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ancient theology invented, to awaken superstitious terrors in the minds of the ignorant multitude.”* As the Druids had the same ends in view with other priests of antiquity, we can readily suppose
that their public theology was of the same complexion as theirs-consisting of a thousand mythological fables concerning the genealogies, attributes, offices, and actions of their deities; the various superstitious methods of appeasing their anger, gaining their favour, and discovering their will. This farrago of fables was couch.ed in verse, full of tropes and figures, and was delivered by the Druids to the surrounding multitude, fronı little eminences, of which there are many still remaining. With this fabulous divinity these poetical declaimers intermixed moral precepts for the regulation of the lives and manners of their hearers, and were always earnest in exhorting them to abstain from injuring one another, and to fight valiantly in defence of their country. The secret and public theology of the Druids, together with their system of morals and philosophy, had accumulated to such an enormous mass, about the period of the Christian era, that it required a tuition of twenty years to become master of it, in all its various branches, and get by heart that infinite multitude of verses in which it was contained.
The objects of worship among the ancient Britons were many and various. The Supreme Being was worshipped under the name of Hosus-a word expressive of his attribute of Omnipotence, as Hizzus is in the Hebrew. But, when Polytheism was introduced, Hosus was adored only as a particular divinity, who by his great power presided over military affairs, and was the same with the Mars of the Romans. This was a favourite deity with the Germans, the Gauls, and the Britons. Teutates was another name or attribute of the Supreme Being, which, in these times of ignorance and idolatry, was worshipped by the Gauls and Britons as a particular divinity. It is evidently compounded of two British words, Deu-Tatt, which signify God the Parent, or Creator ; who was originally intended by that name. But, when these nations sunk into idolatry, they degraded Teutates into the sovereign of the infernal world--the same with Dis and Pluto of the Greeks and Romans, and worshipped him in such a manner as could be pleasing to none but an infernal
* Strabo, lib, i.
power. So tremendous and awful is the sound of thunder, that all nations seem to have agreed in regarding it as the voice of the Supreme Being, and as such it was considered by the Gauls and Britons. But, when they began to multiply their deities, Taranis, so called from Taran, thunder, became one of their particular divinities, and was worshipped also by very inhuman rites.
The heavenly bodies were universally considered as objects of worship in all idolatrous nations. The sun was worshipped by the ancient Britons with great devotion, and under various names, all of which in their language were expressive of the nature and properties of that visible fountain of light and heat. To this illustrious object of idolatrous worship those famous circles of stones, of which many remain unto the present day, are said to have been dedicated : there the Druids kept the sacred fire, the symbol of this divinity, and thence, as being situated on eminences, they obtained the fullest view of the heavenly bodies. The moon also came in for her share of idolatrous veneration. The Gauls and Britons paid the same kind of worship to the moon as they did to the sun; and it has been remarked that the circular temples dedicated to these two luminaries were of the same construction, and generally contiguous.
But a vast majority of the deities worshipped by our ancestors were deified men, such as military warriors of renown, victorious princes, wise legislators, the inventors of useful arts, &c. Such among the ancient Greeks and Romans, for instance, were Saturn, Jupiter, Mercury, and others, and these also were worshipped by the Gauls and Britons. A question however has arisen, and been debated, whether our forefathers borrowed the gods of this class from the renowned Greeks and Romans, or they from us; and, if there be any honour attached to it, we seem warranted to lay claim to it, for the balance of evidence is said greatly to predominate in our favour. To convince us that the Celtic gods are the originals, and those of the Greeks and Romans the copies, it is pleaded that all those deified princes belonged to the Celtæ by their birth, and were sovereigns of the Celtic tribes, who peopled Gaul and Britain—that all their names were significant in the Celtic language, and expressive of their several characters; and that the Gauls and Britons, and the other nations who were termed Barbarians, were much more
tenacious of the opinions and customs of their ancestors, than the Greeks and Romans, who discovered a great propensity to adopt the gods and religious ceremonies of other nations.
Besides the deities now mentioned, there is sufficient evidence that our unhappy ancestors, in those times of ignorance, had many other imaginary gods, who had been real men, to whom they paid religious homage. They worshipped also several female divinities or goddesses; among which were Andraste, Minerva, Ceres, Proserpine, &c. Indeed, into such an abyss of superstition and idolatry were they sunk, that, according to Gildas, they had a greater number of gods than the Egyptians; and there was scarcely a river, lake, mountain, or wood, which was not supposed to have some divinities or genii residing in them. Such were the unworthy objects to whom the benighted Britons paid religious worship and adoration of various kinds.
III. I shall now proceed to give you some account of the ends which the ancient Britons had in view, in the worship which they rendered to their gods; and these seem to have been the following:--to express their admiration of their perfections and gratitude for their favours-to obtain from them such things as they wanted and desired-to appease their anger and propitiate them--and to discover their designs and councils with regard to future events. To accomplish these ends, their acts of religious worship consisted of songs of praise and thanksgivingprayers and supplications--offerings and sacrifices--and the various rites of augury and divination.
Hymns of praise and thanksgiving to the object of religious worship are of the highest antiquity, and the most ancient compositions extant are of that kind (See Deut. xxxii. and Judg. v.). Nor was the use of such sacred hymns less universal than it was ancient, for they have always made a part of the religious worship of every nation. There is a passage in the writings of Diodorus Siculus, which is generally considered as pointing to Great Britain, in which he says,
“ Hecateus and some other ancient writers report, that there is an island about the bigness of Sicily, situated in the ocean, opposite to the northern coast of Gaul (Celtica), inhabited by a people called Hyperboreans, because they are beyond the north wind. The climate is excellent, and the soil fertile, yielding double crops. The inhabitants are
great worshippers of the sun (Apollo), to whom they sing many hymns. To this god they have consecrated a large territory, in the midst of which they have a magnificent round temple, replenished with the richest offerings. Their very city is dedicated to him, and is full of musicians and players on various instruments, who every day celebrate his benefits and perfections.”* If this be not our own country, it is difficult to say to what island it refers; and, if it be, it furnishes interesting information concerning the religious rites of our ancestors. But, independently of this, the Britons and other nations had another reason for employing songs and musical instruments in profusion, in their religious worship. This was to drown the cries of those human victims which they offered in sacrifice to their gods; of which I shall say more hereafter.
It seems to have been the practice of all nations, the Jews not excepted, whenever they presented any offerings and sacrifices to their gods, to offer supplications to them, to propitiate their regards, and supplicate such favours as they needed. Pliny acquaints us with the substance of one of the prayers usually offered by a Druid at one of their most solemn sacrifices. His words are:-“Which done, they began to offer their sacrifices, and to pray to God, that he would grant a blessing with his own gift to them that were honoured with it.”+
Offerings of various kinds constituted an important part of the religion of the ancient Britons, and of many other nations. These offerings differed both in nature and value, according to the circumstances of those who presented them, and generally consisted of the most precious things that they could procure, and which they were taught to believe would be most acceptable to their gods. This was a mode of worship which the Druids very much encouraged, and their sacred places were crowded with those pious gifts, expressive of the gratitude of the donors for favours received, and the desire of obtaining others, and not a few of these offerings were in performance of vows which had been made in time of trouble. When armies returned from a successful campaign, it was usual to offer the most precious of their spoils to some celestial-being, to whom they fancied themselves indebted for their success. These spoils
Diod. Sicul. lib. xi. cap. 29. Pliny's Nat. Hist. b. xvi. ch. 44.
were piled up in heaps in their consecrated groves, or by the side of some hallowed lake, and were esteemed so sacred that they were rarely violated.*
In all ages, and in every country, mankind have betrayed a consciousness of guilt, and consequent dread of punishment from superior beings. They have therefore had recourse to various means of expiating the guilt of which they were conscious, and thereby averting the consequences they so justly dreaded. The expedients most commonly resorted to for this end have been the sacrifice of animals, and this constituted a very essential part of the religion of the ancient Britons. The victims destined for this
purpose were carefully examined by the Druids, to see that they were the most perfect and beautiful in their several kinds, and, on their being approved, they were slaughtered with various ceremonies, by priests appointed for that purpose. On some occasions they were entirely consumed by fire upon the altar; but they were more commonly divided into three parts, one of which was consumed upon the altar, another fell to the share of the officiating priests, and on the third the person who brought the sacrifice feasted with his friends.†
Happy had it been for our British ancestors, had they confined themselves to the sacrificing of oxen, sheep, goats, and other animals; but we have undoubted evidence that they proceeded to the most horrid lengths of cruelty in their superstition, and offered human victims to their gods. It had become an article in the creed of the Druids, that nothing but the life of man could atone for the life of man ; and the result was that their altars streamed with human blood, and great numbers of unhappy mortals fell a sacrifice to this barbarous superstition. On some great occasions they formed a huge colossal figure of a man, composed of osier twigs ; and having filled it with human beings, and surrounded it with hay and other combustible materials, they set fire to the pile, and reduced it, with all the miserable creatures included in it, to ashes. I For this horrid purpose, indeed, they are said to have preferred convicted criminals; but, when there was a scarcity of such, they made no scruple to sup
Cæsar de Bel. Gal. lib. vi, cap. 16.
+ Cluver. Ger. Antiq. lib. i. cap. 35.
# Cæsar de Bel. Gal. lib, yi, cap. 16; Strabo, lib. iv.