Supernatural and Mythical Stones of Scotland
Ancient Stones, Myths, and the Paranormal
Is it the fact they go back to the beginning of time? Or is it the fascinating forms that nature seems to shape them into?
Stones, rocks, mountains and glaciers have always held a fascination for humankind. We see faces and animals in their curves, but we also see nightmarish forms in their silhouettes. Is it any wonder that legends and myths have grown up around stones?
But myths are not the only tales surrounding stones. Paranormal activity is also prevalent—perhaps due to the 'stone-tape' theory. The history and activity surrounding many of the stones found in Scotland give an insight into the supernatural and mythical lore that are centuries old.
Isle of Skye
There is a very old belief that once you have been to the Isle of Skye, some strange force never allows you to be completely free. This could just be the majestic beauty capturing hearts and minds—or is it a netherworld influence?
For sure, the Isle of Skye doesn't have many places that are myth free from the sidhe (fairies), demons or spirits. This makes Skye not only one of the most beautiful places on earth, but one of the most magical. Even sceptics have been known to leave the island with a thoughtful look on their face.
The name of the island is thought to come from the Norse language and means 'Island of mist':
- 'sk' = cloud
- 'ye' = island
Due to its geographical shape, Skye has also been called the 'winged isle'.
One of the most awesome rocks on the island is 'The Old Man of Storr'. This rock pinnacle is 2,385 feet tall and sits proudly on Trotternish Ridge. The first ascent of the rock was in 1955.
Naturally there are many legends surrounding this majestic landmark. The most popular is that the Isle of Skye was once overrun by giant beings. The old man of Storr is one of these beings, who was buried with earth when he died, but his thumb was left sticking out. The other popular legend is that the old man of Storr, along with his wife, were fleeing from the giants when they made the mistake of turning round to look at them—they were both turned to stone. There was another rock thought to be the old man's 'wife' but it toppled over many years ago.
Skye also has its fair share of hauntings especially around the old castles found on the island. But more mysterious beings are said to haunt and hide among the ruins and ancient stones. Glaistigs or gruagach is a fairy-like creature who is normally female and very beautiful. She tends to have the upper body of a woman but the lower half of a goat. The glaistigs can play two roles. The less benevolent side is her form as the wailing washer woman seen when death occurs. The more common name for the washerwoman is 'bean sidhe', or the Irish name is 'banshee'. Her better side is viewed as being a helper with animals, especially to herd cows and to help with a good yield of milk. She was also believed to have been kind and friendly to children.
Completely different to the glaistig is another supernatural being - a shape-shifting demon. The 'baisd bheulach' is a demon who is said to haunt the rocky area around the Odail Pass. Usually heard rather than seen, people have been terrified by its horrific howls and shrieks, heard in the dead of night. When it has been seen it was described as taking the form of a man or beast and sometimes a greyhound dog running between large stones.
Ancient Stones and Ghostly Figures
Many of the ancient stones found around Scotland are reported to have a number of ghosts and other paranormal phenomena associated with them. Like other ancient stones around the world, people have reported strange tingling sensations and claim to feel energy emanating from the stones. In addition there are numerous cases of observing and hearing otherworldly figures.
Clava Cairns, Highland Region
Not far from the bloody and haunting battlefield of Culloden lie some of the Clava Cairns. There are 45 cairns in total. There are three burial cairns at Balnuaran, Invernesshire. These three are part of a line of seven. They date to prehistoric times and referred to as 'passage grave cairns'. What makes them more unique is the circle of standing stones that enclose each cairn. In the area of the cairns, sounds of haunting music have been heard when no one is around. The musical instruments are said to be fiddles. Legend states that they are played by fairies. Others believe they are human musicians from times gone by. The stones also seem to have a curse attached to them. Many people who have removed stones from the site as keepsakes, have returned them within a short period of time, claiming that they have had bad luck since taking the stones home. On returning the stones, their luck seems to turn for the better.
King Malcolm's Atone, Glamis Village
It is believed that King Malcolm II of Scotland was murdered on the site of Glamis Castle in 1034. The castle wasn't built until about the 14th century, but it's believed a royal hunting lodge was here. Nearby is an old Pictish carved stone with an early Christian Cross on the other side. This is believed to mark the spot where the king was buried. Near to the stone people have claimed to have witnessed a large, grey figure of a man. The figure has also been seen in other areas but mostly around this intriguing stone. There is speculation if this is the ghost of King Malcolm or another spirit?
Tomnaverie Stone Circle, Aberdeenshire
Around these mysterious and beautiful stones, people have reported mysteries energies and shapes. Perhaps it's earth energies or some other force that attracts one of the ghosts that have been reported at this site. The figure is always hooded, cloaked and silent. Appearing as from nowhere it disappears just as quickly. No one seems to know if it's male or female and because of the dark, bland clothing, it's not possible to place this apparition within a period of time.
The Forest of Rothiemurchus, Invernesshire
Seath Mor, a warrior from the 14th century, was a frightening sight in his own time, but would be just as awesome today. Not only was it his height that made him look intimidating, but he is also reputed to have had a crooked grin that only added to his alarming presence.
The tomb of this mighty warrior lies in a secluded area of the ancient forest of Rothiemurcus. Seath Mor has been seen on numerous occasions by many different people in the area of his tomb—a large ancient stone covered by five circular stones. The warrior will challenge anyone to battle; if they accept, he disappears. On the other hand, according to legend, any cowards are destined never to be seen again.
It's also advised to keep a safe distance from the tomb due to another entity being present. This entity is the guardian spirit of the tomb. It takes the form of Bodach an Duin—an elf-like spirit who has a terrible temper. In the 19th century, a walker passing the area is said to have thrown one of the circular tombstones into the River Spey. The next day locals found that the stone had been replaced, but the walker was found dead in the river.
Stenness Standing Stones, Orkney
These stones are still impressive today. But the original stone circle of 12 must have been majestic indeed. The circle is about 5,000 years old, but as yet no firm conclusions have been reached for its actual purpose. What is known, is that up until at least the last century the stones were thought to have healing properties. The most powerful stone was one called the Odin Stone. This was special as it had a central hole - these stones were always believed to be more powerful than any others. Newborn babies would be passed through this aperture in the stone in order to ensure that they would have good health. Many people with ailments of various kinds would also visit the stones in the hope of getting some form of healing. So important was the site that marriages and other contracts made here were deemed to be as binding as any made by a signed document.
The Edinburgh Vaults
The Edinburgh vaults were created in 1788 due to the construction of the South Bridge. The bridge and vaults were built on parts of the old city. This itself sat on ancient grounds: Castle Rock and Arthur's Seat are two extinct volcanoes.
Since the Edinburgh vaults opened to the public the amount of paranormal phenomena experienced and captured on photographs, video and EVP's (Electronic Voice Phenomena) as well as personal experiences is phenomenal! There is no doubt that something very odd happens deep underground in Scotland's capital city.
One area of the vaults has a stone circle within one of the chambers. This area was set up by a group of Wiccans in order to carry out their rituals. Not long after occupying this vault, strange phenomena started to occur both in and outside the stone circle. The Wiccan group believed that a distressed spirit might be the cause. The leader of the group held an all-night vigil in the hope of placating the spirit and using healing energy within the space. But after experiencing severe scratch marks all over his body and an overwhelming sensation of discomfort, he left. He felt that he had been fighting with something powerful and much stronger than his own capabilities. Today the Wiccan group have use of another stone vault not that far away from the original room and have had no further problems.
This vault is said to have been the area where 16 prostitutes were murdered nearly two hundred years ago. Due to the negative energy, many feel that the vault with the stone circle is home to a demon. But other theories have also been put forward. A few years ago the phenomenal ghost hunting programme 'Most Haunted' carried out a live show that included an investigation of the stone circle vault. One member of the crew was attacked and deep scratches were discovered all down his back. The show's medium at the time - David Wells - felt that the spirit was not demonic, but his feelings were of a very ancient spirit of the land that was guarding the area.
Whatever the entity is that manifests within the stone vault and around the stone circle it obviously does not like people in its space. So if you visit, you have been warned!
Although stones, hills and mountains hold a fascination for us, we are always inclined to treat them as dead and cold objects. But are they? Is there something, natural or otherwise, within stones that attract certain phenomena or entities? Do they in fact have the power to heal? The next time you pass by a stone, boulder, hill or mountain, stop to think about what hidden forces might dwell within. You never know what energy may present itself or who you might meet?
© 2012 Helen Murphy Howell