Dreams and Apparitions of British Empiricism (The Freaks of The Industry)

Sgoiltidh Farnad Na Creagan (Envy Splits The Rocks)

There is a Gaelic saying that “Envy splits rocks”……., and in proof of this the following story is told. An industrious, careful man sold more cheese than his neighbours, and was much envied when seen, as he frequently was, on his way to market with a cheese and a bag on his back. One day, instead of a cheese, he put a small mill-stone in the bag. His neighbours, filled with envy, saw him jogging along as usual to market, and stood in their doors looking after him and making remarks. On reaching the market and opening the bag he found the mill-stone broken in two, a certain proof of the power of envy and of the truth embodied in the proverb.


J.G. Campbell, Witchcraft & Second Sight in the Highlands & Islands of Scotland, 1902.


It’s often difficult to date this form of narrative. Its feature’s suggest a date between the late 17th century and the early 20th century. Two notable features developing in Ethnography in regard to second- sight in late 17th century Scotland. That it is a distinct form of vision belonging to the Highlands and Islands but the methods used to gain insight into such properties are like those of any other enlightened nation.



In regard to its emotional qualities, to what degree are these memories in the tale shaped by the situation things find themselves in? What would a history of such emotion look like?


The deployment of ‘legendary proof’ is a far older device and is useful in identifying the movement from myth to legend. Legendary proof is the use of a tangible,  physical object, which then plays a central role in identifying the tale as true. The truth of a legend and its distinction from myth becomes easy to grasp and hold on to.

It occurs in a wide range of genres, a prolific breeder which is prepared to travel extensively (it is a defining characteristic of a folk tale and a key property of  ‘migratory foundation legends’). It can also be found deployed in natural history of the same period as the above tale.

i.e its a culturally acceptable form of proof and validation found in natural history is the point to be stressed.

Examples of L.P. at work.

‘We have the chest preserved’

‘after an extensive search of the museum we were unable to find the knife on which the strange symbols (which point to the origin of human language) were carved’

Legendary proof has a distinctive habit of being destroyed or lost, but the fact that it clearly has been destroyed or lost is always used to demonstrate its truth.

When a part is apparently preserved, ‘we have the chest but no longer the treasure’, therefore it is beyond doubt the treasure did exist.



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