earth from a graveyard

The Gaelic otherworld is populated by many strange and fascinating creatures: fairies, banshees, witches and animals that are not, what they seem to be.

Higland Cattle

Peculiar to the Isle of Skye is the crodh sith, the fairy cattle, allegedly speckled and red (crodh breac ruadh), and able to cross the sea. These “magic cows” could only be found in special areas of the Isle of Skye.

Isle of Skye

One is the Field of Annat (Achdh-na h’Annaid) in The Braes south of Portree.

Scorrybreck, Portree

The other is Scorrybreck, north of Portree.

Cattle belonging to the fairy women can be recognised by the green strands of weed they have in they fleece because this was, where they lived, under the seaweed. They were of superior stock and it was desirable to keep them once they turned up. The only way to achieve that was to stop them returning by tossing earth from a graveyard between them and the sea. The earth was sacred and formed a barrier the fairy cattle could not overcome.

Thanks to a lump of graveyard ground, a farmer could keep the valuable cows he got for free. How practical, that there are remains of an old chapel and a few graves are still in Scorrybreck, right in the middle of a field.

earth disused graveyard

Has this earth once been used to enlarge the stock?

rusty farm equipment, Scorrybreck, Portree

source and further reading:

Ronald Black (ed.): The Gaelic Otherworld. John Georgson Campbell’s Superstitions of the Highlands & Islands of Scotland and Witchcraft & Second Sight in the Highlands & Islands. Edinburgh, Birlinn Origin; 2019

Graveyards of Scotland – lonely grave

Liked the read? Scotland for Quiet Moments is available on Amazon!

Cluanie Highlands

Scotland is a country full of history, stories and secrets. Often, the three cannot be separated. That is what makes this country so wonderful and unique. The stories of this book have been discovered and gathered for Erkenbach’s blog, Graveyards of Scotland, over many years. 

Her main sources were historical travel guides from the 18th and 19th centuries, where the finds were scary, beautiful, funny, and sometimes, cruel.This unusual approach to a country’s history has produced amazing results. You don’t have to share the author’s passion for cemeteries to enjoy this book; only a small number of the stories in this collection take place in graveyards, though they do all end in them, so perhaps it helps.

The fairy hill in Inverness, a nitrate murder on Shetland, a family of left-handers, wolves, Robert the Bruce and William Wallace shown in a new light, the secret bay of the writer Gavin Maxwell, a murdering poet and so many things you didn’t know about Scotland, its clans and its history.

Scotland for Quiet Moments is available as ebook and paperback on Amazon. 

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