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The Scottish Gael
Chapter XIV
Religion, marriage ceremonies, and funeral rites

DRUIDISM is one of the most ancient systems of religion. It is sup-
posed by many to have been derived from Pythagoras, but is certainly
of much more remote origin. According to Clemens Alexandrinus,
Pythagoras was but an auditor of the Gauls. Valerius Maximus asserts
that his opinions were those of the Celts, and lamblichus says he heard
that his learning consisted of the Gallic and Iberian mysteries. Druid-
isrn must be a more ancient system than the time of this philosopher.,
who appears to have borrowed his tenets from it. He was, perhaps, a
reformer of a religion that had begun to lose its original simplicity, but
it must be borne in mind that there was a near resemblance among an-
cient systems of religion, as there was an affinity of language and simi-
larity of manners. Eumolpus, the Thracian, introduced the Eleusinian
mysteries to the Greeks, who subsequently revered them so deeply. At
this period the Athenians were beginning to distinguish themselves from
their neighbors, and their fertile genius soon produced, from the simple
dogmas of their ancestors, a peculiar system of theology; hence Lucian
thought it strange that the barbarians, who introduced those mysteries,
should be afterwards excluded from them.

The religious connexions which the Greeks had in the most distant
ages formed with the Hyperborei, proves that the primitive mythology
was at first universally respected. Those people, who are believed to
have been the inhabitants of Britain, were in the practice, from a period
before all record, to transmit their first fruits to Delos. Eratosthenes
relates that Apollo deposited the arrow with which he slew the Cyclops ;


with the Hyperborei; that their high priest Abaris carried it to Greece,
and at last presented it to Pythagoras. This story is too mysterious for
elucidation; it is probably allegorical, but it shows the veneration whicn
was in those ages paid to one religion.

The secrecy with which the mysteries of ancient religion were preserv-
ed is remarkable. The, priest and other members concealed their know-
ledge from the uninitiated with the most scrupulous care, which, in most
cases, arose from feelings of real piety. Those who did not value their
oaths of secrecy must have been deterred from divulging their secrets
by the fear of detection and consequent execration and punishment.
The dark allusions to the mysteries of pagan theology occasion a rep^et
that they are now unknown. " I shall not relate what I know," says
Pausanias, "from the mysteries of the mother of the gods, concerning
Mercury and the Ram;" again, "who the Cabiri are, and what the
ceremonies performed in honor of them and the mother of the gods, I
must beg those who are desirous of hearing such particulars to suffer me
to pass over in silence;" farther he adds, Ceres deposited something with
Prometheus, one of the Cabiri. What this deposit was, and the cir-
cumstances respecting it, piety forbids me to disclose.* It was the
invariable practice of tho ancient priests and philosophers to teach by
enigmas, lest strangers should be able to understand them.

The Druids committed none of their theological secrets to writing, a
principle which has involved their system in peculiar obscurity. The
singular practice of committing their doctrinal learning to memory was a
severe and tedious probation for a student, but it was well calculated, in
the particular state of Celtic society, to preserve in purity their ancient
traditions. The care with which this race cultivated the memory has.
been shown in the previous chapter. The youth spent twenty years in
acquiring the knowledge necessary to the Druidic profession, and, it is
said, stored their minds with no less than 60,000 verses.

It seems strange that the extensive prevalence of this religion should
be denied. It has been inferred from Cyesar, that it was confined to a
limited portion of Gaul, but it has been remarked by a zealous antiqua-
ry, that, although Ceesar says of the Germans, that they had no Druids,
he does not say they were without religion or priests. He mentions
some of the gods they revered, and these were the same as the Gauls
worshipped. Tacitus also does not appear to have found Druids among
the Germans, but he mentions their gods, their sacred groves and altars,
their songs and their ceremonies, all which resembled those of the Gauls.
The religion of both people was, therefore, alike Druidism, although its
ministers may have had different appellations, and its mysteries been
somewhat differently solemnized. Druidism is said to have been only
partially cultivated in part of South Britain, and perfectly unknown in
Ireland : these assertions are certainly rash and unwarrantable. This
"system of religion was cherished in Britain as its most ancient and hal-

Lib. ix. c. 25.


lowed seat, and should the remarkable passage in Diodorus, concerning
"the round temple in an island of the Hyperboreans, opposite Celti-
ca, where was a magnificent grove, and where the people were harp-
ers," be considered inapplicable to Albion, yet the fact is evident from
the express testimony of Caesar, corroborated by Pliny, that the youth
of Gaul resorted to Britain for instruction in the sacred religion, that
they spent twenty years in its acquirement, and that it was believed to
have originated there. Mela, indeed, describes the Irish as extremely
barbarous, and devoid of all religion; but this is too improbable to be cred-
ited, especially when he allows them to have had those he calls magi-
cians, whom Ware considers Druids. That they could be no other is
evident, for dry is the Gaelic term for a magician, a philosopher and
prophet; and Alfric, in his Saxon glossary, says magi were so called
even by the Angles.* On the conversion of Edwin, king of Northum-
berland, he summoned all his counsellors, among whom appeared the
high priest Coefi. There is a proverb still in use by the Highlanders,
which extols a person as being " as dextrous as Coefi, the Arch Druid; "
and Doctor Mac Pherson observes, that coifi-dry, is well known to mean
a person of extraordinary sense and cunning. Druidh is still used in
Gaelic for wise men, from which is Druithnich or Drui, servants of truth,
and the Teutonic Druid or Druthin.j" The usual etymon of this word
is attended with some difficulty. It is derived from dgvc, an oak, in
Welsh derw, in Gaelic darach, &c. It is improbable that the Celts
should have distinguished their magi by a Greek word, and the Gaelic
derivation is not very plain. Menage believes it came from the old
British word drus, a magician, and Keysler says draoi is a magician or
enchanter. Mr. Grant, of Corrimony, will have the name Draothian,
which shows the root of a series of words. Draoneach is an improver
of the soil, and this being the first way in which man exerted his inge-
nuity, it came to signify an artist or clever person, in which sense the
Irish still use it. The rational belief is, therefore, that the name of this
celebrated order imported their abilities, and is one of that class of words
formed on the D and R, which seem to have conveyed the idea of dex-
terity and superior qualifications.

The Druidic religion does not appear to have been either " a late in-
vention, or confined to the South of Britain and North of Gaul," but is
maintained to have been observed and taught throughout the Island,
contrary to the assertion of Pinkerton, who charges those who say there
were Druids in Scotland, with speaking "utter nonsense."

The Druids taught their disciples, and performed their religious rites
in the deep recesses of woods and in caves. The Germans consecrated
whole groves and woods, which were named from the gods, and amid
the gloom and quiet of this seclusion, they contemplated their divinities
in deep reverence. J Within these groves, which were generally on

* Waldron's History of the Isle of Man. i Doctors Smith and Mac Pherson.

J Tacitus.


conspicuous situations, were raised their rude but impressive (emples,
whero, on festivals, the people met in great numbers.* The practice
of surrounding places of worship with trees was uaual among aJl pagan
nations, hence the Jews were particularly enjoined not to plant a grove
of any kind near unto the altar of the Lord.f In 2nd Kings we find
menlion of the " women who wove hangings for the groves.*' They
were the places where the statues of the gods were set up. Pausanias
mentions the sacred grove of Apollo, called Carneus, and many others;
part of which were inclosed by a bulwark of stones, being the most sa-
cred spot where the statues of the divinities were placed, and which is
always distinguished from the " uncovered part." There was a grove
and temple at Pergamos; and that of Jupiter Ammon was surrounded
by trees J

There seems to have prevailed among all rude nations a predilection
for circular formed temples, and it is difficult to say whether the upright
stones which composed them were simply viewed as the boundary of the
sacred precinct, or were considered representations of gods. From the
following observation of Pausanias, and other passages in ancient au-
thors, it would appear that there was a peculiar sanctity attached to
them. " Near Pharoe are thirty quadrangular stones, which the Pha-
renses venerate." It was anciently held unbecoming by the Celts to
represent the gods under any other form than that of a rude and shape-
less obelisk, and this feeling was common to the early Grecians, it being
formerly the custom with all the Greeks to reverence rude stones, m
place of statues of the gods. The Thespians preserved an ancient statue
of Love, that was but a rude block. A square unpolished stone was
also a symbol of Bacchus, and a round one that of the earth. |!

The Celts did not presume to represent any of their deities under the
human form, but typified them by various articles. The images of wild
beasts and other animals, as well as inanimate objects, the symbols of
their gods, they were accustomed to bring from their sacred groves, and
use as insignia during war. After their subjugation to Rome they ap-
parently imitated their conquerors, and allowed their gods to be repre-
sented under terrestrial forms; those Gallic and other statues that have
been discovered being referable to an era subsequent to that event.
Gildas speaks of some of the statues of the British deities being to be
seen in the sixth century, when he wrote. That of Isis, the tutelary
goddess of Paris, remained in the Abbey of St. Germain des Priz until
151 1, when it was removed by the order of the Bishop of Meaux.lT

The circular form of the Celtic temples was probably typical of eter-
nity, and of the deity. It was religiously adhered to as the general
plan, and has given rise to names by which places of worship have been
distinguished even to our own times. The Gaelic cearcal is evidently
ihe origin of the Latin circus, the old English chirch, and the Scot-

* Florus, iii. 10. , Deuter. xvi. 21. J Diod. xvri. 5.

Pausanias, lib vii. 22. ix. 27. || Beloe. If Religion des GauU x



ish kitk, which is spelt according to its pronunciation. In like man
ner, as the primitive temple was composed of large stones, it was term-
ed clachan by the Gael, from which the Latin ecclesia is apparently de-
rived; and the Highlanders to this day use the expression, calling the
church " the stones! "

The most astonishing temple, in point of magnitude, in Britain is that
of ABURY, or Avebury, in Wiltshire. The area of this astonishing work
contained upwards of 28 acres, and was surrounded by a wide and deep
ditch, and rampart measuring about 70 feet in height from the bottom
One hundred stones of amazing size formed an outer circle, within which
were two others not concentric, formed of double rows of stones. Of
these the outer contained thirty, and the inner twelve. In the centre of
one were three stones, and in the other was a single obelisk which mea-
sured twenty-one feet in length, and eight feet nine inches in breadth.
Besides the circles, which we thus see contained the number of 188
stones, there were two extended avenues which are supposed to have
contained 462 more, making a total of 650!

STONEHENGE, in the same county, must yield in magnificence to Abu-
ry, but if much less in size, it is greatly superior in the architectural
science which it displays. This wonderful structure, as shown in the
vignette, where it is represented as it is supposed to have appeared when
in its pristine grandeur, was circular, but much smaller and of much
more ingenious construction, than Abury. A consideration of this has
given rise to an opinion first, I believe, expressed by Mr. Warner, that
the latter being the rudest and apparently the most ancient, was the
grand temple of the original Celts, whilst Stonehenge was erected by
the Belgians, when they obtained possession of the Southern parts of
the Island, and was intended as a rival to the other; the deep ditch cal-
led Wansdike, supposed to be the line of demarcation between the two
people, passing between these two astonishing monuments. This is very
ingenious, but it is, of course, entirely suppositious. We do not find
that the Belgians were better able to raise such a temple than the Celts,
and we do not find that the two people had different forms of their places
af worship. It is, besides, conjectured, with much probability, that
Stonehenge was reared at different periods, the outward circle and the
inner oval of trilithons being one erection, and the smaller circle and
oval of inferior stones being another. This opinion is borne out by the
fact that the latter are granite whilst the others are not; but antiquaries
have come to opposite conclusions respecting the priority of erection,
some believing that the outward circle was the original work, and others
that the inner, and more simple design, must have been the first formed.
This last idea appears reasonable; and although the granite stones must
have been brought from a considerable distance, with such a people
it was no obstacle to their adoption at any era. It is against the hypo-
thesis of Stonehenge having been erected by a nation in hostility with
the Celts, that the outward stones must have been brought from the


Northern part of the country, beyond the frontier line of the Belgian

When the light of history fails us, we may indulge our fancies, and
form plausible and delightful conjectures, but as there is an illimitable
field for the imagination to wander, it is evident that it may run some-
times into the wildest conceits. The state in which Stonehenge is found,
and in which it has remained with apparently little alteration from time
immemorial, has left ample room for antiquaries to exert their ingenuity
in endeavoring to determine its original plan and appearance.

The restoration of this wonderful pile is, according to Waltire, an en-
thusiastic old philosopher, who actually encamped and remained on the
ground beside this temple for several months, to satisfy his curiosity ana
complete his investigations concerning its appropriation. It is much to
be regretted that the papers of this deep-thinking and veracious antiqua-
ry were lost after his death. Some account of his opinions concerning
it may be seen in Mr. Higgins' work; it need only be here observed
that the view gives an idea of this work which could not be done in
words. According to Waltire's plan the outer range of uprights consists
of/thirty. The inner trilithons, according to all, were five, to which he
adds six smaller stones, as a continuation towards the entrance. The
intermediate circle consists of thirty-eight, and the semi-circular range
inside he makes nineteen. Thus with the altar, and reckoning the im-
posts, the whole number is one hundred and thirty-nine.* The height
of the outward stones is in the highest about thirteen feet, and six or
seven in breadth, and, contrary to what we find in similar erections, the
stones have been formed by the tool, the imposts being secured by ten-
ons, and one stone is found formed with a rib, or moulding.

The most remarkable character of Stonehenge consists of the imposts,
no similar structure in Britain appearing to have ever been erected in
this way, and except a circle at Drenthiem, and another on a mountain
near Helmstad, represented in Keysler's work on Northern Antiqui-
ties, there is perhaps no other instance of the trilithon style. In these
examples the incumbent stones appear heavy, partaking more of the
character of cromleachs, and the temples are by no means equal to
Stonehenge either in design or execution.

The remarkable temple at Classerness, in the Isle of Lewis, is repre-
sented at the end of this Chapter. This singular monument is placed
north and south, and consists of an avenue five hundred and fifty-eight
feet long, eight feet wide, and composed of thirty-nine stones, generally
six or seven feet high, with one at the entrance, no less than thirteen
At the south end of this walk is a circle of sixty-three feet diameter, that
appears to have been composed of either thirteen or fifteen stones, six to
eight feet in height, the centre being occupied by an obelisk thirteen
feet high, and shaped somewhat like a chair. Beyond the circle seve-
ral stones are carried in right lines, producing a cruciform appearance.

* Plan in the " Celtic Druids.'


The length of this cross part is two hundred and lour feet, and the total
of stones appears to have been sixty-eight or seventy. Borlase, it may
be noticed, makes them fifty-two, and Mac Culloch forty-seven. The
magnitude and singularity of this work has led several antiquaries to
believe that it is the very Hyperborean temple spoken of by the ancients.
Conjecture seems to lie between Abury, Stonehenge, and Classerness,
except we think with D'Alton, the late writer on Irish History, that the
round temple of the Hyperborei means the round towers of Ireland. It is
remarkable that Eratosthenes says, Apollo hid his arrow where there
was a winged temple. The cross parts, resembling the transepts of a
cathedral, are, I believe, peculiar to Classerness, and may very well
bear the appellation of wings.

The plain of Chlara, a mile eastward of Culloden, in Inverness-shire,
is remarkable for being full of circles, surrounded by " rows of immense
slabs of sandstone. " Some account of remarkable objects of this sort,
with original drawings made to the Society of Antiquaries of London by
the author, have been thought worthy of being engraved and printed in
the twenty-second volume of the Transactions of that learned body.
There are many other curious monuments of the same kind scattered
throughout Scotland, Ireland, and England; but all Celtic monuments
now in existence must yield to that stupendous work at Carnac, in Brit-
tany. This truly astonishing memorial of a distant race, exhibits a tract
of not less than five or six miles, on which are placed, at distances of 18,
20, or 25 feet, eleven rows of stones, chiefly planted on the smallest end,
forming ten avenues, or walks, of 12, 24, 18|, 18J, 30, 30, 36, 36, 30 J,
and 36 feet in width respectively, the whole resembling a huge serpent,
as shown in a plan engraved in the above volume. This vast assemblage
of stones is so astonishing that many have considered it impossible for
human hands to arrange them, and believe it to be the effects of some
convulsion of nature; but however much we may be amazed at the mag-
nitude of Carnac, it is assuredly an artificial erection. The reason for a
departure from the usual circular form it seems impossible to discover,
but the hypothesis of Cambray, Penhouet, and others, are ingenious.
The authors of the "Celtic Druids" and " Hermes Britannicus" sug-
gest the idea that the number of stones indicated the years which, accord-
ing to the Druids, had passed from the creation. The number of stones
now remaining being about 4000, is found to agree very nearly with the
age of the world, but it must be observed that in its original state they
are believed to have equalled 10,000. Whatever credit may be attach-
ed to it, the tradition is, that a stone was added every year at Midsum-
mer, on which occasion the whole pile was illuminated, a practice that
points to the worship of Belus. That it was consecrated to this deity
also may be inferred from the tradition that it was the work of the Cri-
ons, surely a name derived from Grianus, the Celtic term for the sun. On
this subject the opinion of Olaus Magnus may be stated, which appears to
savor too much of fancy. If stones are arranged in a circle, they denote


a family burial-place; if in a right line, the battle of heroes; in a square,
troops of warriors were represented; and in a wedge form, they imported
that on or near the spot, armies of horse or foot were victorious.

That the Celts worshipped in circular temples formed of rude stones
is indisputable; because we find the circular inclosures used until late
times for courts of law as well as places of worship, and although the
time when some of them were actually built be known, we are not, there-
fore, justified in denying their original appropriation. As the Celtic
priests were legislators, the temple was the place whence they promul-
gated their laws, and on the abolition of paganism, although discouraged,
the use of the circle for this purpose, and for worship, was long retained.
Christianity did not at- first deny the use of the place of worship for judi-
cial purposes; but, gaining ground, an express canon of the Scotish
church prohibited courts from being held in churches, for they were
usually erected on the sites of temples; and I am convinced that when
the Christian edifice ceased to be the place where civil matters were
decided, as had been the practice in pagan times, the laws or moot-hills
were substituted, and hence it is that these mounts are so generally
found in the close vicinity of churches. Where, however, zeal for Chris-
tianity did not lead to the destruction of circles and their condemnation
as places of meeting, they continued to be used as courts, especially by
the Northern nations, until very late times; and from the circumstance
of surrounding the circle, after the meeting had assembled, the term of
" fencing a court," in all probability, is derived. One of the latest in-
stances of this appropriation of " the standing stones" occurs in 1380,
when Alexander Stewart, Lord of Badenach, held a court at those of the
RathofKingusie. ^f^4^ *?*> ~h\* f> ***-**-

The chief seat of Druidism on the continent, Caesar tells us, was in
the country of the Carnutes, supposed to have been where the city of
Chartres now stands.

It appears to me that the principal Celtic deity was the sun, Belus,
Belenus, or Baal. Herodian* says, the Aquileians worshipped this god,
whom they considered the same as Apollo, whence we see why the Hy-
perborei especially venerated him, for he was the personification of that
luminary. The Caledonians worshipped this deity under the name of
Baal, or Beil, and to his honor they lighted fires on Midsummer-day, or
the 1st of May. This festival, which is not even yet discontinued, was
called Baal-tein, or beltain, signifying the fire of Baal, and was former-
ly commemorated so generally that it became a term in Scots' law, which
is yet in use. This practice of lighting fires on Midsummer, arose from
the circumstance of the Druids having at that time caused all fires to oe
extinguished, to be rekindled from the sacred fire that was never allow-
ed to expire. It is surprising that this sacred flame, like that in the
temple of Vesta, should be preserved for ages after the extinction of the
religion, by Christian priests. It was no earlier than 1220, that Loun-

* Lib. viii.


dres, Archbishop of Dublin, extinguished the perpetual fire, which was
kept in a small cell near the church of Kildare; but so firmly rooted was
the veneration for this fire, that it was relighted in a few years, and ac-
tually kept burning until the suppression of monasteries!* This fire
was attended by virgins, often women of quality, called Inghean an
Dagha, daughters of fire, and Breochuidh, or the fire-keepers, from which
they have been confounded with the nuns of St. Brigid. A writer in
the Gentleman's Magazine, 1795, says, being in Ireland the day before
Midsummer, he was told that in the evening he should see " the lighting
of the fires in honor of the sun" at midnight; and Riche describes the
preparation for the festival in these words; "what watching, what rat-
tling, what tinkling upon pannes and candlesticks, what strewing of
hearbes, what clamors, and other ceremonies are used," and all this
apparently in Dublin itself. Spenser says, on kindling a fire the Irish
always made a prayer. A practice of the cooks at Newcastle, who light
bonfires on Midsummer-day, may be derived from the Beltain rites; and
the chimney-sweeps of London and other parts who go in procession and
dance in grotesque dresses, appear to represent the ancient fire worship-
pers at their holiday amusements.

Graine, Grein, or Grannus, was a term for this god among the Cale-
donians, and an inscription to him was found in the ruins of Antonine's
wall. | The word is gre-theim, the t being quiescent, and it signifies the
essence or natural source of fire. Camden says, Grannus is of similar
import with Gruagach, a supernatural being, latterly distinguished among
the Scots as a Brownie ; and he quotes Isodore to show that the long hair
of the Goths was called granni, which it is apparent is neither more nor
less than th'e* Gatnic word. The sun, distinguished as the source of fire,
became known by a natural change, as the yellow, or golden haired,
and the libations of milk were always offered on the granni, or gruagach
stone, of which there was one in every village, on days consecrated to
the sun. The singular method of raising the tein-egin, or need-fire, has
been described, and the virtues which it is supposed to possess, in page
293. The Highlanders passed through the fire to Baal as the ancient
Gentiles did; and they thought it a religious duty to walk round their
fields and flocks with burning matter in their right hands, a practice
once universal throughout the country. The Northern nations had an
equal veneration for fire, preserving it continually on their altars. Pio-
run was the chief god of the Poles, and two places where bfi was wor-
shipped are known. At Wilna, where one of them was situated, the
altar is still preserved in the cathedral; and it is related that his image
stood under an oak with a fire constantly burning before it. The Poles
became Christians only in the end of the fourteenth century. J

It appears to have been in imitation of the sun's course that the Gael
religiously observed, in their rites and common occupations, to make

* Archdall's Mon. Hib. ap. Anth. Hib. iii. 240. t Mac Pherson's Diss. xvii.

\ Letters from Polajid.


the deisal, or turn to the right hand. Pliny, it is to be observed, says
that the Gauls, in worshipping, contrary to the practice of other nations,
always turned to the left, but Possidonius and others expressly say to
the right, a reconciliation of which apparent inconsistency is attempted
by D. Martin, in his Religion des Gauls.

Between Badenach and Strathspey is Slia-grannus, the heath of gran-
nus, called by the inhabitants griantachd, which has undoubtedly been
a magh-aoraidh, or field where Druidical worship was performed. The
sun was believed to be propitious to the high minded warrior. In the
work of Dr. Smith, Grian is thus addressed: "Thou delightest to shed
thy beams on the clouds which enrobe the brave, and to spread thy rays
around the tombs of the valiant." It was also a belief that the world
should be consumed by this deity: and la bhrath, the day of burning, now
understood of the last judgment, came, from the improbability or re-
moteness of the catastrophe, to be translated " never." Connected with
this belief seems the clachan bhrath, a globular stone, still viewed with
superstitious feelings in the Islands of lona and Garveloch.

A fire having originated among the luhones, and consumed the woods
to the walls of Cologne, the people collected and attacked the devouring
element first with stones at a distance, which appearing to check its rage,
they ventured closer, and, using clubs, they ultimately repulsed and sub-
dued it. Finally, we are "told, they smothered it entirely by means of their
clothes. All this apparent madness must have arisen from their belief
that they were contending with supernatural beings, and it is not more
absurd than many actions of the old Highlanders.

Caesar has said that the Gauls paid their highest veneration to Mer-
cury ; to which opinion he may have been led by having a better oppor-
tunity of observing his wors-hip, for his attributes being numerous, he
must have had many devotees, as the Virgin Mary, among the ignorant
Catholics, receives often more attention than the Saviour himself. The
god whom Caesar calls Mercury, was Teut, or Theuth, Dhu taith, or
Teutates, i. e. the god Taute, who was no other than the Taatus of the
Pho3nicians. The word bears a strong resemblance to the Armoric
Tad, or Tat, a father. The Gallo-Belgic name for Teutates, Schoepflin
says, was Wodan, who was worshipped by the Saxons. They also
adored Hermes, or Mercury, under the name of Irmin, or Ermensul, a
statue of whom was found at Eresburg, by Charlemagne.

1 he Gauls derived their origin from Dis, a god that has been assimi-
lated with Pluto, but who is with more reason believed to have been the
earth, or its elements, and the same being as the German Tuisto, or
Tuitos, from whom that people alleged themselves to be sprung.

We learn from Tacitus, that the Aviones, Angles, Varinians, Eudoses,
Sec., universally worshipped Herthum, Hertie, or Mother Earth; believ-
ing she visited countries, and interposed in human affairs. In an island
of thn ocean was the wood Castum, where was a chariot dedicated
to the goddess, covered with a curtain, and not permitted to be touched


but by the priest, who watched the time when she entered the car, which
was always drawn by cows, and with profound veneration attended its
motions. In all places which she deigned to visit were great leasts and
rejoicings, and every warlike instrument was then carefully put out of
the way, and peace and repose were then proclaimed. When tired of
conversation with mortals, the same priests reconducted her to the tem-
ple. Then the chariot and the curtains, and even the deity herself, if
you believe it, adds the historian, were washed and purified in a secret
lake. In this office slaves officiated, who were doomed to be afterwards
swallowed up in the same lake; hence all men were possessed with a
mysterious terror, as well as with a holy ignorance, what that must be
which none see but such as are immediately to perish. " The Truce
of God," so often and so effectually proclaimed by the clergy about the
eleventh century, was an obvious imitation of the procession of the god-
dess-Earth, which in pagan times took place in the territories of present
Mecklenburg. The appeal to Hertha was made by passing under a
strip of green sod, as before described.

Mannus was celebrated among the Germans as one of their founders,
being the son of Tuisto. Mannus, according to Clarke, is the same as
Manes, which Menage on Laertius says was used by the Greeks for a

The JEstii, says Tacitus, worship the mother of the gods; and, as the
characteristic of their superstition, they wear the images of wild boars,
by which every worshipper of the goddess is secured from danger even
amid his foes. The Germans also wore, in veneration of their gods, a
shackle round their leg.* Of the Suevi we are told the Semnones reck-
oned themselves most noble and ancient, and the belief of their antiqui-
ty was confirmed by religious mysteries. At a certain time of the year
all the people descended from the same stock, assembled by their depu-
ties in a wood, consecrated by their fathers, and by superstitious awe in
times of old, and began there their worship by sacrificing a man. To
this grove another sort of veneration was paid; no one entered it unless
bound; from that circumstance evincing his own subordination and mean-
ness, and the power of the deity. If any one fell down he was not per-
mitted to rise or be lifted up, but grovelled along on the ground. They
believed that in that place God resided, that from this place they drew
their origin, and that all things are subject to the deity.

Mars is placed by Caesar the third in the list of five gods, which, he
says, the Gauls adored. This god, to whom the Scyths paid the high-
est honor, is believed to be the Esus, or Hesus, of the Gauls, mentioned by
Lucan, who was called, according to Leibnitz, Erich by the Germans;
and a sculpture of whom was to be seen in the cathedral of Paris in
1711. The Britons called this being Belatucadro, or, according to
Richard of Cirencester, Vitucadrus. The first appellation is derived
from Beladuw, the god, Cadwyr, of Wars. There was also Malaeen,

* Nen. Brit. p. 41.


the Goddess of War. Before a battle, the spoils of the enemy were de-
voted to the gods of destruction;* and Porevith was the German god of
spoils. On one occasion the Gauls vowed to Mars a chain made of the
plunder of the Roinans.f To this deity they devoutly offered up the cat-
tle and other spoils which were deposited in consecrated places throughout
their provinces, where might be seen vast stores piled up, for no one con-
cealed any part of the plunder, or presumed to touch that which was thus
disposed of. Those temples were at last rifled by Caesar.

The Gauls worshipped Taran, or Tanar, who was the god of thunder,
and corresponds to the Jupiter Tonans of the Romans. Torran signi-
fies, among the present Highlanders, the low murmur of distant thunder;
taruinach is applied to the loudest peals; and torneonach is an uncom-
mon noise. Doctor Mac Pherson thinks the name may be Nd' air neo-
nach, or wrathful father. In Cheshire an altar was found inscribed D.
O. M. TANARO, to the great Jupiter Tanarus.

The British god of justice was called Andraste, according to Richard
of Cirencester, who tells us he had his information from a dux Roman-
orum; but he seems to make two gods out of one, when he says that An-
dates was victory. This last was the Andate, or Andraste of Dio, to
whom four places of worship were consecrated in the Isle of Sky. J

Nehelania, supposed to have been the new moon, was a goddess wor-
shipped by Gauls and Germans, and at Brittenburg, near the Rhine, a
stone was found, dedicated to Nehelania Creta, which would make it
appear that she presided over agriculture, in which case, Nehelenia of
Marl would correspond to the Anu of the Irish, and Anactisofthe Scots,
to whose immediate care the productions of the earth and waters were

Mona, or Mena, who was worshipped by the Sequani, was the moon.
The Gael blessed the beams of this luminary that saved them from the
danger of precipices, &c. St. Augustine says, that the Gallic peasants in-
voked Mena for the welfare of their women. The influence which this lu-
minary is supposed to have over the human destiny is a remarkable relic
of pagan superstition. The old Germans, who thought when the moon
was in eclipse, it had become angry with them, were little less credulous
than the Scots, who, in some parts, will neither marry nor engage in any
undertaking of importance until that planet is full.

The special god of waters was called Neithe, an appellation derived
from a word signifying to wash or purify with water. The Celts ven-
erated lakes, rivers, and fountains, into which they were accustomed to
throw offerings of gold and silver.^ The Britons entertained the same
superstitious feeling concerning water; and Adomnari mentions it among
the Picts. It is well known that it prevailed among the Highlanders
and Scots in general, until very lately, and the common people yet re-
tain some peculiar notions of this element quite unconnected with Chns-

* Tacitus' Annals, xii. 57. t Florus, ii. 4.

t Dr. Mac Queen. Religion dea Gauls, i. 128.



tianity The people of Lewis anciently sacrificed to a sea god called
Shony. In Strathspey is Loch nan Spioridan, or the Lake of Spirits,
being the residence of two, namely, the horse and water-bull, which
sometimes make their appearance. The mermaid is seen before floods,
and the Marcach sine, or rider of the storm, blows the waters of a river
or lake into violent waves or whirling eddies.* Well-worship is a super-
stition that is not yet entirely eradicated, it being customary to visit cer-
tain fountains on particular days, and leave on the margin or adjoining
bushes bits of party-colored rags, pebbles, or pins, the representatives
of the more valuable offerings of more distant times. The same super-
stition exists in Ireland; and statutes expressly prohibiting the practice
were passed by Edgar, by Canute, and even by Anselm at London, in
1102. The dedication of fountains to saints, after the introduction of
Christianity, perpetuated the veneration instilled by the Druids, who
certainly employed water in their ceremonies. Pope Gregory writes to
Boniface, the German apostle, that those who had received the pagan
baptism only should be rebaptized.j" The rock basins seem very proba-
bly designed for the performance of this rite. A fountain was often
found near a circle, as it afterwards was in the vicinity of a Christian
church ; and the noise of a distant river was desirable.

What is related of some of the Celts, who are represented as rushing
into the floods and attacking the billows sword in hand, must be referred
to their peculiar mythological notions. From this must be deduced the
ordeal, to which malefactors were subjected, by being committed to the
water, there to be judged by the presiding deity, who, if guilty, would
refuse to receive them, but if otherwise, would, by allowing them to
sink, show that they were accepted by the god.

It is not to be wondered that divine honor should be paid to woods,
when the temples were surrounded with them as a sacred precinct. Cer-
tain beings called Dusii, were supposed by the Celts to have the
dominion of certain forests; the partiality of this race to hunting, for
success in which they sacrificed to Diana, and the Uses of trees as a
system of letters, also increased their veneration to forests. The Brit-
ons appear to have had some consecrated to victory. The Gauls rever-
enced the winds, and gave thanks when Circius, or the N. N. W. blew.J
In an island called Sena, opposite to the Loire, are the wives, says Stra-
bo, of the Samnitoe, possessed with Bacchic fury, who sell the winds
which they can raise by songs, to mariners.^ The deep and melancho-
ly sound, well known by the inhabitants of a high country, that precedes
a storm, is called by the bards " the spirit of the mountain;" and it was
customary for a Highlander, when roused by a sudden blast of wind, to
search it with his sword, and he sometimes imagined he discovered the
corpse or spirit of a relation just dead.

* Stat. Account, xiii. t Keysler, Ant. de Celt, p. 313. t Seneca, v. 17.

Mela, iii. 6. The Druids and Druidesses of this island were burnt by Conan, Duke
of Bretagne. Rojoux' Dues des Bretagne, i. 135.


From the annals of Tacitus we find, that among the Naharvali, a sa-
cred and extremely ancient grove was shown where a priest hahited like
a woman presided. The deity which was there worshipped was called
Alcis, and as the followers of this being addressed themselves to young
men and to brothers, the Romans believed that they worshipped Castor
and Pollux.

Hercules, or Ogmius, was worshipped by the Gauls, who had a sin-
gular opinion of his attributes, which will be spoken of presently. He
was reckoned the founder of the city of Alise, now Arras, and to this
day, says Diodorus, the Celtoe have a great respect for it on that account.
Tacitus says, the Germans, believing he had been in their country,
chiefly extolled him when they were singing the Barditus, or chant with
which they advanced to battle: a decisive proof, by the by, I apprehend,
of the identity of their religion with that of the Gauls. Vulcan is also
said to have been worshipped by the Celts, and the names of several
other gods and goddesses may be seen in Montfaucon's Antiquities and
elsewhere. On a hill at Framont, near Lorraine, there seems to have
been a sort of Gaulish pantheon, from the number of statues and other
singular antiquities that are from time to time discovered.

It is probable that the different nations had their tutelary deities, for
the Celts, although originally possessing a pure religion adoring one
supreme god, appear in time to have brought it to as much complexity
as their neighbors of Greece and Rome. Adomnan speaks of the Picts
as having their own gods and magi, or priests, and it is not unlikely that
each people placed themselves under the protection of certain beings, as
nations afterwards adopted their different saints, champions, and media-

Besides the circular temples, the Celts had Cromleachs, that is, huge
stones raised on several others, one of which is represented at the com
mencement of Chapter III. These sometimes form a rude sort of cell,
as at Maen Cetti, or Kit's Cotty house, in Kent, and the superincum-
bent block is sometimes of very large dimensions. One at Plas
Newydd, in Anglesea, measures twelve feet by thirteen feet two inches
where broadest, its greatest depth being five feet; so that it cannot
weigh less than thirty tons seven cwt. Constantine Tolmosn, in Corn-
wall, contains at least 75 tons. Tolmaen is usually applied to a stone
that is perforated, the object of which does not seem to be well known.
Cromleach is said to be a punic word, signifying the bed of death, by
others it is believed to signify sloping or bending stone. It is said
to have been originally called Botal, the house of God; and Bethel,
a name of similar import, was the very term applied by Jacob to the
pillar which he set up. Ponderous rocking stones, masses that are
either naturally or artificially poised on so small a point that a slight
effort will make them vibrate, are considered druidical works, and it is
not improbable, that they were; but a mind heated with bardic enthusi-
asm, will refer every thing curious of this kind to the Celtic priesthood.


The Druids were unfortunate in not having met with historians to hand
down to posterity their singular manners. The measures they took have
been too successful in preventing their secrets from being divulged.
Large and rude obelisks, sometimes single, and sometimes several
together, may have been erected by them.

The religious order among the Celts was divided into three classes;
namely, the Druids, the bards, and the ovates, vates or faidhs. The
first were the chief priests, and the second were those to whom the com-
pilation and preservation of the oral chronicles of the nation were espe-
cially committed, and whose duties as poets and musicians have been
already dilated upon. The third class, sometimes called Eubages, were
prophets, arid had the immediate care of the sacrifices. They contem-
plated the nature of things, as the ancients expressed themselves, and
were highly respected by the people, who universally resorted to them
for information on all subjects. It was not lawful to sacrifice without
one of these philosophers, and it was devoutly believed, that through
those who were acquainted with the nature of the deity, all supplications
and thanksgiving should be offered.* The Archdruid, called Ard-
dhruid in Gaelic, who had a casting vote in all questions, was chosen by
the others, but rivals sometimes contended for preeminence in arms.

The Celts, according to Justin, were skilled in augury above any
other people, and the Germans are represented by Tacitus as equally
prone to it. Their method of divining by lots was simple; they cut a
twig from a fruit-tree, and divided it into two pieces, which they distin-
guished by marks, and threw them at random upon a white garment. If
the affair was of a public nature, a priest, or if private, the father of
a family, having solemnly invoked the gods with uplifted eyes, took up
each of the pieces thrice, and formed a judgment according to the marks.
If the conclusion was unfavorable, they consulted no more that day;
when favorable, they confirmed the appearances by auguries. They
also divined events from the flight and notes of birds, and it was peculiar
to the Germans to draw presages from horses, which were kept in
uncontrolled freedom, in the sacred woods and groves, at the public
Jft expense. They were milk white, and were yoked in a holy chariot, at-
tended by the priest and chief, who carefully marked their actions and
neighing. This was the augury in which most faith was reposed by the
nobles and people, for they thought the animals privy to the will of the

Pliny says the Gauls made much use of vervain in divination. When
the Celts were to consult concerning any important matter, they sacrific-
ed a man, by striking him with a sword across his breast, and judged of
the event by the mariner in which he fell, the convulsion of his members,
and the flow of blood; in all which they had great faith, from ancient
practice and observation. In Sena, now L'Isle De Sain, opposite

* Diodorus.


Brest, was a celebrated oracle, with nine priests, called Sena), or Sam
nitas, who professed celibacy.

In the Silures, or Silina, the Durnnonii worshipped the gods, and had
knowledge of futurity,* and a British Druidess foretold the fate of Dio
cletian. On Bonduca's revolt, women, transported with oracular fury,
chanted denunciations. One method of divination is recorded which was
practised by this heroine. At the conclusion of her harangue, she let
slip a hare which she had concealed, and from its course having drawn
a favorable presage, the whole army shouted for joy. The religion of
the Britons did not permit them to eat either a hen, a goose, or this
animal, and it was reckoned unlucky if one of the last should cross one's

Fingal is celebrated, among other qualifications, for his knowledge
of futurity. The Highlanders had several methods of consulting the
fates, some of which are not yet disused. One of the most remarkable
was when a number of men retired to a lonely and secluded place, where
one of the number was, with the exception of the head, enveloped in
a cow's hide, and left alone for the night. Certain invisible beings then
came, and answering the question which he put to them, relieved him.
Martin tells us of one Erach, who had been a night in this situation in
North Uist, and declared that he felt and heard such terrible things
as could not be expressed, that the terror he was in had disordered his
mind, and that "for a thousand worlds he would never again be con-
cerned in the like performance." The Taghairm nan caht was another
method of seeking for information, and consisted in putting a live cat on
a spit, and roasting it until other cats made their appearance, and an-
swering the question, in Gaelic of course, obtained the release of the
unfortunate animal. In order to get oracles, the Celts would pass whole
nights at the tombs of brave men,j~ a frequent practice of the old Cale-

The Taibhsearachd, or second sight, is a faculty in some Highlanders
that has excited the surprise and the doubts of the learned. A person,
without any previous warning, sees something that is to happen, both
at a distance of time and place, and consequently can foretell death or
accident, and many other circumstances. That the Gael have been and
still are subject to this impression, is too well ascertained to be denied;
and it has been attempted to account for it without admitting supernatu-
ral agency. To suppose that the seers are impostors, and the people
deluded, is rather too much, for no gain is derived from it, but, on the
contrary, the second sight is, by the persons who possess it, considered
a misfortune, and the people cannot consult them as they would fortune-
tellers. The presages also are usually unfortunate, and the prophets
are found to be temperate and well living. That this faculty can be
communicated to another, as a correspondent informed Aubrey, is not
true, neither is it hereditary, but affects those of all classes and ages

* Solinus. t Nicander. Tertullian.


Dr Johnson could not satisfy himself that the Highlanders were deceiv-
ed in this impression; and so many instances of well authenticated
foresights are recorded * as appear sufficient to silence the skeptical.
The second sight is not indeed so prevalent as formerly, which, accord-
ing to a writer in some work which now escapes my memory, who
attempts to account for it on rational grounds, may arise from the alter-
ed state of society in the Highlands, the people not being obliged to lead
that solitary life which they formerly did, when the imagination was
affected b.y the loneliness, the wildness, and seclusion of the country.
A German predicted the good fortune of Agrippa from observing an owl
perched on a tree on which he leaned, affirming that should he see it
again he had but five days to live."f A female Druid foretold, in her na-
tive language, the death of Alexander Severus; and a story is related by
Vopiscus, of a Druidess who predicted that Diocletian, while a private,
should become Emperor, after killing a boar, which happened to prove
true by his slaying Aper, who had killed Numerianus. This is thought
by Rowland, in his Mona Antiqua, to be an instance of second sight.
The Manx possess this faculty; and a story is related by Sacheverel,
of a magistrate of Belfast, who had been wrecked, and was told by the
natives, who could not of themselves have known the fact, that he had
lost thirteen men. Waldron, the historian of that island, says he could
not bring himself to believe the inhabitants could see funerals, &.c. until
he had on several occasions, when he visited families, found the table
spread, and the people prepared to receive him, having had this super-
natural warning that he would come. Martin also relates, that in some
of the isles which he visited, they had made preparations for his com-
pany, telling him they had been informed by appearances that he was to
visit them.

Fauchet remarks, that all the ancients agree that the Gauls were re-
igiously inclined. With whatever ceremonies the Druidical religion was
accompanied, or however the doctrines of its professors were disguised
mder superstitious and, in some cases, very objectionable practices,
idapted for the gratification of the vulgar, it appears to have been really
i belief in one supreme being. The purity of this religion, when strip-
ped of its mysteries and unmeaning observances, is acknowledged. The
Druids, besides teaching all sorts of useful knowledge, disputed of mor-
als, of which justice, says Strabo, was the chief sentiment; and it has
been shown in another place, that Celtic society was regulated under
their government with the strictest regard to equality and independence,
both personal and national. The grand doctrine of the immortality of
the soul was taught by this people, and it was one of the strongest in-
citements to the practice of virtue. This is expressly said by Diodorus
to be the Pythagorean system; a proof of the identity, or at least strong
resemblance, of both religions, and a refinement of the doctrine of me-
tempsychosis, or transmigration of the souls of human beings into the

* See Martin's Western Isles, p. 300, &c. t Josephus' Antiquities, xviii. 6. 7.


bodies of other animals. The Celts are said not to have had an evil prin-
ciple, which the Scandinavians admitted.* By the Edda this people had
a fixed elysium and a hell; and the dead were believed to carry their
bodies into bliss, but the Celtoe held that the deceased were unsubstantial,
although they continued to be inspired with the same feelings which an-
imated them on earth: they were as immaterial as the clouds on which
they were borne, and were subject to the same impression of the wind;
" often has the blast whirled his limbs together, but still he seemed like
Curach." The women appear to have been excluded from the Valhalla
of the Northern nations, apparently to prevent brawling, except in cases
where they voluntarily killed themselves; on the contrary, the Celts
admitted them as their most agreeable associates, and believed that in the
second state of existence their charms were much increased. The
works of the bards abound in beautiful allusions to this belief, which
long subsisted among the Gael. A poem, quoted by Mac Pherson, and
supposed to be one thousand years later than Ossian, has these remark-
able words. "Hark! the whirlwind is in the wood! alow murmur in
the vale! it is the mighty army of the dead returning from the air."
Dreeug is the meteor on which, says Dr. Smith, the Highlanders yet
believe they ascend to heaven.

A general belief of the Gael was, that the future state of permanent
happiness was in Flath-innis, a remote Island in the West; but they also
thought that particular clans had certain hills to which the spirits
of their departed friends had a peculiar attachment. Tom-mhor was
that appropriated to the house of Garva, a branch of Clan Pherson; and
Ore, another hill, was regarded by the house of Crubin, of the same
clan, as their place of meeting in a future state, and their summits were
supernaturally illuminated when any member of the families died.

It was the opinion formerly, and it is believed at this day, that the
souls of the deceased continued to hover round the places they loved to
haunt when in this world, and kept near their friends, and sometimes
appeared when they were to engage in any important business. The
popular belief also was, that the Druids continued to frequent the oak
trees, for which they had so much respect when alive. It was no very
irrational persuasion, that the spirits of the good should exist in a state
of happiness hereafter, should ride on the clouds, and, in addition to the
pleasures of their own state, should enjoy the songs of praise which those
who were left on earth composed to their memory. Less ferocious than
the Scandinavian heroes, they did not place their delight in quaffing
wine from the skulls of their foes, but their chief enjoyments were the
careful protection of their earthly friends and the refined pursuit of
aerial hunting and feasting. There the passions which disturbed the tran-
quillity of a sublunary life were hushed; " side by side, "says an ancient
bard, "they sit who once mixed in battle their steel." There were
however, bad as well as good spirits, and the distinction which the an

* Mac Pherson's Introduction to the Hist, of Great Britain.


cient Scots made between them was, that the latter sometimes appeared
by day; and although the place was usually lonely and unfrequented, it
was never in those dismal and gloomy parts where the evil genii* present-
ed themselves, and invariably during night.

As teachers of morality, the Druids, by their own example, enforced
their precepts; their austerity and contemplative habits inspired the pop-
ulace with reverence and awe, while enjoying an exemption from war,
and immunity of all things, many were brought up to the profession.*
What is related of the Pythagoreans is equally applicable to the profes-
sors of Bardism; they were particularly careful to guard against all sorts
of intemperance; and to inure themselves to abstinence, they had all
sorts of delicacies prepared, as if for a banquet, which they spread out
and feasted their eyes with for some time, when, having sufficiently tried
their resolution, the whole was cleared away, and they all withdrew
without tasting any thing.

The attachment of these philosophers to each other was an admirable
example of brotherly affection. They often travelled great distances to
relieve the distresses of each other, the whole sect being animated with
a desire to assist those who had, through misfortune, become reduced;
and instances are recorded of their even offering their lives for each oth-
er.']" In this there is a striking resemblance to the philanthropy of Free-
masons, the traditions of whom, scriptural and oral, are, I apprehend,
referable to the institutions of Druidism. The Pythagoreans, like their
brethren the Celtic Druids, were fond of an enigmatical way of speak-
ing. Their injunction to refrain from eating beans, involved a command
to abstain from unlawful love.J

The Druids were, like the priests of other nations, obliged to clothe
religion with ceremonies calculated to excite the wonder and awe of the
common people, but the opinions of the better informed were not so
gross as the externals of their religion might indicate. The respect
which the Druids had for the oak was a characteristic of the profession,
and was only exceeded by the veneration which they had for the Misle-
toe; they Jiad also a mysterious regard for the number 3, and the Py-
thagoreans knew each other by it. Vallancey has remarked that the
misletoe, in its berries and leaves, grows in this number, but it is to be
observed that it was that which was found on the oak only, that the
Druids considered sacred, and which they gathered with so much cere-
mony. It seems that this veneration pervaded the Greeks a)so, and by
the Edda it would appear to have been the forbidden fruit. The vene-
ration which the Celts had for vervain and other plants, with the super-
stitions accompanying their gathering and preparation, have been spoken
of in Chap. XI.

The Ovum anguinum, described by Pliny, was thus formed. Innu-
merable serpents, entwining themselves together, produced an egg,

* Ctesar. t Diod. Frag. Valesii, vi. sec. 36, 37, &c

* Beloe, note on Herod, iv. c 131. Lib. xviii. 3.


which being forced into the air, was caught in a robe before it touched
the ground, and borne off instantly on horse-back, the intervention of a
river alone stopping the pursuit of the serpents. Those only which were
procured at a certain age of the moon were valued, and their goodness
was proved by their swimming against the water, even when bound with
gold. This egg was the ensign of a Druid, and the virtues ascribed to
it were numerous. I truly, says Pliny, have seen it, about the size of
a moderate round apple, with a shell like the claws and arms of a poly-
pus. For success in lawsuits, and interest with kings it was wonder-
fully extolled; and I know that a Roman knight of the Vocontii, was
put to death, because, while pleading a cause, he had it in his bosom.
This is the glain nadir of the Welsh, who still regard it with supersti-
tious feelings.

The sacrifices of the Celts, as we have seen in their auguries, were
not always bloodless. Hei.-.ules and Mars were appeased with beasts,
but to Mercury, on certain days, it was lawful to offer even human vic-
tims. The shocking practice of immolating human beings is so repug-
nant to modern feelings, that many have become skeptical as to its exist-
ence among the ancient Celts. It certainly was in use by those people
on the continent and in the British Isles, particularly in Anglesea.*

The principle of life for life may account for the apparent frequency
of these horrible rites, for those convicted of crimes were preferred.
They keot malefactors and prisoners sometimes five years, and then im-
paled them on stakes, and presented them as a burnt offering for the
honor of the gods. It must, nevertheless, be admitted that guiltless in-
dividuals were often doomed to fall as a propitiation to the Celtic deities.
The Galatians, when successful in war, sacrificed their prisoners, and
we read that they prepared for battle with Antigonus, by sacrificing
many of their children and relations."!" Some, we are told, were shot
with sacred arrows; but let us not conclude that the Celtas were more
sanguinary and cruel than other nations. Human sacrifices were not
abolished in the refined "city of the world" ninety-seven years before
the appearance of Christ. J A male and female Gaul, and a Grecian
man and woman, we are informed by Livy, were buried alive after the
battle of Canna3, but not by the Roman rites, it is added! a distinction
which doubtless altered the case.^ In the time of Caesar, two men were
publicly sacrificed, and human victims were offered to Jupiter Latialis
even in the fourth century. The history of Rome affords a few instan-
ces of individuals devoting themselves to death for the purpose of avert-
ing an impending evil. The Massilians, or rather the Gauls around
them, were accustomed to sacrifice a voluntary victim, who was deli-
cately fed and sumptuously treated for a year previous to his death. He
was then dressed in holy garments ; and, crowned with a wreath of
vervain, he was thrown headlong from a precipice. ||

* Tac. Annals, xiv. t Justin, xxvi. 2. Strabo, iv. p. 195.

J Pliny, xxxi. Dio. xliii. 24 || Petronhw



The colossal figure, formed of osier and described by Caesar, was
certainly used by the priests of Druidisrn as the vehicle in which numer-
ous human beings were occasionally immolated. Strabo says that it was
chiefly filled with sheep, but it cannot be denied that the sacrifices were
not always of so innocent a nature. Dr. Milner, in his History of Win-
chester, says that at Douay and Dunkirk there is an immemorial custom
of constructing huge figures of wicker work and canvass, that are filled
with men and moved about to represent a giant that was killed by their
patron saint. In Paris, there used to be a custom, which is not yet
abolished in some small towns, and that seems evidently to derive its
origin from the barbarous practice of the Druids. The Mayors, on the
eve of St. John, put into a large basket a dozen or two of cats, which
are thrown into the bonfires kindled on that festival.*

Between the Seine and the Loire, where Chartres now stands, it is
believed, was that famous establishment of the Druids, "where rustics
pled and private persons decided." At this place all who had contro-
versies met together, and, from an ancient comedy quoted by Ritson.
it appears the " sentences of the oak" were here pronounced and writ-
ten on bones. At a certain time of the year the Druids sat down in a
consecrated grove of Mona, or Anglesea, whither all went to have their
disputes settled.f

A beautiful description, by Lucan,of a consecrated grove of the Gauls
near Marseilles, has been thus translated:

Not far away, for ages past had stood

An old, inviolated, sacred wood;

Whose gloomy boughs, thick interwoven, made

A chilly, cheerless, everlasting shade :

There, not the rustic gods, nor satyrs sport,

Nor fawns and sylvans with the nymphs resort ;

But barb'rous priests some dreadful power adore,

And lustrate every tree with human gore.

If mysteries in times of old received,

And pious ancientry may be believed,

There not the feathered songster builds her nest,

Nor lonely dens conceal the savage beast:

There no tempestuous winds presume to fly,

Even lightnings glance aloof, and shoot obliquely by.

No wanton breezes toss the wanton leaves,

But shiv'ring horror in the branches heaves.

Black springs, with pitchy streams, divide the ground,

And, bubbling, tumble with a sullen sound.

Old images of forms misshapen stand,

Rude, and unknowing of the artist's hand;

With hoary filth begrimed, each ghastly head

Strikes the astonished gazer's soul with dread.

No gods, who long in common shape appeared,

Were e'er with such religious awe revered ;

But zealous crowds in ignorance adore,

And still, the less they know, they fear the more.

* St. Foix, Essay on Paris t Richard of Cirencester, b. i. c. 4. 13.


Oft, as fame tells, the earth in sounds of wo,
Is heard to groan from hollow depths below ;
The baleful yew, though dead, has oft been seen,
To rise from earth, and spring with dusky green ;
With sparkling flames the trees unburning shine,*
And round their boles prodigious serpents twme.
The pious worshippers approach not near,
But shun their gods, and kneel with distant feir
The priest himself, when or the day, or night,
Rolling, have reached their full meridian height,
Refrains the gloomy paths with wary feet,
- Dreading the daemon of the grove to meet;
Who, terrible to sight, at that fixed hour
Still treads the round about his dreary bower.
This wood, near neighboring to the encompassed iown
Untouched by former wars remained alone ;
And, since the country round it naked stands,
From hence the Latian chief supplies demands.
But lo ! the bolder hands that should have struck
With some unusual horror, trembling shook ;
With silent dread, and reverence they surveyed
The gloom majestic of the sacred shade :
None dares, with impious steel, the bark to rend
Lest on himself the destined stroke descend.
Caesar perceived the spreading fear to grow,
Then, eager, caught an axe, and aimed a blow.
Deep sunk, within a violated oak,
The wounding edge, and thus the warrior spoke :
" Now, let no doubting hand the task decline ;
Cut you the wood, and let the guilt be mine."
The trembling bands unwillingly obeyed,
Two various ills were in the balance laid,
And Caesar's wrath against the gods was weighed.
With grief and fear, the groaning Gauls beheld
Their holy grove by impious soldiers felled ;
While the Massilians, from the encompassed wall,
Rejoiced to see the sylvan honors fall :
They hope such power can never prosper long,
Nor think the patient gods will bear the wrong.

The two Druids forming the vignette, to the last Chapter are from an
engraving in Montfaucon's splendid work, who appears to have copied
them from Auberi's Antiquities d'Autun. The mace, or sceptre, car-
ried by one is the drudical ensign of office. The Highlanders retain a tra-
ditional knowledge of the slatan drui'achd, which they say was a white
wand. The other carries the crescent, or first quarter of the moon, call-
ed cornan by the Irish, of which some, formed of gold, have been found
in that country. The robe of a I>ruid was pure white, indicating holi-
ness and truth. The Pythagoreans held it improper to sacrifice to tho
gods in gaudy habits, but only in white and clean robes, for they main-

* The Gaelic Druilinn, or Druidhlann, the flame of the Druids, denoted a sudden
gleam produced in their ceremonies. They appear to have bern the inventors of gun-
powuor, or something similar.


tained that those so engaged should not only bring bodies free from gross
and outward wickedness, but pure ana unuefiled souls.* The bards
More a robe of sky blue color, the emblem of peace and sincerity. The
robe of the ovydd, or ovate, was a bright green, the emblem of true
learning, as being the uniform clothing of nature. Strabo describe*
the Druidesses as clothed in white linen cloaks fastened by clasps and
girdles of brass work.f

The knowledge of the Druids was profound. They taught, says Cae-
sar, of the stars and their motion, the magnitude of countries, the nature
of things, and the power of the gods. Talliesin, a Welsh bard of the sixth
century, said, he knew the names of the stars from north to south; and
his opinions, which must have been those of the order to which he be-
longed, were, that there are seven elements fire, earth, water, air,
mist, atoms, and the animating wind; that there were seven sources of
ideas perception, volition, and the five senses, coinciding in this with
Locke. He also says, there were seven spheres, with seven real plan-
ets, and three that are aqueous. The planets were Sola, Luna, Mar-
carucia, Venerus, Severus, and Saturnus; and he describes five zones,
two of which were uninhabited, one from excessive cold, the other from
excessive heat.J

The Druids reckoned by nights and not by days, and held thirty years
an age. The Gael call the spring ceituin, or ceuduin, literally the first
season, or May, the Druidical year commencing at that time, an expres-
sion that corresponds with the French printems and Italian primavera.
The civic or artificial year began the 25th of December, on which occa-
sion the lul feast, in honor of the sun, was held; and when it became a
Christian festival the heathen fires were permitted, it being a practice,
but lately discontinued, even in England to burn the Christmas log.

The Highlanders call the year Bheil-aine, the circle of Bel, or the
Sun. The days of the week are thus named:

Sunday Dies Solis .... Di Sol.

Monday Dies Lunre. . . . Di Luain.

Tuesday Dies Martis . . . Di Mairt.

Wednesday . . . .Dies Mercurii. . Di Ciadoin.

Thursday .... Dies Jovis . . Di Taran.

Friday Dies Veneris . Di Haoine.

Saturday Dies Saturni . . Di Sathuirne.

The affinity of the English, Latin, and Gaelic, is here plain, and cor-
roborative of the observations in former pages.

The knowledge which the Druids possessed of mathematics must have
been great. The erection of their astonishing temples is, alone, proof
of their skill, but the mode in which those immense stones were brought
together, and piled up, cannot well be conceived, unless we admit the

* The Irish say that, by the Brehon laws, a Druid had six cofors in his robe ; a re-
markable difference from the Britons.

t Douglas's Nen. Brit. p. 40. \ Roberta's Early History of the Cumr


use of machinery. A traveller in Greece, whose work T recently read,
gives an account of a very ingenious manner of detaching large masses
of stone from the native rock. In Bakewell's Travels, when speaking
of the dissolution of the Alpine rocks by Hannibal, the writer supposes
that the expansive power of vapor might be the means adopted. Count
Rumford ascertained that a drachm of water, inclosed in a mass of iron
the size of a solid 24-pounder, was sufficient to burst it, with a violent
explosion, by the application of heat; and freezing, as is well known,
will split the hardest rocks. It is, however, said that Hannibal used
vinegar, a story that could scarcely have originated without some foun-
dation in fact. The vinegar of the ancients, which could dissolve pearls,
as in the case of Cleopatra, must have been very different from any kind
now known. Whether the Druids used the above methods, or by what
other means they procured the enormous blocks which they used, we
cannot ascertain. It is no less difficult to conceive how they could
have been poised on their ends. The natural supposition, which is, in-
deed, corroborated by the description of an ancient author, is, that they
were placed in the proper position by means of an inclined plane of
earth, up which they were rolled, and at the highest end were slipped
into their place. They were set on so true a perpendicular that, al-
though some of the largest are not deeper in the ground than 1| or 2
feet, they tiave never swerved from the upright. Considering the trou-
ble with which they must have been procured, it can scarcely be sup-
posed their height would have been needlessly lessened. It is a tra-
dition among the Highlanders, that the Druids worked at night and
rested during the day.

The Druids were physicians, and their medical knowledge, which was
by no means small, has elsewhere been spoken of. The Feryllt of
Talliesin was skilled in every thing requiring the operation of fire, and
this comprising botany, from the duty of selecting plants for the mystical
caldron, the name in time came to signify chemists.

It is not surprising that a religion so venerated and universal should
be long, ere it finally gave way to the establishment of Christianity.
" Under the specious pretext of abolishing human sacrifices, the Em-
perors Tiberius and Claudius suppressed the dangerous power of the
Druids; but the priests themselves, their gods, and their altars, subsist-
ed in peaceful obscurity till the final destruction of paganism."* "The
latest mention of<the Gallic Druids appears to be by Ammianus Marcel-
linus, who flourished in the latter end of the fourth century; in Britain
the religion certainly remained to a period considerably later.

Talliesin, who lived in the sixth century, was initiated in the myste-
ries of Druidism; nay, Prince Hywell, who died in 1171, thus invokes
the deity, " Attend thou my worship in the mystical grove, and whilst I
adore thee, maintain thy own jurisdiction." A manuscript of the twelfth
or thirteenth century, which contains a life of Columba, relates that the

* Gibbon, from Suetonius. Pliny, xxx. 1, &c.


Saint going to JSruidhi Mac Milcon, King of the Picts, his son Maelchu
with his Druid, argued Keenly against Columba in support of paganism.*

A curious dialogue is preserved, in which Ossian and St. Patrick dis-
pute, concerning the merits of their respective religions. The bard con-
trasts the pitiful songs of the apostle with his own poems, and extols the
virtues of Fingal, m reward for which he believed he was then enjoying
the delights of the aerial existence; but the saint assures him that, not-
withstanding the worth of Fingal, being a pagan he was assuredly at
that time roasting in hell. The choler of the honest Caledonian rising
at this, he passionately exclaims, " If the children of Morni and the
many tribes of the clan Ovi were alive, we would force brave Fingal out
of hell, or the habitation should be our own."

Druidism was so powerfully assailed in the Southern parts of the
Island, that its votaries took refuge in the North, and the Island of lona
became its most sacred retreat, to which the Welsh are said to have
made frequent pilgrimage. So well settled did it become in these parts,
that Gwenddollen, the Ard-dhruid, is represented by Merddyn or Merlin,
his priest, as "gathering his contributions from every extremity of the
land;" but it was not maintained without difficulty, and in other parts it
was more vigorously attacked, and its votaries bitterly persecuted.
Merddyn deplores that the rites of his religion dared not be practised in
" raised circles," for " the gray stones they even removed."

When Golan, or Columba, established himself in Ii, or lona, it was
the death blow to Druidism in Scotland. He had, however, according
to tradition, a great respect for the order, although he opposed their
doctrines and burnt their books, and did actually with King Aidan inter-
cede for the Irish bards at the council of Drumceat, and procured a
modification of their punishment, the profession not being abolished, but
restricted to Ulster and Dalriada. On the suppression of Druidism in
lona, it is said that the Welsh carried away many of the mystical instru-
ments, which a partial revival of the system in their own country, ena-
bled them for several centuries to use.

This singular religion influenced, in no small degree, the early Chris-
tians, who mixed a great deal of the ancient superstition with the cere-
monies of the church. By a council of Lateran in 452, the adoration of
stones in woods and places now decayed, v/as forbidden; and Gregory
of Tours, a writer of the sixth century, shows that woods, waters, birds,
beasts, and stones, were still worshipped. | Pope Gregory III., about
740, prohibits the Germans from sacrifices or auguries beside sacred
groves or fountains. So difficult is it to wean people from the religion
of their fathers, and that which has been long venerated, that the first
Christians were obliged to conciliate their proselytes by tolerating some
of their prejudices; perhaps they themselves were somewhat affected by
a respect for ancient usages. When Ethelred, as Malmesbury informs

* Report of the Highland Society on the Poems of Ossian, App. 311.
i Keysler, p. 63.


us, was to hear Augustine preach, he refused to enter a house with him,
but sat in the open air, actuated, it is probable, by the persuasion that
the Deity should not be worshipped under cover.

Various enactments were passed against practices that must have
originated in the times of Druidism, without effecting their abolition.
One observance, that of decking houses and churches with evergreens
and misletoe, under which, in presumed imitation of the Druids, it is
customary to kiss the maids, has survived in England to the present
day. At the close of the tenth century, stones were revered in Ireland;
but this is not very remarkable, since they are even yet looked upon by
the Gael with a degree of awe. James Shaw, bard to Campbell of Loch-
nell, reproaches one Finlay for destroying these venerable monuments,
he supposes a Druid appears, and charges him to convey his displeas-
ure to the sacrilegious offender, who, being a merchant, is told that his
unhallowed work is a more serious affair than cheating the Glasgow tra-
ders. It has been carefully noted, that none who ever meddled with the
Druids' stones prospered in this world.

Turgot, confessor to Queen Margaret, says that the Scots celebrated
mass with barbarous rites; and Scaliger remarks that the popery of Ire-
land was mixed with much paganism. More has been shown in preced-
ing pages of the mixture of ancient superstition with Christianity among
the Gael of both countries. The Culdee clergy succeeded the Druid-
ical order.

It has been remarked that the Highlanders seldom or ever meddle
with relir^" and the late General Stewart has some very sensible re-
marks on cud* tolerant spirit, mixed, however, with regret that sectaries
should have been able to infuse among them a spirit of cavilling and
dispute on religious topics. He deplores that, instead of the contented
plain Christian-like satisfaction formerly to be found among them, they
occupy themselves too frequently in " disputes of interminable length."
The example of the chief was formerly almost sufficient authority for the
religion which the clan professed. Mac Lean of Coll converted his
tenants in Mull from Popery, by meeting them when going to chapel,
and driving them into a barn where the Presbyterian clergyman was to
preach, and having on this occasion used a gold-headed cane; it passed
into a saying that their religion was that of the yellow-headed stick.
The Highlanders were, however, too liberal to molest any on account
of their religious principles; and Martin mentions a person who alone
professed the Catholic religion in a populous island of Protestants.

It must be allowed that the Highlands have, until lately, been ex-
tremely ill supplied with spiritual instruction, some of the parishes being
of incredible size. It is related that a Lowland clergyman at the gen-
eral assembly urged his necessity for an augmentation of stipend, on
account of the largeness of his parish. He was asked its size, when hb
said eight miles in breadth; on which a member immediately replied that
his was more than ten; mine is twenty, says another; mine is thirty;


forty, said a third and fourth; and others could have proved their
oarochial districts considerably larger. Missionaries, or assistants, have
now been established in suitable places, it is to be hoped, with much
advantage to the people : the morality and former happiness of the High-
landers reflect credit on themselves and on their spiritual teachers, who
labored with such success in so extended a field.


In Chapter V. some remarks have been offered on the intercourse
of the sexes, when speaking of the mercheta mulierum. The Celts,
it has been there said, are charged with a neglect of their women, and
a disregard to the proper regulation of the married state, that could
but ill accord with the condition of a people in any degree civilized.
Ten or twelve Britons, it is said, espoused a virgin each, and tak-
ing up their abode together, they lived in promiscuous cohabitation,
but the children of each woman was considered as belonging to the
man who had originally married the mother. The custom which con-
tinued until lately in some parts, and yet subsists among a few of the
rudest, who sleep all together on straw or rushes, according to the
general ancient practice, there is reason to believe, led to the asper-
sion cast on the British and Irish tribes. How natural it must have
been for a casual observer to suppose from seeing men and women re-
posing in the same place, that the marriage rites were not in force. To
judge of the ancient inhabitants by the rudest of the present Highland-
ers and Irish, who often sleep in the same apartment, and are some-
times exposed to each other in a state of semi-nudity, we should not
come to a conclusion unfavorable to their morality, for this mode of life
is not productive of that conjugal infidelity which St. Jerome and others
insinuate as prevalent among the old Scots. Solinus, indeed, says the
women in Thule were common, the king having a free choice; and Dio
says the Caledonians had wives in common : yet these assertions may
well be disputed. Strabo describes the Irish as extremely gross in this
matter; O'Conner says polygamy was permitted; and Derrick tells us
they exchanged wives once or twice a year; while Campion says they
only married for a year and day, sending their wives home again for any
slight offence; but notwithstanding the attempt of Sir William Temple to
show the advantages of such loose connexion, it is reasonable to believe
that it did not exist, at least to the extent represented. Nations that
are even in a savage state are sometimes found more sensitive on that
point of honor than nations more advanced in civilisation; and all, per-
haps, that can be admitted is, that certain formalities may have been
practised by the Britons, from which the bundling of the Welsh, and
the hand-fisting in some parts of Scotland, are derived. The conver-
sation which took place between the Empress Julia and the wife of a


Caledonian chief, as related by Xiphilin, certainly evinces a grossness and
indelicacy in the amours of the British ladies, if true; but it appears to
be a reply where wit and reproof were more aimed at than truth. The
case of the Empress Cartismandua shows the nice feeling of the Britons
as to the propriety of female conduct. The respect of the Germans for
their females, and the severity with which they visited a deviation from
virtue, have been described; and the farther testimony of Tacitus may
lie adduced, who says that but very few of the greatest dignity chose to
have more than one wife, and when they did, it was merely for the hon-
or of alliance. It may here be stated that the Gael have no word to
express cuckold, and that prostitutes were, by Scots' law, like that of
the ancient Germans, thrown into deep wells; and a woman was not per-
mitted to complain of an assault if she allowed more than one night to
elapse before the accusation.

The Gauls, according to Caesar, had no sexual intercourse before
twenty. The Germans were equally long before they partook of con-
nubial happiness; they married in the prime of life, and the parties were
matched in stature as well as disposition, and this was not only with a
view to their own happiness, but to insure a fine family.

The ceremonies of courtship and marriage among the Celts were not
tedious, but the latter was never consummated without consulting the
Druidess and her purin, which was five stones thrown up and caught on
the back of the hand, called, says Vailancey, by the Irish, Seic seona,
now corrupted into jackstones.* The ancient Irish presented their lov-
ers with bracelets of womens' hair. Duchomar, a Caledonian hero,
recommends his suit to Morna, by saying he had slain a stately deer
for her. The Gauls brought a portion equal to that of the women, and
the united product was reserved for the survivor."}" Among the Germans
the husband gave the wife a dowery oxen, and a horse accoutred, a
shield, with a sword and javelin; and the parents attended to approve of
these presents, by whose acceptance the damsel was espoused. The
oxen in the same yoke, we are told, indicated that the wife was hence-
forth to be a partner with the husband in his hazards and fatigues. The
arms which she received, with certain others which she also, it appears,
brought to her husband, she preserved for her sons, whose wives might
again receive them.J The father of a bride among the old Highlanders
gave his arms to his son-in-law. Spelman remarks that the Irish dowers
were bestowed exactly in the manner of the old Germans.

The Highlanders give dowers according to their means, cattle, provi-
sions, farmstocking, &.c. ; and where the parents are unable to provide
sufficiently, it is customary in Scotland for a newly-married couple to
'thig," or collect grain, &.c. from their neighbors, by which means they
procure as much as will serve for the first year, and often more. The
portion of a bride is called a tocher. The wedding feasts are scenes of
great mirth and hospitality. It is often the case that they are "siller

* Brande's Pop. Ant. xlviii. t Bello Gall. vi. 17. \ Tacitus.



bridals;" otherwise, those in which the parties are paid for the enter
tainment, which is sometimes resorted to as a means of raising a few
pounds to begin the world with; but the feasts are generally free, and
consist of an abundance of every thing. In the Highlands the company
occasionally get breakfast, dinner, and supper, and there is sometimes
so numerous an attendance that many sheep are killed for their enter-
tainment. A Mull wedding feast is thus described : a long table ia
placed in a barn or outhouse, on winch is set, at convenient distances,
meat, with eggs, oatbread, and potatoes, and near every third person a
whole cheese and a lump of butter; the whisky, or other liquor, is pro-
vided by the bridegroom, but the rest of the entertainment is furnished
by the parents of the bride. In Tiri, another of the Western Isles, a
respectable marriage feast was provided with a profusion of mutton, tur-
keys, geese, ducks, fowls, custards, puddings, vegetables, butter, cheese,
oatbread, milk, and whisky, all provided by the parents of the bride, ex-
cept she has only a mother, in which case the bridegroom is thought
bound to bear the expense.*

In the Isle of Man, the relations always bring something to a mar-
riage feast. On one platter you may sometimes see a dozen capons, on
another six or eight fat geese sheep and hogs are roasted whole, and
oxen cut up in quarters. "j"

Dr. Henry says that within twenty or thirty years, when a party in
Orkney agreed to marVy, they went to the temple of the moon, which
was semi-circular, and there the woman fell on her knees and invoked
Woden, a singular relict of superstition. The ring was a badge of the
married state among the Celts, and was worn both in Gaul and Briton
on the middle finger. That used among the Northern nations seems to
have been nearly as large as to admit the whole hand.

A marriage company, among the Galatians, all drank out of the same
cup. When the German bride entered in the morning she was clothed
in a white robe, and was crowned with herbs and flowers, particularly
vervain, which was sacred to Venus. A Lusitanian woman was taken
into the house with a sort of violence, her husband dragging her from
the arms of her brother, and she was preceded to her new residence by
a person who implored the favor of Hymen to the happy couple.

A very ancient custom of carrying off a wife by force, remains in
some parts of Ireland to this day. In 1767, a girl was carried off in the
county of Kilkenny, but was rescued and married to another party.
The disappointed lover raised his friends, and, provided with arms, they
besieged the house, in order to recover the prize, and although they
were beaten off it was not before lives were lost.

A Scotish bride was expected to show a reluctance, and require a
certain degree of violence, which was neither thought unbecoming in
the man, nor a hardship to the woman; many instances being found of

* Mrs. Murray's Guide. On this subject " the Bridal of Caolchairn," by Mr. Hay,
will be read with interest. I Waldron's Hist. p. 169.


happy unions, accompanied with apparent force and cruelty. The prac-
tice was sometimes, however, carried too far; and the real violence
which was used constituted the raptus, or forcible abduction of women,
of which so many instances occur in the legal history of the country.
The unfortunate Lovat was accused of this crime, in having married,
without the lady's consent, and actually cut her dress from her person
with a dirk ! An old north country song, entitled " Lord Saltoun and
Achanachie," alludes to a similar act of deforcement,

tl When she was married she would na' ly down,
But they took out a knife and cut off her gown."

One of the sons of the celebrated Rob Roy was hanged for carrying
off the heiress of Balfron, more, however, apparently against her friends'
consent than her own, for she lived some time contentedly with him in
the Highlands.

In the pastoral districts of Ireland the parents and mutual friends
meet on a hill side, usually midway between their respective dwellings,
and there drink "the agreement bottle" of whisky. This settled, the
father, or next of kin to the. bride, sends round to his neighbors and
friends, and every one gives his cow or heifer, by which means the por-
tion is soon raised. Caution is, however, taken of the bridegroom on
the day of delivery for restitution of the cattle, should the bride die
childless, in which case, within a stipulated time, each receives back
his own; care being thus taken that no man get rich by frequent mar-
riage. On the day of" home bringing," the bridegroom and his friends
iide out to the place of treaty, where they meet the bride, and the cus-
tom of old was to cast short darts at the bride's company, but at such a
distance as seldom to occasion any wounds; "yet it is not out of the
memory of man that the Lord Hoath on such an occasion lost an eye.
This custom is now obsolete." *

The following observances at a wedding in Wales, if not entirely dis-
used, are fast dying away. Some weeks previous, a person well known
in the parish, went round inviting all, without limitation or distinction, to
attend. The company assembled the evening previous to the ceremony
at the bride's father's, the bridegroom arriving accompanied bv music.
The bride and her retinue were then shut up in a room, and the house
doors being locked, the company made loud demands for admittance
until the bride's muid opened a window and assisted the bridegroom to
enter, after which the doors were opened and the party admitted. After
a few hours dancing and a refreshment of oatcake and spiced ale, the
bride's maid and company retired: the bridegroom returning early next
day with all his friends, preceded by a harper playing "come haste to
the wedding." They were joined by the bride at her father's, who,
along with her brother or other male relation, took their station behind

* That is about 1682. Sir H. Pier's Description of Westmeath, ap. Vallaiicey's
Coll. i. p. 122.


the bridegroom, with their retinue of friends, and all proceeded to
church. On leaving the church the harper played "joy to the bride-
groom," and the bride and her maid having changed partners, they all
went to a part of the churchyard, if such there was, unappropriated for
interment, and there danced to the tunes of " the beginning of the world,"
and " my wife shall have her way." They then adjourned home where
various sorts of bread, ale, and cheese, were prepared, and a collection
for the bride was made, a benevolence which was not always in money;
sometimes the friends and neighbors went the night before, carrying
presents of grain, meal, cheese, &c. It is a practice among the better
sort in these days for the bride to remain with her parents for some
weeks, and when she goes to her husband, the furniture which she has
provided, and which is called starald, is removed with much ceremony,
every article being moved in succession, according to fixed rules. The
next day the young couple are attended by the younger part of their
friends, and this is called a turmant.* When parties separated in this
country, by Hwyel's laws, the property was equally divided.

There are several other observances that are to be referred to the
original Britons, such as the cake broken over the head of the Scot's
bride, on her first entering her future residence. It is a curious prac-
tice of newly married women to commence spinning and preparing linen
for their shroud. The bard who attended a marriage was entitled to
the bridegroom's plaid and bonnet.

Many superstitious movements and notions were occasioned by a
woman's confinement, that are not worth observance. In some parts of
the Highlands, we learn from Mrs. Murray, when near her time, a large
knife and a spade were laid under the bedstead, and beneath the pillow
was placed the bible, while salt was plentifully strewed about the doors
to avert the fairies. These unearthly creatures derive the Gaelic name,
sithich, from sith, a sudden attempt to grasp, which accords with their
known propensity to carry off children. They lived under little green
mounts, called sith dhuin, which are still approached by the Highland-
ers with veneration, certainly from the supposed residence of these
beings, and not from their being " hills of peace," as Dr. Smith thinks.

The Gallic women delighted in a numerous family. | The mode of
rearing children has been described. They were inured to hardship and
brought up in military virtue, and rude, but imposing, simplicity of man-
ners. No rights of primogeniture, or undue partiality, engendered
feelings of discord and contention they were alike excluded from mix-
ing in society, or even appearing before their parents in public, until
they were able to bear arms. The children of the .Germans were held
in the same estimation by their mother's brother as by their father,
which, says Tacitus, was an inviolable tie.

* A. B. Table Book, ii. 793.

t The Thracian women laid their new born children on the earth and wept over
them. Les diff. Moeurs, &c. 1670


Baptism, it has been shown, was a heathen rite; with the Christiar
ceremony the Celts retained many superstitious practices. Handing
the infant over the fire, sometimes in a basket, in which bread and
cheese were placed, which the Highlander's, I believe, yet perform in
christening their offspring, is believed to counteract the power of spirits.
It certainly originated in some of the druidical services to Baal, and is
perhaps the " passing through the fire to Moloch," which the Scriptures
notice as a Gentile custom. The Irish hung about children's necks a
crooked nail, a horseshoe, or a piece of wolves' skin, not forgetting a
bit of St. John's gospel, and both it and the mother, or nurse, were girt
with belts of womens' hair, finely plaited.* In the Highlands it has
been said they sometimes baptised a child over a broad sword. It was
a notion until lately, that faint voices of children who had not received
this mark of consecration were heard in the woods bewailing.


The Druids, elevating their minds to the most sublime conceptions,
boldly asserted the immortality of the soul. This belief inspired the
Celts with that contempt of death which led to those deeds of heroism
by which they signalized themselves. The sublime doctrines of one
supreme God, and a state of blessed existence hereafter, must have had
wonderful effects on this race, naturally of a sanguine temperament.
The belief that a place of happiness awaited them in another world, led
them often to seek it by self-destruction, when pressed by the adversities
of fortune. The Celtic mothers would kill their children to prevent
their falling into the hands of the enemy, and the children would without
compunction destroy their parents.

Boiscalus, the high-minded but unfortunate chief of the Ansibarians,
who were obliged to fight for their very existence, which their utmost
efforts could not at last preserve, piously addressing the Sun, appealed
to his enemies whether, the heavens being the residence of the gods, as
the earth was that of the children of men, such portion of it as none pos-
sessed should be free to the destitute, but his unhappy situation and ear-
nest supplication only produced an offer from Avitus, the Roman gene-
ral, of ample lands for himself, if he would betray his people." " A
place to live in," replied the hero, "we may want, but a place to die
we cannot," and they perished to the last man.'f

The Gauls who lived at the foot of the Alps, being attacked by the
Romans, surrounded and unable to escape, killed their wives and chil-
dren and threw themselves into the flames. Some who were surprised
and made prisoners, afterwards committed suicide, some with iron, some
by strangulation, and some by refusing all food.J The Japides, also,

* Memorable things noted in a Description of the World,
t Tacitus' Annals, xiii. J Oroams, v. 15.


to prevent any thing of theirs from falling into the hands of Caesar, slew
themselve?, their wives, and children, and a few who weYe taken alive
speedily put an end to their captivity by voluntary deaths.* The Gallo-
Grecian prisoners attempted to gnaw asunder their iron chains, and of-
fered their throats to be strangled by each other. "j" The Gauls, believing
that they should rejoin their friends in another state of existence, did not
hesitate to accompany them across that bourne, which even Christians
think of with doubt and anxiety. The confidence of the Celt, in his fu-
ture existence was full, and he would write letters to those friends who
had gone before and transmit them at the obsequies of the deceased. J
The Gallic prisoners in Hannibal's army fought by lot, and the surviv-
ors, with bitter regret, complained of their hard fate in not having fall-
en. The wives of the Teutons, after their defeat, offered to surrender
on condition that, with their children, they should be received as the
slaves of the Vestals, who served that deity which themselves revered,
but their request being denied, they escaped the vengeance and insult
of their enemies by mutual destruction. Innumerable instances are
recorded of the suicide of individuals after defeat or disappointment.
Cativulcus, king of the Eburones, poisoned himself with an extract of
yew. Brennus, on his discomfiture at Delphos, either ran himself
through with a sword or drank wine until he died. Aneroeste and Dras-
ses, two other chiefs, destroyed themselves by starvation, and the heroic
Bonduca put an end to her existence by poison, and was sumptuously
buried by her sorrowing followers. Many of the Caledonians, on their
defeat at the Grampians, relieved their minds from the dread of witness-
ing their wives and children exposed to the outrage of the Roman sol-
diery, by laying violent hands on them.

The ancient Celts sometimes burned the bodies of their deceased
friends, and sometimes interred them without that ceremony. It is prob-
able that the latter practice was in use by the poor, yet in the same sep-
ulchre there have been found entire skeletons as well as urns containing
the ashes of those bodies that had been submitted to cremation. The
Irish, according to Ware, who quotes an ancient authority, " preserved
that cleanly custom" long after the introduction of Christianity. The
Picts in Columba's time did not burn their dead, but Sturleson says,
the practice was more ancient among the Northern nations than that of
burial. This is, however, improbable; the most obvious method to dis-
pose of the dead is by simple interment. Even the Romans at first
buried the dead, and only began the practice of burning the bodies in
consequence of hearing that those slain in war were often disinterred,
and the practice was not universally adopted; many refused to have their
bodies consumed by fire, and preferred plain burial, like Varro, who, dy-
ing at an advanced age, ordered his corpse to be decked with shrubs
and flowers. [| The Gauls had numerous lights at their funerals, IT and

* Dio. xlix. p. 403. t Florus, ii. 11. t Diodorus. v.

Polybius, iii. 139. || Pliny, vii. 54. xxxv. 12. IF Durand, de Ritibus.


we And that the Christians did not object to carrying torches on these
occasions, as it was an innocent practice.

At the funerals of the Germans, says Tacitus, this is carefully observ-
ed; with the bodies of eminent men certain woods are burned. On the
funeral pile they put neither apparel nor perfumes, but throw into the fire
the arms of the deceased, and sometimes also his horse. In Gaul, those
slaves who had been most loved by their masters sacrificed themselves
at their funerals. It was usual among this people to burn bonds and
accounts from a belief that the person would require them in the other
world;* and persons would lend money to deceased friends relying on
its repayment when they met in the state of future existence. It is a
reasonable conjecture, that the articles which were used in life by the
parties were buried with them, that, they might have them to use here-
after. A stone hammer has often been found in Celtic graves, and on
monuments presumed to belong to that people, this instrument, formed
like 1 and 2 in the plate, is often represented either by itself or in the
hand of a figure. The body of a stout man was found interred at
Wilsford, in Wiltshire, at whose feet a massy stone hammer was placed,
and the remains of the ancient inhabitants of Scotland are often discov-
ered with the same implement beside them. It was, indeed, a Celtic
practice to deposit in the grave whatever had been particularly esteemed
by its tenant when alive, or was deemed necessary for use in the next
world, and certain articles indicated the rank of the deceased."}"

Different methods of interment are found to have been practised; and
antiquaries seem agreed that a most ancient position is that in which the
limbs are drawn up to the body. It is likely, that the wishes of individ-
uals respecting their mode of sepulture occasioned that diversity which
is discovered. At Largo, in Fifeshire, a stone coffin, found beneath a
cairn, contained a skeleton, of which the legs and arms had been care-
fully severed from the trunk, and laid across it.J The bodies are also
found lying in various positions.

A.t Evreux, in 1685, sixteen or eighteen interments were discovered,
the bodies in which were placed side by side, their faces turned to the
mid-day sun, the arms down by their sides, and every one had a stone
under the head. A stone hatchet was placed beside each, and one was
formed of a precious stone. There were also arrow heads of the same
materials, arid bones, apparently of horses, sharpened for spear heads,
and a piece of deer's horn was fitted to receive one of the axes. There
were also urns, and near them a great quantity of half-burnt bones, and
a vase full of charcoal resting on a heap of stones and covered by a lay-
er of ashes 1| foot thick. A large stone, almost round, on which were
three smaller ones was also found in this very curious sepulchre. The
bodies were of the common stature, arid one of the skulls had been frac-
tured in two places, but had been subsequently cured. Another place

* Mela, iii. 2. I Val. Max. ii. 6.

i Stat. Account, iv. 538. Montfaucon's Antiq. Expliq. r. 105.


of interment was discovered in 1685, at Cocherell, in France, where
eight skeletons were found side by side, each with a flint stone under
the head, and several stone hammers. On the summit of the hill on
which the tomb was found, were two stones about five feet in length.

It appears to have been an almost universal custom to deposit arms in
the grave of a deceased warrior. Quintus Curtius relates that when
Alexander the Great caused the sepulchre of Cyrus to be opened, there
were found a shield, two bows, and a battle-axe. This practice was
characteristic of a military nation, and the belief that warlike deeds were
peculiarly acceptable to the gods, was strong in the Celtic race. In the
mythology of the Northern nations, it was thought that to fall in battle
was a sure passport to the hall of Odin, and the arms of a warrior, espe-
cially his sword, were carefully placed in the grave with his remains.*
That the Gauls deposited arms with the dead is shown by numerous
discoveries. In the grave of Childeric, and other kings of France,
their swords, javelins, and other weapons, have been found, and in
Britain the fact is still oftener proved.

The mode of interment among the ancient Scots was thus. A grave,
six or eight feet deep, was made, the bottom of which was lined with fine
clay, and on this the body was placed, along with the sword, if the per-
son had signalized himself in war, and if a high character, the heads of
twelve arrows. Above the body another stratum of clay was laid, in
which a deer's horn, as the symbol of hunting, with the favorite dog,
were placed, and the whole was finished by a covering of fine mould.
Lord Auchinleck writes, in 1764, to Dr. Blair, in proof of the veracity
of description in Ossian's poems, that several tumuli had been 'opened
near the kirk of Alves, in Badenach, which contained each a skeleton,
with the horn of a deer placed at right angles with it. A sepulchral
mound at Everley, in Wiltshire, which was opened by Sir Richard
Hoare, discovered three feet from the top, the skeleton of a dog, and at
the depth of five feet in the bottom of the grave, were the bones and
ashes of a human being. They were piled up in a small heap, which
was surrounded by a circular wreath of horns of the red deer, and arriid
the ashes were five beautiful arrow heads of flint, with a small red peb-
ble. In that ancient and beautiful poem called the "Aged Bard^s
Wish," he requests his harp, a shell of liquor, and his ancestor's shield,
to be buried with him. In Umad's Lament on Gorban, a white hound,
of which he was extremely fond, he tells the animal that they should
again meet on the clouds of their rest.|

Nature seems to have implanted in the human heart a desire to honor
the dead by raising some sort of memorial over their remains. Hero-
dotus says, the Scythians labored to raise as high a mound as they
could, over the grave of a departed hero. Heaps of earth or stones
were always raised over the graves of the Celts; the latter, from the
abundance of the materials, being chiefly used by the Scots, Welsh, and

* Keysler. t Marios, in Smith's Gallic Ant. p. 255.


Irish They are denominated Cairns by the Gael, and are sometimes of
prodigious size, the effect being often increased by their position on
hills Some are 300 or 400 feet in circumference at the base, and 20,
30, or 40 feet in perpendicular height. The quantity of stones compos-
ing these artificial mountains is astonishing; some of them have served
as quarries, whence neighboring farmers have supplied themselves with
materials for building and inclosing for years, without entirely removing
them Many have, indeed, been swept away in the progress of improve-
ment, but they are still numerous in Scotland, and continue "to speak
to other years" of unknown transactions. " Gray stones, a mound of
earth, shall send my name to other times," says the bard of ancient
days; but, alas! neither the size of the Cairn, the careful formation of
the barrow, nor the impressive " stone of fame," has been able to trans-
mit a knowledge of the persons to whose memory they were reared.
Tradition has, with few exceptions, failed to preserve the name or the
history of " the dark dwellers of the tomb." Cairns were sometimes
surrounded by an inclosure of stones, and sometimes they were sur-
mounted by a rude obelisk. There is a particular sort in some of the
Western Isles, called barpinin, a Norwegian word, according to Dr.
Mac Pherson.

The well known practice among the Highlanders of throwing a stone
to a cairn, on passing, is connected with two different feelings. In the
one case, it arose from the respect which was had for the deceased,
whose memory they wished to prolong by increasing the size of his
funeral mount, and hence arose a saying, intended to gratify a person
while alive, that the speaker should not fail to add stones to the cairn.
It would appear that the soul was considered much pleased with this at-
tention, and with the honor of a great monument, in which respect the
old Germans seem to have differed from the Celts, 'for they raised sods
of earth only above the grave, conceiving that large monuments were
grievous to the deceased. The other motive for throwing stones to aug-
ment a cairn, was to mark with execration the burial-place of a crimi-
nal, tfie practice, according to Dr. Smith, having been instituted by the
Druids. It is curious that the same method should be adopted with
views so different; yet the fact is so, and the author has often, in his
youth, passed the grave of a suicide, on which, according to custom, he
never failed to fling a stone. The true motive in this case seems to have
been to appease the spirit whrch, by the Celtic mythology, was doomed
to hover beside the unhallowed sepulchre. On the death of a respected
individual, his followers assisted in raising a suitable cairn; and, che*
ishing his memory, the whole clan met on certain days and repaired or
augmented it. The sepulchral tumuli in England are termed barrows.
The appellation is very similar to the Hebrew Kebera, used by Abra-
ham for a burying place, and is allied to the German barke, the Saxon
beorgen, to hide, the English burrow, bury, Sec.

The barrow was formed with much nicety, and varied in size arid a


shape. The plain of Salisbury, that interesting field of ancient sepul-
ture, contains the most beautiful specimens of all the sorts which anti-
quaries appear to have yet discovered. They are the long barrow, he
bell, the bowl, the Druid, the pond, the twin, the cone, and the broad
barrows, all of which are described by Sir Richard Hoare.

The simple tumulus seems the most ancient sepulchral monument. It
was raised by Greeks and Trojans, and was common to Romans, Gauls,
Germans, and other European nations iJOOO years ago. Charlemagne,
wishing to put a stop to heathen practices, decreed that Christians
should have grave stones and not pagan tumuli. The Celts certainly on
one occasion evinced a shocking carelessness of the last duty. After
the desperate battle of Thermopylas, they asked no truce to bury their
dead; for which brutality, Pausanias can suggest no excuse, but that
they may have intended to strike terror into the Greeks, by displaying a
savage indifference to tke usages of all other people.

Both in cairns and barrows are found the kistvaens, or rude stone
receptacles for the body, usually formed of a flat slab at the bottom, one
or more at each side and end, and another placed on the top. If Mac
Pherson's translation of a passage in " the Songs of Selma" is correct,
these stones were raised above the grave. " Narrow is thy dwelling
now! dark the place of thine abode! with three steps I compass thy
grave, O thou who wast so great before! four stones with their heads of
moss are the only memorials of thee, a tree with scarce a leaf." Vari-
ous interments are often found in one place, indicating that tumuli were
a sort of family burial places; they may, however, have been used at
distant periods by different people.

Besides the barrow, or cairn, the British tribes erected either a single
large stone, or several of lesser size, to mark a place of burial. Fingal's
supposed place of interment, near Loch Tay, is indicated by six "gray
stones," and in Glenamon stood Clach Ossian, a block seven feet high
and two broad, which, coming in the line of the military road, Marshal
Wade overturned it by machinery, when the remains of the bard and
hero were found, accompanied with twelve arrow heads. So great re-
spect had the Highlanders for this rude, but impressive monument, that
they burned with indignation at the ruthless deed. All they could do
they did the relicks of Ossian were carefully collected, and borne off
by a larffe partv of Highlanders, to a place where they were thought
secure from farther disturbance. The stone is said still to remain with
four smaller, surrounded by an inclosure, and retains its appellation of
Cairn na Huseoig. or Cairn of the Lark, apparently from the sweet
singing of the bard. The veneration of the Scots for the graves of their
ancestors is becoming; the Welsh seem to have less of this feeling, the
grave of Talliesin, their renowned bard, having been violated and the
stones carried off for servile uses. In some work which now escapes
my memory, it is said, that three stones usually composed the tomb of a
male person, two indicating that of a female. It seems to have been an


ancient practice, but perhaps of Christian origin, to bury the males and
females apart. In lona the custom was retained within these sixty

Among the Caledonians, a fir tree appears to have been often planted
on or near the tomb of a warrior: " a tree stands alone on the hill and
marks the slumbering Connal." The taxus, or yew, the Romans ac-
counted " tristis ac dira," but the picea, or pitch tree, called pades by
the Gauls, may have been that which was the symbol of death; Pliny
says it was commonly seen at burial places in Italy,* and a branch of it
was stuck at the doors of houses containing a corpse. By the ancient
Welsh laws, a consecrated or holy yew was valued at a pound.

On occasion of a death all fires are extinguished, and the Highland-
ers pul a wooden or other platter, with salt and earth unmixed, on the
breasts of the dead, the earth being an emblem of the body and the salt
of the spirit. Watching a corpse has, perhaps, been used from the infan-
cy of time. A tourist describes the manner in which the old Highland- 0km
ers performed this. Having met, with a bagpipe or fiddle, the nearest
and elderly relations, for the young people were not so lugubrious, open-
ed a melancholy ball, dancing and weeding till daylight. At these
meetings, which are termed lyke or late wakes, dramas from the poems
of Ossian were performed. Throughout Scotland at this day young and
old collect to sit up with a corpse, but the night is spent in singing
psalms and taking refreshments. The Irish, on the death of any one,
take the straw of the bed, and, burning it before the door, set up the
death howl, as a signal to the neighbors, who, especially in Connaught,
send beef, ale, bread, &.c. to assist in entertaining the company. The
Welsh called this wyl nos, lamentation night, and if the parties were
poor, the visiters took bread, meat, and drink with them. The arvel,
or arthcl dinner, given on the day of interment among this people, is so
called from a British word, arddelw, to avouch, because the heir and
others then showed that no violence had been used to the dead. By the
ancient laws of this people, a corpse was insulted in three ways: to
stab it, to expose it, and to ask whose it was, or who thrust a spear in
it. For the two last a third of the fine was abated, as the actions were
less disgrace to the dead than the living.

The anxiety of the Scots of all classes to be respectably buried ig
strong. The reporter in the Statistical Account of Kincardine, in Ross,
says, that all who can by any means afford it, lay up 2 to insure a de-
cent funeral. The soldiers of the Black Watch wore silver buttons, that
in case of death there might be wherewithal to lay them in the ground
with decency. I have heard an old woman, who was reduced to the
necessity of lining on the benevolence of her neighbors, express the
strongest dread at the idea of being interred in that part of the church-
yard appropriated to strangers and the poor. The desire of the Scots
to rest with the bodies of their ancestors is extreme; and a corpse is

* Lib. xvi. 10. xvii. 40.


often conveyed a great distance to accomplish this object. It is a feeling
that cannot be condemned, although attended sometimes with inconve-
nience; the expense is lessened by the willingness of neighbors to assist
in carrying the corpse and providing refreshment. In numerous instan-
ces the churches of the North of Scotland have of late been rebuilt on
sites considerably distant from their former positions, and the burial
ground has, consequently, been left in a retired situation. In this there
may be no impropriety; but it has happened that an heritor, wishing to
improve his property, has inclosed the old churchyard by shrubberies,
and stopped the road which formerly enabled the public to approach it;
and the consequence has been, that parishioners, determined to fulfil
the wish of their deceased relatives, have, in proceeding to their ancient
place of sepulture, become trespassers on the laird's grounds, and suffer-
ed the most vexatious litigations. In General Stewart's " Sketches,"
some remarkable instances of the attachment of the Highlanders to their
family resting places are given. Dr. Mac Culloch relates an anecdote
to illustrate the pugnacity of the Highlanders, but from which we might
draw another inference. A desperate fight took place in a churchyard
respecting the right of one party to a certain burial place in it.

At burials, which is the name given by the Scots to funerals, the near-
est of kin preside at the ceremonial, and etiquette usually obliged even
the widow to lead the festivities, however painful her loss. Mrs. Murray
was surprised at an account she heard of a funeral preparation in the
Isles. The deceased had been a respectable laird, but not very rich,
yet there were six cooks for a week at the house preparing the feast, to-
wards which meat, fowls, fish, and game of all sorts, had been sent by
the friends and relations. A funeral in the olden time was well managed
if it cost less than ,100 Scots. A lady lamenting the inconvenient and
needless expense, requested her husband, should she die first, to omit
the custom, but he positively refused to do that which would bring on
him the obloquy of being not only covetous, but unfeeling, and devoid
of that affection which he had for her.

The Highlanders had no feasts nor rejoicings at a birth, but a fune-
ral was conducted with all the display which the parties could make.
All the clan, and numerous neighbors, were invited and entertained with
a profusion of every thing. The male part of the procession was regu-
larly arranged according to rank, and, instead of laying aside their wea-
pons, they were all well armed and equipped on such an occasion. The
statistical account of the parish of Tongue, in Sutherland, informs us that
a funeral procession there was regulated with military exactness by an
old soldier, a person easily found in these parts. If the coffin is borne
on a bier, he, every five minutes, or at such time as may be thought
convenient, draws up the company, rank and file, and gives the word
" relief;" when four fresh bearers take place of the others. There are
some particular observances in Highland families, such as that of the
Campbells of Melfort, Duntroon, and Dunstaffnage, who being de-


acerided from a Duke of Argyle, took the following method of cementing
their friendship; when the head of either family died, the chief mou*7i-
ers were always to be the two other lairds. This was the cise on
occasion of the death of the late Archibald Campbell of Melfort. The
coffin was usually borne in a sort of litter between two horses, called
carbad, a term which is now often applied to the coffin itself. Carbad
seems to have been originally applied to such vehicles, and, when re-
stricted to those used for funeral purposes, became synonymous with
the shell in which the body was deposited. The Gaelic Cobhain, the
origin of coffin, in its primary sense, meant a box, or any hollow vessel
of wood. The desire to be interred in the sacred Isle of lona appears
to be as old as the era of Druidism. The Druidical cemetery is still seen
separate from the others, and has never been used as a Christian burial
place. In the poem of Cuthon, as translated by Dr. Smith, it is said
that Dargo, who is called Mac Drui' Bheil, son of the Druid of Bel,
was buried in the Green Isle, an epithet given to lona, where his fathers
rested. In this Isle forty-eight kings of Scotland, four of Ireland, and
eight of Norway are buried, besides numerous individuals of note.
There were certain cairns on the lines of road along which funerals
passed, both in Ireland and Scotland, on which the body was rested;
and some villages, particularly one at the entrance of Locheil from the
muir of Lochaber, are called corpach, from the circumstance of the cof-
fin being laid down there on the halt of the company; corp, in Gaelic,
being a body. Durand says that the Gauls used black in mourning.
The Hignianders have, I presume, ever done the same, but, except by
.the wearing of crape, I know not how they evinced the loss of their

In the minutes of the Society of Antiquaries, July 1725, an account,
by a Mr. Anderson, appears of a Highland chief's funeral. The nearest
relations dug the grave, which was marked out by the neighbors; and
while this was performing, women, who had been hired for the purpose,
continued to sing, setting forth the genealogy of the deceased, his honor-
able connexions, and noble exploits. After the last rites had been per-
formed, 100 black cattle, and 200 or 300 sheep, were killed for the
entertainment of the company.* The feast must necessarily have been
great, where nearly the whole clan had attended, besides all neighboring
gentlemen, for it was not always deemed necessary to make a formal
invitation, attendance being often given as a mark of respect. In the
isle of Man the company is not invited, but all who had known the de-
ceased voluntarily accompany the funeral; and Waldron says he ha<
seen 100 horsemen and 200 on foot in one procession. The dinners or
entertainments were often in the churchyard; in England they were
sometimes in the church itself; and in many cases the deceased left
money to be expended in drinking for the weal of the soul.

* Brande's Pop. Ant. ii. 151


An account of a curious circumstance that happened at a Highland
funeral, was thus related in a Scots' publication some years ago. " The
inhabitants of the village of Glenurchy, in Argyleshire, had, some time
ago, occasion to attend the funeral of Peter Fletcher, a respectable old
man, who had attained the age of 102. Auchallander, the place of in-
terment, is distant from the village about seven miles, and stands on a
loneiy spot on the confines of Glenurchy forest, and singular, as being
almost exclusively appropriated to persons of the name of Fletcher.
Having proceeded to the spot, and paid the last duties to all that remain-
ed of their friend, the nearest connexions of the deceased, according to
the custom of the Highlanders, brought forth refreshments for the com-
pany. These were spread out on clean linen, and consisted of ample
store of bread and cheese, with a due allowance of something stronger
than water to wash them down. This part of the ceremony having been
brought to a conclusion, all began to move away in different directions
towards their homes. The friends of the deceased were the last to quit
the spot: and before gathering up the remains of the feast, they wander-
ed a few yards from the place, to bid farewell to their acquaintances. In
this way the fragments of the bread and cheese were left unprotected.
What was the astonishment of the company when they beheld three wild
deer issue from the adjoining forest, and actually commence an attack
on what remained of the bread and cheese. On no occasion are the
Highlanders more liable to be impressed with all the superstitions of
their country, than whilst engaged about their dead. The party at once
concluded that the singular appearance of the deer betokened that the
feast of mourning had been prematurely closed. Each anxious to re-
move the portending evil far from himself, looked eagerly round to see
if he could read in the countenance of his companions a forerunner of
the impending disaster. Such prognostications, it may be presumed,
are sometimes fulfilled by the very feelings they excite. That such was
the case in the present instance we shall not say, but what followed was
ill calculated to remove the impressions which had been entertained.
John Fletcher, brother to the man whom they had just buried, hale and
active, though ninety-nine years of age, was drowned, a few hours after,
in the river Urchy, whilst on his way homewards."

A superstition once strong, still exists, it being believed that the ghost
of the last buried person is obliged to perform the faire-chloidh, or keep
watch, in the churchyard until another corpse is brought, whose spirit
relieves the former, and waits for the next interment.

The practice of chanting at funerals is very ancient, and was appa-
rently universal. Macrobius says the heathens sang on such occasions,
because they believed the souls of the deceased returned to the original
01 musical sweetness, which is heaven. Lamentations and howling at
the grave were common to the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, and Celts;
but with the latter it did not consist merely of notes of wo it was an


opportunity for the bards to celebrate the virtues of the deceased, and
rehearse his noble descent, thereby improving the occasion by setting
before others the advantages of a wellspent life. The Goths conducted
their funerals in the same manner, Theodoric, Jornandes tells us, was
buried amid songs of praise. The expression of sorrow by the relations
was manly and becoming. Of the Germans, it is said, " Waitings they
soon dismiss, their affliction and wo they long retain. In women it is
reckoned becoming to deplore their loss in men to remember it." This
was the feeling of the Highlanders, who left the duty of mourning to the
females, thinking it unmanly, whatever they felt, to betray their sorrow
by shedding tears, or show a want of fortitude by the indulgence of ex-
cessive grief. They were, however, far from not displaying a becoming
sorrow. " Three days" the Caledonians " mourned above Carthon,"
and for some much respected individuals, annual commemorations were
appointed. The Gael of more recent times have shown extreme grief at
the death of some of their chiefs; it is related, even of the rude inhabi-
tants of St. Kilda, that, on one occasion when they heard of the death of
Mac Leod, they abandoned their houses and spent two days sorrowing
in the fields.

The Celts, who were so partial to music, thought it indispensable on
occasion of death. The bards always attended at the raising of a tomb,
besides singing the praises of the dead in the circles; and the poem, or
rather both it and tlie music, was called the coronach. Without its due
performance, the soul was supposed to wander forlorn about its earthly
remains; hut although the practice of repeating it continued so lately,
if it is indeed entirely exploded among the present Scots, religion form-
ed no part of the subject. The ancient custom of addressing a dead body
in broken and extemporary, but forcible verses, is believed to have been
given up in the Highlands and Isles for more than half a century ; but the
lament is still performed, and the coronach, or expressions of wo, that
may be so termed, are, in some remote districts, still to be heard at fune-
rals. The coronach was, for the most part, a voluntary effusion, repeat-
ed on the way to the churchyard, in which the good deeds of the deceas-
ed and glories of his ancestry were extolled. At intervals, numerous
females of the clan, who followed near the coffin, burst into paroxysms
of grief, tearing their hair, beating their breasts, and making the most
woful lamentations. It resembled the cine,* or keen, of the Irish,
which is still performed in their native land, and may occasionally be
heard when the body is waked, in London. This wild and melancholy
dirge has been termed "the howl," and gave rise to the expression
among the English of "weeping Irish." It is an extempore composi-
tion, descanting on the virtues and respectability of the deceased. At
the end of each stanza, a chorus of women and girls swell the notes into
a loud plaintive cry, which is occasionally used without the song. These

* Cina, in Hebrew, is a lamentation. Kuyn, in Welsh, is a complaint.


ciners are women, and many officiate professionally. At one of their
wakes, where I was present, the widow was the leader, and was assist-
ed by one or two who had been hired. Others, however, occasionally
took part, and the excessive grief displayed by them as they stood wring-
ing their hands over the inanimate body, and exhibiting other symptoms
of bitter sorrow, had an impressive effect. The Irish in remote parts,
before the last howl, expostulate with the dead body, and reproach it for
having died, notwithstanding he had a good wife and a milch cow, seve-
ral fine children, and a competency of potatoes. One of the Gordon
Highlanders told me, that having, when in Ireland, gone with some
others to a wake, the widow spoke with displeasure to the body of her
husband, because he would not take notice of those who had come even
from Scotland to see him! In the Philosophical Survey of the South
of Ireland, we find that the elegy which the bards wrote, enumerating
his riches and other happiness, the burden was always, " Oh! why did
he die?"

The vocal lamentations in the Highlands are now almost confined to
f he act of sepulture. The Statistical Account of Avoch in Ross-shire,
says, " the lamentations of the women, in some cases, on seeing a belov-
ed relation put in the grave, would almost pierce a heart of stone.'*

The practice of singing at a funeral was retained by the Christians,
who substituted their psalms and hymns for the Celtic laments, and it
was usual on some occasions to employ a whole choir, who preceded
the corpse. Waldron says the Manx funerals are met about a quarter
of g mile from the church by the clergyman, who walks before, singing
a psalm, and in every churchyard is a cross, round which the company
pass three times. The Welsh played the Owdle barnat before a corpse
on its way to the churchyard.

The singing of the coronach appears to have given place to the play-
ing of the bagpipes among the Highlanders, but it would seem that both
were used for some time. The bagpipes were more suitable to the mil
itary character of the people, and well adapted to produce those wailing
notes, according with the solemnity of the occasion, and adding so much
to the effect of the scene. The Cumhadh, or lament, as already shown,
is a family tune of a most plaintive character, and often very ancient
and its performance is in sympathy with the emotions of the company
General Stewart says that the funeral of Rob Roy was the last in Perth
shire at which a piper was employed. In Lochaber and some other
parts, these musicians, I believe, are occasionally engaged; in the High
lands of Aberdeenshire, the most inland district in Scotland, I can assert
that the employment of pipers is by no means uncommon. .1, of course,
speak of the continuance of the ancient practice, not of its revival by
the influence of individuals or societies. The funeral of the late Sir
Eneas Mac Intosh, of Mac Intosh, who died at a patriarchal age, was


attended by six bagpipers, who preceded the body, which was followed
by a numerous cavalcade, playing the affecting lament of the cian.

The Scots gentry have usually family burial places on their own lands,
and often in the vicinity of the mansion. That of the Laird of Mac
Nab, near Killin, in Braidalban, is, like most others, imbosomed in
wood, and in a situation from its seclusion and natural gloom, in fine ac-
cordance mt\ the melancholy scene the conclusion of life's eventful

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