Mannin - The Celtic Land of Myths and Legends

Meayll Circle

The Isle of Man (Mannin) abounds with myths, legends and mystical creatures. The environment provides a perfect setting with its mists, dark hills, rugged coastline, wooded valleys and tumbling streams. In amongst it all are the ancient burial chambers of pre-history where it was supposed that many creatures of the 'Otherworld'  either dwelt or used as a portal to enter their magical kingdom. Most significant amongst the Gaelic pantheon of Manx, Irish and Scottish mythology are the Tuatha Dé Danann. They are Celtic pre-Christian gods with supernatural ability and were of great importance to Gaelic people.

Their association with ancient Neolithic and Bronze Age burial mounds and cairns is probably linked to the importance these sites had for the people of pre-history. They were places of communal interment for the ancestors of the Celts of northwest Europe who are descended from the native Neolithic peoples of these lands. Their story was passed on for many centuries in oral tradition. Many of these legends were recorded in a collection of poems and texts, some dating from the third century AD, and compiled in the eleventh century by Christian scholars in Ireland in such works as the Leabhar Gabhála Éireann known in English as The Book of Invasions.

Famous amongst the Tuatha Dé and most closely linked to the Isle of Man is Manannán, son of the sea god Lir. It is from him that the Island derived its name. Outside of this Gaelic pre-Christian pantheon, the Island is also said to be inhabited by many other creatures. The Isle of Man presents a perfect canvass for these entities that could happily feature in Hans Christian Andersen type fairy tales. On occasion though, there are darker stories with more malevolent characters, more reminiscent of the Brothers Grimm. So strong in the local psyche that even after centuries many hold firmly to these superstitions. It is as if the Isle of Man is covered with a big invisible spider’s web that holds on to these tales, handed down from generation to generation in oral tradition.

There is story of the ‘Mooinjer Veggey’ the little people (fairies others would call them). Today it is expected when crossing the ‘Fairy Bridge’ that the little people are greeted. Bad luck will befall those that don’t offer this greeting and Manx people will still adhere closely to this tradition. Manannán’s wife Fand, known as ‘Queen of the Fairies’, dwells within the mist covered hills. Then there is the ‘Phynnoddereh’ the fallen fairy, cast out from his kind but benevolent to those who treat him well, ‘Tarroo Ushtey’ the water bull who lives below the rivers. ‘Ben Varrey’ the woman of the sea (mermaid). There are many more in Manx mythology that can rise from the rivers and the sea, emerge from cavernous depths and spring out of rocks. Amongst them is the sinister ‘Buggane’. The ‘Buggane’ is one you would definitely not want to meet on a dark night or any other time for that matter. 

Descriptions of the ‘Buggane’ vary. A shape shifter his natural look is fearsome. Large, long black hair, tusks, claws, cloven hoofs and a mouth that could rip the head of any prey; woe betide those who upset a Buggane. There are many tales of people who have for one reason or another had the misfortune to get on the wrong side of a Buggane. Evidence of the creature’s anger is seen at the church of St Trinian. The church on which he refused to allow a roof to be placed and now even after centuries stands roofless and forlorn.

Buggane shape visible from Meayll Circle

However, it is said that you can get a clear image of the ‘Buggane’ if you go to the ancient Neolithic ‘Meayll Circle’. This ancient stone circle aligned to the seasons and stars with views towards the Irish coast. If you stand at the circle and look north past Port Erin towards Bradda Head you will see the features of the Buggane clearly and naturally sculptured into the rocky headland. Half submerged and lying sleeping peacefully in the Irish Sea. Look at the picture and see if you can see him. Known locally as the sleeping Buggane you can feel safe looking down at him. Safe that is as long as he remains asleep!

Content type: