Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Dunadd Fort & the Fairies

"Turn we now to the other side, and observe that curiously conical hill sticking up alone in the centre of the Crinian moss. this, taking its name from the river which winds round its base, is called Dun-Add, and from time immemorial has been the favourite haunt of the witches and fairies of Glassrie." 
The above quote from Rusticus' 'The Royal Route' (1858) provides a wonderful introduction to this grand historic site, steeped in folklore, and once the capital of the ancient kingdom of Dalraida. I'll start with a fairy story from this text that I never would have found if it wasn't for the wonderful Modern Antiquarian Website, thank you Rhiannon for mentioning this story, wouldn't have found it without your post. Here goes the story....

"A farmer laird of Dun-Add was blessed with the second sight, and one night he lay in bed with the churn placed before the fire in the room, as was customary in order for the cream to be ready for the morning's operation. When suddently he noticed the fairies enter with a new born child which they had just stolen. On it they began to perform a mystic site to ready it for the transition to fairy land. The laird quietly observed, knowing he was safe as he had a steel blade of magical virtue laid under his pillow, and this was sure to protect him from "the mischief of these sometimes spiteful little creatures". Much to his surprise he saw that as the fairies could find no water in which to wash the child, they proceeded to do so in the cream in the churn! Time flew quickly by and in no time at all the cock crowed and off they hurriedly trooped, leaving behind in their rush a little bag containing their valuables. The laird was no fool, and quickly claimed these for his own.

In the morning the "good lady and her domestics" thought the laird mad when he asked that the contents of the churn be emptied outdoors, but they were far more forgiving when they saw the dogs that lapped up the cream fall dead, and the laird told them of the strange events of the night before.

It is said that the fairies never returned to claim their lost property, but the author tells that the articles may be in existence still. They consisted of a little stone spade (similiar to the stone arrowheads known as elf shot), a little stone pot for making fairy porridge, some stone balls, and other items. It is said that each of these "was possessed of different virtues". "The spade was laid beneath the pillow of a sick person, and by the subsequent appearance or non-appearance of perspiration the recovery or death of the invalid was to be discovered. The round balls were to be immersed in a pail of water which afterwards was given as a drink to cattle, who thereby were cured of any disease that might have befallen them" and the other articles had powers too but Rusticus admits that he has forgotten these if he ever knew them.
Rusticus also mentions that the well near the crest of the hill "rose and fell with the sea tide", and speaks of the curious rock footprint that can be found on the summit. For those interested in the history of the fort and curious about the footprint, Ogham script, and boar carving, I recommend heading over to the Modern Antiquarian website or Mysterious Britain website.

Up we walked, navigating the rocky paths and spirals of the hill. If the fairies do live here, then they have certainly selected a most worthy palace...
 A curious cup in a rock, a fairies porridge bowl?
I couldn't resist trying the footprint on for size, a perfect fit!
Ogham script and boar carving below. According to the RCAHMS website the original stone is now covered with an artificial stone facsimile to protect the original beneath, not that you'd know for looking, they've done a wonderful job....
Sources & Further Information
The Royal Route, Rusticus
Dunadd (Sacred Hill), Modern Antiquarian
Dunadd, Mysterious Britain Website
Dunadd, RCAHMS
Dunadd Panorama, Stone Circles in Angus and Perthshire


Larry MacDougall said...

Fabulous ! This post and the previous one. Terrific photographs.

The Faery Folklorist said...

Thanks Larry! Big fan of your enchanting artwork :)

Christa Thompson said...

Great story, Love this, thank you for sharing. Really into this stuff. We should chat some time, very relative to my Brand. :)