A Scottish Storyteller

Witches at the Burn O Vat

So, the other weekend, I was storytelling for Scottish Natural Heritage at the Burn O Vat.

For those of you that don't know, the Burn O Vat (part of the Muir Of Dinnet Nature Reserve) is just the most amazing place to go of a weekend - no matter what time of year it is. The Vat is a giant pothole carved by a huge meltwater stream during the last Ice Age, and the whole area is great to walk round, picnic in and so on. Whenever someone comes to visit me, we tend to take a visit there.

As a child, my parents would go walking a lot. I wasn't too fond of this generally, being particularly attractive to midgies for some reason... but getting me out of the house to go to places like Dinnet was just fine!

One year, on the September monday holiday my mum and dad took me, and a friend, to the Burn O Vat. To cut a long story short - we ran on ahead to the vat itself and as we got closer we could hear humming and chanting. On entering the Vat, we saw a group of pleasant looking grey haired old ladies (remember I was just a kid, so they probably weren't that old at all!) standing in a circle - clearly up to something mystical! The one at the head of the vat had a sort of staff thing which appeared to have mushrooms, leaves, flowers, little bones and stuff hanging from it and she opened her eyes, gave us a pleasant nod and then got back to it. Well, we legged it back to my parents and tried to get them to hurry up so that they could see them too, but when they got there? No little old ladies. They must have gone over the top of the Vat because we'd not seen them coming out - very nimble ladies!

Having spoken to people about this since then, it seems that we saw a gathering of one of the Deeside White Witch covens - apparently Deeside is just hoochin' with covens.

After all these years though, my mum still didn't believe me and thought we'd just made it up. So with my storytelling at the Burn O Vat Visitors Centre coming up and in a last attempt to get mum and dad to believe me, I wrote this:

Witches At The Burn O Vat

Many years ago when I was wee my parents would tak me walkin
One warm autumn day they took me here where I saw something awfy shockin

A picnic we hid packed that morn, wi bilt eggs, sweeties and aa sorts of riches
But a fine autumn walk was long forgotten, when I saw the burn o vat witches

My parents stopped to put on midgie cream, for fear they wid be bited
And my freen and I, we ran on ahead for we were fair excited

Us twa wee quinies ran by the burn til we were fairly pantin
Then in the distance we could hear some cacklin and some chantin!

We thought it might o been the Sweet Adelines testing oot the acoustics
Until propped up against the entrance stone, we saw the witches broomsticks

Of course one of them had a dyson, a posh witch fae Bieldside
Cause maybe your mode of transport, depends on whaur ye bide

So we then sneak close tae nosy in, as bairns are wont tae dae
Nae kennin fit weird things we’d see, my wee friend and me

And so as we enter the vat itself the music then begins
And half the witches sing and play and the rest dance widdershins

A fire lit in the middle, the crones dance roon about
And in the trees above us all the hoolits dance and hoot

The beat wis fairly catchy and my foot tapped tae the beat sae fine
And one auld crone beckoned tae me and sez “ weel come and join us quine!”

And the jigs we danced! The eightsome reel, we danced and danced til we was fiel
And my freen almost tripped on a witch’s cat, while we were dancing in the burn o vat

Weel back to my ma an da my freen an I went, for tae show them the witches we were baith hell bent
And we tugged and hauled them “Will yes jist come ON!” But when we finally got there, the witches were aaa gone.

“They were here! We saw them! Aa duncin and chantin!” and they listened tae us and our childish ranting
“Aye aye!” sez ma mither and rolls her eyes, and now at least 20 years has now passed us by

And I say to my mither “div ye mind that day? When I saw the witches, but they flew away?
Afore ye could see them dancing there” And I tell ye no matter how much I swear

That it happened that day at the burn o vat my mither won’t believe me and that is that

Download as a pdf from the SNH web page.

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