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Satan And Churches






Category: STORIES OF SATAN, GHOSTS, ETC.

Source: Welsh Folk-lore

The traditional stories that are still extant respecting the determined
opposition to the erection of certain churches in particular spots, and
the removal of the materials during the night to some other site, where
ultimately the new edifice was obliged to be erected, and the many
stories of haunted churches, where evil spirits had made a lodgment, and
could not for ages be ousted, are evidences of the antagonism of rival
forms of paganism, or of the opposition of an ancient religion to the new
and intruding Christian Faith.

Brash in his Ogam Inscribed Stones, p. 109, speaking of Irish Churches,
says:--

It is well known that many of our early churches were erected on sites
professedly pagan.

The most ancient churches in Wales have circular or ovoidal
churchyards--a form essentially Celtic--and it may well be that these
sacred spots were dedicated to religious purposes in pagan times, and
were appropriated by the early Christians,--not, perhaps, without
opposition on the part of the adherents of the old faith--and consecrated
to the use of the Christian religion. In these churchyards were often to
be found holy, or sacred wells, and many of them still exist, and modes
of divination were practised at these wells, which have come down to our
days, and which must have originated in pre-Christian or pagan times.

It is highly probable that the older faith would for a while exist
concurrently with the new, and mutual contempt and annoyance on the part
of the supporters of the respective beliefs would as naturally follow in
those times as in any succeeding age, but this fact should be
emphasised--that the modes of warfare would correspond with the civilized
or uncivilized state of the opponents. This remark is general in its
application, and applies to races conquered by the Celts in Britain,
quite as much as to races who conquered the Celt, and there are not
wanting certain indications that the tales associated with Satan belong
to a period long anterior to the introduction of Christianity. Certain
classes of these tales undoubtedly refer to the antagonism of beliefs
more ancient than the Christian faith, and they indicate the measures
taken by one party to suppress the other. Thus we see it related that
the Evil Spirit is forcibly ejected from churches, and dragged to the
river, and there a tragedy occurs. In other words a horrible murder is
committed on the representative of the defeated religion. The very fact
that he loses his life in a river--in water--in an object of wide spread
worship--is not without its significance.

We have seen in the legend of the Evil Spirit in Cerrig-y-drudion Church,
p. 133,--that it was ejected, after a severe struggle, from the sacred
building--that it was dragged to the lake, where it lost its life, by two
Ychain Banawg--that they, and it, perished together in the lake:--Now
these Ychain Banawg or long-horned oxen, huge in size and strong of
limb, are traditional, if not fabulous animals, and this one incident in
the legend is enough to prove its great antiquity. Undoubtedly it dates
from remote pre-Christian times, and yet the tale is associated with
modern ideas, and modes of expression. It has come down to us along the
tide of time, and has received its colouring from the ages it has passed
through. Yet on the very surface of this ancient legend we perceive it
written that in days of old there was severe antagonism between rival
forms of pagan faith, and the manner in which the weaker--and perhaps the
more ancient--is overcome, is made clear. The instrument used is brute
force, and the vanquished party is drowned or, in the euphonious
language of the tales, is laid.

There are many stories of spirits that have been cast out of churches,
still extant in Wales, and one of the most famous of these is that of
Llanfor Church, near Bala. It resembles that of Cerrig-y-drudion. I
have succeeded in obtaining several versions of this legend. I am
indebted for the first to Mr. R. Roberts, Clocaenog, a native of Bala.





Next: The Ejectment Of The Evil Spirit From Llanfor Church

Previous: Satan Outwitted



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