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Title: Folklore of Scottish Lochs and Springs
Author: Mackinlay, James M.
Language: English
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                FOLKLORE OF SCOTTISH LOCHS AND SPRINGS.

                                   BY

                 JAMES M. MACKINLAY, M.A., F.S.A.Scot.

                      GLASGOW: WILLIAM HODGE & Co.
                                 1893.



PREFATORY NOTE.


No work giving a comprehensive account of Well-worship in Scotland
has yet appeared. Mr. R. C. Hope's recent volume, "Holy Wells: Their
Legends and Traditions," discusses the subject in its relation to
England. In the following pages an attempt has been made to illustrate
the more outstanding facts associated with the cult north of the
Tweed. Various holy wells are referred to by name; but the list makes
no claim to be exhaustive.


J. M. M.

4 Westbourne Gardens,
Glasgow, December, 1893.



CONTENTS.


     CHAP.                                        PAGE

        I. Worship of Water,                         1
       II. How Water became Holy,                   24
      III. Saints and Springs,                      39
       IV. More Saints and Springs,                 56
        V. Stone Blocks and Saints' Springs,        72
       VI. Healing and Holy Wells,                  86
      VII. Water-Cures,                            108
     VIII. Some Wonderful Wells,                   128
       IX. Witness of Water,                       140
        X. Water-Spirits,                          155
       XI. More Water-Spirits,                     171
      XII. Offerings at Lochs and Springs,         188
     XIII. Weather and Wells,                      213
      XIV. Trees and Springs,                      230
       XV. Charm-Stones in and out of Water,       241
      XVI. Pilgrimages to Wells,                   263
     XVII. Sun-Worship and Well-Worship,           280
    XVIII. Wishing-Wells,                          314
      XIX. Meaning of Marvels,                     324



Among the works consulted are the following, the titles being given
in alphabetical order:--


A Description of the Western Islands of Scotland. By John MacCulloch,
M.D. 1819.

A Description of the Western Islands. By M. Martin. Circa 1695.

A Handbook of Weather Folklore. By the Rev. C. Swainson, M.A.

A Historical Account of the belief in Witchcraft in Scotland. By
Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe.

A Journey through the Western Counties of Scotland. By Robert
Heron. 1799.

Ancient Legends: Mystic Charms and Superstitions of Ireland. By
Lady Wilde.

An Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language. By John Jamieson,
D.D.

Annals of Dunfermline and Vicinity. By Ebenezer Henderson, LL.D.

Antiquities and Scenery of the North of Scotland. By Rev. Charles
Cordiner. 1780.

Archæological Sketches in Scotland: Districts of Kintyre and
Knapdale. By Captain T. P. White.

A Tour in Scotland and Voyage to the Hebrides, MDCCLXXII. By Thomas
Pennant.

A Tour in Scotland, MDCCLXIX. By Thomas Pennant.

Britannia; or, A Chorographical Description of the Flourishing Kingdoms
of England, Scotland, and Ireland, and the Islands adjacent, from the
Earliest Antiquity. By William Camden. Translated from the edition
published by the Author in MDCVII. Enlarged by the latest discoveries
by Richard Gough. The second edition in four volumes. 1806.

Celtic Heathendom. By Professor John Rhys.

Celtic Scotland: A History of Ancient Alban. By William Forbes Skene.

Churchlore Gleanings. By T. F. Thiselton Dyer.

Daemonologie in Forme of a Dialogve. Written by the High and Mightie
Prince James, by the Grace of God King of England, Scotland, France,
and Ireland; Defender of the Faith. 1603.

Descriptive Notices of some of the Ancient Parochial and Collegiate
Churches of Scotland. By T. S. Muir.

Domestic Annals of Scotland from the Reformation to the Revolution. By
Robert Chambers, LL.D.

Ecclesiological Notes on some of the Islands of Scotland. By
T. S. Muir.

English Folklore. By the Rev. T. F. Thiselton Dyer, M.A.

Essays in the Study of Folk Songs. By the Countess Evelyn
Martinengo-Cesaresco.

Ethnology in Folklore. By G. L. Gomme.

Folklore.

Folklore Journal.

Folklore of East Yorkshire. By John Nicholson.

Folklore of Shakespeare. By Rev. T. F. Thiselton Dyer, M.A. Oxon.

Folklore; or, Superstitious Beliefs in the West of Scotland within
this Century. By James Napier, F.R.S.E.

Gairloch in North-west Ross-shire: Its Records, Traditions,
Inhabitants, and Natural History. By John H. Dixon.

Historical and Statistical Account of Dunfermline. By Rev. Peter
Chalmers, A.M.

Kalendars of Scottish Saints. By the late Alexander Penrose Forbes,
Bishop of Brechin.

Letters from a Gentleman in the North of Scotland to his Friend in
London. Burt's Letters. 1754.

List of Markets and Fairs now and formerly held in Scotland. By Sir
James David Marwick, LL.D.

Memorabilia Domestica; or, Parish Life in the North of Scotland. By
the late Rev. Donald Sage, A.M., Minister of Resolis.

New Statistical Account of Scotland. Circa 1845.

Notes and Queries.

Notes on the Folklore of the North-east of Scotland. By the Rev. Walter
Gregor.

Notes on the Folklore of the Northern Counties of England and the
Borders. By William Henderson.

Observations on Popular Antiquities, including the whole of
Mr. Bourne's Antiquitates Vulgares. By John Brand, A.M.

Old Glasgow: The Place and the People. By Andrew MacGeorge.

Old Scottish Customs, Local and General. By E. J. Guthrie.

Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland. Edited by Francis H. Groome.

Peasant Life in Sweden. By L. Lloyd.

Popular Antiquities of Great Britain. By John Brand, M.A.

Popular Romances of the West of England. By Robert Hunt, F.R.S.

Popular Tales of the West Highlands. By J. F. Campbell.

Pre-historic Annals of Scotland. By Daniel Wilson, LL.D.

Pre-historic Man. By Daniel Wilson, LL.D.

Primitive Culture. By Edward B. Tylor, D.C.L.

Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. Old Series,
1851-1878; New Series, 1878-1891.

Rambles in the Far North. By R. Menzies Fergusson.

Scenes and Legends of the North of Scotland; or, The Traditional
History of Cromarty. By Hugh Miller.

Scotland in Early Christian Times. By Joseph Anderson, LL.D.

Scotland in Pagan Times: The Bronze and Iron Ages. By Joseph Anderson,
LL.D.

Scotland in the Middle Ages. By Professor Cosmo Innes.

Social Life in Scotland. By Charles Rogers, LL.D.

Statistical Account of Scotland. By Sir John Sinclair. Circa 1798.

The Antiquary.

The Archæological Journal. Published under the direction of The Council
of the Royal Archæological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland.

The Book of Days: A Miscellany of Popular Antiquities in connection
with the Calendar. Edited by R. Chambers.

The Darker Superstitions of Scotland. By John Graham Dalyell. 1834.

The Early Scottish Church: Ecclesiastical History of Scotland from
the First to the Twelfth Centuries. By the Rev. Thomas M'Lauchlan.

The Every-Day Book. By William Hone.

The Folklore of Plants. By T. F. Thiselton Dyer.

The Gentleman's Magazine Library--Manners and Customs. Edited by
G. L. Gomme, F.S.A.

The Gentleman's Magazine Library--Popular Superstitions. Edited by
G. L. Gomme, F.S.A.

The Golden Bough: A Study in Comparative Religion. By J. G. Frazer,
M.A.

The History of St. Cuthbert. By Charles, Archbishop of Glasgow.

The History of St. Kilda. By the Rev. Kenneth Macaulay, minister of
Ardnamurchan. 1769.

The Legendary Lore of the Holy Wells of England, including Rivers,
Lakes, Fountains, and Springs. By R. C. Hope, F.S.A.

The Origin of Civilisation. By Sir J. Lubbock, Bart.

The Past in the Present. By Arthur Mitchell, M.D., LL.D.

The Popular Rhymes of Scotland. By Robert Chambers. 1826.

The Popular Superstitions and Festive Amusements of the Highlanders
of Scotland. By William Grant Stewart.

The Surnames and Placenames of the Isle of Man. By A. W. Moore, M.A.

Traditions, Superstitions, and Folklore (chiefly Lancashire and the
North of England). By Charles Hardwick.

Tree and Serpent Worship. By James Fergusson, D.C.L., F.R.S.

'Twixt Ben Nevis and Glencoe: The Natural History, Legends, and
Folklore of the West Highlands. By the Rev. Alexander Stewart, LL.D.

Unique Traditions, chiefly of the West and South of Scotland. By John
Gordon Barbour.

Wayfaring in France. By E. H. Barker.

Weather-lore: A Collection of Proverbs, Sayings, and Rules concerning
the Weather. By R. Inwards, F.R.A.S.

Witch, Warlock, and Magician. By W. H. Davenport Adams.



FOLKLORE OF SCOTTISH LOCHS AND SPRINGS.


CHAPTER I.

WORSHIP OF WATER.

    Archaic Nature-worship--Deification of Water Metaphors--Divination
    by Water--Persistence of Paganism--Shony--Superstitions of Sailors
    and Fishermen--Sea Serpent--Mer-folk--Sea Charms--Taking Animals
    into the Sea--Rescuing from Drowning--Ancient Beliefs about
    Rivers--Dead and Living Ford--Clay Image--Dunskey--Lakes--Dow
    Loch--St. Vigeans--St. Tredwell's Loch--Wells of Spey
    and Drachaldy--Survival of Well-worship--Disappearance of
    Springs--St. Margaret's Well--Anthropomorphism of Springs--Celtic
    Influence--Cream of the Well.


In glancing at the superstitions connected with Scottish lochs and
springs, we are called upon to scan a chapter of our social history
not yet closed. A somewhat scanty amount of information is available
to explain the origin and growth of such superstitions, but enough can
be had to connect them with archaic nature-worship. In the dark dawn
of our annals much confusion existed among our ancestors concerning
the outer world, which so strongly appealed to their senses. They
had very vague notions regarding the difference between what we now
call the Natural and the Supernatural. Indeed all nature was to them
supernatural. They looked on sun, moon, and star, on mountain and
forest, on river, lake, and sea as the abodes of divinities, or even
as divinities themselves. These divinities, they thought, could either
help or hurt man, and ought therefore to be propitiated. Hence sprang
certain customs which have survived to our own time. Men knocked at
the gate of Nature, but were not admitted within. From the unknown
recesses there came to them only tones of mystery.

In ancient times water was deified even by such civilised nations as
the Greeks and Romans, and to-day it is revered as a god by untutored
savages. Sir John Lubbock, in his "Origin of Civilisation," shows, by
reference to the works of travellers, what a hold this cult still has
in regions where the natives have not yet risen above the polytheistic
stage of religious development. Dr. E. B. Tylor forcibly remarks, in
his "Primitive Culture," "What ethnography has to teach of that great
element of the religion of mankind, the worship of well and lake, brook
and river, is simply this--that what is poetry to us was philosophy
to early man; that to his mind water acted not by laws of force, but
by life and will; that the water-spirits of primæval mythology are
as souls which cause the water's rush and rest, its kindness and its
cruelty; that, lastly, man finds in the beings which, with such power,
can work him weal and woe, deities with a wider influence over his
life, deities to be feared and loved, to be prayed to and praised,
and propitiated with sacrificial gifts."

In speaking of inanimate objects, we often ascribe life to them;
but our words are metaphors, and nothing more. At an earlier time
such phrases expressed real beliefs, and were not simply the outcome
of a poetic imagination. Keats, in one of his Sonnets, speaks of


       "The moving waters at their priest-like task
        Of pure ablution round Earth's human shore."


Here he gives us the poetical and not the actual interpretation of
a natural phenomenon.

We may, if we choose, talk of the worship of water as a creed outworn,
but it is still with us, though under various disguises. Under the form
of rites of divination practised as an amusement by young persons, such
survivals often conceal their real origin. The history of superstition
teaches us with what persistence pagan beliefs hold their ground
in the midst of a Christian civilisation. Martin, who visited the
Western Islands at the close of the seventeenth century, found how
true this was in many details of daily life. A custom connected with
ancient sea-worship had been popular among the inhabitants of Lewis
till about thirty-years before his visit, but had been suppressed
by the Protestant clergy on account of its pagan character. This was
an annual sacrifice at Hallow-tide to a sea god called Shony. Martin
gives the following account of the ceremony:--"The inhabitants round
the island came to the church of St. Mulvay, having each man his
provision along with him; every family furnished a peck of malt, and
this was brewed into ale; one of their number was picked out to wade
into the sea up to the middle, and, carrying a cup of ale in his hand,
standing still in that posture, cried out with a loud voice, saying,
'Shony, I give you this cup of ale, hoping that you'll be so kind as
to send us plenty of sea-ware for enriching our ground the ensuing
year,' and so threw the cup of ale into the sea. This was performed
in the night-time."

Sailors and fishermen still cherish superstitions of their own. Majesty
is not the only feature of the changeful ocean that strikes them. They
are keenly alive to its mystery and to the possibilities of life
within its depths. Strange creatures have their home there, the mighty
sea serpent and the less formidable mermen and mermaidens. Among
the Shetland islands mer-folk were recognised denizens of the sea,
and were known by the name of Sea-trows.

These singular beings dwelt in the caves of ocean, and came up
to disport themselves on the shores of the islands. A favourite
haunt of theirs was the Ve Skerries, about seven miles north-west
of Papa-Stour. They usually rose through the water in the shape of
seals, and when they reached the beach they slipped off their skins
and appeared like ordinary mortals, the females being of exceeding
beauty. If the skins could be snatched away on these occasions, their
owners were powerless to escape into the sea again. Sometimes these
creatures were entangled in the nets of fishermen or were caught by
hooks. If they were shot when in seal form, a tempest arose as soon
as their blood was mingled with the water of the sea. A family living
within recent times was believed to be descended from a human father
and a mermaid mother, the man having captured his bride by stealing her
seal's skin. After some years spent on land this sea lady recovered
her skin, and at once returned to her native element. The members of
the family were said to have hands bearing some resemblance to the
forefeet of a seal.

"Of all the old mythological existences of Scotland," remarks Hugh
Miller, in his "Scenes and Legends of the North of Scotland," "there
was none with whom the people of Cromarty were better acquainted than
with the mermaid. Thirty years have not yet gone by since she has
been seen by moonlight sitting on a stone in the sea, a little to the
east of the town; and scarcely a winter passed, forty years earlier,
in which she was not heard singing among the rocks or seen braiding
up her long yellow tresses on the shore."

The magical power ascribed to the sea is shown in an Orcadian witch
charm used in the seventeenth century. The charm had to do with the
churning of butter. Whoever wished to take advantage of it watched on
the beach till nine waves rolled in. At the reflux of the last the
charmer took three handfuls of water from the sea and carried them
home in a pail. If this water was put into the churn there would be
a plentiful supply of butter. Sea water was also used for curative
purposes, the patient being dipped after sunset. This charm was thought
to savour strongly of the black art. Allusion has been made above to
the rising of a storm in connection with the wounding of a sea-trow
in Shetland. According to an Orcadian superstition, the sea began
to swell whenever anyone with a piece of iron about him stept upon a
certain rock at the Noup Head of Westray. Not till the offending metal
was thrown into the water did the sea become calm again. Wallace,
a minister at Kirkwall towards the end of the seventeenth century,
mentions this belief in his "Description of the Isles of Orkney,"
and says that he offered a man a shilling to try the experiment,
but the offer was refused. It does not seem to have occurred to him
to make the experiment himself.

Among the ancient Romans the bull was sacred to Neptune, the sea
god, and was sacrificed in his honour. In our own country we find a
suggestion of the same rite, though in a modified form, in the custom
prevailing at one time of leading animals into the sea on certain
festivals. In the parish of Clonmany in Ireland it was formerly
customary on St. Columba's Day, the ninth of June, to drive cattle
to the beach and swim them in the sea near to where the water from
the Saint's well flowed in. In Scotland horses seem at one time to
have undergone a similar treatment at Lammas-tide. Dalyell, in his
"Darker Superstitions of Scotland," mentions that "in July, 1647,
the kirk-session of St. Cuthbert's Church, Edinburgh, resolved on
intimating publicly 'that non goe to Leith on Lambmes-day, nor tak
their horses to be washed that day in the sea.'"

A belief at one time existed that it was unlucky to rescue a drowning
man from the grasp of the sea. This superstition is referred to by
Sir Walter Scott in "The Pirate," in the scene where Bryce the pedlar
warns Mordaunt against saving a shipwrecked sailor. "Are you mad,"
said the pedlar, "you that have lived sae lang in Zetland, to risk the
saving of a drowning man? Wot ye not, if you bring him to life again,
he will be sure to do you some capital injury?" We discover the key
to this strange superstition in the idea entertained by savages that
the person falling into the water becomes the prey of the monster
or demon inhabiting that element; and, as Dr. Tylor aptly remarks,
"to save a sinking man is to snatch a victim from the very clutches
of the water-spirit--a rash defiance of deity which would hardly
pass unavenged."

Folklore thus brings us face to face with beliefs which owe their
origin to the primitive worship of the sea. It also allows us to catch
a glimpse of rivers, lakes, and springs as these were regarded by our
distant ancestors. When we remember that, according to a barbaric
notion, the current of a stream flows down along one bank and up
along the other, we need not be surprised that very crude fancies
concerning water at one time flourished in our land.

Even to us, with nineteenth-century science within reach, how
mysterious a river seems, as, in the quiet gloaming or in the grey
dawn, it glides along beneath overhanging trees, and how full of
life it is when, swollen by rain, it rushes forward in a resistless
flood! How much more awe-inspiring it must have been to men ignorant
of the commonest laws of Nature! Well might its channel be regarded as
the home of a spirit eager to waylay and destroy the too-venturesome
passer-by. Rivers, however, were not always reckoned the enemies of
man, for experience showed that they were helpful, as well as hurtful,
to him. The Tiber, for instance, was regarded with reverence by the
ancient inhabitants of Rome. Who does not remember the scene in one
of Macaulay's Lays, where, after the bridge has been hewn down to
block the passage of Lars Porsena and his host, the valiant Horatius
exclaims--


       "O Tiber! father Tiber!
          To whom the Romans pray;
        A Roman's life, a Roman's arms,
          Take thou in charge this day?"


Then with his harness on his back he plunges headlong into the flood,
and reaches the other side in safety.

In Christian art pagan symbolism continued long to flourish. Proof
of this bearing on the present subject is to be found in a mosaic at
Ravenna, of the sixth century, representing the baptism of Christ. The
water flows from an inverted urn, held by a venerable figure typifying
the river god of the Jordan, with reeds growing beside his head,
and snakes coiling around it.

In our own country healing virtue was attributed to water taken
from what was called a dead and living ford, i.e., a ford where the
dead were carried and the living walked across. The same belief was
entertained with regard to the water of a south-running stream. The
patient had to go to the spot and drink the water and wash himself in
it. Sometimes his shirt was taken by another, and, after being dipped
in the south-running stream, was brought back and put wet upon him. A
wet shirt was also used as a Hallowe'en charm to foretell its owner's
matrimonial future. The left sleeve of the shirt was to be dipped
in a river where "three lairds' lands met." It was then to be hung
up overnight before the fire. If certain rules were attended to, the
figure of the future spouse would appear and turn the sleeve in order
to dry the other side. In the Highlands the water of a stream was used
for purposes of sorcery till quite lately. When any one wished evil to
another he made a clay image of the person to be injured, and placed
it in a stream with the head of the image against the current. It was
believed that, as the clay was dissolved by the water, the health of
the person represented would decline. The spell, however, would be
broken if the image was discovered and removed from the stream. In
the counties of Sutherland and Ross the practice survived till within
the last few years. Near Dunskey, in the parish of Portpatrick,
Wigtownshire, is a stream which, at the end of last century, was much
resorted to by the credulous for its health-giving properties. Visits
were usually paid to it at the change of the moon. It was deemed
specially efficacious in the case of rickety children, whose malady was
then ascribed to witchcraft. The patients were washed in the stream,
and then taken to an adjoining cave, where they were dried.

In modern poetry a river is frequently alluded to under the name of
its presiding spirit. Thus, in "Comus," Milton introduces Sabrina,
a gentle nymph,


        "That with moist curb sways the smooth Severn stream,"


and tells us that


                   "The shepherds at their festivals
        Carol her goodness loud in rustic lays,
        And throw sweet garland wreaths into her stream
        Of pansies, pinks, and gaudy daffodils."


Lakes have always held an important place in legendary lore. Lord
Tennyson has made us familiar with the part played by the Lady of the
Lake in Arthurian romance. Readers of the Idylls will recollect it
was she who gave to the king the jewelled sword Excalibur, and who,
on the eve of his passing, received it again. The wounded Arthur thus
addresses Sir Bedivere:--


                   "Thou rememberest how,
        In those old days, one summer morn, an arm
        Rose up from out the bosom of the lake
        Clothed in white samite, mystic, wonderful,
        Holding the sword--and how I row'd across
        And took it, and have worn it, like a king."


Scottish lochs form a striking feature in the landscape, and must have
been still more fitted to arrest attention in ancient times when our
land was more densely wooded than it is now. Dr. Hugh Macmillan,
in his "Holidays on High Lands," alludes to the differences in
the appearance of our lochs. "There are moorland tarns," he says,
"sullen and motionless as lakes of the dead, lying deep in sunless
rifts, where the very ravens build no nests, and where no trace of
life or vegetation is seen--associated with many a wild tradition,
accidents of straying feet, the suicide of love, guilt, despair. And
there are lochs beautiful in themselves and gathering around them
a world of beauty; their shores fringed with the tasselled larch;
their shallows tesselated with the broad green leaves and alabaster
chalices of the water-lily, and their placid depths mirroring the
crimson gleam of the heather hills and the golden clouds overhead."

Near the top of Mealfourvounie, in Inverness-shire, is a small lake
at one time believed to be unfathomable. How this notion arose it
is difficult to say, for when soundings were taken the depth was
found to be inconsiderable. In the parish of Penpont, Dumfriesshire,
about a mile to the south of Drumlanrig, is a small sheet of water
called the Dow, or Dhu Loch, i.e., Black Loch. Till towards the
end of last century the spot was much frequented for its healing
water. A personal visit was not essential. When a deputy was sent
he had to bring a portion of the invalid's clothing and throw it
over his left shoulder into the loch. He then took up some water in a
vessel which he carefully kept from touching the ground. After turning
himself round sun-ways he carried the water home. The charm would be
broken if he looked back or spoke to anyone by the way. Among the
people of the district it was a common saying, when anyone did not
respond to the greeting of a passer-by, that he had been at the Dow
Loch. Pilgrimages to the loch seem to have been specially popular
towards the close of the seventeenth century, for in the year 1695
the Presbytery of Penpont consulted the Synod of Dumfries about the
superstitious practices then current. The Synod, in response to the
appeal, recommended the clergy of the district to denounce from their
pulpits such observances as heathenish in character. There were persons
still alive in the beginning of the present century who had seen the
offerings, left by the pilgrims, floating on the loch or lying on
its margin. To the passer-by, ignorant of the superstitious custom,
it might seem that a rather untidy family washing was in progress.

The Church of St. Vigeans, in Forfarshire, is well known to
antiquaries in connection with its interesting sculptured stones. An
old tradition relates that the materials for the building were
carried by a water-kelpie, and that the foundations were laid on
large bars of iron. Underneath the structure was said to be a deep
lake. The tradition further relates that the kelpie prophesied that
an incumbent of the church would commit suicide, and that, on the
occasion of the first communion after, the church would sink into the
lake. At the beginning of the eighteenth century the minister of the
parish did commit suicide, and so strong was the superstition that
the sacramental rite was not observed till 1736. In connection with
the event several hundred people took up a position on a neighbouring
rising ground to watch what would happen. These spectators have passed
away, but the church remains.

St. Tredwell's Loch in Papa-Westray, Orkney, was at one time very
famous, partly from its habit of turning red whenever anything
striking was about to happen to a member of the Royal Family, and
partly from its power to work cures. On a small headland on the east
of the loch are still to be seen the ruins of St. Tredwell's Chapel,
measuring twenty-nine feet by twenty-two, with walls fully four feet
in thickness. On the floor-level about thirty copper coins were found
some years ago, the majority of them being of the reign of Charles the
Second. At the door of the chapel there was at one time a large heap
of stones, made up of contributions from those who came to pay their
vows there. Mr. R. M. Fergusson, in his "Rambles in the Far North,"
gives the following particulars about the loch:--"In olden times the
diseased and infirm people of the North Isles were wont to flock to
this place and get themselves cured by washing in its waters. Many
of them walked round the shore two or three times before entering the
loch itself to perfect by so doing the expected cure. When a person was
engaged in this perambulation nothing would induce him to utter a word,
for, if he spoke, the waters of this holy loch would lave his diseased
body in vain. After the necessary ablutions were performed they never
departed without leaving behind them some piece of cloth or bread as
a gift to the presiding genius of the place. In the beginning of the
eighteenth century popular belief in this water was as strong as ever."

Superstitions had a vigorous life last century. Pennant, who made
his first tour in Scotland in 1769, mentions that the wells of Spey
and Drachalday, in Moray, were then much visited, coins and rags
being left at them as offerings. Nowadays holy wells are probably
far from the thoughts of persons living amid the stir and bustle
of city life, but in rural districts, where old customs linger,
they are not yet forgotten. In the country, amidst the sights and
sounds of nature, men are prone to cherish the beliefs and ways
of their forefathers. Practices born in days of darkness thus live
on into an era of greater enlightenment. "The adoration of wells,"
remarks Sir Arthur Mitchell in his "Past in the Present," "may be
encountered in all parts of Scotland from John o' Groats to the
Mull of Galloway," and he adds, "I have seen at least a dozen wells
in Scotland which have not ceased to be worshipped." "Nowadays," he
continues, "the visitors are comparatively few, and those who go are
generally in earnest. They have a serious object which they desire
to attain. That object is usually the restoration to health of some
poor little child--some 'back-gane bairn.' Indeed the cure of sick
children is a special virtue of many of these wells. Anxious mothers
make long journeys to some well of fame, and early in the morning
of the 1st of May bathe the little invalid in its waters, then drop
an offering into them by the hands of the child--usually a pebble,
but sometimes a coin--and attach a bit of the child's dress to a bush
or tree growing by the side of the well. The rags we see fastened to
such bushes have often manifestly been torn from the dresses of young
children. Part of a bib or little pinafore tells the sad story of a
sorrowing mother and a suffering child, and makes the heart grieve
that nothing better than a visit to one of these wells had been found
to relieve the sorrow and remove the suffering." Mr. Campbell of Islay
bears witness to the same fact. In his "Tales of the West Highlands"
he says, "Holy healing wells are common all over the Highlands,
and people still leave offerings of pins and nails and bits of rag,
though few would confess it. There is a well in Islay where I myself
have, after drinking, deposited copper caps amongst a hoard of pins
and buttons and similar gear placed in chinks in the rocks and trees
at the edge of the 'Witches' well.'"

A striking testimony to the persistence of faith in such wells
is borne by Mr. J. R. Walker in volume v. (new series) of the
"Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland," where he
describes an incident that he himself witnessed about ten years ago
on the outskirts of Edinburgh. Mr. Walker writes, "While walking in
the Queen's Park about sunset, I casually passed St. Anthony's Well,
and had my attention attracted by the number of people about it,
all simply quenching their thirst, some probably with a dim idea
that they would reap some benefit from the draught. Standing a little
apart, however, and evidently patiently waiting a favourable moment
to present itself for their purpose, was a group of four. Feeling
somewhat curious as to their intention I quietly kept myself in the
background, and by-and-by was rewarded. The crowd departed and the
group came forward, consisting of two old women, a younger woman
of about thirty, and a pale sickly-looking girl--a child three or
four years old. Producing cups from their pockets, the old women
dipped them in the pool, filled them, and drank the contents. A
full cup was then presented to the younger woman and another to
the child. Then one of the old women produced a long linen bandage,
dipped it in the water, wrung it, dipped it in again, and then wound
it round the child's head, covering the eyes, the youngest woman,
evidently the mother of the child, carefully observing the operation
and weeping gently all the time. The other old woman not engaged in
this work was carefully filling a clear glass bottle with the water,
evidently for future use. Then, after the principal operators had
looked at each other with an earnest and half solemn sort of look,
the party wended its way carefully down the hill."

Agricultural improvements, particularly within the present century,
have done much to abolish the adoration of wells. In many cases ancient
springs have ceased to exist through draining operations. In the
parish of Urquhart, Elginshire, a priory was founded in 1125. Towards
the end of last century the site was converted into an arable
field. The name of Abbey Well, given to the spring whence the monks
drew water, long kept alive the memory of the priory; but in recent
times the well itself was filled up. St. Mary's Well, at Whitekirk,
in Haddingtonshire, has also ceased to be, its water having been
drained off. Near Drumakill, in Drymen parish, Dumbartonshire, there
was a famous spring dedicated to St. Vildrin. Close to it was a cross
two feet and a half in height, with the figure of the saint incised
on it. About thirty years ago, however, the relic was broken up and
used in the construction of a farmhouse, and not long after, the
well itself was drained into an adjoining stream. In the middle ages
the spring at Restalrig, near Edinburgh, dedicated to St. Margaret,
the wife of Malcolm Canmore, was a great attraction to pilgrims. The
history of the well is interesting. There is reason to believe that
it was originally sacred to the Holy Rood; and tradition connects it
with the fountain that gushed out at the spot where a certain hart
suddenly vanished from the sight of King David I. Mr. Walker, in the
volume of the "Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland"
already referred to, throws out the suggestion that the well may have
had its dedication changed in connection with the translation of Queen
Margaret's relics about 1251, on the occasion of her canonization. With
regard to the date of the structure forming the covering of the well,
Mr. Walker, as an architect, is qualified to give an opinion, and
from an examination of the mason marks on it he is inclined to think
that the building was erected about the same time as the west tower of
Holyrood Abbey Church, viz., about 1170. The late Sir Daniel Wilson,
in his "Memorials of Edinburgh in the Olden Time," gives the following
account of the structure, which, however, he by mistake describes
as octagonal instead of hexagonal:--"The building rises internally
to the height of about four and a half feet, of plain ashlar work,
with a stone ledge or seat running round seven of the sides, while the
eighth is occupied by a pointed arch which forms the entrance to the
well. From the centre of the water which fills the whole area of the
building, pure as in the days of the pious queen, a decorated pillar
rises to the same height as the walls, with grotesque gurgoils, from
which the water has originally been made to flow. Above this springs
a beautifully groined roof, presenting, with the ribs that rise from
corresponding corbels at each of the eight angles of the building,
a singularly rich effect when illuminated by the reflected light from
the water below. A few years since, this curious fountain stood by
the side of the ancient and little frequented cross-road leading
from the Abbeyhill to the village of Restalrig. A fine old elder
tree, with its knotted and furrowed branches, spread a luxuriant
covering over its grass-grown top, and a rustic little thatched
cottage stood in front of it, forming altogether a most attractive
object of antiquarian pilgrimage." The spot, however, was invaded by
the North British Railway Company, and a station was planted on the
site of the elder tree and the rustic cottage, the spring and its
Gothic covering being imbedded in the buildings. Some years later
the water disappeared, having found another channel. The structure
was taken down stone by stone and rebuilt above St. David's Spring,
on the north slope of Salisbury Crags, where it still stands.

In cases like the above, man interfered with nature and caused the
disappearance of venerated springs. But it was not always so. In the
parish of Logierait, in Perthshire, there was a spring that took the
matter into its own hands, and withdrew from public view. This was
the spring called in Gaelic Fuaran Chad, i.e., Chad's Well. An annual
market used to be held close by in honour of the saint, on the 22nd
August. The spring was gratified and bubbled away merrily. The market,
however, was at length discontinued. In consequence Fuaran Chad took
offence, and sent in its resignation. In one instance, at least, the
belief in the efficacy of a spring survived the very existence of the
spring itself. This was so in the case of a healing well near Buckie,
in Banffshire, filled up some years ago by the tenant on whose farm
it was situated. So great was its fame that some women whose infants
were weakly went to the spot and cleared out the rubbish. Water again
filled the old basin, and there the infants were bathed. While being
carried home they fell asleep, and the result was in every way to
the satisfaction of the mothers.

Certain characteristics of water specially recommended it as an object
of worship in primæval times. Its motion and force suggested that
it had life, and hence a soul. Men therefore imagined that by due
attention to certain rites it would prove a help to them in time of
need. What may be called the anthropomorphism of fountains has left
traces on popular superstitions. The interest taken by St. Tredwell's
Loch in the national events has been already alluded to, and other
examples will be noticed in future chapters.

One point may be mentioned here, viz., the power possessed by wells
of removing to another place. St. Fillan's Spring, at Comrie, in
Perthshire, once took its rise on the top of the hill Dunfillan,
but tradition says that it quitted its old site for the present one,
at the foot of a rock, a quarter of a mile further south. In the
article on Comrie in the "Old Statistical Account of Scotland,"
the well is described as "humbled indeed, but not forsaken." A
more striking instance of flitting is mentioned by Martin as having
occurred in the Hebrides. In his account of Islay, he says, "A mile
on the south-west side of the cave Uah Vearnag is the celebrated well
Toubir-in-Knahar, which, in the ancient language, is as much as to say,
'the well has sailed from one place to another'; for it is a received
tradition of the vulgar inhabitants of this isle, and the opposite isle
of Colonsay, that this well was first at Colonsay until an impudent
woman happened to wash her hands in it, and that immediately after,
the well, being thus abused, came in an instant to Islay, where it is
like to continue, and is ever since esteemed a catholicon for diseases
by the natives and adjacent islanders." Perhaps the instance that
puts the greatest strain on credulity is that of the spring dedicated
to St. Fergus on the hill of Knockfergan, in Banffshire. Tradition
reports that this spring came in a miraculous manner from Italy,
though how it travelled to its quiet retreat in Scotland we do not
know. There must have been some special attraction about the well,
for a market known as the Well-Market used to be held beside it every
year. On one occasion a fight took place about a cheese. In consequence
the market was transferred to the neighbouring village of Tomintoul,
where it continues to be held in August, under the same name.

In his "Romances of the West of England," the late Mr. Robert Hunt
puts in a plea for the preservation of holy wells and other relics
of antiquity, though he allows "that it is a very common notion
amongst the peasantry that a just retribution overtakes those who
wilfully destroy monuments, such as stone circles, crosses, wells,
and the like," and he mentions the case of an old man who altered a
holy well at Boscaswell, in St. Just, and was drowned the following
day within sight of his house. Mr. Hunt is speaking of Cornish wells;
but the same is doubtless true of those north of the Tweed. Springs
that can fly through the air and go through certain other wonderful
performances can surely be trusted to look after themselves.

In hot Eastern lands, fountains were held in special reverence. This
was to be expected, as their cooling waters were there doubly
welcome. In accounting for the presence of the cult in the temperate
zones of Europe, we do not need to trace it to the East as Lady
Wilde does in her "Ancient Legends of Ireland." "It could not have
originated," she says, "in a humid country ... where wells can be
found at every step, and sky and land are ever heavy and saturated
with moisture. It must have come from an Eastern people, wanderers in
a dry and thirsty land, where the discovery of a well seemed like the
interposition of an angel in man's behalf." In our own land there are
no districts where well-worship has held its ground so firmly as those
occupied by peoples of Celtic blood, such as Cornwall, Wales, Ireland,
the Isle of Man, and the Scottish Highlands. A curious instance of
the survival of water-worship among our Scottish peasantry was seen
in the custom of going at a very early hour on New-Year's morning
to get a pailful of water from a neighbouring spring. The maidens
of the farm had a friendly rivalry as to priority. Whoever secured
the first pailful was said to get the flower of the well, otherwise
known as the ream or cream of the well. On their way to the spring
the maidens commonly chanted the couplet--


        "The flower o' the well to our house gaes,
          An' I'll the bonniest lad get."


This referred to the belief that to be first at the well was a good
omen of the maiden's matrimonial future. It is a far cry from archaic
water-worship to this New-Year's love charm, but we can traverse in
thought the road that lies between.



CHAPTER II.

HOW WATER BECAME HOLY.

    Change from Paganism to Christianity--Columba--Spirits of
    Fountains--Hurtful Wells--Stone Circles--Superstitions
    regarding them--Standing Stones and Springs--Innis
    Maree--Maelrubha--Influence of early Saints--Names of
    Wells--Stone-coverings--Sacred Buildings and Springs--Privilege
    of Sanctuary--Some Examples--Freedstoll--Preceptory of Torphichen
    and St. John's Well--Cross of Macduff and Nine-wells.


We come next to ask how water became holy in the folklore sense of the
word. Fortunately we get a glimpse of springs at the very time when
they passed from pagan to Christian auspices. The change made certain
differences, but did not take away their miraculous powers. We get this
glimpse in the pages of Adamnan, St. Columba's biographer, who narrates
an incident in connection with the saint's missionary work among the
Picts in the latter half of the sixth century. Adamnan tells us of a
certain fountain "famous among the heathen people, which the foolish
men, having their senses blinded by the devil, worshipped as God. For
those, who drank of this fountain, or purposely washed their hands
or feet in it, were allowed by God to be struck by demoniacal art,
and went home either leprous or purblind, or at least suffering from
weakness or other kind of infirmity. By all these things the pagans
were seduced and paid divine honour to the fountain." Columba made use
of the popular belief in the interests of the new faith, and blessed
the fountain in the name of Christ in order to expel the demons. He
then took a draught of the water and washed his hands and feet in it,
to show that it could no longer do harm. According to Adamnan the
demons deserted the fountain, and many cures were afterwards wrought
by it. In Ireland more than a century earlier, St. Patrick visited
the fountain of Findmaige, called Slan. Offerings were wont to be
made to it, and it was worshipped as a god by the Magi of the district.

It is difficult to determine exactly from what standpoint our pagan
ancestors regarded wells. The nature-spirits inhabiting them, styled
demons by Adamnan, were malignant in disposition, if we judge by the
case he mentions; but we must not therefore conclude that they were so
in every instance. Perhaps it is safe to infer that most of them were
considered favourable to man, or the reverse, according as they were
or were not propitiated by him. Even in modern times, some springs
have been regarded as hurtful. The well of St. Chad, at Lichfield,
for instance, causes ague to anyone drinking its water. Even its
connection with the saint has not removed its hurtful qualities. In
west Highland Folk-Tales allusion is made to poison wells, and such
are even yet regarded with a certain amount of fear. In the article on
the parish of Kilsyth in the "Old Statistical Account of Scotland," it
is stated that Kittyfrist Well, beside the road leading over the hill
to Stirling, was believed to be noxious. Successive wayfarers, when
tired and heated by their climb up hill, may have drunk injudiciously
of the cold water, and thus the superstition may have originated.

Stone circles have given rise to much discussion. They are perhaps
best known by their popular name of Druidical temples. Whatever were
the other purposes served by them, there is hardly any doubt that
they were primarily associated with interments. Dr. Joseph Anderson
has pointed out that a certain archæological succession can be
traced. Thus we find first, burial cairns minus stones round them,
then cairns plus stones, and finally, stones minus cairns. At one
time there was a widely-spread belief that men could be transformed
into standing stones by the aid of magic. This power was attributed
to the Druids. There are also traditions of saints thus settling their
heathen opponents. When speaking of the island of Lewis, Martin says,
"Several other stones are to be seen here in remote places, and some
of them standing on one end. Some of the ignorant vulgar say that they
were men by enchantment turned into stones. Such monoliths are still
known to the Gaelic-speaking inhabitants of Lewis as Fir Chreig, i.e.,
false men. We learn from the "New Statistical Account of Scotland"
that the two standing stones at West Skeld, in Shetland, were believed
by the islanders to have been originally wizards or giants. Close to
the roadside on Maughold Head, in the Isle of Man, stands an ancient
runic cross. A local tradition states that the cross was once an
old woman, who, when carrying a bundle of wool, cursed the wind for
hindering her on her journey, and was petrified in consequence.

With superstitions thus clinging to standing-stones it is not to
be wondered that springs in their neighbourhood should have been
regarded with special reverence. In the "Old Statistical Account of
Scotland" allusion is made to Tobir-Chalaich, i.e., Old Wife's Well,
situated near a stone circle in the parish of Keith, Banffshire,
and to another well not far from a second circle in the same
parish. The latter spring ceased to be visited about the middle
of last century. Till then offerings were left at it by persons
seeking its aid. The writer of the article on the island of Barry,
Inverness-shire, in the same work, says, "Here, i.e., at Castle-Bay,
there are several Druidical temples. Near one of these is a well
which must have been once famous for its medicinal quality, as also
for curing and preventing the effects of fascination. It is called
Tobbar-nam-buadh or the Well of Virtues." Under the heading "Beltane,"
in "Jamieson's Scottish Dictionary," the following occurs:--"A town
in Perthshire, on the borders of the Highlands, is called Tillie
(or Tullie) Beltane, i.e., the eminence or rising ground of the
fire of Baal. In the neighbourhood is a Druidical temple of eight
upright stones, where it is supposed the fire was kindled. At some
distance from this, is another temple of the same kind, but smaller,
and near it a well still held in great veneration. On Beltane morning,
superstitious people go to this well and drink of it, then they make
a procession round it, as I am informed, nine times; after this, they
in like manner go round the temple." Gallstack Well, at Drumlanrig,
in Dumfriesshire, is near a group of standing stones. From examples
like the above, we may infer that some mysterious connection was
supposed to exist between standing stones and their adjacent wells. In
the Tullie Beltane instance indeed, stones and well were associated
together in the same superstitious rite.

A striking instance of Christianity borrowing from paganism is to be
seen in the reverence paid to the well of Innis Maree, in Loch Maree,
in Ross-shire. This well has been famous from an unknown past. It
is dedicated to St. Maelrubha, after whom both loch and island are
named. Maelrubha belonged to the monastery of Bangor, in Ireland. In
the year 673, at the age of thirty-one, he settled at Applecrossan,
now Applecross, in Ross-shire, and there founded a church as the
nucleus of a conventual establishment. Over this monastery he
presided for fifty-one years, and died a natural death in 722. A
legend, disregarding historical probabilities, relates that he was
slain by a band of pagan Norse rovers, and that his body was left in
the forest to be devoured by wild beasts. His grave is still pointed
out in Applecross churchyard, the spot being marked by a pillar slab
with an antique cross carved on it. For centuries after his death
he was regarded as the patron saint, not only of Applecross, but of
a wide district around. Pennant, who visited Innis Maree in 1772,
thus describes its appearance: "The shores are neat and gravelly;
the whole surface covered thickly with a beautiful grove of oak,
ash, willow, wicken, birch, fir, hazel, and enormous hollies. In the
midst is a circular dike of stones, with a regular narrow entrance,
the inner part has been used for ages as a burial-place, and is still
in use. I suspect the dyke to have been originally Druidical, and
that the ancient superstition of Paganism had been taken up by the
saint, as the readiest method of making a conquest over the minds of
the inhabitants. A stump of a tree is shown as an altar, probably the
memorial of one of stone; but the curiosity of the place is the well of
the saint; of power unspeakable in cases of lunacy." Whatever Pennant
meant by Druidical, there is reason to believe that the spot was the
scene of pre-Christian rites. In the popular imagination the outlines
of Maelrubha's character seem to have become mixed up with those of
the heathen divinity worshipped in the district. Two circumstances
point to this. Firstly, as Sir Arthur Mitchell remarks in the fourth
volume of the "Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland,"
"The people of the place speak often of the God Mourie instead of
St. Mourie, which may have resulted from his having supplanted the
old god." Secondly, as the same writer shows, by reference to old
kirk session records, it was customary in the parish to sacrifice a
bull to St. Mourie. This was done on the saint's day, the 25th of
August. The practice was still in existence in the latter half of
the 17th century, and was then denounced as idolatrous.

We thus see that the sacredness of springs can be traced back through
Christianity to paganism, though there is no doubt that in some
instances it took its rise from association with early saints. In
deciding the question of origin, however, care must be taken,
for, as already indicated, the reverence anciently paid to wells
led to their selection by the early missionaries. The holy wells
throughout the land keep alive their names. An excellent example
of a saint's influence on a particular district is met with in the
case of St. Angus, at Balquhidder, in Perthshire. In his "Notes in
Balquhidder" in the "Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of
Scotland," vol. ix. (new series), Mr. J. Mackintosh Gow remarks,
"Saint Angus, the patron saint of the district, is said to have come
to the glen from the eastward, and to have been so much struck with
its marvellous beauty that he blessed it. The remains of the stone
on which he sat to rest are still visible in the gable of one of the
farm buildings at Easter Auchleskine, and the turn of the road is
yet called 'Beannachadh Aonghais' (Angus's blessing). At this spot
it was the custom in the old days for people going westward to show
their respect for the saint by repeating, 'Beannaich Aonghais ann
san Aoraidh' (Bless Angus in the oratory or chapel), at the same
time reverently taking off their bonnets. The saint, going west,
had settled at a spot below the present kirk, and near to a stone
circle, the remains of which, and of the oratory, persons now living
remember to have seen." After alluding to another stone circle in a
haugh below the parish church manse, Mr. Gow mentions that this haugh
is the stance of the old market of Balquhidder, long a popular one
in the district. It was held on the saint's day in April and named
Feill-Aonghais, after him. In the immediate neighbourhood there is a
knoll called "Tom Aonghais," i.e., Angus's hillock. In the grounds of
Edinchip there is a curing well called in Gaelic, "Fuaran n'druibh
chasad," i.e., the Whooping-cough Well, beside the burn "Alt cean
dhroma." "It is formed of a water-worn pot hole in the limestone
rock which forms the bed of the burn, and is ten or twelve inches in
diameter at the top and six inches deep. There must be a spring running
into the hollow through a fissure, as no sooner is it emptied than
it immediately refills, and contains about two quarts of water. The
well can easily be distinguished by the large moss-covered boulder,
round and flat, like a crushed ball, and about seven feet in diameter,
which overshadows it, and a young ash tree of several stems growing
by its side." This well was famous for the cure of whooping-cough,
and children were brought to it till within recent years. The water
was given in a spoon made from the horn of a living cow. When the
patients could not visit the spring in person, a bottleful of the
healing liquid was taken to their homes, and there administered. The
district round the lower waters of Loch Awe, now comprising the united
parishes of Glenorchy and Inishail was held to be under the patronage
of Connan. There is a well at Dalmally dedicated to him. According
to a local tradition he dwelt beside the well and blessed its water.

In addition to springs named after particular saints, there are some
bearing the general appellation of Saints' Wells or Holy Wells. There
are Holy Rood and Holy Wood Wells, also Holy Trinity and Chapel
Wells. There are likewise Priors', Monks', Cardinals', Bishops',
Priests', Abbots', and Friars' Wells. Various springs have names
pointing to no ecclesiastical connection whatever. To this class
belong those known as Virtue Wells, and those others named from the
various diseases to be cured by them. On the Rutherford estate,
in the parish of West Linton, Peeblesshire, there is a mineral
spring called Heaven-aqua Well. Considering the name, one might
form great expectations as to its virtues. There is much force in
the remarks of Dr. J. Hill Burton, in his "Book Hunter." He says,
"The unnoticeable smallness of many of these consecrated wells makes
their very reminiscence and still semi-sacred character all the more
remarkable. The stranger in Ireland, or the Highlands of Scotland,
hears rumours of a distinguished well, miles on miles off. He thinks
he will find an ancient edifice over it, or some other conspicuous
adjunct. Nothing of the kind. He has been lured all that distance,
over rock and bog, to see a tiny spring bubbling out of the rock,
such as he may see hundreds of in a tolerable walk any day. Yet,
if he search in old topographical authorities, he will find that the
little well has ever been an important feature of the district; that
century after century it has been unforgotten; and, with diligence he
may perhaps trace it to some incident in the life of the saint, dead
more than 1200 years ago, whose name it bears." There are a few wells
with a more or less ornamental stone covering, such as St. Margaret's
Well, in the Queen's Park, Edinburgh, and St. Michael's Well, at
Linlithgow. St. Ninian's Well, at Stirling, and also at Kilninian,
in Mull; St. Ashig's Well, in Skye; St. Peter's Well, at Houston,
in Renfrewshire; Holy Rood Well, at Stenton, in Haddingtonshire;
and the Well of Spa, at Aberdeen, also belong to this class.

As already indicated, standing stones and the wells near them were
associated together in the same ritual act. A curious parallelism
can be traced between this practice and one connected with Christian
places of worship. Near the Butt of Lewis are the ruins of a chapel
anciently dedicated to St. Mulvay, and known in the district as
Teampull-mòr. The spot was till quite lately the scene of rites
connected with the cure of insanity. The patient was made to walk
seven times round the ruins, and was then sprinkled with water from
St. Ronan's Well hard by. In Orkney it was believed that invalids
would recover health by walking round the Cross-kirk of Wasbister
and the adjoining loch in silence before sunrise. In some instances
sacred sites were walked round without reference to wells, and, in
others, wells without reference to sacred sites. But when the two were
neighbours they were often included in the same ceremony. In the early
days when Christianity was preached, the structures of the new faith
were occasionally planted close to groups of standing stones, and it
may be assumed that in some instances, at least, the latter served to
supply materials for building the former. Even in our own day it is
not uncommon for Highlanders to speak of going to the clachan, i.e.,
the stones, to indicate that they are going to church. The reverence
paid to the pagan sites was thus transferred to the Christian, and
any fountain in the vicinity received a large share of such reverence.

In former times, both south and north of the Tweed, churches and
churchyards were regarded with special veneration as affording
an asylum to offenders against the law. In England the Right of
Sanctuary was held in great respect during Anglo-Saxon times, and
after the Norman Conquest laws were passed regulating the privileges
of such shelters. When a robber or murderer was pursued, he was free
from capture if he could reach the sacred precincts. But he had to
enter unarmed. His stay there was only temporary. After going through
certain formalities he was allowed to travel, cross in hand, to some
neighbouring seaport to quit his country for ever. In the reign of
Henry VIII., however, a statute was passed forbidding criminals thus
to leave their native land on the ground that they would disclose state
secrets, and teach archery to the enemies of the realm. In the north of
England, Durham and Beverley contained noted sanctuaries. In various
churches there was a stone seat called the Freedstoll or Stool of
Peace, on which the criminal, when seated, was absolutely safe. Such a
seat, dating from the Norman period, is still to be seen in the Priory
Church at Hexham, where the sanctuary was in great request by fugitives
from the debatable land between England and Scotland. The only other
Freedstoll still to be found in England is in Beverley Minster. The
Right of Sanctuary was formally abolished in England in the reign of
James I., but did not cease to be respected till much later. Such being
the regard in the middle ages for churches and their burying-grounds,
it is easy to understand why fountains in their immediate neighbourhood
were also reverenced. Several sanctuaries north of the Tweed were
specially famous. In his "Scotland in the Middle Ages," Professor
Cosmo Innes remarks, "Though all were equally sacred by the canon,
it would seem that the superior sanctity of some churches, from
the relics presented there, or the reverence of their patron saints,
afforded a surer asylum, and thus attracted fugitives to their shrines
rather than to the altars of common parish churches." The churches of
Stow, Innerleithen, and Tyningham were asylums at one time specially
favoured. The church on St. Charmaig's Island, in the Sound of
Jura--styled also Eilean Mòr or the Great Island--was formerly a noted
place of refuge among the Inner Hebrides. So much sanctity attached to
the church of Applecross that the privileged ground around it extended
six miles in every direction. In connection with his visit to Arran,
Martin thus describes what had once been a sanctuary in that island:
"There is an eminence of about a thousand paces in compass on the
sea-coast in Druim-cruey village, and it is fenced about with a stone
wall; of old it was a sanctuary, and whatever number of men or cattle
could get within it were secured from the assaults of their enemies,
the place being privileged by universal consent." The enclosure was
probably an ancient burying-ground.

The Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, otherwise known as the Knights
of Rhodes, and also as the Hospitallers, received recognition in
Scotland as an Order about the middle of the twelfth century. They
had possessions in almost every county, but their chief seat was at
Torphichen, in Linlithgowshire, where the ruins of their preceptory
can still be seen. This preceptory formed the heart of the famous
sanctuary of Torphichen. In the graveyard stands a stone, resembling
an ordinary milestone with a Maltese cross carved on its top. All the
ground enclosed in a circle, having a radius of one mile from this
stone, formed a sanctuary for criminals and debtors. Other four stones
placed at the cardinal points showed the limits of the sanctuary on
their respective sides. At some distance to the east of the preceptory
is St. John's Well, "to which," the writer of the article in the
"New Statistical Account of Scotland" says, "the Knights of St. John
used to go in days of yore for a morning draught;" and he adds,
"whether its virtues were medicinal or of a more hallowed character
tradition can not exactly inform us, but still its waters are thought
to possess peculiar healing powers, if not still rarer qualities which
operate in various cases as a charm." Perhaps no Scottish sanctuary
has been more talked about than the one at Holyrood Abbey, intended
originally for law-breakers in general, but latterly for debtors
only. De Quincey found a temporary home within its precincts. Through
recent legislation, chiefly through the Debtors (Scotland) Act of
1880, the sanctuary has been rendered unnecessary, and its privileges,
though never formally abolished, have accordingly passed away.

In a pass of the Ochils, near Newburgh, overlooking Strathearn, is a
block of freestone three and a half feet high, four and a half feet
long, and nearly four feet broad at the base. This formed the pedestal
of the celebrated cross of Macduff, and is all that remains of that
ancient monument. The shaft of the cross was destroyed at the time
of the Reformation, in the sixteenth century. In former days the spot
was held to be a privilege and liberty of girth. When anyone claiming
kinship to Macduff, Earl of Fife, within the ninth degree committed
slaughter in hot blood and took refuge at the cross, he could atone
for his crime by the payment of nine cows and a colpindach or year-old
cow. Those who could not make good their kinship were slain on the
spot. Certain ancient burial mounds, at one time to be seen in the
immediate neighbourhood, were popularly believed to be the graves
of those who thus met their death, and a local superstition asserted
that their shrieks could be heard by night. A fountain, known as the
Nine Wells, gushes out not far from the site of the cross, and in
it tradition says that the manslayer who was entitled to claim the
privilege of sanctuary washed his hands, thereby freeing himself from
the stain of blood.



CHAPTER III.

SAINTS AND SPRINGS.

    Columba's Miracle--His Wells--Deer--Drostan's
    Springs--His Relics--His Fairs--His Connection with
    Caithness--Urquhart--Adamnan--His Wells--Tom Eunan--Feil
    Columcille--Adamnan's Visit to Northumbria--His Church
    Dedications--Kieran--His Cave--Campbeltown--Book of
    the Gospels--Kieran's Church at Errigall-keroge--His
    Wells--Bridget--Her Legend--Bridewell--Bridget's
    Wells--Abernethy--Torranain--Ninian--His Influence--His
    Cave--Candida Casa--Ninian and Martin--Ninian's
    Springs--St. Martin's Well--Martinmas--Martin of Bullion's
    Day--Bullion Well--Kentigern--Fergus--Arbores Sancti
    Kentigerni--His Wells--Thanet Well--St. Enoch's Well--Cuthbert--His
    Wells and Bath--His Career--Palladius--His Miracle--Paldy's
    Well and Paldy's Fair--His Chapel--Ternan--His Wells--Church
    of Arbuthnot--Brendan--Bute--Kilbrandon Sound--Well at
    Barra--Boyndie and Cullen--Machar--His Cathedral and
    Well--Tobar-Mhachar--Constantine--Govan--Kilchouslan
    Church--St. Cowstan's Well--Serf--Area of his Influence.


The annals of hagiology are full of the connection between saints and
springs. On one occasion a child was brought to Columba for baptism,
but there was no water at hand for the performance of the rite. The
saint knelt in prayer opposite a neighbouring rock, and rising,
blessed the face of the rock. Water immediately gushed forth, and with
it the child was baptised. Adamnan, who tells the story, says that
the child was Lugucencalad, whose parents were from Artdaib-muirchol
(Ardnamurchan), where there is seen even to this day a well called by
the name of St. Columba. There are many wells in Scotland named after
him. As might be expected, one of these is in Iona. Almost all are
along the west coast and in the Hebrides. The name of Kirkcolm, in
Wigtownshire, signifies the Church of Columba. The parish contains
a fountain dedicated to him, known as Corswell or Crosswell,
from which the castle headland and lighthouse of Corsewall have
derived their name. A certain amount of sanctity still clings to the
fountain. Macaulay, in his "History of St. Kilda" published in 1764,
describes a spring there called by the inhabitants Toberi-Clerich,
the cleric in question being, according to him, Columba. "This well,"
he says, "is below the village, ... and gushes out like a torrent
from the face of a rock. At every full tide the sea overflows it,
but how soon that ebbs away, nothing can be fresher or sweeter than
the water. It was natural enough for the St. Kildians to imagine
that so extraordinary a phenomenon must have been the effect of some
supernatural cause, and one of their teachers would have probably
assured them that Columba, the great saint of their island and
a mighty worker of miracles, had destroyed the influence which,
according to the established laws of nature, the sea should have had
on that water." This spring resembles one in the parish of Tain, in
Ross-shire, known as St. Mary's Well. The latter is covered several
hours each day by the sea, but when the tide retires its fresh,
sweet water gushes forth again.

According to an old tradition, Drostan, a nephew of Columba,
accompanied the latter when on a journey from Iona to Deer in
Buchan, about the year 580, and was the first abbot of the monastery
established there. The name of the place, according to the "Book
of Deer," was derived from the tears (in Gaelic, der or deur, a
tear), shed by Drostan on the departure of his uncle. In reality,
the name comes from the Gaelic dair, signifying an oak. There are
five springs dedicated to Drostan. They are all in the east country,
between Edzell and New Aberdour. At the latter place his relics were
preserved, and miracles of healing were wrought at his tomb. The
spring near Invermark Castle is popularly known as Droustie's Well. A
market, called St. Drostan's Fair, is still held annually at Old
Deer in December. Insch, in Aberdeenshire, has also a St. Drostan's
Fair. Drostan was reverenced in Caithness, where he was tutelar saint
of the parishes of Halkirk and Canisbay. In "The Early Scottish Church"
the Rev. Dr. M'Lauchlan mentions that Urquhart in Inverness-shire,
was called Urchudain, Maith Dhrostan, i.e., St. Drostan's Urquhart.

Adamnan, Columba's biographer, became abbot of Iona in 679, and
died there in 704. There are wells to him at Dull, in Perthshire,
and at Forglen in Banffshire. His name occurs in Scottish
topography, but shortened, and under various disguises. In the
form of St. Oyne he has a well in Rathen parish, Aberdeenshire,
where there is a mound--probably an ancient fortified site--also
called St. Oyne's. About six miles north-east of Kingussie, in
Inverness-shire, is the church of the quoad sacra parish of Inch,
on a knoll projecting into the loch of the same name. The knoll is
called Tom Eunan, i.e., the hill of Adamnan, to whom the church
was dedicated. Within the building is still to be seen a fine
specimen of the four-cornered bronze bell used in the early Celtic
church. According to a local tradition it was once carried off, but
kept calling out, "Tom Eunan! Tom Eunan!" till brought back to its
home. We find that Adamnan and Columba were associated together in
the district. An annual gathering, at one time held there in honour
of the latter, was named Feil Columcille, i.e., Columba's Fair, and
was much resorted to. Women usually appeared on the occasion in white
dresses in token of baptism. An old woman, who died in 1882, at the age
of ninety, was in the habit of showing the white dress worn by her in
her young days at the fair. It finally served her as a shroud. Adamnan
visited the Northumbrian court when Egfrid was king. His errand was
one of peace-making; for he went to procure the release of certain
Irish captives who had been made prisoners by Egfrid, During his stay
in Northumbria he became a convert to the Roman view as against the
Celtic in the two burning questions of that age, viz., the time for
holding Easter, and the nature of the tonsure. Though he did not get
his friends in Scotland to see eye to eye with him on these points,
he seems to have been generally popular north of the Tweed. Eight
churches at least were dedicated to him, mainly in the east country
between Forvie, in Aberdeenshire, and Dalmeny, in West Lothian. One of
these dedications was at Aboyne. Skeulan Well there contains Adamnan's
name in a corrupted form.

Kieran, belonging like Columba to the sixth century, was also like
him from Ireland. He selected a cave some four miles from Campbeltown
as his dwelling-place, and there led the life of an ascetic. He
died in 543 in his thirty-fourth year. Pennant thus describes
the cave:--"It is in the form of a cross, with three fine Gothic
porticoes for entrances, ... had formerly a wall at the entrance,
a second about the middle, and a third far up, forming different
apartments. On the floor is the capital of a cross and a round basin
cut out of the rock, full of fine water, the beverage of the saint
in old times, and of sailors in the present, who often land to dress
their victuals beneath this shelter." This basin is more minutely
described by Captain T. P. White in his "Archæological Sketches in
Scotland." He says, "There is a small basin, nearly oval in shape,
neatly scooped out of a block, two feet long by one and a half wide,
which exactly underlies a drip of water from the roof of the cave. The
water supply is said never to have failed and always to keep the little
basin full. Tradition calls it the saint's font or holy well." Kieran
is commemorated in Kinloch-Kilkerran, the ancient name of the parish of
Campbeltown. The word means literally the head of the loch of Kieran's
cell. On one occasion Kieran dropped his book of the Gospels into a
lake. Sometime after it was recovered in an uninjured state through
the instrumentality of a cow. The cow went into the water to cool
itself, and brought out the volume attached to its hoof. Another bovine
association is connected with the building of St. Kieran's Church on a
hill at Errigall-keroge, in County Tyrone, Ireland. The saint had an ox
which, during the day, drew the materials for the building, and in the
evening was slaughtered to feed the workmen. The bones were thrown each
evening into a well at the foot of the hill, and, morning by morning,
the accommodating animal appeared ready for the day's work. The well
is still held to be miraculous. There is a spring dedicated to Kieran
at Drumlithie, in Glenbervie parish, Kincardineshire, and another
at Stonehaven, in the same county. There is one in Troqueer parish,
Kirkcudbrightshire, locally known as St. Jergon's or St. Querdon's
Well, these names being simply an altered form of Kieran.

Bridget or Bride, an Irish saint, was popular in Scotland. She
received baptism from Patrick, and died in 525 after a life of great
sanctity. She was celebrated as a worker of miracles. She made a cow
supply an enormous quantity of milk to satisfy the wants of three
thirsty bishops who came to visit her. She also cured diseases. On one
occasion two men suffering from leprosy came to her to be healed. She
made the sign of the cross over water, and told them to wash in
it. One of the two did so and was instantly restored to health; but,
refusing to help the other, he at once became leprous again, while
his companion was as suddenly made whole. On another occasion she
used the sign of the cross to stay a company bent on the capture of
a maiden who had sought refuge in the saint's nunnery. Perhaps her
most wonderful miracle was the hanging of her gown on a sunbeam,
a somewhat unusual cloak-peg, and one that, from the nature of the
case, had not to be sought in a dark press. Her principal monastery
was at Kildare, so named after the oak (dair) under whose shade her
cell was built. Adjoining St. Bride's Churchyard in London is a spring
dedicated to the saint, and popularly styled Bride's Well. The palace
built in the immediate neighbourhood went by the name of Bridewell. It
was handed over by Edward VI. to the city of London as a workhouse
and place of correction. At a later date the name became associated
with other houses used for a similar purpose. "Hence it has arisen,"
remarks Chambers in his "Book of Days," "that the pure and innocent
Bridget, the first of Irish nuns, is now inextricably connected in
our ordinary national parlance with a class of beings of the most
opposite description." There are fully a dozen wells in Scotland
bearing her name. These are chiefly to be found in the counties
of Wigtown, Dumfries, Peebles, Lanark, Renfrew, Dumbarton, Perth,
Fife, and Aberdeen. A monastery was founded in Bridget's honour at
Abernethy, in Perthshire, probably in the eighth century, and she
had churches on the mainland and among the Western Islands. A curious
superstition connected with Bridget has survived to the present time,
at least in one of these islands. It has to do with a certain magical
flower styled torranain, that must be plucked during the influx of the
tide, and is of virtue to protect cows from the evil eye, and to make
them give a plentiful supply of milk. The Rev. Dr. Stewart, in his
"'Twixt Ben Nevis and Glencoe," quotes the incantation associated
with it forwarded to him by a correspondent in Uist. The following
is one of the stanzas:--


              "Let me pluck thee, Torranain!
        With all thy blessedness and all thy virtue.
        The nine blessings came with the nine parts.
              By the virtue of the Torranain.
              The hand of St. Bride with me
                I am now to pluck thee."


A saint who could give efficacy to a spell was quite the sort of
person to be entrusted with the custody of springs.

Ninian, popularly called Ringan, devoted his life mainly to missionary
work among the Picts of Galloway, although he extended his influence as
far north as the Tay. He seems to have been honoured in Aberdeenshire,
if we may judge by a fresco, representing him, discovered about
thirty years ago in the pre-Reformation Church of Turriff, and
regard was had for him as far north as the Shetland Isles. Even the
Scot abroad did not forget him. Chalmers, in his "Caledonia," says
that, "in the church of the Carmelite Friars of Bruges in Flanders,
the Scottish nation founded an altar to St. Ninian, and endowed a
chaplain who officiated at it." A cave by the sea in the parish of
Glasserton, in Wigtownshire, was his favourite retreat. This cave was
explored about ten years ago, and several stones, marked with incised
crosses, were discovered. Ninian brought masons from France, and at
Whithorn built Candida Casa--the first stone church in Scotland. It
was in course of construction in the year 397. Ninian then heard of
the death of Martin of Tours, and to the latter the new church was
dedicated. These two saints are found side by side in the matter of
church dedications. Thus, Martin was patron of Ulbster, in Caithness:
not far off was a church to Ninian. Strathmartin, in Forfarshire, was
united in 1799 to the parish of Mains, the latter claiming Ninian as
its tutelar saint. Sinavey Spring, in Mains parish, near the site of
the ancient Castle of Fintry, is believed to represent St. Ninian's
name in a corrupted form. His springs are numerous, and have a wide
range from the counties of Wigtown and Kirkcudbright to those of Forfar
and Kincardine. There is a well to him near Dunnottar Castle, in the
last-mentioned county. In the island of Sanda, off the Kintyre coast,
is a spring named after him. It had a considerable local celebrity in
former times. St. Ninian's Well in Stirling is a familiar spot in the
district. There is a well sacred to Martin in the Aberdeenshire parish
of Cairnie. Martinmas (November 11th) came long ago into our land as
a church festival. It still remains with us as a familiar term-day.

An incident in Martin's biography has a bearing on our subject, through
the connection between the name of the festival commemorating it and
certain of our place-names. In Scotland, the fourth of July used to
be known as Martin of Bullion's Day, in honour of the translation of
the saint's body to a shrine in the cathedral of Tours. There is some
uncertainty about the origin of the term Bullion, though, according
to the likeliest etymology, it is derived from the French bouiller,
to boil, in allusion to the heat of the weather at that time of the
year. There is an old proverb that if the deer rise up dry and lie down
dry on Martin of Bullion's Day, there will be a good gose-harvest,
i.e., an early and plentiful one. An annual fair was appointed to
be held at Selkirk and in Dyce parish, Aberdeenshire, in connection
with the festival. There are traces of both Martin and Bullion in
Scottish topography. In Perthshire there is the parish of St. Martin's,
containing the estate of St. Martin's Abbey. Some miles to the east
is Strathmartin in Forfarshire, already alluded to, and not far from
it in the same county we find Bullionfield in the parish of Liff and
Benvie. It is probable that these names are in some way connected
together. In Ecclesmachan parish in Linlithgowshire, there is, as far
as we know, no trace of Martin in any dedication of chapel or spring;
but Bullion is represented. There is a spring of this name issuing
from the trap rocks of the Tor Hill. It is a mineral well. The water
is slightly impregnated with sulphuretted hydrogen. In former times
it was much resorted to by health-seekers, but it is now neglected.

Ninian consecrated a graveyard beside the Molendinar at Cathures, now
Glasgow. About a hundred years later Kentigern, otherwise Mungo, bishop
of the Strathclyde kingdom, brought to this cemetery from Carnock the
body of Fergus, an anchorite, on a cart drawn by two wild bulls. Over
the spot where Fergus was buried was built, at a later date, the crypt
of what was to have been the south transept of the cathedral, had that
portion of the structure ever been reared. The crypt is now popularly
called Blackadder's Aisle, though, as Dr. Andrew MacGeorge points
out in his "Old Glasgow," it ought to be called Fergus' Isle. It was
so named in a minute of the kirk-session in 1648, and an inscription
in long Gothic letters on a stone in the roof of the aisle tells the
same tale. Kentigern took up his abode on the banks of the Molendinar,
and gathered round him a company of monks, each dwelling in a separate
hut. In the twelfth century the spot was surrounded by a dense forest,
and in 1500 the "Arbores sancti Kentigerni" were landmarks in the
district. Kentigern's Well, now in the lower church of the cathedral,
must, from the very fact of its inclusion within the building, have
been deemed sacred before the cathedral was reared. Other examples of
wells within churches are on record, though not in Scotland. There is a
spring in St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin. The cathedrals of Carlisle,
Winchester, and Canterbury, and the minsters of York and Beverley,
as well as one of two English parish churches, either now have or
once had wells within their walls. The Rev. T. F. Thiselton Dyer
gives several examples in his "Church Lore Gleanings," and remarks,
"Such wells may have been of special service in Border churches,
which, like the cathedral of Carlisle, served as places of refuge
for the inhabitants in case of sudden alarm or foray."

Besides his well in the cathedral, Kentigern had another dedicated to
him at Glasgow, close to Little St. Mungo's Church, in the immediate
neighbourhood of the trees already mentioned. There are fully a dozen
wells sacred to him north of the Tweed. As might be expected, these are
almost all to be found in the counties south of the Forth and Clyde,
and particularly in those to the west of that district. There is one
in Kincardineshire, at Kinneff, locally known as Kenty's Well. Under
the name of St. Mongah's Well there is a spring dedicated to him
in Yorkshire at Copgrove Park four miles from Boroughbridge. A
bath close by, supplied with water from this spring, was formerly
much frequented by invalids of all ages, who remained immersed for
a longer or shorter time in its intensely cold water. Other wells
to Kentigern are to be met with in the north of England. The parish
of Crossthwaite in Cumberland has its church dedicated to him. The
spot was the thwaite or clearing in the wood where he set up his
cross. Thanet Well, in Greystoke parish in the same county, is believed
to have derived its name from Tanew or Thenew, Kentigern's mother,
familiar to the citizens of Glasgow as St. Enoch. St. Enoch's Well,
close to St. Enoch's Square in that burgh, used to be a favourite
resort of health-seekers. It has now no existence.

Cuthbert, besides a well at St. Boswell's, in Roxburghshire, had a bath
in Strath Tay, a rock-hewn hollow full of water where he periodically
passed several hours in devotion. This famous Northumbrian missionary
was born about 635, and spent his early boyhood as a shepherd on the
southern slopes of the Lammermoors. He lived for thirteen years as a
monk in the monastery of Old Melrose, situated two miles east from the
present Melrose on a piece of land almost surrounded by the Tweed. On
the death of Boisil, Cuthbert was appointed prior. He afterwards
became bishop of Lindisfarne. During his stay at Melrose he visited
the land of the Niduarian Picts, in other words the Picts of Galloway,
and left a record of his journey in the name of Kirkcudbright, i.e.,
the Church of Cuthbert. Various other churches were dedicated to him
in the south of Scotland and in the north of England. A well-known
Edinburgh parish bears his name. He was honoured as far south as
Cornwall. St. Cuby's Well, locally called St. Kilby's, between Duloe
and Sandplace in that county is believed to have been dedicated to him.

There is a good deal of uncertainty about the history of Palladius. He
is believed to have been a missionary from Rome to the Irish in the
fifth century, and to have suffered martyrdom for the faith. It is
recorded of him that on one occasion, by removing some turf in the
name of the Holy Spirit, he caused a spring to gush forth to supply
water for baptism. He is popularly associated with Kincardineshire,
though there is reason to believe that he had no personal connection
with the district. A spring in Fordoun parish is locally known as
Paldy's Well, and an annual market goes by the name of Paldy's or
Paddy's Fair. A chapel was dedicated to him there, and received his
relics, brought thither by his disciple Terrananus, whose name is
still preserved in Banchory-Ternan, and who seems to have belonged
to the district. Ternan has a well at Banchory-Devenick, and another
at Kirkton-of-Slains, in Buchan. The old church of Arbuthnot was
dedicated to him. It was for this church that the Missal, Psalter,
and Office of the Virgin, now in the possession of Viscount Arbuthnot,
were written and illuminated towards the end of the fifteenth century,
these being the only complete set of Service-Books of a Scottish
Church that have come down to us from pre-Reformation times.

Brendan of Clonfert in Ireland, visited several of the Western Isles
during the first half of the sixth century, and various churches were
afterwards dedicated to him there. He is connected also with Bute. The
name Brandanes, applied to its inhabitants, came from him, and he bids
fair to be remembered in the name of Kilbrandon Sound, between Arran
and Kintyre. He was patron of a well in the island of Barra and was
tutelar saint of Boyndie and Cullen in Banffshire; but we are not
aware that any well at either of these places was called after him.

A curious legend is related to account for the origin of the See
of Aberdeen. According to it Machar or Macarius, along with twelve
companions, received instructions from Columba to wander over Pictland,
and to build his cathedral-church where he found a river making a
bend like a bishop's staff. Such a bend was found in the Don at Old
Aberdeen. St. Machar's Cathedral, built beside it, keeps alive the
saint's memory. In the neighbouring grounds of Seton is St. Machar's
Well. Though now neglected, it was honoured in former times, and
its water was used at baptisms in the cathedral. Under the name of
Mocumma or Mochonna, Macarius appears as one of the followers of
Columba on his memorable voyage from Ireland to Iona. He is said to
have visited Pope Gregory the Great at Rome, and to have been for a
time bishop of Tours. In Strathdon, Aberdeenshire, is a well sacred
to him called Tobar-Mhachar, pronounced in the district Tobar-Vacher.

Constantine, known also by his other names of Cowstan, Chouslan,
and Cutchou, was a prince of Cornwall in the sixth century, and was
acquainted with Columba and Kentigern. He relinquished his throne
and crossed over to Ireland, where he turned monk. At a later date
he came to the west of Scotland, and founded a monastery at Golvedir,
believed to be Govan, near Glasgow, and, according to Fordun, became
its abbot. Kilchouslan Church, on the north side of Campbeltown Bay,
Kintyre, was built in his honour. In its graveyard there is, or was
till quite lately, a round stone about the size of a grinding stone. In
the centre is a hole large enough to let the hand pass through. There
is a tradition that if a man and woman eloped, and were able to join
hands through this hole before being overtaken by their kinsfolk they
were free from further pursuit. In the spring of 1892 an interesting
find of old coins was made in the same graveyard. These consisted of
groats and half-groats, some of English and some of Scottish coinage,
the earliest belonging to the reign of Edward II. of England. According
to Martin, the well of St. Cowstan at Garrabost, in Lewis, was believed
never to boil any kind of meat, though its water was kept over the fire
for a whole day. This well is on a steep slope at the shore. Not far
off once stood St. Cowstan's Chapel, but its site is now under tillage.

Serf or Servanus, who flourished during the latter half of the seventh
century, was connected with the district north of the Firth of Forth,
particularly with Culross, and the island named after him in Loch
Leven, where he founded a monastery. At Dysart, Serf had a cave, and
in it tradition says that he held a discussion with the devil. The
name of Dysart indeed, comes from this desertum or retreat. Serf
had a cell at Dunning, in Strathearn, where he died in the odour
of sanctity. He had also some link with the parish of Monzievaird,
where the church was dedicated to him, and where a small loch still
goes by the name of St. Serf's Water. There is a well sacred to him at
Alva. St. Shear's Well, at Dumbarton, retains his name in an altered
form. Early last century this spring was put to a practical purpose,
as arrangements were then made to lead its water across the Leven by
pipes to supply the burgh.



CHAPTER IV.

MORE SAINTS AND SPRINGS.

    Ronan--Dow Well--Influence on Topography--Ronan's
    Springs--Pol Ronan and Feill Ronan--Fergus--His Well in
    Banffshire--Glamis--His Relics--His Wells at Montrose and
    Wick--Helen--St. Helen's Kirk--Her Springs--Her connection
    with Britain--Her Wells and Churches in England--Welsh
    Traditions--St. Abb's Well--Ebba--Aidan--His Wells--Boisil--His
    Springs--St. Boswell's Fair--Bathan--Abbey St. Bathan's--His Well
    there--Boniface--His Well and Fair at Rosemarkie--Catherine
    of Alexandria--Her Legend--Her Wells--Various other
    Dedications--Lawrence--His Wells--St. Lawrence's Fair--His
    Church Dedications--Laurencekirk--Margaret--Her connection with
    Queensferry and Forfar--Her Wells at Edinburgh--Her Cave and
    Spring at Dunfermline--Wells dedicated to various Characters in
    Sacred Story.


In any notice of early saints Ronan must not be forgotten, especially
when we remember that perhaps no spring, thanks to Sir Walter Scott,
is so familiar to the general reader as St. Ronan's Well. It has
been commonly identified with the mineral well at Innerleithen, in
Peeblesshire for long held in much favour in cases of eye and skin
complaints, and also for the cure of dyspepsia. The spring is situated
a short distance above the town on the skirt of Lee Pen. The writer of
the article on Innerleithen parish in the "New Statistical Account of
Scotland" says that this spring "was formerly called the 'Dow-well'
from the circumstance that, long before the healing virtues of the
water were discovered, pigeons from the neighbouring country resorted
to it." The name, however, is more probably derived from the Gaelic
dhu or dubh, signifying black. This is all the more likely when we
remember that the ground around was wet and miry before the spring
was put into order, and the present pump-room built, in 1826. We
find marks of Ronan in Scottish topography. In Dumbartonshire is
Kilmaronock, meaning, literally, the Church of my little Ronan;
Kilmaronog near Loch Etive has the same signification. Dr. Skene
refers to these two dedications, and adds, "Ronan appears to have
carried his mission to the Isles. He has left his trace in Iona,
where one of the harbours is Port Ronan. The church, afterwards the
parish church, was dedicated to him, and is called Teampull Ronaig,
and its burying-ground, Cladh Ronan. Then we find him at Rona, in the
Sound of Skye, and another Rona, off the coast of Lewis; and, finally,
his death is recorded in 737 as Ronan, abbot of Cinngaradh or Kingarth,
in Bute." Ronan is patron of various springs. There is one sacred to
him near Kilmaronock, another in the Aberdeenshire parish of Strathdon,
and another, already referred to, beside Teampull Mòr, in the Butt
of Lewis. The parish of Strowan, now joined to that of Monzievaird,
has a well to the saint. This was to be expected, since the name of the
parish is merely an altered form of St. Rowan or Ronan. About a hundred
yards above the bridge of Strowan, there is a deep pool in the river
Earn, called Pol-Ronan, and a piece of ground hard by was formerly the
site of the yearly gathering known as Feill-Ronan or St. Ronan's Fair.

The parish of St. Fergus, in Buchan, known till the year 1616 as
Langley, commemorates an Irish missionary of the eighth century, who
led a roving life, if we can believe the tradition, that he evangelised
Caithness, Buchan, Strathearn, and Forfarshire, as well as attended an
Ecclesiastical Council at Rome. The legend that his well in Kirkmichael
parish, Banffshire, was at one time in Italy may be connected with
his visit to Rome. Concerning this spring, the Rev. Dr. Gregor gives
the following particulars:--"Fergan Well is situated on the south-east
side of Knock-Fergan, a hill of considerable height on the west side
of the river Avon, opposite the manse of Kirkmichael. The first Sunday
of May and Easter Sunday were the principal Sundays for visiting it,
and many from the surrounding parishes, who were affected with skin
diseases or running sores, came to drink of its water, and to wash in
it. The hour of arrival was twelve o'clock at night, and the drinking
of the water and the washing of the diseased part took place before
or at sunrise. A quantity of the water was carried home for future
use. Pilgrimages were made up to the end of September, by which time
the healing virtues of the water had become less. Such after-visits
seem to have begun in later times." Fergus died at Glamis, and his
relics soon began to work cures. His head was carried off to the
monastery of Scone, and was so much esteemed in later times that,
by order of James IV., a silver case was made for it. His cave and
well are to be seen at Glamis. There is a spring dedicated to him
near Montrose, and there is another at Wick.

Various other saintly personages have left traces of their names
in holy wells. Chalmers, in his "Caledonia," mentions that the
ancient church of Aldcamus, in Cockburnspath parish, Berwickshire,
was dedicated to Helen, mother of Constantine, and that its ruins were
known as St. Helen's Kirk. A portion of the building still stands. To
the north of it is a burying-ground; but, curiously enough, as Mr. Muir
points out in his "Ancient Churches of Scotland," the spot does not
appear ever to have been used for purposes of sepulture. We do not know
surely of any spring to Helen in the immediate neighbourhood, but there
is one at Darnick, near Melrose. Another is in Kirkpatrick-Fleming
parish, Dumfriesshire. Perhaps the best known is St. Helen's Well,
beside the highway from Maybole to Ayr, about two-and-a-half miles
from the former town. It was much resorted to on May Day for the
cure of sickly children. On Timothy Pont's map, of date 1654, there
is a "Helen's Loch" marked a little to the south-west of Camelon,
in Stirlingshire. Some writers have attempted to claim Helen as
a native of Britain, and Colchester and York have, for different
reasons, been fixed on as her birth-place. The circumstance that
Constantine was proclaimed Emperor at the latter town, on the
death there of his father, Constantius Chlorus, probably gave rise
to the tradition. Anyhow, Helen seems to have been held in high
honour in England. In an article in the "Archæological Journal"
for December, 1891, Mr. Edward Peacock mentions that there are at
least fifteen wells named after her south of the Tweed. He adds,
"there are many churches dedicated to the honour of St. Helen in
England, but they are very irregularly distributed. None seems to
occur in Cumberland, Westmoreland, or Essex. The rest of the English
shires, for which we have authentic information, give the following
results:--Devonshire, three; Durham, two; Kent, one; Lincolnshire,
twenty-eight; Northumberland, three; Nottinghamshire, fifteen;
Yorkshire, thirty-two." Helen's name occurs in Welsh legends; but,
as Mr. Peacock observes, "early history is so much distorted in them,
that, if we did not know of her from more authentic sources, we might
well believe Helen to have been a mere creation of the fervid Keltic
imagination." As far as is known there are neither wells nor church
dedications to her in the Principality.

At Ayton, in Berwickshire, we find St. Abb's Well, recalling Abb or
Æbba, who, in the seventh century, presided over a monastery on the
headland still bearing her name, and in whose honour the priory at
Coldingham was founded by Edgar, son of Malcolm Canmore, some four
centuries and a half later. Her monastery on the headland was founded
by Aidan, who was sent from Iona to the North of England in response
to a request from King Oswald, of Bernicia, for a missionary to preach
Christianity to his pagan subjects. This was about the year 635. Aidan
made the island of Lindisfarne, off the coast of Northumberland,
his head-quarters. It is still known as Holy Island. Aidan has not
been forgotten in the matter of wells. There are four to him, viz.,
at Menmuir and at Fearn, in Forfarshire; at Balmerino, in Fife; and
at Cambusnethan, in Lanarkshire. This last, called St. Iten's Well,
was noted for the cure of asthma and skin-disease.

Boisil, abbot of the monastery of Old Melrose, about the middle of
the seventh century, still lives in the name of the Roxburghshire
village and parish of St. Boswell's. There is a spring in the parish
bearing the name of The Well-brae Wall. Boswell's own spring is
popularly styled the Hare-well. Not far from both is St. Boswell's
Burn, a tributary of the Tweed. The local fair held on July 18th, in
honour of the saint, used to be a notable one in the border counties,
and was frequented by large numbers of gipsies who set up booths for
the sale of their wares.

Bathan, who flourished in the early seventh century, had to
do with Shetland, and with the region about the Whittadder, in
Berwickshire. Abbey St. Bathans, in the latter county, is named after
him. His well is on one of the haughs beside the river, not far from
the ruined nunnery. Its water is believed never to freeze.

Boniface belonged to the same century. He is said to have preached
Christianity at Gowrie, in Pictavia, and afterwards at Rosemarkie,
in the Black Isle, where he died at the age of eighty, and was buried
in the church of St. Peter. A well and a fair at Rosemarkie still
keep alive his memory.

The fame of Catherine of Alexandria travelled to Scotland at a
comparatively early period. This holy maiden was noted for her
learning. Indeed she was so wise that Maxentius the Emperor called
her a "second Plato." The Emperor's compliments, however, stopped
there, for he ordered her to be executed on account of her contempt
for paganism. The wheel, her usual attribute in art, was not the
instrument of her martyrdom, as it was miraculously destroyed. She
met her death by being beheaded, and, immediately thereafter, her
body was carried by angels to Mount Sinai. These and other legendary
incidents must have conduced to make the saint popular. St. Catherine's
Balm-well, at Liberton, Mid-Lothian, had a high reputation for
curing skin-disease. Martin speaks of a well to St. Catherine on
the south coast of Eigg, reckoned by the islanders a specific in all
kinds of disease. He gives the following account of its dedication
by Father Hugh, a priest, and of the respect paid to the spring in
consequence:--"He (the priest) obliged all the inhabitants to come to
this well, and then employed them to bring together a great heap of
stones at the head of the spring by way of penance. This being done,
he said Mass at the well, and then consecrated it; he gave each of the
inhabitants a piece of wax candle, which they lighted, and all of them
made the Dessil,--of going round the well sun-ways, the priest leading
them; and from that time it was accounted unlawful to boil any meat
with the water of this well." In the south-west of Scotland, Catherine
has, or had, three wells, viz., at Stoneykirk, at Low Drumore, and
at Old Luce, opposite the Abbey. In the north-east there are three,
viz., at Fyvie, Aberdeenshire; and in Alvah parish, Banffshire; and at
Banff itself. At Shotts, in Lanarkshire, the fountain by the roadside
immediately below the parish church is, or at least was, locally known
as Cat's or Kate's Well--a contraction of the Saint's name--reminding
one of the Kate Kennedy celebration at St. Andrews University, which
originated in connection with the gift of a bell by Bishop Kennedy in
honour of the saint. The ruins of Caibeal Cairine, i.e., Catherine's
Chapel, are in Southend parish, Kintyre, and two farms called North
and South Carine are in the immediate neighbourhood. Captain White,
when exploring the district, sought for St. Catherine's Well in the
adjoining glen, but failed to find it. A chapel to the saint once
stood in the quondam town of Kincardine in the Mearns. Its graveyard
alone remains. St. Catherine's Fair, held at Kincardine till the year
1612, was then transferred to the neighbouring Fettercairn. There
is perhaps no place-name more familiar to visitors to Inveraray
than St. Catherine's, on the opposite shore of Loch Fyne. It was in
St. Catherine's Aisle, within the parish church of Linlithgow, that
James IV. saw the mysterious apparition that warned him to beware of
Flodden. At Port-Erin, in the Isle of Man, is a spring close to the
beach, and on a stone beside it in old lettering, can be read the
piece of advice:--


                    "St. Catherine's Well,
                      Keep me clean."


Lawrence is represented by various springs, viz., by one in
Kirkcudbrightshire, at Fairgirth; by one in Elginshire, at New Duffus;
and by two in Aberdeenshire, at Kinnord; and at Rayne, where a horse
market, called Lawrence Fair, is still held annually in August. Near
the Fairgirth spring stand the ivy-clad ruins of St. Lawrence's Chapel,
at one time surrounded by a graveyard. The parish of Slamannan, in
Stirlingshire, was anciently called St. Lawrence, its pre-Reformation
church having been dedicated to him. An excellent spring, not far
from the parish church, is known as St. Lawrence's Well. There is
reason to believe that all these dedications relate to Lawrence,
who, about the middle of the third century, suffered at Rome, by
being broiled over a slow fire, and in whose honour the Escurial in
Spain was built in the form of a gridiron--the supposed instrument
of his martyrdom. Laurencekirk, in Kincardineshire, anciently called
Conveth, received its name, not from the martyr, but from Lawrence,
archbishop of Canterbury, successor of Augustine, early in the seventh
century. He is said to have visited the Mearns. The church of Conveth
was named in his honour Laurencekirk. As far as we know, however,
there is no spring to him in the district.

Margaret, queen and saint, wife of Malcolm Canmore, was a light
amid the darkness of the eleventh century. Indeed she was a light
to many later centuries. The secret of her beneficial influence
lay in her personal character, and she undoubtedly did much to
recommend civilisation to a barbarous age. At the same time it
must not be forgotten that through her English training she was
unable to appreciate either the speech or the special religious
institutions of her Scottish subjects, and that, accordingly, the
changes introduced by her were not all reforms. When sketching her
influence on the history of her time, the Rev. Dr. M'Lauchlan, in his
"Early Scottish Church," observes, "She was somewhat unwillingly
hindered from entering a monastery by her marriage with Malcolm,
and the latter repaid the obligation by unbounded devotion to her and
readiness to fall in with all her schemes. She was brought up in the
Anglo-Saxon Church, as that Church was moulded by Augustine and other
emissaries of Rome, and was in consequence naturally opposed to many
of the peculiarities of the Scottish Church, which was still without
diocesan bishops, and had many things in its forms of worship peculiar
to itself." Dunfermline was Malcolm's favourite place of residence, and
many were the journeys made by his wife between it and Edinburgh. The
names of North and South Queensferry, where she crossed the Forth,
tell of these royal expeditions. Malcolm and Margaret were associated
with the town of Forfar. Local topography has still its King's Muir,
and its Queen's Well to testify to the fact; and on the Inch of Forfar
Loch, where Margaret had a residence, an annual celebration was long
held in her honour. She had a spring at Edinburgh Castle, described as
"the fountain which rises near the corner of the King's Garden, on the
road leading to St. Cuthbert's Church." St. Margaret's Well--once at
Restalrig, now in the Queen's Park--has already been referred to. At
Dunfermline there is a spring in a cave where, according to tradition,
she spent many an hour in pious meditation. The cave is about seven
feet in height, fully eight in breadth, and varies in depth from
eight to eleven. "This cave," remarks the Rev. Peter Chalmers in his
"History of Dunfermline," "is situated at a short distance north from
the Tower Hill, and from the mound crossing the ravine on which part
of the town stands. There is at present a small spring well at the
bottom, the water of which rises at times and covers the whole lower
space; but anciently, it is to be presumed, there was none, or at
least it must have been covered, and prevented from overflowing the
floor, which would either have been formed of the rock or have been
paved." A considerable amount of rubbish accumulated in the cave,
but this was removed in 1877. "During the process of clearing out
the cave," remarks Dr. Henderson in his "Annals of Dunfermline,"
"two stone seats or benches were discovered along the base of the
north and south sides, but there were no carvings or devices seen on
them. Near the back of the cave a small sunk well was found, but it
is now covered over with a stone flag."

Several Scripture characters have wells named after
them. St. Matthew has springs at Kirkton, Dumfriesshire, and at
Roslin, Midlothian. St. Andrew's name is attached to wells at
Sandal, in Kintyre; at North Berwick, in East Lothian; at Shadar,
in Lewis; and at Selkirk--this last having been uncovered in 1892,
after remaining closed, it is believed, for fully three hundred
years. A spring at St. Andrews, called Holy Well, is understood to
have been dedicated either to Andrew or to Regulus. St. Paul has
springs at Fyvie and at Linlithgow; St. Philip is patron of one
in Yarrow parish, Selkirkshire; St. James has one at Garvock, in
Aberdeenshire; St. Thomas has three--at Lochmaben, Dumfriesshire;
at Crieff, in Perthshire; and near Stirling; and St. John has a
considerable number of springs. Some of these are to the Evangelist,
and some to the Baptist. It is often difficult to know to which of
the two the patronage of a given well should be ascribed. Of the four
chapels along the east wall of the lower church of Glasgow Cathedral,
the one next to St. Mungo's Well was dedicated in pre-Reformation
times to St. John the Evangelist. It would have been more appropriately
dedicated to the Baptist. St. John's Wells are to be found at Moffat,
in Dumfriesshire; at Logie Coldstone, in Aberdeenshire; near Fochabers,
in Elginshire; at Inverkeithing, Balmerino; and Falkland, in Fife;
at Kinnethmont, and in New Aberdour, in Aberdeenshire; at Marykirk, in
Kincardineshire; at Kirkton of Deskford, at Ordiquhill, and also near
the old church of Gamrie, in Banffshire; at Stranraer, in Wigtownshire;
at Dunrobin, in Sutherland; and elsewhere. There are more than a dozen
wells to St. Peter. These are to be found mainly in counties in the
south-west, and in the north-east. In the latter district there is
a well at Marnoch, in Banffshire, called Petrie's Well.

St. Anne, the reputed mother of the Virgin, presided over wells at
Ladykirk, in Berwickshire; near the old church of St. Anne, in Dowally
parish, Perthshire; and at Glass, on the Deveron. The Virgin herself
was specially popular as the patroness of fountains. There are over
seventy dedicated to her under a variety of names, such as, St. Mary's
Well, Maria Well, &c. The town of Motherwell, in Lanarkshire,
was so called after a famous well to the Virgin. Tobermory, in
Mull--literally, Well of Mary--was originally a fountain. A village
was built beside it, in 1788, as a fishing centre for the British
Fisheries' Company. A curious legend about the now ivy-clad ruins of
the church of St. Mary in Auchindoir parish, Aberdeenshire, is thus
referred to by Mr. A. Jervise in the "Proceedings of the Society of
Antiquaries of Scotland," vol. viii. (old series):--"According to
tradition, it was originally proposed to rebuild the church at a place
called Kirkcairns (now Glencairns) to the south of Lumsden village,
and but for the warning voice of the Virgin, who appears to have been a
good judge both of locality and soil, the kirk would have been placed
in an obscure sterile district. Besides being in the neighbourhood
of good land, fine views of the upper part of Strathbogie and of the
surrounding hills are obtained from the present site.... St. Mary's
Well is about a hundred yards to the west."

If Michael the Archangel did not fold his wings over any Scottish
wells, he at least gave name to several. There is a St. Michael's
Spring in Kirkmichael parish, Banffshire, and another at Dallas
in Elginshire. In both cases, the ancient church was dedicated to
him. Culsalmond, in Aberdeenshire, and Applegarth, in Dumfriesshire,
have, and Edinburgh once had, a St. Michael's Well. The best known is
probably the one at Linlithgow, with its quaint inscription--"Saint
Michael is kinde to straingers." Mr. J. R. Walker--to whose list
of Holy Wells in the "Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of
Scotland," vol. v. (new series), we have been indebted for various
useful hints--remarks, "The building covering this well dates only
from 1720.... It is conjectured that the statue was taken from the
Cross-well when restored about that date and placed here to represent
St. Michael, who is the patron saint of Linlithgow Church.... With the
exception of the statue, which is undoubtedly of much earlier date
than 1720, the structure shows the utter absence of architectural
knowledge--especially Gothic--characteristic of the last century
in Scotland. Michael was tutelar saint, not only of the church, but
also of the burgh of Linlithgow. In the town Arms he is represented
with outspread wings, standing on a serpent whose head he is piercing
with a spear. He was also the guardian of the burgh of Dumfries. At
Inverlussa, in North Knapdale parish, Argyllshire, may be seen
the ancient chapel and burying-ground of Kilmichael. A well in the
immediate neighbourhood is dedicated, not to the archangel, but to
some local ecclesiastic, whose name is now forgotten. In reference to
this spring, Captain White says, "Trickling out from under a rock,
is the Priest's Well (Tobar-ant-Sagairt), famous, like many another
spring of so-called holy water, for its miraculous healing virtues. I
believe the country people have by no means lost their faith in its
powers." The extent of the archangel's popularity in Scotland is shown
by his impress on topography. Among place-names we find at least
three Kilmichaels, and there are five parishes called Kirkmichael,
respectively in the counties of Dumfries, Ayr, Perth, Ross and
Cromarty, and Banff. A chapel is said to have been dedicated to him at
a very early date on the top of the Castle Rock at Edinburgh. Another
once stood in the demesne of Lovat, where was founded, about 1232,
a Priory for French monks, who were so struck with the beauty of the
spot that they called it Beau-lieu, now Beauly. Far west, in the outer
Hebrides, he had faithful votaries. On the island of Grimisay, close to
North Uist, a chapel styled Teampull Mhicheil was built in his honour
towards the close of the fourteenth century. It was the work of Amie,
otherwise Annie, wife of John of Isla, first Lord of the Isles, and
was used by her as an oratory when prevented by rough weather from
crossing the Minch to visit her friends in Lorne. That the archangel
should have had wells named after him is therefore not surprising.



CHAPTER V.

STONE BLOCKS AND SAINTS' SPRINGS.

    Stone Beds and Chairs--Cave Life--Dwarfie Stone--Stone
    Boats--Balthere--His Corpse--His Well and Cradle--Marnan--His
    Influence on Topography--His Head--St. Marnan's
    Chair and Well--Muchricha--Cathair Donan--St. Donan's
    Well--Patrick--His Wells--St. Patrick's Vat--Quarry at
    Portpatrick--Columbanus--Mark of his Hand--Kentigern's
    Chair and Bed--His connection with Aberdeenshire--The Lady's
    Bed--Thenew--Columba's Bed and Pillow--Holy Island--Traces
    of Molio--St. Blane's Chapel--Kilmun--Inan--St. Innian's
    Well--Tenant's Day--St. Inan's Chair and Springs--Kevin--Print
    of Virgin's Knee--Traces of Columba at Keil--St. Cuthbert's
    Stane--St. Madron's Bed--Mean-an-Tol--Morwenna--St. Fillan's
    Chair--St. Fillan's Spring--Water for Sore Eyes--The Two
    Fillans--Their Dedications--Queen Margaret's Seat--St. Bonnet's
    Spring--The Fairies' Cradle--The Pot o' Pittenyoul--Church of
    Invergowrie--Greystane--Cadger's Bridge--Wallace's Seat and Well.


Beds and Chairs of stone are connected with various early saints,
and as such relics are often associated with holy wells, some notice
of these may not be without interest. We have already seen that cave
life was rather popular among these early missionaries. Anything
of a rocky nature was therefore quite in line with their ascetic
ways. Hoy, one of the Orkney Islands, famous for its wild scenery,
and specially for the pillar of rock popularly styled The Old Man,
contains a curious monument of antiquity in the shape of a large
block of sandstone called The Dwarfie Stone, hollowed out long ago
by some unknown hand. The chamber, thus excavated, contains two beds
hewn out of the stone, one of them having a pillow of the same hard
material. On the floor of the chamber is a hearth where a fire had
evidently burned, and in the roof is a hole for the escape of the
smoke. Legend reports that a giant and his wife abode within; but the
hollow space was more probably the retreat of some hermit--perhaps,
of more than one, seeing there are two couches; though, possibly,
one of the supposed couches may have been a table and the other a
bed. Perhaps the anchorite had his spring whither he wandered daily
to slake his thirst; but, as far as we know, there is no tradition
regarding any holy well in the neighbourhood.

Martin, in connection with his visit to Orkney, refers to a stone
in the chapel of Ladykirk, in South Ronaldshay, called St. Magnus's
Boat. The stone was four feet in length, and tapered away at both ends;
but its special feature was the print of two human feet on the upper
surface. A local tradition affirmed that when St. Magnus wanted on one
occasion to cross the Pentland Firth to Caithness he used this stone
as his boat, and that he afterwards carried it to Ladykirk. According
to another tradition, the stone served in pre-Reformation times for
the punishment of delinquents, who were obliged to stand barefooted
upon it by way of penance. There is a St. Magnus's Well, not in South
Ronaldshay, however, but at Birsay, in the mainland of Orkney. When
Conval crossed from Ireland to Scotland, in the seventh century, he,
too, made a block of stone do duty as a boat. It found a resting-place
beside the river Cart, near Renfrew, and was known as Currus Sancti
Convalli. By its means miraculous cures were wrought on man and
beast. A rock at the mouth of Aldham Bay, in Haddingtonshire, is known
as St. Baudron's Boat, and tradition says that he crossed on it from
the Bass, where he had a cell. This saint--called also Balthere and
Baldred--founded the monastery of Tyningham, and died early in the
seventh century. He must have been popular in the district, for, if we
can believe an old legend, the parishioners of the churches of Aldham,
Tyningham, and Prestonkirk tried to get possession of his relics. To
satisfy their demands his body was miraculously multiplied by three,
and each church was thus provided with one. Near Tantallon Castle is
St. Baldred's Well, and a fissure in the cliff at Whitberry, not far
from the mouth of the Tyne, is known as St. Baldred's Bed or Cradle.

Marnan or Marnoch, besides giving name to the town of Kilmarnock, in
Ayrshire, and to the Island of Inchmarnoch, off Bute, is remembered in
the name of the Banffshire parish of Marnoch, where he laboured as a
missionary in the seventh century. His head was kept as a revered relic
in the church of Aberchirder, and solemn oaths were sworn by it. Use
was also made of it for therapeutic purposes. It was periodically
washed, and the water was given to the sick for the restoration of
their health. This was not an isolated case. Bede tells us, that after
Cuthbert's death, some of the water in which his body was washed,
was given to an epileptic boy along with some consecrated earth,
and brought about a cure. A stone, called St. Marnan's Chair, is,
or was till lately, to be seen at Aberchirder; and a spring, near
the parish manse, bears the saint's name. About a mile and a half
from the church of Aboyne, in Aberdeenshire, is St. Muchricha's Well,
and beside it is a stone marked with a cross. At one time, this stone
was removed. According to a local tradition, it was brought back by
Muchricha, the guardian of the well, who seemed unwilling to lose
sight of the lost property. In the parish of Kildonan, Sutherland, two
or three blocks of stone, placed in the form of a seat, went by the
name of Cathair Donan, i.e., Donan's Chair. In his cille or church,
Donan taught the truths of Christianity; and, seated in his cathair,
he administered justice to the people of the district. There is a
St. Donan's Well in Eigg, the island where the saint and his companion
clerics were murdered by the natives early in the seventh century.

Patrick, the well-known missionary of Ireland, was reverenced also in
Scotland. There is a well dedicated to him in the parish of Muthill,
Perthshire, and close to it once stood a chapel, believed to have borne
his name. From the article on Muthill parish, in the "New Statistical
Account of Scotland," we learn that in former times the inhabitants
of the district held the saint's memory "in such veneration that, on
his day, neither the clap of the mill was heard nor the plough seen
to move in the furrow." There is a well dedicated to him in Dalziel
parish, Lanarkshire. About sixty yards from St. Patrick's temple, in
the island of Tyree, is a rock, with a hollow on the top, two feet
across and four feet deep, known to the islanders as St. Patrick's
Vat. At any rate it was so named at the end of last century. In a
quarry at Portpatrick, Wigtownshire, used in connection with the
harbour works, once flowed a spring dedicated to the saint. On the
rock below were formerly to be seen certain marks, said, by tradition,
to be the impression made by his knees and left hand.

Columban or Columbanus, belonged, like Columba, to the sixth
century. Ireland was also his native land. When he left it he
travelled, not north like Columba, but south, and sought the sunny
lands of France and Italy. In the latter country he founded the
monastery of Bobbio among the Apennines. A writer in the "Antiquary"
for 1891 remarks, in connection with a recent visit to this monastery,
"I was taken to see a rock on the summit of a mountain called La
Spanna, near the cave to which the saint is said to have retired
for prayer and meditation. The impression of the saint's left hand
is still shown upon the face of this rock. The healing power of the
patron's hand is believed by the peasantry of the surrounding country
to linger still in the hollow marking, and many sufferers, climbing to
this spot, have found relief from laying their hand within its palm."

In addition to his well beside the Molendinar, at Glasgow, Kentigern
had a chair and bed, both of stone. Concerning the latter, Bishop
Forbes, in his "Kalendars of Scottish Saints," says, "Kentigern's couch
was rather a sepulchre than a bed, and was of rock, with a stone for
a pillow, like Jacob. He rose in the night and sang psalms and hymns
till the second cock-crowing. Then he rushed into the cold stream, and
with eyes fixed on heaven he recited the whole psalter. Then, coming
out of the water he dried his limbs on a stone on the mountain called
Galath, and went forth for his day's work." Kentigern's work took him
beyond the limits of Strathclyde. He seems to have visited the uplands
of Aberdeenshire. The church of Glengairn, a parish now incorporated
with Tullich and Glenmuick, was probably founded by him. At any rate,
it was dedicated to him. A tradition of his untiring zeal survived
in Aberdeenshire down to the beginning of last century. According to
a proverb then current, systematic beneficence was said to be "like
St. Mungo's work, which was never done." The Isle of May, in the
Firth of Forth, has, on one of its rocky sides, a small cave called
The Lady's Bed, containing a pool in its floor. As Mr. Muir points
out in his "Ecclesiological Notes," it is traditionally associated
with Thenew, Kentigern's mother, "who," according to the legend,
"after being cast into the sea at Aberlady, was miraculously floated
to the May, and thence, in the same manner, to Culross, where she
was stranded and gave birth to the saint." Columba, when in Iona,
had a stone slab as a bed, and a block of stone as a pillow. Adamnan
mentions that, after the saint's death, this pillow stone was placed
as a monument over his grave.

Guarding Lamlash Bay, where Haco gathered his shattered fleet after
the battle of Largs, in 1263, is Holy Island, known to the Norsemen
as Melansay. In this island is a cave, at one time inhabited by
the hermit Molio, and below it, near the beach, is his Holy Well,
for centuries reckoned efficacious in the cure of disease. A large
block of sandstone, flat on the top, with a series of recesses like
seats cut round its margin, constitutes the saint's chair and table
combined. Molio was educated in Bute by his uncle Blane, to whom the
now ruined St. Blane's Chapel was dedicated. He afterwards went to
Ireland, and was placed under Munna, who is still remembered in the
name of Kilmun, on Holy Loch, in the Firth of Clyde.

Inan, probably the same as Finan, gave name to Inchinnan, in
Renfrewshire, though the ancient church of the parish was dedicated,
not to him, but to Conval. The church at Lamington, in Lanarkshire,
was dedicated to Inan. St. Innian's Well is in the parish. He is the
patron saint of Beith, in Ayrshire. The annual fair held there in
August is popularly called Tenant's Day--Tenant being a corruption of
St. Inan. St. Inan's Well and St. Inan's Chair keep his memory fresh
in the district. Some particulars about them are given by Mr. Robert
Love in the "Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland",
vol. xi.:--"This chair is in the rocky hill-face at the west end of
the Cuff hills, and from its elevated position a wide tract of country
from south to north is overlooked. At the base of the hill, and distant
from the chair some hundred yards, is a well called St. Inan's Well,
a double spring, which issues from the rock at two points close by each
other, and which is almost unapproachable in respect of its abundance
and purity. This chair is formed in part, possibly by nature, out of
the rock of the hill. Its back and two sides are closed in, while,
in front, to the west, it is open. The seat proper is above the
ground in front about two feet two inches, is two feet four inches
in breadth, and one foot four inches in depth backwards." Visitors
to the seven churches at Glendalough, in county Wicklow, Ireland,
are usually shown St. Kevin's Seat on a block of rock. As a proof of
its genuineness the mark made by the saint's leg and the impression
of his fingers are duly pointed out by the local guide.

In Kirkmaiden parish, Wigtownshire, the print of the Virgin's knee
was at one time shown on a stone where she knelt in prayer. There was
a chapel dedicated to her in the neighbourhood. In Southend parish,
Kintyre, are the remains of St. Columba's Chapel, standing in the
ancient burying-ground of Keil. In his "Ecclesiological Notes" Mr. Muir
observes, "Under an overhanging rock, close by on the roadside,
is St. Columba's Well, and on the top of a hillock, overlooking the
west end of the burial ground there is a flat rock bearing on its
top the impress of two feet, made, it seems, by those of the saint
whilst he stood marking out and hallowing the spot on which his chapel
should rest." In Bromfield parish, Cumberland, is a piece of granite
rock called St. Cuthbert's Stane, and near it is a copious spring of
remarkably pure water. Brand, in his "Popular Antiquities," says that
"this spring, probably from its having been anciently dedicated to
the same St. Cuthbert, is called Helly Well, i.e., Haly or Holy Well."

Mr. R. C. Hope, in his "Holy Wells," refers to a block of stone
near St. Madron's Spring, in Cornwall, locally known as St. Madron's
Bed. We are told that "on it impotent folk reclined when they came
to try the cold water cure." In the same parish is a pre-historic
relic in the form of a granite block with a hole in the centre of
it. It is known in Cornish as Mean-an-Tol, i.e., the Stone of the
Hole. Its name in English is The Creeping Stone. Sickly children were
at one time passed through the hole a certain number of times, in the
belief that a cure would follow. This superstitious custom recalls what
was at one time done beside St. Paul's Well, in the parish of Fyvie,
Aberdeenshire. Close to the well were the ruins of an old church. One
of its stones was supported on other two with a space below. It
went by the name of The Shargar Stone--shargar signifying a weakly
child. The stone, in this instance, got its name from the custom in
the district of mothers passing their ailing children through the
space below the stone, in the belief that whatever hindered their
growth would thereby be removed. Mr. Hope recounts a tradition
concerning Morwenstowe, in Devon, and its patron saint, Morwenna,
to the effect that when the parishioners wished to build a church,
Morwenna brought a large stone from the foot of the cliff to form
the font. Feeling fatigued by the climb she laid down the stone to
rest herself, and from the spot a spring gushed forth.

On the top of green Dunfillan, in the parish of Comrie, is a rocky seat
known in the district as Fillan's Chair. Here, according to tradition,
the saint sat and gave his blessing to the country around. Towards
the end of last century, and doubtless even later, this chair was
associated with a superstitious remedy for rheumatism in the back. The
person to be cured sat in the chair, and then, lying on his back, was
dragged down the hill by the legs. The influence of the saint lingering
about the spot was believed to insure recovery. St. Fillan's Spring,
at the hill-foot, has already been referred to, in connection with its
mysterious change of site. It was much frequented at one time by old
and young, especially on 1st May and 1st August. The health seekers
walked or were carried thrice round the spring from east to west,
following the course of the sun. The next part of the ritual consisted
in the use of the water for drinking and washing, in throwing a white
stone on the saint's cairn, near the spring, and in leaving a rag as
an offering before departing. In 1791 not fewer than seventy persons
visited the spot at the dates mentioned. The writer of the article
on Comrie in the "Old Statistical Account of Scotland" supplies these
particulars, and adds, "At the foot of the hill there is a basin made
by the saint on the top of a large stone, which seldom wants water,
even in the greatest drought, and all who are distressed with sore eyes
must wash them three times with this water." Fillan, to whom Comrie
parish is thus so much indebted, flourished about the sixth century,
and must not be confounded with the other missionary of the same name,
who dwelt more than a century later, in the straths of the Fillan
and the Dochart, between Tyndrum and Killin. Concerning the former,
Dr. Skene writes in his "Celtic Scotland": "Fillan, called Anlobar or
'the leper,' whose day is 20th June, is said in the Irish calendar to
have been of Rath Erenn in Alban, or the fort of the Earn in Scotland,
and St. Fillans, at the east end of Loch Earn, takes its name from him;
while the church of Aberdour, on the northern shore of the Firth of
Forth, is also dedicated to him." The other Fillan had his Chapel
and Holy Pool halfway between Tyndrum and Crianlarich. He is also
connected with Fife. At Pittenweem, in that county, his cave is to be
seen, and in it is his holy well, supplied with water from crevices
in the rock. At the mill of Killin, in Perthshire, once stood a block
of stone, known as St. Fillan's Chair. Close to the spot flows the
Dochart, and some person or persons, whose muscles were stronger than
their antiquarian instincts, sought not unsuccessfully to throw the
relic into the river. The Renfrewshire parish of Killallan, united in
1760 to that of Houston, got its name from Fillan. Its ancient church,
now ruined, was dedicated to him. Near the ruins, are a stone with
a hollow in it and a spring, called respectively St. Fillan's Seat
and St. Fillan's Well.

About two miles and a half to the south-east of Dunfermline,
is a block of stone, believed to be the last remnant of a group
of pre-historic Standing Stones. According to tradition, it was
used by Queen Margaret, as a seat where she rested, when on her
way to and from the ferry over the Forth. A farm in the immediate
neighbourhood is called St. Margaret's Stone Farm, after the block
in question. In his "Annals of Dunfermline" Dr. Henderson says,
"In 1856 this stone was removed to an adjacent site, by order of the
road surveyor, in order to widen the road which required no widening,
as no additional traffic was likely to ensue, but the reverse; it is
therefore much to be regretted that the old landmark was removed. It
is in contemplation to have the old stone replaced on its old site
(as nearly as possible) and made to rest, with secure fixings, on a
massive base or plinth stone." Not far from the town of Cromarty is
St. Bennet's Spring, beside the ruins of St. Bennet's Chapel. Close to
the spot once stood a stone trough, termed The Fairies' Cradle. Hugh
Miller, in his "Scenes and Legends of the North of Scotland," says
that this trough was "famous for virtues derived from the saint, like
those of the well. For, if a child was carried away by the fairies
and some mischievous imp left in its place, the parents had only to
lay the changeling in this trough, and, by some invisible process,
their child would be immediately restored to them. The Fairies'
Cradle came to a sudden end about the year 1745. It was then broken
to pieces by the parish minister, with the assistance of two of his
elders, that it might no longer serve the purposes of superstition."

The following, from the Rev. Dr. Gregor's "Folklore of the North-East
of Scotland," has certainly nothing to do with a saint, but in other
respects, has a bearing on the subject in hand:--"The Pot o' Pittenyoul
is a small but romantic rock-pool in a little stream called the 'Burn
o' the Riggins,' which flows past the village of Newmills of Keith. On
the edge of the pool are some hollows worn away by the water and the
small stones and sand carried down by the stream. These hollows to a
lively imagination have the shape of a seat, and the story is, that
the devil, at some far-back time, sat down on the edge of the pool and
left his mark." Probably at an equally distant date, the devil made
his presence felt, further south, though in a different way. He had
great objections to a church built at Invergowrie, in Perthshire, and,
in order to knock it down, hurled a huge boulder across the Tay from
the opposite coast of Fife. We are not aware that the stone struck
the church. At any rate it can be seen in the grounds of Greystane,
a property to which, according to local tradition, it gave name. Sir
William Wallace, though never canonized, had certainly more of the
saint about him than the last-mentioned personage. We find various
traditions concerning him in the Upper Ward of Lanarkshire. His
connection with Lanark is well known. At Biggar, he is said, by
Blind Harry, to have defeated the English, who greatly outnumbered
his forces. This battle took place on Biggar Moss. A few days before
the fight, he entered the enemy's camp, disguised as a cadger or
pedlar, to discover the strength of the English army. Being pursued,
he turned on his assailants while crossing a bridge over Biggar
Water, a little to the west of the town. A foot-bridge there still
goes by the name of The Cadger's Bridge. A rock with a hollow in it,
lying to the north of Vizzyberry, is locally styled Wallace's Seat,
and a spring near the spot is still known as Wallace's Well.



CHAPTER VI.

HEALING AND HOLY WELLS.

    Healing and Holy--Modern Health-resorts--King's
    Ease--Poorhouse of Ayr--Muswell--St. Martin's Chapel--Alum
    Wells--Petrifying Springs--Peterhead--Moss of Melshach--Well
    of Spa--Chapel Wells at Kirkmaiden--Medan--St. Catherine's
    Balm Well--The Sciennes--St. Bernard's Well--Non-mineral
    Wells--Early Saints--Water for Discipline--For
    Baptism--Burghead--Lough Shanan--Tobar-an-easbuig--Poetry and
    Superstition--Heljabrün--Trinity Hospital and Well--St. Mungo's
    Well--Fuaran n'Gruarach--Spring in Athole--Fiddler's Well--Water
    as a Prophylactic.


Healing and holy have an etymological kinship. The one is commonly
associated with matters relating to the body, and the other with
those relating to the soul. If the body is healed, it is said to be
whole and its owner hale; and if the soul is healed, it is said to
be holy. All these words have one idea in common, and hence we need
not wonder that healing wells were, as a rule, reckoned holy wells,
and vice versa. When speaking of the virtues of such wells, Mrs. Stone,
in her "God's Acre," puts the point exactly, if somewhat quaintly, when
she says, "Before chemistry was born, when medical science was little
known, these medical virtues, so plainly and indisputably ostensible,
were attributed to the beneficence of the saint or angel to whom the
spring had been dedicated." Many still go to Moffat, Bridge-of-Allan,
and Strathpeffer to drink the waters, but probably, none of those
health-seekers now rely on magic for a cure. It was quite otherwise
in former times. Cures wrought at Lourdes are still believed, by many,
to be due to the blessing of the water by the Virgin Mary.

Not far from the highway between Ayr and Prestwick once stood a
lazar-house called King's Ease or King's Case, known in the sixteenth
century as Kilcaiss. Its ruins were to be seen till well on in the
present century. According to tradition, the hospital was founded
for lepers by King Robert Bruce, who was himself afflicted with a
disease believed to be leprosy. This was done as a thank-offering,
for benefit received from the water of a neighbouring well. The spring
was doubtless sacred to some saint, probably to Ninian, to whom the
hospital was dedicated, and we can safely infer that the patron got
the credit of the cure. To maintain the lepers the king gifted various
lands to the hospital, among others, those of Robertlone, in Dundonald
parish, and of Sheles and Spital-Sheles, in Kyle Stewart. The right
of presentation to the hospital was vested in the family of Wallace
of Craigie. At a later date the lands belonging to the charity passed
into other hands. In the third volume of his "Caledonia," published
in 1824, Chalmers remarks, "The only revenue that remained to it was
the feu-duties payable from the lands granted in fee-firm, and these,
amounting to 64 bolls of meal and 8 marks Scots of money, with 16
threaves of straw for thatching the hospital, are still paid. For more
than two centuries past the diminished revenue has been shared among
eight objects of charity in equal shares of 8 bolls of meal and 1 mark
Scots to each. The leprosy having long disappeared, the persons who are
now admitted to the benefit of this charity are such as labour under
diseases which are considered as incurable, or such as are in indigent
circumstances." In the time of Charles I., the persons enjoying the
benefit of the charity lived in huts or cottages in the vicinity of
the chapel. In 1787 the right of presentation was bought from the
Wallaces by the burgh of Ayr, and the poorhouse there is thus the
lineal descendant of King Robert's hospital. Mr. R. C. Hope, in his
"Holy Wells," alludes to the interesting fact that Bruce had a free
pass from the English king to visit Muswell, near London, close to the
site of the Alexandra Palace. This well, dedicated to St. Lazarus, at
one time belonged to the hospital order of St. John's, Clerkenwell,
and was resorted to in cases of leprosy. Bruce's foundation at
Ayr recalls another at Stony Middleton, in Derbyshire. The latter,
however, was a chapel, and not a hospital. Tradition says that a
crusader, belonging to the district, was cured of leprosy by means
of the mineral water there, and that in gratitude he built a chapel
and dedicated it to his patron saint, Martin.

In glancing at the history of holy wells, it is not difficult
to understand why certain springs were endowed with mysterious
properties. When there were no chemists to analyse mineral springs,
anyone tasting the water would naturally enough think that there was
something strange about it, a notion that would not vanish with the
first draught. The wonder, too, would grow if the water was found
to put fresh vigour into wearied frames. Alum wells, like the one
in Carnwath parish, Lanarkshire, would, through their astringent
qualities, arrest attention. A well at Halkirk, Caithness, must have
been a cause of wonder, if we judge by the description given of it
in the "Old Statistical Account of Scotland," where we read, that
"on its surface lies always a thin beautiful kind of substance, that
varies like the plumage of the peacock displayed in all its glory to
the rays of the sun."

The petrifying power of certain springs would also tend to bring them
into notice. There is a famous well of this kind near Tarras Water,
in Canonbie parish, Dumfriesshire. In Kirkmaiden parish, Wigtownshire,
is a dropping cave, known as Peter's Paps. In former times it was
resorted to by persons suffering from whooping-cough. The treatment
consisted in standing with upturned face below the drop, and allowing
it to fall into the open mouth. For more than two centuries and
a half, the mineral waters of Peterhead have been famous for both
internal and external use, though their fame is not now so great as
formerly. Towards the end of the seventeenth century, they were spoken
of as one of the six wonders of Buchan. The principal well is situated
to the south of the town, and is popularly called the Wine Well. Its
water is strongly impregnated with carbonic acid, muriate of iron,
muriate of lime, and muriate of soda. The chalybeate spring in the
Moss of Melshach, in Kennethmont parish, had at one time a considerable
local reputation for the cure of man and beast. Clothes of the former
and harness of the latter were left beside the well. Visits were
paid to it in the month of May. Another Aberdeenshire health-resort
formerly attracted many visitors, viz., Pannanich, near Ballater, with
its four chalybeate springs. These are said to have been accidentally
discovered, about the middle of last century, but were then probably
only rediscovered. They were at first found beneficial in the case of
scrofula, and were afterwards deemed infallible in all diseases. In his
"Antiquities and Scenery of the North of Scotland," Cordiner, under
date 1776, writes: "In coming down these hilly regions, stopped the
first night at 'Pananach-lodge:' an extensive building opposite to the
strange rocks and pass of Bolliter. There, a mineral well and baths,
whose virtues have been often experienced, are become much frequented
by the infirm. The lodge, containing a number of bed-chambers,
and a spacious public room, is fitted up for the accommodation of
those who come to take the benefit of the waters. Goat whey is also
there obtained in the greatest perfection." Almost a century later,
another visitor to the spot, viz., Queen Victoria, thus writes,
in her "More Leaves from the Journal of a Life in the Highlands":
"I had driven with Beatrice to Pannanich wells, where I had been
many years ago. Unfortunately, almost all the trees which covered
the hills have been cut down. We got out and tasted the water, which
is strongly impregnated with iron, and looked at the bath and at the
humble, but very clean, accommodation in the curious little old inn,
which used to be very much frequented." The Well of Spa, at Aberdeen,
was more famous in former times than it is now. There are two springs,
both of them chalybeate. The amount of iron in the water, however,
diminished very considerably more than fifty years ago--a change due to
certain digging operations in the neighbourhood. The present structure
connected with the well was renovated in 1851. It was built in 1670
to replace an earlier one, repaired by George Jamieson, the artist,
but soon afterwards completely demolished by the overflowing of the
adjoining Denburn. The present building, according to Mr. A. Jervise,
in the fourth volume of the "Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries
of Scotland," "bears representations of the Scottish Thistle, the
Rose of England, and the Fleur-de-lis of France, surmounting this
inscription:--


       'As heaven gives me
        So give I thee.'


Below these words is a carving of the rising sun, and the following
altered quotation from Horace:--


       'Hoc fonte derivata Salus
        In patriam populumque fluat.'


"It appears," continues Mr. Jervise, "that the virtues of this Spa were
early known and appreciated, for in 1615 record says that there was
'a long wyde stone which conveyed the waters from the spring, with
the portraicture of six Apostles hewen upon either side thereof.' It
is described as having then been 'verie old and worne.'"

An unusual kind of holy well, viz., one, in which salt water takes
the place of fresh, is to be found in the case of the Chapel Wells
in Kirkmaiden parish, Wigtownshire, half way between the bays of
Portankill and East Tarbet. About thirty yards to the north-west are
the ruins of St. Medan's Chapel, partly artificial and partly natural,
a cave forming the inner portion. In days gone by, the spot was much
frequented on the first Sunday of May (O.S.), called Co' Sunday, after
this cave or cove. Dr. Robert Trotter, who examined the chapel and
the wells in 1870, gives the results of the observations in the eighth
volume of the "Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland"
(new series). He says, "These wells--three natural cavities in a
mass of porphyritic trap--are within the tide mark, and are filled
by the sea at high water of ordinary tides. The largest is circular,
five feet in diameter at the top, and four feet at one side, shelving
down to five feet at the other, and is wider inside than at the top,
something like a kailpot in fact, and it is so close to the edge
of the rock that at one place its side is not two inches thick. The
other wells almost touch it, and are about one foot six inches wide
and deep respectively." Sickly children were brought to be bathed,
the time selected being just before sunrise. Dr. Trotter mentions
that children are still brought occasionally, sometimes from long
distances. The ceremony described to him by an eyewitness was as
follows:--"The child was stripped naked, and taken by the spaul--that
is, by one of the legs--and plunged headforemost into the big well till
completely submerged; it was then pulled out, and the part held on by
was dipped in the middle well, and then the whole body was finished
by washing the eyes in the smallest one, altogether very like the
Achilles and Styx business, only much more thorough. An offering was
then left in the old chapel, on a projecting stone inside the cave
behind the west door, and the cure was complete."

Much uncertainty attaches to Medan or Medana, the tutelar saint of
the spot. One legend makes her a contemporary of Ninian. According to
another, she lived about one hundred years later. Dr. Skene thinks
she is probably the same as Monenna, otherwise Edana, who is said
to have founded churches in Galloway, and at Edinburgh, Stirling
and Longforgan. Kirkmaiden parish, at one time called Kirkmaiden in
Ryndis, is believed to be named after her, like the other parish known
as Kirkmaiden in Farnes, now united to the parish of Glasserton. An
incident in her history has a bearing on the present subject. According
to the Aberdeen Breviary, she fled from her home in Ireland to escape
from the importunities of a certain noble knight who sought to marry
her. Accompanied by two handmaidens, she crossed to Galloway and took
up her abode in the Rhinns. The knight followed her. When Medana saw
him she placed herself along with her maidens on a rock in the sea. By
a miracle, this rock became a boat, and she was conveyed over the water
to Farnes. Again the knight appeared. This time Medana sought refuge
among the branches of a tree, and, from this coign of vantage, asked
her lover what it was that made him pursue her so persistently. "Your
face and eyes," replied the knight. Thereupon Medana plucked out
her eyes and threw them down at the feet of her lover, who was so
filled with grief and penitence that he immediately departed. On the
spot where her eyes fell a spring of water gushed forth, and in it
Medana washed her face, doubtless thereby restoring her sight. There
is much to favour the view taken by Dr. Trotter: that "possibly the
well was the original institution; the cave a shelter or dwelling
for the genius who discovered the miraculous virtues of the water,
and his successors; and the chapel a later edition for the benefit of
the clergy, who supplanted the old religion by grafting Christianity
upon it, St. Medana being a still later institution."

St. Catherine's Balm Well, at Liberton, near Edinburgh,
is still considered beneficial in the treatment of cutaneous
affections. The spring is situated on a small estate, called after
it, St. Catherine's. Peter Swave, who visited Scotland in 1535,
on a political mission, mentions that near Edinburgh there was a
spot in a monastery where oil flowed out of the ground. This was
his way of describing the Balm Well. Bitumenous particles, produced
by decomposition of coal in seams beneath, intermittently appear on
the surface of the water. This curious phenomenon must have attracted
attention at a very early period, and one can easily understand why the
well was in consequence regarded with superstitious reverence. When
speaking of this well, Brome, who visited Scotland about 1700,
observes, "It is of a marvellous nature, for as the coal whereof it
proceeds is very apt quickly to kindle into a flame, so is the oil
of a sudden operation to heal all scabs and tumours that trouble the
outward skin; and the head and hands are speedily healed by virtue
of this oil, which retains a very sweet smell." According to Boece,
the fountain sprang from a drop of oil, brought to Queen Margaret
of Scotland, from the tomb of St. Catherine on Mount Sinai. The same
writer mentions that Queen Margaret built a chapel to St. Catherine,
in the neighbourhood of the spring. In 1504 an offering was made by
James IV. in this chapel, described as "Sanct Kathrine's of the oly,
i.e., oily well." The later history of the spring is thus referred
to by Sir Daniel Wilson, in his "Memorials of Edinburgh in the Olden
Time": "When James VI. returned to Scotland, in 1617, he visited the
well, and commanded it to be enclosed with an ornamental building
with a flight of steps to afford ready access to the healing waters;
but this was demolished by the soldiers of Cromwell, and the well now
remains enclosed with plain stone-work, as it was partially repaired
at the Restoration." About three miles to the north of the well,
once stood the Convent of St. Catherine of Sienna--a religious
foundation which gave name to the part of Edinburgh still called
"The Sciennes." What Sir Daniel Wilson describes as "an unpicturesque
fragment of the ruins" served to the middle of the present century,
and perhaps, even later, as a sheep-fold for the flocks pasturing in
the adjoining meadow. Lord Cockburn, in his "Memorials of His Time,"
mentions that in his boyhood, about 1785, "a large portion of the
building survived." Before the Reformation the nuns of this convent
walked annually in solemn procession to the Balm Well. The saints to
whom the convent and the spring were respectively dedicated were, of
course, not identical, though bearing the same name. The coincidence
of name, however, evidently led to these yearly visits. As it may be
taken for granted that the two Catherines were on friendly terms, the
pilgrimages doubtless proved a benefit to all who took part in them. At
any rate, it is safe to assume that the health of the pilgrims would be
the better, and not the worse, for their walk in the fresh country air.

In the valley below the Dean Bridge, Edinburgh, close to the Water of
Leith, is the sulphur spring known as St. Bernard's Well--traditionally
connected with Bernard the Abbot of Clairvaux. In his "Journey
through Scotland," about 1793, Heron remarks: "The citizens of
Edinburgh repaired eagerly to distant watering-places, without
inquiring whether they might find medicinal water at home. But within
these few years, Lord Gardenstone became proprietor of St. Bernard's
Well. His lordship's philanthropy and public spirit suggested to him
the possibility of rendering its waters more useful to the public. He
has, at a very considerable expense, built a handsome Grecian edifice
over the spring, in which the waters are distributed by a proper
person, and at a very trifling price. His lordship's endeavours
have accomplished his purpose. The citizens of Edinburgh are now
persuaded that these waters are salutary in various cases; and have,
particularly, a singular tendency to give a good breakfasting appetite;
in consequence of which, old and young, males and females, have,
for these two or three last summers, crowded to pay their morning
respects to Hygeia in the chapel which Lord Gardenstone has erected
to her." The last allusion is to a statue of Hygeia placed within the
building on its erection, in 1789. The goddess of health, however,
eventually showed signs of decrepitude; and, about a hundred years
later, the original statue was replaced by one in marble through
the liberality of the late Mr. William Nelson, who also restored the
pump-room and made the surroundings more attractive.

Coming next to consider the case of springs not possessing medicinal
qualities, in other words, such as have no taste save that of
clear and sparkling water, we find here, too, many a trace of
superstition. Springs of this kind were probably holy wells first,
and then healing wells. We have already seen that, in a large number
of instances, fountains became sacred through their connection with
early saints. It usually happened that the Christian missionary took up
his abode near some fountain, or river, whence he could get a supply
of water for his daily needs. In later times the well or stream was
endowed with miraculous properties. Water was also used for purposes
of bodily discipline. It was a practice among some of the early saints
to stand immersed in it while engaged in devotion. The colder the
water, the better was it for the purpose. Special significance, too,
was given to water through its connection with baptism, particularly
when the rite was administered to persons who had only recently
emerged from heathenism.

At Burghead, in Elginshire, is an interesting rock-cut basin supplied
with water from a spring. Burghead is known to have been the site
of an early Christian church, and Dr. James Macdonald believes that
the basin in question was anciently used as a baptistery. All trace
of it, and well-nigh all memory of it, had vanished till the year
1809. Extensive alterations were then in progress at the harbour, and
a scarcity of water was felt by the workmen. A hazy tradition about
the existence of a well, where the ground sounded hollow when struck,
was revived. Digging operations were begun, and, at a depth of between
twenty and thirty feet below the surface, the basin was discovered. We
quote the following details from Dr. Macdonald's article on the subject
in the "Antiquary" for April, 1892:--"Descending into a hollow by a
flight of twenty well-worn steps, most of them also hewn out of the
solid rock, we come upon the reservoir. The dimensions of the basin or
piscina are as follow--greatest breadth of the four sides, ten feet
eight inches, eleven feet, ten feet ten inches, and ten feet seven
inches respectively; depth, four feet four inches. One part of the
smooth bottom had been dug up at the time of the excavations, either
because it had projected above the rest, as if for some one to stand
upon, or because it was thought that by doing so the capacity of the
well and perhaps the supply of the water would be increased. Between
the basin and the perpendicular sides of the reservoir a small ledge
of sandstone has been left about two feet six inches in breadth. These
sides measure sixteen feet three inches, sixteen feet seven inches,
sixteen feet nine inches, and seventeen feet respectively; and the
height from the ledge upwards is eleven feet nine inches. The angles,
both of the basin and its rock walls, are well rounded. In one corner
the sandstone has been left in the form of a semi-circular pedestal,
measuring two feet nine inches by one foot ten inches, and one foot
two inches in height; whilst in that diagonally opposite there is a
circular hole, five inches in diameter and one foot four inches in
depth. From the ledge, as you enter, two steps of irregular shape
and rude workmanship lead down into the basin. The sides of the
reservoir are fissured and rent by displacement of the strata; and
portions of the rock, that have given way from time to time, have
been replaced by modern masonry. The arched roof is also modern." An
Irish legend accounts for the origin of Lough-shanan, in County Clare,
by connecting it with the baptism of Senanus, from whom it derived
its name. "The saint, while still an infant, was miraculously gifted
with speech and told his mother to pluck three rushes in a valley near
her home. When this was done, a lake appeared, and in it Senanus was
baptised according to a form of words prescribed by himself."

In the eighth volume of the "Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries
of Scotland" (new series), Sir Daniel Wilson gives an account of the
ancient burying-ground of Kilbride, some three miles from Oban. "I
had visited the venerable cemetery repeatedly," he tells us, "and
had carefully investigated its monuments, without heeding the sacred
fountain which wells up among the bracken and grass, about a dozen
yards from the gate of the churchyard, and flows in a stream down the
valley. Yet, on inquiry, I learned that it was familiarly known as
Tober-an-easbuig, i.e., The Bishop's Well or The Holy Well. Here, as
we may presume, the primitive missionary and servant of St. Bridget,
by whom Christianity was introduced into the wild district of Lorne,
baptised his first converts; and here, through many succeeding
generations, the neophytes were signed with the sign of the cross,
and taught the mystic significance of the holy rite."

The thoughts suggested by the sight of a crystal spring are alluded to
by Mr. Hunt in his "Romances of the West of England," where he says,
"The tranquil beauty of the rising waters, whispering the softest
music, like the healthful breathing of a sleeping infant, sends a
feeling of happiness through the soul of the thoughtful observer,
and the inner man is purified by its influence, as the outer man is
cleansed by ablution." This is the poetic view; but the superstitious
view is not far to seek.

In the "Home of a Naturalist," Mrs. Saxby thus recounts a Shetland
superstition of a gruesome kind:--"There is a fine spring well near
Watlie, called Heljabrün, and the legend of it is this: A wandering
packman (of the Claud Halcro class) was murdered and flung into
Heljabrün. Its water had always been known to possess healing power,
and, after becoming seasoned by the unfortunate pedlar's remains,
the virtue in the water became even more efficacious. People came
from far and near to procure the precious fluid. All who took it away
had to throw three stones or a piece of 'white money' into the well,
and the water never failed to cure disease."

On Soutra Hill, the most westerly ridge of the Lammermoors,
once stood the hospital built by Malcolm IV., about 1164, for the
reception of wayfarers. It was dedicated to the Holy Trinity. Every
vestige of the building was removed between forty and fifty years
ago except a small aisle, appropriated in the seventeenth century by
the Pringles of Beatman's Acre as a burial vault. A short distance
below the site of the hospital is a spring of pure water, locally
known as Trinity Well. In former times it was much visited for
its healing virtues. A similar reputation was for long enjoyed by
St. Mungo's Well, on the west side of St. Mungo's Hill, in the parish
of Huntly, Aberdeenshire. In Fortingall parish, Perthshire, on the
hillside near the Old Castle of Garth, is a limpid spring called by
the natives Fuaran n' Gruarach, and also Fuaran n' Druibh Chasad,
signifying the Well of the Measles and the Well of the Whooping-Cough
respectively. Mr. James Mackintosh Gow describes the locality in an
article in the eighth volume of the "Proceedings of the Society of
Antiquaries of Scotland" (new series). He says, "It was famous in the
district for the cure of these infantile diseases, and nearly all I
spoke to on the subject had themselves been taken to the well, or had
taken their own children to drink the water; and when an epidemic
of the maladies occurred my informant remarked on the curious and
amusing spectacle the scene presented on a summer morning, when groups
of children, with their mothers, went up the hill in procession. The
last epidemic of whooping-cough occurred in 1882, when all the children
of the neighbourhood were taken to the well." Some forty yards higher
up the slope than the well, is an earth-fast boulder of mica schist,
having on one of its sides two natural cavities. The larger of these
holds about a quart and is usually filled with rain water. "It was the
custom," Mr. Gow tells us, "to carry the water from the well (perhaps
the well was at one time at the foot of the stone) and place it in
the cavity, and then give the patients as much as they could take,
the water being administered with a spoon made from the horn of a
living cow, called a beodhare or living horn; this, it appears,
being essential to effect a cure." On the farm of Balandonich,
in Athole, is a spring famous, till a comparatively recent period,
for the cure of various maladies. A story is told in the district of
a woman, unable to walk through rheumatism, having been brought in a
wheel-barrow from her home four miles away. She bathed her limbs in
the spring, and returned home on foot.

Hugh Miller, in his "Scenes and Legends of the North of Scotland,"
recounts a tradition concerning a certain spring near the town of
Cromarty known as Fiddler's Well, from the name of the young man
who discovered its virtues. The water gushes out from the side of
a bank covered with moss and daisies. The tradition, considerably
abbreviated, is as follows:--William Fiddler and a companion were
seized with consumption at the same time. The latter died not long
afterwards, and Fiddler, though wasted to a shadow, was able to follow
his friend's body to the grave. That night, in a dream, he heard the
voice of his dead companion, who told him to meet him at a certain spot
in the neighbourhood of the town. Thither he went, still in his dream,
and seated himself on a bank to await his coming. Then, remembering
that his friend was dead, he burst into tears. "At this moment a
large field-bee came humming from the west and began to fly round his
head.... It hummed ceaselessly round and round him, until at length
its murmurings seemed to be fashioned into words, articulated in the
voice of his deceased companion--'Dig, Willie, and drink!' it said,
'Dig, Willie, and drink!' He accordingly set himself to dig, and no
sooner had he torn a sod out of the bank than a spring of clear water
gushed from the hollow." Next day he took the bee's advice. He found
a spring, drank the water, and regained his health. Hugh Miller adds,
"its virtues are still celebrated, for though the water be only simple
water it must be drunk in the morning, and as it gushes from the bank;
and, with pure air, exercise, and early rising for its auxiliaries,
it continues to work cures."

We need not multiply examples of non-mineral healing wells. Whatever
benefit may be derived from them cannot be ascribed to any specially
medicinal quality in their waters. The secret of their popularity is
to be sought for in the annals of medical folklore, and not in those
of scientific medicine.

Certain springs got the credit of warding off disease. On the island
of Gigha, near the west coast of Kintyre, is a farm called Ardachad
or High Field. Tradition says that a plague once visited the island,
but that the people, belonging to the farm, escaped its ravages. This
immunity was ascribed to the good offices of a well, in an adjoining
field. The high situation of the farm and the presence of good water
would tend to prolong health, without the intervention of magic. The
Rev. Dr. Gregor, in his "Folklore of the North-East of Scotland,"
alludes to St. Olaus' Well in Cruden parish, Aberdeenshire. Its
virtues are recorded in the couplet--


       "St. Olav's Well, low by the sea
        Where peat nor plague shall never be."


On the top of the Touch Hills, in Stirlingshire, rises St. Corbet's
Spring. The belief formerly prevailed that whoever drank its water
before sunrise on the first Sunday of May would have life prolonged
for another year. As a consequence, crowds flocked to the spot early
on the day in question. In 1840 some old people were still living who,
in their younger days, had taken part in these annual pilgrimages. In
mediæval times, the belief prevailed that no one baptised with the
water of Trinity Gask Well, Perthshire, would be attacked by the
plague. When water for baptism was drawn from some holy well in the
neighbourhood, its use, in most instances, was doubtless due to a
belief in its prophylactic power. As already mentioned, baptisms in
St. Machar's Cathedral, Old Aberdeen, were at one time administered
in water taken from the saint's spring. Before the Reformation the
water used at the chapel of Airth, in Stirlingshire, is believed to
have been procured from a well, dedicated to the Virgin, near Abbeyton
Bridge. We do not know of any spring in Scotland with a reputation
for the prevention of hydrophobia. St. Maelrubha's Well, on Innis
Maree, is said to have lost its efficacy for a time through contact
with a mad dog. What happened, when a mad bull was plunged into the
Holy Pool at Strathfillan, will be alluded to later. In the village
of Les Saintes Maries, in the south of France, is an interesting
twelfth-century church with a well in the crypt. The water, when
drunk, is said to prevent any evil consequences from the bite of
a mad dog. Mr. E. H. Barker gives an account of this well in his
"Wayfaring in France." He says, "The curé told me that about thirty
people, who had been bitten by dogs said to be rabid, came annually
to drink the water; and, he added, 'not one of them has ever gone
mad.' M. Pasteur had become a formidable rival of the well."



CHAPTER VII.

WATER-CURES.

    Trying different Springs--Curing all Diseases--Fivepennies Well
    --Water and Dulse--Special Diseases--Toothache--Sore Eyes--
    Blindness--Headaches and Nervous Disorders--Deafness--
    Whooping-cough--Gout--Sores--Ague--Sterility--Epilepsy--
    Sacrifice of a Cock--St. Tegla's Well--Insanity--Severe Treatment
    --Innis-Maree--Struthill--Teampull-Mòr--Hol y Pool--Fillan's
    History and Relics--Persistence of Superstition.


Some people apply to different doctors in succession, in the hope that
new professional advice may bring the coveted boon of health. For the
same reason visits were paid to different consecrated wells. On the
principle that "far fowls have fair feathers," a more or less remote
spring was resorted to, in the hope that distance might lend special
enchantment to its water. Certain springs had the reputation of healing
every ailment. A spring of this kind is what Martin calls "a catholicon
for all diseases." He so styles various springs in the Western Isles,
and one in the Larger Cumbrae in the Firth of Clyde. Fivepennies Well,
in Eigg, had some curious properties. "The natives told me," he says,
"that it never fails to cure any person of their first disease, only
by drinking a quantity of it for the space of two or three days;
and that if a stranger lie at this well in the night-time, it will
procure a deformity in some part of his body, but has no such effect
on a native; and this, they say, hath been frequently experimented." A
noted fountain in the Orkney group was the well of Kildinguie in the
Island of Stronsay. It is situated not far from the beach. To reach
it one has to walk over a long stretch of sand. Its fame at one time
spread over the Scandinavian world, and even Denmark sent candidates
for its help. Besides drinking the water, health-seekers frequently
ate some of the dulse to be found on the shore. A local saying thus
testified to the advantages of the combined treatment: "The well of
Kildinguie and the dulse of Guiyidn can cure all maladies except black
death." In the Island of Skye is a spring called Tobar Tellibreck. The
natives, at one time, held that its water, along with a diet of dulse,
would serve for a considerable time instead of ordinary food.

Other springs were resorted to for particular complaints. Toothache is
distressingly common, and commonly distressing; but, strange to say,
very few wells are specially identified with the ailment. Indeed, we
know of only three toothache wells in Scotland. One is in Strathspey,
and is known as Fuaran Fiountag, signifying the cool refreshing
spring. The second is in the parish of Kenmore, at the foot of Loch
Tay. The third is in Glentruim, in Inverness-shire. Another well at
Kenmore was resorted to for the cure of sore eyes. In the parish of
Glass, close to the river Deveron, is an ancient church dedicated to
St. Wallach. Some thirty yards below its burying-ground is a well,
now dry, except in very rainy weather. Its water had the power of
healing sore eyes. The water of St. John's Well, at Balmanno, in
the parish of Marykirk, Kincardineshire, was a sovereign remedy for
the same complaint. Beside the road close to the farmhouse of Wester
Auchleskine, at Balquhidder, in Perthshire, once stood a large boulder
containing a natural cavity. The water in this hollow was also noted
for the cure of sore eyes--the boulder being called in consequence
Clach-nan-Sul, i.e., the stone of the eyes. In 1878, by order of the
road trustees, the boulder was blasted, on the ground that it was a
source of danger to vehicles in the dark, and its fragments were used
as road metal. The Dow Well, at Innerleithen, was formerly much visited
for the restoration of weak sight. A well in Cornwall, dedicated to
St. Ludvan, miraculously quickened the sense of sight. In Ireland,
a spring at Gougou Barra, between Glengariff and Cork, is believed
by the peasantry to cure blindness. In 1849, Miss Bessie Gilbert,
a daughter of the late Bishop Gilbert of Chichester, who had lost
her sight when a child, visited the spring along with some of her
relatives. Curiosity, however, was her only motive. Her biographer
relates that "the guide besought Bessie in the most earnest and
pathetic manner to try the water, saying that he was sure it would
restore her sight, and entreating her brothers and sisters to urge
her to make use of it."

Headaches and nervous disorders were cured by water from
Tobar-nim-buadh or the Well of Virtues in St. Kilda. Deafness was
also cured by it. At the entrance to Munlochy Bay, in the Black Isle
of Cromarty, is a cave known in the neighbourhood as Craig-a-Chow,
i.e., the Rock of Echo. Tradition says that in this cave a giant
once lived. If not the retreat of a giant, it was, at any rate,
of smugglers. What specially concerns us is that it contains a
dripping well, formerly much in request. Its water is particularly
cold. Like the St. Kilda spring, it was believed to remove deafness. Of
Whooping-cough Wells, a noted one was at Straid, in Muthill parish,
Perthshire. Invalids came to it from considerable distances. Early
in the present century a family travelled from Edinburgh to seek its
aid. The water was drunk immediately after sunset or before sunrise,
and a horn from a live ox had to convey it to the patient's lips. This
was not an uncommon practice. Perhaps it may have been due to some
vague notion, that life from the animal, whence the horn came, would
be handed on, via the spoon and the water, to the invalid. The Straid
horn was kept by a woman in the immediate neighbourhood, who acted
as a sort of priestess of the well. A well at the Burn of Oxhill, in
the parish of Rathven, Banffshire, had a local celebrity for the cure
of the same complaint. Sufferers from gout tried the efficacy of a
spring in Eckford parish, Roxburghshire, styled Holy Well or Priest's
Well. A spring in the churchyard of Logiepert parish, Forfarshire,
removed sores, and another in Martin's Den, in the same parish,
was reckoned anti-scorbutic. Another noted Forfarshire spring was in
Kirkden parish, with the reputation of curing swellings of the feet
and legs. Lochinbreck Loch, in Balmaghie parish, Kirkcudbrightshire,
was visited from time immemorial for the cure of ague. Indeed, there
was hardly a bodily ailment that could not be relieved by the water
of some consecrated spring.

Springs were sometimes believed to cure female barrenness. Wives,
anxious to become mothers, formerly visited such wells as those of
St. Fillan at Comrie, and of St. Mary at Whitekirk, and in the Isle
of May. In this connection, Mr. J. R. Walker, in his article in the
"Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland," volume v. (new
series), observes, "Many of the wells dedicated to 'Our Lady,' i.e.,
St. Mary (Virgin Mary) and to St. Brigid, the Mary of Ireland, were
famous for the cure of female sterility, which, in the days when a
man's power and influence in the land depended on the number of his
clan or tribe, was looked upon as a token of the divine displeasure,
and was viewed by the unfortunate spouses with anxious apprehension,
dread, doubt, jealousy, and pain. Prayer and supplication were
obviously the methods pursued by the devout for obtaining the coveted
gift of fertility, looked upon, by females especially, as the most
valuable of heavenly dispensations; and making pilgrimages to wells
under the patronage of the Mother of our Lord would naturally be one
of the most common expedients."

Epilepsy, with its convulsions and cries, seldom fails to arrest
attention and call forth sympathy. In times less enlightened than
our own, the disease was regarded with awe as of supernatural origin;
and remedies, always curious and sometimes revolting, were tried in
order to bring relief. We may assume that the water of consecrated
springs was used for this purpose; but, as far as we know, no Scottish
fountain was systematically visited by epileptic patients. After
enumerating a variety of folk-cures for the disease in question, Sir
Arthur Mitchell, in an article on Highland Superstitions bearing on
Lunacy in the "Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland,"
volume iv., remarks, "For the cure of the same disease, there is
still practised in the North of Scotland a formal sacrifice--not
an oblique but a literal and downright sacrifice--to a nameless but
secretly acknowledged power, whose propitiation is desired. On the
spot where the epileptic first falls a black cock is buried alive,
along with a lock of the patient's hair and some parings of his
nails. I have seen at least three epileptic idiots for whom this is
said to have been done." The same writer adds, "Dr. G----, of N----,
informs me that some time ago he was called on to visit a poor man
belonging to the fishing population who had suddenly died, and who had
been subject to epileptic seizures. His friends told the doctor that
at least they had the comfort of knowing that everything had been
done for him which could have been done. On asking what remedies
they had tried, he was told that, among other things, a cock had
been buried alive below his bed, and the spot was pointed out." This
sacrifice of a cock in Scotland is of special significance, for it
formed a distinctive feature of the ritual once in vogue in Wales
at the village of Llandegla, Denbighshire. St. Tegla's Well there,
was believed to possess peculiar virtue in curing epilepsy. Pennant
gives a minute account of the ceremony as practised in his days. The
following is a summary:--"About two hundred yards from the church
rises a small spring. The patient washes his limbs in the well,
makes an offering into it of fourpence, walks round it three times,
and thrice repeats the 'Lord's Prayer.' These ceremonies are never
begun till after sunset. If the afflicted be of the male sex, he makes
an offering of a cock; if of the fair sex, a hen. The fowl is carried
in a basket, first round the well, after that into the churchyard,
when the same orisons and the same circumambulations are performed
round the church. The votary then enters the church, gets under the
communion table, lies down with the Bible under his or her head,
is covered with the carpet or cloth, and rests there till break of
day, departing after offering sixpence, and leaving the fowl in the
church. If the bird dies, the cure is supposed to have been effected,
and the disease transferred to the devoted victim." As regards the
cock or hen, the ceremony in this case was quite as much a sacrifice
as in the Scottish example. St. Tegla merely took the place of the
pagan divinity who had been first in the field, and to whom offerings
had been made. In former times, sacrificing a living animal was
also resorted to occasionally to cure disease in cattle. An ox was
buried alive in a pit, and the pit having been filled with earth,
the other members of the herd were made to walk over the spot. In
1629, Isabel Young, spouse to George Smith, portioner of East Barnes,
Haddingtonshire, was tried for witchcraft. From her indictment we learn
that she was accused, inter alia, of having buried a "quick ox, with
a cat and a quantity of salt," in a pit as a sacrifice to the devil,
the truth being that a live ox had been so treated by her husband
as a charm to cure his cattle, which were diseased. A remarkable
circumstance bearing on this point is alluded to by Mr. A. W. Moore in
his "Surnames and Place-names of the Isle of Man," under the heading
of Cabbal-yn-Oural-Losht, i.e., Chapel of the Burnt Sacrifice. "This
name," he tells us, "records a circumstance which took place in the
nineteenth century, but which, it is to be hoped, was never customary
in the Isle of Man. A farmer, who had lost a number of his sheep and
cattle by murrain, burnt a calf as a propitiatory offering to the
Deity on this spot, where a chapel was afterwards built. Such facts
point to the same notion as that already indicated in connection with
St. Tegla's Well, viz., that disease is due to some malignant being,
whose favour is to be sought by the offering up of a living creature.

In no department of medical science have methods of treatment changed
more within recent years than in that of insanity. Enlightened views on
the subject now prevail among the educated classes of society; and the
old notion that a maniac can be restored to mental health by treating
him like a criminal, or by administering a few shocks to his already
excited nerves, is fortunately a thing of the past. At least it no
longer holds sway in our lunatic asylums. In the minds of the ignorant
and credulous, however, the old leaven still works. Lady Wilde, in her
"Ancient Cures, Charms, and Usages of Ireland," alludes to a method
of treatment in fashion till lately among the peasantry there. When
anyone showed signs of insanity 'a witch-doctor' was called in. This
potent individual sprinkled holy water about the room and over the
patient; and after uttering certain incantations--understood by the
by-standers to be 'Latin prayers'--proceeded to beat him with a stout
cudgel. In the end the ravings of the lunatic ceased, or as it was put,
"the devil was driven out of him." In Cornwall, at St. Nun's Well,
the expulsive power of a new terror used to be tried. According to
Carew, the modus operandi was as follows:--"The water running from
St. Nun's Well fell into a square and enclosed walled plat, which might
be filled at what depth they listed. Upon this wall was the frantic
person put to stand, his back towards the pool, and from thence,
with a sudden blow in the breast, tumbled headlong into the pond;
where a strong fellow, provided for the nonce, took him and tossed
him up and down, alongst and athwart the water, till the patient,
by foregoing his strength, had somewhat forgot his fury. Then was
he conveyed to the church, and certain masses said over him, upon
which handling, if his right wits returned, St. Nun had the thanks;
but if there appeared small amendment, he was bowsened again and again,
while there remained in him any hope of life or recovery." North of the
Tweed the treatment was hardly less soothing. When a lunatic was being
rowed over to Innis Maree to drink the water of St. Maelrubha's Well
there, he was jerked out of the boat by the friends who accompanied
him. A rope had previously been tied round his waist, and by this he
was pulled back into the boat; but before he could gather together
his all-too-scattered wits, he was in the water again. As a rule this
was done, not once or twice, but repeatedly, and in the case of both
sexes. Such was the method up to a comparatively recent date. Pennant
thus describes what was done in 1772:--"The patient is brought into
the sacred island; is made to kneel before the altar, viz., the stump
of a tree--where his attendants leave an offering in money; he is
then brought to the well and sips some of the holy water; a second
offering is made; that done, he is thrice dipped in the lake; and
the same operation is repeated every day for some weeks." This towing
after a boat to cure insanity was not an isolated instance. Early in
the present century, the wife of a man living at Stromness in Orkney,
went mad through the incantations of another female believed to be
a witch. The man bethought him of the cure in question, and, out of
love for his afflicted wife, dragged her several times up and down
the harbour behind his boat. Mr. R. M. Fergusson, who mentions this
case in his "Rambles in the Far North," says that the woman "bobbed
about behind the boat like a cork, and remained as mad as ever."

The well at Struthill, in Muthill parish, Perthshire, once had a
considerable reputation for the cure of insanity. It was customary to
tie patients at night to a stone near the spring, and recovery would
follow if they were found loose in the morning. An adjoining chapel was
ordered to be demolished in 1650 by the Presbytery of Auchterarder,
on the ground of its being the scene of certain superstitious rites,
but the spring continued to be visited till a much later date. At
Teampull-mòr in Lewis, in addition to walking round the ruins, and
being sprinkled with water from St. Ronan's Well, the insane person was
bound and left all night in the chapel on the site of the altar. If he
slept, he would recover; but if he remained awake, there was no hope of
a cure. In the Struthill and Teampull-mòr instances, as well as that
of Strathfillan mentioned below, the binding of the patient was an
essential part of the treatment; and in two at least of the cases the
loosening of the bonds was reckoned an omen of good. The mysterious
loosening of bonds used to be an article of common belief. Dalyell,
in his "Darker Superstitions of Scotland," remarks, "Animals were
sometimes liberated supernaturally. In the Isle of Enhallow, a horse
tied up at sunset would wander about through the night; and while the
kirk session took cognisance of a suspected witch who had exercised
her faculties on a cow, the animal, though firmly secured, was found
to be free, and in their vicinity when the investigation closed."

The Holy Pool of St. Fillan was famous for the cure of various
diseases, but specially of insanity. It is referred to in "Marmion" as


              "St. Fillan's blessed well
        Whose springs can frenzied dreams dispel
        And the craz'd brain restore."


It is not, however, a well, but a pool, in the river Fillan, about
two miles lower down than Tyndrum. To correctly estimate the reverence
paid to this sacred pool, we must glance at the influence, exerted by
Fillan on the district during his life-time, and afterwards by means
of his relics. The saint flourished in the early eighth century. He
was born in Ireland. His father was Ferodach, and his mother was
Kentigerna, daughter of a prince of Leinster. She afterwards came to
Scotland and led the life of a recluse, on Inch Cailleach, an island
in Loch Lomond. According to the Aberdeen Breviary, Fillan was born
with a stone in his mouth, and was at once thrown into a lake where
he was ministered to by angels for a year. He was then taken out and
baptised by Bishop Ybarus, and at a later date received the monastic
habit from Muna, otherwise called Mundus. Devoting himself to solitary
meditation he built a cell close to Muna's monastery. On one occasion,
a servant went to call him to supper, and looking through a chink in
the wall, saw the saint busy writing, his uplifted left hand throwing
light over the book in lieu of a candle. Whatever may be thought of
the incident, few will deny its picturesqueness. In competent hands
it might be made the subject of a striking picture. Fillan afterwards
went to Lochalsh, where he dedicated a church to his uncle Congan,
the founder of the monastery of Turriff, in Aberdeenshire. We next
find Fillan in the principal scene of his missionary work, viz., in
Glendochart, in that portion of the glen anciently called Siracht,
and now Strathfillan. This area formed a separate parish till 1617,
but was then united to the parish of Killin. Fillan arrived with seven
serving clerics, and tradition says that he built his church at a spot
miraculously pointed out to him. The neighbourhood was, and is full of
interest. "Glendochart," writes Mr. Charles Stewart in "An Gaidheal,"
"is not celebrated for terrific mountain scenery like Glencoe or the
Coolins, but has a grandeur of a different character. Lofty mountains,
clothed, here in heather, there in green; cloudy shadows frequently
flitting across their sides, and serried ridges of multiplied lines
and forms of varied beauty, and along their sides strangely shaped
stones and boulders of rocks deposited by the ancient glaciers. Along
the strath there are stretches of water, its course broken occasionally
by lochs; sometimes wending its way slowly and solemnly through green
meadows, and anon rushing along as at the celebrated bridge of Dochart,
at Killin, with fire and fury."

The same writer mentions that three spots, where Fillan was wont
to teach the natives of the Strath, are still pointed out, viz.,
at the upper end of Glendochart, where the priory was afterwards
built, halfway down the glen at Dun-ribin, and at the lower end at
Cnoc-a-bheannachd, i.e., Hill of the Blessing, near Killin. Fillan
instructed the people in agriculture, and built mills for grinding
corn. Out of compliment to him, the mill at Killin was idle on
his festival, (Jan. 9th), as late as the middle of the present
century. Indeed there was a superstition in the district that it
would not be lucky to have it working on that day. Fillan also
instituted fairs for the sale and barter of local produce. His fair
is still held at Killin in January. The miraculous element in his
history did not end with his life. He seems to have died somewhere
about Lochearn, and his body was brought back to Glendochart, by way
of Glen Ogle. When the bearers reached the point where Glendochart
opens upwards and downwards, a dispute arose as to the destination of
their burden. Some wished the saint's body to be buried at Killin and
others at Strathfillan. Behold a marvel! When they could not agree,
they found that instead of one coffin there were two, and so each
party was satisfied.

Robert Bruce's fight with the followers of Macdougall of Lorne took
place near St. Fillan's Church, at a spot, afterwards named Dalrigh or
the King's Field. On that occasion, an earnest prayer was addressed
to the saint of the district, and through his intercession victory
came to Bruce. So at least runs the legend. After his success at
Bannockburn, the King in gratitude founded St. Fillan's Priory,
in Strathfillan, and endowed it with the neighbouring lands of
Auchtertyre, and with the sheep-grazing of Bein-mhannach or the
Monk's Mountain, in Glenlyon. Indeed, if tradition speaks truth,
Bruce had a double reason to be grateful to Fillan, for the victory
at Bannockburn, was attributed to the presence in the Scottish camp,
of a relic of the saint, said to be an arm-bone set in silver. The
relic, however, as Dr. John Stuart shows, in the twelfth volume of the
"Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland," was probably
his Coig-gerach or pastoral staff, popularly, but erroneously called
his Quigrich. It is said to have been kept at Auchlyne, in a chapel
called Caipal-na-Faraichd, and when the chapel was burnt to have been
rescued by a person, either then, or afterwards, called Doire or Dewar,
whose descendants became its custodiers. The subsequent history of
the relic is curious. In 1782 it was at Killin in the keeping of
Malice Doire. In 1818 it was taken to Canada, where it remained for
some sixty years. Through the patriotic zeal of Sir Daniel Wilson it
was then sent back to Scotland, and now forms one of the treasures
in the National Museum of Antiquities, at Edinburgh.

The sanctity of Fillan thus distilled like a fertilising dew over
the district of Glendochart. We need not, therefore, be surprised
that, in days darker than our own, a thriving crop of superstitions
was the result. It is certainly a striking testimony to the enduring
influence of the saint, that the pool, believed to have been blessed
by him, retained its fame till within the memory of persons still
living. Possibly the pool was reverenced even before his time. Towards
the end of last century, as many as two hundred persons were brought
annually to the spot. The time selected was usually the first day of
the quarter, (O.S.), and the immersion took place after sunset. The
patients, with a rope tied round their waist, were thrown from the
bank into the river. This was usually done thrice. According to
previous instructions, they picked up nine stones from the bottom
of the stream. After their dip they walked three times round three
cairns in the immediate neighbourhood, and at each turn added a stone
to the cairn. An English antiquary, who visited the spot in 1798,
writes, "If it is for any bodily pain, fractured limb or sore, that
they are bathing, they throw upon one of these cairns that part of
their clothing which covered the part affected; also, if they have at
home any beast that is diseased, they have only to bring some of the
meal which it feeds upon and make it into paste with these waters,
and afterwards give it to him to eat, which will prove an infallible
cure; but they must likewise throw upon the cairn the rope or halter
with which he was led. Consequently the cairns are covered with old
halters, gloves, shoes, bonnets, nightcaps, rags of all sorts, kilts,
petticoats, garters, and smocks. Sometimes they go as far as to throw
away their halfpence."

After the ceremony at the cairns the patient was led to the ruins
of St. Fillan's Chapel, about half a mile away, and there tied to
a stone with a hollow in it, large enough to receive the body, the
unfortunate person being fastened down to a wooden framework. The
patient was then covered with hay, and left in this condition all
night. As at Struthill, if the bonds were found loose in the morning,
he or she would recover; but if not, the case was counted hopeless,
or at least doubtful. As the writer of the article on the parish,
in the "New Statistical Account of Scotland," shrewdly observes,
"The prospect of the ceremony, especially in a cold winter evening,
might be a good test for persons pretending insanity." At the time
when he wrote, viz., in 1843, the natives of the parish had ceased to
believe in the efficacy of the holy pool, but it was still visited by
invalids from a distance. It was usual, after the fastening process
already described, to place St. Fillan's bell on the head of the
patient by way of helping on the cure. This bell is quadrangular
in shape. Its size and appearance are thus described by Dr. Joseph
Anderson in his "Scotland in Early Christian Times": "It is an elegant
casting of bronze, stands twelve inches high and measures nine by
six inches wide at the mouth. The ends are flat, the sides bulging,
the top rounded. In the middle of the top is the loop-like handle,
terminating where it joins the bell in two dragonesque heads with open
mouths." The bell weighs eight pounds fourteen ounces. In the fifteenth
century the relic seems to have been held in special honour, for it
graced the coronation of James IV. in 1488. After the Reformation, it
was locked up for some time, to prevent its use for the superstitious
purpose alluded to above. But, as a rule, it lay on a tombstone in the
Priory graveyard, protected only by the reverence paid to it in the
district. There was a belief that, if carried off, it would return of
its own accord, ringing all the way. In 1798 this belief was put to a
severe test, for in that year the English antiquary, already quoted,
removed the relic. "In order," he says, "to ascertain the truth or
falsehood of the ridiculous story of St. Fillan's bell, I carried it
off with me, and mean to convey it, if possible, to England. An old
woman, who observed what I was about, asked me what I wanted with
the bell, and I told her that I had an unfortunate relation at home
out of his mind, and that I wanted to have him cured. 'Oh, but,'
says she, 'you must bring him here to be cured, or it will be of no
use.' Upon which I told her he was too ill to be moved, and off I
galloped with the bell back to Tyndrum Inn." The bell was taken to
England. About seventy years later, its whereabouts was discovered,
and it was sent back to Scotland. Like the crozier of the same saint,
it is now in the Antiquarian Museum at Edinburgh.

If we may believe a local tradition, the Holy Pool lost its
miraculous virtue in the following manner, though, after what the
English antiquary mentioned about its water being mixed with meal,
and given to diseased cattle, we see no reason why it should have
been so particular. A farmer who had a mad bull thought that, if the
sacred water could heal human ills, it would be efficacious also in
the case of the lower animals. So he plunged his infuriated beast into
the stream. What was the effect on the bull we do not know: but since
then the virtue has departed from the water. Except for a pleasure
dip on a hot summer's day, no one need now apply at the Holy Pool.

The unbroken reputation of such health resorts, for centuries,
is certainly remarkable. Strathfillan kept up its fame for over a
thousand years. At Gheel, in Belgium, for fully twelve hundred years,
successive generations of lunatics sought relief at St. Dympna's
Well. We must not be too hard on the ages before our own; for,
though in some respects dark, in other respects they had a good deal
of light. Nevertheless, severe things might be said about them. From
a present-day point of view, it might be argued that those, who took
their insane friends to get cured in the manner described, required,
like the patients themselves, a little rearrangement of their wits.



CHAPTER VIII.

SOME WONDERFUL WELLS.

    Wells Wonderful as to Origin--Tre Fontane--Springs where
    Saints were Beheaded--St. Alban's Spring--Covenanter's
    Spring--St. Vynning's Spring--Scottish and English
    Hagiology--Springs from Graves--Cuthbert--Milburga--Mysterious
    Lakes--Hell-Hole at Tunstall--King Henry's Well-- Bringing Sea to
    Morpeth--Plymouth Water-supply--Fitz's Well--Good Appetite--Dogs'
    Well--Singular Springs in Lewis and Barray--Well in the
    Wall--Toubir-ni-Lechkin--Power of Wells over Lower Animals--Black
    Mere--Well at Gillsland--Intermittent Springs--Powbate
    Well--St. Ludvan's Well--St. Keyne's Well.


The epithet wonderful may fitly be applied to whatever springs
are endowed by popular credulity with mysterious properties. Those
already considered have been mainly associated with the removal or
prevention of disease. It is now proposed to glance at certain other
characteristics.

Some springs are wonderful as to their origin. Who does not know the
legend connected with Tre Fontane, in the vicinity of Rome, where water
bubbled up at the three places touched by St. Paul's severed head? We
do not recollect any Scottish instance of a well coming into being in
this way; but in England we have St. Osyth's Well in Essex, where that
saint was beheaded by the Danes, and in Wales, St. Winifred's Well in
Flintshire. Concerning the latter, Chambers, in his "Book of Days,"
thus writes:--"Winifred was a noble British maiden of the seventh
century; a certain Prince Cradocus fell in love with her, and, finding
his rough advances repulsed, cut off the lady's head. Immediately
after doing this, the prince was struck dead, and the earth, opening,
swallowed up his body. Meanwhile, Winifred's head rolled down the
hill; where it stopped, a spring gushed forth--the blood from the head
colouring the pebbles over which it flowed, and rendering fragrant
the moss growing around." Sweden has its St. Eric's Spring at Upsala,
marking the place where Eric, the king, was beheaded about the middle
of the twelfth century. St. Oswald's Well at Winwick, in Lancashire,
is said to indicate the spot where that famous Northumbrian king
received his death-wound when fighting against Penda, the pagan ruler
of Mercia. On a hill in Hertfordshire, a fountain arose to quench
the thirst of Alban, England's proto-martyr, who suffered there
about 300 A.D. According to a Kincardineshire tradition, a spring in
Dunnottar Castle miraculously appeared for behoof of the Covenanters,
who were confined there in 1685. In Holywood parish, Dumfriesshire,
(so called from its oak forest, sacred even in pre-Christian times),
a fountain sprang up at the intercession of Vynning, the patron of
a well at Kilwinning, in Ayrshire. In Scottish hagiology, fountains
usually gush forth to supply water for baptism. In English legends
they spring up as a tribute to spots where the corpses of saintly
persons have rested. Thus, water issued from the graves of Ethelbert at
Marden, in Herefordshire, and of Withburga at East Dereham, in Norfolk,
and also from that of Frideswide at Oxford. St. Frideswide's Fair at
the last-mentioned place was a noted holiday in the middle ages. It
lasted a week, and, during its continuance, the keys of the city were
in the keeping of the prior, having been handed over by the mayor, who
ceased for the time to be responsible for the peace of the burgh. At
Trondhjem, in Norway, a spring arose to mark the spot where King Olaf
was buried, about the middle of the eleventh century.

Cuthbert was greatly honoured by the gushing forth of springs, both
during his lifetime and after his death. While at Lindisfarne, he was
seized with a desire for still greater retirement, and accordingly
withdrew to Farne Island, one of the Fern group, two miles distant
from Bamborough, and six from Lindisfarne. This island was then
haunted by evil spirits; but these he drove away, as Guthlac did
from the marshes of Crowland, in Lincolnshire. Cuthbert set about
building a cell in Farne Island, and, with the help of angels, the
work was satisfactorily completed. Unfortunately, there was no fresh
water to be had; but the want was soon supplied. In response to the
saint's prayers, a spring arose in the floor of his cell. Bede says,
"This water, by a most remarkable quality, never overflowed its first
limits, so as to flood the floor, nor yet ever failed, however much
of it might be taken out; so that it never exceeded or fell short
of the daily wants of him who used it for his sustenance." The
miracle did not end here. When Eistan of Norway was ravaging the
coast of Northumberland in the twelfth century, he landed on Farne
Island and destroyed the property of the hermits, whose retreat it
then was. The spring, unwilling to give help to the robber bands,
dried up. Thirst, accordingly, compelled them to quit the island. No
sooner had they left than the spring reappeared and gladdened the spot
once more. After Cuthbert's death, his body was carried from place to
place for safety. In his "History of St. Cuthbert," Archbishop Eyre
remarks, "There is a legendary tradition, that when the bearers of
St. Cuthbert's body journeyed northwards from Yorkshire and came to
Butterby, near Croxdale, they set down the coffin on the right bank
before crossing the river, and immediately a saline spring burst out
upon the spot. After fording the river they again rested the coffin,
and a spring of chalybeate water rose up where they had laid down the
body. A third time the weary travellers, struggling up the rugged pass,
were compelled to lay their precious burden on the ground, and a sweet
stream of water gushed out of the rock to refresh them." Prior to this,
Cuthbert's relics had rested a while at Melrose. Tradition says that,
on resuming their wanderings, they floated down the Tweed in a stone
coffin as far as Tillmouth, on the English Border. The fragments of
a sarcophagus, said to be the coffin in question, are still to be
seen there beside the ruins of St. Cuthbert's Chapel. This incident
is thus referred to in "Marmion":--


        "Seven years Saint Cuthbert's corpse they bore.
          They rested them in fair Melrose:
            But though, alive, he loved it well,
          Not there his reliques might repose;
            For, wondrous tale to tell!
          In his stone coffin forth he rides
          (A ponderous bark for river tides),
          Yet light as gossamer it glides,
            Downward to Tillmouth cell."


A Shropshire legend narrates that, on one occasion, Milburga, who is
still remembered in the name of Stoke St. Milborough, was riding in
all haste to escape from certain enemies. She fell at length exhausted
from her horse; but, at her command, the animal struck a stone with
his hoof, and water gushed out for her refreshment. In a neighbouring
field some men were sowing grain, and the saint prophesied that in
the evening they would gather the ripe corn. She instructed them to
tell her enemies, on their arrival, that she had passed when the crop
was being sown. The miracle duly happened, and Milburga's foes were
disconcerted in consequence. Shropshire and Yorkshire have strange
traditions about the sudden appearance of lakes, sometimes overwhelming
human dwellings. In the latter case, the tops of houses are said to be
visible through the water. Additional picturesqueness is occasionally
given, by the introduction into the story of vanished bells, sending
forth from the depths their soft cadences. At Tunstall, in Norfolk,
a boggy piece of ground, locally known as Hell-Hole, is marked by
frequently rising bubbles. The devil once carried off the bells of
the church, and, when pursued, plunged into the marsh. The bubbles are
due to the bells sinking lower and lower into the abyss. Such beliefs
about lakes form an interesting supplement to Scottish superstitions.

When Henry VI. was in hiding in Bolton Hall, in Yorkshire, he wished
to have a bath in the hot summer weather. His host, anxious to supply
what was lacking to the comfort of the royal fugitive, used a hazel
twig in his garden, in the hope of discovering water. The indications
being favourable, a well was dug, and the king was enabled to cool
himself to his heart's content. The spring still bears the king's
name. Michael Scott, who was born in Fife in the thirteenth century,
and was regarded by his contemporaries as a dabbler in the black art,
had a pupil in the north of England who undertook a marvellous feat,
viz., to bring the sea up the Wansbeck river to Morpeth. Certain
incantations were gone through, and the magician started from the
coast, followed by the tide. All went well till within about five
miles from the town, when he became alarmed by the roaring of the
water, and looked back. So the spell was broken, and Morpeth remained
inland. This recalls the story accounting for the introduction of
a good water-supply into Plymouth. When there was a scarcity in
the sixteenth century, Sir Francis Drake, the naval hero, rode up
to Dartmoor, and uttered some magical words over a spring there. He
immediately turned his horse and galloped back to the town, followed
by a copious stream.

Certain wells could put in a good claim to the title of wonderful
on the ground of the effects they were able to produce. If a spring
could act as a sign-post to guide the wayfarer, who had strayed
from his path, it might surely be classed among marvels! This is
what a certain well on Dartmoor, in Devonshire, could do, at least
in the sixteenth century. A man of the name of Fitz and his wife,
when crossing the moor in the year 1568, lost their way. They lighted
on the well in question, drank its water, and found the lost track
without the least difficulty. In gratitude, Fitz afterwards raised
a memorial of stone over the well "for the benefit of all pixy-led
travellers." In Germany, before a meal, the ceremony of wishing
one's friend a good appetite is still kept up. Such a salutation must
have been unnecessary in the Island of Harris, at least in Martin's
time, for he tells us of a spring, then lately discovered, that
could produce an appetite whenever wanted. "The natives," he says,
"find by experience that it is very effectual for restoring lost
appetite; all that drink of it become very soon hungry though they
have eat plentifully but an hour before." A small quantity of its
water might with advantage be added to the contents of the "loving
cup" at the Lord Mayor's banquets, and on other festive occasions
both in, and out of the Metropolis. Martin speaks of another marvel
in Harris. "A large cave in the face of a hill hath," he says, "two
wells in it, one of which is excluded from dogs, for they say that
if a dog do but taste of the water, the well presently dryeth up;
and for this reason, all such as have occasion to lodge there take
care to tie their dogs that they may not have access to the water. The
other well is called the Dogs' Well, and is only drunk by them." The
student of folklore cannot fail to find Martin a congenial companion,
as he records a variety of quaint Hebridean customs that might have
been passed over in silence by a more matter-of-fact writer. When
in the Island of Lewis, he was told of a fountain at Loch Carloway
"that never whitened linen," though the experiment had been often
tried. In connection with his visit to Barray, he says, "The natives
told me there is a well in the village Tangstill, the water of which,
being boiled, grows thick like puddle. There is another well, not far
from Tangstill, which, the inhabitants say, in a fertile year, throws
up many grains of barley in July and August. And they say that the
well of Kilbar throws up embryos of cockles, but I could not discern
any in the rivulet, the air being at that time foggy." This reminds
one of the Well in the Wall in Checkly parish, Staffordshire, said
to throw out small bones like those of chickens and sparrows all the
year round except in the months of July and August. Toubir-ni-Lechkin,
in Jura, rising on a hill near Tarbert, was a noted fountain. Martin
mentions that its water was counted "lighter by one half" than any
other water in the island, and that a great quantity of it might be
drunk at one time without causing inconvenience. He further says,
"The river Nissa receives all the water that issues from this well,
and this is the reason they give why salmons here are in goodness
and taste far above those of any other river whatever."

The power of some wells over the lower animals was remarkable. A
spring at Harpham, in the East Riding of Yorkshire, dedicated to
St. John of Beverley, was believed to subdue the fiercest animal. A
raging bull, when brought to it, became as gentle as a lamb. A spring
of this kind would indeed be a great boon in the country to timid,
town-bred tourists when crossing fields where there are cattle. To the
margin of such a spring they could retreat and there feel safe. Black
Mere, at Morridge, near Leek, in Staffordshire, was credited with the
power of frightening away animals. Cattle would not drink its water,
and birds would not fly over it. A mermaid was believed to dwell
in its depths. A reminiscence of this belief is to be found in the
name of "The Mermaid," a wayside inn in the neighbourhood frequented
by sportsmen. Some wells keep a sharp look-out on the use made of
their water. A certain spring at Gilsland, in Cumberland, wished
to dispense its favours freely, i.e., without making the public pay
for them. The proprietor of the ground, however, resolved to turn,
what he counted, an honest penny, and built a house over the spring
for the sale of the water. The fountain, much aggrieved at this,
forthwith dried up. The house, not being required, was taken down,
and the benevolent water once more made its appearance.

Intermittent springs have been observed from an early date, and strange
notions have been formed about them. They are usually associated
in their ebbing and flowing with some particular river. In some
instances such a connection can be only imaginary, notably in the
case of the Keldgate Springs at Cottingham, in Yorkshire, thought
to be influenced by the river Derwent twenty miles away. An ebbing
and flowing well at the foot of Giggleswick Scar, near Settle, in
the same county, was represented by Michael Drayton under the poetic
guise of a nymph flying from the pursuit of an unwelcome lover. Gough,
in his edition of Camden's "Britannia," of date 1806, has the following
about a spring near Paisley:--"Bishop Gibson says that in the lands of
Newyards, near Paisley, is a spring which ebbs and flows with the tide
though far above any ground to which the tide comes. Mr. Crawford,
in his 'History of the Shire of Renfrew,' applies this to a spring
in the lands of Woodside, which is three miles from the Clyde, and
half-a-mile from Paisley bridge, and the ground much higher than the
river." The name of Dozmare Lake, in Cornwall, signifies in Cornish a
drop of the sea, the lake having been so called from a belief that it
was tidal. The absurdity of the belief is proved by the fact that the
sheet of water is eight hundred and ninety feet above the sea. The
lake is said to be unfathomable, and has for a haunting spirit a
giant who is doomed to empty it by means of a limpet shell.

A singular superstition is, or was till quite lately, cherished in
Peeblesshire, that Powbate Well, close to Eddlestone, completely fills
with its water the high hill on whose top it is situated. Chambers,
in his "Popular Rhymes of Scotland," gives the following particulars
about the spring:--"The mouth, called Powbate E'e, is covered over
by a grate to prevent the sheep from falling into it; and it is
supposed that, if a willow wand is thrown in, it will be found some
time after, peeled at the water-laugh, a small lake at the base of
the hill supposed to communicate with Powbate. Of course the hill
is expected to break some day like a bottle and do a great deal of
mischief. A prophecy, said to be by Thomas the Rhymer, and bearing
evident marks of his style, is cited to support the supposition:


           'Powbate, an ye break,
            Tak' the Moorfoot in yere gate;
            Moorfoot and Mauldslie,
            Huntlycote, a' three,
            Five kirks and an Abbacie!'"


In explanation of this prophecy Chambers remarks: "Moorfoot, Mauldslie,
and Huntlycote are farm-towns in the immediate neighbourhood of
the hill. The kirks are understood to have been those of Temple,
Carrington, Borthwick, Cockpen, and Dalkeith; and the abbacy was that
of Newbottle, the destruction of which, however, has been anticipated
by another enemy."

The Scottish imagination, in attributing wonderful properties to
springs, has not gone the length of ascribing to any the power
possessed by St. Ludvan's Well in Cornwall. This fountain has been
already referred to as the giver of increased sight. But it had the
still more marvellous power of preventing any one baptised with its
water from being hanged by a hempen rope. Nor have we heard of any
spring north of the Tweed that could be a match for another Cornish
well, viz., that of St. Keyne, familiar to readers of Southey. Whoever,
after marriage, first drank of its water would be the ruler of the
house. On one occasion a bridegroom hurried to make sure of this
right, but was chagrined to find that he had been anticipated: his
bride had taken a bottleful of the water with her to church.



CHAPTER IX.

WITNESS OF WATER.

    Recovery from Illness--Hydromancy--Mirror--Juno's Pool--Prediction
    and Cure--Methods of Augury--Portents of Death--Water like
    Blood--Springs and National Annals--Heritable Jurisdictions--Water
    and Witchcraft--Devil's Mark--Water Ordeal--Abbey of Scone--Elgin
    Orderpot--Witch's Stone--Repeal of Penal Statutes--Witchcraft in
    the North--Insanity--Wild Murdoch.


"Am I likely to recover?" is a question on many a patient's lips. "Ask
your doctor;" and if the case looks serious, "Have a consultation"
is the answer nowadays. Formerly, the answer was "Go to a consecrated
well," or "Get some one else to go in your stead, and you will get
a reply." There is no reason to believe that every sacred spring was
credited with this power; but many undoubtedly were. Hydromancy has
been a favourite mode of divination. "The conscious water" could
predict the future, and questions connected with health were laid
before it for its decision. The Greeks dipped a mirror into a well,
and foretold health or sickness from the appearance of the watery
lines on its surface. A pool in Laconia, sacred to Juno, revealed
approaching good or evil fortune respectively, by the sinking or
floating of wheaten cakes thrown into it, and auguries were also
drawn from the movements of stones when dropt into it. Springs,
therefore, deserved the respect shown to them by the confiding
public. Indeed they not only told of recovery; they supplied the
medicine required to ensure it, and were thus doctors and druggists
combined. Sometimes the omen was unpropitious. In many cases the
prophecy would work out its own fulfilment. There was a well in the
Island of Lewis that caused either instant death or recovery to the
patient who tested its virtues: but a speedy fulfilment like this was
exceptional. St. Andrew's Well at Shadar, in Lewis, was much esteemed
for its power of augury. A tub, containing some of its water, was
taken to the house of the patient, and a small wooden dish was placed
on the surface of the water. If this dish turned sunways, it showed
that the patient would recover; but if in an opposite direction,
that he would die. In reference to this instance, Mr. Gomme, in his
"Ethnology in Folklore," observes, "I am inclined to connect this with
the vessel or cauldron so frequently occurring in Celtic tradition,
and which Mr. Nutt has marked as 'a part of the gear of the oldest
Celtic divinities' perhaps of divinities older than the Celts." On
one occasion two parishioners of Fodderty, in Ross-shire, consulted
Tobar-na-domhnuich in that parish in behalf of a sick friend. When
they placed their pitcher on the surface of the water, the vessel
moved round from south to west, as in the last instance, and they
hastened back to their friend with the good news. This was in the
year 1832. About the same time, a woman brought her sick child to
be bathed in the well, but was surprised and not a little terrified
to see a strange creature, with glaring eyes, leap into it as she
approached. Love for her child made her brave. Overcoming her fear,
she dislodged the creature, and bathed the little invalid. In the end,
however, she must have regarded the appearance of the creature as a
bad omen, for the child did not recover. The usual way of consulting
the spring in question was to draw water from it before sunrise,
and to convey the water to the invalid's house. The patient was then
immersed in it, and if it remained clear the circumstance pointed to
recovery; but if it assumed a brownish colour, the illness would end
in death. In former times a shirt was thrown into St. Oswald's Well,
in Yorkshire, by way of augury. The floating of the shirt foretold
returning health. The sinking foretold death. When a portion of an
invalid's clothing was flung into the Dow Loch, in Dumfriesshire, the
same rule held good. As may be noticed, the augury in these two cases
was the reverse of that in the case of Juno's pool above alluded to.

There were other ways in which wells acted the prophet. If a certain
worm in a spring on the top of a particular hill in Strathdon was
found alive, the patient would recover. A well at Ardnacloich in Appin
contained a dead worm, if the patient's illness would prove fatal;
but a living one, if otherwise. The Virgin's Well, near the ancient
church of Kilmorie on the shores of Loch Ryan in Wigtownshire, had
an ingenious way of predicting the future. If the patient, on whose
account the water was sought, would recover, the fountain flowed
freely; but if the malady would end in death, the water refused to
gush forth. Montluck Well, in the grounds of Logan in the same county,
got the credit of acting on a similar principle. When speaking of this
spring, Symson says, "it is in the midst of a little bog to which
several persons have recourse to fetch water for such as are sick,
asserting (whether it be truth or falsehood I shall not determine)
that if the sick person shall recover, the water shall so bubble and
mount up when the messenger dips in his vessel, that he will hardly get
out dry shod by reason of the overflowing of the well; but if the sick
person be not to recover, there shall not be any such overflowing in
the least." We find a belief in the south-west of England corresponding
to this in the south-west of Scotland. Gulval Well, in Fosses Moor
there, was resorted to by persons anxious to know the fate of absent
friends. If the person inquired about was dead, the water remained
perfectly still; if sick, it bubbled, though in a muddy fashion; but
if well, it sent out a sparkling gush. Mr. Hunt mentions the case of
a woman, who, with her babe in her arm, consulted the spring about
her absent husband, under the guidance of an aged female who acted
as the guardian of the well. "Obeying the old woman's directions,
she knelt on the mat of bright green grass which grew around, and,
leaning over the well so as to see her face in the water, she repeated
after her instructor:


           'Water, water, tell me truly,
            Is the man I love truly
            On the earth, or under the sod,
            Sick or well,--in the name of God?'


Some minutes passed in perfect silence, and anxiety was rapidly
turning cheeks and lips pale, when the colour rapidly returned. There
was a gush of clear water from below, bubble rapidly followed bubble
sparkling brightly in the morning sunshine. Full of joy, the young
mother rose from her knees, kissed her child, and exclaimed, 'I am
happy now!'" At Barenton in Brittany is a spring still believed in by
the peasantry. A pin is dropt into the well, and if good fortune is
in store, the water sends up bubbles; but if not, it remains quite
still. The quantity of water in St. Maelrubha's Well on Innis-Maree
varied from time to time. When a patient was brought for treatment
and there was a scanty supply, the omen was considered unfavourable;
but when the water was abundant, the saint was deemed propitious,
and the hope of recovery was consequently great.

The fly at St. Michael's Well in Banffshire was looked upon as a
prophet. In the "Old Statistical Account of Scotland" we read, that,
"if the sober matron wished to know the issue of her husband's ailment,
or the love-sick nymph that of her languishing swain, they visited
the Well of St. Michael. Every movement of the sympathetic fly was
regarded in silent awe; and as he appeared cheerful or dejected, the
anxious votaries drew their presages." At Little Conan in Cornwall is
a spring, sacred to Our Lady of Nants. It was at one time resorted to
on Palm Sunday by persons anxious to know whether they would outlive
the year. A cross, made of palm, was thrown into the water. If it
floated, the thrower would survive the twelvemonth; but if it sank,
he would die within that time. Maidens used to visit Madron Well
in the same county on May morning to forecast their matrimonial
fate. They took two pieces of straw, about an inch in length, and
placing them crosswise fastened them together with a pin. The cross
was then thrown into the spring. The rising bubbles were carefully
counted, for they corresponded in number with the years that would
elapse before the arrival of the wedding-day.

Portents of death were sometimes furnished by lochs and springs. At
Harpham in Yorkshire there is a tradition that a drummer lad in the
fourteenth century was accidentally drowned in a certain spring by a
St. Quintin--Lord of the Manor. Ever afterwards the sound of a drum
was heard in the well on the evening before the death of one of the
St. Quintin family. Camden, in his "Britannia," tells of a sheet of
water in Cheshire called Blackmere Lake, lying in the district where
the Brereton family had lands, and records the local belief that,
just before any heir of that house died, trunks of trees were seen
floating on its surface. Water occasionally gave warning by turning
red like blood. A certain fountain, near the Elbe, in Germany,
was at one time believed to do this, in view of an approaching
war. St. Tredwell's Loch, in Papa-Westray, Orkney, has already been
referred to, in connection with its habit of turning red, whenever
anything remarkable was about to happen to a member of the Royal
Family. When the Earl of Derwentwater was beheaded, in 1716, the
news spread that the stream flowing past his estate of Dilston Hall
in Northumberland ran with blood. The same was said of the river at
Bothel, in the parish of Topenhow, in Cumberland, on the occasion of
the execution of Charles I., in 1649. There was at one time a well in
Canterbury Cathedral. After the assassination of Thomas à Becket the
sweepings of his blood and brains from the floor were thrown into it,
and more than once afterwards the water turned red and effected various
miraculous cures. Lady Wilde, in her "Ancient Legends of Ireland,"
narrates how one of the holy wells of Erin lost its efficacy for
curing purposes through having been touched by a murderer. The priest
of the district took some of its water and breathed on it thrice in
the name of the Trinity, when, lo! a mysterious change came over it,
and it appeared red like blood! The murderer was captured and handed
over to justice, and the well once more began to work cures.

Some springs seemed anxious to be behind the scenes (though before
the event) in connection with various incidents in British annals. A
spring at Warlingham, in Surrey, rises before any great event in our
country's history. At any rate it did so before three great events in
the seventeenth century, viz., the Restoration, the Plague, and the
Revolution. The famous Drumming Well at Oundle, in Northamptonshire,
was also specially active in the seventeenth century. By making
a sound like the beating of a drum, it announced the approach of a
Scottish army, and gave warning of the death of Charles II. In the same
century a pool in North Tawton parish, Devonshire, even though dry in
summer, became full of water at the driest season before the death
of a prince, and remained so till the event happened. Two centuries
earlier a certain well at Langley Park, in Kent, had a singular way
of foretelling the future. In view of a battle it became dry, though
rain fell heavily. If there was to be no fighting, it appeared full
of water, even during the greatest drought. A spring at Kilbarry, in
the island of Barra, Outer Hebrides, served the same purpose, but its
mode of augury was different. In this case, as Dalyell records in his
"Darker Superstitions," drops of blood appeared in prospect of war; but
little bits of peat, if peace was to remain unbroken. Walcott mentions,
in his "Scoti-Monasticon," that there was at Kilwinning, in Ayrshire,
"a sacred fountain which flowed in 1184, and at other times, before
a war or trouble, with blood instead of water for eight successive
days and nights." When Marvel-sike Spring, near Brampton Bridge, in
Northamptonshire, overflowed its customary limits, people used to
interpret its conduct as signifying approaching dearth, the death
of some great person, or some national disturbance. In these days,
when so keen an interest is taken in the proceedings of Parliament,
it is a pity that there is no spring in our land capable of announcing
the probable date of a dissolution. Such a spring would relieve the
public mind from much uncertainty, and would benefit the trade and
commerce of the country.

Heritable jurisdictions were abolished in Scotland soon after the
Stuart rising of 1745. This privilege, enjoyed till then by many
landowners north of the Tweed, was popularly known as the "right of
pit and gallows," the pit being for the drowning of women and the
gallows for the hanging of men. In 1679, a certain woman, Janet
Grant by name, was convicted of theft in the baronial court of
Sir Robert Gordon of Gordonstone, held at Drainie, in Elginshire,
and was sentenced to be drowned in Spynie Loch. In this and other
similar cases water was used as a means of execution. In the case of
witchcraft it was called in as a witness in the trial. The criminal
proceedings for the detection and punishment of so-called witches form
a painfully dark chapter in Scottish history. As Mr. W. H. Davenport
Adams pointedly puts it, in his "Witch, Warlock, and Magician," "The
common people for a time might have been divided into two classes,
'witches and witchfinders.'" The same writer observes, "Among the
people of Scotland, a more serious-minded and imaginative race
than the English, the superstition of witchcraft was deeply rooted
at an early period. Its development was encouraged not only by the
idiosyncracies of the national character, but also by the nature of
the country and the climate in which they lived. The lofty mountains,
with their misty summits and shadowy ravines, their deep obscure glens,
were the fitting homes of the wildest fancies, the eeriest legends,
and the storm--crashing through the forests, and the surf beating on
the rocky shore, suggested to the ear of the peasant or fisherman the
voices of unseen creatures--of the dread spirits of the waters and
the air." A favourite method of discovering whether an accused person
was guilty or not, was that technically known as pricking. It was
confidently believed that every witch had the "devil's mark" somewhere
on her person. The existence of this mark could be determined: for if a
pin was thrust into the flesh with the result that neither blood came,
nor pain was felt, the spot so punctured was the mark in question. This
showed, without doubt, that the accused was guilty of the heinous
crime laid to her charge. Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe, in his "History
of Witchcraft in Scotland," gives instances of the finding of the
"devil's mark." He mentions the case of Janet Barker, a servant in
Edinburgh, who acknowledged that she possessed this particular mark
between her shoulders. A pin was stuck into the spot and remained
there for an hour without her being aware of its presence. Such, at
least, was the way of stating the case in 1643. With this simple test
at command it is not easy to understand why water should have been
required to give evidence. But so it was. Among various nations the
water-ordeal has been in fashion. It was specially popular in Scotland
a couple of centuries ago. Part of the bay at St. Andrews is still
styled the Witches' Lake, recalling by its name the crude notions and
cruel practices of our ancestors. A pool in the Carron, near Dunnottar
Church in Kincardineshire, at one time served a similar purpose.

As we have seen, the sinking or the floating of an object thrown into
water in cases of sickness told of death or recovery. In like manner
innocence or guilt could be determined in the case of persons accused
of sorcery. If the person sank, she was innocent; but guilty, if she
floated. King James VI.--a great authority on the subject--explains
why this was so. In his "Daemonologie," he says, "As in a secret
murther, if the dead carcase be at any time thereafter handled by the
murtherer, it will gush out of blood, as if the blood were raging to
the Heaven for revenge of the murtherer (God having appointed that
secret supernatural sign for trial of that secret unnatural crime),
so that it appears that God hath appointed (for a supernatural sign
of the monstrous impiety of witches) that the water shall refuse to
receive them in her bosom that have shaken off them the sacred water
of baptism and wilfully refused the benefit thereof." The Abbey of
Scone, in Perthshire, founded by Alexander I., in 1114, received from
him a charter confirming the right of using the water-ordeal for the
detection of witchcraft. The place of trial was a small island in the
Tay, half-way between the abbey and the bridge of Perth. According
to the practices, common at such trials, the accused was thrown into
the water, wrapped up in a sheet, and having the thumbs and the great
toes fastened together. The chances of life were certainly not great
under the circumstances, for, if the poor creature floated, she had
soon to exchange water for fire. The stake was her goal. If she sank,
the likelihood was that she would be drowned. Bundled up in the manner
described, she was scarcely in a position to rescue herself; and the
bystanders were in no humour to give a helping hand. Close to the town
of Elgin was once a witch-pool, known as the Order Pot, so called from
its having been the place of ordeal. Through time it was filled up,
mainly with rubbish from the ruins of the cathedral, in fulfilment,
it was believed, of the prophecy of Thomas the Rhymer that


           "The Order Pot and Lossie grey
            Shall sweep the Chanonry kirk away."


In the seventeenth century a woman who was accused of having brought
disease on a certain man through her sorceries was thrown into the
pool. She sank, and the crowd, who had collected to witness the trial,
exclaimed, "To Satan's kingdom she hath gone." The incident is of
interest since the view of her case, then taken, was contrary to the
one usually held, as explained above. Perhaps the people standing by
thought that the devil was so eager to get his own, that he would
not lose the chance of securing his victim at once. Elginshire has
another memorial of the black art in the form of The Witch's Stone at
Forres. It consists of a boulder about a yard in diameter and probably
marks the spot where unhappy females convicted of witchcraft were
executed. About the year 1790 some one wished to turn the stone to
good account for building purposes and broke it into three pieces. The
breaker, however, was compelled to put it together again, and the iron
then used to clasp it is still in position. Legend accounts for the
breakage in a less prosaic way. When the boulder was being carried
by a witch through the air in her apron, the apron-string broke,
and, as a result, the stone was broken too. The spot was formerly
reckoned ill-omened. It would be too much to say that belief in the
black art has vanished from the Highlands; though, fortunately for
the good sense of our age, as well as for those who live in it,
witch pools are not now in requisition. Pennant bears witness to
the fact that belief in witchcraft ceased in Perthshire soon after
the repeal, in 1736, of the penal statutes against witches. In more
northern districts it continued a vital part of the popular creed
till much later. The Rev. Donald Sage mentions, in his "Memorabilia
Domestica," that the Rev. Mr. Fraser, minister of Killearnan in
Ross-shire, about 1750, was much troubled with somnolency even in
the pulpit. He was in consequence thought to be bewitched--a notion
that he himself shared. Two women were fixed on, as the cause of his
unnatural slumbers. It was believed that they had made a clay image
representing the minister and had stuck pins into it. Certain pains
felt by him were ascribed to this cause. Had it not been for the Act
of 1736, it would doubtless have fared ill with the supposed witches.

Witches, however, were not alone in their power of floating. According
to a popular belief in the north-west Highlands, insane people
cannot sink in water. Sir Arthur Mitchell, in the "Proceedings of the
Society of Antiquaries of Scotland," volume iv., refers to the case
of a certain madman--Wild Murdoch by name--concerning whom strange
stories were told. He was born on the small island of Melista, near
the coast of Lewis, used only for occasional habitation in connection
with the pasturing of cattle. Anyone born in the island is believed to
become insane. The superstition about not sinking was certainly put
to a severe test in Wild Murdoch's case. "It is said," remarks Sir
Arthur, "that his friends used to tie a rope round his body, make it
fast to the stern of the boat, and then pull out to sea, taking the
wretched man in tow. The story goes that he was so buoyant that he
could not sink; 'that they tried to press him down into the water;'
that he could swim with a stone fastened to him; that when carried to
the rocky holms of Melista or Greinan, round which the open Atlantic
surges, and left there alone, he took to the water and swam ashore."



CHAPTER X.

WATER-SPIRITS.

    Influence of Scenery--Science and Superstition--Loch-nan-Spoiradan
    --Lochan-nan-Deaan--Lochan-Wan and its Sacrifice--Jenny Greenteeth
    --Poetry and Superstition--Tweed and Till--Dee and Don--
    Folk-practices for Finding a Drowned Body--Deeside Tradition--
    Salt used by Tweed Fishers for Good Luck--Guardian-Spirit of
    Conan--Peg Powler--Water-kelpies--Nikr--Halliwell Boggle--Robin
    Round Cap--Round Hole, near Flamborough--Aberdeenshire Kelpy
    Legends--Some Sutherland Kelpies--Story about an Islay Kelpy--
    Mermaids in the North.


"One of the great charms of Highland landscape is the gleam of
still water that so often gives the element of repose in a scene of
broken cliff and tumbled crag, of noisy cascade and driving cloud. No
casual tourist can fail to notice what a wonderful variety of lakes
he meets with in the course of any traverse he may take across the
country. Among the higher mountains there is the little tarn nestling
in a dark sunless corry, and half-encircled with grim snow-rifted
crags. In the glen, there is the occasional broadening of the river
into a lake that narrows again to let the stream rush down a rocky
ravine. In the wider strath there is the broad still expanse of water,
with its fringe of wood and its tree-covered islets. In the gneiss
region of the North-West, there is the little lochan lying in its
basin of bare rock and surrounded with scores of others all equally
treeless and desolate." So writes Professor Sir A. Geikie in his
"Scenery of Scotland." His point of view is that of a scientific
observer, keenly alive to all the varied phenomena of nature. But amid
the scenes described lived men and women who looked at the outer world
through the refracting medium of superstition. They saw the landscape,
but they saw also what their own imagination supplied. In Strathspey,
is a sheet of water bearing the Gaelic name of Loch-nan-Spoiradan or
the Lake of Spirits. What shape these spirits assumed we do not know,
but there was no mistake about the form of the spirit who guarded
Lochan-nan-Deaan, close to the old military road between Corgarff
and Tomintoul. The appearance of this spirit may be gathered from the
Rev. Dr. Gregor's remarks in an article on "Guardian Spirits of Wells
and Lochs" in "Folklore" for March, 1892. After describing the loch,
he says, "It was believed to be bottomless, and to be the abode of a
water-spirit that delighted in human sacrifice. Notwithstanding this
blood-thirsty spirit, the men of Strathdon and Corgarff resolved to
try to draw the water from the loch, in hope of finding the remains
of those that had perished in it. On a fixed day a number of them
met with spades and picks to cut a way for the outflow of the water
through the road. When all were ready to begin work, a terrific yell
came from the loch, and there arose from its waters a diminutive
creature in shape of a man with a red cap on his head. The men fled
in terror, leaving their picks and spades behind them. The spirit
seized them and threw them into the loch. Then, with a gesture of
defiance at the fleeing men, and a roar that shook the hills, he
plunged into the loch and disappeared amidst the water that boiled
and heaved as red as blood." Near the boundary, between the shires
of Aberdeen and Banff, is a small sheet of water called Lochan-wan,
i.e., Lamb's Loch. The district around is now a deer forest, but at
one time it was used for grazing sheep. The tenants around had the
privilege of pasturing a certain number of sheep. Dr. Gregor says,
"Each one that sent sheep to this common had to offer in sacrifice,
to the spirit of the loch, the first lamb of his flock dropped on the
common. The omission of this sacrifice brought disaster; for unless
the sacrifice was made, half of his flock would be drowned before
the end of the grazing season." As in the case of Lochan-nan-Deaan,
an attempt was made to break the spell by draining the loch, but this
attempt, though less tragic in its result, was equally unavailing. On
three successive days a channel was made for the outflow of the water,
but each night the work was undone. A watch was set, and at midnight
of the third day hundreds of small black creatures were seen to rise
from the lake, each with a spade in his hand. They set about filling
up the trench and finished their work in a few minutes. Mr. Charles
Hardwick, in "Traditions, Superstitions, and Folklore," published
in 1872, tells of a folk-belief, prevalent in the North of England,
particularly in Lancashire. "I remember well," he says, "when very
young, being cautioned against approaching to the side of stagnant
pools of water partially covered with vegetation. At the time, I
firmly believed that if I disobeyed this instruction a certain water
'boggart,' named Jenny Greenteeth, would drag me beneath her verdant
screen and subject me to other tortures besides death by drowning."

Poetry and superstition regard external nature from the same
standpoint, in as much as both think of it as animate. But there is
a difference. The one endows nature with human qualities, and knows
that it does so through the imagination; the other does the same,
and believes that there is no imagination in the matter. The work of
the former is well expressed by Dr. E. B. Tylor, when he observes,
"In all that water does, the poet's fancy can discern its personality
of life. It gives fish to the fisher and crops to the husbandman, it
swells in fury and lays waste the land, it grips the bather with chill
and cramp and holds with inexorable grasp its drowning victim." That
rivers were monsters hungering, or perhaps, one should say, thirsting,
for human victims is a fact borne witness to by poetry as well as
by superstition. An example of this occurs in the following popular
rhyme connected with the Scottish Border:--


           "Tweed said to Till,
           'What gars ye rin sae still'?
            Till said to Tweed,
           'Though ye rin wi' speed,
            An' I rin slaw,
            Yet whare ye droon ae man,
            I droon twa.'"


Some Aberdeenshire lines have the same theme:--


           "Bloodthirsty Dee
            Each year needs three;
            But bonny Don,
            She needs none."


According to folklore, there is no doubt that rivers are
"uncanny." Beneath their rippling surface dwells a being who keeps
a lookout for the unwary traveller and seeks to draw him into the
dark depths. A belief in such a being is not always explicitly
avowed. But there are certain folk-practices undoubtedly implying
it. When anyone is drowned in a river, the natural way to find the
body is to drag the stream in the neighbourhood of the accident. But
superstition has recourse to another method. A loaf of bread, with or
without quicksilver in it, is placed on the surface of the water and
allowed to drift with the current. The place where the loaf becomes
stationary marks the spot where the body lies concealed. According
to another method, a boat is rowed up and down the stream, and a drum
is beat all the time. When the boat passes over the resting place of
the body the drum will cease to sound. This was done in Derbyshire
no longer ago than 1882, in order to find the corpse of a young woman
who had fallen into the Derwent. In such practices there is a virtual
recognition of a water-spirit who can, by certain rites, be compelled
to give up his prey, or at any rate to disclose the whereabouts of the
victim. A Deeside tradition supplies a good illustration of this. A
man called Farquharson-na-Cat, i.e., Farquharson of the Wand, so
named from his trade of basketmaking, had on one occasion to cross the
river just above the famous linn. It was night. He lost his footing,
was swept down into the linn, and there drowned. Search was made for
his body, but in vain. His wife, taking her husband's plaid, knelt
down on the river's brink, and prayed to the water-spirit to give
her back her dead. She then threw the plaid into the stream. Next
morning her husband's corpse, with the plaid wrapped round it, was
found lying on the edge of the pool. Till quite lately, fishing
on the Tweed was believed to be influenced by the fairies of the
river. Salt was thrown into the water, and sprinkled on the nets to
insure a plentiful catch of fish. This was really the offering of a
sacrifice to the river-spirits.

Frequently the guardian of the flood appeared in distinctly human
shape. An excellent example of this is to be found in Hugh Miller's
"My Schools and Schoolmasters," where a picturesque description is
given of the spirit haunting the Conan. Hugh Miller was an expert
swimmer, and delighted to bathe in the pools of that Ross-shire
stream. "Its goblin or water-wraith," he tells us, "used to appear
as a tall woman dressed in green, but distinguished chiefly by her
withered, meagre countenance, ever distorted by a malignant scowl. I
knew all the various fords, always dangerous ones, where of old she
used to start, it was said, out of the river before the terrified
traveller to point at him as in derision with her skinny finger,
or to beckon him invitingly on; and I was shown the very tree to
which a poor Highlander had clung when, in crossing the river by
night, he was seized by the goblin, and from which, despite of his
utmost exertions, though assisted by a young lad, his companion, he
was dragged into the middle of the current, where he perished. And
when in swimming at sunset over some dark pool, where the eye failed
to mark, or the foot to sound, the distant bottom, the twig of some
sunken bush or tree has struck against me as I passed, I have felt,
with sudden start, as if touched by the cold, bloodless fingers of
the goblin." At Pierse Bridge, in Durham, the water-spirit of the Tees
went by the name of Peg Powler, and there were stories in the district,
of naughty children having been dragged by her into the river.

In the Highlands and Lowlands alike, the spirit inhabiting rivers
and lakes was commonly known as the water-kelpy. A south country
ballad says:--


       "The side was steep, the bottom deep
        Frae bank to bank the water pouring;
        And the bonnie lass did quake for fear,
        She heard the water-kelpie roaring."


Who does not remember Burns's lines in his "Address to the Deil"?--


       "When thowes dissolve the snawy hoord,
        An' float the jinglin' icy-boord,
        Then water-kelpies haunt the foord
                   By your direction;
        An' 'nighted travellers are allur'd
                   To their destruction.

        An' aft your moss-traversin' spunkies
        Decoy the wight that late and drunk is:
        The bleezin', curst, mischievous monkeys
                   Delude his eyes.
        Till in some miry slough he sunk is,
                   Ne'er mair to rise."


The kelpy corresponded in attributes with the Icelandic Nikr;
whence has come our term Old Nick, popularly applied to the devil. A
well-known picture by Sir Noel Paton has familiarised the story of
"Nickar, the soulless," who is there represented as a creature with
frog-like feet, but with a certain human look about him, crouching
among sedge by the side of water, and playing his ghittern--an
instrument resembling a guitar. He appears, however, more melancholy
and less mischievous than the other members of his fraternity. A kelpy
that idled away his time with music and made no attempt to drown
anybody, was quite an exceptional being. In Sweden, where Nikr was
regarded with awe, ferry-men at specially dangerous parts of rivers
warned those who were crossing in their boat not even to mention his
name, lest some mishap should follow. In his "Saxons in England,"
Mr. J. M. Kemble thus refers to other manifestations of the same
creature:--"The beautiful Nix or Nixie who allures the young fisher
or hunter to seek her embraces in the wave which brings his death;
the Neck who seizes upon and drowns the maidens who sport upon his
banks; the river-spirit who still yearly, in some parts of Germany,
demands tribute of human life, are all forms of the ancient Nicor." The
same writer continues:--"More pleasing is the Swedish Stromkarl,
who, from the jewelled bed of his river, watches with delight the
children gambol in the adjoining meadows, and singing sweetly to them
in the evening, detaches from his hoary hair the sweet blossoms of
the water-lily, which he wafts over the surface to their hands." In
his "Folklore of East Yorkshire," Mr. J. B. Nicholson alludes to a
haunted pool between Bewholme and Atwick, at the foot of the hill
on which Atwick Church stands. This pool is shaded by willows,
and is believed to be haunted by a spirit known in the district
as the Halliwell Boggle. In connection with Robin Round Cap Well,
in the same district, Mr. Nicholson tells a story--found also in
the south of Scotland--of a certain house-spirit or brownie, who
proved so troublesome to the farmer whom he served that his master
resolved to remove to other quarters. The furniture was accordingly
put in carts and a start was made for the new home. On the way, a
friend accosted the farmer and asked if he was flitting. Before he
could reply, a voice came from the churn--"Ay, we're flitting!" and,
behold, there sat Robin Round Cap. The farmer, seeing that he could
not thus rid himself of the spirit, returned to his old home; but,
afterwards, he succeeded in charming the brownie into a well, where he
still remains. The same writer relates a superstition about a certain
round hole near Flamborough where a girl once committed suicide. "It
is believed," he says, "that anyone bold enough to run nine times
round this place will see Jenny's spirit come out, dressed in white;
but no one has yet been bold enough to venture more than eight times,
for then Jenny's spirit called out:--


               'Ah'll tee on my bonnet
                  An' put on me shoe,
                An' if thoo's nut off
                  Ah'll seean catch thoo!'


A farmer, some years ago, galloped round it on horseback, and Jenny
did come out, to the great terror of the farmer, who put spurs to his
horse and galloped off as fast as he could, the spirit after him. Just
on entering the village, the spirit, for some reason unknown, declined
to proceed further, but bit a piece clean out of the horse's flank,
and the old mare had a white patch there to her dying day."

In the "Folklore Journal" for 1889, Dr. Gregor relates some kelpy
legends collected by him in Aberdeenshire. On one occasion a man had
to cross the Don by the bridge of Luib, Corgarff, to get to his wife
who was then very ill. When he reached the river, he found that the
bridge--a wooden one--had been swept away by a flood. He despaired
of reaching the other bank, when a tall man suddenly appeared and
offered to carry him across. The man was at first doubtful, but ere
long accepted the proffered help. When they reached the middle of
the river, the kelpy, who had hitherto shown himself so obliging,
sought to plunge his burden beneath the water. A struggle ensued. The
man finally found a foothold, and, disengaging himself from the
kelpy, scrambled in all haste up the bank. His would-be destroyer,
disappointed of his victim, hurled a boulder after him. This boulder
came to be known as the Kelpy's Stane. Passers-by threw a stone
beside it till eventually a heap was formed, locally styled the
Kelpy's Cairn. A Braemar kelpy stole a sackful of meal from a mill
to give it to a woman for whom he had taken a fancy. As the thief was
disappearing, the miller caught sight of him and threw a fairy-whorl
at his retreating figure. The whorl broke his leg, and the kelpy fell
into the mill-race and was drowned. Such was the fate of the last kelpy
seen in Braemar. Sutherland, too, abounded in water-spirits. They
used to cross the mouth of the Dornoch Firth in cockle-shells,
but, getting tired of this mode of transit, they resolved to build
a bridge. It was a magnificent structure, the piers being headed
with pure gold. A countryman, happening to pass, saw the bridge,
and invoked a blessing on the workmen and their work. Immediately,
the workmen vanished, and their work sank beneath the waves. Where it
spanned the Firth there is now a sandbar dangerous to mariners. Miss
Dempster, who recounts this legend in the "Folklore Journal" for 1888,
supplies further information about the superstition of the district. A
banshee, adorned with gold ornaments and wearing a silk dress, was
seen hurrying down a hill near the river Shin, and finally plunging
into one of its deep pools. These banshees were commonly web-footed,
and seemed addicted to finery, if we may judge from the instance just
given, and from another mentioned by Mr. Campbell in his "Tales of
the West Highlands." He there speaks of one who frequented a stream
about four miles from Skibo Castle in Dornoch parish. The miller's wife
saw her. "She was sitting on a stone, quiet, and beautifully dressed
in a green silk dress, the sleeves of which were curiously puffed
from the wrists to the shoulder. Her long hair was yellow like ripe
corn, but on nearer view she had no nose." Miss Dempster narrates
the following incident connected with the water-spirit haunting
another Sutherland river:--"One, William Munro, and the grandfather
of the person from whom we have this story, were one night leading
half-a-dozen pack-horses across a ford in the Oikel, on their way to
a mill. When they neared the river bank a horrid scream from the water
struck their ears. 'It is the Vaicgh,' cried the lad, who was leading
the first horse, and, picking up some stones, he sent a shower of them
into the deep pool at his feet. She must have been repeatedly hit,
as she emitted a series of the most piercing shrieks. 'I am afraid,'
said Monro, 'that you have not done that right, and that she will play
us an ugly trick at the ford.' 'Never mind, we will take more stones,'
he answered, arming himself with a few. But the kelpy had had enough
of stones for one night."

Off the Rhinns of Islay is a small island formerly used for grazing
cattle. A strong tide sweeps past the island, making the crossing
of the Sound dangerous. A story, related by Mr. Campbell, tells
that on a certain boisterous night a woman was left in charge of a
large herd of cattle on the island. She was sitting in her cabin,
when all at once she heard strange noises outside, and, looking up,
saw a pair of large eyes gazing in at her through the window. The door
opened, and a strange creature strode in. He was tall and hairy, with
a livid covering on his face instead of skin. He advanced towards the
woman and asked her name. She replied in Gaelic, "Mise mi Fhin"--"Me
myself." He then seized her. In her terror she threw a ladleful of
boiling water on the intruder. Yelling with pain he bounded out of the
hut. These unearthly voices asked what was the matter, and who had hurt
him? "Mise mi Fhin"--"Me myself," replied the creature. The answer was
received with a shout of laughter from his mysterious companions. The
woman rushed out of the hut, and dislodging one of the cows lay down
on the spot, at the same time making a magical circle round her on
the ground. All night she heard terrible sounds mingling with the
roaring of the wind. In the morning the supernatural manifestations
disappeared, and she felt herself safe. It had not fared, however,
so well with the cow, for, when found, it was dead.

In Chapter I. reference was made to mermen and mermaids, and little
requires to be added in the present connection. In the south of
Scotland the very names of these sea-spirits have a far-off sound
about them. No one beside the Firths of Forth and Clyde expects
nowadays to catch sight of such strange forms sitting on rocks,
or playing among the breakers; but among our Northern Isles it is
otherwise. Every now and again (at long intervals, perhaps) the
mysterious mermaid makes her appearance, and gives new life to an
old superstition. About three years since, one was seen at Deerness
in Orkney. She reappeared last year, and was then noticed by some
lobstermen who were working their creels. She had a small black head,
white body, and long arms. Somewhat later, a creature, believed to
be this mermaid, was shot not far from the shore, but the body was
not captured. In June of the present year another mermaid was seen by
the Deerness people. At Birsay, recently, a farmer's wife was down at
the sea-shore, and observed a strange creature among the rocks. She
went back for her husband, and the two returned quite in time to
get a good view of the interesting stranger. The woman spoke of the
mermaid as "a good-looking person"; while her husband described her
as "having a covering of brown hair." Curiosity seems to have been
uppermost in the minds of the couple, for they tried to capture the
creature. In the interests of folklore, if not of science, she managed
to escape, and was quickly lost to sight beneath the waves. Perhaps,
as the gurgling waters closed over her, she may have uttered an au
revoir, or whatever corresponds to that phrase in the language of the
sea. The following story about a mermaid, told by Mr. J. H. Dixon in
his "Gairloch," published in 1886, is fully credited in the district
where the incident occurred:--"Roderick Mackenzie, the elderly and
much respected boat-builder at Port Henderson, when a young man, went
one day to a rocky part of the shore there. Whilst gathering bait he
suddenly spied a mermaid asleep among the rocks. Rorie 'went for'
that mermaid, and succeeded in seizing her by the hair. The poor
creature in great embarrassment cried out that if Rorie would let go
she would grant him whatever boon he might ask. He requested a pledge
that no one should ever be drowned from any boat he might build. On
his releasing her the mermaid promised that this should be so. The
promise has been kept throughout Rorie's long business career--his
boats still defy the stormy winds and waves." Mr. Dixon adds, "I am
the happy possessor of an admirable example of Rorie's craft. The
most ingenious framer of trade advertisements might well take a hint
from this veracious anecdote."



CHAPTER XI.

MORE WATER-SPIRITS.

    Water-horses and Water-bulls--Highland Superstition--Spiritual
    Water-demon and Material Water-monster--Water-bulls of Loch
    Llundavrà and Loch Achtriachtan--Water-horses of Loch Treig--Kelpy
    of Loch Ness--Water-horse Bridles--Pontage Pool--Kelpy's
    Footprint--MacCulloch and Sir Walter Scott--Recent Example of
    Belief in Water-monster--Tarroo-Ushtey in the Isle of Man--Other
    Water-spirits--Dragon--Black-dog--Fly--Fish--De mons--Origin
    of Well-worship.


So far we have been dealing with water-spirits more or less human in
form. Another class consists of those with the shape and attributes
of horses and bulls. The members of this class are connected specially
with Highland districts. Lonely lochs were their favourite haunts. In
treeless regions, a belief in such creatures would naturally arise. Any
ordinary animal in such an environment would appear of a larger size
than usual, and the eye of the beholder would transmit the error to his
imagination, thereby still further magnifying the creature's bulk. In
some instances, the notion might arise even when there was no animal
on the scene. A piece of rock, or some other physical feature of the
landscape would be enough to excite superstitious fancies. Mr. Campbell
remarks, "In Sutherland and elsewhere, many believe that they have seen
these fancied animals. I have been told of English sportsmen who went
in pursuit of them, so circumstantial were the accounts of those who
believed they had seen them. The witnesses are so numerous, and their
testimony agrees so well, that there must be some old deeply-rooted
Celtic belief which clothes every object with the dreaded form of
the Each Uisge, i.e., Water-horse." When waves appeared on a lake,
and there seemed no wind to account for them, superstitious people
readily grasped at the idea that the phenomenon was due to the action
of some mysterious water-spirit. As Dr. Tylor points out, there seems
to have been a confusion "between the 'spiritual water-demon' and the
'material water-monster.'" Any creature found in or near the water
would naturally be reckoned its guardian spirit.

The Rev. Dr. Stewart gives the following particulars about water-horses
and water-bulls in his "'Twixt Ben Nevis and Glencoe." They are
thought of "as, upon the whole, of the same shape and form as the
more kindly quadrupeds after whom they have been named, but larger,
fiercer, and with an amount of 'devilment' and cunning about them,
of which the latter, fortunately, manifest no trace. They are always
fat and sleek, and so full of strength and spirit and life that the
neighing of the one and the bellowing of the other frequently awake
the mountain echoes to their inmost recesses for miles and miles
around.... Calves and foals are the result of occasional intercourse
between these animals and their more civilised domestic congeners,
such calves bearing unmistakable proofs of their mixed descent in the
unusual size and pendulousness of their ears and the wide aquatic
spread of their jet black hoofs; the foals, in their clean limbs,
large flashing eyes, red distended nostrils, and fiery spirit. The
initiated still pretend to point out cattle with more or less of this
questionable blood in them, in almost every drove of pure Highland
cows and heifers you like to bring under their notice." The lochs
of Llundavrà and Achtriachtan, in Glencoe, were at one time famous
for their water-bulls; and Loch Treig for its water-horses, believed
to be the fiercest specimens of that breed in the world. If anyone
suggested to a Lochaber or Rannoch Highlander that the cleverest
horse-tamer could "clap a saddle on one of the demon-steeds of Loch
Treig, as he issues in the grey dawn, snorting, from his crystal-paved
sub-lacustral stalls, he would answer, with a look of mingled horror
and awe, 'Impossible!' The water-horse would tear him into a thousand
pieces with his teeth and trample and pound him into pulp with his
jet-black, iron-hard, though unshod hoofs!"

A noted demon-steed once inhabited Loch Ness, and was a cause of
terror to the inhabitants of the neighbourhood. Like other kelpies,
he was in the habit of browsing along the roadside, all bridled and
saddled, as if waiting for some one to mount him. When any unwary
traveller did so, the kelpy took to his heels, and presently plunged
into deep water with his victim on his back. Mr. W. G. Stewart, in
his "Highland Superstitions and Amusements," tells a story to show
that the kelpy in question did not always have things his own way. A
Highlander of the name of MacGrigor resolved to throw himself in the
way of the water-horse in the hope of getting the better of him. The
meeting took place in the solitary pass of Slochd-Muichd, between
Strathspey and Inverness. The kelpy looked as innocent as usual, and
was considerably startled when MacGrigor, sword in hand, struck him
a blow on the nose. The weapon cut through the bridle, and the bit,
falling to the ground, was instantly picked up by MacGrigor. This was
the turning point of the encounter. The kelpy was powerless without
his bit, and requested to have it restored. Though a horse, the kelpy
had the power of human speech, and conversed, doubtless in excellent
Gaelic, with his victor, using various arguments to bring about the
restoration of his lost property. Finding that these were unavailing,
he prophesied that MacGrigor would never enter his house with the
bit in his possession, and when they arrived at the door he planted
himself in front of it to block the entrance. The Highlander, however,
outwitted the kelpy, for, going round to the back of his house, he
called his wife and flung the bit to her through a window. Returning
to the kelpy, he told him where the bit was, and assured him that he
would never get it back again. As there was a rowan cross above the
door the demon-steed could not enter the house, and presently departed
uttering certain exclamations not intended for benedictions. Those who
doubt the truthfulness of the narrative may have their doubts lessened
when they learn that this was not the only case of a water-horse's
bit becoming the property of a human being. The Rev. Dr. Stewart
narrates an anecdote bearing on this. A drover, whose home was in
Nether Lochaber, was returning from a market at Pitlochry by way of
the Moor of Rannoch. Night came on; but, as the moon was bright, he
continued his journey without difficulty. On reaching Lochanna Cuile,
he sat down to refresh himself with bread, cheese, and milk. While
partaking of this temperate repast he caught sight of something
glittering on the ground, and, picking it up, he found it to be a
horse's bridle. Next morning he was astonished to find that the bit
and buckles were of pure silver and the reins of soft and beautifully
speckled leather. He was still more surprised to find that the bit when
touched was unbearably hot. A wise woman from a neighbouring glen was
called in to solve the mystery. She at once recognised the article to
be a water-horse's bridle, and accounted for the high temperature of
the bit on the ground that the silver still retained the heat that it
possessed when in a molten state below ground. The reins, she said,
were made of the skin of a certain poisonous serpent that inhabited
pools frequented by water-horses. According to her directions, the
bridle was hung on a cromag or crook of rowan wood. Its presence
brought a blessing to the house, and the drover prospered in all
his undertakings. When he died, having no children of his own, he
bequeathed the magical bridle to his grandnephew, who prospered in
his turn.

A pool in the North Esk, in Forfarshire, called the Ponage or Pontage
Pool, was at one time the home of a water-horse. This creature
was captured by means of a magical bridle, and kept in captivity
for some time. While a prisoner he was employed to carry stones to
Morphie, where a castle was then being built. One day the bridle
was incautiously removed, and the creature vanished, but not before
he exclaimed--


       "Sair back an' sair banes,
        Carryin' the Laird o' Morphie's stanes;
        The Laird o' Morphie canna thrive
        As lang's the kelpy is alive."


His attempted verse-making seems to have gratified the kelpy, for
when he afterwards showed himself in the pool he was frequently heard
repeating the rhyme. The fate of the castle was disastrous. At a later
date it was entirely demolished, and its site now alone remains. Some
six miles from the Kirkton of Glenelg, in Inverness-shire, is
the small sheet of water known in the district as John MacInnes'
Loch. It was so called from a crofter of that name who was drowned
there. The circumstances are thus narrated by Mr. J. Calder Ross in
"Scottish Notes and Queries" for February, 1893: "John MacInnes found
the labour of his farm sadly burdensome. In the midst of his sighing
an unknown being appeared to him and promised a horse to him under
certain conditions. These conditions John undertook to fulfil. One day,
accordingly, he found a fine horse grazing in one of his fields. He
happened to be ploughing at the time, and at once he yoked the animal
to the plough along with another horse. The stranger worked splendidly,
and he determined to keep it, though he well knew that it was far
from canny. Every night when he stabled it he spread some earth from
a mole's hill over it as a charm; according to another version he
merely blessed the animal. One night he forgot his usual precautions:
perhaps he was beginning to feel safe. The horse noticed the omission,
and seizing poor John in his teeth, galloped off with him. The two
disappeared in the loch."

Water-horses were not always malignant in disposition. On one occasion
an Aberdeenshire farmer went with his own horse to a mill to fetch
home some sacks of meal. He left the horse at the door of the mill
and went in to bring out the sacks. The beast, finding itself free,
started for home. When the farmer reappeared and found the creature
gone he was much disconcerted, and uttered the wish that he might
get any kind of horse to carry his sacks even though it were a
water-kelpy. To his surprise, a water-horse immediately appeared! It
quietly allowed itself to be loaded with the meal, and accompanied
the farmer to his home. On reaching the house he tied the horse to an
old harrow till he should get the sacks taken into the house. When
he returned to stable the animal that had done him the good turn,
horse and harrow were away, and he heard the beast plunging not far
off in a deep pool in the Don. If anyone refuses to believe in the
existence of water-horses, let him go to the parish of Fearn, in
Forfarshire, and there, near the ruined castle of Vayne, he will see
on a sandstone rock the print of a kelpy's foot. Noran Water flows
below the castle, and the mysterious creature had doubtless its home
in one of its pools. In Shetland, such kelpies were known as Nuggles,
and showed themselves under the form of Shetland ponies.

MacCulloch, the author of "A Description of the Western Islands of
Scotland," found the belief in the water-bull a living faith among
the people, notably among the dwellers beside Loch Rannoch and Loch
Awe. He tells of a farmer who employed his sons to search a certain
stream for one of these creatures, while the farmer himself carried a
gun loaded with sixpences to be discharged when the monster appeared,
silver alone having any effect on such beasts. The same writer,
when speaking of the grandeur of the scenery about Loch Coruisk,
remarks:--"It is not surprising that Coruisk should be considered by
the natives as the haunt of the water-goblin or of spirits still more
dreadful. A seaman, and a bold one, whom, on one occasion, I had left
in charge of the boat, became so much terrified at finding himself
alone that he ran off to join his comrades, leaving it moored to the
rock, though in danger of being destroyed by the surge. I afterwards
overheard much discussion on the courage of the Southron in making
the circuit of the valley unattended. Not returning till it was
nearly dark, it was concluded that he had fallen into the fangs of
the kelpy." MacCulloch's "Description" consists of a series of letters
to Sir Walter Scott. Sir Walter himself has an interesting reference
to the same superstition in his "Journal," under date November 23rd,
1827. After enumerating the company at a certain dinner party at
which he had been present, he continues: "Clanronald told us, as an
instance of Highland credulity, that a set of his kinsmen--Borradale
and others--believing that the fabulous 'water-cow' inhabited a small
lake near his house, resolved to drag the monster into day. With this
view they bivouacked by the side of the lake in which they placed,
by way of night-bait, two small anchors such as belong to boats,
each baited with the carcase of a dog slain for the purpose. They
expected the 'water-cow' would gorge on this bait, and were prepared
to drag her ashore the next morning, when, to their confusion of face,
the baits were found untouched. It is something too late in the day
for setting baits for water-cows." If such conduct seemed wonderful
in 1827, what would the author of "Waverley" have thought had he known
that more than half-a-century later, people in the Highlands retained a
thorough-going belief in such monsters? No longer ago than 1884 rumours
were current in Ross-shire that a water-cow was seen in or near a loch
on the Greenstone Point, in Gairloch parish. Mr. J. H. Dixon, in his
"Gairloch," states that about 1840 a water-cow was believed to inhabit
Loch-na-Beiste, in the same parish, and that a serious attempt was then
made to destroy the creature. The proprietor tried to drain the loch,
which, except at one point, is little more than a fathom in depth;
but when his efforts failed he threw a quantity of quicklime into the
water to poison the monster. It is reasonable to hold that the trout
were the only sufferers. The creature in question was described by
two men who saw it as in appearance like "a good sized boat with the
keel turned up." Belief in the existence of water-cows prevailed in
the south as well as in the north of Scotland. In the Yarrow district
there was one inhabiting St. Mary's Loch. Concerning this water-cow,
Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd, writes: "A farmer in Bowerhope once got
a breed of her, which he kept for many years until they multiplied
exceedingly; and he never had any cattle throve so well, until once,
on some outrage or disrespect on the farmer's part towards them,
the old dam came out of the lake one pleasant March evening and gave
such a roar that all the surrounding hills shook again, upon which her
progeny, nineteen in number, followed her all quietly into the loch,
and were never more seen."

In the Isle of Man the water-bull was, and perhaps still is believed
in by the peasantry. It is called in Manx, tarroo-ushtey. There is
much force in Mr. Campbell's conclusion that the old Celts reverenced
a destroying water-god, to whom the horse was sacred, or who assumed
the form of a horse. A similar notion may have originated the belief
in the water-bull.

Other creatures, besides those already mentioned, acted in the capacity
of water spirits. In Strathmartin, in Forfarshire, is a spring styled
the Nine Maidens' Well. These maidens were the daughters of a certain
Donewalde or Donald in the eighth century, and led, along with their
father, a saintly life in the glen of Ogilvy in the same county. Their
spring at Strathmartin must have been well looked after, for it had
as its guardian, no less formidable a creature than a dragon. We do
not know whether there was any St. George in the vicinity to dispute
possession with the monster. In Kildonan parish, Sutherland, a stagnant
pool of water, some ten yards long by three broad, was regarded by
the inhabitants with superstitious dread. According to tradition,
a pot of gold lay hidden below; but no one could reach the treasure
as it was guarded by a large black dog with two heads. The Rev. Donald
Sage, when noticing this superstition in his "Memorabilia Domestica,"
remarks, "It is said that a tenant once had attempted to drain the
loch and had succeeded, so that the water was all carried off. The only
remuneration the unfortunate agriculturist received was to be aroused
from his midnight slumbers by a visit from the black dog, which set
up such a hideous howl as made the hills reverberate and the poor
man almost die with fright. Furthermore, with this diabolical music,
he was regularly serenaded at the midnight hour till he had filled up
the drain, and the loch had resumed its former dimensions." We do not
know whether any later attempt was made to abolish the stagnant pool;
but at any rate a dread of the black dog kept it from being again
drained till well on in the present century. Sutherland, however,
cannot claim a monopoly in the matter of a guardian spirit in the
shape of a dog. Concerning Hound's Pool in Dean Combe parish, Devon,
the tradition is that it is haunted by a hound doomed to keep guard
till the pool can be emptied by a nutshell with a hole in it. Readers
of "Peveril of the Peak" can hardly fail to remember the Moddey
Dhoo--the black demon-dog--that roamed through Peel Castle, in the
Isle of Man. St. Michael's Well in Kirkmichael parish, Banffshire,
had for its guardian spirit a much smaller animal than any of the
above. It showed itself in the form of a fly that kept skimming over
the surface of the water. This fly was believed to be immortal. Towards
the end of last century the spring lost its reputation for its cures,
and the guardian spirit shared in its neglect. The writer of the
article on the parish, in the "Old Statistical Account of Scotland,"
mentions having met an old man who greatly deplored the degeneracy of
the times. A glowing picture is given of this old man's desires. "If
the infirmities of years and the distance of his residence did
not prevent him, he would still pay his devotional visits to the
well of St. Michael. He would clear the bed of its ooze, opening a
passage for the streamlet, plant the borders with fragrant flowers,
and once more, as in the days of youth, enjoy the pleasure of seeing
the guardian fly skim in sportive circles over the bubbling waves,
and with its little proboscis imbibe the panacean dews."

Consecrated fish have been reverenced, from of old, in East and
West alike. In Syria, at the present day, such fish are preserved
in fountains; and anciently certain pools in the stream, flowing
past Ascalon, were the abodes of fish sacred to Derketo, the
Phoenician Venus, who had a temple there. In our own land the same
cult prevailed. A curious Cornish legend tells how St. Neot had his
well stocked with fish by an angel. These fish were always two in
number. Day by day, the saint had one for dinner, and its place was
miraculously supplied to keep up the proper number. One day he fell
sick, and his servant, contrary to all ascetic precedent, cooked both
and set them before his master. The saint was horrified, and had both
the fish--cooked though they were--put back into the spring. He sought
forgiveness for the rash act, and lo! the fish became alive once more;
and as a further sign that the sacrilege was condoned, St. Neot, on
eating his usual daily portion, was at once restored to health. In
Scotland there were various springs containing consecrated fish. Loch
Siant, in the Isle of Skye, described by MacCulloch as "the haunt
of the gentler spirits of air and water," abounded in trout; but,
as Martin informs us, neither the natives nor strangers ever dared
to kill any of them on account of the esteem in which the water was
held. This superstition seems to have been specially cherished in the
island, for Martin further says, "I saw a little well in Kilbride,
in the south of Skie, with one Trout only in it; the natives are very
tender of it, and though they often chance to catch it in their wooden
pales, they are very careful to preserve it from being destroyed; it
has been there for many years." In a well near the church of Kilmore,
in Lorne, were two fishes held in much respect in the seventeenth
century, and called by the people of the district, Easg Seant, i.e.,
holie fishes. From Dalyell's "Darker Superstitions of Scotland" we
learn that, like those belonging to St. Neot, they were always two
in number: they never varied in size: in colour they were black,
and according to the testimony of the most aged persons their hue
never altered. In Tober Kieran, near Kells, County Meath, Ireland,
were two miraculous trout which never changed their appearance. A
Strathdon legend, narrated by the Rev. Dr. Gregor, thus accounts
for the appearance of fish in Tobar Vachar, i.e., St. Machar's Well,
at Corgarff, a spring formerly held in high honour on account of its
cures:--"Once there was a famine in the district, and not a few were
dying of hunger. The priest's house stood not far from the well. One
day, during the famine, his housekeeper came to him and told him that
their stock of food was exhausted, and that there was no more to be
got in the district. The priest left the house, went to the well,
and cried to St. Machar for help. On his return he told the servant
to go to the well the next morning at sunrise, walk three times round
it, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, without looking
into it, and draw from it a draught of water for him. She carried out
the request. On stooping down to draw the water, she saw three fine
salmon swimming in the well. They were caught, and served the two
as food, till supply came to the famine-stricken district from other
quarters." According to a Herefordshire tradition, a fish with a golden
chain round it was caught in the river Dore, and was afterwards kept in
the spring whence the river flows. At Peterchurch, in that county, is a
sculptured stone bearing a rude representation of the fish in question.

Sometimes the guardian spirit of a loch or well was thought of in
the vaguest possible way. In that case the genius loci had neither
name nor shape of any kind, the leaving of an offering being the
only recognition of his existence. Occasionally the presiding
spirit was pictured in the popular imagination in the guise of a
demon, commonly with a hazy personality. Callow Pit, in Norfolk,
was believed to contain a treasure-chest guarded by such a being. On
one occasion an attempt to raise the chest was made, and was on the
verge of being successful, when one of the treasure-hunters defied
the devil to get his own again. Suddenly the chest was snatched down
into the pit, and the ring, attached to the lid, alone remained
to tell its tale. This ring was afterwards fixed to the door of
Southwood Church. At Wavertree, in Lancashire, once stood a monastery
and beside it was a well. When pilgrims arrived, the occupants of
the monastery received their alms. If nothing was given, a demon,
chained to the bottom of the well, was said to laugh. This notion
was either originated or perpetuated by a fifteenth century Latin
inscription to this effect, "Qui non dat quad habet. Daemon infra
ridet." When wells were dedicated to Christian saints, the latter
were usually considered the guardians of the sacred water. This was
natural enough. If, for instance, St. Michael was supposed to watch
over a spring, why should not his aid have been sought in connection
with any wished-for cure? It is interesting, however, to note that
this was not so in every instance. In many cases the favourite,
because favourable time for visiting a sacred spring, was not the
festival of the saint to whom it was dedicated, but, as we shall see
hereafter, a day quite distinct from such festival. Petitions, too,
were frequently addressed not to the saint of the well, but to some
being with a character possessing fewer Christian attributes. All this
points to the fact that the origin of well-worship is to be sought,
not in the legends of mediæval Christianity, but in the crude fancies
of an earlier paganism.



CHAPTER XII.

OFFERINGS AT LOCHS AND SPRINGS.

    Votive Offerings--Gifts usually of Small Value--Toubir-nim-buadh
    --Rumbling Well--Heath--Rags--St. Wallach's Bath--Pins at St.
    Wallach's Well--Luckiness of Things Crooked--Pins Rising in Wells
    --Tobar-na-Glas-a-Coille--Lix Well--Pebbles--Coins--St. Jergon's
    Well--Silver Wells--Brass Well--Well at Avoch Castle--Introduction
    of Loch Katrine Water into Glasgow--Some Glasgow Springs--St.
    Thenew's Well--St. Winifred's Well--Dr. Patrick Anderson--Offerings
    in France--Gifts in Consecrated Buildings--Philosophy of Votive
    Offerings--Infection in Folklore--Safety of Offerings--Transference
    of Disease--Results of Theft of Offerings--Pennies in Holy Loch--
    Money in Clach-nan-Sul--Well-Dressing--Not Found in Scotland--
    Festival at Tissington--Roman and English Fontinalia--Royal Oak-Day
    at Endon.


Offerings at lochs and springs have been incidentally mentioned more
than once, but the subject is one deserving separate treatment. Wells
were not merely so much water, with stones and turf round them, and
lochs, sheets of water, encompassed by moorland or forest. They were,
as we have seen, the haunts of spirits, propitious if remembered, but
resentful if neglected. Hence no one thought it proper to come to them
empty-handed. The principle was, no gift, no cure. Classical literature
contains allusions to such votive offerings. Numa sacrificed a sheep
to a fountain, and Horace promised to offer to his sweet Bandusian
spring a kid not without flowers. Near Toulouse, in France, was a
sacred lake, into whose water the neighbouring tribes anciently threw
offerings of gold and silver. In our own country, the gifts were, as
a rule, of small intrinsic value. When speaking of Toubir-nim-buadh,
in St. Kilda, Macaulay says:--"Near the fountain stood an altar
on which the distressed votaries laid down their oblations. Before
they could touch the sacred water with any prospect of success, it
was their constant practice to address the genius of the place with
supplication and prayer. No one approached him with empty hands. But
the devotees were abundantly frugal. The offerings, presented by them,
were the poorest acknowledgments that could be made to a superior
being, from whom they had either hopes or fears. Shells and pebbles,
rags of linen, or stuffs worn out, pins, needles, or rusty nails,
were generally all the tribute that was paid; and sometimes, though
rarely enough, copper coins of the smallest value." The appearance
of this well is thus described by the author of "Ecclesiological
Notes":--"A low square-shaped massy stone building with a stone roof,
covers the spring, which, after forming a pool in the floor of the
cell, runs down the russet slope like a thread of silver to join the
stream in the valley."

The offerings, made by the St. Kildians, were indeed much the same as
those commonly made in other parts of the country. We get a glimpse
of what was done in the south of Scotland from Symson, who, in his
quaint "Description of Galloway," remarks:--"In this parish of Bootle,
about a mile from the kirk, towards the north, is a well called the
Rumbling Well, frequented by a multitude of sick people for all sorts
of diseases the first Sunday of May; lying there the Saturday night,
and then drinking of it early in the morning. There is also another
well, about a quarter of a mile distant from the former, towards the
east. This well is made use of by the country people when their cattle
are troubled with a disease called by them the Connoch. This water they
carry in vessels to many parts and wash their beasts with it, and give
it them to drink. It is, too, remembered that at both the wells they
leave behind them something by way of a thank-offering. At the first,
they leave either money or clothes; at the second, they leave the bands
and shackles wherewith beasts are usually bound." The objects, commonly
left on the cairns beside the Holy Pool in Strathfillan, have already
been enumerated. In addition, bunches of heath, tied with worsted,
were occasionally left. The Cheese Well, on Minchmoor, in Peeblesshire,
was so called from the pieces of cheese thrown into it by passers-by
as offerings to the fairies. Around a certain spring near Newcastle, in
Northumberland, the bushes were so covered with shreds of clothing that
the spring went by the name of the Rag Well. At St. Oswald's Well, near
the foot of Roseberry Topping, in Yorkshire, the pieces of cloth were
so numerous that, as a spectator once remarked, they "might have made
a fair ream in a paper-mill." A contributor to "Notes and Queries,"
in 1876, observes:--"The custom of hanging shreds of rags on trees as
votive offerings still obtains in Ireland. I remember as a child to
have been surreptitiously taken by an Irish nurse to St. John's Well,
Aghada, County Cork, on the vigil of the saint's day, to be cured
of whooping-cough by drinking three times of the water of the holy
well. I shall never forget the strange spectacle of men and women,
creeping on their knees in voluntary devotion, or in obedience to
enjoined penance, so many times round the well, which was protected by
a grey stone hood, and had a few white thorn trees growing near it,
on the spines of which fluttered innumerable shreds of frieze and
vary-coloured rags, the votive offerings of devotees and patients."

In the Isle of Man, also, the custom of hanging up rags was at
one time much in vogue. In Malew parish there is Chibber-Undin,
signifying the Foundation Well, so called from the foundations
of a now almost obliterated chapel hard by. The ritual practised
at the well is thus described by Mr. A. W. Moore in his "Surnames
and Place-names of the Isle of Man":--"The patients who came to it,
took a mouthful of water, retaining it in their mouths till they had
twice walked round the well. They then took a piece of cloth from a
garment which they had worn, wetted it from the water from the well,
and hung it on the hawthorn tree which grew there. When the cloth
had rotted away the cure was supposed to be effected." Evidence from
Wales to the same effect is furnished by Professor Rhys in "Folklore"
for September, 1892. He there gives the following information, lately
sent to him by a friend, about a Glamorganshire holy well situated
between Coychurch and Bredgled:--"It is the custom," he writes,
"for people suffering from any malady to dip a rag in the water,
and bathe the affected part. The rag is then placed on a tree close
to the well. When I passed it, about three years ago, there were
hundreds of these shreds covering the tree, and some had evidently
been placed there very recently." Professor Rhys also refers to other
Glamorganshire springs where rags are to be seen hanging on trees.

Scottish examples of the same superstition are numerous. At
Montblairie, in Banffshire, pieces of linen and woollen stuffs
were hung on the boughs beside a consecrated well, and farthings and
bodles were thrown into the spring itself. The bushes around a well at
Houston, in Renfrewshire, were at one time the recipients of many a
rag. Hugh Miller, who took so keen an interest in all such relics of
superstition, has not failed to notice the custom as practised near
his native town of Cromarty. In his "Scenes and Legends of the North
of Scotland," he says:--"It is not yet twenty years since a thorn
bush, which formed a little canopy over the spring of St. Bennet,
used to be covered anew every season with little pieces of rag, left
on it as offerings to the saint by sick people who came to drink
of the water." St. Wallach's Bath, in Strathdeveron, was a popular
health-resort till the beginning of the present century. Non-thriving
children were brought to it annually in large numbers. No longer
ago than 1874 an invalid from the seaside sought its aid. The bath--a
cavity in the rock fully a yard in depth--is close to the river, and is
supplied with water from a scanty spring, several yards higher up the
slope. The supply trickles over the edge of the bath into the river,
some four feet below. A bib or other part of the child's clothing was
hung on a neighbouring tree or thrown into the bath. Sometimes when the
Deveron was in flood, it submerged the bath, and swept these offerings
down to the sea. As previously mentioned, St. Wallach's Well, hard by,
was much resorted to for the cure of sore eyes. Pins were the usual
offerings. They were left in a hole in a stone beside the well. May
was the favourite season for visiting the spring, and by the end of
the month the hole was often full of pins. This was the case down to
a comparatively recent date.

Offerings, such as pins, were often thrown into the well itself instead
of being left beside its margin. Near Wooler, in Northumberland,
on the southern slopes of the Cheviots, is a spring locally
styled the Pin Well. A fairy was believed to make it her home, and
maidens, as they passed, dropped in a crooked pin to gain her good
graces. Crooked pins were rather popular, anything so bent--e.g.,
a crooked sixpence--being deemed lucky. In the case of more than
one English spring the notion prevailed that, when a pin was thrown
in, the votary would see the pins already there rise to meet the
newcomer. But faith was essential. Otherwise the mysterious vision
would be withheld. We do not know that a corresponding belief prevailed
north of the Tweed. Between the glens of Corgarff and Glengairn in
Aberdeenshire, is the spring known as Tobar-na-Glas-a-Coille or The
Well in the Grey Wood. A pin or other piece of metal had to be dropped
into it by anyone taking a draught of its water. Whoever neglected this
duty, and at any time afterwards again drew water from the spring,
was doomed to die of thirst. Some of these votive pins were found at
the bottom of the well, no longer ago than the autumn of 1891.

Probably very few travellers by the Callander and Oban railway are
aware of the existence of an interesting, but now neglected holy
well, only a few yards distant from the line. It is situated at the
entrance of rugged Glen Ogle, and from the spot a fine view can be had
of Ben Lawers, Ben More, and Ben Loy. The well is on Wester Lix farm,
and is locally known as the Lix Well. The spring rises in one of the
many hillocks in the neighbourhood. The top of the hillock had been
levelled. Round the spring is built a wall of stone and turf, about
two feet in height, and shaped like a horse-shoe, the opening being
to the east. The distance across the enclosed space is about fourteen
feet. In the centre is the well, in the form of a parallelogram, two
feet by one and a half, with a long drain leading from it through
the opening of the horse-shoe. This drain was at one time covered
with flagstones. Four shapely lintels of micaceous schist enclose
the well. The spot used to be frequented at the beginning of May,
the wall already referred to forming a convenient resting-place
for visitors. Quartz pebbles were the favourite offerings on these
occasions. Immediately behind the well, quite a small cairn of them can
still be seen. Pebbles were among the cheapest possible offerings, the
only cost being the trouble of picking them up. Coins were rather more
expensive; but, as they were commonly of small value, the outlay was
trifling even in their case. The more fervent the zeal of the votary,
the greater would doubtless be the length he or she would go in the
matter of expense. In the parish of Culsalmond, in Aberdeenshire,
a gold coin of James I. of Scotland was found associated with an
ancient healing-well. Such liberality, however, was rare. After
describing St. Maelrubha's Well on Innis Maree in the "Proceedings
of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland," volume iv., Sir Arthur
Mitchell observes, "Near it stands an oak tree, which is studded with
nails. To each of these was originally attached a piece of the clothing
of some patient who had visited the spot. There are hundreds of nails,
and one has still fastened to it a faded ribbon. Two bone buttons and
two buckles we also found nailed to the tree. Countless pennies and
halfpennies are driven edge-ways into the wood--over many the bark
is closing, over many it has already closed." Within recent years,
another visitor from the south examined one of the coins stuck into
the tree. It was ostensibly silver, but proved on examination to
be counterfeit. The pilgrim, who left it as an offering, evidently
thought that the saint could be easily imposed upon.

As in the case of the pins, the coins, given as offerings were, as
a rule, thrown into the spring itself. As an example, we may cite
the case of St. Jergon's or St. Querdon's Well in Troqueer parish,
Kirkcudbrightshire. In an article in the "Transactions of the Dumfries
and Galloway Natural History Society" for 1870, Mr. Patrick Dudgeon
remarks, "Taking advantage of the very dry summer of last year when
the spring was unusually low, I had the well thoroughly cleaned out
and put in order, it having been almost obliterated by cattle being
allowed to use it as a watering-place. Several hundreds of coins were
found at the bottom--almost all being of the smallest description
of copper coin, dating from the time of Elizabeth to that of George
III.... None were of any particular interest or value; the greatest
number are Scottish, and belong to the time of James VI., Charles
I., and Charles II. The circumstance that no coins were found of
an older date than the reign of Elizabeth is not at all conclusive
that offerings of a similar nature had not been made at much earlier
periods. It will be observed that the oldest coins are the thinnest,
and that, although many are as thin as a sheet of writing paper, the
legend on them is perfectly distinct and legible; this, of course,
would not have been the case had the thinning process been owing to
wear and tear. When first taken out, they were perfectly bright--as
new copper--and had all the appearance of having been subjected
to the action of an acid. Something in the water has acted very
slowly as a solvent on the metal, and, acting quite equally over
the whole surface, has reduced the coins to their present state:
it is, therefore, reasonable to conclude that, owing to the solvent
properties of the water, any coins thrown into the well anterior to the
date of those found may have been completely dissolved." Mr. Dudgeon
mentions having been told by old people in the neighbourhood, that they
remembered the time, when rags and ribbons were hung on the bushes
around the well. It is a remarkable circumstance that even since the
cleaning out of the spring above referred to, coins have been thrown
into it. A recent examination of the spot brought these to light,
and showed the persistence of this curious phase of well-worship.

What would be styled "a collection in silver" in modern ecclesiastical
language was sometimes regarded with special favour. The name
of the Silver Wells in different parts of the country can thus
be accounted for. There is a Siller Well in Walston parish,
Lanarkshire. Arbroath, in Forfarshire; Alvah, in Banffshire; and
Fraserburgh, in Aberdeenshire, have each their Silver Well. At Turriff,
in the last-mentioned county, there is a farm on the estate of Gask
called Silver Wells after a local spring. At Trelevean, in Cornwall,
is a spring known as the Brass Well. Its name, however, is derived not
from the nature of the offerings left there, but from the colour of the
scum on its surface. Close to the ruins of Avoch Castle, in the Black
Isle, is a well hollowed out of the conglomerate rock. Tradition says,
that the treasures of the castle were thrown into it about the middle
of the seventeenth century. This was done, not by way of offering a
gift to the presiding spirit of the water, but to prevent the valuables
from falling into the hands of Cromwell's troops. A diamond ring was
dropped, not very long ago, into St. Molio's Well, on Holy Island,
near Lamlash. It fell into the water by accident, and, after remaining
in it for some time, was found and restored to its owner.

The present ample water-supply of Glasgow from Loch Katrine was
introduced in 1859. For about fifty years before that date, the city
looked mainly to the Clyde for the supply of its daily needs. Still
earlier, it depended entirely on its wells. In 1736 these are believed
to have numbered about thirty in all. Among the best known were the
Deanside or Meadow Well, Bogle's Well, Barrasyett Well near the foot
of Saltmarket, the Priest's or Minister's Well and Lady Well beside
the Molendinar, the Arns Well in the Green--so-called from the alders
on its brink, and St. Thenew's Well, near what is now St. Enoch's
Square. Not far from the well was a chapel dedicated to St. Thenew,
with a graveyard round it. Some remains of the chapel were to be
seen in 1736, when M'Ure wrote his history of the city. Dr. Andrew
MacGeorge, in his "Old Glasgow," when describing St. Thenew's Well,
remarks, "It was shaded by an old tree which drooped over the well,
and which remained till the end of the last century. On this tree,
the devotees, who frequented the well, were accustomed to nail, as
thank-offerings, small bits of tin-iron--probably manufactured for that
purpose by a craftsman in the neighbourhood--representing the parts
of the body supposed to have been cured by the virtues of the sacred
spring, such as eyes, hands, feet, ears, and others." Dr. MacGeorge
further mentions that the well was cleaned out about a hundred years
ago. On that occasion there were "picked out from among the debris at
the bottom several of these old votive offerings which had dropped into
it from the tree, the stump of which was at that time still standing."

Horace tells of a shipwrecked sailor, hanging up his garments, as
a thank-offering in the temple of the divinity who delivered him
from the angry sea. In like manner, Pennant describes what he saw
at St. Winifred's Well, in North Wales. "All infirmities," he says,
"incident to the human body, met with relief; the votive crutches,
the barrows and other proofs of cures, to this moment remain as
evidence pendent over the well." In his "Spring of Kinghorn Craig,"
published in Edinburgh in 1618, Dr. Patrick Anderson has some curious
remarks on the subject of votive offerings. He speaks of wells as
being "all tapestried about with old rags, as certaine signes and
sacraments wherewith they arle the well with ane arls-pennie of
their health." He continues, "So suttle is that false knave making
them believe that it is only the virtue of the water, and no thing
else. Such people cannot say with David, 'The Lord is my helper,'
but the Devill." What can still be seen on the other side of the
English Channel is thus described by the Rev. C. N. Barham, in an
article on Ragged Relics, in "The Antiquary" for January, 1893:--"At
Wierre Effroy, in France, where the water of St. Godeleine's Well is
esteemed efficacious for ague, rheumatism, gout, and all affections
of the limbs, a heterogeneous collection of crutches, bandages,
coils of rags, and other rejected adjuncts of medical treatment, is
to be seen hanging upon the surrounding shrubs. They are intended
as thank-offerings and testimonies of restoration. Other springs,
famous for curing ophthalmia, abound in the same district, and here
too, bandages, shades, guards, and rags innumerable are exhibited."

The leaving of offerings at wells finds a parallel in the practice,
at one time common, of depositing gifts in consecrated buildings. The
chapel of St. Tears, in the parish of Wick, Caithness, used to be
visited on Childermas (December 28th) by devotees, who left in it
pieces of bread and cheese as offerings to the souls of the Holy
Innocents slain by Herod. This was done till about the beginning of
the present century. Till even a later date it was customary for
the inhabitants of Mirelandorn to go to the Kirk of Moss, in the
same parish, on Christmas before sunrise. They took bread and cheese
as offerings, and placed them along with a silver coin on a certain
stone. The Kirk of Moss was dedicated to Duthac, patron saint of Tain;
and the gifts were doubtless destined for him. On Eilean Mòr is a
chapel said to have been built by Charmaig, the tutelar saint of the
island. In a recess in this building is a stone coffin, anciently used
for the interment of priests. The following statement occurs in the
"Old Statistical Account of Scotland":--"The coffin, also, for ages
back, has served the saint as a treasury; and this, perhaps, might be
the purpose for which it was originally intended. Till of late, not
a stranger set foot on the island who did not conciliate his favour
by dropping a small coin into a chink between its cover and side."

When we examine the motives prompting to the practice under review,
we can discover the working of a principle, vaguely grasped perhaps,
but sufficiently understood to serve as a guide to action. This crude
philosophy was two-fold. On the one hand, the gift left at a loch
or spring was what has been facetiously styled a "retaining fee." It
secured the goodwill of the genius loci, and thereby guaranteed to a
certain extent the fulfilment of the suppliant's desire. This desire,
as we have seen, was commonly the removal of a definite disease. On
the other hand, the disease to be removed was in some mysterious way
identified with the offering. The latter was the symbol, or rather
the embodiment of the former, and, accordingly, to leave the gift was
to leave the ailment--the patient being thus freed from both. The
corollary to this was, that whoever removed the offering took away
also the disease represented by it. According to a well-established
law of medical science, infection is transferred from one person
to another by clothing, or indeed by whatever comes into contact
with the morbid particles from the patient's body. But infection
in folklore is something different from this. Disease of any kind,
whether usually reckoned infectious or not, passed via the offering to
the person lifting it. Hence such gifts had a charmed existence, and
were as safe as if under the sweep of the "Ancient Monuments Protection
Act." The Rev. Dr. Gregor thus expresses the feeling on this point,
as it prevailed till lately in the north-east of Scotland:--"No one
would have been foolhardy enough to have even touched what had been
left, far less to have carried it off. A child, or one who did not
know, was most carefully instructed why such things were left in and
around the well, and strict charge was laid not to touch or carry
any of them off. Whoever carried off one of such relics contracted
the disease of the one who left it."

The notion that disease can be transferred lies at the root of various
folk-cures. Dalyell, in his "Darker Superstitions," remarks, "It is
said that, in the Highlands, a cat is washed in the water which has
served for the ablution of an invalid, as if the disease absorbed from
one living creature could be received by another, instead of being let
free." In some parts of the Highlands, a common cure for an ailing cow
was to make the animal swallow a live trout, so that the disease might
pass from the one creature to the other. This was done not long ago,
at a farm near Golspie, in Sutherland. In Norfolk, as a remedy for
whooping-cough, a spider was caught, tied up in a piece of muslin,
and pinned over the mantelpiece. The cough disappeared when the spider
died. In Gloucestershire, ague was cured in the following way:--A
living snail was worn in a bag round the neck for nine days. The
snail was then thrown upon the fire when it was believed to shake as
if with ague, and the patient recovered. Many more illustrations of
this principle might be given, but the above are sufficient to show
how it was applied.

Symson records an instance in Galloway of swift vengeance following
the theft of certain votive offerings. He says, "Hereabout, i.e.,
near Larg, in Minnigaff parish, is a well called the Gout Well of
Larg, of which they tell this story--how that a piper stole away
the offering left at this well, but when he was drinking of ale,
which he intended to pay with the money he had taken away, the gout,
as they say, seized on him, of which he could not be cured, but at
that well, having first restored to it the money he had formerly taken
away." Accident, rather than disease, sometimes resulted from such
sacrilegious acts. The offerings were the property of the guardian
spirit who was quick to resent their removal and to punish the doer of
the deed. In the district of Ardnamurchan is a cave, associated with
Columba, who there baptised some freebooters. The water used for the
purpose lay in a hollow of the rock, and, in after times, votive gifts
were left beside it. On one occasion, a young man stole some of these,
but he did not remain long unpunished, for before reaching home he fell
and broke his leg. Tobar-fuar-Mòrie, i.e., The big cold Well, situated
at the foot of a steep hill in the parish of Corgarff, Aberdeenshire,
consists of three springs about a yard distant from each other. Each
spring formerly cured a separate disease--one, blindness; the other,
deafness; and the third, lameness. The guardian spirit of the springs
lived under a large stone called the kettle stone, because below it
was a kettle where she stored her votive offerings. She was somewhat
exacting in her demands, for no cure could be expected unless gold
was presented. These particulars were obtained in the district by
the Rev. Dr. Gregor, who records them in "Folklore" for March, 1892,
and adds, "If one tried to rob the spirit, death by some terrible
accident soon followed. My informant, more than fifty years ago,
when a lad, resolved to remove the kettle stone from its position,
and so become possessor of the spirit's gold. He accordingly set out
with a few companions all provided with picks and spades, to displace
the stone. After a good deal of hard labour the stone was moved from
its site, but no kettle full of gold was found. An old woman met the
lads on their way to their homes, and when she learnt what they had
been doing, she assured them they would all die within a few weeks,
and that a terrible death would befall the ring-leader."

That the guardians of springs look well after their possessions in the
new world, as well as in the old, is proved by the following quotation
from Sir J. Lubbock's "Origin of Civilisation":--"In North Mexico,"
he says, "Lieutenant Whipple found a sacred spring which, from time
immemorial 'had been held sacred to the rain-god.' No animal may drink
of its waters. It must be annually cleansed with ancient vases, which,
having been transmitted from generation to generation by the caciques,
are then placed upon the walls, never to be removed. The frog, the
tortoise, and the rattlesnake represented upon them, are sacred to
Montezuma, the patron of the place, who would consume by lightning
any sacrilegious hand that should dare to take the relics away." With
the growth of enlightenment men's minds rose above such delusions. Had
it not been so, the Holy Wells in our land would still have presented
the appearance of rag fairs, or served as museums for old coins. Holy
Loch, in Dunnet, Caithness, used to be much resorted to as a place of
healing. The invalids walked or were carried round the lake and threw
a penny into the water. Some of these pennies have been picked up from
time to time by persons who have outgrown the old superstition. The
hollow in the Clach-nan-Sul at Balquhidder, already referred to,
contained small coins placed there by those who sought a cure for
their sore eyes. Mr. J. Mackintosh Gow was told by some one in the
district, that "people, when going to church, having forgotten their
small change, used in passing to put their hands in the well and find
a coin." Mr. Gow's informant mentioned that he had done so himself.

In the ceremony known as "well-dressing" or "well-flowering,"
the offerings took the form of blossoms and green boughs. For
different reasons Scotland has not been abreast of England in floral
matters. Only in the latter country did the practice take root, and
even there only within a somewhat limited area. We must seek for its
home in Derbyshire and the adjacent counties. At some places it has
died out, while at others it still survives, and forms the excuse for a
pleasant holiday. At Bonchurch, Isle of Wight, indeed, St. Boniface's
Well was decorated with wreaths of flowers on the saint's day; but
this was an exceptional instance so far south. Within comparatively
recent years well-flowering has, at one or two places, been either
instituted, as at Belper, in Derbyshire, in 1838, or revived, as
at St. Alkmund's Well in Derby, in 1870. The clergy and choir of
St. Alkmund's Church celebrate the day by meeting at the church and
walking in procession to the well. Writing in the seventeenth century,
Aubrey says, "In Cheshire, when they went in perambulation, they did
bless the springs, i.e., they did read the Gospel at them, and did
believe the water was the better." At Droitwich, in Worcestershire,
a salt spring, dedicated to St. Richard, used to be annually adorned
with flowers.

A correspondent of the "Gentleman's Magazine" of 1794 remarks, "In
the village of Tissington, in the county of Derby, a place remarkable
for fine springs of water, it has been a custom, time immemorial,
on every Holy Thursday, to decorate the wells with boughs of trees,
garlands of tulips, and other flowers, placed in various fancied
devices, and, after prayers for the day at the church, for the
parson and singers to pray and sing psalms at the wells." In Hone's
"Every Day Book," under date 1826, are the following remarks by a
correspondent:--"Tissington 'well-dressing' is a festivity which not
only claims a high antiquity, but is one of the few country fêtes which
are kept up with anything like the ancient spirit. It is one which is
heartily loved and earnestly anticipated; one which draws the hearts
of those who were brought up there, but whom fortune has cast into
distant places, homewards with an irresistible charm. I have not had
the pleasure of witnessing it, but I have had that of seeing the joy
which sparkled in the eyes of the Tissingtonians as they talked of
its approach and of their projected attendance." The festival is still
held in honour at Tissington, and elaborate preparations continue to
be made for its celebration. Flowers are arranged in patterns to form
mottoes and texts of Scripture, and also devices, such as crosses,
crowns, and triangles, while green boughs are added to complete the
picture. A correspondent of "Notes and Queries" thus describes the
decorations on Ascension Day in 1887: "The name of 'well-dressing'
scarcely gives a proper idea of these beautiful structures. They are
rather fountains or cascades, the water descending from above, and
not rising as in a well. Their height varies from ten to twelve feet,
and the original stone frontage is on this day hidden by a wooden
erection in the form of an arch or some other elegant design. Over
these planks a layer of plaster of Paris is spread, and whilst it is
wet, flowers without leaves are stuck in it, forming a most beautiful
mosaic pattern. On one the large yellow field ranunculus was arranged
in letters, and so a verse of Scripture or of a hymn was recalled to
the spectator's mind. On another a white dove was sculptured in the
plaster and set in a ground-work of the humble violet. The daisy,
which our poet Chaucer would gaze upon for hours together, formed a
diaper-work of red and white; the pale yellow primrose was set off by
the rich red of the 'ribes.' Nor were the coral berries of the holly,
mountain ash, and yew forgotten; they are carefully gathered and
stored in the winter to be ready for the May Day fête. It is scarcely
possible to describe the vivid colouring and beautiful effect of these
favourites of nature arranged in wreaths and garlands and devices
of every hue. And then the pure sparkling water, which pours down
from the midst of them on to the rustic moss-grown stones beneath,
completes the enchantment, and makes this feast of the 'well-flowering'
one of the most beautiful of all the old customs that are left in
Merrie England." Well-flowering also prevails at Buxton, and is a
source of interest to the many visitors to that airy health resort.

Such floral devices do not now rank as votive gifts. They are merely
decorations. The custom may have originated in the Roman Fontinalia. At
any rate it had at one time a corresponding object. The Fontinalia
formed an annual flower-festival in honour of the nymphs inhabiting
springs. Joyous bands visited the fountains, crowned them with boughs,
and threw nosegays into their sparkling water. The parallelism
between the Roman and the English Fontinalia is too well marked
to be overlooked. In Derbyshire and Staffordshire the ceremony of
well-dressing is usually observed on Ascension Day. In more than one
instance the festival has attracted to itself various old English
sports commonly associated with May Day. Among these may be mentioned
May-pole and Morris-dancing and crowning the May-queen.

At Endon, in Staffordshire, the festival is celebrated on Royal Oak
Day (May 29th), or on the following day if the 29th is a Sunday. The
following account--somewhat abbreviated--is from the "Staffordshire
Evening Post" of 31st May, 1892, and gives some interesting particulars
about the festival: "The secluded village of Endon yesterday celebrated
the well-dressing feast. This institution, dear to the heart of every
loyal inhabitant, holds foremost rank in the local calends, for it is
not a holiday of ordinary frivolous significance, but a thanksgiving
festival. The proceeds, which generally amount to some hundreds of
pounds, are divided between the poor of the parish and the parochial
schools. There are two wells at Endon. One is very old and almost dry,
and has long since fallen into disuse. The other alone supplies the
village with water. From a very early hour in the morning the whole
village was astir, and those people who were gifted with taste and
a delicate touch busied themselves in bedecking the wells for the
coming ceremony. As the day advanced, crowds of visitors poured in
from all parts of the potteries; and towards evening the village green
probably held no fewer than two thousand people. The proceedings,
which were under the personal guidance of the vicar, commenced a
little before two o'clock. A procession of about a hundred and twenty
Sunday-school children was formed at the new well, with the Brownedge
village brass band at its head. The children carried little flags,
which they vigorously waved in excess of glee. The band struck up
bravely, and the procession marched in good order up the hill to
the old parish church, where a solemn service was conducted. The
villagers attended in overwhelming numbers, and completely thronged the
building. There was a fully surpliced choir, whose singing, coupled
with the music of the organ, greatly added to the impressiveness of
the service. Hymns and psalms, selected by the vicar as applicable to
a thanksgiving service for water, were sung by the congregation in
spirited style. At the conclusion of the service the procession was
reformed, the band leading the way back to the new well. Upon arrival,
the clergy and choir, who had retained their surplices, walked slowly
round the well, singing 'Rock of Ages' and 'A living stream as crystal
clear.' Both wells were very beautifully decorated; but the new well
was a masterpiece of elaborated art. A large wooden framework had been
erected in front of the well, and upon this a smooth surface of soft
clay had been laid. The clay was thickly studded with many thousands
of flower heads in great variety of kind and hue, and in pictorial as
well as geometrical arrangement. There were two very pretty figures of
peacocks in daisies, bluebells, and dahlias, and a resplendent motto,
'O, ye wells! bless ye the Lord!' (from the Benedicite) garnished the
summit. The old well was almost deserted, although its decorations
were well worthy of inspection. Its motto, 'Give me this water'
(from the fourth chapter of St. John) was very finely traced, and
its centre figures--two white doves and a crown--were sufficiently
striking. May-pole dances, including the crowning of the May-queen,
occupied the greater part of the afternoon. In the evening the
band played for dancing, and there was a repetition of the May-pole
dances. After dusk there was a display of fireworks."

Though, as already stated, well-dressing was unknown north of the
Tweed, any account of votive offerings would be incomplete without
a reference to the picturesque ceremony.



CHAPTER XIII.

WEATHER AND WELLS.

    Importance of Weather--Its Place in Folklore--Raising the
    Wind--Witches and Wind-charms--Blue-stone in Fladda--Well in
    Gigha--Tobernacoragh--Routing-well--Water Cross--Stone in British
    Columbia--Other Rain-charms--Survivals in Folk-customs--Sympathetic
    Magic--Dulyn--Barenton--Tobar Faolan--St. Fumac's Image at
    Botriphnie--Molly Grime.


In all ages much attention has been given to the weather, with special
reference to its bearings on human well-being. As Mr. R. Inwards truly
observes, in his "Weather-lore," "From the earliest times hunters,
shepherds, sailors, and tillers of the earth have from sheer necessity
been led to study the teachings of the winds, the waves, the clouds,
and a hundred other objects from which the signs of coming changes in
the state of the air might be foretold. The weather-wise amongst these
primitive people would be naturally the most prosperous, and others
would soon acquire the coveted foresight by a closer observance of the
same objects from which their successful rivals guessed the proper time
to provide against a storm, or reckoned on the prospects of the coming
crops." Hence, naturally enough, the weather has an important place in
folklore. Various prognostications concerning it have been drawn from
sun and moon, from animals and flowers; while certain meteorological
phenomena have, in their turn, been regarded as prophetic of mundane
events. Thus, in the astrological treatise entitled "The Knowledge
of Things Unknown," we read that "Thunder in January signifieth the
same year great winds, plentiful of corn and cattle peradventure;
in February, many rich men shall die in great sickness; in March,
great winds, plenty of corn, and debate amongst people; in April, be
fruitful and merry with the death of wicked men;" and so on through the
other months of the year. One can easily understand why thunder should
be counted peculiarly ominous. The effects produced on the mind by its
mysterious noise, and on the nerves by the electricity in the air, are
apt to lead superstitious people to expect strange events. Particular
notice was taken of the weather on certain ecclesiastical festivals,
and omens were drawn from its condition. Thus, from "The Husbandman's
Practice," we learn that "The wise and cunning masters in astrology
have found that man may see and mark the weather of the holy Christmas
night, how the whole year after shall be in his making and doing, and
they shall speak on this wise. When on the Christmas night and evening
it is very fair and clear weather, and is without wind and without
rain, then it is a token that this year will be plenty of wine and
fruit. But if the contrariwise, foul weather and windy, so shall it
be very scant of wine and fruit. But if the wind arise at the rising
of the sun, then it betokeneth great dearth among beasts and cattle
this year. But if the wind arise at the going down of the same, then
it signifieth death to come among kings and other great lords." We do
not suppose that anyone nowadays attends to such Yule-tide auguries,
but there are not wanting those who have a lingering belief in the
power of Candlemas and St. Swithin's Day to foretell the sort of
weather to be expected in the immediate future.

Witches were believed to be able to raise the wind at their
pleasure. In a confession made at Auldearn in Nairnshire, in the
year 1662, certain women, accused of sorcery, said, "When we raise
the wind we take a rag of cloth and wet it in water, and we take a
beetle and knock the rag on a stone, and we say thrice over--


       'I knock this rag upon this stane,
        To raise the wind in the devil's name.
        It shall not lie until I please again!'"


When the wind was to be allayed the rag was dried. About 1670 an
attempt was made to drain some two thousand acres of land belonging
to the estate of Dun in Forfarshire. The Dronner's, i.e., Drainer's
Dyke--remains of which are still to be seen behind the Montrose
Infirmary--was built in connection with the scheme. But the work
was destroyed by a terrible storm, caused, it was believed, by a
certain Meggie Cowie--the last to be burned for witchcraft in the
district. About eighty years before, a notable witch-trial in the
time of James VI. had to do with the raising of a storm. A certain
woman, Agnes Sampson, residing in Haddingtonshire, confessed that she
belonged to a company of two hundred witches, and that they were all
in the habit of sailing along the coast in sieves to meet the devil
at the kirk of North Berwick. After one of these interviews the woman
took a cat and christened it, and, after fixing to it parts of a dead
man's body, threw the creature into the sea in presence of the other
witches. The king, who was then returning from Denmark with his bride,
was delayed by contrary winds, and such a tempest arose in the Firth
of Forth that a vessel, containing valuable gifts for the queen on her
arrival, sank between Burntisland and Leith. The Rev. T. F. Thiselton
Dyer makes the suggestion in his "Folklore of Shakespeare," that it
was probably to these contrary winds that the author of "Macbeth"
alludes when he makes the witch say--


       "Though his bark cannot be lost,
        Yet it shall be tempest-tost."


Even down to the end of last century, and probably later, some
well-educated people believed that the devil had the power of raising
the wind. The phrase, the prince of the power of the air, applied
to him in Scripture, was interpreted in a literal way. "The Diary of
the Rev. John Mill," minister in Shetland from 1740 till 1803, bears
witness to such a belief. In his introduction to the work, the editor,
Mr. Gilbert Goudie, tells us: "He (Mill) was often heard talking aloud
with his (to others) unseen foe; but those who heard him declared
that he spoke in an unknown tongue, presumably Hebrew. After one of
these encounters the worthy man was heard muttering, 'Well, let him
do his worst; the wind aye in my face will not hurt me.' This was in
response to a threat of the devil, that wherever he (Mill) went, he
(Satan) should be a-blowing 'wind in his teeth,' in consequence of
which Mill was unable ever after to get passage out of Shetland." On
the 5th of November, 1605, a terrible storm swept over the north of
Scotland and destroyed part of the cathedral at Dornoch. As is well
known, the day in question was selected by Guy Fawkes for blowing up
the Houses of Parliament. In his "Cathedral of Caithness, at Dornoch,"
Mr. Hugh F. Campbell tells us: "When the news of the gunpowder plot
reached the north, the co-incidence of time at once impressed the
imagination of a superstitious age. The storm was invested with an
element of the marvellous." Mr. Campbell then quotes the following
curious passage from Sir Robert Gordon, specially referring to Satan's
connection with the tempest:--"The same verie night that this execrable
plott should have been put in execution all the inner stone pillars of
the north syd of the body of the cathedral church at Dornogh--lacking
the rooff before--were blowen from the verie roots and foundation
quyt and clein over the outer walls of the church: such as hath sein
the same. These great winds did even then prognosticate and forshew
some great treason to be at hand; and as the divell was busie then
to trouble the ayre, so wes he bussie by these hiss fyrebrands to
trouble the estate of Great Britane."

The notion that storms, especially when accompanied by thunder
and lightning, were the work of evil spirits, came out prominently
during the middle ages in connection with bells. The ringing of bells
was believed to drive away the demons, and so allay the tempest. A
singular superstition concerning the causation of storms was brought
to light in Hungary during the autumn of 1892 in connection with
the fear of cholera. At Kidzaes a patient died of what was thought
to be that disease, and a post mortem examination was ordered by
the local authorities. Strenuous opposition, however, was offered
by the villagers on the ground that the act would cause such a
hail-storm as would destroy their crops. Feeling ran so high that
a riot was imminent, and the project had to be abandoned. Eric, the
Swedish king, could control the winds through his enchantments. By
turning his cap he was able to bring a breeze from whatever quarter
he wished. Mr. G. L. Gomme, in his "Ethnology in Folklore," remarks,
"At Kempoch Point, in the Firth of Clyde, is a columnar rock called
the Kempoch Stane, from whence a saint was wont to dispense favourable
winds to those who paid for them, and unfavourable to those who did
not put confidence in his powers--a tradition which seems to have been
carried on by the Innerkip witches who were tried in 1662, and some
portions of which still linger among the sailors of Greenock." The
stone in question consists of a block of grey mica schist six feet in
height and two in diameter. It is locally known as Granny Kempoch. In
former times sailors and fishermen sought to ensure good fortune on
the sea by walking seven times round the stone. While making their
rounds they carried in their hand a basket of sand, and at the same
time uttered an eerie chant. Newly-married couples used also to walk
round the stone by way of luck.

At the beginning of the present century a certain woman, Bessie Miller
by name, lived in Stromness, in Orkney, and eked out her livelihood by
selling winds to mariners. Her usual charge was sixpence. For this sum,
as Sir W. Scott tells us, "she boiled her kettle, and gave the barque
advantage of her prayers, for she disclaimed all unlawful arts. The
wind, thus petitioned for, was sure to arrive, though sometimes the
mariners had to wait some time for it." Her house was on the brow
of the steep hill above the town, "and for exposure might have been
the abode of Eolus himself." At the time of Sir Walter's visit to
Stromness, Bessie Miller was nearly a hundred years old, and appeared
"withered and dried up like a mummy." We make her acquaintance in
the "Pirate," under the name of Norna of the Fitful Head. In his
"Rambles in the Far North," Mr. R. M. Fergusson tells of another
wind-compelling personage, named Mammie Scott, who also belonged to
Stromness, and practised her arts there, till within a comparatively
recent date. "Many wonderful tales are told of her power and influence
over the weather. Her fame was widely spread as that of Bessie. A
captain called upon Mammie one day to solicit a fair wind. He was
bound for Stornoway, and received from the reputed witch a scarlet
thread upon which were three knots. His instructions were, that if
sufficient wind did not arrive, one of the knots was to be untied;
if that proved insufficient, another knot was to be untied; but he was
on no account to unloose the third knot, else disaster would overtake
his vessel. The mariner set out upon his voyage, and, the wind being
light, untied the first knot. This brought a stronger breeze, but
still not sufficient to satisfy him. The second knot was let down, and
away the vessel sped across the waters, round Cape Wrath. In a short
time the entrance to Stornoway harbour was reached, when it came into
the captain's head to untie the third knot in order to see what might
occur. He was too near the end of his voyage to suffer any damage now;
and so he felt emboldened to make the experiment. No sooner was the
last knot set free than a perfect hurricane set in from a contrary
direction, which drove the vessel right back to Hoy Sound, from which
she had set out, where he had ample time to repent of his folly."

Within the last half-century there lived in Stonehaven an old
woman, who was regarded with considerable awe by the sea-faring
population. Before a voyage it was usual to propitiate her by the
gift of a bag of coals. On one occasion, two brothers, owners of a
coasting smack, after setting sail, had to return to port through
stress of weather, the storm being due, it was believed, to the
fact that one of the brothers had omitted to secure the woman's good
offices in the usual way. The brother who was captain of the smack
seems to have been a firm believer in wind-charms, for it is related
of him that during a more than usually high wind he was in the habit
of throwing up his cap into the air with the exclamation, "She maun
hae something." She, in this case, was the wind, and not the witch:
and the cap was meant as a gift to propitiate the storm. Dr. Charles
Rogers, in his "Social Life in Scotland," tells us that "the seamen
of Shetland, in tempestuous weather, throw a piece of money into the
window of a ruinous chapel dedicated to St. Ronald in the belief that
the saint will allay the vehemence of the storm." According to the
same writer, "Shetland boatmen still purchase favourable winds from
elderly women, who pretend to rule or to modify the storms." "There are
now in Lerwick," Dr. Rogers continues, "several old women who in this
fashion earn a subsistence. Many of the survivors of the great storm
of the 20th of July, 1881--so fatal on northern coasts--assert that
their preservation was due to warnings which they received through
a supernatural agency."

Human skulls have their folklore. The lifting of them from their usual
resting-places has, in popular belief, been connected with certain
mysterious occurrences. According to a story told by Mr. Wirt Sikes,
in his "British Goblins," a man who removed a skull from a church
to prove to his companions that he was free from superstition was
overtaken by a terrible whirlwind, the result, it was thought, of his
rash act. In some Highland districts it used to be reckoned unlucky
to allow a corpse to remain unburied. If from any cause, human bones
came to the surface, care was taken to lay them below ground again,
as otherwise disastrous storms would ensue.

We have a good example of the association of wind-charms with water
in the case of a certain magical stone referred to by Martin as
existing in his day in the island of Fladda, near Skye. There was a
chapel to St. Columba on the island, and on the altar lay the stone
in question. The stone was round, of a blue colour, and was always
moist. "It is an ordinary custom," Martin relates, "when any of
the fishermen are detained in the isle by contrary winds, to wash
the blue stone with water all round, expecting thereby to procure
a favourable wind, which, the credulous tenant, living in the isle,
says never fails, especially if a stranger wash the stone." The power
of the Fladda stone was equalled by a certain well in Gigha, though in
the latter instance a dweller in the island, rather than a stranger,
had power over it. When a foreign boat was wind-bound on the island,
the master of the craft was in the habit of giving some money to
one of the natives, to procure a favourable breeze. This was done in
the following way. A few feet above the well was a heap of stones,
forming a cover to the spring. These were carefully removed, and the
well was cleared out with a wooden dish or clam-shell. The water was
then thrown several times towards the point, from which the needed
wind should blow. Certain words of incantation were used, each time
the water was thrown. After the ceremony, the stones were replaced,
as the district would otherwise have been swept by a hurricane. Pennant
mentions, in connection with his visit to Gigha, that the superstition
had then died out. In this he was in error, for the well continued to
be occasionally consulted to a later date. Even within recent years,
the memory of the practice lingered in the island; but there seemed
some doubt, as to the exact nature of the required ritual. Captain
T. P. White was told by a shepherd, belonging to the island, that,
if a stone was taken out of the well, a storm would arise and prevent
any person crossing over, nor would it abate till the stone was taken
back to the well.

From the evidence of an Irish example, we find that springs could
allay a storm, as well as produce a favourable breeze. The island
of Innismurray, off the coast of Sligo, has a sacred well called
Tobernacoragh. When a tempest was raging, the natives believed that
by draining the water of this well into the sea, the wrath of the
elements could be calmed. Mr. Gomme, in his "Ethnology in Folklore,"
when commenting on the instance, remarks, "In this case the connection
between well-worship and the worship of a rain-god is certain, for
it may be surmised that if the emptying of the well allayed a storm,
some complementary action was practised at one time or other in order
to produce rain, and in districts more subject to a want of rain
than this Atlantic island, that ceremony would be accentuated at the
expense of the storm-allaying ceremony at Innismurray." The Routing
Well, at Monktown, in Inveresk parish, Mid-Lothian, was believed to
give notice of an approaching storm by uttering sounds resembling the
moaning of the wind. As a matter of fact, the noises came from certain
disused coal-workings in the immediate neighbourhood, and were due
to the high wind blowing through them. The sounds thus accompanied
and did not precede the storm.

To procure rain, recourse was had to various superstitious
practices. Martin tells of a stone, five feet high, in the form of
a cross, opposite St. Mary's Church, in North Uist. "The natives,"
he says, "call it the 'Water Cross,' for the ancient inhabitants
had a custom of erecting this sort of cross to procure rain, and
when they had got enough, they laid it flat on the ground, but this
custom is now disused." Among the mountains of British Columbia, is
a certain stone held in much honour by the Indians, for they believe
that it will produce rain when struck. Rain-making is an important
occupation among uncivilised races, and strange rites are sometimes
practised to bring about the desired result. By some savages, human
hair is burned for this end. Mr. J. G. Frazer, in "The Golden Bough,"
has some interesting remarks on rain-production. After enumerating
certain rain-charms among heathen nations, he remarks, "Another way of
constraining the rain-god is to disturb him in his haunts. This seems
the reason why rain is supposed to be the consequence of troubling
a sacred spring. The Dards believed that if a cowskin or anything
impure is placed in certain springs storms will follow. Gervasius
mentions a spring, into which, if a stone or a stick were thrown,
rain would at once issue from it and drench the thrower. There was
a fountain in Munster such that if it were touched or even looked
at by a human being it would at once flood the whole province with
rain." Curious survivals of ancient rain-charms are to be found in
modern folk-customs. Thus, in connection with the rejoicings of the
harvest-home in England, when the last load of grain was being carried
on the gaily decorated hock-cart to the farm-yard, it was customary
to throw water on those taking part in the ceremony. This apparently
meaningless frolic was in reality a rain-charm. A Cornish custom,
at one time popular at Padstow on the first of May, can be explained
on the same principle. A hobby-horse was taken to the Traitor's Pool,
a quarter of a mile from the town. The head was dipped in the pool,
and water was sprinkled on the bystanders.

Such charms depend for their efficacy on what is called "sympathetic
magic." Mimic rain is produced on the earth, in the hope that the same
liquid will be constrained to descend from the heavens, to bring fresh
fertility to the fields. Professor Rhys, in his "Celtic Heathendom,"
traces the connection between modern rain-charms and the rites of
ancient paganism. He there quotes the following particulars regarding
Dulyn, in North Wales, from a description of the place published in
1805:--"There lies in Snowdon Mountain a lake called Dulyn, in a
dismal dingle surrounded by high and dangerous rocks; the lake is
exceedingly black, and its fish are loathsome, having large heads
and small bodies. No wild swan or duck or any kind of bird has ever
been seen to light on it, as is their wont on every other Snowdonian
lake. In this same lake there is a row of stepping stones extending
into it; and if any one steps on the stones and throws water so as to
wet the furthest stone of the series, which is called the Red Altar,
it is but a chance that you do not get rain before night, even when
it is hot weather." The spot was, probably in pre-Christian times,
the scene of sacrifices to some local deity. Judging from the dismal
character of the neighbourhood, we may safely infer that fear entered
largely into the worship paid there to the genius loci. The Fountain
of Barenton, in Brittany, was specially celebrated in connection
with rain-making. During the early middle ages, the peasantry of
the neighbourhood resorted to it in days of drought. According to a
time-honoured custom, they took some water from the fountain and threw
it on a slab hard by; rain was the result. Professor Rhys reminds
us that this fountain "still retains its pluvial importance; for,
in seasons of drought, the inhabitants of the surrounding parishes,
we are told go to it in procession, headed by their five great banners
and their priests ringing bells and chanting psalms. On arriving,
the rector of the canton dips the foot of the cross in the water,
and it is sure to rain within a week's time." The Barenton instance is
specially interesting, for part of the ceremony recalls what happened
in connection with a certain Scottish spring, viz., Tobar Faolan at
Struan, in Athole. This spring, as the name implies, was dedicated
to Fillan. In his "Holiday Notes in Athole," in the "Proceedings of
the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland," volume xii. (new series),
Mr. J. Mackintosh Gow says, "It is nearly one hundred yards west
from the church, at the foot of the bank, and close to the river
Garry. It is overgrown with grass and weeds, but the water is as clear
and cool as it may have been in the days of the saint. There is no
tradition of its having been a curing or healing well, except that
in pre-Reformation days, when a drought prevailed and rain was much
wanted, an image of the saint, which was kept in the church, used to be
taken in procession to the well, and, in order that rain might come,
the feet of the image were placed in the water; and this, of course,
was generally supposed to have the desired effect." At Botriphnie,
in Banffshire, six miles from Keith, the wooden image of St. Fumac
used to be solemnly washed in his well on the third of May. We may
conclude that the ceremony was intended as a rain-charm. It must have
been successful, on at least one occasion, for the river Isla became
flooded through the abundance of rain. Indeed, the flooding was so
great that the saint's image was swept away by the rushing water. The
image was finally stranded at Banff, where it was burned as a relic
of superstition by order of the parish minister about the beginning
of the present century. In Glentham Church, Lincolnshire, is a tomb,
with a figure locally called "Molly Grime." From "Old English Customs
and Charities," we learn that, till 1832, the figure was washed every
Good Friday with water from Newell Well by seven old maids of Glentham,
who each received a shilling, "in consequence of an old bequest
connected with some property in that district." Perhaps its testator
was not free from a belief in the efficacy of rain-charms. Otherwise,
the ceremony seems meaningless. If the keeping clean of the figure
was the only object, the seven old maids should not have limited
their duties to an annual pilgrimage from the well to the church.



CHAPTER XIV.

TREES AND SPRINGS.

    Tree-worship--Ygdrasil--Personality of Plants--Tree-ancestors--
    "Wassailing"--Relics of Tree-worship--Connla's Well--Cutting down
    Trees Unlucky--Spring at Monzie--Marriage Well--Pear-Tree Well
    --Some Miraculous Trees--External Soul--Its Connection with
    Trees, &c.--Arms of Glasgow.


Trees were at one time worshipped as well as fountains. Ygdrasil,
the world-tree of Scandinavian mythology, had three roots,
and underneath each, was a fountain of wonderful virtues. This
represents the connection between tree and well in the domain of
mythology. But the same superstition was connected with ordinary
trees and wells. Glancing back over the history of civilisation,
we reach a period, when vegetation was endowed with personality. As
plants manifested the phenomena of life and death like man and the
lower animals, they had a similar kind of existence attributed to
them. Among some savages to-day, the fragrance of a flower is thought
to be its soul. As there was thus no hard and fast line between man
and the vegetable kingdom, the one could be derived from the other;
in other words, men could have trees as their ancestors. Curious
survivals of such a belief lie both revealed and concealed in the
language of to-day. Though we are far separated from such a phase
of archaic religion, we speak of the branches of a family. At one
time such an expression represented a literal fact, and not a mere
metaphor. In like manner, we call a son, who resembles his father,
"a chip of the old block." But how few when using the phrase are alive
to its real force! Mr. Keary, in his "Outlines of Primitive Belief,"
observes, "Even when the literal notion of the descent from a tree
had been lost sight of, the close connection between the prosperity
of the tribe and the life of its fetish was often strictly held. The
village tree of the German races was originally a tribal tree with
whose existence the life of the village was involved."

The picturesque ceremony known as the "Wassailing of Apple-trees,"
kept up till lately in Devon and Cornwall, carries our thoughts back
to the time when tree-worship was a thriving cult in our land. It was
celebrated on the evening before Epiphany (January 6th). The farmer,
accompanied by his labourers, carried a pail of cider with roasted
apples in it into the orchard. The pail was placed on the ground,
and each one of the company took from it a cupful of the liquid. They
then stood before the trees and repeated the following lines:--


       "Health to thee, good apple tree,
        Well to bear pocket-fulls, hat-fulls,
        Peck-fulls, bushel bag-fulls."


Part of the contents of the cup was then drunk, and the remainder was
thrown at the tree amid shouts from the by-standers. Relics of the
same cult can be traced in the superstitious regard for such trees as
the rowan, the elder, &c., and in the decoration of the May-pole and
the Christmas Tree. According to an ancient Irish legend, a certain
spring in Erin, called Connla's Well, had growing over it nine mystical
hazel trees. Year by year these trees produced their flowers and
fruit simultaneously. The nuts were of a brilliant crimson colour and
contained in some mysterious way the knowledge of all that was best
in poetry and art. Professor O'Curry, in his "Lectures on the Manners
and Customs of the Ancient Irish," refers to this legend, and says,
"No sooner were the beautiful nuts produced on the trees than they
always dropped into the well, raising by their fall a succession of
shining red bubbles. Now, during this time the water was always full of
salmon, and no sooner did the bubbles appear than these salmon darted
to the surface and ate the nuts, after which they made their way to
the river. The eating of the nuts produced brilliant crimson spots on
the bellies of these salmon, and to catch and eat these salmon became
an object of more than mere gastronomic interest among those who were
anxious to become distinguished in the arts and in literature without
being at the pains and delay of long study, for the fish was supposed
to have become filled with the knowledge which was contained in the
nuts, which, it was believed, would be transferred in full to those
who had the good fortune to catch and eat them."

In many cases it was counted unlucky to cut down trees, since the
spirits, inhabiting them, would resent the injury. In the sixteenth
century the parishioners of Clynnog, in Caernarvonshire, refrained
from destroying the trees growing in the grounds of St. Beyno. Even
though he was their patron saint, he was quite ready to harm anybody
who took liberties with his grove. Loch Siant Well, in Skye, was
noted for its power to cure headaches, stitches, and other ailments,
and was much frequented in consequence. Martin says, "There is a
small coppice near to the well, and there is none of the natives dare
venture to cut the least branch of it for fear of some signal judgment
to follow upon it." Martin also tells us that the same reverence
was for long paid to the peat on the island of Lingay. This island,
he says, "is singular in respect of all the lands of Uist, and the
other islands that surround it, for they are all composed of sand,
and this, on the contrary, is altogether moss covered with heath,
affording five peats in depth, and is very serviceable and useful,
furnishing the island Borera, &c., with plenty of good fuel. This
island was held as consecrated for several ages, insomuch that the
natives would not then presume to cut any fuel in it."

When trees beside wells had rags hung on them as offerings,
they would naturally be reverenced, as the living altars for the
reception of the gifts. But even when not used for this purpose,
they were sometimes thought to have a mysterious connection with
the springs they overshadowed. In the parish of Monzie, Perthshire,
is a mineral well held in much esteem till about the year 1770. At
that time two trees, till then the guardians of the spring, fell,
and with their fall its virtue departed. On the right bank of the
Clyde, about three-quarters of a mile from Carmyle village, is the
once sylvan district of Kenmuir. There, at the foot of a bank, is a
spring locally known as "The Marriage Well," the name being derived,
it is said, from two curiously united trees beside its margin. These
trees were recently cut down. In former times, it was customary for
marriage parties, the day after their wedding, to visit the spring,
and there pledge the bride and bridegroom in draughts of its sparkling
water. On the banks of the Kelvin, close to the Glasgow Botanic
Gardens, once flowed a spring styled the Pear-Tree, Pea-Tree, or
Three-Tree Well, the last name being probably the original one. In
former times it was a recognised trysting-place for lovers. A tragic
story is told in connection with it by Mr. James Napier in his "Notes
and Reminiscences of Partick." A maiden, named Catherine Clark,
arranged to meet her lover there by night,


                      "nor did she ever dream
        But that he was what he did ever seem."


She never returned to her home. "A few days after," remarks Mr. Napier,
"her body was found buried near a large tree which stood within a
few yards of the Pea-Tree Well. This tree was afterwards known as
'Catherine Clark's Tree,' and remained for many years an object
of interest to the visitors to this far-famed well, and many a
sympathising lover carved his name in rude letters on its bark. But
the tree was also an object of terror to those who had to pass it in
dark and lonely nights, and many tales were told of people who had
seen a young female form dressed in white, and stained with blood,
standing at the tree foot." The tree was removed many years ago. The
spring too is gone, the recent extension of the Caledonian Railway
to Maryhill having forced it to quit the field.

Near the moat of Listerling, in county Kilkenny, Ireland, is a
holy well dedicated to St. Mullen, who is said to have lived for
a while in its neighbourhood. A fine hawthorn, overshadowing it,
grew--if we can believe a local legend--from the staff of the saint,
which he there stuck into the ground. This reminds one of the famous
Glastonbury Thorn, produced from the staff of Joseph of Arimathea,
who fixed it in the ground one Christmas Day. The staff took root at
once, put forth branches, and next day was covered with milk-white
blossoms. St. Servanus's staff, too, had a miraculous ending. He threw
it across the Firth of Forth, and when it fell on the Fife coast,
it took root and became an apple-tree. A group of thorn-bushes, near
Aghaboe, in Queen's County, Ireland, was dedicated to St. Canice. The
spring, overshadowed by them, was much resorted to for the purposes
of devotion. At Rearymore, in the same county, some hawthorns,
growing beside St. Finyan's spring, were, and doubtless still are,
religiously preserved by the natives. In the Isle of Man is Chibber
Unjin, signifying The Well of the Ash. Beside it grew an ash tree,
formerly decorated with votive offerings.

What has been called the external soul has an important place in
folklore, and forms the theme of many folk-tales. Primitive man does
not think of the soul as spiritual, but as material--as something
that can be seen and felt. It can take different shapes. It can leave
the body during sleep, and wander about in the guise of an animal,
such as a mouse. Considerable space is devoted to this problem in
Mr. J. G. Frazer's "Golden Bough." Mr. Frazer there remarks, "There
may be circumstances in which, if the life or soul remains in the man,
it stands a greater chance of sustaining injury than if it were stowed
away in some safe and secret place. Accordingly, in such circumstances,
primitive man takes his soul out of his body and deposits it for
security in some safe place, intending to replace it in his body when
the danger is past; or, if he should discover some place of absolute
security, he may be content to leave his soul there permanently. The
advantage of this is, that so long as the soul remains unharmed in the
place where he has deposited it, the man himself is immortal; nothing
can kill his body, since his life is not in it." Sometimes the soul is
believed to be stowed away in a tree, injury to the latter involving
disaster to the former. The custom of planting trees, and calling
them after certain persons may nowadays have nothing to do with this
notion; but, undoubtedly, a real connection was at one time believed
to exist between the partners in the transaction. A certain oak,
with mistletoe growing on it, was mysteriously associated with the
family of Hay. The superstition is explained in the following lines:--


       "While the mistletoe bats on Errol's oak
          And that oak stands fast,
        The Hays shall flourish, and their good grey hawk
          Shall not flinch before the blast.

        But when the root of the oak decays
          And the mistletoe dwines on its withered breast,
        The grass shall grow on the Earl's hearthstone,
          And the corbies craw in the falcon's nest."


At Finlarig Castle, near Killin, in Perthshire, are several trees,
believed to be linked with the lives of certain individuals, connected
by family ties with the ruined fortress. Aubrey gives an example
of this superstition, as it existed in England in the seventeenth
century. He says, "I cannot omit taking notice of the great misfortune
in the family of the Earl of Winchelsea, who, at Eastwell, in Kent,
felled down a most curious grove of oaks near his own noble seat, and
gave the first blow with his own hands. Shortly after, the countess
died in her bed suddenly, and his eldest son, the Lord Maidstone,
was killed at sea by a cannon bullet." In the grounds of Dalhousie
Castle, about two miles from Dalkeith, on the edge of a fine spring
is the famous Edgewell Oak. Sir Walter Scott, in his "Journal," under
date May 13th, 1829, writes, "Went with the girls to dine at Dalhousie
Castle, where we were very kindly received. I saw the Edgewell Tree,
too fatal, says Allan Ramsay, to the family from which he was himself
descended." According to a belief in the district, a branch fell from
this tree, before the death of a member of the family. The original oak
fell early in last century, but a new one sprang from the old root. An
editorial note to the above entry in the "Journal" gives the following
information:--"The tree is still flourishing (1889), and the belief in
its sympathy with the family is not yet extinct, as an old forester,
on seeing a branch fall from it on a quiet still day in July, 1874,
exclaimed, 'The laird's deed, noo!' and, accordingly, news came soon
after that Fox Maule, eleventh Earl of Dalhousie, had died."

The external soul was sometimes associated with objects other than
living trees. Dr. Charles Rogers tells us that "a pear, supposed
to have been enchanted by Hugh Gifford, Lord of Yester, a notable
magician in the reign of Alexander III., is preserved in the family
of Brown of Colston, as heirs of Gifford's estate." The prosperity
of the family is believed to be linked with the preservation of the
pear. Even an inanimate object would serve the purpose. The glass
drinking-cup, known as the "Luck of Edenhall," is connected with
the fortunes of the Musgrave family, and great care is taken to
preserve it from injury. Tradition says that a company of fairies
were making merry beside a spring near the mansion-house, but that,
being frightened by some intruder, they vanished, leaving the cup in
question, while one of them exclaimed:--


           "If this cup should break or fall,
            Farewell the luck of Edenhall."


Some living object, however, either vegetable or animal, was the
usual repository of the external soul. A familiar folk-tale tells of a
giant whose heart was in a swan, and who could not be killed while the
swan lived. Hunting was a favourite occupation among the inhabitants
of the Western Isles; but on the mountain Finchra, in Rum, no deer
was killed by any member of the Lachlan family, as it was believed
that the life of that family was in some way linked with the life of
these animals. A curious superstition is mentioned by Camden in his
"Britannia." In a pond near the Abbey of St. Maurice, in Burgundy,
were put as many fish as there were monks. When any monk was taken
ill, one of the fish was seen to float half-dead on the surface of
the pond. If the fish died the monk died too, the death of the former
giving warning of the fate of the latter. In this case the external
soul was thought of as stowed away in a fish. As is well known,
the Arms of the City of Glasgow are a bell, a tree, a fish with
a ring in its mouth, and a bird. The popular explanation of these
emblems connects them with certain miracles, wrought by Kentigern,
the patron saint of the burgh. May we not hold that an explanation
of their symbolism is to be sought in a principle, that formed an
article in the beliefs of men, long before Kentigern was born, as well
as during his time and since? The bell, it is true, had, doubtless, an
ecclesiastical association; but the other three symbols point, perhaps,
to some superstitious notion like the above. In various folk-tales,
as well as in Christian art, the soul is sometimes typified by a
bird. As we have just seen, it has been associated with trees and
fish. We are entitled therefore to ask whether the three symbols
may not express one and the same idea under different forms. It is,
of course, open to anyone to say that there were fish in the river,
on whose banks Kentigern took up his abode, and quite a forest with
birds singing in it around his cell, and that no further explanation
of the symbolism need be sought. All these, it is true, existed
within the saint's environment, but may they not have been regarded
as types of the soul under the guise of objects familiar to all, and
afterwards grouped together in the burgh Arms? On this hypothesis,
the symbols have survived the belief that gave them birth, and serve
to connect the practical life of to-day, with the vague visions and
crude conjectures of the past.



CHAPTER XV.

CHARM-STONES IN AND OUT OF WATER.

    Stone-worship--Mysterious Properties of Stones--Symbolism of Gems
    --Gnostics--Abraxas Gems--Gems in Sarcophagi--Life-stones--Use of
    Amulets in Scotland--Yellow Stone in Mull--Baul Muluy--Black
    Stones of Iona--Stone as Medicine--Declan's Stone--Curing-stones
    still used for Cattle--Mary, Queen of Scots--Amulet at Abbotsford
    --Highland Reticence--Aberfeldy Curing-stone--Lapis Ceranius and
    Lapis Hecticus--Bernera--St. Ronan's Altar--Blue Stone in Fladda
    --Baul Muluy again--Columba's White Stone--Loch Manaar--Well near
    Loch Torridon--Stones besides Springs--Healing-stones at Killin--
    Their connection with Fillan--Mornish--Altars and Crosses--Iona--
    Clach-a-brath--Cross at Kilberry--Lunar Stone in Harris--
    Perforated Stones--Ivory--Barbeck's Bone--Adder-beads--Sprinkling
    Cattle--Elf-bolts--Clach-na-Bratach--Clach Dearg--Lee Penny--
    Lockerbie Penny--Black Penny.


We have already seen that in early times water was an object
of worship. Stones also were reverenced as the embodiments of
nature-deities. "In Western Europe during the middle ages," remarks
Sir J. Lubbock in his "Origin of Civilisation," "we meet with
several denunciations of stone-worship, proving its deep hold on
the people. Thus the worship of stones was condemned by Theodoric,
Archbishop of Canterbury, in the seventh century, and is among the
acts of heathenism forbidden by King Edgar in the tenth, and by Cnut
in the eleventh century." Even as late as the seventeenth century,
the Presbytery of Dingwall sought to suppress, among other practices
of heathen origin, that of rendering reverence to stones, the stones
in question having been consulted as to future events. It is not
surprising therefore that stones had certain mysterious properties
ascribed to them. In all ages precious stones have been deservedly
admired for their beauty, but, in addition, they have frequently
been esteemed for their occult qualities. "In my youth," Mr. James
Napier tells us, in his "Folklore in the West of Scotland," "there
was a belief in the virtue of precious stones, which added a value to
them beyond their real value as ornaments.... Each stone had its own
symbolic meaning and its own peculiar influence for imparting good and
protecting from evil and from sickness its fortunate possessor." By the
ancient Jews, the topaz and the amethyst were believed to guard their
wearers respectively against poison and drunkenness; while the diamond
was prized as a protection against Satanic influence. Concerning the
last-mentioned gem, Sir John Mandeville, writing about 1356, says,
"It makes a man stronger and firmer against his enemies, heals him
that is lunatic, and those whom the fiend pursues and torments." By
certain sects of the Gnostics, precious stones were much thought of as
talismans. Among the sect founded by Basilides of Egypt, the famous
Abraxas gems were used as tokens by the initiated. The Gnostics also
placed gems inscribed with mystic mottoes in sarcophagi, to remind the
dead of certain prayers that were thought likely to aid them in the
other world. In Scandinavia, warriors were in the habit of carrying
about with them amulets called life-stones or victory-stones. These
strengthened the hand of the wearer in fight. In our own country,
the use of amulets was not uncommon. A flat oval-shaped pebble,
measuring two and a half inches in greatest diameter, was presented
in 1864 to the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. It had been worn
as a charm by a Forfarshire farmer, who died in 1854 at the age
of eighty-four. When in use, it had been kept in a small bag and
suspended by a red string round the wearer's neck.

Even when stones were not used as amulets, they were sometimes held
in superstitious regard. When in Mull, Martin was told of a yellow
stone, lying at the bottom of a certain spring in the island, its
peculiarity being that it did not get hot, though kept over the fire
for a whole day. The same writer alludes to a certain stone in Arran,
called Baul Muluy, i.e., "Molingus, his Stone Globe." It was green
in colour, and was about the size of a goose's egg. The stone was
used by the islanders, when great oaths had to be sworn. It was also
employed to disperse an enemy. When thrown among the front ranks, the
opposing army would retreat in confusion. In this way the Macdonalds
were said to have gained many a victory. When not in use, the Baul
Muluy was carefully kept wrapped up in cloth. Among oath-stones,
the black stones of Iona were specially famous. These were situated
to the west of St. Martin's Cross, and were called black, not from
their colour--for they were grey--but from the effects of perjury
in the event of a false oath being sworn by them. Macdonald, Lord
of the Isles, knelt on them, and, with uplifted hands, swore that he
would never recall the rights granted by him to his vassals. Such a
hold had these oath-stones taken on the popular imagination, that
when anyone expressed himself certain about a particular thing,
he gave weight to his affirmation, by saying that he was prepared
to "swear upon the black stones." Bishop Pocoke mentions that the
inhabitants of Iona "were in the habit of breaking off pieces from a
certain stone lying in the church," to be used "as medicine for man
or beast in most disorders, and especially the flux."

Charm-stones were sometimes associated with early saints. The following
particulars about St. Declan's Stone are given by Sir Arthur Mitchell
in the tenth volume of the "Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries
of Scotland":--"We are told in the life of St. Declan that a small
stone was sent to him from Heaven while he was saying Mass in a church
in Italy. It came through the window and rested on the altar. It was
called Duivhin Deaglain or Duivh-mhion Deaglain, i.e., 'Declan's Black
Relic.' It performed many miracles during his life, being famous for
curing sore eyes, headaches, &c.; and is said to have been found in
his grave sometime, I think, during last century. Its size is two and
a-fourth by one and three-fourth inches, and on one side there is a
Latin cross, incised and looped at the top. At the bottom of the stem
of this cross there is another small Latin cross. On the other side
of the stone there is a circle, one and a-fourth inch in diameter,
and six holes or pits." Curing stones are still used occasionally
in connection with the diseases of cattle, particularly in Highland
districts; but they have ceased to do duty in the treatment of human
ailments. Mary Queen of Scots seems to have been a firm believer in
their efficacy. In a letter to her brother-in-law, Henry the Third
of France, written on the eve of her execution, the Queen says,
"She ventures to send him two rare stones, valuable for the health,
which she hopes will be good, with a happy and long life, asking
him to receive them as the gift of his very affectionate sister-in
law, who is at the point of death, and in token of true love towards
him." In a case of curiosities at Abbotsford, there is an amulet that
belonged to Sir Walter Scott's mother. It somewhat resembles crocodile
skin in colour, and has a setting of silver. The amulet was believed
to prevent children from being bewitched.

It is nowadays difficult to ascertain the whereabouts of curing-stones
in the Highlands, owing to the reticence of those who still have faith
in their virtues. Till lately there was one in the neighbourhood
of Aberfeldy that had been in use, it is believed, for about three
hundred years. In shape, the charm somewhat resembled a human heart,
and consisted of a water-worn pebble fully three inches in greatest
length. When required for the cure of cattle, it was rubbed over the
affected part or was dipped in water, the water being then given to
the animal to drink. Recently the family who owned it became extinct,
and the charm passed into other hands. Martin gives some curious
information with regard to the employment of charm-stones, among
the inhabitants of the Western Isles. After describing a certain
kind of stone, called lapis ceranius, found in the island of Skye,
he remarks, "These stones are by the natives called 'Cramp-stones,'
because (as they say) they cure the cramp in cows by washing the part
affected with water in which this stone had been steeped for some
hours." He mentions also, that in the same island, the stone called
lapis hecticus was deemed efficacious in curing consumption and other
diseases. It was made red-hot, and then cooled in milk or water,
the liquid being drunk by the patient. On Bernera, the islanders
frequently rub their breasts with a particular stone, by way of
prevention, and say it is a good preservative for health. Martin adds,
"This is all the medicine they use: Providence is very favourable
to them in granting them a good state of health, since they have no
physician among them." In connection with his visit to the island of
Rona, the same writer observes, "There is a chapel here dedicated to
St. Ronan, fenced with a stone wall round; and they take care to keep
it neat and clean, and sweep it every day. There is an altar in it,
on which there lies a big plank of wood, about ten feet in length;
every foot has a hole in it, and in every hole a stone, to which the
natives ascribe several virtues: one of them is singular, as they
say, for promoting speedy delivery to a woman in travail." The blue
stone in Fladda, already referred to in connection with wind-charms,
did duty as an oath-stone, and likewise as a curing-stone, its special
function being to remove stitches in the side. The Baul Muluy in Arran,
alluded to above, also cured stitches in the side. When the patient
would not recover, the stone withdrew from the bed of its own accord.

A certain white stone, taken by Columba from the river Ness, near
what is now the town of Inverness, had the singular power of becoming
invisible, when the illness of the person requiring it would prove
fatal. The selection of this stone was made in connection with the
saint's visit to the court of Brude, king of the Picts, about the
year 563. Adamnan, who tells the story, thus describes an interview
between Columba and Brochan (the king's chief Druid or Magus),
concerning the liberation of a female slave belonging to the latter:
"The venerable man, from motives of humanity, besought Brochan the
Druid to liberate a certain Irish female captive, a request which
Brochan harshly and obstinately refused to grant. The saint then spoke
to him as follows:--'Know, O Brochan, know, that if you refuse to
set this captive free, as I advise you, you shall die before I return
from this province.' Having said this in presence of Brude the king,
he departed from the royal palace, and proceeded to the river Nesa,
from which he took a white pebble, and, showing it to his companions,
said to them:--'Behold this white pebble, by which God will effect
the cure of many diseases.' Having thus spoken, he added, 'Brochan is
punished grievously at this moment, for an angel sent from heaven,
striking him severely, has broken in pieces the glass cup which he
held in his hands, and from which he was in the act of drinking,
and he himself is left half-dead.'" Messengers were sent by the
king to announce the illness of Brochan, and to ask Columba to cure
him. Adamnan continues:--"Having heard these words of the messengers,
Saint Columba sent two of his companions to the king with the pebble
which he had blessed, and said to them:--'If Brochan shall first
promise to free his captive, immerse this little stone in water,
and let him drink from it; but if he refuse to liberate her, he will
that instant die.' The two persons sent by the saint proceeded to
the palace, and announced the words of the holy man to the king and
to Brochan, an announcement which filled them with such fear that he
immediately liberated the captive and delivered her to the saint's
messengers. The stone was then immersed in water, and, in a wonderful
manner and contrary to the laws of nature, it floated on the water
like a nut or an apple, nor could it be submerged. Brochan drank from
the stone as it floated on the water, and instantly recovered his
perfect health and soundness of body." The wonderful pebble was kept
by King Brude among his treasures. On the day of the king's death,
it remained true to itself, for, when its aid was sought, it could
nowhere be found.

According to a tradition current in Sutherland, Loch Manaar in
Strathnaver was connected with another white pebble, endowed
with miraculous properties. The tradition, as narrated by
the Rev. Dr. Gregor in the "Folklore Journal" for 1888, is as
follows:--"Once upon a time, in Strathnaver, there lived a woman who
was both poor and old. She was able to do many wonderful things by
the power of a white stone which she possessed, and which had come to
her by inheritance. One of the Gordons of Strathnaver having a thing
to do, wished to have both her white stone and the power of it. When
he saw that she would not lend it, or give it up, he determined to
seize her, and to drown her in a loch. The man and the woman struggled
there for a long time, till he took up a heavy stone with which to
kill her. She plunged into the lake, throwing her magic stone before
her and crying, 'May it do good to all created things save a Gordon
of Strathnaver!' He stoned her to death in the water, she crying,
'Manaar! Manaar!' (Shame! Shame!). And the loch is called the Loch of
Shame to this day." The loch had a more than local fame, for invalids
resorted to it from Orkney in the north and Inverness in the south:
its water was deemed specially efficacious on the first Monday of
February, May, August, and November, (O. S.). The second and third
of these dates were the most popular. The patient was kept bound and
half-starved for about a day previous, and immediately after sunset
on the appointed day, he was taken into the middle of the loch and
there dipped. His wet clothes were then exchanged for dry ones, and
his friends took him home in the full expectation of a cure. Belief
in the loch's powers was acknowledged till recently, and is probably
still secretly cherished in the district.

In a graveyard beside Loch Torridon, in Ross-shire, is a spring,
formerly believed to work cures. From time immemorial three stones
have been whirling in the well, and it was usual to carry one of
these in a bucket of water to the invalid who simply touched the
stone. When put back into the well, the stone began to move round and
round as before. On one occasion a woman sought to cure her sick goat
in the usual way, but the pebble evidently did not care to minister
to any creature lower than man, for when replaced in the well, it
lay motionless at the bottom ever afterwards. A certain Katherine
Craigie, who was burned as a witch in Orkney in 1643, used pebbles
in connection with the magical cures wrought by her. Her method,
as described by Dr. Rogers in his "Social Life in Scotland," was as
follows:--"Into water wherewith she washed the patient she placed
three small stones; these, being removed from the vessel, were placed
on three corners of the patient's house from morning till night,
when they were deposited at the principal entrance. Next morning
the stones were cast into water with which the sick person was
anointed. The process was repeated every day till a cure was effected."

At some wells, what the water lacked in the matter of efficacy was
supplied by certain stones lying by their margins. These stones,
in virtue of a real or fancied resemblance to parts of the human
body--such as the eye or arm--were applied to the members corresponding
to them in shape, in the expectation that this would conduce to a
cure. At Killin, in Perthshire, there are several stones dedicated
to Fillan, at one time much used in the way described. These are,
however, not beside a spring, but in the mill referred to in a previous
chapter. They lie in a niche in the inner wall, and have been there
from an unknown past. Whenever a new mill was built to replace the old
one, a niche was made in the wall for their reception. They are some
seven or eight in number. The largest of them weighs eight lbs. ten
oz. Special interest attaches to at least two of them, on account of
certain markings on one side, consisting of shallow rounded hollows
somewhat resembling the cup-marks which have proved such a puzzle
to archæologists. There is reason to believe that the stones in
question were at one time used in connection with milling operations,
the hollows being merely the sockets where the spindle of the upper
millstone revolved. On the saint's day (the ninth of January), it was
customary till not very long ago, for the villagers to assemble at the
mill, and place a layer of straw below the stones. This custom has a
particular interest, for we find a counterpart to it in Scandinavia,
both instances being clearly survivals of stone-worship. "In certain
mountain districts of Norway," Dr. Tylor tells us in his "Primitive
Culture," "up to the end of the last century, the peasants used to
preserve round stones, washed them every Thursday evening (which
seems to show that they represented Thor), smeared them with butter
before the fire, laid them on the seat of honour on fresh straw, and
at certain times of the year steeped them in ale, that they might bring
luck and comfort to the house." The ritual here is more elaborate than
in the case of the Killin stones; but the instances are parallel as
regards the use of straw. Fully a couple of miles from Killin, below
Mornish, close to Loch Tay, is the lonely nettle-covered graveyard
of Cladh Davi, and on a tombstone in its enclosure lie two roundish
stones, believed to belong to the same series as those in the mill, and
marked with similar hollows. These stones were thought to cure pectoral
inflammation, the hollows being filled with water, and applied to the
breasts. The Rev. Dr. Hugh MacMillan, after describing the stones
in the volume of the "Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of
Scotland" for 1883-84, mentions that "not long since, a woman, who
was thus afflicted, came a considerable distance, from the head of
Glen Lochay, to make use of this remedy."

Charm-stones were sometimes kept on the altars of ancient churches,
as in the case of St. Ronan's Chapel, and the church in Iona already
referred to. At other times they were associated with crosses. Sir
Arthur Mitchell tells of an Irish curing-stone in shape like a
dumb-bell, preserved in Killaghtee parish, County Donegal. "There is,"
he says, "a fragment of a stone cross on the top of a small cairn. In
a cleft or hollow of this cross is kept a famous healing stone, in
whose virtues there is still a belief. It is frequently removed to
houses in which sickness exists, but it is invariably brought back,
and those living near the cross can always tell where it is to be
found, if it has been so removed." Pennant, in connection with his
visit to Iona, speaks of certain stones lying in the pedestal of
a cross to the north-west of St. Oran's Chapel. "Numbers who visit
this island," he remarks, "think it incumbent on them to turn each
of these thrice round, according to the course of the sun. They
are called Clach-a-brath--for it is thought that the brath, or
'end of the world,' will not arrive till the stone on which they
stand is worn through." Pennant thought that these stones were the
successors of "three noble globes of white marble," which, according
to Sacheverel, at one time lay in three stone basins, and were turned
round in the manner described, but were afterwards thrown into the
sea by the order of the ecclesiastical authorities. MacCulloch says
that, in his day, the superstition connected with the Clach-a-brath
had died out in Iona. We do not think that this was likely. Anyhow
he mentions that "the boys of the village still supply a stone for
every visitor to turn round on its bed; and thus, in the wearing of
this typical globe, to contribute his share to the final dissolution
of all things." MacCulloch alludes to the same superstition as then
existing on one of the Garveloch Isles. Sometimes hollows were made
on the pedestals of crosses, not for the reception of stone-balls,
but to supply occupation to persons undergoing penance. A sculptured
cross at Kilberry, in Argyllshire, has a cavity of this kind in its
pedestal. In connection with his visit to Kilberry, Captain White
was told that "one of the prescribed acts of penance in connection
with many of the ancient Irish crosses required the individual under
discipline, while kneeling before the cross, to scoop out a cavity
in the pedestal, pestle-and-mortar fashion; and that such cavities,
where now to be seen, show in this way, varying stages of the process."

One of the wonders of Harris, when Martin visited the island, was
a lunar stone lying in a hole in a rock. Like the tides, it felt
the moon's influence, for it advanced and retired according to the
increase or decrease of that luminary. Perforated stones were formerly
much esteemed as amulets. If a stone, with a hole in it, was tied to
the key of a stable-door, it would prevent the witches from stealing
the horses. Pre-historic relics of this kind were much used to ward
off malign influences from cattle, or to cure diseases caused by the
fairies. Ure, in his "History of Rutherglen and Kilbride," refers to a
ring of black schistus found in a cairn in the parish of Inchinnan. It
was believed to work wonderful cures. About a hundred years ago, a
flat reddish stone, having notches and with two holes bored through it,
was presented to the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. It came from
Islay, and had been used there as a charm. It belonged to the Stone
Age, and had, doubtless, served its first possessor as a personal
ornament. Ivory had magical properties attributed to it. The famous
"Barbeck's Bone"--once the property of the Campbells of Barbeck,
in Craignish parish, Argyllshire, and now in the National Museum of
Antiquities--is a piece of ivory seven inches long, four broad, and
half an inch thick. At one time it had a great reputation in the West
Highlands for the cure of insanity. It was counted so valuable that,
when it was lent, a deposit of one hundred pounds sterling had to
be made.

The antiquarian objects, popularly called adder-beads, serpent
stones, or druidical beads, were frequently used for the cure of
cattle. The beads were dipped in water, and the liquid was then
given to the animals to drink. These relics of a long-forgotten past
have been found from time to time in ancient places of sepulture,
and as they usually occur singly, it has been conjectured that they
were placed there as amulets. "Many of them," remarks Sir Daniel
Wilson in his "Pre-historic Annals," "are exceedingly beautiful,
and are characterised by considerable ingenuity in the variations of
style. Among those in the Scottish Museum there is one of red glass
spotted with white; another of dark brown glass streaked with yellow;
others of pale green and blue glass, plain and ribbed; and two of
curiously figured patterns, wrought with various colours interwoven
on their surface." A fine specimen of this species of amulet was
discovered in a grave mound at Eddertoun, in Ross-shire, during the
progress of the railway operations in 1864. The Rev. Dr. Joass, who
interested himself in the antiquarian discoveries then made, thus
describes the find:--"The glass, of which this bead was composed,
was of a dark blue colour, and but partially transparent. It was
ornamented by three volutes, which sufficed to surround it. These
were traced in a yellow pigment (or enamel) as hard as the glass
and seeming to sink slightly below the surface into the body of the
bead, as could be seen where this was flattened, as if by grinding
at the opposite ends of its orifice." These adder-beads seem to have
been common in the seventeenth century. Edward Llwyd, who visited
Scotland in 1699, saw fifty different forms of them between Wales and
the Scottish Highlands. Crystal balls, he tells us, were frequently
put into a tub of water on May Day, the contents of the tub being
sprinkled over cattle to keep them from being bewitched.

Flint arrow-heads--the weapons of early times--became the amulets of a
later age. In folklore they are known as elf-bolts. Popular credulity
imagined that they were used by the fairies for the destruction of
cattle. When an animal was attacked by some sudden and mysterious
disease, it was believed to be "elf-shot" even though no wound could
be seen on its body. To cure the cow, the usual method was to make it
drink some water in which an elf-bolt had been dipped, on the principle
of taking a hair of the dog that bit you. Elf-arrows were at one time
thought to be serviceable to man also. The custom was not unknown of
sewing one of them in some part of the dress as a charm against the
influence of the evil eye. Occasionally one still sees them doing
duty as brooches, and in that form, if not now prized as amulets,
they are esteemed as ornaments.

Sir J. Y. Simpson, in his "Archæological Essays," gives some
interesting particulars about two ancient charm-stones, the
property of two Highland families for many generations. Of these,
the Clach-na-Bratach, or Stone of the Standard, belongs to the head
of the Clan Donnachie. It is described as "a transparent, globular
mass of rock crystal of the size of a small apple. Its surface has
been artificially polished." The stone was picked up by the then
chief of the clan shortly before the battle of Bannockburn. It was
found in a clod of earth adhering to the standard when drawn out of
the ground, and on account of its brilliancy the chief foretold a
victory. In later times it was used to predict the fortunes of the
clan. We are told that before the battle of Sheriffmuir, in 1715,
which proved so disastrous to the cause of the Stuarts, as well as
to that of Clan Donnachie, the Clach-na-Bratach was found to have a
flaw, not seen till then. When wanted to impart curative virtue to
water, the Clach-na-Bratach was dipped in it thrice by the hand of
the chief. The other charm-stone alluded to is the Clach Dearg, or
Stone of Ardvoirlich. It resembles the Clach-na-Bratach in appearance,
though it is somewhat smaller in size. It differs from it, moreover,
in being surrounded by four silver bands of eastern workmanship. The
charm has belonged to the family of Ardvoirlich from an unknown past,
but there is no tradition as to its early history. As a healing agent
it has had more than a local fame. When its help was sought certain
rules had to be attended to. The person coming to Ardvoirlich was
required to draw the water himself, and bring it into the house in the
vessel in which the charm was to be dipped. A bottle of this water was
then carried to the invalid's home. If the bearer called at any house
by the way, it was requisite that the bottle should be left outside,
otherwise the water would lose its power.

In the mansion-house of Lee, some three miles north of Lanark, is kept
the Lee Penny, an amulet of even greater fame than the Clach-na-Bratach
or the Clach Dearg. This charm--the prototype of Sir Walter Scott's
"Talisman"--is a semi-transparent gem of a dark red colour. It is set
in a silver coin, believed to be a groat of Edward the Fourth. In shape
it rudely resembles a heart. This circumstance doubtless strengthened
the original belief in its magical powers, if, indeed, it did not give
rise to it. The tradition is, that Sir Simon Lockhart, an ancestor of
the present owner of the estate, left Scotland along with Sir James
Douglas, in the year 1330, to convey the heart of Robert Bruce to the
Holy Land. Douglas was killed in Spain in a battle with the Moors, and
Sir Simon returned to Scotland, bringing the heart with him. He had
various adventures in connection with this mission. One of these was
the capture of a Saracen prince, who, however, obtained his freedom
for a large sum. While the money was being counted out the amulet
in question accidentally fell into the heap of coin, and was claimed
as part of the ransom. Previous to its appearance in Scotland it had
been much esteemed as a cure for hemorrhage and fever. After it was
brought to our shores its fame increased rather than waned. During
the reign of Charles the First it was taken to Newcastle-on-Tyne to
stay a pestilence raging there, a bond for six thousand pounds being
given as a guarantee of its safe return. The amulet did its work so
well, that to ensure its retention in the town the bond would have
been willingly forfeited. It was reckoned of use in the treatment of
almost any ailment, but specially in cases of hydrophobia. A cure
effected by it at the beginning of last century is on record. Lady
Baird of Saughton Hall, near Edinburgh, showed what were believed to
be symptoms of rabies from the bite of a dog. At her request the Lee
Penny was sent to Saughton Hall. She drank and bathed in water in which
it had been dipped, and restoration was the result. The amulet was
also used for the cure of cattle, and when every other remedy failed
recourse was had to the wonder-working gem. When it was employed
for therapeutic purposes, the following was the modus operandi:--It
was drawn once round the vessel containing the water to be rendered
medicinal, and was then plunged thrice into the liquid; but no words
of incantation were used. For this reason the Reformed Church, when
seeking to abolish certain practices of heathen origin, sanctioned
the continued use of the Lee Penny as a charm. A complaint was made
against the Laird of Lee "anent the superstitious using of ane stane
set in silver for the curing of diseased cattell." The complaint came
before the Assembly which met in Glasgow; but the case was dismissed
on the ground that the rite was performed "wtout using onie words
such as charmers and sorcerers use in their unlawfull practices; and
considering that in nature there are mony things seen to work strange
effects, q.r. of no human wit can give a reason." Nevertheless the
Laird of Lee was admonished "in the useing of the said stane to tak
heed that it be used hereafter w.t. the least scandal that possiblie
may be." Belief in the efficacy of the amulet continued to hold its
ground in the neighbourhood of Lee till towards the middle of the
present century. In 1839 phials of water which had felt its magical
touch were to be seen hanging up in byres to protect the cattle from
evil influences. Some fifteen years earlier a Yorkshire farmer carried
away water from Lee to cure some of his cattle which had been bitten
by a mad dog. Attached to the amulet is a small silver chain which
facilitated its use when its services were required. The charm is
kept in a gold box, presented by the Empress Maria Theresa.

Another south-country amulet, not, however, so famous as the Lee Penny,
is the piece of silver, known as the Lockerbie Penny. It was, and still
is, we suppose, used to cure madness in cattle. In his "Folklore of
the Northern Counties," Mr. Henderson gives the following particulars
about the charm:--"It is put in a cleft stick and a well is stirred
round with it, after which the water is bottled off and given to any
animal so affected. A few years ago, in a Northumbrian farm, a dog bit
an ass, and the ass bit a cow; the penny was sent for, and a deposit
of fifty pounds sterling actually left till it was restored. The dog
was shot, the cuddy died, but the cow was saved through the miraculous
virtue of the charm." After the death of the farmer who borrowed the
Penny, several bottles of water were found stowed away in a cupboard
labelled "Lockerbie Water." Mr. Henderson also mentions another Border
amulet, known as the Black Penny, for long the property of a family at
Hume-byers. It is larger than an ordinary penny, and is believed to
be a Roman coin or medal. When brought into use it should be dipped
in a well, the water of which runs towards the south. Mr. Henderson
adds:--"Popular belief still upholds the virtue of this remedy; but,
alas! it is lost to the world. A friend of mine informs me that half
a generation back the Hume-byers Penny was borrowed by some persons
residing in the neighbourhood of Morpeth and never returned."



CHAPTER XVI.

PILGRIMAGES TO WELLS.

    Modern and Ancient Pilgrimages--Benefits from Pilgrimages--
    Cuthbert's Shrine at Durham--Cross of Crail--Pilgrims' Well and
    St. Martha's Hospital at Aberdour--Ninian's Shrine at Whithorn
    and the Holy Wells of Wigtownshire--Kentigern's Shrine and
    Spring at Glasgow--Chapel and Well of Grace--Whitekirk--Isle of
    May--Witness of Archæology--Marmion--Early Attempts in England
    to regulate Pilgrimages to Wells--Attempts in Scotland after
    Reformation--Enactments by Church and State--Instances of Visits
    to Wells--Changed Point of View--Craigie Well--Downy Well--Sugar
    and Water Sunday in Cumberland--Sacred Dramas at Wells--
    Festivities--St. Margaret's Well at Wereham--What happened in
    Ireland--Patrons--Shell-mound--Selling Water--Fairs at Springs
    --Some Examples--Secrecy of Visits to Wells.


Nowadays people put Murray or Black, or some similar volume, into their
portmanteau, and set off by rail on what they call a pilgrimage. In
this case the term is a synonym for sight-seeing, usually accomplished
under fairly comfortable conditions. In ancient times pilgrimages were,
as a rule, serious matters with a serious aim. Shakespeare says, in
"Two Gentlemen of Verona":--


       "A true devoted pilgrim is not weary
        To measure kingdoms with his feeble steps."


The object of such journeys was to benefit either soul or body, or
both. The doing of penance, or the fulfilling of a vow, sent devotees
to certain sacred spots, sometimes in distant lands, sometimes within
our own four seas. Cuthbert's shrine at Durham, where the saint's body
was finally deposited in 1070, after its nearly two hundred years'
wanderings, was a noted resort of pilgrims in the middle ages, and
many cures were wrought at it. Archbishop Eyre, on the authority of
Reginald of Durham, tells of a certain man of noble birth, belonging
to the south of England, who could not find relief for his leprosy. He
was told to light three candles, and to dedicate them respectively
to St. Edmund, St. Etheldrith, and St. Cuthbert, and to visit the
shrine of the saint whose candle first burned out. The candles were
lighted, and the omen indicated the last-mentioned saint. Accordingly,
he travelled to the north country, and, after various religious
exercises, drew near the shrine of Cuthbert, and was cured. The shrine
in question was known even as far off as Norway. On one occasion,
at least, viz., in 1172, its miraculous aid was sought by an invalid
from that country. A young man of Bergen, who was blind, deaf,
and dumb, had sought relief at Scandinavian shrines for six years,
but in vain. The bishop suggested that he should try the virtue
of an English shrine, and recommended that lots should be cast,
to determine whether it was to be that of St. Edmund, St. Thomas,
or St. Cuthbert. The lot fell to St. Cuthbert. The young man passed
through Scotland to Durham, and returned home cured. The miracle,
doubtless, still further increased the sanctity of the saint's tomb.

The Cross of Crail, in Fife, had the power of working wonderful
cures; and many were the pilgrims who flocked to it. Aberdour, in the
same county, had more than a local fame. The name of The Pilgrims'
Well there tells its own tale. This well is now filled up, but for
centuries it attracted crowds of pilgrims. In the fifteenth century
the spot was so popular that about 1475, at the suggestion of Sir John
Scott, vicar of Aberdour, the Earl of Morton granted a piece of land
for the erection of an hospital to accommodate the pilgrims. This
hospital was named after St. Martha. It is not certain to whom the
Pilgrims' Well was dedicated; but Fillan was probably its patron,
as the Rev. Wm. Ross conjectures, in an article on the subject in
the third volume of the "Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries
of Scotland." The church of Aberdour was dedicated to the saint in
question; and the well was near the old churchyard.

Ninian's shrine at Whithorn was the scene of various miracles during
the middle ages. In 1425 James the First granted a safe-conduct to all
strangers, coming to Scotland to visit it; and James the Fourth made a
pilgrimage to it once a year, and sometimes oftener. "It is likely,"
remarks the Rev. Daniel Conway in an article on consecrated springs
in the south-west of Scotland, "that the spots in Wigtownshire, where
Holy Wells were, marked the route pursued by pilgrims bent on doing
homage to the relics of St. Ninian at Whithorn." Whithorn was not
the only shrine visited by James the Fourth. He went repeatedly on
pilgrimage to St. Andrews, Dunfermline, and Tain, and left offerings
at the shrines of their respective saints. When on pilgrimage the king
was usually accompanied by a large retinue, including a company of
minstrels. He liked to have his dogs and hawks with him too, to have
a little hunting by the way.

St. Kentigern's Well, in the so-called crypt of Glasgow Cathedral,
has already been mentioned. In the immediate neighbourhood is the
spot believed to mark the last resting place of the saint. Till the
Reformation his shrine attracted crowds of pilgrims. On special
occasions his relics were displayed, including his bones, his
hair shirt, and his scourge, and a red liquor that flowed from his
tomb. These, along with other relics belonging to the cathedral, were
taken to France by Archbishop Beaton in 1560. In the ancient parish
of Dundurcus, Elginshire, not far from the river Spey, once stood the
Chapel of Grace, and close to it was a well of the same name. The place
was a favourite resort of pilgrims. Lady Aboyne went to it once a year,
a distance of over thirty miles, and walked the last two miles of the
way on her bare feet. In 1638 an attempt was made to put a stop to
the pilgrimages, by destroying what then remained of the chapel. The
attempt, however, seems to have been fruitless, for in 1775, Shaw, the
historian of Moray, mentions that to it "multitudes from the western
isles do still resort, and nothing short of violence can restrain their
superstition." In 1435, when Æneas Silvius (afterwards Pope Pius the
Second) was sailing from the low countries to Scotland on a political
mission, he was twice overtaken by a storm, and was in such danger
that he vowed to make a pilgrimage, should he escape drowning. At
length he reached the Haddingtonshire coast in safety, and, to fulfil
his vow, set off barefoot, over ice-covered ground, to Whitekirk,
ten miles away, where there were a chapel and well, dedicated to the
Virgin. The journey left its mark on the pilgrim, for we are told
that he had aches in his joints ever afterwards. St. Adrian's Chapel,
in the Isle of May, in the Firth of Forth, had a great reputation
before the Reformation. The island has still its Pilgrims' Haven,
and its Pilgrims' Well close by.

Archæology bears witness to the popularity of pilgrimages in former
times. Between Moxley Nunnery, in Yorkshire, and St. John's Well,
about a mile away, are the remains of a causeway, laid down for
the convenience of devotees. At Stenton, in Haddingtonshire, near
the road leading to Dunbar, is the well of the Holy Rood, covered
by a small circular building with a conical roof. The well is now
filled up. Its former importance is indicated by the fact that the
pathway between it and the old church, some two hundred yards off,
had a stone pavement, implying considerable traffic to and from the
spring. In the quiet Banffshire parish of Inveraven, is a spring,
at Chapelton of Kilmaichlie, near the site of an ancient chapel. The
spring is now almost forgotten, but its casing of stone shows that,
at one time, it was an object of interest in the neighbourhood.

The author of "Marmion," when describing the arrival, at Lindisfarne,
of the bark containing St. Hilda's holy maids from Whitby, has the
following picturesque lines:--


       "The tide did now its flood-mark gain,
        And girdled in the saint's domain:
        For, with the flow and ebb, its style
        Varies from continent to isle;
        Dry-shod, o'er sands, twice every day,
        The pilgrims to the shrine find way;
        Twice, every day, the waves efface
        Of staves and sandalled feet the trace."


Towards the end of the same poem, in connection with the Lady
Clare's quest of water for the dying Marmion, we find the following
reference:--


       "Where shall she turn?--behold her mark
          A little fountain cell,
        Where water, clear as diamond-spark,
          In a stone basin fell!
        Above, some half-worn letters say,
          'Drink . weary . pilgrim . drink . and . pray .
        For . the . kind . soul . of . Sybil . Grey .
          Who . built . this . cross . and . well.'"


In England, during the middle ages, there were various attempts
to regulate the custom of making pilgrimages to wells. A canon of
King Edgar, of date 963, prohibited the superstitious resorting to
fountains, and in 1102, one of the canons of St. Anselm permitted
only such wells to be visited as were approved of by the bishop. In
Scotland, vigorous efforts were made, after the Reformation, to
abolish the practice. Both Church and State combined to bring about
this result. In an Act of Parliament, of date 1581, allusion is made
to the "pervers inclination of mannis ingyne to superstitioun through
which the dregges of idolatrie yit remanis in divers pairtis of the
realme be useing of pilgrimage to sum chappellis, wellis, croces, and
sic other monumentis of idolatrie, as also be observing of the festual
dayis of the santes sumtyme namit their patronis in setting forth of
bain fyres, singing of caroles within and about kirkes at certane
seasones of the yeir." In 1629 the practice was sternly forbidden
by an edict from the Privy Council. In connection with this edict,
Dalyell remarks, "It seems not to have been enough that congregations
were interdicted from the pulpit preceding the wonted period of resort,
or that individuals, humbled on their knees, in public acknowledgment
of their offence, were rebuked or fined for disobedience. Now, it
was declared that, for the purpose of restraining the superstitious
resort, 'in pilgrimages to chappellis and wellis, which is so
frequent and common in this kingdome, to the great offence of God,
scandall of the kirk, and disgrace of his Majesteis government;
that commissioners cause diligent search at all such pairts and
places where this idolatrous superstitioun is used, and to take and
apprehend all suche persons of whatsomever rank and qualitie whom
they sall deprehend going in pilgrimage to chappellis and wellis,
or whome they sall know thameselffes to be guiltie of that cryme,
and to commit thame to waird, until measures should be adopted for
their trial and punishment.'" Prior to the date of the above edict the
Privy Council had not been idle, crowds of people were in the habit
of making a pilgrimage on May Day to Christ's Well, in Menteith,
where they performed certain superstitious rites. Accordingly, in
1624, a Commission was issued to a number of gentlemen belonging
to the district instructing them to station themselves beside the
well, to apprehend the pilgrims and to remove them to the Castle of
Doune. Even such measures did not cause the practice to cease.

In 1628 several persons were accused before the kirk-session of Falkirk
of going in pilgrimage to the well in question, and being found guilty,
were ordered to appear in church three appointed Sundays, clad in the
garb of penitents. The same year the following warning was issued by
the aforesaid kirk-session:--"It is statute and ordained that if any
person or persons be found superstitiously and idolatrously, after
this, to have passed in pilgrimage to Christ's Well, on the Sundays of
May to seek their health, they shall repent in sacco and linen three
several Sabbaths, and pay twenty lib. (Scots) toties quoties for ilk
fault; and if they cannot pay it the baillies shall be recommended
to put them in ward, and to be fed on bread and water for aught days."

Scottish ecclesiastical records, indeed, bear ample testimony to the
zeal displayed by the Church in putting a stop to such visits. In his
"Domestic Annals of Scotland," Chambers gives the following picture
of what was done by the kirk-session of Perth. The example shows the
lines usually followed in connection with such prosecutions:--"At
Huntingtower there was a well, the water of which was believed to
have sanative qualities when used under certain circumstances. In May,
1618, two women of humble rank were before the kirk-session of Perth,
'who, being asked if they were at the well in the bank of Huntingtower
the last Sabbath, if they drank thereof, and what they left at it,
answered, that they drank thereof, and that each of them left a prin
(pin) thereat, which was found to be a point of idolatrie in putting
the well in God's room.' They were each fined six shillings, and
compelled to make public avowal of their repentance." In the parish
of Nigg, Kincardineshire, is St. Fittack's or St. Fiacre's Well,
situated close to the sea. It is within easy reach of Aberdeen across
the Dee. Many a visit was paid to it by the inhabitants of that burgh,
from motives of superstition. The Aberdeen kirk-session, however, did
its duty in the matter, and repeatedly forbade such visits. In 1630,
"Margrat Davidson, spous to Andro Adam, was adjudget in ane unlaw of
fyve poundis to be payed to the collector for directing hir nowriss
with hir bairne to Sanct Fiackres Well, and weshing the bairne tharin
for recovirie of hir health; and the said Margrat and hir nowriss
were ordainit to acknowledge thair offence before the Session for
thair fault, and for leaveing ane offering in the well." The saint,
to whom the well was dedicated, is believed to have migrated from
Scotland to France early in the seventh century, and to have been
held in much esteem there. From Butler's "Lives of the Saints" we
get the curious information that "the name fiacre was first given
to hackney coaches, because hired carriages were first made use
of for the convenience of pilgrims who went from Paris to visit
the shrine of this saint." A well at Airth, in Stirlingshire, was
for long a centre of attraction. What was done there may be learned
from some entries in the local kirk-session records quoted in Hone's
"Every-Day Book":--"Feb. 3, 1757. Session convenit. Compeared Bessie
Thomson, who declairit schoe went to the well at Airth, and that
schoe left money thairat and after the can was fillat with water,
they keepit it from touching the ground till they cam hom." "February
24th.--Compeired Robert Fuird, who declared he went to the well of
Airth and spoke nothing als he went, and that Margrat Walker went
with him, and schoe said ye belief about the well, and left money and
ane napkin at the well, and all was done at her injunction." "March
21.--Compeired Robert Ffuird who declairit yat Margrat Walker went to
ye well of Airth to fetch water to Robert Cowie, and when schoe com
thair schoe laid down money in God's name, and ane napkin in Robert
Cowie's name." The session ordered the delinquents to be admonished.

Years went on, and modes of thought gradually changed. Church and
State alike began to respect the liberty of the subject. Though visits
continued to be paid to holy wells, they ceased to be reckoned as
offences. People might still resort to the spots, so familiar to
their ancestors, and so much revered by them; but they no longer
found themselves shut up in prison, or made to do penance before the
whole congregation. Old customs continued to hold sway, though less
stress was laid on the superstitions, lying behind them. Thus it
came to pass, that pilgrimages to holy wells became more and more
an excuse for mirthful meetings among friends. This was specially
true of Craigie Well, in the parish of Avoch, in the Black Isle of
Cromarty. The time for visiting the spring was early in the morning
of the first Sunday in May. The well was situated near Munlochy Bay,
a few yards above high-water-mark, and gets its name from the crags
around. A correspondent of Chambers's "Book of Days" thus describes
what he saw and heard:--"I arrived about an hour before sunrise, but
long before, crowds of lads and lasses from all quarters were fast
pouring in. Some, indeed, were there at daybreak who had journeyed
more than seven miles. Before the sun made his appearance, the whole
scene looked more like a fair than anything else. Acquaintances
shook hands in true Highland style, brother met brother, and sister
met sister, while laughter and all kinds of country news and gossip
were so freely indulged in, that a person could hardly hear what
he himself said." Amid all the stir and bustle the spring itself
was not neglected, for everyone took care to have a drink. Some used
dishes, while others, on hands and knees, sucked up the water with the
mouth. These latter were now and again ducked over head and ears by
their acquaintances, who much enjoyed the frolic. No one went away
without leaving a thread, or patch of cloth on a large briar bush
near the spring. Besides St. Fittack's Well, there is another in
Nigg parish called Downy Well. It used to be resorted to in May, by
persons who drank the water, and then crossed by a narrow neck of land,
called The Brig of a'e Hair, to Downy Hill--a green headland in the
sea--where they amused themselves by carving their names in the turf.

Brand, in his "Popular Antiquities," gives the following particulars
about a custom that still prevailed in Cumberland, when he wrote
about forty years ago:--"In some parts of the North of England it
has been a custom from time immemorial for the lads and lasses of
the neighbouring villages to collect together at springs or rivers,
on some Sunday in May, to drink sugar and water, where the lasses gave
the treat: this is called "Sugar and Water Sunday." They afterwards
adjourn to the public-house, and the lads return the compliment in
cakes, ale, punch, &c. A vast concourse of both sexes assemble for
the above purpose at the Giant's Cave, near Eden Hall in Cumberland,
on the third Sunday in May."

We do not know whether sacred dramas were ever performed beside
Scottish springs; but Stow informs us that the parish clerks of London
made an annual pilgrimage to Clark's Well, near the Metropolis,
"to play some large history of Holy Scripture." He also mentions
that a Miracle Play, lasting eight days, was performed at Skinner's
Well in the time of Henry the Fourth. South of the Tweed, springs
were often the scenes of festivity. Thus, to take only one example,
we find that pilgrims to St. Margaret's Well, at Wereham in Norfolk,
were in the habit, in pre-Reformation days, of regaling themselves with
cakes and ale, and indulging in music and dancing. What occurred in
Ireland down to the beginning of the present century may be gathered
from a passage in Mason's "Statistical Account of Ireland" reprinted
in the "Folklore Journal" for 1888. After referring to religious
assemblies at Holy Wells the writer remarks:--"At these places are
always erected booths or tents as in Fairs for selling whisky, beer,
and ale, at which pipers and fiddlers do not fail to attend, and the
remainder of the day and night (after their religious performances
are over and the priest withdrawn) is spent in singing, dancing, and
drinking to excess.... Such places are frequently chosen for scenes of
pitched battles, fought with cudgels by parties not only of parishes
but of counties, set in formal array against each other to revenge
some real or supposed injury." In Roman Catholic districts of Ireland,
what are called patrons, i.e., gatherings in honour of the patron
saints of the place, are still popular. From an article on "Connemara
Folklore," by G. H. Kinahan, in the "Folklore Journal" for 1884, we
learn that a consecrated spring at Cashla Bay has, beside it, a large
conical mound of sea-shells. These are the remains of the shell-fish
forming the food of the pilgrims during the continuance of the patron,
and cooked by them on the top of the mound. Last century, in Ireland,
the custom of carrying the water of famous wells to distant parts, and
there selling it, was not unknown. A correspondent of the "Gentleman's
Magazine" mentions that about 1750 this was done in connection with a
miraculous spring near Sligo; and that, some years earlier, the water
of Lough Finn was sold in the district, where he lived, at sixpence,
eightpence, and tenpence per quart, according to the different success
of sale the carriers had on the road. A thatched cottage stood close
to the site of St. Margaret's Well at Restalrig, and was inhabited
by a man who carried the water of the spring to Leith for sale.

Mr. William Andrews, in his "Old Time Punishments," tells of booths
having been set up beside a Lincolnshire gibbet in 1814, to supply
provisions for the crowds who came to see a murderer hanging in
chains there. Less gruesome were the fairs at one time held in the
neighbourhood of springs, though even they had certain unpleasant
concomitants, which led in the end to their discontinuance. In
the united parish of Dunkeld and Dowally is Sancta Crux Well, at
Crueshill. Till towards the middle of the present century, it was such
a popular resort, that tents were set up and refreshments sold to
the pilgrims. Alcohol was so freely partaken of that drunken brawls
often ensued, and right-minded people felt that the gathering would
be more honoured in the breach than in the observance. St. Fillan's
Fair, at Struan, took place on the first Friday after New Year's
Day (O.S.). It was held on a spot close to the church, and not far
from St. Fillan's Well. It is now discontinued, but its stance is
still known as Croft-an-taggart, i.e., The Priest's Croft. The Well
Market, now held at Tomintoul, in Kirkmichael parish, Banffshire, but
formerly beside Fergan Well, has already been referred to. Writing
in April, 1892, a correspondent, who has resided in the parish for
nearly half-a-century, mentions the following particulars concerning
the spring:--"The healing virtue of its water is still believed in,
especially on the first Sunday of May, when parties still gather and
watch the arrival of Sunday morning with special care, many of them
remaining there the whole night and part of the Sabbath. Whoever first
washes in the water or drinks of it is cured of any disease or sore
with which they may be troubled." Our correspondent adds:--"The annual
market of the district was held at Fergan Well, and the foundations of
the tents or booths where goods were sold are still visible: and very
probably there was a kind of mountain dew partaken of stronger than
the water that now flows from Fergan Well." We shall have something
more to say about fairs in the next chapter.

Though modern enlightenment has not entirely abolished the practice
of resorting to consecrated springs, it has, as a rule, produced a
desire for secrecy on the part of the pilgrims. When superstitious
motives are absent, and springs are visited merely from curiosity
or love of frolic, there is no sense of shame, and hence no need for
concealment. But when the pilgrims regard the practice as a magical
rite, they usually prefer to keep the rest of the world in the dark
as to their doings. Sir Arthur Mitchell truly remarks in his "Past in
the Present"--"It is well enough understood that the business is not
a Christian one, and that the engaging in it is not a thing which it
would be easy to justify. There is a consciousness that it has not been
gone about as an empty, meaningless ceremony, but that it has involved
an acknowledgment of a supernatural power controlling human affairs
and influenced by certain rites and offerings--a power different
from that which is acknowledged by Christians. Hence it happens that
there is a difficulty in getting people to confess to these visits,
and, of course, a greater difficulty still in getting them to speak,
freely and frankly, about the feelings and beliefs which led to them."



CHAPTER XVII.

SUN-WORSHIP AND WELL-WORSHIP.

    Fairs--Their Connection with Holy Days--Nature-festivals--Modes
    of Marking Time--Ecclesiastical Year and Natural Year--Christmas
    --Fire-festivals--Hallow E'en and Mid-summer Fires--Beltane--Its
    Connection with Sun-worship--Sun-charms--Carrying Fire--Clavie at
    Burghead--Fiery-circle--Traces of Sun-worship in Folk-customs--
    In Architecture--Turning Sunways--Widdershins--When Wells were
    Visited--May--Influence of Pagan Rites--Folklore of May Day--
    Sundays in May--Sunday Wells--Sunday, why Chosen--Lammas--Festival
    of St. Peter ad Vincula--Gule of August--Sun and Well-worship--
    Time of Day for Using Wells--Fonts of the Cross--Walking Sunways
    round Wells--Doing the Reverse--Witch's Well--South-running Water.


In his "Scottish Markets and Fairs" Sir J. D. Marwick
observes:--"Simple home needs, such as plain food and clothing,
articles of husbandry, and other indispensable appliances of life gave
rise to markets held at frequent fixed times, at suitable centres. But
as society grew and artificial needs sprung up, these could only be
met by trade; and trade on anything beyond a very limited scale was
only then practicable at fairs. Wherever large numbers of persons
were drawn together, at fixed times, for purposes of business or
religion or pleasure, an inducement was offered to the merchant or
pedlar, as well as to the craftsman, to attend, and to provide by
the diversity and quality of his wares for the requirements of the
persons there congregated." In the last chapter allusion was made
to such gatherings in connection with springs. We shall now look at
the dates when they were held, in order to trace their connection
with nature-festivals. Fairs, as distinguished from markets, were of
comparatively rare occurrence at any given place. In the majority of
instances, they can be traced back to some gathering held in connection
with what were originally holy days, and afterwards holidays. Such
holy days commemorated a local saint, the fame of whose sanctity
was confined to more or less narrow limits, or one whom Christendom
at large delighted to honour; or, again, a leading event in sacred
or legendary history deemed worthy of a place in the ecclesiastical
year. A few dates when fairs are, or were held at various Scottish
centres may be selected from Sir J. Marwick's list. At Abercorn
they were held on Michaelmas and St. Serf's Day; at Aberdeen,
on Whitsunday, Holy Trinity, Michaelmas, and St. Nicholas's Day;
at Charlestown of Aboyne, on Candlemas, Michaelmas, and Hallowmas;
at Annan, on Ascension-day and Michaelmas; at Ayr, on Mid-summer and
Michaelmas; at Biggar, on Candlemas and Mid-summer; at Clackmannan,
on St. Bartholomew's Day; at Cromdale, on St. Luke's Day, St. Peter's
Day, Michaelmas, and St. George's Day; at Culross, on St. Serf's Day,
Martinmas, and St. Matthew's Day; at Dalmellington, on Fastern's
E'en and Hallow E'en; at Dalmeny, on St. John the Baptist's Day and
St. Luke's Day; at Doune, on Martinmas, Yule, Candlemas, Whitsunday,
Lammas, and Michaelmas; at Dumbarton, on Patrickmas, Mid-summer, and
Lammas; at Fraserburgh, on St. John the Baptist's Day and Michaelmas;
at Fyvie, on Fastern's Eve, St. Peter's Day, and St. Magdalene's Day;
at Hamilton, on St. Lawrence's Day and Martinmas; at Inveraray, on
Michaelmas and St. Brandane's Day; at Stranraer, on St. Barnabas' Day
and Lammas. Among the fairs at Auchinblae were Pasch Market in April,
and one called May Day to be held on the 22nd of that month. This
series might be indefinitely enlarged; but as it stands it shows that
the leading nature-festivals, such as Yule, Easter, Whitsuntide,
Mid-summer, Michaelmas, and Hallowmas have a prominent place among
the dates selected. An examination of Sir J. Marwick's list further
shows that the dates of fairs were often fixed, not with reference
to any particular holy day, but to some day of a particular month,
such as the second Tuesday, or the third Thursday. Many of these
occur in May. In ancient documents--in Acts of Parliaments, for
instance--dates were commonly fixed by a reference to holy days. In
Presbyterian Scotland such a method of marking time is not now in
fashion, though some relics of the practice survive. We are still
familiar with Whitsunday and Martinmas as term-days, but how few now
ever think of them as ecclesiastical festivals!

The meaning of customs associated with the various holy days
has come to be duly recognised by the student of ecclesiastical
antiquities. While the Christian year was being evolved in
the course of centuries, certain festivals were introduced,
as one might say, arbitrarily, i.e., without being linked to any
pre-Christian usages. From the point of view of Church celebrations,
they have not the same significance as those others that received,
as their heritage, certain rights in vogue before the spread of
Christianity. In other words, the leading pagan festivals had a new
meaning put into them, and, when adopted by the Church, were exalted
to a position of honour. In virtue of this, the ecclesiastical year
was correlated to the natural year, with its varying seasons and its
archaic festivals. There is no doubt that in early times the Church
sought to win nations from paganism by admitting as many of the old
customs as were deemed harmless. We have seen how this was effected in
the case of fountains, as shown by Columba's exorcism of the demons
inhabiting springs. The same principle prevailed all round. The old
Saturnalia of the Romans, for instance, became the rejoicings of
Christmas. To the distinctively Christian aspects of the festival we
do not, of course, allude, but to the customs still in vogue at the
Yule season; and these are nothing more than a revised edition of the
old pagan rites. Among other Aryan peoples the winter solstice was
also commemorated by similar merry-makings. Church festivals, such
as Candlemas, Easter, St. John's Day, St. Peter's Day, Michaelmas,
Hallowmas, Christmas, &c., absorbed many distinctive features of the
old pagan fire-festivals, held in connection with the changes of the
seasons. The kindling of fires out of doors, on special occasions,
is familiar to all of us. They may be called modern folk-customs; but
their origin is ancient enough to give them special significance. Even
to the present time, twinkling spots of light may be seen along the
shores of Loch Tay on Hallow E'en, though the mid-summer fires do not
now blaze on our Scottish hills, as they continue to do in Scandinavia
and elsewhere. Among the Bavarian Highlands these mid-summer fires are
popularly known as Sonnenwendfeuer, i.e., solstice-fires. That they
are so called and not St. John's fires (though lighted in connection
with his festival) is significant. In Brittany a belief prevailed
that if a girl danced nine times round one of the St. John's fires
before midnight she would be married within the year.

The most important fire-festival in Scotland was that of Beltane
at the beginning of May. It was celebrated generally throughout our
land. To the south of the Forth several sites are known to have been
specially associated with Beltane fires. In Lanarkshire two such
sites were, the hills of Tinto and Dechmont. Tinto, indeed, means
the hill of fire. It was used for beacon-fires as well as for those
connected with nature-festivals, and was well adapted for the purpose,
being 2335 feet above the sea, and 1655 feet above the Clyde at its
base. Though not nearly so high, Dechmont hill commands a splendid view
over the neighbouring country. Early in the present century a quantity
of charcoal was discovered near its summit hidden beneath a stratum
of fine loam. The country people around expressed no surprise at the
discovery, as they were familiar with the tradition that the spot had
been used for the kindling of Beltane fires. In Peeblesshire, too,
the Beltane festival long held its ground. In the fifteenth century
the town of Peebles was the scene of joyous May Day gatherings. From
far and near, holiday-makers, dressed in their best, came together
to join in the Beltane amusements. Who has not heard of the poem,
"Peblis to the Play," attributed to King James the First? The play
consisted of a round of rural festivities--archery and horse-racing
being the chief recreations. Pennant gives a minute account of Beltane
rites as practised about 1772. "On the first of May the herdsmen
of every village hold their Bel-tein, a rural sacrifice. They cut a
square trench on the ground, leaving the turf in the middle; on that
they make a fire of wood, on which they dress a large caudle of eggs,
butter, oat-meal, and milk, and bring, besides the ingredients of
the caudle, plenty of beer and whisky; for each of the company must
contribute something. The rites begin with spilling some of the caudle
on the ground by way of libation; on that, every one takes a cake of
oatmeal, upon which are raised nine square knobs, each dedicated to
some particular being, the supposed preserver of their flocks and
herds, or to some particular animal, the real destroyer of them;
each person then turns his face to the fire, breaks off a knob,
and flinging it over his shoulders, says, 'This I give to thee,
preserve thou my horses; this to thee, preserve thou my sheep'; and
so on. After that they use the same ceremony to the noxious animals,
'This I give to thee, O fox! spare thou my lambs; this to thee, O
hooded crow! this to thee, O eagle!' When the ceremony is over they
dine on the caudle; and after the feast is finished, what is left is
hid by two persons deputed for that purpose; but on the next Sunday
they reassemble and finish the reliques of the first entertainment."

An examination of the dates when fire-festivals were held shows that
they had a distinct connection with the sun's annual cycle. When
several leading Church festivals fell to be observed about the same
time of the year, they had often some features in common. Thus the
pagan mid-summer festival had as its lineal successor, not only
St. John's Day (24th June), but St. Vitus's Day and St. Peter's Day,
respectively the fifteenth and the twenty-ninth of the same month. The
kindling of fires was a feature of all three. Mediæval fire-festivals
were thus the gleanings of rites derived from archaic sun-worship.

The question arises, what connection was there between the custom and
the cult? Mr. J. G. Frazer, in his "Golden Bough," has collected a
variety of facts which go to show that the lighting of these fires
was primarily intended to ensure the shining of the sun in the
heavens. Mr. Frazer thus sums up the evidence: "The best general
explanation of these European fire-festivals seems to be the one
given by Mannhardt, namely, that they are sun-charms or magical
ceremonies intended to ensure a proper supply of sunshine for men,
animals, and plants. Savages resort to charms for making sunshine,
and we need not wonder that primitive man in Europe has done the
same. Indeed, considering the cold and cloudy climate of Europe
during a considerable part of the year, it is natural that sun-charms
should have played a much more prominent part among the superstitious
practices of European peoples than among those of savages who live
nearer the equator. This view of the festivals in question is supported
by various considerations drawn partly from the rites themselves,
partly from the influence which they are believed to exert upon the
weather and on vegetation." After alluding to certain sun-charms,
Mr. Frazer continues, "In these the magic force is supposed to take
effect through mimicry or sympathy; by imitating the desired result
you actually produce it; by counterfeiting the sun's progress through
the heavens you really help the luminary to pursue his celestial
journey with punctuality and despatch.... The influence which these
bonfires are supposed to exert on the weather and on vegetation goes
to show that they are sun-charms, since the effects ascribed to them
are identical with those of sunshine. Thus, in Sweden, the warmth or
cold of the coming season is inferred from the direction in which the
flames of the bonfire are blown; if they blow to the south it will
be warm, if to the north, cold. No doubt at present the direction of
the flames is regarded merely as an augury of the weather, not as a
mode of influencing it. But we may be pretty sure that this is one
of the cases in which magic has dwindled into divination." Hence a
good supply of light and heat is not only foretold, but guaranteed.

The view that these fires were reckoned mock-suns is confirmed by
the custom, at one time common, of carrying lighted brands round
the fields to ensure their fertility. Blazing torches were thus
carried in Pennant's time in the middle of June. Martin refers to
the carrying of fire in the Hebrides. "There was an antient custom
in the Island of Lewis to make a fiery circle about the houses, corn,
cattle, &c., belonging to each particular family. An instance of this
round was performed in the village Shadir, in Lewis, about sixteen
years ago (i.e., circa 1680), but it proved fatal to the practiser,
called MacCallum; for, after he had carefully performed this round,
that very night following he and his family were sadly surprised,
and all his houses, corn, cattle, &c., were consumed with fire. This
superstitious custom is quite abolished now, for there has not been
above this one instance of it in forty years past." Till a later
date in Lewis, fire continued to be carried round children before
they were baptised, and round mothers before they were churched,
to prevent evil spirits from doing harm.

Burghead, in Elginshire, is still the scene of an annual fire-festival,
celebrated on the last day of the year (O.S.). It is locally known as
the burning of the clavie. On the afternoon of the day in question,
careful preparations are made for the ceremony. A tar barrel is sawn
across, and of it the clavie is made. A pole of firwood is stuck
through the barrel, and held in its place by a large nail driven in by
a stone, no hammer being used. The clavie is then filled with tar and
pieces of wood. After dark these combustibles are kindled, according to
ancient practice, by a burning peat from a neighbouring cottage. The
clavie is then lifted by one of the men and carried through the
village amid the applause of the inhabitants. Notwithstanding the
risk from the burning tar, the possession of the clavie, while on its
pilgrimage, is eagerly coveted. In former times, a stumble on the
part of the bearer was counted unlucky for himself personally, and
for the village as a whole. After being borne about for some time, the
still blazing clavie is placed on an adjacent mound called the Doorie,
where a stone column was built some years ago for its accommodation. A
hole in the top of the column receives the pole. There the clavie is
allowed to burn for about half-an-hour, when it is thrown down the
slope of the mound. The burning fragments are eagerly snatched up
and carried away by the spectators. These fragments were formerly
kept as charms to ensure good fortune to their possessors. In the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the Church discountenanced the
burning of the clavie as idolatrous and sinful, and certain penalties
were threatened against all who took part in it. The antiquity of
the custom may be inferred from the fact, that two hundred years
ago it was called old. At that time lights were carried round the
boats in the harbour, and certain other ceremonies were performed,
all pointing to a pagan origin. Formerly the custom was in vogue,
not only at Burghead, but at most of the fishing villages along the
Morayshire coast. The object in every case was the same, viz., the
blessing of the boats to ensure a good fishing season.

A singular survival of sun-worship is to be found in the use of a fiery
circle as a curative agent. In the volume of the "Proceedings of the
Society of Antiquaries of Scotland" for 1889-90, the Rev. Dr. Stewart
of Nether Lochaber recounts a recent instance of its use in the
Highlands. A dwining child, a year and a half old, was pronounced by a
"wise woman" of the district to be suffering from the effects of an
"evil eye." The rite, called in Gaelic, Beannachd-na-Cuairte, i.e.,
"Blessing of the Circle," was accordingly resorted to. A straw rope was
wound round the greater part of an iron hoop, and, oil being applied,
the whole was set on fire. The hoop was then held vertically, and
through the blazing circle the child was passed and repassed eighteen
times to correspond to the months of its life. The blazing hoop was
then extinguished in a neighbouring burn. The result was in every
way to the satisfaction of the child's relatives. In the same article
Dr. Stewart gives an account, sent to him by a friend, of a similar
superstition common in Wigtownshire till about half-a-century ago. In
this case, the healing influence came through the channel of the iron
tire of a new cart wheel. After fire had been applied to it to make
it fit the wheel, the tire was passed over the head of the patient,
who was thus placed in the middle of a glowing circle.

So much for the traces of sun-worship in rites connected with
fire. There are traces of it also in certain folk-customs, at one
time common, and not yet extinct. Highlanders were formerly in the
habit of taking off their bonnets to the rising sun. Akin to this is
the feeling underlying the Venetian expedition to the Lido, annually
repeated in July, when thousands cross to that island at dawn, and
utter a loud shout when the sun rises above the horizon. In cases
where sun-worship is a national cult we naturally expect it to
have a marked influence on the sacred customs and architecture of
its votaries. One example will suffice. In his "Pre-historic Man,"
Sir Daniel Wilson thus describes the great annual festival of the
Peruvians, held at the summer solstice:--"For three days previous,
a general fast prevailed; the fire on the great altar of the sun went
out, and in all the dwellings of the land no hearth was kindled. As
the dawn of the fourth day approached, the Inca, surrounded by his
nobles, who came from all parts of the country to join in the solemn
celebration, assembled in the great square of the capital to greet
the rising sun. The temple of the national deity presented its eastern
portal to the earliest rays, emblazoned with his golden image, thickly
set with precious stones, and as the first beams of the morning were
reflected back from this magnificent emblem of the god of day, songs
of triumph mingled with the jubilant shout of his worshippers. Then,
after various rites of adoration, preparations were made for rekindling
the sacred fire. The rays of the sun, collected into a focus by a
concave mirror of polished metal, were made to inflame a heap of
dried cotton; and a llama was sacrificed as a burnt offering to the
sun." Even after sun-worship has ceased to be a national cult, we
find it continuing to regulate the position of buildings, devoted to
a totally different worship. In this way what is commonly styled the
"orientation" of Christian churches can be accounted for. Indeed,
so much had the sun to do with churches, that when one was built in
honour of a particular saint, it was made to face the point of the
horizon, where the sun rose on the festival of the saint in question.

In our own land much stress used to be laid on the necessity of
turning according to the course of the sun, i.e., from left to
right. To do so tended to bring prosperity to whatever was being
undertaken at the time. Martin often refers to such a turn under the
title of Dessil, a word of Gaelic origin, in connection with which,
it is interesting to note that in Gaelic Deas signifies both south
and to the right. Martin mentions certain stones, round which the
inhabitants of the Western Isles made what he calls "a religious
turn." In the island of Eigg, he tells us:--"There is a heap of stones
called Martin Dessil, i.e., a place consecrated to the saint of that
name, about which the natives oblige themselves to make a tour round
sunways." It was also customary when anyone wished well to another
to walk round him thrice sunways. The following are some of Martin's
own experiences in the matter of the Dessil:--"Some are very careful,
when they set out to sea, that the boat be first rowed about sunways;
and if this be neglected they are afraid their voyage may prove
unfortunate. I had this ceremony paid me (when in the island of Ila)
by a poor woman after I had given her an alms. I desired her to let
alone that compliment, for I did not care for it; but she insisted to
make these three ordinary turns, and pray'd that God and MacCharmaig,
the patron saint of that island, might bless and prosper me in all my
designs and affairs. I attempted twice to go from Ila to Collonsay,
and at both times they row'd about the boat sunways, tho' I forbid
them to do it; and by a contrary wind the boat and those in it were
forced back. I took boat again a third time from Jura to Collonsay,
and at the same time forbid them to row about their boat, which
they obey'd, and then we landed safely at Collonsay without any ill
adventure, which some of the crew did not believe possible for want of
the round." This superstition lingered long after Martin's time, and
probably still directs the course of many a fishing-boat when being
put to sea. In connection with events of moment--such as baptisms,
bridals, and burials--the necessity for turning sunways was felt to
be specially binding; but even in matters of no particular importance
the rule was held to apply. If movement sunways was lucky, movement
in a contrary direction was the reverse. Such a movement was, and
still is, known as Widdershins or Withershins, the Shetland form being
Witherwise. To go Widdershins was to go against the sun, and was hence
regarded as a violation of the established order of things. In his
"Darker Superstitions" Dalyell remarks:--"The moving widderschynnes,
as if withdrawing from the deified orb of day, inferred a guilty
retreat, and was associated with the premeditated evil of sorcery."

We have thus glanced at the relations of springs to fairs, of fairs
to Church festivals, of Church festivals to nature festivals, and of
these to sun-worship. We shall now gather together the threads of the
argument, and indicate some of the chief points of connection between
well-worship and sun-worship. To do this, we must inquire when springs
were mainly visited. When a well was under the patronage of a saint,
the festival day of that saint was in some cases the day selected. It
would be natural to regard this as the rule. But, as a matter of fact,
pilgrimages were commonly made on days other than the festival of the
patron saint. As may be remembered, the Holy Pool in Strathfillan
was mainly resorted to on the first day of the quarter (O.S.);
and St. Fillan's Spring at Comrie on 1st May and 1st August. As may
be also remembered, the waters of Loch Manaar, in Sutherland, were
thought to possess special virtue on the first Monday of February,
May, August, and November (O.S.), the second and third of these
dates being specially popular. What the practice was at Mochrum Loch,
in Wigtownshire, is clear from Symson's account in his "Description
of Galloway." "This loch," he says, "is very famous in many writers,
who report that it never freezeth in the greatest frosts.... "Whether
it had any virtue of old I know not, but sure I am it hath it not
now. However, I deny not but the water thereof may be medicinal,
having received several credible informations that several persons,
both old and young, have been cured of continued diseases by washing
therein. Yet still I cannot approve of their washing three times
therein, which they say they must do, neither the frequenting there
of the first Sunday of February, May, August, and November, although
many foolish people affirm that, not only the water of this loch,
but also many other springs and wells, have more virtue on those days
than any other." Close to the Welltrees meadow in Sanquhar parish,
once flowed a spring dedicated to St. Bridget. In his history of the
parish, Mr. James Brown tells us that, according to the testimony
of the old people, it was customary for the maidens of Sanquhar to
resort on May Day to St. Bride's Well, where each presented nine
smooth white stones as an offering to the saint. Till about the
beginning of the present century, a well at Sigget, in Aberdeenshire,
was regularly visited on Pasch Sunday, and the usual offerings were
left by the pilgrims. There is, or was a belief at Chapel-en-le-Frith,
in Derbyshire, that on Easter Eve a mermaid appears in a certain pool;
and at Rostherne, in Cheshire, that another mermaid comes out of the
lake there on Easter Day and rings a bell. Mr. Moore mentions that in
the Isle of Man Ascension Day and the first Sunday of August were the
principal days for visiting consecrated springs. As previously stated,
part of the May Day rites at Tullie-Beltane, in Perthshire, consisted
in drinking water from a spring, and in walking nine times round
it. St. Anthony's Well, near Edinburgh, is not yet forgotten on May
Day by people who like to keep up old customs. There is no doubt that
of all the months of the year May was the one, when Scottish springs
were most visited. The same rule held elsewhere. In his "Romances
of the West of England," Mr. Hunt has the following:--"The practice
of bathing rickety children on the first three Wednesdays in May is
still far from uncommon in the outlying districts of Cornwall. The
parents will walk many miles for the purpose of dipping the little
sufferers in some well from which the healing virtue has not entirely
departed. Among these holy wells, Cubert is far famed. To this well the
peasantry still resort, firm in the faith that there, at this special
season, some mysterious virtue is communicated to its waters. On these
occasions, only a few years since, the crowd assembled was so large
that it assumed the character of a fair." A spring at Glastonbury,
in Somerset, on account of a miraculous cure, believed to have been
wrought by its water, became specially popular about the middle of
last century. In 1751, as many as ten thousand persons are said to
have visited it during the month of May.

The popularity of May did not depend on the better weather following
the bleakness of winter and spring. At least, if it did so, it was
only in a subordinate degree. To find the main reason, we have to
look to the continued influence of ancient pagan rites. As we have
seen, May in Scotland was ushered in by the Beltane Festival. We have
also seen that its manifestly heathen customs survived till a late
period in the midst of a Christian civilisation. On the hypothesis
of a pagan origin alone, can certain May Day customs and beliefs be
satisfactorily explained. Some Beltane rites still survive in the
Highlands, though fires are no longer kindled. In the neighbourhood of
Kingussie, Inverness-shire, bannocks and hard-boiled eggs continue to
be rolled down the hills on the first of May (O.S.). Till quite lately,
these bannocks were used for purposes of divination. They were marked
on one side with a cross--the sign of life; and on the other with a
circle--the sign of death. Each bannock was rolled down thrice, and
its owner's fate was decided by the sign that was on the upper surface
oftenest when the bannock rested at the foot of the hill. The time was
counted specially suited for love-charms. On May Day, in the north of
England, a gold ring was dropped into a syllabub composed of various
ingredients. Whoever got hold of the ring with a ladle would be the
first among the company to be married. The prophetic powers of May
Day are still believed in, in some parts of the north of Ireland. If
a maiden places a certain plant below her pillow overnight, she will
have a vision of her coming husband.

On May Day, the supernatural world was revealed, and witches and
other uncanny creatures were abroad. In connection with his visit
to Scotland, Pennant says:--"In some parts of the country is a rural
sacrifice, different from that before mentioned. A cross is cut on some
sticks, which is dipped in pottage, and the Thursday before Easter one
of each placed over the sheep-cot, the stable, or the cow-house. On
the first of May they are carried to the hill, where the rites are
celebrated, all decked with wild flowers, and after the feast is over,
replaced over the spots they were taken from." The cross in this case,
was, doubtless, made from the wood of the rowan or mountain ash. In
the Isle of Man, it was customary, at one time, to gather primroses on
May Eve, and strew them before the door of every house to keep away
witches. Aubrey tells us:--"'Tis commonly said in Germany that the
witches do meet in the night before the first day of May upon an high
mountain called the Blocksberg, where they, together with the devils,
do dance and feast, and the common people do, the night before the
said day, fetch a certain thorn and stick it at their house door,
believing the witches can then do them no harm." In our own country,
too, hawthorn branches were formerly used on May Day as a charm against
witches. The hawthorn had likewise another mystic property attributed
to it. The dew on its branches on the first of May had the power of
giving beauty to the maiden who washed her face with it. May-dew from
the grass was equally efficacious, except when gathered from within a
fairy ring, as the fairies would in that case counteract the influence
of the charm. A curative power was also ascribed to May-dew. Till
quite lately there was a belief in some parts of England that a
weakly child would be made strong by being drawn over dewy grass on
the morning in question. To effect a complete cure, the treatment had
to be repeated on the two following mornings. Dew from the grave of
the last person buried in the parish churchyard was counted specially
remedial if applied to the affected part before sunrise on May-morning.

The May-sun also got the credit of working cures. In his "Nether
Lochaber" the Rev. Dr. Stewart tells us that "it was an article of
belief in the hygiene code of the old highlanders that the invalid
suffering under any form of internal ailment, upon whom the sun of
May once fairly shed its light, was pretty sure of a renewed lease
of life until at least the next autumnal equinox." The old English
custom, known as "going a-Maying," when old and young flocked into
the woods early on May-morning to gather flowers and green boughs,
was handed on from a time when the worship of trees was an article
of religious faith.

Another old custom in England, viz., the blowing of horns at an early
hour on the first of May, had probably its origin in pre-Christian
times. It still survives in Oxfordshire and Cornwall. From Hone's
"Every-Day Book" we learn that till the third decade of the present
century, and doubtless later, the poorer classes in Edinburgh poured
forth at daybreak from street and lane to assemble on Arthur's Seat to
see the sun rise on May-morning. Bagpipes and other musical instruments
enlivened the scene, nor were refreshments forgotten. About six o'clock
a crowd of citizens of the wealthier class made their appearance, while
the majority of the first-comers returned to the town. At nine o'clock
the hill was practically deserted. Two centuries earlier an attempt
was made by the kirk-session of Perth to put a stop to an annual
gathering on May Day at a cave in the face of Kinnoul hill adjoining
the town. This cave was called the Dragon Hole, and was the scene of
ancient rites of a superstitious nature. Other illustrations might
be selected from the Folklore of May Day, but those given above show
that the season was held in much superstitious regard. Accordingly,
we need not be surprised that well-worship took its place among the
rites of May Day, and of May Month also, since the whole of May was
deemed a charmed time.

The Sundays of May--particularly the first--were very frequently
chosen for visits to consecrated springs. The Chapel Wells in
Kirkmaiden parish have already been referred to in connection with
Co' Sunday. The White Loch of Merton, and St. Anthony's Spring at
Maybole, and others that might be named were principally resorted
to on the first Sunday of May. Indeed, wells occasionally got
their name from the fact of their being visited on Sundays. Thus
Tobordmony, near Cushendall, in County Antrim, signifies in Irish
the Sunday Well. There is a farm in Athole called Pit-alt-donich or
Balandonich. The name is derived by Mr. J. Mackintosh Gow from the
Gaelic Pit-alt-didon-ich, and is interpreted by him as meaning "the
hamlet of the Sunday burn." There is a spring on the farm, formerly
much frequented on the first Sunday of May (O.S.). In the Isle of
Man is a spring called Chibber Lansh, consisting of three pools. In
former times it had a considerable reputation for the cure of sore
eyes; but it was thought to exert its power on Sundays alone. Pilgrims
frequently spent Saturday night beside springs in order to begin the
required ritual on the following morning. The question why Sunday was
specially selected is one of interest. Its choice may have been due
in part to the fact, mentioned by Dalyell, that, in ruder society,
the precise course of time requires some specific mark, and in part,
to the notion underlying the popular saying, "the better the day,
the better the deed." But there was undoubtedly another factor in the
selection of the day. We have seen that the chief Church festivals
borrowed certain rites from other festivals earlier in the field. In
like manner, Sunday was the heir of usages quite unconnected with it
in origin; or, to change the metaphor, it was a magnet attracting to
itself various stray particles of paganism that remained after the
break up of the old Nature-worship. Students of English history in
the seventeenth century cannot fail to remember, how strenuously the
Puritans sought to put down Sunday amusements, and how even the edicts
of James the First and Charles the First permitted only certain games
to be played on Sunday, certain others being declared inconsistent
with the aim of that Christian festival.

Bourne, in his "Popular Antiquities," published in 1725, remarks:--"In
the southern parts of this nation the most of country villages are
wont to observe some Sunday in a more particular manner than the
other common Sundays of the year, viz., the Sunday after the Day of
Dedication, i.e., the Sunday after the Day of the Saint to whom their
church was dedicated. Then the inhabitants deck themselves in their
gaudiest clothes, and have open doors and splendid entertainments for
the reception and treating of their relations and friends who visit
them on that occasion from each neighbouring town. The morning is
spent for the most part at church, the remaining part of the day in
eating and drinking, and so is also a day or two afterwards, together
with all sorts of rural pastimes and exercises, such as dancing on the
green, wrestling, cudgelling, &c. Agreeable to this, we are told that
formerly, on the Sunday after the Encoenia, or Feast of the Dedication
of the Church, it was usual for a great number of the inhabitants of
the village, both grown and young, to meet together at break of day,
and to cry, 'Holy Wakes, Holy Wakes,' and after Matens go to feasting
and sporting, which they continued for two or three days."

Quoting from the "Presbyterie Buik of Aberdein, 19th June, 1607,
in M.S." Dalyell observes:--"In the North of Scotland, young men
conducted themselves 'pro phanelie on the Sabboathes in drinking,
playing at futteball, dancing, and passing fra paroche to paroche--and
sum passes to St. Phitallis Well to the offence of God and ewill of
mony.'" In connection with this, a remark from Dr. J. A. Hessey's
Bampton Lecture on Sunday may be quoted. When comparing it with the
Holy days instituted in mediæval times, he says, the former perhaps
"was even worse observed than the other days, for in spite of the
Church, men had a vague impression that it was one of specially
allowed intermission of ordinary employments. This they interpreted
to mean of more special permission of dissipation than the other
days noted in the kalendar." After describing the island of Valay,
near North Uist, where there were Chapels to St. Ulton and St. Mary,
Martin says, "Below the Chapel there is a flat thin stone call'd
Brownie's Stone upon which the antient inhabitants offer'd a cow's milk
every Sunday." That this offering of milk, though made on Sundays,
was a pagan and not a Christian rite, can hardly be disputed. At
some places, e.g., at Glasgow, Crail, and Seton, Sunday was at
one time the weekly market day, but by an Act of James the Sixth,
in 1579, the holding of markets on Sunday was prohibited throughout
the realm. The Sundays in May were certainly the most popular for
visits to springs, but these occurring about the time of the other
leading nature-festivals were also in fashion. Sun-worship, as we have
seen, was the back-ground of all such festivals. We need not wonder,
therefore, that consecrated springs were frequented on a day whose
very name suggested a reminiscence of a solar pagan cult.

We have discussed Beltane, let us now look at one other leading
nature-festival, viz., Lammas, on the first day of August, to discover
what light it throws on our subject. The Church dedicated the opening
day of August to St. Peter ad Vincula. A curious mediæval legend
arose to connect this dedication with another name for the festival,
viz., the Gule of August. At the heart of this legend was the Latin
word Gula, signifying the throat. The daughter of Quirinus, a Roman
tribune, had some disease of the throat which was miraculously cured
through kissing St. Peter's chains, and so the day of the chains was
designated the Gule of August. As a matter of fact, the word is derived
from the Cymric Gwyl, a feast or holiday, and we have confirmation
of the etymology in the circumstance, that in Celtic lands the time
was devoted to games, and other recreations. In Ireland a celebrated
fair, called Lugnasadh, was held at Tailtin (now Teltown), in Meath,
for several days before and after the first of August, and there
was another at Cruachan, now Rath Croghan, in Roscommon. A third was
held at Carman, now Wexford. Its celebration was deemed so important
that, as Professor Rhys tells us, in his "Celtic Heathendom," "among
the blessings promised to the men of Leinster from holding it were,
plenty of corn, fruit, and milk, abundance of fish in their lakes and
rivers, domestic prosperity, and immunity from the yoke of any other
province. On the other hand, the evils to follow from the neglect of
this institution were to be failure and early greyness on them and
their kings." In legendary accounts of Carman, the place has certain
funereal associations. "If we go into the story of the fair of Carman,"
Professor Rhys observes, "we are left in no doubt as to the character
of the mythic beings whose power had been brought to an end at the
time dedicated to that fair; they may be said to have represented
the blighting chills and fogs that assert their baneful influence
on the farmer's crops. To overcome these and other hurtful forces of
the same kind, the prolonged presence of the sun-god was essential,
in order to bring the corn to maturity."

That the Gule of August was a Nature-festival may be further inferred
from the fact that among many Anglo-Saxon peoples it was called
Hlâf-mæsse, i.e., Loaf-mass, eventually shortened into Lammas. Our
English ancestors offered on that day bread made from the early grain,
as the first-fruits of the harvest. In Scotland, the Lammas rites
were handed down from an unknown past and survived till the middle
of last century. They were closely connected with country life, and
were taken part in, mainly by those who had to do with the tending of
cattle. The herds of Mid-Lothian held Lammas in special favour. For
some weeks prior to that date they busied themselves in building what
were called Lammas towers, composed of stones and sods. These towers
were about seven or eight feet high, sometimes more. On the day of
the festival they were surmounted by a flag formed of a table-napkin
decked with ribbons. During the building of the towers attempts were
sometimes made by rival parties to throw them down, and accordingly
they had to be kept constantly watched. On Lenie hill and Clermiston
hill two such towers used to be built, about two miles apart, but
within sight of each other. These were the respective trysting-places
of herds belonging to different portions of Cramond and Corstorphine
parishes. On Lammas morning the herds met at their respective towers,
and, after a breakfast of bread and cheese, marched to meet each other,
blowing horns, and having a piper at their head. Colours were carried
aloft by each party, and the demand to lower them was the signal for
a contest, which sometimes ended in rather a curious manner. Games
for small prizes closed the day's proceedings.

At one time temporary structures formed of sods and sticks, and
known as Lammas houses, were built in South Wales in connection
with the festival. Inside these a fire was kindled for the
roasting of apples. Anyone, by paying a penny, could enter and
have an apple. Professor Rhys speaks of other Lammas rites in the
Principality. "Gwyl Awst," he observes, "is now a day for fairs
in certain parts of Wales, and it is remembered, in central and
southern Cardiganshire, as one on which the shepherds used, till
comparatively lately, to have a sort of pic-nic on the hills. One
farmer's wife would lend a big kettle for making in it a plentiful
supply of good soup or broth, while, according to another account,
everybody present had to put his share of fuel on the fire with his
own hands. But, in Brecknockshire, the first of August seems to have
given way sometime before Catholicism had lost its sway in Wales,
to the first holiday or feast in August; that is to say, the first
Sunday in that month. For then crowds of people, early in the morning,
make their way up the mountains called the Beacons, both from the
side of Caermarthenshire and Glamorgan; their destination used to be
the neighbourhood of the Little Van Lake, out of whose waters they
expected, in the course of the day, to see the Lady of the Lake make
her momentary appearance." Professor Rhys bears further witness to
the connection of Lammas rites with our present subject when he says,
"A similar shifting from the first of August to the first Sunday
in that month, has, I imagine, taken place in the Isle of Man. For,
though the solstice used to be, in consequence probably of Scandinavian
influence, the day of institutional significance in the Manx summer,
inquiries I have made in different parts of the island, go to show
that middle-aged people, now living, remember that, when they were
children, their parents used to ascend the mountains very early on
the first Sunday in August (O.S.), and that in some districts at
least they were wont to bring home bottles full of water from wells
noted for their healing virtues." Another proof that the ceremonies
of Lammas-tide had some link with those of archaic Water-worship
is to be found in the circumstance mentioned by Dalyell, that,
"in Ireland the inhabitants held it an inviolable custom to drive
their cattle into some pool or river on the first Sunday of August
as essential to the life of the animals during the year." This was
regularly done till towards the end of the seventeenth century. It
may be remembered that in Scotland, during the same century, horses
were washed in the sea at Lammas, doubtless with the same end in view.

We shall now glance at some traces of Sun-worship in the rites of
Well-worship. In countries where the worship of the sun had an
acknowledged place in the popular religion, the temples to that
luminary were found associated with fountains. In his "Holy Land and
the Bible," the Rev. J. Cunningham Geikie remarks, "The old name
of Bethshemish, which means the house of the sun, is now changed
to Ain Thenis--the fountain of the sun--living water being found
in the valley below. Both point to the Philistine Sun-worship,
and both names are fitting, for every sun-house or temple needed,
like all other ancient sanctuaries, a fountain near it to supply
water for ablutions and libations." When evidence of this kind fails
us, we have another kind within reach, viz., that derived from the
employment of fire to symbolise the sun on the principle already
explained. At St. Bede's Well, near Jarrow, in Durham, it used to
be customary to kindle a bonfire on Mid-summer Eve. In connection
with the same festival a bonfire was lighted at Toddel-Well, near
Kirkhampton in Cumberland, and the lads and lasses, who were present,
were in the habit of leaping through the flames. In a cave at Wemyss,
in Fife, is a well, to which young people at one time carried blazing
torches on the first Monday of January (O.S.). The time of day when
consecrated springs were made use of has a bearing on the point under
review. The water was thought to have a peculiar efficacy either just
after sunset or just before sunrise. The moment when the sun was first
seen above the horizon was also reckoned particularly favourable. To
the same class of superstitions belongs the Scandinavian belief,
referred to by Mr. Lloyd in his "Peasant Life in Sweden," that the
water of certain sacred springs, known as Fonts of the Cross, was
turned into wine at sunrise.

The survival of rites of archaic Sun-worship in the practice of making
a turn sun-ways has been already referred to.

In conclusion, we shall glance at the bearings of the practice on
the question of Well-worship. To make a visit to a spring effectual,
when a cure was wanted, the invalid had to pace round it from left
to right, in recognition of the fact that the sun moved in the same
direction. The sun, being the source of vitality, why should not an
imitation of its daily motion tend to produce the same result? When
speaking of Loch Siant Well, in Skye, Martin says:--"Several of the
common people oblige themselves by a vow to come to this well, and make
the ordinary tour about it call'd Dessil. They move thrice round the
well, proceeding sunways from east to west, and so on. This is done
after drinking of the water. Sometimes it was done elsewhere before
drinking of the water." The importance of this motion comes clearly
into view in the case of St. Andrew's Well, at Shadar, in Lewis,
referred to in a previous chapter. When the wooden dish, floating
on the surface of the water, turned round sun-ways, the omen was a
sign that the patient concerned would recover, but a turning in the
opposite direction foreboded ill." In reference to Chapel Uny Well,
in Cornwall, Mr. Hunt says:--"On the first three Wednesdays in May,
children suffering from mesenteric diseases are dipped three times in
this well, against the sun, and dragged three times around the well on
the grass in the same direction." Mr. Lloyd tells us that, in Sweden,
a remedy for whooping-cough is to drink water, "that drops from a
mill-wheel, which revolves ansols, that is, in a contrary direction to
the course of the sun." These two examples, however, are exceptions
to the rule. They may, perhaps, be explained on the principle that
what is in itself evil, because contrary to nature, brings good when
converted into a charm. To walk round a well widdershins was to commit
an act of sorcery. Mr. J. G. Barbour, in his "Unique Traditions of the
West and South of Scotland," recounts the trial and fate of a lonely
old woman, who lived in the Kirkcudbrightshire parish of Irongray,
early in the seventeenth century. She was accused of witchcraft,
and, when convicted of the crime, met her death by being rolled down
hill inside a blazing tar barrel. Various were the charges brought
against her, one of them being that, at certain hours she walked
round the spring near her cottage wuddershins. Mr. Barbour adds,
"The well, from which she drew the water for her domestic use, and
where the young rustic belles washed their faces, still retains the
name of the Witch's Well." Faith in the benefit of turning sun-ways
and faith in the efficacy of south-running water belong to the same
class of superstitions. Both have a direct reference to the sun's
course. The water of a stream flowing to meet the sun, when its
mid-day beams are casting their sweet influences upon the earth,
must absorb and retain a power to bless and heal. So, at least,
men thought, nor were they slow to take advantage of the virtue that
mingled with the water. Bodily ailments were cured by washing in it,
and it was used as one of the many remedies to remove the evil effects
of witchcraft. In this, as in the other rites previously alluded to,
we see the influence of a cult that did not pass away, when the sun
ceased to be worshipped as a divinity. In other words, Well-worship
cannot be adequately understood if we leave out of account archaic
Sun-worship, and its modern survivals.



CHAPTER XVIII.

WISHING-WELLS.

    Fulfilment of Wishes by Divination--Love Charms--Hallow
    E'en Rites, &c.--Wishing Tree--Wishing Holes--St. Govan's
    Chapel and Well--Walsingham Wells--Wishing Stone in St. John's
    Well--Healing Wells and Wishing Wells--St. David's Well--Bride's
    Well--Marriage--Special Times for Wishing--St. Warna and
    Wrecks--Wishing Well at West Kilbride--St. Anthony's Spring.


To bring about the accomplishment of a cherished desire by means of
certain rites has been a favourite mode of divination. By this method
it was thought that destiny could be coerced, and the wish made the
father of its own fulfilment. The means were various; but, underlying
them all, was the notion that the doing of something, in the present,
guaranteed the happening of something in the future. A mere wish was
not sufficient. A particular spot, hallowed by old associations, had
to be visited, and a time-honoured ceremony observed. But the ritual
might be of the simplest. It was perchance to some rustic gate that
the village maiden stole in the gathering gloaming, and there, with
beating heart, breathed the wish that was to bring a new happiness
into her life. Love charms, indeed, form an important group of wishing
superstitions. To this class belong Hallow E'en rites, such as eating
an apple before a mirror, and sowing hemp seed. These rites gave the
maiden a vision of her destined husband. In the one case, she saw his
face in the glass, and in the other, she saw him in the attitude of
pulling hemp. The dumb-cake divination, on the Eves of St. Mark and
St. John, also belongs to the same class of charms. Not more than
three must take part in the mystical ceremony. Concerning the cake,
an English rule says:--


                       "Two make it,
                        Two bake it,
                        Two break it,


and the third must put it under each of their pillows, but not a
word must be spoken all the time." Fasting on St. Agnes's Eve was
requisite on the part of any maiden, who sought on that festival to
have a vision of her bridegroom to be. According to an old Galloway
custom, a maiden pulled a handful of grass when she first saw the
new moon. While she pulled she repeated the rhyme--


       "New moon, new moon, tell me if you can,
        Gif I have a hair like the hair o' my gudeman."


The grass was then taken into the house, and carefully examined. If a
hair was found amongst the grass, it would correspond in colour with
the hair of the coming husband. In connection with all such charms,
it is certainly true what an old song says that "love hath eyes."

Her Majesty the Queen visited Innis Maree in September, 1877. When
describing her visit, Mr. Dixon, in his "Gairloch," says:--"She fixed
her offering in the wishing tree, a pleasantry which most visitors to
the island repeat, it being common report that a wish silently formed,
when any metal article is attached to the tree, will certainly be
realised. It is said that if anyone removes any offering that has
been fixed on the tree, some misfortune, probably the taking fire
of the house of the desecrator, is sure to follow." On a hill near
Abbotsbury, in Dorset, stands St. Catherine's Chapel. In its south
doorway are wishing holes. The knee is placed in one of the holes, and
the hands in the two above; and in this posture the visitor performs
the wishing ceremony. Half-way down the cliff near Stackpole Head,
in Pembrokeshire, is an ancient structure of rude masonry styled
St. Govan's Chapel, at one time the retreat of some recluse. Professor
Cosmo Innes, in the third volume of the "Proceedings of the Society
of Antiquaries of Scotland," gives an account of a visit to the spot,
and adds:--"The curious part of St. Govan's abode is his bed, or rather
his coffin, for it is a vertical interstice between two immense slabs
of rock, into which a body of common size can be forced with some
difficulty, the prisoner remaining upright. The rock is polished
by the number of visitors fitting themselves into the saint's bed
of penance, and the natives make you feel in the inner surface the
indentures caused by the ribs of the saint!" The polishing is mainly
due to the fact that the space has for long been used for wishing
purposes. Those who desire to test the efficacy of the spell must turn
themselves round within the hollow and think of nothing else during
the process, except what they are wishing for--a rather difficult test
under the circumstances! Close to the chapel is St. Govan's Well, under
a covering of stone-work. The spring had formerly a great reputation
as a health resort. Beside the remains of the once splendid monastic
buildings at Walsingham, in Norfolk, are wishing wells consisting of
two small circular basins of stone. In pre-Reformation times they were
much resorted to for the cure of disease. Being close to St. Mary's
Chapel, they were appropriately dedicated to the Virgin, to whom the
gift of healing was ascribed. Since then they have been popular as
wishing wells. The necessary ritual is thus described by Brand in
his "Popular Antiquities":--"The votary, with a due qualification
of faith and pious awe, must apply the right knee, bare, to a stone
placed for that purpose between the wells. He must then plunge to
the wrist each hand, bare also, into the water of the wells which are
near enough to admit of this immersion. A wish must then be formed,
but not uttered with the lips, either at the time or afterwards, even
in confidential communication to the dearest friend. The hands are
then to be withdrawn, and as much of the water as can be contained
in the hollow of each is to be swallowed. Formerly the object of
desire was most probably expressed in a prayer to the Virgin. It is
now only a silent wish, which will certainly be accomplished within
twelve months, if the efficacy of the solemn rite be not frustrated
by the incredulity or some other fault of the votary."

Pennant tells of a cistern connected with St. John's Well, near
Moxley Nunnery, at one time much used for bathing. Near these, and
below the surface of the water, was a piece of rock called the Wishing
Stone. Anyone who kissed this stone with firm belief in the efficacy
of the charm would have his desire granted. In this case the power of
securing the fulfilment of wishes went hand in hand with the power
of curing diseases. Generally speaking, however, as in the case of
Walsingham just mentioned, the former power supersedes the latter. In
other words, healing wells are transformed into wishing wells. When
such is the case, they are, as far as folklore is concerned, in
the last stage of their history. In the wood, clothing the steep
hill of Weem, in Perthshire, is St. David's Well, said to be named
after a former laird who turned hermit. The spring has a considerable
local fame, and many have been the wishes silently breathed over its
water. Part of an ancient stone cross lies at its margin, and on it
the visitor kneels while framing his or her wish. Visitors to wishing
wells commonly drop into the water a coin, pin, or pebble, thus keeping
up, usually without being aware of the fact, the custom of offering
a gift to the genius loci. The Rev. Dr. Gregor thus describes what
was dropped into the Bride's Well, in the neighbourhood of Corgarff,
Aberdeenshire:--"This well was at one time the favourite resort of
all brides for miles around. On the evening before the marriage,
the bride, accompanied by her maidens, went 'atween the sun an' the
sky' to it. The maidens bathed her feet and the upper part of her
body with water drawn from it. This bathing ensured a family. The
bride put into the well a few crumbs of bread and cheese, to keep
her children from ever being in want."

Desires of any kind may be cherished at wishing-wells, but there
is no doubt that matters matrimonial usually give direction to the
thoughts. According to a Yorkshire belief, whoever drops five white
pebbles into the Ouse, near the county town, when the minster clock
strikes one on May morning, will see on the surface of the water
whatever he or she wishes. Near Dale Abbey, in Derbyshire, is a certain
holy well. To get full advantage of its help, one has to go between
the hours of twelve and three on Good Friday, drink the water thrice,
and wish. There is no doubt about the meaning of the following lines
from the Bard of Dimbovitza, a collection of Roumanian Folk-Songs:--


       "There, where on Sundays I go alone,
        To the old, old well with the milk-white stone,
        Where by the fence, in a nook forgot,
        Rises a Spring in the daisied grass,
        That makes whoso drinks of it love--alas!
        My heart's best belovèd, he drinks it not."


In Sir Walter Scott's "Pirate" one of the characters expresses the
wish that providence would soon send a wreck to gladden the hearts
of the Shetlanders. At the other extremity of Britain, viz., in the
Scilly Isles, the same hope was at one time cherished. St. Warna,
who had to do with wrecks, was the patron saint of St. Agnes, one
of the islands of the group. She had her holy well, and there the
natives anciently dropped in a crooked pin and invoked the saint to
send them a rich wreck.

It would be useless to attempt to give a list of Scottish
wishing-wells; but the following may be mentioned. There is one in
West Kilbride parish, Ayrshire, close to a cave at Hunterston. There
is another at Ardmore, in Dumbartonshire. At Rait, in Perthshire,
is St. Peter's Wishing-well. In the united parishes of Kilcalmonell
and Kilberry, in Argyllshire, is the ancient ecclesiastical site of
Kilanaish. "Near the burial-ground," Captain White tells us, "is its
holy well, where it is proper to wish the usual three wishes, which,
on my last visit to the place, our party, including one lady, devoutly
did." The same writer gives the following particulars about another
Argyllshire spring:--"Near the Abbey of Saddell, Kintyre, is a fine
spring of the class known throughout Scotland as Wishing-wells, which
has always borne the name of Holy-well. It had the usual virtues and
wishing powers ascribed to it. A pretty little pillar with cross cut
upon it which has been mistaken for one of ancient date is scooped out
into a small basin to catch the drip of the water. It was erected by a
Bishop Brown, when residing at Saddell, in the beginning of the present
century, to replace another one that had formerly stood there. Beside
it, flows a stream called Alt-nam-Manach (the Monk's Burn), and this,
with the spring, no doubt formed the water supply of the monastery."

St. Anthony's Well, beside St. Anthony's ruined Chapel, near Edinburgh,
is probably the best known of Scottish wishing-wells. Its sanative
virtues have already been alluded to, but it is nowadays more noted
for its power of securing the fulfilment of wishes than the recovery
of health. A pleasant picture of the romantic spot is given by Sir
Daniel Wilson in his "Memorials of Edinburgh in the Olden Time":--"The
ancient Hermitage and Chapel of St. Anthony, underneath the overhanging
crags of Arthur's Seat, are believed to have formed a dependency of
the preceptory at Leith, and to have been placed there, to catch the
seaman's eye as he entered the Firth, or departed on some long and
perilous voyage; when his vows and offerings would be most freely made
to the patron saint, and the hermit who ministered at his altar. No
record, however, now remains to add to the tradition of its dedication
to St. Anthony; but the silver stream, celebrated in the plaintive
old song, 'O waly, waly up yon bank,' still wells clearly forth
at the foot of the rock, filling the little basin of St. Anthony's
Well, and rippling pleasantly through the long grass into the lower
valley." The song in question gives expression to the grief of Lady
Barbara Erskine, wife of James, Marquis of Douglas, in the time of
Charles II., in connection with her desertion by her husband--


        1.   "O waly, waly up the bank
                And waly, waly down the brae,
              And waly, waly yon burnside,
                Where I and my love wont to gae!
              I lean'd my back unto an aik,
                I thoucht it was a trusty tree;
              But first it bow'd, and syne it brak:
                Sae my true love did lichtly me.

        2.    O waly, waly, but love be bonnie
                A little time while it is new;
              But when it's auld, it waxes cauld,
                And fades away like morning dew.
              O wherefore should I busk my heid,
                Or wherefore should I kame my hair?
              For my true love has me forsook,
                And says he'll never love me mair.

        3.    Now Arthur's Seat shall be my bed,
                The sheets shall ne'er be pressed by me.
              St. Anton's Well shall be my drink
                Since my true love has forsaken me.
              Martinmas wind, when wilt thou blaw,
                And shake the green leaves aff the tree?
              O gentle death! when wilt thou come?
                For of my life I am wearie!

        4.    'Tis not the frost that freezes fell
                Nor blawing snaw's inclemencie;
              'Tis not sic cauld that makes me cry,
                But my love's heart's grown cauld to me.
              When we came in by Glasgow toun
                We were a comely sicht to see;
              My love was clad in the black velvet,
                And I mysel in cramasie.

        5.    But had I wist, before I kissed,
                That love had been sae ill to win,
              I'd lock'd my heart in a case of gold,
                And pinn'd it wi' a siller pin.
              O! oh! if my young babe were born,
                And set upon the nurse's knee.
              And I mysel were dead and gane,
                And the green grass growing over me!"


Fortunately, the associations of St. Anthony's Well have not all been
so sad as the above. Many a hopeful moment has been passed beside its
margin. A little girl from Aberdeenshire, when on a visit to friends
in Edinburgh, made trial of the sacred spring. She was cautioned not to
tell anyone what her wish was, else the charm would have no effect. On
her return home, however, her eagerness to know whether the wish had,
in the meantime, been fulfilled, quite overcame her ability to keep the
secret. Her first words were, "Has the pony come?" St. Anthony must
have been in good humour with the child, for he provided the pony,
thus evidently condoning the breach of silence in deference to her
youth. Surely there must be something in wishing-wells, after all,
besides water.



CHAPTER XIX.

MEANING OF MARVELS.

    Mystery of a Spring--Marvel and Magic--Misinterpretation of
    Natural Phenomena--Healing Power of Springs--Peterhead--Poetry and
    Superstition--MacCulloch--Mistake about a Tree--Strange Appearances
    of Nature--Spring at Kintail--Disappearance of Spring near
    Perth--Saints and Storms--St. Milburga--Water like Blood--Origin
    of Belief in Guardian Spirits--Why Gifts were Offered--Weather
    Charms--Coincidences--Prophecy of Water--Philosophy of Wishing
    Wells--Worship of Trees and Springs--Charm-Stones--Continued
    Reverence for Holy Wells--Conclusion.


Mr. J. M. Barrie is a true interpreter of the youthful mind when he
says, in the "Little Minister," "Children like to peer into wells
to see what the world is like at the other side." Grown-up people
are also alive to the mystery of a spring. "Look into its depth,"
observes Mr. E. H. Barker in his "Wayfaring in France," "until the
eye, getting reconciled to the darkness, catches the gleam of the
still water far below the ferns that hang from the gaping places in
the mossy wall, and you will find yourself spellbound by the great
enchantress, Nature, while understanding nothing of the mysterious
influence." In days of less enlightenment "the weight of all this
unintelligible world" was even more felt than now, and the minds
of men were ever on the outlook for the marvellous. What is to us
a source of not unpleasing mystery was then a cause of dread. We
marvel and make poetry. Our far-off ancestors trembled and sought
refuge in magical rites. We still speak of the charms of nature,
but the phrase has to us an altered meaning. When we remember how
little science there was at one time, we need not be surprised that
the phenomena of the outer world were misinterpreted, and hence gave
rise to fallacies. This was markedly so in the case of springs. While
quenching thirst--a natural function to perform--they became endowed
with virtues of an exceptional character, and were esteemed as the
givers of health. Even amid the darkness of those distant days we
can detect a glimmering of light, for such ideas were not wholly
false. Erroneous ideas seldom are. Springs have indeed a health-giving
power. Whether or not we accept the full-blown doctrines of modern
hydropathy, we must allow that cold water is an excellent tonic. As an
acute writer has remarked, "Cold braces the nerves and muscles, and,
by strengthening the glands, promotes secretion and circulation, the
two grand ministers of health." Allusion has been made to the mineral
waters of Peterhead. The secret of their power is well described by
Cordiner in his "Antiquities and Scenery of the North of Scotland,"
where he says:--"A mineral well in the summer months gives great
gaiety to the place; its salutary virtues have been long, I believe,
justly celebrated. The salt-water baths adjoining are much frequented
in nervous disorders: their effect in strengthening the constitution
is often surprising. Owing to the open peninsulated situation, the air
of this place is esteemed peculiarly pure and healthful; even the fogs
rising from the sea are thought to be medicinal; the town is therefore
much enlivened by the concourse of company who frequent it on these
accounts. Without derogating anything from the merits of the baths and
mineral, one may reasonably conclude that the custom of walking several
hours before breakfast, and meeting the morning breezes from the sea
along these cool and refreshing shores, the probability of meeting
with choice of companions as an inducement to these early rambles,
the perpetual cheerfulness indulged by society entirely disengaged
from business and care, and their various inventions to chase away
languor, probably contribute no less to the health of the company
than the peculiar virtues of the healing spring."

Truth can commonly be found underlying superstition. The power,
possessed by certain aspects of external nature to soothe the troubles
of the mind, is one of the commonplaces of modern poetry. This thought,
when rendered into folklore, becomes the idea that certain spots
are "places of safety from supernatural visitants." Such was the
belief connected with Our Lady's Well, at Threshfield, near Linton,
in Craven, Yorkshire. Whoever took refuge there was free from the
power of magical spells. When sailing among the sea-lochs of Lewis,
MacCulloch had an experience which he thus describes in his "Western
Islands":--"On one occasion the water was like a mirror, but black
as jet, from its depth and from the shadow of the high cliffs which
overhung it. The tide, flowing with the rapidity of a torrent, glided
past without a ripple to indicate its movement, while the sail aloft
was filled by a breeze that did not reach the surface. There was a
death-like silence while the boat shot along under the dark rocks like
an arrow; to a poetical imagination it might have appeared under a
supernatural influence: like the bark of Dante, angel-borne." If such
were the reflections of an educated man like MacCulloch, what must
have been the thoughts of our ignorant forefathers when confronted
by the ever-recurring marvels of the outer world! Nature is still
misinterpreted by credulous people through a lack of knowledge of her
laws. A good example of this, bearing, not, however, on water, but on
tree-worship, is given by Dr. J. Fergusson, in his "Tree and Serpent
Worship." A god was said to have appeared in a certain date-palm
in a village a few miles from Tessore, and the tree was promptly
adorned by the Brahmins with garlands and offerings. Dr. Fergusson
observes:--"On my inquiring how the god manifested his presence,
I was informed that, soon after the sun rose in the morning, the
tree raised its head to welcome him, and bowed it down again when he
departed. As this was a miracle easily tested, I returned at noon and
found it was so. After a little study and investigation, the mystery
did not seem difficult of explanation. The tree had originally grown
across the principal pathway through the village, but at last hung
so low that, in order to enable people to pass under it, it had been
turned aside and fastened parallel to the road. In the operation the
bundle of fibres which composed the root had become twisted like the
strands of a rope. When the morning sun struck on the upper surface
of them, they contracted in drying, and hence a tendency to untwist,
which raised the head of the tree. With the evening dews they relaxed,
and the head of the tree declined."

In the chapter on "Some Wonderful Wells," we glanced at the mysterious
origin of certain springs. In ancient times, no less than in the
present, strange sights must have been witnessed. We have not a
monopoly of thunderstorms, earthquakes, landslips, or deluges of
rain. The same phenomena prevailed in early times. The difference is,
that we have science to keep them in their proper place. During the
heavy rains of January 1892, a spring near the house of Rurach, at
Kintail, in Ross-shire, suddenly burst its bounds and became a raging
torrent. Usually the surplus water from the spring flowed away in the
form of a trickling stream, but on the occasion in question it rushed
on with such force and volume that it scooped out a channel twenty
feet deep and forty feet broad. The event not unnaturally caused a
good deal of wonder in the neighbourhood. Had it happened several
centuries earlier, some malignant water-spirit would doubtless have
been reckoned the active agent. During the operations connected
with the formation of the railway tunnel through Moncrieff Hill,
close to Perth, the water of a certain spring in the neighbourhood
suddenly failed. It happened that a clergyman, whose manse stood not
far from the spring, sent, when in the extremity of illness, for a
draught of its water. It was his last draught. He died immediately
after; and at the same time, the spring dried up. The coincidence did
not pass without remark in the district, but whether or not it gave
rise to a superstition we do not know. In the dark ages it certainly
would have done so. In the annals of hagiology, the early saints were
associated in a special way with water. They had, for instance, the
power of allaying storms. St. Nicholas, the patron saint of sailors,
exercised this power more than once. Adamnan records the same miracle
in connection with Columba, abbot of Iona; and Cainneck, abbot of
Aghaboe. According to a Shropshire legend, Milburga, when followed by
a certain prince, was saved from her unwelcome pursuer by the river
Corve rising in flood after she had crossed.

The superstition that water, under certain circumstances, assumed
the hue of blood, as in the case of St. Tredwell's Loch in Orkney,
&c., claims special attention. We call this belief a superstition,
inasmuch as a special miracle was thought to be involved in the matter;
but we nowadays know, that such appearances show themselves without
any miracle at all, except the constant miracle without which there
would be no natural law. Modern bacteriology has proved the existence
of a certain microscopic plant, technically styled Hæmatococcus
Pluvialis and popularly known in Germany as Blutalge. In "Notes and
Queries" for 12th March, 1892, Dr. G. H. F. Nuttall of Baltimore,
observes:--"In Central Europe it has been found in pools formed
by the rain in rocky hollows and stone troughs, &c. Hæmatococcus
often becomes intimately mixed with the pollen of conifers and
minute particles of plants which are known to be carried hundreds of
miles by occasional currents of air. The rain drops in the heavens
condense about such minute particles, and in falling, carry them
down to the earth's surface, where, under proper conditions, these
little plants multiply with enormous rapidity." Dr. Nuttall adds,
"Besides the Hæmatococcus Pluvialis, we have a Bacterium which
has often deceived people into the belief that they were dealing
with bona-fide blood. This Bacterium is easily cultivated in the
laboratory. It is one of the so-called chromogenic or colour-producing
Bacteria, and bears the name Bacillus Prodigiosus, on account of its
exceedingly rapid growth. This very minute plant has undoubtedly been
the cause of terror among superstitious people. The organism will only
produce its colour in the presence of oxygen, and, as a consequence,
red spots appear only on the surface of the moist nutrient medium on
which it may fall." Undoubtedly some such explanation would account
for certain red spots, alluded to by Mr. Hunt, which appeared from
time to time on the stones in the churchyard of the Cornish parish
of St. Denis. According to the belief of the district, the spots were
marks of blood, and their appearance foretold the occurrence of some
untoward event in English history.

We have spoken of the guardian spirits of lochs and springs. That such
spirits should have been thought to exist is not surprising. Since
water is one of the necessaries of life for man and beast, animals
had to frequent pools and rivers. What more natural than that, in
days of ignorance, these animals should have been regarded as in some
mysterious way connected with the spots they frequented. In the same
way, fish darting about in the water would be considered its indwelling
spirits. It may not seem to us at all needful, that lochs and springs
should have guardian spirits at all. But man, in a certain stage of
development, thinks of nature, organic and inorganic alike, as having
a life akin to his own, with powers superior to his own. From a belief
in guardian spirits, to a belief in the necessity of offering gifts
to them is an easy transition. A present is sometimes an expression
of good-will, sometimes of a desire to obtain benefits to the
giver. Offerings at lochs and springs were undoubtedly of the latter
class, and were intended either to avert evil or to procure good.

In ancient times in India, when a dragon presided over a spring, the
people of the district were in the habit of invoking his aid, when
they wanted rain or fine weather. Certain ceremonies were necessary to
procure the boon. "The chief characteristic of the serpents throughout
the East in all ages," remarks Dr. Fergusson, "seems to have been
their power over the wind and the rain, which they exert for either
good or evil as their disposition prompts." As we have seen, certain
wells in our own land could control the weather. This was so, even
when the guardian spirit of the spring assumed no definite shape. The
rites required to obtain the desired object were nothing less than an
acknowledgment of the spirit's existence. The origin of the connection
between weather and wells can only be guessed at. It appears that
the splashing of a spring when an object was thrown into it, or the
sprinkling of the water over the neighbouring ground, was thought
to cause rain, through what may be called a dramatic representation
of a shower. Why this should have been so, cannot be determined
with certainty. Probably accidental acts of the kind described were
followed, in some instances, by a fall of rain, and the belief may
have sprung up that between the two there existed the relation of cause
and effect. There was thus a confusion between what logicians call the
post hoc and the propter hoc. The same explanation may perhaps account
for the belief that a favourable breeze could be obtained, as in the
case of the Gigha Well, by the performance of certain definite rites.

Few circumstances in life have more power to arrest attention
than coincidences. Two events occur about the same time, and we
exclaim, "What a singular coincidence!" that is, if we are not of
a superstitious temperament. If we are, we talk mysteriously about
omens and such like direful topics. To some minds, an omen has a
peculiar fascination. It lifts them above the level of their ordinary
daily life. The postman rings the bell, and letters are handed in. A
message boy is seen at the door, and a parcel is delivered. These,
and many more such, are incidents of frequent occurrence. They are
reckoned commonplace. We know all about them. But let anything unusual
happen, anything that stirs the sense of awe within us, we, at least
some of us, instantly conclude that there is magic in the matter. An
unprepossessing old woman takes a look at a child when passing. The
child ceases to thrive. There are whispers about "the evil eye." Yes,
there is no doubt about it. The child must have been bewitched. Is
it not probable that the prophetic power ascribed to wells may be
accounted for on this principle? Certain appearances were observed,
and certain events followed. Water gushed freely from a spring, when
drawn for the use of an invalid. The invalid recovered. Of course
he did, for the omen was favourable. As in private, so in public
matters. Pools of water were observed to have something peculiar about
them. Some crisis in the history of our nation soon succeeded. What
sensible person could fail to discern a connection between the two
sets of circumstances? So men, even some wise ones, have argued.

Wishing-wells, from their very nature, have a special claim on
popular credulity. When a desire is eagerly cherished, we leave no
stone unturned to bring about its fulfilment. There is something, be
it what it may, that we eagerly covet. How are we to get it? In the
stir and pressure of our day's work, we do not see any avenue leading
to the fulfilment of our wish. In the quiet morning or evening, when
the birds are singing overhead, we go alone to some woodland well,
and there, by the margin, gather our thoughts together. One particular
thought lies close to our heart, and on it we fix our attention. In
the still moments, while we listen to the bubbling spring, our mind
lights on a clew, and our thoughts follow it into the future. We
brace ourselves up for following it in reality. We see how our design
may be accomplished. We take the road that has been revealed to our
inward eye, and finally reach the goal of our desire. How does this
come about? We may have stooped over the spring, and with certain
accompanying rites, have breathed our wish. We return to our daily
work with the desire still lying close to our heart. Days, or weeks,
or months pass, and at last, behold, what we were so anxious for,
is ours! The charm has been successful. Of course it has. But what
of the impulse towards definite action that came to us, when we
were free from the touch of our ordinary troubles, and quiet-voiced
Nature was our teacher and our own soul our prophet? At any rate,
we went to the wishing well, and the boon we sought we can now call
our own. The question remains, are all desires granted, either through
visits to wishing-wells or in any other way? The experiences of life
give a definite answer in the negative. How then are believers in
the power of wishing-wells to account for such failures? The rites
were duly attended to, yet there was no result. Why was the charm
not effectual? Any sincere answer to the question ought to be an
acknowledgment of ignorance.

In thus attempting to explain the philosophy of wishing-wells, we
do not imply that the subjective element is the secret of success
in every case. We are merely pointing out that it may be so in some
cases. In other cases, according to the principle mentioned above,
an explanation will be supplied by the theory of coincidences. When
trees and springs were alike reckoned divinities, it was natural
enough to conclude, that any tree, overshadowing a spring, was somehow
mysteriously connected with it. Belief in such mysterious relations
continued, as we have seen, even after tree-worship ceased as a
popular cult. Certain superstitions, still in vogue in the west,
are undoubtedly relics of tree-worship. In India and some other
Eastern lands, the cult still nourishes vigorously. A writer in the
"Cornhill Magazine" for November, 1872, remarks:--"The contrast between
the acknowledged hatred of trees as a rule by the Bygas (an important
tribe in Central India), and their deep veneration for certain others
in particular, is very curious. I have seen the hillsides swept clear
of forests for miles, with but here and there a solitary tree left
standing. These remain now the objects of the deepest veneration;
so far from being injured, they are carefully preserved, and receive
offerings of food, clothes, and flowers, from the passing Bygas,
who firmly believe that tree to be the home of a spirit."

We need not linger over the consideration of charm-stones in their
connection with wells. In some instances, like that of the Lee Penny,
they gave efficacy to water as a healing agent; but in others,
as in the case of the Loch Torridon Spring, water gave efficacy to
them. Indeed, they acted and reacted on each other in such a way that,
in some instances, it is difficult to determine whether the talisman
brought healing virtue to the water, or vice versa. To find the
solution of the problem, we should have to carry our thoughts back
to the remote days when stones and wells had a life of their own,
and were thus qualified to act independently.

One can understand why holy wells retained their popularity. Even
though they did not always effect a cure, people continued to believe
in them and to seek their aid. Consecrated springs might throw cold
water (metaphorically) on many a cherished hope; but, for all that,
they remained, as of old, objects of reverence. The secret of their
power lay in their appeal to the imagination. Understanding might
say, it is absurd to expect that my ailment can be removed in this
way; but imagination protested that there are more things in heaven
and earth than are dreamed of in my philosophy. The rites to be gone
through--the choice of the fitting season, the keeping of silence, the
leaving of a gift--all conduced to throw a halo of romance around the
practice. There was thus an appeal to the unknown and mysterious, that
gave to well-worship a strange charm. It stirred up any latent poetry
in a man's nature, and linked him to something beyond himself. Springs
have a double charm. They are interesting for their own sake, and for
the sake of the folklore that has gathered round them. They are "like
roses, beautiful in themselves, that add to their own perfection the
exquisite loveliness of a mossy dell." In conclusion, take away what is
distinctively mediæval in well-worship, and paganism is left. We find
this paganism entering like a wedge into the substance of a Christian
civilisation. It may have changed its colour, but it is paganism
notwithstanding. Well-worship has a definite value as a survival. It
serves to unite our own age of science with one in the far past, when
laws of nature, as we understand them, were unknown. As a cult it has
forsaken the busy haunts of men, but lingers still in quiet places,
especially among the mountains. Superstitions die hard. The epitaph
of this one has still to be written. Those who are waiting for its
last breath need not be surprised if they have to wait yet a while.





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