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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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 20 of 31)
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most appropriate Gaelic name for a temple, clearly indicate that
tliey were Druidical temples appropriated to the purposes of

In Irclandj UiB Culdees seem to have risen to little or no emi*


n<;ti<?e^ being iil^ayS sabject to, atid early i«cr«>rp"oVatea ^ith tlife
j-egUl&r Irish clergy. It is in Scotland that they aiake ilie rtibst
conspicuous figdVfe, %here they formed themselTes into sddbiliti^,
or fraternities, independent of the Irish clergy, or those of Jona,
Indeed, if <?e crfedit Kiikarton, (v. 2. p. 273.) tiiey were all
Irish, (that is, ongiiialiy from Ireland) and the oniy clergy in.
Scotland, from the time of Colulnba till the 11th centtry. Thfg
pgrioi! excfeeds fite htindi'ed years.

Dr. jAtnie'son '(s6fc his History of ike Culdees) expres'stes a
donbt whether the Magi at the court of King Brudi were Druids',
but admits that tb«y were beMh^n priests. Caesar (lib. 6, cap;-
21.) asserts that the Ge^rmans (Goths) had neither prJfeSts bop
sacrifices. Tliere is not a teslige of religion thronghotit tha
wbolfe extent of Germany, mentioned by Tacitus, which cannot
be clearly proved to be Drnidical, and derived from the Celts-^
the praecursors of the Gotlis. So late as the beginning of the 7th
century (see note 33d), Edwin, king of Northumbria, a Saxon
(Gothic) prince, when converted by Paulinus, Tvas attended by
bis Cdifi, or Archdrnid. That, therefore, the Magi, mentioned
fa the Latin lives of St. Patrick and Colurnba, were Druids (as
mentioned by bines), can admit of co doubt.

It IS eiqnally probable that the Culdees were converted Drnids;
and if this is admitted, every difficulty vanishes; every thing
respecting their name, origia, alid history, becones. clear and
consistent ; but as I kiaow of rio direct authority to support this
hypothesis, and as Keith, Dalrymple, Jamieson, and othei-s who'
have written on the subject, have taken oppostto ground, I mere,
ly hazard it as a probable conjecture, and with that difadence
which becomes a candid enquirer after trstb^ when traversing'
uncertain ground.

NoxE XLVIII.— Paoe 87»

TAe temples of the Druids. — ^In the Gaelic we have several
Words signifying a templej or church, as Eaglais, 7'eampul,
Daimhleach,' Annoid, Lann, DurteOCh, Cilh The two first are
evident corruptions of tfae Roman Esksiii and Templum, a^A


304 NOTES.

crept into the language when Christianity was introduced,
Daimhleach means the stone of the learned, and is a term nearly
synonimous with Cloch-an.Dichtor, i. e. the stone of the teacher.
Annoid is probably An.noid, i. e. the congregation or assembly.
Durteach (Durum Tectum) means the hard or durable house,
religious edifices being built more durably than ordinary houses,
which were constructed of wattles and mud. Lann is rather
peculiar to the Welch dialect. Cill, or Ceal, pronounced Keel,
radically signifies the heaTen, or sky, and hence figuratively,
any thiag circular. It is synonimous with the Latin Ccelum,
and the Greek Coilon, and perhaps the radix of both. When
figuratively taken to signify a place of worship, it is also the ra-
dix of the Latin Cella, Cill apppears to have been by far th«
most appropriate and general word for a Druidical temple, and
it every where occurs. Such places as bear the name of temples,
are mere translations of this word.

Note XLIX.— Page ISr.

Commonly two temples stand near each other, for reasons you
will see in our history. — This history Mr. Toland did not live to
accomplish; and Dr. Smith, who servilely follows Mr. Toland
ID every point of importance, must have been well aware of this
passage, though he neither attempts to solve the difficulty, nor
so much as once alludes to it. In whatever manner Toland
might have explained the matter, it is evident he was well ac-
quainted with it. He was the first who pointed out the circum-
stance ; and no man else, up to the present day, has attempted
a solution of it.

In examining the Druidic antiquities, and particularly theiT
eircles, it cannot be too frequently, nor too strongly inculcated,
that they were the supreme judges in all matters, civil as well as
religious, and from their decision there lay no appeal. Cajsae
(lib. 6. cap. 13.) i^ extremely particular on this head; nor is
he contradicted by any author, ancient or modern. Acting in
this double capacity of priests and civil magistrates, it was na.
turally to be expected that they would be provided wish ajudi-

NOTES. 305

cial, as well as a religious circle. Whoever minutely examines
the Druidical circles will find this distinction well founded. The
sun (Beal or Bealan) was the principal Celtic deity, and the
cast, or sun rising, the most honourable point. The religious
circle occupied this honourableposition and the judicial one stood
commonly due west of it. The former was generally larger and
more magnificent than the latter. The temple consisted of one
circle of erect stones. In the centre stood an erect stone larger
than any of the rest. Near this, and generally due east of it,
lay an oblong flat stone, which served the purpose of an altar.
On the north point, which was the door or entry, stood a trough,
filled with water, with which every one who entered was Sprink.
led. It appears to have been the same as the Greek Perirrantem
rion, and to have served exactly the same purpose. See Fetter's
Antiquities of Greece, v. 1. p. 176. These circles consist of 7,
12, or 19 erect stones, all of which are supposed to have had
their respective astronomical references, to the number of days
in the week, the signs of the Zodiae, or the cycle of the moon.
These particulars may suffice as the outlines of a Draidical temple.
Though the judicial circle in the exterior differed nothing from
the temple, in the interior it differed widely. There was commonly
no obelise in the centre, no altar, no perirranterion, or sprink.
ling trough. It consisted always of one, sometimes of two, and
when the establishment was of great magnificence, of three septs
or divisions, being three circles all terminating in the sonthera
point, and intended to accommodate the three different ranks o£
the Celts, whom Csesar (lib. 6. cap. 13,) divides into Druides.
equites, and plebs — i. e. Druids, nobility, and commons. Aa
ignorance of, or want of attention to the above distinction, haj
led those who are Celtie.mud to imagine that all these circle^
were Druidic temples, whilst Pinkarton, who was certainly
Gothic-mad, asserts that they were, without exception, Gothic
courts of justice. Both are extreraei, and truth lies between.
This diversity of opinion obliges me to treat the Druidic circle;}
in two different points of view — Imo, as temples ; 2do, as courts
•f justice.

306 NOTES.

THE nnniwc circles considered as te»plis.

When Pinkarton asserts (v. 1. p. 405.) that Druidism was of
Phoenician origin, and again, (ibid. p. 407.) that the Druids had
no temples, but worshipped in groves, he stews his utteTignv.
ranee of ancient history. The Carlhagenians (see Huid's Ee. .
ligi'ous Rites and Ceremonies, p. 28.), the Tyrians, the Pbceni-
■cians, the Philistines, and Canaanites, were one and the same
peopfe, and had one and the same religion. The MoabiteSj
I^oenicians, Assyrians, Chaldeans, and even the Hebrews, were
worshippers of Baal. See Brown's Dictionari)%f the Bible, (p.
166.) The worship of Baal (the same as the Celtic Beal) was
(he favourite sin of the jews ; and hence, in the sacred records,
which I consider as the best of all evidence, many interosttng
particulars are preserved respecting this worship. Moses, at the
foolof Monnt Sinai, built an altar, and sorronnd^d it with twelve
Mo'ne pillars. See Exodus, ch. 24. v. 4. As Moses hid hither,
to received no express command respecting a temple, it may be
presaiued he took the model of this one from his Ethnic oeiglr.
botirs. It is vTorthy of remark, that by far the greater ntimljer
of the Drntdical temples are sarronnded by twelve pillars. The
children of Israel served Baalim. — Judg. 2. 11. They served
Baal and Ashtaroth — i. e. the snn and the moon. — Jud,^. 2. 13.
They served Baalim and the groves. — Judg. 3. 7. The altar
and grove of Baal are mentioned Judgts 6. 25. The Isradiles
serve Baalim and Ashtaroth, and a long list of other gods,- —
Judg. 10. 6. The Israelites pnt away Baalim and Ashtaroth.'^^
1st Sam. 7. 4. Ahab reared np an altar for Baal in the House
of Baal, which he had built at Samaria. This is, at least, one
instance of a temple. Jehu decoyed the priests and worshippers
of Baal into the house of Baal, and slew them. He broke down
the images of Baal, and the hoase of Baal, and went to the city
of the house of Baal. In this instance we find Baal had not only
a house, (temple) but even a city dedicated to him. Many
»ach instances might be condescecded on.

Moses, who certainly knew something of the matter, com.
maxids- tbe jews- tff destroy tkyr aiiars, <o break down theit

NOTES. 307

iniag«S (lUeraliy pillars), to cut down their groTes, and to bum
their graven images with fire. — Deutron, 7. 5. He repeats the
same command in these words^ — " ye shall utterly destroy all th«
places wherein the nations which ye shall possess served their
gods upon the high mountains, upon the hills, and under every
green tree. And you shall orerthrow their altars, and break
their pillars, and burn their groves with fire ; and you shall hew
down the graven images of their gods, and destroy the names of
them out of that place,''— X)eai. 12. 2 and 3. The temples of
Baal, here mentioned, were erected by the Pfaffinicians in the
land, of Canaan, prior to the entry of the children of Israel; and
had Moses been interdicting the temples of the Druids in Great
Britain or Ireland, he could not have given a more exact des.
Cfiption of them. The groves, the pillars or erect stones, the
altars, the images, and even their situation on eminences, are all

That groves were the most antient places of worship, is suffi-
ciently evident from the sacred records. Abraham, after Ms
departure from Ur of the Chaldees, built an altar in a grove,"
The Sun, under many diiferent names, was the earliest, as well
as the most general object of idolatrous worship. He was ori-
ginally worshipped in groves, and for this reason the jews were
prohibited (Deut. 12 — 3, 16, 21) from planting groves near
their, altars, and commanded to, cut down the groves of the Ca-
naanites. To whatever nation we turn our eyes, we find groves
the first places of worship; but the simplicity of the early ages
S9on yielded to a more splendid order of things, and the magni.
ficence of the temples kept pace with the progress of the arts.
In cities, groves were not to be obtained, and were often dispens-
ed with. The Druidff, of all the worshippers of Baal, retained
their groves to the last. This has made Pinkarton conclude that
they worshipped in groves, and had no temples at all. The
passage in Tacitus, on which he founds this erroneous hypothe-
sis, is as follows : — Igkur Monam Insulam incolis validam, et rs-
ceptaculum perfugarum aggredi parai navesque fabricatur piano
ukeo, adiitrsus bnve Uttus et incertum, Sicpedites (guiles vado

308 NOTES.

secuti, aut altiores inter undas adnantes equis transmisere. Sta.
bat pro littore dieersa acies densa amis, virisque intercursantibus
fceminis, in modumfuriarum, vesleferali, crinibus dejectis faces
prcfferebant, Druidaqiie circum, prcces diras sublatis ad calum
manibusfundentes, novitate aspectus perculere militem ui, quasi
heerentibus membris, immobile corpus vulneribus praberent.
Dein cohortationibus ducis, et se ipsi stimulantes, ne muliebre et
fanaticum agmen pavescerent, inferunt signa, sttrnunt que obvi.
ot, et igni suo involvunt. PreEsidium posthac impositum victis^
excisique luci scevis superstitionibus sacri. Nam cruore captivo
cdolere aras, et hominum fibris consulere Deosfas habebant. —
Annal. lib. 14. cap. 5. i. e. " Therefore he prepares to attack
the island Mona (Anglesy), powerful in inhabitants, and a re-
ceptacle of deserters. He builds flat-bottomed ships, suited to
the shallow and uncertain channel. The infantry following the
cavalry, passed over that part which was fordable, but where the
■water was too deep, laid hold of the horses, and by their aid
swam over. A motley army stood on the shore, thick with
arms, and women running up and down among the men, with
mournful garments, and loose hair, in tlie manner of furies, car-
ried torches before them. The Druids also, with their hands
lifted up towards heaven, and pouring out their direful prayers,
J80 terrified the soldiers with the novelty of the sight, that, as if
.they had been deprived of the use of their limbs, they suffered
themselves to be wounded without resistance. But being ex-
horted by their general, and mutually encouraging each other
npt to be terrified by a womanish and fanatic rabble, they ad
Tance the standards, defeat their opponents, and involve them
in their own fires. A guard was placed on the conquered, and
the groves, sacred to cruel superstitions, were cut down ; for
they held it lawful to sacrifice captives on their altars, and t»
consult the gods by human entrails."

Tacitus does not here mention (he temples of the Druids, but
he particularly mentions the groves, altars, and human sacrifices.
The truth is, some authors nitution one appendage, and others
another, of the Druidic worship. Cicsar, lib. 0. cap, 17, t»kes

NOTES. 309

no notice of the groves or altars, but particalarly mentions the
tBmplcs. Multis in civitatibas harum rerum extructos tumulos
iocis consecratis conspicari licet — i. e. " In many cities, you may
see heaps of these (warlike spoils) piled up in consecrated places."
It was not likely that the temples in cities would have the ap.
pendage of a grove annexed to them. Tacitus, however, in the
above cited passage, puts theexistenceof the altars of the Druids
beyond a doubt, and has thus subverted one material part of the
Pinkartonian system. He gravely tells us (vol. 1. p. 414.) that
these cross stones (altars) were conveniences to the chiefs to get
up and speak to the people. Tacitus assigns them a very differ,
ent use; and his opinion is not only founded on fact, but coin.
cides with that of every impartial enquirer who has written oa
these monuments of antiquity. If, however, Mr. Pinkarton will
take the trouble to look into Chambers' Cyclopedia, or any topo.
graphical description of Anglesey, he will find that their altars,
temples, and rocking stones still remain. Tacitus gives us an
account of what was demolished; and Mr. Pinkarton hence in.
fers that nothing more existed. But here, on the evidence of
Tacitus, Mr. Pinkarton is evidently wrong, for the altars,' though
mentioned, are not said to have been demolished ; and if the al>
tars were spared, why might not the temples also ?

A similar instance occurs in the pariah of Holywood, which
derives its name from a Druidical grove. Holj/wood, or as it is
pronounced by the vulgar Haly Wid, is merely the Gaelic Alia.
Feadk^ Sasonically pronounced, and signifies the holy grove.
John de Hulywood, by the Monks commonly called Joannes d&
Sacro Bosco, also derived his name from this grove. In the me-
mory of some persons still alive, the vestiges of the grove could
be clearly traced. The roots of the trees are said still to remain,
and the circle of stones forming the temple in the interior of tha
grove is still intire. Now though this grove has been transmitted'
to. posterity in the name of the parish, as well as in that of Joan~
nes de Sacro Bosco, there is no tradition whatever concerning
the temple which it contains. The grove here, like that at An.
glesey, has fallen before the axe, or yielded ta liiae. Bat, suck

K r

310 NOTES,

is the fate of things, that both these groves have been outlifed
by their respectire temples, concerning which history and tradi-
tion are equally silent. In the present case, no quibbling wil»
avail Mr. Pinkarton, This sacred or holy grove must have con-
tained a religious, not a judicial circle ; and I defy Pinkarton,
or any man else, to point out a Gothic judicial circle, surround,
ed by a sacred grove. See Statistical Account ofHolywood.

Many of these circles still bear the name of temples, temple-
stones, and temple-lands. There is a in the parish
of Closeburn, another in the parish of Lochmaben, at the junc-
tion of the Kinnel and Ae, The Temple ofKineffia the name of
a farm on the estate of Fernyflat, near Bervie. The Temple,
stones is the name of a small Druidical temple on the farm of
Auchlee, near Elsick. A hundred such instances might be con.
descended on, but these may su£Sce as a specimen, being oalj
translations from the Gaelic. The most general name for a tem.
pie in the Gaelic, is Ceal or Cil, pronounced Keel or Kil, These
kills abound every where, and by far the greater part have beea
luperseded by christian churches. In this list I shall only men-
tion Kilbarchan, Kilberry, Kilbirny, Kilbrandon, Kilbride, KiL
ealmonell, Kilchoman, Kilchrenan, Kilconquhar, Kildonan, KiL
drummy, Kilfinan, Kilfinichen, Kilallan, Killarrow, KilbrandoHy
Killean, Killearn, Killearnan, Killin, Kilmadan, Kilmadock,
Kilmalcom, Kilmanivaig, Kilmarnock, Kilmartin, KUmaurs, Kil-
ineny, Kilmorack, Kilinore, Kilmorich, Kilmory, Kilmuir, Kit-
winian, Kilninver, Kilpairick, Kilrennj/, Kilspindie, K.ilsyth,
Kiltarlity, Kilteam, Kilvicewen, Kilwinning. These are all
parishes, which have derived their names from Druidical tem-
ples, in the same manner as Holi)Wood took its name from the
sacred grove, and though in most of them the zeal of Christians
has left no vestige of Drnidism, still as much remains as will il-
lustrate the truth of this position. In the parish of KilbarchttH,
two miles west of the village, is an oval stone, 22 feet long, 19
broad, and 12 high, containing above 3000 solid feet. It still
bears the name Clock o Drich, (Cloch an Druidh) i. e. " the
stone of the Druids." This was undoubtedly a rocking stone

NOTES. 311

made use of by the Druids in their judicial capacity, and Kilbar.
chart, with the transposition of the letter r, rendered Kilbrathan
or Kilbrachan, would signify the circle of judgment. The pa.
risb of Kilmorach still contains many Druidical circles. Killar.
lity also contains a few Druidical circles. In the parish of
Kiltearn is an oval or elliptical temple bearing a striking resem.
blaoce to Stonehenge, though on a smaller scale. To this list I
may add the parish of K«//} in Gallowaywhere a rocking stone
about 10 ton weight still remains.

In Ireland these Kills are also numerous, as Yiiikenmj, Kii.
leamey, Kildare, ^c. This last literally signifies, the temple of
rove. In Wkles these temples are generally known by the
name of Kerig.y.Dri/dion — i. e. " the stones of the Druids," or
Maen Amber — i, e. the Holy Stones, These temples are nume.
rous OTer all the Celtic districts ; and such is their peculiarity,
that he who has seen one, may form a correct idea of the whole.
Th« reader may think I hare been unnecessarily minute in
proving these circles of stones to be Druidical temples, but it
was necessary, as Mr. Pinkarton has denied that there was ever
a Druid in North Britain or Ireland. But if we find the very
same monuments in both these kingdoms, which we find in Gaul
and Wal«s, countries confessedly Druidical, it is impossible to
ascribe them to any other than the Druids. Indeed Pinkarton
himself (vol. 1. p. 415.) i« reluctantly obliged to admit, that
some of these circles might be temples of small deities; and' as
this is all I am contending for, it is unnecessary to enlarge far-
ther on this head. In a philological point of view, it may, how-
ever, be necessary to point out the great affinity betwixt the
Gaelic Ceal or Cil, and the Hebrew Chil. Reland defines Chil
to be Proteichisma, or Spatium antimurale, occupying the space
betwixt the mount of the temple and the court of the women.
He also states that neither the Gentiles, nor those polluted by tb«
dead, entered this Chil. Lightfoot gives nearly the same defini.
tion, adding that Chil was ten cubits broad, divided from the
court of the Gentiles by a fence ten hand.breadths in height.
Chil was that space within the court «f the Gentiles, which imme*

R r2

312 NOTES.

diately surrounded the mount of the temple, and in no materia!
circumstance dififered from the Gaelic C'il, which denoted the
circle enclosing the temples of the Druids.


As the Druids were the ministers of religion, and at the same
time the supreme judges in civil causes, it is extremely probable
that they had their judicial, as well as their religious circles.
On any other hypothesis it would be difficult to account for two
Druidical circles generally being found near each other. For
the purpose of religion one was sufficient. Nor is it once to be
imagined that men of such pretended sanctity should throw open
their temples to be profaned by the admission of all ranks for
the administration of justice.

Independent of these considerations, we find a characteristic
difference in the Druidical circles. Many of them are still tra.
ditionally reported to have been, and still bear the name of teoa.
pies. These are still regarded by the vulgar with a degree of
superstitious veneration. Ask the meanest day-labourer what
the large circle of stones at Bowertree Bush, near Aberdeen,
had been — he will immediately answer, that it was a. place of
worship. Mr. Robertson, of Struan, last year wished to demo,
lish a Druidical circle on his estate, named Cliian Beg (the little
enclosure or temple), but his servants, rather than commit what
they deemed sacrilege, chose to be dismissed his service. These
are the circles of'religion, and contain the large centre stone,
the altar, the purifying trough, &c.

But the other description of circles are regarded with little or
no veneration. Concerning the smaller circle at Bowertree Bush,
tradition does not even hazard a conjecture. The same remark
will apply to the judicial circles in general. They have no cen.
tre stone, no altar, no purifying trough, &c. and are never de.
nominated temples. They generally have no name at all, and
are frequently divided into two or three different septs or enclo-
sures, to accommodate the different ranks of the Celts. These
are the judicial circles of the Druids, and are in many instances
.found intire, whilst the temples are almost, without a single ex.

NOTES. 313

ceptioD, mtitUated and injured. I have examined above fifty
Druidical temples, but never found one of them in all respects
iatire. This is easy to be accounted for. The temples being
dedicated to the purposes of religion, fell a sacrifice to the per.
scenting fury of the Romans, and the blind zeal of christians.
In the south of Scotland, where the religious circles are denomi.
nated Kills or Temples, the judicial circles are denominated
Girths. These Girths are numerous, such as Auld Girth, Apple
Girth, Tunder Girth, Girthon, Girthhead, &c. &c. In the He-
brides these Girths are still more numerous, and the tradition
respecting them is, that people resorted to them for justice, and
that they served nearly the same purpose among the Celts, that
the cities of refuge did among the Jews. In all stages of society,
but more so in a savage state, man is prone to avenge his own
wrongs ; and -we cannot sufficiently admire the address of the
Druids, who appointed these Girths, or judicial circles, in the
vicinity of their temples, where their transcendant power was
sufficient to protect the injured, and check, or overawe the most
daring and powerful.

Dr. Smith, in his History of the Druids, says the Highlanders
call the rocking stones Clacha Breath — i. e. the stones of judg-
ment. But this must be a mistake j for as no two ror^king
stones are ever found together, the Highlanders would not apply
the plural Clacha (stohes) to a single stone; but as the rocking
Etones formed an appendage to the Clacha Breath, or judicial
circles, it is not improbable that the Highlanders may have in.
eluded both under this general denomination.

In the parish of Coull there is a judicial circle, which the
writer of the statistical account terms Tamnavrie, and translates
the hill of worship. This is another striking instance of the
folly and absurdity of reckoning all the Druidical circles places
of worship. The writer thought he could not err in rendering

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 20 of 31)