View Full Version : The Mower In Man

Friday, June 3rd, 2005, 09:48 AM
The Mower In Man

(John L. Hall)

Most readers will be familiar with the 'mowing devil' that appeared in an old pamphlet of the l7th century and has I since been brought out as evidence of crop circle formation in previous centuries. There is in the Isle of Man a body of folklore relating to an entity called the Fenoderee ('fin-ord-er-ree'), rather like a Greek satyr and rather Panish in appearance; it is also known as 'the nimble mower'. Its activities are not the same as, but closely parallel, the 'mowing devil', and it is also associated with light balls, ancient sites and other events of significance to earth mysteries and crop circle enthusiasts. Arrowsmith and Morse have also written of the 'dark elves', who are guardians of ancient sites such as dolmens and standing stones, and who with their bright red eyes and dark skins take great delight in dancing, at night and usually on a Wednesday; this they do with such vigour that the grass burns under their feet, and they will catch up any human unwise enough to join in and give them the illusory power of shapeshifting until they drop dead of exhaustion.

The fenoderee is generally described as a Manx brownie, and has very similar characteristics. He is large, hairy and ugly, but of enormous strength; anecdotal tales tell of his exploits around humans and there seems to be some confusion over whether he was a solitary individual or a class of super human creature. Supposedly, he had been banished from Fairyland for falling in love with a mortal woman who lived in Glen Aldyn and not attending the Autumn Festival in Glen Rushen. Consequently, he was given his hairy shape and fated to wander alone till doomsday. However, he kept a kindly feeling towards humans and performed all manner of tasks when needed. The fenoderee was sometimes confused with the glasthan, a Manx hobgoblin, now blended with the Glastyn, a different kind of creature. Often he was offended by gifts of clothes; and he either moved from place to place or was one of several of his kind.

Train, in his account of Man (Vol. II, p. 148), tells of the fenoderee being angered because the farmer criticising his grass-cutting, saying it wasn't close enough; he gave up helping him, and instead followed him, grubbing up roots so fiercely that the farmer's legs were endangered. In these stories are possible parallels to the 'mowing devil' (see especially the song) and indications of crop circle phenomena; some locations are given precisely, others more generally, but it may be possible to assess them in terms of geographical and geological situation, etc., which might help any evaluation of the potential for crop circle or other paranormal phenomena. In Gill's Manx Scrapbooks, such locations are also associated with familiar fairy sites like tumuli, boggy ground and events such as fireballs and whirlwinds.

The fenoderee of Round Meadow, Lheeney Rhunt, near St Trinians would until the farmer's rebuff start work at daybreak and could be seen by villagers as they peeped over the hedgerows that screened Curragh Glass. He not only mowed - flinging the grass to the morning star or the fading moon without heeding the cock's crow - but raked and carried, reaped, made bands, tied sheaves, built the stack, threshed it and then stacked the straw again; the fury of his threshing was like a whirlwind or an earthquake or even Doomsday, the air was so dark with flying husks. He also herded cattle and sheep and bore great loads of wrack and stone about the land. One of his tricks was to make hard ground soft and soft ground water - hence the Curraghs.

The tool used in the Round Meadow was a scythe, like the 'Sickyle Sythe' of the 1577 Nimble Mower. The Manx place name Lheeney/Lhoannee Rhunt for Round Field describes a boggy landscape feature apt to occur on the borders of streams and is also associated with the fenoderee recorded in 1667 at Ballaught Bradden.

Another fenoderee reputation was the Nightman, a black shaggy creature with fiery eyes who gathered and cut down meadow grass before a storm; in Bride, he borrowed a sickle and cut two fields of corn in a single night. Another tale tells of his rounding up sheep three times around the mountain Snaefell, implying the circularity also found in a saying associated with him, 'are you turning the wheel?' (or 'reel') as well as 'Round Meadow' placenames.

Another Round Meadow is at Glionny Lomarcan (Glen of the Loney) in the upper Dhoon Glen in Lonan. This area has a strange 'fairy wheel' which sweeps down the valley from the mountains across the headland to the sea. Could this rolling light, found in other places, especially headlands, be connected with the fenoderee, a phenomenon interpreted elsewhere as a whirlwind - or even with! say, Terence Meaden's theory of the plasma vortex formation of crop circles [or with an event similar to the rolling sun of Croagh Patrick, described in NE 63? - Ed.]? The rolling fiery wheel was taken to be a representation of Man's tutelary deity, the sea god Manannan. Ancient sites - standing stones, tumuli, earthworks, etc. abound in this area.

Another 'fenoderee and the farmer' story, from Round Filed, Marown, adds another significant element. The field could not be worked because the farmhands feared to incur the sprite's wrath, and so the farmer eventually employed a soldier; he "commenced in the centre of the field and by cutting around as if on the edge of the circle, keeping one eye on the progress of the scythe and the other on the fenoderee, his task finished unmolested". Compare the drawing of the 'mowing devil'! It seems that the soldier's method may have copied the fenoderee's cutting action, if only to show that it was safe to enter and work the fenoderee's meadow.

One other site seems to be host to various kinds of paranormal activity, linked with an unexcavated mound. This mound is Cronk-ny-Mooar, 'Fairy Hill', on a golf course near Port Erin, it is a castle motte, 450 ft in circumference and 40 ft high, surrounded by a moat, now filled in. Boggy and on the edge of a stream, beside it is another 'Lheeney Rhunt'. Stories of this site include fairy funeral processions (spirit paths?), wild hunts, a stolen fairy cup, attempted abductions and fairy hosts; the interior of the mound was once lit up, and one story tells of men seeing 'terrible giants' with big caps and experiencing the feeling of being levitated as they passed by. Fine fenoderee country - but so far, surprisingly, I have found no such tale here!

Of modern crop events in the Isle of Man, The Cerealogist in September 1993 reported that in June 1990 Ballahowin Farm in St Marks experienced a pattern of straight block markings in a barley field after a storm. The event was also reported by the Manx Independent, which mentioned a ring in an oatfield the previous winter at Knock-e Dhooney Andrew; the perimeter line was 18" wide, and the diameter 10-12 ft, and another smaller ring was found nearby. The farmer, M.J.J.Martin, said he had never seen anything like it before.

So do we have in the fenoderee, the nimble mower of Man, another 'mowing devil'? The old folklore offers a tentative and roughly contemporary similarity with the figure in the old woodcut but can we, like the crop circle researchers, drag this similarity into the modern minefield of crop events?