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In the Hebrides
Chapter 7


MODERN CHIPS OF THE OLD BLOCKS

"There's something in that ancient superstition
Which, erring as it is, our fancy loves."

Holy Wells in the Hebrides and in the Highlands—Prohibitory Statutes— Wells for the Cure of Insanity—Pilgrim's Rags—Traces of Sun and Fire Worship—Four great Festivals—Beltane—Midsummer in Ireland, Isle of Man, Stonehenge—Hallow-e'en---All Souls—Yule—Christmas-The Burning of the Clavie—Dread of giving or taking Fire—Festivals in the Pyrenees, the Alps, the Baltic, in Paris, in Edinburgh and London— Traces of Moon Worship—An Owl's Question.

I SPOKE just now of the Holy Well of Mairuba or Mourie—Saint or Demon—as one having peculiar interest.

It is, however, only one of many sacred springs, which to this day are held in some sort of superstitious reverence, dimly recalling the days when the people there assembled to worship the Celtic Goddess of Waters.

Various places both on the mainland and in the Hebrides, still bear her name of Neith or Nait; Annat burn and Annat glen in Perthshire; the Tempul-na-Anait in Skye, and the Tabir-na-Annait, or Well of Neith, in the little island of Calligray belonging to Harris, where the worshippers purified themselves before proceeding to the Teampul-na-Annait, close by—the ruins of the old Christian Chapel, retaining the name of the heathen goddess.

Pennant, writing in the last century, says that in the Isle of Skye he found traces of four temples of Anait; one of these was near Dunvegan. In each case they were built at the spot where two rivers met, a stone wall extending from stream to stream, so as to form with the two waters a triangle, in the centre of which stood the ruins of the temple.

One far-famed fountain lies at the foot of the great rock-mountain of Quiraing, where, sheltered by. the greenest of grassy hills, are the clear crystalline springs of Loch Shiant, whose bright waters gleam over a bed of pure sand, and are still considered a specific for all manner of diseases. Pilgrimages are still sometimes made here, and the usual turn sunwise must be made thrice before drinking, after which some small offering is laid down for the guardian spirit of the well. Formerly, though the rivulet and the loch were alike full of fish, no one would presume to touch them; they were, in fact, esteemed as sacred as those holy fishes which fatten in the tanks of Himalayan temples, and which rise mockingly to stare at hungry travellers.

Close by the loch there still remains some low brushwood, marking where formerly a copse of larger bushes flourished, which, even a hundred years ago, were held in such reverence that no one might venture to break a twig from their branches. This probably was the latest trace of the tree-worship once commonly practised in these isles.

It is somewhat singular that this phase of idolatry should have died out so wholly in all Christianized countries, while water, fire, and stones retained so strong a hold on the reverence of the people. Vainly did the Council at Aries, in A.D. 452, decree that "if in any diocese any infidel either lighted torches or wor8/Lq)ped trees, fountains, or stones, he should be found guilty of sacrilege." Vainly did divers other Councils again and again repeat the same warning, especially forbidding the lighting of torches and offering candles and other gifts to these three sacred powers. Vainly, too, did King Edgar and Canute the Great forbid the barbarous adoration of the sun and noon, fire and fountains, stones, and all kinds of trees and wood; still the people clung with tenacity to all their varied forms of paganism, except the worship of trees, which seems gradually to have been forgotten, or only remembered in Germany, whence we have borrowed the Yule custom of illuminating a fir-tree with offerings of candles.

Gregory of Tours, writing in the sixth century, shows that woods, waters, birds, and beasts, were still commonly worshipped. Pope Gregory III., in 740, prohibited the Germans from offering sacrifices and consulting augories beside the fountains in sacred groves. And so late as A.D. 1102, St. Anseim issued commands in London, forbidding well-worship.

In Ireland the difficulty was solved by dedicating the wells to saints, whose votaries still deposit a rag or a pin, to represent the more precious offerings of olden days. But it is strange indeed to find the very same custom still lingering in this land of sturdy common sense, and to find that divers wells and lochs are still supposed to have miraculous powers of healing.

For instance, there is a loch in Strath Naver in Sutherland, to which people constantly resort for all manner of cures. They must walk backwards into the water, take their dip, and leave a small coin as an offering. Then without looking round they must walk straight back to the land, and so, right away from the loch.

St. Ronan's Well, near the Butt of Lewis, is one to which lunatics are occasionally brought from many parts of the northwestern Highlands. Very near to it is a small ruin, evidently of very great antiquity, which is Christianized as the Temple of St. Molochus, or Mulvay, or Molonah, but which the people often call simply the Teainpull-mor, i. e. " The Great Temple" (a title which, considering its size, could only have referred to its sanctity). Patients are required to walk seven times round the temple. Then they are sprinkled with water brought from St. Ronan's Well in a stone cup, which is in the hereditary care of a family whose ancestor was "clerk of the temple."

After the sprinkling the sufferer is bound, and laid for the night on the site of the ancient altar. Should he sleep, it is a sure earnest of his recovery; but should he be wakeful, then further effort is considered useless.

In a churchyard on Loch Torridon there is a well whore, for centuries, three 81oneR have been perpetually whirling round and round. All manner of illnesses have been cured by carrying one of these stones in a bucket of water to the patient, who touched the stone, after which it was carried back to its usual place, and began whirling as usual. But one day, a foolish woman carried home one of them in her bucket to heal a sick goat, and when it was put back, it would no longer whirl, but sank to the bottom of the well, where it has lain quietly ever since.

All these well-stories seem to prove the spirits terribly prone to take offence. I told you how St. Mairuba's well lost all healing virtue, since the day when a mad dog was dipped into it. Another spring which was held in especial reverence was the Tonbir Knabir in Islay, literally the locomotive well, 80 called because it was originally in Isle Colonsay; but one day a rash woman was guilty of washing her hands in it, whereupon it instantly dried up, and transported its waters to Islay, whence it was henceforth honoured with Deieul processions, and small offerings were made to its tutelary spirit.

At Broadford in Skye there is a well in the churchyard, near to • which used to hang a bell, that rang supernaturally about once a week. No human bell-ringer had any hand in producing the wild chimes that rang out so loud and clear that they could be heard for miles, giving warning to all the sick folk to come to the healing waters and be made whole. But a new power at last interfered (minister or steward), and the bell was removed, since which time the virtue of the well is gone, and the people are left to the tender mercies of a human leech.

St. Catherine's well and chapel in the Isle of Eigg were also treated with much reverence. So was that at Sleat in the Isle of Skye.

One loch in Ross-shire is still said to cure deafness, and the neighbours told me of one man who bad undoubtedly recovered his hearing by judicious adherence to the letter of the law; thrice he had walked backwards into the water, and thrice returned to land without looking round. Their admiration of the cure was some. what damped by the fact of the man's death within a year. The well at Craig-Howe in Ross-shire also cures deafness, and receives large stores of clouts, pins, and coins.

In the parish of Avock, in the Black Isles (facing Inverness), is a well called Craiguck, or Craigie Well, probably from the dark crag rising behind it. On the first Sunday in May (old style) all the people from far and near gather here at daybreak—a regular hearty Highland gathering—as merry as a fair, all exchanging kindly greetings and good wishes for the health of the coming year, in good broad Scotch, in Gaelic, or in such pure English as we rarely hear from the poor in any part of Britain, save here, where it is an acquired tongue. The health, of course, is to be secured by a draught of the lucky welL But they must get their drink before the sun rises. Once he climbs the horizon the spell is broken, so, as the last moments draw near, the eager pressing forward for a taste amounts to a downright scramble.

A strange; whose curiosity induced him to go forth betimes and witness this curious scene, tells how "some drank out of dishes, some stooped on their knees to drink, the latter being occasionally plunged over head and ears by their companions." As the first rays of the sun appeared a man was seen coming down the brae in great haste. He was recognized as "Jock Forsyth," a very honest and pious, but eccentric individual. Scores of voices shouted, "You are too late, Jock. The sun is rising. Surely you have slept in this morning."

The new-corner, a middle-aged man, perspiring profusely, and out of breath, nevertheless pressed through the crowd and never stopped till he reached the well. Then, muttering a few inaudible words, he stooped on his knees and took a large draught. Then he rose and said, "O Lord, Thou knowest that weel would it be for ma this day, an' I had stoopit my knees and my heart before Thee in spirit and in truth, as often as I have stoopit them afore this well. But we mann keep the customs of our fathers." So he stepped aside among the rest and dedicated his offering to the briar bush, which by this time could hardly be seen through the number of shreds which covered it.

For part of the ceremony is that each corner must bang a shred of cloth on a large briar bush, which grows close by the well, as an offering to the healing and luck-conferring waters, forcibly reminding the beholder of those holy wells and bushes in the Emerald Isle, were many coloured rags flutter in the breeze; poor Paddy's votive offerings to the blessed St. Somebody on behalf of sick parent or child.

Strange, is it not, that this custom should be so widely spread We find it at Constantinople, where each pilgrim ties a shred torn from his own raiment to the carved windows of saintly tombs; and it is religiously observed by the Mohammedan pilgrims visiting the Mosque of Omar at Jerusalem, beneath the great dome of which lies that huge rock whence Mohammed ascended to heaven, supposed to be the identical rock whereon Abraham did not sacrifice Isaac. This rock is surrounded by a great iron railing, adorned with thousands of rags, tied up by the pilgrims as reminders to the Prophet. Indeed, strips of old cloth seem to be a recognized medium of communication with the spirit-world in all corners of the globe, for in our Eastern wanderings we found many a gaily- decorated shrub in the lonely Himalayan glens and passes, which, in the distance, seemed to be loaded with blossoms, but which on closer approach proved to be laden with bright morsels of rag, the simple offerings of the Hill-men to the spirit of some tree or well.

In Ceylon also, where we spent a lovely moonlight night on the summit of Adam's Peak, the "Holy Mount "of Buddhists, Sivaites, and Mohammedans, we noted the multitude of rags tied to the iron chains which prevent the roof of the temple, covering the holy footprint, from being blown away. The poor pilgrims believe that a shied of their raiment, thus offered, will surely prevent Buddha from forgetting them and their vows. On these superstitious customs in far-away lands we look with calm indifference, but to find the very same practice still lingering among our sturdy Ross- shire Highlanders, is certainly somewhat startling!

Similar customs are still kept up at St. Mary's Well, in the birch wood above the house of Culloden, two miles from Inverness, where, on this same morning (first Sunday in May, old style), several hundred people assemble from far and near, to wish for their heart's desire, drink solemnly, and hang up a rag on the bushes before sunrise, as being a most efficacious hour, though they continue coming as long as the dew lies on the grass, which it often does all day. Formerly a chapel stood close by, but its ruins have now disappeared.

There were certain wells from which water was carried to the sick. It was necessary that it should be drawn before sunrise, that the bearer should not speak on his way to or from the well, neither open his lips till the sick man had drunk the life-giving potion. Nor might the water-vessel be allowed to touch the ground. There were also peculiar virtues belonging to water drawn from under a bridge "over which the living walked and the dead were carried." Especial virtue was attached to south-running water.

One condition of success in all these charms was that there should be no looking backward, a point strongly insisted on by all wizards, in all lands.

All lads and lasses who, on Hallow-e'en, peer into the looking- glass for visions of the future, know well that they must not dare to glance backward, lest they should see more than they ought.

One curious legend of my own dear old home, tells how Sir Robert Gordon of Gordonstown, who was well known to have dealings with the powers of darkness, chose one morning to drive his coach and four across Loch Spynie, after a single night's frost. He bade his servant to sit steady, and on no account look back. The man obeyed, till just as they reached the further side, be could not resist "a glower ower his left shoulder," and as he turned, he beheld a large black raven fly from the back of the carriage, which at the same instant sank into the mud, so near the edge, however, that the good steeds managed to extricate it without further aid from the spirit world.

These sacred wells seem to have been reverenced all over the country, and every now and then the records of the kirk 'sessions tell of dome luckless wight having been subjected to discipline for heathenish practices as an example to all other offenders, without, however, producing the desired effect.

Among the various efforts made to check the Well-Worship in the seventeenth century was an order from the Privy Council, appointing Commissioners "to wait at Christ's well in Menteith on the first of May, and to seize all who might assemble at the spring, and imprison them in Doune Castle.

These "superstitious mud-earth-wells of Menteith" are described by Anderson, Dr. of Physicke, Edinburgh, A.D. 1618, as "all tapestried about with old rags, as certaine signes and sacraments wherewith they arle the divell with ane aris-pennie of their health; so suttle is that false knave, making them believe it is only the virtue of the water, and no thing els. Such people cannot say with David 'The Lord is my Helper,' but the Devil."

Great efforts were then made to extinguish heathenism of all sorts, necromancies, and spells with trees and with stones.

Nevertheless, as we have seen, the old superstition still lingers in certain districts. At Glass, in Banffshire, the Wallace Well and the Corsmall Well still receive pins, buttons, rags, and coins from sick folk, who hope thereby to be cured of their diseases. So does St. Mungo's Well in Huntly, where the people assemble on the first of May, and carry away bottles of its water as a charm against the fairies, who are supposed to hold their revels at the Elfin Croft hard by. I thought of this custom while watching the pilgrims near the source of the Ganges sealing up bottles of the precious water, which they carry with them to their far-distant homes, therewith to anoint their most cherished idols.

Another favourite well has always been that of St. Cecilia, near Netherdale in Aberdeenshire: some strong enforcements of the law of trespass have, however, recently checked the meetings here. The same law did its beat to check the gatherings at the old well at Hopeman in Morayshire, but the sturdy fishers there do not understand such interference with their ancient customs, so they are now left undisturbed.

St. Fergon's Well, near Inverlochy, is another which is said to possess divers virtues, and continues to be a favourite place of resort—the general offering to its spirit being a crooked pin, or, on rare occasions, "a bawbee."

The well at Metherciunie, near Duiftown, is a great gathering- point on May morning, when the usual offerings of pius, &c. are made. The well of Montblairie, also in Banffshire, is equally sacred; so is St. Colman's Well, in the parish of Kiltearn, in Ross- shire, and that of Culbokie, also in Ross-shire.

But perhaps the most popular of all is the Greuze Well, near Dunkeld, which is still frequented by people from all parts of the country, who bring their sick children, that, having tasted the mystic waters, they may be healed. The offerings here are of a very superior sort, as silver coin is occasionally thrown in instead of the more frequent pins and pence; and rags and scraps of the sick folk's clothes are left hanging on the heathery tufts, as a reminder to the spirit of the Greuze. Such offerings are especially common on behalf of idiot children.

St. Mary's Well at Orton, on Spey-side, still continues to attract crowds on certain days, chiefly of young folk, who here hold their tryst—lads and lasses who count on a day's sweethearting and merry-making; but for more serious purposes, such as quest of health, it seems to have somewhat lost favour lately, though it is not long since we noticed a girl hiding the cap of a sick baby under a stone, as though shrinking from observation.

In Badenoch, however, there is no such shame. There are wells for heart-ache and wells for tooth-ache, and one well that is bottomless, for when careless hands drop their pails therein they can never be recovered.

St. Fillan's Well, in Perthshire, has been held sacred from time immemorial, though the name it bears dates only from the days of that sainted abbot of Strath-Filan, to whose pious intervention Bruce was said to owe the victory of Bannockburn. The King's chaplain had been commanded (so says Boethius) to bring to the field of battle the sacred arm of the saint; but the wily priest, fearing the loss of the relic, brought only its silver shrine. Yet when the King invoked the holy saint, the shrine opened of its own accord, revealing the precious limb laid safely therein; and the soldiers beholding this token of the favour of heaven, fought as those already assured of victory.

St. Fillan's Well was long believed to cure insanity, and the luckless sufferers received very rough handling to effect this, being thrown from a high rock down into the well, and then locked up for the night in the ruined chapel. On "the witch-elm that shades St. Filan's spring" were hung the gay rags and scraps of ribbon wherein the saint was supposed to find delight. An average of two hundred patients were annually brought to this well.

Precisely similar was the belief of the Welsh in the waters of Llandegla for the cure of both epilepsy and insanity. Ther luckless patient was led thrice sunwise round the Holy Well, where be was to wash himself and cast in an offering. He was then to carry a cock thrice sunwise round the well, and thrice round the church, and was then bound for the night and left lying beneath the Communion Table, with his head resting on the Bible—a curious blending of "the Table of the Lord" with the service of devils. If the patient was a woman, a hen was substituted for the cock. In either case the, victim was imprisoned with the patient, that into it the demon of insanity might pass. In the morning the patient made an offering of money, and departed, leaving the fowl as his substitute.

A very important feature in the ceremonial at St. Filan's, Struthill, and other wells where lunatics were cured, is, that after their bath in the holy fountain and their sunwise procession, they were tied to a pillar, supposed to be far more ancient than the Christian church wherein it stood. Just such a pillar, in the ruined city of Anarajapoora, in Ceylon, is said to be possessed of precisely similar virtues, and though the natives call it an old Buddhist monument, it is probably a relic of a much earlier superstition.

Then, too, the legend which tells how Gautama Buddha first realized his having attained perfection, by finding that a dish, which he placed on the water, would float miraculously against the current of the stream, is much the same notion as we find connected with various holy wells; such as the Well of Shadar, in Isle Bernera, whereon a wooden bowl was set floating as a means of discovering whether a sick person would or would not rally. Should the dish turn deisul, all would be well, but if widderskin, then doom was sealed.

St. Andrew's Well, in the Isle of Lewis, was also consulted as an oracle when any one was dangerously ill. A wooden tub full of this water was brought to the sick man's room, and a small dish was set floating on the surface of the water; if it turned sunwise it was supposed that the patient would recover, otherwise he must die.

Of equal, if not greater, interest than these survivals of the old Well-Worship, are those which point to the Worship of Fire and of the Heavenly Bodies—antiquarian chips for which we must seek warily, and chiefly amongst the unlettered poor, who walk after the traditions of their fathers, without any wish to seek out new inventions.

We have not to search far for the first indication, inasmuch as the Highlanders still call the year Bheil-aine, i. e. "the circle of Eel, or the Sun."

Of course, in seeking for traces of the old Fire-Worship, we are most likely to find them on those days when the great Fire Festivals were celebrated. Of these, the four principal were held on the eve of May-day or Spring; on Midsummer's eve; on Hallow-e'en, the Autumn festival; and at Yule, the mid-winter feast.

It is from the great Spring Festival that we still retain our poetical name for the eve of May-day, Beltane or Boil-teine, which means Baal's fire, a name familiar to every Highlander, and still commonly used in Ireland.

So late as the beginning of the present century, it was customary in some remote corners of the Highlands, especially in Stirlingshire and Perthshire, for the young folk to meet on the moors on the 1st of May, and after cutting a "round table" in the green sod by digging such a trench round it as to allow of their sitting in a great circle, to kindle a fire in the middle, and cook a mess of eggs and milk, which all shared. Then they baked oat-cakes, a bit for each person present, and one bit was burnt black.

These cakes were shuffled in a man's bonnet, and each person, blindfold, drew one. Whoever got the black bit had to leap three times through the flames. The original meaning of which was that he became a sacrifice to Baal, and, doubtless, in old days was actually offered up; the object being to secure the favour of the Sun-god, and consequently a good harvest. I have been told by several persons that they have found traces of these Beltane circles in quite recent years, so probably the practice is not yet extinct.

I am told that in some parts of Perthshire it is still the custom for the cow-herd of the village to go his rounds on May morning collecting fresh eggs and meal, and then to lead the way to some hill-top, where a hole is dug and a fire lighted therein; then lots are cast, and he on whom the lot falls, must leap seven times over the fire, while the young folk dance round in a circle. Then they cook their eggs and cakes, and all "sit down to eat and drink and rise up to play."

The circular trench was of course only another form of the same symbolism as the Druidic stone circles, within which the fires of Baal were continually kept burning. A curious proof of this is the fact, recorded by the late Lady Baird, of Ferntower, in Perthshire, that every year at Beltane a number of men and women assembled at an ancient circle of stones on her property near Crieff, and, having lighted a fire in the centre, as their forefathers had been accustomed to do from time immemorial, proceeded to draw lots for the burnt oat-cake, as described above, he who drew it having straightway to leap through the flames. A strangely unmeaning ceremony if, as some learned men would have us believe, these circles are merely sepulchral, but very suggestive indeed if we are content to accept the traditions of our fathers, of their having been the temples on whose altars unhallowed fire was wont to burn.

In some districts the shepherds varied the Beltane festival. They cut the circular trench and kindled a fire like their neighbours, and after marching thrice deas-sol round the fire, they sat in a great circle and shared the mess of eggs, milk, and oat-meal, pouring out part thereof as a libation to the spirits. This done, they each took pieces of oat-cake, specially prepared for the occasion, each cake having upon it nine raised knobs of mystic meaning. This they cast into the fire, dedicating it to the Eagle, the Hoodie Crow, the Glad, the Weasel, the Fox, the Brook, and all other baneful creatures, who were thus bribed to spare the flocks. This custom was commonly observed up to the middle of last century, even in civilized Morayshire. When all the eggs were roasted and all the cakes baked, the surplus was carried home, and every man gathered certain herbs, which he tied to his staff, and fastened bunches of the same above his cow-byre to preserve his cattle from all disease until the following May-day.

Every cow-herd was bound to wear a sprig of rowan (mountain ash), to keep off the warlocks from his charge, and no cow-byre was accounted safe which was not provided with cross-twigs of rowan tied with red thread.

At Beltane, rowan-twigs were carried thrice sunwise round the bonfires, then carried home, and placed in every house to ward off all evil in the coming year. On the same day the farmers of Strathspey and Inverness were wont to make a twisted hoop of rowan, and cause each sheep and lamb to pass through it, till the whole flock had thus been secured from harm.

Every cow-herd having a due regard to the safety of his cattle would certainly drive his beasts with a rowan stick. In Forfar- shire we know of certain byres where, if even the rowan tree and red thread have failed to keep away disease, the cow-herd invariably places a burning peat on the threshold of the byre, and makes the sick beasts walk over it, as a sure and infallible cure; while in Islay the custom 18 on May morning to smear the ears of the cattle with tar to keep off the warlocks.

One very ancient custom for the good of the cattle was to take a sod from the roof of the byre, and a burning peat, and plunge both in a pail of strong ale,—a drink which was made from the young tops of heather, with a certain proportion of malt; it seems to have been the favourite brew of the ancient Picts, but the art of preparing it is now lost.

I am told that to see a really characteristic celebration of Beltane we should go to the Isle of Man, where the month of May is still called Boabdyn, or Basi's fire, and where the custom of bonfires on the eve of May-day is kept up to such an extent "as to give the appearance of a general conflagration, whilst the inhabitants blow horns and hold a kind of jubilee." Until very recently the Manx used to light two fires near together, and cause their cattle to pass between them, as a protection against murrain. The origin of these fires was of course in honour of Baal.

The same custom prevailed in Ireland up to the tenth century, where May-day is still called La Bealtine, or Latba, which in Celtic means day; and is to be traced in many parts of Germany and Holland, where the Beltane fire festivals are still fully observed.

The next great Fire Festival was on what we now call the eve of St. John, or Midsummer's Eve, when the Sun had run half his course.

In Scotland, the Midsummer's Eve Festival was observed till very recent times. It was customary to kindle great bonfires near the corn-fields, and then make the deisul round the fields, with burning torches, to secure a blessing on the crops. Shaw mentions having frequently seen this done both in Moray and in the Lowlands in the middle of the last century. In Cornwall also the feast was, till quite lately, celebrated in various villages, and in all probability is still kept up. Great bonfires blazed, and torchlight processions marched sunwise round the fires and round the village.

In Ireland too this night was long considered an occasion for rejoicing; and so late as 1795 a gentleman writes from Dublin to one of the magazines, describing "the lighting of the fires at midnight in honour of the sun; the clamours, and other ceremonies, such as strewing the streets with divers herbs."

Charlotte Elizabeth, describing the huge bonfires in Ireland, and the scenes she herself witnessed, tells how the people all danced everlasting jigs to the music of the pipes. This lasted some hours. Then, when the fire burnt low, every one present passed through the fire, and children were thrown across the glowing embers. Lord John Scott, speaking of the same festival, says he has seen parents force unwilling children to pass through these purifying Baal fire's.

The custom of passing children and cattle through the fire was one of the rites which was longest in force in these isles. Even in the early part of this century, it was, as we have already noticed, the constant practice ett these festivals, both in the Highlands and in Ireland, for fathers to take their children in their arms and leap thrice through the flames. The cattle were driven between two fires kindled near together. It was also the custom to make criminals stand between two fires, to expiate their sins, or else walk barefoot thrice over the burning ashes of a earn-fire. Hence the Gaelic description of a man in dire extremity, that he was "Edir da theme Bheil," that is, between two fires of Baal.

Perhaps the most interesting trace that still remains to us of this Midsummer homage to the Sun is a custom which, for ages unknown, has been observed at Stonehenge, and which acquires double importance in these days, when this, and all kindred buildings, are set down as being either merely sepulchral, or else memorials of old battles. Mr. William Beck writes, that every year, on 21st June, a number of people assemble on Salisbury Plain at 3 a.m., in the chill of early dawn, and make for the circles of Stonehenge, from the centre of which, looking north-east, a block of stone, set at some distance from the ruin, is so seen that its top coincides with the line of the horizon, and if no mist prevail, the Sun, as it rises on this, the longest day of the year, will be seen coming up exactly over the centre of the stone, known from this circumstance as the Pointer.

Mr. Beck has himself repeatedly witnessed this interesting proof of the solar arrangement of the circles of Stonehenge; has watched the Sun thus come up over the Pointer, and strike its first ray, through the central entrance, to the on-called altar-stone of the ruin. He points out how this same huge stone is set at such an angle that at noon it marks the shadow like the gnomon of a sun-dial.

The great Autumn Fire Festival seems to have occurred on the 1st November, when all fires were extinguished, save those of the Druids, from whose altars only, the holy fire must be purchased by all householders, for a certain price.

The festival is still known in Ireland as Samhein or La Samon, i.e. the Feast of the Sun; and on the eve of the 1st of November all manner of old games and customs are still observed just as fully as in Scotland, where, however, though All Saints' Day is a thing forgotten, the heathen festival has assumed the name of Hallow-e'en.

Of the countless varieties of Hallow-e'en games, it would be superfluous to write, as they are so well known. Only it is curious to notice that they all retain some trace of old practices of divination.

First, the mystic apple comes into' play - the apple that so often appears in Celtic fairy lore. These swim in water, and each person in turn must catch one in his mouth. The apple when caught must be carefully peeled, and the long strip of peel passed thrice, sunwise, round the head, and thrown over the shoulder, when it will fall in the form of the true love's initial-letter.

Then, advancing to a mirror, without looking back, a face will presently be therein reflected, looking over the shoulder, and it needs good nerve to resist looking round, which is always strictly prohibited in every form of superstition. This too is a relic of that form of divination with mirrors which was condemned as sorcery by the popes of old. Hence we find hand-mirrors among the emblems sculptured on the stones of Pagan Scotland.

Numerous are the other Hallow-e'en games, but all have something of the same character. The majority involve going out alone on some errand—to pull a cabbage-stalk, or walk sunwise round the peat-stack. it is supposed that some one will appear in the form of the future lover. Not a word must be spoken, either going or coming.

Formerly, every farm over the length and breadth of the land had its Hallow-e'en bonfire, which was often surrounded by a circular trench, symbolical of the sun.

These fires are in many districts nearly burnt out, but it is not many years since Sheriff Barclay says he could count thirty fires, blazing on the hill-tops between Dunkeld and Abergeldy, and could discern the weird figures of the people dancing round them, while the faint echoes of their choruses gave a still more unearthly feeling to the midnight.

In the neighbourhood of Crieff, also in Perthshire, the bale-fires, as the people call them, still blaze as brightly as ever, as we have had full opportunity of observing in the course of long twilight drives, when it seemed as if every cottage we passed had its little bonfire for the children; while later in the evening, larger fires were lighted by their elders, and kept up till midnight. We saw groups of dark figures dancing round the fires; the principal refreshment consisting of milk, thickened with oatmeal. Here, as in the northern counties, especially in Banff and Aberdeenshire, all rejoicings are deferred till the 11th November; that is Hallow-e'en old style.

Sometimes, when the bonfire begins to burn low, a circle of stones is placed round it; one to represent each P8Ofl pre8ent.1 Should any stone be moved before morning, it is a token of evil to tbt person. He is said to be feu, and 1118 death within the year is considered probable.

The night of the 1st of November, Christianized as the Eve of All Souls, was especially sacred to Samhein, who merely represented the sun in another character. It was a night for special intercession by the living for the souls of those who had died in the preceding year. For the office of Samhein was to judge these souls, and either award them their place of reward or of punishment. He was also called Bal Sab, or the Lord of Death. At this harvest festival he only needed offerings of the fruits of the earth; and his name, Samhein or Samtheine, denotes peace-fire. It is probable that Saint Samthena, whose day is still marked in the Romish calendar, was in some way connected with this festival.

On the 25th December, when the shortest day was past, the great winter festival called Yule was celebrated, to mark the turn of the year—the sun's new birth. It was a day of solemn worship and a night of feasting. Fires blazed on every hill, which were rekindled on the twelfth night subsequent to Yule. Sacred plants were cut—more especially the ivy and mistletoe.

On Yule morning, offerings of oatmeal and of various grains were made to Hulda, the Divine Mother, to induce her to send abundant crops; and the people feasted together. Hence the bowls of furmety or sowans, alias sour gruel, which in our child. hood we always shared in the early Christmas morning. Hence too the custom of all the lads and lasses going from farm to farm, each carrying their own bowl and spoon, to share the brew of each gude-wife.

Probably it was also in her honour that those curious "Yule doughs" originated, still common in the north of England, where many a time we have assisted at the manufacture and baking of wonderful dolls, adorned with currants. Dolls masculine and dolls feminine, to be duly distributed as sweethearts to every lad and lass in the house—and many such have we received from village friends.

From the day answering to this 25th December, the ancient Hindus also reckoned the beginning of their new year, distinguish in, the day as "the morning of the gods." How the seasons of their year were made to balance, is a standing mystery; for we know that, like the Druids of the West, they reckoned by lunar years of 360 days.

On this night the Persians from time immemorial celebrated the birth of their god, Mithra, the sun, whom they also worshipped under the name Tseur, or Saviour, because of his saving them from the empire of Ahriman, the power of darkness.

Amongst other games peculiar to this day, both among Persians and Arabs, is one known as the game of the Beardless Rider, when men, hideously disguised and painted, ride through the city on asses, playing all manner of whimsical pranks, and going from door to door, followed by an admiring multitude, to solicit small gifts. The custorn answers precisely to that of "guizarding," still practised in various parts of Scotland, and known in England as mumming and morris dancing.

Not alone in Persia was this day held in honour. In ancient Babylon it was sacred to Rhea and Nm, the latter being the child of the sun, born of a human mother.

It is said that in Etruria, Gaul, and even Britain, a similar form of worship was observed on this birthnight, and that the goddess of the year was represented as nursing the infant god of day.

When the earlier teachers of Christianity found themselves unable to abolish times and ceremonies so widely observed, and with so great a hold on the faith, of the people, it seems to have been judged expedient to engraft the great Christian festival on that already established, without too rigid an attempt to alter external customs.

There is no doubt that this day first began to be observed as that of our LORD'S nativity, about the middle of the fourth century, under the Roman Bishop Liberius, and was not adopted by the Eastern Church till somewhat later. St. Chrysostom, in preaching at Antioch A.D. 386, speaks of it as .having been first observed in that city about ten years previously. Had the feast been of certain date, it would be very strange that the city in which the disciples first received the name of Christians, should have been so tardy in making it a day of annual rejoicing. St. Augustine also admits that the observance of this feast, now so dear to every Christian heart, was neither sanctioned by any great council nor derived from apostolic usage. In fact it was never mentioned by any of the auto-Nicene Fathers, even while enumerating the other festivals of the Church.

It does seem strange, indeed, that the early Christians should have retained no definite tradition of the exact date of the Nativity. Indeed there is the greatest possible doubt when any feast commemorating it, was instituted. Some believe it to be traceable to the first century, but the first certain information we have respecting it, was its being sanctioned as a Church Festival by Pope Telesphorus about A.D. 137. We next hear of it in the persecutions under Diocletian, who burnt a church full of Christians while they were celebrating this feast.

But though the observance of a birthday festival gradually spread, every branch of the Christian Church selected whatever day seemed best in its own eyes, and such was the diversity of opinion on this subject, that we are told that no less than one hundred and thirty-six different days in the year have been fixed on for Christmas-day by various Chri8tian sects and learned men.

They have been summed up as follows: "The Egyptian Christians said the right season was in January. Wagenseil thought February or August, but inclined to the latter. Bochart was for March. Some, mentioned by Clemens Alexandrinus, placed it in April, and others in May. Epiphanius mentions two sects, one fixing it in June, the other in July. Lightfoot says September 15th. Scaliger, Casaubon, and Calvisius are for October. Several others put it in November. The Latin Church decided on December 25th, which is the day now universally recognized by Christendom. This was decreed by Pope Julius L A.D. 337, and he fixed it on the same day that the ancient Romans celebrated the feast of their goddess Bruma, a festival much observed by the heathen in the winter solstice."

It would, however, appear as if December could lay even less claim to this honour than most of the other months suggested, inasmuch as the rainy season in Judea being then at its height, the shepherds would probably betake them to their homes rather than watch all night in the open fields. Nevertheless, in the absence of a certain date, the selection of one particular day was a mere matter of expediency.

Neander and others, writing on this subject, observe that precisely at this season of the year, a series of heathen festivals occurred, so closely interwoven with the whole civil and social life, that it was impossible to wean the people from them. First came the Saturnalia, the maddest, merriest day of the year. Then the custom of making presents (the Stren), followed by the festival of infants, when the little ones received gifts of images. Next the birthday of the New Sun. Therefore it was advisable to draw the Christians away from sharing in the revelries of their Pagan neighbours, by substituting some legitimate cause of rejoicing, and what more natural than the birth of CHRIST, the Spiritual Sun appearing to dispel the powers of darkness and to be Himself the Light of the world.

A feast so reasonable found ready acceptance, though it was long ere the churches agreed on which day it should be celebrated; those of the East still preferring to observe it on the 6th January, which had there already, been adopted as the Feast of the Epiphany. It was not till the sixth century that anything like unanimity prevailed on the subject, between the Eastern and Western Churches, and that all acknowledged the wisdom of substituting a series of Christian feast-days, for those heathen merry-makings which the converts were called on to abjure.

Nevertheless the universal feasting was still liable to abuse, and too often degenerated into mere revelry and drunkenness; puppet shows and miracle plays were devised to replace the idol worship of the temples, and pagan superstition and excess still continued to reign under a new and more sacred name.

Yule having thus been deposed in favour of Christmas, it followed as a matter of course, that the Midsummer Festival, just sus months earlier, must represent the nativity of St. John the Baptist. Thus two of the principal Pagan festivals were at once utilized, and the bonfires, the exchange of gifts, the cutting of evergreens, and the feasting, were endowed with new meaning, and so continue to this day; though the wild rejoicings of Yule have resolved themselves into more sober Christmas mirth.

The mistletoe of the Druids, and the Yule-log which once blazed in honour of Odin and Thor, still hold their honoured place, and until very recent times, the charred remains of the log of one year were preserved carefully until the following Yule, when they served to light the new log; their presence in the house being a safeguard against fire. A monstrous candle called the Yule candle was also lighted, and was expected to burn for twelve nights.

There is a further division of the winter festivals, by the partial adoption of New Style in reckoning. Thus just as one half of the people keep Hallow-e'en on the last night of October, and the others observe the 11th of November, so with the New Year. This is especially remarkable on the Inverness and Ross-shire coasts, which face one another, on either side of the Beauly Firth. Long before sunrise on the first of January, the Inverness hills are crowned with bonfires, and when they burn low, the lads and lassies dance round them, and trample out the dying embers. The opposite coast shows no such fires till the morning of the New Year, Old Style, when it likewise awakens before daybreak to greet the rising sun.
One very curious old custom is still observed in our good town of Burghead (on the Moray Firth). It is called The Burning of the Clavie. Its meaning and its origin are alike unknown—but from time immemorial the fisher folk and seamen have, on this Yule night, reckoned according to Old Style, assembled at the west side of the town, carrying an old tar-barrel and other combustible materials. This barrel being sawn' in two, the lower half is nailed into a long spoke of firewood, which acts as a handle. This nail must not be struck by a hammer, but is driven in with a stone.

The half-barrel is next filled with dry wood, saturated with tar, and built up like a pyramid, leaving only a hollow to receive a burning peat, for no modern lucifer match may be applied, and a final libation of tar completes the Clavie, which is shouldered by one of the lads, quits regardless of the streams of boiling tar which of course trickle all down his back; should he stumble or fall, the omen would be held unlucky indeed, both to the town and to himself. When weary of his burden, a second is ready to fill the honoured post, and then a third and a fourth, till the C]avie has made the circuit of the town, when it is carried to a hillock, called the Doorie, where a hollowed stone receives the fir spoke. Fresh fuel is added, and in olden days, the blaze continued all night, and at last was allowed to burn itself out untouched.

Now, after a short interval, the CIavie is thrown down the western side of the hill, and a desperate scramble ensues for the burning brands, the possession of which is accounted to bring good luck, and the embers are carried home, and carefully preserved till the following year, as a safeguard against all manner of evil. In bygone times it was thought necessary that one man should carry it right round the town, so the strongest was selected to bear this weighty honour.

Moreover, it was customary to carry the Clavie round every ship in the harbour, a part of the ceremony which has latterly been discontinued. Occasionally, however, the Clavie is still rowed round some favoured vessel.

The modern part of the town is not included in the circuit, only the old town is thus encompassed by a protecting wall of fire. Round this town of Burghead are certain green hillocks known as the Bailies. Doubtless they also bear witness to the bale-fires which once crowned them.

The only other place where I can hear of any custom akin to this burning of the Clavie is at Logierait, in Perthshire, where certainly till late years (probably even to this day) the young men assembled on Hallow-e'en, and made great torches of faggots, by binding broom, flax, and heather on a pole. This being kindled, is, or was, carried on the shoulders of a strong lad, who runs round the village, followed by all the crowd; and as fast as one faggot burns out, a second is kindled.. Sometimes several are lighted simultaneously.

Pennant describes the same ceremony as one of the regular institutions of Hallow-e'en a hundred years ago, and says that when the faggot had been thus carried round the village, its embers were used to kindle a great bonfire. This custom, says Borlase, was forbidden by the Gallic Councils, and all concerned were held to be as guilty as though they had actually sacrificed to devils.

Of course, though the old customs are still retained, their original meaning is utterly forgotten; and the man who throws a live peat after a woman who is about to increase the population, or he who on Hallow-e'en throws a lighted brand over his own shoulder without looking at whom he aims, little dreams whence sprang these time-honoured games.

One remarkable practice which, till very recently, existed in Lewis and other Isles, was that of carrying fire all round the houses and goods of different members of the community, more especially round women after the birth of children, and round infants till after their baptism, to protect them from evil spirits.

In like manner no Shetlander will venture after nightfall to pass the green hillocks haunted by elfin tribes, unless he carries with him a live coal.

To look much nearer home, we know of one good old wife living in Banffshire who carries a live peat sunwise round her cottage every night, just as regularly as she says her prayers. Moreover she is most particular about keeping a red thread twisted round her cow's tail, as otherwise she is convinced that the milk would pass from her cow to her neighbour's. Also if it is sick, she at once kindles the old Need-fire.

I know that in many of the remote glens of Perthshire there are still living women who on Beltane morn always throw ashes and a live peat over their own heads, repeating a certain formula of words to bring them luck. But the strictest secrecy is observed, lest such practices should reach the ear of the minister: so the stronger their belief, the less willing are they to confess to any knowledge of such matters.

Such quaint old superstitions are common in every corner of England and Scotland, though rarely noticed save when they lead to some mischief which brings them within ken of the law.

Thus at Craigmillar, near Edinburgh, a woman, not long ago, refused to give a neighbour "a bit peat" to light her fire, because she was supposed to be uncanny. The old woman muttered, as she turned away, that her churlish neighbour might yet repent of her unkindness. This speech the other repeated to her husband on his return from work, whereupon he went straight to the old woman's house, and gave her a sharp out on the forehead, for which he was duly called to account, and pleaded his belief that scoring the witch above the breath would destroy her glamour! This, it seems, is a common article of faith.

Some very curious notions as to this non-giving of fire exist in some Highland districts. In various districts of Perthshire, in Ross- shire, and in Strathspey, I have found instances of it. At Beltane, Midsummer, Hallow-e'en, and particularly at the New Year, and on some intervening days, there is a dread of ill luck in allowing a neighbour to take a kindling from the hearth, or even a light for a pipe. An old servant from the island of Islay tells me that there no one would, on any account, give or take a light at Hogmanay, that is, at the new year.

A schoolmaster, in Ross-shire, also gave me various proofs of this superstition which had come under his immediate notice. For instance, an old wife came to a neighbour's house to get "a kindling" for her fire. There was no one in the house but a wide- awake lassie eight years old. So well versed was the child in this fire lore, that she would neither give a match nor a cinder. Having turned out the poor old body, the little girl immediately went to fetch two friends, and they followed the old woman to her home, where, sure enough, they found a blazing fire and a boiling pot. "See you," said the lassie, "gin the cailliach had gotten the kindling, my father would not get a herring this year!"

In like manner a poor tinker's wife came into a house in Apple- cross, Ross-shire, one morning in July, 1868, and took up a live peat from the hearth to kindle her own fire. She had got to some distance before she was observed, whereupon the gude-wife rushed after her, and, snatching away the poor gipsy's prize, turned to a stranger who ventured to remonstrate, saying, "Do you think I am to allow my cow to be dried up If I allowed her to carry away the fire, I would not have a drop of milk to-night to wet the bairns' mouths." She then threw the peat into a pail of water, so as to recover whatever milk might already have found its way from poor crummie to the tinker's camp.

Generally, when a kindling has thus been taken by stealth, it is considered safer to consult a wise woman (or, as they call her, a disciple of Black Donald), that she may put a counter-check on the evil designs of the unneighbourly neighbour.

We find allusions to this quaint superstition in divers legends of old, as for instance in those that tell of the mighty brothers Akin and Rhea, prehistoric giants, who dwelt on the mainland, and occasionally crossed over to the Isle of Skye by leaping the Straits. The brothers built two strong towers in the Glenelg country, where they lived in fraternal harmony, till on one evil day the younger brother, returning to his home, found only a black hearth to greet him. Weary and chill, he passed on to his brother's castle, where the fire was smouldering as usual. Soon he kindled a cheery blaze, and having warmed himself, prepared to return to his own lair, taking with him, however, a burning peat for a kindling. At this moment the loving elder brother returned from the chase, and great was his wrath on perceiving the theft! The culprit made off with all speed, as well he might, for to this day the valley is strewn with rocks hurled after him by the infuriated giant; one mighty boulder in particular stands forth as a warning to all men to respect the rights of Fire.

This curious fear of ill-luck connected with the giving or stealing of fire is evidently a survival of Druidic customs—of those solemn Fire-Festivals, on the eve of which the fires which usually smouldered day and night on the hearth were purposely extinguished, that on the Great Day of the Festival, when the priests had by friction kindled new sacred fire, each household might provide itself with a kindling from the altar, and so sanctify its own hearth afresh.

As the purchase of this fire was a source of profit to the priests, it would naturally be considered criminal for one neighbour to give it to another at the seasons when every man was bound to purchase it for himself. Terrible penalties were in store for any rash person who dared to kindle a flame from any other source. This sacred fire was fed with the peeled wood of a certain tree, and must never be blown with the breath, lest it should be polluted.

Precisely similar is the custom which prevails among the Guebres and Parsees of the present day. All fires being allowed to die out, each family must procure sacred fire from the temples, wherewith to rekindle the domestic hearth In the Talmud it is stated that the Israelites who were captives in Persia adopted this practice.

A very interesting survival of this old custom is still practised on the Midsummer Festival (the Eve of St. John) in the Spanish Pyrenees, at Luchon and other places, where the ancient bale-fires —Christianized as The Fires of St. John.—are kindled by the priests, while chanting sacred hymns; and when these sacred fires have burnt themselves out, the charred wood is distributed among the people, so that every household may have a portion, which is religiously preserved throughout the year.

Lamartine alludes to the ceremonies of this night as now practised in the French Alps. He tells how the peasants have processions, and carry lighted torches of pine-wood and straw. Should they wish especial luck to any young couple, they march round them in a circle, just as the islanders of the West used to do.

In the Vosges the May-day festival is adjourned till the first Sunday in Lent, when immediately after vespers, the lads and lassies form two separate chains, and having thrice circled sunwise round the village green, they pair off all present, one couple at a time, circling three times round each couple. Then, on a given signal, each girl receives a torch brought from the church, and the whole company go up to set fire to a pile of wood in the middle of the green. As it blazes up they resume their whirling dance, and when the bonfire is nearly extinct, each couple joins in the scramble for a brand, and those who succeed in getting one, carry it off in triumph to the home of the young woman.

These Fire-Festivals seem to have been celebrated in much the same manner all over Europe, for there seems to be literally no corner where we do not find some of the old ceremonies still practised; nowhere more notably than on the shores of the Baltic —in Prussia, Lithuania, and the lands adjacent. Indeed the name of the Baltic, and of many Scandinavian places, still point to the old worship.

But with equal right may we seek traces of the old Paganism on, the shores of Armorica—inasmuch as both in Brittany, and more especially in Finisterre, the people clung to their ancient worship with such tenacity, that beyond the mere fact of baptism, they could hardly, two hundred years ago, be called Christians at all; but continued to worship, as their fathers had done before them, amid the huge ghostly temples which still abound in all that district. So we hear of zealous priests going forth in the seventeenth century as Missionaries to preach Christianity, to the people of Finisterre, as almost a new faith. Even then Church Councils vainly strove to stop the pilgrimages to these Druidic circles.

At the present day they blend, with picturesque effect, in various scenes of peasant life. Thus, on Midsummer's-eve, all the lads and lasses in Brittany assemble at divers groups of old weather-beaten stones. The lads wear green oorn, the girls a bunch of flax, with blue blossoms. They lay their corn and flax on the great grey stones, and dance round them till sunset. Then, according as they find their flowers fresh or withered, they read the fate of their love; and return home, each lad leading his lass by one finger. As the darkness closes in, bonfires are lighted on every hill-top, lighting up all the land with their red glow, and the young people dance wildly round them, hurrying from one bonfire to the next; for all manner of luck in love and life attends those who have danced round nine fires before midnight.

In Sardinia, on this night, the people light great bonfires in their villages and at every cross-road. Men make compacts one with another by passing their hands three times through the flames while grasping a stick. They also cause their children to leap through the flames. Then they go in procession to a church, near which they sit in a circle, and feast on eggs fixed with divers herbs.

Not only in country districts, and by simple peasants, were these festivals observed till recent days, but in all the principal continental towns, such as Paris and Metz, where it was customary to kindle fires in the market-place. These were sometimes blessed by the parish priest, who offered a prayer in the name of St John— thus adapting the old heathen festival to Christian use. The young pople then leaped over the flames, and threw flowers and garlands into them, singing, shouting, and dancing merrily. Even the great folk sometimes joined in the old games.

But imagine that only fifty years ago the Spring Festival received municipal honours in Edinburgh, where, on the first Sunday after Beltane, the magistrates used to walk down the Canongate in procession, decorated with flowers, and carrying large nosegays! Imagine the feelings of these grave men, if it had occurred to them that they were rejoicing over Bel's new birth!

Still more extraordinary does it seem to us, who know Cornhill only as a centre of London's busiest business life, to hear of days when the streets were crowded with merry-makers, and gaily- dressed maidens and smart 'prentices danced and frolicked, while the gigantic Maypole, adorned with flags and streamers, was dragged by forty oxen, all decked with flowers, through Cornhill to the Church of St. Andrew, Undershaft: so named because of the huge Maypole or shaft, far overtopping the church, which from time immemorial had been there erected. Near this Maypole were erected summer-halls, bowers, and arbours; and feasting and dancing wont on all day, till evening drew on, when great bonfires were lighted.

Another celebrated London Maypole stood in the Strand, at the entrance of a street formerly known as Little Drury Lane, but which after the days of Cromwell was renamed Maypole Alley. It was a stately mast of cedar-wood, 134 feet long, prepared in the London docks, and carried to the Strand by a detachment of sailors, with bands playing and colours flying, amid the rejoicings of the people.

When grave citizens ceased to care for such frivolities, Sir Isaac Newton purchaset the spar, and conveyed it to Waustead in Essex to support a great telescope; and thus the poor old Maypole was forced to lend its aid to solemn science after all, a new phase of homage done to the host of heaven!

Comparatively few traces now remain in these isles of the worship of the moon goddess.

Some lingering notion of her influence doubtless inspired the extreme reverence with which the Highlanders and Islanders have always noted all changes of the moon. So late the year 1700, the latter invariably selected the time of the moon's increase for cutting their peat and rushes, building their earthen dykes and felling timber (hence we assume they had some trees then!), asserting that all manner of evils would attend their labour, should these things be done at the time of her decrease. As to the timber, they certainly have left little for their descendants I A birth or a marriage at the time of the full moon was accounted lucky; whereas to marry, or to kill a beast for food, while the moon was waning, would have been the height of folly. In fact, no important business was commenced at the wane.

Even in England there are still some remote corners, such as Dartmoor, where it is considered very dangerous to cut children's hair in March, at certain phases of the moon.

Certainly it is curious to trace back some of these simple customs to their origin. How little we think, as we kiss our hands to the young moon, that more than three thousand years ago, Job, the grand old Arabian patriarch, spoke of this very action as of a sin to be punished: a denial of the Creator!

There seems always to have been some difficulty in determining under what sex to adore the host of Heaven. The feminine Sun, and Moon masculine, of the Germans certainly sound incongruous in our ears. In Northern India, also, as with the old Scandinavians, the moon is worshipped as a male divinity, under the name of Chandra (silvery), at whose great festivals all devout Hindus appear in white raiment, with silver ornaments. They sit on white cloths, and make offerings of milk and white sugar.

The moon found more favour with the women than the men, and while we hear of the old Highlanders taking off their bonnet to the rising sun, the women reserved their homage for the new moon. Any lassie who desired to invoke her protection, and crave her good influence in her sweethearting, had to go out at night and watch for the first new moon of the new year. Then kneeling on a to yerd-fast stane" (that is, one fixed immovably in the earth like the Druid altars), she was to lean her back against a tree, and thus wait for the moment when she might hail the pale crescent as it rose above the horizon. Bitterly cold work this must have been, on a chilly night in January, but with such an object ,in view, what mattered the freezing blast.

How often we have laughed at the story of the lassie who thus went out to invoke the lady-moon, and pray that she would speedily send her a faithful swain. Now in the ivy behind her sat a great white owl, whose eyes winked and blinked and twinkled as he said "Who-o-oooo?" "Oh!" cried the lassie, "I dinna mind who. Just anybody!" Thereupon she returned home in all faith, and having found a suitable love, sent all her friends and companions forth on a similar errand.


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