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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Ogum, in ivhichthey wrote their secrets; I have,
continues he J, an antient parchment book full of

* 'Tis, among other pieces, in The Book of BuUimore ; being
the 255th Tolum in the Dublin catalogue, in parchment, folio,
P. 18.

t Anonym! cujusdam Tractatus de variis apud Hibernos vete*
resoccuitis acribendi formuUs, Hibernice O^umdictis.

Ij: Praeter characteres vulgares utebantur etiam veteres Hibemi
Tariis opcultis scribendi formulis seu artificiis, Ogvm dictis, qui.


these, which is the same just now said to belong-
to the duke of Chandois: and Dudley Forbes*,
a hereditary antiquary, wrote to the rather labo-
rious than judicious chronologist O'FIahertyf, in
the year 1683, that he had some of the primitive
birch-tables I, for those they had before the use of
parchment or paper, and many sorts of the old
occult wiiting by him. These are principally the
Ogham-beith, the Ogham-coll, and the Ogham-
craoth\, which last is the»old one and the true.
But that the primary Irish letters, the letters first
in common use, which in the manner we have
shown, became accidentally occult, were origin-
ally meant by the word ogum; besides the appeal
made above to all antient authors, is plain in par-
ticular from Forchern, a noted bard and philoso-
pher, who liv'd a little before Christ. This learned
man ascribing with others the invention of letters
to the Phenicians, or rather more strictly and pro-
perly to Fhenix, whom the Irish call Fenius far-
saidh, or Phenix the antient, says, that, among
other alphabets, as the Hebrew, Greec, and Latin,
he also compos'd that of Bethluisnion an Oghuim\\,

bus secreta sua scribebant : his refcrtum habeo libellum membra,
naceum antiquum. Cap. 2.

* Dualtach mhac Firbis. + Rudhruigh O Flaith-bheartuigh.

+ Ogygia, part. 3. cap. 30. § Ogum.branches.

II Fenius Farsaidh alphabeta prima Hebraeorum, Grascorum,
Latinorum, et Bethluisnion an Oghuim, composuit. Ex For-
cherni libro, octingentis retro annis Latins rsddito.


the alphabet of ogum, or the Irish alphabet, mean-
ing that he invented the first letters, ia imitation
of which the alphabets of those nations were made.
Ogum is also taken in this sense by the best mo-
dern writers: as William O'Donnell*, afterwards
archbishop of Tuam, in his preface to the Irish
New Testament, dedicated to King James the First,
and printed at Dublin in the year 1602, speaking
of one of his assistants, says, that he enjoin d him
to write the other part according to the Ogum and
propriety of the Irish tongne; where Ogum, must
necessarily signify the alphabet, orthography, and
true manner of writing Irish. From all this it is
clear, why among the Gauls, of whom the Irish
had their language and religion, Hercules, as the
protector of learning, shou'd be call'd Ogmius, the
termination alone being Greec. Nor is this all.
Ogma was not only a known proper name in Ire-
land, but also one of the most antient; since Ogma
Grianann, the father of King Dalboetius f , w as one
of the first of the Danannan race, manv aues be-
fore Lucian's time. He was a very learned man,
marry'd to Eathna, a famous poetess, who bore,
besides the fore-mention'd monarch, Cairbre, like-
wise a poet: insomuch that Ogma was deservedly
surnamed Grianann |;, which is to say Phebean,
where you may observe learning still attending

* William O Domhnuill, + Dealbhaoith.

X Grim, is the sun, and Grianann, or belonging t»
tlie sun.


this name. The Celtic language being now al-
most extinct in Gaule, except onely in lower Brit-
tany, and such Gallic words as remain scatter'd
among the French; subsists however intire in the
several dialects* of the Celtic colonies, as do the
word ^ogwm and ogma, particularly in Irish. Nor
is there any thing better known to the learned, or
will appear more undeniable in the sequel of this
work, than that words lost in one dialect of the
same common language, are often found in ano-
ther: as a Saxon word, for example, grown obso-
lete in Germany, but remaining yet in England,
may be also us'd in Switzerland; or another word
grown out of date in England, and flourishing still
in Denmark, continues likewise in Iceland. So
most of the,a«fiquated English words are more
or less corruptly extant in Friezland, Jutland, and
the Other northern countries ; with not a few in the
Lowlands of Scotland, and in the old English pale
in Ireland.

XII, Now, from the name of Hercules let's come
to his person, or at least to the person acknow-
ledg'd to have been one of the heros worship'd by
the Gauls, and suppos'd by the Greecs and Ro-
mans to be Hercules. On this occasion I cannot
but reflect on the opposite conduct, which the
learned and the unlearned formerly observ'd, with
respect to the Gods and divine matters. If, thro'
the ignorance or superstition of the people, any

* Tlwge are Brittislh, Welsh, Cornish, Irish, Manks, and Earse.


fable, tho' ever so gross, was generally receiv'd in
a religion; the learned being asham'd of such an
absurdity, yet not daring openly to explode any
thing wherein the priests found their account, ex-
plain'd it away by emblems and allegories import-
ing a reasonable meaning, of which the fii'st au-
thors never thought: and if the learned on the
other hand, either to procure the greater venera-
tion for their dictates, or the better to conceal their
sentiments from the profane vulgar, did poetically
discourse of the elements and qualities of matter,
of the constellations or the planets, and the like
effects of nature, veiling them as persons ; the com-
mon sort immediately took them for so many per-
sons in good earnest, and render 'd 'em divine wor-
ship under such forms as the priests judg'd fittest
to represent them. Objects of divine worship
have been coin'd out of ,the rhetorical flights of
orators, or the flattering addresses of panegyrists :
even metaphors and epithets have been transform'd
into gods, which procur'd mony for the priests as
well as the best; and this by so much the more,
as such objects were multiply'd. This is the un-
avoidable consequence of deviating ever so little
from plain truth, which is never so heartily and
highly reverenc'd, as when appearing in her na-
tive simplicity ; for as soon as her genuine beauties
are indeavour'd to be heightened by borrow'd or-
naments, and that she's put under a disguise in
gorgeous apparel: she quickly becomes, like


others afFectiug such a dress, a mercenary prosti-
tute, wholly acting by \anity, artifice, or interest,
and never speaking but in ambiguous or unintel-
ligible terms ; while the admiration of her lovers
is first turn'd into amazement, as it commonly
ends in contemt and hatred. But over and above
the difficulty, which these proceedings have oc-
casioned in the history of antient time, there arises
a greater from time itself destroying infinite cir-
cumstances, the want whereof causes that to seem
afterwards obscure, which at the beginning was
very clear and easy. To this we may join the
preposterous emulation of nations, in ascribing to
their own gods or heros whatever qualities were
pre-eminent in those of others. That most judi-
cious writer* about Jthe nature of the gods, com-
monly call'd Phurnutus, tho' his ti-ue name was
Cornutus, a stoic philosopher, whom I shall have
frequent occasion to quote hereafter, " owns the
" great vaiiety f, and consequently the perplexed-
" ness and obscurity, that occurs in the history of
" Hercules, whereby it is difficult to know certain-

* *oufV5iiTou Bixfia OTpi T>ic fo* Sect <fu<r£«t, vulgo : sed, ut Ravii codex &
Vaticamis Icgunt (notante doctissimo Galco) verus titulus est Kopwiwou im-
hofA,>i TDv xala, Tijv 'EWmimv Biw^inf ffapaJiJo^£»*v.

t To Je ^uihaxfila. ysyOKm -ra Ta 6bov iJia, awo rm OTfi TOu 'Hpaioc KOfOv[A.lml.
Ta^a ^''" 1 ^^oitn x4i to powaXov ex nq vaKaM; SeoT^oyiu; eti roulov [A.iimny[>.a^
Ein ; (TfiSnyti yif auToy j/etc,«£kv nynSov, Km ?ro>i\a fiifo tus y«; [iiira, Jw«^e»c eweX-
floyra, ouy' oiov te yi/jwyov EJoJay wepiEXnXuSEval f uXoj ftomi 0}is,\l(r[*inv : a>iXt toi? *
EjritrnfiMf Tou flsou, fi'.rx Toy aira9ayaTi5-/i*ay, vira nrm Eu£{yETOi/,<«E?»/ iiai^s-;ivr(lja^
rif<i$i>Xn yap ExolEfsv tin pw/xijc k«i j'Si'miOTTiTSS. S;c. caf. 31,

* Alii m.-.yn;.


" ly what were his real atchievements, or what were
" fabulously fathered uponhun: but having been
" an excellent general, who had in diverse coun-
*' tries signaliz'd his valor, he thinks it not proba-
*' ble, that he went onely arm'd with a lion's skin
*' and a club ; but that he was represented after
" his death with these, as symbols of generosity
" and fortitude, for ^hich reason he was pictur'd
" with a bow and arrows." To this let me add,
that several valiant men in several nations having,
in imitation of some one man any where, been cal-
led or rather surnam'd Hercules; not only the
works of many, as subduing of tyrants, extermina-
ting of wild beasts, promoting or exercising of
commerce, and protecting or improving of learning,
have been ascrib'd to one : bjit that also wherever
any robust person was found represented with a
skin and a club, a bow and arrows, he was
straight deem'd to be Hercules; whence the Egyp-
tian, the Indian, the Tyrian, the Cretan, the Gre-
cian or Theban, and the Gallic Hercules. This
was a constant way with the Greecs and Romans,
who, for example, from certain resemblances per-
fectly accidental, conjectural that Isis was ho-
nour d by the Germans*, and Bacchus worshiped

* Pars SucTorum & Isidi sacrificat. Unde causa et origo
peregrlno sacro parum comperi; nisi quod signum ipsum, in
modum Liburnie figuratum, docet advectam ReUgionem. Tacit,
de mor. German, cap. 9.


by the Jews*, which last notion is refuted even by
their enemy Tacitus f. Such superficial discove-
ries about the Celtic divinities I shall abundantly
expose. Yet that Ogmius might be really the
Grecian Hercules, well known in Gaule, it will
be no valid exception that he was by the Druids
theologically made the symboU of the force of elo-
quence, for which that country has been ever dis-
tinguish'd and esteem'd : since even in Greece he
was, as Phnrnutus assures us, mystically account-
ed, that reason which is diffused thrd all things, ac-
cording to ivhich nature is vigorous and strong, in-
vincible and ever generating; being the power that
communicates virtue and Jinnness to every part of
things-^.. The scholiast of Appollonius affirms,
that the natural philosophers understood by Her-
cules, the intelligence and permanence of beings%:
as the Egyptians held him to be that reason, which
is in the tvhole of things, and in every part\\. Thus

* Plutarch, Symposiac, lib, 4- quem prolixius disserentem
otiosus consulas, lector.

f Quia sacerdotes eorum t\h\k tympauisque concinebant, he-
dera Tinciebantur, vitisque aurea templo reperta, Liberum pa-
trem coli, domitorem Orientis, quidam arbltrati sunt, nequaquam.
congrqentibus. institutis: quippe Liber festos laitosque ritus
posuit, Judaeorum mos absurdus sordidusque. Lib, 5. cap, 5.

xoi a^a^iyw^Qi wa-n ; fj^era^orixos to^ue^, kUi thi; irufa [*efo^ a^X7]; vita^x'"^^'
Vbi supra,

§ napa ron $u«-iXOi{ o 'HpoxAnc trmrif xai a^xo Xaf/.^une-ra'.

II Ton en wain, nm Jw 'jranram, ^OJ'on; non n\ion, ut corrnpte legi cum Gale#
auspicor in lV[acrobi», Saturml. Kb, 1. cap. SO.



the learned allegoriz'd away among otlieis, as I
said before, the fabulous atchievenients and mira-
culous birth of this hero, on which we shall how-
ever touch again, Avhen we come to explain the
heathen humor of making all exti'aordinary per-
sons the sons of gods, and commonly begot on
virgins ; tho' this last is not the case of Hercules^
who was feign'd to be the son of Jupiter by Alc-
mena, another man's wife. This wou'd be rec-
kon'd immoral among men, but Jupiter (said the
priests) can do with his own what he pleases:
which reason, if it contented the husbands, cou'd
not displease the batchelors, who might chance
to be sometimes Jupiter's substitutes. '' The Drnid-
ical allegory of Ogmius, or the Gallic Hercules,
which in its proper place I shall give you at large,
is extremely l)eautiful: and, as it concerns that
eloquence wliereof you are so consummate a mas-
ter, cannot but powerfully charm you.

XIII. In the mean time 'tis probable your lord-
ship will be desireous to know, whether, besides
the langauge and traditions of the Irish, or the mo-
numents of stone and other materials which the
country affords, there yet remain any literary re-
cords truly antient and imadulteratcd, whereby
the Jiistoiy of the Druids, with siu h other points
of antiquity, may be retriev'd, or at Itp.t-t illustra-
ted? This is a inalerial question, to which I rttJaii
a clear and direct answer; that not onely there re-
main vc i y many antient manuscripts undoubtedly


genuine, besides such as are forg'd, and greater
numbers interpolated*, several whereof are in Ire-
land itself, some here in England, and others in
the Irish monasteries abroad: but that, notwith-
standing the long state of barbarity in which that
nation hath lain, and after all the rebellions and
wars with which the kingdom has been harass'd ;
they have incomparably more antient materials of
that kind for their history (to which even their my-
thology is not unserviceable) than either the Eng-
lish or the French, or any other European nation,
with whose manuscripts I have any acquaintance.
Of these I shall one day give a catalogue, marking
the places where they now ly, as many as I know of
them ; but not meaning every transcript of the same
manuscript, which wou'd be endless, if not impos-
sible. In all conditions the Irish have been strange-
ly solicitous, if not to some degree supersitious,
about preserving their bboks and parchments;
even those of them which are so old, as to be now
partly or wholly unintelligible. Abundance, thro'
over care, have perished under ground, the con-
cealer not having skill, or wanting searcloth and
other proper materials for preserving them. The
most valuable pieces, both in verse and prose, were
written by their heathen ancestors ; whereof some

* As t!ie Uraiceacht na neigios, i. e. the accidence of the art-
ists, or the poets J which being the work of Forchern before.
n?m'd, was interpolated, and fitted to his own time, by Ceaon
Paoladh, the sob of Oiliojl, in the year of Christ 62S.


indeed have been interpolated after the prevailing
of Christianity, which additions or alterations are
nevertheless easily distinguish'd: and in these
books the rights and formularies of the Druids,
together with their divinity and philosophy; espe-
cially their two grand doctrines of tjie eternity and
incorruptibility of the universe, and the incessant
revokition of all beings and forms, are very spe-
cially, tho' sometimes very figuratively express'd.
Hence their allanhnation and transmigration.
Why none of the natives have hitherto made any
better use of these treasures; or why both they,
and such others as have written concerning the
history of Ireland, have onely entertain'd the world
witli the fables of it (as no coun'try -wants a fabu-
lous account of its original, or the succession of
its princes) ; why the modern Irish liistorians, I say,
give us such a medly of relations, unpick'd and
imchosen, I had rather any man else shou'd tell.
The matter is certainly ready, there wants but
will or skill for working of it; separating the dross
from the pure ore, and distinguishing counterfeit
from sterling coin. This in the mean time is un-
deniable, that learned men in other places, perceiv-
ing the same dishes to be eternally served up at
every meal, are of opinion that there is no better
fare in the country ; while those things have been
conceal'd from them by the ignorant or the lazy,
that would have added no small ornament even
to their classical studies. Of this I hope to con-


vince the world by the lustre, which, in this work,
I shall impart to the antiquities not only of Gaule
and Britain, but likewise to numerous passages
of the Greec and Latin authors. How many
noble discoveries of the like kind might be made
in all countries, where the use of letters has long
subsisted! Such things in the mean time are as if
they were not: for

Paulum sepultae distat inertise

Celata virtas.

HoEAt. lib. 4. Od. S.

The vise of letters has been very antient in Ireland,
which at first were cut on the bark of trees*, pre-
pared for that purpose; or on smooth tables of
birch wood, which were call'd poets tables ■{; as
their characters were in general nam'd twigs and
hranch-lettersX, from, their shape. Their alphabet
was call'd JBeth-luis-nion, from the three first let-
ters of the same, B, L, N, Seth, Luis, Nion^:
for the particular name of every letter was, for
memory-sake, from some tree or other vegetable;
-which, in the infancy of writing on barks and
boards, was very natural. They had also many
characters signifying whole words, like the Egyp-
tians and the Chinese. When Patric introduc'd
the Roman letters (as I said above) then, from a
corruption of Abcedurium, they call'd their new

* Oraium. + Taibhle Fileadh, % Feadha: Craohh Osham.
§ Birch, Quicken, and Ash.


alphabet Aihghittir* ; which, by the Monkish
writers, has been latiniz'd Abgetorimnf. But
there florish'd a great number of Druids, Bards,
Vaids, and other authors, in Ireland, long before
Patric's arrival; whose learning Avas not only
more extensive, but al^o much more usefiU than
that of their christian posterity: this last sort
being almost wholly imploy'd in scholastic divi-
nity, metaphysical or chronological disputes, le-
gends, miracles, and martyrologies, especially
after the eighth century. Of all the things com-
mitted to writing by the heathen Irish, none 'W'ere
more celebrated, or indeed in themselves more
valuable, than their laws; which were deliver 'd,
as antiently among some other nations, in short
sentences, commonly in verse; no less reputed
infallible oracles than the Lacedemonian i2e</ir<5:{:,'
and, what's remarkable, the/are expresly term'd
celestial judgements^; for the pronouncing of

* At first it was very analogically pronounc'd Ab.lcedair,
since the letter C then in Latin, as still in Irish and Brittisb,
had the force of K no less before E and I, than before A, O, U;
having never been pronounc'd like S by the antient Romans, who
said Kilcero, kenseo, koechus, but not Sisero, senseo, soecus, when
the words Cicero, censeo, coecus, or such like occurr'd : so that
Ablicdair did naturally liquidate into Aibghittir, in the manner
that all grammarians know.

+ Scripsit Abgetoria [scilicet Patricias] 355, et eo ampH4s
numero. Nenn, Hist. Britan. cap. 59.

t rr.T/al,

§ Brealha nimhe.


which, the most famous were Forchern, Neid,
Conla, Eogan, Modan, Moran, King Cormiac, his
chief justice Fithil, Fachma, Maine, Ethnea, the
daughter of Amalgad, and many more. Thesa
celestial judgments were only preserv'd in tradi-
tionary poems, according to the institution of the
Druids, till committed to writing at the command
of Concovar*, king of Ulster, who dy'd in the
year of Christ 48, whereas Patric begun his
apostleship but in the year 432. The poets that
wrote were numberless, of whose works several
pieces remain still intire, with diverse fragnaents
of others. The three greatest incouragers of
learning among the heathen Irish monarchs were
first, King Achaiusf (surnamed the doctor of Ire-
land), who is said to have built at Tarah, an aca-
demy, call'd the court of the learned%. 'Twas he
that ordain'd, for every principal family, heredi-
tary antiquaries; or, in case of incapacity, the
most able of the same historical house, with rank
and privileges immediately after the Druids. The
next promoter of letters was Kiijg Tuathalius§,
whose surname is render'd Bonaventura (tho' not
so properly), and who appointed a triennial revi-
sion of all the antiquaries books, by a committee
of three kings or great lords, three Druids, and
three antiquaries. These were to cause whatever
Was approv'd and found valuable in those books,

* Conchobhar Nessan, i, e. Mac Neassa. + Eochaidh 01-
lamhfodla. % Mar.OUarotiau. § TuathEil Teachtmliar.



to be traiiscrib'd into the royal Book ofTarah*,
which was to be the perpetual standard of their
history, and by which the contents of all other
such books shou'd be receiv'd or rejected. Such
good regulations I say there were made, but not
how long or how well observ'd; or, if truth is to
be preferr'd to all other respects, we must own
they were but very slightly regarded; and that
the bards, besides their poetical licence, were
both mercenary and partial to a scandalous de-
gree. The ordinance, however, is admirable, and
deserves more to be imitated, than we can ever
expect it to be so any where. The third most
munificent patron of literature was King Corniac,
surnained Long-beard f, who renew'd the laws
about the antiquaries, rebuilt and inlarg'd the
academy of Tarah for history, law, and military
prowess: besides that, he was an indefatigable
distributer of justice, having written himself abun-
dance of laws still extant. So in his Institution
of a Prince-^, or his Precepts^ to his sou and suc-
cessor Carbre || Fiffecair, who in like manner was
not superficially addicted to the muses. Cormae
was a great proficient in philosophy, made light

* Leabhar Teamhra. + Ulfhada.

t 'Tis, among otiur most Taluable pieces, io the collection
call'd O DuTegan's, folio 190. a, now or late in the possessiou
of the right honourable (he earl of Clanrickard. There are co-
pies of it elsewhere, but tliat's the oldest known.

§ Teagarg Riogli. H Cftirbre Lifiochair.


of the superstitions of the Draids in his youth,
and, in his old age, having quitted the scepter, he
led a contemplative life, rejecting all the druidi-
cal fables and idolatry, and acknowledging only
one Supreme Being, or first cause. This short
account of the primevous Irish learning, vfhereof
you'll see many proofs and particulars in the more
than once mention'd Dissertation concerning the
Celtic Language and Colonies (to be annext to our
Critical History), will, I am confident, excite
your curiosity.

XIV. The custom, therefore, or rather cunning
of the Druids, in not committing their rites or
doctrines to writing, has not depriv'd us (as some
may be apt to itoagine) of sufficient materials to
compile their history. For, in the first place,
when the Romans became masters of Gaule^ and
every where mixt with the natives ; ihef cou'd not
avoid, in that time of light and learning, but ar-
rive at the certain knowledge of whatever facts
they have been pleas'd to hand down to us, tho' ijot
always rightly taking the usages of other nations:
as it must needs be from a full conviction of the
Druidical fraudulent superstitions, and barbarous
tyranny exercis'd over the credulous people, that
these same Romans, who tolerated all religions,
yet supprest this institution in Gaule and Britain,
with the utmost severity. The I>ruids, however,
were not immediately extkiguish'd, but only their
barbarous, tyrannical, or illusory usages. And in-



deed their human sacrifices, with their pretended
magic, and an authority incompatible with the
power of the magistrate, were things not to be in-
dur'd by so wise a state as that of the Romans,
In the second place, the Greec colony of Marseil-
les, a principal mart of learning, cou'd not want
persons curious enough, to acquaint themselves
with the religion, philosophy, and customs of the
country, Avherein they liv'd. Strabo, and others,
give us an account of such. From these the elder
Greecs had their information (not to speak now
of the Gauls seated in Greece itself and in lesser
Asia) as the later Greecs had theirs from the Ro-
mans ; and, by good fortune, we have a vast num-
ber of passages from both. But, in the third
place, among the Gauls themselves and the Britons,
among the Irish and Albanian Scots, their histo-
rians and bards did always register abundance of
particulars about the Druids, whose afiairs were
in most things inseparable from those of the rest
of the inhabitants; as they Avere not only the
judges in all matters civil or religious, but in a

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 6 of 31)