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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profession, the rod of Dnddism^. Among antieut
classic authors Pliny is the most express concern-
ing the magic of the Druids, whereof the old Irish
and British books are full: which legerdemain,
Or secrets of natural philosophy, as all magic i*

* Cicero de Oratore, lib. 1. + Dntt. ^ Dntidheaclil.
§ Slatnan DniidheaclU.


either the one or the other, or both, we shall en-
deavour to lay open in our history of the Druids;
not forgetting any old author that mentions thein,
for there's something particular to be learnt in
every t)ne of them, as they touch different circum-
stances. Having occasionally spoken of the wand
or staff which every Druid carry'd in his hand, as
one of the badges of his profession, and which in
a chapter on this subject will be shewn to have
been a usual thing with all pretenders to magic,
I must here acquaint you further, tliat each of
'em had what was commonly called the Druid's
Egg, which shall be explain'd in the history, hung
about his neck, inchas'd in gold. They all wore
short hair, Avhile the rest of the natives had theirs
very long; and, on the contrary, they wore long
beards, while other people shav'd all theirs, but
the upper lip. They likewise all wore long ha-
bits; as did the Bards and the Vaids: but the
Druids had on a white surplice, whenever they
religiously officiated. In Ireland they, with the
graduate Bards and Vaids, had the privilege of
wearing six colours in their hreacans or robes,
which wei-e the striped braccae of the Gauls, still
worn by the Highlanders, whereas the king and
queen might have in theirs but seven, lords and
ladies five, governors of fortresses four, officers
and young gentlemen of quality three, common
soldiers two, and common people one. This sum-
tuary law, most of the Irish historians say, Mas


enacted under King Achains* the 1st.; tho'
others, who will have this to be but the reviving of
an old law, maintain it was first established by
King Tigernjuhas. i.

VIII. As the Druids were commonly wont to
retire into grots, dark woods, mountains, and
groves f, in which last they had their numerous
schools, not without houses as some have foolishly
dreamt, so many such places in France, Britain, and
Ireland, do still bear their names : as Dreux, the
place of their annual general assemby in France;
Kerig-y-Drudion, or Druid-stones, a parish so
call'd in Denbighshire, from a couple of their al-
tars there still remaining. In Anglesey there is
the village of Tre'r Driu, the town of the Druid,
next to which is Tre'r Beirdh or Bards-town: as
also in another place of the same island Maen-if-
Druu, that is, the Druid's stone ; and Caer-Dreuin,
or the city of the Druids, in Merioneth-shire.
The places in Ireland and the Hebrides are infi-
nite. The present ignorant vulgar, in the first of
, the last-mention'd places, do believe, that those in-
chanters were at last themselves inchanted by their
apostle Patric and his disciples, miraculously con-
fining them to the places that so bear their names ;

* Eochaid Eudghathach.

+ These groves for pleasure and retirement, as well as for awe
and reverence, were different from the lurking places in forests
and caves, into which they were forc'd when interdicted in Gaule
and Britain.


Aviiere they are thought to retain much power, and
sometimes to appear, which are fancies * like the
English notion of fairies. Thus the Druid O'Mur-
nin inhabits the hill of Creag-a-Vanny, in Inisoen ;
Auniusf in Benavny from him so call'd in the
county of Londonderry, and Gealcossa J, in Geal-
cossa's mount in Inisoen aforesaid in the county
of Dunegall. This last was a Druidess, and her
name is of the homerical strain, signifying Whiter
hgg'd^. On this hill is her grave, the true in-
chantment which confines her, and hard by is hel*
temple; being a sort of diminutive stone-henge,
which many of the old Irish dare not even at this
day any way prophane. I shall discover such
things about these temples, whereof multitudes are
still existing, many of them entire, in the Hebrides,
in Orkney, and on the opposite Continent; as also
many in Wales, in Jersey and Guernsey, and some
in England and Ireland, the most remarkable to
be accurately describ'd and delineated in. our his'^
tory. I shall discover such tilings, I say, about the
famous Egg of the Druids, to the learned hitherto
a riddle not to speak of their magical gems and

* Such fancies came from the hiding of the persecatedDruids,
from the reign of Tiberius, \rho made the first law against them
(having been discountenanced by Augustus) but strictly put in
execution by Claudius, and the following emperors, till their
utter extirpation by the general conrersion of the people to

,- t Aibhne or Oibhoe. t Gealchossash. § Cnuc na Gcal-


herbs: as also about their favourite all-heal oi*
Misseltof, gather'd with so much ceremony by a
priest in his white surplice, as Pliny f tells us, and
Avith a gold pruning-knife ; as well as about the
abstrusest parts of their philosophy and religion,
that the like has not yet appear'd in any author,
who has treated of them. The books of sucli
are either bare collections of fragments, or a heap
of precarious fables; I mean especially some
French Avriters on this subject, as Picard, Forca-
tulus, Guenebaut, with others of no better allay
in Britain and Germany ; for as I admit nothing
without good authority, so I justly expect, that,
without as good, nothing will be admitted from me.
IX. But, my lord, besides these Druids, the
antient Gauls, Britons, and Irish, had another
order of learned men, calFd Bards, whereof we
shall sufficiently discourse in our propos'd work.
Sardis still the Irish and Scottish word, as Bardh
the Armoric and British. There's no difference
in the pronunciation, tho', according to their dif-
ferent manner of Meriting in expressing the power
of the letters, they vary a little in the ortho-
graphy :[:. The Bards were divided into three

* All these heads will be so many intire chapters.

+ Sacerdos, Candida veste cultus, arborem scandit: /dice aurea
idemetit. Hist. Nat. Lib. 16. Cap. 44.

X Let it be noted once for all, that, as in other tongues, so in
Jrish and Welsh particu'arly, tand d are commonly put for each
other, by reason of their affinity ; and that dh and gh being pro.
BouDc'd alike in Irish; aud therefore often confounded, yet an


orders or degrees, namely, to give an example
now in the British dialect, as I shall give their
turns to all the Celtic colonies, Privardh, Pos-
vardh, and Aruyvardh: but, with regard to the
subjects whereof they treated, they were call'd
Prududh, or Tevluur, or Clerur; which words,
with the equivalent Irish names, shall be explain'd
in our history, where you'll find this division
of the Bards well warranted. The first were
chronologers, the second heralds, and the third
comic or satyrical poets among the vulgar: for the
second sort did sing the praises of great men in
the heroic strain, very often at the head of armies,
like him in Virgil ;

Cretea. musarum comitem, cui carmina semper
Et citharae cordi, numerosque intendere nervis ;
Semper equos, atq ; arma virum, pugnasq ; canebat :

ViRG. JEji. Lib. 9.

And the first, who likewise accompany'd them in
peace, did historically register their genealogies
and atchievements. We have some proofs that

exact writer will always have regard to the origin as well as to
the analogy of any word : and so he'll write Druidhe, (for ex-
ample) and not Druigke, much less Draoithe broadly and aspi.
rately 5 nor will he use any other mispellings, tho' ever so com-
mon in books. This is well obsery'd by an old author, who
writing of Conia, a heathen freethinking judge of Connacht, thus
characterizes him ; Se do rinee an choinbhlipeht ris no Druid,
hibh: 'twas he that disputed against the Druids. These criti-
cisms, some would say, are trifles : but fine nugae in serin



the panegyrics of the Gallic Bards did not always
want wit no more that flattery; and particularly
an instance out of Atheneus, who had it from Po-
sidonius the stoic, concerning Luernius*, a Gallic
prince, extraordinary rich, liberal, and magnifi-
cent. He was the father of that same Bittus, who
was beaten by the Romans. Now this Luernius^
says-j- my author, " Having appointed a certain
" day for a feast, and one of the barbarous poets
"coming too late, met him, as he was departing;
*' whereupon he began to sing his praises and to
'• extol his grandeur, but to lament his own un-
" happy delay. Luernius being delighted, call'd
" for a purse of gold, which he threw to him, as
" he ran by the side of his chariot: and he taking
*' it up, began to sing again to this purpose; That
" out of the trades his chariot Jiad plow'd on the
"ground, sprung up gold and blessings to man-
" kind" As some of the Gallic Bards were truly
ingenious, so were manj of them mere quiblers :
and among the bombast of the British and Irish
Bards, there want not infinite instances of the true
sublime. Their epigrams were admirable, nor do

* Whether it be Lacmius, or as Strabo writes it Lucrius, the
name is frequent either ■way in the antientest Irish writers, as
Loarn, and Luire or Luighaire.

+ AijiopuravTOf S'ttuTB ffpofleff^iav ttotj tus floimt, a^vi^tfvc-ana Twa ran gapCnoair
woirirtiv A'^MitrQai ; Xtt( p^avTMtravTa /aet' oi^n? i^jUVEiv a.vriu mv uTresoYuv, lauTov V
V!ro6(r,Kn on urtfixE : too'e TEp^iOiVTa Ou^ltXlov atmmi j^paa-iou, xm pilai avrca ■fta.m-
TfS)(im ; ovEXc,uf,ov i' ekeivcv TraXiv v/xmt, Ksyovra, Jio hu th ij^im -nif ytif U^' r,c c;-
juaT!;?iaT(i) x,!'Jnv xai tvayts-ia; atSfonrgi; ((iipii. Edit, Lxgd, lib, 4i, pag, 15'J.

OP THE DRUms, 75

the modern Italians equal them in conceits. But
in stiring the passions, their elegies and lamentar
tions far excede those of the Greecs, because they
express nature much more naturally. These
Bards are not yet quite extinct, there being of
them in Wales, in the Highlands of Scotland, and
in Ireland: nor did any country in the world
abound like the last with this sort of men, whose
licentious panegyrics or satyrs have not a little
contributed to breed confusion in the Irish history.
There were often at a time, a thousand Ollaws*,
or graduate poets, besides a proportionable num-
ber of inferior rhymers, who all of 'em liv'd most
of the year on free cost: and, what out of fear of
their railing, or love of their flattery, no body
durst deny them any thing, be it armour, fewel,
horse, mantle, or the like; which grew into a ge-
neral custom, whereof the poets did not fail to
take the advantage. The great men, out of self-
love and interest, encourag'd no other kind of
learning, especially after they professed Chris-
tianity: the good regulation, under which they
were in the time of Druidism, as then in- some
manner belonging to the temples, having been de-
stroyed with that religion. In a small time they
became such a grievance, that several attempts
were made to rid the nation of them : and, vi^hich
is something comical, what at least our present
poets would not extraordinarly like, the orders

* Ollamh is a proffessor or doctor in any faculty.



for banishing them were always to the Highlands
of Scotland: while they were as often harbour'd
in Ulster, till upon promise of amendment of their
manners, I mean, and not of their poetry, they
were permitted to return to the other provinces.
At last, in a general national assembly, or parlia-
ment, at Drumcat*, in the country we now call
the county of Londonderry, under Aidus Anmi-
reus f, Xlth christian king, in the year 597, where
was also present Adius ^, king of Scotland, and
the great Columba§, it was decreed: that for the
better preservation of their history, genealogies,
and the purity of their language, the supreme mo-
narch, and the subordinate kings, with every lord
of a cantred, should entertain a poet of his own,
no more being allowed by the antient law in the
iland: and that upon each of these and their pos-
terity a portion of land free from all duties, shou'd
be settl'd for ever; that, for encouraging the
learning these poets and antiquaries profest, pub-
lic schools shou'd be appointed and endow'd, un-
der the national inspection; and that the mo-
march's own bard shou'd be arcii-poet 1|, and ha^ e
super-intendancy over the rest. "Tis a common
mistake, into which father Pezron has fallen,
among others, that the Bards belonged to the body
©f the Druids: but .this is not the place to rectify

* Druim-ceat alias Dmimcheat, + Aodhmhac Ainmhire.
X Aodhiininhac Gauraia. § Coluim-cille. || Ard.Ollamh,


it. They made hymns foi" the use of the temples,
'tis true, and manag'd the music there; but they
were the Druids that officiated as priests, and no
sacrifices were offer'd but by their ministry,

X. In the history likewise shall be fully ex-
plain'd the third order of the Celtic. Literati, by
the Greecs called Ouateis, and by the Romans
Vates ; which yet is neither G reec nor Roman,
but a mere Celtic word, viz. Faidh, which signi-
fies to this day a prophet in all Irish books, and
in the common language, particularly in the Irisk
translation of the Bible; where Druids* are also
commonly put for inchanters, as those of Egypt,
and especially for the Mages, or as we translate,
the wise menf that came from the East, to visit
Jesus in his cradle. So easily do men convey
their own ideas into other men's books, or find
em there; which has been the source of infinite
mistakes, not only in divinity, but also in philo-
sophy and philology. The Celtic Vaids J, were
physicians and diviners, great proficients in natu-
ral philosophy, as were likewise the Druids, who

* Draoithe, Exod. 7. 11. Anois Draoithe na Hegtpte dor
innedui-sanfos aran modhgceadoa le nandroiglieachtuibh.

f Mat. 2. 1. Feuch Tangadar Draoithe o naird slioir go Hiar-

X The word Faidh (or Vail by the usual conversion of the
letters F into V, and D into T) whence the Latin made Vates;
and their -critics acknowledge, tbat they took many words from
the Gauls. The Euchages and Eubages, in some copies of Anu
mianus Marcellinus, arc false readings, as in time will appear.


had the particular inspection of morals, but Cice-
ro, who was well acquainted with one of the prime
Druids, remarks, that their predictions were as
much grounded on conjecture*, as on the rules
of augury: both equally fortuitous and fallacious.
For the saying of Euripides will ever hold true,
that the best guesser is the best prophet -f. He that
is nearly acquainted with the state of affairs, that
understands the spring^ of human actions, and,
that judiciously allowing for circumstances, com-
pares the present time with the past: be, I say,
will make a shrewd guess at the future. By this
time, my lord, you begin to perceive what is to be
the subject of the history I intend to write;
which, tho' a piece of general learning and great
curiosity, yet I shall make it my business so to
digest, as to render it no less entertaining than
instructive to all sorts of readers, without except-
ing the ladies, who are pretty much concernd in
this matter; throwing, as I told you before, all my
critical observations, and disquisitions about
Avords, into the margin, or the dissertation annext
to the history. As to what I say of the ladies

So are Dritd, Drmides, and Drusiades for Druides : as likewise
Vardi, from the British and Irish oblique cases of Bard,

^Siquidem & in Gallia Druides sunt, c quibus ipse Divitiacam
Aeduum, hospitcm tuum laudatoremque, cognovi (inquit Quin.
(ns)qm Sc naturx rationcm, quam physiologiam Gran;! appellant,
iiotain esse sibi profitebatur ; & partim Auguriis, partim conjee.
tura, quae essent futura dicebat, De Divinat, lib, 1. cap, 41.


being concern'd iu this history, there were not
only Druidesses; but some evea of the highest
rank, and princesses themselves were educated
by the Druids: for in our annals we read, that
the two daughters of king Laogirius*, in whose
reign Patric preach'd Christianity, were educated
by them ; and we liaA'e the particulars of a long
dispute those young ladies maintained against
this new religion, very natural but very subtil.
Several other ladies bred under the Druids be-
came famous for their writings and proficiency in
learning, of some of whom we shall occasionally
give an account: but lest I shou'd be thought in
every thing to flatter the sex, how much soever I
respect them, I refer the reader to a story in my
third letter. But, in order to complete my design,
so as to leave no room for any to write on this sub-
ject after me; and also to procure several valuable
manuscripts, or authentic copies of them, well
knowing where they ly, I purpose towards the
spring to take a journey for at least six months:
which, at our next meeting, I shall do myself the
honour to impart to your lordship very particu-

XI. The Irish, a few Scandinavian and Danish
words excepted, being not only a dialect of the
ancient Celtic or Gallic, but being also liker the
mother than her other daughter the British ; and
the Irish manuscripts being more numerous and

* Laoghaire.


much antienter tlian the Welsh, shows beyond all
contradiction the necessity of this language for
retrieving the knowledge of the Celtic religion
and learning. Camden and others have long since
taken notice of the agreement between the present
British and those old Gallic words collected by
learned men out of Greec and Roman authors :
and the industrious Mr. Edward Lhuyd, late
keeper of the Museum at Oxford, perceiv'd this
affinity between the same words and the Irish,
even before he study'd that language, by the de-
monstration I gave him of the same in all the said
instances. Nor does he deny this agreement in
the comparative Etymologicon he afterwards made
of those languages, where he quotes Camden and
Boxhornius affirming it about the Gallic and Bri-
tish; hut there being, says he*, no Vocabulary ex-
tant, meaning no doubt in print, of the Irish, or
antient Scottish, they coud not collect that language
therewith, which the curious in those studies ivill now
find to agree rather more than ours, with the Gaul-
ish. That it does so, is absolute fact, as will be
seen by hundreds of instances in this present work.
I am aware that what I am going to say wdll sound
very oddly, and seem more than a paradox ; but I
deserve, ray lord, and shall be content with your
severest censure, if, before you have finish'd read-
ing these sheets, you be not firmly of the same
mind yourself; namely, that, without the know-

* In the preface to his Archaohgia BrUamica, pag. J.


lege of the Irish language and books, the Gallic
antiquities, not meaning the Francic, can never be
set in any tolerable light, with regard either to words
or to things ; and numerous occasions there will oc-
cur in this History of illustrating both words and
things even in the Greec and Roman authors, I
shall here give one example of this, since I just
come from treating of the several professors of
learning common to the antient Gauls, Britons,
and Scots, viz. the Druids, Bards, and Vaids.
• Lucian* relates that in Gaule he saw Hercules
represented as a little old man, whom in the lan-
guage of the country they call'd Ogmius; draw-
ing after him an infinite multitude of persons, who
seem'd most willing to follow, tho' drag'd by ex-
treme fine and almost imperceptible chains ; which
were fasten'd at the one end to their ears, and held
at the other, not in either of Hercules's hands, which
were both otherwise imploy'd; but ty'd to the tip
of his tongue, in which there was a hole on pur-
pose, where all those chains centr'd. Lucian won-
dering at this manner of portraying Hercules, was
inform'd by a learned Druid who stood by, that
Hercules did not in Gaul, as in Greece, betoken
strength of body, but ihe force of eloquence; which
is there very beautifully display'd by the Druid,
in his explication of the picture that hung in the

* T»» 'Ef«»Xs» «i KeXtoi orMlON wo;i*«{os«-i 4fm» in mxffif, et quae sequun-
tur in Hercule Galilee : Grseca etenim longioi-ii sunt, quSm ut bic conio
mode itiseri ^ ostlnt.



temple. Now, the critics of all nations have made
a heavy pother about this same w^ord Ogmius, and
labouriously sought for the meaning of it every
where, but just where it was to be found. The
most celefbrated Bochart, who, against the grain
of nature, if I may so speak, wou'd needs reduce
all things to Phenician; says it is an oriental word,
since the Arabians * call strangers and barbarians
Agemion: as if, because the Phenicians traded
antiently to Gaule and the British ilands, for co-
lonies in them they planted none, they must have
also imported their language; and, with their
other commodities, barter'd it for something to
the natives, naming their places, their men, and
their gods for them. Our present Britons, who
are at least as great traders, do not find they can
do so in Phenicia, nor nearer home in Greece and
Italy, nor yet at their own doors in this very Gaule :
besides that Lucian does positively affirm Ogmius
was a Gallic word, a word of the country\. This
has not hinder'd a learned English physician, Dr.
Edmund Dickenson, from hunting still in the east
for a derivation of it; conjecturing Hercules to be
.Toshua:};, who was surnamed Ogmius, for having
conquei 'd Og king of Bashan :

* In Geographia Sacra, sive Canaan, part 2. cap, 42.

i ^a>vi: Tn iitiyw^lio, Ubl supra,

X Josuam quoqtie spectasse videtur illud nomen, quo Galli cti.
iiquitus Ilerculem nuncupabant. Unde vera O'/wwf? Annon ah
>0g victo? Delph. Phcenicizant. cap. 3.


O ! sanctas gentes ! quibus haec nascuntur ia hortis


Juvenal, Sat. 15, ver. 10.

I could make your lordship yet merryer, or rather
angrier, at these forc'd and far-fetch'd etymologies,
together with others hammer'd as wretchedly out
of Greec, nay even out of Suedish and German.
But the word Ogmius, as Lucian was truely in-
form'd, is pure Celtic ; and signifies, to use Taei-
tus's* phrase about the Germans, the Secret of
Letters, particularly the letters themselves, and
consequently the learning that depends on them,
from whence the force of eloquence proceeds: so
that Hercules Ogmius is tlie learned Hercules, or
Hercules the protector of learning, having by many
been reputed himself a philosopher f. To prove
this account of the word, so natural and so apt, be
pleas'd to understand, that, from the very begin-
ning of the colony, Ogum, sometimes written
Ogam, and also Ogmaij;, has signify'd in Ireland
the secret of letters, or the Irish alphabet ; for the
truth of which I appeal to all the antient Irish
books, without a singlp exception. 'Tis one of

* Literarum Secreta viri pariter ac foeminae ingnorant. De
moribus Germanorum, cap. 19.

t^supnyiuy}(ii\m,Scc. Palapliatifragmentumin Chroiaco AUxandrino, 'Ep«.
KXnt AXX|i*iiviif iMoc TouTOv ifiXwo^aif I5-i)jm;o-i,&c. Sttsdos i» tioce 'EpaKXnt. Et diu
ante Suidam audiebat apud Heraclitum, in Allegoriis Homerids, Avn; ifi^^m,
x»i n^Mi m^a-iaii [iiv^ri;, uime^a nara ^aSsittj ayTjias »7riflE?uxi;i«y spsmje TW

^ As in the Dublin college manuscript^ to be presently cited,
K 2


the most authentic words of the language, and
originally stands for this notion alone. Indeed,
after Patric had converted the nation, and, for the
better propagating of christian books, introduc'd
the use of the Roman letters, instead of the an-
tient manner of writing, their primitive letters,
very different from those they now use, bagan by
degrees to grow absolete ; and at last legible only
by antiquaries and other curious men, to whom
they stood in as good stead as any kind of occult
characters ; whence it happen'd that Ogum, from
signifying the secret of writing, came to signify se-
cret ivriting, but still principally meaning the ori-
ginal Irish characters. There are several manuS'
cript treatises extant, describing and teaching the
various methods of this secret writing ; as one in
the college-library of Dublin*, and another in that
of his grace the duke of Chandois ■\. Sir James
Ware, in his Antiquities of Ireland, relating how the
antient Irish did, besides the vulgar cJiaracters, prac-
tise also divers ivays and arts of occult writing, calVd

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 5 of 31)