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Keywords: altar, barrow, burial chamber, cairn, Celt, Celtic, chamber tomb, cremation, Denmark, dike, dolmen, Druid, Druidical, drystone, England, Frau Holle, German, Germanic, Germany, giant, grave, heathen, Hun, inhumation, legend, Logan stone, megalith, megalithic, menhir, monolith, monument, mound, myth, mythology, Norse, pagan, pictograph, rampart, rite, ritual, rune, runestone, picture stone, Scandinavia, Scotland, Sweden, standing stone, stone circle, superstition, tomb, tumulus, witch
The most stately monument of this sort [circles of detached stones] in Scotland, and probably inferior to none in England, excepting Stonehenge, is formed by what are called the Standing Stones of Stenhouse, in the island of Pomona in the Orkneys, where it can scarcely be supposed that Druids ever penetrated. At least, it is certain, that the common people now consider it as a Scandinavian monument; and, according to an ancient custom, a couple who are desirous to attach themselves by more than an ordinary vow of fidelity, join hands through the round hole which is in one of the stones. This they call the promise of Odin.
Being further asked what they meant by the promise of Odin, they put him in mind of the stone at Stenhouse, with the round hole in it; and added, that it was customary, when promises were made, for the contracting parties to join hands through this hole, and the promises so made were called the promises of Odin.
It was said that a child passed through the hole when young would never shake with palsy in old age. Up to the time of its destruction, it was customary to leave some offering on visiting the stone, such as a piece of bread, or cheese, or a rag, or even a stone.
The Odin stone, long the favorite trysting-place in summer twilights of Orkney lovers, was demolished in 1814 by a sacrilegious farmer, who used its material to assist him in the erection of a cowhouse. this misguided man was a Ferry-Louper (the name formerly given to strangers from the south), and his wanton destruction of the consecrated stone stirred so strongly the resentment of the peasantry in the district that various unsuccessful attempts were made to burn his house and holdings about his ears.
This meeting gave the young people an opportunity of seeing each other, which seldom failed in making four or five marriages every year; and to secure each other's love, till an opportunity of celebrating their nuptials, they had resource to the following solemn engagements:
The parties agreed stole from the rest of their companions, and went to the Temple of the Moon, where the woman, in presence of the man, fell down on her knees and prayed the god Wodden (for such was the name of the god they addressed upon this occasion) that he would enable her to perform all the promises and obligations she had and was to make to the young man present, after which they both went to the Temple of the Sun, where the man prayed in like manner before the woman, then they repaired from this to the stone [known as Wodden's or Odin's Stone], and the man being on one side and the woman on the other, they took hold of each other's right hand through the hole, and there swore to be constant and faithful to each other.
This ceremony was held so very sacred in those times that the person who dared to break the engagement made here was counted infamous, and excluded all society.
If Long Compton thou canst see,He was within a few yard of the spot whence that town could be observed, when his progress was stopped by the magician's transformation,--
King of England thou shalt be.
Sink down man, and rise up stone!The general was transformed into a large stone which stands on a spot from which Long Compton is not visible, but on ascending a slight rise close to it, the town is revealed to view.
King of England thou shalt be none.
Roger Gale, writing in 1719, says that whoever dared to contradict this story was regarded "as a most audacious freethinker."
It is said that no man could ever count these stones, and that a baker once attempted it by placing a penny loaf on each of them, but somehow or other he failed in counting his own bread.
A similar tale is related of Stonehenge.
Here is a tradition of a monolith on the farm of Achorrachin in Glenlivet. The farmer was building a steading, and took the stone as a lintel to a byre door. Disease fell upon the cattle, and most unearthly noises were heard during the night all round the steading. There was no peace for man or beast.
By the advice of a friend, the stone was taken from the wall and thrown into the river that ran past the farm. Still there was no peace. The stone was at last put into its old place in the middle of a field. Things then returned to their usual course.
The stone stands to the present day in the middle of the field, and in some of its crevices were seen, not many years ago, small pieces of mortar.
For anyone considering this marvel will mark that it is inconceivable how a mass, hardly at all or but with difficulty movable upon a level, could have been raised to so mighty a peak of so lofty a mountain by mere human effort, or by the ordinary exertion of human strength. But as to whether, after the deluge went forth, there existed giants who could do such deeds, or men endowed beyond others with bodily force, there is scant tradition to tell us.
But, as our countrymen assert, even today there are those who dwell in that rugged and inaccessible region to the north who, by the transformable nature of their bodies, are granted the power of being near or distant, and of appearing and vanishing in turn. The approach to this region, whose position and name are unknown, and which lacks all civilization, but teems with peoples of monstrous strangeness, is beset with perils of a fearful kind, and has seldom granted to those who attempted it an unscathed return.
South of Thorsby Church, among the mountains, lies a shattered rock called Gloshed's Altar, concerning which there is an old tradition still living upon the lips of the people, as follows:
A long time ago a man from the parish of Säfve went upon a Hollandish ship, on a whaling cruise. After the vessel had been tossed about the sea for some time, land was one day sighted, and upon the land was seen a fire which continued to burn many days.
It was determined that some of the ship's crew should go ashore, in the hope that shelter might be found, and among those who went ashore was our hero. When the strand was reached they found there an old man sitting by a fire of logs, endeavoring to warm himself.
"Where did you come from?" asked the old man.
"From Holland!" answered the sailors.
"But where were you born?" to our hero.
"In Hisingen, in the parish of Säfve," he answered.
"Are you acquainted in Thorsby?"
"Do you know where Ulfve Mountain lies?"
"I have often passed it, as the road from Göteborg to Marstrand over Hisingen and through Thorsby goes past there."
"Do the large stones and hills remain undisturbed?" asked the old man.
"Yes, except one stone, which, if I remember correctly, is toppling over," said the Hisinger.
"That is too bad!" But do you know where Gloshed's Altar is, and does it remain sound?"
"Upon that point," said the sailor, "I have no knowledge."
Finally the old man continued, "If you will say to those who now live in Thorsby and Torrebräcka that they shall not destroy the stones and elevations at the foot of Ulfve Mount, and, above all, to take care of Gloshed's Altar, you shall have fair winds for the rest of your voyage."
The Hisinger promised to deliver the message when he arrived home, whereupon he asked the old man his name, and how he, living so far from Thorsby, was so well acquainted with matters there.
"I'll tell you," said he. "My name is Thore Brock, and I at one time lived there, but was banished. All my relations are buried at Ulfve Mountain, and at Gloshed's Altar we were wont to do homage to our gods and to make our offerings."
Hereupon they separated.
When the man from Hisinger returned home he went about the fulfillment of his promise, and, without knowing how, he soon became one of the principal farmers in the parish.
The people of Wandelitz relate that in ancient times this stone lay on the other side of Lake Wandelitz. An enormous giant lived there, and in order to prove his strength he picked up the stone, pressed his five fingers into it -- leaving their imprint -- and then threw it across the lake.
About the origin of these stones it is related that at this place several hundred years ago a number of people gathered on Holy Whitsunday to carry out a naked dance.
As special punishment for their wicked behavior they were turned into stones. Thus the stones are called "the Adam's Dance," or "the Stone Dance." The fourteen stones in the circle were the male and female dancers. The two in the middle were the beer servers, and the two outside the circle were the musicians. One can still see violins on these latter ones.
They were completely preserved and enormously large. They measured between eleven and sixteen feet in length, and they all lay in a row. Between each one there was a jar filled with earth. When they began digging into the second grave they heard a great commotion beneath the earth, as though people were dancing and rattling bunches of keys. This so frightened them that they ceased their digging.
At Bosavern, in St. Just, is a somewhat similar flat stone; and the same story attaches to each.
It is to the effect that some Saxon Kings used the stone as a dining table. The number has been variously stated; some traditions fixing on three kings, others on seven. Hals is far more explicit; for, as he says, on the authority of the chronicle of Samuel Daniell; they were --
Ethelbert, 5th king of Kent;At a point where the four parishes of Zennor, Morvah, Gulval, and Madron meet, is a flat stone with a cross cut on it. The Saxon kings are also said to have dined on this.
Cissa, 2d king of the South Saxons;
Kingills, 6th king of the West Saxons;
Sebert, 3d king of the East Saxons;
Ethelfred, 7th king of the Northumbers;
Penda, 5th king of the Mercians;
Sigebert, 5th king of the East Angles, -- all who flourished about the year 600.
The only tradition which is known amongst the peasantry of Sennen is, that Prince Arthur and the Kings who aided him against the Danes, in the great battle fought near Vellan-Drucher, dined on the Table-mên, after which they defeated the Danes.
Not far from the Devil's Coit in St. Columb, on the edge of the Gossmoor, there is a large stone upon which are deeply impressed marks, which a little fancy may convert into the marks of four horseshoes. This is "King Arthur's Stone," and these marks were made by the horse upon which the British king rode when he resided at Castle Denis, and hunted on these moors. King Arthur's bed, and chair, and caves, are frequently to be met with.
The Giant's Coits, -- and many traditions of these will be found in the section devoted to the giant romances -- are probably monuments of the earliest types of rock mythology. Those of Arthur belong to the period when the Britons were so far advanced in civilization as to war under experienced rulers; and those which are appropriated by the devil are evidently instances of the influence of priestcraft [Roman Catholicism] on the minds of an impressible people.
A more sublime spot could not have been chosen by the Bardic priesthood for any ordeal connected with their worship; and even admitting that nature may have disposed the huge mass to wear away, so as to rest delicately poised on a pivot, it is highly probable that the wild worship of the untrained tribes, who had passed to those islands from the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, may have led them to believe that some superhuman power belonged to such a strangely balanced mass of rock.
Nothing can be more certain than that through all time, passing on from father to son, there has been a wild reverence of this mass of rock; and long after the days when the Druid ceased to be there is every reason for believing that the Christian priests, if they did not encourage, did not forbid, the use of this and similar rocks to be used as places of ordeal by the uneducated and superstitious people around.
Hence the mass of rock on which is poised the Logan Stone has ever been connected with the supernatural. To the south of the Logan Rock is a high peak of granite, towering above the other rocks; this is known as the Castle Peak.
No one can say for how long a period, but most certainly for ages, this peak has been the midnight rendezvous for witches. Many a man, and woman too, now sleeping quietly in the churchyard of St. Levan, would, had they the power, attest to have seen the witches flying into the Castle Peak on moonlight nights mounted on the stems of the ragwort (Senécio Jacobæa Linn.), and bringing with them the things necessary to make their charms potent and strong.
This place was long noted as the gathering place of the army of witches who took their departure for Wales, where they would luxuriate at the most favored seasons of the year upon the milk of the Welshmen's cows. From this peak many a struggling ship has been watched by a malignant crone, while she has been brewing the tempest to destroy it; and many a rejoicing chorus has been echoed, in horror, by the cliffs around, when the witches have been croaking their miserable delight over the perishing crews, as they have watched man, woman, and child drowning, whom they were presently to rob of the treasures they were bringing home from other lands.
Upon the rocks behind the Logan Rock it would appear that every kind of mischief which can befall man or beast was once brewed by the St. Levan witches.
The Norwegians once made a sudden descent from their ships on the lower end of Craignish. The inhabitants, taken by surprise, fled in terror to the upper end of the district, and halted not until they reached the Slugan (gorge) of Gleann-Domhuinn, or the Deep Glen.
There, however, they rallied under a brave young man, who threw himself at their head, and slew, either with a spear or an arrow, the leader of the invaders. This inspired the Craignish men with such courage that they soon drove back their disheartened enemies across Barbreck river. The latter, in retreating, carried off the body of their fallen leader, and buried it afterwards on a place on Barbreck farm, which is still called Dùnan-Amhlaidh, or Olav's Mound. The Craignish men also raised a stone at Slugan to mark the spot where Olav fell.