Jul 18, 2012

She Danced to Her Own Shadow

Scottish dancing in the grounds of Falkland Palace
Photo by By garethjmsaundersGareth Saunders

From the Carmina Gadelica comes the story of Mary Macrae.

Alexander Carmichael, the collector of these "Songs of the Gales," describes her this way: "...rather under than over middle height, but strongly and symmetrically formed. She often walked with companions, after the work of the day was done, distances of ten and fifteen miles to a dance, and after dancing all night walked back again to the work of the morning fresh and vigorous as if nothing unusual had occurred. She was a faithful servant and an admirable worker, and danced at her leisure and carolled at her work..."

There apparently came a time when Mary's "old world ways" was frowned upon.

Says Carmichael:


"'The bigots of an iron time
 Had called her simple art a crime.'


But Mary Macrae heeded not, and went on in her own way, singing her songs and ballads, intoning her hymns and incantations, and chanting her own 'port-a-bial,' mouth music, and dancing to her own shadow when nothing better was available.


I love to think of this brave kindly woman, with her strong Highland characteristics and her proud Highland spirit. She was a true type of a grand people gone never to return."

Here is the poem Carmichael recorded from Mary in 1866.


GOD with me lying down,
God with me rising up,
God with me in each ray of light,
Nor I a ray of joy without Him,
    Nor one ray without Him.

Christ with me sleeping,
Christ with me waking,
Christ with me watching,
Every day and night,
    Each day and night.

God with me protecting,
The Lord with me directing,
The Spirit with me strengthening,
For ever and for evermore,
    Ever and evermore, Amen.
        Chief of chiefs, Amen.


Ah, she danced to her own shadow knowing it was God, not man, that she answered to.

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