it, it must be reproved with, "Whist with you, for asking of blighted food; may your own skin be the first on the rafters." This so as not to attract the Evil Influence." "When going to a well or stream for water, the rinsings (of milk) should be thrown on the grass, never on earth or rocks, because the milk comes from the grass (and must return there). The rinsings of the pail should never be
thrown on one's own land. As late as 1880 it is noted that a Colonsay woman admitted pouring milk into a basin each night for the “quieting” of the supernatural glaistig. A belief in these creatures and brownies persisted here into this century. In May, 1910, it has been noted that crofters placed milk in a ringed stone cavity near Balnahard farmstaed. This was done each year on the first night the cows were left out overnight in the wild. At these times crofters felt it necessary to donate the whole night’s milk from one cow to appease the night-spirits. Once the milk was poured into itts container the supplicant was expected to turn his head away immediately for the sigh-folk were careful with their privacy. BAINLEANNAN, beannsidh or spirit with the the root word intended). the milk white prostitute or concubine. The Mhorrigan, a beautiful vampire-like female legs of a goat. Confers with leannan-sidh, being leg, to lie on the ground (with sex
“Among the Irish the white colour again forms a conspicuous feature in the description of persons, especially supernatural beings, in ancient non-Christian legends and myths.” The name of the national hero Finn means white. To Finn Mac Cumaill there comes, in legend, a king’s daughter of unerathly size and beauty “Bebend” (see our Bebhionn or Vivienne) from the Land of Virgins (Tir nan-Ingen) in the west of the sea, and she has marvellously white hair (Zimmer, 1889, p. 269). The corresponding maiden of the sea-people, in the “Imram Brenaind,” whom Brandan finds is also whiter than snow or sea-spray (see vol. 1, p. 363). The physician Libra at the court of Manannán, king of the Promised Land, has three daughters with white hair (the Billow Maidens of Norse mythology). When Midir, the king of the sid (fairies), is trying to entice away Etáin, queen of the high-king of Ireland, he says: “Oh, white woman, wilt thou
goest with me to the land of marvels? ...thy body has the white colour of snow to the very top (cf. Zimmer, 1889, pp. 273, 279). The Irish female sidh-people were white, so also the Norse elves who were termed “lysalver,” light elves. The elf-maiden in Sweden is “slender as a lily and snow white,” and elves in Denmark are described as white nymphs, the Latin “albae nymphae.” (quoted from Nansen, Northern Mists, pp. 45-46). The Christians identified Christ as “White Christ,” and robes of this colour were used in the baptismal ceremony and as burial wraps. Irish hermits dressed in the ancient white albus and “all holy men were white.” The old man who welcomed Saint Brendon to his promised land wore no clothing “but his body was covered with dazzling white feathers, like a dove or a gull.” This is precisely the garb worn by druidic ard ollam. In alternate accounts this Christian hermit is named as Paulus and it is said that he was without clothing, “but wholly covered by the hair of his head, his beard, and other hair down to the feet, and they were white as snow on account of his great age.” Maelduin, who preceded Brendon into the Atlantic also met with two hermits, both “with white hair on their bodies.” The soil of the island on which one of the hermits lived was “as white as feathers.” Late in the Navigatio, Brendon met Christ reincarnate who he perceived as “an aged man with hair the colour of snow and a shining countenance...His head and hairs were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were a flame of fire.” Mythic Atlantic isles were sometimes identified as “Islands of Mist,” or Tir na Fer Finn, the “Whiite Men’s Land.” The prototype may have been ancient Great Britain for the Gaels called it Alba, i.e. the “brood of the white ones,” from the fact that the inhabitants all wore the sunbleached linen shifts which the Romans called albii. Note the Lat. albus, white, OHG. albiz, a swan.
BAINNE-UAINE, AN, “The Green Woman.” “I have heard imperfectly preserved stories (from the north of Scotland) of a lady dressed in green, and bearing a goblin child in her arms, who used to wander in the night-time... She would raise the latch when all the inhabitants were asleep and take her place by the fire, fan the embers into a flame, and then wash the child in the blood of the youngest inmate of the cottage, who would be found dead next morning.” One of this kind was counted as “The Genius of Smallpox.” When an illness was to end in a fatality she appeared in the gray of dawn at the bedside of the dying. BAL, BALL, bala, obs, Lord, The Sun, young, a dance, member, limb, member of a group, dress, a tool, a globe, spot or plot of ground, stud, nail, bowl, cable, rope; obsolte, a skull; cf. Cy. bala, budding, root. Similar to balach, clown and bach, playing the clown, drunkenness, perhaps cf. Latin Bacchus. Note G. balbh, dumb as well as ball, a white or shining spot (whence the English bale-fire); also, ball, a member of a larger body (hence the English phallus). Similar to bail, thrift, a collection of valuables; MIr. bail, goodness all from the root bhel, to swell in size, bud; hence bailceach, a strong man, EIr. balc, strong, god-like; baile, a strong member, a supporting ridge or beam, possibly also baile, a township held by a particular god-king. From this we have many place names: Bail'-an-luig, Lugh's township; Bailenan-cailleach, Town of the winter-hag; Bail'-uaine, Baille of the green-ones (the Daoine sidh); Baile-sgait, Place of the sea-skate. Thus, bal or baal, one of the elder- day gods, especially Bilé, the god of death. The master of ceremonies reincarnate at fire-festivals. Notice also bealltuinn, Mayday, the date when the Bal was most active . See Bil. Note that the ON. god Balder was the preferred son of Odin and Frigga.. See Bil, Lugh, Dagda. Iain Moncrieffe says that the Scottish round reels are palpable reminders of events that followed the assembly of our ancestors: "...throughout eons of time, on through the Bronze and Iron ages into the eighteenth century, a basic
religious ceremony continued all over Europe, and certainly in the Highlands. A mixed circle of both sexes danced round and round a central figure, who played on pipes or a flute, or sometimes (in more sophisticated days) even on a fiddle. This central figure was the Fertility Spirit's local priest and representative - a man dressed up full hairily in horns and a tail...Nobody could deny there was something rather beastly about him. As the dance went on, the worshippers became gayer and gayer, in fact their fine frenzy was definitely abandoned. Perhaps that is why the poet called them our "rude forefathers"..." This writer contends that the eightsome reel in its current form was created from the old round reels by members of the Murray family. He notes that in this "innocent mainstay of every Highland ball", the participants still encircle a central figure, and that each successive male dancer replaces him in turn, jigging alone in the middle. In this place, he raises his arms crescent-fashion "like antlers" over his head, in a stone-age salute to the old horned god, who had so many names. The "lord of the dance" and his adherents always indulged in ritual drinking and F. Marian McNeill says that "usquebaugh", or whisky, "was reserved for festive occasions, and even then it was used sparingly, for unlike the Saxon, the Celt was temperate in both eating and drinking." Perhaps, but it seems more likely they understood that excess drinking might interfere with their participation in the important rituals of the dance, music, sex and eating. BALACH, a clown, a common lad, one of the peasant class, a sturdy fellow, from Skr. balakas, a little boy and from bala, young. Cf. Cy. bala, budding. Similar to the English beltane and the Gaelic beultainne, one of the Quarter-Days (see Samhuinn and Beultainne). The male participant selected to play the role of "king of the land" for the term of the holiday. Since his lot was death by fire he acted in a less than mature way during his "reign". See bal and Bil.
BALCACH, splay-footed, Daoine sidh.
BALDAR, balach + dair, clown + mire or semen. Another version of the sun-god Lugh. The male fertility figure among the Tuatha daoine, represented as the mate of the reincarnate virgin of the Brugh-na-Boyne. Originally, the ard-righ, or “high-king” of this people, ruling from Tara, Ireland. In his day he was known as an Righ nan Geasan Mor, the King of the Great Enchantments." Through foresight he knew of the approach of the invading Milesians. Standing at Sea Head he upbraided the strangers for taking his forces by surprise and thus managed to have them back away from the shore until he was able to enact a magical storm. In the end the magic of this "god" proved unequal to the iron swords of men and he was, presumably killed, for his station was taken by Boabd Dearg. When Reginald Scot interviewed the "genius Astral" of the Orkneys (1665) he was informed that this guiding-spirit of the land expected to continue in his role for seventy years, resigning at last to Balkin, lord of the Northern Mountains. Note that tuath means north, and it was sometimes guessed that the "northern isles" in which the Tuatha daoine learned their magic might have been some of the the islands of Scandinavia. This being the case, Baldar may confer with the Old Norse god Balder, an agricultural deity, the god of sun and summer, and the preferred son of Odin. Notice also that Skadi, or Scoti, was smitten with the looks of this god and bargained, unsuccessfully, to marry him. Balder was killed by his own brother at the contrivance of Lokki. Odin bargained for his return to earth, but was only partially successful, the sun being, even yet, confined in the Underworld each night and for a disproportionate number of hours during the winter months.
BALG, belly, bag; seed of an herb, belly, womb, quiver for arrows, blister on the skin; OIr. bolc; Cym. bol; Gaul. nulga. The Goth. balgs, a wine skin; the Norse, belgr, a skin or bellows. Perhaps after the thunder-goddess Bolc, the leader and matron of the Firbolgs, or “Bolt-men.” See separate entry. Note the Quarter-Day known as the Imbolc, literally, “the time to smear the stomach,” perhaps having reference to the painting of the body or the sexual excesses associated with this holy day. Note the related balgum, a mouthful, and the god Beul, the “Mouth.” BALG BANNAIG, The Bannock Bag. A leathern bag formerly used to carry the relics of paganism for use at festivals. More recently the sacred shrine used to carry the Christian Host. The bag in which gifts exchanged at the festivals used to be carried. Now used to carry foodstuffs to be distributed to carol-singers at the Christmmastide. In Witchcraft and Second Sight in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland (1902), J. G. Campbell gives a expanded version of the traditional calluinn entrance rhyme, which includes specific reference to the cailleach: This is the new year of the yellow bag of hide, Strike the skin upon the wall, Here is the old wife in the graveyard; The old hag in the corner; Another old woman stands beside the fire, A pointed stick is in her two eyes, A pointed stick is in her stomach. Let me in, open this! The "yellow bag of hide" may point out the "doodlebag", or bagpipe, which had a place in Samhainn music-making, or may be a symbol for the cailleach. The act of striking the "skin" upon the wall is reminiscent of the old act ensuring the productivity of seeds by placing them in a pouch and whipping this against the belly of a woman who had a reputation for child-breeding. It was reasoned that her
spirit would be transferred into the seeds making them more productive. As the calluinn skin was a phallic symbol of the god king, it was presumed that some of his spirit was beat out of the hide at each pass, thus promising reproductive fertility to all within the walls. The cailleach with the "pointed stick" in her eyes and belly is no less that the Samh or Morrigan, this device being the "divining rod" of witchcraft, a forked branch used to seek lost goods, dead bodies, minerals and water. Before the baobh made use of a broom for "flight", she rode upon this forked stick, sometimes referred to as the "adder's or Devil's tongue. The cailleach of the Samhainn had the "forked stick" in her eyes because of her capacity to blight crops and damage animals with her "evil eye". BALGAIDH, BHALGAIDH, BALLACH, bal, marked, spotted on the forehead, white + gad, a withe, switch, sling, a bogie, see bodach. Appears in the place-name Strath Bhalgaidh or Strathbogie. A nightmare creature or boogie-man. Note the entries directly above and below. Horses so marked were considered a poor bargain since they were marked with the “star” of the Tuatha daoine and were neither useful nor reliable. BALL, BUILL, the penis, the male member, quarter-day dances, plots of land dedicated to these festivals, a boss, stud, nail. Also bod, penis, Eng. phallus, from the root bhel, to swell, ultimately based on the name of the fertility-god Bil. It is generally held that the various wooden and stone heads found in Celtic lands, often seen displayed on a pillar, have phallic significance. From the Celtic point-of-view the human head combined with a penis best represented the essential life-force. See next. BALLABREAC, almost anything which is both round and spotted, from ball, see above. This word may also mean a spot, particularly a white spot on the forehead of an animal, Celtic root bal, white, Irish-Eng. bhel, bhale, shine, from which bale-fire and Beltane. The Gaels often carried
“lumpy bumpy shields,” i.e. variegated bossy shields which were circular in shape and were obvious ferility charms intended to preserve the bearer’s life. This is the same as the Eng. ball. The Celts were obsessed with the ball and the circle symbols of completion, death and regeneration. Thus their fortresses were built in the round and their short spears were terminated by a brass ball. BALLAN IOSCSHLAINT, a vessel, a tub, a bowl; iosgaid, of the “folk” or houghmands. The “teat of health.” A magical vessel of “balsam” used to contain curative potions. BALL SEIRCE, beauty-spot. A mark of the favour of a god, or gods. By this magic Gráinne was drawn to Diarmuid rather than the hero Fionn: "It happened that there was a beauty spot on the face of Diarmaid of the Brown Spot; each woman who saw it would fall in love with him. At times the beauty spot would be in his eye, at times in his forehead; at other times it would be in his curly hair. It would make no difference where the spot was located; it was the seeing that mattered. A strange thing, it had no effect on men and there was no loss to them though they were to gaze on it all day long." BALOR, BALAR (bah-lorr), BALOR MAC BUARAINNEACH (balor mak bowrain ak). bal + or, god-spirit + gold; having reference to the pagan-god Bil; a Fomorian chieftain, the possessor of a single "evil-eye". This mortal giant is remembered in the Gaelic word balc, a misdeed. Buar, to vex or tempt, a goad, buair, a rage, the “raging;” aibhtheach, stormy one. Not “Son of the Gold Ring,” or “Son of Golden Bull,” as has been suggested. Balor was the son of Dot and Net, (some say his father was Buarainnech) and was the chieftain-ruler of Torry (Tower) Island, off the northwest coast of Ireland, and one of those called to battle by Breas, king of the Tuathans, when he attempted to regain the high-kingship of Ireland. He is believed to have been the first individual to bring the craft of "overlooking" to a high art. Like many possessors
of the “evil-eye,” he came upon the power to bring death by accident: As a child he was passing by a house where his father’s druids were enacting spells, and drawn by the chants, looked in at them through an open window. The smoke of poisonous spells rising from their work went directly into his eye and from that time he had to keep it closed unless he wished to visit death on the person he observed. Adrian Loaghrian has suggested that Balor may have lost one of his original two eyes to his wife Caitlin (little Cat) or Cethleen, who has been described as “a slinger and thruster.” It is said that "his one eye was never opened but on the battlefield, and then four men thrust a polished handle through the lid to lift it from the eyeball. Then men died by thousands in the venomous fumes that emanated from it." This sounds surprisingly like a poisonous gas attack, but whatever the case, Balor did not remain long in action. He was challenged by Lugh, the god of the sun, and opening his eye to "look upon this incessant babbler" received a slingstone (or a dart, the tales vary) directly in the eye. It came with such force it carried the giant's huge eye out through the back of his skull. The battle was then turned in favour of the Tuatha daoine and the Fomorians were, at last, driven into the sea from which they had come. He is similar to Cromm "The Crooked" and is often represented as the god of winter, or the old-year, defeated by the god of summer and new things. This god may confer with the ON. sun-god Balder. BALAR BAILCHEIMNECH. “Balar of the mighty blows,” but better known for his “evil-eye.” Balardach, “gorgeous.” His name is seen in Carn Bhalair, which is mentioned in the Book of The Dean of Lismore. There is also Dun Bhalaire, a site on a high rock near Ledaig in Lorne. Notice the Cy. Boleros, the early name for Land’s End, Cornwall. BALT, BALLT, BOLT, a welt, a fallacy, a girdle, a misleading argument. Successful misdirection was considered a
magical practise, a lightning-strike. Related to bolc or bolg as it appears in Firbolg and Imbolg. Possibly related to the Lat. bolteus, a belt or girdle, the Eng. belt . See also the god Bil or Bal and note that the ancient thunder-gods increased their potency by taking in notches on their magical belts. Note that the Gaelic god Lugh and the Old Norse, Thor, both possessed a belt which gave them increasing power as it was tightened. BAN, BAIN, female, she, left-handed farrow, obs. copper, a copper mine, brass, a pedestal; “white.” Often compounded as: ban-charaid, a female relative, Anglicized as Bayne or Bane. Related linguistically to M’Gillebane now also given as M’Illebhàin, the “white-servant,” the “fair-haired lad.” Into Eng. as Whyte, hence also M’Gilvane. Those belonging to the sigh or witch tribe. A sept of Clan Mackay. BAN-AIBHISTEAR, a she-devil, or adversary. Next. BANA-BHUADRAICH, a female witch, sorceress, banachahd, the act of whitening, bleaching, laying waste. BANA-CHEARD, a female mannerless female. crafter, gypsy, tinkerer, a
BAN-GHRUDAIR, female brewer, ale-house hostess. BANAIS RIGI, a wedding, originally banafheis, a wedding feast. Oir. rig, of the king, of kingship. The symbolic marriage of the Gaelic king to the land incarnate as a goddess. It will be remembered that Conn was defending Tara against an unwanted host from the Otherworld when he chanced to step upon Fal, the screaming stone whose cries predicted the number of kings destined to rule over Ireland. At that moment, Conn and his druids were engulfed by an enchanted mist and an unknown horseman approached, throwing three spears at Conn before he desisted. Declaring a peace, he led this chieftain to a splendid house with a
golden tree growing at its door. Within the visitors from Ireland found a maiden wearing a crown and were given “:a red drink” in golden goblets. Beyond her sat Lugh, “glorious in form far beyond the sons of men.” This god told Conn the names of his successors as high kings. The maiden was the personification of Sovereignty. Her function was made clear when she asked Lugh to whom the drink of the gods should be given and he responded with the name of various humans, giving a brief summary of their expected exploiuts as king. It is said that the vessels of gold and silver implicit to the wedding feast were first given to Conn and they passed through him into use at successive inauguration “nuptials.” The stone of Fal also had a place in the kingdship ceremony as noted elsewhere. BANBH. BANBA, BANUBH,(bawn vay). land left fallow for a year, pig, EIr. banb, a pig, a queen of the Tuatha daoine, once found "at earth" under Sliab Mis. Sometimes defined as "land which has lain unploughed for a year; fallow land.” A lady who often travelled by day in the form of a doe, she befriended and married the mythic Finn mac Cumhail (MacCool). Her name is memorialized in the place-name Banff (Scotland and Canada) and as bunyan, a name applied to our local mythological wood's-hero Paul Bunyan. According to some folklorists the Milesian invaders were met by three queens not long after they waded ashore, and Banba was the first of this trio. Others say that Banba, Fodla and Eriu, came in private to the Milesian "gods" Eohgan and Brideag asking them to invade Ireland to put down the unrest and rebellion then being experienced in their land. These three sisters proposed to legitimize the invasion by transferring their land rights to the invaders. In return the Milesians promised they would name the land they conquered in honour of each of these three ladies, a commitment fulfilled at various times. Notice that entitlement to land passed, among the Tuatha daoine, from the queen to her consort.
Banba was married to the ard-righ named mac Grian, literally, the “son of the sun,” thus she represented the annual union of deities supposed necessary to the renewal of the earth. When the Milesian kings followed the custom of marrying the "queen" of Brugh na Boyne they represented themselves as sun-kings who authority was established and re-incarnated in an annual sexual unions with the earthgoddess. These sisters are the same "weird sisters" collectively represented in the Bafinn (which, see). She appears as one of three witches in Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.” BAN-DIA, female, deity; goddess. BAN-DIABHOL, female full of god-hood, female devil or fury. BANDRUI, BAN DRAOIDH, the white druid, a female practitioner of the arts. Confers with bainisg, a little old woman, a satirist, a female druid. Any of the bafinne. BAN-DRUIDH, enchantress, sorceress. A female druid. BAN-DUIILEAMHUIN, obs. goddess. BAN-FHAIDH, prophetess. BAN-FHIOSAICHE, fortune-teller, prophetess, gypsy. BANG, obs. To magically bind, to obtain a promise, the healing touch. The act of reaping. Touch, hindrance, a nut. BAN-IFRINNEACH, “woman from hell.” A Fury, a turbulent raging human female. BANN, a bond or bill, belt, girt, sash, tie, key-stone, hinge, group of men, chain, fetter, cord, proclamation, interdict, sling, Death, a ball, marching, journeying, bannach, a crafty person. See next. BANNAG, BANNAIG, A New Year’s gift, treat given to first-
footers, a New Year’s cake, a corn-fan, a ball used in shinty, Bannag, the Christian Eucharist, from the Scand. bannock, a Quarter-Day cake, See bonnach. Baked as offerings for nature-spirits and the mortal gods. Essentially these were oatcakes often marked in special ways according to the season of use. Four implements were used in preparation: the spurtle, or porridge stick, for stirring the mixture; a notched bannockstick, or rolling-pin, used to create a criss-cross pattern on the under side; a spathe, a heart-shaped implement with a long handle, forged of iron, used for transferring the hotcakes from place to place; and a bannock-rack, or toaster. The ingredients were oatmeal, fat-drippings, salt, hotwater, and later baking-soda. The best results were said obtained by mixing one oatcake at a time, prepariing the second while the first cooked on a griddle standing by a heated rock. The dough was exceptionally stcky and cooks prevented it from sticking to implements and their hands by rubbing meal into the surface. It was first turned out as a smooth ball, but was kneaded with knuckles and rolled to a thinness of about an eighth of an inch. The bannocks might be eaten whole or cut into farles, or quarters. They were placed raw before a moderately hot griddle smooth side uppermost and baked steadily until they commenced to curl at the edges. They were then carried away and rubbed with oatmeal, then toasted lightly before a bright smokeless flame. Oatcakes were festive fare while barley-cakes were the staple in Scotland. BANNAL, EIr. ban-dal or pan-nail, dal, one of two; originally an assembly of ladies; currently, band, a company, a troop, gang, crowd, similar to the Eng. band. Literally a “band of whites (women).” People regarded the meeting of a crowd of women as a sure indication that a storm was near at hand. This may be a survival of the Old Celtic Myth of the Cailleach Bheurr, the “Winter Hag,” a giant woman who brought the storms of winter." (Folklore of Nova Scotia, p. 108).
BANNIG BAISTE, “a christening cake.” This edible was placed within a linen handerkerchief and carried upon a child’s breast to its inaugural. The first person met on the way was invited to the ceremony and given some of the bannoch. In the church care was taken that girls not be baptized before boys as it was believed that girls given precedence would be troubled with body hair. After baptism the child was taken home and given fuarag. After that it was passed across a live fire to frustrate the evil eye and the designs of witchcraft. If twins were born one was always sent to the chief’s house for fosterage as this was considered the lucky thing to do. BAN-RIGH, RIGHINN, a female king, queen. Thus Mhorrighan, the “Great Queen Anu.” See next. BAN-LAOICH, laoch, warrior, hero, champion, an amazon. Antonia Fraser, speaking of Mhorrigan, has noted that it is "tempting to regard this chariot-driving Warrior-Queen as owing her authority to deep memories of a matriarchal society... where (women) gave men the orders..." For present day feminists the idea of ancient badb-women is comforting to the oppressed, and suggests a future remedy, when time might restore the old "natural" order of rule. Unfortunate for this theory, is the fact that the law of Mebd's time was addressed to "the men of Eirinn": "It is proper indeed, wrote a law-giver,"...to give superiority to the noble sex, that is to the male, for the man is the head of the woman..."4 She was never, as elsewhere in Europe, the chattel of her husband, but Medb was not the head of a matriarchy. Fraser thinks such systems of government remain "very dubious" even within the framework of entirely legendary warrior-women. And note the next, a word with a decidely male-bias. BANSGAL, an aged contemptible female, an unmarried woman, an amazon, a lesbian or masculine woman, a whale or leviathan.
MacManus, The Story of the Irish Race, p. 152.
BAN-SITH, female of the Daoine sidh. A banshee, a wailer after the dead of her clan. Seldom seen but when observed, seen to have dishevelled hair and a green mantle. Cu Chullain was successful against Morrigan-BadbMacha but her "magic" prevailed against him after peace was declared between the north and the south of Ireland. In his last days, Cu Chullain saw his death presaged when he saw the Morrigan as a banshee, washing blood- soaked clothing in a mountain stream. Later, he was offered food by three Macha-look-alikes crouched about a cooking pot. He at first refused, but was persuaded when they suggested he was disdaining the hospitality of the poor. Eating the meat, he found it to be his totem, dog-flesh, and was immediately paralysed over half his body. Having eaten Queen Medb's food, Cu Chullain was surrounded and brought down by human enemies. BAOBACH, panic, in a terrible fright, a man who is easily friightened. See next. BAOBD, BOABD, BOABH, BOABHD, BOAGH, BAO’, see BADB, above. Wizard, wicked, devious female, witch-woman, witch of either sex, foolish, disagreeable, she-spirit haunting a stream, carrion-crow, raven. Confers with bo, the Eng. cow, Bo, the English cow + abadh, talkative. The later confers with abaich, ripe, aged; an old cow. The first word in the compound word confers with bog, a soft place, and bochda, a poor person, especially one inadequately dressed for the weather. the descendants of the goddess Badb, sometimes called Mebd or Maeve; "a wicked woman," the Gaelic "witch." Ir. badhbh, the hoodie crow, one of the sithe, a common scold, a nag, a witch; EIr. badb, a crow, a demon-pursuer, in particular the Badb or Badba, the third part of the triadgoddess Bafinn. Note also baoghan, a calf, any jolly individual, from which baoth, foolish. Also: baoghal, danger and baogram. a fleeting emotion. Corresponds with the Cy. bod, the bird known as the kite; the Welsh goddess Bodnod, the Gaullish Bodv, sometimes entitled Bovo-gnatus (the solitary one). Similar to the ON both, war; the AS beadu,
battle; the Skr. badhate, oppress; the Lit. badas, famine. The Skr. bodhate. to oppress. “The responsible witches of Gaeldom were not weaklings who were merely bad-hearted, nor were they tricksters in self- defence. They were rather highly-gifted women who loved being alive, and who won their place by force of character, and by right of service. That supernatural powers were attributed to them by the people, makes one envy them; if they really possessed those powers, one envies them still more. The only vice in them which would, perhaps, have shocked the saints was their sense of humour. As the recognized guardians of the home parish, the witches had a solemn sense of responsibility. Each would fight the other, and sometimes all the others, in defence of parochial rights and priviledges. Each too, made full use of all the arts, whether conventional or unconventional, to bring the luck of the milk to her own sheilings, or the luck of the fish to her own shores. And if the old tales can be trusted, the cows did give more milk in the sheilings, and the herring did come to the shores, sooner or later. But the witches were racial as well as parochial patriots. If the kiltless armies sometimes wondered why the mist was so thick and the rock so unexpected in Gaelic territory, there was a woman in the place called Moy who knew. And as likely as not, she was at that very moment handing round silver goblets, with something in them, to the six guests who jested and laughed round the fire, serious business being over. Many a time too, did those same seven big ones, standing on the headlands of Knoydart, hurl winds and waves against such 5 sloops of war as carried intentions that might not be good for Gaeldom.” It was said that Barra was never defenseless, for behind Barra stood Gormshuil of Moy, and Kenneth, The Road To The Isles, Poetry, Lore, and Tradition of the Hebrides, Grant, Edinburgh, 1927, pp. 223 -224.
beyond her deep in Gaeldom, Doideag of Mull, Laorag of Tiree, Maol-odhar of Kintyre, Luideag of the Bens and Corrgags and Corrag and Cas a’Mhorgain Riabhaich of Glencoe. Before them there existed others of similar powers. In the latter days "Witches were said to hold their nocturnal meetings in churches, churchyards, or in lonely places; and to be transformed into hares, mares, cats; to ride through the regions of the air, and to travel (instantaneously) into distant countries; to inflict diseases, raise storms and tempests; and for such incredible feats many were tried tortured and burnt. AIf any one was afflicted with hysterics, hypochondria, rheumatisms, or the like acute diseases, it was called witchcraft; and it was sufficient to suspect a woman if she was poor, old, ignorant, and ugly...I have often seen all persons above twelve years of age solemnly sworn four times in the year (at the Quarter-Days) that they would practise no witchcraft, charms, spells &c..." There was no single pagan religion in Britain, and strictly speaking, witchcraft was the practise of the Anglo-Saxon "wics", or baymen. The Gaels did have "baobhs" who were very similar to the "wicca" and the "wicce" in their attachments to old folk cult-practises. Neither group was abhorred, and when individuals were punished it was for breaking secular laws; turning magic arts to mischievous ends, rather than for breaking Church law. Although Britain was nominally Christian by the fourth century, the masses were unconverted. New altars had been set up on the old pagan bases but there was no pressure on ordinary people to forsake their old festivals in spite of the leanings of the kings and princes of the nation. In the Middle Ages, the Church began to take a closer look at homespun "witches" and the diverse odd rights of the humble folk. This may have been a result of the Crusades, wars mounted on the pretext of defending Christianity against the eastern "heathens." When the upper class crusaders returned home to Europe they brought back
some exceedingly esoteric cults which were sometimes overtly anti-Christian. These seemed to share rituals with local folk-practise, which had previously been tolerated. Witchcraft was bagged with the others and declared a heretical cult and its leader was declared to be Satan, or the Devil, the known instigator of the eastern "heresies." In the mid-fourteenth century the Black Death appeared depopulating twenty-five percent of Europe. Since evil spirits were regarded as the cause of illness, churchmen insisted that men were being punished for their lack of action against the dark forces. That changed in 1484 when witches and baobhs were declared members of Satan's army, to be pursued and condemned to death. Between that year and 1735 it was estimated that nine million people were killed on the continent; in England about one thousand "witches" were executed. In Scotland, which caught the spirit of a frightened and repressive conservatism, the effects were crueller than in England; here torture was legally applied to baobhe although few people were burnt alive, a widespread practise in Europe proper. Speaking of local practises, Mary L. Fraser said, "Witches (boabhs) were believed to have communication with a spirit of evil from which they received the power to change themselves into any form they pleased. When they took the shape of animals, they were thought to have some evil design in view, and it was dangerous to meet them. They were supposed to have the power to take away the dairy products, and, indeed, those of the whole farm. The druids led their followers to believe they had charms to prevent the witches from doing harm, and these charms they gave on receipt of payment. Sir Lawrence Gomme in his "Ethnology of Folklore" traces witchcraft back to the aboriginal inhabitants of Britain...The aboriginals believed in their own demoniacal powers and passed on these beliefs to their Celtic conquerors. The Scottish witch was considered as the successor
to the druid priestess in her capacity for animal transformations and her power over wind and waves." 6 The above statement draws a line between the druids and the boabhs, but this is artificial since druidheachd, or magical ability, was a common possession of both groups. Rather, it might be said that there were craftsmen and mastercraftsmen, witches and witch-masters, the latter having advanced knowledge and the capacity to check those of the lower order. The baobhe of North America concentrated most of their energies on theft. They had the advanatge of invisibilty, or could delegate an animal familiar to invade the barn to milk a neighbour's cows or steal his grains. Less risky were feats of sympathetic magic in which the spirit of the boabh was simply projected upon the udder of the cow, and the milk metaphysically relayed to her own animal or an artificial uddder in the form of a glove or piece of unravelled rope. Where the tabihs, or familiars, were used, rabbits and black cats seem to have been preferred, possibly because of their speed and agility at escaping men. Rabbit paws were coveted because it was felt that they might contain remnant powers of a boabh. Right hand paws from white rabbits were preferred in polite circles, while law-breakers took the left foot from a black animal. Having a black cat cross one's path is still considered bad luck; while the passage of a white cat was once considered a good omen. The reverse held true for men who had alliances with the nathir and his kind. Mary L. Fraser has noted several instances where baobhe were cornered while travelling with their familiarspirit: "A trustworthy woman in Inverness County (Cape Breton) knew of a certain farm where, at the milking hour, a rabbit used to come and run in and out among the cows. The day following..there would be no cream or milk. As this state of affairs continued, the woman of the house asked her husband to take his guun and shoot the
Mary L., Folklore of Nova Scotia, np, nd, p. 63.
animal...Accordingly, the man went out prepared to put an end to the animal. Just as he raised his gun and took aim, he heard a child's voice warn: "Granny, Granny, hurry, they're after you!" and he saw a small boy peering through the pilings. He lowered the gun, picked up a stone, and threw it at the rabbit, hitting it on the leg. It scampered off as fast as three legs could go. The next day it was discovered that an old woman of the neighbourhood had her leg broken in some mysterious manner."7 Undoubtedly there are still active baobhe, but few will admit their presence in any present-day community. Malcolm Campbell of Glenyer, Cape Breton did recall that his family contained one of this kind (1980): "Sadie there had the charm, and our neighbour had a cow...two or three cows. But our cow would be producing more milk than all those three because we'd be getting the milk from our neighbour's cows. They used to tie a red string to the cow's tail to combat this..." 8 Sadie's habits created some illfeeling in the village and the local merchant sometimes refused to buy her butter, noting that the quantity was in excess of what the single family cow could naturally produce. One man who agreed to take butter to market for this boabh, placed her parcels on the left of his horse and balanced them with his own on the right. As he roide towards town, he became aware that she was "charming" the butter away from his side, because the containers became unbalanced. To balance the butter on the horse he had to stop and add stones to his own side. 9 A Marble Mountain, Cape Breton resident told Helen Creighton how the Widow McNeil took advantage of her neighbours by sucking the milk from their cows through straws: "Grandfather's cows were being milked, so he
7Fraser, 8Caplan, 9Caplan,
Mary L., Folklore of Nova Scotia, np, nd, p. 64. Ronald, editor, Down East, Toronto (1980), p. 28. Ronald, editor, Down North, Toronto (1980), p. 29.
decided witchery was being used. The widow McNeil had only one cow, (and she) was taking more milk to the store than he did, so he went to Arichat to (consulte) the witchdoctor. The doctor told him to stick a sod (from the cow's pasture) full of needles and pins and put it into an iron pot with a cover on it (and boil it)." After the pot was at the boil and grandfather was satisfied that she was "feeling the pins", he took the pot from the stove. "When Mrs. McNeil heard of it she stopped milking the cows..." 10 The virulence of these Celtic magicians went beyond simple theft, their power over men being expressed as, eadar a' baobh 's a' bhuarach, caught between a boabh and a wild cow. This is reminiscent of the English "caught between a rock and a hard place", or "between the devil and the deep blue sea." Residents of Mull River, in colonial Cape Breton must have felt this way about their resident magician. The Boabh of Mull River took her art beyond open theft. She was never seen near the barns of her neighbours, but it was observed that her cow sometimes gave double portions of milk where neighbouring farmers were left with a dry animal. She never threatened her neighbours in an open manner, but made periodic "house-visits" up and down the bye-way carrying "a large iron-clad canvas bag", which she used for her "collections". She was usually explicit about her needs, reminding people that it was better to give than receive, and bad luck followed fast on the heels of those who refused her "reasonable requests." It was noted that she had the use of the "evil-eye" and guessed that she used some terrible incantation against those who "crossed" her. Through this industry, she remained alive to the age of one hundred. In recognition of her centenary, she was "gifted" with two horns, which sprouted from her forehead, and these increased in length by a quarter inch per year, until she died aged one hundred and eighteen. This pioneer baobh lived alone in a windowless log shanty, one fitted with "a queer old flue known as a witch's
Helen, Bluenose Magic, Toronto (1968), p. 28.
chimney." This was a chimney made of cross-piled logs, periodically fireproofed with mud. When it was seen that the "witch" of Mull River was on her last legs, a few charitable people brought her tallow candles so that she would not be in complete darknesss. She thanked them but never burned one. Instead, she melted them down and mixed the tallow with meal which she ate. Apparently her digestive powers were unimpaired by her final illness. When she finally died, those at the death-watch heard stones falling from the roof. When they went outside to see what was happening, there was nothing to be viewed although the sounds continued. Within the hut, there were sounds of chanted spells bouncing from the four walls, although the boabh was incapable of muttering anything. The community was glad to have her dead, and considering the sounds that persisted about the shanty, decided to burn it to the ground. Two courageous fellows entered the hut, piled the woman's furniture in the centre of the room and started a blaze. As they were about to leave, they noticed the iron-bound pouch in a corner and threw it into the flames. There followed a terrible explosion which helped their exit, and blasted the bag up through the chimney into the woods. It descended untouched by fire, so they were forced to bury it. 11 Michael MacLean of Cape Breton told the story of a local baobh who "could practise witchcraft and sink a ship." Apparently his father had asked her to prove her power, "So she asked for an egg, and put the egg into a shoe and kept rocking the shoe back and forth. And there was a ship out on the ocean and when they looked the ship, it seems was rocking back and forth in the waves just as she was working the shoe. And they made her stop."12 Roland Sherwood says that sympathetic magic has
Mary L., Folklore Of Nova Scotia, np, nd, pp. 65-66.
told to Joe Neil McNeil, Tales Told Until Dawn, Toronto (1987) p.
been used to sink ships, one of these being the "Favourite" which brought Scottish settlers to Pictou township from the port of Ullapool in 1803. As the "Favourite" stood loaded, ready to sail, a herdsman spotted a small hare-like animal moving from cow to cow, suckling away the milk. He attempted to shoot at it but was prevented from doing so by a spell which immobilzed him. Knowing that he dealt with a boabh, the man shaved silver from a six-pence and placed this as shot in his gun. The next time he spotted the familiar he was able to blaze away at it, and it limped off leaving a trail of blood. Inquires made about the parish on the following morning found an old lady, supected of druidheachd, laid up with a damaged leg. When this old crone became aware that her nemesis intended to sail on the "Favourite" she openly declared that the ship would never reach the New World. Fearing the boabh might take some physical act against the sea-worthiness of the vessel, the owners had her arrested and placed under guard until the ship was at sea. The craft sailed without incident carrying her passengers to port on the third day of August. Interestingly, she made the crossing in five weeks and three days, a record which stood for many years. The five hundred passengers embarked in perfect safety and the cargo was removed. Suddenly, and swiftly, without rational cause, it sank to the bottom of Pictou Harbour. The witch had been released from behind iron bars at exactly that time. Mother Mac, who lived near Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia, was another boabh of this century: "One day in spring she visited her neighbour Mrs. M... for the purpose of purchasing two spring pigs, but they had all been sold and Mrs. M. was unable to promise her any. This displeased Mrs. Mac...That night when Mrs. M. went to milk her cow, she found the creature had suddenly fallen away in its milk and though several times through the next few days she endeavoured to milk the cow she did not succeed in obtaining more than half a cupful. Mrs. M. at once knew that this was the result of Mrs. Mac's witchcraft, who, to show her displeasure, had wished this spell upon the cow. But fortunately a spell which can be wished can be broken... Mrs.
M. was equal to the occasion. Next morning early she turned her cow out and watching where the animal took the first bite of grass, she removed the soil, took it into the house and boiled it with a little milk which the cow had given on the previous day. While it was boiling she continued to stir it with pins, several of which she stuck in the sod. This proved an effective remedy and that evening the cow gave her accustomed flow of milk. Mrs. M. saved the pins and for atime kept several in the cuff of her sleeve. With them about her poerson she felt no fear and her one desire was to meet the witch face to face and this wish was not gratified. Several days afterwards other neighbours visited Mrs. Mac. She stated that she had accidently burned her feet, which were all blistered. But such an improbable story found little credance in the doubting minds of the honest neighbours. They had heard not only of her spell on the cow, but as well of the triumph of Mrs. M. which had been told and retold in every home in the community. They "allowed" that her story was a mere fabrication and that the blisters were caused by the evil wish which when forced to leave the cow and find another resting place, finally settled in the feet of the witch herself. After this, Mrs. Mac's reputation as a witch suffered a great loss of prestige and soon the wicked "ceased from troubling"...13 A later Nova Scotia baobh was Mother Ryan of Margaree, Cape Breton, a practitioner in a time when "the only vocational requirements were a cross, mean look and a tongue fluent in profanity." This witch who gloried in her witchhood "was unwelcome in many houses; not the least of her faults being the telling of horrendous ghost stories in front of the children." Flora MacRitchie of Margaree had the "evil eye" as her chief weapon, but she also kept her community in turmoil by travelling "from house to house leaving a curse or a blessing on those who offended or pleased her."
Frank H., History of Tatamagouche, Halifax (1917)
Mother Coo was a traditional boabh, chiefly remembered for correctly predicting future events in the coal mines of Nova Scotia. Miss Lillian Fox of Bedford, Nova Scotia said that this boabh was feared but often consulted: "...she foretold that a certain mine called the "Foord Pit" would have a serious explosion, and she named the day and month on which it would happen. The Foord was believed to be in excellent condition and all safety precautions were being observed, so the miners talked and joked about the silly tales of the "old hag". But their wives were afraid. They coaxed and begged and thricked their menfolk to stay above the ground, but the men wouldn't listen; and almost to the hour, the mine blew up and the loss of life was appalling." 14 The Foord Pit was not mythological, but situated in Stellarton, Nova Scotia and successfully operated for twenty years before the "bump" which occurred on Friday, November 12, 1880 at half-past six in the morning. A reporter said that "There were over fifty miners on the south side (of the pit) when the explosion took place and only two men and four boys were rescued alive. As the pit took fire after the explosion, and burned with awful violence, none of the dead bodies could be recovered. In order to save the mine the waters of the East River were let into it." 15 Miss Fox also recounted Mother Coo's prediction of the Springhill mine disaster eleven years later. This event is on record in New Glasgow newspapers for 1891 and has been recorded as history: At the investigation of this collapse pit-manager Conway revealled that, the general manager had told him that Mother Coo had predicted an explosion in May. He said that Mr. Swift had recommended that a workman's committee examine the workings for unsafe Herbert, A Folklore Sampler, Saint John's, 1982, p. 10. This elderly raconteur heard the story from her father, a Nova Scotia school principal and apprently did not know the locvation of the coal-mine.
R.A.H., Story of the Springhill Disaster, Saint John,
(1891), p. 160.
practises and conditions. Historian R.A.H. Morrow added: "It is true that in some bosoms there was a foreboding apprehension that some dire calamity should happen in the mines. This fear was engendered by a current report that an old woman named "Mrs. Coo" had suggested that something would happen about the mines during the coming month of May. As a consequence of this report, a committee was appointed to examine the mine, which they did, and found no visible cause for alarm...Notwithsatnding the result of this examination, a few of the miners still retained a germ of their former timidity, on the plea that "Mother Coo" was generally known to tell the truth..."16 Once again, she was correct. The happening took place on the eastern slope, February 21, 1891 at 1 p.m. One hundred and twenty-one miners were instantly killed and seventeen were injured, some fatally. Much of what used to be termed magic is now seen to be the result of careful observation, and this may have been Mother Coo's secret. In the winter of 1910, James Connolly flooded a huge area above the Stellarton mines, and found much of the ice unusable because it was filled with bubbles of gas released from the underground. These were the gases which caused explosions, and Mother Coo may simply have observed their collection and escape more carefully than otherrs. Most local boabhean were involved with soothsaying and the sale of herbal medicines, but there have been cases of wonder-working. A farmer at Port Mouton suspected his team and wagon were leviated from the ground by an antagonistic boabh.17 This was never proven, but residents at Big Intervale did see Mother MacKinnon cross the Margaree River, at the height of the spring freshest, on two barrel staves which she had strapped to her feet. 18 It was
R.A.H., History of the Springhill Mine Disaster, Saint John
(1891), p. 102.
Bluenose Magic, Toronto (1968), p. 60.
Herbert, A Folklore Sampler, Saint John's (1982), p. 20.
usual for boabhean to project their souls upon their taibhean, or familiars, but when the process was reversed men fell under the influence of the "evil eye". This style of wonder-working was attributed to Flora McRitchie of Portree, Cape Breton. A.N. Chisholm of nearby Maragree Forks explained that this unmarried boabh "travelled from house to house," leaving "a curse or blessing on those who offended or pleased her." In one instance the witch was offended when a busy house-wife failed to offer her usual round of tea. After six hours of contant labour she found that her butter had not solidified, while her cream was "turned to a sour mess". Follwing this, the lady of the house attempted to bake bread with equally bad results. When she told her neighbours of these misfortunes they asked if Flora had "been about". To undo continuing bad luck, this woman had to completely pacify the boabh, a process that took two weeks. Flora's "evil eye" became such a nusiance that several people co-operated in paying for the services of a witch-master. This individual advised them to take water from a local spring and pronounce a spell over it while stirring in a clockwise direction. As this was done, a silver coin was dropped to the bottom and the liquid bottled to be sprinkled on any animal, person or thing afflicted by witchcraft. To the surprise of all concerned this countercharm worked! 19 Those who possessed the "evil eye" were sometimes noted as having "eyes as sharp as needles." In other instances, the person who "overlooked" her neighbours was not physically conspicuous. To be on the safe side, most Gaels refused to allow anyone to examine newly born animals or children. A Glen Haven, Nova Scotia, a resident commented that "old Mother W (who lived) here (was) supposed to be a witch. She had full and plenty of everything. She'd come and look at your pig and it would be
Herbert, editor, A Folklore Sampler, Saint John's (1982),
sick the next day."20 Further to this, a resident of Moser's River noted, "It was believed if a witch admired an animal you might as well let her have it. You'd never have any luck with it. My father had that happen to him with neighbours who admired his Jersey cow. It died. He was Irish." 21 This is not to suggest that our common-place ancestors were without resources of their own, it being understood that blights and curses could not permanently affect a blameless person. In such cases, the evil entity, had to settle on another target, and counter-charms were fashioned to be certain that the secondary victim was the boabh. Where animals were killed by a spell they could sometimes be revived by burning a bit of wearing apparel, taken from the witch, under its nostrils.22 Some individuals suggested filling the corpse of a dead animal with pins, thus "pricking" the boabh where it did not reinvigorate the animal.23 A farmer at Scotsburn thought it advisable to haul the corpse uphill and then down again to discourage further activity.24 As a last resort a dead animal was sometimes buried,standing upright, at the entrance to the barn door, it being supposed that his spirit would prevent any further visits by the baobh. Prophylactic measures were preferred over outright confrontation, so farmers sometimes erected anti-boabh devices at the first hint of trouble. Countermeasures included burning hair from a horse or a dog in places where druidheachd was expected to occur. Men sometimes went through elaborate rituals which ended with embedding silver, quicksilver (mercury)
20Creighton, 21Creighton, 22Creighton, 23Creighton, 24Creighton,
Helen, Bluenose Magic, Toronto (1978), p. 54. Helen, Bluenose Magic, Toronto (1978), p. 55. Helen, Bluenose Magic, Toronto (1978), p. 27. Bluenose Magic, Toronto (1978), p. 27. Helen, Bluenose Magic, Toronto (1978), p. 50.
or iron in especially drilled holes in door and window casements. Letter-boards were and horseshoes were put up above doors, care being taken to have the tines upright "lest the witch fall out." Red rowanberries and wooden crosses were put to the same use, and flying witches were disuaded by discharging firearms up the flue. For additional countermeasures see entries under bafinn, boann, bodach. BAOBACH, from the above. A mild curse or impreciation. “Folly upon you!” “May the witch get you!” BAOBHANTE, elf-like. BAOBH DEARG, (bayv djayrg), BAODHAIBH DEARG, see BADB DEARG , aibhse, a spectre, “The Red Crow Spectre,” His followers were the baodhaibhsi, (bhuv ee shee or shay), the so-called “vision-makers.” Considered the guardian god of the night-hours, a giver of prophecy. It was said that he painted each setting sun on the western waters over Connaught, Galway and Connemara. His mound overlooked Loch Deargdherc, “the Lake of the Red Visions,” which is located along the River Shannon. BAODHAISTE, ill-used by the weather, which was thought aroused by the baobhe. Note that the baobhe were thought to have almost exclusive control of weather-magic. Seeabove entry. BAOGH, same as BAOBD. baoghal, peril, danger, crises, a bad effect, lull in a storm. Also a favourable opportunity of short duration. BAOIS, noticeable lust, madness, idle talk. Possibly allied with gheidh, desire. These attributes were considered almost synonymous. Extremes of sexuality were considered due to demonic or extra-spiritual possession. Baoisleach, house of ill-repute, whore-house. BARA, a barrow or burial mound, from MEng. barowe. Similar to the Skye G. barpa, a cairn. In Sutherlandshire it is G.
parph. The latter from N. hvarf, a turning point, the Eng. wharf. BARC (BAIRCS) DIBERGI, “bark of the devils,” a pirate ship. Supposed to have originated with the Picts. Watson thinks that the tales of the Fomorian “sea-giants” originated with “the depradations of the Picts of the Isles.” BÀRD, BAIRD, a beginning poet. The lowest class of the dan (poets) among the druids. Dudley Wright, who wrote a scholarly tome on druidism, said that, "the period of their novitiate lasted for twenty years... Four degrees were conferred...the first given after three years' study in the arts of poetry and music, if the candidate merited the honour. The second was conferred after six years' further study; and the final degree, equal to a doctorate, was bestowed two years' later on the completion of the twenty years' course. See filid. They were finally suppressed by Christians in the late seventeenth century. It is said that they wore sky-blue habits as “an emblem of peace.” It has been said that the Celtic bards were committed by oath to represent past events as candidly and truthfully as they were able, but with the development of the so-called Medieval Romances anachronisms became commonplace, and earlier errors of geography, genealogy and social order became more widespread and even deliberate. A specimen representing the style and intent of these later writers is seen in Sir Thomas Malory’s Morte d’Arthur (1485): “It is noteworthy through the universal world that there be nine worthies, the best that ever were. That is to wit three paynyms, three Jews, and three Christian men. The paynyms they were the incarnations of Christ, being named Hector of Troy; Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar. Emperor of Rome..And as for the Jews, which likewise were incarnations of Our Lord, the first was the Duke Josuah, which brought the children of Israel unto the land of the host; the second, David, king of Jerusalem and the third Judas Macabees. And the other incarnations have been the noble Arthur...Charlesmagne, or Charles the Great, and last Geoffrey of Boleyn.”
BARDACH, BARDACHD, satire, lampooning, sacrcasm, poetry, "the prayer of a bard." See above. See also coir san sainnte. The “thread of poetry" which was “often wound” about the law, history and genealogy as an aid to memory; a necessity since these important facts could not be trusted to the lesser magic of the written word. The Gaels developed assonantal and consonantal rhyme patterns, the latter being referred to ascomharradh, and being especially reserved for forewarnings. It is said that the old school for poets trained its students in three hundred and fifty types of metre. Twelve years was the minimum for study, but twenty years was required for proficiency. The lowest grade of poet was the bardach, and there were sixteen divisions of this order, each dependent on the number of metres mastered. The poet's training in literature embraced three hundred and fifty epic poems, all of which had to be committed to memory in the finest detail. Further the ovate poet had to be able to compose an impromptu poem on any subject before graduating as a bardach righ or “king-bard”. The filid-ollam was subject to proscriptions against the misuse of power. He was forced to pay a fine for satirizing an absent individual. He was also prohibited from ranting against a man through a substitute poet, and was held responsible for the crimes committed by any of his students. Upon graduation the high-poets became attached to the courts of kings and princes and chieftains, where they received a regular stipend together with a residence, land and animals. The ollam typically received twenty-one cows, two hounds, six horses, and fodder. As representatives of the bardic order, they made circuits of the countryside, always accompanied by a retinue suitable to their social station. Twenty-four attendants was the usual company of an ollam who intended to visit with a person overnight. If a longer stay was contemplated, the law limited his following to ten individuals, for the host
was expected to open his house to the party and pay all their expenses while in residence. The most famous poets ignored this cut-off and often travelled with three or four times the legal limit, imposing themselves upon members of the community for days, weeks or even months. Several Irish kings were eaten into poverty before they developed ruses to move the unwanted visitors to a new location. King Gauire the Hospitable, of Connaught, was "blessed" with the sixth century poet Senchan Torpeist for a year and a day, before the king's brother suggested that the whole company travel eastward in search of a lost manuscript. Since the sought-after copy of the Tain Bo Cuailgne was rumoured carried across the seas, the poet's entourage was afterwards engaged in an open-ended mission which took them out of the Gaelic realms. Until the day of Conor mac Nessa (a one-time husband of Mebd), the learned professions spoke using the ogham, a cryptic tongue, supposedly invented by Ogma, the god of the arts. This language was maintained to monopolize the profession and impress the peasants. Conor once had the duty of judging an argument between two poets and discovered he understood nothing of their arguments and counter-claims. Provoked by this, he ruled that the profession should henceforth remain within hereditary families, but be open to all within them, irrespective of rank. Even so, the poets had the same eric as the king himself and Conor protected them against the general population which saw them as a preferred class. By Conor's time, the business of druidism had become so profitable that one-third the men of Ireland are estimated to have taken up one of these arts or sciences. A vast number, with the power to destroy through their satires, the poets had become lazy, covetous, tyrannous, and an almost unbearable drain on the gross national product. Men actually began to cut them down, but Conor gathered twelve hundred of them at his keep and protected them for seven years, until the fervour against the group had abated. BARRAN, “The Elder-tree,” Coping at the top of a wall:
glass, spikes, stakes erected to keep out intruders. A hedge, the top of a mountain, a ragged covering. The Lady Cassir’s chief advisor was a woman named Barran, whose name is sometimes given as Barrfhind, the “leader of the whiteones (women).” The latter word may confer with Bafinne (which see). BARR-REULT, the North Star. “prime-star.” See sgiathach. The dwelling place of the creator-god. curach
BÅS, (bahs), death or Death. Destruction. Basa, fate, fortune, basmhor, mortal. Celtic root-word, baa, to batter, hit or slay. Similar to the Low Latin batuere and the English word battle. Confers with the Anglo-Saxon beadu, battle or war. Bas biol, the "clean death", death by drowning. Basfinne, the female fates. On the Continent the death-god was usually identified as Dis, who the Romans called Dispater (Father Dis). This god can be shown to correspond with Tyrr, the Old Norse god of war. The collector of souls of the dead in Britain was more often personified as the Aog or as the Nathair (see entries). The time of soul-seeking was the twelve days of the Nollaig, or Yule, and the leader of the host that swept out of the northern mountains was sometimes said to be the Cailleach bheurr, also known as the Baobd (see these entries). In costal regions, the gathering of dead souls for transport to An Domhain or Tirnan-Og was considered the province of Manann mac Ler, whose craft, "The Wave-Crusher" swept the seas in this same season. BASA, fate, fortune, in Basachadh, expiring, dying. the trust of the bas-finne.
BASBHAIDH, a hag, a witch. BASCAID, the Eng. basket. Basc, round, red, scarlet. One of the Samhain rites consisted of winnowing “three wights of nothing.” A wight was a circular wicker basket. Dame Glendenning claims to have foreseen the shade of her
husband Simon during a solitary trip to the barn. She noted that “I never saw him plainer than at that moment,” but added that, “He was always annoyed at having been seen out of the body.” The rite is accomplished as follows: “Go secretly to the barn at night, open both doors wide, or better, take them off their hinges, lest the being who appears close them and do you some injury. Then take a wecht (willow basket), or fanner, and go through the movements of letting down corn. Repeat this operation three times and the figure of your future spouse will appear, passing in one door and out the other. If you are fated to die young, a coffin will also enter and pass by.” Note that basket-making was a magical craft axial to the building of Gaelic shelters and ships. BASC-AIRM, a circle. The symbol of magical closure and regeneration. BASCALL, obs., bas, death; coill, the woods; one who brings death in the woods, a wild man or savage. BAS-FINNE. bas, death; finne, maid, maiden, woman, beautiful. whiteness, fairness, attendance, testimony, evidence; fine, obs., milk. While men lived, their guardians stood close by as invisible shadow-men, or women, sometimes referred to as runners or home-shadows, fylgiar, or nornir, or the Gaelic befimde. These were the elfin servants of the three giant Wyrd Sisters. According to ancient myth this trinity controlled the destinies of all the spirits resident on earth. Wyrd was the eldest and had control of the past; Verthandi determined events in the present; while Skulld had charge of the future. Between them these women were said to weave the fates of men and the mortal-gods. In prose Edda, Gangler noted that the Wyrds were very unequal in their dealings with men: "Some (people) have a good life and rich, but some have little wealth and praise, some long life, some short." Har agreed adding, "The good nornir and well descended certainly shape a good life; but those who meet with misfortune have negligent nornir." Thomas Keightley said that the home-
shadows bore "a remarkable resemblance to the classical parcae and the fairies of romance. They are all alike represented as assisted at the birth of eminent personages, as bestowing gifts either good or evil, and as foretelling the future fortune of the being that has just entered existence." The Abenaki Indians described these attendant-spirits as "ghost-bodies": "For a man or woman it looks like a black shadow of a man or woman. It has hands and feet, a mouth, a head and all the other parts of a human body. It drinks and eats. It puts on clothes, it hunts and fishes and amuses itself." Although this was not the only form of the English home-shadow, it was considered a possible manifestation. On overcast days, the guardian was observed to be entirely invisible and was presumed to be free to travel as far ahead of, or behind, its human as it might wish. In this situation, the spirit often materialized as the totem-animal of the clan to which the individual belonged. In a few situations, where it might serve the interests of that person, the shadow appeared as his or her double. This "doppelganger" was supposedly responsible for individuals being seen in two widely separated communities at the same time. Very important individuals were born with two or three guardians. Andthese might be observed simultaneously in as many as four diffrent places. Even when it was invisible, the shadow-man often heralded the arrival of his or her human by by knocking on the walls or door of a house about to be visisted, or by shuffling its feet in a hallway. If left too long separated from its host, the spirit became restless and might resort to opening or closing doors, or swinging on them, to pass the time. In the elder days it was considered a impolite and perhaps hostile to shut a door quickly behind a visitor, an act that might separate the shadow from helping his master. While Saint Patrick's two guardian-angels provided him with nothing beyond theological advice, those at the call of the Celtic hero Cu Chullain supported him in battle. When he was near death at the hands of Ferdiad, one came to
either side and soon his opponent "felt the onset of the three together smiting his shield...Then Ferdiad remembered that Cu Chullain had an unusual number of invisible helpers and complained, "Thy friends of the sidh (elf or fairy folk) have succored thee, and thou did not disclose this." "Why complainest thou here, O Ferdiad, thou hast the invincible horn skin (armour) whereby to multiply feats and deeds on me, and thou has not explained how that may be opened or closed!" With these words, Cu Chullain dismissed the advantage of having Dolb and Indolb support his cause, and went on to kill his combatant. Very few of our ancestors were aware of their double, exceptions being "gifted" individuals; those born with a double part, or a widow's (or devil's) peak of hair between the eyes; those delivered into our world with eyes of differing colour, which eventually merged into one; and posessors of the caul, fylgia, or birth membrane. Usually the caul, which is a portion of the amniotic sac becomes separated from the child at birth but sometimes it is intact over the head. Folklore insisted that this was a favourable omen, and the mother was expected to walk upon her child's caul and hide it for fear it might be taken. At one time, midwives supplemented their income by stealing cauls which were offered in the black-market for purposes of witchcraft. If this was avoided, the caul was sometimes placed beneath the threshold stone of the home for safekeeping. The baby would then be blessed with help from a very powerful attendant spirit. In addition, children who were gifted were protected against death by drowning, fire or lightning strikes, and this advantage extended to the house. As adults, these lucky people usually carried their cauls on their person, or kept them close at hand. In Maritime communities, the caul-carriers were sought after for work in lumber mills or on ships at sea, since no damage could come to either while these men were about. Helen Creighton has noted that females were made to take a few stitches in their caul as soon as they were able, thus assuring their abilities as seamstresses. It was claimed that gifted people had the ability to see their shadow-
duplicates, and to direct them to their advantage. Normal individuals usually bumbled through life aware of their runners on a subliminal level, when they implanted vague notions of danger in the minds of their wards. Most were unable to see the runner until it materialized before them as a warning of impending death. Particularly clumsy people are still accused of "tripping over their own shadow", but few realize this once considered a fact rather than a figure of speech. Among most primitive peoples the shadow, as well as reflections, are considered an embodiment of the ghost, or spirit, a vital part of the person and a possible source of danger to that individual. While the "breath of life" was not considered a physical thing, the soul was thought of as a concrete object, capable of being seen, captured or injured. Observing the beating of his heart, man sometimes assumed this to be the seat of his soul. When the "little animal within" ceased to move it was assumed that the spirit had departed and the soul was declared AWOL. Sleep and illness were taken as times when the the soul was temporarily absent, death being its final departure. According to the Nootka Indians of British Columbia the soul has the shape of a tiny man: "its seat is the crown of the head. So long as it stands erect, its owner is hale and healthy, but when from any cause it loses its upright position, (the man) loses his senses. Among the Indian tribes of the Lower Fraser River, man is held to have four souls, of which the principal one has the form of a mannikin, while the other three are shadows of it." This same authority noted that the Innu also thought that "the soul exhibits the same shape as the body it belongs to, but is of a more subtle and ethereal nature." 25 The belief in internal souls is not restricted to the past and primitive men. The following report comes from Tancook Island, Nova Scotia, and was made in the middle of the current century: "When Sebastian died, when his last James George Fraser, from "The Soul as a Manikin", The Golden Bough, 1922, one-volume edition.
breath came, the whole shape of him came out of his mouth like he was a young man, no longer old and wrinkled, and it went out the door. Just before he died three little taps came to the door, just a couple minutes before. He must have heard them because he looked to the door."26 Noteworthy here, is the typical description of the soul coupled with the traditional "death knock", supposedly the responsibility of the the individual's runner or home shadow. In the last decade, Cape Breton Magazine interviewed a faith-healer named Cleve Townsend. This Louisbourg, Cape Breton resident made it clear that older concepts linger: "There's no death for the inner man. The inner man is what controls this body, not you. It's the inner man that's controlling everything." 27 The relationship between the home-shadow and the human was entirely symbiotic, injury or death to one reflecting very rapidly upon the other. The runner has been identified as the residence of a second-soul in European folklore. It has been suggested that those who sleep, hallucinate, or are in a trance-state have projected their internal soul upon this external double. In the case of the witch, this external soul often occupied an animal body and was commonly called a familiar. All those who were psychic, or gifted, shared the witches' ability to see through the eyes and hear through the ears of this shadowcreature. In earlier times, the home-shadow was called a runner, or a fetch, from its use as errand-boy or girl. The mortal-god Wuotan possessed two familiars in the form of ravens which sat upon his shoulders. As black as shadows they departed each morning to gather intelligence for this "father of the gods". One of these he called Hugin (thought) and the other Munin (memory). At dusk they returned to him and whispered news of the world into his ears. He was keenly aware of their value: "Hugin and Munin fly each day over the spacious earth. Always I fear for Hugin that he
Creighton, Bluenose Ghosts, p. 79. Caplan, editor, Down North, p. 165.
come not back, Yet more anxious am I for Munin." If the familiar of the witch, or the runner of one who was gifted, was sent to observe the future, then that shadow-creature was called a forerunner, and the ability was known as foresight. If the runner was sent into the past, it was called a hindrunner and the craft of the human was named hindsight. A third function of the runner was to act as a telescope for his human, allowing distant views of activities taking place in the present. The Anglo-Saxons called this ability clearsight; the Normans, clairvoyance. Forays in the past were usually considered most informative, the craft being referred to as fortune-telling in the Anglo-Saxon world, and as divination among the Normans. In eastern North America, the Abenaki's consulted "those who know in advance", a class they called the nikanikjijitekewinu. While the seers could call upon their shadow-people at will, views of future events were often forced on ordinary individuals. In Maritime Canada, these unexpected foresights have been common. Called tokens or visions, they were frequently connected with impending death or disaster. Aside from meeting their own runner face-toface some have seen the shades of friends or relatives prior to death. Others have observed pending ecological disasters, the erections of mines, running of railways and creation of manufacturing plants, in days when the land consisted of nothing more than forest. The Gaels called the ability "an da shealladh", the double visiion, or secondsight, because the phenomena has been described as the imposition of a view of the future upon a present-day landscape. When Helen Creighton was researching folklore in 1956 she was, "amazed to find this strange faculty possessed by so many people."28
Creighton, Bluenose Ghosts. See Chapter One, "Forerunners" and Chapter Four, "Foresight And Hindsight". It should be noted that she does not understand the nature of the forerunner, describing it as the equivalent of clairaudience.
The shadow people possessed all of the five senses normally attributed to man so it is not surprising that gifted individuals often received auditory tokens, or sounds from the past or the future, the ability being named clairaudience. Others could feel or smell aspects of other times and places. Hence, a Cape Bretoner once rubbed his lips and said, "indeed I feel the itch of a kiss (or perhaps a dram) today." Our ancestors knew that a forerunner was shaking hands with a stranger when they felt a sympathetic itch of the right palm. Again, a quiver of the left eyelid meant bad news lay ahead. Motion in the right eye was taken as a good omen, and it was presumed that the runner was looking at something favourable to fortune. Where the contact between a guardian and his ward was tenuous, he was forced to resort to shorthand; hence heat in the right ear meant unfavourable rumors were being passed about a person. If his left ear burned, this was also the case, but he could be sure his reputation was being defended by a friend. Tasting the past, or the future, was not a particularly useful ability, but a few Maritimers had their lives saved by forerunners who warned them of fire by allowing them a early-warning smell of smoke. BASGAIR, BASGAIRE, applaud, “death-noise,” palm of the hand noise, lamentation expressed in the clapping of hands, mourning-sounds. These were the sounds sometimes used by the banshees to announce a death, and were traditional sounds voiced by professional mourners at a wake. BAS TREAS, the three-fold death. A situation where the hero could only be killed by the sequential attacks of three different weapons. The death of Diarmuid mac Fergus followed this motif. BAT, BATA, a stick, from MEng. batte, now bat. Confers with bas, death. An implement of destruction through physical or magical use. BÂTA-MANA, MANADH, ship of omen. The death ship also known as the Long Thane or Wave-Crester. The “Ship of
Manann,” was sometimes said to have been “gifted” upon Lugh, the sun-god, by his foster-father. This explains why engravings show the sailing ship followed by a sun-orb in the sky above the mast. Whoever piloted it (and there had to be various pilots since the gods were mortal), noticed that the wheel was a mere decoration, since the ship responded to the thoughts of the helmsman. It was said that this ship always made record time, commencing its sailing schedule at mid- night, always reaching the far shore before dawn. This “flame-ship” could sail the hills of land as easily as it could crest the waves of the sea. There is something very like this ship in Norse myth: In north Frisian tradition it was held that the giants possessed a colossus named the Mannigful, “Full of Men,” which constantly cruised the open ocean. This vessel was so large that the captain patrolled the decks on a white horse. The rigging was so high and extensive that sailors who went there as young men returned grey-haired, The huge blocks that carried the tackle actually contained rest stations and were provisioned with food and water. By mischance the helmsmen once got himself in fog and entered the English Channel. He might not have passed the cliffs at Dover, if he had not instructed his crew to soap the sides of the ship. Like Manann craft, this ship could be reduced in size so that it would fit a knap-sack. Ordinarily the death ship was seen as teine-thall, a fire-ship; a long narrow craft as the name suggests. This type of long-ship is generally associated with the Vikings but it is necessary to remember that the Old Norse had forerunners in Celtic sailors. The north of Scotland, Shetland, the Orkney Islands and the Faeroes were reached and settled by a seagoing people of such antiquity, they were all in their graves before the classical civilizations of Greece and Rome were a germ in the Mediterranean. The Picts and the Celts who followed them were equally competent in crossing and recrossing the “Sea of Darkness,” and had a long love-hate relationship with the Atlantic by 330 B.C., which some historians consider the dawn of history. BATH, to drown, smother, OIr. badud. Cy. boddi, Bry. beuzi,
Indo-European gadh, to sink, Skr. gadhae, the deep. Bathing was once considered an ill-advised act. BE. Obs. Life, woman, wife, female, Night. See next. BEACH, The Devil’s snuff-box. Lycoperdon gigantitum. One of the puff-balls. Beacan, obs. same, any mushroom. BEACHD, opinion, notice, seemingly magical prognostications resulting from keen observation, Ir. beacht, a certain fact, a physical law, EIr. becht, I certify (that this is correct). In eastern Canada it is said that "The ability to read omens is closely associated with the faculty of "beachd." It is classed as "passive divination", such abilities having once been considered of supernatural origin. BEAG, BEOG, N’ BE AG TOBAIR EAGNA. (be ah hag), beag, little, short; “The Woman at the Well (Fountain).” The guardian of the well of wisdom. BEALCU (bayl coo), the Dog-god. Called upon by men at the point of death, “he would not slay a foe that was badly torn but carry him home and nurse him to health.” Afterwards he would renew a more equal combat if requested. A “healer of the soul-borne, mender of wounds and hatreds.” See Cromm and note that he was accompanied by two dog-gods, one antagonistic to men. BEALIST, a mathematician. Beal, from OIr. Bil or Bile, a god of the Underworld and Death; bileag, the root, the pith, the mouth of anything, e.g. the opening in a jar. BEALADH, anointing. Beul, the mouth, any body opening. Ancient rituals usually anointed the major body openings blessing the regions between. See next. BEALLTUINN (bail-tin) May-day, the month of May in some places. A Quarter-Day celebration until recent times. Ir. Bealteine. EIr. Beltene or Belltaine. Perhaps belo + te + nid, "bright-fire", the Gaelic belos being considered the
equivalent of the English bale, as in bale-fire. The AS. form was bael, white, thus "white-fire". This festival was established in honour of the god Beall or Beltene, also called Bil or Bile, who the Welsh called Beli, and the Gauls, Belenos. The fires of Bal or Bel were actually set on May-eve, when appropriate feasting and ritual acts took place. Note that this god is theequivalent of the Death-God the Gauls named Dis, who corresponds in every way with the Scandinavian deity Tyrr. The Gauls said that Dis was their patriarch, the giver of life as well as the god "of last moments." A similar role was credited to Beall "the god who gives life to men and takes it away from them." This god may be seen as having regional equivalents in Aod and in the Oolathair, or Allfather. This holiday is sometimes entitled the Cetshamhain (Samh’s (i.e. Summer’s Mayday) thus giving notice to the female aspect and the ritual sex customary at this time. Survivals of the May Day fires are found in France, Scotland and Cornwall. Until the nineteenth century the Scottish Law Term commencing in May was entitled the Beltane Term. In the Manx language May is known as Boaldyn and May Day as Laa Boaldyn. Significant legendary events always took place on this date in Gaelic, Cymric and Manx tales; the Tuatha daoine invasion of Ireland and the Milesian invasion are two ready examples. See Latha Ruadh, See also Beltene, Bil. Examples of this festival in Scottish communities is discussed elsewher but note: “the Baal worship is even more pronounced in Ireland. In the Survey of the South of Ireland we read: “The sun was propitiated here by sacrifices of fire; one was on the 1st of May, for the blessing on the seed sown. The 1st day of May is called in the Irish language La Beal-tine, that is, the day of Beal’s fire. Vossius says it is well known that Apollo was called Belinus, and for this he quotes Herodian, and an inscription
at Aquileia, Apollini Beline. The Gods of Tyre were Baal, Ashtaroth, and All the Host of Heaven... and the Phoenician Baal, or Baalam,29 like the Irish Beal, or Bealin, denotes the sun, as Ashtaroth does the moon.” A resident of Midart has this to say: “A world of years ago before Prince Charlie landed...the folk here were fierce and dark and ignorant; they kept the Bealltainn better than Christmas or Easter Sunday. It is said they would even be praying to the serpents...” BEALTAINE, BEALLTAIN, obs., agreemant, compact, bargain. BEAN, wife, female, woman, she-goat, OIr. ben, Cy. bun, Celtic bena, Goth. gino, Eng. queen, Scot. queyn, Skr. gna. As a verb, to touch. Cf. G. bun, root, stock, bottom and with the root bhu, to grow, swell, increase, Skr. bhumis, the earth, capable of pregnancy and increase. Beanag, diminished form, term of endearment for a female, the “little woman.” BEAN-NIGHE, BEANN-NIGHEADAIREACHD, small female spirit haunting a loch or burn. Washes the bloddy clothes of those destined for death. A banshee. BEANTAG, the corn-fan of the harvest home. The spirit of the corn was considered encapsulated within this figure which was often over-wintered. BEARA. “Dogfish,” A judge. A daughter of the king of “Spain” (the west?) who married Eoghan Mor of Munster. Eoghan first saw his mate standing within the River Eibhar wearing the scaled “clothing” of a salmon. At home in Ireland, the pair landed at Bantry Bay, which is still entitled the peninsula of Beara or Beare. See Mhorrigan and Cailleach Bheurr. The Dogfish was one of her totems. BEASTAS FEUD, feudail, cattle, beastas, wealth. In the old Gaelic society wealth was divided as "first wealth", one's worth in land and cattle, and the lesser, "second wealth", T. Sharper, The origims of Popular Superstitions and Customs (London), 1940, p. 47.
income from the earnings of labour. The former was considered gifted upon the individual through his bafinn. BEAN A BHEUL MHIODAIL, embodied in a comment, "the wife with the foul mouth." A druidic aside concerning the Christian church; a phrase levelled at her for "badmouthing" the elder religions. First voiced after a curse was "placed" on the Earl of Buchan because he expressed support for the druidic notion that the moon was in orbit about the earth. Alexander Barr, Bishop of Elgin speaking from a pulpit berated the Earl adding: "Cursed be your sitting, your standing, your riding, your walking, your sleep, your waking, your eating, your drinking, your entering in, your going out, cursed be you from the crown of your head to the sole of your foot. Cursed be your casting out from the followers of Christ, and may every person breach every kindness to you. May your name be blotted out from the book of life, may your name be never mentioned in the books of good men. May your home be Korah, Datan and Abiram and as they received the wages their guilt merited may you also be rewarded likewise. As I throw this candle from the view of men, so likewise may God cast you down to the deepest hole in Hell to be in the cursed company of the guilty for ever and in the cursed company of the sinful rulers for ever without opportunity of freedom or salvation." Further "Big Alexander" directed that the Earl not be buried in consecrated ground. In response the nobleman arranged a little fire beneath the seat of the Bishop as he sat in church. and the cathedral was ravaged almost to the ground. BEANN, top, horn, peak, summit, Cy. ban, MBry. bann, Eng. knoll, Scot. knowe. A place sought for the enactment of pagan magic. See next. From this the Scottish ben, the summit of a mountain. BEANNACHD, BEANNACHADH, blessing, OIr, bendacht, Cy. bendith, allied with Latin benedictio, the English benediction. Related to beinn, or beann, a ben or hill, the place usually chosen for formal benedictions. Women with eolas, or control of magical spells, attempted to relieve
curses by taking a red thread and tying it around the afflicted person or animal while envoking a blessing. The healing thread for humans was three-ply and made of red wool knotted in a prescribed mannner. The knots were used like a rosary, the charm being repeated as each knot was fingered and passed. A portion of an old rann follows: An (evil) eye covered thee, A mouth bespoke thee. A heart envied thee, If harm has come, With evil eye. With evil wish, With evil passion. Mayst thou cast it off, Every malignacy. Every malice, Every harassment. And mayst thou be well forever, Whilst this thread goes around thee, In honour of all (the gods) May the spirit of balm be everlasting. "The spinning wheel is blessed when it is put away for the night, the cow before she is milked; the horses when put to any new work; the cattle when they are shut up in the byre; the fire when the peats are covered up at bedtime; the door when it is signed with the cross to be closed for the night; the joiner's tools when he leaves them in his workshop, otherwise he is likely to be disturbed by hearing them used by unseen hands (particularly those of the spirits of death). For the same reason, the women take the band off the spinning wheel, for when a death is about to occur, tools and wheel are likely to be put to use." "The boats are always blessed at the beginning of the fishing season, and holy water is carried in them. When one leaves the shore the skipper says. "Let us go in the name of God." "In the name of God let us go," is the proper refrain for the next in command." "After the home-spun cloth has been "wauked" or
"fulled," that is cleaned or oil and grease with which it has been dressed, there is a curious ceremonial blessing by the Head of the fulling-women. All present stand, while, with hands laid upon the bale of cloth, she says: Let not thee be afflicted by the Evil Eye, Let not be mangled, The man about whom thou goest forever. When he goes into battle or combat. The protection of the Lord be with him. "When the door is first opened in the morning one should say :- "May God bless what my eye may see and what my hand may touch (this day)." "An old man in Erisky used to say, on leaving his cattle, after leading them to the hills:- "Closed be every hole (into which they might stumble), clear be every knowe (knoll, of obstacles) and may the herdship of Columcille be upon you till you come again home." "One does not hear of dogs and pigs being blessed, though they are animals of great value to their owners. This is perhaps because the demon, or evil thing, sometimes takes their form, as it does that of the cat or hare. I only heard one story of a dog being so utilized, and that was one belonging to a priest. Whether the atmosphere was overcharged with piety, or for what reason does not appear, but the dog, lying on the hearth, suddenly started up, saying, "If you liked me before, you never will again," and disappeared in a shower of sparks." (Celtic Monthly, 1901, p. 143). It was felt that care has to be exercised in setting loose a curse since it would continue to circulate and remain potent until it had produced an effect. Once voiced, the magic words were said to hover in the air ready to fall upon the victim in a moment when his guardian-spirit (who Christian's referred to as the "guardian-angel") was inattentive. If this happened, it was claimed that the invading word-spirit would shoot "like a meteor" to the head of that person, creating illness, accident or a dangerous but irresistable temptation. William Carleton contended that a curse "will rest for seven years in the air,
ready to alight..."30 The air-spirit could never affect a blameless individual, since his guardian was always vigilant and at hand. In addition, the curse of one individual might be negated by the blessing of another; in which instance, the air-borne nasty looked for a secondary host, and finding none, might return and fall upon the boabh who generated it. When a seemly innocent person fell ill, or was a victim of accident, it was suspected: "He has taken on some poor body's curse!" On the other hand, those who were observed to have exceptionally good luck, were assumed the recipients of "some poor body's blessing!"
BEANNACHD AN DAIN ‘S AN DOMHNAICH, The Blessing of Heaven and the Deep. The shrewd man’s wish for his friends: Security promised by both the fates and Heaven, paganism and Christianity. BEANNACHD BAIRD. A poet’s congratulations. It was customary for the bard to salute a newly married woman and her chamber-maids with a poetical salute on the morning fllowing her deflowering. Also, when a man left a festive-board, for any reason, he was forced to compose a verse of this type before he could reseat himself. Otherwise, he was forced to pay a monetary penalty or perform a feat for the assembly. BEANNCHADH BEANNACHADH NA CUAIRTE, the Blessing of the Circle Circles of fire or water were known as effective agents against evil. In the water rite the baobh was required to to fetch water from “a living stream where the dead and the living both cross.” On the lower side of such a ford water had to be taken while kneeling on the left knee, and hand-cupped into a crock while saying an appropriate rann. Otherwise wordless in the quest for water, the healer returned to his or her patient and sprinkled this water along Carleton, Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry, pp. 203-219. From "An Essay On Irish Swearing", a very full account of oaths, curses and blessings.
the spine and in the ears of the animal or person under treatment. Any remaining water was poured out in a circular pattern on a grey stone, on a standing-stone or upon the hearth-stone. Another rite used to counteract the evileye required an iron hoop. About it was wound a siaman, or straw rope. This was saturated with a combustible and set on fire. Handhold were provided for two women who held the flaming hoop vertically while the ill child was passed three times through it, the process being accompanied by incantations in Gaelic. Three-plied wreaths fashioned of Ivy, woodbine and rown were considered useful in instigating dreams aimed at foresight. These were also placed over the lintels of homes and sheds to protect the in-dwellers from “witchcraft, the evil eye and murrain.” Magic hops were also constructed of dandelions, milkwort and marigold (all sun symbols). These were bound together with household lint forming little circles three or four inches in diameter. This trefoil was placed under milkpails to prevent the substance of milk from being drained way by the baobhe or sidhhe. The circle was the druidic symbol of continuity and reincarnation, and the Christian saints are remembered for inscribing crosses over the circles they found cut into the standing stones. Interestingly, the “circle of God” is invoked inhighland games of tag, where a childtired of being chased in the game may take his rest by declaring: “The circle of God rests on my head; you can’t touch me. The Rev. Robert Kirk (1691) reminds us that the Daoine sidh have the idea that “nothing perisheth but (as the Sun and the Year) everything goes in a Circle, less or greater, and it is renewed and refreshed in its Revolutions.” Evan Wetz noted: “The ancient scientists called life a Circle. In the upper half was the visible plane...we have in the lower half of the Circle the Hades or Otherworld of the Celts...” BENNACHAN, a cuckhold.
BEANSITH, BEAN-NIGHE, BEAN SHITH, BAN SITH, bean + sith, a wife of the side-hill folk. A general name given a weregild, but particularly the prototypical Mhorrigan who still appears to announce the deaths of those of Clan Morgan or Mackay. “The close association of the fairies (i.e. the Daoine sidh) with the spirits of the dead is illustrated in the use of the anglecized Gaelic name banshee which means literally “fairy woman,” The name is commonly applied to the spirit of some dead ancestress who has become the guardian spirit of one of the great families. The banshee occupies a middle position between mortals and the “fairies;” she is, in fact, regarded as a mortal who has been put under enchantment and given a fairy nature. In the highlands she is know as the Glaistig . or Glaistig Uaine . from her wan looks and green garments or as Maighdeann Uaine, the green-clad maiden. Elsewhere in Scotland she is known as the Green Lady. The Green Lady was always regarded as having been, in life, a woman of honourable position, usually a former mistress of the house whose precincts she haunted, and she might be seen at dusk, gliding noiselessly through the grounds...When any great happening or great misfortune was about to befall the family, the event was preceded by her cries of rejoicing
or lamentation. Some have heard the call as toman milaid, “a wailing murmer of unearthly sweetness and melancholy. (McNeil, The Silver Bough, Vol. 1, p. 115). Sometimes the banshee occurs as a tutelary deity of the hills, a castle, a cattle-fold, or a well.“The banshees of the wild were associated with solitary places. They would wander at dusk through the woods, or by the banks of some river, or close to some waterfall or ravine, and lure the traveller to his doom.” The Bean-nighe, or “Washer Woman” was of this class, and there is scarcely a mountain stream in the highlands that lacks this ghost. “I knew of people who, though not seeing her, heard the “slac, slac, the pounding of her wash. Once a man passing a ford heard the refrain, “Si do leine, si; do leine ta mi nigheadh,” - “Tis thy shrooud, ‘tis thy shroud that I am washing!” - which he told on going home. Not long afterwards, the same man, crossing by the stepping-stones at the same place on a dark night lost his footing, and being alone, was drowned. (J.J. McPherson, a Scottish cleric and folklorist). Reginald B. Span says that possession of a banshee “is quite a thing to be proud of as it gives proof of distinction and pure Hibernian breeding.” In general he says that the noise of their wailing came a few hours before the death of a scion of the family. When the banshee was seen it was ofen observed as “a hideous old woman of very small size with flowing grey robes and white hair streaming in the wind.” The Earls of Airlie are said to have a phantom drummer attached to their retinue and she has announced the impending death of a family member by beating a drum for the past two hundred years and more. In Lord Lyttleton’s family the forerunner takes the form of a dove which appears before a death. Other Highland families have the banshee materialize as a swan, and one clan has this bird appear on a particular lake: “A member of this family related that on one occasion the father, being a widower, was about to marry again. On the wedding day his son
appeared very depressed, which gave offense to the bridgegroom. He accordingly remonstrated with him, whereupon the young man told thim that his distress was occasioned by having seen the dath warning - the fateful swan - and he thought it might be a bad omen for the wedding. However, the warnning was not meant for the father - as that night the son died unexpectedly.” For the Span family the death-bird was a robin, which the author noted flew into his mother’s home in South Wales just before the individual deaths of his grandfather, his uncle, an aunt, a brother, and a cousin. In addition the bird appeared at Eastbourne just before the death of his mother’s brother and her sister. S0-pan noted that the howling of dogs oftyen prognosticated death and said that these hell-hounds could not be chased off from the doors and windows of sick people. “I have only once heard the peculiar howling myself, and that was when I was in one of the frontier mining camps in America. I was awakened by the unearthly wailing noise of a dog. I thought at the time that it portended death and the next day I heard that a woman had been murdered secretly in a building outside the dog was howling. The dog did not belong to the house, and had no connection with the woman who was murdered...’ In Lady Fanshawe’s memoirs she relates seeing a conventional banshee while paying a visit to the home of Lady Honor O’Brien: She was awakened the first night she slept there by a voice in her room and looked up to see “a female attired in white, with red hair and a pale, ghastly aspect.” The phantom visitor looked out a window andcried out in a loud voice, “A horse! A horse!” There followed a huge sigh, “which rather resembled the wind than the voice of a human being.” After this the apparition dissolved but Lady Fanshawe was so frightened she shook her husband awake, told him what had happened, and pointed out the open window through which the banshee had retreated. This was a species of banshee, for the next morning Lady Honor informed them that there had been a death in the family and said she hoped they had not been overly disturbed by their
banshee. In Cornwall, as elsewhere, there are some families whose forerunner is a black dog. In the former countryside, a lady newly married into a Celtic family rushed from the nursery to ask the others to help drive off a big black dog which was lying on her child’s bed. When they went up the dog was not there, but the child was dead. In 1818 Sir Walter Scott was at his home, Abbotsford, when he heard a night-sound “like boards being drawn along the new part of the house.” He arose, and broadsword in hand, went to meet the source of the commotion. Nothing was seen that night but the next morning he received news that George Bullock, his builder of the new wing, had died at the very hour of the disturbance. Commenting by letter, at a later date, Scott noted:: “Were you not struck by the fantastical coincidence of our nocturnal disturbances at Abbotsford with the melancholy event that followed? I protest to you, the noise resembled half a dozen men hard at work, putting up boards and furniture, and nothing can be more certain than that there was nobody on the premises at the time.” The gille of the Chieftain of Clan Ranald met a banshee at the Benbecula ford and hearing her at the deathwail, he seized her hoping to learn who was doomed. The woman finally answered: “I am washing the shroud and crooning the dirge for Great Clan Ranald of the Isles; and he shall never again in his living life of the world go thither nor come hither across the clachan of Dun Borve.” Hoping to forestall this fate the servant seized the shroud and threw it into the water. When he reported these happenings to the Chief, the head of Clan Ranald instructed that a cow be killed, and instructed that a coracle be constructed using the hide. In this rude boat he set sail into the west and was never seen again in human form. In Perthshire this washerwoman was described as small and well-fed, clad in flimsy raiment of an emerald green. The person who happen to see her was advised to attempt to catch her between his outstretched arms, stealing away being a bad omen.
In Skye she was described as a squat toad-like creature rersembling a small, pitifully deformed child. If whe happened to be captured while “dreeing her weird,” she was reputed to answer all questions truthfully. If a banshee noticed a potential captor she was likely to curse him with “wooden limbs,” render him impotent or injure him with a fire-spell. In the Highlands there are traditional haunts for the various waher-women. One of these is in the Alvie district of Invernesshire. This lady was guessed to be visible only for those in dangerous of imminent death. The Mermaid of Loch Slin belongs to this species. On a Sunday morning is said that a Cromarty maiden met this creature in to form of a tall woman standing in the water, knocking her clothes on a stone with a washing stick. On a nearby bleaching-green, the young girl saw thirty smocks and shirts, all besmeared with bloood and gore. Not long after, the roof of Fearn Abbey collapsed during worship, buring the congregation and killing thirty-six people. See Mhorrigan, baobd, Macha, bafinn. caoineag, eun glas, glaistig, gruagach BEANTAG, a corn-fan, the “miden” or “old hag” of the first quarter festival. BEARNAN BRIDE, the “cleft” bride; the dandelion. Said to nourish the early lamb at the time of Bride’s Day (February 2). A sun symbol, the flower of Lugh and Bridd, see above. BEARRADH EIOIN IS AMADAIN, Clipping hair from one side of the head. A former mark of dishonour. A form of punishment as “Clipping the wing from a bird.” BEARRADAIREACHD, a nimble feat, flighty (act), bearr, to cut away, to shear. See above. A contest of wits. When the cliar sheananchain camped upon the hopitality of common men and became a burden they could only be made to “move on over” by worsting them in mental or physical gymnastics. When they were outsung, outplayed or tricked honour forbade them from staying longer. If they could not comply with a request for a professional service they were considered “sheared away.” This act of “shearing” was also
termed gearradh cainnte. An Irishman named Marvan got rid of his hangers-on by asking them for several days of cronan, or crooning. Marvan noted that they exhausted themselves before they had fulfilled his expectations. Before they had recovered from that Marvan demanded that they recount the Tain Bo Cualgne , knowing full-well that that story was, at this time, forgotten. When they could not comply he put a geasa upon them that they should never remain for two nights with a particular landholder until they had pieced that old story together. This the bards finally managed by recalling a particpant in that “cattle raid” from the dead to recite the great tale. When Saint Columba was satirized by visiting poets “his face did sweat exceedingly, and he put his hand to his face to take away that sweat and that sweat became a talent of gold in his hand, and he gave that talent o the poets (thereby shifting the balance of power). BEATHA, life, livelihood, food, welcome, salutation, OIr. bethu, root bith. From this beathach, an animal. Beathuile, the whole life, life force, the three fold life (life, death and rebirth in one). BEBHIONN. Vivienne. A giantess, the daughter of Treon, from the western Land of Maidens. She was unwillingly betrothed to a Fomorian named Æda (Aod) and having heard of the Fiann from a fisherman accidentally thrown up on her shores, came seeking his protection. While they were discussing sanctuary the suitor appeared and thrust a spear through her body. Angered at this, the Fiann pursued but the stranger walked into the surf where he was “met by a great galley and bore away to regions unknown.” As the woman lay dying she distributed the gold rings from her fingers (which were as big as ox-yokes) among the sons of men. The Fiann raised a pillar-stone over her body at the place now called the Ridge of the Dead Stranger. BEBO, The wife of Iuban king of Faylinn (the Little People). She had an affair with the human named Fergus mac Leide. BECUMA CNEISGEL, (bay-kun-a), bo, cow; cuma, of mourning,
the “Beckoning Fair One.” She came to Ireland from Manann Mac Ler’s Land of Promise. There she had an unsanctioned affair with a son of the sea-god. and was banished to the human world. She persuaded Conn of the Hundred Battles, High King at the time, to take her as a concubine. While she lived with him all of Ireland suffered famine and desolation. She challanged Conn’s son Art to fidchell and he was banished for a time to the Otherworld as a result of his loss. BEC FOLA. The wife of King Diarmuid, who “left him one morning” spending one day and one night in the Otherworld. On her return she found her husband just stirring from sleep and completely unware of her seemingly protracted noctural adventures. See alp. BEFHIND BEFINNE, BAFINNE, BASFINNE, (bah in yah) the “white lady,” bainne, “milk,” “milk-like;” finne, maiden. Bas, “dead white,” Her minion were the banshees and she was the triad of the Fates. She is sometimes identified as a sister of Boann, “the White Cow.” See entry under alternate spelling Bafinn. The triad of Mhorrigan, Boabh and Macha. The befind have been described as "sidh who predict the future and endow it with good or doubtful gifts." "Sidh" corresponds very loosely with the Anglo-Saxon "ealf" and the Norman "fayre". Unlike the fairies, the sidh were thin rather than little people, up to six feet in height, handsome and young looking in spite of their great age. Nancy Arrowsmith says that they were a shadowy race who could only materialize in the presence of humans. "Even their beauty is of another world. Their skin is soft, their hair long and flowing, their clothes blindingly white. Their voices are sweet and seductive and their bagpiping unrivalled." Maria Leach (Funk and Wagnall's Standard Dictionary of Folklore, 1972) says that the befind and the Norse valkyra, or norns, are parallel beings. We go to the prose Edda for something of their character: "There standeth a city under the ash (i.e. Yggdrasil, Wuotan's tree, the world
tree) near the spring, and out of its halls came three maids who are thus named, Udr (corresponding with Mhorrigan), Verthandi (Badb, Mebd or Maeve), Skulld (Macha). These are the Past, Present and Future. These maids shape the lives of man. We call them Nornir. But there are now many nornir; those who come to each child that is born, to shape its life, are of the race of the gods; but others are of the race of Alfs (elfs); and the third of the race of dwarfs. The nornir shape the future destiny of men very unequally. Some have a good life and rich, but some have little wealth and praise, some long life, some short. The good nornir, and well met shape a good life; but as to those who meet with misfortune, they are given malignant nornir." The Norns were sometimes called the Vals, a word which means prophetess. All were female and their predictions were unfailing. The Roman general Drusus was so terrified by one of these, who warned him not to cross the river Elbe, he retreated, and afterwards died in a fall from a horse just as she had predicted. Also known as the Hagedises (women of the death god Dis) they officiated at forest shrines and accompanied the invading armies of the north. Riding within, or ahead of the host they urged the men to victory and when the battle ceased bled the bodies of captives into great iron tubs. Into these they plunged their arms prior to joining abandoned dances and the ceremonies of their order. The Norns were originally a single goddess, entitled Udr in the Old Norse tongue and Wyrd in that of the AngloSaxons. From the latter we have our word weird, and the three weird sisters who confronted Macbeth in Shakespeare's play. The befind had a similar reputation and were described as the "bhaobh", which interprets from Gaelic as "a hag, witch, wizard, or carrion crow." The male of the species is sometimes called a "bhodach" (cow tender, rustic). The most dangerous position a Gael can be in is still "eadar a'bhaobh s'a' bhuarach", which is, caught between a witch and a tethered but enraged cow. Donald
Lamont explains our definition more fully by noting that witches were supposed to be capable of taking the form of carrion crows. We further note that shape-shifting was the chief magical ability of the Fomorian giants, who could take any organic or inorganic form at will. The triad-goddesses appeared individually in the Celtic countryside but they might unite in the form of Badb (whose name is a variant of "bhoabh"), in order to pursue battle, for this lady was the goddess of the present, the mature warrior-woman, whose food was the heads of slain enemies. She had the unnerving habit of materializing before men who were destined to die, invariably bespeaking their fate with a crow call. When she was not busy at this, she flew across the battlefield in crow form attempting to demoralize the enemy with her cries. She also materialized and dematerialized as a vicious predatory animals, creating confusion among enemies of the Tuatha daoine, and nipping at the heels of those she particularly disliked. Unlikely as it seems, there is a tale of a battle-crow in action against men on Tabnnock Moor, near Wick, Scotland in 1438: The Clann Gunn began a land quarrel with the Keiths as early as 1426 and kept up the pressure until that they met near Halberry Castle. Iian Moncrieffe thought the warfare had a distinctly Nordic flavour, as Odin was always attended by two black birds who were his spies in the land of men. In any instance, the Gunns reported that the battle was won with the help of a huge Keith warrior "attended by a devil with the shape of a crow or raven sitting on his shoulder and assisting him by tearing the eyes out of the sockets of some of our men." Fortunately for my own clan, the Mackays were allied with the Keiths in this victory. The Gunns managed their revenge in 1517 when they defeated the Mackays at Torran Dubh in Bogart. The Badb does not appear often in accounts of our Celtic past but she was at "The Destruction of Da Derga's Hostel": Conaire Mor reigned as High King of Ireland in the century before the birth of Christ. In the pursuit of law and
order he exiled his four foster brothers, sons of a great chieftain in Leinster. These returned from Britain with a Ingcel, son of a British king and a host of mercenaries. They caught with King Conaire while he was staying at a hostel, one of six safe-houses in Ireland. A giantess came alone to Derga's Hostel and stood at the gate asking entrance. Conaire was on guard as it had been predicted that he would die if he admitted any solitary woman to his dwelling place after dark. He was perturbed when she said her listed Samhuin as one of her names, but he became fearful when she mentioned Badb, who he knew as the presager of slaughter. He tried to turn her away, but when she impugned his hospitality he felt obliged to open the gate. Conaire's foes entered in Badb's wake and the hostel was fired, the goddess appearing before the king as he lay dying. As Macha, the goddess represented the future fate of all women, typically appearing as a withered crone or bhoabh. In this guise she sometimes approached the camps of men, converting herself to a beautiful woman and favouring the beds of those who used her with kindness. Those who greeted her with rapacious intent often found themselves magically bound to one of the trees of the forest. The people of Macha were originally the northern Irish and in one reincarnation she favoured Crunniac Mac Agnomain with marriage. He was a widower and she came to his door as a ravishingly beautiful dark-haired woman. In this guise she provided him with love, children and even food and drink. As a huntress she showed her divinity in an ability to outrun the animals of the forest, but bedded with Crunniac after a promise that he would not question her origin or ask that she demonstrate her running skill. Again, alcohol did down this otherwise lucky man. While in his cups he bragged that his wife could outrun the King's stallions. A wager was made and to save her husband's honour Macha agreed to the contest. Being pregnant and close to term, she begged the men of Ulster to
delay the race until she had delivered but they refused her request. As a result, she ran and beat the stallions by half a course but collapsed at the finish line. She went into painful labour but survived to bear twins, who gave their name to present day Emain Macha. Recovering quickly, the Macha held her offspring before the assembly and predicted that the men of Ulster would be punished for their indifference by suffering pangs of childbirth when their country was in military need. She advised that this curse would continue for eight times eight generations. After that, this "horse-goddess" took her children under her arms and spend off, road-runner style, to a new affiliation with the people of Connaught province. At the time of Christ, the High King was Eochaid whose daughter was Mebd, this same reincarnate battlegoddess. She first married Conor MacNessa the ruler of Ulster, but he separated from her and remarried her sister Ethne (sweet kernal of the nut). Mebd took refuge at the Connaught court where she remarried and outlived a second husband afterwards choosing Ailill of Leinester as her consort. This set the stage for a classic battle between Ulster and Connaught, a tale enshrined as Tain Bo Cuailnge, or The Cattle Raid of Cooley. The trouble started when King Ailill and Queen Mebd began comparing their worldly possession, the reckoning favouring the former by one prize bull. To improve her herd the Queen sent a courier to Couth Louth (which was allied with Ulster) requesting stud service from the celebrated brown bull of Cuailgne. The request was granted but the well-lubricated emissary for Mebd bragged that if the bull had not been offered his queen would have taken it anyhow. This boasting carried back to the chief of the province who ordered the courier back to Connaught without the bull. Enraged, Queen Mebd determined to war with Ulster and take the animal by force. She had the Connaught army under Ferdiad and a group of Ulster malcontents under
Fergus MacRigh (a cousin of King Conor) at her back. also had her other allies, in all three-fifths of population of Ireland.
She might have succeeded except for the intervention of the northern hero, Cu Chulainn (The Hound of Chulainn). This lad was born under another name but received this nickname when he killed the watchdog of the smith named Chulainn and undertook to compensate him by acting the part of a dog for one year. Having acquired a dog spirit as his befind Chulainn was afterwards under a "geis" never to eat dog meat. Cu Chulainn was not out of adolescence which was fortunate since mature Ulstermen were overtaken by Macha's curse as her troops marched north. While they remained doubled over in pain, Cu Chullain went to the ford of Ulster and single-handedly opposed the Connaught men, who were unable to pass this location except in single file. Seeing that a quick victory was not at hand, Mebd agreed to match one a champion a day against the Ulster hero, noting wryly, "It is better to lose one man a day than a hundred." Again and again Cu Chulainn despatched his opponents, including at the last, his old friend, the Connaught leader Ferdiad, who had come to the battle after bedding with Mebd and being promised marriage with her daughter Finnahair. All of her champions having failed, the witch-queen resorted to magic, hiring the Calatin magicians to bewitch and kill her enemy. This fight looked like loser for Cu Chullain, but some of the Connaught forces switched sides and helped kill the magic-makers. At this point, Mebd was clearly impressed by Cu Chulainn's virility and appeared before him as the Mhorrigan offering him her love. Failing to recognize the crowgoddess, Cu Chullain spurned her, after which she materialized before him as a huge serpent, and then as a she-wolf and as a heifer, making repeated attempts to overcome him by physical force. The god-like Cu Chulainn
was equal to all this and very nearly killed the Mhorrigan. During this time, the Ulster forces remained severely inconvenienced by Macha's curse. Suspecting that the single-handed approach would finally fail, Cu Chullain's mortal father attempted to rouse his compatriots. In an unbelievable bit of bad luck Sualdam accidentally beheaded himself. The separated head continued to make the call to arms shaking the Ulstermen from their lethargy. The hosts gathered, and finally the invaders were driven off. Peace between the north and south followed, but Mebd's hate for Cu Chullain became implacable and she again plotted to destroy him through magic. She first planned to drive him into madness by sending phantom armies against him but he recovered through the counter-magic of Cathbad. Nevertheless, the auguries of death gathered about Cu Chullain. He next saw the Mhorrigan, who Gaels still identify as one of the "bean-nighe" (washing women) or "bean-sidhe" (i.e. banshee or side-hill women), washing blood soaked garments in a mountain stream. He then came upon three bhoabhs hunched around a cooking pot, after the fashion of Macbeth's weird sisters. They begged him to eat with them, and when he refused, accused him of being to proud to share the hospitality of the poor. Stung by this, he ate and rose to find his body half paralysed, the repast having been dog meat. Enemy druids now drew near, asking for his spears and threatening to satirize him in their poems if he did not grant their requests. He complied by throwing one into the body of each man. Less uncanny warriors approached, and Cu Chullain was cut down at the age of twenty-seven, leaving Mebd to relish another pyrrhic victory for Ulster was intact. At the hostel, the Mhorrigan had named herself "an Samhuin", the ritual bride of the kings of Tara. Her season is still remembered as "an samhradh" (the time of the ride of Samh), which the Anglo-Saxons called "summer". Samhuin or Samhainn also identifies the first day of
November and the entire month that follows, the latter being entitled, "an t-Samhainn". It should be noted that the ancient Celts recognized only two seasons, the time of Samh and that of "an geamhradh" (the riding out time of the game-keeper), which most of us call "winter". The gamekeeper is better known as "an Cailleach Bheur" (the winter hag), who corresponds exactly with the "bhoabh". Summer is therefore seen as the season of the Mhorrigan and winter as a time preferred by her alter-egos, the Badb and the Macha. BEGA, the “Little One.” An Irish princess who escaped an arranged marriage to a prince of Norway when angels brought her an “engagement bracelet” marked with the sign of the cross. She slipped away from her wedding feast, wearing nothing but the token, and jumped into the sea. She was washed along the coasts of Cumberland, sustained during the crossing by “food” delivered to her by seagulls. Bega eventually founded a cloister in the northwest of England, and there her bracelet is still guarded by nuns, who take solemn oaths upon it. Formerly it was used to curse foreign enemies. BEINN NA’ MAC DHUBHI, “Mountain of the Son of the Black One.” Home to the Grey Man, in the Grampians of Scotland. Climbers there have been followed by ghostly footsteps. Those harassed in this way have included Professor Norman Collie who climbed those mountains in 1891. In a fit of terror he fled from the summit and ran five miles downhill. Another camper on the top reported seeing “a great brown creature swaggering down the hill.” It was said to have been more than 20 feet in height “covered with short brown hair and possessing a large head.” Tom Crowley, who encountered it in the 1920’s said it had pointed ears, long legs and feet fitted with talons. Like Collie, he fled from it. One of the mountain-dwelling uirsige, the “hairy men” known as “bigfeet” in North America. The Himalayan Yeti. BEINN NA CAILLEACH, “Mountains of the Winter Hag,” located on the Isle of Skye. Prominent features of the
landscape which carry storm clouds throughout the months of the “little sun.” Their crags supply freezing rain and wet weather to the moors below. It used to be said that the Hag in the form of a white mare was often seen leaping between these mountains. See Cailleach Bheurr. Winter is sometimes said to originate on these and similar heights of land.
BEIRE, beir, catch, bring forth a hidden object; Ir. beirim, OIr. berim, the Cy. cymmeryd, to take, to accept, Br. kemeret (com-ber), the Indo-European bher from which all these as well as the Latin fero and the English word bear. Related words are beer, and boar as well as the Gaelic beirm, to rise up, hence barm or yeast. The Latin equivalent is fermentum. Monson says that “In the Elder Eddas it is said that ol (ale) among men is called bior among the gods.” This drink of the gods was the so-called Gaelic fraoch ool, “heather ale” “the secret of which has long been considered irretrivably lost.” When the Roman traveller Pytheas came to Pictland he found the natives involved in brewing this potent drink. It has even been suggested that the Scots were lured from Ireland by the fame of this concoction. Some of these Pictish breweries have survived in Galloway although they no longer supply the old product. There are still pearshaped vats about sixteen feet long by eight deep, all
situated on southern hill slopes near swift-running streams. In the twelfth century the German brewing method was introduced into Scotland and the local drink was gradually superseded by ale derived from malted barley. In Galloway, however, this earlier drink was brewed until the last century. The term beer originally implied a drink brewed with an infusion of hops, but the name now applies to any malted liquor, ale being, commonly, but not exclusively of lighter colour. See fraoch ôl. BEIREGONIUM, “Place of the Wounded Bear.” The supposed seat of the Pictish kings, the equivalent of the Scottish Dunadd and the Irish Tara. Support is given for this in the fact that the Island of Lismore, the known burial ground of royalty is only one and a half miles distant from this coastal location. Like the Scottish capital this was a multi-layered structure incorporating several stone forts on a single hill. Located near Oban. BEIST, beast, monster, beast of prey, wretch. BEIST NAN COILLE DUBTHACH, the “Beast of the Burnt Woods,” having reference to a creature said to inhabit the charred remmains of the old forest of Sutherlandshire, in the northwest of mainland Scotland. It is said that the Scandinavian vikings fired these lands to destroy cover for natives who might lie in ambush, but the locals had otherideas, insisting that the woods were burned down by a fire-breathing beast. The monster was said to have been killed with arrows by St. Gilbert, and the folk of the land are said to have buried it between Dornoch and Skibo, and covered it with a memorial known as “The Beast’s Stone.” See nathair. BEITH, BHEITHE, first letter of the Old Gaelic alphabet. (be), birch. One of the nine magical woods used to kindle the druidic fires. The others were the willow, hazel, alder, ash, yew, elm and the oak. OIr. bethe, Cy. bedw, Bry. bezuenn, Celtic root betva, Lat. betula, Fr. boule. Note that it was said that men should seek “the birch of the waterfall” for
ritual purposes, and this tree was the totem of the House of Don. It is thus attached to the Oolathair who is the Old Norse Alfadr or “Allfather.” In the Heimskringla Erling Monsen adds this useful note: “Odin’s vine was the scaldic art of poetry, (but more literally) the buds on the birch tree.” In Old Norse these buds were also entitled birkibrum, and indeed “brooms” were fashioned from the nether ends of the birch tree. Notice that the touch of windblown birch “fingers” after dark was considered to lead to certain death. Thus, the tree was seen as the embodiment of some dark lord such as Cromm. BEITHER, BEITHIR, (be-hir), bear, a snake, a serpent; any untrustworthy beast, any wild beast, a monster, a huge marine monster, in particular the skate. Ir. wild beast, in particular a bear, cf. ON, betrix, Latin, bestia, English bear. It was once commonlace to place the beither mor, or “great snake” about the neck to ensure “enchantment, spells and aall sorts of adventures.” In the tales it was said that the great snake became part of the form of the wearer. "The sages built an observatory on the top of Mount Cliatramal (North Uist) where they were measuring and taking observations of the skies during the night. At times they would be building fires here and there, sometimes grinding conusg, sealbhag, gille guirmein, iris root and so on, in order to put colour into their fire. There was the time when they were returning at night (from observations)...They were descending on the north-west face, making for Dorghais, the next hill...(when) the sky opened up with a fearful barrage of thunder and lightning. The next thing they noticed was that a fireball (meteorite) had struck the south-west shoulder of Mairemheall, and that area of the hill was set all afire, the soil and undergrowth swept away in the path of the fireball, and by the force of storm. Though the sages (druids) were understanding completely the natural causes of such happenings, the Church did not. The Church had the opinion that this was
caused by a large venomous serpent, which the Evil One sent to scourge the people and they were in the habit of calling upon St. Columba to protect them from this beither. They (churchmen) were spreading tales about the Sages of the White Mountain to the effect that they were visited by a judgement of God because they took unlawful measurements of earth and sky from their Observatory." Thus it was that a portion of Mairemheall is still named Sgriob na Beitheir, “The Blow of the Serpent.” At a later date, a hurricane blew in from the ocean and devastated the township of Balemore. Prior to this, the sages had built fires on the hilltops of the adjacent loch and their observations pointed to a tropical storm. There warnings were not taken, and afterwards the Christian clerics spread word that the pagan fires had roused an invisible beast of the air. Since that time the loch has been called Loch na Beisde, the Loch of the Beast.” (from The Hebridean Connection). BEL. obs. Oir., the chief speaker for a group of folk. the "mouth" of the tribe; the leader. bi, to be, to exist, In Gaelic. the word continues in several forms, notably beul, mouth, derived. Certainly it is related to balgum, a mouthfull, and bailceach, a strong man, the chief of a baile, or township. Also note: bealltuinn, or balefire, the fires of Be-al and the time when they were lit, i.e. May Day. The wordsmith, Alexander Macbain adds that the word confers with the Anglo-Saxon bael white (like intense fire) and with the Gaullish god-names Belenos and Belisama. "Baal" was never a word which was the sole property of the Phoenicians, being rather "any of a multitude of local deities of the Semetic races, each distinguished by the name of his own place or of some distinctive character or attribute. Thus the Hebrews used the name in the sense of "lord", and we see Biblical references to the Baal of Tyre, of Sidon, of Lebanon, and of Tarus. Of particular note was Baal-ze-bub, liteerally the Lord of Flies, sometimes confounded with Satan or the Devil. Baal became a
compound in many eastern place names and in the names of people, some examples being: Hannibaal (in favour with Baal); Hasdrubaal (the helper of Baal); Baal-hermon (place of the Baal named Hermon); and Baal-peor (place of the Baal named Peter). Something very similar is found in Gaelic places such as Baile-nan-cailleach (place of the old woman goddess); Baile-an-luig (place of the god Lugh); and Bail'uaine (place of the green-coloured lord). Thus the Olaithir is represented in those who have particulary large portions of his spirit. Some of these nature gods are the elemental gods, those whose existence was independent of time and who shared in the indestructibilty and immortality of the Oolaithir. Among all the northern tribes the will of the Allfather was seen as the impetus for the creation but the elementals were credited with performing the physical tasks that led to the rise of the worlds and life forms from darkling swirls of dust. The immortal god had no restrictions on his power, except those he willingly placed on himself when he created the elementals. Sir James George Fraser noticed that these spirits of nature are distinguished from the creator god and mortal gods by the fact that their magic is confined to a single department of nature. He has also noted: "Their names are generic, not proper." This means that the names they are given are synonyms for fire, air and water. Wherever they were found, the three prime nature spirits were members of a class, having no marked individuality, no agreed upon origins, and (in general) a threadbare history. Men agreed that the elementals were a surly lot, liable to bring storms of fire, wind and water upon men without warning or care for their needs or desires. Forest fires, tornados and dangerous eddies of water were seen as embodied powers that ravaged in spite of sacrifice, prayer and praise. Propitiation moved neither the creator-god nor his god-spirits although occasional attempts were made to influence the latter through sympathetic magic: When the
earth was dry individuals sometimes sprinkled droplets of water on it hoping to get the attention of the water god, who might respond by creating showers on a larger scale. Where the sun was wanting hunters sometimes fired flaming arrows into the clouds hoping to catch the "eye" of the sun god on the other side of the overcast. If a little wind was needed to propel a sailing ship, a cloth might be flapped in the air with the intention of arousing the legarthic wind-god. These rites of the elder world could be performed by any individual, at any time or place as the ocassion demanded. No temples were built to honour the triad of elementals and no special class of individual was needed to act as priests to the tribe. BEL-AIN, The circle of Bel, i..e. The Sun. The latter part of the compound is ann, circle or revolution from the matriarchal goddess Anu or Dane. The word also implies a living object. BELTENE, (Bal-tinna), one of several names given the god of death. Corresponds with Bile and the Cymric god Beli (the husband of Don). See Nathair. See also Bealltuinn, his holiday. Note the correspondence with beul, a mouth, a devourer. The Erse form is sometimes given as Ceiteane. which confers perfectly with Aod. See also Beul and Cambeul. BENEN, the son of an Irish chieftain converted as a child by Patrick. He succeeded Patrick as bishop at Armagh. BEO, alive, living, quick, sprightly, living flesh; obs. Cattle, beol, a robber after the god Bil. BEO-IOBAIRT, a living scarifice. BEOLG, hindsight as opposed to fios fithich, foresight. Beo, living. An ability thought dependant upon the familiar, or befind of an individual. Those who were "gifted" were capable of directing
these invisible spirits to run into the past seeking information, termed "hindsight." Once there, the human directed his life-force into his double, allowing sight through the eyes of this distant observer. During this time, the vacated human body became a relatively inactive shell, or might fall into a coma or trance-state. On January 2, 1950 Miss E. F. Smith was travelling by car on the road from Brechin when her car skidded into a ditch "just past Aldbar School." She had to abandon her car, and being on a back-road was faced with walking ten miles to her own home. As she neared Letham village, about two miles en-route, she saw moving torches in the dark. Some of the torches gradually approached to within a distance that she estimated as "about 50 yards." At that the little dog who had accompanied her became frantic and would only quiet when parked on her left shoulder. Feeling "a positive disinclination to linger" she fled toward the village. Interviewed afterwards by The Journal of the Society for Psychical Research (Volume 49), she said she had seen figures clearly within the light and had the impression of some men skirting a non-existent lake. She thought that the nearest were "looking for their dead...the one I was watching, the one nearest the roadside, would bend down and turn a body over, and if he didn't like the look of it, just turned it back on its face and went on...They looked as if they were in...dark tights the whole way up...a sort of overall...very long torches were in their left hands...very red...Afterwards I wondered what they were made of - tar, I suppose." Along with other evidence, these facts were used to deduce that Miss Smith had witnessed the closing events of the Battle of Nechhtanesmere, which had involved the Picts and Scots May 20, 685 A.D. Although there is no lake in the vicinity at the present, it was in place in the seventh century. (see The Scots Magazine, January, 1980, p. 397 for a detailed account. BEN-URNADNA, “wife in adversity.” a contracted concubine, avaliable to those poorly disposed in all but wealth. Concubinage was also open to legally married men, but the
contract had to be renewed yearly, usually at the Beltane. The wife lost none of her rights from the presence of a concubine and could refuse her admission to the house. It may be recalled that the druid named Dubhthach impregnated a concubine. In reaction his legal wife threatened divorce, which would have taken away her coibche, her savings and her tinnscra. Considering these things, the druid separated himself from the love of his life. BETH-LUIS-NION, the oghamic alphabet, named for the first three letters. The ogham was named after its inventor, Ogma, a son of Dagda. Early on, this system of representing sounds with symbols enabled men to magically embed information on wooden or parchment surfaces, retrieving them at will. "Word-sorcery" applied inscriptions to runes, or dice, which were "sorted", or randomly thrown in seeking omens. The alphabet consisted to twenty symbols arranged on either side of a central stem line, the number and position of the strokes from this base signifying the sound or meaning that was intended. This alphabet was anything but compact and when the Christians introduced the Roman alphabet this older form of magic was swept away. Much of the early writing was done on boundary markers hoping to dissuade boundary-stone movers. Some of the ogham was cut into the roofing stones of underground caverns as protective magic, and even yet these symbols are used to help date the souterrains. O’Riordain advises archaeological field workers to be particularly observant for markings within caverns, "since many of our ogham stones have come to light in this manner." BEUL, BEAL, BEOL, (bial) mouth, opening, orifice, approach, nearness. Beolachasd, an artful speaker, a prattler, a babbler. After the god Bil. BEUL-AITHRIS, traditions, beul, mouth, aithris, to tell; oral history. The former word remembers the pagan god Bel, Baal or Beall, see entry under Beltene and Bealltuinn. It was the custom of the "senachies" or historians to recount
this information formally, and informally, at the time of the four Quarter-Days. BEULANAICH, magical allure with words. BEUL-CHRABHACH, “lip-religion,” cant, hypocracy. BEUL-CURAM, mouth-keeper, beul, mouth; curam, care, keep. A spokesman for a god or god-king. The first of these was Ogma "of the silver tongue" a spokesman for his father the Dagda. An individual entrusted with the oral exhortations, histories, blights and blessings of the druidic class. BEUL-DHRAOIDHEACHD, the“druidic-mouthings,”incantation, enchantment. beul-dhruid, silence, to shut the mouth using magic. BEUL SIOS ORT! An interjection which is considered a potent curse: “May you be down at the mouth.” BEUM, stroke, blow, wound, gasj, taunt, sarcasm, insult, reproach, torrent, knell, misfortune, a gap. BEUM SGEITHE, severe sarcasm; striking the shield as a sound of alarm or challenge. BEUM SUL, the varied effects following use of the evil eye, any optical illusion or delusion, a disease of the eye. BEUR, BHEURR, BEIRE, shrill, sonorous, loud-lunged, having a shrill voice, less often, genteel, well-spoken, eloquent, sometimes used ironically, clean, sharp, witty, sarcastic, pointed. Thus we have the Cailleach bheurr, or “Winter Hag.” Similar to the pronoun bhur, “your.” See the next. BEURLA, speech, language, one with a clipped tongue, an Englishman. See next entry. BEURLAD, oral lore, beur, sharp, pointed, clear, a gibe, a jeer, from bearr, to cut short, a short tale as opposed to
those of heroic size. In most communities the long narratives were traditionally recited by men, these tales were told by women. BEURLA NAN FILIDH, poetical language, Language of the filids or bards. BHA FIRID AIGE, bha, deadly, a charm, "killing speech;” firionn, male; aigeach, young horse; a magic wand, the wand of the sithe, the mind's eye, poetry, particularly satirical chanting. Wands of wood were seen as totem spirits of the carrier, and thus, an extension of his arm and magical powers. With the common charm, an arm was sometimes extended to heighten the force of the promise of destruction. See beoir. BHLIADHN UR, A', (a vlean oor), bliadna, year; ur, fresh, new; the New Year, new style, commencing January 1. The New Year, old style, is still celebrated in some places eleven to fifteen days after this date. The first of the Laithean araidh (special days) celebrated as the beginning of a new year was at first the Samhainn, which fell on November first, but was a continuing part of a five or ten-day firefeast. The feast and entertainment, as opposed to pagan religious rites, was scheduled for the daylight hours of what is now November first. With the druid priests removed from the scene, the secular crowd set up markets and fairs wherever people gathered, and politicians used this time to solicit favours from the Ard Righ (High King) and his courtiers. Provincial representative assemblies were a part of the feis-anna (feast and fire) in larger communities, and the fairs were welcome relief from the serious rituals of religion and politics. Originally, the fire-festivals were held for only one evening and the following day, but large gatherings prompted other diversions and the celebrations soon invaded days on either side of the main events. Athletic games
were usually a part of New Year's Day celebrations and some of the fairs sold crafts. "Fast-food" outlets were required to satisfy visitors from the countryside and marriage brokerage booths were set up on the fair grounds. As this was essentially a gathering for religious and political purposes, the "king's peace" was declared to keep rival clans from decimating one another. During all of Samhainn, fugitives from justice walked freely among their equals. At this time, and in that needed to reach and return from festivities, no debtor could be arrested or even reminded of his debt. On the eve of this, or any other feisanna, all personal ornaments, rings, bracelets, and personal gear which had been pawned, had to be loaned to the "owners" for use during the assembly. Any creditor who refused, could be fined or even stripped of his own possessions, so that he arrived looking shoddy on days when the rest of the nation was dressed in finery. Because the Samhainn brought together a unruly mix of friends and foes, and whisky was common, the king's peace meant that anyone who fought was instantly put to death by the forces of the ard-righ. In the days of Saint Columba, church sanctuary was unable to save the son of a king who had broken the peace at a rural gathering. Because of the evenness of the law, the Samhainn usually passed "without crime, violence, or dishonour." Since actual bloodshed was forbidden, the Scots and the Erse, or Irish, channelled clan-rivalries into "sporting" events, which were very lively. In addition to eating more than they were able, the people heard the laws recited by a member of the druidic class. After this onerous business was past, they got relaxation by listening to music or the individual histories recited by clan story-tellers. Aside from watching the games, or arranging a marriage, some clansmen met to forge an economic or political union or to call quits to long-standing arguments. Of the two fire-festivals, Samhainn is considered more ancient than Beltane. The first of November, Old Style,
was regarded as New Year's Day down to the last century. Manx mummers used to go on the rounds on the evening before, singing in Cumric, "Tonight is New Year's Night, Hogunnau!" Again, throughout Ireland and Scotland, all fires were extinguished on Samhainn Eve and re-kindled in the New Year as symbolic of new beginnings. The New Year's Day, Old Style, was at first named the Samhainn or Samthain, and this followed Oidhche Challainn. literally the "night of the dog." The Christians preferred to call that holiday All Saint's Eve, All Hallow's Eve, or Hallowe'en thus avoiding unpleasant reminders of gods whose day had passed. In the most remote times, the half-yearly celebrations consisted of religious ceremonies: a fire and a feast. Soon, the secular crowd forced to attend these happenings, added a fair while politicians used fragments of spare time to solicit the High-King or cement alliances. As a result, periodic multi-purpose assemblies appeared in both Scotland and Ireland. In the end the Samhainn became a complex of days on either side of the rites including at least legislative assemblies, secular entertainment, and in most cases marriage brokerages. A few regional fairs added craft booths and at some an important concern was the selection, examination and certification of craftspeople. The religious aspects of the New Year's celebrations was termed the "feisanna", or feast and fire. Such occasions brought out an unusual mix of Celts, so that the King's peace had to be proclaimed for all. During the period of Samhainn, all fugitives from justices were unbound and walked as free men among equals (and this included witches and the sidh). This equivalent of "Pax Romana" held during the time of travel required to get to and from the fairs as well as during the five or six days which they consumed. In this time, no debtor could be arrested and imprisoned or even reminded that he owed money. In the days before this great feisanna, all personal ornaments, rings, bracelets, and
personal gear which had been pawned because of financial distress had to be loaned to the owners for their use during the days of assembly. Any creditor, who refused to comply with the law would be fined and in extreme cases might be stripped of his own possessions and finery, at a time when the entire nation was dressed at its best. Because the ceremonies demanded a mixing of friend and foe, and whisky and malt beverages were freely offered the king's peace had to insist that those who fought be instantly put to death. In the days of Saint Columba, his sanctuary was unequal in saving the son of a king who had broken the peace of SAmhainn. Because of the evenness of the law, these special days typically passed "without crime, violence, or dishonour!" Since actual bloodshed was forbidden, clan rivalries were diverted into "sporting" events, which tended to be quite lively. The feast-day was supposed to provide relief from the previous evening which was always a time of physical excess. In addition to eating all they could stomach, the people had their laws and rights recited by some member of the druidic or the Christian priestly class. After this serious business, the gathering turned to music, poetry, the recitation of family histories and the games for relaxation. Those with money went to the various stalls to buy, while those without manned the booths, hoping to sell. Aside from the marriage brokers, there were clan tents where political or economic alliances were sought and old enmities put to rest. All Hallow Day was probably a less suitable substitute name, than All Saint's Day. Hallow is directly linked with the word holy, being based on the Anglo-Saxon "hoalig". The word is hardly appropriate to Christian aims, being linked with "holly", which was much used in the rites of the Dawn Religion. In addition, it is similar to the Anglo-Saxon "holen", this being the root of "hole", or place of concealment, all confluent with hill, hall, helmet, and "hell", the kingdom of witches, the damned, and the little
people. The New Year was usually an anti-climax to Hogamanay. In Scottish parts of Atlantic Canada it used to be the practice to reserve a bucket of hot water for the first visitor on New Year's Day. Those who were familiar with the tradition arrived with a dog or cat under their arm, and thrust this animal before them as they knocked at the door. In elder days, as now, New Year's Day was a feast day as opposed to the fire-burning time. In Christian circles this day of recuperation was called Yearmas, and was a time for Church ceremonies. This day was closely tied to other special days in Scotland, and these have rites which are a better reflection of what the Old New Year (November 1) used to be. BI, to be, to exist, bith, life, existence, being, obs. custom, habit, order, law. bith-beo, everlasting. bithe, obs., female; bithidh, lad, The old dawn-religion said that the creator-god delegated his life force, variously referred to as "ghost", "spirit" or anam to underlings who were collectively identified as the elemental-gods. These immortals, no less whimsical than their immediate superior, existed in all the world's myths, being identified by the Gaels as Lugh, Ler and Myrddin (Merlin). These correspond with the Old Norse elementals Loki, Hler and Kari, and have names that are synonymous with fire, water and air, respectively. Each elemental was supposed to have absolute authority over his own medium but was ineffective elsewhere. Thus Ler, the god of the sea could raise storms of water, but not of fire and wind. The early magicians claimed control over these gods and a variety of earth-deities, who were perceived as their servants. In those days it was assumed that all matter, organic and inorganic, contained some degree of the "divine spark", the soul-stuff imparted to everything at the beginning of time. The ability of a plant or animal to move
was considered evidence of high spirit, the highest degree being posesssed by those objects which were most mobile and artful. Disease and death were considered an effect of the gradual seeping away of birth-spirit, a loss which could be reversed by eating, drinking and sexual activities, which increased the spirit of one organism at the expense of another. In each case, spirit was thought to flow from the weaker to the stronger individual, and those who accumulated great energies through excesses were considered god-like. BIAST, BEISTE, a beast, a monster, a worthless human, mannerless child, niggard; also biast, abuse, a metaphoric use of the word. Often used as a descriptive of the Devil or his devils. Cf. aibhistear. BIATACH, BIADHTACH, a raven, a provider, a farmer, host, glutton, from biadh, food. As opposed to bran; this word represents the bird as having desirable characteristics and was probably formulated by those having it as a totemanimal. The raven figures with the stag, bull, and horse as a cult-aniaml totem for solar-deities. The bird appears on pottery and vessels regarded as having a ritual chacter. In Ireland it appears on the La Tene sword pommel from Lisnacrogher, where two small birds are seen. Ravens are also cast into a horse-goad from Dunsaverney, where they are seen sharing space with swans. This bird has a special affinity with the western seadeities and was the totem of both the Dagda and his “daughter Mhorrigan. The bird’s use in cult-ritual is not restricted to ancient times. The bird is found in later Celtic folk tales and local legends of Ireland and Scotland, where it is taken as a bird of evil-omen and as a formn favoured by witches and anti-Christian spirits. A striking example is from seventeenth century Sutherlandshire: At the village of Halmadry it was customary to hold Christian prayer meetings in the house of a certain resident each week. One day while the service was
in progress, a large raven was seen within the house in the dim light, sitting on a pillar by the house. The worshippers claimed to feel “a great evil” enamatiing from this bird, but were bound in their places, unable to move, beseiged by a horrible fascination. Less religious men, standing outside the house, were surprised at the sudden hush from within, and entered the place to see what had taken place. They were equally gripped by the strange spoell of this “bird.” Others arrived over a two-day span, and when more men were swallowed by this haunted-house, those outside decided to de-thatch it. When this was done the people within could again move. It was said that the power of evil had become so heavy wityhin the place that the unmoving worshippers had come to a strange silent agreement to sacrifice the householder’s son to the bird spirit in order to escape their stasis. The natives of that village are still wary about discussing this incident. The tale is, of course, reminiscent of the story of Cornu, the great black raven that lived in St. Patrick’s Purgatorium on Lough Derg in Ireland. This creature supposedly a demon cast in bird form by the saint, it thought to have represented some much more antique birddeity which inhabited caverns here. The Cave of Cruachan had a similar tradition of housing a malignant bird from the Otherworld. This creature periodically emerged to blight and distress the surrounding lands. BIGEAN BIGEIN BRIDE, “Bride’s Bird,” the linnet. The first word confers with ceitean (which, see) and ceit, beginning. The common Old Word finch, which feeds upon the seeds flax and hem, plants used to weave linen. Bridd was the household goddess and the patron of weavers and spinners. This bird was her totem and travelling-form. BIL, BILÉ, BEUL, (bee-lah), the edge of things, lip, Mouth, a blossom, a beard, the margain of anything, the edge, a cluster of trees, leaf blade, the root bhi, split away from other things, dead, from the god Bil or Bile, a son of Mil drowned in the invasion of Ireland. Later confounded with
the various death-gods. Sometimes represented as the father of Mil. See Bal. The continental Belenos, known in Welsh mythology as Beli. Corresponds with beul, a mouth, a devouring opening. His festival was the Beultinne. beul, mouth, to swallow, Hebrew, bil, rancid butter, bilslear, a sorry fellow, a glutton, “one who is all mouth,” Eng. blade, from the As root bhi, bhei, split, the Cy. myl, which may be the G. mil or Mil, a thousand, leading many soldiers, Skr. bila, a hole, mouth, vessel, etc. Compare these with OIr. ebelta or epelta, dead. “It was on a Thurday, the first of May, and the seventeenth day of the moon, that the sons of Miled arrived in Ireland. Partholan landed in Ireland on the first of May, but a less auspicious day of the week and moon; and it was on the first of May, as well, that pestilence came which in the space of one week destroyed utterly his race. The first of May was sacred to Beltené, one of the names of the god of Death, the god who also gives life to men and takes it away from them again. Thus it was the feast day of this god that the sons of Miled began their conquest of Ireland.” Presumably because they had taken good care of protocol they were the successors to all the folk who tried to encompass this land. In Gaelic mythology Danu, the mother goddess cohabited, in winter, with the Death-god. In Welsh mythology this goddess was Dön, and their descendants comprised the House of Don, which included the various land-gods and goddesses of Ireland. From this it can be seen that Bil is the summer-god known as the Dagda. Lugh is regarded as descendant from this line. The sea giants, or Fomorians, were a side-issue produced when Ler, the son of the Oolathair, united himself with a daughter of Danu to create the rival House of Ler. The two families of the Gaels were allied through intermarriages which continued into historical times. Ler is regarded as the patron of thermal springs and thus makes contact with the Old Norse Lokki, the god of underground fire, whose daughter was called Hel.
The connection between the druids and Bil is suggested in the following quotation from Ausonius (third century A.D.): “If report does not lie, you were sprung from the stock of the druids of Bayeux, and traced your hallowed line from the temple of Belenus.” This is also the name given sacred trees, and occurs in place-names such as The Danish Bilum and the French Bilem. The Irish goddess-queen Mebd had particular trees sacred to her and these were termed the Bile Meidbe. Birds and squirrels found in such trees were said to sit upon her shoulders, literally and figuratively. The fact that Bil was a sun-god is made clear by the fact that some texts represent him as, “the father of the gods and men.” His name also translates as “the bright one.” He is, further, listed as the mate of Boann, Anu, Danu or Dana , who is more often acknowledged to be the “wife” of Dagda, In some texts Bil is stated to be the father of King Milesius, the patriarch of the Milesians, the final conquerors of ancient Ireland. Significantly it is said that Bile had his palace in Tir-nan-Scaith, “The Land of Shadows,” the place of the dead. There are many locales in Europe named after this death-god, for example Billingsgate, London, formerly Belinos’ Gate. His name-sake is also counted among the legendary kings of Britain. We have in that list the Latin Cunobelinos Rex (the Celtic form is Cunobel). William Shakespeare borrowed the personality of this High-King and gave him even greater glory as Cymbeline. The Beultuinn, which still identifies the Gaelic MayDay is less frequently called the Cetshamhain, “the first weather of Summer,” or “Summer’s Start.” It was customary to observe the feast of Bil by kindling the Beltane, Bel-fires or Bale-fires. These honoured the constructive powers of the sun as represented in the Dagda and his son Lugh, who represented Bil transformed at the end of winter.
In a similar manner, the female element was referred to in the winter months as the Cailleach Bheur or “Winter Hag.” On May Eve she threw her “hammer,” representing foul weather and bareness, “under the mistletoe, and coupled once more with the summer god as Samh or Mhorrigan, becoming a reincarnate virgin for each new festival. Thus the reincarnate death-god, represented in the eastern sun was praised for having overcome the forces of darkness found at the setting of the sun. Sometimes this unending struggle between summer and winter, or darkness and night, was represented as the temporary victory of Dagda over his personal enemy Cromm, “The Crooked.” Thus, periodically, “the crooked was made straight,” the crops, the animals of men, and men themselves, being prompted to sexual unions, and the promises of yearly renewal and ultimate reincarnation. At these times of the year all fires in Celtdom were extinguished and rekindled by the druids using friction between two bits of oak, the wood sacred to the gods of fire and lightning. The sons of Miled were considered as "an entirely human race" yet their origin was as problematical as that of the Tutha daoine. They were led by King Miled, or Milus (confering with the Gaelic "milidh", a champion), who is represented as a god in inscriptions from ancient Hungary. There he is said to be the son of Bile (the Gaelic "bil" or "bile", the lips of the mouth, a good politician) and Bile is identified as the god of Death. His counterpart in Gaul (France) was Dis, corresponding with the Anglo-Saxon Teus, whose name appears in Tuesday. The Romans identified Dis as Dispater (the Father Dis) and Julius Caesar said this was the god from whom all Gauls claimed descent. His name is embodied in a number of compound words which suggest his character, viz. disturbance, disaster, disapproval, dislike. In some respects Nuada may be considered a death god, with Lugh representing the life force, But Balor, the Lord of the "ord", or hammer, is more closely identified with chaos and the Land of the Dead. The Roman writers thought that "the Land of the Dead"
was "in the western extremnity" of Great Britain", separated from the land of the living by an impassible wall. It was attainable by every man after death, the way being made easy by a boat, which passed between the land of the living and that of the dead with one stroke of the oar in one hour of time ending at midnight: "Some mysterious law, indeed, brings together in the night the great spaces which divide the domain of the living from that of the dead...It was the same law that enabled Ith (a son of Miled) one fine winter evening to perceive from the Tower of Bregon, in the Land of the Dead, the shores of Ireland, or the land of the living. The phenomenon took place in winter; for winter is a sort of night; winter like night, lowers the barriers between the regions of Death and those of Life; like night winter gives life the semblance of death, and suppresses, as it were, the dread abyss that lies between the two." 1. BILÉ, obs. bird’s bill. blossom, a beard. BILISTEAR, a mean individual, a person to be pitied, a glutton, EIr. bille, mean, paltry. See Bil. BILL, obs. a leper, a fool, bille, mean, weak, a rag. BINNDEAL, head-covering, bearing a badge of authority, a crown. From binn, a sentence or verdict, thus one holding authority over others. BIOCIONN, a goat-skin, skin, the human prepuce or foreskin of the penis, boc-cionn, buck-skin. The OIr. cenni, which is the second part of the word is our semen. The Cym. cen, skin; Br. kenn; ON. skinn, hence our English word. The definition of this word helps to clarify the intent of the Hogamanay rann which repeats these words: Calluinn a bhuilg, Calluinn a bhuilg, Buail am boicionn, Buail am boicionn...
Hogamanay of the sack (the scrotum), Hogamanay of the sack, Strike the goat-skin. Strike the goat skin... Later it intones: Down with it! Up with it!
This skin was called the casein-uchd and was sometimes formed as a oval purse used to collect alms. In other situations this sheep, cow, goat, or deer hide was singed at each household hearth and used to mark the foreheads of animals and humans, thus ensuring their fertility and prosperity in the coming year. Thus, as McNeil mentions, the Calluinn holiday is, to all intents, the “Calend of the Prepuce,” and has reference to the old fertility rites. BIOR, BEOIR (beer), obs. well, fountain, water,. Currently, a goad, a sting, a prick, a pointed stick, a speller, a stake, a cooking spit, a divining rod for finding lost articles, water or minerals. OIr. bir, Lat. ocru, a tree. Thus G. biorach, pointed. Given in the oldest dictionaries as “water” or “well.” Possibly allied with the old Celtic bervo, to well up, seethe, OIr. tipra, a well, G. tobar, Eng. burn. Possibly allied with beo, living + ir, matured. Men were often thought of as liberated tree spirits, thus certain trees were sought as totems. Cut wood was considered to remain spiritually active and any implicit powers were added to those of the spell-maker. The wand was observed to direct and focus the power of the gisreag or lightning-bolt. In addition, spellers were used to retrieve the sounds of words from their magical embedment on parchments or runes. "People had a certain belief in certain signs that occur. And there was one which they called the augury, which consisted to two wood chips crossed over each other on the floor. If a person happened to be walking where there were wooden sticks on the floor and knocked the two of them with his foot without
intending to; he or she would put them over each other in the form of a cross and (others) would say, "Do you not see the fine augury on the floor? It won't be long before you get a letter." And I believe when they saw it they would expect good news according to how good the Augury looked." (Tales Until Dawn, p. 209). See bha firid aige and next entry. BIORACH UISG, a heifer, a colt, Ir. biorach, a cow-calf + uisg, water-calf. A calpach. See also eac uisg. Hornless cattle from the deep, side-forms of the Daoine-mara. Resembling the cailpech and the “bull from the sea.” BIOR GOBLANACH, a pointed stick, gobhal, fork; also known as the slat-n'-nathair, the equivalent of the Anglo-Saxon's naidre-tunge, or “adder's tongue.” Corresponds with the Anglo-Norman "divining-rod." Note that the Gaels referred to the Anglo-Saxons as "the coiled serpent people," making it reasonable to suppose that the first of these rods may have been carried by the walkyra of Woden, or perhaps by the Old Norse god Odin himself. He corresponds with the Gaelic Dagda, sometimes termed the Oolathair (Allfather). The Dagda's alter-ego was called the Nathair, as indicated in slat-n'-nathair, the staff of the one who is not the father, or the “serpent's staff.” A device carried by the Gaelic death deities, including the female Cailleach Bheurr. "A "y"-shaped cutting from a tree, used to detect hidden metals, streams, treasures, crimes and thieves." The first recorded use of a divining rod is in the Bible (Genesis 30:36), so it is not true that the rod was first utilized by German prospectors in the fourteenth century, as one expert contends. They have been traditionally possessed by the sighe, elfs, fairies and the druids. Romulus, one of the co-founders of Rome, held a forked rod aloft when he uttered his prophecies, and other noted classical users have included Medea, Circe, Bacchus, and the humans, Zoroaster and Pythagoras. The ability to make use of this device is considered a
"gift" of the bafinn or the gods, usually a matter of inheritance rather than education and practise. Those men who were related to the Fomorian sea-giants were considered capable of making use of the bior-goblanachean. Adults uncertain of their status may examine their upturned palms, the thumbs turned outwards: If the lines commencing at the base of the first and third fingers appear to unite across the two hands, it is said that person possesses an dara sealladh (which, see) and is capable of using a divining rod. The "y"-shaped stick needs to be cut from a tree or shrub found in a well-watered valley, since its operation in detecting water depends on the principle of sympathetic magic that "like attracts like." The hazel, alder, apple, beech, and poplar trees will provide wood for the purpose. The thinner arms of the crutch are cut from upper (smaller) branches and should be about eighteen inches in length. The single thicker lower branch should be about four inches long. In use, the two longer arms are gripped in the hands, thumbs turned outward, curled fingers uppermost, both lightly held. The short arm is first arranged in a nearly vertical position, in against the body. In seeking water, the diviner proceeds across the land until he encounters an underground stream. At this, the free end of the stick will turn downward, forcibly, of its own accord. Sometimes this force is so strong that bark is twisted from the handgrips; some diviners therefore strip this portion to prevent handburns. In dousing for metal, or oil, a small sample of that substance is fitted into a groove at the free end or touched to the rod. Divining rods so treated will not respond to water or other unwanted substances. In seeking dead bodies, a bit of clothing from the missing person is slotted into the rod. It is said that the "baobhs" used this rod as a means of transport, in the same manner as the witch's broom. Note that this transportation devices had limited range, being reported to have carried the magicians to rooflevel, where they were met by, and carried off on the backs
of, invisible "bogans," spirits of the upper-air. BIORACH, BIORAICHE, (beerich), sharp-pointed, dog-fish shark. The shark was considered an incarnate ocean-spirit, a representative of Mannn mac Ler, and thus dangerous company for those travelling at sea. The totem of the goddess Mhorrigan. BIRLINN, a galley or bark, MIr. beirling, said formed from N. byrthingr, a ship of burden. Note their verb bera, to bear weight, the Eng. verb bear. BIROG, gush, twitch, or tingle. A druidess said to have aided Cian of Contje in gaining access to the crystal tower of Balor of the Evil Eye. Biorg later rescued the son of Contje and Ethlinn when Balor had his grandson cast into the sea. The child survived and grew to be the sun-god Lugh “of the Long Arm.” In some of the tales Manann mac Ler is credited with aiding Cian, later becoming Lugh’s godfather. BITH, ITH, bithe, the world, existence, being, “quiet.” appearances vs. reality; a coy person; obs. custom, habit, order, law, wound, blow, contest, woman. Bith-beo, everlasting, evergreen, everliving, perennial. Used as a prefix denoting “ever.” OIr. bhuith, bithrol eigseach, metaphysical discussion. bitheolas, metaphysics; from the root bi, to live. Cy. byd, Br. bed, Gaul, bitu-, root similar to Eng. verb be. After Bith, "a grandson of Noah (Nuada)." His folk emerged from the Mediterranean or more probably, the western Atlantic. Also a name given the “son of the Nodah, “ the father of Lady Cassir, who fleeing the World-Flood, established a kingdom in Ireland and died there as the waters followed his expedition out of the Mediterranean. Sometimes Bith is equated with Bas, a god of death. In the ancient tales it is always Munster that is represented as the primal world or place of origins for Ireland. Because it had this reputation every invader tried to legitimize his landing by sending some part of his fleet to these shores. Although the northerners said otherwise, the kings of
Munster always traced their descent from Lugaid (a descendant of Lugh) son of Ith. Unfortunately, gods and heroes were routinely reincarnated in these early days and another Ith came to the fore several thousands of years after Lady Cassir’s voyage. This Ith is represented in later folklore as the son of Bregon and is said to have dwelt in a great tower which is father built in Spain. From the ramparts the young man, who possessed the gift of long-sight, said that he could see Ireland and he resolved to go there. He eventually sailed with ninety retainers and landed in County Kerry. He arrived at a time when monarchs of the north and south were arguing about their bounds. Seeing a supposed neutral, the kings asked Ith to suggest a settlement. When he did as asked the northerners were dissatisfied and killed him, sending his body back to Tir-nan-Bas, or “Spain.” His relatives saw this as an exceptional excuse to invade and gain new territory, thus followed the so-called Milesian Invasions of Ireland. The sons of Mil deliberately confused Ith son of Lugaid with their own Ith and thus gave Munster to his descendants. In that place, the Milesians were assimilated and may years after we find the famous king Cú Roi still referring to himself as domhain-righ the “ruler of all things,” or as the “king of the deep.” BLADIR, wide-mouthed, a flatterer. Bladh, fame from EIr. blat, to speak; the Lat. babble; ON blathr, nonsense; bladhair, expressive person, a boaster. BLÀR, a white spot on the face of a cow or horse; blarag, a white-faced animal. Thought Pictish in origin, not used in Argyll or Ireland. From EIr. bhale, to shine; For roots see bealltuinn. Also blàr, a field, a battle, peat-moss, all having the sense of “a spotted place.” Animals so marked were considered unlucky as they were essentially the property of the Daoine sidh. BLATHNAT, or Blanid. The daughter of Mend, king at Inis Fer Falga. The Munster king Cu Roi abducted and married her but
she already loved Cúchulainn. She led him into the palace by emptying cans of milk into a secret drainage system. Inside the keep Cúchullain killed Cu Roi and carried off his exwife. Amongst the booty was Fer Cherdne, Cu Roi’s bard. As Cúchulainn progressed homeward along the Beara Peninsula and they paused at a cliff-side, the druid seized the woman and bothwere carried over the edge to their death. BLEACHDAIR, a cow-milker, a flattering person. Bliochd, milk. One who takes milk without the owner being fully aware of theft. BLEIDLOCHTANA, a monster (s) evoked by the Dagda on the fourth day of the first battle of Magh Tuireadh. They were accompanied to that fray by the Badbh and the Amaite aidgill. BLOCC AN’ BLUIGNE, the “King Stones,” stone gates which opened to admit Conaire Mor when he demanded recognition as the High King at Tara. This demonstration of his spiritual power caused the assembled chieftains to accept him. BÓ, a cow; Cym. buw; OBr. bou; Lat. bos; Skr. go. As an interjection the word means starnage, wonderful. May infrequently be used in the sense of “a fawn.” See combined forms below. Cows play a role in Celtic mythology, which abounds with descriptions of Otherworld cows, the ownership of such beasts and cow raids reflecting the domestic importance of these animals. There is no direct reference to a cow-goddess although Boann is certainly suggestive. It is certain that the she owned a magical cow and so did the female deities Mhorrigan and Flidais. The Otherworld cows usually had red ears and white bodies. Saint Brigit whose cult-legend descends from the pagan Bridd may be deen as a “cow-goddess” as she has pastoral affiliations. One supernatural lake-dweller was
Sithgail Sechderc who dwelt at the bottom of Loch Sithgail. His magic cow was stolen by Liath Lurgach. In a fight over the animal Sithgail was defeated and his body cast back into the water. In a folklore context we meet a number of enchanted cranes who can only be brought back to human form by being sprinkled with the blood of the legendary Connra bull, which was owned by the cow-woman known as the Cailleach bheurr. Boann is nothing less that the spiritual personification of the river Boyne. She is often represented as “The She of the White Cattle.” Flidais is likewise portayed as a cow and the possessor of cattle. The wargoddess Mhorrigan turned Odras into a pull of water after the latter allowed his bull to “ball” her cow. Iuchna’s three cows had the images of three men emblazoned on their red ears, all shape-changed unfortunates from the real world. Magic cows were created by Tuathan magicians with help from Lugh mac Ethlenn, and they were used to meet the oppressive demands of the Fomorians, who demanded an illogical tribute of milk from every household in Ireland. It was additionally demanded that the cow-levy should consist of animals of exactly the same colour. Nechtan Bascain managed this by singing his cows in a bonfire, tinting them to the same shade of brown with a mixture of porridge and burned flaxseed. In certain legends it is said that the cowfolk constructed 300 cows of sticks and other dead matter and coloured them with a stain made from “bog-stuff.” When they were enlivened by magic, the “milk” they gave was an unappetizing liquid without substance. It was tabu for King Breas to refuse to drink the milk of cows. The giant eventually drank three hundred bucketsful and died of a wasting disease. See next. BO! BO! Interjection used to excite terror. Strange! Wonderful! Bobh, fright. bobhdach, a pimp. bobhdag, a
BOANN, BOAND, BOANNA, BOYNE, bo + anam, cow + soul, Eng. bonnie. Further, ann, a circle, a revolution, obs, The Ground, the goddess Anu or Danu, matriarch of the Tuatha daoine. The sometime mate of the Dagda; the mother of Aonghas Og; she was the first resident of his souterrain at the Brugh na Boyne, located on the river Boyne, near Tara. Sometimes represented as the legal wife of Nechtan, who had charge of the well of knowledge. Only three men were allowed there, the king and his two cupbearers. Boann ridiculed this taboo, and feminist that she was, walked round the well in the contemptuous left-hand fashion. At this the spirits of water rose against her, pursued her eastward, and drowned her in the newlyformed river that was given her name. In an alternate version of prehistory, Boann is given as the wife of Elcmar. Wishing to sleep with her, the Dagda sent the husband off on
a nine months errand which was made to seem as the business of a single day. The child of there cohabitation was Angus the Young, so called because he was conceived and born between morning and evening. Christian monks often represented this goddess as the “wife” of the Dagda. BOAG, bo + ag, a ddimuation, thus “little cow,” a bodhag, bodach, a spectre, bobh, fright. Bobhdag, obs. a bawd. BOBAN, BOBUG, a term of affection given small boys, godfather, as a term of contempt; papa; cf MIr. boban, a calf, from bo, cow. Confers with the English babe from the earlier baban. Bug is another form of the Gaelic boc, a hegoat. Confers with diamasadh nam boc, who is known in English as the Devil. Notice the Argyallshire boobrie, supposed to inhabit fresh water and sea lochhs in that region. This creature is gigantic, webbed-footed, loud and ravennous. Since he delights in scaring clergymen it is assumed that he is a force for evil.
BOC (bhock) a he-goat, deceit, fraud, blow, to box, to stroke. English, buck. Cornwall was anciently, "the land of bucks." Goats were often chosen to represent the god sacrificed "for the good of the land" at the quarter days. The Irish Puck Fair and Pattern continues this tradition except that the he-goat is released at the end of the day. The head of witch-covens often dressed as goats in continuation of this old tradition. See entry above and below. See also feis poca. In Gaelic the pig is referred to obliquely as a muc, the English “mucker,” from its habit of drooling “mucus,” but in earlier times it may have been identified using the more general name bòc, one having “swelled cheeks.” This is the English “buck” a word now applied to the male of any kind of deer, goat, hare or antelope. Bòc and muc may be dialectic forms of the same word, and the former is the source of the Gaelic bòcan, “generated by a buck,” a hobgoblin or sith. This is also the origin of bocsith, an apparition or ghost. There are all kinds of associated words, as: bochd, poor; bodach, a male member of the Daoine sidh and boabh, a female of this species. Thus, you are what you eat! Note also the connected Welsh, bwg and the Cornish bucca, which are the English bug, pug, bugbear, bogie, boggle or boogey-man. These are all allied with the Gaelic pucca, the Norse pukka, the English hobgoblin who is called a “puck.” Puck can be shown to confer with the god Lokki. and he is derived from the Gaelic Lugh (or the reverse). Thus, the sun-god Lugh is the ultimate source of sustenance for the Daoine sidh. While he is the lord of life, his dark side is seen in Cromm an’ Cam , “Crom the Crooked,” the lord of death, and god of the night. The pig was the totem of all the Firbolg people of Ireland, and when the Milesians invaded they referred to that place as “the sow-backed country,” a pointed reference to the continued
existence and power of the Firbolgs. The Tuathan god Manann mac Ler had constant problems with “wild pigs” and their place at his annual banquets may point to their final submission to him. BOCAN, a spirit resembling the English goblin, a terrifying object, apparition, bugbear, pimple, pustule. EIr. boccanach. These words confer with the Cy. bwg and the Cor. bucca and with the English bug. Macbain thinks this may be the Celtic stem-word bukki, relating to the Old Norse pukki, a little man-spirit or puck, similar to the Irish phooka. Miss A. Goodrich-Freer has said: "An old inhabitant (of the Hebrides) told us that there is not a glen in Eriskay in which a mass has not been said on account of the presence of some fuathas or bocain. Father John - used to say mass at Creasg Shiant, the fairy or enchanted rock in Baile, Eriskay. She herself had never felt anything there. It is, however, customary to recite the genealogy of St. Bride (to clear the air of spirits)...and among the concluding lines are these:Each day and each night that I recall the genealogy of Brigid, I shall not be killed, I shall not be wounded, I shall not be struck by the Evil Eye. (Celtic Monthly, 1901, p. 143). Gaelic bog, a low area partially flooded with water, thus a bog-dweller; from which the Lowland Scots bogle, literally a little bog man or bogger, a scarecrow or bodach. Note also boban and bobug Gaelic words sometimes applied affectionately to small boys. The source here is taken as the Middle Irish boban, a calf, from bo, a cow. These confer with the bocan, or hobgoblin of Gaelic myth. The bogeymen are characterized in several obsolete expressions, notably: bog, a surly person; boggard, a latrine; bogger, one who works at the home of his employer, especially a shoe-maker or repairer; bogging, peddling or hawking from door-to-door;
boggish, a boorish person given to bragging and cursing, especially a person who drank excessively. Until recently a bug was known to be a vain, conceited, boastful individual. ; boggle-de-botch, a total screw-up; bogus, watered-down rum; bogie, a low solidly built mechanism, especially an early railway cart. Bogan is the Anglo-Saxon descriptive for a boastful person. The word bogie was the base for our word buggy, a high-wheeled vehicle which would keep the peddlar's goods clear of water and mud. Confers with bodach and the various English species, namely, boggle, bogy, boogy-boo, bogie, bug-a-booh, bugill, boggart, bogan, booman, boogeyman, bugleman, bullerman, bullbeggar. bugman, bug, bugbear, bugaboo, buck, pug, puck, or puck-hairy. Related Celtic species include the Cymric pwcca which is the Gaelic pooka. In tracking related names, Sir Francis Palgrave has helped to characterize the bogle: The Anglo-Saxon poecan means to deceive, or seduce; and the Low Saxon picken to gambol; pickeln, to play the fool; the Icelandic pukra, to steal secretly; and the Danish pukke, to scold. Retained in Atlantic Canada as bocan, bauken, bawken, bocain, boccan, a bogeyman or bog-dweller, one of the Daoine sidh. A creature used to threaten small children away from dangerous places. Sir Andrew MacPhail (1936) noted that "Witches, ghosts and fairies were so common they excited little interest. Bocans were a more serious menace. A bocan might leap upon a boy in the dark at any minute." "They (the Scot's pioneers) also had weird stories about ghosts and hobgoblins and bocain and what not from the old country. Hair-raising stories of the antics of an unearthly bocain called "Colunn gun ch'eann" held the young breathless and often caused an uncomfortable shifting of chairs nearer the company on the part of elders... (Hubert Macdonald, The Lord of the Isles and Their Descendants, 1944, p. 97).
Bogeyman was perhaps the common form in Atlantic Canada, while boo-man or boo-beggar seems to be have been preferred in Newfoundland. Notice that the bogeymen frequently carried their goods in bags, sacks or pouches, and that poca is still the Gaelic word for a sack. Our word pocket may come from this source and is related to the Anglo-Saxon words pucca and bucca, a pocket and a he-goat, respectively. It is suspected that all of these corresponded with the Old German, tanherabogus, a goblin or devil. One man described an encounter with a bogey who was "as tall as a tree with arms like logs, speckled all over (freckled?)" A resident of South River Lake, Nova Scotia, insisted he was assaulted by "a blanket" which transformed itself into "a fleece of wool" and finally reconstituted itself as "a round black ball." A traveller at East River Point, in that same province, was less certain what opposed him but found the road blocked by "a black thing." Returning home he took down his shotgun and returned to the wayside intending to blast this bogeyman into the beyond. His family members, remembering other incidents where bullets had ricocheted from such creatures killing the marksman, blocked him from this effort. A Rothesay, New Brunswick man on the road to his weekly hand of forty-fives at the village fire hall was driven to the pavement by a stunning blow to his right shoulder. He could see nothing in the darkness but later said that the blow came as, "a great thudding whack, like that given by the flat of a hand." His wind knocked from him, he looked up and thought he saw "an enormous black man wearing a derby." Another memorable attack took place in the Dagger Woods of Nova Scotia where a farmer was driving his team and wagon through the darkened forest. Suddenly the horses refused to move and the farmer got down to assess the difficulty. In mid-step he was swept away on a whirlwind and recovering, found himself seated on the ground, facing backwards, between his two sweating completely
immobilized animals. He immediately turned the team about and had no difficulty retreating back down the road. Bougies were known in the Acadian countryside, where they were seen travelling as a single ball of cold light. "Bougie" is retained in the French language as a measure of light intensity, one unit equalling a candlepower. The bogeymen attempted to terrify, or mislead, men. Failing this they sometimes assaulted people at night and Robert Lowe of Moser's River, Nova Scotia, was one of their victims. He noted that the thing that struck him in the dark "was pretty powerful to be a person, but it was too dark to see anything. It was raining, so not very likely any normal person would be hiding in the bushes." Feeling outmatched Lowe took the sensible route of running for his own doorstep, and inside equipped himself with a lantern and a gun. In the best tradition of men who return again and again to haunted houses to face a virulent monster, Lowe went back to the scene of the attack. Something came running at him out of the pitch-blackness and he fled without firing a shot. The next night he heard the bug-man rustling the leaves in the woods close to his house. The morning after both incidents he emerged at dawn to look for prints or some signs of damaged trees or brush, but there was never anything to be seen in the damp soil except the prints of his own boots. BOCAN-ROCAIS, crow-bucks, a scarecrow. BOCAN-BEALLTINN, anything which wild and unmanageable, a wild horse. These animals were said particularly ungovernable at midsummer (August 2, the Lunastain). BOC-SITHE, "buck of the side-hill folk," the bocan, the bogdweller described above under this name. One of the Daoine sidh, or wee-folk of Celtic mythology. Note that the fayfolk were often observed materialized upon hill slopes in animal form, particularly as small hornless breeds of cattle, as pigs and as goats. Note that boc correponds with
the Gaelic muc, a pig. BOCHD, poor, needy, wretched, sick, sickly, sad, lean, lank. dear, parish poor, obs. breach, fire, reaping, cutting down at the harvest. BOCHDA, BOCHDAIN, BHOCHDAIN, BOCHDAINN, a bochdan, poor, a participle from the verb bongaim, break, reap, a field-worker. These people were sooth-sayers. Also, poverty, trouble, mischief, bad luck, mishap, the Devil. The root-word is the Celtic bongo, to break, similar to the Latin banga, a breaker or wave. Notice that the ocean between Barra and Ireland is entitled Cuan a’ Bhochdain by the islanders. See separate entry. This creature continues in Atlantic Canadian folklore as a revanter, a revenge-seeking spirit, a remain of those dead by violence. This a spirit was thought generated from a befind, the second soul of a human, unable to unite with the primary soul due to a severe trauma at the time of death. It has been observed that this wraith is capable of crossing bodies of water unlike many of the species. It is capable of partial or entire materialization and typically appears as a counterpart of the victim, complete with death-wounds. Mary L. Fraser has noted that the bochdan stalks the murderer reminding him of his crime, but this ghost is unable to manage retribution in the real world, although it can presumably harass evil men (and women) in their dreams and when their spirits are separated from their bodies, as in illness. Note the Eng. bongo-drums. A typical boogie-man he was incapable of doing the person he pursued any physical harm, but his constant presence was unnerving and drew unpleasant questions from the neighbours. This was particularly so since the bochdan always carried the death injury on his ghostly, or ghastly, form. If his human had died by having his throat cut, the bochdan showed a neck wound.
A bochdan of a man who was strangled would show bruises, while one who died of a gunshot wound might display a gaping tear in the chest cavity. Those afflicted by such a haunt usually fled from its presence, but this was was not usually a succesful manoeuvre as something in the job-description allowed bochdans to cross running water, a prohibition that usually halted run-of-the-mill bogeymen. A typical case was that of the "Bochdan Greve", which follwed a murderer from lowland Scotland to the docks of Halifax. Having outrun a charge of murder, the assasin was distressed when he came ashore and spotted a shadowy figure in a grey cloak waiting for him. The bochdan stood with a dog hollowed in against his leg, and said nothing, not surprising since his throat was cut. Although the face was in darkness, the murderer recognized his victim in the stance of the bochdan. Taking the first coach, the man fled to Mull River, Inverness County, Cape Breton, but his follower was as attached to him as any homing pigeon. The new neighbours of this Scot observed that he kept very peculiar company, although the bochdan never came nearer than an apple tree nearest the house. There he stood, facing the front door at dusk and dawn. Every so often the bochdan must have taken a lunch break as the dog alone remained visible. Over many years hundreds of passers-by saw the vision, which entered popular folklore as "The Bochdan Greve." The follower continued active as long as this gentleman lived, and failing to get justice, he remained as an ancestral haunt to other members of the family after the murderer died. 31 The bochdan that appeared at Margaree, Cape Breton, troubled the neighbourhood because the befind felt his host had been ill-treated by the Christian church. The evolution of this spirit was traced to a suicide that took place in the early years of this century. A drunkard was found dead in a field and was buried on an island in unconsecrated ground, since the clergy regarded his passing as a suicide. Not long
Mary L., Folklore of Nova Scotia, np, nd, p. 83.
after "ugly noises" began to be heard from the cburial site. It was known that spirits were at large during the Yule, and one Christmas Eve a priest was crossing a small brook on a road adjacent to the island when he was attacked by the materialized bochdan;"...they wrestled until morning, the man losing one of his braces in the encounter. But all this time he refrained from speaking to his assailant, for the Bochdan could not speak unless addressed." Luckily, the clergyman had heard that the voice of the bochdan could kill. When dawn came this ghost dematerialized, but the priest was determined to eradicate the presence and went to the island. The priest blesssed the grave of the poor outcast man, and arranged that the body be transferred to a church cemetary. "After this, the noises ceased; nor was anything more seen or heard at Bochdan Brook, which still bears this sinister name." 32 Although "bochdan" was originally used to describe befinds, especially those with a mission, it was finally extended to any dangerous apparition, thus Mrs. O.N. MacPherson of Margaree Forks defined "bodchan" more loosely as "an off-shoot of Satan." 33 Mary L. Fraser confused them with run-of-the-mill sidh-folk, and with forerunners, as the following story reveals: "One evening about fifty-one years ago a young man...was going on a message to a neighbour's house, when he saw it before him on the road, a very terrifying object. It was large and black and had a red light in the middle of its back. A stream of light came from the front of it, so bright he could see the shingles on the house to which he was going. It went up to the house, passed around it, and then came down the road so swiftly that he jumped aside to let it pass. Terrified he made the sign of the cross, then looked to see the terrible bochdan. The bright front lights had turned once more to
Mary L., Folklore of Nova Scotia, np, nd, p. 89. Herbert, A Folklore Sampler, St. John's (1982) p. 14.
red. He heard no sound." 34 BOCHRA, bocsa, a box, boch-tonn, wave-box, “the ocean.” The father of Finntann and husband of Lady Cassir, Fintann escaped the Deluge in “a flood-barrel.” BOD, penis, tail, hence bodha, hard as a rock, a rock, especially a hidden rock in the ocean, and bodach, an old man, a carle, a dirty old man, a male sigh. Anne Rice says that while stone heads are frequently seen, throughout Europe, as symbols of virility and spirit, the combination of head upon a pillar stone, at once a phallus and a seat of intellect, is peculiarly Celtic. She notes that the phallus and the head were considered capable of independent life after the death of the male body. The genetive is boid. Note that Rothesay is Baile Bhoid, the “town of Bute.” OIr. bot, fire, thus originally Inis Boit, “Fire Island.” Having special reference to the bale or signal fires and the quarter-day fires. Note also beo, living, full of divine “fire.” The personal name of Saint Buti, (521 A.D). Butelach, a big fire or a place where a fire was traditionally laid. Connects with Eng. bute. There was never much “penis envy” among ancient goddesses: The reincarnate Mebd bragged that she was the equal of any man whether on the plain of battle or the bed. She valued her consort a little less than Ferdiad who she took to her bed as an encouragement to fight against Cu Chullain. Like the Dagda, Ferdiad ate seven times as much as an ordinary man, had the strength of seven hundred; a nose mouth and penis that were each seven fingers long and a scrotum as large as a sack of flour. When looked with lust at the wolf-queen it was said that they lost two-thirds of their strength. Katherine Scherman thinks that this fact illustrates Mary L., Folklore of Nova Scotia, np, nd, pp. 46-47. Twentyfive years later railway tracks were run through this region and the "bochdan" was seen to be the forerunner of a locomotive and train.
"the combined fertility and destructive functions of female deities", but the case is simpler than that. Just as men, or women could gain spirit by eating food, they might rob vital energies from one another by the virtual consumption of bodies. Coupling was considered to pass god-spirit in one direction or the other and the movement was always toward the more "spirited" person. With this in mind, Mebd is known to have said: "Were my husband a coward it would be unfit for us to be married, for I by myself and alone break battles and fights and combats, and it would be a reproach to my mate should his wife by more full of life than myself, while there is no failing in being equally bold. Further, should he be jealous (and hence of less spirit) that too would not suit me, for there was never a time when I had a man but another stood ready in his shadow." Although it might seem extreme, some claimed that Mebd required thirty men a day to service her sexual needs and that she kept no lover who was not her equal in virility. In the pagan theology, Mhorrigan-Samh was the original befind, so it must be assumed that she was the unseen guardian of this particular version of Queen Mebd. Like other mortal-goddesses Mebd died. While she survived all the battles, including that with Cu Chullain, she was unable to avoid an ironic encounter over the breakfast table, where her nephew revolted at her haughty manners. He picked up a lump of the hard but instead of putting it in his mouth, shot it at her out of a sling. She was hit between the eyes and her spirit immediately departed for one of the nether worlds.
BODACH, BHODACH, BOTHACH, an old man, a karl, a spectre, the cod-fish, the lesser seal, from the OF. botte, a clod of earth, thus a rustic; by way of bod, a penis, and the AngloSaxon, boda, a messenger or menial. Possibly formed from OF. botte, a clod of earth. See also bod, above, a “dirty old man.” A bhalgaidh or “day-bull,” the descendant of the god Bal or Bil. The mate of the boabd or Celtic witch. He is the invisible house-spirit, corresponding with the English brownie or hobgoblin. Differing from these in his endemic nakedness and the fact that his body was liberally covered with hair. About two and a half feet in height, he possessed slitted nostrils rather than a true nose and had slightly webbed hands and feet. The bodach had the ability to materialize at will and often did so to create an uncomfortable situation among humans. Each croft was once thought sure to decline unless it housed a bodach in the chimney space. These creatures exchanged their labours (in the dead of night) for food and drink. Originally a social class, "below the general body of the tribe: labourers. horse-boys, herdsmen, and hangers-on, supported by particular families... but having neither property rights nor
any voice in the tribal council." These were not counted free men, but with the "sencleithe", were considered superior to the "fuidir", strangers, fugitives, war captives. condemned criminals, or people who had surrendered their freedom while paying off a debt or fine which they could not afford by other means. All were described as poorly clothed and completely covered with hair. The brownie had webbed fingers and toes in common with the species of banshee known as the morrigan. The bodache were more servile than the female of their species often entering contracts with men. King James VI said: "The spirit appeared like a rough man, and haunted divers houses without doing any evill, but doing, as it were, necessarie turns (chores) up and down the house; yet some were so blinded as to believe that the house was all the sonsier (luckier), as they called it, that such spirits resorted there." The bodachs did this work in return for a small allowance of food and clothing and a permanent place in the chimney corner. They were usually invisible but sometimes took the shape of farm animals. According to tradition this spirit presented himself to the patriarch of a family when he went looking for work. If accepted, he put on his cloak of invisibility and never reappeared except to reintroduce himself to some new master upon the death of the lord of the household. After dark, the bodach performed all of the usual farm chores in exchange for board and a small food and clothing allowance. The food would have been a small portion of bread and honey and a bit of milk, or a sample of homebrew placed near the fireplace in a hollowed stone bowl. It was though absolutely necessary to bring samples of ale and newly formed butter to the bodach "for the luck of the house." Bodachs were usually given a single stook of grain which stood unprotected in the frame yard. In spite of its exposed location this haystack was never disturbed by the wind. Bodachs were more serious minded than brownies and
reacted badly when offended. Like the Scots, with whom they boarded, they bristled at anything resembling charity, and given foood that seemed to fine for their palate, or clothing that seemed excessive to their sense of fashion, they would leave the farm taking the luck of the farm with them. The name survives in Atlantic Canada, but the original meaning is largely lost: "Used in a derogatory fashion to describe an old man; an old fella who's past it. A churl, a boor, a niggardly fellow, a mutchkin." 35 My great-grandfather, Thomas Alexander Mackay, lived at Bonny River, New Brunswick, after his family emigrated there from Glasgow in 1828. Like all his Scottish neighbours, he was accompanied by a hearth-spirit, which some suspected projected itself into the family cat. In any event, the brownie bowl was dutifully filled at night and always found empty by dawn. His wife, Priscilla Williamson, recognized the perogatives of the bodach, which explains why she would never shake the crumbs from a table-cloth or sweep the floor after the setting of the sun. These were then the duties of the bodach and he was angered when men or women suggested that he was inacapable or inefficient. There were tales of farmers who had crossed their bodach by such simple acts: Once a young girl responsible for replenishing the brownie stone filled it first with honey and then with oatmeal and a spot of cream. Thinking the usual sweet stuff had been omitted, the bodach flew into a rage and rushed to the barn where he broke the neck of a prized cow. In a more reflective mood, he went back to his oatmeal and discovered his mistake. At that he compensated the farmer by leaving a pile of woodchips on the table. These turned to gold with the rising of the sun. The bodach may have been the befind, or familiar, of a
Dictionary opf Prince Edward Island English, Toronto
(1988) p. 210.
human magician, but no distinction was made between bodachs belonging to the sidh and those of human clans. The bodachs described by Mary L. Fraser were certainly well versed in the druidheachd. We are not told how many there were, but all were fisherman on the Cape Breton shore. They were also bachelors as they were in the habit of making full use of their weekends: "On Saturday might they would jump, each one into a bailing can and would sail away to parts unknown. On Monday morning they would all come back, each one with a clean "shift" (shirt)." 36 A little more credible is the following account given by the Pictou County historian Frank H. Patterson: "...there lived at Tatamagouche (Nova Scotia) an old sea captain who sailed his little shallop between here and "the Island" (Prince Edward Island). One day he was sailing there under a steady and favorable breeze when suddenly in the Strait, far from land and in deep water, his vessel, without any reason wahatever suddenly stopped. An ordinary mariner would have been at a loss to understand so strange a phenomenon but this old salt was not only a masterof the waters...he was a master of witchcraft as well. He knew his plight had been wished on him (by an enemy)...His fingers ran through his long grisly beard, and across his weatherbeaten features came a cunning, confident smile. He lashed the wheel and then disappeared in the cabin. In a moment he reappeared, carrying in one hand an old musket...in the other a rough slab (of wood) on which he had sketched the likeness of his enemy...Placing the slab by the mast he shot at it...Scarcely had the report died away when the vessel began to move and the spray was flying from beneath her clumsy bow and at the stern a happy sea captain wore a smile that would not wear off..." 37
Mary L., Folklore of Nova Scotia, np, nd, p. 65. Frank H., A History of Tatamagouche, Halifax (1917), p.
One of Helen Creighton respondants at Allandale, Nova Scotia, has explained the intention of this counter-charm: "Fishermen here used to make a drawing of the person they thought responsible for bad luck and they would put it (the image) up on the mast. Then they would shoot at the hand or some part that would be mutilated, believing that in whatever place the image was pierced, the witch would suffer. The young men knew about this and sometimes made images for fun, but they noticed when they did this something always happened (to the person who was represented).38 Daddy Red Cap was the nickname of a bodach who plagued Allandale, Nova Scotia. The fact that he was given this name suggests he was considered a dangerous creature, for the redcaps were evil goblins who inhabited the wastelands at the border of England with Scotland. They occupied ruined towers and castles and waylaid travellers, re-dying their cylindrical, flat-topped hats in human blood after each night of mayhem. It was said that the bodach had once bargained to buy a cow, but the owner refused to sell. Shortly after, a snow-white bumblebee appeared on the rump of the animal and it lost the ability to give milk. Citizens of Allandale were sure this was the befind of Old Daddy Red Cap, who had also cast spells against people he disliked. Unfortunately for him, it is simply not true that "the Devil looks after his own!" His first set-back came when his wife agreed to apprentice a visitor from the neighbouring village of Black Point. The woman was made aware of the initiation rites of the sgoil dubh, or black arts, being told she would have to curse her father and mother, sign a "lease of her soul" contracting in blood. She had arrived at the point in the ritual where she was required to say aloud, "I sell my soul to the devil'," when she had second thoughts. Instead she said, "I sell my soul to the Lord!" A terrible commotion followed, and the Mrs. Daddy Red Cap
Helen, Bluenose Magic, Toronto (1978), p. 41.
cowered before a gathering cloud of darkmesss crying, "You've ruined me, you've ruined me!" The accolate retreated so that she did not see what followed, but the disappearance of the boabh from the community was noted shortly afterwards. Fanny W. had no quarrel with Daddy Red Cap, but hearing that nine new needles boiled in human or animal urine was a countermeasure against the craft, tried it while concentrating her attention on the old man. To her surprise, this act called him to her doorstep, and she noted with horror that a sharp stick protruded from his arm. "Pull it out, pull it out!" he demanded, and she complied breaking the spell against him. He recovered from this, but it did not disuade him from turning his craft against a number of local fishermen. At sea in the waters off Cape Breton they were without fish, decided that, "old Daddy Red Cap has bewitched us." They drew an effigy of the fish-robber, hammered it to the mast of their ship, and ground up a silver dime to make appropriate shot. They put this in their shot gun, and fired away, hitting the image in the eye. After that, the fishing improved so that they forgot about the old bodach. Back at the wharf they enquired after the news of the day, and were told that little had transpired, but that Daddy Red Cap had fallen on his picket fence and damaged his right eye. While this did not di spose of him, he suffered a long recuperation and died of a heart attack. During his wake, relatives were gathered in one room, and acquaintances in another. His befind signalled his leaving with a number of terrific crashing sounds. Both groups rushed to the opposite room, supposing the supernatural noises to have come from there, but there was no visible explanation for the sound in either place. 39 The chief blighting-power of the bodach was the evil39Creighton,
Helen, Bluenose Magic, Toronto (1978), p. 41.
eye. Nova Scotian writer, Neil MacNeil saw this magic in operation in the 1920's: "Grandfather and I were riding in our buggy...We stopped to pass the time of day with a neighbour. Grandfather and the neighbourt asked about each other's families and about the crops, and made small talk about other matters. In the course of conversation I noticed the neighbour looking intently at Old Maud, Grandfather's mare, which was standing relaxed and glad of the chance to rest. "That's a fine animal you have, Michael Eoin," remarked the neighbour. "Indeed she is, and may Saint Columba bless her," replied Grandfather. Shortly after this we were on our way; but something happened to Old Maud. The mare limped badly in her hind right foot...I was doing the driving. I thought she had picked up a stone in her shoe, or that a nail or stone had injured her hoof. I got out and examined the hoof and found nothing wrong with it. We drove on and Old Maud was as lame as ever. Grandfather, who was watching the performance in silence, finally spoke. "that neighbour has the evil eye," he said. "That is why I asked for St. Columba's blessing on the poor creature. I was trying to save her. Water off silver will cure the spell. So let her move along gently until we reach some water." This we did. When we reached a small brook I stopped the horse and Grandfather lent me a silver coin. Under his instructions I held it in my cupped hand and dipped some water from the stream. I rubbed the water first and then the coin on Old Maud's leg and hoof. After some of this Grandfather remarked: "That will do." I got back in the buggy and we drove off. Old Maud's limp was gone, in fact I never saw her more happy or more sprightly." 40 When the Reverand James MacGregor came out to Pictou township in the 1780's it was said that he was "beset on all sides with the superstitious beliefs of the settlere. While he did his best to overcome their fear of witches, fairies and beasties, he was to contend with this problem until his death." Some of the settlers were certain
Neil, The Highland Heart In Nova Scotia, New York (1948),
that he was a Christian bodach, and one elderly lady insisted that he lay hands on their sick cow to drive off the evil spirit that was causing it to be ill. Pushed to his limit, he at last gave in, and laying a stick on the animals rump, declared, "If you live you live, and if you die you die." Fortunately for his reputation as a magician the animal recovered. There was a sequel. The minister was afterwards forced to bed with an abcess in his throat which nearly blocked his breathing. This same old lady approached his bed-side and reiterated MacGregor's "god-spell": "If you live you live, if you die you die." This teased the clerics funny-bone and he laughed aloud in spite of his discomfort. At that the tumour burst, he regained his breath, and was soon up and about. This reinforced his reputation, and not long after a farmer arrived saying his horse had wandered and could Dr. MacGregor please locate the animal? The minister protested that he had no supernatural powers but he did recollect seeing a stray animal earlier in the day. He mentioned this to the man saying, "Perhaps it is yours." As this was the case, word spread that the "Spirit of God" enabled James MacGregor to perform miracles equal to that of any pagan bodach. 41 BODACH NA CROIBHE MOIRR, croibhe, cattle pen, moirrear, lord, great steward; the old man who watched the cattle, na croibhe moirr, of the great and ancient oak tree. “Great” may also be translated as large. The word croibhe resembles croich, a gallow tree, and also cro, blood, raw flesh or death. This bodach is pictured as a strong, wirey little man as gnarled and stout as his parent oak. The oak-tree man was actually one with the spirit of his tree and when it fell, he died. He was therefore obsessively protective of his home, his liveliheed and his second soul. The oak was the preferred resting-place of the spirits of the pagan thunder-gods, so these creatures can be seen as demoted
Roland H., Pictou Pioneers, Windsor (1973), pp. 72-73.
gods, quite possibly the spirits consulted by the ancient "draoi" or druids, whose religion centered on the worship of this species of tree. In the past ancient trees were reserved to the crown, and the peasent was only allowed deadwood, that which he could pull away from the living tree "by hook or by crook". At that, it was always considered good manners to ask a tree permission where wood was to be removed. A typical charm had to be repeated three times: "Great oak-man, give of your wood, and when my spirit has gone to earth and tree, then I will give thee of mine!" This was made a firm contract by spitting three times against the roots. Those who cut without formalities often lost their eyesight or their health when a limb fell on them. More often, the adventurer was not stricken but his wife, children or cattle were destroyed by the oak-tree man. If this danger was noted, the wounded tree was sometimes diverted from antagonistic action after being offered a libation of milk or ale. The village of Tusket, Nova Scotia, lies ten miles away from the larger town of Yarmouth. It was once noted for "a large, rather ungainly, oak tree growing on the bank of an ocean inlet beside the village's main road. The branches are gnarled and crooked and the tree has a rather ominous aura surrounding it. It is said that it was from this tree that the early settlers of the area hanged condemned criminals or victims of lynching gangs. The tree was not removed when the road was made...because an axe would not scar it nor could oxen pull it from the ground. 42 Our ancestors might have argued that the spirits of hard men were added to that of the tree, giving it unusual physical strength. It was well-known that oaks were slow to die. When they fell, the stump typically became the root for a coppice haunted by the spirits of many bodache. These sidh-folk were distressed at the loss of the tree and often blamed men for the damage. They therefore offered food to passing
Herbert, A Folklore Sampler, St. John's (1982), p. 7.
mortals, and the dainties were tempting, but had to be refused as they were fungal growths disguised by magic. Wood taken from fallen oaks, hanging trees, or the remains of a shipwreck carried spirits with them which were not always comfortable in the homes of the living. At Victoria Beach, Nova Scotia, Joseph Casey told of a cradle fashioned from such wood by his great grandfather: "(He) had started out to be a priest but he changed to become a Baptist minister and was married three times. He made a cradle that was as long as a cot and pretty soon they noticed that the cradle rocked whether the baby was in it or not...Some people who used it said that hymn music would come from it." Casey's mother confirmed her son's story adding that she had seen the cradle rock by itself but had not heard the music. The cradle was eventually loaned to a friend, but she found its actions so uncanny she returned it. "The cradle now belongs to people who keep it in their attic." 43 BODACH AN DUN, the Old Man of the Heap, or Dune (a decayed fortress), "Particular families were said to be haunted by certain demons, the good or bad geniuses of these families. The Speyside family known as Rothiemurchus considered this typically invisible creature as their weregild. It was this bodach that appeared to the Shaws in this countryside when they were dispossessed of their lands. It lamented in Gaelic as follows: Ho! e! as exiles we go, From our lands and duns, away, away! But we trust, though out-thrust By an earthly foe, To reach the City that lasts for aye. The City of Peace - for aye, for aye.” The Gaelic version may be found in Macpherson's Social Life In The Highlands, p. 4. Notice that the Shaws are
Helen, Bluenose Ghosts, Toronto (1976), p. 164.
the Daoine sith of ancient legend and that their bodach does not pine for the Christian Heaven. According to the family, this ghost continues to guard the graves and memorial stones within the old family lands. BODACH AN LAMH-DEARG, the Old Man of the Red (or Bloody) Hand. The forerunner to the Scottish family descendant from the Baron of Kincardine. A "ghost" with one hand that dripped blood. A weregild or banshee. BODACH-GARTIN, garadh, a garden, or yard, the weregild of Gartenberg, Scotland. Some bodache, like this creature, had jurisdiction over villages, towns or districts. BODACH-GLAS, The Gray Man, the weregild of Clan Ivor, warning their chieftains of impending doom.
BODACH SABHALL, sabhall, a barn, from Br. from Latin stabulum, a stall, hence English, stable. A spirit of the stables used to caring for horses and cattle. The latter word confers with the English word stable through a Brythonic root word. This creature corresponds exactly with the English barguest or barn-ghost. Thomas Keightley speaks of the boggart and barguest of Yorkshire, noting that the former "is the same as the brownie or kobold (of Germany); the latter, whose proper name is barn-ghaist, or barn-spirit, keeps without, and usually takes the form of some domestic animal." An earlier account says that, "The barguest used also to appear in the form of a great mastiff-dog, and terrify people with his skrikes (shrieks) There was a barguest named the pick-tree-brag whose usual form was that of a little galloway (horse) in which shape a farmer, still or lately living, reported that it had come to him one night as he was going home; that he got upon it and rode very quietly till it came to a pond, to which it ran and threw him in, and went laughing away." The highland barn brownies had a great love of horses which they often rode as well as emulated. Where they were exuberant the horse was sometimes left panting and exhausted by morning. In a foul mood, they sometimes lutinized the tails or manes of animals, giving the herdsman and impossible job for the daylight hours. They were usually propitiated with a stack of straw, which was never disturbed, even by winds of hurricane force. Bodachs sometimes consented to mow and thresh the grain crop, but were hot-tempered and if criticized might respond by taking the harvest and dumping it in a remote location. BODACH SGEIR ROIS, the Old Man of the Rock of Rois. Between the island of Kirkibost and the mainland of Uist, a place of omens. Here Iain Mor was met by a weregild who informed him that the would die by "am bas biol" the clean death, and he did afterwards expire by drowning while en-
route to his own wedding. (The Hebridean Connection, p. 50). BOD FHEARGUIS, BODHA FHEARGUS. “Fergus’ Prick,” the rural name for the coronation stone of Milesians and the Tuathans. An obvious symbol of male reproductive power. bodha, "a rock over which waves break," from Norse bothi, same meaning; specifically, the "Rock of Fergus". See bod. This is the Scottish equivalent of the Irish Lia Fail, "The Stone of Destiny." Note that it too is sometimes designated as Clach Fhearghuis Mhoir, the “Rock of Big Fergus,” and in all cases makes reference to Fergus Mor mac Erc, who was said responsible for its removal from Tara to Dunadd in Argyllshire, Scotland. It may have been purloined from the sea-giants and was counted as one of four treasures of the Tuatha daoine. It is known to have been obtained by the Tuathans from the island city of Falias (thus fal, having ramparts) located somewhere "among the northern isles of the world" where they resided "learning lore and magic and druidism and wizardry." This stone was said to roar with pleasure beneath the feet of a rightful monarch, but cried in sorrow at the coming of an unlawful or unworthy king. Scottish historian W.C. Mackenzie (1901) thought that the "northern isles" referred to in folklore were most probably Lochlann (Loch-land), or Norway. He says that the Lia Fail was more than a common means of indicating the succession of kings. Among the Irish highkings at Teamore, or Tara, it was custom to sit upon a throne located over the stone during investiture. It was thought that this coronation passed god-spirit through the stone into the candidate, who afterwards became an oracle. The stone itself sometimes gave opinions on important matters of state, and whether this voice was aroused by druidic ventriloquism or other supernatural means, its voice had the weight of law. Although the stone was originally placed on a hill near Tara, it was removed. Katherine Scherman contends that it was not carried out of the province of Meath, but says it was repositioned to mark a minor skirmish that took place
between the English and the Irish in 1798. Earlier historians say this is not so, and most agree it was removed to Scotland when the Scots at Tara were dislodged from their homeland by invading southerners. Ware and Keating are of the opinion that it was carried across the Irish Sea by three sons of Erc during the sixth century. O'Flaherty, another well-known Irish chronicler, believed the stone was sent to Scotland in the ninth century by Hugh Finliath, son-in-law to King Kenneth MacAlpin, the ruler of Dalriada in southwestern Alba, or Scotland. In this version of the transfer we come upon the notion that the stone carried with it the promise that the race that held it would subjugate the land on which it rested. Since the Scots were then struggling with the Picts over ownership of Ireland, the placement of the stone in the royal precincts at Dunadd was apparently undertaken to assure the subjugation of the Picts. When the Lia Fail was removed the Scots did, indeed, lose control over their former lands in Ireland but gained Alba in such measure it was renamed Scotland. The very early Scottish senachie, Baldred Bisset said that the Lia Fail was transported into Dalriada by the matriarchal patroness of all the Scots, the goddess Scota. Bisset's near-contemporary, John of Fourdon says that two versions concerning the origin of the stone were current in his time. The more accepted version claimed that Gaodhal Glas (The Gray Gael), a Greek national, went to Egypt about the time of the Israeli exodus to take a position at the court of the pharaoh. There his grandson Niul (Nile or Neal) became completely integrated into the local royal family when he married the king's daughter, Scota. Later the extend family had a falling-out with the royal ruler and they migrated through north Africa to Spain where they established a kingdom under the leadership of King Miled. This Milesian race invaded Ireland about 1,000 years before the advent of Christ and it is said that the "stone of destiny" was carried from Egypt to Spain to Ireland by the
hereditary guardians of this artifact. Hector Boece, a sixteenth century writer, agreed with John of Fourdon, that the stone was carried into Ireland by Simon Brec, or Bres. They are not agreed on its origin, for Boece claims it was accidentally raised from the sea-bed on a wood-and-stone anchor. Both accounts do agree that the Lia Fail was of a marble-like rock, shaped like a chair. This leads to the plausible conclusion that the Lia Fail is not the Bodha Fheargus of the Scottish nation, but an entirely separate "fatal stone." The latter is made of "a dull reddish or purplish sandstone with a few embedded pebbles, some quartz; two others of a dark material; one may be Lydian stone." The Bodha Fheargus was located for may years at the coronation-town of Scone, until Edward I, seeing it as a mystical support to Scottish sovereignty, removed it to a safe place beneath the English coronation-throne in London. It is almost certain that the Scottish stone was quarried from the sandstone districts found between the coasts of Argyll and the mouths of the Tay and the Forth. This being true, it is probable that Baldred Bisset, and others like him, deliberately confounded the two stones to give the Scottish kingdom a firm rallying point. Unhappy with the pagan origin of the stone, clerics of the Christian church later claimed that the coronation stone was actually the "stone-pillow" used by Abraham when he dreamed of angels descending from heaven. The official English tale said that the "pillow" ultimately saw service in Dunadd in Argyllshire, "being taken from there by King Kenneth MacAlpine, who to secure his empire, removed it to Scone. There it remained for the inauguration of Scottish kings until 1296 when it was translated to Westminster Abbey, and in accordance with prophecy, the empire of Scotland went with it." The original Lia Fail may have gone to Iona for a chronicler claimed Wyntoun said it was routinely used as a pillow by St. Columba. This might have led to the tale that it was Abraham's pillow.
It is a known fact that St. Columba consecrated Aidan, king of the Dalriada upon the Lia Fail, although both men were by then removed to Scotland. Mackenzie has suggested that the Stone of Destiny may have been the altar used by Saint Boniface to celebrate the Eucharist after he persuaded the Picts to forsake the old Columban church for that of Rome. This stone exists in the folklore of Cape Breton, where it is remembered as having been approached "by those hoping to benefit from its powers of prophecy." John Shaw points to the appearance of this stone in a tale involving the northern hero Cúchullain, a reference "unparalleled in Cúchullain tales elsewhere (See Tales Until Dawn, Tale # 13, p. 51). BODB DEARG, (bove darrig), also given as BOABD DEARG, Also spelled BADB (see entry under this heading), BAOBH or BAOBD. He is the male counterpart of Mhorrigan, the Boabd dubh, or "Black Crow" of Irish and Scottish myth. When the Tuatha doaine were beaten by the Milesians, Manann mac Ler took it on himself to find places where these folk would be safe from their enemies. Some resettled the Otherworld but others took to the hollow-hills of Ireland and Scotland. “He put hidden walls before them that no man could see, but the sigh could pass through them as if they were air.” Manann also arranged the Feast Against Aging for them so that they became almost immortal. As a result of this, many of the side-hill folk wanted Manann as their king, but there were other contenders: Ilbrech of Ess Ruadh; Manann mac Ler himself, the king of, the “Hill of the White Field,” situated on Slieve Fuad ; Midhir the Proud, from Bri Leith; Aonghas Og mac Dagda; the Dagda and Bodb Dearg mac Dagda whose residence was Sidhe Femen. Five of these men went into council to choose the next leader and came out supporting Bodb Dearg because he was the oldest
son of the Dagda. At his principle residence Bodb cast potent spells that blocked anyone from seeing or entering his property. Cliach, the chief harpist in Connacht went there to seek the hand of one of Bodb’s daughters in marriage, but wandered for a full year in the general area without finding any sign of the dwelling place. While he was entertaining himself with his harp a lake burst up under his feet, and that water is now found on the top of a mountain where it is called Loch Bel Sead. When he was not at home, this monarch lived with his son Aonghas Og at Brugh-na-Boinn. It was Bodb who led the human sons of Lugaidh Menn into his secret caverns and made them allied by marrying them to three of his daughters. “And when their lifetime was over, they went back to the Tuatha de Danann, for they belonged to them through their wives, and they have stopped (in the Otherworld) ever since.” Called the “Red Crow.” his palace was at Loch Deargherc, the “Lake of the Red- Eyed Crow.” His jurisdiction was Connaught province in western Ireland. He had a daughter Sadb who was turned into a fawn but became human to conceive Oisin, a son of Fionn mac Cumhail. His second daughter Daireann was rejected by Fionn and she had her revenge having him take the drink of madness. Bodb Dearg’s goldsmith Len gave his name to the lakes of Killarney (Loch Lena and Len of the Many Hammers). Sometimes considered a localized form (he was resident on the River Boyne) of Cromm Cruach (of Connaught) to whom human sacrifices were made BODBHBH, BOBH, a form of the “god” mentioned above. A fright; EIr. bodba, dangerous. Related to the baobh, and the bodach, which, see. Not the G. bod, a penis, BO-DUBH, black cow, a witch, a wizard. Confers with the above. BOGAN, BOBAN, BOCAN, bog + amhas, "wild man of the bog,"
egg in embryo, quagmire, marsh, rarely, bacon; a uruisg. Former from AS bog, damp, sinking ground. See bocan, a bogeyman. Keightley says that the lowland Scottish form of this creature is the bogle and contends that the Yorkshire boggart and the English bug are descendant from it. Most authorities distinguish these from the home-bound brownies, but from them come the bugbear, the bugleboo and the bugaboo. Bullbeggar is thought a corruption of bugbear. Following another linguistic line it has been shown that bug equals pug and puck, the Scottish pawky and the southern English pouke. The Welsh form of this is pwcca, the Irish phooka the Old English, puckle. From these we have the peregrine pickle, the little pickle, the puck-hairy and the pickleharin. A German equivalent is the spuka, which we call a spook. Hence cf. with the gods Lugh and Lokki. "Roguery and sportiveness are the characteristics of this spirit. Hence it may have been that the diminutive of proper names was given to him...In a country like England, that is in general dry and free from sloughs and bog-holes, this creature was mischievous rather than dangerous." (GFE, p. 318). BOGHA CHLANN UIS, bow of the children of Uisneach, the Milky Way, from bogha, bow; chlann, clan, children; uis, bearded. Notice that the Clann Uisneach has a name which translated as "anyone of the name of Uis." This is a contraction of Uisdean, or Old Hugh, whose name is the patronym of Clann mac Aod (Mackay). Aod an ancient daygod. In the lowlands of Europe the Milky Way was known as Vrou-elden-stratt (Old Vrou's Street) after the goddess Vrou-elle, who the Germans termed Nerthus or Frau Wode. She was the chief mate of the god Wuotan, also known as Odin. Notice that Odin is represented as having "a long grey beard." BOID, a vow, oath, swearing. MIr. moit, root men, to think, cf. the Lat. votum. Boidhe, the same as buidhe, which see.
Boidhichead, worth of a vow, beauty, handsomeness. A promise made within the hearing of a pagan nature-spirit or god. This solemn promise, made devoted the individual, absolutely or conditionally, in part or in whole, to the service of some deity, God, god, or gods, for a longer or shorter time, to some service or duty. BOIDICH, to vow, to curse BOID-RREULT, a tailed star, comet. Considered a forerunner of disaster. BOIGREAN, obs., the bullrush, flummery, anything flabby or likely to break apart. Boigreanach, the place where they grow. This useful plant is the totem of a number of clans including Clann Aoidh. BOIL, BOILE, madness, rage, fury, passion, frenzy, same as buil, confers with EIr. baile, see Bil, Beul and related words. This condition was considered “gifted” on men by the gods through their individual bafinne. BOINEID MHOR. Similar to the struileag. “Great bonnet.” An imaginery boat sent from person-to-person in the form of a rhyme. The recipient never cared to keep it for a long time since this was bad luck. If he could not compose a continuing verse on his own, the person who got it had to hire a versifier and pass it on, by whatever psychic or real means, he could manage. BOIRDHEACHD, a Hyperborean. A dweller in the extreme north. Classically attached to the followers of Apollo. A mythical race living beyond the dwelling place of the northwest wind. A name sometimes attached to the Scots or the Irish, boirgire, fellow with a little screwed up mouth, foreign-speaker. BOISCEALL, a wild man or woman, cowardice, a hind or deer. Bos, abject, low, mean, vile.
BOL, obs. poet, art, skill, a cow; now, a bowl, cup or crater, to smell up the area (as with cow dung), bolachd, obs. Poetry. Combines bo + lac, “sweet milk of the cow,” with ultimate reference to the cxow-goddess Boann or Anu. Bolaich, loud speech, bombast. BOLG, BOLC, BALG, obs, a man of learning; now, a leather bag, aq bbudget, belly, womb, skin-blister, quiver, bellows. Note the Gaelic boo or bo, cow, cf. Cy. buw and OBr. bou, whence the Latin bos and the English cow and bovine. Related to the Skr. go, a cow. See Boann. The word is sometimes interpreted as "bag" perhaps from the cow's udder; thus the Firbolg race is sometimes identified as the "people of the bag." Also bolg, a snood for gathering up hair at the back of the head. Balgach, bellied, buldging, jutting, a corpulent female, small pox, a boil. Balgair, a fat man, fox, impudent persaon, glutton, thief, robber. The cow-goddess of the Firbolg, a people who may have migrated from Belgium to Britain in pre-Celtic times. The Bolg was considered a lightning-goddess and we suspect she may have been a female counterpart of the old god Thor, who occupied the first place in northern European theology before King Odin appeared on the scene. She may also confer with the Gaelic goddess Bridd, goddess of hearth and home, the protectress of the domicile against fire and destruction by lightning. We think her holiday may have been the Imbolc or Imbolg, now called Saint Brigit's Day (Feb. 2). This remains as one of the Scottish Quarter-, or Rent-Paying Days, but was once considered the "movingday" for the Daoine sidh, and was said to have been the time of an important Gaelic fire-festival. The rituals of Imbolc were similar to Samhuinn (which see). The Firbolge established their ultimate capital in Ireland at Tara on the River Boann, which is another name given the goddess. This stone-age race fought the Fomors to a stand-still but were defeated by the bronze-age Tuatha daoine. They were afterwards assimilated by a number of successive conquering races. "The cow is a blessed animal.
It is not right that she should be struck by the flesh of a (human) sinner. A stick, even a few inches long, is to be used in preference...In taking cattle to the hills they should be driven by a stick of no value, as it must be thrown away after them when they are left. The stem of the docken, which comes naturally into use, where sticks are scarce is "forbidden." The drovers and crofters are agreed about this, but can give no reason. It is equally "forbidden" for horses. An old man in Eriskay used to say, on leaving his cattle: "Closed be every hole (into which they might stumble), clear be each knowe (knoll, of obstacles) and may the herdship of Columcille be upon you till you come again home." (Celtic Monthly, 1901, p. 143). The "docken" referred to in this except is the Gaelic "dogha", the "burdock" which is unsatisfactory as a switch even if it were not prohibited by tradition. See bo and related words. See next. BOLG MAC BUAN, a wise man, a champion of the eastern part of the world, buan, lasting, durable. He found the bones of the Coinchennm, a great sea-monster, on a strand, and he made a spear with them. He gave it to a great fighting man, the son of Jubar, and it went from one to another till it came to the woman champion Aoife. She gave it to Cuchullain, and he brought it to Ireland. With it (the gae bolg) he killed his own son, and his friend Ferdiad. See above entry. BÓ NA MANNAN, the “Cow of Manann” mac Ler. There were two of these beasts, appearing to represent his ladies, Boann and Mhorrigan. It is said that they had twisted horns, were perpetually in milk, one a speckled animal, the other dun coloured. The sea-god also possessed other supernatural beasts including a cow born with silver horns, and a bull which gave milk. BONN, foundation, heel, bottom, base; OIr. bond; Lat. fundus, the English bottom, bum, buns. It was traditional to sacrifice a human as the guardian “foundation-spirit” of buildings erected in ancient times. The Christians adopted this practise but usually surrendered “unimportant” body
parts to the building of their monasteries and churches. Related to the word ban, a woman. BONNACH, “foundation-mound,” a quarter-day cake, a festive cake, a cake, bannock; Ir. boinneog, oatcake. This word, like the Scand. bannock is thought founded on Latin panis, bread. See bannaig and ban, woman (a maker of bannocks). BONNACH-BEALLTAIN, bannock baked for the first day of summer, May 1 (according to Gaelic reckoning, Old Style). Thomas Pennant has noted that the Beltane was principally a rural happening by his century: "They first cut a square trench on the ground (to contain the fire), leaving the turf in the middle; on it they make a fire of wood, on which they dress a large caudle of eggs, butter, oatmeal and milk; and bring besides these ingredients, plenty of beer and whisky; for each of the company must contribute something. The rites begin with the spilling of the caudle on the ground (to remember the Daoine sidh and prevent the later development of "hungry grass") by way of libation: on that everyone takes a cake of oatmeal, upon which are raised nine square knobs, each dedicated to some particular being, the supposed preserver of their flocks and herds, or to some particular animal (a totem of the deities), the real destroyer of them: each person then turns to face the fire, breaks off a knob, and flinging it over his shoulder, says, "This I give to thee, preserve thou my horses; this to thee, preserve thou my sheep," and so on. After this, they give the same ceremony to the noxious animals: "This I give to thee, O fox! spare thou my lambs! this to thee, O hooded crow (Mebd)! This to thee, O eagle (Lugh)!" When the ceremony is finished, they dine on the caudle; and after the feast is finished. What is left over is hid...but on the next Sunday after they reassemble, and finish the reliques." (The Golden Bough, quoting Pennant. p. 717). Another eighteenth century writer described activities in the parish of Logierait in Perthshire: "On the
first of May , O.S., a festival called Beltane is annually held. It is celebrated by the cow-herds, who assemble by scores in the fields, to dress a dinner for themselves, of boiled milk and eggs. These dishes they eat along with a sort of cake baked for the occasion, having small lumps in the form of nipples, raised all over the surface." (The Golden Bough, p. 718) Sir James George Fraser suggests that this ritual cake may once have been the "carline cake" used to chose the "devoted one", the individual "doomed to the flames." MacNeill has noted that John Ramsay, a contemporary to Robert Burns, mentioned the persistence of "a large cake baked with eggs and scalloped round the edge, called "an bonnach beal-tine." In 1902, Miss Goodrich-Freer noted, "It is no longer made in Uist although Father Allen remembers seeing his grandmother make one about twenty-five years ago." MacNeill advises that "an excellent oatcake is baked with whey instead of fat and water. Buttermilk and cream, fresh or sour may be used, but milk renders them flinty." The traditional Beltane cake were baked in the heat from a large stone, but were glazed with a thin batter consisting of whipped egg, milk, or cream, with a little oatmeal. In some districts oatcakes were rolled through the ashes after the fire was out, or were rolled down nearby hillocks. In either case, each cake was associated with an individual roller, and its fate was carefully watched as an omen of good or ill-luck. Any extreme breakage of the oatcake was considered to prognosticate death. See bealltuinn. BONNACH-BRIDD, Bride's cake, also termed infar-cake or "dreamin-bread; "baked for the first day of spring;" technically, the first days of lambing (Feb. 1-2). "A decorated cake of shortbread is still the national bride's cake of rural Scotland, and was formerly used as infar-cake. The breaker of the infar-cake over the head of the bride, on the threshold of her new home, is a very ancient custom...Portions were distributed to the young men and maidens "to dream on." (The Scots Kitchen, p. 194).
BONNACH COLUMCILLE, Columba's Cake, offered to Christians on June 9 each year. This festive bannoch had a silver ring embedded in it, indicating good luck to the finder. This seems a deliberate attempt to subvert the means once used to isolate the victims of the Quarter-Day fires. Baked on the eve of this saint's day, this cake was toasted before a fire of rowan, yew, oak, or other "sacred wood." In latter days, the division of the cake was made among children, and the offspring who got the "ring", which had devolved into a silver "coin," was given the crop of new lambs born that year. BONNACH-DUBH, the black bannoch or black bun, a possible survivor of the ancient lottery used to select "devoted" individuals. While the usual oatcakes were without inclusions, these special festive cakes contained fruits in such quantity that the oatmeal was darkened. "Round cakes of oatmeal were split in four, and placed in a small bag, and everyone present had to pick out a portion. Each person who chanced upon a piece of brown-meal cake was compelled to leap three times over the flames, or to run thrice between two fires, by means of which the people felt sure of a plentiful harvest. Shouts and screams of those who had to face the ordeal could be heard ever so far, and those who chanced to pick (the unmarked) portions sang and danced and clapped their hands in approval..." (The Golden Bough, p. 719). BONNACH LUNASTAIN, the so-called "Lammas-bannock," baked for the first day of autumn (August 1) which is one of the Celtic quarter-days. This day was originally dedicated to the sun-god named Lugh. BONNACH SALAINN, the salted bannock. An oatcake baked with the addition of a great deal of salt. Eaten in the highlands at Samhain eve to induce dreams foretelling the future. No water was drunk after retiring, nor any word spoken, for fear the charm would fail. If all went well the individual expected to dream that a future mate might
appear in the dream offering a drink of water. BONNACH SAMHTHAIN, the summer-bannock, more properly Samh’s bannock, "baked on the last day of summer for the first day of winter, the latter being the New Year (Nov. 1).” See Samh, Samhuinn, etc. BORAMHA, BORUMBHA, in AS. boru, tribute. An example would be the tribute placed on the people of Leinster by the High King of all Ireland. According to The Book of Leinster Tuathal Teachtmhair had two daughters. Eochaid, king of Leinster wished to marry the younger one but by law could not as long as the elder daughter remained unwed. He therefore assented to marriage with the oldest, imprisoned her, and remarried his first choice. His second wife soon found the first held captive and died of grief and humiliation at the deception. News of this reached Tara, and Tuathal, seeking vengeance marched against Eochaid and forced his kingdom to tribute from that time forward. The “cattle counting,” or boramha was seldom paid unless force was used as a reminder. One of the most famous High Kings was called Brian Boramha (941-1014) because he successfully collected the tribute from his cousins. BOTHAIN-CHAITHRIS, watch-house. A small building within cemetary grounds where friends of the deceased watched with him in his attendance over spirits of the dead. This was considered necessary until a fresh funeral party supplanted them. BRADAN BREITH, the Salmon of Knowledge, bradan, EIR. bratan, one who wades through water; breitham, a judge. In the latter days of the Tuatha daoine, after they had defeated the sea-giants, King Nuada married Ethlinn, the daughter of Balor "of the Evil Eye." This was the same woman who had been impregnated by Cian of Contje, giving birth to the Tuathan hero Lugh. A granddaughter to this tribe was Murna "of the White Neck" a member of Clan Boscna. When this tribe was defeated by Clann Morna, Murna
was among those who took refuge in the forests of Slieve Bloom near Dublin. There she bore a son named Demna, but fearing the rival clansmen would find and kill him, she fostered him to two crones of the wild-wood, afterwards going on to become the wife of the King of Kerry. Her son was nicknamed Fionn, the “Fair One,” because of the whiteness of his skin and his flaxen hair. He was trained by the druid named Finegas, who dwelt near the river Boyne. Here in a pool under a hazel tree lived Fintann, the Salmon of Knowledge, who supposedly attained great intellectual powers by eating the Nuts of Knowledge which showered his pool. It was guessed that anyone who ate the flesh of this salmon would acquire this wisdom by direct assimilation. Unfortunately for humans, the Salmon was elusive, but Fionn caught it and brought it home to his master. Finegas arranged that it be cooked for his own consumption, but it was touched by Finn while on the spit. He, unthinkingly, transferred his burnt thumb to his mouth, and with this act acquired all of the knowledge of the Salmon. Seeing this, the druid directed his pupil to go on his way since, "I can teach you no more." As the knowledge of the Salmon entered his body through a tooth, (the fiacaill na’ fios: tooth of knowledge) this became a focal point for detecting omens of future events, and Fionn had only to touch it with the "burnt" thumb to tap into useful visions. In the Celtic world, especially among the Gaels, the salmon was sacrosanct until the coming of Christianity and the idea of "meatless Friday." The Picts and Scots consumed no fish since many traced their blood lines to the undersea people. Ancient Irish kings often wore the salmon brooch and kept a royal fish-pond. When a neighbouring prince invaded the royal grounds his first act was the destruction of the salmon held in his rival's pool. At present, the Duke of Argyll, his son Lord Lorne, and the Campbells of Lochnell who are their nearest relatives, are regarded as having the sole right to
wear silver salmons as buttons on their doublets. Salmon fishing, when it was finally allowed, was reserved to the Crown of Scotland, the government raising revenues by granting charters to lands which carried piscatorial rights. BRAIG, a chain, thus braighde, captives, hostages, pledges, prisoners, Germ. kringel, Eng. crank. See next. BRAIGHE, the neck, throat, the place where chains were affixed to torques, the upper portion of anything, including land. Seen in placenames as: Bra’id-Albainn, the Scot. Braidalbane, Eng. Breadalbane, the upper part (north) of Scotland. See next. BRAIGHDEAN FIAR, a collar worn the wrong way 'round, a Christian cleric; a term of general approbation for the Christian church. Braighda, neck-chained, a captive, a hostage, a prisoner; fiar, crooked, the wrong way round. BRAMAN, BREMAS, misadventure, the nathair, the Devil; also note the dialectic form broman. The MIr. bromda, indicates a boorish individual, an impertinent man. The root appears to be breun, putrid, which is closely allied with bragatreachd, vain, boastful from the Anglo-Saxon Bragi, which is the name of their god of poetry, rhetoric and song. The great Bragi was a mortal god the child of Odin and the giantess named Gunlod. In the Norse lands poetry was entitled bragi and the scalds (bards) were named bragimen and bragiwomen. Bragi was particularly remembered at funeral feasts and the Yule when toasts were drunk in his memory. Each person present was expected to pledge himself to a deed of valour executed within the coming year. The first pledge-makers were usually sober but those furthest removed from the king tended to make rather farfetched promises, thus the English verb-form "to brag". BRAN, obs. poor, black, Currently, the raven, Cy. bran and Br. brenn, a crow. A further root is gra, whence the English cry and crane. Much used in personal and river names as this
animal was the totem of the sea-people or Fomors, most notably that of the Bafinn, the goddess of fate. In the Welsh tale, The Dream of Rhonabwy, Owein appears to have been given a troop of ravens to oppose Arthur's armies. Morgwyn, or Morrigan, had the capacity to shape-change into one of these black birds and this carrion eater had a general association with the battlefield. These birds were called scald-birds, or scald-crows in the Norse lands where the expression "glutting the ravens" was used by the scalds, or poets, to describe any wholesale slaughter. Ward Rutherford says that "even in late times, the sight of a flock of them wheeling in the sky was taken by armies on the march as a presage of an imminent encounter." This ravenous bird was also the totem of Badb, the Gaelic warrior-queen, whose name is also written as Medb or Maeve. In Irish legend she was a ruler of Connaught, who contended with the Ulster Hero Cu Chulainn. In folklore she was one of the sidh, who lived "under the hollow hills". She is thought to have been the model for Shakespeare's Queen Mab. "Mrs. Gale remarks that it was a common superstition in Ireland that if a raven hovered over the head of cattle, a withering blight had been set upon the animals. As birds of carrion they were supposed to be waiting for the carcases.” Anne Ross says that “The role of the raven in Celtic tradition at all stages, as a bird of omen, possessing outstanding intelligence, andf as a creature particularly concerned with the battle-field is such as to cause it to be associated with any deity accredited with exceptional knowledge, skill and martial abilities. In Irish references Lugh is twice connected with the bird: Thus the hawk of Achill tells Fintann that he has seen “full many a raven and crow along with Lugh of the heroe’s hands.” Again ravens are seen to fly back to this god to warn him of the approach of Fomorian enemies. In Brythonic myth Bran is a god of the Otherworld, a
son to Ler and the brother of Manann mac Ler. A brief mention is made of him in the Irish Book of Leinster. A better known Bran appears in Immrain Brain The “Voyages of Bran,” which date from the eighth century. This Bran, the son of Febbal, heard sweet music which lulled him to sleep. When he awakened he found a branch of silver with white blossoms on it at his side. That night a beautiful woman appeared in his dreams and a sang a lay describing the pleasures of her world at the edge of the western sea. As she departed the silver bough sprang from his hand to hers. Compelled to take up an echtral, Bran sailed into the western ocean where he met Manann mac Ler riding his horses on the ocean waves. Eventually he passed on to Tir mBan, the “Land of Women,” and here met the woman of his dreams. In this place Bran and his crew remained for what seemed a single year, but when they returned to Ireland they found that a century of human time had elapsed. Seeing this, Bran turned the prow of his boat westward again “and from that hour his wanderings are not known.” When Cú Chullain marched against his enemies it was said among them, “the distorted one form Ireland approaches as the raven’s promised.” The Ulster heroe’s relations with the raven-kind was unfriendly. The hero was respponnsible for the killing of large flocks of these Otherworld creatures. The ravens, in this instance, were described as huge in size, capable of swimming on the ocean, and their evil nature was stressed. See Srub Brain. Three similar ravens are pictured as coming to Caoilte and his companions when they approached the sighe so that they might be healed by them. They would not permit this until he destroyed three evil ravens that harassed their sidh , carrying off three boys each Samhuinn day. “It was there that they saw three ravens in from the deeps of the sea to the north. These animals descended to men on the tree of special properties which stood on the green, as as they fell they emitted sorrowful shrieks, gloomy to hear...Then Cas Corach seized a chessman from the board (fidchell) and cast
it at one of the ravens so that it went into the mouth and killed it. Fer Maise cast another and Caolite shot at the third bird with the same effect.” In a similar fashion a dreuid to king Eochaid saw this ill-omen: “I saw a great flock of black birds coming up from the depths of the ocean. They settled all over us and destroyed us completely. It seemed to me that one of us struck the noblest of these birds and cut off one of his wings.” In later mythology there is conflict between King Arthur’s men and Owein’s raven-followers. The most powerful raven-goddess was the sea-born Mhorrigan. In Gaelic parts it was noted that the crow-raven goddess was capable of foretelling all events, the distrous outcomes of pending battles and political encounters in particular. Immediately after her sexual union with the Dagda the crow-woman advised the father-god on ways of controlling the Fomorians and suggested how she would influence the outcome of battle between them and the Dagda’s folk. At the victory of the Tuatha daoine the Mhorrigan celebrated and made prophecies concerning all the evil, disease, and vengeance which would be seen in the world until the end of time. The goddess warned against ruin when she appeared atop the ridge-pole of the hostel of Dá Dearga , and she also took the bird form when she tried her unsuccessful seduction of Cú Chullain. All these disconnected fragments suggest a one-time belief in the harmful power of otherworldly birds, and in particular the supernatural abilities of ravens, a symbol of the preeminent war-goddess and servitor to the gods. Raven lore is most fully presented in the Middle Irish codex, viz. “If the raven calls from above an enclosed bed a distinguished older guest, or clerics, will call. If the cleric is a lay-man the bird will say “bacach,” it it be a man in orders the call will be “gradh, gradh.” If a warrior or satirist is to be a guest, it is “gracc, gracc” that the bird calls. If it makes voice from some quarter behind, then it is from that direction that guests will come. If women come
the calls will be long. If calls come from the north-east robbers are intent on horse-theft. If a call comes from above the door someone from the king’s retinue is at hand. If the call is from above the goodman’;s bed, where the weapons are, he will travel out to his death. If he is already abroad he will come back in safety. If a woman is destined to die her call will come from her pillow. If it comes from the foot of a man’s bed, his son, his brother, or a son-in-law will soon visit. If the cry issues from a storehouse there will be an increase in foodstuffs coming from the quarter of the call...If the creature speaks with a slight voice as err, err, then sickness will fall upon the household. If wolves are expected then the sound will be carna, carna (flesh, flesh). To eat when ravens call from the roofpole is inadvisable, throw the food away. A call from a high tree is the death-knell of a young lord. A call from a stone means the death of a farmer. A call from the highest tree prognosticates the loss of a king or heir to the throne. If the bird flys away with you then the journey will prosper and fresh meat will be yoours. If one follows a raven lefthandwise death or destruction pends. If the bird leads on to an assembly there will be an uprising of those involved, if the direction to that gathering is left-handed some will die in the altercations. If the sound is “grob, grob,” horses will be stolen and not recovered.” In the Lay of the Wife of Meargach one passage says: “I knew by the voice of ravens, each morning since you journeyed from me, that your downfall was certain , and that you would not return victorious.” Elsewhere: “I knew by the flight of the raven going before you that this was no propitious sign.” Such omen-calling was opposed by Christians and St. Columba once remarked,”I do not adore the voices of birds, nor sneezing, nor the casting of lots...” The role of the raven as witch-familiar is seen in the case of Iain Garbh a member of MacLeod of Raasay. In April of 1671 when Iain’s boat was returning across the Minch from Stornoway it was reported that a raven was seen flying close to his boat and
that it finally settled on the gunwale. Recognizing it as a baobh commissioned by his stepmother the man drew his dirk and tried to kill it. He missed his mark, but his strength was so huge that the point of the dirk parted the timbers of the boat, so that it filled with water and all hands were lost. BRAN DEARG, the Red Raven or Robin. The appearance of a robin is sometimes considered a forewarning of danger or illness. See next. BRANDUBH, Black Raven, the board game of the heroes and the gods. Similar to fidchell. A battle game whose moves had parallels in the world of men. Also branfad, the “longdelayed raven,” perhaps referring to the length of play, but certainly to the legend that a raven was sent out after the World-Flood but failed to return. The Scottish form is fidcheall. Brandubh boards were frequently made to represent the nathair, the primal giant of the Fomorians. Carvers sometimes inserted a “head” at the top of the board in the “northern” quadrant. “Hands” were inserted at the east and the west and “feet” at the “south” (bottom) of the board. A hole at the centre was understood to represent “the bellybutton” of the god, which was also the Cauldron of Regeneration. The figure thus formed represents the formidable patriarch of Donn teach, or the “House of Don,”a creature badly treated by the rapacious gods of the land. In the game, as in myth, the black crow stands as the totem of the sea people, his fid, or marker, inserted at the navel of creation. The black raven is represented by the letter “f” in the Ogham alphabet. As such it represents the day which we call Saturday, the tree known as the alder, fire, the spring season from March 19 to April 4, and all people sharing seablood. The Welsh hero-king Bran was one of these and this name for the game may remember him. On the board there were seven by seven holes made for lesser fids. Four of
these were assembled about the raven. It was the work of opposing fids to penetrate this guard to capture and carry off the source of “all poetry and inspiration.” It is a matter of history that the palace at Tara was designed after the game: “As on the board, the King occupied the centre. The men of Munster were on the south, those of Connacht in the west; Ulster in the north and Leinster in the east. In state the high king sat centrally with the four kings of the provinces arranged about him as in gaming. BRANFID, BRANFAD, the game board also known as brandubh or fidcheall. Refers to the central crow-fid, a marker on the board defended by a surround of common fids (pointed markers inserted in holes). A game played by the gods in the interest of maintaining order in the worlds of men and the gods. Events on the board were seen to parallel those that took place in reality. BRAN FHIONN, White Raven, the storm petrel, The counterclockwise circling of these birds supposedly presages storm and loss of life in fishing communities (such as those at Grand Manan, N.B.) If one such bird dove at a fisherman and then flew away the mariner was expected to turn his boat and follow it to safety, or perish in a gathering of impenetrable fog. BRAOLAID, ranting, raving, dreaming. From breisleach, confusion, delirium, nightmare, literally the overthrow of the mind. Considered caused by the infiltration of an evil spirit(s) into the body of a man. The agent of dreams was the alp, which English call the “night mare.” BRATACH SIDE, bratach, flag, ensign, colours, "the fairy flag." A noted relic held by the MacLeods of Dunvegan. "The ensign is of oriental Mediterranean fabric, more than a thousand years old and very carefully stitched in the darns... The Fairy Flag was doubtless carried into battle furled, by its hereditary keepers; whose bodies after death were placed on a special grating to disintegrate...the ashes
of each being shaken through the grating to join their ancestral ashes immediately below. The MacLeods believe that their flag was only to be unfurled in times of gravest peril, and then only on three occasions - and this has already been done twice; (specifically) when Alasdair Crouchback, eighth Chief of MacLeod (1481-1547) was battling against Clanranald. There is also a tale that it was unfurled to check a cattle plague. In 1799 the iron chest containing the flag was improperly forced open out of curiosity by a factor during the absence of General MacLeod of MacLeod ninth twenty-third Chief), whereupon the prophecy of the Brahan Seer was fulfilled and the chiefs heir perished when his warship was blown up at sea. In 1938, when a wing of Dunvegan Castle was on fire, the flames checked and ceased their destruction at the very moment the fairy flag was carried past it on its way to safety. BREA. The son of Belgan. One of five Tuathans left behind in Ulster to create dissent among the Milesian conquerors when the Tuatha daoine were driven underground. BREAS. BRES, see Eochaid Bres. Breas, Prince, King, Potentate, Loud Voice, Noise. Breaslang, deceit. See following entry. BREASIL. BREASAL, OIr. breasal, warrior, OCy. bresel, war, a sea-spirit, a side form of the creator god Don. Also an island in the Atlantic due west of Ireland. Variants of the word, as they describe the island, include Breasil, Brazil, Brasil, Braisil, Hy Brazil, O Brazil. bras, brais, brisg (the Eng. brisk), active, rash, hasty + ile, diverse, variegated in appearance, tartaned, diverse in appearance. The prefix hi indicates ownership, thus owned by Breasal. The prefix O indicates “from away,” from “far off.” The feminine form may be Breg, thus the land of Breasal is occasionally referred to as Bregon or Tir Breg. Confers with breisleach, confusion, nightmare, nightmare creature, delirium, EIr. breslech, to “overthrow.”
Sometimes given as named for Saint Bresal but he flourished about the year 540 and his name is clearly derived from that of the pagan god. As nearly as we can determine, the Island of Breasal, Bresil, Brasil or Brazil was first indicated in a position a little southwest of Ireland, by a Genoese cartographer named A. Dalorto, about the year 1325. In the earliest spellings the name is rendered as Bres-il or Breas-il or more simply as Bres or Breas. The ending il or iol appears to have the meaning of “many,” thus, in full, “many like Breas,” or, perhaps, those descended from Breas. The old Gaels used to prefix islands with words such as ud or od (sometimes shortened to o’, “yonder,” or with i or hí , “she,” i.e. “belonging to her (the sea-goddess Mhorrigan).” Thus we find O’Breasil and Hi Breasil, translated into English as Hy Brazil, Ysle Brazil or even Y Brazil. The place is represented in various other European tongues as Brazir, Brasill , Bracir, Bresaill, etc. Peter Ellis says that the island was named after Breasal, “The High King of the World.” If so, he is none other than the creator-god Don. It has been noted that the island is often show as circular, or nearly circular, which makes it confer with the circular floating land of An Domhain, the major possession of the god Don. Ellis goes on to suggest that Breasal lived at the time of Tuathal Teachtmhaire, “the sixth in descent from Eochaid Feidlech, the father of Mebd.” (130-160 A.D.). Tuathal was not a northerner as his name suggests, but of Connaught ancestory, and it was said that he was born in Britain, where his mother fled to avoid the effects of the rebellion of the Daoine aithech or Aithech Tuatha , the mythic “little people.” Returning to Ireland he was opposed by Eochaid of Leinster and Breasal, the builder of Barc Breasal, the “Boat of Brasil,” a formidable fortress which was reduced to rubble in battle. At the end of this fray Breasal was forced to “retire” and “lived in the west where his land was known as Hy-Brasil and sometimes as O-Brasil.”
Ellis has identified this place with the sunken lands of which the present Arran Islands are a remnant,” but this is conjecture, and he admits that in folklore it was rather “a legendary Atlantic island” located far beyond the horizon. In every version Brazil was said to be visible only once in seven years, and it was sometimes suggested that those who looked upon it faced certain death, and would not live long among men. There were several incarnations of the man-god known as Breas, the earliest being a warrior send out by the Tuatha daoine to negotiate with the Firbolg ambassador Sreng. Breas suggested that the island of Ireland be divided equally between the two opposing tribes, but the Firbolg’s refused and the first battle at Magh Tuireadh followed, a contest in which he was killed. In the end, the Firbolgs were defeated and had to settled with the quarter eventually named Connaught. A more powerful figure is seen in the Breas who married Bridd or Brigit, the goddess of soveranty after king Nuada lost his hand at this same battle. A man of partial Fomorian ancestry, Breas was deposed and this action led to the second battle of Magh Tuireadh and the downfall of the “giants.” It has been reported that the Tuatha daoine captured Breas and, in return for his life, he promised to advise his captors concerning agricultural matters, “especially about planting and sowing.” Thus, it appears, that Breas became an agricultural divinity much like Aod or Hugh. Nothing is said of his ultimate destiny, but having served his function, he may have returned to the Otherworld. The sea-faring god Breas is perhaps the legendary Breagha, leader of the Bregons or Bregians. Their ancient land is noted in some places as Tir Breg, the “Fine- or Bright Land.” A related word is brigh having “pith” or “power.” The Bregons, were also spoken of as those “born of Breg,”and this goddess is often given as the mate of Dagda . The Munstermen identified Ith the son of Breg as
the ultimate patriarch of their tribe. An island dedicated to Breas was said to be the staging point for the dead en-route to An Domhain. It was supposed to lie off Munster in the Atlantic, somewhat to the south-west. Breas may be seen as the southern equivalent of the god Lugh, Donn or the Dagda, all variously represented as care-takers of the Dead Lands beyond the western sun. The contributions of Breas in the agricultural realm are not fully known, but his name became rather indirectly attached to South America plants and the country now called Brazil. We know that Breas bargained for his life after losing the war with the Tuatha daoine and received it when he told his enemies that all farming practises should commence on Tuesday. Donald S. Johnson thinks that the island might have been named for the legendary Saint Bresal the son of the first Christian king of Thormond. One of the early Christian missionaries to the Gaels he was a contemporary of Saint Enda of the Aran Islands, and Saint Brendan sought his expertise before setting out on his Atlantic voyage (540 A.D.). There is a second Saint Bresal “the son of Segan and the Abbott of Iona.” He died in 796 A.D. Considering the weight of earlier mythology we think it unlikely that the Hy Brazil was named after either of these somewhat obscure Christian saints, and we don’t think that “the Promised Land of the Saints was given his name.” Exactly when this island appeared on medieval maps is difficult to determine, but an entirely circular island labelled Insula de moutonis sive de brazile appears on the map of Angelino de Dalorto in 1325. This is the only case where it is alternately named the “Island of Sheep.” In this representation the island appears to lie southwest of the embayment that holds the Aran Islands of Ireland, possibly on a parallel with Tralee. The Angelino Delcert map of 1339 confirms this location showing the Arini (Arans) as the closest landfalls to the northeast. In this instance the island is represented as Insula de Brazil, the closest
landfall to the east being noted as an island called brascher. This is probably the pagan “purgatory” mentioned earlier on. This map shows Brazil as elongated from north to south, but it is circular on the Catalan map of 1350. Confusion creeps into the map-making process after this date for we begin to see the Atlantic island of Terceria, which is one of the Azores, given this same appellation. At first the spelling was too eccentric or indistinct to relate with the usual spelling Brazil but some correspondence is seen in the Pizigani map of 1367 where it is entitled Insol da braçir. On this same map, this same name is applied to another island which appears to be about one hundred miles southwest of Ireland. To confuse matters still more a third island is shown bearing this name, and this one stands in the Irish Sea, due west of England. The last is more commonly named the Insola de Man, or the “Isle of Man,” but it is located west of the southern part of the English Channel rather than in the Irish Sea. The latter name finally stuck with the present Isle of Man which does lie between Ireland and England, but Terceira maintained the name Braçir, finally emerging as Insulla de Brazil on the Pareto map of 1455. This island has now lost its original name but the designation remains in Monte Brazil, a volcanic peak on its southern coast. Johnson’s contention that Hy Brazil finally became associated with an island closer Ireland and became a geographic constant in this location is not so. Bristol merchants were certain that they recovered Brazil in North Atlantic waters, and most historians link the place with Cape Breton Island. In the last quarter of the fifteenth century the people of the English outport were engaged in a wide-ranging trade with Ireland, Spain and Portugal. On the route to Cathay, long before Columbus “discovered” America, they made serious efforts to locate the mythic island, thinking it would serve as a useful base for their trade with the Far East. In 1480 a ship “of 80 tons burthen” sailed out of Bristol to examine the waters west of Ireland.
The instructions to the captain were that he should not terminate his voyage short of shores of Brazil. A contemporary account of this voyage was written by Willelmus Botoner, who explained that the expedition was headed by John Jay Jr. and Thomas Lyde “the most expert seamen in all England.” Botoner said that these captains abandoned their quest after nine months on storm-tossed seas. An expedition organized in the following year involved two ships, also sent “to serche & fynde a certain isle called the Isle of Brazil.” It is conventional wisdom that neither of these voyages were productive, but Samuel Eliot Morison has argued that these men were the true discoverers of America, disguising their findings to maintain a monopoly over the fishing grounds they found off the banks of Newfoundland. One thing is certain, the ships that went out for the second round carried full holds of salt, an indication that they were headed for a fishing ground. There were similar expeditions by other Bristol mariners through the next decade and John Cabot, who lived briefly in London, was one of those who commanded ships purportedly looking for Brazil in 1491 and 1492. Pedro de Ayala, a Spanish envoy to London in 1498, told his government that the Bristol merchants were strangely interested in the empty ocean, sending out two to four ships a year “in the seven years just past.” In 1498 Cabot made his last voyage, taking with him five ships and three hundred sailors. A chronicle of the time tells us that Cabot went out again “in serche of an Iland whereyn (he) surmysed to (find) great commodities.” John Cabot and his ship is known to have been lost somewhere north of Conception Bay, Newfoundland, but survivors of the expedition did return to England and it was assumed that Brazil had been recovered. The earliest explorers of the “Newly Found Land,” took back wood which they termed brazilwood. King Emmanuel of Portugal later gave the name to Brazil a place below the equator when a similar yellow
wood was discovered to dominate the forests. That wood was found to be abnormally hard and throughout the world brasilwood became synonymous with any hard material, and thus we find the word extended in use with iron pyrites , for example, being termed brasil. It is, perhaps, coincidental that the two largest bodies of water cutting the heart of Cape Breton Island are Great- and Lesser Bras D’Or Lakes (Arm of Gold). Bras is the French equivalent of breas. A close correspondence may also be seen between the Gaelic breg and the French brasier, bright, a fire, an inferno. Bras has multiple meanings aside from “arm.” It may also indicate the flipper of a sea-animal or a brace, for example oar-locks. In the plural it may be read as the “jaws” (of death). and early on, the estuaries of the lakes must have been regarded as something akin to a gateway to the Dead Lands. This is especially interesting when linked with the fact that the Micmacs named Cape Breton Boo-sal, the “place where red ochre is found.” This pigment was used in archaic times to paint the bodies of corpses before internment. These words also match the Old Norse brasa which is sometimes taken as the root word, and it means “a live coal,” conferring with our verb to “braize,” or solder. From the earliest times, Cape Breton is described as a place where explorers detected fire and smoke. In addition, it is recorded that the English king was the frequent recipient of gifts from North America, some made of brasil woode. We know that the Norse transported maple from the New World to the Old, and at least one sixteenth century explorer of New England took back birch logs. The species that was brazil-wood is not certainly known, but it was said to be a plant with a bark useful in dyeing objects yellow or red. The name was said given the wood from its colour, and when explorers found a similar looking species in a portion of South America that place became known as Brazil. It is not difficult to picture old Cape Breton in terms of both light and darkness. From the earliest days it was a “Land of Smoke,” often the product of man-made forest
fires. It was also one of the beginning places in Micmac mythology, the focus being Kelly’s Mountain which is on the north side of the Grand Passage into the Bras D’ors. Some say that the culture-hero, Glooscap, came first to this promontory, guiding his stone canoe down from the moon. It is also argued that he will return here to clear the land of the white intruders. Not far distant is the prime residence of Glooscap and the mikumwees , the fay-people who were his favoured companions, a race not unlike the Daoine sidh. Glooscap, like Breas was said to be a giant and there were others of his kind who were boon companions, notably the woman who was usually termed Grandmother, and a man named Earthquake. The latter provided pyrotechnics for the man-god when he made public appearances and disappearances. The woman was a shape-changer named Oona.. There is a strangeness in this name for the ancient Irish kingdom of Ulaidh was pronounced “oola,”a name which was attached to the soveran-queen of that place. In the early Irish form this word is ulad from the root ul, a cover. It has been suggested as resembling the Latin alvus, a “belly (filled with things), and from this supplementary meanings such as “a treasure” or a “charnel-house,” or “house of the dead. It is hard to resist equating Micmac and Celtic myths: This woman Oona is not represented as Glooscap’s mate, but he certainly felt she would miss him, and for this reason he passed a cloak of forgetfulness over her before leaving the world of men. With this act it was said that she ceased to exist as the Muin Wapskwa , becoming instead a youthful beauty, the full equal of the Gaelic Samh. Here again the life-giving, and taking-, propensities of the summer-winter goddess are seen as inextricably mixed. While the location of Hy Brazil seems to have been generally known for a few decades before and after the fifteenth century that name did not persist; Cape Breton was, for a time, charted as X ozarcade. This Spanish word indicates the place of “hidden coves for the furling of sails.” The importance of this landfall was suggested by
Sebastian Cabot in 1544 when he described it as prima tierra iusta, the “first (or perhaps primordial) land of justice.” This may have been a political comment, but it may have been intended in the sense of “a beginning place,” a landfall serving as a guide, or more literally as the “source of all things,” along the lines of the Celtic An Domhain or the Old Norse Ginnungugap.. Whatever the case, Brasil was reinstated on the Zalterius map in 1565 and was located southeast rather than southwest of Newfoundland. Mercator represented it in 1569 but renamed it Y: de Juan Estevez. In 1593 Planicus pushed it back across the Atlantic to its earlier location southwest of Ireland. In the seventeenth century. Leslie of Glasslough, County Monaghan, Ireland managed to convince the authorities that he had rediscovered I-Breasil, and they believed him to the extent of issuing a royal patent of ownership conditional on the disenchantment of this mystical place. According to Ruairi O Flaithearta a boat out of the port of Owles, Ireland was blown into the west one night and the next day “about noon” spied land “so near they could see sheep grazing on shore.” Realizing that no islands were known in those waters the voyagers showed great caution and “dared not touch the shore, imagining it to be O’Brazil.” These seamen found that it took two days of swift sailing to come back to their home port. In 1636 a man identified only as Captain Rich came back to an Irish port noting that he had seen an island off the western coat replete with “a harbour and headlands,” but when he made an attempt to land, “it vanished in the mist.” Similarly, in 1644 Boulage Le Gouz said that his ship had come within three miles of this phantom island, close enough to observe “trees and cattle.” In his book Irish Minstrelsy, Hardiman reprinted a letter from a Mr. W. Hamilton of Derry, dated 1674. Addressed to a friend in London is advised of the discovery,”a few weeks before,” of this island in the Atlantic. Hamilton insisted that a cousin
named Mathew Calhoon, “a wise man and a great scholar,” had requested that Charles I grant him a patent of ownership as he believed that the island “has been fully discovered...and the enchantment (on it) broken.” Hamilton went on to explain that the practical recovery of Breasil and its incorporation into the British Empire was now imminent the place having been charted by the captain of a Killybegan schooner named Captain John Nisbet. In September, 1674, Nisbet had filled several vessels with tallow, butter and hides and sailed to France where he landed and brought back French wines. Nearing the coast of Ireland on his return passage, he came, near sunrise, upon “a terrible thick fog,” which persisted for three hours. As suddenly;y as it had fallen this pall lifted and the sailors found themselves “dangerously close to the land, with rocks not far off.” This place was an unfamiliar port and they sounded and anchored in three fathoms of water. Four of the eight crewmen rowed ashore and at their landing they investigated “a pleasant green valley “filled with many cattle, where horses and sheep were feeding.” They saw what appeared to be a fortress and went there hoping for information, but their knocks at the door went unanswered and they heard nothing from within. They spent the rest of the day surveying the island but with night approaching returned to the shore where they spent the night before a roaring fire. The next morning directly after sunrise they heard “a hideous noise.” that seemed to reverberate from all parts of the island, but appeared centred on the “castle” The seamen remembered older accounts from Hy Breasil which had spoken of men and women imprisoned in such a place by “the diabolical art of a great Negromancer.” It had been suggested that he had cursed the island making it invisible and unproductive for mortal men. As a fire had been kindled on the beach, the seamen guessed that “the spell of enchantment” must now be broken, “and the wicked time expired.” Captain Nisbet and his men sailed home taking with them samples of gold and silver which they claimed were given to them by those freed from imprisonment.
Three days after Nisbet returned Alexander Johnson went out on the western ocean to see if Brazil was recovered or not. He came home again saying he and his crew had been royally entertained by the residents of a distant western island. Hamilton’s account was purely circumstantial in detail and seemed to involve the claims of the Leslie family as he asked his friend in London to inform “young Leslie” of the good news telling him that the place had been found “a few weeks before.” The place obviously went lost again for in his book Iar Connacht O Flaitheara says that “There is now living (1684) Morrogh O’Loy who imagines himself recently in O’Brazil - he went there from Aran - and came back to Galway, 6 or 8 years ago and began (as a result of what he learned) to practise both chirurgery and phisick, and so continues ever since to practise, tho’ he never studied or practised either all his life time before, as all we that knew him as a boy can aver.” Hardiman said that it was rumoured that Molloy brought back a book of magical spells, the Book of O’Brazil on condition that he would make no use of it for seven years. A French chart, from the year 1755 pictures the island as west of the Feeros (which are themselves north of Scotland), at 5°W, 29°N latitude. Brisa is a form of Brasil, and interestingly where it is represented on early maps, the location is usually far westward on a island which could be either Mount Desert, in Maine, or Grand Manan, in New Brunswick. There is at least one variant on this theme. On a map designed by Ortelius in 1570 the island of Brisa is either the present-day Scaterie or perhaps Isle Madame, both close by Cape Breton. Until Rotz noticed the Canso Strait in 1535, Cape Breton (Cape of Breas’ dun, or fortress?) was not understood to be separate from Nova Scotia, and its presence as an island was rarely noted until the following century. This being the case, it was not usually given a separate name although Rotz did call it Cabo Bretos, the “Cape of the Britons (or Bretons),” presumably after a southeastern cape which bore this designation from
the earliest times. It appears as Mar Descubierto par Ingleses. on the Juan de la Cosa map of 1500). This is the “Sea of Cape Breton (so named) by Englishmen,” a fraction of the wider coast which De Cosa described as “discovered by the English.” The original intention of the wordsmiths was something on the order of “The Sea by the Cape of Britain.” This idea seems to be reinforced by the Vopell map of 1545 which shows a medieval knight standing on the Ca d. terre dos bretois, his shield emblazoned with St. George’s cross. From this word we have the Scottish placenames: Donibrysell and Donybrisle, this last formerly dunadh Breasail. BREATAAN, Ir. Breatain, EIr. Bretan, noun plural Bretain, the Britons, Cy. Brython, Cor. Brethon, Br. Breis, re. Brittany, Latin Brittania, Britanni, Britons. The root Greek form is believed to be cruth, a picture, "pictured men", "painted men." Earlier forms are the Cy. Prydain and the EIr. Cruithne, a Pict, translated into Latin as Cruithii or Cruithini. Perhaps from the Gaelic cruithneachd, wheat. Thus, the Cruithne, or Picts, the inhabitants of a large block of Britain until 300 B.C. Who gave their name to present-day Britain. Other anglicized forms of this name include Bratton, Brittan and Britton. More antiquely the Picts, who are considered to have given their name to all the Celtic races of Britain, about the year 300 B.C. The alternate lowland name, Picti is said the same as the Gaullish Pictavi (as currently used in Poitiers). If so, Macbain suggests it is not of Greek or Latin origin, and does not correspond with the Latin pictus, their word for painted. Origianlly a Briton, a resident of Wales, the Strathclyde of Scotland or Cornwall as distinct from the the Albainn. A term used in pre-Roman times. Possibly from a shortened Latin form of Britannius. In Gaelic there was a noun Britt, meaning British which used to be restricted to these people. From this we have the Celtic Breiz, Brittany. The Gaelic plural was Breatain. They must have spread rather widely, for there are “ridges, duns, and fortresses of the Britons” throughout all of the island of Great Britain.
BREATANN CORNN, the Irish form, in Anglo Saxon Cornwealas, “Strangers (Welsh) of the Horn,” from which Cornwall. Horn indicates a promnnotory, which is the case with Cornwall. There were other horn-like bends in the map receiving this name. BREIG, BREG, breug, soothe, amuse, flatter, pacify, cajole, entice, the “Bright one,”a triune goddess whose remaining forms were Meng (Whey) and Meabal ( Abusive; probably a form of Mebd). Often confused with Boann, since she is mentioned as the mate of Dagda. Breig, fine. Her people were the Breaghda or Bregians, dwellers in Tir Breg. She is the Cailleach bheurr, the mid-winter collector of souls of the dead, the huntress and gamekeeper of the northern lands, a creature who had a youthful counterpart in the Norse goddess Skadi. Breg is noted as the wife of Dagda. A feminine form of Breasil. It is thought that a line of water courses connecting the Humber and the Mersey constituted the southern boundary of Brigantia in present-day England. The northern limit of this ancient place was probably the Rivers Tyne and South Tyne perhaps connecting westward with the River Irthing. It was approximately the six most northern counties of England and was dominated by those who worshipped the heights on which bright fires were kindled. This name is found in Cy. brenin,a high one or “king,” and the goddess is frequently commemorated in river names, as: Braint in Anglesey and Brent in Middlesex. Her counterpart is the Gaelic Bridd, daughter of the Dagda, the patriarch of the Tuatha daoine. She was long worshipped as a spring and river goddess and as a goddess of war. They were noted metalworkers and their craft was unearthed among votive offerings at Anglesey. It was guessed that they were brought there by some Brigantian priest attending an annual religious function. See Bridd. The next word confers with this one. BREATHAS, frenzy, extremy fury, flaming wrath, berserker rage, infatuation. A drug-induced fury created by drinking the “blood” of potential enemies. See cro and related words for more detail.
BREGON. Confers with breug, “enticing, flattering,” The Liar.” Possibly allied with breacan, plaid; wearing a plaid. A son of Mil, the father of Bile and Ith. He built a tower in the Land of the dead and from it was the first to spot Ireland, which was afterwards invaded and conquered by the Milesians. Also an alternate name for Hy Breasil. BREIGLIDH, obs, violating, "burrowing", treasure-seeking. Digging in the earth was once considered dangerous and reprehensible. Note above entries. BREMAS, mischief, mishap, fire-like, an inferno, the nathair, the Devil. A form of braman (which, see). The dialectic form is broman, a boor, an impertinent person. The root is brag relating to breun, putrid. Bragi was the Norse god of poetry and was represented on earth by the scalds or bragimen and bragiwomen, who sometimes "rose above their station." BRENG, BREUG, BRIAG, OIr. brec, a lie, Skr. bhramca, a loss, deviation. One of the names visited on the Dagda’s wife, the others being Meng and Meabel. BREIS, Brittany. The name used by the Britons to describe their Brythonic-speaking kin-folk, who moved from their island-based lands into France during the fifth and sixth centuries. This Celtic speaking tribe may have been named for the mythic Breas. See following entry. BRENDAN, “Dun of the Raven,” a seafaring Irish monk who founded monasteries in all the parts of Britain as well as in Brittany. The saga of his voyage to North America is not dismissed as an fiction. Sean Kelly says that the “Promised Land of the Saints,” the terrestrial paradise he discovered, was in the tropics, but it has also been charted in North Atlantic waters, southwest of Newfoundland. The written record of his trip(s) says he and his men sailed the western ocean for seven years in a hide-covered boat. meeting mermaids on the the open water, and visiting with a hermit
who identified himself as Judas Iscariot. BRES, BREAS, see Eochaid Bres. The Tuathan-Fomorian "hero" who displaced King Nuada after he lost his hand in battle. This led to the Tuathan-Fomorian wars described elsewhere. BRIAN. The oldest of the three sons of Tuireann (Thor/Hercules) by the goddess Bridd. He and his two younger siblings killed Cian, the father of the sun-god Lugh. In recompense they went on echtral seeking three apples from the Hesperides; a magic pig skin from Tuis, king of Greece; a spear from Pisear of Persia; two horses and a chariot from Dobhar, king of Siogair; two pigs from Easal, king of the Golden Pillars (Tartessos in southern Spain); the whelp-hound of the king of Ioruiadh and the cooking spit possessed by women in the undersea kingdom. Their voyage corresponds somewhat with that of Jason and his argonauts. While they survived all this their victory shouts from the Hill of Miaodchaoin attracted implacable enemies and they were killed. BRIAN MAC CENNÉIDIGH, Brian Mackenna, a chieftain residing in Clare. He was born in 941 and became known to history as Brian Borumna after the tribute levied on his town of Bórime, located on the bank of the Shannon. He was the youngest of twelve Irish warriors, all but one killed in battle against the foreigners. Brian’s eldest brother was Mathghamhain, who succeeded his father as ruler of Munster, the old Fomorian redoubt. In 976, this king was betrayed to the outlanders by an Irish prince and Brian became king at the age of thirtyfive. In 980 his greatest rival was the king of Meath and disputing him, he sailed up the Shannon and raided Meath and wasted Connaught. For a few years after there was a show of friendship between these two, with Maélsechlainn designated as the northern ruler and Brian as the monarch in the north.
In 999 they formed a military alliance and defeated the Dubliners “with great red slaughter.” In 1002, Brian violated his treaties with the northerner and afterwards proclaimed himself Emperor of the Irish. Brian Boru attempted to extend his royal prerogatives beyond Ireland and in 1005 fitted out a fleet manned by mercenary Norsemen from Waterford and Wexford. He pillaged the shores of northern Ireland, the West Isles and Britain and levied tribute. Observing that it was impractical to banish the Danes he treated them with leniency bordering on favouritism. To further his policy of peace through kinship, he gave his own daughter by his first wife to a former enemy, the king of Dublin. He in turn took, as a second wife, Gormlaith, an Irish queen who was on her third matrimonial voyage. It was said that she was the fairest of all women, and very gifted but a tattle-tale and trouble maker. One day in 1013, the Leinster prince Maolmordha, who was Gormlaith’s brother. was bringing three large ships of pine lumber to Brian at Cincora. In a minor incident on that voyage Maolmordha lost a silver button from a tunic given to him by the high-king. He took the repair job to his sister but she threw the clothing into the fire saying he should be ashamed to wear this symbol of subjection. This taunt stung Maolmordha and led him to make ill-advised statements in front of Brian’s sons. Brain tried to placate his brother-in-law with gifts but this was taken as a further attempt at insult. Seeing the source of the trouble Brian put Gormlaith aside with even worse results. She was able to call on Sigurd, earl of the Orkneys, who was her mother’s kin, and she promised to make him king of Ireland through sovranty when Brian was dead. Clearly the high-king could do nothing that would regain his samh and a stable realm. The forces of “darkness” came to include various enemies: the O’Neills, O’Rurarc and Sitric of Dublin, who defeated Brian’s allies in battles fought a few miles north of Dublin. Sitric had help from two viking brothers who lived on the Isle of Man. Ospack was a heathen and Brodar a
Christian, but a defrocked cleric, a druidic magician. “He was a very tall man with long black hair tucked in under his belt and he was clad in mail no steel could bite.” In 1014, King Brian was seventy-four years of age, and too infirm to meet the great host that assembled against him, and so the actual war-leader for his side was his son Murchadh. On the night before battle it was claimed that the old Norse god Odin appeared on his dappled grey horse, riding in to consult with his champions. There were other favourable omens, the day of battle being Good Friday, which it was observed would fall against the Christian high-king. Although the battle actually went well for the Irish, a traitor pointed out the position of Brian’s personal encampment, and a Norseman named Broadar went there and killed the king. The heir-apparent was also lost and Ireland’s glory-days were at an end, for although the foreigners were driven out, no later monarch was able to find a centre for his power. The imrama of Aod an Athair took place during the time of this monarch. BRICRIU, nicknamed Nemthenga, the “Poison Tongued.” A son of Carbad, an Ulster champion noted for his doubledealing. He organized the great national festival known as Bricriu’s feast as a cynical means of creating distrust, dissention and war among the men and women of his province. For his feast Bricriu found it necessary to surround himself with eight mercenaries to guard against assassination. In spite of his reputation, few people kept their distance from his annual parties. One year Bricriu spoke privately to the three beautiful wives of the chief heroes saying that the first to enter the festival hall would be declared queen of the province for the coming year. This overt lie was believed, and created a pile-up of ladies and their attendants at the gate, and a great shebang among the men who came to their rescue. At the end of the Tain war, Bricriu retained enough status to be asked to judge which of two fighting bulls was best. As he went to the Plain of Aei, this ne’er-do-well was trampled by the ravaging animals.
BRIDD, BRIGIT, BRIGID, OIr. Brigit. Leader and matriarch of the Brigantes, "high or noble people." Brid, obs., a bridle, also the modern brid, to whisper; from the root brg, high.; Germ. berg, a mountain, confers with Gaelic fride, a dwarf, English, burgh, Skr. brhati, high. May confer with the goddess Breg as well as with Bragi, the Norse god of poetry. All confer with the Gaelic goddess Brigit. She is also quite probably the Teutonic Berhta, or Bertha, who is said to correspond with Frigga the wife of Odin. Gaelic briodal, lover’s language, caressing, flattery; related to brionn, a lie, a dream. Also brinneall, a beautiful young maiden or matron. Brioghas, in a passion; briollag, an illusion; brionglaid, confusion or dream; brionnach, pretty. The patroness of the hearth-fire and domesticity, including married love. She was also considered the proponent of smithcraft, poetry, and female wisdom. A daughter of Dagda she was first married to the half-Fomorian warrior named Breas, but later consorted with Tuireann (Fire & Thunder) to produce the people known as the Brigendo or Brigantia among the Gauls. She was the matriarch of the tribe known as the Brigantines. These pre-Celtic (or Celtic) invaders of Britain,penetrated as far west as Ireland by way of central England. In Scotland, Abernathy was the most sacred place of the Picts, "probably dedicated to the goddess-spirit Brigid." In Christian times a monastery was set up to replace the old orders, a branch of Clan MacDuff serving as hereditary abbots. Traditional fare for Bride's Day (Feb. 1) was bonnach Bridd, more recently referred to as Saint Bride's bannock or
Saint Brigit's bannock. Originally baked with a silver ring (or rings) in place, a means of selecting "devoted ones" for the Quarter-Day fire. In the latter days, this inclusion became a symbol of imminent wedded bliss. In the most recent incarnation of this rite a few silver charms were added to the batter, each wrapped in grease-proof paper. The charms were typically shaped as a ring (foretelling marriage); a button (bachelorhood); a thimble (spinsterhood); a coin (wealth); a wish-bone (heart's desire), or as a horse shoe (general good luck) or a thimble. This has since devolved into offering a few silver coins, or even coppers, baked into the bannock. In Ireland, "Saint Brigid" was supposedly born in Ireland about the year 450 A.D., the daughter of a pagan chieftain and a Christian bondswoman. As a young, and beautiful girl she rejected a rich suitor by disfiguring her face, and afterwards took the vows of the Church, at which her face was restored. Along with seven companions, Brigid asked for land in County Kildare. The local king at first refused to grant this until the lady suggested she would be content with the acreage her cloak might cover when spread on the ground. Much to everyone's surprise the cloak magically managed to encompass what is now the largest unfenced tractable land in Ireland. If Brigid did build a convent, as some historians have suggested, there is no remain of it or the ten thousand nuns said to have been in residence. Even the Christian historians admit that "she may have chosen a place of heathen worship" for her see. Additionally there is the "curiosity" of "Brigid's sacred fire" located "in a hedged enclosure outside the church, kept burning day and night and always guarded by twenty nuns, including the prioress. After Brigid's death, the nun who watched on the nineteenth night would cry out, "Brigid guard your own fire, the next night belongs to you. This fire burned until it was ordered extinguished in 1220 by Henry de Loudres, the Anglo-Norman archbishop of Dublin. Later it was rekindled, and finally quenched forever upon the Dissolution (of the monasteries)."
If Saint Brigid existed, her personae became totally confused with that of the Bridd, who is clearly central to a pagan fertility-cult. Whatever her office, it would appear that someone did set up a complex at Kildare, devoted to the healing arts, and craftsmanship in fibre and metals. Although Brigid did not marry (befitting a cult-figure) "she never eschewed the company of men." One of these became co-governor of the community, and this bishop gathered the metal-workers including Conleth, who was styled, "Brigid's brazier." Since the saint was supposedly born sixty-six years after the death of Patrick, the rumours of a physical alliance with him is probably untrue, but a drunken Saint Mel did consecrate her as full-fledged bishop. She sometimes changed bath-water into ale to uplift the spirits of her thirsty clerics, and at dusk would hang her damp cloak on a sunbeam to dry, the obliging ray of light remaining in place through the night. She once taught a fox to dance and periodically made military manoeuvres difficult by making the opposing armies invisible to each other. The tomb of the saint at Downpatrick was looted by the English during the reign of Henry VIII, but one of her cloaks is said preserved in Belgium, while her head was transported to Lisbon. Sir David Lindsay has mentioned that one Scottish church of his time contained an image of “Sanct Bryde weill carvit with ane kow.” He also noticed that the local folk consulted this pair to ensure the saftety of their calf and know.” Note that the title “Great Bride of the Horses” was an alternate for the pagan-goddess Mhorrigan. The Pictish Chronicles claim that Nechtan Morbet, dispossessed of his kingdom by his brother Drust, pettioed the saint to pray for his cause. She not only assented but came to Britain to aid him. As a result he dedicated Abernathy to her order and reigned from 457 until 481 A.D. As the Saint Brigid was
only five years old when Morbet came to power this tale is questionable. This goddess was worshipped in the Roman Empire as Februa, the mother of Mars. See bruidean, imbolc. BRIDEACH, BRIDEAG, a mortal wind-spirit, the banshee of the Fergussons of Glenshellish in Scotland and abroad. Gaelic, bridd, bride+ eag, eagid, fear, both feminine. Also an image of Saint Brigit carried by on the saint’s eve by unmarried women. Used to identify a potential husband. Obs, dwarf, bride, virgin, a grub. Confers with brigh, the essence, substance or essential meaning of a thing, and briagha, adj. fine or beautiful. Confers with brideach, a dwraf. The root word may be brg, high, after Brighde, whose name translates as Brigit, Brigte, Brigtae, Brgnti, or Bride, after the old Gaelic goddess of married and filial love, poetry, the heath, andhome. Her tribe was the Brigantes, who supposedly came to Ireland from Belgium by way of Britain. Her name was diminished as "bridey", a working woman and she was the keeper of perpetual fires used in the smelting of metals. Her day was known as Brighdfeas, or Brigit's festival, also called Imbolc, celebrated on the eve of February 2. She was acquisitioned and became the best known female saint of the Celtic Church. Confers with the Anglo-Saxon, bridd, a young bird or chick and with the German berg. a hill. Confluent with Bragi, the Old Norse god of poetry and drink. Her Teutonic name was Bertha. Brigit may have become a saint, but Sir George James Fraser has correctly identified her as "an old heathen goddess of fertility, disguised in a threadbare Christian cloak." The older Brigit gave her name to a tribe of Brigantines who settled northern England and southern Scotland as well as parts of northern Ireland. She was said to be the daughter of Dagda and Boann, a sister to Ogma, Lugh and Midir, all gods of the sidhunderworld. She was the goddess of household arts and crafts, a guardian of the hearth, and the patron of married
love. At birth her deity was noticed in a corona or holy flame that passed from her head into the heavens. Her first accolates captured this fire and used it to create a perpetual forge-flame. In her first human incarnation, Brigit created a religious cult which guarded her sacredflame for many centuries. The virgins of the flame probably took part in the annual "rites of spring" which involved a ritual pairing of some maiden with a god-king. Brigit supported hostels at various places in Britain, and the craftsmen who assembled there specialized in the forging of metal tools and weapons. Others in these saintly communities were skilled in the use of herbs, thus the shrines became known for the practise of medicine. When the Christian missionaries arrived and converted the people, they did not at first extinguish the "sacred-fires" but gave them to the keeping of cailleachs, or nuns of their church. They were finally put out, but the church fathers built their sanctuaries over the dead embers. One of these still stands at Abernathy, Scotland where Columbian monks deliberately sited their church on "the most sacred place of the (pagan) Picts, one dedicated to the goddess-spirit Brigid." Clan Macduff were hereditary abbotts at this place. We know little of the rites of Imbolc, but can guess that they were bloody since this Celtic word corresponds with the obsolete English word "imbolish", which approximates "abolish". In parts of Atlantic Canada a little of the old rites survived as they did in Scotland: On Bride's Eve, the mistress of each household used to fashion a "bride doll" from a local grain, or grains, dressing it women's apparel. The doll was placed in wicker basket and a wooden thorn-stick placed at its side. As dusk fell the mistress and any of her servants stood at the door shouting, "Bride is welcome!" three times over. When they rose in the morning, all the members of the family went immediately to the open hearth, looking for signs that the spirit of Bride had animated the doll during the night. If the ashes there were undisturbed this was taken as a bad omen, but numerous scratchings on the hearth were supposed to signify
prosperity in the year ahead. It is very likely that there were once ritual marriages of the Bridd and Bridd-groom and fires like those of the English Whitsuntide. Bruide was represented in the form of a beast-man known locally as the the slue. This is the Lunenburg spirit known as the zwoog or swoog. While the slue was active on Bridd's Day, the zwoog saw action on Dak's Day, both celebrated on the second day of February. In Atlantic Canada, Groundhog Day is an unassuming festival, but remember that the bear can be a "groundhogge", the "hogge" being a sexually active yearling of any mammalian species. In Scotland the "groundhog" was the bear, and it is this animal that shuffled forth from its cave to see whether the sun was up in the sky or not. If the bear saw his shadow, this was taken as an omen of misfortune, and in our country that mishap involves six additional weeks of winter. The German "dak" or "dach" had a meaning very close to the Anglo-Saxon "hogge", but it is identified as the badger. The second day of February was entitled Saint Brigit's Day in old Scotland, and in Ireland. In the latter country, she was sometimes identified as Sheelagh (a sidh maiden), the companion of Saint Patrick. As the briddeag, Brigit acts as a banshee, a female mourner for the dead, or near dead. It is not uncommon for tombstones to bear a disembodied head supported by a pair of wings, a symbol of the guardian angel of each soul. The clan Fergusson insists that those on their memorials depict the briddeag, "a bat with a human face that flutters eerily at the window when a Fergusson of Glenshellish is about to die, thus warning him of his impending doom." Iain Moncrieffe confirms that "This spook's name is interesting because the Fergussons link their brideag to the spirit of St. Brigid and thence to the pagan goddess Brigid. The present writer believes the Pictish royal throne-name of Bruide...represented the male manifestation of this
mighty British goddess." 44 The briddeag may have been a bat, but the photographs of stones we have seen are more suggestive of an owl with a human face, certainly the wings are feathered. Our local candidate for this spirit is the common barn owl. This bird has been described as "highly nocturnal." It spends the daylight hours "well concealed, often in a hayloft in a barn, where it sometimes makes its nest." Robie Tufts has said that, "Because its facial expression is thought by some to resemble that of a monkey, it is locally called the monkey-faced owl." One may presume that these birds are sometimes activated by the projected spirits of dying men but thir limited eyesight may be enough to cause collisions with window-panes. In the most remote mythology, this spirit is described as the daughter of Dag, matriarch of the Milesian race. She and her brother Eoghan "were instructed by their mother in every branch of knowledge and wisdom." As adults they travelled the earth "teaching experience and understanding to all people." Eventually their duties were placed in the hands of the druids of Mil. She also confers with Bridd or Bridget the old fertility goddess, who is sometimes associated with the Celtic Brigantine tribesmen. She may confer with Bolg, the lightning-goddess of the Firbolge people. The brideach was said to appear at the windows of Fergussons destined for imminent death. The male equivalent of Bridd was Brudd, a frequently used throne-name for members of the Pictish royal family. Her holiday was February 2, the ancient Imbolg, one of the four Quarter Days of the Celts. On the eve of this date a straw figure representing the "maiden" Bridd was placed before the hearth along with a club representing the male phallus. Female maidens called for Bridd to come visiting and in the morning divinations were read from the hearth ashes. If they were undisturbed this was taken as a bad omen for men and the land. If they were marked "by the club" it was
Iain, The Highland Clans, New York (1967), p. 103.
assumed that the maiden was fertilized and that all would be well throughout the region. The perpetual fires of the Bridd, or bride, protected by virgin nuns of the Christian church, burned well beyond the pagan years. Bride's Day was formerly considered the time when Cailleach Bheurr, or “Winter Hag,” who was the guardian of that season, emerged from her burrow in the form of a bear. If she saw the sun, and her shadow, she reacted badly increasing the length of the cold season, but if the landscape were overcast she retired without taking further action against men and the land. In Scotland and Ireland, the Imbolg was sometimes informally called the Bear's Day and among Anglo Saxons it was the Badger's Day. In North America, it is still variously celebrated (albeit tongue-in-cheek) as Dak's Day or Groundhog Day. This is a pagan remnant of rites similar to that at the Samhuinn (which see) and the Christians attempted to disguise its nature by renaming this holiday Saint Brigit's Day. This name also identifies one of two Milesian “gods” approached by Banba, Fodla and Eriuto assume control of Ireland. BRIDEACH, dwarf, bride, virgin, a grub; brideag, a little woman, a kern-maiden. BRIDE, FRIDE NAM BRAT, Bride of the Holy Mantle. Like gods of the sea the Bride was frequently represented as golden haired and clothed in a blue mantle. She is seen in this form in the Hebrides. See above entries. BRIGH, miracle, essence, substance, wealth, sap, energy, mountain, valour, price, rarely, a tomb. See next. BRIGHDE. hostage, pledge, security. A source of wealth. BRILLEAN, the clitoris. breall, a knob, the female glans mentulae. Brealleanach, lewd.
BRIN, a dream, brindeal, obs. a picture, brindealhadair, a painter (of dreams), a soul-robber, a sculptor, brinneach, also obsolete, hag, woman, mother, a practitioner of this form of magic, brindealbhadh, badh, any ravenous creature; liming, portraying, disguising, painting, brinnichte, hagridden, followed by evil sp[irits. BRIOC. Like many sixteenth-century Celtic monks, Brioc commuted across the English Channel, between towns which were ultimately given his name; thus the town of Saint Breock in Cornwall and that of Saint-Brieue in Brittany. A charitable man he was regarded as the patron of pursemakers. BRIOCHD, witchcraft, wound, art, trade, secrecy, colour, complexion, beauty. Brib, one who is bribed or paid a small sum of money for services rendered. Briochdaic, a magical amulet. BRIODAL, lover’s language, sweet talk, caressing or flattering talk, possibly based on brionn, a lie, a dream. MIr. bnrinneall, a fair young woman, elderly or no. In Arran brid, whispers. See above entries. BRIOG, cut, thrust, Eng. prick. Briogadaich, avarice, meaness, sordidness, spiritless, briogaid, elderly woman, morose old hag; briogaire, miser, briolag, an illusion, brioghas, the mmomentary passion of sex, dalliance, briollair, whoremonger, pimp, one afflicted with urinal overflow, briogach, mean-spirited, rapacious, brioghas. wrapped in passion,briollan, a stupid fellow, quarter-day fool, chamber pot, urinal. the Cy. brywus, vigorous. See briollag. BRI LEATH, brig, a heap, a pile of peats, leathan, broad; the underground palace of Mider, king of the underworld. Located in County Longford, Ireland it was one of the few side-hills successfully stormed by the Milesians. BRIOLLAG, an illusion from the Ir. brionn, a dream or
reverie, a lie. Somewhat related to the ScG. brionglaid, a confusion of thoughts and ideas, a "wrangling". It was thought that sleeping individuals passed their souls into the care of invisible spirits known as the befinds. These guardians, runners, or cowalkers, travelled the night in other dimensions. Men and women who were gifted could see their dreams in full and explicit detail, but common folk could not perceive their dream-worlds except as an illconceived illusion. See below. BRIOLLACHEAN, BROLLACHEAN, the unfortunate offspring of a fuath and a human. Eng. brollachan. Although this creature was normally equipped, it lacked a skeletal structure and thus had no definite shape. Possessed of eyes and a mouth the brollachan could only articulate mi-fhein and thu-fein, in response to questions. This creature moved with the banshees, these being its female kin. In Sutherlandshire the latter were described as dressing quite beautifully in green silk, “the sleeves curiously puffed from the wrists to the shoulder.” From a distance thaey seemed normal and even desirable to men with their ripe corn hair, but on nearer inspection it was seen that they lacked noses. BRION, obs. fiction, a lie, brionach, obs., a liar. Currently, dissatisfaction, disquietude, briondath, obs., a counterfeit. Brionglaid, a dream, a reverie, brionnach, flattering, lying, pretty, comely, fair, the Eng. Brinded, now written as brindled, shining, glittering, fair but false. Brionnachd, falsehood, glitter. BRIOSG, a witch, a sorceress, brios, mockery, derision, partly intoxicated, briosagnaicdheachd, sophistry, one morer interested in outward display rather than reasoned argument; briosaid, witch, sorceress, one having a belt or girdle, briosarguin, sophistry, also when a verb, start, leap, jerk, move suddenly, quicken, crumble, quiver. Related to the next. BRIOT, BRIOTAL, chit-chat, chatter, a person who stammers, flattery,, situation where everyone speaks at once; root ber
or bar as seen in Eng. barbarian, allied with the idea of one incapable of speaking fluently. Thus the G. Breatnaich, a Brython or Briton, one showing “clipped” patterns of speech. BRIS, break, fracture, splinnter, become insolvent, burst, break forth, AS. brestan, break, the Eng. burst. Similar to brisg, brittle and brisk. Confers with the ancient god Bres who presumably had a spirited if unfortunate nature. BRITAN. A Nemedian, who fleeing Ireland and the Fomorians, settled in present-day England giving it the name Britain. See Nemed. BRITHEAMHAIN, the gen. of britheamh, a judge. Hence M’A’Bhriuthainn, the Eng. Mac-brayne. The word confers with the AS brun, our word brown, perhaps identifying the former wearing apparel or complexion of this social caste. The Morrison chiefs were once hereditary “judges” of Lewis. Their Gaelic name was anglicized to brieve. Neither term is pagan, both deriving from Latin forms within the Christian Church. Nevertheless the arbitrations of these men were based partly on the old Brehon laws and partly on the Old Norse deems (dooms or judgements) which pre-dated Christianity. The first Morrison brieve had the given godname of Uisdean generally “barbarized” as “Hucheson”. BRIUN MAC BETHAR. The inventor of the tathlum. or “slingshot” used by Lugh to take our Balor’s eye in the battle at Magh Tuireadh. BRO, obs. old, ancient, antique, champin, quern or grinding stone. BROC, broc, gray, round towers. Brochach, bad-smelling, dirty, odious, brocair, a destroyer of vermin,, brochlaid, trash, a mi=xture of meats, thus brochan, porridge. The Iron Age was a time of great turmoil and unrest throughout Europe. A succession of tribes moved in one each other crowding the relatively empty lands bordering
the Atlantic. The Celts were at least involved in this restlesss stirring of peoples. In one of the waves which was generated at Britain, a people who were security conscious arrived in the outer islands and built the round towers known as brochs (from the Gaelic broc, grey in colour). These were defensive, conical, double-walled outposts, standing near the sea, on heights of land, stretching all the way from here to Ireland They may be the work of Celtic-speaking builders and perhaps a thousand brochs have been discovered as circular piles of rubble. Some, like the Broch of Mousa, in the Shetlands, is essentially complete at a height of 43 feet, Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing whether these strange structures were put up by Milesians, or Tuathans or by the Picts, and it is not clear who these people feared. Whoever they were, they seem to have retreated from these islands as low-pressure weather systems brought almost continuousrain and snow to the northlands. Any who remained were certainly put to the sword in viking times, the only exceptions being the Celtic inhabitants of the Hebrides, who mastered the Norse warlords until the year 1266 A.D. The Old Norse became a skilled sea-faring people, but they were traditionally agriculturists and hunters and might never have turned to the sea except for the sight of Celtic trading craft in their harbours. The wooden ships of Britain served as their first models for their first ungainly ships, which later evolved into the famed dragon-ships. See next. BROCHD AGUS OLC, a common expression, “badgers and evil creatures,” broc, a badger, the “grey one,” “biter,” “gripper.” olc, bad, same as Eng. ulcer. BROGANTA, a “lively old woman,” another name for the cailleach bheurr or Winter Hag. Brog, obs. House, sorrowful, and now, as a verb, to spur, stimulate, goad. Brogaidh, a cow that goads men with her horns, broghach, obs., excessive,. BRON, obs., perpetual, now, sorrow, grief, mourning,
wailing, the equipment used in wakes. Bronadh, obs., destruction. BROTH, BROGH, BROT, a ring around the moon; a lunar halo. Bruthainn, sultriness, heat. A circle around the moon was thought to indicate imminent storm. Rings were regarded as entry points for beings from the unseen world, and the generation of weather was their preogative. BRU, belly, womb, pregnant with chilkd, bulge, formerly but now obs., hind, country, bank of soil. From this bbruach, brink, edge, brim, a surly fellow, a person who hovers about, a lounger, brudadar, a dream, vision, brudarach, a visionary or seer. Bruan, stab, wound, thrust. BRUADAR, BRUADAL, a dream, Ir. bruadair. Eng. fraud. Dreams were considered a reflection of the alternate reality as seen through the eyes of cowalkers. Bad dreams were thought caused by the sleep-time invasion of a human body by an alp. BRUGH, BRU’, a large house, a tumulus, tower, fortified town, mound of the Daoine sidh, tumulus, cave, house half under earth; note sith-brugh, a fairy hill. EIr. brug, mrug, land, a holding, a mark, Cy. bro, the source of the Welsh word Cym-mro, a Welshman and the plural Cymmry, Gaul, Brogi-, AS. mearc, a border, the English march. The people of Danu were a considerable host having, a branch of Nemedian survivors who "lived in the northern isles of the world (Greece), learning lore and magic and druidism and wizardry and cunning, until they surpassed the sages of the arts of heathendom." Nevertheless, they were not technologically advanced, and when the Milesians sailed against them from bases in Spain, they had only bronze weapons to meet the newly formulated iron spears and swords of the enemy. As a result they were defeated and afterwards regrouped athe Brug-na-Boann (the mouth of the Boyne) There they consulted with the Fomorian, Manaun Mac Ler, and pledged allegiance to Ler, god of the sea. In
exchange they received cloaks of invisibility, and some removed themselves to "hollow hills" of Ireland and Scotland while others sailed for Tir nan Og. This may sound far-fetched, but archaeologist Sean P. O'Riordain says that artificially built caves, or souterrains, are a very common feature of the Irish landscape, especially in the north. He thinks that "some souterrains must have been used as dwelling places and not merely as refuges." He adds that the number of such residences cannot be estimated as few have been found but thinks that "the total is very large". Souterrains also occur in Scotland where they are referred to as weems, wags, or earth-houses. One in Shetland dates to the Early Iron Age while others in Scotland have stones from Roman buildings incorporated into their walls. There are similar structures in Cornwall, France and Iceland but not in Wales and England. It is said that this move to the mounds was made necessary after the Milesian judge Amergin, divided Erinn between the two contenders in a shrewd example of technical justice - giving his race control over all exposed land and the Tuathans deeds to the underground and all islands beyond the horizon. The survivors who fled to the hills were barred from participation in the arts, crafts or politics of the land, and were forced to subsistence farming, thus the Tuatha daoine (pronounced tootha dannan) became the "tuathanach", farmers, and the word is still used in Gaelic to identify a rustic. Those who fled to sea-retreats were called the "daoine mara" or sea-people, while the hill-residents came to be known as the "daoine sidh", or people of the side-hill. The Dagda, the Father of the Gods, ruled for eighty years before the coming of the Milesians but he fell in battle and the High Kingship went to his son Bhobd Derg (the Red Crow), who took residence under Sli-na-mban. Others of the sidh followed Ochall Oichne to the mount called Roscommon but the most famous home of the sidh in Ireland
was Brugh na Boann, ruled by Lugh, the god-king who had killed Balor of the Evil Eye. Cu Chullain's mother was from this place, and his invincibility was due to the fact that he could call two sidh from this barrow to fight at his side in times of need. After Lugh's time the Brugh was under the command of Angus Og, the Tuathan god of Love and Youth, who protected Dermott and Grania from the jealousy of Finn MacCaul. According to O'Riordain the Brug na Boann has never been excavated although the place is known to house chambered tombs and "a fine fort like structure". This place was still hallowed ground when Cormac MacArt died and requested that he be buried at Ros na Riogh. He was a convert to Christianity and requested that he should be buried facing east toward the tomb of Christ rather than west at Brugh na Boann, with the other pagan kings, who set their sights on reincarnation in Tir nan Og. Cormac was only the fourth Christian king of Ireland. Before that time, the Brugh na Boann had been regarded as a inviolate sanctuary. It was thought that the sidh inhabitants, the spiritual descendants of Mhorrigan and her kind, were representatives of the ultimate creator-god, women who insured agricultural increase and whose office was the performance of fertility rites that promised an unbroken line of kings and prosperity for the land. The sidh lived in the Brugh and from it came the bride's of the kings' annual ritual marriages to the Mhorrigan or Samh.
BRUGHAID, (brewys), farmer, burgher, “ox of the house,” a steward. In ancient times people were too poor, and travellers to many, to demand private hospitality, therefore, bruideans (breens) or hostels were constructed to serve this communal function. The chiefs of these houses were the brughaids. A hostel was invariably built at the junction of several roads and had opened doors facing in all directions. Futher, men were stationed on the way to make sure no stranger passed unattended. The brughaid was the
local magistrate and his home was the assembly point for all elections within the district. The six major bruideans of the ancient world were places of ultimate refuge, but there were more than four hundred in Ireland alone. This official had a local equivalent in the uaithne, or “pillar,” a man whose function was the support of the very old and the destitute who had no kin.
BRUGH NA BOYNA, BRUGH NA BOINN, BRUGH NA BOYNE (broo na boyna), brug, a tumulus, a large house, a land-holding; boyna, the goddess Boann. A hill located near Stachallen Bridge in Leinster, northern Ireland. The location of the hollow hill of Dagda, which was deeded to Lugh and later to Aonghas Og. The source of the virgins who legitimized the kingship of Ireland through ritual sex with the king (or his
stand-in) at the time of the Samhain. “The most notable things here were the Hall of Morrigu (the Mhorrigan,, who was the Dagda’s mistress), the Bed of Dagda, the Birthplace of Cermait (Ogma) the Honeytongued, and the Prison of the Grey Macha that was afterwards Cuchulainn’s horse. And there was a little hill by the house called the Hill of Dabilla, that was formerly a little hound belonging to Boann (the Dagda’s wife). And the Valley of Mata was there, the Sea-Turtle that could suck down a man in armour. It was likely there that the god had his coooking-oven, made by Druimne mac Luchair of Tara. Here too was the Cauldron of the Deep, which some say was purloined from the Undersea Kingdom of the Fomors. In spite of this the Dagda claimed that the vat was one he cast “for his daughter Ainge, but she was not satisfied, for it never stopped dripping while the ocean was in flood, though it never lost a drop at the ebb-tide. She gathered twigs and cast her own cauldron, but Gaible mac Nuada of the Silver Hand, stole it from her and later cast it down at Gaible’s wood where a beautiful forest grew and covered it.” The Dagda’s household steward at this place was Dichu and his smith was Len Linfiaclach. His forge cast showers of molten metal east as far as Indeoin na Dese and these have been collected as “precious stones of a pure purple.” Corann was the harpist here and he afterwards went into service with Diancecht mac Dagda.. The Dagda was tricked out of his residence by his son Aonghas Og but took no revenge, although he had a quick temper. Some say he made his final stop in the hill beneath Tara but here he found great misfortune, so that this place became entitled the Hill of Aileac, the “Hill of Sighs and Stone.” The divine race arose from the Tuatha daoine, who were skilled magicians but possessed bronze weapons where the Milesian invaders carried iron. When they were finally defeated in battle at Taillte, the newcomers
shrewdly deeded them all lands beneath the earth and beyond the horizon. History suggests that many of them fled to the largest island of Britannia (Great Britain), while others took residence among the "giants" on the mythic island of Tyr-na-N'Og, the Land of Youth, somewhere in the western Atlantic (possibly America). Celtic myths suggest that the rest "vanished" into the very real souterrains of Ireland and Scotland. The occasional reappearance of these cave-dwellers may have led to stories of the "sidh", or side-hill people, who were censored for their riotous lifestyle, but feared because of their god-like magic. The individual women of the Brugh of Angus were virgins until each was required to perform her public mating with the King of Tara at the time of the Beltane. When their function in ritual sex was forgotten, the caste remained, and in King Cormac's time (276 A.D.) there still existed, "at Tara, a house of virgins who kept constantly alive the fires of Bel, or the sun, and of Samain, the moon." These beansidh, sidh-women, also called banshees, correspond with the Anglo-Saxon "wael-cyridge", who are better known under their Scandinavian title: the "valkyrie", literally "the choosers of those who are to be slain." The valkyrs were "attendents upon Odin their chief being Valfreya, the female counterpart of the sun-god Frey. These were also adherents of the goddess called Norn, leader of the fates, and they supposedly remained immortal and invulnerable under the shields of their virginity. The Norns were sometimes referred to as the Valas, the latter name suggesting a diviner or prophetess. In parts of Germany they were known as the Idisces, Disces, or Hagdises. From the latter we have our modern word hag, a synonym for witch, which is also confluent with the Danish word Hex. While the Valkyrs were known for organizing religious rites they were also an small host in all invading armies. Riding in the midst of men they urged warriors to victory, and when the slaughter was complete they would often cut "the bloody-eagle" of Odin on the body of captives and bleed them to death over great tubs. H.A. Guerber says
that "the Disces plunged their naked arms up to the shoulders, previous to joining in the wild dances with which the ceremony ended...It is not to be wondered that these women were greatly feared. Sacrifices were offered to propitiate them, and it was only in later times that they were degraded to the rank of witches, and sent to join the demon-host..." Funk and Wagnall's Standard Dictionary of Folklore (1972), that the Gaelic "befind", sidh "who predict the future and endow it with good or doubtful gifts" are "parallel beings" to the Norns or Valkyrs. The first Norns are supposed to have been daughters of Wyrd, the goddess of fate. The eldest of these was Urth, goddess of the past; Verdhandi, the present and Skuld, the future. These are the same "weird sisters" that Shakespeare resurrected to play roles in Macbeth. They were more traditionally located in homes at the base of Odin's world-tree where they were perpetually at work weaving the fates of men and the gods. The Celtic triad of goddesses included Morrigan, Baobh or Badb, and Macha who had similar jurisdictions. These three sisters were identified as the daughters of Ernmas of the Tuatha daoine, who was either the granddaughter or wife of King Net. The youngest of the trio was Morrigan, Morgain, or Morgan, identified in the medieval Romances as Morgan le Fay (the fairy), the half-sister of King Arthur. Her name translates out of the Celtic tongues as "born of the sea" or "sea-woman" and continues in the Scottish Clan Morgan, which corresponds with Clan Mackay. King Arthur Pendragon shared the raven, or carrion-crow, with Morrigan as a totem-animal, and the goddess has something of the evil reputation of this animal. The Morrigan was a youthful, promiscuous, raven-haired woman, who retained her virginal magic through an ability to reincarnate her maidenhood. She empowered the men she favoured by inviting them to lie with her, but appeared as a goddess of war before those who refused her.
BRUGH SLIEVENNAMON. A hill located in Torach, in the north of Ireland. Here the Féinn lost in a snowstorm followed a fawn into the Underground, a great self-illuminated brugh. Their host was Donn, son of Midir the Proud. This hollowhill had contained twenty-eight thousand warriors, but had been at war with the other Daoine sidh so that their numbers were so reduced they sent their maidens out as fawns to catch the attention of these human heroes. Always ready to tussle, the Fiann joined the brugh in its war and finally compelled the enemy to make peace. As a result, these side-hill pagans became Christians. BREUIGHEANN, obs. A palace or royal residence. A hill of the Daoine sidh. BRUIDE, torturer, oppressor, brute, beast. The male equivalent of Bridd or Bride. The throne name of Pictish kings, the reincarnate male manifestation of this spirit. In modern parlance a groom. BRUIDEAN, BRUIDHEANN, BRUIDHINN, (breen), talk, conversation, a place of hospitality, an inn, a fairy hill. After Bridd, the mortal-goddess who was the first to establish these way-station/hospitals for travellers, the indigent and the poor. Note bruid, captivity and bruid, stab or goad, which takes note of the fact that latter-day guests were often hostages. From their reputation we have the Ir. bruighinn, scolding speech, a brawl. EIr. bruidin, a hospital, a place of refuge, a sanctuary. Similar to the English word board. To honour the tenants of Gaelic hospitality men often banded together and built these common houses which were meant to offer their collective hospitality. The official hosteler was entitled a brughaid (brewy), and his place was traditionally set at a junction of six roads. The hostel had open doors to each road and a man stationed on the road to make sure that no traveller passed without entertainment. A light burned on the lawn all night long and a full cauldron
of food always bubbled above the hearth-fire. The bruidean was the place of assembly for local elections, and the keeper had the force of a magistrate as far as civil law was concerned. Each inn was required by law to keep at least a hundred grazing animals and servants, but some places had double or triple these resources. Whatever the size, each bruidean was expected to provide the "three cheers" for strangers - "the cheer of ale; the cheer of servitors of food; and the cheer of the gaming room. There were six major hostels in Ireland, but there may have been four hundred over the entire countryside. See above entry and Bridd. BRUIDIN, Ir. bruidne, place of refuge, sanctuary, a circular post-built hut about 20 feet in diameter with a conical thatched roof. Thought to have originated as temple shrines built to protect a wood or stone idol. The Ballachulish site in Argyllshire has turned up traces of a thatched roof shrine hung on a wickerware frame. Within there remained evidence of a pagan idol. See above entry.
BRUINIDH, tbruin, obs. Cauldron, kettle, belly, a “kettlewatcher,” a domestic sigh, the brownie of southern mythology, spectre, a hobgoblin, the hearth-sidh. The invisible, largely benevolent household elf, whose name is taken from his skin colour, brown. Bruinceach, pregnant, productive, bruine-ard, having high and prominent breasts. This creature is considered the weregild of certain families living at Glenlochie, Scotland. Comparable to the northern bodach. This spirit may confer with the Norse svart-alfar (dark elfs) the adherents of Svrtr, the firegiant, who is a form of Lokki, the god of underground fire. These spirits were said to have been created by Odin from maggots infesting the corpse of the proto-giant Ymir, who was killed by the gods. The lios-alfar (light-elfs) proved politically reliable and were installed in Middle Earth at what is now Upsala, Sweden, but their soot-covered cousins were suspected of treason and were committed to the
underworld. Keightley says that "The Nis, Kobold, or Goblin appears in Scotland under the name of Brownie...a personage (typically invisible) of small stature and wrinkled visage wearing a mantle and hood." King James I of England says of him: "The spirit called Brownie appeared like a rough old man and haunted divers houses without doing any evil, but doing as it were, necessarie turns (chores) up and down the house; yet some are so blinded as to believe that their house was all the sonsier (better) as they called it, that such spirits resorted there." BRUINIDH CARA, the “Brownie Friend,” a guardian to the MacDonalds of Largie when they lived on a the islet of Cara, a little south of Gigha, Scotland. Like all of his kind this brownie lived on offerings of milk and cream. In earlier days the MacDonald had occupied the Castle of Largie on the Kintyre shore. When they deserted it for Cara their “astral genius” followed. The Cara Brownie was chiefly involved with airing and making beds for guests, taking care of dishes in the dark-hours, and seeing that the dogs were let out and tied in their kennels. He stumblerd over waterstoups left about at night as hint against untidiness. People who were untidy about the house or their own person were likely to get a pinch or a slap from the meticulous little man. Once when a herdswoman delaying going after the cattle, she could not locate them. After hours of futile search she returned home to find them already tied in their byres. Once this brownie showed attitude toward a visitor by raising him from his bed, leaving him standing stark naked before the fire as he aroused himself from sleep. BRUINNE, oibs. fine, same as BRUIN, obs. belly, cauldron, waist, chest, front, breast, still, bruinneach, a nurse, mother, glutton, quarter-day fool (male). Bruinteach, obs., great with child. BUABHALL, a unicorn; Cym. bual, the Lat. bubalus whence buffalo. The chief work-animal of the Gaelic gods. Bual, a buffalo horn, a bugle, a trumpet. Bu is the same as bo, a cow. Also see as bua, another name for the cailleach bheurr, and
buabh, both forms little used. BUADHGHALLAN, ragwort, literally “the virtue-bearing wort,” probably divisible into buaf-bhallan, “toad-wort,” from buaf, toad, reptile. In the Cymric language this plant is the “serpent’s weed.” BUADHNAT. “ little triumph, little virtue.” A healing stream. Aberbuthnot, Scotlland, is named for its stream. Similarly the stream running by the church of Loch Carron is Buadhchag, which is known to have healing powers. The Bow River, Abhainn na Buaidhe, in Ireland is similarly blessed. Here, they used to drive cattle through the waters on May Day. Loch Ness also has the ability to cure cattle of disease. The name may have been personal, identifying some ancient water goddess. BUAF, any venom filled creature, a toad, bufa, a serpent, bufachd, poison. Buaifg, antidote. BUAILE NA GREINE, fold or cow-pen of the sun. Loosely translated as “Hell’s Gate.” An entrance to the Dead Lands of the Otherworld, Lugh being the god of the sun. One of these is upon the route to Lochgoilhead in Campbell country, Scotland, and is a steep-sided defile “approved by the Macfarlanes of Loch Lomond, and others with small love for the Campbells, and said to be a good place for practising ambuscade.” BUAIN, reaping, cutting down the corn, mowing, harvest, of value, shear, pluck, tear up by the roots, Buainiche, a reaper, a harvester. BUAIR, bu + air, the “high-cow.” tempt, allure, provoke, annoy, disturb, distract, a madden, alarm, make muddy, , enrage, buaireadair, tempter, disturber, buaireas, anxiety in the mind, dismay, terror. BUAL, obs. A remedy, urine, physic, water.
BUAN, lasting, durable, tedious, lassting, an idle person who lives on the best his neighbours can afford. Similar to buanna, obs., a mercenary, a billeted soldier; bnuannachd, profit, related to buain, to reap. See next. BÚANANN, (bow nan), “ancient cow,” buanna, obs. A billeted soldier, idler, straggler, mercenary, foreign soldier, buan, a child, cf. Boann and Danu, goddesses of the Tuatha daoine. “The mother of heroes.” An amazon, skilled in the martial arts, who ran a school for warriors. Sometimes characterized as “The Untiring One,” or “The Eternal Reaper,” suggesting her role as death-goddess in the Basfinne. Noterd for her wit, keen observations and rapid fire movements, she was the matron of slight-of-hand craftsmen and women. BUARACH, BHUARACH, buar + acharradh, cattle + spirit; cow-fetter, the horse-hair tie. Early feeding of the cows, a slovenly person, obs. Early in the morning.. From this the expression eadar a' bhaobh 's a' bhuarach, "Twixt the witch and the cow-fetter." The cow fetter was a hobble placed around the back legs of cows while they were being milked. Any difficult situation, similar to the English "Caught between the Devil and the deep blue sea." Nicolson (Gaelic Proverbs 1881) has noted that "if a man got struck by the bhuarach he would thenceforth be childless." Also known as the snaithean (which, see). Usually constructed of black wool and hidden on all animals at their sale to protect them from the effects of being "overlooked." "It is not right to lose the buarach, that is the horse-hair tie that goes about cow's feet at the milking-time, because anyone getting it could "torradh" (which, see) your cattle. One notices the care with which, after milking, there ties are carried home and hung up in a certain spot.” “Once a year a drover came (to the Outer Isles) from the mainland to buy cattle. He used to stay with a certain farmer, from whose daughter this story comes. He was
accustomed to abundant fare, but one year no cheese was forthcoming. "It is not, ": said his hostess, "that we have not plenty of cows, but for some reason we can make no cheese." Early next morning the drover rose and looked out. On coming in, he asked for "bent" grass (i.e. shore-grass), and made as many buarachs, and asked the women to put them on the cows, three times around each, and then to let the herd go where it would. This was done and the cows rushed off wildly and never stopped till they reached a certain crofter's house, where they climbed on the roof and began to tear at the thatch to the great astonishment of the owner. "They are wanting what belongs to them," said the drover in explanation; and when the women of the house happened out with an armful of cheeses the cows surrounded her and drove her ahead of them back to the byre from which they had come. This happened a second and a third time until all the "torradh" that had been filched was restored." (Celtic Magazine, p. 195). BUCCA, bucach, boy, young male. Cornwall was formerly the land of the he-bucks, or goats. In Cornwall the "Devil" of the Quarter-Days wore the head-dress of a horned goat and was entitled Cernu, the “Horned One". See boc and related words. BUI. BOI, yellow. One of the names given the Winter Bear or Winter Hag. She is frequently described as the off-season “wife” of the sun-god Lugh. Perhaps from her dried and yellow skin. See Cailleach bheurr, Dige, Morgan, Samh. BUIDHE, yellow, golden, grateful, agreeable, lucky. Because it is symbolic of the Sun this colour is regarded as a Gaelic emblem of propitiousness and beauty. Thus: latha-buidhe, a “yellow-day,” i.e. A lucky day. Buidheachd, satiated, “yellowed” in the mind. Am bhuidheachas, the “yellowness,” a blessing pronounced over food. But, excess of food, drink or sex was said to end in a’ bhidheach, “the yellowes,” or jaundice. See above. BUIDHEACHAS, a time of thanksgiving, gratitude, a state of
gratitude. Buidealaich, a blaze of fire. Buidh, grateful, thankful. Buidhe, yellow, golden, sun-lit, thankful, lucky. BUILLE AON-RANNACH, buille, blow; aon, one; rannach, undeserved. Unexpected ill-use at the hands of one's befind, or the fates in general. Men who prospered, or failed, in great measure were though imbued with lots of god-spirit. Evil and good were seen as evenly distributed among the gods and men by the creator-god. At any given time, it was thought than a person had a 50-50 chance of falling upon good or evil circumstances. It was also held that there was an "levelling" principle at work, so that men should not hope for great good luck, which invariably led to a run of disappointing circumstances. All disease and discomfort was credited to evil spirits,and it was said that curses, spells and blights could only fall upon a deserving victim. Because of this the baobhe sometimes had to re-direct spirits against a second, sometimes uninvolved, party. It was held that any charm "set upon the air" had to fall upon some individual within a seven year span. If it failed to do this, the spirit, gathered its full wrath and vented it upon the witch rather than a victim. Thus, fate came rather willy-nilly to the sons of men, who routinely received the blessings or curses intended for others. Whatever the situation of the moment, the Gaels held that good or evil spirits were persistent, thus: "the evil influence, once put on track, takes complete hold. There is an aphorism in Gaelic - "When a man is tried, he is tried completely." At that, men did what they could to avoid the consequences of "sympathetic" magic. It was believed that things once in contact remained in contact and might influence one another after separation; that the elements of a former union maintained a spiritual "sympathy." It was also held that things that appeared similar in form, colour, taste, touch or smell were essentially similar and
psychically involved. This explains why witches scavenged nail clippings, hair, the spit and the urine and faecal matter of an intended victim. They believed that incorporating all these ingredients in a representation made of wax gave them power over the original possessor of these leavings. Similarly men avoided taking black coloured objects aboard a ship because it was reasoned that this attracted the spirits resident in storm clouds. In some cases the attachment between things, or ideas, is exceedingly abstract, "thus, it is not lucky to own a boat that has carried a coffin. A woman in one of the islands died lately, and her relatives who had two boats, carried the corpse across in a small one, quite unfit for such work in such weather, rather than use the boat that did service for fishing." Another example: "...if a dog kill a sheep, the luck of the flock is lost to the owner, and the rest will follow (die) by some means. Also if a person dies who has been lucky in accumulating flocks and herds, the beast will follow him shortly (Celtic Magazine, p. 164). BUILE SHUIBHNE, (bwe la swee ny), Sweeny’s blow. The “travelling men” of Leinster and Argyll are said descended from this one-time warrior of the dal Riada.. He was considered the first human master of claochlu or shapeshifting. He was mortally wounded at the Battle of Moira but he arose from the dead, refusing to accept residence “under the hills.” As an effect he was compelled to wander restlessly through the wild lands being incapable of attaining peace of mind. In his wanderings The Sweeny did find a oneness with plants and animals and became a shaman of the wild places. The term “Travelling People” is now applied to tinkers but once referred more to forestfolk, those who were at one with nature. BUINEAGEAN, buin+eagean, belonging to, originating with+ gam, winter; the winter-goddess. The so-called “witchballs, ” green in colour, one of the chief possessions of the baobhe. McNeill says she handled these artifacts and notes that they were still used “with dire effects in the period
between the two Wars (WW I and WW II).” Balls of yarn, the so-called “blue clews of witchcraft.” BUISDEAR, BUITSEAR, “high witch,” a wizard, a wicked fellow. See following entries. BUITE, a firebrand, buiteach, a threat, buitich, threaten; buitse, icicle, see following.
BUITSEACH, BUITICH, BUITICHEAN, a witch, a wizard; buit + each, as above; each, horse-like, a brute, coarse. In writing, these may be distinguished according to sex by the end letter, thus: Is buitseache, “He is a wizard;” while Is buitseachi, indicates that “She is a witch.” The word may also indicate a “witches curse or a threat.” This is thought to lean on boid, a vow, hence, “those who have taken vows.” The word has evolved directly through SIr. from the English word witch. This word derives in turn from the AS wic, a resident
by the sea-side and is the same as the obs. Gaelic uic, bayside resident, and the ON vic, a wizard, magician, pirate, hence viking; cf. wit, a sage and witan, an advisory council to the king. The Whitsunday, was formerly held about 15 days after the pagan holiday still called Easter. Together with Martinmas in Winter (Nov. 11) it constituted two of four English Quarter-Days corresponding with the Gaelic Beltane and Samhain. It was presided over by a whitsunlord and whitsunlady, who were clearly Woden and his wife Frigga incarnate. This god corresponds with the Teutonic Wuotan and the Scandinavian Odin, and his name corresponds linguistically with wode, wood, weather, wicker, whither, and Wednesday. Belief in the existence of ghosts, or spirits, changed world history in the period between the Middle Ages and the eighteenth century. This was because witches, baobhs or hagges supposedly controlled these supernaturals. That was a time which belonged to the dark side: its saga was one of grotesque actions by those accused of withcraft and brutal reactions by those who chased them down. It has been estimated that continental Europeans killed nine million of their citizens following the biblical command: "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" (Exodus 22.18). The paranoia was a little later arriving in Britain, where it became tied to political causes; as a result only one thousand English and Scottish witches went to their death between 1542 and 1735. The English laws against witchcraft were lifted in 1736, but in 1842, "The New Statistical Account of Clackmannshire" claims that one last victim was burned at Gloom Hill in the Ochil Mountains of Scotland. There were even victims in the New World, the best known being the sixteen executed at Salem Massachusetts. Like most people of our century, folklorist Helen Creighton preferred to believe that the Maritime Provinces had "no history of witch burnings, drownings, or hangings" although she admitted that "enemies real or imagined have often been dispatched through torment by sympathetic magic." A well documented case of death by magic occurred at Belleisle
Bay, N.B., when an accussed witch named Mrs. Tennant was ritually harassed to death by her neighbours in the early seventeenth century. Unfortunately, we did have a death by more direct means during the French colonial period; which explains why a peninsula near Charlottetown was afterwards called Pointe de Flamme. The first witch-women appear to have been the nornir, alternately known as the vala, valkyra, fylgiar, druses, idises, disces or hagedises, anciently, the battle-maidens, who governed the fates of men and the gods, and who later officiated at forest shrines as prophetesses of the god Odin. They often rode before troops of warriors inspiring them to effort in battle, and afterwards took over the business of sacrificing captives. They were, in the Christian era, degraded to the rank of minor evil-spirits and sent to join the demon hosts already resident on such mountains as Brocken and Blockesburg. Like the others the witches were only allowed freedom of movement on Valpurgisnacht, which corresponds with the Gaelic eve of Samhain. These are the bafinne of Gaelic myth and correspond with the human and inhuman baobh e(which, see).
BUITSEACHAS, BUITSEACHAIS, the craft of a witch. Magic, enchantment, conferring with buitich, threaten. Gillian Tindall may be correct in saying that deliberate witchcraft was probably the product of a pagan religion that had gone sour. "...whereas the old cults had been concerned with making crops grow and women bear, a major preoccupation of the witches was blighting and making barren. Sterility replaced fertility as the goal, but the ritual remained the same." Even in the old order the god-king had to be wary of the "forked stick" in the belly of his goddess-queen, for she was overwintered while he was cut down with the corn. BUITSEACHASD, witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment.
BUITELACH, buite, a firebrand; a place where a large fire is placed, hence “a big fire,” based on buit and the OIr. bot, fire. Thus the reference to various islandfs termed Inis boit, an “isle of fire,” as these were the sites for signal or bale-fires. Compare with Eng. bute, a flat-topped peak, a “fire-place.” Dereived from beo, full of life, “living.” This is connected with Ebudae, a classical name given the Hebrides. Notice that a Buteman is termed in Gaelic a bodach and that Baile Bhoid, the “town of Bute,” is now Rothesay, Scotland. BUN-NOS, foundation custom, ancient mode of doing things, traditional. Bun, root, stock, stump, bottom, Eng. Bum. Nos, knowledge, white, pure. BUNNSACH, BUNNSAG, a magic rod, osier-twig, divining rod, a place where alders grow, a sudden rush of air, water etc. Bunneamach, shrewd, sensible, in control, deeply discerning. BURDAN, obs., a chorus. Same as durdan. Burdanaiche, libeller. BURGAID, a noisy fellow, an awkward fellow,m a clown. BURR, great, sulky-mouthed, clownish, burraidh, fool, blockhead, simpleton, surly, morose, fellow, burraghlasachd, rapacious, burrait, beastly, burral, howl of grief, burralgaireachd, brutality, Fury. Confers with cailleach bheurr, the “pointed old woman.” BUS, the pouting of the lips in anger, a kiss, mouth, lip, snout of an animal, mouth with prominent lips, cheek. BUTA, PUTA, a clown a puck, surplus, a lucky penny. BYANU, the mother goddess, mate of Bel. Another name for Boann Anu or Danu, the matriarch of the Daoine sidh.See Buannnan.
1.Rollestone, T.W., CEltic Myths And Legends (London) 1990, p. 132.