John Toland.

A new edition of Toland's History of the druids : with an Abstract of his life and writings; and a copious appendix, containing notes critical, philological, and explanatory online

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than by the want of cultivation, whereof I have
been just complaining. Dr. Martin, who was ara
ey-witness, and strictly examin'd the fact, aflGirms*
that in Bernera, near Harries, the produce of
barley is many times from twenty to thirty-fold;
that in Harries and South-Uistf one barley-grainy
sometimes produces from seven to fourteen ears,
as in North-Uist from ten to thirty-fold J in a
plentiful year: that at Corchattan, in Skie, the
increase^ amounted once to thirty-five; that if the
ground be laid down for some time, it gives a
good crop II without dunging, some fields not having
been dung'd in forty years; and that he was in-

* Page 42. f Ibid, t Page 53, § Page 132, | Page 139.


form'd a small track of groiuld, at Skorry-breck*
in the said ile of Skie, had yielded a hnndred-fold.
Nay, I have been told myself by a native of that
ile, that the people there believe they might have
two crops a year, if they took due pains. For this
I beg'd their pardon, but allow'd what was tanfa-
moiint, since the words of Diodorus may no less
Justly be render'd a double crop, than ttpo crops f ,
which last, however, is in sOrae respects literally
true. For with regard to their pastures (of whicli
somewhat before) nothing is more comroo« than
for a sheep to have two Iambs;}; at a time. This
not ont'ly confirms my construction, and puts me
in mind of that verse in Virgil §,

She suckles twins, and tvsice a day is milk'd:

but also of what the so often mention'd Dr. Mar-
tin relates on this|| occasion; which is, that be-
.lides the ordinary rent a tenant paid, it was a cus-
tom in the ilands, if any of his cows or sheep
brought two yoimg ones at a time, one of them
was to go to the landlord: Avho, on his part, was
oblig'd, if any of his tenant's wives bore twins, to
take one of them into his own family; and that
he himself knew a gentleman, who had sixteen of
Jliese twins in his house at a time. Tis no won-
der they are populous. Even the wild goats on
the mountains, lor such there- are in Harries, are

* Ibid, i i^nlws xxfirmt. X fage 108. § Bis venit ad mulc-
tiam, bir.os alit ubeie fictus. Echg. 3. I'cr. L'O. |j Page 109,


observ'd to bring* forth their young twice a year:
ail which put together, makes the last objection
against me to be none, and therefore finally justi-
fies my explication of the passage in Diodorus.
From hence 'tis evident, My Lord, that those
Hands are capable of great improvement, as they
abound likewise in many curiosities, especially in
subjects of philosophical observation. Nor is
it less plain by the many antient monuments re-
maining among them, and the marks of the plow
reaching to the very tops of the mountains (which
the artless inhabitants think incapable of culture)
that in remote ages they were inafar more flourish-
ing condition than at present. The ruins of spaci-
ous houses, and the numerous obelises, old forts,
temples, altars, with the like, which I have de-
scrib'df before, undeniably prove this: besides
that the country was formerly full of woods, as
appears by the great oak and fir trees daily dug
out of the ground, and by many other tokens;
there being several small woods and coppices still
remaining in Skie, Mull, and otlier places. Tho'
I don't pretend, no more than Diodorus, that these
were tlie fortunate Hands of the poets, or the ely-
zian-fields of the dead, by some plac'd in those;];
seas, as by others elsewhere ; yet the following

* Page 35.

f Letter II. Sections VIII, IX, X, &c.

X Videas Annotitlpnem 63 & 64.


lines of Horace* agree to no s^pot Letter, than the
ilands we have been just describing.

• . From lofty liills

With murmuring pace the fountain trills.

There goats uncall'd return from fruitful vales,

And bring stretch'd dugs to fill the pails.

No bear grins round the fold, no lambs he shakes;

No field swells there with poys'nous snakes.

More we shall wonder on the happy plain :

The watr'y east descends in rain,

Yet so as to refresh, not drown the fields ;

The temperate glebe full harvest yields.

No heat annoys : the ruler of the gods

From plagues secures these blest abodes.

Creech'' s translation.

The inhabitants, (that I may make a complete cora-
mentary on the passage of Diodorus) are not to be
mended in the proportion of their persons : no pre-
posterous bandages distorting them in the cradle,
nor hindring nature from duely forming their limbs ;

* Montibus altis

Levis crepante lympha desilit pede.
Illic injussx veniunt ad mulctra capellae,

Refertque tenta grex amicus ubera.
Nee vespertinus circumgemit ursus ovile,

Nee intumosi-it alta viperis humus.
Pluraque felices mirabimur: ut neque largis

Aqunsus Eurus arva radat imbribus,
Pinsuia nee siccis urantur semina glebis;

Utrumque Rege lemperaute Coelitum.

Epod. 16. v^r, 47.


•which is the reason, that bodily imperfections of
anj sort are very rare among them. Neither doe«
any over-officiously preventive physic in their in-
fancy, spoil their original constitution; whence
they have so strong a habit of body, that one of
them requires treble the dose, as will purge any
man in the south of Scotland. But what contri-
butes above all things to their health and longe-
vity, is constant temperance and exercise. As
they prefer conveniency to ornament both in their
houses and their apparel (which last 1 think not
disagreeable) so, in their way of eating and drink-
ing, they rather satisfy than oppress nature. Their
food is commonly fresh, and their meals two a day,
water being the ordinary drink of the vulgar.
They are strangers to many of the distempers, as
they are to most of the vices of other nations, for
some of which they have not so much as a name :
and it may no less truely be observ'd of these than
of the ancient Scythians, that* the ignorance of
vices has had a better effect upon them, than the,
knowlege of philosophy upon politer nations.
They owe every thing to nature. They cure all
disorders of the body by simples of their own
growth, and by proper diet or labor. Hence they
are stout and active, dextrous in all their exer-
cises ; as they are withall remarkably sagacious,
choleric but easily appeaz'd, sociable, good natur'd,

* Tanto plus in ilUs proficil Titiorum ignoratio, quam iq his.
l_Gra.<:it Nimiruml cognitio TJrtutis. Justin. Hist, lib, 2. cap 2.

F f


ever cheerful, and having a strong inclination to
music: all which particulars, with the other parts
of their past and present character, I have not
onely learnt from the concurrent testimonies of
several judicious authors; but also from the inti-
mate knowlege I have had myself of many scores
of the natives, as well in Scotland as elsewhere.
They are hospitable beyond expression, intertain-
ing all strangers of what condition soever gratis;
the use of mony being still in some of those ilands
unknown, and till a fewr ages past in all of them.
They have no lawyers or attomejs: which, no
more than several other particulars here specify'd,
I do i:ot understand of the Highlanders on the
continent; tho' speaking the same language, and
■wearing the same dress with them. The men and
women plead their own causes ; and a yery speedy
decision is made by the proprietor, who's perpe-
tjial president in their courts, or by his bailiff as
his substitute. In a word, they are equally void of
the two chief plagues of mankind, luxury and
ambition; which consequentlyf rees them from all
those restless pursuits, consuming toils, and never-
failing vexations, that men suffer elsewhere for those
^iry, trifling, shortliv'd vanities. Their contempt
of superfluities is falsly reckon'd poverty, since
their felicity consists not in having much, but in
coveting little; and that he's supremely rich, who
■wants no more than he has: for as they, who ]i\e
acconling to nature, will never be poor; so they.


who live according to opiaion, will never be ricli.
'Tis certain that no body wants, what he doea-
not desire: and how much easier is it not to desire.
certain things, than otherwise? as it is far more
healthy and happy to want, than to injoy them.
Neither is their ignorance of vices in tliese ilands
any diminution to their virtue, since (not being by
their situation concern'd in any of the disputes
about dominion or commerce, that distract the
world) they are not onely rigid observers of justice,
but show less propensity than any people to tu-
laults; except what they may be unwarily led
into by the extraordinary deference they pay to
the opinion of their chiefs and leaders, who are
accountable for the mischiefs they sometimes
bring (as at this very time*) on these well-meaning
Hyperboreans. For Hyperboreans I will now
presume to call them, and withall to claim Abaris
as a philosopher of the Brittiah world, v/ hich has
principally occasion'd this digression; on that ac-
count not improper, nor, I hope, altogether uselessc
in other respects. Be this as your lordship shall
think fit to judge, I will not finish it before I have
acquainted you with an odd custom or two, that
have from time immemorial obtain'd in Barra and
the lesser circumjacent ilands, which are the pro-
perty of Mac-neil. The present is the thirty-fifth
lord of Barra by uninterrupted lineal desceutr a-


thing whereof no prince in the world can boast;
and he's regarded, you may imagine, as no mean
potentate by his subjects, who know none greater
than he. When the wife of any of 'em dies, he
has immediate recourse to his lord, representing
first his OAvn loss in the want of a meet help*; and
next that of Mac-neil himself, if he should not go
on to beget followers for him. Hereupon Mac-
neil finds out a suteable match (neither side ever
disliking his choice, but accepting it as the high-
est favor) and the marriage is celebrated without
any courtship, portion or dowry, But they never
fail to make merry on such occasions with a bottle
er more of usquebah. On the other handf , when
any woman becomes a widdow, she's upon the
like application soon provided with a husband,
and with as little ceremony. Whoever may dis-
like this Hyperborean manner of preventing delay,
disdain, or disappointment, yet he cannot but ap-
prove Mac-neil's conduct, in supplying^ any of
his tenants with as many milch-cows, as he may
chance to lose by the severity of the weather, or
by other misfortunes ; which is not the less true
charily, for being good policy. Most worthy like-
wise of imitation is his taking into his own family
(building a house hard by on purpose for them)
and maintaining to the day of their death, as many
old men, as, thro' age or infirmity §, become unfit

# Martin, page 97. i Ibid. J Ibid, | Page 98,


for labor. Bui I shou'd never have done, if I pro-
ceeded with, the particular usages of the north
and west ilanders. Several of them retain'd from
the remotest times of the Druids, are explaiu'd in
this and the preceding letters. Yet one custom
(very singular) I cannot help relating here, tho'
long since grown obsolete; or rather that it has
been in disuse, ever since their conversion to
Christianity. When a man had a mind to have a
wife *, as soon as he gain'd the consent of the maid
he lik'd, he took her to his bed and board for a
whole year; and if, upon thus coming thoroly ac-
quainted with the conditions both of her mind and
body, he kept her any longer, she then became
his wife all her days: but if he dislik'd her t»
such a degree on any account, as to be perswaded
she shou'd not make him easy during life, he re-
turn'd her (with her portion, if she had any) at the
twelve month's end to her parents or guardians;
legitimating the children, and maintaining them
at his own charge, in case there were such. Nor
was this repudiation any dishonor o* disadvanr
tage to the young womar»in the eyes of another
man, who thought she wou'd make hifll a better
wife, or that be might to herie ahbetter husband.
It was a custom, I must own, like to prevent a
world of unhappy matches; but, according to our
modern ideas, 'tis not onely unlawful, piit als©

* Page 114.


IX. To retwrn whence I digress'd, having thus
happily discover'd arid asserted the country of
Abaris, and also his profession of a Druid; I shall
give here some account of his person, referring to
another place the history of his adventures. The
orator Himerius, tho' one of those, who, from the
equivocal sense of the word Hyperborean, seems
to have mistaken him for a Scythian ; yet accu-
rately describes his person, and gives him a very
noble character. That he .spoke Greec with sf»
much facility and elegance, will be no mattei- of
wonder to, such as consider the antient intercourse,
which we have already prov'd between the Greecs
and the Hyperboreans : nor wou'd the latter, to
be sure, send any ambassador (as we'll see pre-
sently they did Abaris) to the former, unless,
among the other requisite qualifications, lie per-
fectly understood their language. But let's barken
a while to Himerius. " They relate," says he,
" that Abaris the sage was by nation a Hyperbo-
rean, become a Grecian in speech, and resembling
a Scythian in his habit and appearance. When-
ever he niov'd his tongue, you wou'd imagine him
to be soixtd one out of the midst of the academy
or very lyceum*. Now that his habit was not
tliat of a Scythiau ever cover d with skins, but

•■ A^apir fisr c-i^ar ytnt |u£» 'Twspffof siw \iym7(t, 'e Wn»a h famr yeyens^M, run
aiuflm («l» »xpi roXr; Je aai rxi/Mcrn;. Ei Je mu yXirr7av umcrstt, todti £«£.>:y «
M.|We3Tic AxaJn^/a; itsi .urou Avxsiou n^i^Eirfiai. Ex Oralime ad Uriiehon aand
Ihstium in. BM'wth. mi, S4J, edit. Roi}i^mits- poff. DSj.


what has been in all ages, as generally at this
present, worn in the Hebrides and the neighbo-
ring Highlands, it needs onely to be describ'd for
removing all doubts and scruples. " Abaris came
to Athens," continues Himerius *, " holding a bow,
having a quiver hanging from his shoulders, his
body wrapt up in a plad, girt about his loins with
a gilded belt, and wearing trowzers reaching from
the soles of his feet to his waste." A gun and
pistol, being of modern date, cou'd make no part
of his equipage: and you see he did not make his
entry into Athens riding on a broom-stick, as fe,-
bulously reported, but in the native garb of an
aboriginal Scot. As for what regards his abili-
ties, 'twas impossible for his principals to have
made a better choice; since we are inform'd by
the same Himerius f, that "he was affable and
pleasant in conversation, in dispatching great af-
fairs secret and industrious, quick-sighted in pre-
sent exigences, in preventing future dangers cir-
cumspect, a searcher after v/isdom, desirous of
friendship, trusting indeed little to fortune, and
having every thing trusted to him for his pru-
dence." Neither the academy nor the lyceum
cou'd furnish out a man with fitter qualities, to go

* 'Hhew Aj3rtp*5 *A0>)yft^E'T(j^rt B^uy, <J>apSTpav Ji^u^EVef ti? o/^mvj ^Xa-fAuh cr<piyyoixi-
yo?: ^uvti 15V KaT* (|it«v ;^pyfl"w, ava^v^i^lg EA Tctpff-iwv ax^aiv a^fi KAt y}^ovrm aytirs:V6v-
e-tu. Id, Ibid.

t Hv iijuff syrv^m, ^EiV(r? ntrv/jn f^syaXm "rr^a^tv g^yac-ae-QAtj c^u; t5 ^apcv ijsiv, Tr^se-
f4*]8i)f TO ^eXAov ^yXrtTlErfl**, ^atjxft? wt/wv, Epafjjy "fiXiftf, fl?\[y« ^Bv Tv^n ■fftg-tuuff
yia/j^ti Je t« 7r«yT» mftvi^m;. Id, Ibid.


SO farr abroad and to such wise nations, about af-
fairs no less arduous than important. But if "we
attentively consider his moderation in eating,
drinking, and the use of all those things, which
our natural appetites incessantly crave; adding the
candor and simplicity of his manners, with the
solidity and wisdom of his answers (all which we'll
find sufficiently attested) it must be own'd, that
the world at that time had few to compare with

Thus I have laid before your lordship a speci-
men of my History of the Di-uids. Give me leave
to send you with this letter two small pieces
which I don't doubt will be agreeable to you.
One is Mr. Jones's Answer to Mr. Tate's ques-
tions about the Druids, and the other Brittish anti-
quities, whichltranscrib'd from a manuscript in the
Cotton Library*; and the other, some collections
mentione'd in one of my letters -f, shewing the affi-
nity between the Armoric and Irish language, &c.
■ — I am,

My Lord,
Your Lordship's most obliged.

And very humble Servant,

April 18, 1719.

* Vitel. E. V. 6. t Letter II. §. 18. pajf. J.5».









I. xSY what names were they call'd by the Brit-
tons, which the Latins call DruidcB or Druides?

II. Whether the Druids and Flamens were all
one, and the difference between them? how the
Flamens were called in Brittish, and their anti-
quity and habits?

III. What degrees were given to the professors
of learning? when, where, and by whom, and
their habits or apparel?

IV. Whether the Barth had any office in war
answering our heralds? their garments and en-
seigns? and whether, they us'd the Caduceus?
many fetching the original thereof from the Brit-^
ton's charming of serpents.



V. What judges and lawyers had the Brittor.s
that foUow'd the king? and what are Tri auhep-
cor JBrenhin, and their use?

VI. What judges and lawyers were there resi-
dent in the country? their number? what judges
were there ^er dignitatem Terrae? and what their
duty? and how were they assembl'd to do the

VII. It appeareth there were always many kings
and princes in this realm before the coming in of
the Saxons: were their countries divided into Ta-
laitJis, as all between Severn and the sea was after
their coming?

VIII. Was there any division into shires befoi-e
the Saxon's coming, and what difference betwixt
a shire and a Swydh? There were anciently with
you Maenors, Commods, Cantretks, answerable
vt'hereunto are our Ma7wrs, Tythings, Hundreds.
And that maketh me to encline that Swydh shou'd.
be like our shire, as Swyd caer JB/iyrdin, Swyd
AymvytJiig, Swyd caer Wrangon; and the general
officers of them were called Swydogion,, under
whom were 3Iaer, Gnghellawr, Rhinghill, Ophi-
riat, and Sratfdur tnryr Stvyd, except all bear
the name of Swydogimi. 1 hnd in an ancient book
of Landaff Gliiiguis or Glivisus king of Demetia
(which of this king is call'd Gfengttissig) of whom
it is said seplem pagos rexit, whereof Glamorgan,
now a shire, was one; and pagus is us;'d for a


IX. Whether the Britons had noblemen bearing
the name of Duces, Cantites, Sarones? and what,
they were called in Brittish? In the book of Lan -
dafF I find it thus written, Gandeleius Rex totain,
regionem suam Cadoco Jilio suo commendavit, pri-
vilegiumque concessit, quatenus a fonle Faennun
Itaen donee adingresswmjlummis Nadavan perveni-
tur, omnes Reges et Comites, Optimates, Tribuniy
atque domestiei in Coenobij sui coemeterio de Lan-
carvan sepeliantwr. And K. Ed. I. enquiring of
the laws of the Brittons, demandeth how the Welsh
barons did administer justice, and so distinguisht
tliem from Lords Marchers.

X. What is the signification of the word Assacht
A statute of K. Hen. 6, saith, some ofFer'd to
excuse themselves by an Assach after the custom
of Wales ; that is to say, by an oath of 30 men.

XI. What officer is he that in the laws oiHoivel
Da is called Distein^ and the signification of the

XII. What do you tliink of this place of Petrus
Ramus in his book de moribus veterum Gallormn:
Hue civitates Srutos suos habehant. Sic a Caesars
nominantur Senatiis Eburonicum, Lexobioriim, Fe-
netormn. Was there any counsil or senate in the
Brittish government, and by what name were they

ft g: 2'



I. TO the first I say, that Druides or Druida:
is a word that is derived from the Brittish word
Drudion; being the name of certain wise, discreet,
learned, and religious persons among the Brittons.
Drudionis the pluralnumber of this primitiveword
Drud. By adding ion to the singular number,
you make the plural of it secundum Jorniam JBri-
tannorum; sic Drud, Drudion. This primitive
word Drud, has many significations. One signi-
fication is Dialwr, that is a revenger, or one that
redresseth wrong: for so the justicers call'd Dru-
dion did supply the place of magistrates. Ano-
ther signification Krevlon, and that signifies cruel
and merciless; for they did execute justice most
righteously, and punisht offenders most severely.
Drud signifies also gletv and prid, that is, valiant
or hardy. Drud is also dear or precious, unde
venit Dnidanieth, which is dearth. These Drud-
ion among the Brittons by their office did deter-
mine all kind of matters as well private as pub-
lick, and where justicers as well in religious mat-
ters and controversies, as in law matters and con-
troversies, for offences of death and title of laws.
These did the sacrifices to the Heathen gods, and
the sacrifices cou'd not be made without them,
and they did foi!)ivl sacrifices to be done by any


man that did not obey their decree and sentence.
All the arts, sciences, learning, philosophy, and
divinity that was taught in the land, was taught
by them; and they taught by memory, and never
wou'd that their knowledge and learning shou'd
be put in writing: whereby when they Avere sup-
prest by the emperor of Rome in the beginning
of Christianity, their learning, arts, laws, sacrifi-
ces, and governments were lost and extinguisht
here in this land ; so that I can find no more men-
tion of any of their deeds in our tongue than I
have set down, but that they dwelled in rocks
and woods, and dark places, and some places in
our land had their names from them, and are called
after their names to this day. And the iland of
Mone or Anglesea is taken to be one of their
chiefest seats in Britain, because it was a solitary
iland full of wood, and not inhabited of any but
themselves; and then the ile of Mone, which is
called Anglesea, was called yr Inys JDoivyll, that
is, the dark iland. And after that the Drudiont
were supprest, the huge groves which they favor'd
and kept a-foot, were rooted up, and that ground
tiird. Then that iland did yield such abundance
and plenty of corn, that it might sustain and keep
all Wales with bread; and therefore there arose
then a proverb, and yet is to this day, viz. Mon
mam Gymhrv, that is, Mon the mother of Wales,
Some do term the proverb thus, Mon mam Wynedd,
that is, Mon the mother of Northwales, that is,


that Mon was able to nourish and foster upon
bread all Wales or Northwales. And after that
this dark Hand had cast out for many years such
abundance of corn where the disclos'd woods and
groves were, it surceas'd to yield corn, and yield-
ed such plenty of grass for cattle, that the coun-
trymen left off their great tilling, and turn'd it to
grazing and breeding of cattle, and that did con-
tinue among them wonderful plentiful, so that it
was an admirable thing to be heard, how so little
a plat of ground shou'd breed such great number
of cattle; and now the inhabitants do till a great
part of it, and breed a great number of cattle on
t'other {Jiftrt.

II. As for the second question, I do refer the
exposition of it to those that have written of the
Flamens in Latine. The Dnidion in Britain, ac-
cording to their manner and custom, did execute
the office and function of the Flamens beyond the
sea; and as for their habits, I cannot well tell you
how, nor what manner they were of.

III. To the third question: There were four
several kinds of degrees, that were given to the
professors of learning. The first was, Disgibliys-
bas, and that was given a man after three years
studying in the art of poetry and musick, if he by
his capacity did deserve it. The second degree
was Disgibldisgyhliaidd, and that m as given to the
professor of learning after six years studying, if
hf; did deserve it. The third degree was Dis^ihl-


penkerddiaidd, and that was given to the professor
of learning after nine years studying, if he did de-
serve it. And the fourth degree was Penkerdd
or AthrOy and Athro is the highest degree of learn-
ing among us, and in Latine is called doctor.

Online LibraryJohn TolandA new edition of Toland's History of the druids : with an Abstract of his life and writings; and a copious appendix, containing notes critical, philological, and explanatory → online text (page 14 of 31)