The Old Corpse Road Folklore Collective
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The Wild Hunt was a folk myth prevalent in former times across Northern, Western and Central Europe. The fundamental premise in all instances is the same: a phantasmal group of huntsmen with the accoutrements of hunting, horses, hounds, etc., in mad pursuit across the skies or along the ground, or just above it. It is often a way to explain thunderstorms.
The Torness Trows - an eyewitness account
This account was written in response to an article on trows published in a Scottish magazine in the 1960s. It came from an Englishman who had spent nearly two years on the island of Hoy during the Second World War:
"One stormy day in winter I was walking or struggling along the cliff top at Torness. The wind was high and howled about, low-lying, swirling clouds part-enveloped the land in misty rain. At times the pressure was so great that I was forced to bend and clutch at the heather to retain a footing.
Giraldus Cambrensis in ITINERARIUM CAMBRIAE, the account of his journey through Wales in 1188, gives a remarkable narrative of a boy's visit to Fairyland. It contains so mush information in so short a space that it deserves to be included in full. It is one of the best of the early fairy anecdotes:
" Some time ago I heard about a priest called Elidor, who had had a strange event, when he was a boy. 12-years old Elidor, who wanted to avoid his severe teachers hard discipline and beating, that continued on an on, ran away one day, and hide in river´s cliff. He had been there for 2 days, when 2 dwarf´s size men came to him and said:
" If you want to come with us, we´ll take you into a kingdom, wich is full of joy and fun." Elidor consented the men´s suggestion and left with them.
A version of the story of the Fairy Widower, which appears in Robert Hunt's, Popular Romances of the West of England, pages 120-126. It is very closely allied to 'Jenny Permuen', also to be found in Hunt. 'Cherry of Zennor' is a curious story, and throws a number of side-lights on fairy beliefs. Sometimes one is tempted to believe that the story had a naturalistic foundation, and that it is an unsophisticated girl's interpretation of a human experience. On the other hand, it gives one quite a picture of the real traditions of underground Fairyland, such as that which was entered by True Thomas.
Jamieson's Northern Antiquities gives the story of the most famous of the Crodh Mara, the cow bred by the visit of a water-bull and of the farmer too mean for gratitude.
The elf-bull is small, compared with earthly bulls, of a mousecolour; Mosted [crop-eared], with short corky horns; short in the legs; long, round, and slamp [supple] in the body, like a wild animal; with short, sleek, and glittering hair, like an otter; and supernaturally active and strong. They most frequently appear near the banks of rivers; eat much green corn in the night-time; and are only to be got rid of by certain spells .
A widow and her little boy lived in a cottage near Rothley, Northumberland. One Winters night the child was very lively and would not go to bed as he wished to sit up for a while longer, "for," said he, "I am not sleepy." The mother finding remonstrance in vain, at last told him that if he sat up by himself the faries would most certainly come and take him away.
There are many tales to explain the origin of the spectral wild hunt, this one is from the Parish of St Germans in Cornwall. It explains how a priest with low morals became a demon huntsman.
In the medieval period the priest of the parish of St Germans was called Dando. Dando was not a figure of priestly virtue but abused his powers to enjoy earthly delights.
When Lanty M'Clusky married he set about building a house for his bride, and chose for it's site a beautiful green circle such as the faeries might choose as a playground. Although he was warned against this he thought the place was much too nice and he had no intention of building elsewhere no matter what the faeries thought of it.
A Story from Celtic sources
As retold by Beth Vaughan
The King, Sir Orfeo, could play the harp like no one else. When he played, birds stopped singing, just to listen. It was a small harp, one he could tuck under his arm and take with him wherever wanted.
Late one night, so the story goes, a great doctor, who lived near Lough Neagh, was awoke by the sound of a carriage driving up to his door, followed by a loud ring. Hastily throwing on his clothes, the doctor ran down, when he saw a little sprite of a page standing at the carriage door, and a grand gentleman inside.
"Oh, doctor, make haste and come with me," exclaimed the gentleman. "Lose no time, for a great lady has been taken ill, and she will have no one to attend her but you. So come along with me at once in the carriage."
Tomnahurich is a steep wooded hill just on the outskirts of Inverness. It is said to be a fairy hill into which people could be lured often never to return. This tale of two fiddlers recounts the story of just such an unfortunate pair…
The two travelling Fiddlers were staying in Inverness and they made their living by playing in pubs or at social events. They were very good at what they did but had been having a hard time making ends meet, when they were approached by an old man who offered to pay them well for a nights work. Naturally delighted the two fiddlers accepted and followed the old man to Tomnahurich, coming to a stone doorway that they had never seen before, which appeared to lead directly into the side of the hill. A little worried but thinking of what they would earn the two fiddlers followed the old man through the doorway and down winding, torch lit, passages, arriving in a huge and beautiful hall filled with young, beautiful people.