The Barddas of Iolo Morganwg, Vol. I., ed. by J. Williams Ab Ithel, , at sacred-texts.com
It is necessary that we should, at the outset, bear in mind the following observation made by Cæsar, as to the comparative merits of the Continental and British systems:
"The institution is thought to have originated in Britain, and to have been thence introduced into Gaul; and even now those who wish to become more accurately acquainted with it, generally repair thither, for the sake of learning it."
It is clear from this statement that Druidism, in Cæsar's time, was not considered as pure and as well understood on the Continent as it was in the British isle, its genuine home; an hypothesis, moreover,
exactly in accordance with the traditions of the Bards:--"Bardism originated in the Isle of Britain--no other country ever obtained a proper comprehension of Bardism. Three nations corrupted what they had learned of the Bardism of the Isle of Britain, blending with it heterogeneous principles, by which means they lost it: the Irish; the Cymry of Armorica; and the Germans." 1
According to this view, we must not expect that the two systems should agree in all matters of detail, but only in principle and substance.
Cæsar's description refers solely to the Druidism of Gaul. How he acquired his information, he does not tell us; it might have been in part from personal observation, and in part, if not wholly, from his friend Divitiacus, who was a Druid among the Ædui. It is possible that his narrative in this respect is correct; still his general character for veracity does not bind us to believe implicitly every word that he says. Suetonius tells us, that Asinius Pollio, who was a contemporary of Cæsar, was of opinion that his assertions are not altogether worthy of credit;--"Asinius Pollio," he remarks, "thinks that they [the works of Cæsar] were composed with but little accuracy, and little truth, since Cæsar used to believe rashly respecting the deeds of other men, and also to relate erroneously the things done by himself, either of set purpose, or through failure of memory, and he is of opinion that he intended to re-write and correct them." 2 We shall not, however, take the benefit of
this opinion, but proceed at once to notice the principal points of Druidism, as actually related by Cæsar himself, and to compare them with the views of the Bards, in order to see how far they may be reconciled one with the other. The whole account, as given by Cæsar of the Continental Druids, is as follows:
"They preside over sacred things, have the charge of public and private sacrifices, and explain their religion. To them a great number of youths have recourse for the sake of acquiring instruction, and they are in great honour among them. For they generally settle all their disputes, both public and private; and if there is any transgression perpetrated, any murder committed, or any dispute about inheritance or boundaries, they decide in respect of them; they appoint rewards and penalties; and if any private or public person abides not by their decree, they restrain him from the sacrifices. This with them is the most severe punishment. Whoever are so interdicted, are ranked in the number of the impious and wicked; all forsake them, and shun their company and conversation, lest they should suffer disadvantage from contagion with them: nor is legal right rendered to them when they sue it, nor any honour conferred upon them. But one presides over all these Druids, who possesses the supreme authority among them. At his death, if any one of the others excels in dignity, the same succeeds him: but if several have equal pretensions, the president is elected by the votes of the Druids, sometimes even they contend about the supreme dignity by force of arms. At a certain time of the year, they assemble in session on a consecrated spot in the confines of the Carnutes, which is considered the central region of the whole of Gaul. Thither all, who have any disputes, come together from every side, and acquiesce in their judgments and decisions. The institution is thought to have originated in Britain, and to have been thence introduced into Gaul, and even now, those who wish to become more accurately acquainted with it, generally repair thither for the sake of learning it.
"The Druids usually abstain from war, nor do they pay taxes together with the others; they have exemption from warfare, and the free use of all things. Instigated by such advantages, many resort to their school even of their own accord, whilst others are sent by their parents and relations. There they are said to learn thoroughly a great number of verses. On that account, some continue at their education for twenty years. Nor do they deem it lawful to commit those things to writing; though, generally, in other cases, and in their public and private accounts, they use Greek letters. They appear
to me to have established this custom for two reasons; because they would not have their tenets published, and because they would not have those, who learn them, by trusting to letters, neglect the exercise of memory; since it generally happens, that, owing to the safeguard of letters, they relax their diligence in learning, as well as their memory. In particular they wish to inculcate this idea, that souls do not die, but pass after death from one body to another; and they think that by this means men are very much instigated to the exercise of bravery, the fear of death being despised. They also dispute largely concerning the stars and their motion, the magnitude of the world and the earth, the nature of things, the force and power of the immortal gods, and instruct the youth in their principles.
"The whole nation of the Gauls is very much given to religious observances, and on that account, those who are afflicted with grievous diseases, and those who are engaged in battles and perils, either immolate men as sacrifices, or vow that they will immolate themselves, and they employ the Druids as ministers of those sacrifices; because they think that, if the life of man is not given for the life of man, the immortal gods cannot be appeased; they have also instituted public sacrifices of the same kind. Some have images of immense size, the limbs of which, interwoven with twigs, they fill with living men, and the same being set on fire, the men, surrounded by the flames, are put to death. They think that the punishment of those who are caught in theft or pillage, or in any other wicked act, is more acceptable to the immortal gods; but when there is a deficiency of such evil doers, they have recourse even to the punishment of the innocent.
"They chiefly worship the god Mercury; of him they have many images, him they consider as the inventor of all arts, as the guide of ways and journeys, and as possessing the greatest power for obtaining money and merchandise. After him, they worship Apollo, Mars, Jupiter, and Minerva. Concerning them they have almost the same opinion as other nations, namely: that Apollo wards off diseases; that Minerva instructs them in the principles of works and arts; that Jupiter holds the empire of heaven; and that Mars rules wars. To him, when they have determined to engage in battle, they generally vow those things which they shall have captured in war. When they are victorious, they sacrifice the captured animals; and pile up the other things in one place.
"The Gauls declare that they have all sprung from their father Pluto, and this they say was delivered to them by the Druids." 1
The principal topics, which demand our attention in this extract, are:
1. The religious function of the Druids. The two systems are perfectly agreed in this respect, that the priestly office belonged to the Druidic order. Cæsar, indeed, does not mention either of the other two orders, but his silence is no proof that they did not exist in Gaul as well as in Britain. It is very probable that the Druids were, in respect of their office, the most conspicuous among the Gauls, and that Cæsar's attention was especially drawn to their deeds, so as to overlook the Bards and Ovates, or that he considered the functions of these as absorbed in that of the Druids. We have the evidence of Diodorus Siculus and Strabo that there were Bards in Gaul, and the latter says there were Ovates (Οὐάτεις) also.
2. The respect in which they were held. The Druids of Britain were, likewise, highly esteemed by the people. According to the laws of Dyvnwal Moelmud, "the Gorsedd of Bards" was "the oldest in its origin" of "the three privileged Gorsedds of the Isle of Britain." Its different functionaries had a right each to five free acres of land in virtue of their office--were entitled to maintenance wherever they went--had freedom from taxes--no person was to bear a naked weapon in their presence--and their word was always paramount. These privileges, as well as others, to which they had a right, are distinctly specified in the present volumes, and they show the great respect and honour in which they at all times stood in the community. The consequence was that many persons were usually candidates for the office, not only among the nobility and gentry, but also
among those of low rank, for the bondsman became free on his assuming the profession of Bardism, though he could not learn it "without the permission of his proprietary lord, and the lord of the territory." Cæsar regards the Druids and Knights as of a higher rank than the common people, and as being distinct from them, and though he does not say that the former could have arisen, and gained their nobility by means of their office, yet it is not improbable that the teachers of Gaul were, in this respect, similar to the Bards of the Isle of Britain. At any rate, every Bard among the Cymry was according to his office a free and honourable man, whatever his position might have been previously. In this matter, therefore, we perceive no substantial difference between the Druidism of Britain and the Druidism of Gaul.
3. The arbitration and settlement of disputes. It appears from the Laws of Dyvnwal Moelmud that there were "three Gorsedds according to the privilege of the country and nation of the Cymry," having their respective duties and functions with a view to the improvement of society.
"The first is the Gorsedd of the Bards of the Isle of Britain, and their foundation and privilege rest upon reason, nature, and cogency; or, according to other teachers and wise men, upon reason, nature, and circumstance. And the privilege and office of those protected by the Gorsedd of Bards are to maintain and preserve and diffuse authorized instruction in the sciences of piety, wisdom, and courtesy; and to preserve memorial and record of every thing commendable respecting individuals and kindred; and every event of times; and every natural phenomenon; and wars; and regulations of country and nation; and punishments; and commendable victories; and to preserve a warranted record of genealogies, marriages, nobility, privileges, and customs of the nation of the Cymry; and to attend to the exigencies of other Gorsedds in announcing what shall be achieved, and what shall be requisite, under lawful proclamation and warning: and further
than this there is nothing either of office or of privilege attached to a Gorsedd of Bards.......Second, the Gorsedd of the country and common weal; or the Gorsedd of judicature and decision of law, for the right and protection of the country and nation, their refugees, and their aliens. These Gorsedds act severally; that is to say, the Gorsedd of federate support makes a law, where an occasion requires, and confirms it in a country and federate country; and that is not allowed to a country distinct from a federate country. The Gorsedd of judgment and judicature decides upon such as shall transgress the law, and punishes him. And the Gorsedd of the Bards teaches commend-able sciences, and decides respecting them, and methodically preserves all the memorials of the nation to insure their authenticity. And it is not right for any one of these Gorsedds to intermeddle with the deliberation of either of the other two, but to confirm them, and to support them regularly. The third Gorsedd, or that of federate support, in its original and determinate purpose, is to effect what may be necessary as to any thing new, and as to the improvement of the laws of a country and federate country, by a federate jury of chiefs of kindreds, wise men, and sovereign ruler. A sovereign prince, or ruler of paramount right, is the oldest in possessive title of the kings and the princes of a federate community: and he is to raise the mighty agitation; and his word is superior to every other word in the agitation of the country."
According to the tenor of this extract, it was "the Gorsedd of judgment and judicature" that possessed the special right of determining national and social disputes, in conformity with the law that was enacted in a "Gorsedd of federate support." They were matters of a literary character mainly that came under the supervision of the Bards. Nevertheless, there was some connection between the three institutions--they were "to confirm, and support" each other "regularly." The Bards were required more particularly to register the events that occurred in country and nation, to preserve the records of genealogies, marriages, nobility, privileges and customs, of the nation of the Cymry, and to attend to the exigencies of other Gorsedds in announcing what shall be
achieved, and what shall be requisite, under lawful proclamation and warning. So far, then, it might be said that they settled matters appertaining to inheritances and boundaries, as the Druids of Gaul did in the time of Cæsar. The Roman captain might easily be mistaken with respect to the extent of the authority and power of the Druids, attributing to them more than in reality they possessed. After all, he does not admit that the entire authority was in their hands--his observation is, "they generally settle all their disputes, both public and private." And even if things were exactly as he relates them, it is not difficult to suppose that this was a natural corruption of the primitive custom. Inasmuch as the Druids generally were possessed of more learning and knowledge than any other class of people in the country, it was quite natural that they should increase in political and social authority, especially where the other establishments were not as orderly and well defined as they were in Britain. We see this principle at work in relation to the Church, during what is called "the dark ages," when more than necessary of temporal and political authority fell into the hands of ecclesiastics.
Cæsar says of the Druids of Gaul that the greatest punishment which was inflicted upon evil doers was, to keep them from the sacrifices. It must be admitted that there was nothing, as far as we know, in the institute of Britain, which altogether answered to this interdict. Perhaps the nearest approach to it was the refusal of the protection of the Gorsedd to any member of the community, who, for some fault or other, was announced to be exposed to a "naked
weapon." The Bards, however, had a peculiar mode of degrading their convicted brethren. It took place at a Gorsedd, and the act was called "to bring the assault of warfare against" him who was to be thus disfranchised. After the Bards had agreed in their decision, they covered their heads, and one of them unsheathed the sword, named the person aloud three times, with the sword lifted in his hand, adding when he was last named, "the sword is naked against him." He could never after be re-admitted; and was called "a man deprived of privilege and exposed to warfare." There is some resemblance in this custom to what Cæsar says of the excommunicated, "that no legal right was rendered to them, nor any honour conferred upon them;" and the resemblance is sufficient to show that the usages of the two countries had sprung from the same root.
4. The Archdruid. Among the Cymry the three orders, Bard, Druid, and Ovate, were co-equal, one with the other, in point of privilege and dignity, whilst they were different in regard to duties. For thus it is stated in "Trioedd Braint a Defod:"--
"The three branches of Bardism: Poetry; Ovatism; and Druidism; that is to say, these three branches are adjudged to be of equal privilege, and equal importance, for there can be no superiority to one of them over another--though they are distinct in purpose, they are not distinct in privilege."
"There are three Bards of equal importance, that is, the three worthy primitive Bards, namely: a licensed native Bard, or a Poet according to privilege and usage; an Ovate-bard, devoted to genial learning; and a Druid-bard, devoted to theology and morality;--and they are said to be of equal importance, because one cannot be better than another, or supreme over the rest;--though one is distinct from another in respect of office and movement, still they are equal and of like dignity in respect of obligation, effort, and object, which are, learning, truth, and peace."
In this sense, then, it may be said that the system of the Cymry varied from that of the Gauls. Nevertheless, occasionally, that is, when they met in Gorsedd, "one presided," even among the British Bards. He was called chief-Bard, or Gorsedd Bard; and if he were of the Druidic order, he might be easily regarded as an Arch-druid, not only because he presided, but because in doing so he stood on the "maen arch," in the centre of the sacred circle. Every chief-Bard had a right to preside at a Gorsedd, but still nothing could be decided without the consent of the majority of Gorsedd Bards--the former was merely a kind of chairman primus inter pares, for the time.
Cæsar seems to imply that one only presided during life, and when he died, that another was elected in his stead. This is not altogether in unison with the custom of the Cymry. Nevertheless, if such in truth was the usage of Gaul, it might easily have been derived from our own country. Whilst the people of the Continent did not properly understand Bardism, there was nothing to prevent them from falling into a mistake as to the nature of the authority, which the Bard president possessed, deeming it to be personal, and intended to continue for life, whereas it was official only--belonging to several, and to be exercised as occasions required. The Cymry never had recourse to the sword in order to settle the question of supremacy, as we learn from Cæsar was the case sometimes on the Continent. This was quite an abuse--and thoroughly inconsistent with the spirit of Bardism.
5. The place of meeting. According to Cæsar, the Druids of Gaul had a fixed place and time for meeting;
he mentions not the time, but the place he says was on the confines of the Carnutes, in the middle of the country, as was supposed. "Thither," he says, "all, who have any disputes, come together from every side, and acquiesce in their judgments and decisions." In like manner, the Bards or Druids of Britain had their appointed times and places for meeting in Gorsedd. Their times were the Albans, namely, Alban Eilir, Alban Hevin, Alban Elved, and Alban Arthan, that is, the equinoxes and solstices, or the commencement of the four seasons of the year. The principal places are recorded in the following Triads:--
"The three principal Gorsedds of the Bards of the Isle of Britain: the Gorsedd of Bryn Gwyddon at Caerleon-upon-Usk; the Gorsedd of Moel Evwr; and the Gorsedd of Beiscawen.
"The three Gorsedds of entire song of the Isle of Britain: the Gorsedd of Beiscawen in Dyvnwal; the Gorsedd of Caer Caradog in Lloegria; and the Gorsedd of Bryn Gwyddon in Cymru."
There was thus one special Gorsedd in each of the three principal provinces, where the native mind chiefly predominated. The Gorsedd was a sort of national temple, to which the majority of persons within the province resorted at the appointed times, in order to worship God, and to receive instruction. All were invited, except such as were "deprived of privilege, and exposed to warfare," and no impediments were allowed to be put on their way, as they travelled "under the protection and peace of God."
"Three common rights of federate country and border country: a principal river; a high road; and a resort of worship; and those are under the protection of God and His peace; since a weapon is not to he unsheathed by such as frequent them against those they may meet;
and whoever shall do so, whether a native or a stranger, a claim of galanas against him arises on the plaint of the lord of the territory." 1
6. The derivation of the Druidic system. We have already noticed the coincidence between the notion which prevailed in Gaul on this head and the drift of the Cymric traditions.
7. Memorials. "They are said," observes Cæsar, "to learn thoroughly a great number of verses; and on that account, some continue at their education for twenty years." One of "the three memorials of the Bards of the Isle of Britain," was "the memorial of song." This was one of the oldest vehicles in which events and sciences were handed down among the Bards, and it is supposed that the particular form which they used was the metre called "Triban Milwr," or the Warrior's Triplet. The name of Tydain, the father of Awen, is especially associated with the memorial of song; and "the poem of Tydain" is prominently alluded to in the account of the establishment of Bardism. He was a contemporary of Prydain.
As time rolled on, accumulating events and sciences, we may easily suppose that "twenty years" would not be more than sufficient to enable a man to treasure in his memory the "great number of verses" necessary to contain and embody them. Generally, however, nine years was the time during which a pupil was required to be under discipline previous to his being graduated as a Chief Bard.
"They do not deem it lawful (fas) to commit those things to writing," i.e. the things appertaining to the system. Neither did the British Bards countenance the habit of writing their traditions. On the contrary, it was their custom to recite them publicly in every Gorsedd, until they became deeply rooted in the memory of the people. This is what they called the "voice of Gorsedd," and it was in this manner that their traditions have come down to us. Cæsar's opinion respecting such a practice coincides exactly with the reason which influenced the Bards of Cymru. "They appear to me to have established this custom for two reasons; because they would not have their tenets published, and because they would not have those, who learn then, by trusting to letters, neglect the exercise of memory." The Bards had a "Cyvrinach," or Secret, which they did not consider it lawful for any one to know out of their own order; such were the Name of God, and the Ten Letters. All this secrecy related especially to the institute, and the candidate for admission into it took an awful vow that he would not divulge the cyvrinach to any one, who was not a regular Bard. They likewise considered that the use of writing tended to weaken the memory, not only in respect of the disciples, but also of the people generally; or rather, with regard to the latter, they considered that the voice of Gorsedd was the easiest mode of teaching them, and the most effectual for preventing every kind of falsehood and corruption.
With respect to the voice of Gorsedd, and its connection with the discipline of the Bards themselves, we have it thus stated in " the Book of Lewys Morganwg,
which he compiled from many of the old Books:"
"There is no other than the memorial, voice, and usage of Gorsedd belonging to the privileges and usages of the primitive Bards, for they spring from primary and original right, before there was any Book knowledge; therefore, they were submitted only to the memorial of the voice, and usage of Gorsedd; or, as others say, to the memorial of song, voice, and usage. And they have no permanent privilege and authority, but what we know by these means."
Nevertheless, the Bards had a knowledge of letters from the beginning. It is said that Einigan, the first man, "beheld three pillars of light, having on them all demonstrable sciences, that ever were, or ever will be," and that "he took three rods of the quicken tree, and placed on them the forms and signs of all sciences, so as to be remembered." People misunderstood these, and "regarded the rods as a God, whereas they only bore His Name. When Einigan saw this, he was greatly annoyed, and in the intensity of his grief he broke the three rods, nor were others found that contained accurate sciences. He was so distressed on that account that from the intensity he burst asunder, and with his [parting] breath he prayed God that there should be accurate sciences among men in the flesh, and there should be a correct understanding for the proper discernment thereof. And at the end of a year and a day, after the decease of Einigan, Menw, son of the Three Shouts, beheld three rods growing out of the mouth of Einigan, which exhibited the sciences of the Ten Letters, and the mode in which all the sciences of language and speech were arranged by them, and in language and speech all distinguishable sciences. He then took
the rods, and taught from them the sciences--all, except the Name of God, which he made a secret, lest the Name should be falsely discerned; and hence arose the Secret of the Bardism of the Bards of the Isle of Britain." 1
The first ten letters were derived from the creative Name of God, , and represented a, p, c, e, t, i, 1, r, o, s; and "they had been a secret from the age of ages among the Bards of the Isle of Britain, for the preservation of memorials of country and nation. Beli the Great made them into sixteen, and divulged that arrangement, and appointed that there should never after be a concealment of the sciences of letters, in respect of the arrangement which he made; but he left the ten cuttings a secret." 2
According to some authorities, the alphabet of the sixteen letters was formed, and divulged in the time of Dyvnwal Moelmud. The original Abcedilros, or alphabet of the ten letters, was quite different to that of the sixteen and its augmentations; and whilst these were known to the public, the former was known only to the Bards.
The Druids of Gaul had a knowledge of letters, though they did not commit to writing the things that pertained to their institute. "Generally," says our author, "in other cases, and in their public and private accounts, they use Greek letters." The alphabet of the sixteen was at this time open to the public in Britain; could it have been the one which the Continental Druids used, mistaken by Cæsar for Greek letters?
The Druids of Gaul had letters of their own, which were similar to the letters of Greece; it is, therefore, not impossible that Cæsar confounded one series with the other. Mr. Astle, who is well skilled in ancient letters, gives a series of Gaulish characters, which are somewhat similar to those of Greece. They were taken from the monumental inscription of Gordian, the messenger of the Gauls, who suffered martyrdom, in the third century, with all his family. "These characters," he says, "were generally used by the people, before the conquest of Gaul by Cæsar." 1
Another author remarks:--"There are those who think the Druids had ancient characters, which were both elegant, and similar to those of the Greeks. For according to the testimony of Xenophon, and Archilochus, the figures of those letters, which Cadmus brought out of Phoenicia into Greece, resembled Gaulish, rather than Punic, or Phœnician characters." 2
He who compares the ancient Greek Alphabet with the Bardic Coelbren, will find a remarkable similarity between them, so that a stranger might easily mistake the one for the other.
The Druids of Britain as well as those of Gaul, made use of letters under many circumstances. The "memorial of letters," or the "memorial of Coelbren," was one of their "three memorials." This is clearly seen in the Laws of Dyvnwal Moelmud. It would, therefore, not be difficult to harmonize Cæsar's narrative respecting the "memorial of voice" and the "memorial of letters" of the Gauls, with what we
know to have been the usage of the Bards of Britain in these matters.
8. The transmigration of souls. The Bardic dogma on this head was, that the soul commenced its course in the lowest water animalcule, and passed at death to other bodies of a superior order, successively, and in regular gradation, until it entered that of man. Humanity is a state of liberty, where man can attach himself to either good or evil, as he pleases. If his good qualities preponderate over his evil qualities at the time of his death, his soul passes into Gwynvyd, or a state of bliss, where good necessarily prevails, and from whence it is impossible to fall. But if his evil qualities predominate, his soul descends in Abred into an animal corresponding in character to the disposition he exhibited just before he died. It will then rise as before, until it again arrives at the point of liberty, where it will have another chance of clinging to the good. But if it fails, it must fall again; and this may happen for ages and ages, until at last its attachment to good preponderates. It was believed, however, that man could not be guilty twice of the same sin; his experience in Abred, whilst undergoing punishment for any particular sin, would prevent him from loving that sin a second time; hence the adage, "Nid eir i Annwn and unwaith."
The views of the Gaulish Druids, as far as they are expressed by Cæsar, do not appear to differ from the above. "They wish to inculcate this idea, that souls do not die, but pass after death from one body to another." The only thing that may be supposed to be different is the passing from one body to another, which, in the original Latin, seems as if it meant from
one human body to another human body, "ab aliis--ad alios." But in reality there is no inconsistency between the two systems, even in this respect; for, though the soul of a good man was considered in general as entering an angelic body in the circle of Gwynvyd, and the soul of a wicked man as entering the body of a beast, a reptile, or a bird, in Abred, yet, it was thought that occasionally the good soul returned from Gwynvyd to inhabit a human body, and that the soul of one punished by death, against his will, for an injurious evil, passed to another human body. There is no doubt that this, with the Cymry as well as with the Gauls, acted as a strong incentive to bravery, especially as they considered that to suffer in behalf of truth and justice was one of the greatest virtues, and was sure to bring the soul to everlasting bliss.
9. Astronomy. "They dispute largely concerning the stars and their motion," says Cæsar, and herein the Druids of Gaul were similar to those of Britain. We have evidence enough to prove that the latter paid particular attention to the doctrine of the stars. Testimony is borne to their knowledge of the revolution of the stars even by the very word, which they used to denote time, amser, compounded of am, round, and ser, the stars. They themselves, also, not unfrequently went by the name of sywedyddion, that is, astronomers, or men versed in the science of the stars.
It will be seen that the names given by our ancestors to the different constellations, as enumerated in
these volumes, are thoroughly Cymric, and radical, thus indicating early and profound knowledge on their part " concerning the stars and their motion."
10. Cosmology. The Bards believed that all the visible creation sprang into existence simultaneously with the pronunciation of God's Name; and this article occupies a very prominent place in their religious creed. From other fragments in this Collection we find that they professed to know something of the laws of nature; why water rises to the surface of the earth, and descends from the clouds, and why the sea is briny. And, if we take Taliesin as a proper representative of Bardism, we may have abundant proof from his poems that they reasoned much in his days "concerning the world, the earth, and the nature of things."
11. Theology. "And about the force and power of the immortal gods." Let GOD be substituted for "gods," and this statement would apply equally to the Cymry, and no difference whatever would exist between the two systems on the subject. Nothing is oftener, and more positively insisted upon in the Bardic creed than the doctrine of ONE GOD; and it is remarkable that all the testimonies of archaiological research, though they are for the most part of a negative character, tend to confirm the antiquity and genuineness of that creed. The Bards were careful to inculcate this truth above all, and brought it to bear upon the several rites and ceremonies, which distinguished their national worship. The ideas they had, also, of the nature and attributes of the Deity were truly sublime and eminently magnificent, not to be equalled perhaps by any other race of the Gentile
world, prior to its adoption of the more divine religion of Christ.
12. Sacrifices. The views of the Bards on the subject of "aberthau," or oblations, are clearly and distinctly quoted in these volumes, so that we need not give a summary of them here. What we have to do is to harmonize the account, which Cæsar gives of the sacrifices of the Continental Druids with the Bardism of the Cymry. The Roman captain might easily fall into a mistake about those matters. When he saw malefactors being put to death, under the supervision of the priests, he would naturally infer that they were thus dealt with as sacrifices, to propitiate the gods. He saw men, perhaps, giving themselves up voluntarily to suffer the punishment due for their transgressions, and he would reasonably suppose that they were "vowing to sacrifice themselves." It is quite possible that he should, also, have seen good men suffer in the cause of truth and justice, and his inference would be, that they were being sacrificed for want of a sufficient number of evil doers to take their place. But, if we grant that Cæsar gives a correct account of the sacrifices of the Gaulish Druids, it is very easy to perceive that the rite in question originated in the doctrine of eneidvaddeu, which prevailed among the Cymry. "They think that if the life of man is not given for the life of man, the immortal gods cannot be appeased." Life for life was required by the laws of the Cymry; but we do not find that our ancestors viewed the retaliation as what would propitiate God, further than that to benefit the man himself, who was put to death, might be taken as a sign of his reconciliation
with God. If a murderer died a natural death, his soul would descend low in Abred, but the fatal punishment inflicted upon him by the public officers was considered, according to the order of providence, as equivalent to that degradation, and his soul passed simultaneously to another human body. In this sense, then, the punishment of eneidvaddeu propitiated God; that is, God did not, on that account, place man in such a miserable position as He would otherwise have done. Since the Divine Being wishes every man to be saved, it may be said, that whatever is done to facilitate that object, and to bring about its speedy consummation, must be pleasing to Him.
It is very probable that the prisoners of the wicker image were no other than the malefactors who would not surrender themselves voluntarily; we can hardly see the necessity for the scheme in the case of the others. We do not read of anything of the kind in connection with our own island; most likely it was peculiar to the Continent.
Cæsar observes that it was the opinion of the Gaulish Druids "that the punishment of those who were caught in theft or pillage, or in any other wicked act, was more acceptable to the immortal gods" than that of the innocent. It is difficult to withstand the supposition that these were the words of the commentator himself, used by him as a reason for the want of proportion, which he observed in the number of the bad and good, that were immolated. If, on the contrary, it was really the opinion of the Druids, then they must in this respect have differed much from their Cymric brethren, who considered that the offenders, who gave themselves up willingly
to be punished, were more acceptable than those who were punished against their will, and that the good, who suffered in behalf of truth and justice, were still more so. Besides, there was something in the above opinion inconsistent with the idea which mankind in general entertained respecting the qualities of a sacrifice, and which sets forth the immaculate, the obedient, and the innocent, as the one which is most pleasing to God.
It appears from Cæsar that the agent, which the Gauls used for consuming their sacrifices, was fire. Fire might in like manner be employed among the Cymry for the punishment of those who were adjudged to be eneidvaddeu. "There are three eneidvaddeu punishments: beheading; hanging; and burning; and it is for the king, or lord of the territory, to order which he willeth to be inflicted." 1
13. The Names of God. We must again express our conviction that Cæsar might have mistaken the several attributes, which belonged to the one true God, for as many distinct and independent divinities, just as it is said that some of the Cymry, in the in-fancy of the world, deified and worshipped the rods which only bore the Name of God. Not at once did men forget the great and primitive doctrine of the unity of the Godhead, setting up in the imagination of their hearts "gods many, and lords many." Even the names, by which the gods of the Gentiles were designated, had been invented, and were used to denote the several properties of the Deity, before that
great corruption took place. As an old poet observes,--
[paragraph continues] The same doctrine is also taught in the hymns, which historians ascribe to Orpheus. It is quite probable, therefore, that Cæsar, when he observed the several parts of the Gaulish worship, concluded that they were adorations offered to distinct gods, and that those gods were similar to the gods of Rome and Greece, with whom he was best acquainted.
"They chiefly worship the god Mercury." This character is almost the chief in every religious system; it is the same as to its original nature with the Gwyddon of the Cymry, the Budha of the Indians, and the Woden of the Saxons--that is, the Bard presiding at Gorsedd. It was the office of this Bard to instruct men in various kinds of knowledge, and to lead them along the ways of morality; therefore, his auditors might easily consider him as "the inventor of all arts, the guide of ways and journeys, and as possessing the greatest power for obtaining money and merchandise."
"Of him they have many images." Perhaps the maen crair, on which the presiding Bard stood, and the meini gwynion, at which his assistants took their station, were these supposed images. But, granting that the inhabitants of Gaul, in Cæsar's time, did worship the god Mercury, it is easy to see that such
was merely a misapprehension of the primitive views, which were entertained respecting the Bard in Gorsedd. The same properties, but more suitably adapted to the character of a divine being, were ascribed to Mercury, as were supposed to belong to the Bard. The first, and most natural step in this corruption, was to view the president of Gorsedd as the representative of a Divine Gwyddon, and doubtless the people fell into this mistake sooner than did the Druids themselves. Inasmuch as the principles of Bardism were never so thoroughly understood in Gaul as they were in Britain, it was not difficult to fall into error on the point in question.
We know not whether Mercury was a name which the Druids themselves gave to their president, or their god, or whether it was one that Cæsar invented, from noticing the similarity that existed between their views and worship and those of his own countrymen. If it be a Celtic name, what does it mean? Is it MERCH-WR, (woman-man,) because the Gwyddon looked straight before him along the line of the East--"Dwyrain," i. e. dwy rain, the two rays--the ray of Eilir and the ray of Elved, which in nature represented the two sexes, male and female? Or is it MARCH-WR, (horse-man,) because he mounted, or, as it were, rode the maen crair, whilst he presided in Gorsedd--the word march again being originally derived from my--ARCH, i.e. the ARCH, or maen ARCH, being another name of the stone on which the Bard stood?
"After him they worship Apollo," who is supposed "to ward off all diseases." He is the same undoubtedly with the SUN in the Bardism of the Cymry,
which was regarded as the natural or physical representative of the Sun of righteousness, or the Supreme God. Wherefore, many of the rites and ceremonies of the Gorsedd were regulated with reference to this luminary. The days for holding the Gorsedd were the four Albans, when the rays of the orient sun converging to the maen llog delineated the creative Name of God. The Bard thus standing in "the face of the sun, and the eye of light," when he taught the people, literally "spoke in the Name of the Lord." No Gorsedd could be held except when the sun was above the horizon.
Since it is the property of the sun to warm, cheer, and revive, it may well be said to "ward off diseases;" and when deified, the same attribute would of course still belong to it, but in a more eminent degree.
Having lost sight of the true position of the sun in the system of Bardism, it was not difficult to fall into error, and to worship the creature more than the Creator. It would appear that the Gentiles had made gods of "the heavenly host" sooner than of any other parts of the creation; and if the Gauls were to some extent idolaters in the time of Cæsar, we may be sure that they worshipped the Sun.
The next god, whom Cæsar says they worshipped, was MARS, "the ruler of wars." The British Bards were pre-eminently men of peace; no one was allowed to carry a naked weapon in their presence, nor did they ordinarily unsheath the sword against any one. We say ordinarily, for there were occasions, on which they were required to act in a different manner, as may be seen from the following Triad:--
"The three necessary, but reluctant duties, of the Bards of the Isle of Britain: secrecy for the sake of peace and public good; invective lamentation required by justice; and to unsheath the sword against the lawless and depradatory." 1
It was not for the purpose of acquiring unlawful possessions, and of oppressing other people and countries, that they "unsheathed the sword;" "they would not have country and lands by fighting and pursuing, but of equity, and in peace." 2 It was evil that they resisted even unto blood. Accordingly, on his way to the Gorsedd, the Bard carried the sword by its point, to signify his own readiness to suffer in the cause of truth; it was sheathed on the maen crair, for the people had been invited to attend, where there would be no naked weapon against them; but against "a man deprived of privilege, and exposed to warfare," it was unsheathed. It may be that the rite of the sword in Gorsedd had created an opinion in the mind of Cæsar, that the Druids were at the time worshipping Mars, the god of war; or it may be that the Druids themselves, having forgotten its original import, had come to regard it as referring to the same god, whom, they no doubt had heard of as existing in the religious system of their neighbours. The accompanying offerings and sacrifices seem to have been derived from this view of Mars, since nothing of the kind can be traced to the usages of the Cymry; unless the burying his horse and arms with a warrior had been a sort of foundation for the custom.
After Mars, Jupiter is mentioned, as the god, who " held the empire of heaven." IAU 1 was one of the names, which the Cymry gave to the supreme God, and it signified the last or most recent manifestation of the Godhead, such as that which occurred in creation as contrasted with the preceding vacuum--after that in the incarnation of His Son. Perhaps the word is the same with , the unutterable Name of God, by which He created all things--the Word of His might. There is, however, another meaning given to the name in question in the traditions of the Bards:--
"Disciple. Why is Iau (yoke) given as a name for God?
"Master. Because the yoke is the measuring rod of country and nation in virtue of the authority of law, and is in the possession of every head of family under the mark of the lord of the territory, and whoever violates it is liable to a penalty. Now, God is the measuring rod of all truth, all justice, and all goodness; therefore He is a yoke on all, and all are under it, and woe to him who shall violate it." 2
This meaning bears a close relation to the opinion that the owner of the name "held the empire of heaven." Nevertheless, the name, even in this sense, might have been founded upon , or, according to a further development, , which signifies preservation, creation, and destruction.
The Gauls could not fall into the error of inventing an additional divinity in the person of Jupiter, for he was the principal god, or god in his primary character--though their formation of different gods out of his attributes necessarily encroaches upon, and abbreviates his greatness and authority.
MINERVA. The Druids of Gaul, according to Cæsar, were of opinion that it was this goddess who "instructed them in the principles of works and arts." It is very likely that she was the same originally with the Awen, (A wen, ,) the Word of God, that proceeded out of His mouth, even as Minerva is said to have sprung out of the brain of Jupiter. It was from the AWEN that all knowledge was derived--in like manner Minerva was considered as the goddess of wisdom. One of the objects of AWEN is to produce peace--Minerva produced the olive, the symbol of peace. In several other respects, also, a remarkable similarity between the characteristics of the Bardic Awen and the goddess Minerva, may be pointed out, though in matters of detail this is not necessary, because Cæsar observes that the opinion of the Gauls was but almost the same as that of the other nations concerning the above divinities.
14. Origin of the people. "The Gauls declare that they have all sprung from their father Pluto, and this they say was delivered to them by the Druids." There can be no doubt that this sentiment is perfectly identical with that of the Bards relative to the procession of man from Annwn.
We have thus gone through the testimony of Cæsar, the principal classical authority on the subject of Druidism; we will now proceed to examine the statements of the other ancient authors, who have
touched upon the same point, though not so largely and minutely; namely, Strabo, Diodorus Siculus, Cicero, Pliny, Pomponius Mela, Tacitus, Diogenes Laertius, and Ammianus Marcellinus.
xxvii:1 Trioedd Braint a Defod.
xxvii:2 Suet. i.
xxix:1 De Bel. Gal. liber vi. cc. 13-18.
xxxvii:1 The Laws of Dyvnwal Moelmud.
xl:1 Caffaeliad Llytlyr.
xl:2 Ystorrynnau Cyssefin.
xli:1 Origin and Progress of Writing, p. 56.
xli:2 Bucher. Fro. p. 183.
xlvii:1 Laws of Dyvnwad Moelmud.
xlviii:1 See Davies's Celtic Researches, p. 237.
li:1 Trioedd Braint a Defod.
li:2 Trioedd Ynys Prydain.
lii:1 The Cymric form of Jupiter, or Jove.
liii:1 Llyfr Barddas.