- Oct 29, 2011DRUIDICAL BELIEF.
Immortality was adjudged to be a Druidic creed.
The Inverness Gaelic Society's Journal has this affirmation:
"They looked for an immortality more substantial than the rewards of
fame, in a heroic state in the far-off spirit land, to which the bards,
it would appear, issued the passport --There lay the realms of mystery."
Beyond that, however, was "the roofless house of lasting doom," to
which illustrious spirits eventually passed. As a Skye tale implies,
there was a happier region in the Beyond, from which there was no
return. The ghosts, that appeared, came, as they are said by
Spiritualists of our day still to come, from a sort of pleasant
Purgatory, where they enjoyed awhile a free and easy condition of
Ammianus Marcellinus recorded: "The Druids, who united in a Society,
occupied themselves with profound and sublime questions, raised
themselves above human affairs, and sustained the immortality of the
soul." On the other hand, Archbishop Whately, and many more, maintained
that there was no proof of immortality independent of revelation.
This idea of life had, however, a peculiar connection with
pre-existence and transmigration. Thus, George Eliot refers to their
finding "new bodies, animating them in a quaint and ghastly way with
antique souls." So Wordsworth--
"Our life's star
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from far."
The soul descended into the womb of nature to be re-born
in another body. Cæsar ascertained that Druids "are anxious to have
it believed that souls do not die, but after death pass from one to
another." Troyon fancied men of the Stone Age accepted reincarnation;
since they buried their dead crouching, to imitate the babe in the womb.
Lord Brougham asserted that the ancients "all believed in the soul's
pre-existence. " Theosophists hold that Druids recognized the Karmic
land. Mormons share the like faith. Morien refers to souls waiting in
the Sea of Annwn, to be called up to inhabit new bodies. Taliesin sang,
"My original country is the land of Cherubim."
What said the Irish upon immortality?
Their word Nullog, newbeily, implied regeneration. Their many
tales of transmigration, or life under varied conditions, are well
known. An old MS. has this of a ghost
"Fionn never slept a calm sleep
From that night to the day of his death."
This, says O'Kearney, "is a poetical licence, and evidently
refers to the time when the spirit of Fionn, according to the Druidic
doctrine of the transmigration of souls, should assume mortality in some
other shape and character, and revisit the earth." The same
author--noting the dialogue between St. Patrick and Oisin the Fenian,
who had been three hundred years in the Land of Youth--observes, "It is
doubtful if St. Patrick ever saw the real Oisin, but only some Druid or
old Seanchaidhe who believed himself to be Oisin revived."
Donald Ross, taking the creed of the old Scots, said, "They held a
modified form of Pythagorean metempsychosis; for the soul is represented
as emigrating into the lower animals, and even into trees, stones, and
other inanimate objects." Two versions are given of the lives of Tuan
Mac Coireall one, that he lived 100 years as a
man, 300 as a deer, 300 as a boar, 300 as a bird, and 300 as a
salmon; the other was, that he was zoo years a man, 20 a hog, 30 a stag,
100 an eagle, and 30 a fish. To this day butterflies are spoken of as
souls of some deceased persons.
Dr. A. G. Richey, Q. C., when quoting from pre-Christian MSS., is
careful to intimate that they were "not more historically credible or
useful than the Hellenic--the Tain Bo than the Iliad." He
gives the wonderful adventures of Fintan, who passed through many lives
on earth, and appeared to St. Patrick. He was for a year beneath the
waters of the Deluge, but in a fast sleep. A couple of verses of the
poem will suffice.
"I was then in Ireland,--
Pleasant was my condition
When Partholon arrived
From the Grecian country in the East.
After that the Tuatha De arrived,
Concealed in their dark clouds;
I ate my food with them,
Although at such a remote period."
Dr. H. Waddell, dealing with the Druids, points
out--"Purification by fire for body and soul, and assimilation thereby
to the purest essence of the universe, were the fundamental ideas of
their creed--the infallible means of the highest and most acceptable
apotheosis." Rhys remarks--"That they believed in a dominant faith and
transmigration is pretty certain."
"Irish transmigration, " remarks O'Beirne Crowe, "means the soul's
passing from man into other animals--man and all subordinate animals
included. This is Irish transmigration, called by the Greeks,
transformation of one body into another, while the Gaulish is
transmigration of a soul into the body of another human being." He
adds--"But is this transformation a Druidic doctrine? Most certainly
not; it is purely Pythagorean, and must have for many centuries preceded Druidism in this strange land of ours."
The revival of Reincarnation, by Madame Blavatsky, and the
Theosophists under the eloquent Mrs. Besant, shows the persistency of
the idea that so entranced the semi-civilized Irish long ago, and seemed
so satisfactory a way to account for the existence of man after death.
Transmigration being found in Ireland, has led some to assert their
conviction that Buddhist missionaries conveyed it thither. The Soc. des Antiquiaires de France
had an article, from the pen of Coquebert-Montbret, advancing this
opinion, relying upon the known ardour and extensive proselytism of
early Buddhist missionaries. He knows the Irish deity Budd or Budwas, and asks if that be not Buddha. In the Hebrides, spirits are called Boduchs,
and the same word is applied to all heads of families, as the Master.
The Druids were, says one, only an order of Eastern priests, located in
Britain, adoring Buddwas.
The St. Germain Museum has, in its Gaulish department, an altar, on
which is represented a god with the legs crossed after the manner of the
Indian Buddha. That relic is the fourth of the kind found in France.
Anderson Smith, in his Lewisiana, writes reluctantly- -"we must
accept the possibility of a Buddhist race passing north from Ireland."
This means, that Ireland is to be regarded as the source of so many
Buddhist significations which are discovered on the west of Scotland,
and in the Hebrides.
It has been generally accepted that Druidism was Celtic in origin and
practice, because Cæsar found it in Gaul and Britain. But he records
three races in Gaul itself--the Celtic, the German, and the Aquitani.
The Britons were, to him, Belgæ, or of German connection. He knew
nothing of Ireland or Wales, in which two countries he would have seen
the fellows of his Aquitani, a darker
people than either Celt or German. Prof. Rhys, one of highest living
authorities, was justified in thinking that Druidism was "probably to be
traced to the race or races which preceded the Celts in their
possession of the British Isles." The Iberians, with dark eyes and hair,
belong to these Isles, as well as in north-west and south-west Germany.
In Brittany, as in Wales, to this day, the Iberian and Celt may be seen
side by side.
A discussion has arisen in French scientific journals to the
apparently different views of Druidism in writings attributed to
Pythagoras and to Cæsar. Hermand pointed out their contradiction.
Lamariouze remarked--"One says there were in all Celtic lands neither
temples statues; the other, on the contrary, would declare he had found
the worship of Roman divinities, and consequently temples, statues,
images." Pythagoras was told by a Druid that he believed "in one
Divinity alone, who is everywhere since He is in all."
Lamariouze failed to see any decided difference in two authorities,
saving the modification occasioned by Roman domination. He saw in one of
the constituents and principles of the Gaulish religion the
proscription temples and idols, recalling the well-known fact of the
destruction of the temple of Delphi by the same people. He points out
that Cæsar spoke of a likeness to Roman idols, not the idols themselves,
especially in the relation so many of Mercury.
Of the Gaulish Druids, Lamariouze said--"Besides the purely spiritual
beliefs, they permitted a material worship for the people. They
permitted the adoration of God that which the ancients named the
Some hold that the Druids were either strangers from afar, or an
esoteric body of the learned, who permitted the vulgar to indulge their
heathenish practices, while they
themselves maintained loftier conceptions. The early Christian
missionaries seemed to have adopted a like policy in allowing their
converts considerable liberty, especially if safe-guarded by a change of
names in their images. For instance, as Fosbroke's British Monarchism says, "British churches, from policy, were founded upon the site of Druidical temples."
The three rays of the Druids, three yods, fleur-de-lis,
broad arrow, or otherwise named, may have represented light from
heaven, or the male attributes, in the descending way, and female ones
when in the reversed position. They may have been Buddhist, or even
ancient Egyptian--and may have symbolized different sentiments at
different times, or in different lands.
As Druids, like other close bodies, wrote nothing, we depend upon
outside pagans, and Christian teachers, for what we know of their
doctrines. Doubtless, as many Spanish Jews kept secretly their old faith
after the enforced adoption of Christianity, so may some Irish monks
have partly retained theirs, and even revealed it, under a guise, in
their writings, since ecclesiastical authority shows that Druidism was
not wholly extinct in the sixteenth century.
While some authorities imagined the Druids preceded the ordinary
polytheistic religion, others taught that they introduced pantheism.
Amédée Thierry, in Histoire des Gaulois, found it based on
pantheism, material, metaphysical, mysterious, sacerdotal, offering the
most striking likeness to the religions of the East. He discovered no
historic light as to how the Cymry acquired this religion, nor why it
resembled the pantheism of the East, unless through their early sojourn
on the borders of Asia.
"The empire of Druidism," says he, "did not destroy the religion of
exterior nature, which had preceded it. All learned and mysterious
religions tolerate an under-current
of gross fetishism to occupy and nourish the superstition of the multitude."
Again he writes--"But in the east and south of Gaul, where Druidism
had not been imposed at the point of the sword, although it had become
the prevailing form of worship, the ancient religion preserved more
independence, even under the ministry of the Druids, who made themselves
its priests. It continued to be cultivated, if I may use the word,
following the march of civilization and public intelligence, rose
gradually from fetishism to religious conceptions more and more
purified." Was it in this way that Druids found their way to Britain and
Cæsar, who saw nothing of the religion among these islands, was told
that here was the high seat of Druidism. His observations on religion
were not so keen as those on the art of war. Thierry regarded Druidism
as an imported faith into Gaul, and partly by means of force. Strabo
heard that Druids spoke Greek. Tacitus may say our rude ancestors
worshipped Castor and Pollux; but Agricola, who destroyed Druids in
Mona, found no images in the woods.
Baecker remarked that "the Celtic history labours under such
insuperable obscurity and incertitude, that we cannot premise anything
above a small degree of verisimilitude. " And Ireland's Mirror ventured
to write--"On no subject has fancy roamed with more licentious
indulgence than on that of the Druids and their Institutions. Though
sunk in the grossest ignorance and barbarism, their admirers have found
them, in the dark recesses of forests, secluded from mankind, and almost
from day, cultivating the abstrusest sciences, and penetrating the
sublimest mysteries of nature--and all this without the aid of letters
or of experiments. "
This is not the opinion of some modern devotees of
Druidism in these islands, who imagine, under Druidic control, the existence of a primal and exalted civilization.
O'Curry thought it probable "that the European Druidical system was
but the offspring of the Eastern augury, somewhat less complete when
transplanted to a new soil."
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