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Irish Druids And Old Irish Religions

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Crissy Herrell
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« Reply #120 on: February 20, 2009, 01:28:13 pm »

Even at the funeral, in Temora, we have only, "Loud at once from the hundred bards rose the song of the tomb."

He lived in the age of Christianity. Hear the challenge of the wild Northmen--"Are the gods of the Christians as great as Loda (Odin) of the Lochlins?" Dr. Donald Clark fancied that in Ossian's day the people had lost faith in their old Druidic religion, but had not then embraced Christianity.

The remarks of Dr. H. Waddell are entitled to careful attention. Referring to Ossian, he says--

"All local gods, to him, were objects of ridicule. He recognized the Deity, if he could be said to recognize Him at all, as an omnipresent vital essence, everywhere diffused in the world, or centred for a lifetime in heroes. He himself, his kindred, his forefathers, and the human race at large, were dependent solely on the atmosphere; their souls were identified with the air, heaven was their natural home, earth their temporary residence, and fire the element of purification, or the bright path to immortality for them when the hour of dissolution came.--The incremation of Malvina's remains, on the principle of transmutation, and escape from dark, perishable clay to luminous and immortal ether, is a beautiful illustration of this."

After all, one is constrained to admit with Ernest Rhys--"I for one am quite prepared to believe in a Druidic residue, after you have stripped all that is mediæval and Biblical from the poems of Taliesin." So it is with Ossian, or other bards of Irish origin. With all that has been accumulating of a mediæval character, from the hands of supposed transcribers and translators, there yet remains something of the primeval barbaric conception of religion in the grand old tales of Erin.

In the Bardic story of the Battle of Gabhra we read--"I return my thanks to the gods."

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This led N. O'Kearney to observe--"From this passage it is evident that the pure monotheism of the Druids had dwindled down into a vulgar polytheism, previous to the date of the Fenian era. Historians assert that Tighernmas was the first monarch who introduced polytheism, and that a great multitude of people were struck dead. on the worship of strange gods. The sun, moon, stars, elements, and many animals that were adored by the Egyptians, were introduced as deities."

Jocelin, an interesting romancer, speaking of Legasius, son of King Neal, tells the reader that "he swore by an idol called Ceaneroithi, or the head of all the gods, because he was believed by the foolish people to give answers."

A periodical called the Harp of Erin, which appeared in 1818, has the following argument from an old tradition:--"That the Ancient Irish were not idolaters, we have sufficient evidence to convince any person who is possessed of common understanding. We are informed that Tighernmas, the King, was the first who paid divine honors to an idol, and that having been struck by lightning, his death was considered as a judgment. Surely, if idolatry had been a common practice of the people, their bards and history would neither have represented the act of the monarch as a crime, nor his death punishment from heaven for the offence."

The quotations from Bardic chronicles and poems, made by Prof. Rhys and others, would not sanction the views of the Harp of Erin. Their Nuada, Diarmait, Conchobar, &c, were assuredly sun-deities Rhys says of the last named, "Conchobar was doubtless not a man, his sister Dechtere, the mother of Cuchulainn, is called a goddess. He was known in the Book of the Dun as Diaalmaide, or

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« Reply #121 on: February 20, 2009, 01:28:25 pm »

terrestrial god. The river Boyne may have had its name from the goddess Boann, wife of the Irish Neptune, Nodens.

Adolphe Pictet was formerly regarded as the most learned Celtic scholar in France. He is very precise in his belief of Irish polytheism, though influenced too strongly by the Cabiric theory. "The double Cabiric Irish chain," says he, "is only the ascending development of the two primitive principles."

Ordinary people may fail to follow this philosopher in his metaphysical views concerning the early Irish. They may doubt his progression of six degrees in Irish masculine and feminine divinities.

He held that Eire, Eo-anu, and Ceara were only the same being in three degrees of development; that Porsaibhean, daughter of Ceara, was the Greek Persephone, the Roman Proserpine; that Cearas and Ceara were Koros and his sister Kore; that Cearas was Dagh-dae, god of fire, and that he was a sort of demiurgus; that Aesar and Eire or Aeire, as fundamental duality, give birth to two chains of progressive parallels,--masculine and feminine, fire and water, sun and moon; that the goddess Lute or Lufe is power and desire, but Luth is force; that the Midr, children of Daghdae, were rays of God; that Aesar was god of intelligible fire; that Brighit was goddess of wisdom and poetry, like Nath, while Aedh was goddess of vital fire.

Much of this might be esteemed by some readers as a pleasing or romantic philosophy of Irish mythology.

_________________

It may be useful to look at the religion of the Manx, or people of the Isle of Man, who were, if not Irish, close kinsmen of the same. We take the following from a Manx poem, first printed in 1778, as dealing with the divinities.

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"Mananan beg, hight Mac of Lerr,
Was he the first that ruled the land;
A pagan, and a sorcerer,
He was, at least I understand."

This Mananan, a deity of the Tuath de Danaans, was god of waters; but Mac of Lir was styled son of the sea. Neid and Bad were gods of the wind. We are informed by the author that "By the name Gubh or Gobh, a blaze, fire, &c., the pagan Irish meant to insinuate that Sam-Gubha were particularly inspired by the solar heat." The motto of old was, "Let the altar for ever blaze to Daghdae."

Easc was the new moon to Manx and Irish. The Irish still say Paternoster at the new moon, and, crossing themselves, add, "May you leave us as safe as you found us!" Ce-Aehd was a goddess of Nature. An old poem says, "There was weeping in the day of Saman Bache." Ceara was the sun; and Badhh-Be-bad, the god of wind. Brid, daughter of Daghdae, was the goddess of wisdom and poets; An, the mater dea, Aodh, goddess of fire. Manx traditions and customs are similar to the Irish.

Sword-worship, in some respects, figured in the past, as with the Huns, &c. Famous heroes or deities have had the names of their swords preserved, as in the case of Arthur and Fingal.

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« Reply #122 on: February 20, 2009, 01:28:39 pm »

Speaking swords occur in the Leb na huidre, as recorded in the Revue Celtique. Noticing the custom of bringing in the tongues of the slain as trophies, the Irish MS. Says--"And it is thus they ought to do that, and their swords on their thighs when they used to make the trophy, for their swords used to turn against them when they made a false trophy--for demons used to speak to them from their arms."

Spenser gives this narrative on the fabled power of the

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sword; saying, "So do the Irish at this day, when they go to battle, say certain prayers or charms to their swords, making a cross therewith upon the earth, and thrusting the points of their blades into the ground, thinking thereby to have the better success in fight. Also they use commonly to swear by their swords."

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The Fairies or Sides are often presented as deities. As the Tuatha were largely supernatural, and their spirits haunted the old spots, it is not surprising that these arrachta or spectres were reverenced by the Irish. Though St. Patrick drove many of them away, a number fled across Donegal Bay to the pagans of Senghleann. In St. Fiacc's Story of the Saint we are assured that the Irish used to worship the Sides.

"This Side worship," wrote Beirne Crowe, "had nothing to do with Druidism; in fact, was opposed to it, and must have preceded it in Ireland." They were deified mortals, anyhow, and capable, by intercourse with women, of producing heroes. But one was hardly justified in declaring that "the worship of these deities reaches back to the remotest antiquity, to at least a thousand years before the Druid appeared."

The Sides and the Druids are curiously opposed to each other in legends. The Side goddess, in the adventures of Condla Ruad, told Coud's Druid that Druidism had the grades conferred on it in the Great Land or Elysium. It was thought that their temples were the so-called Druidical monuments, especially New Grange. They were scattered all over Ireland.

By the Irish Mac Oc, King of the Fairies, living in a glass structure, is meant the young Sun. Rhys said the Story "doubtless belonged originally to Irish mythology before any Celts had settled in Ireland."

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« Reply #123 on: February 20, 2009, 01:28:57 pm »

This Mac Oc, or Aengus, is regarded as the Irish counterpart of Merlin or Emrys. He is associated with a fairy maiden, in the form of a Swan. He was the son of the divine King of the Tuaths, and usurped his father's crown, as Zeus did that of his father Chronos. As in other lands, the domains of heroes and gods continually encroach upon each other; as divine attributes are bestowed upon departed chiefs, and divine honours, after the tapu order, are often paid to living heads of Septs. In no country, perhaps, was there more reverence given to chiefs, and in none more rigorous obedience exacted from the people by those who then controlled the very tribal lands.

It may be that this peculiarity of native character would account for the devotion to Saints in Irish Christian times. Still, it has been pointed out how tradition has converted honoured heroes or divinities of former days into modern Saints. This is, at least, a very curious coincidence, and by no means confined to Ireland, being witnessed in Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, and Brittany.

The great age to which some of these lived, according to such authorities as The Four Masters, &c., excites attention. St. Diarerca and St. Fechin continued on earth 180 years; but St. Ciaran, 300; St. Mochta, 300; St. Sincheall, 330. Their ubiquity is suspicious. Thus, there are 25 St. Shanauns or Shannons, 37 Moluans, 43 Molaises, 58 Mochuans, 200 Colmans, and a number called St. Dagan, St. Molach, St. Duil, &c. It is odd to perceive so many provided with an alias.

"If the ancient Irish," observes Marcus Keane, "belonged to one great system of mythology, we would naturally expect to find traditions of different gods of the same system preserved in the same locality. This accordingly we find to be the case."

Mrs. Wilkes, in Ur of the Chaldees, remarked that many

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of the Saints of Ireland bear Aryan and Semitic names. Again, "They (the missionaries) found it necessary, in many cases, to preserve to the Christian faith the names of many of the gods and heroes of their forefathers." She instances St. Molach, St. Dagan, St. Duil, St. Satan, St. Di(ch)ul, St. Cronan, &c. Another points out that St. Luan is derived from Lune or Lugedus; St. Bolcain from Vulcan; St. Ciaran from the Centaur Chiron; and St. Declan from Declain, the Irish god of generation. M. Sonnerat held that St. Shannon was the god Dearg.

The author of Towers and Temples of Ancient Ireland derives St. Diul from Dia-Baal; St. Maedog from Maedeog of Virginity; and St. Earc from Earch, the sun. He found 24 with the name of Colomb, 12 of Bridget, 25 of Senan, 12 of Dichul, and 30 of Cronan.

He contended that Irish Hagiology "began to be committed to writing about the tenth century"; that "in after times when it was thought desirable to ascribe ancient legends to Christian Saints, all were without distinction referred to the fifth and sixth centuries, as of course no celebrated Saint could have been ascribed to a period before St. Patrick, and that "the ancient literature seems to have been destroyed by the early Christians."

Although every one cannot be expected to follow Marcus Keane in opinion, there is much plausibility, if not reason, in the assumption that some of the Irish Saints were baptized deities of the Island.

Prof. Bevan, in a recent lecture at the Gresham College, showed how the Celtic gods were Romanized. Ogmius became Mercury; Grannos, Apollo; Caturix or Camulos, Mars; Bridgit, Minerva; Esas, Jupiter. He thought the Irish religion was partly of aboriginal forms of belief, and partly Druidic. He considered the transition from Druidism to Christianity a very gradual one. Lud or Llud,

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whose temple was on the site of St. Paul's Cathedral, he recognized as the Irish Nodens.

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« Reply #124 on: February 20, 2009, 01:29:10 pm »

As the Revue Celtique contains a wealth of learning pertaining to the mythology of Ireland, some information from that work may be here placed before the reader.

Badb, one of the Irish goddesses of war) had three sisters, Neman, Macha, and Morrigan or Morrigu. These are described as Furies, able to confound armies; even though assuming but the form of a crow. Hennessey thought these three were separate beings: "the attributes of Neman being those of a being who confounded her victims with madness, whilst Morrigu incited to deeds of valour, or planned strife and battle, and Macha revelled amidst the bodies of the slain." Badb was the daughter, also, of the mythical Tuatha King Ernmas. She inspired fear, so as to produce lunacy.

Standish O'Grady, in his critical and philosophical History of Ireland, adduces evidence of the useful labours of the early Irish gods, whom he detects under the assumed names of heroes. Parthalon was he who cleared from forest the plain of the Liffey. The Dagda Mor drove back the sea from Murthemney, forming the district now known as the Louth. Lu taught men first to ride on horses. Creidené first discovered and smelted gold in Ireland.

When the old original gods of Ireland were driven out by a younger and more vigorous set of divinities, they retired to Tir-na-n-og, the land of the young; or to Tirna-m-beo, land of life; or to Tir-na-Fomorah.

The temple of Ned, the war god, was near the Foyle. According to O'Grady, "The Dagda Mor was a divine title given to a hero named Eocaidh, who lived many centuries before the birth of Christ, and in the depths of

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the pre-historic ages he was the mortal scion or ward of an elder god, Elathan." He considered the Mor Reega, or great Queen, even more important than the Dagda Mor. She was connected with wealth, fertility, and war. She could transform herself into a water serpent, &c.

Then there is Dana, who became Brigit, mother of the three gods, Brian, Inchar or Incharba, and Inchair. Though the daughter of Dagda or good god, King of the Tuatha, she was wife to Bress, King of the Fomoré. As goddess of literature, it was fitting that Ecné, poetry or knowledge, should be her descendant.

The old form of the goddess Brigit is thought to have been Brigentis. Four inscriptions to her have been found on the east of Ireland. The god Brian was formerly Brênos.

The writings of Arbois de Jubainville, in the Cours de la littérature Celtique, have been justly admired. As he regarded the stories concerning the migration of early races, and the narratives of heroes and heroines, as having a mythological side, his views of Irish gods are interesting.

When Parthalon arrived in Ireland, the country was far from complete in form. At Mag Itha he had a battle with Cichol Gri-cenchos. The word cenchos, without feet, suggested Vitra, the Vedic god of evil, who possessed neither feet nor hands. He was assisted by men with only one foot and one hand, like Aja Ekapad, the one-footed, and Vyamsa, the shoulderless demon, of the Hindoo Vedas. Parthalon, by that victory, freed Ireland from foreign Fomoré. All his race, 5000, were struck dead by the gods in one day. So was the Silver Age destroyed by the anger of Jupiter against Niobe.

The chronicler had no record of years, but of days. Parthalon arrived on the first of May, the festival of the god of death, Beltené, ancestor of the human race. In

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older Erse MSS. he is described as the son of that deity. He gained the shore in Kenmare river, opposite the setting sun, where dead Celts recovered their lives.

The god Dagda, Dago-devo-s, the good god, yet King of the Tuatha de Danaans, was the Zeus or Ormazd of Irish mythology. The Danaans, or people of God, were, like the Devas of India, gods of the day, light, and life. The Fomoré, their enemies, represent the Titans of Greek story, whose chief Bress, Balar, or Tethra, was identical with the Persian Ahriman, the Vedic Yama, or even Varuna.

The Fomoré are, says Jubainville, "the gods of the dead, of night, and of storms." On the other hand, the Tuatha "are the gods of life, of day, and of the sun, constituting another group, the less ancient of the gods, if we believe the doctrine of Celts; for, following the Celtic theory, night preceded day."

The Fomorian gods of earth and night were spoken of by the Christian chroniclers as pirates ravaging the coast. But the Book of Invasions simply mentions their arrival by sea. They must have been monsters, for a work treating of them had for its title the History of Monsters. Even Geraldus Cambrensis translated Fomoré by Gigantibus.

Among the stories told of them was the one giving some Fomorians but one foot and one hand, while others were goat-headed. The tale told of their Kings exacting the tribute of two-thirds of corn and milk, and two out of three children born in a family, reminds us of the Greek Minotaur. The Fomoré seem to belong to the beginning of all things, since no Irish legend knows of anything before their coming.

Our French author, who had much to report on solar gods, has the following remarks upon the lunar deity:--

"The queen of night is the moon, which, among the

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« Reply #125 on: February 20, 2009, 01:29:26 pm »

stars, is distinguished by the crescent form, under which she usually presents herself to our notice. The god of night is distinguished from other gods by a crescent placed upon his forehead, and this crescent is transformed into the horns of the calf, the bull, or the goat. Hence, in the Prometheus of Æschylus, Io, the horned virgin, becomes, later on, a heifer; hence, in the Athenian fable, the conception of the Minotaur with the head of a bull; hence, in the Irish fable, the conception of the Fomoré with the goat's head;--and, upon the continent of Gaul, the numerous horned gods which now ornament the Salle of St. Germain Museum. For to render to these gods of the dead the worship they exact, it was necessary to immolate to them human lives."

We are told that Greeks poets and painters gave distinct characteristics to gods, as Phaeton, Apollo, and Hercules, originally the same. The ancient literature of Ireland lacks these well-defined contours.

The dual idea of good and bad gods, with good and bad tribes, corresponds with the Dasyu of India, who were both demons and the hostile tribes preceding the Aryans in that peninsula. The Irish triad is produced by the habit of using three synonyms to express the same mythological thought.

Lug, one of the Tuatha gods, nursed by the Queen of the Fir-Bolgs, is supposed to have introduced games, races, &c. His festival was August 1. It has been suggested that the festival on the same day, in honour of Augustus, was only a new form of a more ancient custom. Lug's mother was Ethniu, daughter of Balar, but his father was the god Dagda.

Balar Balebeimnech, "Balar of the strong blows," was said to have been killed by his grandson. He carried off the cow of the three brothers, smiths of the Tuatha. Balar

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was killed by Lug. He is sometimes called the son of the bull-faced god. Lug and he may be compared with Bellerophon and the Chimæra. A doublet of Balar is see in Tigernmas.

Cûchulainn, the son of Lug, was a deified hero. His remarkable adventures formed the subject of many bardic songs. Labraid, of the swift hand on the sword, was the King of Hades, the Irish Pluto. Being assisted against his foes by the mighty Cûchulainn, he presented the her with his sister-in-law, Fand, for a wife; and she returned with the warrior from Hades. But Cûchulainn paid other visits to the world of spirits, with a view of rescuing friend from Hades, and returning to Erin. He had the deity Lug for his father, and the goddess Dechtere for his mother. As an Apollo, he was beardless; yet, when re-born, he appeared with long hair (rays). He released a maiden changed into a swan, being the goddess of Dawn. N. O'Kearney, translator of the Conn-eda story, found that the Irish hero was so beloved, that people would not "swear an oath either by the sun, stars, or elements, except by the head of Conneda."

Nuada, the Welsh Nudd or Lludd, must not be confounded with Net, god of war. He is declared by Rhys "of the non-Celtic race in both Britain and Ireland; for an old inscription in the county of Kerry gives the name without a case-ending, and so marks it as a probably non-Celtic word." In his Celtic Britons the same writer notes another deity; speaking of "the sea god Nodens, who was of sufficient importance during the Roman occupation to have a temple built for him at Lydney, on the western side of the Severn, while the Irish formerly called the goddess of the Boyne his wife."

The Feast of Goibniu, which assured immortality to the Tuatha, consisted principally of beer, a more common

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« Reply #126 on: February 20, 2009, 01:29:43 pm »

drinks than nectar or ambrosia, but which had a similar power of raising the consumer in his own estimation. Goibniu, the smith, was the brewer of this magical drink for the gods. Ogmé, founder of oghamic writing, was called the sun-faced. He was the son of Elada, whose name means poetic composition, or knowledge. His brother Dian-cecht, the god of rapid power, was long the Tuath god of medicine.

The deities, when they desired to make themselves visible, appeared as birds. The Fomoré gods were seen as crows or ravens. As Chronos was King of the world at the time of the Golden Age, so Bress, King of the Fomoré ruled awhile even over the Tuatha, who represent the Greek golden race.

It is well to conclude with M. Jubainville, that "the gods of the Gauls (or Irish), like those of the Romans, are, to our eyes, a creation of the human mind." It may be also added that usually the gods rise from low types to higher. Still, Lubbock assures us that "religion, as understood by the lower savage races, differs essentially from ours; nay, it is not only different, but even opposite." Some may be disposed to fancy the same of the more ignorant in Christian lands.

__________________

In connection with Irish idolatry, the question of sacrifices to the gods needs some consideration.

We may assume that the lower animals may have been so offered; as, black sheep to Samhan on November 1, and firstlings to the god Crom. But whether the Irish ever had human sacrifices has been much debated. Such a practice we know existed in both civilized and uncivilized countries. It prevailed with worshippers of Baal, with American Indians, with Khonds, and other tribes of India, &c. In Deut. xii. 30, we read, "Their sons and their

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daughters have they burnt in the fire to their gods." The animal sacrifice may be but a survival of the human.

Cæsar was positive as to the Gauls and Britons doing so. Strabo, Plutarch, and others said the same. Augustus, Tiberius, and Claudius opposed the Druids on account of that cruelty. Yet the Archdruid Myfyr exclaimed--"They never wrought an atonement for sin by the sacrifice of bloody carcases of any kind." The writer has heard the learned Welsh Druid affirm this in most earnest tones. He would not admit so degrading a practice for his Druids.

Yet Nennius tells how Vortigern, seeking to build a fort, was constantly annoyed by spirits running off with the stones; and how he was told by his Druids to get a fatherless boy, kill him, and sprinkle his blood upon the foundation of the buildings. Similar stories are mentioned in relation to Jericho, and to the **** of even Christian ecclesiastical edifices.

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« Reply #127 on: February 20, 2009, 01:29:57 pm »

O'Curry affirms that there is "no instance of human sacrifices at any time in Erin." There is only one known text referring to the custom in Ireland, which occurs in the Dinnsenchus. Both men and women were liable to be burnt to ashes for certain crimes, but not in worship. The Lives of St. Patrick do not mention such offerings, though the Book of Leinster and Lucan's verses note their ancient service. Elton thought that some of the penalties of the ancient laws seemed to have originated in an age when criminals were offered to the gods.

Some old poem upon the Fair of Tailté, a pagan cemetery, has it--

"The three forbidden bloods--
Patrick preached therein (i.e. the fair)
Yoke oxen, and slaying much cows,
Also by (against the) burning of the firstborn."

There was, however, in Leitrim a Plain of Shrieking, and Magh-sleacth was the place of slaughter.

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In an article, contributed to an antiquarian periodical, in 1785, concerning the Irish mountain Sliabh Croobh, we find the following:--

"On its summit still remain the vestiges of Druid worship, the rude altar, and the sacred well, and that during the era of Druidical government, their priests were not only the judges, but executioners of those who were doomed to death either as delinquents, or victims of sacrifice. I am inclined to suspect that it was anciently styled Sliabh cro abh; cro signifying death, and abh the point of a weapon,--and as a spot destined for human slaughter, might bear the appellation of the mountains of final death. A stone hatchet, and undoubtedly a sacrificial one, belonging to the Druids, was dug up at the foot of this mountain a few years ago, and is in Lord Moira's possession."

To show how wide-spread was the custom of human sacrifices, we may quote the list of nations adopting it, as given in the work Indo-Aryans, by Rajendralala Mitra. This includes the "Phœnicians, Carthaginians, Druids, Scythians, Greeks, Trojans, Romans, Cyclops, Lamiæ, Sestrygons, Syrens, Cretans, Cyprians, Assyrians, Egyptians, Jews, Aztecs, Khonds, Toltecs, Tezcaucans, Sucas, Peruvians, Africans, Mongols, Dyaks, Chinese, Japanese, Ashantis, Yucatans, Hindus." He adds--"The Persians were, perhaps, the only nation of ancient times that did not indulge in human sacrifices."

If, then, O'Curry, and other Irish writers, object to such a charge being made against their rude forefathers, it must be allowed that the latter would have been in, at least, respectable and numerous company.

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« Reply #128 on: February 20, 2009, 01:30:34 pm »

The astronomical side of idolatry should not be passed over. It has been maintained, with much learning, that all

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tales of gods and goddesses, in all lands, can be traced to ideas connected with the heavenly bodies, and their several movements. The writer's old colonial friend, Henry Melville, nearly half a century ago, read Lemprière's stories of the deities on astronomical lines. Upon the Celestial Atlas he moved his cardboard masonic tools, bringing the figures of various constellations together, so as to explain the particular story. Later on, he discovered a system of interpretation, as certain and infallible, which he called the Laws of the Medes and Persians, as they were unalterable.

Melville had no opportunity of explaining the stories of Irish bards upon his plan. Vallencey, Jubainville and others have attempted it on other and theological lines. But if the stories could be treated at all astronomically, the interest in them would be increased, as showing their derivation from other and more enlightened lands. The great puzzle is, however, how several and such different keys manage to turn the same lock. But, as remarked by the Rev. Geo. St. Clair, "time will make the secret things plain and patent"

It may not be wrong, therefore, to trace in those Irish legends the existence of ancient and Oriental learning of a more or less astronomical character.

The Irish had a notion of the week, or seven days' period. That may have come from the East, meaning the sun, the moon, and the five then known planets. One has supposed that five were named after the Romans, and two from the Belgæ. But the Woden day was changed to Gaden; and Thursday to Tordain, or Torneach, thunder, or the spirit of Tor or Thor. Schiegel says--"Among the Greeks and Romans, the observation of the days of the week was introduced very late." And yet they were well known long before in Babylon. The Phœnician, characterized by Sayce as the link between Chaldæan and Hebrew,

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may have been the means of introducing the week to Ireland.

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« Reply #129 on: February 20, 2009, 01:30:53 pm »

The twelve signs of the zodiac were not unknown to the Irish. They were ever like the ladder, with six steps upward, and six downward. Mazzaroth, the twelve, is in the Arabic manzeel, a house or dwelling. The Targumists and Rabbins employed the words tereysar mazzalaya for the Signs. Philo called the dodecahedron a perfect number. "It is to honour that sign," adds Philo, "that Moses divided his nation into twelve tribes, established the twelve cakes of the shewbread, and placed twelve precious stones around the ephod of the pontiffs."

On the Irish zodiac, above the figures representing the Signs, the Irish letters were placed. The figure in the Sagittarius was a deer's body with a man's head. That in the Scales had legs, but no feet. The Virgin was standing, apparently spinning, being fully clothed, even to shoes. Aquarius was seen with a very long body, but short, thin legs and feet.

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The Phœnician presence was to be, also, traced in Ireland by the remarkable evidences of Baal worship. Of this the Irish language and Irish customs bear witness.

Thus,--we have Beal-agh, fire of Baal, in the Giant Ring at Belaugh, Co. Down, four miles from Belfast, 579 ft. in diameter. There is Bal-Kiste, or Baal, Lord of the chest or ark; Meur-Bheil, the finger of Be'il; Belí, god of fire; Baal Tinne, for the summer solstice; Suil-Beal, oracle of Druids; Bealtime, the Baal month.

Four miles north of Cork is Beal-atha-magh-adhoir,--the field for the worship of Baal. Sliabh-bulteine was the hill of Bel. The ark-Breith, a covered coracle, was drawn by oxen. The old Irish name for the year was Bealaine or Bliadhain, the circle of Baal.

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« Reply #130 on: February 20, 2009, 01:31:05 pm »

The Bel-tor of Dartmoor, the Belenus of Gaul, the Beal of the Gaedhil, the Bali of India, the Belus obelisk of Pomona in Orkney, the Bealtien cake of Scotland, the Bel-eg, priest or learned one of Brittany, the Punic Bal--all take us outside of Ireland. But Camden declared the cromlech on Sliabh Greine, hill of the sun, was to Beli. As reported by J. J. Thomas--"The Irish expression 'Bal mhaith art'--May Bel be propitious to thee! or Bal dhia dhuit, the god Bal .to you! were deemed complimentary addresses to a stranger along the sequestered banks of the Suir, in the South of Ireland, about twenty-two years ago."

There can he no doubt about this Baal worship being connected with Phallicism. Devotion to generative powers preceded, perhaps, that to the sun, as the main cause of production in Nature; but the Baal development appeared later on in the so-called march of civilization. An increased fondness for ritual is generally taken for an evidence of refinement.

This Phallic exponent has been conspicuous in the Bal-fargha, or Bud, of the Island of Muidhr, off the coast of Sligo, represented as similar to the Mabody of Elephanta in India, where the argha was an especial object of worship, and which was seen by the writer, in Bombay, as still an object of religious devotion. There was on the Irish island a wall of large unmortared stones, some ten feet high, and of a rude circular form, having a low entrance. The Bud, or Linga, was surrounded by a parapet wall.

Innis Murra, an islet about three miles from the Sligo coast, has always been held sacred. In that, the area of this Bal-fargha, or argha, of rough stone-work, is 180 feet by 100, in its oval shape. To preserve its devotional character, three Roman Catholic chapels have been erected

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on the Isle. The holy ground is used as a cemetery; but the males are buried apart from the females. For some reason, a wooden image of St. Mobs is placed there for the regard of worshippers.

As is well known, the snake has been associated with amatory sentiments in nearly all countries, and has for thousands of years. been a favourite form of ornament with women. Now, opposite this island, once given up to sexual worship, the limestone coast has been worn into shapes often tortuous or serpentine. Tradition asserts that this is the spot where St. Patrick cast the snakes of Ireland into the sea; that is to say, in other words, that Christianity extirpated the libidinous deities.

Irish literature notices the presence of two religious sects once existing in the country; viz. those who adored fire, and those who adored water. The first were Baalites; the second Lirites. The Samhaisgs were of the one, and Swans of the other. O'Kearney, in his observations upon this peculiarity of the past, incidentally shows the antiquity of faction fights in Ireland; saying, "It is probable that very violent contentions were once carried on in the Island by the partizans of the rival religions, who were accustomed to meet, and decide their quarrels, at the place set apart for battles." In later and Christian times, when Ireland had a multitude of independent bishops, under no ecclesiastical supervision, disputes of a more or less theological kind are said by the ancient historians to have been settled by their followers in the same fashion.

As the population of Ireland is, perhaps, the most mixed, in racial descent, of any in the world, it is not surprising that this Island should exhibit a greater variety of religions, several of which have left their traces in the traditions and superstitions of out-of-the-way localities.

p. 152

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« Reply #131 on: February 20, 2009, 01:31:17 pm »

That Buddhism should have found a foothold there is not surprising, since Buddhist missionaries at one era had spread over much of the Northern hemisphere. Though the reader may find in this work, under the heading of "Round Towers," references to this Oriental faith, some other information may be here required.

Whenever it came, and however introduced, Buddhism, as it was taught in its early purity, was a distinct advance upon previously existing dogmas of belief. It was a vast improvement upon Baal worship, Hero worship, or Nature worship, as it carried with it a lofty ethical tone, and the principle of universal brotherhood. Though there is linguistic as well as other evidence of its presence in Ireland, it may be doubted if the labours of the foreign missionaries had much acceptance with the rude Islanders.

Cnox Buidhbh, Budh's hill, is in Tyrone. A goddess of the Tuatha was called Badhha. Budhbh, the Red, was a chief of the Danaans. Buddhist symbols are found upon stones in Ireland. There are Hills of Budh in Mayo and Roscommon. Fergus Budh or Bod was a prince of Brejea. He was Fergus of the fire of Budh. Budh or Fiodh was the sacred tree.

Vallencey, the fanciful Irish philologist, was a believer in the story of Buddhist visitations. He found that Budh in Irish and Sanscrit was wise; that Dia Tait was Thursday, and the day between the fasts (Wednesday and Friday), Wednesday being a sacred day in honour of Budh in India, showing that "they observed Budhday after Christianity was introduced." La Nollad Aois, or La Nollad Mithr, December 24th, was sacred to Mithras the Sun; to which he quotes Ezek. iv. 14. Eire aros a Niorgul alluded to the crowing of Nargal, the **** of Aurora, which was sacrificed on December 25th, in honour of the birth of Mithras, the Sun.

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He further shows that the Oin-id lamentation for the Dead was kept in Ireland on the eve of La Saman, the day of Saman, the Pluto or Judge of Hell, November 1st (All Saints), as in several other heathen lands of antiquity. He sees a new reckoning on Mathair Oidhehe, the eve before La Nollah Mithr. The Sab-oide, or festival of Sab, the Sun, was held on the 1st, 8th, 15th, and 23rd of the month, as with the Sabbaths of the Persian Magi. He was not then aware that Sabbath, day of rest, was an old Chaldæan word. He recognizes Christmas Eve in Madra nect, or Mother night.

Buddhism abolished caste and sacrifices. The Tripitaka, or Bible, contains 592,000 verses. The last Buddhist council was held 251 B.C.

Dr. Kenealy observes, in his Book of God, "The Irish hieratic language was called Ogham (pronounced owm), which is the same as the Buddhist and the Brahmin Aum, and the Magian and Mexican horn, or ineffable name of God. This last, the Greek changed into A O M, Α Ω, or Alpha and Omega." W. Anderson Smith, in Lewisiana, reluctantly acknowledges, "We must accept the possibility of a Buddhist race passing north from Ireland." Thus he and others must trace the relics of Buddhism in Scotland and the Hebrides through Ireland. Truly, as Fergusson writes, "Buddhism, in some shape or other, or under some name that may be lost, did exist in Britain before the conversion of the inhabitants to Christianity."

Hanloy, Chinese interpreter at San Francisco, who claims the discovery of America for his countrymen, that left written descriptions of the strange land, has this additional information--"About 500 years before Christ, Buddhist priests repaired there, and brought back the news that they had met with Buddhist idols and religious writings in the country already. Their descriptions, in

p. 154

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« Reply #132 on: February 20, 2009, 01:31:28 pm »

many respects, resemble those of the Spaniards a thousand years after."

In the vaulted stone building at Knockmoy, Galway Co., assumed by some to have been a temple of the Tuatha, and next which sacred spot an abbey was subsequently erected, is a figure, taken for Apollo, bound to a tree, pierced with arrows, yet slaying the Python with his dart. Other three figures represent, in their crowns and costume, Eastern divinities, before whom another person is approaching. These have been conjectured to be the three, Chanchasm, Gonagom, and Gaspa, who obtained the perfect state of Nirvana before the birth of Godama, founder of Buddhism.

__________________

The mythological figures to be seen at the chapel of Cormac, the King and Bishop of Cashel, are not less strange in a Christian edifice than the heathen argha witnessed on a banner in some English churches. They are, to say the least, in a novel situation.

The Lion of Cashel, with its tail over its back, and a head partly human, is confronted by a centaur shooting an arrow. The figure's helmet is said to be like that of an Irish warrior in the tenth century. The two mythological hares devouring foliage of the shamrock appearance, present a more striking character. Anna Wilkes was led to exclaim--"The supposed Cuthite remains at Cashel bear striking resemblance to some of the Ninevite sculptures; Nergal or Nimrod, the winged lion, as exhibited in the British Museum, is a remarkable imitation of the winged lion of Cashel."

Were these, and similar sculptures, survivals of older faiths in the minds of the artists? They were not fancies of their own, but they reflect past phases of heathenism Superstitions ever indicate former beliefs.

It is not a little surprising to notice, in the ancient

p. 155

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« Reply #133 on: February 20, 2009, 01:31:40 pm »

writings of Irish Churchmen, so few references to the idolatrous practices of their countrymen. In the catalogues of the Dublin Museum of the Irish Academy one finds expression of the same wonder in these words: "The ecclesiastical chroniclers of the period, in their zeal for the establishment of Christianity, would appear to have altogether ignored the subject of pagan worship." It is this silence which has led so many persons to doubt the idolatrous customs of the early Irish, or to be very sceptical as to the nature of the gods they worshipped.

The Akkadian religion of Assyria throws some light upon Irish faiths. Major Conder, referring to the inscriptions of Tell Loh, thought they proved "the piety of those ancient Akkadian rulers, and showing that the deities adored represented the sun and moon, the dawn and sunset, with the spirits of the mountains, the sea, the earth, and of hell." Elsewhere he says, "As regards the deities adored, they evidently include heaven, hell, the ocean, the sun and moon, the dawn, and the sunset." This was in Ur of the Chaldees, but long before Abraham's time.

The Major was struck with another inscription--"I have made the Pyramid temple to the Lord of the heavenly region. To Tammuz, Lord of the Land of Darkness, I have built a Pyramid temple." He further adds--"The Akkadians and Babylonians believed in pairs of deities inhabiting the various kingdoms of the gods." Others have detected the same duality in the divinities of Ireland. The Druidical three rods, or rays of light, have been compared to a Phœnician Trinity--the three sons of Il, and called Elohim. Morien contends that Jehovah is represented in Druidism by the three letters, I A O.

It is curious to note the remains of a very ancient building on the Hebridean Harris Island, known locally as the temple. of Annait, and a similar one at Skye, afterwards

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becoming the Church of the Trianade, or Trinity. We are reminded of the Tanat or Tanath of the Phœnicians, the Anaietis of the Lydians, the Aphrodite Tanais of the Babylonians. How such mysteries got to the Hebrides need not surprise us. Two races left their descendants in those Islands--the Norwegian and the Irish; the latter spread over the islets and coastline of Western Scotland, and carried thither the popular creed of the migration era.

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« Reply #134 on: February 20, 2009, 01:32:02 pm »

Sir W. Jones considered that "the whole crowd of gods and goddesses meant only the powers of Nature." Adolphe Pietet proceeds on the following lines--"From a primitive duality, constituting the fundamental force of the Universe, there arises a double progression of cosmical powers, which, after having crossed each other by a mutual transition, at last proceed to blend in one Supreme Unity, as in their essential principles; such, in a few words, is the distinctive 'character of the mythological doctrines of the ancient Irish."

As elsewhere mentioned, the Irish Saints are traditionally mixed up with matters connected with former deities. Thus, Ledwich, in his Antiquities of Ireland, is induced to exclaim, "Very few of the Saints who adorn our legends ever had existence, but are personifications of inanimate things, and even of passions or qualities." St. Thenew or Mungo, patron Saint of Glasgow, was but a metamorphosed divinity of the same race. He was born of a virgin, a proof of her goddess-ship. His miraculous powers were like those of Irish gods, being exerted over Nature's laws. His rod was the Druidical hazel-branch, which burst into flame after his breathing upon it. Thus we see the river Shannon, once an object of worship, remembered under the name of St. Senanus; and the mountain Kevn of Glendalough, also adored, become the Saint Kevin.

The strange mixture of heathenism and Scripture has

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struck many inquirers. Meyrick's Druidical Religion during the residence of the Romans, points to this strange union in Britain. It was his opinion that "at the commencement of the fourth century, the Druids felt a common cause with the Roman priests in the extermination of Christianity." Bergmann detected the same influence in Snorre's Scandinavian Fascination of Gulfi. He separated the two elements for us. Leflocq remarked the mixture in the "transferring the gods themselves, and placing in the mouth of Odin an echo of the language of Moses." He might well say, "We are surprised to find the teaching of Genesis, and the morals of the Evangelists, in a book of the Eddas." Many may be equally surprised at the same in the MSS. of Erin.

"The Druids and Bards of these far-reaching bardic times," says Mrs. Bryant, "were practically heretics with respect to the more ancient forms of religious idea, which linger without meaning in the Irish peasants' tenacious memory, or adhere to his habits by the same persistence of conservative instinct."

While the cultured Egyptians, Assyrians, Hindoos, Jews, and Greeks, bowed to other gods than the First Cause, no Irishman need be astonished at a similar weakness in his half-civilized ancestors. It might be that the moral infirmities of the former were greater than those in the men and women of old Erin.



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