IN THE CEREMONIES OF THE CHURCH OF ROME.
THERE is no religion so
pure and simple, and yet so mystic and divine as the religion of the
Christians. What need is there of arguments to prove that it is derived
from heaven, for what mortal mind could have conceived so grand and
touching a principle, as that of a God who filled with love and pity could
descend from His throne of bliss and honor to save from destruction this
one poor star, this one faint mote in the vastness of His firmament.
To twelve men the dear
Jesus left his precepts and commands. From the children of these men and
of their disciples sprang a noble flock who, like their great Master,
suffered harsh words and cruel torments, and death itself in a holy cause.
When God rewarded them by
shedding peace upon the church from without, dissensions from within
played Satan's work with her chastity and her love. Swords were then drawn
for the first time by Christians against each other--swords which never
thence till now have been for a moment sheathed. The Christian religion is
divided into three established churches, the Church of Rome, the Church of
Greece, and the Church of England. Besides these, there are sects whose
origins have been abuse upon the one hand, and ambition upon the other
hand, and whose very titles it would occupy pages to enumerate. Between
the vulgar members of these three churches burns a heathenish and
diabolical hatred. Its root is jealousy. Each church affects to be the
only ladder to heaven, and damns all such souls as refuse to ascend by
them. They are barbarians and place themselves in the same scale with the
tribe of the Cherokee Indians, who firmly believe that the Black Hawks
will not be admitted to the pleasures of the happy hunting grounds because
they are not Cherokees. Between the doctrines and ceremonies of the Greek
and Romish Churches, there are but a few delicate and unimportant
distinctions. Yet the Patriarch of the Church, every Holy Thursday,
solemnly excommunicates the Pope and all his followers.
The Church of England, and
the Church of Rome worship the same Christ. Between these two churches, as
between two armies, is waged a scandalous, vituperative war, and each
fresh convert is a battle won.
The Romish Church was
sullied by many abuses, which authorized a schism and a separation among
its members. Since many of those plague-spots still remain, it is right
that this separation should continue. But a dark and dangerous heresy has
long been creeping silently into the heart of our religion, and converting
its ministers into false vipers who, warmed and cherished by the bosom of
this gentle church, use their increasing strength in darting black poison
through all her veins.
They wish to transmit to
our church those papist emblems and imagery, those ceremonies and customs
which are harmless in themselves, but which by nourishing superstition
elevate the dangerous power of the priests.
We can at present be proud
of our priesthood. They constitute a body of pious, honorable, hardworking
men. It is because they can exercise no undue power. Give them supreme
power, and they will be Neros who will fasten us with iron chains, and
murder us if we disobey them.
The priesthood of the
Druids stands almost alone in the history of the past. It was directed by
men, with minds elevated by philosophy and learned in the human heart. But
read the religious history of other nations, and you will discover how
frightfully the power of the priests has been abused.
The priests invented a
thousand Gods; the priests told a thousand lies; the priests instituted a
thousand absurd and horrible customs. Who first taught nations to be
idolaters, to be murderers but the priests. Who instituted the festival of
the juggernaut, the Inquisition, the massacre of St. Bartholomew, but the
Calvin, a priest of the
Reformation, ordered his victims to be burnt with green wood--a truly
Christian refinement of cruelty!
Aaron, a priest,
manufactured a golden calf and taught the Jews to insult their God. And it
was Caiaphas, a high priest, who committed that murder of which the more
virtuous heathen Pilate washed his hands.
Look everywhere, look
everywhere, and you will see the priests reeking with gore. They have
converted popular and happy nations into deserts, and have made our
beautiful world into a slaughter house drenched with blood and tears.
Englishmen! they are
planting images, they are performing ceremonies in your houses of worship
which you find it impossible to understand. They are hidden from your eyes
by a dark veil; it is the veil of a Pagan goddess; it is the veil of Isis.
I would not raise this
veil, and disclose the heathen origin of emblems and ceremonies which so
many sanctify and revere, were it not to answer some good purpose.
I write then in the hope
that the church may be preserved in its simplicity--and its priesthood in
that honor and integrity which now, as a body, they possess to an extent
unequalled in any instance that the priest-history of the past or the
present can afford. It is indeed seldom that an English clergyman becomes
a wolf clothed in lamb-skin, and preys upon his flock under words and
looks of religion.
But we know that power
presents temptations, which minds fortified only by three years education
at a college are often unable to resist.
Before letters were
invented, symbols were necessary to form a language; and it is still an
argument of the Greek and Romish Churches that pictures and images are the
books of those who cannot read.
They say also that since
man is not a disembodied spirit like the angels, it is also impossible
that he can worship the Deity with his heart alone. And it cannot be
denied that dim and shadowy lights, sweet perfumes, majestic processions
and strains of music will elevate the soul towards God and prepare the
mind to receive heavenly and sublime impressions.
Without objecting to the
use of such aids to devotion, I wish to guard people from attaching a
peculiar sanctity to the bare aids in themselves, which is nothing less
than idolatry. This I can best prevent by showing them how they first came
into a Christian Church. And in doing so, I shall depart little from the
original design of this chapter which is to investigate the vestiges of
Druidism in the ceremonies of the Roman Catholic Religion.
Not only the ceremonies,
but also the officers and many of the doctrines of the Church of Rome may
be traced to heathen sources.
The Pope of Rome exactly
resembles the Secular High-Priest of ancient Rome, and in Latin his title
is the same--Pontifex Maximus. The office was probably an imitation of
that of the Arch-Druid, who, as I have described, had supreme power over
secular as well as ecclesiastical affairs, and who was surrounded by a
Senate of the Chief Druids, as the Pontifex Maximus was by Flamines, and
the Pope by Cardinals.
The distinguishing sign of
the flamen was a HAT; and "the cardinal's hat" is a European proverb.
The Arch-Druid held his
foot to be kissed on certain occasions by the common people. Julius Cæsar
who had observed this custom, on being made Pontifex Maximus, compelled
Pompey to do the same; in this he was followed by Caligula and
Heliogabalus, whom the Pope also has wisely imitated.
The tonsure of the Romish
priests is the same as that of the priests of Isis whose heads were
shaved, a practice forbidden by God: (Levit. xx. 1. Ezek xliv. 20).
Their celibacy is also
heathenish. Origen when emasculated himself, only imitated the
Hierophantes of Athens who drank an infusion of hemlock to render
themselves impotent. St. Francis who, when tempted with carnality, would
throw himself naked on the snow making balls which he applied to his body
calling them his maid and his wife, did but copy Diogenes who lived in a
tub-a cloak, his covering--a wallet, his kitchen--the palm of his hand,
his bottle and cup; who in the searching heat of summer would lie naked on
the hot gravel, and in the harshest frost would embrace stone statues
covered with snow.
Heraclitus, Democritus and Zeno, the prince of Stoics, imposed celibacy
upon their disciples. The priests of Cybele, the Megabyzes of Ephesus and
the priests of Egypt maintained the vow of chastity. Eneas (Æneid lib vi.)
in passing through the infernal regions saw no priests there but such as
had passed their lives in celibacy.
It need not be proved that
there were many hermits and orders of monks among the heathen. Even the
begging friars of the Romish church are not original. There was a tribe of
lazy mendicant priests among the heathens, against whom Cicero wrote in
his Book of Laws, who used to travel from house to house with sacks on
their backs, and which were gradually filled with eatables by the
superstition of their hosts.
Pythagoras established an
order of nuns over whom he placed his daughter. The Roman vestals were
nuns who took a vow of chastity, and who, like Christian nuns that we have
heard of, were punished with death if they disgraced it.
There was a sisterhood of
Druidesses at Kildare in Ireland, whose office it was, like the Roman
Vestals, to preserve a holy fire ever burning. They devoted themselves to
the service of Brighit, the Goddess of Poetry, of Physics, and of Smiths,
and who is spoken of in the old Irish MSS. as the Presiding Care. When
Druidism was abolished, these priestesses became Christian nuns, and
Brighit became St. Bridget, the tutelary saint of Ireland. The fire was
still preserved in honor of this Christian saint, and though extinguished
once by the Archbishop of London, was relighted and only finally
extinguished at the suppression of the monasteries in the reign of King
Henry the Eighth.
The dress and ornaments of
the Romish priest are borrowed from the heathens. The Phnician priests
wore surplices. Lambskin was worn by the Persian priests. The pelt, which
the canons wear with the fur outward, is a memorial of the custom of the
early heathens, who having killed the beasts for sacrifice, flayed them
and taking the skins put them over their head with the fur outwards. On
the saccos, or episcopal garment of the Russian bishops are suspended
small silver bells, which were also worn on the robes of the priests of
Persia and of the High-Priest of the Jews.
The crosier, or pastoral
staff of the Pope was also used by the Druids, and answers to the lituus
of the Roman augurs and the hieralpha of the Hindoos. The Arch-Druid wore
bands precisely resembling those which the Romish and English clergy wear
now, and which a short time ago the students of our universities were
compelled to wear in their public examinations.
Votive offerings and
pilgrimages are known by all to be of Pagan extraction. The fasts,
penances and self-tortures of the Romish priests find a parallel among the
Yogees or Gymnosophists of India, who wandered about the world naked as
they had been born, sometimes standing on one leg on the burning
sands--passing weeks without nourishment, years without repose--exposed to
the sun, to the rain, to the wind--standing with their arms crossed above
their heads till the sinews shrank and their flesh withered away--fixing
their eyes upon the burning sun till their moisture was seared and their
When a Brahmin became a
grandfather he gave up the management of his affairs to his son, and
quitted the city for the desert, the company of men for eternal solitude.
He dressed in the bark of trees; he was not permitted to wear linen nor to
cut his nails. He bathed nine times a day; he read and meditated ever on
the Holy Vedas. At night alone he slept, and then on the bare ground. In
the summer months he sat in the full blaze of the sun, surrounded by four
fires; in the four months of rain, he dwelt in a stage raised above the
water by four poles but unroofed; during the four winter months he sat all
night in the cold water. And always performing the fast of Chanderayan.
Soon his spirits would sink, and tired of life he was allowed to commit
suicide, which was considered the sure passport to heaven. Some burn
themselves, some drowned themselves, some flung themselves from
precipices, and some walked, walked, walked till they dropped down dead.
The fast of Chanderayan
consisted in eating one mouthful a day, and increasing a mouthful every
day for a month, and then decreasing a mouthful every day for the same
length of time. A tribe of the Egyptian priests fasted perpetually,
abstaining from eggs which they considered liquid meat, and from milk
which they esteemed a kind of blood.
The members of the Greek
Church are more scrupulous than those of Rome, for they will not eat eggs
or fish when fasting.
The religious rites of the
Romish Church are closely assimilated to those of the heathens.
In the Dibaradané or
offering-of-fire, the officiating Brahmin always rang a small bell. Also
the women-of-the-idol, the dancing girls of the Indian pagodas had golden
bells attached to their feet.
The wax tapers which are
constantly kept burning in Roman Catholic churches remind us of the
practice of most of the ancient nations who preserved fires continually
burning in their temples; for instance in the pagodas of the Brahmins; in
the sanctuaries of Jupiter Ammon; in the Druidic temple at Kildare; in the
Capitol at Rome; and in the temple of the Gaditanian Hercules at Tyre.
The Egyptians used lamps in
the celebration of their religious services. They had one festival which
they called The Feast of Lamps, which they used to celebrate by sailing
down the Nile to the temple of Isis at Sais by torchlight. Those who were
unable to attend, lighted the lamps, which were small cups filled with
salt and oil, and a lighted wick floated within.
It is curious that this
Pagan observance should be still preserved by the Papists. A few years ago
I was in the house of a Roman Catholic at vesper time. "I cannot attend
vespers to-day," he said, "so I do this." And he fetched a glass saucer
which was filled with oil, and lighted a wick which was floating in the
midst. After some few minutes the light died out, "Now," said he, "vespers
The Persians used a kind of
holy water which was named zor. But it is needless to produce such
instances. Water, as a principle of generation, and as one of the four
elements was revered by all heathendom. The very aspersoire or sacred
water-pot which the ancient Romans. used for their temple, may be found
among the implements of their successors.
Their turnings and
genuflexions are copied from the deisuls of the Druids. The Druidic
religious dances which were performed in a circle, in imitation of the
revolution of the heavenly bodies, are preserved to posterity by the
cardinals who advance to the Pope in a circle, by the Turkish dervishes,
and by the French and English peasantry in various rural dances.
The heathens were not
without their liturgies.
The Persians used a long
form of prayer for the ceremony of marriage, and the use of the ring on
the third finger of the left hand was known to a the ancients as
Tertullian himself admits. In the Greek Church of Russia the couple are
crowned with garlands which are removed on the eighth day. This, an
ancient Roman observance, is not a traditional superstition of the
Russians, but a ceremony authorized by their religion, and a service in
their liturgy. The veil which our brides wear is also a remnant of ancient
--Dudum sedet illa parato
Flammeolo.--Juv. Sat. X.
As is also the superstition
among Papist that it is unlucky to marry in the month of May. Ovid records
it in a distich.
Nec viduæ tdis eadem nec
Tempora. Quæ nupsit non diuturna fuit.
Hac quoque de causâ si te proverbia tangunt
Mense malas Maio nubere vulgus ait.
Our funeral practice of
throwing three handfuls of earth on the coffin, and saying : earth to
earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, was in use among the ancient
Egyptians, and our mutes resemble the hired mourners of all the ancient
The Vedas are full of
exorcisms against those evil spirits which, as the Hindoos supposed,
crowded about the sacrifice and impeded the religious rites. There are
forms of exorcism used by Romish priests, and in the first liturgy of
Edward VI, there was a form of exorcism in the baptismal service which
since has been erased.
The Romans used to
consecrate their temples, when first built, with prayers and sacrifices,
and sprinklings of holy water.
The mass is acknowledged by
the Catholic priests to be a sacrificial service, and the host made of
wheat flour is an exact imitation of the consecrated cakes which were used
by the heathens.
The ancient Persians
carried their infants to the temple a few days after they were born, and
presented them to the priest who stood before the holy fire in the
presence of the burning sun. He took the child and plunged it into a vase
full of water for the purification of its soul. After which it was
anointed, received the sign of the cross, and was fed with milk and honey.
Such is the origin of
infant baptism, of the font, and of the ceremony of signing the forehead
with the figure of the cross-none of which are derived from God or from
His Holy Scriptures.
When the child had arrived
at the age of fifteen years, the priest invested him with the robe called
Sudra and with the girdle, and initiated him into the mysteries of their
This is plainly the same as
the Christian confirmation, before which the church does not permit us to
receive the sacrament.
We first hear of the
sacramental offering of bread and wine as used by Melchisedek. I have
described it among the ceremonies of Druidism. Among the Hebrews it was
called qum whence our word "communion."
I have now to consider the
great symbol of the Christian religion--the cross. Were it regarded as a
mere emblem of our Lord's suffering I should be silent upon the matter;
but since it is an object of actual idolatry in the Roman Catholic church,
and threatens to become the same in our own, I must endeavor to correct
the abuse by exposing its Pagan origin.
This cross which the Roman
Catholics worship on Good Friday by taking off their shoes and approaching
it on their knees, and reverently kissing it, was once as common a symbol
among Pagans as the circle, the serpent or the bull.
In Ezekiel, IX. 4-6, we
read that God directed the six destroyers to kill all whom they found in
the city of Jerusalem, except those on whose forehead the Taw was
inscribed. This letter Taw is the last in the Hebrew alphabet, and
according to its ancient method of writing, exactly resembles a cross, as
St. Jerome remarked 1400 years ago.
The crux ansata of the
Egyptians, according to Ruffinus and Sozomen, was hieroglyphic, and
imparted the time that was to come.
The was a phallic emblem in
Egypt. Thereby also the Syrians and Phoenicians represented the planet
Venus. On some of the early coins of the latter nation, we find the cross
attached to a chaplet of beads placed in a circle so as to form a rosary,
such as the Lamas of Thibet and China, the Hindoos and the Roman Catholics
now tell over as they pray.
On a Phnician medal
discovered by Dr. Clarke in the ruins of Citium, are inscribed the cross,
the rosary and the lamb. were the monograms of Osiris, Venus and Jupiter
Ammon. of the Scandinavian Teutates or Tuisco.
The Vaishnavas of India
mark one of their idols with crosses, thus and with triangles.
On the Egyptian monuments
in the British Museum may be seen the mystic cross in great numbers of
places, and upon the breast of one of the mummies in the Museum of the
London University is a cross exactly in this shape.
The two principal pagodas
of India, those of Benares and Mathura are built in the form of a cross.
The Mexican temples are built in the form of a cross and face the four
Crosses have been
discovered on the Scandinavian "Mark" stones in the Scottish Isles, and
there are many ancient monuments in Great Britain which, but for the cross
engraved upon them, would be considered Druidical.
That the Druids, like the
aborigines of America and the ancient conjurers of Lapland, revered the
form of the cross can hardly be doubted. Schedius de Mor. Germ. informs us
that it was their custom to seek studiously for an oak tree large and
handsome, growing up with two principal arms in the form of a cross beside
the main stem. If the two horizontal arms were not sufficiently adapted to
the figure, they fastened a cross beams to it. Then they consecrated it by
cutting upon the right branch in fair characters the word Hesus, upon the
middle stem, the word Taranis, upon the left branch Belenus, and over them
the word Thaw.
The tree so inscribed, they
would make their Kebla like the Jewish Jerusalem, the Turk's Mecca, and
the Christian's altar to which they would direct their faces when they
I can best explain the
adoration of this symbol by deriving it from that constellation The
Southern Cross, which appears only in tropical skies and which perhaps the
heathens, attracted by its beauty, learned to worship, as they worshipped
the sun for its God like grandeur, and the moon for its beneficent light.
The idolatry of the Roman Catholics is not confined to emblems. They have
deified martyrs and other holy men, and render them a worship that is only
due to God.
It is true that they draw a
distinction between the adoration which they pay to God, and the homage
which they pay to Saints, calling the one in the language of the schools
Latria, from worship due to God only, and the latter Dulia, from an
inferior kind of worship. But this distinction is too delicate for the
illiterate to understand.
A plurality of Gods I have
shown to be one of the abuses of ancient heathenism. In this abuse, they
have been imitated by the modern idolaters of Rome, not only in the
abstract but in the concrete: there is not only assimilation, but a
The Romans ridiculed the
Gods of Egypt whom they themselves adored but under different names. They
burnt Serapis, Anubis, and Isis; they revered Pluto, Mercury and Ceres.
So the Roman Catholics
while pretending to abjure the Gods of heathenism have actually adopted
many of them.
The petty divinities of the
Pagans were deified men, and were intercessors with Osiris, Zeus or
Jupiter, as the canonized saints of the Catholic Church are with the God
of the Christians.
The Chaldees divided the
year into twelve months with an angel over each month.
The saints perform the same
office in the Romish Calendar, and in several of the Greek churches there
are twelve pictures for the twelve months representing the twelve
The divi, or inferior Gods
of the Romans worked miracles; altars were erected in their honor with
lights continually burning before them; their relics were worshipped;
convents were formed of religious men and women who took the name of divus
or inferior God, to whom they devoted themselves, such as the Quirinals
from Quirinus or Romulus; the Martiales from Mars; the Vulcanates from
Vulcan. So also the Augustines from Augustine; the Franciscans from
Francis; the Dominicans from Dominic.
The Roman divi were
tutelary Gods over various vocations--as Neptune over mariners--Pan over
shepherds--Pales over husbandmen--Flora over courtezans--Diana over
huntsmen. So the seamen, among Catholics, pray to St. Nicholas--the
shepherds to St. Windoline--the husbandmen to St. John the Baptist--the
courtezans to St. Magdalene--and the huntsmen to St. Hubert.
The saints too have
received the equipage of the divi. To St. Wolfgang, the hatchet or hook of
Saturn--to Moses, the horns of Jupiter Ammon--to St. Peter, the keys of
In the same way as the
Pagans worshipped these divi but stigmatized them--Apollo as a rake,
Mercury as an arrant thief, and Venus as a courtezan; there are things
recorded by pious Catholics themselves of those Popes which are infallible
and of saints which are said to be in heaven, quite as little to their
Minutius Felix jeers the
Pagans for the vile drudgery they have put upon their Gods. "Sometimes,"
says he, "Hercules is set to empty dung; Apollo turns cow-herd to Ametus;
Neptune hires himself to Laomedon as bricklayer to build up the walls of
Troy, and is cheated out of his wages."
So among the glorious
miracles of the Holy Virgin, we find that she descends from heaven to
bleed a young man in the arm; to take the place of a naughty abbess who
has eloped with a monk; to mend the gown of St. Thomas of Canterbury who
had torn it on a nail, and to wipe the sweat off the faces of the monks of
Chevraux whilst they were at work.
But as I have said before,
there has been something more than imitation. There has been adoption. The
Roman Catholics have canonized several of the pagan gods. Bacchus, the God
of topers, has become St. Baccus, a worshipful saint of the perennial
calendar; and Brighit, the Goddess of the Druids, St. Bridget, a patron
saint of Ireland.
The most distinguishing
feature of the Roman Catholic religion is the idolatrous worship of the
Virgin Mary. It is idolatrous, for to this woman whom it is palpable from
Scripture that Christ treated as a being inferior to himself, are rendered
prayers and honors as numerous and high as those which are rendered to
Him, and in all instances they are placed upon a level with each other.
They have made her immaculate, although she was the wife of a carpenter,
and although the. brethren of Jesus are more than once mentioned in the
gospels. And as there was no mention made in Scripture of her death, they
inferred that, like Enoch and Elijah and her Holy Son, she had been taken
up into Heaven. Upon this bare conjecture, the doctrine was assiduously
inculcated into the minds of the ignorant, and a service was introduced
into the liturgy called "The Assumption of the Virgin Mary."
Bonaventura who was
canonized a saint, and who is spoken of by his brother-catholics as the
Seraphic Doctor, wrote a book called "The Imitation of the Virgin Mary,"
after St. Thomas-a-Kempis' well-known work, in which he exhorts all
faithful catholic; to pray to the Virgin Mary by whose intercession their
souls may be saved.
In the Psalter which St.
Bonaventura edited, he changes in each of the 150 Psalms the word Lord or
God, for that of Lady or Mary, interspersing in some much of his own
composition, and adding the Gloria Patri to each. For instance in the
148th Psalm-(page 491 of the Psalter).
"Praise our Lady of Heaven,
glorify her in the highest. Praise her all ye men and cattle, ye birds of
the heaven and fishes of the sea. Praise her sun and moon, ye stars and
circles of the planets. Praise her Cherubin and Seraphin, thrones and
dominions and powers. Praise her all ye legions of angels. Praise her all
ye orders of spirits on high.
"Let everything that hath
breath praise our Lady."
Theophilus Raynaud, a
Jesuit of Lyons, in his work entitled Diptycha Mariana thus writes:--
"The torrents of Heaven and
the fountains of the great deep, I would rather open than close in homage
of the Virgin. And if her son Jesus has omitted anything, as to the
pre-eminence of the exaltation of his own mother, I a servant, I a slave,
not indeed with effect, but with affection would delight in filling it
"In like manner are her
feet to be blessed with which she carried the Lord, the womb in which she
carried him, the heart whence she courageously believed in him and
fervently loved him, the breasts with which she gave him suck, the hands
with which she nourished him, the mouth and tongue with which she gave to
him the happy kisses of our redemption, the nostrils with which she
smelled the sweet-smelling fragrance of his humanity, the ears with which
she listened with delight to his eloquence, the eyes with which she
devoutly looked upon him, the body and soul which Christ consecrated in
her with every benediction. And these most sacred members must be saluted
and blessed with all devotion, so that separate salutations must be
addressed to the several members separately, namely, Hail Mary! two to the
feet, one to the womb, one to the heart, two to the breasts, two to the
hands, two to the mouth and tongue, two to the lips, two to the nostrils,
two to the ears, two to the eyes, two to the soul and body. And thus in
all there are twenty salutations which after the manner of a daily payment
with separate and an equal number of kneelings, if it can be done before
her image or altar, are to be paid to the glorious Virgin according to
that psalm, (144). Every day will I give thanks unto thee and praise THY
name for ever and ever."
In the following extract
from a little work published at Dublin, 1836, and entitled "The Little
Testament of the Holy Virgin," God and the Virgin are placed upon an
"Mary! sacred name under
which no one should despair. Mary! sacred name often assaulted but always
victorious. Mary! it shall be my life, my strength, my comfort. Every day
shall I invoke it and the divine name of Jesus. The Son shall awake the
recollection of the mother, and the mother that of the son. Jesus and
Mary! this is what my heart shall say at my last hour if my tongue cannot.
I shall hear them on my death-bed, they shall be wafted on my expiring
breath, and I with them to see THEM, know THEM, bless and love THEM for
eternity. Amen." But she is sometimes made even greater than God.
"My soul," says the blessed
Eric Suzon, is in the hands of Mary, so that if the judge wishes to
condemn me, the sentence must pass through this clement Queen, and she
knows how to prevent its execution."
It even became a custom at
one time in their church to date the Christian era not from the birth of
the Christ, but from the virgin mother of God. See Emanuel Acosta's Acts
of the Jesuits in the East. Dilingæ. 1571. Ad annum usque a Deipara
The question now naturally
arises, why does the Virgin Mary receive this worship and these honors
which are only due to God.
You will be surprised when
I tell you that this also is a remnant of heathenism. In all
nations, long before the Christian era, a female with a child in her arms
had been worshipped. Among the Egyptians it was Isis, among the Etruscans
it was Venus, among the Phrygians it was Atys.
In fact as Isis was the
original of the Proserpine, the Venus, the Diana, the Juno, the Maia and
the Cere of ancient Rome, so she was the original of the Virgin Mary of
the Roman Catholic Church.
In Montfaucon we find
several plates of Isis giving suck to the boy Horus. In the year 1747, a
Mithraic monument was found at Oxford--a female nursing an infant-which
Dr. Stukeley proved to be a representation of the Goddess of the Year
nursing the God Day.
It is indeed not improbable
that Oxford with its seven hills, its river Isis, and the bull in its coat
of arms had been established by priests who, like the Druids, were
acquainted with Egyptian lore.
An ancient Etruscan
monument was discovered at Rome, the precise model of those pictures of
the Madonna and her child so common in Italy and throughout the world.
In many churches on the
continent, the Virgin Mary is represented with a lily or lotus in her
hand. This plant was sacred to Isis, and was held in reverence by the
priests of Egypt and of India.
Isis was the wife of
Osiris, as the moon was called the wife of the sun.
In the hymn of the
Assumption, the Virgin is entreated "to calm the rage of her heavenly
The month of May was sacred
to Isis. It is called by the Papists "Mary's month."
Venus, the Isis of the
Romans, was born from the foam of the sea. In the form of prayer called
Litaniæ Lauritanæ, there are more than forty addresses to the Virgin,
invoking her as the star of the sea, as the mystical rose, and by a
variety of other heathen epithets.
In another prayer she is
named amica stella, naufragis, and in Sanval's Historie des Antiquités de
Paris, étoile eclantante de la mer. The chief title of Venus was Regina
And the Holy Virgin is
repeatedly invoked in the Romish liturgy as the Queen of Heaven.
Finally, on the 25th of
March the ancient Phrygians devoted a festival to the mother of the Gods,
which very day still bears among Catholics and their Protestant imitators
the name of Lady's Day.
All this does not impeach
one iota or tittle of the truth of Christianity. I do not say that the
Christians invented a personage, and called her the Virgin Mary. I merely
prove that the Roman Catholics pay those idolatrous tributes to the Virgin
Mary which their ancestors rendered to Isis in Egypt, or to Venus in Rome,
and that they represent her in the same manner. For instance, in the
pictures of the Madonna and the Child, we see the Virgin's head encircled
by a crescent halo of light, and the child's by many luminous rays.
The one is a symbol of the
new moon sacred to Isis, the latter an imitation of the radiance of
the sun of whom Horus was the offspring.
The spires and towers of
our churches are also imitated from the pyramids and obelisks of
antiquity. These were erected as emblems of the sun's beams which fall
pyramidically upon the earth.
Many of the heathen
festivals are still celebrated by Christians. In the liturgy of the Greek
Church there is a ritual named "The Benediction of the Waters." A wooden
temple, richly gilt and hung round with sacred pictures, is erected upon
the Neva at St. Petersburg when it is frozen, and a procession is formed
by the clerks, the deacons, the priests and the bishops dressed in their
richest robes, and bearing the tapers and the sacred pictures, and the
service is read within the temple.
This is not unlike "The
Feast of Lamps" before described, which the Egyptians partly celebrated on
the Nile, a river which in one of the prayers of the Greek Church is
called "The Monarch of the Floods."
The conception of the
Virgin Mary is represented on the same day (the 2nd of February) as that
of the miraculous conception of Juno by the ancient Romans. This, says the
author of the Perennial Calendar, is a remarkable coincidence. It is also
a remarkable coincidence that the Feast of All-Saints, which is celebrated
by the Roman Catholics on the 2nd of November and which retains its place
in the Protestant calendar, should have been on the same day as the Festum
dei Mortis of the Romans, and should still be annually kept by the
Buddhists of Thibet, and by the natives of South America and as a Druidic
custom by the rustic classes of Ireland.
It is also a remarkable
coincidence that the Romans should have had their Prosipernalia, or Feast
of Candles or Candlemass in February-their Palelia, or shepherd's feast on
Midsummer Day which is sacred to St. John the Baptist, and that the Romish
Carnival should be held at the same time as the ancient Saturnalia, and
should resemble so closely those orgies which were of a masquerade
Thus we see that the Roman
Catholics have been in the habit of celebrating Christian festivals upon
days which were held sacred by the heathens. Whether this was from mere
slavish imitation, or from a fondness for old associations, or from a
desire to sanctify those days unhallowed by paganism it is impossible to
One of the most
extraordinary examples of this custom is to be found in our grand festival
All will allow, I think,
that there is no evidence to prove that the twenty-fifth of December was
the actual day upon which Christ was born. And that He really arose on
Easter Day can scarcely be believed, since the fixing of that day was not
arranged among the early Christians till after swords as well as words had
been used in the conflict, and several fierce battles had been fought. I
hope that I shall not weaken the genial feelings with which Christmas Day,
that holiday of the year, is greeted by the nation if I expose the real
origin of the festival. But that I feel sure is impossible. It would need
something more than a few facts from old books to blot out all those happy
associations which crowd around that glorious festival, which though it
may be celebrated on the wrong day is kept in the right manner.
I may, however, show those
Christians who worship the letter and not the spirit, who attach more
sanctity to the day than to the festival, who set their children over
grave books and who forbid them to laugh on that day when there is a smile
even on the poor man's lips, I may show those word-mongers, those silly
Puritans, those harsh blunderers in religion what honor they have paid to
heathenism all their lives.
The festival of the
twenty-fifth of December, which we call Christmas, was observed by the
Druids on that day by lighting great fires on the tops of hills. The
festival was repeated on the twelfth day afterwards, which we call old
And even now there are
certain rites performed under the sacred mistletoe on Christmas Day which
certainly have little to do with Christianity.
The Jews also celebrated a
festival on the twenty-fifth of December which -they called or the feast
of light, and which Josephus believed to have been instituted by Judas
The twenty-fifth of
December too was the birthday of the God Mithra, and it was an old custom
of the heathens to celebrate the birthdays of their Gods.
And now I will explain when
this day was first established as the birthday of Christ. The Cnobite
monks finding that in their monasteries (most of which were pagan
seminaries built before the Christian era) a day had been from time
immemorial dedicated to the God Sol as his birthday, and that he bore the
name of Lord--this Lord they conceived must be their Lord, and after many
disputes the twenty-fifth of December was established as the anniversary
of Christ, and so the Druidic festival of the winter solstice became a
Christian ceremony. The origin of Sunday is very similar; but while the
heathen festival of Christmas has received a Christian name, this has
retained its Pagan appellation.
Such was the abhorrence
which the early Christians felt for their persecutors, the Jews, that they
were wont to reject all that was Jewish, as the first Puritans rejected
all that was Romish without considering its intrinsic merits. God had
ordained the seventh day for man's rest and recreation. He had given forth
that edict from Mount Sinai not to the Israelites only, but to the whole
world. But since the Jews faithfully kept this commandment, the Christians
hated the Sabbath and took a step which was wholly unauthorized by their
Master, or by any of his Apostles. They changed the day.
They called this new day
the Lord's Day, or the Day-of-the-Sun.
The word Lord is heathen,
and is equivalent to Baal in Chaldee and to Adonis in Phoenician. It first
crept into the Scripture thus:
The Jews, in obedience to
the law "thou shalt not take the name of Jehovah thy God in vain," never
wrote or spoke His name except on the most solemn occasions. And the first
translators to avoid the frequent repetition of the word, first used this
hieroglyphic and afterwards the term which the Pagans applied to their God
Sol, which in Greek was in Latin dominus, in Celtic adon, in Hebrew adoni.
Now the Persians set apart
every month four of these Lord's days or lesser festivals to the Sun. On
these days, they had more solemn service in their temples than on other
days, reading portions of their sacred books and preaching morality.
But the most curious point
of resemblance is that on these days alone they prayed standing. And in
the sixteenth canon of the Council of Nice to kneel in prayer on Sundays
pretending to be converted to Christianity, ordered the day Domini invicti
Solis to be set apart for the celebration of peculiar mysteries in honor
of the great god Sol.
The early Christians were
accused by the heathens of worshipping the sun, and Justin, as if loathing
the very name of the Jewish Sabbath, preferred writing of it the
Since it would be now
almost impossible to restore our weekly day of rest to that day which God
thought fit to appoint, and which man thought fit to alter, I may be
blamed for having made these disclosures which certainly do not redound to
the honor of our religion.
But I have had my reason.
It is to show the folly of those who go word-mongering, to make triumphant
comparisons between the Day-of-the-sun as observed by Christians, and
God's Sabbath as observed by Jews; who bring out their religion, their
consciences, their bibles, their sternest faces and their best clothes
upon this day, and who believe or seem to believe that God sleeps all the
week, and that if they go to church on Sunday they succeed in deceiving
It is not at this hour or
at that hour that God is to be worshipped. Lip-services resemble the
treacherous kisses of a Judas, and the heart does not naturally aspire
towards heaven at the striking of a clock or at the ringing of a church
Before concluding this
chapter, I should wish to exculpate myself from the supposition that I
have written in an unjust spirit against the members of the Roman Catholic
I know that they can boast
of many devout disciples-of many enterprising missionaries-of many
conscientious priests. I know that they are not now more foolish and
bigoted than the members of the Protestant churches, as in former times
the murderers of St. Bartholomew were no worse than the cruel Calvin, nor
Bloody Mary than James the First. In those days a remnant of the horrible
custom of human sacrifice was preserved by all alike. They martyred those
of the same religion as themselves but not of the same sect, burning them,
drowning them, tearing them limb from limb like the Pagans of old, as
offerings to a kind and gracious God.
It is true that the Roman
Catholics were the most ruthless in barbarity and the most ingenious in
torture, but it was because they possessed the most power. I know that
Roman Catholic priests do not really worship those images of the saints to
which they bend their knees. But though they are not idolaters themselves,
it cannot be denied that they have taught their disciples to be idolaters.
I do not suppose that men
of genius or even of education ever yet were, or ever could be image
Listen to these words of
the Emperor Julian, written in an age that is supposed to have been
enslaved in idolatry :
"The statues of the gods,
the altars that are raised to them, and the holy fires that are burnt in
their honor have been instituted by our fathers as signs and emblems of
the presence of the Gods, not that we should regard them as Gods, but that
we should honor the Gods in them."
I might quote fifty other
passages to prove that in all idolatrous nations the priests and
philosophers, though affecting to be image-worshippers, have in their
hearts scorned those pieces of wood and stone to which their dupes so
In papistry, there are as
many dupes and as much idolatry as ever existed in Egypt, in Italy, or in
Witness a Roman Catholic
service, and you will see heads bowed before stone-images and prayers,
murmured not in mere reverence but in actual adoration.
Study the doctrine of
Transubstantiation. Is not that an instance of the emblem being forgotten
in the God?
These abuses are melancholy
to contemplate, for these alone it is which hold two Christian churches
asunder. These with the Platonic dogma of purgatory upon which no man can
decide, and upon which therefore it is foolish for man to contend.
English priests beware how
you nurse idolatry; for those who do so, enchain not only others but
In the reign of Peter the
Great, a law was passed by a synod of the Greek Church in Russia enacting
that the use of pictures in churches was contrary to the principles in
Christianity, and that all such should be removed from places of worship.
The Emperor sanctioned this
law, but feared to put it into execution lest it should cause a general
Superstition, born of
Satan, fed and fostered by priests, like a hideous cuttle-fish has cast
its white and slimy arms around the Harlot of Babylon, and. has bedaubed
her with its black blood. Now she loves this blood and knows not that it
defiles her; she loves these embraces and knows not that they enslave her.
But some day aspiring to be free, she will attempt to rise from her grave
of sand and foul weeds; and then seizing her in its horrible arms, that
demon who so long has triumphed over her will sink with her forever
beneath the waves. II.
IN THE EMBLEMS OF
THERE is a divine and
hidden science whose origin can only be discovered by the wavering lights
of tradition, whose doctrines and purposes are enveloped in sacred
It is now degenerated into
a society of gluttons and wine-bibbers, who yawn while their Masters
expound to them those emblems which have excited the wonder of the
greatest philosophers of the past, and who deem that the richest gem of
freemasonry, is the banquet which closes the labor of the Lodge.
And yet this order can
boast of some learned and intellectual men, who endeavor to find the key
to the hidden language of symbols, and who appreciate at its true value
the high honors which the initiated are permitted to enjoy. In spite of
the abuses with which it has been degraded, in spite of the sneers with
which the ignorant revile it, this institution still possesses much that
is holy and sublime.
No feelings can be compared
with those which a young man feels when, attired in strange array,
blind-folded, the dagger pointed to his naked left breast, he is led
through the mystic labyrinth, whose intricate ways are emblematical of the
toilsome wanderings of his soul.
The strains of solemn
music-the mysterious words-the low knock at the portal--the sudden blaze
of light--and the strange sight which await his eyes feeble and fluttering
from their long imprisonment.
What awe he feels, as
kneeling on his right knee, his left hand placed upon the Book of the Law,
encircled by the Masters in their robes of office, and the two white wands
held over his head in the form of a cross, he takes the oath of secrecy
and faith, "to hail, conceal and never reveal the hidden mysteries of the
fellowship" to which he is now admitted.
And what pride flushes in
his heart when the secret signs and key-words are imparted to him, and
when the white apron, a badge more glorious than the fabled Golden Fleece,
or the Roman Eagle is tied round his waist.
Surrounded by all those
signs and symbols by which the ancient nations were wont to express the
power and presence of God, the Mason's Lodge resembles a scene of
enchantment in the midst of this wilderness which we call the world. And
those who are thus assembled together in mystic robes, seem spirits of
another age, who have returned to hold their hidden meetings once more in
the catacombs of the Egyptian pyramids, or in the cavern-temple sacred to
Mithra, or in the subterranean labyrinths of the holy Druids.
The brethren seated in a
circle, one of the Masters arises and advances to the midst. He relates to
them a tradition of the origin of their craft.
"After the sun had
descended down the seventh age from Adam before the flood of Noah, there
was born unto Methusael, the son of Mehujael, a man called Lamach who took
unto himself two wives. the name of the one was Adah, of the other Zillah.
Now Adah his first wife, bare two sons--the one named Jabel and the other
Jubal. Jabal was the inventor of geometry and the first who built houses
of stone and timber, and Jubal was the inventor of music and harmony.
Zillah, his second wife, bare Tubal Cain, the instructor of every
artificer in brass and iron, and a daughter called Naamah who was the
founder of the weaver's craft.
"All these had knowledge
from above, that the Almighty would take vengeance for sin either by fire
or by water, so great was the wickedness of the world. So they reasoned
among themselves how they might preserve the knowledge of the sciences
which they had found, and Jabal said that there were two different kinds
of stone of such virtue that one would not burn and the other would not
sink--the one called marble and the other latres. They then agreed to
write all the science that they had found upon these stones.
"After the destruction of
the world, these two pillars were discovered by Hermes, the son of Shem.
Then the craft of masonry began to flourish, and Nimrod was one of the
earliest patrons of the art. Abraham, the son of Jerah, was skilled in the
seven sciences and taught the Egyptians the science of grammar. Euclid was
his pupil, and instructed them in the art of making mighty walls and
ditches to preserve their houses from the inundations of the Nile, and by
geometry measured out the land, and divided it into partitions so that
each man might ascertain his own property. And he it was who gave masonry
the name of geometry.
"In his days, it came to
pass that the sovereign and lords of the realm had gotten many sons
unlawfully by other men's wives, insomuch that the land was grievously
burdened with them. A council was called but no reasonable remedy was
proposed. The king then ordered a proclamation to be made throughout his
realms, that high rewards would be given to any man who would devise a
proper method for maintaining the children. Euclid dispelled the
difficulty. He thus addressed the king: 'My noble sovereign, if I may have
order and government of these lord's sons, I will teach them the seven
liberal sciences, whereby they may live honestly like gentlemen, provided
that you will grant me power over them by virtue of your royal
"This request was
immediately complied with, and Euclid established a Lodge of Masons."
This tale is curious as
being the earliest account of an educational institution.
There are various
traditions of minor interest relating to the patriarchal ages and to the
wanderings of the Israelites in the wilderness.
The Freemasons claim
descent from that body of builders who, some from Phnicia, and some from
India, came to Jerusalem to erect the temple of Solomon. They also assert
that these masons were governed by the same laws, and united by the same
ties as those of the modern order, and in the initiation of a Master-mason
the following tradition is related respecting the death of the Phnician
Hiram Abiff, the master architect who directed the building of the temple:
"There were fifteen fellow-craftsmen, who finding that the temple was
almost finished, and that they had not received the master's word because
their time was not come, agreed to extort it from their master, the
skilful Hiram Abiff, on the first opportunity, that they might pass for
masters in other countries and have masters' wages. Twelve recanted and
the other three determined to carry out the plot. Their names were Jubela,
Jubelo, and Jubelum. These three crafts knowing that it was always the
master's custom at twelve at noon, when the men were called off to
refreshment, to go into the sanctum sanctorum to pray to the true and
living God--they placed themselves at the three entrances to the temple,
viz., at the west, south and east doors. There was no entrance in the
north, because thence the sun darts no rays. Thus they waited while he
made his prayer to the Lord, to have the word or grip as he came out, or
his life. So Hiram came to the east door, and Jubela demanded the master's
word. Hiram told him he did not receive it in such a manner but he must
wait, and time and a little patience would bring him to it, for it was not
in his power to deliver it except the three Grand Masters were together,
viz: Solomon, King of Israel, Hiram, King of Tyre, and Hiram Abiff.
"Jubela struck him across
the throat with a 24-inch gauge. He fled thence to the south door where he
was accosted in the same manner by Jubelo to whom he gave a similar
answer, and who gave him a blow with a square upon his left breast. Hiram
reeled but recovered himself, and flew to the west door where Jubelum gave
him a heavy blow upon the head with a common gavel or setting maul which
proved his death.
"After this they carried
him out of the west door and hid him in a heap of rubbish till it was
twelve at night, when they found means to bury him in a handsome grave,
six feet east and west, and six feet in height.
"When Hiram was missed,
King Solomon made great inquiry after him, and not hearing anything of him
supposed him to be dead. The twelve crafts that had recanted hearing the
said report, and their consciences pricking them, went and informed King
Solomon with white aprons and gloves as tokens of their innocence. King
Solomon forthwith sent them in search of the three murderers who had
absconded, and they agreed to make the pursuit in four parties, three
going north, three south, three east, and three west.
"As one of these parties
traveled down to the sea of Joppa, one of them sitting himself down to
rest by the side of a rock, heard the following lamentations proceed from
a cleft within:--
"'O that I had my throat
cut across, and my tongue torn out by the root, and buried in the sands of
the sea at low water a cable length from the shore, where the tide doth
regularly ebb and flow twice in the course of the twenty-four hours, than
that I had been concerned in the death of our master Hiram.'
And then another voice:
"'Oh! that I had my heart
torn from under my naked left breast, and given to the vultures of the air
as a prey, rather than I had been concerned in the death of so good a
"'But oh!' cried Jubelum. I
struck him harder than you both, for I killed him. Oh! that I had had my
body severed in two, one part carried to the south, and the other to the
north, my bowels burnt to ashes and scattered before the four winds of the
earth, rather than I had been concerned in the death of our master Hiram.'
"The brother that heard
these sorrowful lamentations hailed the other two, and they went into the
cleft of the rock and took them and bound them, and brought them before
King Solomon, when they owned what had passed, and what they had done, and
did not desire to live, therefore King Solomon ordered their own sentences
to be executed upon them, saying, 'They have signed their own deaths, and
let it be upon them as they have said.'
"'Jubela was taken out, and
his throat cut across, and his tongue torn out by the root, and buried in
the sands of the sea at low water, a cable length from the shore, where
the tide did regularly ebb and flow twice in the course of the twenty-four
"Jubelo's heart was torn
from under his naked left breast, and was given to the vultures of the air
as a prey.
"Jubelum's body was severed
in two, one part was carried to the north, the other to the south, his
bowels were burnt to ashes and scattered to the four winds of the earth."
The real secret of
Freemasonry, viz., its origin and purport, as yet remain an enigma and
will probably ever remain so.
There are some authors who
have fixed the source of this sacred and mysterious fountain within the
oaken groves of the extinguished order of the Druids. Who assert that when
Druidism was proscribed, its priests adopted various disguises and carried
their learning into various professions. Some became school-masters and
taught science to the youth of Britain, as they had once done in the
forest seminaries of Mona. Some fortune-tellers, the parents of the tribes
of gypsies who still retain a kind of brotherhood united by oaths and
secret signs, and who at one time possessed so strange an ascendancy over
the minds of the vulgar.
And others who formed
themselves into a community resembling, if not in their power, at least in
their unanimity, that ancient body of priests who had once been the
sovereigns of Britain.
At first I was inclined to
believe that such was really the case, and that Freemasonry was no more
than a reproduction of Druidism in the Middle Ages. On searching for
materials, I met with evidence in limine which tended to confirm me in
this conviction. There was a manuscript discovered in the Bodleian Library
at Oxford in 1696, which was supposed to have been written about the year
1436. It purports to be an examination of one of the brotherhood by King
Henry VI, and is allowed by all masonic writers to be genuine.
Its title is as follows:
"Certain questions with answers to the same concerning the mystery of
masonry written by King, Henry the Sixth and faithfully copied by me John
Leylande, antiquarian, by command of his highness."
I give an extract
modernizing the English of the original, which, though quaint, would be
unintelligible to all but antiquaries:--
"What mote it be? It is the
knowledge of nature, and the power of its various operations; particularly
the skill of reckoning, of weights and measures, of constructing buildings
and dwellings of all kinds, and the true manner of forming all things for
the use of man.
"Where did it begin ?-it
began with the first men of the East, who were before the first men of the
West, and coming with it, it hath brought all comforts to the wild and
"Who brought it to the
West?--the Phoenicians who, being great merchants, came first from the
East into Phoenicia, for the convenience of commerce, both East and West
by the Red and Mediterranean Seas.
"How came it into
England?--Pythagoras, a Grecian, traveled to acquire knowledge in
Egypt and in Syria, and in every other land where the Phoenicians had
planted masonry; and gaining admittance into all lodges of masons, he
learned much, and returned and dwelt in Grecia Magna, growing and becoming
mighty wise and greatly renowned. Here he formed a great lodge at Crotona,
and made many masons, some of whom traveled into France, and there made
many more, from whence, in process of time, the art passed into England."
This, I need not remind the
reader, is a story very similar to those current respecting the first
planting of Druidism in Britain.
I also discovered as I
thought, a key to the tradition of Hiram Abiff, which I have just related,
viz., that it was simply the story of Osiris (killed by Typhon the Evil
Spirit, buried in a coffin and found by Isis) so corrupted by modern
In the continuation of the
story of Hiram, it is stated that the twelve crafts on discovering his
body were unable to raise it, and that King Solomon ordered a lodge of
master-masons to be summoned and said, "I will go myself in person and try
to raise the body by the master's grip or the lion's paw. By means of this
grip the Grand-Master Hiram was raised.
Now in a figure painted on
a mummy at the Austin Fryar's of La Place des Victores, representing the
death and resurrection of Osiris, is seen an exact model of the position
of the master-mason as he raises Hiram.
Jubela, Jubelo, Jubelum are
merely variations from the Latin word jubeo, I command. The pretended
assassins are represented as demanding the master's grip and word from
Hiram in an imperious manner.
A more satisfactory proof
of the truth of this statement is contained in an astronomical notion of
the Hindoos, whose Chrisna is the same as the Osiris of the Egyptians.
The Decans, or Elohim, are
the gods of whom it is said the Almighty created the Universe. They
arranged the order of the zodiac. The Elohim of the summer were gods of a
benevolent disposition: they made the days long, and loaded the sun's head
with topaz. While the three wretches that presided in the winter at the
extreme end of the year, hid in the realms below, were, with the
constellation to which they belonged, cut off from the rest of the zodiac;
and as they were missing, were consequently accused of bringing Chrisna
into those troubles which at last ended in his death.
Even allowing these
premises to be true, it does not necessarily follow that the traditionary
account of the building of Solomon's Temple by masons was also
And indeed there is so much
that is purely Hebrew in ceremonial masonry, that one is almost forced to
believe that the Freemasons of the present day are really descended from a
body of architects, who, like the Dionysiacks of Asia Minor, were united
into a fraternal association and who erected the temple of Solomon.
In these ceremonies,
however, and in their emblems there is much also that is Druidic, and if
Freemasonry did not emanate from Druidism, there can be no doubt that it
sprang from the same origin.
I will trace out the
affinity between the Masonic Order of the Present, and the Druid Order of
the Past. It shall be for the reader to decide whether these Masonic
usages are vestiges of Druidism, or mere points of family resemblance.
The initiations of Masons
are so similar to those of the Druids, that any Mason reading my article
upon the subject must have been struck by the resemblance. The ovade wore
a gold chain round his neck. And the apprentice when initiated has a silk
cord, in masonic parlance a cable-tow, suspended from his throat. Like the
ovade, the apprentice is blindfolded, and as the former was led through
the mazes of a labyrinth, the latter is led backwards and forwards, and in
Thunder and lightning were
counterfeited in the initiation of a Druid, and in that of the Royal Arch
the Companions fire pistols, clash swords, overturn chairs, and roll
cannon balls across the floor.
The tiler stands at the
door with a drawn sword.
And tests of fortitude
though less severe than in former times are not unknown among Masons. The
following arduous trial was used in the Female Lodges of Paris:--
"A candidate for admission
was usually very much excited. During a part of the ceremony she was
conducted to an eminence, and told to look down at what awaited her if she
faltered in her duty. Beneath her appeared a frightful abyss in which a
double row of iron spikes were visible. No doubt her mind was in a chaos
of fanaticism, for instead of shrinking at the sight, she exclaimed "I can
encounter all," and sprang forward. At that moment a secret spring was
touched, and the candidate fell not on the spikes, but on a green bed in
imitation of a verdant plain. She fainted but was soon recovered by her
friends, when the scene having changed she was reanimated and soothed by
the sweet strains of choral
I have already shown, I
trust conclusively, that the Druidic mysteries were founded on those of
the Egyptians, and were analogous to those of Tyre, Persia and Hindostan;
and that their moral doctrines and pristine simplicity of worship were
those of the Hebrew Patriarchs.
It will be easy to show
that those of Freemasonry, if not a mere perpetuation of the Druidic were
derived from the same fountains, and that the secrets of this science and
philosophy are hidden from us by the veil of Isis.
To the Egyptian candidate
on his- initiation, the Hierophant displayed the holy volume of
hieroglyphics which he then restored to its repository.
So when the eyes of the
apprentice are first released from darkness, he beholds the volume of the
During the Persian
initiations, the doctrine was enforced ex cathedra, from the desk or
pulpit. So the Grand Master sits on a throne before which the candidate
kneels, pointing a dagger to his naked left breast and two white wands
being crossed above his head.
On the seal of the ancient
Abbey of Arbroath in Scotland, is a representation which bears a curious
resemblance to the engraving on a seal used by the priests of Isis, and
which Plutarch describes in his Essay on Isis and Osiris--a man kneeling,
his hands bound, and a knife at his throat.
In all the ancient
mysteries before an aspirant could claim participation in the higher
secrets of the institution, he was placed within the pastos or bed, or
coffin, and was subjected to a confinement in darkness for a certain time.
This I have described to be practiced by the Druids. In some of their
labyrinths, discovered in France, the remains of cells have been found,
and there was a dark cell of probation recently standing near Maidstone,
Kitt's Cotti House--from Ked (or Ceridwen) the British Isis, and cotti an
ark, or chest.
So in the initiation of a
Master Mason, the candidate is in some lodges buried in a coffin to
represent the death of the murdered Hiram Abiff. The grand festival of
Masonry is on Midsummer Day, which was also the grand festival of the
The processional movements
of the Masons as of the Druids were mostly circular.
I have already instanced
the symbol by which the Jews expressed the word 'Jehovah.' This letter jod
was believed by them to denote the presence of God, especially when
conveyed in a circle. Masons also have a word which they are not allowed
to pronounce except in the presence of a full lodge, and they pay peculiar
reverence to a point within a circle.
Some of the Druidic
monuments are simple circles with a stone standing in the midst, and the
boss in the centre of their circular shields had probably the same
The Masonic Lodge, like all
Pagan temples, is built due east and west. Its form is an oblong square
which the ancients believed to be the shape of the world. In the west are
two pillars surmounted by globes. The one on the left is called Boaz, and
is supposed to represent Osiris or the sun, the other Jachin, the emblem
of Isis or the moon. The floor is mosaic, and the walls are adorned with
the various symbols of the craft.
The cross is one of the
chief emblems in Masonry as it was in Druidism, and in all the Pagan
religions. The Taw is a badge in Royal Arch Masonry, and almost all the
other varieties of the symbol are used in Masonry.
The key and the cross-keys
are also mosaic symbols. They are supposed to be astronomical signs of
Anubis, or the Dog-Star.
An ear-of-corn is a
prominent emblem in Masonry, proving that the order did not confine their
intellects and their labors to the building of houses, but devoted
themselves also to agriculture.
A sprig of acacia is one of
the emblems revered by the Masons, and answers to the Egyptian lotus, to
the myrtle of Eleusis, to the golden branch of Virgil and to the Druidic
mistletoe. It is curious that Houzza which Mahomet esteemed an
idol--Houzza so honored in the Arabian works of Ghatfân Koreisch, Kenanah
and Salem should be simply the acacia. Thence was derived the word huzza!
in our language, which was probably at first a religious exclamation like
the Evohe! of the Bacchantes.
The doctrines of Masonry
are the most beautiful that it is possible to conceive. They breathe the
simplicity of the earliest ages animated by the love of a martyred God.
That word which the
Puritans translated "charity," but which is really "love"--love is the
key-stone of the Royal Arch upon which is supported the entire system of
this mystic science.
In the lectures of the
French Lodges the whole duty of a Mason is summed up in this one brief
sentence: "Aimez-vous les uns les autres, instruisez-vous, secourez-vous,
voilà tout noire livre, toute noire loi, toule noire science." "Love one
another, teach one another, help one another. That is all our doctrine,
all our science, all our law."
Ah! rail against us bigoted
and ignorant men, slander us curious and jealous women if you will. Those
who obey the precepts of their masters, and those who listen to the truths
which they inculcate can readily forgive you. It is impossible to be a
good Mason without being a good man.
We have no narrow-minded
prejudices; we do not debar from our society this sect or that sect; it is
sufficient for us that a man worships God, no matter under what name or in
what manner, and we admit him. Christians, Jews, Mahometans, Buddhists are
enrolled among us, and it is in the Mason's Lodge alone that they can
kneel down together without feeling hatred, without professing contempt
against their brother worshippers.
IN RUSTIC FOLK-LORE.
IT is strange with what
pertinacity the ignorant retain those customs which their fathers
observed, and which they hold sacred without understanding either their
origin or their purpose.
It is an attribute of human
nature to hallow all that belongs to the past. It is impossible to look
without admiration upon a venerable building which has lived through
centuries, an immortal work of art; it is natural that we should also
revere those customs which have descended to us by no written laws, by no
kingly proclamations, but simply from lip to ear, from father to son.
Before I enter the homes of
our peasants however, come with me to the mountains of Wales where we
shall find the true descendants, not only of the ancient Britons but also
of the Holy Druids themselves.
I mean the Bards, or
harpers, who still continue to strike melodious notes in this land of
music and metheglin, and who still convey to their hearers the precepts of
their great ancestors.
The Bards were always held
in high reverence in Wales, and that is why they have lived so long. When
the priests had been swept away by the sword of the new religion, this
glorious association of musicians remained, and consented to sing praises
to Jesus Christ the Redeemer, instead of to HU the pervading spirit.
Indeed it was said of
Barach, who was chief Bard to Conchobhar Nessan, King of Ulster, that he
described the passion of Jesus in such moving words that the king,
transported with rage, drew his sword and fell to hacking and hewing the
trees of the wood in which he was standing, mistaking them for Jews, and
even died of the frenzy.
By studying the old Welsh
laws of Howel the good king (A. D.,940), one finds some curious
matter respecting the position which the Bards held at that time in the
Court and country.
Y Bardd Teulu, or Court
Bard (an appointment from which that of our poet-laureate probably
originated) on receiving his commission, was presented by the king with a
silver harp, by the queen with a gold ring. He held the eighth place at
Court. He possessed his land free. At the three great festivals of the
year, Christmas, Easter, and Whitsuntide, he sat at the prince's table. On
these occasions, he was entitled to have the disdain's or
steward-of-the-household's garment for his fee. In addition to these
perquisites, the king found him in woolen robes, and the queen in linen,
and he received a present from every maiden when she married, but nothing
at the bridal feasts of women who had been married before.
At regal feasts the guests
were placed in threes; a tune called Gosteg yr Halen, "the prelude of the
salt," was sung as the salt-cellar was placed before the king, and as they
were served with meats, &c., upon platters of clean grass and rushes, the
harp played all the while.
When a song was called for
after the feast, the Oadeir-fardd, or the bard who possessed the badge
of-the-chair sang a hymn to the glory of God, and then another in honor of
the king. After which, the Teuluwr, or Bard of the Hall sang upon some
If the queen wished for a
song after she had retired to her apartment, the Teuluwr, might sing to
her, but in a low voice, lest he disturb the other performers in the hall.
If a Bard desired a favor
of the king, he was obliged to play one of his own compositions; if of a
nobleman, three; and if of a villain, till he was exhausted.
His person was held so
sacred that whoever slightly injured him was fined VI cows and CXX pence,
and the murderer of a Bard was fined CXXVI cows. The worst murder in those
days, like criminal conversations in the present age, only needed
On a plundering expedition,
the Bard received a large portion of the spoil. He preceded the warriors
to battle, reciting a poem called Unhenaeth Prydain, "the glory of
An edict was issued by King
Edward I. authorizing the massacre of the Bards, one of them having
prophesied the liberation of Wales. The murder of the last Bard has been
beautifully described by Gray in one of his poems.
Queen Elizabeth also issued
a proclamation, but of a less sanguinary character against certain
wandering minstrels, who appear to have been among the musicians of those
days what quacks are among our modern M.D.'s. It also commissioned certain
gentlemen to inquire into the various capabilities of the Welsh Bards, and
to license those who were most fit to represent the musical talent of
This profound question was
settled at an Eisteddfod, or a musical meeting of the Bard who contested
once a year for a silver harp. This practice which had existed from time
immemorial is still continued in Wales, and the transactions of the
Aberffraw Royal Eisteddfod were published in the year 1849.
I know little of the
peculiar character of Welsh music except that it is executed mostly in B
flat. Part-singing may be considered as a peculiarity of the Welsh bards.
Extempore performances were common to all the ancient minstrels of the
A kind of extempore
composition is still exercised among the Welsh peasantry, and is called
Penillion singing. The harper being seated, plays one of his native airs
while the singers stand round him and alternately compose a stanza upon
any subject they please.
There are many clerwyr, or
wandering minstrels still in Wales. Like their predecessors, they are in
the habit of going from house to house, and of officiating, as our gypsy
fiddlers do at all rustic festivals and weddings. They have a curious
tradition, that Madoc, a brother of one of the Kings of Wales, sailed from
that country in the year 1171 A. D. and was the first European settler in
Mexico. Sir Thomas Herbert who wrote a scarce book of travels in 1665,
mentions it as a fact, and in Hackett's Collection of Epitaphs (1757) is
FOUND AT MEXICO.
"Madoc wyf mwydic ei wedd
lawn genan Owain Gwynedd
Ni fynnwn dir fy awydd oedd
Na da mawr ond y Moroedd."
Madoc I am-mild in
Of the right line of Owen Gwynedd
I wished not for land; my bent was
For no great riches, but for the seas.
We have it on the authority
of a Captain Davies, and Lieutenant Roberts of Hawcorden in Flintshire,
and from a MS. entry in William Penn's journal, evidence collected by the
famous Dr. Owen Pughe, that the tribes of the Illinois, Madocautes, the
Padoucas and Mud Indians spoke the Welsh language.
Without entering into a
useless dissertation upon this subject, I will note a curious custom in
which the American Indians resemble the Welsh, viz., in the habit of
carrying their canoes upon their backs from rapid to rapid. Giraldus
Cambrensis informs us that the Welsh used to carry their triangular boats
from river to river, which occasioned a famous dealer, named Bledherc, to
say: "There is amongst us a people who when they go out in search of prey
carry their horses on their backs to the place of plunder; in order to
catch their prey, they leap upon their horses, and when it is taken, carry
their horses home again upon their shoulders."
They worshipped the same
symbols of God as the ancient British-the sun, the moon, fire, water, the
serpent, the cross, &c., and in the course of this chapter I shall mention
other customs common to both nations.
Among the peasantry of
Great Britain and Ireland, there are observed not only those traditional
customs which are meaningless because they are out of date, but actual
It may surprise the reader
that the worship of fire with which our preachers and tract-writers jeer
the inhabitants of Persia, is not yet extinct among us. Spenser says that
the Irish never lighted a fire without uttering a prayer. In some parts of
England it is considered unlucky for the fire to go out. They have a
peculiar fuel with which they feed it during the night. The Scotch
peat-fires are seldom allowed to die out.
There are three days in the
year on which the worship of fire is especially observed-May-day,
Midsummer Eve and Allhallow E'en.
On the first of May which
is called Beltan, or Beltein-Day from the Druidic Beltenus, the Phnician
Baal, the Highland herdsmen assemble on a moor, They cut a table in the
sod, of a round figure, by casting a trench in the ground of such
circumference as to hold the whole company. They kindle a wood fire and
dress a large caudle of eggs, butter, oatmeal and milk, taking care to be
supplied with plenty of beer and whiskey as well. The rites begin with
spilling some of the caudle on the ground by way of a libation; on that,
every one takes a cake of oatmeal, upon which are raised nine square
knobs, each dedicated to some particular being, the supposed preserver of
their flocks and herbs, or to some particular animal the real destroyer of
them. Each person then turns his face to the fire, breaks off a knob and
flinging it over his shoulder, says: This I give to thee, preserve thou my
horses; this I give to thee, preserve thou my sheep, and so on. After
that, they use the same ceremony to the noxious animals. This I give to
thee, oh fox! spare thou my lambs! this to thee, oh hooded crow; this to
thee, oh eagle!
They then knead another
cake of oatmeal which is toasted at the embers against a stone. They
divide this cake into so many portions (as similar as possible to each
other in size and shape) as there are persons in the company. They daub
one of these portions all over with charcoal until it is quite black. They
put all the bits into a bonnet and every one, blind-folded, draws. He who
holds the bonnet is entitled to the last bit. Whoever draws the black
morsel is the devoted person who is to be sacrificed to Baal, and is
compelled to leap three times through the fire, after which they dine on
When the feast is finished,
the remains are concealed by two persons deputed for that purpose, and on
the next Sunday they re-assemble and finish it. This, you see, is a relic
of the Druidic human sacrifices as well as of their fire-worship. I will
give two more examples of the former.
I have noticed the custom
of the Druids in great extremities of constructing a large wicker engine,
of filling it with sheep, oxen and sometimes men, and setting light to it,
as a mammoth sacrifice. Dr. Milner in his History of Winchester, informs
us that at Dunkirk and at Douay there has existed an immemorial custom of
constructing huge figures of wicker-work and canvas, and moving them about
to represent a giant that was killed by their patron saint.
And St. Foix, in his Essay
on Paris, describes a custom which is not yet abolished in some of the
small towns in France, viz., for the mayors on the Eve of St. John to put
into a large basket a dozen or two cats, and to throw them into one of the
festive bonfires lighted upon that occasion.
To return to May Day. In
Munster and Connaught the Irish peasants drive their cattle between two
fires, as if for purposes of purification. In some parts of Scotland they
light a fire to feast by, and having thrown a portion of their
refreshments into the flames as a propitiatory sacrifice, deck branches of
mountain-ash with wreaths of flowers and heather, and walk three times
round it in a procession.
Precisely the same custom
is observed by the natives of America and at the same period, i.e., that
of the vernal equinox.
In India there is a
festival in honor of Bhavani (a Priapic personification of nature and
fecundity), which the Hindoos commemorate by erecting a pole in the
fields, and by adorning it with pendants and flowers round which the young
people dance precisely the same as in England.
The Jews also keep a solar
festival at the vernal equinox, on which occasion the Paschal lamb is
The Floridians and Mexicans
erect a tree in the centre of their sacred enclosures around which they
On May Eve the Cornish
erect stumps of trees before their doors. On the first of the month the
famous May-pole is raised, adorned with flowers and encircled by the
pretty country lasses who little know of what this pole, or is an emblem.
On Midsummer Eve an
involuntary tribute is paid by the peasants of Great Britain and Ireland
to the shades of their ancient priests, and to the Gods whom they
worshipped, by lighting bonfires. The word bonfire, I may observe, is by
some called bonefire because they believe (without any particular reason),
that their fuel consisted of bones; by others boon-fire, because the wood
was obtained by begging. Utrum horum marvis accipe.
The cooks of Newcastle
lighted fires on Midsummer Day in the streets of that town; the custom is
general almost all over Ireland, and as late as the year 1786, the custom
of lighting fires was continued in the Druidic Temple at Bramham, near
Harrowgate in Yorkshire, on the eve of the summer solstice.
In the Cornish
tongue, Midsummer is called Goluan, which means light and rejoicing. At
that season, the natives make a procession through the towns or villages
with lighted torches.
The Irish dance round these
fires, and sometimes fathers, taking their children in their arms, will
run through the flames.
In Hindostan it is the
mother who performs this office.
On all sacred days among
the Druids, they resorted to their different kinds of divination, and I
should tire the reader were I to enumerate half the charms and
incantations which are made use of in the country on Midsummer Eve.
I have always remarked that
those divinations which were probably used by priests to foretell the fate
of a kingdom, or to decide upon the life or death of a human being, have
now become mere methods of love prophecies with village sweethearts.
One will sow hemp-seed on
Midsummer Eve, saying, Hemp-seed I sow, hemp-seed I hoe, and he that is my
true love come after me and mow. She will then turn round, and expects to
see the young man who will marry her.
Another will pick a kind of
root which grows under mug-wort, and which, if pulled exactly at midnight
on the Eve of St. John the Baptist and placed under her pillow, will give
her a dream of her future husband.
Another will place over her
head the orphine-plant, commonly called Midsummer-men: the bending of the
leaves to the right or to the left will tell her whether her husband was
true or false.
Bourne cites from the
Trullan Council a species of divination, so singular, that it is
impossible to read it without being reminded of the Pythoness on her
tripod, or the Druidess on her seat of stone.
"On the 23rd of June, which
is the Eve of St. John the Baptist, men and women were accustomed to
gather together in the evening at the sea-side or in certain houses, and
there adorn a girl who was her father's first-begotten child after the
manner of a bride. Then they feasted and leaped after the manner of
Bacchanals, and danced and shouted as they were wont to do on their
holy-days; after this, they poured into a narrow-necked vessel some of the
sea-water, and also put into it certain things belonging to each of them.
Then as if the devil gifted the girl with the faculty of telling future
things, they would enquire with a loud voice about the good or evil
fortune that should attend them; upon this the girl took out of the vessel
the first thing that came to hand and showed it, and gave it to the owner,
who, upon receiving it, was so foolish as to imagine himself wiser, as to
the good or evil fortune that should attend him."
The Druidic vervain was
held in estimation on this day as we read in Ye Popish Kingdome.
Then doth ye joyfal feast
of John ye Baptist take his turne,
When bonfiers great with lofty flame in every town doe burne,
And young men round about with maides doe dance in every streete,
With garlands wrought of mother-wort, or else with verwain sweete.
The following extract from the Calendar of the Romish Church, shows us
doings there used to be at Rome on the Eve and Day of St. John the
Roman Pales--the Druidic Belenus.
23. The Virgil of the Nativity of John the Baptist.
Spices are given at Vespers.
Fires are lighted up.
A girl with a little drum that proclaims the garland.
Boys are dressed in girl's clothes:
Carols to the liberal: imprecations against the avaricious.
Waters are swum in during the night, and are brought in vessels that hang
for purposes of divination.
Fern in great estimation with the vulgar on account of its seed.
Herbs of different kinds are sought with many ceremonies.
Girl's Thistle is gathered, and a hundred crosses by the same.
24. The Nativity of John
Dew and new leaves in estimation.
The vulgar solstice.
It was on Hallow-E'en that
the Druids used to compel their subjects to extinguish their fires, which,
when the annual diies were paid, were relighted from that holy fire which
burnt in the clachan of the Druids, and which never died.
Even now all fires are
extinguished on HallowE'en, and a fire being made by rubbing two sticks
together they are relighted from that, and from that alone. The same
custom is observed among the Cherokee Indians.
At the village of Findern
in Derbyshire, the boys and girls go every year on the 2nd of November and
light a number of small fires among the furze growing there, which they
call Tindles. They can give no reason for so doing.
Throughout the United
Kingdom there are similar divining customs observed to those which I have
just described as exercised on Midsummer Eve.
There are miscellaneous
vestiges of fire-worship besides those already noticed. In Oxfordshire
revels, young women will sometimes tuck their skirts (twisting them in an
ingenious manner round the ankles, and holding the ends in front of them)
into a very good resemblance of men's trousers, and dance round a candle
placed upon the floor, concluding by leaping over it three times. The name
of this dance, too coarse to be written here, as the dance is to be
described, betrays its phallic origin.
Then there is the "Dance
round our coal fire," an ancient practice of dancing round the fires in
the Inns of Court, which was observed in 1733, at an entertainment at the
Inner Temple Hall on Lord Chancellor Talbot's taking leave of the house,
when "the Master of the Revels took the Chancellor by the hand, and
he Mr. Page, who with the Judges, Sergeants and Benchers danced round the
Coal Fire, according to the old ceremony three times; and all the time the
ancient song with music was sung by a man in a bar gown."
Last and most singular of
all the Tinegin, or need-fire of the Highlanders.
To defeat sorceries,
certain persons appointed to do so are sent to raise the need-fire. By any
small river or lake, or upon any island a circular booth of turf or stone
is erected, on which a rafter of birch-tree is placed and the roof covered
over. In the centre is set a perpendicular post, fixed by a wooden pin to
the couple, the lower end being placed in an oblong groove on the floor,
and another pole placed horizontally between the upright post and the leg
of the couple into both of which the ends being tapered are inserted. This
horizontal timber is called the auger, being provided with four short
spokes by which it can be turned. As many men as can be collected are then
set to work. Having divested themselves of all kinds of metals, they turn
the pole two at a time by means of the levers, while others keep driving
wedges under the upright post so as to press it against the auger, which
by the friction soon becomes ignited. From this the need-fire is instantly
procured, and all other fires being quenched, those that are rekindled
both in dwelling houses and offices are accounted sacred, and the diseased
and bewitched cattle are successively made to smell them.
This contrivance is
elaborate and its description not unnaturally awkward. It is however
worthy of remark that in the initiation of Freemasons all metals are taken
Water was worshipped by the
Druids, and was used by them for purification. The Welsh peasantry hold
sacred the rain-water which lodges in the crevices of their cromleachs or
altars, and the Irish proverb "To take a dip in the Shannon," would seem
to show that its waters were held in the same superstitious reverence as
are those of the Ganges by the natives of Hindostan.
The Druids besprinkled
themselves with dew when they went to sacrifice, and it is a belief among
the English lasses that those who bathe their faces in the dew on May Day
morning will have beautiful complexions.
It is a belief in
Oxfordshire that to cure a man bitten by a mad dog, he should be taken to
the sea and dipped therein nine times.
The regard still paid,
however, to wells and fountains by the peasantry is the most extraordinary
feature of water-worship. In the early ages it prevailed with such
strength, that the Roman Catholics fearing to combat the custom
christianized it by giving the holy wells the names of popular saints, and
by enjoining pilgrimages after the Pagan fashion to their shrine.
In some parts of England it
is still customary to decorate these wells with boughs of trees, garlands
of tulips, and other flowers placed in various fancied devices.
At one time, indeed it was
the custom on Holy Thursday, after the service for the day at the church,
for the clergyman and singers to pray and sing psalms at these wells.
Pilgrimages are still made
by invalids among the poor Irish to wells, whose waters are supposed to
possess medicinal properties under the influence of some beneficent saint.
The well of Strathfillan in
Scotland is also resorted to at certain periods of the year. The water of
the well of Trinity Gask in Perthshire is supposed to cure any one seized
with the plague. In many parts of Wales the water used for the baptismal
font is fetched from these holy wells.
Not only a reverence, but
actual sacrifices are offered to some of these wells and to the saints
which preside over them, or to the spirits which are supposed to inhabit
In a quillet, called Gwern
Degla, near the village of Llandegla in Wales there is a small spring. The
water is under the tutelage of St. Tecla and is esteemed a sovereign
remedy for the falling sickness. The patient washes his limbs in the well,
makes an offering into it of fourpence, walks round it three times, and
thrice repeats the Lord's prayer. If a man, he sacrifices a cock; if a
woman a hen. The fowl is carried in a basket first round the well, after
that into the churchyard and round the church. The votary then enters the
church, gets under the communion table, lies down with the Bible under his
head, is covered with a cloth and rests there till break of day. When he
departs, he offers sixpence and leaves the fowl in the church. If the bird
dies, the cure is supposed to have been affected and the disease
transferred to the devoted victim.
The custom of sticking bits
of rag on thorns near these wells is inexplicable, as it is
universal. Between the walls of Alten and Newton, near the foot of
Rosberrye Toppinge, there is a well dedicated to St. Oswald. The neighbors
have a belief that a shirt or shift taken off a sick person and thrown
into the well will prognosticate his fate. If it floats the person will
recover, if it sinks he will die. And to reward the saint for his
intelligence, they tear a rag off the shirt and leave it hanging -on the
briars thereabouts, "where" says Grose, citing a MS. in the Cotton
Library, marked Julius F. vi. "I have seen such numbers as might have made
a fayre rheme in a pajermyll."
That the Highlanders still
believe in spirits which inhabit their lakes is easily proved. In
Strathspey there is a lake called Loch nan Spiordan, the Lake of Spirits.
When its waters are agitated by the wind and its spray mounts whirling in
the air, they believe that it is the anger of this spirit whom they name
Martach Shine, or the Rider of the Storm.
The Well of St. Keyne in
the parish of St. Keyne, in Cornwall, is supposed to possess a curious
property which is humorously explained in the following verses
THE WELL OF ST. KEYNE.
A well there is in the west
And a clearer one never was seen
There is not a wife in the west country
But has heard of the Well of St. Keyne.
An oak and an elm tree stand beside,
And behind doth an ash tree grow,
And a willow from the bank above
Droops to the water below.
A traveler came to the Well of St. Keyne,
Pleasant it was to his eye;
For from cock-crow he had been traveling,
and there was not a cloud in the sky.
He drank of the water so cool and clear,
For thirsty and hot was he;
And he sat him down upon the bank,
Under the willow tree.
There came a man from a neighboring town,
At the well to fill his pail;
On the well-side he rested it,
And bade the stranger hail.
Now, art thou a bachelor, stranger? quoth he,
For an if thou hast a wife,
The happiest draught thou hast drank this day
That ever thou didst in thy life.
Or has your good woman, if one you have,
In Cornwall ever been?
For an if she have, I'll venture my life,
She has drunk of the Well of St. Keyne.
I have left a good woman who never was here,
The stranger he made reply;
But that my draught should be better for that,
I pray thee tell me why.
St. Keyne, quoth the countryman, many a time,
Drank of this chrystal well;
And before the angel summoned her,
She laid on the water a spell.
If the husband, (of this gifted well),
Shall drink before his wife,
A happy man thenceforth is he,
For he shall be master for life.
But if the wife should drink of it first,
God help the husband then!
The stranger stooped to the well of St. Keyne,
And drank of its waters again.
You drank of the well I warrant betimes?
He to the countryman said,
But the countryman smiled as the stranger spoke,
And sheepishly shook his head.
I hastened as soon as the wedding was done.
And left my wife in the porch,
But i'faith I found her wiser than me,
For she took a bottle to church.
I must not omit to mention
a method of divination by water, which is practiced at Madern Well in the
parish of Madern, and at the well of St. Ennys, in the parish of Sancred,
Cornwall. At a certain period of the year, moon or day, come the uneasy,
impatient and superstitious, and by dropping pins or pebbles into the
water, and by shaking the ground round the spring so as to raise bubbles
from the bottom, endeavor to predict the future. This practice is not
indigenous to Britain. The Castalian fountain in Greece was supposed to be
of a prophetic nature. By dipping a mirror into a well the Patræans
received, as they supposed, omens of ensuing sickness or health from the
figures portrayed upon its surface.
In Laconia, they cast into
a lake, sacred to Juno, three stones, and drew prognostications from the
several turns which they made in sinking. I will translate at length a
pretty French story which I have met with, and which will adorn as well as
illustrate the present subject:--
THE LEGEND OF THE PIN.
In the West of France the
pin is endowed with a fabulous power, which is not without a certain
interest. One of its supposed attributes is the power of attracting lovers
to her who possess it, after it has been used in the toilet of a bride.
Consequently it is a curious sight in La Vendeé or Les Deux-Sèvres, to see
all the peasant girls anxiously placing a pin in the bride's dress: the
number being often so considerable that she is forced to have a pin
-cushion attached to her waist-band to receive all the prickly charms. At
night, on the threshold of the bridal chamber, she is surrounded by her
companions, each one easily seizing upon the charmed pin, which is kept as
a sacred relic.
In Brittany the pin is
regarded as the guardian of chastity, a mute witness which will one day
stand forth to applaud or condemn in the following manner:--
Some days before the
wedding, the betrothed leads his future bride to the edge of some
mysterious current of water, and taking one of her pins drops it into the
water. If it swims, the girl's innocence is incontestable--if on the
contrary it sinks to the bottom, it is considered the judgment of heaven;
it is an accusation which no evidence can overcome. But as the peasant
girls in Brittany never use any pins heavier than the long blackthorn,
which they find in the hedges, the severity of the tribunal is not very
On the 7th of December, a
young peasant mounted on a strong cob, full of hope and gaiety, was seen
urging his way towards Morlaix with a handsome girl of twenty on a pillion
behind him, her arm tenderly clasping his waist. It was easy to see in
their happy faces that they were two lovers, and from the direction which
they took, that they were going on a pilgrimage to try the charm of the
pin at the fountain of St. Douet. Jean's father was one of the richest
land-holders in the neighborhood, but above all the young ladies round
him, he had chosen Margaret, whose sole wealth consisted in her beauty and
virtue. Through all the glades of the wood with wild thyme and violets
beneath their horses feet, they journeyed on till they came to a wild and
deserted plain, whence they plunged once more into the dark forests of
Finisterre filled with Druidical memories. It might have been those sombre
shades which saddened them for a moment, but it was only for a moment.
jean feared not the trial, for he loved Margaret, and believed her to be
an angel. And Margaret feared it not, for she knew that she was innocent.
Now they were close to the
sacred fountain, which burst through the crevices of a rock overgrown with
moss into a natural bason, and thence like a thread of silver through the
They dismounted, and
Margaret, kneeling down, prayed fervently for some moments. Then rising,
she gave her left hand to her lover, and full of confidence, advanced
toward the well. Alas! she had too much faith in the virtue of the legend.
Instead of a thorn pin, she took from a neckerchief one with a silver head
which he had given her. He pressed her fingers affectionately as he took
it from her hand and dropped it into the well. It disappeared
instantaneously. Margaret sank to the ground with a heart-broken groan.
He raised her and placed
her on his horse, but he did not speak to her, he did not caress her. In
mournful silence he walked by her side. Her arm could no longer embrace
him. She was not his Margaret now. She was a guilty wretch who had dared
to tempt the judgment of God.
He placed her down at her
father's door, and stooping he kissed her on the forehead. It was a silent
adieu he was bidding her; it was his last kiss -it was the kiss of death.
Next morning her corpse was
found underneath his window. There were no marks of violence upon her
body; the wound was in her heart; she had died a victim to a destestable
To the element of air we do
not find our peasants pay any particular homage, unless the well-known
practice of sailors of whistling for the wind in a dead calm, and of the
Cornish laborers when engaged in winnowing may be regarded as such.
But the worship of the
heavenly bodies has not yet died out among us' The astrologists of the
middle ages were but copyists of the ancient Chaldeans, and the lower
classes to this day draw omens from meteors and falling stars. General
Vallancey, by the way, records a curious instance in his Collectanea de
rebus Hibernicis, of an Irish peasant who could neither read nor write but
who could calculate eclipses.
When we consider how
universal and how prominent was the worship of the sun in the world, it is
almost surprising that we do not find more vestiges of this idolatry.
There are some few however.
It was once a custom of the
vulgar to rise early on Easter Day to see the sun dance, for they fancied
that the reflection of its beams played or danced upon the waters of any
spring or lake they might look into.
In the British Apollo, fol.
Lond. 1708, vol. i. No. 40, we read:
Q. Old wives, Phbus, say
That on Easter day,
To the music o'the spheres you do caper,
If the fact, sir, be true,
Pray let's the cause know,
When you have any room in your paper.
A. The old wives get merry,
With spic'd ale or sherry,
On Easter, which makes them romance
And whilst in a rout,
Their brains whirl about,
They fancy we caper and dance.
The sun shining on the
bride as she goes to church is a good omen. The cloudy rising of the sun
is a presage of misfortune. The Highlanders, when they approach a well to
drink, walk round it from east to west, sometimes thrice.
The Orkney fishermen, on
going to sea, would think themselves in imminent peril, were they by
accident to turn their boat in opposition to the sun's course; and I have
seen many well-educated people seriously discomfited if the cards from the
pack, the balls from the pool-basket, or the decanters at the dining-table
had not been sent round as the sun goes.
All the ancient dances were
in imitation of the revolutions of the heavenly bodies, and were used in
religious worship. Such were the circular dances of the Druids--the slower
and statelier movements of the Greek strophe--the dances of the Cabiri or
Phoenician priests, the devotional dances of the Turkish dervishes, the
Hindoo Raas Jattra or dance-of-the-circle, and the war dances of the
American and other savage nations round their camp-fires, lodges, or
Such also is the Round
About, or Cheshire Round, which is referred to by Goldsmith in his Vicar
of Wakefield, and which is not yet extinct in England.
But the best instance of
sun-worship is found in the fires lighted by the common Irish on
Midsummer's Eve, and which they tell you candidly are burnt "in honor of
The fires which the Scotch
Highlanders light on May Day are to welcome back the sun after his long
pilgrimage in the frosts and darkness of winter.
Crantz in his History of
Greenland, informs us that the natives of that country observe a similar
festival to testify their joy at the re-appearance of the sun, and the
consequent renewal of the hunting season.
In matters of divination,
the moon is supposed by the vulgar to possess a peculiar power. She was
supposed to exercise an influence not only over the tides of the sea, and
over the minds of men, but also over the future, in weather, cookery, and
When the moon is encircled
by a halo, or is involved in a mist, when she is called "greasy," it
portends rain--when she is sharp horned, windy weather. It is also a
general belief among all classes that as the weather is at the new moon,
so it will continue during the whole month.
In many of the old almanacs
and books of husbandry, it is directed to kill hogs when the moon is
increasing, and the bacon will prove the better, in boiling; to shear
sheep at the moon's increase; to fell hand-timber from the full to the
change; to fell frith, coppice, and fuel at the first quarter; to geld
cattle when the moon is in Aries, Sagittarius, or Capricorn.
In The Husbandman's
Practice, or Prognostication for ever, the reader is advised "To purge
with electuaries the moon in Cancer, with pills the moone in Pisces, with
potions the moone in Virgo," and in another place, "To set, sow seeds,
graft, and plant, the moone being in Taurus, Virgo or Capricorn, and all
kinds of corne in Cancer, to graft in March, at the moone's increase, she
being in Taurus or Capricorn."
Werenfels in his
Dissertation on Superstition, speaking of a superstitious man, writes, "He
will have his hair cut either when the moon is in Leo, that his locks may
stare like the lion's shag, or in Aries that they may stare like a ram's
horn. Whatever he would have to grow he sets about when she is in the
increase; for whatever he would have made less he chooses her wane. When
the moon is in Taurus, he can never be persuaded to take physic, lest that
animal which chews its cud should make him cast it up again; and if at any
time he has a mind to be admitted to the presence of a prince, he will
wait till the moon is in conjunction with the sun, for 'tis then the
society of an inferior with a superior is salutary and successful."
The islanders of Sky will
not dig peats (which is their only fuel) in the increase of the moon,
believing that they are less moist, and will burn more clearly if cut in
In the parishes of Kirkwall
and St. Ola, Orkney, none marry or kill cattle in the wane.
In Angus it is believed
that if a child be put from the breast during the waning of the moon, it
will decay all the time that the moon continues to wane. I will mention
two more instances of divination, one from Thomas Hodge's Incarnate
Divells, viz., "That when the moone appeareth in the springtime, the one
horn spotted and hidden with a blacke and great cloude from the first day
of her apparition to the fourth day after, it is some signe of tempests
and troubles in the aire the summer after."
When the new moon appears
with the old moon in her arms, or in other words when that part of the
moon which is covered by the shadow of the earth is seen through it, it is
considered not only an omen of bad weather, but also of misfortune, as we
learn from the following stanza in the ballad of Sir Patrick Spence:
Late, late yestreen
I saw the new moone
Wi'the auld moone in her arme;
And I feir, I feir, my deir master,
That we will come to harm.
One might enumerate
examples of this kind to volumes, and I fear I have already passed the
limits of human endurance; I must, however, write a few words upon the
subject of moon-worship.
The feminine appellation is
traditionally derived from the fable of Isis, who was entitled the wife of
the sun. The superstition of the man-in-the-moon, is supposed to have
originated in the account given in the Book of Numbers, XV. 32 et seq. of
a man punished with death for gathering sticks on the Sabbath Day, though
why, it is difficult to explain. In Ritson's Ancient Songs we read, "The
man-in-the-moon is represented leaning upon a fork, on which he carries a
bush of thorn, because it was for 'pycchynde stake' on a Sunday that he is
reported to have been thus confined." And in Midsummer Night's Dream, one
of the actors says, "All I have to say is to tell you that the lantern is
the moon, I the man-in-the-moon, this thorn bush my thorn bush, and this
dog my dog." Vide also Tempest, act. ii. sc. 2.
The new moon still
continues to be idolatrously worshipped by the vulgar of many countries.
On the night of the new
moon, the Jews assemble to pray to God under the names of the Creator of
the planets, and the restorer of the moon.
The Madingoe Tribe of
African Indians whisper a short prayer with their hands held before their
face; they then spit upon their hands and religiously anoint their faces
with the same.
At the end of the Mahometan
Feast of Rhamadan (which closely resembles the Romish Carnival) the
priests await the reappearance of the moon, and salute her with clapping
of hands, beating of drums and firing of muskets.
In the 65th Canon of the
6th council of Constantinople, A. D. 680, is the following interdiction:
"Those bone-fires that are kindled by certaine people on new moones before
their shops and houses, over which also they are most foolishly and
ridiculously to leape by a certaine antient custom, we command them from
henceforth to cease. Whoever therefore shall do any such thing, if he be a
clergyman let him be deposed-if a layman let him be excommunicated."
No bonfires are now lit in
honor of the new moon, but the common Irish on beholding her for the first
time cross themselves, saying:
May thou leave us as safe
as thou hast found us.
English peasants often
salute the new moon, saying: "There is the new moon, God bless her,"
usually seating themselves on a stile as they do so.
They also believe that a
new moon seen over the right shoulder is lucky, over the left shoulder
unlucky, and straight before good luck to the end of the moon. That if
they look straight at the new moon (or a shooting star) when they first
see it, and wish for something, their wish will be fulfilled before the
end of the year.
The peasant girls, in some
parts of England, when they see the new moon in the new year, take their
stocking off from one foot and run to the next stile; when they get there,
they look between the great toe and the next, and expect to find a hair
which will be the color of their lover's.
In Yorkshire, it is common
enough for an inquisitive maid to go out into a field till she finds a
stone fast in the earth, to kneel upon this with naked knees and looking
up at the new moon to say:
All hail, new moon, all
hail to thee,
I prithee, good moon, reveal to me
This night, who shall my true love be,
Who he is, and what he wears,
And what he does all months and years.
She then retires backwards
till she comes to a stile, and goes to bed directly without speaking a
The Irish believe that
eclipses of the moon are effected by witchcraft, and this occasions me to
narrate a curious custom of the ancient Peruvians who were the Egyptians
of the New World.
When the moon became
eclipsed, they imagined that she was ill and would fall down and crush the
world. Accordingly as soon as the eclipse commenced, they made a noise
with cornets and drums, and tying dogs to trees beat them till they howled
in order to awake the fainting moon who is said to love these animals, for
Diana and Nehalenna are seldom represented without a dog by their side.
Since we find in a book,
called Osborne's Advice to his Son, p. 79, that "the Irish and Welch
during eclipses ran about beating kettles and pans, thinking their clamor
and vexations available to the assistance of the higher orbes," it is
probable that they made use of the same canine resources as the natives of
Peru, and that such is the origin of the Irish proverb that "dogs will
bark at the moon."
Having thus considered the
worship of the elements and of the heavenly bodies extant among us, let us
pass on to those minor idolatries which are still retained among the lower
There is no religious
custom of the Russians so celebrated as that of presenting each other with
eggs dyed and stained, saying, "Christ is risen." To which the other
replies "He is indeed," and they exchange kisses.
An egg was the Egyptian
emblem of the universe, and it was from the Egyptians that all the Pagan
nations, and afterwards the Greek Christians derived this ceremony. They
are used also by the Roman Catholics and by the Jews in their Paschal
It is probable that it was
also a Druidic ceremony, for it prevails in Cumberland and many other
counties of England. On Easter Monday and Tuesday the inhabitants assemble
in the meadows, the children provided with hard boiled eggs, colored or
ornamented in various ways, some being dyed with logwood or cochineal;
others tinged with the juice of herbs and broom-flowers; others stained by
being boiled in shreds of parti-colored riband; and others covered with
gilding. They roll them along the ground, or toss them in the air till
they break when they eat them-a part of the ceremony which they probably
understand the best. They are called pace-eggs or paste-eggs, probably
corrupted from pasche.
This reminds us of the
strange fable of the serpent's egg. As I mentioned in an earlier chapter
many of these eggs or adder-stones are preserved with great reverence in
the Highlands. There are also some traditions upon this subject which are
Monsieur Chorier in his
Histoire de Dauphiné informs us that in the divers parts of that county,
especially near the mountain of Rochelle on the borders of Savoy, serpents
congregate from the 15th of June to the 15th of August for purposes of
generation. The place which they have occupied after they have gone, is
covered with a sticky white foam which is indescribably disgusting to
behold. Camden relates that in most parts of Wales and throughout Scotland
and Cornwall, it is an opinion of the vulgar that about Midsummer Eve the
snakes meet together in companies, and that by joining heads together and
hissing, a kind of bubble is formed which the rest by continual hissing
blow on till it quite passes through the body, when it immediately hardens
and resembles a glass ring which will make its finder prosperous in all
his undertakings. The rings thus generated are called gleinu madroeth, or
snake stones. They are small glass amulets commonly about half as wide as
our finger rings, but much thicker, of a green color usually though
sometimes blue and waved with red and white.
Careu in his Survey of
Cornwall says that its inhabitants believe that snakes breathing upon a
hazel wand produce a stone ring of a blue color, in which there appears
the yellow figure of a snake, and that beasts which have been bit by a mad
dog or poisoned, if given some water to drink wherein this stone has been
infused, will perfectly recover.
The following custom is
evidently a dramatic representation of the rape of the serpent's egg à la
On Easter Monday, in
Normandy, the common people congregate à la motte de Pougard which they
surround. They place at the foot a basket containing a hundred eggs, the
number of the stones of the temple of Aubury. A man takes the eggs and
places them singly on the top of the tumulus, and then descends in the
same manner to return them to the basket. While this is doing, another man
runs to a village half a league off, and if he can return before the last
egg is restored to the basket, he gains a barrel of cider as a prize,
which he empties with the co-operation of his friends, and a Bacchanalian
dance round the tumulus ends the proceedings.
Serpent-worship is almost
extinct, if not entirely so; . and the belief of the lower orders in
Ireland that St. Patrick expelled all the snakes and other reptiles from
the island is perhaps derived from his having extinguished their adorers.
However, it is considered
unlucky in England to kill the harmless green snake; and there is a
superstition almost universally present, that it will not die till the
setting of that sun, of which it was an emblem.
Its tenacity of life is
indeed something marvelous. Mr. Payne Knight, in his work on Phallic
worship, (which I read at the British Museum, but which is somewhat
absurdly excluded from the catalogue) states that he has seen the heart of
an adder throb for some moments after it had been completely taken from
the body, and even renew its beatings ten minutes afterwards when dipped
in hot water.
Many of our ladies wear
bracelets in the shape of a snake, as did the Egyptian dames of old. The
lower orders believe that a serpent's skin will extract thorns, and its
fat is sold to London chemists at five shillings a pound for its medicinal
Most curious of all, is the
superstition that by eating snakes one may grow young, and of which the
three following passages are illustrations.
"A gentlewoman told an
ancient bachelor, who looked very young, that she thought he had eaten a
snake. No mistress, (he said) it is because I never meddled with any
snakes which maketh me look so young. "--Holy State, 1642, p. 36.
He hath left off o' late to
feed on snakes,
His beard's turned white again.
Massinger, Old Law. Act V. Sc. 1.
He is your loving brother, sir, and will tell nobody
But all he meets, that you have eat a snake,
And are grown young, gamesome, and rampant.
Ibid, Elder Brother, Act IV., Sc- 4-
Of stone worship there are
still many vestiges. In a little island near Skye is a chapel dedicated to
St. Columbus; on an altar is a round blue stone which is always moist.
Fishermen, detained by contrary winds, bathe this stone in water,
expecting thereby to obtain favorable winds; it is likewise applied to the
sides of people troubled with stitches, and it is held so holy, that
decisive oaths are sworn upon it.
There is a stone in the
parish of Madren, Cornwall, through which many persons are wont to creep
for pains in the back and limbs, and through which children are drawn for
the rickets. In the North, children are drawn through a hole cut in the
Groaning Cheese, a huge stone, on the day they are christened.
To go into the cleft of a
rock was an ancient method of penitence and purification. It may be
remembered that in the tradition of Hiram Abiff, the assassins were found
concealed in a hollow rock, in which they were lamenting their crime.
To sleep on stones on
particular nights is a cure for lameness with our peasants, though perhaps
a hazardous one, especially if the disease originated from rheumatism.
A Druidic monument of great
historical interest is to be seen under the coronation chair in
Westminster Abbey. Originally called Liag-fial, the Fatal Stone, by others
Cloch na cineamhna or the Stone of Fortune, it was that upon which the
Kings of Ireland used to be inaugurated, and which, being enclosed in a
wooden chair, was, by the ingenuity of the Druids, made to emit a sound
under the rightful candidate, and mute under a man of bad title. It was
superstitiously sent to confirm the Irish colony in Scotland, and it
continued at Scone as the coronation of the Scotch Kings, from the
commencement of the Christian Era till 1300 A. D.,when Edward I. imported
it into England. It is still a superstition in the Highlands that those
who lay their hands against the Druids' stones will not prosper.
Many of these monuments are
approached with great reverence by the natives of Scotland and the Isles,
especially the Tighe nan Druidhneach in the Isle of Skye, little arched,
round stone buildings capable of holding one, where the contemplative
Druid sat when his oak could not shelter him from the weather. The common
people never pass these without walking round them three times from east
In Chartres, which teems
with Druidic vestiges, a curious specimen of stone worship remains. At the
close of service in the cathedral, no one leaves the church without
kneeling and saying a short prayer before a small pillar or stone--without
polish, base or capital--placed in a niche, and much worn on one side by
the kisses of the devout. This stone is rumored to be of high antiquity,
even earlier than the establishment of Christianity--for many centuries to
have remained in a crypt of the cathedral where lamps were constantly
burning--but the stairs having been much worn on one side by the great
resort of pilgrims to the spot, the stone had been removed from its
original site, to avoid the expenses of repairs. It was said to be a
miraculous stone, and that its miracles were performed at the intercession
of the Virgin Mary.
There is a certain
reverence paid by the peasantry to those caves in which the Druids held
their initiatory rites. Many of them are said to be inhabited by spirits,
and there is one in the neighborhood of Dunskey, Scotland, which is held
in peculiar veneration. At the change of the moon it is usual to bring
even from a great distance infirm persons, and particularly rickety
children whom they supposed bewitched, to bathe in a stream which flows
from the hill, and then to dry them in the cave.
As among the Druids it is
still customary to place a platter of salt and earth upon the breast of
the corpse in many parts of Britain. Salt was held in great reverence by
the Eastern nations as an emblem of incorruptibility. So among us to spill
salt is considered unlucky; it was only the other day that I saw a
talented and well educated lady overwhelmed with consternation at this
mishap, but with admirable presence of mind she flung a pinch over her
left shoulder and so recovered her self-possession.
Hare was forbidden to the
ancient Britons by their religion, and to this day the Cornish eat it with
reluctance. Boadicea also augured from the running of a hare; and a hare
that runs across a path (to any one but a sportsman, or rather a
pot-hunter) is an omen of ill-luck.
The onion was an emblem of
the deity among the Egyptians, perhaps also among the Druids, for it is a
custom in some parts of England for girls to divine by it, as Barnaby
Googe in his translation of Naogeorgus' Popish Kingdome informs us.
In these same days young
wanton gyrles that meete for marriage be, Doe search to know the names of
them that shall their husbands bee; Four onyons, five, or eight, they
take, and make in every one Such names as they do fancie most, and best to
think upon, Thus nere the chimney them they set, and that same Onyon then
That firste doth sproute, doth surely bear the name of their good man.
In matters of dress, there
are not many traces of the Druids and the ancient Britons to be found.
The caps of rushes,
however, which they wore tied at the top and twisted into a band at the
bottom, may still be seen upon the heads of children in Wales and some
parts of England. In Shetland, the ancient sandals of untanned skins are
worn, and also, by fishermen in cold weather, the Druidic wooden shoes. I
could not discover their real origin during my visit there: some said they
had been imported by the Dutch, others that the Dutch had borrowed the
idea from them; but in any case these wooden shoes, the sabots of the
lower orders of France, are derived from the Druids.
The best instance of dress
however, is the Highland plaid, which was the very garment worn by the
Druid Abaris, on his visit to Athens, and which is an extraordinary
example of savage conservatism. From the breachan of the Gauls and
Britons, is derived our word breeches and also that inelegant but
necessary article of clothing.
Upon the subject of words I
will also remark that our word fortnight or fourteen nights, is derived
from the Druidic habit of counting time by nights instead of days; and the
word dizzy from their deisul, or circular dance, (in Hebrew dizzel). I
could give a multitude more, but ohe! jam satis est.
A very curious memorial of
Druidism in the very bosom of victorious Christianity was discovered a few
years ago by the well-known French Antiquary, M. Hersart de la
Villemarqué. It is a fragment of Latin poetry which all the children in
the parish of Nizon, Canton de Pont-Aven, are taught to sing at school and
in church. The original poetry is almost the same as its Latin adaptation,
except that in the latter various biblical allusions have been slipped in.
I will give the first
strophe of the original, then its translation in the French of M.
Villemarqué which is too good for me to meddle with, and then the Latin
hymn as sung by the children
Daik mab gwerm Drouiz; ore;
Daik petra fell d'id-dei
Petra ganinn-me d'id-de.
Kan d'in euz a eur raun,
Ken a ouffenn breman.
Tout beau enfant blanc du Druide, tout beau réponds-moi; que veux-tu? te
Chante-moi la division du nombre un jusqu'à ce que je l'apprenne
Pas de division pour le nombre un, la nécessitéuni que; la mort père de la
douleur; rien avant, rien après. Tout beau, &c.
Chante-moi la division du nombre deux, &c.
Deux bufs attelés à une coque; ils tirent, ils vont expirer--Voyez la
Pas de division, &c.
Chante-moi la division du nombre trois, &c.
Il y a trois parties dans le monde; trois commencements et trois fins pour
l'homme, comme pour le chêne; trois cêlestes, royaumes de Merlin; fruits
d'or, fleurs brillantes, petits enfants qui rient.
Deux bufs, &c.
Pas de division, &c.
The christianized version
in Latin is as follows:
Dic mihi quid unus,
Dic mihi quid unus.
Unus est Deus,
Qui regnat in Clis.
Dic mihi quid duo.
Dic mihi quid duo.
Unus est Deus,
Qui regnat in Clis.
Dic mihi qui sunt tres
Dic mihi que sunt tres.
Tres sunt patriarchæ,
Duo sunt testamenta;
Unus est deus,
Qui regnat in Clis.
Both of these dialogues are
continued to the number twelve. In the Druidic version containing precepts
on theology, cosmogony, chronology, astronomy, geography, magic, medicine
and history. The Latin version teaching that there is one God, two
testaments, three prophets, four evangelists, five books of Moses, six
pitchers at the marriage of Cana, seven sacraments, eight beatitudes, nine
choirs of angels, ten commandments, eleven stars which appeared to Joseph,
and twelve apostles.
The resemblance of style
and precept throughout is very striking, and a discovery which I have made
of the same nature renders it still more surprising. There is a peculiar
song of the Oxfordshire peasants, the meaning of which had often perplexed
me and which of course those who sung it were the least able to explain.
It is sung in this manner.
One of them begins:--
I will sing you my one O!
To which the rest sing in chorus.
What is your one O!
And he sings.
One is all alone,
And ever doth remam so.
The song continues to the
number twelve, each verse repeated after each as in the original versions
above. Most of these verses are local corruptions, and it is probable that
in some parts of England a purer version is retained. However, since the
first refers to the One Deity, the second to "two white boys clothed in
green," the fourth to "four gospel preachers," the seventh to the "seven
stars," &c., there can be no doubt as to its origin.
There is so superstitious a
reverence paid by the lower orders in many parts of Britain to bees, that
one is almost inclined to suppose that they also were held sacred by the
The Cornishmen consider
bees too sacred to be bought. In other counties, on the death of their
proprietor, a ceremonious announcement of the fact is made to them and a
piece of funeral cake presented to them. It is believed that were this
omitted they would fly away. In Lithuania a similar practice prevails.
There is no clue to this,
except in the circumstance that the bee-hive is one of the emblems of
Freemasonry, and like many other Druidic and Masonic symbols, e.g. the
seven stars, the cross-keys, &c., a favorite tavern sign. For instance the
one at Abingdon, under which is written the following jocose distich:
Within this hive were all
Good liquor makes us funny,
So if your dry, come in and try,
The flavor of our honey.
From the apple-tree the
Druids were wont to cut their divining rods. And to this tree at
Christmas, in Devon, Cornwall and other counties a curious ceremony is
paid. The farmer and his laborers soak cakes in cider, and place them on
the trenches of an apple tree, and sprinkling the tree repeat the
following incantation :
Here's to thee, old apple
Whence thou mayst bud, and whence thou mayest blow.
Hats full! Caps full?
Bushel, bushel, sacks full!
And my pockets full too! Huzza!
After which they dance
round the tree and get drunk on the cider which remains. They believe that
if they did not do this the tree would not bear.
I have now to consider the
vestiges of mistletoe-worship extant among the descendants of the Druids.
On Christmas Eve it was
lately the custom at York to carry mistletoe to the high altar of the
Cathedral, and to proclaim a public and universal liberty, pardon and
freedom to all sorts of inferior and even wicked people at the gates of
the city towards the four quarters of heaven.
The mistletoe was
considered of great medicinal virtue by Sir John Coldbatch for epilepsy
and other convulsive disorders. The mistletoe of the oak is used by the
common people for wind ruptures in children.
Like the houzza! of the
East, the mistletoe would seem to have a religious exclamation, as I judge
from finding it so often the refrain to old French songs, especially this
O gué la bonne adventure, O
And in one celebrated English ballad:
O the mistletoe bough! and O the mistletoe bough!
It is still a custom in
many parts of France for children to run down the street on New Year's
Day, and to rap the doors crying "Au gui l'an né, or Au gui, l'an neuf."
In the island of Sein,
there is a mistletoe feast which it is believed has been perpetuated by
the Bas Breton tailors who, strange to say, have been formed from time
immemorial into a fine association. They are poets, musicians and wizards
who never contract marriages with strangers, and who have a language of
their own, called lueache which they will not speak in the presence of
At this feast there is a
procession. An altar covered with green boughs is erected in the centre of
a circular space of ground. Thence they start, and thither marching round
the island return. Two fiddlers form the vanguard; they are followed by
children carrying bill-hooks and oak-branches, and leading an ox and a
horse covered with flowers. After them a huge crowd which stops at
intervals crying Gui-na-né voilà le Gui.
There is one more mistletoe
custom which I had almost forgotten. Let us imagine ourselves in the hall
of some old-fashioned country mansion. Let it be Christmas- night, and at
that hour when merriment and wine has flushed every face, and glowed into
And now I will paint to you
a young maiden who embraced in the arms of her lover is whirled round the
hall, her eyes sparkling, her white bosom heaving and her little feet
scarce seeming to touch the floor. They pause for a moment. An old lady
with an arch twinkle in her eye whispers something to her partner, he nods
and smiles; she blushes and turns her eyes, pretending not to hear. They
join the dance again, when suddenly he stays her in the centre of the
hall. Above their heads droops down a beautiful plant with pale white
berries and leaves of a delicate green. He stoops and gives her the
kiss-under-the-mistletoe. All laugh and follow his example till the scene
vies the revels of the ancient Bacchanals.
It is this picture which
awakes me from a reverie into which I have long been buried. Reader! you
have sought with me for the first germs of religion in the chaos of
youthful Time; you have dived with me into those mysteries which the Veil
of Isis held secret from our sight; you have sojourned with me among the
tombs of the past, and trod upon the dust of a fallen World.
Let us now return from
these caverns of learning to the glorious day-light of the Present, and to
the enjoyments, of a real existence.