Puslapio vaizdai


sits the higher on the throne. How much is myth, how much poetic exaggeration, how much history, nobody can tell; but the first pages of

the ancient Irish chronicles teem with instances

of female prowess and the leadership of women. We can be certain, however, that Morrigu, or Great-Queen, was a war-sprite; for in the "Battle of Magh Rath," translated by John O'Donovan and published in 1842 by the Irish Archæological Society, we read of her apparition in the air above the head of the chief king, bent on vengeance for the misdeeds of Congall Claen.

There is over his head shrieking

A lean, nimble hag, hovering

Over the points of their weapons and shields— She is the gray-haired Morrigu.

Perhaps Morrigu, Badb, and Macha are the "three daughters of the wicked Cain" whom the wise men of the Christian period mention, as quoted by Geoffrey Keating; they occupied Ireland first, and may be the war-goddesses of non-Keltic tribes. But Kesair, "granddaughter of Noah "- was she in any sense a historical person?

She is the first queen to whom Keating refers with confidence, though he was a learned and pious cleric who ought to have protested against a legend which improves on Genesis. For Kesair advised her father Bith to forsake Noah's God and consult an idol, and the idol

counseled them to build a ship of their own and put to sea. This they did, with Ladra, Fintann, Barran, and Balba; they remained seven years and a quarter afloat, and landed near Bantry in Cork. Hitherto it has been the rule to smile at such legends, which are put to the account of vainglorious monks of Ireland. But since we have evidence from Babylonia of various versions of the deluge myth, and especially now that the connection of the ancient dwellers in Ireland with the first peoples of Babylonia and the Ugrians and Finns of Russia has been shown in former articles in THE CENTURY MAGAZINE, it is better to examine a legend like this with all seriousness, and debate whether or not the Irish version is not, beneath the biblical varnish, a sister myth preserved in Ireland by a branch of the FinnoUgrian race instead of a direct imitation of the story we get in the Old Testament. Fintann, who accompanies Kesair, is connected with fish myths similar to those discovered in the present century in old Babylonia and which reappear in the Finnish Kalewala among exploits of Waïnamoïnen.

The earliest immigration myths preserved by Keating point to polygamy. The leadership of women does not preclude, as we know from African examples, both slavery and cerorthodox Keltic, and later on the Roman Cathtain forms of polygamy. Against these the olic Church, waged steady conflict as soon as they came to power. In attacking matters. Common to man on lower stages of developof looking at woman; they strove to deprive ment Christians introduced the Oriental way her of much of her freedom of action in order

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to improve morals; and, while making her chaster, limited very seriously the chances of independent life and the pursuit of a career on the part of a woman of enterprise. Beyond the veil of the Christian centuries woman in Ireland can be found pursuing many of the professions usually monopolized by man. It was as if the Christian priests wanted to get women out of public life as much as possible and cause them to devote most of their leisure to affairs of religion.

But as regards the ordinary woman there was no relief to her toil save the fairs, where trouble was always brewing between the valiant men of different tribes, septs, departments, and where bloodshed was always in order unless some powerful prince kept a strong guard and disarmed all who entered the precincts. The stone quern, or hand-mill, was the badge of the common woman's slavery in Ireland. If there were no slaves, the women of the tribe had to do this hard work; but in the pagan period, and far down into the Christian, "foreign bondwomen" were staples in Ireland. They form one of the commonest articles mentioned in the metrical lists of fines and tributes preserved in the Book of Rights. It is recorded of St. Brigit that her father, the Druid Dubthach, became so incensed with her for giving away property to the poor that he put Brigit in his chariot to dispose of her, saying, "It is not through honor or regard for thee that I am bringing thee into a chariot, but to take thee and sell thee to grind at the quern for Dunlaug, son of Enda, the king of Laigen."1

Eri, Fodla, and Banba, three sisters, appear to be mere impersonations of Ireland under female forms; Badb, Macha, and Morighan, or Morrigu, as we have seen, are battle goddesses, such as the Scandinavians called Valkyrs, or Choosers of the Battle. Brighid, the patroness of literature, handed down to Brig, a Druidess and daughter of a famous pagan lawyer, some of her preëminence in wisdom, for she is the Pallas Athene of the ancient Irish. St. Brigit, first Abbess of Kildare, whose father threatened to sell her for a slave, according to the pious legend, may have been a historical character, but her worship carried over many pagan practices, of which perhaps the longest to survive was the divination as to a husband. In the last century, and probably far down into the present, unmarried women


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of the people used to fashion an effigy of St. Brigit on the eve of the day she rules in the calendar. By various incantations and ceremonies with this puppet they sought to learn who was to be their husband. The magicians of the ancient Finns did the same; modern Samoyeds and Lapps fabricate and conjure with similar puppets, which with us are now relegated to the nursery in the form of the



child's doll. As St. Brigit has the honor of introducing nunneries into Ireland, her appearance in the amiable office of match-maker would not be easy to explain did we not now perceive that the pagans of Ireland, like the pagans of Peru and of Rome, were provided with similar establishments long before nunneries became general. The Vestal virgin did not marry while in office, but she was not debarred forever from matrimony, nor did her vows imply any horror for the married state. Hence the contradiction when a Christian saint took over the rites and superstitions proper to a heathen goddess or priestess. An ancient Gaelic poem in the Burgundian Library of Brussels attributed to this saint begins:

I should like a great lake of ale
For the king of kings;

I should like the family of heaven

To be drinking it through time eternal. Another queen whose name signifies a race is Scota, the wife of that Miledh of Spain whose sons led the last great Keltic immigration. She is called the daughter of the king of Egypt, and from her the Scoti of Ireland and northern

Britain are fabled to get their name. Certainly this swarm has Egyptian traces, such as the Lady Dil, daughter of Miledh, being also the wife of her brother Donn, like the Ptolemies of Egypt; but marriages of state between brother and sister are not confined to Egypt - they appear in Greek mythology. What is important to note about these earliest queens and heroines is the fact that they engage in battle and are often slain, just like any man of note, by warriors whose names are given in history without a sign of disapproval. They afford a clue to the Amazons of Asia Minor, who have been a great puzzle.

Divorce was easy under the old laws, and the wife took back with her the "tindscra," or marriage portion given by her parents, as well as the "coibche," or reward for her virginity received from the husband. Here are some of the reasons which might be alleged by a quick-tempered or a frail woman as a cause for separation: refusal of her rights in domestic matters, misconduct of her husband with other women, abandonment, a public charge of infidelity, ridicule from her husband, a mark on her person showing maltreatment. If a lovepotion had been administered, it might be cited as a cause for leaving the man who gave it. In fine, divorce in heathen Ireland was so easy, and the laws were so favorable to the weaker sex, that the man who "caught a Tartar" must have had every chance of continuing to regret it.

Yet the lateness of date at which we find women fighting in battles is surprising. One of the glories of the Church in Ireland was a law passed by the efforts of St. Adamnan, about A. D. 690, putting a stop to the employment of women in war. The legend runs that he was once carrying his mother on his back near a battle when a woman was seen to thrust a sickle into the breast of another and drag her off the field. Adamnan's mother bade him put her down, and refused to be carried farther until he should swear to free women from such services. This he promised, and at the next grand assembly obtained a passage of the law.

The Sidhe, that race which swallowed up the most important persons of the Firbolg and Dé Danann swarms when the latter gave way

before the Kelts under the sons of Miledh, has many female representatives in history and legend. They were called in general Bansidhe, or "banshee," a word which has become narrowed down to a ghost that haunts certain old families and shrieks pitifully when one of the family is about to die. The banshee sometimes gave success to a chief by her wise counsels, sometimes lured him into vice, as did Shin, a banshee who seduced Muircheartach, son of Erca, a monarch who repudiated his wife

and drove his own children from Cleitech, his palace on the Boyne. In the Four Masters we hear of this king, A. D. 524, killing Sidhe (fairy), son of Dian (god). But under the date 526 we read of the revenge. For it appears that Shin was the daughter of Sidhe, and made love to her father's slayer until he had destroyed his home as we have seen. Then she burned his palace over his head and brought him to a terrible end.

The male fairy is a Fearsidhe (farshee). He would sometimes solicit and obtain aid from human beings in his wars with other supernatural tribes, just as the gods of Olympus were aided by Hercules. We know now that the Sidhe were early peoples and their gods, incorporated into the following races, who assumed in the eyes of the latter the character of supernaturals living in hills and under the water. Heathen Turks and Tatars of southern Siberia still worship their gods Kudai; on the Volga the Chuwasses worship Sjudtunzi. We find under the Arctic Circle and among the Finns and other "Altaic" or Turanian tribes of Russia the same belief in "Tshuds," or vanished supernatural inhabitants of the land, pointing to the same mixture of ideas we find in Ireland concerning dispossessed peoples of a different tongue but high civilization whose record remains only in legend. The "shee" of Ireland is the same word we find in Asia, but softened down in pronunciation. Among the early Russians and Irish we can safely infer the Turanian underfolk with its myths and manners of life, its subterranean dwellings and repute as magicians; in both we perceive remarkably clever members of the Finno-Ugrian womenfolk gaining a power over chiefs of the conquering hordes and going down into legend as supernatural Sidhes or Tshuds. The foot-note considers the Gaelic words for woman and may well be forgiven, as it also relates to our common English term.

1 The old word for daughter, ni or nu, which is now obsolete in the spoken language of Ireland, points to the Turanian peoples by its appearance among the Hungarians and other Finno-Turks as no, wife. With regard to bean or ban, the ordinary word in Gaelic for woman, we find the root again in Latin Venus and venia with the meaning to love, venerate; in Sanskrit also as van, to love, serve, honor. From this we may provisionally class the living Irish word as Aryan, the obsolete as Turanian. According to Mr. Skeat we get it again in the English words to "win," ," "winsome." But though the great authority of Mr. Skeat upholds the ordinary derivation of "woman" from wifman, analogies are in favor of supposing that the spelling wifman in Anglo-Saxon arose from a mistake of the Saxon writers, who strove to explain in that way a word having no explanation in their tongue, which really came in from the Keltic spoken in Britain. When we find Irish turning bean into wan and van under certain circumstances, in accordance with those changes in consonants which are common to Keltic tongues, we have cause to suspect the old derivation

Unfortunately we cannot point to any pictures of early Irish women to aid us in calling up their appearance, the female figures of illuminated missals being conventional; but we must be content with the descriptions of Gaelic novelists and poets, whose ideals were necessarily more Keltic than Finno-Ugrian. But we can gain some idea of the earliest from Finland; accordingly a Finnish woman of the heroic period is reprinted from the picture in the Kalewala as published by the Finnish Literary Society of Helsingfors. The clothes of plebeian women found in Denmark and Ireland



in oaken coffins, preserved by the action of oak-sap and peat, are not unlike those we see here, though a woolen girdle and a close-fitting of woman from wifman, leman from leofman, and incline to believe that when a proper study has been made of the Keltic and subject tongues, we shall find that the Keltic women of Britain brought into use in place of wif (German weib) a word which the old Saxon philologists forced into the unreasonable reading "wife-man." Whether they were married or enslaved by the conquerors would not alter matters; they would necessarily affect the tongue with words from their own language. An exact parallel is found in Irish Gaelic; for whereas the Kelts who entered Ireland had their own word ban springing from an Aryan root, they assimilated into their tongue the Finno-Ugrian ni or nu and used it as the feminine equivalent of mac, "son of," before proper names down to a few centuries ago. This is only one out of a number of words in English the origin of which might be traced through Keltic tongues if scholars would remove from their minds prejudices engendered on the one hand by politico-social matters, on the other by the wild assertions of the Keltic scholars before the time of Zeuss and his grammar.

cap of woven wool with strings to it are found in place of the decorated belt and headdress of this Finnish woman of property. So far as descriptions of attire are concerned, we get them in abundance for men of all ranks belonging to parts of Ireland and even to foreign countries; but also for women not a few. Thus when Queen Meave determined to go into Ulster and seize the wonderful bull for which the foray called Táin Bo Chuailgné was undertaken, she was surprised by an apparition seated on the shaft of her chariot. It was a woman engaged in weaving. "She had a green spot-speckled cloak upon her, and a round, heavy-headed brooch in that cloak over her breast. Her countenance was crimson, richblooded; her eyes gray and sparkling; her lips red and thin; her teeth shining and pearly so that you would think it was a shower of fair pearls that had been set in her head; like fresh coral were her lips; as sweet as the strings of sweet harps played by the hands of long-practiced masters were the sound of her voice and her fine speech; whiter than the snow shed in one night were her skin and her body appearing through her dress; she had long, even, white feet, and her nails were crimson, well-cut, circular, and sharp; she had long, fair, yellow hair; three wreaths of her hair were braided around her head and an


other braid descending as low down as the calves of her legs." This lady was a fairy, but her specialty was prophecy, so that we must infer that only certain of the fairies were gifted in that way.

There are many objects in the museums of Dublin, Belfast, and other places the exact use of which is a problem owing to the lack of pictures of early men and women. The poets exaggerate and the medieval writers relate ancient events in the light of their own times without regard to probabilities; though it must be said that the Irish writers of legendary fiction have

shown more of the historical sense than those of other northern nations, perhaps because of the existence in manuscript of sober histories from a very early period. The Irish had a musical instrument like the circle of little bells in a Turkish band, and many of these crotals have been found. But they appear at one time to have used them for the adornment of women, though now the crotal is only found as a cowbell, sheep-bell, and as a sleigh-bell with us. There are strings of little bells in the Dublin Museum which can only have been worn by human beings. The tribes of Central Asia still decorate their unmarried women in this way, perhaps partly in order that their whereabouts should always be known from the sound, lest they steal away to lovers who come with no bride-price in their hands. Gold diadems for the hair, spirals of soft gold to twist round a thick plait, combs of bone ingeniously contrived, moccasins like those still used by the Lapps, oval decorated bosses of gold or bronze such as the Finnish medieval lady shows in the woodcut, are a few of the treasures from the ancient women of Ireland.

The pawnshop, or the Mont de Piété, of the present period is only the survival of a fashion which anybody might follow without loss of honor. The Brehon laws provide for the exact values a queen could demand if an article placed in pawn by her was not forthcoming when she demanded it, and the same for wives lower in the social scale. At Yule, or Christmas, at Easter, at the Midsummer festival, at a fair or other day of meeting, it was necessary to take jewels and other ornaments out of pawn in order to be appareled as befitted rank. Severe were the laws if these were withheld unjustly. The workbag of a queen was supposed to contain the following articles: a veil of one color, a crown of gold, a crescent of gold, a thread or cord of silver.

Should this bag be withheld, the fine is three cows. The fine for the complete contents of a workbag belonging to the wife of a chief is three heifers-reminding us of the first meaning of pecunia. These are its proper contents: one veil, a diadem of gold, a crescent of silver, a thread or cord of silver, a painted face or mask for assemblies, a kerchief of silk, gold thread.

O'Curry quotes a stanza from a ninth-century manuscript wherein it appears that blue was considered the proper and modest color for woman's dress, while fops had their garments dyed of many colors :

Mottled to simpletons, blue to women,
Crimson to the kings of every host,
Green and black to noble laymen,
White to clerics of proper devotion.

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