Saturday, March 06, 2010

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Coir nan Uriskin

This is a very steep and most romantic hollow in the mountain of Ben-Venue, overhanging the south-eastern extremity of Loch-Katrine. It is surrounded with stupendous rocks, and overshadowed with birch-trees, mingled with Oiks, the spontaneous production of the mountain, even where its cliffs appear denuded of soil. A dale in so wild a situation, and amid a people whose genius bordered on the romantic, did not remain without appropriate deities. The name literally implies the Corri, or Den of the Wild or Shaggy Men. Perhaps this, as conjectured by Mr. Alexander Campbell, may have originally only implied its being the haunt of a ferocious banditti. But tradition has ascribed to the Urisk, who gives name to the cavern, a figure between a goat and a man ; in short, however much the classical reader may be startled, precisely that of the Grecian satyr. The Urisk seems not to have inherited, with the form, the petulance of the sylvan deity of the classics : his occupations, on the contrary, resembled those of Milton's Lubbar Fiend, or of the Scottish Brownie, though he differed from both in name and appearance.— "The Urisks," says Dr. Gnhamc, " were a sort of lubberly supernatural, who, like the Brownies, could be gained over, by kind attention, to perform the drudgery of the farm ; and it was believed that many of the families in the Highlands had one of the order attached to it. They were supposed to be dispersed over the Highlands, each in his own wild recess, but the solemn stated meetings of the order were irregularly held in this cave of Ben-Venue. This current superstition, no doubt, alludes to some circumstance in the ancient history of this country."—Scenery on the Southern Confines of Perthshire. 1806. p. 19.

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