Open main menu

Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 8, 1897.djvu/263

This page needs to be proofread.

Ghost Lights of the West Highlands. 239

the peasants perceive it painting its immense bow in the sky, they usually say, " Look, it drinks at such a pond, burn," &c.^ An identical belief exists in Bosnia, where, however, it is not a serpent, but a dragon. -

If Macpherson's Ossian cannot be called an old autho- rity, it may be quoted to show what its author gathered of folklore, and has introduced in the poem. The riding of the dead on clouds is a favourite subject. For example, Fingal, duan i. lines 665-6, of the Gaelic translation, gives,

" Tanas churaidh 'thuit 's a' bhlar,

Neoil ghruamach mu'n cuairt a' snamh,"

as representing the original English " the ghosts of the lately dead were near, and swam on the gloomy clouds." The Gaelic makes the ghosts themselves clouds (?), but the English, as will be seen from the account of dreags which will be hereafter given, is more in accordance with folk-belief.

In Tigh7nora it is said, canto vi. lines 443-4.

" Seall ormsa o d' niall, a sheoid,

A ghrian Shulmhalla nam mor thriath."

The English of which is, " Look thou from thy cloud, O sun of Sul-malla's soul." The Gaelic does not include any word for " soul " in the passage ; but in Isle of Man English, " I have seen his soul," is equivalent to the Lewis "chunnaic mi a shamhladh," or samhiiil^ "I saw his like- ness," i.e. his ofhost. The form sa^nhuil is pronounced soTvl as nearly as possible.

In Conlath and Cutho7ia the writer of Ossiaji explicitly says the spirits of the dead are carried on clouds :

' Revue Celtique, vol. iii. p. 450. ■^ Am Ur-Quell, vol. i. p. 73.