by E.O. Gordon (first published in 1914)
ITS MOUNDS AND CIRCLES,
RELIGION AND CIVILIZATION; WITH NOTES ON THEIR SCIENTIFIC
APPLICATION FROM COMPARATIVE ANTIQUITY
"Ammeu Pob Anwybod." "Everything unknown is doubted."
A Welsh Adage.
ON THE RELIGION, RACE, LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE OF
"Out of monuments, names, proverbs, traditions, private records
and evidences, fragments of story, passages of books and the like
we do save and recover somewhat from the deluge of time."
BACON'S Advancement of Learning.
"THE history of a nation is the history of its religion, its
attempts to seek after and serve its God," says an old writer. Of
no nation or country is this more true than of Great Britain,
where from the standing stones of Stennis in Orkney, to the Maen
Ambres in Cornwall - the prehistoric remains of open-air
sanctuaries, artificial mounds and scientifically constructed
astronomical circles, bear witness to the vigour and vitality of
a national religion, which has already passed from the primitive
into the metaphysical stage, and embodies abstract ideas,
astronomical observations and a high and pure code of morals.
From the comparative study of antiquity in Chaldea, Arabia,
Persia, and Palestine, we now know this religion to have been
Druidism, one of the oldest religions in the world, and in its
Asiatic and Semitic form of Buddhism, the religion still of
one-half of mankind. Sayce points out that in Babylon and Persia,
as in Britain, no ruins of palaces or dwellings are found,
magnificent remains of Temples only, witness to the importance
the people of these countries attached to their religious
worship. Paltrier, in his "Desert of the Exodus," describes
prehistoric remains of two kinds in the vicinity of the
traditional site of the circle of twelve stones erected by Moses
in the Wilderness of Sin (another name for the Moon), huge
circles nearly identical with the Druidic circles of our own
islands, and, at the head of the valley leading to the Convent on
Mount Sinai, he found a small conical mound, called Jebel
Moneijah (the Mount of Conference), the prototype probably of our
numerous British sacred mounds and places of assembly. Joshua, by
God's command, erected a circle at Gilgal (circle) immediately on
the Chosen People's arrival in the Promised Land. Stanley
describes a circle of stones on the summit of Gerizim, "the Mount
of God," which he terms the oldest Sanctuary in Palestine. It was
from this circle that Melchisedek, the "Priest of the Most High
God," came forth to meet Abraham bearing bread and wine, and it
was here that he blessed him and uttered the wonderful promise
that has been so literally fulfilled. On the shores of Tyre the
Dean points us to a circle as at Stonehenge.
The numerous remains of religious monuments, such as these,
in the immediate neighbourhood of the Port of London, afford
unmistakable evidence of the large population and great
importance of the Capital in remote antiquity.
There is traditional evidence of two Circles, Cors Or Courts
of Justice, and four conical mounds of unknown antiquity, which
like Cathedrals and Churches dominated the moors, marshes and
watery stretches that environed the pre-Christian enpital. The
accompanying diagram, based on the ordnance map, shows the
relative position of these prehistoric mounds.
About four miles north-west of St. Paul's towered the
largest and most important, the Llandin (llan = sacred, din =
eminence, in Welsh signifying a High Place of Worship),
Parliament Hill, 322 feet high. About three miles south-cast and
second in height and size, came the Penton (Pen = head, ton =
sacred mound), never known, even at the present day, by other
than its Keltic title. "Piled up" on the foreshore of the Thames
were the two entirely artificial mounds, the Bryn Gwyn, and the
Tothill. On the Bryn Gwyn (Bryn = hill, Gwyn = white or holy) the
White Mount now stands the White Tower of the Tower of London.
Two miles west, on Thorn-ey Island, was the Tothill (Tot = a
sacred mound). It is of interest that Wickliffe, in his
translation of the Bible, applies the word "Tot" or "Tote" to
Mount Zion (2 Sam. v.7-9). Not a vestige of the prehistoric mound
of the Tothill is now to be seen, but the memory of this ancient
"Place oś Assembly" survives in the names of Tothill Street and
Tothill Fields. That the Mound was standing in Queen Elizabeth's
time is certain, from the following mention of it by Norden, the
topographer of Westminster, who wrote in this reign, "Tootehill
Street, lying in the west part of the cytie, taketh name of, a
hill near it which is called Toote-hill, in the great feyld near
the street." This Hill is marked in Rocques' map (1746) on
Toothill Fields, just at the bend in that ancient Causeway, the
Horseferry Road. Seventy Rot or Toot Hills are mentioned in
Hones' Year Book; and many more might be added; he tells us,
among the most striking are Tetbury (a corruption of Tot),
Teterton Clee and Doddington Wood in Salop; the last has a
perpendicular height of 122 feet. To this group of monuments,
which must have undoubtedly been the most striking feature of
prehistoric London, the derivation of the name (a corruption of
Llandin) may be ascribed. Some writers, however, prefer to find
the root-word in Llyn, the Welsh for lake; but either derivation
is equally descriptive of the surroundings of the Porth (Welsh =
the Gate of the City) in primitive times. Caer Troia, Troynovant
or New Troy, is referred to in several MSS, (other than that of
Geoffrey of Monmouth) and by many of the older historians as the
name given to Lonon by Brutus the Trojan, the grandson of Aeneas
circa 1100 B.C.), the reputed founder of the City. This tradition
was never questioned until the last century, when German scholars
decided that the story related in Homer's Iliad of the siege and
destruction of Troy by the Greeks, and subsequent dispersion of
the Trojan princes, was a "Poet's dream" and a "mythological
myth. The coming of Brutus to Britain was also pronounced to be
"fabulous," a legend that had no foundation in fact.
The following quotation from "Drych y Prifoesedd" ("The
Mirror of the Principal Ages"), by the Rev. Theophilus Efans,
Vicar of Llangammarch, which has been described as the earliest
attempts of modern times to teach their history to the peasantry
of Wales, sheds light on the origin of the discredit thrown upon
the historical value of Geoffrey of Monmouth's writings. If the
statements of Geoffrey of Monmouth stood alone there might be
reason for uncertainty, but when we find them frequently
corroborated in the old MSS as well as by Welsh writers of
repute, there is no reason to dismiss them as "Monkish fables."
"The first reason for denying the coming of Brutus into this
island of Britain was this. When Jeffrey ap Arthur, Lord
Bishop of Llandaff (Geoffrey of Monmouth), died, an
Englishman of the name of Gwilym Bach (little William or
William the Less) arrived, of whom I have already spoken,
who desired Dafydd ab Owen, Prince of Gwynedd, to make him
bishop in Jeffrey's place about the year 1169 A.D. But when
it was not to the mind of Dafydd ab Owen to grant him his
request the man went home full of hatred and commenced to
exercise his mind how best to despise and malign not only
the memory of the bishop, who was lying in his grave, but
also the whole of the Welsh nation. This Gwilym Bach, out of
malice because he was refused the bishopric of Llandaff, was
the first to deny the coming of Brutus here.
His whole book is nothing else than a tissue of barefaced
lies against the Welsh.
Gwilym Bach says without shame, that no one had ever
mentioned the coming of Brutus and his men from Caerdroia to
this island until Jeffrey ap Arthur fabricated the tale out
of his own imagination, but this is a statement or charge
too naked and flimsy without any foundation and against all
authority. Because Jeffrey ap Arthur did nothing but
translate the Welsh Chronicles into Latin, so that the
educated of the country might read them. And long, long
before the time of Jeffrey one of the poems (penhillion) of
Taliesin makes clear the consensus of opinion of his
fellow-countrymen in regard to the matter, and he wrote
about the year 566 A.D."
Not only do all the Genealogies of the British kings trace
up through Beli the Great, to Aeneas and Dardanus, but this
documentary evidence is supported by local tradition at Totnes,
and material proof of the landing of the Trojan Prince on our
shores, and of is acclamation as sovereign by his kinsfolk from
Dartmoor and as Antiquarians at the present day refer the
occupation of this great plateau in Devonshire to a previous
colonization in Neolithic times, we get a clue to the possible
period of the arrival of the Trojans. Later on we shall learn the
circumstances which led to the departure of Brutus and his
companions from their native land, and show from Sehliemann and
Sayce's discoveries the traces of Trojan influence on the British
race which can neither be disproved nor ignored.
Moreover, Leaf's recently published Study of Homeric
Geography enables us to see at a glance how remarkably alike in
geographical site and surroundings were the historic ports of
Troy and Trinovantum or New Troy on the Thames. The Trojan city
on the estuary of the Scamander at the mouth of the Dardanelles
(the great trade route of the Old World) and London environed by
the impregnable marshes and mud flats of the Thames, the great
artery leading to the heart of Britain's commerce then as now the
life-blood of the nation.
Present day tourists tell us that the principal objects of
interest to be seen from the "insignificant Mound of Hissarlik,"
the ruined site of Troy today, are the mounds and tumuli that dot
the marshes of the Troad, monuments which are said to date back
to the Trojan war and earlier. It may have been the sight of the
mounds round about the ancient Caer of London and the tumuli at
one time to be seen in the neighbourhood of the Llandin
(Parliament Hill) and Primrose Hill, that reminded the exiled
Prince of what he must have been told of the ancient glory and
commercial importance (as we learn from Leaf) of the famous city
of his ancestors, Troy, and suggested to Brutus the name,
together with the possibility of founding a New Troy which
should rival in brilliance and supremacy the city of his fathers.
But as an "alien" and foreign title Caer Troia never became
popular with the Britons, or at any time superseded the older
name of Llandin, or London, interwoven as are so many Ketic
names, with the highest and noblest of our national ideals
For certainly it is a striking and inspiring thought, that
practically the only traditions that have reached us of the
occupation of London in prehistoric times should be those
connected with the worship of the "Most High," crystallized in
the descriptive titles of the four conical mounds.
By the Welsh, these "high places of worship" are called
Gorsedds, a compound of two words, namely, "Gor" and "Sedd,"
"Gor" signifying "superior," "uppermost," or "supreme," and
"Sedd" (dd as "th" in them) "seat." "Therefore 'Gorsedd' means
'supreme seat' and the name is used by the Welsh Britons for the
Throne of the Monarch." "It is an institution which belongs
exclusively to that parent stem of the Keltic nations called
Welsh by the English people, but who call themselves Kymree or
Kumri," The term Gorsedd is applied also to the assemblies held
either on or around the mound, or within a stone circle, the
remains of which circles are often found near the mounds. Maes
Howe and the standing stones of Stenness in Orkney, Mass Knoll 1
and Stanton Drew in Somerset are notable examples. On a smaller
scale are the remains of a circle at Allington in Kent at the
foot of an artificial circular mound on which stands the parish
In purely Druidic times, round these "Places of Assembly,"
all the civil and religious affairs of the district revolved. The
Tynwald in the Isle of Man, the artificial mound, the Seat of the
Manx Parliament, carries on the continuity of the Druidic
Gorseddau or Convocations held at the solstices and equinoxe--"In
the face of the Sun, the Eve of Light"--for our forefathers, like
the Persians of old, thought it impious to conifine the Deity.
In connection with the British Gorsedds of old times, it
will be interest to quote from Cummings' "History of the Isle of
Man" the following description of the Annual Assembly held on the
Tynwald Hill at the present day, in that it bears so a
resemblance to the procedure of rite Houses of
1 The site of a British settlement and cemetery.
Parliament in its unique representation of both Church and State,
such as exists in no other country:
"On the Feast of St. John the Baptist, a tent is erected on
the summit of the Mound, and preparations are made for the
reception of the officers of State, according to ancient
custom. Early in the morning the Governor proceeds from
Castletown, under a military escort, to St. John's Chapel,
which is only a few hundred yards to the Eastward of the
Tynwald Hill. Here he is received with all due honour by the
Bishop, the Council and the Clergy and the Keys
(Representatives of the House of Keys as the local
Parliament is still called) and all attend divine service
in the Chapel, the Government chaplain officiating. This
ended, they march in procession from the Chapel to the
Mount, the military forming in line on each side of the
Green turf walk. The clergy take the lead, the Juniors being
in front and the Bishop in the rear. Next comes the Vicar
General and the two Deemsters, then the bearer of the Sword
of State, in front of the Governor, who is succeeded by the
Clerk of the Rolls, the twentyfour Keys and the Captains of
the different parishes. The laws and decisions of the
National Council are then proclaimed from the Tynwald
Hill--indeed no laws are valid until they have
been so proclaimed."
Little less imposing, though in an entirely different way
from the London of today, must have been the appearance of the
primitive city 2,000 or 3,000 years or more B.C. Crowning the
cliff of blue clay on the north bank of the Tain or Thames
(Keltic = broad water) stood the Caer, or fortified enclosure, on
precisely the same site as the present city, an area known from
time immemorial as the "City Mile"; probably no mile in the world
covers more buried history. The area consisted of two hillocks,
both about 35 feet high, stand on either side of the little
stream of the Walbrook which took its rise in the fens beyond
Moorgate and flowing through depression well marked through
Lothbury, passed a little to the westward of the Mansion House,
and through a kind of ravine to a creek at Dowgate (Keltic =
water-gate). The present street, called by its name Walbrook,
runs very nearly parallel to the course of the stream. The city
extended laterally on the east of the present site of the Tower,
and on west as far as the Fleet. To the north lay dreary moor-
land with fens and swamps stretching to the foot of an immense
forest, afterwards known as the Middlesex Forest. Fragments of
this primeval forest yet remain at Hampstead (where it is known
as Ken or Caen Wood), Highgate, Epping and Hainault. On the
hightest on the western hillock where St Paul's now stands, might
have been silhouet against the sky, the mighty unhewn monoliths
of the Druidic circle, the seat of the Arch-Druid of Caer Troia.
It is an interesting link with the pre-Christian religion, that
St. Paul's has always been the Metropolitan Cathedral of the City
of London, a National Church, never at any time a religious
corporation ruled by Abbot or Prior.
No trace of the circle remains, but at a little distance to
the south-east (originally on the site of the eastern hillock)
stands a single obeliscal pillar or index stone, preserved
behind iron bars in the wall of St. Swithin's Church, opposite
Cannon Street Station. It is said originally to have been a Roman
mile-stone, but Sir Lawrence Gomme supposes London Stone, like
other great stones, to have marked the place where the open-air
assemblies gathered to legislate for the city. "Some, however,
hold this ancient pillar had a yet more ancient destination. In
former times this venerable relic was regarded with a sort of
superstitious zeal, and, like the Palladium of Troy. the fate and
safety of the city was imagined to depend on its preservation"
Index stones, pointers or menhirs are found in connection
with many British circles. Perhaps the best known example of a
British gnom, pillar or pointer, is the Solitary "Hele" (Gr.
Helios = sun) or Sunstone standing somewhat in the same relation
to Stonehenge as does London Stone to St. Paul's Churchyard.
Another well-known example of an index stone (about 8 feet high)
is to be seen, standing 84 yards from the Rollright Circle in
Oxfordshire, called to this day the "King Stone." Local tradition
associates it with British and Saxon kings. Sixty stones of this
circle lie buried in the turf.
1 The "Bishop's Wood," bestowed by the Emperor Constantine on the
see of London, and "The Grove," connect Highgate both with the
early British Church and with Druidic times.
Dr. Plott inclined to the opinion that here are the remains
of a place for the election of a king, but, like most Druidic
monuments, their history is enshrouded in mystery.
Stow describes London Stone as "standing in Walbrook, on the
south side of this High Street, neere unto the Channell, is
pitched upright a great stone called London Stone, fixed in the
ground very deep, fastened with bars of iron, and otherwise so
stronglie set that if cartes do runne against it through
negligence the wheeles be broken, and the stone itself un
time shaken. The cause why this stone was there set, the verie -
time when, or other memorie thereof, is there none." London Stone
is mentioned as early as the time of Athelstane, kind of the West
Saxons, without any positive reference to its having been
considered a Roman Military stone. We hear of London Stone in the
time of Richard II when Jack Cade struck his sword on it. The act
was meant to give solemn assurance to the people of his rude
fidelity. We have here the survival doubtless of an ancient
Druidic form of oath, from a Cornish custom carried out almost to
our own day, of business transactions ratified after auction
sales at the neighbouring village of St. Burvan, and
lovers' troth plighted by the parties concerned shaking hands
through a holed stone (now used as a gate post), one of the
outlying "pointers" of the Druidic Circle of the Merry Maidens in
the Land's End district. The deep-rooted custom seems unmis-
takably to link Britain with ancient Israel, from the notable
example of Laban making covenant with Jacob for the welfare of
his daughters and their children by erecting a stone called
Galeed, meaning "a heap of witness." In the Biblical record the
stone both a business agreement and a marriage settlement (Gen.
xxxi. 50). The memory of the Druidic College in London, where
lived the Guardians of the Circle, survives in the name of
College Street, situated between Dowgate Hill and College Hill,
close to Cannon Street Station. Remains have found hereabouts
which were suppose to indicate the site of ancient British
dwellings; and on the west bank of the port of the Dowgate traces
were discovered of a kind of rude dock for building ships. If
"Wal" or "Gael" means foreigners, then the Walbrook may be taken
as a reference to the numerous merchants who frequented the
narrow waterway, the highway of commerce leading from the broad
waters of the Tain into the heart of the city. The exit and
entrance of all vessels would probably have been controlled at
the Dowgate, by the Druid authorities from the neighbouring
College. The Kymric city was as dependent on its shipping for
food plies as is the London of today on its railways.
The Druidical Sanctuary or "Place of Refuge," attached to
the city circle, became merged, it would appear, in very early
times into the Christian Sanctuary of the Collegiate Church of
St. Martin-le-grand, which, according to a very ancient
tradition, was founded by Cadwallon, a British king. The General
Post Office now stands on the site of both Church and Sanctuary.
The fact that the privileges of sanctuary survived to the reign
of James I, long after the Church and Monastic buildings had
perishe s characteristic of the permanence of British
About two miles west of the Port of London on Thorney Island
was a second Druidic circle, with a College and Sanctuary, where
now stands Westminster Abbey. The Isle of Thorns was not then the
desolate spot that we have imagined it to be. Excavations,
traditions, and history have proved beyond doubt that the Island,
half a mile in length and rather less in breadth, was a centre of
commerce on the highway of trade from north to south, a steppig-
stone lying between a marsh and a tidal river, fordable at low
tide. On the west stretched a great marsh which could be waded
across, the way marked by stakes; and a causeway of large stones
laid in the mud enabled the pack-horses to skirt the swamp
of what is now Hyde Park and so gain the north road to Tyburn, so
called from the stream of that name, which flowed from Hampstead,
across Oxford Street, and through Piccadilly, its two branches
forming the delta of Thorney Island on which Westminster Abbey
was built. On the south side the river, here broad and shallow,
could be forded at low water, conducting the traveller to another
low island called Lamb Hythe (Lambeth), probably meaning the
place of mud; the memory of this ancient ford survives to this
day in the name of the street leading to the river, "Horseferry
Road." In the names of Ebury, Chelsea, Battersea and Bermondsey
we have practically certain proof that Thorney was one of a
cluster of islets (ea or eye signifying an island) in this, the
shallowest and widest part of the great waterway.
The surroundings of the Druidic Circle and Sanctuary have
been graphically described by Sir Walter Besant. A large
population, he writes, were drawn together on Thorney in order to
provide for the wants of the continuous stream of travellers
which flowed all the year round from the Kent and Surrey
districts by the old British road from Dover to London, and who
made the ford a halting-place before pursuing their journey
north, through the Midlands to Chester and York. Caravans and
merchants, with their pack-horses laden with wares to be
embarkedy at Dover - metal, salt, hides and corn returned with
commodities to provide for the wants of the wealthier classes.
Thorney was not a fortress or place of strategic importance. It
was rather, as regards the permanent population, a collection of
Inns and Taverns, a Settlement of Lake-dwellers, who, we may
suppose, from remains recently brought to light in the Keltic
Lake-dwellings of Glastonbury, were skilful potters, weavers and
workers in glass and metal. Thorney, as the first ford on the
Thames, was quite as important a station as the port and city
itself, demanding the control of the Druidical Order, one of
whose duties it was to administer justice.
FROM WHENCE CAME DRUIDISM?
Before we give a detailed account of the part played by
these Places of Assembly in pre-Christian civilization, and
relate the traditions which connect the Great Seats of London
with the personalities of kings whose names are land-marks in the
chronology of the Ancient British Dynasty it will be necessary to
glance at the tenets and teaching of a religion, which prompted
the erection of such stupendous and enduring monuments. And, if
we are to be disabused of the popular notion that the Druidical
Circles (symbolic of Eternity), and the serpent-shaped avenues by
which many were approached (symbolic of the sun's path through
the Zodiac), were dedicated to the worship of the sun and the
serpent, we must learn under whose auspices Druidism was
established and the evidence that has reached us concerning the
National Faith of this Island of the West.
Max Muller, the great Philologist of the University of
Oxford in the last century, in the following eloquent passage,
traces our word for God to the most ancient language in the
world, Sanskrit, and, in a remarkable way, links the primitive
religion of Britain with the still older religion of India, and
finds the primeval connection between the two nations in a
spiritual and tangible belief in the same beneficent Deity:
... Beyond and above the heavenly bodies, which were always
changing, was the bright unchanging Deva, the life and light of
the Universe. This word has come down along the ages in our word
Deity, Divine, Dieu, Deus, and in the Welsh Duw, Jehovah, God.
From the root Die, to shine, the adjective Deva has been formed
meaning originally 'bright.' Deva came to mean, in process of
time, 'God,' because it orignally meant bright. The dictionaries
give its meaning as God or Divine. In the old hymns of India the
sun was looked upon as a supernatural power, not only the bright
Deva, who performs his daily task in the sky, but he is supposed
to perform much greater work, as the supreme spirit, the Creator
of the world. He who brings life and light today is the same who
brought life and light on the first of days. As light was the
beginning of the day, so light was the beginning of creation,
and, if a Creator, then also a ruler of the world. There is,
adds Max Muller, "a continuity of thought as there is of sound,
between the Deva of the Veda, and the Divinity that shapes our
ends. We have in such words as Deva and Deus the actual vestiges
of the steps by which our ancestors proceeded from the world of
sense to the world beyond the grasp of the senses. The way was
traced by Nature herself; or if Nature, too, is but a Deva in
disguise, by something greater and higher than Nature. The old
road led the ancient Aryans as it leads us still, from the known
to the unknown, from Nature to Nature's God."
"Those simple-hearted forefathers of ours," so says Charles
Kingsley, "looked round upon the earth and said within
'Where is the All-father, if All-father there be? Not in this
earth, for it will perish too; where is He who abideth for ever?'
"Then they lifted up their eyes and saw, as they thought, beyond
sun, and moon, and stars, and all which changes and will change,
the clear blue sky, the boundless firmament of Heaven. That never
changed: that was always the same; the clouds and storms rolled
far below it; and all the bustle of the noisy world, but there
the sky was still; as bright and calm as ever. The All-father
must be there, unchangeable in the unchanging heavens; bright and
pure and boundless like the heavens; and like the heavens, too,
silent and far off."
But long before Kingsley, the Greeks had discovered the same
"There shone the mirrored Master-mind,
There earth, there sky, there ocean He designed;
The unwearied Sun, the Moon complete round,
The starry lights that the ethereal convex crowned;
The Pleiads, Hyads with the Northern Team
And Great Orion's more refulgent beam: To which, around the
axle of the sky,
The Bear, revolving, reveals his golden eye
And shines exalted on the ethereal plain,
Nor bathes his blazing forehead in the main."
In studying the primitive religion of Britain, we should
never lose sight of the fact that the Universe was the Bible of
the Ancients, the only revelation of the Deity vouchsafed the
Gentile nations; as St. Paul said to the men of Lystra, "He left
not Himself without witness, in that He did good, and gave us
rain from heaven and fruitful seasons" (Acts xiv. 17). The
wonders of nature were to them as "the voice of the All-Father,"
directing their lives and unfolding to their reverent observation
the intimations of the stupendous circle of the universal law on
which our earth revolves with sun and stars in the service of the
Supreme God. By the movements of the heavenly bodies they ordered
their lives, regulated the times and the seasons, the days and
the years, fixed religious festivals and all agricultural
This sublime study of the "Manuscripts of God" in the early
dawn of civilization brought man into direct intercourse with the
highest mind and intelligence. Kepler's first outburst on his
discovery of the laws of planetary motion was, "I have been
permitted to think the thoughts of God." "In good time, the fact
of Creation became the analysis of the thoughts of the Creator of
the Universe," - reverently taught the devout Swiss
Professor Louis Agassiz, that humble-minded expounder of the
mysteries of the Kingdom of nature, in the Science School of
NO GRAVEN IMAGES IN BRITAIN
One of the greatest testimonies to the spiritual character
of the religion of our forefathers is the fact that no graven
image or inscribed stone of any kind has ever been discovered of
Pre-Roman origin in Great Britain. Among the relics of the Stone,
Bronze, and Iron Ages in the British Antiquities Department of
the British Museum, there is no evidence whatever of idolatrous
worship, as we find in the Assyrian, Greek and Roman Galleries.
Not that the primitive religion is unrepresented, for numerous
incense-burners of clay on the shelves witness to the common use
of the Divine ordinance of burning incense (symbolic of prayer)
in the Druidic religion as in the Patriarchal worship of the
Israelites. In the Gold Room are several beautiful examples of
gold crescent-shaped breast-plates. A similar shaped breast-plate
forms part of the Gorsedd Regalia of today, and is worn by the
Arch-Druid at every Eisteddfod.
At a meeting of the British Association, 1836, held at
Stonehenge, when Geology was still in its infancy, it was pointed
out by Dr. Buckland 1 that the Altarstone was of "fire-stone," a
statement ridiculed at the time, but many years later proved to
be correct by Professor Petrie, who, on the altar-stone being
raised, discovered several feet of burnt embers beneath, pointing
to the probability that here, as in the outer court of the
Tabernacle in the Wilderness, may have been an altar of burnt
incense. Many references are made in the old Welsh writings to
the sacred Fire. "Not mean was the place appointed for conference
before the perpetual fire" may be descriptive of Stonehenge; the
beautiful poem of "The Chair of Taliesin" commences, "I am he who
keeps up the fire."
In 1901 a thorough investigation of Stonehenge took place in
order to raise the Great Trilithon that had fallen on the last
night of the last century. On excavating the base to refix it in
cement, stone chippings and some flint hammers were
1 The first Professor of Geology at the University of Oxford.
found (now in Devizes Museum) with which it was supposed the
tenons of the Sarsens had been shaped, verifying the tradition
that the Druids used only instruments of flint in the cuttings
for religious purposes to guard against the making of Idols
(Deut. xxvii.5-6; 1 Kings vi.7; Joshua viii.31).
The first Colonizers arrived on our shores "When England no
longer formed part of the Continent, but had assumed its present
physical aspect, its present fauna and flora." This fact we learn
from labels in the cases containing the weapons, pottery, and
personal ornaments of the people who lived in the Stone, Bronze
and Iron Ages, in the British Antiquities Department of the
British Museum. The route of the Kymry may be traced by the names
of the countries through which they passed, the Crimea and the
Chersonese; according to Dr. Lightfoot, the Galatians retained
many traits in common with the Kymric branch of the Keltic race,
and though the population of Galatia was very mixed, the
characteristic vitality of the Kelts maintained the prominence of
the race. Though Greek became eventually the language of the
towns, the dialect of the country-people was almost identical
with that of the Treveri - the people of Trier or Treves,
founded in the time of Abraham by Trebeta, the son of Ninus, King
of Assyria, 1300 years before Rome.
But before inquiring into the history of the coming of the
Kymry in the Neolithic or new stone age, it will add to the
interest of our story, first to glance at the remains of the
still older civilization of the Palaeolithic or most ancient
stone age, when Britain formed part of the continent of Europe,
and elephants, lions, hyenas and bears, roamed the vast forests
which then covered it. In his "Early Man in Britain" Boyd Dawkins
states that the civilization of these River drift and Cavemen may
be compared to that of the Bushmen of Australia. The great "Ice
Age" swept away all traces of the existence of these Aborigines,
except those rude remains that have been brought to light by the
Geologist. Some interesting specimens of human remains, together
with those of wild animals, found in caves in England and on the
Continent, may be seen in the Geological Gallery of the Natural
History Museum in the wall-case on the right as you enter.
Professor Woodward has kindly allowed a photograph to be taken of
a specimen of a human skull discovered embedded in the stalagmite
floor of a cave. In the centre of the gallery should be noticed
the head of a mammoth with tusks 7 feet in length, found at
Ilford, a district at one time covered with vast forest, but now
a suburb, within half an hour's journey of the city. In piercase
No. 3, near to this old inhabitant of the neighbourhood, is the
skull of a British lion, possibly a contemporary of the mammoth.
A map in the British Antiquities Department in the British
Museum shows where the footprints of the primitive race have been
discovered on the banks of the Thames and other rivers. In the
gallery are to be seen specimens of their rough unpolished stone
implements, and standing between models of the Druidic circles of
Arbor Low, and Stonehenge, is a portion of the floor of a
cave-dwelling showing human remains mingled with those of wild
animals. No greater contrast could well have been devised that
would enable us to realise the low grade of the conditions of
life without any religion (so far as we know) and the elevating
influence of a knowledge of the True God, the Light and Life of
the world. This knowledge inspired the first Colonists to erect
their "Bethels" wherever they settled, a consecrated "place of
assembly," having no enclosing walls or overarching roof, but a
spot set apart for the worship of the Most High, whose Presence
the Ancients believed permeated all natural objects.
The footprints of these first settlers have been traced by
the remains of their religious monuments (circles and mounds),
from the district north of the Persian Gulf, along the trade
route of the Phoenicians, to the shores of the Mediterranean.
These material remains, when taken in connection with a
remarkable affinity in language, the discoveries of modern
travellers and the testimony of national traditions, proof that
the original Colonists came from Accad, 1 or Accadia, the
Southern Province of Babylonia. They brought with them their
primitive religion, "the first wave of the Aryan family to
overspread Europe before Greeks or Romans were heard of."
1 Akkad was one of the four great cities of the land of Shinar.
The earliest recorded history of the British race takes us
to Central Asia, the fertile district watered by the Tigris and
Euphrates, lying between Mount Ararat on the north and the
Persian Gulf on the south. To this country of the ancient
Chaldees the earliest settlers in Britain trace their origin.
The Kymry or Kimbri are the Welsh branch of the ancient Keltic
people. National traditions maintain that the Kymry possessed
from the earliest period of their existence a knowledge of the
true God, and embodied it into their theological code as one of
the fundamental doctrines of Druidism.
This Keltic literature consists of "The Historic Triads of
the Island of Britain," three hundred in number (of which only
one hundred and sixty are extant), Bardic Poems, and various
fragments of Druidic Philosophy. Like the Sacred Vedas of India
the Triads were handed down by oral tradition. Not until the
sixth century were they written down by the Bards of King
Arthur's Court, Taliesin and Llywarch Hen, when the British king
re-organized the "Old Order" on Christian lines and drew up his
rules of the Round Table on the Druidic principles of patriotism
and self-sacrifice in the cause of King and Country.
In the national Triads of Wales, which are, according to
Matthew Arnold and Max Muller, the "oldest literature in the
oldest living language in Europe," (The vovelty stores in Wales
today have tea-towels with "Welsh - the oldest living language in
Europe" printed on them - Keith Hunt) the eastern origin of the
British race is stated:
"A numerous race, fierce they were called,
First colonized thee,
Britain, chief of Islea,
Men of the country of Asia, the country of Gafiis.
Said to have been a skilful people, but the district is
unknown Which was mother to these warlike adventurers on the
Clad in their long dress, who could equal them?
Their skill is celebrated, they were the dread of Europe."
It is not known exactly where Gafis is, but from Layard's
discoveries, and Sayce's reading of the clay tablets from the
Babylonian Library where he finds a similar form of Monarchical
and Constitutional Government to that in early Britain, there
seems every reason for thinking it was in this part of the world.
As we have already mentioned, Sayce points out yet one other
bond of union between ancient Chaldea and Britain, in the fact
that in Babylonia and Persia, as in Britain, no ruins of palaces
or dwellings are found; magnificent remains of Temples, only,
testify to the importance the people of these countries attached
to their religious worship. It is only in the later civilization
of Assyria that we find the grandeur of the palaces far exceeds
that of the Temples. At Nineveh the Royal Library was kept in the
Palace, and not, as at Babylon, in the Temple. It is of no little
interest that the ancient Libraries of the Kings of Babylon and
Nineveh are now preserved in the British Museum. From these
imperishable records inscribed on clay tablets Sayce has
discovered that the "Accadian Law did not differ much from our
own." He finds here an ancient form of Monarchical and
Constitutional Government similar to that which existed in
Britain for many centuries before the Christian Era, an organized
rule which in primitive times was shared by no other European
country. Precedents and previous decisions seem to have been held
in as high esteem as among our own lawyers. The king was the
supreme court of appeal, and copies exist of private petitions
preferred to him on a variety of matters. Judges were appointed
under the king and prisons were established in the towns. An old
Babylonian code of moral precepts addressed to princes denounced
the ruler "who listens to the evil advice of his courtiers and
does not deliver judgment according to the law-book."
Another Code which goes back to the Accadian epoch, 3800
B.C., contains an express enactment for protecting the slave
against his master. May not this be the seed of imperishable
human thought which, lying dormant for centuries, lived again in
the spiritual activities of Wilberforce, Livingstone and Gordon,
the three saintly men to whom the world owes the suppression of
the slave trade.
The status of women is another link between Accad and our
own country. Britain has always been a country where the Salic
law is not in force, and the exceptional reverence and honour
shown to women in all classes of society in all periods of our
history, Sayce traces back to the ancient Accadian law which
assigned a position to woman that made her the equal of man: in
fact, he tells us, she ranked before her husband in matters
relative to the family. An interesting article by Hall Caine
appeared in the "Daily Chronicle" (March 14, 1910) on the
subject of the "Women's Charter," introduced into Parliament by
Sir Charles Maclaren, now Lord Aberconway. In this article he
states that by Manx law the woman is to all intents and purposes
the equal of the man. "The rights of the family in a man's
property are most powerfully expressed in the person of his wife,
without whose sanction his estate may not be disposed of by will
or deed, and may not be encumbered save subject to her widow
rights should she survive him ... Thus the co-ownership of the
wife with the husband is implied in Manx law down to the present
day." Here appears a veritable survival in the Isle of Man of the
Ancient British and Aceadian Law.
Other signs of kinship between Central Asia and these
Islands of the West may be observed on the Nineveh sculptures,
now within reach of the humblest student in the British Museum.
On one of these marbles from Sennacherib's Palace a triumphal
procession is depicted in honour of a victory (not a religious
procession). The minstrels carry small harps; these, Sir Henry
Layard used to take pleasure in pointing out, were the original
of the small Welsh harps used by the Keltic bards from the time
that they were first established (1000 B.C.) to the present day.
A form of the Scottish bagpipes may also be seen on these
Assyrian marbles, together with the original of the British
war-chariots peculiar to our island. With 4,000 war-chariots
Cassivellaunus repulsed the Romans, 55 B.C. In one of the finest
monuments in London on Westminster Bridge, Thorneycroft has
represented Boadicea in her war-chariot, which only differs from
the Assyrian model by the blades fixed in the wheels.
It has been a wonder to many how the gigantic unhewn rocks,
weighing 70 or 80 tons, employed in the construction of the
Circles of Abury and Stonehenge, were moved and fixed in their
respective positions. The method is made clear when we see here
depicted the removal of one of the winged bulls of Sennacherib's
palace-gate, by the simple process of rollers, ropes, unlimited
amount of human labour, and a lever.
But there is a most important and significant difference to
be noticed between Assyrian marbles and the stones which form the
British circles. Whereas the former are covered with carving and
inscriptions, the megalithic remains in Britain are uninscribed
and unwrought (Exod. xx.25).
Another link with Assyria is mentioned by the late Dr.
Collins, Bishop of Gibraltar, which tends to confirm the Eastern
origin of our prehistoric forefathers. In October, 1907, when on
his long and difficult journey as the bearer of a letter from the
Archbishop of Canterbury to the Catholicus or Patriarch of the
Assyrian Church, he came across a Kurdish village in the district
of Ararat which reminded him of the numerous hut-circles still
existing in all part of Britain, but more especially in Cornwall.
With the latter the Bishop was evidently acquainted, otherwise he
would hardly have made the following entry in his diary:
"The village is like a large burrow or warren, consisting of
a series of earthen mounds of large size, some with solid
roofs that can be walked on, others that the owners
anxiously warn one off. The whole thing strongly suggests
the underground dwellings at Chysauster or Treryn in the
Land's End district."
It is, however, only within the last century, that fresh
light has been thrown upon the religion and civilization of
Ancient Britain, from the affinity that has been found to exist
between our own and Eastern languages. Dean Alford and Max Muller
point out that the majority of our words are of Celtic,
Phoenician, Hebrew, Arabic and Persian origin, and that many
place-names, rivers more especially, are derived from the
Sanskrit. The name of the river "Avon," 1 for instance, that
forms the eastern boundary of the vast prehistoric cemetery on
the Wiltshire Downs, comes from the Sanskrit root "Av,"
1 There are no fewer than ten Rivers Avon in Great Britain: (1)
Eastern Avon, Wilts and Hants, to English Channel. (2). Lesser
Avon, to Bristol Channel. (3) Little or Middle Avon,
Gloucestershire, to River Severn. (4). Upper Avon, to River
Severn at Tewkesbury. (5). River Avon, Monmouthshire, to River
Usk. (6). River Avon, Devon, to English Channel. (7). River Avon,
Banffshire, to River Spey. (8). River Avon, to Firth of Forth
at Grangemouth. (9). River Avon, to River Clyde at Hamilton.
(10). River Avon, Glamorgan, to Bristol Channel.
which signifies "water," "on" being expressive of distinct unity,
so "Avon" means literally "a river."
In South Wiltshire we find three rivers, the Wyly, the
Nadder and the Ebel, whose names, derived from the Sanskrit, are
further convincing proofs of the early Eastern occupation. From
the name "Wyly" we have "Wilton," the ancient capital of the
County itself. The Welsh word "gwili" means "full of turns -
winding," and the root of the word is to be found in "gwy," which
signifies a flow or flood. Between Wilton and Salisbury, the Wyly
receives the waters of the river Nadder. A natural derivation of
the word Nadder would seem to be from the Welsh "Neidr," which
means a snake or adder. Philologists derive this word from the
Welsh "Nad," a shrill noise, or from "Nad-er," to utter a shrill
There is in Sanskrit a remarkable confirmation of the
probability of such an etymology, for whilst "Nad" means "to
sound," "Nada," its derivation, means "a river." The Ebbe or Ebel
is a small river in the south-west part of Wilts. The word would
seem probably to be derived from the same Sanskrit root ap, or
ab, which is found in the Gothic as "Aiwa," and in the obsolete
Gaelic as "Abh"; the termination of the second form is probably a
diminutive, for El has this force in Welsh. Crib means "a
summit," "Crib-el" a "Cock's comb," "Coq" means "a short piece of
wood," and "Coq-yl," a short, stout piece of wood, i.e., Cudgel.
Hence "A-bel" or "Eb-el" would mean a little river.
The following examples, taken from a table in Higgins'
Celtic Druids show the intimate connection that exists between
many Eastern and Western words.
Celtic. Sanskrit. Roman. English.
Dia. Deva. Deus. God.
Aran. Aram. Aratum. Cultivated land.
Mathair. Matara. Mater. A Mother.
Brathair. Bhratara. Frater. A Brother.
Di. Divos. Sonus. Sound.
Ceal. Cealus. Coelum. Heaven.
San-scriobhte. Sanskrita. Sanctum. Holy Writ.
Sacred. Sacrados. Scriptum. Holy Writ
Many Phoenician words survive to this day in the British
Navy, as Canon Girdlestone, in his exposition of Ezekiel
xxvii.27, tells us. Such words as "pilot," "caulk," "old salt,"
etc., and the astronomical signs that represent the days in the
week in our nautical almanack of to-day (drawn up three years
ahead of time), are the same as those used by the Phoenician
sailors who came from the East to the Cassiterides to buy tin.
From Keltic lore it appears that Hu Gadarn the Mighty was the
leader of the first colony of the Kymry into Britain about the
time of Abraham. In the Triads he is described as one of the
"Three Benefactors of the race of Kymry," one of COINS OF TYRE,
SHOWING PILLARS OF HERCULES (British Museum) the "Three Primary
Sages of his adopted land." one of the "Three Pillars of the Race
of the Island of Britain." He is reputed to have established
Patriarchal worship wherever he went, a tradition supported by
the representation of the Petrae Ambrosae, sometimes called the
"Pillars of Hercules," on the coins of the city of Tyre, 1 struck
in honour of their founder, Hercules. In Britain, Hu Gadarn was
1 See coins in British Museum.
the personification of intellect and culture, rather than of
physical strength, as in Greece. As a peacemaker he stands
paramount, for he promoted agriculture, and it is said of him
that he would not have lands by forfeiture and contention, but
"of equity and in peace."
In Welsh Archaeology, Hu Gadarn is commemorated for "having
made poetry the vehicle of memory and record," and to have been
the inventor of the Triads: to him also is attributed the
introduction of several useful arts, such as that of
glass-making, and writing in Ogam characters. That these
characters were used in Christian times, we know for a fact by
the Ogam and Latin inscriptions on a memorial stone at St.
Dogmael's, Whitland, Cardigan, South Wales, to Sir Sagramore, one
of King Arthur's Knights of the Round Table. (See Malory's Morte
The Druidic symbol of the name of the Deity is three rods or
pencils of light. Of these three lines, in various conjunctions,
was framed the first or Bardic Alphabet. Knowledge and religion
cannot be separated. In public transactions the Ogam or Bardic
characters were employed: in transactions with foreigners, Bardic
Hu Gadarn's successor, AEdd Mawr, B.C. 1000, is the reputed
founder of the Druidical Order in Britain. He is said to have
found within his dominions three Wise Men, called Plenydd, Alawn,
and Gwron, and to them he entrusted the work of organization.
They took with them the most able men they could find, whom they
divided into three orders, Druids, Bards and Ovates, and allotted
to them different offices and duties in the business of the
State. The title Druid, in Welsh, "der wydd," is said to be a
compound of "dar," superior, and "gwydd," priest or inspector.
The Irish "Der," a Druid, is the absolver and remitter of sins.
The same root is found in the Persian "duree," a good and holy
man, and in the Arabic "dere," a wise man. The number of Druids
was regulated by very stringent laws in proportion to population.
The Druidic Order, says Matthew Arnold, is the oldest religious
and educational institution in Europe. In Britain the Druidical
Order numbered thirty-one chief seats of ducation - each seat was
a Cyfiaith or City, the capital of a tribe. The seats of the
three Arch-Druids of Britain were Caer Troia = London; Caer Evroc
= York; Caer Leon = Caerleon (Mon.).
The seats of the chief Druids of Britain are many of them
the capitals of counties to-day, with but slight change in the
original Keltic names, as may be seen from the following list,
taken from Morgan's "British Cymry":
Caer Caint = Canterbury. Caerleon ar Dwy = Chester.
Caer Wyn. = Winchester.
Caer Municip. = St. Albans. Caer Peris. = Porchester.
Caer Sallwg. = Old Sarum. Caer Don. = Doncaster.
Caer Leil. = Carlisle. Caer Guorie. = Warwick.
Caer Odor. = Bristol. Caer Cei. = Chichester.
Caer Llear. = Leicester. Caer Ceri. = Cirencester.
Caer Urnach. = Wroxeter. Caer Dur. = Dorchester.
Caer Lleyn. = Lincoln. Caer Merddyn. = Carmarthen.
Caer Glou. = Gloucester. Caer Seiont. = Carnarvon.
Caer Meini. = Colchester. Caer Segont. = Silchester.
Caer Gorangon. = Worcester. Caer Baddon. = Bath.
Although neither Oxford nor Cambridge are mentioned in the
above list, the fact remains, that within the precincts of the
Law Courts of both cities a prehistoric Gorsedd mound may be
seen, a fact which suggests the probability that our
Universities, old as they claim to be, were originally Seats of
Druidical learning, such as are known to have existed at Caerleon
The students of the Druidic Colleges, in different parts of
the country, are said to have numbered at times 60,000 souls.
Amongst these are included the young nobility of Britain and
Gaul. According to tradition, Oxford was founded by Membricius,
who was destroyed by wolves when hunting at Wolvercote, three
miles distant; hence its Keltic title was Caer Membre, or the
"City of Membricius." It was also known as Caer Bosca (probably
from the Greek Bosphorus = Oxford). This latter name, possibly,
was bestowed upon the city when the Greek philosophers, brought
by Brutus to Britain, migrated from their original college at
Cricklade (Greek-lade) further up the Tain, and set up their
school at the suburb of the "Bel Mont" (from which Beaumont
Street takes its name), just outside the old city boundary.
Caesar states the head-quarters of the Druids were in Britain,
and that those who aspired to be initiated in the more profound
mysteries repaired to the British Islands for instruction. They
were the ministers of public worship, the depositories of
knowledge, and the guardians of public morality.
Young men repaired to the Druids for education. They taught
theology; they taught the movement of the stars. They presided in
Civil and Criminal Courts, and, as with the Church, their
heaviest and most dreaded punishment was excommunication.
The different immunities to which the Druids were entitled were
the following: ten acres of land, exemption from personal
attendance in war, permission to pass unmolested from one
district to another in time of war as well as peace, support and
maintenance wherever they were, exemption from land tax and
contribution from every plough in the district where they were
situated. This, according to Welsh authority, is the origin of
glebe and close, from the Welsh Claes, a green furrow. A most
ancient British law provided for the ministers of religion and
teachers of the liberal arts.
The Druids and Bards were trained for twenty years in the
accurate repetition of the tenets and moral teaching of their
order - for the Druids did not consider it lawful to commit their
doctrines to writing, or to communicate them outside their own
pale. Max Muller compares the Druidical system of teaching to
that of the Brahminical. At the present time the Hindoo priests
begin their training at the age of ten and continue it for twenty
years. No one but a Druid could offer sacrifices, 1 nor was any
candidate admissible to the Order who could not prove his
genealogy from free parents for nine generations back. The
examinations, preparatory to full initiation into the highest
grades of the Bards and Druids, were very severe. Nor could he be
ordained until he had passed three examinations, three successive
years, before the Druidic College of the tribe. The same method
of admission by public examination is practised by the Drudic
Orders in Wales at the present time. These barriers to
1 The charred remains of oxen and deer were found by Sir R. C.
Hoare -- the cireles of Abury and Stonehenge. Leland mentions a
similar find on the south side of St. Paul's, though whether
these were Roman or British was not possible to tell. No traces
of human sacrifices have yet been discovered.
admission threw the Order almost entirely into the hands of the
Blaenorion, or aristocracy, making it literally a "Royal
priesthood," kings, princes, and nobles entering largely into its
composition. But the primitive Druidic laws, unaffected hitherto
by foreign innovations, referred the source of all power to the
People in congress with the words, "Trech gwlad, nag arglwydd"
(Mightier a state than a lord). It is possible that the origin of
the House of Lords may be traced to the Druidic aristocracy or
Blaenorion of Kymric times.
Wordsworth thus expresses appreciation of the Druidical
"Yet shall it claim our reverence, that to God,
Ancient of days! that to the eternal Sire,
These jealous ministers of law aspire
As to the one sole fount, whence Wisdom flows,
Justice and Order."
In Druidism the British nation had a high standard of
religion, justice, and patriotism presented to them, and a code
of moral teaching which has never ceased to influence national
character. All national events were recorded in the Triads, and
in matters of history the Welsh Bards have ever been consulted as
the faithful chroniclers of their time. The metre of some of the
Triads show them to be of unquestionable antiquity, and like the
sacred Vedas or Hymns of India, our Keltic aphorisms and verses
were handed down by oral tradition. These unwritten Keltic
records, again, being regularly recited at the Bardic Assemblies,
were retained for centuries in their original purity. It was the
Druids' intimate knowledge of nature that caused their
predictions and "utterances" to be regarded as oracles of truth.
As the secular side of Druidism bore a rude resemblance to
feudalism, so on the religious side there was a similar
anticipation of the Mediaeval Catholic Church. Pliny's definition
perhaps best sets before us the position of the Druids. He speaks
of the Order in Brittany as the "Gaulish Magi. The name Magi in
the East was most august and venerable. They alone were skilled
in Divine Matters and were the Ministers of the Deity." When we
hear the Druids spoken of as worshippers of the Sun, Moon and
Stars, we are apt to lose sight of the fact that it was by the
careful observation of the movements of the heavenly bodies that
the Eastern Magi were guided to the cradle of the Saviour and
were privileged to be the first to worship the "Star" which
should rise out of Jacob (Num. xxiv.17), "the Sun of
Righteousness," which the Prophet Malachi foretold 500 years
before, should "rise with healing in His wings." It is probable
that the Wise men of the East communicated to their brethren the
"Wise men of the West," the astrologers and philosophers of
Britain, the joyful tidings of their discovery, and the
far-reaching results of their journey to Bethlehem; and
to this probably may be traced the ready acceptance of
Christianity in all parts of these Western Isles.
We are constantly told that the learning and influence of
the Druids has been greatly exaggerated; it will be as well
therefore to see what Roman writers have to say about them. By
Diogenes Laertes, the Druids have been compared with the
Chaldeans of Assyria, the Magi of Persia and the Parsecs of India
in point of learning and philosophy. Ammianus Marcellinus
contrasts them with the Pythagoreans, a testimony which is not
only honourable in itself, but is entirely in accordance with the
evidence of the Welsh Triads. Lucan, an educated Roman, fifty
years after Christ, bears testimony to the Keltic races being not
only wiser than their neighbours, but ascribes to them high
attainments in intellectual and spiritual things, and a belief in
a future existence. "To you only is given," he writes, "the
knowledge or ignorance (whichever it be) of the gods and the
power of Heaven; your dwelling is in the lone heart of the
forest. From you we learn that the bourne of man's ghost is not
the pale realm of the monarch below. In another world the spirit
survives stilldeath, if your lore be true, is just the passage to
The motto of the Druids, "Y gwir erbyn y Byd," "The truth
against the world," or "in oppostiion to the world," embodies the
principle of their ancient faith. It survives to the present day
as the motto of the Druidical Order in Wales, a fact which goes
far to show that on no vital doctrinal point was there any
antagonism between Druidism and Christianity. A summary of the
principal tenets of Druidism will enable the reader to compare or
contrast them with those of Christianity, into which eventually
the national religion merged under the patronage of the British
kings, Arviragus 1 in the first century, Lleuver Mawr (the
Romanized Lucius) in the second, and Arthur, of European fame, in
the sixth. It is interesting to observe no less where the
primitive Gentile religion differs, than where it agrees with
Divine revelation. The summary is chiefly drawn from the
Bardo-Druidic remains in the Keltic language.
The Druidic religion was brought into Britain, it is said,
by the Gomeridae, from Babylonia, or the Caucasus, at the first
migration under Hu Gadarn. Its leading principles were the
The universe is infinite, being the body of the being who out of
himself evolved or created it, and now pervades and rules it, as
the mind of a man does his body. The essence of this being is
pure, mental, light, and therefore he is called Du-w, Duw (the
one without darkness). His real name is an ineffable mystery, and
so also is his nature. To the human mind, though not in himself,
he necessarily represents a triple aspect in relation to the
past, present and future; the creator as to the past, the saviour
or conserver as to the present, the renovator or re-creator as to
the future. In the re-creator the idea of the destroyer was also
involved. This was the Druidic Trinity, the three aspects of
which were known as Beli, Taran, Esu or Yesu. When Christianity
preached Jesus as God, it preached the most familiar name of its
own deity to Druidism; and in the ancient British tongue "Jesus"
("Saviour") has never assumed its Greek, Latin or Hebrew form,
but remains the pure Druidic, "Yesu." It is
1 Arviragus, the son of the famous Cunobeline (the "Cymbeline" of
Shakespeare), whose gold coins, minted at Colchester, are the
gems of every collection, was resident at the time in the royal
city of Caerleon-on-Usk, only 30 miles on the opposite shores of
the Severn Sea, and was thus in a position to satisfy himself as
to the peaceful intentions of the Christian missionaries.
Caerleon became one of the chief centres of Christianity in
Britain, and its famous college of Druid philosophers was
converted to Christian use. When 300 years later, the Diocletian
persecution broke out, 10,000 Christians, with their leader
priests, Julian and Aaron, were martyred for the faith.
singular that the ancient Briton has never changed the name of
the God he and his forefathers worshipped, nor has ever
worshipped but one God.
The universe is in substance eternal and imperishable, but
subject to successive cycles of dissolution and innovation.
The Soul is a particle of the Deity possessing in embryo all its
capability. Its action is defined and regulated by the nature of
the physical organization it animates.
The soul which prefers evil to good retrogrades to a cycle
of animal existence, the baseness of which is on a par with the
turpitude of its human life. The process of brutalization
commences at the moment when evil is voluntarily preferred to
good. To whatever cycle the soul falls, the means of reattaining
humanity are always open to it. Every soul; however frequent its
relapses, will ultimately attain the proper end of its
existence - reunion with God.
A finite being cannot support eternity as a sameness or
monotony of existence. The eternity of the soul, until it merges
in the Deity, is a succession of states of new sensations, the
soul in each unfolding new capabilities of enjoyment.
In the following statement we have a remarkable
foreshadowing of Darwin's theory: "The creation of animals
commenced with that of water molecules. Terrestrial animals are
of a higher order than the aquatic, and rise through distinct
gradations up to man.
Animals approach the human cycle in proportion to their
utility and gentleness; every animal may be killed by man in
support or defence of his own life."
Caesar, in his Commentaries, defines the Druidical doctrine
of vicarious atonement with theological precision. "The Druids
hold that by no other way than the ransoming of man's life by the
life of man is reconciliation with the Divine Justice of the
immortal gods possible."
The Druids believed in the existence of one Supreme Being of
Whom they reasoned that He could not be material and that what
was not matter must be God.
The Druidical teaching concerning Man's spiritual Nature is
comprised in the following Triad:-
"In every person there is a soul,
In every soul there is intelligence:
In every intelligence there is thought,
In every thought there is either good or evil:
In every evil there is death:
In every good there is life,
In every life there is God."
"The Three primary principles of wisdom: Wisdom to the Laws
of God: concern for the welfare of Mankind: and suffering
with fortitude all the accidents of life.
There are three ways of searching the heart of Man: in the
thing he is not aware of, in the manner he is not aware of,
and at the time he is not aware of.
There are three Men that all ought to look upon with
affection: he that with affection looks at the face of the
earth; that is delighted with rational works of art; and
that looks lovingly on little infants."
Other Druidic doctrines taught that:
"in creation there is no evil which is not a greater good
than an evil. The things called rewards or punishments are
so secured by eternal ordinances that they are not
consequences but properties of our acts and habits. Except
for crimes against society, the measure of punishment should
be that which nature itself deals to the delinquent. Perfect
penitence is entitled to pardon. That penitence is perfect,
which makes the utmost compensation in its power for wrong
inflicted, and willingly submits to the penalty prescribed.
The atonement of penitents, who voluntarily submit
themselves to death in expiation of guilt incurred, is
perfect. The souls of all such pass on to the higher cycles
"The justice of God cannot be satisfied except by the
sacrifice of life in lieu of life."
"Matter is the creation of God. Without God it cannot exist.
Nature is the action of God through the medium of matter."
"The universe is matter as ordered and systematized by the
intelligence of God. It was created by God's pronouncing His
own name - at the sound of which light and the heavens
sprang into existence. The name of God is itself a creative
power. What in itself that name is, is known to God only.
All music or natural melody is a faint and broken echo of
the creative name."
One of the most sublime passages in the theological Triads
of Wales is that in which the Almighty is described on His return
to Heaven after the great work of the creation:
"Followed with acclamation, and the sound Symphonious of ten
thousand harps, that tun'd Angelic harmonies."
Another "utterance" shows the spiritual character of
"Let God be praised in the beginning and the end,
Who supplicates Him, He will neither despise nor refuse. God
above us, God before us, God possessing (all things), May
the Father of Heaven grant us a portion of mercy!"
The Welsh Triads, from their metre, says Matthew Arnold, are
of undoubted antiquity and of special interest, as they show that
the Druids were acquainted with the doctrine of the Trinity:
"There are Three Primeval Unities, and more than one of each
cannot exist; One God; One Truth; and One Point of Liberty,
where all opposites preponderate. Three things proceed from
the Three Primeval Unities; All of Life, All that is Good,
and All Power. God consists necessarily of Three things the
Greatest of Life; the Greatest of Knowledge; and the
Greatest of Power, and of what is the Greatest there can be
no more than one of anything."
(This does NOT prove the Druids held the "trinity" doctrine as
defined by the Roman Catholic church of the Protestant churches -
The moral philosophy of the Order was upon an equally high
plane - philosophy which became from constant repetition the
creed of the people:
"The three primary ornaments of wisdom: love, truth and
"In three things will be seen the primary qualities of the
soul of man: in what he may fear; what he would conceal; and
what he would show."
"Three things that make a man equal to an angel: the love of
every good; the love of exercising charity; and the love of
The Institutional Triads were as follows:
The Three Primary Privileges of the Bards of the Island of
Maintenance wherever they go; that no naked weapon
be borne in their presence; and their testimony preferred to all
The Three Ultimate Intentions of Bardism: to reform morals
and customs; to secure Peace; and to celebrate the praise of all
that is good and excellent.
Three Things are forbidden to the Bard: Immorality; to
satirize; and to bear arms.
The Three Joys of the Bards of Britain: the Increase of
Knowledge; the Reformation of Manners; and the Triumphs of Peace
over the Lawless and Depredators.
WE DO INDEED SEE THE MANY GOOD TEACHINGS OF THE BRITISH DRUIDS,
AND BARDS, HENCE IT WAS EASY FOR CHRISTIANITY TO ENTER BRITAIN
AND GROW VERY RAPIDLY, BECOMING THE NATIONAL RELIGION IN THE
SECOND CENTURY AD, AS OTHER STUDIES PROVE ON THIS WEBSITE UNDER
To be continued