Walter Keating Kelly.

Curiosities of Indo-European tradition and folk-lore online

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"Arthur too, the vanished king, whose return is
expected by the Britons, and who rides at the head
of the nightly host, is said to dwell with his men-
at-arms in a moimtain ; Felicia, Sybilla's daughter,
and the goddess Juno, live with him, and the whole
army are well provided with food, drink, horses, and
clothes." Such was the belief of mediaeval Germany,
as stated by Grimm ;} for the legend of the Bntish
Arthur overspread all (Christendom, and was even
locaKied in Sicily, where, aa Gervase of Tilbury was

*I). M.p.912. Mannliardt, p. 1S8.

t Ndd. p. 496.

$ On tlM authority of the Wart^iirg Erieg. D. M. p. 912.


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told by the inhabitants, the departed hero had his
dwelling in ^tna.* To the same legend belongs
a tradition of Thomas the Rhymer, the favourite of
the Fairy Queen, which is current on the Scottish
border, and which has been related by Sir Walter
Scott.f It is that " of a daring horse-jockey having
sold a black horse to a man of venerable and antique
appearance, who appointed the remarkable hillock
upon Eildon hills, called- the Lucken hare, as the
place where, at twelve o'clock at night, he should
receive the price. He came, his money was paid in
ancient coin, and he was invited by his customer to
view his residence. The trader in horses followed
his guide in the deepest astonishment through
several long ranges of stalls, in each of which a
horse stood motionless, while an armed warrior lay
equally still at the charger's feet. 'All these men,'
said the wizard in a whisper, 'will awaken at the
battie of Sheriflfmoor.* At the extremity of this
extra(^dinary dep6t hung a sword and a horn, which
tiie prophet pointed out to the horse-dealer as con-
taining the means of dissolving the spelL Hie man
in confusion took the horn and attempted to wind it.
The horses instantly started in their stalls^ stamped,

t " DemoBology aad Witduaaft," p. 133, and Notes to " Wftverley."


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and shook their bridles, the men arose and clashed
their armour, and the mortal, terrified at the tumult
he had excited, dropped the horn from his hand. A
voice like that of a giant, louder even than the
tumult around, pronounced these words : —

Woe to the coward that ever he was born,

That did not draw the sword before he blew the horn 1

A whirlwind expelled the horse-dealer from the
cavern, the entrance to which he could never find

"This legend," Sir Walter adds, "with several
variations, is found in many parts of Scotland and
England ; the scene is sometimes laid in some
favourite glen of the Highlands, sometimes in the
deep coaj-mines of Northimiberland and Cumberland,

which run so far beneath the ocean But

it is a circumstance worth notice, that although this
edition of the tale is limited to the year 1715, by the
very mention of the Sheriffmoor, yet a similar story
appears to have been current during the reign of
Queen Elizabeth, which is given by Reginald Scot'*

Sir Walter takes it for granted that Thomas the
Rhymer was himself the leader of the army for
which he piuveyed horses, but this is a gratuitous
and improbable assumption. The very passage


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which he has quoted from Leyden's "Scenes of

Infancy " shows that according to other versions of

the story the cavemed warriors are King Artiiur s


S»7 who 18 he, with summons long and high,
Shall bid the charmed sleep of ages fly,
Roll the long sound through Eildon's caverns vast,
While each dark warrior kindks at the blast ;
The horn, the falchion grasp with mighty hand.
And peal proud Arthur's march from Fairy-land ?

Although Scott confessed his inability to account
for the incident of the horn and sword, its mean-
ing is not at aU dubious. The cavemed heroes,
as we have said, under whatever name they are
known, and wherever they repose, are all representa-
tives of Odin and his host. The great battle to
which they will at last awake is that which will be
fought before the end of the world, when heaven and
earth shall be destroyed and the iEsir gods them-
selves shaU perish, and their places shall be filled
by a new creation and new and brighter gods. The
sword concealed in the heart of the Eildon hill is
that of Heimdallr, the SverdHs or Sword-god, and
warder of Bifrost bridge, and his is the Gjallar horn
with which he will warn the gods that the frost
giants are advancing to storm Valhalla.*

♦ Kuhn u. Schwartz, Ndd. p. -iQtt.


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The gods will answer to the call, but we know
their doom. By what miracle did the Germans and
Norsemen, alone among pagans, become possessed
with an idea apparently so antagonistic to the very
spirit of paganism? How came that rude and
bloodthirsty race, in times when they were as yet
so little given to abstract speculation, to conceive the
thought of a great consummation, in which all nature
should be destroyed by fire, the gods themselves,
whom they had made after their own likeness, should
perish, and their own highest ideal of life, human
and divine, should give place to something ineffably
purer and better ? Scarcely can we imagine by what
impulse they were prompted for once to strain their
thoughts so far beyond the ordinary reaches of their
souls, but at least we can trace the line along which
they moved in that astonishing flight.

Their whole religion was essentially a personifica-
tion of the processes of nature. For thenxselves,
they were before all things warriors ; and such as
their own habits of life were their views of nature,
and the language in which they clothed them. War,
elemental war, was the constant occupation of their
gods ; and when the usual tendency of polytheism to
rise towards monotheism led them to choose a
supreme deity, their choice could not be doubtful.


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They raised to that rank the storm-god Odin, who
better represented the national character than did
any of the others, not even excepting Thor, and
whose death in Autumn and resurrection in Spring
corresponded to the beginning and end of nature's
two greatest annual vicissitudes. Thus the annual
death of nature and of its supreme god became
dominant and inseparable points in their theology,
just as in that of the Egyptians ; but unlike the
Egyptians they had among them some man of genius
who was able to push the same theory to its extreme
limits, and to impose his own views upon his country-
men, "life and death," such a man would have
argued, ''run the round of the year, and Seven
months of death are a necessary preparation for five
months of life. What if the death were longer,
and also more profound and unbroken ; for now it is
suspended for twelve nights at the winter solstice,
when the gods revive and visit the earth*. What if
the universe and the gods were once for all to die
outright? Would not that perfect death be followed
by a perfect life, infinitely transcending all that has
come of the petty deaths of all the years since the
ash-tree first became a man ?"

u 2


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Agni, beloved as the hearth fire, is styled m the
Vedas " the guest,** but he is also worshipped as lord
of the house, the family, and the tribe, and god of
domestic life and of marriage. In these attributes
he corresponds exactly with Thor.

The ceremonies constituting the nuptial solemnity
in India are thus described by Colebrooke :*— " The
bridegroom goes in procession to the house where
the bride's father resides, and is there welcomed as a
guest. The bride is given to him by her father in
the form usual at every solemn donation, and their
hands are bound together with grasa He clothes
the bride with an upper and better garment, and the
skirts of her mantle and his are tied tc^ther. The
bridegroom makes oblation to fire, and the bride
drops rue on it as an oblation. The bridegroom
solemnly takes her hand in marriage. She treads

* Miscell. Essays, i. 224.


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oa a stone and muUar. They walk round ike ji/re.
The bride steps sevea steps, conducted by the bride-
groom, and he. then dismisses the spectators, the
marriage being now complete and irrevocable. In
the evening of the same day the bride sits down on
a bull's hide, and the bridegroom points out to her
the polar star as an emblem of stability. They then
partake of a meal The bridegroom remains three
days at the house of the bride's father; on the
fourth he conducts her to his own house in solemn
procession. She is then welcomed by his kindred ;
and the solemnity ends with oblations to fire!*
^ Burning torches were carried in bridal processions
at Rome, and the bride always wore the flammeum
or flame coloured veil, "for good omen's sake," a«
Festus says. Her shoes were nJso of the same
colour. The Hindu bride wore a red girdle, the
coAJtiukay a name which in later times designated
also the bridal ring.

In Scandinavia the union of man and wife was
anciently consecrated by laying Thor's symbol, the
hammer, in the bride's lap ; and Thursday is still
regarded as an auspicious day for marrying. In
Germany, where Christian tradition has partially
identified Thor with the devil, it is held unlucky to
maxry on that day. In that country, in old times.


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when the bride first entered her husband's house,
she was led three times round the hearth fire.
Among other old customs, some of which are not
yet extinct, was the carrying of a red banner in
marriage processions. In some places, when the
bridal pair are setting out for church they are made
to step over a firebrand laid on the threshold of the
house they are leaving. In other places, after the
bride has been formally received in the house where
the wedding is to be celebrated, she takes a pair of
tongs and a firebrand in each hand, and carries them
to the gate of the forecourt, where her friends are
waiting to form the wedding procession. In times
within living memory the bride wore a lofty head-
dress of a peculiar form, never used on any other
occasion. A band of red silk woimd round it was
an indispensable part of its adornment. The bridal
nosegays of rosemary were always tied with red
thread, as they are still in Havelland. In a wood
near Dahle there was formerly a great oak tree (now
reduced to a stump) to which new married couples
used to repair, dance round it three times, and cut a
cross >ipon it. This cross betokened of yore Thor s
hammer, the consecrator of marriage.*

Thorns wife was Sif, whose name, signifying " kin/*
♦ Kuhn, Westf. ii. 44.


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is tte Scfottish sifc,* and is found in the English
gossip, i, e., god-sib, this . word having originally
denoted the spiritual relationship between the god-
fathers and godmothers of the same child. The god
of the house-fire and guardian of the household and
its belongings was the natural protector of the
aggregate of families forming the gens or tribe, the
village, town, commune, or nation, and of the soil
occupied by each of them. Possession was taken
of unoccupied or newly purchased land with a
hammer, which the new owner cast out as he
drove over the ground in a cart, or, in Scandi-
navia, by kindling a fire upon it;f and the oak,
Thor's tree (p. 49), was planted on the boundaries
of lands, and lordships great and smalL To this
usage our English parishes owe their gospel oaks,
so called from the custom of having the gospel
read under or near them by the clergyman attend-
ing the perambulation of the parish boundaries,
which took place annually on Ascension day or
Holy Thursday, the high festival of Thor in pagan
times, when his rites were doubtless celebrated
beneath his sacred tree, " It is possible that many
of the more &mous oak trees yet standing in

* '* It's gnid to be sib to siller." Scots FroTerb,
t M4imbardt» pp. 197, 227.


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296 BOtllfDART OAKS.

England may date from the days of at least
Saxon heathendom. . • Nearly all are boimdaiy
trees, marking the original limit of shire or of
manon Such was the great 'Shire-oak' whidi
stood at the meeting place of York, Nottingham,
and Derby, into which three counties it extended
its vast shadow. Wider spreading than iJie chest-
nut of the 'Centi CavaUi' on Mount Etna, the
branches of the Shire-oak could aflford shelter to
230 horsemen. Such, too, is the 'Crouch' oak
at Addlestone, in Surrey, under which Wickliffe
preached and Queen Elizabeth dined — one of the
ancient border-marks of Windsor Forest, whose
name, according to Mr. Kemble, refers to the
figure of the cross anciently cut upon it. Trees
thus marked are constantly referred to as boun-
daries in Anglo-Saxon charters."* The writer of
this passage is not quite accurate in saying that
"the cross withdrew the oak from the dominion
of Thor or Odin." More or leas it did fio in
Christian times, but ]|f»*eviou8ly to them the camss
as well as the tree taay have belonged to Thor.

-Indiu's beard was golden ; Agni is invoked in the
Vedas a;^ the god with the golden beard and gold^
teeth. Fire and the "red gold" are associated ideas

♦ Quarterly Rev., July, 1868> p. 222.


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in all Indo-European languages. Thor's beard was
red, and it thundered and lightened when he blew
in it His hair too was red, and that such hair and
beards were much admired when he was there to set
the fashion, may be inferred not only from general
considerations, but more particularly from the ex-
treme aversion which was conceived for them when
Christianity came in. Rother-bart, Teufelsart,
"Eedbeard, devil-steered," is a German proverb;
and the more to insult the memory of the fallen
god, it was fabled that he and the vilest of men,
the arch traitor Judas, had hair and beards of the
same colour. " His very hair," says EosaUnd, pout-
ing because Orlando has not kept his appointment
with her —

** His very hair is of the dissembling colour.

Celick ** Something toowner than Judas's ; marry, his kisses are
Jndas's own children.

Ro8, ** V faitb, his hair is of a good colour.

Celia, " An excellent colour ; your chestnut was erer the only

The tradition about the colour of Judas's hair did
not come from the East, but is of German origin.
No allusion to it is found in the works of the fathers
of the church or of other early ecclesiastical writers.

As Odin was identified with the Roman Mercury,
so Thunar, Donar, or Thor, was called in Latin by


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the name of his brother thunderer, Jupiter. There
is a plant popularly called in (Jermany Donner-bart
(thunderbeard), in England Jupiter's beard, in
France Joubarbe, i.e.> Jove's beard, which is set
on the roofs of houses to preserve them firom
lightning. Whether these names properly belong
to house-leek, which bears a pink blossom, or
to stonecrop, which has numerous yellow flowers
(yellow is one of the lightning colours), or whether
they are common to both plants, I am unable to say,
for the authorities on the subject are ambiguous.
Mannhardt maintains the latter opinion,* Kuhn
asserts that the donner-bart is our English house-
leek, that it is a sedum, and that sedum, according
to Festus, was planted on housetops by the Romans
as a preservative against lightning. -(- House-leek
can by no stretch of fancy be likened to a beard;
stonecrop has some resemblance to a crisp and curly
yellow beard.

The mythology of peas is very curious, but still
somewhat obscure. This much, however, is certain,
that the plant and its fruit are in some way or other
related to celestial fire. It may be that they were
regarded in this light because they belong to the
class of creeping and climbing plants to which such
* P. 191, t Kuhn, Westf. ii. 90,


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PEAS. 299

relations were pre-eminently attributed (p. 46) ; at
all events, the fact that they too represented some-
thing in the vegetation of the sky is substantiated
by numerous details in their mythical history. The
dragons that poison the air and the waters (p. 57)
carry peas in their flight, and let them fall in such
quantities that they fill up the wells to the brim,
and their smell is so foul that the cattle refuse to
eat them * These peas are the lightning, that
seemed, as appears firom a multitude of traditions,
to fall in drops or pellets, and their smell is the
sulphurous stench that clings to whatever else the
dragon brings, and to the gifts thrown down by the
Wild Huntsman. The Zwergs, who aie closely con-
nected with Thor, and who forged for him his
lightning hammer, are exceedingly fond of peas,
as many a husbandman knows to his cost, whose
pea-fields they plunder under cover of their caps of
darkness. Peas were sacred to Thor himself, and
even now in Berlin, peas with sourcrout are a stand-
ing dish on Thor's own day, Thursday.* That
they are typical of lightning is further proved by
their being used in the same manner as the thunder-
bolt and as hazel nuts to promote the fertility of
seedcorn (p. 183). In Swabia and elsewhere peas

* Kulm u. SchwartZi Ndd. p. 4« f Mannliardt, p.- 190,


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300 PEAS.

are boiled over the St JoWs fire, and eaten dry out
of the hollow of the hand. They are thought to be
good against all sorts of complaints, and particularly
against wounds and iHruises.* It is also recom-
mended that children in the measles should be
washed with water in which peas have been boileAf

The use of peas in divination concerning love
matters is accounted for by the fact that they are
sacred to the patron of marriage. In the Leit-
meritzer district of Bohemia the girls go into a field
of peas, and make there a garland of five or seven
kinds of flowers, all of different hues. This garland
they use as a pillow, lying down with their right ear
upon it, and then they hear a voice from under-
groimd> which tells them what manner of man they
are to have for a husbandj

In England, when the kitchen-maid shells green
peas, if she chance to find a pod with nine peas she
hangs it over the kitchen door, and the first rustic
who comes in is infallibly to be her husband, or at
least her sweetheart. The village girls in Hertford-
shire lay the pod with nine peas under a gate, and
believe they will have for husband the first man that
passes through, or one whose christian name and

* Hannhardt, p. 201. f Ibid. 197.

X Reinsberg-Duringsfeld, p. 312.


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PEAscoD woomo. 301

surname have the same initials as his. A Cumbrian
girl, when her lover proves unfaithful, is, by way of
consolation, rubbed with pea-straw by the neighbour-
ing lads; and when a Cumbrian youth loses his
sweetheart by marriage with a rival, the same sort
of comfort is administered to him by the lasses of
the village *

''^ Winter time for shoeing, peascod time for woo-
ing,*' is an old proverb found by Sir Henry Ellis in
a MS. Devon glossary. A peascod wooing was per-
formed, according to Brand, " by selecting one grow-
ing on the stem, snatching it away quickly, and, if
the good omen of the peas remaining in the husk
were preserved, then presenting it to the lady of
their choice." An example of this practice is
tenderly recounted by Touchstone : —

*' I remember wlien I was in love, I broke my sword upon a stone,
and bade him take that for coming a-night to Jane Smile ; and I
remember the kissing of her batler, and the cow's dngs that her
pretty chapped hands had ailked ; and I remember tiie wooing of a
peascod instead of her, from whom I took two cods, and giving her
them again said, with weeping tears, * Wear these for my sake.* "

♦ Brand, ii. 99.




Aabgav, 128

AchelooB, 216

Acheron, 117

Adder, 147

Adebar, 90

Admetns, 188

Aeromeli, 144

Agni, 15, 18, 87, 75, 83, 84, 96,

165, 188, 189, 292, 296
Alii, 28, 57, 62
Aides, 196
Amaltheia, 144
Amaltheia*8 horn, 216
Ambroda, 84, 36, 220
Amrita, 34, 35, 86, 138
Angel, etymology o^ 188
Angels* eyes, 21
Angiras, 188
Angirases, 18
Apas, 21, 28
Apollo, 18, 24, 141, 188, 198,

244, 245
Apsarases, 21
Arbhns, 17
Arges, 189
Arthur, King, 282—214, 286—

Arya, climate of^ 25
Aryan gods, 8, 11, 13
Aryan mythology, origin of, 4 AT.
Aryans, 1 — 11
Aryans, southern, 14
Ash, birth of men from the, 141


Ash-sap, 144—148. See Shrew-

Astrape, 57

Asuras, 37, 39

Asvattha, 45, 139, 165, 167

Asvattha, death-dealing, 205, 211

Asvins, 15, 33, 41

Atharrareda, incantation from
the, 204, 205

Athene, 4% 80

Athragene, 45

Atrin, 28

Axe, 226, 232

Baxi^ 68

Baker, 85, 86, 88

Baker's daughter, 88

Baldr, 113, 118, 204

Barbaiossa, 284—286

Barley, 65

Bay of Souls, 123

Beallane, 67—70

Beer, 237, 238

Bees, 145

Beiltine. See Bealtine.

Belemnite, 232

Beltein. See Bealtine.

Berseker, 249

Bertha, 124— 126, 128, 271. See

Besom, 225—228
Beovolf, 83

Bhrigu, 33, 37, 44, 221
Bhrigns, 18, 44, 222


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Bburanyn, 88

Bird, as soul, 103—105

Birds, fire bringing, 74 £f. See

Birds* Way, 104
Black doth, 124
Black cow, 107, 111
Black ox, 111, 112
Blocksberg, 224
Boats and ships, soxds conveyed

in, 117, 119
Boats, funeral, 118, 119
Boar, 7, 192, 277, 279, 280
Bohemians, heathen, 103
Braspar^s, priest of, dog, 123,

Br&raUa, 118
Bretagne, 122, 123
Brewing, 221, 237
Brewing-pan, 222—224
Bridge of souls, 107, 108, 116
Brig 0* Dread, 116
Britannia, 122
Brittia, 121, 122
Bron-rhuddyn, 81
Bronte, 57
Broom, 225—228
Brynhild, 113, 220
Bachan, 146
Bnok-goat» 16, 181, 210
Backthom, 180, 181
Batter, 99, 282

Camdik, 852

Corr an aneoUf 124

Cat» 284, 236—240

Cabdayedhl, 199

Cauldron, 222—224

Centaurs, 35, 86, 143

Charites, 31

Chark, 88—46, 169, 172

Charon, 117, 121

Charopos, 117

Children, souls of still-bom or

unchristened. See Bertha,

Christian name, 251, 252, 257,


Churning, 88, 89, 41

CUudia Procula, 129

Claw and feather, 158, 159

Climbing plants, 45

Cloud, 7, 11. See Cow.

Cloud, black, 125

Cloud-sea, 8, 11—18, 23

Cloud-ships, 8, 117, 216

Cloud women, 7, 9, 28

Com, oldest kind of, 65

Cornwall, 147, 154, 163

Cocytus, 117

Cow, 7, 15, 23, 157, 229—284,

277, 278
Cow, black, 107, 111
Cow foretokens death, 110—112
Cow-path, 108
Cow, psychopomp, 106, 108, 123,

Cow, slaughtered and reyiyed, 15,

Cowstone, 233
Cross, 187, 294, 296
Crown of thorns, the, 181, 182
Cuckoo, 88, 89, 97—101, 105,

128, 201—203
Cumberland, 288
Cunibert's fountain, 91
Cyayana, 33, 200
(^dops, 82, 189

Dakaids, 212

Danaos, 142

Dead. 103—108, 112—186, See

Wild Hunt.
Dead-shoe, 115
Deyas, 87, 39
Deyil, the, 26, 28
Deyonshire, 202, 281
Dinnick, 202
Dionysos, 35, 200, 201
Diyining-rod or wish-rod, 168,

169, 171, 172, 189—191
Dog, 4, 7
Dog-days, 25
Dog, howling, 109
Dog^ psychopomp, 107, 128, 124


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Dog, wind as, 110. See Wild

Dogs see gbosti, 110
Dove, 104
Drad, 218
Draggletail, 130
Dragon, 62

Drinking-cope, 216*^219
Dorham, 105
Dwarft. See Zwergs.

Eaoli, 75, 78, 79, 104, 188,

140, 143, 151
Easter-fires, 46—48, 180
Edenhall, the Luck o^ 218, 210
Egg, 210, 233, 285, 236
EUdon kills, 224
Elf, eWes. 17, 20, 21, 125, 133
ElMot. 153
England = underworld, 123, 215,

Escalot, demoiselle d*, 118
Essex, 25, 252
Suphobia, 177

Fagrahyil, 55

Falcon, 158, 182

Falkenberg, 119

Faunus, 84

Fenja and Menja, 71

Fern, 191—200

Fern seed, 193—197, 198

Feronia, 82

Ferry, 132, 133

Ferryman*s fee, 121

Finns, 103

Fire, vestal, 45

Fires, sacred, of the Gkrmanic

races, 46
Flint and steel, 46, 47
Fldgrdn/n, 167
Flying Dutchman, 119
Forgetfiilness, drink of; 220
Forget-me-not, 174
Forget Dot the best, 174, 178
Forked form of wish-rod, 171, 186
Forlorn fire, 53
Fountains, babies*, 91, 284

Fountain of Touth, 33, 139
Fraxinus ornus, 144, 145
Freyja, 22, 25, 94, 128
Freischiitz, 199
Freyr. See Fro.
Fria, 94. See Freyja.
Frodi's mill, 71—73, 129
Fro, Freyr, or Fricco, 50, 51, 68,

72, 94
Frog, 6

Fulmen trisulcum, 187
Furious host, 268, 271 £

Gakdhartss, 35, 36

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 16

Online LibraryWalter Keating KellyCuriosities of Indo-European tradition and folk-lore → online text (page 16 of 17)