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Stories Of Satan Ghosts Etc


Source: Welsh Folk-lore

Although Max Muller, in Chips from a German Workshop, vol. ii., p. 238,
states that The Aryan nations had no Devil, this certainly cannot at
present be affirmed of that branch of the Celtic race which inhabits
Wales. In the Principality the Devil occupies a prominent position in
the foreground of Welsh Folk-Lore. He is, however, generally depicted as
inferior in cunning and intellect to a bright-witted Welshman, and when
worsted in a contest he acknowledges his inferiority by disappearing in a
ball or wheel of fire. Men, it was supposed, could sell themselves to
the Evil One for a term of years, but they easily managed to elude the
fulfilment of the contract, for there was usually a loop-hole by which
they escaped from the clutches of the stupid Devil. For instance, a man
disposes of his soul for riches, pleasures, and supernatural knowledge
and power, which he is to enjoy for a long number of years, and in the
contract it is stipulated that the agreement holds good if the man is
buried either in or outside the church. To all appearance the victim
is irretrievably lost, but no, after enjoying all the fruits of his
contract, he cheats the Devil of his due, by being buried in or under
the church walls.

In many tales Satan is made to act a part detrimental to his own
interests; thus Sabbath breakers, card players, and those who practised
divination, have been frightened almost to death by the appearance of the
Devil, and there and then, being terrified by the horrible aspect of the
enemy, they commenced a new life. This thought comes out strongly in Y
Bardd Cwsg. The poet introduces one of the fallen angels as appearing
to act the part given to the Devil, in the play of Faust, when it was
being performed at Shrewsbury, and this appearance drove the frequenters
of the theatre from their pleasures to their prayers. His words are:--

Dyma walch, ail i hwnw yn y Mwythig, y dydd arall, ar ganol interlud
Doctor Ffaustus; a rhai . . . pan oeddynt brysuraf, ymddangosodd y diawl
ei hun i chwareu ei bart ac wrth hynny gyrodd bawb o'i bleser i'w

In English this is:--Here's a fine fellow, second to that at Shrewsbury,
who the other day, when the interlude of Doctor Faustus was being acted,
in the middle of the play, all being busily engaged, the devil himself
appeared to take his own part, and by so doing, drove everyone from
pleasure to prayer.

The absurd conduct of the Evil Spirit on this occasion is held up to
ridicule by the poet, but the idea, which is an old one, that demons
were, by a superior power, obliged to frustrate their own designs, does
not seem to have been taken into consideration by him. He depicts the
Devil as a strange mixture of stupidity and remorseless animosity. But
this, undoubtedly, was the then general opinion. The bard revels in
harrowing descriptions of the tortures of the damned in Gehenna--the
abode of the Arch-fiend and his angels. This portion of his work was in
part the offspring of his own fervid imagination; but in part it might
have been suggested to him by what had been written already on the
subject; and from the people amongst whom he lived he could have, and did
derive, materials for these descriptions. In any case he did not
outrage, by any of his horrible depictions of Pandemonium, the sentiments
of his fellow countrymen, and his delineation of Satan was in full accord
with the popular opinion of his days. The bard did not create but gave
utterance to the fleeting thoughts which then prevailed respecting the
Devil. Indeed there does not seem to be in Wales any distinct attributes
ascribed to Satan, which are not also believed to be his specialities in
other countries. His personal appearance is the same in most places. He
is described as being black, with horns, and hoofs and tail, he breathes
fire and brimstone, and he is accompanied with the clank of chains. Such
was the uncouth form which Satan was supposed to assume, and such was the
picture drawn of him formerly in Wales.

There is a strong family likeness in this description between Satan and
Pan, who belongs to Greek and Egyptian mythology. Pan had two small
horns on his head, his nose was flat, and his legs, thighs, tail, and
feet were those of a goat. His face is described as ruddy, and he is
said to have possessed many qualities which are also ascribed to Satan.
His votaries were not encumbered with an exalted code of morality.

The Fauni, certain deities of Italy, are also represented as having the
legs, feet, and ears of goats, and the rest of the body human, and the
Satyri of the Greeks are also described as having the feet and legs of
goats, with short horns on the head, and the whole body covered with
thick hair. These demigods revelled in riot and lasciviousness. The
satyrs attended upon Bacchus, and made themselves conspicuous in his
orgies. The Romans called their satyrs Fauni, Panes, and Sylvani.

It is difficult to ascertain whether the Celt of Britain obtained through
the Romans their gross notions of the material body of Satan, or whether
it was in later times that they became possessed of this idea. It may
well have been that the Fauni, and other disreputable deities of the
conquerors of the world, on the introduction of Christianity were looked
upon as demons, and their forms consequently became fit representations
of the Spirit of Evil, from whom they differed little, if any, in general
attributes. In this way god after god would be removed from their
pedestals in the world's pantheon, and would be relegated to the regions
occupied by the great enemy of all that is pure, noble, and good in
mankind. Thus the god of one age would become the devil of the
succeeding age, retaining, nevertheless, by a cruel irony, the same form
and qualities in his changed position that he had in his exalted state.

It is by some such reasoning as the preceding that we can account for the
striking personal resemblance between the Satan of mediaeval and later
times and the mythical deities already mentioned.

Reference has been made to the rustic belief that from his mouth Satan
emits fire and brimstone, and here again we observe traces of classic
lore. The fabulous monsters, Typhaeus, or Typhon, and Chimaera, are
probably in this matter his prototypes. It is said that real flames of
devouring fire darted from the mouth and eyes of Typhon, and that he
uttered horrible yells, like the shrieks of different animals, and
Chimaera is described as continually vomiting flames.

Just as the gods of old could assume different shapes, so could Satan.
The tales which follow show that he could change himself at will into the
form of a lovely woman, a mouse, a pig, a black dog, a cock, a fish, a
headless horse, and into other animals or monstrous beings. But the form
which, it is said, he usually assumed to enable him to escape when
discovered in his intrigues was a ball or hoop of fire.

The first series of tales which I shall relate depict Satan as taking a
part in the pastimes of the people.

Next: Satan Playing Cards

Previous: Mermaids And Mermen

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