Thursday, March 31, 2016

Enchanted Destination: Fyvie Castle

Fyvie Castle, Scotland (Photo: National Trust for Scotland)

Located in Aberdeenshire, this 800 year-old castle is steeped in mystery and haunted by rumors of a powerful curse.

Legend has it that in the 13th century, famed laird Thomas the Rhymer roamed Scotland, traveling from court to court dazzling the people with his incredible gifts of prophesy. (It was said Thomas received his gift when he spent time under a hollow hill with the queen of the faeries.) Now these were days in which superstition yet ruled, and to offend a traveling bard or poet was a grave offense indeed. So when the Meldrum family of Fyvie heard that Thomas was making his way toward the palace, they sent a servant to thrust the gates open so that he would know he was welcome and take no offense. Though the servant did as he was told, a strong wind came and gusted the gates back on their hinges. When Thomas arrived and found the gates to Fyvie closed, he was furiously insulted. He lay a curse upon the home, swearing that no firstborn son should ever survive to inherit the castle.

Interestingly enough, he mentioned that there was one way the curse could be broken: the family had to locate three sacred stones within the castle and return them to their rightful place. The stones were known to remain dry when all other stones were wet and weep water when all other stones were dry. The stones were never discovered. And for 700 years, until the castle was sold to the National Trust in 1984, the eldest males of the five families that owned Fyvie throughout history came to end after horrible end. Not a single male heir survived to inherit the family home. 

What I find so interesting about this tale are the historical details - the "kernels of truth behind the legend."

- In ancient times, Celtic bards like Thomas were an order of the druid caste. Often thought to have great powers of prophesy, they spent decades in training and then roamed the land seeking the patronage of kings. They were revered, respected and most of all, feared because it was believed their words held the power to bless as well as to curse.
- Thomas the Rhymer, also known as "True Thomas," is believed to have been a real historical figure. His given name was Thomas of Erceldoune, son of Thome Rymor of Erceldoune, and he is mentioned in two charters from the 13th century. 

- "Weeping stones" are a phenomenon I've witnessed - in neolithic tombs. West Kennet Long Barrow in Wiltshire, constructed around 3700 BC, has just such a stone. A wet rock, limestone I believe, has a place of prominence in the deepest chamber. I sat with my back to it and it soaked my jacket although all the other stones in the chamber were dry. A porous rock, limestone is thought to absorb water and when the humidity and temperature is right, release it again.

If you're Scotland bound, Fyvie Castle is an enchanted destination not to be missed!