Books, Prehistory, Avebury A Temple of British Druids, Avebury Chapter XVI
Avebury Chapter XVI is in Avebury A Temple of British Druids, With Some Others, Described by William Stukeley.
Of the third species of patriarchal temples, formed in the resemblance of a circle and wings. A description of one of this sort on the banks of the Humber in Lincolnshire. A very remarkable sort of barrows there, like to beds. This figure of the alate circle, the Egyptians called by the name of CNEPH; authors mistake in telling us it was the name of God. 'Tis indeed the symbol of the third divine emanation from the supreme, called the anima mundi. CNEPH is an oriental word, from canaph, to fly, עוף. The entire symbol, circle, snake and wings, was called CNEPHPTHA. Ptha more particularly meant the serpent, or symbol of the second divine person. The supreme, they held to be ineffable, as well as invisible, therefore symbolized him by the circle. The Neptune of the Greeks derived from CNEPH, דניא dunia, a circle added to Cneph, is circulus alatus. He was president of the waters, from Gen. i. 2. and the divine spirit moved upon the face of the waters. Hence this temple set on the edge of the Humber. Of the Egyptian Canopus. Another of these alate temples on Navestock-common in Essex. The word ganaph preserved in the name of the town. Knave, gnavus and knap, a teutonic word, all from the hebrew. Mr. Toland mentions an alate temple of the Druids in the hebrid islands, but does not altogether understand it. Of Abaris the hyperborean Druid, a friend of Pythagoras's. That the directive virtue of the magnetic needle was known anciently. The bed barrows on the Humber banks explained. A metaphysical disquisition concerning the Druids' knowledge of a third emanation or divine person, from the supreme; a truth agreeable to reason. This was the Mercury of the ancients, as well as Neptune. The names which the Druids gave to the three divine persons. Conclusion. They were in effect Christians.
WHEN I wrote my Itinerary, I travelled a good deal of the Hermen-street road, and the Foss road, having Mr. Samuel Buck in my company. At that time I engaged him to take in hand the work, which he has so laudably pursued, and saved the remembrance of innumerable antiquities in our island, by that collection of elegant prints which he has published. When we were on the banks of the Humber, the name of Barrow invited my curiosity, and it was fully answered, by finding that most noble antiquity there of the old Druids, upon the marsh, called Humbers castle.
A rivulet rises near the town of Barrow, and when it falls off the high ground, and enters on the level marshes on the Humber shore, it turns a mill. Just there, upon the edge of the marsh, upon a gentle eminence, nearly overflowed by high spring-tides, and between the salt and fresh water, is the work we are to speak of, made of great banks of earth thrown up, in an odd manner, which gives it the denomination of castle. I observed all about it, and in the adjacent marshes, many long tumuli of different sizes, but all of a particular shape, such as I had never seen elsewhere, being formed like a bed. I immediately set to work in digging into several of them, and we found burnt bones, ashes, bits of urns, and such kind of matters, all extremely rotten and decayed; and the very same appearances as I had so often seen, in digging the barrows about Stonehenge and Abury.
This satisfied me that the work must belong to the most ancient inhabitants of the island, notwithstanding its unusual form. And when I attentively considered those banks, and made a plan of them, I was very agreeably surprized in discovering the purport and meaning, which was to represent the circulus alatus or winged circle, an ancient hieroglyphic well known to those more particularly conversant with Egyptian monuments; and what they rightly call the symbol of the anima mundi, or spirit pervading the universe; in truth, the divine spirit.
I had no hesitation in adjudging this to be a temple of our Druids. All reasons imaginable concurred. Tho' instead of stones, they have made this work with mounds of earth; I suppose for want of stones, lying on the surface of the ground. It makes the third kind of the Druid temples which I proposed to describe. The vertical line of it is north-east and south-west, the upper part being directly north-east; and the barrows generally conform to this line, being either upon it, or at right angles with it; the head of the barrow sometimes one way, sometimes the other.
The circle was 120 cubits in diameter. The wings 100 cubits broad, 150 long; but the eastern wing was more extended than the other. For the design of it is somewhat in perspective, as 'tis sometimes seen on Egyptian antiquities.
This very extraordinary work, which I could not sufficiently admire, has very often entertained my thoughts. We see an uniformity in human nature throughout all ages. We build our churches, especially cathedrals, in a cross, the symbol or cognizance of Christianity; the first builders of churches did it in the symbol of the deity, which was pictured out with great judgment, and that (most likely) from the beginning of the world.
The circle and wings was the picture of the deity, which the old Egyptian hierophants called CNEPH. As there were three varieties in this figure, so they had more names than one for it, I mean the whole figure, the circle, serpent, and wings. And sometimes they used one word, sometimes another, and sometimes conjoined them. Eusebius in pr. ev. III. 3. writes, "that the Egyptians painted God, whom they called Kneph, like a man in a blue garment, holding a circle and serpent (not scepter, for no such figure ever appears) and on his head, feathers or wings." Now this very figure is seen on the portals of the Persian temple of Chilminar. Authors are not sufficiently accurate in these matters, for want of a more perfect knowledge of them. Cneph is properly the alate circle; yet sometimes they call the whole figure by that name. So a feather or two, or wings, are often placed on the heads of the Egyptian deities; but the picture above-mentioned at Chilminar has the wings, as more commonly, annexed to the circle.
Phtha was another name of one of these figures, which they sometimes joined to the preceding, and made the word Cnephtha. Kircher erroneously calls it Hemptha; for before him Iamblichus erred in calling Cneph, Emeph. Strabo calls Cneph, Cnuphis, and says his temple was at Syene, XVII. Undoubtedly a temple some way of this form. Athenagoras in Eroticis VI. calls him Κνεφαιος, Cnepheus; and says, "he can't be seen by our eyes, nor comprehended by our mind." Hesychius, and the etymologist Suidas, voce κνεφυς, interpret the word, obscure, hidden, not to be seen or understood. Iamblichus and Proclus the like, who make Amûn and Phtha the same, Prov. viii. 30. The truth is, the word Cneph comes from the hebrew ענף ganaph volare, to fly, קנף a wing, Psal. xviii. 11. He rode upon the cherubim, and did fly.
Phtha, in Suidas called φθάς, is derived, on the authority of Kircher and Huetius, from the hebrew פתה the same as the greek word πειθω, to persuade, suada in latin. It regards more particularly the serpent, the emblem of eloquence, and the divine WORD. In Arabic it signifies the son. So that Cnephtha means the entire figure, the circle, snake and wings. The supreme had no name. They held him ineffable, as well as invisible. Whence they called the Jehovah of the jews an uncertain or unknown deity, or the deity without a name. Herodotus in Euterpe writes, "he heard from the priests of Dodona, that the ancient Pelasgians made their prayers and sacrifices to the deity without any name or sirname, for at that time they knew none." Iamblichus's interpretation of Phtha is very little different. He says, "It signifies him that performs all things in truth, and without lying." The Egyptians called this Phtha Vulcan, and say, he was the son of the supreme God; whom Cicero makes the guardian god of Egypt, who was the author of all the philosophy of the Egyptians, according to Diogenes Laertius in proem. And this is that most ancient deity of the Egyptians who was particularly designed by the serpent. And hence the fables of the greeks make Vulcan the only son of Juno, without the help of her husband. Again, they make Pallas produced out of Jupiter's brain, who wore the Ægis or snaky breast-plate, which originally was no other than our great prophylactic hierogramma, the circle and snake, used by the most ancient warriors as a sacred preservative. Medusa's head is the very same, a circle, wings, and snakes. But the delicate greeks new drest it, and made the circle into a beautiful face, more agreeable to their taste of things. And its turning men into stones means, at the bottom, nothing but the making our serpentine temples in that form by the first heroes, who bore this cognizance in their shields.
But to return to CNEPH, the deity to whom these winged temples are dedicate. It became the chief and more famous name. Whence Porphyry in Eusebius's pr. ev. III. 11. calls this Cneph the creator, Plutarch, de Is. & Os. testifies, "the inhabitants in Thebais, or the remotest part of Egypt, worshipped only the eternal God Cneph, and paid nothing toward the charge of idolatrous worship in the other parts of that kingdom." Thus we see, those countries farthest separated from the busy part of the world, such as Thebais and Britain, retained the pure and ancient religion: which bishop Cumberland too asserts, Sanchon. p. 15. of Thebais, before Abraham's time. Strabo says, "there was a temple of Cnuphis (as he writes it) at Syene, the farther part of Thebais:" which must be understood of one of our winged temples originally, tho' probably afterwards built upon, covered, and become idolatrous. "Hence the Ethiopians, neighbours to those of Thebais, living still in the upper regions of Egypt," says Strabo, "worship two gods, the one the immortal creator, the other mortal, who has no name, nor is easily to be apprehended." Here we find they have a notion of the supreme and his son. Their opposite neighbours across the red sea, worshipped only two gods, τον Διον καὶ τον Διονυσον, Jovem & Jovem Nysæum, God, and the God of Nysa. This is what is meant by the two principles of Pythagoras, mentioned by Plutarch de plac. philos. unity and indefinite duality, the sacred Dyas of Plato. Whence Diodorus in his I. writes, "that the Egyptians declared there were two first eternal Gods." These they expressed by the names of unity and duality. I do not believe that they found this out by their own understanding and reasoning, but had it from patriarchal tradition. And then their own reasoning would confirm it. For it is altogether agreeable to reason, arguing from the fecundity of the first cause. The Greeks turned Cneph into their Neptune, the sovereign of the waters, from what the hebrew legislator writes in the beginning of his cosmogony; "and the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters." The word Neptune comes from Cneph and דניא Dunia, orbis, circulus, the winged circle. And this probably will give us some light into the reason, why we find our winged temple of Barrow upon the banks of that noble æstuary, the Humber. I wondered indeed how it should come about, that the Druids should so studiously place this work under the verge of the high land, and upon the brink of the salt marsh; so that every high tide washes or overflows the skirts of it, whilst the freshwater brook runs close under it. At this time it must have presented them with the agreeable picture of the sacred hieroglyphic, hovering over both fresh and salt-water.
I observed a line, or little bank and ditch, cast up above our figure, which I judged to be done with an intent to keep off the inundation of the ocean at the times of sacrifice, which seems to have been performed within that inclosed area, where I have set the figure of the compass in the engraven view. Likewise just without that line, eastward, I remarked three little square plots, which perhaps were habitations of the Druids who were keepers of the temple.
'Tis not from the purpose to take notice of one of the greatest fixed stars of the heavens, at the bottom of the constellation called the ship, having the name of Canopus, which is no other than our word Cneph. This star had this name given it by the Egyptians, as appearing to them just above the edge of the southern horizon. And in their spheres, we may very well presume, they painted it as a winged circle, and because it always appeared as hovering over the horizon or great ocean.
————O numen aquarum [O god of the waters]
Proxima cui cœlo cessit, Neptune, potestas. [The next to whom the sky gave way, Neptune, power] Ov. Met. IV.
So that originally the ancients understood the spirit or soul of the universe,95 or more properly the divine spirit, by this figure which they called KNEPH, which the European nations called Neptune, sovereign of the waters. So often by the poets called Ενοσιχθων, Ενοσιγαιων, the shaker of the earth; for the waters in Moses means the Hyle, or moist matter of chaos whence the universe was made.
Two of the quarterly solemnities or general sacrifices of the Druids were on the two equinoxes, when are the highest tides. A curious observer being upon the spot, for some years together, at these times, might possibly make some notable discovery concerning the difference of the surface of the sea, since the current of 5 or 6000 years: for I persuade myself this temple was made by the very first inhabitants of the isle, and not long after the flood, on account of the interment here of some great hero, that advanced so far in peopling the country. And if our reasonings and testimonies hitherto be any whit agreeable to truth, we may point out the species of many of these most ancient temples built at the place of sepulture of heroes, spoken of in writings of those times. For instance, we infer a serpentine temple was made by the tumulus of Orpheus, from the fable of a serpent offering to devour his head, which serpent was turned into stone.
Hic ferus expositum peregrinis anguis arenis [Here, wild sand snakes were exposed]
Os petit, & sparsos stillanti rore capillos [He asks for his mouth, and his hair is scattered with dripping dew]
Lambit, & hymniferos inhiat divellere vultus. [He licks, and tries to tear away the hymns on his face.]
Tandem Phœbus adest, morsusque inferre parentem [At last Phoebus comes, and dies to bring forth his parent]
Congelat, & patulos, ut erant, indurat hiatus. [It freezes, and hardens the gaps, as they were.]
Again, we may reasonably suppose that an alate temple was built by the tomb of Memnon, said to be buried in Phrygia, who was turned into a bird on the funeral pile, at the request of his mother Aurora. We see some hints of it even from Ovid's telling the story. This was done at the request of his mother Aurora, who petitions Jupiter for this favour to her son, for herself she desires none. Thus she begins:
Omnibus inferior, quas sustinet aureus æther [Inferior to all, supported by the golden ether]
(Nam mihi sunt totum rarissima templa per orbem,) [For to me they are altogether the rarest temples in the world]
Diva tamen venio: non ut delubra, diesque [I come, however, as a diva: not as a deluder, and day after day]
Des mihi sacrificos, caliturasque ignibus aras, &c. [Give me the sacrifices, and warm the altars with fire]
He was turned into a bird, and a flock of the same birds, called Aves Memnoniæ, arose from the same funeral pile, which immediately divided into two companies, and fought till they destroyed each other. And that a like flight of the same birds came on the same day every year from Ethiopia, went thrice round his monument, and then divided and fought in honour of their ancestor.
What can we understand by this, but an assembly of his people and descendants to celebrate his anniversary, as was the custom of antiquity toward great men. The story is entirely of a piece with that told of Cadmus, and must be interpreted in the same way.
In this sense we are treating of, are we to understand authors when they tell us, that Cadmus built a temple to Neptune in the island of Rhodes. This was not a covered temple with elegant pillars, nor an idolatrous one, which were matters of after-times; but one of our alate temples. Phut had built a Dracontium there before.
Antoninus Liberalis XII. speaks of the lake Canopus, which I suppose had its name from a Cneph or alate temple near it, built by a hero, Cygnus, son of Phut, "who, the fable says, was turned into a bird there," and Phylius his sepulchral monument was by it.
In this sense, Strabo II. speaks of Hercules being called Canopeus, from building such a temple. And we may now understand that hitherto abstruse Egyptian antiquity called Canopus, a vase which they used for preserving of water in their temples and in their families, with a cover to it. In order to insure the blessing of heaven to this most necessary element, they frequently consigned it with the sacred prophylactic character of the Kneph or circulus alatus, which is the greek Neptune, the dominator aquarum. Many of these vases are still remaining in the cabinets of antiquarians. Such a one pictured in Kircher.
And, by the by, I may mention that some of these vases are adorned with a scarabeus with expanded wings, and this is entirely of the same meaning as the alate circle. But this is not a place to discourse larger on these matters.
I suspect Geneva and Geneffa have their names from such temples. As Gnaphalus a bird mentioned by Aristotle. Simias the Rhodian celebrates our Cneph, in his poem composed in the form of wings: as the author of motion and creation: hence the word Nebula, νεφέλη and perhaps Nebulo.
In the year 1725, the next year after I found out this Humber temple, and the last year of my travels, I found another of these alate temples, on Navestock-common in Essex, which seems to be of a later date than the other, and when perhaps the original doctrine concerning these theological speculations was somewhat forgotten; Because this temple is situate on a dry common, not near water; but the figure is the very same.
What is exceedingly remarkable as to this noble antiquity on Navestock-common, is, that the name should remain to this time, and which confirms all that we said before concerning them, as to their name and meaning: for Navestock must have been so called from some old and remarkable tree, probably an oak, upon or by the CNEPH, or winged temple; Navestock. Our English word Knave, which had no ill meaning at first, signifies the same thing, alatus, impiger; the latin word Gnavus the very same: and Knap a Teutonick word the like: all from the hebrew original.
I doubt not, but there are more such temples in the Britannick isles, called Knaves-castles or the like. One I remember to have seen, on a great heathy common, by the Roman Watling-street in Staffordshire. And Mr. Toland takes notice of a winged temple of our Druids in the Hebrid or Hyperborean islands, Shetland. Abaris a Druid of this country, fired with a desire of knowledge, travelled into Greece where philosophy flourished; after that to Pythagoras in Italy, and became his favourite disciple. Pythagoras imparted to him his best notions in philosophy, which perhaps, in the enigmatick way of those times, they call the shewing to him his golden thigh. Abaris on the other hand, presented to Pythagoras Apollo's arrow, which he brought out of his own country, where it had been deposited in a winged temple. They tell you further, that Abaris rode on this arrow in the air to Greece. This undoubtedly would proceed from the notion they entertained of the Druids practising magick.
I cannot help thinking, after what I have said in Stonehenge, concerning the magnetick needle, that this arrow of Apollo's which Abaris made use of in his journey from Shetland to Greece, was an instrument of this sort, which the Hyperborean sage gave to Pythagoras. And the Druids possessing such a secret as this, would reciprocally create, and favour that notion of their practising magick. Calling it Apollo's arrow seems to throw the possession of it up to Phut the most famous navigator, we before treated of: nay it seems that we may trace it still higher, even to Noah himself. Sanchoniathon the Phœnician writer tells us, among other remarkable things concerning Ouranus, who is certainly Noah, "that he devised Bætulia, or contrived stones that moved as having life."
Besides the interpretation, we may very naturally affix to this account, of anointed stones or main ambres: we may well judge that the knowledge of the magnet is here understood; which at first they placed in a little boat, in a vessel of water, and then it would move itself, 'till directed to the quarters of the heavens. Atheneus Deipnosoph. affirms, that Hercules borrowed his golden cup wherewith he sailed over the ocean, of Nereus. Nereus is Japhet eldest son of Noah, and the golden cup was a compass box in all probability.
Among the ancient constellations pictured on the celestial globe, is an arrow; said by Eratosthenes the most ancient writer we have on the Catasterisms, (as called,) to be the arrow of Apollo, which was laid up in the winged temple among the Hyperboreans. Diodorus Siculus from Hecateus and other older writers, shews, the Hyperborean island was in the ocean, and beyond Gaul, to the north, under the bear; where the people lived a most simple and happy life. Orpheus places them near the Cronian sea; a word purely Irish, as Mr. Toland shews, Croin signifying frozen. He shews further and that very largely, that the Hebrid islands, Skie, Lewis, Harries, Shetland, are the true Hyperborean islands of the ancients. Among them therefore was the winged temple; whether made of mounds of earth, like those two on the Humber, and on Navestock-common; or made of stones like other Druid temples.
There are other Druid temples in those islands, made of stones, I shall give a print of one, in my next volume. Further there is a famous one in Cornwall called vulgarly the Hurlers, which I take to have been one of our alate temples, made of stones set upright.
The learned Bayer in his fine designs of the celestial constellations, represents the arrow of Apollo beforementioned, as a magnetick needle; and he took his designs chiefly from a very ancient book of drawings. I observe likewise that the isle of Skie, in the language of the natives, is called Scianach, which signifies winged. And in that probably, was the winged temple we speak of; which gave name to the isle.
We mentioned before that Phut married Rhode, whence the isle of Rhodes had its name. Rod in the Psalms and the Prophets signifies a snake. Nay Pliny in vii. and 56, of his natural history asserts, that Rhodes was originally called Ophiusa, a word equivalent. Most likely they built a serpentine temple there, which gave the name. So the isle of Tenos, which Bochart shews, means a serpent in the oriental language, was called Hydrusa and Ophiusa. The isle of Cyprus was called Ophiodia by Nicœnetus. So Hydra an isle just before Carthage, which was first built by Cadmus. Ophiades insulæ on the Arabian coast of the Red-sea. Pausanias mentions a place called Opheos Cephale, the serpent's head; the same as our Hakpen on Overton-hill in Abury.
In the isle of Chios is a famous mountain higher than the rest, called Pelineus, which had undoubtedly one of our great Dracontian temples. The learned Bochart I. 9. shews its name signifies the prodigious serpent: a story of the sort is annexed to it. Nay this famous temple gave name to the whole island, for he shews that 'tis a Syrian word חויא Chivia a serpent, so that Chios isle is the serpent's isle: the word is the same as Hivite: probably Cadmus or some of his people built it. Hesychius and Phavorinus mentions Jupiter Pelineus, the name of the deity worshiped.
Virgil in Æneid II. describes the two serpents that destroyed Laocoon coming from the isle of Tenedos.
I described the barrows about Humbers castle, to be like beds. They are all long barrows, of very different lengths, higher at the head than the feet, (if we may so express it) and with a cavity the whole length of them, drawn off at the feet, to the turf: So that they represent the impression of a person that has lain on a very soft, downy couch. One which I dug into near the temple was 60 cubits long: the other two near it 40 each, plate xxxix. The sight of them necessarily intruded into my mind, the ευνη or couch of Typhon or Phut, which Homer says, was in Arimis. 'Tis natural for us to imagine, he means exactly such a tumulus of the hero, as these we are speaking of.
Phut was a great arch druid or patriarchal high-priest, as being the head of his family. And according to my notion of the matter, these long barrows all belong to some of the higher order of the Druids. Eustathius interprets Homer's word by that of ταφος, tomb. Stephanus the scholiast on Hesiod's Theogon, makes Arima a mountain in Cilicia or Lydia, where is Tiphon's κοιτη. V. Oppian. Alexand. ver. 599. Lucan ver. 191. Apollon. II. Strabo XVI. Mela I. 13. Pausanias in Atticis tells us of Hippolita the Amazons' tumulus, that 'twas made in shape of an Amazonian pelta or shield; perhaps somewhat like our tumulus.
In the beginning of the idolatrous times, they likewise consecrated Hermes the Egyptian into Mercury, but the Egyptians took Mercury in a different light from the Canaanites: they made him the god of divine wisdom, the Canaanites who were immersed in trade and traffick, made him the god of profit and gain; and that in the person of their ancestor Canaan. Nevertheless they knew the holy spirit prior to idolatry: for many think that Mercury was no mortal man, S. Augustin, C. D. viii. 26. and Orpheus in his hymn to him, pronounces him to be of the race of Dionysus, by whom Jehovah is understood.
I suppose Canaan when he died, had an alate temple built about his place of sepulture, which in after times occasioned posterity to deify him under the name of Mercury. Again I suppose the like done over the tumulus of the patriarch TARSIS; which gave a handle in idolatrous times, to consecrate him into the Neptune of the heathen; who in effect is the same as Mercury, saving that being done by people of a different genius and disposition, they divided one god into two.
Thus we have sailed thro' a wide ocean of antiquities, and that not without a compass. We set old things transmitted to us in writing, in parallelism with these we may now see at home, in such a manner, as I think evidently shews them to be the same.
Nec sum animi dubius, verbis ea vincere magnum [And I have no doubt that it is great to conquer them with words]
Quàm sit, & antiquis hunc addere rebus honorem. [Let it be, and to add this honor to things of old]
Sed me Parnassi deserta per ardua dulcis [But Parnassus deserts me through the sweet steeps]
Raptat amor—————— [Raptat amor] Virg.
I shall conclude, with 1. what we may very well imagine to have been the ratiocination of the Druids among one another, in their theological contemplations, concerning this last kind of their works, these winged temples. Of such sort would be their speculations thereon, in their serious scrutiny into the nature of the deity.
We observed, the Druids in their theological studies must, with the other eastern sages, find out two ways of the supreme being exerting his almighty power, multiplying himself, as the Zoroastrians, the Pythagoreans and the Platonists call it, or divine geniture: and creation. The first necessary, therefore done before time; the second arbitrary, therefore done in time. Nevertheless this second was fit and proper to be done, therefore necessarily to be performed. For whatever becomes the allperfect being, we may pronounce necessary with him.
The Druids would advance still further in their contemplations this way, and conclude, that it became the supreme, and was therefore necessary, for him to exert his power in all possible ways and modes of acting; that he was not content in producing a single divine person or emanation from himself, from the infinite fund of his own fecundity; that he was pleased to proceed to that other mode of acting, which we call divine procession; or a third divine person to proceed from the first and second. This person the ancients had knowledge of, and styled him anima mundi, "that spirit of the LORD which filleth the world," Wisdom i. 7. and made him a distinct person from God, or the supreme: but, more immediately, he was the author of life to all living things. And this he disseminated throughout the whole macrocosm. I need only quote Virgil, for many more, in his fine poem, Georg. IV.
Esse apibus partem divinæ mentis & haustus [Be the bees part of the divine mind & draft]
Æthereos dixere. Deum namque ire per omnes [To say ethereal. For God goes through all]
Terrasque tractusque maris, cælumque profundum. [And the earth, and the expanse of the sea, and the depth of the sky.]
Hinc pecudes, armenta, viros, genus omne ferarum, [Hence cattle, herds, men, and every kind of beast]
Quemque sibi tenues nascentem arcessere vitas; [And those thin lives that are born to him]
Scilicet huc reddi deinde & resoluta referri, [Of course they will be returned here afterwards and reported resolved,]
This divine mind, or anima mundi, the ancients pictured out by the circle and wings, meaning the holy spirit in symbolical language, or the spirit proceeding from the fountain of divinity. And we see it innumerable times on Egyptian, and other ancient monuments. Plutarch, in his platonic questions, asks, "Why should Plato in his Phædro say, the nature of a wing, which mounts heavy things upward, is chiefly participant of those that are about the body of the deity?"
But thus the Druids would reason. There are three modes of divine origin and existence, quite different from creation: they are these: the self-existent, unoriginated first cause; divine generation; and divine procession: all equal in nature, self-origination excepted, and equally necessarily existent. When the supreme produces his likeness, it must be divine filiation; or the son of God is produced. Divine procession must be from them two: but it cannot possibly be filiation: for besides that, in these acts of the divinity, we must separate all ideas like that of human production, it would be absurd to call this generation; because, as it is done prior to all notion of time, or eternity itself; it is making the son to be son and father in the same act. Therefore there remains no other word for this, than procession from the father and son.
Whether these abstract and metaphysical notions would occur to a mind wholly unacquainted with any doctrine of this sort, may be matter of doubt; but when proposed to a serious and contemplative genius, they would be embraced and improved, as agreeable to reason; and as an advance towards the most sublime and most useful knowledge of all others, that of the nature of the deity.
2. The very learned Schedius, in his treatise de mor. germ. XXIV. speaking of the Druids, confirms exceedingly all that we have said on this head. He writes, "that they seek studiously for an oak-tree, large and handsome, growing up with two principal arms, in form of a cross, beside the main stem upright. If the two horizontal arms are not sufficiently adapted to the figure, they fasten a cross-beam to it. This tree they consecrate in this manner. Upon the right branch they cut in the bark, in fair characters, the word HESUS: upon the middle or upright stem, the word TARAMIS: upon the left branch BELENUS: over this, above the going off of the arms, they cut the name of God, THAU: under all the same repeated, THAU."
We cannot possibly understand otherwise, than that by this they intended to show the unity in the divine nature; for every word signifies God emphatically, and in their general acceptation, Thau especially. The other three words have each particularly a more restrained sense, regarding the oeconomy of the deity or godhead. And this is Schedius his opinion.
This tree, so inscribed, they make their kebla in the grove, cathedral, or summer-church, toward which they direct their faces in the offices of religion, as to the ambre stone or the cove in the above described temples of Abury. Like as the Christians to any symbol or picture over the altar. And hence the writers got a notion of their worshipping trees; and of these names belonging to so many gods: which serves the poets to descant upon. But if we examine them to their origin, they are easily to be reduced to orthodoxy.
The word Hesus means the supreme God in the celtic language, as ESAR among the Hetruscans. Sueton. in Aug. It was pronounced Eisar, as the germans pronounce Cæsar, Keisar. It comes from the hebrew ה Ei, and סר Lord, שר Prince. ה is emphatically the name of the divinity, as השם το ονομα, the NAME Jehovah, Levit. xxiv. 11. 16. Hence ה or EI, inscribed over the door of the temple at Delphos, of which Plutarch has wrote. It was the way of the babylonish monarchs to assume divine names, as Esar-adon, signifying no less than God the Lord. Esi is God, says Hesychius. In the arabic it signifies the Creator, says Dickenson delph. phœnic. But these authors do not go to the bottom, for it comes from AS or AT, signifying God the father. Ἄτα or Ἄττα, with the Greeks is pater. The Armenians call it Αδς, the Egyptians Ὠτ, those of Sarmatia and Slavonia Ος: says the learned Baxter, v. Ascania, gloss. ant. Rom. where he has much of ancient learning upon it. This is the Atys of the Phrygians.
Belenus is the Baal in scripture, used originally to be spoken of the true God Jehovah, 'till adopted into idolatry. Belus of the Assyrians. If we examine the word to the bottom, it means God the son. Βηλ, in the babylonic language is the son, Βηλτις the daughter. He is the Apollo of the Latins.
Tharamis is the same as Tat, Thoth of the Egyptians, Thor of the northern nations, called more particularly the spirit: lord of the air, from the wings being symbolical of him; and hence made the thunderer, from the Phœnician and celtick Tarem. He was sometimes called Theutates, the Mercury of the Latins, who was particularly worshipped by the Germans, says Tacitus de mor. germ. Cæsar the same, VI. bell. gall. Hence the Greeks dressed their Mercury with a winged cap, and winged heels, which was no other than the circulus alatus we have been speaking of. He bears a staff in his hand, with a globe on the end of it with wings and snakes. The Phœnicians called him Taautus. Sanchoniathon, Varro IV. de ling. lat.
So in the temple of Belus or the sun, at Edessa in Mesopotamia, in idolatrous times, by his statue was another of Ezizus, who is our Hesus, and another of Mercury, whom they call Monimus. Julian, in his hymn to the sun, mentions the same. And so generally the true theology communicated to mankind from the beginning, was perverted into polytheism and idolatry.
3. So by the tree came death, by the tree came life, which the Druids seem to have had some knowledge of. Ruffinus II. 29. affirms the cross among the Egyptians was an hieroglyphic importing the life that is to come. Sozomen the same, hist. eccl. VII. 15. and Suidas. Isidore tells, "it was the method of the muster-masters in the roman army, in giving in the lists of the soldiers, to mark with a cross the name of the man that was alive; with a Θ him that was dead."
The ancient inhabitants of America honoured the form of the cross. So the conjurers in Lapland use it. Which intimate this hieroglyphic to be most ancient, probably antediluvian.
But concerning the knowledge of the cross which the Druids had, and of their religion more at large, I shall discourse fully in the next volume, which will conclude what I have to say concerning them and their works.
4. From what has been delivered in the speculative part of this treatise, the springs of idolatry appear sufficiently. For the race of heroes that built these patriarchal temples in the eastern part of the world especially, and propagated true religion, were some ages after deifyed by their idolatrous posterity; and had names of consecration taken from the divine attributes, and the just notions delivered to them concerning the nature of the deity.
5. If then we reflect on the foregoing description of the work of Abury, whether we consider the figure it is built upon, the antiquity or the grandeur of it, we must needs admire it, as deservedly to be ranked among the greatest wonders on the face of the earth. The ancients indeed did make huge temples of immense pillars in colonnades, like a small forest; or vast concaves of cupolas to represent the heavens; they made gigantick colosses to figure out their gods; but to our British Druids was reserved the honour of a more extensive idea, and of executing it. They have made plains and hills, valleys, springs and rivers contribute to form a temple of three miles in length. They have stamped a whole country with the impress of this sacred character, and that of the most permanent nature. The golden temple of Solomon is vanished, the proud structure of the Babylonian Belus, the temple of Diana at Ephesus, that of Vulcan in Egypt, that of the Capitoline Jupiter are perished and obliterated, whilst Abury, I dare say, older than any of them, within a very few years ago, in the beginning of this century, was intire; and even now, there are sufficient traces left, whereby to learn a perfect notion of the whole. Since I frequented the place, I fear it has suffered: but at that time, there was scarce a single stone in the original ground-plot wanting, but I could trace it to the person then living who demolished it, and to what use and where.
This I verily believe to have been a truly patriarchal temple, as the rest likewise, which we have here described; and where the worship of the true God was performed. And I conclude with what Epiphanius writes, speaking of the old religion from the beginning of the world. Non erat judaismus aut secta quæpiam alia: sed ut ita dicam, ea quæ nunc in præsenti sancta Dei catholica ecclesia obtinet, fides erat; quæ cum ab initio extiterit, postea rursum est manifestata. He affirms Adam and all the patriarchs from him to Abraham, were no other than christians; and this is the doctrine of the apostle of the Gentiles, 1 Cor. ix. 21.