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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at that time, nor all at any time together in one
place, but as now all the clergy of England are
said to be present in their convocations — that is,
by their representatives and delegates. Thus
Cesar is likewise to be understood, when, after
speaking of the Archdruid of Gaule, he says that
the Druids -f, at a certain time of the year, assemhVd
in a consecrated grove in the country of the Car-
MN/f5 J, tvhich is reckoned the middle region of all
Gaule. But of these assemblies in their place.
On the foresaid eve all the people of the country,
out of a religious persuasion instill'd into them by
the Druids, extinguish'd their fires as intirely as
tlie Jews are wont to sweep their houses the night

* Fire-ground.

•I li IDmides'] certo anni tempore in finibus Carnutam, quae
reglo totius Galllae media habetur, considunt in luco consecrato.
De hello GallicOf lib, 6. cap, 13.

+ Now le Pais Chartrain, the place Dreux.


before the feast of unleavened bread. Then every
master of a family was religiously oblig'd to take
a portion of the consecrated fire home, and to kin-
dle the fire a-new in his house, which for the ensu-
ing year was to be lucky and prosperous. He
was to pay, however, for his future happiness,
whether the event prov'd answerable or not; and
tho' his house shou'd be afterwards burnt, yet he
must deem it the punishment of some new sin, or
ascribe it to any thing, rather than to want of vir-
tue in the consecration of the fire, or of validity in
the benediction of the Druid, who, from offieiating
at the cams, was likewise call'd Cairmach*, a
name that continu'd to signify a priest, even in the
christian times. But if any man had not clear'd
with the Druids for the last year's dues, he was
neither to have a spark of this holy fire from the
cams, nor durst any of his neighbors let him take
the benefit of theirs, under pain of excommunica-
tion, which, as manag'd by the Druids, was worse
than death. If he wou'd brew, therefore, or bake,
or roast, or boil, or warm himself and family; in
a word, if he wou'd live the winter out, the Druids
dues must be paid by the last of October, so that
this trick alone was more effectual than are all the
acts of parliament made for recovering our pre-

* This is the true origin of the word caimeach, as signifying
a priest i but not deriv'd, as men ignorant of antiquity fancy,
from QQroinemh, alluding to the crown.forsi'd tonsure of the
Monks, not near S(> old as this vrord.


sent clergy's dues; which acts are so many and
so frequent, that the bare enumeration of them
would make an indifferent volum. Wherefore I
cannot but admire the address of the Druids,
in fixing this ceremony of rekindling family-fires
to the beginning of November, rather than to May
or midsummer, Avhen there was an equal oppor-
tunity for it.

V. A world of places* are denominated from
those earns of all sorts, as in Wales Carn-LJiech-
art, Carn-Lhaid; in Scotland Carn-ivath, Carn-
tuUocIc, Drum-cairn, Glen-cairn; in Ireland Curn-
mail, Carn-aret, Carnan-tagher, Carnan-tober\ ; and
in Northumberland, as in other parts of the north
of England, they are sometimes call'd Laics or
Loivs, a name they also give the Gothic barrows.
The Lowland Scots call 'em in the plural num-
ber Cairns, whence several lordships are nam'd,
as one in Lennox, another in Galloway (to men-
tion no more) from which the surname of Cairns.
The family of Carne, in Wales, is from the like
original: but not, as some have thought, the O
Kearnys;}; of Ireland; one of which, Mr. John
Kearny, treasurer of Saint Patric's in Dublin, was
very instrumental in getting the Neic Tastament
translated into Irish, about the end of the last
century but one. As to this tire-worship, which

* The places are numberless hi all these couutries. + Carnan
is the diminutive of Cam, J Ccamaighf besides Ctathnr-


(by the Way) prevail'd over all the world, the Cel-
tic nations kindled other fires on midsummer eve,
vfhich are still continu'd by the Roman Catholics
of Ireland ; making them in all their grounds, and
carrying flaming brands about their corn-fields.
This they do likewise all over France, and in
some of the Scottish iles. These midsummer fires
and sacrifices, were to obtain a blessing on the
fruits of the earth, now becoming ready for ga*
thering; as those of the first of May, that they
might prosperously grow : and those of the last
of October, were a thanksgiving for finishing their
harvest. But in all of 'em regard was also had to
the several degrees of increase and decrease in the
heat of the sun ; as in treating of their astronomy,
and manner of reckoning time, we shall clearly
show. Their other festivals with their peculiar
observations, shall be likewise explain'd each in
their proper sections; especially that of New-
year's day, or the tenth of March (their fourth
grand festival) which was none of the least solemn :
and which was the day of seeking, cutting, and
consecrating their wonder-working, All-heal, or
misselto of oak. This is the ceremony to which
Virgil alludes by his golden-branch, in the sixth
book of the Aeneid, for which there is incontestable
proof, which we shall giVe in a section on this sub-
ject. 'Tis Pliny who says, that the Druids call'd
it, ia their language, by a word signifying All-



heal*; which word in the Armorican dialect is oU-
yachi in the Welsh olrhiach, and in the Irish uil-
iceach. Here, by the way, we may observe, that as
the Greecs had many words from the barbarians,
for which Plato in his Cratylus]', judges it would
be lost labor to seek etymologies in their own lan-
guage: so it is remarkable, that certain feasts of
Apollo were call'd Carnea'^t from the killing of no
body knows what Prophet Camus. Some said
that he was the son of Jupiter and Europa, kill'd for
a magician by one Ales : and others yet, that Cami
■was a common name for an order of prophets in
Arcanania. Apollo hiiriself was surnamed Car-
nus§; and, from him, May was call'd the Camean
month. Nay, there were Camean priests, and a
particular kind of music, which we may interpret
the Cairrirtunes, was appropriated to those festi-
vals in May, perfectly answering those of the Cel-
tic tribes. It is therefore highly probable, that
the Gfeecs did learn these things from the Gauls
their conquerors, and in many places seated
among them ; or from some of their travellors in
Gaule itself, if not from the Phocean colony at
Marseilles, We know farther, that the making of
hymns Avas a special part of the bards office; who

* Otnnia-sanantem appellantes suo Tocabulo, &c. Lih. 16.
eap. 44.

t El TIC ?""> rtuird xala tuv E^^.nwx>ly ^mrnv, »f toixsTstif x«t«i ; «XXa ftv nay
eteivOT, «* »f TO »«,«« ■tvy^ani », nvi» trt inrefoi ay. Inter opera, edit. Paris,
vtil. 1 . jiog'. 409.


by Strabo, are expresly term'd hymnTinaJcers* x
and I showed before, that the antient Greecs (by
their own ctwafession) leanat part of their philoso-
phy, and many of their sacred fables, from the
Gauls. So that this criticism is not so void of
probability, as maiay which pass current enough
in the world. However, I fairly profess to give it
enely for a conjecture; which I think preferable
to the farr-feteht and discordant accounts of the
Greecs ; who, in spight of Plato and good sense,
woai'd needs be fishing for the origin of every thing
in their own language. In the mean time it is not
tm worthy onr remark, that as prizes f were ad-
j.iirdg'd to the victors in this Carnkan music among
the Greecs: so the distributing of prizes to the
most successful poets, was not less usual among
the Gauls and their colonies ; whereof there is un-
deniable proof in the Brittish and Irish histories,
as will be seen in our section concerning the Bards.
VI. Another criticism relating immediately to
Apollo (for which I think this a proper fJace) 1
give as something more than a conjecture. In the
lordship of Merchiston, near Edinburgh, was for-
merly dug up a stone with an inscription to Apollo
Grannus; concerning which Sir James Dakymple
baronet, in his second edition of Cmnbden's des-
cription of Scotland, thus expresses himself after

t TiftoSsj; 1» K.»ptM »)iu!il^oi*sntt Ptafarcft. in Apopltthegm,



his author*. " Who this Apollo Grannus might
be, and whence he should have his name, not one
(to my knowledge) of our grave senate of antiqua-
ries hitherto cou'd ever tell. But if I might be al-
low'd, from out of the lowest bench, to speak what
I think ; I would say that Apollo Grannus, among
the Romans, was the same that ApoUon Akerse-
komesf, that is Apollo with long hair, among the
Greecs: for Isidore calls the long hair of the
Goths Grannos." This consequence will by no
means hold: for what are the Goths to the Ro-
mans, who exprest this Greec by intonsiis Apollo?
And since Goths speaking Latin had as little to
do in the shire of Lothian, it will not be doubted,
but that it was some Roman who paid this vow;
as soon as 'tis known, that, besides the man's name
Quintus Lusius Sabinianus, Grian, among the
many Celtic names of the sun\, was one, being

* This passage in Cambden is in the 897th page of Churchiirs
edition, anno 1695.

+ AffoXXcUV ttXEpff-£XO/A«ff : * item AHE^pEXOjUr^.

* Resides the sun's Teligious attribute of Bel, Beal, Belin, or
Belenus, it is call'd Hayl in Welsh, Haul in Cornish, Hcol in
Armoric; in all which the aspirate h is put for s, as in a world
of such other words : for any word beginning with ^ in the an.
tient Celtic, does in the oblique cases begin with h. Yet s Is
still retained in the Armoric Disul, in the Cambrian Dydhsycy
and the Cornubian Jpexil; that is to say, Sundaj/. It was for.
KCrly Diasoil in Irish, whence still remain Solus light, Soillse
clearness, Soillseach ht'ight or sunny, Solkir manifest, and seve.
ral more such. 'Tis now call'd Dia Domhnaigh, or Dies. Do-
mhikus, according to the general use of all christians.


the common name of it still in Irish : and that, from
his beams, Greannach in the same language signi-
fies long-hair d, which is a natural epithet of the
sun in all nations. There is no need therefore of
going for a Gothic derivation to Isidore, in whom
now I read Scots instead of Goths ; and not, as I
fancy, without very good reason. It wou'd be su-
perfluous to produce instances (the thing is so
common) to show that the Romans, to their own
names of the Gods, added the names or attributes
under which they were invok'd in the country,
where they happen'd on any occasion to sojourn.
Nor was this manner of topical worship unknown
to the antient Hebrews, who are forbid to follow
it by Moses in these words : " Enquire not after
their Gods, saying, how did these nations serve
their Gods? even so will I do lik^ise*." Grian
therefore and Greannach explain the Lothian f in-
scription very naturally, in the antient language of
the Scots themselves (spoken still in the Highlands

* Deut. 12. 80.

+ This inscription, as given us by Cambdeii from Sir Peter

Young, preceptor to King James VI. (for the Laird of Merchis-

ton's Exposition of the Apocalyps I never saw) runs thus :

Q. Lusius


Proc* * Procurator.

Aug* "Augasti.

V. S. S. L. V. M. * * Votum susceptum solrjt

iubent merit*.


and Western lies, as well as in Ireland) without
any need wf having recourse to Gothland, or other
foren countries.

VII. To return to our earn- fires, it was custom-
ary for the lord of the place, or his son, or some
other person of distinction, to take the ^itrails trf
the sacrific'd animal in bis hands, and walkii^
barefoot over the coals thrice, after the flames had
ceas'd, to carry them strait to the Druid, who
waited in a whole skin at the altar. If the nobie-
man escap'd harmless, it was reckon'd a good
ovnen, wekom'd with loud acclaniatitms: but if be
leceiivf'd any hurt, it was deero'd Hnlocky both to
the community and to himself. Thus I have seen
the people running and leaping thro' the St.
John's fires in Ireland, and not onely proud of
paissing unsing'd : but, as if it were some kind of
Instralion, thinking themselves in a special mannw
blest by this ceremony, of whose original never-
theless they were wholly ignorant in their imper-
fect imitation of it. Yet without being appriz'd
of all this, no reader, however otherwise learned,
can truely apprehend the beginning of the Consul
Flaminius's speech to Equanus the Sabin, at the
battle of Thrasimenus, thus intelligently related
by Silius Italicus*.

* Turn Soracte satum, prxstantem corpore et armis,
^qoanum Doscens; patrio cui ritus ki arro,
Dum pius Arcitenens incensls gaudet Acervis,
Exta ter ioTiocuos ktt^ portare per ignes :


Thm seelug Equaaus, near Soracte born,
In person, as ia arms, the comelyest youth :
Whose country manner 'tis, when th' archer keen
Divine Apollo joys in burning Heaps,
The sacred entrals thro' the fire unhurt
To carry thrice : so may you always tread,
With unscorch'd feet, the consecrated coals ;
And o'er the heat victorious, swiftly bear
The solemn gifts to pleas'd Apollo's altar.

Now let all the commentators on this writer be
consulted, and then it will appear what sad guess-
work they have made about this passage; which
is no less true of an infinite number of passages
in other authors relating to such customs : for a
very considerable part of Italy foUow'd most of
the Druidical rites, as the inhabitants of such
places happen'd to be of Gallic extraction, which
was the case of many Cantons in that delicious
country. But this is particularly true of the Um-
brians and Sabins, who are by all authors made
the antientest* people of Italy, before the coming
thither of any Greec colonies. But they are by
Splinus| from the historian Bocchus,by Servius^,

Sic in Apollinea semper vestigia pruna
Inviolata teras : victorque vaporis, ad aras
Dona serenato referas Solennia Phoebo.

Lib. 5. ver. 17S.
* Dionys. Halicarnass. Aotiq. Rom. lib. 1. Plin. Hist. Nat.
lib. 3. cap. 14. Flor. lib. 1. cap. 17, &c.

t Bocchus absolvit Gallorum veterum propaginem Umbros
esse, PoiyhiH. cap. 8.

% San^ Umbros Gallorum Vfiteram propaginem esse, Marcut
Antonius refert. /«/}*, li,MneU. unlefn.


from the elder Marc An4;ony, by Isidore* also and
Tzetzes f, in direct terras stil'd the issue of the an-
tient Gauls, or a branch of them: and Dionysius
Halicarnasseus, the most judicious of antiquaries,
proves out of Zenodotus, that the Sabins were
descendants of the Umbrians; or, as he expresses
it, Umbrians under the nanic of Satins'^. The rea-
son I am so particular on this head, is, that the
mountain Soracte§ is in the Sabin country, in the
district of the Faliscans about 20 miles to the
north of Rome, and on the west side of the Tyber.
On the top of it were the grove and temple of
Apollo, and also his carn||, to which Silius, in the
verses just quoted out of him alludes. Pliny has
pre^erv'd to us the very ^ name of the particular
race of people, to which the performing of the
above describ'd annual ceremony belong'd : nor
Was it for nothingthat they ran the risk of blistering
their soles, since for this they were exemted from

* Umbri Italix gens est, sed Gallorum veterum propago.
Origin, lib. 9. cap. 2.

t O/u^foi yiyti! raJMTuuv n raXsTwy. Schol. in LycophroD. Alex, ad ver,

i Za|3inu; i^ OftfffMm. Antiq. Rom, liii, 1.

§ Now Monte di San si/lvestro,

II Acervus,

f Haud procul urbe Romi, in Faliscorum agro famills sunt
paucas, quae vocantur Hirpias; quxque sacrificio annuo, quod
fit ad raoatem Soracte ApoUini, super ambustam ligni struem
ainbulautes, iion aduruntur : et ob id perpetuo senatus consults
militia;, aliorumque munerum, vacationem habent. Hist, Nat,
lib, 2, cap. 3. Idem ex eodem Solin, Pott/hiit, nap, 8.


serving in the wars, as well as from the expense and
trohle of several offices. They were called Hirpins.
Virgil, much elder than Silius or Pliny, introduces
Aruns, one of that family, forming a design to kill
Camilla, and thus praying for success to Apollo.

O patron of Soracte's kigh abodes,

Phebus, the ruling pow'r among the Gods !

Whom first we serve, whole woods of unctuous pine

Burnt on thy heap, and to thy glory shine :

By thee protected, with our naked spies

Thro' flames unsing'd we pass, and tread the kindl'd coals.

Give me, propitious pow'r, to wash away

The stains of this dishonorable day*.

Dri/den''i version.

A Celtic antiquary, ignorant of the origin of the
Umbrians and Sabins, wou'd imagine, when read-
ing what past on Soracte, that it was some Gallic,
Brittish, or Irish mountain, the rites being abso-
lutely the same. We do not read indeed in our
Irish books, what preservative against fire was us'd
by those, who ran barefoot over the burning coals
of the earns : and, to be sure, they wou'd have the
common people piously believe they us'd none.
Yet that they really did, no less than the famous
fire-eater, whom I lately saw making so great a

* Summe Deftm, sancti custos Soractis, Apollo,
Quern primi colimus, cui pineus ardor Acervo
Fascitur ; et medium, freti pietate, per ignem
Cultores multa premimus vestigia pruoa :
Da, pater, hoc nosttis aboleri dedecus armis.

Aen. lib. 11. ver. 786.


figure at London, men of penetration and iincor-
rupted judgemients will never question. But vvc
are not merely left to our judgements, for the fact
is sufficiently arrested by that prodigy of know-
ledge, and perpetual opposer of stipirstition, Mar-
cus Varro; who, as Serving on the above-cited pas-
sage of Virgil affirms *, desci-ib'd the very ointment
oj" which the Hirpins made use, hesineanng their
feet with it, when they ivalk'd thro' the fire. Thus
at all times have the multitude (that common prey
of priest and princes) been easily guU'd ; swallow-
ing secrets of natural philosophy for divine mira-
cles, and ready to do the greatest good or hurt,
not under the notions of vice or virtue ; but barely
as directed by men, ^vho find it their interest to
deceive them.

VIII. But leaving the Druids for a while, there
are over and above the cams, in the highlands of
Scotland and in the adjacent iles numberless Obe-
lises, or stones sfet up an end ; some 30, some 24
foot high, others higher or lower: and this some-
times where no such stones are to be dug, Wales
being likcM ise full of them ; and some lliere Are in
the least cultivated parts of England, with ^ery
many in Ireland. In most places of this last king-
dom, the common people believe these Obelises to

* Sed Varro, ubique Religionis espugnator, ait) cum quoddara
medicameDtum describeret, eo uti solent H1RPINI,^m« ambula.
tiiri per ignem, medicamento Plantas tingunt. Ad vtr. 787.
lib, 11. Atnuid.

OF TPE DRU11>S. 131

be men, transforw'd into stones by the magic of the
Pr^ids. This is j^lso the notion the vnlgar have
in Oxfardshiw of Jfiollmigi't stones, and in Corn-
waU of the hurlen; erect stones so caU'd, but be-
longing to a different class frow the Obelises, where-
of I now discourse. And indeed in every country
the ignorant people ascribe to the devil or some
supevnatural power, at least to giants, all works
which seem to them to excede human art or abili^
ty, Thus among other things (for recording their
traditions will have its pleasure as well as useful-
ness) they account for the Roman camps and mili-
tary ways, calling such the diveVs dt/kes, or the
bite: while the more reasonable part are persuad-
ed, that the erecf^ stones of which we speak, are
the monuments of dead persons, whose ashes or
bones are often found near them ; sometimes in
uims, and sometimes in stone-coffins.wherein scales,
hammers, pieces of weapons, and other things have
been often found, some of them very finely gilt or
polish'd. Dogs also have been found bury'd with
their masters. The erect stones in the midst of
stone-circles (whereof before I have done) are not
of this funeral sort ; nor does it follow, that all those
haye been erected in christian times, which have
christian inscriptions or crosses on them: for we
I'ead of many such Obelises thus sanctify'd, as they
speak, in Wales and Scotland. And, in our Irish
histories, we find the practice as early as Patric
himself; who, having built the church of Douach-



Patric on the brink of Loch-Hacket* in the county
of Clare, did there on three colosses, erected in the
times of Paganism, inscribe the proper name of
Christ in three languages: namely, Jesus in He-
brew on the first, Soter in Greec on the second,
and Salvator in Latin on the third. That Obelise
(if I may call it so) in the parish of Barvas in the
iland of Lewis in Scotland, call'd the Thrushel-
stone, is very remarkable; being not onely above
20 foot high, which is yet surpassed by many
others: but likewise almost as much in breadth,
which no other comes near.

IX. Besides these Obelises, there is a great num-
ber of Forts in all the iles of Scotland, very dif-
ferent from the Danish and Norwegian raths in
Ireland, or the Saxon and Danish burghs in Eng-
land: nor are they the same with the Gallic, Brit-
tish, and Irish Lios, pronounc'd Lis'\-^ which are
fortifications made of unwrought stones and unce-
mented, whereof there are two very extraordinary
in the iles of Aran, in the bay of Galway in Ire-
land. Dun is a general Celtic word for all fortifi-
cations made on an eminence, and the eminences
themselves are so call'd; as we see in many pai'ts
of England, and the sand-hills on the Belgic coast.
Yet Rath and Lis are often confounded together,
both in the speech and writing of the Irish. But

* Formerly Dornhnaclumor and Loch-seal.; a,
+ Lios in Irish, Les in Armoric, and Lhys in Welsh, signilu 5
In English a Court ; as LiS'Lnin, Lynscmrt.


the forts in question are all of wrought stone, and
often of such large stones, as no number of men
cou'd ever raise to the places they occupy, without
the use of engines; which engines are quite un-
known to the present inhabitants, and to their an-
cestors for many ages past. There's none of the
lesser iles, but has one fort at least, and they are
commonly in sight of each other : but the Diin in
St. Kilda (for so they call the old fort there) is
about 18 leagues distant from North Uist, and 20
from the middle of Lewis or Harries, to be seen
only in a very fair day like a blewish mist: but a
large fire there wou'd be visible at night, as the
ascending smoak by day. In this same He of
Lewis (where are many such DAns) there's north
of the village of Brago, a round fort compos'd of
huge stones, and three stories high : that is, it has
three hollow passages one over another, within a
prodigious thick tvall quite round the fort, with
many windows and stairs. I give this onely as
an example from Dr. Martin, an eye-witness, who,
with several others, mention many more such
elsewhere: yet (which is a great neglect) without
acquainting us with their dimensions, whether
those passages in the wall be arch'd, or with many
such things relating to the nature of the work;
and omitting certain other circumstances, no less
necessary to be known. I mention these forts,
my lord, not as any way, that I yet know, apper-
taining to the Druids : but, in treating of the mp-


iiuments truely theirs, I take this natural occasion
of communicating, what may be worthy of your
lordship's curiosity and consideration ; especially
whw, like Episodes in a poem, they serve to re-
lieve the attention, and are not \ery foren to the
subject. Considering all things, I judge no mo-
numents more deserving our researches; especi-
ally, if any shou'd prove them to be Phenician or
Massilian places of security for their commerce:
since 'tis certain that both people have traded
there, and that Pytheas of Marseilles (as we are
inform 'd by Strabo) made a particular description
of those ilands; to which Ces^r, among other de-
scriptions, without naming the authors, does
doubtless refer*. But my own opinion J think
fit at present to reserve.

X, From the conjectures I have about these
numerous and costly foi'ts, in ilands so remote
and barren, I pass the certainty I have concerning
the temples of the J)ruids, Avhereof so many ai'e yet
intire in those ilands, as well as in Wales and
Ireland; with some left in England, where culture
. has mostly destroy'd or impair'd such monuments.

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 8 of 31)