Philippine Folklore: Maria Makiling of Mount Makiling

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By kellepics – Pixabay – CC0 Creative Commons

Maria Makiling

As is often the case in many parts of the Philippines and around the world, mountains and volcanoes became associated with legends, myths and ancient traditions and Mount Makiling is strongly associated with a mythical female entity named Maria Makiling. She is also known as Mariang Makiling and is considered to be a spirit or forest nymph known as a diwata or lambana in Philippine folklore. Before the Philippines were colonized she was known as Dayang Masalanta or Dian Masalanta who could be called upon to stop or prevent natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, or storms. She is also identified with the amount of fish caught in Laguna de Bay which is part of her realm and appears to be a spirit of abundance influencing the functioning of the natural world. She was seen as a benign spirit of nature that poor people could approach and ask for help whenever they needed it.

It is said that it is Maria who goes through the forest after a storm fixing broken branches and trees and repairing the nests of birds that have been damaged. She walks through the forest healing the broken wings of butterflies and clearing away debris from the forest floor and streams. Wherever she walks the sun shines and the birds sing and the flowers bloom and the animals frisk and play as she tidies up the forest after the storm.

Maria and the Mountain

It is not known whether Maria Makiling was named after the mountain, or whether the mountain was named after her. However, some people think that when seen from different locations Mount Makiling looks like the profile of a sleeping woman and this is said to be Maria.  In Philippine mythology, there are other similar supernatural entities who are also mountain goddesses or spirits such as Maria Sinukuan who are found on Mount Arayat, Pampanga and Maria Cacao of Mount Lantoy, Cebu.

Tradition says that Maria Makiling is a beautiful young woman in the prime of life and never grows any older. She is said to have long black shiny hair, bright sparkling eyes, and a light olive complexion. Her personality mirrors the enchantment and serenity of the mountain environment she is found in and she is also associated with the mists that often appear on Mount Makiling. In some traditions, her skin or hair is said to be white but in most stories, she wears radiant white clothes confuses people into believing the wisps of mist they saw through the trees on the mountain was Maria. According to tradition she lives in a small hut sometimes situated in a village while other traditions say her hut is on the mountain and can only ever be found if she allows it.

Tradition and Superstitions of Maria Makiling

Maria Makiling stories were part of the Philippines oral tradition long before they were written down. Some are not actual stories but more like superstitions which abound about her. One tells how that every now and then men who went into the forests on the mountain would not return. It was believed Maria had lured them away to her home hidden somewhere in the mountain wilds to be her husband. There they would spend the rest of their days in happiness and marital bliss alone with Maria in her hut hidden on the mountain.

There is another tradition that says that although anyone can go into the forest to pick and eat fruits no fruit should be taken home because this may anger Maria. Offenders have been known to lose their way and this is believed to be caused by Maria changing the paths to take them into thick thorn bushes, or become beset by stinging insects she has sent or led them into. If this happens the only thing the victim can do is leave the fruit in the forest and reverse all clothing which is seen as proof that they no longer carry the fruit of the forest with them.

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Mount Makiling – By Ramon FVelasquez (Own work) [CC Mount Makiling – BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Transforming Ginger into Gold

One of the best known stories about Maria Makiling is that she can transform ginger into gold which she does usually to help someone. In these stories, she often lives in a village as one of the community and is called upon to help one of the community in some way. Sometimes it is a mother with a sick child, or perhaps a husband may be seeking a cure for his sick wife.

However, when diagnosing the problem Maria recognizes the signs of malnutrition and poor diet rather than a disease or sickness and gives them ginger to take home. Invariably, by the time they get home the ginger has turned to gold which they can then sell or exchange. One foolish villager finding the ginger becoming heavy threw it away rather than carry it home.

In some traditions, Maria is a well-loved and respected part of the local community for her kindness and help. However, there is also a tradition that says that the villagers became greedy and went to her garden pulling up plants to see if they were gold. This distressed her so much that she ran away to live on the mountain.

A Loser in Love

In many legends, Maria Makiling is cast as a rejected lover. One story tells how she had fallen in love with a hunter who had wandered into her territory. The two soon formed a relationship and became lovers and the hunter would climb up the mountain everyday to see her and they promised eternal love to each other.  However, Maria was shocked to discover that her lover was being unfaithful and had married a mortal woman.

Naturally, Maria was devastated and concluded she could never trust the local people again realizing she was so very different to them and came to believe that they were just taking advantage of her good nature. Therefore, she withdrew her consent which allowed the trees and bushes to bear fruit and she stopped the animals and birds roaming the forest for the hunters to catch and stopped the fish from breeding in the lake. From then on she withdrew to the mountain and was seldom seen except occasionally by the light of the pale moon as she wandered through the forest alone.

Another legend tells how Maria would watch over a farmer she had fallen in love with. Because of this protection, the people said the farmer was living a charmed life or had a mutya that protected him. He was a young man of good nature though rather shy and reserved.  He would never reveal anything to his family or friends of his visits to Maria. Then one day the army came into his village recruiting single young men to fight a war. So that he would not have to enlist he decided he would marry a village girl.

Visiting Maria for the last time he tells her of his decision. She tells him,

“I believed you to be devoted and in love with me. I have the power to protect you and your family, but I now see you lack faith in me and need and earthly woman for your earthly needs.”

After telling him this she left and was never seen by the villagers again and no trace of her hut could ever be found.

The Curse of Maria Makiling

Another version of the story was supposed to have happened during the later years of the Spanish occupation. This tells how Maria was wooed by three suitors. One was a Spanish soldier named Captain Lara. Another was a student named Joselito who was studying in Manila and the third was a poor farmer named Juan.

Of the three, Maria Makiling preferred Juan despite his humble status. The two rejected men plotted together to frame Juan for the crime of setting on fire the Spanish barracks. Juan was taken and tried and sentenced to be shot as an enemy of the Spanish. As he was about to be shot he called out Maria’s name.

High up on the mountain she heard his cry but was too late to save him. Fearing her anger Joselito and Captain Lara fled to Manila. On discovering how Juan had been framed and shot she placed a curse on Joselito and Captain Lara and all men who cannot accept rejection in love. Maria’s curse quickly took effect and Joselito fell sick with an incurable illness and died and Captain Lara was killed fighting revolutionaries.

According to the legend from that time onwards Maria was never again seen by humans and whenever someone loses their way on the mountain they remember the curse of Maria Makiling and also of the great love she had for Juan.

© 30/08/2017 zteve t evans

References, Attributions and Further Reading

Copyright August 30th, 2017 zteve t evans

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The Tikbalang in Philippine Folklore: A Shapeshifting Trickster

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Tikbalang of the Philippines – By Rodsan18 – CC BY 2.5

In Philippine folklore, a tikbalang is a bizarre, shape-shifting, trickster spirit that haunts certain places in the wildlands of the country.   It is said to be a tall humanoid creature that dwells in the forests and mountains of the Philippines and often described as a reverse form of a centaur.  Where the centaur has the body of a horse and the torso and head of a man, the tikbalang has the head of a horse and the body of a human.  Although descriptions vary they are generally described as being tall and bony creatures with limbs that tend to be disproportionate to their body.  For example, because its legs are so long and skinny, when the creature squats down its knees are higher than its head.  It is usually said to have animal-like feet usually similar to horse hooves.   In some traditions, it is said to have evolved from an aborted human fetus that was held in limbo and sent back to Earth.  In some traditions, tikbalangs can change their shape into that of humans and can also become invisible.

Shapeshifting Tricks

One of the tricks of the tikbalang is to change its physical form into that of a relative, friend or someone closely associated to any traveler that it may come across in the wilds. It then appears to the victim in this familiar form pretending to know the way deceiving them into being led through the dark woods or along remote mountain paths to a place far from the help of others.  When the time comes the for the tikbalang to reveal itself the victim may experience the smell of tobacco before the face and the body of their guide blurs as it changes from the that of the victim’s, relative or friend, into its own true monstrous form.

Those few victims unlucky enough to experience such an encounter have been known to stumble into to villages or towns muttering or raving incoherently.   It is said that people who have tried to help them say that the unfortunate person will tell how they were pushed and struck and knocked to the ground repeatedly.  All through this ordeal all they could do was giggle nervously like they were children.  The more they resisted the more they were abused but once they stopped resisting they found themselves alone in the forest in the night completely disoriented.

Some people claim tikbalangs are purely mischievous rather than malignant spirits arguing they only eat evil people or those who do not practice the form of Catholic devotion known as the angelus.  That may be so but they can certainly be alarming and according to tradition one of the tricks of the tikbalang is to lead solitary travelers astray and get them lost.  No matter which way they turn will keep on returning to a certain place in the forest.  Sometimes this can last for days until the tikbalang tires of the game.  Sometimes the victim becomes completely lost and is never seen by his family and friends again.

Protection Against Tikbalangs

Tikbalangs have many undesirable characteristics that give the good reason for most humans to avoid them.  They are known to be tricksters who try and trick travelers making them lose their way or go round in circles.  However, the savvy traveler could ward against tikbalangs by wearing their shirt inside out.  Another way is to ask loudly for permission to pass by a known tikbalang lair, or by moving silently through the forest so as not to disturb or upset them in any way.

Superstitions and Traditions

In the Rizal Province of the Philippines, the Tagalog people have a superstitious tradition that says tikbalangs were benevolent guardians of the forests.  They were the spirits that were responsible for the forces of nature that made the trees and plants grow and the land to flourish in an area which became their territory. They were said to station themselves at the foot of large trees and stand on guard against anyone who should appear to offer a threat against their territory.

In the Philippines the people say, “ May kinakasal na tikbalang “, when ran falls from a clear sky which means a tikbalang is getting married.    Many cultures from different parts of the world have similar sayings when supernatural or trickster characters get married.  For example, there is a Spanish proverb that says when rain falls on a sunny day a witch is getting married.

Some traditions say that tikbalangs were once very beautiful women who had lived to be very, very, old.  Another says that they will only bathe during a night of the full moon. It is also believed that sometimes a tikbalang will fall in love with a mortal and become infatuated with them.

The Lair of the Tikbalang

Tikbalangs are believed to prefer to live in places where there are many trees and lots of dark, dense foliage and few humans.  They are said to like bamboo and banana groves and the tops of the Balite (Ficus indica) and Kalumpang (Sterculia foetida) trees. Sometimes they are seen sitting in the topmost branches of trees smoking tobacco.  Underneath bridges is also a favorite place for a tikbalang to live.

Taming a Tikbalang

It is possible for those who have the will to tame a tikbalang providing they go about it in the correct way.  Once tamed they can be very useful servants but it is important to remember the following points when taming a tikbalang.

Tikbalangs have a thick mane that consists of sharp spines. The three thickest spines are the important ones to identify for those who want to tame a tikbalang.  According to Philippines tradition, it is possible to tame and train a tikbalang by obtaining any one of these three spines which will give the holder of the spine power over the beast and the tikbalang will then be their servant.

However, as may be expected, it is not an easy task to get one of these spines in the first place and the creature must first be subdued.  To do this it is necessary to leap upon its back and try and tie a specially prepared rope around it.   The tikbalang will respond by flying wildly through the air trying to buck off the rider who must hang on until the beast becomes exhausted and subdued.  The rider must then seek out the three spines which may be gold in color and thicker than the rest and pluck them out.  Once the rider has plucked out these spines the tikbalang will become their servant and serve them for the rest of their lives.

© 25/04/2017 zteve t evans

References, Attributions and Further Reading

Copyright April 25th, 2017 zteve t evans

Azorean Folklore: Princess Azulverde and the end of Atlantis

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Mount Pico

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

The King and Queen of Atlantis

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

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

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

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

Starlight

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

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

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

Starlight then said,

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

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

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

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

“Have I been dreaming?”  asked the King.

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

Princess Azulverde and the Seven Cities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Eighteenth Birthday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Death of Atlantis

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

The Lagoon of the Seven Cities

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

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

© 14/12/2016 zteve t evans

References, Attributions and Further Reading

Copyright December 14th, 2016 zteve t evan

 

 

 

Welsh Folklore: The Spirit of the Van

Wales is a place of where every lake, mountain, hill or valley seems to have some ancient tradition, legend or folktale attached.  Presented here is The Spirit of the Van which is set in the Vans Pool which lies in the mountains of Carmarthenshire and is a variation of the legend of The Lady of Llyn y Fan Fach.

The Spirit of the Van

The story tells of a beautiful female spirit that appears on a lake called the Van Pool.  She appears in a golden boat in the first hours of New Year’s Day and is dressed all in white and around her waist she wears a golden girdle  Her hair is long and golden and in her hand is a golden oar which she uses to deftly maneuver the boat. Those who have seen her, although admiring her beauty, are struck by the melancholy demeanor and milk- white face of the lovely lady.

Living near to the lake was a young farmer who had heard about the beautiful, melancholy spirit of the lake and became intrigued by what was said about her.  The more he thought about her the more a fervent desire to see her for himself grew upon him.

When New Year’s Eve came he went to the lake and chose a secluded and well hidden spot by the water’s edge where he settled down to await the arrival of the spirit of the Van Pool in the hours after midnight.  The moon was full and mirrored in the calm waters of the lake and he awaited in eager anticipation for the midnight hour.  At the strike of midnight as the old year was passing and the new was being born there on the opposite bank materialized the spirit of the lake in a golden boat that floated gracefully over the water steered by the lady with a golden oar.

The Lady of the Golden Boat

And there on the pool under the moonlight the young farmer beheld his heart’s desire and he watched in awe as she glided around the pool, a vision of loveliness, like a goddess of old. Time passed all too soon and as the stars dimmed the first signs of dawn appeared and his vision of loveliness too began to gently fade.  As she was about to vanish completely, unable to quell his emotions, he called out to her begging her to stay and be his wife.  The Lady of the Golden Boat quickly glanced over her shoulder towards him as she vanished from his sight.

Sadly, the young farmer returned to his home but a change had come over him since those early hours of New Year’s Day when he had seen and called out to the lady in the golden boat. He stopped eating properly and he could not sleep properly and took to wandering around the Van Pool in the night hoping to get but a glimpse of the Lady in the Golden Boat.  In sadness and gloom he neglected his farm and soon everything in his life was going to rack and ruin.

An Offering

At last, he pulled himself together long enough to seek help and he went to see a wise woman who advised him to  make an offering of food to her.  Well, the young farmer was desperate and without having any better plan decided he would give it a try.  He could not bear to wait until the New Year so he thought he would try his luck on Midsummer’s Eve. When Midsummer’s Eve came he took a basket with a generous portion of the best cheese and the best loaf of bread he could afford along to Van Pool in the hope of enticing the Lady of the Golden Boat to marry him.

Although he waited by the poolside all night long she did not materialize.  Nevertheless, he thought that in the spot where he had previously seen her there was a faint shimmering of light and he fancied he heard the faint notes of the most beautiful music. These small signs gave him hope and night after night he would visit the pool carrying a basket of bread and cheese.  When midnight came he would gently drop his offering to the lady into the pool.  Still the lady did not appear but the young farmer continued making this offering to her right the way through the year until New Year’s Eve came around again.

The Lady Appears

Then, putting on his best clothes the young farmer took a basket of the finest cheese and the very best bread he could find along with him for his vigil on the banks of the Van Pool.  At the stroke of midnight he gently dropped his offering of  bread and cheese into the waters of the pool and then waited in quiet desperation as the full moon hid behind a cloud.  Then across the water from the other side he saw a faint shimmering and the Lady of the Golden Boat appeared  gliding sedately towards him.  The boat came alongside where he was standing and the lady stepped lightly on to the shore.

The young farmer was thrilled and by the light of the full moon went down on one knee and proposed marriage.  The Lady of the Golden Boat listened to him and then to his delighted accepted his marriage proposal but laid a strict condition on him.  That condition was that he should not strike her for a third time as if he did she would have to leave him forever. Naturally the young farmer not being a cruel or violent man could not imagine ever striking her so he eagerly agreed.

So the two were wed and she brought with her from the Other-world a dowry of a flock of fine sheep and a herd of cattle the like that had never been seen in Wales before. She also brought with her fine flocks of ducks and chickens and soon his farm prospered greatly and the two lived happily together and were very much in love.

The Christening

One day after they had been happily married for a few years one of their neighbors invited then to a christening.  To the surprise of all those present, halfway through the christening service the young farmer’s wife began crying.  The young farmer was embarrassed at his wife’s behavior and angry at her weeping at what should have been a happy event.  “What ever are you crying for?  This is a Christening and you are making yourself look foolish!”  he angrily said giving her a light pat on the shoulder.

“Alas, my eyes see a baby entering a world of sorrow, pain and sin.  I see nothing but misery and pain for the babe.  There is nothing to rejoice over,” replied his wife who still retained her fairy eyes, “and you have struck me for the first time!”

The anger passed and the young farmer regretted he had struck his wife.  Although it was only a light pat he really did feeling sorry and ashamed of himself because he really did love her dearly.  She let it be and things were soon good again between them because she really did love him as well.

The Funeral

Sadly, some time later they were invited to attend the funeral of the child whose christening they had attended.  Half way through the funeral service the farmer’s wife burst out laughing much to the shock of her husband and all those in attendance. Furiously he asked why she was laughing at such a sad occasion.  Telling her she was making a fool of herself he gave her a light pat to her shoulder and told her to stop weeping.

She answered saying,  “With my eyes I see the child and it is no longer suffering and has left the world of sin and sorrow.  The child is whole, healthy and happy for all time so tell me what is there to weep over?  You have struck me for a second time!”

The Wedding

They went home and the incident was forgotten and they were still very happy together and time passed by as it does. Then one day they received an invitation to attend the wedding of one of their neighbors daughters.   She was a bonny, pretty young girl but she was marrying an old, wizened man, who was rich but miserly.  So they attended the church and half way through the ceremony the farmer’s wife burst into tears.

“What is the matter with you,” her husband demanded, “Everyone is looking at you. Stop making a fool of yourself!” And he gave a gentle push to her shoulder.

“I weep because summer is now bound to winter. I weep because youth is sold for gold.  I weep because this wedding is a devil’s bargain and will bring the girl nothing but unhappiness!” she answered and then looked at him with her eyes full of love and sorrow and told him,  “Alas, now you must remember our bargain.  You have struck me a third time and there can be no other so with love and sadness, I say goodbye for we must part forever!”  

The Parting

With those words she simply turned her back and walked out of the church and back through their farm towards Van Pool.  As she walked she called out the names of  all the sheep, cattle, ducks, chickens and geese she had brought with her when she got married. They all stopped what they were doing and followed her towards the pool.   When she reached the water she did not stop at the edge but continued walking into the pool.  The last the farmer saw of his wife was her golden hair floating in the water before finally disappearing under the surface. Following on behind came all of the farm animals who followed her into the pool.

The farmer was heart broken and would go to the pool with bread and cheese each night making an offering in the hope of meeting his wife again but he never did and died a broken man.

© 13/09/2016 zteve t evans

References, Attributions and Further Reading

Copyright September 13th, 2016 zteve t evans

Atagâ’hï: The hidden lake of the Cherokees

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Cherokee tradition

The Cherokee are a Native American people from the Southeastern United States of America.  They evolved a rich culture centuries before the first Europeans set foot in the New World.  Like any other ancient people they saw the world around them and strove to make sense of their place in the great scheme of things. Over time they evolved, mythology, legends, folktales and lore which explained how they see their place in the world, how the world works and much more besides.  Presented here is the Cherokee tradition of the hidden lake of  Atagâ’hï that is said to only be able to be experienced and seen after careful preparations and a suitable plane of spiritual development has been attained by an individual.  This is followed by a short folktale of how a young Cherokee brave and his little sister believed they found the hidden place and finally conclude.

Seeking Atagâ’hï

The hidden lake of Atagâ’hï is a special place that the Cherokee people believe lies in the wild lands of the Great Smoky Mountains that separate Tennessee from North Carolina, somewhere west of the birthplace of the Oconaluftee river.  Atagâ’hï which means Gall place is not an easy place for humans to find and some people think it does not exist at all. The Cherokees know that it exists even though few people are said to have ever seen.  Its location although  secret to humans is known to the animals who seek it out for healing when they are sick or wounded.

If by chance some wanderer in the wild ventures close to it, he, or she, may hear the sound of the wings of the multitude of wild ducks and birds that inhabit the hidden place and fly in the skies above the waters.  Should that wanderer then follow that sound they will not find a lake, but may find a dry flat plain of mud. No birds, animals, plants or any living thing, or even its beautiful waters will be seen by the wanderer.

Nevertheless, the Cherokee people will tell you that it is still there but to see it and experience it then it is necessary to heighten your own inner spiritual development. Then it is necessary to fast and pray to the spirits and then begin an all night vigil.  Only then when the person has attained the right enhanced state of being will the lake and its inhabitants be visible to them as the sun rises after the night of the vigil.

People make the mistake of thinking that because the lake is not seen then it does not exist or if they stumbled across a mudflat in the wilderness of the Great Smoky Mountains that it has dried up long ago.  It is not so. To see and experience the hidden lake of Atagâ’hï it is necessary to follow closely the procedure that has been given and then and only then can Atagâ’hï be seen and experienced.

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The Great Smoky Mountains – Public Domain

After the appropriate procedures have been followed the magical lake will appear at  sunrise as a wide but shallow expanse of beautiful blue water fed by springs falling from high cliffs around it.  The waters are home to many kinds of wild fowl, fish and reptiles. In the skies above birds of all kinds fly overhead or swim upon its surface and animal tracks of all kinds led down to the water edge.  It it is known that animals such as bears know how to find Atagâ’hï and bathe in the waters which heal their wounds and cure their sickness. This is a sacred place for all creatures and that is the reason why the lake is kept from the view of most humans especially hunters.

A message from the sun

Of the many people who have sought Atagâ’hï only a few have ever found it.  Two of these may have been two Cherokee youngsters by the name of Utani and Netani.  Utani was the elder brother of Netani, who was his little sister.  He was a young Cherokee lad, tall and strong, who was approaching the age when he would be considered a brave and be expected to act like one. Utani had been given a new knife with a bright and shiny blade that was razor sharp and gleamed and glittered in the sunshine.

He was fascinated by his knife and the way the blade reflected the sun.  He placed it upon the ground in the sun and stood and admired the way it gleamed in the sunshine.  He was so absorbed in staring at the blade gleaming in the sunlight that he did not notice the approach of his sister, Netani.  Not until her body cut out the sunlight from the blade stopping it gleaming did he notice she was there.

Seeing the knife suddenly stop gleaming Utani looked up and saw it was because his sister was blocking the sun by where she was standing and her shadow was falling upon it “Please remove your shadow from my knife,” he said but Netani just staring at him at him with puzzled look on her face.  “Please move so that that your body does not stop the sun from shining on my knife!” he said.  Netani did not move so he said it again.

Although Netani did not understand why Utani was staring at the blade, because he was her elder brother she obeyed him and moved out of the way allowing the sun to shine upon the knife again. Then she asked him why he was so fascinated about the knife.  Realising she may think him foolish and because he was now approaching the age of when a Cherokee boy becomes a brave and he did not want to sound childish.  He told her that he was watching the blade of his knife because the sun was shining on it and was sending him a message.

Utani had not reckoned on his little sister’s natural curiosity. She was fascinated and begged to know what the message was.  Thinking to quiet her curiosity he told her that the sun was telling him the secret location of Atagâ’hï the hidden lake. Too late Utani realised he had gone too far with his childishness.  But, he was obstinate. He did not want to be seen to lose face by telling his little sister that he had made it all up and did not know the way to the hidden lake.  If he did he would have to admit  that he had not received a message from the sun from his knife.  Netani was intrigued by the thought of Atagâ’hï and begged him to take her there.

In search of Atagâ’hï

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Great Smokey Mountains – By Terry White

Utani realised he was in a fix but thinking now he was almost a brave he must begin to act like one. So he decided, perhaps foolishly, that he would try and find the way to the hidden lake of Atagâ’hï. Picking up his knife he placed it in its sheath at his side and taking his sister by the hand began walking towards the high ridges of the Great Smoky Mountains.

With no clear idea of which way to go Utani led his sister along the trails that led up to the high ridges.  They walked for hours through the wild woods climbing higher and ever higher along remote trails that few trod.  They got further away from home than Utani had ever been before and he began to feel scared, but he did not want to show fear in case he frightening his sister who had always placed her trust in him.  They walked and walked and came across no sign of the lake and Netani now began to grow tired and lagged behind.  She called to Utani to wait for her and suggested they rest and then head home as she was beginning to feel very hungry.  She suggested they come back tomorrow and look when they would have more time.

Secretly, Utani was very pleased because he had no idea where he was going and with his sister suggesting it was time to go home he would not lose face and he was also feeling very hungry and tired.  Making out he was angry he agreed to turn round and go home, but as he took his sister’s hand to return down the trail he kicked a pebble which rolled across the trail to one side and down a bank and they heard a plop as it fell into water.

Atagâ’hï

Brother and sister looked at each other with surprise and then very quietly and carefully walked to the side of the trail which had thick branches and foliage growing along it. Pulling the foliage out of the way Utani and Netani found themselves looking down a bank that ran to the the edge of a beautiful blue lake that was hidden by trees and bushes.  All around  around the edges of the lake great cliffs rose and springs of crystal clear water bubbled down their face into the lake.  There were multitudes of ducks and other water fowl and many different kinds of birds.  The waters were filled with fish and their were reptiles in among them  Around the shore of the lake there were the footprints of many kinds of animals and they could see bears and deer, squirrels and many other kinds of animals.  They knew they had found the Atagâ’hï the hidden lake of their Cherokee people.

They looked about them and realised it was getting towards sundown so they agreed to return home and come back again in the morning to explore it further.  When they arrived home it was dark and their mother and father and the older braves of the village were worried and angry.  They wanted to know where they had been and Netani told them happily that the sun had sent a message to Utani’s knife blade telling him where to find Atagâ’hï and that was where they had been.  Their parents laughed and the older braves laughed.  Utani and Netani did not laugh. They knew they had found the hidden lake of Atagâ’hï and could find it again.  Now, for those who wander in the Great Smoky Mountains sometimes along the trail in the wilds you may come across a young Cherokee brave and his sister kicking pebbles down a bank on the side of the trail.

Drawing conclusions

So that is the tradition and folktale of Atagâ’hï of the Cherokee people.  For those interested in conclusions it would seem fitting that I  leave the reader to form their own ideas and draw their own conclusions from their own knowledge and experience.

What do you think?

© 09/03/2016  zteve t evans

References and Attributions

Copyright March 9th, 2016 zteve t evans

 

 

Those Crafty Wise Men of Gotham!

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The Merry Tales of the Mad Men of Gotham

Gotham is a village in Nottinghamshire, England that has acquired remarkable reputation for the villager’s ingenuity.  The inspiration for this came from a series of short, amusing, stories called, ‘The Merry Tales of the Mad Men of Gotham’ that describe the villagers performing a number of peculiar tasks.   This was first published in a chapbook during the reign of King Henry VIII in 1540. Chapbooks were cheap publications that were written to appeal to the common people.  Rather than mad the people of Gotham became known as the Wise Men of Gotham and for good reason.  The chapbook does not give reasons for their absurd behavior but medieval legend and tradition say there are at least two versions of how this came to be.    

King John

The first says that King John wanted to build a hunting lodge, or castle and make the surrounding area subject to strict Forest Laws for hunting and its use.  The people of Gotham would probably have not welcomed this as it would have place restrictions on the use of the forest and its resources.  The second says that  King John wanted  to travel through the parish, but any road the king traveled on in those days became a Royal Highway. Its maintenance and upkeep became the responsibility of the parishes it passed through.  This was perceived as bad news by the people of Gotham who not surprisingly, really did not want to pay for the privilege of maintaining it.

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To dissuade the king from his plan the people of Gotham hatched a remarkable plan of their own.  In those days madness was believed to be catching so the villagers came up with a plan where they would be carrying out a series of acts of apparent madness.  When the King’s riders arrived ahead of the main party they were astonished to find a group of men hard at work building a fence around a small bush growing on top of a mound.  The conversation between the king’s men  and the villagers may have been something along the following lines:-

Fencing in the cuckoo

“Why are you doing that?” inquired the king’s man.  “To fence the cuckoo in.” said their leader.

“And why would you want to do doing that?” said the King’s man.

“Because the cuckoo brings the spring and we shall keep the spring with us forever if we fence her in.”  said the leader as the last piece of fencing was fixed in place.  With that the cuckoo flew out of the bush and away over the countryside.

“Darn!” cried the leader, “we should have made the fence higher!”   Perplexed, the king’s man rode on.

Drowning an eel and more madness

Wherever they went they found the people engaged in some absurd or hopeless task.  At a local pond they found a group of villagers trying to drown an eel.

“What ever are you doing?” asked the king’s man.

“This eel has eaten all the fish we put in the pond we kept for our own use. We are drowning it to teach it a lesson!” they told him.

Puzzled the king’s man rode on until he came upon a group of men dragging carts onto a barn roof.  “Why are you doing that?” asked the king’s man.

“To shade the barn from the sun!” they replied.

Astonished the king’s man rode on and soon came on another group of villagers rolling cheeses down a hill towards Nottingham.  Reluctantly the king’s man asked them what they were doing.illus236“We are rolling our cheeses down the hill to Nottingham that they may find their own way to market, saving us the trouble of taking them ourselves!” they replied.

The bemused king’s men rode into Gotham but wherever they went they found the people engaged in an impossible or absurd task.

The  madness of Gotham

The King’s men, as was the belief at the time,  believed madness to be a contagious disease.  From what they saw of the villagers they were convinced they had all fallen sick with it.  They returned to King John and reported that the whole population was afflicted with madness.  Not wanting to risk catching their affliction King John decided not to go to Gotham and either found a way round the village, or decided to have his hunting lodge elsewhere.

The Wise Men of Gotham

So the people of Gotham managed to avoid the consequences of a Royal Forest or  expense for the upkeep of public road. The villagers became known as the Wise Men of Gotham and the people would often be heard to  say, “we ween there are more fools pass through Gotham than remain in it”.

© 12/07/2015 zteve t evans

References and Attributions

Copyright zteve t evans

Welsh Legends: Hu Gadarn the Mighty

Hu the Mighty

Hu Gadarn was a legendary leader of the Cymry people who left their original homeland to settle on the island of Britain in antiquity.  According to some very ancient traditions the Cymry lived in another land they called the Summer Country of Deffrobani. The location of Deffrobani is uncertain with some accounts saying it was in the area of present day Istanbul, others point to the Middle East, while others claim Sri Lanka.  Nevertheless, the legends say that among the Cymry a wise and great leader appeared who they called Hu Gadarn, or Hu the Mighty.  This work will present some of his achievements and the significance to the Cymry race that he had on their settlement of Britain that are revealed in the legends and traditions.

Hu Gadarn the lawgiver

According to legend, Hu Gadarn was skilled in the arts and the sciences, such as they were, and he invented the plough.  He taught his people how to cultivate the land and how to grow crops.  So they grew their crops and he taught them how to build communities which gave them a home instead of roaming the land and relying on hunting the animals and picking the fruits and the nuts to live on.  They could now live together in their communities but sometimes they fell into arguing and fighting. To help them help each other he gave them laws.  The people followed his laws and there was less arguing and fighting and they began to work and live together as one people.

Although their crops grew and fed the people and their communities were successful other people envied them and attacked and stole from them.  Seeing this Hu Gadarn thought they needed a country of their own.  He talked to them and told them about the land that lie over the Mor Tawch, or the Hazy Sea and how it was under the protection of God. He told them of the animals that roamed wild and free upon those blessed shores.  There were wolves, bears, deer, wild oxen and multitudes of birds that swam on the lakes and rivers. Great eagles swept across majestic mountains, and verdant valleys and there were great fertile grassy plains and forests, but no humans lived there.  He asked them to follow him there and claim the island as their own.

Honey Island

The Cymry agreed and Hu Gadarn led them on a great journey across the land until they came to the shores of the Hazy Sea.  He showed them how to build and use coracles and they crossed the sea and landed on the shores of the island of Britain taking possession of it before any other humans had arrived.  They found it was just as Hu had described being only inhabited by animals such as wolves, bears and wild oxen and many other such beasts living in the forests, fertile valleys and plains.    The Cymry called their new home the Honey Island because of the abundance of honey they found they could harvest.

With Hu to lead them they built new communities governed by the laws he gave them and they built shrines and places of worship to give thanks to the gods for their good fortune.  Hu expanded his legal structure so everyone could get justice and he taught the people how to created songs to help them remember important information which was the system they used until the invention of writing. In this way important knowledge, history and traditions of the people were passed down from generation to generation and the Cymry became famous for their songs and poetry

Hu the Mighty and the Afanc

According to some Welsh traditions he was said to have been the first king of the island of Britain.  During this period there was a series of disastrous floods caused by a water-dwelling monster called the afanc.  These floods caused huge damage to people’s homes and crops. It was with the help of Hu the Mighty that the afanc was eventually transported to a lake on the slopes of Mount Snowdon using oxen to drag it there.  Once there it could do no harm and the flooding of homes and farmlands stopped.

Who was Hu Gadarn?

Hu Gadarn was first mentioned in the 18th century by Iolo Morganwg in Triads that are of questionable authenticity.  There was a “Huw” mentioned in the Book of Taliesin, but is thought not to be connected with Hu Gadarn.  Another character named Huw Gadarn is mentioned in the White Book of Rhydderch, as the emperor of Constantinople in stories that were adapted from a French tale.  He is also mentioned in the  Red Book of Hergest and several other works.  He also figures in Medieval French Romance in connection to Charlemagne and it maybe that these are derived from earlier Celtic stories.

There are some people who believe Hu Gadarn was none other that the great Israelite leader Joshua and the Cymry were from Tribe of Ephraim, one of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, though others dismiss this idea.  There are also claims he brought the Druidic tradition to Britain and Ireland but this is also disputed by many.

Maybe trying to pinpoint actual historical figures to legends misses what is really being said but please make up your own minds to meaning, or facts, but it does seem clear, that Hu Gadarn, fact or fiction, appears to have been a figure of some significance to the traditions of how Britain was settled and the origin of the Cymry.

© 17/01/2016 zteve t evans

References and Attributions

Copyright January 17th 2016 zteve t evans