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ANTIQUITIES AND TRADITIONS.
AMONGST the ancient monuments of Britain, the well-known remains called Druidical circles hold a foremost place, though their use, and the people by whom they were erected, are questions that must still remain matters of dispute. The stone enclosures of Denmark, which resemble the circles of Cumbria in many respects, and cast so much doubt on the received opinion of their origin, mainly differ from them in that they are found in connexion with burial-chambers, whilst the latter are generally situated on the flat surfaces of moors,
with nothing to indicate that they have ever been used for sepulchral purposes. Wherever, therefore, no urns or other remains have been found, we have negative evidence that the circle was not intended for a place of sepulture.
The principal monument of the class which we must continue to call simply by the name of Circles, is that known as Long Meg and her Daughters. Nearest to this in size and appearance, as far as they have been described, or need be mentioned here, are the Keswick Circle, Sunken-kirk in the neighbourhood of Millum, the Grey Yauds near Cumwhitton, and the Currocks near Bewcastle. Even of this limited number of circles, two show appearances of having been the enclosures of burial-places of the Stone age. The “recess” in the Keswick Circle, and certain stones in Sunken-kirk described as an entrance, may very possibly be the remains of chambers. Many other circles commonly called Druidical, were, without any doubt, places of sepulture, though no positive evidence has ever come to light on the subject.
Stone circles, wherever they can be identified as burial-places, are not of Celtic origin. It is therefore impossible to say what use may have been made of them by the Celts. The mixed people who succeeded were evidently ignorant of their original purpose, as appears from the general name kirk found in Kirkstones, Sunken-kirk, Currocks, and probably in the name of Carrock Fell, which is of the same indefinite meaning as
“ circle.” But even to the latest times the Stone chambers and their enclosures have been the subject of strange conjectures, and elaborate (though foolish) theories. In Wales the chamber was supposed to have been a prison, and in Denmark it was considered as established (for a long series of years) that it was erected for a “place of sacrifice."
Next in interest to the Circle, but still more inexplicable, is the man of the fells. The name, though used by the Celts, has been elsewhere marked as Celtiberian, and this of course leaves the purpose of its erection in doubt. For this name the modern provincialism is pike, a word of more extended application. One of
pikes” of Carrock appears to be similar to the “man” of the other fells, but there is another described as funnel-shaped, which is of quite a different construction. In Hutchinson's History of Cumberland may be found an interesting extract descriptive of Yevering Bell in Northumberland, on which stands a hollow pike somewhat resembling the latter-mentioned on Carrock. Beneath the Yevering pike the stones were found to bear a strong impression of fire; and here we seem to have a connecting link between the men or pikes of Cumbria and the Beltain. But there is at present very little light to be thrown on this obscure part of our subject.
We have few decided remains of the Stone age. It has already been mentioned that the Keswick Circle probably belonged to this period. In the same neighbourhood four flint “ battle-axes" have been found; one in Borrowdale, another in Buttermere, a third near Birkby, and the fourth on Bassenthwaite common. To this period must be referred the description of a “ British temple, or something of that sort,” recorded in one of the county histories. The whole enclosure was about thirty yards in circumference.
“Within the circle towards the east point, were found four stones much of the same form as the rest, lying one upon another, supposed to be some of the kistvaen kind.” This confused description is most probably an indication of a dilapidated chamber. With the exception, however, of bare circles, nearly all traces of the Stone people have been swept away.
Cairns, which are the most undisputed form of Celtic burialplace, were once very numerous in this district; but a great part must have been long since removed. The graves of Norway bear an outward resemblance to the Celtic cairn, but the main cause appears to be that in mountainous countries stones are more easily procurable than earth. Wherever a doubt, therefore, exists as to the proprietorship of one of these mounds, the only certain means of deciding would be afforded by an examination of the interior. The Norse cairn should enclose a stone chest, or wooden chamber, and certainly iron weapons.
Of all the cairns described in Hutchinson, not one can with certainty be identified as Norse. There is no mention of iron, a number only contained urns and ashes; and though unburnt bones and corpses have been found, the Norwegians, as has been observed before, burned the body, until at or about the time of their conversion to Christianity.
Tumuli or barrows still remain in great numbers. As far as any records have been kept of those removed, nearly all must be claimed for the Bronze age, and the main part of those yet standing, are essentially of a Danish character. Again, in the description of this class of graves, we have no actual mention of iron antiquities. The cairn called Mill Hill appears to have been a Celtic burialplace, whilst Loden How was more probably Danish than Norse. Four different names are found in connexion with sepulchres of this kind : how, raise, barrow, and hill; but the distinction is principally that of age, and the order of the words as here placed indicates the period to which each belongs.
We have few traces of the Iron age, which is to be regarded as exclusively Norwegian, wherever the body has been burned. On opening Beacon Hill, near Aspatria, an unusually long skeleton was found; but as some of the exhumed antiquities are described
GRAVES AND MONUMENTS.
as affected by rust, it is possible that the grave was Norse of the latest period. Iron is said to have been found under two cairns, in the excavations at “Stoneraise Camp' in Dalston. Ormstead near Penrith was possibly a Norse burial-place, whilst Thulbarrow in the same neighbourhood (still remaining) is in all probability Danish. But there is no doubt an examination of the numerous tumuli yet scattered over the country, would extend and correct our knowledge on this interesting subject.
The popular names given to the graves are in general of no historical value, the greater part having been conferred centuries after the individuals lived. A number of traditions of this kind have been exploded in Denmark by the more accurate knowledge of late years.
One most remarkable instance concerns the sepulchre of King Frode Fredegode (the peace-loving), who was believed to be interred in a large hill near Frederic's Sound in Seeland. The tradition that states this, is related by Saxo Grammaticus from a song old even in his time. The hill was opened three hundred years ago, but an inspection of the remains is sufficient to show that it was a Stone chamber belonging to an age many centuries prior to the time at which the Danish king flourished.
Runes are not to be found earlier than the Iron age, and in Cumbria they are still of later date. All those yet deciphered have proved to be Anglo-Saxon. On this part of our subject there is very little to be said, save that in doubtful cases every professor of runes imagines a different reading from every other, and where certainty prevails, the inscription invariably runs thus: “One person erected this to another," the name being rarely of the slightest importance.
Memorial stones of various kinds still remain in considerable numbers, the most remarkable of which perhaps is Nine Standards in Westmorland. Several villages called Unthank take their name from monuments no longer in existence, the word being in English onthink, and the phrase “to think on” still current in the dialect. Bauta stones are invariably found in connexion with graves.
The traditions connected with the names of places and persons, are equally unreliable with those belonging to the graves. Amongst
the stories of this kind, of which every country possesses its share, we may seek almost in vain for anything worth relating, except as a historical record of a particular kind of invention. The city of Duderstadt in Germany was built by two brothers (so says tradition), each of whom, when the task was completed, urged upon the other to give his name to the place. “ Gieb du der Stadt den Namen" (Do thou give the city its name) was repeated between the brothers for a long time in this noble contest, until finally they could come to no other accommodation of their strife than to perpetuate its remembrance in the three words Du-der-Stadt (thou the city). Pity, says the philologist from whose work the tradition is taken, that this charming story is not to be found in Greek!
Traditions based on pseudo-etymology are ‘spread all over England. The family of Percy (Pier's ö, Peter's island) received its name from their ancestor having pierced his enemy in the eye. Rutlandshire was a gift to one Rut of as much land as he could ride round in a day. At Colchester is a large earthwork called King Cole's kitchen, from the first syllable of the name, originally Camalo (dunum). Fulham and Putney on the Thames were built by two sisters, who had but one hammer between them. Each threw it across the river to the other when required, and the form of words used on one side was “ Put it nigh,” on the other “ Heave it full home.” As a general rule, the more ancient such traditions are, the more likely to gain credence.
The Cumbrian inventions of this kind are also clearly traceable. One of the most modern belongs to the origin of no less a place than Carlisle. While the city was yet building, a traveller happening to come that way, met with an old woman, of whom he inquired, “ What will they call this place ?" “ Indeed," was the surly reply, “I care lile" (little). The traveller complained of the want of civility, and thus the city got its name.
Wotobank near Beckermont has given rise to a somewhat more romantic story, which is thus related in Hutchinson: A lord of Beckermont, and his lady and servants, were one time hunting the wolf. During the chase this lord missed his lady: after a long and painful search, they at last, to his inexpressible sorrow, found