Devil’s Well, Abernethy, Perthshire

Sacred Well:  OS Grid Reference – NO 19430 14758

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 28084

Getting Here

Devils Well on 1860 map

From Abernethy village, go west along the A913 road for half-a-mile, then turn left up the long and winding Glenfoot road up the Abernethy Glen.  About a mile up on your left-side is Craigden Farm and, just a bit past this, the forestry plantation.  Just before the trees, cut up the field and head uphill, passing the near forest of gorse, until you reach the huge detached house of Turflundie.  In the field immediately east, right up against the barbed-wire fence where it meets the depleted forestry, a very small trickle of water emerges beneath a small pile of rocks.  You’re here!

Archaeology & History

The trickling waters are on the other side of this fence

Long since thought to have been lost, the trickling remains of this old Well of the Devil are, in fact, still running beneath the pile of stones just over the barbed-wire fence on the edge of the forestry section.  A cluster of other worn rounded rocks scatter the ground just to the rear of where the water first comes out of the ground, suggesting, perhaps, that a small well-house covered the spring; but this is me being speculative, as there’s no mention of this in the early writings of the Ordnance Survey lads, nor is one shown on the first OS-map of the area in 1860.  And you’ll see on the OS-map how the well is slightly lower than where it presently trickles, but this is down to the fact that the source of it was piped-off at sometime in the not-too-distant past, as evidenced by remains of such piping laying just over the barbed-wire fence close to the source.  In truth, unless you’re hardcore, there’s very little to see.

Folklore

The dedication of this water-site to the christian ‘devil’ is obviously a corruption of its original traditional name, which may have simply been to the Bodach, or ‘Old Man’ in Gaelic and northern British lore.  The bodach‘s consort is the great prima Mater of the northern realms known as the Cailleach, but I can find no dedication to Her anywhere nearby.  The best we have are the ‘Witches Graves’ a half-mile to the northwest, below the edge of the geological ridge overlooking Abernethy, where folklore tells us 22 women were murdered and buried by the local christians several centuries ago.

References:

  1. Morris, Ruth & Frank, Scottish Healing Wells, Alethea: Sandy 1982.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.318429, -3.304175 Devil\'s Well

The Bodach and Cailleach, Gigha, Argyll

Sacred Stones:  OS Grid Reference – NR 6382 4730

Folklore

The Bodach and the Cailleach
The Bodach & the Cailleach

On this “Isle of the Gods” — as some historians proclaim Gigha to mean — the ancient rites and ceremonies of local folk continued until pretty recent times.  One writer narrated some intriguing pre-christian events connected to this curious and little-known place, speaking of indigenous heathen rites:

“These are in fact known to have persisted on the island until well into the early part of the (19th) century when Irish fishermen could still be seen climbing the little hill of Moinean Sitheil, in the sacred Moss of Peace below Ardminish, to pay homage to the “Old Ones” of Gigha: a pair of ancient legend-shrouded stones known as the Bodach and the Cailleach, that from time immemorial have stood upon a low green knoll below the farm of Achamore.

“Through the countless ages the strange jug-headed little Bodach and his smaller consort have kept steadfast vigil over Gigha: their mysterious aura said to guarantee its continuing fertility and prosperity as they link the thriving island of today with beliefs and traditions having roots in the earth-cults and sun-worship of primeval times.  In the past folk would have honoured them with offerings of meal or milk and even now they still command considerable local affectation and respect, albeit expressed in less overtly pagan ways.  And so they stand as ever upon their tiny hillock gazing out across tumbling terraces of old Cantereoch and beautiful Ardlamey Bay, inscrutable and silent, yet with a strangely ‘knowing’ air impossible to define.”

References:

  1. Anonymous, Exploring Historic Kintyre and the Isle of Gigha, Harlequin Press: Oban n.d.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  55.661677, -5.756533 Bodach and Cailleach