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identity with the Celts are not numerous. The Iberian influence was most probably of a limited character, and if anything were taken up from that source, it produced no abiding effect.
We are much better circumstanced respecting the religious belief of the Goths, for though we have little information on the old German religion, except what is learned from the Latin writers, the deficiency is well supplied from the records of Scandinavian mythology.* It is even of more immediate importance that we should have directly open to us the latter source, but we must not commit the mistake of supposing everything that finds its counterpart in the traditions of the north, to be exclusively Scandinavian.
National religions modify, without supplanting, each other to a surprising degree, though the influence is not always very apparent. So much is this the case, that the complete conversion of a people is rarely, if ever, accomplished. Fragments of old rites remain, and maintain themselves for centuries after their intention and use have been forgotten. The missionary may war against them as he will, and brand them as superstitions; they give way to no dircct attack. Time alone frequently effects that in which religious zeal has failed; and under the guise of old customs they withdraw to remote nooks of the land, seeking out more primitive manners.
The phenomena of popular life called superstitions and customs, can therefore rarely be understood in connexion with the age in which we find them. What is now an unmeaning custom, the amusement of children, was once an impressive superstition, and in a still earlier time formed part of the national worship.
Thus we can only hope to explain successfully an old custom, when we are successful in tracing it to its source.
It is probable, however, that all customs cannot be considered in the light of superstitions; many, indeed, bear the stamp of a purely social origin; and whether such were ever enforced by an authority
* The Eddas, commonly called Sämund's Edda and Snorra's Edda. The former, a collection of mythic and traditionary songs, dates its compilation from 1133; the latter, a prosaic abstract of the former, was composed in 1241, but was the first printed.
ORIGIN OF CUSTOMS.
higher than that of necessity, depends on the nature of the religion with which they were connected. The whole social life of many peoples entered into the rules of their religious code, whilst others, even at a very early stage of culture, effected a separation between the religious and social laws.
It is always to be regretted when popular customs, whatever may have been their origin, are met with such direct opposition as to bring about their sudden extinction. Like the myrtle on the grave of Polydorus, they cannot be pulled up without groans and blood. The connexion between customs and popular manners needs scarcely be pointed out, and no custom survives the manners to which it is acclimatised. They vanish from amongst us rapidly enough. One change of manners strips the old rite of its religious character, and degrades it to a superstition; another change, and the superstition has become a custom, and that which was a custom has disappeared.
FIREWORSHIP, although the primitive rite of a great portion of the human family, is best known to us in connexion with the Persians, some remnants of whom have maintained their peculiar religion even to the latest times. Yet very little knowledge was obtained concerning the doctrines of the fireworshippers, until the remains of their sacred writings, under the name of the Zendavesta, were introduced into Europe in 1771. Since that time some real information on the Persian religious system has been spread abroad, and it has been shown to be the most elaborate ever conceived by the mind of man.
The exposition of doctrine which we find in the Zendavesta, only makes known to us the Persian system subsequent to its reformation under Zoroaster and his followers. But there is no doubt the primitive religion of the stock to which the Persians belonged, contained the germs of that belief nurtured into such magnificent life by the great Magus. Among the Indians (Hindoos), as well as with the Celts, fire was not merely a means of consuming or cooking the sacrifice, but had itself a sacred character. The principle of fire is declared by the Zendavesta to form the union between Ormuzd and the First Cause, but to be of too mystic a nature for man to explain. The sacred fire of the Celts maintained itself on the extreme verge of the West, even when Druidism existed no longer.
It is principally in its Zoroastrian development that the Persian religion contrasts with that of the other branches of the stock.
The pure fire was a primary requisite of worship in the former system-without it there was no sacrifice; and the priest who incautiously suffered it to be polluted by his breath, forfeited his life. To guard against such casualties one of the priestly robes, the penom, covered the lower part of the face, and extended over the nostrils. We find no trace of the pure-fire doctrine among the Celts; and the burning of sacrifices is sufficient proof that it was unknown to them. Animals were indeed slaughtered by the Persians, but this practice was adopted from the Indians, who were not allowed to eat of any flesh until it was offered to God. And we are informed by St. Patrick, in the narrative of his escape from Ireland, that he refused to appease his hunger by eating meats sacrificed to idols.
Especially we should suppose the priesthood to belong to the later period of the respective religions, yet the resemblance of the Magi, Brahmans, and Druids was sufficiently striking to be observed by the ancients. Pliny calls the Druids the Magi of the Gauls and Britons, and says, “ Britannia hodie eam (Magiam) attonitè celebrat, tantis cæremoniis ut eam Persis dedisse videri possit.”
The religious rites of at least a large portion of the Celts were conducted with fireworship, on hills or rising grounds, such sites probably being chosen under the idea that they were nearer heaven. There is an Eastern tradition that the minister of an Indian king erected a lofty tower on a hill, in which to lodge his son, who was a spirit of heaven incarnate, thus, it was said, to bring him nearer to his proper sphere. But on the sacrifices we have no satisfactory information. It is generally assumed, from the Roman accounts, that they were human, but though these abominations—which were continued even at Rome down to the time of the Empirewere most probably practised by some of the Celtic tribes, to what extent they prevailed, or under what conditions they were used, are points on which we are almost in the dark. The same charge was made against the Persian fireworshippers by their mortal enemies the Arabs, and it need hardly be said, has never been substantiated.
Human sacrifices were perhaps altogether unknown in Cumbria.
The Celtic aodh (pr. hu), a synonyme for the sacred fire, and sheep, indicates at least the original nature of the sacrifice.* This word appears in Cumbrian names of places. Three miles south of Penrith, where the Lowther is crossed by the railway, is a steep cliff named Ewe's, or Hugh's crag, for the proper form of the word and its origin are equally unknown; and in other parts of Westmorland are several places called Ewebank. It is probable these were all sites of the fireworship, and take their names from aodh.
Welsh mythology-one of the least scrupulous of agencies – makes very prominent a personage styled Hu the mighty, the chief of their gods. His chariot was composed of the rays of the sun; the sacred oxen, one of his attributes, bellowed in the thunder, and glared in the lightning. There can scarcely be a doubt that the unaccountable Hu is the name of the sacred fire deified by the Cambro-Celts. The biblical history of Noah was transferred to Hu, and the oxen of Hu, which are still spoken of in Wales, were conferred on Dewi, first bishop of St. David's. In short, the whole tissue of Welsh mythology is a most singular maze of error.
The Scandinavians, as they settled in England and Ireland, freely adopted the national rites and customs. Having been indoctrinated with the fireworship of the Celts, they continued it under the name of the Baaltine or Beltain, I a compound formed
• Aodh is the orthography into which E. Hugh is put in Irish ; the pronunciation of both is therefore nearly identical. It appears to be the Celtic form of Fr. feu, and E. ewe. Cf. L. ignis, fire, agnus, a lamb (Sans. agni, fire). The Chinese character denoting a lamb is formed of fire and sheep.
† Mythology and Rites of the British Druids, by Edw. Davies.
I D. baal, a pile of wood, H. C. teine, fire. Cf. E. bale-fire. As there are yet many persons who cling to the imaginative derivation from the "god Baal or Bel" of the East, it may be as well to add a word or two, with the hope of converting those benighted idolaters. Baal belongs to the Syro-Phænicians, whose primitive religion was a simple star-worship. Being pressed southwards by the Arians (Indo-Europeans), these people entered Egypt. That they freely adopted tenets and deities from both Persians and Egyptians is evident, but there is no trace of any reciprocation. The contact of the Syro-Phænicians and Persians took place in Zoroastrian times, long before which the Celts had their worship of the sun. Why then adopt this word in connexion with their ancient worship? Can we suppose that the Phænicians brought the name to Cornwall ? The