Sacred Texts  Legends and Sagas  Celtic  Index  Previous  Next 

Survivals in Belief Among the Celts, by George Henderson, [1911], at

II. The Wanderings of Psyche (part 2)

The foregoing brief summary, sufficient for my present purpose, is from living tradition. I give now the original Gaelic, which I owe to Mr. Kenneth Macleod, who kindly wrote down for me such incidents as he remembers, and states that he is not quite certain whether the Morc was an each-uisge or an each-coilleadh or a combination of both.

Rhys inclines to take the Irish Morc, corresponding to the Welsh March ab Meirchion, i.e. 'Steed son of Steeding,' as a sort of Irish Pluto. In the Book of Leinster (fol. 160a) Morc (Margg, Marg) figures as steward of the King of the Fomori. Marc is the name of one of the foes killed by Cuchulainn on the tain (Book of Dun Cow, 70b). Morc appears as (a) having horse's ears, (b) a king, (c) captain of a great fleet: he is horse-man, a monster sharing the qualities of both. 1

p. 120

The original runs:

"Morc Na Maighe.—Latha do Chaoilte ’na aonar anns a’ Chreig ghuanaich, cluinnear farum-fad-as na fadhaide anns a’ choillidh ghruamaich, agus gabhar a mach air a h-ionnsaidh. Cò thachair ris ach gum b’ e Morc Na Maighe, agus i ’ga deisearadh fein an sùil na greine. 'Gum bu sheatha 1 duit fein, a Chaoilte,' ars’ ise, ’ma bhrathas 2 tu air an Fheinn mus beir an cuan siar an nochd air a’ ghrein.' '’S gum bu sheatha duit fein, a phiullagaich pheallagaich ghrainnde,' arsa Caoilte, 'ma chumas do cheithir chasan ris na chi do dhà shùil.' Bha sid air a cois le clise dhealan ’s le fuaim thorrunn, agus thugar a’ ghrian de Chaoilte. 'Tha Mactalla,' ars’ ise, 'air luirg na fadhaide, agus bitheamaid-ne a nis air a luirg-san.' Mach a ghabh iad le cheile mar ghaoith ghuinich gheamhraidh, ’s bha an ceum-toisich aig Caoilte. Bha na glinn a’ lionadh ’s bha na mill a’ sìneadh, ’s bha an ceum-toisich a nis aice-se. 'Is mòr do luathas, a mhuirc,' arsa Caoilte. 'Cha mhoillid e sin, a Chaoilte,' ars’ ise, agus i toirt spreadhaidh eile aisde. 'Feuchaidh sinn ealaidh eile a nis,' arsa Caoilte ris fhein; ’s thugar duibhleum as, ’s beirear air mhuing oirre, agus cha tug ise an aire riamh gun robh e nis an crochadh rith. Mu dheireadh ’s mu dhiu, aig dol fodha na gréine, laigh Morc Na Maighe aig bonn craoibh-dharraich, ’s an teas ’ga ruighinn ’s a h-anail ruith ’na ceo. 'Is moillid do luathas an sgìos, a mhuirc,' arsa Caoilte,

p. 121

[paragraph continues] ’s e seasamh air a beulaibh. 'A bheil thu sin, a bheadagain?' ars’ ise. 'Tha,' ars’ esan; 'is fheairrde mi an roid ud—theid mi nis gu h-astar—slàn leat.' 'Is i an aois a dh’ fhoghainn domh,' arsa Morc Na Maighe; 'ach bha mo latha fein agam—cha’n ’eil mi ’n dùil nach teid mi dhachaidh a nis.'"

(d) As regards fowl, I can only find few apposite references: Conaire the Great, who was held to be descended from a fowl, was interdicted from eating its flesh. 1 At 'Goose Fair' at Great Crosby, Lancashire, the goose was held as too sacred to eat. In parts of Scotland, too, there was a prejudice against eating the goose, 2 it being too sacred.

Another prejudice existed against white cows. Dalyell in his Darker Superstitions of Scotland mentions the existence of a prejudice against white cows,—which seem to have been held as consecrated animals. And I knew a man in the Highlands who could on no account eat pork: he would turn quite ill on being told that such was given him disguised in any form. I can but remind the reader of the sacredness and potency of swine's blood to cure warts, and of the story of Diarmud, whose life depended on that of the venomous boar. This last might admit of an explanation different from the preceding.

(e) The soul in deer-form.—In the earliest documents of the Ossianic cycle it is Finn and not Ossian who plays the role of poet. Yet, in the prose tales, dialogues and lyrical monologues are

p. 122

interspersed, and these verses are put in the mouth of the persons concerned just as if they were the poetical composers of the same. Windisch (Ir. Texte, i. 63) supposes that in this wise Ossian has developed into a poetic figure. The poems which, in the saga, were put into his mouth, came to be regarded as his work till they became gradually typical of a whole species of literature. In support of his hypotheses Windisch points out that the headings of the poems in point are to the effect: Ossīn or Finn cecinit,—a heading corresponding to the formula of the Cuchulainn cycle when poetical pieces are by way of dialogue and quasi-dramatically incorporated in the prose-tale, to wit: 'Conid and ro chāchain Conchobur inso' = 'Here Conchobair sung as follows.' From this to Auctor hujus Ossīn, the formula of the Book of Lismore, is but a small step. No one, too, who was not versed in poetic art could be admitted into the Fēinn, as Keating reports, but I have little doubt this was the invention of those poets of mediaeval times who wanted to glorify their office. I would in particular point out that the mediaeval craving after an etymology for the name Ossian came to strengthen the tendency just referred to. In modern times it is traditionally narrated that he had colg an fheidh, 'deer's hair' (fur, pile), upon his temple, and that in virtue of having this on a corner (oisinn) of his brow he was called 'Corner,' i.e. Oisein. Further, in the Book of the Fēinn one reads the tradition of 1870. "When Oisein was born in the mountains, it was so that if his mother licked him as deer licked their calves, he was to be a deer like his mother.

p. 123

[paragraph continues] If not he was to be a man like Fionn his father. She had so much of the deer's nature in her that she began to lick the child, and she gave one sweep of her tongue to his temple. The deer's hair (colg an fheidh) grew on the corner of his brow at once. When his mother saw that, she had so much of the woman's nature left that she wished her son to be a man, she stopped licking him, and he grew up to be a man, and they called him Oisein (i.e. Angle or corner). He was the best bard in the world" (L. na F. p. 198).

In the above version Ossian is Cuchulainn's nephew, for his mother is the sister of Cuchulainn mac an Dualtaich, under spells (geasan). Fionn had been under a taboo that he would marry any female creature he might chance to meet. He fell in with a deer, and by putting his finger under his wisdom-tooth he knew the deer was an enchanted woman. Here we have the animal parentage of Ossian, of which account the above is but the afterglow. On the margin of the Book of Leinster (1160) there is the following reference to the mother of Ossian:

māthair Diarmata o’n Dāil
ingen churraig meic Chathāir
is blai derg de’n Bhanbai bhrais
māthair Ossine amnais
ticedh [sī] iricht eilte
i comdāil na dibeirge
codernad Ossine de
ri Blai ndeirg irricht eilte.
                              LL. 164 marg. supp.

[paragraph continues] i.e. 'The mother of Diarmad, from Dāil, daughter of Currag mac Cathar; and Blai Derg, from the rushing

p. 124

[paragraph continues] Banba, the mother of the formidable Ossian. In a doe's shape she used to come and join the outlawed band, and thus it was that Ossian was begotten upon Blai Derg disguised as a doe' (cf. Sil. Gad. 522).

According to a Barra version Fionn's first wife Grainne, enchanted in the form of a hind, was mother to Ossian. It was a fairy sweetheart that put her under spells. The fairy sweethearts used always to be at that kind of work. It was on a pretty little green island which is called Eilean Sandraigh (or otherwise on a sea-rock in Loch-nan-Ceall, in Arasaig) that Ossian was born (Leabhar na Feinne, p. 199).

The soul in deer-form is met with in another story connected with Forsair Choir’ an t-Sīdhe, 'The Forester of Fairy Corry.' I give it as told by the late Alexander Macpherson of Kingussie.

The White Hind.—Somewhere in this Garden of Sleep (Kingussie Cemetery) hallowed by St. Columba, although no trace can now be found of the actual grave, there rests the dust of the celebrated forester of the Fairy Corry, a native of Cowal in Argyllshire. This hero was of a branch of the MacLeods of Raasay, and being fair-haired his descendants were called Clann Mhic-ille bhain—that is, children of the fair (literally white) haired man, who now call themselves by the surname of Whyte. The forester was universally believed to have had a Leannan-Sith (a fairy sweetheart), who followed him wherever he went.

"Mr. Duncan Whyte, of Glasgow, one of the eighth generation in direct descent from the forester, communicated to me in Gaelic sundry very interesting

p. 125

traditions which have come down regarding his famous ancestor. In the year 1644 the Earl of Montrose was in the field with an army on behalf of King Charles I.; while the Earl of Argyll had the chief command of the Covenanters’ forces. Montrose was burning and pillaging in the north when Argyll received instructions to go in pursuit of him. The forester was in Argyll's army, and the fairy sweetheart, in the shape of a white hind, followed the troops wherever they went. While they were resting in the neighbourhood of Ruthven Castle, in Badenoch, some of the officers began to mock Argyll for allowing the hind to be always following the army. Their ridicule roused his wrath, and he commanded his men to fire at the hind. This was done without a particle of lead piercing her hair. Some observed that the forester was not firing, although pointing his gun at the hind like the rest, and he was accused to Argyll. He then received strict orders to fire at the hind. 'I will fire at your command, Argyll,' said the forester, 'but it will be the last shot that I shall ever fire,' and it happened as he said. Scarcely was the charge out of his gun when he fell dead on the field, The fairy gave a terrific scream and rose like a cloud of mist up the shoulder of the neighbouring mountain, and from that time was never seen following the army. It has been believed by every generation since that the fairy left a charm with the descendants of the forester, which shall stick to them to the twentieth generation." 1

p. 126

From Irish tradition I take the following example. It is the story of Oisin Born of A Doe in Cremlin (West Mayo):

“One fine sunny day the seven heavy battalions of Fionn encamped at the foot of Murrn, in the land of lakes; the son of Devvra sat on the top of a hill, looking over rocks and cliffs where there were only wild wolves and badgers: near him was Gaul, son of Morni. Fifty strong men had charge of the hounds in leash: the hounds running at liberty were put under care of the hunters of Leinster and of Munster.

“A hawk was making melodious sounds for the children of Ruanan who were led by Caoilte: the baying of the hounds in the woods drove the deer and wild beasts into the darkest shades and caves of the glens.

“A young doe rose up in the chase: Fionn, the active white-handed hero, saw her beauty; he gave vehement chase and took her to be his wife. 1

“This lovely doe he shielded from attack of hounds: he let her escape: his eye followed her as she bounded from bush to bush, till she reached Cremlin of the woody thickets.

“There the doe remained till I was born amidst the branches, instead of a kid: by her side I ran like a kid, sucking my mother's milk till I was seven

p. 127

years old: wild in the woods I ran till I was three times seven years old. Boomin, the tuneful foster mother of Fionn, came into the woods to pluck berries: she ran to Fionn and told him that in the thickets she had seen an animal like a red, wild man.

“All the Fenii gathered together to find out the truth of the story which ran from man to man.

“To prevent my escape they placed two hounds in Aughavilla, two in Aughavalla, two in Auchagower, two in Ogoul near the sea, two on the ridge of Lenane, two on the dizzy heights of Achil, two in Cuirrsloova, two swift hounds on the hill of Tarramud, and at the foot of Binna they placed the son of Boovil, with his two swift dogs straining at the leash. The melodious voices of the hounds roused the stately stags of Barraglauna, does, badgers, and boars of the glens stole away. At evening's hour they raised the spear to stop the chase: they rested their hunting spears on their shoulders: they slept in Thauver of much people.

“At sunrise next day Fionn, in his hunting dress, followed his melodious hounds through the woody glens: they started me and the doe my mother: all day they chased us: when the sun went down I was tired: the hound Sheeve came up and caught me by the hair of my head: the doe left me, alone. Then came Shrocco in strong running, and took a sufficient hold of my back: Guntaugh seized me by the left side, and Creautagh by the right: Fuiltaugh held me by the loin, and the hound Verran by the leg. Bran came running up, she was only nine months old and not yet strong in chase: when she came up

p. 128

she began to lick my wounds, she was kind and gentle, she treated me well.

“Caoilte was the first hunter who came to me; after him all the Fenii; they led me by the hand to Fionn. When the son of Cumhal felt the strength of the bones of my arms he said, 'These arms and hands are like those of the children of Baoisgne.'

"Then the Fenii came round in friendship: they brought shears: they sheared me from head to foot: they washed me and put clothing upon me in place of the coarse hair which covered me before. Fionn and all the Fenii taught me to speak. Thus was I born in Gremlin of the shady thickets." 1

The counsel given by Ossian to his mother, Highland legend expresses thus: 2

  Mas tu mo mhathair ’s gur fiadh thu
  Éirich mu’n éirich a’ ghrīan ort.

= Mother mine, if deer thou be
  Arise ere sun arise on thee.

This counsel was given, according to Miss Tolmie, in order that the deer, i.e. his mother, might break the spell which bound her before Ossian was born.

The name Ossian, Irish Oisín, i.e. little deer or os, is a diminutive from Gadhelic os, deer, cognate with Cymric uch, English ox; not from the Saxon ’Oswine, as Dr. Zimmer imagined, which in Gadhelic would yield a long initial vowel, whereas it is short.

In addition to that of Ossian, which denotes 'little deer,' there are many other names of animal parentage

p. 129

in Gadhelic: Mac Echern, MacLellan, MacKichan, MacMahon, MacCulloch, derive from the names for horse, wolf, bear, boar; Shaw seemingly is from Sithech 'wolf,' as is also M‘Keith; the Prince of Teffia, The O’Caharny, had as his official title 'The Wolf.' Malcolm, through the Gaelic Maol-Coluim, derives ultimately from Columba, 'dove.' Adamnán gives the older diminutive form Oisseneus, from Gaelic Oisséne, and there is the female form Ossnat, as well as the tribal name Ossraighe, whence Ossory. Nicknames are still given to persons in the Highlands, and such names as 'the lion,' 'the jackdaw,' 'the little horse,' 'the rat,' 'the eagle' were current a few years ago. Analogy thus strengthens the conception as to the name Ossín being given from his deer parentage.

The Ossraighe have been held to be a pre-Milesian race. Rhys derived os here from Basque otso, 'a wolf.' But compare Gamhanraighe, 'the calf-tribe'; Conraighe, 'the hound tribe'; Soghraighe, the bitch-tribe?' as Mr. MacNeill renders the names in the New Ireland Review1

The same idea occurs in another old tale of the transformation of Tuan mac Cairill, who tells the story to St. Finnian of Moville. "As I was asleep one night I saw myself passing into the shape of a stag (dul i richt oiss allaid). . . . After this, from the time that I was in the shape of a stag, I was the leader of the herds of Ireland, and wherever I went there was a large herd of stags about me (bói alma mór do ossaib alta immum). This Tuan afterwards

p. 130

passes into the shape of a boar, then into that of a. hawk, then into that of a salmon, which on being eaten by Cairell's wife, he was reborn as human. He was of great age when Patrick came to Ireland and was baptized, and he 'alone believed in the king of all things with his elements.' Every pedigree that is in Ireland, ’tis from Tuan, son of Cairell, the origin of that history is. For he had conversed with the ages and was known as Tuan, the son of Starn, the brother of Partholon (whence Mac Pharlane, -Farlane), the first man who came to Ireland. One hundred years was he in man's shape, eighty as a stag, twenty as a boar, a hundred as an eagle, twenty as a salmon, so that three hundred and twenty years elapsed until he was reborn a man."

The Colloquy tells us that Ossian went to the síd of ucht Cleitigh (síd octa Cleitig), where was his mother Blái, daughter of Derc surnamed dianscothach, i.e. 'of the forcible language.' 1 In another part of the Colloquy we read of Ubhalroiscc, from the Síd Ochta Cleitig in the plain of Bregia. 2 This passage enumerates the chiefs and territorial lords of the Tuatha de Danann, and it follows that the deer parentage of Ossian connects him with the Tuatha dé.

Again, in the Highlands we meet with the deer as sacred, as possessing the theriomorphic soul. In the Island of Rum it was thought that if one of the family of Lachlin shot a deer in the mountain of Finchra that he would die suddenly or contract a distemper which would soon prove fatal. Probably the life of the Lachlins was bound up with the deer

p. 131

on Finchra as the life of the Hays was bound up with the mistletoe on Errol's oak. 1 One recollects that the Gauls are referred to as sacrificing to Artemis or Diana (v. Grimm's Teutonic Mythology, iv. 1592).

The deer is thus clearly a phase of the theriomorphic soul, and thus we can account for the survival of stag-ceremonies connected with church worship in Britain. Thus, Camden says as to the site of St. Paul's, London: "Some have imagined that a temple of Diana formerly stood here, and when I was a boy I have seen a stag's head fixed upon a spear (agreeably enough to the sacrifice of Diana) and conveyed about within the church with great solemnity and sound of horns. And I have heard that the stag which the family of Bawd in Essex were bound to pay for certain lands used to be received at the steps of the church by the priests in their sacerdotal robes, and with garlands of flowers on their heads. Certain it is this ceremony savours more of the worship of Diana and of Gentile errours than of the Christian religion." 2 Statues and stone-altars to Diana have been found in the neighbourhood. 3 The 'playing of the stag,' referred to in penitential books and homilies, points in the same direction. Men on New Year's Day clothed themselves in the skin of a stag, with its horns upon their heads, and were accompanied by other men dressed in woman's clothing. In this costume with licentious songs and drinking, they proceeded to the doors of the churches,

p. 132

where they danced and sung with extraordinary antics. Tacitus, in his Germania, tells us of a priest clothed as a woman, and when men first usurped the office of priestess there is little doubt that they clothed as women. Hence the men dressed as women who occur in so many Twelfth Day, May Day and Midsummer Day celebrations are, I think, fossils of the old priestesses, often occurring as fossils of the old sacrificial animal. The 'playing of the stag' at the church door seems to me, therefore, another relic of the old religious rites accompanied by choral dance and licentious song. 1 And I may refer to the stags' horns which I have seen four years ago in the church of Abbots Bromley, Staffs., which are carried by the mummers who annually enact the 'Hobby Horse.'

With the deer-mother of Ossian, one may compare the story of the Deer Park in Benares, where Buddha first caused the wheel of the good to revolve. The story tells of a king who was one of the former incarnations of Bodhisattva Shâkyamuni.

Moved by the entreaty of a mother-doe to save its offspring, the Deer-Bodhisattva approached the king on her behalf. The king said: ". . . I am a deer in man's form. Though you are in appearance a lower animal, you are in heart a human being. . . . If endowed with a loving heart, though a bear in form, one is human. . . ." 2

p. 133

(f) Transformation and Incarnation into Bull-form. The Divine Bull (Tarbh) of the Epos and of Legend.—It may seem a strange thing to give a great tale in which the leading incidents turn on the possession of a bull the title of Táin Bó Cúalnge, the Foray (or Driving) of the Kine of Cualnge. But all Tána according to the old Gadhelic categories fall under the title of Táin Bó; and besides, the Bull sought is of super-animal origin; it is the seventh form assumed by the swine-herd of the gods, for the Donn Cualnge had (1) a human form, (2) the form of a raven, (3) that of a seal, sea-dog, (4) that of an eminent warrior, (5) the form of a phantom, (6) that of a worm or moth, (7) that of a bull. It is distinctly stated in the Táin that the Donn of Cúalnge had human reason: 'atchuala Dond Cualngi anní sein acus bae cíall dunetta aice' 1 = 'the Dond of C. heard this, for it had human understanding.' The two bulls were incarnations of rival swine-herds from the Síd. 2 'The Begetting of the Two Swine-herds ' forms a tale in the Book of Leinster3 Friuch and Riucht were their names, "and there was also friendship between them, viz., both possessed the lore of paganism, and used to shape themselves into any shape, as did Mongan the son of Fiachna." They underwent various transformations:

. . . they were two stags. . .

They were two champions wounding each other.

They were two spectres, either of them terrifying the other.

p. 134

They were two dragons, either of them beating (?) the snow on the land of the other. They dropped down from the air and were two worms. One of them went into the well of Glass Cruind in Cualnge, where a cow of Dáre mac Fiachnai drunk it up; and the other went into the well of Garad in Connaught, where a cow of Medb and Ailill's drank it, so that from them sprang the two bulls, the Whitehorn Ai and the Donn of Cualnge.

I suggest that we have here to do with the Tarbh Boibhre 1 of living Highland tradition. Boibre is given in O’Davoren's glossary and explained as from boabartach abairt amail in mboin, i.e. 'cow-behaviour, behaving like the cow.' It was conceived as a sort of hermaphrodite lusting to graze at a loch side along with cows. From recent tradition I know of the Tarbh Boibhre having been spoken of; the description given pointed to some mythic animal often emerging from deep inland lochs—for instance, Loch Bruiach in Inverness-shire--and capable of assuming the form of a bull or of a cow at pleasure, and of emitting a peculiar cry like to that of powerful birds in the night time. I have come across a fuller description in the Campbell of

p. 135

[paragraph continues] Islay MSS., which I reproduce. It is entitled The Boobrie, and is thus described in its three-fold manifestations or imaginary emanations.

(a) The Boobrie as Bird.—“This species of animal which within the last century was by no means rare in the districts of Upper Lochaber and Argyll, has for many years been totally extinct, the assigned cause being the extent to which heather burning has been practised in those districts for so many years past. Very long heather was the natural resting place and shelter of the Boobrie. According to the most authentic reports the animal was endowed with the power of assuming at pleasure the forms of three different animals, viz., those of a most enormous and ferocious water-bird (when he was designated the Boobrie), of a water-horse or each-uisg, and of a water-bull or tarbh-uisg. The first of these was the one which he preferred assuming. I intend giving a short description of him in these three various forms—first as the Boobrie from the report of an eye-witness, who not only saw him but waded up to his shoulders into a very large muir loch on a very cold morning in February in the hope of getting a shot at him, but when he had reached within eighty-five yards of him the animal dived, and my informant after waiting for three quarters of an hour where he was, returned on shore to watch for his reappearance, which, though my informant remained in his uncomfortable position for more than five hours and a half on the bank, did not take place. Although this man was not so fortunate as to get a shot at him, he was near enough to have been enabled to furnish

p. 136

me with a most satisfactory account of the animal's appearance and dimensions. In form and colour the Boobrie strongly resembles the Great Northern Diver, with the exception of the white on the neck and breast; the wings of both, bearing about the same proportion to the size of their bodies, appear to have been given them by nature more for the purpose of assisting them in swimming under water, than flying. In size of body he is larger than seventeen of the biggest eagles put together. His neck is two feet eleven inches long, and twenty-three inches in circumference, his bill is about seventeen inches long, black in colour, measuring round the root about eleven inches; for the first twelve inches the bill is straight, but after that assumes the shape of an eagle's, and of proportionate strength. His legs are remarkably short for his size, black in colour, but tremendously powerful, the feet are webbed till within five inches of the toes, which then terminate in immense claws of most destructive nature. The print of his foot on the mud at the east end of the lake (as accurately measured by an authority) covers the space generally contained within the span of a large wide-spreading pair of red deer's horns. The sound he utters resembles that of a large bull in his most angry humours, but much superior in strength. The favourite food of the Boobrie is the flesh of calves; failing them he feeds upon sheep or lambs, as suits him, or seizing his prey he carries it off to the largest neighbouring muir loch, swims out to the deepest part, where he dives, carrying his victim along with him, and

p. 137

there feeds, returning on shore at pleasure. He is also particularly fond of otters, which he swallows in great numbers, and with considerable avidity.

“It is a notorious fact that about sixty years ago a Boobrie frequented a loch named Loch Leathan, anglice 'the Broad Loch,' in the West of Argyllshire, and caused great consternation in the district.

"The clergyman of this parish was a remarkable man, not only for the assiduity with which he followed his calling, but for his talents and accomplishments. Whenever it was known that he was to preach, a large congregation was certain. On one occasion the parson had agreed to preach for a neighbouring clergyman who was absent on duty, and all the neighbouring gentry made a point of attending. As distances were great the heritors ordered dinner. [Here story tells of their chance of falling in with the Boobrie. . . . the minister and his servant fell over one another in a burn. Each thought the other was the Boobrie. Sandy, the servant, always thought they had been glamoured by the Boobrie!]"

(b) The Boobrie as Water-horse (Each-Uisge)." On the banks of Loch Freisa, a fresh-water loch on the property of Lochadashenaig, in the island of Mull, the tenant was ploughing some land that was so hard and strong that he was compelled to use four horses. Early one day one of the horses cast a shoe, they were nine miles from a smithy, and the nature of the ground prevented any possibility of the horse ploughing without one. 'Here's the best

p. 138

part of our day's work gone,' said the tenant to his son, who was leading the foremost horses. 'I am not sure,' replied the son. 'I see a horse feeding beside the loch, we'll take a lend of him, as we don't know who he belongs to.' The father approved of the proposal. The son went down and fetched up the horse, which appeared to have been quite used to ploughing, drawing first up bill, then down, perfectly steadily until they reached the end of the furrow, close to the loch. On an attempt to turn the horses this borrowed one became rather restive, which brought the whip into use, though lightly; no sooner had the thong touched him than he instantly assumed the form of a most enormous Boobrie, and uttering a shout which appeared to shake the earth, plunged into the loch, carrying with him the three horses and plough. 1 The tenant and his son had both the sense to let go their respective holds. The Boobrie swam out with his victims to the middle of the loch, where he dived, carrying them along with him to the bottom, where he apparently took his pleasure of them. The tenant and his son got a most awful fright (as well may be imagined), but remained hid behind a large stone for seven hours in the earnest hope of perhaps even one of their horses coming ashore. But no."

(c) Boobrie as Tarbh-Uisge.—"In the two preceding anecdotes we have described the Boobrie merely as a rapacious and predatory animal, causing general dismay from his frightful appearance and voracious appetite, but the following anecdote seems to give colour to the now generally received belief that this

p. 139

form in its different shapes was the abode of a spirit, condemned to such penance by way of expiation for the violation of certain ordinances of the superior spirits, and was in many instances friendly, if not beneficent to mankind."

The following abstract will explain the subsequent story:

[Scene in winter on west coast of Argyll, on west Lank of Loch nan Dobhran, where one Eachann suddenly came upon a large black bull which was lying down, apparently dying and groaning piteously: Eachann feeds him. Eachann's sweetheart Phemie had a rejected suitor, Murdoch MacPherson: Scene changes to summer, at the shieling beside Loch nan Dobhran.]

"Once or twice Phemie had been startled by the momentary vision of a shadow on the lake, one which made her shudder, for the fleeting outline reminded her of the rejected suitor. . . . One evening as she sat at some distance from the shieling and thought of Eachann, the shadow again crossed her, but this time when she looked around Murdoch himself was there. Before she could scream he threw his plaid over her head, bound down her hands. . . . Help came to her in a most unexpected form. The Tarbh Uisg came tearing along, and rushing at Murdoch, seemed to crush him to the earth before he had any time to make any resistance. . . . The Tarbh Uisg approached Phemie, and kneeled down, as if to invite her to mount upon his back, which she did. He immediately sped off, and with the quickness of thought she found herself safely deposited at her mother's door. The

p. 140

[paragraph continues] Tarbh Uisg was gone in a moment, but a voice was heard in the air calling out loudly:

Chaidh comhnadh rium le ògair caomh
S ri òigh rinn mise bàigh;
Deigh tri cheud bliadhna do dhaorsa chruaidh
  Thoir fuasgladh dhomh gun dàil

which may be thus translated:

I was assisted by a young man
And I aided a maid in distress;
Then after three hundred years of bondage
  Relieve me quickly.

[paragraph continues] Since then the Tarbh Uisg has not been seen."


The above reveals the persistence in folk-belief of the idea of transformation, the Boobrie being the abode of a spirit, just as the Donn Cualnge had human reason. Sometimes the tarbh boidhbhre has been thought of as asexual, and the phrase has been rendered 'the bull of lust.' Calves with any peculiarities were once upon a time held to be from this stock, and corresponded to the Manx idea of the far-lheiy, which Cregeen's Dictionary defines as "a false conception of a calf, said to be generated between a cow and what is called a tarroo-ushtey." In parts of Inverness-shire it has been defined to me a 1s a serpent-bull, further defined as a great fly, or as a big striped brown gobhlachan or 'ear-wig,' as long as one's little finger, with a crave for sucking horse-blood. It was thought to be very rare, to appear only in great heat in August and September, and to have lots of tentacles or

p. 141

feelers (tha gràinne spògan air). In the same district the water-horse was thought of as at times like unto a man, similar to a carle in ribbons and rags; every one will not see it: to see it is an omen of drowning. 1

The water-horse (in t-ech usci) is spoken of in the Life of St. Féchin of Fore: "It came to them and was harnessed to the chariot, and it was tamer and gentler than any other horse." 2 Cossar Ewart has lately spoken of the old species of horse of 30,000 years ago, and may be the wild-horse of Scotland is reflected in its folklore. Mr. D. M. Rose drew attention to this in the Scotsman, and as what he says of Sutherland holds further south, I cannot but quote his words:

“In the folklore of the north, extending over a wide area, from Caithness to Aberdeen, there is much concerning horses that at first sight seems fabulous. But a different complexion is put on these tales when it is taken into consideration that wild horses survived in the north until the sixteenth century. Through the progress of time folklore became invested with the supernatural. For instance, in Sutherland there are many legends about the wild horses of the interior, and from these yarns it would appear that later generations (in the absence of the real wild horse) entertained a belief that his Satanic Majesty must have assumed the shape of a horse to beguile

p. 142

wayfarers. A queer thing is that in folklore all these wild horses were lovely yellow coloured animals with bristling manes and long flowing tails. If yellow was the prevailing colour of the wild animal, it is somewhat singular that the yellow dun type of horse is somewhat rare in the north.

“Let me give the story of the golden horse of Loch Lundie. Two men from Culmailie went one Sunday to fish on Loch Lundie, and they saw, pasturing in a meadow, one of the most lovely golden coloured ponies they had ever seen. One of the men determined to seize the animal and bring it home. His companion, in a state of great alarm tried to dissuade him, assuring him that the animal was none other than the devil in disguise. The man, nothing daunted, began to stalk the pony, declaring that if he could get a chance he would mount on the beast, even if it were the Evil One. At length he managed to get within reach, and making a bound he seized the bristling mane, and leaped on the animal's back. In an instant the pony gave one or two snorts that shook the hills, fire flashed from its eyes and nostrils, and tossing its tail into the air, it galloped away with the man to the hills, and he was never again seen by mortal being.

“According to another version, the yellow horse of Loch Lundie was last seen in a meadow near Brora by two boys who broke the Sabbath. They tried to mount the animal, and one of them succeeded in doing so. The other boy, getting alarmed, tried to withdraw, but found to his horror that his finger had stuck in the animal's side. With great

p. 143

presence of mind, he immediately pulled out his knife and cut off his finger. The pony immediately gave an appallingly shrill neigh and galloped madly away with his rider, who was never seen again.

"Of course, in folklore the pony was undoubtedly regarded as Auld Nick, but the truth is that wild horses actually existed in the Sutherland hills until after 1545. This wild herd was claimed by the Bishops of Moray, but Sutherland of Duffus succeeded in making good his right to them. They are described as the herd of 'wild meris, staigs, and folis,' and they could hardly have been of the domesticated species, though possibly later on they were captured and tamed, or died away. In Aberdeenshire the same folklore exists regarding wild horses. There is a story told about a son of Rose of Tullisnaught, who was lost in the neighbouring Forest of Birse. When he and his servant went out hunting one day he suddenly came upon a beautiful yellow pony in a glade of the forest. The servant tried to persuade him that the pony was merely the devil in disguise, but Rose determined to capture and mount the animal. He managed to do this, but in a twinkling horse and rider disappeared and were never seen again. Now, the recently issued Records of the Sheriffdom of Aberdeen (vol. i. pp. 106-7), by the New Spalding Club, clearly establishes the existence of a herd of wild horses in the Forest of Birse in 1507. From the references they do not appear to have been of the domesticated species, though they were being dispersed and apparently broken in."

As regards the Boobrie as bird, this is the bird

p. 144

[paragraph continues] Forbes gives as bubaire, 'the common bittern.' The upper parts of its body and wings are of a rich brown buff, with cross bars and shaft lines which give it colour-protection among the reeds of the marsh it frequents. The bittern boom, at the breeding season, is a strangely weird sound. Its early arrival was a good omen:

You may knaw there's na mair winter to cum
When the Bull o’ Prestwick beats his drum.
                               (Northumberland Lore.)

[paragraph continues] By Tweedside the bird was called the Miredrum; it is known as Botaurus stellaris, starred or speckled bird which bellows like an ox-bull. The French call it butor, or else bœuf du marais, 'ox of the swamp,' or taureau d’étang, 'bull of the pond.' Other English names are butter-bumps, bog-bull. It is its weird hollow cry at evening or at night that has led to its being regarded as an omen of disaster or death. Few retreats are left for it, comparatively, and its irregular visits have caused a good deal of confused belief regarding it. Burns calls it the bluiter, e.g.

The howlet cried from the castle wa’,
The bluiter from the bogie.

Scott's description is probably the best in poetry: it suggests the solitary habits and the aloofness of the bird:

Yet the lark's shrill fife may come
  At the daybreak from the fallow;
And the bittern sound his drum
  Booming from the sedgy shallow,
Ruder sounds shall none be near,
Guards nor warders challenge here.

p. 145

The sound is described as hollow; a booming sound, as that of a drum; a sort of bellow, but not so loud as that of a cow or bull, but suggestive of that sound. Its note during the breeding season is variously described as booming, bumping, bellowing, 'bumbling in the mire,' and Sir Thomas Browne refers to the belief that "a bitter maketh that mugient noyse, or as we term it bumping, by putting its bill into a reed." The Germans call it moosochse, mooskuhe. It is questionable whether the Latin botaurus has not been suggested by some survival of a Celtic *bo-tarvos, issuing in Old English botor, perhaps also in the Gaelic bo’ithre, tarbh eithre, if we put O’Davoren's bo-oibre aside. A bird called a bull, which imitates the lowing of oxen is spoken of by Pliny: "est quae boum mugitus imitetur in Arelatensi agro taurus appellata" (Hist. Nat. x. 42). Its note has typified desolateness and gloom from of old: cf. Isaiah xiv. 23, xxxiv. 11; Zephaniah ii. 14. Though changed in the Revised Version to porcupine (hedge-hog), Principal G. A. Smith, for instance, renders the last passage: "Yea, pelican and bittern shall roost on the capitals,"  1 and points out that the other animals mentioned here are birds, and that it is birds which would naturally roost on capitals. 1By the Tigris the bittern abounds, as in the marshes of Syria. "No traveller," says Canon Tristram, "who has heard the weird booming of the bittern in the stillness of the night, while encamped near some ruined site, can ever forget it, or mistake any other sound for it. The bird belongs to the heron

p. 146

tribe, but is utterly different in its habits; always solitary, standing still and motionless through the day, with its beak upturned, looking like a tuft of weathered leaves, and only feeding at night." The sound is produced by the bird expelling the air from its throat while it stands with neck outstretched and holding its bill vertically upwards,—so Mr. J. E. Harting, who has observed the bird in the act. It is uncommon now in Scotland. One has been found at Taprain Law, East Lothian, on January 21, 1908. From a description given me over twenty years ago it was heard about Loch Bruiach, Inverness-shire, several years previously, and was known as the tarbh boidhre (bo’eithre, bo-oibhre). I had made most of my investigation of the Boobrie over six years ago when, following on an article on the 'Bull o’ the Bog,' by Mr. J. Logie Robertson (Scotsman, March 1, 1910; cf. also that of Feb. 5, 1910, as to its rarity), there appeared this note, which I beg to insert as quite confirmatory of my suggestion:

"The Legend of the Water Bull.—When reading 'J. L. R.’s' interesting notes in The Scotsman of March 1st on the 'Bull o’ the Bog,' it occurred to me that possibly in that bird of nocturnal habits we might find a natural explanation of the water bull (sometimes called the water horse) of Celtic legend. The main facts, viz., that the bittern haunts damp and reedy quarters such as are quite common round so many of our Highland lakes, that its booming notes are not unlike the guttural bellowing of a bull, and more particularly that its voice is usually heard after night-fall, all seem to suggest that it may have

p. 147

been the natural source of the various mythological tales in which the water bull figures. Some twenty years ago I came across an old Highlander in the north-west of Argyllshire who thoroughly believed in the existence of the water bull (the Tarbh-uisge). He told me a long tale about it. It dwelt in a loch not far from his dwelling. It only appeared at night. He had heard its roaring more than once. It was the reputed sire of one of the calves in the next farm, and that particular calf had, on being sent out with the others, gone straight to the loch, and plunged into its waters, and disappeared—a sure proof of its paternity. At the time, knowing that old Donald's hut was on the edge of a deer forest, I came to the conclusion that he had attached a mythical significance to the sound of the stag's roaring in the rutting season—a weird melancholy sound when heard towards the gloaming, full of pathos, and most appealing to the imagination. Now, however, after reading 'J. L. R.’s' article on the bittern and its ways, I wonder if that nocturnal bird—presuming it frequented the Highlands of old—may not be responsible for some at least of the myths associated with the water bull.—B. B."

I may add that the long claw of a bittern's hind toe was once used as an amulet. Its boom is reserved for the pairing or breeding season, and less than a century ago it caused strange misgivings and mingled feelings to whole communities.

References to the divine bull of the Celts can be carried very far back. In the Banquet of the Sophists by Athenaeus, Ulpien, one of the

p. 148

interlocutors, speaking of the tiger, cites a verse from one of the lost comedies of Philemon, who, at the age of 99, died in 262 B.C.:

ὥσπερ Σέλευκος δεῦῤ ἔπεμψε τὴν τίγριν
ἥν ἴδομεν ἡμεῖς τῷ Σελεύκῳ πάλιν ἔδει
ἡμᾶς τι παῤ ἡμῶν ἀντιπέμψαι θηρίον
τρυγέρανον· οὐ γὰρ γίγνεται τοῦτ᾽ αὐτόθι.
                          Athenaeus, xiii. 57, p. 590 A.

[paragraph continues] I.e. as Seleucus has brought hither the tiger which we have seen, we ought to send him back some animal in exchange, a trugeranos; there are none there. This, as Monsieur J. Vendryes has pointed out, is simply the Gaulish Trigaranos, an epithet of the divine Tarvos, à trois grues, which figures on the altar of Notre Dame at Paris and on the bas-relief of Treves (Revue Celtique, 28, 124). The king referred to is Seleucus Nicator, one of the successors of Alexander the Great; having visited the confines of India he met the famous prince, Chandragupta, and brought back, in addition to some five hundred elephants, some exotic animals such as tigers, to which he fell a prey in the city of Athens. The Gauls about this time were invading Macedonia and Thrace; they were checked at Delphi in 279. The fear of the Gauls,—ὁ ἀπὸ Γαλατῶν φόβος,—was become proverbial; a decree of the year 278 B.C., discovered in the ruins of the Asklepeion at Cos, expresses the joy caused in the island by the tidings of the Gaulish defeat, and prescribes a festival in honour of Apollo, of Zeus Soter and of Nikē in celebration of the event.

The Celts had made three different expeditions in the Orient, and in the age of Alexander some of

p. 149

them were in contact with Greek civilisation; the Greeks recovered some booty from their enemy, and it would have been an easy matter probably to have seen in the Celtic camp some such symbolic representations as are to be met with on the altar of Notre Dame at Paris, or on the bas-relief of Treves,—figured emblems of the Celtic Tarvos Trigaranos. A creature so bizarre was bound to excite curiosity among a people who noted that a Gaulish word for horse was marca (cf. Gaelic marcach, rider'), and whose Pausanias describes the τριμαρκισία or group of three cavaliers fighting in unison.

That reverence was paid to the bull among the Celts is indicated by the frequency of river-names signifying 'bull'; for instance, the river Tarf, whence Abertarff, Gaelic Obair-thairbh, in Stratherrick, Inverness-shire; while Tarf is a stream name in the shires of Perth, Forfar, Kirkcudbright, Wigton. These Tarf names go back to Pictish times. Rivers of old were held in holy reverence: witness names like Boyne, *bo-vinda, 'white-cow,' appearing in legend as a personal female name; Dee; Aberdeen, G. Obair-dhea’on, 'the mouth or inver of the Devona,' a goddess-name; Affric, a river name, older Aithbhrecc, a female name Affrica, and suitable as a nymph name, which is also the case with Ness, from Pictish; 1 Lōchy, the 'nigra dea,' or black goddess of Adamnan's Life of Columba. The early human attitude may be inferred from what is told regarding

p. 150

the Kaffirs asking permission of a river ere profaning it by crossing it. The Roman bridge-builder or pontifex was the intermediary between the divinity and man, hence our pontiff; cf. Virgil's pontem indignatus Araxes. The old Celt Viridomaros thought himself descended from the Rhine.

One meets also with the name Rhenogenos, 'born of the Rhine' god. Certain of the Gaulish inhabitants plunged their newly-born infants into its waters; if they survived the ordeal it was a token of their being protected by the common ancestor. Gaulish inscriptions likewise testify that rivers were the objects of a cult: e.g. DEÆ SEQVAÆ (the Seine), DEÆ ICAUNI (the Yonne). 1 In Scotland, too, the river names are mostly pre-Christian and testify to their having been looked on with more than sacred awe. Almost all of them have legends such as Hugh Miller tells of the water-wraith of the Conon River in his Schools and Schoolmasters, and Dr. Walter Gregor, of the water-spirit of Donside. Scott in his Journal (23rd Nov., 1827) tells of an attempt to bait the water-cow, while Mr. Dixon in his Gairloch (p. 162) tells a very similar story. A plaid has several times been made an offering to the water-spirit of the Dee, Aberdeenshire, which levied a heavy toll on human life, if we believe the rhyme:

Blood-thirsty Dee
Each year needs three,
But bonny Don
She needs non.

p. 151

There are traces of a custom of throwing salt over the water and the nets to propitiate the Fairies of the Tweed. In Scott's Pirate we find the belief that whoever rescues a drowning man incurs the monster's wrath by cheating him of his victim: perhaps from this idea we may infer the belief, prevalent in the Highlands, in the unluck sure to come to the family of the man who is the first to find a victim of drowning: the unluck follows from robbing the spirit of the waters of its victim. The legends of water-horses in Loch Ness and in the Beauly River, indeed in all considerable streams, point to the spirit of the raging flood as an external soul in the waters. 1 Indeed, other river names, such as Ness, Don, Nevis, Annan, go back to early Celtic nomenclature, which reveals them to be names of nymphs, especially divine water-nymphs.

One of the altars discovered at Paris in 1710, under the apsis of the Church of Notre Dame, has four interesting carvings, which represent:

1. Jupiter, in standing posture, holding a sceptre in his left hand, which is raised, the left side being covered with a tunic, which leaves the right shoulder exposed. To the right of the god, on the ground, is placed an eagle. The frame-work above the figure bears the inscription IOVIS.

2. Vulcan, in upright posture, clothed in working tunic, leaving the right side exposed, as also the lower left arm. The left hand holds or grips a tongs. The figure is inscribed VOLCANUS.

3. A woodcutter, clad in a tunic similar to

p. 152

[paragraph continues] Vulcan's, is shown as holding in his right hand, which is raised, an axe with which he is to give a blow to some stems on the gnarled trunk, while in his left hand he holds one of the branches. Inscribed above is ESVS.

4. A bull carrying on his back a dorsal covering above which is a tree, the foliage of which is the same as that on the tree in figure 3—in fact, the foliage of the tree seems to be portrayed here as in continuation of the preceding scene. On the bull's head is placed a crane, while two other cranes are portrayed back to back on the animal's croup. Above is the inscription TARVOS · TRIGARANVS.


In December, 1895, there was discovered on the left bank of the Moselle, above Trèves, on the road leading to Luxembourg and to Metz, another interesting sculpture, the first publication of which is due to Lehner in the Korrespondenzblatt der Westdeutschen Zeitschrift for 1896. It appeared next in the issue for 1897 of the Bonner Jahrbücher, and was carefully discussed by the celebrated savant, M. Salomon Reinach, in the Revue Celtique for that year. Though in very bad preservation, the monument seems to have been an altar-piece. One face of this sculpture portrays the Mercury and Rosmerta of the Gauls, according to Reinach. Beneath it is. inscribed:


which Lehner has restored thus: Indus Mediomatricus Mercurio votum libens merito (?) solvit. The face to the right is well preserved and shows,

p. 153

but on a much smaller scale than that on the principal face, a figure of a man, probably beardless, clothed in a short tunic; he holds in his hands the handle of a long implement which he is about to drive into a tree. This tree, the denticulated leaves of which call to mind the foliage on the altar found at Paris, supports a bull's head on the left; and three great birds, 1 with long beak, are on the right thereof. We are in the presence of a representation of the same scene as is depicted on the altar of Notre Dame—it shows us the woodcutter, the tree, the bull, and the three cranes—with the sole difference that Esus and the Tarvos Trigaranos are depicted on one piece instead of on two, as in the other case. This tree, the foliage of which recalls that of the willow, is an essential element in the representation. The more one considers the bas-relief of Trèves, the more readily does one agree with Monsieur Reinach's conclusion that there exists a relation between the tree and the woodman, and the bull with the three cranes; that instead of four isolated figures, Vulcan, Jupiter, Esus, and Tarvos Trigaranos, of the altar at Paris, there are only three figures symbolised,—Esus and Tarvos Trigaranos being elements of one scene though shown in juxtaposition.

p. 154

Reinach points out that the bull often personifies the forces of the sun and of the waters, and thinks that the god-bull prepared for sacrifice (Notre Dame) and shown as slaughtered at Trèves, may be the Gaulish Belenos, the Celtic Apollo-Hélios (Cultes, iii. 177).

The bull on the Trèves bas-relief is seemingly but an attribute in the scene of which the tree is the central and basic symbol. The bull represents some divinity conceived as inhabiting a tree: we have, in a word, a primitive representation of the tree-soul animating a tree which is about to be felled by some semi-divine hero known in legend surviving among, though not necessarily original to, the Celts. Or if among a Celtic people, it may have formed part of legendary belief among the forerunners of the Gauls, to wit, the Ligurians, whose speech has been called Celtican by Rhŷs, 1 who has essayed recently to show it as most closely allied to Gadhelic. The Highland survival of the Boobrie has much that may be traced to a common origin with the root idea symbolised in bas-relief at Paris and at Trèves, and I see no reason why one might not expect to find among Gadhelic survivals some close parallels to the idea at the root of the tree-cutter portrayed on these reliefs. Hirschfield has agreed that certain Pyrenean gods of a non-Iberian type are to be attributed to the Ligurian predecessors of the Celts, or, as I should prefer to say, of the Gauls: he instances the oak-god (Fagus deus, the translation

p. 155

of the name of a local god), the gods Sexarbor, Sexarbores, and the nameless god on some coniferous tree represented on an altar found at Toulouse. 1 Esus, on the Paris altar, may have been the local name in that district, and not at all Pan-Celtic. D’Arbois has tried to make out a close parallel for Cuchulainn. The primary creation of the root ideas in this myth may be due to precursors of the Celts alike in Gaul and Ireland, but they point to early tree-worship, and to survivals of dendrolatry among the Celts. May we not infer with Reinach the idea of a cosmic tree and of a cosmic bull? Maximus of Tyre relates that the Celts worshipped Zeus under the image of an oak—δρῦς ἄγαλμα Δίος—and Claudian in his praise of Stilicho says of Celtdom: robora Numinis instar barbarici. M. Reinach recalls the ideas associated with the Scandinavian Yggdrasil or world-ash, in the branches of which, as it covered the universe, sat an eagle cognisant of all things, while a serpent gnawed at the root. The parallel to the semi-divine wood-cutter is met with in the Kalevala and in the legends of Esthonia, in which a dwarf becomes transformed into a giant and fells the tree that obscured the light of sun and moon, shaking at its fall the whole heavens and earth. The bull appears in Gaulish art of the Hallstatt and Là Tène periods, and symbolises a religious idea at the stage when religious expression is at one with the myth. The legend, which associates a semi-divine hero with the cutting down of the tree which supports a bull with three cranes, must be of great antiquity among the

p. 156

[cont}Celts, and in some way emblemises, how rudely soever, the presence which pervades all thought and things. Certain of the Greeks expressed this when they conceived Dionysos, not only as tutelary divinity of the tree, but as in the tree, ἔνδενδρος, παρὰ Ῥοδίοις Ζεὺς καὶ Δίονυσος ἐν Βοιωτίᾳ—a gloss of Hesychius. As to a connection between death or transformation and eating the flesh of cranes, compare the obscure formula in West Highland Tales (i. 240); to cause the death of one who has lived too long it suffices to call thrice through the keyhole: "Wish you to go or wish you to stay, or wish you to eat the flesh of cranes?

Nor need the fact of the divine bull being prominent in Celtic belief surprise us. Elsewhere the bull, as the source of all wealth among a people of shepherds and hunters, became the object of religious veneration. "In the eyes of such a people the capture of a wild bull was an achievement so highly fraught with honour as to be apparently no derogation even for a god." Thus the bull-slaying Mithra, dragged along on the horns of the infuriated animal, was transformed until his painful journey became the symbol of human sufferings. "But the bull, it would appear, succeeded in making its escape from its prison, and roamed again at large over the mountain pastures." The sun then sent the raven, his messenger, to carry to his ally the command to slay the fugitive. Mithra received this cruel mission much against his will, but submitting to the decree of heaven he pursued the truant beast with his agile dog, succeeded in overtaking it just at the moment when it was taking refuge in the cave which it had

p. 157

quitted. and seizing it by the nostrils with one hand, with the other he plunged deep into its flank his 'hunting knife.' 1 In the Mithraic religion, as Justin tells us, there was a 'baptism for the remission of sins': the bull being the recognised emblem of life, its blood constituted the recognised laver of regeneration. In the rite known as Blood-Baptism or Taurobolia, the person to be initiated, being stripped of all clothing, went into a pit covered with planks pierced full of holes, whereupon the hot blood of a newly-slaughtered bull was allowed down through the apertures, as in a shower bath, upon the person to be regenerated. To judge from the statement of Lampridius that the priest-emperor Heliogabalus submitted to it, the rite must have been an important one, and a pit for the purpose has been discovered within the precincts of the temple at Eleusis in Greece.

The Celtic personal name, Donno-taurus, 'noble-bull' (lord-bull), mentioned by Caesar, may contain a word cognate with Irish donn, explained in O’Davoren's Glossary by 'noble, judge, king,' and may come, according to Stokes, from *domno-s, and be cognate with L. dominus, 'lord, master.' 2 This is most probably the same word that meets us in Donn, the name of the divine bull located in the Irish epic at Cualnge (Cooley). In course of time it easily got confused with an entirely different word, donn, 'dun.' In referring to this latter, de Jubainville seems to have forgotten the former word. 3

p. 158

To the Donn Cualnge one perhaps might compare the Minotaure, which also had a divine origin, its father having been a bull given by Poseidon to Minos, and its mother Pasiphae, daughter of the sun. During the Athenian war Minos exacted as a condition of peace that each year there should be sent to Crete seven youths and seven young maidens to be devoured by the Minotaure. The Minotaure was killed by Theseus, as we learn from Pherecydes. It has been suggested 1 that the legend of Pasiphae and the Minotaure contains a reminiscence of a marriage ceremony in which the King and Queen of Cnossos figured in the disguise of a bull and cow respectively. Marrying a queen to a bull-god was portrayed by marrying her to a man disguised as a bull. The vine-god Dionysos was annually married to a queen at a building on the N.E. slope of the Acropolis at Athens, named the Cattle-Stall, whence Miss Harrison 2 conjectured that Dionysos may have been represented as a bull at the marriage. "In that case the part of the bridegroom might be played by a man wearing a bull's head, just as in Egypt in similar rites the sacred animals were represented by men and women wearing the masks of cows, hawks, crocodiles, and so forth." 3

I recall the wake orgy in Ireland mentioned by Lady Wilde, in which a bull is married to a cow; compare Calluinn a’ Bhuilg ceremonies in the Highlands, wherein a hide figures. Add for Britain perhaps the Hobby Horse at Padstow.

p. 159

Minos is suspected of having been murdered every nine years; his death was a secret. His going into the Labyrinth is equivalent to going into the Bull god's cave. 1 On Gadhelic ground, when the Donn or Brown Bull of Cualnge triumphed over its rival the Find Bennach, it soon after died itself of its wounds, but paralleling the cruelty of the Minotaure it killed one hundred infants, or two-thirds of the one hundred and fifty children that came in groups of fifty to enjoy themselves after mid-day on its great and glossy back. 2

M. D’Arbois de Jubainville regards the Tarvos Trigaronos, now in the museum at Cluny, as identical with the Donn Cualnge, and further, the personage called Esus, who is about to apply his axe to the tree, appears to him identical with the hero Cuchulainn, who is portrayed as felling trees to arrest the march of the forces of Queen Medb: 3 "At one blow Cuchulainn cut the chief stem of an oak, root and branch."

Again, Cuchulainn's divine father was Lug of the Long Hand, already referred to, and well remembered in Celtic myth. The name appears often in Gaul, for instance in the place-name Lugudunum, now Lyons, also in Leyden. His cult was widely diffused, to judge from the name being met with in the plural Lugoues, Lugouibus, on inscriptions, one from Switzerland, another from Spain. He was the Gaulish Mercury in Caesar's

p. 160

time who speaks of him as the inventor of all the arts. The Irish Lug, according to the account in the 'Second Battle of Moytura,' 1 was skilful as poet, warrior, physician, sorcerer, harpist, poet, and to him is given the epithet of 'master of all the arts.' Balor of the evil eye received his death at the hand of Lug, who thereupon is accorded the sovereignty of the Tuatha dé Danann on the death of Nuada their king. 2 In the effort at filling up pre-Christian history, the Annalists of course make him figure as king in Ireland. I agree with M. D’Arbois in regarding Lug, in his continental aspects, as having been chief among the gods of Gaul, the god whom Caesar identified with Mercury: Deum maxime Mercurium colunt3 The Mercury of the menhir of Kervadel, now preserved at Kernuz, D’Arbois identifies with Lug, while he recalls the exploit of Cuchulainn's youth when, on having slain the hound of Culann the Smith, he offered reparation by taking guard himself, on which account his name was changed from the Setanta (older form *Setantios?) of his boyhood to Cú-chulainn, Hound of Culann. The name Setanta is not Gadhelic: it existed probably among the Picts of Ulidia, and was an ethnic name in Britain,—the Setantii were a tribe near the River Mersey in Ptolemy's day. Among the near Gaulish kinsmen of the British tribes the god may have been simply designated by a personal epithet or title such as Esus, 'master, lord,' the name of the god on the altar-piece of Notre Dame now in the Museum of Cluny. Cuchulainn alone was exempted from

p. 161

the malady which befell the Ultonian heroes during the war of the Tāin, but at last there came a moment when, weary and fatigued with wounds, he felt unable to endure any longer. His hero's call was answered by the appearance of a wondrous warrior whom the Book of the Dun depicts as saying: "I come to succour thee, I am thy father come from the abode of the gods, I am Lug the son of Ethniu." If we examine the menhir of Kervadel in the light of comparative Celtic myth, it is most probable that it depicts the Gaulish Mercury and his avatar or son, in other words Lug (Lugos) and Esus. M. D’Arbois would go even further, and suggests that the myth of Cuchulainn and the story now worked up into the Tāin may have been brought from Britain by the Druids, who were there taught the existing lore at a time when as yet the story had not been entirely localised in Erin. But I cannot think that we are justified in assuming an entire absence of at least parallel tales in Gaul itself. The P-group of similar speaking tribes would have much in common, including what they may have imbibed from their predecessors of the Q-group, the Gadhelic Celts. For we must pre-suppose a time when both groups were not as yet, in their continental home, foreign to one another.


119:1 For his Midas-like story see Y Cymmrodor, 6, 181-3; cf. for Breton, Rev. Celt. ii. 507-8, re le Roi de Portzmarch.

120:1 Gum bu sheatha (spelling doubtful) duit fein = 'happy, lucky, may you be.' [Probably sheagha; cf. Irish seaghais, 'pleasure, joy, delight'—G. H.] Shèamha would be possible, only the e has no nasality.

120:2 Ma bhrathas tu, etc. = 'If you locate, discover.'

121:1 O’Curry's Manners and Customs, I. ccclxx.

121:2 Gordon-Cumming's Hebrides, 369; transformation into the shape of a wild goose was known in some parts of Wales (Trevelyan, 214); cf. Trans. Gad. Soc. Inv. 25, 132 for witch in hen-form.

125:1 Glasgow Herald, Aug. 20, 1910, by the late Alex. Macpherson, Kingussie.

126:1 The doe is some fair lady bound by enchantment, but able, for a short time only, to appear to her lover in her natural figure. The enchanter in this instance permits her offspring to assume the human form. Bran was the daughter of Fionn by a lady who came to him as an enchanted hound, but the enchanter threw his spells over her as well as over her mother. Oisin was half-brother to Bran, who, instinctively, found out the relationship when the hounds seized Oisin.

128:1 Pp. 221-224 of Poems of Oisin, Bard of Erin. From the Irish by John Hawkins Simpson. London, 1857. The section cited comes under the heading of 'Mayo Mythology.'

128:2 Campbell of Islay MSS., Advocates’ Library, vol. xxii. p. 8.

129:1 v. MacBain's 'Study of Highland Personal Names,' The Celtic Review, 1905, p. 71; and Trans. Gael. Soc. Inverness, vol. xx. 304-305.

130:1 O’Grady's Silva Gad. p. 102 of the Eng. vol.

130:2 Ib. 225; also Irische Texte, 4 ser. I heft, p. 140.

131:1 Frazer's Golden Bough, 1st ed. vol. ii. 363.

131:2 Camden's Britannia, by Gough, ii. 81.

131:3 References in Gomme's Governance of London, p. 112.

132:1 Karl Pearson's Chances of Death, ii. 19; in vol. ii. 64 n. he adds: "There are a considerable number of local saints,—fossils of district goddesses,—who have the roe or stag as their attribute." On the Cult of the Stag, cf. Journal of Hellenic Studies, 14, 134.

132:2  P. 185 of Sermons of a Buddhist Abbot, by Soyer Shaku (Chicago Open Court Publishing Co.).

133:1 Windisch's ed., l. 6162; and Hull, p. 225.

133:2 Faraday, Translation of Tāin, ix.

133:3 Nutt's Bran, ii. 58.

134:1 The word rhymes with oighre, but might be spelt boidhbhre, as if from bo + od + ber, with meaning of cow-giver, cow-bestowing. Different is boirche, 'a large hind,' O’Brien's Irish Dictionary, 1832; others give it as 'buffalo,' and MacBain suggests alliance with L. ferus, E. bear. Dineen in his Irish Dictionary under ortha gives tarbh ortha, 'an enchanted bull.' A writer in an extinct Highland periodical writes tarbh fhaire (The Gael, vol. v. 50). In West Highland Tales Campbell writes tarbh eithre. These are all corrupt forms. Final -bh in tarbh would tend to change initial b into bh in a rare word like boibhre.

138:1 In those days ploughs were almost always made of wood.

140:1 Tarbh a nathar-neimhe (sic) .i. cuileag mhór no gobhlachan mór riabhach donn; fad do lùdaig ann’s e glé dhona air son bhith toirt full a na h-eich.

141:1 Tha’n t-each uisge coltach ri duine; ’na bhodach coltach ri creutair is riobanan no luideagan air; chan fhaic a h-uile neach e agus is e comharradh romh bhàthadh a th’ann.

141:2 Rev. Cel. 12, 347.

145:1 Book of The Twelve Prophets, vol. ii. 65.

149:1 The name is the same as in the goddess name Ness, mother of Conchobar; proto-Celtic *nesta, √ned, wet, water; German, netzen, to wet; nass, wet; Sanskrit, nadi, river; cf. the river Neda in Greece, Nestos in Thrace. MacBain in Trans. Gael. Soc., Inverness, 25, p. 62.

150:1 Esquisse de la Religion des Gaulois, par H. Gaidoz, Paris, 1879, p. 12. Even Cicero reasons: "ergo et flumines et fontes sunt dii" (De Nat. Deorum, iii. 20).

151:1 Cf. Mackenzie in Proceed. of Society of Scottish Antiquaries, 1895-96, pp. 69-76, on 'Traces of River Worship in Scottish Folk-Lore.'

153:1 This signifies the presence of divinity or of inspiration in the votary. In the early cult of sacred trees and pillars, birds of various kinds play an important part: the spirit descends on the tree or stone in the form of a bird. In Greece the dove is connected with a sepulchral cult. "It is, in fact, a favourite shape in which the spirit of the departed haunts his last resting-place, and in accordance with this idea we see the heathen Lombards ornamenting their grave-posts with the effigy of a dove." It is the dove that bears the nectar to Zeus (Ody. xii. 62, 63); v. Harrison's The Dove Cult of Primitive Greece, p. 7.

154:1 'Celtic Inscriptions of France and Italy,' from Proceedings of the British Academy: reviewed by me in The Scottish Historical Review, July, 1908.

155:1 v. Sitzungsberichte of Berlin Academy, 16th April, 1896.

157:1 Cumont, The Mysteries of Mithra, Eng. trans., Chicago, 1903, pp. 135-6.

157:2 Archiv für Celtische Phil. ii. B. p. 310.

157:3 R.C. 27, 329n.

158:1 A. B. Cook in Classical Review, xvii. (1903), pp. 410, 412.

158:2 Prolegomena to Greek Religion, p. 537.

158:3 Frazer, On the Kingship, 174-5.

159:1 v. Gilbert Murray, The Rise of the Greek Epic, p. 127n; and cf. The Pilgrimage to Loch Derg.

159:2 Táin bó Cúalnge, ed. Windisch, pp. 190-1, ll. 1532-1536.

159:3 Ib. p. 82, etc.; also p. 68; Hull's Cuch. Saga, p. 128, sec. 8.

160:1 Transl. by Stokes, Rev. Celt. 12.

160:2 Book of Leinster, p. 9, col. 1, ll. 5-7.

160:3 De Bello Gallico, vi. 17.

Next: II. The Wanderings of Psyche (part 3)