Survivals in Belief Among the Celts, by George Henderson, , at sacred-texts.com
EVERY journey has its stages, and for the purposes of these pages account is to be taken of the following:
1. Lustration, or lustral rites, whether by fire, by water, by milk or by blood.
2. Illumination, under which come premonitions, omens, divination, inclusive of second-sight. Here mysticism is recognised from the outset: it is so far a testimony to the fact that all human knowledge is in part.
3. Healing, passing in spiritual religion to salvation, wherein all healing culminates. It has its preshadowings in
(b) The rites that avert. Here account is taken of the evil workings of envy; the effects of the evil eye; the belief that an issue of blood may be magically stopped; some phases of magic and of sacrifice.
(c) Faith-healing under psychic suggestion.
We treat in order:
1. Lustration—the rites appertaining to the progress of the pilgrim range from the cradle to the grave.—In folk-practice probably only a few of the more significant have survived until within recent memory. Midwives, according to Pennant's account (18th cent.) gave new-born babes a small spoonful of earth and whisky as the first-food. In the Isle of Man salt was put in the baby's mouth as soon as possible after birth. If the child had once partaken of any food it could not be exposed. 1 Among the old midwives it was a sacred practice to roast the omphalos after it fell off, about the ninth day, and give it to the child to drink, powdered and mixed with water (Inverness-shire). This was, as it were, the child's first eucharist. In Man, from the birth of a child until after it was baptised, it was customary to keep in the room a peck or wooden hoop covered with sheep's skin, which was filled with oaten cakes and cheese for visitors, and small pieces of cheese and bread called blithe meat were scattered in and about the house for the fairies. 2 In the Highlands fire-lustration was resorted to, as Martin testifies; and Pennant, who was a diligent inquirer, says, "It has
happened that, after baptism, the father has placed a basket, filled with bread and cheese, on the pothook that impended over the fire in the middle of the room, which the company sit around; and the child is thrice handed across the fire, with the design to frustrate all attempts of evil spirits or evil eyes. This originally seems to have been designed as a purification. . . ." This is parallel with the old Scottish practice of whirling a fir-candle three times round the bed on which the mother and newly-born child lay. 1 The Bible was put under the mother's pillow, with a piece of silk from her marriage dress, and fire or light was carried thrice round the bed after a birth; this was done at Loch Eck 40 years ago as a protection against the Fairies. Martin in his Western Isles records that fire was also carried morning and evening round the mother till she was churched, and round the child till it was christened. May one here compare the Persian practice of lighting a fire on the roof of a house where any one is ill? The purpose is to ward off any further evil, not as Mr. Frazer thinks when he suggests 'the intention possibly being to interpose a barrier of fire to prevent the escape of the soul.' 2 In the Highlands there existed the rite of the Leigheas Cuairte, passing children through a hoop of fire, described by the late Rev. Dr. A. Stewart, Nether Lochaber, in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. 3
In the account of the Leigheas Cuairte five women were seen: "Two of them were standing opposite
each other, were holding a hoop vertically between them, and the hoop all around, except where they held it in the middle, was wrapped in something that was burning briskly, emitting small jets of flame and a good deal of smoke. Opposite each other, on either side of the opening of the hoop, stood other two engaged in handing backwards and forwards to each other, through the centre of the hoop of fire, a child, whose age, as I afterwards learned, was eighteen months. The fifth woman, who was the mother of the child, stood a little aside, earnestly looking on. They did not notice me, and I stood quietly viewing the scene until the child, having been several times passed and returned again through the fiery circle, was handed to its mother; and then the burning hoop was carried by the two women that held it to a pool of the burn, into which it was thrown. . . . The child was a weakling, constantly clamouring for food, which it ate voraciously, and yet it did not thrive . . . the child was under the influence of an evil eye of great power; and nothing but that it should be subjected to the rite I had witnessed (called in Gaelic Beannachd Na Cuairte, 'the Blessing of the Round or of the Circle') could avail to counteract the evil influence . . . an old woman's evil eye had put the wasting into the child (a chuir an t-seacadh san leanabh), at the same time put the hunger into it (a chuir an t-acras ann). . . . The child's mother and four of the neighbouring women having been duly initiated into the mysteries of the Beannachd Chuairte, an iron hoop that had once encircled the rim of a big washing-tub was got hold of, and a straw rope
[paragraph continues] (siaman) wound round it. Here and there along the windings of the siaman a little oil was dropped to make it burn the brighter when it should be set on fire." The child had to be passed and repassed eighteen times, once for each of the eighteen moons that represented the child's age. A bunch of bog-myrtle was put above its bed, and not touched nor taken down until the next crescent moon ('nuair thainig a cheud fhàs soluis mu’n cuairt') (Proceed. Soc. Antiq. Scot. March 10, 1890).
A parallel rite is testified to from Wigtownshire, while the late Rev. Dr. Scott of St. George's, Edinburgh, testifies to his remembrance of new-born children having been passed through the fire in Lanarkshire. Another correspondent quotes a Gaelic verse:
Beautiful maiden of smoothest hair,
Delightful to me thine every movement;
Even if I were sick unto death,
Thy love would be as the healing of the circle to me.
One of the commonest sayings in the Highlands still is: cha tig olc a teine, i.e. 'no evil comes from fire.' It is believed that getting the hearth-fire enables a witch to spirit away all family blessing. It is taboo to go between an epileptic and the hearth-fire on pain of the spirit of epilepsy getting hold of one; by violating this prohibition one easily caught the disease. The rite of smooring the fire ere going to bed was reverently performed and
accompanied with prayer full of Christian associations: "I am smooring the fire, O God, as the Son of Mary would smoor it." Swellings and sprains were alleviated by making the sign of the cross in soot by aid of the chimney-pot chain, or by soot taken from the chimney 'hanging-stick, maidecrochaidh, or 'cross-beam.' Embers of smouldering fire (āine theine) were put into a pot and carried in circuit sun-wise around the house at bed-time to ward off evil. Ortha nam Buadh 1 speaks of the laving of the palms in lustral low or fire (ann an liù nan lasair). The sacredness of fire is evidenced in the perpetual fires kept formerly at the monasteries of Seirkieran, Kilmainham, Inishmurray. 2 Brigit was a fire-goddess whose festival may have been the precursor of that of the Christian St. Brigit on the day before Candlemas. She was a goddess of the crops as well as of fire. 3 Perpetual fires were kept up at Kildare (Cill-dara), 'the church of the oak.' The holy fires of the Aryans were commonly kindled and fed with oak wood, with some exceptions. 4 Flint was in all likelihood used in kindling the 'paschal' fires which were formerly lit about Eastertide. But the purifying fire known as teine éiginn, usually construed as 'fire of necessity,' through a mistaken fancy that need in 'need-fire' means 'necessity,' whereas it properly means 'friction,' hence 'friction-fire,' was properly produced by friction from oak
beams. As the Gadhelic teine-éignn is a name unknown apparently in Ireland, I am led to think that it may be founded on the Norse eikinn, 'oaken,' eik being of old the 'oak,' though now in Icelandic it has come to mean 'tree of any kind.'
The need-fire was made in Mull by turning an oaken wheel over nine oaken spindles from east to west. 1 In houses between the two nearest running streams all other fires had to be extinguished. Ramsay of Ochtertyre's account of the Teine Éiginn is one of the oldest and the best: "The night before, all the fires in the country were carefully extinguished, and next morning the materials for exciting the sacred fires were prepared. The most primitive method seems to be that which was used in the islands of Skye, Mull and Tiree. A well-seasoned plank of oak was procured, in the midst of which a hole was bored. A wimble of the same timber was then applied, the end of which they fitted to the hole. But in some parts of the mainland the machinery was different. They used a frame of greenwood of a square form, in the centre of which was an axle-tree. In some places three times three persons, in others three times nine, were required for turning round by turns the axle-tree or wimble. If any of them had been guilty of murder, adultery, theft or other atrocious crime, it was imagined either that the fire would not kindle, or that it would be devoid of its usual virtue. So soon as any sparks were emitted by means of violent friction, they applied a species of agaric which grows on birch trees, and is very combustible. This fire
had the appearance of being immediately derived from heaven, and manifold were the virtues ascribed to it. They esteemed it a preservative against witchcraft and a sovereign remedy against malignant diseases, both in the human species and in cattle; and by it the strongest poisons were supposed to have their nature changed."
Fire-lustration is a very ancient rite. According to Caesar the Druids held that fire and water would in the end prevail. In the Book of Armagh a name for the day of judgement is erdáthe: "usque ad diem erdathe apud magos, id est, iudicii diem domini," 1 and it may possibly reflect a similar belief. Parallel rites occur elsewhere; for illustration I adduce a Greek rite, the Ἀμφιδρόμια; "A ritual at which the new-born child was solemnly carried round the hearth-fire and named in the presence of the kinsmen. . . . Charondas speaks of certain δαίμονες ἑστιοῦχοι, powers of the sacred hearth. Sometimes a hero or daimon might protect the gateway of the house or city or the city-walls or the entrance to the temple, as we hear of a ἥρως πρὸ πυλῶν in Thrace, of an ἐπιτέγιος ἥρως and τειχοφύλαξ at Athens, the guardian of roof and wall of κλαϊκοφόρος, the 'holder of the temple keys,' at Epidauros." 2
Parallel conceptions may be traced in the following: "In Sonnenberg a light must be kept constantly burning after the birth or the witches will carry off the child. Amongst the Albanians a fire is kept
constantly burning in the room for forty days after the birth; the mother is not allowed to leave the house all this time, and at night she may not leave the room; and any one during this time who enters the house by night is obliged to leap over a burning brand. In the Cyclades no one is allowed to enter the house after sunset for many days after a birth, and in modern Greece generally the woman may not enter the church for forty days after the birth, just as in ancient Greece she might not enter a temple during the same period." 1
"The mother never sets about any work till she has been kirked. In the Church of Scotland there is no ceremony on the occasion; but the woman, attended by some of her neighbours, goes into the church, sometimes in service time, but oftener when it is empty; goes out again, surrounds it, refreshes herself at some public-house, and then returns home. Before this ceremony she is looked on as unclean, never is permitted to eat with the family; nor will any one eat of the victuals she has dressed" (Pennant's Tour). Within my own recollection the idea of 'uncleanness' before the 'kirking' was retained.
The Manx term for the churching of women, lostey-chainley, lit. 'candle-burning,' points to the old custom of keeping a consecrated candle burning in the room where a birth took place, and 'candle-burning' in religious rites of later times has its roots in primitive fire-lustration.
Next comes lustration by water or baptism. Some might be inclined to think that Irish baithis,
[paragraph continues] 'baptism,' is a native word; or would hold by a verb baitsim, 'I sprinkle.' But even if Gaelic baist, 'baptise,' be taken as through Latin baptiso, 'I baptise,' the lustral rite itself, there can be no question, was known in pre-Christian times. The Cogadh Gaedhel re Gallaibh refers to the 'pagan baptism' as well as other Gadhelic texts. It occurs to me in passing that the rite (with which I have been long familiar as practised by the old 'knee-women' or midwives) of roasting the imleag or omphalos and, when ground to a powder, giving it mixed with water to the infant to drink about the eighth or ninth day, was a concomitant of a form of pagan baptismal rites. Maurer, who has written on the old heathen baptism of the Teutons, suggests that baptism was a recognition of the child on the part of the father whereby the infant was made an heir; he shows that on the eighth day, or within the ninth day, the rite was to be performed, from evidence in the old laws of the Visi-Goths and Anglo-Saxons; the Romans, too, named a female infant on the eighth and a male on the ninth day; the Greeks celebrated the seventh day after birth with rites of cleansing, gifts, sacrifices and feasts. 1
Most of the old rites have left few traces. In Pennant's time he was able to state that after baptism the first meat that the company tastes is crowdie, a mixture of meal and water, or meal and ale thoroughly mixed. 'Of this every person takes three spoonfuls.' In many parts still it is a rule to have at least partial baptism administered, it being
held to be unlucky for the child to pass unchristened; when the infant can be brought to church the rite is further proceeded with by the priest. In the early nineteenth century it was customary to carry the bread or bairn's piece in the procession on the way to church, and custom prescribed that the 'piece' was to be offered to the first person, whether high or low, who met the child, and it was considered unlucky 'to decline the present.' 1 One who was not a cleric could 'sprinkle' the child.
At Rome baptism was restricted to the period of Easter, the vigil of Easter-tide to Pentecost, while in Africa and in Ireland Epiphany was a baptismal festival. 2 A relic of this still exists in those parts of the Highlands, e.g. Strathglass, where the Epiphany is called Féille Fairc, the latter word having dialectally r for l in this word, hence Féille Failc, 'festival of laving.' The importance of water-lustration is clear from Gadhelic having a special word, taran, for 'the ghost of an unbaptised infant,' which was thought of as going about wailing in distress, though in some districts unbaptised infants were thought of as being dipped in water at the feet of Christ in the world unseen,—a thought charitable and sweet. The importance of water itself is strongly evident in the Isle of Gigha belief: "Here is a strange superstition for you. A parishioner told me that he was in a house in the island after the children had gone
to bed; one of the children was restless in his sleep and often sitting up, as if startled. The father ordered the boy to be quiet, with graphic maledictions, and added: 'After all, I should not speak like that to the boy, but reserve my bad language for the minister, who put far too little water on the boy at baptism.' He assured this parishioner—an Ileach (Islay-man)—that this was always the result of using little water." 1
In the Proceedings of the Synod of Cashel, A. D. 1172, Benedict of Peterborough mentions for Ireland the following curious facts, which show that the father, in accordance with old custom, could immerse the child thrice in water immediately after birth, or, in the case of a rich man's child, thrice in milk. Thus we could perhaps speak of a rite of milk-baptism: "In illo autem concilio statuerunt, et auctoritate summi pontificis praeceperunt, pueros in ecclesia baptizari, In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti, et hoc a sacerdotibus fieri praeceperunt. Mos enim prius erat per diversa loca Hiberniae, quod statim cum puer nasceretur, pater ipsius vel quilibet alius eum ter mergeret in aqua. Et si divitis filius esset, ter mergeret in lacte." 2
The mention of the milk reminds of the rite after Christian baptism at Rome on Easter eve in the ninth century: "For the newly-baptised the chalice is filled, not with wine but with milk and honey, that they may understand . . . that they have entered already upon the promised land. And there was
one more symbolical rite in that early Easter Sacrament, the mention of which is often suppressed,—a lamb was offered on the altar, afterwards cakes in the shape of a lamb. It was simply the ritual which we have seen in the mysteries." 1
Of ceremonies connected with weaning, the following is of interest. At Carrickfergus it was formerly the custom for mothers, when giving their child the breast for the last time, to put an egg in its hand and sit on the threshold of the altar door with a leg on each side; this ceremony was usually done on Sunday.
In the Highlands (Uist) it is held that no person should sleep in a house without water in it, and least of all should a house where there is a little child be without water. In a house of this kind the slender one of the green coat was seen washing the child in a basin of milk. 2 And water is efficacious against the fairies. In a folk-tale the fairies are pictured as calling at the door on a 'cake' to come out to them: the inmates threw water on the cake, and it replied: 'I can't go, I am undone.' 3 In Tiree, Gregorson Campbell says 4 it was customary in many places to place a drink of water beside the corpse previous to the funeral, in case the dead should return.
Baptism is one of the most universal forms of
lustration: 'the pagan baptism,' referred to in the eleventh century text of the Wars of the Gaedhil and the Gall, need not surprise us.
Blood forms the transition between water-lustration and sacrifice. Its use in the cure of epilepsy may suffice here. I take it from the Rev. K. Macdonald's Social and Religious Life in the Highlands (pp. 29 ff.): "If an epileptic patient had been so fortunate as to be observed the first time he had a fit, he might be cured by the sacrifice of a black cock. This mode of healing is still resorted to. The cock is to be caught at once and split down in the middle. Then it is wrapped in its warm blood on the patient's head. When it cools it is removed and buried, and the affliction is supposed to be buried along with it. In the case of herpes or skin diseases of that class, the blood of a black cock without a white feather, or a white cock without a black feather, is recommended as a remedy. The blood of a black cat is used to check erysipelas." In Ireland also the blood of a black cat is used as a cure for the same complaint (teine-dhiadh). 1 In Nest Ross the blood of a black cock or of a black cat, or the blood of a male Munro, is a recognised cure for teine-Dé, St. Anthony's Fire or 'shingles.' 2 Blood taken from the patient's own leg and given him to drink was a part of the cure quite recently in Lewis. 3
2. Illumination.—It embraces every form of vision and of magic knowledge. From being adepts in the magic arts, the wise man of old received the name
of Druid, i.e. *dru-vid, 'very knowing, very wise.' 1 This species of attempted knowledge ranges from the premonition (meanmuin) to various kinds of omens (manadh, tuar, glaim) and the arts of divination (fiosachid, fàistneachd, tairngireachd, fàth-fìth). The terms fàth-fìth or fìth-fàth was "applied to the occult power which rendered a person invisible to mortal eyes and which transformed one object into another." 2 Dr. Joyce 3 has equated this with the fáed-fíada associated with St. Patrick when he and his companions were transformed into deer on their way to Tara.
Vision in folk-belief may embrace the seeing of the semblance or form (riochd) of the departed by one who cannot recognise them, not having known them when alive. One of the instances in point is connected with the old manse of Lairg. That this house was haunted was long believed by the people in the parish to my own knowledge; nor is the belief yet dead. The Rev. Thomas Mackay, minister of Lairg, died in 1803. A son of a successor, the late Rev. A. G. MacGillivray, a most excellent man whom I warmly remember, tells the story in a lecture appended to William Mackay's Narrative of the Shipwreck of the 'Juno,' 4 of which Byron says it is one of the narratives in which poetry must be content
to yield the palm to prose. MacGillivray, with whose father's 1 family the incident is connected, writes ". . . it was firmly believed in our parish that Mr. Thomas Mackay was once seen, twenty-three years after his death, in the old manse. Of course the story must have some satisfactory explanation, but it was not explained in my time. On a fine summer day, in 1826, two young girls were sitting in the manse dining-room; they heard a step advancing to the door, the door opened, and there stood a thin venerable old man, dressed in black, with knee breeches and buckles, black silk stockings, and shoes with buckles. He looked closely all round the room, at them, and then walked out. One of the girls ran upstairs and told the minister then in the manse that a very old minister had come in and was looking for him. The minister hurried down and looked for his visitor, but in vain; he could nowhere be found. The manse is so placed that every object can be seen for a quarter of a mile around, but not a trace of the visitor was visible. The old people who heard the girls describe the old man they had seen, declared that they recognised Mr. Thomas Mackay from their description. Ten or twelve years thereafter granddaughters of Mr. Mackay came to reside in the parish. One of the young girls, by that time grown a woman, said to one of these ladies, 'Oh! how like you are to your grandfather'; to which the other replied, 'So the old people tell me, but how can you know that, for he died before you were born?' The other coloured and got confused, and could give no reply. She had recognised the lady's resemblance
to the old minister who had appeared to her in the manse.
When it is the evil eye that has fallen on a creature, the person who makes the snàithlean, or magic 'thread,' for its cure is seized with a fit of yawning. It is by the frìth that those who cure the evil eye tell whether it be the eye of a male or female that has done the harm 1 (Benbecula). The longer the evil eye has lain on a creature unobserved, the longer it takes to be cured, and the sicker the person, becomes who makes the snàithlein.
In making the frìth some enjoin the reciting of the formula through the hand loosely closed. A formula used in Benbecula is:
Mise dol a mach orra (= air do) shlighe-sa, Dhé! Dia romham, Dia ’m dheaghaidh ’s Dia ’m luirg! An t-eolas rinn Moire dha ’mac, shéid Brighd ’romh băs (glaic). Fios fìrinne gun fhios bréige; mar a fhuair ise gum faic mise samlaladh air an rud a tha mi fhéin ag ìarraidh, i.e. 'I am going out on thy path, O God! God be before me, God be behind me, God be in my footsteps. The charm which Mary (the Virgin) made for her Son, Brigit blew through her palms,—knowledge of truth and no lie. As she found, may I see the likeness of what I myself am seeking.' The use of the frìth or horoscope is not at all extinct, as declared by a young woman who was present, and who actually asked the frìth to be made so that information might be got as to
the state of health of a person at some distance who was ill. The woman who made the frìth said after making it that she would rather say the woman was dead. The woman was actually dead at the time, so my authority was informed.
It is not right for a woman to try and kindle the fire by fanning it with the skirt of her dress. The reason is that when Our Lord was going to be nailed to the Cross, and the nails were being got ready, that the smith's bellows refused to work, and the smith's daughter fanned the fire with her skirt.
The Omen (Manadh) forms the transition to what it is felt proper to do, and is thus the initial and rudimentary stage of illumination. It is a subjective sort of oracle. Early Irish mama, 'omen,' is cognate with Latin moneo, Old English manian, 'warn.' Examples are: "When one hears piping in the ears it is recommended to say a prayer for the dead." Others say: "May it be well for us and our friends; if thou it be who didst hear it, it will not be thou who wilt weep." 1 For this piping is a sign of somebody dying at the time.
It was an omen of ill-luck to hear the cuckoo on its first return without having broken one's fast, 2 or to see a lamb with its back towards one if it were seen for the first time for the season.
If a cat mewed for flesh meat it was an omen of the death of a cow, and to avert the prediction one said: "With your wanting (the meat of an animal), misfortune take thee! May it be thine
own hide that will be the first hide to go on the roof-spar." 1
In the rite of 'averting,' water is taken from a boundary stream, and put into a vessel in which is a silver coin. The water is thrown over the beast. If the coin adheres to the bottom of the vessel it is taken as an omen that the evil eye was at work.
Another word for omen is tuar, used in that sense by Keating, and surviving in the Highland proverb: Cha do chuir gual chuige nach do chuir tuar thairis, i.e. none ever set shoulder to that did not overcome foreboding. It is thus specially something foreboding of evil. Among such may be put the cry of a cuckoo heard from a house-top or chimney, as a presage of death to one of the inmates within the year. Mr. Forbes notes for some district in Ireland that a cuckoo always appears to a certain family before a death in that family. He quotes the late Rev. Dr. Stewart of Nether Lochaber as to a euphemistic way of speaking of the cuckoo as the 'grey bird of May-tide' (ian glas a Chéitein), it being discreet not to speak of it by its proper name. "In the popular imagination so connected with fairyland was the cuckoo that the very name was in a sense taboo." 2 The howling of the house dog at night is usually held to be an omen of a funeral that will soon pass by. In Breadalbane a moving ball of fire or a moving light (gealbhan) is a precursor of a funeral. 3
[paragraph continues] This corresponds to the dreag, driug of other parts. In Lochbroom a cat washing its face is an omen of its soon getting either fish or flesh: as there is a danger of its fulfilment being brought about through the death by mishap of cattle or sheep, the cat is given a cuff to stop it and avert the evil. 1 To be suddenly seized by peculiar sensations of horror at certain places may be an omen of one having drowned one's self there. 2 A white bird flapping its wings towards a burying ground is a precursor of a corpse and an omen of death. 3 An omen of calamity is known as glaim, 4 a peculiar sound in the ear, a howling; it has been taken as cognate with the German klagen, 'weep, complain' the root idea is 'make moan.'
If a particle of food get into the wind-pipe it is polite to say: Deiseal, i.e. 'sun-ways or right! it is not grudging it that I am to thee.' 5
When going from home with a mare at early morning it is a good omen if one put the right foot over and around the beast's head in name of the Father, and then make the sign of the Cross on one's self, which ensures that no witch or evil spirit can come nigh. It was said of a country carrier who did so: R. M. never went from home without putting his left foot over his mare's head in the name of the Father, and making the sign of the Cross of Christ on himself, and then no wizard nor any evil spirit could come nigh him. 6
Prognostications were made from the 'first-foot': 1 to meet a woman with red hair was unlucky; a beast, man or thing unexpectedly encountered on stepping out of doors or on setting out on a journey betokened weal or woe. On entering a new abode it was unlucky to find a dead crow before one on the hearthstone. Out of ill-will it has been known to have been put in the pulpit of a vacant parish.
Some stones or crystals have associations with curative magical agencies: such are the Ardvoirlich Charm, Barbreck's Stone, the Loch Mo Nāir Stone, and the varieties of 'witch' stones one has known of; others are associated with clairvoyance and divination, such as Cinneach Odhar's Stone; a few may be specially remarkable as having been omens of success: the merits imputed to such have influenced human lives, and their story belongs to local history. An instance of a stone of good omen is that of Clach Na Brataich, i.e. the Banner Stone of the Clan Robertson. Its story as told by Mr. D. Robertson 2 is as follows:
“In joining the muster of St. Ninians under King Robert Bruce, previous to the Battle of Bannockburn, Donnachadh Reamhar encamped with his men on their march to the rendezvous. On pulling up the standard pole out of the ground one morning before marching off, the chief observed something glittering in a clod of earth which adhered to the end of the staff. He immediately plucked it out,
and there being something apparently fateful in such an incident occurring under such circumstances, he retained it in his own possession after holding it up to his followers, as a happy omen of success in the fortunes of their expedition.
“It became associated with the glorious victory of Bannockburn, and thenceforth was accepted by the clan as its Stone of Destiny or Palladium. It has always been carried by the chief on his person when the clan mustered for war or foray, and its various changes of hue were consulted as to the result of the coming strife.
“It was carried by 'The Tutor' when in command of Clan Donnachaidh under the great Montrose, and the Poet Chief carried it gallantly at the head of 500 of his men at Sheriffmuir. On this occasion he, as his ancestors had done before him, consulted the oracle, and observed for the first time an extensive flaw or crack in it. This was accepted as an adverse omen, inasmuch as the Stuart cause was for the time crushed, and from this time, it has been held, dates the decline of the power and influence of the clan.
“But besides being regarded merely as a warlike emblem, the 'Clach na Brataich' was also employed as a charm-stone against sickness. It was, after a short preliminary prayer, dipped in water by the chief, who then with his own hands distributed the water thus qualified to the applicants for it. In this connection it was used by the grandfather of the present chief, in whose possession it now of course remains. For a time it was deposited by him in the museum of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland
for the inspection of the public, but serious warnings were addressed to him as to the fatality which might result.
"In form it is a ball of clear rock crystal, in appearance like glass, two inches in diameter, and has been supposed to be a Druidical beryl. It may, however, quite as probably be one of those crystal balls which have from time to time been unearthed from ancient graves in the country, and which are said to be the abodes of good or evil spirits, or amulets against sickness or the sword. These symbols were usually carried on the person of the chief, attached to his girdle or suspended from his helmet."
The ancient rite of divination by dream was once regarded as in the last resort a reasonable and proper method of ascertaining the person appropriate to be king. We read in the Sick-Bed of Cuchulainn of a 'bull-feast' being made the occasion of superinducing such a dream. "It is thus that the bull-feast was wont to be made, viz., a white bull was killed and a man partook to his full of its flesh and juice, and slept under that satiety while a spell of truth was chaunted over him by four druids, and in vision there would be divined by him the semblance of the man who would be made king there from his form and description and the manner of work which was performed. The man woke up from his sleep and related his vision. . . ." 1 Lugaidh of the Red Stripes, the pupil of Cuchulainn, who was then lying ill, was so recognised and proclaimed monarch of Ireland.
In the Sack of Da Derga's Hostel 1 we read that Conaire was thus elected. Though really begotten by a supernatural bird-man, he was regarded as the son of his predecessor Eterscéle. But this does not seem to have given him any title to succeed. A bull-feast was accordingly given; and the bull-feaster in his sleep at the end of the night beheld a man stark-naked passing along the road of Tara with a stone in his sling. Warned and counselled by his bird relatives, Conaire fulfilled these requirements. He found three kings (doubtless from among the under-kings of Ireland) awaiting him with royal raiment to clothe his nakedness, and a chariot to convey him to Tara. It was a disappointment to the folk of Tara to find that their bull-feast and their spell of truth chanted over the feaster had resulted in the selection of a beardless lad. But he convinced them that he was the true successor, and was admitted to the kingship.
Divination in later times takes various forms, chief of which of old was (slinneineachd) the reading of omens in shoulder-blades. About 40 years ago the shoulder-blade of a bear (math-ghamhuin) took in belief a foremost place, but as this could not be got, that of a fox or sheep might be used. X. Y., the wife of L. C. Z., who was credited with the gift of stopping blood by a spell, lost one of her young boys. He was missed, and though searched for, he could not be found. G. P., a man notable in the line of finding any dead bodies, failed. She then betook her to a wise man who could divine by reading
the omens on the shoulder-blades of a bear. 1 He divined and told her to walk to a certain part of the hill which stretched away from her house; he described certain stones near to which the body was to be found. She went thither; found her boy as a heap of bones; she carried them home and had them buried. This falls under the scapulimantia of Grimm, 2 and is met with among many races. A kindred rite survives in the reading of one's fate as to marriage in the 'merry thought' or breast-bone of a fowl. One's vision of the future was widened by prognostications of all sorts by the seeing of wraiths and the barking of dogs before funerals, by the phenomena of second-sight and of phantom-funerals and death-lights. Special honour was accorded to any traces of the presence of St. Brigit on Candlemas Eve. This belief was until recently held in Arisaig. It existed, as we learn from Moore, in the Isle of Man, and Martin 3 writes: "The mistress and servants of each family take a sheaf of oats and dress it up in woman's apparel, put it in a large basket and lay a wooden club by it, and this they call Briid's bed, and then the mistress and servants cry three times: 'Briid is come, Briid is welcome.' This they do just before going to bed, and when they rise in the morning, they look among the ashes expecting to see the impression of Briid's club there, which if they do they reckon it a true presage of a good crop and a prosperous year, and the contrary they take as an ill omen."
Gregorson Campbell has a section dealing with
[paragraph continues] Premonitions and Divination (Fiosachd): for his instances suffice it to refer to his book. 1 He gives prophecies attributed to the Lady of Lawers and to Coinneach Odhar, 'whose name is hardly known in Argyllshire.' Consequently he only devotes a page to him, in which we learn that Kenneth acquired his prophetic gift from a stone found in a raven's nest. The variants of Kenneth's legend are instructive.
The Inverness-shire tradition of Coinneach Odhar takes us back to the birth of the seer. Here we have a story with so strong a resemblance to that of Brian as to show that the tale belongs to a remote period. If I take the Skye tradition there is evidence of interest. "We in Bracadale, Duirinish, never heard that Coinneach Odhar was a Mackenzie, or that his death took place at so recent a date as the seventeenth century, That could not have been. We never heard of the manner of his death. The historian Mackenzie mixed the legend of the original Coinneach with the true fact as to the cruel death of a certain Kenneth who was possessed of clairvoyant faculties and who was buried below the town of Fortrose." So states Miss Fanny Tolmie, a lady of rare talent and exceptional knowledge of Skye and its traditions. Miss Tolmie's account is as follows:
"On a Hallowe’en the people of Boisdale in South Uist were assembling, according to long-established. custom, to spend some hours together in mirth and dance. There was a cattle-fold in the neighbourhood which was always watched by night, and on this occasion the duty of guarding it devolved on two young women, who were vexed that they should
thus be excluded from participating in the general enjoyment. Casting in their minds how they might find a substitute, they bethought them of an elderly maid who lived in a cottage at no distance from the fold, which in the remote past had been a burying-ground, and probably was of pre-Christian date. The woman acceded kindly to their request, and repaired to her watching station with her distaff in her hand, where she sat beside a fire for a while,—spinning peacefully. There were some graves close to where she was sitting, and about midnight she was astonished and awe-stricken to see them moving and heaving and forms emerging from them and passing out of sight in all directions, north, south, east and west. Venturing to approach one of these open graves which seemed larger than the rest, she laid her distaff across the opening, waiting to see the result of this action. Before long the spectres began to return one by one, and every one lay down in his own place while the sod became firm and green over the grave as it had been before.
"Last of all arrived the occupant of the largest grave, who seemed to have had a longer way to go, and who, seeing the distaff, exclaimed to the woman: 'Why dost thou hinder me from lying down in peace?' 'First tell me,' she replied, 'who thou art, where thou hast been, and what is to be my fate, and then I will allow thee return once more to thy resting-place.' He answered: 'I was a warrior from Lochlinn and, after having been wrecked and drowned, my body was washed ashore in Boisdale. The corpse of one of my companions, whose name was Til, was found on the west coast of Skye, at a
place which has been named after him, Poll’ til. It is permitted to us on Hallowe’en to visit our native lands, and I have just been to Lochlinn for an hour. This is what in the fulness of time shall happen to thee: though no longer young, thou shalt bear a son who will be a prophet.' Then raising the distaff, the warrior lay down, and the grave closed over him. When the elderly woman gave birth to a son, there was great wonder in the land. She named him Coinneach, in addition to which name, because of his sallow complexion, he received the surname of Odhar. Coinneach Odhar's name is still well known all over the Highlands and Hebridean Isles, and several districts claim to have given him birth. He received the blue stone of prophecy from the Maighdeann Shīdhe or Banshee, with the injunction that he was never to give it to any one. H e was once pursued by a wicked person, who wished to wrest from him the precious stone, as he was walking near Loch Ness. Fearful of being overcome, he flung the stone into the lake, crying that a pike (geadas) would swallow it, and that in after times it would be found again by a man who would have four and twenty fingers and toes, and two navels,—who would also with it receive the prophetic power.
"Some prophecies attributed to him in Skye are:
"Tribesmen will cross over linns and will leave this isle a black isle of foreigners.
"The folks of the white coats, and those of the red-coats in Rome will meet in Baileshear.
"Six oarsmen will bring every Macleod in the country around Gob-an-t-snoid, beyond Dunvegan Head.
"In the battle the ravens will drink their fill from the stone of Ard Ūige, and from a stone in Glendale.
"St. Columba's stone in Snizort churchyard will turn right about."
In Ireland, Brian of the saga appears in Red Brian Carabine's Prophecy, which gives the title to a collection of much merit we owe to Mr. Michael O Tiománaidhe. 1 He is there pictured as having had his abode at Fál Ruadh, a village in Erris, by the seaside; a decent man who at first did not possess the prophetic gift which was bestowed on him about 1648. At a rent collection he had gone surety for a poor widow and paid on her behalf, whereby he received the divine favour,—the woman having taken God to witness that she would pay on such and such a day. "I like to have another (to give surety) in company with God," said the lord of the land. Crossing a hill on his way home, what should happen but that Brian fell asleep for he knew not how long. He had a dream, and it was told him in vision that what he would find in the right sleeve of his coat he was to carefully put by, without letting wife nor child nor any one have a sight of it save himself alone. It was a sparkling jewel, which clearly revealed to him the future, both good and evil; a magic stone of prophecy which shone with resplendent lustre. Numerous are the prophecies ascribed him; they are of a nature parallel to those of the Highland Coinneach Odhar, Dun Kenneth. At last his wife's curiosity was aroused, and one day,
as she saw him gazing at the magic stone, she came behind him, and what portion of the crystal her eye fell on became black as coal and shone no more. He has the faculty of foreseeing the approach of death in his own case and in that of others. One day, while dictating his visions to his son, a poor woman entered, and she was scornfully rebuked by the busy scribe. "List to her," quoth Brian, "for some of thine own bodily members will perish seven years before thyself." And true this proved to be, for the son lost a finger which was buried in earth. But when this fore-warning was foretold to Brian's son, he angrily cast the prophetic record into the fire. The first portion, had already been thrown into a pool, and thus the written prophecies of Brian perished. Naturally, what survives has come down by word of mouth, and forms the subject of fireside entertainments in West Ireland, in the discourses of William Fleming in Leth-ardan; of Seamus Mac Enri, Inish Bigil; of Seaghan O Conway, Dubh-Thuma; all of which is duly recorded in Michael Timony's narrative. The story of the loss of the written prophecy is similar to a tale told me at Loch Arkaig of how Ossian's works and the history of the Féinne have for the most part perished, having been cast into the fire in his anger by St. Patrick. He found them to be mostly lies; but his daughter rescued some!
The legend of Brian the wizard-hermit much resembles in essentials what is told in Highland legend of Coinneach Odhar (Sallow or Dun Kenneth), whose legend does not all fit in with so modern a date as that of the Kenneth on whom Lady Seaforth
wreaked her vengeance for his prophecies. It seems to have been taken as fact that a certain unfortunate crystal gazer, possessed of what were held to be clairvoyant faculties, suffered at the hands of the Lady Mackenzie of Seaforth, who is associated with the sad fate of Coinneach Odhar, the Brahan seer, whose prophecies were published in a second edition at Inverness in 1878 by the late Mr. Alexander Mackenzie, and re-printed some years ago with a preface by Mr. Andrew Lang. The material, however, was collected by the late Mr. A. B. MacLennan 1 and forwarded to the editor of the Celtic Magazine for insertion. This gives the Ross-shire version. When the old legend got mixed up with a later personality on the Mackenzie of Seaforth's estates, it was natural that his birth should be located at Baile-na-Cille, Uig, Lewis. While his mother one evening was tending cattle in a summer shieling on a ridge called Cnoc-eothail, overlooking the burying ground of Baile-na-Cille (i.e. Kirk-ton), she saw, says the legend, about the still hour of midnight, the whole of the graves in the churchyard opening and a vast multitude of people of every age, from the newly-born babe to the gray-haired sage, rising from their graves, and going away in every conceivable direction. In an hour they began to return, and were all soon after back in their graves, which closed upon them as before. But, on scanning the burying-ground more closely, Kenneth's mother observed one grave, near the side, still open. Being a courageous woman, she determined to ascertain the
cause of this singular circumstance, so hastening to the grave, and placing her cuigeal or 'distaff' athwart its mouth (for she had heard it said that the spirit could not enter the grave again while that instrument was upon it), she watched the result. She had not to wait long, for in a minute or two she noticed a fair lady coming in the direction of the churchyard, rushing through the air from the north. On her arrival, the fair one addressed her thus—"Lift thy distaff from off my grave, and let me enter my dwelling of the dead." "I shall do so," answered the other, "when you explain to me what detained you so long after your neighbours." "That you shall soon hear," the ghost replied; "my journey was much longer than theirs—I had to go all the way to Norway." She then addressed her: "I am a daughter of the King of Norway, I was drowned while bathing in that country; my body was found on the beach close to where we now stand, and I was interred in this grave. In remembrance of me, and as a small reward for your intrepidity and courage, I shall possess you of a valuable secret—go and find in yonder lake a small round blue stone, which give to your son, Kenneth, who by it shall reveal future events." She did as requested, found the stone, and gave it to her son, Kenneth. No sooner had he thus received the gift of divination than his fame spread far and wide. Being born on the lands of Seaforth, he was more associated with that family than with any other in the country, and he latterly removed to the neighbourhood of Loch Ussie, on the Brahan estate. 1
Tradition associated this Loch with his death. For having at a gathering at Brahan Castle, legend says, given expression to some remarks displeasing to Lady Seaforth and others, his punishment was determined on. Having no way of escape, he applied his magic white stone to his eye, uttered the well-known prophetic curse: "I see into the far future, and I read the doom of the race of my oppressor. The long descended line of Seaforth will, ere many generations have passed, end in extinction and in sorrow. I see a chief, the last of his house, both deaf and dumb. He will be the father of four fair sons, all of whom he will follow to the tomb. He will live care-worn and die mourning, knowing that the honours of his line are to be extinguished for ever, and that no future chief of the Mackenzies shall bear rule at Brahan or in Kintail. After lamenting over the last and most promising of his sons, he himself shall sink into the grave, and the remnant of his possessions shall be inherited by a white-coifed (or white-hooded) lassie from the East, and she is to kill her sister. And as a sign by which it may be known that these things are coming to pass, there shall be four great lairds in the days of the last deaf and dumb Seaforth—Gairloch, Chisholm, Grant, and Raasay,—of whom one shall be bucktoothed, another hair-lipped, another half-witted, and the fourth a stammerer. Chiefs distinguished by these personal marks shall be the allies and neighbours of the last Seaforth; and when he looks round and sees them, he may know that his sons are doomed to death, that his broad lands shall pass away to the stranger, and that his race shall come to an end."
The prediction ended, he threw the white stone into the loch, declaring that the finder thereof would be similarly gifted. Another version has it that he then threw the stone into a cow's foot-mark, which was full of water, declaring that a child would be born with two navels, or, as some say, with four thumbs and six toes, who would in course of time discover it inside a pike, and who would then be gifted with the seer's power. "As it was the purpose of his pursuers to obtain possession of this wonderful stone, as well as of the prophet's person, search was eagerly made for it in the muddy waters in the footprint, when, to! it was found that more water was copiously oozing from the boggy ground around, and rapidly forming a considerable lake, that effectually concealed the much-coveted stone. The waters steadily increased, and the result, as the story goes, was the formation of Loch Ussie. The poor prophet was then taken to Chanonry Point, where the stern arm of ecclesiastical authority, with unrelenting severity, burnt him to death in a tar-barrel for witchcraft." 1
His attainment of the seer's gift is invariably connected with this stone. He got it, says one version, as he was out on the hill cutting peats. His mistress, a farmer's wife, greatly annoyed at his seeing-gift, determined to poison the food which was to be sent to him. It was somewhat late in arriving, and, exhausted, it is said that "he lay down on the heath and fell into a heavy slumber. In this position he was suddenly awakened by feeling something cold in his breast, which on examination he
found to be a small white stone, with a hole through the centre. He looked through it, when a vision appeared to him, which revealed the treachery and diabolical intention of his mistress. To test the truth of the vision, he gave the dinner intended for himself to his faithful collie; the poor brute writhed and died soon after in the greatest agony." 1
Another variant is that, resting his head upon a little knoll, he waited the arrival of his wife with his dinner, whereupon he fell asleep. On awaking he felt something hard under his head, and, examining the cause of the uneasiness, discovered a small round stone with a hole through the middle. He picked it up, and looking through it he saw, by the aid of this prophetic stone, that his wife was coming to him with a dinner consisting of sowans and milk, polluted though, unknown to her, in a manner which, as well as several other particulars connected with it, we forbear to mention. But Coinneach found that, though this stone was the means by which a supernatural power had been conferred upon him, it had, as its very first application, deprived him of the sight of that eye with which he looked through it, and he continued ever afterwards cam, or blind of an eye. 2 Kenneth's prophecies vary in different parts of the Highlands; some of them may have touches in common with those credited to Thomas the Rhymer, whose legend, however, has elements that go back on native folk belief of the pre-mediaeval age. This finds confirmation in that the death of the Kenneth said to have been burnt at Chanonry is placed under the third Earl of Seaforth,
who was born in 1635. But Mr. W. M. Mackenzie has found in a Commission against witchcraft, issued in Ross-shire in 1577, a reference to Coinneach Odhar as the head of a school of witchcraft even then.
Coinneach's legend is essentially the sane as the Irish one of Red Brian Carabine, but it is in continuous development. In a modern Lewis poem of seventy quatrains, which is in Mr. J. N. Macleod's still unpublished collection, there is a different version of the getting of the stone. Coinneach is depicted as on the strand, when a lady appears in the form of a light, and tells her story. After the light turns into a maiden, she declares herself as Gràdhag, daughter of King Swaran of the North. Arna, priest of Odin, was a keen seer, and possessed of a Stone of Virtues, prepared by Odin himself. The king having ordered the priest to be shot with an arrow, the maiden Gràdhag (Dear One) intervened, and saved the priest's life, for which she got the prophetic stone. Then she is pictured as having seen Diarmuid and the Fianna in vision, and seized by a desire to come to Alba, whereupon Swaran determines on invading Eire and on conquering Finn. The lady was shipwrecked on the way, and the stone hidden in the sand at a spot which her wraith points out. Whereupon she changes her human form to a gleam of light, which twinkled thrice, and then vanished. Kenneth dug at the spot and found the jewel, which gold could not buy; such were its virtues.
But Illumination has its widest popular development apart from Stones of Virtue, and under the
category of second-sight (an dà shealladh, i.e. the two sights), which has a literature of its own. 1 Under peculiar psychic conditions the reproductive imagination, working upon memory images, transforms what might remain as 'conjecture' into vision. It takes on the aspect of 'first sight' proper, as when one has a vision of a person absolutely strange to one, and with such vividness that one recognises what answers to all the foreseen details in actual life afterwards. Parallel to this is the case of the coming of strangers being interpreted from a premonition or warning (tàrmachduinn), such as sounds from the opening of presses, or other articles; as also the seeing of forms, which one recognises afterwards on the arrival of strangers whose 'doubles,' it is thought, must have manifested themselves beforehand. This is the so-called phenomenon of apparent double presence. The following incident, of which the scene is in Sutherland, will suffice to illustrate this phantasy or vision proper:
"One evening a crofter was sitting outside his cottage door, when he saw a stranger coming along the high road towards the house. He watched the man for some minutes till, leaving the main road, the traveller took a branch path leading to the crofter's door. The crofter then stepped inside for a moment to inform his wife of the approach of a visitor. On going out again he was more than puzzled to find that the stranger had in the brief interval completely vanished. The house stood, and still stands, on a slight eminence from which an unobstructed view
can be had of the immediate neighbourhood. But though the astonished crofter looked on all sides, he could see nothing further of the stranger. None of the villagers whose houses he must have passed had observed him. It is important to note that the crofter there and then gave a full description of the man to his wife and to a brother. In a short time the incident, uncanny though it was, was forgotten. Some months later a child of the same crofter was suddenly taken ill. The doctor, a young practitioner who had but recently come into the district, was sent for, and in the course of the day the father was standing at the door of his cottage waiting impatiently for the doctor's arrival, when, at a bend of the road, appeared the mysterious stranger of several months before. He turned out to be the expected doctor; but in features, dress, and appearance generally he was the exact counterpart of the individual who had formerly presented himself. On inquiry it was ascertained that the doctor had never before been in the neighbourhood, and on the particular day in question had been in the south of Scotland. The crofter, his wife, and brother, most respectable and estimable people, are still hale and hearty, and fond of describing this remarkable incident" (Chambers's Journal).
Yet man in his essence is one. Hence Healing embraces the means that are moments in realising his unity; and such moments include the rites that unite
(β) the human with the divine.
[paragraph continues] The former has its physical correspondence: on its
psychical side it embraces Love alike towards the human and the divine. Man on one side may be seen as, to a certain extent, finding realisation through such things as nuptial rites, covenants and betrothal (réite, i.e. 'concord'). Here may be found the 'agreement-whisky' (uisge-beatha na réite), known as 'the knitting or covenant-cup' 1 elsewhere. The Highland betrothal was sometimes spoken of as 'the booking or contracting' (an leabhrachduinn), and in some places there was in vogue the ceremony of the feet-washing, which may fitly form the transition to the marriage ritual. I know this existed in Inverness-shire, where Oidhche Ghlanadh nan Cas, 'the night of the feet-washing,' was a preliminary of importance, and afforded the friends of both contracting parties the opportunity of using at times an abundance of soot along with the water. As connected with the hearth and with the fire, soot had a magical influence. It seemed, too, to have been the correct etiquette in that district for the Highland women to wash the feet of friends and acquaintances travelling from the neighbouring parts. It may now have passed away, but it reminds of the old church rite referred to by Duchesne: Ego tibi lavo pedes, sicut dominus noster Jesus Christus fecit discipulis suis, ut tu facias hospitibus et peregrinis, ut habeas
vitam aeternam—As Christ washed the feet of His disciples, so others were to do the same towards guests and strangers, in order to inheriting eternal life. The ceremony of the feet-washing was observed in Ireland, 1 in Southern Gaul and in Northern Italy. The ecclesiastical rite may have influenced folk-practice. On the eve of marriage, however, the lustration of the feet was to neutralise the mutual dangers of contact; compare the custom in the South Celebes, where before the wedding the bridegroom bathes in holy water. The soul, in short, was thought to be in danger of flying away, although after all it may not be unconnected with a speculation put in the words of Plato: human nature was originally one, and the desire and pursuit of the whole is called Love. And Aristophanes seems to preserve a folk-belief when he says earliest man was a bisexual hermaphrodite, to humble him he was cut in two by Zeus. At any rate, the wedding-bath as a solemn pre-nuptial ablution was part of the preparation for wedlock in Greece, where it also formed part of the Mysteries. 2
A curious side-light upon nuptial covenants is reflected from a folk-saying current alike in parts of the Highlands and in Ireland: "If you wish to be blamed, marry; if you wish to be praised, die." 3 One of the preliminaries to marriage was the faoighdhe, 4 a sort of genteel asking of aid to set
up house, or as token of good-will. It was the part of the bride's duty to seek for these gifts, which were also supplemented by the presents 1 forwarded by those attending the wedding. Such wedding-presents were a matter of course, for the festivities formerly lasted over a week. It was held proper for a woman to be married in a dress borrowed from a married woman: this was a token of luck, as were likewise the shots fired as the wedding-party set out. Persons met with casually on the way were offered a dram, and the 'healths' proper to the occasion were honoured. One of the most significant archaic customs, found surviving at Little Lochbroom, West Ross, has been regarded by the Rev. C. Robertson as pointing to the primitive institution of marriage by capture. Owing to distance, a trysting place is arranged, where the bride's party meets the clerical celebrant. "The bridegroom's house is a little further away than the bride's home from the trysting place. While the bride's party is at breakfast on the morning of the wedding day, a scout is sent out every few minutes to see what is doing at the bridegroom's house, and to guard against surprise by him and his party. The bridegroom's party in the same way are watching the bride's home. When the bride and her party set out, there immediately arises an appearance of great stir and bustle about the bridegroom's house. Presently he and his party are seen to come out, and, as though they were in hot haste to overtake the bride's party, they take a straight line through fields and over streams and
fences. They do not overtake the party in front, however, but keep about two hundred yards behind. When the bride's party sits down to partake of a refreshment by the way, the pursuers still keep at the same respectful distance, and sit down to take their refreshments by themselves. While waiting for the minister at the trysting place, the two parties keep at a distance the one from the other, and even when they are obliged to approach for the performance of the ceremony, they still keep distinct. Immediately on the conclusion of the ceremony by which bride and bridegroom are made one, the two parties mingle together and are associated throughout the remainder of the day's proceedings." 1
The late Dr. Wilde 2 records that at the Midsummer Eve bonfires many of the old people circumambulated the fire, repeating certain prayers: "If a man was about to perform a long journey, he leaped backwards and forwards three times through the fire, to give him success in his undertaking. If about to wed, he did it to purify himself for the marriage state." Lady Wilde likewise alludes to the feigning of force in carrying off a bride, who was placed on a swift horse before the bridegroom, while all her kindred started in pursuit with shouts and cries. 3
An eighteenth century visitor 4 to the North recorded: "Soon after the wedding-day, the new-married woman sets herself about spinning her
winding sheet, and a husband that should sell or pawn it is esteemed among all men, one the most profligate." The editor of Burt, viz. R. Jamieson, notes that when a woman of the lower class in Scotland, however poor, and whether married or single, commences housekeeping, her first care, after what is absolutely necessary for the time, is to provide death-linen for herself, and those who look to her for that office. 1 And I have heard of cases where the new wedding-dress was set aside awaiting the time of decease, when a matron donned it as her best now that she hourly expected to join her predeceased spouse. Mrs. Macdonald of Kingsburgh was wrapped at death in the sheets wherein Prince Charlie slept. Sympathy was thus expressed by contact with an object: this idea leads to substitution, and that very readily to identity. New cradles were not esteemed; every endeavour was made to preserve the old family cradle, which was especially lucky if a boy had been nursed therein before. To part with the old cradle was to give away the family luck.
The Marriage Customs in Pennant's account are of interest here: "The courtship of the Highlander has these remarkable circumstances attending it: after privately obtaining the consent of the Fair, he formally demands her of the father. The Lover and his friends assemble on a hill allotted for that purpose in every parish, and one of them is dispatched to obtain permission to wait on the daughter; if he is successful, he is again sent to invite the father
and his friends to ascend the hill and partake of a whisky cask, which is never forgot: the Lover advances, takes his future Father-in-law by the hand, and then plights his troth, and the Fair-one is surrendered up to him. During the marriage ceremony, great care is taken that dogs do not pass between them, and particular attention is paid to the leaving the Bridegroom's left shoe without buckle or latchet, to prevent witches 1 from depriving him, on the nuptial night, of the power of loosening the virgin zone. As a test, not many years ago, a singular custom prevailed in the Western Highlands the morning after a wedding: a Basket was fastened with a cord round the neck of the Bridegroom by the female part of the company, who immediately filled it with stones, till the poor man was in great danger of being strangled, if his Bride did not take compassion on him, and cut the cord with a knife given her to use at discretion. But such was the tenderness of the Caledonian spouses, that never was an instance of their neglecting an immediate relief of their good man." 2
At Logierait, 18 miles from Kenmore, as recently as 1811, the custom was: "After arriving at the church, and just immediately before the celebration of the marriage ceremony, every knot about the
dress of both bride and bridegroom, such as garters, shoe-strings, strings of petticoats, etc., was carefully loosened. After leaving the church the whole company walk round it, keeping the church wall always on the right hand. The bridegroom first, however, turned aside with a friend to tie the strings of his dress, while the bride retired with her friends to adjust the disorder of hers." 1 Pennant observes thereanent that "the precaution of loosening every knot about the newly-joined pair is strictly observed, for fear of the penalty denounced in the former volumes. It must be remarked that the custom is observed even in France, nouer l’aiguillette being a common phrase for disappointments of this nature. Matrimony is avoided in the month of January, which is called in Erse the cold month, but what is more singular, the ceremony is avoided even in the enlivening month of May."
The Rev. L. Shaw, Historian of Moray, adds in Pennant's Tour that "at marriages and baptisms they make a procession around the church, Deasoil, i.e. sunways, because the sun was the immediate object of the Druids’ worship."
I have myself seen the wedding-bannock (bonnach bainnse), baked by a wise matron, broken by her upon the head of the bride as she entered the house on the return from church, in the year 1875. It is parallel to the confarreatio of the Romans in some ways.
And the same rite is met with in Ireland: Lady Wilde 2 states: "On arriving at her future home,
the bride was met on the threshold by the bridegroom's mother, who broke an oaten cake over her head as a good augury of plenty in the future."
After marriage the snood of the maid was exchanged for the kerch (bréid) of the spouse, a custom referred to in a marriage ode beginning: "a thousand blessings to thee in thy kerch." 1
208:1 Moore, Folklore, etc. 157.
208:2 Ibid. 156.
209:1 Rogers, Social Life in Scotland, i. 135.
209:2 Frazer, On Certain Burial Customs, p. 84.
209:3 Year 1889-90.
212:1 A. Carmichael, Carmina Gadelica.
212:2 Joyce's Soc. Hist. i. 335; Silva Gadelica, trans. by O’Grady, pp. 15, 16, 41.
212:3 Cf. J. G. Campbell's Witchcraft, p. 247; Train's Hist. and Stat. Acct. of Isle of Man (Douglas, 1845), ii. 116; Solinus, xxii. 10.
212:4 Frazer, G. Bough, iii. 347-9; On the Kingship, p. 281.
213:1 Grimm, Deutsche Mythologie4, i. 506.
214:1 Stokes and Strachan, Thesaurus Palaeo-Hib. ii. 45.
214:2 Anthropological Essays, presented to E. B. Tylor, Oxford 1907, p. 82. With the daimon-protector compare idea in the Faire-Chlaidh, 'the kirk-yard watch,' q.v.
215:1 Frazer, On Certain Burial Customs, p. 85n.
216:1 K. Maurer, 'Ueber die Wasserweihe des Germanishen Heidenthumes,' Bavarian Acad. of Sciences for 1880.
217:1 Cf. the whisky and cheese carried in processions to church by a marriage party and offered to those met on the way; this was etiquette in 1875 to my knowledge, and later.
217:2 Hatch, Influences of Greek Ideas and Usages upon the Christian Church, p. 299 (where he quotes Mabillon).
218:1 Letter from Rev. D. Macfarlane, the present minister.
218:2 Quoted in Warren's Liturgy and Ritual of the Celtic Church, p. 67.
219:1 Duchesne's Origins, quoting Synodus Patricii, ii. 19; Victor Vitensis, Hist. Persec. Vandal. ii. 47.
219:2 Té chaol a’ chòt uaine a’ nigheadh a phàisde ann am miosar bhainne.
219:3 Chan urrainn domh; tha mi air mo mhiapadh.
219:4 Witchcraft and Second-Sight, p. 173.
220:1 An Lóchrann, Tralee, 1910, Bk. iii. No. 7.
220:2 Trans. Gael. Soc. Inv. 26, 284.
220:3 v. Appendix to my Norse Influence on Celtic Scotland.
221:1 This derivation by Thurneysen may be upheld, but the name may have been extended also to the 'wise men' of the pre-Celtic peoples who brought over their own rites when the incorporation of the various races took place.
221:2 Carmina Gadelica, ii. p. 22, where a specimen of this incantation is given.
221:3 Social History of Ireland, i. 386.
221:4 Reprint for the Clan Mackay Society, 1892, p. 88.
222:1 The Rev. Duncan MacGillivray succeeded in 1817.
223:1 There is a rite of blessing oneself when making the frìth if a woman be seen,—she being the omen of some untoward event or other.
224:2 See under Bird-Soul.
225:2 Forbes, Gaelic Names of Beasts, Birds, Fishes, Insects and Reptiles, p. 263.
225:3 Gaelic Soc. Inv. Trans. 26, 126 and 42.
226:1 Gall. Soc. Inv. Trans. 265.
226:2 Ib. 292-3.
226:3 Ib. 25, 127.
226:4 Ib. 25, 130.
226:5 Chan ann ga mhaoidheadh ort atá mi.
226:6 Cha deach’ R------ M------ riamh o’n tigh leis an làir aige, gun a chas dheas chur timchioll a ceann an ainm an Athar is crois Chriosda chur p. 227 air; ’s cha robh buitseach no droch spiorad sam bith a b’urrainn thighinn ’na chòir.
227:1 Comh-dhalaiche; German, An-gang; L. primitiae.
227:2 A Brief Account of the Clan Donnachie, with Notes on its History and Traditions.
229:1 For the original see Windisch's Irische Texte, i. 213.
230:1 Orgain Brudne Da Dergae, a text of about the end of the eighth century.
231:1 Duine còir a leughadh slinneagan a’ mhathghamhna.
231:2 Teut. Myth. ed. Stallybrass, 1113.
231:3 Western Isles, 119.
232:1 Superstitions of the Scottish Highlands, p. 258.
235:1 Targaireacht Bhriain Ruaidh Ui Chearbháin. Dublin: Gill & Son, 1906.
237:1 His name is referred to on pages 9, 13, 19, 45, 55, 80 of the 1878 edition; at the foot of page 3, a whole passage is omitted.
238:1 Prophecies of the Brahan Seer, pp. 4-5; cf. 1878 ed.
240:1 Prophecies, pp. 78-79.
241:1 Prophecies, p. 6.
241:2 Ib. p. 7.
243:1 Highland Second-Sight, ed. by N. Macrae, with Introductory Study by Rev. Wm. Morrison. Dingwall: George Souter.
245:1 The shedding of the blood of a cock is inferred by Clay Trumbull (The Blood Covenant, p. 199) for Lowland Scotland from the Uowing of Jok and Jynny; he quotes the lines:
[paragraph continues] If a trace of the Blood Covenant can be inferred here, I can only say that I do not recollect any blood rite associated with Highland betrothals.
246:1 v. Stowe Missal in Warren's ed. p. 217.
246:2 J. C. Lawson, Modern Greek Folk Lore and Ancient Greek Religion, 592, 594.
246:4 O. Irish foigde, from fo and guidhe, 'beg,' 'entreat.'
247:1 Eàiric (according to my pronunciation); cf. O. Ir. airec (2) in Windisch's Wb. Root in O. Ir. tairciud 'oblation.'
248:1 Transactions, Gaelic Soc. Inverness, 26, 298.
248:2 Irish Popular Superstitions, p. 49.
248:3 Lady Wilde, Ancient Legends of Ireland, vol. i. p. 219.
248:4 Burt's Letters, vol. ii. p. 106.
249:1 Was this connected with the custom in South Scotland of the bride presenting a marriage shirt to the bridegroom?
250:1 An old opinion. Gesner says that the witches made use of toads as a charm, 'Ut vim coeundi, ni fallor, in viris tollerent,' Gesner, de quad. ovi, p. 72.
250:2 Pennant's Tour, i. 187. 'Cutting the creel' is a rite known to the fishermen of the Berwickshire coast. (E. B. Simpson's Folk Lore in Lowland Scotland, p. 209.) A knife is given to the newly made wife who relieves her husband of the load, emblematic of the assistance that a help-mate renders.
251:1 Celtic Magazine, x. 542.
251:2 Ancient Legends of Ireland, i. 219, where one elaborate account of an old Kerry wedding is quoted and of interest otherwise.
252:1 Mìle beannachd dhuit-s’ fo d’ bhréid.