a watery threshhold: mapping the liminal

water is the liminal
between worlds

Bronze Age timber circle
stood in a Norfolk salt marsh

at the centre an up-
turned tree stump
roots to the heavens
branches within the earth
life's terra firma
death's aquatic realm

Seahenge(copyright Picture Esk )

in the Jutland bogs
sacrificial buried bodies
were mutilated for fear
the dead would wake

Beowulf's Grendel
emerged from the marshes,
to devour the living at night

blue men of the Minch
oceanic tricksters
lure sailors
wreck ships

selkie seal
shape shifters
shed skins

kelpie water-spirits
haunt the lochs
stealing lassies

tartan Nessie
is elusive

river as goddess
Dewa the Dee
Devona the Don

springs wells and caves
portals to the otherworld
ancestral offerings
to a water deity

Uamh an Ard Achadh
veins of the earth
bone passage
the swish of the stream
in darkness
urns mill stones and querns
votive offerings for Brigid

Isle Maree
the insane drink
from St. Maelrhuba's Well
then drive a coin
through the bark of an oak

The Clootie Well
a hundred faded colours
of healing rags
draped on an old tree
by a murky burn

names on a map
fragments of stories
part known, part forgotten
or lost in translation

named wells around the River Deveron

Finding the Springs

Maighdean Mhonaidh, the Lassie on the Hill

following the moisture
of her signature
a patch of lime green slime
leading up through
moor grass and heather
to a gurgling out
of moss and stone

Carn Sùilean Dubha, the Dark-eyed Springs

the map's blue
summit puddle
is a dry boulder field
looking for wet
soft sphagnum
a black crescent slit
glints and stares
back from the rushes

two eyes wink
through the summer haze

Coire Sùilean Dhuba
Allt Sùilean Dhuba

isle - land

where else
would a small isle's
waters run
away to-
wards the shore

Eilean Eige
Gaelic: eilean, island; Old Norse: eag, wedge or notch
referring to the silhouette of The Sgurr

Eigg waterways

Allt a’ Mhuilin
Allt a’ Cham Lòn
Allt a’ Bhealaich Chlithe
Allt na Bhlàir Mhòir
Allt a’ Bhlàr Dubh

Mill Burn
Burn of the Crooked Pool
Burn of the Steep Pass
Burn of the Big-marsh
Burn of the Dark-marsh

beneath Clach Thùsthasdal
Tobar nam ban Naòimh
the holy woman's well
springs from the giant's
limpet hammer

Loch Nighean Dhughaill
the Each-Uisge
took Dugald's daughter
under the shadow
of The Sgurr

Cnoc an t- Sithean
Na Sitheanan
Lòn nan Gruagach
Cnoc Oilteag
The Fairy Hill
The Fairy Mounds
The Pool of The Waterlass
Hill of The Broonie

follow Abhainn Gleann Charadail
to Sidhean na Cailleach
the Fairy Mound of The Hag

beware of Bean Nighe
washing her shroud
by the nameless burn

if you look
it is your shroud
she’s washing

Traigh na Bigil
pure quartz
the chirping strand
squeaks underfoot


the sea breathes
in and the sea
breathes out tidally

water defines the land ~ land defines the island

tid eisle tid eisle

tide isle tide isle

tidei sle tidei sle

tide isle tide isle

tid eisle tid eisle

watershed zero points

the land's nervous system is waters
transitional forms and flows
a moody visceral force
responding rapidly to weather

flow ~~ form

every river's has a unique footprint that changes

flowing begins high in
the watersheds of the mountain

Coire an Dubh Lochain
Coire an Lochain Uaine
Corrie Cach nam Fionn
Corrie Domhain
Corrie Clach nan Taillear

and lower down
on Dail a' Bhoididh
the Snipe's Bog
Moine Bad a Chabair
Feith an Laoigh
Alt a' Bho

a dull wet bleak
peat hag maze
it’s difficult to walk

here the clouds settle
change the form of their water
and begin their slow
underground seep
bog to burn to river to sea
to cloud

water summit: watershed

two watersheds tense
in a tug o' water

close apart: Dee & Don;  Brown Cow Hill

which way will the drop fall?
Don or Dee?


meet in shattered terrain
above 4000ft
fierce winds whip ice
against sparse tundra
whose snow gives
way to flow for
only a few months
of the year

Mesolithic folk
tracked these waterways
into the icy hills
leaving traces of quartz and flints
at the Chest of Dee
and Caochanan Ruadha, Red Burnie,
by the Feshie/Geldie watershed

Feshie/Geldie interaction

A Mesolithic walk through time from the Linn o’ Dee to Caochanan Ruadha

upriver past townships
cleared for hunting forests
Tonnagaoithe Dubrach
Tomnamoine Dalvorar

'please close the gate'
Mar Lodge guns and fences
protect pine sapllngs
on the bare hill

crossing Alt Damhaidh Mòr

White Bridge
Dee/Geldie confluence
routes traversing watersheds

this way for
Deeside to Speyside
this way for

Dee to the Drui
Bynack to the Tilt
Geldie to the Feshie

watershed ways:  Deeside / Speyside / Tayside

Chest of Dee
lithics in river silt
beneath the peat

Ruighe nan Clach
Shiel of the Stones

Fuaran Ruighe Ealasaid
Well of Elizabeth's Shiel
for a shepherd then a keeper

near the Geldie Burn
Red Wells spring
the clear shining one
oozes iron red mire
over the track

cross the stags burns
Alt Damhaidh Beag
Alt Damhaidh Mòr

Allt Leum an Easain
the waterfall
down Ben Bhrotain

Carn Cloich-mhuillinn
is Carn nan Clach Mhuillinn
hill of the millstones

Geldie Lodge
sullen driech
for shooting parties

the path dwindles
lost to bog
and howe and knowe
through the moine of Geldie

they camped by Caochanan Ruadha
on this wee mound
one post marks the spot
a single loose turf
records the excavation

lithics and quartz
burnt yew twigs
for a bow
or toxic hunting poison

An Caochan Ruadh Mór and Beag

deer graze
in the forest that was
on Caochan Ruadha Mór

I burn some yew


in cosmic

they saw our skies
we see theirs

in the light
that left
a distant star cluster
by Cassiopeia
in the Mesolithic era

watershed star constellation

the Geldie and its origin points mapped as 'stars’

The size of the watershed stars are related to the height
at which the water starts to flow; the larger stars represent
 higher water sources

The mesolithic finds are marked in red on the constellation

Gill Russell , 2017

with thanks to Alec Finlay for:
*inspiration and advice
*help with writing / editing
*translation of some of the place-names

Gill Russell: wells around the Deveron
Gill Russell:, Eigg waterways
Gill Russell: liminality
Gill Russell: isle-land
Gill Russell: flow~~form
Gill Russell: well -well, 2014
Gill Russell/Alec Finlay: circle poem: water sheds the rain
Gill Russell: Eanich~Eidart~Dee
Gill Russell: Feshie/Geldie interaction
Gill Russell watershed ways: Deeside / Speyside / Tayside
Gill Russell: watershed star constellation

Picture Esk: Seahenge: under CC-BY-NC licence. 
Anne Burgess: Isle Maree Wishing Tree:  [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.
Gill Russell: High Pasture Cave, 'Carn Sùilean Dubha, Clach Thùsthasdal , Tobar nam ban Naòimh
Please close the gate, Caochan Ruadha Mór. 
Chris Tauber: Crossing Allt Dhaidh Mor , Burning the yew.

Alec Finlay/Gill Russell: tide-isle
Alec Finlay: water summit: watershed
Alec Finlay: close apart: Dee & Don, Brown Cow Hill

Gathering: an eco-poetic guide to The Cairngorms
Alec Finlay with Hannah Devereux, Gill Russell, Jo Vergunst
Inspired by the place-name collections of Adam Watson
Commissioned by Hauser & Wirth / supported by the Leverhulme Trust

MAR Lodge Estate, an Archaeological Survey /RCAHMS

The Mesolithic in Mar Lodge, Cairngorm Mountains, Scotland:UCD School of Archaeology
Dr Graeme Warren, Dr Richard Tipping, Dr Gordon Noble, Dr Shannon Fraser https://www.ucd.ie/archaeology/research/marlodge_project/

'Significant Places' Caroline Wickham Jones
email correspondence with Alec Finlay/CWJ

Isle of Eigg

Water and Liminality:larhus fyrnsida

Adam Watson: The Place Names of Upper Deeside