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Irish Druids And Old Irish Religions


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Crissy Herrell
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« Reply #255 on: February 22, 2009, 12:50:57 am »

which a great deal of the religion of Budh developed. This will not appear strange when we consider, in connection with the point, that many of the Saints bear Aryan and Semitic names."

The bells, asserted by tradition to have belonged to the Towers, furnish an argument for the advocate of Buddhism, so closely associated with bells.

Glendalough, in its sculptures, appears also to favour this idea. No one can visit St. Kevin's Kitchen there without being struck with such resemblances. Ledwich has pointed out some of these. As among the most ancient structures in Ireland, and singularly allied to the Tower near, St. Kevin's Kitchen peculiarly aroused the attention of the writer. It was not only the position occupied by the serpent, the bulbuls or doves, the tree of life, or Irish Aithair Faodha, or tree of Budh, but the stone roof and the peculiar cement of the walls bore witness to its antiquity.

The Buddhist form of the Crucifixion, so different from anything in early Christian art, is another singular feature. In the Tower of Donoughmore, Meath county, is one of these sculptures; as Brash describes--"very diminutive rude figure with extended arms, and legs crossed."

In Irish we read of the Danaan King, Budh the red; of the Hill of Budh, Cnox Buidhbh, in Tyrone; of other Budh hills in Mayo and Roscommon; and, in the Book of Ballymote, of Fergus of the Fire of Budh. Buddhism was a great power in remote ages; and, as Allanson Picton points out, "not so much in its philosophical conclusions, as the feeling out of the soul towards an unlimited loyalty to the infinite." Still, if Round Towers owe anything to Buddhism, why are they only in Ireland?

While Larrigan thought them pagan, Lynch, O'Halloran, Ledwich, O'Curry, and Petrie held them Christian. A

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phallic origin is given by H. O'Brien and Sir W. Betham;, a cemetery memorial, by Westropp; a baptistery by Canon Smiddy; a hermitage, by Dean Richardson and E. King; and a penitentiary, by Sir R. Colt Hoare. Who can decide when such authorities disagree?



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« Reply #256 on: February 22, 2009, 12:51:20 am »

OSSIAN THE BARD.
A WILD storm of controversy once raged, when Macpherson put forth a work purporting to be a collection of old Gaelic songs, under the name of the "Poems of Ossian," who was the last of the Fenian Chiefs, and who, reported, on his return to Ireland after his enchantment, failed to yield his paganism to St. Patrick's appeals.

While generally condemned as the inventor of the lays, the charms of which enthralled even Byron and Goethe, he must surely have been a poet of great merit, if they were of his own composition. But if they were remains of ancient traditions, carried down by word of mouth, Macpherson might at least be credited with weaving them into more or less connected narratives.

There has been much debate as to the possibility such rude people, as in Erin and on the opposite shore of North Britain, having so retentive a memory, with the ability to transmit ideas at once beautiful and refined, in language of imagination and taste. But, as with Edda, and the folklore of other semi-barbarous nations, facts prove the reality of extraordinary memory. It is not generally known that many Jews could repeat faithfully the whole of their sacred scriptures.

The history of the poems is interesting. The Rev. John Home, the author of Douglas and other publications, found a Tutor with transcripts taken down from old

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« Reply #257 on: February 22, 2009, 12:51:35 am »

northern people, which were sent on to Professor Hugh Blair. Macpherson was requested to translate some of them, and these were published by Blair in 1760. Search was then made for similar traditions by Macpherson himself, who found in Lord Bute a patron for the publishing of Fingal in 1762. Dr. Johnson, the hater of all that was Scotch, furiously attacked the book.

In 1849, Dr. Lounrost published 22,793 verses rescued from memory. The 1862 edition of the Dean of Lismore's book gives, in the appendix, a long poem taken down from the mouth of an old woman as late as 1856. Sir Walter Scott collected many Scotch ballads in the same way. The story of Grainne and Diarmuid has been long known in the cabins of Ireland. Fenian poems have been circulating for ages among the peasantry of Ireland and Scotland. In 1785, Ford Hill published an ancient Erse poem, collected among the Scottish Highlands, to illustrate Macpherson's Ossian.

In Gillies's History of Greece, we are told that "the scattered fragments of Grecian History were preserved during thirteen centuries by oral tradition." Bards did the same service for Roman history till the second century be lore Christ. "The Dschungariade of the Calmucks," the learned Heeren writes, "is said to surpass the poems of Homer in length, as much as it stands beneath them in merit; and yet it exists only in the memory of a people which is not unacquainted with writing. But the songs of a nation are probably the last things which are committed to writing, for the very reason that they are remembered."

Dr. Garnett, in his Tour in Scotland, 1798, says, "It seems to me wonderful that any person who has travelled in the Highlands should doubt the authenticity of the Celtic poetry, which has been given to the English reader

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« Reply #258 on: February 22, 2009, 12:51:48 am »

by Macpherson." He speaks of the Macnab being "in possession of a MS. containing several of the poems of Ossian and other Celtic bards, in their native tongue, which were collected by one of his ancestors." At Mull, he continues, "Here are some persons who can repeat several of the Celtic poems of Ossian and other bards. The schoolmaster told me he could repeat a very long one on the death of Oscar, which was taught him by his grandfather."

The Royal Irish Academy had, in 1787, a notice of "ancient Gaelic poems respecting the race of the Fians (Fenians) collected in the Highlands of Scotland in the year 1784, by the Rev. M. Young, D.D., Fellow of Trinity College, Dublin."

Upon this, the Hibernian Magazine for 1788, remarks--"Dr. Young gives very copious extracts from Ossian, with a literal, or at least a close, translation; and proves decidedly that the poems of that bard are Irish, not Scotch compositions, and that Mr. McPherson has egregiously mutilated, altered, added to, and detracted from them, according as it suited his hypothesis. He appears particularly to have suppressed every line of the author, from which it might be deduced they were of Irish origin"

There seems ground for the latter statement The was the prejudice in favour of the Scotch origin of the poems, although the narratives clearly deal more with Irish history and manners. Dalriada was however, inclusive of south west Scotland and north east Ireland

Croker declares that "many Irish odes are ascribed Oisin." The Inverness Gaelic Society quotes G. J. Cambell--"The spirit is felt to be ancient and Celtic. There can be no doubt regarding the existence of Ossianic poems and ballads for ages before McPherson." Donald

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« Reply #259 on: February 22, 2009, 12:52:06 am »

Ross, Inspector of Schools, wrote in 1877--"A careful analysis of the thought of the West Highland Tales (by T. E. Campbell) points to an antiquity beyond the introduction of Christianity into Scotland."

The Rev. Dr. Waddell, in his Ossian and the Clyde, had no difficulty, in spite of some apparent geological changes, in identifying some of the localities mentioned in the poems. "In Ireland," says he, "the joint tombs of Lamderg, Ullin, and Gelchosa, with the adjoining tomb of Orla and Ryno, might be identified on the northern slope of the Carrickfergus ranges, between the upper and lower Carneals (Ossian's Cormul), and Lake Mourne." Yet, as he adds, "The topography of Ossian was a mystery to Johnson, to Pinkerton, to Laing, and a wilderness of error to Macpherson himself."

The Homeric dispute as to authenticity is recalled by the Ossianic one. Thoreau thought Ossian "of the same stamp with the Iliad itself." Homer appears to us in connection with blind reciters, as does Ossian.

The subject of Homer has had exhaustive treatment under the genius and research of a Gladstone. Yet not a few learned men detect a different author in the Odyssey to that of the Iliad. The two poems depict different conditions of civilization, the Iliad being the older, with different ideas as to the Future Life. If, then, there be such difficulty in deciding upon Homer, obscurity may be imagined in relation to Ossian. In both cases, probably, there was need of a compiler of the scattered bardic lays, the Macpherson of the period.

Dr. Shaw's Gaelic Dictionary asserts that--"Fion is not known in the Highlands by the name of Fingal. He is Universally supposed to be an Irishman." King James, in 1613, in a speech, said--"The ancient Kings of Scotland were descended from the Kings of Ireland." Of the several

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« Reply #260 on: February 22, 2009, 12:52:23 am »

migrations northward from Ireland, that led by Carbry Riada, King Cormac's relative, founded Dalriada of Argyle. The Irish certainly carried their own name of Scots into the northern country.

It may be said of Ossian, as Girardet said of Homer--"We know nothing of his birth, life, or death." But tradition calls him the son of Fion, stolen by a magician, and ultimately becoming the chief bard of the Fianna or Fenians. When these people were crushed at the battle of Gavra, he was spirited away by a fair lady, and lived with her in a palace below the ocean for a hundred and fifty years. Allowed to return to Erin, the story goes that he met with St. Patrick, to whom he related the events of the past, but refused to be a convert to the new faith, Another tale declares that, when staying with the Saint, he objected to the larder.

The Harp, a periodical of 1859, remarks, that other bards got hold of the poems of Oisin or Ossian, "and linked them together by the addition of a suppositious dialogue between the old bard and the Saint." The Harp fancies Ossian had met with "some of the missionaries of the Faith who preceded St. Patrick into Erinn."

Miss Brook, a distinguished Irish authority, thinks some of the so-called Ossianic poems arose as late as the eighth, ninth, and tenth centuries Anyhow, those coming down to our day betray a remarkably heathenish character, and preserve the manners and opinions of a semi-barbarous people, who were endowed with strong imagination, high courage, childlike tenderness, and gentle chivalry for women.

Goethe makes Werther exclaim--"Ossian has, in heart, supplanted Homer." Windisch, no mean critic, has these observations--"The Ossian epoch is later than that of Conchobat and Cuchulinn, but yet preceded the introduction

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« Reply #261 on: February 22, 2009, 12:52:42 am »

of Christianity into Ireland." Skene, justly esteemed one of the first of Scottish historians, sees that Windisch "regards the figures of Finn and Ossian as a property common to the Gaels of Scotland and Ireland." He thus expresses his own opinion--"The Scotch legend attaches itself evidently to the Irish legend; the Irish legends and poetry have passed from Ireland to Scotland." He says elsewhere--"The old blind poet Ossian is a poetic invention, which has taken birth, and which found itself at first created in Ireland."

In the chapter on Irish superstitions, reference is made to some traditional ideas of the olden times. It is sufficient here to observe that, whatever the views which may be entertained as to the authenticity of Ossian, those poems do throw some light upon the religious belief of the ancient Irish race. Their tales accord with those of other semi-barbarous people, and need interpreting after a similar manner. The legendary heroes are not all of flesh and blood.



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« Reply #262 on: February 22, 2009, 12:53:15 am »

THE CULDEES OF DRUIDICAL DAYS.
So many questions have been raised concerning the mysterious community, called Culdees, and such various opinions have been expressed concerning them, that one may be excused inquiring whether in their midst we can trace reminiscences of old Irish faiths. The notion has been long prevalent that the Culdees were only Scotch, having nothing to do with Ireland; whereas, they were originally from that country.

Their most bitter enemy in early Christian days was the Venerable Bede, who denied their claims to orthodoxy. But, since he was a Saxon, and a priest under Roman rule,

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his charges have been slightly heeded. Their maintenance of an hereditary priesthood was not merely Jewish, as he supposed, but of Druidical sympathy.

Prof. Rhys judiciously remarks--"Irish Druidism absorbed a certain amount of Christianity, and it would be a problem of considerable difficulty to fix on the period where it ceased to be Druidism, and from which onwards it could be said of Christianity in any restricted sense of that term."

As both St. Patrick and St. Columba have been regarded by some modern writers as simply Culdees, and not following orthodox views and methods, might not the many stories told of their conflicts with Druids have been brought forth by ancient chroniclers, in refutation of the slanders abroad concerning their heretical, Druidical tendency? The same supposition may be equally directed against the early Welsh missionaries, though these were almost all from Ireland. Certainly their assumed miraculous powers inclined to the old traditions of Druidical performances. They had all of them a control over the powers of nature, and had' even raised the dead; at least, their biographers claimed it for them.

Dr. Carpenter speaks thus:--"The incidents in St. Columba's life have been originally recorded in the contemporary fasti of his religious foundation, and transmitted in unbroken succession to Abbot Adamnan, who first compiled a complete Vita of his great predecessor, of which there exists a MS copy, whose authenticity there is no reason to doubt, which dates back to the early part of the eighth century, not much more than one hundred. years after St. Columba's death. Now, Adamnan's Vita credits its subject with the possession of every kind of miraculous power. He cured hundreds of people afflicted with inveterate diseases, accorded safety to storm-tossed

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« Reply #263 on: February 22, 2009, 12:53:28 am »

vessels, himself walked across the sea to his island home, drove demons out of milk-pails, outwitted sorcerers, and gave supernatural powers to domestic implements."

All this reminds one strongly of the powers attributed by tradition to the Druids of the period, and points suspiciously to some outgrowth from Druidism in his case.

Columba was an Irishman of Donegal, and died, as it is said, in 597. Adamnan declares that his staff (without which a Druid could do but little), when once left behind at Iona, went of itself over the sea to its master in Ireland. He founded a monastery at Durmagh, King's Co. At Iona the ruins are those of the Cluniac monks; for, says Boulbee, "not a trace can well remain of the primitive settlement of Columba." But Iona was certainly a Druidical college at first.

Like the Druids before them, the Culdees formed communities. Richey tells us--"The Church consisted of isolated monasteries, which were practically independent of each other; the clergy exercised no judicial power over the laity." On the other hand, Wood-Martin of Sligo supposes, "Christianity must have been first introduced into Ireland by" missionaries of the Greek Church." He notes the fact that Bishops were to be found in almost every village. It is also pointed out that Columba never sought Papal sanction for the conversion of the Picts.

The Iona tonsure, like that of St. Patrick's time, was the shaving of all the hair in front of a line drawn over the top of the head from ear to ear. The Roman, as all know, was a circle at top, and appears to have been first adopted at Iona early in the eighth century. The first, or crescent, shape was Druidical.

It was about that date, also, that the Roman way of keeping Easter succeeded the so called Irish mode. At the Council of Whitby, Colman of Iona was outvoted, though

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« Reply #264 on: February 22, 2009, 12:53:39 am »

protesting the antiquity of his own practice. McFirbis's MS. speaks thus of the year 896--"In this year the men of Erin consented to receive jurisdiction and one rule from Adamnan respecting the celebration of Easter on Sunday on the 14th of the moon of April, and the coronal tonsure of Peter was performed upon the clerics of Erin." Again, it says, "The clergy of Erin held many Synods and they used to come to those Synods with weapons, so that pitched battles used to be fought between them, and many used to be slain." After this authority, one need not wonder at the assertion that Irish Druids formerly led contending parties.

Iona had certainly a Druidical college till the community was expelled by Columba for his own community and the Highlanders still recognize it as the Druid's Isle. An old statistical work says, "The Druids undoubtedly possessed Iona before the introduction of Christianity." It must be admitted that the Culdees wore a white dress, as did the Druids, and that they occupied places which had a Druidical reputation. They used the Asiatic cross, now called that of St. Andrew's. Dr. J. Moore is pleased to say, "The Culdees seem to have adopted nearly all the Pagan symbols of the neighbourhood."

As to the origin of the word, Reeves might well remark in his notes on Columba's Life, "Culdee is the most abused term in Scotic church history." As the Ceile De, the Four Masters mentions them in 806. Todd writes of them thus--"The earliest Christian missionaries found the native religion extinct, and themselves took the name of Culdees from inhabiting the Druids' empty cells." Jamieson styles them Culdees or Keldees, Kyldees, Kylledei. O'Brien has them the Irish Ceile De, servant of God. Another call them Clann Dia, Children of God. Barber considered them Mithraists.

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« Reply #265 on: February 22, 2009, 12:53:52 am »

Higgins, in Celtic Druids, will have Culdees only changed Druids, and regarded the Irish hereditary Abbots of Iona, the Coarbs or Curbs, as simply Corybantes. Latin writers knew them as Colidei or God-worshippers. Bishop Nicholson thought them Cool Dubh, from their black hoods. As C and G are commutable letters in Irish, we have Giolla De, Servant of God. The word Culdee was used by Boece in 1526. Dr. Reeves, in the Irish Academy, calls the Servus Dei by the Celtic Celi-Dé, and notes the name Ceile-n-De applied to the Sligo Friars in the Four Masters, 1595. Monks were reputed Keledei in the thirteenth century. Brockham's Lexicon finds regulars and seculars called so in the ninth century.

The Four Masters record that "Maenach, a Celae-Dé, came across the sea westward to establish laws in Ireland." In the poem of Moelruein, it is the Rule of the Celae-n-dé. The Keledei of Scotland, according to Dr. Reeves, had the same discipline as the Irish Colidei. One Collideus of the Armagh church died in 1574. One Celi-dé of Clonmacnois, dying in 1059, left several sons, who became Abbots after him.

The canons of York were Culdees in Atheistan's time. Ceadda, Wilfrid's predecessor, was a Culdee. They were also called, from their mode of celebrating Easter, Quartadecimans. The last known in Scotland were in 1352. As Bede says, the Irish, being Culdees, would as soon communicate with pagans as with Saxons; the later following Latin or Romish Christianity.

Ireland, as reported by Giraldus, had a chapel of the Colidei on an island of Tipperary, as he declared some were on islands of Wales. They were in Armagh in 920. Ussher, Archbishop of Armagh, asserts that the Northern Irish, "continued still their old tradition," in spite of the declaration of Pope Honorius. In Tirechan's Life of St Patrick, Cele-de came from Briton to Ireland in 919; but

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« Reply #266 on: February 22, 2009, 12:54:05 am »

in 811 some were said to have been miraculously conveyed across the sea. Bede, who opposed them, whether from Ireland or Scotland, was shocked at their holding his religion "in no account at all," nor communicating with his faithful "in anything more than with pagans." He banished those who came to his quarter.

He found these Irish, Welsh, and Scotch Christians to have, in addition to many heresies, the Jewish and Druidical system of hereditary priesthood. Property of the Church even descended from father to son; and, says Dr. Reeves, "was practically entailed to members of certain families." He adds that they were understood in the 12th century as "a religious order of clerks who lived in Societies, under a Superior, within a common enclosure, but in detached cells; associated in a sort of collegiate rather than œnobical brotherhood."

Giraldus, as well as Bede, complained of their hereditary priesthood. The same principle prevailed in the Druidical region of Brittany, and only yielded to the force of the Council of Tours in 1127.

Although St. Columba had no exalted idea of the other sex, saying, "Where there is a cow there will be a woman, and where there is a woman there will be mischief"--yet his followers practised marriage But while, says Mylin, they "after the usage of the Eastern Church, had wives they abstained from them, when it came to their turn to minister." The "Woman's Island" of Loch Lomond was one of the female sanctuaries on such an occasion. Their opposition to celibacy brought them much discredit with other priests.

Archbishop Lanfranc was shocked at their not praying to Saints, not dedicating churches to the Virgin or Saints, not using the Roman Service, and because, wrote he, "Infants are baptized by immersion, without the consecrated chrism."

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« Reply #267 on: February 22, 2009, 12:54:31 am »

St. Bernard was distressed at what he heard of these Irish Culdees, who had no Confession, never paid tithes, and lived like wild beasts, as they disdained marriage by the clergy. In his righteous anger, he stigmatized them as "beasts, absolute barbarians, a stubborn, stiff necked, and ungovernable generation, and abominable; Christian in name, but in reality pagans." This harsh language is not worse than that employed by the Pope, when he entreated our Henry II. to take over Ireland, so as to bring the Irish into the Christian Church, compel them to pay tithes, and so civilize them.

One would fancy, with Algernon Herbert, that the Culdees performed secret rites, and indulged, like their Druidical fathers, in human sacrifice, from the legend of St. Oran being buried underneath the church erected by Columba, to propitiate the Powers, and secure good fortune. In that case, however, St. Oran offered to be the victim, so as to avert evil from bad spirits.

If St. Patrick, St. Columba, and other early Irish Saints had been true monks, why did St. Bernard, in his Life of Malachy, Archbishop of Armagh, 1130, say that up to that time there was not a monk in Ireland? Columba certainly took Culdeeism to Scotland from Ireland. In the Bog of Monaincha are two islands. On one was a monastery for men, their wives occupying the neighbouring Woman's Isle. Giraldus Cambrensis, who wrote of the Community of Monaincha in the twelfth century, called it the church of the old religion, and politely designated as "Demons" all who belonged to that former church. The Abbey church, the ruins of which still remain, and which was 38 feet by 18 feet in size, was erected after the time of Giraldus.

Thus R. F. Gould, in his Freemasonry, had some grounds for saying--"The Druidism of our ancestors must have been powerfully influenced by the paganism of the Empire

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at the period when Christianity dawned on Britain." He deemed it probable that the early clerics of Christianity, "the cultores deorum, the worshippers of the gods, gradually merged into cultores Dei, worshippers of the true God." So it might be that, as Higgins wrote, "The Culdees were the last remains of the Druids."

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« Reply #268 on: February 22, 2009, 12:54:53 am »

THE FUTURE LIFE, OR LAND OF THE WEST.
No more touching or inspiring belief was there among the ancient Irish, than in the hope of another life beyond the grave Nature restored the dead forest of winter to the wealth of foliage in spring, why should not the breathless form of man once more find joy in life? But this happy thought, with our Islanders, was associated with two things--the sea-wave and the western sunset

The soul of the Maori, it was said, took its flight to the Reinga, the northernmost promontory of New Zealand, and, from the branch of an overhanging tree, dropped into the ocean in search of its subaqueous home The Irish, in like manner, knew that his next tenement would be beneath the flood

The dying Egyptian beheld with the eye of faith hi spirit following the setting sun The Irish looked forward to the West as the place to which his ethereal nature would take its flight The roar of the Atlantic was music to ears, for it was but the echo of the voices of his forefather and departed loved ones, in the western Land of the Blest.

Pindar sang--

"Where mortals easiest pass the careless hour,
No lingering winter there, nor snow, nor shower,
But ocean ever, to refresh mankind,
Breathes the cool spirit of the western wind."

 

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« Reply #269 on: February 22, 2009, 12:55:07 am »

Penelope's suitors, slain by her returning lord, were thus led by Mercury to the Shades--

"So cowering fell the sable heap of ghosts,
And such a scream filled all the dismal coasts.
And now they reach'd the earth's remotest ends,
And now the gates where evening Sol descends."

Chronos slept in his palace of glass in Ogygia, Isle of the West. The Hesperides and its apples lay in the happy West. The Teutones went to the glass Isles of the West, as did the Norsemen and Celtiberians. Arthur was rowed to Avalon in the West. The Sacred Isles of the Hindoos were to the West. Christian hymns still speak of crossing the waters to Heaven. How many of us have been delighted with Faber's beautiful hymn--"The Land across the sea!" The Gaulish Cocagne, the Saxon Cockaign, the Lusitanian Cocana, or Happy Land, were beyond the seashore. Prof. Rafinesque might well say," It is strange, but true, that, throughout the earth, the place of departed souls, the land of spirits, was supposed to be in the West."

"To Rhadamanthys of the golden hair,
Beyond the wide world's end; Ah! never there
   Come storm or snow; all grief is left behind,--
And men immortal, in enchanted air,
   Breathe the cool current of the Western Wind."

Procopius had a story of the West. Thither the souls are conveyed by ghostly fishermen to an island for rest; and tales are told of ears detecting the calling over of names, as the boat touches the mystic strand, and wives and husbands being summoned to their arriving mates.

Erebos was the gloom that fell after sunset. The word in Assyrian was from eribu, to descend, as suns then dropped below. Odysseus turned to Erebos when offering his sacrifice to departed hero-gods. Ghosts were there Wont to assemble, and might be seen flitting to and fro in the uncertain light. The main entrance of Greek temples

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