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Irish Druids And Old Irish Religions

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Crissy Herrell
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« Reply #30 on: February 19, 2009, 01:17:20 pm »

had a religion of philosophy; and St. Cyril, that they held but one God? Why should Origen, like the foe of early Christianity, Celsus, believe that the Druids of Gaul had the same doctrines as the Jews?

Himerius speaks of Abaris, the sage, from Scythia, but well acquainted with Greek, with this description:--"Abaris came to Athens, holding a bow, having a quiver hanging from his shoulders, his body wrapt up in a plaid, and wearing trousers reaching from the soles of his feet to his waist." Cicero knew Divitiacus, who professed the knowledge of Nature's secrets, though regarded as a Hyperborean.

Could these have been the Scythians from Tartary, the descendants of the wise men who gave their religion and the arrow-headed letters to Assyrian-Semitic conquerors, who had come down as Turanian roamers to the Plains of Babylon, and whose Chaldæan faith spread even to Egypt and Europe?

It would seem more probable--with respectful consideration of the learned Morien, who makes Wales the teacher of the world--that wisdom should emanate from a people cultured long before Abrahamic days, though subsequently regarded as rude shepherd Scythians, than proceed from a western land preserving no monuments of learning.

Then, the dress, the staff, the egg, and other things associated with Druids, had their counterpart In the East, from, perhaps, five thousand years before our Christian era.

As to so-called Druidical monuments, no argument can be drawn thence, as to the primary seat of this mysticism, since they are to be seen nearly all over the world. An instance of the absurd ideas prevalent among the ancients respecting Druids is given in Dion Chrysostom:--"For, without the Druids, the Kings may neither do nor consult anything; so that in reality they are the Druids who reign, while the Kings, though they sit on golden

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« Reply #31 on: February 19, 2009, 01:17:34 pm »

thrones, dwell in spacious palaces, and feed on costly dishes, are only their ministers." Fancy this relating to either rude Irish or Welsh. Toland makes out that Lucan spoke to one; but Lucan said it not. The Edinburgh Review of 1863 may well come to the conclusion that "the place they really fill in history is indefinite and obscure."

Madame Blavatsky has her way of looking at them. They were "the descendants of the last Atlanteans, and what is known of them is sufficient to allow the inference that they were Eastern priests akin to the Chaldæans and Indians." She takes, therefore, an opposite view to that held by Morien. She beheld their god in the Great Serpent, and their faith in a succession of worlds. Their likeness to the Persian creed is noticed thus:--"The Druids understood the morning of the Sun in Taurus; therefore, while all the fires were extinguished on the first of November, their sacred and inextinguishable fires alone remained to illumine the horizon, like those of the Magi and the modern Zoroastrians."

Poppo, a Dutchman of the eighth century, wrote De officiis Druidum; and Occo, styled the last of the Frisian Druids, was the author of a similar work. Worth, in 1620, and Frickius of 1744 were engaged on the same subject. It is curious to notice St. Columba addressing God as "My Druid," and elsewhere saying, "My Druid is Christ the Son of God." The Vates were an order known in Irish as Faidh. Some derive Druid from Druthin, the old German for God. The word Druith is applied to a Druidess.

While many treat the Druids as religious, O'Curry asserts, "There is no ground whatever for believing the Druids to have been the priests of any special positive worship." Then Vallencey declares that "Druidism was not the established religion of the Pagan Irish, but Buddhism." Yet Lake Killarney was formerly Lock Lene, the Lake of Learning.

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« Reply #32 on: February 19, 2009, 01:17:48 pm »

The mystical, but accomplished, Massey tell us, "An Irish name for Druidism is Maithis, and that includes the Egyptian dual Thoth called Mati, which, applied to time, is the Terin or two Times at the base of all reckoning"--"likely that the Druidic name is a modified form of Tru-Hut."--"In Egypt Terut signifies the two times and before,. so the Druidic science included the knowledge of the times beforehand, the coming times."

Toland, one of the earliest and most philosophical Irish writers on this subject, thus spoke of them in his History of the Druids--"who were so prevalent in Ireland, that to this hour their ordinary word for magician is Druid (Drai), the art magic is called Druidity (Druidheacht), and the wand, which was one of the badges of the profession, the rod of Druidism (Slatnan Druidheacht)."

Windele, in Kilkenny records, expressed this view:--"Druidism was an artfully contrived system of elaborate fraud and imposture. To them was entrusted the charge of religion, jurisprudence, and medicine. They certainly well studied the book of Nature, were acquainted with the marvels of natural magic, the proportions of plants and herbs, and what of astronomy was then known; they may even have been skilled in mesmerism and biology." He thought that to the Druid "exclusively were known all the occult virtues of the whole materia medica, and to him belonged the carefully elaborated machinery of oracles, omens, auguries, aëromancy, fascinations, exorcisms, dream interpretations and visions, astrology, palmistry, &c"

As this may demand too much from our faith, we may remember, as Canon Bourke says, that "the youth of these countries have been taught to regard the Pagan Druids as educated savages, whereas they had the same opportunity of acquiring knowledge, and had really possessed as much as the Pagans of the Peloponnesus." We should further

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« Reply #33 on: February 19, 2009, 01:18:02 pm »

bear in mind the assurance of the Irish historian, O'Curry, that "there are vast numbers of allusions to the Druids, and of specific instances of the exercise of their vocation-be it magical, religious, philosophical, or educational--to be found in our old MSS."

Has not much misapprehension been caused, by authors concluding that all varieties of religion in Ireland proceeded from a class of men who, while popularly called Druids, may not have been connected with them? We know very far more about these varieties of faith in Ireland, before Christianity, than we do about any description of religion in Wales; and yet the Druidism of one country is reported as so different from that in the other immediately contiguous. Such are the difficulties meeting the student of History.

The Irish Druidical religion, like that of Britain and Gaul, has given rise to much discussion, whether it began, as some say, when Suetonius drove Druids from Wales, or began in Ireland before known in either Britain or Gaul, direct from the East.

"The Druidical religion," says Kenealy in the Book of God, "prevailed not only in Britain, but likewise all over the East." Pictet writes, "There existed very anciently in Ireland a particular worship which, by the nature of its doctrines, by the character of its symbols, by the names even of its gods, lies near to that religion of the Cabirs of Samothrace, emanated probably from Phœnicia." Mrs. Sophie Bryant thinks that "to understand the Irish non Christian tradition and worship, we should understand the Corresponding tradition and worship, and their history, for all the peoples that issued from the same Aryan home." Ledwich is content with saying, that "the Druids possessed no internal or external doctrine, either veiled by Symbols, or clouded in enigmas, or any religious tenets

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« Reply #34 on: February 19, 2009, 01:18:18 pm »

but the charlatanerie of barbarian priests and the grossest Gentile superstition."

While Professor O'Curry had "no ground whatever for believing the Druids to have been the priests of any special positive worship,"--and Vallencey could say," From all I could collect from Irish documents, relative to the religion of the heathen Irish, it appears that the Druidical religion never made a part of it,"--popular opinion has always been in the other direction. Yet Vallencey would credit Druids with some religion, when he mentions the Druidical oracular stone,--in Irish Logh-oun, in Cornish Logan,--"into which the Druids pretend that the Logh, or divine affluence, descended when they consulted it."

Dr. Richey depreciates the Druid, when writing of the early Irish missionaries: "They did not encounter any Archdruid as the representative or head of a national religion,--they found no priesthood occupying a definite political position which the ministers of the new religion could appropriate." The Welsh Archdruid Myfyr took higher ground, when saying, "This Gorsedd has survived the bardic chairs of Greece and Rome--it has survived the institutions of Egypt, Chaldæa, and Palestine." He declared, "Druidism is a religious system of positive philosophy, teaching truth and reason, peace and justice." He believed of Druids what Burnouf thought of the Hindoo Rishis, that their metaphysics and religion "were founded on a thorough grasp of physical facts."

Morien, his favourite disciple, boldly avows that Druidism, like Freemasonry, was a philosophy, founded on natural law, and not religion in the ordinary sense of that term. So L. Maclean regarded Ossian's heroes "for the greater part cabalistic, and indicative of the solar worship. Phion (Fingal) bespeaks the Phœnician; Cual, the Syrian or Dog-star worshipper, of which Conchulain with his

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« Reply #35 on: February 19, 2009, 01:18:30 pm »

crios or belt is but a variation." In Smith's Dictionary of the Bible, the religion of the Phœnicians is described in the way Morien has done that of the Druids;--"a personification of the forces of nature, which, in its more philosophical shadowing forth of the Supreme powers, may be said to have represented the male and female principles of production."

The Sabbath--a Babylonian word--was, it is said, kept on the 1st, 8th, 15th, 22nd, 29th of months, as with the Magi of the East. Philo says all nations of antiquity kept the seventh day holy. Porphyry mentions the same thing of the heathen. Professor Sayce finds it was a day of rest with ancient Assyrians, as Dr. Schmidt of temple pagan worship. Eusebius asserted that almost all philosophers acknowledged it. The Roman Pontiffs regulated the Sabbath, and Roman school-boys had then a holiday. The Persian word Shabet is clearly of Assyrian origin. The authoress of Mazzaroth says, "The Assyrians, Babylonians, Egyptians, Chinese, and the natives of India were acquainted with the seven days division of time, as were the Druids." The sun, moon, and five planets were the guardians of the days.



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« Reply #36 on: February 19, 2009, 01:18:49 pm »

IRISH BARDS.
The BARDS proper occupied a high position in Ireland. The Ollamhs had colleges at Clogher, Armagh, Lismore, and Tamar. On this, Walker's Historical Memoirs, 1786, observes that "all the eminent schools, delectably situated, which were established by the Christian clergy in the fifth century, were erected on the ruins of those colleges." They studied for twelve years to gain the barred cap and title of Ollamh or teacher. They were Ollamhain Re-dan, or Filidhe, poets. They acted as heralds, knowing the genealogy

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of their chiefs. With white robe, harp in hand, they encouraged warriors in battle Their power of satire was dreaded; and their praise, desired.

There is a story of the Ard Ollamh, or Archdruid, sending to Italy after a book Of skins, containing various chosen compositions, as the Cuilmeun, &c. As heralds they were called Seanachies. As Bards they sang in a hundred different kinds of verse. One Ollamh Fodhla was the Solon of Ireland; Amergin, the singer, lived 500 B.C.; Torna Egeas, was last of the paean bards. Long after, they were patriots of the tribes--

"With uncouth harps, in many-colour'd vest,
Their matted hair With boughs fantastic crown'd"

The Statutes of Kilkenny (Edward III.) made it penal to entertain any Irish Bard; but Munster Bards continued to hold their annual Sessions to the early part of last century. Carolan, the old blind harper, called last of the Bards, died in 1738.

Bards sang in the Hall of Shells: shells being then the cups. There were hereditary bards, as the O'Shiels, the O'Canvans, &c., paid to sing the deeds of family heroes. A lament for Dallan ran--

"A fine host and brave was he, master of and Governor,
                                 Ulla! Ullalu
We, thrice fifty Bards, we confessed him chief in song and war--
                                 Ulla! Ullalu!"

In the far-famed Trinity College Library is The Dialogue of the Two Sages, in the Irish Fenian dialect, giving the qualifications of a true Ollamh. Among the famous bards were, Lughar, "acute poet, Druid of Meidhbh"; Olioll, King of Munster; Oisin, son of Cormac, King of Tara, now nearly unintelligible to Irish readers; Fergus finbel of the Dinn Senchus; Oisin, the Fenian singer; Larghaire, whose

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« Reply #37 on: February 19, 2009, 01:19:03 pm »

poem to the sun was famous; Lughaidh, whose poem of the death of his wife Fail is of great antiquity; Adhna, once chief poet of Ireland; Corothruadh, Fingin, &c. Fergus Finbheoil, fair lips, was a Fenian Bard.

Ireland's Mirror, 1804, speaks of Henessey, a living seer, as the Orpheus of his country. Amergin, brother of Heber, was the earliest of Milesian poets. Sir Philip Sydney praised the Irish Bards three centuries ago. One, in Munster, stopped by his power the corn's growth; and the satire of another caused a shortness of life. Such rhymes were not to be patronized by the Anglo-Normans, in the Statute of 1367. One Bard directed his harp, a shell of wine, and his ancestor's shield to be buried with him. In rhapsody, some would see the images of coming events pass before them, and so declare them in song. He was surely useful who rhymed susceptible rats to death.

The Irish war odes were called Rosg-catha, the Eye of Battle. Was it for such songs that Irish-Danes were cruel to Bards? O'Reilly had a chronological account of 400 Irish writers. As Froude truly remarks, "Each celebrated minstrel sang his stories in his own way, adding to them, shaping them, colouring them, as suited his peculiar genius." It was Heeren who said of the early Greek bards, "The gift of song came to them from the gods." Villemarque held that Irish Bards were "really the historians of the race."

Walker's Irish Bards affirms that the "Order of the Bards continued for many succeeding ages invariably the same." Even Buchanan found "many of their ancient customs yet remain; yea, there is almost nothing changed of them in Ireland, but only ceremonies and rites of religion." Borlase wrote, "The last place we read of them in the British dominions is Ireland." Blair added, "Long after the Order of the Druids was extinct, and the national

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« Reply #38 on: February 19, 2009, 01:19:19 pm »

religion changed, the Bards continued to flourish, exercising the same functions as of old in Ireland." But Walker claimed the Fingalians as originally Irish. Sir I. Ferguson, in his Lays of the Western Gael, says, "The exactions of the Bards were so intolerable that the early Irish more than once endeavoured to rid themselves of the Order." Their arrogance had procured their occasional banishment. Higgins, in Celtic Druids, had no exalted opinion of them, saying, "The Irish histories have been most of them filled with lies and nonsense by their bards." Assuredly a great proportion of their works were destroyed by the priests, as they had been in England, Germany, France, &c.

The harp, according to Bede, was common in the seventh century. St. Columba played upon the harp. Meagor says of the first James of Scotland, "On the harp he excelled the Irish or the Highland Scots, who are esteemed the best performers on that instrument." Ireland was the school of music for Welsh and Scotch. Irish harpers were the most celebrated up to the last century. Ledwich thought the harp came in from Saxons and Danes. The Britons, some say, had it from the Romans. The old German harp had eighteen strings; the old Irish, twenty-eight; the modern Irish, thirty-three. Henry VIII. gave Ireland the harp for an armorial bearing, being a great admirer of Irish music; but James I. quartered it with the arms of France and England. St. Bernard gives Archbishop Malachy, 1134, the credit of introducing music into the Church service of Ireland.

The Irish cruit was the Welsh crwdd or crwth. Hugh Rose relates, that "a certain string was selected as the most suitable for each song." Diodorus Siculus recorded that "the bards of Gaul sang to instruments like lyres." The cymbals were not Bardic, but bell cymbals of the Church. They were hollow spheres, holding loose bits of metal for

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« Reply #39 on: February 19, 2009, 01:19:32 pm »

rattling, and connected by a flexible shank. The corn was a metallic horn; the drum, or tiompan, was a tabor; the piob-mela, or bagpipes, were borrowed from the far East; the bellows to the bag thereof were not seen till the sixteenth century. The Irish used foghair, or whole tones, and foghair-beg, or semi-tones. The cor, or harmony, was chruisich, treble, and cronan, base. The names of clefs were from the Latin. In most ancient languages the same word is used for Bard and Sage. Lönnrot found not a parish among the Karelians without several Bards. Quatrefages speaks of Bardic contests thus: "The two bards start strophe after strophe, each repeating at first that which the other had said. The song only stops with the learning of one of the two."

Walker ungallantly wrote, "We cannot find that the Irish had female Bards," while admitting that females cried the Caoine over the dead. Yet in Cathluina we read, "The daughter of Moran seized the harp, and her voice of music praised the strangers. Their souls melted at the song, like the wreath of snow before the eye of the sun."

The Court Bards were required, says Dr. O'Donovan, to have ready seven times fifty chief stories, and twice fifty sub-stories, to repeat before the Irish King and his chiefs. Conor Mac Neasa, King of Ulster, had three thousand Bards, gathered from persecuting neighbouring chiefs.

"Musician, herald, bard, thrice may'st thou be renowned,
And with three several wreaths immortally be crowned."

Brehons.--Breitheamhain - were legislative Bards; and, said Walker, in 1786, they "promulgated the laws in a kind of recitative, or monotonous chant, seated on an eminence in the open air." According to McCurtin, the Irish Bards of the sixth century wore long, flowing garments, fringed and Ornamented with needlework. in a Life of Columba, 1827,

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« Reply #40 on: February 19, 2009, 01:19:47 pm »

it is written, "The Bards and Sennachees retained their office, and some degree of their former estimation among the nobility of Caledonia and Ireland, till the accession of the House of Hanover."

"Nothing can prove," says O'Beirne Crowe, "the late introduction of Druidism into our country more satisfactorily than the utter contempt in which the name bard is held in all our records.--After the introduction of our irregular system of Druidism, which must have been about the second century of the Christian era, the Filis (bard) had to fall into something like the position of the British Bards-- hence we see them, down to a late period--practising incantations like the Magi of the continent, and in religious matters holding extensive sway."

Ossianic literature had a higher opinion of the Bards; as, "Such were the words of the Bards in the days of the Song; when the King heard the music of harps and the tales of other times. The chiefs gathered from all their hills, and heard the lovely sound.. They praised the voice of Cona, the first among a thousand bards." Again, "Sit thou on the heath, O Bard! and let us hear thy voice. It is pleasant as the gale of the spring, that sighs on the hunter's ear, when he wakens from dreams of joy, and has heard the music of the spirits of the hill.--The music of Cardil was like the memory of joys that are past, pleasant, and mournful to the soul. The ghosts of departed Bards heard it." "My life," exclaimed Fingal, "shall be one stream of light to Bards of other times." Cathmor cried, "Loose the Bards. Their voice shall be heard in other ages, when the Kings of Temora have failed."

Keating, amusingly credulous as an Irish historian records with gravity the story of an ancient militia numbering nine thousand in time of peace, who had both sergeants and colonels. Into the ranks of these Fine Eirion

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« Reply #41 on: February 19, 2009, 01:20:01 pm »

no one was admitted unless proved to be a poetical genius, well acquainted with the twelve books of poetry.

The Dinn Seanchas has poems by the Irish Bard of the second century, Finin Mac Luchna; and it asserts that "the people deemed each other's voices sweeter than the warblings of the melodious harp." On Toland's authority we learn that, for a long time after the English Conquest, the judges, Bards, physicians, and harpers held land tenures in Ireland. The O'Duvegans were hereditary Bards of the O'Kellies; the O'Shiels were hereditary doctors; the O'Brodins, hereditary antiquaries; the Maglanchys, hereditary judges. The Bards were Strabo's hymn-makers.

Mrs. Bryant felt that "The Isle of Song was soon to become the Isle of Saints;" and considered "Ireland of the Bards knew its Druids simply as men skilled in all magical arts, having no marked relation either to a system of theology, or to a scheme of ceremonial practice."

The Brehon Law gives little information respecting Druids, though the Brehons were assumed to have been Originally Druid judges. St. Patrick has the credit of compiling this record.

These Brehons had a high reputation for justice; and yet it is confessed that when one was tempted to pass a false sentence, his chain of office would immediately tighten round his neck most uncomfortably as a warning. Of the Brehons, it is said by the editors--O'Mahony and Richey --"The learning of the Brehons became as useless to the public as the most fantastic discussions of the Schoolmen, and the whole system crystallized into a form which rendered social progress impossible." Though those old Irish laws were so oppressive to the common people, and so favourable to the hereditary chiefs, it was hard indeed to get the people to relinquish them for English laws.

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« Reply #42 on: February 19, 2009, 01:20:15 pm »

In 1522, English law existed in only four of the Irish counties; and Brehons and Ollamhs (teachers) were known to the end of the seventeenth century. The founding of the book of Brehon Law is thus explained:--"And when the men of Erin heard--all the power of Patrick since his arrival in Erin--they bowed themselves down in obedience to the will of God and Patrick. It was then that all the professors of the sciences (Druids) in Erin were assembled, and each of them exhibited his art before Patrick, in the presence of every chief in Erin.--What did not clash with the Word of God in the written law, and in the New Testament, and with the consciences of the believers, was confirmed in the laws of the Brehons by Patrick, and by the ecclesiastics and the chieftains of Erin."



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« Reply #43 on: February 19, 2009, 01:20:42 pm »

ISLE OF MAN DRUIDISM.
The Isle of Man lies just between Ireland and Wales. Let us examine what can be shown about these matters therein.

Boetius, translated by Alfred the Great, had a particularly doubtful story to tell; too similar, alas! to the narratives of early Christian writers. "Cratilinth, the Scottish King, A.D. 277," said he, "was very earnest in the overthrow of Druidism in the Isle of Mon and elsewhere; and upon the occasion of Dioclesian's persecution, when many Christians fled to him for refuge, he gave them the Isle of Man for their residence." He relates that Mannanan Beg "was the establisher and cultivator of religion after the manner of the Egyptians.--He caused great stones to be placed in the form of a circle."

Train, in his History of Man, refers to Mannanan Beg, Mac-y-Leirr, of the first century, having kept the Island

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under mist by his necromancy. "If he dreaded an enemy, he would cause one man to seem a hundred, and that by Art Magic." King Finnan, 134 B.C., is said to have first established Druids there. The Archdruid was known as Kion-druaight, or Ard-druaight. Plowden thought the Druids emigrated thither after the slaughter at Mona; others declare Mona to have been an Irish Druidical settlement. Sacheverell refers to Druidical cairns on the tops of hills, which were dedicated to the Sun, and speaks of hymns having what were called cairn tunes. Train says, "So highly were the Manx Druids distinguished for their knowledge of astronomy, astrology, and natural philosophy, that the Kings of Scotland sent their sons to be educated there." He thought that until 1417, "in imitation of the practice of the Druids, the laws of the Island were locked up in the breasts of the Deemsters." The old rude edifices of stone are still called Tinan Druinich, or Druids' houses. McAlpine says that Druid in Manx is Magician.



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« Reply #44 on: February 19, 2009, 01:21:07 pm »

FRENCH DRUIDISM.
The Deroo of Brittany were more ancient, said Henri Martin, than those Druids known to Romans; being "primitive Druids, a sacerdotal caste of old Celts." Yet Forlong, who believed the Gallic coast tribes long traded and intermarried with the Phœnicians, saw "abundant evidences for their worshipping Astarte and Herakles." They were Saronidæ, or judges. They were the builders, masons, or like Gobhan Saer, free smiths. Of Saer, O'Brien in his Round Towers says--"The first name ever given to this body (Freemasons) was Saer, which has three significations: firstly, free; secondly, mason; and thirdly, son of

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God." Keane calls him "one of the Guabhres or Cabiri, such as you have ever seen him represented on the Tuath de Danaan Cross at Clonmacnoise."

A Breton poem, Ar Rannou, a dialogue between a Druid and his pupil, is still sung by villagers, as it may have been by their ancestors, the Venite of Cæsar's story. The seat of the Archdruid of Gaul was at Dreux.

French writers have interested themselves in the Druidic question. The common impression is that Druids were only to be found in Brittany; but other parts of France possessed those priests arid bards. Certainly the northwest corner, the region of megalithic remains, continued later to be their haunt, being less disturbed there. It was in Brittany, also, that the before-mentioned Oriental mysticism found so safe a home, and was nurtured so assiduously. But Druids were equally known in the south, centre, and north-east of France.

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