THE ROUTE OF THE CASTROS

ruta_3_Castro de Negros.

1. King's Mound
2. Necrópole de Chan da Cruz,
Mounds nº 19, 20, 15 e 6

3. Necrópole de Chan da Cruz, Mounds 9 e 10
4. Necrópole de Chan da Cruz Mound 2 e 3, destruída
5. Petroglyphs of Chan da Cruz
6. Petroglyphs of Coto da Rola
7. Petroglyphs of As Porteliñas
8. Mound of Chan do Rato
9. Petroglyphs of Chan do Rato
10. Petroglyphs of Poza da Lagoa
11. Mound ofs Teixugueiras
12. Mound e petróglifos de Coto Fenteira
13. Petroglyphs of Coto do Corno
14. Petroglyphs of Castro de Negros
15. Castro de Negros
1. King's Mound
16. Mound of Chan da Cruz 23
17. Mound of Chan da Cruz 24
18. Mound of Chan da Cruz 26
19. Mound of Chan da Cruz 29
20. Mound of Chan da Cruz 31
21. Mounds das Pedras dos Picos 1 e 2
22. Mound 2 do Parque Forestal do Vixiador
23. Mound 1 de Castro Ferreiro
24. Mounds 2 e 3 de Castro Ferreiro

 

 

From King's Mound this circular route leads to Castro de Negros and back to King's Mound. Walking northeastwards along a dirt track, the route follows the right hand turn at a junction; slightly further down, descending by the dirt track, in a bend in the path the castro becomes visible in the distance, beneath two power lines that cross Penide. The good visibility of the site demonstrates the suitability of its location as a defensive site, facilitating control of its environs, both near and far.

The castro has very good natural defences, located on a vantage point surrounded by slopes on all sides except for the western side by which one accesses the croa, or the highest point of the castro.

On the northern side there are traces of a bank and ditch, currently used as a path that circles the top of the hill where the site is situated.

On the slopes there are different petroglyphs with cupmarks and in the croa a series of natural basins, in the form of hollows in the rock that were used since time immemorial for magical rituals associated with cleansing and rites of passage to adulthood.

The impressive views from its “croa” of the mountainous ridge of Monte Galleiro and especially the depression of the river Maceiras, along which the Vía Romana XIX, and later the Portuguese Camino of Santiago, passed, gives us an idea of the strategic interest in the location of the site, proving itself an ideal place to control the natural routes of passage between the north and south of Galicia.

 

LEGENDS AND TRADITIONS

 

n the Castro de Negros, a “moura” (fairy, spirit) lives within the mountain, beneath the castro village, inside a cave called the “Igrexa da Preta”. Referring to the divine character of the “mouras”, the popular name of “iglesia” (church) for this place is apt. The word “preta”, instead of “moura”, makes reference to its colour, with “preta” meaning “black” in Portuguese.

In the various versions of the story the “moura” is presented as queen of the fortress of the mountain, where great feasts were held attended by knights on horseback. In other versions this “moura” emerges every morning to receive the rising sun (the cave is oriented to the east), praying to and invoking the solar body.

At night the “moura” leaves the cave in the form of a serpent, and climbs to the highest point of the castro, where various places take her name. One of the most interesting is the “Cadeira da Moura” (Seat of the Moura), a rock at the edge of the precipice oriented directly towards the ría. Sitting in this seat, the moura was once again transformed into a beautiful woman, and, like all of the mouras, brushed her hair with a golden comb beneath the night’s moonlight.

In this place she has encounters with young men that seek her. One of the beliefs is that she is a bewitched woman, trapped between this life and the otherworld, guarding a great treasure, and whoever can break the enchantment can marry her and claim all of the treasure.

Relations between mouras and humans always involve the passing of a task. It is probable that these hark back to initiation rites preserved in the legendary traditions of all cultures, rites related on many occasions to the passage from adolescence to maturity.

Stone beds

In one of the stories reference is made to a “bed of stone”, which until recently existed beside the “Cadeira da Moura”. Stone beds are common throughout Galicia and are associated with sexual rituals, sometimes of initiation, others propitious of procreation, others dedicated to the curing of illnesses, and others also used for divination. There are two of these stone beds in the Castro de Negros:

Bed of the Moura

This stone bed was almost completely destroyed after the erection of an electricity pylon. Only the head of the bead remains.

The legend says that the “moura” used to sleep in the bed with the young men she desired (a similar story is told in Orcavella de Fisterra). Until its destruction this bed was used by many couples who came to this magical place of nature in order to conceive, having failed to do so in their beds at home. An animistic rite practiced in many places in Galicia, related in this case, as almost always, with a divinity of nature, a giver of fertility, perhaps one of the secrets she guards as “moura” in the belly of the mountain, lost forever more.

The Bed of the Children

Beside the now destroyed stone bed of the “moura” there is a second preserved bed: the “Cama de los Niños”. Its size and concavity resembles a stone cradle, with a carved cup in the head. Of the different versions of the story recorded, the repeated theme is that sick children were brought to this bed when no cure could be found for them. On nights of the full moon they lay on this stone so that the moonlight, with its power over the waters of the world, causing tides to rise and fall, would re-balance the internal liquids of the child, returning everything to its place and fostering healing.

 

The rite of disenchantment

The relationship between the “moura” and the young men who came to her always has a marked sexual character and intention, and the trial to be overcome expresses this significance.

The young man must wait on the “Cadeira da Moura” at midnight for the arrival of the “moura”, at the edge of the precipice – a trial that could only be overcome by the bravest and boldest. The “moura” arrives in the form of a serpent, slithering across the ground carrying a red carnation in her mouth. The colour red clearly symbolises blood. Blood in initiation rites of adolescence are associated with the beginning of menstruation or the loss of virginity; in both cases symbolic indicators of the passage to maturity.

 

 Castro de Negros

 

When the moura-serpent reaches her chair, occupied by the young man waiting for her, she begins to curl her body rising towards him. Every time she wraps her body with more force, enveloping him, until the head of the serpent is at the same level as the head of the hopeful suitor. At this moment, the creature opens her enormous mouth to reveal the carnation between her fangs. The young man only has to approach the serpent’s mouth and take the flower from inside with his lips. This is the climactic moment, with the young man, practically without breath, completely enveloped and constricted by the enormous serpent, whose huge mouth is open in front of his face, and the youth only has to move his mouth closer and take the flower that is offered from inside. But this is also the moment that fear outweighs any intent to take the flower. In struggling to release himself from the oppressive beast, the youth falls off the precipice and dies between the rocks. In one of the versions, the story tells of finding two young men on different occasions, dead among the rocks.

The death of a person who fails to overcome a challenge is a recurrent theme in Galician legends. In the background it underlines the intention of selection: only the strongest and bravest are ready to overcome the trials that await them in the passage to maturity; the weakest are discarded and despised.

Linked to this is the theme of resisting the harshness of life. For much of our history humans have been subjected to a process of natural selection, where in the face of illnesses humans have had to rely on their own natural resistance, due to the absence of effective medicines that exist today, with small children always the weakest beings in this circle of life.

Underwater river.

Water also appears as an element in another fantastical story, recounted during a visit to the people of the parish of this castro, in which they claim that there is an underwater river that goes from the castro, crossing the mountain in the direction of the island of San Simón. In some versions of the tale the river terminates in a mine in A Portela; in other versions it enters the sea between the beach of Cesantes, and the island, emerging from a very deep spring in the sea, with the meeting of the waters of this underground river with the waters of the sea provoking the constant whirlpools in this area.

 

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