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760
[EARLY HISTORY
IRELAND

burnt almost uninterruptedly until the time of the Reformation was associated; and she was commonly invoked in the Hebrides, and until quite recently in Donegal, to secure good crops. Well-known fairy queens are Clidna (south Munster) and Aibell (north Munster). We frequently hear of three goddesses of war—Ana, Bodb and Macha, also generally called Morrígu and Badb. They showed themselves in battles hovering over the heads of the combatants in the form of a carrion crow. The name Bodb appears on a Gaulish stone as (Cathu-)bodvae. The Geniti glinni and demna aeir were other fierce spirits who delighted in carnage.

When we come to treat of religious rites and worship, our sources leave us completely in the dark. We hear in several documents of a great idol covered with gold and silver named Cromm Cruach, or Cenn Cruaich, which was surrounded by twelve lesser idols covered with brass or bronze, and stood on Mag Slecht (the plain of prostrations) near Ballymagauran, Co. Cavan. In one text the Cromm Cruach is styled the chief idol of Ireland. According to the story St Patrick overthrew the idol, and one of the lives of the saint states that the mark of his crosier might still be seen on the stone. In the Dindsenchus we are told that the worshippers sacrificed their children to the idol in order to secure corn, honey and milk in plenty. On the occasion of famine the druids advised that the son of a sinless married couple should be brought to Ireland to be killed in front of Tara and his blood mixed with the soil of Tara. We might naturally expect to find the druids active in the capacity of priests in Ireland. D’Arbois de Jubainville maintains that in Gaul the three classes of druids, vates and gutuatri, corresponded more or less to the pontifices, augurs and flamens of ancient Rome. In ancient Irish literature the functions of the druids correspond fairly closely to those of their Gaulish brethren recorded by Caesar and other writers of antiquity. Had we contemporary accounts of the position of the druid in Ireland prior to the introduction of Christianity, it may be doubted if any serious difference would be discovered. In early Irish literature the druids chiefly appear as magicians and diviners, but they are also the repositaries of the learning of the time which they transmitted to the disciples accompanying them (see Druidism). The Druids were believed to have the power to render a person insane by flinging a magic wisp of straw in his face, and they were able to raise clouds of mist, or to bring down showers of fire and blood. They claimed to be able to foretell the future by watching the clouds, or by means of divining-rods made of yew. They also resorted to sacrifice. They possessed several means for rendering a person invisible, and various peculiar and complicated methods of divination, such as Imbas forosna, tein laegda, and díchetal do chennaib, are described in early authorities. Whether or not the Irish druids taught that the soul was immortal is a question which it is impossible to decide. There is one passage which seems to support the view that they agreed with the Gaulish druids in this respect, but it is not safe to deny the possible influence of Christian teaching in the document in question. The Irish, however, possessed some more or less definite notions about an abode of everlasting youth and peace inhabited by fairies. The latter either dwell in the síd, and this is probably the earlier conception, or in islands out in the ocean where they live a life of never-ending delight. These happy abodes were known by various names, as Tír Tairngiri (Land of Promise), Mag Mell (Plain of Pleasures). Condla Caem son of Conn Cétchathach was carried in a boat of crystal by a fairy maiden to the land of youth, and among other mortals who went thither Bran, son of Febal, and Ossian are the most famous. The doctrine of metempsychosis seems to have been familiar in early Ireland. Mongan king of Dalriada in the 7th century is stated to have passed after death into various shapes—a wolf, a stag, a salmon, a seal, a swan. Fintan, nephew of Partholan, is also reported to have survived the deluge and to have lived in various shapes until he was reborn as Tuan mac Cairill in the 6th century. This legend appears to have been worked up, if not manufactured, by the historians of the 9th to 11th centuries to support their fictions. It may, however, be mentioned that Giraldus Cambrensis and the Speculum Regale state in all seriousness that certain of the inhabitants of Ossory were able at will to assume the form of wolves, and similar stories are not infrequent in Irish romance.

Conversion to Christianity.—In the beginning of the 4th century there was an organized Christian church in Britain; and in view of the intimate relations existing between Wales and Ireland during that century it is safe to conclude that there were Christians in Ireland before the time of St Patrick. Returned colonists from south Wales, traders and the raids of the Irish in Britain with the consequent influx of British captives sold into slavery must have introduced the knowledge of Christianity into the island considerably before A.D. 400. In this connexion it is interesting to find an Irishman named Fith (also called Iserninus) associated with St Patrick at Auxerre. Further, the earliest Latin words introduced into Irish show the influence of British pronunciation (e.g. O. Ir. trindóit from trinitāt-em shows the Brythonic change of ā to ó). Irish records preserve the names of three shadowy pre-Patrician saints who were connected with south-east Ireland, Declan, Ailbe and Ciaran.

In one source the great heresiarch Pelagius is stated to have been a Scot. He may have been descended from an Irish family settled in south Wales. We have also the statement of Prosper of Aquitaine that Palladius was sent by Pope Celestine as first bishop to the Scots that believe in Christ. But though we may safely assume that a number of scattered communities existed in Ireland, and probably not in the south alone, it is unlikely that there was any organization before the time of St Patrick. This mission arose out of the visit of St Germanus of Auxerre to Britain. The British bishops had grown alarmed at the rapid growth of Pelagianism in Britain and sought the aid of the Gaulish church. A synod summoned for the occasion commissioned Germanus and Lupus to go to Britain, which they accordingly did in 429; Pope Celestine, we are told, had given his sanction to the mission through the deacon Palladius. The heresy was successfully stamped out in Britain, but distinct traces of it are to be found some three centuries later in Ireland, and it is to Irish monks on the European continent that we owe the preservation of the recently discovered copies of Pelagius’s Commentary. Palladius’s activity in Britain probably marked him out as the man to undertake the task of bringing Ireland into touch with Western Christianity. In any case Prosper and the Irish Annals represent him as arriving in Ireland in 431 with episcopal rank. His missionary activity unfortunately is extremely obscure. Tradition associates his name with Co. Wicklow, but Irish sources state that after a brief sojourn there he proceeded to the land of the Picts, among whom he was beginning to labour when his career was cut short by death.

St Patrick.—At this juncture Germanus of Auxerre decided to consecrate his pupil Patrick for the purpose of carrying on the work begun by Palladius. Patrick would possess several qualifications for the dignity of a missionary bishop to Ireland. Born in Britain about 389, he had been carried into slavery in Ireland when a youth of sixteen. He remained with his master for seven years, and must have had ample opportunity for observing the conditions, and learning the language, of the people around him; and such knowledge would have been indispensable to the Christian bishop in view of the peculiar state of Irish society (see Patrick, St). The new bishop landed in Wicklow in 432. Leinster was probably the province in which Christianity was already most strongly represented, and Patrick may have entrusted this part of his sphere to two fellow-workers from Gaul, Auxilius and Iserninus. At any rate he seems rather to have addressed himself more especially to the task of founding churches in Meath, Ulster and Connaught. In Ireland the land nominally belonged to the tribe, but in reality a kind of feudal system existed. In order to succeed with the body of the tribe it was necessary to secure the adherence of the chief. The conversion in consequence was in large measure only apparent; and such pagan superstitions and practices as did not run directly counter to the new teaching were tolerated by the saint. Thus, whilst the mass of the people practically still continued in heathendom, the apostle was enabled to found