Irish Druids And Old Irish
He who has visited Burmah or
Russia will have no doubt about the reverence
for bells, and special reverence being paid to special bells. There are fixed
bells, and portable bells, the last being held in the highest estimation.
Their special virtue lay in dominion over the powers of darkness Duly
baptized bells, down to latter days, have been endowed with ability to disperse
demons When the Swedes under Charles XII. defeated the Russians at Narva, the
courage of the Muscovites was revived by incessant ringing of bells, throughout
Holy Russia, to drive devils from the sacred soil. That superstition still
prevails with the followers of Siva in India.
Baptized bells possess other powers. St. Teilo brought
a celebrated one from Jerusalem, that had such inherent sanctity, as to make
known, in some way, its detestation of particular crimes.
Bells could even work miracles by their enchantments. The children of Lir
were said by ancient Irish bards to have been changed by a Druidic wand, more
powerful than that of a harlequin, into four swans. They had a dreary time of it
for a few centuries. At first they dwelt in Loch Derg for three hundred years.
Then they flew to the Sea of Moyle, between Erin and Alba. But the poor
creatures still inhabited the bodies of swans. Their release, according to
bardic tales, was thus effected:--"The bell that rang in the first Mass
celebrated on Inis na Gluaise (Isle of Glory) restored them to their human
shapes; but they were now emaciated and decrepid, and only waited for baptism to
flee away to rest eternal."
Holy bells of Ireland are of distinct Buddhist shape, being of an irregular
cylindrical form, as in India, &c., and not round as in Christian lands.
Irish bells were often ornamented with crosses, the fleur-de-lis, and the
pomegranate. St. Finnian's bell resembles that seen in Jain temples of India.
A number of so-called St. Patrick's bells are still preserved, as in the
instructive and interesting Dublin Museum. They are of various sizes, the
largest being a foot in height. He is said to have had fifty. The sweetest
sounding one is known by the name of Finn Faidheach. Most of his bells
were of bronze, often beautifully adorned after an oriental fashion. The Betechan
is half iron. The Clogdubh or black bell of the Saint, an alloy of
different metals, is about twelve inches high, and five by four otherwise.
The Tripartite Life of the Saint records his flinging a little bell
under a dense bush, and in time a birch grew through its handle, revealing it to
the eyes of Dieuill.
When he drove the demons into the sea at Croagh Patrick, Mayo, he flung after
them his bell. It is not certain whether this was the Bearnan Brighde or
the Dubh-duaib-seach. O'Donovan explains the occasion--"According to
all the Lives of the Irish apostle, he remained for forty days and forty nights
on this lofty mountain, which was then infested by malignant demons, who opposed
his progress in preaching the gospel in this dreary region; but whom he drove
thence headlong into the sea." This was effectually done by means of his
Another account is that a bell was brought down for St. Patrick by angels
from heaven, when a spring gushed forth at the place. He scared the demons away
by it, aided by blows, and not by the mere ringing.
The shrines of these cherished bells have always drawn forth much admiration
Miss Stokes, in her beautiful work on Early Christian Art in Ireland,
said, "Such covers or shrines for bells seem to be unknown to any other
branch of the Christian Church."
Among other Irish bells may be mentioned one with a very handsome border This
was twelve inches high, nine broad, and nine and a half deep. There were the
Clog Beannaighte, the Clogdubh, the Cumaseach MacAntils of the
Archbishop of Armagh, the Doumragh of Fenagh, the gapped bell of St
Culann, the golden bell of St. Sevan, the bronze one given by St. Patrick to the
Bishop Cloghir, the magnificent bronzed one with gold filagree exquisite
workmanship, and the bells of St. Ruadhan, St. Mura, St. Mogue, or Maidoc,
The Dublin Museum has bells of St. Columba, which had the same virtue as
those of St Patrick in the expulsion of demons, and as the heathen Burmese still
relate of their own holy bells. Bells were brought from Rome by St Patrick, St.
Columba, and St. Mungo or Kentigern, of Glasgow fame. It is singular that
in the ruins of Zimbahwe, of Mashona Land,
travellers have found some double iron bells. No bell has any charming power
until duly consecrated by the priest of some faith.