The Strange Fate of King Herla

King Herla

King Herla was a legendary King of the ancient Britons who along with his men became caught in a strange spell.   After attending  the marriage of the Dwarf King in the Otherword, Herla and his host of men became trapped in an endless cycle.  They became doomed to wandering the world on horseback never being able to set foot on the ground.   Along the way they attracting the souls of the newly dead into their company who joined them in riding the earth in wild, meaningless circles and were often called The Wild Hunt in England by those who witnessed them.

This unearthly and unwelcome situation arose through an agreement he made with a king from the dwarf realm.  According to the legend the Dwarf King visited King Herla and together they made a binding promise with each other that they would  attend each others wedding.

The Dwarf King

The story begins with King Herla and his retinue traveling through an ancient forest. Feeling tired he decided he needed a rest so he bid his men to leave him in peace while he lay down underneath the trees to sleep.  As he began to doze he heard a sound of rustling coming towards him through the undergrowth.  Drawing his sword he readied himself for what should appear.  To his surprise he was greeted by a small human figure riding on the back of a large goat.

Compared to the humans the dwarf was smaller and squatter and probably about half as tall.  The dwarf had a huge head and a bright face with a long red beard down to his chest. His skin was light yellowish brown and his shoulders, arms and chest were very hairy.  His legs were also hairy and he had cloven hooves instead of feet and he rode upon a huge mountain goat.

Riding up to him the Dwarf King told Herla his people had chosen him to be a guest at his wedding because he was the only king at the time who they regarded as having the wisdom and goodness to attend such  an important occasion.  The Dwarf King told him,

I, the king of many kings and chiefs and of a people numerous beyond all count, come willingly, sent from them to thee, and though I am to thee unknown, yet I glory in the fame which hath raised thee high above other kings, since thou art the best and the nearest to me in place and blood, and art moreover worthy of having me grace with high honour thy wedding as a guest, when the King of the French giveth his daughter to thee—an arrangement concluded without thy knowledge, and Jo, his messengers come this very day. Let there be an abiding compact between us, that I shall attend thy wedding, and thou mine a year later to the day.’ (1)

Dismounting he bowed and held before Herla a bronze horn of exquisite workmanship and asked him to drink from it to seal the compact.  Herla was unsure about accepting this strange and unworldly binding agreement.  Nevertheless, taking the horn he drank from it and handed it back to the Dwarf King who drank the rest, sealing the contract between them. He then rode off into the undergrowth on his goat without another word.  Herla rejoined his men and returned to his court thinking no more of the peculiar affair other than it had probably been a dream when he was half asleep.

The wedding of King Herla

Nevertheless, arriving back home and to the King’s amazement ambassadors from France arrived accepting the terms of his marriage to the daughter of the King of France.  As the wedding was about to begin the Dwarf King entered with many of his subjects and servants.  There were so many more chairs and tables were needed to accommodate them all.

From tents pitched by the Dwarf King’s followers fine wines were served from pitchers exquisitely decorated and studded with precious gemstones and poured into goblets of silver and gold and crystal.  They had brought the most wonderful food with them and they laid a banquet the like that has never been seen before and their minstrels entertained the guests.   Even though they worked like beavers they were so pleasant and courteous that that King Herla and the Britons were made to feel wonderfully honored.  At the end of the banquet the Dwarf King stood and bowed before King Herla and his wife and said,

‘0 best of kings, the Lord is my witness that, according to our compact, I am present at thy wedding. But if anything that thou cravest besides what thou seest here can be asked of me, I shall willingly supply it; but if not, thou must not put off thy requital of this high honour when I shall ask for it.’ (2)

Abruptly the Dwarf King turned on his heel and left the wedding reception taking his retinue and servants with him.  the tents were packed quickly away and all signs of them vanished in a trice.

The wedding of the Dwarf King

King Herla heard or saw nothing of the Dwarf King until one year from his wedding day when once again he appeared riding on his goat with a retinue behind him. Standing before Herla he reminded him of their agreement and asked him if he was willing to fulfill it.  Herla agreed and along with a retinue of knights followed the Dwarf King along strange paths through the forest until at last they came to a towering cliff.  There Herla and his men followed the Dwarf King into a small cave and along a passage that opened into a huge and marvelous cavern that was lit my many hundreds of lights.

There were many thousands of dwarves gathered there awaiting their arrival for the wedding of the Dwarf King.  The Dwarf King was married and King Herla and his knights bore witness to it and celebrated with the dwarves and the contract between the two was fulfilled.

The warning

Before he left the Dwarf King gave Herla and his men many presents of hawks, dogs and horses such as were used in the hunt.  As they were about to leave the underground world to enter the world above ground he presented the king with a small bloodhound which he told him should be carried before him on the saddle of his horse.  He then issued a stern warning telling him that the world he had known had changed and it was not safe for him and his men to leave and begged them to stay.

King Herla, not understanding why the Dwarf King spoke in this way politely refused saying he wanted to return to his wife and kingdom.  Shaking his head the Dwarf King then gave him another warning.  He told him that no rider’s foot should touch the ground before the bloodhound he had just given Herla jumped to the ground on its own accord from its seat on the saddle. If this was not followed death would strike as soon as the foot of a rider touched the ground.  With this warning the Dwarf King turned abruptly and left them.

Returning to the outside world

Herla and his men rode into the sunlight and they deemed they had been in the cavern for no more than three days.  On the way back Herla came across an old shepherd tending his flock and stopped to ask him what news he had of the queen.  The shepherd looked at him in confusion and said,

‘My lord, I scarce understand thy language, since I am a Saxon and thou a Briton. But I have never heard of the name of that queen, save that men tell of one so called, a queen of the very ancient Britons, and wife of King Herla, who is reported in legends to have disappeared with a pigmy into this cliff and to have been seen nevermore on earth. The Saxons, having driven out the natives, have possessed this kingdom for full two hundred years.’ (3)

Herla and his men had only thought they had spent no more than three days in the cavern and they were greatly surprised to learn this.   Some of them, forgot the warning of the Dwarf King and dismounted, but as soon as their feet touched the ground their bodies disintegrated into dust.  Remembering the Dwarf King’s warning, Herla immediately forbade his men to dismount until the bloodhound that sat before him should leap to the ground on its own cause.

Herla’s fate

Now there are those that say the dog has never taken that leap to earth and that Herla and his men are fated to ride their horses across the world without rest, or stopping for all eternity.  However, others say their strange ride was was seen by many over many centuries until the first year of the Coronation of King Henry II.  Then it was seen around noon by the River Wye near Hereford.  According to some accounts an army was raised to challenge them to battle but the host took to the air and vanished into the clouds and has not been seen since.  Others say the Wild Hunt still at times can be seen before some disaster such as war, or famine occurs and is seen as a portent of doom.  Yet still, other accounts say that the bloodhound jumped to the ground breaking the spell upon the king and his men and they are now at rest.

The Otherworld

Now some also say this story is a warning for those that visit the Otherworld that time there passes slower and the outside world changes faster and can never be the same on the return. They also say it is a warning of the danger of dealing with the people of the the Otherworld for they can be capricious and deceptive in their dealings with humans who have never really understood them.  They doubt why the Dwarf King would want such a strange compact with King Herla anyway.

Now, what do you think?

© 20/01/2016  zteve t evans

References and Attributions

Copyright January 20th, 2016 zteve t evans

Advertisements

The revenge of the Mermaid of Padstow

The Doom Bar of Padstow

Over the ages the Cornish people evolved their own unique traditions, folklore and legends full of smugglers, pirates, giants and mermaids. One such example is the folktale of the Mermaid of Padstow which offers an explanation of how the Doom Bar, a large sandbar, that has accounted for many shipwrecks, was created.

The Doom Bar of Padstow lies in the estuary of the River Camel on the north coast of Cornwall.  It is a sandbar that has been a hazard for ships for many centuries wrecking many that sailed accidently upon it, or were forced by storms.  The term, Doom Bar is derived from Dunbar Sands which it was once called and dunebar, or sand dune.  A part of the eastern part is thought to have been above water in the distant past and covered in forest about 4,000 years ago that was eventually covered by sand and dunes and a rise in sea levels the cause of which is unknown.  The area it covers and its shape can vary depending on wind and tides and there are several traditions and legends about how it was created and two involve mermaids.

The Mermaid of Padstow

Mermaids are strange creatures and can be perilous for humans who encounter them.  They are sometimes seen as harbingers of doom bringing storms, drownings and shipwrecks.  Sometimes they are immoral temptresses winning the hearts of young men and luring them into the sea to their deaths, or never to be seen again on land.

One folk tale told by Enys Tregarthen tells how a curse from a dying mermaid created the Doom Bar in revenge for her murder by a local man named Tristram Bird.  According to the tale He had brought a new gun and gone down to Hawker’s Cove to shoot seals with it.   As he was hunting he found a beautiful young woman sitting on a rock, singing a sweet song and brushing her hair with a golden comb.

Mr Bird was entranced by her song and beauty and fell in love with her.  Approaching her he begged her to be his wife but the woman refused.  Deeply hurt by her rejection he shot her with his gun.  It was only then he realised that she was a mermaid and that had been the reason for her rejecting him.  There was nothing he could do to save her and as she died she cursed the harbour from Hawker’s Cove to Trebetherick Bay laying a “doom bar” across it.  Immediately a terrific storm hit the estuary and when it subsided a bar of sand lay across it covered by wrecked ships and dead sailors.  Ever since then the Doom Bar of Padstow has been causing a hazard for shipping ever since.

Another tradition told in the ballad, The Mermaid of Padstow a local man called Tom, or Tim Yeo killed a seal which turned out to be a mermaid.  Another explanation given by John Betjeman tells how a mermaid was found by a local man who fell in love with him.  He being mortal could not be with her in the sea for long.  She could not stay on land for long and so they were doomed to remain separated.  Nevertheless,  she was desperately in love with him and tried to entice him beneath the sea to live with her forever.  He was not ready for such a fate and rejected her but she tried to pull him in the sea to be with her.  He only escaped by shooting her.  Enraged by pain and rejection she grabbed a handful of sand and flung it towards Padstow.  From this handful of sand, more sand accumulated around it and the Doom Bar grew to what it is now.

Shipwrecks

Since records began in the 19th century there have been over six hundred shipping incidents on the Doom bar and most of these have resulted in wrecks. Two of the most notable wrecks on the Doom Bar was HMS Whiting, in 1816, a 12 gun Royal Navy warship ran aground there  and in 1895, the Antoinette, a three masted sailing vessel of 1,118 tons, making it the largest vessel to be wrecked so far.   To make it safe for navigation the vessel was blown up with explosives resulting in a cloud of sand and smoke that could be seen for miles.  However, in February 2010 the shifting sands revealed the remains of a large wooden vessel believed to be the Antoinette

Perilous

As with many folk tales the legend of the Mermaid of Padstow strives to explain the creation of a natural feature of the local environment in simple terms.  Many a good ship has floundered on the Doom Bar and even in modern times it needs to be approached with care and respect or it can prove perilous.  The same can be said about mermaids for they too can be perilous!

© 13/01/2016 zteve t evans

References and Attributions

Copyright January 13th 2016 zteve t evans

The amazing moai of the Rapanui

The Moai of Rapa Nui – the spirit of the people

Rapa Nui is an island of mystery and lost secrets. It is most famous for the giant stone statues called moai that stand in silent sentinel over the island and its people.

 

ahu_akivi_de_isla_de_pascua2c_monumento_nacional

HbcreuzCC BY-SA 3.0

Rapa Nui, is also known as Easter Island and is one of the world’s most mysterious places. The Rapanui created a civilization on one of the remotest places on earth, a tiny speck of an island that lies in the vast emptiness of the South Pacific Ocean.

The island is roughly triangular shaped and is situated 2,300 miles to the west of the South American coast and is southeast of Tahiti 2,500 miles away with the nearest place of human habitation being Pitcairn Island which is 1,260 miles distant.

Rapa Nui is under the auspices of Chile who in 1935 made the island a national park. In 1996 UNESCO made it a World heritage Site.

Early Polynesian colonists of Rapa Nui

How the original settlers found their way to the island and why they came is shrouded in mystery.    The people are believed to be descended from Polynesians who had great physical endurance, and remarkable seamanship and navigational abilities.   They colonized many isolated and distant south Pacific islands using nothing more than ocean going canoes to voyage across vast stretches of empty ocean.

Although the exact date is not known it is believed that a group of around fifty Polynesians led by a king called Hotu Matu’a arrived on the Rapa Nui in a double-hulled canoe between 600 AD and 800 AD.  Some experts give earlier dates while others say later and the debate still continues.

Read more

Introducing Welsh mythology and folklore

Welsh mythology is the mythology of the people of the principality of Wales which is part of the mythology of the Brythonic people.  These were the ancient Britons who inhabited the British Isles, including Cornwall, Ireland and Brittany the Isle of Man, and the Scottish Isles before the Roman invasion.  Today Wales is a part of the United Kingdom and occupies the western part of the island of Great Britain between England in the east, the Bristol Channel in the south and the Irish Sea in the west and north.

Flag of Wales - Public Domain

Flag of Wales – Public Domain

According to recent research that has produced the first genetic map of the British Isles, the Welsh were found to be able to trace their DNA back to the period following the last Ice Age. This is believed to make them the descendents of early  pioneers who first settled Britain about 10,000 years ago.  Read more

Cornish folklore and legend

Cornwall in the British Isles is rich in traditional folklore, legends and mythology greatly influenced by its historic and cultural connections. Celtic, Saxon, Viking, Christian and many other influences are interwoven to create marvelous legends and stories. This page serves as a brief introduction to the rich world of Cornish folklore and legend. Other pages on this site will look into the legends and folklore more closely offering interpretations and insights.

Cormoran the Giant – Public Domain

Cornish giants

Giants play an important part in Cornish folklore. There are many Cornish landmarks that are said to have been created by giants or associated with them. These may be found all over Cornwall from the barren granite rocks and wild rugged landscape of Bodmin Moor, to the dramatic windswept cliffs and coves around the coastline.

The tiny island of St Michael’s Mount was said to have been built by a giant named Cormoran and in some versions of the tale with the help of his wife. Cormoran used to stride across the narrow sea channel separating the island from the mainland and raid the local farmer’s sheep and cattle. He was said to be the first victim of Jack the Giant Killer who was the son of a local farmer. Jack lured Cormoran into a hole he dug which brought him down to Jack’s level enabling him to kill him.

Cormoran and Jack the Giant killer are just two of the legendary characters that abound in Cornish folklore and legend  –   Read more

Beowulf the perfect warrior!

Beowulf is an epic poem originally written in Old English about a mythical warrior who epitomised the perfect warrior qualities of courage, honesty, loyalty and strength. This work is a brief synopsis of the poem.

The story begins with the funeral of the great King Scyld of Denmark and ends with his own. King Scyld’s great-grandson and successor King Hrothgar builds a great and luxurious hall for his warriors to live in and he names it Heorot. When the hall has been completed King Hrothgar hosts a great and lavish feast and all his warriors gather there to celebrate.

Grendel

Unknown to the king or his warriors the noise of their celebrations has awoken Grendel, a monster whose lair is at the bottom of a nearby lake. Grendel raids the hall one night killing thirty of the king’s best warriors while they sleep. Each time the hall is used for feasting over the next 12 years Grendel appears and kills great number of warriors. King Hrothgar and his best advisers can find no way of ridding themselves of Grendel or a way to assuage his anger.

Beowulf, Prince of the Geats

Beowulf, a prince of the Geats of Sweden, and greatest warrior of the age, hears of King Hrothgar’s problems he vows to help rid the Danes of Grendel. Gathering 14 of his most trusted and bravest warriors to him he sails to Denmark to the court of King Hrothgar to offer his help.  Read more Continue reading

Abracadabra!

Abracadabra!’ cried the magician and with wave of his hand he manifests a pure white dove from his silk handkerchief. We all know the word “abracadabra,” but is it just a word that magicians say to create drama, or does it have some other meaning lost to modern society?

We know abracadabra as the ‘magic’ word used by stage magicians to cast the spell that makes their tricks work. It is the spoken incantation of the word that invokes the spell into action.

Image Author: Chambermagic -Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

The Earliest Recorded Mention of Abracadabra

Its earliest known recorded mention was by Quintus Serenus Sammonicus, the physician to Caracalla, an emperor of Rome. It is recorded in his book Liber Medicinalis (or, De Medicina Praecepta Saluberrima) as an aid to healing and warding off sickness.

How Abracadabra Was Used

He recommended that people suffering from malaria should wear an amulet with the word inscribed upon it to form a triangle:-

A – B – R – A – C – A – D – A – B – R – A
A – B – R – A – C – A – D – A – B – R
A – B – R – A – C – A – D – A – B
A – B – R – A – C – A – D – A
A – B – R – A – C – A – D
A – B – R – A – C – A
A – B – R – A – C
A – B – R – A
A – B – R
A – B
A

The word was spoken repeatedly but each time leaving the last letter off (as above). As the word diminished so did the illness.
During Medieval times it was believed to be a word of power and was also spoken to protect against witchcraft and written on paper or cloth and carried around or sewn into clothing.

Origins:  Hebrew or Aramaic?

There are many conflicting beliefs as to its origin. Some think it originated in the Aramaic language meaning, ‘avra kadavra’, meaning ‘it will be created in my words’.

Others think it may be Hebrew of origin from a phrase which means, ”I create what I speak” (I create’ (A’bra) ‘what’ (ca) ‘I speak’ (dab’ra).”)
Alternatively, it may be a Hebrew incantation to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit ( ‘ab’ (father), ‘ben’ (son), and ‘ruach hakodesh’ (holy spirit).

The Gnostics

The Gnostic sect of Basilidein also used it as a magic incantation using it to invoke beneficial powers to ward against illness and bad luck. It was also inscribed on Abraxas stones which were sometimes worn as amulets.

Loss of Power

It became degraded as a positive magical incantation when an influential American Puritan Minister named, Increase Mather (associated with the Salem Witch Trials) was contemptuously dismissive of the use of the word.

During the Great Plague of London people wrote it on doors and over entrances in a desperate attempt to keep the Black Death out of their homes. Daniel Defoe, the famous writer, was dismissive of such futile attempts.

False Magic

In course of time ‘abracadabra’ became associated with conjurers and ‘false’ magic tricks. The term ‘legal abracadabra’ was used to describe how clever, smart talking lawyers could confuse jurors during legal trials. Eventually stage magicians and conjurers began using it to add spice and drama to their acts. From its ancient roots abracadabra changed from being a word of power and healing to become synonymous with the world of trickery and illusions.

© 12/05/13 zteve t evans

References and Attributions

© 12/05/13 zteve t evans

Abracadabra – From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Phrase Finder – The meaning and origin of the expression: Abracadabra
Image - File:Poster Final.jpg – From Wikimedia Commons - Author: Chambermagic – Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.