Irish Druids And Old Irish
Turning to Irish Druidism, we may
discern a meaning, when reading between the
lines in Irish MSS., but the mystery is either not understood by the narrators,
or is purposely beclouded so as to be unintelligible to the vulgar, and remove
the writers (more or less ecclesiastics) from the censure of superiors in the
Church. Elsewhere, in the chapter upon "Gods," History, as seen in
lives of Irish heroes and founders of tribes, is made the medium for
the communication, in some way, of esoteric intelligence. If the Druids of Erin
were in any degree associated with that assumed mythology, they come much nearer
the wisdom of British Druids than is generally supposed, and were not the common
jugglers and fortune-tellers of Irish authorities.
As the popular Professor O'Curry may be safely taken as one leading exponent
of Irish opinion upon Irish Druids, a quotation from his able Lectures will
indicate his view:--
"Our traditions," says he, "of the Scottish and Irish Druids
are evidently derived from a time when Christianity had long been established.
These insular Druids are represented as being little better than conjurers, and
their dignity is as much diminished as the power of the King is exaggerated. He
is hedged with a royal majesty which never existed in fact. He is a Pharaoh or
Belshazzar with a troop of wizards at command; his Druids are sorcerers and
rain-doctors, who pretend to call down the storms and the snow, and frighten the
people with the fluttering wisp, and other childish charms. They divined by the
observation of sneezing and omens, by their dreams after holding a bull-feast,
or chewing raw horseflesh in front of their idols, by the croaking of their
ravens and chirping of tame wrens, or by the ceremony of licking the hot edge of
bronze taken out of the rowan-tree faggot. They are like the Red Indian medicine
men, or the Angekoks of the Eskimo, dressed up in bull's-hide coats and
bird-caps with waving wings. The chief or Arch-Druid of Tara is shown to us as a
leaping juggler with ear clasps of gold, and a speckled cloak; he tosses swords
and balls into the air, and like the buzzing of bees on a beautiful day is the
motion of each passing the other."
This, perhaps, the ordinary and most prosaic account of the Irish Druid, is
to be gathered from the ecclesiastical annals of St. Patrick. The monkish
writers had assuredly no high opinion of the Druid of tradition; and, doubtless, no respect for the
memory of Taliesin or other members of the Craft.
Nevertheless, we should bear in mind that these same authorities took for
granted all the stories floating about concerning transformations of men and
women into beasts and birds, and all relations about gods of old.
O'Beirne Crowe has some doubt about Druid stories and primitive missionaries.
He finds in the Hymn of St. Patrick the word Druid but once mentioned;
and that it is absent alike in Brocan's Life of St. Brigit, and in
Colman's Hymn. "Though Irish Druidism," says he, "never attained
to anything like organization, still its forms and practices, so far as they
attained to order, were in the main the same as those of Gaul."
Those Christian writers admitted that the Druids had a literature. The author
of the Lecan declared that St. Patrick, at one time, burnt one hundred
and eighty books of the Druids. "Such an example," he said, "set
the converted Christians to work in all parts, until, in the end, all the
remains of the Druidic superstition were utterly destroyed." Other writers
mention the same fact as to this burning of heathen MSS. Certainly no such
documents had, even in copies, any existence in historic times, though no one
can deny the possibility of such a literature. The Welsh, however, claim the
possession of Druidic works. But the earliest of these date from Christian
times, bearing in their composition biblical references, and, by experts, are
supposed to be of any period between the seventh and twelfth centuries.
Villemarque dates the earliest Breton Bards from the sixth century; other French
writers have them later.
At the same time, it must be allowed that early Irish MSS., which all date
since Christianity came to the island, contain references of a
mystical character, which might be styled Druidical.
Most of the Irish literature, professedly treating of historical events, has
been regarded as having covert allusions to ancient superstitions, the
individuals mentioned being of a mythical character.
A considerable number of such references are associated with Druids, whatever
these were thought then to be. Miracles were abundant, as they have been in all
periods of Irish history. The Deity, the angels, the spirits of the air or
elsewhere, are ever at hand to work a marvel, though often for little apparent
occasion. As the performances of Saints are precisely similar to those
attributed to Druids, one is naturally puzzled to know where one party quits the
field and the other comes on.
A large number of these references belong to the Fenian days, when the Tuatha
Druids practised their reported unholy rites. Thus, Teige was the father of the
wife of the celebrated Fenian leader, Fionn MacCurnhaill, or Fionn B'Baoisgne,
slain at Ath-Brea, on the Boyne. But Matha MacUmoir was a Druid who confronted
St. Patrick. St. Brigid was the daughter of the Druid Dubhthach. The Druid
Caicher foretold that the race he loved would one day migrate to the West.
In Ninine's Prayer it is written--
"We put trust in Saint Patrick, chief apostle of Ireland;
As told by T. O'Flanagan, 1808, King Thaddy, father of Ossian, was a Druid.
Ierne was called the Isle of learned Druids. Plutarch relates that Claudius,
exploring, "found on an island near Britain an order of Magi, reputed holy
by the people." Tradition says that Parthalon, from Greece, brought three
Druids with him. These were Fios, Eolus, and Fochmarc; that is, observes O'Curry,
"if we seek the etymological meaning of the words, Intelligence, Knowledge, and
He fought against hard-hearted Druids."
The Nemidians reached Ireland from Scythia, but were accompanied by Druids;
who, however, were confounded by the Fomorian Druids. At first the Nemidians
were victorious, but the Fomorian leader brought forward his most powerful
spells, and forced the others into exile. Beothach, Nemid's grandson, retired
with his clan to northern Europe, or Scandinavia; where "they made
themselves perfect in all the arts of divination, Druidism, and philosophy, and
returned, after some generations, to Erinn under the name of the Tuatha de
Danaan." The last were most formidable Druids, though overcome in their
turn by the Druids of invading Milesians from Spain.
There were Druids' Hills at Uisneath, Westmeath, and Clogher of Tyrone. The Draoithe
were wise men from the East. Dubhtach Mac Ui' Lugair, Archdruid of King Mac
Niall, became a Christian convert. The Battle of Moyrath, asserted by monkish
writers to have taken place in 637, decided the fate of the Druids. And yet, the
Four Masters relate that as early as 927 B.C., there existed Mur Ollavan,
the City of the Learned, or Druidic seminary.
Bacrach, a Leinster Druid, told Conchobar, King of Ulster, something which is
thus narrated:--"There was a great convulsion. 'What is this?' said
Conchobar to his Druid. 'What great evil is it that is perpetrated this day? 'It
is true indeed,' said the Druid, 'Christ, the Son of God is crucified this day
by the Jews. It was in the same night He was born that you were born; that is,
in the 8th of the Calends of January, though the year was not the same. It was
then that Conchobar believed; and he was one of the two men that believed in God
in Erinn before the coming of the faith."
Among the names of Druids we have, in Cormac's Glossary, Serb,
daughter of Scath, a Druid of the Connaught men; Munnu, son of Taulchan the
Druid; and Druien, a Druid prophesying bird. D. O. Murrim belonged to
Creag-a-Vanny hill; Aibhne, or Oibhne, to Londonderry. We read of Trosdan, Tages,
Cadadius, Dader, Dill, Mogruth, Dubcomar, Firchisus, Ida, Ono, Fathan, Lomderg
the bloody hand, and Bacrach, or Lagicinus Barchedius, Arch-druid to King Niall.
Druidesses were not necessarily wives of Druids, but females possessed of
Druidical powers, being often young and fair.
Some names of Druidesses have been preserved; as Geal Chossach, or
of Inisoven, Donegal, where her grave is still pointed out to visitors. There
was Milucradh, Hag of the Waters, reported to be still living, who turned King
Fionn into an old man by water from Lake Sliabh Gullin. Eithne and Ban Draoi
were famous sorcerers. Tradition talks of Women's Isles of Ireland, as of
Scotland, where Druidesses, at certain festivals, lived apart from their
husbands, as did afterwards Culdee wives at church orders. On St. Michael, on
Sena Isle of Brittany, and elsewhere, such religious ladies were known. Scotch
witches in their reputed powers of transformation were successors of Druidesses.
Several ancient nunneries are conjectured to have been Druidesses' retreats,
or as being established at such hallowed sites. At Kildare, the retreat of St.
Brigid and her nuns, having charge of the sacred fire, there used to be before
her time a community of Irish Druidesses, virgins, who were called, from their
office, Ingheaw Andagha, Daughters of Fire. The well-known Tuam, with its
nine score nuns, may be an instance, since the word Cailtach means either
nun or Druidess. On this, Hackett remarks, "The
probability is that they were pagan Druidesses." Dr. O'Connor notes the
Cluan-Feart, or sacred Retreat for Druidical nuns. It was decidedly dangerous
for any one to meddle with those ladies, since they could raise storms, cause
diseases, or strike with death. But how came Pliny to say that wives of Druids
attended certain religious rites naked, but with blackened bodies?
Enchantresses, possessed of evil spirits, like as in ancient Babylon, or as in
China now, were very unpleasant company, and a source of unhappiness in a
The Rev. J. F. Shearman declared that Lochra and Luchadmoel were the heads of
the Druids' College, prophesying the coming of the Talcend (St. Patrick), that
the first was lifted up and dashed against a stone by the Saint, the other was
burnt in the ordeal of fire at Tara, that the Druid Mautes was he who upset the
Saint's chalice, and that Ida and Ona were two converted Druids.
The Synod of Drumceat, in 590, laid restrictions on Druids, but the Druids
were officially abolished after the decisive Battle of Moyrath, 637. The
bilingual inscription of Killeen, Cormac--IV VERE DRVVIDES, or "Four True
Druids," was said to refer to Dubhtach Macnlugil as one of the four, he
having been baptized by Patrick.
Dr. Richey may be right, when he says in his History of the Irish People:--"Attempts
have been made to describe the civilization of the Irish in pre-Christian
periods, by the use of the numerous heroic tales and romances which still
survive to us; but the Celtic epic is not more historically credible or useful
than the Hellenic,--the Tam Bo than the Iliad." It is
probable that the readers of the foregoing tales, or those hereafter to be
produced, may be of the same opinion Not even the prophecy of St Patrick's
advent can be exempted, though the Fiacc Hymn runs --
"For thus had their prophets foretold then the coming
Ireland had a supply of the so-called Druidical appendages and adornments.
There have been found golden torques, gorgets, armillæ and rods, of various
sorts and sizes. Some were twisted. There were thin laminae of gold with rounded
plates at the ends. Others had penannular and bulbous terminations. Twisted wire
served for lumbers or girdle-torques. A twisted one of gold, picked up at
Ballycastle, weighed 22 oz. Gorgets are seen only in Ireland and Cornwall. The
Dying Gladiator, in Rome, has a twisted torque about his neck.
Of a new time of peace would endure after Tara
Lay desert and silent, the Druids of Laery
Had told of his coming, had told of the Kingdom."
The gold mines of Wicklow doubtless furnished the precious metal, as noted in
Senchus Mor. Pliny refers to the golden torques of Druids. One, from
Tara, was 5 ft. 7 in. long, weighing 27 ozs. A Todh, found twelve feet in
a Limerick bog, was of thin chased gold, with concave hemispherical ornaments.
The Iodhan Moran, or breastplate, would contract on the neck if the
judges gave a false judgment. The crescent ornament was the Irish Cead-rai-re,
or sacred ship, answering to Taliesin's Cwrwg Gwydrin, or glass boat. An
armilla of 15 ozs. was recovered in Galway. The glass beads, cylindrical in
shape. found at Dunworley Bay, Cork, had, said Lord Londesborough, quite a
Coptic character. The Druid glass is Gleini na Droedh in Welsh, Glaine
nan Druidhe in Irish.
The Dublin Museum--Irish Academy collection--contains over three hundred gold
specimens. Many precious articles had been melted down for their gold. The
treasure trove regulations have only existed since 1861. Lunettes are common The
Druids' tiaras were semi-oval, in thin plates, highly embossed. The golden
breast-pins, Dealg Oir, are rare. Some armillæ are solid, others hollow.
Fibulæ bear cups. Torques are often spiral. Bullæ are amulets of lead
covered with thin gold. Circular gold plates are very thin and rude. Pastoral
staffs, like pagan ones, have serpents twisted round them, as seen on the Cashel
Prof. O'Curry says--"Some of our old glossarists explain the name Druid
by doctus, learned; and Fili, a poet, as a lover of
learning." But Cormac MacCullinan, in his glossary, derives the word Fili
from Fi, venom, and Li, brightness; meaning, that the poet's
satire was venomous, and his praise bright or beautiful. The Druid, in his
simple character, does not appear to have been ambulatory, but Stationary. He is
not entitled to any privileges or immunities such as the poets and Brehons or
judges enjoyed. He considers the Druids' wand was of yew, and that they made use
of ogham writing. He names Tuath Druids; as, Brian, Tuchar Tucharba, Bodhbh,
Macha and Mor Rigan; Cesarn Gnathach and Ingnathach, among Firbolgs; Uar,
Eithear and Amergin, as Milesians.
For an illustration of Irish Druidism, reference may be made to the
translation, by Hancock and O'Mahoney, Of the Senchus Mor. Some of the
ideas developed in that Christian work were supposed traditional notions of
earlier and Druidical times.
Thus, we learn that there were eight Winds: the colours of which were white
and purple, pale grey and green, yellow and red, black and grey, speckled and
dark, the dark brown and the pale. From the east blows the purple Wind; from the
south, the white; from the north, the black; from the west, the pale; the red
and the yellow are between the white wind and the purple, &c. The thickness
of the earth is measured by the space from the earth to the firmament. The seven
divisions from the firmament to the earth are Saturn, Jupiter, Mercury, Mars,
Sol, Luna, Venus, From the moon to the sun is 244 miles; but, from
the firmament to the earth, 3024 miles. As the shell is about the
egg, so is the firmament around the earth. The firmament is a mighty sheet of
crystal. The twelve constellations represent the year, as the sun runs through
one each month.
We are also in formed that "Brigh Ambui was a female author of wisdom
and prudence among the men of Erin--after her came Connla Cainbhrethach, chief
doctor of Connaught. He excelled the men of Erin in wisdom, for he was filled
with the grace of the Holy Ghost; he used to contend with the Druids, who said
that it was they that made heaven and the earth and the sea--and the sun and
moon." This Senchus Mor further stated that "when the judges
deviated from the truth of Nature, there appeared blotches upon their
It is not surprising that Dr. Richey, in his Short History of the Irish
People, should write:--"As to what Druidism was, either in speculation
or practice, we have very little information.--As far as we can conjecture,
their religion must have consisted of tribal divinities and local rites. As to
the Druids themselves, we have no distinct information." He is not
astonished that "authors (from the reaction) are now found to deny the
existence of Druids altogether." He admits that, at the reputed time of St.
Patrick, the Druids "seem to be nothing more than the local priests or
magicians attached to the several tribal chiefs,--perhaps not better than the
medicine-men of the North-American Indians."
As that period was prior to the earliest assumed for the Welsh Taliesin, one
is at a loss to account for the great difference between the two peoples, then
so closely associated in intercourse.
The opinion of the able O'Beirne Crowe is thus expressed:--"After the
introduction of our (Irish) irregular system of Druidism, which must
have been about the second century of the
Christian era, the filis (Bards) had to fall into something like the
position of the British bards.--But let us examine our older
compositions--pieces which have about them intrinsic marks of authenticity--and
we shall be astonished to see what a delicate figure the Druid makes in
them." On the supposition that Druidism had not time for development before
the arrival of the Saint, he accounts for the easy conversion of Ireland to
It is singular that Taliesin should mention the sun as being sent in a
coracle from Cardigan Bay to Arkle, or Arklow, in Ireland. This leads Morien to
note the "solar drama performed in the neighbourhood of Borth, Wales, and
Arthur Clive thought it not improbable that Ireland, and not Britain, as Cæsar
supposed, was the source of Gaulish Druidism. "Anglesey," says
he," would be the most natural site for the British Druidical College. This
suspicion once raised, the parallel case of St. Colum Kille occupying Iona with
his Irish monks and priests, when he went upon his missionary expedition to the
Picts, occurs to the mind." Assuredly, Iona was a sacred place of the
Druids, and hence the likeness of the Culdees to the older tenants of the Isle.
Clive believed the civilization of Ireland was not due to the Celt, but to
the darker race before them. In Druidism he saw little of a Celtic character,
"and that all of what was noble and good contained in the institution was
in some way derived from Southern and Euskarian sources." May not the same
be said of Wales? There, the true Welsh--those of the south and south-east--are
certainly not the light Celt, but the dark Iberian, like to the darker Bretons
and northern Spaniards.
Martin, who wrote his Western Islands in 1703, tells us
that in his day every great family of the Western Islands kept a Druid
priest, whose duty it was to foretell future events, and decide all causes,
civil and ecclesiastical. Dr. Wise says, "In the Book of Deer we
meet with Matadan, 'The Brehon,' as a witness in a particular case. The laws
found in the legal code of the Irish people were administered by these Brehons.
They were hereditary judges of the tribes, and had certain lands which were
attached to the office. The successors of this important class are the Sheriffs
The learned John Toland, born in Londonderry, 1670, who was a genuine patriot
in his day, believed in his country's Druids. In the Hebrides, also, he found
harpers by profession, and evidence of ancient Greek visitants. In Dublin he
observed the confidence in augury by ravens. He contended that when the Ancients
spoke of Britain as Druidical, they included Ireland; for Ptolemy knew Erin as Little
Britain. He recognized Druids' houses still standing, and the heathen
practices remaining in his country.
"In Ireland," said he of the Druids, "they had the privilege
of wearing six colours in their Breacans or robes, which are the striped Braceæ
of the Gauls, still worn by the Highlanders, whereas the king and queen might
have in theirs but seven, lords and ladies five," &c. He had no doubts
of their sun-worship, and of Abaris, the Druid friend of Pythagoras, being from
his own quarters. While he thought the Greeks borrowed from the northern Druids,
he admitted that both may have learned from the older Egyptians.
Rhys, as a wise and prudent man, is not willing to abandon the Druids because
of the absurd and most Positive announcements of enthusiastic advocates; since
he says, "I for one am quite prepared to believe in a Druidic residue,
after you have stripped all that is mediæval and Biblical
from the poems of Taliesin. The same with Merlin." And others will echo
that sentiment in relation to Irish Druidism, notwithstanding the wild
assumptions of some writers, and the cynical unbelief of others. After all
eliminations, there is still a substantial residue.
One may learn a lesson from the story told of Tom Moore. When first shown old
Irish MSS., he was much moved, and exclaimed, "These could not have been
written by fools. I never knew anything about them before, and I had no right to
have undertaken the History of Ireland."
An old Irish poem runs:--
"Seven years your right, under a flagstone in a quagmire,
Druid Houses, like those of St. Kilda, Borera Isle, &c., have become
in more modern days Oratories of Christian hermits. They are arched, conical,
stone structures, with a hole at the top for smoke escape. Toland calls them
"little arch'd, round, stone buildings, capable only of holding one
person." They were known as Tighthe nan Druidhneach. There is
generally in many no cement. The so-called Oratory of St. Kevin, 23 ft. by 10
and 16 high, has its door to the west. The writer was supported by the Guide at
Glendalough, in the opinion of the great antiquity of St. Kevin's Kitchen.
The house at Dundalk is still a place of pilgrimage.
Without food, without taste, but the thirst you ever torturing,
The law of the judges your lesson, and prayer your language;
And if you like to
You will be, for a
time, a Druid, perhaps."
The one at Gallerus, Kerry, has a semi-circular window. Of these oratories,
so called, Wise observes, "They were not Christian, but were erected in
connection with this early, let us call it, Celtic religion. If they had been
Christian, they would have had an altar and other Christian emblems, of which,
however, they show no trace. If they had been Christian, they would have
stood east and west, and have had openings in
those directions.--The walls always converged as they rose in height."
Irish Druids lived before the advent of Socialism. They appear to have had
the adjudication of the law, but, as ecclesiastics, they delivered the offenders
to the secular arm for punishment. Their holy hands were not to be defiled with
blood. The law, known as the Brehon Law, then administered, was not
socialistic. Irish law was by no means democratic, and was, for that reason,
ever preferred to English law by the Norman and English chieftains going to
Ireland. The old contests between the Irish and the Crown lay between those
gentlemen-rulers and their nominal sovereign. So, in ancient times, the Druids
supported that Law which favoured the rich at the expense of the poor. They were
They were, however, what we should call Spiritualists, though that
term may now embrace people of varied types. They could do no less wonderful
things than those claimed to have been done by Mahatmas or modern Mediums. They
could see ghosts, if not raise them. They could listen to them, and talk with
them; though unable to take photos of spirits, or utilize them for commercial
It would be interesting to know if these seers of Ireland regarded the ghosts
with an imaginative or a scientific eye. Could they have investigated the
phenomena, with a view to gain a solution of the mysteries around them? It is as
easy to call a Druid a deceiver, as a politician a traitor, a scientist a
charlatan, a saint a hypocrite.
As the early days of Irish Christianity were by no means either cultured or
philosophical, and almost all our knowledge of Druids comes from men who
accepted what would now only excite our derision or pity, particularly indulging the
miraculous, we are not likely to know to what class of modern Spiritualists we
can assign the Druids of Erin.
Our sources of knowledge concerning the Druids are from tradition and
records. The first is dim, unreliable, and capable of varied interpretation. Of
the last, Froude rightly remarks--"Confused and marvellous stories come
down to us from the early periods of what is called History, but we look for the
explanation of them in the mind or imagination of ignorant persons.--The early
records of all nations are full of portents and marvels; but we no longer
believe those portents to have taken place in actual fact.--Legends grew as
nursery tales grow now."
There is yet another source of information--the preservation of ancient
symbols, by the Church and by Freemasons. The scholar is well assured that both
these parties, thus retaining the insignia of the past, are utterly ignorant of
the original meaning, or attach a significance of their own invention.
Judging from Irish literature--most of which may date from the twelfth
century, though assuming to be the eighth, or even fifth--the Druids were, like
the Tuatha, nothing better than spiritualistic conjurers, dealers with bad
spirits, and always opposing the Gospel. We need be careful of such reports,
originating, as they did, in the most superstitious era of Europe, and
reflecting the ideas of the period. It was easy to credit Druids and Tuaths with
miraculous powers, when the Lives of Irish Saints abounded with narratives of
the most childish wonders, and the most needless and senseless display of the
miraculous. The destruction of Druids through the invocation of Heaven by the
Saints, though nominally in judgment for a league with evil spirits, was
not on a much higher plane than the powers for
mischief exercised by the magicians.
Such tales fittingly represented a period, when demoniacal possession
accounted for diseases or vagaries of human action, and when faith in our
Heavenly Father was weighed down by the cruel oppression of witchcraft.
Still, in the many credulous and inventive stories of the Middle Ages, may
there not be read, between the lines, something which throws light upon the
Druids? Traditional lore was in that way perpetuated. Popular notions were
expressed in the haze of words. Lingering superstitions were preserved under the
shield of another faith.
Then, again, admitting the common practice of rival controversialists
destroying each other's manuscripts, would not some be copied, with such glosses
as would show the absurdities of the former creeds, or as warnings to converts
against the revival of error?
Moreover,--as the philosophers, in early Christian days of the East, managed
to import into the plain and simple teaching of Jesus a mass of their own
symbolism, and the esoteric learning of heathenism,--was it unlikely that a body
of Druids, having secrets of their own, should, upon their real or assumed
reception of Christianity, import some of their own opinions and practices,
adapted to the promulgation of the newer faith? No one can doubt that the
Druids, to retain their influence in the tribe, would be among the first and
most influential of converts; and history confirms that fact. As the more
intelligent, and reverenced from habit, with skill in divination and heraldic
lore, they would command the respect of chiefs, while their training as orators
or reciters would be easily utilized by the stranger priests in the service of
But if, as is likely, the transition from Druidism to Christianity was
gradual, possibly through the medium of Culdeeism, the intrusion of pagan
ideas in the early religious literature can
be more readily comprehended. As so much of old paganism was mixed up in the
Patristic works of Oriental Christendom, it cannot surprise one that a similar
exhibition of the ancient heathenism should be observed in the West. O'Brien, in
Round Towers, writes--"The Church Festivals themselves in our
Christian Calendar are but the direct transfers from the Tuath de Danaan Ritual.
Their very names in Irish are identically the same as those by which they were
distinguished by that earlier race." Gomme said, "Druidism must be
identified as a non-Aryan cult."
Elsewhere reference is made to the Culdees. They were certainly more
pronounced in Ireland, and the part of Scotland contiguous to Ireland, than in
either England or Wales.
Ireland differs from its neighbours in the number of allusions to Druids in
national stories. Tradition is much stronger in Ireland than in Wales, and often
relates to Druids. On the other hand, it differs from that of its neighbours in
the absence of allusions to King Arthur, the hero of England, Scotland, Wales,
and Brittany. Rome, too, was strongly represented in Britain, north and south,
but not in Ireland.
It is not a little remarkable that Irish Druids should seem ignorant alike of
Round Towers and Stone Circles, while so much should have been written and
believed concerning Druidism as associated with circles and cromlechs, in
Britain and Brittany. Modern Druidism, whether of Christian or heathen colour,
claims connection with Stonehenge, Abury, and the stones of Brittany. Why should
not the same claim be made for Irish Druids, earlier and better known than those
As megalithic remains, in the shape of graves and circles,
are found all over Europe, Asia, and northern Africa, why were Druids without
association with these, from Japan to Gibraltar, and confined to the monuments
of Britain? Why, also, in Ossian, are the Stones of Power referred to the
In the Irish Epic, The carrying off of the Bull of Cuâlnge, the Druid
Cathbad is given a certain honourable precedence before the sovereign. That the
Druids exercised the healing art is certain. Jubainville refers to a MS. in the
Library of St. Gall, dating from the end of the fourteenth century, which has on
the back of it some incantations written by Irish seers of the eighth or ninth
century. In one of them are these words--"I admire the remedy which Dian-Cecht
Though a mysterious halo hangs about the Irish Druids, though they may have
been long after the Serpent-worshippers, and even later than the Round Tower
builders, tradition confidently asserts their existence in the Island, but,
doubtless, credits them with powers beyond those ever exercised. The love for a
romantic Past is not, however, confined to Ireland, and a lively, imagination
will often close the ear to reason in a cultured and philosophical age.