* When King Arthur was conveyed to Avalon they were there.
* When Odin summoned warriors to Valhalla they were there.
* When Apollo was worshipped on Greek mountains they were there.
* When Brendan came to the Island of Women they were there.
They tended the Welsh goddess Cerridwen’s cauldron of inspiration, and armed the hero Peredur. They are found in Britain, Ireland, Norway, Iceland, Gaul, Greece, Africa and as far afield as South America and Oceania. They are the Nine Maidens – the priestesses of the Mother Goddess.
From the Stone Age to the twentieth century, the Nine Maidens come in many forms – Muses, Maenads, Valkyries, seeresses and druidesses. In this book Stuart McHardy traces the Nine Maidens from both Christian and pagan sources, and begins to uncover one of the most ancient and widespread of human institutions.
There is no evidence for the Arthur of history being Cornish or Welsh or Breton. We now know that the earliest Arthur stories preserved in the Welsh language originated in Scotland.
Arthur can perhaps best be understood as a clan battle chief – in the 6th century Scotland was composed of a series of tribal confederations many of whom spoke a language just like Old Welsh. Tribal warriors would only follow someone they respected – after all they were all related and knew who was the fittest to lead. Kings arose later probably as a result of the increasing influence of the Christian church and ruthless politicians like St Columba. The loyalty of the warriors, like that of the chief, was to the tribe, or clan, and Arthur was a war leader, like Calgacus 400 years earlier who fought the Romans. The book contains a mapping of his battle campaign, based on a new interpretation of the writings of the 8th century cleric Nennius, who first described the 12 battles of Arthur.
We all know the Loch Ness Monster. Not personally, but we’ve definitely heard of it. Stuart McHardy knows a lot more stories about Loch Ness monsters, fairies and heroes than most folk, and he has more than a nodding acquaintance with Nessie, too.
From the lassie whose forgetfulness created the loch to St Columba’s encounter with a rather familiar sea-monster nearly 1,500 years ago, from saints to hags to the each-uisge, the terrifying waterhorse that carries unwitting riders away to drown and be eaten beneath the waters of the loch, these tales are by turns funny, enchanting, gruesome and cautionary. Derived from both history and legends, passed by word of mouth for untold generations, they give a glimpse of the romance and glamour, the danger and the magic of the history of Scotland’s Great Glen.
Edinburgh Castle is one of Scotland’s most awe-inspiring and iconic landmarks. A site of human habitation since the Bronze Age, the ever-evolving structure has a rich and varied history and has been of crucial significance, militarily and socially, for many hundreds of years.
McHardy tells the story of the castle not only through history but also through legend, stories told down generations which, whether fact or fiction, have become part of the castle’s historic legacy.
For many centuries the people of Scotland have told stories of their ancestors, a group of tribes called the Picts. This ancient Celtic-speaking people, who fought off the might of the Roman Empire, are perhaps best known for their Symbol Stones – images carved into standing stones left scattered across Scotland, many of which have their own stories. Here for the first time these tales are gathered together with folk memories of bloody battles, chronicles of warriors and priestesses, saints and supernatural beings. From Shetland to the Border with England, these ancient memories of Scotland’s original inhabitants have flourished since the nation’s earliest days and now are told afresh, shedding new light on our ancient past.
New theories appear and old ideas are re-configured as this remarkable story continues to fascinate and enthrall.
Scholars have long known that the Grail is essentially legendary, a mystic symbol forever sought by those seeking Enlightenment, a quest in which the search is as important as the result. Time and again it has been said that the Grail is a construct of mystical Christian ideas and motifs from the ancient oral tradition of the Celtic-speaking peoples of Britain. There is much to commend this view, but now, drawing on decades of research in his native Scotland, in a major new contribution to the Grail legend, the historian and folklorist Stuart McHardy traces the origin of the idea of fertility and regeneration back beyond the time of the Celtic warrior tribes of Britain to a truly ancient, physical source.
A physical source as dynamic and awesome today as it was in prehistory when humans first encountered it, and began to weave the myths that grew into the Legend of the Holy Grail.
A journey through Scotland’s past from the earliest times through the medium of the awe-inspiring stories that were at the heart our ancestors’ traditions and beliefs.
As the art of storytelling bursts into new flower, many tales are being told again as they once were. As On the Trail of Myths and Legends unfolds, mythical animals, supernatural beings, heroes, giants and goddesses come alive and walk Scotland’s rich landscape as they did in the time of the Scots, Gaelic and Norse speakers of the past.
Visiting over 170 sites across Scotland, Stuart McHardy traces the lore of our ancestors, connecting ancient beliefs with traditions still alive today. Presenting a broad picture of who the Scots are and where they have come from, this book provides an insight into the unique tradition of myth, legend and folklore that has marked the language and landscape of Scotland.
This is a revised and updated edition of Stuart McHardy’s popular Scotland: Myth, Legend and Folklore.
• 174 pubs
• 12 pub trails plus maps
• New section on clubs
• Brief guide to Scottish beers and whiskies
You might be in Edinburgh to explore the closes and wynds of one of Europe’s most beautiful cities, to sample the finest Scotch whiskies and to discover a rich heritage of traditional music and story-telling. Or you might be in Leith to get blootered. Stuart McHardy has dragged his tired old frame around 174 pubs – all in the name of research, of course. Alongside drinking numerous pints, he has managed to compile enough practical information to allow anyone with a sturdy liver to follow in his footsteps. Although Stuart unashamedly gives top marks to his favourite haunts, he rates most highly those pubs that are original, distinctive and cater to the needs of their clientele. Be it domino league or rock karaoke, pina colada or a pint of heavy, Stuart has found a decent pub that does it.
The fiddle has long played an important parting Scottish musical tradition. Here in MacPherson’s Rant and Other Tales of the Scottish Fiddle there are stories that reflect that importance. Whether the fiddle is in the hands of the notorious Highland freebooter MacPherson or being played by a young man learning a fairy tune, these tales reflect a traditional culture that is still thriving. Some of the stories are truly ancient while others quite modern, but all show that throughout Scotland there has long been a ready audience for music made by horsehair on catgut. Today as Scottish culture continues to thrive in the face of all the modern world can throw at it we should perhaps think on what Robert Burns once said to a friend, ‘Lang may yer elbuck, jink an diddle.’
In addition to introducing some of the most famous, as well as some of the lesser-known, tales of the Scottish fiddle, Stuart McHardy also examines the history of the instrument, its repertoire and the place the fiddle and the fiddler have played in Scottish culture over the centuries. The result is a lively and informative companion to one of the central elements of the Scottish musical tradition.
Footstompin Celtic Music Newsletter 59
All over the world people associate the bagpipes with Scotland. In this informative and entertaining book Stuart McHardy introduces Scotland’s national instrument – its history, development and repertoire – and examines the part that the piper himself has played in Highland and Lowland society over the centuries. The main bulk of the book is a series of thematically grouped tales from all periods and parts of the country in which we see aspects of traditional lore in stories of warriors, musicians, ghostly battles, the hand of friendship, exemplary heroism and the cost of supernatural help. There are tales of the MacCrimmons, the most famous island pipers of all, as well as Habbie Simpson, who was possibly the most famous of all the Lowland pipers. Whether dealing with great bravery or contemptible jealousy, the supernatural or the mundane, these stories reflect the central role that the bagpipes have played, and continue to play, in Scottish traditional culture
Takes of the desperate struggle between the Hanoverian kings and the Jacobites, those who dedicated themselves to restoring the Stewart monarchy, resound with heroism and loyalty, savagery and double-dealing. The Highland clans sallied forth again and again in support of the Stewarts to try and turn the tide of history, and to this day stories of Jacobite risings and resistance still have power to arouse and stir blood.
In this book, veteran story-teller Stuart McHardy gathers a wide selection of the best of these tales, creating a fascinating, varies and vivid picture of the Jacobites and their commitment to their noble, and ultimately doomed, cause.
Behind the tales of cateran raiding in the Scottish Highlands was an age-old practice beloved of the clan warriors. Trained in the ways of the School of the Moon, they liked little better than raiding other clans to lift their cattle and disappear into the wild mountains under the cover of darkness. This traditional practice of the Scottish Highland warriors, originating at least as far back as the Iron Age, has left us many grand stories, apocryphal and historical.
In this informative and entertaining book, acclaimed storyteller Stuart McHardy presents some of the best stories, many of which appear in print for the first time, and offers a startling new interpretation of what was going on in the Scottish Highlands in the years after Culloden. The British government called it cattle thieving, but the men who returned to the ways of the School of the Moon were in fact the last Jacobites, fighting on in a doomed guerrilla campaign against an army that had a garrison in every glen and town in Scotland.
Combining exciting traditional tales that illustrate the background of the practice of Highland cattle-raiding with extensive historical research, School of the Moon shows that there is much yet to be understood about Scotland’s history, even of the last few hundred years.
This is the story of a war – between a hostile London government and large numbers of cottage whisky-makers, mostly in the Highlands. Highlanders believed they had a natural right to make whisky from their own barley, just as they made porridge from their own oats. The government, with little time or patience for the Highland way of life, wanted to raise as much tax revenue as possible from distillation. This book is based upon actual events in the Peatreek conflict, stories which are a mixture of humour and tragedy but which illustrate the indomitable spirit of the Scot.
A New History of the Picts
Luath Press Hbk 2010 £14.99 ISBN 1-906307-65-2 Pbk 2011 £7.99 ISBN 1-906817-70-7
When the Romans came north to what is modern Scotland they encountered a society cmposed of a wide range of tribal peoples they called Caledonian or Picts. These fierce and proud warrior societies may not have had either the dicsipline or the arms of the previously all-conquering Roman Army, but they managed to stop them taking over the northern part of Britain, just as they later repulsed the Northumbrians and the Vikings, paving the way for the eventual cration of modern Scotland. Often presented as mysterious or enigmatic because they left no written records of their own yet left behind that magnificent corpus of art, the Pictish Symbol Stones, the Picts were in fact the original indigenous people of Scotland. In this book Stuart McHardy pieces together the story of who they were and how they developed . Using an analysis based round the tribal society of the Picts, McHardy shows that they were neither mysterious nor enigmatic but simply the native people of this country who merged with their cousins, the Scots of Argyll to create modern Scotland. The long held assumption that the Picts were native to the lands north of the Forth-Clyde line are exposed as a misreading of Roman sources; recent academic developments such as the exposure of the supposed Irish settlement of Dalriada and the debunking of the idea of Scottish conquest of the Picts under Kenneth MacAlpin are included along with a completely new way of attempting to understand Scotland’s past, from a Scottish perspective For too long ideas developed in England have dominated British history and the result has been to distort and deny the real history of Sotland. In this book McHardy seeks to put an end to the idea that the Picts were some strange historical anomaly and shows them to be the descendants of the original inhabitants of this part of the world, living in a series of loose tribal confederations gradually brought together by external forces to create one of the earliest states in Europe.
Tales of Whisky Luath 2010 £5.99 ISBN 1-906817-41-3
A collection of tales inspired by, in different ways, Scotland’s national drink. Best read with a dram in hand.
Speakin o Dundee Luath 2010 £8.99 ISBN
Local stories and legends from my hometown ‘tellt in Scots.’ Traditional and historical tales spiced up with anecdotes from some of the auld toun’s more (or less) salubrious hostelries. I may not bide in Dundee any more but it’s where I became a stroyteller and I still find its culture inspirational, and these are truly stories of the people.