Stories Of Satan Ghosts Etc


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.