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Hushang, the third of the Pishdadian race," a reformation," he says, “ was made in the religious system,
” when the complex polytheism of the preceding times was rejected, and religion was reduced to what is usually called Sabianism, which consisted chiefly in the worship of the sun, moon, and stars. The laws of Mahabad were, however, retained, and his superstitious veneration for fire. On this, the favourers of the old religion retired to Hindostan, and their old existing laws forbade them ever to return, or to leave the country they now inhabit.” a
Dr. Priestley remarks, that “ all the deviations from the original Hindoo system retained the same general principles. The advocates of them all held the doctrine of the pre-existence of souls, their subsisting and acting independently of bodies, and their transmigration into other bodies after death. They had the same low opinion of matter, and the same veneration for the elements of fire and water, as purifiers of the soul. They had similar restrictions with respect to food, the same addictedness to divination, and the same use of corporeal austerities for the expiation of sin." }
Brucker, in his Historia Critica Philosophiæ, to use the abridgement of this celebrated work by Dr. Enfield, says, that the fables or allegories of the Celtic priests, were similar to those of the Asiatics, and were delivered in verse after their manner ;-a circumstance which confirms the conjecture, that these nations arose from colonies which came from the northern regions of Asia ; and which brought with them the tenets which, in the remotest periods, had prevailed among the Persians, Scythians, and other Asiatic nations.
a Dissertations, &c. vol. i. p. 198_200.
b Comparison of the Institutions of Moses with those of the Hindoos and other ancient nations, p. 14.
Southey, in his Book of the Church, with reference to the religious institution of the ancient Britons, says, “ There is reason to believe, that they brought with them some glimmerings of patriarchal faith, and some traditional knowledge of patriarchal history.” To settle this point in a few words, the Rev. Jonathan Williams, in his Arnopædia, is probably, on the whole, correct in the statement he gives of their religion, when they migrated to this country, namely—“ Founded partly on patriarchal tradition, and partly by intermixture of Sabian or Magian philosophy, it consisted in the acknowledgment of one infinite, eternal, omnipotent, and selfexistent Being, whom their priests denominated Duw or Ddrw, that is, existing,—the supreme, self-existing Cause
} of all things: and from this name of God, the Greeks
q borrowed their Dios and Theos, and from them the Romans their Deus.”
To the above, we shall add the account given by Davies, in his Mythology and Rites of the Druids. After a full investigation of the subject, he says, “ Druidism was a system of superstition, composed of heterogeneous principles; it acknowledges certain divinities, under a great variety of names and attributes ; these divinities were originally nothing more than deified mortals and material objects, mostly connected with the history of the deluge ; but, in the progress of error, they were regarded as symbolized by the sun, the moon, and
, certain stars; which, in consequence of this confusion, were venerated with divine honours. And this superstition apparently arose from the gradual or accidental corruption of the patriarchal religion, by the abuse of certain commemorative honours which were paid to the ancestors of the human race, and by the admixture of
Sabian idolatry." From these highly respectable authorities, we learn the nature of what was the primitive religion of Britain.
M. Pezron states, that the priests, among the ancient Britons, were the true successors of the Curetes, and preservers of their discipline, After intimating that he had traced the footsteps of one tribe of Gomerians, under the name of Sacæ, from the countries of Bactriana, as far as Armenia, and from hence into those parts of Cappadocia, bordering on the Euxine Sea, where this famous nation changed its name for that of Titans ; proceeds to mention particularly the Curetes, who were the sages and philosophers of that nation, and some of them of royal descent. The Curetes were the priests and sacrificers; who had the care of religious matters, and what belonged to the gods. They were considered as holding converse with the gods, by way of divination, soothsaying, and the art of magic, and hence called magicians, diviners, and enchanters. They were believed to have the knowledge of the stars, of the laws of nature,
were denominated astronomers. They were acknowledged to be physicians, and to cure the sick by the use and virtue of herbs, and especially by enchantments. They were poets, and preserved the memory of their deified ancestors, their birth, succession, wars, and great actions, by verses and poems, composed by the ancients, and which they could repeat exactly from memory. They retired into the thickest woods, and most rugged mountains, and dwelt in caves and other recesses. They had the care of the education of youth, even of the children of kings and princes, in the same way as the Magi among the Parthians and Persians. In a word, their authority was so great, and so much
regarded, that frequently it exceeded that of their sovereign.
The priests, who taught the principles and performed the offices of religion among the ancient Britons, were called Druids, probably from the Greek word deus, an oak; or, from the Celtic or old British word dru or derw, oak, for which the Druids had a most superstitious veneration. Major Wilford, speaking of the Druids, says,
- The little we know of their doctrine is perfectly conformable to that of the Hindus; except their worshipping under the oak, which they called emphatically Dru, or the Tree. Dru, in Sanscrit, is a tree in general : it was so in Greek formerly; and it signifies a forest in Russian. It was afterwards restricted to the oak among the Greeks, and the Celtic tribes. There are no oaks in India, except in the mountains to the north: but the Hindus have other trees equally sacred, and the Goths had a peculiar regard for the ash-tree.” b
Mr. Davies intimates, that the name Druid seems to have extended only where that order was acknowledged. Cæsar states, that the Druidical institution, considered as to its peculiarity, originated in Britain, and passed from thence into Gaul; and so perfect was it deemed, that whosoever aspired to be complete adepts in this magical science, were wont to resort to Britain ; a fact which the Gallic Druids always had the honesty to admit. Speaking of the Druids, Toland says, they
were so prevalent in Ireland, that to this hour their ordinary word for magician is Druid ;c the magic art is called Druidity ;d and the wand, which was one of the badges of their profession, the rod of Druidism.e
a Pezron's Antiq. of Nations, chap. 13. b. Asiatic Researches, vol. xi. p. 129. Drui. d Druidheacht. e Statnan Druidheacht.
The Druids were generally of the first families, often relatives or sons of kings or princes. But they were not all of equal rank or dignity as to their office; one being chief or archdruid, in every country where the order prevailed, who acted as high-priest, and whose authority was absolute over the rest. Strabo distinguishes the whole order into three classes—Bards, Vates, (or Ovates,) and Druids. The Bards were the heroic, historical, and genealogical poets; who composed hymns in honour of the gods, which they sung to the music of their harps as well as other instruments, and at the sacred solemnities. The Vates were the sacred musicians, the religious poets, and the pretended prophets of all the Celtic nations. The Druids were the most numerous, and performed all the offices of religion peculiar to the priesthood.
Toland observes, that every Druid carried in his hand, as one of the badges of his profession, a wand or staff, had what was called the Druid's egg hung about his neck, enchased in gold. They all wore short hair, while the rest of the natives had theirs very long; and, on the contrary, they had long beards, while other people shaved all theirs but the upper lip. They likewise all wore long habits, as did the Bards and Vates;
a The Rev. Jonathan Williams remarks, that Bardism was not a British, but an Oriental institution, and imported into this island by its first colonizers. The name, therefore, is not resolvable into the British, but into an Oriental language, which existed at the first formation of the order, and of which the Hebrew is the basis. Now the Hebrew verb
“ Bahar,” signifies to light or kindle a fire. If this etymology be admitted, and there appears no just reason to doubt it, we derive from it a discovery of no small importance, and which was never so much as guessed at before. For we hereby ascertain the nature of the Bard's office, which, like that of the Jewish priest, was to kindle, if not to perpetuate, the hallowed fire, which blazed in the area of “ Cor-Gawr,” and in all the consecrated places of the Druids.