Sunday, November 21, 2010

Currently reading The Silver Bough and loving it!


Most of you will have heard of James George Frazer's hugely influential book The Golden Bough, acknowledged by Yeats, Eliot, WCW, Pound, Lawrence and many others as deeply important to their work.

Well The Silver Bough is also written by a Scot. First published in 1956 and authored by F. Marian (no less!) McNeill, it explores Scottish folklore and folk belief and is packed with treasures, local stories, etymology of place-names, history, history of religion and religious and Druidic practices. Also full of gorgeous words like 'skeely' and 'gowpens' as in from this short extract:

"In Orkney, sea-water was used in a rite to bring butter. The skeely woman, or charmer, went to the shore with a pail and waited until nine waves had rolled in. At the reflux of the last, she took three gowpens of water (a gowpen is as much as can be held in cupped hands) and carried them home in her pail. The water was put into the churn with the milk and ensured a good supply of butter."
I love all the folklore from Lewis, the stories are link to my ancestors. I remember when I was a child there used to be a 'fairy well' on the beach near my grandparents house in Lewis. I used to search it out on my holidays, a little circle of stones on a huge Atlantic beach where fresh water bubbled up from under the ground.

8 comments:

deemikay said...

I *need* that book! For me, folklore is so much more interesting than this "everyday" nonsense.

deemikay said...

And skeely is a fantastic word. :)

Marion McCready said...

isn't it, watch out for me slotting into a poem sometime, lol.
the good news is that this is only the first of four volumes!

Elizabeth Rimmer said...

I love that book, especially the bit about 'Finns' - the seal people, who were probably actual Finns - Saami people who travelled with vikings (whenever they felt like it). They come up in Icelandic sagas too

Marion McCready said...

interesting, I haven't got to the Finns yet, look forward to reading that bit!

swiss said...

i have that very book and when t came across it earlier this year she was equally enthusiastic.

finns - actual people? no, that won't do at all! they live under the sea in eynhallow sound. why else is the sea so disturbed there!?

Marion McCready said...

well then t has very good taste!
mine's a borrowed copy but I shall be investing in one for myself!

Titus said...

Thanks Marion, I am a big fan of The Golden Bough, though I know it's fallen wildly out of favour of late.
This looks fabulous. I am giving myself an Amazon Christmas from husband as the red Barbour biker-esque jacket retails at £149 so is a little out of reach. This book is definitely on the list!