very early, and I should like to go farther. Sheena and I could run
up the hill.
say we could all go up; it is not far. We must go to the next farm
house; here you see is a precipice. They say, and it seems true,
that it was produced by the washing of the waves at the foot of the
rock, at a time when these very waves nearly levelled all that
ground which is now moss.
is no sea now, so let us run; you can follow.
who are calmer can go up behind the house, and a fine walk it is to
the well. You see near this well a few bushes, and on the bushes
there used to be a few trifles—pieces of cloth, or string, or
buttons, or needles; these latter were also put into the well.
is a relic of very old times, when perhaps they worshipped wells.
not think that they ever worshipped wells; but spiritual beings are
often connected with them in history and tradition. I think this a
good proof of an Eastern origin of the fancy. Wells are valuable
there; they are of little consequence here.
It is a steep road up
this hill, and even these youngsters must creep.
oh! how glorious on the top. Lismore is below, Loch Linnhe all in
our view, and Kerrera is near; even Mull comes close, and these
distant islands are scarcely far away in this fair weather; I mean
Colonsay and Oronsay.
view is grand; but it will not allow us to look at it long. It is
cold up here; at first we walk about thinking that we should like to
live on such an Olympus always; whilst in ten minutes we lose the
warmth got by climbing, or we become hungry. Sometimes the mist
comes and we lose our way, and if we go straight down there we shall
come to the precipice. Indeed it is a hill of abundant danger, and
we must keep to the road by the well.
hope you will all stay a little; we cannot often see so far, and
this is like a map of the world. Our vision is multiplied by ten,
and our spirits rise in proportion. The passage down is pleasant and
not too far to weary us; there we have some interesting things to
see that were passed over when we went along the moss looking at the
cairn and the lake dwelling.
CROMLECHS AT ACHNACREE BEG
so. We have to go by the road, and as it turns near the joining of
the way to Achnaba, there is a short walk to a very interesting
spot. We pass down to the stream, and cross it either at the little
cottage on its steep bank, or below where it is lower, and among
some bushes and deep grass and nettles we come upon two cromlechs,
megalithic or big-stone structures, standing not so high as those
before seen, but clear and distinct. The largest and most easterly
has a great granite table on ten boulders ; the smaller has only
five boulders for supporting the top stone. The arrangement is as if
for a grave. Around both there is the evident remains of a cairn,
and I doubt not that each was heaped over with the smaller boulders
of the district exactly as the large cairn spoken of was. These two
stand close to each other; the two circles of the cairns must have
met, and now these stand in a romantic spot, hidden, however, from
the view of all passers on the roads. One wonders why the cairns
have been laid low, but the boulders were small whilst the cromlechs
are formed of great masses. Is the ring a symbol of Honour around
the great heroes, or was it only left because some one found it
convenient to take the stones to build a little house near the cairn
as a home for old Duncan Stewart, who used to live there, or some
one before him? That is most probable. (See Fig.)
Some have denied
cromlechs to be in Scotland. These are two cromlechs—certainly not
one stone on two, but one stone on a few. I prefer the word
cromlech, which seems to have been made so long ago that we have
lost the certainty of its meaning, to any name such as dolmen,
foreign to our country, but more applicable to the structures of
Brittany with galleries such as we have not.
is a cromlech?
put two stones up and one across, that is a cromlech, just as we
have in graveyards now, only at present they are cut smooth and thin
and don't last at all. Crom is bent and leach a stone; but
why these words are so united who knows? The stones are not bent.
true they are not ; but the Welsh word cromen is a dome or cupola
according to the dictionary, and here we have a stone, if not
bending, one may say leaning over from one stone to another and
making a covering. These were called in Ireland Leaba Diarmaid agus
Grainne (i.e., beds of D. and G.), which shows again that they were
capable of being used as coverings. But it is believed that these
stones were in the centre of mounds or cairns, of which the tops
have been removed. It is probable that there were earth mounds over
them in some cases; but stones are more apt to be removed than
earth. If they were covered the name must have been given them after
they were uncovered.
do not the French call these dolmens and the standing stones
good deal of confusion arises here; it would be well for us to keep
our native names until we know their origin. Dolmen may be good; it
is a table stone, or a hole stone; there are good authorities for
both. Here uncertainty arises; but the meaning "table stone" suits
well those large broad masses in Brittany.
think I have heard them connected with religion.
they have been; and it connected with worship we should expect the
word to apply to standing stones also, which seem at times to have
been used for purposes much greater than the ornament of a tomb,
although such ornamentation has called forth great architectural
efforts. There is a great desire to reduce all our knowledge to some
small facts, and the eminent antiquary, Dr. John Stuart, led the way
to prove that even the largest circles were more tombs ; but we know
that man is very low indeed, when an idea of worship does not
animate him in connection with death.
Cruach was a great idol of the Milesian branch of the Irish. It
stood in Magh Slecht, in Cavan, and was ornamented with gold and
silver, surrounded also by twelve other idols ornamented with brass.
St. Patrick visited the place along with King Laeghairc or Lire and
struck at the idol with his crozier; but although the crozier did
not reach the image it made a mark in its side. The earth swallowed
up the other twelve idols, and O'Curry thinks that the circumstance
is so carefully recounted that one may probably find them still
there. It seems to be indicated that the chief idol was swallowed
more deeply than the more earth would answer for. The story is a
most probable one so far as the destruction of the idols by St.
Patrick is concerned, and as the name has no meaning at all clear it
is not likely to have been manufactured; but people make great
difficulties about believing nowadays ; they are afraid to believe
in the worship of horrid idols or human sacrifices or anything they
dislike. To me the more horrible the more probable. Man has emerged
from a lower state than even the worship of Crom Cruach.
does not crom in Irish mean a maggot? And is it not the
maggot stone—the stone of corruption?
is a new derivation, and it seems true. It has been called the
bending stone, or the stone of worship, but it does not appear as if
these smaller or common ones at least were other than places of
crom is a maggot, why is it the name of an idol, and what is
may be held to have its common meaning of red, or gory or deadly, in
which case the Crom Cruach would be a power to be appeased. The
people were afraid of it, and were afraid of dying until St. Patrick
had sent this demon to Tophet. The word cram is in another place the
name of a pestilence: for example Crom Chonnaill in Ulster, in the
sixth century. It was killed by fire from heaven at the prayer of
Mac Creiche, and it was reduced to dust and ashes in the presence of
the people? It is spoken of as if it were an animal destroying the
people : it is not an unusual thing for men to personify a
pestilence. In Squier's Peru we find that a man seeking shelter
after having lost his clothes when bathing, was taken for the
impersonation of a plague. "The word connall signifies the yellow
stubble of corn." O'Curry says, "It is a remarkable fact that the
name of the celebrated idol of the ancient Pagan Gaedhil was Crone
Cruach, which would literally signify the 'bloody maggot,' whilst
another idol, or imaginary deity, in the western parts of Connacht
was called `Croni Dubli,' the black maggot, a name still connected
with the first Sunday of August in Munster and Connacht."
"The word Buidhe
chonnaill or `yellow stubble' would appear to be a particular
disease of the jaundice kind, but not produced by the presence of
any animal like a maggot or fly."
Still here we have a
rude connection of disease in animal and vegetable.
Another connection is
less rude; crom or crum may be the same as worm or worm, and this
brings us to the serpent form of power for good or evil, or
serpent-worship. In France the standing stones and circles are
called cromlechs. This removes all idea of crookedness and bending ;
indeed, it is not easy to connect the idea with any form which we
have, and the old object of worship, Crom, seems to me by far the
most probable source. This is not fashionable, however, but that is
not against it. The stones set up for Crom and the other gods
destroyed by St. Patrick suit the account of the temple given in the
Kjalnesinga Saga remarkably well, and point to early communication
unknown to us. But this Crom theory is against the burial theory
apparently, and is therefore disliked. There need be no opposition;
it is but natural to devote the dead, when loved, to the gods, or to
appease these when feared. At any rate you have seen two cromlechs
of a great size, and you have heard several opinions curious to me
at least, and consistent with the wild nature out of which we seem
to have sprung.
seems to me that we have done enough, and I have asked the men to
bring the boat to the kirk at Achnaba. It is, as you say, not
beautiful, but I like it. The building belongs to the kirk of my
fathers and it is one which is associated with many early days; let
us sit for awhile in the churchyard, and look at the beautiful loch,
thinking of the monks on the island opposite, and even of the Druids
on the shore by the great stone circle that once stood there, and of
Kilmaronaig and the saint that left his name near the point a little
to the right of it. I cannot forbear alluding to the places more
than once, or whenever we come near; if we do so, we remember
When we have seen
these long enough we shall row to Acha-Leamhan, near Connel, and
find the coach which will take us rapidly to Oban, as I fear the
falls will not allow us to pass, and the men must wait there for two
hours before they can begin to row home.
shall give you a part from the Saga spoken of. "Thorgrimr Godi was a
great worshipper, and built a temple on his farm (in Iceland) a
hundred feet long and sixty feet broad. All the people were to pay a
tax towards it. Thorr was most worshipped there. It was made round
within like a skull-cap. It was hung with tapestry, and there were
windows in it. Thorr was standing in the middle, and the other gods
on both sides. In front of Thorr stood an altar finely made, and
covered on the top with iron. There was to be the fire which should
never go out; we call that consecrated fire. On that altar a large
ring made of silver was lying. The temple priest wore it on his hand
at all public meetings. By it all people were to swear in giving
evidence. On that altar there stood a large bowl of copper, into
which the blood of cattle or men sacrificed to Thorr was to be
poured. This they called Hlautbolli (bloodbowl). From this bowl men
and cattle which were sacrificed and feasted on were to be
besprinkled when there were sacrificing feasts. But the men who were
sacrificed were thrown down into a pool close to the door." (That
is, the cattle were eaten and the men thrown into a pool. Human
remains do not always prove honest death and burial. The above was
kindly translated from the Icelandic by Mr. Hjaltalin,)