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wise two temples, where the natives believe, by means of traditional information, that the sun and moon were worshipped: there is a trench or ditch round each of these temples, like that about Stonehenge.
These temples were surrounded by plantations, chiefly of oak, and these groves were watered by some consecrated fountain or river, and surrounded by a ditch or mound, to prevent the intrusion of improper persons. Lucan has described one of these groves in the following
“ Not far away, for ages past had stood
It is thought that the ancient Britons had no images of their gods, at least none in the shape of men, or animals, in their sacred groves; yet, they had certain visible symbols or emblems of them. Though Major Wilford says, 66 Whether the Druids of Britain had idols or not, is no where said ; but those on the continent certainly had, as well as those of Ireland. From a passage in Gildas, it seems that they had, and that even some remained in his time. The description he gives us of them, shows they did not belong to the Romans, as they looked grim and stiff, like the mæstra simulachra Deoreum of the Germans done without art. There is no reason why we should believe them free from the errors
* Phars. lib. iii. v. 339. Rowe's Lucan, b. iii. l. 594.
of the other Druids on the Continent.” Maximus Tyrius says, “ All the Celtic nations worshipped Jupiter, whose emblem or representation among them was the lofty oak.” The oaks which they used for this purpose were truncated, that they might be the better emblems of unshaken firmness and stability. Such were those in the Druidical grove, described by Lucan :
Near to the temple, they erected their carnedde, or sacred mounts; their cromlechs, or stone tables, on which they prepared sacrifices, and other things necessary for their worship. Of these temples, sacred mounts, and cromlechs, there are still many vestiges in the British isles, and other parts of Europe.
Carns.—On the tops of mountains and other eminences in Ireland, in Wales, in Scotland, in the Scottish islands, and in the Isle of Man, where things have been least disordered or displaced by the frequency of inhabitants, or want of better ground for cultivation, there are great heaps of stones, consisting of all sorts, from one pound to a hundred. They are round in form, and somewhat tapering or diminishing upwards: but on the summit was always a flat stone. These heaps are of all sizes, some of them containing at least a hundred cartload of
Such a heap is, in the ancient Celtic language, and in every dialect of it, called Carn; and every Carn so disposed as to be in sight of some other. On the Carn called Crig-y-dyrn, in the parish of Trèlech, in Carmarthenshire, the flat stone on the top is three yards in length, five feet over, and from ten to twelve inches thick. The circumference of this Carn at the bottom is about sixty yards, and it is about sixty yards high; the ascent being very easy, though we may suppose there was originally a ladder for this purpose. This carn may serve for an example of the rest. Devotional rounds were performed by the Druids about the carns; and any circle, or turning about, is in Armoric called cern, (the c being pronounced as k,) as cerna in that dialect is to make such a turn.
a Asiatic Researches, vol. xi. p. 129.
Toland, in his History of the Druids, gives a eircumstantial account of their festivals. He says, on May-eve the Druids made prodigious fires on those carns, which, being every one in sight of some other, could not but afford a glorious show over a whole nation. These fires were in honour of Beal, or Bealan, latinized by the Roman authors into Belenus, by which name the Gauls and their colonies understood the sun; and therefore, to this hour, the first day of May is by the aboriginal Irish called La Bealteine, the day of Belen's fire. May-day is likewise called La Bealteine by the Highlanders of Scotland, who are no contemptible part of the Celtic offspring. So it is in the Isle of Man: and in Armoric a priest is called Belec, or the servant of Bel, and priesthood Belegieth. Two such fires as we have mentioned, were kindled by one another on May-eve in every village of the nation, as well as throughout Gaul, as in Britain, Ireland, and the adjoining lesser islands: between which fires, the men and the beasts to be sacrificed, were to pass. One of the fires was on the carn, another on the ground. On the eve of the first of November, there were also such fires kindled, accompanied, as they constantly were, with sacrifices and feasting. On the foresaid eve,
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,
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.