Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 22, 1911.djvu/77

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.


Collectanea. 55

in the walls of houses in Dublin ^^ and elsewhere, — as substitutes for human sacrifices. That such sacrifices were not unknown to the early Irish seems implied in the startling story of St. Columba's disciple buried as a voluntary sacrifice in the foundations of a new building. ^^

Burial and skull beliefs. — There are two noted cases of super- stitious beliefs attached by the pagan Irish to human burials, and Tirechan implies that it was common among the early Irish " quia utuntur gentiles in sepulchri armati, prumptis armis facie ad faciem usque ad diem " Erdath," apud Magos (Druides), id est Judicii diem Domini." Laoghaire, the last avowed pagan King of Ireland, followed the teaching of his great father, King Niall of the Nine Hostages, and, when he died in 458, was buried in the south-east side of his (existing) fort. Rath Laoghaire, at Tara, in his armour, holding his spear and with his face turned towards his enemies in Leinster. So also in 537 his kinsman Eoghan Bel was buried in Rath o bh fiachrach, standing upright and holding his spear, and facing the north against Ulster. The Ultonians, believing that the influence of the mighty dead caused their defeats in Connaught, made a raid in great force, exhumed and carried off his body, and buried it face downwards in low ground near Lough Gill.^* The finding of human bones, with a skull beneath them, in the rampart of the " Rath of the Synods " at Tara, may imply a similar belief. There is also a Norse example of exhuming, beheading, and burying a chief's body with the skull underneath, to destroy his posthumous power.i^

Another, and more repellent, skull charm is found in Clare, but,

^'^ I have been told by the late Sir T. Drew and by several builders of the discovery of cats' bodies apparently enclosed alive in recesses.

i=*In pagan Ireland the custom of burial alive is said to have existed, e.g. Cairbre Niafer, son of Ross, buried a free hostage alive, ( "Dindsenchas," Revue Celtique, vol. xv, pp. 319-20).

^•' For these two cases much information has been collected by O'Donovan in the Genealogies, Tribes, and Customs of Hy Fiachrach, (Irish Archaeological Society, 1844), and Annotations of Tirechan in the Book of Armagh, f 10 a 2; for Laoghaire see G. Petrie, Tara Hill, p. 1 70 (from Leabhar na h Uidhre, f 76).

15 Skeletons were discovered on Iniskea Island laid with their faces down- wards and with ashes at their feet. (Ordnance Survey Letters, (Co. Mayo), pp. 207-8.)