Burning Hill

The Burning Hill is a tumulus in Galloway, on the shores of the Solway Firth, and within sight of Dundrennan Abbey. In years gone by, it was used by Norsemen living in Galloway as a funeral site. Commoners were burned on the top of the hill, within a symbolic ship outlined in stones. Chieftains and other heroes were placed in real ships, along with their grave goods and appropriate sacrifices, pushed out to sea and burned.

Following delivery of the Wedding Prophecies in 1223, the King of the Selkies told the magi of the Academica Septima Superior a story of the hill:

When the great Fergus ruled this land, the white monks came to build their hall. In their haste to build strong walls, for the men of Galloway were wild then as they are wild now, they took stones from the Burning Hill. Fools were they, for the dead hold their parliaments, just as they did when they were living.

By night, as the monks took to their beds, the dead of the drowned men came forth to discuss their business. Who can say what they spoke of, for the monks knew not their tongue, and saw naught but their harrowed spirits. Thinking them to be demons, they fled all, from the abbot to the novices, to their fields - all but the cellarer. For though the cellarer was not a brave man, he was a cripple and could not take flight as his fellows did.

Desperate and fearful, the cellarer cast down the great crucifix that was to stand above the altar. A he did so, he spoke wrathful words to the man-god, and threatened great indignities upon the crucifix and relics of the saints if he did not drive away the demons. Upon hearing this, the ground itself shook, and the walls, low though they were, gave way. The cellarer was overcome by his fear, and fell, half dead, to the cold earth.

When the other monks nerved themselves to return, they found the cellarer atop the toppled crucifix amidst the rubble that was their work, and was to have been their home. Upon hearing his tale, they carried the crucifix to the sea shore, where they cleansed the man-god of sin as they do his people. Thereupon they took the stones that they found and made of them a cairn upon the Burning Hill. They set the crucifix atop it, that the demons might no longer trouble their work.

Yet, though the dead do not stir, it is said they rest yet uneasily, for they have much business yet to discuss.

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