« PreviousContinue »
and by a disturbed state of consciousness which all the more assumed an appearance of the wonderful, and called to mind supernatural influence, as they were accompanied by terrible and cramp-like convulsions.
It has often been asserted that the oracles ceased at the advent of Christ; while, on the other hand, the fathers of the church adduced the testimonies of the oracles and sibyls to prove the divinity of the religion of Christ. Justin Martyr, Eusebius, Lactantius, Jerome, Ambrosius, Augustine, St. Clemens of Alexandria, etc. all speak of those prophecies. Irenæus had divining women, whom he commanded to prophesy. Montan and his disciples reckoned prophesying as spiritual gifts, and boasted openly of their prophetic visions. Irenæus did not contradict them, and Tertullian honoured them. He describes (De anima, c. ix.) such a prophetess in the following words :- “ There is with us a sister who possesses the gift of prophecy; she falls usually during divine service on Sunday into ecstasy, in which she has communication with angels and spirits,-yes, sometimes with the Lord himself. She penetrates then into the secrets of some hearts, and heals others by medicines. The reading of the sacred Scriptures, the singing of hymns, and prayer, give material for her visions, in which she once also described the shape of the human soul.” One of the most zealous defenders of divination was Constantine the Great, who is said to have delivered a long speech on the truth of the sibyls, which was read in the assembly of the church at Nice. (R. P. Crasset, Dissertation sur les oracles des Sibylles, Paris, 1678.)
THE MAGIC OF THE ANCIENT GERMANS AND OF THE
The ancient Gauls and Cymri were classed among the Celts. The Celts, according to Grimm, were driven by the Germans and the northern races from
the much wider regions which they originally occupied in Europe, to the western end of it. We shall under that title understand all the north-western nations, since they afterwards either spread themselves all over those countries, or became amalgamated with their inhabitants. All these peoples, as the Gauls, the Spaniards in part, the Britons and Belgians, with the ancient Germans, we will take together, since we speak of no particular mythology, and of no individual history, and see whether we find any magic amongst them.
In the first place we must remark that it is not believed that any of these people derived their magic from the Romans. On the contrary, they had their own religious and magic customs long before the invasion of their countries by the Romans; they never mingled their customs with those of the Romans; on which subject I refer to Grimm's German Mythology, which gives the most striking evidence of the authenticity of the northern doctrines, and their original relationship to the Germans. The grand accordance of all the northern nations in poetry, religion, and speech, shows that their mythology is genuine ; and Grimm, moreover, proves in a double manner that the northern mythology being genuine, consequently that of the German is so too; that the German mythology is old, consequently, also, the northern.
Pliny and Tacitus both lived in these countries before the
invasion of the Romans; and although they described the magic of these people after the Romans came in, this is certain, that these nations in so short a time had not received the manners and customs of the Romans; that they burned with furious hate against them; that they resisted them for centuries, would not learn their language, were forsworn enemies of the Romans, and were never, especially the Germans, subjected to their yoke by them. We find here, indeed, customs which, from the simplicity of these people, must naturally have descended from them,
we find them everywhere ; but Roman and Greek temples of Æsculapius and Apollo we find nowhere ; and the names of the gods which Tacitus names amongst the ancient Germans are not German, but are merely according to Roman ideas grafted on German gods, which they worshipped in their groves. But the Germans themselves gave them no Greco-Roman but German names, as Grimm proves,—and who, moreover, corroborates fundamental doctrines respecting mythology, namely, that the foundation of all Saga is myth : that is, the faith in the gods as it descends from people to people in an infinite declination. Saga and history at their boundaries run into each other, but the universal substratum of all Saga is myth. “While history is produced from the actions of men, Saga floats above them as a light, which glances at intervals, like an odour that emanates from an object. Saga is incessantly reborn ; history repeats itself never. The winged Saga now lifts itself aloft, now falls ; its enduring settlement is a favour which it does not confer on every nation. Where distant events would have perished in the darkness of time, Saga unites itself to them, and cherishes a portion of them. But when myth and history meet together and become merged, then the epos erects a platform and spins its thread" (Grimm, a. a. 0. Introduction).
The chiefs or leaders of the Celts were called Druids, and amongst the Gauls also Semothees. They were judges, priests, physicians, lawgivers, and soothsayers. Pomponius ascribes a higher science-yes, wisdom itself—to the Druids.
These,” he says, “ profess to understand the size and shape of the earth and the universe, the movements of the heavens and the stars, and all that the gods intend. They
teach the highest class of the people secretly in caves and in remote places. One of their chief doctrines, and which is also known to the common people, is the immortality of the soul.”
In later times they appear to have been held in still greater estimation in Britain, and far more so than in Gaul itself. They divided, however, their general office, as nature had taught it them later, into several classes ; so that the proper Druids concerned themselves chiefly with the formation of laws, others with inquiries into the knowledge of nature and medicine, and the bards occupied themselves with the art of poetry.
You recognise amongst the Druids the conditions of all primeval people, as they are found in the East amongst the Egyptians, the Israelites, etc. They had combined completely in themselves the whole conduct and rule of the people, as the priest-physicians, and even their customs accorded fully with those of the East; for the Druids communicated their fundamental doctrines and customs only to the initiated, whom they taught in sacred groves and remote places (Cæsar, rib iii. c. 14). In the exercise of the sacred services, the Druids, like the Egyptians and the Pythagoreans, were clad in a white robe (Pliny, xxx.) They healed sickness and diseases by magical practices; and while they professed to have intercourse with the gods, they proclaimed future events; and their wives, the so. called Alruns, Alrauns, were highly celebrated for their vaticinations and enchantments, for their healing of wounded warriors, and assistance of women in travail. In what respect these prophetic women stood, is shown by the fact that even the Emperor Aurelian consulted them (Vopiscus Aurelian. c. 44). They were also acquainted with the means of producing ecstasy ; and as one of the most excellent magical meansas one adapted to nearly all possible cases—they used the mistletoe of the oak, which They gathered at certain times and with certain ceremonies, Whilst they dwelt under the oaks, and there performed their public worship, they believed that a plant which grew on their sacred branches must be an especial gift of heaven, -yes, that the mistletoe was the sign of the tree which the gods themselves had selected. On this account, according
to Pliny, they never performed their sacerdotal offices without such a branch of the mistletoe (Plin. lib. xvi. c. 44). “ Nihil habent Druidæ (ita suos appellant magos) visco et arbore, in qua gignatur (si modo sit robur) sacratius. Jam per se roborum eligunt lucos, nec ulla sacra sine ea fronde conficiunt." Holy waters and groves present themselves continually amongst the Germans, as the Bodensee, or Wodansee, the Odenwald, or Odinswald ; and they perform their sacred sacrifices under sacred trees; and there their inspired bards prophesied. To these trees a magical power was not unjustly attributed, as many kinds (laurel, elder, etc.) possess the peculiar virtue of producing sleep and promoting prophetic dreams; and these woods had their strength increased by being magnetised by them. They ascribed also a most pre-eminent activity to the
The conspicuous changes of the moon, and the evident increasing and decreasing moods of activity in plants and animals, and which was very striking to them in men, had taught them, as it had all other people of nature, many things. It may be asked whether the many cures by sympathy, yet common amongst the people of various classes in Germany, have not descended from the Druids ? For the rest, it is remarkable that in France the practice of medicine continued the longest in connection with the priesthood; and various hospitals were under the management of the priests, who were at the same time physicians. This is still the case in some instances.
I find a very remarkable relation in Pomponius (De situ orbis, lib. iii. c. 6) concerning the priestesses of the island of Sark in the British sea. “ This island,” he says, much celebrated on account of the oracle of the Gallic god. The conductors of it were nine Gallic priestesses, who had made the vow of chastity. They were considered to be endowed with peculiar powers; namely, that by their singing they could excite the wind and the sea, and change themselves into the forms of any beasts that they pleased; that they healed sicknesses which no others could cure; and that they knew and foretold the future. But they were only well-disposed to sea-faring people, and to them only so far as they were disposed to consult them.” Of the Druids in England and Gaul, Pliny says (xxx. 1), that they vati