Plate

Cerxunnos

This horned deity with torques on his horns is perhaps identical with the horned god shown in Plate XXV. He was doubtless a divinity of the underworld (see pp. 9, 104-05, 158, and for other deities of Elysium cf. Smertullos, Plate V; the three-headed god, Plates VII, XII, the squatting god, Plates VIII-IX; Sucellos, Plates XIII, XXVI; and Dispater, Plate XIV). From an altar found at Notre Dame, Paris.

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Possibly the rushing stream was personified as a steed, and the horse-goddess Epona is occasionally connected with streams, while horses which emerge from lakes or rivers may be mythic forms of water-divinities. In more recent folk-belief the monstrous water-horse of France and Scotland was capable of self-transformation and waylaid travellers, or, assuming human form, he made love to women, luring them to destruction. Did such demoniac horses already exist in the pagan period, or are they a legacy from Scandinavian belief, or are they earlier equine water-divinities thus distorted in Christian times? This must remain uncertain, but at all events they were amenable to the power of Christian saints, since St. Fechin of Fore, when one of his chariot-horses died on a journey, compelled a water-horse to take its place, afterward allowing it to return to the water.20 Akin to these is the Welsh afanc, one of which was drawn by the oxen of Hu Gadarn from a pond, while another was slain by Peredur (Percival) after he had obtained a jewel of invisibility which hid him from the monster with its poisoned spear.21

Mortals as well as side were transformed into deer, and fairies possessed herds of those animals, while Caoilte slew a wild three-antlered stag —"the grey one of three antlers"

— which had long eluded the hunters.22 Three-horned animals

— bull or boar — are depicted on Gaulish monuments, and the third horn symbolizes divinity or divine strength, the word "horn" being often used as a synonym of might, especially divine power. On an altar discovered at Notre Dame in Paris, the god Cernunnos ("the Horned," from cernu-, "horn"?) has stag's horns; and other unnamed divinities also show traces of antlers. Possibly these gods were anthropomorphic forms of stag-divinities, like other Gaulish deities with bull's horns.23

Serpents or dragons infesting lochs, sometimes generically called peist or beist (Latin bestia, "beast"), occur in Celtic and other mythologies and are reminiscent of earlier reptile forms, dwelling in watery places and regarded as embodiments of water-spirits or guardians of the waters. In later tradition such monsters were said to have been imprisoned in lochs or destroyed by Celtic saints. As has been seen, a dragon's shriek on May-Eve made the land barren till Lludd buried it and its opponent alive after stupifying them with mead. They were placed in a cistvaen at Dinas Emreis in Snowdon, and long afterward Merlin got rid of them when they hindered Vortigern's building operations. Here the dragons are embodiments of powers hostile to man and to fertility, but are conquered by gods, Lludd and Merlin.24

Another story of a peist occurs in the Tain Bo Fraich. Fraoch was the most beautiful of Erin's heroes, and his mother was the divine Bebind, her sister the goddess Boann. Finda-bair, daughter of Ailill and Medb, loved him, but before going to claim her he was advised to seek from Boann treasure of the sid, which she gave him in abundance, while he was made welcome at Ailill's dun. After staying there for some time, he desired Findabair to elope with him, only to be refused, whereupon he demanded her of Ailill, but would not give the bride-price asked. Ailill and Medb therefore plotted his death, fearing that if he took Findabair by force, the Kings who sought her would attack them. While Fraoch was swimming in the river, Ailill bade him bring a branch from a rowan-tree growing on the bank, and swimming there, he returned with it, Findabair meanwhile admiring the beauty of his body. Ailill sent him for more, but the monster guardian of the tree attacked him; and when he called for a sword, Findabair leaped into the water with it, Ailill throwing a five-pronged spear at her. Fraoch caught it and hurled it back; and though the monster all the while was biting his side, with the sword he cut off its head and brought it to land. A bath of broth was made for him, and afterward he was laid on a bed. Then was heard lamentation, and a hundred and fifty women of the side, clad in crimson with green head-dresses, appeared, all of one age, shape, and loveliness, coming for Fraoch, the darling of the side. They bore him off, bringing him back on the morrow recovered of his wound, and Findabair was now betrothed to Fraoch on his promising to assist in the raid of Cualnge. Thus Fraoch, a demi-god, overcame the peist,25 In the ballad version from the Dean of Lismore's Book, Medb sent him for the berries because he scorned her love. The tree grew on an island in a loch, with the peist coiled round its roots. Every month it bore sweetest fruit, and one berry satisfied hunger for a long time, while its juice prolonged life for a year and healed sickness. Fraoch killed the peist, but died of his wounds.26 The tree was the tree of the gods and resembles the quicken-tree of Dubhros, guarded by a one-eyed giant whom Diarmaid slew.27 These stories recall the Greek myth of Herakles slaying the dragon guardian of the apples of the Hesperides,28 which has a certain parallel in Babylonia. A marvellous tree with jewelled fruit was seen by Gilgamesh in a region on this side of the Waters of Death; and in the Fields of the Blessed beyond these waters he found a magic plant, the twigs of which renewed man's youth. He gathered it, but a serpent seized it and carried it off. The stories of Fraoch and Diarmaid point to myths showing that gods were jealous of men sharing their divine food; and their tree of life was guarded against mortals, though perhaps semi-divine heroes might gain access to it and obtain its benefits for human beings. The guardian peist recalls the dragons entwined round oaks in the grove described by Lucan.29

Such Celtic peists were slain by Fionn, and in one poem Fionn or, in another, his son, Daire, was swallowed by the monster, but hacked his way out, liberating others besides himself.30 They also defended duns in Celtic story, and in the sequel to the tale of Fraoch he and Conall reached a dun where his stolen cattle were. A serpent sprang into Conall's belt, but was later released by him, and "neither did harm to the other." In Cuchulainn's account of his journey to Scath, the dun had seven walls, each with an iron palisade; and having destroyed these, he reached a pit guarded by serpents which he slew with his fists, as well as many toads, sharp and beaked beasts, and ugly, dragon-like monsters. Then he took a cauldron and cows from the dun, which must have been in the gods' land across the sea, as in other tales where such thefts are related.31

A curious story from the Dindsenchas tells how the son of the Morrigan had three hearts with "shapes of serpents through them," or "with the shape of serpents' heads." He was slain by MacCecht, and if death had not befallen him, these serpents would have grown and destroyed all other animals. The hearts were burned, and the ashes were cast into a stream, whereupon its rapids stayed, and all creatures in it died.32 In another story Cian was born with a caul which increased with his growth, but Sgathan ripped it open, and a worm sprang from it, which was thought to have the same span of life as Cian. A wood was put round it, and the creature was fed, but it grew to a vast size and swallowed men whole. Fire was set to the wood, when it fled to a cave and made a wilderness all around; but at last Oisin killed it with Diarmaid's magic spear.33 Serpents with rams' heads are a frequent motif on Gaulish monuments, either separately or as the adjuncts of a god; but their meaning is unknown, and no myth regarding them has survived.

Other parts of nature besides animals were regarded mythically. Mountains, the sea, rivers, wells, lakes, sun, moon, and earth had a personality of their own, and this conception survived when other ideas had arisen. Appeal was made to them, as the runes sung by Alorrigan and Amairgen show, and they were taken as sureties, or their power was invoked to do harm, as when Aed Ruad's champion took sureties of sea, wind, sun, and firmament against him, so that the sun's heat caused Aed to bathe, and the rising sea and a great wind drowned him.34 In another instance, a spell chanted over the sea by Dub, wife of Enna, of the side, caused the drowning of his other wife, Aide, and her family.35 The personality of the sea is seen also in the story of Lindgadan and the echo heard at a cliff: enraged at some one speaking to him without being asked, he turned to the cliff to be avenged upon the speaker, when the crest of a wave dashed him against a rock.36 So, too, the sea was obedient to man, or perhaps to a god. Tuirbe Tragmar, father of the Goban Saer, used to hurl his axe from the Hill of the Axe in the full of the flood-tide, forbidding the sea to come beyond the axe,37 an action akin to the Celtic ritual of "fighting the waves." The voices of the waves had a warning, prophetic, or sympathetic sound to those who could hear them aright, as many instances show.

As elsewhere, personalized parts of nature came to be regarded as animated by spirits, like man; and such spirits gradually became more or less detached from these and might be seen as divine beings appearing near them. Some of them became the greater gods, while others assumed a darker character, perhaps because they were associated with sinister aspects of nature or with the dead. The Celts knew all these, and some still linger on in folk-belief. Fairy-like or semi-divine women seen by streams or fountains, or in forests, or living in lakes or rivers, are survivals of spirits and goddesses of river, lake, or earth; and they abound in Celtic folk-story as bonnes dames, dames blanches, fees, or the Irish Be Find. Beings like mermaids existed in early Irish belief. When Ruad's ships were stopped, he went over the side and saw "the loveliest of the world's women," three of them detaining each boat. They carried him off, and he slept with each in turn, one becoming with child by him. They set out in a bronze boat to intercept him on his return journey, but when they failed, the mother killed his child and hurled the head after him, the others crying, "It is an awful crime." 38 In another tale Rath heard the mermaids' song and saw them — "grown-up girls, the fairest of shape and make, with yellow hair and white skins above the waters. But huger than one of the hills was the hairy-clawed, bestial lower part which they had beneath." Their song lulled him to sleep, when they flocked round him and tore him limb from limb.39 Other sea-dwellers are the luchorpain — a kind of dwarf, three of whom were caught by Fergus and forced to comply with his wish and to tell him how to pass under lochs and seas. They put herbs in his ears, or one of them gave him a cloak to cover his head, and thus he went with them under the water.40

A curious group of beings answered Cuchulainn's cry, causing confusion to his enemies, or screamed around him when he set out or was in the thick of the fight. While he fought with Ferdia, "around him shrieked the Bocanachs and the Banan-achs and the Geniti Glinne, and the demons of the air; for it was the custom of the Tuatha De Danann to raise their cries about him in every battle," and thus increase men's fear of him. Or they screamed from the rims of shields and hilts of swords and hafts of spears of the hero and of Ferdia.41 Here they are friendly to Cuchulainn, but in the Fled Bricrend, or Feast of Bricriu, one of the tasks imposed on him, Conall, and Loegaire was to fight the Geniti Glinne, Cuchulainn alone succeeding and slaughtering many of them.42 What kind of beings they were is uncertain, but if Geniti Glinne means "Damsels of the Glen," perhaps they were a kind of nature-spirits, this being also suggested by the "demons of the air" which were expelled by St. Patrick.43 As nature-spirits they might be classed with the Tuatha De Danann, as indeed they seem to be in the passage cited above.44 In one sentence of the Tain Bo Cualnge, they are associated with Nemain or Badb, who brought confusion upon Medb's host; yet on the other hand they dared not appear in the same district as the bull of Cualnge.45

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PLATE XVII

Incised Stones from Scotland

1. Incised stone with "elephant" symbol and crescent symbol with V-rod symbol. From Crichie,

Aberdeenshire.

2. Incised stone with "elephant" and double disc (or "spectacles") with Z-rod symbol. See also Plate X.

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