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the world, which we ourselves inhabit, or have under our own immediate view, to know something of the religions which once prevailed here, and influenced the fate of these countries, cannot surely be deemed uninteresting or unimportant.
Two principal Religions for many ages divided between them all those countries, which are now blessed with Christianity: Can we comprehend the obligations we owe to the Christian religion, if we are ignorant from what principles and from what opinions it has delivered us?
I well know that men find employment enough in describing one of these two systems; viz. that of the Greeks and Romans. How many books on their ancient mythology hath not that religion occasioned ? There have been volumes written upon the little petty divinities adored only in one single village, or accidentally named by some ancient author: The most trivial circumstances, the most inconsiderable monuments of the worship prescribed by that religion, have occasioned whole folios: And yet we may, perhaps with reason, assert, that a work which should endeavour to unfold the spirit, and mark the influence of that religion in a moral and political view, is yet wanted.
Nevertheless, that religion only extended itself in Europe over Greece and Italy. How, indeed, could it take root among the conquered nations, who hated the gods of Rome both as foreign deities, and as the gods of their masters? That religion, then, so well known among us, that even our children study its principal tenets, was confined within very narrow bounds; while the major part of Gaul, of Britain, Germany, and Scandinavia, uniformly cultivated another very different, from time immemorial.
1. The Polytheism of GREECE Religion of the CELTS or Teu, and ROME: and, 2. The Druidical TONS.
The Europeans may reasonably call this CELTIC) worship the religion of their fathers; Italy itself having received into her bosom more than one conquering nation who professed it. This is the religion which they would probably still have cultivated, had they been left for ever to themselves, and continued plunged in their original darkness: This is the religion which (if I may be allowed to say so) our climate, our constitutions, our very wants are adapted to and inspire: For who can deny, but that in the false religions there are a thousand things relative to these different objects? It is, in short, this religion, of which Christianity (though after a long conflict, it triumphed over it) could never totally eradicate the vestiges.
We may reasonably inquire how it comes to pass that the Paganism of Greece and Rome ingrosses all our attention, while there are so few, even among the learned, who have any notion of the religion I am speaking of? Hath this preference been owing to any natural superiority either in the precepts or worship of these learned nations? Or do they afford subjects for more satisfactory researches than those of the northern nations? What indeed are they, after all, but a chaos" of indistinct and confused opinions, and of customs indiscriminately borrowed and picked up from all other religions, void of all connexion and coherence; and where, amidst eternal contradictions and obscurities, one has some difficulty to trace out a few bright rays
"It little imports that the learned stile this religion in France the GAULISH; in England, the BRITISH; in Germany, the GERMANIC, &c. It is now allowed to have been the same, at least with respect to the fundamental doc trines, in all these countries: As
I here all along consider it in a general light, I use the word CELTIC as the most universal term, without entering into the disputes to which this word hath given rise, and which proceed, in my opinion, from men's not understanding one another.
of reason and genius? What was this religion but a rude and indigested system, wholly composed of superstitious ceremonies, directed by blind fear, without any fixed principles, without a single view for the good of humanity, without rational consolations, which, although in some circumstances it might arrest the hand, wholly abandoned the heart to all its weaknesses? Who can be afraid of finding, among the most savage nations, ideas of religion more disgraceful to human nature than these?
But perhaps the Grecian Mythology may have been studied, in order to discover the origin of many customs still existing in Europe! It cannot indeed be denied, but that it is often necessary to recur thither, in order to explain some peculiarities of our manners, of which it is easier to discover the cause, than to ascertain the reason.
But doth not a knowledge of the religions professed by the ancient Celtic and Gothic nations lead to discoveries of the same kind, and perhaps to others still more interesting? One generation imitates the preceding; the sons inherit their fathers sentiments, and whatever change time may effect, the manners of a nation always retain traces of the opinions professed by its first founders. Most of the present nations of Europe derive their origin from the Celts or Goths; and the sequel of this work will show, perhaps, that their opinions, however obsolete, still subsist in the effects which they have produced. May not we esteem of this kind (for example) that love and admiration for the profession of arms, which was carried among us! even to fanaticism, and which for many ages incited the Europeans, mad by system, and fierce through a point of honour, to fight, with no other view, but merely for the sake of fighting? May not we refer to this source, that remarkable attention and respect which the nations of Europe have paid to the fair sex, by which they have been so long the arbiters of glo
rious actions, the aim and the reward of great exploits, and that they yet enjoy a thousand advantages which every where else are reserved for the men? Can we not explain from these Celtic or Gothic religions, how, to the astonishment of posterity, judiciary combats and ordeal proofs were admitted by the legislature of all Europe; and how, even to the present time, the people are still infatuated with a belief of the power of magicians, witches, spirits, and genii, concealed under the earth, or in the waters, &c. ?
In fine, do we not discover in these religious opinions, that source of the marvellous with which our ancestors filled their romances, a system of wonders unknown to the ancient classics, and but little investigated even to this day; wherein we see dwarfs and giants, fairies and demons, acting and directing all the machinery with the most regular conformity to certain characters which they always sustain.
What reason, then, can be assigned, why the study of these ancient Celtic and Gothic religions? hath been so much neglected? One may, I fancy, be immediately found in the idea conceived of the Celts
and Goths in general, and especially of the Germans and Scandinavians. They are indiscriminately mentioned under the title of Barbarians; and this word, once spoken, is believed to include the whole that can be said on the subject. There cannot be a more commodious method of dispensing with a study, which is not only considered as not very agreeable, but also as affording but little satisfaction. Were this term to be admitted in its strictest sense, it should not even then excuse our intire disregard of a people, whose exploits and institutions make so considerable a figure in our history. But ought they, after all, to be represented as a troop of savages, barely of a human form, ravaging and destroying by mere brutal instinct, and totally devoid of all notions of religion, policy, virtue and de
corum? Is this the idea Tacitus gives us of them; who, though born and educated in ancient Rome, professed that, in many things, ancient Germany was the object of his admiration and envy. I will not deny, but that they were very far from possessing that politeness, knowledge and taste which excite us to search with an earnestness, almost childish, amid the wrecks of what, by way of excellence, we call ANTIQUITY; but, allowing this its full value, must we carry it so high, as to refuse to bestow the least attention on another kind of Antiquities, which may, if you please, be called barbarous; but to which our manners, laws and governments perpetually refer?
The study of the ancient Celtic or Gothic' religions hath not only appeared devoid of blossoms and of fruits; it hath been supposed to be replete with difficulties of every kind. The Celtic religion, it is well known, forbad its followers to divulge its mysteries in writing, and this prohibition, dictated either by ignorance or by idleness, has but too well taken effect. The glimmering rays, faintly scattered among the writings of the Greeks and Romans, have been believed to be the sole guides in this enquiry, and from thence naturally arose a distaste towards it. Indeed, to say nothing of the difficulty of uniting, correcting, and reconciling the different passages of ancient authors, it is well known that mankind are in no instance so little inclined to do justice to one another, as in what regards any difference of religion. And what satisfaction can a lover of truth find in a course of reading, wherein ignorance and partiality appear in every line? Readers who require solid information, and exact ideas, will meet with little satisfaction from these Greek
So Cæsar relates of the British Druids," Neque fas esse exisFimant ea (Carmina seil.) Litteris
mandare."-De Bell. Gal. lib. (.