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The Kobolds get the red jackets they are said to wear from their fiery nature. Originally the lar familiaris of Germany, the Kobold became of many varieties; but in one line he has been developed from the house-spirit, whose good or evil temper was recognised in the comforts or dangers of fire, to a special Stone-demon. The hell-dog in Faust's room takes refuge from the spell of 'Solomon's Key' behind the stone, and is there transformed to human shape. The German maidens read many pretty oracles in the behaviour of the fire, and the like in that of its fellow Wahrsager the house-dog. It is indeed a widespread notion that imps and witches lurk about the fireside, obviously in cat and dog, and ride through the air on implements that usually stand about the fire, shovel, tongs, or broom. In Paris it was formerly the custom to throw twenty-four cats into the fire on St. John's night, the animals being, according to M. De Plancy, emblems of the devil. So was replaced the holocaust of human witches, until at last civilisation rang out its curfew for all such fires as that.
Descent of Ishtar into Hades- Bardism-Baldur-Hercules-Christ
-Survivals of the Frost Giant in Slavonic and other countriesThe Clavie-The Frozen Hell—The Northern abode of demons -North side of churches.
EVEN across immemorial generations it is impossible to read without emotion the legend of the Descent of Ishtar into Hades. Through seven gates the goddess of Love passes in search of her beloved, and at each some of her ornaments and clothing are removed by the dread guardian. Ishtar enters naked into the presence of the Queen of Death. But gods, men, and herds languish in her absence, and the wonder-working Hea, the Saviour, so charms the Infernal Queen, that she bids the Judge of her realm, Annunak, absolve Ishtar from his golden throne. 'He poured out for Ishtar the waters of life and let
her go. Then the first gate let her forth, and restored to her
the first garment of her body. The second gate let her forth, and restored to her the
diamonds of her hands and feet. The third gate let her forth, and restored to her the
central girdle of her waist.
1 Tablet K 162 in Brit. Mus. Tr. by H. F. Talbot in Past.'
Records of the
The fourth gate let her forth, and restored to her the
small lovely gems of her forehead. The fifth gate let her forth, and restored to her the
precious stones of her head. The sixth gate let her forth, and restored to her the
earrings of her ears. The seventh gate let her forth, and restored to her the
great crown on her head.' This old miracle-play of Nature—the return of summer flower by flower—is deciphered from an ancient Assyrian tablet in a town within only a few hours of another, where a circle of worshippers repeat the same at every solstice! Myfyr Morganwg, the Arch-Druid, adores still Hea by name as his Saviour, and at the winter solstice assembles his brethren to celebrate his coming to bruise the head oi the Serpent of Hades (Annwn, nearly the same as in the tablet), that seedtime and harvest shall not fail.1
Is this a survival ? No doubt; but there is no cult in the world which, if 'scratched,' as the proverb says, will not reveal beneath it the same conception. However it may be spiritualised, every plan of salvation' is cast in the mould of Winter conquered by the Sun, the Descent of Love to the Under World, the delivery of the imprisoned germs of Life.
It is very instructive to compare with the myth of Ishtar that of Hermödr, seeking the release of Baldur the Beautiful from Helheim.
The deadly powers of Winter are represented in the Eddaic account of the death of Baldur, soft summer Light, the Norse Baal. His blind brother Hödr is Darkness; the demon who directed his arrow is Loki, subterranean fire;
1 The Western Mail, March 12, 1874, contains a remarkable letter by the Arch-Druid, in which he maintains that “Jesus' is a derivation from Hea or Hu, Light, and the christian system a corruption of Bardism.
the arrow itself is of mistletoe, which, fostered by Winter, owes no duty to Baldur; and the realm to which he is borne is that of Hel, the frozen zone. Hermödr, having arrived, assured Hel that the gods were in despair for the loss of Baldur. The Queen replied that it should now be tried whether Baldur was so beloved. “If, therefore, all things in the world, both living and lifeless, weep for him, he shall return to the Æsir. In the end all wept but the old hag Thokk (Darkness), who from her cavern sang
Thokk will wail
So Baldur remained in Helheim. The myth very closely resembles that of Ishtar's Descent. In similar accent the messenger of the Southern gods weeps and lacerates himself as he relates the grief of the upper world, and all men and animals 'since the time that mother Ishtar descended into Hades.' But in the latter the messenger is successful, in the North he is unsuccessful. In the corresponding myths of warm and sunny climes the effort at release is more or less successful, in proportion to the extent of winter. In Adonis released from Hades for four months every year, and another four if he chose to abandon Persephone for Aphrodite, we have a reflection of a variable year. That, and the similar myth of Persephone, varied in the time specified for their passing in the upper and under worlds, probably in accordance with the climatic averages of the regions in which they were told. But in the tropics it was easy to believe the release complete, as in the myth of Ishtar. In Mangaian myths the hero, Maui, escapes from a nether world of fire, aided by a red pigeon.
GLAD TIDINGS FROM THE SOUTH.
When this contest between Winter's Death and Spring's Life became humanised, it was as Hercules vanquishing Death and completely releasing Alcestis. When it became spiritualised it was as Christ conquering Death and Hell, and releasing the spirits from prison. The wintry desolation had to be artificially imitated in a forty days' fast and Lent, closing with a thrust from the spear (the mistletoe arrow) amid darkness (blind Hödr). But the myth of a swift resurrection had to be artificially preserved in the far North. The legend of a full triumph over Death and Hell could never have originated among our Norse ancestors. Their only story resembling it, that of Iduna, related how her recovery from the Giants brought back health to the gods, not men. But it was from the South that men had to hear tidings of a rescue for the earth and man.
We cannot realise now what glad tidings were they which told this new gospel to peoples sitting in regions of ice and gloom, after it had been imposed on them against their reluctant fears. In manifold forms the old combat was renewed in their festivals, and peoples who had long been prostrate and helpless before the terrible powers of nature were never weary of the Southern fables of heroic triumphs over them, long interpreted in the simple physical sense.
The great Demon of the Northern World is still Winter, and the hereditary hatred of him is such that he is still cursed, scourged, killed, and buried or drowned under various names and disguises. In every Slavonic country, says Mr. Ralston, there are to be found, about carnival time, traces of ancient rites, intended to typify the death of Winter and the birth of Spring or Summer. In Poland a puppet made of hemp or straw is flung into a pond or swamp with the words, “The Devil take thee!' Then the