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Caves have excited the awe and wonder of mankind in all ages, and have figured largely in many legends and superstitions. In the Roman Mythology, they were the abode of the Sibyls, and of the nymphs, and in Greece they were the places where Pan, Bacchus, Pluto, and the Moon were worshipped, and where the oracles were delivered, as at Delphi, Corinth, and Mount Cithæron; in Persia they were connected with the obscure worship of Mithras. Their names, in many cases, are survivals of the superstitious ideas of antiquity. In France and Germany they are frequently termed “Fairy, Dragons’, or Devils’ Caves,” and, according to M. Desnoyers, they are mentioned in the invocation of certain canonized anchorites, who dwelt in them after having dispossessed and destroyed the dragons and serpents, the pagan superstition appearing in a Christian dress.
In the Middle Ages they were looked upon as the dwellings of evil spirits, into the unfathomable abysses of which the intruder was lured to his own destruction. Long after the fairies and little men had forsaken the forests and glens of Northern Germany, they dwelt in their palaces deep in the hearts of the mountains,—in “the dwarf holes,” as they were called—whence they came, from time to time, into the upper air. Near Elbingrode, for example, in the Hartz, the legend was current in the middle of the last century, that when a wedding-dinner was being prepared the near relations of the bride and bridegroom went to the caves, and asked the dwarfs for copper and brass kettles, pewter dishes and plates, and other kitchen utensils.1 “Then they retired a little, and when they came back, found everything they desired set ready for them at the mouth of the cave. When the wedding was over they returned what they had borrowed, and in token of gratitude, offered some meat to their benefactors.” Allusions, such as this, to dwarfs, according to Professor Nilsson, point back to the remote time when a small primeval race, inhabiting Northern Germany, was driven by invaders to take refuge in caverns,—a view that derives support from the fact that in Scandinavia the tall Northmen were accustomed to consider the smaller Lapps and Finns as dwarfs, and to invest them with magic power, just as in Palestine the smaller invadingpeoples considered their tall enemies giants. The cave of Bauman’s hole, also in the Hartz district, was said, in the middle of the last century, to have been haunted by divers apparitions, and to contain a treasure guarded by black mastiffs; and in Burrington Combe, in Somersetshire, some twenty years ago, a cave was dug out by a working man, under the impression that it contained gold. The hills of Granada are still believed, by the Moorish children, to contain the great Boabdil and his sleeping host, who will awake when an adventurous mortal invades their repose, and will issue forth to restore the glory of the Moorish kings.