Spiritualism

From Irish Druids and Old Irish Religions, 1894

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Spiritualism, in all its forms, appears to have been practised by the Irish and Scotch Druids. Dr. Armstrong's Gaelic Dictionary has an account of the Divination of the Toghairm, once a noted superstition among the Gaels, and evidently derived from Druid-serving ancestors. The so-called prophet "was wrapped in the warm, smoking robe of a newly slain ox or cow, and laid at full length in the wildest recess of some lonely waterfall. The question was then put to him, and the oracle was left in solitude to consider it." The steaming body cultivated the frenzy for a reply, although "it was firmly believed to have been communicated by invisible beings."

Similar traditions are related by Kennedy, in Fictions of the Irish Celts. One of the tales is of Sculloge, who spent his father's gold. While out hunting he saw an old man betting his left hand against his right. At once he played with him for sixpence, but won of the ancient Druid a hundred guineas. The next game won, the old fellow was made to rebuild the Irishman's mill. Another victory brought him as wife a princess from the far country. But Sabina, when married, besought him to have no more to do with old Lassa Buaicht of the glen.

Things went on well a good while, till the man wanted more gold, and he ventured upon a game. Losing, he was directed to bring the old Druid the Sword of Light. Sabina helped her husband to a Druidic horse, that carried him to her father's castle. There he learned it was held by another brother, also a Druid, in an enchanted place. With a black steed he leaped the wall, but was driven out by the magic sword. At last, through Fiach the Druid, the sword was given to Lassa Buaicht. The cry came, "Take your Sword of Light, and off with his head." Then the un-spelled wife reappeared, and the couple were happy ever after.

Conn of the Hundred Battles is often mentioned in connection with Druids. One of the Irish MSS. thus introduces the Magical Stone of Tara:—"One evening Conn repaired at sunrise to the battlements of the Ri Raith or Royal fortress at Tara, accompanied by his three Druids, Mael, Bloc, and Bluicne", and his three poets, Ethain, Corb, and Cesare; for he was accustomed every day to repair to this place with the same company, for the purpose of watching the firmament, that no hostile aerial beings should descend upon Erin unknown to him. While standing in the usual place this morning, Conn happened to tread on a stone, and immediately the stone shrieked under his feet so as to be heard all over Tara, and throughout all Bregia or East Meath. Conn then asked his Druids why the stone had shrieked, what its name was, and what it said. The Druids took fifty-three days to consider, and returned the following answer:—'Fal is the name of the stone; it came from Inis Fal, or the Island of Fal. It has shrieked under your royal feet, and the number of the shrieks, which the stone has given forth, is the number of Kings that will succeed you.'"

At the Battle of Magh Tuireadh with the Fomorians, it is said that the chief men of the Tuatha de Danann "called their smiths, their brass-workers, their sorcerers, their Druids, their poets, &c." The Druids were engaged putting the wounded in a bath of herbs, and then returning them whole to the battle ranks.

Nash, who showed much scepticism respecting Druids in Britain, wrote:—"In the Irish tales, on the contrary, the magician under the name of Draoi and Drudh, magician or Druid, Draioideacht, Druidheat, magic plays a considerable part." The Cabiri play a great part according to some authors; one speaks of the "magic of Samhan, that is to say, Cabur." A charm against evil spirits, found at Poitiers, is half Gallic, half Latin. Professor Lottner saw that "the Gallic words were identical with expressions still used in Irish."

We are told of a rebel chief who was helped by a Druid against the King of Munster, to plague the Irish in the south-west by magically drying up all the water. The King succeeded in finding another Druid who brought forth an abundant supply. He did but cast his javelin, and a powerful spring burst forth at the spot where the weapon fell. Dill, the Druidical grandfather of another King of Munster, had a magical black horse, which won at every race.

Elsewhere is a chapter on the Tuatha de Danaans, concerning whom are so many stories of Druids. Attention is drawn by Rhys to "the tendency of higher races to ascribe magical powers to lower ones; or, rather, to the conquered."

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