Page images
PDF
EPUB

began gradually to withdraw. But though these islands were their favourite resort, yet they at the same time scattered themselves throughout the other islands in that quarter, and even took fair possession of the mainland. “ Thus we see here,” says Horst, “the whole of the British islands, yes, and also the Highlands of Scotland, overrun with demons, who were like the legions of base spirits whom Soloman inclosed in a kettle, and sunk at Babylon, but which, on the kettle being opened in quest of treasure, streamed

up into the air, spread themselves over the whole heavens, and thence over all Asia.”

According to the old theories of spirits, departed souls and condemned spirits were sent to those islands, where they continued to the seventeenth century. These were vexing and complaining ghosts, which appeared to men, sometimes in the human form, and sometimes in that of beasts, and in every horrid mask that can be imagined. The Faroe Isles, also, were haunted by such malevolent spirits, which are said to have carried off men. In later times they became gradually less dangerous ; and the spirit-races of all kinds and colours,-fairies, trolls in Scandinavia, wraiths in England and Scotland, became, on the introduction of Christianity, by degrees more social, even on those remote and desolate islands, where, according to Isaiah (xiii. 21), “doleful creatures and owls dwell, and satyrs dance.' This modification is agreeable to the doctrine of secondsight, which still is said to prevail there.

According to Horst's Deuteroscopy, black cats were indispensable to the incantation ceremony of the Taigheirm, and these were dedicated to the subterranean gods, or, later, to the demons of Christianity. The midnight hour, between Friday and Saturday, was the authentic time for these horrible practices and invocations; and the sacrifice was continued four whole days and nights, without the operator taking any nourishment. “ After the cats were dedicated to all the devils, and put into a magico-sympathetic condition by the shameful things done to them, and the agony occasioned them, one of them was at once put upon the spit, and, amid terrific howlings, roasted before a slow fire. The moment that the howls of one tortured cat ceased in death, nother was put upon the spit, for a minute of interval must not take place if they would control hell; and this continued for the four entire days and nights. If the exorcist could hold it out still longer, and even till his physical powers were absolutely exhausted, he must do so."

After a certain continuance of the sacrifice, infernal spirits appeared in the shape of black cats.

There came continually more and more of these cats; and their howlings, mingled with those of the cats roasting on the spit, were terrific. Finally appeared a cat of a monstrous size, with dreadful menaces. When the Taigheirm was complete, the sacrificer demanded of the spirits the reward of his offering, which consisted of various things; as riches, children, food, and clothing. The gift of second-sight, which they had not had before, was, however, the usual recompense; and they retained it to the day of their death. The connection of these ceremonies with those of the Schamans of Northern Asia, and of the witch practices of the middle ages, is obvious.

One of the last Taigheirm, according to Horst, was held in the middle of the seventeenth century on the island of Mull. The inhabitants still show the place where Allan Maclean, at that time the incantation and sacrificial priest, stood with his assistant, Lachlain Maclean, both men of a determined and unbending character, of a powerful build of body, and both unmarried. Traces and monuments of heathen sacrifice, especially in England and Scotland, are discoverable within the Christian period. Thus, there were found, on the rebuilding of St. Paul's in London, the remains of many animals which had been offered to Diana in external sacrifices. Nay, there remained relics of such worship down to the period of the reigns of Edward VI. and Mary. Apollo also was worshipped during the earlier period of Christianity, at Thorney, near Westminster. That Diana was worshipped in Britain we know too from records of offerings to her of a most cruel nature, made during the persecutions of the people of London by Diocletian. (See Douce's Illustrations of Shakspeare.)

The offering of cats is remarkable, for it was also practised by the ancient Egyptians. Not only in Scotland, but throughout all Europe, cats were sacrificed to the subter

66

ranean gods, as a peculiarly effective means of coming into communication with the powers of darkness.

Allan Maclean continued his sacrifice to the fourth day, when he was exhausted both in body and mind, and sunk in a swoon; but from this day he received the second-sight to the time of his death, like his assistant. In the people, the belief was unshaken that the second-sight was the natural consequence of celebrating the Taigheirm.

“The infernal spirits appeared, some in the early progress of the sacrifices, in the shape of black cats. The first who appeared during the sacrifice, after they had cast a furious glance at the sacrificer, said—Lachlain Oer, that is,

Injurer of Cats.” Allan, the chief operator, warned Lachlain, whatever he might see or hear, not to waver, but to keep the spit incessantly turning. At length the cat of monstrous size appeared ; and after it had set up a horrible howl, said to Lachlain Oer, that if he did not cease before their largest brother came he would never see the face of God. Lachlain answered that he would not cease till he had finished his work if all the devils in hell came. At the end of the fourth day, there sat on the end of the beam in the roof of the barn a black cat with fire-flaming eyes, and there was heard a terrific howl quite across the straits of Mull into Morven.” Allan was wholly exhausted on the fourth day, from the horrible apparitions, and could only utter the word Prosperity.” But Lachlain, though the younger, was stronger of spirit, and perfectly self-possessed. He demanded posterity and wealth. And each of them received that which he had asked for. When Allan lay on his death-bed, and his Christian friends pressed around him, and bade him beware of the stratagems of the devil, he replied with great courage, that if Lachlain Oer, who was already dead, and he, had been able a little longer to have carried their weapons, they would have driven Satan himself from his throne, and, at all events, would have caught the best birds in his kingdom.

When the funeral of Allan reached the churchyard, the persons endowed with the second-sight saw at some distance Lachlain Oer, standing fully armed at the head of a host of black cats, and every one could perceive the smell of brimstone which streamed from those cats. Allan's effigy, in complete armour, is carved on his tomb, and his name is yet linked with the memory of the Taigheirm. Shortly before that time also Cameron of Lochiel

performed a Taigheirm, and received from the infernal spirits a small silver shoe, which was to be put on the left foot of each new-born son of his family, and from which he would receive courage and fortitude in the presence of his enemies; a custom which continued till 1746, when his house was consumed with fire. This shoe fitted all the boys of his family but one, who fled before the enemy at Sheriff Muir, he having inherited a larger foot from his mother, who was of another clan. This story is more fully related in the Abendzeitung of April 1824.

The word Taigheirm means an armoury, as well as the cry of cats, according as it is pronounced. It is also very probable that the Taigheirm is closely connected wth the ceremony of incantation of the old Norse and Teutonic, Troll and Elfin faith; while, as already observed, the Highlands and Western Isles of Scotland were peopled from the north, where the invocations of the heathen demons, the belief in the pagan gods and sorcery, and the seeing of spirits, continued down to very recent times. Thus the Taigheirm was probably a sacrifice to the subterranean gods in heathenism, and under Christianity was changed into an invocation of infernal spirits. The belief in Trolls, who appeared allied to the imaginative creatures of the Taigheirm, and continue still to affect the minds of the common people, prevailed in Scandinavia before the Christian

The fairy-faith of Scotland coincides, in many particulars, with that of the Scandinavian elves. The elves of the Scottish Highlands, according to Cromek, wore always small, ornamental silver shoes. They have a fair complexion, and long, yellow hair hanging down over their shoulders; a clear mark of their northern origin. They wear a green mantle embroidered with flowers, and breeches fastened with silken tassels. They have quivers of adder

, bows made from the ribof a man who has been buried where the lands of three proprietors meet. Their arrows are of the reed, pointed with flints, and dipped in the juice of hemlock. With these they shoot the

era.

skins;

cattle of those who have spoken ill of them, the wounds being invisible to ordinary eyes, and which people of higher endowments only can perceive and heal. In their intercourse with men they are generally well disposed.

The Trolls of Scandinavia also make presents, to certain individuals, of silver shoes, such as they wear at their dances, to the possession of which some particular benefit is attached. In these coincidences the Scottish and Scandinavian Elves and Trolls remind us of the witch-histories of the middle ages, though with these prevailed a far wilder romance, more resembling the Taigheirm. There are wanting the fine silver shoes; and in the wholly detestable Witchhammer, says Horst, from which Germany, both Protestant and Catholic, as well as all Europe, with the exception of England, was instructed in the mysteries of witch practices, there is not a single feature of the romance which these silver shoes recall to our rocollection. There stand nakedly all the infernal gifts from a coarse mint, so many copper pieces or local florins, and if Satan has been very well pleased, and has given splendid honoraria, gold florins and ancient dollars, which within a short time turn into so much dirt, or, as St. Francis esthetically expressed himself in his timę, into horse litter.

The northern mythology is the work of Scalds,-that is, of old northern poets. The religion of the heathen everywhere originated in poetry; so was it here, and here truly; cosmogony was the foundation of religion, the grotesque features of which, and the wild fantasy of the poetic constructors, showing whence it sprung. The physical allegories, also, here testify the genuine, original observation which preceded mythology You see in the northern poetry of nature the arising of the world out of the chaotic region of mist—Niflhem, out of the deadness of winter—the giant Ymer, and advancing into the life of spring. There, too, as amongst the Greeks, are the powers of nature symbolized in gigantic shapes : the giants of darkness—Narsi, whose daughter, Night, black and gloomy, has a son, Andur, by the æther, Nagelfari—then the Earth, and with Dellingar-Twilight -the Day. Sun and Moon-Sool, later Odin, Maan-wind and water, are symbolized as giants, who encamp round the abyss of

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »