Celticsprite’s Blog

>Celtic Symbolism : "The Pentacle" on the Medieval Poem “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”
January 31, 2011, 4:22 pm
Filed under: Celtic Culture, King Arthur


“Then they showed forth the shield, that shone all red,
With the pentangle portrayed in purest gold.
And why the pentangle is proper to that peerless prince
I intend now to tell, though detain me it must.”
(Sir Gawain and the G. K. 2.619-623).

An anonymous contemporary of Geoffrey Chaucer wrote Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in the 14th century, outlining an adventure of Sir Gawain, a knight of King Arthur’s Round Table.

Gawain represented the perfect knight, as a fighter, a lover, and a religious devotee.

It was written in a Northern dialect and uses alliteration similar to the Anglo-Saxon form of poetry. Alliteration is characterized by the repetition of consonants and a sharp rhyme at the end of each section.

The story begins as King Arthur’s court celebrates the New Year for fifteen days. The lords and ladies of the court are having a great time dancing and feasting. The story describes the lavishly served feast with all the trimmings. Each guest is free to partake in the royal meal. However, King Arthur will not eat on such a high holiday until someone tells a fascinating or adventurous tale.

After a year has passed, Sir Gawain must prepare to leave for his journey to the castle of the Green Knight. The other knights are sad to see such a good friend and stellar knight meet with such a bitter blow. Gawain’s answer to the concerns of his fellow knights demonstrates his bravery: “Why should I tarry? In destinies sad or merry, True men can but try.

The poem describes Gawain’s armor in detail. He carries a red shield that has a pentangle painted on its front. The pentangle is a token of truth. Each of the five points are linked and locked with the next, forming what is called the endless knot. The pentangle is a symbol that Gawain is faultless in his five senses, never found to fail in his five fingers, faithful to the five wounds that Christ received on the cross, strengthened by the five joys that the Virgin Mary had in Jesus (The Annunciation, Nativity, Resurrection, Ascension, and Assumption), and possesses brotherly love, pure mind and manners, and compassion most precious. The inside of the shield is adorned with an image of the Virgin Mary to make sure that Gawain never loses heart.

Long before the narrator of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight placed the pentangle on the shield of “that peerless prince,” it was an object of importance, and has enjoyed a place in the philosophical and theological forums of many cultures. The earliest found depiction of the pentangle, located on a piece of pottery found in the ruins of the ancient city of Ur, dates back to around 900 BCE, placing it well within the early Babylonian period (Stone, 135). The Pythagoreans where fascinated by its mathematical and geometrical implications and spent much of the 3rd 4th and 5th centuries BCE trying to unlock its mysteries. In fact, most all Greek geometry, mathematics, and architecture are based on the perfect harmony found in the pentangle. The neo-Platonists and the Gnostics could not resist the call of the pentangle, and tied many of their studies and mysteries to this eminent symbol. However, the pentangle gained its most prominent state in the Middle Ages when Christianly and Islam adopted this symbol as a major part of their religions, both using it as a symbol of harmony, virtue, and idealism (Hulbert, 722).

The regular pentangle is formed from a regular pentagon, either by drawing its diagonals or by extending each edge until it meets other edges that are not its immediate neighbors. The edges of the regular pentangle divide each other so that the ratio of the larger part to the smaller part is equal to the ratio of the whole line to the larger part (Cundy & Rollett, 68-77). This ratio, (1 + square root of 5/2), was named by the Pythagoreans as the Golden Ratio and is commonly represented by the Greek symbol Phi.

The Pentacle’s “Five-ness” of Moral Virtues

In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight the narrator employs the pentangle to illustrate the central conflict within the story, which is Gawain’s inner fight, rather than his ordeal with the Green Knight.

Each of the five points of the pentangle represents a set of Gawain’s virtues: his five senses, for he is “faultless in his five senses;” his five fingers “Nor found ever to fail in his five fingers;” his fidelity, “his fealty … fixed upon the five wounds that Christ got on the cross;” his force, “founded on the five joys / That the high Queen of heaven had in her child;” and the five knightly virtues: friendship, generosity, courtesy, chastity, and piety (lns. 640-54).

During his stay at the host’s castle, each of his five five-fold virtues represented in the five points of the pentangle fail him. Gawain’s physical abilities (his five senses and his five fingers) begin to fail him in line 900 when the “wine goes to his head” and continue to fail as he spends the majority of his time in bed or lounging around the castle.

Although Gawain frequently calls on Jesus and Mary for aid in the wilderness, once inside the court, his piety fades to the background, and his fidelity to the five wounds of Christ and five joys of Mary slips into obscurity. Then with his physical and spiritual virtues wavering, Gawain’s five knightly virtues also fall under careful inspection and begin to falter.

The Chivalric Codes vs The Learning from Mistakes
The fifth five is Gawain himself, who embodies the five moral virtues of the code of chivalry: “friendship, generosity, chastity, courtesy, and piety”. All of these virtues reside, as the poet says, in the “Endless Knot” of the pentangle, which forever interlinks and is never broken.

This intimate relationship between symbol and faith allows for rigorous allegorical interpretation, especially in the physical role that the shield plays in Gawain’s quest.
Thus, the poet makes Gawain the epitome of perfection in knighthood through number symbolism.

This portrayal Gawain’s quest in terms of the pentangle successfully compares the perfectly balanced knightly ideals represented in the pentangle itself, to the reality of Gawain’s life and actions that we see while he is in the castle.

Even Gawain, “the greatest knight of all” falls short of the pentanglean ideal, reminding the reader that no one can reach perfection. However, instead of becoming bitter at our shortcomings and failures, we should learn from our mistakes. A message, not only particularly important to a culture in which the leaders did all they could in order to gain personally, often using the chivalric codes only when by doing so would serve their own purposes, but also to anyone in any age who meets with the disappointment of not “measuring up” to the pentangles in their lives.

The Pentacle Symbolism

The pentacle on Gawain’s shield is seen by many critics as signifying Gawain’s perfection and power over evil. The poem contains the only representation of such a symbol on Gawain’s shield in the Gawain literature.

What is more, the poet uses a total of 46 lines to describe the meaning of the pentangle. No other symbol in the poem receives as much attention or is described in such detail.

The poem describes the pentangle as a symbol of faithfulness and an “endless knot”. In line 625, it is described as “a sign by Solomon”. Solomon, the third king of Israel, in 10th century B.C. was said to have the mark of the pentagram on his ring, which he received from the archangel Michael. The pentagram seal on this ring was said to give Solomon power over demons.

Along these lines, some academics link the Gawain pentangle to magical traditions. In Germany, the symbol was called a Drudenfuß and was placed on household objects to keep out evil. The symbol was also associated with magical charms which, if recited or written on a weapon, would call forth magical forces. However, concrete evidence tying the magical pentagram to Gawain’s pentangle is scarce.

Gawain’s pentangle also symbolises the “phenomenon of physically endless objects signifying a temporally endless quality.” Many poets use the symbol of the circle to show infinity or endlessness, but Gawain’s poet insisted on using something more complex.

In medieval number theory, the number five is considered a “circular number”, since it “reproduces itself in its last digit when raised to its powers”. Furthermore, it replicates itself geometrically; that is, every pentangle has a smaller pentagon that allows a pentangle to be embedded in it and this “process may be repeated forever with decreasing pentangles”. Thus, by reproducing the number five, which in medieval number symbolism signified incorruptibility, Gawain’s pentangle represents his eternal incorruptibility.

>Celtic Symbolism: The Pentacle
January 28, 2011, 6:13 pm
Filed under: Celtic Culture, King Arthur


The Pentacle or Pentagram is the five-pointed star, a very ancient symbol used by many cultures in their magical rituals. As a sacred object it was a protective and positive symbol.
The pentagram is a very sacred symbol widespread since ancient times used in many areas including Egypt, India, Persia and Greece. Almost all cultures had a five-fold symbol s, which was very important to their religious and spiritual life.

Celtic Druids, saw the pentagram as a symbol of the Godhead. Celtic Pagans saw the sacred nature of five or the important nature of “five-ness” in many things. Which is reflected in much of their symbology. It’s also important to note these Celtic traditions are those that provide the foundation for much of modern Paganism practiced today.

Numerous Five Appears in Celtic contexts:
In the ancient Irish tale, “Cormac’s Cup of Gold” the hero “saw a royal fortress with four houses in it, and a bright well with nine ancient Hazels growing over it.
In the well, were five salmon who ate the nuts that Hazels dropped from the purple, and sat the husks floating down the five streams that flowed therefrom.
The sound of the streams was the sweetest music … The spring was the Well of Knowledge, and the five streams the five senses-through Knowledge which is obtained.

No one will have Knowledge not a draught who drinks out of the well itself or out of the streams. Those many who are skilled in arts both drink from the well and the streams. “

There is a sheer reference to the Pentacle on the Medieval Poem “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”

If we look at the in Numerous Celtic Connections of “Fiveness” we’ll also find that:

  • Ireland had five great roads, five provinces and five paths of the law.
  • The fairy folk Counter by fives,
  • Mythological figures Cloaks Wore five fold.

In the beginning of Christianity it was used as representing the five wounds of Christ, but being far apart of the Cross symbol, the church began to associate it with the devil and satanic practices.

The Celts believe that the pentacle was the sign of the Goddess of the Underground, who they call Morgan (aka Morrigan). The concept of five points permeate seems to have at least one of the Celtic lands.

This symbol is also associated with the feminine, represents the power of the Great Mother Goddess and Wicca can be seen as follows:

-The three upper points represent the three aspects of the Goddess: Maiden, Mother and Crone.
-The points below represent aspects of God in light and dark phase.
-The pentagram is the symbol of the Spirit and represents the aspects of Humanity.

Pentacles can also be interpreted as the five stages of Life (birth, youth, adulthood, old age, and death).

It is a widely used today in witchcraft and has nothing to do with the invocation of evil, its use is related to the four elements, the energy of spirit and connection to the Goddess.

The difference between the names “Pentangle” and “Pentacle” is because of the star is called the Wiccan Pentacle and use it within a circle, the pentagram, the star being well protected and everything within that circle.

The Circle around the star Represents the God / Goddess, it reflects and refracts all light, Bringing the gifts of Higher intelligence, universal wisdom and protection to the bearer of the pentacle.

The origins of the pentagram go back to the remote times of our history.

Down Through the Ages, it has Survived under multiple names…A few being “The Druid’s Root”, “The Star Witches” & “The Pentalpha.”

The pentacle crafted from silver represents the energies of the Moon and psychic forces. Crafted from gold it represents the Sun’s energies of power and strength.

In the work of witchcraft is placed on the altar, in a special place and always with the upper end up.


As the staff joins both mind and spirit, earthly and spiritual, should be considered a part of rituals and power is so divided:

Upper Right Point represents Air, the mind, reasoning and analysis, is related to the East, swords and dawn.
Represents the thought, intelligence, analysis reasoning.
Is the element that allows us to examine the spirit and discover where it is in our lives.

Lower Left Point represents Fire, the energy, passion and creativity, is related to the South, the rods and noon.
Represents that part of us that wants to overthrow the right, jump without thinking about our actions.
The fire is a symbol of adrenaline, testosterone, the momentum. The fire replaces the intellect.

Right Bottom Point represents the Water, emotions, love and healing, is related to the West, the sunset and the cauldron or chalice.

Represents the cycle of life: the darkness came aqueous matrix, and turn to tears of death. Water is the element of emotion. Water is the element that validates our existence as sentient beings, because it allows us to have feelings, but feelings are not reckless, wanton fire. Water is the emotion that comes with understanding and after that everything has been discovered. The water is pure love, pure joy, pure sadness, pure anger. Water is the element that soothes the fire, combining emotion with reason.

Upper Left Point represents the Earth, the union with the Mother, security and growth is related to the North, the night and the pentacle.
The earth is the element of the mother. Symbolizes security, growth, food, all the things that mother earth provides for us. The elementals of the earth are what give us the ability to explore the spirit. No land would always have our head in the clouds.

Top Center Point represents the Spirit, the Goddess, the divine forces and our connection with them, is the Light.
It represents the supremacy of spirit over the body and the power it has over our body. No representation is used down, as this has another meaning, the supremacy of the purely physical lust and spirituality above, but for us it means the insight that leads us to defeat our demons.

The functions that can be given to the staff are many, can be used to strengthen a spell or desire to enhance the energy of the objects found inside. To guard against any negative vibration and as a representation of the Goddess.

Wiccans have attempted to reconstruct a Pagan religion similar to that of the ancient Celts. They have the upright pentacle / pentagram, since it’s was the symbol of Morgan, an ancient Celtic goddess.
Many wear it as jewelry and use it on their altars. The symbol is frequently traced by hand using an athame (a ritual knife) Some Wiccans interpret the five points as representing earth, air, fire, water, and spirit – the five Factors Needed to sustain life. Others recount the points to the four directions and spirit.

>"Interesting Irish Wedding Traditions"
January 25, 2011, 5:05 pm
Filed under: Celtic Culture, Celtic Jewellery


Hi to all, I would like to share with you a nice post from our partner blog Celtic Harp Music by my harpist friend Anne Roos.

The first several months of the year, many brides are making plans for their upcoming weddings in the summer months. If you are planning an Irish wedding, here are a few traditions you might like to include, courtesy of my friend, Reverend David Beronio. You’ll find more traditions at his website.

In the early 1900’s, an Irish couple would walk to church together on their Wedding Day. If the people of their parish approved their union they would throw rice, pots, pans, brushes and other household items at the couple as they approached their church. Today, “hen parties” (Bridal Showers) have replaced this practice.

Some Irish people wear a “claddagh” ring for a wedding ring. A master goldsmith, Richard Joyce, created this ring 400 years ago in a fishing village called Claddagh, which overlooks Galway Bay. The claddagh symbolizes love, loyalty, and friendship. On the right hand, with the heart facing inward, it means the wearer’s heart is unoccupied. Facing outwards reveals love is being considered. When worn on the left hand facing outward, it signifies that the wearer is seriously committed or married.

At some Irish wedding receptions, the Groom is lifted in a chair (“jaunting car”) to celebrate that he is a married man. For good luck, the newlyweds are given a horseshoe to display in their home in the upward position. A traditional Irish wedding cake is a fruitcake covered with icing. Traditional Irish toasts, in addition to remarks from the Best Man, are very popular.

Have your own Irish wedding traditions to add? You are welcome to comment….
Next time: Scottish wedding traditions.

>"The View From Granada" by Loreena McKennitt
January 25, 2011, 4:47 pm
Filed under: Loreena McKennitt


The View From Granada” by Loreena McKennitt, issued on November 1st, 2006, is an interesting reflection of her own while making preparations for the release of “An Ancient Muse” as well as finishing the mixing and editing of the TV concert, “Nights from the Alhambra”. Article previously posted on Quinlan Road. All rights reserved by the author.

“Tell me, O Muse, of those who have travelled far and wide”: each time I reflect on this saying adapted from Homer’s Odyssey, which seems to capture the essence of the new recording An Ancient Muse so well, I think that hindsight can be such a wonderful thing

A few seasons have come and gone since last I wrote an update for The View from Here. The last dispatch spoke of the excitement of the days becoming longer, and our progress in the recording studio on the path to completing An Ancient Muse. The great wheel of time has turned a few notches along, and the recording is now done, and indeed the days are getting shorter.

We spent much of the spring and summer working away – some would say finding our way! – on the completion of the recording. And, as ever, the studio environment of Real World provided us with the right measure of professional services as well as company and camaraderie with other people working there – Maggi and Geraldine in the kitchen and Andy the groundskeeper to mention just a few.

As the summer wore on, the possibility and inevitability of the live concert for PBS television loomed ahead. Just as we were finishing up the recording and exploring a few different mixes of things, we launched the wheels for the concerts at the Alhambra in Granada, Spain on Sept 13, 14 and 15.

Although there were some bumps on the road in the preparations for these concerts, on the whole the performances and the process of reaching them was exciting and exhausting. After the shows, it was wonderful to meet a great number of the people who attended these concerts and who had travelled from many countries. I was touched by the very kind words that many of them shared with me and in many respects, these moments were amongst my fondest recollections of these evenings.

Then, too, it was wonderful to be back in the part of Spain which had so influenced me more than ten years ago as I had prepared for The Mask And Mirror. I was impressed then, and it has ever more meaning to me now given the present state of world affairs, to reflect on the very rich and diverse history of Andalucía, and in particular those several hundred years when Judaism, Islam and Christianity co-habited relatively harmoniously. The stunning architecture of the Alhambra and its sensuous and succulent gardens reminded me of the wonderful Arabic influences which had come from north Africa, up through the south of Spain and onward through Europe – not only in the fields of architecture and agriculture, but also in the areas of mathematics, astronomy and literature

As usual and much to the chagrin of the airlines I’m sure, I packed books for this Spanish Odyssey of mine. One that I brought with me and of which I have become quite fond is called Spain: the Root and the Flower, by John A Crow. It is a rich weave of history, giving an interpretation of the civilization of Spain from its earliest beginnings, with chapters on the Romans, the Jews, the Moors, and the author pays particular to Spanish art, literature, architecture and music. I enjoyed going back to it

Some of my other favourite moments during my sojourn in Granada came in wandering the lovely narrow streets of the Albaicin, chockablock with a mixture of enterprises, including guitar shops, tapas bars and restaurants; or the many mornings of walking up to the Charles V rotunda where the performances were held, in through the arch of the Alhambra, and along the switchback road. On one corner sat our sound truck (as it couldn’t get through the next archway); I’d poke my head into the truck equipped with multi channel digital recording facilities, and offer a friendly hello to the engineers. As I walked past the fountains, there was always the sound of running water. And finally I would arrive at the rotunda, always a busy hub of activity: hammers, people, cameras, and the din of multifarious preparations. It was exciting to finally see the show come together.

>Faerie Lore : "A Vision of the Dead"
January 21, 2011, 5:00 pm
Filed under: Faerie Lore, Fairy Gifts


Posted from the bookWonder Tales from Scottish Myth and Legend” by Donald Alexander Mackenzie – Illustrations by John Duncan – Frederick A Stokes Co., New York – [1917] – (Obtain this full work and many more backups by clicking here!)

Readers may ask how the stories of ancient beliefs happen to be preserved in Christian times. One reason is because they are connected with place names; another because certain of them were recorded centuries ago by early writers. One of the early Scottish collectors of old legends and poems was Sir James MacGregor, Dean of Lismore, who lived in the sixteenth century. His manuscript volume is still in existence, and the most of it can be read without difficulty. It is called “The Dean of Lismore’s Book”.

CHAPTER IX – A Vision of the Dead

There once dwelt in Nithsdale a woman who was enabled by fairy aid to see the spirits of the dead in the Other World. This was how it came about. One day she sat spinning wool in her house. Her baby lay in a cradle beside her, listening to the soft humming sound of the spinning wheel and her mother’s sweet song. Suddenly a rustling, like the rustling of dead leaves in the wind, was heard at the door. The woman looked up and saw a beautiful lady, clad in green and carrying a baby. She entered, and smiling sweetly, spoke and said: “Will you nurse my bonnie baby until I return?”

The woman answered: “Yes, I shall do that.”

She took the baby in her arms, and the lady went away, promising to return. But the day went past and night came on, and still she did not come back for her child. The woman wondered greatly, but she wondered even more next morning when she awoke to find beside her bed beautiful new clothes for her children, and some delicious cakes. Being very poor she was glad to dress her children in the new clothes, and to find that they fitted well. The cakes were of wheaten bread and had a honey flavour. It was a great delight to the children to eat them.

The lady did not return that day or the next day. Weeks went past, and the woman nursed the strange child. Months went past, and still the lady stayed away. On many a morning wheaten cakes with honey flavour were found in the house, and when the children’s clothes were nearly worn out, new clothing was provided for them as mysteriously as before.

Summer came on, and one evening the lady, clad in green, again entered the house. A child who was playing on the floor stretched forth her hands to grasp the shining silver spangles that adorned her gown, but, to his surprise, his hands passed through them as if they were sunbeams. The woman perceived this, and knew that her visitor was a fairy.

Said the fairy lady: “You have been kind to my bonnie baby; I will now take her away.”

The woman was sorry to part with the child, and said: “You have a right to her, but I love her dearly.”

Said the fairy: “Come with me, and I shall show you my house.”

The woman went outside with the fairy. They walked through a wood together, and then began to climb a green hill on the sunny side. When they were half-way to the top, the fairy said something which the woman did not understand. No sooner had she spoken than the turf on a bank in front of them lifted up and revealed a door. This door opened, and the two entered through the doorway. When they did so, the turf came down and the door was shut.

The woman found herself in a bare chamber which was dimly lighted.

“Now you shall see my home,” said the fairy woman, who took from her waist-belt a goblet containing a green liquid. She dropped three drops of this liquid in the woman’s left eye, and said: “Look now.”

The woman looked, and was filled with wonder. A beautiful country stretched out in front of her. There were green hills fringed by trees, crystal streams flashing in sunshine, and a lake that shone like burnished silver. Between the hills there lay a field of ripe barley.

The fairy then dropped three drops of the green liquid in the woman’s right eye, and said: “Look now.”

The woman looked, and she saw men and women she had known in times past, cutting the barley and gathering fruit from the trees.

She cried out: “I see many who once lived on earth and have long been dead. What are they doing here?”

Said the fairy: “These people are suffering punishment for their evil deeds.”

When she had spoken thus, the fairy woman passed her hand over the woman’s eyes, and the vision of green hills and harvest fields and reapers vanished at once. She found herself standing once more in the bare, dimly-lighted chamber. Then the fairy gave her gifts of cloth and healing ointments, and, leading her to the door, bade her farewell. The door opened, the turf was lifted up, and the woman left the fairy’s dwelling and returned to her own home.

For a time she kept the power of seeing the fairies as they went to and fro near her house. But one day she spoke to one of them, and the fairy asked: “With which eye do you see me?”

Said the woman: “I see you with both my eyes.”

The fairy breathed on her eyes, and then was lost to sight. Never again did the woman behold the fairies, for the power that had been given her was taken away from her eyes by this fairy to whom she had spoken.

Check out music from Eliseo Mauas Pinto
January 19, 2011, 2:20 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

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Celtic Cookery : Herring Soup
January 18, 2011, 2:31 pm
Filed under: Celtic Cookery
According to the 1881 Household Cyclopedia herring soup is a thick mix of water, barley-meal and red herring. There are several versions of this soup on other countries. Hereby the Welsh and Scottish as well.

It is now accepted and sufficiently proved that the Romans were practically unacquainted with the herring as an article of food; and even granted they should have employed a few boats occasionally on the east coast of England, from the Wash down to the Thames, it was not likely that they would fit up a regular annual fleet of smacks for following the herring fishery on the coast of Norfolk on an economic basis. Their boats were otherwise employed for purposes of commerce and naval requirements, and it is not to be supposed that the British coast tribes dared, or had the means of getting together an efficient fishing fleet; and we must not forget the great peril and insecurity, even in Roman times, of the eastern and southern shore attached in any such attempt, due to the frequent piratical attacks and incursions which required the constant watch of the Count of the Saxon shore to stem the inroads of the streams of continental marauders.

It is only when the Anglo-Saxons had got a firm foothold on British soil that the herring fishery began slowly to develop, and Swinden thinks that it must have been soon after the landing of Cedric in 495. Great Yarmouth is said to have been the resort of fishermen during the herring season, as early as the 6th Century, carried on by no other methods than drift nets. In early times the fishery was principally confined to the great rivers and estuaries, such, for instance, as the Thames and the Severn, and probably it was then the Shad the natives fished. The shads differ from other members of the herring family in their habit of ascending in big shoals some of our rivers in the Spring in order to deposit their spawn in fresh water. They are similar in appearance to the common herring, and from their larger size are called by fishermen “The mother of herrings.” “The king or queen of herrings.” Before the erection of weirs at Worcester and other places, shad used to ascend the river about middle of April.

The Anglo-Saxon name sceadd is probably derived in the first instance from the Britons, and from the Irish scaoth, scaoith, =a swarm, multitude; Gaelic sgaoth -a, shoal. When the Britons became seafishers they encountered a smaller form, similar in appearance to their shad, which they called sgathan, ysqgaden, Welsh; sgadan, Irish and Gaelic; skeddan, Manx, or the little shad.

The Celtic fishermen have clung to the name sgadan, while the Angles, Saxons and Frisians, who bad been great sea-fishers long before the Britons ventured on high sea fishing, brought their native name with them, calling it haering, and=hâring =herring, pointing to heri=an army (in consequence of their appearance in great shoals or swarms).

The herring does not descend beyond Normandy, and the French, Portuguese, Spanish, and Italians, adopted therefore the current Anglo-Saxon name.

Another name for the herring is sild, used specifically by the Norwegians, Swedes, Danes, and the Icelanders.

We thus see what an interesting light is thrown on the history and development of ancient fishing and fishery right, even by a philological examination of the various names for the herring.

Welsh Herring Soup (Cawl Penwaig)


4 herring, cleaned and boned
2 small onions, finely chopped
2 leeks, finely sliced
2 carrots, finely diced
40g butter
600ml water
60ml cider
salt and black pepper, to taste


To bone the herring, gut and clean the fish cut off the heads and remove the scales. Open the belly of the fish and place belly down on a work surface. Using your fist or a rolling pin hit the fish three or four times sharply on the back. The fish will flatted out and the backbone will be exposed. Turn the fish over and remove the backbone and as many pin bones as you can.

Add the butter to a large saucepan or stock pot and use to fry the carrots, leeks and onion gently until they begin to colour. Cut the fish into 2cm portions and add to the pan. Fry for 1 minute then add all the remaining ingredients. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce to a simmer then cook for 30 minutes.

Adjust the seasonings then serve in warmed bowls.

Scottish Herring Soup

2 small onions, finely chopped.
4 herrings, cleaned and boned.
1 oz butter.
2 oz mushrooms.
14 oz can tomatoes.
1 pint water.
3 tablespoons malt vinegar.
Salt and pepper.


Cut the herrings into 1/2 inch pieces and add with other
ingredients to water. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 30 minutes until onions are ready.

Alexander Fenton in Scottish Country Life describes the delights of a meal of herrings and potatoes when cooked in the traditional Shetland manner, in a kail-pot over the open fire, with the herrings laid over the potatoes. Nutritionally, too, this is a meal which could scarcely be bettered.