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The Godhead of the religious system of the Persians, Zeruane akerene, is the root and first cause from which all things proceed. His first born are Ormuzd and Abriman. The latter having by his own will rebelled against his creator, becomes the ruler of Darkness, in opposition to Ormuzd, the prince of Light. Abriman's rebellion determined the Infinite Being, through Ormuzd, to create the world. The Izeds, a class of intermediate beings (the angels of the Hebrews), were first created; when Ahriman, by permission, created the evil spirits, the Devs. The world, or universe, destined to last four periods of three thousand years each, then became the battle-ground of Light and Darkness.
Abriman being defeated in his attempt to reconquer heaven, opposes Ormuzd, physically and morally, by corrupting his works upon earth. The evil spirits are his agents, and everything wicked, and unclean in nature, everything evil in spiritual life, has its guardian Dev. It is they who occasion all the ills that flesh is heir to, and for this reason, that in every human being whose death is brought about, a Feruer, or spirit of the good creation, is removed from the earth. This belief in the Devs and the mischiefs they occasion, spread into Europe, and at the introduction of Christianity, by a very easy transition, passed over to Satan. But the cause, or interest that the evil spirits had in the destruction of the human race, was forgotten, and the earth became a sort of play-ground for the devil, whenever he chose to come hither for his amusement.
In modern times, everything unaccountable, however harmless it might be in itself, was ascribed to the agency of the devil. By the hope of a trifling reward—too often the soul of his employerhe might be induced to undertake the execution of any kind of structure. The Pikes on Carrock Fell are specimens of his diabolical architecture, though for what they were intended, tradition does not inform us; and the stones scattered about the summit of the hill, are the result of an accident that happened to him whilst. engaged in their erection. He had finished one, and was bringing in his apron a sufficient quantity of stones to complete the second, when the apron-strings burst, and the greater part of his materials scattered in all directions. And this, it appears, is the reason why one of the Pikes is so much smaller than the other. The heap of stones in Ullswater is ascribed to a similar accident. On this occasion also he had his apron laden, and was striding in great haste from the Nab to Barton Fell, when the stones fell into the lake, and formed a bank dangerous to boats at some seasons. According to a tradition that has made its way
other places and countries, Kirkby Lonsdale bridge is said to be the workmanship of the devil. He had stipulated to receive for his reward the first living creature that passed over the bridge, but was cleverly cheated by the other contracting party, an old woman, who contrived to substitute a dog. At Stenkrith bridge, near Kirkby Stephen, in a cleft of the rock, a subterranean noise may be heard by any person who applies his ear to the opening. The strange rumbling sound that issues thence is produced by the devil, who there below has a mill continually employed in grinding mustard.
Long Meg and her Daughters, the well-known Druidical monument so called, connects itself by its name with a curious, though not uncommon superstition. Tradition is silent respecting the history of this lady; who she was, and why petrified, are equally unknown. She is, however, in her present state, a very
personage, made of much harder stone than her “daughters,” about seventy of whom lie around her in a circle. Another version of the story declares these small stones to be her lovers. All that is
farther known of her fate consists of these particulars : if by any means a piece were broken off Meg, the unfortunate lady would bleed; and if any person could number the stones correctly, or twice reckon them the same, he would disenchant the Dulcinea of the moor and her daughters, or her lovers, as it might prove to be. But, strange to say, though many persons have come expressly to amuse themselves with the hope of bringing relief to Meg and her family, no one has yet succeeded. Somebody, it is said, once made a purchase of cakes with the intention of laying one on each stone, but whether his cakes or his patience failed him, we are not in. formed.
One of the many etymological conjectures generally so worthless, supposing " Meg" to be the Latin magus, minus the flexion, is deserving of notice. Granting this theory, the word magus must have been obtained from the Christian missionaries, the long stone being the Arch-druid, petrified for his opposition to Christianity. This origin of the name, moreover, might be very easily forgotten, when the present traditional explanation would naturally follow.
Nine Standards, near Kirkby Stephen, standing as it does on the border of the county, is a very remarkable monument, probably of historical origin, that is, symbolically commemorative of some event now lost to the world. It was an Iberian custom, says Aristotle, to erect as many obelisks around a hero's monument as he had slain enemies. But the placing of these nine huge blocks of stone precludes the idea of their being sepulchral. And what says tradition of them now? They were put up in time of war, and clothed in military array, in order to make believe that they were the van of an advancing army of gigantic stature !
The late Colonel Lacy, it is said, conceived the idea of removing Long Meg and her Daughters by blasting. Whilst the work was being proceeded with under his orders, the slumbering powers of Druidism rose in arms against this violation of their sanctuary; and such a storm of thunder and lightning, and such heavy rain and hail ensued, as the Fell-sides never before witnessed. The labourers fled for their lives, vowing never more to meddle with Long Meg. If there be truth in this story, which already wears a
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traditional air, all lovers of antiquity must be thankful for the providential throwing of cold water on so wicked a design; and should it ever again be attempted, and that the heavens rain hot water on the perpetrators, we could only hope they would be, like the cat of the proverb, more cautious for the future.
The neighbourhood of Stainton is the scene of a more ancient tradition, but with a fatal termination. On the Keswick road, not far distant from the village, stood in former times a church or abbey; the fields now occupying the site thereof, are still called Kirk Garth, Kirk Syke, Kirk Rigg, etc. Human bones have at various times been disinterred from this ground, and except these, the names alone now indicate what it once has been. In the course of “reformation,” the lands belonging to this religious edifice fell into the hands of a certain baron, a man of reckless violence, who lived somewhere thereabouts. He had a number of men employed in the removal of the church, or what ruins remained thereof, probably with the intention of building a house fit to lodge a man of increased wealth ; and one day, in consequence of some scruples of the labourers, or some hesitation in the execution of his commands, he came himself to the ground. His orders were very positive, and accompanied with various threats, and doubtless some profane language. Having delivered himself of these, he rode off in the direction of Penruddock, and had gained the summit of the rising ground, looking backwards as he went, when his horse fell under him, and he broke his neck. On the very spot from which the fool looked back to triumph, his soul was required of him. The place is called Baron's Hill; it is about half a mile out of Stainton.
The removal of cairns, or monumental piles of stones, is attended with no such dangers as those above-mentioned. Danish traditions, indeed, inform us of various mishaps that ensued from disturbing the old graves; yet in consequence of the belief that those places contained much treasure, the clandestine opening thereof, during the middle ages, formed a burglarious profession, the followers of which were called hill-breakers.” On the removal of a cairn near Castle Carrock, in 1775, there was found a human skeleton
& “sort of coffin made of stone;" but a visible alteration for the better in the appearance of the man, together with some mysterious espressions which he let fall, impressed his neighbours with the conviction that he had discovered something more generally current than human dust and bones.
In the south of Ireland, and other places, when a murder has been committed, every person who passes the spot is under an obligation to leave a stone, and the custom being continued for an indefinite time, a considerable heap is generally raised. It once happened that a man of brutal disposition, resident in a town, wantonly slew one of a number of persons who passed his house singing and shouting for their amusement. The blow, which was probably not intended to kill, proved fatal; the murderer escaped the punishment of the law, but for many weeks was obliged to keep a labourer in regular, occasional employment, to remove cairns from before his door. Some provinces of Spain have a similar custom, but to take the words of the writer, the stone is there thrown on the grave. On the borders of Gallicia, says an English traveller, are found heaps of stones. Every Gallician who goes out of the province to seek work, either going or returning, throws a stone on the heap.
We thus come to a curious nutting custom of Westmorland, connected with no less personages than Robin Hood and Little John. In the neighbourhood of Orton are two heaps of stones, under which it is believed the outlaw of Sherwood Forest, and his lieutenant, are buried. It was once customary for every person who went a nutting in the wood, at the south end of which these heaps are situated, to throw a stone on Robin's grave, repeating the following rhyme :
Robin Hood, Robin Hood, here lie thy bones,
Whoever was the original of this famous outlaw, and whether he was properly Robin of the Wood, or Robin with the Hood, his name is now connected with mounds and stones innumerable in various parts of England. Lancashire has made him a giant, and