The Scottish legend of the Cu Sith

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By w:Sidney Paget (Uploading for w:User:68.39.174.238) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons (cropped)

The Cù-Sìth was a spectral dog found in the mythology of Scotland and the Hebrides.  The name comes from Scottish Gaelic.  A similar beast exists in Irish mythology, the Cu Sidhe and also has similarities to the Welsh Cwn Annwn, or the Hounds of Annwn in English

In Scottish and Irish legend the Cu Sìth, which means ‘fairy dog,’ was said to have a dark-green, shaggy coat and to be about the size of a large calf.  Green was a traditional color worn or attributed to denizens of the fairy realm.  Read more

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The Welsh legend of the birth of Taliesin

Taliesin was one of the most famous and celebrated bards in Wales and holds an important place in Welsh history, mythology and culture to this day. Although evidence is patchy he was thought to have been born around 534 AD and died around 599 AD and was believed to have performed at the courts of three Brythonic kings. Many legends and myths grew up around him and some of his poems are still available today. The legend of Taliesin’s birth begins before he was born. This seems a strange thing to say but this is how the story went.

Ceridwen’s gift

By Llyn Tegid, (Lake Bala) in Penllyn, lived Tegid Foel who had a wife named Ceridwen. The couple had three children named Ceirwy, Morfran and Afagddu. Now Afagddu was unnaturally ugly and unbelievably stupid. Nevertheless, Ceridwen his mother, who was also a sorceress, loved him greatly and decided that to compensate for these disadvantages she would give to him the gift of knowledge.  Read more Continue reading

The Welsh legend of the Lady of Llyn y Fan Fach

The legend of the Lady of Llyn y Fan Fach is also known as the Lady of the Lake, though not the one associated with King Arthur. This is completely different and is associated with Myddfai in Carmarthenshire, Wales a small community situated on the western edge of the Brecon Beacons which encompasses six mountains. It is popular with tourists and the area around is steeped in the myths, legends and traditions of Wales.

Myddfai is associated with two related legends of which there are many different versions. The first is the Lady of Llyn y Fan Fach, or the Lady of the Lake and the second is the Physicians of Myddfai, which sprang from the first. This article will deal discuss the legend of the Lady of Llyn y Fan Fach that has been pieced together from a number of sources and presented here.  Read more Continue reading

The legend of the Glastonbury Thorn

The legend of the Glastonbury Thorn belongs to the group of legends that surrounds Joseph of Arimathea and his legendary part in bringing Christianity to Britain. As with all legendary people there are many versions of his different exploits and achievements that cannot be verified. Such is the stuff of legends and the following has been pieced together from different sources.

Glastonbury Thorn at Glastonbury Abbey – By Tom Ordelman CC BY-SA 3.0

The Holy Thorn is very much revered by many people for many reasons. Some see it as an ancient symbol of Christian beliefs and a tangible presence from the distant past carrying a message for the present and the future.  Read more Continue reading

The Scottish legend of the Each-uisge

In Scottish mythology the each-uisge is a supernatural water horse that haunts the Highlands. The name each-uisge means water horse in Scottish Gaelic. In Ireland the equivalent is the each-uisace, or Ech-Ushkya and on the Isle of Man they have the cabyll-ushtey.

Each Uisge by Liza PhoenixCC BY-SA 3.0 – From Wikimedia Commons

It has a reputation of being the most dangerous water monster in Britain. The each-uisge reputedly lives in the sea and also freshwater lochs. It is often erroneously taken for Kelpie, which are also supernatural water creatures, but live in rivers and streams. These are not regarded as being as dangerous as the each-uisge.   Continue reading

Spirituality: The Whale totem

Animal totems represent the virtues and special characteristics of an animal. They are not pets and people use them as an aid to get in touch with nature, help create inner harmony and wisdom and to help the evolution of their spiritual being. By getting touch with the qualities of an animal a deeper affinity and understanding of the animal is created both with the animal and with nature, leading to greater harmony with the universe.

Right whales – Public Domain

A totem is a symbol, picture, sculpture or other object that reminds us of the animal spirit it represents. Animal totems do appear in other traditions around the world as well as in North America. People experience animal totems differently because there are many stages of personal and spiritual development and everyone has different needs and tasks to accomplish in this world.

Whales as an animal totem

Whales are sea creatures that have been on the planet for millions of years. They are perfectly adapted to their marine environment living in harmony with the sea and the natural order. They move through their environment with grace and power. Some species of whales are known to communicate with each other over great distance.
The Whale Totem symbolizes harmony and ‘Oneness’ with nature, the power and mystique of the sea, ancient wisdom, communication and communion.

Precious gifts of nature

Whales have been the inspiration for many stories, paintings, songs, legends, works of literature and film. They are present in all the oceans of the world and are known by many people and societies many of which have created traditions and rituals around them. In the past many human societies hunted them and depended on them for their survival. Some species of whale were hunted to the brink of extinction.
The Whale Totem reminds us that the gifts of nature are precious and not to be taken for granted. The Whale Totem also symbolizes inspiration and creativity. It reminds us that humans also have natural gifts that can actually enhance the natural world if only we choose to use them wisely. The keyword being ‘choose’ for we do have choice on this which also means we have responsibility for the consequences.

Nurturing children

The female whale if very protective towards its young and often they will join together with other females to form groups that encircle the young. This allows the mother to hunt for food while the calf is protected by other females.
The Whale Totem symbolizes nurturing and protection of young and reminds us of our responsibilities to children.

Harmony

There are many different species of whales and many of these are very different from each other. Some are hard to tell apart even by experts. The color, size and characteristics of whales vary greatly and for the most part they all seem to get along tolerably well.

The Whale Totem symbolizes living in harmony with each other. It reminds us that there are also different races of humans, with different characteristics, and we come in different shapes and colors and that each of us have a right to be here and our need to live in harmony with each other.

For everything there is a season

Many whales are great travelers who move with grace, strength and endurance through the ocean relying solely on their own powers and resources taking only what they need along the way to survive. Some species of whale such as the Baleen have to migrate to find food for their survival in different seasons. No one understands how they know it is time to move on or how they find their way to their new feeding grounds which can be thousands of miles apart.
The Whale Totem symbolizes grace, strength and endurance in moving through their environment and reminds us to tread lightly on the planet taking only what we need to get by. It also symbolizes trust in intuition and knowing when to move on, telling us that for everything there is a season and a time for every purpose. It teaches us to trust the natural order.

Qualities of the Whale

There are many wonderful virtues and qualities that whales possess that would help a person evolve spiritually and in wisdom. A person who can see these virtues and qualities and tries to emulate them, even if only partially successful, will experience greater harmony and ‘Oneness’ with nature and the universe. They will grow in wisdom and intuition and in doing so learn how to take only what they need from the world. They will become someone who nurtures and accepts and fulfils their responsibilities to the young, offering them protection to grow spiritually and in doing so will experience the flowering of their own soul.

Festivals: The tradition of eating zongzi at the Chinese Dragon Boat Festival

The Dragon Boat Festival, or more correctly the Duanwu Festival, as well as being identified with dragon boat racing, is also strongly associated with other traditional Chinese customs and practices. Probably the most widespread and participated in is preparing and eating a customary rice dish called zongzi. It should be noted there are various ways to spell this and may vary with region.

The Legend of Qu Yuan

Qu Yuan – Painting by Chen Hongshou – Public Domain

The tradition of making and eating zongzi is strongly associated with the death of the great and much loved poet and patriot Qu Yuan. His suicide by drowning in a river was seen as a selfless act of patriotism by the people who loved him and who paid tribute to him by throwing rice balls into the river for his soul to eat. According to legend, his soul materialized before fishermen and began wailing that he was starving because the dragon in the river was eating the rice they threw to him. He told them to wrap the rice balls with lily leaves and asked them to seal it by tying it with silk thread. Eventually zongzi became wrapped in bamboo, or other kinds of leaves depending on region and availability.

Traditional Zongzi

Zongzi is a glutinous, or sticky, rice dumpling, with a filling. It is traditionally wrapped in bamboo leaves, though other leaves may be used depending on availability and region of China. The rice is usually formed around the filling into pyramid shapes, though cylinder and cone shapes can be used.  The leaves are then wrapped around the shape and tied with string with a unique knot used to identify the type of filling. There are many different fillings such as pickled egg, peanuts beans, yam, melon seeds, dates, fruits, walnuts, or yam. The leaves can be palm, banana, wild rice, or bamboo.

Yellow Zongzi by Benjwong – Public Domain

Different regions have their own speciality zongzi. In Beijing the filling is sweet and made from a bean paste. In Guangdong there are two favourites. One has a sweet filling of date, walnut, or bean filling and the other is salty with meats such as chicken, ham duck and eggs, mushrooms, or chestnuts.  An increasing number of shops and stalls sell zongzi on festival days and its popularity grows. Mostly in China the of making zongzi for eating and the giving as a gift is still practiced widely and often regarded as a family activity.

Zongzi Worldwide

Along with the Dragon Boat Festival, the popularity of eating zongzi is now growing around the world with Dragon Boat Festivals being held regularly in South East Asia and many western countries including the UK, USA, Canada, and Europe. Undoubtedly, each country will add something to the tradition and bring new flavours to the dish to be enjoyed.

References and attributions

Copyright July 31, 2009 zteve t evans