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An Introduction
to Yoga

by Annie Besant

The Meaning of the Universe

  • The Unfolding of Consciousness
  • The Oneness of the Self
  • The Quickening of the Process of Self-Unfoldment
  • Yoga is a Science
  • Man a Duality
  • States of Mind
  • Samadhi

The Literature of Yoga

  • Some Definitions
  • God Without and God  Within
  • Changes of Consciousness and Vibrations of Matter
  • Stages of Mind
  • Inward and Outward-turned Consciousness
  • The Cloud

Relation to Indian Philosophies

  • Mind
  • The Mental Body

Mind and Self

  • Methods of Yoga
  • To the Self by the Self
  • To the Self through the Not-Self

  • Yoga and Morality
  • Composition of States of the Mind

Pleasure and Pain

  • Inhibition of States of Mind
  • Meditation with and without Seed
  • The Use of Mantras


  • Obstacles to Yoga
  • Capacities for Yoga
  • Forthgoing and Returning
  • Purification of Bodies
  • Dwellers on the Threshold
  • Preparation for Yoga
  • The End

The Religion Of The Ancient Celts

(This list is not a Bibliography.)

BRAND: Rev. J. Brand, Observations on the Popular Antiquities of Great Britain. 3 vols. 1870.

BLANCHET: A. Blanchet, Traité des monnaies gauloises. 2 vols. Paris, 1905.

BERTRAND: A. Bertrand, Religion des gaulois. Paris, 1897.

CAMPBELL, WHT: J.F. Campbell, Popular Tales of the West Highlands. 4 vols. Edinburgh, 1890.

CAMPBELL LF: J.F. Campbell, Leabhar na Feinne. London, 1872.

CAMPBELL, Superstitions: J.G. Campbell, Superstitions of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. 1900.

CAMPBELL, Witchcraft: J.G. Campbell, Witchcraft and Second Sight in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. 1902.

CORMAC: Cormac's Glossary. Tr. by J. O'Donovan. Ed. by W. Stokes. Calcutta, 1868.

COURCELLE—SENEUIL.: J.L. Courcelle-Seneuil, Les dieux gaulois d'après les monuments figurés. Paris, 1910.

CIL: Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum. Berlin, 1863 f.

CM: Celtic Magazine. Inverness, 1875 f.

CURTIN, HTI: J. Curtin, Hero Tales of Ireland. 1894.

CURTIN, Tales: J. Curtin, Tales of the Fairies and Ghost World. 1895.

DALZELL: Sir J.G. Dalzell, Darker Superstitions of Scotland. 1835.

D'ARBOIS: H. D'Arbois de Jubainville, Cours de litterature celtique. 12 vols. Paris, 1883-1902.

D'ARBOIS Les Celtes: H. D'Arbois de Jubainville, Les Celtes. Paris, 1904.

D'ARBOIS Les Druides: H. D'Arbois de Jubainville, Les Druides et les dieux celtiques à formes d'animaux. Paris, 1906.

D'ARBOIS PH: H. D'Arbois de Jubainville, Les premiers habitants de l'Europe. 2 vols. Paris, 1889-1894.

DOM MARTIN: Dom Martin, Le religion des gaulois. 2 vols. Paris, 1727.

DOTTIN: G. Dottin, Manuel pour servir a l'étude de l'antiquité celtique. Paris, 1906.

ELTON: C.I. Elton, Origins of English History. London, 1890.

FRAZER, GB2: J.G. Frazer, Golden Bough2. 3 vols. 1900,

GUEST: Lady Guest, The Mabinogion. 3 vols. Liandovery, 1849.

HAZLITT: W.C. Hazlitt, Faiths and Folk-lore: A Dictionary of National Beliefs, Superstitions, and Popular Customs. 2 vols. 1905.

HOLDER: A. Holder, Altceltischer Sprachschatz. 3 vols. Leipzig, 1891 f.

HULL: Miss E. Hull, The Cuchullin Saga. London, 1898.

IT: See Windisch-Stokes.

JAI: Journal of the Anthropological Institute. London, 1871 f.

JOYCE, OCR: P.W. Joyce, Old Celtic Romances2. London, 1894.

JOYCE, PN: P.W. Joyce, History of Irish Names of Places4. 2 vols. London, 1901.

JOYCE, SH: P.W. Joyce, Social History of Ancient Ireland. 2 vols. London, 1903.

JULLIAN: C. Jullian, Recherches sur la religion gauloise. Bordeaux, 1903.

KEATING: Keating, History of Ireland. Tr. O'Mahony. London, 1866.

KENNEDY: P. Kennedy, Legendary Fictions of the Irish Celts. 1866.

LARMINIE: W. Larminie, West Irish Folk-Tales and Romances. 1893.

LEAHY: Leahy, Heroic Romances of Ireland. 2 vols. London, 1905.

LE BRAZ: A. Le Braz, La Legende de la Mort chez les Bretons armoricains. 2 vols. Paris, 1902.

LL: Leabhar Laignech (Book of Leinster), facsimile reprint. London, 1880.

LOTH: Loth, Le Mabinogion. 2 vols. Paris, 1889.

LU: Leabhar na h-Uidhre (Book of the Dun Cow), facsimile reprint. London, 1870.

MACBAIN: A. MacBain, Etymological Dictionary of the Gaelic Language. Inverness, 1896.

MACDOUGALL: Macdougall, Folk and Hero Tales. London, 1891.

MACKINLAY: J.M. Mackinlay, Folk-lore of Scottish Lochs and Springs. Glasgow, 1893.

MARTIN: M. Martin, Description of the Western Islands of Scotland2. London, 1716.

MAURY: A. Maury, Croyances et legendes du Moyen Age. Paris, 1896.

MONNIER: D. Monnier, Traditions populaires comparées. Paris, 1854.

MOORE: A.W. Moore, Folk-lore of the Isle of Man. 1891.

NUTT-MEYER: A. Nutt and K. Meyer, The Voyage of Bran. 2 vols. London, 1895-1897.

O'CURRY MC: E. O'Curry, Manners and Customs of the Ancient Irish. 4 vols. London, 1873.

O'CURRY MS. Mat: E. O'Curry, MS. Materials of Ancient Irish History. Dublin, 1861.

O'GRADY: S.H. O'Grady, Silva Gadelica. 2 vols. 1892.

REES: Rev. W.J. Rees, Lives of Cambro-British Saints. Llandovery, 1853.

REINACH, BF: S. Reinach, Bronzes Figurés de la Gaule romaine. Paris, 1900.

REINACH, BF Catal. Sommaire: S. Reinach, Catalogue Commaire du Musée des Antinquitée Nationales4. Paris.

REINACH, BF CMR: S. Reinach, Cultes, Mythes, et Religions. 2 vols. Paris, 1905.

RC: Revue Celtique. Paris, 1870 f.

RENEL: C. Renel, Religions de la Gaule. Paris 1906.

RH[^Y]S, AL: Sir John Rh[^y]s, The Arthurian Legend. Oxford, 1891.

RH[^Y]S, CB4: Sir John Rh[^y]s, Celtic Britain4. London, 1908.

RH[^Y]S, CFL: Sir John Rh[^y]s, Celtic Folk-Lore. 2 vols. Oxford, 1901.

RH[^Y]S, HL: Sir John Rh[^y]s, Hibbert Lectures on Celtic Heathendom. London, 1888.

SÉBILLOT: P. Sebillot, La Folk-lore de la France. 4 vols. Paris, 1904 f.

SKENE: W.F. Skene, Four Ancient Books of Wales. 2 vols. Edinburgh, 1868.

STOKES, TIG: Whitley Stokes, Three Irish Glossaries. London, 1862.

STOKES, Trip. Life: Whitley Stokes, The Tripartite Life of Patrick. London 1887.

STOKES, US: Whitley Stokes, Urkeltischer Sprachschatz. Göttingen, 1894 (in Fick's Vergleichende Wörterbuch4).

TAYLOR: I. Taylor, Origin of the Aryans. London, n.d.

TSC: Transactions of Society of Cymmrodor.

TOS: Transactions of the Ossianic Society. Dublin 1854-1861.

Trip. Life: See Stokes.

WILDE: Lady Wilde, Ancient Legends and Superstitions of Ireland. 2 vols. 1887.

WINDISCH, Táin: E. Windisch, Die altirische Heldensage Táin Bó Cúalgne. Leipzig, 1905.

WINDISCH-STOKES, IT: E. Windisch and W. Stokes, Irische Texte. Leipzig, 1880 f.

WOOD-MARTIN: Wood-Martin, Elder Faiths of Ireland. 2 vols. London, 1903.

ZCP: Zeitschrift für Celtische Philologie. Halle, 1897 f.

The custom of burying grave-goods with the dead, or slaying wife or slaves on the tomb, does not necessarily point to a cult of the dead, yet when such practices survive over a long period they assume the form of a cult. These customs flourished among the Celts, and, taken in connection with the reverence for the sepulchres of the dead, they point to a worship of ancestral spirits as well as of great departed heroes. Heads of the slain were offered to the "strong shades"—the ghosts of tribal heroes whose praises were sung by bards.532 When such heads were placed on houses, they may have been devoted to the family ghosts. The honour in which mythic or real heroes were held may point to an actual cult, the hero being worshipped when dead, while he still continued his guardianship of the tribe. We know also that the tomb of King Cottius in the Alps was a sacred place, that Irish kings were often inaugurated on ancestral burial cairns, and that Irish gods were associated with barrows of the dead.533

The cult of the dead culminated at the family hearth, around which the dead were even buried, as among the Aeduii; this latter custom may have been general.534 In any case the belief in the presence of ancestral ghosts around the hearth was widespread, as existing superstitions show. In {166} Brittany the dead seek warmth at the hearth by night, and a feast is spread for them on All Souls' eve, or crumbs are left for them after a family gathering.535 But generally the family ghost has become a brownie, lutin, or pooka, haunting the hearth and doing the household work.536 Fairy corresponds in all respects to old ancestral ghost, and the one has succeeded to the place of the other, while the fairy is even said to be the ghost of a dead person.537 Certain archæological remains have also a connection with this ancient cult. Among Celtic remains in Gaul are found andirons of clay, ornamented with a ram's head. M. Dechelette sees in this "the symbol of sacrifice offered to the souls of ancestors on the altar of the hearth."538 The ram was already associated as a sacrificial animal with the cult of fire on the hearth, and by an easy transition it was connected with the cult of the dead there. It is found as an emblem on ancient tombs, and the domestic Lar was purified by the immolation of a ram.539 Figurines of a ram have been found in Gaulish tombs, and it is associated with the god of the underworld.540 The ram of the andirons was thus a permanent representative of the victim offered in the cult of the dead. A mutilated inscription on one of them may stand for Laribus augustis, and certain markings on others may represent the garlands twined round the victim.541 Serpents with rams' heads occur on the monuments of the underworld god. The serpent was a chthonian god or the {167} emblem of such a god, and it may have been thought appropriate to give it the head of an animal associated with the cult of the dead.

The dead were also fed at the grave or in the house. Thus cups were placed in the recess of a well in the churchyard of Kilranelagh by those interring a child under five, and the ghost of the child was supposed to supply the other spirits with water from these cups.542 In Ireland, after a death, food is placed out for the spirits, or, at a burial, nuts are placed in the coffin.543 In some parts of France, milk is poured out on the grave, and both in Brittany and in Scotland the dead are supposed to partake of the funeral feast.544 These are survivals from pagan times and correspond to the rites in use among those who still worship ancestors. In Celtic districts a cairn or a cross is placed over the spot where a violent or accidental death has occurred, the purpose being to appease the ghost, and a stone is often added to the cairn by all passers-by.545

Festivals were held in Ireland on the anniversaries of the death of kings or chiefs, and these were also utilised for purposes of trade, pleasure, or politics. They sometimes occurred on the great festivals, e.g. Lugnasad and Samhain, and were occasionally held at the great burial-places.546 Thus the gathering at Taillti on Lugnasad was said to have been founded by Lug in memory of his foster-mother, Tailtiu, and the Leinstermen met at Carman on the same day to commemorate King Garman, or in a variant account, a woman called Carman. She and her sons had tried to blight the {168} corn of the Tuatha Dé Danann, but the sons were driven off and she died of grief, begging that a fair should always be held in her name, and promising abundance of milk, fruit, and fish for its observance.547 These may be ætiological myths explaining the origin of these festivals on the analogy of funeral festivals, but more likely, since Lugnasad was a harvest festival, they are connected with the custom of slaying a representative of the corn-spirit. The festival would become a commemoration of all such victims, but when the custom itself had ceased it would be associated with one particular personage, the corn-goddess regarded as a mortal.

This would be the case where the victim was a woman, but where a male was slain, the analogy of the slaying of the divine king or his succedaneum would lead to the festivals being regarded as commemorative of a king, e.g. Garman. This agrees with the statement that observance of the festival produced plenty; non-observance, dearth. The victims were slain to obtain plenty, and the festival would also commemorate those who had died for this good cause, while it would also appease their ghosts should these be angry at their violent deaths. Certain of the dead were thus commemorated at Lugnasad, a festival of fertility. Both the corn-spirit or divinity slain in the reaping of the corn, and the human victims, were appeased by its observance.548 The legend of Carman makes her hostile to the corn—a curious way of regarding a corn-goddess. But we have already seen that gods of fertility were sometimes thought of as causing blight, and in folk-belief the corn-spirit is occasionally believed to be dangerous. Such inversions occur wherever revolutions in religion take place.

The great commemoration of the dead was held on {169} Samhain eve, a festival intended to aid the dying powers of vegetation, whose life, however, was still manifested in evergreen shrubs, in the mistletoe, in the sheaf of corn from last harvest—the abode of the corn-spirit.549 Probably, also, human representatives of the vegetation or corn-spirit were slain, and this may have suggested the belief in the presence of their ghosts at this festival. Or the festival being held at the time of the death of vegetation, the dead would naturally be commemorated then. Or, as in Scandinavia, they may have been held to have an influence on fertility, as an extension of the belief that certain slain persons represented spirits of fertility, or because trees and plants growing on the barrows of the dead were thought to be tenanted by their spirits.550 In Scandinavia, the dead were associated with female spirits or fylgjur, identified with the disir, a kind of earth-goddesses, living in hollow hills.551 The nearest Celtic analogy to these is the Matres, goddesses of fertility. Bede says that Christmas eve was called Modranicht, "Mothers' Night,"552 and as many of the rites of Samhain were transferred to Yule, the former date of Modranicht may have been Samhain, just as the Scandinavian Disablot, held in November, was a festival of the disir and of the dead.553 It has been seen that the Celtic Earth-god was lord of the dead, and that he probably took the place of an Earth-goddess or goddesses, to whom the Matres certainly correspond. Hence the connection of the dead with female Earth-spirits would be explained. Mother Earth had received the dead before her place was taken by the Celtic Dispater. Hence the time of Earth's {170} decay was the season when the dead, her children, would be commemorated. Whatever be the reason, Celts, Teutons, and others have commemorated the dead at the beginning of winter, which was the beginning of a new year, while a similar festival of the dead at New Year is held in many other lands.

Both in Ireland and in Brittany, on November eve food is laid out for the dead who come to visit the houses and to warm themselves at the fire in the stillness of the night, and in Brittany a huge log burns on the hearth. We have here returned to the cult of the dead at the hearth.554 Possibly the Yule log was once a log burned on the hearth—the place of the family ghosts—at Samhain, when new fire was kindled in each house. On it libations were poured, which would then have been meant for the dead. The Yule log and the log of the Breton peasants would thus be the domestic aspect of the fire ritual, which had its public aspect in the Samhain bonfires.

All this has been in part affected by the Christian feast of All Souls. Dr. Frazer thinks that the feast of All Saints (November 1st) was intended to take the place of the pagan cult of the dead. As it failed to do this, All Souls, a festival of all the dead, was added on November 2nd.555 To some extent, but not entirely, it has neutralised the pagan rites, for the old ideas connected with Samhain still survive here and there. It is also to be noted that in some cases the friendly aspect of the dead has been lost sight of, and, like the síd-folk, they are popularly connected with evil powers which are in the ascendant on Samhain eve.

Footnote 532:(return)
Silius Italicus, v. 652; Lucan, i. 447. Cf. p. 241, infra.

Footnote 533:(return)
Ammian. Marcell. xv. 10. 7; Joyce, SH i. 45.

Footnote 534:(return)
Bulliot, Fouilles du Mont Beuvray, Autun, 1899, i. 76, 396.

Footnote 535:(return)
Le Braz, ii. 67; Sauvé, Folk-lore des Hautes Vosges, 295; Bérenger-Féraud, Superstitions et Survivances, i. 11.

Footnote 536:(return)
Hearn, Aryan Household, 43 f.; Bérenger-Féraud, i. 33; Rev. des Trad. i. 142; Carmichael, ii. 329; Cosquin, Trad. Pop. de la Lorraine, i. 82.

Footnote 537:(return)
Kennedy, 126. The mischievous brownie who overturns furniture and smashes crockery is an exact reproduction of the Poltergeist.

Footnote 538:(return)
Dechelette, Rev. Arch. xxxiii, (1898), 63, 245, 252.

Footnote 539:(return)
Cicero, De Leg. ii. 22.

Footnote 540:(return)
Dechelette, 256; Reinach, BF 189.

Footnote 541:(return)
Dechelette, 257-258. In another instance the ram is marked with crosses like those engraved on images of the underworld god with the hammer.

Footnote 542:(return)
Kennedy, 187.

Footnote 543:(return)
Lady Wilde, 118; Curtin, Tales, 54.

Footnote 544:(return)
Le Braz, i. 229; Gregor, 21; Cambry, Voyage dans le Finistère, i. 229.

Footnote 545:(return)
Le Braz, ii. 47; Folk-Lore, iv. 357; MacCulloch, Misty Isle of Skye, 254; Sébillot, i. 235-236.

Footnote 546:(return)
Names of places associated with the great festivals are also those of the chief pagan cemeteries, Tara, Carman, Taillti, etc. (O'Curry, MC ii. 523).

Footnote 547:(return)
Rennes Dindsenchas, RC xv. 313-314.

Footnote 548:(return)
Cf. Frazer, Adonis, 134.

Footnote 549:(return)
Cf. Chambers, Mediæval Stage, i. 250, 253.

Footnote 550:(return)
See Vigfusson-Powell, Corpus Poet. Boreale, i. 405, 419. Perhaps for a similar reason a cult of the dead may have occurred at the Midsummer festival.

Footnote 551:(return)
Miss Faraday, Folk-Lore, xvii. 398 f.

Footnote 552:(return)
Bede, de Temp. Rat. c. xv.

Footnote 553:(return)
Vigfusson-Powell, i. 419.

Footnote 554:(return)
Curtin, Tales, 157; Haddon, Folk-Lore, iv. 359; Le Braz, ii. 115 et passim.

Footnote 555:(return)
Frazer, Adonis, 253 f.