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A HILL FORT OF THE BRITONS.
THE Britons undoubtedly were a nation of Celtic origin, who, at a period which Tacitus designates as "beyond the reach of history," crossed over from Germany to Britain, bringing with them manners, which at the time of Cæsar's invasion, were unaltered and unimproved. These were the people whom he calls the aborigines, or as Camden says, "people who sprung out of the soil like mushrooms." Though Tacitus, more philosophically, refers them to the Germans for their ancestors, with the exception of the inhabitants of the southern coast, which he supposes to have been peopled from Spain and Gaul. The whole island was divided into petty kingdoms, each ruled by a chief, entirely independent of, and often at war with, his neighbours. The Druids were not confined to any particular province, but were equally venerated by all the people: to this class were intrusted the education of youth, and the office of priests. They were ruled by one chosen by themselves, who was styled the archdruid, and exercised the same species of authority as the archbishops
VOL. V. 3d SERIES.
now do over their inferior clergy. Their religion was simple-they believed in the immortality of the soul-and in the existence of one supreme being, whom they would not suffer to be represented by images. To him they offered sacrifices-sometimes of human beings. With these Druids, and with another class called Bards, all traditions, poems, and knowledge remained, and as they would not suffer it to be transcribed, of course it perished with them.
Of their buildings few now remain but those used for religious purposes; and it is somewhat remarkable that this is the case in many other countries, as in India and Egypt, where the temples still remain, though the men who raised them are forgotten, and all that we know about them is, that they were buildings erected to the honor of the gods-by nations who have long ceased to exist.
The style of the British temples is called Cyclopean, from the fables which were believed by the ancients of their being the erections of giants; they consist of huge. stones piled together, without cement, and of various shapes, always in the form of a circle,-uncovered-and with an entrance facing the North East-as the gates of the cavern temples in India did, which is rather remarkable. Diodorus Siculus says, that they worshipped the sun, and this was the reason of their shape, the place of entrance, and of their being without roofs.
Those collections of stones called "Druid circles," were erected on the same place, and were for the same purpose, with an altar stone in the centre. These places of worship (as were their cromlechs) were always situated in a thick grove, and Dr. Stukley says, that Stonehenge was once thus surrounded with a wood.
There is another kind of erection common in Britain, which is called a cromlech. It consists of three stonestwo placed upright in the earth, and another laid longitudinally across them, the top stone being generally broad and
flat; they are considered by many to be altars, which seems probable from their being often surrounded by a circle of stones, and the remains of a wood can often be discovered around them. These stones are common in India, Germany, and Ireland, and there is one called the Pierre élevée, near Poictiers in France. In Ireland and Scotland they are generally called Lifted stones. In Anglesea there is one composed of wrought stone. It is proper to remark, however, that these stones are considered by some as sepulchral monuments.
The Rocking stone is also common in England, these were used for various purposes,-principally for displaying the power of the Druids; they are called by Ossian, "Stones of Power."
"He called the grey haired scriraw, that often sung round the circle of Loda. When the Stone of Power heard his voice, the battle turned in the field of the valiant."
Fingal, book 3.
They were also used in divinations, as places of sanctuary; for curing diseases, and as a kind of test for trying the innocence or guilt of persons, by the stones moving when touched, or remaining fixed, which of course must have been a contrivance of the Druids. These stones have been found in Greece.
Rock basins are also sometimes met with; these were made for the purpose of collecting dew for religious purposes, for offering sacrifices, and for holding blood, oil, &c.
Perforated stones were used for curing children of diseases by drawing them through, and this custom has not long been discontinued in some parts of England.
Upright stones have been used by many rude nations for various purposes, as land marks, monuments of those slain in battle, &c. but these in more modern times have been made into crosses, and exist as such at the present day.