Ceilidh Culture Comeback

Along with recent initiatives to redevelop the Gaelic language there have also been efforts made to revive Scotland’s ceilidh culture. As Gaelic-speaking began to diminish in certain areas so too did the music and traditions of the inhabitants. Today, more people seem to have a renewed interest in Scotland’s ceilidh culture and old forms of entertainment and social interaction seem to be making a comeback.

Ceilidh Dancing. Courtesy of gstatic.com

Ceilidh culture doesn’t just refer to traditional set dancing and bag-pipe playing but refers to the festival culture of the entire Gaelic community. Continue reading

The Development of the Gaelic Community in Scotland

Gaelic, it is sad to say, remains a minor language in Scotland today. There was a time when those living in Gaelic regions in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland would have spoken no English but it is not the case now. The majority of folk in Gaelic-speaking regions are bilingual and more often than not would use English in a professional and official capacity, limiting their use of Gaelic to personal relationships. Even in places like the Isle of Skye and the Hebrides, where the majority of the population would be Gaelic speakers, English is also spoken. In 2005 it was estimated that there were 70,000 native Gaelic speakers in Scotland, mainly in the north-west of the country. Hopefully that number has risen in the last 6 years but it is nothing compared to what the numbers were in the past. How did the Gaelic community come to be so small in the first place? Continue reading

The Black Dog-emissary of the Devil

“The Black Dog’s day will come yet”. This is an English translation of a Gaelic saying. In Scottish folklore, dogs were often seen as messengers of the Devil or sometimes even the Devil himself, particularly if they were dark in colour. Some folk believed that black dogs were witches in temporary disguise while others felt they were ghosts of the departed. Fans of Harry Potter will remember Fluffy,  the three-headed dog who guarded the trapdoor to  the Philospher’s Stone. Similar roles were assigned to dogs in folk tales as guardians of underground treasure. There is another theory, however, that black dogs were souls of the condemned, forced to take that form as punishment for their crimes.

Black Dogs as ghosts. Courtesy of medbherenn.com

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The Re-enactment of Nechtansmere

Folktales are rife with reports of people seeing ghostly figures, particularly in certain areas. Something which is not uncommon is experiencing a ghostly encounter at the site of previous battlefields. There have been

Site of Battle of Nechtansmere. Courtesy of thecourier.co.uk

reports of such incidents occurring across the UK, including at the site of the battle of Edgehill in 1642 in England and the battle of Culloden in Scotland. The story related here recounts the experience of one woman who had a vision of the aftermath of the Battle of Nechtansmere.  Continue reading

Bauchans

There are several stories of these mythical creatures in Scottish folklore. Bauchans were ambiguous creatures as they could be helpful to people at times though for the most part they were fiercely dangerous.

One bauchan could be found in Lochaber. Courtesy of ulsterbustours.com

There is no clear description as to what bauchans actually looked like. According to some sources they were similar to brownies in appearance- small, hairy, with iron teeth. Others claim that they were fearsome monsters, gigantic in size. Exploring the legends of these creatures is the best way of determining what they were like. Here is one tale of a particularly gruesome bauchan who resided in the Highlands. Continue reading

Bean-nighe (Washer Woman)

Bean-nighe washing shroud. Courtesy of http://www.batcow.co.uk

The name bean-nighe or “washer woman” seems harmless enough but this was one woman no one wanted to meet. A cousin of the banshee in Irish folktales, this creature heralded death. Banshees would scream before a person was about to die. More often than not these people heard the wail and died of fright. In Scotland, similar creatures known as caoineags (‘weepers’) wailed before catastrophe. These beings were usually associated with particular clans in Scotland. For example, members of the MacDonald clan heard their caoineag wailing the night before the Massacre of Glencoe. They heeded her warning and hid, thus surviving the slaughter. Continue reading