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33 32 AMAzing legendS Of the StOneS cuckoos, wrens, witches and a magic cow A legend common to many British circles is that the megaliths are people who were turned to stone for some transgression. At Callanish, the story is that St Kieran literally petrified pagan giants who were meeting to oppose Christianity. Several tales involve birds the first cuckoo of Spring tradi tionally gave its first call from the stones. A cuckoos call also heralded the mysterious Shining One who is said to have walked up the avenue at midsummer sunrise. Wrens always flew alongside the chief priest, who wore a cloak of coloured feathers. He and his fellow priests were supposed to have originally brought the stones to Lewis in many ships. In another story a Gaelicspeaking cow came to the stones during a famine and gave milk to all, but a witch used a bottomless bucket to milk her dry. The cow was not seen again. Another legend tells of a local girl who asked a witch for a magical belt to harm her rival in love. Thinking better of this evil act she disposed of the belt by wrapping it around one of the stones. At once the stone was enveloped in flames and broke in two, amid noises of howling and flapping wings. At Beltane May 1st tradition was that all fires were to be extinguished on the island. An old priest then produced fire from a nearby tree and redistributed it from within the circle. This remarkable adaptation of Jamess engraving see page 23 is to be found in an album in the Library of St Andrews University. The unknown artist has adapted the stones of the circle into anthropomorphic figures, while stone 30, being shorter, becomes a seat for a fiddler. The Gaelic word for the standing stones, Tursachan or Turusachan, is often taken to mean place of sadness.
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