« AnteriorContinuar »
(Euro. Mag.) SOME REMAINING SUPERSTITIONS OF THE BRITISH PEASANTRY.
No, I. “ Auctoritatem nullam debemus, aec fidem commentitiis rebus adjungere."--Cic. THE WHE Romish religion, as well as troduced and fostered. The scenes
many of our christian sectaries, which had, during so many ages, been has given birth to innumerable super- associated with the prevailing belief, stitions. Wherever its influence pre- —the fairy caverns, the enchanted vails, especially beyond the sphere of streams and rocks, the romantic hills polished life, the mind is prepared to and grottos of the country, would still admit, without scruple, the truth of be regarded with mysterious awe by traditions, which to a sober understand- the first protestants. An entire straning, must appear contemptible or ri- ger to the manners and habits of the diculous. This boundless credulity, solitary inhabitants of the mountains, -this prostration of the mind to mon can form little conception of the influstrous fables, will not surprise us,
ence which local associations possess when we consider, that the conscien over the mind. The village church, tious catholic regards tradition, as of whose ivy mantled tower has been almost equal authority with scripture; "Rocked by the storms of a thousand years," and that he is accustomed to receive and in whose gothic aisles, his forefathwith the blindest reverence, all that
were accustomed to worship, is the former teaches*. Such a one can- regarded by the rustic with holier and not reasonably reject any popular su
more reverential feelings, than the elperstition, however absurd, especially egant structures of the present age can if it be in any degree connected with inspire ; had it not been for the his religion. The wildest of the Dan- strength of these feelings, the reformaish and Norwegian fables, are scarce- tion would never perhaps have been ly more extravagant, than many le- effected. The people were unwilling gends of the Romish saints.
to forsake their churches, and they But traces of popery may be found became insensibly reconciled to the in many parts of the empire, from
Some strong instances of which that faith has long been banish- this attachment to the old religious eded. Wales, the Isle of Man, many ifices of the country, have come to the counties and isles of Scotland, and writer's knowledge, but none, he besome of the more mountainous districts lieves, more striking than the followin the north of England, abound with
ing :-A young married woman of traditions which originated with our good understanding, and of virtuous catholic ancestors, and which still con- habits, was persuaded by her husband, tinue to be received by their protes- a dissenter, with whom she had retant descendants. If the reformation moved to the distance of several miles threw off the burthensome observan- from her native village, to attend the ces of the Romish ritual, it certainly same place of worship as himself; but did not, in all places, throw off the lo- though she had nothing to say against cal superstitions, which popery had in- the doctrines preached at the conven
* It should not, however, be forgotten, ticle, she could not reconcile herself that the more enlightened Romanists, as to the step she had taken. The welTillemant, Baillet, Father Alexandre, Du come, but unfrequent sight of the vilPin, &c., though ibey have admitted, with
lage church thrilled her with an emoout hesitation, many absurd traditious, have had the courage to reject many which their tion, to her undefinable. At length church was supposed to have long received. notwithstanding the reasonings, exposAnd it should be known that this church her- tulations, and even threats of a husself has said : " Judi cium Dei veritati quæ band whom she tenderly loved ; the nec fallit, nec fallitur semper innititur: rugged paths, and dangerous marshes em sequitur, eui et fallere saepe contingit et which she was obliged to traverse evefalli.” De Excom. Čap. 2.
ry sabbath-day ; she returned, as she 9 ATHENEUM VOL. 2. 2d series.
affectingly expressed it to the temple A poor midwife was returning late and last earthly home of her fathers.” one evening from a neighbouring ham
We shall not then be surprised, that let, and her nearest, perhaps her only among a people so tenacious of the practicable path, lay close by the Fairy customs and traditions of their ances- Cavern. Though she was naturally tors, many superstitions continue to resolute, and the moon shone with unbe received and reverenced. Of these, usual brightness, her agitation encreasnone is more prevalent than the belief ed as she approached the dreaded in the existence of fairies—an imagi- spot, as if she had a secret presentinary race of beings, which are everyment of what was to follow. No where represented as possessed of the sooner had she turned round the prosame capricious qualities, to be some- jecting angle of one of the rocks, ihan times harmless as children, and some she perceived something like a man, times malignant as demons. That but of lower stature, advancing towards this beliefshould be so carefully cherish- her. She had scarcely time to coned in our days, when according to the sider, whether that being were of this acknowledgment even of the vulgar, or another world, before she was seiznot one of those beings has eithered by the arm, and drawn with irrebeen seen or heard, would indeed ex- sistable force towards the mouth of cite our wonder, were it not sufficient. the cavern. In an agony of despair, ly explained by the force of heredita- she invoked her patron saint, and her ry prepossessions, and by that propen- mysterious conductor suddenly stopsity to the marvellous, for which a ped. "Fear not,” said he, "you will rude and uncultivated people is ever not be detained long, and no evil will remarkable.
befal you, if, after we have passed A few years ago, the writer of the through this aperture, you call not on present article, made an excursion in- God, St. Mary, or any of the saints. to one of the most secluded mountain- In vain you would oppose an unearthous districts in England ; while he re. ly being ; time presses : we must mained there, he had frequent oppor. away.” Unable to oppose and contunities of becoming acquainted with vinced that if she were able, opposiits traditionary superstitions. In a tion would be unavailing, she quietly place more than usually wild, and at resigned herself to the guidance of a considerable distance from any hu- her unknown companion. He immeman habitation, he was shown a cav- diately led her through the aperture, ern, which, whether formed by nature and she found that they were descendor art, may well be considered a curi- ing with inconceivable celerity. In a osity. It is known by the name of few moments their feet touched the the Fairy-Cavern, and is situated on bottom, all was utter darkness, until the declivity of a high and very steep he anointed her eyes with a kind of hill. Its aperture between two enor- salve; suddenly a scene of overpowmous rocks, is so narrow, as to be im- ering splendour burst upon her astopperceptible at the distance of a very ished sight, she saw that she was in few yards. Through this aperture no the interior of a vast palace, the mage entreaties could induce the youth, nificence of which, could never be whom the writer had engaged as guide, conceived by any mortal. The pillars, to accompany him ; and as he was furniture, and even the walls, were of unprovided with torches, he could not massy gold, and ornamented with explore the interior. He ventured a precious stones of the most dazzling few yards, but found the path so pre- lustre. While she was gazing around cipitous, and the darkness and silence of a considerable chain of bleak and lofty of the place so appalling, that he speed- hills
, which run along the borders of three ily reiurned. Concerning this cav- adjoining counties, Yorkshire, Cheshire, and ern, there exists the following ancient Derbyshire ; and the latter is well known to tradition.*
the inhabitants of the district alluded to in
the text. That district is distant about bali * Neither the cavern nor the tra ition is a day's journey from the ancient village of imaginary. The former is in the very heart Mottram, on the borders of Cheshire.
with wonder and admiration, a female male population, that she seduced of extraordinary beauty advanced to- numbers at various times, to follow wards her, and taking her by the hand, her footsteps, till by degrees she led led her into another room, smaller in- them into the sea, where they perishdeed, but of equal magnificence. In ed. This barbarous exercise of pow. one corner of the room she perceived er had continued so long, that it was several female attendants, all young, feared the island would be exhausted beautiful, and gorgeously clad, stand- of its defenders. A knight-errant ing round the bed of a sick fairy, and sprung up, who discovered some chanting this couplet :
means of countervailing the charms “ Mortal, approach; the fates decree,
used by the syren, and even laid a That mortal aid our sister free.”
plot for her destruction, which she She now learned that her professional only escaped at the moment of extreme assistance was required. After she hazard, by assuming the form of a had satisfactorily performed the task
But though she evaded punappointed her, she was brought back ishment that time, a spell was cast upinto the apartment she had quitted, on her, by which she was condemned where she found a table covered with to reanimate the same form on every the most exquisite viands, and with a succeeding New Year's Day, until she liquor more delicious than nectar. should perish by a human hand. In While she partook of the refreshment consequence of this legend, every prepared for her, the most fragrant man and boy in the island (except perfumes exhaled around, and strains those who have thrown off the tramof unseen, but of indescribable harmo- mels of superstition) devote the hours ny, threw a soft enchantment over the from the rising to the setting of the scene. The old woman was in an sun, on each returning anniversary, to ecstasy of enjoyment, husband, child- the hope of extirpating the fairy. Woe ren, friends, the world itself was
to the wrens which show themselves forgotten. But this enjoyment could on that fatal day, they are pursued, not be perpetual to a daughter of hu- pelted, fired at, and destroyed without manity. At the conclusion of her re- mercy ; their feathers are preserved past her male conductor again appear- with religious care ; for it is believed, ed; he carefully cleared her eyes from
every one of the relics gathered the enchanted salve with which he in the pursuit, is an effectual preservahad anointed them; and the palace, tion from shipwreck for the ensuing the entertainment, the attendants and year, and the fisherman who should the music, were in an instant succeed- venture on his occupation, without ed by darkness and silence. She was such a safeguard, would, by many of speedily carried out to the place the natives, be considered extremely where she had first seen her unearthly foolhardy. guide ; and there she was left, but In the same island, it is still believe not without receiving more substantial ed that genii and giants inhabit the proofs of the fairies' gratitude. subterraneous caverns of Rushen Cas
The Isle of Man, the “ fairy land," tle ; and that the high-minded Countas Collins terms it has ever been dis- ess of Derby, who once resided in tinguished for its belief in ancient su- Man, and whose vigorous resistance perstitions. The ceremony of hint- at the siege of Latham House, has iming the wren, is peculiar to the island. mortalised her name, takes her nightThe following account of it is extracted, ly rounds on the walls of the castle. with some slight variations, from a But perhaps the most dreaded spectre history, which though well known in in the island, is the Manthé Doog, or some parts of Lancashire, may not Black Hound, which is still thought perhaps be só to most of my readers. to be no stranger to Peel Castle.
The ceremony of hunting the wren, When a garrison was maintained at is founded on this ancient tradition. that fortress, the soldiers were freA fairy of uncommon beauty once quently thrown into great consternaexerted such undue influence over the tion by the nocturnal visits of the spec
tre. One of the soldiers, familiarised low the animal to its retreat. But his at length with its appearance, having temerity proved fatal. He soon re. raised his courage by spiritous liquors, turned, speechless and convulsed, and ventured one night, notwithstanding survived his rash attempt no longer the opposition of his comrades, to fol- than three days.*
THE MODERN TRAVELLER. A popular Description, Geographical, Historical, and Topographical, of the various Countries of the Globe
PARTS I. II. III. IV.
Palestine and Syria. THIS NHIS is a singularly well-timed, apt to imagine that what has gratified
and, so far as the parts hitherto themselves, must be interesting to published enable us to judge, an ex- others; they pay too little attention ceedingly well executed publication. to previous statements, and are rather Within comparatively a few years, overfond of telling again what has been geographical science and its collateral better told before. Our excellent investigations, have been cultivated friends the booksellers must come in with an ardour, and prosecuted with for a share of the blame. Without, an eagerness and a heedlessness of for a moment, venturing to attribute personal inconvenience and hazard, their excessive predilection for quartos that have brought to light an immense to any but the most liberal and disvariety of facts and elucidations of interested motives, we may be perthe most interesting and important mitted to hint, that it has a disastrous nature. Few portions of the globe effect on the character of this branch remain wholly unexplored ; and con- of literature. The information which cerning those which have not' as yet would be respectable in an octavo, been subjected to actual scrutiny, a con- will but coldly furnish forth a tome siderable mass of valuable information of larger bulk; and when all the artihas been obtained from collateral and in- fices of typography fail to stretch it cidental sources. Great improvements, out, the author must be drawn upon too, have taken place in the modes of for supplementary, and too frequently research and narration. Instead of an for supererogatory matter. Now, how indiscriminate amalgamation of fact feelingly soever, as writers, we may and fable, hearsay and actual inspec- sympathize with the author, as readtion, the most cautious discrimination ers the case is very different. Our is made an indispensable prerequisite time, our patience, and our purse, fail to the reception of testimony. The before this protracting and extenulove of the marvellous, which looked, ating process, and we give a cordial in the olden time, to voyages and welcome to any publication that may distant journeyings--the mysterious give us the genuine information, withrealms of Prester John, or the glitter- out the overlay of paint and filigree; ing wonders of Ind and Cathay---for or at least, only so much of the latter its gratification, is now content with as may conduce to the real decorahumbler food, the diablerie of Ger- tion and connexion of the substantial many, and the tawdry inventions of matter. the Viscompte d'Arlincour. A more legitimate source of entertainment is the following allusion in Sir W. Scott's Mar
* The tradition above related, will explain furnished by personal anecdote, his- miop torical and biographical inquiries, lo “ But none of all the astonished train, cal description, and antiquarian re Were so dismayed as Deloraine; search. At the same time it must be
His blood did freeze, bis brain did burn, confessed, that there is still room for
'Twas feared his mind would ne'er return : improvement. Travellers are of dif
For he was speechless, ghastly wan!
Like him of whom the story ran, ferent calibres; they are a little too
Who spake the spectre hound in Man."
At the same time we cannot help ever, are all that are usually comprefeeling suspicious, in the first instance, hended under the term Höly Land; of such publications as the present. although, as the scene of Scripture We have seen so many of them, that history, the theatre of miracle and of have come forth with the highest prophecy,--the Peninsula of Mount pretensions, prove nothing more than Sinai, the shores of the Idumean Sea, mere jobs of trade, that we are in- and the coasts of Asia Minor, might stinctively on our guard when we lay claim to the appellation. But we take them in hand, against anticipated have now visited the whole of Palescharlatanism. Their aspect is omi- tine, Judea, Samaria, and Galileenous ;-they wear a loose livery ; those countries which, above all oththey are redolent of paste ; they be- ers under the sun, are interesting to tray the mangling of the scissars. In- the Christian. And abhorrent alike stead of exhibiting the labour and the from reason and from true piety, as skill which sach compilations, more is the superstition that has grafted itthan most others, demand, they dis- self upon this interest, yet, the curiplay the redundant symptoms of work osity which inspires the traveller, in by contract; and we feel, in turning reference more peculiarly to these them over, all the annoyance which scenes is rational and laudable. fl results from the double mischief of a Troy and Thebes, if Athens and Rome, good thing marred in the execution, are visited with classic enthusiasm, and operating as a hindrance to a much more worthy of awakening the more spirited undertaking.
strongest emotions in the mind of a From all these depraved symptoms, Christian, must be the country whose the work before us, so far as the pre- history as far transcends in interest sent specimen extends, is entirely free; that of every other, as its literature and if it be conducted to the end with (if we may apply that term to the diequal ability, it will form one of the vine volume) excels in sublimity, all most useful and attractive publications the ethics, and philosophy, and poeof the present day. Of the two sec- try, and eloquence of the heathen tions, though Syria is the most enter- world. This sentiment of interest or taining, Palestine is the best done ; of reverence has, indeed, no necessait contains a masterly compression, ry connexion with religious principle marked, in some instapces, by specific or enlightened worship ; for it may originality, of most that is truly valu- actuate alike the pious and the profliable in the best of modern explora- gate. And, in the character of the tions. Maundrell, Pococke, Burk- Greek or Komish pilgrim, it is too hardt, and Dr. Richardson, have sup- generally found in connexion with an plied the ground-work; but a host of utter destitution of moral principle. other travellers have contributed to The savage fanaticism of the Crusades the superstructure, and a list of im was an illustration of this fact on a portant · desiderata' is subjoined. As grand scale ; and the same spirit that an example of the composition, we breathed in Peter the Hermit, yet shall transcribe the eloquent and com- survives; the same fanaticism in a prehensive
milder form actuates the pilgrims
who continue to visit the Holy SepulCONCLUDING REMARKS.
chre, with the view of expiating their Having now traversed the whole sins by the performance of so meritoLand of Israel west of this boundary, rious a penance. The Mussulman from Beersheba to Dan, we close here hadgi, or the Hindoo devotee, differs our account of Palestine ; preferring, little in the true character of his relifor the convenience of the arrange- gion, from these misguided Christians, ment, to include the districts east of and as little perhaps in his morals as the Jordan, under the general de- in his creed. Only the stocks and nomination of Syria, which in strict- stones in which their respective worness applies to the whole country. ship alike terminates, are called by The parts we have described, how- less holy names. It becomes the