Sunday, August 05, 2012

A Night in a Hebridean Bothy with Hills, Peat, Picts, Fairies and Lighthouse.(click pics to enlarge)


Three Peaks in Outer Hebrides, Scotland
Left to right, Hecla, Beinn Corradail, Beinn Mhor (620m)

Near summit of Beimn Mhor

Foxglove with Hecla in background.

 The beach and Isle of Rhum on horizon.

The Bothy and Peat Stack.


Near the bothy were underground houses hidden by ferns. By candle light at the peat fire I read “Fians, Fairies and Picts” by David MacRitchie.
Certain "fairy herds" in Sutherlandshire were probably reindeer and the "fairies" who milked those reindeer were probably of the same race as Lapps, and that not unlikely they were the people historically known as Picts. The fact that Picts once occupied northern Scotland formed no obstacle to his theory. And when I learned that the reindeer was hunted in that part of Scotland as recently as the twelfth century, that remains of reindeer horns are still to be found in the counties of Sutherland, Ross, and Caithness, sometimes in the very structures ascribed to the Picts, then I perceived this to be a theory which, to quote his words, "hung well together."   Further, the actual Lapps are a small-statured race, the fairies also were so described, and this, too, I found to be the traditional idea regarding the Picts. Here the identification was closer still. Then came the consideration: The fairies lived in hollow hillocks and under the ground: what kind of dwellings are the Picts supposed to have occupied? The answer to this question still further strengthened Mr. Campbell's conjecture. There yet exist numerous underground structures and artificial mounds whose interior shows them to have been dwelling-places; and these are in some places known as "fairy halls" and houses."
Regarding them historically, Dr. Skene identifies the Fians with one or other of two historical races believed to have occupied Ireland before the coming of the Gaels. These two races are known in Irish story as the Tuatha De and the Cruithné. Now, the Tuatha De are the Fairies of Ireland. Therefore, according to Dr. Skene, the Fians were either Fairies or Cruithné. Now, Cruithné is simply a Gaelic name for the Picts. Consequently, the Fians were either Fairies or Picts according to Dr. Skene. In one traditional story, already referred to, the Fians seem to be unhesitatingly regarded as Picts. This story, obtained in Sutherlandshire, tells how a certain king lived for a year with a banshee, or fairy woman, by whom he had a son. When this son grew up he went to the country of the Fians, and there he entered into the service of their king, who was no other than the celebrated Oisin. The Gaelic narrator calls him "Oisin, Righ na Feinne," that is, "Ossian, King of the Fians"; but the collector of the story, who had no doubt obtained the translation on the spot, renders _Righ na Feinne_ as "King of the Picts." No explanation or comment is given, and one is therefore led to infer that in Sutherlandshire _Feinne_ is without question regarded as a Gaelic name for the Picts. This identity is, indeed, borne out otherwise. There is a Gaelic saying in Glenlyon, Perthshire, to the effect that "Fin had twelve castles" in that glen, and the remains of these "castles," all said to have been built by him and his Fians, and of which one in particular is styled "Castle Fin," are known to the English-speaking people of Scotland as "Picts'" houses. For they belong to a peculiar class of structures, all radically alike, and all known, in certain districts, as "Picts' houses." The term "Picts' house" is unknown in the Hebrides, says one writer. "In the Hebrides tradition is entirely silent concerning the Picts ... there the Fenian heroes are the builders of the duns." Yet the self-same class of building is elsewhere assigned to the Picts. To these structures I shall presently refer more particularly; but it is enough to note in passing that, just as Oisin, King of the Fians, is translated into Ossian, King of the Picts, so the dwellings ascribed to the Fians in one locality, are in another said to have been made and inhabited by the Picts. Fians, then, are associated or identified with Fairies, and also with Picts. To complete my equilateral triangle, the Picts ought also to be regarded as Fairies, or as akin to them.

"I do not think I ever came upon a scene which more surprised me,
 and I scarcely know where or how to begin my description of it.
 By the side of a burn which flowed through a little grassy glen
 ... we saw two small round hive-like hillocks, not much higher than
     a man, joined together, and covered with grass and weeds. Out of
     the top of one of them a column of smoke slowly rose, and at its
     base there was a hole about three feet high and two feet wide,
     which seemed to lead into the interior of the hillock--its
     hollowness, and the possibility of its having a human creature
     within it being thus suggested. There was no one, however, actually
     within the _bo'h_, the three girls, when we came in sight, being
     seated on a knoll by the burn-side, but it was really in the inside
     of these two green hillocks that they slept, and cooked their food,
     and carried on their work, and dwelt, in short."
The author warns that poets and artists can give free reign to their fancies with such ideas and as I lay there with the full moon shining and the door latch rattling my nightmares were unleashed.
I was glad of the dawn and set off to the Lighthouse.


Old supply house for Lighthouse.

 A Trembling Aspen tree 

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