Folk-Lore/Volume 1/Tales and Legends of the Highlands

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To the Editor of Folk-Lore.

Sir,—I am engaged collecting, for literary purposes, legends, traditions, curious biographies, and habits of life among the Celtic clans of the west and north of Scotland, and wish to appeal, through the medium of Folk-Lore, to those of your readers who take an interest in this subject, for assistance in carrying a proposed work to a successful issue. The points on which I desire information more particularly are the following:—

i. Traditions relating to the pursuit of agriculture—(1) Ceremonies, if any, before or during the preparation of the soil for seed, and connected with sowing, harrowing, cleaning, and reaping the crop. Particularly relating to first-fruits of corn, potatoes, or any other crop. (2) The threshing and winnowing of corn; grinding the new corn into meal, or making bread from the new meal.

ii. Traditions and customs connected with the rearing of cattle, housing, feeding, and breeding them; drawing blood from cattle in time of scarcity to be used as food; and anything peculiar to the Celts.

iii. Legends and tales—(1) Folk-lore and ancient laws. (2) Marriage customs and dances. (3) The practice of medicine, and miraculous cures attributed to persons. (4) Virtues supposed to dwell in pools, streams, and springs. (5) Customs at births, baptisms, and funerals especially customs after a death has occurred. (6) Biographies of remarkable persons, half-wits, or others who rose to eminence or notoriety through some peculiarity.

iv. Witchcraft and ghosts—(1) Practice of witchcraft, and stories illustrative of the power of witches. (2) The “Black Art”, and legends connected with persons supposed to be in league with the devil. How one was admitted to the “Black School”? What powers it conferred, and on what conditions? (3) Ghost stories, haunted places, persons who “walked” after burial, the “laying” of ghosts, and why such could not rest.

v. Any other tradition or usage calculated to throw light on the life and habits of the people, their life, their food, and all kindred subjects.

If correspondents, who may favour me with communi- cations, state the facts, it does not matter though they are not dressed up in literary form. I prefer to have them in the simple language of the people. They can more easily be used in that form than in any other. No correspondent’s name will be used without his consent being specially obtained.

Reay Free Manse, Shebster, Caithness,
October, 1890.