Witches and Wizards

Just a quick one today… I thought it was about time I actually told you lovely readers about the folklore of Long Meg and Her Daughters and why the site has the name it does. I’m sorry it’s taken me this long, I’ve been getting carried away with archaeological debates and theories in visualisation, when really stories about witches and wizards are so much cooler right?!

I won’t start with ‘Once Upon A Time’ – that always implies a happy ending and, if you believe this story, it’s not really a happy ending. The legend goes that Long Meg was a witch who was practicing a Pagan worship with her daughters when she was found by a Scottish wizard (some accounts insist that he was a saint) named Michael Scott, who then turned them to stone. Not so happy then, I personally wouldn’t want to be turned to stone for centuries. There may be hope for them yet though; the legend says that if the stones were to be counted twice the spell would be broken and Long Meg and her daughters would be released from their stony slumber. It’s a common legend associated with stone circles, and it is integral to the identity of the site as a heritage place. If anything else, it gives the stones a certain agency and an identity of their own which exudes an ‘other-worldliness’ and a sense of longevity. The contribution of folktales to our sense of heritage and history is therefore of an importance which shouldn’t be undermined.

Folklore and archaeology are an interesting mix. They have a kind of love-hate relationship. Folklore and legends are often the first thing that gets people hooked on the past which has the potential to lead them into studying archaeology. Take the legends of King Arthur or Robin Hood, for example, which are loved so much by so many people. Yet archaeology tries to disprove these legends, claiming that there’s always a more logical reason for that circular ditch over there (“no way is it the Round Table!”) or that sword found in that lake (“its Bronze Age actually so, ya know, it can’t be Excalibur”). I’m an archaeologist, a fact which is now inescapable, so of course I believe that there’s always a more logical reason for sites and features to be there. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t value legends and find them intriguing, or believe that there isn’t a grain of truth in them. They often offer a form of escapism, a way of living in a fantasy, and if that gets people interested in the past then where’s the harm in that??

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2 thoughts on “Witches and Wizards

  1. Great discovering your blog. I’m with you, I think archaeology and folklore can play nicely together. For one thing, a lot of archaeology comes from our ancestors’ relationships with their own folklore, with the spirits & demons that they perceived in their world. Stone circles, sacred spaces — prosaic archaeology that’s only there because of poetic flights of fancy!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Definitely! Folklore influences archaeology on so many levels, whether that’s our relationship with folktales we engage with, or the folktales our ancestors’ did. Even today I was reading a lovely English Heritage blog post on the influence of the Arthurian legend on castle designs in the Middle Ages. (http://heritagecalling.com/2015/12/21/a-brief-introduction-to-castles-of-legend/) The influence of folklore can be often undermined, and I feel that it’s something which is so integral to our understanding of the past. Thanks for reading my blog and for your interesting comments!

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