Sacred Texts  Legends and Sagas  Celtic  Index  Previous  Next 

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

The Wanderings of Psyche (part 3)

(g) The Water-horse (cf. the Boobrie as water-horse in a preceding section).—After the bull one thinks next of the water-horse, which is not, at least in all its phases, to be classified under the theriomorphic-soul. For in part it goes back on nature-myth, and is perhaps a personification of the destroying waters. A portion of this phase belongs

p. 162

to the Celtic Dragon-Myth, which is a water-myth in so far as some aspects of the monster met with is concerned. It would be difficult to say what lochs in the Highlands were formerly not associated with the water-horse. A linne na badhbh is met with in many places. The Black Glen river in Morvern was once the resort of a water-horse. A recent writer says:

“In Arisaig there is a loch, which, according to tradition, there lived at one time a sea-horse. Boswell, in his Journal of Johnson's Tour to the Hebrides, informs us that an old man told the following fabulous story of one of the lochs of Raasay:

“There was once a wild beast in it, a sea-horse, which came and devoured a man's daughter, upon which the man lighted a great fire and had a sow roasted in it, the smell of which attracted the monster. In the fire was put a spit. The man lay concealed behind a low wall of loose stones. The monster came, and the man with the red hot spit destroyed it.

“It is reported that a horse used to frequent the road near Loch Ness, till a stout, brave Highlander, meeting the monster one night, drew his sword in the name of the Trinity, and finished the supposed kelpie forever. Hugh Miller relates some very weird stories about the uncanny doings of a sea-horse or water-wraith that frequented the waters of the River Conon, Ross-shire. The Black Glen kelpie very early one morning was seen near the source of the river, making very unusual sounds. After a little while it left the waters of the river altogether; and at last, with fearful bellowings, it ran in the direction of Loch Uisge and Kingair-loch,

p. 163

and has neither been seen nor heard of any more to this day.

"This glen also used to be much frequented by wild boars and wolves. Owing to its evil reputation in this respect, people were afraid to pass through the glen."

For the water-bull in the Isle of Man, see Moore's Folk-Lore of the Isle of Man (p. 59). And for Scotland, the Rev. J. G. Campbell's Superstitions.

In many districts we are told of "the lurking place of the water-horse, which, under the form of a handsome youth, won and kept a maiden's heart until, by chance, she found him asleep on the hillock where they were wont to meet, and on bending over him noticed a bunch of rushes in his hair. Then she knew with what she had to deal, and fled in terror to her father's house, reaching it just in time to bar the door in the kelpie's face, whose voice she heard crying:

Ann an là ’s bliadhna,
Mo bhean òg, thig mi dh’ iarraidh.

In a day and a year,
I'll come seeking my dear.

[paragraph continues] So she was warned never to go near the hillock again; her parents found her a more eligible suitor; and all went well till her wedding day, when on leaving the church after the ceremony was over, a big black horse came suddenly upon them, seized the bridle and galloped off with her. Since that time no one has ever seen the horse or its burden, unless, indeed, at the fall of night, some passer-by catches a glimpse of a white face rising out of the water, and hears a low sweet voice croon the

p. 164

love song she was singing when first she saw her kelpie lover."

I give two accounts which I have from the late Rev. Allan Macdonald of Eriskay. They indicate how universal this folk-belief was in the Highlands:

"Water-horse.—There was a young woman in Barra who met a handsome looking man on the hill. They chatted together, and at last he laid his head on her lap. She noticed when he slept that his hair was mixed with 'rafagach an locha,' a weed that grows in lakes, and she became suspicious that her friend was the water-horse in disguise. She cut off the part of her clothes on which his head rested, and slipped away without wakening him. A considerable time after, on a Sunday after Mass, a number of people were sitting on the hill and she along with them. She noticed the stranger whom she had met on the hill approaching, and she got up to go home so as to avoid him. He made up to her, notwithstanding, and caught her, and hurried off and plunged with her into the lake, and not a trace of her was ever found but a little bit of one of her lungs on the shore of the lake.—Anne M‘Intyre."

"In the island of Mingulay a young woman had a similar adventure, only in her case the stranger appeared often to her, and they became at last so fond of each other that they agreed to marry at the end of a year and a day, and till then the stranger was not to be seen by her. The girl went home, and as the year was drawing to an end, she was observed to be fast sinking in health and losing her good colour, yet she would not say

p. 165

what it was that made her fall away so. Her father at last extorted an unwilling confession of the truth from her, and word was given to the islanders as to what was causing the girl such trouble. She was very beautiful and a great favourite, and when the people heard what was to happen to her, they made up their minds that they would allow no harm befall her. When the day came all the men of the place were armed with clubs, and the young woman was put sitting on the wall of the house,—the young men forming a guard round the house. All were in a state of expectancy when the stranger was seen appearing above the great cliff of Mingulay and coming down swiftly towards the village. One of the islanders stepped forward to meet the stranger and asked him his errand. 'Such as it is,' said the stranger, 'you are not the man to stand in my way, strong though you be, and you may as well not detain me.' He went forward and reached the guard round the house, and, in the twinkling of an eye, seized the young woman by the hand, and, before the guard had made up their minds to pursue him and rescue the girl, he had so far retraced his way with his prize. The islanders started in pursuit, but in vain. They saw him and the woman disappear at a certain well, and when they reached this the well was full of blood and of shreds of her garments. The well is still called 'Tobar na Fala' = the well of blood.—Calum Dhomhnuill, 1895."

(h) The Soul in Serpent-form.—I will illustrate by a story: A man and wife in Ardnamurchan went out to the hill for heather. When tired pulling it

p. 166

the wife lay down and slept. The husband sat down, and when his eyes were about to close, on looking towards his wife he saw a serpent disappearing down her mouth. He wakened her and they went home, but he did not tell her what he had seen. On getting home he went to the doctor, who advised him to feed his wife well and to give her plenty flesh meat, so that the serpent, getting sufficient food in this way, might not begin to gnaw herself. The woman was surprised at the change in her fare, and she ate well. In due course she was delivered of a child, and round the child's neck was coiled the serpent.

The true members of the Clan Iver, says Principal Mac Iver-Campbell in his Memoir of Clan Iver, were supposed to be invulnerable to serpents: he quotes a rhyme supposed to have been uttered by a serpent or adder:

Mhionnaich mise do Chlann Imheair
S mhionnaich Clann Imheair dhomh,
Nach beanainn-se do Chlann Imheair
’S nach beanadh Clann Imheair dhomh,

[paragraph continues] i.e., 'I have sworn to Clan Iver and Clan Iver have sworn to me, that I would not injure Clan Iver and that Clan Iver would not injure me.' As another explanation, Principal MacIver-Campbell thought the lines commemorated an alliance between Clan Iver and some race symbolised by the serpent with "every probability that the alliance referred to is that which is known to have existed between the MacIvers in Perthshire and the Clan Donnachaidh or Robertsons, one of whose cognisances was the serpent which still appears as one of the supporters

p. 167

in the arms of their chief, Robertson of Strowan." Another form of the rhyme he gives thus:

Latha an Fhéille-Bríde
Their an nathair as an tom:
Cha bhi mise ri Nic Imheair,
’S cha mho bhios Nic Imheair rium,

[paragraph continues] i.e. 'On St. Brigit's Day the serpent will say from off the knoll: I will not injure Nic Imheair, neither will Nic Imheair injure me.' In Skye at least I have heard of these lines having been repeated on St. Brigit's Day, the woman doing so having placed a burning peat in one of her stockings, and pounding at it the while on the threshold of the outer door (a specially sacred place) as a precaution against the entrance of evil spirits. The Clan Iver are of Norse origin, 1 but whatever the origin of this belief I am satisfied it is a phase of manism in the wide sense. MacIver-Campbell was in his day Principal of Aberdeen University, and related to Campbell, the poet of The Pleasures of Hope and of Hohenlinden. At a time when totemism was not as yet much thought about, he notes as one interested in family origins and crests that certain animals were symbolical of particular clans: the magpie as friendly to the Campbells (for its wearing argent and sable, the old Campbell colours?), the horse a symbol or friend of the MacIvers of Glassary. Further, there were certain nick-names, e.g.:

Crodh maol Chnapadail,
Eich chlòimheach Ghlasairigh,
Fithich dhubh Chraiginnis,
Is Coilich Airigh Sceodnis,

p. 168

i.e., 'The polled oxen of Cnapdale, the shaggy horses of Glassary, the black ravens of Craignish, the cocks of Airigh Sceodnish, meaning the folk of these parts.'

It is proper to add, however, that another variant of the serpent rhyme typifies the serpent as queen: Là fhéille Brìghde thig an rìghinn as an tom, i.e. 'On St. Bride's (Brigit's) Day the queen will come from the knoll,' and its association with the act of pounding a burning peat on the threshold 1 involuntarily reminds one of the Siberian 'Fiery Snake' or zagovor (invoked for kindling amorous longing), with which has been compared the folk-belief that with the beginning of every January—i.e. at the end of the festival in honour of the return of the sun towards summer—the Fiery Snake begins to fly, enters into the izbá through the chimney, turns into a brave youth and steals by magic the hearts of fair maidens. In a Servian song a girl who has been carried off by a 'fiery-snake' calls herself his 'true love,' and it is thought that in mythical language the 'Fiery Snake' is one of the forms of the lightning. "The blooming earth, fructified by the rains poured forth during the first spring storms, is turned in the myth into the bride of the Fiery Snake. But the wedder of nature became looked upon at a later period as the patron of weddings among the children of men, and so the inducing of love-pangs naturally became ascribed to the Fiery Snake." 2 This explanation is founded upon nature-myth,

p. 169

but on Celtic ground I incline to postulate ancestor worship, if not by the Celts, on the part of pre-Celtic tribes in Britain. There is a serpent mound in Glenelg, on the way to Scalasaig Farm; also in Lorne; there are serpents figured on some stones; and a folk-cure for serpent bite is to wash the parts with water in which a serpent's head has been boiled. On a Gaulish altar of the first century of our era there is sculptured a serpent with a ram's head. We may perhaps infer a serpent-totem among the Gauls. 1 Greek vase-paintings portray the occupants of graves in the form of snakes. 2 In Virgil we meet Aeneas pouring libations on his father's tomb, when a gorgeous serpent appeared, either the genius of the place or an attendant on his father in the other world:

Silent, amazed stood Aeneas; but the serpent its long length trailing
Glided among the cups and the polished vessels of service,
Tasted the viands and back to the depths of the tomb receded,
Mindless of harm and left the tasted food and the altars.
                                             Aeneid, v. 90-93.

[paragraph continues] One parallel from the lower cults will show that the belief in the serpent-soul may be very real:

"In S. Africa the dead may re-appear in the form of animals, but only for pure mischief. Widows are often held in bondage and terror by their lords returning in the guise of a serpent. This brute will enter the house, hide in the thatch, and look at its victim from between the rafters. It will coil itself by the fire and steal into the beds; it will glide over

p. 170

articles of food and explore the interior of cooking utensils. For this persistent persecution there is but one remedy, and that is to kill the serpent, when there is nothing left but 'pure spirit,' which cannot appear in material form any more." 1

(i) The Soul in Wolf-form.—The existence of this belief in animal parentage is seen from the Leabhar Breathnach. Here we read: "The descendants of the wolf are in Ossory (síl in Faelchon i n-Osraigib). There are certain people in Eri, viz. the race of Laighne Faelaidh, in Ossory; they pass into the form of wolves whenever they please, and kill cattle according to the custom of wolves, and they quit their own bodies; when they go forth in the wolf-forms they charge their friends not to remove their bodies, for if they are moved they will not be able to come again into them (their bodies); and if they are wounded while abroad, the same wounds will be on their bodies in their houses; and the raw flesh devoured while abroad will be in their teeth." 2 This belief was current in the days of Fynes Moryson, who mentions the report that in Upper Ossory and Ormond men are yearly turned. into wolves. And long before then Gerald, the Welshman, had heard a story of two wolves who had been a man and woman of the Ossorians. They were transformed into wolves every seven years through a curse imposed by St. Naal or Natalis, abbot of Kilmanagh, Kilkenny, in the sixth century. They were banished to Meath, where

p. 171

they met a priest in a wood, shortly ere Earl John came to Ireland in the days of Henry II. They retained the use of language and were fabled with having foretold the invasion of the foreigner. The Latin legend declares the substance of what the wolf said to the priest: "A certain sept of the men of Ossory are we; every seventh year through the curse of St. Natalis the Abbot, we two, man and woman, are compelled to leave our shape and our bounds." Then having been divested of human form, animal form is assumed. Having completed their seven years, should they survive so long, if two other Ossorians be substituted instead of these, the former return to their pristine form and fatherland.

In personal and tribal names the wolf meets us, e.g. Cinel Loairn, whence modern Lorne in Argyll, after which is named the marquisate in the ducal family, from Gadhelic Loarn, 'wolf.' In Ireland it is told of Laignech Fáelad that he was the man "that used to shift into wolf-shapes. He and his offspring after him used to go whenever they pleased, into the shapes of the wolves, and, after the custom of wolves, kill the herds. Wherefore he was called Laignech Fáelad, for he was the first of them to go into a wolf-shape." 1

The Celtic god Dis Pater, from whom, according to Caesar's account, the Gauls were descended, is represented as clad in wolf-skin, and holding a vessel, also a mallet with a long shaft, which, Monsieur Reinach thinks, recalls the image of the Etruscan Charon. "A low-relief at Sarrebourg,

p. 172

in Lorraine," says this eminent authority, "proves that one of the epithets of this Gaulish god was Sucellus, signifying 'one who strikes well.'" The wolf skin leads to the presumption that the god was originally a wolf, roving and ravaging during the night time. This god has been identified with the Latin Silvanus, the woodman or forester who gave chase to the wolves—of old a wolf himself. On this view, which M. Reinach favours, at least a section of the Gauls had a national legend identical with that of the Romans: like Romulus they were the children of the wolf, and M. Reinach suggests that perhaps it was on this account that the Arverni called themselves brethren of the Latins. 1 If so, we have a close parallel to Gadhelic tradition.

Spenser says that "some of the Irish doe use to make the wolf their gossip"; and Camden adds that they term them "Chari Christi, praying for them, and wishing them well, and having contracted this intimacy, professed to have no fear from their four-footed allies." Fynes Moryson expressly mentions the popular dislike to killing wolves. Aubrey adds that "in Ireland they value the fang-tooth of an wolfe, which they set in silver and gold as we doe ye Coralls." 2

At Claddagh there is a local saint, Mac Dara, whose real name according to folk-belief was Sinach, 'a fox,' 3 a probably non-Aryan name. The Irish

p. 173

onchú, 'leopard,' also 'standard,' whence G. onnchon, 'standard,' from French onceau, once, 'a species of jaguar,' seems preserved in Wester Ross with the change of n to r, as o’r chu, written odhar chu, in the sense of 'wolf': the howl of the creature thus named inspired the natives of old with a fear and awe which had their origin in days when the wolf prowled of evenings among the flocks.

(j) The Soul in Dog-form.—The dog is taboo in almost the whole of Europe: it was a totem animal; and to eat tabooed food brings down the anger of the spirits. The occurrence of dog-names among the Celts, such as Cu-roi, Cu-chulainn would lead one to include this phase likewise among the transformations of the soul. Eating of dog flesh was forbidden Cuchulainn, and the breaking of the taboo brought him death. The West Mayo tradition quoted above, under section (e), states that Oisin was half-brother to Bran, Fionn's Hound; that Bran was the daughter of Fionn by a lady who came to him as an enchanted hound. There are names of animal origin to be met with among Highland surnames, e.g. Matheson is MacMhathain, older Macmaghan, 'son of the bear'; Mac-Culloch is Mac-Culloch, 'son of the boar.' Though wild stories of supernatural dogs, such as the Black Dog of Kinlochbervie and the wild black dog with fiery eyes that came from the river at Eskadale may be now ascribed in folk-lore to demonic influence, yet the demon at an earlier stage is an aspect of the theriomorphic soul. Cuilean, 'whelp,' is used in the Highlands as a form of endearment. The

p. 174

black dog (Manx: Moddey Doo, Manthe Doo) that was seen at Peel Castle, Isle of Man, was believed to be an evil spirit, which only waited permission to do the soldiers hurt, and for that reason they forbore swearing and all profane discourse while in its company. 1 None of them liked to be left alone with such a companion. Now as the Manthe Doog used to come out and return by the passage through the church, by which one of the men had to go to deliver the keys every night to the captain on duty, the men used to do the duty in couples, and never would a man do it alone. One of the soldiers, however, on a certain night, having taken more drink than was good for him, insisted on going with the keys alone, although it was not his turn. His comrades in vain tried to dissuade him from what they felt to be a dangerous and foolhardy freak. Some time afterwards a great noise disturbed the men in the guard-house, and, while they were sitting wondering and awe-stricken, the adventurous soldier broke in upon them. He was inarticulate with horror and fright. He could not even make signs to convey to his comrades what had happened to him. The man was distracted, mentally paralysed, and in an hour or two he died, with his features distorted, obviously in mental agony. After this no one would go through

p. 175

the passage, which was soon closed up. The apparition was never seen again!

(k) The Soul in Seal-form.—For an account of this phase the reader is referred to my Norse Influence on Celtic Scotland. It is unlucky to kill the seal: it is a human being under spells.

(l) Boar-form.--The association of Diarmad's death with his act of measuring the poisonous boar against the bristle leads to an inference that the hero's life was bound up with that of the boar. Yet here there might be another explanation. But the fact that swine's blood is held to be a sovereign cure for warts by laving the parts therein, along with the great aversion to eating pork in any form which I have met with in old Highlanders, seems to point to swine as sacred. The Gauls had a god Succellos, from *sukku, 'a pig.' In Campbell's West Highland Tales there is an obsolete phrase an t-sreath chuileanach, left untranslated: it should read 'an treith chuileanach s a dà chuilean deug,' i.e. 'the mother sow with her litter of twelve.' See Cormac's Glossary, sub Orc treth. Ultimately the word seems the same as triath, 'lord, chief,' from *treitos, which Stokes compared with L. tritavos, an ancestor in the sixth degree. The Turc Trwyth of Welsh romance and emblems on the so-called Boar-stones are probably in origin to be derived from a belief in kinship with the boar.

A story is told of a he-goat having been seen very often in a certain part of the islands and of people who met with violence and sometimes with death when they came to the spot frequented by him. There was a suspicion that the goat was only a form

p. 176

assumed by a weaver (breabadair) in the place. A man called at the weaver's one day on his way through the country. The weaver asked where he was going to. The man told him. The weaver asked if he were not afraid of passing the spot where the goat was seen,—a spot fatal to many. The man replied that he was not, that he bore his help on his hip ('tha cobhair chruachainn agam'). When he came to the spot the goat stood above him and began to attack him. The man was being worsted when the goat said: 'Cà ’eil do chobhair air chruachainn a nisd?' 'Where is the help on your hip now?' The man replied as he drew forth a dagger he had on his hip: '’S ann air a chuimhne bha’n diùlanas,' 'It was thy memory that had the fortitude.' He killed the goat, and when he returned to the weaver's house the blood of the weaver had frozen ('bha fuil a’ bhreabadair air reothadh').—Hugh M‘Lennan, Dec. 7, 1895.

(m) The Soul in Semi-theriomorphic Form.—Here the transition is made to the half-human aspect of the soul in god-form. Creatures of the imagination which have their basis in nature-myth, e.g. the glaistig, the Bodach Glas, Peallaidh, perhaps the Gruagach, and such as the Ūruisg, are not to be included here. In point are the demons which were said to haunt particular families as their good or evil genius. The family of Rothiemurchus was said to have been haunted by Bodach an Dūin, the Goblin or Ghost of the Dūne; the Baron of Kinchardine's family by Red Hand (Lāmh Dhearg), or a 'ghost,' one of whose hands was bloody red; Gartinbeg by Bodach-Gartin; Glenlochie

p. 177

by Brownie, as was also Belladrum House; Tullochgorm by Māg Molach, i.e. Hairy Hand or 'one with the left hand all over hairy,' as Lachlan Shaw's History of the Province of Moray put it. "I find," says Shaw, "in the Synod Records of Moray, frequent orders to the Presbyteries of Aberlaure and Abernethie, to enquire into the truth of Maag Moulach's appearing. But they could make no discovery, only that one or two men declared they once saw in the evening a young girl whose left hand was all hairy, and who instantly disappeared." 1 This famous apparition is referred to also in the Laird of Macfarlane's Geographical Collections. Hairy Hand was supposed to come down the chimney and to take children away. The nearest parallel I find in the Russian Domovy, an hirsute creature the whole of whose body save the eyes and nose is covered with hair. The tracks of his shaggy feet may be seen in winter time in the snow; his hairy hand is felt by night gliding over the faces of sleepers. 2 The Domovy is the house-spirit, and specially haunts the stove; the cultus was connected with the burning fire on the domestic hearth. In the Highlands too the hearth-fire is held in awe, as witness the fact that it is forbidden to pass between an epileptic and the fire; to do so was to draw upon one's self the disease.

The names given to some appearances show us gods in the making, as when in Inverness-shire the small-pox is called The Good Wife (A’ Bhean Mhath), and the Devil is elsewhere euphemistically spoken

p. 178

of as Caomhan, 'the dear one, darling.' Among Greeks and Slays small-pox is personified as a female; the Servians call her bogine or goddess. The conception of the Hairy Hand of the Highlands is met with to a fuller extent in the Fynnodderee of the Isle of Man; the word 'satyr' of Isaiah xxxiv. 14 is rendered in the Manx Bible as yn Phynnodderree; the name signifies 'the hairy-dun one,' and this satyr is conceived as "something between a man and a beast, being covered with black shaggy hair and having fiery eyes"; he is prodigiously strong, is credited with giving aid in lifting heavy stones for mansion-buildings, and with help in mowing the meadow grass; some think of him as a fairy expelled the Fairy Bower for having loved a nymph as she sat beneath a tree in Glen Aldyn; "the scythe he had was cutting everything, skinning the meadow to the sods, and if a leaf were left standing he stamped it down with his heels." 1

His was the wizard hand that toiled
At midnight's witching hour;
That gathered the sheep from the coming storm
Ere the shepherd saw it lower.
Yet asked no fee save a scattered sheaf
From the peasants’ garnered hoard,
Or cream-bowl kissed by a virgin lip
To be left on the household board.

From the thought of the nymph beneath the tree in dalliance with the Phynnodderree (there has not been a merry world since he lost his ground, the old Manxman said) I pass now to the spirit of the tree or tree-soul.

p. 179

(n) The Tree-Soul.—The Strathspey story given above in illustration of the tree-soul tells also of a tree as taken to witness, which points to a belief in the tree-soul. The soul of the dead was believed to pass into the tree. Herbs and flowers were fabled to grow from the blood of the dead and so to re-embody his spirit. Such metempsychosis is connected with solemn sayings.

How a man's word of truth, if not his soul, may be thus linked with a tree is shown from the belief current in my boyhood as to a tree which grew from the spot on which was the pulpit of Mr. Lachlan Mackenzie, the gifted and eminent minister of Lochcarron. Some said it was out of his grave that the tree grew, and that Mr. Lachlan's solemn words to his people were that they were not to believe a word of what he preached unless after his death a certain tree should grow on the spot on which he stood or would be buried in. I have seen slips cut from that tree at Lochcarron taken several days’ journey in memory of one regarded as a prophet. And I may quote the following from a successor of his:

"A large and beautiful red elder-berry tree,—after the roof was taken off the church,—grew out of the stone foundation of Mr. Lachlan's pulpit. After the tree grew it was reported that Mr. Lachlan had stated that when a tree, growing out of the spot where he stood, grew to the height of the church walls, popery would be in the ascendant in the district. That was how I heard it reported when the Duke of Leeds, whose Duchess was a keen Roman Catholic, owned the property.

p. 180

"It was thought there was not another tree of the kind in the world. My father, however, had one in front of the manse close by, and I have now more than one here, grown from slips cut off Mr. Lachlan's the year I left Lochcarron." 1 Folk-belief ever reflects the shadows of its own fears and fancies, and likewise of its hopes. Iseult, in Cornish legend, after the loss of her lover, died broken-hearted and was buried in the same church with Tristram. Ivy, or else a rose and vine, sprang from either grave until it met its fellow at the crown of the vault roof.

Under this heading one might place a good deal of the folk-lore of the rowan tree. Everywhere in Celtdom it is semi-sacred. In Wales "it was considered lucky to have a mountain ash growing near your premises. The berries brought into the house were followed by prosperity and success. A bunch of the berries worn in girdle or bodice kept women from being bewitched." 2 In the Highlands crosses of rowan twigs are placed under the milk-pans, and one has sometimes seen them tied with red thread to a cow's tail. Pieces of rowan wood are stuck in the turf from the inside above the byre door, with the intent of keeping the cattle and their milk from being bewitched. And it is thought lucky to have a rowan tree growing near the house. In the Highland version of the legend of Fraoch, given in the Dean of Lismore's book, the rowan tree is a sort of tree of Life; it bears fruit every month and every

p. 181

quarter, and the virtue of its red berries when tasted was such as to stave off hunger for long.

Its berries’ juice and fruit when red
For a year would life prolong.
From dread disease it gave relief
If what is told be our belief.
Yet though it proved a means of life
Peril lay closely nigh;
Coiled by its root a dragon lay
Forbidding passage by.

[paragraph continues] And Queen Mève feigned sickness and said:

That ne’er would she be whole
Till her soft palm were full
Of berries from the island on the lake— 1

[paragraph continues] And of old, in the case of the oak, when stripped of its leaves, its spirit was held to have gone into the mistletoe, and thus became a means of blessing and of fertility.

The Teutons and the Celts, and other peoples, seem, with regard to the tree-soul, to think alike. When the innocent are put to death, white lilies grow out of the graves, three lilies on that of a maiden, 2 which no one but her lover may pluck. From the mounds of buried lovers flowering shrubs spring up, whose branches intertwine,—a belief illustrated in the Barra version of the story of Deirdire: "The wicked king ordered her body to be lifted out of the grave and to be buried on the other side of the loch. It was done as the king commanded, and the grave was closed. Then a

p. 182

young pine branch grew from the grave of Deirdire, and a young pine branch from the grave of Naoise, and the two branches twined together over the lake. Then the king commanded that the two young pine branches should be cut down, and this was done twice, till the wife whom the king married made him to cease from the bad work and his persecution of the way of the dead! 1 With this I would compare the lilies and limes said to grow out of graves in Swedish songs; also Percy's ballad of Fair Margaret and Sweet William:

Out of her breast there sprang a rose
And out of his a briar:
'They grew till they grew unto the church top,
And there they tied in a true lover's knot.

[paragraph continues] There originally underlay this the idea of the instantaneous passage of the soul into a flower, a bush, a tree, just as Daphne and Syrinx, when they cannot elude the pursuit of Apollo or Pan, change themselves into a laurel or a reed.

Virgil makes the cornel and myrtle which grew on the grave of Polydorus at once bleed and speak when torn up by the hand of Aeneas. 2 And Ovid speaks of an ancient oak, itself a grove, with votive tablets hung and grateful gifts for vows accomplished. 3 Underneath its shade the dryads wove their festal dance. Theocritus tells how at the consecration of Helen's plane tree at Sparta the choir of maidens hung consecrated wreaths of lotus flowers upon the tree, with costly spikenard

p. 183

anointed it, and attached to it the dedicatory placard: 1 "Honour me all ye that pass by for I am Helen's tree."

We may compare the fortune of the Hays of Errol, bound up with an immemorial oak:

While the mistletoe bats on Errol's aik,
  And the aik stands fast,
The Hays shall flourish, and their good grey hawk
  Shall nocht flinch before the blast.

But when the root of the aik decays,
  And the mistletoe dwines on its withered breast,
The grass shall grow on Errol's hearth-stane
  And the corbie roup in the falcon's nest.
                            Thomas the Rhymer.

At Glasgow it seems probable that Christianity was grafted on pre-Christian faith. The oak, the salmon, and the red-breast on the arms of the city of Glasgow allow of this interpretation. Upon a tree in the forest clearing, St. Kentigern is said to have hung his bell. The pet red-breast of Servanus, his teacher at Culross, he restored to life; the signet ring of Queen Langweneth he found in the belly of a salmon. Kentigern's oak had a sanctity of its own, apart from its use as a Christian belfry. Compare the oaks of Brigit and of Colum Cille. 2

Let me give in few words an instance of tree-lore from living tradition, not far from the capital of old Pictland. Pīreig, it says, was a woman who was murdered, and a tree planted in remembrance of her grew near Cononbank, in the parish of Kirkhill,

p. 184

[paragraph continues] Inverness-shire. It was an uncanny place. A grey beast used at times to be seen there; it was cat-like in appearance, and thought by some to be a tannasg or tāsg, 'apparition, ghost.' 1 Such a creature followed in the track of a cart which was going to town at an early hour. My informants said it followed them until dawn, when, on coming to a bridge, it gave an unearthly yell, it being a property of the ghost or apparition to give a loud cry as it passes over running water. 2 An intelligent correspondent, whose memory goes back to the first quarter of the nineteenth century, writes me: "Your enquiry about Craobh Pīreig put me in mind of old times. I knew the tree well. It was considered an unlucky place to be about that tree before the ground round about was brought into cultivation. I used to be frightened if passing there at night; fairies, ghosts, and robbers were said to be dwellers in the locality, but all this is changed now. The railway whistle and the plough have chased all the bogies away. In my younger days the road passing Craobh Pīreig was a desolate place, surrounded by trees and bushes of

p. 185

all kinds, but this is now all under cultivation and clear of all romance. I may say Craobh Pīreig was what I may call a geen (cherry) tree of good average size, growing at the road side between Beauly and Inverness, and hardly used by the boys on their way to Kirkhill parish school, as long as a single Been could be found on it. It was in my younger days a lonely tree on a lonely muir about five miles from Beauly. There was no sign of any stone circle about it. The country people did not like to be in the locality after sunset."

The name of the ancient sacred tree was Bile, wrongly translated in Lord Archibald Campbell's Records of Argyll (p. 123). The tradition there narrated clearly points to a sacred tree, near the well called Tobar Bhile na Beinne. Any one who drank its water left some equivalent to the fairy who was supposed to guard it. "Beside it was a very old elm tree with a hole in the side and a hollow in the middle, and into this hole was thrown anything given; and in my young days I remember it being full of all sorts of things—coins, pins, buttons, beads, of which it has all been emptied long ago. There is also beside it a little unenclosed graveyard, where none were put but infants who died before being baptized; and to this day the little graves are seen lying thick and close in their resting-place."

Another Tobar na Bile is between Torran and Inverliver, by the road side two miles or so from Ford. Its water had some connection with the owner's life. For legend tells us that when some Inverliver chieftain was abroad, that the family

p. 186

jester one day noticed the water beginning to sink and by-and-by disappearing. But one happy morning he found the well again full of water, and ran to the house crying out that his master was in Scotland, which afterwards proved to be the case. In the cemetery near hand there 'fell from the sky' a bone that cured madness, Barbreck's bone, now in the Antiquarian Museum, Edinburgh.

Manx billey-glas, 'a growing or green tree,' occurs in the Manx Bible (Jer. xi. 16). In Scotland it is met with at Benderloch in Tobar bhile nam miann, 'the well of the wishing tree.' There were formerly some stones near the place, as if a little graveyard had been there at one time (cf. The Oban Times, 4th and 18th March, 1907). I believe it is the word in Balavil, near Kingussie; there is an exceedingly old elm tree at the house, and also a well quite near it. The sacred associations are there absent, but they are met with in Cladh Bhile, Kintyre.

There is an ancient burying ground termed Cladh Bhile, near Ellary, Loch Caolisport, Knapdale, "situated about mid-way down the western side of Loch Caolisport, at the height of over 200 ft. above the sea-level, and nearly in the centre of the steep hill slopes immediately abutting upon this portion of the loch, between Eilean-na-Bruachain at Ellary, and Rudha-an-Tubhaidh." 1 There is an absence of recumbent stones, everything upon the ground that can in any way be ranked as memorials of the dead being exclusively pillar-stones, intended

p. 187

not to be flat but to be set upright upon the grave. The burying ground is of ancient date. Here we meet with the old Gaelic word Bile, 'a tree.' "The word was generally applied," says Joyce, "to a large tree which, for any reason, was held in veneration by the people; for instance, one under which their chiefs used to be inaugurated, or periodical games celebrated. Trees of this kind were regarded with intense reverence and affection; one of the greatest triumphs that a tribe could achieve over their enemies, was to cut down their inauguration tree, and no outrage was more keenly resented, or, when possible, visited with sharper retribution. . . . These trees were pretty common in past times; some of them remain to this day, and are often called Bell trees, or Bellow trees, an echo of the old word bile. In most cases, however, they have long since disappeared, but their names remain on many places to attest their former existence." 1 Magh-Bile, modernised Movile, is 'the plain of the [sacred] tree,' where St. Finian founded his monastery in Co. Down, in the sixth century; Domnach-Bile, on the banks of Loch Foyle, where was a monastery said to have been founded by Patrick (Archdall's Monasticon Hib. p. 103); Bile-Chuais, now Ballyhoos, Clonfert, Galway; Clochán-Bile-teine, now Cloghaunnatinny, Kilmurry, Clare, is interpreted by Joyce, 'the stepping stones of the fire-tree,' from a large tree which grew near the crossing, under which May fires used to be lighted; Bile-teineadh, 'the old tree of the fire,' identified by O’Donovan as near Moynalty, in Meath, and now

p. 188

called Coill-a’-bhile, the wood of the bile or old tree, anglicised Billywood; alt-a’-bile, now Altavilla, in Limerick and Queen's County; Rinn-bhile, now Ringville; Tobar-Bile, 'the well of the ancient tree,' "some wells taking their names from the picturesque old trees that overshadowed them, and which are preserved by the people with great veneration," as at Tobervilly, Antrim, and at Tobervilla, Westmeath; Garran-a’-bhile, Garnavilla, Tipperary; Rathbile, now Rathvilly, Carlow.

Mr. Galloway, in a note, adds that it was under these trees that the Lia Fāil or Stone of Destiny, pertaining to the tribe, was placed,—to break it up or carry it away being a necessary complement to the destruction of the tree. Dr. Stuart suggests that Edward I. may have been actuated by analogous motives in carrying off the Scottish Stone of Destiny from Scone. 1

There was another tree that I know of which was regarded with awe, viz. an old ash tree (A’ Chraobh Uinnsinn), now no longer standing, on the Eskadale estate in Kiltarlity; a light seen therein from time to time was looked on as a foreboding of death. As the Norse influence extended to this district, clearly evident in the name Eskadale, i.e. 'Ash-dale,' from the Norse, the ash-tree associations may not be quite native. Old Icelandic legend tells that at Mödhrufell there stood a mountain-ash which sprang from the blood of two innocent persons who had been executed there. Every Christmas eve the tree was to be seen covered with lights, which the strongest gale could not extinguish.

p. 189

From St. Rodan's tree, called Tylia, there dropped a fluid on which his monks lived. And, again, one recollects the celebrated tree of Glastonbury, said to have been sprung from Joseph of Arimathea's staff. King James I. and his Queen gave large sums for cuttings from this variety of hawthorn—the crataegus oxyacantha praecox, a winter flower.

                       the winter thorn
Which blossoms at Xmas, mindful of our Lord.

[paragraph continues] In Ireland there were specially celebrated trees such as the oak of Mugna, the ash of Usnech, the ash of Tortu, mentioned as having fallen in the days of Aed Slane. 1

An unpublished Gadhelic tale, Cailleach Na Riobaig, which is the same story as that of the witch in the Lady of the Lake, shows the tree-soul associated with the element of water. 2

"The Bile Tortan stood in Magh Tortan in Meath, near Ardbreacan, and was blown down in the reign of the sons of Aedh Slaine, about the middle of the seventh century. This tree was one of the three wonderful trees of Eirinn, and had stood at the time of the Milesian conquest, more than a thousand years." 3 "Bile Tortan, Eo Rossa, Craebh Mughna, Craebh Dathi, Bile Uisnigh were five ancient trees which sprang up in Erin in the reign of Conaing Begeglach (Anno Mundi 4388). Conaing held a certain assembly at Tara . . . and they

p. 190

saw coming towards them from the west a man of wonderful size, carrying in his hand a branch of a tree bearing apples, nuts, acorns, and berries. . . . He told them he had come from the place of the sun's rising in the east to the place of its going down in the west, to know why it had stood still for a day, and having obtained the cause of this irregularity that he was now on his return again to the east. He shook the produce of this branch on the ground; and these being taken up by various persons and planted in various localities, produced these wonderful trees which were all blown down in the seventh century. The Bile Tortan near Ardbreacan, in the Co. Meath, was ash. The Eo Rossa near Leith-Ghleann (Leithlin) was a yew tree, and became the property of St. Molaise of Leith-Ghlenn, from which St. Moling obtained as much of it as made shingles for his Duirthech or Oratory, at Tech Moling, now St. Mullin's, on the river Barrow in Co. Carlow, and which was built for him by . . . Goban Saor. According to an Irish life of St. Moling . . . the Craebh Mughna was oak, and stood near Bealach Mughna in Magh Ailbhe, in the southern part of Co. Kildare. The Craebh Dathi was ash, and stood in the district of Fir Bile (now Ferbil), to which it gave name, in Co. Westmeath. The Craebh Uisnigh was ash, and stood on the hill of Uisnech, in Co. Westmeath." 1

In passing one may query whether the Sanskrit bilva in uru-bilva, the wide-spreading Bel- or wood-apple tree, be cognate with G. bile. Indian legend says that at the moment of Buddha's birth his future

p. 191

wife was born, and also the sacred Bo-tree, under which he was destined to attain Buddhahood,—a form of the Life-tree.

"King Conchobair had three houses, namely, the Craebh Ruaidh, and the Téte Brec, and the Craebh Derg [that is, the 'Royal Branch' or Court, and the Speckled Branch, and the Red Branch]. In the Red Court were kept the skulls [of the enemies], and their spoils and trophies. In the Royal Court sat the kings; that is, it was Ruadh [or royal] because of the kings. 1 In the Speckled Court were kept the spears and the shields and the swords; that is, it was speckled from the hilts of golden-hilted swords, and from the glistening of the green spears, with their rings or collars and their bands of gold and silver; and the scales and borders of the shields, composed of gold and of silver; and from the lustre of the vessels and [drinking] horns, and the flagons." Now Ruad ro-fhessa, which has been rendered 'Lord of great knowledge,' is another name for the Dagdha in Cormac's Glossary, so that the suggestion strikes one that here we have to do with a tree sacred to the Dagdha, or to some one of the name Ruad. Are we to think of a blood or life-tree, much as in Scotland a tree is associated with the 'luck' of the Hays of Errol, and as one wishes 'freshness to the hawthorn tree of Cawdor,' now about five hundred years old? O’Clery has ruad .i. trén, 'strong,' which may be but a secondary sense. For meaning one might compare the Sanskrit raudh,

p. 192

[paragraph continues] 'blood'; but consider Church Slavonic rodu, 'birth,' and the Russian rod, 'clan.' A satisfactory solution would be found in the life of the king being united to the life of the tree, an incarnation of the Dagda or Oll-athair. Certain it is that a sacred tree figures in Irish legend, e.g. 'the apple tree of Emain.' When Bran, the son of Febal, awoke from his entranced sleep, he saw beside him a branch of silver with white blossoms; thereafter the woman in strange raiment sang and said: 1

A branch of the apple-tree from Emain
I bring, like those one knows;
Twigs of white silver are on it,
Crystal brows with blossoms
      .       .       .       .       .
An ancient tree (bile) there is with blossoms
On which birds call to the Hours.

[paragraph continues] The passage occurs in a context which undoubtedly describes a vision of the Happy Land. Again, in the Sickbed of Cuchulainn, 2 three trees of bright purple (tri bile do chorcoir glain) are described as a feature in the Other-World landscape.

Near that house to the westward
   Where sunlight sinks down,
Stand grey steeds with manes dappled
  And steeds purple-brown.

On its east side are standing
  Three bright purple trees,
Whence the birds' songs oft ringing
  The king's children please.

From a tree in the fore-court p. 193
  Sweet harmony streams,
It stands silver yet sunlit
  With gold's glitter gleams.

The silver bough 1 is a feature of Gadhelic legend, as the golden bough is of Italic. Just as Jupiter was originally worshipped in the form of a lofty oak tree which grew on the Capitol, and as Dodona was the haunt of deity among the Greeks, so the Celts, as Maxim of Tyre tells us, worshipped Zeus under the image of an oak. Only rare fragments survive now to remind us of the god-tree, as when on the first of May the pilgrim to St. Mary Well, near Culloden, has not fulfilled his duty until he has bound some rag on the adjoining tree, even if he has no coin to put into the holy well. To leave something on the tree or bush near by the well was an essential; this bound one's offering to the habitation of the deity of the spring; it took the tree-spirit to witness. And in my own recollection, when a death occurred among the cattle in spring, the earchall or misfortune was put away by conveying, in secrecy and in silence, the hooves of the animal and other portions preferably across a water-boundary to a neighbouring estate or to a wood, where they were buried under the roots of some great tree not likely to be soon moved.

In the Tristran saga the tree whispers the secret told it, viz. that King Mark had horse's ears,—another instance of the tree-soul; and some reflex of the tree-spirit survives in the branch of laurel

p. 194

given to a bride at Carnac, in Brittany, with which one may compare the decorated pine-bough brought to the house of a bride in parts of Russia. The tree is a thing of life; the wind in the leaves, from the mystic whisper to the roaring blast, seems to come from some mind or spirit. The Australians took these for the voices of the spirits communing with one another, and some of their tribes held that it was through understanding these voices that their medicine-men got supernatural knowledge by communicating with the world of spirits. 1 Similarly, the Greeks spoke of the oracular oak of Zeus and the Semites of a tree of knowledge. And sundry Persian families traced their descent from a tree. Primitive man, it has been said, was arboreal. A hollow tree was his home, its branches his place of refuge, its fruit his sustenance. Naturally, the tree became associated with his earliest religious thoughts. It represented his protecting deity. He would not willingly injure it. When the Mandans cut a pole for their tents, they swathe it in bandages so that its pain may be allayed. The Hidatsas would not cut down a large cotton-wood tree because it guarded their tribe. The Algonquins decked an old oak with offerings suspended to its branches, for the same reason. Trees, from their dripping foliage, and because their shade was associated with the grey of a cloudy day, were believed to make the rains, and thus to refresh the fields and to fertilise the seeds of the vegetable world. The step was easily taken to extend this to all germs, animal as

p. 195

well as vegetable. Thus the tree came to symbolise the source of life. 1

Tacitus describes the Germans as building no temples, but worshipping their mysterious divinity, secretum illud, in the gloom of the forest.

Not otherwise would it have been with the Celts. The same root as in τέμενος, 'a sacred precinct,' seems to occur in the word Temair, of which there are many instances in Ireland, e.g. Temhair Luachra, a celebrated royal residence in Munster, and others cited by Hennessy in a footnote to his edition of the Mesca Ulad. Temair Erand was the burial place of the Clanna Dedad, who occupied a great part of Cork and Kerry. Most readers have heard of the Temair in Meath, the celebrated Tara of the Kings. The word is thus explained:

"Temair, then, every place from which there is a remarkable prospect, both in plain and house," temair na tuaithe, the temair of the country, i.e. 'a hill,' temair in tige, the temair of a house, i.e. 'an upper room.' It is still the name of several conspicuous hills in Ireland; it is defined in the Dinnsenchas: "omnis locus conspicuus et eminens sive in campo sive in domu, sive in quocumque loco sit, hoc vocabulo quod dicitur Temair nominari potest." 2 Dr. Joyce observes that every Temhair in Ireland is conspicuously situated; the great Tara in Meath is a most characteristic example. It is the genitive form, teamhrach, that is the origin of the name Tara. The other names given to the great Tara by the Firbolg, viz. Druim-Caein [Drumkeen],

p. 196

'beautiful ridge,' and also Liathdruim (Leitrim), may point to a time when it was not used for temple purposes, or may at least indicate that the chosen temple sites were places that invariably commanded a good view. The instinct which led the Christian priests and monks to select beautiful sites for their churches, we may pre-suppose as active in those who chose the positions of the pre-Christian temples. Yet the idea at the root was not 'good view'—a secondary though accompanying thought—but a precinct, a sacred enclosure cut off, perhaps for purposes of royal burial at first, as is allowable to infer from Senchus nan Relec.

I will conclude by mentioning the legend Keating narrates of Labhraidh Loingseach, who had ears like those of a horse. He had his hair cropped yearly, and thereafter killed whosoever chanced to cut it. It was necessary to cast lots to determine who should perform this office. On one occasion the lot fell on a widow's son, and the king granted him life if he promised to keep the secret till his death. But having cropped the king, the youth was obliged to lie on a bed of sickness, and no medicine availed him. A druid found that the cause was the burden of a secret, and that he would not be well till he revealed his secret to something; and he directed him, since he was bound not to tell his secret to a person, to go to where four roads met, and to turn to his right and to address the first tree he met, and to tell his secret to it. He did so, and the pain left him. It was a willow tree; and it chanced soon after that Craiftine's harp got broken, and he went to seek the material for a harp. He

p. 197

came upon this very willow, and when the harp was made of it, as often as it was played its burden of song was: 'Two horse's ears on Labhraidh Lorc.' The king then repented of having put so many people to death, showed his ears ever afterwards openly. It is clearly an instance of the tree-soul. 1

I may add that parallels to the idea of the tree-soul are abundant. In the Malay Peninsula the name of every child is taken "from some tree which stands near the prospective birth-place of the child; as soon as the child is born, this name is shouted aloud by the wise woman in attendance, who then hands over the child to another woman, and buries the after-birth underneath the birth-tree or name-tree of the child; as soon as this has been done, the father cuts a series of notches in the tree, starting from the ground and terminating at the height of the breast." 2

This tree, or any of its species, the child must not in after life injure or eat the fruit of. This points to an early theory of conception, from which Dr. Frazer would explain Totemism. For human souls grow upon a soul-tree in the Other World: the birds which fetch them from thence are killed and eaten by the expectant mother. The consistency of this belief is seen in the fancy that if the mother does not eat the soul-bird during her lying-in, the child will be still-born or die shortly after being born. Such ideas should be remembered

p. 198

when one reads of the flock of birds into which Dechtere and her maidens are transformed in the Cuchulainn Saga. 1

In Greece, where Zeus and Dionysos are conceived as dwelling in trees—ἔνδενδροι—the transition was made from the tree to the tree-column or pillar as the depository of divine life, and rites of invocation took place at the shrines. In Gaul inscriptions 2 such as SEX ARBORIBUS ET FATIS DERVONIBUS, dedicated to the genii of the oaks, point to tree worship: DEA ABNOBA and DEA ARDVINNA, the Black Forest and the Ardennes respectively, confirm this, and are parallel to the nigra dea, 'black goddess,' which Adamnan gave as a rendering for Lōchy, the river and loch of the name in Lochaber.

(o) The Soul in Stones or the God-stone.—Stones were formerly believed to have a soul, and certain large ones not readily moved were held to be in intimate connection with spirits. In the Highlands it is regarded as a source of danger to make use of pillared stones (clachan carraghan) in building human or other dwellings. Ill-luck or death follows any one

p. 199

who meddles with such 'druidical' stones as are found in the numerous stone circles in Inverness-shire. After ceremonies for averting the evil eye' (G. cronachduinn, Gr. ἀποτροπή), what remains of the water ritually used is poured over a block of stone that is either immovable or not likely to be interfered with; when cracks make their appearance in such stones the explanation given is that envy will split the rocks (sgoiltidh farmad a chlach). When one is narrating some untoward disaster, or even making mention thereof, a Highland woman of the old school will add under her breath, 'telling it to the stones' (ga innseadh dha na clachan), and proceed with her narrative with much dignity and solemnity. The use of this phrase is supposed to avert any harm arising either to the speaker or the listener.

For Ireland I find that Keating 1 mentions the striking of the head against a stone as a ceremony boding success. Stones such as the Līa Fāil, known as 'the stone of destiny,' possibly 'the stone of light' if Welsh gwawl be cognate, would know their rightful owner. This involves animistic belief, which would explain the late form of the tradition in Keating 2 that on the Līa Fāil 'were enchantments, for it used to roar under the person who had the best right to obtain the sovereignty of Ireland.' Among the four jewels of the Tuatha De Danann a certain poem 3 mentions the Līa Fāil, 'which used to roar under a king of Ireland.' The stone is said to

p. 200

have come from the island of Foal to abide for ever in the land of Tailtiu.

In Scottish records it is mentioned in 1249 at the coronation of Alexander III. at Scone; in 1296 it was carried off by Edward I. and placed in the chair of the celebrant priest in St. Edward's Chapel in Westminster Abbey. It is a stone of magic in origin, and the prophecies associated with it were thought to have been in part at least fulfilled when James VI. of Scotland acceded to the English Crown. Stones were often ascribed prophetical and healing virtues among the Celts. It was owing to the crystal stone which the Brahan Seer possessed that he had the gift of prophecy: such was also the case with his Irish parallel, Red Brian O’Cearbhan, who owned a precious jewel (āilleagan). Magic stones were associated with healing and were known to be in the possession of wizards: dipped in water they were held potent to avert the evil eye, to my own knowledge. In a book which appeared a few years ago by the late Rev. Mr. Macdonald, for long a clergyman in West Ross-shire, he writes: "The stitch-stone was a charm supposed to give relief in cases of severe pain from sciatica up to acute pleurisy. It was common property, and always kept by the person who used it last till required by another. The last specimen of which I heard about 30 years ago was in Erradale, parish of Gairloch. Mr. Matheson, F.C. minister, got hold of it and took it to the pulpit one day. At the close of the service he held it up before the congregation, remarking that the god of Erradale was the smallest god of which he had ever heard or read. It was a small piece of

p. 201

flint stone, 3 or 4 in. long, found on the shore and highly polished by the action of the waves. . . . Mr. Matheson broke it in their presence, and yet no dire results followed." 1

Pennant mentions the belief as current in the Highlands of the eighteenth century. He writes:

"Elf-shots, i.e. the stone arrow-heads of the old inhabitants of this island, are supposed to be weapons shot by Fairies at cattle, to which are attributed any disorders they have: in order to effect a cure, the cow is to be touched by an elf-shot, or made to drink the water in which one has been- dipped. The same virtue is said to be found in the crystal gems, and in the adder-stone, our Glein Naidr; and it is also believed that good fortune must attend the owner; so, for that reason, the first is called Clach bhuaidh, or the powerful stone (recte, stone of virtues). Captain Archibald Campbell showed me one, a spheroid set in silver, which people came for the use of above a hundred miles, and brought the water it was to be dipt in with them; for without that, in human cases, it was believed to have no effect.

"These have been supposed to be magical stones or gems used by the Druids to be inspected by a chaste boy, who was to see in them an apparition informing him of future events. This imposture, as we are told by Dr. Woodward, was revived in the last century by the famous Dr. Dee, who called it

p. 202

his shew stone or holy stone, and pretended, by its means, to foretell events. I find in Montfaucon that it was customary in early times to deposit balls of this kind in urns or sepulchres; thus twenty were found at Rome in an alabastrine urn, and one was discovered in 1653, in the tomb of Childeric at Tournai; he was king of France, and died A.D. 480."

Further illustration of stones in ritual I will give later on. Suffice it to add that such magic use presupposes that the stone was believed to have a soul. It is an idea not confined to uncivilised man. Bertholet remarks that in ancient Athens, with its famous culture, if a man was killed by a falling stone, a special court was held to pass sentence upon the offending object, which was condemned and transported beyond the frontier!

All over the Celtic area the stone-cult is met with. In parts of France newly-born children are placed on or passed over certain stones in the vicinity of or in certain churches. I need only refer to the innumerable instances given by M. Salomon Reinach 1 of the respect and awe inspired still by menhirs, dolmens and other sacred stones from which we may form some idea of the reverence in which they were held of old in Gaul. In parts of Brittany it is believed that certain stones go once a year, or once in every century, to be laved in the sea or in a river, and speedily return. Sacred stones when removed are held to come back of themselves in the night. The number of stones in the dolmen at Essé are held to change continually, to have the gift of going and coming like the Roman Penates which,

p. 203

according to Varro, were transported from Lavinium to Alba, but returned of their own accord to their ancient domicile. When sacred stones are credited with soul, i.e. with life and motion, they may be inferred to possess the gift of going and coming,—or as it is put regarding the stones of Callernish, Lewis, they cannot be counted, for they are never the same.

'Telling it to the stones' then is a phrase implying that certain sacred stones have souls. Elsewhere a stone may represent the image of earth as the common Great Mother: such, by the testimony of Arnobius, 1 was the image brought from Phrygia to Rome, merely a small black stone rough and unhewn. Some races (the Mexicans, the Indians of Colomba) think that all men were once stones; in Guatamela they placed polished stones in the mouth of the dying to supply a permanent abode for the soul; in New South Wales the blacks gave each novitiate at manhood ceremonials a white stone or quartz crystal 2 as an accompaniment to his new name, the women being forbidden to look at it on pain of death (Angas's Savage Life, ii. 21). In many quarters of the globe the decrees of fate are held to be revealed to the seer gazing into his crystal; higher races have in their past had their stone of Bethel and holy Kaaba. Tomb-stones erected for the dead chief gave further impetus to belief in the god-stone; decked with flowers and garlands, to the accompaniment of invocations and of dancing, the way was paved for the ceremonial cult of the idol (G. arracht),

p. 204

which among the Irish Celts we meet with on the Plain of Adoration (Mag Slecht) around Crom Cruach, to whom they used to offer the firstlings of every issue, and the chief scions of every clan. The name Crom may be cognate with the Teutonic hrúm, 'soot,' and if so Crom Cruach may mean 'the black one of the pile (heap or stack).' As the central idol was surrounded by twelve smaller ones in a circle, I take it that Crom himself was on an elevated heap in the centre. I shall return to him in treating of sacrifice, premising here that the modern name is Crom Dubh, i.e. Black Crom, and that the epithet 'black' (dubh) was only added by the moderns to make the archaic name Crom, which I infer to have signified 'black,' intelligible to a later age. Crom in folk tradition is said to have been accompanied by a leannan-sídhe or fairy sweetheart, who imparted him of her wiles as he required. He was as fleet as the wind and as nimble as the March hare, and he is depicted along with his two sons and their two mastiffs as careering the country to levy tribute; Crom came in the rear as a sort of chariot into which he stowed away the levies. So far he reminds one of the Wild Huntsman of Odin. But in Irish folklore the god-idol Crom Cruach or Crom Dubh has been humanised. In Mayo story he appears as a ruler, who had his own will in everything: "and that was the bad will, for he was an evil disposed man, venemous, fierce and morose." He is credited with two sons, Téideach and Clonnach, the former a folk-invention from a place named Poll a’ t-Séididh, 'the blowing hole,' the latter from clonn, 'a pillar, a chimney piece' (as it is given in O’Reilly). Crom,

p. 205

it is said, levied tribute on his people according to their means: any one who refused was brought into his presence as he sat at the fireside to pass judgement, and thereafter the recusant was cast into the fire. 1 This seems a reminiscence of the sacrifices and holocausts offered formerly to the god-idol. At his death, says legend, he was devoured by gnats and worms, and multitudes of people congregated in honour of St. Patrick's achievement over Crom, and were baptised at a well near hand, at Kilcummin, at the western end of Killala Bay (Benwee), where on Garland Sunday the anniversary is still kept up. The name not long ago survived in Lochaber, and is met with in the lines

Di-Domhnaich Slat-Pailm ’s ann ris tha mo stoirm,
Di-Domhnaich Crom-Dubh, plaoisgidh mi’n t-ubh,

which Nicolson 2 renders: 'On Palm Sunday is my stir; on crooked black Sunday I'll peel the egg.' He writes the word with the u vowel, Crum-dubh, "apparently for 'Crom-dubh,' and is known in Ireland as the title of the first Sunday of August, but in Lochaber it is applied to Easter." The u-form is due to the genitive Cruim-duibh. But there is no authority for taking the word to be the same as G. crom, 'crooked, bent.' From the account we get in the Tripartite Life of St. Patrick it was to all appearance a stone-idol, and falls thus to be included under the god-soul in stone, as to conception. As to the rites more anon. It would not do to destroy the old worship-stones (clachan aoraidh), said a

p. 206

[paragraph continues] Perthshire man to the Rev. Mr. Mackenzie, Kenmore. There had been one near his own door which was very much in the way, but he had with great labour dug a hole into which he had let it drop and covered it up, for it would never do to incur the anger of the spiritual beings by breaking it up. This was more than 30 years ago. 1


167:1 v. a chapter in my Memoirs of a Highland Gentleman, E. MacIver of Scourie.

168:1 Cf. Irish phrase: ní bhéidh fios an rúin ag an fhár-doras, implying that a secret is well kept when even the lintel stone of the doorway is. unaware of it.

168:2 Ralston, Songs of the Russian People, p. 370.

169:1 Reinach, Cultes.

169:2 Cf. Harrison, p. 325.

For Hebraic belief, v. Exod. 7:9-12; Numb. 21:9; 2 Ki. 18:4, etc.

170:1 Macdonald's 'East Central African Customs' in Journ. Anth. Inst. 22, p. 114.

170:2 Todd's Irish Version of Nennius, p. 204.

171:1 Cóir Anmann, ed. Stokes, p. 399. For further references to the man-wolf compare Eriu, iv. p. 11.

172:1 S. Reinach's Orpheus, 5th French ed., Paris (Alcide Picard), 1909, p. 172.

172:2 v. references in Gomme, ib. p. 277. He also gives Geraldus Cambrensis re St. Natalis.

172:3 Cf. Crimthann, 'wolf,' a name of Columba.

174:1 Moore, Folk-Lore of the Isle of Man, p. 62, where the account in Waldron is quoted. If dog names be non-Celtic, even then a parallel is got on non-Aryan ground in the Sacred Dog of China, the Pekeingese. The aunt of the reigning Chinese Emperor in 1860-61 committed suicide on being unable to keep her canine pets out of reach of the foreigner.

177:1 Shaw's Province of Moray, ed. 1775, pp. 306-307.

177:2 Ralston's Songs of Russian People, p. 120.

178:1 Moore, Folklore of the Isle of Man, pp. 54, 57.

180:1 Letter from Rev. Dr. K. A. Mackenzie, minister of Kingussie, dated 5th July, 1900. His father was minister of Lochcarron after Mr. Lachlan Mackenzie's death.

180:2 Trevelyan, 103.

181:1 See the writer's rendering of the Lay in the Celtic Dragon Myth, pp. 20-22 (Edinburgh: J. Grant). For another tale wherein the quicken tree figures, see Joyce's Old Gaelic Romances.

181:2 Uhland's Volkslieder, 241.

182:1 Deirdire and the Lay of the Children of Uisne, ed. A. Carmichael, p.111.

182:2 Aeneid, iii. 27-34.

182:3 Metamorph. viii. 741.

183:1 Idyll, Xviii. 48.

183:2 For a curious custom of telling the trees of certain things in Cornwall, see Couch, History of Polperro, p. 168.

184:1 A celebrated one was Tāsg Sheumais Mhóir. The shepherd and the farmer and the miller heard it. All agreed it was Tāsg Sheumais Mhóir. And they were right (they thought).

184:2 Cha chreid mi gur h-e beathach ceart th’ann; aig an drochaid thug e sgal chruaidh thug fuaim air na creagan aig Meile-fitheach. Cha'n urrainn tāsg dhol seachad air uisg gun sgrìamhail. Theid an tāsg a réir pearsa an duine: sgread chruaidh bhiorach: bheireadh e air a h-uile gaoistean fuilt umad seasamh air a cheann = I do not believe that it was a right (i.e. natural) creature: at the bridge it gave a harsh yell that resounded among the rocks of Meile-fitheach. A ghost cannot go across water without screeching. The ghost bears a proportion to the human personality; a hard piercing yell (in this instance, of Big James's ghost); it would make every hair on thee stand on end.

186:1 Proceed. Soc. Antiq. Scotland, vol. xii., year 1876-1877, by Mr. William Galloway, architect.

187:1 Joyce's Irish Names of Places.

188:1 Proceed. Soc. Antiq. Scot. viii. 104

189:1 Cf. poem on three celebrated trees of Ireland in Celtische Zeitschrift, v. 21.

189:2 Campbell of Islay, MS. Collection, Advocates' Library, vol. x., last tale.

189:3 Leabhar na g-Ceart, 151n, and v. Battle of Magh Leana and Tochmarc Momera, ed. O’Curry, p. 67n.

190:1 O’Curry's Magh Leana, 95n, after MS. H. 2, 16 (Roy. Ir. Acad.).

191:1 Issin Chroeb-ruaid, imorro, no bitis narríg, edhon ba ruad do na rigaib. See O’Curry's trans., Manners and Customs, ii. p. 332, from Bk. of Leinster = H. 2, 16, fol. 69 b.b.

192:1 Voyage of Bran, ed. Meyer, pp. 4 and 6.

192:2 S.C. § 33 and Leahy's translation.

193:1 Cf. E. Hull, 'The Silver Bough', in Folk-Lore.

194:1 Curr, The Australian Race, ii. 199; and Palmer in Journ. Anthr. Inst. xiii. 292.

195:1 Brinton's Religion of Primitive Peoples, p. 150.

195:2 Cormac's Glossary, ed. Stokes, p. 155.

197:1 Keating's History of Ireland, ed. Irish Texts Society, vol. ii. 173-175.

197:2 Skeat and Blagden's Pagan Races of Malay Peninsula, i. 13.

198:1 Such concepts fit in with the matriarchal stage of society. Mr. Gomme remarks: "The soul-bird belief and the tree-naming custom are different phases of one conception of social life, a conception definitely excluding recognition of blood-kinship, and derived from the conscious adoption of an experience which has not reached the stage of blood-kinship, but which includes a close association with natural objects" (Folk-Lore as an Historical Science, p. 248). Thus among the Arunta tribe in Australia the child is thought to be the reincarnation of one of the spirits which haunted the spot or totem-centre where the mother first felt herself quickened. There is sympathetic association with the object or external soul. Totemism is really no product of any conceptual theory, as Dr. Frazer argues for; it falls under the wider category of Manism.

198:2 H. Gaidoz, Esquisse de la Religion des Gaulois, p. 12.

199:1 Bk. ii. 53 (ed. Dinneen).

199:2 Ib. i. 101.

199:3 Ib. 209; cf. O’Grady's Silva Gadelica, ii. 264; Meyer and Nutt's Bran, i. 187, and the tale of 'Baile an Scāil' in the same work.

201:1 Rev. K. Macdonald of Applecross, Social and Religious Life in the Highlands, p. 34 (Edinburgh, 1902). Mr. Lang (Hist. of Scotland, ii. 560) speaks of a seat with a stone in it as still existing in Glasgow, and of a black capping-stone at St. Andrews, and asks: Is this a relic of fetichism?'

202:1 Cultes, iii. 365-433.

203:1 Contra Gentes, vii. 49.

203:2 For association of a white stone with a new name, cf. Rev. 2:17.

205:1 Lúb na Caillighe (ed. Lloyd), Connradh na Gaedhilge, 1910, p. 34.

205:2 Proverbs, p. 167.

206:1 Proc. Soc. Antiq. Scot. for 1900.

Next: III. The Earthly Journey