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THE HIBBERT LECTURES, 1886.



LECTURES

ON THE

ORIGIN AND GROWTH OF RELIGION

AS ILLUSTRATED BY

CELTIC HEATHENDOM.



BY

JOHN RHYS,

FELLOW OF JESUS COLLEGE, AND LATE FELLOW OF MERTON COLLEGE.
PROFESSOR OF CELTIC IN THE UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD.





WILLIAMS AND NORGATE,

14, HENRIETTA STREET, COVENT GARDEN, LONDON;
And 20, SOUTH FREDERICK STREET, EDINBURGH.


1888

[All Rights reserved.]



LONDON:
PRINTED BY C. GREEN AND SON,
178, STRAND.



PREFACE.




These Lectures were delivered in London and here, in the months of May and June, 1886; and it was intended that they should appear in the book market soon after. So I take this opportunity of publicly thanking the Hibbert Trustees for their forbearance, and of explaining the causes of the delay. The first and foremost was my ignorance, above all as to the magnitude of the task I was undertaking; and this ignorance pursued me into the arrangement of the Lectures, so that it had to be seriously modified more than once in the course of the work. Among other things, I found it necessary to make some sort of survey of the whole ground, and, in a word, to circumnavigate the whole subject before committing to type my ideas about any part of it. This led to my studying much that could not be included in this volume; I was, however, allowed to deliver two lectures besides the six agreed upon. Those two, as I could not expect the Hibbert Trustees to have them printed, are to form part of a volume on the Arthurian Legend, which I hope soon to publish; not to mention that I contemplate devoting a separate volume some day to the Dark Divinities of the Celts. It was necessary to go carefully into the questions raised by these and kindred subjects, and it all required time. But I may plead that the history of religion had never before been comprehensively studied from the Celtic point of view. Scarcely any pioneer could have been so feeble in his efforts as not to have rendered material aid to any one who came after.

The next cause of delay was the necessity I felt of writing the Lectures at a greater length than would occupy six hours in the delivery. It arose chiefly from the fact, that the Celtic literature bearing on the history of Celtic paganism is so little known to the vast majority of English readers, that acquaintance with it could not be taken for granted. It remained for me, therefore, to give the substance of the sagas and epic tales in point at a length which has considerably increased the bulk of this volume. But it afforded many opportunities of making comparisons, never made before, between Irish and Welsh myths, comparisons which cannot but be of help in any future treatment of the subject, even though some of the more ambitious theories may prove untenable. I consider that event a certainty for several reasons, such as my innate liability to err, and the discovery of more Gallo-Roman remains on the Continent, or the publication of more Irish manuscripts hitherto comparatively inaccessible. Still the attempt to draw a comprehensive picture of Celtic Heathendom seemed to be worth making, even though it should prove nothing but that there is a great mass of data at one's service. Those data are not, it is true, such as the student of Greek or Latin paganism is wont to handle; but, taking them as they offered themselves, I found that, far from having reasons to complain of their scarcity, the slowness of my progress was aggravated by an embarras de richesse. This is all the more striking as many of my English friends wondered, at first, what in the world I should find to occupy half-a-dozen Lectures.

Having thus alluded to the quantity of the materials at my disposal, I would only add as to their nature, that a large proportion of them is of a philological order; and I fear that I have not always taken care enough to make it as easy to skip the etymological passages as the general reader could wish, at any rate if publishers and reviewers do not grossly exaggerate the requirements of his comfort. With regard to comparisons extending beyond the Celtic group itself, most assistance has been derived from the ancient literature of Scandinavia. From one branch of the Aryan family, the Slavonic, I have been almost wholly unable to draw any help, as I found the existing works on the subject of old Slavonic religion and mythology either too antiquated or too brief to consult with advantage. This I regret all the more, as I do not believe that materials are wanting to illustrate the religious and mythic aspect of Slavonic history.

After these remarks, it is needless to say that I have not attempted to discuss the early fortunes of Christianity among the Celts. That is a large subject worthy of being treated in a separate series of lectures by some one well versed in the mass of old literature devoted to the lives of the saints of Erinn and both Britains. Of course it is not pretended that anything connected with the history of religion among the Celts—or among the Teutons, if it comes to that—could vie in popularity with the pedigree of the last idol unearthed in the East, or even with the discovery of a new way of spelling Nebuchadnezzar's name. Still the Celtic field of research has a rapidly growing interest for scholars, who now regard it as one in which the investigator's labours are most certain to be crowned with brilliant results. 'The great attraction of Celtic philology consists in the very fact that every haul of the net, without exception, brings in a rich spoil.' So wrote a distinguished German scholar the other day; and his words are true of Celtic philology in that wider sense of the term which would embrace not only the study of Celtic speech, but also of Celtic archæology and history, of Celtic religion and folk-lore, of Celtic myth and saga.

I have reserved to the last the pleasant task of thanking the kind friends who have given me unstinted assistance in bringing this volume through the press. Foremost among them stands the well-known Celtic scholar, Whitley Stokes, through whose hands most of the sheets have passed. I am indebted to him for many valuable suggestions; but neither he nor any one but myself is responsible for the errors or blunders which the accurate reader may find the book to contain.

JOHN RHYS.


Gwynva, Oxford,

Christmas Eve, 1887.



CONTENTS.
 
———
 
Lecture I.
THE GAULISH PANTHEON.
    PAGE
Part I. 1
  Mercury 5
  Apollo 20
  Mars 32
Part II. Mars (continued) 49
  Jupiter 64
  Minerva 73
  Dis 77
  Minor Divinities 99
 
 
Lecture II.
THE ZEUS OF THE INSULAR CELTS.
 
Part I. 107
  Nuada of the Silver Hand 119
  Nodens, Nûᵭ and Llûᵭ 125
  Cormac, Conaire, Conchobar 133
  The Mac Óc and Merlin 144
  Merlin Emrys and Maxen 160
Part II. Camulos, Cumall and Nwyvre 176
  Sites sacred to the Celtic Zeus 182
  The God's Mounds, Fetishes and Symbols 204
  The God of Druidism 216
 
 
Lecture III.
THE CULTURE HERO.
  Gwydion Son of Dôn 236
  The Culture Hero acquiring certain Animals for Man 241
  Poetry associated in its Origin with the Culture Hero 250
  Gwydion and other Names of the Culture Hero 270
  Gwydion compared with Woden and Indra 282
 
 
Lecture IV.
THE CULTURE HERO (continued).
 
  Gwydion and Cairbre 305
  Gwydion and Aitherne 324
  Pwyỻ and others visiting Hades 337
  The Culture Hero and the Nine-night Week 360
 
 
Lecture V.
THE SUN HERO.
 
Part I. Lleu and Lug 383
  The widely spread Cult of Lug 409
  Cúchulainn's Birth and Education 431
  Some of Cúchulainn's Adventures 444
  Cúchulainn and his Foes 468
Part II. Kulhwch and Gwri of the Golden Hair 486
  Corc and Diarmait 503
  Diarmait's Home and Duben's Name 521
  The Celtic Sun-hero and the Norse Balder 529
  Taliessin 543
  The Stratification of Solar Myths 570
 
 
Lecture VI.
GODS, DEMONS AND HEROES.
  Irish Mythography on the Gods and their Foes 579
  Greek and Norse Comparisons 610
  The Distress of the Gods and the Sun Hero's Aid 622
  Celtic Accounts of the Aryan Deluge 641
  The earliest Creed of the Celts inferred 669
 
ADDITIONS AND CORRECTIONS 675
INDEX OF NAMES AND OTHER WORDS 679