Friday 23 January 2009

MacKay: The Bad Witch's God of the Week

It is Burns Night on January 25, commemorating Scotland's national poet Robert Burns, so I thought it would be a good idea to choose a Scottish deity as The Bad Witch's God of the Week.

The problem is, there aren't many specifically Scottish deities to choose from.

Modern Scotland is an amalgamation of the ancient Picts who lived north of the Firth and Clyde rivers, the Brythonic people and also some Irish settlers who brought with them their Gaelic culture and mythology. Very little is know about Pictish gods and goddesses, and it is difficult to tell which Brythonic and Gaelic deities were exclusive to the area now called Scotland and which were worshipped elsewhere in England, Ireland and Wales.

So, I have settled for MacKay, a character from Scottish folklore who is thought to include aspects of an earlier fire god, as my God of the Week.

The legend goes that MacKay, head of Clan MacKay, was trying to start a fire one dark and wintry night so that his clan could cook their food. Glimpsing the lights of faeryfolk dancing in hills, he decided to capture one of the tiny sparks so he would never again struggle against the wind and the rain to get a fire going. It took him many a long day and night, but in the end he was successful.

However, when the fairies realised what had been stolen, they were so angry they vowed to tease humankind forever with their elusive lights, but never again be caught. That is one origin of the idea of faery fires that entice men into the hills and glens, then lead them astray, lost forever, never to get close to what they seek.

The motto of Clan MacKay is Sons of Fire, and that is also supposed to be a translation of the ancient name's meaning.

If you are celebrating Burns Night with a traditional haggis, neaps and tatties, I hope your cooking fire lights quickly and you don't have to resort to the unfortunate antics of old MacKay.


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