Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ghostly Homes, Villages Throughout Cultures

In May 1987, while hiking Beinn Fhionnlaidh in the Highlands of Scotland, two members of the Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team, Donald Watt and George Bruce, happened upon a innocuous cottage. It was described as being a two-story granite structure nestled on the shore of the loch below. The dwelling wasn't marked on their maps and they found it curious that neither had known of its existence. The two decided to break from the trail and head down for a closer look. Briefly, during the journey down, the two men lost sight of the cottage behind a small knoll. However, when they surmounted the obstruction, both were shocked to find the cottage gone. The two scoured the area to no avail. Puzzled and running behind schedule, the men returned to their initial heading. Later, they learned that a small lodge once sat at the edge of the lake, but had been inundated by a dam project in the 1950's.

For a similar tale involving several cadets and a small English village, click here.

It's curious that this report comes from Scotland, a stronghold of Celtic culture. In Irish Celtic mythology, an island to the west, known as Hy Breasal, only appeared at sunset, shrouded in mists. And Scotland was largely settled by Irish emigrants many centuries ago. Could this have given rise to a cultural motif of ghostly villages, etc. arising from the ether? Maybe. It would be easy to cite literary works such as "Brigadoon," but sadly, that story is based on a work by German writer Friedrich Gerst├Ącker, who in turn, based his work upon an old German legend.

I imagine if we dug deeper, we would find other tales of homes and villages that seem to come out of nowhere and vanish as easily. Is there some Jungian explanation to a cross-cultural motif such as this? Or does the explanation rest in the realm of the supernatural?

As a final thought, I present this to ponder: In the April 1901 issue of the Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society it was written that four years earlier, the Duke of Abruzzi ventured to Mount St. Elias along the icy Alaskan coast to seek out the "Silent City of Alaska". It was a mirage locals had reported seeing hovering over a glacial region. One witness, C. W. Thornton, wrote: "It required no effort of the imagination to liken it to a city." Another said: "We could plainly see houses, well-defined streets, and trees." Others mentioned seeing church spires. It was said to have been seen between June 21 and July 10, for some number of years. It was believed, by some, to be a sort of looming mirage, refracting an image of Brisol, England, some 2,500 miles across the pole.

If you know of a similar legend, from another culture. I would love to hear more about these ephemeral dwellings and towns.

5 comments:

Word Woman said...

Do not discount the "brigadoon' aspect. The Celtic culture is thought to have arisen around Hallstadt lake in Switzerland and that the original Teutonic tribes were related - at least culturally - to the peoples labeled "celtic".

Cullan Hudson said...

Good point. I propose to (in theory) trace the origin of this story in its most basic form...

Brace yourself.

Arising from a Teutonic legend, it was brought to Britain by the Saxons, where it was picked up by the those living in areas of Scotland and Ireland.

Yeah, I have not one iota to support that theory, but it SOUNDS plausible, right?

kap said...

Nothing to share, but I enjoyed reading about this and thinking of the possibilities of the cottage and city being more memory than mirage. Hmmmm.

Keith

Word Woman said...

It is possible - that the Saxons were themselves connected by trade, language, or religion to older proto-celtic legends and beliefs as well....The Celtic groups were a widespread group ranging across Europe from about 800 BCE and could have populated the far western islands in successive waves of "Beaker People" and then later the more identifiable proto-celts who would spread from Ireland to Scotland and England....

OPD-1 said...

Some psychologists view the "home" as an ideal construct or as a manifestation of the self. Lost homes and villages might then be projections of a communal or personal sense of loss, a hankering for the idealistic in the face of the impersonal and unstable present..