Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB
[blocks in formation]

(1.) Such buildings are common in every part of Ireland. The ancient towers are probably of much greater antiquity than the castles. They are of a circular form, of small diameter, and very considerable height. It is conjectured that they may have served for watch-lowers. From the circumstance of churches being usually built near them, some persons conceive that they have been used in place of belfries, since the introduction of christianity into Ireland.

(2.) The raths are large circular motes, upon the tops of hills; some raised to a very great height. They are in general so situated that a correspondence, by signal, could be expeditiously circulated from one to another, throughout the country. They are commonly called Danish forts, from an idea that they were stations occupied by the Danes, during their plundering possession of Ireland, about the eight century. But they are probably of much greater antiquity, even prior to the common use of stone buildings, although they might have been used by the Danes, as above mentioned.

It is impossible to ascertain the æra in which the caves were constructed, but from the circumstance of many of them being formed by stones regularly projecting over each other, instead of arches, it is evident they must be of the remotest antiquity. Nor is it less certain that the use of letters was known, when the caves were constructed; as numerous inscriptions, such as that hereafter mentioned, are found in them, but in characters that cannot now be understood.

(3.) These upright stones are placed upon hills, in some places alone, in others there are circles of them, inclosing a sinall plain. They probably served as places for worship in the times of paganism; as also for juridical assemblies, in which the Brehons presided.

The carns are immense heaps of small stones, evidently collected as monuments, and generally on or near the spot where some considerable person died or is interred. Even at the present day it is looked upon by the vulgar, as an act of pious remembrance, to collect such a carn, where any person has been killed by accident.

The cromleacs are huge single stones, some of thirty tons weight, placed in a sloping position, upon the points of three upright stones. It is almost inconceivable by what power such huge masses were lifted from the surface to an elevation in some cases of nearly four feet. They appear to have been used as altars by the Druids; and, from carns being collected around, and over some of them, it is probable that some distinguished personages have been interred beneath them.

(4.) This is near Annadorn, in the county Down. It was not known that there was any cromleac under this card until it was accidentally discovered by a man who was feeding cows beside it. The cromleac is broad and long, but not so thick as some others : it appears remarkably well adapted for the purpose of an altar. It is entirely surrounded by a number of upright stones, which were also covered by the carn.

(5.) This was one of the towers mentioned, (note 1.) It stood beside the ancient abbey at that place, but has lately been removed, and the abbey at the same time repaired.

(6.) The superstitious veneration for old, solitary, thorns, which is very general among the vulgar, proceeds from an idea that they are the haunts of fairies, who are provoked at their being destroyed, and will either maim the person who cuts the thorns, kill his cattle, or, in some other way, injure his substance.

(7.) The fairies are generally represented as pigmies, and are said to be seen dancing like a number of children.

(8.) Places supposed to be frequented by the fairies are called gentle, as are likewise several berbs which are said to be under their influence: and, in collecting which, a number of superstitious rites are observed. Although the belief in the existence of these playful sprites is still far from being erased from the minds of the vulgar, yet the want of modern instances of their appearance obliges the accounts of them to be placed in times past, when they cannot be so easily contradicted.

(9.) Chnoc-na-feadalea literally means the Whistling Hill ; and the place got this name from reports that the music of the fairies had been often heard to proceed from it.

(10.) This night, the last of October, is observed, with many superstitious ceremonies, both in Ireland and Scotland. It is supposed to be one on which ærial sprites are peculiarly active.

(11.) This day being observed as a fast, and nothing eaten from breakfast till night, it is customary to look to the stars, in order to see that they appear, and nighi is actually come, before sitting down to eat.

(12.) This is the manner in which the approach of the fairies is usually described.

(13.) The fairy castles were supposed to be moveable at pleasure, invisible to human eyes, and generally built in ancient forths or raths.

(14.) It was a general superstition that a new born child, before baptism-or even the mother herself, might be thus carried away.

(15.) It was vulgarly thought that the fairies take such women as Mary was, to nurse those children whom they have carried away.

(16.; These were all celebrated haunts of the fabled sprites.

(17.) This chief was one of the many, whom the fertile invention of poets has assigned to the fairies; and whom the simple credulity of the ignorant has received. Finvar was another of these kings, whose enchanted castle was at Knock Magha, as that of Macaneantan was at Sgraba.

(18.) This story affords a specimen of the popular superstitions of Ireland. Such fictions prevail, more or less, in all countries, according to the degree of information which the common people possess. And it is much to be regretted that they should be very prevalent in the country parts of Ireland, owing, in a great measure, to the want of more valuable knowledge. There is reason to hope, however, that the decay of such superstitions is not far distant, and that the diffusion of learning will remove every vestige of them. In the mean time, these playful inventions of fancy will serve to amuse the reader; nor will they appear more extravagant than the poetic fictions of ancient times.

END OF THE SECOND PART.

AN

INTRODUCTION

TO THE

IRISH LANGUAGE.

PART THIRD.

EXTRACTS FROM IRISH BOOKS AND MANUSCRIPTS.

The Irish characters are the following-viz. :

FIGURE.

NAME.

SOUND.

A a

Bb
Сс

a
b
k
d
e
f
8

hard
ee
1

Ailm.
Bejo.
Coll, cejc.
Duir, deje.
eada.
Fearan.
Gort, gejt.
Joga.
lur
Wuin.
Nujn.
Oir.
Peje,
Ruis
Sujl.
Tejne.
Ur.
las.

m

[ocr errors]
[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

The alphabet was variously arranged by ancient authors, usually beginning with b, l, and n; but the above has been universally adopted by the moderns.

« AnteriorContinua »