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Irish Druids And Old Irish Religions


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Crissy Herrell
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« Reply #210 on: February 22, 2009, 12:31:56 am »

Heroes were accustomed to fight against wild boars and enchanters.

Druids were rather fond of pigs, since these had a liking for acorns, the produce of the saintly oak. Yet they, as priests, were the Swine of Mon, and Swine of the Sacred Cord. Like the Cabin, they were Young Swine. The Druids were much given to transforming persons into what were known as Druidic pigs. When the Milesians sought for Ireland in their voyage, the Tuatha, by magic, caused a fog to rise so as to make the land assume the appearance of a large pig; whence it got the appellation of Inis na Muici, or Isle of Pig, or Muc Inis, Hog Island.

A wonderful tale is told of a fabulous pig kept by a King of Leinster, Mesgegra mac Datho, who fed it daily from the milk of sixty cows Welsh stories are told of fighting swine. At the end of a Welsh bonfire, the people used to shout out, "The cropped black sow seize the hindermost!" when all would run in haste away. The pig--in Irish, muc, orc, and torc--when a possessed animal, was a decided danger as well as nuisance The hero Fionn had several notable adventures in pursuit of such, as the torc of Glen Torein, and the boar of Slieve Muck.

According to an Ogham inscription at Ballyquin, the pig was sacred to the goddess Anar Aine. It is said, "A sacrifice of swine is the sovereign right of Ana." There still sacred pigs in some Buddhist temples. Tacitus speaks of the Aestii (of North Germany) worshipping the goddess Friga, after whom our Friday is called, in the form of a pig. As the Rev J. Rice-Byrne translates the passage "They worship the Mother of the gods. As the emblem of their superstition, they are used to bear the figures boars": i.e. in sacred processions to Friga.

In the Proceedings of the Great Bardic Institution (In there is a paper by W. Hackett, who writes--"In pagan

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« Reply #211 on: February 22, 2009, 12:32:57 am »

times, the pig was held as sacred in Ireland as it is held at the present day in the religious systems of India and China." it was his expressed opinion that "all the legends of porcine animals, which abound in Ireland, Wales, and Scotland, had reference to the suppression of a form of idolatry, analogous to, if not identical with, the existing worship of the Hindoo deity, Vishnu, in his Avatar as a Boar."

Certainly, the Irish, like the Germans, are still admirers of the pig. Witches and Pigs are mixed up in stories; but, then, Gomme's Ethnology in Folklore tells us --"The connection between witches and the lower animals is a very close one." It has been affirmed that the footmarks of St. Manchan's cow can yet be distinguished upon the stones it walked over in Ireland.

Animals were known to be offered by Irish and Scotch down to the last century, and it is recorded that a calf was publicly burnt in 1800 by Cornishmen to stop a murrain. A sheep was sometimes offered for the like purpose in some parts of England. In 1678 four men were tried "for sacrificing a bull in a heathenish manner in the Island of St. Ruffus--for the recovery of health of Cirstane Mackenzie." Animals were also killed in honour of St. Martin's day.

A remarkable story is quoted by the President of the Folklore Society, from an old writer, of sheep being offered to a wooden image in times of sickness. The skin of the sheep was put round the sick person, and the neighbours devoutly ate the carcase. This occurred at Ballyvourney, County Cork. The story is related in the Folly of Pilgrimages.



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« Reply #212 on: February 22, 2009, 12:34:24 am »

p. 232

THE SHAMROCK, AND OTHER SACRED PLANTS.
THE Shamrock is even more typical of Ireland than the Oak is of Britain, and was the greater object of reverence and regard.

            "Chosen leaf
              Of Bard and Chief,
            Old Erin's native Shamrock!
              Says Valour, 'See
              They spring for me,
            Those leafy gems of morning!'
              Says Love, 'No, no,
              For me they grow,
            My fragrant path adorning!'
              But Wit perceives
              The triple leaves,
            And cries,--'O do not sever
              A type that blends
              Three godlike friends,
            Love, Valour, Wit, for ever!
O! the Shamrock, the green, immortal Shamrock!"

But Moore might have added the claims of Religion. Is it not a sacred emblem of the Trinity? Does not the legend remind us of St Patrick convincing his doubting hearers of the truth of the Three in One doctrine, by holding up a piece of Shamrock? It is true that the Philosophical Magazine, June 1830, throws some doubt on the story, since the three-leaved white clover, now accepted as the symbol, was hardly expanded so early in the year as St. Patrick's Day; and Irishmen to this day do not agree which is the real Shamrock.

The trefoil that was sour was certainly eaten by primitive Irish, while the white clover, not being sour, was not eaten. It may, therefore, have been the Wood Sorrel, trefoil out in early spring. Spenser says--"If they found a plot of watercresses or shamrocks, there they flocked as a feast" Wyther wrote--"And feed on shamrooks as the

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« Reply #213 on: February 22, 2009, 12:36:07 am »

Irish doe." The word Shamrock, or Shamrog, is applied to various trefoils, however, by Erse and Gaelic writers, though ancient herbalists knew only the sour variety by that appellation. The Gaelic seamarog is the little seamar trefoil. Dr. Moore of Glasnevin declares the black nonsuch (Medicago lupulina) to be the true shamrock, though the white clover is often sold for it.

The pious Angelico introduced the white clover in his sacred pictures, like the Crucifixion, and as Ruskin thinks, "With a view to its chemical property." Its antiquity is vouched for. Dr. Madden sings--

"'Tis the sunshine of Erin that glimmer'd of old
On the banners of Green we have loved to behold,
   On the Shamrock of Erin and the Emerald Isle."

Ancient bards declare that it was an object of worship with the remote race of Tuath-de-Danaans. It was the emblem of the Vernal Equinox with the Druids. Greek emblems of the Equinox were triform. As the Seamrag, it was long used as an anodyne, being seen gathered for that purpose by Scotch wives as late as 1794; it must, however, be gathered by the left hand in silence, to preserve its virtues. The four-leaved shamrock is called Mary's Shamrock. According to an engraving in Ledwich's Antiquities of Ireland, the shamrock appears on the oldest Irish coin. It is the badge of the Order of St. Patrick, founded in 1783, but the national badge since 1801. Pale or Cambridge blue, not green, is the true national colour of Ireland. But Ireland cannot claim sole possession of it as a sacred symbol. It was the three-leaved wand of Hermes, the triple oracle of the ancients. It was the three-leaved sceptre of Triphyllian Jove. It was seen on the head of Isis, of Osiris, and of a god of Mexico. It was recognized both on Persian and Irish Crowns. We perceive upon a monument from Nineveh a

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« Reply #214 on: February 22, 2009, 12:36:40 am »

couple of sacred hares engaged in devouring it. The Berlin Museum has a representation of some rude satyrs jestingly offering it to a woman. Artists, in the Middle Ages, have shamelessly made it the plant presented by the Angel to the Virgin Mary. The Bismarcks use the shamrock with the motto "In trinitate robur." The sacred Palasa of India has triple leaves. The French, like the Irish, retained it as a national symbol. To this hour the three-leaved, or Fleur-de-lis plant is preserved as a sacred, symbol in architecture, on altar-cloths, &c., the emblem being now seen in Nonconformist churches as well as in the Episcopalian.

It was the three-in-one mystery. "Adorning the head of Osiris, it fell off at the moment of his death. As the trefoil symbolized generative force in man, the loss of the garland was the deprivation of vigour in the god, or, as some think, the suspension of animal strength. in winter"

In the Dublin Museum is a beautiful copper vessel, or plate, with the trefoil, from Japan. In the Mellor church of Derbyshire is a very ancient font, with rude figures, horses, and men with Norman helmets. The tails of the horses, after passing round the body, end in a rude form of trefoil, which another horse, with open mouth, is prepare to eat, while its own long tail is similarly presented to the open mouth of its equine neighbour. The shamrock w mysteriously engraved on the neck of the oriental crucified figure in the relic collection at Glendalough.

The OAK was also venerated by the early Irish. We read of Kil-dair, the Druids' cell or church of the Maig-adhair or Dearmhagh, the field of oaks; the Daire-calgaich, now Londonderry, the wood of Calgac; Dairbhre (now Valentine, Isle of Kerry), the place producing oaks Derrynane was Doire-Fhionain, the oak grove of Finian; Doire-maelain, now Derryvullan, the grove of

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« Reply #215 on: February 22, 2009, 12:38:29 am »

Maelain; Derrada-Doire-fhada, the long oak grove; Derrybeg, little oak; Derry Duff, black-oak wood. Derry is from Doire or Dair, oak. Kildare was Cill-dara, the church of the oak. St. Bridgid of Kildare built her cell, it is said, under a very high oak. Hanmer wrote--"Bridget builded a cell for her abode under a goodly faire oke, which afterwards grew to be a monasterie of virgins called Cylldara, in Latin Cella quercus."

Druids were so named from Dair, Doire, or Duir--the oak. The Druids were Dairaoi, or dwellers in oaks. There was the Gaulish Drus or Drys, the Gaelic Daru, the Saxon Dre or Dry, the Breton Derw, the Persian Duracht, the Sanscrit Druh.

The oak was thought sacred from its acorns being food for man in his savage state. It was dedicated to Mars and Jupiter. Etrurian inscriptions appear about the oak. The temple of the oracular Dodona was in an oak forest We read that 456 B.C., a Roman Consul took an oak solemnly to witness as a god. That tree was the symbol of the Gaulish deity Hesus, as it was of the German Thor. The Dryades were priests of the oak. It was associated with the tau or cross. "So far as I know," says Forlong, "the cutting of a live oak into a tau, or deity, is unique on the part of the Druids." The stones in Sichem were placed under an oak. The oak or terebinth of Mamre was worshipped as late as the fourth century. The oak was sacred, as the acorn and its cup represented the male and female principles.

The MISTLETOE had an early reputation as a guide to the other world. Armed with that golden branch, one could pass to Pluto's realm:--

"Charon opposed--they showed the Branch.
They show'd the bough that lay beneath the vest;
At once his rising wrath was hush'd to rest."

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« Reply #216 on: February 22, 2009, 12:38:43 am »

Its connection with health, as the All-heal, is noted by the poet Callimachus, under the appellation of panakea, sacred to Apollo:--

"Where'er the genial panakea falls,
Health crowns the State, and safety guards the walls."

As the seat of the life of the Oak, as then believed, it had special virtues as a healer. The Coel-Creni, or omen sticks, were made of it, and also divining-rods. It had the merit of revealing treasure, and repelling the unwelcome visits of evil spirits When cut upon St. John's Eve, its, power for good was greatest "While the shamrock emblematic of the equinox, the mistletoe is associated with the solstice," says St. Clair.

The ancient Persians knew it as the healer. It told of the sun's return to earth. Farmers in Britain used to give a sprig of mistletoe to the first cow calving in the year. Forlong points out the recovery of old heathen ideas; saying, "Christian priests forbade the mistletoe to enter their churches, but yet it not only got in, but found a place over the altars, and was held to betoken good will to all mankind." It was mysteriously associated with the dove. The Irish called it the uil-iceach: the Welsh uchelwydd. The County Magazine for 1792 remarked "A custom of kissing the women under the mistletoe-bush still prevails in many places, and without doubt the sure way to prove prolific." Pliny considered it good for sterility. It was the only thing that could slay the gentle Baldur. In England there are some twenty trees on which the mistletoe may grow.

Certain plants have at different times been objects special consideration, and worshipped as having divine qualities, or being possessed by a soul. Some were thought, to manifest sympathetic feeling with the nation by which they were cherished. The fetish tree of Coomassie fell

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« Reply #217 on: February 22, 2009, 12:38:56 am »

when Wolseley's ultimatum reached the King of Ashantee. The ruthless cutting of trees was deemed cruel. Even if they had no living spirit of their own, the souls of the dead might be there confined; but perhaps Mr. Gladstone, the tree-feller, is no believer in that spiritual doctrine.

In Germany one may still witness the marrying of trees on Christmas Eve with straw-ropes, that they may yield well. Their forefathers' regard for the World-tree, the ash Yggdrasill, may incline Germans to spare trees, and raise them, as Bismarck loves to do. Women there, and elsewhere, found consolation from moving round a sacred tree on the approach of nature's trial. The oldest altars stood under trees, as by sacred fountains or wells. But some had to be shunned as demoniac trees.

The Irish respected the Cairthaim, quicken-tree, quick-beam, rowan, or mountain ash, which had magical qualities. In the story of the Fairy Palace of the Quicken-tree, we read of Finn the Finian leader being held in that tree by enchantment, as was Merlin by the fairy lady. MacCuill, son of the hazel, one of the last Tuath kings, was so-called because he worshipped the hazel. Fairies danced beneath the hawthorn. Ogham tablets were of yew. Lady Wilde styled the elder a sacred tree; and the blackthorn, to which the Irishman is said to be still devoted, was a sacred tree.

Trees of Knowledge have been recognized east and west. That of India was the Kalpa. The Celtic Tree of Life was not unlike that of Carthage. The Persians, Assyrians, and American Indians had their Trees of Life. One Egyptian holy tree had seven branches on each side. From the Sycamore, the goddess Nou provided the liquor of life; from the Persea, the goddess Hathor gave fruits of immortality. The Date-palm was sacred to Osiris six thousand years ago. The Tree of Life was sometimes

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« Reply #218 on: February 22, 2009, 12:39:11 am »

depicted on coffins with human arms. The Lotus, essentially phallic, self-produced, was an emblem of self-created deity, being worshipped as such at least 3000 B.C. Homa was the Life-tree of Zoroaster. The bean was thrown on tombs as a sign of immortality. The banyan and the onion denote a new incarnation.

The Indian and Cingalese Bo or Asvattha, Ficus religiosa, sheltered Gautama when he gained what is known as Entire Sanctification, or Perfection. The sacred Peepul is the male fig, the female being Ficus Indica. The fig entwines itself round the palm. The Toolsi, Ocymum Sanctum, and the Amrita are also worshipped in India, so are the Lien-wha, or Nelumbium, in China, the cypress in Mexico, and the aspen in Kirghizland.

Trees and plants were devoted to gods as the oak, palm, and ash to Jupiter, the rose, myrtle, and poppy to Venus; the pomegranate to Proserpine; the pine-apple to Cybele; the orange to Diana, the white violet to Vesta, the daisy to Alcestis; the wild thyme to the Muses; the laurel to Apollo; the poplar to Hercules; the alder to Pan; the olive to Minerva; the fig and vine to Bacchus; the lotus to Hermes. The leek of Wales, like the shamrock of Ireland, was an object of worship in the East, and as associated with Virgo. The Hortus Kewensis states that it first came to Britain in 1562. The mandrake or Love-apple was also sacred. Brinton gives a list of seven such sacred plants among the Creek Indians. The Vervain, sacred to Druids, was gathered in Egypt at the rise of Sirius the Dogstar.



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« Reply #219 on: February 22, 2009, 12:40:01 am »

WELL-WORSHIP
THAT so wet a country as Ireland should have so great a reverence for wells, is an evidence how early the primitive

p. 239

and composite races there came under the moral influence of oriental visitors and rulers, who had known in their native lands the want of rain, the value of wells. So deep was this respect, that by some the Irish were known as the People of Wells.

In remote ages and realms, worship has been celebrated at fountains or wells. They were dedicated to Soim in India. Sopar-soma was the fountain of knowledge. Oracles were delivered there. But there were Cursing as well as Blessing wells.

Wells were feminine, and the feminine principle was the object of adoration there, though the specific form thereof changed with the times and the faith. In Christian lands they were dedicated, naturally enough, to the Virgin Mary. It is, however, odd to find a change adopted in some instances after the Reformation. Thus, according to a clerical writer in the Graphic, 1875, a noted Derbyshire well had its annual festival on Ascension Day, when the place was adorned with crosses, poles, and arches. All was religiously done in honour of the Trinity, the vicar presiding. Catholic localities still prefer to decorate holy wells on our Lady's Assumption Day.

It was in vain that the Early Church, the Medieval Church, and even the Protestant Church, sought to put down well-worship, the inheritance of extreme antiquity. Strenuous efforts were made by Councils. That of Rouen in the seventh century declared that offerings made, there in the form of flowers, branches, rags, &c., were sacrifices to the devil. Charlemagne issued in 789 his decree against it--as did our Edgar and Canute.

As Scotland caught the infection by contact with Ireland, it was needful for the Presbyterian Church to restrain the folly. This was done by the Presbytery of Dingwall in 1656, though even worse practices were then condemned;

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« Reply #220 on: February 22, 2009, 12:40:19 am »

as, the adoration of stones, the pouring of milk on hills, and the sacrifice of bulls. In 1628 the Assembly, prohibiting visits to Christ's well at Falkirk on May mornings, got a law passed sentencing offenders to a fine of twenty pounds Scot, and the exhibition in sackcloth for three Sundays in church. Another act put the offenders in prison for a week on bread and water.

Mahomet even could not hinder the sanctity attached to the well Zamzam at Mecca. More ancient still was holy Beersheba, the seven wells.

Wales, especially North Wales, so long and intimately associated with Ireland, had many holy wells, as St Thecla's at Llandegla, and St Winifrede's of Flintshire Holywell. St Madron's well was useful in testing the loyalty of lovers. St. Breward's well cured bad eyes, and received offerings in cash and pins. St Cleer's was good for nervous ailments, and benefited the insane. The Druid magician Tregeagle is said still to haunt Dozmare Pool. Henwen is the Old Lady Well. The Hindoo Vedas proclaim that "all healing power is in the waters"

Hydromancy, or divination by the appearance of water in a well, is cherished to the present time. One Christian prayer runs thus:--

"'Water, water, tell me truly,
Is the man that I love duly,
On the earth, or under the sod,
Sick or well--in the name of God."

Irish wells have been re-baptized, and therefore retain their sanctity. A stout resistance to their claims seems to have been made awhile by the early missionaries, since Columba exorcised a demon from a well possessed by it. They all, however, liked to resort to wells for their preaching stations. In one of the Lives of St. Patrick, it

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« Reply #221 on: February 22, 2009, 12:40:33 am »

is related that "he preached at a fountain (well) which the Druids worshipped as a God."

Milligan assures us, "The Celtic tribes, starting from hot countries, where wells were always of the utmost value, still continued that reverence for them which had been handed down in their traditions." This opinion may be controverted by ethnologists. But Croker correctly declares that even now in Ireland, "near these wells little altars or shrines are frequently constructed, often in the rudest manner, and kneeling before them, the Irish peasant is seen offering up his prayers."

It is not a little singular that these unconfined Irish churches should be in contiguity with Holy Oaks or Holy Stones. Prof. Harttung, in his Paper before the Historical Society, remarked of the Irish--"They have from time immemorial been inclined to superstition." He even believed in their ancient practice of human sacrifices.

Pilgrimages to wells are frequent to this day. The times are fixed for them; as the first of February, in honour of Tober Brigid, or St. Bridget's well, of Sligo. The bushes are draped with offerings, and the procession must move round as the sun moves, like the heathen did at the same spot so long ago. At Tober Choneill, or St. Connell's well, the correct thing is to kneel, then wish for a favour, drink the water in silence, and quietly retire, never telling the wish, if desiring its fulfilment.

Unfortunately, these pilgrimages--often to wild localities--are attended with characteristic devotion to whisky and free fights. At the Holy Well, Tibber, or Tober, Quan, the water is first soberly drunk on the knees. But when the whisky, in due course, follows, the talking, Singing, laughing, and love-making may be succeeded by a liberal use of the blackthorn.

In the story of the Well of Kilmore is an allusion to

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« Reply #222 on: February 22, 2009, 12:41:02 am »

mystical fishes. An old writer says, "They do call the said fishes Easa Seant, that is to say, holie fishes." In the charming poem of Diarmuid, there is an account of the Knight of the Fountain, and the sacred silver cup from which the pilgrim drank.

Giraldus, the Welsh Seer, beheld a man washing part of his head in the pool at the top of Slieve Gullion, in Ireland, when the part immediately turned grey, the hair having, been black before. The opposite effect would be a virtue.

Prof. Robertson Smith, while admitting Well-worship as occurring with the most primitive of peoples, finds it connected with agriculture, when the aborigines had no better, knowledge of a God. The source of a spring, said he, "is honoured as a Divine Being, I had almost said a divine animal." "Such springs," remarks Rhys, "have in later times been treated as Holy Wells."

River-worship, as is well known, has been nearly universal among rude peoples, and human sacrifices not uncommonly followed. The river god of Esthonia some times appeared to the villagers as a little man with blue and-white stockings. Streams, like wells, are under care of local deities. Even our river Severn was ado in the time of the Roman occupation, as we know by Latin inscriptions.

Wells varied in curative powers. St. Tegla's was good for epilepsy. Rickety children benefit from a thrice dipping. Some, by the motion of the waters when something is thrown in, will indicate the coming direction wind. Some will cure blindness, like that at Rathlogan while others will cause it, except to some favoured mortals.

Offerings must be made to the spirit in charge of well, and to the priestess acting as guardian. If in any, way connected with the person, so much the better. A piece of a garment, money touched by the hand, or even

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« Reply #223 on: February 22, 2009, 12:41:21 am »

a pin from clothes, is sufficient. Pins should be dropped on a Saint's day, if good luck be sought. As Henderson's Folklore remarks, "The country girls imagine that the well is in charge of a fairy, or spirit, who must be propitiated by some offering." Some well-spirits, as Peg O'Nell of the Ribble, can be more than mischievous. Besides the dropping of metal, or the slaughter of fowls, a cure requires perambulation, sunwise, three times round the well. On Saints' day wells are often dressed with flowers.

Otway has asserted that "no religious place in Ireland can be without a holy well." But Irish wells are not the only ones favoured with presents of pins and rags, for Scotland, as well as Cornwall and other parts of England, retain the custom. Mason names some rag-wells:---Ardclines of Antrim, Erregall-Keroge of Tyrone, Dungiven, St. Bartholomew of Waterford, St. Brigid of Sligo.

The spirits of the wells may appear as frogs or fish. Gomme, who has written so well on this subject, refers to a couple of trout, from time immemorial, in the Tober or well Kieran, Meath. Of two enchanted trout in the Galway Pigeon Hole, one was captured. As it immediately got free from the magic, turning into a beautiful young lady, the fisher, in fright, pitched it back into the well. Other trout-protected wells are recorded. Salmon and eels look after Tober Monachan, the Kerry well of Ballymorereigh. Two black fish take care of Kilmore well. That at Kirkmichael of Banff has only a fly in charge.

"The point of the legend is," writes Robertson Smith, "that the sacred source is either inhabited by a demoniac being, or imbued with demoniac life." It is useful, in the event of a storm near the coast, to let off the water from a well into the sea. This draining off was the practice of the Islanders of Inn is Murray. The Arran Islanders derive much comfort from casting into wells flint-heads used by

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« Reply #224 on: February 22, 2009, 12:41:31 am »

their forefathers in war. Innis Rea has a holy well near the Atlantic.

What was the age of Well-worship? The President of the Folklore Society, who deems the original worshippers Non-Aryan, i.e. before Celts came to Ireland, identifies the custom with the **** of stone circles. The scientific anthropologist, General Pitt-Rivers, tells us, "It is impossible to believe that so singular a custom as this, invariably associated with cairns, megalithic monuments, holy wells, or some such early Pagan institutions, could have arisen independently in all these countries."

Enough has been said to show, as Wood-Martin observes, that "Water-worship, recommended by Seneca, tolerated by the Church in times of yore, is a cult not yet gone out." But one has written, "The printer's blanket somehow smothers miracles, and small pica plays the very mischief with sanctified wells."



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