25 Feb 2016

The Lord of the Dance

Some call Satan the Lord of the Dance though this title is in dispute. His prowess at a minuet is unknown but he once accepted a challenge to enter a Highland Dance contest and lost to Gilly Callum of Strath Brora.

Gilly Callum was a member of a large and influential family whose name was supposedly remembered in the naming of the village of Kilcamkill, now Gordonbush, though there are those who would dispute that. There are always others ready to dispute anything we say so let us move on speedily into our tale, for such disputes are neither here nor there.

Gilly was a well set-up man with a shapely leg and a speed of moving them that made him a champion of the dance especially when he’d had a few good tankards of ale. Being a proud man he was well aware of his attraction to the ladies and equally aware that he left the other dancers standing so he was in his right to boast a bit, but one night he went a step too far and called himself a better dancer than the Devil himself and challenged Satan to come to a contest and let himself be judged.

Now Satan must have been having a quiet time or else he was himself a vain man and susceptible to a challenge for he accepted to come, to everyone but Gilly’s consternation. You may be sure it took some courage for a piper and a fiddler to come forward to play for the event and even more courage for a laird to agree to be the judge - or maybe they were to be judged by the amount of applause each got so the onus was spread amongst the onlookers. Nothing of these finer details are known but can only be guessed at.

So to Strath Brora one dark midnight Satan came to the place were Carrol Rock rises above the Strath on one side and the forests wherein at that time roamed gaunt, hungry wolves, rises on the opposite slopes. The owl hooted in warning and Satan entered the clearing whereupon the flames of the fire leapt higher revealing nervous clusters of human spectators, huddled into their capes in some fear of the Dark Master.

Satan being some aeons the elder chose the first dance as is the custom. He chose a Highland Fling and won at it fair and square. When they had supped and revived themselves Gilly Callum chose a Sword Dance telling the fiddler to fiddle as fast as he could and his elbow moved so fast it seemed s though he must saw through his instrument. Gilly kept pace with ease. He danced so lightly and with such skill his feet seemed to disappear from under him and his body simply hung above the swards. When the tune was over he was hardly out of breath.

It was Satan’s turn now and he stepped up to the swords. The fiddler began again as fast but no faster than before so all was fair. The hooves of Satan flashed around and about the shining weapons off which danced the reflection of the flames sending flashes of light about the glen. Satan was good but he was not so sure as Gilly and maybe less practiced for eventually he missed his step and the well-honed blades cut his hooves so he had to retire. Like the gentleman he was he admitted defeat, thereby showing himself to have some nobility of spirit whatever else may be said of him.

It surely must be seen that this proves Satan to be of finer breeding than the Old Ones on Mount Olympus for didn’t Pallas Athena change Arachne into a spider when the wench foolhardily compared her own weaving too favourably to that of the jealous goddess?

Gilly kept his own form that night and Satan clapped him on the shoulder in honourable acknowledgement of having found an equal at at least this skill.

To this day that Sword Dance is known as Gilly Callum’s Dance, though some may dispute it.


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