ROMANCES OF FIRE WORSHIP."Safely hid
An angel who at last in sight
Of both my parents all in flames ascended
From off the altar, where an offering burn'd,
As in a fiery column charioting
His god-like presence."
-- Samson Agonistes
IT would not be profitable to pursue the inquiry into the value of the numerous hypotheses which have been from time to time raised in support of the assertion that a system of Fire Worship prevailed amongst the Britons of old Cornwall.
There can be no doubt but that the writings of Borlase, and other earnest thinkers of his class, have done much to perpetuate the belief in the existence of a Druidical priesthood in Cornwall, who had their altars on the hills,--who made the huge piles of granite rocks the instruments of their worship,--and who availed themselves of the hollows formed in those rocks by nature, to procure the unpolluted waters from heaven, with which to wash away sins.
The antiquary has too frequently placed himself in the unfortunate position of Jonathan Oldbuck amidst the ancient fortifications at the Kaim of Kinprunes, when he was so rudely checked in his theory by Edie Ochiltree, who would insist on it that he did "mind the biggin' o' 't." But the modern historian and philosopher has gone as far wrong in the contrary direction. The antiquaries formerly insisted that all the natural basins formed in the granite rocks were of Druidic origin, and all the Logan stones the result of Druid labours. The geologists and historians now declare them, one and all, to be the result of disintegration, produced by ordinary atmospheric causes. Both are, I persume to think, wrong. I am quite satisfied that I can point to rock-basins upon which the hands of man have been busy, and to Logan stones in which he has, for his own purposes, aided nature.
In the Sacrificing Rock on Carn Brae are a series of hollows so deeply cut, and so entirely unlike anything seen on any of the other rocks on that remarkable hill, although ordinary rock-basins are numerous, that I am disposed to believe in the tradition which gives it its name. On the Main or Men Rock in Constantine, I see, in like manner, evidences of the works of man, side by side with those of nature. The disintegration produced by the accumulation of water, at first in small quantities in a little hollow on the face of a rock, is a curious process. The first action is the separation of a few particles, or small crystals, of quartz or mica. These repose beneath the small deposit of water, until, by the beating of the rains and the action of the winds, they are made to serve as grinding materials, and carry on the work of weathering. The basins thus formed have a regular curvature, which does not belong to those deeper basins to which I have referred. The question, however, before us is, Have we any evidences, traditional or otherwise, which go to support the belief that the Phoenicians, or any other people, introduced the worship of fire into this country?
The influences of education, and the zeal with which religious teachers have penetrated into the remotest districts and taught the truth, have banished nearly every relic of this ancient idolatry. But still amidst the dead ashes a faint spark occasionally appears, to tell us that at one time our forefathers did use the rocks as altars, on which they kindled sacrificial fires; and that they had their periods of solemn feast, when every hill blazed with the emblem of life and dissolution. A few examples of these pale sparks will not be without value.