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The Barddas of Iolo Morganwg, Vol. I., ed. by J. Williams Ab Ithel, [1862], at

STRABO, B.C. 54.

The description, which this author gives of Druidism, refers entirely, like that of Cæsar, to Gaul, and is as follows:--

"And among the whole of them [the Gauls] three classes more especially are held in distinguished veneration, the Bards, the Ovates, and the Druids. The Bards are chaunters and poets. The Ovates are sacrificers and physiologists. The Druids, in addition to physiology, practise ethic philosophy. They are deemed to be most upright, and, in consequence, to them are committed both public and private controversies, insomuch that on some occasions they decide on battles, and stop the combatants on the eve of engaging. Matters pertaining to murder are more especially entrusted to their decision, and when profit accrues from these, they think fertility will attend their country. These and others say that souls are immortal, and that the world is so too; yet that ultimately fire and water will prevail. To their simplicity and ferocity are superadded much stupidity, vain boasting, and love of ornament. They wear gold, having collars thereof on their necks, and bracelets on their arms and wrists; and dignified persons are clad in dyed garments embroidered with gold........

"Having stricken the man destined for sacrifice on the back with a sword, they augur from the palpitation. They never sacrifice without the Druids. Other kinds of human immolation are spoken of: some victims they slay with arrows, or crucify for their offerings; and having prepared a colossus of hay, and thrown wood upon it, they bum together oxen, all sorts of wild beasts, and men." 1

Strabo and Cæsar both agree with respect to some things, such as, 1stly, that the Druids were in great esteem among the people; 2dly, that they decided disputes; 3dly, that their presence at the sacrifices

p. lv

was necessary; 4thly, the immortality of the soul; 5thly, human sacrifices. There is no occasion, therefore, that we should make any further observation on these subjects in the main. We will only notice the variations and additions made by Strabo, and compare them with the Bardism of the Cymry.

1. The three degrees. These, according to the privilege and usage of the Isle of Britain, were the Chief Bard, the Ovate, and the Druid, the three being co-equal in dignity, though their offices were distinct. Strabo calls his three classes exactly by the same names, but he does not ascribe to them their respective functions quite in accordance with Bardism, at least, as regards the Ovate, who, he says, was the sacrificer, though he says again that they never sacrificed without the Druids. It was not difficult to incur misapprehension with reference to the duties of the several orders, for on special occasions one might enter upon the office of another.

2. The justice of the Druids. Justice was a virtue greatly inculcated by the members of the Bardic College.

"The three foundations of Bardism: peace; love; and justice.

"For three reasons ought a man to hazard his life, and to lose it, if necessary: in seeking for truth; in clinging to justice; and in performing mercy." 1

3. Their influence in war. The Bard, in his blue robe, was the herald of peace. He was privileged to pass from one country to another in safety and unharmed, for not only it was the law of Bardism, but also the law of nations, that no person was to unsheath

p. lvi

a sword against him. He was a man of peace, according to his office, and if he thus went between two armies on the field of battle, they immediately ceased from fighting. The privilege of protection belonged in the same manner to the Druid and Ovate.

4. Sacrifices. It is very probable that Strabo refers to the rites of eneidvaddeu, when he speaks of murder as being entrusted to the decision of the Druids. The Bardic traditions contain no record of what is here said concerning "the fertility of the country," or of the particular mode of stabbing or slaughtering the men who. were sentenced to death, unless it was done in a manner similar to that to which the lord of the territory had recourse, when he drew blood from a degraded Bard, namely, "from his forehead, his bosom, and his groin, that is, from the seats of life and soul."

5. Vaticinations. Our ancestors very generally professed to foretel events, though it is not said that they founded their predictions upon any particular appearance, which the men, whom they put to death, exhibited. Meugant, in the 6th century, observes:--

"Trust to God that the Druids will not prophesy,
When the privilege of the hill of legislature shall be broken."

6. The eternal duration of the world. The British Bards, likewise, believed that every existence and form of life would continue for ever--purged from evil. The opinion, which prevailed about the increase or prevalence of fire and water, seems to be founded on the Bardism of the Cymry:--

"There are three things on their increase: fire, or light; understanding,

p. lvii

or truth; and the soul, or life; these will prevail over every thing, and then Abred will cease." 1

Elsewhere it is said, that life proceeds from "a conjunction of water, fire, and nwyvre;" hence, if life is on the increase, it follows that its component elements also acquire continual strength.

7. Ornaments. The several members of the Bardic College wore proper vestments, which were emblematic of their respective offices. The Bard wore a sky blue robe, to signify peace; the Druid wore white, denoting holiness; and the Ovate green, which was an emblem of progress. Each colour was also uniform, to signify truth, which is one. Nevertheless, it was lawful for them to introduce silver and gold, which, not being subject to rust and stain, were signs of honour. "Therefore, a gold fringe may be properly added to a Bard's robe, of whichever of the three colours it is, or a gold girdle be put round him, for it is right to honour truth, peace, godliness, and knowledge."


liv:1 Geograph. lib. iv.

lv:1 Trioedd Braint a Defod.

lvii:1 Trioedd Barddas.

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