Sir Galahad the Perfect Knight

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Sir Galahad first appeared in medieval Arthurian romance in the Lancelot-Grail cycle of works and then later in Le Morte d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory.  He was the illegitimate son of Sir Lancelot and Elaine of Corbenic and became one of King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table.  When he came of age he was considered the best knight in the world and the perfect knight and was renowned for his gallantry and purity becoming one of only three Knights of the Round Table to achieve the Holy Grail.  The other two were Sir Bors and Sir Percival.  Pieced together here is a brief look at his early life and how through his immaculate behavior he rose to such an exalted status  achieving the Holy Grail and a spiritual dimension which remained frustratingly out of reach of King Arthur, Sir Lancelot and most of the the other Knights of the Round Table and concludes by comparing his achievements with those of King Arthur and Sir Lancelot.

King Pelles

King Pelles the lord of Corbenic the Grail Castle, in the land of Listeneise  and was Galahad’s maternal grandfather.  He was also one of the line of the guardians of the Holy Grail. In some Arthurian romances  Joseph of Arimathea brought the Grail to Britain and gave it to Bron, his brother-in-law, to keep safe and Pelles was descended from Bron. In some versions of Arthurian romance Pelles is also known as the Fisher King or Maimed King.

Pelles had been wounded in the legs or groin resulting in a loss of fertility and his impotence was reflected in the well-being his of kingdom making it infertile and a Wasteland. This is why he was sometimes called the Maimed King.  The only activity he appeared able to do was go fishing.  His servants had to carry him to to the water’s edge and there he would spend his time fishing which is why  he is sometimes called the Fisher King.   Galahad was important to King Pelles as he was the only one who could heal his wound.

Elaine and Lancelot

King Pelles had a daughter named Elaine and he had been forewarned by magical means that Lancelot would become the father of his daughter’s child.  This child would grow to become the world’s best and most perfect knight and be chosen by God to achieve the Holy Grail.  He was the chosen one who would be the only one pure enough to be able to heal his wound.  There was a problem though. Lancelot was dedicated solely to Guinevere, his true love and would never knowingly sleep with another woman.   Nevertheless Pelles was desperate for the liaison to take place and decided to seek magical help from Dame Brusen.  She was one of Elaine’s servants who was skilled in the art of sorcery to help his cause.  She gives Pelles a magic ring for Elaine to wear which gives her the likeness of Guinevere.

Elaine wears the magic ring and transforms into the a double of Guinevere.  Lancelot is fooled by the masquerade and they sleep together.  When he discovers the deception he is angry and ashamed and threatens to kill her.  She tells hims she is with his child and he relents but leaves Corbenic.

Elaine in due course gives birth to his son who she names Galahad.  This is the name Lancelot was baptized with when he was born.   It was the Lady of the Lake who fostered and raised Lancelot in her magical realm and it was she who named him Lancelot du Lac, or Lancelot of the Lake.

The madness of Lancelot

holy_grail_tapestry_the_failure_of_sir_launcelot

Soon afterwards Elaine goes to a feast at Arthur’s court.  Although Lancelot is also there he refuses to acknowledge her, making her sorrowful and lovelorn.   She calls her servant Dame Brusen to her and tells her how she is feeling and asks for her help.  Dame Brusen tells Elaine that she will fix it so Lancelot lies with her that night.  Pretending to Lancelot that Guinevere has summoned him she leads him to her chamber, but it is Elaine waiting there for him in bed in the dark and again he sleeps with her.

While he is with Elaine, Guinevere summons him and is furious to discover he is not in his bed chamber and even more so when she discovers him lying with Elaine in hers.  She tells him that she never wants to see or talk to him again and will have nothing more to do with him.  Lancelot is so upset and disturbed at what has happened and with Guinevere’s admonishments that madness takes him and he leaps out of the window running off into the wilderness.

Lost in madness and consumed by grief and sorrow he wanders alone through the wild places before he eventually reaches Corbenic where Elaine finds him insane her garden. She takes him to a chamber in Corbenic Castle where he is allowed to view the Holy Grail, but only through a veil.  Nevertheless this veiled sight of the holy relic is enough to cure him of his insanity.  Although he sees it through the veil, having committed adultery he is not pure enough so he can never be the perfect knight that achieves the Grail.

When his son is born he finally forgives Elaine but will not marry her and instead returns to the court of King Arthur.  The child is named Galahad, after his father’s former name and given to his great aunt to bring up in a nunnery.  Merlin foretells that Galahad will be even more valiant than his father and will achieve the Holy Grail.

Galahad’s quest for the Holy Grail

It was not until Galahad became a young man that he was reunited with Sir Lancelot, his father, who makes him a knight.   Lancelot then takes Galahad to Camelot at Pentecost where he joins the court.  A veteran knight who accompanied him leads him to the Round Table and unveils an empty chair which is called the Siege Perilous or the Perilous Seat.  At the advice of Merlin this seat was kept vacant for the knight who was to achieve the Quest for the Holy Grail.

This was his first test or worthiness as this chair in the past had proved deadly for any who had previously sat there who had hoped to find the Grail.  Galahad sits in the seat and survives.  King Arthur sees this and is impressed seeing that there is something special about him and leads him down to a river  where there is a floating stone with a sword embedded in it which bears an inscription  which says,

“Never shall man take me hence but only he by whose side I ought to hang; and he shall be the best knight of the world.”

Galahad tries and takes the sword from the stone and Arthur immediately declares that he is the greatest knight ever.  Arthur invites Galahad to become a member of the Round Table which he accepts.  Not long after the mystical presence of the Holy Grail is briefly experienced by those at King Arthur’s Court and the quest to find the grail is immediately begun. All the Knights of the Round Table embark on the quest leaving Camelot virtually empty.  Arthur is sad because he knows many will die or not return and fears it is the beginning of the end of his kingdom.

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Galahad mainly traveled alone and became involved in many adventures. In one he saves Sir Percival when he was attacked by twenty knights and rescued many maidens in distress.  Eventually he meets up again with Sir Percival who is accompanied by Sir Bors and together they find the sister of Sir Percival who takes them to a ship that will take them over the sea to a distant shore.  Sadly when they reach the shore Percival’s sister has to die that another may live.  To ensure she gets a fit and proper burial Sir Bors takes her body back to her homeland.

Sir Galahad and Sir Percival continue the quest and after many adventures arrive at the court of King Pelles and his son Eliazar.  Pelles and Eliazar are holy men and take Sir Galahad into a room to show him the Holy Grail and they request that he take it to a holy city called Sarras. After being shown the Grail, Sir Galahad asks that he may he may choose the time of his own death which is granted.

While he is on the journey back to Arthur’s court Joseph of Arimathea comes to him and he experiences such feeling of ecstasy that he asks to die there and then.  He says his goodbyes to Sir Percival and Sir Bors and angels appear and he is carried off to heaven as his two friends watch.  Although there is nothing to say that the Holy Grail will not once again be seen on earth it was said that since the ascension to heaven of Galahad there has not been another knight with the necessary qualities of achieving the Holy Grail.

Galahad’s achievement of the Holy Grail

Sir Galahad and the quest for the Holy Grail is one of the later stories that appeared as Arthurian romances grew in popularity.   The thought is that King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table were not pure enough to achieve such an important religious task. Galahad was introduced into the fold as one of the few who had the purity and personal qualities to qualify him as worthy enough to achieve the Holy Grail.  Just as when Arthur drew the sword from the stone and became the chosen one, Galahad did the same and also became the chosen one. He chose the kingdom of God whereas Arthur built a kingdom on earth.  In taking up the quest for the Holy Grail the priority is to the spiritual rather than the earthly life and Galahad fulfills the spiritual dimension of Arthurian romance and becomes the example for his contemporaries and those coming after him to aspire to.

© 03/05/2016  zteve t evans

References and Attributions

Copyright May 3rd, 2016 zteve t evans

Ancient symbols: The puzzle of the Three Hares

Three hares sharing three ears,

Yet every one of them has two!

Ancient German riddle

Dreihasenfenster (Window of Three Hares), Paderborn Cathedral – Author: ZeframGFDL

An ancient symbol

The three hares is an ancient symbol that is found in many religious places, buildings and caves ranging from the British Isles, Germany, France and other parts of Europe to the Middle East and parts of China in the Far East.  In Britain the symbols are mostly architectural ornaments or found in church roofs and sometimes on ceilings of private homes.  In Europe they are found mostly in churches and synagogues.   It is also used as a motif in heraldry, jewelry, ornaments, tattoos and other works of art. It has been wrought in many different materials and can be thought of as a puzzle, a topological problem, or a visual challenge, and can be found in stone sculptures, wood carvings, paintings, drawings and metal work.

Threefold rotational symmetry

Essentially the motif consists of three hares, or rabbits, chasing each other the same way around a circle.  There is a threefold rotational symmetry with each of the three ears being shared by two hares.The ears form a triangle that appears  at the centre of the circle, where, instead of there being six ears visible, there are only three, even though individually the hares all show two.  Occasionally a Four Hares motif is found in some places which is a similar but shows four ears, instead of eight, even though all the hares have two ears, making a square in the center.

The Tinners Rabbit’s

In  the county of Devon and other parts of the  south west England the motif is sometimes known as the Tinner’s Rabbits. This refers to the trade of tin mining that was once an important industry in the area. The theory was that a tin miners trade association or union that used the Three Hares motif as its emblem was the patron to a number of churches.  This might explain its high proportion of representations in churches in the area.  However, the motif is also found in parts of England with no association with tin mining, though it could have represented some other association that patronized these churches, but the theory is not accepted by everyone and the truth remains elusive.

Sacred symbols

The symbol is similar to the triskelion the triquetra and the triple spiral, or triskele. The meaning of the motif is unknown today though it is believed to have a number of symbolic and mystical associations and was possibly something to do with fertility and the cycle of the moon in paganism.   Its presence in Christian churches is thought to symbolize the Trinity though this cannot be proved and the fact that it is found in so many different countries over such a wide distance it may in fact have more than one meaning or purpose depending on the culture where it is found.

Buddhist connections

The Three Hares motif seems to have spread from the Far East westwards between 600 AD and 1500 AD.  The earliest known examples comes from the Sui Dynasty of China where it was found in sacred caves used for temples from the 6th to 7th century.  From there the motif was believed to have become connected to Buddhism and possibly spread along the Silk Road to the Middle East and eventually to Europe.

A researcher named Guan Youhui, now retired from the Dunhuang Academy, spent 50 years studying the patterns and symbols that are found in the Mogao Caves.  He believed the Three Hares motif represent “peace and tranquility” while others think they may represent “to be”.

The Three Hares can be found in “Lotus” motifs and Mongol metalwork from the 13th century.  It has been found on a copper coin from Iran dated 1281 and on other artifacts from diverse origins.

The spread of the motif

TIt is a mystery to how the Three Hares motif is found over such a large range from China the Middle East, Europe and the British Isles.  Although the earliest examples are found in China it is unknown why it occurs in so many diverse countries.It is possible it  spread along the great trading route of the Silk Road to other regions of the world but it could also have developed independently in different places with different meanings attached to it.  In the first instance it may have incorporated in the design of silks and artifacts simply because it was a pleasing design or it had some special significance.  With the second instance the majority of the occurrence of the motif are found in churches and synagogues in Germany and England, implying some religious significance was attached to it.

Christian use of the Three Hares

The Three Hares motif is found in a number of churches in some European countries.  In  Lyons, France the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière   and in Germany, the Paderborn Cathedral display excellent examples of the use of the motif.The southwestern parts of England has the most examples and the Three Hares Trail can be followed to see them.  They are often placed on carved wooden knobs, or bosses in a prominent position in the ceilings or roof of medieval churches, giving weight to the idea that they had some special significance and not just the trade symbols of masons or carpenters. The Dartmoor area has a number of Three Hares motifs found in churches. A fine example of a carved wood boss can be seen on a roof boss in the church of St Pancreas, Widecombe-in-the-Moor, near Dartmoor, Devon.

In Christianity there are at least two possible reasons why it it placed in churches.  The first is that in ancient times the hare was believed to be a hermaphrodite that reproduced without sexual intercourse and in doing so retained its virginity.  As such it became associated with the Virgin Mary and its image used in illuminated manuscripts and paintings of the Virgin Mary with the baby Jesus.

The second reason is that the motif  could be representative of the  Holy Trinity.  The three ears from the three hares form a triangle in the centre of the motif possibly representing One in Three and Three in one.  Triangles and interlocking rings were quite often used to represent the Holy Trinity.

Intriguingly the Three Hares symbol is often found next to the so called Green Man symbol.  Like the Three Hares symbol little or possibly less is known about the Green Man.  It is speculated to be an Anglo-Saxon symbol though many people think it may be a far older originating Celtic times.   What it is doing in a Christian church is unknown.  Some speculate that the two together are meant to show the difference between the divine and the earthly nature of humans.

An ancient German riddle

Curiously the motif is found in many of the more well known wooden synagogues in the Ashknaz region of Germany dating from the 17th and 18th century along with the following riddle:-

Three hares sharing three ears,

Yet every one of them has two.

Coat of Arms of Hasloch – Public Domain

The meaning of the Three Hares motif

The hare is an animal that is involved in many myths and legends in many different cultures around the world.  The Three Hares motif can be found from Britain across Eurasia to China and was found in Buddhist, Christian, Jewish and Hindu cultures.   If there was a thread that linked them all together, or a common meaning attached to the motif, it is lost now but it is intriguing to find it in such diverse places.

Symbolism of the Three Hares

But there may be something that they may all have in common. The use of symbols or icons, or imagery helps make learning and remembering important information easier especially for people who cannot read or write.  The use of images is an invaluable aid for people in such circumstances as they convey meaning and information quickly and easily.  The paintings in the caves of Mogao Caves of China to the churches in the English countryside appear to be intended to convey some, but not necessarily the same message, or idea. The symbol of the Three Hares was at least one possible way that the information was conveyed.  What exactly the message was is not known but if one looks at the places and the cultures that they are found in it could be that ideas will naturally spring to mind.   Could it be that by looking at and thinking about the puzzle the beholder is being deliberately placed in a situation where they have to use their own knowledge and experience in combination with the location and culture the symbol is found in to make sense of it in the world that they find themselves in?

One last question

There is probably no right or wrong answer, but do you think The Three Hares symbol has a meaning; does it change with culture and location, or is it just an attractive image used for decoration?

© 06/05/2015 zteve t evans

References and Attributions

Copyright 6th May, 2015 zteve t evans

Greek mythology: Gaia’s revenge

Gaia the Earth Mother

Gaia – Public Domain

In Greek mythology Gaia  appeared out of Chaos and was the primal Mother Goddess who gave birth to the Earth and the universe.  According to some sources she was seen as the personification of the Earth and the mother of all.

Ouranos the god of the skies

Ouranos was the personification of the sky or the heavens in Greek mythology and is also known by his Latinized name of Uranus. He was also known as Father Sky.  Sources differ but  Hesiod in his work Theogony says that Gaia was his mother while other sources say his father was Aether.

Gaia gave birth to Ouranos who became the sky crowned with stars and of equal splendor to her and made so as to fully cover her. She then created the mountains and the sea. After the universe had been formed the next task was to populate it.

The birth of the Titans

Ouranos was not only her son but her husband too. Gaia united with Ouranos to give birth to the twelve Titans, six male and six female and the first race upon the earth. Their sons names were Oceanus, Coeus, Crius, Hyperion, Iapetus and Cronus, and their daughters names were Theia, Rhea, Themis, Mnemosyne, Phoebe and Tethys.

The birth of the Cyclops

Ouranos and Gaia then produced the Cyclops, who were named Brontes, Steropes and Arges. These were giants with one eye in their foreheads and who possessed incredible strength.

The birth of Briareus, Cottus and Gyes

Their next offspring were three monsters who each had one hundred powerful arms and fifty heads. They were known as the Hecatonchires, or the Centimanes, and their names were Briareus, Cottus and Gyes.

Ouranos regarded his children with horror and revulsion and was also thought to be fearful of their strength, and possibly usurping him. As soon as they were born he imprisoned them in  the earth, which was inside Gaia who was the Earth goddess.

Gaia’s revenge

Victory, Janus, Chronos, and Gaea – by Giulio Romano – Public Domain

Gaia was distraught at this, and feeling great sorrow for her children and great pain for herself planned vengeance against Ouranos. From her bosom she manifested a sharp sickle and asked her children to join in with a plan she had made to set them free and wreak vengeance. The plan was to castrate Ouranos when he visited her at night. Only Cronus agreed to help her and she gave him the sickle.

When evening fell Ouranos returned to rejoin Gaia. While Ouranos was asleep, Cronus and Gaia mutilated him, cutting off his genitals and throwing them in the sea. From the blood that seeped from the terrible wound onto the earth sprang the Furies, the Giants and the ash-tree nymphs. From what was thrown into the sea the goddess of love and desire, known as Aphrodite, was born.

Cronus becomes king of the gods

With Ouranos now impotent and the sky separated from the earth, Cronus liberated his fellow Titans, but not the Cyclops and Hecatonchires, and became king of the gods. Later he too was to be deposed by his son Zeus, who became the chief god of the Greek Pantheon.

References and attributions

Copyright 25/03/2015 zteve t evans

British Folk Songs: The Ballad of John Barleycorn

Barley has a long association with human society because of its uses for food, drink and medicine that goes back some 12,000 years.   Used for animal feed and to make bread for human consumption, it is also used to make popular alcoholic drinks such as beer, barley wine, whisky and other alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.

Beer is the oldest and the most common of all alcoholic drinks and after water and tea the third most popular beverage.  With its ancient importance, barley has given rise to many myths and is the source of much folklore and many people think that hidden in an old traditional folk song of the British Isles  called John Barleycorn, lies the story of barley.

Barley – Public Domain Image


The Ballad of John Barleycorn

A traditional British folk ballad, called John Barleycorn, depicts the lead character as the personification of barley and its products of bread, beer and whisky.   The song is very old and there are many versions from all around the British Isles.  The song does have strong connections with Scotland with possibly the Robert Burns version the most well-known though the song goes way back to before the times of Elizabeth 1st.

Different Versions

In the song, John Barleycorn is subject to many violent, physical abuses leading to his death.  Each abuse represents a stage in the sowing, growing, harvesting, malting and preparation of barley to make beer and whisky.

In many versions there is confusion because it is brandy that is consumed even though brandy is made from grapes, rather than whisky or beer made from barley.   John Barleycorn is also a term used to denote an alcoholic drink that is distilled such as a spirit, rather than fermented like beer.

In some versions of the song there is more emphasis on the way different tradesmen take revenge on John Barleycorn for making them drunk.  The miller grinds him to a powder between two stones.  However John Barleycorn often proves the stronger character due to his intoxicating effect on his tormentors and the fact hat his body is giving sustenance to others making humans dependent upon him.

Through the savagery inflicted upon John Barleycorn the song metaphorically tells the story of the sowing, cultivating and harvesting cycle of barley throughout the year.  The ground is ploughed, seeds are sown, and the plant grows until ready for harvest. It is then cut with scythes, and tied into sheaves, which are flayed to remove the grain.

Pagan and Anglo-Saxon Associations

Wikipedia says that some scholars think that John Barleycorn has strong connections with the pagan Anglo-Saxon character of Beowa also known as Beaw, Beow, or Beo or sometimes Bedwig. In Old English ‘Beow’ means ‘barley’ and ‘Sceafa’ means ‘sheaf.’ From Royal Anglo-Saxon lineage, Beowa is the son of Scyld who is the son of Sceafa in a pedigree that goes back to Adam.

Many scholars also think that there are strong associations with Beowa and Beowulf and the general agreement is that they are the same character.  Some scholars also think that Beowa is the same character as John Barleycorn while others disagree.

The Golden Bough

Wikepedia says, Sir James George Frazer, in his book, ‘The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion’  asserts that many of the old religions of the world were derived from fertility cults which had at their core the ritual sacrifice of a Sacred king who was also known as the Corn King, who was the embodiment of the Sun god.  Each year he went through a cycle of death and rebirth in a union with the Earth goddess, dying at the harvest time to be reborn in the spring.

The Corn King

The Corn King was chosen from the men of a tribe to be the king for a year.  At the end of the year he would then dance, or perform thanksgiving and fertility rituals in the fields before being ritually killed.  So that the soil would be fertilised his body was dragged through the fields to enable his blood to run into the soil.  It may be that he may then have been eaten by the tribe in completion of the ritual.

As well as other uses, the barley was made into cakes which would be stored for the winter and were thought to hold the spirit of the Corn King.  Around the time of the winter solstice when the sun was at its weakest and as it started to strengthen, the cakes would be fed to children giving them the spirit of the corn king.

Christianity

There are also theories that possibly an earlier form of John Barleycorn represented a pagan rite before the rise of Christianity. There are suggestions that the early Christian church in Anglo-Saxon England adapted this to help the conversion of the pagan population to Christianity.  This is a tactic that was used with Yule and other pagan festivals and traditions.   In some versions of the song, John Barleycorn suffers in a similar way to Christ, especially in the version by Robert Burns.

After undergoing ritualistic suffering and death, his body is ground into flour for bread and drink. Some scholars compare this with the Sacrament and Transubstantiation of Christian belief though not all agree.

Popular Culture

We will probably never know the true origins and meaning that are hidden in the story of John Barleycorn but the song and its mysteries still have a powerful effect on people today.  Many popular musicians and folk artists have performed versions of the song in the recent past and it is still a popular song today.

In 1970, the progressive rock group, ’Traffic’ made an album entitled, John Barleycorn Must Die, featuring a song of the same name which went on to become a classic.

The song is popular with recording and performing artists and a favourite with audiences. Folk rock bands Fairport Convention and Steel-eye Span and many other rock and folk artists have recorded versions of the song ensuring the story of John Barleycorn is still sung and celebrated, so that even though the meaning may be lost in time, the story lives on.

References and Attributions
File:Hordeum-barley.jpg From Wikimedia Commons 
Read the lyrics HarvestFestivals.Net - John Barleycorn
AudioEnglish.org -John Barleycorn
The Golden Bough - from Wikipedia
Sacred king from Wikipedia
Frazer, Sir James George -  The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion
Traffic - John BarleyCorn  
Mainly Norfolk: English Folk and Other Good Music

The Popular Legend of Lady Godiva

The popular legend of how Lady Godiva rode naked on horse back through the streets of Coventry to save the people from a crippling and unjust tax known as the Heregild, is one of the most renowned stories in British folklore. The Heregild was a tax imposed on the English by the Danish King Canute to pay for his body guard.

Lady Godiva, by artist John Collier – Public Domain Image

According to the legend the event happened on a market day and had profoundly beneficial consequences for the people of Coventry.

The problem with legends is that there are often more than one versions of the same story and events that happened in the distant past get changed and exaggerated until it is difficult to discern the accuracy of accounts.  This article presents a version of the popular legend of Lady Godiva as it exists today and has been put together from a number of other versions.  It is the first of a planned series on the subject each of which will present different view points on the legend, such as the historical and pagan contexts of the story.

The Heregild Tax

Earl Leofric was a powerful lord loyal to King Canute and owed his position to his goodwill.  As such he was not prepared to risk losing that goodwill.  He strictly imposed the Heregild on the people and made sure it was collected

Lady Godiva was also rich and owned valuable land and assets in her own right in the area and was very fond of the local people.  One of those assets was the town of Coventry. She was a devout Christian and was renowned for being pious, virtuous and faithful to the Christian Church and its ideals.  In comparison, it was said that Leofric, although thought to be a Christian, did not hold quite the same religious convictions as his wife.

Leofric’s Challenge

Lady Godiva could see the suffering it was causing to her beloved people and persistently begged Leofric to put an end to the tax.  With his patience running thin through his wife’s continuous pestering he is reputed to have told her that she would have to ride naked through the streets of Coventry before he would repeal the tax.. He probably said this out of exasperation, thinking his very prim and pious wife would never do such a thing. However, Leofric badly underestimated his wife’s devotion to the people and her determination to help them.

Lady Godiva takes up the Challenge

Godiva took up the challenge and rode naked on a horse through the streets of Coventry.  There are a number of variations to the legend, but one says that the people of Coventry were so grateful to Godiva, that they kept to their homes and covered the windows and no one took advantage of the situation to try and peek at her.

Peeping Tom

Another later variation tells how she had sent out messengers to clear the streets in front of her as she rode. All the citizens of Coventry obeyed except for one who tried to peep but was immediately struck blind.  His name was Tom who was a tailor, and from that day on he became known as Peeping Tom.

In Coventry’s Cathedral Lanes Shopping Centre there is a rather peculiar carved painted wooden effigy said to be a depiction of Peeping Tom.  Its eyes are blank possibly because the paint has worn off or possibly for other reasons. Either way, Lady Godiva completed the ride veiled only by her long golden hair which was long enough to cover her body, leaving only her face and legs visible.

Leofric Keeps His Promise

It seems her husband, Leofric, was so impressed that his demure and pious wife would dare to do such a thing for the people of Coventry and so amazed that no one had seen her that he changed his own religious convictions.  He regarded it as a miracle and keeping his word to his wife he repealed the hated Heregild and founded a Benedictine monastery with her, although no trace of this remains today.

The grateful people of Coventry held an annual fair keeping alive the story of Godiva and her heroism.  Unfortunately this was banned during the Reformation.

The Godiva Procession

Around 1678 the fair was revived with a representative of Lady Godiva riding through the streets on a snow white horse accompanied by a man making lewd and suggestive gestures.  The Godiva Procession is an annual event which takes place in June.

Future Articles

Although the naked ride of Lady Godiva is one of Britain’s most famous legends there is no proof that it actually happened though Godiva and Leofric were both historical and important figures in their day. It is still debated whether this was the same Godiva or a different person.  Historically, back in the days when the event was supposed to have happened Coventry was just a small settlement and nothing like the city we know today. Many scholars think that the legend has its roots in pagan ceremonies such as the May Queen.  These and other ideas will be dealt with in future articles.

References and Attributions
Lady Godiva - From Wikipedia 
BBC – Lady Godiva 
LIBER GENTIUM MEDIEVAL BIOGRAPHY - Lady Godiva - the eleventh century Coventry legend
Image - File:Lady Godiva by John Collier.jpg - From Wikipedia - Lady Godiva, by Artist, John Collier (1850–1934) Credit line Photographer, user:Hautala

The Legend Of Madelon And The Christmas Rose

The legend of the Christmas Rose tells the story of how a young shepherdess named Madelon, through her love and devotion, came to give the baby Jesus a gift more precious than gold, frankincense or myrrh.

Madelon and the Christmas Rose - Public Domain

Madelon and the Christmas Rose – Public Domain

The Christmas Rose

The Christmas rose (helleborus niger) is actually a perennial herb and grows in the cold, snowy mountains and high valleys across Europe. The flowers are white and star-shaped and tipped with pink. It is also known as the Snow Rose and the Winter Rose as it blossoms in the mid-winter season when most other vegetation lies dormant and covered by snow.

The Legend

The tradition tells how the shepherds, while watching their flocks, were visited by an Angel who was leading the Magi to the birthplace of Jesus. The Angel told them of the birth of Jesus who would be known as the Prince of Peace, the King of Kings and the Saviour of their people. Overjoyed, the shepherds left their flocks to visit the new born king taking him such gifts as they could afford and were befitting of their status such as, honey, fruit and snow-white doves.

Madelon

Now on that cold winter night when Jesus was born, the shepherds were not the only ones out on the hillside tending their flocks. A young shepherdess, called Madelon, was also out tending her family’s flock and had witnessed the arrival of the Angel and the Magi and heard what the Angel told the shepherds.

Love And Devotion

Hearing the news, the young girl’s heart became full of love and devotion and filled with faith. At a distance she followed the Angel, the Magi and the shepherds to the stable where Jesus lay in the manger, cared for by Mary and Joseph.

The Magi Give Baby Jesus Wonderful Gifts

She watched as they entered the stable and the Magi laid their wonderful gifts of gold, myrrh and frankincense before the baby Jesus. She watched as the shepherds gave their gifts of honey, fruit and snow-white doves. Realizing she had nothing to give she rushed back to the hillside to try and find flowers that she could lay before him.

Madelon’s Tears

Finding none on the snow covered hillside she became full of shame and despair and began crying. As she cried her tears fell down her face onto the snowy ground around her. Seeing this from on high the Angel came down and touched the ground and a bush of the most beautiful winter roses sprang forth at her feet.

A Precious Gift Of Pure Blooms

The Angel told her, “No gold, no frankincense, no myrrh, is as precious, or as fitting a gift for the Prince of Peace as these pure blooms that are born from the pure tears of love, faith and devotion.”

The ancient pagan origins of Christmas – The festival of Saturnalia

Christmas in the modern world is a time of revelry, eating and overindulgence of drink, the giving of presents, carol singing and much more.  The Roman festival of Saturnalia is believed to have been a forerunner of the Christmas we know and celebrate today giving us many customs and traditions that we use and enjoy.

Dice players – Author: WolfgangRieger – Public Domain Image

The Roman Festival of Saturnalia

An early forerunner to Christmas was the ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia.  This festival was held in honour Saturn an agricultural deity who reigned during the Golden Age. This was a time of peace, when all was prosperous and plentiful.  A time when people’s needs were met with out having to work and every one lived in a state of social equality with one another.  The festival commenced on the 17th December to the 23rd of December. Saturnalia could be celebrated anywhere in the Roman Empire not just Rome.

Saturnalia was time of great feasting, making merry and revelry with copious amounts of drinking and over indulging in food. People went out in the streets singing from door to door.  It was a time for the giving and receiving of presents. The revelry was supposed to reflect the conditions of the Golden Age.

During Saturnalia leaves and branches of evergreens were fashioned into wreathes and carried by priests in processions.  Gambling and throwing dice, which in ancient Rome was discouraged became permitted for both masters and slaves over the duration of the festival.

Public buildings and squares were adorned with flowers and lit with candles. Candles may have represented the search for truth and knowledge and also the return of the sun after the winter solstice.  In later times the 25th of December by the Julian calendar, Romans celebrated Dies Natalis of Sol Invictus, or the “Birthday of the Unconquerable Sun.”

Role reversal during Saturnalia

During Saturnalia roles were reversed between master and slave, with slave becoming the master and the master, the slave.   Some reports from ancient sources say slaves and masters ate at the same table together.  Other reports say the slaves ate first and others say that the masters served the slaves their food.  No doubt it was the slaves who did the actual preparation and clearing up.

Slaves were also said to be allowed to show a certain amount of disrespect to their masters but in reality it was probably more of an act.  This is because the role reversal was temporary, only lasting through Saturnalia so slaves still needed to be wary of upsetting their master too much.

Dressing for Saturnalia

As can be expected during important festivals people like to dress up and wear their best clothes and Romans were no different.  During Saturnalia men set aside the toga, their usual garment, in favour of Greek styled clothing.  They also wore a conical cap of felt called the pilleus, which was a token of a freedman.  Even slaves were allowed to wear the pilleus during Saturnalia.

Giving presents during Saturnalia

December the 23rd was known as “The Sigillaria and on this day presents and gifts were given.  Against the spirit of the season the value of gifts given and received was a sign of social status.   These might be candles, items of pottery, wax figurines, writing tablets, combs, lamps and many other such articles. Sometimes bird or animals were given.  The rich sometimes gave a slave or an exotic animal of some kind.  Children were given toys.

The Lord of Misrule

The ruler of Saturnalia and the master of ceremonies was called Saturnalicius princeps and was chosen by lot.  A similar figure is seen in medieval times presiding over the Feast of Fools and was known as the Lord of Misrule.  He would issue absurd and whimsical commands which had to be obeyed, hence creating chaos and (mis)rule and an absurd world.

The influence of Saturnalia on Christmas today

Many historians and scholars see the festival of Saturnalia as being as one of the original sources of many of today’s Christmas practices.   The giving of presents, carol singing, the lighting of candles and the use of evergreen plants for decorations all continue to this day.   The practice of eating and drinking to excess and the carnival atmosphere that prevails over the season are reminiscent of the festival of Saturnalia.

References

BBC – Did the Romans invent Christmas? By Jayne Lutwyche  – BBC Religion and Ethics

Saturnalia – From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Public Domain Image – Dice players. Roman fresco from the Osteria della Via di Mercurio (VI 10,1.19, room b) in Pompeii.Author – WolfgangRieger

Natural Folklore: The Northern and Southern Lights

The Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights

This image or file is a work of a U.S. Air Force Airman or employee, taken or made as part of that person’s official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image or file is in the public domain.

The northern lights and the southern lights are natural phenomena that occur in the night skies over the polar regions of the planet. Today, we know they are caused by gas molecules in the atmosphere colliding with solar particles. This releases energy as light and creates colourful displays of light that display in fold-like shapes, streamers, rays, arches and many other amazing forms.

The northern lights are also known as ‘Aurora borealis’ and the southern lights as ‘Aurora australis.’ In Roman mythology Aurora was the goddess of the dawn, so Aurora borealis means ‘dawn of the north,’ and Aurora australis means dawn of the south.

They can be very beautiful and awe-inspiring and at the same time mysterious and even frightening. Many different cultural and ethnic groups who lived in places where they are seen have developed many myths and legends to try and explain and make meaning of them in their own terms.

The Fox-fires of Lapland

In the language of the Finnish people the northern lights are known as “Revontulet.” In English this means “Fox Fires” and comes from a very old Finnish myth which says that the lights were produced by magical snow foxes whose swishing tales sent snow spraying into the skies.

North of Finland, Norway and Sweden live the Lapp people in Lapland. This is a huge area within the Arctic Circle which ranges across parts of all three of these Scandinavian countries. The Lapps are closely related to the Finnish people. Their traditions say that the lights are the shining souls of the dead.

When the lights are in the skies people are expected to behave in a solemn and respectful way. Children were also expected to be solemnly too out of respect for the departed ones. To show disrespect would bring down bad luck, sickness and the risk of death.

The shamans of the Lapps painted runes representing the fires on their on their drums to help them attract and capture their magical energy. They were also believed that the lights had soothing powers over conflicts and arguments.

There was also a belief that if you whistled when the lights were active they would come to you and take you away with them.

The ride of the Valkiries

A red aurora of this magnitude is rare, and in this image it complements the green colour. Image taken at Hakoya island, just outside Tromsoe, Norway. October 25th, 2011 by photographer Frank Olsen

A red aurora of this magnitude is rare, and icomplements the green colour. Image taken Hakoya island, Norway. October 25th, 2011 by photographer Frank Olsen. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Norwegian folklore tells that they were the souls of old maids who danced and waved across the skies.

While in other parts of Scandinavia and Germany the belief was that it was the Valkiries who had taken to the air when the lights appeared.

In Scotland, which also has strong Norse links, the lights were sometimes referred to as “the merry dancers.”

Warriors battling in the skies

In other parts of the world the aurora borealis was believed to be heroes or warriors battling in the sky. In many places further from the Arctic and Antarctic Circles the lights are a rare occurrence and when they did appear they were seen as signs of coming war or sickness and were harbingers of doom.

Eskimo beliefs

Among some Eskimo tribes of Greenland the lights were connected with dancing. In some parts of Greenland the lights were thought top be the souls of children who had died at, or soon after birth.

In Labrador, young Eskimos believed the lights were the torches lit and carried by the dead as they played a kind of ball game in the skies with the skull of a walrus. They would dance as the lights played across the skies.

Spirits of animals

Aurora image taken at Hillesoy island, Norway. September 2011. Author Arctic light -Frank Olsen, This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

In eastern parts of Canada, the Salteaus Indians, along with the Kwakiutl and Tlingit tribes of south eastern parts of Alaska the lights were thought to the spirits of humans. Tribes living along the Yukon River thought that the lights were the spirits of animals such as elk, deer, salmon, seal and whales.

While to some Native American tribes of Wisconsin, North America, they were a bad omen as they believed the lights were the ghosts of the enemies they had killed who were now seeking revenge.

Everlasting love

Many cultures around the world looked up at them and made their own meanings and stories to explain them but here the last word goes to the Algonquin Indians. They believed the northern lights were the fires of the great creator god, Nanahbozho. After creating the world he retired to the far north. There he builds great magical campfires which light up the northern skies to remind them of the everlasting love he holds towards them.

References
 Causes of Color - Legends and myths of the aurora Folklore
 Accessed 04 September 2013
 
this is FINLAND - Beliefs on indigenous people
 Accessed 04 September 2013
 
Aurora (astronomy) - From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Enduring Appeal of Robin Hood

The legendary adventures of Robin Hood and his Merry Men are among the best known and popular folk tales of the British Isles.  In different forms of adaption they have won worldwide fame and popularity.  As well as the swashbuckling action there is the popular appeal of a hero with the highest ideals and integrity who robs the rich to give to the poor.

Public Domain Image

Medieval forest

A working class hero

In earlier versions of the legend his status was that of a yeoman who had fallen foul of the law through injustice.  In this role as a working class hero he successfully cocks a snook at the law and authority, gaining much sympathy and support from the peasants and yeomanry who saw themselves as oppressed by an all powerful royal hierarchy.

Sherwood Forest

In Robin’s day Sherwood was one of the Royal Forests and was subject to the Forest Laws.  These were designed to protect the game such as deer, boar, wolves or hares and game birds for the benefit of the king.

The penalty for breaking them was notoriously harsh. People living in or around a Royal Forest were subject to these laws and they were believed to be the cause of much resentment.  The forest and everything in it belonged to the king and he alone could give permission for its use.  This would only be given to his barons and noblemen on license and at a price.  Ordinary people could not hunt, clear or cultivate land within in its bounds.

Although not all of their former rights were taken they were much more restricted in what they could do.  Punishments for breaking the law included being blinded in both eyes or to have the hands cut off.  Not surprisingly, this would probably be a cause of massive resentment among the ordinary people who would have wanted to supplement their meagre livelihood from the free forest resources of meat, wood and land.

In Robin Hood the people found a hero who was one of their own and who successfully stood up against their oppressors.  Robin not only broke the law and got away with it he made the authorities look foolish.

Robin of Loxley

In later versions he becomes a lord who had been dispossessed by the notoriously unjust King John for his support of King Richard who was away on the Crusades. This also had the appeal of the righteous lord who in loyally upholding the true monarch’s law in his absence is wronged by the usurper King John.

Robin Hood and Little John by Louis Rhead Public Domain Image

The Merry Men

The Merry Men were his followers and fellow outlaws.  Their number varies from 20 to 140 over time. Any one who wanted to join had to fight Robin and beat him.   Most of what we know about them comes from the ballads about Robin Hood. The term ‘Merry Men’ is a generic term used to describe followers of leaders such as outlaws or knights.  ‘Merry Men’ were followers of any one who commanded a following.   Little John, Will Scarlet, Much the Miller’s Son, Alan-a-Dale and Friar Tuck are the most well known of Robin’s Merry Men.   Maid Marion was his famous love interest.

Robin’s enemies

His arch rival was the Sherriff of Nottingham aided and abetted by Sir Guy of Gisbourne.    Under the cover of Sherwood Forest he and his Merry Men rang rings round these two as they tried their hardest to capture them.

The monarch of the time is generally considered to be King John while his brother, King Richard was absent at the Crusades.  In the ballad ‘A Gest of Robyn Hode,’ the king is named as ‘Edward.’   As the legend of Robin Hood seems to have grown over centuries it is difficult to be exact.  Who ever was the king they would have been expecting and pressing the Sheriff of Nottingham to capture and punish Robin Hood.

The Royal Forests were huge and not just areas of woodland, but included heath and scrub lands, often with human settlements within or around its boundaries.  Conversely, preserving these wild areas for game also provide perfect cover for outlaws to hideout in while living off the land by poaching the King’s deer and game.

Robbing the rich and giving it to the poor is one thing, but robbing the King’s deer would be unforgivable, especially if it was King John’s who was notorious for his tyranny and cruelty.   The Sheriff would have been under enormous royal pressure to capture Robin.

“Depiction of a medieval hunting park” from The Master of Game Public Domain Image

The origin of the Robin Hood legends

It is very difficult to find any real evidence relating to the origins of the Robin Hood legends.  He is briefly mentioned in ‘Piers Plowman’ written 1377, by William Langland.  Most of the legends are mentioned in ballads from the 15th – 16th century. The oldest are ‘A Gest of Robyn Hode,’  ‘Robin Hood and the Monk,’ and ‘Robin Hood and the Potter.’

Another source is the Percy Folio which is a collection of English ballads compiled by Thomas Percy in the 17th century.    Many of these ballads are believed to go back to the 12th century.  There are also many other later ballads that have Robin Hood as the central figure or mention him in some way.

Where was Robin based?

Where Robin Hood was based is a matter of contention. Sherwood Forest is the most cited place but there are other areas that also have a claim to be his territory.  Barnsdale in Yorkshire also has strong associations with him and many places in England have places names and public houses that bear his name as do Scotland and Wales.  It may be that he could have actually travelled to other districts as a fugitive to escape the clutches of the Sheriff of Nottingham and places he stayed at were named after him.

Was Robin Hood a real person?

The Roll of the Justices in Eyre, Berkshire record that in 1261 a gang of outlaws, including someone named as William, the son of Robert le Fevere was seized without warrant.  This cross references with another official document of 1262 records in the King’s Remembrancer’s Memoranda Roll of Easter that pardons the prior of Sandleford for the seizing of the chattels of a fugitive named William Robehod without a warrant.    William, the son of Robert le Fevere and William Robehod are widely thought to be the same person, though not necessarily the legendary Robin Hood, though many think it possible.  Some scholars think ‘Robin Hood’ may have been a generic nickname for medieval outlaws.

Robin Hood as a forest spirit

There is also the theory that Robin Hood was actually a part of a much older tradition.   Some theories associate him with mythological figures such as Robin Goodfellow.  In later times his character appeared in some May Day festivities the May King along side Maid Marion.  In folklore the May King was a male youth chosen for his physical perfection who would be given rights to impregnate the females of his choice in the community.  His reign lasted from one year or seven years after which he was ritually sacrificed in the belief that this would bring fertility to the people and their crops.

Green Man from Southwell Minster Public Domain Image Author: MedievalRich

Robin Hood and the Green Man

He is also associated by some people with the ‘Green Man.’   The ‘Green Man’ is a term first used by Lady Raglan to describe an emblem carved in stone on the walls of her local church  Since then many other such Green Men have been found carved in the wood and stone of other old churches and ancient buildings.

No one is certain of its meaning but it is often found in churches in or around the edges of forests and woodlands. It is usually a face or head with leaves or branches sprouting from the mouth and entwining the head.   Many people think it was a pagan symbol representing a spirit of nature.  It is also thought to go back to Celtic times and may be a representation of the god Cernunnos.

There are a number of representations of the Green Man in the Chapter House of Southwell Minster which was built around 1100. and well within Robin’s Nottinghamshire territory.

The enduring appeal of Robin Hood

It is likely that unless other reliable evidence comes to light that Robin Hood will remain as elusive as was in medieval times.  Nevertheless his appeal and popularity are enduring and his legend continues to evolve into modern times.

Maybe we all need someone to stand against authority, steal from the rich and give to the poor.

Paradoxically, despite his outlawry he still maintains a reputation for purity of intent and honesty. He is seen as someone who is bold and courageous and a beacon of hope to the oppressed.  Some how, law breaking seems more forgivable if there is a noble and just cause behind it, carried out by someone with a pure and honest disposition.

References

Robin Hood

Merry Men

World Wide Robin Hood Society

BBC Robin Hood and his Historical Context By Dr Mike Ibeji

The Enigma of the Green Man – Theories and Interpretations

Experience the Robin Hood Legend in Nottinghamshire, UK

North American Mythology: The First Hummingbird

selasphorus_rufus_on_saltspring_island

Hovering male rufous hummingbird – Image by Ryan Bushby(HighInBC) – CC BY 2.5

In her book, The Book of Nature Myths (1904) Florence Holbrook collected over fifty traditional Native American myths and legends many of which tell of the origin of how things came to be.   What follows is a rewrite of The Story of the First Hummingbird.

The Great Fire Mountain

In a time when the earth was still young and growing there were two hunters in the forest searching for game.  They had followed the trail of a deer for many days and had traveled a great distance from their village, much further than they or any other villager had ever been before.  When evening came and the sun began to slowly sink and darkness fell all around them they stopped to rest for the night.  Huddling together for warmth they looked out over the western sky and saw a bright light glowing in the distant darkness, flickering, red, yellow and orange.

“What can that be?” said one.

“It must be the moon,” said the other.

“Surely not.  We have seen many moons and we have seen it round and full and we have seen its shapes and it is not like we have seen before.  Could it be the northern lights?”

“We have seen the northern lights and they are not like this,” replied the other.

“Whatever can they be?” said the other.

“Perhaps it is the fire of the Great Spirit and maybe he is cooking?” one asked.

“Perhaps he is angry with us and will punish us with flames!” said the other.

With nothing else to be done until sunrise, they sat up all night watching as the lights flickered red, yellow and orange in the western sky.  At sunrise, they were astonished to see flames of red, yellow and orange flickering on the distant horizon and thick plumes of dark, blue smoke rising high into the clear blue sky.   They had no idea what the flickering flames could be so they decided they would go and see.  As they drew near they could see the flames and the smoke more clearly and saw they were rising from the crest of a steep mountain way off in the distance.

“It looks like a great mountain of fire, what shall we do?” said one.

“Let’s go a bit closer and see more,” said the other.

So they trekked on until they came so close they could see fire leaping out of splits in the mountainside and flickering around its peak like a fiery crown.

“It is a mountain of fire!  This will be of great help to our people.  Let’s go on,” said one,

They came to the foothills and climbed steadily up the sides of the fiery mountain until they stood right on its to top and looked down into its center and saw a sea of red hot molten rock with flames dancing across it.

One turned to the other and said, “We have discovered the secret of the fire mountain and our people will be so glad to have this.  Let us now go and tell them.”  Quickly, they made their way down the mountain and back through the forest to their village.

 “We have been far, much further than anyone else had ever been from the village and we have discovered a wonderful secret,” said one excitedly to the people who gathered around to greet their return.

“We have discovered the secret of where the Fire Spirit has her home.  We have found where the flames are kept that warm the children of the Great Spirit,” continued the other.

“We have found the fire mountain where the flames dance and the blue smoke rises day and night and at its top there lies a lake of fire and molten rock.  Come with us and we will lead you there,” said the first.

“And we shall never be cold again and always have a flame to cook with!” said the second.

The people were glad to hear this for they suffered greatly in the cold and snow of winter and needed flame to cook their game.  They all agreed it would be a wonderful thing to go and live on the Fire Mountain so they packed up their belongings and made ready to leave.

The two hunters led their people to the foot of the mountain of fire where they set up their village and were glad.  The Fire Spirit looked down and saw them come and was glad for them for she was a kindly spirit.  She knew they would benefit greatly from her fire when the hard, bleak,  months of winter came.  The people lived for many years at the foot of the mountain and gave thanks to the beneficence of the Fire Spirit who gave her flames to stop them perishing in the winter and to cook their food with.

The Dance of the Flames

volcc3a1n_tungurahua_2011

Image Attribution Dr. Carlos Costales Terán [CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Many moons passed and the people lived happily in their village at the foot of the Fire Mountain.  Often on summer evenings the children would gaze up to its summit and watch in wonder as the great flames flickered and danced and lit up the night sky and would ask,

“Father, what are the beautiful lights that dance upon the mountain top?” and the father would answer,  “The mountain is the home of the Fire Spirit and it is her flames that dance around the mountain top.  She is our friend gives us her flames to warm us in winter and for us to cook by.”  With that, the children would settle down and sleep safely and gently until dawn.

One night the flames on the mountain danced themselves into a frenzy leaping and jumping upon the molten lake like warriors dancing a great war dance.  In their excitement, they caught hold of great rocks and threw them high in the air.  Great plumes of blues smoke issued from from cracks and gaps that appeared on the mountain and billowed into the sky blackening out the moon and stars.  From deep within the mountain, the throbbing, beating sound of drums shook the ground and the flames danced wildly, higher and higher. In their frenzy, they left the fiery lake at the center of the mountain summit and ran wildly down the mountainside.

The gentle Fire Spirit was alarmed at her excited children and called to them, “Quiet now, calm yourselves, you will frighten the people of the village.  They will not understand that you are just dancing!”

The flames continued dancing wildly and were too excited to listen.  They ran down the mountainside burning flowers and trees and anything else that was in their path. They drove the animals away and hunted them in the woods below and frightened the birds causing them to take to the air.  Burning rivers of molten rock and flame annihilated all that stood in the way.  The Fire Spirit begged and pleaded with them to stop but they would not and headed towards the village.

In the village, all slept soundly unaware of the danger, but the acrid smell of the smoke awoke one of the warriors who looked out and saw the danger.  Crying out warnings he quickly roused the villagers.  In fear, the terrified villager quickly abandoned the village and ran into the forest as the flames descended upon their settlement and greedily ate the homes they had grown to love.

Thankfully all the villagers escaped into the forest unharmed though still terrified.  They huddled together and debated what they should do.  The two hunters said they would go up to the mountaintop and see what could be seen and they set off.  When they returned, they shook their heads sadly and one said, “All the flowers are burnt.  All the grass is burnt.  All the trees are burnt and the birds and animals have fled.  Nothing lives on or around the mountain.”

The other said, “It is bare and burnt nothing can live on or near the Fire Mountain.  The Fire Spirit is still there as her flames can be seen in the cracks and the fissures and smoke still rises, though it is much lighter.  We think the Fire Spirit will never again be our friend.”

The Hummingbird is Born of Flame

usfws_ribes_sanguineum_282612350882229

Female rufous hummingbird – Photo Credit: Peter Pearsall/USFWS – CC BY 2.0

The Great Spirit looked down and saw what damage the flames had done and he was angry.  “The flames must perish.  No longer will they dance and flicker in the night sky!”

The gentle Fire Spirit trembled for her wayward children.  “Great Spirit have mercy upon them!  It is true they grew wild and out of control, but they know not what they do.  They have burnt the flowers and grass, burnt the trees and driven away the birds and the animals and frightened off your own children and ate their village.  They have been cruel and unkind but they know not what they did.  

For many, many moons, in the coldness of winter, they have given their flames so the people and their children would not perish of cold and they could cook their food.  For many moons, they listened to me and were of great benefit to your children on earth, but in the wildness of their dance, they lost control.  How will your people keep warm and cook if the flames die completely from the earth?”

The Great Spirit heard the pleas of the gentle Fire Spirit and thought for a while but then said, “The flames must perish.  They lost control and were cruel to my children and they and their little children now fear them.  I hear what you say and the flames will not be lost entirely and they will still warm the people.  Because the people once loved them and because they know not what they did, the beauty of the flames shall live and warm and gladden the hearts of whoever looks upon them.”

Taking up his war-club the Great Spirit struck the top of the mountain a mighty blow.  The fires flickered and faded and the smoke slowly vanished and all the flames shrank slowly to condense into one small shining, flickering flame.  It was of such purity and glory and in its heart of hearts one tiny flame flicked with brilliant intensity.  The Great Spirit looked upon what he had done and was pleased.  It was looked like a star from the night sky but much brighter and much more beautiful.

“Although the fire of the mountain must perish this gentle flame shall have wings to fly and all my children will love her as I do myself!”  Thus, spoke the Great Spirit and from the mountain, a tiny bird fluttered up and hovered briefly.  Then it flew swiftly from the mountain into the blue sky.   As the sunshine caught upon its feathers they flickered, red, gold, orange and yellow and all the wonderful colors of the flame flickered from the bird.
So it was from the heart of the fiery mountain the bird of flame called the hummingbird was born and all the children of the Great Spirit that walk upon the earth rejoice whenever they see it.

© 12/07/2016 zteve t evans

References, Attributions and Further Reading

Copyright zteve t evans

Sacred Texts – THE BOOK OF NATURE MYTHS BY FLORENCE HOLBROOK [1904] – THE STORY OF THE FIRST HUMMINGBIRD

 

Petrification Myths: Saints, Snakes and Ammonites

ammonite_asteroceras

Asteroceras, a Jurassic ammonite from England – Image by Dlloyd – CC BY-SA 3.0

Petrification Myths

There are many petrification myths where people, or living things, are turned to stone for various reasons.  In legend and folklore this often occurs through the action of some powerful individual such as witches by sorcery, or by saints calling upon God, or by some other form of divine intervention when rules have been transgressed.  In the examples that follow it is divine intervention called down by St Hilda and St Keyne that turn snakes into stone to end their infestation of religious sites. The proof of these miraculous events was seen in the existence of what appears to look like petrified snakes coiled up and found naturally in certain places such as Whitby in Yorkshire that was associated with St. Hilda and Keynsham in Somerset, associated with St. Keyne.   In fact these stone snakes were not snakes at all but fossils known as ammonites.  Presented here is a brief description of ammonites followed by the legends of how Saint Hilda and Saint Keyne cleared their respective religious sites of snakes by turning them to stone.

Ammonites

The name” ammonite” comes from the Egyptian god Ammon, or Amun, who was often represented wearing tightly coiled ram’s horns.  These type of fossils are usually found in tightly coiled spirals, which are indeed,  similar to ram’s horns though usually smaller.  The size of the ammonites varies depending on the period they originated in and with species. Ammonites are extinct marine mollusks that died out millions of years ago and look very much like coiled, headless stone snakes after they became fossilized.  Sometimes they were called Snakestones and there was a belief that if they were broken, inside a headless, coiled snake would be found.

People found them in, or on the ground and along the beaches, in riverbeds and many other places and generally regarded them with superstition.   Sometimes they believed they had magical or healing properties and many strange and wonderful stories were told of their supposed origin.  In the early days of human existence, people did not know where they came from and many myths and legends evolved around them.  Up until the middle of the eighteenth century, the origin of fossils was the subject of myth and conjecture.   It was not until the 19th century that scientific research began to unravel the secret of their origins.

St. Hilda

st_hilda_memorial_ammonites

St. Hilda monument detail in Whitby. Note ammonites at feet – Image by Wilson44691 – CC0

Among fossil collectors, Whitby Beach is a prime site for finding ammonites. A local legend tells how the Saxon abbess named St. Hilda (614-680 A.D.) rid an area of snake infested ground to found an abbey upon.   For the early Christian church the idea of sharing their sacred ground with snakes was abhorrent because of their connection with Satan, so the site had to be purged before the building of the abbey could take place.  According to the legend, after St. Hilda prayed the snakes began to coil up.  She then used a whip she cut their heads off and their coiled up bodies petrified into stone and she threw these over the cliffs where they landed on the beaches of Whitby and can still be found to this day.

For a long time, local people have carved snake heads on the petrified bodies to make them look more realistic.  They have then been sold as mementos, souvenirs or charms and are still sold today. The favorite type of ammonite used for this was Hildoceras named after St. Hilda, and Dactylioceras.

St. Keyne

St. Keyne lived in the 5th century and is known by several names including Keane, Kayane,  Cenau, Cenedion, Ceinwen. She was a daughter of King Brychan of Brycheiniog in South Wales.  Some say King Brychan had twelve daughters while another source claims he had twenty-four, all of whom were said to be saints.

She was said to possess great beauty and was much sought after in marriage but instead decided to pursue her religion and took a vow of virginity.  The Church of St Keyne, in the village of St Keyne in Cornwall, is also associated with her and has a magnificent stained glass window featuring her holding an ammonite.  There is also a holy well that takes its name from her.

She is also associated with Keynsham, near Bristol, which has a legend that St. Keyne turned all the snakes in the area to stone.  Ammonite fossils are often found in the red sandstone of the area.   In Wales, in Brecon cathedral, she is depicted with ammonite-like snakes all around her.

Saints, Snakes, and Ammonites

The idea of ammonites being snakes that were turned to stone by these saints praying to God may be seen as illustrative of Satan, who is often represented by the snake, being defeated by the power of God through his agents on earth, St Hilda and St Keyne. In those days people had no idea where ammonites came from, or what they really were. It may be that using ammonites and their resemblance to coiled snakes as examples that can be found naturally to emphasize the power of God, may have seemed like a good strategy and indeed, it probably was.

© 01/02/2016 zteve t evans

References, Attributions and Further Reading

Copyright February 2nd, 2017 zteve t evans

Cruel Coppinger the Cornish Smuggler

First Published on the #FolkloreThursday, web site, February 17th, 2016 under the title: Cornish Smugglers:  The Notorious Cruel Coppinger

Cruel Coppinger

One of the most extraordinary and fearsome figures in Cornish folklore and legend was Cruel Coppinger.  He is thought by many to have been a real person who attained semi-legendary status from his brutal, criminal behaviour and leadership of a ruthless band of smugglers and pirates.

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Pixabay – Image by natureworks – CC0 Public Domain

Shipwreck

According to Cornish legend Coppinger was himself a victim of a shipwreck by a massive storm wrecked his ship off the Cornish coast. As was the practice the local people gathered at the shore to see what they could claim when the storm died down. They watched the doomed vessel sinking and the lightning flashes revealed the dark figure of a huge man leaping from the ship and striding through the wild waves to the shore.  On reaching the shore he grabbed the cloak from an old woman, roughly shoving her to the floor and then leapt on the back of a horse a young woman had ridden down to the shore.  With her still sat on the horse and him behind her shouting furiously in some unknown language, the terrified steed fled and naturally made its way to its home with them both on its back.

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Animal Folklore: The Fox and the Fishes

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Pixabay – hansbenn – CC0 Public Domain

The Fox and the Angel of Death

In Jewish folklore when God created the world he made sure that every animal that walked upon the earth had a counterpart under the sea.  To complete his plan he allotted Malak – ha-Mawet the Angel of Death with the task of making sure they were all placed beneath the waters.   When the Angel came for the fox the fox began to cry and wail.  The surprised Angel asked the fox why he was crying.  The fox told him that his best friend had been placed in the water only the other day.   Standing on the shore and looking in the sea the fox pointed to his own reflection in the water.  When the Angel of Death saw the reflection he believed that a fox had already been placed under the water and so set him free.

Leviathan

The ruler of the sea Leviathan noticed that although all the other animals had their counterpart under the sea the fox was absent and realized the cunning fox had fooled the Angel of Death.   This made him think.  Now he remembered that the heart was said to be the seat of wisdom and reasoned that if he ate the heart of the fox he would gain its wisdom.

Leviathan summoned fishes who were all his servants and ordered them to bring the fox to him.   So the fishes swam off to find the fox and on the way, they came up with a crafty plan.   They found the fox walking along the sea shore and they spoke to him.  They told him that Leviathan the ruler of the sea was dying and wanted the fox to be his successor because he was the wisest of animals.  The fishes flattered the fox and appealed to his vanity.  They promised they would bear him safely over the sea to where there was an island of rock.  There he could set up a throne safe from the surrounding sea.

Tricked!

The fox was greatly flattered and agreed to be carried off by the fishes to the island of rock. As they left sight of land and entered the vastness of the ocean the fox realized he had been tricked.  However, rather than panic he kept calm and questioned the fishes.  They laughed and told him that Leviathan wanted his heart to eat.

“Oh, I see, “ said the fox, “If only you had said before then I would have brought it along, for I do not carry it with me.  If you quickly turn about and set me off on the shore where you found me I can quickly run and fetch it and then we can take it to Leviathan for him to eat.”

Foolish Fishes!

The fishes thought this sounded like a good idea so they swam back to the shore where they had found him and the fox quickly jumped ashore.   The fishes called to him to quickly run and fetch his heart but the fox laughed and said,  “It is true I went with you when I had no heart but now I have it I will stay here, thank you.  I fooled the Angel of Death and it has been easier still to fool you foolish fishes!”

© 18/01/2017  zteve t evans

References, Attributions and Further Reading

Copyright January 18th, 2017 zteve t evans

 

The Rollright Stones: Magic, Mystery and Murder

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The King’s Men – by The locster – CC BY-SA 3.0

The Rollright Stones are a group of three ancient monuments dating from the Neolithic and Bronze Ages, situated along the borders of Warwickshire and Oxfordshire in England.  The complex is made up of three different sets of standing stones individually known as the King Stone, the King’s Knights and the Whispering Knights.  Their original purpose and meaning have been long lost but such is the enigmatic and inscrutable nature of the stones that many myths, legends and traditions evolved around the site. Stories of witches and kings, petrification spells, death and madness, failed attempts at moving the stones, fairies living under the stones, fortune telling and superstitions and many more such traditions add to the mystery and magic of the Rollright Stone Complex.

The Witch and the King

Probably the most famous legend tells how the complex was created by a witch who turned an invading king and his army into three sets of standing stones.  The legend tells how the king and his army traveling through the district came across a witch who took an apparent dislike to the king and his men and turned them to stone.  She then turned herself into an elder tree to watch over them.  Read More

Azorean Folklore: Princess Azulverde and the end of Atlantis

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Mount Pico

Azorean folklore is the folklore of the people of the Azores group of islands in the North Atlantic Ocean.    Although an  Autonomous Region of Portugal, the people of the Azores have evolved their own folklore, traditions and have many wonderful folktales and legends. Some of these explain how natural features of the landscape came to be.  There is a tradition in Azorean folklore that says the islands of the Azores were once the tops of the mountains of Atlantis before it was drowned below the sea.  The following folktale is a version of  “Princess Bluegreen and the Seven Cities,” collected by Elsie Spicer Eels which explains how two interlinked lakes known as the Lagoon of the Seven Cities on São Miguel Island originated and how the great catastrophe came about that doomed the legendary Atlantis.

The King and Queen of Atlantis

Once there was a great kingdom called Atlantis which was ruled by a king by the name of Brancopardo who was married to the beautiful, Queen Brancaroza.  Although they were the rulers of the great kingdom of Atlantis and lived in a gorgeous palace they were very sad.   You see the king and the queen both yearned with all their hearts for children and they had none and the palace was a cold, bleak, place without them.  King Brancopardo would lament, “Why is life so unkind?  Babies are born to poor peasants who can scarcely feed them and hear am I a King with great riches who remains childless.  It is not fair!”

And Queen Brancaroza would sigh, “If only I could have a baby of my own I would be so happy!  Poor women have many babies who they can barely afford to clothe, but here am I a rich queen in a beautiful palace, childless!”

She would weep day and night for what she did not have.  The king grew ever more unkind and his face became wizened and cruel whereas once it had been handsome, jolly and kind.  Once he had been a good and just king who was loved by his people but as time grew without a child his soul became more and more wrinkled.  The people became worried and prayed for him because they loved him and were his faithful subjects. They made offerings at all the shrines and holy places of Atlantis but the royal couple remained childless.  As the barren years unfolded Queen Brancaroza grew ever more melancholy and King Brancopardo became angrier, crueler and more and more unreasonable.  In his misery, he made the lives of his loyal subjects unbearable.

The Royal Palace had a glorious garden filled with many wondrous and beautiful flowers and trees where marvelous birds sang sweet songs of joy.  In that blessed place, the King and Queen often found peace despite the curse of barrenness that had fallen upon them.  One evening when the King and Queen were feeling especially downcast they went and  walked upon the terrace in the garden to watch the evening fall gently, watching quietly as the stars slowly blinked into life.

Starlight

One star began gently twinkling brighter and brighter than all the others and began  moving nearer and nearer.  They watched in awe as it appeared in front of them in dazzling glory.  Queen Brancaroza placed her hands over her eyes but King Brancopardo bowed his head to his chest and they heard a gentle voice say,

“Please have no fear of me, I am here to help you.”  The Royal Couple looked and they saw a human form standing in front of them in a circle of glorious light.  “King and Queen of Atlantis, I am Starlight I have seen your plight and know what troubles you.  I have listened to your prayers and I have heard the pleas of your poor subjects that you have treated so unkindly and yet still they begged for you.   A beautiful daughter shall be yours more beautiful than the sunlight if you agree to what I say to you.”

With this news, the hopes of Queen Brancaroza rose and she smiled warmly and took her husband’s hand.  It had greatly upset her to see the man she loved who had once been kind and good slowly turn into a cruel and mean ruler.  Although she had often warned him that he would be made to pay for his cruelty, she understood how sad he felt about not having a child and heir.

Starlight then said,

“But because you have been unkind and unjust to your people you must pay a penance to prove your worthiness and atone.   A few days after your baby girl is born I will return and take her away from you to a place that I will prepare for her.   In the fairest and most beautiful part of Atlantis, I will build Seven Cities and care for her myself.  There will be a city for each and every day of the week  and she will live in a different one each day. The cities will be built from ivory, gold, silver, pearls, emeralds, diamonds and rubies and all precious stones and metals will be used in the construction and style.  It will be a place of wonder and enchantment and will be surrounded by high and impenetrable walls of solid bronze.  The only way in or out of that place will be through a great gate which will only open for the righteous.  On her twentieth birthday the walls will fall down and you may enter the Seven Cities to find her.  If you break your vow, or so much as touch the walls or the gates until the appointed time, death and destruction will fall upon you and your kingdom!  Do you accept?”

King Brancopardo was initially delighted and then fell into despondency,
“Everyday we grow older and twenty years is such a long, long time!” he said, while tears rolled down the fair cheeks of Queen Brancaroza who could say nothing.  Starlight continued,

“This is all I have to offer.  You must wait until she reaches twenty years of age before you can have her back if you accept.   If you try to enter the Seven Cities before that time you will fall dead and Atlantis will be broken and drowned.  Do you accept these terms King Brancopardo and Queen Brancaroza and if so will you swear that you understand all of these terms and the consequences?”

The King and Queen looked at one another for a few seconds and both knew there was no alternative and it did at least give them hope of a child and heir.  Together they held their right hands up and solemnly swore their agreement.   With that Starlight twinkled and disappeared leaving the King and Queen alone on that starry night.

“Have I been dreaming?”  asked the King.

“No, for I too have had the same dream.”  said the Queen, “Let us put our faith in Starlight and see what unfolds.”

Princess Azulverde and the Seven Cities

The days past and one day Queen Brancaroza went to her husband and happily told him she was with child.   Her husband was overjoyed and there was great celebrations and happiness throughout his kingdom of Atlantis.  In due course, the Queen gave birth to a beautiful, healthy girl and the Royal Couple named her Azulverde.  In all the towns and villages of Atlantis, there were feasts and parties as the people celebrated the birth of little Princess Azulverde.

Now it came to pass that the third evening after the birth of Princess Azulverde,  Starlight came and took the baby girl away as had been agreed with the King and Queen to the Seven Cities which had been created for her to be brought up in until she reached her twentieth birthday.

The King and Queen were naturally devastated but they had made a solemn promise and they knew they must keep it.  Together they would sit in their garden in the evenings looking at the stars and wondering about how their daughter was growing.  Sometimes Starlight would come down to them while they sat in the garden and tell them all the things their daughter was doing with each day.  There was happiness in the palace as the King and Queen proudly passed on the news of their daughter to their courtiers and servants and they would all laugh at the quaint sayings and funny things that Starlight reported that she said and did as she grew up.

One evening Starlight came down and told the couple that their daughter had been given a beautiful pair of blue slippers and a lovely green parasol that she loved and would parade up and down carrying the parasol while wearing the slippers.   The Royal Couple were delighted with this news and the Queen sent presents of blue slippers and green parasols to all the little girls in Atlantis.

To begin with, the King and Queen would look forward to the appearance Starlight and the latest news of their daughter.  As time went on they began once again to feel a huge hole in their lives and yearned for their child to hold and love.  The Queen wanted to hug and sing to her and the King wanted to bounce her on his knee and tell her stories.   Sadly, they could not even see or touch her and that is what they yearned for more than anything else in the world and the couple once again grew melancholy.

And time rolled by and the weeks turned into months which turned into years and the Royal Couple became morose.  The King again slipped into cruelty and unreasonableness making the lives of his subjects harsh and miserable.  He knew he was growing older with each passing day and with each day without his daughter would be another day less he would have with her after she reached  her twentieth birthday.

The Queen tried her best to reassure and reason with him, saying, “Please, please be patient.  We were at fault!”    Such was the good and loving nature of the Queen that even when her husband ranted and raged about Starlight, she would try and ease the burden of guilt by saying “We” when really it had been his behavior alone that had brought them to this, for she was a loving, innocent, soul who had never had a bad thought against anyone in her life.

The Eighteenth Birthday

Time passed miserably for the couple and the eighteenth birthday of Princess Azulverde arrived. “Surely Starlight meant eighteen years and not  twenty? ”  asked King Brancopardo querulously.  The Queen calmly reassured him that it was twenty and pointed out he well knew it.

The King flared into a rage shouting and stamping crying, “Nor more, no more! I will be kept from my daughter no more!”

Queen Brancaroza gasped, “Surely you would not break the solemn promise we made that night!”

Although she knew her husband had a frightful temper and lately had become increasingly irritated with the frustration of not being able to have his daughter with them, she never dreamed for a second that he would even think of breaking that vow.  She began to tremble with fear at what he might do next.

“It was an unfair to make us take such a vow, I will not be held by it a day longer!  I will have my daughter by my side!” he roared.

The Queen burst into tears, “No good will ever come of a broken promise!”  she cried, “We only have to wait for another two years!”

“But the last two years are the longest.  I grow old and may not live much longer.  I want my daughter by my side now!” he cried. “I cannot bear to wait any longer, she is my daughter and no one will keep me from her.”

That very day the King called to him his generals to him and ordered them to prepare the army to attack the Seven Cities to free his daughter.   His generals counseled against such an attack but the King refused to listen and ordered them to march the army to the gates of the Seven Cities.  So the generals prepared the army and marched them towards the Seven Cities with the King at its head.   The last words Queen Brancaroza said to her husband were, “Please, please, please, give up this madness and remember your promise!”

The King ignored his wife and led his army on the long and dangerous journey to the gates of the Seven Cities situated in the fairest part of fair Atlantis.  They suffered many terrible hardships on that long journey as if obstacles had been deliberately set in their way to discourage them.  Yet the King and his generals overcame each obstacle and slowly but surely drew near the gates of the Seven Cities of the Lagoon.

At last, the King stood at the fore of his army outside the great gates of the Seven Cities that was surrounded by a high and mighty wall.  The sky darkened and thunder rolled ominously through the air and great forks of lightning flashed from the skies striking the ground all around the King’s army.

The Death of Atlantis

Undaunted the King urged his army on and they clamored around the walls.  The earth trembled and heaved under their feet but still the King urged his men on.  The thought of his eighteen-year-old daughter, Princess Azulverde, radiant and beautiful inside the city drove him on and  he unbuckling his sword and struck the gates a mighty blow.  As his blade struck the door the lightning flashed, the thunder rumbled and the ground buckled and roared and the walls of the Seven Cities fell outwards onto the King and his army.  The earth trembled and shrank downwards and the seas burst over the great land of Atlantis covering all in water.  The King and his army were killed and the land drowned.  He had broken his promise the curse of Starlight had struck hard and fast.  At last, the waters above drowned Atlantis grew calm and storms passed and the skies were once again blue.

The Lagoon of the Seven Cities

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Lagoon of the Seven Cities – Image by Aires Almeida from Portimão, Portugal – CC BY 2.0

According to Azorean folklore all that remains  above the water of fair Atlantis are nine islands of rock that today are called the Azores.  On the largest, the island of São Miguel, there is a magical place called the Lagoa das Sete Cidades, or the Lagoon of the Seven Cities.  It is situated in the bowl of a volcanic crater surrounded.  In the center, there are two lakes.  One is of blue and the other is of green.  According to legend the blue lake is where Princess Azulverde left her slippers and the green lake is where she left her green parasol.  The twin lakes are place of enchantment to this day and it is said that on some days the ghostly figure of the Princess Azulverde can be seen gliding over the lake wearing blue slippers and carrying a green parasol.

© 14/12/2016 zteve t evans

References, Attributions and Further Reading

Copyright December 14th, 2016 zteve t evan

 

 

 

Welsh Folklore: Legends of Llyn Cwm Llwch

Llyn Cwm Llwch

Llyn Cwm Llwch is a small lake that lies below the highest peak in South Wales called Pen y Fan, which is situated in the Brecon Beacons of Powys and is the setting for some rather strange legends which are briefly presented here.

The Old Woman of the Lake

The first tells how an old woman who lived in the lake used music to lure those of a weak or impressionable mind into the water to be drowned. Tradition says that when she has claimed nine hundred victims she will regain her youth and beauty and gain immortality.

The Door to the Invisible Island

Another legend tells that there is an invisible island in the lake that could only be reached by a door that was set in a rock.   Every May Day the door would open and some of the bolder local people would enter and pass down a passage that opened up in a garden that was set upon the island.  Although the shores of the lake could clearly be seen from the island, the island remained invisible to those on the shore.

The Enchanted Garden of the Tylwyth Teg

Those who entered the door and visited the invisible island found themselves in an enchanted garden.  This garden was filled with the most beautiful flowers of the most wonderful colours and trees hanging with luscious fruit ripe for eating grew all around.  Beautiful birds sang happy songs in the trees and butterflies flitted between the flowers. It really was a most enchanted place.

The Warning of the Tylwyth Teg

The Tylwyth Teg always received their visitors with the utmost courtesy and hospitality. They would entertain their guests by playing beautiful music, telling wondrous stories and offering the finest food and drink the like of which could not be found anywhere else on earth.  It really was a rare and magical experience they freely provided for their visitors.  However, when it was time for their guests to leave they would always issue them with a stern warning. They would warn that none of the produce, the flowers, stones, leaves, or anything else from the island must be taken back down the passage and through the door to earth because of the sacred nature of their island.

One Foolish Visitor

The Tylwyth Teg had opened their island to visitors since time immemorial and there had never once been anyone who had not complied with this simple and reasonable request. Unfortunately one foolish visitor took it in his mind to take back one of the wonderful flowers from the garden as proof of his visit and the existence of the enchanted island.  As he left the garden he picked the most exquisite bloom he could find and hid it in the fastness of his jacket pocket.  He then walked nonchalantly down the passage and through the door thinking no one would notice as no checks were ever seen to be carried out.

However, as soon as he set foot on the earth outside the door his mind became confused and he lost his senses. For the rest of his life he remained nothing but a gibbering wreck devoid of sense and reason until the day he died.  At the time the Tylwyth Teg appeared to pay no heed to this unique indiscretion saying their goodbyes to their guests with their accustomed courtesy, but they had indeed taken note.  Ever since this incident the door has never again been found to this day.

One Hundred Years On

About one hundred years later the local people got together to form a plan.  With the door to the invisible island not appearing they thought the Tylwyth Teg had left and thought that perhaps they had left their treasure in the bottom of the pool.  They decided they would drain it and a great body of local men arrived at the pool armed with pickaxes, spades and shovels and set about digging a channel to let the water out.  The men set about their task with great enthusiasm digging a channel some thirty yards long in no time.  As they reached the water’s edge they needed one last blow to break through but as the pick-axe and the shovels were poised for action a massive flash of lightning lit the rapidly blackening sky.  Thunder rumbled around the mountains causing the workmen to freeze in fear and awe at the sheer power of nature and the final blow was never struck.  Quickly, the men realized the storm was not caused by the power of nature and as they looked at each other in fear strange things began happening with the pool as its spirit began to awaken.

The Warning

The workers sprang out of the trench and ran to the edge of the water.  As the thunder died they saw emerging from the center of the pool saw small ripples which steadily grew in size and intensity.  The water began to churn and boil and from the center of the turbulence there arose the spirit of the water, a massive a figure of a man.  His beard must have been three feet in length and his hair draped down to his waist and he rose high above the water and glowered down upon the men and in a voice like thunder said,

“If you disturb my peace,

Be warned that I will drown

The valley of the Usk,

Beginning with Brecon town!”

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And with that there was a terrific bolt of lightning and thunder crashed around the mountains and as the men threw themselves to the ground in fear a terrific storm broke upon them.  After the storm subsided the men got up and began to heatedly discuss the events.  The warning they had been given was clear.  Not wanting to risk the wrath of the lake spirit any further the local men went home leaving their work incomplete.

 © 06/12/2016 zteve t evans

References, Attributions and Further Reading

Copyright December 6th, 2016 zteve t evans