Log in

No account? Create an account
bear by san

December 2021



Powered by LiveJournal.com
bear by san

Back Home in Derry

I've been poking around, looking for references to the Hell tiend outside of Tam Lin (not having much luck--I'm trying to decide what happens to those tithed to Hell after they get there. What does the Devil want with a bunch of Faeries and/or changelings, anyway?


Anyway, I can't find another period ballad that mentions it-- At the end of ev're seven years, they pay a tithe to Hell-- but I did find a likely allusion to it in the rather famous modern Irish ballad (attributed to Bobby Sands, a name persons my age may remember), Back Home In Derry. To wit:

I cursed them to hell, as our bow fought the swill
Our ship danced like moths on the firelight
Wild horses rode high as the devil passed by
Taking souls into Hades by twilight light

And thus, the folk process. Interesting to pull up an allusion to mythic Faerie and Hell and slavery in a song tying modern political activism to that of the 19th century. Layers of complexity there. Very cool.

edit: Here's Tam Lin, for your reference.

And this is exactly why I'm opposed to copyright extensions in perpetuity.


I wonder if it wouldn't be more useful to skim through Caesar on Britain, and the discussions of human sacrifice?

"Tithe to Hell" certainly has the ring of a Christianized interpretation of a pre-Christian custom.

I know the Child ballads have numbers. Aren't they cross-referenced into groups-of-similar by number, the way that fairy tales and folk tales are? No luck that way, I suppose?

It's an interesting puzzle.

I've been poking around, looking for references to the Hell tiend outside of Tam Lin (not having much luck

I couldn't think of anything offhand either and a quick rootle through my Welsh/Celtic folklore and myth books didn't throw up much. No references to hell or tiends as such. However, I did once explore some related ideas for a novel in my To Write queue (which is so much not in progress, I'd have to say it's in the freezer, awaiting possibly resurrection sometime).

My theory at the time (which wouldn't stand up to rigorous inspection, but I reckoned was good enough for fiction) was that this sort of thing related to distant folk memories of human sacrifice carried out by the pre-Celtic inhabitants (of Wales in my case), but possibly of all the Celtic lands. We have some snippets of Welsh folk lore that seem to point to some kind of lot drawing activities in conjuction with Samhain/Halloween bonfires. (If you have an active imagination, that is.) Also, we have a very local legend attached to a stone arch named Porth yr Euog (Gateway of the Guilty). The legend says that if a condemned person could run to the gate, they would be spared. Condemned to what it doesn't say.

However, it might be worth you investigating legends relating to Annwn (sometimes spelt Annwfn). We have a local legend relating to Llyn Barfog (quoted in Sir John Rhys's Celtic Folklore Welsh and Manx that it's one of the entrances to Annwn. The Plant Annwn (Children of Annwn) appear from this lake and with their ban-hounds hunt the souls of doomed men dying without baptism. Gwyn ap Nudd is the king of Annwn and his realm is variously linked with faerie and or hell/land of the dead.

Don't know whether that will give you any ideas/leads for further reading.
That was actually more of a "Hey, look at this other neat thing I found" than a plea for help. But thank you anyway!

Re: Reference Librarian hat

*g* I wound up just making something up. It's fiction, after all.

Mostly I just thought it was neat finding a Tam Lin reference in a song written in the '70's or '80s.

Re: Reference Librarian hat

Ooooh, oooh, I WANT one of those! Yeesh, I wonder how much a hardcopy one costs. Antique DOS format doesn't sound very user-friendly from here.

And I also want my own copy of the OED, and...

and while I'm wishing, I really want a pony...
Sheesh, and I was all happy to find a Tam Lin *page*. Clearly I've set my sights too low. Thomas the Rhymer wasn't going to be used to pay off Hell, but he did get trapped in Faery -- does that count?

I had the inverse experience of yours with Christy Moore's song: in the early nineties, I was in a Russian vocal group that sang village music (think Dmitri Pokrovsky Ensemble, if you've ever heard of them). I looked at the translation of a Cossack song, and flipped: I had read of it in Dorothy Dunnett's _The Ringed Castle_, some fifteen years earlier. (If you haven't yet read D. Dunnett's The Lymond Chronicles, a 6 book series set in Scotland, France, England, Russia, and the Levant in the early 1500s, do not walk, RUN, to the nearest bookstore.)

I've been fascinated with The Broomfield Wager (linked to the Tam Lin page) and toying with the idea of writing it into a story for years. Cordelia's Dad does a version of it on their album _Comet_: "The May-Blooming Field." Their liner notes give the most succint summary of the plot I've ever seen: "Never date a psychopath."

Words to live by.

For forty days and forty nights--

they rode through bluid red to tha' knee...

What's really amusing is that I've got a whole damned Tam Lin novel out there in agentland--I really need to rewrite the first thirty pages or so, because I tried a literary trick with it that just doesn't work, but I'm waiting for the inevitable list of other things I need to go fix first.

One that the Tam Lin page is missing is "Ballad of King Orfeo," where the mortal king and harper goes to Faerie to win his Queen back from the Faerie-King. Great tune. Steeleye Span does a real good version of it--on Rocket Cottage, I think. (I'm too lazy to go dig through CDs right now.)

I am doing the Thomas the Rhymer riff as well--poet stolen off to Faerie--but I digress.

Folk music liner notes rock *g*. I've been wondering a while at connections between The Broomfield Wager and The Elf-Knight, which sort of has the opposite plot--maiden sacrifices her virginity to get rid of a psychopath.

Anyway... good thoughts.
And this is exactly why I'm opposed to copyright extensions in perpetuity
I've been terribly amused by recent ads for League of Extraordinary Gentlemen in which the studio heralds it as an original in a summer of sequels...
An original that can't spell Quatermain right. *g*

The Teind and the Wild Hunt

References to the fairies' teind to Hell are pretty sparse. Of the fairy ballads, "Tam Lin" is the only one that mentions it. I have recently seen one other mention of a seven-year trinute paid by either witches or fairies, but -- forgive me -- I'm not entirely sure where. I think Cheshyre is right on the money though -- I think it was in "The Anatomy of Puck" by Katherine Briggs, which I was flipping through just a couple of weeks ago. If I'm not just inventing this memory, it's in the early section of the book, where Briggs is discussing fairy beliefs mentioned in sixteenth and seventeenth century witchcraft treatises; my hunch would be the sections on King James I's "Daemonologie" or on Reginald Scot's "Discoverie of Witchcraft" (most likely in the material later added to Scot's work by "pseudoReginald Scot"). I don't have ready access to a copy right now, so I can't doublecheck this -- hope I'm not leading you on a goosechase.
It's not clear that the allusion in the Christy Moore song has anything to to do with the Teind -- but it's clearly a reference to the Wild Hunt, where a phantom rider leads a spectral host in a careening and relentless pursuit of souls. Somtimes the Wild Hunt is associated with faiires, but perhaps more often with the Devil (as it seems to be here), and sometimes with other historical and pseudohistorical figures, such as Wild Edric and King Arthur. Your example seems to be a specifically Irish articulation of the theme: "The Wild Hunt on the Sea." There's a recent article on this motif by Patricia Lysaght(which I haven't read) called "The Wild Hunt on the Sea: Stories from the South-West of Ireland"; it's in the collection "Supernatural Enemies," edited by Hilda Ellis Davidson and Anna Chaudhri (Carolina Academic Press, 2001). The same volume has a useful summary of the Wild Hunt theme by Davidson.

Re: The Teind and the Wild Hunt

Darn, you are smart.

Come back any time *g*

More on the Teind

Thanks for the compliment but the truth is that I've been trying (and failing) to write on fairy beliefs for the last two years, so pulling out those references isn't that hard -- I can't do that with any other other topic. Last night I went home and piled through various notes, book, and photocopies, and I’ve now got more specifics on the pre-“Tam Lin” history of the fairies’ teind to Hell.

The best resource I found was a short but info-packed article by E. B. Lyle called “The Teind to Hell in Tam Lin” (appeared in the journal “Folklore,” vol . 81 (1970): pp. 177-81). The earliest reference to the teind she provides is a stanza from the fourteenth century romance “Thomas of Erceldoune.” Here, the foul fiend’s “fee” seems to be the equivalent of the teind:

To Morne, of Helle the foulle fende,
Amange this folke will feche his fee;
And thou arte mekill mane and hende,
I trowe full wele he wolde chese the.
(Lines 289-92 in the Thornton MS version edited by James A. H. Murray)

This is very reminiscent of Tam Lin’s concern that he will be the one chosen for the teind because he’s so “full of flesh.”

The next reference is right in your period – it’s from the indictment for witchcraft of Alison Peirson in 1588. (The text of the indictment is in the book “Criminal Trials in Scotland,” edited by Robert Pitcairn, vol I, part 2, p. 164; I’ve never managed to see a copy of this book though it’s often cited in discussions of fairylore derived from the witch trials.) According to Alison’s testimony, her uncle William Simpson had been carried off to fairyland and later became her go-between in her visits to “Elfane.” He also relayed to her the fairy medical knowledge that allowed her to become a sought-after healer. Here’s the passage (in a thickish sixteenth century Scots) that Lyle gives concerning the teind; the brackets are hers:

[Mr. Williame Sympsoun] will appeir to hir selff allane before the Court [of Elfane] cum; and that he before tauld hir how he wes careit away with thame out of middil-eird: And quhene we heir the quhirll-wind blaw in the sey, thay wilbe commounelie with itt, or cumand sone thaireftir; than Mr Williame will cum before and tell hir, and bid hir keip hir and sane hir, that scho be nocht tane away with thame agane; for the teynd gais ewerie yeir to hell.

This gives a slightly different picture of the teind than “Tam Lin” since in this account the tribute is due "every year." It’s also interesting to see linked with the teind the motif of the whirlwind that either announces the arrival of the fairies or is used by them to carry off humans. Lyle cites this passage as evidence that the word “teynd” was meant literally as a “tenth”; in other words, she believes this indicates that the devil took a tenth of the population of fairyland (or those humans they substituted for themselves) as tribute. She notes too that this idea is upported by the Mansfield manuscript version of Tam Lin, which says that “the tenth part goes down to Hell.” (I’m not sure whether or not I’m convinced by this.) Lyle doesn’t say so, but if I remember correctly poor Alison Peirson was burned at the stake.

Hope all of this helps. There's no word in anything I read about what the devil does with the prisoners he's given -- but that's probably because everyone was pretty sure they knew what happened to souls that came in to the devil's keeping; it didn't need to be said.

Agree completely on the Last Unicorn; if only more fantasy writers aspired to those kinds of heights.


Re: More on the Teind

Oh, bloody hell.

And I've read Thomas of Erceldourne as part of the research for my ballads book. And I plumb forgot the teind was in it.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.