Ghosts, Bugganes, and Fairy Pigs
The Isle of Man sits at the crossroads of fame and obscurity. The name, somehow, is widely known. You’ve heard of it…somewhere. What is it known for? You might have the piece of trivia that The Bee Gees are from the Isle of Man. Maybe you have heard of the short-tailed Manx cat.
But those two alone can’t be the reason. And truth be told, I can’t tell you why it is known. It could be the name itself is memorable.
Nonetheless, it is a stunner of a green gray island in the Irish Sea near to Scotland that has been continually inhabited for about 8500 years. Just north of 80,000 humans live there. Small. And while English is the official language for a very long time the only language spoken there was Manx which is now considered endangered. Such is the force of English.
It is interesting that Manx is, in many ways, closely related to Irish and Scottish Gaelic but it also has aspects that are not related to either. No known origin for aspects of the spoken and written language. Where did those parts come from?
There are some who say that all language originally arises from the earth itself where the language somehow mirrors the qualities of the land and the people’s lived experience with that place. That the place is alive enough to birth a language. We know that birds of the same species but living in different parts of their range have accents! It well could be that the different landscape changes how birds would need to chirp and sing and that the earth speaks to them differently in different places. It would follow that the myths and stories might also have arisen as a kind of deep reflection of a place too.
An understanding of the earth like this is contingent on the earth in a particular place being animate. Not just stupid rock and empty black earth and mute trees. But an alive being with desires of their own and longings to be connected with and in with relationship too.
There is a book of Manx mythology and folklore that was published more than 100 years ago. And though celebrated the book fell out of use as the Isle of Man became more modernized and the old stories were considered silly.
But there is a revival, of a kind, of storytelling from the old stories. That somehow these old stories have shown up right on time – around 5000 years ago – for some of us now.
This book ‘Ghosts, Bugganes, and Fairy Pigs’ was just republished after being out of print for more than a century. I have only read small sections of the book but it tells of Isle of Man that was once understood as a mystic island teeming with spirits of various kinds and ‘little folk’ or fairies.
And so the Manx language might be one third Irish Gaelic, one third Scottish Gaelic, and one third land-born fairy. I don’t know.
But an alive world is one we rely on here for Primal Derma. It is mandatory for us to proceed in such a way because it is an alive world that requires we feed it with our work because the world feeds us. The people who long ago discovered how the fat of animals was so critical for them in their skin wasn’t separate from the animal they had to kill and eat. And that animal had eaten the grass where they had buried their dead and the grass grew a bit greener and a bit higher the next year. And suddenly there is a story that is born from the land itself.
If you have Manx heritage or just love the folk tales of the world you’ll want to gather this book in and have it remind you an alive world that once was and might be courted back into our eye and lived experience.