Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 8, 1897.djvu/402

This page needs to be proofread.


366 Reviews.

northern cycle of Conchobor and CuchuUin ; extant, certainly, in the early part of the eleventh, it cannot well be older than the middle or end of the eighth century." The birth stories of Conchobor, of Conall Cernach, both of Ulster origin ; of Aed Slane and Tuan MacCairill (infected with Christian colouring), the metamorphoses and metempsychoses of Tal-eisin, son of Gwion ( = Oisin, son of Finn) and of Amairgin, are successively considered. Mr. Nutt notices that the early cases of re-birth stories have to do with the Tuatha De Danann, that in Ireland the metempsychosis has no apparent connection with any belief in a soul as distinct from the body, or in a life led by the soul after the death of the body, that any idea of retribution is entirely absent from it, that, in fact, " the impression left on our minds by a preliminary survey of the entire mass of mythic romance is that it is the outcome of no religious or philosophical impulse," with which conclusions the reviewer heartily agrees. The classical evidence which attributes the teaching of metempsychosis to the Druids, and its connection, or rather supposed connection, with Pythagoras' system, is then attacked ; and again the conclusion come to seems in the highest degree reasonable and attractive, viz. that the Celtic re-birth ideas and the Pythagorean system are parallel, for " if the Southern Celts did borrow metempsychosis from Greek believers in Pythagoreanism, they forthwith and utterly transformed the ethical spirit of the doctrine. The Greek philosopher and his disciples said [like Buddha] : Be virtuous that you may tiot be born again ; the Gaulish druid said : Be brave (and bravery was probably the chief element in his ideal of virtue) because you will be born again. If the point of view was so en- tirely different, the reason for borrowing is not apparent." And Mr. Nutt sums up the Irish evidence thus : " The Irish re-birth legends are probably the common property of the Goidels of both Britain and Ireland ; they are certainly pre-Christian in contents and spirit ; they are probably akin to mythical tales which must have existed among the Southern Celts, representing, however, an earlier stage of mythic fancy, unaffected by contact with late Greek culture ; they show traces of a crude pantheism lacking in southern Celtic belief as described by classical writers, and in the Pythagorean system with which that belief was compared."

The next stage is evidently an examination of Pythagoreanism and its origins, with the help of Rohde and Maass. Pythagoras