FOLKLORE OF THE SCOTTISH LOCHS AND SPRINGS
By James M MacInlay. Facsimile reprint of 1893 original by Llanerch Publishers, Felinfach, Lampeter, Cardiganshire, SA48 8PJ at £12.95. 364pp. ISBN: 1-897853-2308
Many of the comments above about the book on Welsh folklore also apply to this one. The focus here is on the popular traditions encountered towards the end of the last century in relation to holy wells, sacred springs and other bodies of water throughout Scotland, but especially in the Gaelic-speaking and highland areas of the country.
As well as describing the beliefs and practices connected to these bodies of water, the book also contains material discusses popluar beliefs about healing stones and other, often widely-reknowned, talismans and charms, many of which were connected with wider beliefs about water. Whether overtly Christian or left ambiguous, these sites were frequented by ordinary people seeking solutions to everyday problems such childlessness, diseases in cattle and sheep and diseases in themselves and their families as well as divinations to provide answers to questions relating to marriage, good fortune and many other questions.
Like the above book, this one also relies very heavily on testimony collected by the author; as this evidence was often provided by informants who were very elderly at the beginning of the century and who often report that the information they provided was heard in turn from elderly people when they themselves were children, many of the beliefs and practices described are taken back at least into the late 18th century - assuming that the reports are to be trusted!
As ever with folklore books of this vintage based on fieldwork, often by "Gentlemen Amateurs", the modern reader has to keep his or her wits about him and to recognise that the theories which were current a century ago no longer stand up to scrutiny. This is particularly so with relation to the chapter discussing suggested link between, for example, the practices described and archaic sun worship which was something of an obsession at that time.
Nevertheless, the modern pagan reader will gain much useful information and useful many ideas from this book, especially as many of them provide both a tantalising glimpse into the beliefs of the pre-Industrial popular culture of Britain and very workable and practical ideas for incorporating into ritual.