« VorigeDoorgaan »
that by a variety of expiring groans and howlings they might terrify their gods into a compliance with their solicitations ; to this image they set fire, consuming that and the enclosed at one holocaust. In what shape this image of straw was made Cæsar does not say, but probably it was in that of a bull; for they used to sacrifice bulls,* and carried to war with them the image of a bull; and the bull is one of the largest and most capacious of the brute kind, and therefore the fittest for such a dreadful office. Whilst they were performing these horrid rites, the drums and trumpets sounded without intermission, that the cries of the miserable victims might not be heard or distinguished by their friends, it being accounted very ominous if the lamentations of either children or parents were distinctly to be heard wbilst the victim was burning The victim being offered, they most solemnly prayed to the gods with uplifted hands and great zeal; and when the entrails had been properly examined by the Diviners, Pliny thinks that the Druids ate part of the human victim; what remained was consumed by the last fire upon the altar; intemperance in drinking generally closed the sacrificing; and the altar was always consecrated afresh by strewing oak-leaves on it before any sacrifice could be offered upon it again.”+
We have already remarked how inconsistent all this is with the general character of the Druids. All that relates to them besides, either in history or tradition, bas a very different tendency. The best authorities give the Druids credit for those harmless, and often beautiful, fairy tales found amongst the traditions of all Celtic nations. In not one of these tales that we have ever heard is there anything bloody or cruel, except that the fairies are sometimes represented as inflicting punishment in the end on those mortals who made love to them and gained their affections. And it is easy to understand that the object of this is to exercise a salutary restraint on the credulous and superstitious.
In Ireland especially, the fairies-believed to be remnants of the Druidic system-are distinguished for their humane and friendly offices. This is true, for example, of the banshee, cho is said to cry in the most piteous and heart-rending manner at the death of any inember of particular families ; no fact is more firmly believed by the peasantry in all parts of the country than this. The worst conduct attributed to the fairies is that they like to take good and handsome human beings to themselves, especially infants and young girls, and leave some of their own kind in their stead. As for bloodshed, there is no evidence of their taking any delight in it ; on the contrary, the universal tradition is that it is a poison to them, but that they like milk, flour, barley-meal, eggs, &c., &c.
* Plin., v. xiv. 44,
Antiqnities of Cornwall, pp. 127--9. $ “Mais ce sont les sithich des traditions Welches,” says Alfred Maury, "qui rappellent d'avantage les druids, les druidesses, et le vieux culte gaulois. Leur nom qui signifie paci facteurs, semble un titre emprunté à ces prêtres. Leurs femmes s'appellent ban-druidh, ban-fhiesaiche, femmes druides, femmes savantes, etc.”
But if we assume the worst, and admit that there was a time when the Druids really did sacrifice human victims, is it anything worse for them to have done so than for the Jews, the Greeks, the Romans, the Carthaginians, and the Etruscans? These are admitter to be the greatest nations of the earth. If they were not savages because they sacrificed human beings, why were the Druids? In other words, if the Celts were a barbarous and inferior people because their priests immolated human victims, were not the Greeks, Romans, &c., equally barbarous and inferior, since it is indisputable that they did the same? Nothing is more plainly recorded in the Scriptures than that the Jews sacrificed human victims ; although it seems evident that Moses did all he could to discourage the practice. The sacrifice of the daughter of Jephthah is familiar to all. It is related as follows by the sacred historian: “And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the LORD. and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands, then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord's, and I will offer it up for a burnt-offering.” “And it came to pass at the end of two months, that she returned unto her father, who did with her according to his vow which he had towed." We also read in Exodus,t " Thou shalt not delay to offer the first of thy ripe fruits, and of thy liquors : the first-born of thy sons shalt thou give unto me." When Sodom was devoted to destruction by the Lord, Abraham did his best to save it; but when called upon to sacrifice his own son Isaac, he seems to have made no objection, which would seem to imply that he regarded such a sacrifice as at least. not uncommon.
There is but too much evidence that even the Jews of
* Judges xi., 30–31, 39.
+ Exodus xxii., 29.
modern times have always believed in the efficacy of human sacrifices as a means of conciliating the divine favor. An instance or two of what they have done in Christian times will sufficiently explain this. Thus, we read that at a solemnization of the Passover at Paris in 1080 A. D., they sacrificed a youth, the son of a rich merchant, for which the criminals were executed, and all Jews were banished from France. Nine years after, on the coronation day of Richard I., a large number of them were massacred in the city of London for a similar crime. In 1235, they attempted to crucify a child at Norwich, England; in this instance it was deemed most advisable to make them pay the penalty in money; and accordingly the offenders were fined 20,000 marks. This did not restrain them, however, for they immolated a child (on the cross) in Lincoln in 1255, and at Northampton in 1282. For the former eighteen were hanged, and for the latter fifty were drawn at horses' tails and hanged.
We have no disposition to speak harshly of the Jews, or any other sect: ; all we want is to vindicate the truth of history
When Israelites tell us that there is no Christian country, with the exception of America, in which they have not been cruelly oppressed, and that they have been tortured in every conceivable manner on account of their religion, it is but just to remember that it is not because they were Jews, or because they believed in the Old Testament, but because they would persist in human sacrifices, and in cheating their Christian neighbors. Now, how deeply rooted must be the faith, which will prompt those who entertain it to suffer the teeth to be pulled out of their heads, to be quartered and hanged, or be banished forever from their homes, rather than abandon it! If the ancient Celts were taught the same doctrine by their priests, why did they discard it so easily ? Is it characteristic of them to do so? What they were taught, i.e. the harmless belief in fairies, banshees, &c., is still retained to a considerable extent by their descendants among the Irish and Scottish peasantry.
All writers of any note on the subject of mythology concur in the opinion that it was customary among the Greeks, Romans, and Carthaginians to offer human sacrifices to Saturn. From this it is inferred by some that he was identical with Moloch, the Phænician deity, to whom the apostate Jews sacrificed their offspring. He is generally represented by the Greeks as a “ decrepit old man, with a long beard and hoary head; his shoulders are bowed like an arch, his jaws hollow, his cheeks sunk; his nose is flat, his forehead full of furrows, and his chin turned up ; his right hand holds a rusty scythe, and his left a child, which he is about to devour.” Every intelligent reader is familiar with the sacrifice of Iphigenia.* Nor need
we go 80 far back in Grecian history as the Homeric times to find instances of human sacrifice. When Athens was at the meridian of her glory as the intellectual capital of the world, some of her greatest men are said to have immolated their fellow-creatures. Plutarch, who never intentionally misrepresents anything, but is justly regarded as the most reliable of all the Greek historians, informs us that Themistocles sacrificed several of the Persian captives to the gods.t
The Romans were not as superstitious as the Greeks, and therefore did not indulge so much in human sacrifices; but that they did immolate human beings, on important occasions, is beyond doubt. If we had no historical testimony of the fact, the bas-reliefs still extant would abundantly prove it. We see in these a large variety of instruments and vessels which were used exclusively in sacrifices ; such as the knife, with which the victim was stabbed; the broad dishes, or bowls (pateræ), which held the blood; the vessels to hold the entrails, &c. Various sacrificial apparatus are exhibited on the sculptures found in Pompeii. One figure represents the sacred fillet (vitta), sometimes suspended from the neck
One of the finest passages in the Agamemnon of Æschylus is that in which he describes the victim preparing for the sacrifice, and which Blackie has translated as follows:
"So now in act to speak the virgin stands :
But when, the third libation paid,
And for her country's good,
Poured out the rich stream of her blood."
We have abundance in every form ; but for our present purpose it will
be sufficient to refer to the pages of Livy, who is the least likely of all the Roman authors to misrepresent his countrymen on so important a subject. He tell us that because two of the Vestal virgins were guilty of unvestallike conduct, one was buried alive and the other forced to commit suicide ; the partners in their guilt were disposed of in a manner equally summary: But lest all this might not be sufficient, the Decemviri caused the sacred books to be examined ; and the result was that à male and a female Gaul and a male and a female Greek-persons who had nothing whatever to do with the sins of the vestals -were buried alive, as an atonement to the offended gods.—“ Interim ex fatibus libris sacrificia aliquot extraordinaria facta ; inter quos Gallus et Galla, Græcus et Græca, in foro boario sub terra vivi demissi sunt in locum saxo conseptum, jam ante hostiis humanis minime Romano sacro, imbutum.”—Tit. Liv., lib. xxii., cap. 57.
of the victim ; another a pitcher for holding the blood, &c. One of the most remarkable as well as most unequivocal is a sculpture which represents a magistrate in his robe engaged in a sacrifice; he holds in his hand a patera ; the victim is led forward by the popa or cultrarius, who is naked to his waist, with a wreath on his head ; behind the magistrate is a boy holding a vase or pitcher, and an older servant holding a platter ; by his side is a musician playing the flute, followed by lictors with their fasces ; in the background appear the pillars of the temple decorated with garlands.*
But we need not go among either the Jews or pagans in search of persons who have been guilty of human sacrifices. It needs but little research to find such even in Christian times. Mr. King has pointed out an instance of a human sacrifice by Einar, Thane of Caithness, of Haldanus, Prince of Norway, so late as the tenth century.t But who would attribute the odium of this to Christianity? There is nothing to which the religion of Christ is more opposed ; it was to obviate the necessity of any such sacrifices forever after, that he offered himself up once for all. Yet a historian, having an antipathy to priests, writing centuries hence, may accuse Christianity of having immolated human victims. Have not writers like Voltaire and D'Holback imputed worse to it, if possible, already? Are not Christian fraternities engaged in teaching at the present day, and who lead a blameless, laborious and useful life, often spoken of as if they were the enemies, rather than what they really are, the friends and benefactors of mankind ? Nay, what accusations have not been made in this enlightened age against the gentlest, purest, and most refined of women-veritable ministering angels—who devote themselves in a similar manner to the noble work of doing good ? Then, if the Christian religion can be maligned in our own time, why cannot we understand that Druidism has been maligned in the past, when its maligners could not be so easily detected as those of the present day? If it be easy, as we have seen, to find
among nised as the greatest races the practice of the worst crimes attributed to the Druids, it is, on the contrary, very difficult to find any who proved themselves so superior, intellectually, politically, and morally, to their contemporaries ? We have already seen the credit given them by their enemies the
# See Montfaucon, vol. ii., p. 150.
+ Mun. Ant., p. 231.