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The ruinous remains of a circular temple, near Dundalk, formed a part, it is supposed, of a great work like that at Stonehenge, being open, as we are told, to the east, and composed of similar circles of stone within.* One of the old English traditions respecting Stonehenge is, that the stones were transported thither from Ireland, having been brought to the latter country by giants from the extremities of Africa; and in the time of Giraldus Cambrensis there was still to be seen, as he tells, on the plain of Kildare, an immense monument of stones, corresponding exactly in appearance and construction with that of Stonehenge.t
The heathen Irish, in their feeling of reverence for particular stones and rocks, but followed the example of most of the Eastern nations; and the marvellous virtue supposed to lie in the famous Lia Fail, or Stone of Destiny, used in the election of Irish monarchs, finds a parallel in the atizoe,f or silvery stone of the Persians, to which a similar charm, in the choice of their kings, used to be attributed by the Magi. Those monuments, too, known by the name of Rocking Stones, and found in Ireland as well as in Cornwall and Wales, appear in some respects to resemble that sort of natural or artificial wonders, which the Phænicians held sacred, under the name of Bætyli, or animated stones. These they declare to have been fabricated by the god Ouranos, or Heaven, the deity wor. shipped by the Samothracians, and also, under the title of Samhin, or Heaven, by the Irish. That these stones, which moved, it is said, as if stirred by a demonill-formed a part of the idolatrous ceremonies of the East, may be concluded from the mention of them, by some ancient writers, as having been seen at that great seat of sun-worship, Heliopolis, or the ancient Balbic. In some instances it would appear that the Bætyli were, in so far, unlike the mobile monument of the Druids, that they were but small and portable stones, worn by the religious as amulets. T There were also, however, some answering exactly to the description of the Druidical rocking-stones, as appears from the account given in Ptolemy Hephæestion, an author cited by Photius, of a vast Gigonian store, as he calls it, which stood on the shores on the ocean, and which, though it might be stirred by the stalk of an asphodel, no human force could remove. It is rather remarkable, too, that, as we learn from a passage of Apollonius Rhodius,tt not only was this delicate poise of the stone produced sometimes, as among the Druids, by art, but a feeling of sacredness was also attached to such productions, and they were connected, as in the Druidical ritual, with interment.
* The remains, according to Wright, of a temple or theatre. “ It is enclosed on one side with a rampart or ditch, and seems to have been a very great work, of the same kind with that of Stonehenge, in Eng. land."-Louthiana.
† Unde et ibidem lapides quidam aliis simillimi similique modo erecti, usque in hodiernum conspiciunter. Miruin qualiter tanti lapides, tot etiam, &c. &c.- Topograph. Hibern., c. 18.
“ Atizoen in India et in Perside ac Ida monte nasci tradit, argenteo nitore fulgentem ...: riam Magis regem constituentibug."- Plin. lib. xxxvii, c. 54. See also Boethius, de Gemmis. In Borlase's Antiquities of Cornwall, the name of this stone is printed incorrectly Artizoe, and as no reference is given to the passage of Pliny where it is mentioned, the word has been taken on trust from Borlase by all succeeding writers. Among others, General Vallancy has amusingly founded on the typographical error one of his ever ready etymologies. “Now, Art in Irish signifying a stone as well as Cloch, the name of this stone of oint. meut, viz. Artdusaca, may have been corrupted by Pliny into Artizoe of the Persians."-Vindic. Ancient Hist. of Ireland, chap. ii. sect. 2.
και Ετι δε επενοησε Θεος Ουρανος βαιτυλια λιθους εμψυχους μηχανησαμενος.-Philo. Byδι. Stukeley, in his zeal to claim for the Druids some knowledge of the magnetic needle, supposes these moving stones, attri. buted by Sanconiatho to Ouranus, to have been inagnets. - Abury Described, chap. 16. “It was usual (among the Egyptians) to place
with much labour one vast stone upon another for a religious memorial. The stones they thus placed they oftentimes poised so equally that they were affected with the least external force ; nay, a breath of wind would sometimes make them vibrate."-Bryant, Anal Mythol. vol. iii. The following accurate description of a Bocking Stone occurs in Pliny:-"Juxta Harpasa oppidum Asiæ cautes stat horrenda, uno digito mobilis: eadem, si toto corpore impellatur, resistens.” Lib. ii cap. 38.
| Εγω μεν ωμην θειοτερον είναι το χρημα του μαιτυλου' ο δι Ισιδωρος δαιμονιον μαλλον ελεγεν ειναι γας qoyce dil nors TOV XIVOUATA AUTOV.- Vila Isidori, apud Photium. But though Isidorus, according to this statement of his biographer Damascius, imagined some demon to be stirring within the stone, it is gravely explained that he did not suppose it to be of the class of noxious demons, nor yet one of the immaterial and pure.
1 Sometimes, however, as in the case of that Bætylos which formed the statue of Cybele, and was supposed to have fallen from heaven, they must have been of a larger size. See Remarques d l'Abbé Banier, vol. v. p. 241.; as also a Dissertation sur les Bætyles, by M. Falconet, Mémoires de l'Académie, tom. vi. ** Phot. lib. iii.- -αψ αγιoντας. .
++ Τηνω ενα αμφιευτη πεφνεν, και αμησατο γαιαν
Αμφ' αυτοις' στηλας τε δυω καθαπερθεν ετιυξεν,
With wondering gaze,) it stirs at every breeze!
The sacred Hills and Tumuli of the Irish were appropriated to a variety of purposes; for there the sacrifice was offered by the priest, from thence the legislator or judge promulgated his decrees, and there the king, on his inauguration, was presented with the Wand of Power. Of these consecrated high places,* the most memorable was the Hill of Usneach, in West Meath, as well from the National Convention of which it was frequently the scene, t as because upon its summit, the limits of the five Provinces of Ireland touched; and, in like manner as the field of Enna was called “the navel of Sicily,"I and the site of the Temple of Delphi "the navel of the earth," so the stone which marked this common boundary of the five Provinces into which the island was then divided, was termed the “navel of Ireland.”|| Here the Druids, on solemn occasions, were accustomed to hold their meetings;T according to the practice of their Gaulish brethren, who, as we learn from Cæsar, used to assemble annually on the confines of the Carnutes, in a place accounted to be the centre of all Gaul, and there, consulting upon all controversies referred to them, pronounced decrees which were universally obeyed.**
In the peculiar sacredness attached to the Hill of Usneach, as the common limit of the five Pronvinces, we recognise that early form of idolatry which arose out of the natural respect paid to boundaries and frontiers, and which may be traced throughout the ancient superstitions of most countries. Hence mountains, those natural barriers between contiguous nations, first came to be regarded with reverence; and it has been shown,tt that the Holy Mountains of the ancient Greeks, Asiatics, and Egyptians, were all of them situated upon marches or frontier grounds. When artificial limits or Terminift came to be introduced, the adoration that had long been paid to the mountain, was extended also to the rude stone, detached from its mass, which performed conventionally the same important function. From this reverence attached to boundaries, the place chosen by the Gaulish Druids, for their meetings, derived likewise its claim to sacredness, being on the confines of that tribe of Celts, called the Carnutes.
Whenever an Irish King, or Chief, was to be inaugurated on one of their Hills, it was usual to place him upon a particular stone, I $ whereon was imprinted the form of their first Chieftain's foot, and there proffer to him an oath to preserve the customs of the country. “There was then," says Spenser, who had himself witnessed the election of an Irish Dynast in this manner, "a wand delivered to him by the proper officers, with which in his hand, descending from the stone, he turned himself round, thrice forward and thrice backward."'|||| In an account of the ceremonies performed at the initiation of the Kings of Tirconnel, we are told that, in presenting the new king with the wand, which was perfectly white and straight, the Chief who officiated used this form of words,—“Receive, O King ! the auspicious badge of your authority, and remember to imitate, in your conduct, the staightness and whiteness of this wand.”
• The worship of mountains, hills, and rivers, among the ancient Britons, is mentioned by Gildas, "montes ipsos aut colles aut fluvios
quibus divinus honour à cæco tunc populo cumulabatur," c. 2.; and that such superstition was not peculiar to the Celtic tribes, appears from the laws which, down to the eleventh century, probibited the Anglo-Saxons from worshipping the tree, the rock, the stream, or fountain.-See Palgrave's Rise and Progress of the English Commonwealth, part i. chap. 4.
† li cerlo anni tempore, in finibus Carnutum, quæ regio totius Galliæ media habetur, considunt in loco consecrato. Hic omnes undique qui controversias habent conveniunt, eorumque judiciis decretisque parent De Bello Gallico, lib. vi. cap. 13. Diodor. lib. v.
§ Strab. lib. ix. 1 In lapide quodam conveniunt apud mediam juxta castrum de Kyllari, qui locus et umbilicus Hiberniæ dicitur quasi in medio et medullitio terræ posilus.-Cap. 4.
1 " The Dynast, or Chieftain, bad certain judges under him, called Brehons, who, at stated times, sat in the open air, generally upon some hill, on a bench raised with green sods, where they distributed justice to the neighbours."-Ware, Antiquities of Ireland, chap. xi.
** Cesar, lib. vi. c. 13.
| Dulaure, Des Cultes antérieurs à l'Idolatrie, chap. 8. Among the Holy Mountains of Greece, this writer has enumerated nearly a dozen, all bearing the name of Olympus, and all situated upon frontiers. Chap. ix.
11 Such was the homage paid to this Deity of landmarks and boundaries, that when room was required for the temple of Jupiter Olympius in the Capitol, the seat of every god, except Terminus, was removed.
& The practice of seating the new king upon a stone, at his initiation, was the practice in many of the countries of Europe. The Dukes of Carinthia were thus inaugurated (Joan. Boem. de Morib. Gentium. lib. iii.) The monarchs of Sweden sat upon a stone placed in the centre of twelve lesser opes (Olaus Magn. de Riiu gent septent. i. c. 18.) and in a similar kind of circle the Kings of Denmark were crowned.-(Hist. de Danemarck.) In reference to the enormous weight of the stones composing this last mentioned monument, Mallet livelily remarks, "que de tout temps la superstition a imaginé qu'on ne pouvait adorer la divinité qu'en faisant pour elle des cours de force."
The practice of turning round the body, in religious and other solemnities, was performed differently by different nations of antiquity; and Pliny, in stating that the Romans turned from the left to the right, or sunwise, adds, that the Gauls thought it more religious to turn from the right to the left, lib. xxviii. c. 5. See the commentators on this passage of Pliny, who trace the enjoinment of the practice in question to no less authorities than Pythagoras and Numa. The Cells, according to Posidonius (apud Aihen. lib. iv.,) turned always to the right in worshipping.-Τους θεους προσκυνουσιν επι τα δεξια στρεφομενοι. This practice, under the name of Deasoil, or molion according to the course of the sun, is still retained in the Scottish Isles.-See Jamieson's Scottish Dictionary, Tolands History of the Druids, Borlase's Cornwall, &c.
So solemn and awful were the feelings associated with their Sacred Hills by the Irish, that one of their poets, in singing the praises of St. Patrick, mentions particularly, as a proof of his zeal and courage, that he "preached of God in the Hills and by the Sacred Founts.'*
With such tenacity, too, was transmitted from age to age the popular reverence for all such judgments as were issued from those high places, that so late as the time of Henry VIII. the same traditional feeling prevailed; and we have it on high authority that, at that period, the English laws were not observed eight days, whereas the laws passed by the Irish in their hills they kept firm and stable, without breaking them for any fee or reward.”+
Such of these Sacred Mounts as are artificial have in general been called either Barrows or Cairns, according as the materials of which they are composed may have been earth or stones; and both kinds, though frequently appropriated to the various purposes just mentioned, were, it is plain, in their original destination, tombs,—such as are to be found in every region of the habitable world, and preceded, as monuments of the dead, even the Pyramids themselves. I Among the Greeks, it was not unusual to erect a pillar upon the summit of the barrow, as in the instance of the tumulus of Elpenor, described in the twelfth book of the Odyssey, and still more memorably in that of Achilles, on the Sigean promontory, which is said still to bear traces of the sepulchral pillar, that once surmounted it. A similar form of memorial is mentioned by antiquaries as existing in different parts of Ireland,ộ and the great barrow at New Grange is said to have originally had a stone of considerable bulk upon its summit. Of the dedication of the Cairns and Barrows to the Sun,ll there are abundant proofs throughout antiquity; and as from Grian, the Celtic name of the sun, Apollo evidently derived bis title of Grynæus, so to Carne, the term, in Celtic, for these tumuli, his title Carneus is no less manifestly to be traced.
The veneration of particular groves and trees was another of those natural abuses of worship, into which a great mass of mankind, in the first ages, lapsed; and, as happens in all such corruptions of religion, a practice innocent and even holy in its origin soon degenerated into a system of the darkest superstition. It was in a grove planted by himself, that Abraham “ called on the everlasting God," and Gideon's offering under the oak was approved by the same heavenly voice, which yet doomed the groves of Baal that stood in its neighbourhood to destruction. T In the reign of Ahab, the period when Idolatry was in its most flourishing state, we find that, besides the priests of Baal, or the sun, there existed also a distinct order of priesthood, who, from the peculiar worship they presided over, were called Prophets of the Groves. ** In the religious system of the Celts is found a combination of both these forms of superstition, and ihere exist in Ireland, to this day, in the old traditions, and the names of places, full as many and striking vestiges of the worship of trees as of that of the sun. Though at present so scantily clothed with wood, one of the earliest vernacular names, this country Fiodha Inis, or the Woody
* Metrical Life of St. Patrick, attributed to his disciple Fiech; but evidently of a somewhat later period.
7" A Breviate of the getting of Ireland, and of the Decay of the same," by Baron Finglas, an Irishman, made Chief Baron of the Exchequer, in Ireland, by Henry VIII., and afterwards Chief Justice of the King's Bench.- Ware's Writers.
1 After comparing the primæval Celtic mound with the pyramidal heaps of the East, Clarke says, “In fact, the Scythian Mound, the Tartar Tépê, the Teutonic Barrow, and the Celtic Cairn, do all of them preserve a monumental form, which was more anciently in use than that of the Pyramid, because it is less artificial; and a proof of its alleged antiquity may be deduced from the mere circunstance of its association with the Pyramids of Egypt, even if the testimony of Herodotus were less explicit as to the remote period of its existence among northern nations.”-- Travels, vol. v. chap. 5. In the Travels of Professor Pallas may be found an account of the immense variety of these sepulchral heaps, some of earth, some of stones, which he saw in traversing the regions inhabited by the Cossacks, Tartars, and Mongul tribes.
$ See Gough's Camden, vol. iii.; King's Munimenta Antiqua, book i. This latter writer, in speaking of New Grange, says that it so completely corresponds with the accounts we have of the Asiatic Barrows of Patroclus and of Halyattes, and with the description of the Tartarian Barrows of the Schythian Kings, that in reading an account of one, we even seem to be reading an account of the other."— Book i. chap. 6. Rejecting as vague and unsatisfactory the grounds on which New Grange and other such monuments are attributed to the Danes, this well informed antiquary concludes, "We may, therefore, from such strong resemblance between primaval and nearly patriarchal customs in the East, and those aboriginal works in Ireland and Britain in the West, much more naturally in fer that these sepulchral barrows are almost with. out exception the works of the first race of sellers in ihese countries."-Ib. | Silius Italicus represents Apollo as delighting in the Cairn-fires.
"Quum pius Arcitenens incensis gaudet acervis."-Lib. v. 177. Among the different sorts of Cairns in Cornwall, there is one which they call Karn Leskyg, or the Karn of Burnings.
1 Gen. xxi. 33-Judges vi. 23-28. **"The Prophets of Baal four hundred and finly, and the Prophets of the Groves, four hundred."-1 Kings, xviii. 19.
Island, proves that the materials for tree worship were not, in former ages, wanting on her shores. The name of the Vodii, an ancient tribe inhabiting the southern coast of the county of Cork, signifies dwellers in a woody country,* and Youghall, formerly Ochill, is said to have been similarly derived. It appears that in general the old names of places, whether bills or plains, are found to be words implying forests, groves, or trees. The poet Spenser has commemorated the Ireland of his day as abounding in shade and foliage,f and we collect from Stanihurst that the natives had been accused of living savagely in the dark depths of their forests. It is, indeed, alleged, by competent authority,f to have been made evident from an examination of the soil, that, at no very remote period, the country must have been abundantly wooded.
The oak, the statue of the Celtic Jove, was here, as in all other countries, selected for peculiar consecration; and the Plain of Oaks, the Tree of the Field of Adoration,ll under which the Dalcassian Chiefs were inaugurated, and the Sacred Oak of Kildare, show how early and long this particular branch of the primitive worship prevailed.
By some antiquaries, who affect to distinguish between the Celtic and Gothic customs in Ireland, the mode of inaugurating the Dalcassian Chiefs is alleged to have been derived from the first inhabitants or Celts; while, on the other hand, the use of the Lia Fail, or Stone of Destiny, in the ceremony, was introduced, they say, by the later, or Scythic colonies. In this latter branch of the opinion, they are borne out by the ancient traditions of the country, which trace to the Danaans, a Scythic or Gothic tribe, the first importation of the custom. That the worship of stones, however, out of which this ceremony sprung, was a superstition common not only to both of these races, but to all the first tribes of mankind, is a fact admitted by most inquirers on the subject. The same may he affirmed of every branch of the old primitive superstition; and, therefore, to attempt to draw any definite or satisfactory line of distinction, between the respective forms of idolatry of the two great European races, is a speculation that must be disconcerted and baffled at every step. A well-known dogmatist in Irish antiquities, desirous to account, by some other than the obvious causes, for that close resemblance which be cannot deny to exist between the Celtic and Gothic superstitions, has had recourse to the hypothesis, that a coalition between the two rituals must, at some comparatively late period, have taken place. But a natural view of the subject would, assuredly, have led to the very reverse of this conclusion, showing that, originally, the forms of idolatry observed by both races were the same, and that any difference observable, at a later period, has been the natural result of time and circumstances.
* Quasi Britannicè dicas Sylvestres, sive, apud sylvas degentes.-Barter. Glossar. Antiquitat. Brit. Smith's County of Cork.
| Cantos of Mutability; where in describing Ireland, be speaks of "woods and forests which therein abound." In his View of the State of Ireland, also, speaking more particularly of the country between Dublin and Wexford, he says:-" Though the whole track of the country be mountainous and woody, yet there are many goodly valleys," &c. Campion likewise asserts, that the island was covered with forests; yet, so rapid must have been their destruction, that, not much more than a century afer Spenser and Campion wrote, we find Sir Henry Piers, in his Chorographical Description of the County of Meath, com. plaining of the want of timber of bulk, “ wherewith it was anciently well stored;" and recommending to parliament a speedy provision for “ planting and raising all sorts of forest trees."- Collectan, vol. i.
1“ I never saw one hundred contiguous acres in Ireland in which there were not evident signs that they were once wood, or at least very well wooded. Trees, and the roots of trees, of the largest size, are dug up in all the bogs; and, in the cultivated countries, the stumps of trces destroyed show that the destruction has not been of very ancient dale."- Arthur Young, Tour in Ireland.
και Αγαλμα δε Διος Κελτικον υψηλη δρυς.-Man. Tyr. Serm. 38.
1 Magh Adhair." A plain, or field of adoration or worship, where an open temple, consisting of a circle of tail straight stone pillars, with a very large flat stone, called cromleac, serving for an aliar, was constructed by the Druids, ... several plains of this name, Magh-Adhair, were known in Ireland, particularly one in the country now called the County of Clare, where the kings of the O'Brien race were inaugurated."-O'Brien's Irish Dictionary. It was under a remarkable tree on this plain that the ceremony of initiating the Dalcas. sian Kings took place. (O'Brien, in coce Magh bile.) In the Annals of the Four Masters for the year 981, there is an account of the destruction of this Sacred Tree.
For the origin of four of the great Dalcassian families, viz. the O'Bricos, the Mac Mahons, the O'Kennedys, and the Macnamaras, see Rer. Hiberniear. Script. prol. 1. 133.
The Druids, when known to the Greeks and Romans, had united the Celtic and Scythic rituals, and exercised their functions both in groves and caves."-Ledwich, Antiquilics of Ireland, p. 49.
THE DRUIDS, OR MAGI OF THE IRISH.
The religious system of the Pagan Irish having been thus shown, as regards both its ceremonies and its objects, to have been, many respects, peculiar to themselves, it remains to be considered whether the order of priesthood which presided over their religion did not also, in many points, differ from the Priests of Britain and of Gaul. Speaking generally, the term Druidism applies to the whole of that mixed system of hierurgy, consisting partly of patriarchal, and partly of idolatrous observances, which the first inhabitants of Europe are known to have brought with them in their migration from the East; and the cause of the differences observable in the rituals of the three countries where alone that worship can be traced, is to be sought for as well in the local circumstances peculiar to each, as in those relations towards other countries in which, either by commerce or position, they were placed. Thus, while to her early connexion with the Phænicians the Sacred Island was doubtless indebted for the varieties of worship wafted to her secluded shores, the adoption by the Gallic Druids of the comparatively modern gods of Greece and Rome, or rather of their own original divinities under other names, may, together with the science and the learning they were found in possession of by the Romans, be all traced to the intercourse held by them, for at least five hundred years before, with the colony of Phocæan Greeks established at Marseilles.
Of all that relates to the Druids of Gaul, their rites, doctrines, and discipline, we have received ample and probably highly coloured statements from the Romans. Our knowledge of the Irish Magi, or Druids, is derived partly from the early Lives of St. Patrick, affording brief but clear glimpses of the dark fabric which he came to overturn, and partly from those ancient records of the country, founded upon others, as we shall see, still more ancient, and so reaching back to the times when Druidism was still in force. With the state or system of this order, in Britain, there are no such means of becoming acquainted. It is a common error, indeed, to adduce as anthority respecting the British Druids, the language of writers who profess to speak only of the Druidical priesthood of Gaul; a confusion calculated to convey an unjust impression of both these bodies; as the latter,—even without taking into consideration their alleged conferences with Phythagoras, which may be reasonably called in question,-had access, it is known, through the Massilian Greeks, to such sources of science and literature, as were manifestly beyond the reach of their secluded brethren of Britain. Even of the Gaulish Druids, however, the description transmitted by the Romans is such as, from its vagueness alone, might be fairly suspected of exaggeration; and the indefinite outline they left has been since dilated and filled up by others, till there is scarcely a department of human knowledge with which these Druids are not represented to have been conversant. Nor is this embellished description restricted merely to the Gaulish priesthood, but given also as a faithful picture of the Druids of Britain; though, among all the Greek and Roman writers who have treated of the subject, there is not one—with a slight exception, perhaps, as regards Pliny,—who has not limited his remarks solely and professedly to Gaul.
The little notice taken by the Romans of the state of this worship among the Britons, is another point which appears worthy of consideration. Instead of being general throughout the country, as might have been expected from the tradition mentioned by Cæsar, the existence of Druidism appears to have been confined to a few particular spots; and the chief seat of its strength and magnificence lay in the region nearest to the shores of Ireland, North Wales. It was there alone, as is manifest from their own accounts, and from the awe and terror with which, it is said, the novelty of the sight then affected them," that the Romans ever encountered any Druids during their whole stay in Britain; nor did Cæsar, who dwells so particularly upon the Druids of Gaul, and even mentions the prevalent notion that they had originated in Britain, ever hint that, while in that country, he had either met with any of their order, or been able to collect any information concerning their tenets or rites. The existence still, in various parts of England, of
* Novitate aspectus perculere milites.- Tacit. Annal. lib. xiv. c. 30.