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The history of Great Britain : from the first invasion of it by the Romans under Julius Cæsar. Written on a new plan (Volume 1) online

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and that many more were dedicated to it by their pa-
rents (19). Upon the whole, therefore, we fhall pro-
bably not be very much miitaken, if we fupppfe, that
the Britiih Druids bore as great a proportion in number
to the reit of the people, as the clergy in popifh coun-
tries bear to the laity, in the prefent age.

DruiddT Beiides the Druids, the Britons had alfo Druideiles,

who affifted in the offices, and fhared in the honours and
emoluments of the priefthood. When Suetonius invad-
ed the iiland of Anglefey, his foldiers were ftruck with
terror, at the it-range appearance of a number of thefe
confecrated females, who ran up and down among the
ranks of the Britiih army, like enraged furies, with their
nairs diihevelled, and naming torches in their hands,
imprecating the wrath of Heaven on the invaders of their

(n) Toland's Hift, of the Druids, p. 71,72. Csefar de Bel. Gzh
1. 6. c. 13.

(rS) Strabo, 3. 4, (19) Cs-far de Bel. Gal. 1. 6. c. 13.


Ghap. 2. Sea. i. RELIGION. 97

country (20). The Druideffes of Gaul and Britain are
faid to have been divided into three ranks of claffes.
Thofe of the firft clafs had vowed perpetual virginity,
and lived together in fifterhoods, very much fequeftered
from the world. They were great pretenders to divina-
tion, prophecy, and miracles ; were highly admired by
the people, who confulted them on all important occafi-
ons as infallible oracles, and gave them the honourable
appellation of Sense, i. e. venerable women. Mela
gives a curious defcription of one of thofe Druidical nun-
neries. It was fituated in an ifland in the Britifh fea,
and contained nine of thefe venerable veftals, who pre-
tended that they could raife ftorms and tempefts by their
incantations ; could cure the moft inveterate dileafes 5
could transform themfelves into all kinds of animals *,
and forefee future events. But it feems they were not
forward in publifhing the things which they forefaw, but
chofe to make fome advantage of fo valuable a gift. For,
it is added, they difclofed the things which they had
difcovered, to none but thofe who came into their ifland
on fet purpofe to confult their oracle (21) : and none of
thefe, we may fuppofe, would come empty-handed.
The fecond clafs confifted of certain female devotees,
who were indeed married, but fpent the far greateft
part of their time in the company of the Druids, and
in the offices of religion ; and converfed only occafionally
with their hufbands ; who perhaps thought themfelveg
very happy in having fuch pious wives. The third clafs
of Druidelies was the loweft, and confifted of fuch as
performed the moft fervile offices about the temples, the
facrifices, and the perfons of the Druids (22).

Such were the minifters and teachers of religion among
the ancient Britons. It is now time to enquire what were
the religious principles and opinions which they taught.

The Druids, as well as the Gymnofophifts of India, T^ ol( * f
the Magi of Perfia, the Chaldeans of Aflyria, and all the rjruid*.
the othej priefts of antiquity, had two fets of religious
doctrines and opinions, which were very different from
one another. The one of thefe fyftems they communi-
cated only to the initiated, who were admitted into their
own order, and at their admiffion were folemnly fworn
to keep that fyftem of doctrines a profound fecret from

(20) Tacit. Annal. 1. 14. (ai) Mela, L 3, c. 2.

(a*) Gruttef.p. 62. Relig, de Gaul. I 1. c, 27

Vol. I. * H all


all the reft of mankind (23). Befides this, they took
feveral other precautions to prevent thefe fecret doctrines
from tranfpiring. They taught their difciples, as we are
told by Mela, in the molt private places, fuch as caves of
the earth, or the deepeft recefles of the thickeft forefts,
that they might not be overheard by any who were not
initiated (24). They never committed any of thefe doc-
trines to writing, for fear they mould thereby become
public (25). Nay, fo jealous were fome orders of thefe
ancient priefts on- this head, that they made it an inviola-
ble rule never to communicate any of thefe fecret doc-
trines to women, left they mould blab them (26). The
other fyftem of religious doctrines and opinions was
made public, being adapted to the capacities and fuper-
ititious humours of the people, and calculated to pro-
mote the honour and opulence of the priefthood.
Secret doc- It cannot be expected that we fhould be able to give a
gincsof the m i nu t e detail of the fecret doctrines of the Druids. The
Greek and Roman writers, from whom alone we can
receive information, were not perfectly acquainted with
them, and therefore they have left us only fome general
hints, and probable conjectures about them, with which
we muft be contented. The fecret doctrines of our
Druids were much the fame with thofe of the Gymno-
fophifts and Brachmans of India, the Magi of Perfia,
the Chaldeans of Aflyria, the priefts of Egypt, and of
ail the other priefts of antiquity. " Ali thefe are frequent-
ly joined together by ancient authors, as entertaining the
fame opinions in religion and phiiofophy ; which might
be eafily confirmed by an induction of particulars (27),
The truth is, there is hardly any thing more furprifing
in thehiftory of mankind, than the fimilitude, or rather
identity, of the opinions, inftitutions, and manners of
all thefe orders of ancient priefts, though they lived un-
der fuch different climates, and at fo great a diftance
from one another, without intercourfe or communication.
This amounts to a demonftration, that all thefe opinions
and inftitutions flowed originally from one fountain; thein-
ftructions which the foils of Noah gave to their immediate

(13) Mela, I, 3, c. 2. Diogen. Laert. in proem.

(24) Mela, 1. 3. c. a. Lucan. 1, I.

(25) Caefarde Bel. Gal, 1. 6. c. 13. (26) Strabo, 1. 1.
(17) Mela, Strabo, Diod, Sicul. Diogen. Laert. &c.


Chap. 2. Sea i. R E L I G I O N. 99

defcandants, and they to their pofterity ; many of which
were carefulfy preferved and handed down through a long
fucceffion of ages, by an order of men in every nation fet
apart for that purpofe. Though thefe ltreams of religi-
ous knowledge therefore flowed through different chan-
nels, into very diftant countries, yet they long retained
a ftrong tincture of their original fountain. The fecret
doctrines of the Druids, and of all thefe different orders
of prieifs, were more agreeable to primitive tradition
and right reafon, than their public doctrines ; as they
were not under any temptation, in their private fchools,
to conceal or difguife the truth. It is not improbable
that they frill retained, in fecret, the great doctrine of
One God, the creator and governor of the univerfe (28).
This, which was originally the belief of all the orders
of prieits which we have mentioned, was retained by
fome of them long after the period we are now confider-
ing, and might therefore be known to the Druids at this
period. This is one of the doctrines which the Brach-
mansof India are fworn to keep fecret : <s That there is
(t one God, the creator of heaven and earth (29)/'
Csefar acquaints us, that they taught their difcipies many
things about the nature and perfections of God (30)*
Some writers are of opinion, and have taken much learned
pains to prove, that our Druids, as well as the other or-
ders of ancient prierfs, taught their difcipies many things

concerning the creation of the world the formation of

man his primitive innocence and felicity — -and his fall

into guilt and miiery the creation of angels — their

rebellion and expulfion out of Heaven — the univerfal
deluge, and' the final deftruction of this world by fire :
and that their doctrines on all thefe fubjects were not
very different from thofe which are contained in the
writings of Mofes, and other parts of fcripture (31).
There is abundant evidence that the Druids taught the
doctrine of the immortality of the fouls of men ; and
Mela tells us, that this was one of their fecret doctrines
which they were permitted to publifh, for political rather
than religious reafons. " There is one thing which they

(28) Anguftin. de civitate Dei, 1. 8. c. 9*
(19) Francifc. Saver. Epift. de Brachman.

(30) Bel Gal. 1, 6. c. 13,

(31) Cluver. German, Antiq. 1. 1. c. 3a. j ■ -, *r •

H 2 *' tea,ck


<« teach their difciples, which had been made known to
« the common people, in order to render them more
" brave and fearlefs j viz. That fouls are immortal,
'< and that there is another life after the prefent (32)."
Cxfar and Diodorus fay, that the Druids taught the
Pythagorean doctrine of the tranfmigration of fouls into
other bodies (33). This was perhaps their public doctrine
on this fubject, as being moft level to the grofs concep-
tions of the vulgar. But others reprefent them as teach-
ing that the foul after death afcended into fome higher
orb, and enjoyed a more fublime felicity. This
was probably their private doctrine, and real fenti-
ments (34).
/. But however agreeable to truth and reafon the fecret

Snes of die doctrines of the Druids might be, they were of no
Druid*. benefit to the bulk of mankind, from whom they were
carefully concealed. A For thefe artful priefts, for their
own mercenary ends, had embraced a maxim, which
hath unhappily furvived them, that ignorance was the
mother of devotion, and that the common people were
incapable of comprehending rational principles, or of
being influenced by rational motives ; and that they were
therefore to be fed with the coarfer food of fuperftitious
fables.*' This is the reafon affigned by Strabo for the
fabulous theology of the ancients. " It is not poffible
u to bring women, and the common herd of mankind
<c to religion, piety, and virtue, by the pure and fim-
u pie dictates of reafon. It is necefTary to call in the aids
** of fuperftition, which muft be nourifhed by fables and
« portents of various kinds. With this view therefore
f< were all the fables of ancient theology invented, to
«' awaken fuperftitious terrors in the minds of the ig-
*« norant multitude (35). As the Druids had the fame
ends in view with the other priefts of antiquity, it is
highly probable that their public theology was of the
fame complexion with theirs ; confifting of a thoufand
mythological fables, concerning the genealogies, attri-
butes, offices, and actions of their Gods ; the various
fuperftitious methods of appeafing their anger, gaining

C 3 a) Mela, 1.3. c.1 1.

(33) Cxfar de Bel. Gal. 1. 6. c. 1 3. Diod. Sicul. 1. 5.

(34) Ainmian. Marcel. 1. 13. Lucan. 1, i. v. 45J, &c.

(.$$/ £&*/* their

Chap. 2. Sea. i. RELIGION. jot

their favour, and difcovering their will. This farrago
of fables was couched in verfe, full of figures and me-
taphors, and was delivered by the Druids from little emi-
nences (of which there are many ftill remaining^ to the
furrounding multitudes (36). With this fabulous divi-
nity, thefe poetical declaimers intermixed moral precepts,
for the regulation of the lives and manners of their
hearers ; and were peculiarly warm in exhorting them
to abftain from doing any hurt or injury to one another \
and to fight valiantly in defence of their country (37).
Thefe pathetic declamations are faid to have made great
impreffion on the minds of the people, infpiring them
with a fupreme veneration for their Gods, an ardent love
to their country, an undaunted courage, and fovereign
contempt of death (jfi). The fecret and public theology
of the Druids, together with their fyftem of morals and
philofophy, had fwelled to fuch an enormous fize, in the
beginning of this period, that their difciples employed,
no lefs than twenty years in making themfelves matters
of all their different branches, and in getting by heart,
that infinite multitude of verfes in which they were con-
tained (39).

How long the feveral nations who clefcended from The Gods
Gomer, the fon of Japhet, and in particular the ancient ofth ean-
Gauls and Britons, continued to worship only the one £^ n "
living and true God ; and at what time, or by what
means the adoration of a plurality of Gods was introduc-
ed amongft them, it is impoffible for us to difcover,
with any certainty ; though we have Sufficient evidence
that this change had taken place before the beginning of
our prefent period (40). It is highly probable, that this
fatal innovation was introduced by How degrees, pro-
ceeded from, and was promoted by the three following
caufes. The different names and attributes of the true
God, were miftaken for, and adored as fo many diffe-
rent divinities. The fun, moon, and ftars, the moft
ftriking and illuftrious objects in nature, were at firft
viewed with great veneration, as the moft glorious works

(36) Rowland's Mona Antiq.

{37) Id ibid. p. 253. Diogen. Laert. in Proem.

(38) Lucan. 1. j. v. 460, &c. Csfar de Bel. Gal. 1. 6.C. 13,

(39) Cnefar de Bel. Gal. 1. 6. c. 13. Mela, 1. 3, c. a.
(£0) Caefar de Bel. Gal, 1. 6. c, 13.

" and


and lively emblems of the Deity, and by degrees came
to be adored as Gods. Great and mighty princes, who
had been the objects of univerfal admiration during their
lives, became the objects of adoration after their deaths.
The Britons had Gods of all thefe different kinds, as will
appear from the following brief detail :

The Supreme Being was worfhipped by the Gauls and

Hefus. Britons under the name of Hefuz, a word exprefiive of
his attribute of Omnipotence, as Hizzuz is in the He-
brew (41). But when the worfhip of a plurality of
Gods was introduced, Hefus was adored only as a par-
ticular divinity, who by his great power prefided over
war and armies, and was the fame with Mars (42}. As
the Germans, Gauls, and Britons were much addicted
to war, they were great worfhippers of Hefus, when
become a particular divinity, from whom they expect-
ed victory ; and they paid their court to him by fuch
cruel and bloody rites, as could be acceptable only to a
being who delighted in the deftructien of man-
kind (43).

Teutates was another name or attribute of the Su-

Tentates, preme Being, which, in thefe times of ignorance and
idolatry, was worfhipped by the Gauls and Britons as
a particular divinity. It is evidently compounded of
the two Britifh words, Deu-Tatt, which fignify God
the parent or creator, a name properly due only to the
one true God (44) ; who was originally intended by
that name. But when thefe nations funk into idolatry,
they degraded Teutates into the fovereign of the in-
fernal world v the fame with the Dis and Pluto of
the Greeks and Romans (or, as others think, with
Mercury) ; and worshipped him in fuch a manner
as could be agreeable to none but an infernal
power" (45)..

(41) Pfat 24. v. 8.

(4a) Boxhorn. Orig. Gal. c. 1. p. n.

(43) Csiar de Be]. Gal. 1. 6. % 17. Lucan. 1. I. v. 445.

(44) Etquibus immitis placatur fanguine diro
Teutates : horreufque ieris altaribus Hefus.

Lucan. I. 1. ver. 445,
" (45) Baxter GlofT. Brit. p. 277. Casfar d<t Bel. GaJ. I, 6. c 18.
Diofivf, Halicar. i. 1. p. 16.


Chap. 2- Sea. i. RELIGION. 103

So tremendous and awful is the found of thunder, Taran is.
that all nations feem to have agreed in believing it to be
the voice of the Supreme Being, and as iuch it was no
doubt considered by the Gauls and Britons, as well as
by other nations, while they continued to worfhip
only one God (46). But when they began to multiply
their Gods, Taranis, fo called from Taran, thunder,
became one of their particular divinities, and was wor-
shipped alfo by very inhuman rites.

The Sun feems to have been both the moft ancient The Sun
^and mojft univerfal object of idolatrous worfhip ; info- u "der va-
much, that perhaps there never was any .nation of names
idolaters, which did not pay fome homage to this
glorious luminary. He was worfhipped by the ancient
Britons with great devotion, in many places, under the
various names of Bel, Beiinus, Belatucardus, Apollo,
Grannius, &c. all which names in their language were
expreffive of the nature and properties of that vulble
fountain of light and heat (47). To this illuftrious ob-
ject of idolatrous worfhip, thofe famous circles of ftones,
of which there are not a few {till remaining, feem to
have been chiefly dedicated : where the Druids kept
the facred fire, the fymbol of this divinity, and from
whence, as being fituated on eminences, they had a full
view of the heavenly bodies..

As the Moon appeared next in luftre and utility to the Th« Moon.
Sun, there can be no doubt, that this radiant queen of
heaven obtained a very early and very large fhare in the
idolatrous veneration of mankind. What Piodorus
fays of the ancient inhabitants of Egypt, may perhaps be
laid with equal truth of all other idolatrous nations.
w When they took a view of the univerle, and con-
K templated the nature of all things, they imagined
** that the Sun and Moon were the two firft and greateil
" Gods (48)." The moon, as we are told by Csefar (49),
was the chief divinity of the ancient Germans, out of
gratitude, it is probable, for the favours which they rer

{46) Et Taranis Scythicae non mitior ara Diana;.

Lucan 1, i. v. 446=
Job, chap. 40. v. 9. Pfalm. 29. 3, 4, 5.

-(47) Baxt. Gloff. Brit, p. 35, Korf. Erit. Rom. p. 206, z6i.
M'Pherfon's Differc. p. 313.
i.4S ) Dion, Sicui. 1. 1. , (49) Catfar, 1. 6. c. 21,

■ ceived


ceivcd from her lunar majefty, in their nocturnal and
predatory expeditions ; nor did they think it proper
to light, or engage in any important enterprize, while
this their protectrefs was in a ftate of obfcurity (50).
The Gauls and Britons feem to have paid the fame kind
of worfhip to the Moon, as to the Sun ; and it hath
been obferved, that the circular temples dedicated to
thefe two luminaries were of the fame construction, and
Gods of commonly contiguous (52).

Britain But a great number of the Gods of Gaul and Britain,

who had as we \\ as f . Greece and Rome, had been men, vic-
men * torious princes, wife iegiflators , inventors of ufeful
arts, &c. who had been deified, by the admiration and
4 gratitude of thofe nations which had loft the knowledge

of one infinitely perfect Being, who was alone intitled
to their fupreme admiration and gratitude (53). It is
even certain, that thofe deified mortals who were adored
by the Gauls and Britons were in general the very fame
perfons who were worfhipped by the Greeks and Ro^
mans. Thefe were Saturn, Jupiter, Mercury, and the
other princes and princeffes of the royal family of the
Titans ; who reigned with fo much luftre, both in Afia
and Europe, in the patriarchal ages (54). The only
queftion is, whether the Gauls and Britons, and other
Celtic nations, borrowed their Gods of this clafs, from
the Greeks and Romans, or thefe laft borrowed theirs
from them. To convince us that the Celtic Gods were
the originals, and thofe of the Greeks and Romans the
copies, it is fufHcient to obferve, that all thofe deified
princes belonged to the Celtse by their birth, and were
iovereigns of the Celtic tribes, who peopled Gaul and
Britain— that all their names were fignihcant in the CeU
tic language, and expreflive of their feveral characters— -
and that the Gauls and Britons, and the other nations
who were called barbarians, were much more tenacious
of the opinions and cuftoms of their anceflors, than the
Greeks and Romans, who difcovered a great propenfity

(50) Caefar, I. i.

(52) Martin's Defcription of the Weftern Ifles, p . 365,

(53) Cicero de Natnra Deorum, 1. 1, Diod, Sicui, i. 3. Caefar de
jkUGaL 1. 6 p. 17.

(54) Pezron Antiq. Celt. 1. 1. c. 9, 10, ii, 12, 13, 14, 15,.


Chap. 2. Sea. -i. RELIGION. 105

to adopt the Gods and religious ceremonies of other na-
tions (55). Of thefe deified princes who were worship-
ped by all the Celtic nations, and by many others, the
following were the moft illuftrious :

Saturn was one of the greater! of the Titan princes, Saturn,
and the fir ft of that family who Wore a crown, and af-
fumed the title of king ; his ancestors having contented
themfelves with that of chieftains (56). His name in
the Celtic language fignifies Martial, or Warlike, a name
to which he was well intitied, having dethroned his fa-
ther Uranus, fubdued his brother Titan, and extended
his empire over the greaeft part of Europe '5 7). Though
Cxfar doth not name Saturn among the Gods of Gaul
and Britain, yet there is lufficient evidence that he was
known and worfhipped in. thefe parts. Cicero fays, that
he was worfhipped chiefly in the weft (58) : and Dion.
Halicarnaflus directly affirms, that he was adored by all
the Celtic nations who inhabited the weft of Europe.
(59). .Saturn was reprefented as a cruel and bloody, as
well as a martial prince ; and his deluded worfhippers
feem to have imagined that he ftill retained thefe odious
qualities in his deified ftate ; for they endeavoured to
gain his favour by human victims (60).

Jupiter, the youngeft fon of Saturn, was ftill a greater Jupiter,
and more renowned prince than his father, whom he
dethroned. He fo far eclipfed his two elder brothers,
Neptune and Pluto, that they acted only as his vice-
gerents in the government of certain provinces of his pro-
digious empire. The true name of this illuftrious prince
was jow, which in the Celtic language fignifies young ;
he being the youngeft fon of Saturn, and having per-
formed very great exploits while he was in the flower of
his youth (61). To this name the Latins afterwards ad-
ded the word Pater (father), but ftill retained the true
name in all the ether cafes but the nominative. Jow or
Jupiter feems to have been a prince of great perfonal
accomplifhments, though in fome particulars not of very

(55) Dionyf. Halicar. 1. 7. p. 474.

(56) Tertul. de Corona, p. 17.

(57) Pczron Antiq. Celt, 1. i.e. Id.

(58) Cicero de Natura Deorum. 1. 3.

(59) Dion. Halicar. 1. i.e. 4. (60) Id, Ibid.
• (61) Pezron Antiq. Celt. 1, i.e. n, 12.



ftrict morals ; and as he reigned in prodigious fplendor
over an immenfe empire, we need not wonder that he
was extravagantly flattered during his life, and deified
(as was become the cuftom) after his death. The fame
high ftrains of adulation were addrefTed to him in his
deified ftate, and at length he came to be considered
by Greeks, Romans, Gauls, Britons, and many other
nations, as the greateft of all Gods, to whom they im-
pjoufly afcribed every divine perfection, as will appear
from the verfes quoted below (62).
Mercury. Mercury was the favourite fon of Jupiter by his coufin
Maia, and the molt accomplifhed prince of all the Titan
race.. He was fo much beloved by his father Jupiter, that
he gave him the government of the Weft of Europe in his
own lifetime. His name in the Celtic tongue was com-
pounded of the two words, Mercs, which Signifies mer-
chandize, and Wr, a man ; a name which was juftly
conferred upon him, on account of his promoting com-
merce, as well as learning, eloquence, and all the arts
in his dominions. It was on thefe accounts alfo, that in
his deified ftate he was efteemed the God of merchants,
orators, and artifts : and as thieves will fometimes thruft
themfelves into good company, they too claimed his
protection (63). The Gauls (and probably the Britons)
having enjoyed the benefit of the wife and good govern-
ment of this prince, their efteem and gratitude made
them regard him as their chief God (64).
Many other Belides thefe, there is fufticient evidence, that our
Gods, God- un k aD py anceftors, in thole times of ignorance, had ma-
ny other imaginary Gods, who had been real men, to
whom they paid religious homage j but there feems tc

(62) Primus cun&orum. eft et Jupiter ultimus idem :
Jupiter et caput et medium eft : funt ex Jove cun&a.
Jupiter eft terras bafis, et fteliatitis Olympi.
Jupiter et mas eft, eftque idem nympha perennis.
Spiritus eft cunclus, vajidufque eft Jupiter ignis.
Jupiter eft pelagi radix : eft iunaque folque.
Cun&oruni rex eft, princepfque et originis au<5tor,
Nam que firm occultans, dukes in iummis auras
Cun&a tulit : facro ver&ns rub pev&ore curas.

Apuleius de mundo, I) *«

(63) Perron Antiq, Celt. 1. 1. c. r4.
I64) Cstar de tie]. Gal. 1. 6. c. 17.


Chap. 2. Sea. I. RELIGION. ic 7

be little neceflity for making fuch a detail as this conv
plete (65). They worshipped alfo feveral female di-
vinities or Goddeffes 5 as Andrafte, who is fuppofed to

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