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 4 of 31)
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hoc est cmnpvt ruborum) vocatur, tilst. EccUt, W. 5. tcp. 4.


the antiquities of Gaule in a clearer light than any
one has hitherto done. But when 'tis consider'd,
that, over and above what he knows in common,
■relating to the Druids, with the learned of the
French nation (whose works he constantly reads
with uncommon esteem), he has also certain other
advantages, which none of those writers have ever
had : when this, I say, is consider'd, then all the
wonder about this affair will instantly cease. Yet
let it be still remember'd, that whatever accom-
plishment may consist in the knowledge of lan-
guages, no language is really valuable, but as far
as it serves to converse with the living, or to learn

JDeitrmaeh is compounded of Dair, an oak, and the aiicient 'word
Mach (now Machaire) a. field. They who did not know so much,
bare Imagined it from the mere sound to be Armaghf which, far
from Campus roborum, signifies the height or mount of Macha,
(surnamed Mongruadh or redhair'd) a queen of Ireland, and the
only woman that ever sway'd the sovereign sceptre of that king,
dom. But Armagh never was a monastery founded by Columba,
who, in Bede's time, was called Coluim.cille*, as he's by the Irish
to this day : whereas it was from the monasteries of Derry and
I-colmkill Cwhich last, though the second erdcted, became (he
£rst in dignity) that all the other monasteries dedicated to Go>
lumba, whether in Scotland or Ireland, were so many colonies.
This is attested by the just mentioned Bede+, no less than by all
the Irish annalists since their several foundations.

> Qui, videlicet Columba, nunc a nonnullis, composito a Cella ^ Columba
nomine Colamcelli vocatnr. Ibid. lib. 5. eap. 10.

t Ex quo ntroque monasterio perplurima exinde moQasteria, per discipulos
ejus, & in Britannia & in Hibernia propagata sunt ; in quibus onioibus idem
uionasterium insulannm, in quo ipse rcquiescit corpore, principatnm tenet.
Jbid. lib. 3. eap. 4".


frtmi the dead ; and therefore, were that knowledge
of times and things contain'd in Lapponian, which
we draw from the Greec, and that this last were
as barren as the first, I shou'd then study Lappo-
nian, and neglect Greec, for all its superiority
over most tongues in respect of sonorous pronun-
ciation, copiousness of words, and variety of ex-
pression. But as the profound ignorance and sla-
very of the present Greecs does not hinder, but
that their ancestors were the most learned, polite,
and free of all European nations, so no revolution
that has befallen any or all of the Celtic colonies,
can be a just prejudice against the truly antient
and undoubted monuments they may be able to
furnish, towards improving or restoring any point
of learning. Whether there be any such monu-
ments or not, and bow iar useful or agreeable, will
in the following sheets appear.

II. Among those institutions which are thought
to be ii-recoverably lost, one is that of the Druids;
of which the learned have hitherto known nothing,
but by some fragments concerning them out of
the Greec and Roman authors. Nor are such
fragments always intelligible, because never ex-
plain'd by any of those, who were skill'd in the
Celtic dialects, which are now principally six;
namely Welsh or the insular British, Cornish al-
most extinct, Armorican or French British, Irish
the least corrupted, Manks or the language of the
Isle of Man; and Earse or Highland Irish, spoken


also in all the western Hands of Scotland. These,
having severally their own dialects, are, with res-
pect to each other and the old Celtic of Gaule, as
the several dialects of the German language and
Low Dutch, the Swedish, Danish, Norwegian
and Islandic; which are all descendants of their
common mother, the Gothic. Not that ever such
a thing as a pure Gothic or Celtic language either
did or cou'd exist in any considerable region with
out dialects, no more than pure elements: but by
such an original language is meant the common
root and trunk, the primitive words, and especially
the peculiar construction that runs through all
the branches; whereby they are intelligible to
each other, or may easily become so, but different
from all kinds of speech besides. Thus the Celtic
and the Gothic, which have been often taken for
each other, are as different as Latin and Arabic.
In like manner we conceive of the several idoms
of the Greec language formerly, in Greece itself
properly so call'd, in Macedonia, in Crete and the
Hands of the Archipelago, in Asia, Rhodes, part
of Italy, in Sicily, and Marseilles ; and at this time
of the Sclavonian language, whose dialects not
only prevail in Russia, Poland, Bohemia, Carin-
thia, and Servia, but in a great many other places,
too tedious to recite. But of this subject we shall
treat professedly in a dissertation*, to be annex'd

*/f Dissertation concerning the Celtic Language and Cvlonies.


to the work, whereof I am giving your lordship an
account. Neither shall I in this specimen dwell
on some things, whereof I shall principally and
largely treat in the designed history ; I mean the
philosophy of the Druids concerning the gods,
human souls, nature in general, and in particular
the heavenly bodies, their magnitudes, motions,,
distances, and duration; whereof Csesar, Diodo-
rus Siculus, Strabo, Pomponius Mela, and Am-
mianus Marcellinus write more specially than
others. These subjects, I say, will be copiously
handled and commented in my history. In the
mean time I do assure you, my Lord, from all au-
thors, that no heathen priesthood ever came up to
the perfection of the Druidical, which was far
more exquisite than any other such system; as
having been much better calculated to beget igno-
rance, and an implicit disposition in the people,
no less than to procure power and profit to the
priests, which is one grand difference between the
true worship and the false. The western priest-
hood did infinitely exceed that of Zoroaster, and
all the eastern sacred policy : so that the History
of the Druids, in short, is the complete History of
Priestcraft, with all its reasons and resorts; which
to distinguish accurately from right religion, is not
only the interest of all wise princes and states, but
likewise does especially concern the tranquillity
aftd happiness of every private person. I have
used the word priestcraft here on purpose, not


merely as being the best expression for the de-
signed abuse, and reverse of religion, (for supersti-
tion is only religion misunderstood) but also be-
cause the coining of the very word was occasioned
by the Druids: since the Anglo-Saxons having
learnt the word dry * from the Irish and Britons
for a magician, did very appositely call magic or
inchantment drycrcBft-\ ; as being nothing else but
trick and illusion, the fqurbery of priests and their

Ill, Now, this institution of the Druids, I think
myself, without any consciousness of vanity, much
abler to retrieve (as having infinitely better helps
in many respects, of which, before I have done)
than Dr. Hj^de was to restore the knowledge of
the ancient Persian literature and religion; which
yet he left imperfect for want of due encouragement,
as I have shown in the first chapter of Nazarenus.
Fronj undoubted Celtic monuments, join'd to the
Greec and Roman remains, I can display the order
of their hierarchy, from the Arch-Druid down to
the meanest of the four orders of priests. Of these
degrees, the Arch-Druid excepted, there's little
to be found in the classic authors, that treat of the
Druids : but very much and very particularly, in
the Celtic writings and monuments. For many
reasons their history is most interesting and enter-
taining: I mean, as on the one hand we consider

* Pronounced as Dree in English.
+ Dry magus, Drycraft incantatio, Mlfric. in Glossar.



them seducing their followers, and as on the other
hand we learn not to^be so deceiv'd. They dex-
trously led the people blindfold, by committing no
part of their theology or philosophy to writing,
tho' great writers in other respects; but their dic-
tates were only hereditarily convey'd from masters
to disciples by traditionary poems, interpretable
(consequently) and alterable as they shou'd see
convenient: which is a much more effectual way,
than locking up a book from the laity, that, one
way or other, is sure to come first or last to their
knowledge, and easy perhaps to be turn'd against
the priests. The Druids, as may be seen in the
Gth book of Caesar's Commentaries, drew the deci-
sion of all controversies of law and equity to
themselves, the distribution of all punishment^and
rewards; from the poAver that was first given, or
afterwards assumed by them, of det^mining mat-
ters of ceremony and religion. Most terrible
were the effects of the Druidical* excommunica-

* If the learned reader, who knows any of the passages, or the
unlearned reader who wants authorities for proving the following
assertions, should wonder I do not always cite them, let it be
known to both, that as in this specim'en I commonly touch but
the heads of things, (and not of all things neither)so I would not
crowd the margin with Jong passages, nor yet curtail what in my
History shall be produced at large : and, therefore, all the follow,
ing -citations (the original manner of writing Celtic words except,
ed) are either samples of the quotations I shall give, or proofs of
what I would not for a moment have suspected to be precariously
advanced, or, finally, for the better understanding of certain mat.


tion on any man, that did not implicitly follow
tlieir directions, and submit to their decrees: not
only to the excluding of private persons from all
benefits of society, and even from society itself;
but also to the deposing of the princes who did
not please them, and often devoting them to des-
truction. Nor less intolerable was their power of
engaging the nation in war, or of making a disad-
vantageous and dishonourable peace; while they
had the address to get themselves exempted from
bearing arms, paying taxes, or contributing any
thing to the public but charms: and yet to have
their persons S?eputed sacred and inviolable, by
those even of the contrary side, which veneration,
however, was not always striptly paid. These
privileges all ur'd great numbers to enter into their
communities, for such sodalities or fraternities
they had ; and to take on theito the Druidical pro-
fession, to be perfect in which, did sometimes cost
them twenty years study. Nor ought this to seem
a wonder, since to arrive at perfection in sophistry
requires a long habit, as well as in juggling,^ in
which last they were very expert: but to be mas-
ters of both, and withal to learn the art of mana-
ging the mob, which is vulgarly called leading the
people by the nose, demands abundant study and

fers which come in by way of digression or illastration. Otber.
wise they wou'd not be necegsary in a meie specimen, tbooghia
a fiiiisfacd work isdi^penSKble.



IV. The children of the several kings, with -
those of all the nobility, were committed to the
tuition of the Druids, whereby they had an op-
portunity (contrary to all good politics) of mould-
ing and framing them to their own private inte-
rests and purposes ; considering which direction
of education, Patric, had they been a landed clergy ,
wou'd not have found the conversion of Ireland
•so easy a task. So easy indeed it was, that the
heathen monarch Laogirius, (who, as same assert,
was never himself converted) and all the provin-
cial kings, granted to every man free liberty of
preaching and professing Christianity. So that,
as Giraldus Cambrensis remarks, this is the only
country of christians, where nobody was obliged
to suffer martyrdom* for the gospel. This justice
therefore I wou'd do to Ireland, even if it had not
been my country, viz. to maintain that this tole-
rating principle, this impaftinl liberty (ever since
unexampled there as well as elsewhere, China ex -
cepted) is a far greater honour to it, than whatever
thing most glorious or magnificent can be said of

* Omnes sancti terrae istlus confessores sunt, Sf niillus marli/r;-
quod in alio regno Christiana difficile erit invenire. Minim ita-
que quod gens cruedelissima Sf sanguinis sdbunda, fides ab ami.
quo fundata <Sf semper tepidissima, pro Christi ecdesia corona
martyrii nulla. Non igitur inventus est in partibus islis, qui ec.
desice surgenlis fundamenta sanguinis cffusione umtutaret: nou
fuit, qui faceret hue bonum ; non fuit usque ad iwum, Topo.
graph. Hibern. Distinct. 3, cap. 29.


any other country in the world. Girald, on the
contrary, (as in his days they were wont to over-
rate martyrdom, celibacy, and the like, much
above the positive duties of religion) thinks it a re-
proach to the Irish, That none of their Saints ce-
mented the foundations of the growing church ivitfi
their Mood, all of them being confessors, (says he,)
and not one able to boast of the crotvn of martyrdom.
But who sees not the vanity and absurdity of this
charge? It is blaming the princes and people for
their reasonableness, moderation and humanity;
as it is taxing the new converts for not seditiously
provoking them to persecute, and for not madly
running themselves to a voluntary death, which
was the unjustifiable conduct of many elsewhere
in the primitive times of Christianity. 'Tis on
much better grounds, tho' with a childish and nau-
seous jingle, that he accuses the Irish clergy of his
own time : and so far am I from being an enemy to
tlie clergy, that I heartily wish the like could not
be said of any clergy, whether there, or liere, or
elsewhere, from that time to this. Well then:
what is it? They are pastors, (says he)*, who seek
not to feed, but to be fed: Prelates, who desire not to
profit, but to preside: Bishops, who embrace not the
nature, but the name; not the burden, but the bravery

* Sunt em'm pastores, qui non pascere qmerunt, sed pasci:
sunt prceiati, qui non'predesse cupiunt, sed prceesse : mntepiscQ~
pi, qui non omen, sed nomenj non onus, sed honor em ampleettin^
tur. Id. Ibid.


of their profession. This, my lord, I reckon to be
no digression from ray subject, since what little
opposition their happen 'd to be in Ireland to
Christianity, Avas wholly made by the Dniids, or
at their instigation : and that when they perceiv'd
this new religion like to prevail, none came into it
speedier, or made a more advantageous figure in
it, than they. The Irish, however, have their mar-
tyrologies, (lest this shou'd be objected by some
trifler) but they are of such of their nation as suf-
fered in other Countries, or under the heathen
Danes in their own country, some hundreds of
years after the total conversion of it to Christianity.
V. Those advantages we have nam'd in the two
last sections, and many the like articles, with tlie
Druids pretences to work miracles, to foretel
events by augury and otherwise, to have familiar '
intercourse with the gods (highly confirm'd by
calculating eclipses) arid a thousand impostures
of the same nature*, I can, by irrefragable autho-
rities, set in such a light, that all of the like kind
may to every one appear in as evident a view»
which, as I hinted before, cannot but be very ser-
viceable both to religion and morality. For true
religion does not consist in cunningly devis'd
fables, in authority, dominion, or pomp; but in

* The heads of the two last sections, with these here mentioned,
(though conceived in few words) will yet each make a separate
chapter in the History ; this present specimen being chiefly ia.
tondod for modem iustances, «9 by the sequel will aj^ear.


spirit and in tnjth, in simplicity and social virtue,
in a filial love and reverence, not in a servile dread
and terror of the divinity. As the fundamental
law of a historian is, daring to say whatever is
true, and not daring to write any falsehood: nei-
ther being swayed by love or hatred, nor gain'd
by favour or interest; so he ought, of course, to
be as a man of no time or country, of no sect or
party, which I hope the several nations concern'd
in this enquiry will find to be particularly true of
me. But if, in clearing up antient rites and cus-
toms, with the origin and institution of certain re-
ligious or civil societies (long since extinct), any
communities or orders of men, now in being, should
think themselves touched, ihej ought not to im-
■ pute it to design in the author, but to the confor-
mity of things, if, indeed, there be any real resemb-
lance: and, in case there be none at all, they
should not make people apt to suspect there is,
by ci-ying out tho' they" are not hm-t. I remem-
ber, when complaint was made against an ho-
nourable person*, that, in treating of the heathen
' priests, he had whipt some christian priests on
their backs, all the answer he made, was only ask-
ing, W/tat inade t/iemget up there? The benefit of
which ansAVer I claim before-hand to myself with-
out making or needing any other apology. Yet,
if the correspondence of any priests with heaven

♦ Sir Robert Howard,


be as slenderly grounded as that of the Druids,
if their miracles be as fictitious and fraudulent, if
their love of riches be as immoderate, if their, thirst
after power be as insatiable, apd their exercise of
it be as partial and tyrannical over the laity, then
I am not only content they should be touched,
"whether I thought of them or not, but that they
should be blasted too, without the possibility of
ever sprouting up again. For truth will but shine
the brighter, the better its counterfeits are shewn :
and all that I can do to shew my candour is, to
leave the reader to make such applications him-
self, seldom making any for him; since he that is
neither clear-sighted, nor quick enough of concep-
tion, to do so, may to as good purpose read the
Fairy Tales as this history.

VI. Besides this impai'tial disposition, the com-
petent knowledge I have of the northern langua-
ges, dead and living, (though I shall prove that no
Druids, except such as towards their latter end
fled thither for refuge, or that went before with
Celtic invaders or colonies, were ever among the
Gothic nations) I say, these languages will not a
little contribute to the perfection of my work, for ,
a reason that may with more advantage appear in
the book itself. But the knowledge of the ancient
Irish, wliich I leai-nt from my childhood, and of
the other Celtic dialects, in all v\ hich I have print-
ed books or manuscripts (not to speak of their
vulvar traditions), is absglutely necessary, these


having preserved numberless monuments concern-
ing the Druids, that never hitherto have come to
the hands of the learned. For as the institutions
of the Druids were formerly better learnt in Bri-
tain, by Caesar said to be the native seat of this
superstitious race, than in Gaule, where yet it ex-
ceedingly flourished ; so their memory is still best
preserved in Ireland and the highlands of Scot-
land, comprehending the Hebridse, Hebrides, or
Western Isles, among which is the Isle of Man,
where they continued long after their extermina-
tion' in Gaule and South Britain, mostly by the
Romans, but finally by the introduction of Chris-
tianity. Besides, that much of the Irish heathen
mythology is still extant in verse, which gives such
a lustre to this matter, and, of course, to the Greek
and Roman fragments concerning the Druids, as
could not possibly be had any other way,

VII. Thus (to give an example in the philologi-
cal part) the controversy among the grammarians,
whether they should write Druis or JDruida* in

* The Irish word for Druid is Drui, corruptly Drot, and
more corruptly Draoi; yet all of the same sound, which in ety-
mologies is a great matter; and in the nominative plural it is
Druidhe, whence comes no doubt the Greek and Latin Druides;
as Druis in the singular was formed by only adding s to Drui,
according to those , nation's way of terminating. But as these
■words in Irish as well as the British Drudion, are common to
both sexes; so the Romans, according to their inflection, dis-
tinguished Druida for a She.Druid (which sort are mentioned by



the nominative case singular, can only be decided
by the Irish writings, as you may see demonstrat-
ed in the margin, where all grammatical remarks
shall be inserted among the other notes of the his-
tory, if they do not properly belong to the annexed
Dissertation concerning the Celtic Languages and
Colonies. This conduct I observe, to avoid any
disagreeable stop or perplexity in the work itself,
by uncouth words, or of difficult pronunciation.
For as every thing in the universe is the svibject of
writing, so an author ought to treat of every sub-
ject smoothly and correctly, as well as pertinently
and perspicuously; nor ought he to be void of or-
nament and elegance, Avhere his matter peculiarly
requires it. Some things want a copious style,
some a concise, others to be more floridly, others
to be more plainly handl'd, but all to be properly,
methodically, and handsomely exprest. N^lect-
ing these particulars, is neglecting, and conse-
quently affronting the reader. Let a lady be as
well shap'd as you can fancy, let all her features
be faultless, and her complexion be ever so deli-
authors) whereof the nominative plaral being Druidte, it ought
by us to be used in that sense only : and so I conclude, that in
our modern Latin compositions JDruides and JJruidce should
not be confounded, as they have frequently been by the trans-
cribers of old writings, who mislead others. We are not to be
moved therefore by reading Druidce in any Latin author in the
masculine gender, or in the Greek writers, who certainly used
it so. All equivocation at least will be thus taken away.


cate ; yet if she be careless of her person, tawdry
in her dress, or aukward in her gale and behavior,
a man of true taste is so far from being touched
with the charms of her body, that he is immediate-
ly prepossest against the beauties of her mind;
and apt to believe there can be no order within,
where there is so much disorder without. In my
opinion, therefore, the Muses themselves are never
agreeable company without the Graces. Or if, as
your lordship's stile is remarkably strong, you
wou'd, with Cicero *, take this simile from a man,
you'll own ^is not enough to make him be lik'd,
that he has well-knit bones, nerves and sinews:
there must be likewise proportion, muscling, and
coloring, much blood, and some softness. To re-
late , facts without their circumstances, whereon
depends all instruction; is to exhibit a skeleton
without the flesh, wherein consists all comeliness.
This I say to your lordship, not pretending to teach
the art of writing to one, who's so fit to be my mas-
ter; but to obviate the censures .of those, and to
censure 'em in their turns, who not only do not
treat of such subjects as I have now undertaken in
a flowing and continu'd stile, but peremtorily deny
the' fields of antiquity and criticism to be capable
of this culture ; . and indeed as suffering under the
drudgery of their hands, they generally become
barren heaths or unpassable thickets ; where you

* DfOratore, Hb. I.


are blinded with sand, or torn with bryars and
brambles. There's no choice of words or expres-
sions. All is low and vulgar, or absolete and
musty; as the Avhole discourse is crabbed, hob-
bling, and jejune. Not that I wou'd have too
much license taken in this respect; for though
none ought to be slaves to any set of words, yet
great judgement is to be employ'd in creatinganew,
or reviving an old word: nor must there be less
discretion in the use of figures and sentences;
which, like embroidery and salt, are to set off and
season, but not to render the cloth invisible, or the
meat imeatable. To conclude this point, we are
told by the most eloquent of men, that a profuse
volubility *, and a sordid exility of words, are to
be equally avoided. And now, after this digres-
sion, if any thing that essentially relates to my
task can be properly called one, I return to the
Druids, who were so prevalent in Ii'elam]. that to
this hour their ordinary word for magician is
Druidlf, the art magic, is calld Druidify\, and
the wand, which was one of the badges of their

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 4 of 31)