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to derive its name : stan being the Saxon for a stone, and heng to hang or support. From this circumstance it is maintained that Stonehenge is of the very latest ages of Druidism ; and that the Druids that wholly belonged to the ante-historic period followed the example of those who observed the command of the law :
“ If thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone : for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it.” (Exodus, chap. xx.)
It was long a controversy, idle enough as such controversies generally are, whether Stonehenge was appropriated to religious or to civil purposes. If it is to be regarded as a Druidical monument, the discussion is altogether needless ; for the Druids were, at one and the same time, the ministers of religion, the legislators, the judges amongst the people. The account which Julius Cæsar gives of the Druids of Gaul, marked as it is by his usual clearness and sagacity, may be received without hesitation as a description of the Druids of Britain : for he says, “the system of Druidism is thought to have been formed in Britain, and from thence carried over into Gaul; and now those who wish to be more accurately versed in it for the most part go thither (i. e. to Britain) in order to become acquainted with it." Nothing can be more explicit than his account of the mixed office of the Druids : “ They are the ministers of sacred things; they have the charge of sacrifices, both public and private ; they give directions for the ordinances of religious worship (religiones interpretantur). A great number of young men resort to them for the purpose of instruction in their system, and they are held in the highest reverence. For it is they who determine most disputes, whether of the affairs of the state or of individuals : and if any crime has been committed, if a man has been slain, if there is a contest concerning an inheritance or the boundaries of their lands, it is the Druids who settle the matter : they fix rewards and punishments : if any one, whether in an individual or public capacity, refuses to abide by their sentence, they forbid him to come to their sacrifices. This punishment is among them very severe; those on whom this interdict is laid are accounted among the unholy and accursed ; all fly from them, and shun their approach and their conversation, lest they should be injured by their very touch; they are placed out of the pale of the law, and excluded from all offices of honour.” After noticing that a chief Druid, whose office is for life, presides over the rest, Cæsar mentions a remarkable circumstance which at once accounts for the selection of such a spot as Sarum Plain, for the erection of a great national monument, a temple, and a seat of justice :" These Druids hold a meeting at a certain time of the year in a consecrated spot in the country of the Carnutes (people in the neighbourhood of Chartres), which country is considered to be in the centre of all Gaul. Hither assemble all from every part who have a litigation, and submit themselves to their determination and sentence.” At Stonehenge, then we may place the seat of such an assize. There were roads leading direct over the plain to the great British towns of Winchester and Silchester. Across the plain, at a distance not exceeding twenty miles, was the great temple and Druidical settlement of Avebury. The town and hill-fort of Sarum was close at hand. Over the dry chalky downs, intersected by a few streams easily forded, might pilgrims resort from all the surrounding country. The seat of justice which was also the seat of the highest religious solemnity, would necessarily be rendered as magnificent as a rude art could accomplish. Stonehenge might be of a later period than Avebury, with its mighty circles and long avenues of unhewn pillars ; but it might also be of the same period,—the one distinguished by its vastness, the other by its beauty of proportion. The justice executed in that judgment-seat was, according to ancient testimony, bloody and terrible. The religious rites were debased into the fearful sacrifices of a cruel idolatry. But it is impossible not to feel that at the bottom of these superstitions there was a deep
reverence for what was higin and spiritual : that not only were the Druids the instructors of youth, but the preservers and disseminators of science, the proclaimers of an existence beyond this finite and material world—idolaters, but nevertheless teaching something nobler than what belongs to the mere senses, in the midst of their idolatry. We give entire what Cæsar says of the religious system of this remarkable body of men :
“ It is especially the object of the Druids to inculcate this—that souls do not perish, but after death pass into other bodies ; and they consider that by this belief more than anything else men may be led to cast away the fear of death, and to become courageous.
They discuss, moreover, many points concerning the heavenly bodies and their motion, the extent of the universe and the world, the nature of things, the influence and ability of the immortal gods; and they instruct the youth in these things.
“ The whole nation of the Gauls is much addicted to religious observances, and, on that account, those who are attacked by any of the more serious diseases, and those who are involved in the dangers of warfare, either offer human sacrifices or make a vow that they will offer them; and they employ the Druids to officiate at these sacrifices ; for they consider that the favour of the immortal gods cannot be conciliated unless the life of one man be offered up for that of another : they have also sacrifices of the same kind appointed on behalf of the state. Some have images of enormous size, the limbs of which they make of wicker-work, and fill with living men, and setting them on fire, the men are destroyed by the flames. They consider that the torture of those who have been taken in the commission of theft or open robbery, or in any crime, is more agreeable to the immortal gods ; but when there is not a sufficient number of criminals, they scruple not to inflict this torture on the innocent.
“The chief deity whom they worship is Mercury; of him they have many images, and they consider him to be the inventor of all arts, their guide in all their journeys, and that he has the greatest influence in the pursuit of wealth and the affairs of commerce. Next to him they worship Apollo and Mars, and Jupiter and Minerva ; and nearly resemble other nations in their views respecting these, as that Apollo wards off diseases, that Minerva communicates the rudiments of manufactures and manual arts, that Jupiter is the ruler of the celestials, that Mars is the god of war. To Mars, when they have determined to engage in a pitched battle, they commonly devote whatever spoil they may take in the war. After the contest, they slay all living creatures that are found among the spoil ; the other things they gather into one spot. In many states, heaps raised of these things in consecrated places may be seen : nor does it often happen that any one is so unscrupulous as to conceal at home any part of the spoil, or to take it away when deposited ; a very heavy punishment with torture is denounced against that crime.
“ All the Gauls declare that they are descended from Father Dis (or Pluto), and this, they say, has been handed down by the Druids : for this reason, they distinguish all spaces of time not by the number of days, but of nights ; they so regulate their birth-days, and the beginning of the months and years, that the days shall come after the night.” *
The precise description which Cæsar has thus left us of the religion of the Druids -a religion which, whatever doubts may have been thrown upon the subject, would appear to have been the prevailing religion of ancient Britain, from the material monuments which are spread through the country, and from the more durable
. Cæsar de Bell. Gall., lib. vi. Our translation is that of the article “ Britannia," in the Penny Cyclopædia.
records of popular superstitions is different in some particulars which have been supplied to us by other writers. According to Cæsar, the Druids taught that the soul of man did not perish with his perishable body, but passed into other bodies. But the language of other writers, Mela, Diodorus Siculus, and Ammianus Marcellinus, would seem to imply that the Druids held the doctrine of the immortality of the soul as resting upon a nobler principle than that described by Cæsar. They believed, according to the express statement of Ammianus Marcellinus, that the future existence of the spirit was in another world. The substance of their religious system, according to Diogenes Laertius, was comprised in their three precepts—to worship the gods, to do no evil, and to act with courage. It is held by some that they had a secret doctrine for the initiated, whilst their ritual observances were addressed to the grosser senses of the multitude; and that this doctrine was the belief in one God. Their veneration for groves of oak and for sacred fountains was an expresion of that natural worship which sees the source of all good in the beautiful forms with which the earth is clothed. The sanctity of the mistletoe, the watch-fires of spring and summer and autumn, traces of which observances still remain amongst us, were tributes to the bounty of the All-giver, who alone could make the growth, the ripening, and the gathering of the fruits of the earth propitious. The sun and the moon regulated their festivals, and there is little doubt formed part of their outward worship. An astronomical instrument found in Ireland, is held to represent the moon's orbit and the phases of the planets. They worshipped, too, according to Cæsar, the divinities of Greece and Rome, such as Mars and Apollo: but Cæsar does not give us their native names. He probably found ascribed to these British gods like attributes of wisdom and of power as those of Rome, and so gave them Roman names. Other writers confirm Cæsar's account of their human sacrifices. This is the most revolting part of the Druidical superstition. The shuddering with which those who live under a pure revelation must regard such fearful corruptions of the principle of devotion, which in some form or other seems an essential part of the constitution of the human faculties, produced this description of Stonehenge from the pen of a laborious and pious antiquary, Mr. King S“ Although my mind was previously filled with determined aversion, and a degree of horror, on reflecting upon the abominations of which this spot must have been the scene, and to which it even gave occasion, in the later periods of Druidism, yet it was impossible not to be struck, in the still of the evening, whilt the moon's pale light illumined all, with a reverential awe, at the solemn appearance produced by the different shades of this immense group of astonishing masses of rock, artificially placed, impending over head with threatening aspect, bewildering the mind with the almost inextricable confusion of their relative situations with respect to each other, and from their rudeness, as well as from their prodigious bulk, conveying at one glance all the ideas of stupendous greatness that could well be assembled together.” And yet the “determined aversion and degreo of horror” thus justly felt, and strongly expressed, might be mitigated by the consideration that in nations wholly barbarous the slaughter of prisoners of war is indiscriminate, but that the victim of the sacrifice is the preserver of the mass. If the victims thus slain on the Druidical altars were culprits sacrificed to offended justice, the blood-stained stone of the sacred circle might find a barbarous parallel in the scaffold and the gibbet of modern times. Even such fearful rites, if connected with something nobler than the mere vengeance of man upon his fellows, are an advance in civilization, and they are not wholly inconsistent with that rude cultivation of our spiritual being which existed under the glimmerings of natural impulses, before the clear light of heaven descended upon the earth.
The Druidical circles in their uniformity of character present the indubitable
evidence that they were symbolical of the mystertes of the prevailing religion of the country. They were essentially religious edifices. They were probably, at the same time, what the Icelandic writers call Doom rings, or Circles of Judgment. That these monuments, in association with religious rites and solemn decisions, had a deep influence upon the character of our rude forefathers, we cannot reasonably doubt. They were a bold and warlike race, an imaginative race, not placing the sole end of existence in the consumption of the fruits of the earth, but believing in spiritual relations and future existences. Degrading as their superstitions might be, and blind their notions of the future, their belief was not a mere formal and conventional pretence ; it was a principle operating upon their actions. We have the express testimony of an ancient poet to this effect of the old worship of this land. Lucan, in a noble passage in the first book of the Pharsalia, addresses the Druids in the well known lines beginning “Et vos barbaricos.” The translation of Rowe is generally quoted : but it appears to us that the lines are rendered with more strength and freedom by Kennett, who translated the poetical quotations in Gibson's edition of Camden's Britannia :'
" And you, O Druids, free from noise and arms,
To spare a life that will so soon return." In reading this remarkable tribute to the national courage of our remote ancestors, let us not forget that this virtue, like all other great characteristic virtues of a community, was based upon a principle, and that the principle, whatever might be its errors, rested upon the disposition of man to believe and to reverence.
XIPHILINE. (From the Translation in the Monumenta Historica Britannica.') Among the Britons the two greatest tribes are the Caledonians and the Mæatæ ; for even the names of the others, as may be said, have merged in these. The Mæatæ dwell close to the wall which divides the island into two parts ; the Caledonians beyond them. Each of these people inhabit mountains wild and waterless, and plains desert and marshy, having neither wall nor cities nor tilth, but living by pasturage, by the chace, and on certain berries ; for of their fish, though abundant and inexhaustible, they never taste. They live in tents, naked and barefooted, having wives in common, and rearing the whole of their progeny. Their state is chiefly democratical, and they are above all things delighted by pillage ; they fight from chariots, having small swift horses ; they fight also on foot, are very fleet when running, and most resolute when compelled to stand : their arms consist of a shield and a short spear, having a brazen knob at the extremity of the shaft, that when shaken it may terrify the enemy by its noise: they use daggers also ; and are capable of enduring hunger, thirst, and hardships of every description : for when plunged in the marshes they abide there many days, with their heads only out of water, and in the woods they subsist on bark and roots; they prepare for all emergencies a certain kind of food, of which if they eat only so much as the size of a bean, they neither hunger nor thirst. Such then is the island Britannia, and such the inhabitants of that part of it which is hostile to us ; for it is an island, and so, as I have said, at that time was it clearly ascertained to be : its length is seven thousand one hundred and thirty-two stadia ; its greatest breadth two thousand three hundred and ten, its least three hundred.
Of this island very little more than one half is ours. Severus, therefore, being anxious to subjugate the whole, advanced into Caledonia ; and, in traversing the country, underwent indescribable labour in cutting down woods, levelling hills, making marshes passable, constructing bridges over rivers ; for he fought not a single battle, nor did he see any army in array. The enemy moreover threw sheep and oxen in our track, on purpose that the soldiers might seize them, and thus, being enticed farther onward, might be worn out by their sufferings. From the waters too they suffered dreadfully, and ambuscades were laid for them when dispersed. And if no longer able to proceed, they were dispatched by their very comrades, lest they should be taken ; so that by these means to the amount of fifty thousand of them perished. Still, however, Severus desisted not until he had nearly reached the extremity of the island, and most carefully examined the parallax of the sun, and the length of the days and nights both in summer and winter. And so, borne, as one may say, throughout the whole hostile district, for truly he was for the greater part carried in a covered litter on account of his weakness, he came again iuto the friendly part of it, having compelled the Britons to a treaty on the condition that they should yield up no small portion of their territory.
Antoninus also was cause of much grief to him and had even laid plots against him-and once when they went together against the Caledonians, that they might disarm them, and confer about treaties, Antoninus openly endeavoured to kill him with his own hand. They had gone out on horses, for Severus, although the soles of his feet had been punctured on account of disease, was nevertheless on horseback, and the rest of his army was following, and that of the enemy also was in sight. At this very juncture, Antoninus silently and dexterously checking his horse, drew nis sword, intending to strike his father in the back; but his companions observing this, shouted out ; and being thus startled at the noise, he desisted from his purpose. Severus also turned round at their clamour, and saw the sword, although he uttered not a word : but having ascended a tribunal, and performed whatever was incumbent on him, he returned to his tent.
But the islanders again revolting, having called together his soldiers, he ordered them to advance into their country, and to kill whomsoever they might meet there, making use of these words :
Of these let none escape destruction dire,