Books, Prehistory, Avebury A Temple of British Druids, Avebury Chapter II

Avebury Chapter II is in Avebury A Temple of British Druids, With Some Others, Described by William Stukeley.

Of the origin of temples more particularly, the meaning of the name. The manner of them, round and open. The Mosaic tabernacle a temple square and covered, in opposition to the former desecrated into idolatry. Another reason, covered with skins, because typical of Messiah. So the patriarchal or Druid temples made in those forms, that were symbols of the deity, and the divine personalities thereof. When become idolatrous generally dedicated to the sun, by reason of their round form. The most ancient symbolic figure of the deity was the circle, snake and wings, which we see frequently on Egyptian and other Monuments. The patriarchal temples made in representations thereof; therefore of three kinds. I. A circle only. II. A circle and snake. III. A circle and wings. This Volume treats of a temple of each of these kinds in Britain. The temple of ROWLDRICH [Map] in Oxfordshire being of the first sort, described. The Evidence of its being a work of the Druids, drawn up in a kind of order, as a specimen. 1. Its high situation, on an open heath by the heads of rivers. 2. An open circle of stones set upright, taken from the surface of the ground. 3. The appearance of the weather on them. 4. From the name, the Gilgal of Joshua explained. 5. From the measure, the Druid cubit. 6. From the barrows all round it. A Druid's court. The king's tumulus. The archdruid's tumulus, the founder. 7. From old reports concerning these works. 8. Sepulchres frequently the occasion of founding temples in all ages, from a hope of the body's resurrection, and one occasion of deifying heroes, and introducing idolatry, the first species of it.

TEMPLE is a word derived from the greek Τεμενος, a place cut off, inclosed, dedicated to sacred use, whether an area, a circle of stones, a field, or a grove. This matter, as all others, advanced from simplicity, by degrees, till it became what we now call a temple. Thus we read in Iliad II, of Ceres's field. Iliad VIII, of Jupiter's field and altar. In XXIII, another at the fountain of Sperchius. In Odyss. VIII, that of Venus Paphia. Pausanias mentions many of these. Cicero too among the Thebans, de nat. deor. III. In Odyss. XVII, a grove perfectly round by Ithaca. And these were encompassed by a ditch which Pollux calls peribolus. Pausanias makes this particular remark in Achaic, of the grove of Diana servatrix. They were kept by priests who dwelt there for that purpose, as Maron in Odyss. IX.

Tempe signifies a grove or temple, which is the same thing. Strabo writes, that the poets, for ornament sake, call all temples groves. This was in affectation of antiquity.

Est nemus Æmoniæ, prærupta quod undique claudit

Sylva, vocant Tempe.——

[There is the forest of Aemonia, a precipice which closes it on every side, They call the forest Tempe. From Ovid Metamorphoses Book 1 Line 567]

Tempulum, or contractedly templum, is a lesser grove, or temple properly speaking, built with pillars, as it were in imitation of a great grove. The patriarchal temeni were called במיה excelsa, because generally made on high places. Hence the greek word βωμος. By the hebrew writers they were called sacella montana, mountain oratories. Sacellum, says Festus, is an open chapel, or without a roof. At length the word temple was applyed to sacred structures built with a roof, in imitation of Solomon's. And that was a durable and fixed one, an edifice of extraordinary grandeur and beauty, made in imitation of the Mosaic tabernacle, which was a temple itinerant, the first idea of a covered one, properly. There were two reasons, among others, why it was covered and square in form. 1. By way of opposition to the heathen ones, practised in all the countries round about, which were imitations of the first patriarchal temples there, and now were converted to idolatrous purposes. 2. Because it was a type of Messiah, or JEHOVAH who was to come in the flesh, therefore covered with skins. And that we may have the greatest authority in the case, our Saviour himself declares in the most publick manner, that the temple of Jerusalem was symbolical of his body, as we find it recorded in the gospel, John ii. 19. And the author of the Hebrews largely deduces the necessity of making temples to be the pictures of heavenly things, and particularly of the mediator, Heb. ix. 11, 23. which can be done no otherwise than symbolically. And authors that describe the tabernacle and temple, insist upon this largely. Nor is it otherwise with us christians, in our cathedrals, designing our saviour's body extended on the cross. But in the more ancient patriarchal times, before the great advent, they formed them upon the geometrical figures or pictures, or manner of writing, by which they expressed the deity, and the mystical nature thereof. And this same design of making temples in some kind of imitation of the deity, as well as they could conceive it, was from the very beginning. The heathen authors retain some notion of this matter, when they tell us, of temples being made in the form and nature of the gods. Porphyry in Eusebius pr. ev. III. 7. affirms the round figure to be dedicated to eternity, and that they anciently built temples round; but he did not understand the whole reason. And when they built temples properly, in imitation of the jewish, they made them often of a round form, and often open at top, to preserve as near as might be, the most ancient manner they had been acquainted with. Whence Pausanias writes, the Thracians used to build their temples round, and open at top.

Thus at Bethel, the place where Jacob built his temple, and where his grandfather Abraham had built one before, Jeroboam chose it for his idolatrous temple, called by the Alexandrian Greeks in after times, οικος Ων, the temple of On. S. Cyril in his comments on Hosea writes, that On is the sun, from its round form. The heathen had done all they could to corrupt the remembrance of the name of the true God, and turned Beth-el, which signifies the house of EL or God, to οικος Ων, the house of On, or the sun. As ηλιος, is a word undoubtedly made from EL, in the Hebrew, expressing God's power and sovereignty; so much like Elion a name of God in Scripture, signifying Hypsistus, the most high. Gen. xiv. 18. Luke i. 37. in Arabic, allah taâla the most high God. Whence Atlas the name of consecration of the African hero, allah taâl

1724. Table V. The prospect Northward from Rowldrich Stones [Map]. A. the King Stone [Map]. B. the Archdruids barrow. C. king barrows or round barrows. D. long compton.

When these ancient patriarchal temples in other countries came to be perverted to idolatry, they consecrated many of them to the sun, thinking their round form ought to be referred to his disc; and that these pyramidal stones, set in a circle, imitated his rays. Hence called Aglibelus, rotundus Deus, as interpreted by Bochart. עגל בעל, ζευς επικυκλιος among the orientals, as Schedius observes. And had the ancient Greek writers seen our temples of Stonehenge, and the rest, they would have concluded them dedicated to the sun.

These temples of ours are always of a round form: and there are innumerable of them, all over the Britannic isles, nevertheless they are to be ranked into three kinds; for tho' they are all circular, yet there are three manifest diversities which I have observed, regarding that threefold figure, by which the ancients, probably even from Adam's time, expressed in writing, the great idea of the deity. This figure by Kircher is called ophio-cyclo-pterygo-morphus. 'Tis a circle with wings, and a snake proceeding from it. A figure excellently well designed to picture out the intelligence they had, no doubt, by divine communication, of the mysterious nature of the deity. And it was the way of the ancients in their religious buildings, to copy out or analogize the form of the divine being, as they conceived it, in a symbolical manner. By this means they produced a most effectual prophylact, as they thought, which could not fail of drawing down the blessings of divine providence upon that place and country, as it were, by sympathy and similitude.

I shall therefore make it the subject of the present volume, to describe one or two of each sort of the temples built upon the plan of these figures: wherein the founders have left an incontestible proof of that knowledge which the ancient world had of the divine nature, by these durable and magnificent monuments. The remainder of these temples (as many as are come to my knowledge) together with the places of the sports and games of the ancient Britons, and the religion of the Druids, I shall publish in the succeeding volume.

Names or words are necessary for the understanding of things; therefore 1. The round temples simply, I call temples; 2. Those with the form of a snake annext, as that of Abury, I call serpentine temples, or Dracontia, by which they were denominated of old; 3. Those with the form of wings annext, I call alate or winged temples. And these are all the kinds of Druid temples that I know of. We may call these figures, the symbols of the patriarchal religion, as the cross is of the christian. Therefore they built their temples according to those figures.

Rowldrich I shall begin with Rowlright [Map] or rather Rowldrich, and as a specimen of what requisites are sought for in these enquiries, I shall draw them up in a kind of order: which may be useful in all researches of this sort.