Bouncing into Spring with Scottish Myths and Legends
The Highlands are full of stories telling of Scottish Myths, Legends and Folklore, and many a story was told during the long dark nights of winter when the family huddled around a peat fire. Every new month would bring an interpretation and belief of the forthcoming weather cycles. We have just left the months of January and February behind, and it was believed those months were controlled by Cailleach Bheur (Beira) The Queen of Winter, the Goddess who blusters her power throughout the winter months, bringing with her snow and cold weather.
Beira dominated the seasons in Scotland, she also worked hard, and using her magic hammer she is said to have created the lochs and mountain ranges all over Scotland. Her favourite mountain was Ben Nevis which she used as her throne, but Beira was not to be messed with when her maid Nessa became slapdash during her daily chores Beira transformed her into a river. It is said Nessa escaped her captive and later formed the deep stretch of water now known as Loch Ness (see our Loch Ness Tour).
After she had left Autumn behind, Beira would begin her work for winter and would head for the Gulf of Corryvreckan. Here she would spend three days bathing and washing her clothes until both her skin and clothes became pure white. The whiteness of her skin and clothes were a symbol of the snow she would send to cover the land. While she washed, she would swirl the waters into great storms and the thundering noise could be heard miles away.
When summer had passed and the days lengthened Beira wearied, and she began to age. She knew her reign as the Queen of Winter was coming to an end and she needed to rest. It was then she would visit The Well of Youth and spend some time sipping the magic waters until her strength returned, and when Spring arrived she would return as a beautiful young woman.
Coming into March we have a proverb which says ‘In like a lion, out like a lamb’, and although still winter, by the end of the month we hope to see shoots of spring bursting through the cold earth.
In Scotland, the last three days of March have a reputation for bringing blustery cold weather. Folklore tells the story of a shepherd who promised March a lamb if she would calm the biting winds. To grant his request three days were taken from April to bring good weather, however, the shepherd refused to deliver the lamb. In revenge, March took back the three days from April and as a punishment blew fiercer winds than ever. In Scotland, we call the days of harsh weather at the end of March and the beginning of April The Borrowing Days also referred to as the Lambing snows.
As we go through March, we approach Mother’s Day which this year in Scotland arrives on Sunday, March 31st, exactly three weeks before Easter Sunday. Mother’s Day traditions date back centuries and were once religious festivals celebrated by Catholic and Protestant Christians throughout Europe. It began at a time when children were taken by ‘noble families’ to work in domestic service to provide income for their families. Due to work restraints, the children were not able to visit their homes and families on a regular basis. When Mothering Sunday arrived, they would be allowed to return to the church of their baptism. As they made their way to the church, the children would pick wildflowers from the roadside to give to their mothers or sometimes they would leave the small bunches of flowers inside the church as a token of love and affection. Today these traditions are carried on and nowadays we give gifts of flowers, cards and gifts as appreciation to our own mothers. A popular bunch of flowers given on Mother’s Day is Daffodils, probably because this beautiful flower appears when the cold, dark days of winter wane and the warm rays of spring start to appear.
Daffodils flowers have many different symbolic and powerful meanings which vary from country to country. In China, a daffodil is a symbol of fortune as they believe in its ability to attract good fortune and luck, and the Daffodil has become the official flower of the Chinese New Year. In Wales, daffodils also symbolise wealth and according to one legend, if you are the first person to see a daffodil flower in bloom, it means your year will be blessed with abundance.
The message from a daffodil is uplifting and energizing, making it the perfect flower to simply express your love, and because your Mother’s love is unconditional and the purest form of love, it is the perfect reason to give a bouquet of Daffodil sunshine this Mother’s Day,