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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of them can be traced in a number of small cairns vphich still re.
main. Tynron Dun, Turin Hill, Catterthun, and many a no-
ble structure of our Celtic ancestors, now present themselves to
our view in the form of a cairn. From the size, structure, and
name of this circle, there cannot remain a doubt that it was a
judicial one. What was really the temple stood about a quar.
ter of a mile distant. Mr. Toland's error in taking it for a tem-
ple, is extremely venial. Had he lived, he intended to have
passed six months in examining the Hebridian antiquities — a
clear evidence that he considered his information respecting them
defective and incomplete. But what are we to think of Dr.
Smith, who professes to give us a complete history of the Druids,
and yet passes over this circle in so superficial and erroneous
a manner. In a former note I have divided the Druidical cir.
cles into two kinds, viz. religious and judicial. Clacha.Braith,
and ClachrAtneach, have the same signification ; and from the
evidence formerly and now adduced, I hope this distinction rests
on a firm and stable basis. Mr. Toland's mistake is, however,
greatly to be regretted, not only because he has misled Dr.
Smith and others, but because a great part of his reasoning res.
pecting the Hyperborean Abaris rests on it, and must now fall
to (he ground.

The judicial circle in question is perfectly unique. We have
{^nil simile nee secundum) nothing like it, nor nearly like it.
What has been mistaken for the wings, is only the four cardinal
points of the compass. These, and the centre stone in the shape
of a ship's rudder, clearly allude to the insular or maritime go.
Ternment of the Hebrides ; and could we indulge the thought
that this circle was exclusively devoted to the decision of mari.
time causes, the allusion would be complete. Here, for once, I
am hoppy to agree wUb Mr. Piukarton in pronouncing this judl-

NOTES. .349

cial circle, the supreme court of the Ilebudian monarch. Fiat
justitiaj mat Coeliim,

Note LXXIII.— Page 209.

Sacred arrow. — This is the arrow with which Apollo slew
the Cyclops. When Abaris traTelled to Greece to visit Pytha.
goras, he made him a present of this arrow. It was, howcTer,
perhaps nothing more than a fictitious relic. Mankind are, in
all ages and nations, much the same. The immense value put
on fictitious relics by the Romish ecclesiastics, is well known.
Abaris is said to have entered Greece, riding on this arrow.
Similar notions are still prevalent in this country. Indeed the
Grecian and British customs bear a strong resemblance, parti,
cularly in their mode of drinking from right to left, according to
the course of the sun. The Celts went three times round the
Cairn when they worshipped ; and to this Pythagoras perhaps
alludes in the following symbol : — " Turn round whenyou wor-
ship." — See Dacier's Life of Pythagoras, p. 120. In Greece,
before they gave a child its name, they carried it round the fire.
^Bogan's Attic Antiq. p. 212. The Greeks burnt their dead,
and- so did the Celts. The hospitality of the Greeks was equal
to that of the Celts.

But to return to this famous arrow, it was certainly symboli.
cal. The doctrines of Pythagoras, as well as the Druids, were
all mystical and Symbolical. Among the ancients, Apollo was
called (Arcitenens) the archer. Pliny (lib. 18. cap, 26.) men-
tions a constellation named (sagitta) the arrow. Arrows are
keen and piercing — so is true philosophy ..r.J sound reasoning.
Under the symbol of this arrow is probably meant the whole
Hyperborean philosophy, which Abaris communicated to Pytha-
goris, and he, in return, communicated to Abaris the Grecian
philosophy. Calepine (vide Dictionarium) gives the following
account of Abaris : — " Abaris is the proper name of a man who
is said to have carried an arrow over the world, without tasting
food. It is said that this Abaris, the son of Seutha, was not
ignorant of lettsrs, and wrote oracles ^hich are called Scythian,

350 NOTES-

and the arrival of Apollo among the Ilj'perboreans, from whom
he had received the said arrow, in poetry. Gregory, the thco.
logist, also mentions him in his epitaph to the great Basil. So
far Coelius. Besides the Scythian oracles, aud the marriage of
the river Hebrus, he wrote some other things, as Suidas mentions.
Herodotus in Melpomene, and Strabo, lib. 7. also mention him."
The reader will find several interesting particulars of Abaris,
and his wonderful arrow or javelin, in Dacier's Life of Pytha-
goras, p. 70 i^r 71.

What has greatly injured the history of Pythagoras and Aba.
lis in the eyes of the present age, is their pretension to magic,
iniracles, and divination. But these were the hobby horse oi the
day, and there was no possibility of being eminent without Ihem.
Even the Romish ecclesiastics, who ought to have known better,
did not give up their pretensions to miracles and prophecy, till
the enlightened state of mankind would give them credit for nei.
ther. The Greeks (as I have formerly noticed) had an opinioa
that the Hyperboreans founded the Delphic oracle of Apollo,
and that at last he went to the Hyperboreans altogether. Aba.
ris, who wrote the history of this event, must have been very ac.
ceptable to Pythagoras : and that his arguments on this l^ead
were convincing, we need only to mention that the great, the
wise, (he celebrated Pythagoras exposed himself to public view,
in a full assembly at the Olympic games, as the Hyperborean
Apollo, — Dacicr^s Life of Pythagoras, p. 69. Can there be a
more convincing argument that at that time the Hyperborean
Apollo was held in much higher estimation than the Grecian one ?
As to the arrow or javelin of Abaris, which has afforded, and
may still aii'ord, ground for numerous conjeclures, I am of opi.
nion (whatever was its shape) that it was nothing more than his
Magical stajf. The staff has been, in all ages, the emblem of
power. Almost all eminent persons used one, but in a pretend,
er to magic it was indispensible.

Note LXXIV.— Page 207.
Then tlte most celebrated Abaris icas both cfiMs country, i^c.

NOTES. 351

• — Of all attempts to determine the country of Abaris, Toland's
(3 the most ingenious and probable. Dr. Smith imagines the
name was Abarich, from Abar (Latine Abria), the ancient na^e
of Lochabar. The conjecture is ingenious, and may, perhaps,
be founded in fact. Still I think it better to content ourselr^s
with what can be certainly known of this eminent man, than to
build hypothetical theories respecting the spot of his nativity,
which can, perhaps, never be certainly known. That he was
a Celt, a Druid, a philosopher, an author, and the most accom.
plished scholar of his age, rests on the most unexceptionable evi.
dence. It is agreed on all hands that Europe was peopled by
two distinct races of men, the Celts, and the Scythians, Goths,
or Germans (for these three are all the same), Pinkarton ad.
mits that the Germans were not acquainted with the use of let-
ters, till the ninth century; and Abaris, who wrote 1500 years
before, could not be a German. On the testimony of Cffisar,
the Germans had neither priests nor sacrifices, and consequent',
ly no temples; but Abaris had a winged temple, and was the
priest of Apollo, consequently he must hare been a Celtic priest
or Druid. Mr. Pinkarton, sensible that he could not claim him as
a Goth, and unwilling to pay the smallest tribute of respect to the
Celts, has not once mentioned his name ; and this circumstance
alone will have great weight with any one who knows Mr.
Pinkarton's extreme alertness and dexterity in catching at every
thing that can favour his Gothic system, and in studiously sup.
pressing whatever might add lustre to the latter. The merits of
Abaris as a philosopher, author and scholar, stand fully record-
ed in the page of history, and need no comment from me. As
to his country, it is, from all circumstances, extremely probable^
though not absolutely certain, that he was a Ilebridiau.

Note LXXV.— Page 210.

Whether the Egyptians had not these things before eitlier of
ihem, ^c — That tlie Egyptians were the first inventors of the
Metempsychosis is evident from the following passage of Hero-
dotus, quoted by Dacier in his life of Pythagoras, p. 43, " Thff-

yy 2.

352 NOTES.

Egyptians likewise were the first that said the soul of man ii
immortal, that after the death of the body it passes successively
into the bodies of beasts ; that after having passed through the
bodies of terrestrial animals, as well of the water as of the air,
it comes again to animate the body of a man, and that it accom-
plishes this round in the space of three thousand years. Some
Greeks have given out this doctrine, as if it had been their own,
some sooner, some later, and I know who they are, but will
not name them." Persia has generally been reckoned the pa-
rent of magic, but from Moses' whole account of the Egyptian
magicians, this may be fairly doubted. Indeed their progress
in this art, the most respected of all the arts of antiquity, is so
incredibly astonishing, that, had it been transmitted to us
through any other channel than that of the sacred records, it
■would have been regarded as a downright fiction. In superb
and colossal structures they stand unrivalled in the page of his.
tory. Their early acquaintance with hieroglyphics is well
known. As early as the time of Moses they must have had the
use of letters, for it was here (by a special interposition of Di-
Tine Providence) that he received his education. In a word,
it is clear from the whole history of Pythagoras, that Egypt
had, at that period, attained a higher pitch of perfection, in the
arts and sciences than any other nation then known. That the
Greeks received the doctrine of the Metempsychosis from the
Egyptians is clear from the testimony of Herodotus in the pas-
sage above quoted, but whence the Celts received it, is more
than I shall pretend to determine.

It is, however, certain ihat this was one of their chief doc.
trines. Cassar says, (lib. 6. cap 14.) /» primis hoc voliitit
jiersuttdere; nan interire animas, sed ab aliii pout mortem tratt-
sire ad alios atque hoc maxime ad virtutem excitari pittant, metu
mortis neglecto. — i. e. " It is their chief study to inculcate this
doctrine, that souls do not die, but that, after death, they pass
from one body (o another ; and by this means they think they
are in the highest degree excited to virtue, when the fear of
death is laid aside." Of all authors, Ca;sar is most to be de.

NOTES. 853

pended on respecting the Druids, Earlier writers saw them
at too great a distance to speak with certainty, and later writers
saw them only in their persecuted and depressed state, Csesar
saw this order of men in the very vigour of the institution, and
was besides intimately acquainted with the Archdruid Divitiacus,
from whom, in aU probability, he derived his information. Yet
Dr. Smith, (p, 59) gravely tells us, that the belief of the Me~
tempsychosis, never prevailed among the Druids, His reason is
obvious. There is no mention of this particular tenet in the poems
of Ossian, But whether the reader chuses in this instance to
credit Dr, Smith in preference to Caesaj-, is not my business to
determine. Of all who have written on the subject of the
Druids, Dr, Smith has exposed thera most, and benefited them
least. One of his grandest flights is (p. 73.) that of ascribing
to the Druids the invention of gun-powder. This sublime idea
he perhaps borrowed from Milton, who, in his Paradise Lost,
ascribes this invention to the fallen angels. Both conjectures
are equally rational, and equally founded in truth.

Note LXXVI.— Page 213.

Hebrides. — There is a marked aifinity betwixt this word antf
the river Hebrus (in the Greek Hebros) concerning which Aba-
ris is said to have written a treatise in poetry. In the Roman
language Patronymics are formed by adding des to the first caa*
of the primitive in i. Thus, from Pelei is formed Peleides, otj
Pelides ; from PWawi is formed Priamides, &c. In the 6am»
manner from Hebri, the genitive of Hebrus, may be formed ife.
brides. All know that, from the Greeks, the Romans derived
this mode of formation. Now as the words Hebros and He~
brides have been transmitted to us through the medium of the
Greek and Roman languages, they have, no doubt, been adapt,
ed to the idiom of these languages. To come as near the origi-
nal word as possible, we must divest Hebros of its Grecian dress,
strip it of the aspirate A Qi is initial in no Celtic word) and of
the termination os, when there remains Ebr. The original word
is probably Aibar, Ebar, Eabar, or perhaps Abar. But some

554 NOTES.

trifler may object that ilie word in question is Hebrus, a river
in Thrace. That this idea has generally prevailed, I readily
grant; but is it once to be imagined that Abaris, a Hyperbore.
an, would celebrate a river in Thrace, which he probably never
saw ; and is it not infinitely more probable, that, with the pre-
dilection peculiar to aH poets, be celebrated his own native
stream. His other treatise on the removal of Apollo to the Hy-
perboreans, was founded on fact, and one in which the honour
of his country, and its antiquities, were highly concerned. But
it may also be objected, that Abaris celebrated the marriage of
a river, and consequently the whole is a fiction. In the Greek
and Roman mythology, such instances are almost infinite. In
our own days, Northesk. a river, Aberdeen, a city. Queens-
berry, a hill, &c. are the signatures and titles of eminent noble,
men; and that a man and a river had, in Abaris* time, the same
name, is not at all to be wondered at. Local names are, of all
ethers, the most numerous. The names Abaris, Hebrus, and
Hebrides, divested of their Greek and Roman peculiarities, are
Abar, Ebr, and Ebrid. If in the Hebrides (unquestionably
the Hyperborean island of Diodorus), a river of the name Ebr
could be found, with such a temple as that described by Eratos.
thenes standing near it, the country of Abaris might still be de-
termined. Nay, if such a river could be found near the noble
judicial circle of Clachameach, I would even admit that it might
be the temple described by Eratosthenes. It was certainly more
pardonable in a Greek to mistake this circle for a temple, than
for Mr. Pinkarton, with infinitely better means of information,
to mistake all the Druidical temples in the world for Gothic
courts of justice.

Note LXXVII.— Page 223.
The lesser circumjacent ishnds. — Zona, one of these islands,
deserves particular attention, though on a different account from
that mentioned by Toland, Its history presents to us a strange
compound of Druidisra and Christianity. The original name is
hi^Drttinenchyi. e. "The island ef the Druids*" Close to

NOTES. 355

the sound of I stands Claodh-nan-Drtiineach, i, e. " The grave
of the Druids." Mr. Pennant, (see his Tour,) found here the
Druidical temple, and the Cairn, as also an imitation of the
rocking. stone. The relics of Christianity are still more conspi.
cuous and venerable. It is, however, St. Columba's entry into
this island, and his subsequent conduct, which claim our atten.
tion, as even under all the palliatives which have been purpose*
ly thrown over them, they are strongly expressive of the formi.
dable opposition he met with from the Druids. I shall then
State the case as briefly and impartially as I can. " The saint,
ou his ^arrival, began to build a chapel or church, but was al.
ways interrupted by the intervention of evil spirits. When it
was found impossible to proceed, a consultation was held, and it
was found necessary to appease these evil spirits by the sacrifice
of a man. Oran, one of the saint's twelve attendants, volunta.
rily devoted himself, and was buried alive below the foundation.
The evU spirits were appeased, and no farther interruption was
offered. The chapel was finished, and dedicated to St. Oran,
and still retains his name." This pitiful story cannot impose
even on the most credulous or ignorant. The intervention of
evil spirits, though firmly credited in the dark and superstitious
ages, is now deservedly treated with contempt. The only op-
position St. Columba could meet wltli was from the Druids, and
before they would allow him to build this chapel, they compelled
Iiim to comply with the Druidical custom of burying aman under
the foundations. An instance of the same kind occurs in th«
sacred records. Hiel, the Bethelite, (1 Kings 16. i\ 34.) laid
the fouodattons of Jericho on his oldest son Abiram, and found,
ed the gates on his youngest son Segub. The ridiculous story
that Oran was put to death for blasphemy, is one of the most
wretched of all fabrications to shelter the saint from the infamy
of having offered a human sacrifice. But falsehood never i«
(ab omni parte beatum) in all respects consistent, and the saint's
biographers would have done well not to have retailed impossi-
b-ilkies for facts. Could Oran blaspheme after being thre«
days and three nighU buried under the fonndatlon of this chapel

356 NOTES.

^for it is not even alleged that he did it sooner), or would the
saint have dedicated this religious edifice to a man who had been
put to death for blasphemy ?

This human sacrifice being offered, and a compromise betwixt
St. Columba and the Druids having taken place, the Druidical
temple, the cairn and the Cromlech, (if there was one,) would
naturally be superseded by this new chapel, and fall into disuse.
Still there was another difficulty to combat. The judicial circle
and the rocking stone remained to be disposed of. Here too the
Druids appear to have made a firm stand. Mr. Pennant tells us,
on the authority of Mr. Sacheverell, that before the reformation,
there were here three noble marble globes placed in three stone
basons, which the inhabitants turned three limes round accord-
ing to the course of the sun. These were thrown into the
sea at the reformation, but Mr. Pennant, in 1772, found a
wretched substitute for them composed of the pedestal of a bro-
ken cross, and the supporters of a grave stone. These stones
were then turned round as formerly, and a tradition prevailed
that the day of judgment would come, when the pedestal on
which they moved was worn out, and they still retained the
name of Clacha.Brath — i. e. " The stones of judgment." See
Pennant's Tour in 1772.

It is easy to perceive that the same compromise took place
here, as at the building of Grail's chapel. The Druids relin.
quished the judicial circle, and the rocking stone, and received
from the saint these marble globes as a substitute. The saint,
however, took care to inculcate the terrible idea, that the day
of judgment would come as soon as the basons on which these
globes rested were worn out, and this he unquestionably did, to
deter them from the practice altogether. But in spite of this
tremendous impression, and though they must have believed that
every time they turned these stones round they were accelerat.
ing the day of judgment, still the custom prevailed as late as
1772, and may perhaps prevail at the present day ; so difficult
is it to eradicate inveterate superstition. These three globes
were perhaps emblematical of the Trinity, and if the saint could

NOTES. 357

not deter the lonians from turning them round, it was his last
shift to render them at least ^ymboUically subservient to the true

Note LXXVIII.— Page 228.
Armoric and Irish languages. — As the Editor's notes have ex-
tended to a much greater length than originally intended, and as
the specimen of the Armorican and Irish language here alluded
to, has no connection with the History bf the Druids, it is not
inserted in this edition.

Note LXXIX.— Page 247.

Taramis, or Taranis, is the Gaelic Taran, or Tharrni, i. e.
" thunder." This god is the same with the Grecian Zeus, or
the Roman Jupiter, By this deity the Celts understood Beal.
Taranis, or Tharanis, is sometimes by a Metathesis, written
Thanaris, or Tanaris, which bears a great affinity to the Eng.
lish thunder, the German Donder, and the Roman Tfmitru,
Lucan mentions him, (lib. 1.) in these words:

Et Taranis Scythicx non mitior ara Diaose.

i. e. *' And Taranis not milder than the altar of Scythian
Diana." To him were offered human sacrifices. From the
Celts the Germans borrowed Tharanis, and by abbreviation
formed their God Thor, whence Thursday, the same as the Ro.
man Dies lovis.

Note LXXX.

Hesus — waS the Celtic god of war. Dr. Smith deri?es this
word from the Gaelic Dhe, to which it has not the most distant
affinity. Lucan (lib. 1.) mentions him thus:
Horrensqiie feris altaribns Hesus.

Lactantius (lib. 7.) says, — Galli 'Hesum atque Teutatem humO'
no cruore placabant, qui saneferalis ritus diu similiter apud Jta-
los stetijt, qui Latialem. Jovem et Saturnum humana placabant
hostia — i. e. " The Gauls appeased Hesus and Teutates with
human blood, which truly savage custom long prevailed among

z z

358 NOTES.

the Italians, who appeased Latian Jove, and Saturn, with human
victims." The etymoQ of Hesus has been uniformly mistaken.
The glory of a warriour is his strength, and the Celtic god of
war behoved to be a powerful deity. The Celtic names are ge-
nerally descriptive, and highly appropriate. To their god of
war they gave the name Eas or Es, i. e. a torrent or cataract
that sweeps all before it, to which the Romans added their ter-
mination us, and formed Esus of Hesus. The name conveys to
us the same idea, but in a much more primitive and forcible man-
ner, as if they had named him irresistible or invincible, for who
could contend with a cataract? The Tuscan god Esar, whom
the Tuscans borrowed from the Umbrians their praecursors, has
the very same signification. In the Gaelic language, Easfhear
is still a name of the deity, and literally means the man of the

Teutates. — Lucan, (lib. 1.) says,

Et quibus immitis placatur sanguine diro
), e. " And by whom (the Gauls,) cruel Teutates is app>eased
by direful blood." Caiepine, on the authority of Plato, reckons
him the inventor of geometry and astronomy. If so, Cicero
(de Nat. Deor.) very properly reckons him an Egyptian god,
geometry having been first invented in Egypt to determine the
limits of private property, which were annually effaced by the
overflowings of 'be Nile. SancJwniathon, the Phcenician, co-
temporary with Gideon, and who composed his history about
1200 years prior to our aera, reckons Teutates, or (as he calls
him) Taaui, the inventor of letters, and says he was indebted to
the book of Taaut for the greater part of his materials. This
god is supposed to have been the Mercury of the Greeks.. In
the Gaelic this word signifies 'fVarmth, or Heat. — See Note 33.

Belenus eel Abellio.— Both, these deities have already been ad-
terted to.— See ?fote 4?.

NOTES. 359.


Hogmius, — Of this deity Mr. Toland has giyen a fery parti,
cular description in a quotation from Lucian. — See p. 168.

Note LXXXV. ■
Onvana — on the authority of Mr. Toland, signifies the sea. I
have been able to procure no other information respecting this
deity. — See p. 137.

Note LXXXVr.
Adrasie. — Respecting this goddess there has been some differ,
ence of apinion. The Greeks seem to have considered her as
J\emesigy or the goddess of revenge. Vide Calepinum in verbd
Adrastea. Still Calepine admits that on a plain near the city
Adrastea, there was a noble oracle of Actaean Apollo, and
Diana. He also tells us that some supposed this city received
its name from a Mountain Nymph, which applies yery well to
Diana. The truth appears to be, that Adrastus, when he built
this city, called both it and the goddess after his own name.
The noble oracle of Apollo and Diana., and the tradition that
the city took its name from a mountain nymph, clearly imply
that Diana was the goddess in question. There can be little
doubt that the goddess here meant is the Phoenician Ashtaroth,
or Astarte—'i. e. " the moon." Indeed there is no instance on
record of any nation having worshipped the sun, who did not
worship the moon also. It would almost fill a volume to nar.
rate the contrary notions entertained of her by the ancients, and
the different names ascribed to her. The very first mention we
have of this goddess is in the sacred records, under the name of
Ashtaroth. Sanchoniathon (^see Eusebius, his Transcriber, and
Philo.Bihlius, his Translator) calls this goddess Astarte. This

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 24 of 31)