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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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tion of Cluan, or Cluain. Menmuir (Main Mur) — i. e, " the
stone wall or for^" is the name of a parish in the neighbourhood
of Brechin. Menmuir is only a different name for Caiter-thun.
With regard to Catter-thun, and the neighbouring estate of
Stracathro, their have been many absurd etymologies. Catter-
thun, (Caither Dun) literally means the city hill, or fort j and
Stracathro, (Sirath-cathrach) means the city strathy and is so
denominated from its Ticinity to the said city.

Note LVIII.— Page 152.

Rocking Stones, — These rocking stones are numerous over all
the Celtic districts. Mr. Mason, in his Caraclacns, has givea
us the vulgar tradition respecting them in the following lines :



-Behold yon Imge



And unhewcn sphere of living adamant,
Which, pois'd by magic, rests its central weight
On yonder pointed rock; firm as it seems.
Such is its strange and virtuous property.
It moves obsequious to the gentlest touch
Of him, whose bieart is pure. But to a traitor,
Tho' ev'n a giant's prowess nerv'd hi? arm,
It stands as iix'd as Snowdon.

There is a remarkable rocking-stone in the parish of Kilbarch.
an, (see Note 47.) and another in the parish of Kells in Gallo-
way. There is one in the parish of Kirkmichael in Perthshire,
another at Balvaird, and a third at Dron, both in the same

T t



32(5 NOTEiS.

county. Borlase, in his Antiquities of Cornwall, mentions a
rocking-stone, in the parish of Constantine, weighing about
750 tons, being 97 feet in circumference, and 60 across the
middle. It were easy to add to the above a numerous list, but
this is unnecessary, as no antiquarian has denied the existence
of such stones. The only point of difference has been the use to
Tvhich they were applied.

Mason, in the above quoted passage, has informed us that they
were used as ordeals to try the guilt or innocence of criminals,
and this is the prevalent opinion respecting them. They may
have, however, served some other subordinate purposes, and
from their mobility, as well as their spherical shape, were well
calculated for elucidating the motion of the earth, and other
heavenly bodies. Caesar (lib. 6. cap. 14.) says, " they (the
Druids) teach their pupils many things concerning (he stars and
their motions, concerning the size of the world and its different
parts," &c. Now, as the Druids were, on all hands, allowed
to be well versed in astronomy and geography, it is natural to
suppose they would avail themselves of artificial aids in com.
municating their philosophy to their disciples. Of all the
Druidical monuments which have reached the present day, none
\ia.s so well calculated as the rocking-stone to supply the want
of our modern terrestrial and celestial globes. The rocking,
stone was, in fact, the world in miniature, and possessed the
motion, as well as the shape, of our modern globes. Indeed,
all the Druidical monuments appear to have had some astronomi.
cal reference. No sooner do we enter a Druidical temple, aud
see the huge central obelisk surrounded by a circle of erect
stones, than we are immediately struck with the idea of a sun.
dial, or the sun placed in the centre, and the planets revolving
around him.

Mr. Pinkarton, (vol. 1. p. 410.) with his usual Gothic con.
sistency, tells us that these stones are a lusus naluree, a sportive
production of nature. Now, nature, it is well known, has ex-
ercised none of these sports in any of the Gothic countries, and
,jt is rather singular, that these sportive productions arc confined



NOTES. 327

to the Celtic districts. But the fact is, that these stones are
rounded with the nicest skill, and poized with the exactest me-
chanism. They are always found near some Druidical edifice
of superior magnificence, and the man whose head is so gothi.
cized as to reckon them the efiect of chance, need not hesitate
to pronounce St. Giles' Church, or Lord Nelson's Monument, a
lusus natures! That these rocking stones were really artificial,
is clearly established by Pliny, who (lib. 34. cap. 7.) gives us
the following account of one. " Talis et Tarenii f actus a Ly.
sippo quadraginta cuhitorum. Mirum in eo, quod manu, ul fe-
runt, mobilis (eu ratio libramenti) nullis convellatur procellis.
Id quidem providisse et artifex dicitur, modico intervallo, wide
ifiaximejlatum opus eratfrangi, opposita columna.'" — i. e. " And
Such a one, forty cubits high, was made at Tarentum, by Lysip.
pus. The wonder of this stone is, that it is said to be moveable
by a touch of the band, (owing to the particular manner in
which it is poized), and cannot be moved by the greatest force.
Indeed, the workman is said to have guarded against this, by
opposing a. fulcrum (prop) at a small distance, where it was ex.
posed to the blast, and most liable to be broken." Had Pliny
been giving a description of the rocking stones in Scotland, he
could not have done it more exactly. They were, indeed, so
poized, and had so little room to vibrate, that the slightest touch
gave them all the motion of which they were capable.

Well knowing that these stones bear the most unequivocal
characteristics of art, Mr. Pinkarton, in the next breath, con.
futes himself, and tells, us they are sepulchral monuments. The
instance he gives us is from AppoUpnlus Rhodius^, who writes
that Hercules, having slain the two sons of Boreas, erected over
them two stones, one of which moves to the sonorous breath of
the north wind. Apollonius wrote the Argonau/ica; and it is
well known the Argonauts, in their expedition, visited many of
the Celtic districts, and might have carried along with them the
model of these stones. Nay, what is more to the purpose, it is
most likely they carried one of these stones along with them,
for Pliny (lib. 3S, cap, i5.) tells us that there, is a rocking stons,

T t2



328 NOTES.

( Lapis fugitious) in the town of Cyzicura, which the Argonauts
left there. This stone was first placed in the Pri/taneii>(i, (a
place in the citadel of Athens where the magistrates and judges
held their meetings) and the situation was most appropriate, as
it was an appendage of the Druidical judicial circles. But as
this stone wished to return home, and used frequently to run
away from Prytaneura, it was at last taken to Cyzicum and fixed
down with lead. But what is still more ridiculous, the Argo-
nauts are said to hare used this Jugilive stone as an anchor.

All judicious men have looked on the story of Hercules and
the two sons of Bor«as as a mere fable, and perhaps the story
of the fugitive stone stands on no better ground. But Mr. Pin-
karton's drift is evident. He has admitted that no rocking
stones have been found in Scandinavia or Germany, and conse-
quently cannot appropriate them to the Goths. He is willing,
therefore, to mtke them any thing, or to give them to any body,
rather than to the Celts, their true owners.

But as Mr. Pinkarton considers Boreas and his two sons as
real personages, and argues accordingly, I beg leave to make
hira acquainted with this same Mr. Boreas, of whose name and
lineage he appears to be totally ignorant. Mr. Boreas is an
ancient highland gentleman of above three thousand years stand-
ing. There is not one drop of Grecian blood in his veins. His
name is pure Celtic, viz. Bor.Eas — i. e. " the strong cataract
or blast." Hence the Greeks formed their Boreades (descend-
ants of Boreas) and Hyperhoraioi — i. e. " people situated to the
north of the north wind." In mndern times he is more gene-
rally known by the name of the North Wind, but even in this
• name his claim to the Highlands, or north of Scotland, is evident.
Hercules was a hero, a gentleman, and a great traveller. He
had visited Italy, Spain, and Gaul, in all which countries he
must have been acquainted with the Celtic rites and customs.
When he slew the two sons of this ancient highland gentleman,
Mr. North Wind (Boreas), it was extremely handsome in him (o
give them a highland funeral, and to erect over them a rocking
stone, which was the most expecsivt and mosl rare of all the



NOTES. 329

Cfltic or Highland monuments. So far Hercules acted like a
hero and a gentleman. But ApoUonius and Plnkarton have out-
raged humanity, and grated every string of paternal feeling, by
stationing the poor old gentleman, Mr. Piortli Wind, to blow
this rocking stone, and keep it always tottering on the grave of
his beloved sons. Hear their own words — " He slevv them on
sea surrounded Tenos, and raised a hillock about them, and
placed two stones on the top, of which one (the admiration of
men) moves to the sonorous breath of the North Wind." They
would have acted much more consistently, had they made this
venerable highland gentleman exert his sonorous breath to bloMr
Hercules out of existence, in revenge for the death of his t\ro sons.
' But, to be serious, I have no objection, for argument's sake,
to admit that this fabulous instance was a real one ; still a soli,
tary detached instance of the perversion of any thing proves no.
thing. The Hai/s of Errol defeated the Danes with their oxen
yokes — Pompey's funeral pile was a boat— and many of our
early churches are now devoted to the humble purpose of holding
cattle ; but will any man in his senses thence infer, that oxea
yokes were formed for military weapons, that boats were built
for funeral piles, or churches for cattle folds. But these rock,
ing stones were in fact Ordeals. The uniform tradition of the
Celtic countries points them out as such, and Sirabo himself is
of the same opinion, when he thinks (as remarked by Mr. To.
land, p. 153.) that these stones might be an useful cheat to so.
ciety. The testimony of Strabo in this case is positive and de-
cisive, and Mr. Pinkarton'« Gothic hypothesis must fall to the
ground.

Note LIX.— Page 154.

Druids' houses, Sfc. — These Druids' houses are no vain fiction.
Pennant, and several others, have taken notice of them. Mr.
Toland has, on this head, been pretty full ; and it only remain*
for me to point out the absurdity of the opinion of those who
assert that there never was a Druid in Scotland or Ireland. If



330 NOTES.

so, how have we their houses, their graves, &c. still bearing

their names ?

Note LX.— Page 155.

Soilf one of the ancient names of the sun. Soil,itt the Gaelic,
signifies clearness, and Soilleir clear. The former is the radix
of the Latin Sol, and the latter of the Scottish Siller, now writ,
ten Silver. It is generally allowed that the Sanscrit is the basis
of all the languages of the East; and the same may be said of
the Celtic with regard to the languages of the West. There are
many words in the Greek and Roman langnages which can ad.
mit of no satisfactory analysis, except iu the Gaelic language,
and Sol is one of them. Cicero derives Sol (lib. 5. rfe Kat.
Dear.) from Solus, because there is but one sun and no more.
By the same parity of reasoning, the moon, and every individual
Star, have an equal claim to the name, because there is one of
each, and no more. But how beantifally appropriate is the de-
rivation of the Roman Sol from the Gaelic Soil, which signifies
clearness or light, an attribute of the sun in all nations and in
all languages.

Note LXf.— Page 156.

The Gauls, contrary to the aistom of the Romans^ ^c— The
Romans, in augury, or their religious ceremonies, turned their
face to the south, their left hand to the east, and their right to
the west. The Celts, on the contrary, turned their face to tha
north, their right hand to the east, and their left to the west.
By this difference of position, the left hand of the Romans cor.
responded to the right of the Celts. It was, however, in both
cases, the band which pointed to the east that was the ominous
one.

Note LXII. — Page 157.
Arthur's Oven. — From the similarity of this edifice to others,
which still bear the name of Druids' Houses, we have every
reason to conclude, with Mr. Toland, that it is of the same



NOTES. 331

kind. There is a/ac simile of it at Penniculck, It is strange
any one should have imagined it to be Roman ; and equally so,
that it should have received the name of Arthur's Oeen, It is
in no one circumstance, agreeable to Roman architecture, whil«
we can adduce many similar buildings in the Hebrides, to whicli
the Romans never penetrated. Several of these edifices (see
Pennant's tour) are also found in Argyllshire. There are also
many of them in Ireland. If this building was erected by the
Romans to their god Terminus, it must follow that all the edi.
fices similar to it in shape and arckitecture, were similar temples,
and hence it must also follow that they erected temples in Ire,
Jand, &c. to which they never had access. Under every view
of the matter, and from every circumstance of the case, the Celts
have an unquestionable title to Arthur's Oven. As to the name,
it is proper to remark, that many of the Gaelic names have been
mistaken for Latin ones, and not a few of them for English.

Buchanan mistook the Gaelic Dun'na Bais, i. e. the hills of
death, for the Roman Duni Pacis, i. e. the hills of peace. Ptn
Punt, i. e. the weighing hill, has been mistaken for the Roman
pene pontus, i. e. almost sea, though the hill in question is fifteen
miles distant from any sea, and more than three thousand feet
above its level. Arthur's Oven is a memorable instance of the
same kind. It is merely a corruption of the Gaelic Ard.tur.aith.
ain (pronounced arturami), and signifying the high tozver oh
the river. Perhaps Arthur's Seat owes its name to a mistake of
the same kind. It was indeed very natural for any one, unac.
quainted with the Gaelic language, to mistake arturaviu for
Arthur's Oven.

Note LXIII.— Page 160.

I shall conclude this letter with two examples, ^-c, — The first
of these is a tessillated causey on the mainland of Orkney, and
the other the remarkable Dviarfy stone in the island of Hoy.
Mr. Toland, with a modesty highly creditable to him, does not
claim them as Pruidical, but confesses candidly that they do
not pertain, as far as he knows, to the subject he is treating of.



332 NOTES.

In a similar case Mr. Pinkarton would have acted very different-
ly. Had he not been able to make them Gothic, he would have
dubbed them sepulchral monmnents, or a lusus naturte, or, if
this would not do, he would have made his favourite Torfceua
swallow them at one mouthful without salt. See his History, y.
1, p. 54.

Note LXIV.— Page 168.

The Gauls {says Lucian) call Hercules, in their country Ian.
guage, Og.mivs. — The reader ishere,requested to remark this sin.
gular statue of Hercules, erected by the Gauls. He is also desired
to observe, that the old Gaul (mentioned by Lucian) spoke the
Greek language in perfection, and appears to have understood
the Greek mythology better than even Lucian himself. On these
points I shall not, in this place, enlarge, as I will have occasion
to recur to them when treating of the antiquity of the use of let-
ters among the Celts.

Note LXV.— Page 176.

Great Britain was denominated from the province of Britain,
in Gaul; and that from Gaul the original inhabitants of the Bri.
tish islands {I mean those of Casar^s time) are descended. — It is
a point almost universally conceded, that islands have been peo.
pled from the most contiguous continents. Mr. Pinkarton's
opposite theory stands on very slender grounds. The evidences
produced by Toland to establish that Great Britain was peopled
from Gaul, are clear and decisive. Pinkarton's theory rests on
the following basis. Caesar, (lib. 1. cap. 1.) speaking of the
Bel^ce, Aquilani, Sf Celtce, says — Hi omnes lingua, institutiSf
legibus, inter sc differunt — i. e. " All these differ, one from ano>
lher,Jn language, customs, and laws." Hence Mr. Pinkarton
infers they must have been three distinct races of men, and that
the Celts inhabited only the third part of Gaul. This errone-
ous theory has also led him to assert that tota Gallia means only
the third part of Gaul, But Cassar's words might, with the
strictest propriety, be applied to any three districts in any na.



NOTES. 333

tion whatever. Both in speaking and writing we say the Welch,
Irish, and Gaelic languages, though it is well known these are
only dialects of the same language. It is also well known that
all these have their peculiar customs and laws, though it is cer.
tain they are all of Celtic origin. But the general sense in which
Cajsar uses the phrases omnis Gallia and tola Gallia, clearly
evinces that he had no such meaning as Pinkarton has assigned.
Indeed Mr. Pinkarton must be very much straitened for argu.
ments, before he would venture to rest his hypothesis on the ab-
surd and impossible axiom, that the whole of any thing, and one
third of it, are equal. Mr. Pinkarton's next disingenuous shift
is(v.ol. l.p, 24.)misquotingapassagefromCxsar(lib. 2 cap. 4.^
The passage is — plerosque Belgas este ortos a Germanis — i. e.
" That the greater part of the Belgas were descended from the Ger-
mans." But as this would not suit his Gothic purpose, he renders
it Belgas esse ortos a Germanis — i. e, "That the Belgae were des.
cendedfrom the Germans," Cassarhad this information from his
allies and friends, the Remi, who had a direct and obvious inte-
rest to represent the Belgse as foreigners and intruders, in the
hope that Cjesar would drive them across the Rhine, in which
event they (the Remi) who were nearest to the Belga;, might hoj e
to obtain their territories, and be settled by Csesar in thtir stead.
It is eTident, from Cajsar's whole history, that the Germans made
frequent settlements in Gaul, and the Gauls in Germany. From
Tacitus it is evident that there were several Celtic colonies ia
Germany; and the simple fact of the Belga; having passed from
one side of the Rhine to the other, (antiquities transductos Rhe.
num) will not prove them Germans. Indeed Mr. Pinkarton
seems sensible of this difficulty, and endeavours to establish a,
distinction between the Celts in Germany and Gaul, as if a,
man's residence on this or that side of the Rhine would alter
his language, his lineage, or identity. A Goth is a Goth, and
a. Celt a Celt, whether he reside in Germany or Gaul. Mr.
Pinkarton's theory will then, and not till then, hold good, when
the 'interested and suspicious account of the Belgce, given to
Cassar by their enemies the Kemi, is entitled to historic faith—

V u



334 NOTES.

tvhen plerosque Belgas signifies all the Bdgte — and when lota

Gallia signifies the third part of Gaul.

Having, as he imagines, established that the Belga: were

Goths, he proceeds lo prove that the inhabitants of Kent were
Belgse. This Ciesar admits in clear and explicit terms, but does
not restrict them to Kent alone, but extends them to the sea-
coast {ora maritima') of Britain in general. But if language
conveys any precise and determinate meaning, it is evident Cssar
considered the inhabitants of the sea.coast of Britain to be Gauls,
and not Germans. Speaking of these inhabitants he says, " they
had very many houses, and commonly built exactly liiie those
rf Gaul" (creherrimaque ^dijicia fere GalUcis comimilia.)
The same author, speaking ef the same inhabitants, says — nequt
multum a Gallica consuetudine differunt — i. e. " In their man.
ners they differ very little from the Gauls." If Czesar's account
of the Belgx in Gaul is in any respect doubtful, that of the same
people (at least as he imagines) in Britain will elucidate and
explain it ; yet Mr. Pinkarton has here again recourse to hi»
old shifts, and explains GalUcis Mdificiis, the Belgic houses,
and Gallica consuetudine, the Belgic manners.

Persisting in the same ill.founded theory, (vol. 1 . p. 107.) he en.
deavoars to establish that the Caledonians were Germans, and
quotes the following passage from Tacitus' Life of Agricola (cap.
4.) — Namque rutilee Caledoniam habitantium comce, magniarlus,
Germanicam originem asseverant — i. e. " For the red hair and
large limbs of the inhabitants of Caledonia, indicate that they are
descendedof the Germans." Mr. Pinkarton here quotes no roor«
than suits his purpose, and omits that very part of the sentence
■which is most essential. It is this — Celerum Britanniam qui
mortales initio coluerint, indigence an advecti, ut inter Barltaros,
par um comper tarn : habitus corporum varii : atque ex eo argil,
menta, namque rutilcB Caledoniam, f(c. — i. e. " But who were
the first inhabitants of Britain, and whether they were indige.
nous or advectiliotis, was quite uncertain, as is the case with all
Barbarians ; the habits of their bodies are different ; and this
circumstance inoy afford room for conjecture (argument); th*



NOTES. 335

red hair and largo limbs of the Caledonians indicate a Germaa,
origin."

From this passage, when fully stated, it is quite certain that
Tacitus could procure no certain information respecting the ori-
ginal inhabitants of Britain. It is equally certain that he per-
ceived no characteristic difference, except in the make of their
bodies and the colour of their hair. The same author, whea
treating of the Germans, never fails to point out particular cus-
toms, and the difference of language. He specially relates (as
a clear proof that the Gothini and Osi were not Germans) that
the one spoke the Gaelic and the other the Pannonian language.
Had he stated that the Caledonians spoke the German language,
the argument would have been conclusive ; but a mere conjec-
ture, f»unded on the size of their bodies and the colour of their
hair, will prove nothing, especially when Tacitus himself informs
us that he could procure no certain information respecting the
original inhabitants. Mr, Innes, who made the original inha.
bilants of Scotland his particular study, and who possessed all
Mr. Pinkarton's abilities and research, and tea times his honesty,
is clearly of opinion that the Picts and Caledonians were Cells.
— See his Critical Essay. Mr. Pinkarton's great art lies in de-
taching some mutilated portion of a clause or sentence, and
■wresting it to serve his purpose, whereas, when the natural im-
port of the whole is taken, it subverts the very point which he
wished to establish. The detached part of the sentence respect-
ing the Germanic origin of the Caledonians, when taken by it.
self, seems to have some weight; but when taken in conjunction
with the preceding part of the sentence, wherein Tacitus pro-
fesses complete ignorance of the matter, it amounts to nothing at
all. Indeed there cannot be a clearer proof of the uniformity of
the language, customs, and manners of the inhabitants of Great
Britain, than this very passage, in as much as Tacitus could not
find one characteristic trait of difference, except in the massy
limbs and red hair of the Caledonians. Poor and baseless as this
argument of Pinkarton's is, he hugs it with all his might, and
says — the signs given by Tacitus are, in a savage state of society^

u u2



386 NOTES.

very striking and olvious. Now it is well ascerfained that roan-
kind are more corpulent in a polished, than a rude state of so-
ciety, and that no state of society will alter the colour of the
hair. In the same passage Tacitus mentions the painted counte-
nances and curled hair of the Silures, as an argument that they
were of Spanish origin. Here again there is no referencfe to lan-
guage, manners, or cust9ms; and as, in the former instance, all
is mere conjecture, and hence it must follow, that throughout
the whole extent of Britain, (as far at least as it was known to
the Romans) there was, in no respect, any diOerence, except in
the stature and complexion of the inhabitants.

Mr. Pinkarton's Belgic and Germanic hypothesis, merely
form the basis of his Fictish one. No man decries etymology
more than Pinkarton, yet no man dabbles more in it, or with
less success. In order to find a name for his favourite Picts,
he has mustered up all the rubbish of antiquity, and renders
them, Peohtas, Peahtas, Pehias, Pihias, Pyhtas, Pehiti, Pehti,
Peychts, Pechts, Pihts, Peuchtas, Piki, Peukini, Peuhts,
Phichtiad, Vecturiores, Vect.Veriar, Vik-Veriar, Viha, Vihr,
Vicha, Vicher, Vihtveriar, Pihtar, Vihtar, Victi, and Vits, S(c.
When any point needs so much belabouring as this, it is no
great omen in its favour. Truth is a clear and obvious thing.
If a man hits the nail on the head, it tells at once, and there is no
occasion to repeat the blow. But such is this gentleman's Pict.
ish partiality, that I verily believe he could derive the darling
word PICT, from a pack-thread or a potatoe.

But what will any man think of Pinkarton's judgment and



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 22 of 31)