Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Walking Inside Fairytales

About a month ago, I blogged to give y'all a glimpse into the images and places that inspired The Desired. Today, I want to tell you about the legends and magic that surround one of the images-- the stone tombs on my great uncle's property.

In the middle of the woods, you can stumble right into the tombs if you're not looking
As I mentioned in my last post, these early medieval tombs littered the landscape...until practical farmers broke them up to use the stone for buildings and walls (and get it out of their way! What's a tomb doing in the middle of perfectly good farm- or wood- land, anyway, right?) The few tombs that survived did so out of luck, geography, superstition, or a sense of historical preservation.

But... an entire blog post about a tomb wouldn't have the same impact without a legend, a guardian, and a locale, right?

Let's start with locale: the foothills of the Serra da Estrela (Star Mountains), the hilly terrain filled with giant granite boulders, ferns, foxglove, blackberry brambles, briers, oak, and (a new transplant) eucalyptus. Twilight brings a fog that rolls over the land, concentrating over forgotten wells that litter the landscape. No city lights-- no lights at all-- exist to fade out the Milky Way that stretches across the sky. The stars are a touchable distance. And this tomb sits in a clearing, undisturbed by people or time.

And now, the guardian and the legend.

There are stories all over Portugal and the Galicia region of Spain that talk about the Moura Encantada, an enchanted maiden who guards castles and lakes and treasures. She can guard the mundane of this world or could be guarding the frontiers of fairyland (the Mourama.) Her tales stretch back from pre-history.

Even though some legends make her a Moorish princess, the name "Moura" doesn't come from "Moor"... but rather from the Latin word for death or the Celtic word for spirit.

She can seduce you, trap you, reward you. But only if you know how to help or free her.

And the tomb? Depending on who you ask, it's her bed (a cama da moura) or where she kneads her bread (a masseira.)

She is legend, woven into the very stone and walls of the land. She is in the songs and the soul of the place. Stories from the Beira region mountains also speak of witches, werewolves, and ghosts that wander the land in addition to these mouras. Is it any wonder that this place is so inspiring?

Side note: The name of my uncle's property where the tomb shown above is located and the name of another property that has been in my own family for centuries is Vale da Maceira, which is pronounced a lot like like "Masseira." "Valley of the Masseira." Interesting...


  1. That's really amazing. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks! There are some awesome, awesome celtic tombs near my family's town that I need to photograph on my next trip to share with everyone. Tombs are so eerie and awesome at the same time!