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to believe that they also regarded the oak as a sacred tree. The learned Skelton tells us, in his comments on the eighth and ninth chapters of Ezekiel that, “In the hearing of the prophet the Lord, or Christ, commanded the man in linen to go through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark, namely the letter Thau, which answers to T in our alphabet, upon the foreheads of all that sighed and bewailed the abomination done in that city; and then commanded the other five to follow him and all the rest, but not to come near those that were marked. Thus stands the passage in Hebrew. But why the particular letter or mark is not set down in our translation, we do not know, unless because the Jews and Samaritans have changed the shape of the letter, which we know they did since the days of Ezekiel. Certain it is, however, that St. Jerome, at once the most learned and judicious of all the Eastern Fathers, has observed that the letter, in the true ancient Hebrew alphabet, was a cross +. It is to us equally certain that the mark which the servants of God were ordered to receive in their foreheads (Rev. vii.) was a t, so early given to every Christian at admittance into the Church, pursuant to our Saviour's command. How it came to pass that the Egyptians, Arabians, and Indians, before Christ came among us, and the inhabitants of the extreme northern part of the world, ere they had so much as heard of him, paid a remarkable veneration to the sign of the cross, is to me unknown; but the fact itself is known. In some places this was given to men accused of crime, but acquitted ; and in Egypt it stood for the signification of eternal life.'
Now, as to the veneration of the ancient Hebrews, as well as the Druids, for the oak, nothing is more clearly proved from Scripture. Thus, we read that Jacob hides the teraphim, the idols of his wife, " under the oak by Shechem,” his object being, no doubt, to remove her sin by depositing them in a sacred place. We read that Saul and his sons were interred " under the oak in Jabesh,” and that Deborah, Rebecca's foster-mother, was buried with pious care “beneath the stones of Bethel, under an oak," and the name of it was called " The Oak of Weeping." In Joshua we read that the inspired successor of Moses" took a great stone and set it up there, under an oak, which was by the sanctuary of the Lord.”+ We learn from Genesist that Abraham planted a grove
* Appeal to Common Sense, p. 45. + C. xxiv. v. 26.
at Beersheba, where he invoked the Everlasting God, in the name of Jehovah. We are subsequently informed* that Isaac invoked the name of Jehovah in this grove. If it be true that in time the Druidical worship degenerated into idolatry, it is equally true of the Hebrew worship ; for we find Ezekiel, Hosea, and Isaiah warmly expostulating with their apostate countrymen for "worshipping idols under every thick oak.” But the worst charge against the Druids is that they indulged in human sacrifices. The testimony of Cæsar on this point is unequivocal. He tells us that " those who are troubled with unusually severe diseases, and those who are engaged in battles and dangers, either sacrifice men as victims, or vow that they will sacrifice them, and employ the Druids as the performers of those sacrifices ; because they think that unless the life of a man be offered for the life of a man, the mind of the immortal gods cannot be rendered propitious, and they have sacrifices of that kind ordained for national purposes Others have figures of vast size, the limbs of which, formed of oziers, they fill with living men, which being set on fire, the men perish enveloped in flames. They consider that the oblation of such as have been taken in theft, or in robbery, or any other offence, is more acceptable to the immortal gods ; but when a supply of that class is wanting they have recourse to the oblation of even the innocent."
There is good reason to believe that Cæsar, or any of the Roman writers who have made the same charge, have not done justice to the Druids in this respect. Eminent investigators, belonging to different nations, utterly deny the accusation, and maintain that it was first made in order to palliate, if it could not justify, the atrocious cruelties practised on the Druids by the Romans on account of their persistent and formidable resistance to the invaders of their country.t
All the authentic information we have relative to the Druids is utterly inconsistent with the savage cruelty thus attributed to them by their enemies. Most writers who have devoted any attention to their history give them credit for an excellent system of morality. Diogenes Laertes in
* Genesis, xxvi., 25.
"Under the specious pretext,” says Gibbon, "of abolishing human sacrifices
the emperors Tiberius and Claudius suppressed the dangerous power of the Druids."-Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. 1, p. 38. See also Seuton. in Claud., and Pliny Hist. Nat. XXX.
forms us that their leading maxims were, To honor the gods, To do evil to no one, and to exhibit courage in danger. * Those who believe in the metempsychosis and the immortality of the soul, as all agree the Druids didnt are not likely to sacrifice the lower animals, not to mention their fellow-creatures. It is well known that the Hindoos, who entertain the same faith, are opposed to the killing of any animal whatever when it can be avoided. There is good reason to believe that the dogma of the transmigration of souls had its origin in an effort to prevent needless cruelty, even to the humbiest of the lower animals. Many think this was the chief object of Pythagoras. At all events, the best modern authorities acquit the Druids of the odious charge. The learned Dr. Smith is of opinion that they never sacrificed any animals. He says that in the Gaelic language, custons, or traditions, which he has fully investigated, there is not a hint allusive to the sacrifice of any living being. “This silence,” he remarks,“ with regard to these is the more remarkable, as not only the distant allusions, but even the practice of some of their other sacrifices, have still some existence in several parts of North Britain. These consist of a libation of flour with eggs, and some few herbs and simples."! To this he adds the remark that the Gaelic name for sacrifice confirms his opinion. Tob oirt, from iob or uile, a raw cake or lump of dough, and thoirt, to offer, the th quiescent; but when they did offer a living sacrifice, if ever they did, it consisted of some noxious animal, as the wild boar.
Indeed, this is the opinion of all modern investigators, save those who have an antipathy to all orders of priesthood. Mr. Higgins, for example, pronounces the Druids guilty, but he would have no priests innocent, as may be seen from the following remark : “ If it be thought right to retain a priesthood in a government like ours (the British), where the good of the governed is the first object, it can never be kept within its just bounds with too much severity, nor its petty but increasing exertions to aggrandise the order be too vigorously repressed. For my own part, I am inclined to the
opinion of the Society of Friends, that orders of priesthood have been
• See Ecclesiastical Antiquities of the Cymri, by Rev. J. Williams, p. 40.
† Even Cæsar bears unequivocal testimony to their belief in that dog ma : “In primis,” he says, “hoc volunt persuadere, non interire animas, sed ab aliis post mortem transire ad alios putant."'-De B. G. L. vi.
Smith's History of the Druids, ch. ii , p. 36.
more prejudicial than useful to the religion of Jesus, &c."* One who speaks of the Christian ministers of all sects in these terms can hardly be expected to acquit the Druids, since. they also were priests. The testimony of one entertaining such an opinion would not be received in a court of justice against priests ; even a juryman must be without prejudice in order to agree to a fair verdict; if he admits that he is prejudiced, the accused has a right to reject him.
As we, however, have no object in the discussion but to establish the truth-as we want to conceal nothing that has been alleged on any plausible grounds against the Druids—we will give the views of those who have taken the most pains to convict them, only premising that they, too, are opposed to all priests. This is true, for example, of Dr. Borlase, whose views of them are not unlike those of Lucretius, though they are not expressed so openly. The following account of the Druidical sacrifices should, therefore, be received with a
certain degree of allowance for that fact: “ Their victims were of several kinds. Sometimes beasts; as at the gathering of the mistletoe, two white bulls ;* but especially beasts taken from their enemies in war
r; however, their more solemn sacrifices consisted of human victims, and it cannot be dissembled that the Druids were extremely lavish of human blood. Not only criminals, captives, and strangers were slain at their sacrifices, but their very disciples were put to death without mercy if they were wilfully tardy in coming to their assemblies. No people, however, could, I think, have wrought themselves up to such a total contempt of human life and the body of man, who had not, at the same time, the most elevated notions of the soul, and the most certain persuasion of futurity; but this, instead of being their excuse, will only show us how the greatest truths may be made the occasion of the most horrid sins, where proper notions of the Deity do not obtain, and where truth, and reason, and philosophy are permitted to be built upon by the father of error. The Druids held several opinions which contributed to confirm them in this dreadful custom. For the redemption of the life of man, they held that nothing but the life of man could be accepted by the gods; and the consequence of this was that those who implored safety from the dangers of war, or the most desperate distempers, either immediately sacrificed some
* The Celtic Druids, p. 292.
Pliny xiv. 144.
human creature, or made a vow to do so soon after. Their human sacrifices generally consisted of such criminals as were convicted of theft, or any capital crime; and some of these have been sacrificed after an imprisonment of five years ; but when such malefactors were not at hand, the innocent supplied their place. They held that man was the most* precious, and therefore the most grateful victim which they could offer to their gods; and the more dear and beloved was the person, the more acceptable they thought the offering of him would be accounted. Hence, not only beautiful captives and strangerst, but princes, and the first-born of their own children, were, upon great and interesting occasions, offered upon their altars. Nature, it seems, was silent, and did not say, with the prophet Micah,I “ Shall I give my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul ?”? In order to satisfy the scrupulous of the innocence of such barbarous sacrifices, and to reconcile the devoted victim to his fate, the Druids held that the suuls of those who served as victims to their gods in this life were deified, or at least translated into heaven to be happy there; and the remains of those who died in sacrifice were accounted most holy, and honored before any other dead bodies. Variety of deaths they had for those miserable victims, as if they had been afraid that they should fall into a loathing and dislike of such sacrifices if they confined themselves to one particular manner of despatching them. Some they shot to death with arrows; others they crucified in their temples ; some were impaled in honor to their gods, and then, with many others, who had suffered in a different manner, were offered up as a burnt sacrifice. Others were bled to death, and their blood, being received in basins, served to sprinkle their altars. Some were stabbed to the heart, that by the direction in which (after the fatal stroke) the body fell, either to the right or left, forward or backward, by the convulsion of the limbs, and by the flow of blood, the Druids (such erudition there is in butchery !) might foretell what was to come. “One Druid sacrifice was still more monstrous. They made a huge image of straw; the limbs of it were joined together, and shaped by wicker-work : this sheath, or case, they filled with human victims; and Strabo adds, ' with wood for fuel and several kinds of wild beasts, imagining, perhaps,
* Diod. Sic.
Ch. vi., v. 7.