Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Folklore Snippets: The Luridan

The Luridan is a sort of brownie or hob from Orkney. Thomas Keightley, in his Fairy Mythology, quotes this account of him from Reginald Scot’s ‘Discoverie of Witchcraft’:
Luridan… did for many years inhabit the island of Pomonia, the largest of the Orkades in Scotland, supplying the place of man-servant and maid-servant with wonderful diligence to those families whom he did haunt, sweeping their rooms and washing their dishes, and making their fires before any were up in the morning.  This Luridan affirmed, that he was the genius astral of that island; that his place or residence in the days of Solomon and David was at Jerusalem; that then he was called by the Jews Belelah; after that, he remainded long in the dominion of Wales, instructing their bards in British poesie and prophecies, being called Wrthin, Wadd, Elgin, ‘and now,’ said he, ‘I have removed hither, and alas! my continuance is but short, for in seventy years I must resign my place to Balkin, lord of the Northern Mountains.’

Many wonderful and incredible things did he also relate of this Balkin, affirming that he was shaped like a satyr, having wife and children to the number of twelve thousand, which were the brood of the Northern fairies, inhabiting Southerland and Catenes [Sutherland and Caithness], with the adjacent islands.  And that these were the companies of spirits that hold continual wars with the fiery spirits in the mountain Heckla, that vomits fire in Islandia [Iceland].  That their speech was ancient Irish, and their dwelling is the caverns of the rocks and mountains, which relation is recorded in the antiquities of Pomonia.

Reginald Scot, Discoverie of Witchcraft, b. 2. c. 4. London 1665

I have no idea where Reginald Scot collected this information and misinformation.  But apparently the obsolete and never-much-used name ‘Pomonia’ or ‘Pomona’, for the largest of the Orkney group, is due to a mistranslation by 16th century Scots historian George Buchanan, a contemporary of Scot’s, so I do wonder if it might have been from him.  

Don’t you love the interweaving of legends here? A homely hobgoblin, classical and Biblical references, Welsh bards and Irish poets, and the mysterious Balkin – to say nothing of fire spirits from Hekla – hmmm.  Now where’s my pen?

Picture credit:  Henry Fuseli, 'Cobweb', from a fascinating exhibition on ghosts and spirits at the Goethe Institute

1 comment:

  1. It does all get so deliciously mixed up!
    Thanks for this snippet.