Spanish Folklore: The Legendary Fish-Man of Liérganes

Fish-man statue in Liérganes, Cantabria. – Image by Bigsus, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

THE FISH-MAN OF LIÉRGANES

The town of Liérganes in the region of Cantabria, in northern Spain, hosts a statue of a strange fish-man commemorating his life. An English translation of a nearby plaque referring to him reads,

“His feat crossing the ocean

from the north to the south of Spain,

if it was not true it deserved to be.

Today his greatest feat

is to have crossed the centuries

in the memory of men.

Truth or legend,

Liérganes honors him here and sponsors

his immortality.”

The plaque is found on the promenade of the Fish-Man of Liérganes, along the shore of the Miera River.

The statue and plaque are referring to a local myth of a strange individual known as the “fish-man of Liérganes, ” or “El hombre pez,” in Spanish and, “L’hombri pez,”  in Cantabrian dialect. According to this myth the fish-man was an amphibious humanoid being, alleged to have been a human male who had become lost at sea. A theory developed that somehow, he had evolved into a semi-human aquarian entity at home in the sea, or on land. After being captured by fishermen he was returned to his family in Liérganes.

BENITO JERÓNIMO FEIJOO

The Spanish monk, scholar and writer, Benito Jerónimo Feijoo, during the Age of Enlightenment in Spain, was well known for promoting scientific and pragmatic thinking. Yet, he claimed the fish-man of Liérganes to be fact.

There is more than one version of the myth with differences on how the boy disappeared. In one version he goes swimming in the Miera River on the eve of Saint John’s Day, 1674 with friends. After undressing and entering the water he continued swimming after they had finished and dressed. Initially, his friends knowing he was a strong swimmer, were not concerned but he never returned.

Everyone assumed he had drowned but according to the legend he continued swimming until he reached the sea where he evolved into a fish-man. It was in this apparent amphibious condition he was later captured by curious fishermen in the bay of Cadiz.

FEIJOO’S ACCOUNT

However, Feijoo maintained that in Liérganes, in Cantabria, in about the year 1650, there lived a couple named Francisco de la Vega and María del Casar, who had four sons. When Francisco, the father died the family had no means of financial support, so she decided to send one of her sons, Francisco de la Vega Casar, named after his father and mother, to Bilbao to work as an apprentice carpenter.

He was known to have lived and worked there until the eve of Saint John’s Day when he went swimming in the estuary of Bilbao with his friends. He was believed to have been a good swimmer, but he got caught in strong currents and swept out to sea. He was last seen alive still swimming into the sea where he was believed to have been lost and drowned.

In 1679,  five years after Francisco was last seen a fishing boat working in the bay of Cadiz discovered they had a made a very unusual catch. A very strange creature had become entangled and attempted to fight itself free. The fishermen tried to capture the creature, but it managed escape into the sea. Several sightings of the creature were reported by other fishermen in the area as it became entangled in their nets. Finally, someone had the idea of enticing it with bread and it was finally brought on deck.

To their surprise, they found the creature had a human body such as belonged to an adolescent human male. His skin was pale, and he had sparse red hair and his nails were short and corroded.Curiously, it also had noticeable attributes of a fish having a strip of scales from its throat to its midriff and another strip of scales running along its spine. Around its neck it had that appeared to be gills. The combination of human and fish features and having pulled it from the sea baffled them.

THE CONVENT OF SAINT FRANCIS

The fishermen had never seen anything like it before, having no idea whether what they had caught was human or fish. Thinking it may be an unholy monstrosity, they took it onshore to the nearby convent of Saint Francis. Here the strange individual was exorcised and questioned but yielded no identifying or helpful information. The only attempt at speech he made was one word which sounded like “Liérganes.”  Unfortunately, no one knew what the word, if it was a word, meant.

News of this strange unknown individual spread around Cadiz Bay, and although people wondered, no one could say what the word, “Liérganes” meant.Eventually news of the individual and its strange speech came to a sailor from the north of Spain who docked at Cadiz. He pointed out there was a village called Liérganes  close to his hometown.Furthermore, the secretary of the Holy Office, Domingo de la Cantolla, verified the existence of the village of Liérganes which was situated near to Santander where he had come from.

In a further development, the bishop of Cadiz forwarded a description of the individual detailing physique and appearance in the hope someone would recognise or at least know something of him. An answer came back stating that no such creature, or individual, was known to exist, or ever have existed, around Liérganes.Moreover, the only extraordinary, though tragic event in the village was five years earlier with the presumed drowning of Francisco de la Vega Casar. His body had never been found but it was remembered he had red hair.

RETURN TO FAMILY LIFE IN LIÉRGANES

It was not much to go on, but it struck a chord with one of the priests of the convent who speculated that the fish-man was Francisco de la Vega Casar.Therefore, he requested permission to visit Liérganes accompanied by the fish-man. Speculatively, he visited María del Casar, the mother of Francisco, who instantly recognised the unknown individual as her son.

With Maria, claiming Francisco as her son, the priest left him with his family. Although he lived peacefully and quietly with in the family home, he had peculiar habits.He never wore anything on his feet, preferring to walk around barefoot, and unless he was specifically given clothes to wear tended to prefer nudity. He never spoke enough words to form a sentence so never really conversed with anyone. Sometimes he would mumble single words such as “bread,” “wine,” or “tobacco,” but never seemed to relate them to eating, drinking, or smoking.

Although he would eat with enthusiasm when the mood took him, he often went a week before eating again.He was always amiable and affable, and in his own unassuming way, polite and courteous. When asked to do a task he would oblige, completing it quickly and efficiently but without showing any enthusiasm.

He spent nine years living with his mother and family in this way but one day he went into the sea for a swim and never returned. What became of him is a mystery, but very much speculated about. Whether he drowned, or simply resumed his former life living in the sea is unknown, but no sign of him was seen of him ever since.

CONTROVERSY

Of course, with such an extraordinary case as this there are no shortage of sceptics. Feijoo, although having a reputation based on his pragmatism and scientific approach seems to have been convinced of the authenticity of the case even if others were not. In his version of the case, he is meticulously detailed giving names and dates and has investigated and verified accounts given by reputable witnesses.

He confesses when he first heard of the story, he did not believe it, but claimed his research led him to conclude the case was genuine.The fact that Feijoo was a strong critic of superstition, hoaxes and charlatans lent to him considerable authority. People took the opinion that if such a renowned sceptic as he believed in the case it must be true. It does seem strange that he would have backed this story, but hedid, and later even put forward scientific arguments aimed at backing the existence of fish-men in the sea.

DR. GREGORIO MARAÑÓN

Nevertheless, there were others who were unconvinced he had interpreted the evidence correctly and one of them was 20th century Spanish scholar and physician named Dr. Gregorio Marañón.He argued that the existence of the fish-man was mistaken but admitted that the fact that there were so many credible witnesses and testimonies could not be easily ignored. He proposed there were certain elements of the story that were possible and offered an alternative explanation.

He proposed that the individual presented symptoms of being inflicted with an ailment called cretinism, now usually referred to as “Congenital Iodine Deficiency Syndrome.” This affliction is usually apparent at birth and one cause is inadequate dietary iodine during pregnancy (1).

He pointed out the individual displayed symptoms such as being virtually speechless, only being able to produce a few words. He had thinning red hair and white scaly skin, chewed his nails, and wander around which he asserted are symptoms of the disease. Furthermore, this affliction was often found in mountainous regions such as Cantabria, claiming it was commonly found around the Santander region at that time. Alternatively, he pointed out ichthyosis could have caused the skin problems – a very widespread genetic disease, causing the skin to become exceptionally dry, rough, and flaking, not unlike fish scales.

He suggested the boy had wandered off getting lost and followed the coast from the estuary of Bilbao where he was last seen round to the Bay of Cadiz where he was noticed by fishermen and captured.The scaly white skin gave him an outlandish, and fish-like appearance, to people who knew nothing of the disease. With his discovery by the sea and his scaly and unattractive skin condition, which may have been exaggerated as word spread, people jumped to false conclusions, from these coincidences, erroneously thinking he was part human and part fish.

MARAÑÓN’S THEORY

However, Marañón produced a different explanation as to how he had been found in the Bay of Cadiz. He believed it would not have been possible for him to swim there from the estuary of Bilbao, proposing he had wandered on foot following the coastline. Along the way he searched for food which he may have found readily along the seashore in form of shellfish and marine algae. Importantly, both foods happen to be rich in iodine, which is known to alleviate Congenital iodine deficiency syndrome, especially when given to babies diagnosed with the condition. Sea air is also naturally iodised and may have been a more comfortable environment.

It was purely coincidental that when he was last seen in Estuary of Bilbao, he was swimming out to sea, yet when he was found in the Bay of Cadiz he was also in the sea.

He speculated that when his father died, his mother and family struggled to make ends meet, which was why he was sent to Bilbao to learn carpentry. It may have been a relief to his employer and co-workers to be rid of such an unproductive burden as it may have been to his family.

Marañón further speculated both employers and family were not too sorry to be relieved of him, which was why little fuss was made of his alleged drowning. However, rather than perish in the sea he had wandered off alone, following the shore where possible, with no idea where he was going, he ended up in the Bay of Cadiz.

His diet of algae and seafood sustained and even helped him, but because of his age the iodine intake was of limited value.Nevertheless, the sea air and the warmer environment may have been more to his liking. It may have been the worst thing that could happen to him was to return to a mountain environment of Liérganes. His return to his mother and family may have been an unwelcome emotional and economic burden, an extra mouth to feed, or they may have been simply ashamed of him. Marañón suggests his later disappearance into the sea again was not an accident, and not of his own making, yet provides no firm proof of anything sinister.

The story of Francisco de la Vega Casar is certainly mysterious and unquestionably tragic we can only hope what ever happened to him in the end brought peace.

© 23/06/2022 zteve t evans


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Copyright June 23rd, 2022 zteve t evans


Khasi Folktales: The Legend of Lum Sophet Bneng

Thanks to Cliparts.Co

THE KHASI PEOPLE

The Khasi are an ancient people dwelling mainly in the Indian state of Meghalaya with smaller populations in the neighboring state of Assam and regions of Bangladesh. They have a long history and rich culture and many ancient traditions and festivals are still practiced. There are still those who remember many of their old myths and stories which give an explanation of where they came from and the world around them.

KHASI MYTHOLOGY

According to their traditional lore, the original home of the Khasi people was known as “Ki Hynñiewtrep” or “The Seven Huts” in English.  Their supreme deity was called, “U Blei Trai Kynrad” or “God the Lord Master,” who had ordered humanity into sixteen divine families known as “Khadhynriew Trep.” In those days families could move freely between Heaven and Earth because a physical connection between the two realms was located on their sacred hill of Lum Sohpet bneng, which means “Navel of Heaven.” Today it is a place of festival and pilgrimage for those Khasis who continue to remember and respect the old religion keeping alive the ancient traditions and lore of their people.

The following folktale of the Khasi people is called The Legend of Mount Sophet Bneng from a collection of tales, legends and myths titled, “Folk-Tales of the Khasis” by Mrs. Rafy.  This tells that on top of the great hill of Lum Sohpet Bneng there once grew tree so tall it reached from Earth up to Heaven.

THE LEGEND OF MOUNT SOPHET BNENG

The tree was called the Jingkieng ksiar and sometimes referred to as the Golden Bridge or Golden Ladder, because the people of Heaven used it to climb up and down between Heaven and Earth.  At the time the Earth was not inhabited by people because they would visit and return to Heaven to live.  

During this time all of humanity lived in Heaven but the Earth was inhibited by all manner of different animals, birds, reptile, insects, and a multitude of other different lifeforms.   There was a great variety of plants, some large, some small, many with luscious fruits, beautiful flowers, and vibrant foliage.  It was a very beautiful and wonderful world, and the humans would visit Earth by climbing down the tree where they could roam in wonder and delight and return at their leisure by climbing back up the tree.

In those blessed days there was only one language spoken and sang and all of creation communicated freely together. Trees, flowers, birds, animals, fishes, insects even rocks and stones and the sixteen families used it to commune among themselves and with nature.

PLANTING GARDENS

When they discovered the soil around Lum Sohpet Bneng was rich and fertile they began to cultivate crops for profit planting many gardens and fields.  U Blei Trai Kynrad, their supreme divinity granted this but decreed that they must return to Heaven every night and only be on Earth during the day. The sixteen human families of Heaven followed this practice rigidly.

Unfortunately, as is so often the case, there was a single malevolent one among them who lusted power and resented divine authority. Furthermore, he grew loathe to follow the will of the Creator and sought to rule over his fellow human beings. He was always seeking ways to further and attain his ambitions and gain control over the people.

One day seven families climbed down the tree to work upon their gardens and fields on Earth, leaving the other nine to go about their business in Heaven.

SEVERING THE CONNECTION

When all the seven families were hard at work the malevolent one saw his chance.Thinking that without the tree to move between Heaven and Earth those seven families would be easier to bring under his control without the interference of God the Lord Master. Therefore, he took an axe and cut down the tree that connected Heaven and Earth. The seven families working their crops were stranded on Earth, and those nine families in Heaven severed completely from Earth.

This is how humans came to live permanently upon the Earth. Those seven families were called “Ki Hinniew Skum” which means the “seven roots”, or “seven nests” and it is from these that the rest of humanity living on Earth is descended.

Ever since the people of Heaven and Earth have been separated from each other.  Furthermore, as the seven families spread over the Earth the language became splintered into many different tongues.  The ability of the people to communicate with one another was damaged and the ability to converse with nature was lost or severely impaired.  This all happened thousands of years ago through the act of one evil man who craved power and control over the people.

ANOTHER VERSION

Another version of the myth tells that in the early days of the world there was no separation between Heaven and Earth and people obeyed God’s laws and lived in harmony with the natural world. Heaven and Earth were connected by the Jingkieng ksiar,andpeople began living on Earth. Overtime they forgot or disobeyed the rules of the creator and made their own laws.  Where there had been one language in Heaven and on Earth a multitude of tongues evolved.  People could no longer talk to nature or among themselves and they came into conflict with Heaven.  Because of this the tree withered and died and the connection between the two realms was lost.

A WARNING!

The loss of the tree is often viewed as an allegory warning of the consequences of the severing of connections between humans on Earth and God in Heaven.

©08/06/2022 zteve t evans


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Copyright June 8th, 2022 zteve t evans


Mount’s Bay, Lyonesse, Langarroc: Legendary Submerged Lands And Buried Towns Of Cornwall – For Ancient Pages


This article was first published on AncientPages.com, April 21, 2022, Mount’s Bay, Lyonesse, Langarroc: Legendary Submerged Lands And Buried Towns Of Cornwall, by zteve t evans


Cornwall, the uttermost southwestern peninsula of England, has a long, fascinating history absolutely brimming with folklore, legends, and traditions. Ancient monuments scatter the landscape, and all around the rugged coastline, traditions of smugglers, pirates and mermaids abound alongside intriguing legends of towns and land submerged by the sea or entombed under massive dunes of sand. Presented here is a brief look at three legendary places that lie buried under the sand or drowned by the sea.

The Drowned Forest And Lake Under Mount’s Bay

Mount’s Bay is home to St Michael’s Mount, a tidal island with a quaint harbour overlooked by a medieval church and a picturesque castle. It is connected to the Cornish mainland by a stone causeway at low tide. At high tide, the sea rises above the causeway cutting the Mount from the Cornish mainland, turning it into an island. According to tradition, St Michael’s Mount is where Jack the Giant Killer began his career by slaying Cormoran the Giant.

In the past, parts of Mount’s Bay were above sea level and home to woods and a body of water named Gwavas Lake. Humans and animals were believed to inhabit this area, and according to legend, on the bank of the lake was a small chapel where a holy man lived. People came to him seeking healing for ailments and agonies of the mind and body, which he cured using prayers and water from Gwavas Lake. Because of his remarkable healing powers, he became venerated as a saint, and his small chapel received a continuous stream of pilgrims seeking his aid.

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Khasi Folktales: The Cooing of the Doves

Presented here is a retelling of an ancient folktale of the Khasi people who dwell in Meghalaya in north-eastern India and parts of Assam and Bangladesh, sourced from “Folk-Tales of the Khasis,” by K. U. Rafy. It tells how long ago, unlike today, doves sang wonderful songs like many other birds. These songs expressed their happiness to be alive and the glory of the world around, until something happened to end their glorious melodies. Their joyous singing was replaced with the sad, wistful, “Cooing” sound, we are familiar with them making today.

THE COOING OF THE DOVES

The story tells how back in the old days a happy family of the first doves lived in the forest. The youngest was a daughter named was Ka Paro. Being the youngest she was much loved by her parents and siblings who were all protective of her pampering her more than they should. The family often ate together in a nearby field of grain. When it was time for food, they insisting she remain securely hidden in their family nesting tree until the signal was given that all was safe enough for her to venture forth.

Ka Paro

 One day they had left Ka Paro alone in the family nest while they flew to the field and around the area making sure there was no potential danger. While she waited, Ka Paro grew bored and flew to the top of a nearby tree which had a many succulent red berries growing in its branches. She was not interested in the berries but was looking forward to feeding in the grain field with her family. While she waited, she saw many other birds feasting upon them but did not take much notice. Instead, she spent her time preening her feathers while waiting for her family to give the signal all was clear for her to join them.  

A Handome Jungle Bird

To her surprise a very handsome jungle bird of a clan she had never seen before flew down and perched on a nearby branch and started pecking at the berries. Ka Paro had never seen a bird as stunning as this one, with such gorgeous feathers of gold and green, and he came and pecked berries on the very branch that she perched upon.

She was surprised and delighted, and greatly admiring this handsome stranger and began to sing one of her sweetest melodies to attract his attention hoping to please him.

Seeing the gentle beautiful Ka Paro, and hearing her beautiful voice, he was very quickly drawn to her and sang along with her. He introduced himself as U Jylleit, the jungle bird, and she told him she was Ka Paro the dove. The two became fast friends and met every day on the same branch in the same tree. She would sit preening her feathers and singing while, he picked at the berries singing a duet with her. Every now and then the two exchanged shy, admiring glances.

They grew to love each other and U Jylleit plucked up the courage to ask her parents for consent to their marriage. However, her parents were not warmly welcoming to the proposal not feeling too sure of how genuine U Jylleit really was. They did not want to judge him unfairly yet wanted to protect their beloved daughter from being hurt.

Marriage

Therefore, they thought carefully about what to do. Ka Paro loved U Jylleit with all her heart and begged her parents to approve the marriage. She begged, she pleaded and argued her case again and again declaring she loved him like the moon loved the stars and that she would love him forever, while he declared his own eternal love for her before her parents.

However, her parents knew more of the world than their young daughter. Maybe they were being overprotective, but they were not too certain of this handsome stranger who had flown in from nowhere to win their daughter’s heart. Furthermore, there was also the question of a marriage between two different unrelated clans, which the two lovers undeniable were, which made them feel uncomfortable. There was also another reason that caused them to doubt the strength of U Jylleit’s love for their daughter.

They knew that the red berries had attracted him to the tree where their daughter perched, and knew those berries only appeared at the present time of the year. Moreover, with all the other birds feeding on the berries the tree would eventually be gone and would not return until the following year. They also knew, like other crops, the berries appeared at various times in different places and birds and animals moved from one place to another to feed on them.

A Test

For these reasons they were reluctant to risk their daughter’s happiness. Nevertheless,  rather than issues a flat refusal they wisely decided to put U Jylleit to a test

Ka Paro’s parents told the two lovers they would only allow the marriage after all the berries were gone. They wanted to see if U Jylleit, for the love of their daughter, be content with the meagre diet of the doves, which he could have survived on. The two lovers readily agreed. U Jylleit swore he would stay with Ka Paro through thick and thin and never leave her. For her part, Ka Paro had absolute confidence her lover would stay and share the same plain and meagre food as her. She simply did not believe he would fly away to another place where the berries could be found in abundance.

And so, the two lovers continued to meet in the tree and while Ka Paro sang and preened U Jylleit sang and ate red berries which became fewer and fewer. One day Ka Paro flew to the tree to meet her lover and began singing and preening expecting her to join her. He did not arrive as he usually did so she continued and preening and singing but still he did not arrive. Looking around, for him she was shocked to see all the berries had gone and realised the truth.

Hearbreak

U Jylleit, without even saying goodbye, had  taken wing to find another berry tree and she never saw him again. Her heart broken; Ka Paro never sang another note. The only sound she would utter from that moment on was a melancholy “cooing” which is the same we hear from doves all around the world today.

© 28/04/2022 zteve t evans


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Copyright April 28, 2022 zteve t evans


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Welsh Folkltales: Myfanwy Fychan of Castell Dinas Bran

Philip de Laszlo, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

HYWEL AP EINION

Above the Welsh town of Llangollen, the ruins of Castell Dinas Bran or Crow City Castle, stand broken and forlorn against the wild sky. Today it is a place of fractured walls and stones but in the past, it was the setting for a tragic story of unrequited love. There are different versions varying in detail and several poems and songs exist extolling the virtues of Myfanwy Fychan. The Welsh poet, Hywel ap Einion, wrote the original work and appears to be addressing Myfanwy as the focus of his own love. Presented here is a retelling of the tale.

THE TALE OF MYFANWY

There was once an impoverished young bard by the name of Hywel ap Einion, and a young woman of rare beauty named Myfanwy, the daughter of the Earl of Arundel, the lord of Dinas Bran. Word spread of her beauty throughout the land and handsome, rich, and powerful men flocked to try to win her heart, but none could.

You see, Myfanwy was incredibly vain and precocious and she got a great thrill from repeatedly being told by her suitors how beautiful and desirable she was to them. In her mind, nothing was better than to have several handsome and rich suitors competing for her attention. For all her vanity, Myfanwy had a great love for poetry and music. What she really wanted was a lover who would feed this vanity by writing beautiful poetry and songs dedicated to her and her alone and sing it to her.

Hundreds of rich and handsome suitors came from near and distant lands to try and woo and win the heart of Myfanwy of Castell Dinas Bran. All failed because they could not express her beauty in poetry and song that matched her assessment of herself.

Hywel ap Einion was a talented, but penniless young bard, who lived in the valley overlooked by Castell Dinas Bran. Although he had only seen Myfanwy from afar as she walked upon the ramparts of Dinas Bran or rode past on a white pony he had fallen in love with her.

He liked to think that one day, as she walked upon the ramparts and looked over the valley, she had turned her face and their eyes had met from afar. The light from her eyes had met with his, and she had smiled upon him. He remembered the day she had rode past on her pony. As she passed him by, he swore she had inclined her head his way and smiled.

On these flimsy treads of evidence Hywel decided to take a chance and he climbed the hill to Castell Dinas Bran and begged the doorkeepers to allow him appear before Myfanwy. Because he was a bard and a true bard, he had placed his feelings towards her in words and set it to music. Now he wanted to sing it to her as much in the hope that she would like it as in the need to unburden himself. The doorkeepers laughed, and made jest of him, but went to Myfanwy and told her that the penniless bard Hywel ap Einion was outside seeking permission to sing to her a song he had written exalting her beauty.

Proud Myfanwy thought of a penniless bard singing of her beauty was below her dignity, but her vanity required that she listen to the song, so she gave permission. Hywel sang, and Myfanwy was delighted by his song, and so he wrote more songs and sang them to her. She became so pleased by his refrains that she would allow no other suitor to court her because they could not express her beauty in words in the way that he did. Hywel believed she has fallen in love with him and wrote increasingly to please her.

Unfortunately, for Hywel, a handsome, rich young man visited the court of Dinas Bran, and he too sang and wrote poetry, but far more eloquent and with a far better voice than he. The newcomer wrote and sang to Mythanwy of her beauty, and she enjoying the flattery fell in love with him casting off Hywel. Rejected and devasted Hywel wandered alone through the forests and wilds composing a last love poem dedicated to Mythanwy,

Oh, fairer thou, and colder too,

Than new fall’n snow on Aran’s brow.

Oh, lovely flower of Trevor race,

Let not a cruel heart disgrace

The beauties of thy heavenly face!

Thou art my daily thought; each night

Presents Myfanwy to my sight.

Hywel ap Einion

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Tales of the Lost, the Drowned and the All-Seeing Eye – Vengeance Will Come!

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or Large Print Paperback – Dimensions – 21.59 x 0.48 x 27.94 cm – (All images non-color)



Havelok the Dane: Hero-King of Two Realms

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Ancient symbols: The Ouroboros in Alchemy, Gnosticism and Hermeticism

THE OUROBOROS SYMBOL

The ancient symbol known as the ouroboros is a snake, serpent, or dragon with its body looped in a circle. Its mouth is open, and its tail is adjacent to its mouth.  It is not easy to tell if the snake is biting, eating, regurgitating, or even giving birth to itself.  Interpretation depends on the culture and situation where it appears.  Usually, it is considered a symbol of renewal – the eternal cycle of life, death and rebirth, and immortality, but there are other interpretations. 

The name “ouroboros” comes from Greek.  The “oura” part means tail, and “boros,” meaning “eating,” so together, it becomes “tail devourer,” or ouroboros.  It entered Western tradition and symbolism from ancient Egyptian and Hellenic iconography and conventions.  It later became adopted into the mystic symbols of alchemy, Hermeticism, and Gnosticism.

THE OUROBOROS THROUGH THE AGES

Remarkably similar versions of this motif have occurred worldwide throughout history.  Despite the vast distances that sometimes separate it, the symbol carries similar connotations, though may be known by other terms.  It is not known if there was a central origin for the image from which it spread or if it evolved independently in various places.  The distance and the different human cultures where the ouroboros appears indicate a degree of independent evolution.  However, it could also spread from one place to another through trade, invasion, or the movement of people.

In certain ancient cultures, because snakes shed their old skins and grow new ones, they are symbols of the renewal of life.  There is also the idea that the snake’s tail is a phallic symbol, with the mouth representing a womb, associating it with fertility.  Mystics also linked the ouroboros with metempsychosis or transmigration of the soul.

The ouroboros differs from other representations of serpent-like entities being a positive and necessary force for good.  In other religions such as Christianity, snakes and serpents represent evil and other religions may have different associations not mentioned here.

The first known use of the image is an artistic decoration on Chinese pottery belonging to the neolithic Yangshao People, who dwelt from 5000-3000 BC along the Yellow River in what is now eastern China.  However, its use as a motif or symbol seems to have evolved later independently in other places.

ANCIENT EGYPT

The ancient Egyptians associating the symbol with time and the universe.  They considered time to be a succession of recurring cycles rather than a linear, constantly manifesting line of events.  They were greatly influenced by the annual flooding of the Nile and the daily recurrent movement of the sun across the sky.

A 14the BC funerary text, usually referred to as the “Enigmatic Book of the Netherworld,” inscribed on the second shrine of the sarcophagus in the tomb of Tutankhamun depicted a prominent figure, possibly representing the mummiform body of Tutankhamun, which is titled, “He who hides the Hours.” Alternatively, some archaeologists see it representing a union between Ra and Osiris.  The ouroboros motif encircles the head of the figure while another encircles the feet.

Experts deem the text refers to the functioning of time.  In this case, the circular serpent motif signifies the deity, “Mehen, the Enveloper,” guardian of Ra on his journey underground. It also appears in other Egyptian works and may represent the chaos surrounding the orderly world is considered a form of the ouroboros.

Engraving of an wyvern-type ouroboros by Lucas Jennis, in the 1625 alchemical tract De Lapide Philosophico. The figure serves as a symbol for mercury – Public Domain – Source

GNOSTICISM

Mystics and scholars of Gnosticism, Hermeticism, and alchemy adopted the symbol because of its associated meaning. Gnosticism developed from Jewish and Christian religious and philosophical thinking in the first and second centuries.  It sought to develop and use specialized knowledge to achieve salvation.  Gnostics saw the head of the serpent as the spiritual world, while the tail represented the physical world, both being eternally united.  While both worlds appear to conflict, they exist in unison and are necessary for a unified universe.

ALCHEMY

In alchemy, the ouroboros is considered one of the oldest symbols representing the idea of eternity and continuous return. Alchemy was a predecessor form of medieval chemistry and philosophy that sought to achieve the Magnum Opus or great work.

This great work might include achievements such as the transmutation of matter, a panacea to cure all ills, the philosopher’s stone, and the achievement of immortality, depending on the interests of the individual alchemist.  It was a discipline rich in allegorical expression and many of its terms and goals are metaphorical.  However, the true purpose of alchemy was the evolution of the human soul through its study and practice. 

The alchemist also used other related disciplines, including astrology, Hermeticism, mathematics, geometry, Gnosticism, and other early sciences and mysticism.  One of the most highly desired but challenging aims for an alchemist was to discover a way to turn a base substance such as lead into gold, an activity known as “chrysopoeia” in alchemy.

A short alchemic text called “Chrysopoeia of Cleopatra,” by Cleopatra, the Alchemist, shows a version of the ouroboros.  This author is not Cleopatra VII – the Egyptian queen who wooed Julius Caesar and Mark Antony even though later works refer to her as Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt.  The identity of Cleopatra the Alchemist is murky, and to complicate matters her identity became conflated by scholars with Cleopatra, the Physician.  However, the name Cleopatra the Alchemist may be an alias for an anonymous author or school of alchemists.

Cleopatra, the Alchemist, was a Greek author and physician who lived about 3 AD and was one of the founders of alchemy.  She was also one of four female alchemists able to generate the philosopher’s stone and the inventor of special apparatus used in the alchemic distillation process.

HERMETICISM

In the Chrysopoeia, an ouroboros, with the words, “the all is one,” is seen.  This idea is associated with a philosophical system based on the traditions of the legendary Hermes Trismegistus known as Hermeticism.  The Chrysopeoia also described the ouroboros as,

“One is the Serpent which has its poison according to two compositions, and One is All and through it is All, and by it is All, and if you have not All, All is Nothing.”

The ouroboros expressed many of their beliefs in a visual symbol recognized and understood by other alchemists.  But the world is mutable, and alchemists of the Renaissance began to consider time as linear rather than cyclical.  Therefore, instead of looping back and repeating, eternity became a neverending stream of events that may have had any cycles unrolling as they happened. This new viewpoint makes it very relevant to how the present moment is understood.

©10/03/2022 zteve t evans


REFERENCES, ATTRIBUTIONS AND FURTHER READING

Copyright March 10th, 2022 zteve t evans


Further Publications by zteve t evans

Tales of the Lost, the Drowned and the All-Seeing Eye – Vengeance Will Come!

Available as a Kindle Ebook And Large Print Paperback – Dimensions : 21.59 x 0.48 x 27.94 cm All Images Non-color



Havelok the Dane: Hero-King of Two Realms

Available as Kindle EBook


Japanese Folktales: The Legend of the Haunted Furisodé

FURISODÉ

In his book of Japanese ghost stories, folk tales, and legends, In Ghostly Japan,” Lafcadio Hearn tells of an incident in a street of small shops selling mainly antiques and old goods.  He says, 

“Recently, while passing through a little street tenanted chiefly by dealers in old wares, I noticed a furisodé, or long-sleeved robe, of the rich purple tint called murasaki, hanging before one of the shops. It was a robe such as might have been worn by a lady of rank in the time of the Tokugawa. I stopped to look at the five crests upon it; and in the same moment there came to my recollection this legend of a similar robe said to have once caused the destruction of Yedo.”

A “furisodé” is a long-sleeved kimono often worn by unmarried women, indicating they are available for marriage. This minor event evoked in Hearn a memory of an extraordinary legend and the following is a retelling of that legend of the destruction of Yedo by a great fire.

THE SAMURAI DREAM

This legend tells how some two and a half centuries earlier, there lived in Yedo the city of the Shōguns, a lovely young woman. One day as she was attending a festival in the temple, she saw in the crowd the finest looking young samurai she had ever seen or imagined. In her awe of his beauty, she instantly fell in love with him. But, to her dismay, before she could learn his name and who he was, he became lost in the vast, ever-changing throng of people attending the festival. So she sent her servants to search for him or discover his identity, but they could find no trace of him.

Nevertheless, she found the image of the handsome young samurai had become burnt into her mind, remaining clear and lucid in every detail right down to his clothing. As it was a festival, he had been wearing their brightest and most colorful kimonos like herself and everyone else. The young men’s garments were no less gorgeous and colorful than those of the young women. However, it was the upper design of his kimono, the colors and the crest, that had particularly caught her eyes and remained bright and vivid in her mind and made her heart cry out for him. Now, as she considered it in her mind’s eye, it seemed all the more remarkable to the love-struck girl. As she pondered more and more upon the image, the idea grew that she would have a furisodé made to show she was ready for marriage. It would be of similar color and design, with the same crests, and of the same quality silk the samurai of her heart had been wearing. She would wear it around the town in the hope of attracting his attention to her and drawing him into her arms.

NAMU MYŌ HŌ RENGÉ KYŌ! (1)

With this very much in mind, she had a most beautiful furisodé, with long sleeves, made from the finest silk and decorated with the crest she had seen in the most gorgeous of colors and the height of fashion and elegance. Whenever she went out, she would wear it hoping to bring herself to the attention of the samurai of her dreams.   

She treasured it so much that when she was not going out, she would hang it in her room and imagine the form of the unknown samurai of her heart was with her.  In this dreamy fantasy, she spent hour upon hour for longer and longer. Sometimes she would pray her dream lover would appear and sweep her off her feet, and sometimes she would weep. In this way, between ecstatic fantasy and sad reality, she fluctuated, and she would pray to the gods and Buddhas that they may bring her the samurai of her dreams and that he would love her as much as she loved him. For this purpose, she repeatedly recited the mantra of the Nichiren sect, 

“Namu myō hō rengé kyō!”

It proved futile, and all to no avail, for she never again saw the handsome samurai of her dreams. She yearned and pined that he may come and cure her sickened heart, but he never did. Slowly, in lonely misery, pining for her dream lover, she slowly faded, weakened, and died. She was given a Buddhist funeral with all the rites. Her gorgeous furisodé that she had treasured and had been her hope of attracting her dream lover to her was given to the temple that performed the rituals, as was tradition and custom, to dispose of the deceased’s clothing as they saw fit to benefit the temple.

THE HAUNTED FURISODÉ

The furisodé had been made from the finest silk using the best dyes for coloring and showed no sign of wear or the tears that had flowed over it. Its style and design were of the most exquisite taste, and the priest sold it for an excellent price. The garment was brought by a girl of similar age to the lady who had imagined, commissioned, and worn it. Like its previous owner, she was a beautiful girl who wanted to show she was available for marriage. After wearing it for the first day, she fell ill with an unknown sickness and began to act very strangely. She claimed that day and night, a vision of the most handsome samurai she had ever seen appeared before her. It followed her in the day and would manifest before her eyes when she was out. At night it haunted her dreams, and she fell deeply in love with the samurai of her dreams. His vision possessed her, and she knew that for the love of her dream Samauai she would die. Sadly, that is what happened. She withered and failed and died for his love, and for the second time, the beautiful furisodé was given to the temple as custom decreed.

RETURN OF THE HANDSOME SAMURAI

The temple priest remembered selling the beautiful garment and thought no more than how sad events had turned out and sold again.   The buyer was another young lady about the same age as the previous owners who wanted it for the same reason. After wearing it for the first time, she complained of seeing a strange but handsome samurai who would suddenly appear nearby when she was out and would intrude upon her dreams. She talked of a handsome samurai whom she had fallen in love with. Although he would always appear close if she reached out to hold him, he dissolved into nothingness. She, too, fell sick, withered, and died unable to obtain the nourishment her dream samurai could give her.

After her funeral, the temple received the furisodé again, but the priest began to feel uneasy and troubled. Nevertheless, the furisodé was sold to another beautiful young woman hoping to attract a husband by wearing it. Like the others, she complained of visitations from a handsome samurai in her dreams and waking life. Like the previous owners, she withered and died, and after her funeral, the furisodé was given to the temple.

The date was the 18th day of the first month of the first year of Meiréki or 1655, and the priest stared at the garment in alarm and revulsion for he knew these tragic deaths were not just coincidence. He now believed the furisodé, although beautiful, was possessed by an evil presence.

THE GREAT FIRE OF THE LONG-SLEEVED ROBE – FURISODÉ-KWAJI

Thinking that destroying the garment would destroy the evil presence, he made a bonfire and cast it to the fire. The beautiful silk was quickly engulfed in flames, but to his astonishment and horror from the inferno, there sprang dazzling tongues of flame which took the shape of the invocation – 

“Namu myō hō rengé kyō!”

One by one, these letters leaped onto the temple roof like red hot sparks setting it on fire.  Sparks, burning embers, and flames spread to adjacent buildings, and a sea wind carried red hot embers to the roofs and walls of others in the vicinity. Soon the entire street was being consumed by flames, with the sea wind spreading it even further. It was not long before the whole neighborhood was burning and the city in danger of being consumed by the blaze. This was one of the most disastrous catastrophes in Japanese history and became known as the furisodé-kwaji,—the Great Fire of the Long-Sleeved Robe or the Great fire of Meireki.

O-SAMÉ

ONO-NO-KOMACHI, THE BEAUTIFUL POET,

As often happens, famous people who once existed in history become entangled in legends and folklore of historical events. For example, Komachi or Ono-no-Komachi lived over a thousand years ago and was and still is one of the most celebrated poets and beauties in the history of Japan. She was said to be the most beautiful woman of her era, and her poetry so fine it could move heaven and even bring rain in times of drought.

She was loved by many men, and many were said to have died for want of her love. Sadly, as she grew older, her beauty faded and withered along with her fortune, and she was reduced to wearing rags and begging in the streets. She was said to have died in poverty on the road to Kyoto. Because she was dressed in rags when she died, it was considered shameful to intern her in such a condition, and someone donated a second-hand summer robe to wrap her body in called a katabira. Her grave became known as “Place of the Katabira” (Katabira-no-Tsuchi) and was not far from Arashiyama.

And we can see, as so often happens all around the world, facts, events and real people, become embroiled and tangled up to form legends and myths that feed the fantasies of everyday folk – yet still there remains somethings that cannot be explained and cannot be put down to mere fantasies.

© 23/02/2022 zteve t evans



References, Attributions and Further Reading

Copyright February 23rd, 2022 zteve t evans


Divine Retribution: Three Doomed Cities of Myth and Legend

Divine Retribution: Three Doomed Cities of Myth and Legend

Moreau.henri, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Myths and legends of great and wealthy cities lost or destroyed appear worldwide. A common theme is an excessive pride or ungodly behavior of the rich or ruling classes that eventually invokes divine retribution upon the city. Presented here are three examples of such legends taken from the collection, “Tales of the Lost, The Drowned and the All-Seeing Eye: Vengeance Will Come!” by zteve t evans.

THE DROWNING OF KER-IS

In Breton folklore, a beautiful city named Ker-Is, or Ys, was located in the Bay of Douarnenez, Brittany, France, reaching its zenith during the reign of King Gradlon before disaster struck. Unfortunately, tidal erosion from the sea threatened to drown the city. So the rulers built massive walls around it to keep out the rising water installing great gates giving access and egress between the harbor and the sea. Gradlon wore the key to these gates on a chain around his neck at all times. 

He fell in love with Malgven, a beautiful pagan woman who bore him a daughter named Dahut. Shortly after, she told him her time in the world was over and she must leave. However, she insisted Dahut should be well-schooled in pagan ways. Gradlon honored this though he chose to convert to Christianity himself.

Dahut grew up to be as beautiful as her mother and became a high-priestess of the old faith. Gradlon gave her Ker-is to rule but retained the key. She planted beautiful gardens filling them with exotic animals and plants, and the city flourished.  One day there came to Ker-is, a mysterious stranger known as the Red Knight who stole Dahut’s heart.  On the night of a great storm, to please him, she foolishly stole the key from her father as he slept, and the Red Knight used it to unlock the gates allowing the sea to flood the city.  

Gradlon managed to mount a horse and rescue his daughter, but the horse could not carry both of them to safety. As the horse struggled, God spoke to Gradlon, commanding him to throw her into the sea. After initially refusing, he complied and survived.  

The old pagan gods rescued their high priestess transforming her into a sea morgen. But, even today, local people and mariners say she is still to encountered sitting on rocks along the wild coastline singing strange songs to lure passing sailors to their doom.

TANNEN-EH: THE CITY ENTOMBED IN SNOW

Kenwbar – Kenneth Barclay – Public Domain

High in the snowy Alps, there was once a beautiful city named Tannen-Eh whose citizens were honest, hardworking, and god-fearing, living harmoniously with one another and their environment.  They fulfilled their basic needs by careful husbandry of agriculture and natural resources. Artisans and those who worked by physical labor were granted as much respect as academics and administrators. The rich happily looked after the poor, who lived in the valley below, who repaid by giving their best service. In this way, for many centuries isolated in the alps, time moved slowly, and Tannen-Eh flourished peacefully untainted by the world beyond.

Outside everything moved faster. Factories churned out toxins contaminating the environment and consuming natural resources ever more quickly and quicker. There was never enough; they wanted more, more, more. Airborne toxins spread far and wide, eventually blighting the pure white snow of Tannen-Eh, but with it came something more frightening. It came slowly, quietly, and unseen, but it was a blight of the worst possible kind.  It crept into the human heart, into the very soul, and the people of Tannen-Eh fell victim to it.

The wealthy grew richer, craving ever more frivolous luxuries. The more they brought, the more they wanted. Their wealth increased, and so did their pride, and they regarded the struggling poor with disdain.   Putting the poor to work, they built a great tower like that of Babel and in it placed a bell. The bell would ring out for every birth, christening, marriage, or death of the fortunate wealthy ones, but not for the poor who they now regarded as unworthy of acknowledgment or commemoration.

 The poor prayed for help, and their prayers went up beyond the tower, beyond the skies, and heard.  But, Heaven works in mysterious ways, and there came a great famine, and the poor starved and suffered. The rich locked their treasure in strongrooms, refusing to spend it to alleviate poverty and distress, and many people died of starvation.

In the first days of winter, snowflakes began to fall, gently at first but soon thick and fast. Soon snow rose above the windows, covering the roofs, leaving only the top of the magnificent tower visible. The rich folk struggled to their tower and tolled the bell seeking assistance from outside. No one came. Snow entirely entombed the city below, and the building became encrusted in an icy white shell so thick it prevented the sound of the bell from escaping.  

Down in the valley, the poor saw the entire city completely covered in snow with only the tower reaching up to Heaven like a glimmering, silvery-white needle. Today, the Oetzthal Glacier entombs the city of Tannen-Eh.

THE DROWNING OF STAVOREN

Statue of the “Lady of Stavoren” in the harbour of Stavoren – Emperoredwin, CC BY-SA 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/, via Wikimedia Commons

A Dutch folktale called “The Lady of Stavoren” tells of the ruin of a wealthy widow and the divine retribution inflicted upon the city named Stavoren. The widow moved in the highest circles of Stavoren society, whose members were all rich, proud, and very arrogant, competing continuously to outdo one another. The town was populous and prosperous, but only the elite few owned the wealth. Insatiably, the fortunate ones clawed in ever more wealth while the poor endured beggary and poverty.  

The richest and proudest of these elites was the widow who was always seeking new ways to increase her fortune. One day, she had an idea, and to bring it to fruition, sent for the captain of Stavoren’s largest cargo ship. Giving him a chest of gold, she commissioned him to sail the seven seas and buy her the most precious commodity in the world.  The captain had no idea what the most precious merchandise was but set sail in search of it anyway. Eventually, he decided the most precious commodity was wheat, so he purchased a complete cargo and returned to Stavoren. 

Meanwhile, the widow boasted to her wealthy friends how she would soon possess the most precious commodity in the world. Intrigued, they asked what it could be, but she teasingly told them to wait and see.

When the captain returned, she went down to the ship, and he showed her the wheat. She was furious, ordering him to dump every kernel into the sea. The shocked captain begged her to alleviate the hunger of the poor of Stavoren with it. She refused, again commanding him to dump it overboard.  As the wheat went overboard, beggars gathered at the harbor begging for food. Nevertheless, the widow would not relent. The captain was ashamed and angrily foretold God would punish her and know hunger herself.

The widow looked coldly upon him and, removing her most expensive ring from her finger, held it aloft. Then, arrogantly, she told him there was as much chance of that as the precious item of jewelry returning to her as cast it into the sea. 

Divine retribution works in strange ways. The next day she attended a splendid civic banquet attended by all the city elites and served fresh fish. Imagine her shock to find the ring she had thrown into the sea in the body of the fish she was eating.  From then on, her luck changed. All her businesses and investments failed, forcing her forced into begging, but none of her former friends would aid her. She died impoverished, hungry, and cold.

With her death, the elites of Stavoren continued with their arrogant and greedy ways, unaware divine retribution was still unfolding. A sandbar formed blocking the harbor and on that strand grew wheat, but with no kernel. With the port unable to trade, the prosperity of the town plummeted. Businesses failed, shops closed, and the elites lost their wealth. 

One night a powerful storm blew in from the sea, causing the tide to rise, sweep away the dykes, and flood the town. Today Stavoren is a village of about one thousand people, and in the square is a statue representing “The Lady of Stavoren.”

DIVINE RETRIBUTION

Tales such as these provide a quiet but powerful reminder of the consequences of deviance from God’s laws. They attempt a subtle form of social control by interpreting natural catastrophes as the vengeance of an angry God while providing an engaging experience for the audience. The message is that God will not tolerate hubris, uncharitable behavior, and ungodliness in anyone. God knows and sees all, is both omnipotent and omnipresent, and when required, punishes or rewards at will, in a manner of his own choosing. 


Copyright 05/01/2022 zteve t evans

Further Publications by zteve t evans


References, Attributions and Further Reading

Copyright January 5th 2022 zteve t evans 


Founding Myths: Princess Scota, Goídel Glas  and their  Links to the Gaelic People

Founding Myths: Princess Scota, Goídel Glas and their Links to the Gaelic People

Possibly Akhenaten and Nefertiti, Smenkhkare and Meritaten, or Tutankhamen and Ankhesenamun;
Photo: Andreas Praefcke, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

PROGENITORS OF THE GAELIC PEOPLE

In the mythology and pseudo-history of Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man, Princess Scota and her husband Goídel Glas and their followers were the progenitors of the Gaelic people. The Gaelic people were an ethnic group of Celts, who spoke the Gaelic language, invented by Goídel Glas.

Some modern researchers controversially claim to have identified her as either Meriaten or Ankhesenamun, believed to be daughters of the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten. Accounts differ, but most conclude that she was the ancestor of the Scotti people, who became the Milesians. They conquered Ireland, the Isle of Man, and parts of Argyle on the island of Britain. These people settled regions of Argyll and other parts of the island of Britain north of where the Romans later built Hadrian’s Wall. This region came to be called Scotland after her and her people.

The lightest green represents the maximum expansion of the Gaelic language and culture (c. 1000 CE), the middle shade shows its reach c. 1700 CE, and the darkest color shows areas that are Gaelic-speaking in the present day. CelticBrain, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Despite the controversy and complexity, a romantic and provocative alternative history of the Gaelic nations emerges. It gives the Gaelic people a long and illustrious history with connections to the ancient civilizations of Greece and Egypt, creating an impressive founding myth.

FOUNDING MYTHS

The founding myths of nations play an important role in national identity, perceived status, and ancient heritage. They help establish the legitimacy of the state and the ruling class to assert ownership over the land. The further back in time, the closer the associations with the great ancient civilizations of the Israelite’s, Rome, Troy, Greece, and Egypt, the better.

It was much more than pretentiousness. It also helped justify the existence of a nation and its ruling establishment. Rulers who could show descent from a distinguished ancestor, or powerful divinity, increased the legitimacy of their claim to rule. Founding myths are an essential part of a nation’s identity and culture. Here we will look at three ancient texts, followed by two modern theories involving the origin of the Scots, Gaels, and their language.

THE 11TH CENTURY LEBOR GABÁLA ÉRENN

The first text is The Lebor Gabála Érenn, or “The Book of Invasions,” an anonymous 11th-century compilation of prose and poetry allegedly telling the history of the Irish people connecting in them back in time to the Biblical Adam through his descendants. It presents a heroic and monumental Irish history comparable to that of the Israelite’s, the Romans, or the Greeks, especially the story of the Trojan founding of Britain by Brutus of Troy. It needed to bring together native Irish myths and the Christian perspective of history. Many scholars see it as an attempt to parallel the pre-Christian history of the Irish with biblical events. Although up to the 17th century, most scholars considered it authoritative variant legends exist that differ in detail. Today the text is not universally accepted as accurate and is not seen as factual.

The Lebor purports to document the settlement of Ireland by six groups of settlers. The first was the people of Cessair. The second, the people of Partholón. The third, the people of Nemed. The fourth the Fir Bolg and the fifth the Tuatha Dé Danann, who are seen as the pagan gods of Ireland and the sixth was the Milesians who became the Gaelic and Irish people.

In The Lebor, the origin of the Gaels is traced back through the eponymous ancestor, Goídel Glas, whose grandfather was Fénius Farsaid, a legendary King of Scythia. According to some traditions, Fénius invented the Gaelic language and Ogham script. In others, it was his grandson Goídel Glas. According to The Lebor, Fenius ruled a kingdom in Scythia by the Black Sea, now part of eastern Ukraine. For reasons unknown, he lost his kingdom and went into exile. Whatever happened, he turned up in Egypt where he had a son named Nial, who married the Pharaoh’s daughter, and they had a son they named Goídel.

At this time, in Egypt, the persecution of the Children of Israel was taking place. Rather than participate in the persecution, the family and their followers went into exile from Egypt. They roamed throughout North Africa before eventually sailing through the Straits of Gibraltar and following the Atlantic Iberian coast northerly before settling along the shores of Galicia.

One of their descendants was Mil, also known as Milesius and Míl Espáine or The Soldier of Spain, and his followers were the Milesians. The Tuatha Dé Danaan, the early rulers of Ireland, had killed the nephew of Mil. So to avenge the killing, Mil launched an invasion of Ireland, taking his wife, Scota, with him.

Although Mil and Scota died in the fighting, their three sons, Eber, Eremon, and Amairgen, conquered Ireland and became the Gaels. Being the sons of Scota, they considered her to be their ancestral mother and also called themselves Scots.

14TH CENTURY – CHRONICLES OF THE SCOTTISH PEOPLE

Now we look at the work of the Scottish chronicler John of Fordun. He wrote the “Chronica Gentis Scotorum” or “Chronicles of the Scottish People”, which consisted of five books in the late 14th century. These works, especially the early parts, are regarded with skepticism by many scholars today.

According to Fordham, the ancestors of the Scots were Egyptians. They were followers of an Egyptian princess named Princess Scota and a Greek, or Scythian prince, called Goídel Glas, sometimes known as Geytholos, Gathelus, or Gaithelus in Latin.

According to this work, the Scots were the descendants of Goídel Glas, the son of King Neolus of Greece, and the Egyptian Princess Scota, his wife. They led a band of followers from Egypt to Spain. Some of their followers traveled on to Ireland led by the son of the King of Spain named Simon Breac, who would become the High King of Ireland. They brought to Ireland the Stone of Scone, also known as the Stone of Destiny, an oblong block of red sandstone, which became the coronation seat of the Scottish kings and also used in the coronation of English and UK monarchs later.

15TH CENTURY – THE SCOTICHRONICON

Scota and Gaedel Glas in a 15th century manuscript of Bower’s Scotichronicon – Unknown author – Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

In the 15th century, Walter Bower expanded further on this story in his work, “The Scotichronicon.” According to Bower, Goídel Glas was a Greek prince, but his father, the King, would not allow him any position of power. Frustrated by his father, Goídel Glas raised his own army, causing much trouble and destruction. Eventually, his father was forced to rein him in and sent him into exile. Goídel sailed to Egypt with his army assisting Pharaoh Chencres in fighting an invasion from Ethiopia, a powerful kingdom in the region. Their united armies expelled the Ethiopians giving victory to the Egyptians. After this, Goídel helped the Pharaoh to keep the Children of Israel in subjugation. In return for his bravery, loyalty, and military support, Chencres gave his daughter to him in marriage. She was not named then but later became known as Princess Scota,

According to Bower, Pharaoh Chencres died in the parting of the Red Sea in pursuit of the Children of Israel. With his death, the people of Egypt sought reform, and a period of civil disorder and strife occurred. Goídel Glas was seen as part of the old order and forced into banishment. However, he did not go alone. He took his wife, who was to become known as Princess Scota, his army, and many followers who made them their King and Queen. They called themselves “Scots” after Scota, despite having no realm to rule. In Irish and Scottish Gaelic, Scota means “blossom,” and “Scotti” was a synonym for “Irish,” suggesting the Irish and Scots descendants of Queen Scota were “people of the blossom.” (1)

The Scots roamed the North African deserts, eventually sailing to the Iberian Peninsula now known as Spain and Portugal. They settled in the northwest part of the peninsula called Brigancia that the Romans called Brigantium, now known as A Coruña in the province of Galicia. Here, Scota gave birth to a son named “Hyber,” from which “Hibernia,” an ancient alternative name for Ireland, was derived. Thus, the term “Iberian” derives from “Hyber.

They were said to have stayed in Galicia for several generations but faced continued attacks by the local tribes. Some Scots set sail across the sea looking for a new home and eventually reached a region on the island of Britain that we call Argyll today. These people would eventually become known as the “Scotti.” The country north of Hadrian’s Wall was later to built became Scotland.

THE MOUND OF HOSTAGES

Now we move forward thousands of years to an ancient burial site named the Hill of Tara that still exists in modern Ireland. On top of the hill is an ancient burial and ritual site known as the Mound of Hostages, called Dumha na nGiall in Irish, and once the ancient seat of the High Kings of Ireland. Dr. Sean O’Riordan, an archaeologist of Trinity College, Dublin, investigating the site discovered human remains dated to the Bronze Age believed to be those of a young prince. Around his neck was placed a very rare necklace of faience beads made from a mixture of plants and minerals. Carbon dating of the skeleton gave a date of 1359 BC. The design and manner of making of the beads show them to be of Egyptian origin. Not exactly, but still, near to when the boy entombed at Tara, Tutankhamun, the boy king, was interred in Egypt. Placed around his neck was a necklace of blue-green faience beads similar to the Tara find. A Bronze Age burial ground in Devon also yielded a necklace of like style.

LORRAINE EVANS – “THE KINGDOM OF THE ARK”

In her book “Kingdom of the Ark” Lorraine Evans presents the idea that there are historical and archaeological links between ancient Egypt and ancient Ireland, and Scotland. A discovery in North Ferriby, Yorkshire, of the remains of an ancient shipwreck first thought to be a single Viking long-ship. Further excavation brought to light more wrecks but not of Viking origin. Radiocarbon dated them between 1400 – 1350 BC, earlier than the Viking Age. Evans points out that these dates reasonably correspond to the dates of the Tara skeleton and faience beads and speculates that the boats were of Egyptian origin.

She points to the Scotichronicon and asks what Egyptian faience beads were doing at Tara in Ireland and Devon in England. Of course, there are many answers. For example, they could have arrived through trade, or they may have been gifts to some influential people, from other important people. Then the question arises who traded them or who gave them as gifts. It could have been via traveling traders and merchants who may or may not have been of Egyptian origin. On the other hand, they could also have belonged to an Egyptian. Evans speculates that the Tara prince was an Egyptian and possibly also connected with the Devon necklace.

According to the Scotichronicon, the High Kings of Ireland were descendants of Scota. But, awkwardly, Scota is not a name of Egyptian origin. So, who was she, apart from being an Egyptian princess and Pharaoh’s daughter? So, Evans looked closer to the text. She discovered it gave Scota’s father the Greek name, Achencres, a version of the Egyptian name of Akhenaten, the Pharaoh of Egypt in the relevant period. Therefore, Evans speculates that Scota was none other than Princess Meriaten, the eldest daughter of Akhenaten and his primary wife, Queen Nefertiti. (1) This also links in with beads and skeleton at Tara because Tutankhamun was the son of Akhenaten by one of his wives named Kiya, and possibly married Ankhesenpaaten, the third eldest daughter of Akhenaten.

PRINCESS MERIATEN

When Akhenaten enforced the new religion of the worship of the Aten – the sun disc – on his people, there was a significant conflict with the priesthood of Amun, the former faith. After Akhenaten died, they restored the worship of Amun as the principal god of Egypt. The standard protocol would have been for the eldest daughter of the Pharaoh Akhenaten to marry her step-brother Tutankhamun. However, the priests of Amun determined to stamp out the Aten religion rejected this. According to Evans, this, with the rumors of plague, was enough to persuade her to marry a foreign prince and go into exile with him, removing further traces of her father from Egypt.

THE TUATHA DE DANNAAN

To answer this question, Evans looked to the myths of the Tuatha de Danaan who inhabited Ireland in this period. The Tuatha de Danaan, or People of the Goddess, Dani, were believed to have established the sacred site of Tara in the valley of the River Boyne.

Tara was their most important sacred ritual and burial place, the seat of the High Kings of Ireland, and the place they were inaugurated. The Tuatha de Danaan were considered the gods and goddesses of the inhabitants of Ireland, and their origins stretch way back into prehistory.

According to a different text known and the Annals of the Four Masters, dating from 1632-36, Eremon is the husband of Scota. He and someone named Eber divided Ireland between them into two kingdoms. Eremon ruled the northern realm while Eber ruled the southern kingdom. Evans speculates, Eber and Eremon created two kingdoms unified by the Hill of Tara as a replica of Egypt with its Upper and Lower realms united by Memphis.

There is also the idea the combination of the names of the two gods Ptah-Ra gives Ta-ra or Tara can be pronounced in several different ways. For example, Ptah could be Pi-tah which sounds like Peter. Even so, the way the ancient Egyptians pronounced their language may have been entirely different from the way we would expect.

THE DEATH OF SCOTA

According to the Lebor Gabala, Scota died in a battle at Slieve Mish, near Tralee, Kerry, to be buried nearby in a valley now known as Scotia’s Glen. After her death, the war for control of Ireland continued against three kings of the Tuatha de Danaan; MacCuill, MacCeacht, and MacGreine, whose wives were all goddesses. These were Banba, Fodla, and Eriu. Eventually, the sons of Mil subdued the Tuatha de Danaan taking control of Tara. It is also worth noting the English name for Ireland is derived from Eriu and is also known as Eire or Erin, both derivatives of Eriu.

Akhenaten, Nefertiti and two daughters adoring the Aten
Egyptian Museum, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

RALPH ELLIS – “SCOTA, EGYPTIAN QUEEN OF THE SCOTS”

Ralph Ellis, in his book, “Scota, Egyptian Queen of the Scots,” claims the primary British reference was like the eighth-century historian Nennius. By tracing the sources of Nennius, Ellis thinks he’s found the answer. He believes that the originator of the Scota-Gaythelos story was an ancient text, The History of Egypt, written in 300BC by the Egypto-Greek historian Manetho. Having traced the source, which was, if not contemporaneous, at least reasonably informed – Ellis believes that he can put flesh on the bones of this story. Using Manetho’s text, Ellis asserts that Scota was Ankhesenamun, a daughter of Akhenaton and Nefertiti. She would also become the First Royal Wife of Tutankhamen. After his death, she married a pharaoh named Aye, who Ellis identifies as Gaythelos.


He also gives what he believes is the origin and meaning of the name “Scota.” When the fleet carrying Ankhesenamun and Gaythelos left Egypt to begin their exile, they sailed west into the setting sun. The boat Ra, the Sun-god, rides across the sky was named Shkoti, and her followers gave this term to Princess Ankhesenamun as the fleet sailed into the setting sun. It may have been a nickname or became a title that was to evolve into Scoti over time. (2) In the history of this group of people, there was more than one royal female named Scota. Again, it may be Scota was a term or title and passed on perhaps from mother to daughter.

Ellis speculates that Aye was the father of Tutankhamen, marrying Ankhesenamun after his son’s death. His rule was brief before a religious conflict with the Egyptian people forced him to leave Egypt with his wife and followers, and Ellis tracks their journey. He believes they took sufficient ships to carry around 1000 followers and enough supplies, weapons, and equipment. Stopping to resupply at several points, they managed to navigate the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic coast of Spain, where they settled for several generations. Their son Hiber gave his name to Iberia. Four generations after they first settled, the descendants of Scota made their way to Ireland, giving weight to the idea that Scota was an inherited or passed-on title.

Here Ellis refers to Irish stories supplementing the myths with other evidence. For example, he points to the number of gold torcs or necklaces worn by pharaohs discovered in the country and points to tombs he believes were built using Egyptian knowledge. Ellis believes this demonstrates that Scota’s people brought this method of embalming their dead from Egypt halfway across the world and from Ireland; it was a short voyage across the water to Scotland. Later, Iberian “Egyptians” seeking a new homeland settled in Scotland, and eventually, many of the original Irish “Scots” joined them.

The story of Scota, Gaythelos, and the history of the Gaelic people comes across as deeply mysterious, romantic, and very interesting. But, unfortunately, it is difficult to piece together and hard to tell fact from fiction. Fascinating though they are, all these stories are products of their culture and times, providing a need for some deep-rooted and illustrious ancestry. Many other nations and peoples have their foundation myths which, although impossible to prove, mean a lot to those people.

Copyright 07/12/2021 zteve t evans

References, Attributions and Further Reading

Copyright December 7th, 2021 zteve t evans

Bernardo Carpio: Legendary Strongman of the Philippines

Bernardo Carpio

EARTHQUAKES

In the Philippines, several etiological myths and legends attempt to explain the cause and origin of earthquakes. One of these tells of a culture hero named Bernardo Carpio, a legendary strongman whose struggles to break free from an underground trap causes earthquakes. In some stories, he must continuously hold back two massive stone slabs toppling in upon him to prevent himself from being crushed to death.  There are many different versions of tales about Bernardo, and presented here are some of the legends and folklore of how he became associated with causing earthquakes.  

GIANT, OR HUMAN?

Legends of Bernardo mostly center around a mountainous region of the Philippines known as Rodriguez today. In earlier times, the region was known as Montalban and is still sometimes referred to by that name today. The area has a geological fault system and known for earthquakes. 

He is often associated with the Montalban Gorge, formed by the Marikina River, a part of the Pamitinan Protected Landscape, and the Pamitinan Cave, which was once known as The Cave of Bernardo Carpio.  According to this local legend, the old gods punished Bernardo for insolence, chaining him to the Montalban Gorge, where he must stand forever, preventing two mountains from colliding together by the strength in his arms and body. In some stories, he is a giant of enormous stature and strength. In others, he is human with extraordinary muscular power and master swordsman, and some say whatever his fingers grasped died. However, all tales concerning him commonly present him as a man of exceptional strength and courage sharing many attributes with other cultural heroes and legendary strongmen in other parts of the world.

EARLY YEARS

In one version of the legend, Bernardo was the son of Don Sancho Díaz of Cerdenia and his lover Jimena, the sister of King Alfonso of Spain. King Alfonso was very protective of his sister and kept her in seclusion. One of the king’s generals, Don Rubio, had designs on her she rejected his advances in favor of Don Sancho, who was the one she truly loved. Despite her brother forbidding her any liaison with men, a baby boy was born to Jimena and Don Sancho. The child grew fast, quickly gaining extraordinary strength; anything he grasped broke in his hands. The priest who baptized him suggested they name him after Bernardo del Carpio, the legendary Spanish hero, and the baby was Christened Bernardo Carpio.

Rejected by Jimena, the jealous Don Rubio let it be known to King Alfonso about his sister’s love affair and the baby. As a result, the king imprisoned Don Sancho, intending to punish him further by blinding him, and doubled the guard on his sister. At the King’s command, Don Rubio adopted Bernardo as his foster son.   Bernardo soon grew big and incredibly strong and became a master swordsman. He fought for the King in many battles, becoming his greatest knight. However, when Don Rubio revealed his parentage to him and how the king had mistreated his parents, Bernardo became bitter and resentful.  

He had fought against many of the king’s pagan enemies thinking that his sovereign, being a Christian, was morally superior to them. After this news, his entire perception of the King changed. For Bernardo, the revelation had turned his whole life upside down and bitterly challenged Don Rubio to a duel and killed him.

He found the King’s treatment of his parents shocking. He now him as was no better and maybe worse than the same pagans he had fought against for him. He could not understand how he could, on the one hand, claim belief in a God of love while treating two human beings who had found true love together so cruelly. After ensuring his parents’ release, he decided he would no longer fight for God and King but fight for God and redeem the human race from wickedness and battle against sin.

REDEMPTION OF HUMANITY

Another legend tells how the Spanish engaged a shaman, known as engkantado in the Philippines, to use magic to trap him. The engkantado lured him to a cave under the mountains of Montalban, using a powerful magical talisman known as an agimat to trap him between two massive boulders, which continuously fell towards each other.  To save himself, Bernardo had to use his herculean strength to hold the boulders apart to prevent them from toppling upon him. However, in doing so, he could not let go of one without being crushed by the other. The talisman of the engkantado was of equal power to his physical strength, so he could not escape.

Some of Bernardo’s friends searched for him and found the cave hoping to rescue him. Unfortunately, a series of rockfalls blocked their way, killing several of them and forcing them to abandon him, and he remains to this day. Local people believe that when an earthquake occurs, it is Bernardo adjusting his shoulders or shrugging them to make them more comfortable. However, a powerful earthquake is seen as a sign he is fighting to free himself.

BERNARDO CARPIO AND THE MAGICAL ONE

The following legend tells of a marred couple living in abject poverty in the mountains of San Mateo, Rizal. Every day was a struggle for survival. Yet, despite the hardness of life, they were overwhelmed with joy and happiness when the woman gave birth to a strong, healthy baby boy. They named their son Bernardo Carpio, and he was their pride and joy. Like all children, Bernardo loved to play, but there was something extraordinary about him. It soon became apparent that he was an exceptional child. His fingers were so strong he could pull the nails from the wooden flooring as he crawled. When he first began to walk, any rail, bar, or banister he gripped for support crumbled by the strength in his tiny hands. New toys never lasted long because he had not yet learned how to control the power in his hands, which broke items to pieces as soon as he grasped them.

He grew up to be a physically powerful and handsome young man, his strength increasing as he grew along with his fame.  He was courageous and could defeat anyone in a fight and was courteous, polite and humble. Nevertheless, he was different from other young men of his age. He avoided parties, festivities, and social gatherings and showed no interest in even the most beautiful girls, who were all very interested in him.  Instead, he preferred to roam deep into the forest, losing himself in the solitude of the trees. He liked to be in the remotest, wildest, and thickest part of the forest, where he felt at home with the animals as his friends.

In the densest part of the forest, there lived a magical being. This being was huge and very strong and had an evil nature with a tendency towards envy, causing harm and mischief top others. This magical one had seen Bernardo and visited him on many occasions, initially admiring the handsome, strong Bernardo. Eventually, getting word of his fame, the magical one became jealous and began to hate him.

The magical one believed no one in the world, including Bernardo, could match his own power and strength and wanted to kill him. Therefore, he challenged him to a fight, thinking he would back down, but Bernardo had never hidden from a fight in his life and accepted. So the two fought a duel which Bernardo won but refused to kill his opponent.  The two fought several more fights that Bernardo won but refused to kill the magical one each time. Eventually, after one particularly long battle, Bernardo defeated the magical one and again refused to kill him. Then, still feeling full of hatred and jealousy for Bernardo, the magical one slunk off to a quiet part of the forest to rest and make a plan to get his revenge.

After a while, the magical one went to Bernardo pretending friendship and invited him visit his home in a remote part of the forest. He took him deep into the trees to a hidden grove where two massive slabs of stone stood upright. The magical one told Bernardo that this was his home and inviting him in stood aside politely so his guest could enter first.  

As soon as Bernardo reached the center point between the two slabs, the magical one vanished, and the two slabs of stone simultaneously fell into the center, threatening to crush him. Bernardo managed to get a hand on each of the slabs and, by his sheer strength, stopped them from crashing down on him. Although he succeeded, he found he was trapped and unable to let go of the slabs without being crushed to death by one or the other.

THE KING-UNDER-THE-MOUNTAIN MOTIF

The legend of Bernardo Carpio contains the King-under-the-Mountain folklore motif where a heroic king lies asleep for many years, either in a cave under a mountain or a hill. Then, at a predetermined time, or when his people are in dire peril, he will awake to save them from their enemy. This motif appears worldwide, and other examples include King Arthur, Frederick Barbarossa, or Charlemagne and also known as the king asleep in mountain motif appearing in Stith Thompson’s Motif-Index of Folk-Literature, and categorized as D 1960.2. The Tagalog people of the Philippines did not have kings until the Spanish imposed their own upon them, being ruled by feudal lords. In this context, it may be the heroic savior who sleeps under the mountain and will one day awake and return to save his people from an enemy or lead them to freedom. According to one legend, chains bind him to massive boulders he struggles to keep apart. Local people say that Bernardo is adjusting his shoulders or trying to break free every time there is an earthquake. Now and then, he manages to break a chain in his struggle. When the last one shatters, he will return and lead his people to freedom. 

SAVIOR OF HIS PEOPLE

Here we see the idea of him as a freedom fighter or savior of his people, possibly alluding to the occupation of the Philippines by foreigners such as the Spanish, United States of America, and the Japanese.  The legend later evolved that Bernardo would save his people from poverty and oppression rather than just a foreign occupier, thus providing a sense of hope and encouragement through troubled times.

© 03/11/2021 zteve t evans

Other Publications By zteve t evans

REFERENCES, ATTRIBUTIONS AND FURTHER READING

Copyright November 3rd, 2021 zteve t evans