Clach na Glaistig, Iona, Argyll

Legendary Rocks:  OS Grid Reference – NM 262 222

Also Known as:

  1. Glaistig’s Stone

Folklore

One of the best known supernatural creatures in the Scottish Highlands and Islands was one called the Glaistig: an elemental described variously as, “a thin, grey woman with yellow hair reaching to her heels and attired in green raiment”; or a deity both beneficial and dangerous, “often described as half-woman, half-goat.”  Katherine Briggs (1979) wrote that sometimes this creature

“sometimes has the attributes and habits of the Cailleach Bheur, sometimes assumes animal form, often that of a goat, but more often she is described as half-woman, half-goat.”

Something decidely shaman-like!

In many of the places where she was found, she would tend for the cattle and in order to appease her, local people would pour milk into the hollowed stones by which she lived (at some places these were cup-and-ring stones).  The Iona Glaistig was no exception.  The great Scottish writer A.A. MacGregor (1947) mentioned this creature and its stone in one of his classic books, saying:

“In the shieling days of Iona when, during the summer months, the inhabitants of the east end and of the west end of that island were wont to pasture their cows alternately for fourteen days on the common grazing at a spot known as Staonnaig, a Glaistig dwelt in a hollow rock near at hand. For this Glaistig, the Iona women at milking-time each evening poured a little milk on what is still pointed out at the Glaistig’s Stone.”

This “pouring of milk” onto hollows in stones is a custom found in cultures from Europe eastwards into India and, no doubt, even further afield.  The precise whereabouts of this sacred stone remains hidden.

References:

  1. Briggs, Katherine, A Dictionary of Fairies, Penguin: Harmondsworth 1979.
  2. MacGregor, Alasdair Alpin, The Peat Fire Flame, Ettrick Press: Edinburgh 1947.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  56.313159, -6.428428 Clach na Glaistig