The Gudeman’s Croft and the Blighting of the Fields

There is a tradition that I follow and practice, shared with me long ago by a Scottish Traditional Witch, of the Gudeman’s or Goodman’s Croft. Though not Manx, I feel it is important in spirit, lore and practice and so I continue the tradition and teach it in my Line.

Wherever I have lived in a house with a yard or garden, an area of that land is set apart, fenced, or defined with less tangible borders, and left entirely Wild. That space is not entered, nothing is sown or harvested there, it is not subject to human activity or influence in any way. This land is dedicated to the Gudeman, the Devil. With this space left undisturbed, the Spirits may take up residence here, and as the folk tradition goes, not have a negative or resentful impact on the rest of the cultivated land, the home, the crops or the animals raised on that land.

It is also an important instinctive lesson that we must set limits on what we claim to own and control, and that we must agree to leave some places entirely untouched in order to have a healthy relationship with the Land and the Spirits there. ‘Conservation Lands’ do not meet this requirement, inasmuch as we freely enter those for the sake of recreation, and leave our traces, pathways, refuse and damage behind when we leave, regardless of how careful we may be. And the vast majority of humanity is not at all careful.

The Gudeman’s Croft creates a physical locus for that which is Other. This is a necessary condition for our spiritual, as well as our environmental health. The important consideration here is that it is, entirely Other. Not that it is a spiritual resource that we can make use of, any more than it is a physical resource that we can make use of. To think of it as one’s own personal patch of ‘spiritual wilderness’, defeats the purpose of it and it’s dedication to the Devil is a reminder of the tabu placed around that land. The practice was condemned in Scotland in the late 1500s as devil worship by the clergy, and so must have been sufficiently established and widespread by that time to warrant proscription, and is doubtless much older.

Related to this in spirit is the practice of not harvesting anything left in the fields after Sauin. Traditionally, as of that night anything remaining was considered blighted by the Devil.
This practice accomplishes temporally what the Gudeman’s Croft accomplishes spatially. It sets temporal limits on what we humans can take from the Land, teaching us that we cannot take and endlessly take until nothing remains.

One Response to “The Gudeman’s Croft and the Blighting of the Fields”

  1. That tradition holds here in Ireland in places too but the space is for the ‘good folk’ rather then the devil.

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