Myths / Mythologies / Legends


A lake in Strathnavon, Sutherlandshire, Scotland, famous for its supposed miraculous healing qualities.

Tradition, as usual, has its easy explanation as to the manner in which the loch obtained its peculiar virtues and the name which it now bears. A woman had somehow become the possessor of bright crystal stones which when placed in water had the power of rendering the liquid an infallible cure for all "the ills to which flesh is heir." The fame of the wonder-working pebbles soon spread far and wide. As it spread it excited the cupidity of a member of the neighboring clan Gordon, who determined to secure the miraculous crystals for the exclusive use of himself and his kin. To make sure of his purpose, he feigned sickness. As soon, however, as he presented himself, the woman divined his intention and fled. But escape was impossible, as she was advanced in years and her pursuer had youth and swiftness on his side. Yet rather than surrender her charm-stones she threw them into the first lake to which she came, exclaiming, as she did, Mo naire! - i.e., "shame!" - and declaring that its waters should heal all who dipped in them or drank of them, excepting such as belonged to the accursed Gordon tribe.

This tradition, like many a similar one, is evidently very much more recent than the superstition connected with the lake. Loch-mo-Naire does not really mean "the loch of shame," but "the serpent's loch," - the word for serpent, nathair, being pronounced exactly in the same way was naire, "shame." This manifestly points to the great archaeological fact that almost everywhere the serpent is represented as the guardian of waters supposed to possess curative virtues. It is also the recognized emblem of Aesculapius, the god of the healing art, who himself sometimes appeared in the form of a serpent.

Curiosities of Popular Customs
And of Rites, Ceremonies, Observances, and Miscellaneous Antiquities
By William S. Walsh
J.B. Lippincott Company
Copyright 1897

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