This article was first published on 23rd January 2020 titled Top Five Mythical Birds in Legend and Folklore by zteve t evans on #FolkloreThursday.com
Five Fabled Birds
The alkonost, the sirin, the caladrius, the roc and the phoenix are all five mythical birds from legend and folklore. Each were attributed their own magical qualities and roles by various human societies in history and presented here is a brief description of these five fabled creatures.
In Russian legends, the alkonost was a creature with the head of a woman and the body of a bird. It could sing the most enchanting melodies. Those who heard its song let go of everything they had ever known, desiring nothing more as long as they lived.
Before Christian influence, the alkonost was believed to live on the magical island of Buyan. Similar to a bird of paradise in appearance, it was considered to be a wind spirit, able to summon up storms. The alkonost lays her eggs on the gently sloping seashore and moves them into the sea to hatch. Their hatching causes the sea to become rough while a thunderstorm manifests and they are considered to be wind spirits.In Christian times, the home of the alkonost became the Garden of Eden, while she became God’s messenger to the saints, singing them wonderful songs to inspire and encourage them.
This article was first published on #FolkloreThursday on 28th November, 2019, as The Owl of Cwm Cowlyd and Oldest Animals in the World, by zteve t evans
The Owl of Cwm Cowlyd
In Welsh legend and myth the Owl of Cwm Cowlyd lived in the woods that once surrounded Llyn Cowlyd. Today the woods are gone but the legends live on in two tales that feature a search for the oldest and wisest animals in the world. In the first the owl is said to be among the oldest animals in the world, whereas in the second the owl is attributed as being the oldest.
Culhwch and Olwen
The first is ‘Culhwch and Olwen’, an action packed hero tale from the Red Book of Hergest, written just after 1382. It was also contained in fragments in the White Book of Rhydderch, written about 1320. Both books were sources for the Mabinogion, a compilation of early Welsh oral stories by Lady Charlotte Guest from which the first of these tales draws.
Culhwch was the son of King Cilydd and his wife, Goleuddydd, who died soon after giving birth to him. Cilydd remarried, but Culhwch became estranged from his step-mother after she tried to persuade him to marry her daughter from another marriage. Culhwch refused and she took offence, casting a spell on him so that the only woman he could marry was Olwen, the beautiful daughter of the dangerous giant, Ysbaddaden Bencawr, in the belief that it would be impossible.
Despite never having met or even seen Olwen, Culhwch became obsessed and besotted by her. His father told him he would never be able to find her alone and must seek out the assistance of his cousin, King Arthur. Culhwch visited Arthur and was given a band of heroic companions to aid him in his quest. They eventually found Ysbaddaden and Olwen but the giant insisted that to marry his daughter, Culhwch must perform a series of tasks he believed to be impossible.
One of the tasks required him to find Mabon, who was the son of Modron, whose whereabouts was unknown, but was essential to the overall success of the quest. To succeed he had to kill the legendary wild boar, the Twrch Trwyth. The only dog who could track the Twrch Trwyth is the hunting dog named Drudwyn, and the only man who could handle Drudwyn was Mabon. The problem was that Mabon was being held captive in some secret place.
The Oldest Animals in the World
In the hope that one of the oldest and wisest animals in the world might know where he was, advice was sought from the Blackbird of Cilgwri, who led hem to the Stag of Redynfre, who led them to the Owl of Cwm Cowlyd. The owl told them …
Maid Marian, famous as the legendary girlfriend of Robin Hood, took on many roles and personas over the centuries, changing greatly with the times. Although she is absent from the earliest known ballads of Robin Hood she later appear in many plays, ballads and stories. Her character and role varied greatly, sometimes appearing as a noblewoman at other times as a commoner or shepherdess. From her early beginnings which can be found in folklore she evolves through literature from a simple medieval shepherdess and May Day Queen, to the girlfriend of the famous Robin Hood.
Folklore is dynamic and changes with the ages reflecting changes in attitude and circumstances by society. This can be seen in action with Maid Marian and how she became a folk heroine. Over time she becomes a deeper, more complex character and much more than just the love interest of the famous Robin Hood and more than just an important character in someone else’s adventure. It is in comparison to her and her character and traits that much of the morality of these stories comes out, making her an important ingredient to the overall plot, exposition and denouement of the story through the ages. The overall impression is of a strong, independent lady in a relatively equal relationship with Robin. Her qualities of loyalty and compassion mixed with boldness make her a popular figure in the Robin Hood canon of literature providing a strong folkloric tradition. There is also more than a hint of her dangerous side when she is found in a role of noble woman covertly undermining the patriarchal and ruling order by passing information on to Robin. The fact that she has male suitors in high society and chooses Robin rather than them underlines her independence of mind and action.
Marion and Robin in France
In the pastourelle songs of France, Marian became Marion and she and Robin are found together but not in the way that we are familiar with. In these songs Marion is a shepherdess who rejects the romantic attention of a knight to stay faithful to Robin who is a shepherd. From this, Marion and Robin appeared in Jeu de Robin et Marion, a French play by Adam de la Halle in the later part of the 13th century.
Later they became connected to spring festivals and traditions in both France and England to celebrate the passing of winter and welcome the new growth of spring. These were often outside events enjoyed by the community with lots of feasting, singing, dancing, games and all sorts of fun activities and entertainment.
Marian as the May Queen
Maid Marian also has associations with the rustic figures of the May Queen and Lady May the personifications of May Day, springtime and summer connecting her with renewal, new growth, fertility and abundance. With the figure of Robin Hood becoming increasingly popular appearing in plays, games and ballads especially during Whitsun, Robin and Marian eventually became integrated into new roles as the King and Queen of the May Day.
The Virgin Mary
It was not Marian in the early works that was Robin’s important female interest but the Virgin Mary. However, society changed and England became more protestant. With Marian’s strong associations to nature and fertility she complemented the forest environment and was a good partner for the outlaw of Sherwoos, eventually taking on the role of his lover. However social attitudes modified her behaviour making her become much more modest, ladylike and virtuous rather than the lusty, rustic figure of fertility, vitality and renewal.
As Marian became more integrated in the Robin Hood stories her character, social status and circumstance change and evolve considerable. She is not just a damsel in distress in need of rescue by some bold heroic male, she evolves into a much more complex character. Some of the tales portray her as a robust woman of action, her fighting expertise matching, or even surpassing male counterparts and even that of Robin in some stories.
At times when she is found within the stately and highly patriarchal confines of Norman society within Nottingham Castle she is the secret rebel passing on information to Robin in Sherwood Forest. She can move between the two worlds of Norman and outlaw society while remaining true to her own values and personal beliefs and her love for Robin.
Nineteenth Century Marion
In the nineteenth century Marion loses much of her power becoming a highborn, chaste and delicate noblewoman of high birth and very much an archetype of the Victorian lady. Her love story with Robin becomes central but she is now a supporting character to her lover rather than one in her own right. Perhaps to please Victorian audiences she and Robin are married by King Richard the Lionheart in St Mary’s Church in Edwinstowe making the story of Robin Hood and Maid Marion more romantic and sanitized.
From the early days to the present we can see how the changes in society and attitudes to women have evolved and expressed at different times through the ages. Her character and her role are reflections of those times and the attitudes that prevailed towards the male and female role models. We have seen her evolve from the rustic mysticism of the May Queen to the archetypical lady of high society with a secret lover, to a more competent, confident and assertive female whose history in many ways reflects the lot of women through the ages. Marian stands out as one of the strongest female characters in folklore and literature and there is ample potential for further interesting developments in the modern age. The potential for further development for her is also seen in modern times with the greater freeing of women from their traditional archetypes.
This article was first published under the title of British Legends: Warrior Women — The Battle of Britomart and Radigund the Amazon Queen on #FolkloreThursday.com, 28/02/2019 by zteve t evans
The Faerie Queen
The epic unfinished poem, The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser, published 1590-96, created a parallel of the medieval universe that alluded to events and people in Elizabethan society. The narrative draws on Arthurian influences, legend, myth, history, and politics, alluding to reforms and controversial issues that arose in the times of Elizabeth I and Mary I. It is an allegorical work that both praised and criticised Queen Elizabeth I, who is represented in the poem by Gloriana, the Faerie Queene. The six human virtues of holiness, chastity, friendship, temperance, justice, and courtesy are all represented by a knight. Spenser raises many questions about Elizabethan society, especially about the role of women in maintaining the patriarchal order. This is represented by a spectacular battle between Britomart, the Knight of Chastity, and Radigund, the Amazon Queen.
Britomart the Knight of Chastity
Britomart is a virginal female
knight, who not only represents chastity but is also associated with
English virtue, especially military power. The “Brit” part of her name comes from “Briton” while “martis” comes from the Roman god of war, “Mars,” meaning
war-like person. From an early age she refrained from the traditional
activities of girls at the time, and was trained in the use of weapons
and combat, preferring such typically masculine activities. She dressed
in the armour of a knight, acted like a knight, fought like a knight,
and wielded a magical black spear.
After a long quest and many
adventures seeking him, Britomart married Artegall, the Knight of
Justice whom she had seen in the magic looking glass belonging to
Merlin. Yet, as was often the way with knights, Artegall was bound to a
quest he could not abandon without losing his honour. Gloriana, the
Faerie Queene, had given him the task of rescuing the Lady Eirena from
the tyrant Grantorto. It was his chivalric duty to complete the quest or
die trying. Despite her sorrow at his leaving, Britomart knew she had
to allow her husband to complete his quest, and looked forward to his
Queen Radigund, the Warrior Queen
On his quest, Artegall, accompanied by Talos, an iron-man who helped him in the dispensation of justice, came to the country of the Amazons, ruled by the warrior Queen Radigund. She fought against any knight who arrived in her realm and would not submit to her will. After conquering them, she forced them to obey her every command or die. Radigund made all defeated knights remove their armour and against their will wear female clothing, forcing them to work by spinning thread, sewing, washing clothes, and other tasks that women usually did. If any refused or complained, she executed them.
The legend of Keong Mas, or the Golden Snail, is a popular folktale from East Java, Indonesia. There are several versions and this retelling draws on more than one source. It tells how many years ago there was a rich and prosperous kingdom called Daha ruled by King Kertamarta who had two beautiful daughters named Candra Kirana and Dewi Galuh. The princesses were very good friends as well as being sisters and were very happy and content with their lives.One day a handsome prince from the Kingdom of Kahuripan named Raden Inu Kertapati visited King Kertamarta. On meeting Candra Kirana for the first time he fell in love with her and she with him and he asked the king for permission to marry his daughter. King Kertamarta was happy to give his permission and the two were engaged to be married.
The Wicked Witch
Although the two sisters had been happy and good friends up until then Dewi Galuh was now deeply jealous of her sister wishing Prince Raden Inu Kertapati had chosen her instead. She thought that perhaps is she could somehow get her sister out of the way the prince might instead turn his affections towards her and marry her. Therefore, she sought the help of a wicked witch who suggested she cast a spell and turn her sister, Candra Kirana, into something repulsive to to kill the passion of Prince Raden Inu Kertapati promising to pay the witch handsomely. The wicked witch agreed but told her she would have to get near enough to cast the spell so she suggested she take her sister for a walk along the river bank where she would disguise herself and lie in wait for them and she transformed herself into a large golden snail.
The Golden Snail
As Dewi Galuh and her sister walked along the river bank they came across the golden snail and Candra Kirana said, “Ugh! What a repulsive creature!” The witch instantly transformed back to herself and cast her spell transforming Princess Candra Kirana into a large golden snail and threw it into the river
One day a very old woman was casting nets into the river hoping to catch some fish. She did this several times but when she pulled the net out each time she was very disappointed because the net was completely empty of fish. She decided to have one last go and once again the net was empty of fish but did contain a large golden snail. The grandmother had never seen a golden snail before and thought it would make a good pet so she took it home and placed in a large jar.
The next morning she went out down to the river with her nets hoping to have better luck than the previous day and catch a few fish. Again she was disappointed and this time there was not even a snail. She trudged home disconsolate but when she got back she had a big surprise. When she entered the door she noticed the pleasant aroma of cooking and on the table were beautifully prepared dishes of the most delicious food.
Of course she wondered who had sent her such wonderful food but she counted her blessings and ate it all. Everyday the old woman would go down to the river and cast her nets into the water and every day she would catch nothing. Each day on her return there would be a sumptuous feast prepared and waiting on the table for her. Of course, the old woman ate and enjoyed all the food and gave thanks for such blessings but she was curious. One morning she took her nets and made as if to go down to the river but instead double-backed and peaked through the window to see what might be happening.
At first she saw nothing but then she noticed her golden snail had slithered up the inside of the jar and then down the outside, To he utter amazement it then began to grow and transform into a beautiful princess who stepped out of the shell. The girl began preparing and cooking ingredients that appeared on the table creating the most wonderfully tasty dishes. The old woman was surprised and shocked and stepped into house and asked the beautiful princess why she was cooking for an old woman like her.
The Spell is Broken
The Princess of the Golden Snail replied, “I am Princess Candra Kiranathe daughter of King Kertamarta. who was chosen by Prince Raden Inu Kertapati to be his wife. My sister Princess Dewi Galuh was jealous and persuaded my wicked witch to transform me into this golden snail. The old woman was disbelieving of the tale but when remembered how she had seen her transform into a princess from the golden snail before her eyes she was astounded but believed. Now although the old woman was not in anyway magical she possessed a certain wisdom and this wisdom told her that if she broke the golden snail’s shell then the princess would not be able to transform back into a snail and return to it so she crushed the shell under her foot. Sure enough the princess had nowhere to return to and the spell was broken.
Prince Raden Inu Kertapati
Meanwhile, Prince Raden Inu Kertapati learnt of the disappearance of his true love and was heartbroken. He loved her with all of his heart and she had become the light of his life, his candle in the dark and he resolved to find her. He left the king’s court and searched the countryside and traveled to many towns and villages in search of his lost love but could find no trace.
His disappearance from court came to the ears of the wicked witch. She quickly realised he was searching for Princess Candra Kirana andtransformed herself into a crow to seek him out and thwart him. One day as he was resting under a tree a crow came and perched in a branch above him and began talking to him. Of course he was surprised by encountering a talking crow but realizing it must be magical listened to what it said. The crow deceived him telling him that Princess Candra Kirana, the light of his life, his candle in the dark, was kept prisoner by a wicked old woman in a place over the mountains and told him that he would lead him to that place.
Therefore, he followed the crow’s which flew before him. After many days traveling he came across an old man who was sat by the road begging for food. The prince had little to give but gave it all anyway even though he knew he would have to go hungry.The old man thanked him and after he had eaten told him that he was a sorcerer and because he had stopped and given him the last of his food he would help him to find his heart’s desire and asked him what that might be.
Prince Raden Inu Kertapati told him about his search for his lost love and how the crow was leading him to where she was being held prisoner. The old man looked searchingly at the crow then hit it with his stick and it disappeared in a puff of smoke. The prince was aghast and shouted, Why did you do that? Now I will never find my lost love who is my heart’s desire!”
The old man smiled and said, “Fear not! I will tell you where your heart’s desire lies and I will tell you that cast upon her is now broken by an old woman and I know where she is waiting for you.”
The old man told him which village she could be found in and gave him directions and told her she lived with a kind old woman and which house they lived in. So the prince made his way to the village and when he arrived he was tired and thirsty so he approached one of the huts to ask for drink of water. He knocked on the door and a kind old woman answered and invited him in to have a drink and a rest. As he entered he was thrilled to see Princess Candra Kirana cooking some food. As soon as she saw him she ran to him and they embraced.
Prince Raden Inu Kertapati took Princess Candra Kirana and the kind old woman back to the Royal Court and Princess Candra Kirana told her father, King Kertamarta about the spell her sister had persuaded the wicked witch to place on her. The king was very angry with Princess Dewi Galuh and fearing what punishment he might inflict upon her she fled into the forest and was never seen again. Prince Raden Inu Kertapati and Princess Candra Kirana were married and lived a long and happy life together and the kind old woman stayed with them.
This is a retelling of a folktale called The Murder Hole, found in The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction Magazine, 1829 and believed to be set in an area of Scotland about three hundred years earlier.
The Murder Hole
In a remote part of the country there exists a lonely road that runs for miles and miles through an empty and dreary landscape broken by the odd sharp hillock and tor and a few scattered and tortured trees. On one side of the road stands and old stone cross that seems to stand as a bleak warning to the unwary traveler that they are crossing over a boundary into the unknown. Beyond that lies a ruined, abandoned church. There are no flowers and In daylight the landscape appears to be covered in a mass of dull grey, green stringy grass but it is a deceptive and dangerous place. From the road the ground looks firm and solid but there are bogs and marshes whose watery surface take on the grayness of the skies and hide their presence from the unwary and these stretch as far as the eye could see in all directions. The only time their presence can be seen plainly is at times when the veils that shroud this world from the next become thin such as at sunset just before they lift. Then light from the dying sun strikes the watery surface revealing blood-stained pools and streams that appear from the landscape giving it a surreal and disturbing aspect. At such a time any traveler on that road would be vulnerable to their own thoughts as the veil lifts and the night creatures begin to roam through. The road was bad but it was better to keep upon it than risk the treacherous bogs and marshes that changed and shifted. These were dangerous for those who did not know the area but the few locals who remained could find their way through safely.
The only sign of human habitation were a few rough wooden huts clustered both sides of the road that made up a small almost deserted hamlet situated in the center of this God forsaken place. Anyone using that road from either direction must eventually pass this place though it was not quite fully abandoned. There had never been many people making their home in these parts at the best of times and slowly people drifted away to settle in a village beyond the moor telling in hushed tones of the malevolence that haunted that strange forsaken place.
Rumors filtered out that some evil walked upon the moor and travelers used it less and less and then only out of dire necessity and never at night. When people went missing, the people from the hamlet scoured the moor each time, but no body or grave was ever found. No place that may serve as a hideaway was ever discovered that might have been used by those seeking concealment for some reason.
Nevertheless, over the years, people kept disappearing without a trace and the few inhabitants became fewer and fewer. People told of the terrible black nights that fell upon the land and spoke of hearing the deathly silence broken by unearthly screams of anguish from some distant place on the heath.
A shepherd who had been out on the moor one evening came back with a terrifying account of how he had become lost in the featureless plane and came across three dark sinister figures. They appeared to be locked in a terrible struggle, each exuding supernatural effort against the other until one of them slowly sank screaming into the very earth.
This along with similar sinister events persuaded the people of the hamlet to pack up their meager belongings and head for the safety of the village on the other side of the moor. Eventually, the only inhabitants that remained were an old woman and her two sons who owned a humble but ramshackle cottage. They complained that they stayed because they were prisoners bound to this dreadful place by the chains of poverty
The few travelers who used the forsaken road now only did so in groups and would spend the day traveling together and rest up over night at the cottage of the old woman and her sons who were glad of the income they brought. The lodgings were poor and basic but the safety of four walls around them and a roof over their heads was greater draw than traversing that haunted road in the dark. Sometimes by the firelight the cottagers would tell a story or two of the horrors of the moor and watch in dark humor at the terror on the faces of their guests. After a sleepless night In the morning they would gladly pay their hosts and continue their journey glad to be gone
It so happened that one storm night in November, a young pedlar-boy rather than listen to the advice of locals and common sense travelled the road alone. The year before he had traveled this road as part of a group of people and believed himself acquainted and prepared for what a solitary journey may bring but he was wrong
As the night fell and the wind blew he heard the cries and groans of the dying all around him. Fearing to look to the left or to the right he forced himself onward. At last in the distance he saw the glimmer of a fire through a window and knew he was approaching the cottage and hurried towards it. Remembering his last stay as a member of a large party he expected a warm welcome. The old woman had regaled them with terror tales and had appeared to take a shine to him begging him to stay
Reaching the door in relief he rapped loudly upon it but despite hearing a great deal of noise and confusion no one answered. Thinking that the inhabitants might think it was supernatural visitor whom the old lady had spoken so much of on his last visit he looked through a side window. As he looked he saw everyone was busy. The old woman was rubbing the stone floor and sprinkling a layer of sand over it. Her two sons appeared to be trying to push something large and bulky into a chest pushing the lid down and locking it. The pedlar-boy tapped on the window seeking to attract their attention causing them all to jump in nervous surprise and glare malevolent at him. This shocked the boy who was expecting a friendly welcome after his last visit. Before he could do anything one of the men rushed out of cottage grabbing hold of him tightly and pulled him roughly inside.
“Wait, wait! I am not what you think I am! I am only the poor pedlar-boy who came this way last year and you gave shelter. Don’t you you remember me? I stayed with you last year and you asked me to stay. When I said I couldn’t. you invited me back at any time and here I am,” he said laughing adding, “I am not what you think I am.”
“I am but a poor pedlar-boy all alone in the world. If I died tomorrow know one would miss me – no one would mourn me. I am completely and utterly alone! ”
The cottagers glared at him suspiciously and the old woman asked “Are you alone?”
“No one would miss you?” asked the old woman in a whisper.
“No one in the world, ” he answered beginning to feel nervous and sorry for himself, “would shed a tear, or be remotely distressed if I died this night!”
“Then indeed you are welcome here!” said the old woman looking at the other two slyly.
It was not the cold that made the pedlar-boy shiver and draw near the peat fire. He was thinking that the shelter of any of the dilapidated buildings in the ghost hamlet may have been a better choice than this. Despite the warmth of the fire he still felt chills running through him and now looking upon the sinister aspect of these three cottagers his apprehension grew. Nevertheless being alone and beyond any assistance he determined to conquer his fears, or at least suppress them to prevent them being revealed to his hosts
He was shown to a room that had the look about it that some violent confrontation had taken place. The curtains hung in tatters, the table had been broken by some mighty blow and whatever scarce furniture graced the room, parts of it lay scattered on the floor. The pedlar-boy begged for a candle to burn until he had drifted off to sleep and was reluctantly given one. When he had been left alone he explored further and found the door had been broken and to his consternation the latch and lock snapped off.
He tried to compose himself for sleep but his nerves were on edge. It had been a long arduous journey and he eventually drifted into an uneasy slumber. In his sleep his imagination was working overtime and vivid scenes of terror and horror flashed through his mind. He was in a lucid world of fear where he saw himself being alone and wandering lost upon the haunted heath. Something followed on behind and people appeared before him warning him not to enter the cottage before dissolving into mist before his eyes leaving naught but a hollow cry echoing in his mind. He found himself sat before the peat fire in the cottage with the three cottagers all looking upon him greedily. Suddenly the old woman moved and grabbed his arms holding them behind his back and the two men rose and moved slowly towards him grinning malevolently. Then he heard the sound of a slow tortured cry and awoke with a start. Covered in a cold sweat he sat up in bed he listened but could hear nothing. As he gazed fearfully around him his eyes were caught by a movement under the door. He stared in horror as a stream of bright red blood oozed silently and slowly underneath the door towards him
Jumping out of bed he crept to the door and peered through a crack into the next room. Seeing the trail of blood came from a goat one of the men had just slaughtered relief swept over him. Just as he was about to return to bed one of them spoke to the other saying,
“Hah! This was a far easier victim than last night’s. It’s a pity all of the throats we have slit were not as quiet or as easy. It is a good job we have no neighbours for miles around. The old man last night would have woken them all had they heard his cries for mercy. How he howled when saw you were going to cut his throat!”
“Let’s not speak of it. I hate blood shed!” replied the other
Oh, you do, do you?” laughed the first.
“I do and it is true. I prefer the Murder Hole. It tells no tales, leaves no trace. There is nothing to get rid of after and no one will ever find them. No one will ever find it and if they do no one will suspect there are over forty dead bodies hidden within it. It looks nothing more than a deep puddle and small enough for the long grass to bend over it concealing it. Unless you know you could stand next to it and never guess it was there or what it was.”
“Unless of course you step in it,” replied the second.”
“Indeed, it’s a fact and it sucks them down, so quick, it is a wonder of nature! How do you think we shall we end the pedlar-boy?” asked the old woman who stood watching hem and pointed towards the door which the pedlar boy was huddled behind trembling. Her eldest son looked at her and with his knife in his hand and a look of sheer evil motioned his knife across throat.
Although terrified the pedlar-boy had lived all of his life alone in a never ending struggle against the odds of fate. He had never given up and always won through and despite his fear and the odds against him he was not prepared to surrender his life easily. One thing he had learnt was there was a time to fight and a time to fly and decided there and then flight to be the best answer. Creeping silently to the window he gently eased it up and slipped out silently. Once outside he paused to get his bearings but was shaken to the core when he heard one of the men cry, “Curses! He is gone! He must have heard and will bring ruin upon us!”
“Let loose the bloodhound!” cried the other
“Make sure he does not escape,” cried the old woman, “do not bring him back here. Use the Murder Hole for this!”
The pedlar-boy’s heart stopped at these words and he feared greatly for his life but he was determined and quickly roused himself and fled into the darkness of the haunted moor. It was not long before the baying of the bloodhound broke the silence of the night as it picked up his trail. Forcing himself to greater speed he stumbled on through the night but could tell by the baying of the hound and the voices of the men they were gaining on him.
Although he struggled to see in the darkness the hound was unimpeded simply following his scent trail and grew nearer and nearer followed by the men carrying lanterns. Again he redoubled his efforts and ran blindly through the night but caught his foot on pile of stones, tripping and cutting his hands and knees and staining the stones with his blood. Stunned he lay on the ground panting and bleeding but hearing the baying of the dog growing louder and the men’s voices following he forced himself up and onward. It seemed like his feet had grown wings and he flew over the moor. He heard the hound yapping and baying at the spot where he had fallen and if he had dared to have looked back he would have seen it lapping at his blood on the stones where he had lain. To the annoyance of the men it would not move from the spot but continued lapping up his blood regardless of how cruelly they beat it. At last satiated with blood it refused to take up the scent a second time.
The villages dropped weighted hooks down the Murder Hole and brought up the bones of several victims. It was impossible to tell how many more were down there or how they had been dispatched. There was also the question of what had happened to those who had not gone down the Murder Hole and some suspected these were disposed of in a in a less than savoury way. Perhaps it is as well that we shall never know, but now at sunset when the veils grow thin and part three more wailing ghosts wander the haunted heath.
The pedlar-boy did not know this and continued his wild flight across the moors. Luckily he did not fall into the bogs but found the road where he could run faster. Although his assassins continued to seek him they could not find find him. As dawn broke he reached the village on the edge of the moors and knocking on every door raised the alarm. After the villagers had managed to calm him enough for him to tell them his tale the light of realization dawned upon them. It was the cottagers who had been responsible for the disappearances of so many of their loved ones. Forming themselves into a gang they marched to to the cottage and seized the old woman and her two son and took them back to the village for trial. The cottagers confessed to over fifty murders and took the villagers to show them the Murder Hole where they had disposed of so many of them. They were duly tried and found guilty and three gibbets were quickly constructed and justice dispensed.
The villages dropped weighted hooks down the Murder Hole and brought up the bones of several victims. It was impossible to tell how many more were down there. There was also the question of what had happened to those who had not gone down the Murder Hole and some suspected these were disposed of in a in a less than savory way. Perhaps it is as well that we shall never know, but now at sunset when the veils grow thin and then part, three more wailing ghosts wander the haunted heath.
Historically, Elen of the Hosts was a real woman who lived in the 4th century, but in British legend and Welsh and Celtic mythology, may go back even further. She appears to have been a woman of many roles that have grown and evolved over the centuries to the present day. Today, Elen is best known for her part as the subject of the affections of the emperor of Rome in strange tale of The Dream of Macsen Wledig, from the Mabinogion. The story depicts her as a mysterious woman of power who knows how to gets what she wants and appears linked to the giving and taking of sovereignty a very powerful attribute. Presented here is a discussion about who Elen was, and how she has changed and evolved over the centuries, hopefully encouraging the reader to perhaps research and create their own ideas for themselves.
The Dream of Macsen Wledig
Her story begins one day when the emperor of Rome, Macsen Wledig, was out hunting. Feeling tired in the midday sun, he decided to take a nap. As he slept, he experienced a dream that had an incredible effect on him. In that dream, he travelled across mountains and along rivers, and undertook a sea voyage which brought him to a fair island. He crossed that island and found a magnificent castle and in that castle, seated in a golden hall, was a beautiful woman and he fell in love with her. Macsen had found the woman of his dreams within his dream and, typical of a dream, he never gets his kiss. When he moves to kiss and embrace her, he awakens, and in the waking world there is no Elen. But Macsen wants his kiss badly and now the world has changed for him. He is obsessed with her to the point that he can think of nothing and no one else. His health fails and he begins to waste away and pines for her, telling his counsellors, “and now I am in love with someone who I know not. She may be real and she may be unreal, but I am mortally stricken, so tell, what am I to do?”. Although he did not know it at the time, the woman in the dream was named Elen, and it is clear from the dream that she was someone very special, but who was she?
Who was Elen?
Although very little for certain is known today about her, it can be seen from the dream that Elen was not an ordinary woman. Today she is known by many names. She is Elen Luyddog in Welsh or in English, Elen of the Hosts, and also known as Elen of the Ways, Elen of the Roads and Elen Belipotent in reference to her military leadership skills. She also is known as Saint Elen or Helen of Caernarfon, sometimes being named as Helen rather than Elen, and there are still more names. Elen was believed to be the daughter of Eudav, or Eudaf Hen, a Romano-British ruler of the 4th century who became the wife of Macsen Wledig, also known as Magnus Maximus, a Western Roman Emperor from (383-388AD). She was the mother of five children including a son named Constantine who was also known as Cystennin, or Custennin. She introduced into Britain from Gaul a form of Celtic monasticism and founded a number of churches. There are also many holy wells and springs named after her and there still exist roads were named after her such as Sarn Elen.
She was also a warrior queen. According to David Hughes in his book, The British Chronicles, Volume 1, after Macsen was defeated and executed, Elen reigned over the Britons. She led the defence of the country against invading Picts, Irish and Saxons. After a long, hard fight she pushed the invaders out, earning the name Elen Luyddog, or Elen of the Hosts and Elen Belipotent meaning “mighty in war”. In the Welsh Triads, Elen of the Hosts and Macsen Wledig, or in some versions Cynan her brother, lead an army to Llychlyn, which some scholars such as Rachel Bromich see as a corruption of Llydaw, or Armorica which does fit better with what is known.
There is a line of thought that sees characters in the Mabinogion as Christianised versions of far older gods. Some people also see her as being a conflation of several women and ultimately derived from an ancient Celtic goddess of sovereignty. The theme of sovereignty in one form or another does appear in the dream and she appears as the catalyst that can make it happen, or take it away.
From the dream, we learn that she was in the company of her father, Eudav, who was the son of Caradawc and is also known as Eudaf Hen, (Eudaf “the Old”), or Octavius, a King of the Britons, so she was a lady of considerable importance. This is evidenced by the surroundings in the dream, which matched exactly those she was in when the messengers of Macsen find her. Her response to the messengers is not one from a woman who sees herself as being subordinate to men or emperors, or anyone else no matter who they may be. When the messengers tell her about the great love their emperor holds for her and request she accompany them back to Rome, she revealed part of her true power by flatly refusing. Instead she told them to return to Rome and tell the emperor that he must travel to her if he truly loved her as he claimed. Macsen obeyed …
The carau (Aramus guarauna), is a bird found in the wetlands of Argentina and other countries in the Americas. It is also known as the crying bird, limpkin, carrao or courlan and is looks like a cross between a crane and a rail. From the northeastern part of Argentina comes a legend about its origin which also warns about the dangers of disrespecting one’s mother.
The Legend of the Origin of the Carau
The story tells how a mother suffering from a terrible illness sent her son to fetch medicine for her from a nearby village which she desperately needed. Her son was a young man who was perhaps not too bright and more than a little selfish and he set off walking to the next village to get the medicine. On the way he heard the distant sound of an accordion playing. Intrigued by the music he followed the sound and came to a place where a country dance was in full swing. Like many young men he liked to dance and liked nothing better than dancing with a pretty girl. Searching out the prettiest girl he asked her to be his partner and was soon completely taken up with dancing with her.
He was enjoying himself so much he forgot his poor, sick mother was waiting for him to return with her medication. He danced and caroused with her all through the afternoon and as evening began to fall one of his friends tapped him on his shoulder and said,
“Please accept my condolences on the death of your poor mother. I am very sad and very sorry for you.”
“It matters not that my mother has died, I will have time to grieve later. Right now I am enjoying myself” he replied and carried on dancing through the night. As dawn was breaking he asked the girl if he could go home with her. She looked at him with disbelief and anger and said,
“My home is far away and if it were near I would never allow one such as you who has no love for his mother to pass through the door!”
This shocked the young man and broke his heart as he suddenly realized what he had done and he went home crying bitter tears. God looked down and as punishment for his callousness towards his poor sick mother turned him into a large bird wearing the black feathers of mourning. Ever since his lamenting cry will be heard at dusk, through the night and at dawn, as a warning to all young men to respect their mothers, until God sees fit to pardon him.
The Iguazú Falls are a natural wonder of the world situated on the Iguazi River on the border of Argentina and Brazil. In the Guarani/Tupi language, Iguazú, means big water and the Iguazú waterfall system is the largest in the world. People lived around the Iguazú Falls long before the arrival of the Spanish having their own long held beliefs and religion. One of their most important rituals was the annual sacrifice of a virgin to M’Boi, the Serpent God who lived in the Iguazú River and was the son of Tupa, the Supreme God.
Naipi and Taruba
In a village on the banks of the Iguazú lived a very beautiful maiden named Naipi who was to be married to a great warrior named Taruba from a nearby tribe. The two of them were deeply in love and looked forward to the blessed day with excitement and anticipation. One day before her wedding Napi went walking along the banks of the river and as M’Boi passed along the river he looked up and saw her. Never had he seen a maiden of such grace and beauty before and he fell in love with her. He decided he must have her and went to the Guarani elders telling them of his desire and demanding they give her to him in the sacred ritual.
A Desperate Plan
The elders were frightened of M’Boi and rather than upset him they decided that Naipi would be sacrificed to him the day before her wedding. Of course poor Naipi was frightened and upset and Taruba was furious and determined that she would not face such a terrible death. They knew that if the elders found out they would stop them and if M’Boi found out they would both die, but decided that death together would be better than death apart. Therefore, they decided they would run away together and set a time and place of rendezvous to carry out their desperate plan. As Naipi and Taruba were setting off in a canoe to go down river the Serpent God saw them and chased after them furiously.
Taruba rowed with all of his strength and managed to keep a few feet ahead of the angry god. M’Boi became so angry that his serpent body expanded to the width of the river. As he twisted and turned he created new curves in the river making the canoe rock dangerously two and fro but this only increased the anger and determination of Taruba who rowed even harder refusing to give up. Suddenly, M’Boi became so filled with rage he caused the very earth to split asunder causing the river to plummet wildly into the chasm he had created taking the vessel with it, causing it to spin uncontrollably around. The sheer force sent Taruba flying from the canoe to land onto the bank. Trapped in the falling canoe Naipi watched helplessly as the bottom of the chasm opened up under her. As she was about to smash into the bottom M’Boi transformed her into massive rock to stop her escaping him.
On seeing his beloved turn to stone, Taruba attempted to climb down to her but M’Boi pulled his hands into the earth and as he stretched out his fingers to try and take hold they turned into roots and Taruba turned into a palm tree on the Brazilian side of the falls that was forever rooted to the place above the newly formed waterfall. From this position Taruba could see Naipa on the Argentine side of the falls and she could see him but they could never ever touch, kiss or embrace. To make sure this never happens the jealous Serpent God watches them from a deep part of the river called the Devil’s Throat. Nevertheless, although Naipa and Taruba can never be reunited their love can be seen forming a rainbow from the palm tree on Brazilian side of the falls to the rock that is Naipa on the Argentine side.
In Philippine folklore two lovers named, Daragang Magayon and Panganoron, feature in a folktale that explains how Mount Mayon, a active stratovolcano on the island of Luzon in the Philippine archipelago was formed and was named. The volcano and story of the two lovers hit the headlines in January 2018 when an eruption spurted forth lava and smoke. Many people believed they saw an image in the fumes that resembled two lovers. Another image appeared in the lava flow that resembled the figure of a woman. Many people associated the perceived images with the story and presented here is a version of the legend.
Daragang Magayon the Beautiful Maiden
A chief of the Rawis people named Makusog had a lovely daughter who he named Daragang Magayan, which means beautiful maiden in English. She was his only child because her mother whose name was Dawani, which means fairy, had died shortly after giving birth to her and he never wanted another wife.
Magayon grew into a beautiful woman with a sweet nature, who was much sought after by young men far and wide who competed for her affections. However she showed no interest in any of them, or even the handsome Pagtuga who was a great hunter and chief of the Iniga people. He would shower her with expensive gifts and although she politely thanked him showed no romantic interest in him at all.
One day as Panganoron, the son of a chief from the Tagalog region of the country, was passing along the Yawa river he spied Daragang Magayon going into the water to bathe. He was enthralled by her beauty but as he watch she slipped on some wet rocks and fell into the river. At first he thought it was funny, but as she began to splash and struggle he realized she could not swim and was in danger of drowning. With no regard for his own safety he ran into the river and pulled her out saving her life. From then on the two became friends and their friendship blossomed into romance. After what he hoped was an appropriated time Panganoron proposed marriage to her and she accepted and her father gave them his blessing.
When Pagtuga found out about their impending marriage he became jealous and took Magayon’s father hostage, demanding she marry him in exchange for his life and freedom. As soon as Panganoron learnt of this he called together the warriors of his people and led them to war against Pagtuga. The two sides clashed in a spectacular and bloody battle and the people and Magayon watched in awe and fear as they fought. Eventually, Panganoron defeated and killed Pagtuga and in her joy at his victory Magayon ran to embrace and kiss him.
However, because of the death of Pagtuga, in anger, one of his warriors fired a final arrow at Panganoron piercing his back and entering into his heart and killing him as the two lovers embraced. In shock and horror, Magayon held him in her arms as people rushed to help, but before they could do anything she took a knife from Panganoron’s belt and plunged it into her own heart, crying out his name as she died.
Her father had seen what had happened and buried them together in the same grave. From their grave there grew a great mountain of fire and Makusog named it Mount Mayon, after his daughter. Many people say that Mount Mayon is as beautiful as his daughter, saying that Daragang Magayon is the volcano and the clouds that are surround it are Panganoron. Smoke from an eruption of the volcano in January 2018 appear to show the two lovers in the image above and in a video what appears to be a woman is seen on the peak.