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Irish Druids And Old Irish Religions


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Crissy Herrell
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« Reply #240 on: February 22, 2009, 12:46:16 am »

THE SACRED TARA HILL
TARA, Temor, Temhuir, or Temoria, is intimately connected with the early religion of Ireland, and has been associated with singular theories. As Tea-mur, it was the mount or home of Queen Tea, wife of the Milesian King Heremon. The centre of Druidical song and power, the seat of ancient royalty, Tara was a favourite subject of glorification by ancient annalists, and has been immortalized in the poem of Moore. But, while bards record

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a great assembly being held there 921 B.C., Dr. Petrie, the eminent antiquary, is disposed to regard the place as existing only between 200 and 300 years after Christ.

The high civilization at Tara has been a favourite subject for Bards. The old lady guide at Tara told us that only gold and silver vessels were used at the banquets. Dr. Ledwich laughs at the yarns about its twenty-seven kitchens, and its amazing bill of daily fare. He assures us that the story of Tara rests only upon the fragment of a fragment in the Seabright collection, that had neither the name of its author nor a date. The earliest Romish ecclesiastics, and mediæval writers, knew nothing of early Irish culture or wealth.

We must refer to the works of Dr Petrie for a description of the several halls, mounds, raths, cairns, and tombs still to be traced, with distinguished appellations connect with heroes and prophets of old. The Feis, or Irish Parliaments, were wont to meet in the so-styled Banqueting Hall. An ancient Celtic bard had this account of the grave of the Queen that came from Spain--

"Tephi was her name! She excelled all virgins!
Wretched for him who had to entomb her.
Sixty feet of correct measurement
Were marked as a sepulchre to enshrine her."

The Tara stone, or the Dallan, Stone of Destiny, refer to by writers of the tenth century, is declared by Petrie to be the cylindrical obelisk still seen six feet of the ground, with other so called Druidical monuments. The tourist is shown the spot where Lucad the Druid burned in the house from which Benen, St Patrick disciple, had escaped. The story, as told in Latin Maccuthenius, contains one of the traditions connected with the reputed life of Ireland's apostle, and illustrates the contest at Tara between the Saint and the Druids--

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« Reply #241 on: February 22, 2009, 12:46:30 am »

"All these things being done in the sight of the King between the magicians and Patrick, the King says to them, 'Cast your books into the water, and him whose books shall escape uninjured we will adore.' Patrick answered, 'I will do so.' And the magician said,' I am unwilling to come to the trial by water with that man, because he has water as his god' (alluding to baptism). The contest was to be settled, therefore, by fire. A house was constructed of boughs, half green and half dry. The magician went into the green part, and Benin into the dry. The fire came and consumed the green, with the Druid, but the Christian was not hurt."

Other stories connected with the preacher at Tara are narrated elsewhere in the present work, and relate to a period subsequent to the institution of the Ollamh Fodhla college at Tara. But the modern school of Anglo-Israel attach other ideas to that ancient seat of sanctity. Heber of the bards is to them Hebrew. Tara is named from Terah. Jeremiah fled thither after the siege of Jerusalem, carrying away the treasures of the temple; as, the ark, the sceptre of David, the Urim and Thummim, and others. Some persons at this day affect to believe that in the Hill of Tara might yet be found these memorials of Judaism, and hope to recover thence David's harp, carried to Ireland by Jeremiah and the Princess Scota, daughter of Pharaoh.

The Rev. F. R. A. Glover, M.A., has no doubt about its possession of the sacred stone; saying, "The Foundation Pillar which the Jews regarded for six hundred years with veneration, as Jacob's Pillow, in their temple on Araunah's threshing-floor, and which, being lost in the destruction of their sanctuary, B.C. 588, has appeared in Ireland as the precious Liag Phail, brought thither by Hebrew men in a ship of Dan, cir. 584."

The same authority elsewhere advances the following--

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« Reply #242 on: February 22, 2009, 12:46:41 am »

"In Ireland, in the royal precincts of Tara, cir. B.C. 582-3, there was a Hebrew system and transplanted Jerusalem, set up in a sort of abeyance in sanctuary; actual, operative,; but unknown; real, but for some wise purpose kept out of sight; a throne set up by a Hebrew prophet (Jeremiah) reset in sanctuary." Some pious friends of the Anglo-Israel movement have desired a digging search over Tara, now a wilderness region, to discover the missing treasures from Solomon's temple.

The romance connected with Tara we thus perceive still blossoming at the end of the nineteenth century. It began with heathens, was discoursed on by Catholics, is reverenced by Protestants. We still dream and sing of "The harp that once through Tara's halls."

The Rath on the slope, between the hill of Tara and river Boyne on the west, was the site of the burial of the heroes of the Battle of Gavra. The grave of Oscar is still shown.

"We buried Oscar of the red arms
On the north side of the great Gavra."

The palace of Teamair, or Tara, was held by the Tuatha. The chief college of the Druids was at Tara. There were held the national convention of the Teamorian Fes. It was associated with the marriage sports of the Tailtean The foundation is attributed to the wise Ollam Fodhla.

O'Hartigan, of the tenth century, the author of the Book of Ballymote, spoke of it --

"Fair was its many-sided tower,
Where assembled heroes famed in story;
Many were the tribes to which it was inheritance,
Though decay lent a green grassy land."

He sang its praises under Cormac O'Cusinn, when it was a fortress; when, at banquets, three hundred cup-bearers

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« Reply #243 on: February 22, 2009, 12:46:56 am »

handed round three times fifty goblets, "which cups were of gold or of silver all."

"In Meath," said Hollinshed, "is a hill called the Hill of Taragh, wherein is a plaine twelve score long, which was named the Kempe his Hall; where the countrie had their meetings and folkmotes at a place that was accounted the high palace of the monarch.--The Irish hammer manic fables in this forge, of Fin Mac Coile and his chieftains. But doubtless the place seemeth to beare a show of an ancient and famous monument."

When Widow Feelin, the guide,--wrinkled, freckled, wasted, wizen, bent at an angle of 45 degrees,--hurried over the ground with the weight of 75 years to show us the wonders of Tara, she pointed out the "plaine twelve score long," as the site of the far-famed Banqueting Hall. She told us of the vessels of gold and silver, served by three hundred butlers. She could show no stone remains, for sure, the palace was of polished oak. She gloated over the graves of fifty croppies (soldiers); and, seating herself on the turf, sang a long ballad of past glory, in which O'Connell was duly remembered, and the Repeal meeting on Tara Hill, at which she had been present. Looking round upon nine counties, she mourned the loss of Erin's pride, as an aged Fenian Druidess might have done. She said that some persons wanted to search the grave-mounds over Tara's departed heroes, but that she had roused the villagers, who drove off the sacrilegious party. To her patriotic ardour, the sanctity of Tara and its departed Druids and Princes may be safely confided.

Mrs. Wilkes reads in the antiquity of Temora as the Teman of Edom, of Midian as the old name for Meath, of Padan Aram, of Laban, of Levi now Lewes, of Danaans from Dan, of Jacob's pillow Lia Fail, of the Irish genealogy in the first of Chronicles, of the tablets of Druids being the

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« Reply #244 on: February 22, 2009, 12:47:17 am »

peeled rods of Jacob, &c., &c., testifying to the glory of Tara. The old Patriarchal religion of Chaldæa was one. with the ancient faith of Erin.

Lastly, and not to be forgotten, the association of the Holy Stone with Tara signifies the place above all in some persons' estimation. Dr. Petrie discourses eloquently upon the Bod Thearghais, which bears, however, a surprising phallic signification. "It is," says he, "an interesting fact that a large obeliscal pillar stone, in a prostrate position, occupied, until a recent period, the very situation on the Hill of Tara, pointed out as the place of the Lia Fail by the Irish writers of the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth centuries; and that this was a monument of pagan antiquity, an Idol Stone, as the Irish writers call it, will see evident from its form and character."

Tara, therefore, occupies no mean position in the history of religion in Ireland.

______________

HOWTH HILL, overlooking Dubhlinn or Dublin Bay not far from Eblana, Dublin, and rising 578 feet above the water, was a hallowed spot long before St. Patrick was at Tara. It was the Ben Edir or Edair of the Fenians, a so called from its oaks. The Danes destroyed its Halls in 819. The Book of Howth chronicles events from 432 to 1370. The Danish word Howeth is from Hoved, a head, Ptolemy's Edras became Edar. A Fenian poem runs thus:--

"How sweet from proud Ben Edir's height
To see the ocean roll in sight;
And fleets, swift bounding on the gale,
With warriors clothed in shining mail.
Most beauteous hill, around whose head
Ten thousand sea-birds' pinions spread;
May joy thy lord's true bosom thrill,
Chief of the Fenians' happy hill."

 

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« Reply #245 on: February 22, 2009, 12:47:28 am »

Ireland' Eye, a little isle north of Howth harbour, is also associated with early religious history. It was the Inis Nessan, from St. Mac Nessan, of the Royal family of Leinster, who, in the sixth century, had his oratory at Inis Erean, as then it was called. The word Eye is from the Danish Ey, Island. There it was that the holy man was assailed, as the story goes, by the formidable chief of hell, who sought to terrify him by his gigantic and terrible form. The Saint, excited, threw his book at the fiend, driving him against a rock which, splitting open, received him within itself.

The Abbey of Howth was erected in 1235. Fin Mac Coul's Quoit, a stone of many tons weight, is now seen covering a cromlech, upon which these verses were written by S. Ferguson, Q.C., recording the burial of the fair Fenian, Aideen--

"They hewed the stone; they heaped the cairn:
      Said Ossian, 'In a queenly grave
We leave her 'mong her fields of fern,
      Between the cliff and wave.'
The cliff behind stands clear and bare,
      And bare above, the heathery steep
Scales the blue heaven's expanse to where
      The Danaan Druids sleep.

And here hard by her natal bower,
      On lone Ben Adair's side we strive
With lifted rock, and signs of power,
      To keep her name alive.
That while from circling year to year,
      The ogham letter'd stone is seen,
The Gael shall say, 'Our Fenians here
      Entombed their loved Aideen.'"

 



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« Reply #246 on: February 22, 2009, 12:48:00 am »

ROUND TOWER CREED.
WITHOUT entering upon a description of these ancient and graceful architectural objects, it may properly be

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asked, "Do they throw any light upon the question of religion in Ireland?"

The first inquiry will be as to their age. If, as some authorities declare, they date from Christian times, they may be regarded as silent, so far as prior heathenism is concerned. If, however, as others contend, their structure and arrangements indicate a period of greater antiquity, they may tell a tale of pagan symbolism.

As writers of the twelfth century assure us that there were then no stone churches in Ireland, these buildings must, if Christian, have been raised since the Norman conquest of that Island. And yet, as Marcus Keane informs us--"more than eighty of the supposed sites of towers are associated with the names of fifth and sixth century Saints, or of heathen divinities."

One has affirmed that a celebrated tower was built by the devil in one night. To this, Latocnaye says, "If the devil built it, he is a good mason." Others may still as "Who erected the rest?" While over a hundred a known to us now, their number must have been much greater formerly, if, as that ancient chronicle, the Ulster Annals, declares, 75 fell in the great Irish earthquake of 448.

We have been told that they were fire-towers, belfries, watch towers, granaries, sepulchres, forts, hermit dwellings, purgatorial pillars, phallic objects of worship, astronomical marks, depositories of Buddhist relics, Baal fire-places, observatories, sanctuaries of the sacred fire, Freemason lodges, &c., &c. They were Pagan and Christian, built long before Christ, or a thousand years after.

As showing the diversity of opinion, we place before reader some of the views,--especially where they bear upon the subject of Irish religion.

Most Christian writers of the Island, jealous alike for

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« Reply #247 on: February 22, 2009, 12:48:18 am »

their faith and the honour of the country, pronounce them Christian edifices. The most eminent, perhaps Dr. Petrie, asserts that they "are of Christian ecclesiastical origin, and were erected at various periods between the fifth and thirteenth centuries;" that is, mostly raised by the Norman conquerors of Ireland as belfries. O'Curry regards Petrie as unassailable. Miss Stokes is deservedly a high authority for her Early Christian Architecture in Ireland; but she would place them as pre-Norman.

Petrie and others point to the fact of skeletons being found in some, and these lying east and west, as a proof of Christian origin. Yet, as is replied, all this existed under paganism. Christian emblems, found only in three out of sixty-three, have been regarded as modern alterations. The silence about the Towers in Irish hagiography, as the Acta sanctorum, &c., would seem to indicate a non-Christian origin, as early monkish authors forbore reference to paganism.

It is further asked, Where is the Christian prototype? If an Irish style of Christian building, why did it not appear in countries known to have been under Irish missionary influence,--as in Cornwall, Isle of Man, Scotland, France, Germany, &c.? Why did not Culdees leave such memorials in the Hebrides, in Lindisfarne, and other localities?

"There are weighty authorities on both sides," writes Gradwell, "but there are sufficiently high names who maintain they were already in existence when the Saint was brought to Ireland. If they belong to a later period, when Ireland was Christian, it seems strange that the architects of those times should have displayed such surpassing skill in the construction of these Towers, for which it is difficult to assign any adequate purpose; and not, on the other hand, have left us no monuments whatever of a more useful kind."

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« Reply #248 on: February 22, 2009, 12:48:39 am »

It is obvious enough, as has been pointed out, that "St Patrick and his followers almost invariably selected those sacred sites of paganism, and built their wooden churches under the shadow of the Round Towers, then as mysterious and inscrutable as they are to-day."

Mrs. S. C. Hall, noting the carvings on the Devenish Tower, writes, "Some of the advocates of the Christian theory, on looking at these carvings, and at those of Cormac's Chapel in Cashel, and on the corbel stones in the interior of the Ardmore Tower, would argue a Christian period of ****. We confess we cannot see them in same light."

The anchorite theory was mentioned by the Rev, Thomas Harmer, in 1789. He saw a parallel in the hermitage of St. Sabba; saying, "The height of the door the Tower belonging to St. Sabba is a circumstance which it appears to agree with the Scotch and Irish Towers." A bell on the top served as a warning of approach of foes to the hermits. Some saw them serving to sustain such self-martyrs as Simon Stylites.

Wright, the antiquary, observed, "Some will have them to have been watch-towers or beacons; but their low situation seems rather to argue against it. Others are opinion that they are purgatorial pillars, by which penitent was elevated, according to his crime, by a ladder to fast and pray, and so purge away his sins." "They certainly are not belfries," says Higgins; "and the fire-tower scheme being gone, I have not heard anything suggested having the slightest degree of probability." To Bede they were an enigma.

H. O'Brien, on the Round Towers, held that they were built by the Tuath de Danaans, and "were specifically constructed for a twofold purpose of worshipping the Sun and Moon, as the authors of generation and vegetable heat.

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« Reply #249 on: February 22, 2009, 12:48:56 am »

Again--"I do deny that the Round Towers of Ireland were fire receptacles,"--(but) "in honour of that sanctifying principle of nature, emanating, as was supposed, from the Sun, under the denomination of Sol, Phœbus, Apollo, Abad or Budh, &c.; and from the Moon, under the epithets of Luna, Diana, Juno, Astarte, Venus, Babia or Batsee, &c."

Miss Stokes thought it was absurd to say, as the early Welsh historian did, that Ireland had no stone buildings before the eleventh century, and she maintained that the towers were of the tenth century, being half strongholds, half belfries. Her opinion is that Irish art is not from Greece, but of purely native growth. Many Irish traditions point to their Danish origin. St. Bernard wrote that the Archbishop of Armagh first built a stone house, and was blamed for it by his Irish flock.

That they had great antiquity might be conjectured from the fact, that the great battle between Tuaths and Firbolgs was known as the Field of the Towers. Petrie found the tradition of their structure by Goban Saer, the poet, or mason, a myth of very olden date.

Dudley's Symbolism dilates on their geometric form and phallic characteristics. A MS. says that "the use to which our ancient Irish put these towers was to imprison penitents." Forlong deemed them phallic; and Bishop Rothe, 1647, memorials of conquest. Kenrick's thought of their Phœnician origin is combated on the ground of there being none like them in Palestine.

In 1605, a work appeared with this title, De antiquitate Turrum Belanorum Pagana Kerriensi, et de architectura non campanilis Ecclesiastica," and containing many engravings of Round Towers. An author of Louvain, 1610, esteemed them, says Hargrave Jennings, the Rosicrucian, "heathen Lithoi or obelisks, in the sense of all those

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« Reply #250 on: February 22, 2009, 12:49:18 am »

referred to in other parts of the world (phalli). They were raised in the early religions, as the objects of a universal worship."

The popular idea in Ireland, that they were erected by the Danes, is met with the difficulty that there are none such in Denmark, or in England.

Sir Thomas Molyneux declared them belfries. One Smith, 1750, supposed their date between 900 and 1000. An Irish MS. called them Inclusoria, for the imprisonment of criminals. Governor Pownall gave them an Arkite origin; another, a Pictish; a third, as the work of Scythian Sabæans. Brereton, of the Society of Antiquaries, said, in 1763--"I think them rather ancient Irish than either Pictish or Danish."

The Towers must not be confounded with the Brochs or Pictish houses of Caithness, &c., which were forts with the residence between two circular walls; nor with the so-call vitrified forts, known in Scotland, and of great antiquity. But they may be likened to the Nurhaghs or Giants' Towers of Sardinia, Gozo Island, Balearic Isles, & though these towers are much more complicated in structure, and rather conical. Like our Towers, they are splendid specimens of masonry.

The Nurhaghs are numerous--even thousands remaining As round towers, they slope inward about ten degrees. They are seen from 20 to 140 feet in diameter, having spiral staircase. At Gozo, one, with a diameter of 100 feet has one chamber 80 feet by 50. Fergusson, architectural scholar, declares them pre-Roman in age. He thinks they did not grow out of Dolmen, nor Dolmen out of then. The word Nur means fire; but, if fire-temples, why many of them? As few bodies are ever found in them, they could not have been tombs. Oliver considered the Nuraghs were granaries in time of peace, but fortresses in war.

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« Reply #251 on: February 22, 2009, 12:49:38 am »

There is great uncertainty as to the object or origin of Towers. Being roofed in, they resemble the domed tumuli at Mykenna of the Pelasgians, or like Buddhist Dagobas. Captain Oliver, describing the Maltese Towers, calls attention to "the use of the numerous recesses, more like small cupboards, cut in the stone slabs," and which resemble the recesses in the Round Towers. "It may be conjectured," said he, "that these loculi may have been intended to hold the small idols, whose trunks (headless), made of stone or clay, are not dissimilar to the conventional female figures of Hindoo representations, on the numerous large and small rudely shaped conical stones (possibly sacred symbols, analogous to the larger stone cones, on which female mammæ are found engraved in the ruined nuragghi of Sardinia) which are found in those ruins. Somewhat similar small pyramidal cones, which by some have been supposed to represent the sun's rays, are to be seen in the hands of priests kneeling before the sacred serpent god in Egyptian paintings."

All this reference to phallicism in the Nurhaghs, maintained by Arnim, De la Marmora, and other Italians, apparently tends to support phallic theories on the Round Towers. Other authorities, as Manno, Peyron, &c., see in them only sepulchres; while Angius, Arri, and Münter take the fire-worship view. The word Nuraggh is Turanian according to the Rev. J. Taylor; but, to Dr. Charnock, it is Phœnician.

Round Towers have been also compared to the Towers of Silence by Fergusson, though those are but Parsee burial-places. Some see resemblance to the pagodas of the Polygars of the Circars. One near Benares is 50 feet high; that at Bahar has the door reached by a ladder. They have been compared with the Dhila iron shaft, 48 feet high, erected in the fifth century.

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« Reply #252 on: February 22, 2009, 12:49:48 am »

The Chouchas of North Africa are in groups, from 7 feet to 40 feet diameter, of regular masonry. The towers of Etruria, like those of Ireland, had several stories. Lucian wrote of a priapus near Hieropolis three hundred cubits high.

A likeness to the Topes of Bhilsa, or the lofty Buddhist Stupas, had many advocates. Yet Fergusson asserts that no stone building of India was existing 250 B C, and Cunningham dates the Topes no earlier. Masson assures us that tumuli invariably accompany Topes. Chinese towers have nine stories. In Persia, Pulwar valley, is a stone tower 40 feet high, with a door 15 feet high, considered by Morier a fire-temple. Under one stupa were found two stone vessels containing bones, pearls, and gold-leaf, under another, a sacred box. A Sarnath stupa is recorded by Hwen Thsang to have been 300 feet in height. King Asoka's pillar, 70 feet, was erected three hundred years before Christ.

Marcus Keane wrote nearly thirty years ago his Towers and Temples of Ancient Ireland. He held that the oriental Cuthites raised them, as giants built the Tower of Babel, and that long before the Celts came to Erin; that the Irish were then a cultured people, as St Patrick is said to have burnt 180 volumes of their literature, that the Saints identified with old churches were heathenish, that St. Diul or St Deuil, was Dia Baal, the god Baal, that stone. crosses existed there before Christianity; that St. Kevin's bed had a mystic and pagan meaning, that the Gobban Saer, said by Irish tradition to be the Tower-builder, was none other than the grand-master of the Cuthite masons, &c.

But his great contention was that the Round Tower were designed to exhibit the male productive principle, and indirectly, the productive power of the sun. He fancied that the dispute which led to the dispersion at the Tower

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« Reply #253 on: February 22, 2009, 12:50:04 am »

of Babel was none other than the rivalry between the believers in the Father Principle and those adopting the Mother Principle. He declared that the Cuthites or Scotis were upholders of the first, and that, being defeated by the other party, they emigrated to Ireland, and raised the towers as monuments of their faith.

The Magian or Fire theory, associated also with sun worship, had advocates in Weld, O'Conor, Bethan, Webb, Moore, Lanigan, &c.

Dr. Lanigan found buildings in India with an interior like that of Irish Towers. "Those temples," says he, "were usually round, and some of them were raised to a great height. The lower part of an Irish Round Tower might have answered very well for a temple; that is, a place in which was an altar, on which the sacred fire was preserved, while the middle floors could have served as habitations for the persons employed in watching it. The highest part of the tower was an observatory, intended for celestial observations, as I think evidently appears from the four windows being placed opposite to the four cardinal points." Finding most doors facing the west, he is the more confirmed in the fire-worship theory, as Magians always advanced from the west side to worship the fire.

We are reminded of the words of Diodorus Siculus, that an Isle opposite Gaul, and nearly as large as Sicily, had temples of a round form, dedicated to the sun, in which priests with harps sang praises to their god. The Psalter of Cashel distinctly speaks of the preservation of their sacred fire.

Dr. O'Brennan, who thought they were raised by the Tuaths, recognized the fire-worship of the Gadelians in Ireland, and the use of the towers for that purpose. Though known of old as Bell-houses, he observes--"That these towers might have been, in after times, used as bell-houses,

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« Reply #254 on: February 22, 2009, 12:50:23 am »

is another question." Miss Beaufort says--"The object for which the towers were built is distinctly mentioned in the ancient history, called the Psalter of Cashel, and that of Tara, to be for the preservation of the sacred fires of Baal, the Baal-Theine." Elsewhere, she writes--"The Druidic temples of Vesta, in which were kept the sacred or eternal fire, were called Tlachgs, or temples of Cybele, being of the same construction with the Pyrathea of the ancient Persians."

Windele thus expresses his views--"Their Irish names, Tur-aghan or adhan, Feidh-neimhedh and Cileagh, are of themselves conclusive as to their pagan origin, and announce at once a fane devoted to that form of religion, compounded of Sabæism or star-worship and Buddhism of which the sun, represented by fire, was the principal deity."

Buddhism is here a sort of sun-worship, and not aft the teaching of the Founder. However pure the sentiments originally taught, and now professed in Esoteric Buddhist and Theosophy, all travellers admit that ancient pagan ideas have come through to the surface of Buddhism, and largely represent idolatrous action. Yet, they who recognise in the Irish Towers the former presence of Buddhist missionaries, fancy the buildings might have contained relics of Budh. H. O'Brien regards the Sacred Tree of Budh to have been primarily a lingam, and secondarily a tree. He reads in the Irish Budh-gaya an allusion to generativeness. Forlong looks upon the tower as a deposit for lingam articles in secret recesses.

Anna Wilkes in Ireland, Ur of the Chaldees, writes--"There can be no doubt the Towers in the interior of Hindostan bear more than a striking likeness to those remaining in Ireland. These resemblances are to be found in such great quantities in the latter place, that it is impossible but to believe that Ireland was the centre from

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