Monday, July 18, 2011

Tales from the Isles of Man

A Celtic Tale from the Isle of Man

The following story is a Manx tale in the public domain. It has a typical Celtic theme of mortals becoming ensnared in the fairy world. The Isle of Man has a very interesting history and culture. Celtic Settlers came to the island during the bronze age, their language is akin to Irish Gaelic and had much in common with Ireland and the Western Islands of Scotland. The island is named for the Celtic Sea God – Mannanan MacLyr and was called “The Throne of Mannanan” because of its central position in the Irish Sea. Viking Sea Kings ruled the island during the Viking age and influenced the language and music in a unique way when they were assimilated by the native Celts, the Scots also ruled the island for a time under Robert the Bruce. The island is famous for their tail-less cats but the people there tell wonderful tales about music learned from the fairies. Today the English have ruled for many centuries and english is spoken by the inhabitants, but many of the Celtic people still retain a bit of their language. The flag of the Isle of Man is a triskelion of three legs on a central hub over a field of red. The motto is: “Which ever way you throw us, we stand.”

The Fairy Cup of Kirk Malew

I’ve heard many a Manxman complain that they’d been insensibly carried great distances from their home, and without knowing how they got there, found themselves on top of some lonesome mountain peak. One fellow, I know, named old Jimmie claims he had been led by invisible musicians for several miles, since he was unable to resist their tunes and beautiful harmony. (TUNE HERE) At last he was led out on to a grass common in the woods where a great number of the little people were sitting round a great table, eating and drinking, playing music in a jovial manner. (TUNE HERE) Among them were some faces whom he thought he had recognized, but forbore taking any notice, or they of him, till some of the little people offered him drink, one of those nearby, whose features seemed not unknown to him from years before, said “if you do,” added he, “you will be as I am, and return no more to your family.” Well old Jimmie was much affrighted, but resolved to obey the injunction. Sure enough a large Silver Cup filled with some sort of liquor, was put into his hand, and when no one was looking he found an opportunity to pour what it contained out onto the ground. (TUNE HERE) Soon after, the music ceased all the company disappeared, leaving Jimmie standing there with that great cup in his hand. So he returned home much wearied and fatigued. The next day he went to the minister of the Parish he lived in and told him all that had happened and asked his advice how he should dispose of the cup. To which the Parson replied, “You could devote this cup made of silver to the service of the church.” And it is said that very cup is still used to this day, for the consecrated wine in the church at Kirk Malew.

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