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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manner the executioners too in criminal causes ;
and that their sacrifices were very public, which
consequently made their rites no less observable.
One thing which much contributed to make them
known, is,, that the king was ever to have a Druid
about his person; to pray and sacrifice, as well as
to be a judge for determining emergent controver-
sies, tho' he had a civil judge besides. So he had


©ne of the chief lords to advise him, a bard to sing
the praises of his ancestors, a chronicler to regis-
ter his own actions, a physician to take care of
his health, and a musician to intertain him. Who-
ever was absent, these by law must be ever pre-
sent, and no fewer than the three controllers of
his family ; which decern virate was the institution
of King Cormac. The same custom was taken
up by all the nobles, whereof each had about him
his Druid, chief vassal, bard, judge, physician,
and harper, the four last having lands assign'd
them, which descended to their families, wherein
these professions were hereditary, as were their
marshal, and the rest of their officers. After the
introducing of Christianity, the Druid was suc-
ceeded by a bishop or priest, but the rest conti-
nu'd on the antient foot, insomuch, that for a long
time after the English conquest, the judges, the
bards, physicians, and harpers, held such tenures in
Ireland. The O Duvegans were the hereditary
bards of the O Kellies, the O Clerys and the O Bro^
dins were also hereditary antiquaries : the O Shiels
and the O Canvans were such hereditary doctors,
the Maglanehys such hereditary judges, and so
of the rest; for more examples, especially in this
place, are needless; it wou'd be but multiplying
of names, without ever making the subject clearer.
Only I must remark here, from the very nature
of things, no less than from facts, that (tho' Cesar
Jbe silent about it) there were civil judges in Gaule


just as in Ireland, yet under the direction and con-
troll of the Druids. This has led many to ima-
gine, that, because the Druids influenc'd all,
there ,were therefore no other judges, which is
doubtless an egregious mistake.

XV, Further, tho' the Druids were exempted
from bearing arms, yet they finally determin'd
concerning peace and war: and those of that or-
der, who attended the king and the nobles, were
obserr'd to be the greatest make-bates and incen-
diaries;. th« most averse to peace in council, and
the most, cruel of all others in action. Some of
'em were ally'd to kings, and many of 'em were
king's sons, and great numbers of them cull'd out
of the best families : which you see is an old trick,
but has not been allyayg effectual enough to per-
petuate an order of men. This, however, made his-
torians not to forget them, and inde«l several of
'em render'd thenaselves vei-y remarkable; as the
Druid Trosdan, who found an antidote against
the poyson'd arrows of certain Brittish invaders:
Cabadius*, grandfather to the mo*t celebrated
champion Cuculandf; Tages;}; the father of Mor-
na, mother to the no less famous Fin mac Cuil^:
Dader, who was kill'd by Eogain, son to Olill Olom
king of Munster; Avhich Eogan was marry'd to
Moiitic, the daughter of the Druid Dill. The
Druid Mogruth,, the son of Sinduinn, Avas the

» Catlibaid. + Cucbulaid. + Tadhg. § Fia mhac Cubhaill,


stoutest man in the wars of King Cormac : nor less
valiant was Dubcoraar*, the chief Druid of King
Fiacha: and Lugadius Mac-Con, the abdicated
king of Jreland, was treacherously run thro' the
body with a lance by the Druid Firchisusf. Ida
and Ona (lords of Corcachlann near Roscommon)
were Druids ; whereof Ono presented his fortress
of Imleach-Ono to Patric, who converted it into
the religious house of Elphin, since an episcopal
see J. From the very name of Lamderg§, or
Bloody-hand, we learn what sort of man the Druid
was, who by the vulgar is thought to live inchanted
in the mountain between Bunncranach and Fa-
then II, in the county of Dunnegall. Nor must we
forget, tho' out of order of time. King Niall^ of the
nine hostage's Arch-Druid, by name Lagicinus
Barchedius **, who procured a most cruel war
against Eocha, king of Munster, for committing
manslaughter on his son ; and which the Druids
making a common cause, there was no honour,
law, or- humanity observ'd towards this king, whose
story, at length in our book, will stand as a last-

* Dttbhchomar. . + Fearchips.

X Ailfinn, from a vast obelise that stood by a well in that
place; and that fell down in the year 1675. The word signi.
fies the white stone, and was corrupted into oil/inn. Some wou'd
derive the name from the clearness of the fountain, but 'tis by
torture: others from one Oilfinn, a Danish commander.

iLambhdearg. j|,Taobhsaoil.treach. 5 Niall Naoighi.alUch.

** Lnighichia mhac Barrecheadha.


ing monument of druidical bloodyness, and a
priest-ridden state. I conclude with Bacracli
(chief Druid to Conchobhar Nessan, king of Ul-
ster), who is fabl'd by the monks long after the
extinction of the Druids, to have before it hap-
pen'd, others say at the very time, describ'd the
passion of Jesus Christ, in so lively and moveing
a manner, that the king, transported with rage,
drew his sword, and, with inexpressible fury, fell
a hacking and hewing the trees of the wood where
he then was, which he mistook for the Jews : nay,
that he put himself into such a heat as to dy of
this frenzy. But even O'Flaherty, fully confutes
this silly action*, not thinking it possible that
such circumstances cou'd be any Avay inferrd
from an eclipse (which is the foundation of the
story) nor that a clearer revelation shou'd be made
of those things to the Irish Druids, than to the
Jewish prophets : and, finally, by shewing, that
Conchobhar dy'd quietly in his bed fifteen years
after the crucifixion of Christ. Bacrach, how-
ever, was a great man, and the king himself had
a Druid for his step-father and instructor.

XVI. It can be no wonder, therefore, that men
thus sacred in their function, illustrious in their
alliances, eminent for their learning, and honour'd
for their valor, as well as dreaded for their power
and influence, should also be memorable both in

* Ogyg.


the poetry and- prose of ^heir country. And so
in fact they are, notwithstanding what Dudley
Forbes, before mention'd, did^ in a letter to an
Irish writer*, in the year 1683, affirm: namely,
that, in Patric's time no fewer than 180 volumes,
relating to the affairs of the Druids, were burnt
in Ireland. Dr. Kennedy saysf, that Patric
burnt 300 volumns, stuft with the fables and super'
stitions of heathen idolatry; unfit, adds he, to he
transtnitted to posterity. But, pray, how so : why
are Gallic or Irish superstitions more unfit to be
transmitted to posterity, than those of the Greecs
and Romans ? Why shou'd Patric be more squeam-
ish in this respect than Moses or the succeeding
Jewish pi'ophets, who have transmitted to all ages
the idolatries of the Egyptians, Phenicians, Cal-
deans, and other eastern nations? What an irre-
parable destruction of history, what a deplorable
extinction of arts and inventions, what an unspeak-
able detriment to learning, what a dishonor upon
human understanding, has the cowardly proceed-
ing of the ignorant, or rather of the interested,
against unarm'd monuments at all times occa-
sion'd! And yet this book-burning and letter-mur-
dring humor, tho' far from being commanded by
Christ, has prevail'd in Christianity from the be-
ginning: as in the Acts of the Apostles we read,

* O Flaherty.

f Dissertation about thefamili/ oftlue Stuarts, pref. pag« 29.



that ifittni; of them ithith believed, and us'd curims
arU, hf'oiight their books together, and burnt thent
Bsfdi-e all ifieii; and they counted the price of thetri,
Md found it fifty thousand pieces of silver*, or
about three hiltldred pounds sterling; This ^ras
the first itiistancie of btirnihg books atnotig chris-
tians; and fever since that tiilie the examjile has
been better foUdW'd, than dny precept of the gospel.
XVII. I^rom what tre have hitherto observ'd,
yoii see that our historians, iny lord, do (in spitfe
of all chances) abound with matter enough to re-
tive and illusttrate the memory of the Druids. Be-
sides that the rites and opinions of other nations
serve not only to give light to theirs, but were
many of them of Druidical ot Celtic extraction^
This no body will deny of the aboriginal Italians,
who haviiig been often over-run by the Gauls, and
luiving several Gallic colonies planted among them,
they partook both of their language and religion ;
as Avill be Very easily ovinc'd in our DissertatioUi
and has been already tolerably done by Father
Pezron in his Celtic originals. Diogenes Laer-
tius, in the proem oi his philosophical history, rec-
kons the Druids among the chief authors of the
barbarous theology and philosophy, long anterior
to the Greecs, their disciples : and Phurnutus, in
his treatise of the Nature of the Gods, says most
expressly, that " among the many and various

* Acts 19. 19.

QJf TUP DRUipS. 107

f3,l}|#.s whJcU the E^ntient Greecs had about the
GodSi some were 4mvetl from the Mages, some

from thp Egyptians and Gauls, others frpm the
Africans and Phrygians, and others from other na-
tions*: for Ayhich he cites Jlomer as a witness,
nor is there any thing that bears a greater witness
to itself. This, however, is not all : for, over and
above the several helps I have mention'd, there
are likeAvise numerous monuments of the worship
of the Druids, their valor, policy, and manner of
habitation, still remaining in France, in Britain, in
Ireland, and in the adjacent islands; many of 'em
intire, and the rest by the help of these easily con-
ceiv'd. Most are of stone, as the lesser ones are
of glass, and others of earth bak'd extremely hard.
The two last kinds were ornaments or magical
gems, as were also those of chrystal and agat,
either perfectly spherical, or in the figure of a !en-
till ; or shap'd after any of the other ways, which
shall be describ'd and portray'd in our book. The
glass amulets or ornaments are in the Lowlands
of Scotland, call'd Adder-stanes,'aind by the Welsh
Gleini na Droedh, or Druid-glass, which is in Irish
Glaine nan Druidhe, Glaine in this language sig-
nifying Glass, tho' obsolete now in the Welsh dia

* Ts Je mWiti x«i wowiXaj OTf 1 Bsm ytyarivai trapa toij vaXaioi; 'ETiXuri ituSovf
iftff, a>i a^^a( fA£v ziri ^ayo:^ yiyovaa-iVy ah'Kai ^£ Trap* A{;/u?moic nai KsXrotc, xets
Ai|3»iri, K»i iffufi, x«i Toif ttXXwc eSvsitj. Cap. 87. Thus the manuscript very
accurately; but the printed copy has rm; aKxa; 'E^^aa•l superfluously in the
end, and wants <tfv^, before, which is very essential,



led, and preserv'd only in this Gleini na Droedh.
But the more massy monuments shall, in a day or
two, be the subject of another letter from,

My Lord,

Your Lordship's most obliged.

And very humble Servant.
June Hi 1718.







I. Jr ERMIT me at this time, (my lord) according
to the promise with which I concluded my last,
to send to your lordship A specimen of the morm-
ments relating to the Druids, that are still extant,
either- intire or imperfect. I have ever indeavor'd
to avoid deserving the blame, with which an ap-
prov'd author charges those, who, while verj con-
versant in the history of other places, appear to
be absolute strangers in their own country; and
as I know no man better versed in foren affairs,
or in our own, (which an able statesman will nev^r
separate) nor a greater master of antient or modern
history than yourself; so I am apt to hope, that
the collection of Brittish and Irish antiquities I
here take the liberty to present to your lordship,
may not prove altogether disagreeable. The
French examples (a few excepted) I reserve for the
larger work, and in the mean time I precede.


On the tops of mountains and other eminences- in
Ireland, in Wales, in Scotland, in the Scottish
fends and the He of IMan, (where things have
been least disorder'd or displac'd by the frequency
of inhabitants, or want qf better ground for culti-
vation) there are? great heaps of stones, like the
mei-curial* lieapsf of theGreecs, whereof when we
treat of the Celtic Mejrpury in particular. The
heaps, which make my present subject, consist of
»tones of all isorts, from one pound to a hundred.
They are round in form, and somewhat tapering
or diminishing upwards ; but on the summit was
l»I«rays a flat stone, for a use we 0k^\l preseatly
ei^Iain. These heaps are of all bignesses, some
ei 'em containing at least a hufldf ed caydpfuj of
stones y and if any of 'em be grown over with earth,
"tis purely accidental in the long course of time
whei'in they have beej^ uegiecte4; for BO such
tiling was intended irj the first making of them, &s
iu the sepulchral barrows of the Gothjp ^atjofts,
which are generally of earth. Such a heap is in
the antient Celtic language, and Jn every 4i^epi
of it, call'd Cam, and every earn sq di^pos'4, as to
be in sight of some other. Yet they are very dif^
ferent from the rude apd mux;h smaller pyrarpids,
which the old Irish erect along tlie roads in me-
Morj of the dead, by them caU'd t^e(iph4(t, w4

* ITfiiwfMpsuotKri Jb rovi i-iSmt t)i; 'Ejij«ai,- ixa^a: tot xxfu:r>rj : EV> Ti»» utrmt
-TMrE^siC, &c. Pbnrnnt. de Nat. Dear, cap, 16,
t 'i-fnaut, i, «, Acci'vi Mercuiisles,


hiade of the fil"st stones that offer. Frdft[, the do-
vbtiondl rOuhds petforra'd about the earns in times
of heathenism, and which, as we shall see anon,
are yet continil'd in xtikay places of the Scottish
Highlands and the Hebrides, any circle, or turn-
itig about, is in Armorid call'd cern^, as cerna in
that dialect is to make such a turn. On the earn
Gaird Ctig-y-dyf-n, ih the parish of Tre'Iedh in
Caermarthenshirej the flat stone on the top is
tht-ee yards in length, five foot over, and from ten
to twelve inches thick. The circumference of this
earn at the bottom is about sixty yards, and 'tis
about six yards high ; the ascent being very easy,
tho' I suppose there was originally a ladder for
this purpose.

II. Let this earn serve fot an example of the
rest, as to their form and bulk ; only we may take
notice here by the way, what odd imaginations
men are apt to have of things they do not under-
statid. Thus Mr. William Sacheverellj governor
of the He of Man under the right honorable the earl
of Defby, in part of King William's reign^ mistaking
these earns t hi his description of that iland, " The
tops of the mountains (says he) seem nothing but
the riibbish of nature, thrown into barren and un-
fruitful heaps, as near two thirds of the iland are
of this sort. Some seem particularly worthy our
remark, as the two Barotvls, Skeyall, the watch-

* C is pronoOnc'd 38 K. + Page 13.


hill of Knock-U'low : but particularly Sneafeld,
where it is not unpleasant (continues he) when the
weather is clear and serene, to see three noble na-
tions surrounding one of the most obscure in the
universe: which is, as it were, the center of the
Brittish empire." These heaps our author thought
the work of chance, tho' artfully contriv'd in all
the Celtic countries; as Dr. Martin thought a
earn in the ile of Saint Kilda, whereof presently,
to be a signal effect of Providence : But as for the
Mannian nation (which is visibly the center of the
Brittish world) it is very undeservedly become ob-
scure, whether we consider what has been transact-
ed in former ages, it having been the theater of many
surprizing revolutions: or the particular usages
in religious and civil affairs, that even now obtain
there, especially their laws, which still continue
luostly unwritten (for which reason they call 'em
JBreast-laws) being without expense or delay, and
imdoubted remains of the justice of the Druids.
For, wherever they were not themselves a party,
neither the Egyptians, nor Persians, nor Greecs,
nor Romans, did surpass the wisdom, equity, and
strictness of the Druids in the sanction or execu-
tion of their laws ; which made all sorts of men
leave their controversies of every kind to their de-
termination, without any further appeal. Nor
without some regard in fact, and a vast deal more
in profession, to moral virtue, cou'd any set of im-
p«, stors in any country possibly support their false


doctrines and superstitious observances; which
receive credit from hence, as the teachers of 'em
do all their power and authority, in proportion to
the austerities they practise, or the appearances
they have of devotion. I say appearances, because
this in most, join'd to real self-denial in a few
(who by the rest are deem'd silly tho* useful crea-
tures) will long uphold an institution both erro-
neous and tyrannical : which is the reason that, to
this hour, the memory of the Druids is highly ve-
nerable among those of the lie of Man ; . and that
their laws are infinitely preferr'd to all others by
the Manksmen, who say the family of Derby
comes nearest their excellence of any race of men
now in the world. Wherefore, as well in these
regards, as in many others essential to my design,
I shall, in the body of the history, give a true idea
of the past and present customs of this antient,
tho' mixt people. Their numerous earns, of whose
origin anon, are not the onely monuments they
have of the Druids. But that the chief college
of these philosophers was ever establish'd there,
and mvich less any such college appointed by the
kings of Scotland (as Hector Boethius feign'd) I
shall demonstrate to be pure romance: and at the
same time will not fail doing justice to the memory
of the great hero and legislator of the iland, Ma-
nannan ; reported, after the manner of those ages,
to have been the son of Lear*, or th-e god of the

* Manannan mhac Leir.


sea, from his extraordinary skill in navigation and
commerce. He was truely the son of Alladius*,
who was of royal blood, and his own name Orbsen ;
but call'd Manannan from his country, and kill'd
by one Ullin near Galway, in Ireland: of all which
the particulars will be given in their proper place,
especially the republic of Manannan; who, from
his instruction by the Druids, was reputed a con-
summate magician, and was indeed most happy
in stratagems of war both by land and sea. Mr.
Sacheverell, except in affirming Manannan (whom
he misnames Mannan) to have been the father,
founder, and legislator of the islandlf, is out in
every thing he says concerning him : for, instead
of living about the beginning of the fifth century,
he liv'd as many centuries before Christ; and so
cou'd not be contemporary with Patric, the apostle
of Man as well as Ireland. Neither was Manan-
nan the son of a king of Ulster, nor yet the brother
of Fergus II J:, king of Scotland: and as for his
not being able to get any information what became
of him, I have already told that he was kill'd in
Ireland, and by whom.

III. In process of time the earns, to which we
now return, serv'd every where for beacons, as
many of them as stood conveniently for this pur-
pose: but they were originally design'd, as we are
now going to see, for fires of another nature. The
fact stood thus. On May-eve the Druids made

* Allaid. + Page 20. + ibid.


prodigious fires on those earns, which being every
one (as we said) in sight of some other, cou'd not
but aflFord a glorious show over a whole nation.
These fires were in honour of Beal or Bealan, la-
tiniz'd by the Roman authors into Belenus*, by
which name the Gauls and their colonies under-
stood the Sun: and, therefore, to this hour the first
day of May is by the aboriginal Irish call'd La
JBealteine, or the day of l^elen'sjire f. I remem-
ber one of those earns on Fawn-hill within some
miles of Londonderry, known by no other name
but that of Bealteine, facing another such earn on
the top of Inch-hill : and Gregory of Tours, in his
book de Gloria Confessorum, mentions a hill J of
the same name§ between Artom and Riom in
Auvergne in France, from which Riom might be
fairly view'd. But tho' later writers afiirm with
Valesius, in his Galliarum notUia, this hill to be
now miknown; yet Belen's heap on the top of it,
is a sure mark whereby to discover it. His cir-
cular temple, as we shall see hereafter, is still
there, (if not the earn) having certainly existed in
Gregory's time. Abundance of such heaps remain
still on the mountains in France, and on the Alps.

* Ilerodian. Auson, Capitolin. Tertul. &c. Videantur etiam
Gruter. et Reines. ia inscriptionibus,

i Etiam BealUaine, & antiquitus Beltine.

X Cum [ex Artonensi vico\ venisset in cacutnea mentis Bele.
natdnsis, de quo vici Ricomagensis positio coatemplatur, vidit
hos, &c. De Gloria Confessor^ cap. 5,

§ Mans Beknatensis.



Those writers, however, are not to be blam'd, as
being strangers to the origin or use of such heaps;
and not able to distinguish them from certain
other heaps, under which robbers and traitors
were bury'd. These last are call'd in general by
the Welsh Canv-Vraduyr and Carn-Lhadron* ; or
particularly after the proper names of the underly-
ing criminals, as Carnedh-Leuelyn, Carnedh-Da-
vid, and such like. As far from Auvergne as the
iland of Saint Kilda, in the 58th degree of north-
ern latitude, there is another hill denominated from
Belenus (which more consonant to the Celtic idiom
Herodianf writes Beliii) corruptly call'd OtteV'
Veaul'^, or Helens heigth; on which is a vast heap,
whereof Doctor Martin^ in his account of that
iland, did not know the use, as I said before §:
but the earn being on the hill just above the land-
ing place, he thinks it so order'd by providence;
that by rouling down these stones, the inhabitants
might prevent any body's coming ashore against
their will. In the church of Birsa (near which
stands a very remarkable obelise) at the west end
of the iland call'd Pomona, or the mainland, in
Orkney, there is an erect stone, with the v>'ord
Sclus inscrib'd on it in antient characters. Yet
whether this be any remembrance of Belenus (bet-
ter according to the Irish idiom Belus) or be the

* Traitor and thief s earn: in Irish Cam^bhrateoir Sf Cam an

+ Lib. 8. cap. 7. % Uachdar Bheil. § Page 1 12.


monument of a native prince so call'd, I shall not
here decide. The fact itself is told us by Mr.
Brand*, in his description ofOrlcney and Zetland.
I wish he had also told us, of what kind those an-
tient characters are, or that lie had exactly copy'd
them: and if there be a man's portraitiu-e on the
stone, as Dr. Martin affirms f, the dress and pos-
ture will go a great way towards clearing the

IV. But to make no longer digression, May-day
is likewise call'd La Bealteine by the Highlanders
of Scotland, who are no contemtible part of the
Celtic offspring. So it is in the He of Man ; and
in Armoric a priest is still call'd JBelec, or the ser-
vant of Bel, and priesthood Belegieth. Two such
fires, as we have mention'd, were kindl'd by one
another on May-eve in every village of the nation
(as well thro'out all Gaule, as in Britain, Ireland,
and the adjoining lesser Hands), between which
fires the men and the beasts to be sacrific'd were
to pass; from whence came the proverb, between
JBeVs tivoJires'\., meaning one in a great strait, not
knowing how to extricate himself. One of the
fires was on the earn, another on the ground. On
the eve of the first day of November §, there were
also such fires kindl'd, accompany'd (as they con-
stantly were) with sacrifices and feasting. These
November fires were in Ireland call'd Tine tlacKd-

* Page 14. +Fage358. l/tfirdAo/AmeBheU. %Samhihmn.


gJia, from tlacJid-gha*, a place hence so call'd in
Meatb, where the Archdruid of the realm had
his fire on the said eve; and for which piece of
ground, because originally belonging to Munster,
but appointed by the supreme monarch for this
use, there was an annual acknowledgement (call'd
sgreaboll) paid to the king of that province. But
that all the Druids of Ireland assembl'd there on
the first of November, as several authors injudici-
ously write, is not only a thing improbable, but
also false in fact; nor were they otherwise there

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 7 of 31)