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Updated 07/08/2013



Seonaidh (anglicised Shony or Shoney, and also used for the name "Johnny" in modern Scottish Gaelic) was the name of a water spirit in Lewis.  The inhabitants of Lewis used to propitiate Seonaidh by a cup of ale in the following manner. They came to the church of St. Mulway (Mael rubha), each man carrying his own provisions. Every family gave a pock of malt, and the whole was brewed into ale. One of their numbers was chosen to wade into the sea up to his waist, carrying in his hand the cup full of ale. When he reached a proper depth, he stood and cried aloud:

"Seonaidh, I give thee this cup of ale, hoping that thou wilt be so good as to send us plenty of seaware for enriching our ground during the coming year."

He then threw the ale into the sea. This ceremony was performed in the nighttime. On his coming to land, they all repaired to church, where there was a candle burning on the altar. There they stood still for a time, when, on a signal given, the candle was put out, and straightaway, they adjourned to the fields where the night was spent mirthfully over the ale. Next morning, they returned to their respective homes, in the belief that they had insured a plentiful crop for the next season.

It seems likely that Seonaidh was originally some kind of god, whose worship had been lightly Christianized by the addition of various church features. However, it is also possible that "Seonaidh", which is Scottish Gaelic for "Johnny" may also be a reference to one of the St. Johns, and some kind of invocation to him.