Satan And Churches


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,


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.