Dr Douglas Hyde - Seeing monstrous rabbits, and horses that change into women
Type of spiritual experienceHallucination (5)
The source is Dr DOUGLAS HYDE, LL.D., D. Litt., M.R.I.A. (An Craoibhín Aoibhinn), President of the Gaelic League; author of A Literary History of Ireland, and a university lecturer at the time this was recorded. This was recorded from RATRA FRENCHPARK, COUNTY ROSCOMMON, IRELAND, September 1910.
I have put in the entire description as it is all relevant.
A description of the experience
The Fairy Folk in Celtic Countries - from the Introduction to Chapter II. Taking of Evidence: II. In Ireland
The problem we have to deal with is a startling one, as thus put before us by Mr. Wentz. Are these beings of the spirit world real beings, having a veritable existence of their own, in a world of their own, or are they only the creation of the imagination of his informants, and the tradition of bygone centuries?
The newspaper, the 'National' School, and the Zeitgeist have answered to their own entire satisfaction that these things are imagination pure and simple. Yet this off-hand condemnation does not always carry with it a perfect conviction.
We do not doubt the existence of tree-martins or kingfishers, although nine hundred and ninety-nine people out of every thousand pass their entire lives without being vouchsafed a glimpse of them in their live state; and may it not be the same with the creatures of the spirit world, may not they also exist, though to only one in a thousand it be vouchsafed to behold them? The spirit creatures cannot be stuffed and put into museums, like rare animals and birds, whose existence we might doubt of if we had not seen them there; yet they may exist just as such animals and birds do, though we cannot see them. I, at least, have often been tempted to think so.
In the first place, then, viewing the Irish spirit-world as a whole, we find that it contains, even on Mr. Wentz's showing, quite a number of different orders of beings, of varying shapes, appearances, size, and functions. Are we to believe that all those beings equally exist, and, on the principle that there can be no smoke without a fire, are we to hold that there would be no popular conception of the banshee, the leprechaun, or the Maighdean-mhara (sea-maiden, mermaid), and consequently no tales told about them, if such beings did not exist, and from time to time allow themselves to be seen like the wood-martin and the kingfisher? This question is, moreover, further complicated by the belief in the appearance of things that are or appear to be inanimate objects, not living beings, such as the deaf coach or the phantom ship in full sail, the appearance of which Mr. Yeats has immortalized in one of his earliest and finest poems.
Again, although the bean-sidhe (banshee), leprechaun, púca, and the like are the most commonly known and usually seen creatures of the spirit world, yet great quantities of other appearances are believed to have been also sporadically met with.
I very well remember sitting one night some four or five years ago in an hotel in Indianapolis, U.S.A., and talking to four Irishmen, one or two of them very wealthy, and all prosperous citizens of the United States. The talk happened to turn upon spirits--the only time during my entire American experiences in which such a thing happened--and each man of the four had a story of his own to tell, in which he was a convinced believer, of ghostly manifestations seen by him in Ireland.
Two of these manifestations were of beings that would fall into no known category; a monstrous rabbit as big as an ass, which plunged into the sea (rabbits can swim), and a white heifer which ascended to heaven, were two of them.
I myself, when a boy of ten or eleven, was perfectly convinced that on a fine early dewy morning in summer when people were still in bed, I saw a strange horse run round a seven-acre field of ours and change into a woman, who ran even swifter than the horse, and after a couple of courses round the field disappeared into our haggard.
I am sure, whatever I may believe to-day, no earthly persuasion would, at the time, have convinced me that I did not see this. Yet I never saw it again, and never heard of any one else seeing the same.