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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this circle the hill of worship, because all Druidical circles were,
according to the common opinion, places of worship. But the
fact is, the real name is, being the common pro-
■uneiation of Ihc Gaelic Tom-na-Dhrailh, which signifies tjjehill


314 NOTES.

of judgment. In the word Bhraith, Bh Is pronounced V, and
th final is quiescent. This is another incontrorertible instance
ihat the Druids had judicial circles, as well as religions ones.

In the parish of Closeburn, on a farm named the Cairn, within
my rGcoUection, there existed the Cairn on ifhe top of the hill to
the west of the farm steading. A few of the temple stones re-
mained immediately behind the dwelling-house. The Auld
Girth is situated at the eastern extremity of the farm, and gives
name to a small bridge there, as well as to a farm in the •vicinity.
The new Girth, or judicial circle, stood on the north side of the
hill, on which the Cairn is situatpd, and near a small stream
named Clackarie, or Clachawrie Burn. It is easy here to trace
the affinity of this word to the before-mentioned Tom-na.crie.
It is Clacha-vrie, with the Saxon w substituted for the Gaelic
Ik, equivalent to v, conformable to the dialect of that district.
The word is Clacha Bhraith (the same with Dr. Smith's dacha
Breath) pronounced Clacha vray or wray, and signifies the stones
of judgment. Whoever wishes to see a Druidical judicial circle,
will have his curiosity gratified at Bower.tree Bush, about mid.
■way from Stonehaven to Aberdeen. The temple first catches the
eye, of which only four erect stones remain ; but the judicial
circle, situated about two hundred yards west of it, and divided
into three septs, is as complete as that day it was erected.

I hope enough has been advanced to convince every unpreja.
diced man that the distinction betwixt the religious and judicial
circles of the Druids is well founded. There are another kind
of edifices which appear to combine in one both the temple and
the judicial circle, of which kind is Stonehenge, but I shall re.
serve my remarks till I h(\ve occasion to treat of this remarkable

But Pinkarton has a reason, and a most imperious one too,
for denying the existence of Druidical temples. CiEsar (lib. 6.
cap. 21.) gives us an epitome of the German or Gothic religion.
Nam neque Dfuides habent qui divinis rebus preesint, neqve sa.
trifdis student— i. e. " for they neither have priests (Druids)
■who preside over divine things, nor do they oiler sacrifices aj;

NOTES. 315

all. To such a people temples were totally useless. Tacilasj
in his admirable treatise, De Maribus Germanqrum, has givea a.
few instances of sacred groves and humau sacrificeSj but these
were chiefly found among the Suevi^ who were descended of the
Senones. The same auilior informs that the Marsigni and Burii
resembled the Suevi in their language and dress, and that the
Gothini and Osi were not Germans, because the one spoke the
Gallic, and the other the Fannonian language. — De Morib.
Germ. cap. 13. Ad Jinem. — CiESar and Tacitus strictly agree,
-with this difference, that Csesar treats of the customs of the Ger.
mans, in contradistinction to those of the Gauls, whilst Tacitua
takes Germany in toto, and gives us an account, not only of the
custams of the Germans, properly so called, but of the Celtic
tribes settled among them. I am, however, far from contending
that the Germans in all instances kept themselves untainted with
the religion of the Druids, which was admirably calculated to
impose on the human mind. Druidism, or the worship of Baal,
was the favourite sin of the jews, though they lived under a spe.
cial theocracy, and had the light of divine revelation to direct
them. Several of them, like the Ubii (on the testimony of
Caesar), might be GalUcis adsu»ti moribus-A. e. *' bad con.
formed to the customs of the Gauls."

But the most prominent feature in the character of the Ger.
mans (who had neither temples nor sacrifices) is their public
meetings, in which every one had a vote. As the Germans were
contiguous to, and intermixed with the Celts, they could not fail
to remark the use of their judicial circles, and imitate them in
this particular. Pinkitrton has clearly established that in Scan,
dinavia and Iceland, are found judicial circles, under the name
o( Dom-thing, nearly synonimous with the Gaelic Clacha Bhraitk
— i. e. '^ courts of justice." But this argument, instead of sup.
porting Mr. Pinkarton's theory, completely subverts it. That
the Celts were the priecursors of the Goths, he has clearly ad-
mitted ; and that the Celts had temples, whilst the Goths had
none, is equally clear from the testimony of Cxsar. The sum of
the matter is, that the Goths or Germans, who had no sacrifices.

316 NOTES.

and, consequently, no use for temples, imitated tbcir prsecursors,
the Celts, in the use of the judicial circle, omitting the temples
altogether, or, which is more probable, devoting such temples as
the Celts left behind them to judicial purposes. The Celts used
these stone circles as temples and courts of ^ustice^ the Goths
used them only as courts of justice.

Note L. — Page 91.

Stonehenge, t^c. — There has been much ditersity of opinion
respecting this remarkable edifice. Some make it Roman, and
others Danish. Toland, Stukely, Grose, S^c, make it Druidical.
That it is such, is clearly evinced by the altar sixteen feet long
and four broad, and the rocking stone which still esists. It is
the most remarkable Druidical structure in the world, and said
to contain no less than 146 erect stones. For a full description
of Stonehenge, see Chambers' Cydopeedia, Stukely, Grose, ifc.

The name is evidently modern, and imposed by the Saxons to
express the appearance of the building, which is so constructed,
that the stones appear to hang or depend from one another.
Stonehenge is Saxon, and imports the hinged or hanging stone.
Most Druidical circles in South Britain bear the name of Maeii
Amher — i. e. " the holy stones," and from the vicinity of State,
henge to Ambersburff, which signifies the holy city, it is likely
the original name was Maen Amber. The Welsh call it CAoir
Gout — i. e. " the great assembly." At Stonehenge alone, the
altar and rocking stone are found together, and from this, with
the number of septs, some of them circular, others elliptical, it
is most probable this magnificent structure combined in one the
religious and judicial circle. Pinkarton, with his usual gothi.
cism, reckons it the supreme court of the British Be/gee. Th»
rocking stone, however, precludes his Gothic claim to this struc.
ture; for he admits (v. 1. p. 409 & 410.)that no rocking stonea
haye been remarked in Scandinavia or Germany. Wormius, the
great northern antiquary, did not find a single altar in any
of the circle* of Germany. Let Piukartoo condescend oa

NOTES. 317

any Gothic judicial circle in Germany, with the appendages of
the attar and rocking stone, and the contest is at an end.

The loss of the original name has greatly obscured the history
of Stonehenge. Gelcossa's temple in Ireland, (seeToland, p. 71.)
and a Druidical circle near the house of Cli/ne, in the parish of
Kiltearn, in Scotland, are diminutire imitations of Stonehenge.
Will Pinkarton also insist that these were the supreme courts of
the British Belgae ?

Caesar informs us (lib. 6. cap. 13.) that the chief school of the
Druids was in Britain, and that those who wished to study their
doctrines more perfectly, used to repair thither for that purpose.
Now as Stonehenge is a structure of unequalled extent and mag.
niiicence, is it not most natural to infer that it was the chief set.
tl^ment and school of the Druids in Britain ; and erery one will
admit that it was well situated for an easy intercourse with the
Continent, whence (Cajsar says) students resorted. If this hy.
pothesis is well founded, then the Welsh name Choir Gout — i. e.
f the great assembly, or school," is extremely appropriate.
The Celts have always been remarkable for denominating places
or things from the use to which they were applied. Cassar (lib.
6. cap. 13.) says " the Druids assemble in a temple (consecra.
ted place) at a certain season of the year, in the territories of the
Carnutes, which is reckoned the centre of all Gaul." Here is
another Druidical temple for Mr. Pinkarton. In the Gaelic
language Caer signifies a city, and Noid or Nait, (pronounced
iVu^) a congregation or assembly. Caer.noitf or Caer.nut, thea
signifies the town of the assembly, to which the Romans added
their termination es, and formed Carnuies.

Note LI.— Page 143.

Human sacrifices offered by the Druids, Sfc. — Dr. Smith, ia
his History of the Druids, has strained every nerve to prove that
they offered only criminals. But this will not do. Caisar (lib.
6. cap. 16.) is so particular on this head, as to leave not even a
shadow of doubt on the subject. " They reckon," says hp,
" those who have been taken in theft, robbery, or any other

% s

318 NOTES.

crime, more acceptable sacrifices to the gods, but when there is
a deficiency of this description, they have recourse even to the
sacrifice of the innocent." Tacitus says, " they heid it lawful
to sacrifice captives on their altars, and to consult the gods by
human fibres."— ^Mwa^, lib. 14. cap. 5. Pliny is still more se-
vere — " Non satis astimari potest, quantum. Romanis debealur,
qui sustulere monstra, in quihus liominem occidere rel/giosissitnum
eratf mandi vera etiam saluberritnum." — Nat. Hist, lib, 30. cap,
1. i. e. " It cannot be sufficiently estimated how much mankind
are indebted to the Romans for destroying monsters (the Druids)
who reckoned the sacrifice of a man the greatest act of religion,
and his flesh the most salubrious food."

There is hardly a nation on earth who has not, at one time or
other, offered human sacrifices. The propitiation was indeed
inadequate, but the idea was founded on the basis of moral rec.
titude. Man was the sinner, and he was the proper victim.
When, in order to appease the wrath of the deify, he offered
what was most dear to him, (generally his first-born) he could
not go further. Isaac was offered by substitute, as were also all
the first-born of the Jews, after the passover. Jephthah's daugh.
ter was really sacrificed ; and the whole gospel dispensation
rests on the merits of the great human sacrifice of the Messiah.
Human sacrifices among the Jews by substitute, were, no doubt,
crdained, and among the Gentiles, in reality, permitted, by an
all.wise God, that they might typify the sacrifice of Christ, the
only true, and the only sufficient propitiation for the sins of the

Note LII.— Pace 143.

Cromleth. — Mr. Toland has treated the Crotnleck at some
length, but not with his usual perspicuity. The grand distin.
guishing feature of the Cromlech is, that it is never surroundid
by a circle of stones, but has only one obelisk standing nenr it.
Anof Iier criterion is, that it is elevated from five to ten feit abo\-e
the level of the ground, whereas the altars in the temples are scl.
,dum, if ever, elevated above one foot. Another distinct mark

NOTES. 319

of the Cromlech is ita immense size. Many of them contain a
surface of 400 feet, whereas the altar at Stonehenge, the most
magnificent Druidical temple now known, contains only 64 feet,
being sixteen feet in length, by four in breadth. The altar of
Crum-Crwach, said by Mr. Toland to stand in the midst of
tweWe obelisks, does not seem to merit the name of a Cromlech,
unless by this term he understands an altar of any size. Dr.
Smith, whose History of the Druids is only a superficial trans,
cript of Toland's, evidently did not know what a Cromlech was.
He mistakes the Colossus, or erect obelisk, mentioned by To.
land, (p. 144.) at Neverq, in Pembrokeshire, for the Cromlech
itself. — See his Hist. Druids, p. 27. The erect stone was not
the Cromlech, but the image, or pedestal of the image of the
deity, to whom the sacrifices on the Cromlech were offered. Dr.
Falle, as quoted by Toland, (p. 146.) gives a very distinct ac-
count of these Cromlechs, or (as be calls them) Pouqueleys; and
the quantity of ashes found near them clearly shews that they
•were used as altars for sacrifice. Mr. Pinkarton (v. 1. p. 412.)
says the Celts never raised hillocks over their dead, and that the
plain Cromlech, or heap of stones, was more consonant to their
savage indolence. Hence we may infer that he considered the
Cromlechs as sepulchral monuments. But will any rational man
believe that it was more difficult to erect a hillock cf earth, than
a Cromlech, many of which weigh above a hundred tons, and
were besides to be quarried, and often transported from a con.
siderable distance ?

Mr. Toland has mentioned several of these Cromlechs, and I
shall here mention a few more. Keyzler, in his Northern Anti.
quitieSy mentions a stone of this kind in Alsace, 36 feet in circum.
ference, 12| broad, and 4 thick. There is another at Lanyon^
in Wales, 19 feet long, 47 in circoraference, and 2 in thickness,
resting on four pillars, at such a distance from the gronnd, that
a man on horseback may easily ride under it. Its form is that
of an ellipse, standing north and south. At Plas Newydd, ia
Wales, is another in the form of an irregular square, 40 feet ia
circumference, and 4 in thickness, raised so high on iupporterSj,

s s 5

320 NOTES.

that cows usually take shelter under it. In Great Britain and
Ireland it were easy to add to the above a numerous list, but I
shall content myself with the following quotation from Olaus
Wormius, — ' ' Ararum structura apud nos varia est. Maxima ex
parte congesto ex terra constant tumulo, in cujus summitate tria
ingentia saxa, quartum illudque majus, latins ac planius, susti.
nent,/ulciunt, ac smtentant, ut insiar mensce tribus fulcrit enixae
emineat.'^ — i. e. " The structure of altars with us is various.
Foi; the most part they consist of a raised hillock of earth, on the
summit of which three huge stones sustain, prop, and support a
fourth one, larger, broader and plainer, so that it overtops
them, like a table leaning on three feet." Though this great an.
fiquary never found, in Scandinavia or Germany, a single altar
within any of the stone circles, yet the Cromlech has, in the
above passage, been accurately described. Nor is it at all won.
derful that Celtic monuments so gigantic and durable, should last
so long, though it is nearly 2500 years since the Celts were ex-
pelled from Scandinavia and the north of Germany. So far with
regard to the existence of Cromlechs.

Before we attempt to determine their use, it is necessary to
recapitulate their discriminating characteristics. The Crom.
Ipch was by far larger than the altars in the temples, or on the
sacred cams, and hence we may infer that it was calculated for
the oblation of a plurality of victims. All other altars were en.
circled by a sacred earn, or temple, but this was surrounded by
no sacr.pd pale; whence we may conclude that all might approach
it. All other altars were nearly level with the ground, but this
was elevated like a theatre, that all might behold. The 16th
chapter of the 6th book of Ceesar throws considerable light on
this point, and I shall here translate it — " All the nation of the
Gauls is greatly addicted to t'jperstitions, and for that reason,
they who are afflicted by more severe diseases, and who are ex.
posed to battles or dangers, either olfer men for victims, or vow
that Ibey will offer thi»m, and they make use of the Druids as
ministers to offer these sacrifices, because they think the wrath
of the imtnorlal gods cannot be appeased, unless the life of a man

KOTES. 321

is paid for the life of a man ; and they have sacrifices of this kind
publicly instituted. Others have images of immense size, vthose
members are woven of wicker work, which they fill with living
men, which being set on fire, the men enveloped in the flames
are burnt to death. The sacrifice of those who have been taken
in theft, robbery, or any other crime, they reckon more accep.
table to the immortal gods; but, when there is a deficiency of
this description, they have recourse to "the sacrifice, even of the
innocent." Caesar here mentions two ways of disposing of a
plurality of victims. The first was at sacrifices publicly insti.
tuted for the purpose, where they were sacrificed in the usual
manner ; and the second was enclosing them in huge images of
basket work, where they were burnt to death. The same author
tells us (lib. 6. cap. 17.) " that when they have resolved on war,
they generally vow, that they will offer to Mars, whatever they
shall have taken in battle." Tacitus (Annal. lib. 13. cap. 5.)
Bays they sacrificed captives on their altars.

From these authorities it is evident that the human victims
offered on particular occasions were numerous. The ordinary
altars in the temples could not contain above two or three vic-
tims. And from all the characteristics of the Cromlech, I think
we may infer that it was erected as an altar for these hecatombs
of human victims which were publicly offered. Two, and some-
times three, of these Cromlechs are often found together, as it
seems to have been a fixed rule with the Druids to make an altar
of one intire stone only. Though Toland has confounded the
Cromlechs with the other Druidical altars, and Dr. Smith has
totally mistaken them, I am decisively of opinion that they form
quite a distinct class. Ancient Customs, though often modified,
or new modelled, are seldom totally eradicated, and I am verily
persuaded that the Cromlech on which criminals were burnt, (for
it was only when there was a deficiency of these that they sacri-
ficed the innocent) furnished the model of our present scaffolds
or platforms on which criminals are executed.

As to the name, viz. ike bowing stone, it is extremely appro-
priate, and there can remain little doubt that the surrounding

.122 NOTES.

Diultitade knpeled down daring this great public sacrifice, (ob
the testimony of CiEsar) the most acceptable of all others to the
gods. Some people have imagined that these Cromlechs were
used by the Druids for astronomical purposes, and indeed, from
their size and tabularity, they were well calculated for the most
extensiye mathematical delineations. Many of these Cromlechs
were capable of containing from one io two hundred victims;
and where three of them are found together, it is a moderate cal.
cnlation to say that from three to four hundred might haye been
sacrificed at once. From the words of Caisar, " sacrificia pub.
lice insiiiuta—i. e. " sacrifices publicly instituted," or (in other
■words) " to which all had access," we may infer that they had
others of a more private nature to which the multitude were not
admitted-; and from the small size of many of (he Droidical tem.
pies, it is probable the multitude were never admitted within the
circle of erect stones, but stood in the outer court, betwixt the
circle and surrounding grove. Fanciful people may imagine
what they please about these Cromlechs, but the very name is
sufficient to establish that they were appropriated to the worship
of the gods.

Note Llfl.— Page 145.
Bnt no such altars izere ever found by Olaus JVormiKs, the
great northern antiquary, Sfc. — Mr. Pinkarton, who abuses Mr.
Toland most unmercifully (v. C. p. 17.) on bis supposed disbe-
lief of the scriptures, dare not here enter the lists with him. It
was certainly easy for Mr. Pinkarton to have said whether
Olans Wormius found altars in the Gothic circles or not. He
knew he must have answered in the negative, which would have
blown up his whole Gothic hypothesis. In order to slim the
matter over, and sneak out of the dilemma, he admits (v. 1. p.
409.) that no rock idols, pierced stones, rocking stanes, or rocifc
basons, hare been remarked in^ Scandinavia or Germany, bnt
passes ow?r the altars in profound silence. The altar is the true
criterion betwixt the religious and judicial circle.

NOTES. 323

Note LIV.— Page 149.

That Mercury teas their chief god, Sfc. — All travellers hara
generally fallen into the same mistake, of tracing vestiges of
their own religion in foreign countries. Tacitus found Jsis m
Germany. Nay the Apostle Paul himself was mistaken for
Mercury at Lycaonia. Our own christian missionaries have
found traces of Christianity in almost every quarter of the globe.
Among the Greeks and Romans, Mercury was considered as the
god of high ways ; and it was customary to erect heaps, or earns
to him, near the public roads. The Druids erected earns io
Beal ; and from the resemblance of these to the Mercurial heapSy
the Romans concluded that Mercury was the chief Celtic deity.
But though CiBsar mistook Beal for Mercury, he has handed
down to us a point of much importance, when he tells us " Hu-
jus sunt plurima simulacra — i. e. " There are very many images
of this deity." Hence it is clearly established that'the Druids
had very many images of their gods.

Note LV.— Page 150.

Many of them have a cavity on the top capable to hold a pint,
§-c. — This cavity on the top of one of the stones in the Druidi.
cal temples has been often noticed. It was intended to catch
the dew or rain pure from heaven. The Druids had their holjj
isater and holy fire, as well as the Jews, and other nations.
Among the Greeks, every one who was admitted into the tem-
ple was sprinkled with holy water. He who was not admitted
was called Bebelos — i, e. " debarred from the porch, or «n.
trance." The coincidence betwixt the Gaelic and Greek Ian.
guages is here remarkable. In the Scots dialect of the Gaelic,
B>al signifies a house. In (he Irish dialect, Bail ha.s, the same
signification. The Greek Bel, divested of its peculiar termina-
tion OS, signifies the porch or entrance of a house, and hence the
house itself. There is not the slightest diiference, either in sound
or gigtiification, betwixt the Irish Bail and the Greek .Bel.

324 NOTES.

Appion accuses Moses of departing from the primitive casfom
of worshipping at Obelisks, and of erecting stone pillars, with
basons in such a manner, that as tlie sun moTed, his shadow
falling on these basons, moved along with him. — Joseph, contra
Jppion, page 724.

Appion could not possibly describe a non.entity, and must
have seen something resembling what he here describes; nor is
it unlikely that the Druids, as well as other Ethnic religious
sects, had vessels to catch the reflection of the heavenly bodies.
The vulgar among ourselves, even at the present day, fill a vessel
with water during an eclipse of the moon, and think they see it
more distinctly by (he reflection in the water. It is to be re-
gretted, that Dr. Smith did not advert to this primitive and sim-
ple method of bringing down the moon. It would have saved
him the trouble of ascribing telescopes to the Druids, at least
1500 years before they were invented.

Whether the cavity before-mentioned was occasionally used
by the Druids to catch the reflection of the heavenly bodies, I
shall not pretend to determine. But from the perforation reach,
ing from the cavity to the boitom of the pillar, whereby the wa-
ter could be drawn off at pleasure, it is evident its principal end
was to supply them with holy water, pure from heaven.

Note LVI.— Page 150.

Fatal Stone, Sfc. — This was the marble chair so famous in th*
Scottish annals. Mr. Toland, with great propriety, calls it the
most ancient and respected monument iu the world. Its anti.
quity and existence are so well established, that it is unnecessary
for me to enlarge on either of these heads. Poor Mr. Piukar.
ton, sensible that he could not claim it to his belorsd Gotlis,
has, throughout the whole of his Hutory of Scotland, hardly once
dared to hint at it. When any thing suits his Gothic hypotlie.
»is, he grasps it totis viribus, but when any thing makes against
it, he passes over it in profound silence. Admirable and canditl
historian a !


Note LVII.— Page 152.

Clunmany — Signifies the inclosure or temple of stones. These
names are also frequent in Scotland. , Clvan.Beg and Cluan-
Mor, i. e. " the little and large circle or temple," stand on the
estate of Mr, Robertson, of Strowan, near Dunkeld. In Fife,
we have Dalmeny (Dalmaine) the dale of stones, and Kilmeny,
(CilUmaine) the temple of stones. We have a parish in Perth-
shire of the name of Cluni/, and another in Aberdeenshire. This
last contains three Druidical circles. Clyne is merely a corrup-

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 21 of 31)