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all the people of the country, out of a religious persuasion instilled into them by the Druids, extinguished their fires entirely. Then every master of a family was religiously obliged to take a portion of the consecrated fire home, and to kindle the fire anew in his house, which, for the ensuing year, was to be lucky and prosperous. He was to pay, however, for his future happiness, whether the event proved answerable or not: and though his house should be afterwards burnt, yet he must deem it the punishment of some new sin, or ascribe it to any thing, rather than to a want of virtue in the consecration of the fire, or of validity in the benediction of the Druid; who, from officiating at the Carns, was likewise called Cairneach, a name that long continued to signify a Priest. But if any man had not cleared with the Druids for the last year's dues, he was neither to have a spark of this holy fire from the Carns, nor durst any of his neighbours let him take the benefit of their fire, under pain of excommunication; which, as managed by the Druids, was worse than death. If he would brew, therefore, or bake, or roast or boil, or warm himself and family; in a word, if he would live during the winter season, the dues of the Druids must be paid by the last day of October. Wherefore, we cannot but admire the address of the Druids, in fixing this ceremony of rekindling family fires to the beginning of November, rather than to May or midsummer, when there was an equal opportunity for it. As to this fire-worship, the Celtic nations kindled other fires on midsummer eve, and offered sacrifices, which were to obtain a blessing on the fruits of the earth, now becoming ready for gathering; as those of the first of May, that they might prosperously grow: and those of the last of October, were a thanksgiving for finishing their harvest. But, in all of them, regard was also had to the several degrees of increase and decrease in the heat of the sun. The festival of New-year's day, or the tenth of March, their fourth grand festival, was none of the least solemn : it was the day of seeking, cutting, and consecrating their wonderworking All-heal, or Misseltoe of oak.
With regard to the Carn-fires, it was customary for the lord of the place, or his son, or some other person of distinction, to take the entrails of the sacrificed animal in his hands, and walking barefoot over the coals thrice, after the flames had ceased, to carry them straight to the Druid, who waited in a whole skin at the altar. If the nobleman escaped harmless, it was reckoned a good omen, and welcomed with loud acclamations : but if he received any hurt, it was deemed unlucky both to the community and to himself. The Sabines, who inhabited Italy before the arrival of the Greek colonies there, followed most of the Druidical rites; hence the speech of the consul Flaminius to Equanus the Sabine, at the battle of Thræsimenus, thus related by Silius :
" Then seeing EQUANUS, near Soracte born,
person, as in arms, the comeliest youth;
Lib. v. ver. 175.
a The mountain Soracte is in the Sabine country, in the district of the Faliscans, about twenty miles to the north of Rome, and on the west side of the Tiber. On the top of it were the grove and temple of APOLLO, and also his Carn, to which Silius here alludes.
Nor was it for nothing that they performed this hazardous ceremony, since for this they were exempted from serving in the wars, as well as from the expense and trouble of several offices. They were called Hirpins. Virgil, long before the time of Silius, introduces Aruns, one of that family, forming a design to kill Camilla, and thus praying for success to APOLLO.-
“ O patron of Soracte's high abodes,
LEARNING.—It is strongly asserted, that the first settlers in Britain brought with them from Asia the scientific attainments as well as theological tenets, by which they, as a people or tribe, were distinguished; one of which was the alphabet, which Cadmus their countryman had invented; and this accounts for the knowledge and use of Greek letters, as mentioned by Julius Cæsar. Hence it
may be stated, that as the earliest inhabitants participated in the literature of Asia; so the civilization of Britain, however it might have degenerated in succeeding ages, was coeval with the arrival of the first colony.
The Druids ranked high in literature and science. Diogenes Laertius assures us, (in his Prologue,) that they were the same, among the ancient Britons, with the Sophi, or Philosophers, among the Greeks; the Magi, among the Persians ; the Gymnosophists and Brachmans,
& En. Lib. ii. ver. 785.
among the Indians; and the Chaldeans, among the Assyrians. The Druids studiously concealed their religious and philosophical principles and opinions from all but the members of their own society : they did not allow these to be committed to writing. In their seminaries, the professors delivered all their lectures to their pupils in verse ; and a Druidical course of education, comprehending the whole circle of the sciences that were then taught, is said to have consisted of about 20,000 verses, and to have lasted, in some cases, 20
The scholars were obliged to commit all these verses to memory; and, when admitted into the seminaries, to take an oath of secrecy, in which they solemnly swore, that they would never reveal the mysteries they should learn there. The encyclopedia of the Druids, is supposed to contain natural philosophy, astronomy, astrology, arithmetic, geometry, geography, mechanics, medicine, anatomy, botany, pharmacy, and rhetoric. These Druidical academies were very much crowded with students; as many of the youth of the first families of Gaul came over to finish their education in this island, One of these academies was in the isle of Anglesea, the ancient Mona. Here is one place, which is still called Myfyrion, that is, the place of meditation or study ; another is called Caer-Edris, the City of Astronomers; and another Cerrig-Brudyn, the Astronomers' Circle, There is the village of Tre'r Driu, the Town of the Druid ; next to which is, Tre'r Beirdh, or Bards-town: as also, in another place, Maen-y-Druu, or the Druid's stone. In Merionethshire, there is Caer-Dreuin, or the City of the Druids. The pupils constantly resided with their teachers, and were strictly forbidden to converse with any persons not belonging to their society, till they were regularly dismissed.
The authority of the Druids was very considerable. They took cognizance of all causes which came within their ecclesiastical jurisdiction, and so definitive was their judgment, that from their final determination there could be no appeal. In case any person pertinaciously refused to submit to their authority, he did thereby render himself liable to excommunication and outlawry; and from hence he was ranked among debased culprits, and shunned by the whole community, as a person infected with a contagious disease. And such was the extent of the disabilities to which he was reduced, that he could not bring an action, commence a suit in any case, or discharge the duties of any official situation in the commonwealth.
The professional engagements of the Druids being so numerous, and the official duties devolving on them so sacred and weighty, they were, as Cæsar informs us, exempted from all military enterprise and danger, as well as from the payment of taxes; and, also, that they enjoyed many important immunities. Notwithstanding the exemption from military prowess, they sometimes used their great interest with the people to prevent the effusion of human blood. Strabo says, that they could stop armies when on the very point of engaging, and accommodate their differences, so as to effect a hearty reconciliation. Diodorus Siculus expresses himself to the same purpose, saying, that the people paid a great regard to their exhortations, not only in the affairs of peace, but even in war; and that being respected both by friends and foes, they would sometimes step in between two hostile armies, while standing with swords drawn and spears extended, ready to engage; and by their eloquence, as by an irresistible enchantment, would prevent the effusion of blood, and prevail on them to sheath their swords and be reconciled.