The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries, by W.Y. Evans-Wentz, , at sacred-texts.com
'In the Beauty of the World lies the ultimate redemption of our mortality. When we shall become at one with nature in a sense profounder even than the poetic imaginings of most of us, we shall understand what now we fail to discern.'--FIONA MACLEOD.
Psychical interpretation--The mysticism of Erin and Armorica--In Ireland--In Scotland--In the Isle of Man--In Wales--In Cornwall--In Brittany.
As a preliminary to our study it is important, as we shall see later, to give some attention to the influences and purely natural environment under which the Fairy-Faith has grown up. And in doing so it will be apparent to what extent there is truth in the Naturalistic Theory; though from the first our interpretation of Environment is fundamentally psychical. In this first chapter, then, in so far as they can be recorded, we shall record a few impressions, which will, in a way, serve as introductory to the more definite and detailed consideration of the Fairy-Faith itself.
Ireland and Brittany, the two extremes of the modern Celtic world, are for us the most important points from which to take our initial bearings. Both washed by the waters of the Ocean of Atlantis, the one an island, the other a peninsula, they have best preserved their old racial life in its simplicity and beauty, with its high ideals, its mystical traditions, and its strong spirituality. And, curious though the statement may appear to some, this preservation of older manners and traditions does not seem to be due so much to geographical isolation as to subtle forces so strange and mysterious that to know them they must be felt; and their nature can only be suggested, for it cannot be described.
[paragraph continues] Over Erin and Armorica, as over Egypt, there hovers a halo of romance, of strangeness, of mysticism real and positive; and, if we mistake not the language of others, these phrases of ours but echo opinions common to many Celts native of the two countries--they who have the first right to testify; and not only are there poets and seers among them, but men of the practical world as well, and men of high rank in scholarship, in literature, in art, and even in science.
If anyone would know Ireland and test these influences--influences which have been so fundamental in giving to the Fairy-Faith of the past something more than mere beauty of romance and attractive form, and something which even to-day, as in the heroic ages, is ever-living and ever-present in the centres where men of the second-sight say that they see fairies in that strange state of subjectivity which the peasant calls Fairyland--let him stand on the Hill of Tara silently and alone at sunset, in the noonday, in the mist of a dark day. Let him likewise silently and alone follow the course of the Boyne. Let him enter the silence of New Grange and of Dowth. Let him muse over the hieroglyphics of Lough Crew. Let him feel the mystic beauty of Killarney, the peacefulness of Glendalough, of Monasterboise, of Clonmacnois, and the isolation of Aranmore. Let him dare to enter the rings of fairies, to tempt the 'good folk' at their raths and forts. Let him rest on the ancient cairn above the mountain-palace of Finvara and look out across the battlefields of Moytura. Let him wander amid the fairy dells of gentle Connemara. Let him behold the Irish Sea from the Heights of Howth, as Fionn Mac Cumhail used to do. Let him listen to the ocean-winds amid Dun Aengus. Let him view the stronghold of Cuchulainn and the Red Branch Knights. Let him linger beside that mysterious lake which lies embosomed between two prehistoric cairns on the summit of enchanted Slieve Gullion, where yet dwells invisible the mountain's Guardian, a fairy woman. Let him then try to interpret the mysticism of an ancient Irish
myth, in order to understand why men have been told that in the plain beneath this magic mountain of Ireland mighty warfare was once waged on account of a Bull, by the hosts of Queen Meave against those of Cuchulainn the hero of Ulster. Let him be lost in the mists on the top of Ben Bulbin. Let him know the haunts of fairy kings and queens in Roscommon. Let him follow in the footsteps of Patrick and Bridgit and Columba. When there are dark days and stormy nights, let him sit beside a blazing fire of fragrant peat in a peasant's straw-thatched cottage listening to tales of Ireland's golden age--tales of gods, of heroes, of ghosts, and of fairy-folk. If he will do these things, he will know Ireland, and why its people believe in fairies.
As yet, little has been said concerning the effects of clouds, of natural scenery, of weird and sudden transformations in earth and sky and air, which play their part in shaping the complete Fairy-Faith of the Irish; but what we are about to say concerning Scotland will suggest the same things for Ireland, because the nature of the landscape and the atmospheric changes are much the same in the two countries, both inland and on their rock-bound and storm-swept shores.
In the moorlands between Trossachs and Aberfoyle, a region made famous by Scott's Rob Roy, I have seen atmospheric changes so sudden and so contrasted as to appear marvellous. What shifting of vapours and clouds, what flashes of bright sun-gleams, then twilight at midday! Across the landscape, shadows of black dense fog-banks rush like shadows of flocks of great birds which darken all the earth. Palpitating fog-banks wrap themselves around the mountain-tops and then come down like living things to move across the valleys, sometimes only a few yards above the traveller's head. And in that country live terrible water-kelpies. When black clouds discharge their watery burden it is in wind-driven vertical water-sheets through which the world appears as through an ice-filmed window-pane. Perhaps in a single day there may be the bluest of heavens and
the clearest air, the densest clouds and the darkest shadows, the calm of the morning and the wind of the tempest. At night in Aberfoyle after such a day, I witnessed a clear sunset and a fair evening sky; in the morning when I arose, the lowlands along the river were inundated and a thousand cascades, large and small, were leaping down the mountain-highlands, and rain was falling in heavy masses. Within an hour afterwards, as I travelled on towards Stirling, the rain and wind ceased, and there settled down over all the land cloud-masses so inky-black that they seemed like the fancies of some horrible dream. Then like massed armies they began to move to their mountain-strongholds, and stood there; while from the east came perfect weather and a flood of brilliant sunshine.
And in the Highlands from Stirling to Inverness what magic, what changing colours and shadows there were on the age-worn treeless hills, and in the valleys with their clear, pure streams receiving tribute from unnumbered little rills and springs, some dropping water drop by drop as though it were fairy-distilled; and everywhere the heather giving to the mountain-landscape a hue of rich purplish-brown, and to the air an odour of aromatic fragrance.
On to the north-west beyond Inverness there is the same kind of a treeless highland country; and then after a few hours of travel one looks out across the water from Kyle and beholds Skye, where Cuchulainn is by some believed to have passed his young manhood learning feats of arms from fairy women,--Skye, dark, mountainous, majestic, with its waterfalls turning to white spray as they tumble from cliff to cliff into the sound, from out the clouds that hide their mountain-summit sources.
In the Outer Hebrides, as in the Aranmore Islands off West Ireland, influences are at work on the Celtic imagination quite different from those in Skye and its neighbouring islands. Mountainous billows which have travelled from afar out of the mysterious watery waste find their first impediment on the west of these isolated Hebridean isles, and they fling themselves like mad things in full fury
against the wild rocky islets fringing the coast. White spray flashes in unearthly forms over the highest cliff, and the unrestrained hurricane whirls it far inland. Ocean's eternally murmuring sounds set up a responsive vibration in the soul of the peasant, as be in solitude drives home his flocks amid the weird gloaming at the end of a December day; and, later, when he sits brooding in his humble cottage at night, in the fitful flickering of a peat fire, he has a mystic consciousness that deep down in his being there is a more divine music compared with which that of external nature is but a symbol and an echo; and, as he stirs the glowing peat-embers, phantoms from an irretrievable past seem to be sitting with him on the edge of the half-circle of dying light. Maybe there are skin-clad huntsmen of the sea and land, with spears and knives of bone and flint and shaggy sleeping dogs, or fearless sea-rovers resting wearily on shields of brilliant bronze, or maybe Celtic warriors fierce and bold; and then he understands that his past and his present are one.
Commonly there is the thickest day-darkness when the driving storms come in from the Atlantic, or when dense fog covers sea and land; and, again, there are melancholy sea-winds moaning across from shore to shore, bending the bushes of the purple heather. At other times there is a sparkle of the brightest sunshine on the ocean waves, a fierceness foreign to the more peaceful Highlands; and then again a dead silence prevails at sunrise and at sunset if one be on the mountains, or, if on the shore, no sound is heard save the rhythmical beat of the waves, and now and then the hoarse cry of a sea-bird. All these contrasted conditions may be seen in one day, or each may endure for a day; and the dark days last nearly all the winter. And then it is, during the long winter, that the crofters and fisher-folk congregate night after night in a different neighbour's house to tell about fairies and ghosts, and to repeat all those old legends so dear to the heart of the Celt. Perhaps every one present has heard the same story or legend a hundred times, yet it is always listened to and told as though it were the
latest bulletin of some great world-stirring event. Over those little islands, so far away to the north, out on the edge of the world, in winter-time darkness settles down at four o'clock or even earlier; and the islanders hurry through with their dinner of fish and oat-bread so as not to miss hearing the first story. When the company has gathered from far and near, pipes are re-filled and lit and the peat is heaped up, for the story-telling is not likely to end before midnight. 'The house is roomy and clean, if homely, with its bright peat fire in the middle of the floor. There are many present--men and women, boys and girls. All the women are seated, and most of the men. Girls are crouched between the knees of fathers or brothers or friends, while boys are perched wherever--boy-like--they can climb. The house-man is twisting twigs of heather into ropes to hold down thatch, a neighbour crofter is twining quicken root into cords to tie cows, while another is plaiting bent grass into baskets to hold meal. The housewife is spinning, a daughter is carding, another daughter is teazing, while a third daughter, supposed to be working, is away in the background conversing in low whispers with the son of a neighbouring crofter. Neighbour wives and neighbour daughters are knitting, sewing, or embroidering.' 1 Then when the bad weather for fishing has been fully discussed by the men, and the latest gossip by the women, and the foolish talk of the youths and maidens in the corners is finished, the one who occupies the chair of honour in the midst of the ceilidh 2 looks around to be sure that everybody is comfortable and ready; and, as his first story begins, even the babes by instinct cease their noise and crying, and young and old bend forward eagerly to hear every word. It does
not matter if some of the boys and girls do topple over asleep, or even some of the older folk as the hour gets late; the tales meet no interruption in their even, unbroken flow. And here we have the most Celtic and the most natural environments which the Fairy-Faith enjoys in Scotland.
There are still the Southern Highlands in the country around Oban, and the islands near them; and of all these isles none is so picturesque in history as the one Columba loved so well. Though Iona enjoys less of the wildness of the Hebrides furthest west, it has their storm-winds and fogs and dark days, and their strangeness of isolation. On it, as Adamnan tells us, the holy man fought with black demons who came to invade his monastery, and saw angelic hosts; and when the angels took his soul at midnight in that little chapel by the sea-shore there was a mystic light which illuminated all the altar like the brightest sunshine. But nowadays, where the saint saw demons and angels the Islanders see ghosts and 'good people', and when one of these islanders is taken in death it is not by angels--it is by fairies.
In the midst of the Irish Sea, almost equidistant from Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, and concentrating in itself the psychical and magnetic influences from these three Celtic lands, and from Celto-Saxon England too, lies the beautiful kingdom of the great Tuatha De Danann god, Manannan Mac Lir, or, as his loyal Manx subjects prefer to call him, Mannanan-Beg-Mac-y-Leir. In no other land of the Celt does Nature show so many moods and contrasts, such perfect repose at one time and at another time the mightiness of its unloosed powers, when the baffled sea throws itself angrily against a high rock-bound coast, as wild and almost as weatherworn as the western coasts of Ireland and the Hebrides.
But it is Nature's calmer moods which have greater effect upon the Manx people: on the summit of his ancient stronghold, South Barrule Mountain, the god Manannan yet dwells invisible to mortal eyes, and whenever on a warm day be throws off his magic mist-blanket with which he is wont to
cover the whole island, the golden gorse or purple heather blossoms become musical with the hum of bees, and sway gently on breezes made balmy by the tropical warmth of an ocean stream flowing from the far distant Mexican shores of a New World. Then in many a moist and sweet-smelling glen, pure and verdant, land-birds in rejoicing bands add to the harmony of sound, as they gather on the newly-ploughed field or dip themselves in the clear water of the tinkling brook; and from the cliffs and rocky islets on the coast comes the echo of the multitudinous chorus of sea-birds. At sunset, on such a day, as evening calmness settles down, weird mountain shadows begin to move across the dimly-lighted glens; and when darkness has fallen, there is a mystic stillness, broken only by the ceaseless throbbing of the sea-waves, the flow of brooks, and the voices of the night.
In the moorland solitudes, even by day, there sometimes broods a deeper silence, which is yet more potent and full of meaning for the peasant, as under its spell he beholds the peaceful vision, happy and sunlit, of sea and land, of gentle mountains falling away in land-waves into well-tilled plains and fertile valleys; and he comes to feel instinctively the old Druidic Fires relit within his heart, and perhaps unconsciously he worships there in Nature's Temple. The natural beauty without awakens the divine beauty within, and for a second of time he, out of his subconsciousness, is conscious that in Nature there are beings and inaudible voices which have no existence for the flippant pleasure-seeking crowds who come and go. To the multitude, his ancestral beliefs are foolishness, his fairies but the creatures of a fervid Celtic imagination which readily responds to unusual phenomena and environments. They will not believe with him that all beauty and harmony in the world are but symbolic, and that behind these stand unseen sustaining forces and powers which are conscious and eternal; and though by instinct they willingly personify Nature they do not know the secret of why they do so: for them the outer is reality, the inner non-existent.
From the Age of Stone to the civilized era of to-day, the Isle of Man has been, in succession, the home of every known
race and people who have flourished in Western Europe; and though subject, in turn, to the Irish Gael and to the Welsh Brython, to Northmen and to Danes, to Scots and to English, and the scene of sweeping transformations in religion, as pagan cults succeeded one another, to give way to the teaching of St. Patrick and his disciples St. German and St. Maughold, and this finally to the Protestant form of Christianity, the island alone of Celtic lands has been strangely empowered to maintain in almost primitive purity its ancient constitution and freedom, and though geographically at the very centre of the United Kingdom, is not a part of it. The archaeologist may still read in mysterious symbols of stone and earth, as they lie strewn over the island's surface, the history of this age-long panoramic procession of human evolution; while through these same symbols the Manx seer reads a deeper meaning; and sometimes in the superhuman realm of radiant light, to which since long ago they have oft come and oft returned, he meets face to face the gods and heroes whose early tombs stand solitary on the wind-swept mountain-top and moorland, or hidden away in the embrace of wild flowers and verdure amid valleys; and in the darker mid-world he sees innumerable ghosts of many of these races which have perished.
Less can be said of Wales than of Ireland, or of Scotland as a whole. It has, it is true, its own peculiar psychic atmosphere, different, no doubt, because its people are Brythonic Celts rather than Gaelic Celts. But Wales, with conditions more modernized than is the case in Ireland or in the Western Hebrides of Scotland, does not now exhibit in a vigorous or flourishing state those Celtic influences which, when they were active, did so much to create the precious Romances of Arthur and his Brotherhood, and to lay the foundations for the Welsh belief in the Tylwyth Teg, a fairy race still surviving in a few favoured localities.
Wales, like all Celtic countries, is a land of long sea-coasts, though there seems to be, save in the mountains of the north,
less of mist and darkness and cloud effects than in Ireland and Scotland. In the south, perhaps the most curious influences are to be felt at St. David's Head, and in St. David's itself--once the goal for thousands of pilgrims from many countries of mediaeval Europe, and, probably, in pagan times the seat of an oracle. And a place of like character is the peninsula of Gower, south of Swansea. Caerphilly Castle, where the Green Lady reigns now amid its ruined acres, is a strange place; and so is the hill near Carmarthen, where Merlin is asleep in a cave with the fairy-woman Vivian. But in none of these places to-day is there a strong living faith in fairies as there is, for example, in West Ireland. The one region where I found a real Celtic atmosphere--and it is a region where everybody speaks Welsh--is a mountainous country rarely visited by travellers, save archaeologists, a few miles from Newport; and its centre is the Pentre Evan Cromlech, the finest cromlech in Wales if not in Britain. By this prehistoric monument and in the country round the old Nevern Church, three miles away, there is an active belief in the 'fair-folk', in ghosts, in death-warnings, in death-candles and phantom-funerals, and in witchcraft and black magic. Thence on to Newcastle-Emlyn and its valley, where many of the Mabinogion stories took form, or at least from where they drew rich material in the way of folk-lore, 1 are environments purely Welsh and as yet little disturbed by the commercial materialism of the age.
There remain now to be mentioned three other places in Wales to me very impressive psychically. These are: ancient Harlech, so famous in recorded Welsh fairy-romance--Harlech with its strange stone-circles, and old castle from which the Snowdon Range is seen to loom majestically and clear, and with its sun-kissed bay; Mount Snowdon, with its memories of Arthur and Welsh heroes; and sacred Anglesey or Mona, strewn with tumuli, and dolmens, and pillar-stones--Mona, where the Druids made their last stand
against the Roman eagles--and its little island called Holy-head, facing Ireland.
However, when all is said, modern Wales is poorer in its fairy atmosphere than modern Ireland or modern Brittany. Certainly there is a good deal of this fairy atmosphere yet, though it has become less vital than the similar fairy atmosphere in the great centres of Erin and Armorica. But the purely social environment under which the Fairy-Faith of Wales survives is a potent force which promises to preserve underneath the surface of Welsh national life, where the commercialism of the age has compelled it to retire in a state of temporary latency, the ancestral idealism of the ancient Brythonic race. In Wales, as in Lower Brittany and in parts of Ireland and the Hebrides, one may still hear in common daily use a language which has been continuously spoken since unknown centuries before the rise of the Roman empire. And the strong hold which the Druidic Eisteddfod (an annual national congress of bards and literati) continues to have upon the Welsh people, in spite of their commercialism, is, again, a sign that their hearts remain uncorrupted, that when the more favourable hour strikes they will sweep aside the deadening influences which now hold them in spiritual bondage, and become, as they were in the past, true children of Arthur.
Strikingly like Brittany in physical aspects, Southern and Western Cornwall is a land of the sea, of rolling plains and moorlands rather than of high hills and mountains, a land of golden-yellow furze-bloom, where noisy crowds of black crows and white sea-gulls mingle together over the freshly-turned or new-sown fields, and where in the spring-time the call of the cuckoo is heard with the song of the skylark. Like the Isle of Man, from the earliest ages Cornwall has been a meeting-place and a battle-ground for contending races. The primitive dark Iberian peoples gave way before Aryan-Celtic invaders, and these to Roman and then to Germanic invaders.
Nature has been kind to the whole of Cornwall, but chiefly upon the peninsula whose ancient capital is Penzance (which possibly means 'the Holy Headland'), and upon the land immediately eastward and northward of it, she has bestowed her rarest gifts. Holding this territory embosomed in the pure waters of Ocean, and breathing over it the pure air of the Atlantic in spring and in summer calm, when the warm vapours from the Gulf Stream sweep over it freely, and make it a land of flowers and of singing-birds, Nature preserves eternally its beauty and its sanctity. There are there ruined British villages whose builders are long forgotten, strange prehistoric circular sun-temples like fortresses crowning the hill-tops, mysterious underground passage-ways, and crosses probably pre-Christian. Everywhere are the records of the mighty past of this thrice-holy Druid land of sunset. There are weird legends of the lost kingdom of Fair Lyonesse, which seers sometimes see beneath the clear salt waves, with all its ancient towns and flowery fields; legends of Phoenicians and Oriental merchants who came for tin; legends of gods and of giants, of pixies and of fairies, of King Arthur in his castle at Tintagel, of angels and of saints, of witches and of wizards.
On Dinsul, 'Hill dedicated to the Sun,' pagan priests and priestesses kept kindled the Eternal Fire, and daily watched eastward for the rising of the God of Light and Life, to greet his coming with paeans of thanksgiving and praise. Then after the sixth century the new religion had come proclaiming a more mystic Light of the World in the Son of God, and to the pious half-pagan monks who succeeded the Druids the Archangel St. Michael appeared in vision on the Sacred Mount. 1 And before St. Augustine came to Britain the Celts of Cornwall had already combined in their own mystical way the spiritual message of primitive Christianity with the pure nature-worship of their ancestors; and their
land was then, as it most likely had been in pagan days, a centre of pilgrimages for their Celtic kinsmen from Ireland, from Wales, from England, and from Brittany. When in later times new theological doctrines were superimposed on this mysticism of Celtic Christianity, the Sacred Fires were buried in ashes, and the Light and Beauty of the pagan world obscured with sackcloth.
But there in that most southern and western corner of the Isle of Britain, the Sacred Fires themselves still burn on the divine hill-tops, though smothered in the hearts of its children. The Cornishman's vision is no longer clear. He looks upon cromlech and dolmen, upon ancient caves of initiation, and upon the graves of his prehistoric ancestors, and vaguely feels, but does not know, why his land is so holy, is so permeated by an indefinable magic; for he has lost his ancestral mystic touch with the unseen--he is 'educated' and 'civilized'. The hand of the conqueror has fallen more heavily upon the people of Cornwall than upon any other Celtic people, and now for a time, but let us hope happily only for this dark period of transition, they sleep--until Arthur comes to break the spell and set them free.
As was pointed out at the beginning of this chapter, Ireland and Brittany are to be regarded as the two poles of the modern Celtic world, but it is believed by Celtic mystics that they are much more than this, that they are two of its psychic centres, with Tara and Carnac as two respective points of focus from which the Celtic influence of each country radiates. 1 With such a psychical point of view, it makes no difference at all whether one scholar argues Carnac to be Celtic and another pre-Celtic, for if pre-Celtic, as it most likely is, it has certainly been bequeathed to the people who were and are Celtic, and its influence has been an unbroken thing from times altogether beyond the horizon of
history. According to this theory (and in following it we are merely trying to put on record unique material transmitted to us by the most learned of contemporary Celtic mystics and seers) there seem to be certain favoured places on the earth where its magnetic and even more subtle forces are most powerful and most easily felt by persons susceptible to such things; and Carnac appears to be one of the greatest of such places in Europe, and for this reason, as has been thought, was probably selected by its ancient priest-builders as the great centre for religious practices, for the celebration of pagan mysteries, for tribal assemblies, for astronomical observations, and very likely for establishing schools in which to educate neophytes for the priesthood. Tara, with its tributary Boyne valley, is a similar place in Ireland, so selected and so used, as, in our study of the cult of fairies and the cult of the dead, manuscript evidence will later indicate. And thus to such psychical and magnetic, or, according perhaps to others, religious or traditional influences as focus themselves at Tara and Carnac, though in other parts of the two countries as well, may be due in a great, even in an essential measure, the vigorous and ever-living Fairy-Faith of Ireland, and the innate and ever-conscious belief of the Breton people in the Legend of the Dead and in a world invisible. For fairies and souls of the dead, though, strictly speaking, not confused, are believed to be beings of the subjective world existing to-day, and influencing mortals, as they have always existed and influenced them according to ancient and modern traditions, and as they appear now in the eyes even of science through the work of a few pioneer scientists in psychical research. And it seems probable that subjective beings of this kind, granting their existence, were made use of by the ancient Druids, and even by Patrick when the old and new religions met to do battle on the Hill of Tara. The control of Tara, as a psychical centre, meant the psychical control of all Ireland. To-day on the Hill of Tara the statue of St. Patrick dwarfs the Liath Stone beside it; at Carnac the Christian Cross overshadows dolmens and menhirs.
A learned priest of the Roman Church told me, when I met him in Galway, that in his opinion those places in Ireland where ancient sacrifices were performed to pagan or Druid gods are still, unless they have been regularly exorcized, under the control of demons (daemons). And what the Druids were at Tara and throughout Erin and most probably at Carnac as well, the priests were in Egypt, and the pythonesses in Greece. That is to say, Druids, Egyptian priests, priestesses in charge of Greek oracles, are said to have foretold the future, interpreted omens, worked all miracles and wonders of magic by the aid of daemons, who were regarded as an order of invisible beings, intermediary between gods and men, and as sometimes including the shades from Hades.
I should say as before, if he who knowing Ireland, the Land of Faerie, would know in the same manner Brittany, the Land of the Dead, let him silently and alone walk many times--in sun, in wind, in storm, in thick mist--through the long, broad avenues of stone of the Alignements at Carnac. Let him watch from among them the course of the sun from east to west. Let him stand on St. Michael's Mount on the day of the winter solstice, or on the day of the summer solstice. Let him enter the silence of its ancient underground chamber, so dark and so mysterious. Let him sit for hours musing amid cromlechs and dolmens, and beside menhirs, and at holy wells. Let him marvel at the mightiest of menhirs now broken and prostrate at Locmariaquer, and then let him ponder over the subterranean places near it. Let him try to read the symbolic inscriptions on the rocks in Gavrinis. Let him stand on the Île de Sein at sunrise and at sunset. Let him penetrate the solitudes of the Forest of Brocéliande, and walk through the Val-Sans-Retour (Vale-Without-Return). And then let him wander in footpaths with the Breton peasant through fields where good dames sit on the sunny side of a bush or wall, knitting stockings, where there are long hedges of furze, golden-yellow with bloom--even in January--and listen to stories about corrigans, and about the dead who mingle here with the
living. Let him enter the peasant's cottage when there is fog over the land and the sea-winds are blowing across the shifting sand-dunes, and hear what he can tell him. Let him, even as he enjoys the picturesque customs and dress of the Breton folk and looks on at their joyous ronde (perhaps the relic of a long-forgotten sun-dance), observe the depth of their nature, their almost ever-present sense of the seriousness of human life and effort, their beautiful characters as their mystic land has shaped them without the artificiality of books and schools, their dreaminess as they look out across the ocean, their often perfect physique and fine profiles and rosy cheeks, and yet withal their brooding innate melancholy. And let him know that there is with them always an overshadowing consciousness of an invisible world, not in some distant realm of space, but here and now, blending itself with this world; its inhabitants, their dead ancestors and friends, mingling with them daily, and awaiting the hour when the Ankou (a King of the Dead) shall call each to join their invisible company.
6:1 Alexander Carmichael, Carmina Gadelica (Edinburgh, 1900), i, p. xix.
6:2 The ceilidh of the Western Hebrides corresponds to the veillée of Lower Brittany (see pp. 221 ff.), and to similar story-telling festivals which formerly flourished among all the Celtic peoples. 'The ceilidh is a literary entertainment where stories and tales, poems, and ballads, are rehearsed and recited, and songs are sung, conundrums are put, proverbs are quoted, and many other literary matters are related and discussed.'--Alexander Carmichael, Carmina Gadelica, i, p. xviii.
10:1 I am indebted for this information to the late Mr. Davies, the competent scholar and antiquarian of Newcastle-Emlyn, where for many years he has been vicar.
12:1 In the Gnosis, St. Michael symbolizes the sun, and thus very appropriately at St. Michael's Mount, Cornwall, at Mont St. Michel, Carnac, and also at Mont St. Michel on the coast of Normandy, replaced the Great God of Light and Life, held in supreme honour among the ancient Celts.
13:1 In this connexion we may think of the North and South Magnetic Poles of the earth as centres of definite yet invisible forces which can be detected, and to some extent measured scientifically.