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be heard them holding converse with the spirit of the fountain.* In the following rather humorous song, preserved in a manuscript at Cambridge, written in the earlier part of the fifteenth century, we have an allusion by name to the ceremony of waking the well, mentioned before in the Anglo-Saxon Penetentiary, (see p. 362),
I have for-sworne hit, whil I life, to wake the well.
The last tyme I the wel woke,
I shuld not tell.
And refei my bell.
I was so gyled.
To beyre a child.
A long while ey. I If we believe the satirical writings of the reformers, the ceremonies attendant on the popular superstitions had frequently a similar dénouement to that which in the present instance followed the waking of the well.
Not only were the popular superstitions of our pagan forefathers preserved in their full force, after the introduction of Christianity, from the circumstance of their having considerable influence over the minds of the monks themselves; but the first missionaries, by adopting many of the objects and places of former worship, in the hope of turning more readily the piety of their converts along with them into another direction, and sometimes in
* Porro in medio noctis silentio illas ad fontes aquarum in orientem affluentes juxta [h ]ortum domus etam (sic) egressas Herwardus percepit. Quas statim secutus est, ubi eas eminus colloquentes audivit, nescio a quo custode fontium responsa et interrogantes et sui expectantes.- De Gestis Herwardi Saxonis. This curious work will soon be published. + Towards the stream.
$ Came frequently. ll I curse.
MS. Pub. Lib. Camb. Ff. 5, 48.
the pride of showing how the new religion had seated itself in the very strong holds of idolatry, were the cause of preserving, in the traditions of the people, many legends and articles of former belief, which otherwise would have perished with the objects to which they had been linked. Our extracts have afforded us several proofs how general was the worship of trees; they were looked upon originally as the temple of the object, and not as the object, of worship. Every body who pays any attention to the subject, knows how commonly, even at the present time, legends and popular traditions of the most grotesque forms are connected with trees that are venerable for their age and magnitude. Numerous notices in early writers, the greater part of which will be found collected in Grimm's Mythologie, show us, that in the earlier ages of western paganism such trees were universally the objects of superstitious reverence. When St. Boniface, sometime between the years 725 and 731, and during the reign of Charles Martel, visited the Hessians, he found, that though the greater number of them had embraced the Christian faith, there were still many who followed their old idolatry. Boniface was determined to do all he could to root out heathendom, and, by the advice of the converted Hessians, he resolved on cutting down“ an oak of wonderful magnitude” which stood in a place called Gaesmere (Geismar), and to which their pagan forefathers had given, in their language, a name which signified the Oak of Jupiter (Thor's Oak ?).* The work of felling this vast tree was commenced in presence of an immense crowd of spectators, many of them pagans, who believed that their oak would be proof against the power of the axe, and who seemed to regard this trial as a test of the superiority of the one religion over the other. But the Oak of Jupiter bowed and fell with a terrible crash, and hundreds of its worshippers became Christians on the spot. Thereupon Boniface, by the advice of his companions, cut up the sacred tree, and with the timber built an oratory on the spot, which he dedicated to Saint Peter. The life of St. Amandus, A.D. 674, speaks of trees dedicated to demons (arbores quæ erant dæmonibus dedicata).
In like manner, it was a very common thing to place a Christian church on the same spot where had stood a temple dedicated to some one of the German divinities.
Besides these causes of the preservation of traces of the earlier Teutonic mythology, the language itself, in all its dialects and
* Quorum consultu atque consilio arborem quandam miræ magnitudinis, quæ prisco pagunorum vocabulo appellatur robur Jovis, in loco qui dicitur Gaesmere.–Vita Bonifac. ap. Grimm, p. 44.
varieties, at every step bears marks of the original creed of the people who spoke it, not only in the names of the different mythic beings and of their habitation and worship, but in multitudes of expressions and terms applied at a later period to other objects and actions, which by their formation show how, at an early period, those objects and actions were connected with the popular culture. These are found more particularly in the names of plants and diseases, and of some animals, and in the apparently unmeaning formulæ which, at a much later period, ignorant people used as magical charms. Grimm has given several popular rhymes in vogue among the peasantry of different parts of Germany, in which are found the names of Woden and Irmen. The names of the Teutonic gods are still preserved in those of the days of the week.
The information which these different authorities afford us, concerning the early forms of Teutonic mythology, is tolerably copious, but at the same time so unconnected and vague,
that it required all the industry and genius of a Grimm to reduce it to order, and to elicit from it the outline and the details of a systein. The materials of an early date come chiefly through the hands of those who seized most readily on the terrific and disagreeable points of the popular inythology. They do not make us acquainted with the more harmless elves and fairies, although there are sufficient traces of them to take away all doubt of their having formed a part of the creed of our forefathers at this remote period. The elves and dwarfs are frequently alluded to in the Legends of the Anglo-Saxon Saints; and, though they are much disguised under the name of devils, or rather of hobgoblins, yet there are good reasons for believing that from this period to the time when it becomes more perfectly known to us, in this particular the popular belief had not altered.* The white ladies are mentioned in the Life of Hereward, already quoted, and in such a manner as to leave little doubt on our minds of their having been identical with the fairies of later times.
The latter half of the twelfth century and beginning of the thirteenth was the period when the feudal barons possessed the greatest power. It seems also to have been the
when literature was most patronized, and the writings which it has left us, whether in prose or verse, in Latin or Anglo-Norman, (for those were the two languages in which people wrote, show more spirit, elegance, and imagination, than at any other period of the middle
ages. The chronicles at this period become far more interesting than they had been before; there is more of life and anecdote in them; and, curiously enough, they abound in fairy legends. What makes them still more valuable is, that these legends are evidently given as told by the peasantry, without any, or at least with very little, adventitious colouring. In Gervase of Tilbury, Giraldus Cambrensis, and William of Newbury, we have the elves and fairies in all their frolicsome airiness and in all their glory, and we trace them in their dances and gambols by moonlight in their under-ground country, and in their interference in the affairs of men. From this time the documents of the history of popular mythology are very abundant, and appear in multifarious shapes, like the superstitions to which they relate. Strange it is that so many centuries after the abolition of paganism, these superstitions, so intimately grounded upon it, should still keep ir hold on people's minds so firmly as from time to time to give even a character to the age. At one time they turned the philosopher into a magician, and led the scholar in wilder vagaries after the philosopher's stone and elixirs than ever Robin Goodfellow put upon the benighted traveller. At a still later period of European history, when education had been much more widely spread, in the great cry against witchcraft, these superstitions drenched England, as well as France and Germany, in torrents of blood. When we see that at that period, the learning which had been so widely spread only served to defend the popular belief, we shall easily perceive how impossible it was for the primitive missionaries to eradicate it from the minds of their converts.
* See our article on Friar Rush and the Frolicsome Elves, in Foreign Quarterly Review, No. 35.
In the earlier ages of Christianity among the Teutonic people, the Monks supposed that the elves and fairies of the people were neither more nor less than so many devils, whose business it was to delude people ; so that in trausmitting to us the outlines of the popular legends they give them a colouring of which it is not always easy to divest them. At later periods, without going so far as to make them absolutely devils, some of the most intelligent writers had very curious ideas about their origin. Giraldus tells us of a fairy who lived some years with a northern bishop as a faithful servant. Before he left the service of bis master, he told him who and what he was. He said that the elves and fairies were a portion of the angels who fell with Lucifer from Heaven; but inasmuch as, though they had been seduced and deluded, they were not so criminal as their fellows, their sentence had been less severe; but that they were allowed to live on the earth, some of them having their peculiar dwelling-place in the air, others in the waters, some again in trees and fountains, and many in the caverns of the earth. He confessed, also, that as Christianity
spread they had much less liberty than formerly. As much of the popular middle-age legends relating to the fall of the angels was probably rooted on the older mythology, this story may
itself be the shadow of an earlier article of pagan creed relating to the origin of the elves.
At the same time as the monks exerted an influence over the superstitions of the people, in modifying them into apparent accordance with Christianity, these superstitions were also influencing the latter, and without doubt gave rise to that multiplicity and multiformity of demoniacal agency which pervades the monkish legends. In their system the whole world was believed to be peopled with innumerable hordes of devils, who possessed only a certain degree of power, which they used in tormenting, seducing, and misleading mankind. Diseases were often the effect of their malignity, and conflagrations and numerous fatal accidents were commonly supposed to be brought about by their agency. They also exerted an influence over the elements, and caused storms, floods, and even greater convulsions of nature. The monks sometimes invented strange stories to account for the influence which the devils thus exerted, because they were not aware of the real source from which they had been adopted. An inedited English poet of the thirteenth century, after explaining in a popular manner the nature of thunder and lightning, proceeds to show how it happens to cause so much mischief. When Christ suffered death, he says, he bound the devil, and broke down hell-gates in order to let out those who suffered there. His visit was attended with such terrible thunder, that the devils have been afraid of thunder ever since; and if
of them happen to be caught in a storm, they fly, as quick as wind, and kill men and destroy trees, &c. which they meet in their way. This is the reason that people are killed in a storm.*
As we have just observed, it required all the masterly skill of a Grimm to reduce the scattered and often apparently discordant materials, which such authorities have left us for the history of
* We subjoin the passage for the sake of its quaintness
“ Ye mowe sigge whan thundre is menging of fur and wete,
MS. Harl., No. 2277, fol. 129.