The Glaukidai
A Myth of the Blue Men

Apollonius Sophistes


  1. The Story of Glaukos
  2. The Blue Men of the Minch
  3. Gille-Gorm, the Boy Blue
  4. Sources

I belong to Clan MacGilligorm (later called MacGillinnion, MacGill'innein etc.), and our family traces our descent to Crotair MacGilligorm (1372-1405), the hunchback (Crotair) son of Gille-Gorm (Blue-Lad), one of the "Blue Men," who live in caves under the waters of the Minch, the channel through the "Charmed Islands" of the Hebrides. Some say the Blue Men are fallen angels, but they are actually descendants of Glaukos Pontios (the Blue One of the Sea), a son of Pasiphaê (daughter of the Sun) and the Minôs who ruled Crete in the fourteenth century BCE. This is the story.
[Glaukos image]

I. The Story of Glaukos

The story begins two generations before the Trojan War when the child Anthêdôn (Rejoicing in Flowers) was born to the Minôs (Ruler) of Crete (who had come from Skuthia, i.e. Scythia) by bull-loving Pasiphaê (All-illuminating), a daughter of the Moon and Sun (that is, Hêlios, also called Phaethôn, Illuminating). One day the child went into a cave used to store hydromel (mead), which was the sacred drink before Dionysos gave us wine. In innocent ignorance he drowned himself in the liquor, but nobody knew what had happened to him.

Therefore the Minôs sent for the Kourêtes (Curetes), who were known as great seers (manteis), and they told him that whoever could best describe Minôs' miraculous cow would be able to restore Anthêdôn alive to him. This cow changed colors every four hours: from the black of chaotic night, to the pure white of day, to the vital red of blood, then back to black again. So Minôs had all the diviners in the land brought together, and the Kourêtes judged the best description to be that of a certain iatromantis (healer-seer, i.e. shaman) from Corinth called Poluidos ("Much Knowing"), the son of Koiranos, the son of Abas, the son of Melampous (Blackfoot) the Egyptian, the most famous iatromantis in Greece, who knew the language of snakes and woodworms. Poluidos said that the cow was like the ripening mulberry (batos), which is first pure white, then vibrant red, and finally a rich dark purple (i.e. black). (These are also the colors of the alchemical Great Work.)

Therefore, Poluidos was entrusted with finding Anthêdôn, and by divination he came to a place where the Owl (Glaux) was driving away the Bees (Melissai) from a cave (for Bees reveal the presence of prophetic Goddesses). Looking inside he found the drowned boy, and brought him to Minôs.

However, the grief-stricken Minôs was not satisfied, because the Kourêtes had said that the iatromantis would restore his living son to him, so he ordered that Poluidos be shut up with the boy's body in a beehive-shaped tomb, until he brought Anthêdôn back to life. This was beyond Poluidos' (or any mortal's) power, and so he prayed to the Gods for help. After a while, as his eyes became accustomed to the dark, he saw a snake approaching the corpse. On an impulse he killed the snake, because the idea had come into him that it would nibble the corpse. Shortly thereafter a second snake came forth and discovered the body of the first. Then it went away and came back holding in its mouth the twig of an herb (called Dios Anthos, the Flower of Zeus) with three blue-green (glaukos) leaves. [Graves thinks it was mistletoe, the Druidic Herb of the Sun.] The second snake laid this herb upon the first snake, which immediately came to life and left with its companion. Poluidos was astonished, but quickly took the serpent's branch and applied it to the boy while repeating a prayer three times. Like the snake, the boy immediately returned to life. (This is the very same herb that Asclepius later used to resurrect Hippolytus.)

Anthêdôn had a shiny blue-gray scar over his heart where the branch had touched him, and so he was thereafter called Glaukos (Blue-Grey) or in their language Glas (Gaelic, "Grey"). Poluidos explained to the boy that a part of his mortality had been burned away and replaced by divine substance, as shown by the scar. In this way he was reborn as a iatromantis (healer-seer), and he was called Antitheos (Godlike). Moreover, he later discovered that from the serpent-staff he had acquired power over snakes, as have his descendants to the end of time.

Minôs gave Poluidos many gifts, but then ordered him to teach Glaukos all his arts, especially divination; because Glaukos (or Glas) was an eager student, he became known as Gathêlos Glaukos or, in their language, Gaodhal Glas, from Gaoith-Dil (Lover of Learning). His magical craft, the Glaukou Tekhnê (Art of the Blue Man), became so famous that the ancients would say, "It doesn't take the Art of the Blue Man to do so and so" when they meant "It doesn't take a wizard to do so and so."

Eventually Minôs gave Poluidos leave to return home, but before he did so, the seer bade Glaukos to spit in his mouth. Ovid is wrong in claiming that by so doing Glaukos lost all power of divination and that in this way Poluidos reclaimed the gift he had been compelled to give. If this were true, how could Glaukos have become the famous seer that he did, eagerly sought for his prophecies by people throughout Greece? What really happened is that Poluidos also spat into Glaukos' mouth; in this way a sacred covenant was forged between the two seers. Thus also Glaukos was called Gnôstês (Soothsayer). (This name is also equipotent with the Antitheos Euplokamos, the Godlike One with Fair Locks)

After returning home, Poluidos fathered Eukhênôr (who accompanied his father to Troy and was killed by Paris in the war), Astuktatia and Mantô (a famous prophetess).

When Glaukos got his beard, he went to live on the shores of the Euboicum Mare (Euboean Sea) at the place in Euboia that is now called Anthêdôn in his honor. He felt a strong attraction for the sea and used to fish with both nets and rod and line.

One day he came to a rocky place, with the waves on one side and on the other a meadow of grassy herbs, never touched by sheep or goats, nor frequented by bees, nor cut by people. He spread out his nets and lines on this grass to dry, and was counting the fish that were still on his hooks, when he observed the strangest thing: one of the fish nibbled a certain blue-green or gray grassy herb (glaukê poia) and suddenly became rejuvenated and jumped back into the water. In this way all the fish escaped back into the water. (This herb, which some call Glaukiskos, had been sown by Kronos in His Golden Age.)

Glaukos was curious about the nature of this Undying Grass (Danaia Poia), and so he picked some of it and chewed it. Immediately his heart began to pound and he felt the irresistible call of the sea. He cried, "Farewell Earth, to which I shall never return!" and jumped into the depths. He was immediately surrounded by schools of sea-divinities, who called on the all-encircling King and Queen, Okeanos (Ocean) and Têthus, to accept him in Their domain. The Seirênes (Sirens) sang a magic purification song to him thrice three times, and told him that he had to bathe in the Hundred Streams.

When Glaukos did so, his mind became confused as in a dream and was so transformed that he could not even clearly remember his earlier life. Through his delirium he discovered that he had a thick green beard, and bluish skin, and feet like the tail of a fish. Thus he became Glaukos of the Sea (Pontios or Thalassios), a Pontomedôn (Lord of the Sea) and came to rule a kingdom under the waters near Dêlos.

To the prophetic art he had learned from Poluidos, he added the art of the wise Old Man of the Sea, Nêreus the Truthful, son of Earth and Sea (Gaia and Pontos), who was his friend, and thereafter Glaukos Gnôstês (Soothsayer) delivered oracles, coming once a year to the seamen in each port and island of Greece.

Not long after Glaukos' transformation, Skulla (Scylla), a beautiful Nêreid (daughter of Old Man Nêreus), came down to the seashore at night. There she disrobed and refreshed herself in a shallow pool. In the moonlight she saw a beautiful boy floating with his chest and arms out of the water. She pulled her long hair over her breasts and called to him, "What are you looking at?"

"The most beautiful nymph," he replied, and they bantered for a time, with ever increasing mutual attraction.

"Come closer so that I can see you," she called, but when he got close she saw that his thick hair, which covered his back, was green and that his skin was blue, for he was Glaukos. When Skulla saw that he became a fish at his groin, she shrieked, jumped from the pool and ran to the top of an overhanging cliff. Regaining her confidence, she called "What sort of monster are you?"

Godlike (Antitheos) Glaukos replied, "Fair nymph, I am not a monster, but a Sea God and more powerful than every Sea Lord (Pontomedôn) around here. But I cannot walk on land, and beg you to come back to the shore, so that we may share our love."

When Skulla saw that she had nothing to fear from Glaukos, she returned to the shore, still naked but for her long hair, and stood above him.

"Come down into the water with me," he pleaded and stroked her calves.

"You are not so powerful if you cannot come to me," she laughed, slipping from his hands and going a few feet away to recline in the pool. With signs she invited him, and Mighty (Krateros) Glaukos struggled out of the water, using his strong arms to pull himself across the sand to the pool. He flopped up next her and reached for an embrace, but she jumped to her feet and kicked him, shouting "You are a mongrel thing, half fish and half man, and out of place in both kingdoms!" Then she grabbed her robe and ran away laughing.

Great-Hearted (Megalêtôr) Glaukos was furious, but burning with love for her, and grief at her treatment. Slowly and painfully he dragged himself back into the sea and swam quickly from Euboia to Aiaia, a mysterious island near Sicily [Monte Circei?], which is the home of many beasts, who live on hills green with herbs. It is a paradoxical place, where the Sun rises and sets, and the hidden kingdom of Potnia Kirkê (Mistress Circe), divine sorceress and daughter of the Sun (Hêlios) and Persê, a Moon Goddess (perhaps Hekatê Herself) born of the Ocean; thus Kirkê was the sister of Pasiphaê, the mother of Glaukos. He came up through a submarine cave that opens into her halls (megara). There he called for audience with the queen and explained that he was filled with passion for a nymph. He begged, "Theia (Aunt) Kirkê, Polupharmakos (Knowing Many Potions), master of the magic of Love, grant me this favor and sing a spell or brew a potion - for I know the magic power of herbs - but not one that will cure me! Rather, turn her heart so that she burns with as much passion as me."

The regal and powerful enchantress, Kirkê Euplokamos (Fair-haired), replied, "Ah, Godlike Glaukos, my dear young Sea Lord, it would be far better if you loved someone like me, who knows what it is to burn with passion, than that frivolous nymph." Then with many words and actions she won his heart, so that he felt the same lust as her. In a shallow pool in her halls they tangled their limbs, hers soft and white, his glossy and blue, and spawned like fish.

Then Crafty (Doloessa) Kirkê taught him arts and incantations that would allow him to take the form of a mortal man, and accept her love in this way too. And through the night they enjoyed every pleasure afforded by their bodies and their craft.

In the morning Glaukos begged Kirkê Audêessa (Speaking Mortal Speech) for forgiveness, saying, "Gracious Goddess I have misled you. Although you have shown me every kindness and we have joined in passion, I cannot stop loving Skulla. Indeed seaweed will grow on the tops of the mountains, and trees will grow in the depths of the sea, before I will stop loving her."

(Kirkê is called Euplokamos - Fair-haired - because that name is equipotent with Audêessa Leaina - the Lioness who Speaks the Speech of Mortals - her secret nature.)
Mistress Kirkê was furious and would have destroyed Glaukos, but she loved him already and knew he was a powerful Sea Lord. Therefore she turned her wrath toward Skulla, circling like a sparrow hawk and saying to herself "Very well; you want her desiring you like a bitch in heat, and so she shall." She stormed into the dark forest and gathered secret herbs and pulverized them into a pungent powder while she sang a spell taught to her by Hekatê. When she was done, she wrapped her azure robe around her fair shoulders and went out through her court, where her familiar animals fawned about her (for she is Potnia Thêrôn - Mistress of the Beasts). By magic arts she skimmed across the waves to Rhêgion (modern Reggio di Calabria), opposite the rocky coast of Zanklê (mod. Messina), and to that pool where Skulla was accustomed to refresh herself. She poured her potent potion into the water as she circled it, intoning over it a complex spell thrice nine times.

At her usual time Skulla came to the pool, loosened the peplos (robe) from her shoulders, and folded it on a rock. When she had waded waist deep into the pool she felt something churning in the water around her thighs; suddenly the water around her waist erupted with snarling dogs' heads. She jumped from the pool to escape them, but discovered in her horror that they were her: her legs were covered with shaggy hair and shaped like dogs; each of her beautiful buttocks had become a yapping dog head, and her place of love had become a snarling dog. Such was the revenge of Kirkê Polupharmakos (Skilled in Many Potions).

Kirkê brought Great-Hearted Glaukos to see what she had done to Skulla, hoping that she would then have all his love, but he was horrified that she could do such a thing and fled from her into the ocean's depths.

Skulla Deinê (the Terrible) went to hide in a cave by the shore, where she would show her beautiful torso to lure sailors into her cave. When they came to lie with her, her lustful hunger was satisfied by the ravening dog-heads, for this was the only way they could be fed (although they could be placated somewhat by stroking). She also revenged herself on Kirkê by devouring as many of Odysseus' companions as she was able. Skulla Petraia (Living on Rocks) stayed in this place for many years, until she was mercifully turned to stone.

In ten months - the period of divine gestation - Kirkê bore a daughter from the seed of Glaukos Gnôstês (Soothsayer), whom she named Sibulla (Sibyl). When the girl was grown she traveled in many lands, and so she was called Phoitô (Wanderer). First she went to live in Eruthrai (Erythrae), where she achieved much fame for her prophecies, for when the Achaeans were on the way to Ilion, she told them that Troy would fall and that a Poet (i.e. Homer) would tell lies about the war. Later she went with the Kimmerioi (Cimmerians) to Sardô (Sardinia), where she prophesied to those long-breasted mountain Nymphs (Numphai oreskôoi dolikhomazoi) who call themselves Dianades or Ianades (i.e. the Janae, daughters of Jana), who in turn taught her many secrets, including the ways through the Underworld. [This meeting is described somewhat differently in The Janid, the mythic history of the Janae.] Then they traveled to Lake Aornos (Lk. Avernus, near Naples), the Mouth of the Underworld, where they established a home in the Great Cave (near Baiae) and she founded the oracular shrine later moved to Kumê (Cumae); among the Cimmerians she was consulted by Aeneas and Odysseus after they left Troy. Finally she went to the City of the Nymphs (Astu Numpheôn) on Samos, where she lived many years, prophesying from the Cave of the Nymphs there [probably the Spiliani cave]. Later prophetesses were called Sibyls (Sibullai) after her.

Her name Phoitô reflects her parentage, for it is equipotent with Audêessa (Speaking Mortal Speech) and Kouros (Lad), that is, Kirkê and Glaukos. She was called Hêrophilê (Beloved of Hera) on Samos (where the Goddess is especially honored) because that name is equal to Gathêlos Aitherios (Ethereal), and she lived for a thousand years because Hêrophilê Aitheria is equipotent with Aiôn (Aeon). She was called Dêiphobê because that name is equal to Skotia (Darkness). She was known by this name as a priestess of both Apollo and Trioditis, a name for Artemis as the Threefold Goddess of the Road. This is all I will say about this Sibulla for now.
After leaving Kirkê, Godlike Glaukos came in human form to Iasôn (Jason) and used his arts to construct the ship Argô; he himself became an Argonaut, in fact, the ship's first steersman. He traveled with Iasôn and the other Argonauts in quest of the Golden Fleece of Kolkhis (Colchis), into Aia [that is, Gaia, the Earth], his family's origin, whose king, called Aiêtês, was blood-brother of Kirkê and Pasiphaê and father of Mêdeia (Medea). (He is a king of the Underworld like Aidês [Hadês].) In the battle between Iasôn and the Turrhênoi (Etruscans), Glaukos protected himself by jumping into the sea and taking on his fish form; he was the only Argonaut to escape unscathed. Having revealed himself as a Sea Lord, he subsequently helped the Argonauts in many ways. All this took place in the generation before the Trojan War.

Although he never forgot Skulla, Great-Hearted Glaukos had many wives. For example, he loved Ariadne when she was on Dia, but she and Dionysos preferred each other, and Glaukos had to give her up.

Gathêlos also went to Egypt, where he used his craft and bravery to help the Pharaoh to defeat the Ethiopians. In gratitude the Pharaoh offered him his daughter Skotia (Darkness) as wife, and they were married. They lived happily in Egypt until the Pharaoh [perhaps Akhenaten, 1367-1350 BCE] introduced a new religion that was hostile to the practices of Druids (Druidôn). Therefore, Mighty Gathêlos took Skotia his queen and a large number of followers to seek the land that had been prophesied for them.

(We know that Anthêdôn Gathêlos was destined for Skotia, because Gathêlos and Skotia together equal Anthêdôn.)
First they went to Gotthia, where Carthage was later built. Then Gathêlos led them on to found a colony in Galicia in Spain, which is called Brigantia (near modern La Coruña) after the Goddess Brigintis (Brighid), and from there they went to Iernê (Ireland). Here Gathêlos was crowned king and his followers took the name Skotioi (Dark Ones, Scots) after the name of their queen. Some say that the entire Gaelic clan (Clan-na-Gael) is named for Gaodhal Glas (Gathêlos Glaukos), who led them into these places. Eventually the Skotioi came to the land of Hyperboreans, to Caledonia in the northernmost parts of Albion (England), where they settled. They founded the Kingdom of Skotia, also named for Gathêlos' queen.
[Blue Man image]

II. The Blue Men of the Minch

In time, Glaukos returned to live in the sea, where he was most at home, and spawned the race of Glaukidai (Descendants of Glaukos), or Hoi Glaukoi (the Blue Men), who live in caves beneath the waves. Although there are now Glaukidai in many parts of the world, their largest number are in Scotland, where Glaukos went after leaving the Mediterranean. The Highlanders call them the "Blue Men" (Na Fir Ghorm) because, like Glaukos, the Blue Men have glossy bluish (gorm) skin, a long gray (glas) face with curly green hair and beard. Their eyes tend to be small, their noses flat, and mouths large. Their arms are long and their legs are like fish-tails. They are the size of a full-grown man, and very strong.

Some say that the Glaukidai are Gathêlos' descendants by Kirkê, for the plural Glaukidai is equipotent with Gathêlos and Kirkê [i.e. GLAUKIDAI is numerically equal to the sum of GAQHLOS and KIRKH], which is confirmed by the singular Glaukidês (Descendant of Glaukos), which is equipotent with Aiaiê (She Who Dwells in Aiaia) and Antitheos (Godlike, an epithet of Glaukos), and also equipotent with Doloessa Leaina (The Lioness Who Speaks with Mortals), that is, Kirkê.
People who have seen the Blue Men know that they are not the same as the Selkies (Seal-people), but they often cooperate and accompany each other. Since most of the uneducated folk don't know the origin of the Blue Men, they say that they are fallen angels that were not so guilty as to be thrown into Hell, or that they were people suffering under some punishment or spell.

Most of the Blue Men live in caves under the waters of the Minch, the channel through the "Charmed Islands" (Na h-Eileinean) - Lewis and the Shiants - of the Hebrides; indeed this channel is called the Stream of the Blue Men (Sruth nam Fear Gorm). It is also called the "Current of Destruction," because they say the Blue Men stir up the waves by their incessant swimming. Sailors often observe Blue Men floating from the waist up in the water and know that storms often follow their appearance.

The Blue Men may attack ships or sailors who have mistreated the Selkies and other Seafolk. Sometimes an attack can be averted by engaging the chieftain of the band of Blue Men in a rhyming contest; if the chieftain is sufficiently impressed by the captain's wits, he will leave the ship alone. Although innocent sailors have little to fear, they nevertheless often sail around the Shiant Islands to avoid the Blue Men's Stream. They sing:

"Oh, weary on the Blue Men, their anger and their wiles!
The whole day long, the whole night long, they're splashing round the isles;
They'll follow every fisher - ah! they'll haunt the fisher's dream -
Where billows toss, oh, who would cross the Blue Men's Stream?"
The Blue Men can help mortals in many ways. Therefore, during Hallowtide (the Samhain season), the people light a candle by the sea and pour a libation of new ale into the water, while they pray that the Blue Men will leave seaweed on the beach, which they use for fertilizer. After the ritual, the candle is carefully extinguished.

Like their Great-Hearted ancestor, the Blue Men have a lusty disposition, and often seek love from mortal women. (There are Blue Women - Na Tè Ghorm, hai Glaukai - as well, who are not so often seen, but are just as famous for their amorous inclinations.) The dark-complexioned offspring of these unions often have webs between their fingers, which become horny crusts after the midwives cut them. By this evidence we know that there is considerable Blue Man blood flowing in Highland veins.

III. Gille-Gorm, the Boy Blue

In fourteenth-century Kintail (Ross-shire, Scotland), Hugh Fraser, later the Laird of Lovat, had a daughter Kerling, who was very attractive, and independent in thought as well as action. She was a devotee of the Goddess Dana (Danu) of the Three Ways, which was their name for Artemis, and was well-schooled in magic.

For her lover she had chosen her father's barn-man (skallag), who was very handsome, but she knew she would not be permitted to marry below her station. So she disguised her love and bided her time, until she was able to leave home, at which time she boldly told this barn-man her intentions, and married him, much to the dismay of her relatives and the gentry. However, this man had married her for her wealth and didn't love her, so she found little satisfaction in her husband and decided to find herself a leannan sìth (fairy lover).

Early one morning Kerling went down to the shore by the Sound of Sleat and climbed a rock at the high-tide mark. Then she shed exactly seven tears into the sea and sang:

Hear me, Blue Man, hear my call!
Seven tears I have let fall.
Salty ocean, salty tears:
Come to me, I have no fears!
Stormy ocean, stormy hearts:
We shall play our destined parts!
When the first light of dawn turned the waters gray, she saw an attractive Blue Man emerge from the waves and swim toward her. When he reached her rock, he asked, "What is thy will with me, fair dame?" and she replied that she wanted a lover. He was agreeable and told her that he would come at the seventh stream (spring tide), which is the time when Blue Men can take on human form and live above the waves.

He came that first time and many times thereafter, and often they were seen together after their trysts, so he became known to the townspeople, who called him Gille Gorm (Blue Lad, also Gilligorm etc.) from his complexion, which was not entirely hidden by his human form. Nevertheless, he was considered very handsome; oral tradition described Gille-Gorm:

He was the tallest of them all,
The broadest in the shoulders too,
With feet as small as they could be.
Many in our Clan, from that day to this, have denied this liaison, which they consider shameful, but the truth has never been suppressed completely. Eventually Kerling had a child from Gille-Gorm, and as a result even today a few clan members have the blood of the Blue Boy in their veins. Her father Hugh, Lord Lovat, never forgave her.
(Gillegorm's ancestry is shown by his name in Greek Glaukokouros - Blue-Lad, which is equipotent with Leaina - the Lioness, that is, Kirkê - and Megalêtôr - the Great-Hearted One, that is, Glaukos.)
During their years together, Gille-Gorm taught Kerling the Glaukou Tekhnê (Art of the Blue Man), which he had learned from his ancestors, and she taught him the arts she had learned as a Priestess of Dana.

[Eilean Donnan image
Eilean Donnan Castle

Eilean Donnan Castle (on St. Donnan Island) had been built in 1266, under order of King Alexander III, by a son who had been given the Second Sight by his father, the chief on the island, for he gave his son his first drink out of a raven's skull. This castle became a key factor in the conflict between the Lord of the Isles and the Earl of Ross.

Acting under orders from Thomas Randolph, Earl of Moray and Guardian of the Kingdom, Earl Hugh of Ross, captured the castle and later apprehended Coinneach (Kenneth) na Sroine, the Constable of the castle, imprisoning him at Inverness. Therefore the Allied Clans chose Gille-Gorm to be Constable of Eilean Donnan Castle and thus Over Chief of the Allies of the West.

Later, while William, Sixth Earl of Ross, was away, Gille-Gorm led his troop of "mountain men" on a diversionary invasion. First they sacked and looted the territory around Tain and Chanonry, then they proceeded southeast to the muir that lies between Kessock Ferry and Munlochy Bay. They said they would burn Inverness to the ground unless the Provost would free Coinneach and pay a ransom. The Provost said he would consider their demands and sent barrels of whisky to Gille-Gorm's soldiers as a show of good faith. In the meantime, Kerling's vengeful father, Hugh Fraser, who was the Crown's Lieutenant in the North, and his vassals joined the troops of Earl William of Ross, coming from Inverness, at Kessock Ferry.

In the morning they attacked at Drumderfit (Blair na Coi), where Gille-Gorm's band was camped. Under this onslaught by much superior numbers (and, some say, because of the effects of the whiskey!), Gille-Gorm's troops were forced to retreat, and many of the clan were killed. They retreated to the Druim nan Clavan (Ridge of Cairns), where most of the remainder were cut down; it has been called Druim nan Deur (Ridge of Tears) ever since, and that has become our War Cry.

The Earl of Ross followed with a series of vicious reprisals and so the survivors of the Battle of Drumderfit left Kintail; thus was our clan scattered from its ancient homeland, and, for generations after, the women of our clan remembered a curse:

Oh curst be the Fraser,
and curst be his Clan,
each Hag in her Hovel,
each Child and each Man!
(Needless to say, the time for such animosities has long passed!)

Chief Gille-Gorm died with his men. Kerling, who was with him at the Final Battle, tried to save her husband by applying the Flower of Zeus, which she kept in an ivory chest, but before she could get it, she was captured by the Frasers.

Kerling was pregnant when she was captured, and in time gave birth to a boy. The Frasers had originally intended to kill the infant, but, because Kerling was the daughter of the Laird of Lovat, they were satisfied in the end with breaking his back so he would be deformed and therefore disallowed from becoming Chief and avenging his father. Thus he came to be known as Crotair (Hunchback, also Croter, Crotach etc.), for his given name was kept secret from the captors.

When it was time for Crotair to leave home, his mother whispered into his Ear the Coistrig Mathar [Mother's Consecration] for his protection, as is the custom:

May the Dagda rest upon thy Shoulders
And protect thee coming or departing;
By thy Heart be Mapon macc Matrôna;
May the Lady Brigit flow upon thee -
O may Wise Brigintis always bathe thee!
Then she went up to the Five Sisters (mountains in Kintail) and cut the Sacred Mothan [Flower of Zeus?], saying as she did the incantation called Am Mothan [The Mothan]:
Now I pick the Sacred Mothan,
As did Mapon macc Matrôna,
In the Holy Name of Dagda,
And of Brigit, Lugh and Danu.
Though in field of furious fighting,
Where no bounds are known to anger,
Be Thou happiness and comfort,
Mighty Mórríghan's protection!
She sewed the herb into Crotair's vest under his left arm, in accord with her Craft and thus protected him in his many travels.

[GilleGorm image] Crotair was schooled at Beauly Priory where he took Orders. Later the Hunchback of Beauly Priory returned to Kintail where he was pastor of Kilichoinen in Glenelg and of Kilmore in Sleat. Further, because Crotair was of the Celtic Church he took no vow of celibacy and so he fathered a son, who was called Gille Fhinnein [Servant of St. Finnan]. And so was born Clan Mac Gill'innein (the Sons of the Servant of St. Finnan). (By naming themselves after this saint - a common practice in the 14th century - they hoped to disguise their descent from Gille-Gorm, the Blue Man; other descendants kept the name MacGilligorm.)

Chief Gille-Gorm was buried under a large stone cairn, which was visible as late as 1785 (the largest among the Cairns of Drumderfit raised to the slain). A wooden idol of the Chief was erected near the House of Drumderfit, the estate of some of his descendants, the Lobans of Drumderfit in Easter Ross; it perished when a band of Munros and Sutherlands destroyed the estate during the Jacobite uprising of 1715. Now we say:

Bonnie Boy Blue, come blow your horn,
The wolf's in the meadow and prowls through the corn.
But where is the Brave Boy who guards his sheep?
He's under a hillock, fast asleep.
Will you awake him? No, not I,
For if I do, the wolf will die!

Principal Sources

Apollodorus, Bibliotece; H. Beck, Folklore and the Sea; G. F. Black, County Folk-lore, Vol. III; K. Briggs, A Dict. of Fairies; J. G. Campbell, Superstitions of the Highlands & Islands of Scotland; D. Chalmers, History of Scotland (1579); A Chronicle of the Kings of Scotland (17th c. manuscript in Library of Faculty of Advocates); C. Kerényi, Gods of the Greeks, Goddesses of the Sun and Moon; Lebor Gabála (Book of Invasions); A. A. MacGregor, The Peat-fire Flame; Oracula Sibyllina, Bk. III; Ovid, Metamorphosis, Fasti; H. W. Parke, Sibyls and Sibylline Prophecy in Class. Antiquity; R. M. Robertson, Selected Highland Folk Tales; W. F. Skene, Celtic Scotland: A History of Ancient Alban, Vol. I; Virgil, Aeneid; clan histories.
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Last updated: Sat Feb 6 13:44:39 EST 1999