Tuesday, November 8, 2011

ARRAN Enigma

We are a long way from home on this post, but I think not "Out Proctor". Doubtless many will disagree with me on that assessment. I have begun to penetrate into my "folkloric entity encounter files" a little way [grinding out the logging], and ran smack into the Isle of Arran. Those of you who follow this sort of thing will know why.

This is a small island, somewhat unspoiled even today, off the coast of Scotland west of Glasgow. Even though I have not been there, it is one of my favorite kind of places. It is of the old Celtic heritage of folklore and has some citizenry still today who refuse to discount the legends casually. In fact, there are still a few about who will tell of seeing the unusual now and then even in these so sophisticated times.

One of these "moderns" was Moyra Doorly, who albeit "just a visitor", has recently told of encounters rarely so astonishing in any age. And yet, credible. Or are they? The good UFO investigator in me wishes to learn what I can. In this case, it was to try to see if these encounters happened in a credible context. It meant studying a bit about Arran.

It takes no writer's imagination to see Arran through Faerie eyes. The place is spectacularly "right" for a troop of Little People to suddenly come traipsing up an already magical glen to stun one into wise silence as they pass. There are areas of such picturesque quality all over the Island, making it, perhaps unfortunately, a tourist destination for those hardy enough to enjoy walking in sometimes rough nature. But are, or at least were, the Little Folk there?

Arran fits my prejudices for just the right place. There are still megaliths there. There are circles and standing stones and chambered cairns and even vitrified forts. Faerie haunts all.

There is even a place called Fairy Dell and one called Fairy Glen. There seems to have been a place for giants and witches and monsters by name. And a vanishing Faerie Island. Well, great, but you can't fool me, says I. I afterall am a UFO investigator. What else you got??

There have actually been scholars who have gone to Arran to learn the people's beliefs, and experiences, with the Faerie Folk. Some of this extends back, thankfully, to the late 1800s. Our favorite oldtime researcher, Walter Evans-Wentz, didn't get to Arran apparently [though his findings elsewhere in the former Celtic world agree thoroughly with what we get from Arran], but other wandering researchers did. A book which was available to me was W.M. Mackenzie's The Book of Arran published by the Arran Society of Glasgow in the early 1900s. What this and other sources indicate is that we are not dealing with Tinkerbell. Wonderful as that charming romantic vision is, the "real" Faerie Folk are quite different.

Sources tend to divide the "Good People" into three types: Brownies, Bauchans, and Bleaters. Reading accounts of these creatures, the only conclusion that strikes a harmonious tone to me is that they are all members of the same class of entities. Brownies [like the poorly dressed gentleman to the left] are a bit nicer typically; Bauchans are a bit nastier; and Bleaters are merely whining depressives. Some shape-shifting manifests particularly in Bauchans, but they are essentially humanoid-formed folk of normal to small [but not Tinkerbell tiny] size.

Other folkloric entities may manifest [giants, witches, pool monsters, merpeople, fauns, walking trees, and balls-of-light et al] but whether you wish to include them under Faerie is your choice.

Here's a late 19th century faerie encounter example: a farm family in [apparently, this is not completely clear in the narrative] the Tormore/MachrieWater area had attracted a Brownie. This Brownie was frequenting the household and did small chores for the family. It however did not like strangers. A breaking point occurred when one individual was invited to dinner. The Brownie became invisible to strangers at such times particularly, although the household could sometimes see it. As the poor guest was trying to eat, the jealous Brownie would force [apparently paranormally] the food to leave the spoon and return to the dish. The farmer finally noticed what was happening and rose in anger to hurl a poker from the hearth violently at the corner of the room where the invisible Brownie lurked, yelling for it to get out of his home. This worked for at least that dinner. It was not said whether the brownie ever returned to the farm.

Here is another from the same area: A "religious man" [minister?] was walking home late between MachrieWater and Tormore when he approached an area of ancient standing stones. There he was confronted by a bauchan, but of unusually large size. It was very menacing but the man stood his ground. The man knew of some faerie lore and so demanded that this oversized Bauchan assume his true worldly size and shape. The thing did, taking on the form of a dead person that the walker thought he recognized. He quizzed the "man" about a murder, which the thing said it knew all about but would not tell. The walker then said that he wanted to be shown a hidden treasure. The Bauchan agreed to that---just meet it the following evening in a separate place without the little protective items that he was carrying. Upon telling friends back home, the advice was Don't Go. He didn't.

There are many other tales. Some are obviously the "fairy story" type rather than the "entity encounter" type, but Arran at least fits the description of a place with a long tradition of both lore, belief, and experiences. And that brings us to Moyra Doorly.

Moyra Doorly is a very intelligent and talented woman. She has an adventurous turn of mind, yet a scholar's ability to study complex things. She explored various paths of meditation and spirituality, ultimately choosing Catholicism. Her unique approach to seeing the interactions between the mind and the environment led her to become an expert on the nature of "Sacred Space", such as one might find in a cathedral, or perhaps even a forest grove. She is a serious substantial person, and that is why I have some faith that her reported experiences on Arran were real ones. {She, by the way, did not locate the exact place whereabouts these experiences occurred to her and her friend Peter, and I do not blame her. The experiences, though ultimately frightening, do have a sense of the spiritual about them, and unleashing random thrill-seekers upon the place seems wrong.} To the accounts....

Ms. Doorly and her friend were on Arran apparently to "get away" into a more natural environment distanced from the "noises" of the modern world. They had, in fact, been practicing various meditation techniques and had acquired some patience and discipline in their application. These were not pursued in an attempt to bring about "faerie experiences", but, as it happened, the meditative state did just that, by surprise.

Moyra Doorly describes her meditation technique as "seeing without looking". it is a sort of defocussing upon the nearby "central" object and looking beyond it [like attempting to focus not on the thing itself but as if looking several feet into the background.] She and Peter had been practicing this sort of meditation for some time before any such elfin encounters came. And, as said, they were not intended for such.

The first instance came in the garden of their small house. A "soft silvery light" suddenly appeared and through that a procession of small figures walked towards her from the stream bank. It was led by a faun.

"The faun was small--about 3ft (90cm) tall-- and seemed pleased with himself. I saw short legs strutting with pride and heard tiny hooves clip-clopping on the paving stones. He had horns too, about 6in (15cm), and a wrinkled face. He could have come straight out of a book of fairy tales or myths".

The faun and his procession brushed past her and she panicked and ran into the house, relieved that reality still ruled there. Peter then was able to see them, too, and described the faun and the procession the same way. The group had stopped further down by the stream and seemed to be having an argument about something. The other little beings were present but only the faun could be seen clearly by our witnesses. And so experience #1 ended.

Other encounters began to follow, and, needless to say, were riveting in interest. Ms. Doorly and Peter learned the old ways of "encouraging" Faerie encounters, and began placing out little food offerings and making small round pebble "shrines" at streamside as welcome signs. Peter even played bagpipes [a questionable strategy to my ear, but traditional]. Ultimately a small "elf-boy" became a somewhat regular visitor.

"I remember standing in the sitting room while a small figure dressed in mottled greens and browns looked up at me with an expression of sinister mirth. If he had been a child, his height would have put him at around six years old, but he bore no resemblance to any child I have ever met. His face, which was unusually long and well defined, seemed the face of one who had lived a thousand years."

Things gradually turned darker. Moyra had an experience while walking along the stream with another sort of Elfinkind procession. These were tall and slender and with dull greyish hair. They wore striped green and brown clothing. They seemed to float rather than walk. Smaller chattering dancing imps accompanied them. She found herself walking with them in what seems a bit of a trance-like state.

"We were soon inside a hall which looked as if it had been hewn out of rock. [uh oh....]. There was a long table where preparations for a meal had been made. Again the imps tried to make me change my clothes but I refused. The stripes stood very still, as if in anticipation. Perhaps they were waiting to see if I would sit at their table, which I couldn't bring myself to do. Then I heard the words: 'You are the first person to come this way for 200 years. Come be with us'."

That seemed to shake her out of her fuzziness and she turned away. Suddenly the hall was gone leaving her beside the stream. She later described the atmosphere around these "stripies" as a "languorous, dreamy air". Upon returning to the house, she discovered that Peter too had encountered these beings and also had been asked to stay with them. This shook the two of them thoroughly enough that despite the excitement of these glimpses into another reality, they decided to no longer encourage contact, and took down the stream pebble shrines.

For the remainder of their stay, it was still difficult not to find oneself wishing for another encounter when walking in the woods. One day another one happened. Moyra heard singing in the forest. She also had seen balls-of-light which local people called the Faerie Lights". [Small 4-6" diameter BOLs]. But these had no close encounters. That autumn however brought an unpleasant encounter with what might be referred to as walking small trees composed of bare withered looking limbs. These entities crowded about and transmitted the opinion that she didn't belong there and should leave.

Her last encounters were vaguer. Presences in the forests mists, almost focusable but not so. They were in part like will-o-the-wisp in the sense of inducing some confusion, and part poltergeist in creating cold spots in the air. They were not directly hostile, but not welcoming either. Thus ended, as winter set in, these astonishing experiences. Did they happen?

The experiences of Moyra Doorly and Peter may well have happened just as they have been reported. From a UFO case perspective, we have a multiple witnessed set of encounters, by credible intelligent persons, somewhat at least naive to the experience actually had. We have a setting within which such tales [in a general sense] have a long history. The stories as told are very UFO-encounter-like in that the witnesses simply tell their astounding reports without any embroidery, such as messages of revelation, enhancement of oneself, major theoretical claims beyond the narrative, etc. Despite the high strangeness of the accounts, they go no further. Once the action is told, it simply stops. This is one mark of a "good" UFO report typically.

Moyra Doorly may have given us a very rare modern account of the continuing existence and experience-ability of the Faerie Reality. Her entities are very "brownie" and "bauchan" to me, just as they should be for the Arran environment. The faun, or Pan, is very "bogan" [in other terms for the bauchans]. These creatures, though trending a bit more to the negative, are not at all always so. Sometimes they are merely mischievous just as their cousins the Leprechauns are said to be. Don't mess with them, and if you don't you probably need not fear. Stripies are bit like the depressive Bleaters: tall, wan, and langourous. The "trees" are manifestations, in my guess, of the great variety of nature appearances that the bauchans can assume. This could even include the Loch monsters or Merfolk or ABSMs. All this last is, of course, BS.

If I were younger, I admit that I would be tempted to go. Give it a try. See what one could see. At a minimum one would have a spiritually-cleansing time with Nature. Where to try?? The map above marks many places on Arran of interest. Some are Megaliths [marked with Ms], and some are sites of Faerie encounters or legends. Some are "just" deep nature sites, which might be richest of all.

One could take a walk up Catacol Glen. [above]. Even if you saw no Elfinkind you'd feel you were in Faeryland anyway in a place like this.

You could continue to your right on to Loch Tanna, a remote lake in the mountains with a megalithic cairn in the approach. Prime real estate for Faeries.

Further to the south is Loch Iorsa, where a farm maiden was accosted by a tall woman who looked worn and tired and asked for shelter. The maiden was afraid but let her come in. Once asleep, the maiden noticed that the woman had goatish feet. Hastily getting herself together, she tried to surreptitiously leave but was only partly successful in doing so. The woman chased her all the way to a family farmhouse where the presence of the others protected her. Truly an unruly bauchanish behavior.

If I had to choose in this general area of Arran, however, I might take a chance on going to the left down the Catacol Glen. I have no Faerie stories for there. But in those deeper isolated areas along the Catacol and Diomhan exist the two endangered species of trees [Whitebeams] native to the island. Rare colonies of Ptarmigans also live there. Here is an area where Old Nature is holding out in a last stand. Maybe it would see an old environmentalist college teacher as a sympathetic soul, and we, and her "associates", could have a few talks.
Alas, "old environmentalist" is correct, and I will leave it up to you younger folks.

But there is really one place on Arran that I'd rather try: the forested area north and west of Lamlash. All my prejudices seem operating there.

To begin with, there is a place called "Fairy Glen". One suspects that it has the name for a reason. [The picture at the left is of the tourist walking trail there].

There are megalithic sites scattered throughout the locale. There are chambered cairns and a fine old remnant of a stone circle. [See Lamlash Stone Circle below].

My readings about the Faerie World, from the old peoples' perspective, say that these megalithic remnants represent two relevant things: they are ritual sites [perhaps just utilized by druids who did not themselves construct them originally] of a very spiritual nature-oriented early belief system, and these old monuments have been associated with faerie haunts everywhere in the Celtic world. Lamlash Circle is, therefore, for me a signpost.

But also: [From the Book of Arran] " Three men were returning home in a cart, when, at the top of the hill on the road between Lamlash and Brodick [The location of Lamlash Circle], the horse stood still and snorted, and showed signs of fear, and as though it saw something it did not want to pass. After much urging on the part of the driver, the horse made a bolt forward past a certain spot. The men looked back to see what had frightened the animal, and saw a number of small figures, twelve to eighteen inches in height, on the road behind them. The fairies [apparently not happy with the intrusion] did them no harm beyond taking the door off the cart. This occurred in the last fifty years [sometime in the 1870-1890 era], and the relater heard it from one of the men who had been in the cart".

Well, that is a close enough hint for me. A little hanging out time around the Lamlash Circle would do me good anyway. Then maybe back into the less touristed western woods, or southwest a bit to Benlister Glen and its magic little waterfall, and then ... we would see.


  1. Hello, Prof.

    Interesting post. I'm intrigued by the casual immorality, or apparent lack of human sexual ethics, that fairy folk show. Also, humans appear to show more interest in them than they show toward us. What a topic, considering all the implications!



  2. Yep. It is why I felt that i needed to look into this area. There's so much going on here that the implications for a whole variety of encounter phenomena might lie in the balance. At the very minimum it gives me a background for sifting out some non-UFO incidents from the UFO pile.

  3. I enjoyed the post. Perhaps if one would get out of the car and open one's senses, one could see this world anywhere one went. After all, how far away is it really from a traditional "close encounter"?

  4. I really would like to believe that, and in some forms of encounter I think that this might be possible [ex. like Ouija-type things]. But I have greatest curiosity about the "nature-surrounded" folkloric encounters --- they seem to have greater possibilities of simple non-dangerous interactions --- and such interactions seem to need Nature's help.

    This is just an intuition and could easily be total bunkum, but from the sweat lodges and fastings of the Native Americans to the meditative de-focussing of Moyra Doorly, it seems some effort at personal "noise reduction" is vital, BUT ALSO some degree of willingness from the "other side" to manifest, since when dealing with consciousnesses it is a two way street.

    I'm just "academically" exploring these possibilities and almost certainly will do nothing beyond that. I could change my views in the direction of "All The Way Fool" or in the direction of "Charmingly Nuts" anywhere along the line. But I'm not buying a Ouija Board, and suggest that no one else do so. Go on a nice trip into the forests instead.

  5. I have visited Arran over 60 times and grew up on the Ayrshire coast. It is my favourite place on Earth. I was very interested to read of Moyra Doorly's experiences. I have visited the Faerie Glen and the Fairy Dell but experienced nothing there.
    The ridge running West out of Stronach Wood to the summit of A' Chruach has some very haunting little stops which I found to be "atmospheric" (shall we say), the massive high level (around 1200 feet elevation Bronze Age Carn Ban burial cairn is particularly haunting, I would also recommend Aes Mor the immense waterfall near Kildonan after seeing the falls descend into the strange lost world chasm/ enclosed glen below (amazing views out to Ailsa Craig a weird volcanic plug in the midle of the Firth of Clyde).
    There is a particular passage to the underworld to be found if you venture North along the coast from the King's Cave. It lies about four hundred yards North and is a straight deep dark narrow passge which leads directly into the cliff for quite a way, before an abrupt stop with a space to the right. I swear I was chased out of there by something.

  6. Good stuff...which only an actual visitor can know. Thank you.

  7. Professor Swords, have you considered adding the Science Frontiers newsletter link to the links below?
    His site sadly is no longer receiving his explorations since his death in July 2011.


    Best wishes,

    Terry W. Colvin

  8. Dear Sir

    i'd rather you dont go out there and actively seeking these entities as it can be dangerous for you to do that. As Christian the bible forbid us to seek or talk to spirits. of course the lore itself are fascinating but to seek it like ms doorly and her friend is inviting trouble. lucky for ms doorly she didnt accept their invitation.

    we have a saying in indonesia that if you are alone at night and you see a spirit passing or watching you, the best way is to pretend you dont see it and ignore it. once you show interest the spirit will come closer and do its mischief to you. this saying also keep popping up to me whenever i read about lonely road encounters that began as small BOL off the distance that come closer after the witness showed interest.

    as a side note, your naugthy entity that keep moving/hiding stuff ? we also have that kind of entity but it is a kept entity that have a task to stole goods/money for its master. of course the master have to pay some kind of gift to the witchdoctor and an offering to the entity itself, like the health of his child or something bad that will be taken in the future.




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