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above the waves; and they say that Ireland was formerly united to that land, until for the sins of its inhabitants, the greater part of it was engulphed in the ocean.
The punishment of sin, by drowning the land which it corrupted, and the acknowledgment of a paradise in the pre-existing world, are features of the truth, which it is impossible to mistake. Even, however, if this conclusion were denied, still the evidence of the enduring nature of superstition would be scarcely less strong; for the more you make it irrational, by taking away a sufficient cause, the more you increase the wonder. Whatever may be the origin of the persuasion, its immediate descent (if any thing can be called immediate which may be considered at least 3000 years old) is undoubtedly from Hindostan; for there the Sanscrit books speak much of the happy island in the west where the progenitors of mankind reside and Marco Polo reports the same story of Ceylon, as the Arrannese do of Ireland. Another point may be noticed here, in which Ireland coincides with the East. The Hindoos believe that, by passing through a hole in a rock, regeneration may be obtained; a corresponding notion among the Irish is thus related:- In the island of Innisfollen, in the Lake of Killarney, there grows a tree called the eye of the needle, from a hole caused by its rising with a double trunk, and uniting again above. When the visitor asked the use of squeezing through it, the guide replied, 1 Lardner's Ancient Geography, p. 385.
"It will ensure your honour a long life." Now if those notions arose, as Bryant maintains, from the passage through the door of the ark into a new state of existence on the renovated earth, the wooden aperture at Innisfollen was a more appropriate memorial than the stone of India; but perhaps the most singular incorporation of ancient superstitions with a reverence for Christianity is a custom, which is said to be not yet wholly abolished in Wales. At Llandegla, in Denbighshire, patients in epilepsy washed in the well of St. Thecla, and having made an offering of a few pence, walked thrice round the well, and thrice repeated the Lord's Prayer. The ceremony never began till after sunset. The patient then entered into the church, and got under the communion table, where, putting a Bible under his head, and being covered with a carpet or cloth, he rested till break of day, and then having made an offering of sixpence, and leaving a fowl in the church, which had previously been carried round the well, he departed.2 Here we behold a reliance upon the Word of God, and the holiness of his house of worship, strangely mingled with the ancient sacrifice of a cock to Esculapius the restorer of health, and the threefold revolution round the mystic waters, and the communion table substituted for the heathen sanctuary and the sacred cave. So that we need not wonder, if in a country, which
1 Legends of the Lakes by Crofton Croker.
2 Roberts's Popular Antiquities of Wales, p. 238.
has enjoyed less advantages of education and fewer opportunities of learning the truths contained in the Bible, the traveller finds reason to say, "Thus you see among the sacred things of this untravelled spot (the principal island of the Strophades), how large a proportion still are caves and fountains; you see how little the spirit of its sanctity has been affected by the change of its religion; how little it ceased to be Grecian when it became Christian." The threefold circumgyration round carns and chapels, with a view to the recovery of health, is said to be still practised in Scotland; at least it was not long ago; and Martin of the Isles mentions the same ceremony (the Deisiul) having been performed round himself by a beggar, in token of respect and gratitude. It has been already mentioned, that on Beltane morning water received its honours from the Scottish Celts as a source of health, and emblem of purification; but there was another mode of purification, the subsequent invention of philosophical refinement, but still boasting a very high antiquity, which was equally observed on that day. It was the first of May, which
1 Waddington on the Greek Church, p. 203.
The Mahommedans of Algiers are equally superstitious about fountains, but it is an evil spirit which they suppose to reside in them, and whom they still propitiate by sacrifices. Campbell saw some fowls dipped with great ceremony in the sacred sea; after which the high priest took them to a neighbouring fountain and cut their throats. -Letters from the South, i. 178.
So, too, the peasantry on the banks of the Garonne suppose that the inundations of the river are occasioned by wicked spirits bathing in its springs. Murray's Summer in the Pyrenees, ii. 174.
was the commencement of the Celtic year: and, on the eve of that day, two fires were kindled near one another in every village of the nation, one on the Earn, and the other on the ground adjoining; and between the two the men and beasts to be sacrificed were made to pass. The sacrifices, indeed, are not continued, but the fire is.' In the parish of Callander, on the first of May, the herdsmen cut a square trench in the ground, leaving the turf in the middle, on which the fire is kindled. But since it was a common thing to substitute a period of six months for a period of twelve, and to repeat those ceremonies at the end of the former period, which properly belonged to the latter, the Druids had also their solemn fires on the 1st of November, to which, all other fires being previously extinguished, every man was bound to repair to obtain some for his domestic hearth; and this custom also is retained in many parts of Scotland. The Hallow-eve fires continue to be kindled; and, in some places, should any family through negligence, suffer this
1 Barth's remark upon the Johannisfeuer kindled by the Greeks upon the Bosphorus is this: Sollte das ein Ueberbleibsel gemeinschaftlicher altthrakischer Sitte sein? so entstehen, so erhalten sich Gebräuche, und die alte Zeit spielt mit den klugen Kindern der neuen.-Hertha, 92. He is right; but, what is more, his explanation of this old Thracian custom is, to a certain point, correct also: they were rejoicing fires, like those which the Germans kindled in 1814. But on the tops of hills they had another use; they were signals employed by those nations, to whom some particular phasis of the moon was sacred, as that of the sixth day among the Celts; and thus the knowledge of the new month having begun at Jerusalem was spread through all Palestine.—Idelev Lehrbuch, p. 214.
2 Jamieson's Dictionary of the Scottish language. 3 Borlase's Antiquities of Cornwall, p. 130.
sacred fire to go out, they might find a difficulty in getting a supply from their neighbours the next morning. But the celebration of this ceremony is an instance of the confusion that may be introduced into original dates, by accidental irregularities creeping in; for, in Cornwall the festival fires are kindled in the month of June, on the eve of John the Baptist's and St. Peter's day': in Ireland, Beltein is celebrated on the 21st of June, and the people then pass through the fires. A similar instance of irregularity may be observed in the celebration of an old Oxfordshire festival, called Hoketyde, which is universally agreed to be a commemoration of a massacre of the Danes, in the time of King Etheldred. But that happened on a Friday, and on the 13th of November, 1002, though the festival is kept on Tuesday, in the second week after Easter. It has, indeed, been suggested, that the tradition has made a mistake, and that Hoketyde being derived from the German Hockzeit, a wedding, the event to which it refers must be the expulsion of the Danes from England, after the sudden death of Hardicanute at his wedding; and, accordingly, women bear the chief rule at the feast, which would not be so proper, if it related merely to a massacre: in this case, it is an additional proof how long customs may endure,
1 Borlase's Antiq. of Cornwall, p. 130.
2 Macpherson. Crit. Diss. xvii. 286.
4 Trans. Soc. Ant. vii. 168.