Check all the Clans that have DNA Projects. If your Clan is not in the list there's a way for it to be listed. Electric Scotland's Classified Directory An amazing collection of unique holiday cottages, castles and apartments, all over Scotland in truly amazing locations.

Click here to get a Printer Friendly Page

In the Hebrides
Chapter 3


IONA

Sacred Isles—The Druid's Holy Isle—Brighit the Fire Goddess—Traces of Pagan Customs—The 360 Crosses—Rude Stone Monuments-360 Sacred Stones at Mecca—Black Stones—Magic Crystals—Solar Turns—St. Columba—His Work—His Death—Tonsure—Book of Battles—Jacob's Pillow—The Reilig Orain—The Nunnery—Massacre of the Monks—The Ruins—The Inn—Jackdaws—Hill of Dunil—Druidic Circle—The Bay of the Boat—Pagan Baptism.

AU0NG the very varied phases of ecclesiastical life, which we find in various corners of the earth, there is one which seems to me to be especially attractive, wherever found—from a romantic and picturesque point of view. I allude to those Holy Isles which representatives of divers creeds, in widely-distant countries, have selected as their homes—the centres from which to spread their particular form of religious teaching.

Such are the sacred isles of the Buddhists, both of China and Japan—the Isle of Putoo, with its thousand quaint temples and monasteries, and innumerable throng of yellow or lilac-robed monks and priests, arrayed in vestments as elaborate as is the ritual they celebrate. Such too is the fascinating Holy Isle of Enosbima, to which all good Japanese make devout pilgrimage as often as they can allow themselves so pleasant a holiday. It is a most lovely spot, where all is pretty, and bright, and externally fascinating.

Very different is the charm which attaches to the Holy Isles of our own grey shores,--deeper seated, we would fain believe,—but by no means so apparent on the surface. Northumbria claims as her own, the Holy Isle of Lindisfarne, for ever hallowed by the presence of St. Cuthbert,—the beads of whose rosary, multiplying miraculously, still strew the storm-swept shores?

Celebrated as was the Holy Isle of the East Coast, that of the West was still more famous, and I need hardly say that one of our chief objects in visiting the Hebrides was to make our pilgrimage from Oban to Iona, that little lonely isle round which such countless memories have clustered from all ages; once the Holy Isle of the Druids, and held most sacred by our Pagan forefathers, and in later ages, that is to say, some thirteen hundred years ago, so hallowed by the burning and shining light of that most energetic of saints,—Columba,—that all races of northern Europe made pilgrimage thither, in constant succession.

Though best known to us as Iona, the Island is spoken of in all the oldest Irish annals simply as I or lii, la, lo, Hy, Y or Yiwith that remarkably varied spelling, so characteristic of old manuscripts,—a title denoting The Isle par ecel1ence. Sometimes it was called Ithona, the Isle of the Waves, and sometimes Ishona, the Blessed Isle.

What attraction it can have offered, to induce the priests of the Sun to select it as their abode, it is hard to imagine, but, from time immemorial, it was known as the Sacred Isle of the Druids—the mis Druineach or Nan Druihean, "the Druid's Isle," by which name it is known to the Highlanders of the present day. The Sons of Erin also retained the old name, and long after St. Columba's time, they still spoke of the Holy Isle as the Eilean Drunish.

It certainly is a strangely perplexing mystery, to find an insignificant little island, in this remote corner of the earth, exalted to a position of such extraordinary honour,—an island situated in a region where the skies are proverbially grey—where rain and mist by turns enfold the land, and where, for weeks in succession, the great Sun does not vouchsafe one unclouded ray to gladden his most devout worshippers.

One can understand that zealous priests of the Sun-God should make their way to the mainland of Britain, as missionaries of every manner of creed, are content to devote their lives to the spread of the faith they hold true, no matter how uninviting their surroundings (and we cannot suppose that the white-robed Druid priests found our ancestors in their very cool full-dress of blue-wode, with the possible addition of a wolf-skin, altogether congenial companions.

Whatever we know of these Druid teachers, seems to suggest their having been of Eastern origin, notwithstanding Caesar's statement that they were supposed to be an indigenous product of Britain, and that persons wishing to study their tenets generally went from Gaul to Britain for that purpose. We are told that they derived their name from the oak-groves in which they taught the people to worship.' Yet the golden knives with which they cut the sacred mistletoe were assuredly not indigenous, nor was the familiar use of the Greek alphabet, in which they recorded all public and private affairs, save such as related to their religion (for these they deemed it unhallowed to commit to writing)—a religion which emphatically taught the doctrines of immortality and of the transmigration of souls.

Surely the mere existence on these cold grey shores of a white- robed priesthood, crowned with garlands of oak-leaves, who ministered barefooted in unroofed temples open to every storm of heaven—astrologers, familiar with all the mysteries of the starry heavens—magicians who worked miracles by the use of magic crystals, and whose most potent talismans were ring-shaped "adder's stones" supposed to be formed of the crystallized saliva of serpents ;—surely all these things bespeak the traditions of men who had originally wandered to Britain from some warmer, sunnier clime.

We may gather a hint to the same effect, from the symbols which we find sculptured on some ancient memorial stones of Pagan Britain. Not only do we find elaborately-carved crescents, discs, double wheels, linked together by a royal sceptre, such as might naturally suggest themselves as emblems of the sun, but we also find Fish, Geese, Serpents, and highly idealized Elephants and Camels,' the three last-named being creatures which would scarcely have presented themselves to the minds of our ancestors had not some tradition of these creatures reached them from the eastern world. It is, therefore, very remarkable to find that the Elephant, the Crescent, the Serpent, and the Goose, are sacred symbols, of very frequent recurrence on the sculptured stones of Ceylon, where a planetary worship (strangely similar to that which seems to have been the ancient religion of Britain) has prevailed from time immemorial.

So very little is positively known concerning the Druids that it is rather by inference, and by noting such traces of their teaching as long survived in those Isles, that we gather even a vague, shadowy image of the wise men and their tenets. Only from some slight all'rsions in the classics, and from the somewhat apocryphal old Celtic chronicles, do we gather something of their mythology, and of the names and attributes of their deities.

One of these was the goddess Brighit, to whose special care were committed all the Hebrides or :Ey-Brides, that is The Isles of Brighit or Bridgit. To her, in her Christianised form, are also dedicated six parishes on the mainland of Scotland, while the name of Kilbride, the Cell of Bridget, occurs eighteen times, and the name also appears as Pan-Bride and Lian-Bride (in Morayshire). The latter name tells its own story of the dubious saint, Lian being simply the sacred grove of the Druids, hence Llan-Bride is the grove of Brighit, the Celtic goddess. Her temples were attended by virgins of noble birth, called the daughters of fire, or sometimes merely Breochuidh, the fire-keepers. Like the ancient Persians, they fed this fire only with one kind of peeled wood, and might never breathe upon the sacred flame. The ancient Irish are said to have 80 greatly reverenced all fire that they would not even put out a candle without uttering a prayer that the Lord would renew to them light from heaven.

When Christianity began to make its difficult way in these isles, it was so impossible to wean these vestal virgins from their post, that it was found simpler to institute a Christian Order of Nuns of St. Bridgit. To one of St. Patrick's converts was assigned this delicate work of adapting things old to new meanings. St. Bridgit accordingly took up her abode in the grove of sacred oaks, where the people were accustomed to worship the goddess, and here she instructed them in the new faith. The vestal virgins were thus transformed into the first Christian community of religious women, and the temple of Bridgit at Kildare, became a great convent.

To these Christian nuns was sntrusted the care of the sacred fire, which from time immemorial had been kept burning in honour of the Celtic goddess. When, on the Eve of Good Friday, all other churches and convents extinguished their fire, not relighting it till Easter Eve, the nuns of St. Bridgit always kept theirs steadily burning, a practice which Giraldus Cambrensis says he knows not whether to attribute to a desire to have warmth and food always ready to bestow on all pilgrims and poor people, or whether it was done in obedience to the Levitical command that the fire should be ever burning on the altar, and never go out.

Thus the fire of Bridgit was kept perpetually burning, till the year 1220, when it was extinguished by order of the Archbishop of Dublin to avoid superstition and scandal. So great, however, was the veneration in which it was held by the people, that it was speedily rekindled, and was kept burning steadily until the monastery was suppressed in the time of Henry VIII. The ruins of the Fire House are still, or were till recently, to be seen.

This is all that I can gather concerning the protecting goddess of the Hebrides, whose worship, as also that of Baal the Sun-god, and Neithe the goddess of Wells, was so deeply rooted throughout the British Isles, that even now-, traces of the old superstitions survive, and occasionally crop up, to the disgust of the schoolmaster, and the delight of the antiquarian.

Even on Iona itself, which became so emphatically the centre of Christian teaching, many long years elapsed ere all traces of the ancient faith were swept away. Even in the last century, Pennant' was told by Bishop Pocock, that on the Eve of St. Michael, the Wanders brought all their horses to a small green hillock, whereon stood a circle of stones, surrounding a cairn. Round this hill, they all made the turn eunwise, thus unwittingly dedicating their horses to the sun. The Bishop also spoke of a remarkable cromlech, consisting of two stones seven feet in height, with a third laid across them.

Another old legend of the Isle, quoted by several writers of the last century,2 tells of a circular Druidic temple which has now disappeared (at least, we failed to find it). It consists of twelve great stones, beneath each of which a human victim was buried. That this may have been the case is probable, as Sir Walter Scott has told us that the Picts thus bathed the foundation of their strong buildings in blood, as a propitiation to the spirits of the earth, and that sometimes a human body was thus buried beneath the foundation stone; sometimes only that of an animal. The Welsh too, in building their strong forts, found it necessary thus to appease the earth-spirits, otherwise they would demolish by night, whatever was built during the day.

St. Columba himself has, very unfairly, been credited with another legend, which assuredly belongs to pre-Christian times. It is said that when he and his followers commenced building their chapel (the first Christian Church on the Druid Isle) the power of the evil spirit so prevailed, that the walls were overthrown as fast as they were raised. Then it was revealed to the perplexed saint, that a compromise must be made, and one last sacrifice offered to the powers of evil. Oran having generously devoted his own life to the good cause was interred alive, and remained three days in the grave. On the third day, St. Columba, wishing for one last look at his friend, caused the earth and stones to be removed, when, to the amazement of all, Oran sat up, and spake, .revealing strange stories of the border land, more especially that the doctrine of Hell, as commonly understood, was a mere fiction of priestcraft, having no real existence. St. Columba having a firm faith in the Eternity of Evil, could by no means suffer such revelations to proceed, so he ordered the earth to be thrown in again, and the voice from the tomb was silenced. You see he lived in the Dark Ages, before the Spirit of Enquiry was fully awakened.

Certain it is that the little church which was rebuilt on the ver5 site of this original chapel, and is the oldest Christian building on the Isle, is dedicated to the Saint, who is said to have here endured this voluntary martyrdom.

At first sight it appears somewhat strange that the long occupation of the Isle by the Druids, should have left so little mark, whereas on the far less noted Isle of Lewis, there still remain such very remarkable Druidic remains as those at Callernish or Loch Bernera, where various monolithic circles, avenues, and a semi-circle, remain to puzzle antiquarians. There are tumuli, and menhirs, one of tue latter being twenty feet high, and broad in proportion. Most of the stones, however, only average four feet in height.

The most remarkable feature in the Callernish stones is a circle, sixty-three feet in diameter, formed by twelve stones, with a large central obelisk. It is supposed that this circle represented the sun, and that the twelve stones were the twelve signs of the Zodiac. From this circle four lines of upright stones extend towards the four points of the compass. One of these lines is double, and, moreover, twice the length of the other three; thus producing the form of the Christian cross. Within the circle are two small chambers built of stone.

We have seen that a similar Sun-temple, i. e. a circle formed by twelve great stones, remained in Iona till the eighteenth century, and we may well believe that when the island passed into the hands of teachers of another creed, many of the ancient monuments were quickly turned to account in building and in other ways.

But the most remarkable adaptation of old objects of reverence by the new-corners, was that which appears to me to account beyond doubt, for the existence on this tiny isle of no less than 360 sculptured stone cro8se8, which remained till A.D. 1560, when, by the bigotry of the Protestant Synod of Argyle, they were pronounced to be "monuments of idolatrie," and the fiat went forth, that all should be cast into the sea. Some, however, were happily rescued and taken to old churchyards and market-places in the neighbouring isles, or on the mainland. They were all very similar, being tall monoliths, generally of whinstone (a hard grey stone, which is little affected by the rains and frosts of centuries), and covered with intricate designs. Some were very elaborate round-headed crosses; on others, the round-headed cross was simply carved on the slab.

Now it is exceedingly improbable that the missionary brethren of Iona would have expended their energies on quarrying 360 great blocks of whinstone, in order to carve such a multiplicity of crosses, without any apparent object. But supposing they found the 360 monoliths already erected, and receiving idolatrous worship from the people, nothing could have been more in accordance with the ordinary practice of those days, than to transform these menhirs into crosses, thereby turning these memorials of a heathen worship to Christian uses.

We know that in all parts of the kingdom, these sacred stones were (by order of Pope Gregory, A.D. 601), sprinkled with holy water; and thus sanctified, while the people were still permitted to offer sacrifices of blood, according to their old customs. The edict declares that, as it is impossible to efface old customs from the obdurate minds of the Britons, they may on great festivals continue to build themselves booths and huts with boughs of trees, round about such old Pagan temples as have been sanctified by the sprinkling of holy water, and may there continue to sacrifice and feast on the flesh of cattle.

Thus in speaking of the first dawn of Christianity in Armorica,

 

In Ireland too, Borlase has told us how Crosses were carved on old Druidic monuments, that the people who could not give up their superstitious reverence for these stones, might henceforth pay them a sort of justifiable adoration, as Christian memorials! Doubtless the same history belongs to those tall monoliths, surmounted by a roughly hewn Cross and Circle, which stand by themselves, on the barren heaths of Cornwall, with no trace of human work near, except the ancient Celtic barrows, and grey weather-beaten Druidic stones.

So also, in Scotland, we still find great menhirs, such as those at Meigle and Aberlemnie, where the Cross appears in combination with many Pagan emblems; serpents, large fish, centaur, mirror and comb, and sun-circles;—or that at Deir in Aberdeenshire, engraven on one side with a rude Cross, but on the other with the circle, crescent, or double-wheel, crossed by a royal sceptre, emblematic of the worship of sun, moon, and planets. Even on the more advanced round-headed Cross we find the same strange mixture of Christian and Pagan emblems, commemorating both faiths, and blending them in the minds of the worshippers in a manner as intricate as is the intertwining of the Runic knots, which so mysteriously interlace the whole.

To judge of the full 8ignificance of the number of the 360 atone crosses of Iona, it is necessary to compare them with the traces of ancient worship of the same character in other lands, so, without pausing at Stonehenge or Carnac, or other noted spots in Britain or Brittany, we may glance at Northern Africa, where, near Carthage, the circle and crescent are found carved as emblems of sun and moon, just as on the British monuments.

Algeria has been discovered to abound in every known form of rude stone monument. At Roknia three thousand monoliths are grouped together, as if in a vast city of the dead, while near Constantine, and in the district around Sétif, their number has been calculated at ten thousand, including some stones so gigantic, that one is described as fifty-two feet high and twenty- six in diameter at the base; while we hear of a dolmen near Tiaret, the cap-stone of which is sixty-five feet long, by twenty-six feet broad, and upwards of nine feet thick—a rock-mass, which is poised on boulders of thirty to forty feet high.

Tripoli likewise possesses many of these mysterious remains; more especially certain groups of three great stones, so placed as to form high, narrow doorways; so narrow, however, is the space between the upright stones, that a man of average size can hardly squeeze his way through between them;—truly "8trait and narrow gateways."

The discovery of these African monuments is the more curious, as suggesting that some forgotten tradition may have inspired old Geoffrey of Monmouth's assertion, that "giants in old days brought from Africa the stones which the magic art of Merlin afterwards removed from Kildare, and set up at Stonehenge." The latter, you will remember, is the only place in Britain where these trilithon exist, though the ordinary dolmen is so common in Cornwall and elsewhere. They have, however, been discovered in various countries, and I have myself seen in one of the Friendly Isles, a very remarkable cyclopean trilithon, concerning which the present race have no tradition. It differs from all others, in that the great stones are hewn, and the cap-stone is let into the two uprights, and this in a country to whose people no metal is known, and whose only buildings are of reeds and timber.' In fact the huge stones must have been quarried, and carried from afar.

To pass onward to Hindostan. In Malabar we find dolmens consisting of one huge stone poised on two upright ones, differing only in size from one which Bishop Pocock saw in Iona. There is not one form of cyclopean monument known in the British Isles, or in France, which does not also exist both in Northern and Southern India, either for worship or for sepulture; oblongs, circles, parallel lines, and many little circles within one large circle.

In Northern India, the place accounted most holy by the sun- worshipping Santhals (the noblest of the primitive races), is at Byjnatb in Bengal, near three huge monoliths of gneiss rock. Two of these are vertical. The third lies horizontally across the uprights.

In the Kassia hills near Assam, monuments of this class, sometimes accompanied by gigantic monoliths, are erected in the present day, by one at least of the wild aboriginal tribes, as places of sepulture. In this case the monoliths are erected in honour of the dead whose spirits are invoked in cases of sickness or trouble.

The close analogy between these modern dolmens and monoliths of the East, with ancient remains elsewhere, has led to the somewhat rash conclusion, that all our so-called Druidic temples were, like the tumuli, simply places of sepulture, or commemorative of the dead, or of some great event. Considering the well-known tendency to ancestor-worship which from all ages has pervaded all nations, no inference can be more natural than that the places of sepulture should become places of worship. Moreover, why a similar analogy in favour of the temple theory, may not be drawn from the circles of Bombay, which are undoubtedly places of worship, it is hard to say.

The circles to which I allude are to be found at various villages in the Presidency of Bombay, notably near Poonab, where the people continue to erect great stone circles near the Brahmin temples, and there offer sacrifice, every, man for himself in defiance of the Hindoo priests, who vainly strive to put down a form of superstition which requires no priestly intervention.

The worshippers at these shrines arl descendants of the primitive inhabitants of India, who held the land long before the Aryan conquerors had found their way, either to Britain or to Hindostan. Just as in Scotland the people continued obstinately for many centuries to sacrifice red cocks, and occasionally goats, to demons, in defiance of all the threats and persuasions of Christian teachers, so do these Indian tribes persist in the sacrifice of red cocks and goats to Beta!, whose worship has for centuries been condemned by the Brabmins as being devil-worship, but which has still been kept up sub rosa, and now that religious toleration has been secured, the people are returning to their first love, and demon-worship is regaining the ascendancy.

The worship of Betal is wide-spread, extending to Guzerat and Cutch. (Fanciful as must be such a connection of ideas, his name is certainly suggestive of that temple of Botallick in Cornwall, where a stone circle still exists, precisely like these at Poonah, having three principal stones placed facing the east, and one placed quite outside the circle.) Those at Poonah are painted white, having a great daub of red paint, with a darker spot in the middle, dashed on the upper end of each stone, to represent the blood of the sacrifices. This red spot invariably faces the rising sun.

Passing from Hindostan to Persia, the chosen home of the symbolic worship of Sun and Fire, we there find many circles of great stones, some of which must have been carried from long distances. There are also tall monoliths which the people reverence as having been the sacred stones of ancient Fire Temples.

Crossing the Persian Gulf, we enter Arabia. There Paigrave discovered tall trilithons in connection with circles of great monoliths, and placed, as at Stonehenge, facing the north-east.

I have thus glanced at the rude stone monuments of so many countries in which planetary worship has held sway, in order to show that there is nothing very improbable in tracing a startling resemblance between objects of veneration in the Holy Isle of the Hebrides and those which were held in deepest reverence in Arabia for countless generations before Mahomet arose to overthrow idolatry and divert the worship of the people into a new channel.

The Kaaba at Mecca (which to all good Mahomedans is as sacred as was the Holy of Holies to the Israelite) had, from time immemorial, been accounted by all the people of Arabia, to be the very portal of Heaven. Until the time of Mahomet, it was surrounded by 360 rude unscuiptured monoliths, which, to the degenerate Arabs, had become objects of actual worship, and in presence of which, they were wont to sacrifice red cocks to the sun (just as the people in these Western Isles have continued to do, almost to the present day, though of course in ignorance of the original meaning of this ancestral custom).

More unflinching than the Christian reformers of Iona, Mahomet would admit of no compromise. Like the Synod of Argyle, he resolved on the destruction of these "monuments of idolatrie," and so his iconoclastio followers did his bidding, and destroyed them utterly.

Nevertheless, he still allowed his converts to retain their custom of walking seven times in proce.s8ion, Delaul, i.e. Sunwise, round the Kaaba itself, in reverence for Abraham and Ishmael, who had rebuilt it after the deluge.

Like all the most sacred shrines of primitive worship, it is a tiny sanctum, measuring only eighteen paces in length, by fourteen in width; and though the faithful have overlaid its doors with silver, and year by year cover it with new silken hangings, its very essence lies in its simplicity.

For the original Kaaba was a tabernacle of radiant clouds, which came down from heaven in answer to the prayer of Adam, who besought the restoration of that shrine where he had been wont to worship in Paradise, and around which he had so often seen the angels move in adoring procession. When, therefore, the cloud temple was restored to him, he daily walked round it seven times sun?ozse, in imitation of the angels.

On the death of Adam, this tabernacle returned to heaven, but one resembling its tent-like form, was built by Seth: being destroyed by the Deluge, it was subsequently rebuilt by Abraham, to whom the Angel Gabriel brought a precious black stone from Paradise, to be inserted in a corner of the outer wall, and adored and reverently kissed by the faithful This stone is a meteoric stone of oval form, and is described as a fragment of reddish black volcanic basalt sprinkled with coloured crystals. Its dimensions are six by eight inches. it is encircled by a silver band, and is built into the wall at about four feet from the ground, and has attained a high polish from the lips and impressive kisses of ten thousand times ten thousand worshippers.

Strange to say, long before Mahomet's public career had corninenced, he was chosen by the people as the most fit person to lift this sacred atone into its place as Chief Corner Stone of the outer wall, when the Kaaba had undergone some necessary repairs. Being thus a standing proof of the honour in which he himself had been held, Mahomet could not find it in his heart to destroy this Heaven-given aerolite (probably even he, would not have dared to do so), and as be could not possibly induce the Arabs to abstain from worshipping it, he permitted them still to do it homage, and so, to the present day, the vast throngs of reverent pilgrims kiss it reverently each time they pass it, as they make their seven sunwise circuits round the shrine.

Strange to say, this black stone also had its counterpart in Iona. It was preserved in the cathedral, till the year 1830, when it mysteriously disappeared, having probably been stolen by some sacrilegious relic-collector. In such reverence was it held, that on it solemn oaths were sworn and agreements ratified. A similar black stone, lying close to the sea, also received worship in the Hebrides till a comparatively recent date. Sir Walter Scott says it was supposed to be oracular, and to answer whatever questions might be asked, by means of the secret influence it exercised on the mind of theinquirer. It lay on the sea-shore, and the people never approached it without certain solemnities.

(Several such unhewn Black Stones are objects of reverence to millions of our Indian fellow-subjects. In the Rajmahal hills, such an one represents their chief deity, and receives sacrifices of goats and of fowls in all 'times of sickness or other affliction. Moreover, one of the most sacred forms under which Juggernaut is worshipped is that of a shapeless black stone, unhewn, with diamonds let in, as eyes. It must be remembered that Juggernaut, with his many- wheeled cars, rolling in solemn sunwise procession, is held to be symbolic of the sun. In one of the great courts of his principal temple in Southern India is another most sacred black stone, brought by his worshippers from the old temple at Kanarak. This is a monolith 150 feet high, sculptured to the form of a stately pillar. Such pillars, we are told, were common in Southern India even half a century ago, but most of them have been destroyed by the ruthless ravages of Mahomedans and other zealots.)

Apart from such exceptionally sacred stones, as that black stone of Iona, whose fame attracted worshippers from afar, each village in the Highlands is said to have had its rough unhewn stone, called the Gruagach stone, where, till very recent times, the villagers poured out libations of milk on every day consecrated to Graine or Grian, the golden-baired Celtic Sun-goddess (just as we now see the Hindoos pour their daily offerings of milk, flowers, and water, on a similar rough unhewn stone, wherein their god is supposed to be present, and which invariably occupies a place of honour in every village). I do not know whether any of these stones still remain in The Isles, but we are told, that not many years ago, there was scarcely a village in the Hebrides where the Gruagach stone was not still held in some sort of reverence. Even in the last century, libations of milk were poured on these stones at dawn every Sunday as a preliminary to Christian worship!

Now look to Japan, where the National Religion (Shinto) is the simplest form of Nature-worship, and where a mirror of highly polished metal, and a globe of polished crystal, both symbols of the Sun-goddess, are the sole objects of veneration to be seen in every Shinto temple—being reproductions of the Heaven-bestowed Mirror and Crystal Globe so devoutly adored by thousands of pilgrims, who, year by year, visit the sacred Shrines of 1s4—the Mecca of the Shinto faith. These venerated shrines are the plainest possible little tent-shaped buildings of unpainted wood, even more unpretentious than the Kaaba. They, too, are enclosed by an outer wall, at one corner of which, three feet from the ground, a large dark stone holds a conspicuous place. It is perfectly polished by the constant friction of reverent hands. For he who suffers from any manner of pain, needs only to rub this healing stone, and then rub his own body, and his cure is certain.

(I have not been told by any eye-witness whether the seven sunwise turns round these shrines, form part of the accustomed ritual, but there is every probability they do so, as I have seen the Deisul thus performed round many Japanese shrines of far less note.)

It would be strange indeed if the coincidence in the number of these 360 monoliths at Iona, and at Mecca, had been the result of mere accident, when we remember that these were both the shrines of races who worshipped the heavenly bodies, and who divided the zodiac into 360 degrees;—that the Arabs, as well as the ancient Hindoos, and their Western Druidic brethren, reckoned a lunar year of 360 days, believing the sun's revolution to be completed in the same period.

Among the stones of Iona, destroyed by order of the ruthless Synod, were three noble globes of white marble, which lay in three hollows worn on a large stone slab. Every person visiting the island was expected to turn each of these thrice round, following the course of the sun, according to the custom of Deisul, of which we find so many traces in these Isles. The action of course represented the motion and form of the earth or the apparent motion of the sun.

The stone on which they rested was called Clach-bratha, because it was supposed that when they had, by constant friction, worn a hole right through the stone, ,then the brath or burning of the world would come. The stone still lies beside the door of St. Oran's Chapel, though, unfortunately, it has been broken across the middle. In size and shape it resembles a fiat tombstone, and might be passed by as such, were it not for a row of cup-like hollows worn at one end of it.

These were pointed out to me by an old man, as having been, in his youth, occupied by stone balls, about the size of a child's head —balls which doubtless had replaced the original marbles destroyed by that iconoclastic Synod. He told me, that in his younger days, he, like all his neighbours, had never passed that place without stopping to turn each of these balls thrice sunwise for luck. How and when these also disappeared, he could not tell. Probably, like their predecessors, they had fallen victims to some ruthless and senseless hater of ancient superstition, himself too ignorant to perceive the bearing of such trivial matters on divers vexed questions of the day—faint whispers from the speechless past, they make one long the more to unravel its mysteries.

For instance, how curious is the coincidence between this custom of the old Druids of Iona and that of the modern so-called Fire Worshippers. Rabbi Benjamin in his account of the Ghebers at Onlam, says: "Early in the morning, they go in crowds, to pay their devotions to the 8Ufl, to whom upon all the altars are consecrated p1ieres, resembling the circles of the sun, and when he rises, the orbs seem to be inflamed, and turn round with a great noise, while the worshippers, having every man a censer in his hand, offer incense to the Sun." The crystal globe seems also to have been reverenced as a sacred symbol by the Babylonians; at least we hear of such a one being suspended on high in the camp of the great king, that it might catch and reflect the first rays of the rising sun.

The three mystic globes of Iona were by no means the only sacred stones of the Druids, who indeed possessed many such, mostly crystals reputed to possess magic powers, and many wonders were said to have been wrought by these, some of which indeed retained their miraculous powers till recent days; and water into which such an one has been dipped has ever been accounted a certain cure for all manner of diseases, of men, of cattle, and of horses.

One such magic crystal, the size of a hen's egg, is still preserved by the Stewarts of Ardvoirlich in Perthshire, and it is believed that water into which it has been dipped, cures cattle of distemper. Even now, graziers sometimes come from long distances—perhaps more than forty miles—to obtain this precious medicine, and are greatly disgusted at finding that the far-famed Clach Dearg has been deposited at the bank, with other family treasures, and can by no means be borrowed.

A stone of the same sort is the hereditary property of the Robertsons of Struan. it is called the Clach-na-Bratach or Stone of the Standard, and since the days of Bannockburn the clan has never gone to battle without carrying this stone, whose varying colour boded good or evil. On the Eve of Sheriff-muir a large flaw was detected in it, and all present knew that evil would befall them on the morrow. No medical stores are needed by those within hail of this precious charm, inasmuch as the water in which it has been thrice dipped (having first been carried round it thrice sunwise), will assuredly cure all manner of diseases of men, of cattle, and of horses. The Campbells of Glen-Lyon have a similar magical curing-stone.

A list of many such magical stones was compiled two hundred years ago, by a Welshman, curious in these matters, in which he mentions upwards of fifty varieties in common use among his countrymen and the Scottish Highlanders; some round, some oval, some hollow rings, some of crystal, some of glass, but all alike were used medicinally, especially on May Day at the feast of Beltane (Beilteine, "the fire of Baal "), when they were dipped in water, with which the cattle were sprinkled to save them from the power of witches and elves.

One of these precious crystal balls remains to this day in the family of Willox, the hereditary cattle-curers at Nairn, and is reported to have worked wondrous cures in the present generation. The crystal is dipped in a bucket of water, which thereupon becomes a magic mirror, reflecting the face of the bad neighbour who has bewitched the cattle, and thus breaking his spell.

I have been told that somewhere in Northumberland, certain sacred Irish pebbles are still reverenced, and are carefully kept in a basket, and never allowed to touch English ground, lest they should lose the power which they have retained from time immemorial, of healing any sore limb to which they are applied.

But in Ross-shire, a whole lake has been endowed with healing properties, from the lucky accident that a woman who possessed certain curative pebbles, flung them into Lake Monar, rather than allow herself to be robbed of them by an envious man. So to this day, in the months of May and August, many persons make pilgrimage thither from all parts of Rose, Sutherland, Caithness, Inverness, and even from the Orkneys. They must stand by the loch at midnight,—plunge in thrice,—make three turns sunwise,—drink a little,—throw a coin into the loch, and take care to be out of sight of the loch before daybreak.

If all tales be true, the Celtic Fathers were by no means averse to enlisting such magic in the advancement of the Christian cause. It was in consequence of a miracle thus wrought, that St. Columba was enabled to obtain possession of The Isle. For although his kinsman Conal, the Christian King of the Northern Scots, is said to have bestowed it upon him—a gift confirmed by Brude, King of the Picts, when he too was converted—it is not to be supposed that so powerful a body as were the Druids, would have suffered themselves to be driven out without a struggle, had not some supernatural influence been brought to bear upon them.

Accordingly we learn that the Arch-Druid Broichan, having refused to release a certain captive Irish-woman at the request of St. Columba, the latter, proceeding to the river Ness, took thence a white pebble, and, showing it to his companions, told them that the Angel of God had stricken the Arch-Druid with a sudden stroke, so that he lay nigh unto death, but that should he repent, he had only to drink a cup of water in which that pebble had been dipped, and he would assuredly recover. While he yet spake, two horsemen galloped up, bearing tidings from the king, that all had befallen even as Columba had predicted. The holy man straightway sent messengers to the palace; they received the captive from the hand of the repentant Broichan, while he himself, having drunk of that mystic cup (whereon the pebble floated as though it had been a nut), was immediately made whole. That little pebble was afterwards preserved among the treasures of King Brude, and retaining its miraculous power of floating on water (in common with other magical stones), it wrought divers wondrous cures.

Thus it was, that when the king proposed to bestow on St. Columba the Innis-nan-Druidanach, the Holy Isle of the Druids, he was suffered to hold it in peace and without great opposition, and by degrees the name of the Isle was changed to I-Cohn-kill, The Isle of the Cell of Calum or Malcolm."

Whether fairly or otherwise, St. Columba is credited with having taken considerable advantage of the popular superstitions of his day. For instance, when first he sought admission to the presence of the heathen King Brude, the latter refused to give him audience, and bade his followers bar the door of his rude palace. Then St. Columba deliberately walked round the king's house widder 8hins, i. a. in the direction contrary to the course of the sun (an action which was equivalent to a most solemn curse). Thereupon the door fell open of its own accord, and the saint entered the royal presence. St. Adamnan, however, affirms that the cross signed on the palace gate was the sole talisman used on that occasion, and that immediately the gates burst open. He says too, that as St. Columba approached the Pictish fort, chanting the 45th Psalm, his voice was so miraculously strengthened, as to be heard like a thunder- peal above the clamour, whereby the Pictish magicians strove to silence his evening prayer.

When St. Columba took up his abode on The Isle, his first care was to build a chapel and "an hospice" beside the 370 grey monoliths. He accordingly sent forth his monks to gather "bundles of twigs" for this purpose; the architecture of those days (A.D. 563), being exceedingly primitive, wattle and daub' formed the materials of these early thatched churches. Where the brethren found the twigs I am at a loss to imagine, as there certainly are none on Ions now; (at least I failed to find any vegetation of taller growth than beautiful hart's-tongue ferns in some ravines on the further shore). It may, however, have been otherwise thirteen hundred years ago, or else the brethren must certainly have gone across to Mull, in search of sticks. But I should think that the stones and rubble and turf which lay ready to their hand, were turned to very good account by these rough and ready builders.

Looking at this little lonely isle as we see it to-day, where there remain only the grey ruins of the comparatively recent cathedral, and all is silent and desolate, it is strange indeed to think of all the countless memories which cluster round that hallowed ground, even dating only from the Christian era, when the fame of St. Columba attracted thither men of all races of Northern Europe —some seeking the learning of the Fathers; wise men coming from afar, to consult those deemed wiser still, on affairs of Church and State; chieftains and Vikings coming to seek blessings; penitents to confess their crimes (murder and sacrilege and cruel forays), that they might do penance meet, and open a fresh account with heaven. Here kings came, seeking consecration, and their fleets of strange quaint galleys, with curious sails and multitudinous oars, were anchored in these quiet harbours; such vessels as that in which King Haco came from Norway—a great ship built wholly of oak, having twenty-seven banks of oars, and adorned with curiously-wrought gilded dragons.

Oftener than all came sad funeral processions, galleys freighted with the dead, coming to claim a last resting-place in this hallowed isle of graves. Chiefs and kings, ecclesiastics and warriors, were thus brought from afar across the stormy seas, that their dust might not be disturbed by the terrible flood, announced in an ancient prophecy, which foretold, that seven years before the end of the world, Ireland and The Isles should all be overwhelmed, and Iona alone should rise above the waters.

Strange, is it not to think of all the interests that gather round one little rocky isle, lying so far away in the midst of this Hebridean sea, and to think how from its wave-beaten shores the great pure light arose, which, radiating thence on every side, never waned till the whole land was Christianized, and churches and chapels were established in every corner. Then the noble Mother Church, having done her great work, seems to have (lied an unnatural death, and been suffered to fall into such a state of ruin and decay as is hard to account for, unless the solution lie in that old proverb which tells how, "when the croziers became golden, the bishops became wooden," and so perhaps the old fire and vigour died out, and the Churchmen preferred more secure dwellings on the mainland, to the dangers and perils that surrounded them on Columba's Isle.

On every side Columba's resistless energies spread themselves forth, as he sailed from isle to isle, from shore to shore—the busiest Bishop that ever ruled and comforted a flock of his own gathering. Though we associate his name so wholly with Iona, we know that the greater part of his time was spent in constant visitation of the neighbouring isles and mainland, where he founded upwards of fifty churches, while in latter life he so far retracted his vow of eternal separation from the Emerald Isle as to return thither several times to strengthen the hands of his brethren. He had founded Derry in A.D. 546, when he was only twenty-five years of ago, and Durrow, the greatest of his Irish monasteries, a few years later. First and last it is said that at least thirty abbeys and churches in Ireland owe their origin and celebrity to him. It must be remembered that he was forty-two years of age ere he left his native land, so that Ireland received a full share of his seventy-six years of life. His own county of Donegal is especially rich in memorials of St. Columba.

Besides the work he did in person, he sent forth his brethren in all directions to teach and to preach, so that ere long there was scarcely an island or a quiet bay along the seaboard where one or other of the Celtic Fathers had not built his little lonely chapel, to shed its ray of light on the Pagan people.

A little green hillock overlooking the old monastery, still bears the name of Tor Ab, the Abbot's Hill; because here, it was said, he was wont to sit and meditate while scanning the blue waters, to catch the first glimpse of galleys that might be approaching his Isle, bearing saints or sinners—perplexed brethren, or warriors red-handed from foray or murder—coming to seek his counsel in their difficulties, or absolution from their crimes. Once the little hill was crowned with one of those tall Ionic crosses, the site of which, however, is now marked only by a fragment of the base.

Thence he could look across the narrow straits which separate Iona from the great hills of Mull, and with keen eye discern the approach of pilgrims who chose to shorten their long sea-voyage by traversing Mull's savage mountain glens, and who, on reaching the opposite shore, had only to cry aloud to attract the attention of the brethren of the monastery, who were ever ready to ferry all corners across the Straits, and give them hearty welcome to a shelter and a share of such rude fare as they themselves possessed.

Remote, indeed, must have seemed that island home, when frail sailing-boats were the sole means of access to the great world; and a difficult and dangerous journey this was too, for the pilgrims who crowded thither; though now made so simple and comfortable for the bands of tourists who, availing themselves of swift steamboats, look upon a day's run to Iona and back again, as an easy pleasure trip.

Very different too, from the cruciform Cathedral of massive red granite (the ruins of which we now see on the Isle) was the humble chapel, surrounded by a group of rude monastic cells, which were the only "visible Church" and monastery of those days; but little did the pilgrims reek of outward things, while the very presence of St. Columba diffused such life and energy to all around him.

One of his distinguishing features was that marvellously clear and musical voice, so powerful that, according to his biographers, he could be distinctly heard a mile off, so, from his lowly chapel, wherever he might be, on island or on mainland, Christian hymns were wont to rise in tones so sweet and clear, that the heathen could not choose but listen, and be attracted.

His disciples were not allowed to eat the bread of idleness. He taught them to be diligent in agricultural work, and the natural fertility of Iona was of course, attributed to a miraculous blessing.

Knowing the necessity for good roads across the sometimes swampy moorland, St. Columba had a substantial causeway laid right across the Isle, from the monastery to the western shore, where lies the only arable land.. The length of the Isle from shore to shore measures about three miles—its average width being one mile. Along that road he was carried shortly before his death, in a car drawn by oxen, that he might once more behold his brethren working in their fields, and looking down on that peaceful scene, the grand old saint, whose busy, useful life on earth was so nearly ended, announced to his faithful co-workers that the hour of his departure was now at hand, and standing upon the waggon, he lifted his hands heavenward and blessed them, and likewise blessed the happy isle which he was so soon to leave.

A week later, on the last day of his life, he once more ascended his favourite green hillock, and looking down on his loved monastery, he blessed the land, the granaries, and the people; then he pronounced his farewell benediction on the Isle, in words that proved prophetic, for he foretold how "this little spot, so small and low, should, nevertheless, be greatly honoured, not only by Scots, kings, and peoples, but by foreign chiefs and barbarous nations, and saints of other Churches.

Truly has his prophecy been fulfilled.

Returning to his cells after vespers, he continued his work of transcribing the Psalter, and ending at the 34th Psalm, told his brethren that Baithen I must finish it. When the midnight bell had rung to herald the dawn of the Sunday festival, and call the brethren to matins, he rose quickly, and hurrying forth with feeble steps, hastened towards the church, not waiting to trim his lamp, but finding light enough in the summer night to guide him along the oft.-trodden path.

The first to follow him was the faithful Diarmid, who on approaching the church beheld a radiant light beaming forth from the windows, and entering quickly beheld a glorious vision of angels, who vanished as he drew near. He called his master aloud, but no voice answered. Other brethren now hurried in, bearing lanterns, and beheld their loved abbot lying prone before the altar, unable to speak, but his face radiant with joy. He strove once more to raise his hand to bless his weeping children, and as the hand fell back powerless, the master spirit passed away.

Thus in the seventy-sixth year of his age died this kingly priest. A man of fiery energy, bold, impetuous, passionate (anything but dove-like), earnest alike in teaching, counselling, reproving; unsparing of himself, and continually braving peril by sea and by land, "in journeyings often, in perils of robbers (or pirates), in perils by the heathen, in perils in the wilderness and in the sea, in weariness and painfulness, in watchings and fastings, in hunger, and thirst, and cold." St. Paul himself can scarcely have borne a harder life than did our Celtic apostle.

In personal appearance he was tall and commanding, with regular features, and long hair falling on either shoulder, but only from the temple, as the form of tonsure which was deemed essential by these early Celtic priests both of Ireland and Scotland involved shaving the entire front of the head, producing a most venerable appearance. This custom they believed to be derived from apostolic times. When, therefore, in later days the Roman Church introduced the form of merely shaving a circular ring on the crown and on the back of the head, which was called the tonsure of St. Peter, this weighty distinction was treated as a matter of such vital importance as very nearly to result in a schism.

Another point of difference, hotly contested, was the question on which day Easter should be observed--a burning question which had long divided the Eastern and Western Churches, and which, in Britain, was not finally decided till A.D. 716.

In so saintly a life as that of St. Columba, miracles seem to come in quite naturally. Such was the halo of glorious light which shone around him, and illumined the little cell where he was wont to pray; such too the legend which tells how angels came and talked to him on the hill, which in memory of those celestial visitors is still called by the people Croc-an-Aingel- "the Angel's Hill."

Supernatural light of a visible kind had been vouchsafed to him in his youth, when as a student (always of a devout tuna, and so greatly addicted to sacred studies that his companions bestowed on him the name of Colin-Kille, 1. e., Malcolm of the Church) he had been struck with special admiration of a Book of Psalms belonging to St. Finian. The latter, saint though he was, must have been a noted churl, for Columba dared not ask leave to copy the manuscript, but determined to do so in secret (on the excellent principle, of doing what you wish first, and asking leave afterwards! a system which if it has occasional drawbacks, has also undoubted advantages). For this purpose the young student remained in the church every night after vespers. He had no candle, but a miraculous light shone from his hand and illuminated the page while he wrote. After a while, this mysterious light attracted attention and led to his discovery. St. Finian, however, feigned ignorance till the work was completed, and then he claimed it for his own—a claim which the vexed scribe resisted. The matter was referred to King Diarniid, who decided that "To every cow belongs her own calf," hence, to every book its copy, a judgment the injustice of which Columba resented so hotly, that this, coupled at a later period with the treacherous murder of his friend, the young Prince of Connaught, led to his taking so violent a part in what we may call the Civil Wars, that he was eventually recommended to carry his fiery energies across the sea, which he accordingly did, greatly to the benefit of Scotland.

This Psalm Book was afterwards known as the Catach or Book of Battles, by reason of the great battles and bloodshed to which it gave rise. Soon it came to be used as a charm, which secured victory to any army which possessed it, provided it was carried thrice 8unwise round the host on the morning of battle. This most precious relic is still preserved in the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin; it is a Psalter encased in a highly ornamental silver shrine.

It is somewhat remarkable that St. Cuthbert, patron saint of Northumbria's Holy Isle, should likewise be so intimately connected with battles. A banner, made from a cloth which he had used in celebrating Mass, possessed such magic virtue, that its presence ensured victory to whosoever carried it. The defeat of the Scottish army at Flodden was attributed to its influence. Righteous therefore was the retribution when this far-famed banner was taken down from its place of honour beside St. Cuthbert's shrine in Durham Cathedral, and ignominiously burnt, by the sister of Calvin, whose husband had been appointed the first Protestant Dean of the Cathedral.

Curiously enough, the spot pointed out as having been St. Columba's place of burial, is not within the precincts of St. Oran's Chapel, the site always occupied by the church of the Culdees, but on the further aide of the Cathedral, which, six hundred years later, was built by the Church of Rome. His saintly remains, however, did not long find rest upon Iona, for when, again and again, his followers were driven forth from their homes by ruthless invaders, they carried his bones with them, both as precious relics, and to save them from molestation. Kells in Ireland, and the Cathedral of I)unkeld in Scotland, henceforth divided the honour of possessing them, and thus it was that, for several centuries, Iona came to he included in the diocese of Dunkeld.

Here I cannot but allude to that fascinating old legend, confirmed by divers chronicles, which tells how Jacob's -Pillow,—the Stone of Luz,—chanced to become the chosen pillow of St. Columba, and to this day commands the reverent homage of every loyal subject, as the mystic Coronation Stone whereon from time immemorial all Scottish Sovereigns, including Her Most Gracious Majesty Queen Victoria, have of necessity been seated when assuming the Royal Crown.

This stone is described in the ancient chronicles of the Picts and Scots as "Pharaoh's stone from Egypt;" and they further state that its earliest resting-place in Scotland was at Beregoniutn—a famous settlement of the Dairiad Scots, on Loch Etive, whence it was next removed to the strong tower of Dunstaffnage.

The mention of these names suggests so strong a local interest that I must give you a general summary of the legend, which tr3ces back the history of this venerated atone through all its wanderings, starting from the plains of Luz, where, on one memorable night some four thousand years ago, it served as the pillow whereon Jacob rested his weary head while beholding the vision of angels.

Thence it was carried into Egypt by the Israelites, as a precious memorial, and there it was left by them, on the night of their hurried departure from the land of their captivity, but continued to be held in reverence by the Egyptians. Now there was a certain Prince of Athens named Gayelgias, who arrived in Egypt jest at the time of the Exodus, to help Pharaoh against the Ethiopians. As the reward of victory, he claimed the hand of Scota, the beautiful daughter of Pharaoh.

The young couple seem to have had a wholesome terror of the plagues wherewith Egypt had been scourged, and determined to seek a new home; so, taking with them a handful of the Egyptian army which had escaped from the destruction of the Red Sea, and a company of Greek "heroes of dark blue weapons," they made their way to Spain, carrying with them the Israelite stone of good omen.' They founded a kingdom at Brigantium, where, according to one account, they lived and died, and their descendants for many generations were crowned on the mystic stone.

At length, about the year B.C. 580, Simon Breck, a younger son of one of these kings of Spain, determined to found a new kingdom for himself, and having carried off the precious regal stone, he made his way to the shores of Ireland, "ane rude island opposite to Spaine, in the north, inhabited by ane rude people, having neither laws nor manners." He called this people Scoti, after the name of his Egyptian ancestress, and the land Hibernia, after his favourite general Hiber. Another version of the story tells how Scota herself came in person to the Emerald Isle, and so captivated the eons of Erin by her beauty and her grace, that in her honour they henceforth adopted the name of Scoti, and called their land Ibernia, after her son Iber.

Thus the Stone of Luz was brought to figure in the story of the Irish Kings. Time wore on, and we next hear of it, when a later descendant of Scota, Fergus I., son of Ferchard, sailed across the stormy seas, and established a new colony of Scots in Argyleshire, where he built the town called Beregonium. Of course, he did not fail to bring with him the mysterious stone, which his ancestors had held in such honour from generation to generation.

Here, however, it found but a temporary resting-place, for already the fame of Ions, the Druids' Holy Isle, made Fergus decide on going thither for his coronation. Once more, therefore, this migratory stone was embarked, that its presence might sanction the ceremony. Thus it reached Iona about A.D. 530.

We next hear of it in A.D. 597, when Columba—like Jacob of old—adopted it as his stony pillow, and thereon rested his sacred head when he slept the sleep of death. Then, for the second time, this wondrous stone became associated with angelic visions; for as the dark shades of death were closing round him, St Columba beheld bright angels coming down from heaven, and their presence filled the little church with unearthly light—a light whose splendour illuminated the whole sky, while the angelic guard wafted the saintly soul from the Holy Isle to the place prepared for it in Heaven.

Soon after St. Columba's death, the venerated treasure was removed to Evonium (now called Dunstaffnage) by Evenus, one of the shadowy Dalriadie kings, who built his tower on the same site as the mighty ruined fortress of later days now stands. A hollow niche in one of the vaults is pointed out as the resting-place of this well-guarded treasure.

At Dunstaffnage the wandering stone seems to have remained undisturbed till the year A.D. 834, when its travels recommenced, and it was removed to Scone by Kenneth II. to commemorate his having there obtained his chief victory over the Picts. At Scone, as we all know, it was suffered to remain till 1296, when Edward I. transported it to London, and deposited it in its present honourable position in the grand old Abbey of Westminster, where to this day it still retains its old king-making prerogative, and lies in a hollow space beneath the seat of King Edward's wooden coronation chair, whence it continues to impart its mystic virtue to every British sovereign.

Even Cromwell, grim destroyer of all monuments of superstition, did not disdain to borrow a legalizing virtue from the old stone, for we are told that "when he was installed as Lord Protector in Westminster Hail, he was placed in the chair of Scotland, brought out of Westminster Abbey for that singular and special occasion."

To the outward eye it appears only to be a rough block of red sandstone rudely squared, and measuring 26 inches in length, 16 inches in breadth, and 1O½ inches in depth. Its cracked and battered appearance tells of many a chance blow received in the course of its wanderings, while the rusty iron rings attached on either side to facilitate its transport, are also suggestive of its many migrations from kingdom to kingdom.

A strangely-suggestive link, in truth, is this time-honoured symbol of royalty, connecting ages far apart by one curious bond, namely, the utterly unaccountable reverence for a poor battered old stone, the history and origin of which are alike matter of vaguest tradition, and which, nevertheless, retains its position, deeply-rooted in the very heart of our monarchic constitution, connecting the stateliest ceremony of modern England with the earliest trace of superstitious homage paid to the rude warrior chiefs of the Dairiad Scots, or our still more shadowy ancestral princes of Ireland; a stone, in short, which has been the silent witness, as well as the authority for, the coronation of each successive generation in these was for upwards of 2400 years.

The Dean of Westminster, speaking of its present position in his grand old abbey, compares it to "Araunah's rocky threshing- floor in the midst of the Temple of Solomon, carrying back our thoughts to races and customs now almost extinct; an element of poetic, patriarchal, heathen times; a link which unites the throne of England with the traditions of Tara and Iona, and connects the charm of our complex civilization with the forces of Mother Earth, the stocks and stones of savage Nature."

Of the actual buildings of St. Columba, all trace has, of course, long since passed away, as we may well believe, from their frail nature. Consequently, by far the oldest Christian building on the isle is that which bears the name of St. Oran's Chapel, which was built in the eleventh century (that is, five hundred years after St. Columba's death), by the saintly Queen Margaret, wife of Malcolm Caenmore, on the very site of the original chapel, built by the great Abbot himself, and called by the name of his friend and co-worker.

Around it lies the sacred enclosure known as the Rdiig 0mmthe far-famed place of burial to which, from time immemorial, kings, saints, and warriors have been brought from so many lands, to rest on this favoured isle. The place is called in Gaelic, "the ridge of kings," and formerly three separate covered chapels, inscribed in Latin as" Tumulus Regum Scotim," "Tumulus Regum Hybernim," and "Tumulus Regum Norwegim," were set apart to receive the royal dead of those nations. For so it was, that on this bleak isle,

"Beneath the showery west,
The mighty kings of three fair realms were laid."

Here forty-eight crowned kings of Scotland sleep their last sleep; a long list of royal names, ending with those of the murdered Duncan and Macbeth, both of whom were, as Shakespeare says of Duncan

"Carried to Cohn's-kill,
The sacred store-house of his predecessors,
And guardian of their bones."

Macbeth was the last Scottish king who was buried here. After - his death, Dunfermline was appointed to be the place of kingly sepulture, and there Malcolm Caenmore was buried.

Four kings of Ireland were also buried in the Reilig Orain, and even from "Noroway over the foam" were royal dead carried hither. Eight Danish and Norwegian sea-kings were brought in solemn state, that they might sleep the more peacefully near Columba's sainted dust. Of great lords, temporal and ecclesiastical, the multitude is without number, and includes at least one Bishop of Canterbury, Turnbull by name. In short the island has been described 58" the Jerusalem of the various Celtic tribes, who sought safety in the eternal world by laying their bones in Iona."

That this feeling of veneration for the Isle existed long before the arrival of St. Columba is evident, were it only from the fact of King Fergus having sailed to Iona for his coronation, though the mainland would surely have been more convenient for that ceremony, and we afterwards hear of his body being carried thither for burial, many years before the fiery priest had been exiled from his loved home in the Emerald Isle.'

This unique burial-ground has been so ruthlessly despoiled of its monuments and crosses, that imagination is sorely taxed to picture it as it was in its palmy days, or even as described by Munro, Dean of the Isles in A.D. 1594, that is to say, upwards of thirty years after the destruction of the 360 great grey Crosses, so that even then, the scene had lost its most striking characteristic. He says: "Within this isle of Kilm kill (I-Colm-kill) there is a kirkyaird, callit in Eriche, Reiig Onrain, quhilk is a very fair kirkzaird, and weill biggit about with staine and lynie. Into this sanctuary there are three tombes of staine, formit like little chapels, with ane braide grey marble, or quhin staine, in the gavil of ilk of the tombes.

"In the staine of the ane tombe there is written in Latin letters, Tumulus Regum sotir,—that is, the tombe ore grave of the Scottis Kings. Within this tombe, according to our Scottes and Eriache cronikles, thor laye fortey-eight crowned &otts Kings, through the quihilic this ile hea been richly dotat be the Scotts Kinges, as we have said.

"The tombe on the South side aforesaid, has this inscription, Tumulue Regurn Hibernüe, that is, the tombe of the Irland Kingis; for we have in our auld Erische cronikells, that ther were four It-land Kingis erdit in the same tombe.

"Upon the north syde of our Scottea tombe, the inscription bears, Tumulus Regurn Norweqiis,—that is, the tombs of the Kings of Norroway. And ala' we find in our Erische cronikells, that Cadus, King of Norroway, commaudit his nobils to take his bodey and burey it in Coim Kill, if it chancit him to die in the iles; bot he was so discomfitit, that. ther remained not so maney of his army as wald burey him ther, therefor he was eirdet in Kyles, after he stroke ane field against the Scotts, and was vanquisht be them.

"Within this sanctuary also lye the maist pairt of the Lords of the Iles, with their lynage, twa clan Leans, with their lynage, Mac Ky-nnon and Mac Quarrie, with their lynage, with sundrie uthers inhabitants of the haffi isles, because this Sanctuary was wont to be the sepulture of the best men of all the ilea, and ala' of our Kinges, as we have said, because it was the maist honourable and ancient place that was in Scotland."

Now all trace of the chapels has vanished, and the kingly dust has mixed itself with common clay, without even the distinction of such beautifully carved stones as mark the graves of abbots and warriors—stones inscribed with figures of the chase or emblems of life on land and sea—knights in full armour with long two-banded swords, or ecclesiastics in their robes and mitres. One stone is shown (of red unpolished granite, marked only with a rudely cut cross), beneath which sleeps a nameless King of France, of whom tradition avers that he was compelled to abdicate the crown, and then retreated to this isle to find a last resting-place among Macleods and Macleans, Mackinnons, Macquarries, and Macdonalds.

Of the 360 Crosses, only two now, remain quite intact, namely, one dedicated to St. Martin, which stands near the entrance of the Cathedral enclosure. it is a round-headed cross of grey stone, covered with Runic knotting, and some saintly figures. It stands fourteen feet high, and has been raised on a pedestal of red granite three feet in height.

The other is a beautifully carved old cross, known as "Maclean's." It stands beside the ruined causeway which bears the name of Martyr Street, and leads from the sea to the Cathedral—a paved way along which many a sad procession has passed, bearing the dead to their last resting-place.

When the dead were carried ashore in the Martyrs' Bay, they were laid on the green hillock of Bala, the Mound of the Burden, round which the funeral company thrice marched sunwse in solemn procession, as they had been wont to do from time immemorial, in common with many races, both ancient and modern, in all parts of the world. I do not suppose this custom is even now wholly extinct, for even on the more advanced mainland, the path to a churchyard is often led circuitously, so as to ensure the corpse being carried in the orthodox sunwise course, and the people strongly oppose any short cut, which would interfere with this beneficial circuit.

At the green mound, the dead were sometimes waked for three days and nights, with singing of psalms and wild wailing coronacha, era they were borne, slowly and sadly, with bitter lamentation, along the" Street of the Dead" and through "the narrow way" to the place prepared for them in Reilig 0mm, there to be laid mid kindred dust. But only the lords of the creation were allowed a place of rest on the Holy Isle, for I grieve to say that Columba was a very unchivalrous saint, who guarded the strict and severe sanctity of his isle so jealously that he would not suffer womankind to set foot thereon; nay, forbade even cattle on their account, because, he said, "Where there is a cow there must be a woman, and where there is a woman there must be mischief !" So such tradesmen and labourers as were indispensable to the monastic community, and so had to live on the isle, and yet insisted on having wives, were obliged to keep them on a neighbouring islet, called the Woman's Isle.

Even in death Columba would not suffer feminine dust to rest on this holy ground; nor could even the Lords of the Isles obtain a little space where they might lay their wives and their little ones. Consequently while they themselves were buried in Iona with all due ceremony, these lesser creatures were always taken to the Isle of Finlagan.

After a while, however, the women carried the day. They approached the sacred ground with caution. First a little company of religious women established themselves on an islet in the neighbourhood, called "The Isle of Nuns." Thence, after awhile, mustering courage, they passed on to Iona itself, where the Canoness of St. Augustine established a nunnery, or rather a priory of Austin nuns, in which, doubtless, the fair daughters of the land lived lives to the full as holy as the holy brethren. Their dress was a white robe, over which they wore a rochet of fine linen.

Within their chapel is the tomb of Anna, the last Prioress, dated A.D. 1511, and bearing an inscription in Saxon character.

The ruins of this nunnery are our first object of attraction on landing. Its very plain rounded arches indicate its date as being of about the 12th century, which is also the date of the oldest part of the present Cathedral, or Abbey Church of St. Mary, which, however, was not finished till later. It is a cruciform building, having a square tower about seventy feet high, rising from the point where the transept intersects the nave. From north to south, the transepts measure about seventy feet, while the whole length of the building is about a hundred and fifty feet, but a partition wall, dividing the chancel, destroys any effect of size.

The present roofless ruin is all that remains of the monastic establishment, here planted by the Irish Bishops, who, in the year A.D. 1203, placed Iona under the rile of the Abbot of Derry. Till this date, it was retained by the Fathers of the Culdee Church, who although burnt out and pillaged, over and over again (their monastery being finally destroyed in 1059) yet clung to the possession of the Isle till the Roman Church was built. Then the Culdees finally abandoned the Isle, and the Clugniac monks held it in undisputed possession. It was at this time that thenunnery was here established. About the end of the 15th century, Iona became the seat of the Bishop of the Isles, and the Abbey Church became his centre for ecclesiastical work.

Stormy and troublous times indeed were those during which his predecessors so perseveringly held their ground. Again and again were their homes laid waste, and their lives jeopardized by the incursions of savage Danes and Norsemen. Four times between the years A.D. 795 and 825 was the Isle ravaged and the Monastery burnt by the fierce Norsemen who, in 806, barbarously massacred sixty-eight members of the brotherhood, "The family of Iona." Their martyrdom is commemorated by the name of the peaceful little Bay of Martyrs, and the street leading thence. Only think what a life of continual anxiety was that of the brethren, never knowing whether the strange galleys that approached their shores were those of reverent pilgrims or ruthless pirates. We do not however hear of further massacres, till A.D. 986, when, on Christmas Eve, the savage Norsemen made another descent, murdering the Abbot and fifteen of his monks.

It was after this that Queen Margaret rebuilt the Chapel of St. Oran—a tiny and insignificant-looking place it seems to us, but one to which assuredly some unwonted influence was attached, for we hear how, when a few years later, Magnus Barefoot landed here with his wild hordes, he was the first to enter the chapel, but, awestricken, he started back, and closing the door, commanded that the place and the people should be left undisturbed.

Sad to say, the sacred ground which even barbarians thus reverenced, has been ruthlessly pillaged by modern Goths. Half the houses in the "Baile Mor," the "great town" of Ions, are said to have been built of materials quarried from the ecclesiastical ruins, and many of the beautiful sculptured gravestones, which marked the tombs of abbots and of kings, were plundered and carded off to many a graveyard on other isles, or on the mainland, there to do honour to some humble mortal, unknown to fame. Ere they were scattered, a Mr. Frazier, who visited Ions in A.D. 1688, collected three hundred inscriptions, which he presented to the Earl of Argyle, but these have unfortunately been lost.

Even the altar, which was of white marble, veined with grey, has been carried off, though it was still in its place in 1772, at which period there were also some remains of the Bishop's Palace, which Sacheverell, writing in 1688, describes as "a large hail, open to the roof of a chamber," into which he supposes it must have been necessary to ascend by a ladder. Under this chamber was a buttery, the offices being probably outside, as was customary.

The Abbot's house stood to the westward.

According to the custom of the Culdee Church, both in Scotland and Ireland, Iona was ruled by a Presbyter-Abbot, to whom was committed the entire jurisdiction in the province; the Bishop himself being subject to the Abbot, and retaining little distinctive precedence, except in the celebration of Divine service, and in the exercise of such unquestionably episcopal functions as ordination. In the case of Iona, this system was attributed by Bede to "the example of that first teacher of theirs, who was no Bishop, but a Presbyter and Monk".

The inmates of the monastery were inferior orders of presbyters and deacons, all the monks being ordained clergy, to whom the monastery was but a central clergy-house, whence they went forth, as occasion offered, to preach in the semi-pagan regions round about.

The "Baile Mor" to which I referred just now, consists of a row of about forty-six cottages, forming the "Straide," i.e. the Street, and containing a population of two hundred and forty persons—a little flock, which here, as everywhere in Scotland in these modem days, is divided into the adherents of the Free and the Established Church, each of which is represented by a Church and a pastor. The Free Church minister now lives across the Straits, on the Isle of Mull, having given up his manse to be converted into a simple but cosy little inn, where a true pilgrim (not content to "do" lone and Staffa as hurried incidents in the course of one long day's excursion from Oban) can halt, and spend days of delight in the reverent and leisurely study of its hallowed ground, much of which he would fain traverse on his knees—at least figuratively.

Mere tourists who do the round trip in a day, of course only get about one hour on each isle—just time to run round helter-skelter from point to point, rushing with breathless speed in pursuit of a guide, who rapidly pours forth his concentrated history of each spot eve he hurries on to the next point—a history which they may digest at leisure, when they once more rush on board, feeling surely very much like over-fed turkeys on escaping from the clutches of a merciless crammer.

The velocity of their meal, however, depends a good deal on the season of the year; in other words, on the number of sheep which the steamer may have to carry from isle to isle, to or from their winter pastures; so that perhaps in the height of summer the halt may be somewhat more leisurely. And indeed, I am bound to confess that I felt I had wasted a good deal of compassion on the unhappy tourist flock when I noticed how many of them found time to spend fully half their allotted hour on the Holy Isle in eating and drinking, which they might as well have done on board!

But in any case, such visitors can by no possibility explore anything beyond the actual monastery, whereas to all lovers of old lore, there are places of very great interest in various parts of the island. I earnestly recommend all such, to allow themselves a few days on the Isle, days of such unbroken peace as can rarely be obtained at kindred sites. There is a charm even in the name of the little inn. Fancy being welcomed to St. Columba's Arms! To such as can appreciate the excellence and abundance of dairy produce, the bowls of creamy milk and snowy curds are an attraction in themselves. Such fresh floury scones too, baked by the most motherly of ugh-. land landladies! Who would not be a pilgrim to Ions to share such fare. Nevertheless neither fish, flesh, nor fowl are lacking for such as prefer more varied diet.

The little inn stands within a stone's-throw of the ruins—those once hospitable walls to which all corners were welcomed, but where now only a few sheep browse peacefully, while a colony of jackdaws find shelter in the crannies of the great Cathedral Tower. The Islanders have divers superstitions about these birds, which they would on no account molest. They maintain that since the days of Columba they have claimed a home in his monastery, and that their numbers have never either increased or decreased, but that they are uncanny birds, and know many things.

I confess I was sometimes tempted myself to agree with the latter clause, for there was something strangely weird in the way they guarded the old place, and resented the approach of human footsteps. Again and again I tried the experiment of whether I could not enter the sacred precincts under cover of night without arousing these vigilant birds, but invariably failed. I might wander wherever I pleased outside their domain, though within an easy stone's-throw, bid the moment I stepped within the gate, how noiselessly so ever I entered, the watchful sentinel sounded the alarm.

As I stood motionless in the deep shadow of the tower I could see him going his rounds, to waken the colony, who seemed to be sleepily remonstrating at being thus disturbed, and very much disposed to return to their slumbers, but the instant I ventured to move so much as a hand, the whole body started up with angry, querulous cawing, and after an instant of noisy confusion formed themselves into a close phalanx, a corps of observation, intent on watching every movement of the invader. Thenceforth not a cry was uttered, but in total silence this black cloud of witnesses swept backwards and forwards athwart the dark sky; no sound save that of multitudinous rushing of wings, which, like a blast of wind, one moment came sweeping close above my head, the next seemed to vanish into space, losing itself in the darkness, and anon returning,—at intervals of a couple of minutes —most eerie and ghostlike!

Often I tried to deceive them by moving rapidly along under cover of some dark wall or row of tall columns, but it was quite useless; the dark cloud returned, straight as the flight of an arrow, not to the place where they had left the foe, but direct to the spot where I then stood. This invariably went on as long as I stood within the Cathedral walk The very moment I stepped beyond it, the cawing recommenced, and continued while the black, living cloud, once more settled down on the ruined tower, and composed itself to sleep, not caring how long I might linger in the Reilig Orain, the sacred enclosure round St. Oran's Chapel, where sleep the kings, and saints, and warriors of old.

Very cold and still lay those sculptured effigies, showing as clear in the bright moonlight as at midday, nevertheless gaining from that soft reflected light, something of the mystery and peaceful calm, which is ever lacking in the glare of noon.

One lovely walk in the early summer morning, is up the green hill of Dunii, which though little more than 300 feet in height, is nevertheless the highest point of the island, which thence appears outspread, map-like, before us, while on every side, as far as eye can reach, the sea is dotted with countless islands, changing colour with the varying play of light, as showery cloud or glittering rainbow float over them, transforming cool pearly greys into living opal.

"Dark Ulva's Isle," the distant peaks of Jura, and Inch Kenneth claim our glance by turns, the latter—the Innis-Kenneth—having a special interest, on account of its ecclesiastical ruins: here for many centuries stood a college, dependent on Iona. Beside the altar in its little ruined chapel is a sculptured bas-relief of the Blessed Virgin, and all around are scattered a multitude of graves, on which are carved effigies of knights and ladies.

Facing us, across the narrow strait, rise the great hills of Mull, which, piled up in grand mountain masses, rise from behind the Rosa of Mull—a huge rampart of red granite, contrasting strongly in colour with the clear aquamarine tints of the sea, toned here and there to richest purple by the great beds of brown sea-ware, which lie hidden beneath the water, themselves unseen, yet none the less doing their part in that beautiful picture, and whispering a nature. parable on hidden influences.

A little further, the same sea is blue as the sky which it reflects —nay, bluer by some tones—a fair setting for the Holy Isle, with its long reaches of pure white shell sand, which gleam dazzlingly in the sunlight; and the eye hails the rich green grass and banks of delicious white clover and wild thyme which grows so luxuriantly wherever this white lime sand can find its way, and indeed all over the Machare (as these sandy reaches are called). Looking down from our green hill-top, on this scene of so many historic associations, it needed but a little play of fancy to pass over the intervening twelve centuries and call up visions of that old life, when in place of the solidly-built Cathedral, the ruins of which lie before us, there existed but a few humble cells, clustering round a lowly chapel—a chapel, however, which exerted a mightier and more extended influence than fails to the lot of many of the world's stateliest churches.

As a matter of course, to any one versed in the lore of the past, every corner of this Isle seems haunted bythe spirits of Druids and Cuidees, and the points of special attraction are those to which attaches some dream of olden days.

My favourite evening stroll was a solitary expedition across the moor towards the western side of the Isle, to the wildest rocky valley, where a small circle of stones is still dear to the islanders, as the Cappan Cuildich, or Tabernacle of the Culdees, for here, they say, it was, that the Standard of the Cross was first planted, and that the little band of Christians were wont to assemble in secret, to worship after the new fashion taught them by these strange Missionaries.

The circle was, however, probably of older date still; its avenue of carefully-placed stones seems rather to belong to the buildings we call Druidic, and whether as temple or tomb, was probably associated with the earlier form of worship. The mysterious gloom of this lonely glen seemed well in keeping with both traditions. I generally found my way there just as the closing day left the valley in deep shadow, often made darker still by heavy clouds overhead, which, closing in, carried the eye onward, to where the sea and far away isles lay bathed in lurid sunset light Not a sound was there to break the deep stillness of the hour, save when the shrill cry of the curlew, or the wail of some lonely sea-bird, woke the echoes for one little moment, only to be succeeded by silence more intense.

Returning thence in the deepening twilight, I loved to rest awhile on the green hillock overlooking the old monastery—the Tor Ab, St. Columba's favourite seat,—there to dream awhile of all the changing scenes that have been, as it were, dissolving views, successively taking form for a little season, during the course of ages unnumbered. Soon a golden glow in the eastern sky told that the great yellow moon was about to rise behind the hills of Mull; another moment, and the old Cathedral stood out in deepened shadow against the rippling silver of the intervening straits—those narrow straits, across which the brethren of the monastery used to ferry such pilgrims as had performed the weary journey on foot, across the rugged mountains.

One more point of great interest on the Isle is the Port-naChurraich, or Harbour of the Boat, the spot were St Columba and his brethren are said to have buried the frail corracle of wicker covered with hides, in which they sailed hither,—lest they should ever be tempted to return to their beloved Ireland. Ere taking this final step they climbed the neighbouring hill to ascertain that the Emerald Isle was no longer even in sight; hence the name of that hill is to this day the Cairn-cul-n'-Erin, denoting that henceforth they had turned their backs for ever on Erin's shore.

Wishing to visit this point by water, so as to miss none of the beauty of the many-coloured rocks which lie on the south side of the isle, I chartered a boat intending to row thither, close along the coast The weather hitherto had been so faultless that any immediate change seemed impossible, and the dull grey clouds on the horizon spoke their warning so vainly, that I made no objection when the boatmen proceeded to hoist a sail. Clumsily in truth they did it, yet it was not till we were fairly under way that I realized that their unsteadiness was due to having been over well treated by their friends on board the steamboat, which had called that morning, and in fact that the barley bree had done its work pretty effectually, as was proven by the volubility with which they argued and wrangled in Gaelic—an altercation, in an unknown tongue, being at all times particularly unpleasant to the unwilling ears that have to endure it.

Meanwhile the wind was,,rpidly freshening, and a heavy swell setting in, so that, insteaf of keeping sufficiently near the shore to distinguish its peculiarities, we spent the afternoon in making long and wearisome track8, and by the time we reached our destination the waves had grown so angry that landing at all was a matter of considerable difficulty.

Once ashore, I deemed it more prudent and pleasant to find my way home alone, across the moor, greatly to the dismay of my boatmen, whose chivalry was not so clouded by their potations as to let them be willing to desert their charge in so wild a place. I am sure their minds were greatly relieved when, in the evening, on returning to the Baile Mor (the great town) they found me safe in my usual comfortable quarters, and it certainly was a relief to me to know that they had arrived in safety, which, when I left them, seemed highly problematic.

The spot on which we, like the Celtic fathers, landed, is a small bay, closed in by great rocks of gneiss—certainly not much of a harbour, to judge from the violence with which the great waves sweep in and dash themselves upon the beach—a beach composed wholly of hillocks of shingle, consisting chiefly of green quartz and serpentine, and red felspar, all glittering like jewels when wet with mist and spray; very pretty too look at, but most unpleasant to acramble over.

These pebbles have ever been valued by pilgrims as charms, or at any rate as portable and interesting relics, so the children make occasional expeditions across the Isle, and collect stores of the brightest, which they offer for sale to the steamboat passengers, as memorials of their short hour on Iona. Sometimes large glossy seeds, brought by the Gulf Stream from their birthplace in the tropics, are here washed ashore, and great is the luck that awaits the finder of one of these precious Iona beans.

In the middle of this stony expanse lies one small grassy hillock, just the shape of a boat lying keel uppermost; and, curiously enough, corresponding in size to the measurements of St. Columba's Curragh. This is the place where it is supposed to be buried, and the only spot where (doubtless out of compliment to the Emerald Isle) the grass contrives to grow.

A little further, and far above reach of the highest tide, the shingle is heaped up into innumerable great cairns, said to have been piled, stone by stone, by penitents working on their knees, in expiation of divers crimes. A more painful and wearisome form of treadmill could hardly be devised than that of which these heaps are still the tokens.

Turning away from this dreary scene, for once sympathizing with Montalembert's colourless description of the grey and misty Hebridean sea, and cold inhospitable shores, I made the best of my way across the hills towards the cathedral, guided by the position of the neighbouring islands, the near green hills being nowhere so high as to conceal the sea for long.

The storm was gathering fast, and a cold chilling blast would scarcely suffer me to linger a moment at the Pit-an-druidh, the cairn which marks the burial-place of Columba's predecessors. An old man who "had the English" in addition to his Gaelic mother tongue, told me that he had seen this grave opened by men who doubted the tradition, and that sure enough they had found a great heap of human bones, all of which were reverently replaced. It was well, however, to have found this tangible proof of the actual presence of men, whose shadowy memory has been almost wholly lost in the dim mist of ages. I felt, while standing beside those lonely graves, that there was something strangely in keeping with their desolation, in the wild wailing of the sobbing wind, which seemed to echo the dirge-like moaning of the sullen waves, as if murmuring a solemn requiem for the forgotten dead.

Near this place stands the only cottage still remaining on the Isle, with the old-fashioned fire-place hollowed in the centre of the earthen floor, and with no chimney except a hole in the middle of the roof. Its inmates gave me cordial welcome, my old friend who "had the English" being the gude-man of the house, so be heaped on fresh peat8, and invited me to sit awhile and chat beside the cheery blaze. He pointed out the manifold advantages of a fireplace that allowed of no monopoly, but round which the whole family could always gather, and as to the idea of any extra danger being involved, he could only say he had reared as promising a brood as any father could desire, and no accident had ever befallen his hearth. As to the smoke, they were used to it, and really had little more than their neighbours, whose wide chimneys let in as much cold air as they let out smoke. So you see a central fire has its advantages even in domestic life.

In former days it was convenient in some other respects, to which the good old man did not care to allude Id pagan customs which were faithfully observed for many a century by those who were very good Christians in the main; such as walking solemnly round the fire, or leaping across its flames. One of the most remarkable customs of this class, which was kept up in parts of the Highlands till certainly the beginning of this century, was that of taking a newly baptized child, and handing it across the fire to some person opposite; or else, its father would take the child in his arms and leap across the hearth. This was done thrice, the child being thus made to pass through the flames, in truly Moloch-ian or Baal-istic form. After the ceremony each person present took three spoonfuls of meal and water, or something stronger.

Sometimes the child was placed in a basket, covered with a white cloth, and cheese and oat-cake being placed beside it, the basket was suspended from the crook in the fire-place, which was moved round thrice sun-wise. Moreover, every person entering the house, was required to take up a burning fire-brand from the hearth, and therewith cross himself, before he ventured to approach a new-born child or its mother. It was also customary to carry a burning peat sun-wise round an unbaptized infant and its mother, to protect them from evil spirits.

These customs seem to have formed part of the ceremony to which Pope Gregory alluded, when speaking of Pagan baptism—a ceremony in which both fire and water were employed by the Druids in honour of Neith, their goddess of waters.

When I left the cottage, the darkness was falling fast, but I soon struck a familiar track, and was not sorry once more to find myself safe in the cosy little inn. That night there was no moonlight visit to the jackdaws or to the ghostly kings. Such boats as had put out to sea were hurrying home, and the fishers were preparing for foul weather. All night long the waves roared, and the winds raved and shook the shutterless windows till we were fain to own that the name of Ithona, the Isle of Waves, was as just a description as Ishona, the Blessed Isle, which hitherto we had believed to be the name most suitable to so cairn and peaceful a retreat.

But with the dawn the angry waves were hushed, and the sea that had been churned like yeast gradually subsided, only heaving as though still sullen, till at length, as if exhausted with its own passion, it once more lay still, and calm, and smiling, breaking in tiny ripples on the white sands of the Martyrs' Bay, once reddened with the life-blood of "the family" of Iona.


 Return to Book Index Page

 


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus

Quantcast