Chapter 9: Death and the Maiden

Cailleach duplicated in Bone file in Beacon folder

There is no trace of a Sun-God or a Moon-Goddess.
J. Gregorson Campbell, 1902, 304.

Dh’fhalbh e air slighe na firinn
He has gone on the way of truth.

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The Cailleach represents the most archaic imagery of fire, which was, once, a female preserve. The most striking examples of women’s links with fire are of course the ritual hearths maintained by unmarried women. The best known are the Vestal Virgins who tended the perpetual fire at Rome but the nuns of St Bridget in Ireland also tended a perpetual fire which burned into the middle ages. There are many etymological links between words for ‘woman’ and words for ‘fire’. The first element of most of them is some form of fi, the elemental ‘fire’ word, which represents the blowing noise made to encourage a spark to catch on tinder.

G. bàn ‘white (fire); woman’
G. brann ‘firebrand, woman’,
G. feim, Fr. femme ‘woman, female, wife’
G. guin ‘woman’, cognate with feim and with E. whin (used for kindling).
G. piuthar ‘sister’.
Lat. virgo ‘virgin’, an unmarried woman who stayed at home.
E. whore.
E. harlot.
E. female.
E. woman.
E. wife.
G. eibh ‘fire’, cf Eve.
Lat. virago

Descriptions of the Cailleach vary depending on whether the writer saw her as a fair young woman or a hag. In both forms she was ‘fire’ from G. cail ‘to burn’. The Maiden is the Flame Maiden who is typically abducted by an ugly black man (the beacon) whereas Cailleach in place-names marks old beacon sites. Hunters saw her as a generous and beautiful lady but surviving descriptions of the great old witch more often combine the more awesome aspects of hunting and fire imagery, appropriate to a beacon which rules a world of carnage and death. In her fearful winter guise, she had ‘only one eye on the flat of her forehead’ but ‘the sight of it was swifter than the mackerel of the ocean’. Her face was blue-black, like ashes, or with the lustre of coal, like that of her Indian counterpart, Kali. Her teeth were long and ugly, or as red as rust (or as flames or blood) and her hair was matted and long. In one description it is even compared with brushwood. Her single eye defines her as a beacon and the rest of the imagery reflects hunting puns. Her red teeth are a particularly powerful image of the deer trap. These poems underline the depth of poetic language available to the old bards.

A Mhuileartach Bhuide, Version A.J.C. Campbell, West Highland Tales III, 136-8.
Bha ’h-aodann dubh-ghorm air dreach a’ ghuail
’S a deud cnábadach, cnàmh-ruadh.
Bha aon suil ghlumach ’na ceann
Bu luaithe na rionnag gheamhraidh;
Craobh mhìneach chas air a ceann
Mar choill ìnich de ìn t-seana chrithinn

Her face was blue-black of the lustre of coal,
And her tufted tooth was like rusted bone.
In her head was one deep pool-like eye,
Swifter than a star in a winter sky;
Upon her head gnarled brushwood,
Like the clawed old wood of the aspen root.

A Mhuileartach Bhuidhe, Version B J. Gregorson Campbell 1902, 188.
Bha-aodunn du-ghlas, air dhreach guail
Bha-deud a carbaid claon-ruadh;
Bha aon sùil ghlogach na ceann
’S gum bu luaith i na rionnach maghair;
Bha greann glas-dhu air a ceann
Mar choille chrionaich roi chrith-reothadh

Her face was dusky, of the hue of coal,
The teeth of her jaws crooked red;
In her head there glared a single eye,
That swifter moved than mackerel after bait;
And on her head bristled dark grey hair,
Like brushwood covered with hoar frost.

The Cailleach of Lochlann W.C. Mackenzie, The Western Isles: Their History, Traditions and Place-Names, 1932, 228-230. From a Gaelic MS by John Morrison of Lewis.
Fuath bu ghrainde na fui
Fuath a h-iongnan, fuath a h-athais
Fuarag leithir mu da mhàs
Bu mhor a cuid shùl ’na h-aogais
A fiaclan siar seach a craos
A ghreann gh;as bja aor a ceann
Mar chrionach critheinn
Da shleagh iariunn ’san laimh eile
’S iad aig an aon liath chailleach

A frightful object - uglier than rottenness,
Frightful were her nails and her aspect,
Over her hips she wore a covering of leather, rawhide was fire-proof
Her eyes were of enormous size,
Her crooked teeth out of her wide mouth, a deer trap
And the bristling grey hair on her head
Resembled withered twigs of aspen, or ‘holly’
And in her hand two iron spears
Had this grey-haired old woman.

A’ Chailleach Chorraire Ghlas. Tocher 27, 1977, 158-9.
A’ chailleach chorraire ghlas
Bu ghrainnde dealbh agus dreach agus aogasg;
An fhiacail a b’fhaide muigh
’S i b’iùil agus bu lorg rothaid (?) dhi;
An fhiacail a b’ghaide staigh
’S i bu chrann-griosach dhi;
Chitheadh tu cridhe ’s a grùdhan
Agus a sgamhan air ùrlar a cléibh
Leis a chuile sgeamhad a chuireadh i aiste.

The scrawny grey hag
Ugliest of shape, looks and description;
Her farthest-out tooth
Was her guide and staff on the road;
Her furthest-in tooth
Was her hearth-poker;
You could see her heart and her liver
And her lungs on the floor of her rib cage
With every racking cough she gave.

Her black face, single keen sharp eye, her brushwood hair show that the Hag is the personification of a beacon. Like a beacon signal she is capable of travelling very swiftly, leaping from mountain to mountain and across the arms of the sea. She controls the tribal deer forest and during the winter, like Artemis, she was followed by herds of wild animals. Highland gamekeepers used to believe, when stalking operations yielded poor results, that the Cailleach was protecting the deer by means of her spells. D.A. Mackenzie 1930, 118-9. The warriors she killed were not men but her own stags:

And a hundred warriors she sportively slew,
And there was a grin on her rugged maw [G. càir ‘grin’ also means ‘red blaze’.
A warrior exalted each warrior of these,
And that were raised up on slender trees,
A pouring of their blood amongst the hounds … J.C. Campbell III, 138.

In a developed myth, the Cailleach was the ruler of winter, which was of course the hunting season. When it ended she was attacked by the lover of a fair maiden she had kept captive – her alter ego – and was changed into ‘a grey stone overlooking the sea’. A clach glas or grey stone marks a beacon site (AG glas 'light') and the sea, G. mar is a pun on AG mar ‘hunt’.

The Cailleach carried a hammer with which she smote the earth, thus causing hard frost. This hammer and references to hearing as well as seeing a signal suggest that signals were sent by smiting a stone. Clach an Tiompain, a standing stone near Strathpeffer, ‘when struck, makes a great hollow sound or echo’. E. Sutherland, Brahan Seer REF, 1977, 43.

There is certainly a pun linking G. meilich ‘to freeze’, meilt ‘hurling, casting’, and méill ‘blubber lip’ or ‘mill clapper’. Any reference to a big mouth or large lips or teeth points to a deer ambush. The fairy women in the Selkirk folk-tale ‘Habitrot’ had grossly deformed lips. The mill clapper or clack or clap was a contrivance for knocking the hopper so that grain continually fell down on to the mill stone. Like the clapper of a bell, it made a loud noise. Meilt ‘hurling or casting’ takes us to various stories about throwing improbably large stones. The root is the archaic word mil ‘hunt’ or ‘band of hunters’(as E. militia). Fairmilehead, south of Edinburgh, was an outlook point, no doubt used by native hunters as it was by the Romans.

In some places she appears as a glaistig. Once when Donald Cameron of Lochaber was waiting at dawn for the deer to come down from the high top to drink, they appeared out of the mist with a tall Glaistig driving them before her. ‘Thou art too heavy on my hinds’ she said to him but Donald escaped because he could say in truth that he never killed a hind where he could find a stag. J. MacDougall 1910, 257. A hunter on Ben Breck also saw the Glaistig coming to meet him, a herd of deer before her and the White Hind, an t-Agh Bàn, at their head. J. MacDougall 1910, 239. Another hunter met the Glaistig once in a deer-forest, knocking two deer-shanks together and all the time repeating O ’n loisgeadh a’ choille, said to mean ‘Since the wood was burnt’ but more probably summoning hunters to ‘The fire in the deer forest’. J. MacDougall 1910, 248 . The knocking of bones, like her hammer, might have served as a signal.

This reflects the situation before her sons, the Black Men or giants, abducted the Flame Maiden but, despite the power attributed to the giants, they are insubstantial creatures compared with their Mother. She is the universal female divinity – the fairy sweetheart, the fairy queen, the banshee, the beautiful or terrifying glaistig, the sweet maiden or gruagach, and the malevolent and deadly or generous and powerful hag or witch. She was the personification of death and of rebirth, who ensured prosperity for the hunter and who miraculously ensured the reincarnation of the herds, year after year. She was also the sheela-na-gig (‘hunter of the deer’) and the sexual implications of the deer ambush, explored elsewhere, are an intrinsic and potent aspect of her image. As the mother of Brian she is even more fearful.

The Black Lad, Son of Ashes.
Once upon a time the herds of Corpach and Annat were herding their cattle at Cnoc-na-Faobh ‘knoll of the spoils’ at Kilmallie. The enclosure was strewn with the bones of dead men. The weather being cold, the herds made a fire of the bones and it happened that one maid, left alone, uncovered her private parts, whereupon a sudden whirlwind threw some of the ashes on her. She became pregnant and gave birth to a son who was called Gille Dubh mac ‘Ille Chnàmhlaich, ‘the black lad, son of the bones, or embers’, for he was conceived out of the ashes of dead men’s bones. In his old age Brian became a good Christian and built the church of Kilmallie on the same site. G. Henderson 1911, 65-6. As Henderson points out, this only means that Kilmallie was a sacred place before Christianity.

Henderson saw Brian as a kind of god, ‘bred between the living and the dead’ and born of a virgin but, quite apart from his parentage, anyone called ‘the black lad, son of ashes’ is a hunt beacon. The old church is situated on a rock a short distance from Allt Cuil a’ Chiaran, the burn of Cuil a’ Chiaran ‘enclosure of the fire’ which is presumably another name for the old beacon site or funerary enclosure. Kilmallie may be the enclosure of the mal ‘king, champion, soldier, hunter’. From this it appears that the enclosure known as Cuil a’ Chiaran on Cnoc na Faobh was a place where the dead were exposed and bones were collected prior to their being burned in a seasonal bonfire. It was no coincidence that the herds or hunters of Kilmallie lit their bonfires in the enclosure where Brian was conceived from the ashes of dead men’s bones. Tradition has not given us a date for this event but since the weather was cold, it was probably at Halloween. Other words related to cnàmhlaich are G. cnàmh ‘digest, consume, moulder, putrify, decay’, cnàmhag ‘anything from which the juice has been extracted; refuse of anything; ashes, embers’, and cnàmharlach ‘raw-boned, cadaverous person; skeleton’. And we should not forget the bran-gaire or ‘grinning one’, a corpse left in the open air.

The story of Brian’s conception and birth suggests that the cills of Scotland, like the keels of Ireland, served several purposes in connection with funerary rituals which were a formalised version of the more casual disposal of old hunters. A cill was an enclosure which acquired sacred status from the fact that bodies were exposed there to be reduced to bones and then to ashes. In Ireland up to relatively recent times, keels were used for the burial of unbaptised infants, suicides, and strangers, a practice that is a direct continuation of pre-Christian usage. Many Scottish cills, like Kilmallie, are pre-Christian sites on which churches or chapels were built. With Christian teaching, cremation was replaced by inhumation but burial rites continued at the same sites. Often the cills were associated with ‘saints’ representing some aspect of the earlier beacon.

G. brian can mean ‘word, composition, warrant, author, angel, archangel, god, divinity, hence god of evil’, and translates the exclamation A bhriain! as ‘You god!’. A bhriain! was more probably a warning to rouse hunters and meant ‘Fire!’ The angel or fiery messenger adds to a view of him as a signal fire. Etymologically, brian belongs with E. burnish, brand, and burn, and G. brann or brun ‘firebrand’(which also means ‘woman’). Like other black men, the Gille dubh mac’Ille Chnàmhlaich ‘the black lad, son of the bones’ is a fire giant or seasonal bonfire.

His mother the Maiden, who is also the Cailleach, the hunting goddess or Death Hag, is of vastly more significance. As the consumer and regenerator of human bones, living in cremation grounds, blackened by ashes, her image becomes more dreadful than ever.

Death on the mountain.
MacDougall, a painstaking collector to whom we owe many idiosyncratic and informative little gems, recorded a little story about a hunter which fits into none of the categories described already. Murchadh Buidhe nam Fiadh – ‘Yellow Murchadh of the deer’ or, in archaic terms, ‘Murchadh of the fire of the deer’ – was a Jura man. He was a famous hunter in his time. Of all the mountains in Jura, Beinn-an-Oir, in archaic terms ‘beacon hill of the deer forest’, was his favourite and he continued to frequent it until he was a very old grey man. One day he saw a fine stag, which he stalked until he was close enough to shot him with an arrow. But when he had shut one eye to take aim, the stag changed into a man, who said ‘There you are, Murchadh Buidhe nam Fiadh, grown grey sitting on the side of Beinn-an-Oir.’ Murchadh replied ‘If I have grown grey sitting here, it is an easy thing for God to make me young again.’ His strength of youth returned to him, and he lived for many years after. J. MacDougall 1901, 202-3.

MacDougall noted that this version, which he collected in Duror, was very different from that current in Craigneish in his boyhood. Murdoch of the golden locks was a famous deer-hunter who continued to follow his favourite occupation of pursuing the deer until he was a blind old man. Being then no longer able to provide for himself, he was led by his son to Ben-an-Or, his former hunting ground, and left there to perish of cold and hunger. As he sat there, he said

Is mise Murchadh Buidhe nam Fiadh - I am Yellow Murdoch of the Deer,
A dh’ghàgadh air sliabh Bheinn an Oir - Left on the slope of Ben an Or;
Is ged tha mi aosda, liath, - And though I am old and sere,
Is fhurasda do Dhia mo dheanamh òg. - God can make me young once more. J. MacDougall 1910, 326.

As a result of his piety, he recovered his sight and returned home.

These two versions agree that the Murchadh the deer-hunter, when a very old grey man, goes up into the deer forest and in some miraculous way becomes young again. The Craigneish version suggests that it was once standard practice to expose old people whose lives had become a burden and we can assume that Murchadh did in fact die on the mountain.

This little story might appear to be harmless or even pointless, but no little story about hunting is ever pointless. Murchadh is very old: he can no longer hunt. He has been abandoned to die on the mountain. We are told repeatedly that he has grown grey or dry, sitting on the mountain. Putting together the information from both versions, there is ample evidence to suggest that he not only died on the mountain but was cremated there. G. aos ‘age’ also means ‘fire’ and G. liath ‘grey’, translated here as ‘sere, dry’ is cognate with E. light and appears to mean ‘smoke’ in coded contexts. A comparable word is luath ‘ashes’. In the Duror version, at the crux of the story, Murchadh closes one eye and in the other he is said to have been blind. Any character with one eye is a beacon.

Let us suppose that Murchadh did not return to his family but died on the mountain, and that his bones were burned there. He went grey, or turned to smoke and ashes. God made him young again but not in this world, for having been cremated he went to the Gaelic paradise, Tìr na n-Og, the Land of the Young, which is to say, the hunters. He was taken there by a divine messenger in the form of a stag, as was Ossian. This divine messenger in other contexts is an angel (G. aingeal ‘bright fire’). It is possible to conclude that if an old hunter died on Ben-an-Or his bones would be collected and burned in the next seasonal bonfire, and his spirit would rise in the smoke to Tir na n-Og. And we find that the most significant hunting bonfire, which was lit on hill-tops, was at Samhainn or Halloween, the night of 31 October, the start of the winter hunting season and the feast of the dead when Christian cemeteries from one end of Europe to the other are decorated with very un-Christian flowers (flowers are a paradigm of flames).

There is more, for Tir na n-Og as a hunters’ paradise naturally contained deer. ‘In his mythological creed, the Gael believed that the spirits of the dead found delight in pursuing ærial deer over the mountains of the silent land, and often on those of earth.’ In R.S. Fittis, 1891, 51. According to Ossian, departed hunters, ‘pursue deer formed of clouds and bend their airy bow. They still love the sport of their youth; and mount the wind with joy.’In R.S. Fittis, 1891, 51. These ærial deer arrived in paradise by the same route as the hunters: their bones were burned. We have seen that forest law required the burning of all remains of the hunt, which must have included all the bones of slaughtered deer. Sheep were specifically excluded from this ritual: ‘When sheep had language, the last thing spoken by a sheep was a request that its bones should never be burned’.G. Henderson 1911, 100. The taboo on burning sheep bones suggests not talking sheep but an old and deep animosity between deer-hunters and sheep-herders. Sheep were invasive and foreign to Scotland, and deer-hunters evidently did not want resurrected sheep interfering with their hunting in the after-life as they had done in the previous one.

The story of Murchadh Bhuidhe suggests that the most desirable end for an old hunter was to be cremated on his favourite mountain. Such a belief can probably be traced among all peoples who practise cremation. It appears to have been held by witches. A puzzling feature of Scottish witch trials is that the witches lacked all fear of death and even insisted on being burned. This would make sense if they had inherited a belief in cremation as a certain route to paradise. Several tribes in Central Asia believe that ‘certain privileged persons, whose bodies are burned, rise to the sky with the smoke, there to lead a life like that of men on earth… The idea that fire ensures a celestial destiny after death is also confirmed by the belief that those who are struck by lightning fly up to the sky.’ ‘Fire’, of whatever kind, transforms man into ‘spirit’. Shamanism, 206. Those who die of illness are buried and go to hell.

Gaulish druids also believed in reincarnation. We can now perhaps understand in more rational terms the story that they burned sacrificial victims alive in wicker cages. It is easier to believe that they burned bones collected in wicker baskets – coffins in the Highlands were sometimes of wicker – and believed that the men and animals whose bones were burned came alive again and continued to live in the heavens.

Gaelic provides some further insights. A telling and relevant image is the soul as bird since G. eun ‘bird’ is a pun on àin ‘light’ which is a form of aodhan ‘fire’. The smoke of the bonfire was thus seen as the soul of the cremated rising to heaven. A further recollection of ritual cremation is the moving ball of fire, G. gealbhan, in Breadalbane believed to be the precursor of a funeral G. Henderson 1911, 225. but explained in more pedestrian terms as a common fire or bonfire. This reduces the element of supernatural prophecy to the everyday level of an advertisement. Other terms which may be connected with communal cremation are càileireachd ‘cremation of the dead’, dreug ‘falling star, fireball, corpse-candle’, ùir ‘fire, grave, body’, slaod-theine ‘great fire in which many people are consumed’, and soise ‘ball of fire moving majestically through the heavens, often near the earth, and presaging death’.

Like most irrational beliefs, this one is susceptible of rational explanation. During the Palaeolithic, bones were the only fuel available in those parts of Europe most affected by glaciation. The varied collections of bones found in certain ‘bone caves’ are difficult to explain as chance accumulations, since similar caves have very different contents, but can be seen as the remains of a deliberate collection of dried bones stored in such caves to be used as fuel for a bonfire: the bonfire sites in question can often still be recognised. This can also be proposed as the origin of the rare local practice of laying out the dead in caves, without burial. The continued use of bones as fuel and developing religious ideas linking cremation with reincarnation would explain the marked absence of human remains through most of Scottish prehistory. Marion McNeill notes that quite recently the midsummer bonfires in Orkney and Shetland contained bones, or were completed by inserting a ritual bone or by throwing a bone into the lighted fire. F.M. McNeill 1959, vol 2, 90. Another relic of ritual cremation is an archaic practice mentioned by Alexander MacGregor in his article on Highland superstititions, that ‘the relatives of the dead, the day after the funeral, carried the chaff and straw on which the body had lain to the knap [or beacon hillock] nearest the house, and there consumed them with fire.’A. MacGregor, in A. Mackenzie, The Prophecies of the Brahan Seer, 1877, 112.

Inhumation burials are very visible but also very few. This is an imported rite appropriate to farming cultures where everything is recycled through the earth. It has given relatively small numbers of immigrants a disproportionate importance. The use of bones as fuel also explains the assorted contents of chambered tombs, which show repeated purposeful processing of their contents. Some still contain bundles of long bones, ready for use, while small bones were either picked out to be used as kindling or fell through the mesh of baskets or were left behind. Skulls were set aside (and so acquired special significance) since they tend to explode when burned. Such places were not tombs but ossuaries where fuel was stored.

Giants and their Mother.
With the giants of prehistoric Scotland we move into a more tangible field of enquiry, for they lived in identifiable places. Typical are the four brothers of prodigious size who once lived on the west coast of Lewis. They dominated the whole island and kept the men of Lewis under subjection. Their names were Kuoch Mac Nuaran or Nuagaran (Cuithuich Mac Nuadharan) who lived at Dun Chuithaich on a small island at the Sands of Uig, Glom Mac Nuaran who lived at Ballyglom, in Great Berneray, Tidd Mac Nuaran who lived at Tidberry, also in Great Bernera, and Dearge Mac Nuaran who occupied the broch at Carloway. As we might expect, their names derive from beacon signals and hunting. G. cuithe can mean ‘trench, pit (deer trap)’, G. glom may be ‘rocky cleft (deer trap)’. G. dùd is ‘blast of a horn (signal)’, a beacon or signal word also found at Duddingston, Midlothian, below Arthur’s Seat, and in Sc. dod attached to certain hills in the south of Scotland, and G. dearg is ‘kindle, burn’. These four giants were personifications of the signal beacons which once controlled the rhythm of life in Lewis. In fact they all lived very close to one another and may be regarded as four manifestations of a single beacon, no doubt known as Nuadharan. (cf G. nuaudhulig ‘all-heal’, the mistletoe)

Giants were also widespread in Lowland Scotland where they lived in very visible sites such as hill forts or watch hills which afforded a wide view of the surrounding country. The giant of the Eildon hills was known as Wallace. The giant of Norman’s Law in Fife was known as the Devil (G. diabhol can be interpreted to mean ‘god of fire’, or ‘fire giant’). The stone that he flung when fighting with the giant of Law Hill, Dundee, was known as the ‘Deil Stane’. The giant of Ben Ledi, reputed to be the strongest, or most visible, of his kind in Scotland, was called Samson, and his putting stone was pointed out to visitors to Callander. One of the three giants in Inverness was known as Patrick, perhaps representing the same obscure word as Puderach, the standing stone in Balquhidder. The Red Etin had three heads which may represent beacons on Castle Hill, Arthur’s Seat and Calton Hill in Edinburgh. It has been suggested that the name ‘Arthur’ arrived there after Arthurian romances became popular at the Scottish court, D.A. Mackenzie 1935, 117. but Arthur may have been there first for he ‘controlled the armies of Britain’ and was himself a major hunting beacon. The male giants who divided up the Lowlands between them were preceded by a single female beacon. D.A. Mackenzie 1935, 139-40.

The story of giants or the devil or witches hurling stones great distances is widespread. Is this perhaps a misinterpretation of a phrase which meant, instead, that a beacon signal travelled a great distance? It might in that case have evolved out of the link between G. clach ‘stone’ and E. clock, clack, clap, and clapper. Du. klok ‘bell’ is also relevant. G. clachan ‘testicles’ are in evidence in Romanesque decoration. This reflects the fact that the ringing of bells replaced beacon signals. Ossian the deer-hunter complained that the bells of the priests disturbed him – in other words, the feudal calendar was at odds with the native calendar. However the etymological links suggest that the original bell or clock consisted of two stones knocked together to make a ringing noise. Cup and ring marks were made by repeatedly knocking a stone hammer on a fixed slab. Would this make a ringing noise on a frosty winter’s night? A field experiment appears to be call for here.

The Cailleach at home. D.A Mackenzie, Scotland the Ancient Kingdom 1930, 15.
The group living in a cave included the mother of the one-eyed hero Goll. She was very old and, being toothless, the biggest bones were reserved for her because her sole food was the marrow. One day a growing youth called Coireal refused to give up to her a marrow bone from which he had stripped the meat. Goll protested but the youth remained defiant. Then the chief intervened, suggesting that the two should engage in a ‘tug-of-war’ for the bone. It looked at first as though Coireal would succeed in retaining possession of it. The chief intervened again and decided that Goll should grasp the thickest part of the bone. In the end the older man gained possession but was by then so exasperated that he threw it at Coireal’s head. ‘Coireal saw it coming and bent his head out of the way. The bone struck the old woman and killed her’. Apparently the others, excepting the slayer, experienced no regret in connection with the tragedy. The Gaelic proverbial saying, ‘Thanks be to Goll! He has killed his mother!’ may still be heard repeated when a nuisance is got rid of by the person responsible for it.

The death of the Cailleach. W C. Mackenzie, The Western Isles: Their History, Traditions and Place-Names, 1932, 221-2. From a manuscript collection made by John Morrison (1787-1834) in Lewis.
The King of Scots in the fourth century was married to a daughter of Fionn and had a son by her called Cairriol. He visited his uncle in Ireland and he was so pleased with him that he made a feast for him which lasted for several days. Goll was jealous of Cairriol who was like him a great warrior. Of all the warriors that sat at Fionn’s table, Goll alone had the right to all the marrow bones, and no-one else was allowed to break a bone of which he had picked the meat for, by common consent, they were given to Goll’s foster-mother, who extracted the marrow and melted it in a pot; and after Goll had gone to bed, she brought it to him for his supper. Cairriol was ignorant of this rule and began to break a bone he had picked. The knocking roused Goll’s foster-mother who entered like a fury and demanded to know who had dared to appropriate a marrow-bone to himself when Goll Mac Moirne was alive. This infuriated Cairriol and he threw the bone at her with such force as to fracture her skull and she died at once.

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