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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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rather not understood at all, it must be owned that the Druids,
with one half of the knowledge here ascribed to them, had ample
means of imposing on their ignorant followers.

I Note VII.— Page 62.

For true religion does not consist in cunningly devised fables,
in authority, ddminion or pomp; but in spirit and truth^ in shn~

K k2



256 KOTES.

plicitii and social virtue, in a filial l»ve and reverence, not in a
servile dread and terror of the divinity.— M.t. Toland has oftea
been accused of Atheism, &c. whereas on the contrary he has
always been forward to advocate the cause of true religion. It
has often been said by his enemies that he wrote his History of
the Druids with a view to substitute Druidism in place of Chris-
tianity. How well this charge is founded the reader has now
an opportunity of judging for himself.

Note VIIL— Page 61.
Though I shall prove that no Druids, except such as, iozcards
their latter end^fled thither for refuge, or that went before uilk
Celtic invaders or colonies, were ever among the Gothic nations.
— There are many and unquestionable traces of the Druidical
rites to be found among the Goths. Pinkarton, whom no man
TFill accuse of partiality to the Celts, admits that they were the
first inhabitants of Europe. Throughout the whole extent of
ancient Scythia, their language can be clearly traced in the
names of places still remaining. They gave name to the Cimbric
Chersonese, hodie Jutland. The Baltic sea evidently takes its
name from Baltac, the diminutive of the Celtic Bait. Baltac
signifies the little Belt. Pinkarton found a Promontorium Ccl.
ticcE near Moscoze. There is an Innertiel on the Rhine, and
another near Kirkcaldi/. We find a Clud (Clyde) at the source
of the Wolga, another in Lanarkshire, and a third in Wale:.
Danube is evidently the Gaelic Dal-Nubadh pronounced Bal.
Nubay, and abbreviated Danuhay, i. e. the cloudy dale. Bui.
na evidently corresponds with the Duin or Doone in Ayrshire.
The numerous Dors on the Continent correspond with the Gaelic
Dor, an abbreviation of Dothftr, i. e. a river. Instances of the
same kind are almost innumerable. So far with respect to the
Temains of the Celtic language among the Goths. As to their
religion, Tacitus, speaking of the Sueri, says, J'etustissimos ,<e
nobilissimosque sucvoriim semnones memorant. Fides antiquifa.
tis religione finnatur. Stalo tempore in siloam A>;guriis Paini}H
*t pviscaformidine sacranij oinnes ejuidem sanguirus pcpuUlega.



NOTES. 257

tlonibus coeuni, ceesoque publice homine, celebrant Barhari ritus
horrenda primordia. Est et alia luco reverentia. Nemo nisi
Vinculo ligatus ingredttur, ut minor et petestatem numinis prts
seferens. Si forte prolapsus est; attolli et insurgere haut licitum.
Perhumumevolvuntur, coqiie omnis super stitio respicit, tmiquam.
inde initia gentis, ibi regnator omnium Dews, ccetera subjecta at.
que parentia, i. e. " The Simnones give out that they are the
most noble and ancient ot the Suevi; and their antiquity derives
credibility and support from their religion. At a stated
season of the year, all the nations of the same blood meet by ap.
pointment, in a wood rendered sacred by the auguries of their
ancestors, and by long established fear ; and having slain (sacri.
ficed) a man publicly, they celebrate the horrid beginning of their
barbarous rites. There is also another piece of reverence paid
to this grove. Nobody enters it unless bound, by which he is
understood to carry before him the emblems of his own inferio-
rity, and of the superior power of the Deity. If any one chances
to, fall, he must neither be lifted up nor arise, but is rolled along
upon the ground till he is without the grove. The whole super,
stition has this meaning — that their God, who governs all things,
shall remain with the first founders of the nation ; and that all
others shall be obedient and sukject to them." — De Morib,
Germ. cap. 12.

The same author, speaking of the Germans in general, says,
Tieorum maxime Mercurium colunt, cut certis diebus, humaniS'
quoque hostiis litarefas habent, ^c. i, e. " Of all the Gods, the,
chief object of their worship is Mercury, to whom, on certain
days, they hold it lawful to offer human sacrifices." In the
same chapter he informs us, that a part of the suevi sacrifice to
Isis, and calls this advectam religionem, i. e, a foreign religion.
— De Morib, Germ. cap. 4.

Est in insula oceani castum nemus, dicaluin in eo vehiculum
veste contectiim, attingere uni sacerdoti concessum, Sfc. i. e. There
is, in an island of the ocean, a consecrated grove, and in it a
chariot dedicated to some goddess, and covered with a veil, which



258 NOTES.

no one but the priest is allowed to touch. He perceives when
the goddess enters the chariot, and follows her, drawn by white
heifers, with the most profound veneration. Then are joyful
days — then the priest honours every festive place with his pre-
sence and hospitality — then they do not enter into wars — then
they do not take up arms : every sword is sheathed — peace and
tranquillity are then only known, then only regarded; till at
length the same priest restores the goddess, satiated with the con-
versation of mortals, to her temple. Immediately the chariot,
the veil, and, if you will believe it, the goddess herself, is washed
in a secret lake, and the servants, who assisted at this religious
procession, are instantly drowned in the same lake. Hence there
springs a holy ignorance, a secret terror, and men blindly won.
ier what that can be, which cannot be seen without subjecting
the beholders to certain death. — Tacitus de Morib. Germ. cap. 13.

Having clearly established that sacrifices were offered in Ger-
jnany, it remains to be proved that these sacrifices were not of-
fered by Germans. Caesar having given an account of the Cel-
tic religion, and particularly of their human sacrifices, proceeds
to give us an account of the Germans in these words — Germani
mulium ab hac consuetudine differunt. Nam neque Druides ha.
heat qui chvinis rebus pre sint, neque sacrificiis student, i. e. " The
Germans differ much from this custom, for they neither have
priests (Druids) who preside in divine affairs, nor do they trou.
ble their head about sacrifices at all." — De Bella GallicOy lib. 6.
cap. 21.

Thus it is clearly established by Cffisar, that the Germans or
Goths had neither priests nor sacrifices, and, by Tacitus, that
both priests and sacrifices were to be found in Germany, parti,
cularly among the Suovi, who deduced their origin from the
Semnones, i. e. the Galli Senones, a Celtic tribe who burnt
Rome, besieged the capital, and were afteryvards overcome by
Camillus. Hence we do not hesitate to ascribe to the Celts,
whatever Druidical rites and monuments we find in Germany.
And as the Celts were the presecursors of the Goths, and at all



NOTES. 259

times iatermixed with them, it cannot be doubted but that, on
the suppression of Druidism in Gaule by the Romans many of
the Druids would take shelter among their friends in Germany.

Note IX.— Page 6S.
Much of the antient Irish mythology still extant in verse, Sfc.-~
That so many antient Irish manuscripts should still remain un.
published, is matter of regret to every friend to Celtic literature.
Pinkarton and Innes exclaim, why did not the Irish historians,
who quote these manuscripts publish them ? But how would these
gentlemen look were we to retort the request on them. Pin.
karton says, he read 2,000 volumes. Innes was also a laborioas
reader. Now supposing these gentlemen had perused only
1,000 volumes, and these in manuscript like the Irish, how
would they have looked, had we desired them to publish these
manuscripts. It is matter of satisfaction that these manuscripts
exist, more so that the most in^terate enemy's of the Irish, dare
not deny their existence, but the publication of them is a work
of such immense labour, that no individual is adequate to the
task. I hope, however, the day is not far distant when this im-
portant business will be taken up by the Highland Society, or
by the British empire at large.

Note X.— Page 65.
Druida, ^c— Mr. Toland's remarks on the propriety of raa.
king a distinction betwixt Druidw and Druides, tho' the an-
tients used them indiscriminately, ought by modern writers to
be strictly attended to, as it would prevent much confusion.
Poor Pinkarton, willing to swallow any thing that could favour
his Gothic si/stem, tells us that 'Druidca is feminine, and that after
a certain period only Tiruidesses are to be found. It was unfor-
tunte he did not also discover that the Cellae were all females.
The Belga, Sarmatce, ifec, and his own beloved Getae must have
shared the same fate. Cut this is not be wondered at in an au-
thor so deranged by the Gothic Mania, as repeatedly to affirfflj
thvit tola Gallia signifies the third part of Gaul.



260 NOTES.

Note XL— Page 68.

Their only word for a magician is Druid, ^c.~Innes says, in
the Latin lives of St. Patrick and Cloumba, the Druids are called
Magi. Critical Essay, vol. 2. p. 464. Ambrosias Calepine,
under the word Magus reckons the Persian Magi, the Greec
Philosophoi, the Latin Sapientes, the Gallic DruidcE, the Egyp.
tian Prophetce, the Indian Gymnosophista, and the Assyrian
Chaldea. He also informs us that Magus is a Persian word sig.
nifying a wise man. — Diet, page 742.

Pliny, book 16. cap. 44. says, the Gauls call their Magi,
Druids. Nihil habent Druidae (ita suos appellant Magos) visco,
et arhore in qua gignatur (si modi sitrobur) sacraiius.

Note XII.— Page 69.

The Druid's Egg, Sfc. — This was the badge or distinguishing
ensign of the Druids. The following account of it giyen by
Pliny, will be acceptable to the classical reader:

Praeterea est ovorum genns, in magna Galliarum fama, omh.
sum Graecis. Angues innumeri aestate convoluti, sidivis fan.
cium, corporum que Spumis ariijici complexu glomerantur, an.
guinum appellatur. Druidae sibilis id dicunt sublime jactarif
sagoque oportere intercipi ne tellurem atlingat. Profugere rap.
iorem equo; serpentes enim insequi, donee arceantur amnis alien,
jus interventu. Experimentum ejus esse, si contra aquas Jluitet
vel aiiro vinctum. Atque, ut est Magorum Solertia occultanitis
fraudibus sagax, certa Luna capiendum censcnt, tanquam con-
gruere operationem earn serpentium humani sit arbitrii. Vidi
equidem id ovum mali orbiculati modici magnitudine, crusia car.
tilaginis, velut acetabulis hrachiorum Polypi crebris, insigne
Druidis. Ad victorias lilium, ae regum aditus, mire laudalur :
tantae vaniiatis, ut habentem id in lite, in sinu Equitem Romanum
e Vocontiis, a Divo Claudia Principe interemptum non ob aliud
*«■«;«,— Plin. Nat. Hist. lib. 29. cap. 3.

i. e. " There is besides a kind of egg held in high estimation
by the inhabitaats of all the CaulSf unnoticed by the Greec



NOTES. 201

writers. It is called the serpent's egg; and in order to produce
it, an immense number of serpents, twisted together in summer,
are rolled up in an artificial folding, by the saliva of their mouths,
and the slime of their bodies. The Druids say that this egg is
tossed on high with hissings, and that it must be intercepted ia
a cloak, before it reach the ground. The person who seizes it
flies on horseback, for the serpents pursue him, till they are
stopped by the intervention of some river. The proof of this
egg is, that tho' bound in gold, it will swim against the stream.
And, as the Magi are very artful and cunning in concealing
their frauds, they pretend that this egg can only be obtained, at
a certain tijne of the moon, as if this operation of the serpents
could be rendered congruous to human determination, I have
indeed seen that egg of the size of an ordinary round apple, wora
by the Druids, in a chequered cover, resembling the numerous
calculi in the arms of a Polypus. Its virtue is highly extolled
for gaining law.suits, and procuring access to kings ; and it is
worn with so great ostentation, that I knew a Roman knight
by birth a Vocontian, who was slain by the Emperor Claudius
for no cause whatever, except wearing one of these eggs on his
breast during the dependence of a law.suit."

Pliny has, no doubt, given us this enigmatical account of the
serpent's egg, in the words of the vulgar tradition in Gaul; for
the Druids were of all men the most studious to conceal their
tenets, and it does not appear he could have had access to it by
any other means. Dark and disguised as it is, it contains some
important facts, on which I shall hazard a few conjectures. 1.
The serpent in early times was the emblem of wisdom, and the
cobglomeration of the serpents to produce this egg, appears io be
figurative of the wisdom of the Deity in creating the universe.
2. That this egg was tossed on high, and must be intercepted
before it fall to the ground, seems to denote that the true philo-
sopher must direct his eyes upward, and be always on the alert
to observe the phajnomena of nsiture, before they are out of his
reach. 3, The flying on horseback, and the pursuit of the ser-
pents till they are stopped by some river, clearly intitnate^ that^



262 NOTES.

though there are many obstacles in the way of philosophers, still
these have their bounds, and may be overcome by exertion and
perseverance. I cannot here help remarking that this Druidical
notion of serpents, or evil spirits, not being able to pass a stream
of running water, can be still recognized among the lower ranks
of Scotland, for a full account of which, I beg leave to refer the
leader to Burns' Tarn O'Shanter. 4. That this egg is proved by
its floating against the stream, implies that the philosopher is able
to stem the torrent of public prejudice, and chalk out a contrary
path to himself. 5. That this egg can only be obtained at a
certain season is expressive of that attention and assiduity which
ought to characterize the philosopher, in watching the motions
and revolutions of the heavenly bodies. 6. The persuasion that
it procured success in law.suits, and access to kings, is founded
in fact. The egg in question was the distinguishing badge of the
Druids, who were the supreme judges in civil as well as religious
cases, and certainly had more wisdom than to decide against
themselves ; and so exorbitant was their power, that even the
king himself was subject to them. 7. The Vocontii were a people
of Gallia Narbonensis, and the Roman knight slain by the Em.
peror Claudius, was in all probability a Druid. Druidism was
abolished by the Emperor Tiberius, as Pliny informs us, nam-
que Tiberii Caesarsis Principatus SastuUt Druidas eorum, Sfc,
i. e. For the emperorship of Tiberius Caesar abolished their
Druids, — Nat. Hist. lib. 30. ea-p. 1. .

Note XIII.— Page 70.

^Many places in Great Britain and he/and still retain the names
of the Druids, Sfc. — In addition to tke list of names here given
by Toland, it may be proper to add (he following, vii. Drys-
dale, i. e. Drui-dal, i. e. the Dale of the Druids near Lockarby.
Jnis Druineach, the antient name of Jona, and -vihich signifies
the island of the Druids. Dritdal, i. e. Drui.dal, i. e. the Dale
of the Druids, in the parish of Tynron. The grave of the Druids
in the island of Jona, — Pit.an-dnivh, i. e. the grave of the
Druids, near Brechin, &c. yet, strange to tell, Pinkarton asserts,



NOTES. 263

that there is no proof whatever of the Druids ever having beea
in North Britain. Dreux, the place of their general annual
assembly in France, literally signifies the Druids. Stephanus
gives us three other places of the same name, viz. Drijs a oily of
Thrace, Drys a city of the QSnotri, and liri/s a village of Lycia^
near the river Arus. — Vide Stephanum in verba Drys.

Note XI v.— Page 71.

Gealcossa, Sfc. — Toland reckons Gealcossa, i. e. ■white^egged,
a Druidess. He also reckons Lambdearg, (page 56) i. e.
Bloody.hand, a Druid. Both belong to Ireland. The curious
reader will see the story of Lamhdearg and Gealcossa, at consi.
derable length in Ossian's Poems; Fingal, book 6, page 97 —
Johnston's edition, 1806. Fingal having lost his son, Rmo,
in his expedition to Ireland, was anxious to bury him in honour,
able ground ; and seeing a tomb near, thus addresses his bard
Ullin : — " Whose fame is in that dark green tomb ?" &c. UlHn
replies — ■" Here said the mouth of the song, here rests the first
of heroes. Silent is Lambderg in this tomb, and Ullin, king of
swords. And who, soft smiling from her cloud, shews me her
face pf love? Why, daughter, why so pale, art thou first of the
maids of Cromla? Dost thou sleep with the foes in battle, GeL
chossa, white bosomed daughter of Tuathal? Thou hast been tha
love of thousands, but Lambderg was thy love. He came to
Selma^s mossy towers, and, striking his dark buckler, said — •
Where is Gelchossa, my love, the daughter of the noble Tuathal?"
&c. Such a coincidence betwixt Toland and M'Pherson, is a.
strong proof of the authenticity of Ossian's Poems, Toland de-
rived his information from the Irish manuscripts and traditions— ■
M'Pherson his from those of the Highlands of Scotland. Now if
both concur that Ireland was the country of Lamderg and Ge/-
f^hossa, the point may be considered determined that they were
real, not imaginary characters ; and it will naturally follow, that
the poems of Ossian are genuine and authentic. Toland, who
wrote 50 years before M'Pherson, surely cannot be accused of
•nventing this story to support the authenticity of Ossian's Poem»''

l1 2



264 NOTES.

It has often been objected to Ossian, that he makes do men-
tion of the Druids. A noble instance to the contrary will be
found in this very passage. Latnderg not being able to discover
Gelchossa, says to Ferchois — " Go, Ferchois, go to AUad, the
grey haired son of the rock. His dwelling is in the circle of
stones. He may knovr of Gelchossa."

Note XV.— Page 72.

Sard, ^c— The office of the Bards is vrell described by Toland.
This ofiiceexisted long after the'extinction of the Drnids. Taci-
tus, speaking of the Germans, has the following remark : — Ituri
in prcelia Canunt. Sunt Hits haec quoque carmina relatu quo.
rum quern Barditum vacant, accendunt animos. — De Morib.
Germ. cap. 1. i. e. — " When going to battle they sing. They
Lave also a particular kind of songs, by the recital of which they
inflame their courage, and this recital they call Bardilus. Now
this word Barditus, is the Gaelic Bardeachd, pronounced Bard,
eat, or Bardit,a.vd latinically terminated. It signifies Bardship^
or Poetry. Pinkarton has exerted all his ingenuity to show
that Ossian's Poems were borrowed from the Gothic war songs.
But from the testimony of Tacitus, it is clear that the Goths bor-
rowed their war songs from the Celts, else they would have had
a name for it in their own language, without being obliged to
borrow one from the Celts. Bardeachd is no more Gothic, than
Philosophi/, Physiology, Phlebotomy, &c. are English.

Note XVI.— Page 72.

Misselto, Sfc. — Pliny gives the most particular account of the
Misselto, and its uses. Nihil habent DruidcB (ita stios appellant
Magos) visco et arbore in qua gignatur {si moda sit robnr) sa.
tratitts. Jam perse roborum eligunt lucos nee vlla sacra sine ea
fronde conjtciunt, ut indeappellati quoque interpretatioiie Grceca
possint DruidcE videri. Eninwero quicqnid adnascatur Hits, e
ewlo missum putant, signumque esse electee ab ipso Deo arboris^
Est itutem id rarum admodum inventUf et repertum mc^na reli-



NOTES 265

gtone petitur : et ante omnia sexta luna,'quc£ principia tnensuiiit
annorumque kisfacit, et seculi post tricesimum annum, quia jam
virium abunde habeat, nee sit sui dimidia. Omnia sanantem ap-
pellantes mo vocabulo, sacrifidis epulisque sub arbore prtepara-
tis, duos admovent candidi coloris iauros, quorum cornua tune
primum vinciantur. Sacerdos Candida veste cultus arborem scan-
dit: fake aurea demetit. Candida id excipitur sago. Turn de.
mum victimas tmmolant, precantes ut suum donum deus prospe-
rumfaciat his quibus dederit. Fcecunditatem co poto dari cuicun.
que animall sterili atbitrantur, contraque venena omnia esse re.
medio.— Nut. Hist. lib. 16. cap. 44. i. e. " The Dniids (fop
so they call their Magi) have nothing more sacred than the Mis.
selto, and the tree on which it grows, provided it be an oak.
They select particular groves of oaks, and perform no sacred
xites without oak leaves, so that from this custom they may seem
to have been called Druids (Oakites), according to the Greek
interpretation of that word. They reckon whatever grows ott
these trees, sent down from heaven, and a proof that the tree it-
self is chosen by the Deity, But the Misselto is very rarely
found, and when found, is sought after with the greatest religi-
ous ardour, and principally in the sixth moon, which is the be.
ginning of their months and years, and when the tree is thirty
years old, because it is thin not only half grown, but has attain,
ed its full vigour. They call it All-heal (Uil' ice) by a word in
their own language, and having prepared sacrifices and feasts
under the tree with great solemnity, bring up two white bulls,
whose horns are then first bound. The priest, clothed in a whit«
surplice, ascends the tree, and cuts it off with a golden knife, and
it is received in a white sheet (Cloke). Then they sacrifice the
victims, and pray that God would render his own gift prosper-
ous to those on whom he has bestowed it. They reckon that
the Misselto administered in a potion can impart foecundity to
any barren animal, and that it is a remedy against all kinds of
poison."

We are not to infer from these words of Pliny, that the Druids
kad no other medicine except the Misselto, but only that they



266 NOTES,

had nihil sacratiut, i, e. none more respected. The Herha Eri.
iannica, of which Amhroslus Calepine gives the following ac-
count, may be fairly ascribed to them. Plin. lib. 23. cap. 3.
Herba est foliis oblongis et nigris, radice item nigra, nervis tt
dentibus salutaris, et contra anginas, et serpentium morsus effi.
caxremedium habens. Hujus Jiores vibones vocantiir; quibus
ante tonitrua degustatis, milites adversusfulminum ictus prorsvs
securi reddebantur. Scribit Plinius loco jam citato, promotis a
Germanico trans Rhenum castris, in mariiimo tractufontemfuisse
inventum aquce dulcis qua pota, intra biennium dentes deciderenl,
compagesque in genibvs solvercntur. Ei autem malo Brilanni-
cam herbam auxiliofuisse, a Frisiis Romano Blilili commonstra.
turn. — Vide Calepinum in verbo Britannica. i. e. " This herb
hath oblong black leaves, and a black root. It is salutary for
the nerves and teeth, and a sovereign remedy for the squiacy
and the sting of serpents. Its flowers are called Vibones ; and
the soldiers having tasted these before a thunder storm, were
rendered completely secure against its effects. Pliny writes, in
the passage before cited, that Germanicus having moved his camp
across the Rhine, found in the maritime district, a spring of sweet
water, of which, if any one drank, his teeth fell out, and the
joints of his knees were loosened, within two years; but that
the Herba Britannica, pointed out by the inhabitants of Fries,
land to the Roman soldiers, was a remedy for these maladies."

Note XVII.— Page 74.
That oiit of the tracts of his chariot, SfC. — To the Celtic read,
er, this fragment of a Gaelic song preserved by Athenxus, cannot
fail to be acceptable. It is nineteen hundred years old, and mav
serve as a caution to those who deny the antiquity of Celtic
poetry. Pinkarton says Gaslic poetry is not older than the 12th
century.

Note XVIII.— Page 75.
Ollamh, i5 c— This word is pronounced by the Celts Olluv,



NOTES. 267

and by the English OUaw : it signifies a doctor or graduate.
The etymology of this word, as far as I know, has not been at-
tempted. It is compounded of the Gaelic adjective oil, signi.
fying all, and lamh, a hand, and imports the same thing as all.
handed, or what the Romans would term omnium rerum expcrtus.
Lamh, pronounced lav, and sometimes laf, is the radix of the
Saxon loof, i. e. the palm of the hand ; but such is the disingc.
nuity of Pinkarton and his Gothic adherents, that, when they
have once gothicized a Celtic word, they claim it altogether.
Perhaps the Latin lavo, to wash, is derived from the same radix.

Note XIX.— Page 76.

Parliament at Drumcat, S(c. — The true orthography, as Mr.
Toland informs us, is Druini'Ceat, i. e. the hill of meeting. C
in the Celtic, as well as in the Greek and Latin, is always pro.



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 16 of 31)