Feral Words

Author blog of William A. Young; journeys through the mythology of the northern fringes of Europe

The Last Temple of the Celts

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The Druids Bringing in the Mistletoe, by Edward Atkinson Hornel & George Henry

The west of Europe used to be full of Celtic temples. In every settlement, every holy grove, every mountain top and ring of stones that held any import for the peoples of old there would have been some structure marked out as holy, a place to connect the people to the spirits who lived alongside of them. There were statues of gold and idols of stone, rings of trees wreathed with cloth, wells encircled by the swirling patterns of the art called La Tene. A vivid, distinct and technically accomplished culture did as all such cultures have done; piled up in its holiest of holies the greatest achievements of its civilisation, to honour the gods that it worshipped.

The afterglow of their achievements still hangs on the horizon. The illuminated gospels of Ireland, the giant carved stones of the Picts and the mythic tales of the Welsh all carry within them a multiplicity of relics of that older ideology; the triskel wheels recalling cup-and-ring marks that coil round Latin letters; the enigmatic Pictish symbols that adorn the stones; the lingering legends of an otherworld that have no roots in Christian thought, all bear the mark of that which went before.

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Such things, however, are echoes only. The twilight hangs in the sky, but the sun itself has set, long ago. The temples have been torn down, and churches erected on their ruins. The holy groves have been felled, and the forests that housed them have faded into memory. The high stones sit abandoned on empty hillsides; the legends of those who raised them are distorted into fairytales that now only half make sense. The allusions to holy mysteries that were concealed in those legends are now reduced to jarring incongruities; obscure components of narratives that serve simply to confuse, now that the key to their code has been lost.

New religions and new ideas flowed up from the south and the east and, one by one, the fires in the temples died. The flickering constellation of the lights of the dreamworld slowly died away, stars blinking out one by one, to leave behind a blank and empty night.

All that remains are ruins. Dead places; archaeological digs and tourist attractions, museum pieces and quaint abstractions of something that has undeniably ended. Something that belongs to the pages of history, and has no real place in the modern age.

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Except…

It is not quite so, not just yet.

There is one place where the old world never ended – one place only. One place where a shrine remains that houses the idols of the old gods. A temple that has never fallen; idols that have never been cast down.

One remnant, one survival.

One boulder on the floodplain.

One pine on the mountain.

One snow-patch in the corrie.

One branch on the tideline.

One star in the twilight sky.

One glimmer in the dark.

One, and one only; a place that is, truly, the last temple of the Celts.

Let me show you the path to Glen Cailliche…

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We stepped off the train at the little settlement of Bridge of Orchy. My companion for the journey was to be, once again, Hanne T. Fisker, a Danish photographer who’s been good enough to come along on this developing project. Her facility with images far exceeds my own limited talents; those photos we’re saving though, so on this post you’ll have to make do with mine. I hope they manage to bring out something of the spirit of the place…

Bridge of Orchy lies on the southern fringes of the great plateau called Rannoch Moor, deep in the Grampian mountains of Scotland. Only one road and one railway track cut across this region; the high mountainsides and deep bogs hereabouts are inimical to the works of man, and do not easily permit passage. The road was driven along the western fringes of the Moor by the British Army in the aftermath of the Jacobite rebellion of 1745, when a tribal horde had spilled out of the Highlands and made it halfway to London before being obliged to return home to harvest the autumn oats. So horrified was the British establishment by this last, unexpected eruption of a barbarian army into civilised Europe that they imposed upon the Highlands the policy of military occupation and ethnic cleansing that was to become infamous as the Highland Clearances. The road across Rannoch Moor carried the armies of the south into the Highlands; the bridge at Bridge of Orchy carries that road over the tumultuous river which drains the south of the Moor.

All around us, mountains rose up. The peaks that fringe Bridge of Orchy are already higher than any in England or Ireland; within a few miles rise more that are higher than any in Wales too. These are high lands indeed; but the valleys that run between them cut deep, down to just a few hundred metres above sea level. The difference in elevation is part of what gives the place its sense of drama; great, bleak slopes soaring upwards from a base where spring was commencing, to culminate in heights where the grip of winter had still to loosen. Snow blazed upon the summits, a crown of white framed by a shining sky.

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This winter past, storms have owned Scotland. Unusual weather patterns sent powerful winds billowing across the Atlantic, pouring immense waves onto the western shores and emptying a deluge of rain across the mountains. Bridges have everywhere been swept away; paths that had been easily passable in summer now require you to wade through icy torrents of snowmelt. The season had not been easy.

On our arrival, however, the weather chose to break. The skies stilled, and the clouds parted. Sunlight poured across the land, illuminating the barren mountainscape in a fashion it had not done for months on end. It was so fortuitous as to be absurd; after all that had gone before, it felt a little as if the mountains were welcoming us in.

From the station we hiked southwards, following the course of an abandoned section of the old Military Road. A few miles on, we turned east, ascending up the valley called, in Scots, Glen Auch. In the more poetic Gaelic it goes by the name Gleann Achadh-Innis Chaileinn; “the valley of Colin’s patch of pasture”. We passed under the soaring viaduct of the West Highland line; a grand monument to the engineering works of the Victorian era. For the creation of this route through the wilds of the west, its creators had paid a heavy price; driving the lines across the bogs of Rannoch Moor exposed the builders to the hazards of deep mire and the periodic overflows known as bog-bursts, and a great many were killed. Those who died were sucked down into the morass of peat, where their bones still remain – the Moor exacts a heavy toll for passage.

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The viaduct was to be the last substantial trace of modern civilisation we were to see for some time. Ascending Glen Auch, human habitation vanished. The region is pasture for sheep and deer, and poor pasture at that; scant herds roam across the fenceless hills, subsisting on low, wiry grass and the leaves of shrubs. Scattered here and there are a few tiny patches of trees; a memory of a time when a forest clothed this landscape, cut down long ago to feed the appetites of industry.

At the top of the Glen we reached a fork in the road. Here there sit a series of low hillocks on the base of the valley, called drumlins; these are deposits of soil that built up beneath the glaciers that once filled the valley. It was the winter that shaped this glen and, indeed, the entire country; the long, hard winter of the Ice Age that gripped the land for millenia before humans first arrived, whose icy hammer blows battered the rocks of the mountains into the stark shapes they now hold.

One of these little hillocks, close by the ascending track, bears the name of Sithean. We paused here for a brief while, to drink cold streamwater, eat a little, and restore our strength.

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The presence of the sithean marks the first component of the sacred character of the landscape. Sidhe is the name given in the Gaelic languages to the spirits that inhabit the Celtic otherworld; there are places in the landscape where they are supposed to dwell, mounds and mountains that were believed to house subterranean settlements of the world’s other inhabitants. Such places are called Sithean. In Ireland they are generally identified with the great burial mounds of the neolithic and the bronze age; in Scotland they are more often natural features, prominent outcroppings of rock and mound-like hills. There are two set by the fringes of Glen Cailliche, at the places where each of the tracks leading into it commence; sentry points for the interior, garrisons of invisible guardians observing those who would pass by. This was the westernmost of the pair.

We rested briefly, soaking up the sunlight and looking out over the valley. We then set out, uphill, heading for the pass that leads to Glen Cailliche.

Hanne forged ahead, caught up in the drama of the place; her own inner world of dream aligning very easily with this dreamworld of a place. I tramped along more slowly after her. As I do this kind of thing with a greater regularity, I had taken it upon myself to transport most of the supplies. A week’s worth of food and assorted cold weather gear formed a heavy burden on my shoulders, and the uphill trek into the pass bore down heavily on legs that had spent too much of the winter resting. For all that, though, the ascent was still wonderful. It’s hard to really suffer when in the presence of beauty.

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Soon, we reached the snows. The pass reaches 650 metres at its summit; at this time of year, this far north, more than high enough to lie firmly within the grip of the winter. Hanne slowed so we would not become separated in these more hazardous conditions, and we began to make our way carefully through the white world.

Before too long, the track we had been following vanished entirely, and we found ourselves walking across broad slopes of pristine snowfield. Initially the going was hard; with the weight on my back, my every step sunk deep into the snow, and I found myself wading through a mire of clinging cold that crept into the gaps in my waterproofs and chilled my legs thoroughly. As we moved higher, though, the surface formed a thicker, more heavily frozen crust, and after a while I found it sufficiently strong to bear my weight.

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The stillness on the snowfields is profound. Nothing can live up here under these conditions; all the food there is to be found is buried deep beneath the white blanket. The only wildlife present is passing through, itinerant travellers like ourselves; ravens soaring from valley to valley; a set of light tracks betokening the passage of a fox. The air is pure and crisp to inhale, stripped of scent yet filled with the sensation of winter nonetheless, as it breathes the metallic lifelessness of the ice into the body. No wind tormented us; the air hung still and chill around us, permitting the silence to blossom without the interruption of the whistling songs of the breeze.

We walked on through this empty world for some time, slowly cresting the summit of the pass and beginning the descent down, into Glen Cailliche itself. The valley that opened out ahead of us was far whiter than the one we had left behind; ringed by high mountains, Glen Cailliche is sheltered from the light of the low winter sun, and so the frost lingers here late. It formed an island of winter amidst the rising tide of spring flooding up the nearby valleys; a place where the spirit of the cold season remained strong and unyielding. Seeing it so, I began to grasp a little of how it had gained its name.

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Glen Cailliche is named after a goddess; the Cailleach herself, a Gaelic word meaning the old woman or, less kindly, the Hag. She is known also by the name of Beira, a word that in origin may mean the sharp or jagged one.

The Cailleach is, in the Highland tradition, the queen of the winter and the ruler of the wild places. She is described as a hideous old woman with one eye, whose skin is blue from the cold, and who wears a great hooded cloak wrapped around her body. She is the archetype of the witch; the potent, female magical force that lies beyond the edge of civilisation, drawing its power from capricious heathen energies. The deer are considered to be her cattle; down into recent centuries it was the custom of hunters to offer her a portion of the venison they caught in exchange for her assistance on future forays. She dwells on the summits of certain particularly high mountains, where the winter never really ends; Ben Nevis, Cruachan, Beinn a’Bhric near Corrour and Beinn na Cailleach on the isle of Skye are among the mountains most associated with her. She is the leader of a coven of nine other hags, who together drive the storms of the winter. They ride out from the mountains on giant black goats, coursing through the air on the tops of black clouds; when the weather turns fierce and cold, it is because of their passage.

By tradition, it was she who shaped the landscape of Scotland. She is armed with a hammer the blows of which bring the frost, sucking the heat from the world. With this weapon she beat out the shape of the mountains, and carved out the valleys. The great boulders that lie scattered on the landscape are stones that fell from her basket as she worked. She is also the mother of the giants of Highland legend, many of whom seem to represent later rescensions of old pagan gods. As such, she may well have been considered at one time both creator of the world and the mother to the gods; and, insofar as many of the old Celtic genealogies show men descending, ultimately, from gods, she may be the grandmother to us all. She was on all these counts figure of tremendous importance in the mythology of the Celtic Highlands. It is this significance that may explain why so many traditions of her have persisted, where the memory of the other gods has faded away; down to the 19th century, there were still reports of people encountering the Cailleach in the Highlands, in much the same way the ancient Greeks would encounter the Olympian gods. As the central figure of the old pantheon, her memory was the strongest; the hottest of fires take the longest to fade.

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In the figure of the Cailleach, we may be encountering an aspect of the Mother Goddess who was once worshipped widely across Europe and beyond. In the Celtic pantheons, the gods are named as descendants of a mysterious female figure, named Danaan in Gaelic and Don in Welsh; it is tempting to see in the Cailleach the shadow of this figure, who managed to retain a greater significance in the traditions of Scotland than she did in those of Ireland or Wales. Whether this identification may be true or no, what is certain is that the Cailleach was the dominant deity of the late paganism of the north; and that her importance once extended far beyond the Highland line. In the lowlands of Scotland she was described as the Carlin, Nicniven (“daughter of Ben Nevis”), or Queen of Elfhame; whatever the name, she was always the ruler of the heathen spirits who inhabited the otherworld. Carlin placenames extend beyond Scotland; in northern England they are found also, alongside legends of similar hags. In the Scottish lowlands, her worship was suppressed during the witch-craze of the 16th century; in the confessions extracted at that time, tales of encounters with the Queen of Elfhame are just as common as are those of encounters with the Devil. The punishment meted out to those who encountered her at that time consisted of burning; in the face of such persecution, her prominence swiftly faded. In the Highlands, however, her worship lingered on.

Standing on the heights, looking down into that white-gripped valley, it was easy to see it as the dwelling place of the witch-queen of the winter. The mountains sealed it off perfectly from the outside world, keeping out any hint of the modern lands that lay beyond. The primordial wilderness had not ended here; the Cailleach’s rule still extended over the place, preserving it as a sanctuary. Within, all was stillness and snow.

It is a strange coincidence, that mythology should ascribe to the spirit of winter the task of shaping the landscape of Scotland – for we now know that this was actually, in a way, the case. It was the ice that shaped Scotland; the forces of the winter of the Ice Age that carved out the mountains, and scattered the boulders over the plains. It raises the hint of a question, as to just how old is the memory of the Cailleach? Is it fair even to call her by a name as recent as Celtic, or does her worship in fact extend so far back into the stone age that it bears the imprint of older peoples; of the hunters who watched the last glaciers fade from the corries, chasing down deer in the shadows of ice-bound mountains? People who would have seen how ice shifted on the rock, and how a glacier receding leaves a boulder-strewn valley carved out behind it? There is no way to know, so coincidence it must remain…

We walked down into the valley in the fading light of early evening, carefully navigating our way across the snowfields to avoid plunging into watercourses concealed below the surface. As the blue of the sky deepened towards black, an eerie illumination shone through the valley; the remaining light reflecting up from the snow in a tone of faint, faded blue. We strode on, drawing ever-closer to our destination.

In the last of the light we reached it. Here, the snow had faded sufficiently for there to be clear ground upon which to pitch our tent. We set up camp swiftly, and arranged our winter sleeping bags. As the sky darkened the temperature dropped at a swift rate; a hard frost descended on the grass outside, chilling the breath that spilled like mist from our lips. Hanne swiftly ensconced herself in her layers of protection; a double-layer of two sleeping bags, the enclosing bulk of which left her resembling some form of very snug blonde caterpillar. A thorough appreciation of the importance of warmth may be one consequence of coming from a cold country – strangely, however, this is a lesson us Scots seem to have failed to learn. I went for a little walk…

Outside in the night, my feet crunched through the brittle frozen grass, and across patches of snow. Below me, I could hear the gurgling of water in a stream swiftly icing over. Apart from that, there was no other sound at all. No animal calls broke the night silence, no hum of distant roads; or passing airplanes; stillness. I made my way over to a little structure that stood perhaps 50 metres from the tent, and looked at it for a little while in the night. Then, I lifted my gaze to the heavens.

Above the valley where had camped, directly to the north, rises the mountain of Beann a’ Chreachain. The name means “mountain of the rocks”; in daylight it’s easy to see why, for its slopes are far stonier and more rugged than the great smooth expanses of the hillsides we had earlier passed. Just now, however, none of this was visible. The mountain appeared as nothing more than a great pyramidal silhouette jutting into the night sky, visible more as an absence of stars than a shape in its own right. It was those stars that really commanded the attention.

The island of Britain is a place with a lot of streetlights. Anywhere near civilisation, you will never catch a clear glimpse of the night sky because of the sheer volume of light pollution. Out in the hills this isn’t a problem; but in the warmer months, because of the northerly latitude at which Scotland lies, the daylight lingers exceedingly late in the night sky, obscuring the fainter glow of the stars. Factor in the considerable cloud cover we experience, and the opportunities to get a clear view of the night sky in its full glory are singularly rare.

So, when nights like this one happen, it makes us appreciate them all the more. There was not a cloud anywhere overhead to obscure the show. The cold had stripped the moisture from the air, leaving it clear and crisp; and we were far enough from civilisation that no lights were able to intrude. Directly over the peak of Beinn a’ Chreachain the Milky Way commenced, roiling across the sky overhead like a river of light pouring across the heavens. Around it stars blossomed in numbers as great as any I have ever seen. Every single little patch of sky seemed covered in a thousand tiny pin-pricks of light, twinkling in a moving tapestry overhead. A shooting star coursed past. I stood there a long time, turning slowly in the darkness. There are nights that stay with you. This was one.

***

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When morning broke, we awoke into the Ice Age. Overnight, the temperatures had plummeted to well below minus ten. A thin layer of frost had accumulated on the interior of the tent and on the surface of our sleeping bags. The water bottle appeared to have a small glacier forming in it. With some difficulty, I extricated myself from the warm insulation of my sleeping bag, swiftly enswathed myself in every layer of cold-weather clothing I’d brought with me, and ventured out into the morning.

The clean light of the dawn filled the valley, illuminating the white world all around us. The sunlight itself had yet to reach the floor of the glen, which was still enfolded by the shadows of the mountains. Above us, however, the summit of Ben a’ Chreachain reared high above the rim of the surrounding range. The sun’s beams spilled over it, and it blazed like a spear of light thrusting into the heavens.

Now was the time to visit that which we had come here to see.

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My feet carried me over the crunching grass once again, to the little structure that lay just uphill of our tent. I walked around it, observing its shape clearly now, where the night before it had lain wreathed in shadows. Then I sat down before it, to give it my full attention.

It is called the Tigh nam-Bodach; “The House of the Old Man”. It is also known by the name Tigh na Cailliche. There is no real distinction between the two names; both figures reside here, housed within the little structure.

The Tigh nam Bodach is a shrine, pure and simple. It is a low structure, standing to chest height, roofed in turf. It’s walls are composed of drystone. At the front, a doorway is visible, surmounted by a lintel of wood; this portal was blocked up by stones, neatly arranged to form a solid drystone wall.

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At first glance, the structure appears simple, basic; a barbarous thing of little refinement. With closer attention, however, details start to emerge – details that reveal an aesthetic in its composition, a method of constructing beauty that is, though alien to our normal conceptions, still nevertheless capable of summoning a response from the recesses of the soul.

Simplicity is the key to the Tigh nam Bodach. All the component parts have been assembled from the valley region; it is formed, literally, of the stones of the glen. The rocks that have been selected for its construction are not uniform; rather, there are a range of colours and textures involved, that turn the construction from a simple exercise in drystone walling into a mosaic formed of the varied colours of the earth. Bright crystalline chunks of quartz are stacked between blocks of blue granite, slabs of purple-red sandstone and chunks of rock of an orange hue. Atop the structure, further rocks have been placed upon the roof in a decorative pattern; again, the pieces chosen exhibit a range of colours and tones. At the rear of the roof sits a particularly large block of quartz crystal, glittering white in the morning light like a chunk of glacial ice fated never to melt.

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For all its simplicity, the Tigh nam Bodach captures perfectly the spirit of the valley. It assembles the notes, tones and component parts of the place into a centrepiece, a symbol;  shrine to the essence of the valley that is entirely a part of the landscape from which it came and which it honours.

It could have been constructed in the Stone Age. In reality the physical structure  isfar more recent; the local people have always maintained it, and continue to do so to this day. They do so, however, in a simple fashion, one in tune with the landscape and tradition. There are no parts of the structure that make use of metal; no evidence of the decorative arts of later civilisation to interfere with the expression of a spirituality that feels almost Mesolithic in its depth. This is how all sacred places were once, before the nets of a wider social system brought exotic materials to decorate them and trained artisans to civilise their shape. No such wider society exists, however, to adorn the Tigh nam Bodach; there are no longer any pagan craftsmen to honour the Cailleach, no priesthood to commission statuary or pay for coloured cloths to swaddle it. Deprived of a wider culture to sustain it, the spirit of the pagan religion has here returned to the wild, cold places that gave it birth, and clad itself in the matter of its origin.

I shuffle close to the doorway, and press my face in against the stones. The drystone structure is entirely without mortar; between the rocks, little gaps are present through which it is possible – just – to gaze into the shadows of the interior…

Within, wreathed in an old darkness, are the idols of the gods. They stand at varied heights, the largest rising to the height of a human thigh. They are chunks of riverine sandstone, eroded by the force of passing water into shapes that strangely evoke the human form. A head sits atop a slender neck; a bulbous base alludes to the form of a body. No human craft went into their construction; they are entirely the creation of the landscape, nature shaping with its own forces the forms and suggestions of the image of man. There were once twelve; now their numbers are reduced to seven. Each has a name; the two largest are the Bodach and the Cailleach, the Old Man and the Old Woman, with the smaller ones representing their children. The third largest of the stones is also female; she is called Nighean, the daughter.

There are two rituals performed at the Tigh nam Bodach; one at Beltane, the Celtic festival marking the commencement of the summer, and one at Samhainn, the day when winter starts. They are carried out solely by a small number of local people. There are no pilgrims; no fanfare, no grand ceremonial panoply. What happens is, simply, that on Beltane the door is opened up and the idols placed in the daylight outside of the shrine, while at Samhainn they are returned to the interior and the house walled up once again. The participation of outsiders is not encouraged; it is an experience shared between the landscape and the people who inhabit it alone.

The purpose of the ritual is little discussed. It summons, in the most general terms, good fortune; influencing the weather and invoking the spirit world’s assistance in making the year a good one. The participants are not eager to speak of the ceremonies; understandably, given the scepticism toward such practices traditionally exhibited by the Protestant clergy who dominated the region for centuries. Instead, there are passing references and brief, vague descriptions; the shadowy traces of something that has never been fully shared.

The fullest account that remains to us was recorded by Dr Anne Ross in her book “Folklore of the Scottish Highlands”, originally published in 1993. Dr Ross records an oral tradition conveyed to her by the shepherd at that time responsible for carrying out the rituals associated with the shrine. The story he conveyed to her was this;

“Briefly, the fragments of her cult legend which have survived orally tell of an event which happened ‘many years ago’ when, in an unusually fierce snowstorm, an unnaturally large man and woman were seen coming down the mountain-side of the upper glen. They asked the people who were still settled there for hospitality and shelter. These were willingly given to them. This pleased the supernatural pair well and they took up residence in the glen when the inhabitants had built a thatched house large enough to accomodate them.

“The woman was pregnant and in due course gave birth to a daughter. The weather was always favourable when they dwelt there. The stock flourished and the crops were always of the best. Then one day the time came when they must go. Before doing so, they promised that as long as they were remembered and their house kept in order, and everything done as they themselves had done it, they would bring it about that winters would be mild, the summers warm, and peace and prosperity would always be with the people who had been so generous to them. In memory of this event of long ago a small shrine in the form of a house was constructed and every May Day the three stones representing the three deities would be taken out of the house and placed facing down the glen. There they remained until the house was re-thatched and made warm and comfortable for the winter and they were returned to the miniature house on the eve of the 1st November, Hallowe’en. When the upper glen was flooded and the people moved away, it became the shepherd’s duty to continue this ritual and this was faithfully carried out. It was thought that with the death of Bob Bissett the end of this archaic custom had come. It is therefore extremely heartening news to learn that the new shepherd has every intention of carrying out the ritual as it has been handed down for no-one knows how long and it now seems to be assured, from local enthusiasm in Killin, that the tradition will survive for many years to come.”

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We spent a long time that morning sitting near the shrine and walking around its immediate environs. We watched the light of the sun slowly creep down the rocky face of the mountain, to eventually flow over the floor of the valley and bathe the Tigh nam Bodach in a blaze of gold. We saw elaborate formations of ice crystals corruscating in the stream. We watched the shifting of water beneath the ice-wall of a frozen waterfall. We found the knotted remains of the roots of the forest-trees that once stood here, clawing at the sky from out of the dark peat. Great antlers of wood they were, rearing up from the memory of the forest past into the clear, crystalline air of Glen Cailliche.

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Our luck with the weather was extraordinary. The contrast between these days and the winter that had gone before was absolute; days as sunlit, bright and perfect as this are rare enough in the Highlands, and to find them in the midst of the winter of storms of 2016 was a stroke of fortune almost beyond belief. Hanne’s photos, when they are ready, will be stunning; even my own amateurish efforts posted here are not half bad. For the considerable blessings we’d been given we were suitably grateful; before we departed, I left a few oatcakes for the Cailleach, by way of a salute and a thank you. If it should be that she found them, I hope that she found them fitting.

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After a long, slow, lingering breakfast by the edge of the ice-rimmed stream, we gathered up our gear and set off out down the valley. We had, in truth, found everything that we had hoped from the journey, and a little more. Had that been the end we’d have been as happy as could be; yet, as it turned out, Glen Cailliche had one final parting gift for us, before we moved on with the rest of our journey.

As we descended the glen we joined a track running around the head of Loch Lyon. This would carry us back down to Bridge of Orchy by a slightly different route to that on which we’d come. Heading along the path to the lochside, it became apparent to us that we were to receive one last inordinate stroke of fortune; the scene that unfolded before us came straight out of a dream.

We reached a promontory over the loch, and paused there. Ahead of us stretched away the mountains that fringe Glen Lyon, the longest of the glens of Scotland. Snow lay thickly on their summits, bright in the sun of a clear blue sky. Between them, the loch stretched off into the distance. No wind disturbed its surface, no ripples broke its peace; it lay before us as a perfect, flat mirror, reflecting back in every detail the shapes that soared above it. A dual world stretched out ahead of us; a world above and a world below identical in every detail, shining the image of a wild mountainscape into the deep places of our memories where it will linger forever.

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The Celts believed the water was a gateway to the otherworld, using it as a portal to send offerings to the spirits. On that day, it was easy to see why, easy to understand how an entire other land, the mirror of this one, could be believed to lie beneath the bright face of the waters. Illusion or vision or feat of the imagination, whatever it may be; that morning we saw the mountains of the otherworld shining up out of the deep

By the side of the road, on the route out of the valley overlooking the loch, there sits a stone. It is unusual in shape; a bulbous, abstract base from which arises a long neck, surmounted by a head. It resembles almost perfectly the stone idols that sit in the darkness of the Tigh nam Bodach. In the house there are seven stones, where once there were twelve. Looking at this stone, standing sentinel over the path, it is perhaps possible to guess what happened to one of them. It’s presence here is too perfect, its positioning too neat to feel like coincidence. We nodded to it in passing, then made our way on; leaving it behind at the edge of that wild old world; the lonely idol of a forgotten god, contemplating the other world that lies behind the mirror.

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***

There is a postscript to this story. If you have enjoyed the tale of the Tigh Nam Bodach, I’d encourage you to remember the name – for the place may one day need you to recall it. A few years ago, the Auch estate’s owners put in place plans to build a miniature hydro-electric scheme in Glen Cailliche. There were protests at the time from the locals, and a little attention garnered in the Scottish media; but the plans themselves were approved, and would have gone ahead. Fortune alone intervened, albeit in a singularly unfortunate form; though only 50, the estate owner experienced health problems and was unable to continue, eventually withdrawing the application just a week before he died.

The local people say that a curse will fall on any who try to disturb the glen; that the Cailleach will guard over her holy place. Well, this may be so; but it is a singular fact that none of the thousands of other such holy places that once covered the Celtic world were successfully protected by the spirits that called each of them home. One by one, all fell; all were reconsecrated, torn down, or abandoned.

This is the last; the only one. There are no other structures housing statues of the old gods that are still honoured anywhere in the Celtic world. Whether you believe in such things on any level or not, the Tigh nam Bodach still represents the last survival of a vital piece of our own ancient heritage. It is a window into the primordial past of our peoples, into the minds of our ancestors and the wellsprings of our culture. It must be preserved. It is not impossible that the plans to develop Glen Cailliche will be resurrected in the future; if this should be so, it is imperative that as many people as possible should raise their voices to prevent it from happening. In my own opinion, the best solution would be to take the Auch estate into public ownership, ensuring that the valley may survive as a monument to the past; a shrine to the wild and the spirits that watch over it.

It was remoteness and secrecy that preserved the Tigh nam Bodach for all these years. Remoteness and secrecy are now, however, no longer sufficient shelter. The tide of civilisation is creeping higher and higher up the mountains, and their wall is not high enough to keep it out forever. Spread the message; of its purpose, its importance, and the threats that may face it. It is time for the secret of Glen Cailliche to be shared, and the memory of the Cailleach to be re-awoken; for this most ancient of deities to be accorded her proper place at the heart of our heritage, and a sanctuary for her memory established. If this post helps a little in securing that end, then the fortune we experienced in the course of our journey will have been paid for in full. This was our part of the story; when the time comes, if you can, please take the chance to play yours too.

One candle burns in the winter night. Don’t let it flicker out, not just yet.

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© William Young and Feral Words, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to William Young and Feral Words with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

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86 comments on “The Last Temple of the Celts

  1. Sue Vincent
    March 13, 2016

    Thank you, William, for taking me to somewhere I will never see. Your postscript brought me to tears too.

    Liked by 4 people

    • williamayoung
      March 13, 2016

      That’s exceedingly kind; I’m really pleased you enjoyed it. The place deserves protection, so please do remember it. It’s something really special that has a lot to give yet…

      Liked by 2 people

      • Sue Vincent
        March 13, 2016

        I won’t forget, such places are close to my heart, even though I may not reach such far flung locations, I still hold the stones and those who raised them in respect. I hope you won’t mind if I share this one day this week.

        Liked by 2 people

      • williamayoung
        March 13, 2016

        Not in the slightest; I’d be very pleased if you did.

        Like

      • Sue Vincent
        March 13, 2016

        Thank you, William. It will go out on Wednesday morning. I’ve just been looking up the shrine and seen the stones from within. That they are so beautiful and yet remain is simply incredible. May Cailleach continue to keep them safe.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Hanne T. Fisker
    March 13, 2016

    Reblogged this on Hanne T. Fisker and commented:
    I’ve been absent from my blog for a while, for good reason. This piece by William A. Young explains my absence in quite a detailed form. We are working on an intriguing project, since September last year, which takes me for the first time to the highlands of Scotland and to worlds beyond the eye (not for the first time). I’m doing my utmost to capture not only the scenery but also the feel of the places enveloped in myths and legends which we wander through following ancient footsteps. In this piece, all the photographs are by William, saving mine for future publications in magazines (except for maybe a few) and perhaps, one day a book… Here’s our recent journey, I hope you’ll enjoy a glimpse into this other world.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Beauty Along the Road
    March 13, 2016

    What a harsh yet magical journey. It is amazing to still be able to witness a monument to the religion of the ancient peoples.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. lynww
    March 14, 2016

    Exceptional, beautiful post, William! How completely amazing that this shrine still exists. May it be protected forever. As you know I am serving in the Lady in another way right now, making a film with a theme from the Mabinogion set in the Brecon Beacon area of Wales. I think we are part of the same upswell. Blessing times three on this work!

    Like

  5. D. Wallace Peach
    March 14, 2016

    It kills me that such rich cultural heritage was destroyed along with its knowledge. Thanks for the visit to Tigh nam-Bodach. A beautiful, reverent and mystical journey.

    Liked by 2 people

    • williamayoung
      March 14, 2016

      Thanks 🙂 The place is a vital piece in the puzzle when it comes to understanding the old Celtic culture, and I’m glad to have been able to share its story.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Karma Norjin Lhamo
    March 14, 2016

    This is fabulous–I felt as if I were THERE. And yes, please, I hope this place can be preserved. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • williamayoung
      March 14, 2016

      I’m glad you liked it. I sometimes have a little concern I make some of these posts too long, but I can’t help but try to pull people into the FEEL of a place. It takes a great many words to do.

      Like

  7. greenmackenzie
    March 14, 2016

    Beautifully written, you have captured the wild magic of the winter hills and their harsh mother💕There are wonderful magical places hidden in the fringes of Scotland’s wild remote shadows….I love this shrine…..and the others like it😊

    Liked by 3 people

  8. harrietsams
    March 14, 2016

    Hi William
    This is so beautifully written and it evokes your journey there so well. I wonder why the site hasn’t been made into an scheduled ancient monument? Is talk to Historic Scotland. This could afford it protection.

    Liked by 1 person

    • williamayoung
      March 14, 2016

      I suspect the reason is simply that it’s not sufficiently on anyone’s radar. That kind of protection would be a very good start; though they might have to bend the rules on treatment of the structure to permit the locals to continue periodically re-roofing it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • harrietsams
        March 14, 2016

        Yes, there may be a compromise, although it may be part of its enduring significance that it isn’t open and it inherently demands secrecy. Who knows what those in charge deem to be a worthy application!

        I’m very tempted to go and see it myself and have an overnight experience. Your words have stirred such a sense of wonder and adventure in me!

        Liked by 1 person

      • williamayoung
        March 14, 2016

        For me, sleeping in a place is one of the best places to get to know it. You get to see the sun go down and the morning rise, and all the shades of light and mood that each bring on. A few hours of an afternoon just doesn’t quite compare.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Makere
      March 18, 2016

      Please DONT talk to Historic Scotland. what they’ve done elsewhere is nothing short of sacrilege, in my view. It would become yet another tourist centre, with a great building and walls around it and films and re-enactments and other such.. No. That’s not the way that the sacred is protected, it’s the way it becomes profane.

      Liked by 1 person

      • williamayoung
        March 18, 2016

        🙂 The little fences and the plastic plaques… I do know what you mean. A lot of the preservation efforts conducted in our country don’t do that much to enhance the sites they protect. Even that, however, I would have to say is preferrable to it being bull-dozed, or disappearing under a small loch. Now if Historic Scotland could just be persuaded to finesse their approach…

        Like

  9. Michael Routledge
    March 14, 2016

    Thank you for this hauntingly beautiful poetic description of a prehistoric relationship to our sacred landscape. Possibly, hopefully, our future connection maybe a fragment of what you saw in your silent otherworldly mirror. I was trying to to be a poet…excuse me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • williamayoung
      March 14, 2016

      I thought you were doing very well 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed it.

      Like

  10. John Wright
    March 15, 2016

    This touched my heart. To know it there, the Bodach, the Cailleach, and the Bride still. I hope that the revealing does not open to this of our ancestry what others do to places like Stonehenge. Our people still go to the stones, and the wells, still know about the spirits of place and guardians of the land. May this shrine always be protected.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Jo Belasco, Esq.
    March 15, 2016

    Thank you so much for sharing your journey. What an amazing place, and one that needs to be preserved. So much sacredness and beauty. Thank you again!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Stasha Matteson
    March 15, 2016

    You have been blessed, William, with the ability to weave magic into your words and transport your reader. It was almost like you were describing something I did but my memory only remembered what each movement and experience felt like. I’ve lived 98% of my life in Arizona (we are a state directly above Mexico and to the east of the bottom half of California) which only really has two seasons. On average four or five months of the year it’s between 100°F and 120°+ then the rest of the year is between 75° and 95°F. For me to feel like I’ve experienced crawling out of a ice covered sleeping bag is encredible! Your writing is truly amazing!

    I believe you both were gifted the good fortune of your visit because Cailleach found the two of you would be respectable and worthy of her secrets, her people (the locals that tend to the temple), and her, for lack of a better word, cause. You are absolutely right that it’s time for the proper exposure because with that exposure comes protection.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Pingback: Into The Wild of Winter Still… | Hanne Thornfeldt Fisker

  14. jan
    March 15, 2016

    Thank you for this. It is incredibly evocative. I’ve come across this magical place in books, and articles; and you have brought it to life through your words and photographs. Just….thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. davina76
    March 15, 2016

    Thank you , William for this wonderful piece. Your writing style is truly transfixing and I feel I walked alongside you. I so wish I had been there to witness those stars on that night.
    Your story moved me in a way I was not expecting. Thank you.
    I am very grateful to have learned about this special place and I hope we can protect it.

    Like

  16. lexklein
    March 15, 2016

    How perfect that you two, with your yen for the past and the spiritual, were able to connect for this project. I can’t wait to see Hanne’s images, but your words and photos have already cast a spell on me. The mirror pond is a revelation; I stared at it for quite some time, as I did the stone idol. I wonder if I would have slept well or fitfully in that field? Either way, I’d gladly carry the week’s load on my own shoulders to experience it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • williamayoung
      March 15, 2016

      Thanks, Lexi. I really appreciate you saying so, and that you’ve kept an eye on this little site for so long now. In that little field, I slept very well indeed. I cannot swear that I woke thereafter, however, for that morning was never anything other than a dream. I’m pleased to able to pass a little of it on to you.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Nil
    March 16, 2016

    Long or not, I almost forgot to breathe while reading… Thanks so much for taking us along… And no, I will not forget – but certainly hope there won’t be any renewed attempts to destroy the last refuge of the Celtic spirits…

    Liked by 1 person

  18. thefirstdark
    March 16, 2016

    Reblogged this on The Darkness in the Light.

    Liked by 1 person

    • williamayoung
      March 16, 2016

      Glad you liked it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • thefirstdark
        March 16, 2016

        Really, really loved each one I reblogged-had to keep sharing your vision to the world!!! Please…keep it up, kind Sir 🙌

        Liked by 1 person

      • williamayoung
        March 16, 2016

        That’s very kind of you to say. I have not the slightest intention of stopping – in fact, I doubt I could if I tried! I look forward to seeing you back here again, before too long.

        Liked by 1 person

  19. Pingback: The Last Temple of the Celts by William Young | Daily Echo

  20. stevetanham
    March 16, 2016

    Reblogged this on stevetanham.

    Liked by 2 people

  21. ancientwisdomsite
    March 16, 2016

    I was totally mesmerized and carried off to that sacred site. This site must must be held as a religious temple and preserved for the ages to come. Thank you so very much for sharing and for caring to do so. Many blessings upon you both.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Donna
    March 16, 2016

    I have started researching my Scottish heritage and this takes me to magical places I have yet to know. Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

    • williamayoung
      March 16, 2016

      I’m glad you liked it – and by the sounds of it you’ll be finding quite a few more, in the fullness of time :-). If you don’t mind me asking, which surnames are you looking for? I may be able to point you in some interesting directions.

      Like

    • williamayoung
      March 29, 2016

      Waugh – marvellous! That’s a name betokening Brythonic ancestry. Have a read of my post Frostflowers to get an idea of what the Brython were about, and to see some of the broad region from which they may have come. I’m going to do a little digging on that one, when time becomes available…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Donna
        March 29, 2016

        Awesome will do that thanks

        Like

  23. Éilis Niamh
    March 16, 2016

    Reblogged this on The Sound of What Happens.

    Like

  24. Running Elk
    March 16, 2016

    Reblogged this on Shamanic Paths and commented:
    If you read nothing else this week, make space in your schedule for this wonderful (long) read from WIlliam Young. Stunning images, and beautiful words, which so eloquently capture the sense of space, spiritual energy, and tranquility which is my Summer stomping ground. So much so, that a Winter visit may well be in order… 🙂 Enjoy!

    Like

  25. Ali Isaac
    March 16, 2016

    A beautifully written piece with gorgeous images! But I don’t believe all the old places are dead. Some still have such great presence and atmosphere, regardless of how much they have returned to the earth. Thank you for sharing your journey with us, you were indeed blessed with the weather, and if the going was tough for a while, she was just testing you, finding out if you’re worthy. Sometimes I feel you have to earn the right to be there. Which you certainly did. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • williamayoung
      March 16, 2016

      You have a point. I think there is somewhere a language which is able to express properly the varied nuances of life, vitality, haunted ness and poignancy that inhabit such places – but it is not our own. Not yet, at least.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ali Isaac
        March 16, 2016

        Well if there was, or will be, for now we just have to make the best of what we have. And fortunately there are those among us who can say spectacular things with the language we have, limited as it might be. But it doesn’t have to be expressed through language; music, art, dance are all forms of expression which might capture the essence of these places better than words.

        Like

  26. Marilyn Armstrong
    March 17, 2016

    I wish you the best of luck. It is very hard to protect anything. Greedy developers and people who think “progress” is the only important thing are in control. Everywhere.

    Like

  27. Patrick Archambeau
    March 17, 2016

    A beautifully written journey. Reading it made both my wife and I cry. You did a wonderful job at letting our souls shout out to us. Thank you for such an excellent portrait of such a sacred place. May it be preserved forever!

    Liked by 1 person

    • williamayoung
      March 17, 2016

      That really is quite a comment. I’m exceedingly glad the story meant something to you; and thank you for taking the time to read it. My best wishes go to you both.

      Like

  28. Rajah Speck
    March 18, 2016

    Thank you, I am glad.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Helen Jones
    March 18, 2016

    This is just so beautiful! And the flame does remain, even though so many of the old places lie dormant now. Every time someone like you tells the story, it fans the flame a little more. This green island of ours holds a lot of secrets still…

    Liked by 1 person

    • williamayoung
      March 18, 2016

      Thanks – and you’re right. I’m regularly surprised by the things I run into out there in the back of beyond. It feels a little like finding a string of pearls down the back of the sofa.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Helen Jones
        March 18, 2016

        Oh, that’s a great analogy! I bet you’ve seen some wonderful places, if this post is any indication 🙂

        Like

      • williamayoung
        March 19, 2016

        There have been one or two 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  30. Barbara Goodrich-Dunn
    March 19, 2016

    Thank you, thank you, for a wee peek into my heritage

    Like

  31. Owen Moynihan
    March 20, 2016

    Incredible doesn’t do this article justice. This place is awe inspiring. Any student of Gaelic, or more broadly Celtic, history will have been taught that Paganism all but died out by the close of the 7th century with only a few cultural traits and customs intermingling. This however, is an unbroken tradition. A physical shrine no less! Having dreamt, like so many others I imagine, off some far off tucked away glen where time hasn’t reached and the old gods linger, this has been astounding.

    If anyone has any leads as to how this place can be protected, please share. Again, thank you for writing, and sharing your experience and this place. Your words may inspire it’s preservation.

    Liked by 1 person

    • williamayoung
      March 20, 2016

      It’s a wonderful place, isn’t it. On helping to preserve it, the organisation entrusted with the protection of ancient monuments is Historic Scotland. They have the ability to grant particular monuments ‘scheduled’ status; though this wouldn’t preserve Glen Cailliche in its entirety. Writing to them can do no harm; drawing things to their attention helps move them along.

      The problem with this, though, is that the entire landscape of the glen is a part of what makes it special. were a series of dams and overhead cables to rise around the shrine, it would spell the end of the special atmosphere I encountered; though the shrine itself would still stand, its place as a shrine to the wild, in the wild, would be forever lost.

      In recent days, the Scottish government have brought in a Land Reform bill that gives communities new powers to take control of the land, along with changes to the tax regime removing certain exemptions applicable to the sporting estates. To what extent either of these eventualities might facilitate the purchase of the land by a trust or by the state, to allow it to be preserved I do not at this moment know with any exactitude – but such an eventuality is certainly more likely than it was a few days ago.

      The Glenlyon History Society drummed up some opposition to the developments when they were initially proposed. I’ll get in touch with them, and see where things stand now. Will let you know the outcome…

      Like

      • Owen Moynihan
        March 20, 2016

        Didn’t realize both comments posted. I will be writing to Historic Scotland however. I realize that it will not necessarily protect the entire area, but it an protect the site. I recently read that the entire estate was purchased in 2014. I’m not familiar with Scottish zoning laws, but I wonder if it would be possible to purchase the valley, and place it in trust.

        Liked by 1 person

      • williamayoung
        March 20, 2016

        That would be the ideal outcome. There are a number of glens and estates around Scotland that have already been acquired by various preservation trusts; this one would, in my opinion, be an ideal candidate.

        Like

  32. Owen Moynihan
    March 20, 2016

    I can’t thank you enough for writing this piece. Every student of Gaelic, and wider Celtic history should be floored to learn that one Pagan shrine survives to this day and has been tended to continuously. It’s nearly beyond belief. This has been a dream discovered to be true.

    If anyone has any leads as to how this site can be protected, please share.

    Like

    • williamayoung
      March 20, 2016

      On a related note, it’s a constant surprise to me just how much of the old pagan religion did survive down to recent times. Tigh nam Bodach is unique in being an actual temple-construction, but there were a great many other relics of the old beliefs that remained. A summary of the beliefs of highlanders on the spirit-world during the pre-Clearance period is provided in somewhat antique language by Robert Kirk, writing in the 17th century;

      “WE then (the more terrestriall kind have now so numerously planted all Countreys,) do labour for that abstruse People, as weill as for ourselves. Albeit, when severall Countreys were unhabitated by us, these had their easy Tillage above Ground, as we now. The Print of those Furrous do yet remaine to be seen on the Shoulders of very high Hills, which was done when the champayn Ground was Wood and Forrest.

      THEY remove to other Lodgings at the Beginning of each Quarter of the Year, so traversing till Doomsday, being imputent and [impotent of?] staying in one Place, and finding some Ease by so purning [Journeying] and changing Habitations. Their chamælion-lyke Bodies swim in the Air near the Earth with Bag and Bagadge; and at such revolution of Time, SEERS, or Men
      of the SECOND SIGHT… have very terrifying Encounters with them, even on High Ways; who therefoir uswally shune to travell abroad at these four Seasons of the Year, and thereby have made it a Custome to this Day among the Scottish-Irish to keep Church duely evry first Sunday of the Quarter to sene or hallow themselves, their Corns and Cattell, from the Shots and Stealth of these wandring Tribes; and many of these superstitious People will not be seen in Church againe till the nixt Quarter begin, as if no Duty were to be learned or done by them, but all the Use of Worship and Sermons were to save them from these Arrows that fly in the Dark.”

      Like

      • Owen Moynihan
        March 20, 2016

        I’m sure to this day the area seems like the edge of the world compared to the Central Belt to the south.

        Like

  33. clanmother1961
    March 20, 2016

    The ancient mother lives in my heart. Thank you for taking me to her home. Beautiful x

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Lanark
    April 5, 2016

    Tigh nam Bodach was completely rebuilt in 2012. Before that there were bits of old pallet and stuff holding it together and the structure had pretty much collapsed. A drystane dyker fae Crieff did the work you saw. And a fabulous job he has made of it too. The house isn’t really the important thing… it is only a shelter for the family. Locals used to thatch it and re-roof it in years gone by. It has always been tended to, adapted and rebuilt over time. The important thing is to bring the family out for Beltane and tuck them away safely for Samhain.

    http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/local-news/tigh-nam-bodach-stones-glen-2729865#r6EyVAl0JYYFcB5s.97

    The site of Tigh nam Bodach is a scheduled ancient monument and is protected by Historic Scotland. It has been for donkey’s years. Here is its Royal Commision on Ancient and Historic Monuments entry.

    https://canmore.org.uk/site/23898/tigh-nam-bodach

    There is another shrine but it has no “old man” “old woman” or “family” to bring in and out. It does have an unbelievable carving/ rock art figure though. In fact there are a few such places I know of.

    Like

    • williamayoung
      April 6, 2016

      Do you know, it actually isn’t a scheduled monument. There’s a service you can access from Historic Scotland called PastMap that will allow you to check this. The Canmore site is a database of all the archaeological sites in Scotland, intended to be as comprehensive as possible, and doesn’t exclusively cover scheduled monuments. As surprising as it may sound, the Tigh nam Bodach currently enjoys very few protections.

      Like

  35. Lanark
    April 6, 2016

    Truly… nothing has much protection any more. Both RCAHMS and Historic Scotland were themselves consumed by “Historic Environment Scotland” at the end of last year… While Tigh nam Bodach’s Canmore and (the former) Royal Commision on Ancient and Historic Monuments listing doesn’t offer the same protection as say Edinburgh Castle’s scheduling… Tigh nam Bodach is highlighted in Perth and Kinross’s 2015 updated policy directive on “Special Landscape Areas” which controls planning applications etc. So we can all breathe a little easier on that score… (..errr..). While it ain’t the same as an HES scheduling (that’s unlikelty to happen to a shrine that is only four years old) it does place Tigh nam Bodach’s protection and guardianship into much more of a local context than a distant national one.

    Love the photo of the “stray family member” looking down the loch BTW. I found another smaller “stray family member” by the Allt Cailliche (the wee burn which flows by the site). There he abideth.

    Like

    • williamayoung
      April 16, 2016

      I do wonder about these riverine stones. There are two big ones on columns by Fortingall church that look awfully similar. Was the one you spied by Allt Cailliache upstream or downstream of the Tigh?

      On the potential for scheduling, I do believe there are grounds for hope. The Historic Environment Policy document gives a long breakdown of what it is that makes a monument eligible for scheduling. What it doesn’t require is for a site to have had no alterations at all for any particular period of time.

      Now, the repairs the locals carried out four years ago were extensive, yes. Does this invalidate the shrine? I would contest that it doesn’t; and I’d strongly suggest that anyone who would like to see the shrine protected further should be arguing along similar lines. The old practise was for the shrine to be re-roofed every year, so repairs are a part of the tradition. The stones within the shrine are in every way original (the most important element, perhaps?); and the presence of a shrine in that place, with the preserved body of custom attached to it, is inarguably an ancient and special thing. To say all that is over-ruled by the most recent bit of drystone work done on the exterior is, I fervently hope, misguided. If it’s not, then the tradition of looking after the place will have been what ends up bringing it low; the degree of respect in which its held having left it in a worse position than many abandoned, overgrown mounds of grass scattered around the country. I certainly hope it will not prove to be so!

      Like

  36. mshelga
    April 17, 2016

    I loved reading this! A few years ago, November of 2012, I started writing a novel about Scottish lore, then got side-tracked by my dad dying. He was a Highland bagpiper and my connection to our Scottish roots. Then, in Autumn of 2015 I started writing and researching and am in awe of all I’ve discovered, including learning about Cailleach Bheara who will be in my 3rd novel of the series. I’ve finished the first and working on the second now, following the seasons of one year in a girls’ life as she discovers her connection to ancient Scottish lore as her family heritage. At the very least it has been fun for me to learn, and hopefully my books will turn out to be worth reading and I will be doing my small part of keeping Celtic “myth” alive. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • williamayoung
      April 17, 2016

      I’m really glad you enjoyed it. If you’d like to find some more connections to old legends, let me know which clan(s) you descend from, and I can perhaps provide you a few. There’s little more wonderful than when a story comes alive!

      Like

  37. Beloved's Child
    April 17, 2016

    Reblogged this on A Matter of Faith and commented:
    This is the last; the only one. There are no other structures housing statues of the old gods that are still honoured anywhere in the Celtic world. Whether you believe in such things on any level or not, the Tigh nam Bodach still represents the last survival of a vital piece of our own ancient heritage. It is a window into the primordial past of our peoples, into the minds of our ancestors and the wellsprings of our culture. It must be preserved. It is not impossible that the plans to develop Glen Cailliche will be resurrected in the future; if this should be so, it is imperative that as many people as possible should raise their voices to prevent it from happening. In my own opinion, the best solution would be to take the Auch estate into public ownership, ensuring that the valley may survive as a monument to the past; a shrine to the wild and the spirits that watch over it.”

    Liked by 1 person

  38. tikiwanderer
    April 19, 2016

    I am in awe of this place, and of how your words have brought the Cailleach alive in my mind here where I sit in a land that knows not snow or winter. Thank you for writing it. Thank you again.

    Liked by 1 person

  39. matthewrjames
    April 19, 2016

    Reblogged this on Nature is Sacred and commented:
    fascinating

    Like

  40. elfkat
    April 22, 2016
  41. Kate McClelland
    April 22, 2016

    Reblogged this on Kate McClelland.

    Like

  42. AlexNyeAuthor
    April 29, 2016

    Beautifully written piece – so evocative. Really enjoyed it!

    Liked by 1 person

  43. singinghead
    August 5, 2016

    Your post inspired me to visit the house myself. Thank you! This is what it was like when I visited in July. https://singinghead.wordpress.com/2016/08/05/the-house-of-the-old-man/

    Liked by 1 person

  44. History... Our Evolution
    October 7, 2016

    What an interesting article, thank you for posting it. Our past should be preserved…

    Like

  45. History... Our Evolution
    October 7, 2016

    Reblogged this on History… Our Evolution.

    Like

  46. gordimhor
    November 13, 2016

    great writing,so glad to read about tigh nam bodach and I live not too far away from it yet knew nothing about it

    Like

  47. gordimhor
    November 13, 2016

    Reblogged this on scotlandstill.

    Like

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This entry was posted on March 13, 2016 by in Celtica and tagged , , , , .

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