The Washer of the Ford (Illustrated)by William Sharp
TO you, in your far-away home in Provence, I send these tales out of the remote North you love so well, and so well understand. The same blood is in our veins, a deep current somewhere beneath the tide that sustains us. We have meeting-places that none knows of; we understand what few can understand; and we share in common a strange and inexplicable heritage. It is… See more details below
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TO you, in your far-away home in Provence, I send these tales out of the remote North you love so well, and so well understand. The same blood is in our veins, a deep current somewhere beneath the tide that sustains us. We have meeting-places that none knows of; we understand what few can understand; and we share in common a strange and inexplicable heritage. It is because you, who are called Kathia of the Sunway, are also Kathia nan Ciar, Kathia of the Shadow, it is because you are what you are that I inscribe this book to you. In it you will find much that is familiar to you, though you may never have read or heard anything of the kind; for there is a reality, beneath the unfamiliar accident, which may be recognised in a moment as native to the secret  life that lives behind the brain and the wise nerves with their dim ancestral knowledge.
The greater portion of this book deals with the remote life of a remote past. “The Shadow-Seers,” however, though of to-day, may equally be of yesterday or to-morrow; and as for “The Last Supper” or “The Fisher of Men,” they are of no time or date, for they are founded upon elemental facts which are modified but not transformed by the changing years.
It may be the last of its kind I shall write—at any rate, for a time. I would like it to be associated with you, to whom not only the mystery but the pagan sentiment and the old barbaric emotion are so near. With the second sight of the imagination we can often see more clearly in the perspectives of the past than in the maze of the present; and most clearly when we recognise that, below the accidents of time and circumstance, the present is but a reflection of that past to which we belong—belong, as intimately and inalienably, as to the hour wherein happily content we swing to those anchors which we do not see are linked to us by ropes of sand.
 If I am eager to have my say on other aspects of our Celtic life in the remoter West Highlands and in the Isles: now with the idyllic, now with the tragic, now with the grotesque, the humorous, the pathetic, with all the medley cast from the looms of Life—all that
“... from the looms of Life are spun,
Warp of shadow and woof of sun—”
and if, too, I long to express anew something of that wonderful historic romance in which we of our race and country are so rich, I am not likely to forget those earlier dreams which are no whit less realities—realities of the present seen through an inverted glass—which have been, and are, so full of inspiration and of a strange and terrible beauty.
But one to whom life appeals by a myriad avenues, all alluring and full of wonder and mystery, cannot always abide where the heart longs most to be. It is well to remember that there are shadowy waters even in the cities, and that the Fount of Youth is discoverable in the dreariest towns as well as in Hy Bràsil: a truth apt to be forgotten by those of us who dwell with ever-wondering  delight in that land of lost romance which had its own day, as this epoch of a still stranger, if a less obvious, romance has its own passing hour.
The titular piece—with its strange name that will not be unfamiliar to you who know our ancient Celtic literature, or may bear in mind the striking use made of it and its vague cognate legend, by Ferguson, in his Irish epic, Congal—gives the keynote not only of this book but of what has for hundreds of years, and to some extent still is, the characteristic of the purely Celtic mind in the Highlands and the Isles. This characteristic is a strange complexity of paganism and Christianity, or rather an apparent complexity arising from the grafting of Christianity upon paganism. Columba, St. Patrick, St. Ronan, Kentigern, all these militant Christian saints were merely transformed pagans. Even in the famous dialogue between St. Patrick and Oisìn, which is the folk-telling of the passing of the old before the new, the thrill of a pagan sympathy on the part of the uncompromising saint is unmistakable. To this day, there are  Christian rites and superstitions which are merely a gloss upon a surviving antique paganism. I have known an old woman, in no wise different from her neighbours, who on the day of Beltane sacrificed a hen: though for her propitiatory rite she had no warrant save that of vague traditionary lore, the lore of the teinntean, of the hearth-side—where, in truth, are best to be heard the last echoes of the dim mythologic faith of our ancestors. What is the familiar “clachan,” now meaning a hamlet with a kirk, but an echo of the Stones, the circles of the druids or of a more ancient worship still, that perhaps of the mysterious Anait, whose sole record is a clach on a lonely moor, of which from time immemorial the people have spoken as the
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