Christogenea Europe, January 18th, 2015: Druids and Early Christianity in Britain

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Sven's notes are found in his article The Druids and the Early British Church

The following notes represent the citations from various books quoted by William Finck during the audio presentation. The writings of Bede, Gildas and Nennius are found in the References section here at Christogenea.

From The Annals of Ireland translated from The Original Irish of The Four Masters by Owen Connellan in 1846, from a footnote on the Druids found on page 75:

About nine centuries before the Christian era, according to our ancient annalists, Tigearnmas, monarch of Ireland, of the race of Heremon, was the first who introduced Druidism and the worship of idols into Ireland; and it is stated, that while worshipping the idol Crom Cruach, the chief deity of the Irish Druids, along with a vast assemblage of his subjects at Magh Sleacht in Breifne, on the feast of Samhuin, (one of their deities, the day dedicated to whose rites was the same as the last day of October), he himself, with three-fourths of his people, were struck dead by lightning, as a punishment from heaven for his introduction of idolatry into the kingdom. Magh Sleachta signifies either the Plain of Adoration, or the Plain of Slaughter, and obtained its name from the Druidical rites performed there, or from the human sacrifices which the Pagan Irish offered up to the deities of Druidism, as the Canaanites offered up their’s to Moloch. In this place stood a famous temple of the Druids, with the great idol Crom Cruach surrounded by twelve minor idols, composed of pillar stones, and decorated with heads of gold. This temple and its idols were destroyed by St. Patrick, who erected a church on its site. Of these events accounts are given in the Life of St. Patrick by Jocelyn the monk, in Cambrensis Eversus, O’Flaherty’s Ogygia, and Vallancy’s Collectanea. Magh Sleacht was situated in the present barony of Mohill, county of Leitrim, and afterwards received the name of Fiodhnach, which may signify a wild or woody district. Fenagh in after ages had a celebrated monastery and college, and was long famous as a seat of learning and religion. Cromleacs of huge stones and other Druidical remains are to be seen at Fenagh to this day. Brefney was inhabited in the early ages by the Fir-Bolgs, who are called Belgae or Belgians by various writers, afterwards by the Milesians of the race of Ir, or the Clanna Rory, and lastly by the Milesians of the race of Heremon. The Fir-Bolgs who possessed Brefney, are mentioned by the ancient writers under the names of Ernaidhe, Ernaians, and Ernaechs, which names are stated to have been given them from their inhabiting the territories about Lough Erne. Ptolemy, the great Greek geographer of the second century, denominates them Ernidi, Ernidoi, or Erdinoi, as given in his Map of Ireland by Ware, O’Conor, and others. These Erneans possessed the entire of Brefney, and make a remarkable figure in the history of the early ages, from the various great-battles fought between them and the Milesian kings.

From The Annals of Ireland translated from The Original Irish of The Four Masters by Owen Connellan in 1846, from a footnote on the Druids found on pages 271-272

Cromleacs.—The name Cromleac, signifies the stone of Crom; and they were so called from being used in the worship of Crom, one of the deities of the Irish Druids, said to represent Fate, or, according to Lanigan and others the god of fire or the sun and sometimes called Crom Dubh, or, Black Crom, and Crom Cruach, signifying Crom of the Heaps of stones or Cairns, as quoted by Lanigan from the Tripartite Life of St. Patrick; and the Idol of Crom Cruach, as stated in Lanigan and O'Flaherty's Ogygia, quoting from the Four Masters, and also in the Book of Invasions, by the O’Clerys, was destroyed by St. Patrick at the temple of the Druids, on Magh Sleacht in Brefney, now Fenagh in Leitrim, and the last Sunday of summer is still hailed Domhnach Chroim Duibh, or the Sunday of Black Crom, being sacred to St. Patrick as the anniversary commemorating the destruction of the idol. This is the real origin of the name Cromleac, and not from the stones being in a sloping position, as absurdly stated by some writers, and derived from the opinions of the common people. The chief deities of the Druids were the sun, moon, stars, and winds; and woods, wells, fountains, and rivers, were also objects of adoration. The sun was worshipped under the designation of Bel, Beal, or Baal, as by the Phoenicians and other eastern nations, and also under the name of Grian. The time dedicated to the worship of the moon was called Samhuin, which was one of their deities; and the wind was worshipped under the name of Gaoth. The sacred fire of Beal was lighted on the evening of the first day of summer, or May eve, at the temple of the Druids on the hill of Usneagh, situated a few miles from Mullingar in Westmeath; hence that day is still named in the Irish La Beal-Teinne, that is, the day of Beal’s fire. The sacred fire of Samhuin was lighted on the eve of the first day of winter, at Tiachtga, in Meath, another chief seat of Druidism, situated at a place now called the Hill of Ward, between Trim and Athboy; and in the Irish La Samhna, or Samhuin’s day, is the name applied to the first of November. No fires were permitted to be lighted in Ireland, but those obtained from the Druids at May and November, who delivered their sacred fire to the people with great incantations, and for obtaining it a payment of one screapal, a silver coin equivalent to three pence of modern money was levied on every house or head of a family. Some remnants of the custom originating from the celebration of the sacred fire of the Druids, is still preserved in the May fires lighted in Ireland. The oak was a sacred tree to the Druids, and the rites of Druidism were chiefly celebrated in the oak groves; and the name Druid, in Irish Draoi or Drui, is supposed to be derived from the Irish Dair or Duir, which signifies the oak; or, according to others, it was derived from the Greek word Drus, which also signifies an oak tree, as the ancient Gauls are said to have taken the derivation of Druid from the Greek language, which their learned men spoke in Caesar’s time. According to the Dictionaire Historique de Cultes Religieuse, the word Druid was derived from Derw, or Deru, which in the Gaulish language signified an oak; and it may be observed, that Drus is the Greek for an oak, a word which resembles the Celtic. By Cesar, Pliny, and other Roman writers, the Gaulish word for Druids was rendered to Druidae and Druides, and by modern Latin writers the word Druids has been often translated into Magi. Three of the Tuath De Danan kings of Ireland were named from their peculiar deities; one was called Mac Coill, or the Son of the Wood, as he worshipped the woods, another Mac Ceacht, or the Son of the Plough, his god being that chief emblem of husbandry; and the third Mac Greine, as Grian, or the sun, was the great object of his adoration. Accounts of Irish Druidism will be found in Ware, Toland, Keating, O’Halloran, and Vallancey, and interesting descriptions of the Druids of Gaul and Britain are given in Caesar’s Commentaries.

From Bede, Book I, Chapter IV:

LUCIUS, KING OF BRITAIN, WRITING TO POPE ELEUTHERUS, DESIRES TO BE MADE A CHRISTIAN

IN the year of our Lord's incarnation 156, Marcus Antoninus Verus, the fourteenth from Augustus, was made emperor, together with his brother, Aurelius Commodus. In their time, whilst Eleutherus, a holy man, presided over the Roman church, Lucius, king of the Britons, Sent a letter to him, entreating that by his command he might be made a Christian. He soon obtained his pious request, and the Britons preserved the faith, which they had received, uncorrupted and entire, in peace and tranquillity until the time of the Emperor Diocletian.

From Nennius' Historia Brittonum:

3.22. After the birth of Christ, one hundred and sixty-seven years, king Lucius, with all the chiefs of the British people, received baptism, in consequence of a legation sent by the Roman emperors and pope Evaristus.

From Gildas' Works:

7. The Romans, therefore, having slain many of the rebels, and reserved others for slaves, that the land might not be entirely reduced to desolation, left the island, destitute as it was of wine and oil, and returned to Italy, leaving behind them taskmasters, to scourge the shoulders of the natives, to reduce their necks to the yoke, and their soil to the vassalage of a Roman province; to chastise the crafty race, not with warlike weapons, but with rods, and if necessary to gird upon their sides the naked sword, so that it was no longer thought to be Britain, but a Roman island; and all their money, whether of copper, gold, or silver, was stamped with Caesar's image.

8. Meanwhile these islands, stiff with cold and frost, and in a distant region of the world, remote from the visible sun, received the beams of light, that is, the holy precepts of Christ, the true Sun, showing to the whole world his splendour, not only from the temporal firmament, but from the height of heaven, which surpasses every thing temporal, at the latter part, as we know, of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, by whom his religion was propagated without impediment, and death threatened to those who interfered with Its professors.

9. These rays of light were received with lukewarm minds by the inhabitants, but they nevertheless took root among some of them in a greater or less degree, until nine years' persecution of the tyrant Diocletian, when the churches throughout the whole world were overthrown, al1 the copies of the Holy Scriptures which could be found burned in the streets, and the chosen pastors of God's flock butchered, together with their innocent sheep, in order that not a vestige, if possible, might remain in some provinces of Christ's religion. What disgraceful flights then took place -what slaughter and death inflicted by way of punishment in divers shapes, -what dreadful apostacies from religion; and on the contrary, what glorious crowns of martyrdom then were won, -what raving fury was displayed by the persecutors, and patience on the part of the suffering saints, ecclesiastical history informs us; for the whole church were crowding in a body, to leave behind them the dark things of this world, and to make the best of their way to the happy mansions of heaven, as if to their proper home.