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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 382 pages of information about The Religion of the Ancient Celts.
in late popular custom a mock king is chosen at winter festivals.[910] In other cases the effigy of a saint is hung up and carried round the different houses, part of the dress being left at each.  The saint has probably succeeded to the traditional ritual of the divine victim.[911] The primitive period in which the corn-spirit was regarded as female, with a woman as her human representative, is also recalled in folk-custom.  The last sheaf is called the Maiden or the Mother, while, as in Northamptonshire, girls choose a queen on S. Catharine’s day, November 26th, and in some Christmas pageants “Yule’s wife,” as well as Yule, is present, corresponding to the May queen of the summer festival.[912] Men also masqueraded as women at the Calends.  The dates of these survivals may be explained by that dislocation of the Samhain festival already pointed out.  This view of the Samhain human sacrifices is supported by the Irish offerings to the Fomorians—­gods of growth, later regarded as gods of blight, and to Cromm Cruaich, in both cases at Samhain.[913] With the evolution of religious thought, the slain victim came to be regarded as an offering to evil powers.

This aspect of Samhain, as a festival to promote and assist festivity, is further seen in the belief in the increased activity of fairies at that time.  In Ireland, fairies are connected with the Tuatha De Danann, the divinities of growth, and in many folk-tales they are associated with agricultural processes.  The use of evergreens at Christmas is perhaps also connected with the carrying of them round the fields in older times, as an evidence that the life of nature was not extinct.[914]

Samhain may thus be regarded as, in origin, an old pastoral and agricultural festival, which in time came to be looked upon as affording assistance to the powers of growth in their conflict with the powers of blight.  Perhaps some myth describing this combat may lurk behind the story of the battle of Mag-tured fought on Samhain between the Tuatha De Danann and the Fomorians.  While the powers of blight are triumphant in winter, the Tuatha Dea are represented as the victors, though they suffer loss and death.  Perhaps this enshrines the belief in the continual triumph of life and growth over blight and decay, or it may arise from the fact that Samhain was both a time of rejoicing for the ingathered harvest, and of wailing for the coming supremacy of winter and the reign of the powers of blight.

BELTANE.

In Cormac’s Glossary and other texts, “Beltane” is derived from bel-tene, “a goodly fire,” or from bel-dine, because newly-born (dine) cattle were offered to Bel, an idol-god.[915] The latter is followed by those who believe in a Celtic Belus, connected with Baal.  No such god is known, however, and the god Belenos is in no way connected with the Semitic divinity.  M. D’Arbois assumes an unknown

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