Monday, August 5, 2013

Corp Criadhach

poppet by Shain Erin

Cha dèan mi corp-criadhach dhut
 cha nochd do chruth na mo dhàin
 cha chuir meallachd mar a chuir
 na seann bhàird air luchd an gràidh
 Thogadh iad luidheag bhon ùir
 an cumadh na dùilleag bochd
 ga milleadh is boinnean bùirn
 a’ sileadh ’s drùidhteadh tron chorp.
’S ann leatsa tha d’ àileachd fhèin
’s i gun fheum air m’ fhaclan fann
 gus a toirt don aimsir chèin
 ann an caint bhreugach gach rainn.
Chan fhalaich mi d’ ìomhaigh òr
 cha mhair seo ach mairidh i
 bheir mi air ais thugad beò
 do dhealbh; cum, a stòr, do bhith.
I will not make you a clay-corpse,
 your shape will not find itself in my poems;
 Bards of old praised the ones they loved;
 I will not put such a cursed blessing upon you.
They hoisted a doll of rags from the ground,
 a mirage of a wretched girl
 being destroyed by drops of water,
 washing through and penetrating the corpse.
Your beauty is yours to command;
 my words of vanity, echoing
 with the false language of each stanza,
 cannot preserve it for posterity.
I will not hide your golden image –
this will not endure, but it will –
I will bring it back to you, your shape;
 Beloved, keep your life.
Over the last little while I have been looking into the historical use and folk references to the use of a corp criadhach in the hopes of finding out more for my own personal practice. Essentially, a corp criadhach or clay corpse/clay body is a Scottish variant of a poppet.
I have been working with poppets for a good while now for healing and other beneficial magic, but I have only come across one source that mentions them being used in love magic. For the most part in Scottish folk magic at least, they were used for more sinister purposes.
"Clay corpse. When a witch desired to destroy any one to whom she had an ill-will, she often made a corpse of clay resembling the unfortunate one and placed it in some out-of-the-way burn under a precipice, in such a way that the water trickled slowly on it. As the clay body wasted so the live body of the person it resembled was also supposed to waste away. Were the body found, it was carefully preserved and so the spell of the witch was broken. Sometimes pins were stuck in the clay body to make the death of the doomed one more painful. Several such bodies have been found, even of late years."
John Gregorson Campbell also mentions as a material being used in Witchcraft & Second Sight in the Highlands & Islands of Scotland. In the Lowlands of Scotland the corp criadhach was melted slowly by a fire, with the intention of causing a victim to suffer a slow and painful death.
In Perthshire a piece of wood stuck with pins was used against a minister. The out come was, "burning pains all over his body, and was slowly wasting away by some malady of which the nature could not be understood." Eventually the piece of wood was dug up by a woman who snuck up on the culprit while she was burying it, and once the pins were removed from the wood, the minister is said to have recovered. {Witchcraft & Second Sight in the Highlands & Islands of Scotland}
Another case is of Lady Fowlis {Catherine Ross} was indicted of witchcraft after she was accused of seeking the services of witches to create likenesses of her victims, fashioned out of clay. According to Alexander MacGregor in Highland Supersitions:
"The nature of these effigies can be explained. Such as were intended to be doomed, or destroyed, were formed out of clay into hideous figures, or rude statues larger than life-size. These were called cuirp-creadha or bodies of clay. Once formed, incantations and spells were uttered over them. Pins, nails, and feathers were pierced into them, and fairy arrows darted against them, with fearful oaths and imprecations. Such things Lady Fowlis resorted to for destroying her relatives..."
Perhaps one of the most popular examples can be found in Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft by Walter Scott, referencing the case of Isobel Gowdie:
"They devoted the male children of this gentleman (of the well-known family of Gordon of Park, I presume) to wasting illness, by the following lines, placing at the same time in the fire figures composed of clay mixed with paste, to represent the object: -- 

We put this water amongst this meal,
For long dwining and ill heal;
We put it in into the fire,
To burn them up stook and stour.
That they be burned with our will,
Like any stikkle in a kiln."
This is a practice that is reputed to have made its way over from Scotland to the "New World", at least by one person in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada in the 1800's.
The one reference that I can recall figures being used in Scottish folk magic for love can be found in Selected Highland Folktales by Ronald McDonald Robertson. If any of my readers happen know of any other sources, please feel free to share them with me.
If you understand Gàidhlig, you can head on over to the Tobar an Dualchais website to hear some neat audio stories about clay corpses {stories can be found here, here, and here.}



Thursday, August 1, 2013

Merry Lughnasadh!

{royalty free photo}
Walk softly, O man, past an acre of wheat,
With awe in your heart and your face.
Walk humbly, O man, and with reverent feet,
For strength slumbers here - Can't you feel its heart beat?
And beauty's own couch is an acre of wheat,
And holiness dwells in this place.
Breathe gently, O breeze, on the grain-heavy ears,
That drank long and deep of spring rain.
O breeze, ripple gently the yellow-tipped spears.
Our little ones, caught in the rush of the years,
Need growth that is stored in the wheat's golden ears
All mother-ripe now with smooth grain.
Many blessings to you all and may have many bounties to celebrate!