The Druid Question

Perhaps one of the most persistent traditions which has been passed on

from generation to generation is that which connects Stonehenge with

the Druids. There is, indeed, a vast literature on the subject of

Druidism, but the actual knowledge of the subject is limited, and the

entire question is very obscure. Much of the information existing is

derived from a time when Christianity had long been established. The

early Ce
tic religion has in fact been overlaid and embellished by so

many later theories as to be particularly confusing to the modern

student. Benedictine historians have discovered in Druidism traces of

revealed religion by the simple process of confusing similarity with

identity. The Gaul adored the oak tree, therefore this must have been

a far-off remembrance of the plains of Mamre.

Another class of writers have invented for the Druids the mission of

preserving in the West the learning of Phoenicia and Egypt. The cults

of Baal and Moloch have been grafted upon them, and so forth, until

the very Druid himself is lost in a mass of crystallisations from

without. The insular Druids, to which our national traditions refer,

were far more likely to be mere wise men, or witch doctors, with

perhaps a spice of the conjuror. This, at all events, seems to be the

case at the time when we first acquire any positive information

concerning them. Theirs it would be to summon the rain clouds and to

terrify the people by their charms. The Chief Druid of Tara, decked

out in golden ear-clasps and his torque of heavy gold, is shown us as

a leaping juggler as he tosses swords and balls in the air, and

like the buzzing of bees on a beautiful day is the motion of each

passing the other.

Amazing as is the bulk which has been written about the Druids, their

beliefs, knowledge, and ethics, it seems even more remarkable that so

much should have been said to connect them with the building of the

stone circles which they are credited with having constructed as

astronomical observatories and temples. As has already been indicated,

Stonehenge belongs to an epoch far earlier than any Druidism of which

record remains. This fact rests upon the evidence of both the

archæologist and the astronomer. It is, therefore, not a little

puzzling that Sir Norman Lockyer, after fixing the date of Stonehenge

at about 1700 B.C., should cite the Druids and their late Celtic cult

in dealing with a monument which, on his own showing, was built in

early Bronze times. There must exist a very wide gap of anything from

seven hundred to a thousand years between the May Year Druids of

whom he writes, and the builders of Stonehenge, and an interval

possibly as great or even greater between Stonehenge and Avebury and

those other north-east and south-east temples to which he attributes a

Druidic form of worship. It is even a matter of grave question if the

race who built the Stone Circles was not entirely different to the

late Celtic inhabitants of the plain. Avebury has been classed as a

Neolithic monument, built by the long-headed race whose remains are

usually found in the Long Barrows; Stonehenge belongs to a bronze

period, but at a very early date in that culture; its builders would

probably belong to the round-headed type of man whose barrows are

studded very closely round about it.