Summer 2007

I took a journey to visit the shrine of Tigh na Cailliche, located in a remote glen at the head of Glen Lyon.

In spring an estate worker brings the stones out of the low turf-roofed shrine. The stones are returned at the onset of winter. The largest water-worn stone is known as The Cailleach, hag, old woman. The second largest is known as The Bodach, old man, husband. The third largest stone is The Nighean, daughter or girl.

Welcome the Lucky Bird

To-night it is the New Year’s night, to-morrow is the day, And we are come for our right and for our ray, As we used to do in old King Henry’s day. Sing, fellows, sing Hagman heigh !

If you go to the bacon-flitch, cut me a good bit, Cut, cut and low, beware of your man ; Cut, and cut round, beware of your thumb, That I and my merry men may haye some. Sing, fellows, sing Hagman heigh !

If you go to the black ark, bring me ten mark, Ten mark, ten pound, throw it down upon the ground, That I and my merry men may have some. Sing, fellows, sing Hagman heigh !

If New Year’s Eve night wind blows south,

it betokenth warmth and growth;

If west, much mild and fish in the sea;

If north, more cold and storms there will be;

If east, will bear much fruit;

If north-east, flee it, man and brute.

Happy New Year Everyone

The Smell of Water Part 3: Danby Rigg

Mapping the Old Wife

For many years I’ve have a deep fascination with sites prefixed with the name ‘Old Wife’. With plenty of time on my hands, I decided to have a go at something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, create a map. The sites that I’ve select are all physical places and are named on maps. The map covers the three main linguistic elements of my researches, Old Wife, Carling/Carlin, Cailleach.

The word Wife means woman, it has only been used to signify a woman’s marital status relatively recently, therefore the Old Wife means, Old Woman. The second main element is Cailleach, a Scots and Irish Gaellic word which is still in use today and means, Old Woman/Hag/Witch. The Final element is the word Carling, which is the the Scots equivalent of Cailleach. For completeness, I have also included a few sites with a Witch element in their names as these are relatively rare, I’m still not sure if they are relevant but have included them anyway for interest.

The word Carling has been a little problematic as the element Carl means a free peasant in Old English and Old Scandinavian e.g. the etymology of the word Carlton would be a settlement of free peasants. Whereas the etymology of Carling Howe, which was originally called Kerlinghou, means the hill of the old woman or hag. I have tried my best to filter-out these name elements and have hopefully only added relevant sites on the map.

Key – Blue = Cailleach, Green = Carling, Red = Old Wife, Orange = Witch

When looking at the distribution map, I cannot think of any other mythological or folkloric figure who is so well represented in our landscape and yet, as my friend Graeme points out, remains so anonymous . I suppose, given a millennia and a half of an interlinked church and state, which in the past has actively suppressed to any whiff of witchcraft or the supernatural, especially when practiced by women, the fact that her name has survived and remains embedded in our landscape is quite remarkable. The distribution of sites may also say something regarding certain commonalities between the cultures of the early inhabitants of the northern and western parts our islands.

The Hag/Crone/Old Wife/Witch

Cailleach – Gaellic, Carlin/Gyre, Carling – Scots, Kerling – Icelandic, Kelling – Faroese, Kjerring – Norwegian, Karring – Swedish, Kaelling – Danish

The map is a work in progress, I will continue to work on it and hopefully add the interactive version to this site.

Thanks to Graeme Chappell for his encouragement, comments and providing me with a few sites that I didn’t know about.

The Old Wife

What is your name?

You know me as The Old Wife, I have many names in many lands, my true name is lost to you. In your world I am Carling, Gyre, Calliach, Cailich, Calli, Kerling, Kelling, Kjerring, Karring, Kaelling. I am also Black Annis, Cally Berry, Bell, Witch, Gentle Annie, Bronach, Mala Lia, Glaistig, Muilgheartach, Boi, Hag, Crone, Bone Mother, Veiled One, Thunderer, Frau Holle, Mardoll, Morrigan, Daughter of Frenzy.

Where do you come from?

I was always here. I am before time and place, I am below and above.

What is your purpose?

I command the weather and summon winter, I rule the dark months. I made your mountains, crags, forests and moors. Your rivers run because of me. The coastlines, islands, headlands, and cliffs are my work. I close your harvest and protect your animals. Gods, giants, kings and mortals have shared my bed, my offspring people the world. I am the bringer of death and the mother of all.

Wandering over Danby Rigg

Danby – Village of the Danes

Rigg – Ridge (OScand hryggr)

Little Fryup Dale – Crossley Side  – Old Wife’s Stones –  Enclosure 738 (Ring Cairn) – Rake Way – Double Dykes – Bakers Nab – Hanging Stone

If you have an interest in history Danby Rigg is a great place to visit. It was a busy place in the past,  the northern end of the Rigg is covered in prehistoric cairns, low walls, embanked pits, hut circles and dykes. There are also Medieval features including the Viking-Age Double Dykes, iron bloomeries and trackways. Many of these features are quite subtle, especially where the heather is long, but once you get your eye in you begin to spot them everywhere, trying to make sense of them is a different matter.

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The Rigg is also rich in folklore with the Old Wife’s Stones and a Corpse Road which leads from Fryup Dale across the Fairy Cross Plain to St Hilda’s Church in Danby Dale. The dales around the Rigg are littered with tales of Hobs, Spitits and Witches.

Many years ago, when I first started visiting the Rigg, I was overwhelmed by the amount of prehistoric remains that could be seen. Over the years I have learned to focus my visits on one or two features and try and work out their relationships to the landscape.

On this visit I decided to take a look at a natural feature called The Hanging Stone. On my way to the stone I thought I’d have a quick look at the Old Wife’s Stones and a large circular monument close to the Double Dykes. It was a blistering hot day with barely a breeze, following the Old Wife’s Stones road up the side of the Rigg, I realised that midday was probably not the best time to be doing this.

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On old OS maps the Old Wife’s Stones are shown as a pair of stones, today only one remains. It sits close to the Old Wife’s Stones Road at the base of the steep scarp and overlooks Little Fryup Dale, the Fairy Cross Plain and Round Hill. On the image above the road running off to the top left follows the route of the Church Road also known as The Old Hell Road, a late Medieval Corpse Road that runs over the Rigg from Fryup Dale to St. Hilda’s Church in Danby Dale.

ring

Just to the north of the Double Dykes is a large circular monument. The ring has a diameter of approximately 20 metres, it comprised of a low stone-built ring with a possible northern entrance.

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This site was interpreted in the past as a settlement site. It was originally excavated by Atkinson in 1863. It was excavated again in 1956 by W.H. Lamplough and W.P. Baker and then re-examined by A.F Harding and J. Ostoja-Zagorski in 1984.  Harding’s conclusion was that it was an Early Bronze Age, Ring Cairn, one of a number of similar monuments that run across the Rigg.

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Walking on to the Double Dykes, a number of fairly low upright stones can be seen along the earthwork.

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The Hanging Stone sits on the scarp edge of the Rigg overlooking Danby Dale. The rock itself is part of the Dogger Formation, a group of sandstones formed in shallow seas 170-174 million years ago. The stone is covered in graffiti, there are also a number of cup marks, one of which shows signs of being pecked. Given the amount of modern graffiti on the stone it is impossible to say whether the cup marks are prehistoric or modern.

Sources

Prehistoric and Early Medieval Activity on Danby Rigg, North Yorkshire. A.F. Harding with J Ostoja-Zagorski. Royal Archaeological Institute 151, 1994.

The Place Names of the North Riding of Yorkshire. A.H. Smith 1928

Maps reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

The Old Wife’s Neck by Tony Galuidi

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A lovely painting of the Old Wife’s Neck standing stones by my multi-talented friend Tony Galuidi.

Check out more of his work here