« ForrigeFortsæt »
READINGS IN RHYS'S CELTIC BRITAIN."
It is singular that Professor Rhys has not a word about the gods and religion of the Britons, except the allegation that they "stained their altars with the blood of human beings, sought auguries in the entrails of their victims, and practised some, at least, of their cruel rites in groves;" which allegation he delights in repeating. Thus-" they deemed it acceptable to their deities to make their altars fume with the blood of captives, and to seek the will of the gods in the entrails of men." (pp. 69, 83). And this he puts forth with full knowledge that it is all the assertion of an enemy-an enemy whose nation, like all other nations of those times, "stained their altars with the blood of human beings, and sought auguries in the entrails of their victims." Read Liv. vii. 10; xxv. 16. Plin. xi. 37; xxx. i.; Cic. De Nat. Deorum; Dio. xl. 43; xlviii. 14, 48, for abundant evidence of the fact. Professor Rhys could learn with much more certainty than from unfriendly writers what was the religion of Britain if he consulted the remains of the British Bards, just as the religion of Greece is learned from a similar source. Instead of this, however, he dabbles in Julius Cæsar and Tacitus, with the result that his book is not Celtic Britain, but rather The Romans in Britain. He even mistakes the divine emblems on the British coins for Hercules with his Club, Sphinxes, Griffins, &c. (p. 33). From the Bards he would learn that, like other nations, the principal god of the Britons was the sun, under the title Hu, and their principal goddess the moon, under the name Ceridwen, the British Ceres, already described. In an ancient poem called the "Elegy of Uthr Bendragon," this solar deity is invoked as Hu esgyll edeniad-Hu with expanded wings; that is, the winged sun; and also Hu ysgein, Gwledig nef-the glancing Hu, the sovereign of heaven. In Taliesin's "Elegy of Aeddon of Mona," he is spoken of as the god of Mona (Anglesea)--Echrys ynys gwawd Hu. Throughout the ages, up to the sixteenth century, was the sun in Britain worshipped under the title of Hu (pronounced Hee). Iolo Goch, a learned
bard of the fourteenth century, sings the god and the religion of his country in the following strain :
Hu Gadarn, por hoew geidwawd,
A bywyd oll o'r byd oedd.
Hu the mighty, the sovereign, the ready protector, the king who gave the wine and praise, the emperor of land and seas, and the life of all in the world was his.
Rhys Brydydd, an illustrious bard, who flourished so late as the first half of the sixteenth century, thus boldly sings of the solar deity of his countrymen :
Bychanaf o'r bychenyd
Yw Hu Gadarn, ve i barn byd;
Da coeliwn, a'n Duw Celi;
Mwy no'r bydoedd! 'Marbedwn
The smallest of all the small,
Is Hu the mighty in the world's judgment;
Still, he is the greatest, and Lord over us,
We sincerely believe, and our God of mystery;
Light and swift is his course,
A particle of dazzling light is his chariot;
He is great on land and seas,
And the greatest I can behold;
Let us beware
Of offering mean indignity to him, the great and bountiful!
These lines leave no doubt that it is the sun which is described as "Hu Gadarn," and not any sublunary being. Such expressions as "Nav i ni," "Duw Celi," "tês gloewyn," "Mwy no'r bydoedd," &c., ill accord with the notions that he is a human being, or anything less than an object of worship. It is true that, about the middle of the fifteenth century, there were among the Britons great contentions as to which of the two religions--Druidism or Christianity-was the right one. These contentions were carried on principally among the bards -the literati of the age-some of whom had already embraced Christianity. Accordingly, we find a noted Christian poet, named Shon Kent-of whose dealings with his Satanic majesty there are still current in Wales many curious tales--reflecting on the bards who sang the praises of the solar diety, Hu, in the following strain :—
Dwy ryw awen dioer ewybr
Y sy'n y byd loewbryd lwybr ;
There are in the world two sorts of poetical impulses (Awen = furor poeticus), fervid, sprightly, and distinct in their courses-a poetical impulse from Christ, joyous in its theme and of a correct tendency; another poetical impulse (not wise the hundreds who believe its vile falsehoods) is that which has been acquired by the men of Hu, the oppressors of the bards of Wales.
Many other citations could be made, clearly showing that Hu or the sun was the principal god of the Britons. That Hu means the sun is proved by the fact that the orb of day is at present called huan, huon, &c.
To what has already been advanced, showing that Ceridwen was the principal goddess of the Britons, and as such the patroness of arts and sciences, the goddess of poetry, &c., it may be added that Llywarch ap Llewellyn, a cathedral bard who flourished at the close of the twelfth century, sings of the goddess thus:
Cyvarchav i'm Rhen cyvarchvawr awen,
I will address to my God the great greeting of the muse, the gift of Ceridwen, the goddess of Bardism, in the manner of Taliesin when he liberated Elphin. In another
he exclaims :
Duw Dovydd dymrydd reitun awen ber,
God the Ruler, give me a ray of the melodious muse, as from the caldron of Ceridwen. (See Welsh Archæology, p. 290.)
That Ceridwen was really the moon is clearly proved by the language in which she is spoken of in the hymn of praise composed to her, as the crescent, by Prince Howel ap Owen Gwynedd, in the twelfth century. (Welsh Archæol., vol. i., p. 278.) Of her he says:
Ceridwen hir wen hwyrwann ogwyt
Cyfeiliw gwenn wawr yn awr echwyt, &c.
Ceridwen, slender and fair, slow and gentle in her declivity; similar in colour to the white dawn is her hue in the evening twilight.
Then the royal bard proceeds to describe the goddess as the "bright, shining lady of the mystic song;" and afterwards he invokes her thus:
O! regard my adoration, while I worship thee in the mystical grove. But as one MS. reads Kecidwen, and as some pyrrhonean might deny that Prince Howel here alludes to the goddess Ceridwen, it may be remarked that, in another poem, he sings the praises of the goddess Llywy, the daughter of Ceridwen-the British Proserpine, whom Eastern mythology deemed the daughter of Ceres; thus making the Ceridwen and Llywy of the Britons, the Ceres and Proserpine of the Romans. The bards often refer to Llywy; but her attributes seem so much like those of
Ceridwen that the two are scarcely distinguishable. Prince Howel says of her :
Y edryt Llywy llyw ton dylan;
Llifyant oe chyfoeth a ddoeth attann;
Llywy, the hue of the ocean foam returns ;
A flood of her wealth has come to us;
She is the colour of the snow glossed by the cold on the lofty peak.
Further on he tells us that the Caer or sanctuary of Gyfylchi (in Anglesea) is the favourite resort of Llywy, the bright, glistening queen, who arises from the margin of the ocean (Welsh Archaeology, vol. i., p. 278). Thus it is clear that, in the twelfth century, Ceridwen and Llywy, or Ceres and Proserpine, were two of the goddesses of the ancient Britons; and that among the Cymry, particularly the bards, the sun and moon had as fervent worshippers in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries as they had in the sixth century, when Taliesin and Aneurin flourished; notwithstanding the counteracting influence of Christianity. The foregoing British gods and goddesses not being in Cæsar, Professor Rhys ignores them. Although the emblems, and even the titles of many of them, such as Beli, Ban, Camu, Ced, Direti, and others are on the coins upon which he founds his Celtic Britain, yet he disdains them all, and gives our ancestors, on the authority of Cæsar of course (p. 67), the strange gods Jove, Minerva, Apollo, Mars, Mercury, and Nodus -deities never mentioned in the Bards or any Celtic record as those of the Britons.
Now, as to the goddess Ceridwen, we have already seen that she had not only her sanctuary, her bardic chair, and her caldron, or furnace, but was regarded as a great chemist, or feryllt. It is in allusion to the ancient Druidical fferylltiaid, alchemists, or chemists, described in the previous number, who were famous for some magical preparations in metal, and who had their crucibles, in which, by means of different ingrédients, they pretended to convert almost any substance into silver and gold, and also had their boiling caldrons full of alkaline decoctions, one drop of which was said to work astonishing miracles-that we read so often in the British Bards of the caldron of the goddess Ceridwen, and of her priests called fferylltiaid, or chemists. In Hanes Taliesin we read that the goddess, according to the mystery of the books of the fferyllt, prepared a caldron of the water of inspiration and sciences for her son,. Gwion, so that he might be elevated in rank. For this purpose she put in the caldron "plants of every species" that had virtue, and after the caldron had boiled, three drops of its contents on Gwion's finger and lips made every event of futurity clear before his eyes. (See also "Meib Llyr," Welsh Archæol., vol. i., p. 66). In the poem called Cadeir Taliesin
a great many of the chemical ingredients used in the mystical caldron are enumerated. This superstition did not die with the worship of Ceridwen; some traces of it are found in the sixteenth century. In books of that age there are minute directions given as to what plants were to be gathered for magical purposes. (See Cole's Adam and Eve, fol. 1659, Dulaure, pp. 254-256.) And long lingered the belief in the supposed spurious gold and silver from the crucible of the alchymist or fferyllt. Hence Ariant Gwion (the silver of Gwion, the goddess Ceridwen's son, the manager of the mystical crucible or caldron); Arian y Tylwyth Teg (the silver of the Fairies), &c. When Druidism was superseded by Christianity as the established religion of the land, the silver and gold from the crucible of the old metallurgist, or feryllt, were decried as spurious, and said to be produced by magical operations, like those of the alchymists.
To these ferylltiaid, with their gold and silver, however, there are numerous references in the Bards, so as to make it certain that they were metallurgists and coiners among the Druids, and that those ancient gold and silver pieces which, even at the present distant age, are now and then found in the earth covered with emblems, correspond to the theological notions held by the bards. To the operation of these ferylltiaid Taliesin clearly refers when he sings:-
Gwneynt eu perion
They make their furnaces to boil without water;
They make their metals to last for ever.
The horse (dyduth-trotter) is produced by the utterance of a profound song Is not this the concentricity of heat?
To the process of coining he also refers, when he says:—
Atuyn cant ag ariant amaerwy ;
Splendid is the circle with the silver border.
Splendid is the steed on the gold-enamelled circle.
Welsh Archeology, pp. 28, 34, vol. i.
To the steeds on the coins or medals he refers also when, in Cad Goddeu (ib. p. 33), he says:
Whech march melynell;