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Title: The Round Towers of Ireland; or, The History of the Tuath-De-Danaans

Author: Henry O'Brien

Release date: April 15, 2013 [eBook #42538]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by The Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This file was produced from images
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Henry O’Brien

Author of “The Round Towers of Ireland.”












London: W. THACKER & CO., 2 Creed Lane, E.C.
Calcutta: THACKER, SPINK & CO.

[All Rights Reserved]



750 Copies only of this Edition have been printed for Sale and the Type distributed, of which this is No. 324.




Introduction vii
Synopsis xxxvii
Dedication (First Edition) lxi
Preface (First Edition) lxiii
Dedication (Second Edition) xciii
List of Illustrations xcv
Author’s Text (Second Edition) 1
List of the Principal Irish Towers and Crosses 525
Index 529



[Pg vii]


“When all is dark, who would object to a ray of light, merely because of the faulty or flickering medium by which it is transmitted? And if those round towers have been hitherto a dark puzzle and a mystery, must we scare away O’Brien, because he approaches with a rude and unpolished but serviceable lantern?”—Fraser’s Magazine for August 1835.

Henry O’Brien, the most daring and ingenious explorer of that recondite mystery, the origin and purpose of Irish Round Towers, was born in 1808. On both his father’s and his mother’s side he came of good descent,[1] being connected with two of the oldest and most influential families in the west of Ireland. At the time of his birth that branch of “the O’Briens” to which he belonged were settled in Kerry, where his father resided in a wild, mountainous district, known as Iveragh, forming a portion of the Marquis of Lansdowne’s Irish estates. That his family were in affluent circumstances is improbable, for up to the age of twelve the boy’s education seems to have been neglected in a way very uncommon with Irish people who are well off. “Though I could then tolerably well express myself in English,” he says,[2] referring to this portion of his life, “the train of my reflections always ran in Irish. From infancy I spoke that tongue; it was to me vernacular. I thought in Irish, I understood in Irish, and I composed in Irish”; and again, “I was twelve years of[Pg viii] age before ever I saw a Testament in any language.” From this unusual neglect, coupled with the fact of his becoming a private tutor soon after he had settled in London, and an obscure reference to certain “difficulties” at the outset of his career as an author, we are probably justified in assuming that money was a rather scarce commodity in the paternal home. There is, however, reason to suppose that when he had reached the age of twelve, or thereabouts, his education was taken in hand, though how, or by whom, does not appear. Evidence of his having been sent to school and placed under systematic and qualified instruction is not forthcoming. In fact, circumstances go to negative that supposition. His acquaintance with Greek and Latin authors seems to have been more extensive than accurate, and his quotations from them are marked by solecisms which any properly taught schoolboy would avoid, but in which the self-educated are prone to indulge. It is true that (at p. 481) he describes in terms of unqualified praise a “tutor” with whom he commenced the study of the Greek Testament; but there is internal evidence in the same passage that such praise was not wholly deserved, and that the tutor in question was certainly not the person referred to in Father Prout’s statement that O’Brien had been “brought up at the feet of the Rev. Charles Boyton.”[3] Mr. Boyton was at the time a highly distinguished Fellow of Trinity College, Dublin, who, in addition to holding the position of Greek Lecturer at that University, was the most eminent mathematical “coach” of his day; and the only connection likely to have existed between him and young O’Brien was that of college-tutor and undergraduate[Pg ix] in statu pupillari. The probability is, therefore, that any instruction which the boy received at this early period of his life was of a very elementary character, and that his education was mainly conducted by himself, a probability which is certainly not discounted by the wide and promiscuous character of his reading. From the outset of his introduction to letters he is known to have been an omnivorous reader of all books that came in his way, nor was his mode of studying classical authors that by which the scholastic proficiency essential to aspirants for success at college examinations is usually attained. O’Brien did not resemble the ordinary boy-student, to whom Roman or Greek classics represent merely a given quantity of “text” possessing certain peculiarities of diction or allusion which have to be nicely dissected, analysed, and mastered, but who regards the subject-matter of each work as being of very minor importance. On the contrary, he manifestly read them as authors, or rather authorities upon the subjects with which they respectively dealt, paying, so far as we can perceive, little or no attention to the diction or distinctive literary character of their writings. The result was what might be expected. If, whilst an undergraduate of Dublin University, it be true that he was regarded by many of his fellow-students as a prodigy of learning, their seniors appear to have been less enthusiastic about his scholarship, for we have not been able to discover his name in the college archives.[4] Still, from the fact of his having obtained, after he took his degree in 1831, the appointment of private tutor to the sons of the then Master of the Rolls,[5] it is possible that he may have distinguished himself previously.

[Pg x]What seems absolutely certain is, that during his stay at the University he must have availed himself to the full of opportunities presented by the library for which Trinity College is famous. Here, no doubt, he laid the foundation of that Oriental learning in which he was second to no Irishman of his day, and probably to few Englishmen. It is hardly too much to say that in the early part of the century Orientalism was comparatively untrodden ground. Sir William Jones had indeed, many years before, thoroughly explored this field of knowledge, but the results of his splendid labours had not as yet been properly assimilated by the general mass of readers, or supplemented to any remarkable extent by other workers in the same field. Hence the scope of European knowledge of the East was by no means so extensive then as now; and an enthusiastic student thereof, which O’Brien undoubtedly was, had it in his power to acquire an almost complete mastery of the subject, so far as it was then known. It was one peculiarly fitted to his ardent, dreamy, and speculative nature. He read, he pondered, he divined, he foresaw. Dark places in the history of his own country began to grow clear in the light of this Eastern dawn. Hitherto, like so many of his compatriots, he had found no way of accounting for the extraordinary contrast between the distinctive superiority of “the Ireland that was” and the relative obscurity of “the Ireland that is.” To what, he must apparently have asked himself, was the fact to be attributed, that a people who in days of old were admittedly pre-eminent in learning and civilisation, should have afterwards lost all claim to such distinction; or how was it that, in a land covered with the ruins of structures evincing the ripest skill and most fanciful artistic device, architecture should have sunk to a level that was almost barbarous? Why was it that this decadence did not take place gradually, as one would expect, but was plainly the result of a sudden check that stopped the erection of such edifices at once and for ever? Why were the materials, structure, and conformation of the edifices in question so different from those of other[Pg xi] ancient buildings found in their immediate neighbourhood? Why had their sculptured ornamentation reference to what was unconnected with, nay even opposed to, the teachings of that religious faith to which its execution was attributed; and why did the peasantry, inheriting the tradition of bygone ages, not recognise them as identified with that religion? Questions like these are very stimulating to inquisitive young souls, which usually become fired with an ambition to solve them; and as O’Brien pored over Sir William Jones and The Asiatic Researches—not to mention his beloved, though decried, Herodotus—it was only natural that he should draw certain conclusions from the undoubted affinity that exists between the languages, folk-lore, customs, superstitions, and modes of thought of his own country and those of the Orient. Similar conclusions had forced themselves upon older people who did not possess a tithe of his Eastern lore. Moore, that versatile Anacreontic, in his ill-fitting disguise of an Edinburgh Reviewer, avowed “That there exist strong traces of an Oriental origin in the language, character, and movements of the Irish people, no fair inquirer into the subject will be inclined to deny;” and it is further instanced by the same reviewer how the famous traveller, Bishop Pococke, on visiting Ireland after his return from the East, was much struck with “the amazing conformity” he observed between the Irish and the Egyptians.[6] From early childhood the questions to which we have referred seem to have been present to O’Brien—even from the time when he gazed upon the stunted ruin of Bally-Carbery Round Tower, not far from his father’s house, and had been told by awestruck peasants that the real name of that desolate and unsightly object was Cathoir Ghall, or “The Temple of Delight” (p. 48). Since then he had seen other and complete round towers; had noticed that all were of the same peculiar shape, and possibly had detected for himself, or learned from other sources, the existence of that phallic analogy upon which he so strongly insists.[Pg xii] He must have read in Sir William Jones and elsewhere how, in Eastern lands, the idea which lay beneath this same analogy formed the basis of a widespread religious faith, and was expressed in structures devoted to public worship. His next step was, almost inevitably, one of conjecture. If, as the voice of national tradition asserted, the round towers are “temples,” and if certain analogous associations are connected with them, might they not have been temples of a kindred religious belief? Having settled this to his own satisfaction, the speculation would naturally rise—How came that particular form of belief to prevail in Ireland? Was it native to the soil; or if not, by whom was it introduced, and when? His book being mainly an answer to these questions, we need not continue to follow the various stages by which conjecture may have passed into theory, and theory into conviction. With men of O’Brien’s temperament the hypothetical interval is rarely of long duration. Before he had assumed the toga virilis of a full-fledged graduate, he probably felt confident that in an Eastern origin lay the true solution of the mystery of the round towers; and the more he studied the subject, the stronger grew his belief. Being an ambitious man, too, he had no intention to forego the honour which he was persuaded must accrue to the discoverer of this key to a problem that had baffled so many generations of inquirers, and longed for an opportunity to display his acquisition.

That opportunity soon came. In December 1830, the Royal Irish Academy offered the prize of a gold medal and fifty pounds to “the author of an approved essay on the Round Towers, in which it is expected that the characteristic architectural peculiarities belonging to all those ancient buildings now existing shall be noticed, and the uncertainty in which their origin and uses are involved be satisfactorily removed.” Unfortunately, the advertisement of this offer escaped O’Brien’s notice, and he did not join in the competition which it evoked. But on the 21st February 1832 the advertisement was repeated, and this time it caught his attention. It declared that none of the essays[Pg xiii] which had been sent in “satisfied the conditions of the question,” and extended the period of competition for another three months (i.e. until 1st June 1832), in the alleged hope “of receiving other essays on said subject,” and also for allowing the authors of the essays already sent in “to enlarge and improve them.” Considering the task that was set, new competitors were thus placed at a singular disadvantage—being expected to do in three months what the others had been unable to accomplish in two years. With all due respect to the Royal Irish Academy, it is difficult to believe that its members can have fully realised the nature of their own conditions. There still exist some scores of round towers in a more or less perfect state; and they are scattered all over Ireland, being situated for the most part in remote and not easily accessible places. The work of visiting and inspecting these—which was, surely, a necessary preliminary to describing “the characteristic architectural peculiarities belonging to all”—would require much time, after which candidates must apply themselves to the by no means trifling task of dispelling “the uncertainty in which their origin and use are involved,” and all within three short months.[7] O’Brien was not, however, to be deterred by considerations of time or space when confronted with such a chance of winning deathless fame. Besides, he was, in one respect at any rate, well equipped for the enterprise, having already made up his mind as to the “origin and uses” of the Round Towers. That he had examined them all is not to be supposed, nor is it at all likely that at his age he could have possessed sufficient technical knowledge of architecture, in its historical and scientific aspects, to profit much by their inspection. Still, he was probably acquainted with whatever had been written on that branch of the subject, and had actually made an examination of some towers, which[Pg xiv] would give him a fair general idea of the whole. Moreover, he had a formidable quantity of Eastern learning to fall back upon, in which latter respect he would have enjoyed an immense advantage over all other possible competitors, if his judges had only been qualified to appreciate that learning as it deserved. Be his equipment for the enterprise what it might, the enthusiastic young Irishman saw no rocks ahead, felt no mistrust, and rushed into the fray. “I grappled with the question,” he assures us, “with all the ardour of my nature; and, heaven and earth, night and day, in difficulties and in sorrow, I laboured until I finished my ‘essay’ against the appointed hour, when—a brain blow to their (sc. the Academy’s) expectation—I sent it in—fully satisfied, from the consciousness of its imperturbable axioms, that all the powers of error and wickedness combined could not withhold from it the suffrage of the advertised medal.”[8] The meaning of this passionate reference to malign influences in the background will appear later on; as yet, he had no cause for misgiving on the subject of fair play, and his overweening self-confidence precluded any anticipation of failure. Bad omens seem to have attended his venture from the very outset. The Academy had requested that each essay should be inscribed with some motto; and it would appear that the motto appended to O’Brien’s was “Φωνη εν τη ερεμω” (sic[9])—a sorry introduction to the notice of learned Academicians.

The heartburnings of suspense, with which most young authors are familiar, soon began. Four days after his essay had been sent in, the Academy issued a third advertisement, requiring all the essays to be taken back, and extending the period of preparation by an additional month, “so as to admit of the receiving of other essays on said subject, and for allowing the authors of essays already given in to improve and enlarge them.” O’Brien [Pg xv]afterwards saw fit to attribute this fresh delay to a cause very different from that alleged; but just then, being persuaded that his triumph was merely postponed, he reconciled himself as best he could to the infliction, and calmly waited for apotheosis. Six months more passed by—wearily enough, we may be sure; and then, one direful morning, just at the close of 1832, came news that the premiums had been adjudged as follows:—“£50 and the gold medal to George Petrie, and £20 to Henry O’Brien, Esq.”

It may be stated here that an additional premium of £100, which had been placed by Lord Cloncurry at the disposal of the Academy, was also awarded in its entirety to Mr. Petrie, and that the essay sent in by that gentleman was, by order of the Academy, printed in their Transactions. It further appears that O’Brien’s essay was at first accepted for publication in the Transactions, but afterwards rejected on the ground of having been made too lengthy by the insertion of additional matter, though in its most enlarged form it never attained to the dimensions of Mr. Petrie’s work, and, presumably, must have been smaller in its original than in its present shape. The true reason for its exclusion from the Transactions (as will, we think, appear from what follows) was that the Academy took offence at the way in which O’Brien received their decision. Nor was such resentment to be wondered at. So confidently had our author reckoned upon an overwhelming triumph for the revelation which, as we have seen, he believed to be not only unprecedented, but given to the world with flawless perfection of statement, that the award seems to have almost maddened him. Belonging to a race which has never been remarkable for the silent endurance of wrongs, he lost no time in giving expression to his feelings of disappointment. At first came distant mutterings of the storm that was brewing. “On hearing of the decision,” he informs us, “I wrote off to the secretary, tendering, in indignant irony, my thanks for their adjudication, taking care, however, to tell[Pg xvi] them that I had expected an issue more flattering to my hopes.” This dignified attitude having apparently failed to imbue the Academy with a desire to remedy his grievance, he flung off the mask of satire, and rushed into downright, unmistakable personalities of a kind rarely addressed to august and learned associations. He declared that, from information which had come to his knowledge, he was prepared to prove “that the Royal Irish Academy, at the very moment in which they published their second invitation (i.e. that by which the time for receiving essays was extended to 1st June 1832), had actually determined to award the gold medal and premium to one of their own Council.”[10] He then went on to denounce the successful essay as “a farrago of anachronisms and historical falsehoods.” He prophesied that when both essays were published, and the public given an opportunity of seeing “the truth,” in the shape of his own essay, there would be a general acclamation of “This alone is right.” He warned the Academy that, “though separated from them by a roaring sea” (he was living in London at the time), his eye was on their plans, and he demanded from them an opportunity for making his ascription of the Round Towers “a mathematical demonstration by all the varieties and modes of proof”; and further, that upon such demonstration they should at once award him the gold medal and premium, “or, if that could not be recalled, an equivalent gold medal and premium”—not that, as he is careful to assure them, this offer was to be construed as an admission that his original essay was not “all-sufficient, all-conclusive, all-illustrative, and all-convincing.” As was only to be expected, the reply sent to this challenge ran to the effect that, “whatever might be the merits of any additional matter supplied to them after the day appointed by advertisement, the Academy could not make any alteration or revocation of their award.” Then[Pg xvii] came the rejoinder,—“I do not want them either to ‘alter’ or ‘revoke’ their award; but simply to vote me ‘an equivalent gold medal and premium’ for my combined essay, or, if they prefer, the new portion of it. Should this be refused, I will put my cause into the hands of the great God who has enlightened me, and make Him the Umpire between me and the Academy.”[11] One is not surprised to learn that “no answer was received to this communication,” which, as already pointed out, may have afforded one of the reasons why the Academy declined to publish the essay in their Transactions. We may sympathise with O’Brien’s disappointment, and even go further in deprecation of the attitude assumed by the Academy; but it is impossible to deny that his conduct showed a want of dignity and common sense, excusable only on the ground of youth.

As regards the Academy’s decision, assuming that the competition was conducted fairly,—and, a priori, everything seemed in favour of that assumption,—it is not easy to see how it could well have been other than it was. With all possible admiration for O’Brien’s talents and learning, candour obliges us to own that his essay—taken merely as a literary performance—was inferior to that of his rival. Apart from the question as to whether his theory was the true one, and that of Dr. Petrie the reverse, the Academy were in a manner bound by regard for their own dignity, and by the literary standard then prevailing, to withhold the meed of their unqualified approval from a composition which violated in so many respects the established precedents of literary “form,” not to mention the canons of good taste. Besides, O’Brien was, in archæological matters, so far in advance of his generation, that a body of elderly gentlemen, who simply represented the standard of knowledge prevalent at the time, might well be excused for declining to follow him. They had, in fact, to decide between the respective merits of two[Pg xviii] essays,—one of which was well put together, conforming, at least in appearance, to the stipulated conditions, expressing the most approved views, bearing the marks of careful and systematic investigation and of superior technical knowledge, also of literary skill much above the average; the other, daring, novel, incoherent, propounding views which were not only unfamiliar, but even shocking, to grave and reverend seignors, rambling in method, deficient in proof, and slipshod in language. Was it not, then, almost inevitable that they should have preferred the former? But if one has to pronounce upon the way in which the competition was started, carried on, and finally decided, we are by no means sure that O’Brien had not some reason to complain. First of all, with regard to his charge of the Academy having awarded the prize to a member of their own Council, the evidence to support it is primâ facie strong. Upon turning to vol. xvi. of the Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy, we find the names of “The Committee of Antiquities of the Council” for the year 1830 (that in which the competition was first invited) given as follows:—“Isaac D’Olier, LL.D.; Thomas Herbert Orpen, M.D.; Hugh Ferguson, M.D.; Sir William Betham; John D’Alton, Esq.; George Petrie, Esq.; and the Rev. Cæsar Otway.” In the next volume of the Transactions, extending to 1837, the above list is given without any alteration, except that Mr. D’Alton’s name is omitted, that of the Dean of St. Patrick’s being substituted. From this the inference seems only natural that “George Petrie, Esq.,” was a member of the Council (being likewise, as we find, “antiquarian artist to the Academy”) at the time when the idea of offering a prize for an essay on the Round Towers was first started; that he continued to be a member while the competition was in progress, and was actually one when the said prize was adjudicated. Next, as to the charge that the Academy had predetermined to award the prize to a member of its own Council, we have the very compromising letter of the Rev. Mr. Otway (himself a member of the Council) to the editor of the Dublin Penny[Pg xix] Journal, which is cited in the Preface to the first edition of this work,[12] coupled with those repeated postponements of the date for sending in essays, which O’Brien assures us were inexplicable on any other ground than that of giving Mr. Petrie time to finish his essay. We are far from contending that the reasons adduced in support of both these charges should weigh against the high repute which the Royal Irish Academy has always enjoyed from the time of its foundation; still, it is impossible to deny that, in the absence of all satisfactory explanation,—at least so far as we have been able to discover any,—they wear a rather ugly look.

O’Brien was resolved that, as the Academy would not publish his essay, he must do so himself; but in the meantime he had been engaged upon a translation of Dr. Villanueva’s Ibernia Phœnicia, which appeared in 1833. Personal liking for the author must have been his motive for undertaking this task, as his own views do not always harmonise with those of the Spanish savant; and certain letters which are quoted in the “Translator’s Preface” show that the two were very intimate. Having made this concession to friendship, he busied himself with the production of an enlarged and amended version of his essay. The first edition of this was published, early in 1834, by Whittaker & Co. of London, and J. Cumming of Dublin. It seems to have met with a ready sale, for a second edition appeared during the same year, bearing the imprint of Parbury & Allen, London, and J. Cumming, Dublin. Both editions are in octavo, and to outward appearance uniform, but differ in some respects. On the title-page of the first it is described as the “Prize Essay of the Royal Irish Academy, enlarged”—a description omitted in the second. Further, the title itself is given as “The Round Towers of Ireland (or the Mysteries of Freemasonry, of Sabaism, and of Budhism, for the first time unveiled)”; but the words within brackets are absent from the title-page of the second. A few corrections, too, appear in the latter[Pg xx] edition; but, upon the whole, it is not much more carefully edited than the first—the curious omission of chapters vii. and xxxii. being common to both. What is known in the book-trade as “The Long Preface,” together with an amusingly comprehensive “Dedication,” is omitted from the second edition, a much more commonplace dedication to the Marquis of Lansdowne (described, of course, as “The Mæcenas of his age”) being substituted for the latter. As the second, and last, edition is that which had the author’s latest revisions, it has been thought advisable to reproduce it in the present issue. No interference with its text has been attempted—typography and pagination being alike preserved. Nor has anything in the shape of comment been inserted. A few supplementary additions to the original work will probably not be considered out of place. Together with this Introduction, they comprise a “Synopsis,” of which the object is to assist readers in following the track of the main argument—not always an easy task in the face of the author’s numerous divagations, annotated lists of the principal Round Towers and crosses, and an Index to the body of the work.

The reception accorded to the book by those whose verdict was most important to its success, was decidedly hostile, and—what must have been especially galling to a man like O’Brien—took the shape of ridicule. Though it cannot be said that he had given no occasion for the latter, it is equally apparent that much of it was owing to ignorance; for there is not to be found among all the censorious judgments of those “irresponsible reviewers” a single attempt at sterling criticism. They attacked his style, and they laughed his theory out of court, but they never resorted to anything that deserved to be called refutation; and showed plainly by the character of their strictures that they were quite in the dark with respect to the nature of the evidence which he adduced in support of his statements. It was profanely said of the late Professor Jowett, that whatever he did not happen to know was held by him not to be knowledge; and such was the view which his[Pg xxi] critics seem to have taken of O’Brien’s dependence upon Eastern authorities, with which they themselves were unfamiliar. As occasionally happens in Irish affairs, a countryman of his own led the attack. In one of the weakest articles that ever appeared in the Edinburgh Review,[13] Moore, the poet, accused O’Brien of plagiarism and other misdeeds. Considering the extent of Moore’s acquaintance with Oriental literature, and the character of his mind, it is perhaps not surprising that he mistakes the whole drift of O’Brien’s argument, fails to perceive the force of those analogies upon which the latter chiefly relied, and, in fact, only succeeds in proving his own incapacity as a critic. But it is less conceivable that he should seek to overwhelm a young aspirant for literary honours, who was of his own nationality, and with whom he was on terms of at least nominal friendship, with unfounded charges and clumsy ridicule. The secret of this otherwise unaccountable severity is disclosed to us by “Father Prout,” in his article on “The Rogueries of Tom Moore.” From it we learn that Moore had endeavoured unsuccessfully to secure the co-operation of O’Brien in his forthcoming History of Ireland, and that, upon the negotiation falling through, a “coolness” ensued between the two. As “Father Prout” had the whole correspondence laid before him, the story does not rest upon O’Brien’s own version of what took place. But, be it reliable or not, there is no denying that the poet went out of his way—and out of his depth, too—in the effort to crush a young author, who might fairly be supposed to have some claim upon his sympathy. The scent which Moore thus struck was followed up by the whole critical pack. The Gentleman’s Magazine, for instance,[14] without attempting anything like serious criticism, quizzed O’Brien unmercifully. He [Pg xxii]committed the fatal indiscretion of sending a lengthy, but for him most temperate, reply, in which he is fain to cite the Freemason’s Quarterly Review as his solitary backer. The Gentleman’s Magazine reserved its answer until he was no more; when, in an obituary notice (November 1835), it flung back this retort: “Fondly imagining that he was the author of most profound discoveries, and as it were the discoverer of a new historical creed, Mr. O’Brien was always in a state of the highest excitement; and when his lucubrations were treated with ridicule instead of serious refutation, he was acutely irritated”—which last observation somehow reminds one of that fastidious man-o’-war’s man, who, whether the bo’sun “hit him high or hit him low,” took no pleasure in being flogged. In fact, there was no real scholarly criticism of the book from any quarter, though its eccentricities of style and treatment received due attention. Superficially regarded, indeed, it bristled with salient points for attack, and of these the gentlemen of the press naturally availed themselves. They described it as “wild and extravagant”—and no one could say them nay; but they failed to point out, probably because they failed to see, that under this same wildness and extravagance lay profound knowledge of a most unusual kind, powerful if somewhat erratic reasoning, and the only theory as to the genesis of ancient Irish proficiency in the arts of civilisation which is consistent with the traditions, customs, superstitions, folk-lore, and antiquities of the country.

O’Brien had now settled in London, where such time as could be spared from his tutorial duties was spent in the study of his favourite literature. It appears that he had at least two works then in contemplation—one a Dissertation on the Pyramids, partly written, and the other a Celtic Dictionary—which latter project excited the ribaldry, altogether unfounded,[15] of certain critics. His health, never strong, was now such as to cause some apprehension to his friends; still he was able to share the pleasures which London life affords. He went into the fashionable [Pg xxiii]world—which, by the way, does not appear to have taken him quite seriously, while acknowledging his talents and erudition. The Marquis of Lansdowne’s house was open to him; and mainly, no doubt, through the influence of that kindly nobleman, he was even presented at Court. The military career, for which, as he informs us (p. 130), he had a predilection second only to “his love for truth and the rectification of his country’s honour,” was no longer an object of ambition; and he may be regarded as having resigned himself contentedly to the peaceful avocations of a man of letters. Bad health, aggravated by his studious habits, seems indeed to have been the only drawback from which he suffered; but although this had previously excited the apprehension of his friends, it was without any immediate warning that the end came. He had been paying a visit to some acquaintances in the suburbs of London; had spent with them an evening, during which he displayed his usual cheerfulness and vivacity; had retired to rest without any symptoms of indisposition; and the next morning was found lifeless in his bed,—death having, to all appearance, taken place quite painlessly during sleep. By those who knew him he was mourned, and by none more sincerely than the genial “Father Prout,” who added the following postscript to his article on “The Rogueries of Tom Moore,” already in print when the news of his young friend’s death reached him:—

Mem.—On the 28th of June 1835, died, at The Hermitage, Hanwell, Henry O’Brien, author of The Round Towers of Ireland. His portrait was hung up in the gallery of Regina on the 1st August following; and the functionary who exhibits the ‘Literary Characters’ dwelt thus on his merits:—

“In the village graveyard of Hanwell (ad viii. ab urbe lapidem) sleeps the original of yonder sketch.... Some time back we had our misgivings that the oil in his flickering lamp of life would soon dry up; still we were not prepared to hear of his light being thus abruptly extinguished. “One morn we missed him” from the accustomed table at the library of the British Museum, where the page of antiquity awaited his perusal; “another came—nor yet” was he to be seen behind the pile of Asiatic Researches, poring over his favourite Herodotus, or deep in the Zendavesta. “The next” brought tidings of his death. His book on the Round Towers has thrown more light on the early history of Ireland, and on the freemasonry of those [Pg xxiv]gigantic puzzles, than will ever shine from the cracked pitchers of the Royal Irish Academy, or the farthing candle of Tommy Moore.... No emblem will mark the sequestered spot where lies the Œdipus of the Round Towers riddle—no hieroglyphic.... But ye who wish for monuments to his memory, go to his native land, and there—circumspicite!—Glendalough, Devenish, Clondalkin, Inis-Scattery, rear their architectural cylinders; and each proclaims to the four winds of heaven ... the name of him who solved the problem of 3000 years, and who first disclosed the drift of these erections.... Suffice it to add that he fell a victim to the intense ardour with which he pursued the antiquarian researches that he loved.”

One portion at least of the good Father’s prophecy was amply fulfilled. In Irish Graves in England, by Michael M‘Donagh (Evening Telegraph Reprints: Dublin, 1888), a chapter on O’Brien contains these words:—

“His grave cannot now be identified in Hanwell churchyard. It was never marked by even a rude stone. In the register of burials the entry is: ‘No. 526, Henry O’Brien, Hanwell, July 2, years 26. Charles Birch, officiating clergyman.’ Tho number of the grave did not help towards its identification, and an examination of every stone did not result in the discovery of the name of O’Brien.”

So passed out of life a gifted young soul that had just begun to know the measure of its strength. Had O’Brien been spared, he might have taken the very highest rank among antiquarians and ethnologists; as it is, his fame must rest upon a single crude and imperfect work, written in haste, before his powers were fully ripe, or his learning properly assimilated. Beyond this, and his translation of Villanueva, he may be said to have left no trace behind. He had never married, though it is highly improbable that, with his ardent temperament, and that almost reverential admiration for the sex to which he gives frequent expression in The Round Towers, he could have reached the age of six-and-twenty heart-whole. From his portrait by Maclise (a copy of which forms the frontispiece to this volume), he must, one would think, have been a sufficiently personable man—though somewhat frail, and looking older than his years—not to have wooed in vain. But he has left no hint of a love affair, beyond occasional references to a mysterious “sorrow,” which may have been of this nature. No stain rests upon his memory; his habits were convivial,[Pg xxv] but not vicious; and he had a great reverence for his own religion, in no way weakened by his sympathy with other less perfect aspects of eternal truth. It may be said of him that he left the world without having done it any harm, and in the firm belief that he had nobly served the cause of human enlightenment,—which surely was no bad ending.

It is one thing to admit the ingenuity, or even the plausibility, of a writer’s views, and another to accept them as articles of belief. So far from claiming for O’Brien that he has completely solved the mystery of the Round Towers, we may even confess a doubt that the latter admits of any complete solution. Certain links in the chain of evidence are wanting, which, to all appearance, are not likely to be ever supplied. That, for instance, the Tuath-de-danaans came from Persia, bringing with them to Ireland their arts and their religion, is quite possible; but the absence of any reference to such migration in the more ancient Persian historians, where we should expect to find it; the want of some adequate explanation of the motives which could have led a highly-civilised people, accustomed to a luxurious climate, to prefer as their final settlement the bleak shores of a remote Atlantic island to the more temperate and, to an Eastern eye, more beautiful countries through which they must have passed on their way; the all but complete failure to point out the route which they followed in their quest of an asylum—these are gaps which require to be filled up before most of us will be prepared to accept their Eastern genealogy. Still, it must be confessed that O’Brien’s theory rests upon other and surer foundations, so far as its essential probability is concerned; also, that it is entertaining and suggestive to a degree which renders it, if not a profitable, at least a pleasing mental exercise.

The Origin of the Round Towers (the first branch of the question proposed by the Royal Irish Academy) is really only part of a much wider problem which had long engaged the attention of earnest, capable, and industrious archæologists, with whose names the reader of this work[Pg xxvi] is likely to become only too familiar. The Round Towers are merely one class of more or less elaborate architectural or monumental remains, scattered all over Ireland, and bearing unmistakable signs of a very remote antiquity.[16] That these remains are inseparably connected in time and origin, seems to be proved by the fact that no writer upon the subject of the Round Towers had hitherto been able to treat of the latter exclusively, without taking into consideration the “crosses” or “temples,” or other subdivisions of the whole, and that neither Dr. Petrie nor his rival claimed exemption from the same necessity. A great portion of their respective works on the Round Towers is devoted, for instance, to a consideration of other antiquities; and what is perhaps the most valuable part of O’Brien’s,—namely, that upon which his assumption of a pagan origin chiefly rests,—is the result of investigation into the nature of that symbolism for which the sculptured crosses are so remarkable. It seemed, in fact, impossible for those who studied the subject carefully to resist the conclusion that all these remains belong to a period when Ireland was inhabited by a race which differed in many respects from the Irish of a later date. In Dr. Petrie’s opinion, that race consisted of the early Christian missionaries and their proselytes; in O’Brien’s, it belonged to an era far antecedent to Christianity itself; and so far, he is at one with the leading authorities who preceded him. Limiting his statement to the Round Towers, Dr. Petrie informs us[17] that, up to the time at which he undertook to decide the matter, two theories prevailed as to the “origin” of these structures: (1) That they were erected by the Danes; (2) that they were of Phœnician origin. But O’Brien discards the Danes altogether, and only allows a very subordinate part indeed to the Phœnicians, namely, that of having, as sea-carriers, assisted to convey the Tuath-de-danaans to Ireland. For[Pg xxvii] the grounds upon which Dr. Petrie attributes an exclusively Christian origin to the Round Towers inquirers must be referred to the body of his work, where they will find it most ingeniously, if not quite ingenuously, argued at much length that these structures were erected between the fifth and thirteenth centuries of our era by Christian founders. An outline of his rival’s argument to the contrary is given in the annexed “Synopsis.” The difference between the respective methods of the two theorists is very marked, and here the advantage does not rest with O’Brien. Petrie is calm, precise, authoritative; O’Brien fervid, rambling, and passionately expostulative. That the former has failed to prove his case, and that the latter has to some extent succeeded in doing so, may, or may not, be the fact; but it must be admitted that, if O’Brien was the more successful, he was not the more dexterous combatant. It has been frequently, and perhaps not without justice, remarked that “Irishmen have a way of blundering upon the truth”; and from the eccentric fashion in which he sets about proving his contention, some may argue that O’Brien’s success merely affords an instance of this national peculiarity. But it would be hardly fair to do so in the case of an author who is acknowledged to have prepared himself for his task by careful study of the authorities bearing upon its subject, and whose “discovery,” as he calls it, is expressly founded on the results of that preparation. In this latter respect he presents a marked contrast to his somewhat dictatorial rival, who is wont to treat the exercise of private judgment by those who happen to differ from himself as a species of lèse-majesté.[18] On the other hand,[Pg xxviii] O’Brien is always imploring the reader to follow his argument step by step. “Here,” he ever seems to be urging, “are the plain, unvarnished facts; here, the incontestable authorities; with these staring you in the face, surely you cannot think of denying that such and such an inference is unavoidable?” His reasons may not be always of the best; but, such as they are, he gives them freely. Of the two methods, the public, who are usually impressed by self-assertion, preferred the former; and “Dr. Petrie’s epoch-making book” was by general consent allowed to have “settled the question of the Round Towers for ever.” This comforting belief remained undisturbed for more than a quarter of a century, when, in the year 1867, a book appeared which challenged its infallibility. The author, a Mr. Marcus Keane, seems to have started upon an investigation of Irish ruins from sheer curiosity, and with a dispassionate intention to see and judge for himself. He was certainly not actuated by any wish to decry the merits of Petrie’s work, to which he confesses his great obligations, and which he appears to have taken at first as his guide. But, having carefully examined bit by bit the ancient architecture still remaining in most of the Irish counties, and having tested Petrie’s statements by personal investigation on the spot, he reluctantly confessed that he had lost faith in the latter. “After much consideration,” he declares,[19] “I have been forced to the conclusion ... that the generally received theory is[Pg xxix] not supported by sufficient evidence. My conviction of the heathen origin of these ruins has been strengthened in proportion to the increased knowledge which I have acquired by examination of the ruins themselves.... Not only the Round Towers, but also the crosses and stone-roofed churches are entirely of heathen origin.” Further, on all essential points he found himself in agreement with O’Brien, the difference between them, in respect of the particular form of paganism to which those remains owe their existence, being so trifling as hardly to merit notice. Of course, we do not undertake to say that he is right: the question is one upon which people have always differed hitherto, and which will probably be a subject of variance until the end of time. But it seems to us that the dispassionate, almost reluctant, judgment of this competent, methodical, and eminently fair observer, who approached his subject, not when controversy was raging, but after a sufficient number of years had elapsed to admit of prejudice dying out, is entitled to carry more than ordinary weight, where the object is to arrive at a conclusion based upon a study of unvarnished facts.

Up to this point the question may be said to have been regarded solely from the architectural point of view, which is not the most favourable for O’Brien; though, considering his necessarily limited knowledge in that respect, he must be admitted to have made out a fairly strong case. It is where the argument hinges upon analogies between Irish and Eastern symbolism that we have him at his best. Here all the resources of his great Oriental learning come into play, and may be said fairly to have turned the scale in his favour. Indeed, it is perfectly astonishing, considering that his book was written more than sixty years ago, when he was himself a mere youth, how nearly it reaches the level attained by modern research. In proof of this, it may be as well to refer, by way of example, to one of the latest authoritative treatises on the subject of Symbolism, that written by Count Goblet D’Alviella[20] (Hibbert Lecturer[Pg xxx] for 1891, and member of the Royal Academy of Belgium), together with its learned “Introduction” by Sir George Birdwood, K.C.I.E.; and we do so with the less hesitation because, as neither of these writers indulges in more than a passing reference to Ireland, no suspicion of a wish to strengthen their inferences by making out a pagan origin for Irish antiquities can attach to them. The reader who consults these authorities will find that they go far to support O’Brien’s interpretation of the symbolic ornamentation of Irish towers and crosses; that they perfectly coincide with his views on the nature of Sabaic paganism; and generally with his theory, that where symbolism of this character is found existing in Western lands, it must have been introduced there from an Eastern source. A few sentences taken almost at random from the Introduction to Count D’Alviella’s work, as well as from the book itself, may be adduced in support of this assertion. Thus, having stated that “the religious symbols common to the different historical races of mankind have not originated independently among them, but have, for the most part, been carried from the one to the other in the course of their migrations of conquests and commerce”; that “the more notable of these symbols were carried over the world in the footsteps of Buddhism”; that they were at first but “the obvious ideograph of the phenomena of nature that made the deepest impression on Asiatic man”; that the Sabæans were “the Chaldæan worshippers of the Host (Saba) of Heaven,”[21] it goes on to say: “Without doubt, the symbols that have attracted in the highest degree the veneration of the multitude have been the representative signs of gods, often uncouth and indecent; but what have the gods themselves ever been, except the more or less imperfect symbols of the Being transcending all definition whom the human conscience has more and more clearly divined through and above all these gods?” How, it may be asked, does this differ from O’Brien’s description of the nature of that “Budh” who forms the[Pg xxxi] central idea around which he groups the minor significances of Irish Sabaism? Again we read: “It is sentiment, and, above all, religious sentiment, that resorts largely to symbolism; and in order to place itself in more intimate communication with the being or abstraction it desires to approach. To that end men are everywhere seen either choosing natural or artificial objects to remind them of the Great Hidden One.[22]... There exists a symbolism so natural that ... it constitutes a feature of humanity in a certain phase of development; ... for example, the representations of the sun by a disc or radiating face, of the moon by a crescent; ... of the generative forces of nature by phallic emblems.”[23] Might we not fancy that this was written by O’Brien? Again: “What theories have not been built upon the existence of the equilateral cross as an object of veneration?... Orthodox writers have protested against the claim of attributing a pagan origin to the cross of the Christians, because earlier creeds had included cruciform signs in their symbolism. And the same objection might be urged against those who seek for Christian infiltrations in certain other religions under the pretext that they possess the sign of the Redemption.” Is not this O’Brien’s argument in a nutshell? Then we have an entire chapter (iv.), entitled “Symbolism and Mythology of the Tree,” the substance of which he may be said to have anticipated; and so on, all through the book. It is needless to multiply quotations; those already given suffice to show that, in its essential character, O’Brien’s argument, so far as it relies upon symbolism, is corroborated by those in the front rank of modern archæologists.

It must, however, be confessed that O’Brien is not always so much in harmony with modern thought, and that his reasoning from analogies of language appears to us, occasionally, neither sound nor ingenuous. Perhaps it would be more correct to say that he sometimes, without meaning deception, allows enthusiasm to entice him across[Pg xxxii] the line between fact and fiction. In this respect he is not, perhaps, less scrupulous than the average etymologist; but even admitting the veniality of his offence, it seems to us that the philological is the weakest portion of his book. In his hands Grimm’s then recently discovered “law of the mutation of consonants” was, as we think, too often strained to cover most questionable derivations, nor did he shrink, apparently, from coining forms of words to suit his purpose. As instances of this we may point to his otherwise skilful treatment of the name Hibernia at p. 128, where, without any authority that we are aware of, he employs the form νηος for υῆσος, evidently with a view to strengthen his case; also, to his wonderful evolution of the word Lingam, at p. 284. But whilst the reader will probably accept his statements on this head with caution, admiration of his skill in detecting analogies which only require pointing out to secure our assent, cannot be withheld. That he had in him the making of a great philologist, is beyond question; and that in course of time, had his life been spared, he would have made this branch of his argument really formidable, is very probable. Even as it stands, we may be undervaluing its merit: philology is not an exact science, and one can rarely be sure of one’s ground therein from day to day. But, judging the matter by such light as we possess, it seems to us that the least valuable part of O’Brien’s book is that upon which he evidently prided himself most: others may, possibly on better grounds, be of a different opinion, and we gladly leave this portion of the book to speak for itself.

It may, we think, be said without injustice, that when dealing with that part of the question which related to the uses of the Round Towers, O’Brien was more successful in upsetting the theories of other people than in establishing his own. The purposes for which preceding antiquarians had severally claimed that the towers were built are almost endless; but Dr. Petrie has summarised the most prominent of them as follows:[24]—(1) Fire-temples; (2) places from[Pg xxxiii] which to proclaim the Druidical festivals; (3) Gnomons, or astronomical observatories; (4) Phallic emblems, or Buddhist temples; (5) Anchorite towers, or Stylite columns; (6) Penitential prisons; (7) Belfries; (8) Keeps, or Monastic Castles; (9) Beacons and Watch-towers. Both he and O’Brien agree in holding that the Round Towers were not appropriated to any one of these purposes exclusively, though they might have been used for two or more of them. It is with regard to the selection of these latter that the authors differ—Petrie adopting views (7), (8), (9); O’Brien, view (3), but with much reservation; view (4) absolutely, and adding another view of his own, namely, that they were sometimes devoted to memorial or sepulchral uses. It has been mentioned already that Moore charged him with plagiarism in respect of his adoption of view (4); but, like other charges from the same quarter, the assertion rests upon unstable grounds. O’Brien made no secret of the fact that on many points he shared the views of General Vallancey, for whom he invariably expresses respect, and even admiration; but he is careful to explain that, where their judgments happen to coincide, it is for very different reasons. “I wish it to be emphatically laid down,” he says in one place, “that I do not tread in General Vallancey’s footsteps.... I have taken the liberty to chalk out my own road”; and, in another, “Though his perseverance had rendered him (Vallancey) the best Irishian of his age, and of many ages before him, yet he has committed innumerable blunders.” This goes to show that he was unlikely to adopt any theory merely because Vallancey held it; and to have arrived at the same conclusion by a wholly different road was surely not “plagiarism.” What is more, a reference to the published works of General Vallancey,[25] or even to[Pg xxxiv] such extracts from them as may be found in Dr. Petrie’s book, will, if we are not mistaken, give rise to some doubt of that author having ever distinctly maintained the Eastern, or pagan, origin of the Round Towers. His views are, however, so nebulous and shifting, that it is difficult to say whether he committed himself to any positive theory on the subject. Starting with the conjecture that the Round Towers may have been the work of “Phœnicians or Indo-Scythians,” he is soon found attributing them to certain “African sea-champions,” who, in his opinion, were the “Pheni,” being likewise, as he goes on to inform us, “a Pelasgic tribe.” Next, he declares that it was the Fomorians who, having conquered Ireland, “taught the inhabitants to build Round Towers”; but he afterwards seems to discard this theory in favour of a “Danish” origin, and ends, to all appearance, by resigning himself to the notion that they may, after all, have been built by “Christian” settlers. Nor are his speculations as to the purpose of those structures less varied and conflicting. At one time he maintains that they were undoubtedly “fire-temples”; at another, that they were “belfries”; and yet again, that they were “beacons.” But—what is especially remarkable in connection with the charge of plagiarism—he never, so far as we can discover, attributes to them a “phallic” significance. Upon the whole, then, it seems rather unreasonable to accuse anybody of having borrowed theories from an author who practically had none; and the probability is that, without having read General Vallancey’s works, Moore had, from hearsay, formed a vague general notion of their contents, which notion he, in the capacity of an irresponsible and not over-scrupulous reviewer, ventured to utilise for paying off old scores. Be that as it may, we are not prepared to urge that, upon the evidence, O’Brien’s theory as to the phallic emblemism of the Round[Pg xxxv] Towers—whether he borrowed it from Vallancey or not[26]—absolutely deserves credence. Like his ascription of an Eastern origin to the Tuath-de-danaans, it is one of those things which, so far as we can see, are incapable of proof. Still, it cannot be said that there is any inherent impossibility in the notion; in fact, assuming that the Round Towers were built by an Eastern colony, there is much in its favour. For, as all who are acquainted with our Indian Empire must be well aware, phallic symbols are there regarded with a veneration which in its character is entirely free from associations that appear to be inseparable from them elsewhere. The East and West have taken different views as to the light in which the physical agency by which divine creative power has chosen to perpetuate life should be regarded; and to the Hindoo mind, for instance, there is nothing inconsistent with the highest moral purity in worshipping an idealised representation of the generative principle. A similar belief, on O’Brien’s showing, prevailed in ancient Persia,—indeed, but for its existence there, the Tuath-de-danaans’ immigration into Ireland could hardly have taken place,—so that colonisers from that country, if any such colonisation ever took place, were likely to have introduced corresponding typical representations wherever they settled. Hence the theory of the Eastern origin of the Round Towers and that of their phallic significance are mutually interdependent. Further than this it is useless to go. The probability of either theory is a matter that, if we are not mistaken, most readers will determine for themselves, without much respect to authority; nor has any author who tries to establish a hypothesis on evidence the bearing of which upon the subject is in itself hypothetical, a right to complain that this should be so. O’Brien has been in a manner forced to rely upon such evidence all through his book, and the latter suffers in consequence. To our[Pg xxxvi] thinking, those portions of it are usually the most convincing where, discarding authority for the most part, he relies upon his own native shrewdness. His attack upon the “belfry” theory is one instance of this. Another is the way in which he combats Montmorency’s notion, that the towers may have been intended as places of shelter, for persons or property, from hostile invasion. Almost equally effective is his refutation of the hackneyed argument, that because Round Towers are usually (not invariably, as some assert) found in the vicinity of ecclesiastical buildings, they must necessarily be of Christian origin; though here, as in the case of the “belfry” theory, he might, we think, have insisted more upon the curious circumstance that Christians should have discontinued building them as soon as Christianity was firmly established in Ireland, but before the country had been reduced to a peaceful or settled condition. If such adjuncts to churches were needed up to the thirteenth century, there is nothing in the history of Ireland for the next three centuries, at least, which shows that they might have been dispensed with. To account for their disappearance by representing it as a consequence of the transition from Romanesque to Gothic architecture, which took place about the twelfth century, is to beg the whole question; for it assumes that the Round Towers are Romanesque—a point on which we take leave to think that opinions are much divided, as indeed they appear to be upon almost every topic connected with the subject-matter of this very remarkable book.

W. H. C.

London, 1897.



[Pg xxxvii]




(Pp. 1-15)

The book opens with a preliminary statement, in general terms, of the object which its author has in view. It is to prove that the round towers date from a more remote antiquity than that usually assigned to them; that they were, in fact, erected long before Christianity reached these islands, and even before the date of the Milesian and Scandinavian invasions. In support of this view, he contrasts the materials, architecture, and costliness of their construction with those of the early Christian churches usually found in their vicinity (cf. p. 514), and accounts for the contiguity of the latter by stating that the Christian missionaries selected, as the sites of their churches, localities previously consecrated to religious use, in order that they might thereby “conciliate the prejudices of those whom they would fain persuade”; whilst he points out that a Christian origin has not been claimed for Cromleachs and Mithratic caves, in the vicinity of which ecclesiastical remains likewise abound. On the other hand, he insists that the general structure and decorative symbolism of the round towers is clearly indicative of pagan times and a pagan origin, more especially of that primitive form of paganism which, originating in Chaldea, diffused itself eastward until it overspread a considerable part of Asia, and which is known as Sabaism. Dissenting from the theories of his predecessors in the same field of inquiry, he rejects the various theories that the round towers were intended as “purgatorial columns,” or “beacons,” or[Pg xxxviii] “belfries,” or “dungeons,” or “anchorite-cells,” or “places of retreat” in the case of hostile invasion, or “depositories” for State records, Church utensils, or national treasures; and he states as his conviction, based on examination of their structure, that it was not the intention of their founders to limit their use to any one specific purpose.



(Pp. 16-32)

Following up this line of argument, he attacks Montmorency, who had maintained that the founders of the round towers were “primitive Cœnobites and bishops, munificently supported in the undertaking by the newly-converted kings and toparchs; the builders and architects being those monks and pilgrims who, from Greece and Rome, either preceded or accompanied the early missionaries of the fifth and sixth centuries.” Reserving a detailed refutation of this theory for subsequent chapters, he contents himself for the present with showing that it rests upon mere assumption, which is not borne out by the evidence adduced in corroboration thereof; and exposes the fallacy of Montmorency’s argument, that pre-Christian Ireland was in a state of barbarism which precluded the possibility of such structures as the round towers being erected by its inhabitants. He further deals with the objections, that the bards do not allude to these towers as existent in their time, that those undoubtedly ancient excavations, the Mithratic caves, are never found in the vicinity of round towers, and that the limited nature of their accommodation made them serviceable only for some such purpose as that of a belfry or dungeon. With Vallancey’s views he finds himself more in sympathy, but is unable to adopt them unreservedly—preferring, as he puts it, to chalk out his own road.

 [Pg xxxix]


(Pp. 33-47)

Continuing his attack upon Montmorency, the author points out that the towers erected elsewhere by Cœnobite associations are always square, not round, and that any argument based upon the elevated position of the entrances to both classes of edifices would apply equally to the pyramids. He shows that the round towers could not have been intended as places of refuge, or as depositories of ecclesiastical treasures, and adduces historical proof that the structures known as “belfries” were wholly different. Alluding to the supposed band of voluntary Cœnobite workmen under Saint Abban, he points out that their building operations must necessarily have been carried on in the midst of a raging war; that although they must have availed themselves of native assistance in the work, yet the Irish of the early Christian period betray not the slightest knowledge of the art of building; that the building of round towers ceased quite suddenly, almost immediately after the introduction of Christianity; that the native Irish have never attributed these towers to such an origin; that, so far from being, as Montmorency alleges, assisted by the munificence of native princes, the Cœnobite monks must have had to deal with absolute pagans, who would regard their labour with anything but approval; and that the fact of “kills,” or remains of Christian churches, being found in the vicinity of Cromleachs, Mithratic caves, and round towers is simply the result of the reverence felt by the pagan converts for the scenes and associations of their old belief, and affords no ground for supposing that the churches were coeval with the latter. Subsequently (at p. 514) he cites the instance of a round tower without any church near it.

 [Pg xl]


(Pp. 48-62)

In tracing the origin and purpose of the round towers, our author is led to consider the names given them in ancient records and Irish folk-lore. The stunted ruin of Bally-Carbery Round Tower, near his own birthplace, was, he found, known to the peasantry as the “Cathoir ghall,” i.e. “the temple of brightness or delight,” whilst both in the Annals of the Four Masters, the Ulster Annals, and the Annals of Innisfallen these towers are included in the generic name Fiadh-Neimhedh, as contrasted with the names Cloic teacha and Erdam applied to “belfries,” thus showing that the two kinds of structures are perfectly distinct. He finds that Fiadh-Nemeadth in all preceding writers on the subject is held to apply specifically to the round towers, though some of these writers (e.g. Colgan and O’Connor) have wrested its meaning to support their own particular views, and the true import of this term he subsequently explains to be “consecrated Lingams” (p. 105), or phallic temples. The “belfry” and the gnomon, or “celestial index,” theories are thus exploded. From historical evidence he is further led to assume that Ireland is identical with the Insula Hyperboreorum of the ancients, and that the legendary mission of the Boreadan Abaris[27] to Delos took place during the Scythian occupation of Ireland. This friendly communication between the ancient Irish and the Greeks he attributes to their having sprung from a common stock—the Pelasgi and the Tuath-de-danaans belonging to “the same time as the Indo-Scythæ, or Chaldean Magi.” He traces briefly the relations between the Tuath-de-danaan settlers in Ireland and their Scythian (or Milesian) conquerors, and shows that to the former is due the high state of civilisation and learning for which ancient Ireland was distinguished, and which degenerated under Scythian[Pg xli] rule; and concludes with a general statement as to the prevalence of Sabaic worship therein, and the phallic configuration of the round towers.



(Pp. 63-76)

Being now fairly launched on the subject of Sabaism, or worship of natural manifestations of the divine energy, he traces its origin, development, and decadence into idolatry. Amid the heterogeneous confusion of beliefs that seem to have sprung up among the descendants of Noah, Nimrod introduced the worship of the sun as a deity, but only as a part of that general Sabaism which included the whole “host of heaven” as objects of worship, and recognised the Godhead, of which they were simply manifestations, under the names of Baal and Moloch. Gradually, the creature was substituted for the Creator, and their names, especially the former (Bolati), were applied to the sun, “as the source and dispenser of all earthly favours,” while to the moon was attributed a corresponding reverence under the name Baaltis, though in both cases the object of internal regard was intended to be Nature, or “the fructifying germ of universal generativeness.” From the tendency of man to the concrete, this central idea was soon lost sight of, and the material element put in its place—hence came Fire-worship. Originating in Chaldea, this degenerated form of Sabaism in course of time spread eastward until it reached Persia, where eventually there seems to have been a reversion to the principle which underlay it, i.e. that of generation and nutrition, in which form it afterwards extended to India. Though fire was the ostensible object of worship, the sun and moon, from which that worship originated, were regarded and reverenced as “the procreative causes of general fecundity,” with which was coupled the notion of regeneration after dissolution of the body. Hence when, as will appear hereafter, Eastern Sabaism was introduced into Ireland by the Tuath-de-danaans,[Pg xlii] the round towers created by them as temples of their worship had both a phallic and sepulchral meaning.



(Pp. 77-90)

That purer form of Sabaism in which the central idea of “the All-good and All-great One” predominated over materialism, seems to have prevailed in ancient Egypt, and to a more definite extent in India, whilst in both these countries, and also in Ireland, its material side led to the cultivation of astronomy. Hence the pyramids of Egypt, the pagodas of India, and the round towers of Ireland had both a religious and a scientific purpose. There is no ground, however, for supposing that the round towers were “fire-temples.” Though temples of the latter kind undoubtedly exist in Ireland, their structure is altogether different, and they evidently belong to a later period, showing, in fact, traces of an Italian origin. Fire-worship was probably introduced into Italy from Greece, where it had been practised by the old Pelasgic stock, who, on their expulsion from Thessaly, settled in Etruria, bringing their worship with them.



(Pp. 91-106)

From a careful study of Eastern records and Sabaism, the author is led to take up the position that the round towers were constructed by early Indian colonists of Ireland (the Tuath-de-danaans), in honour of “the fructifying principle of nature,” of which the sun and moon are representative. The emblem of this principle was the phallus in the case of the sun, and the crescent in that of the moon. The round tower was simply a monumental phallus, which fact is taken to explain the terms “Cathoir ghall” and “Fidh-Nemphed” to which he alludes in chap. iv.; whilst the crescent ornament by which many of these[Pg xliii] towers were surmounted is symbolical of the female nature. A corroboration of this theory is found in the circumstance that the name Budh, by which these towers are “critically and accurately designated, signifies in Irish, first, the sun, and secondly, what φαλλός, phallus, does in Greek and Latin,” a view which is supported by the analogy of Egyptian sun and moon worship.



(Pp. 107-126)

Having thus committed himself to the view that the paganism which founded the Irish Round Towers was a religion of which Budh (i.e. the sun and the phallus) was the central idea, and which, therefore, resembled in its essence the faiths of India and Egypt, the author proceeds to trace the origin of this religion. In India the latter is known as Buddhism, or that form of Sabaism taught by Buddha; but the author is persuaded that there never was such a person as Buddha—at least, when the religion first shot into life, which was almost as early as the creation of man—though in later times several enthusiasts assumed that name. The origin of the religion was, in fact, “an abstract thought,” which cannot easily be expressed in words until it is reduced to the materialised forms of that practical Sabaism which each nation framed for itself, and which consisted in the worship of generative and productive power under its various manifestations. Hence the objects of worship ranged from the sun and moon even to agricultural operations, and, of course, included sexual physiology. Indian Buddhism worshipped the Lingam (or phallus) as the emblem ofBudh (i.e. the Sun), but without any sensual alloy in such reverence, which, in fact, necessitated the observance of a strict moral code. Among other requirements of this code was the performance of works of charity, Dana (i.e. the giving of alms), and the religionists were hence called Danaans or Almoners. The bearing of all this upon Irish paganism is explained by referring to the[Pg xliv] intimate connection that in early times existed between Ireland and the East, from whence its Tuath-de-danaan colonists were derived. The name Erin, together with its Greek form Ierne, and its Latin transmutation Hibernia, is shown to be identical with Iran, the ancient name of Persia, which, modified into Irin, was applied by the Greek historians to the “Sacred Island” of the West, and recognised by Gildas and Ordericus Vitalis as the established designation of Ireland in their time.



(Pp. 127-141)

Developing this last argument, our author shows that, while Iran (or “the sacred land”) was a name applied to both Persia and Ireland, the form Irin (Sacred Island) is exclusively applied to Ireland, and that Irc, Eri, Ere, and Erin are but modifications of the latter. The Greeks commuted this name of Irin into Ierne, which is merely a translation (ἱερός + νῆσος); and the Latins, by putting an H for the rough breathing of ἱερός, and interpolating a b for sound’s sake, transformed the latter into Hibernia, the meaning “Sacred Island” being preserved. But by its own inhabitants it continued to be known as Fuodhla, Fudh-Inis, and Inis-na-Bhfiodhbhadh, names associating the worship which prevailed therein with the profession of the worshippers, for they respectively denote the land or island of Fuodh or Budh and Budhism. The Budh here mentioned was identical with the phallic deity worshipped by the Tuath-de-danaans under the name of Buodh (known also as Moriagan and Fareagh or Phearagh), which name the Scythian invaders afterwards adopted as their war-cry (Boo or A-boo). The peculiar tenets of Irish Budhism were embodied in a mass of literature committed to the flames by Saint Patrick; but the history of pagan Ireland still survives in MSS. scattered over Europe, whilst an image of Buodh, or Fareagh, bearing a close resemblance to those of the Eastern Buddha, and to the idols of Matambo[Pg xlv] “whose priests are sorcerers or magicians” (afterwards shown to be the meaning of Tuath-de-danaans), has been unearthed at Roscommon, and is now in the Museum of Trinity College, Dublin.



(Pp. 142-156)

From India our author now diverges to Egypt. The similarity between the regal title “Pharaoh” and Phearagh or Fareagh just mentioned is accounted for by the invasion of Egypt by the Uksi, or Hyksos (Royal Shepherds or Shepherd Kings), who, according to Manetho, came “from the East.” The Indian Vedas, which corroborate his account, term them Pali, or “shepherds”; and the rigorous nature of their sway accounts for the dislike manifested by the Egyptians towards the Israelites, who were a pastoral people. That they introduced their form of worship into Egypt, is shown by the description which Herodotus gives of the rites, ceremonies, and usages of the Egyptian priests, resembling those practised by the Brahmins. Historical evidence points to the erection by them of the greater pyramids, also to their introduction of those magical arts for which the Egyptians became notorious. This latter fact brings the Uksi into connection with the Tuath-de-danaans (whose name is indicative of proficiency in magic), and serves to strengthen the author’s opinion that both belonged to the same Chaldean stock.



(Pp. 157-166)

The pyramids of Egypt may be said to correspond, with one significant difference, to the round towers of Ireland. Both are characterised by the highest architectural skill; both are constructed with an evident reference to astronomical purposes; both afford indications that they were inter alia appropriated to sepulture; and both are [Pg xlvi]distinctively of phallic or, more strictly, Sabaic import. But in this last feature a divergence becomes evident. The symbolism of the principle of “generative production” common to both is in the form of the pyramid more emblematic of the female nature (see pp. 267-269), whilst the round towers typify the male—a divergence which the author subsequently treats in more detail. To it may be due the circumstance that these excavations or “wells” which exist beneath the pyramids have not hitherto been found under round towers.



(Pp. 167-176)

In connection with the last paragraph, attention is, however, drawn to the fact that round towers have usually been erected in the vicinity of water; and that this may have been owing to a real, though less dominant, veneration of the female principle, is probable from the extensive use of bathing in the worship of Astarte, the representative of that principle whose peculiar emblemism is apparent in the ornamentation of the round towers. Traces of the apparatus for a bell found on the summit of one of the latter edifices affords no proof of its original purpose as a belfry. For though bells were used in pagan ceremonials, they were not rung to summon worshippers; and the fact may have been that, after their conversion to Christianity, the Irish applied round towers occasionally to the only purpose for which they could then be used in connection with public worship.



(Pp. 177-192)

Recurring to the affinity of Ireland with ancient Persia (Iran), the history of the latter country is traced from its settlement by the Aryans. According to tradition preserved in the collection of sacred books known as the Zendavesta, the original seat of that people was the [Pg xlvii]Eriene-Veedjo, a district situated in the north-western highlands of Asia, of great fertility, and enjoying a singularly mild climate, having seven months of summer and five of winter. Then “the death-dealing Ahriman smote it with the plague of cold, so that it came to have ten months of winter and only two of summer”; and was in consequence deserted by its inhabitants, who gradually overspread the low-lying countries, as far south as the Indus, including Fars, as Persia was then termed. They were a vigorous and energetic race these Aryans, who soon became dominant in their new quarters, substituting the name of their own country (Iran, or the sacred land, formed from the ancient Zend Eriene) for that of Fars, and founding a dynasty, or rather succession of dynasties, which superseded the government formerly in existence. The mixture of races led to a certain diversity of language, and thus originated the Zend and Pahlavi or Sanskrit dialects, which bear a remarkable affinity to Irish (cf. Palaver). There was further a diversity of religions, the old religion of Hushang, a predecessor of Zoroaster, being professed by many long after fire-worship became the dominant faith of Persia.



(Pp. 193-210)

This ancient religion of Hushang, which was doubtless that of the Aryans, seems to have been of that Sabaic order practised by the Chaldeans, which, as we have seen, recognised the heavenly bodies as the most imposing representatives of a divine power, and cannot therefore be fairly described as idolatry. It was idealistic, in so far as it regarded the different energies of nature simply as manifestations of a great creative power, whereas the idolatrous stage did not supervene until this purer faith degenerated into materialism. With this religion that of the ancient Irish harmonized. The dominance of sun and moon worship in the latter is shown by the way in which the various titles of these luminaries are interwoven with the[Pg xlviii] language; most of the Irish local names, as well as the names of traditional festivals, consisting of variants of different epithets applied to the sun and moon, which the pagan Irish considered to be united in matrimony, just as the Egyptians did Osiris and Isis, their equivalents.



(Pp. 211-226)

A faith thus compounded of love, religion, and astrology has necessarily a triple aspect; and, according to the particular component kept in view, or the etymology professed, may be termed Sabaism, Buddhism, or Phallism. It constitutes the most primitive form of worship, and is the source from whence all the faiths of the world have been derived. Hence the corresponding features in distinct mythologies. Brahminism, for example, is an offshoot from Buddhism, owing to the apostasy of Paramon, the son of Budh-dearg; and the essential notions of Christianity, the doctrines of a virginal conception, a vicarious sacrifice, and a resurrection, have their counterparts in both these faiths. The phallic element, ignored by Christianity, maintained its place in Oriental and Irish paganism. The adjuncts of Lingam worship occur in the worship of Budh. The pagodas of India have their counterparts in the round towers. The symbolism expressed in the sculptures of Elephanta, Ellora, and Salsette is reflected in the carvings at Clonmacnoise, Kilcullen, and Knockmoy. The Cross is universal, not distinctive; and the purposely mutilated cryptograms of the Crescent and the Serpent belong to a paganism long antecedent to the Christianity which partially effaced them.



(Pp. 227-239)

Researches into the distinctive character of Irish paganism show that its main element was the phallic type of Sabaism, the Irish language affording remarkable evidence[Pg xlix] of this fact. Many of its words and all its letters embody a twofold meaning, denoting in the first place some passion, quality, or virtue, and in the next its sensible index. For example, Budh or Fiodh means primarily a lingam, or phallus, and secondarily a tree; and this peculiarity of an esoteric meaning known only to the learned, and an esoteric one understood by the masses, it shares with Hebrew, which belongs to the same linguistic family. Of this we have an example in the scriptural allegory of “Eve and the tree of knowledge,” wherein the esoteric import of “tree” is phallus. We thus arrive, as it were, at the fount of Buddhism. Eve may be regarded as the first Buddhist, and her son Cain, who offered the fruits of the earth to “the God of nature and of increase” (Budh), as the first priest of that order. This allegory is found repeated in different forms among the various populations of the world—in Egypt, India, Persia, and elsewhere. It gave rise to many typical commemorations in various countries, such as the “Maypole festivals” of Eastern lands, whence the custom emanated to Ireland (with the Tuath-de-danaan settlers), where it is still practised.



(Pp. 240-251)

The scriptural allegory of the “Fall of Man,” involving, as it does, the history of Cain, has an intimate bearing upon the ancestry of the Tuath-de-danaans. Cain had a son, Enoch, whose name connotes as usual a twofold meaning, signifying first, Initiation in sacred rites; secondly, an assembly of congregated multitudes. The son of Enoch was named Irad, i.e. consecrated to God (Budh); hence the region where he dwelt was called Iran, meaning the land of those so consecrated; from which it is argued that in that precise region the Budhists first established the insignia of their empire. Now, the Dabistan records declare that although Kaimours was generally regarded as the first king of Persia (Iran), he had many predecessors;[Pg l] and that long before the time of Zoroaster the Persians venerated a prophet called Mahabad or Maghabad (the Great, or Good, Abad), whom they considered as “the Father of men,” and who had thirteen successors of his own family, all styled Abad. This Abad, or Maghabadean, dynasty eventually became so corrupt that it was banished to the woods and mountains, when Kaimours was called to the throne. For various reasons the author is persuaded that the Maghabadeans were the direct descendants of Cain. Their name had the usual twofold signification: first, The unity of the Godhead; secondly, a sacerdotal institution; and Tuath-de-danaan is simply a translation or ampliative rendering of the latter—Tuath being a modification of Budh, and also signifying magic; De, the vernacular term for the Deity; and Danaan signifying Almoners—the whole thus meaning Magician-god-almoners, or the Almoner-magicians of the Deity.



(Pp. 252-263)

Assuming that the Tuath-de-danaans originally occupied Iran, or Persia, their migration to Ireland is thus explained. An internecine variance, arising out of a purely religious question, sprang up among them. They became divided into two sects—one maintaining that the male influence was dominant in the production of offspring; the other that female influence was more effective. Each adopted a distinguishing title, emblematic of the sex whose virtues it proclaimed. The former did not find it necessary to change the name Tuath-de-danaan, since the esoteric meaning of Tuath (i.e. Budh) was the emblem of masculinity; but the others adopted the title of Pish-de-danaans, because Pish, or Pith (synonymous with Yoni), denoted that of femininity. The war which resulted from this variance of opinion was waged with all the bitterness which usually marks polemic differences; and the Pish-de-danaans, proving completely victorious, expelled their rivals from the sacred soil of Iran.[Pg li] The Tuath-de-danaans, or at least a portion of them (cf. p. 443), fled westward, and after many vicissitudes reached Europe, where traces of them are found in parts of Greece, Italy, and Spain; and from the country last named (by help of the Phœnicians, who were the great sea-carriers of those days), they made their way to Ireland. It is remarkable that a parallel account appears in Hindu records of the severance which took place between the Lingajas and the Yonijas on a precisely similar question.



(Pp. 264-284)

Although the Persian historians maintain silence, the evidence of other authorities in support of this episode is not wanting. For instance, when referring to Buddha, Oriental writers agree that he was born in Maghada; also that he was the son of Suad-de-danaSuad being convertible with Tuath, and both resolvable into Budh. Without professing to map out the exact route by which the Tuath-de-danaans made their way to Ireland, the author maintains that the fact of their having occupied that country for a considerable time is incontrovertible. As for their rivals, the Pish-de-danaans, it has already been stated that they, in their turn, had to leave Persia when Kaimours was called to the throne; and the presumption is that they were identical with those Uksi, or Shepherd Kings, who overran Egypt, and to whom the erection of pyramids emblematical of the female nature is ascribed. Their distinctive views may, it is pointed out, have prevailed among them from the time when they formed a portion of the Noachidæ; for the “Ark” was typical of the dominant idea in their belief, and the same idea was typified under another form in the pyramids. A variant symbol of this idea is the crescent (or lunar boat), of which certain Irish ornaments are representative. It is further possible that the Pish-de-danaan tradition of the deluge may have been communicated to Moses during his stay in[Pg lii] Egypt, and that the narrative is more figurative than historical.



(Pp. 285-304)

Among the sculptured symbols of the faith held by the ancient Irish, that of the Cross stands pre-eminent; but it would be a mistake to infer from this circumstance the existence of Christianity in Ireland at the time when these sculptures were wrought. The cryptogram of the Cross is found everywhere, both in the Old and New World, among the relics of nations whose paganism does not admit of doubt, and it dates from a period long antecedent to Christianity. Buildings of cruciform structure, and evidently devoted to religious uses, exist all over the East and West; and both they and the Mithratic caves, for which no one has ever claimed any but a pagan origin, partake of the same character. To aver that the Cross was emblematical of a vicarious sacrifice by which the redemption of mankind was accomplished, is merely to say that it expresses a belief common to many Sabaic faiths of the pagan world—a belief of which it was the recognised emblem in Egypt, India, Greece, Rome, Scandinavia, and America, as well as in Ireland.



(Pp. 305-324)

The argument as to the pagan origin of Irish cross-symbolism is pursued and developed, and the connection of the symbol in question with the Irish Budh-gaye (corresponding to the Hindu Budha-gaya), or representative of generative power (gaye-phallus), demonstrated. The symbolism of which it forms a type is ubiquitous, being found in archaic sculpture all over the Eastern and Western World: nor did Plato exaggerate when he said—‘The letter X is stamped upon the universe.’

 [Pg liii]


(Pp. 325-340)

A remarkable instance of this widely prevalent doctrine of the vicarious sacrifice of some incarnation of the Deity accomplished by a purely virginal conception is afforded in the Hindu Puranas, which recount the incarnation of Vishnu (or Crishna) in the White Island, and the subsequent crucifixion of the fruit of this conception, under the name of Sulivahana (cf. the Irish patronymic Sulivan), called also Dhanandhara, i.e. the Sacred Almoner (cf. Danaan and its meaning). Curiously enough, the mystic, or esoteric, name of ancient Ireland was Muc Inis, meaning White Island; and the details of a similar crucifixion are, with strictly pagan accompaniments, reproduced in the sculptures at Knockmoy, in Galway, which further closely resemble not only a sculptured portrayal on the temple of Kalabche, in Nubia, but a distinctly Eastern Buddhist group on the Tuath-de-danaan cross at Old Kilcullen, County Kildare.



(Pp. 341-355)

A striking instance of the resemblance between the Nubian and Knockmoy sculptures consists in the attire of the principal figures. In both the philibeg, or kilt, is worn; and this peculiarity is reproduced in idols of the Irish pagan god, Phearagh, or Farragh, or Budh, which have been from time to time exhumed. The headdresses and collars also correspond. In Buddhist Indian mythology Deva Thot is represented as crucified; in fact, the expectation of salvation through the atonement of a crucified Mediator characterises the whole system of pagan (Sabaic) beliefs as thoroughly as it did Hebraism. It is expressed in one of the names of Ireland, namely, Criach-na-Fuineadhach (meaning the asylum of the expectants, or the retreat of those looking forward), which was given to that country long before the advent of Christianity.

 [Pg liv]


(Pp. 356-367)

The round towers and crosses at Clonmacnoise, Clondalkin, and elsewhere, abound in sculptured devices of a similar character, there being in all a manifest reference to Buddhist, or Eastern, ceremonial; whilst the representation of a dog (an animal esteemed sacred by the Tuath-de-danaans) on one of the crosses at Clonmacnoise seems to exclude the possibility of its relation to Christianity. But perhaps the most significant feature of these sculptures is the profusion of snake ornamentation, pointing to a time when that form of Sabaism known as “serpent-worship” was in the ascendant. The frequency of this emblemism was so obnoxious to the early Christian missionaries, on account of the evident reverence with which it was regarded by the Irish, that St. Patrick thought it advisable to efface it when practicable; and in this sense he may be entitled to the credit of having banished snakes from Ireland.



(Pp. 368-395)

Reverting to his proper subject of the origin and purpose of the round towers, our author examines the evidence bearing on the date of their erection. The Ulster Annals record the destruction of fifty-seven of these towers by an earthquake in A.D. 448, the natural inference being that they must have existed before the fifth century, but how long before is matter of conjecture. Tradition connects them with a personage styled the Goban Saer (Freemason Sage); but this title being the name of a class, not of an individual, and having no settled place in chronology, does not further the solution of the difficulty. A better clue is found in the name of the place whereon was fought the first decisive battle between the Tuath-de-danaan invaders and the Celtic (Firbolg) inhabitants, which gave the supremacy[Pg lv] of the island to the former. From the number of commemorative towers erected there by the conquerors, this came to be known as Moytura (in Irish, Moye-tureadh, i.e. “the field of the towers”); and as the date of the second battle, fought centuries later, is approximately B.C. 600 (p. 449), there is reason for assigning the erection of round towers to a period long preceding that of Christianity. The ascription of these towers to the Tuath-de-danaans is in a degree warranted by the fact that the word “Tuathan-Tower” is a well-known Irish expression, and that there seems to be no other word in the language which conveys the same idea.



(Pp. 396-411)

The identity of Ireland with the Insula Hyperboreorum is deduced from a description of the latter, copied by Diodorus Siculus from the writings of Hecatæus and from a compendium by Marcianus Herocleotes of the works of Artemidorus. Both Hecatæus and Artemidorus lived before the Christian era, and an allusion in the latter author to certain “round temples,” of which the officiating priests were called Boreades, that existed in “Juvernia, a British isle, bounded on the north by the ocean called the Hyperborean, but on the east by the ocean called the Hibernian,” coupled with the fact that (with the exception of those at Brechin and Abernethy) no remains of round temples are found in any of the British Isles save Ireland,[28] goes far to prove the identity in question, also the pre-Christian antiquity of the round towers, together with the existence of an exceptional, and therefore by natural inference an imported, civilisation in that island. The latter inference is strengthened by continually-recurring traces of the great proficiency of its inhabitants in the fine, or useful, arts at an era when the adjacent islands were still plunged in barbarism.

 [Pg lvi]


(Pp. 412-431)

These proofs of an adventitious civilisation bearing the marks, not of gradual growth, but of full development, point to the colonisation of the island by a highly-cultured race, such as were the ancient people of Iran (Persia). The round towers, for instance, could not well have been the work of the Phœnicians, who were a maritime and mercantile race, by no means prone to arts and letters, and in none of whose admitted settlements is any trace of similar buildings to be found. Neither the Firbolgs (or Celtic inhabitants of Ireland), nor the Fomorians, nor the Scythians, Scoto-Milesians, nor Danish invaders, were at all given to the refinements of civilisation, and simply regarded the construction of permanent buildings as unworthy of a race of warriors. Everything, in fact, goes to show that the Tuath-de-danaan settlers alone could have erected these towers, introduced the Boreadan ceremonial, and given to the country of their adoption a name taken from that of their native land. With the Scythian conquest, it became, of course, inevitable that this name (Irin or Eirin) should be changed into Scuitte or Scotia (the land of the Scythians), and that there should have been a partial exodus of the vanquished Tuath-de-danaans—some of whom, settling in what is now Scotland, gave it the name of Iran or Eran (which survives in Erne or Erse), which was afterwards changed into Scoitte or Scotia, out of compliment to the Scythian rulers of the adjacent island, with whom its Pictish inhabitants had formed alliance.



(Pp. 432-444)

As for the unfounded theory,—that Ireland was colonised by Phœnicians arriving from Spain, whose last settlement in the island was established by Heber and Heremon, sons[Pg lvii] of Milesius, and descendants of Feni an fear soid, “the Phœnician wise man,”—it is pointed out that Heber and Heremon (brothers of Amergin, the bard) were in reality the sons of Gallamh, and invaded Ireland at the head of a Scythian, not Phœnician, colony (p. 393). Upon historical evidence, the date of this invasion is fixed at B.C. 1002; while it is agreed on all hands that the Tuath-de-danaans had landed about two hundred years before, or B.C. 1202, which latter date exactly corresponds with that given by most Oriental authorities for the exodus of the Buddhists from India. About this time, indeed, Ireland seems to have borne the character of an Oriental asylum—a circumstance to which may be attributed the Eastern costumes and aspect of the figures depicted in its ancient sculptures, the Eastern character of traditional religious and ceremonial usages, and the national reverence for the shamrock, corresponding with that shown to the trefoil (or trisula) in Persia (Iran).



(Pp. 445-474)

The duration of Tuath-de-danaan supremacy may have been some six centuries, dating from the first battle of Moytura, in B.C. 1202 (p. 435), to the second battle, in or about B.C. 600, between the Firbolgs, or Celts (who had been gradually reasserting themselves), and a reinforcement of Tuath-de-danaans, coming this time, not from Persia, but from India, whence they had been expelled by the Brahmins (p. 443). Although this second invasion proved successful, the power of the Tuath-de-danaans was now on the wane, and the height of civilisation to which they had raised the island rapidly declined before the inroads of the Scythians. Their ritual became merged in that of the Druids, and their taste for letters vitiated. Possibly, with a view to arrest this decadence, they began to cultivate intercourse with Greece, the result being a strong reciprocal influence, exercised by the languages of the two countries[Pg lviii] on each other, and more especially by Irish upon Greek. A corresponding influence resulted from the migration of discontented Tuath-de-danaans into Scotland. Nor was it confined to language; for certain peculiarities of ancient Irish architecture are found reproduced in Mycenian and Caledonian structures, as, for example, in the Treasury of Atreus (Mycenæ) and the Dune of Dornadilla (Scotland); and that religion was not wholly unaffected is proved by the discovery of Irish relics showing that the oracular superstitions of Dodona had their counterpart in Ireland.



(Pp. 475-497)

The relics of Tuath-de-danaan occupation, which exist in the shape of gigantic crosses, and of sculptured ornamentation in which cross-symbolism is prominent, point to a mystery far more esoteric than that involved in the Christian emblem. The cross had become representative of the number ten, because in Irish the same word, lambh, denoted equally a cross and the human hand, or the number of fingers on both hands; whilst the “triangle of ten” (p. 268) embraced “all that was solemn in religion and in thought,” being, in fact, “the index of male and female united,” and the prototype of the ark and pyramid. This Sabaic, and only intelligible, explanation of these highly figurative sculptures disposes of the theory that they are the product of a Christianity with which they have nothing in common but a shape which is not peculiar to any one religion in any part of the world.



(Pp. 498-524)

Serpent-worship is perhaps the most significant form of Sabaism, involving, as it does, the expression of its source. For in the sacred language of Iran, whereof Irish is the leading type, the word Sabh (the root of Sabaism) has three[Pg lix] distinct, yet connected, meanings—(1) Voluptuousness, or the Yoni; (2) a Snake, or sinuosity; (3) Death. Through all these runs the central idea of sexual relation, which, as the most elementary part of social life, has been symbolised all over the world in connection with religion. The scriptural reproach, “generation of vipers,” is probably equivalent to offspring of concupiscence, as will appear from the indignant repudiation of those to whom it was addressed—“We were not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.” The part which the serpent plays in Brahminism is well known. In Mexico a widespread faith called Nagualism had the Culebra, or snake, for one of its principal deities; whilst the Gadelglas of the ancient Irish (Gadelians) meant simply the green snake-god, from which latter, and not from the verdure of its soil, Ireland may have obtained the designation of the Emerald Isle. In fact, Sabaism, Ophiolatry, and Gadelianism were one and the same; and, while purporting to be the worship of the serpent, or of the stars (vide p. 505), were in reality the worship of Sabh or Yoni, the representative of female nature. It was, however, masculinity (Budh) that was typified in the phallic form of those round towers, which the author now proceeds to describe with more minuteness of detail than heretofore. Incidentally, he disposes of the argument in favour of the Christian origin of these towers, which is based upon the assumption that remains of Christian churches are invariably found in their vicinity, by adducing an instance to the contrary (at Giant’s Ring, County Down).[29]

W. H. C.

[Pg lx]



[Pg lxi]




[Pg lxii]



[Pg lxiii]


In Fraser’s Magazine for the month just expired, there has appeared an article headed the “Arcana of Freemasonry,” which will save me the trouble of an introductory dissertation. The style is quaint, but that will be overlooked; its author is evidently a true mason and a good man; and, initiated as he is in all the fundamentals of his fraternity, he will be the more ready to recognise the truth of my disclosures, as well as to admit the originality of the proofs which I adduce. To him, therefore, whoever he is, do I with confidence refer.

“In the spirit of the mighty dead,” says he, “the great ones of the earth, that seem ever and anon to look down through the clouds of this murky atmosphere and to beckon us heavenward, nothing strikes more keenly, in our conviction, than that passion for divine truth which burned unquenchably within them. With what hallowed devotion they worshipped it, with what intense aspirations they loved it, we must remember but too painfully, when we converse with men as they are, and read the writings they applaud.

“Yes—it must be so! The first and noblest object to which the ambition of man can aspire is the discovery and propagation of truth, on which the felicity of all created thinkers absolutely depends; and, fortunately, the glory of its discovery is nothing superior to the joy of its communication. And therefore have the finest and freest souls, that have caught the brightest glimpses of truth’s eternal radiation, ever most earnestly sought to lead their brethren and kindred to the same difficult and solitary height from which they themselves first witnessed the dawnings of the prophetic dayspring.

[Pg lxiv]“How many illustrious names, however venerable, have from time’s eldest records sought out with indefatigable assiduity the relics of divinest Wisdom! How often beneath her charmed inspirations they wandered forth, exulting over the boundless fields of metaphysical and physical science—endeavouring by the things that are manifest to retrace the hidden Divinity—to look through nature up to nature’s God! And if happily they discover some strange and stirring indications of the Almighty’s elaborating hand, or some bright testimony of His vivifying though impalpable Spirit, have they not hastened with glowing hearts, and souls overcharged with adoration, to whisper the mystery in secret, or to proclaim the marvel to the world?

“The history of Freemasonry being in fact the history of the gradual progression of devotion and philosophy in the youth, maturity, and declension of our planet’s millenary circle, is intensely interesting to the philosophic mind, as the ages of the one have a thousand mystic correspondences with the ages of the other. After taking a luminous survey of the advances of human intelligence as revealed in Scripture, it traces the perpetual tradition of divine wisdom among the hierophantic academies of classic memorial. None understood so well the essential truth of their theo-astrological mythologies and their symbolical mysteries. They track every subtle declension of lofty and bright-souled truth into the shadowy circumference of hostile error; and thus, establishing their minds on the deepest foundations of history, they continually build up superstructures of all that is precious in literature or elegant in art.

“In thus eulogising Freemasons, we of course allude to Freemasons initiated into the deep spirit of divine philosophy, and not mere nominal professors. True masons,—those who are made free by their free devotion to God’s spiritual service, and accepted by emulating the self-immolation of their celestial prototype of heaven and earth for just and disciplined worthies,—we would discourse of[Pg lxv] these, and these alone. It would be as unfair to judge of Freemasonry in its hidden sanctuary within the veil, by its irregular members, as to judge of its religious illustration without the veil by merely nominal Christians.

“But for true, or free, or speculative masons. These are the men who, attached to their celestial Saviour with filial enthusiasm incommunicable, and to each other by fraternal sympathies that melt them into beautiful unanimity of immortal emulation, these are the men who feel a more especial and endearing interest in the whole history of mankind. To them, whatever is “wisest, virtuousest, discreetest, best,” in all the records of humanity, hath a kind of kindred familiarity of association unknown to others; for in all true men they recognise their ancestry or their brotherhood, and they watch the broad line of their genealogical descent with the reverent fondness of a lineal and loyal progeny. In their history they love to contemplate the magnificent economy of Providence for the gradual perfectionising of all lapsed intelligences. In this they view every variation of Churches and States with tranquil and unbroken satisfaction, and from it they look forward to the future with that fine, free, and fearless confidence which Christian philosophy alone inspires.

“In the present times, these relations to society have assumed a somewhat deeper and still more thrilling intensity; they know well enough that old age hath come upon the earth, and that the latter day is at hand; and that the prophecies relating to her dissolution and bright regeneration are, ere long, to be accomplished in their fulness.

“They confess, with rejoicing, the vast spread of intellectual light and freedom that now gilds the concluding pages of our planet’s history. They believe that the true and venerable principles of Church and State will be confirmed and illustrated in their breadth and length, and height and depth, by the last and prophetic experience of pious and patriot sages, ere the kindling judgment breaks out upon the astonished world.

[Pg lxvi]“Such is the position of Freemasons in society at present. And when we consider the extent of this chosen band of good and wise men, bound together by the fellowship of indissoluble benevolence, and scattered over every kingdom and republic, we cannot but observe their influences with peculiar scrutiny of attention; for, by keeping fast their own counsel, and preserving mutual good faith, they ever possess a strong, though secret domination of philanthropy over all the affairs of Church and State. In her peaceful and inviolable retirement, Masonry is, as it were, the primum mobile and mainspring of society,—unseen herself, but urging the whole visible mechanism into harmonious and musical action.

“In the present time, Freemasons cannot but feel that a terrible responsibility is committed to their charge. The ancient interests and ambitions of Churches and States are coming into perpetual and jarring collision with the new. The ebb-tides of bigotry and despotism are clashing with the advancing currents of enthusiasm and dissolute passion. The spray of the whirling eddies already whitens the deep, and the roar of the conflicting breakers is heard far away upon the wind. God saith, ‘I will overturn, overturn, overturn, until He shall come whose right the kingdom is’; and the sea and the waves are roaring upon every shore, and men’s hearts fail them for fear, and for looking on those things which are coming on the earth. To true masons is entrusted the hazardous charge of piloting the vessel athwart the boiling whirlpools. They will save, if they can, earth’s latest age from indecent strife and confusion, and struggle hard against the unfilial and disloyal apostates, that would bring down her grey hairs with sorrow to the grave.”[30]

Here I would willingly close my Introduction; but as it may seem strange that a work which bears upon its title-page the character of “Prize Essay” should not have been published by the Society that have awarded it the prize, I am obliged to open up a statement of facts which[Pg lxvii] I had rather have concealed; yet, in doing so, I shall take care, now that all vexation has passed over, that no symptoms of asperity shall escape my pen; all the colouring of language I shall equally avoid; nay, even inferences, however obvious, I shall not press into observation, but confine myself strictly to a matter-of-fact detail as to the conduct of the party in the case in question.

In December 1830, the Royal Irish Academy, after many fruitless efforts to obtain information on the subject of the Round Towers, proposed a premium of a gold medal and fifty pounds to the author of an approved Essay, in which all particulars respecting them were expected to be explained. This intimation I never saw. The stipulated time for the composition of treatises—namely, a full twelvemonth—expired, and the several candidates sent in their works. After a perusal of two or three months, the Council agreed upon giving the premium to one of them; but his work being deficient in some of the conditions required,[31] it was furthermore resolved that he should be allowed some additional interval for the supplying of these defects, and this determination they put into practice by the following advertisement:—

Royal Irish Academy House, Dublin,
21st February 1832.

“It having appeared to the Royal Irish Academy that none of the Essays given in on the subject of the ‘Round Towers,’ as advertised in December 1830, have satisfied the conditions of the question, they have come to the following resolutions:—

“1st. That the question be advertised again as follows:—

[Pg lxviii]“‘The Royal Irish Academy hereby give notice that they will give a Premium of Fifty Pounds and the Gold Medal to the author of an approved Essay on the Round Towers of Ireland, in which it is expected that the characteristic architectural peculiarities belonging to all those ancient buildings now existing shall be noticed, and the uncertainty in which their origin and uses are involved be satisfactorily removed.’

“2nd. That the time be extended to the 1st of June next, for receiving other Essays on said subject, and for allowing the authors of the Essays already given in to enlarge and improve them; for which purpose they will be returned, on application at the Academy House.

“All Essays, as usual, to be sent post free to the Rev. J. H. Singer, D.D., Secretary, at the Academy House, 114 Grafton Street, Dublin; each Essay being inscribed with some motto, and accompanied with a sealed billet, superscribed with same motto, in which shall be written the author’s name and address.”

A few days before this appeared, I heard, for the first time, of the subject having been for competition. Wishing to ascertain whether it was decided or not, I availed myself of a pretext for calling upon Dr. M‘Donnell, one of the Secretaries to the Academy, when the following conversation took place between us:—

“I wish to know, sir,” said I, “whether the Council would patronise a translation of Ibernia Phœnicia, which I have just embarked in, with Dr. Villanueva’s consent?”

“The Council have already subscribed to the original, and I believe they feel no difficulty in understanding it in that form,” was the reply.

“I do not at all question their competency,” I rejoined; “but to the public, Doctor, it is a sealed volume; and I cannot think it foreign from the spirit of your institution to countenance such an idea. Besides, it is not a mere echo of the original that I intend to give. I purpose to enlarge it by many additions of[Pg lxix] my own, accompanying it all through with notes and illustrations.”

“To what points in particular will those additions refer?”

“To the development of the mystery which overhangs the Round Towers.”

“Oh! On that head the Academy have already made up their minds. What is your theory about them?”

“Surely, Doctor, if the Academy have already made up their minds upon the subject, my information can be to you of no value! Good-morning.”

If my disappointment at this interview was great, my delight, a few mornings after, was incomparably greater, on beholding the advertisement above introduced; and though the shortness of the time allowed, with the positiveness of the assertion so recently and reluctantly extorted, made me suspect at once that there was some management in the business, yet, having thoroughly assured myself, from the wording of that manifesto, that I was entitled to enter the lists, I plunged into the discussion without further delay, and day and night, in sorrow and in difficulties, I laboured, until I finished my Essay against the appointed day, when I sent it in accordingly to await its chance.

Four days, however, had only passed over, when the Council, having perceived that they had been taken at their word, by the appearance of a new candidate, allowed their friend to take back his Essay for one month more, to render it more perfect! And in the exercise of their discretion, they had the modesty to advertise, by a document precisely similar to that already inserted, that their object in so doing was to “obtain new Essays on said subject.”

This last advertisement was not published for some days after their friend had removed his work from the Council Board; so that there were no more than about three weeks remaining, for the inditing of new works upon a subject for which lives have been found inadequate,[Pg lxx] and for which their friend had already been allowed a period nearly approaching to two years!

Soon as informed of this manœuvre, I called upon Dr. Singer, as the Secretary, and entreated of him, with much ardour, that he would put a stop to those proceedings; stated that I was myself the author of one of the Essays, which I would not further particularise; and that, as I had reason to apprehend something wrong was in contemplation, I would feel obliged if he exerted himself to have the Essays detained, and determined upon by their merits as they then stood. He asked me to explain the ground of my apprehensions. I complied; whereupon he assured me that I was mistaken in that quarter, as “the individual,” says he, “at whose request we have extended the time is one for whom we all have a regard, and is by no means the person on whom your suspicions light!”

It was but little consolation to me that the person in whose favour all this partiality was exerted was “not the person on whom my suspicions lighted”! I remonstrated, but in vain. Every syllable that transpired afterwards tended only to show that the decision was already pronounced—that the premium was already awarded. I then hinted at the injustice of seducing me into the competition, at the very risk of my life, upon so short a notice, and not vouchsafing now so much as to examine my production. This had some effect, and I left the Doctor with an assurance that I “should, at all events, get a hearing.”

The day for the reception of the amended Essays again came, and mine again made its appearance. In the interim was started a periodical, under the direction of some members of the Council, the most prominent of whom was the favoured individual himself. In the second number of this periodical, on the Saturday after the last sending in of the Essays, there appeared an article, written by the Rev. Cæsar Otway, a member of the Council, under the assumed name of Terence O’Toole, in which half[Pg lxxi] playfully and half mysteriously, he lets the cat out of the bag, and actually asserts, as the event verified, that the premium was already determined to a member of their own body!

Here are his words:—

“The Round Tower, to the right, is a prodigious puzzler to antiquarians. Quires of paper, as tall as a tower, have been covered with as much ink as might form a Liffey, in accounting for their origin and use. But all these clever and recondite conjectures are shortly, as I understand, to be completely overthrown, and the real nature of these Round Towers clearly explained, for the first time, in a Prize Essay presented to the Royal Irish Academy by an accomplished antiquarian of our city.”[32]

Notwithstanding the disguise here assumed of “as I understand,” and so forth, the writer of this announcement had, at this moment, not only perused his colleague’s Essay, but actually registered his vote in its favour! And as to his pretending that the development was a discovery, by saying “for the first time,” he betrays therein the extreme either of untruth or of ignorance, as the theory alluded to is but the echo, in all particulars, of Montmorency’s book, every sentence in which I prove erroneous in the early chapters of the present volume! I could no longer, however, be ignorant as to the identity of the person in whose favour Dr. M‘Donnell had told me the Council had “made up their minds”;—casually corroborated afterwards by Dr. Singer!—I saw at once that the “accomplished antiquarian of our city” was Mr. Petrie, the antiquarian artist of the Royal Irish Academy—himself a member of their Council!

However, Dr. Singer had promised that I “should get, at all events, a hearing.” And this was performed with a vengeance. Three months was the time devoted to the examination of all the former Essays. It remained, therefore, only publicly to announce what was privately resolved[Pg lxxii] upon. But as my Essay, the only new one, was at all taken in, it was indispensable but that they must read it, and six long months did they appropriate thereto. At the end of this period they saw that the position assumed was right, and that I was entitled to the premium. But they had already pledged themselves to give it to their friend, whose theory was the direct opposite of mine; and, consequently, every sentence in it, or in mine, must be wrong—a discrepancy, however, which they thought to reconcile by leaving the original prize undisturbed, and voting me a separate one.

Had they had the candour to avow that this was their dilemma, I should never have murmured, but quietly submitted to the issue; instead of which, however, they worded their resolution in such a form as led the public to think that there were two premiums all along intended, and that the first of these was given to the best composition, and the second to that which approached it in quality.

It was as follows:—

Royal Irish Academy House.

“On Monday, December 17, a meeting of the Council of the Royal Irish Academy was held, for the purpose of deciding on the merits of essays received, pursuant to advertisement, on The Origin and Use of the Round Towers of Ireland, when the following premiums were adjudged, viz.:—

“Fifty pounds and the gold medal to George Petrie.

“Twenty pounds to Henry O’Brien, Esq.”

Now, be it observed that it was not only of the gold medal and fifty pounds that I was deprived by this manœuvre, but of the one hundred additional pounds which Lord Cloncurry had offered upon the same subject. Of this the Academy were also the dispensers, on the understanding that whoever should get their gold medal and fifty pounds—the only premium which they had offered—should[Pg lxxiii] also get his lordship’s hundred; so that by this stratagem they assigned to their friend not only their own, but his lordship’s patronage!

I was in London at the time, and signified my dissatisfaction by letter. Several were interchanged, in one of which I gave them to understand that I would submit to the injustice if they would but publish my work in their Transactions simultaneously with Mr. Petrie’s. This they declined, assuring me that they would publish it, but not simultaneously, and not until after. No comment is necessary for this.

Meanwhile, their periodical, which, from the first moment of its starting, whenever reference was made to the Round Towers, unqualifiedly asserted that they were Christian, and only coeval with the monasteries,[33] thought proper now to change its tone; but as an open acknowledgment of error would be too self-abasing for Academicians, they only put forth a feeler, as if implying doubt on the matter, which would have the twofold effect of screening the “Council’s” verdict—as the result of doubt or ambiguity—and of preparing the public mind for the altered and novel conclusion to which all, I trust, will ere long, as well as themselves, have arrived.

My eye, however, was on their plans, though separated by “a roaring sea.” I knew that where there were so many windings to mature the plot, there must be as many to prevent its detection; and, accordingly, the very first move they made in these, their new tactics, I checkmated at once by the following letter:—

[Pg lxxiv](No. 1.)

London, March 16, 1833.

Dear Dr. Singer,—The Dublin Penny Journal of February 23rd, on the article, ‘Devenish Island,’ contains this sentence, viz.: ‘Whether the towers are the accompaniment to the churches, or the churches to the towers, is a question not yet decided.’

“Now this—coupled with the circumstance of the Committee having awarded two premiums to two, as I understand, conflicting ascriptions, and that when only one was originally proposed—induces me, with all deference, to offer this memorial, through you, to the Academy.

“As the development of truth in the elucidation of history is the object of the antiquarian, and, as the ‘labourer is worthy of his hire,’ I take the liberty respectfully to ask whether, if I make my ascription of the Round Towers a mathematical demonstration, with every other incident relating to their founders, comprehending all the antiquities of Ireland, as connected therewith—and this by all the varieties and modes of proof—whether, I say, in that event, will the Academy award me the gold medal and premium? or, if that cannot be recalled, an equivalent gold medal and premium.

“My intercalary work, substantiating all the above, is now finished, and can be forwarded to the Committee by return of the same post which will favour me with your answer.—I have the honour to be, dear sir, your obedient, etc.

Henry O’Brien.

“To the Rev. Dr. J. H. Singer,
Secretary to the Academy.”

By the above proposal I must not be understood as admitting that my original essay “was not sufficiently conclusive”; but as I had more arguments still in reserve, I wanted to elicit from the Academy the admission that it was truth they sought after. After waiting, however, more than three weeks, and getting no reply, I forwarded some[Pg lxxv] other proofs, accompanied by a letter, of which the following was the conclusion, viz.:—

(No. 2.)

“These are but items in the great body of discoveries which this intercalary work will exhibit. In truth, I may without vanity assert that the whole ancient history of Ireland, etc., is therein rectified and elucidated—which it never was before. Am I, therefore, presumptuous in appealing to the Royal Irish Academy—the heads of Irish literature and the avowed patrons of its development—for the reward of my labours?

“I shall with confidence rely upon their justice.—I have the honour to be, with sincere regard, etc.

Henry O’Brien.

“To the Rev. Dr. J. H. Singer,
Secretary to the Academy.”


(No. 3.)

Royal Irish Academy House,
April 16, 1833.

Sir,—Your improved essay and letter were yesterday laid before Council, and as Dr Singer is at present confined with the gout, it devolves on me to communicate to you the following extract from the minutes:—

“‘Resolved, that the Secretary be directed to reply to Mr. O’Brien, and to state that any alteration or revocation of their award cannot be made, whatever may be the merits of any additional matter supplied to them after the day appointed by advertisement; but if Mr. O’Brien be willing that the new matter be printed along with the original Essay, the Council will have the same perused, in order to ascertain the expediency of so enlarging their publication.’—By order.

Rich. Row, Clerk to the Academy.

“To H. O’Brien, Esq.”

 [Pg lxxvi]

(No. 4.)

London, April 18, 1833.

Sir,—Had I a notion that the Academy’s reply would be such as your letter has this day imparted, I would never have sat down to indite those additions, much less have forwarded them for their perusal. For why did I write to the Secretary three weeks ago, but to ascertain whether or not, in the event of my doing so and so, would the Academy act so and so, and thus repair that injury which they had before inflicted? What could be more easy than to give me a categorical answer, one way or the other? Instead of which, however, they left me to my own conclusions, which, as usual in such circumstances, leading me to construe silence into acquiescence, I transmitted my documents on the tacit faith that though the Academy would not pledge themselves by a written promise, they would, notwithstanding, if my researches proved adequate, reward my industry by a suitable remuneration.

“Now, however, when my papers have been received, and my developments communicated, I am told that, be their merits what they may, the award is irrevocable; and I have no alternative, in the writhings of my mortification, but the consolation of being injured and duped at the same time.

“You will say, perhaps, that my new evidences have not yet been read, and that therefore my property is secure and sacred. But has not the accompanying letter been read? And what was that but a programme of their contents?

I had thought that the Royal Irish Academy were not only a learned, but a just and a patriotic Society. I had thought that having marshalled themselves into an institution, with the avowed object of resuscitating from death the almost despaired-of evidences of our national history, they would not alone foster every advance toward that desirable consummation, but shower honours, and acclamations, and triumphs upon him who has not only infused a vital soul [Pg lxxvii]into those moribund remains, but made the history of Ireland, at this moment, the clearest, the most irrefragable, and withal the most interestingly comprehensive chain of demonstrational proofs in the whole circle of universal literature.[34]

“But it is not alone the being deprived of my reward that I complain of, and the transferring of that reward to another, every sentiment of whose production must inevitably be wrong, but it is the suppression of my labours, and the keeping them back from the public eye, in deference to my opponent’s work, lest that the discernment of the public should bestow upon me those honours which the discretion of the Academy has thought proper to alienate, that affects me as most severe.

“Indeed, it has been stated from more quarters than one, that the withholding of the medal from me, in the first instance, and the substituting thereinstead a nominal premium of twenty pounds, originated from a personal pique against me individually. Such a report I would fain disbelieve, and yet it is hard not to give it some credence, seeing that the irresistible cogency of my truths and the indubitable value of my literary discoveries are not only not rewarded, but kept back from publication, until someone else more fortunate, or rather more favoured, shall run away with the credit of my cherished disclosures.[35] I wish—I desire—I most intensely covet—that the Academy would convince me that this is not an act of the most aggravated injustice.

“You will please lay this before the Council, and tell them from me, respectfully, that I do not want them either to ‘alter’ or ‘revoke’ their award, but simply to vote me ‘an equivalent gold medal and premium’ for my combined essay, or, if they prefer, the new portion of it. Should this [Pg lxxviii]be refused, I will put my cause, etc. etc.—I have the honour to be, etc. etc.

Henry O’Brien.

“To the Rev. Richard Row,
Clerk to the Academy.”

They bestowed some days in consultation upon the above; meanwhile, the transmission of the Dublin Penny Journal to London was countermanded, and not a copy of it was allowed, for some months afterwards, to come within hundreds of miles of the place of my residence. In the interim the ingenious author of the Celtic Druids, and who had been partly in possession of my development of the “Towers” for some time previously, favoured me with a visit, during which we conversed principally on historical questions. The next day I addressed him a note, a copy of which, with its answer, I take leave to subjoin, for the sake of the terminating clause of the latter, being the self-convicting acknowledgment of the “Academy’s” disingenuousness.

(No. 5.)

May 2, 1833.

Dear Sir,—I hope you will not feel displeased at the frankness of this question which I am about to propose to you, viz. have you any objection to show me in manuscript, before you send to print, the terms in which you speak of me, in reference to those points of information which I entrusted to your confidence—such as the ancient names of Ireland and their derivation, the towers and founders, dates, etc.?

“Should you think proper to consent to this feeling of anxiety on my part, I shall be most willing to share with you those other ‘points’ which I exclusively retain.

“To the full extent you shall have them. The only condition I require is, the credit of originality, which I have laboriously earned. Please to drop me a line in reply [Pg lxxix]to this, and allow me to subscribe myself, with great respect,—Dear sir, your obedient,

Henry O’Brien.

“Godfrey Higgins, Esq.”


(No. 6.)

May 3, 1833.

My dear O’Brien,—You may be perfectly assured I shall print nothing which I have learned from you without acknowledging it. But I have really forgotten what you told me, because I considered that I should see it in print in a few days. Anything I shall write on the subject will not be printed for years after your books have been before the public. You did not tell me the name of Buddha, but I told it you, that it was Saca, or Saca-sa,[36] which I have already printed a hundred times, and can show you in my great quarto, when you take your tea with me, as I hope you will to-morrow. Sir W. Betham told me of the fire-towers being Phalluses last night at the Antiquarian Society.—Yours truly,

G. Higgins.”

Who, now, can pretend to think that the neutralising award of the “Council” was the effect of scepticism or legitimate doubt? Here Sir William Betham, the Ulster King-at-Arms! the Goliath of antiquaries!—as he is, undoubtedly, of pedigrees,—being himself a member of the “deciding tribunal,”—proclaims, in the midst of a venerable literary assembly, that my solution of the Round Tower enigma is accurate; and yet in the teeth of this confession, and of the conviction which extorted it, he joins[Pg lxxx] in voting away my medal to a compilation of errors, and in substituting thereinstead twenty pounds!

(No. 7.)

London, May 2, 1833.

Dear Dr. Singer,—I exceedingly grieve to hear of your ill-health. Its announcement, I assure you, made me look within myself, and for a moment lose sight of my own hardships. I hope, however, that you are now so far recovered as to send me a favourable answer to this my last appeal.

“Taking it for certain that the Academy’s having not replied to the tenor of my late intimation arose from the circumstance of there having been no ‘Council day’ since; and, as I anticipate, that on Monday next my question will be finally disposed of, I am anxious, for the good of all parties, and for the triumph of truth, to show you in one view how I have amputated the last supports of error, and covered its advocates with ignominy and shame.

“Thus every leaf unfolds evidences to the realisation of my victory. I took my stand at the outset on the pedestal of truth; and I challenge scrutiny to insinuate that, in the multiplied developments which I have since revealed, I have deviated from my grand position one single iota.

“Let it not be supposed, in the observation with which I am now about to conclude, that I mean anything disrespectful to the Council of the Academy. Many years have not passed since I knew several of them in a different relation; and however little effect college associations may produce on other minds, I find not their influence so fleeting or transient. It is with extreme reluctance, therefore, that I would split with a body who have lectured me as tutors. But time has advanced; I am now right, and they are wrong, and the cause which they patronise will not do them much credit.

“I do not, however, yet give up my hopes but that the [Pg lxxxi]Academy will wisely retrace their steps. Revocation of the former medal I do not require—much less the exercise of a single grain of partiality. My demand merely is, as my former letters have indicated, the substitution of justice.

“Please receive the assurance of my consideration, and in confident reliance that you will use your influence in this matter, and favour me with the upshot instantly after Monday’s Board,—I remain, ever sincerely yours,

Henry O’Brien.”


(No. 8.)

London, May 9, 1833.

Dear Dr. Singer,—My appeals are over; and I regret to say that they have not been attended to. The virtuous and enlightened part of the Academy, therefore, cannot blame me, if, in the assertion of my honest right, I try the effect of a public remonstrance.

“In the interim, I transmit to you by this night’s post some additional leaves, which, in the anxiety of despatch, as well, indeed, as from fear that they would not be inserted because they overwhelm for ever the antiquarian pretensions of the Dublin Penny Journal,[37] have omitted to copy. However, I will now forward them, and claim that they may be printed along with those already sent in the original Essay.

“... I have exhausted all the forms of blandness and conciliation, in the vain hope of inducing the Council to redeem themselves from disgrace, by doing me common justice. I have strove in the mildest terms of conscious rectitude, invigorated by a phalanx of overwhelming proofs, to make them reconsider their course, and spare me the unpleasant task of exposing a deed which I am loth to characterise by its proper designation. But the ‘heart of Pharaoh’ was hardened; the ‘voice of the charmer’ not listened to; and to my soft importunities [Pg lxxxii]nothing was returned but the coldness of obduracy and disregard.

“The Rubicon, therefore, is crossed; my patience feels insulted; and the only consideration I value, in the resolve to which I have at last been driven, is, that you had nothing to do with the ‘job’ of the Round Towers.

“Little did the Academy know what arguments I could adduce in elucidation of certain mysteries. As little do they now dream what proofs I can summon, though you cannot have forgotten one of them, while I promise I shall make Dr. M‘Donnell recollect another; and would not the Rev. Cæsar Otway, with whom I have never so much as exchanged a look, be surprised at my quoting him as a reluctant third witness, to show that the gold medal and premium were predetermined to Mr. Petrie before ever I became a candidate; and that, consequently, the advertisement under which I was invited to contend, but from which the Council never expected an intruder, was but a specious delusion.

“In this determination I violate no act of private regard, nor set light by the claims of individual acquaintance. You know yourself how earnestly I struggled, before the consummation of this nefarious proceeding, to stem the agency of that despicable under-current which I had just detected. I knew that fraud of some kind was at work; and though unable at the moment to fix upon the person in whose favour it was set agoing,—nay, though mentally fastening the blame thereof upon another, whose name, however, I never let slip, and to whom, I rejoice to say I have since made more than recompense for this ideal injury,—yet could I not be persuaded but that something sinister was designated; and to frustrate the influence of such prominent deceit, you know how vehement was my address. I implored you, I besought you, and all but upon my knees, and with tears, I invoked you, by your regard to justice and your fear of a Creator, to check this trickery, and allow merit alone and anonymous to decide the issue.

[Pg lxxxiii]“I now, in the same spirit of solemn self-composure, adjure the ‘Council’ through you, in the name of that God before whom they and I shall one day appear, that they will have my cause redressed, and make me reparation, not only for the substantial injury, but for the mental disquietude and agony which this ‘business’ has occasioned. If they do not, rest satisfied that my path is already chalked. All the evolutions of the Council, as displayed upon the Towers, and with which I am but too familiar, shall be immortalised in letterpress; and I do not yet despair of the hereditary fairness of my country but that it shall register its dissent from the decision of that tribunal, which could have had at once the obtuseness of intellect and the perverseness of conduct to stultify their own verdict by a contradictory award; and, after inveigling me into a competition which they never meant to remunerate, deprive me of the fruits of my indubitable triumph, in the pursuit of which I had almost lost my life, and cut short my existence in the very spring of my manhood.

“I mean no offence, individually or collectively, to the Academy or its members; but as they have been deaf to the justice of my private ‘appeals,’ I shall try the effect of a public ‘remonstrance’; and as to ulterior consequences I greatly err, else the upshot will show that the motto[38] adopted as my fictitious signature in the ‘Essay’ was not the random assumption of inconsiderateness or accident, but the true index to the author’s resources.

“My proposal is this—my unshaken position from which I will not swerve or retract—a gold medal and premium equivalent to those originally advertised.—I am, dear sir, yours sincerely,

Henry O’Brien.

“To the Rev. Dr. J. H. Singer,
Secretary to the Academy.”

 [Pg lxxxiv]

(No. 10.)

Grafton Street, Dublin,
May 13, 1833.

Dear Sir,—I have been directed by the Council of the Royal Irish Academy to reply to your last letters on the subject of your Essay, and the additional matter recently sent over. As to the latter, I am directed to say that the Council had engaged to examine and publish, if approved, some small additions to your former Essay; but the papers you have sent are so large as to be nearly equal in bulk to the original dissertation; under these circumstances the Council cannot publish them as additional to, or incorporated with, the Essay to which they awarded twenty pounds prize, as thereby its character might be so altered that it would not appear in print the same Essay on which they had formed their opinion. The Council, therefore, wish to know how they may transmit to you the papers you have sent. When the gentlemen to whom your Essay has been submitted for examination report, you shall be made aware of the extent of alteration they suggest; and if you think that your paper requires the additions you have sent, and would therefore wish to publish it with them yourself, I have no doubt the Council will entertain any notice to that effect.—I am, dear sir, your most obedient,

J. H. Singer.

“H. O’Brien, Esq.”


(No. 11.)

London, May 20, 1833.

Dear Dr. Singer,—I do not quite understand the closing observation of your last letter. If the Academy mean me a kindness, I should trust that my nature is too sensible of such advances not suitably to acknowledge it; and I should be sorry that, either from obscurity in[Pg lxxxv] the diction, or want of quickness in my perception, I were to lose the opportunity of making a grateful return. Let me, therefore, put the following interrogatory to set myself right, viz.:—

“Will the Academy procure me a publisher for my enlarged work? And will they advertise that, having previously done me injustice, by the transfer of my medal, they now, on being convinced of their error, adopt this as the only mode of reparation, the award itself not being to be recalled?

“Without some such course as this, it is obvious that the offer which they make, instead of being a kindness, would be a mockery; and, instead of making amends for oppression, would be adding insult to persecution! For who, let me ask, would publish a work which a jury have branded with the stamp of inferior, doling out their surreptitious twenty pounds as an eleemosynary deodand, while the darling of their adoption, though disfigured by all the imperfections of blindness, lameness, and untruth, and recommended only by a few painted gew-gaws, which never entered into the requisites of the original advertisement, will pass current in Dublin amongst the creatures of party!

“I have already applied to Mr. ——, and he, intimidated by the vicious state of society in Ireland, declined my proposal; but though his apprehensions were sufficient to deter him from the speculation, they were totally unfounded; for, despite of all corruption, all chicanery, and all cabals, the etc. etc. etc.

“This complaint, observe, does not refer to the new papers only, but extends itself equally to the original Essay. Why do the Academy keep it back? Believe me, it is in vain for them to defer ‘the evil day’ of their exposure. Their doom was sealed the very moment they did me injustice! I have watchfully reconnoitred their course, and have proofs of the intricacies of their internal machinery, ample as those before adduced for the solution of the Round Tower enigma, to effect their overthrow;[Pg lxxxvi] and if the present generation be not virtuous enough to redress my cause, it shall be no fault of mine if any future age shall be ignorant of the names of the individuals who constitute the present Council; and in what light they shall be considered, their own conscience can furnish them with a tolerable foretaste!

“Was it not a cruelly perverse thing of them, after determining beforehand to award the medal to Mr. Petrie, to inveigle me into the competition by a deceptious advertisement? And then, after signally beating them under all disadvantages, to manœuvre me off by a beggarly cheat? Shame, foul shame for ever upon the Academy!

“Why, sir, the very terms of your letter show their self-convictedness, though they have not honesty enough to avow it overboard! What do they mean by saying that the new matter would ‘make my Essay not appear in print the same as that on which they formed their opinion’? Are they afraid that it would make it appear worse? Not at all; they would rejoice at the pretext, and publish it instanter as a cloak to their verdict! But as they have, in spite of them, admitted those additions to be an improvement,[39] why do they, I ask, who have advertised for truth, again repress its effulgence?

“It is now easy to see what they designed by the clauses of ‘expediency,’ ‘if approved,’ and ‘subject to revisal’; viz., if false, we will insert them in self-vindication; but if true, we will not, as being too great a victory over our own ignorance and favouritism!

“My Essay, however, does not want those new papers: the Council, therefore, will please have them sealed and handed over to the custody of Mr. Tims, my bookseller, in Grafton Street. The only additions which I shall insist upon being inserted are those contained in my letters in appropriate places, as I shall point out.

“I conclude by giving notice that I shall claim Lord Cloncurry’s premium; nor do I despair of recovering that, as I should think that his lordship is too honest a man to[Pg lxxxvii] sacrifice the interests of literature to the intrigues of a faction!—I have the honour to be, etc.,

Henry O’Brien.”


(No. 12.)

Royal Irish Academy House, Dublin,
May 27, 1833.

Sir,—I am directed by the Council of the Royal Irish Academy to inform you that they feel themselves compelled, in consequence of your late letters, to decline the publication of your Essay, or the maintaining any further correspondence with you on the subject.

“Your Essay and the additional matter will be sent, as you desire, to Mr. Tims, Grafton Street, as soon as a copy of the former can be taken.—I am, sir, your most obedient,

J. H. Singer, Secretary.

“H. O’Brien, Esq.”

The discontinuance of the correspondence was to be expected, but their declining the publication of my Essay in their Transactions, merely because of my giving utterance to some unpalatable truths, was an excess of magnanimity which I did not think that even the “Council” would personify.

However, you suppose that they, at all events, returned me my Essay, as promised? Far from it! In violation of all honour, and of the written engagements of their Secretary, they have detained it ever since in their hands, thereby putting me to the vast expense of procuring new plates, instead of those which the original contained—an inconvenience, I must affirm, which they had hoped I could never have surmounted; while, in the interim, they should push out their bantling upon the public, secure in the consciousness of having cushioned my work, that they should ride over the market without a rival.

They should have known, however, that the person who, at three months’ notice, undertook to solve the[Pg lxxxviii] Towers, and then kept them at bay for six months before they could chouse him out of his prize, was not to be deterred by such an obstacle as the above. And the reader may be satisfied that, though it has occasioned me some hardship, he is in no respect thereby a loser.

I have stated that the effect of my Letter No. 1 was to interrupt the transmission of the Dublin Penny Journal to London. I have now to point out the result of the menace conveyed in Letter 8 of my determining to expose—as I enclosed the proofs that I could refute—the antiquarian errors of their organ. It was that they instantly took the hint, and sold their interest in the concern! And its new proprietor, edified no doubt by a friendly lesson at their hands, very wisely intimates, in his opening number, that he shall forego antiquities, and make literary jobbing no part of it.

Here are his words: “From the concluding paragraph of the last number of this little publication, its readers will be aware that it is now in the hands of a new editor and proprietor, and they will naturally expect that in the present number something should be said relative to its future management. ‘Deeds, not words,’ has ever been the motto of its (present) conductor, and he will therefore merely say that it is his intention to give his readers good value for their money; that the Dublin Penny Journal shall not be a mere ‘catchpenny,’ depending upon the number and excellence of its woodcuts for extensive circulation, but containing, as he considers a publication of the kind should do, such a variety of interesting and useful matter as shall render it really valuable. In future, therefore, while the antiquities of the country will not be neglected, the work shall exhibit a more general character in the subjects of its contents.”[40]

N.B.—As I am a member of no club, belong to no literary society, and have no facilities otherwise for watching periodicals, whether newspapers, magazines, or reviews, I shall feel obliged if any gentleman who, in the exercise of[Pg lxxxix] a free judgment, should think proper to dissent from me, and to express such dissent in offensive language, would be pleased to forward me a copy of the work wherein his strictures may appear, and I promise that I shall reply to them with deference, and perhaps satisfaction. I also trust that, from the singularity of my position, I do not expect too much when I express a hope that any publication which speaks against me will allow me to reply through the same medium—a request certainly which cannot be refused, unless the design be hostile and factiously malicious. Any suggestions for improvement, with a view to a second edition, I very cheerfully court.

All communications addressed to me, to the care of my publisher, Mr. Whittaker, Ave Maria Lane, St. Paul’s, London, will reach me, and be attended to.

[Pg xc]



[Pg xci]













“Hic sacra, hic genus, hic majorum multa vestigia.”

... “were of fame,
And had been glorious in another day.”





[Pg xcii]



[Pg xciii]




Etc. Etc. Etc.

My Lord Marquis,

Many reasons concur why I should feel ambitious to associate your name with the following production. To enumerate these would neither become my humility, nor be acceptable to your good taste. But there is one motive which, as it is the offspring of the heart, implanted there at a period when adulation was not dreamt of, I may be allowed to particularise,—I was born upon your estates—you are the landlord of that spot which imparted my earliest images—the first soarings of my fancy were derived from that scene—and to the native notes which I have lisped in that primitive and retired region, more than to the vaunted advantages of a subsequent collegiate career, am I beholden for the clue with which I have traversed the ancient world; and of which Envy herself must yet acknowledge, that I have here rectified the[Pg xciv] history in its very widest amplitude—as well sacred as profane.

It is to do honour to this clue in the eyes of the Mecænas of his age, and, under the auspices of his approval, to promote its revival, that I give utterance to this sentiment; and so, hoping that you will view it in this light, and not as the empty chaunt of a reprehensible egotism, I beg leave to subscribe myself, with the most profound consideration and respect,

My Lord Marquis,
Your Lordship’s most devoted
And most faithful, humble Servant,
Henry O’Brien.

London, September 1834.



[Pg xcv]


Portrait of Henry O’Brien, by Maclise Frontispiece
Devenish Round Tower 38
Ardmore"" 71
Clondalkin "" 101
Effigy of Farragh, or Moriagan 138
Samona of Buddha 140
Round Tower, with Devotee on Summit 169
Symbolic Sculpture found at Vindolana 223
Palencian Sculpture of the Symbolic “Tree,” with Figures 229
Pythagorean Triangle of Ten 268
Symbolic Crescent-Ornaments 273, 274
Effigy of Crucified Buddha, Saca, or Macha 296
Brechin Round Tower (Scotland), with Double-Arch and Effigies 299
Obelisk at Sandwick (Ross-shire) 306
Phœnician Medals, stamped with Cross, Lamb, and Rosary 314
Shaft of Cross at Forres (Scotland) 316
Monolith at Carnac (Egypt) 322
Sculpture in Knockmoy Abbey 329, 330
Sculpture on Temple at Kalabche (Nubia) 341, 342
Kilcullen, Cross at 338
Clonmacnoise," 358
Finglas" 366
Kells" 491
Facsimile of MS. discovered at Icolmkill 419
Pheeleas, or Oracle-Tube, found at Ballymoney 460
Glendalough, Curious Symbolic Sculpture on Ruins of 467
The Magi—Woodcut from an Ancient Block-book 482
Medals of Christ, found at Island of Anglesea and at Cork 509



[Pg 1]




“A lively desire of knowing and recording our ancestors so generally prevails, that it must depend on the influence of some common principle in the minds of men. We seem to have lived in the persons of our forefathers; our calmer judgment will rather tend to moderate than suppress the pride of an ancient and worthy race. The satirist may laugh; the philosopher may preach; but reason herself will respect the prejudices and habits which have been consecrated by the experience of mankind.”[41]

Of all nations on the globe, the Irish, as a people, are universally admitted to possess, in a pre-eminent degree, those finer sensibilities of the human heart, which, were they but wisely controlled, would exalt man above the level of ordinary humanity, and make him, as it were, a being of another species. The numerous instances adduced in all periods of their history, of ardent and enterprising zeal, in every case wherein personal honour or national glory may be involved, are in themselves sufficient to establish this assertion. But while granting their pre-eminence as to the possession of those feelings, and the capability of the feelings themselves to be refined and sublimated to the very acme of cultivation, we may still doubt whether the mere possession of them be not less a blessing than a curse—whether, in fact, their[Pg 2] quick perception of disquietudes and pains be not more than a counterpoise to their keen enjoyment of delight or pleasure.

Foremost, however, in the train of the many virtues which flow therefrom, is that “amor patriæ,” or love of country, which, unsubdued often by the most galling miseries and the most hopeless wants, throws a halo round the loneliness of their present despair in the proud retrospection of their former buoyancy. This spirit it is which, despite of obvious advantages to be derived from emigration, has riveted the Irish peasant so immutably to his home, that any effort on his part to dissolve those local fetters would be equivalent to the disruption of all the ties and attachments which nature or habit had implanted within him.

“The lofty scenes around their sires recall,
Fierce in the field and generous in the hall;
The mountain crag, the stream and waving tree,
Breathe forth some proud and glorious history—
Urges their steps where patriot virtue leads,
And fires the kindred souls to kindred deeds.
They tread elate the soil their fathers trod,
The same their country, and the same their God.”

But it may be said that this is a day-dream of youth—the hereditary vanity of one of Iran’s sons, arrogating antiquity and renown for an inconsiderable little island, without a particle of proof to substantiate their assumption, or a shadow of authority to give colour to their claims. Why, sir, cast your eye over the fair face of the land itself, and does not the scene abound with the superfluity of its evidences? What are those high aspiring edifices which rise with towering elevation towards the canopy of the “Most High”?[42] What are those [Pg 3]stupendous and awful structures of another form—the study at once and admiration of the antiquarian and the philosopher, to be found on the summits of our various hills[43] as well as in the bowels[44] of the earth itself?—what are they but the historical monuments of splendour departed—surviving the ravages of time and decay, not as London’s column, to “lift their heads and lie,” but to give the lie and discomfiture to those, who, from the interested suggestions of an illiberal policy, or the more pardonable delusions of a beclouded judgment, would deny the authenticity of our historic records, and question the truth of our primeval civilisation?

It is true, the magnificence which those memorials demonstrate is but the unenviable grandeur of druidical, as it is called, idolatry and unenlightened paganism,—when man, relinquishing that supremacy consigned to him at his creation, or rather divested thereof in punishment for the transgression of his degenerate disposition, lost sight of that Being to whom he owed his safety and his life, and bent himself in homage before perishable creatures that crawl their ephemeral pilgrimage through the same scene with himself. Granted; yet that cannot well be objected to us as a disgrace, which, co-extensive in its adoption with the amplitude of the earth’s extension, equally characterised the illiterate and the sage; and if, amidst this lamentable prostration of the human understanding, anything like redemption or feature of superiority may be allowed, it must be, unquestionably, to the adherents of that system, which, excluding the objects of matter and clay, recognised, in its worship of the bright luminaries of the firmament, the purity[Pg 4] and omnipotence of that Spirit who brought all into existence, and who guides and preserves them in their respective spheres;—and when I shall have proved that the intent and application of those Sabian[45] Towers,—or, to speak more correctly, those primitive Budhist Temples,—which decorate our landscape and commemorate our past renown, appertained to this species of purified idolatry, which worshipped only the host of heaven, the moon and the solar body, which gives vigour to all things, I shall, methinks, have removed one obstacle from the elucidation of our antiquities, and facilitated the road to further adventure in this interesting inquiry.

Let me not be supposed, however, by the preceding remarks to restrict their destination to one single purpose. All I require of my readers is a patient perusal of my details; and I deceive myself very much, and overrate my powers of enunciation, else I shall establish in their minds as thorough a conviction of the development of the “Towers” as I am myself satisfied with the accuracy of my conclusions. I shall only entreat, then, of their courtesy that I be not anticipated in my course, or definitively judged of by isolated scraps, but that, as my notice for this competition has been limited and recent, allowing but little time for the observance of tactique or rules, in the utterance of the novel views which I now venture to put forward, the proofs of which, however, have been long registered in my thoughts, and additionally confirmed by every new research, the merits of the production may not be estimated by parcels, but by the combined tendency of the parts altogether.

To begin, therefore. The origins I have heard[Pg 5] assigned to those records of antiquity,—however invidious it may appear, at this the outset of my labours, to assume so self-sufficient a tone, yet can I not avoid saying that, whether I consider their multiplicity or their extravagance, they have not more frequently excited my ridicule than my commiseration. That specimens of architecture, so costly and so elegant, should be designed for the paltry purposes of purgatorial columns or penitential heights, to which criminals should be elevated for the ablution of their enormities—while the honest citizen, virtuous and unstained, should be content to grovel amongst lowly terrestrials ’mid the dense exhalations of forests and bogs, in a mud-wall hut, or at best a conglomeration of wattles and hurdles—is, I conceive, an outrage upon human reason too palpable to be listened to.

Not less ridiculous is the idea of their having been intended for beacons; for, were such their destination, a hill or rising ground would have been the proper site for their erection, and not a valley or low land, where it happens that we generally meet them.

The belfry theory alone, unfounded in one sense though it really be, and when confined to that application equally contemptible with the others, is, notwithstanding, free from the objection that would lie against the place, as it is well known that the sound of bells which hang in plains and valleys is heard much farther than that of such as hang upon elevations or hills: for, air being the medium of sound, the higher the sonorous body is placed, the more rarefied is that medium, and consequently the less proper vehicle to convey the sound to a distance. The objection of situation, therefore, does not apply to this theory; and, accordingly, we shall find that[Pg 6] the exercising of bells—though in a way and for an object little contemplated by our theorists—constituted part of the machinery of the complicated ceremonial of those mysterious edifices.

The truth is, the “Round Towers” of Ireland were not all intended for one and the same use, nor any one of them limited to one single purpose; and this, I presume, will account for the variety in their construction, not less perceptible in their diameters and altitudes than in other characteristic bearings. For I am not to be told that those varieties we observe were nothing more than the capriciousness of taste, when I find that the indulgence of that caprice, in one way, would defeat the very object to which one party would ascribe them, whilst its extension, in a different way, would frustrate the hopes of another set of speculators.

But what must strike the most cursory as irresistibly convincing that they were not erected all with one view, is the fact of our sometimes finding two of them together in one and the same locality.

Now, if they were intended as beacons or belfries, would it not be the most wasteful expenditure of time and wealth to erect two of them together on almost the same spot? And when I mention expenditure, perhaps I may be allowed, incidentally, to observe, that, of all species of architecture, this particular form, as it is the most durable, so is it also the most difficult and the most costly.

Need I name the sum of money which Nelson’s monument has cost in modern times? or that imperfect testimonial in the Phœnix Park which commemorates the glories of the hero of Waterloo. No; but I will mention what Herodotus tells us was the[Pg 7] purport of an inscription upon one of the pyramids of Egypt, the form of some of which, be it known, was not very dissimilar to our Irish pyramids, while their intent and object were more congenial; viz. that no less a sum than 1600 talents of silver, or about £400,000 of our money, had been expended upon radishes, onions, and garlic alone, for 360,000 men, occupied for twenty years in bringing that stupendous fabric, that combined instrument of religion and science, to completion!

Our Round Towers, we may well conceive, must have been attended, at the early period of their erection, with comparatively similar expense: and assuredly, the motive which could suggest such an outlay must have been one of corresponding import, of the most vital, paramount, and absorbing consideration.

Would the receptacles for a bell be of such moment? And that, too, whilst the churches, to which, of course, they must have appertained, were thought worthy of no better materials than temporary hurdles, and so leave behind them no vestiges of their local site,—no evidence or trace of their ever having existed! And, indeed, how could they?—for existence they never had, except in the creative imagination of our hypothetical antiquaries.

Ruins, it is true, of chapels and dilapidated cathedrals are frequently found in the vicinity of our Round Towers; but these betray in their materials and architecture the stamp of a later age, having been founded by missionaries of the early Christian Church, and purposely thus collocated—contiguous to edifices long before hallowed by a religious use—to at once conciliate the prejudices of those whom[Pg 8] they would fain persuade, and divert their adoration to a more purified worship.

And yet, upon this single circumstance of proximity to ecclesiastical dilapidations—coupled with the bas-relief of a crucifix which presents itself over the door of the Budhist temple of Donoghmore in Ireland, and that of Brechin in Scotland—have the deniers of the antiquity of those venerable memorials raised that superstructure of historical imposture, which, please God, I promise them, will soon crumble round their ears before the indignant effulgence of regenerated veracity.

It might be sufficient for this purpose, perhaps, to tell them that similar ruins of early Christian churches are to be met with abundantly in the neighbourhood of Cromleachs and Mithratic caves all through the island; and that they might as well, from this vicinity, infer that those two other vestiges of heathenish adoration were contrived by our early Christians as appendages to the chapels, as they would fain make out—by precisely the same mode of inference—that the Round Towers had been!

But this would not suit; they could find no ascription associated with Christianity which cave or cromleach could subserve; and thus have the poor missionaries escaped the cumbrous imputation of having those colossal pagan slabs and those astounding gentile excavations affiliated upon them.

Not so fortunate the Towers. After ransacking the whole catalogue of available applications appertaining to the order of monastic institutions with which to Siamise those temples, Montmorency has at last hit upon the noble and dignified department of a “dungeon-keep” or “lock-up!” as the sole use and intention of their original erection!

[Pg 9]As I intend, however, to unravel this fallacy in its proper quarter, I shall resume, for the present, the thread of my discourse.

Besides the absurdity, then, of bestowing such magnificence upon so really inconsiderable a thing as a belfry, while the supposed churches were doomed to dwindle and moulder in decay, is it not astonishing that we find no vestiges of the like fashion, or structures of the like form, in any of those countries where the people to whom the advocates of this theory ascribe their erection have since and before exercised sway?

The Danes had dominion in Britain longer and more extensively than they ever had in this island; and yet, in the whole compass of England, from one extremity to the other, is there not one fragment of architecture remaining to sanction the idea of identity or resemblance!

Nay, in all Denmark and Scandinavia, the original residence of the Ostmen and Danes, there is not a single parallel to be found to those columnar edifices!

Ireland, on the contrary, exhibits them in every quarter; in districts and baronies where Danish authority was never felt; and surely our forefathers were not so much in love with the usages and habits of their barbarian intruders, as to multiply the number of those stately piles, solely in imitation of such detested taskmasters.

But what renders it demonstrative that those professional pirates had no manner of connection with the Irish Round Towers, is the glaring fact, that in the two cities of Wexford and Waterford—where their power was absolute, their influence[Pg 10] uncontrolled—there is not a solitary structure that could possibly be ascribed to the class of those which we now discuss!

In Scotland alone, of all European countries besides Ireland, do we meet with two of them,—one at Brechin, and the other at Abernethy;—but they are smaller than the Irish, and, with other characteristics, seem to have been built, after their model, at a comparatively recent period, by a colony from this country, “as if marking the fact,” to use Dalton’s accidentally[46] appropriate phrase, “of that colonisation having taken place when the rites, for which the Round Towers were erected, in the mother-country, were on the decline.”

But, forsooth, they are called “cloghachd” by the peasantry, and that, without further dispute, fixes their destination as belfries! Oh! seri studiorum quîne difficile putetis?

That some of them had been appropriated in latter times, nay, and still are, to this purpose, I very readily concede; but, “toto cœlo,” I deny that such had ever entered into the contemplation of their constructors, as I do, also, the universality of the very name, which I myself know, by popular converse, to be but partial in its adoption, extending only to such as had been converted by the moderns to the purpose described, or such as may, originally, have had a clogh, or bell, of which I admit there were some, as part of their apparatus.

The first bells of which we have any mention are those described by Moses, as attached to the[Pg 11] garments of the high-priest. From these, the Gentiles, as they affected to rival the Israelites in all their ceremonies, borrowed the idea, and introduced its exercise into the celebration of their own ritual. By “Israelites,” however, I deem it necessary to explain that I do not understand those who, in strictness of speech, are so denominated as the descendants of Israel, i.e. Jacob, who, in fact, were a comparatively modern people; but I particularise that old stock of patriarchal believers which existed from the Creation, and upon which the Israelites, rigidly so called, were afterwards engrafted.

Our Irish history abounds with proofs of the “ceol,” and “ceolan,” the bell and the little bell, having been used by the pagan priests in the ministry of their religious ordinances; and to the fictitious sanctity which they attributed to this instrument may we ascribe that superstitious regard which the illiterate and uneducated still continue to entertain for the music of its sound.

From the Sabian ceremonial—succeeded by the Druidical—it unquestionably was that the Christian missionaries in Ireland first adopted the use of bells, wishing, wisely, therein to conform as much as possible to the prejudices of the natives, when they did not essentially interfere with the spirit of their divine mission. I shall hereafter relate the astonishment excited in England, at the appearance of one of those bells, brought there in the beginning of the sixth century by Gildas, who had just returned after finishing his education in Ireland; and this, in itself, should satisfy the most incredulous that the Britons, as well pagan as Christian, were ever before strangers to such a sight; and no wonder,[Pg 12] for they were strangers also to such things as Round Towers, to which I shall prove those implements properly and exclusively belonged.

“Clogad” is the name, and which literally signifies a “pyramid,” that has led people into this “belfry” mistake. To conclude, therefore, this portion of our investigation, I shall observe, in Dr. Milner’s words, “that none of these towers are large enough for a single bell of a moderate size to swing about in it; that, from the whole of their form and dimensions, and from the smallness of the apertures in them, they are rather calculated to stifle than to transmit to a distance any sound that is made in them; lastly, that though possibly a small bell may have been accidentally put up in one or two of them at some late period, yet we constantly find other belfries, or contrivances for hanging bells, in the churches adjoining to them.”

I fear greatly I may have bestowed too much pains in dispelling the delusion of this preposterous opinion. But as it had been put forward with so much confidence by a much-celebrated “antiquarian,”—though how he merited the designation I confess myself at a loss to know,—I thought it my duty not to content myself with the mere exposure of the fallacy, without following it up with proofs, which must evermore, I trust, encumber its advocates with shame; and the rather, as this great champion of Danish civilisation and proclaimer of his country’s barbarism is at no ordinary trouble to affect ridicule and contempt for a most enlightened and meritorious English officer, who, from the sole suggestion of truth, promoted by observation and antiquarian research, stood forward as the advocate of our ancestral renown, to make amends, as it were, for the aspersions of domestic calumniators.

[Pg 13]Both parties are, however, now appreciated as they ought; and though Vallancey, certainly, did not understand the purport of our Round Towers, his view of them, after all, was not far from being correct; and the laborious industry with which he prosecuted his inquiries, and the disinterested warmth with which he ushered them into light, should shield his memory from every ill-natured sneer, and make every child of Iran feel his grateful debtor.

Having given Milner a little while ago the opportunity of tolling the death-knell of the belfry hypothesis, I think I could not do better now than give Ledwich, in return, a triumph, by demolishing the symmetry of the anchorite vagary.

“It must require a warm imagination,” says this writer,—after quoting the account given by Evagrius of Simeon Stylites’ pillar, upon which Richardson, Harris, and Milner after them had founded the anchorite vagary,—“to point out the similarity between this pillar and our ‘tower’: the one was solid, and the other hollow—the one square, and the other circular: the ascetic there was placed without on the pillar; with us enclosed in the tower. He adds, these habitations of anchorites were called inclusoria, or arcti inclusorii ergastula, but these were very different from our round towers; for he mistakes Raderus, on whom he depends, and who says, ‘The house of the recluse ought to be of stone, the length and breadth twelve feet, with three windows, one facing the choir, the other opposite, through which food is conveyed to him, and the third for the admission of light—the latter to be always covered with glass or horn.’

“Harris, speaking of Donchad O’Brien, Abbot of[Pg 14] Clonmacnois, who shut himself up in one of these cells, adds, ‘I will not take upon me to affirm that it was in one of these towers of Clonmacnois he was enclosed.’ It must have been the strangest perversion of words and ideas to have attempted it. Is it not astonishing that a reverie thus destitute of truth, and founded on wilful mistakes of the plainest passages, should have been attended to, and even be, for some time, believed?”

Thus have I allowed him to retaliate in his own words; but in order to render his victory complete, by involving a greater number within his closing denunciation, he should have waited until he had seen a note appended to the fourteenth of Dr. Milner’s Letters, which, unquestionably, would deserve a similar rebuke for its gross perversion of a “cell” into a “tower.”

It is this: “We learn from St. Bernard, that St. Malachy, afterwards Archbishop of Armagh, in the twelfth century, applied for religious instruction, when a youth, to a holy solitary by name Imarus, who was shut up in a ‘cell,’ near the cathedral of the said city, probably in a Round Tower.” Risum teneatis?

But I am tired of fencing with shadows and special pleading with casuists. And yet, as I would wish to render this Essay systematically complete, I am forced, however reluctant, to notice the conjecture, which others have hazarded, of those Round Towers having been places of retreat and security in the event of invasion from an enemy; or depositories and reservoirs for the records of State, the Church utensils and national treasures!

To the former, I shall reply, that Stanihurst’s description of the “excubias in castelli vertice,” upon[Pg 15] which it would seem to have been founded, does not at all apply to the case; because, while the “castella” have vanished, the Round Towers—which never belonged to them—do, many of them still firmly, maintain their post; and as to the latter, the boldness with which it has been put forward, by its author before named,[47] requires a more lengthened examination than its utter instability could otherwise justify.



[Pg 16]


This chivalrous son of Mars, more conversant, I should hope, with tactics than with literary disquisitions, has started with a position which he is himself, shortly after, the most industrious to contradict; namely, “that the gods, to punish so much vanity and presumption, had consigned to everlasting oblivion the founders, names, dates, periods, and all records relating to them.”[48]

Surely, if they were intended for the despicable dungeons which the Colonel would persuade us was their origin, there existed neither “vanity” nor “presumption” in that humble design; and when to this we add the nature of that security, which he tells us they were to establish, one would think that this should be a ground for the perpetuity of their registration, rather than for consigning their history to “everlasting oblivion.”

But secure in the consciousness of the whole history of those structures, and satisfied that truth will never suffer anything by condescending to investigation, I will, to put the reader in full possession of this adversary’s statement, here capitulate his arguments with all the fidelity of an honourable rival.

His object, then, being to affix the Round Towers to the Christian era, he begins by insisting that, as[Pg 17] “the architects of those buildings were consummate masters in masonic art,” it follows, that “a people so admirably skilled in masonry never could have experienced any impediments in building substantial dwellings, strong castles, palaces, or any other structures of public or private conveniency, some fragments of which, however partial and insignificant, would still be likely to appear, in despite of the corroding breath of time or the torch of devastation.”

His next argument is, “that the busy and fantastic bard, whose occupation led him to interfere in private and public concerns,—who, in truth (he adds) is our oldest and most circumstantial annalist,—on the subject of the Pillar Tower is dumb and silent as the dead”; whence he infers the “non-existence of those Towers during the remote ages of bardic influence,”—“and of their being utterly unknown to them, and to our ancestors, anterior to the reception of the Christian faith.”

His third proposition is, that as “Strabo, Pomponius Mela, Solinus, Diodorus Siculus, and other writers of antiquity, have represented the condition of Ireland and its inhabitants to be barbarous in their days,—in common with their neighbours the Britons, Gauls, and Germans, to whom the art systematically to manufacture stone had been unknown,—ergo, those barbarians could not be set up as the authors of the Pillar Tower.”

His fourth premise is, that “wherever we chance to light upon a cromleach, we seldom fail to find near it one of those miserable caves”—and which he has described before as “surpassing in dreariness everything in the imagination of man”;—whereas in the vicinity of the Pillar Tower no such thing is seen, unless some natural or accidental excavation may[Pg 18] happen to exist unaccountably in that direction. His inference from which is, that “although the cromleach and the cave do claim, the first a Celtic, the second a Phœnician origin, and happen here to be united, the Pillar Tower, nevertheless, disavows even the most distant connection with either of them.”

His fifth is a continuation of the foregoing, with an erroneous parallelism, viz. “at Bael Heremon, in India, not far from Mount Lebanon, there stood a temple dedicated to Bael, near to which were many caves, of which one was roomy enough to admit into it four thousand persons.” “The size of those temples,” he adds, “was regulated according to the extent or amount of the local population, being spacious and magnificent in large cities, and small and simple in the inferior towns and villages; but nowhere, nor in any case, do we meet an example of a lofty spiral tower, internally too confined to admit into it at once a dozen bulky persons, denominated a temple.”

“An edifice,” he resumes, “like the Pillar Tower, might easily serve for a belfry; and there are instances where it has been converted, in modern times, to that use; on the other hand, a temple, properly speaking, gives an idea of a spacious edifice, or of one calculated to accommodate, withinside its walls, a certain congregation of devout people, met to pray. Should the building, to answer any partial or private use, be constructed upon a diminutive scale, like the little round temple at Athens,[49] called Demosthenes’,[Pg 19] the edifice,” he continues, “in that case, obtains its appropriate shape, yet differing in plan, size, and elevation from the Irish Pillar Tower, to which it cannot, in any one respect, be assimilated.”

“Moreover,” he says, “the ancients had hardly any round temples. Vitruvius barely speaks of two kinds, neither of which bears the slightest resemblance to a tower. Upon the whole,” concludes he, “if we will but bestow a moment’s reflection on the geographical and political condition of primitive Ireland, and the avowed tardy progress towards civilisation and an acquaintance with the fine arts then common to those nations not conveniently placed within the enlightened and enlivening pale of Attic and Roman instruction, it will be impossible not to pronounce Vallancey’s conjectures respecting the Pillar Towers as receptacles for the sacred fire altogether chimerical and fabulous.”

Before I proceed to demolish, seriatim, this tissue of cobwebs, I wish it to be emphatically laid down that I do not tread in General Vallancey’s footsteps. To his undoubted services, when temperately guarded, I have already paid the tribute of my national gratitude; but, pitying his mistakes, while sick of his contradictions, I have taken the liberty to chalk out my own road.

Now for Montmorency. As to the first, then, of those objections against the antiquity of our Round Towers, it is readily repelled by explaining that, in the early ages of the world, masonic edifices, of architectural precision, were exclusively appropriated, as a mark of deferential homage, to the worship of the Great Architect of the universe; and with this view it was that the science was, at first, studied as a[Pg 20] sort of religious mystery, of which there can be required no greater possible corroboration than the circumstance of that ancient and mysterious society who date the existence of their institution from Noah himself—and it is incomparably older—still retaining, amid the thousand changes which the world has since undergone, and the thousand attempts that have been made to explore and explode their secrets, the mystic denominational ligature of “Free and Accepted Masons.”[50]

The absence, therefore, of any vestiges of other coeval structures, for private abode or public exhibition, should excite in us no surprise; more especially when we recollect that in the East also—whence all our early customs have been derived—their mud-built houses present the greatest possible contrast between the simplicity of their domestic residences and the magnificence and grandeur of their religious conventicles—Verum illi delubra deorum pietate, domos sua gloria decorabant.[51]

But though this my reply is triumphantly subversive of the Colonel’s first position, I shall dwell upon it a little longer, to hold forth, with merited retaliation, either his disingenuousness or his forgetfulness; because the same inference which he deduced from the non-appearance of coeval architecture of any other class, would apply as well to the period which he wishes to establish as the era of the erection of the Towers,—and of which era, he admits, no other [Pg 21]architectural monuments do remain,—as to that which I shall incontrovertibly prove was their proper epoch.

Then, without having recourse to the impossibility—of which all travellers complain—to ascertain even the situation of those gigantic cities which in other parts of the globe, at equally remote periods of time, were cried up as the wonders of the age—the masterpieces of human genius, making their domes almost kiss the stars; without betaking myself, I say, to those, the only memorials of which are now to be found in that of the echo, which, to your affrighted fancy, asking inquisitively and incredulously, “Where are they?” only repeats responsively, “Where are they?”—passing over this, I tell him that, more highly favoured than other countries, we possess, in Ireland, ample evidences of those remnants which he so vauntingly challenges. Traverse the isle in its inviting richness, over its romantic mountains and its fertile valleys, and there is scarcely an old wall you meet, or an old hedge you encounter, that you will not find, embedded among the mass, some solitary specimens of chiselled execution, which, in their proud, aristocratic bearing, afford ocular and eloquent demonstration of their having once occupied a more respectable post.

Not less futile than the foregoing is his second objection, arising from what he represents as the silence of “the busy and fantastic bard.” Doubtless he reckoned upon this as his most impregnable battery; and I readily believe that most of his readers anticipate the same result: but this little book will soon shiver the fallacy of such calculations, and adduce, in its proper place, from the very head and principal of the bardic order—no less a personage[Pg 22] than Amergin himself—its towering refutation; as well as the final, incontrovertible appropriation of those structures to their actual founders.

In the interim, I must not let the opportunity pass of vindicating our ancient bards from the false imputations of “busy and fantastic.”

If pride of descent be a weakness of Irishmen, it is one in which they are countenanced by all the nations of the globe who have had anything like pretensions to support the claim; and I fearlessly affirm that the more sensitive a people prove themselves of their national renown, their hereditary honour, and ancestral splendour, the more tenacious will they show themselves, in support of that repute,—whether as individuals or a community,—in every cause involving the far higher interests of moral rectitude, of virtue, and of religion. In the legitimate indulgence of this honourable emotion the Irish have ever stood conspicuously high. No nation ever attended with more religious zeal to their acts and genealogies, their wars, alliances, and migrations, than they did; and while no people ever excelled them in enterprise or heroism, or the wisdom and administration of their legislative code, so were they surpassed by none in the number and capability of those who could delineate such events, and impart to reality the additional charm of imagery and verse.

The bards were a set of men exclusively devoted, like the tribe of Levi amongst the Israelites, to the superintendence of those subjects. Their agency in this department was a legitimately recognised and graduate faculty; and, in accuracy of speech, the only one which merited the designation of learned, being attainable only after the most severe novitiate of preliminary study and rigid exercise of all the mental powers.

[Pg 23]The industry and patience bestowed on such a course were not, however, without their reward. In a classical point of view this exhibited itself in the high estimation in which they were held—both amongst foreigners and natives—as poets, as prophets, and as philosophers; while the dignity and emolument attached to their situation, and the distinguished rank assigned them, at the general triennial assemblies of the state at Tara—with the endowments conferred upon them by the monarch and the several provincial kings—were sure to render it, at all times, an object of ambition and pursuit to members of the noblest families throughout the various parts of the realm.

The moral deportment and personal correctness of those literary sages contributed still further to add to their esteem; and, probably, I could not succeed better, in depicting the almost sanctity of their general behaviour, than by transcribing a stanza descriptive of the qualities which won to them, as a society, the mingled sentiments of veneration and of awe. It is taken from a very ancient Irish poem, and runs thus—

“Iod na laimh lith gan ghuin,
Iod na beorl gan ean neamhuib,
Iod na foghlama gan ean ghes,
Is iod na lanamh nas.”

That is—

“Theirs were the hands free from violence,
Theirs the mouths free from calumny,
Theirs the learning without pride,
And theirs the love free from venery.”

In later times I admit there was a lamentable degeneracy in the bardic class,—or rather the innumerable pretenders to the assumption of the name; and the “fescennine licentiousness” with which they [Pg 24]violated the sanctity of domestic seclusion, in exposing the objects of their private spleen, tended not a little to bring their body into disrepute, and subject them additionally to the salutary restrictions of legislative severity. They were not less extravagant in the lavishment of their fulsome commendations; so that one can hardly avoid drawing a parallel between them and those poetasters, formerly, of Italy, whom Horace so happily describes in those remarkable hexameters, viz.:—

“Fescinnina per hunc invecta licentia morem,
Versibus alternis opprobria rustica fudit,
... quin etiam lex
Pœnaque lata malo quæ mallet carmine quenquam,

You would imagine the Roman poet was speaking of the Irish bards in the night of their decline; but the description by no means applies to the original institution, whose object it was to perpetuate the history and records of the nation, and preserve its history from the intrusions of barbarism. To this end it was that they met for revision at the senatorial synod; and the importance of this trust it was that procured to their body the many dignities before described, giving them precedence above the aggregate of the community at large, and investing them with an authority little short of royalty.

Rhyme was the vehicle in which their lucubrations were presented; verse the medium selected for their thoughts. To gain perfection in this accomplishment their fancies were ever on the stretch; while the varieties of metre which they invented for the purpose, and the facility with which they bent them to each[Pg 25] application and use, were not the least astonishing part of their arduous avocations, and leave the catalogue of modern measures far away in the shade.

Music is the sister of poetry, and it is natural to suppose that they went hand in hand here. In all countries, the voice was the original organ of musical sounds. With this they accompanied their extemporaneous hymns; with this they chanted the honours of their heroes. The battle-shout and the solemnity of the hour of sacrifice were the usual scenes for the concerts of our ancestors. Singing the glory of former warriors, the combatant was himself inspired; and while the victim expired on the altar of immolation, the priest sang the praise of the deity he invoked.

The introduction of the Christian truths gave a new and elevated scope to the genius of the bards. A new enthusiasm kindled up their ardour—a new vitality invigorated their frames; and they who, but the moment before, were most conspicuous in upholding the dogmas of the pagan creed, became now the most distinguished in proclaiming the blessings of the Christian dispensation. Fiech, Amergin, Columba, Finan, etc., are glorious examples of this transmuted zeal.

About the twelfth or thirteenth centuries, however, a change burst forth for the destinies of this order. Verse ceased to be used in their historical announcements. Prose succeeded, as a more simple narrative; and from that moment the respectability of the bards progressively evaporated.

The jealousy of the English Government at the martial feeling excited by their effusions, and the intrepid acts of heroism inculcated by their example, if not the actual cause of this national declension, [Pg 26]preponderated very largely amongst its component ingredients.

In the height of the battle, when the war-cry was most loud, and the carnage most severe, those poetic enthusiasts would fling themselves amongst the ranks of the enraged contenders, and determine the victory to whatever party they chose to befriend.

When, too, under the pressure of an untoward fate, and the disheartening yoke of—what they deemed—a treacherous subjugation, the nobles would seem dispirited at the aspect of circumstances, and all but subscribe to the thraldom of slavery, the bards would rouse the energies of their slumbering patriotism, and, as Tyrtæus used the Spartans, enkindle in their bosoms a passion for war. We must not be surprised, therefore, to find in the preamble to some of the acts passed in those times for the suppression of this body of men, the following harsh and deprecating allusions, viz.:—“That those rymors do, by their ditties and rymes made to divers lords and gentlemen in Ireland, in the commendacyon and high praise of extortion, rebellyon, rape, raven, and outhere injustice, encourage those lords and gentlemen rather to follow those vices than to leave them.”

For two centuries after the invasion of Henry II., the voice of the Muse was but faintly heard in Ireland. The arms of Cromwell and William III. completely swept away her feudal reminiscences. As it was their country’s lustre that inspired the enthusiasm of the bards, so, on the tarnishing of its honour, did they become mute and spiritless. They fell with its fall; and, like the captive Israelites, hanging their untuned harps on the willows, they may be supposed to exclaim in all the vehemence of the royal psalmist—

[Pg 27] “Now while our harps were hanged soe,
The men whose captives there we lay
Did on our griefs insulting goe,
And more to grieve us thus did say:
You that of musique make such show,
Come, sing us now a Zion lay.—
Oh no! we have nor voice nor hand
For such a song in such a land.”

Montmorency’s third objection against the antiquity of the Round Towers—founded on the statements of those Greek and Latin writers above named, respecting the “barbarous” condition of the then Irish,—I thus dissipate into thin air.

The inhabitants of Ireland, at the time in which those authors flourished, had nothing to do with the erection of the Round Towers. Those edifices were hoary with antiquity at that moment. They belonged to an era and to a dynasty, not only of a more ancient but of a more exalted character in every sense of the word, and whose religious ceremonials, for the celebration of which the Round Towers were constructed, the then inhabitants did not only abhor, but did all in their power to efface and obliterate. Nor was it the religion alone of this inoffensive and sacred tribe that this new and devastating race of militants laboured to extirpate; but, what was far more to be deplored, they, for a season, extinguished their literature also; until at length, fired by the moral ether which the lessons of their now slaves had inspired, their souls got attuned to the sublimity of such studies, and they sat themselves down accordingly to emulate their instructors.

As to the puny detractions, therefore, of either Greece or Rome, they might well have been spared, as they knew less than nothing of our real history.[Pg 28] When they were lowly and obscure, and immersed in the darkness of circumambient benightment, our high careering name, synonymous with civilisation, was wafted by the four winds of heaven to all the quarters of the world which that heaven irradiates. The commerce of the whole East pressed tumultuously to our shores—the courts of the polished universe (not including Greece or Rome amongst the number) sent us embassies of congratulation; while the indomitable ardour and public-spirited zeal of the “islanders” themselves launched them abroad over the bosom of the wide watery circumference; exploring in every region the gradations of civil institutes, as well as the master productions of Nature herself; civilising life with the results of their discoveries, and garnishing their houses, like so many museums, with the fruits of their research, for the benefit, at once, and entertainment of their less favoured, though not less ambitious brethren at home.

Think you that the testimony of Festus Avienus, who wrote before the Christian light, and who avowedly only compiled his treatise from other more ancient authorities—think you, I say, that his designation of this island as “sacred”—and which he says was the appropriate denomination by which the still greater ancients used to call it—was an idle sobriquet or an arbitrary adjective? Amongst the many discoveries which will develop themselves in succession, before I shall have done with this little book, I pledge myself to the public incontrovertibly to prove that the word “Hibernian”—so grossly abused and so malignantly vilified, and which Avienus has recorded as the name of the islanders at the period in which he wrote, as it is still to this day—signifies, in its [Pg 29]component essence, and according to the nicest scrutiny of etymological analysis, independently altogether of historical corroboration, an inhabitant of the sacred isle; and has nothing on earth to do with Heber or Heremon; or hiar, the west; or iberin, extremes; or any other such outlandish nonsense!

Now comes the Colonel’s fifth and last objection; viz. that because there existed at Baal Heremon, in India, a temple sacred to Baal, the capacity of which was sufficient to accommodate four thousand persons, therefore the Round Towers, which are “internally too confined to admit into them, at once, a dozen bulky persons, could not be denominated a temple.”

Does not the Colonel know that there existed a plurality of those Baals? that, in fact, they were as innumerable as the stars in the firmament, resolving themselves—according to the character of every distinct country, and of every minor subdivision and canton in that country—into the specific and gentile classifications of Baal Shamaim, Baal Pheor or Phearagh, Baal Meon, Baal Zephon, Baal Hemon, etc.; while under the veil of all, the learned ever understood to have been solely personated the sun and moon. “Howbeit every nation made gods of their own, and the men of Babylon made Succoth-Benoth.”[53]

In accordance with the different views under which each people considered the bounties of those luminaries, so did their temples assume a corresponding shape; and it shall be my lot, in the progress of this litigated research, to show why the followers of one of those Baals, namely, Baal Phearagh, gave their temples this erect, narrow, and elevated roundness.

I have thus annihilated those visionary ramparts[Pg 30] which my opponent had flattered himself he had raised against the intrusion of long-suppressed truth; and by the help of which, as a military bastion, he had fondly hoped he might link together the Church and the sword in one cemented bond of anachronism. Let us see, however, how he would bring about the match, with the articles of intermarriage, and so forth.

His assumption is, that “the founders of those Towers were primitive Cœnobites and Bishops, munificently supported in the undertaking by the newly-converted kings and toparchs; the builders and architects being those monks and pilgrims who, from Greece and Rome, either preceded or accompanied our early missionaries in the fifth and sixth centuries”; which he pretends to substantiate in the following manner.

Having discovered, by a most miraculous effort of penetration, that one hundred and fifty Greek and Roman religionists had accompanied St. Abhan on his return from imperial Rome,—whither he had gone to complete his theological studies, towards the end of the fifth century,—and not knowing how to occupy those strangers in this then pagan land, the Colonel, with his industrious habits, well aware that “idleness is the mother of mischief,” sets them, at once, about building the Towers.

But as it would be too lavish a display of knight-errantry to waste their time and strength without some ostensible purpose, he must, of course, find out for them a pretext, at least, for such; and so, in the eagerness of his milito-monastic zeal, he flies off, at a tangent, to the top of Mount Colzoum, near the desert of Gebel,—“a short day’s journey from the Red Sea,”—where he thinks he has got, in the monasteries[Pg 31] of the Egyptian monks, a direct, immediate, and indubitable prototype.

Reader, you shall be the judge. Here is his own translation of Bonnani’s description of the place, viz.:

“There are three churches, of which St. Anthony’s, which is small and very old, is the most distinguished; the second is dedicated to the apostles Peter and Paul; and the third church is raised in honour of St. Macaire, who has been a lay brother in this convent. All the cells stand separately from each other; they are ill built, the walls being composed of clay, covered in with flat roofs and diminutive windows only one foot square. Close to the refectory, which is dark and dirty, the monks have added a rather decent apartment, in their wonted hospitality, destined to the reception of visitors.

“Within the central courtyard, an isolated square tower of masonry, which is approached by a drawbridge, holds a formidable station. Here the Cophtes preserve whatever wealth or precious objects they possess; and if assailed by the plundering Arabs, defend themselves with stones. There are four more celebrated monasteries in the desert of St. Macaire, distant about three days’ journey from Grand Cairo. The first is the convent of St. Macaire, which is ancient and in a ruinous state—the bones of the founder are enshrined in a stone coffin, placed behind an iron gate, enveloped in a chafe or pluvial (a sort of church ornament), formed into a canopy. A square tower of stone, which you enter by a drawbridge, is the only solid building belonging to the Abbey that remains. The friars store their books and their provisions, and obstinately defend themselves in this hold, whenever the wild Arabs come to pay them a predatory visit.

[Pg 32]“There are similar (square) towers attached to the three other monasteries in the desert, the doors of which, and of the convent of St. Macaire, are alike covered with iron plates,” etc.

To the candid and dispassionate reader,—who has gone through this extract, and who is told that this is the basis upon which Colonel de Montmorency builds his superstructure of monastic appropriation,—to such I fearlessly appeal whether he will not scout the indignity with intellectual scorn.

Here are edifices spread, in numbers, over our island, in unity of design and elegance of execution, admitted by this writer himself as “the most imposing objects of antiquity in all Christendom,” and “placed by an almost supernatural power to brave the stormy winds and the wrath of time”; yet, in the same breath, made the counterparts of a few trumpery, temporary, and crazy old piles, which were originally erected as military stations, totally distinct from religion or religious uses—similar to those erected by Helena, mother to Constantine the Great, on the coast of Syria, against piratical incursions, and analogous to what we find in India, viz. a whole fortress converted into a conventual establishment. The thing is absurd,—it is revolting to common sense,—and bears on its forehead its own discomfiture.



[Pg 33]


Observe, then, the structures which he compares are altogether different; one being square, and the other round. Nor, in the whole compass of possible analogies, is there a single feature in which the two classes of edifices could be said to correspond, but that they both have their doors—which, by the way, are different in their form—at a distance from the ground. The Pyramids of Egypt bear the same correspondence,—their entrance being one-third of the height from the surface,—and why does not the Colonel bestow them also upon the monks? No; those poor, denuded, inoffensive, exemplary, unearthly victims of maceration were incapable of, either the masonic acme, or—at the era which Montmorency particularises—of the corporate influence and pecuniary or equivalent supplies indispensable for the erection of either “pyramid” or “tower”;—contenting themselves rather with their lowly cells, whence they issued out, at all seasons, to diffuse the word of “life,” than in raising maypoles of stone, within which to garrison their inexpressible treasures.

But to reconcile this discrepancy in exterior outfit, he has recourse to a miracle, which he thus conjures up. “Doubtless, in the beginning, when first those Cœnobites settled in the desert, the convent-tower was round;” then, by a single word, præsto,—or[Pg 34] “doubtless,”—right-about face, takes place a metamorphosis, from round to square!—the more miraculous, in that the former round ones left behind them no vestiges! Upon which, again, a counter miracle is effected: “The square ones having subsequently fallen into disuse, the round tower, in after ages,” he says, “appears to have acquired a degree of increased celebrity, especially in Europe, during the preponderance of the feudal system, when every baronial castle in Great Britain, Ireland, Germany, France, etc., was furnished with one or more.” Now, has he not before told us, and told us truly, by chance, that the Pillar Tower scorns all kind of affinity with those “barbarians”; whereupon I shall merely observe with the poet, that

“If people contradict themselves, can I
Help contradicting them?”[54]

But, if intended as a place of shelter for either person or property, why build them of such an altitude? Above all things, why not build them of such internal capacity as to accommodate the whole number of inmates in each convent, in case of an attack,—as, in fact, those square towers in the desert used; whereas, “a dozen bulky persons” could not squeeze together into one of our Round Towers; and accordingly, with the inconsistency inseparable from error, our author himself proclaims that “it has frequently occurred that the barbarian, on finding that he had been foiled in his search after treasures, though he burned the abbey, and perpetrated all the mischief he was able, sooner than retire empty-handed, the pirate seized on the abbot, or most prominent member he found [Pg 35]belonging to the community, and hurried away the unfortunate individual on board his ship, holding him in durance, till, overcome by ill-usage, he besought his brethren to come to his relief with a heavy ransom for his freedom.” “It has also often happened,” he adds, “that, unable to comply with the tyrant’s exorbitant demands, the monks resigned the captive to his fate.”

Surely, if they had those keeps to fly to, the “unfortunate” abbot need not allow himself to be seized at all; and surely, also, if they had all those treasures upon which the Colonel insists, they would not leave the father of their “community” unredeemed from so excruciating a degradation. And hence we may conclude with Dr. Lanigan, “What little credit is due to the stories of some hagiologists, who talk of great estates granted to our monasteries and churches in those and even earlier times.”[55] Indeed, for the two first centuries subsequent to the arrival of St. Patrick, such a thing was incompatible with the nature of the “political compact” in Ireland.

I do not deny, however, but that the ecclesiastics of this time did possess some articles of value appertaining to the altar, and that these were objects of unholy cupidity to the Danes: nay, further, I admit that, to escape from the insatiability of those virulent marauders, they used to fly to the belfries, which—from that mistaken regard attached to the edifices, as these receptacles of those sonorous organs to which superstition has ever clung[56]—they had hoped would prove[Pg 36] an asylum from their pursuits,—but in vain—neither religion nor superstition opposed a barrier to the Northmen, while the frail materials whereof those belfries were constructed afforded a ready gratification to their appetite for destruction.

The Ulster Annals, year 949, furnish us with the following fact:—“Cloicteach Slane do loscadh do Gall Athacliath. Bacall ind Erlamha, 7 cloc badec do cloccaibh, Caenechair Ferleghinn, 7 sochaide mor inbi do loscadh.” That is, the belfry at Slane was set fire to by the foreigners (the Danes) of Dublin. The pastor’s staff or crozier, adorned with precious stones, besides the principal bells, and Canecar the lecturer, with a multitude of other persons were burned in the flames. The Annals of the Four Masters, noticing the same event, use nearly similar words: “Cloicteach Slaine do loscadh can a lan do mhionnaibh 7 deghdh aoninibh, im Chæinechair Fearleighinn Slaine, Bachall an Eramha 7 clocc ba deach do chloccaibh.” That is, The belfry at Slane was burned to the ground, along with several articles of value which were therein, and numbers of individuals, besides the Slane prælector, the patron’s staff, and all the bells, which were there of most worth.

Now take notice that within those “belfries” a “multitude of persons” used to have been collected,[Pg 37] whereas the Round Towers could not accommodate above “a dozen” at one time. The belfries also are represented to have been reduced to ashes by the conflagration, which accords with the description given by both Ware and Colgan, of the wooden substance whereof they were composed; whereas the Round Towers are made of stone, and cemented by a bond of such indurated tenacity, that nothing short of lightning or earthquake has been known to disturb them:—and even though other violence may succeed in their overthrow, yet could it not be said with any accuracy that they were reduced by fire to cinders. But, above all, those very Annals which I have above quoted, when recording a greater and national calamity, place the belfries and the Round Towers in the same sentence, contradistinguished from one another,—the former characterised by their appropriate name of Cloicteach, as exhibited before, and the latter under the still more apposite denomination of Fidhnemeadh, as we shall explain elsewhere.

Again, if designed as fortresses for the monks, and receptacles for their riches, is it not strange that in the isle of Hy,—which was literally a nest of ecclesiastics, and which Columb Kill himself evangelised at the time when Montmorency was—in a dream—employing him and his coadjutors at the erection of the Round Towers,—is it not strange, I say, that this little isle, the most defenceless, as it is, and forlorn of all lands that ever projected above the bosom of the sea, should yet, in the allotment of monastic artillery, be left totally destitute of an aërial garrison?

And yet, notwithstanding the absence of such defences, the monks still continued to make it their favourite abode; of which we have but too cogent an[Pg 38] evidence in the record of the Four Masters, under the year 985, stating that the abbot and fifteen of his brethren were slain by the Northmen on Christmas Day, just as they were preparing to celebrate the nativity of their Redeemer.

But those monks spread themselves, in shoals, over England also; and we know that that country was even more infested than our own with both Northmen and Danes. Is it not astonishing, therefore, that the English convents were not protected against the sacrilege of those savages by telescopic steeples of Babylonish cement?

This, it may be said, is applying a steam-engine to crush a flapwing; yet, as that flapwing has been somewhat troublesome, and has contrived to blindfold some searchers after antiquarian truth, I may be excused if, to frustrate any efforts at impotent revivals, I shall continue decapitating the hydra, until he disappears in his own sinuosities.

He tells us, then, with all the calculation of an engineer and the gravity of a physician, that a stone let fall from the top of one of those towers would crush the “barbarian” to atoms. True, it would, and the civilian also. A little pebble let fall from an eagle’s beak, as he cuts his aërial passage through the cloudy regions, or soars aloft into the empyreal of interminable space, would have a similar effect; but it would puzzle the shrewdest engineer in Christendom to place a ballast-man, with a big stone on his lap, on either the top or the sloping sides of the conical “caubeen” which graces the summit of our careering cylinders. This, to use the Colonel’s own words, “will be admitted to be contrary to all that is admissible in the rules of architectural proportions.”




[Pg 39]Next remark that the Colonel keeps those 150 “volunteers” at work upon the Round Towers in the midst of a raging war;—after he had before affirmed that they could only be erected in a season of profound peace—for a complete century. During this whole time they must, of course, have availed themselves of the assistance of the inhabitants; and is it not marvellous that, during that long time “the ancient Irishman”—and “Pat’s nae stupid fellow,” as the Colonel himself avows—should not have been able to pick up a single insight into the arcana of the masonic art?—but that soon as ever the dear externs expired,—who at the period of their arrival must have been, at least, over twenty years of age each, and who, to accomplish Montmorency’s miracle, must have every one of them lived just one hundred years more, and then died, all in one day!—is it not petrifying, I say, that soon as ever this appalling catastrophe occurred, every vestige of those “fairy” masons should have vanished along with them?—and the country, in a paralysis, have forgotten to associate them with the Towers, as if stupefied with the incantation of a wizard or a talisman!

And yet this was not the greatest injustice of which the poor Cœnobites got reason to complain; but it is that, when the people had recovered from the delirium of their late trance, and began to look abroad for some “authors” on whom to father those edifices, they unanimously, though unaccountably, agreed to lay them at the door of the “O’Rorkes” and the “MacCarthy Mores”!

It so happens that the last of the MacCarthy Mores was my own maternal grandfather; and he, venerable and venerated old gentleman, apt as he was, in the[Pg 40] evening of his faded life, to revert to the mutability of worldly possessions, never for a moment bestowed a solitary thought upon the alienation of the property of those columnar masonries. Often used he to mention the Castles of Palace and of Blarney: Castlemain and Glenflesk used still oftener to grace his talk; but oftener still, and with more apparent delectation, would he dilate on the Castle of Macroom and the Abbey of Mucruss,—all, as the creation of immediate or collateral branches of his family; but never, in the catalogue of his patrimonial spoliations did he enumerate a Round Tower, or lay a shadow of claim to their construction.

To the point, however.—The great miracle after all is, that after the decease of those “fairy” masters, no one of their native helpmates could be found able to join together with mechanical skill two pieces of hewn stone with the intermediate amalgam of adhesive mortar! The thing is so absurd as to make the Colonel himself in his honesty to exclaim, “Is this simple process that mighty piece of necromancy which, according to some authors” (forgetting that he was one of those himself), “that lively people were unable to comprehend?” It is amusing to see how encomiastic and commendatory he is of the “Hibernians” when it answers his views; and how vituperative and condemnatory when it is equally to his purpose.

The last assumption of this writer, and which I have purposely reserved until now is an affected parallel of the Irish Culdees with the Egyptian Cophtes. “Their great piety, austerity, and hospitality announce,” he says, “the existence of one kind of discipline and of kindred religions between the[Pg 41] Cophtes and the Irish Cœnobites.” That is, because they are both pious, austere, and hospitable, they must both necessarily correspond in religious opinions and in Church forms! The Indian Brahmins, say I, are also pious, austere, and hospitable; and why are they not incorporated in this holy identification? No, Colonel, it will not do; I see what you are at. You want to insinuate our obligation to the Greeks for the blessings of the Gospel. A false zeal for mental emancipation—subsequent to the dislodgment of spiritual encroachment—has forced into mushroom existence this spurious abortion. Aloof from the thraldom of Roman or other yoke, the Irish, within themselves, cultivated the principles of the Christian verity; but it is, in the extreme, erroneous to say that they derived their faith in that verity through emissaries of the Grecian Church, from whom they differed as substantially as light does from darkness.

I think it very probable indeed that the glad tidings of revelation were first imparted to Ireland by the lips of St. Paul himself.[57] We have the names of many Christians existing amongst us before the arrival of either Pelagius or Patrick. The very terms of the commission, which Pope Celestine gave to the former, being addressed “ad Scotos in Christum credentes,” to the Irish who believe in Christ,—prove the good seed had been laid in the soil before his pontificate. The nation, however, was yet too[Pg 42] much immersed in its old idolatries—and the fascinations of their former creed had so spellbound the inhabitants as a community—that those who singled themselves out as converts to the new faith were obliged, from persecution, to betake themselves to other countries. And yet this is the moment when paganism was omnipotent throughout this island, that Colonel de Montmorency has the modesty to tell us that the “Round Towers” were erected as magazines for the monks!

To the Patrician Apostle, the beloved patriarch of Ireland, was reserved the glory of maturing the fruit which his predecessors had planted. His constitutional zeal and absorbing devotion in the service of his Creator were but the secondary qualifications which pre-eminently marked him out for so hazardous an enterprise. The primary and grand facility which this true hero possessed for the attainment of his great design, was his intimate converse with the manners and language of the natives,—obtained during his captivity not long before,—which, making way at once to the hearts of his auditory, was an irresistible passport to their heads and their understandings.

In the sequel of this volume it will be fully shown, that when St. Patrick entered upon his prescribed task,—towards the close of the fifth century,—the monarch and his court were celebrating their pagan festival, or preparing for it, on the hill of Tara. Can a nation be called Christian where the sovereign and court are pagan? Or will a few exceptions from the mass of the population be indulged with fortresses of imperishable architecture, while the nation at large took shelter within wattles and walls of clay?—and that, too, at a moment when Christianity was considered[Pg 43] a name of reproach, and its few solitary abettors constrained to exile or to degradation!

No sooner, however, were the simplicities of Christianity expounded to the natives through the medium of their native tongue, than the refined organism of the Irish constitution, habituated by discipline to sublime pursuits, took fire from the blaze of the sacred scintilla, and enlisted them as its heralds, not only at home but throughout Europe.

Precisely at this instant it was that all the ancient names of places in the island—recorded by Ptolemy from other foreign geographers—were changed and new-modelled; the converts—“ut in nova deditione”—not thinking it sufficient to abandon the forms of their previous belief, and adopt the more pure one, if they did not obliterate every vestige of nominal association which could tend to recall their fancies to the religion which they relinquished. Accordingly, from the names of Juernis, Macollicon, Rhigia, Nagnata, Rheba, etc., sprang up the names of Killkenny, Killmalloch, and the thousand other names, commencing with “Kill,” to be met with in every district and subdivision throughout the country.

Every corner was now the scene of Christian zeal; and every neophyte strove to surpass his neighbour in evincing devotion to the newly-revealed religion. “Kills,” or little churches,—from the Latin cella, now for the first time introduced,—were built in the vicinity of every spot which had before been the theatre of pagan adoration—whether as cromleachs, as Mithratic caves, or as Round Towers. These were the memorials of three distinct species of paganism, and were, therefore, now singled out as appropriate sites for the erection of Christian “Kills,” the ruins[Pg 44] of which are still to be traced, contiguous to each of those idolatrous reminiscences,—disputing with the false divinities the very ground of their worship, and diverting the zeal of the worshippers from the creature to the Creator.

Nay, to such a pitch did the crusaders, in their conflict, carry the principle of their enthusiasm, that many of them adopted the names of their late idols, and intertwined those again—now Christianly appropriated—with the old favourite denominations of many of the localities. For instance, St. Shannon assumed that name from the river Shannon, which was an object of deification some time before; and St. Malloch adopted this name from the city of Malloch, that is, the Sun, or Apollo,—the supreme idol of pagan Ireland’s adoration,—from which again, with the prefix “Kill,” he made the name Kill-malloch,—the latter alone having been the ancient name of the place, converted by Ptolemy into “Macollicon”; which is only giving his Greek termination, icon, to the Irish word Malloch, and transposing, for sound’s sake, the two middle syllables.

Chaildee was the pious but appropriate epithet by which those patriarchs of Christianity thought fit to distinguish themselves. The word means associate of God. Having obtained the gospel from the see of Rome, they adhered implicitly—yet without conceding any superiority—to the Roman connection—agreeing in all the grand essentials of vital belief, and differing only as to some minor points of ecclesiastical discipline.

This variance, however, has afforded handle to some lovers of controversial doubt to maintain that Ireland was never beholden to Rome for the gospel. The[Pg 45] fallacy is disproved by the fact of all our early neophytes betaking themselves, for perfection in the mysteries of revelation, to the Roman capital. On one of which occasions it was that Montmorency himself brought over his hundred and fifty volunteers, to accompany back one of those converted students, who had gone there to learn the very minuteness of the doctrine which the Romans inculcated.

It was not, remember, for ordinary or secular education that they betook themselves to Rome. The academies of Ireland far surpassed it in splendour. It was solely and exclusively to learn the particulars of their faith; and having once obtained this insight, they continued in spiritual unison with the tenets of that Church, as to all fundamental points of doctrine; never surrendering, however, the independence of their judgment, nor bowing before the “ipse dixit” of any tribunal,—where reason was to be the guide,—until forced by the conspiracy of Pope Adrian IV. and his countryman Henry II.

How contemptible, therefore, is the effort, in the teeth of this exposure, to identify the Irish Chaildees with the Egyptian Cophtes! There was no one point in which they may be compared, except their mutual poverty; which, however, Montmorency overlooks, or rather contradicts, making them both wealthy, and have banks even for their riches. As, however, I look upon Dr. Hurd[58] as somewhat a better authority, you shall have what he says upon the subject—

“Among the Ethiopians, there are still to be found some monks, called Coptics, who first flourished in Egypt, but, by no difficult sort of gradation, made their way into Ethiopia. They profess the utmost[Pg 46] contempt for all worldly things, and look upon themselves as a sort of terrestrial angels. They are obliged to part with all their possessions before they can enter upon a monastic life.”

Their discrepancy in doctrine is even still more notorious, agreeing with the Chaildees only in a single instance also; namely, in both denying the supremacy of the Pope. Here are the Doctor’s words: “They deny the papal supremacy, and, indeed, most parts of the popish doctrine, particularly transubstantiation, purgatory, auricular confession, celibacy of the clergy, and extreme unction;” all which, save the first, the Irish Chaildees maintained in common with the see of Rome.

And now, on the point of education, I will content myself with Montmorency’s own testimony, which is to this effect, viz.: “Only on the score of erudition it must be acknowledged that the Irish theologian, as history asserts, did not only excel the modern Greek and Egyptian, but his profound acquaintance with the sciences, arts, and laws of his country, gave him an unrivalled superiority in the literary and civilised world.”

What, Colonel! are those the “barbarians”? Is this what you mean by not being conveniently situated within the enlightened and enlivening influence of Greek and Roman refinement? Alas! you knew but little of the real statement of the case; whilst the illustrious Fenelon, himself a descendant of this boasted Rome, thus more accurately avows, “that, notwithstanding all the pretended politeness of the Greeks and Romans, yet, as to moral virtue and religious obligations, they were no better than the savages of America.”

[Pg 47]I have been thus hurried on by the train of my thoughts, without observing much of order or methodical arrangement. As my object is, however, the elucidation of truth,—not idle display, or vainglorious exhibition,—I am sure my readers will scarce murmur at the course by which I shall have led them to that end; in a question, moreover, where so many adventurers have so miserably miscarried.

So much the rather, thou celestial light,
Shine inward, and the mind through all her powers
Irradiate. There plant eyes; all mist from thence
Purge and disperse; that I may see and tell
Of things invisible to mortal sight.[59]



[Pg 48]


Having thus disposed of the word “Cloic-teach,” which Dr. Ledwich so relied upon, as determining the character of these antique remains, I take leave, evermore, to discard the misnomer, and draw attention to a name which I have never seen noticed as applied to any of those pyramidal edifices. That which I allude to is “Cathoir ghall,” which means the “Cathedral or temple of brightness” (“and delight[60]); not, I must premise, from any external daubing with which modern Vandalism may have thought proper to incrust it,—as happened to that at Swords,—but in evident reference to the solar and lunar light—the sources of life and generation—therein contemplated, at once, and interchangeably venerated.

The particular Tower to which this epithet had been assigned—and which it obtained, by way of eminence, for its colossal superiority—is not now standing.[61] It rose about half a mile distant from the old castle of Bally Carbery, in the barony of Iveragh, and county of Kerry; a place where one would hope that the true designation of such phenomena would be preserved most pure, being aloof from the influence of exotic refinements, and, thus[Pg 49] far, free from that maudlin scepticism and laboured doubt which a “little learning” too frequently superinduces.

“Dear, lovely bowers of innocence and ease,—
Seats of my youth, when ev’ry sport could please,—
How often have I loiter’d o’er thy green,
When humble happiness endear’d each scene!
How often have I paused on every charm,—
The shelter’d cot, the cultivated farm!
While all the village train, from labour free,
Led up their sports beneath the spreading tree.”[62]

No combination of letters could possibly approach closer, or convey to a discerning mind greater affinity of meaning to anything, than does the above name to the description given of them in the twelfth century by Giraldus Cambrensis, who calls them “turres ecclesiasticas, quæ, more patriæ, arctæ sunt et altæ, nec non et rotundæ.” This definition, vague as it may seem, affords ample illumination, when compared with the epithet which I have above adduced, to penetrate the darkness of this literary nebula. The word “turres” points out their constructional symmetry, and “ecclesiasticas” their appropriation to a religious use; and what can possibly be in stricter consonance with the tenor of this idea than “Cathaoir ghall,” or the Temple of Brightness, which I have instanced above as the vernacular appellation of one of those sanctuaries?

Should it be asked, why did not Cambrensis, at the time, enter more fully into the minutiæ of their detail? I shall unhesitatingly answer, it was because he knew nothing more about them. The Irish had at that moment most lamentably dwindled into a [Pg 50]degenerate race. The noble spirit of their heroic ancestors, which had called forth those pyramids, for the twofold and mingled purpose of religion and science, had already evaporated; and all the historian could glean, in prosecuting his inquiries as to their era and cause, was that their antiquity was so remote, that some of them may be even seen immersed beneath the waters of Lough Neagh,[63] which had been occasioned many ages before by the overflowing of a fountain.[64]

Let us now turn to the annals of the “Four Masters,” which record the destruction of Armagh, A.D. 995, by a flash of lightning, and see under what name they include the Round Towers in the general catastrophe. Here is the passage at full length, as given by O’Connor—“Ardmaeha do lose do tene saighnein, ettir tighib, 7[65] Domhuliacc, 7 Cloic teacha, 7 Fiadh-Neimhedh”; that is, Armagh having been set on fire by lightning, its houses, its cathedrals, its belfries, and its Fiadh-Neimhedh, were all destroyed.

The Ulster Annals have registered the same event in the following words:—“Tene diait do gabail Airdmaeha conafarcaibh Dertach, na Damliacc, na h Erdam, na Fidh-Nemead ann cen loscadh”; that is, Lightning seized upon Armagh, to so violent a degree, as to leave neither mansion, nor cathedral, nor belfry, nor Fiadh-Nemeadh, undemolished.

Here we find Fiadh-Nemeadh to occur in both accounts, while the belfries are represented in one place as Cloic teacha, and in the other as Erdam, and in both are opposed to, and contradistinguished from,[Pg 51] the Fiadh-Nemeadh. Our business now is to investigate what this latter word conveys; and though I do not mean, for a while, to develop its true interpretation,—of which I am the sole and exclusive depositary,—yet must I make it apparent, that by it—whatever way it must be rendered—all before me have understood, were emphatically designated our Sabian Towers. Thus Colgan in his Acts, p. 297, referring to these words of the Four Masters, says: “Anno 995, Ardmaeha cum Basilicis, Turribus, aliisque omnibus edificiis, incendio ex fulmine generato, tota vastatur.”

O’Connor also, wishing to wrest its import to his favourite theory of there having been gnomons, while ignorant of its proper force, indulges in a conjecture of the most lunatic ostentation, and translates Fiadh-Nemeadh by celestial indexes.

But though the word does not literally signify either “Towers”—as Colgan, for want of a better exposition, has set forth—or “celestial indexes”—as O’Connor, equally at a loss for its proper meaning, has ventured to promulgate, yet is it indisputable that it stood as the representative of those enigmatical edifices, as well as that both writers had the same structures in view as comprehended under the tenor of this mysterious denomination.[66]

These annals I look upon in three different lights as invaluable documents—firstly, as they prove the existence of those edifices at the date above assigned; secondly, as they show that they were distinct things from the belfries—whether cloicteach or erdam—which shared their disaster; and, thirdly, because that, even admitting of O’Connor’s mistranslation, it[Pg 52] gives us an insight into their character more fortuitous than he had anticipated. Celestial indexes![67] Could any one be so silly as for a moment to suppose that this was a mere allusion to the circumstance of their height? No; it was no such casual epithet, or witty effort of hyperbole; but it was, what Sallust has so truly said of the Syrtes, “nomen ex re inditum.”

The identity between this island and the “Insula Hyperboreorum” of Hecatæus being to be completely established in an ensuing chapter,—the bungling of natives and the claims of externs notwithstanding,—I shall not hesitate to assume as proved, that ours was the “island” described.

Allow me then to draw your attention to an extract from Diodorus’s report thereof:—“They affirm also,” says he, “that the moon is so seen from this island, that it appears not so distant from the earth, and seems to present on its disk certain projections like the mountains of our world. Likewise that the God Apollo in person visits this island once in nineteen years, in which the stars complete their revolutions, and return into their old positions; and hence this cycle of nineteen years is called, by the Greeks, the great year.”

Who is it that collates this description with the “celestial indexes”[68] above produced, that is not, at once, struck with the felicity of the coincidence? On earth, what could celestial indexes mean but such as were appropriated to the contemplation of the heavenly bodies?—just as the name of “Zoroaster”—which, in the Persian language, signifies “cœlorum observator,” that is, star-gazer, or observer of the[Pg 53] heavens—was given to Zerdust, the great patriarch of the Magi, from his eminence and delight in astronomical pursuits.

Now, “the moon being so seen from this island that it appears not so distant from the earth,” is so obvious a reference to the study of astronomy that it would be almost an insult to go about to prove it; but when it is said that “it presents on its disk certain projections like the mountains of our world,” it not only puts that question beyond the possibility of dispute, but argues furthermore a proficiency in that department, which it is the fashion now-a-days to attribute only to modern discoveries.

But have we any evidence of having ever had amongst us, in those “olden times,” men who by their talents could support this character? Hear what Strabo says of Abaris, whom “Hecatæus and others mention” as having been sent by his fraternity from the “island of the Hyperboreans” to Delos, in Greece, in the capacity of a sacred ambassador, where he was equally admired for his knowledge, politeness, justice, and integrity. “He came,” says Strabo, “to Athens, not clad in skins like a Scythian, but with a bow in his hand, a quiver hanging on his shoulders, a plaid wrapt about his body, a gilded belt encircling his loins, and trousers reaching from the waist down to the soles of his feet. He was easy in his address, agreeable in his conversation, active in his despatch, and secret in his management of great affairs; quick in judging of present occurrences, and ready to take his part in any sudden emergency; provident withal in guarding against futurity; diligent in the quest of wisdom; fond of friendship; trusting very little to fortune, yet having the entire confidence of others,[Pg 54] and trusted with everything for his prudence. He spake Greek with a fluency, that you would have thought he had been bred up in the Lyceum, and conversed all his life with the Academy of Athens.”[69]

This embassy is ascertained to have taken place B.C. 600; and from what shall be elsewhere said of the “island of the Hyperboreans”—coupled with the circumstance of the orator Himerius having called this individual a Scythian, which Strabo would seem to have insinuated also—we can be at no loss in tracing him to his proper home.

“Far westward lies an isle of ancient fame,
By nature blessed, and Scotia is her name;
An island rich—exhaustless in her store
Of veiny silver and of golden ore;
Her verdant fields with milk and honey flow,
Her woolly fleeces vie with virgin snow,
Her waving furrows float with verdant corn,
And Arms and Arts her envied sons adorn.”

Such is the description of Ireland given by Donatus, bishop of Etruria, in 802; and I have selected it among a thousand other authorities of similar import, to show that Scotia or Scythia was one, and the last, of the ancient names of this country;[70][Pg 55] while the name of “Hyperborean” was the distinctive character assigned thereto, not only as descriptive of its locality towards the north, but as worshipping the wind Boreas.

Did I not apprehend it might be considered irrelevant to the scope of this work, I could easily prove that the amity, said by Hecatæus to have been cemented on the occasion of the visit above alluded to, was not that of a mere return of courteous civilities for a casual intercourse, but one of a far more tender and familiar nature, viz. the recognition on both sides of their mutual descent from one common origin: the same people who had settled in this country, and imported the mysteries of their magic priesthood, being akin to the first settlers on the coasts of Greece, which they impregnated with similar initiation. I am anticipated, of course, to have meant the Pelasgi, who, under another name, belonged to the same hive as the Indo-Scythæ, or Chaldean Magi, or Tuath-de-danaan,—as the head tribe thereof were called,—who, having effected an establishment on this happy isle, aloof from the intrusion of external invasion or internal butcheries, were allowed to cultivate the study of their favourite rites, the fame and eminence of which had obtained for its theatre, of all nations, the designation of “sacred.” But I fear it would be encroaching upon the patience of my readers, and[Pg 56] besides anticipating, in point of order, what may by and by follow.

An inconsistency, however, appears in the details, which I cannot here well overlook. It is this. Himerius has called this our ambassador a “Scythian”; and Strabo has affirmed, that he was “not clad like a Scythian.” How, then, shall I cut this knot? Thus. Abaris, as his name implies, was one of the Boreades, or priests of Boreas, belonging to the Tuath-de-danaan colony in this island, who were subdued about six hundred years before this event by the Scythians, whose dress, as well as manners, differed in all particulars from those of their religious and learned predecessors.

But though the Scythians, from state policy, had suppressed the temple-worship when they deposed from the throne their antecedent Hyperboreans, they were but too sensible of their literary value not to profit by their services in the department of education. Hence it came to pass, that the Boreades were still indulged with their favourite costume, while the inferior communities were obliged to conform to the rules and the fashions of the ascendant dynasty. In a short time, however, the Scythian Druids superseded the Danaan Boreades, by the influence of their own instruction; and the consequence was that of that graceful garb, in the folds of which our ancient high priests officiated at the altar, or exhibited in the senate, not a single vestige is now to be traced except in the word God, Phearagh, whom I shall anon introduce, and in the highlands of Scotland, where a remnant of those Hyperborean or Danaan priests took shelter from the ruthless Picts, resigning to those[Pg 57] remorseless and intolerant persecutors the ground of the only two temples which they were able there to raise, as the last resort of their hopes, and the solace of their exile.[71]

Nor is it alone as accounting for the circumstance of costume that the above explanation deserves the reader’s regard. An additional insight is afforded, by its enabling us to account for that boundless superiority which, the Irish Druids possessed over all other bodies of the same denomination all over the world. Originally, the Druids were an humble set of men, without science, without letters, without pretensions to refinement; but having succeeded here to the fraternity of the accomplished Danaan Boreades, who, in the revolution of affairs, were forced to communicate their acquirements to the opposite but prevailing priesthood, those latter so far profited by the ennobling opportunity, as to eclipse all other Druids, as well in Europe as in Africa.

Cæsar, in his Commentaries, bears direct testimony to their astronomical research, saying: “Multa præterea de sideribus atque eorum motu, de mundi ac terrarum magnitudine, de rerum naturâ ac deorum immortalium vi ac potestate disputant ac juventuti transdunt.”—De Bel. Gal. lib. 1-6, c. xiv. Pomponius Mela, also confirming the fact, says: “Hi terræ mundique magnitudinem ac forman, motus cœli ac siderum, ac quid Dii velint scire, profitentur.”—De Situ Orbis, lib. 3, c. ii. These two latter authorities, I admit, were more immediately directed to the Druids of Britain; but as it is agreed on all[Pg 58] hands that that body of religionists had received the seeds of their instruction from the Irish Magi, who were infinitely their superiors in all literary accomplishments, I think we may be warranted in extending the commendation to Ireland also, as the writers indubitably included it under the general name of Britain.

But were all external testimonies silent on the matter, and mercenary vouchers even assert the reverse, the internal evidence of our language itself, a language so truly characterised as “more than three thousand years old,” would afford to the ingenious and disinterested inquirer the most convincing proof of the ground which I have assumed. In that language—and the writer of this essay ought to know something of it—there is scarcely a single term appertaining to time, from la a day, derived from liladh, to turn round,—in allusion to the diurnal revolution,—up to bleain, a year, compounded of Bel, the sun, and Ain, a circle, referring to its annual orbit, that does not, in its formation and construction, associate the idea with the planetary courses, and thereby evince, not only an astronomical taste, but that astronomy was the “ruling passion” of those who spoke it.

“The Irish language,” says Davies, an intelligent and respectable Welsh writer, “appears to have arrived at maturity amongst the Iapetidæ, while they were yet in contact with Aramæan families, and formed a powerful tribe in Asia Minor and in Thrace. It may, therefore, in particular instances, have more similitude or analogy to the Asiatic dialects than what appears in those branches of the Celtic that were matured in the west of Europe. Those who used this language consisted partly of Titans, of Celto-Scythians,[Pg 59] or of those Iapetidæ who assisted in building the city of Babel, and must have been habituated, after the dispersion, to the dialects of the nations through which they passed, before they joined the society of their brethren.” We thank this learned author for the flattering notice which he has been pleased to take of us; and though, in his subsequent remarks, he steers far wide of our true pedigree, yet a concession so important as that even here adduced, must command at least our becoming acknowledgments.

The splendid examples which we have had of primitive teachers of Christianity in this kingdom, and whom Ledwich himself, reluctant as he was to afford ordinary justice to Irish merit, is obliged to praise, were not more remarkable for the sanctified zeal and enthusiastic devotion with which they propagated the Gospel, than they were for the diversified range of their literary acquirements, and the moral sublimity of their ideas and conceptions.[72] Speaking of a production belonging to one of these worthies, Ledwich remarks: “In this tract we can discover Cumman’s acquaintance with the doctrine of time, and the chronological characters. He is no stranger to the solar, lunar, and bissextile years, to the epactal days, and embolismal months, nor to the names of the Hebrew, Macedonian, and Egyptian months. To examine the various cyclical systems, and to point[Pg 60] out their construction and errors, required no mean abilities: a large portion of Greek and Latin literature was also necessary.”[73]

Here I would have it distinctly noticed, that the above-mentioned individuals who shone in the galaxy of our early Christian constellations, had been but just converted from paganism by St. Patrick, and consequently were not indebted for this “learned lore” to the Romish missionaries, but to the more elevated genius of their native institutions. This it was that enabled them to make those astronomical observations which our annals commemorate; and who can say, amidst the decay of time, the ravages of persecution, and the fury of fanaticism, what tomes of such labours has not the world lost? Some few, however, remain, of which we shall adduce some by way of specimen. Solar eclipses of 495, 664, 810, 884; lunar, of 673, 717, 733, 807, 877; solar and lunar, 864; a comet 911, are recorded in our annals.

Those of the “Four Masters” additionally record certain extraordinary celestial phenomena in 743:—“Visæ sunt stellæ quasi de cœlo cadere.” Again, in 744, they observe: “Hoc anno stellæ item de cœlo frequentes deciderunt”; while it cannot be too diligently noted, “that, when the rest of Europe, as Vallancey so justly remarked, through ignorance or forgetfulness, had no knowledge of the true figure of the earth, in the eighth century, the rotundity and true formation of it should have been taught in the Irish schools,” which we shall by and by more pointedly advert to.

It thus appears manifest that the Irish must, at one[Pg 61] time, have not only possessed, but excelled in, the science of astronomy. How did they acquire it? is the next question. “Ad illa mihi pro se quisque acriter intendat animum.” In that passage of Diodorus, to which I have already referred, we find the following appropriate characteristic:—“It is affirmed that Latona was born there, and that, therefore, the worship of Apollo is preferred to that of any other God; and as they daily celebrate this deity with songs of praise, and worship him with the highest honours, they are considered as peculiarly the priests of Apollo, whose sacred grove and singular temple of round form, endowed with many gifts, are there.”

Now, it is universally known that Apollo, which, “according to the learned Pezron, is no other than Ap-haul, or the son of the Sun,” was understood by the ancients only essentially to typify that powerful planet, “which animates and imparts fecundity to the universe, whose divinity has been accordingly honoured in every quarter by temples and by altars, and consecrated in the religious strains of all nations” and all climes.

His being peculiarly worshipped in this island only shows the intimate knowledge it possessed of the mysteries of the solar system; and that near converse which we have been already told it possessed with the moon, is confirmation the most positive of this explanation.

Let me here again recall to the reader’s mind the name of Cathaoir Ghall, or temple of brightness, which I have before adduced, and when we compare all with the celestial indexes recorded in our annals, the conclusion is inevitable, that the Round Towers of Ireland were specifically constructed for the two-fold[Pg 62] purpose of worshipping the Sun and Moon—as the authors of generation and vegetative heat—and, from the nearer converse which their elevation afforded, of studying the revolutions and properties of the planetary orbs. Let me, however, before elucidating the era of their actual erection, with their Phallic form and their further use, revert to the Mosaic history for the groundwork of my development.

“And chiefly thou, O Spirit! that dost prefer
Before all temples th’ upright heart and pure,
Instruct me, for thou know’st; thou from the first
Wast present, and, with mighty wings outspread,
Dove-like sat’st brooding on the vast abyss,
And mad’st it pregnant. What in me is dark,
Illumine! what is low, raise and support!
That to the height of this great argument
I may assert eternal Providence,
And justify the ways of God to man.”[74]



[Pg 63]


Nimrod, the son of Cush, “the mighty hunter before the Lord,” was the first person,[75] according to Vossius,[76] who introduced the worship of the sun as a deity. Disgusted with the roving character of his previous life, and tired of peregrination, he resolves to build himself a permanent abode, and persuades his followers to embark in the design, “lest they be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.”[77] Mankind had already relapsed into the follies of their antediluvian ancestors. The awful lesson of the watery visitation was read to them in vain, and again they verified what God had before that memorable epoch with sorrow declared, “that every imagination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually.”[78]

In Babel, the city thus agreed upon to be built, as the anchor of their stability and the basis of their renown,—we find a “Tower” mentioned, “whose top may reach,” says our version (but should it not rather be point?) towards heaven.

What was the object of this architectural elevation?

[Pg 64]Not certainly, as some have supposed, as a place of refuge in apprehension of a second deluge; for in that case, it is probable, they would have built it on an eminence, rather than on a plain, whereas the Bible expressly tells us they had selected the latter.

Much less could it be, what the poets have imagined, for the purpose of scaling the celestial abodes, and disputing with Jehovah the composure of His sovereignty.

What, then, was it intended for?

Undoubted as an acknowledgment, however vitiated and depraved, of dependence upon that Being, whose acts shine forth in universal love, but whose spiritual adoration was now partially lost sight of, or merged in the homage thus primarily tendered to the lucid offspring of his omnipotent fiat.

This tower, so erected by Nimrod, in opposition to the established system of religious belief, and which, therefore—but from a nobler reason than what was generally imagined, viz. his researches in astronomy, and the application thereto of instruments—procured him the appellation of rebel from nemh, heaven, and rodh, an assault, was, I hesitate not to say, a temple constructed to the celestial host, the sun, moon, and stars, which constituted the substance of the Sabian idolatry.[79]

[Pg 65]Shinaar, in Mesopotamia, was the theatre of this dread occurrence—this appalling spectacle at once of man’s weakness and God’s omnipotence:—Here the Noachidæ had been then fixed; and the name by which this innovation upon their previous usages is transmitted, viz. Ba-Bel, corroborates the destination above assigned.[80]

The word “Baal,” in itself an appellative, at first served to denote the true God amongst those who adhered to the true religion; though, when it became common amongst the idolatrous nations, and applied to idols, He rejected it. “And it shall be in that day that you shall call me Ishi, and shall call me no more Baali.”[81] Another name by which the Godhead was recognised was Moloch. The latter, indeed, in accuracy of speech was the name assigned him by the Ammonites and Moabites—both terms, however, corresponded in sense, “Moloch” signifying king, and “Baal” Lord, that is, of the heavens; whence transferring the appellation to the Sun, as the source and dispenser of all earthly favours, he was also called Bolati, i.e., “Baal the bestower,” as was the moon, Baaltis, from the same consideration: whilst the direct object of their internal regard was not, undoubtedly,[Pg 66] that globe of fire which illumines the firmament and vivifies terrestrials, but, physically considered, nature at large, the fructifying germ of universal generativeness.

The Sun, it is true, as the source of light and heat, came in as representative for all this adoration. Thus viewed, then, it would appear that the origin of the institution may have been comparatively harmless. God being invisible, or only appearing to mortals through the medium of His acts, it was natural that man, left to the workings of unaided reason, should look on yon mysterious luminary with mingled sentiments of gratitude and awe. We have every reason, accordingly, to think, that solar worship at first was only emblematical, recognising, in the effulgence of the orb of day, the creative power of Him, the

“Father of all, in every age,
In every clime adored,
By saint, by savage, and by sage,
Jehovah, Jove, or Lord”—

who sent it forth on its beneficent errand.

As such, originally they had no temples dedicated to the occasion; they met in the open air, without the precincts of any earthly shrine: there they poured forth their vows and their thanksgivings, under the aërial canopy of the vaulted expanse; nor can it be denied but that there was something irresistibly impressive in such an assemblage of pious votaries, paying their adoration to the throne of light in the natural temple of his daily splendours.[82]

The degeneracy of man, however, became manifest in the sequel, and, from the frequency of the act, the[Pg 67] type was substituted in room of the thing typified. “Solum in cœlis deum putabant solem,” says Philobibliensis, in his interpretation of Sanchoniathon. Nor did it stop here, but, proceeding in its progress of melancholy decay, swept before it the barriers of reason and moral light; and, from the bright monarch of the stars, who rules the day, the seasons, and the year, with perpetual change, yet uniform and identical, bowed before the grosser element of material fire, as his symbol or corporeal representative.

But the worst and most lamentable is yet untold. The sign again occupied the place of the thing signified, and the human soul was prostrated, and human life often immolated, to propitiate the favour of earthly fire, now by transition esteemed a god. They had, it is true, from a faint knowledge of the sacred writings, and a perverted exercise of that inspired authority, something like an excuse for, at least, a decent attention in the ordinary management of that useful article. In Lev. vi. 13 it is said: “The fire upon the altar shall ever be burning, it shall never go out.” This injunction given by the Lord to Moses, to remind His people of the constant necessity of sacrifice and prayer, the Gentiles misconstrued into reverence for the fire itself, and “quoniam omnes pravi dociles sumus,” hence the ready admission with which the doctrine was embraced, and the general spread of that which was at first but partial and figurative.

Indeed we find that God Himself had appeared to Moses in a “flame of fire in the midst of a bush” (Ex. iii. 2), and in presence of the whole Israelitish host (Ex. xix. 18). “The Lord descended upon Mount Sinai, as the smoke of a furnace;” while in Ex. xiii. 21, it is declared that “the Lord went[Pg 68] before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light.” So accordingly we find Elijah, 1 Kings xviii. 24, when challenging the priests of the false divinities, propose a decision by fiery ordeal. “Call you on the name of your gods,” he says, “and I will call upon the name of the Lord: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God; and all the people answered, it is well spoken.”

The infidels, therefore, who could not concede any superiority to the religion of the Hebrews, and yet could not deny those manifestations of divine support, thought they best proved their independence by instituting a rivalship, and got thereby the more confirmed in their original idolatry. Their bloody sacrifices themselves originated, we may suppose, in some similar way. God must, undoubtedly, have prescribed that rite to Adam, after his fall in Paradise, else how account for the “skins” with which Eve and he had covered themselves? The beasts to which they belonged could not have been slain for food; for it was not till a long time after that they were allowed to eat the flesh of animals. We may, therefore, safely infer that it was for a sin-offering they had been immolated; and the subsequent reproof given to Cain by the rejection of his oblation, evidently for the non-observance of the exact mode of sacrifice prescribed, coupled with the command issued to Abraham, to try his obedience, by offering up his own son, are undeniable proofs of the truth of this inference.

In “Ur” of the Chaldees, a name which literally signifies “fire,” the worship of that element first originated. Thence it travelled in its contaminating course, until all the regions of the earth got impregnated[Pg 69] therewith. In Persia, a country with which this island had, of old, the most direct communication, we also find a city denominated “Ur”; and who does not know that the Persians, having borrowed the custom from the Chaldean priests, regarded fire with the utmost veneration? Numerous as were the deities which that nation worshipped, “fire,” on every occasion, in every sacrifice—like the Janus of the Romans—was invoked the first. Their Pyrea, in which they not only preserved it ever burning, but worshipped it as a deity, have been noticed by Brisson—but without the necessary adjunct of their being an innovation.

Even the ordinary fire for culinary or social purposes participated in some measure in this hallowed regard; as they durst not, without violating the most sacred rules, and stifling the scruples of all their previous education, offer it the least mark of impious disregard, or pollute its sanctity by profane contact.

It was, however, only as symbolical of the sun that they, like the Chaldeans, paid it this extraordinary reverence—a reverence not limited to mere religious rules, but which exercised control over and biassed the decisions of their most important secular transactions. Accordingly, we learn from Herodotus, lib. vii., as quoted by Cicero in “Verrem,” that when Datis, the prefect of Xerxes’ fleet, flushed with the result of his victory over Naxos and the city of Eretria in Eubœa, might easily have made himself master of the island of Delos, he however passed it over untouched in honour of that divinity before whom his country had bowed, having been sacred to Apollo or the sun, and reputedly his birthplace.

[Pg 70]But do I mean to say that the Round Towers of Ireland were intended for the preservation of the sacred fire? Far, very far indeed, from it. That some few of them were therewith connected—I say connected, not appropriated—may, I think, be well allowed; nay, it is my candid belief, so far as belief is compatible with a matter so unauthenticated. But having all through maintained that they were not all intended for one and the same object, I must have been understood, of course, by the numerous supporters of that fashionable proposition as including fire-worship within the compass of my several views. I put it, however, frankly to the most ardent supporter of that theory, who for a moment considers the different bearings and peculiarities of those several structures, comparing them first with one another, and then with the description of fire-receptacles which we read of elsewhere, whether he can dispassionately bring himself to say that all our Round Towers, or indeed above two of those at present remaining, could have been even calculated for that purpose?

Where, let me ask, is it they will suppose the fire to have been placed? In the bottom? No; the intervening floors, of which the GREATER PORTION retain evident traces, would not only endanger the conflagration of the whole edifice, as it is most probable that they were made of wood, but would also prevent the egress of the smoke through the four windows at the top, for which use, they tell you, those apertures were inserted.

But I am answered that the tower of Ardmore, which has within it no vestiges of divisional compartments, could offer no hindrance to the ascent of the smoke, or its consequent discharge through the [Pg 71]four cardinal openings. To which I rejoin, that if there had ever been a fire lighted within that edifice, and continued for any length of time, as the sacred fire is known to have been kept perpetually burning, it would have been impossible for the inner surface of that stately structure to preserve the beautiful and white coating which it still displays through the mystic revolutions of so many ages. The same conclusion applies to the tower of Devenish, which, though it has no inside coating, yet must its elegant polish have been certainly deteriorated, if subjected to the action of a perpetual smoke.




The instance which is adduced of the four temples described by Hanway in his Travels into Persia, proves nothing. It certainly corresponds with the architectural character of some of our Round Towers, but leaves us as much in the dark as to the era and use of both as if he had never made mention of any such occurrence.

To me it is as obvious as the noon-day sun that they too on examination would be found of a more comprehensive religious tendency than what could possibly relate to the preservation of the sacred fire; for it is well known that when temples were at all appropriated to this consecrated delusion, it was within a small crypt or arched vault—over which the temple was erected—that it was retained. The Ghebres or Parsees, the direct disciples of Zoroaster, the reputed author of this improved institution, “build their temples,” says Richardson,[83] “over subterraneous fires.”

Whenever a deviation from this occurred, it was in favour of a low stone-built structure, all over-arched,[Pg 72] such as that which Hanway met with at Baku, and corresponding in every particular with the edifices of this description to be seen at Smerwick, county Kerry, and elsewhere throughout Ireland.[84]

The fire-house which Captain Keppel visited at a later period at Baku, in 1824, was a small square building, erected on a platform, with three ascending steps on each side, having a tall hollow stone column at every side, through which the flame was seen to issue, all in the middle of a pentagonal enclosure—comprising also a large altar, whereon naphtha was kept continually burning.

Now, could anything possibly correspond more minutely with Strabo’s description of the Pyratheia than does this last account? “They are,” he says, “immense enclosures, in the centre of which was erected an altar, where the Magi used to preserve, as well a quantity of ashes, as the ever-burning fire itself.” And could anything possibly be more opposite to our Round Towers than all these accounts?

When, therefore, we are told[85] that at the city of Zezd in Persia—which is distinguished by the apellation of Darub Abadat, or seat of religion—the Ghebres are permitted to have an Atush Kidi, or fire-temple, which they assert had the sacred fire in it since the days of Zoroaster, we must be prepared to understand it as corresponding in architectural proportion with one or other of the instances just now[Pg 73] detailed; and in truth, from recent discovery, I have ascertained—since the above was composed—that it is nothing more than a sorry hut.

But Pennant’s view of Hindostan is brought forward as at once decisive of the matter. What says Mr. Pennant, however? “All the people of this part of India are Hindoos, and retain the old religion, with all its superstition. This makes the pagodas here much more numerous than in any other part of the peninsula; their form too is different, being chiefly buildings of a cylindrical or round tower shape, with their tops either pointed or truncated at the top, and ornamented with something eccentrical, but frequently with a round ball stuck on a spike: this ball seems intended to represent the sun, an emblem of the deity of the place.”

To this ascription of this learned traveller I most fully, most heartily respond. Pagoda is a name invented by the Portuguese, from the Persian “Peutgheda,” meaning a temple of idols, in which they supposed them to abound, but which in reality were only so many figures or symbols of the “principle of truth,” the “spirit of wisdom,” the “supreme essence,” and other attributes of the Godhead, which, I believe, they in a great measure spiritually recognised. Those structures, therefore, as the very word implies, had no manner of relation to the sacred fire, but they had to the sun and moon, the supposed authors of generation and nutrition, of which fire was only the corrupt emblem; and the different forms of their constructural terminations, similar to those elsewhere described by Maundrell, some being pointed, and some being truncated, harmonises most aptly with the radial and hemispherical representations[Pg 74] of the two celestial luminaries, as well as with that organ of human procreation which we shall hereafter more particularly identify. These are the two Baals dwelt so largely upon in the Scriptures—Baal masculine, the sun, and Baal feminine, the moon, from both of which the Hindoos derive their fabulous origin. Indeed it was from their extreme veneration for the “queen of night” that they obtained their very name; Hindoo meaning, in the Sanscrit language, the moon; and accordingly we find among them Hindoo-buns, that is, children of the moon, as we do Surage-buns, children of the sun, the other parent of their fanciful extraction.

Here then, methinks, we have at once a clue to the character of those Round Towers so frequent throughout the East, of whose history, however, the Orientals are as ignorant as we are here of our “rotundities.” Caucasus abounds in those columnar fanes, and it must not be forgotten that Caucasus has been claimed as the residence of our ancestors. On Teric banks, hard by, there is a very beautiful and lofty one as like as possible to some of ours. The door is described as twelve feet from the ground, level and rather oblong in its form. Lord Valentia was so struck with the extraordinary similitude observable between some very elegant ones which he noticed in Hindostan and those in this country, that he could not avoid at once making the comparison. The inhabitants, he observes, paid no sort of regard to those venerable remains, but pilgrims from afar, and chiefly from Jynagaur, adhering to their old religion, used annually to resort to them as the shrines of their ancient worship. Yet in the ceremonies there performed we see no evidence of their appropriation to the sacred[Pg 75] fire—however tradition may have ascribed them as once belonging to the Ghebres! Franklin mentions some he has seen at Nandukan, as do other writers in other sites. In short, all through the East they are to be met with, and yet all about them is obscurity, doubt, and mystery, a proof at once of the antiquity of their date, and of their not being receptacles for fire, which, if the fact, could be there no secret.

Yes, I verily believe, and I will as substantially establish, that they were, what has already been affirmed, in reference to those in Ireland, viz. temples in honour of the sun and moon, the procreative causes of general fecundity, comprising in certain instances, like them, also the additional and blended purposes of funeral cemeteries and astronomical observatories. The Septuagint interpreters well understood their nature when rendering the “high place of Baal”[86] by the Greek στηλη του βααλ, or Pillar of Baal, that is, the pillar consecrated to the sun; while the ancient Irish themselves, following in the same train, designated those structures Bail-toir, that is, the tower of Baal, or the sun, and the priest who attended them, Aoi Bail-toir, or superintendent of Baal’s tower. Neither am I without apprehension but that the name “Ardmore,” which signifies “the great high place,” and where a splendid specimen of those Sabian edifices is still remaining, was in direct reference to that religious column; but this en passant.

In the sepulchral opinion I am not a little fortified by the circumstance of there being found at Benares pyramids corresponding in all respects, save that of size, to those in Egypt, having also subterranean[Pg 76] passages beneath them, which are said to extend even for miles together. A column also, besides a sphinx’s head, which has been discovered not long since in digging amid the ruins of an ancient and unknown city, on the banks of the Hypanis, bearing an inscription which was found to differ on being compared with Arabic, Persia, Turkish, Chinese, Tartar, Greek, and Roman letters; but bore “a manifest and close similarity with the characters observed by Denon on several of the mummies of Egypt,” gives strength to the idea of the identity of the Egyptian religion with that of the Indians, as it does to the identity of destination of their respective pyramids.



[Pg 77]


Now if there be any one point of Irish antiquity which our historians insist upon more than another, it is that of our ancestral connection with the Egyptian kings. In all their legends Egypt is mixed up—in all their romances Egypt stands prominent, which certainly could not have been so universal without something at least like foundation, and must, therefore, remove anything like surprise at the affinity our ancient religion bore, in many respects, to theirs, since they were both derived from the same common origin.

I have already intimated my decided belief of the application of the Egyptian pyramids to the combined purposes of religion and science. The department of science to which I particularly referred was astronomy, the cultivation of which was inseparably involved in all their religious rites; for despite of the reverence which the Egyptians seemed to pay to crocodiles, bulls, and others of the brute creation, in those they only figured forth the several attributes, all infinite, in the divinity; as their worship, like that of the ancient Irish, was purely planetary, or Sabian.

The Indians too have images of the elephant, horse, and other such animals, chiselled out with the most studious care, and to all intents and purposes appear to pay them homage; but, if questioned on the subject, they will tell you that in the sagacity of the[Pg 78] former, and the strength and swiftness of the latter, they only recognise the superior wisdom and might of the All-good and All-great One, and the rapidity with which his decrees are executed by his messengers.

If questioned more closely, they will tell you that the Brahmin is but reminded by the image of the inscrutable Original, whose pavilion is clouds and darkness; to him he offers the secret prayer of the heart; and if he neglects from inadvertence the external services required, it is because his mind is so fully occupied with the contemplation of uncreated excellence, that he overlooks the grosser object by which his impressions were communicated. Then with respect to their subterranean temples or Mithratic caves, of which we have so many specimens throughout this island, they affirm that the mysterious temple of the caverns is dedicated to services which soar as much above the worship of the plain and uninstructed Hindoo, as Brahma the invisible Creator is above the good and evil genii who inhabit the region of the sky. The world, whose ideas are base and grovelling as the dust upon which they tread, must be led by objects perceptible to the senses to perform the ceremonial of their worship; the chosen offspring of Brahma are destined to nobler and sublimer hopes; their views are bounded alone by the ages of eternity.

These specimens, though brief, will prove that the spirit of the religion of ancient India and Egypt was not that farrago of mental prostration which some have imagined. No, the stars, as the abode, or immediate signal of the Deity, were their primary study; and even to this day, depressed and humiliated as the[Pg 79] Indians are, and aliens in their own country, they are not without some attention to their favourite pursuit, or something like an observatory to perpetuate its cultivation. In May, 1777, a letter from Sir Robert Baker to the President of the Royal Society of London was read before that body, which details a complete astronomical apparatus found at Benares, belonging to the Brahmins.

Such is the remnant of that once enlightened nation, the favourite retreat of civilisation and the arts, which sent forth its professors into the most distant quarters of the world, and disseminated knowledge wherever they had arrived. “With the first accounts we have of Hindostan,” says Crawford, “a mighty empire opens to our view, which in extent, riches, and the number of its inhabitants, has not yet been equalled by any one nation on the globe. We find salutary laws, and an ingenious and refined system of religion established; sciences and arts known and practised; and all of these evidently brought to perfection by the accumulated experience of many preceding ages. We see a country abounding in fair and opulent cities; magnificent temples and palaces; useful and ingenious artists employing the precious stones and metals in curious workmanship; manufacturers fabricating cloths, which in the fineness of their texture, and the beauty and duration of some of their dyes, have even yet been but barely imitated by other nations.

“The traveller was enabled to journey through this immense country with ease and safety; the public roads were shaded with trees to defend him from its scorching sun; at convenient distances buildings were erected for him to repose in, a friendly[Pg 80] Brahmin attended to supply his wants; and hospitality and the laws held out assistance and protection to all alike, without prejudice or partiality.... We afterwards see the empire overrun by a fierce race of men, who in the beginning of their furious conquests endeavoured, with their country, to subdue the minds of the Hindoos. They massacred the people, tortured the priests, threw down many of the temples, and, what was still more afflicting, converted some of them into places of worship for their prophet, till at length, tired with the exertion of cruelties which they found to be without effect, and guided by their interest, which led them to wish for tranquillity, they were constrained to let a religion and customs subsist which they found it impossible to destroy. But during these scenes of devastation and bloodshed, the sciences, being in the sole possession of the priests, who had more pressing cares to attend to, were neglected, and are now almost forgotten.”

I have dwelt thus long upon the article of India, from my persuasion of the intimate connection that existed at one time as to religion, language, customs, and mode of life between some of its inhabitants and those of this western island. I have had an additional motive, and that was to show that the same cause which effected the mystification that overhangs our antiquities, has operated similarly with respect to theirs, and this brings me back to the subject of the Round Towers, in the history, or rather the mystery, of which, in both countries, this result is most exemplified.

As to their appropriation, then, to the sacred fire, though I do not deny that some of them may have been connected with it, yet unquestionably too much[Pg 81] importance has been attached to the vitrified appearance of Drumboe tower as if necessarily enforcing our acquiescence in the universality of that doctrine. “At some former time,” says the surveyor, “very strong fires have been burned within this building, and the inside surface towards the bottom has the appearance of vitrification.”

I do not at all dispute the accident, but while the vitrified aspect which this tower exhibits is proof irresistible that no fire ever entered those in which no such vitrification appears, I cannot but here too express more than a surmise that it was not the “sacred fire,” which, when religiously preserved, was not allowed to break forth in those volcanoes insinuated; but in a lambent, gentle flame, emblematic of that emanation of the spirit of the Divinity infused, as light from light, into the soul of man.

“Hail, holy Light! offspring of heaven first-born!
Or of th’ Eternal co-eternal beam!
May I express thee unblamed? Since God is light,
And never but in unapproached light
Dwelt from eternity; dwelt then in thee,
Bright effluence of bright essence increate!
Or hear’st thou rather, pure ethereal stream,
Whose fountain who shall tell? Before the sun,
Before the heavens, thou wert, and at the voice
Of God, as with a mantle, didst invest
The rising world of waters dark and deep,
Won from the void and formless infinite.”[87]

But to prove that they were not appropriated to the ritual of fire-worship, nay, that their history and occupation had been altogether forgotten when that ritual now prevailed, I turn to the glossary of Cormac, first bishop of Cashel, who, after his [Pg 82]conversion to Christianity, in the fifth century, by St. Patrick, thus declares his faith:—

“Adhram do righ na duile
Do dagh bhar din ar n’ daone
Lies gach dream, leis gach dine
Leis gach ceall, leis gach caoimhe.”

That is—

“I worship the King of the Elements,
Whose fire from the mountain top ascends,
In whose hands are all mankind,
All punishment and remuneration.”

No allusion here to “towers” as connected with that fire so pointedly adverted to. And lest there should be any doubt as to the identity of this fire with the religious element so frequently referred to, we find the same high authority thus critically explain himself in another place: “dha teinne soinmech do gintis na draoithe con tincet laib moraib foraib, agus do bordis, na ceatra or teamandaib cacha bliadhna”—that is, the Druids used to kindle two immense fires, with great incantation, and towards them used to drive the cattle, which they forced to pass between them every year.

Nay, when St. Bridget, who was originally a pagan vestal, and consequently well versed in all the solemnities of the sacred fire, wished, upon her conversion to Christianity, A.D. 467, to retain this favourite usage, now sublimated in its nature, and streaming in a more hallowed current, it was not in a “tower” that we find she preserved it, but in a cell or low building “like a vault,” “which,” says Holinshed, whose curiosity, excited by Cambrensis’s report,[88] had induced him to go and visit the spot, “to this day they call the fire-house.” It was a stone-roofed [Pg 83]edifice about twenty feet square, the ruins of which are still visible, and recognised by all around as once the preservative of the sacred element. When Cambrensis made mention of this miraculous fire of St. Bridget, why did he not connect it with the Round Towers, which he mentions elsewhere? He knew they had no connection, and should not be associated.

But, forsooth, the Venerable Bede has distinctly mentioned in the Life of St. Cuthbert that there were numerous fire receptacles, remnants of ancient paganism, still remaining in this island!—Admitted. But does it necessarily follow that they were the Round Towers?[89] No: here is the enigma solved—they were those low stone-roofed structures, similar to what the Persians call the “Atash-gah,” to be met with so commonly throughout all parts of this country, such as at Ardmore, Killaloe, Down, Kerry, Kells, etc. etc. The circumstance of St Columbe having for a time taken up his abode in this last-mentioned one, gave rise to the idea that he must have been its founder: but the delusion is dispelled by comparing its architecture with that of the churches which this distinguished champion of the early Christian Irish Church had erected in Iona,[90] whose ruins are still to be seen, and bear no sort of analogy with those ancient receptacles. Struck, no doubt, with some apprehensions like the foregoing, it is manifest that Miss Beaufort[Pg 84] herself, while combating most strenuously for the Round Towers as fire receptacles, had no small misgiving, nay, was evidently divided as to the security of her position. “From the foregoing statements,” she observes, “a well-grounded conclusion may be drawn that these low fabrics are seldom found but in connection with the towers, and were designed for the preservation of the sacred fire; in some cases the lofty tower may have served for both purposes.”[91] The lofty tower, I emphatically say, was a distinct edifice.

Again, when St. Patrick in person went round the different provinces to attend the pagan solemnities at the respective periods of their celebration, we find no mention made of any such thing as a “tower” occupying any part in the ritual of their religious exercises. When he first presented himself near the Court of Laogaire, not far from the hill of Tara, on the eve of the vernal equinox, and lit up a fire before his tent in defiance of the legal prohibition, the appeal which we are told his Druids addressed to the monarch on that occasion was couched in the following words:—“This fire which has to-night been kindled in our presence, before the flame was lit up in your palace, unless extinguished this very night, shall never be extinguished at all, but shall triumph over all the fires of our ancient rites, and the lighter of it shall scatter your kingdom.” In this notification, as I translate it from O’Connor’s Prolegomena, i. c. 35, there occur two terms to which I would fain bespeak the reader’s regard; one is the word kindled, which implies the lighting up of a fire where there was none before; the second is the word palace, which is more applicable to a kingly residence or private abode,[Pg 85] than to a columnar structure, which would seem to demand a characteristic denomination.

Another objection more imposing in its character, and to the local antiquary offering no small difficulty to surmount, is that those above-mentioned low structures must have been erected by our first Roman missionaries, because that they bear the strongest possible affinity to the finish and perfection of the early Roman cloacæ or vaults. This difficulty, however, I thus remove: no one in this enlightened age can suppose that these stupendous specimens of massive and costly workmanship, which we read of as being constructed by the Romans in the very infancy of their State, could have been the erection of a rude people, unacquainted with the arts. The story of the wolf, the vestal, and the shepherd is no longer credited; Rome was a flourishing and thriving city long before the son of Rhea was born, and the only credit that he deserves, as connected with its history, is that of uniting together under one common yoke the several neighbouring communities, many of whom, particularly the Etrurians, were advanced in scientific and social civilisation, conversant not only with the researches of letters, and the arcana of astronomy, but particularly masters of all manual trades, and with none more profoundly than that of architecture.

But who, let me ask, were those Etrurians? none others, most undoubtedly, than the Pelasgi or Tyrseni, another branch of our Tuath-de-danaan ancestors, who, as Myrsilus informs us, had erected the ancient wall around the Acropolis of Athens, which is therefore styled, by Callimachus, as quoted in the Scholia to the Birds of Aristophanes, “the Pelasgic Wall[Pg 86] of the Tyrseni.” It is now a point well ascertained by historians that what are termed by ancient writers Cyclopean walls—as if intimating the work of a race of giants, while the true exposition of the name is to be found in the fact of their having been constructed by a caste of miners, otherwise called arimaspi, whose lamp, which perhaps they had fastened to their foreheads, may be considered as their only eye—were actually the creation of those ancient Pelasgi, and, as will shortly appear, should properly be called Irish.[92] Mycenæ, Argos, and Tiryns, in Greece, as well as Etruria and other places in Italy, the early residences of this lettered tribe, abound in relics of this ancient masonry. In all respects, in all points, and in all particulars it corresponds with that of those above-mentioned low, stone-roofed, fire-receptacles, so common in this island; which must satisfactorily and for ever do away with the doubt as to why such features of similarity should be observed to exist between our antiquities and those of ancient Greece and Rome; not less perceptible in the circumstance of those edificial remains than in the collateral evidences of language and manners.

The sacred fire, once observed with such religious awe by every class, and in every quarter of this island, was imported from Greece into Italy by the same people who had introduced it here. Let me not be supposed to insinuate that the people of the latter country, modernly considered, adopted the usage from those of the former country, moderns also; no, there was no intercourse between these parties for many years after the foundation of the western capital.[Pg 87] Indeed it was not until the time of Pyrrhus that they knew anything of their respective existences, whereas we find that the vestal fire was instituted by Numa, A.U.C. 41. What I meant therefore to say was, that the same early people, viz. the Pelasgi, who had introduced it into Greece, had, upon their expulsion from Thessaly by the Hellenes, betaken themselves to Latium, afterwards so called, and there disseminated their doctrines not less prosperously than their dominion.

Numa was in his day profoundly skilled in all the mysteries of those religious philosophers; and his proffered elevation to the Roman throne was but the merited recompense of his venerable character. His whole reign was accordingly one continued scene of devotion and piety, in which pre-eminently outshone his regard to Vesta,[93] in whose sanctuary was preserved the Palladium, “the fated pledge of Roman authority,” and which too, by the way, ever connected as we see it was with the worship of fire, would seem to make the belief respecting it also to be of Oriental origin. This eastern extraction additionally accounts for that dexterous State contrivance of client and patron established in the early ages of the Roman government, corresponding to our ancient clanship—both evidently borrowed from the same Indian castes.

I now address myself to another obstacle which has been advanced by an Irish lady, and of the most deserved antiquarian repute, whose classic and elaborate treatise on this identical subject, though somewhat differently moulded, has already won her the applause of that society whose discriminating verdict I now[Pg 88] respectfully await. But as my object is truth, divested as much as possible of worldly considerations, and unshackled by systems or literary codes, I conceive that object will be more effectually attained by setting inquiry on foot, than by tamely acquiescing in dubious asservations or abiding by verbal ambiguities.

What elicited this sentiment was Miss Beaufort’s remark on the enactment at Tara, A.D. 79, for the erection of a palace in each of the four proportions subtracted by order of Tuathal Teachmar, from each of the four provinces to form the present county of Meath. Her words are as follow:—“Taking the landing of Julius Cæsar in Britain, in the year 55 before Christ, as a fixed point of time, and counting back fifty years from that, we shall be brought to about one hundred years before the Christian era, at which time the introduction of the improvements and innovations of Zoroaster, and that also of fire towers, may, without straining probability, be supposed to have fully taken place. That it was not much earlier may be inferred from the before-mentioned ordinance of the year 79 A.D., to increase the number of towers in the different provinces.”

With great submission I conceive that the error here incurred originated on the lady’s part, from mistaking as authority the comment in the Statistical Survey, vol. iii. p. 320, which runs thus:—“It is quite evident from sundry authentic records, that these round towers were appropriated to the preservation of the Baal-thinne, or sacred fire of Baal: first at the solemn convention at Tara, in the year of Christ 79, in the reign of Tuathal Teachmar, it was enacted, that on the 31st of October annually, the sacred fire[Pg 89] should be publicly exhibited from the stately tower of Tlactga, in Munster, from whence all the other repositories of the Baal-thinne were to be rekindled, in case they were by any accident allowed to go out. It was also enacted, that a particular tower should be erected for that purpose in each of the other four provinces, Meath being then a distinct province. For this purpose the tax called Scraball, of threepence per head on all adults, was imposed.”

Well, for this is quoted Psalter of Tara, by Comerford, p. 51; on referring to which I find the text as thus: “He (Tuathal) also erected a stately palace in each of these proportions, viz. in that of Munster, the palace of Tlactga, where the fire of Tlactga was ordained to be kindled on the 31st of October, to summon the priests and augurs to consume the sacrifices offered to their gods; and it was also ordained that no other fire should be kindled in the kingdom that night, so that the fire to be used in the country was to be derived from this fire; for which privilege the people were to pay a scraball, which amounts to threepence every year, as an acknowledgment to the King of Munster. The second palace was in that of Connaught, where the inhabitants assembled once a year, upon the 1st of May, to offer sacrifices to the principal deity of the island under the name of Beul, which was called the Convocation of Usneagh; and on account of this meeting the King of Connaught had from every lord of a manor, or chieftain of lands, a horse and arms. The third was at Tailtean, in the portion of Ulster, where the inhabitants of the kingdom brought their children when of age, and treated with one another about their marriage. From this custom the King of Ulster[Pg 90] demanded an ounce of silver from every couple married here. The fourth was the palace of Teamor or Tara, which originally belonged to the province of Leinster, and where the States of the kingdom met in a parliamentary way.”

I now leave the reader to decide whether the word “palace” can be well used to represent an “ecclesiastical tower,” or indeed any tower at all; or whether it is not rather a royal residence for the several provincial princes, that is meant to be conveyed; as is evident to the most superficial, from the closing allusion to the palace of Tara, “where the States of the kingdom met in a parliamentary way.” The impost of the scraball, I must not omit to observe, has been equally misstated in the survey; for it was not for the purpose of erecting any structures, but as an acknowledgment of homage and a medium of revenue that it was enforced, as will appear most clearly on reverting to the original, and comparing it with the other means of revenue, which the other provincial kings were entitled to exact. But what gives the complete overthrow to the doctrine which would identify those palaces with columnar edifices, is the fact that there are no vestiges to be found of Round Towers in any, certainly not in all of those four localities specially notified. Wells and Donaghmore are the only Round Towers now in the county Meath, and these are not included among the places above designated.



[Pg 91]


To wind up the matter, steadily and unequivocally I do deny that the Round Towers of Ireland were fire receptacles. I go further, and deny that any of those eastern round edifices which travellers speak of, were ever intended for fire receptacles: that they were all pagan structures—and temples too—consecrated to the most solemn and engrossing objects of human pursuit, however erroneously that pursuit may have been directed, I unhesitatingly affirm. What then, I shall be asked, was their design? To this I beg leave to offer a circumlocutory answer. Squeamishness may be shocked, and invidiousness receive a pretext, but, the spirit being pure, the well-regulated mind will always say, “Cur nescire, pudens pravé, quam discere malo?”[94]

Then be it known that the Round Towers of Ireland were temples constructed by the early Indian colonists of the country, in honour of that fructifying principle of nature, emanating, as was supposed, from the sun, under the denomination of Sol, Phœbus, Apollo, Abad or Budh, etc. etc.; and from the moon, under the epithet of Luna, Diana, Juno, Astarte, Venus, Babia or Butsee, etc. etc. Astronomy was inseparably interwoven with this planetary religion; while the religion itself was characterised by enforcing almost as strict a regard to the body after[Pg 92] death, as the body was expected to pay to a Supreme Essence before its mortal dissolution. Under this double sense then of funereal or posthumous regard, as well as active and living devotion, must I be understood to have used the expression, when previously declaring that our Sabian rotundities were erected with the twofold view of religious culture and the practice of that science with which it was so amalgamated.

To be explicit, I must recall to the reader’s mind the destination which the Brahmins assigned to the Egyptian pyramids, on hearing Wilford’s description of them—viz. that they were places appropriated to the worship of Padma-devi.[95] Before I proceed, however, I must state that I do not intend to make this the basis of what I shall designate my disclosures. It would be very foolish of me, if hoping to dislodge a world of long-established prejudice, to use, as my lever, a ray shot transversely from a volume which has been tarnished by forgery. I need no such aid, as the sequel will show; and yet were it requisite, no objection would be valid, as the “Pundit” could have had no motive, either of interest or of vanity, such as influenced his transcriptions, here to mislead his victim. It was the mere utterance of a casual opinion, without reference to any deduction. Besides it was not the statement of the knave at all, but that of a number of religious men of letters, who all agreed in the ascription above laid down. They spoke, no doubt, from some traditionary acquaintance with the use of those tall round buildings which so much baffle antiquarians, not more in Ireland than they do in Hindostan: but the explanation of this[Pg 93] their answer will be a happy inlet—and as such only do I mean to employ it—to the illustration of what we have been so long labouring at.

The word Padma-devi[96] means “the deity of desire,” as instrumental in that principle of universal generativeness diffused throughout all nature. Do I mean that gross suggestion of carnal concupiscence?—that mere propensity of animal appetite which is common to man with the brute creation? No; it became redeemed, if not justified, by the religious complexion with which it was intertwined, derived, mayhap, originally from that paradisiacal precept which said, “increase and multiply”; while the strain of metaphor under which it was couched, and the spiritual tendency by which the ceremony was inculcated, prevented offence even to the most refined taste, the most susceptible fancy, or the most delicate sensibility.

The love of offspring has ever been a powerful ingredient in man’s composition. The fair portion of the human species, as every age and experience can prove, have shown themselves not more exempt from the control of the same emotions or the influence of the same impulses. It was so wisely instituted by the great Regulator of all things, nor is the abuse of the principle any argument against its general utility or sanctified intent. Search the records of all early States, and you will find the legislator and the priest, instead of opposing a principle so universally dominant, used their influence, on the contrary, to bring it more into play, and make its exercise subservient to the increase of our species; the law lent its aid to enforce the theme as national, and religion sanctified it as a moral obligation.

[Pg 94]In India this fervor was particularly encouraged: for “as the Hindoos depend on their children for performing those ceremonies to their names, which they believe tend to mitigate punishment in a future state, they consider the being deprived of them as a severe misfortune and the sign of an offended God.”[97] They accordingly had recourse to all the stratagems which ingenuity could devise to recommend this passion to the inner senses, and dignify its nature by the studied imagery of metaphor and grace. In conformity with this sentiment we are favoured by Sir William Jones with the copy of a hymn, which they were in the habit of addressing to the above-mentioned “Padma-devi,” or “Mollium mater sæva cupidinum,” which he thus prefaces with her figurative descent:—

It is Camadeva, that is, the god of desire, the opposite sex he speaks of, but the principle is the same.

“Peor, his other name, when he enticed
Israel in Sittim, on their march from Nile,
To do him wanton rites, which cost them sore.”[98]

“According to the Hindu mythology, he was the son of Maya, or the general attracting power;[99] that he was married to Ritty, or Affection; and that his[Pg 95] bosom friend is Vassant, or the Spring: that he is represented as a beautiful youth, sometimes conversing with his mother, or consort, in the midst of his gardens and temples; sometimes riding by moonlight on a parrot, and attended by dancing girls, or nymphs, the foremost of whom bears his colours, which are a fish on a red ground: that his favourite place of resort is a large tract of country round Agra, and principally the plain of Mathra, where Kreshen also, and the nine Gopia usually spend the night with music and dance: that his bow is of sugar-cane or flowers, the sting of bees, and his five arrows are each painted with an Indian blossom of an healing quality.” Tedious and diffuse as has been the dissertation already, I cannot resist the inclination of transcribing the hymn also.

“What potent god, from Agra’s orient bowers,
Floats through the lucid air; whilst living flowers,
With sunny twine, the vocal arbours wreathe,
And gales enamoured heavenly fragrance breathe?

Hail, Power unknown! for at thy beck
Vales and groves their bosoms deck,
And every laughing blossom dresses,
With gems of dew, his musky tresses.
I feel, I feel thy genial flame divine,
And hallow thee, and kiss thy shrine.

Knowest thou not me?—
Yes, son of Maya, yes, I know
Thy bloomy shafts and cany bow,
Thy scaly standard, thy mysterious arms,
And all thy pains and all thy charms.

Almighty Cama! or doth Smara bright,
Or proud Aranga, give thee more delight?
Whate’er thy seat, whate’er thy name,
Seas, earth, and air, thy reign proclaim;
All to thee their tribute bring,
And hail thee universal king.
[Pg 96]
Thy consort mild, Affection, ever true,
Graces thy side, her vest of glowing hue,
And in her train twelve blooming maids advance,
Touch golden strings and knit the mirthful dance.
Thy dreadful implements they bear,
And wave them in the scented air,
Each with pearls her neck adorning,
Brighter than the tears of morning.
Thy crimson ensign which before them flies,
Decks with new stars the sapphire skies.

God of the flowery shafts and flowery bow,
Delight of all above and all below!
Thy loved companion, constant from his birth
In heaven clep’d Vassant, and gay Spring on earth,
Weaves thy green robe, and flaunting bowers,
And from the clouds draws balmy showers,
He with fresh arrows fills thy quiver,
(Sweet the gift, and sweet the giver,)
And bids the various warbling throng
Burst the pent blossoms with their song.

He bends the luscious cane, and twists the string,
With bees how sweet! but ah, how keen their sting!
He with fine flowrets tips thy ruthless darts,
Which through five senses pierce enraptured hearts.
Strong Champa, rich in od’rous gold,
Warm Amer, nursed in heavenly mould,
Dry Nagkezer, in silver smiling,
Hot Kiticum, our sense beguiling,
And last, to kindle fierce the scorching flame,
Loveshaft, which gods bright Bela name.

Can men resist thy power, when Krishen yields,
Krishen, who still in Mathra’s holy fields,
Tunes harps immortal, and to strains divine,
Dances by moonlight with the Gopia nine?

Oh! thou for ages born, yet ever young,
For ages may thy Bramin’s lay be sung;
And when thy Lory spreads his emerald wings,
To waft thee high above the tower of kings,
Whilst o’er thy throne the moon’s pale light
Pours her soft radiance through the night,
And to each floating cloud discovers
The haunts of blest or joyless lovers,
Thy milder influence to thy bard impart,
To warm, but not consume his heart.”

[Pg 97]Amongst the fables that are told to account for the origin of this amorous devotion, Sir William tells us, is the following, viz.:—

“Certain devotees in a remote time had acquired great renown and respect; but the purity of the art was wanting; nor did their motives and secret thoughts correspond with their professions and exterior conduct. They affected poverty, but were attached to the things of this world, and the princes and nobles were constantly sending them offerings. They seemed to sequester themselves from the world; they lived retired from the towns; but their dwellings were commodious, and their women numerous and handsome. But nothing can be hid from the gods, and Sheevah resolved to expose them to shame. He desired Prakeety[100] to accompany him; and assumed the appearance of a Pandaram of a graceful form. Prakeety appeared as herself a damsel of matchless beauty. She went where the devotees were assembled with their disciples, waiting the rising sun to perform their ablutions[101] and religious ceremonies. As she advanced the refreshing breeze moved her flowing robe, showing the exquisite shape which it seemed intended to conceal. With eyes cast down, though sometimes opening with a timid but a tender look, she approached them, and with a low enchanting voice desired to be admitted to the sacrifice. The devotees gazed on her with astonishment. The sun appeared, but the purifications were forgotten; the things of the Poojah[102] lay neglected; nor[Pg 98] was any worship thought of but that to her. Quitting the gravity of their manners, they gathered round her as flies round the lamp at night, attracted by its splendour, but consumed by its flame. They asked from whence she came; whither she was going? ‘Be not offended with us for approaching thee; forgive us for our importunities. But thou art incapable of anger, thou who art made to convey bliss; to thee, who mayest kill by indifference, indignation and resentment are unknown. But whoever thou mayest be, whatever motive or accident may have brought thee amongst us, admit us into the number of thy slaves; let us at least have the comfort to behold thee.’

“Here the words faltered on the lip; the soul seemed ready to take its flight; the vow was forgotten, and the policy of years destroyed.

“Whilst the devotees were lost in their passions, and absent from their homes, Sheevah entered their village with a musical instrument in his hand, playing and singing like some of those who solicit charity. At the sound of his voice the women immediately quitted their occupations; they ran to see from whom it came. He was beautiful as Krishen on the plains of Matra.[103] Some dropped their jewels without turning to look for them; others let fall their garments without perceiving that they discovered those abodes of pleasure which jealousy as well as decency has ordered to be concealed. All pressed forward with their offerings; all wished to speak; all wished to be taken notice of; and bringing flowers and scattering them before him, said, ‘Askest thou alms![Pg 99] thou who art made to govern hearts! Thou whose countenance is fresh as the morning! whose voice is the voice of pleasure; and thy breath like that of Vassant[104] in the opening rose! Stay with us and we will serve thee; nor will we trouble thy repose, but only be jealous how to please thee.’

“The Pandaram continued to play, and sung the loves of Kama,[105] of Krishen, and the Gopia, and smiling the gentle smiles of fond desire, he led them to a neighbouring grove that was consecrated to pleasure and retirement. Sour began to gild the western mountains, nor were they offended at the retiring day.

“But the desire of repose succeeds the waste of pleasure. Sleep closed the eyes and lulled the senses. In the morning the Pandaram was gone. When they awoke they looked round with astonishment, and again cast their eyes on the ground. Some directed their looks to those who had been formerly remarked for their scrupulous manners, but their faces were covered with their veils. After sitting a while in silence, they arose, and went back to their houses with slow and troubled steps. The devotees returned about the same time from their wanderings after Prakeety. The days that followed were days of embarrassment and shame. If the women had failed in their modesty, the devotees had broken their vows. They were vexed at their weakness; they were sorry for what they had done; yet the tender sigh sometimes broke forth, and the eye often turned to where the men first saw the maid, the women the Pandaram.

“But the people began to perceive that what the[Pg 100] devotees foretold came not to pass. Their disciples in consequence neglected to attend them, and the offerings from the princes and the nobles became less frequent than before. They then performed various penances; they sought for secret places among the woods unfrequented by man; and having at last shut their eyes from the things of this world, retired within themselves in deep meditation, that Sheevah was the author of their misfortunes. Their understanding being imperfect, instead of bowing the head with humility they were inflamed with anger; instead of contrition for their hypocrisy, they sought for vengeance. They performed new sacrifices and incantations, which were only allowed to have effect in the end to show the extreme folly of man in not submitting to the will of Heaven.

“Their incantations produced a tiger, whose mouth was like a cavern, and his voice like thunder among the mountains. They sent him against Sheevah, who, with Prakeety, was amusing himself in the vale. He smiled at their weakness, and killing the tiger at one blow with his club, he covered himself with his skin. Seeing themselves frustrated in this attempt, the devotees had recourse to another, and sent serpents against him of the most deadly kind; but on approaching him they became harmless, and he twisted them round his neck. They then sent their curses and imprecations against him, but they all recoiled upon themselves. Not yet disheartened by all these disappointments, they collected all their prayers, their penances, their charities, and other good works, the most acceptable of all sacrifices; and demanding in return only vengeance against Sheevah, they sent a consuming fire to destroy his genital parts. Sheevah, [Pg 101]incensed at this attempt, turned the fire with indignation against the human race; and mankind would have been soon destroyed, had not Vishnou, alarmed at the danger, implored him to suspend his wrath. At his entreaties Sheevah relented. But it was ordained that in his temples those parts should be worshipped which the false devotees had impiously attempted to destroy.”[106]




But what was the form under which this deity was recognised? “Look on this picture and on that;” and the answer presents itself.[107] The eastern votaries, suiting the action to the idea, and that their vivid imagination might be still more enlivened by the very form of the temple in which they addressed their vows, actually constructed its architecture after the model of the membrum virile, which, obscenity apart, is the divinely-formed and indispensable medium selected by God Himself for human propagation and sexual prolificacy.

This was the Phallus, of which we read in Lucian,[108] as existing in Syria of such extraordinary height, and which, not less than the Egyptian Pyramids, has heretofore puzzled antiquaries,—little dreaming that it was the counterpart of our Round Towers, and that both were the prototypes of the two “Pillars” which Hiram wrought before the temple of Solomon.

Astarte was the divinity with whose worship it was thus associated, and by that being understood[Pg 102] the moon,[109] it was natural to suppose that the study of the stars would essentially enter into the ceremonial of her worship. Another name by which this divinity was recognised, was Rimmon, which, signifying as it does pomegranate, was a very happy emblem of fecundity, as apples are known to be the most prolific species of fruit.

Lingam is the name by which the Indians designated this idol.[110] Those who dedicate themselves to his service, swear to observe inviolable chastity. “They do not, however,” says Craufurd, “like the priests of Atys, deprive themselves of the means of breaking their vows; but were it discovered that they had in any way departed from them, the punishment is death. They go naked; but being considered as sanctified persons, the women approach them without scruple, nor is it thought that their modesty should be offended by it. Husbands whose wives are barren solicit them to come to their houses, or send their wives to worship Lingam at the temples; and it is supposed that the ceremonies on this occasion, if performed with the proper zeal, are usually productive of the desired effect.”[111]

[Pg 103]Such was the origin and design of the most ancient Indian pagodas, which had no earthly connection with fire or fire-worshippers, as generally imagined. And that such, also, was the use and origin of the Irish pagodas is manifest from the name by which they are critically and accurately designated, viz. Budh, which, in the Irish language, signifies not only the Sun, as the source of generative vegetation, but also as the male organ of procreative generativeness, consecrated, according to their foolish ideas, to Baal-Phearagh or Deus-coitionis, by and by to be elucidated. This thoroughly explains the word “Cathoir-ghall,” or “temple of delight,” already mentioned as appropriated to one of those edifices, and is still further confirmed by the name of “Teaumpal na greine,” or “temple of the sun,” by which another of them is called; while the ornament that has been known to exist on the top of many of them represents the crescent of Sheevah, the matrimonial deity of the Indians, agreeably to what the Heetopades states, viz. “may he on whose diadem is a crescent cause prosperity to the people of the earth.”

But you will say that my designating these structures by the name of Budh is a gratuitous assumption, for which I have no authority other than what imagination may afford me; and that, therefore, however striking may be appearances, you will withhold your conviction until you hear my proofs. Sir, I advance nothing that I cannot support by arguments, and[Pg 104] should not value your adherence were it not earned by truth. This is too important an investigation to allow fancy any share therein. It is not the mere settlement of an antiquarian dispute of individual interest or isolated locality that is involved in its adjustment,—no, its bearings are as comprehensive as its interest should be universal; the opinions of mankind to a greater extent than you suppose will be affected by its determination; and I should despise myself if, by any silly effort of ingenuity, I should attempt to lead your reason captive, or pander to your credulity, rather than storm your judgment.

This being premised, I shall not condescend, here or elsewhere, to apologise for the freedom with which I shall express myself in the prosecution of my ideas. The spirit that breathes over the face of the work will protect me from the venom of ungenerous imputation. Freedom is indispensable to the just development of the subject. Nor do I dread any bad results can accrue from such a course, knowing that it is the vicious alone who can extract poison from my page,—and they could do it as well in a museum or picture gallery,—while the virtuous will peruse it in the purity of their own conceptions, and if they rise not improved, they will, at least, not deteriorated.

My authority for assigning to the Round Towers the above designation is nothing less than those annals before adduced.[112] Where is it there? you reply. I rejoin in Fidh-Nemphed; which, as it has heretofore puzzled all the world to develop, I shall unfold to the reader with an almost miraculous result. Fidh, then—as the Ulster Annals, or Fiadh, as those of the Four Masters spell it—is the plural of Budh,[Pg 105] i.e. Lingam; the initial F of the former being only the aspirate of the initial B of the latter, and commutable with it[113]; and Nemphed is an adjective, signifying divine or consecrated, from Nemph, the heavens: so that Fidh-Nemphed taken together will import the Consecrated Lingams, or the Budhist Consecrations.

Celestial INDEXES, cries O’Connor; following which term—but with a very different acceptation—the reader must be aware how that, in the early part of our journey, I ascribed to this enigma an astronomical exposition; but herein I was supported not only by expediency but by verity, having, all along, not only connected Solar worship, and its concomitant survey of the stars—which is Sabianism—with Phallic worship,—beginning with the former in order to prepare the way for the latter,—but shall proceed in detail until I establish their identity.

The Egyptian history, then, of the origin of this deification is what will put this question beyond the possibility of denial, viz. that “Isis having recovered the mangled pieces of her husband’s body, the genitals excepted, which the murderers had thrown into the sea, resolving to render him all the honour which his humanity had merited, got made as many waxen statues as there were mangled pieces of his body. Each statue contained a piece of the flesh of the dead monarch. And Isis, after she had summoned in her presence, one by one, the priests of all the different deities in her dominions, gave them each a statue,[Pg 106] intimating that, in so doing, she had preferred them to all the other communities of Egypt; and she bound them by a solemn oath that they would keep secret that mark of her favour, and endeavour to prove their sense of it by establishing a form of worship, and paying divine honours to their prince. But that part of the body of Osiris which had not been discovered, was treated with more particular attention by Isis, and she ordered that it should receive honours more solemn, and at the same time more mysterious, than the other members.”[114]

Now as Isis[115] and Osiris—two deities, by the way, which comprehended all nature and all the gods of the ancients—only personated the Sun and Moon, the sources of nutrition and vegetative heat, it is very easy to remove the veil of this affectionate mythology, and see that it means nothing more than the mutual dependence and attraction of the sexes upon, and to, each other; while the fact of the Egyptian “Osiris,”[116] which in their language signifies the Sun, and the Irish “Budh,” which in our language signifies the same planet, being both represented by the same emblematic sign;[117] and the name of that sign in both languages signifying as well sign as thing signified, gives a stamp to my proof which I defy ingenuity to overthrow.



[Pg 107]


What is it, then, that we see here elucidated? Just conceive. For the last three thousand years and more, the learning of the world has been employed to ascertain the origin of the doctrine of Budhism. The savants of France, the indefatigable inquirers of Germany, the affected pedants of Greece and Rome, and the pure and profound philosophers of ancient India and Egypt, have severally and ineffectually puzzled themselves to dive into the secrets of that mystic religion.[118]

“The conflicting opinions,” says Coleman, “which have prevailed among the most intelligent Oriental writers, respecting the origin and antiquity of this and the Jaina sects, and the little historical light that has yet been afforded to disperse the darkness that ages have spread over them, leave us, at the end of many learned disquisitions, involved in almost as many doubts as when we commenced upon them.”

“There was, then,” adds Gentil, “in those parts of India, and principally on the coast of Choromandel and Ceylon, a sort of worship the precepts of which we are quite unacquainted with. The god Baouth, of whom[Pg 108] at present they know no more in India than the name, was the object of this worship; but it is now totally abolished, except that there may possibly yet be found some families of Indians who have remained faithful to Baouth, and do not acknowledge the religion of the Brahmins, and who are on that account separated from and despised by the other castes.... I made various inquiries concerning this singular figure, and the Zamulians one and all assured me that this was the god Baouth, who was now no longer regarded, for that his worship and his festivals had been abolished ever since the Brahmins had made themselves masters of the people’s faith.”

“The worship of Budha,” says Heeren, “concerning the rise and progress of which we at present know so little, still flourishes in Ceylon.” Again, “All that we know with certainty of Budha is, that he was the founder of a sect which must formerly have prevailed over a considerable part of India, but whose tenets and forms of worship were in direct opposition to those of the Brahmins, and engendered a deadly hate between the two parties, which terminated in the expulsion of the Budhists from the country.”[119]

[Pg 109]“The real time,” say the Asiat. Res. viii. p. 505, “at which Budha propagated the doctrines ascribed to him, is a desideratum which the learned knowledge and indefatigable research of Sir W. Jones have still left to be satisfactorily ascertained.”

“If the Budhaic religion,” says the Westminster Review of January 1830, “really arrived at predominance in India, its rise in the first place, and more especially its extirpation, are not merely events of stupendous magnitude, but of impenetrable mystery.”

It will soon appear, that however impenetrable heretofore, it is so no longer. Indeed, a great deal of the principle of their faith has been at all times understood, but under different associations. It was that which Job alluded to when he said, “If I gazed upon Orus (the sun) when he was shining, or upon Järêcha (the moon) when rising in her glory; and my heart went secretly after them, and my hand kissed my mouth (in worship), I should have denied the God that is above.”

So far all have arrived at the discovery of this creed, and accordingly, if you look into any encyclopedia or depository of science for a definition of the word “Budhism,” you will be told that “it is the doctrine of solar worship as taught by Budha.” There never was such a person as Budha—I mean at the outset of the religion, when it first shot into life, and that was almost as early as the creation of man. In later times, however, several enthusiasts assumed the name, and personified in themselves the faith they[Pg 110] represented. But the origin of the religion was an abstract thought, which while Creuzer allows, yet he must acknowledge his ignorance of what that thought was.

The sun and moon were the great objects of religious veneration to fallen man in the ancient world. Each country assumed a suitable form to their propensities and peculiarities; but all agreed in centering the essence of their zeal upon those resplendent orbs to whom they were indebted for so many common benefits. Those mysteries of faith to which the “initiated” alone had access, and which were disguised in the habiliments of symbols and of veils, were neither more nor less than representative forms of generation and production. These were the theme which made the canopy of the firmament to ring with their songs; and these the spring which gave vigour and elasticity to those graceful displays which, under the name of dances, typified the circular and semicircular rotations of those bright objects of their regard.[120]

The Eleusinian[121] rites themselves were essentially of this kind; for though the benefits of agriculture were said to be chiefly there commemorated, this after all resolves itself into the above: for as the process of the earth’s bearing is similar to that of our own species, and indeed of all creatures that rest[Pg 111] upon her,—no seed bringing forth fruit until, as the apostle has affirmed,[122] it first dies,—the representation of this miracle of nature’s vicissitudes led the mind to the contemplation of general fecundity. And hence the culture of the ground, and the propagation of human beings, being both viewed in the same light, and sometimes even named by the same epithet, viz. tillage, were inculcated no less as beneficial exercises than as religious ordinances. Did a doubt remain as to the accuracy of this connection between the worship of the ancients and their sexual correspondence, it would be more than removed by attending to the import of the terms by which they mystified those celebrations, and which, with the sanctity attached to the parts themselves, will come consecutively under our review. One of them, however, is too apposite to be omitted here, and that is the term by which they designated a certain ceremony still practised on the coast of Guinea, and which neither the blandishments of artifice nor the terrors of menace could ever prevail upon them to divulge. This ceremony they call Belli-Paaro. The meaning they assign to it is regeneration, or the act of reviving from death to a new state of existence; and when we see that the name itself is but an inflection of the Baal-Peor of the Scriptures, the Baal-Phearagh of our forefathers, and the Copulative deity of the amative universe, it will not be hard to dive into its character, though so shrouded in types.

But the Budhists, not content with this ordinary veneration, or with paying homage in secret to that[Pg 112] symbol of production which all other classes of idolators equally, though privately, worshipped,—I mean the Lingam,—thought they could never carry their zeal sufficiently far, unless they erected it into an idol of more than colossal magnitude—and those idols were the Round Towers. Hence the name Budhism, which I thus define, viz. that species of idolatry which worshipped Budh (i.e. the Lingam), as the emblem of Budh (i.e. the Sun)—Budh signifying, indiscriminately, Sun and Lingam.

Such was the whole substance of this philosophical creed, which was not—as may have been imagined—a ritual of sensuality, but a manual of devotion, as simple in its exercise as it was pious in its intent—a Sabian veneration and a symbolical gratitude. I shall now give a summary of their moral code, couched in the following Pentalogue, as presented by Zaradobeira, chief Rahan at Ava, to a Catholic bishop, who expressed a wish some years ago to be favoured with a brief outline of their tenets; it is this:—

1. Thou shalt not kill any animal—from the meanest insect up to man himself.

2. Thou shalt not steal.

3. Thou shalt not commit adultery.

4. Thou shalt not tell anything false.

5. Thou shalt not drink any intoxicating liquor.

The extension of this first commandment from the crime of homicide to the deprivation of life of any breathing existence, arose from their doctrine of the transmigration of souls, which they believed should continue ever in action, and, after release from one tenement of earthly configuration, enter into some other of a different species and order.

In this incessant alternation—which was to be one of[Pg 113] ascent or of descent, according to the merits of the body, which the spirit had last animated, and which was all considered as a sort of lustral crucible, for the refining of the vital spark against its reunion with the Godhead, whence it had originally derived—it is manifest that such tenderness for the entire animal creation arose from the apprehension of slaying some relation in that disguise.—Or, did we ascribe it to no higher motive than a sympathy with fellow-creatures, which, if not equally responsible, are at all events susceptible of anguish and of pain, this in itself should teach us to suppress all ebullitions of irreverent sarcasm, and, if we yield not our acquiescence, to extend to it at least our commiseration.

“Pain not the ant that drags the grain along the ground,
It has life, and life is sweet and delightful to all to whom it belongs.”[123]

The good works which they were additionally enjoined to perform were classified under the two heads of Dana and Bavana. By “Dana” was meant the giving of alms, and hence the whole fraternity were called Danaans or Almoners.[124] By “Bavana” was understood the thoughtfully pronouncing[Pg 114] those three words, Anuzza, Docha, and Anatta: of which the first implies our liability to vicissitude; the second to misfortune, and the third our inability to exempt ourselves from either.[125]

The exposition of the terms Tuath and de, as prefixes to Danaans, forming with it the compound Tuath-de-danaan, I shall reserve for a more befitting place. Meantime I hasten to redeem my “pledge” as to the elucidation of the import of the name Hibernian.

[Pg 115]In the wide range of literary disquisition there is no one topic which has so engrossed the investigation of studious individuals as the origin of the word Hibernia. The great Bochart, the uncertain Vallancy, the spiteful Macpherson, the pompous O’Flaherty, and the “antiquary of antiquaries,” Camden himself,—with a thousand others unworthy of recognition,—have been all consecutively shipwrecked upon its unapproachable sand-banks. But the most miserable failure of all is that of a namesake of my own, the author of a dictionary upon the language of his country, who, in his mad zeal for an outlandish conceit, foists into his book a term with which our language owns no kindred, and then builds upon that a superstructure which “would make even the angels weep.”

This gentleman would fain make out[126] that, because those islands have been denominated the Cassiterides, or Tin Reservoirs, therefore Eirin, our own one of them, must have been so called as an Iron Store! forgetting that the genius of our vocabulary has never had a term whereby to express that metal at all,—that by which we now designate it, namely, iarun, being only a modern coinage from the English word,—as the general voice of antiquity speaks trumpet-tongued on the point, and the fragments of our Brehon laws give it insuperable confirmation, that iron was the last metal which mankind has turned to profit, or even known to exist, while with us it was an exotic until a very recent period.[127]

[Pg 116]But admitting that Eirin or Erin did signify the Land of Iron, then its Greek formation Ierne must convey the same idea, and so must Hibernia, their Latin inflection; and it would afford me a considerable portion of merriment to behold any champion for this iron-cased knight buckle on his etymological armour, and analyse these two last terms so as to make them indicate the Land of Iron.

Yet pitiable as this appears, for the author of an Irish dictionary, its ingenuity, at all events, must screen it from contempt. But how will the public estimate the brightness of that man’s intellect, who would state that Erin is but a metempsychosis of the word Green? Will it be believed that such is the sober utterance of the author of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire? But lest I should misrepresent, I shall let him speak for himself, viz.: “Ireland, from its luxuriant vegetation, obtained the epithet Green, and has preserved, with a slight alteration, the name Erin.”[128]

So that a country which piques itself on its Irishry, has remained ever without a cognomen, until the English language has been matured; and then, in compliment to her sister, Britain, has borrowed an adjective from her rainbow, which, however, she had not the good manners to preserve pure, but allowed to degenerate so far, that the sagacity of a conjurer could not trace any resemblance between this vitiation and the original epithet which pourtrayed her verdure!

Have we not here the solution of that general disbelief which attaches to proofs deduced from etymology? It is so in all professions, when quacks break into the fold, and usurp the office of the legitimate practitioner.[Pg 117] Etymology, in itself, is an exalted science, and an unerring standard; but the mountebanks that have intermeddled with her holy tools, and disjointed the symmetry of her fair proportions, knowing no more of the foundation of languages than they do of the origin of spirit, have sunk it into a pandemonium of hackling, mangling, and laceration, at which “the satirist,” perhaps, may laugh, but “the philosopher,” who has any regard for the right thinking of society, and the implanting in the tender mind a correct idea of words, at a moment when impressions are so wrought as to be ineffaceable, will feel differently on the subject; and, if he cannot reform, do all that he can to expose it!

How opposite has been the conduct of the learned Abbé MacGeoghegan as to the origin of this abstruse word! After reviewing in his able work[129] the opinions offered by the several persons who wrote before him upon the question, and none of them giving him satisfaction, he freely acknowledges, when unable to supply the deficiency, that “the derivation of this name is unknown.” He was right; but the spell is at last broken.

As a sequel to this avowal, I must be allowed to quote at full length the extract from Avienus,[130] which has been already referred to—

“Ast hinc, duobus in Sacram—sic Insulam
Dixere prisci—solibus cursus rati est;
Hæc inter undas multum cespitem jacit;
Eamque latè gens Hibernorum colit,
Propinqua rursus insula Albionum patet,”—

that is, two days’ sail will take you thence (from the Sorlings) to the Sacred Island; as so denominated by[Pg 118] the men of old. A rich gleby soil distinguishes this favourite of the waters; and the race of the Hibernians cultivate it in its wide extent. Close by, again, is situated the isle of the Albiones.

Without dwelling upon the importance which he attaches to this “Sacred Island,” while he disposes of England in one single line, I ask any person at all conversant with letters, whether it was as a vernacular epithet, or not rather in compliance with his hexameters and the rules of metrical versification, which rendered inconvenient the exhibition of the name itself that the poet paraphrased its meaning, and gave insula sacra as its equivalent?

Is not the country inhabited by the Gauls called Gallia; that occupied by the Britons, Britannia; that possessed by the Indians, India; that peopled by the Germans, Germania; and that tenanted by the Arcadians, Arcadia? Consequently, the land inhabited by the people styled Hibernians must, by universal analogy, be denominated Hibernia. And if this signifies “Sacred Island,” of course “Hibernian” must mean “an inhabitant of the Sacred Island.”

Avienus wrote about the three hundredth year of the Christian era, and cites the authorities whence he derived his information to the following purpose, viz.:—

“Himilco, the Phœnician, has recorded that he has himself traversed the ocean, and with his own eyes and senses verified those facts. From the remote annals of the Phœnicians I copy the same, and present them to you as handed down from antiquity.”

Himilco, be it remarked, flourished six hundred years before the name of Christianity was mentioned in the world; and when his acquaintance with this[Pg 119] isle, and that of his countrymen in general, is thus irrefutably premised, we shall be the more ready to do justice to that observation made by Tacitus, when, in his Life of Agricola, talking of Ireland relatively to England, he affirmed that “her coasts and harbours were better known, through commerce and mercantile negotiation,” than those of the latter country.[131]

Why do I introduce this notice here? To show that it was not to the Latins Avienus was indebted for his insight into that term, which we thus pursue. The Romans knew nothing even of the situation of the place that bore it, until their avarice and their rapacity brought their eagles to Britain; and, after effecting the subjugation of that heroic island, it is no small incentive to our vanity to see their historian constrained to confess that the exhibition of a similar project against the liberties of Ireland was more with a view to overawe, than from any hopes of succeeding;[132] while the ignorance which he evinces in another clause of that very sentence, whence the above extract has been quoted,—placing Ireland midway between Spain and England,—is proof incontrovertible of the position which has been assumed.

But it is to me immaterial whether Avienus was aware or otherwise that “Hibernia” and “Sacred Island” were convertible and synonymous. It is not by his authority that I mean to establish the fact; for even admitting his cognisance of the identity of these two terms, he must yet of necessity be unacquainted with the root whence they both had sprung; and, accordingly, I have only put him here in the [Pg 120]foreground—as has been the plan all through—“to break the ice,” as it were, for the exordium of the promised dénouement.

Iran, then, and Irin, or, as more correctly spelled, Eirean and Eirin, with an e prefixed to each of the other vowels, as well initial as intermediate, is the characteristic denomination which all our ancient manuscripts affix to this country. There is no exception to this admitted rule. From the romance to the annal, the observation holds good; it is an inalienable landmark, and of inviolable unanimity.

Dionysius of Sicily, who wrote about fifty years before the Advent, and who cannot be suspected of much partiality towards our forefathers, calls the land they inhabited by the name of Irin.[133] Nor will the circumstance of his applying to it in another place, the variation Iris, detract from this fact; as it is evident that he only manufactured this latter, having occasion to use a nominative case which he thought that Irin would not well represent, and so, with the lubricity of a Greek, ever sacrificing sense to sound,[134] he gave birth to a conception which strangled the original.[135]

[Pg 121]In the Life of Gildas, an early and eminent English ecclesiastic, we find it called Iren, when the biographer, talking of the proficiency made by his subject in literary pursuits, says that he betook himself to Ireland, which he designates as above, in order to ascertain, by communion with kindred teachers, the very utmost recesses of theology and philosophy.[136]

Ordericus Vitalis, in his Ecclesiastical History,[137] having occasion to mention the Irish, calls them by the name of Irenses, equivalent to Iranians, that is inhabitants of Iran, Iren, or Irin, whichever of them you happen to prefer. And as these are now established as the basis of our general search, I shall address myself without further digression to their syllabic analysis.

To do this the more effectually, and at the same time to comprise within one dissertation what otherwise might encroach upon two, it is to be noticed that the country known in the present day as Persia, and whither our labours will be directed at no distant hour, was by its primitive inhabitants called Iran also, and spelled as ours, with an initial E. The prefixing of this letter, in both instances of its occurrence, whether we regard the Eastern or the Western hemisphere, was neither the result of chance, nor intended as an operative in the import of the term. It was a mere dialectal distinction, appertaining to the court-language of the dynasty of the times, and what is astoundingly miraculous, retains the same appellation, with literal precision, unimpaired, unadulterated, in both countries, up to the moment in which I write.

[Pg 122]Palahvi[138] is the appellation of this courtly dialect in Persia, and Palahver is the epithet assigned to it in Ireland; and such is the softness and mellifluence of its enchanting tones, and its energy also, that to soothe care, to excite sensibility, or to stimulate heroism, it may properly be designated as “the language of the gods.”

Thus we see that Ireland and Persia were both called Iran; that both equally admitted of the change of this name to Eiran; and that the style of this variation was similarly characterised in both. How, then, will the empyrics of etymology recover their confusion: they who would persuade us that Ireland was so denominated from Iar, the West—unless, indeed, they can substitute East for West, and show that Persia was denominated from Iar also.[139] Entangled in this dilemma, the amiable old General Vallancy, without intimating, however, that it was what extorted his remark,—after rigidly maintaining through a series of volumes, that the word had its origin in the above exploded Western Will o’ the Wisp,—exclaims, in a sentiment of unconscious self-conviction, that “nothing more can be said of this derivation than that the name was common to that part of the globe whence they (who imported it) originally came.”[140]

Arrived, then, at length, at the fountain-head of our inquiry, how shall we account for it in “that part of the globe whence we originally came”? I have seen but two efforts to develop the word, as applied to that[Pg 123] quarter: one by Professor Heeren, of the Göttingen University; the other by “a learned priest of the Parsees,” as recorded by Sir John Malcolm, the late lamented author of a history of the place itself. And as the former of these is rather humorous, and as the latter contains in it a small ingredient of truth, it is worth while to parade them in the tail of our inspection.

“Anciently,” says the professor, “they were called by the Orientals themselves by the common term of Iran, and the inhabitants, inasmuch as they possessed fixed habitations and laws, were styled Iranians, in opposition to the Turanians, or wandering hordes of Central Asia.”[141]

I wonder did the German historian take his cue from the conjecture of the Irish lexicographer? It is literally marvellous if he did not; for, by a most unaccountable coincidence, while tracing the foundation of a name, descriptive of two localities at opposite points of this mundane ball, one boldly asserts, and the other more than insinuates, that its root is to be found in one and the same English word!—and this, too, when those countries were blazing in glory, before three words of the English language were broken into train!

A difference, however, breaks out amongst those partners, which seems to sever the prospects of their metallic union. It is, that though each would make iron to be the substratum of their respective hobbies, yet would my namesake have his so called as abounding therein; whereas, the professor, who betrays a respectable insight into geology, and fearing that the womb of Persia could not conceive so hard an ore, wishes us at once to believe that it acquired its[Pg 124] ancient epithet from the fixedness of that metal; and thus would one ex abundantiâ, and the other ex similitudine, have the common name of Iran for Ireland and for Persia be derived from an English word, which was not concocted for many centuries after the decay of those two regions, when the very metal it represented first grew into use![142]

“Moullah Feroze, an excellent Palahvi scholar, tells me,” says Sir John Malcolm, “that Iran is the plural of Eir, and means the country of believers.” And again, when he had occasion to consult his oracle, he states the answer as follows:—

“I gave this inscription[143] to Moullah Feroze, a learned priest of the Parsees, at Bombay, and he assured me that the translation of De Sacy was correct. Feroze explained the word An-Iran to mean unbelievers. Eer, he informed me, was a Pehlivi word, which signified believer; Eeran was its plural: in Pehlivi, the a or an prefixed is a privative, as in Greek or Sanscrit; and consequently, An-Eeran meant unbelievers. The king of Eeran and An-Eeran he [Pg 125]interpreted to mean king of believers and unbelievers; of Persia and other nations. It was, he said, a title like king of the world. This however,” adds Sir John, of himself, “is like all conjectures founded on etymology, very uncertain.”

It was natural enough that Sir John should express himself slightingly as to a mode of proof, the principle of which he must have seen violated in so many instances; and, independently of this, it is an infirmity in human nature to affect disregard for any knowledge which we do not ourselves understand. I do not mean, however, to vindicate Feroze’s interpretation; on the contrary, I purpose to show that it is not only imperfect, but incorrect; yet while doing so, I am bound to acknowledge, that, if he has not hit off the whole truth, he has a part of it; and even this is such a treat, in the wilderness through which we have been groping for some time back, that I welcome it as an oasis, and offer him my thanks thus beforehand.

To prove however, that he is in error, I need but confine myself to the unravelling of his own words. At first he affirms that Eeran is the plural of Eer, and means the country of believers; if so, the singular must mean the country of a believer; but he tells us afterwards, that Eer signifies a believer alone, consequently Eeran must believers alone, without any consideration of the word country. And the same inconsistency, which manifests itself here, applies with equal strictness to An-Eiran also.

Should these papers ever reach the observance of this distinguished foreigner, whom I appreciate even for his approximation to the precincts of the thought, they will, I doubt not, readily disabuse[Pg 126] him of a radical misconception. Eeran is not a plural at all, but a compound word: its constituents being Eer and An,[144] of which the former signifies Sacred and the latter a Territory. So that the united import will be the Sacred Territory; and An-Eeran, of course, is but its negative.

This exposition I gain from the Irish language, which I take to be the primitive Iranian or Persic language. By it I am furthermore enabled to inform the German “professor” that Turan, though now inhabited by “Nomad tribes,” obtained not its name from that circumstance, but from a widely different one. Tur[145] means prolific, whether as regards population or rural produce; and An, as before, a territory—the whole betokening a prolific territory.[146] And he should remember, what he is not at all unconscious of, that eastern denominations are not varied by recent occupants, but continue in uninterrupted succession, from age to age, as imposed at the outset.



[Pg 127]


Thus far have Ireland and Persia kept company together, both equally rejoicing in the common name of Iran. But now, when we descend to particulars, this harmony separates. Ireland being an island surrounded on all sides by water—which Persia is not—it was necessary it should obtain a denomination expressive of this accident; or, at all events, when the alteration was so easily formed as by the change of the final an into inan meaning land, and in island—the transition was so natural as at once to recommend its propriety.

Hence it is that though we occasionally meet with Iran, as applied to this country, yet do we more frequently find Irin as its distinctive term; whereas the latter is never, by any chance, assigned to Persia, the former alone being its universal name. And this is all conformable to the closest logical argumentation, which teaches that every species is contained in its genus, but that no genus is contained in its species; Irin, therefore, which is the specific term, may also be called Iran the generic, while Iran—except as in our instance, where the extension of both is identical—could never be called Irin: and so it happens that Ireland is indifferently called by the names of Iran or Irin, the latter alone marking its insular characteristic; whereas Persia, not being so circumstanced, is mentioned only by the general form of Iran.

[Pg 128]To simplify this reasoning I must repeat that Iran[147] signifies the Sacred Land, and Irin,[148] the Sacred Island; now every island is a land, but every land is not an island: Persia, therefore, which is not an island, could not be called Irin, whereas Ireland, which is, may as well be called one as the other.[149]

Irin, then, is the true, appropriate, characteristic and specific denomination belonging to this island:—and the words Ire, Eri, Ere,[150] and Erin, applied also thereto, are but vicious or dialectal modifications of this grand, original, and ramifying root.

The import of this appellative having spread itself over the globe before Rome was ever known, under that name, as a city, and when Greece was but just beginning to peep into the light, the Pelasgi—who were partly Budhists, allied somewhat to them in religion, and still more akin in birth and endowments—conveyed, in conjunction with the Phœnician merchants, to the early Greek inhabitants;[151] and they, by a very easy process, commuted Irin to Iérne, which is but a translation of the word—ἱερος signifying sacred, and νηος an island.

Of this Greek form, Ierne, there were again various inflections and depraved assimilations, such as Iernis, Iuernia, Ouvernia, Vernia, etc. And from one[152] of those, the Latins, without, perhaps, exactly knowing[Pg 129] what it meant, conjured up Hibernia, but which, however, with soul-stirring triumph, retains uninjured our original root, the initial H being nothing more than the aspirate of the Greek ἱερος, sacred; νηος, island, remaining unaltered; and the letter b only interposed for sound-sake.[153]

So that, whether we consider it as Irin, Ierne, or Hibernia, or under the multiplied variations which diverge, almost interminably, from those three originals, in the several languages which they respectively represent, they will be found, each and all, to resolve themselves into this one, great, incontrovertible position of the “Sacred Island.”

Thus, under heaven, have I been made the humble instrument of redeeming my country from the aspersions of calumniators. I have shown to demonstration the real origin of its sanctified renown. I have traced from the Irish, through all the variations of Greek and Latin capricios, its delineatory name; and have proved, beyond the possibility of rational contradiction, that in all those different changes regard was still held to the original epithet.

Where, then, are the sneers—of “hallucination,”—of “lunacy,”—and of “etymological moonshine?” These are very cheap and convenient terms for gentlemen to adopt, as cloaks to the ignorance of the purport of denominations imposed at a time when every word was a history. In the early ages of the world whimsicality never mingled with the circumstantial[Pg 130] designation of either person or locality. Every name was the sober consequence of deliberate circumspection; and was intended to transmit the memory of events, in the truest colours, as well as in the most comprehensive form, to the latest generation.

Will this be considered the vapouring of conceit? Is it the spouting of self-sufficient inanity? Let the heartless utilitarian, unable to appreciate the motives which first enlisted me in this inquiry, and which still fascinate my zeal, at an age when—did not my love for truth and the rectification of my country’s history rise superior to the mortification of alienated honour—I should have flung from me letters and literature in disgust, and betaken myself, an adventurer for distinction as a soldier,—let such, I say, conceal within himself his despicable worldly-mindedness, and leave me unmolested, if unrewarded, to posterity.

“Come thou, my friend, my genius, come along,
Thou master of the poet and the song,
And while the muse now stoops, or now ascends,
To man’s low passions, or his glorious ends,
Teach me, like thee, in various nature wise,
To fall with dignity—with temper rise;
Formed by thy converse happily to steer
From grave to gay, from lively to severe;
Correct with spirit, eloquent with ease;
Intent to reason, or polite to please.”

The origin of the term “Sacred Island,” being now for ever adjudicated, the reader will at once see that it belonged to an era long anterior to Christianity. In assigning to it this date,[154] I pretend not to be unique; and, as I should not wish to deprive any brow of the[Pg 131] laurels which it has earned—more especially, where an undisputed enjoyment has amounted to prescription—I shall register, in express words, my predecessor’s own exposé, which is, that “the isle must have been so named because of its nurturing no venomous reptile[155]!!! Who will not smile?

No, sir, the imposers of this name were too sensible of its value, and too jealous of its use, to expose it to ambiguity. It pourtrayed the sanctity of the occupying proprietors; and lest there should be any misconception as to the species of worship whence that “sanctity” had emanated, they gave this scene of its exercise three other names, viz. Fuodhla, Fudh Inis, and Inis-na-Bhfiodhbhadh[156]—which at once associate the “worship” with the profession of the worshippers: for f, or ph, being only the aspirate of b, and commutable with it, Fuodhla—which is compounded of Fuodh and ila, this latter signifying land—becomes Buodhla—that is, Budhland.[157] Fudh Inis, by the same rule, is reducible to Budh Inis, of which the latter means island, that is, Budh-island;[158] while Inis-na-Bhfiodhbhadh requires no transposition, being clear and obvious in itself, as the Island of Budhism.

Now, “to make assurance doubly sure,” go to Keating’s History of Ireland, p. 49, and you will there find “the female deities”—an incorrect expression for the deities worshipped by the females—of[Pg 132] the Tuath-de-danaans, to have been Badhha, Macha, and Moriagan.[159] Of these the first needs no exposition; the second I shall reserve for another place, but the third I will here develop. He was the military deity of this “sacred” colony, and a personification of Budh, under the designation of Farragh,[160] i.e. Copulation; and, accordingly, the Scythians, who incorporated with them, after first dethroning them, adopted this term as their exhilarating war-shout, while under the veil of the epithet was really meant the sun, whose aid they invoked to give strength to their loins and vigour to their arms.[161]

And yet this is the name which Spenser would derive from that of Fergus, king of Scotland! Fifteen hundred years and more before Fergus was born, which, by the way, was not until the sixth century of the Christian era, the Irish basked in the sunshine of their resplendent war-god, who, under another and equivalent denomination, viz. Buodh, abbreviated into Boo,[162] and thus with the prefix a, implying to, or under the auspices of—assumed by the different septs as their distinctive watchwords, branched out into the national and spirit-stirring[Pg 133] acclamations of O’Brien a-Boo![163] O’Neil a-Boo! etc. etc.; which the early English settlers, who would fain become Hibernis ipsis Hiberniores, afterwards imitated: such as Butler a-Boo; Shanet-a-Boo; Grasagh a-Boo; Crom a-Boo, etc.; the last having been that adopted by Fitzgerald, Duke of Leinster, and still retained as the motto of his armorial escutcheon.

It is worth while to listen to Spenser’s gratulation, while chuckling himself with the idea of his fancied discovery: “This observation of yours,” he says to himself, “is very good and delightful, far beyond the blind conceits of some, who upon the same word Farragh have made a very blunt conjecture.” Oh patria! Oh mores! how little is known of Ireland! But I am not surprised at foreigners, when the very natives, the descendants of the actors in those glorious scenes, are ignorant of its history!

Take up any document, purporting to give an account of this country, and you will find it to be composed, either of absurd and nauseous exaggerations on the one hand, or of gross and calumnious detractions on the other. But though the wildness of the former cannot fail to generate, in the intellectual amongst all readers, an unfavourable impression; and in those of a different nation, already prejudiced, or mayhap incapable of separating the gold from the baser metal, incredulity and contempt; yet the true Irish searcher, versed in the antiquities, not only of his own dear “father-land,” but of the kindred East, which maintained in the old world a religious and incessant [Pg 134]communication with this “Sacred Isle,” will glean in the distortion of those maniac effusions, the glimmerings of that truth whence they originally emanated—while the injustice of the calumniator’s must, of itself bring dismay, with the whole train of confusion and dishonour, upon the mercenary instruments of those foul abuses, as well as upon the heartless abettors who could have enlisted their vassalage!

Truth, notwithstanding, obliges me to say that the blame should not altogether be laid upon the historians. They did as much as, under the circumstances, could be expected at their hands. Two successive invasions having passed over, and swept away, in the whirlwind of their desolating fury, all those monuments of learning to which the world had bowed just before—one from innate antipathy to the thing itself; the other from apprehension that the contents of those memorials, acting upon the sensibilities of a high-hearted and proud race, should stimulate their ardour to the recovery of their lost rights, and the consequent ejectment of the party who had usurped them[164]—the patriot had little more to guide him in supplying the deficiencies thus created, than the rude imagining of his own brain, or the oral traditions of the village schoolmaster and genealogist.

The rigour, however, of penal observances began, in time, gradually to relax; and the people ventured to confess that they had still in their possession such things as manuscripts, illustrative of their lineage and ancestral elevation. This was the signal to some liberal[Pg 135] individuals to prosecute an inquiry for additional memorials; and the result was, that they rose from the pursuit, if not with a connected aggregate of demonstrational evidence, at least with a conviction on their minds, that those treasured visions of primeval lustre, hereditary and inborn within the breast of every Irishman, and impossible to be eradicated, were not yet, late as was the hour, without something like a basis to rest upon.

I would be unjust did I not furthermore avow, that it was not their enemies alone that waged this ungenerous warfare with the literature of the Irish. St. Patrick himself was the individual who, in pursuance, as he conceived, of his apostolic charge, may be said to have perpetrated the greatest outrage upon our antiquities; having set fire, in a paroxysm of pious zeal, to no less than one hundred and eighty volumes, which he selected from the great mass of the records of the nation, as embodying the tenets of Budhism and Astrology. The rest, relating to the notification of national or personal achievements, he left untouched and secure.

Yet, will it be believed that this was the severest infliction, so far as letters are concerned, which we have sustained, after all? For as the religion of the ancient Irish was intermingled with their history, and as the wide diffusion of their celebrity arose from the eminence of their religious creed, the flames of that conflagration have inflicted a loss upon the antiquarian which fifteen centuries of study have not been able to repair!

Despite, however, the united inroads of suspicion and mistaken piety, the Irish have still materials, ample and authentic, for the completion of a history,[Pg 136] not only of insular, but, if properly handled, of almost universal elucidation:[165] and of this Toland himself was, in some measure, aware, when he said that “notwithstanding the long state of barbarity in which that nation hath lain, and after all the rebellions and wars with which the kingdom has been harassed, they (the Irish) have incomparably more ancient materials of that kind for their history, to which even their mythology is not unserviceable, than either the English, or the French, or any other European nation with whose ancient manuscripts I have any acquaintance.”

But though resources most unquestionable thus notoriously still abounded, yet has it not been the fortune of Ireland, hitherto, to meet with any historian gifted with the widely comprehensive, philosophical[Pg 137] views and suitable education calculated to do her justice; so that, by the untoward hand of fate, and the iniquitous operation of the old political stroke, the knowledge of the character in which those papers are couched has become already so almost extinct, that they lie on the shelves, to all intents and purposes a dead letter.[166]

I now beg leave to introduce this identical war-god, in his military costume and hyperborean philabeg, in which, as before observed, the Scythians never invested themselves; and hope the reader will enjoy a hearty laugh at the expense of those blunderers, who, in their preposterous, I had almost said repentant, devotion to monastic refinements, would rob the Pagans of this long-cherished idol, and convert his godship into a Christian nonentity!

You will find him—name and all corresponding—described fully in the Rites and Ceremonies of all Nations, as similarly officiating and worshipped in the East. “There is,” says the author, “in the province of Matambo, an idol whose priests are sorcerers or magicians; and this image stands upright, directly over against the temple dedicated to his peculiar service, in a basket made in the form of a bee-hive.”[167]

 [Pg 138]


“To this deity in particular they apply themselves for success when they go out a hunting or fishing, and for the relief of all such as are indisposed![168] Miramba[Pg 139] always marches at the head of their armies; and he is presented with the first delicious morsel, and the first glass of wine that is served up at the governor’s or King of Matambo’s table.”

But a living traveller, in a very interesting work just launched from the press, and without expecting therein to become my auxiliary, decides this ascription without further pains. “This village,” says our author (near Rampore, on the Himalaya range), “instanced the care which the sacerdotal orders in the East take for their comfort and good. It was a neat, clean, and substantial place, in all acceptations of the word. These Brahmin villagers pay no rent of any kind to the state: they live on the granted lands, but are obliged to keep the temples in repair, to furnish all the implements, and to take care of the godships within it—these are small brass images, with nether garments in the shape of petticoats. They are carried in procession, on certain occasions, and the ceremonies belonging to them are performed twice a day. Mahadeo is the great god of the mountains.”[169]

But if the advocates of modernism have cause to be annoyed at my depriving them of this specimen of “the Fine Arts in Ireland,” which they thought they had appropriated to the prejudice of truth, how much greater must not be their chagrin at my wrenching from their grasp another “exceedingly curious” and “richly-ornamented” “ecclesiastic?”[170] Ecclesiastic, indeed! Yes; but reverenced and revered, by many a beating heart, as the head of all ecclesiastics, for centuries upon centuries, before the name of monachism, as connected with Christianity, was ever articulated!

 [Pg 140]


[Pg 141]This, Sir, is no less a personage than Mr. Budha himself, or rather the personified abstract, in the possession of one of the last queens of the Tuath-de-danaans, at the moment of the inundation of the Scythian dynasty. I hope that, after so long an obscuration, and the uncourtly treatment he has received during the humiliating interval of revolving centuries, you will—now that he chooses to reveal his proper character, avow his delegation, and acknowledge the supremacy of that power by which his empire had been overthrown—treat him as an Irishman, with generous cordiality, and impute not to him a crime which belonged only to his followers.

But his dress is like a Christian. So much the better, man: we ought to like him the more for that. But to be serious,—although, as my friend Horace formerly told me, “what hinders one laughing from speaking truth?”—all our ecclesiastical ritual, as well of ceremony as of costume, has been borrowed from the Jewish, and that again from the Pagans, with such alterations only as the allwise Jehovah thought necessary to recommend. Besides, we have the authority of Dr. Buchanan for stating that “Samona is a title bestowed on the priests of Godama (Budha), and is likewise applied to the images of the divinity, when represented, as he commonly is, in the priestly habit.”[171]



[Pg 142]


Pharaoh,[172] the titular appellation of the monarchs of Egypt, being but the local modification of this our Irish Phearagh, the mind is instinctively directed towards that great storehouse of bygone consequence. And as the best authority that we can command in gaining any insight into its reverses is through the medium of its own historians, let us hear what Manetho, a priest of the country, thus transmits:—

“We had formerly,” says he, “a king named Timæus, in whose reign, I know not why, but it pleased God to visit us with a blast of His displeasure; when, on a sudden, there came upon this country a large body of obscure people from the East, and with great boldness invaded the land, and took it without opposition. Their behaviour to the natives was very barbarous; for they slaughtered the men, and made slaves of their wives and children. The whole body of this people were called Huksos, or Uksos; that is, Royal Shepherds: for the first syllable, in the sacred[Pg 143] dialect, signifies a ‘king,’ as the latter, in the popular language, signifies ‘a shepherd.’ These two compounded together constitute the word Huksos. These people are said to have been Arabians.”

“The Vedas, or Sanscrit records of Hindustan, furthermore state that these invaders were the “Pali,” or shepherds, a powerful, warlike, and enterprising Indian tribe. While the deadly aversion which existed in the minds of the Egyptians against the name and office of a shepherd in Joseph’s day, is a lasting memorial of their visit and their severity.”[173]

They did not go, however, without leaving behind them other signs. The pages of Herodotus afford ample evidence of the resemblance between the Egyptian customs and those of the more remote East. By his description of the rites and ceremonies, the mode of life, etc., of the priests of Egypt, they are at once identified with the Brahmins of India. China still celebrates that festival of lamps which was formerly universal throughout the extent of Egypt;[174] and “we have the most indubitable authority for stating that the sepoys in the British overland army from India, when they beheld in Egypt the ruins of Dendera, prostrated themselves before the remains of the ancient temples, and offered up adoration to them; declaring, upon being asked the reason of this strange conduct,[Pg 144] that they saw sculptured before them the Gods of their country.”[175]

But the most stupendous and appalling memento of their dominion and science was the three great pyramids of Geeza, the erection of which, Herodotus assures us (bk. ii. sec. 128), though the priests would attribute to Cheops, Cephrenes, and Mycerinus, three Egyptian kings, “yet the people ascribed them to a shepherd named Philitis, who at that time fed his cattle in those places”; so consonant with the invasion above authenticated. This is additionally confirmed by the Sanscrit records already referred to, informing us of three mountains, Rucm-adri, “the Mount of Gold,” Rajat-adri, “the Mount of Silver,” and Retu-adri, “the Mount of Gems”; having been raised by that Indian colony who had conquered Egypt; which is only a figurative denotation of those factitious heights, those astounding monuments of religion and ostentation, which were originally cased with yellow, white, and spotted marbles, brought from the quarries of Arabia, until stripped by the rapacity of succeeding colonies.

Belzoni’s testimony is decisive on this point, as his drawing of the second pyramid represents the upper part of its casing remaining still entire, about a third of the distance from the summit to the base downwards. We meet with other pyramids, it is true, chiefly dispersed about the Libyan deserts, but they are much inferior to the fore-mentioned three, except one near the mummies, whose dimensions and structure are very nearly the same with the largest Gezite[Pg 145] one. This latter, according to Greaves, is 693 feet square at the base; its perpendicular height 499 feet; that is, 62 feet higher than St. Peter’s at Rome, and 155 feet higher than St. Paul’s in London; while the inclining height is 693 feet, exactly equal to the breadth of the base; so that the angles and base make an equilateral triangle.[176] Belzoni measures them all differently, and gives to the second even greater dimensions than are usually assigned to the first or largest, viz. base, 684; perpendicular height, 456; central line down front, from apex to base, 568; coating, from top to where it ends, 140.

The variation arises from the circumstance of the latter gentleman’s measurement having been taken after the base had been cleared away of all sand and rubbish; while those of his predecessors applied only as taken from the level of the surrounding heap. The small ones above noticed are some quadrilateral, some round, terminating like a sugar-loaf, some rising with a greater and some with a lesser inclination. All commence immediately south of Cairo, but on the opposite side of the Nile, and extend, in an uninterrupted range, for many miles in a southerly direction, parallel with the banks of the river.

After what has been said above, I need scarcely allude to the ridiculous supposition of those having been built by Joseph as granaries for his corn! Their form and construction, ill adapted to such an occasion, refutes that absurdity, as it does the derivation upon which it has been founded, viz. the Greek words[Pg 146] πυρος, wheat, and αμαω, I gather; as if, forsooth, an Egyptian structure, erected before the Greek language was ever known to exist, should wait for a designation until Greece should be pleased to christen it. Still more disposed must one be to discard with contempt the usual derivation given them, of πυρ, fire; as this not only labours under the weakness of the former, but betrays an ignorance of the correct idea of the Greek word πυρος, of which πυρ, fire, is the true derivation, “quia flammæ instar in acutum tendit”;[177] intimating its continually tapering until it ends in a point; whereas the top of the Egyptian pyramids never does so end; that of the largest above described ending in a flat of nine stones, besides two wanting at the angles, each side of this platform being about sixteen feet; so that a considerable number of people may stand on it, and have, as from most of ours, one of the most beautiful prospects imaginable.

Wilkins’s derivation from pouro, a king, and misi, a race, would seem plausible enough, being a purely Coptic or Egyptian analysis; but when we consider the general ascription of them by the people to the shepherd Philitis, whether as one of the Pali—that is, shepherds—or Uksi, which meant the same—king-shepherds above adduced; or as emphatically the shepherd, the son of Israel,[178] it argues a disposition on the part of the people to assign the honour—if taken in the latter light—to the workmen employed; if in the former, to a prince of a different dynasty from those whom the Egyptian priests would fain associate with them. This derivation, therefore, will not stand; and we have only to betake ourselves to the ingenious[Pg 147] conjecture of Lacroze,[179] which, perhaps, may give more satisfaction respecting the etymology of the word pyramid. Lacroze derives it from the Sanscrit term Biroumas, and traces an analogy between Brahma, Birma (which the Indians of Malabar pronounce Biroumas), and the word Piromis, which means the same thing, namely, a virtuous and upright character—Piromia meaning, according to him, in the language of Ceylon, man in general.

Herodotus states,[180] that the priests of Egypt kept in a spacious building large images of wood, representing all their preceding high priests, arranged in genealogical order, every high priest placing his image there during his life. They mentioned to Hecatæus, the historian, when they were showing this edifice to him, that each of the images he saw represented a Piromis, begotten by another Piromis, which word, says Herodotus, signifies, in their language, a virtuous and honest man. A passage from Synesius, the celebrated bishop of Cyrene, in his treatise “on Providence,” at once coincides with, and is illustrative of this anecdote. “The father of Osiris and Typhon,” says he, “was at the same time a king, a priest, and a philosopher. The Egyptian histories also rank him among the gods; for the Egyptians are disposed to believe that many divinities reigned in their country in succession before it was governed by men, and before their kings were reckoned in a genealogical order by Peirom after Peirom.”

The Japanese celebrate an annual festival in honour of one Pireun, who, they say, was many ages ago king of Formosa, and who, being disgusted with the[Pg 148] abandoned morals of his subjects—wealthy traders—consigned himself solely to the worship of the gods. Forewarned in a dream, he took flight from the impending visitation, and had scarcely sailed ere the island, with its inhabitants, sunk to the bottom of the sea. As for the good king, he arrived safe in China, whence he went over to Japan, where he has been ever since honoured by the above commemoration.

The true Coptic name for those edifices is Pire monc—which signifies a sunbeam[181]—not so much in allusion to their form as to their appropriation, which we shall make the subject of a separate inquiry.

It has, I trust, satisfactorily been proved that the erection and nomination of those wondrous edifices were not of native growth. It has, I trust, additionally appeared that both were essentially Indian. It may not now be “ungermane to the matter,” if we would for a moment digress, to consider the era of their probable date, as introductory to the character of their probable destination.

Josephus expressly informs us that the Israelites were employed in the construction of the pyramids. Is there any reason why we should doubt so respectable an authority? Oh, yes, it is said the Scriptures are against it—the task of the Israelites during their bondage being exclusively confined to the making of brick. I deny that the Scriptures either allege or insinuate any such thing. On the contrary, we may fairly infer, from Ex. ix. 8, 10, that they were engaged in other servile offices; as also from Ps. lxxxi. 6, where it is said, “I removed his shoulder[Pg 149] from the burden, and his hands were delivered from the mortar-box”—not pots, as our translation has it; and such rendering is supported by the Septuagint, Vulgate, Symmachus, and others.[182]

This ascription receives further countenance from a passage in Diodorus, i. 2, where, referring to those immense piles, and the ideas of the Egyptians themselves respecting them, he adds: “They say the first was erected by Armæus, the second by Amosis, the third by Inaron.” Who is it that pronounces the last two names, if only spelled, aMosis and inAron, and recollects, at the same time, what the Scriptures tell us of Moses and Aaron, that is not at once struck with the similarity of the sound? And as to Armæus, why it bears so evident an affinity with Aramæus or Aramean, that one cannot avoid connecting it with the “Aramite ready to perish,” the very name given to Jacob, Deut. xxvi. 5.[183] Nothing, then, prevents, so far as I can see, our concluding one of those structures at least—I say one at least to conciliate the brick-party; and I think, besides, I have read somewhere, that one of the pyramids, the smaller ones no doubt, was built of such material—to have been the work of the sons of Israel. And the rather as it was consonant with the uniform practice of the ancient Oriental nations to employ captive foreigners on servile and laborious works.

The usual time, too, assigned to the slavery of the Israelites corresponds very nearly with that generally allotted to the erection of those masses. The stay of the sons of Israel in the land of Egypt is generally understood to have been two hundred and fifteen years. Of these Joseph ruled seventy; forty is a fair[Pg 150] average for the generation that succeeded—which, added to his seventy, leaves one hundred and five years to the Exodus. Now we learn from Herodotus that Cheops, the reputed founder of the first or greatest of these pyramids, was the first also of the Egyptian kings who oppressed, or in any way tyrannised over, his subjects. His reign is stated to have been fifty years. Cephrenes, who succeeded, showed himself in every respect his brother, barring, as the other before him, the approach to every temple, stopping the performance of the usual sacrifices, and keeping his subjects all the while employed in every species of oppressive task and laborious drudgery. The period of his reign is stated to have been fifty-six years, which, added to the preceding fifty, make one hundred and six, exactly answering to the above calculation.

The Exodus, besides, is stated to have occurred B.C. 1791; and Herodotus and Diodorus together, while acknowledging their ignorance of the actual date of the pyramids, and the impossibility, on their part, to ascertain it, declare also their conviction that they must have been built at least about that period.

I have thus, I trust, done honourable justice to the testimony of Josephus. I have done so for many reasons—firstly, because of the importance of the subject itself; secondly, from my respect for the merits of the writer; and, thirdly, because that I think it very probable indeed that the Israelites may have been occupied in the erection of some of the minor and later pyramids. But insuperable obstacles stand in the way of our associating them with the structure of them all; and of these one is, the improbability that the victorious invaders would single out the inoffensive Israelites as particular objects of their oppression, when[Pg 151] policy should suggest to them a directly different course in securing their adherence in opposition to the native residents. By Josephus’s account, however, it would appear that the Israelites alone were engaged upon those edifices; and the Scriptures themselves confine the intimation of drudgery to the Israelitish race: it therefore is manifest that the Egyptian natives were favoured by the then existing dynasty, while it is on all hands agreed, that the new-comers had treated during the whole period of their dominion, the entire Egyptian nation with indiscriminate rigour and chastisement.

Besides this, that deadly animosity existing in the Egyptian mind to the name and profession of shepherds, above alluded to, at once identifies their character with that of the “Uksi,” or “King-shepherds,” to whom we have before referred, and proves the date of their invasion anterior in point of time to Israel’s introduction into the land of Egypt. Joseph was well aware of the particulars of this invasion, and of the sting it left behind it in the mind of the Egyptians; and accordingly he acquaints his brothers, whose “trade also had been about cattle,” that “every shepherd was an abomination to the Egyptians.”[184]

Manetho himself, the Egyptian priest, is my voucher for this deduction, when he says that, “After these—the shepherd-kings—came another set of people who were sojourners in Egypt, in the reign of Amenophis. These chose themselves a leader one who was a priest of Heliopolis, and whose name was Osarsiph; and after he had listed himself with this body of men he changed his name to Moses.”

[Pg 152]But this, it will be said, is at variance with Moses’ own account, which states that he obtained his name on being rescued from a watery cradle by Pharaoh’s daughter. Not in the least, I reply; for it is more than probable that, after his slaying the Egyptian, and consequent flight, he dropped his name to ensure concealment, and only resumed it on being invested with his divine commission. Or, what is more likely still, and perhaps the truth, that Osarsiph was the name which his “mother” had given him, and which adhered to him until “he grew up,”—a term in Scripture which expresses mature age,—until when it was not that the princess had designated him as Moses.

Strong, too, as my veneration is for Josephus, I cannot conceal either from myself or from the reader, that his testimony in this instance is rather of a dubious character. The idea of interpolation I altogether waive—it is, at all times, a contemptible subterfuge. I will take for granted that the text is genuine; and, on the very face of it, it bears the impress—in the first place, of inaccuracy, confounding the period of his countrymen’s servitude with that of their actual sojourn in Egypt; and, in the second place, of indistinctness, attaching a term of obloquy to those edifices, without condescending to offer therefor any cause. Here are his own words: “When time had obliterated the benefits of Joseph, and the kingdom of Egypt had passed into another family, they inhumanely treated the Israelites, and wore them down in various labours: for they ordered them to divert the course of the river (Nile) into many ditches, and to build walls, and raise mounds by which to confine the inundations of the river (Nile); and, moreover, vexed our nation in constructing FOOLISH PYRAMIDS,[Pg 153] forced them to learn various arts, and inured them to undergo great labours; and after this manner did they, for four hundred years, endure bondage; the Egyptians doing that to destroy the Israelites by overmuch labour, whilst we ourselves endeavoured to struggle against all our difficulties.”

Now, it is not a little remarkable, as connecting the erection of the pyramids with the “royal shepherd race,” the former occupants of the above fertile territory, that those immense edifices happen to be situated in the very vicinity of Goshen. Geeza, where the three great ones stand, is universally allowed to have been the site whereon Memphis once stood; and as a west wind took away the locusts, and cast them into the Red Sea (Ex. x. 19), Goshen, which we find by Gen. xlv. 10, cannot have been far from Joseph’s own residence, will be more aptly fixed in the vicinity of this spot within the Heliopolitan nome, than within any other nome or præfecture, particularly the Tanitic, “where the same wind,” as has been justly remarked by Dr. Shaw, “would not have blown those insects into the Red Sea, but into the Mediterranean, or else into the land of the Philistines.” Goshen, then, was that part of “the land of Rameses,” “the best of the land” (Gen. xlvii. 6-11) which lay in the neighbourhood of Cairo, but on the opposite side of the Nile, where, as already observed, the pyramids are first met with, and whence they proceed in a continued line along the banks of the river, in a southerly direction for many miles together.

After reading these details it will be impossible, I conceive, for any dispassionate mind to remain longer in suspense as to the origin of the pyramids. The doubt, too, and obscurity in which they have been[Pg 154] heretofore enveloped can be explained with similar ease, if we but remember the execration in which their Cushite founders were held by the Egyptians, and their consequent disinclination to associate their name with such splendid memorials. With this view, indeed, it is not at all improbable but that active legislative measures were adopted to cancel and suppress every vestige of proof which could tend to perpetuate the memory of the obnoxious erectors. So that we must not wonder if, after a lapse of years, their history was as great a riddle to the Egyptians themselves as that of our pyramids is to the Irish nation.

A collateral cause for this universal ignorance of their use and origin was the probable absence of letters on the part of the Egyptians, until now, for the first time, introduced by those learned Arabians; and though any one who is acquainted with the oriental disquisitions of Wilfrid, and the coincidences he establishes between the ancient history of Egypt and the account given of the customs and dynasties of that kingdom, as drawn from the Hindoo Puranas, will at once admit that “there must have been a period when a Hindoo power had reigned in Egypt by right of conquest,” and established therein the peculiar rites of their religion with the elements of literature and social civilisation, yet it is probable that during their sojourn, which, we have seen, was a continued series of warfare, they kept themselves aloof from all intercourse with the natives, and checked, as much as possible, the circulation of their science among them.

Some sparks of it, however, must inevitably have transpired; and the Egyptian intellect was too finely constituted to be insensible to its value, or allow it to extinguish without food; so that, in the time of[Pg 155] Moses, and long after, their learning and accomplishments were courted by the philosophers of the day, and were so eminently conspicuous, as to become a proverb (Acts Apost. vii. 22). Homer, we all know, visited that favoured land—so did Pythagoras—so did Solon, Thales, Plato, and Eudoxus; in short, all the sages of antiquity, of whom we read so much, and whom we peruse with such recuperative pleasure, either finished their education in that favoured school, or conversed with those who had themselves done so.

The Egyptians are said to have been the first who brought the “rules of government,” with the art of making “life easy” and “a people happy”—the true end of worldly politics—to a regular system. But much as they excelled other nations in scientific lore, in nothing was their superiority so conspicuous as in that magic art which enabled them to cope, for so long a time, and under such trying varieties, even with the prophet and ambassador of God himself.

These exhibitions are too stubbornly authenticated by scriptural proofs, as well in the Old as in the New Testament,[185] for any one to affect disbelief in them without at the same time disbelieving the authenticity of the Scriptures themselves. Yes, I implicitly subscribe to the truth of the narration; and as I mean to bring home their initiation in the art, as well as in their other several accomplishments, to the Chaldean diviners, or Aire Coti shepherds—a branch of the Tuath-de-danaan colonists of this our western isle—from whom, or their relatives, under the designation of Uksi, Indo-Scythæ, or Cushite shepherds—who, if not all one and the same, were at least mixed and incorporated—the Egyptians had imbibed it—this, I[Pg 156] trust, will plead my excuse for obtruding its notice here, as well as for dilating so much at large upon the early history of Egypt.[186]



[Pg 157]


I come now, with the same view, to consider the destination of their famous “Pyramids.”[187] In this pursuit the first thing that strikes us is the uniform precision and systematic design apparent in their architecture. They all have their sides accurately adapted to the four cardinal points, as the four apertures near the summit of most of ours indicate a similar regard to fidelity to the compass. In six of them which have been opened, the principal passage preserves the same inclination of 26° to the horizon, being directed towards the polar star. And I doubt not, were the ground within and around all of ours sufficiently explored, there would be found, in some at least, regular vistas to correspond with this description. Their obliquity too being so adjusted as to make the north side coincide with the obliquity of the sun’s rays at the summer’s solstice, has, combined with the former particulars, led some to suppose they[Pg 158] were solely intended for astronomical uses; and certainly, if not altogether true, it bespeaks, at all events, an intimate acquaintance with astronomical rules,[188] as well as a due regard to the principles of geometry.[189]

No one, I believe, has ever questioned the latter fact. Some, induced thereby, have thought them to be erected for the purpose of establishing the exact measure of the cubit; of which they happen to contain both in breadth and height a certain number of multiples. But as they were evidently constructed by persons well versed in all the niceties of exact measurement, and who consequently had no occasion for such colossal reference to refresh their memories, like the Lancasterian apparatus, it is ridiculous to suppose them erected with this view, nor should I have alluded to it but to expose its weakness. Others have fancied them intended for sepulchres; and as[Pg 159] the Egyptians, taught by their ancient Chaldean victors, connected astronomy with their funereal and religious ceremonies, they seem not in this to be far astray, if we but extend the application to their sacred bulls and other animals, and not merely to their kings, as Herodotus would have us suppose.

The immense sarcophagus lying in the interior of the first or Great Pyramid, with the bone found by the Earl of Munster[190] in the second, must put this question beyond the possibility of doubt; as Sir Everard Home, after a laborious examination of the properties of this relic, found it accurately to agree with the lower extremity of the thigh-bone of an ox, while it corresponded with that of no other animal.

In conformity with this conclusion were the discoveries of Belzoni some time before, in Upper Egypt, which abounds in specimens of the most splendid antiquities, in a catacomb amongst which, called “Bîban el Moluk,” that is “the gates of the king”—meaning thereby the universal king of the ancients, the generating principle of vegetation and life, of which Apis and Mnevis, Osiris and Typhon, were but the representatives among the Egyptians, as other nations had adopted equivalent forms and names, according to the genius of their climes and languages—I mean the Sun—well, in one of the numerous chambers of this catacomb, Belzoni discovered an exquisitely beautiful sarcophagus of alabaster, 9 feet 5 inches long, by 3 feet 9 inches wide, and 2 feet 1 inch high, covered within and without with hieroglyphics, and figures in intaglio, nearly in a perfect state, sounding like a bell, and as transparent as glass: from the extraordinary magnificence of which,[Pg 160] he conceives, it must have been the depository of the remains of Apis; in which idea he is the more confirmed by having found the carcass of a bull embalmed with asphaltum, in the innermost chamber.

The passage in Herodotus, to which I before referred, appears to throw some light on the intricate subject which we are now pursuing. In lib. ii. p. 124, etc., “the father of historians” tells us that the two kings, who succeeded each other on the throne of Egypt, after the happy reign of Rhampsinitus and his predecessors, and to whom the building of those pyramids was reputedly ascribed, had shown themselves indeed brothers, not more by affinity of blood than by the similar outlines of their cruelty and intolerance. No species of oppression was by them left unattempted; no extreme of rigour or rapacious plunder by them unenforced: but what peculiarly characterised the hardship of their tyranny was the restraint they put upon the religion and pious exercises of their subjects; closing the portals of the temples where they were wont to adore, and preventing the oblation of their usual sacrifices.

Though Herodotus has been justly honoured with the designation of “Father of Historians,” he has also, perhaps, not so very justly been called “the Father of Errors”; and, as he himself admitted his incapability of obtaining any satisfactory insight into the original of those structures, may we not fairly conclude that, in the extract now cited, he either confounds those princes with the foreign dynasty which we have already established, or else, from the ignorance superinduced to obliterate their memory, mistakes the erection of some of the minor and later ones, which this “par nobile fratrum” may, indeed, have devised, in imitation[Pg 161] of the three “mountains” built by the Uksi. What he states, however, is of value, as it points to a previous form of worship, and a system of government by an alien house. The prohibition of sacrifices and the closing the temple doors make this as clear as words can delineate anything. All we want, then, is to be informed what the particular temples alluded to were: and that they were the pyramids, will, I think, be conceded by everyone who has carefully perused the arguments here set down, and who has not his judgment warped by favourite plans of literary systems and speculative hypotheses.

This conclusion receives additional force from the conversation which Wilford, in his “Dissertation upon Egypt and the Nile,”[191] tells us he had with several learned Brahmins, when, upon describing to them the form and bearings of the great Egyptian pyramid, one of them asked if it had not a communication under ground with the river Cali? Being answered that such communication was spoken of as having once existed, and that a well was still to be seen, they unanimously agreed that it was a temple appropriated to the worship of Padma-devi, and that the supposed tomb was a trough, which, on certain festivals, her priests used to fill with the sacred water and lotos-flowers.

Mr. Davison, British Consul to Algiers, when accompanying Mr. Wortley Montague to Egypt, in 1763, discovered here a chamber, before unnoticed, and descended, to a depth of 155 feet, the three successive reservoirs. The principal oblique passage has, since then, been traced by the very enterprising master of a merchant vessel, Captain Caviglia, 200 feet farther[Pg 162] down than by any former explorer, and found to communicate with the bottom of the well, which is now filled with rubbish. A circulation of air being thus procured, he was emboldened to proceed 28 feet farther, which brought him to a spacious hall, 66 feet by 27 feet, unequal in altitude, and directly under the centre of the pyramid. In no instance yet recorded has any appearance presented itself of human remains within those apartments, nor indeed was there any possibility of conveying such thither, unless placed there before the erection of the pile itself; for the extremities of the gallery, which leads into the great chamber, are so narrow and circumscribed, that it is with difficulty one can effect an entrance into it, even by creeping upon his belly.

The symbolical anatomy prefigured in this contrivance, and which equally exhibits itself in all the temples of the ancients, as well under as over ground, is such as almost to have tempted me to make this the occasion on which I should uncover another secret of their mystic code. But a more concentrated opportunity will occur as we advance, and for which this intimation will answer as a prelude; meanwhile, I would have the reader soberly to bethink himself, what possible use could dead bodies have of wells of water? Is not such the type, as it is also the accompaniment, of life and activity? And does not this, of itself, subvert the absurdity of those temples having been erected as mere mausoleums for kings?

I have already hinted my confident belief that if the ground all, within, and around our pyramids were sufficiently examined, there would not be wanting indications of subterraneous passages. I am the more confirmed in this, my belief, from the appearances that[Pg 163] presented themselves on the demolition of that at Downpatrick, in 1790, “to make room for the rebuilding of that part of the old cathedral next which it stood, and from which it was distant about forty feet. When the tower was thrown down,” continues Dubourdieu, in his Statistical Survey of the county, “and cleared away to the foundation, another foundation was discovered under it, and running directly across the site of the tower, which appeared to be a continuation of the church wall, which, at some period prior to the building of the tower, seemed to have extended considerably beyond it.” With great deference, however, to the authority of so respectable a writer, I hesitate not to proclaim that the second foundation so discovered was not a “continuation of the church wall,” but the remnant of some pagan structure, appertaining to the tower itself—in fact a Vihâr, or college for its priests—or else the vestige of some larger temple, and connected therewith, previously existing on the same locality.

That this announcement is correct will be apparent, from the superiority of masonic skill exhibited in this foundation, as well as in its having been upon a larger scale and ampler dimensions than what the Christian “cathedral” had ever occupied; “in the walls of which,” says my authority, “there are many pieces of cut stone that have evidently been used in some former building. The same circumstance may also be observed in several of the ruined churches at Clonmacnoise.”[192]

Nor ought this relic of an ancient pagan edifice to excite our surprise, when we are told that the temple[Pg 164] of the “Syrian goddess,” which existed in the days of Lucian, was not that which was originally erected by Deucalion, but one built many ages after, on the same site, by Attis, Bacchus, or Semiramis.

With the church, therefore, or other Christian edifice, this “foundation” had no relation. St. Patrick was the first who erected one in that vicinity, to which he gave the name of Sgibol Phadruig, or Patrick’s Granary; having been built on the identical spot on which Dichu, son of Trichem, of the tribe of the Dalfiatachs, and lord of the territory of Lecale, had a granary constructed to preserve his corn, before that his gratitude for the saint, by whom he was just converted, induced him to consecrate the place where that event occurred, by raising thereon a house to the God of nature and of harvests.

Its situation, be it observed, was “two miles from the city of Down”;[193] different, therefore, from that of the cathedral, as was also its form: having been built from north to south, at the solicitation of Dichu himself, agreeably to the plan of the former storehouse.

This took place in 433-34; and though, for concession’ sake, I may admit,—what yet is far from being my conviction,—that some of our Round Towers may have been erected subsequently to the Christian era, yet positive I must be that no one of them was after the successful mission of the Apostle of Ireland; and the explosion of the doctrines with which even the most modern of them may happen to be associated,—while the majority, and the real ones, I shall prove, belong to an infinitely earlier date.

As a further inducement to explore for cavities [Pg 165]beneath, and connected with, our Round Towers, I beg leave to bring under review what Maundrel relates of two Round Pillars, which he met with in his journey from Aleppo to Jerusalem, on the sea-coast, a little to the south of Aradus, in the neighbourhood of Tripoli. He describes one of them as thirty-three feet high, composed of a pedestal, ten high and fifteen square, surmounted with a tall cylindrical stone, and capped with another in the form of a pyramid. The second was not quite so high—thirty feet two inches—its pedestal, which was supported by four lions, rudely carved at each corner, was in height six feet, being sixteen feet six inches square; the superstructure upon which was one single stone cut in the shape of a hemisphere. Each of these pillars, of which he gives accurate drawings, has under it several catacombs or sepulchral chambers, the entrances to which lie on the south side. He pronounces a third which he met with, as “a very ancient structure, and probably a place of sepulchre.”[194]

With the opinion of this judicious traveller I altogether concur, provided only, as said before, in reference to the pyramids, that the application be extended to the sacred bulls and crocodiles, serpents, dragons, and heifers, with the whole train of bestial divinities, which both Indians and Egyptians, and all the other polished nations of antiquity, thought proper to adopt as objects of their regard, and treat with the homage—though only commemorative, as they will tell you—of the One Great Supreme.[195]

[Pg 166]This extension of the use will at once afford a solution of the otherwise unaccountable and unnecessary size of those cavities, and is further supported by Savary’s remark, made on occasion of his searching for the Egyptian Labyrinth, viz. that “amidst the ruins of the towns of Caroun, the attention is particularly fixed by several narrow, low, and very long cells, which seem to have had no other use than that of containing the bodies of the sacred crocodiles; these remains can only correspond with the labyrinth.” While Herodotus’s declaration, of his not being allowed to enter its vaults, on the score of their “containing within them the bodies of the fifteen kings, together with the sacred crocodiles,” should afford it a determination no longer liable to doubt.

Archer, also, when mentioning a very ancient Hindoo temple, at the south end of the fort of Gualior, resembling in shape those on the Coromandel coast, and decorated with much carving, says that “there was a subterranean communication with the plain at the north end, but the passage has been so long neglected as to be impassable.”

Am I not justified, therefore, in the conviction, from what I have already intimated, as to the complicated design of those sacred piles, that our Round Towers would be found similarly furnished with subterranean chambers? I do respectfully urge that such is my firm belief, and that it would be well worth the while of the learned community to investigate the accuracy of the surmise here put forward.



[Pg 167]


Another characteristic, to which I would fain attract the reader’s regard, is the circumstance of their being erected in the vicinity of water. At Glendalough, what a magnificent lake salutes the Tower? In Devenish and at Killmalloch, is not the same the case? In other parts of the country, also, we find them similarly located. And even where nature has not been so lavish of her inland seas, yet is water, of some shape, always to be seen contiguous to our towers.

What use, it will be asked, do I mean to make of this argument? or how seek support from the accidental propinquity of this element? Remember my remark upon the article, before, in connection with the Egyptian Pyramids. Captain Mignan, besides, tells us that a tradition, handed down from time immemorial, says that “near the foot of the ruin of El Mujellebah,” which he takes to be that of the Tower of Babel, “is a well, invisible to mortals”; and, as all Eastern heathenism, whence ours was deduced, partook in some degree of the same usages and properties, I think it very probable the correspondence will apply in this as well as in other peculiarities; and the rather as from symptoms of vaults, which have already appeared, and the hollow sounds, or echoes, which invariably accompany, the proposition does not[Pg 168] come unwarranted, however singly put forth or without something like argument to recommend its trial.

We know that in Hieropolis, or the “Holy city,” in Syria, where a Temple, with a Tower, was erected to Astarte, there stood adjacent a lake, where sacred fishes were preserved, in the midst of which was a stone altar, which was said, and really appeared, to float; whither numbers of persons used to swim every day to perform their devotions. Under this temple they showed the cleft where it was said the waters drained off after Deucalion’s flood, and this tradition brought on the extraordinary ceremony now about to be narrated, something similar to which our ancestors must formerly have practised here.

“I have,” says Lucian,[196] “myself seen this chasm, and it is a very small one, under the temple. Whether it was formerly larger and since lessened I cannot tell, but that which I have seen is small. In commemoration of this history they act in this manner: twice in every year water is brought from the sea to the temple, and not by the priests only, but by all Syria and Arabia. Many come from the Euphrates to the sea, and all carry water, which they first pour out in the temple, and afterwards it sinks into the chasm, which though small, receives a prodigious quantity of water, and when they do so, they say, Deucalion instituted the ceremony as a memorial of the calamity above named, and of his deliverance from it.”

Twice a year a man went up to the top of the Priap, and there remained seven days. His mode of getting up was thus:—He surrounded it and himself with a chain, and ascended by the help of that and[Pg 169] certain pegs, which, stuck out of its sides for the purpose, lifting the chain up after him at each resting interval—a method of ascent which will be readily understood by those who have seen men climb up the palm trees of Egypt and Arabia. Having reached the summit he let down the chain, and by means thereof drew up all the necessaries in the way of food, and withal prepared himself a seat, or rather nest on his aërial tabernacle.


View him now mounted on his sacred tower,
He looks around with conscious sense of power.


On these occasions crowds used to come with offerings, and the custom was for each to declare his name to the priests; upon which one below cried it out to him on the top, who thereupon muttered a prayer, which, in order to arrest the attention of the congregation, and enliven their devotion, he all the while accompanied by striking a bell.

[Pg 170]One way of their sacrificing was as shocking as it would be otherwise ridiculous. They crowned victims with garlands, then drove them out of the temple-court, on one side whereof was an abrupt steep, where falling they thereby perished. Nay, some tied up their very children in sacks, and then shoved them down, reproaching them as wild beasts, miserably to perish.

This whole proceeding, only under a mythological garb, was in direct harmony with the directions given and the practice pursued by God’s own people. The man ascending to the top of the tower had a parallel in that declaration of the Lord recorded in Ex. xxiv. 1, 2, 3, viz.: “And he said unto Moses, come up unto the Lord, thou, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and worship ye afar off. And Moses alone shall come near the Lord; but they shall not come nigh, neither shall the people go up with him. And Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord, and all the judgments; and all the people answered with one voice, and said, ‘All the words which the Lord hath said, will we do.’”[197]

His staying there seven days corresponded with Lev. viii. 33, 34, 35: “And ye shall not go out of the door of the tabernacle of the congregation in seven days, until the days of your consecration be at an end: for seven days shall ye consecrate you. As he hath done this day, so the Lord hath commanded to do, to make an atonement for you. Therefore[Pg 171] shall ye abide at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation day and night seven days, and keep the charge of the Lord, that ye die not; for so I am commanded.” And again, Ezek. xliii. 25: “Seven days shalt thou prepare every day a goat for a sin-offering: they shall also prepare a young bullock and a ram out of the flock, without blemish. Seven days shall they purge the altar, and purify it; and they shall consecrate themselves.”

The enrolment of their names was also sanctioned by Divine command, as Ex. xxviii. 29: “And Aaron shall bear the names of the children of Israel in the breastplate of judgment upon his heart, when he goeth in unto the holy place, for a memorial before the Lord continually.” Whilst the ringing of the bell is particularly enforced by a triple repetition, Ex. xxviii. 33, 34: “And beneath upon the hem of it thou shalt make pomegranates of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, round about the hem thereof; and bells of gold between them round about. A golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, upon the hem of the robe round about.”

This last-cited text is of the most inconceivable advantage in the development of the subject which we thus pursue. The most superficial must have noticed how that, in the tracing of this analogy between the ceremonies of the Gentiles and the Hebrews, I have studiously guarded against its appearing an imitation, on the part of the former, from the ritual of the latter. The priority in point of date will certainly appear on the Gentile side. Meanwhile, ere other links of conformity crowd upon our path, it will be well to take heed to the frequency of the word pomegranate, as occurring in the [Pg 172]Scriptures. It has already appeared that one of the names of the Syrian goddess, in whose honour the Hieropolitan Priaps were erected, was Rimmon. This epithet you have had before expounded as expressive of that fruit; and as we see that, both in the Jewish and the pagan formulæ, it occupied so prominent a position,[198] it must occasion you no surprise if, by and by, I discover it amongst the mouldings[199] of our consecrated and venerable Round Towers.

As to their devotions at the lake, and the propinquity of the lake itself to the temple, it is in direct similitude to the “molten sea,” mentioned 1 Kings vii. 23, 24, 25, 26, “the brim whereof was wrought like the brim of a cup, with flowers of lilies,” etc.;—while the cruel and shocking sacrifice with which the whole terminated, was the exact respondent of the Mosaical scapegoat.[200]

Let it not be wondered at, therefore, if on the summit of one of our Round Towers are to be found the traces of the apparatus for a bell. For independently of what Walsh and others inform us of, viz. that the Irish—enjoying tranquillity and repose after the expulsion of the Ostmen, and so recalling their attention to the cultivation of Christianity after their release from that scourge—converted those structures of exploded paganism to the only obvious use to[Pg 173] which they could then be made subservient, namely, that of belfries, for the summoning together of the people to public worship, some remnants of which it is but natural may yet remain—independently, I say, of this, have I not here shown that bells entered essentially into the code of the pagan ceremonial, from whence it is more than probable, nay, a downright certainty, that the first Christian ecclesiastics adopted the use, as the Mohammedans, in their minarets, did so likewise.[201]

The instance to which I have referred in an early part of this volume, of astonishment created in the English minds, on their first beholding one of those implements, was that of Gildas, who, having finished his education at Armagh, and returned to Britain about the year 508, was engaged by Cadoc, abbot of the church of Mancarban, to superintend the studies of his pupils during his absence for a twelvemonth. Having done so most successfully, and without accepting of any remuneration for his labour, we find, in an[Pg 174] ancient life of Cadoc, in the Tinmouth MS., Lambeth observes that “Cadoc, returning to his monastery, found Gildas a noble scholar, with a very beautiful little bell, which he brought with him from Ireland.”

Those bells, then, we may be sure, appertained exclusively to the service of the Round Towers.[202] Having none of these in England, of course they had no bells, and hence the surprise manifested on the above occasion. In Ireland, too, they must have been, now, comparatively obsolete.[203] And hence we find, according to Primate Usher, that their (restored) use was not general in the churches here before the latter end of the seventh century; while another writer assures us that it was not until the ninth century that large ones were invented for the purpose of suspension.[204]

The shape of the Irish pagan bells was precisely[Pg 175] the same as of those in the present day. They were called crotals, or bell-cymbals. Oblong square ones, some of bell-metal, some of iron, from twelve inches to eighteen inches high, with a handle to sound them by, have been also dug up in our various bogs. Of these the museum of the Dublin Society possesses one; another is preserved by the Moira family. The writer of this article not having seen either of these relics, is rather diffident in the conjecture which he is now about to express; but from the account received of that in the possession of the house of Moira, he feels strongly disposed to identify its origin with the worship of the above-mentioned deity, Astarte. Lucian expressly tells us that under the veil of this goddess was really meant the moon; and that “the host of heaven,”—including sun, moon, and stars, and typifying the fulgor of that Omniscient germ whence they all had emanated,—constituted the object of the ancient Irish adoration, no one, I believe, can longer question. Now, in Hall’s Tour through Ireland, 1813, I see this bell described as having “a hole in one of its sides like a quarterly moon”; and not knowing whether this is the effect of accident or corrosion, or a symbolical property in its original shape, I trust I shall not be deemed fanciful if I ascribe it as a reference to that planet in whose vain solemnities it had been primarily exercised.

Whether this exposition prove eccentrical or otherwise, and, by inspection, it can be readily ascertained, I cannot presume to determine; nor indeed does it value much.[205] With one thing, however, I am[Pg 176] gratified, that in Archer’s Travels in Upper India, published, as before observed, within the last few weeks, I find that distinguished soldier and shrewd observer, delineate a piece of architecture similar in all particulars to this Syrian Priap—the allusion to which has recalled me to ring this second chime upon the bells—and as the notice is of value, I shall give it in his express words: “A curious structure,” says he, “is at the bottom of the hill (Dutteah). It consists of five conical pillars, with green painted tops, in a line from east to west; the two larger ones in the centre: the pillars have tiles stuck in them resembling steps. We could not learn what was its meaning or use. The village is wholly Jain, and is named Serrowlee.”

It is not difficult to understand why no information could be obtained, from the present inhabitants, as to the object of those edifices. Their remote antiquity is a sufficient reply. But I flatter myself that the reader, who has accompanied me from the outset of this antiquarian voyage, can now supply the defect, and explain that they were a series of Round Towers, or Phalli, erected by the aboriginal Buddhists, of whom the Jaina are only the wretched remains; and that those “tiles” which are “stuck in them, resembling steps,” were for the purpose of ascending by the aid of a hoop, such as we have shown at Hieropolis. The projecting stones in our Priaps, or the cavities that appear after their removal, are thus also accounted for.



[Pg 177]


The universal ignorance which prevails throughout the East as to the origin of those antiquities which excite the wonder of every traveller makes it necessary that we should again direct our course towards that hemisphere, to redeem, if possible, its venerable remains from that moral night which successive ages have accumulated around them.

Persia[206] was the source which poured its vivifying light into the mental obnubilation of our European ancestors. By a reverse of those casualties from which no condition can be exempt, Persia has, in her turn, been made the theatre of darkness; and though, under the fostering auspices of British institutions, the mist has, to a large amount, been dispelled, yet is the proudest era of her splendour left still unexplored,[Pg 178] and that is the epoch which called forth into life those monuments of literature and philosophical eminence, which, resisting the corrosion of time and the assaults of war, still proudly elevate their heads towards those orbs, with whose pompous ceremonial they were essentially connected, and whose generative properties they typically symbolised—I mean the Round Towers.

This was the moment of Persia’s halcyon pride: this the period of her earthly coruscation: to this have all the faculties of my ardent mind with vigour been addressed; and while, in the humble consciousness of successful investigation, I announce its issue to have far exceeded my hopes, I shall avail myself of the industry of preceding inquirers to throw light upon the intervals of value which intervene; but, lest I should intrude upon the province of their well-earned honours, I shall, in every such case of borrowed assistance, allow the writers themselves to speak; by which it will additionally appear that, with much good taste, and with historical honesty, they have left a vacuum in their researches, for which the public mind has been long athirst, and which my exclusive resources could alone supply.

“The Persian empire,”[207] says Heeren, “owed its origin to one of those great political revolutions which are of such frequent occurrence in Asia, and the rise and progress of which we have already considered in general. A rude mountain tribe of nomad habits rushed with impetuous rapidity from its fastnesses, and overwhelmed all the nations of Southern Asia,[Pg 179] (the Arabians excepted), from the Mediterranean to the Indus and Iaxartes. The mighty empires which arose in Asia were not founded in the same manner with the kingdoms of Europe. They were generally erected by mighty conquering nations, and these, for the most part, nomad nations. This important consideration we must never lose sight of, when engaged in the study of their history and institutions.”

“Not only is Persia[208] Proper memorable on account of its historical associations, but also for the architectural remains which it continues to present. The ruins of Persepolis are the noblest monuments of the most flourishing era of this empire, which have survived the lapse of ages. As solitary in their situation as peculiar in their character, they rise above the deluge of years, which for centuries has overwhelmed all the records of human grandeur, around them, or near them, and buried all traces of Susa and of Babylon. Their venerable antiquity and majestic proportions do not more command our reverence, than the mystery which involves their construction awakens the curiosity of the most unobservant spectator. Pillars which belong to no known order of architecture; inscriptions in an alphabet which continues an enigma; fabulous animals which stand as guards at the entrance; the multiplicity of allegorical figures which decorate the walls,—all conspire to carry us back to ages of the most remote antiquity, over which the traditions of the East shed a doubtful and wandering light.”

“The Persians have taken more pains than almost any other nation to preserve their records in writing;[Pg 180] yet it has been their fate, in common with most other nations of antiquity, to be indebted for the stability of their fame to foreign historians. Notwithstanding the pains they took to register the acts of their government, the original documents of their history, with a few accidental exceptions, have altogether perished. And the inscriptions of Persepolis, like the hieroglyphics of the Egyptians, will, in a manner, have outlived themselves, unless a complete key be discovered to the alphabet in which they are composed.”

Now, as a set off to these extracts, it will be necessary to remark that, though true in substance, they are only so as descriptive of a particular epoch. Empire after empire rolled over, in succession, before that which the historian here delineates, and which was but the motley combination of a rugged swarm of mountaineers, who stalked with ferocious insensibility over the consecrated relics of monumental glory.

Herodotus and Arrian were the authorities that seduced him into this mistake, the former of whom states that “the Persians originally occupied a small and craggy country, and that it was proposed in the time of Cyrus that they should exchange this for one more fertile; a plan which Cyrus discouraged as likely to extinguish their hardy and warlike pursuits”; and the latter, that “the Persians, when, under Cyrus, they conquered all Asia, were a poor people, inhabiting a hilly region”;[209] but those writers were as misinformed, as to all events and particulars relating to this[Pg 181] locality, anterior to the time specified above, as any of their contemporaries; and when we reflect how very recent an era in the history of the world was that in which Cyrus appeared, it will be seen how fragile a substratum was that which the professor had adopted for the erection of his materials. We read accordingly, in Terceira’s Spanish history of that country, that “there was not at that time (A.D. 1590) one man in Persia (these were the direct descendants of Cyrus’s men) that understood their ancient letters, for having often seen some plates of metal with ancient inscriptions on them, I made inquiry after the meaning of them; and men well versed in their antiquities, and studious, told me that was Fars kadeem, ancient Persian, after the old fashion, and therefore I should find no man that understood it.”

Indeed the reasonings of Heeren himself,—and learned I cheerfully acknowledge them,—would seem to make him rise above the narrowness of his Grecian supporters.

“Even previous,” says he, “to the time when the Arabs, with the sword in one hand and the Koran in the other, overran and subdued Persia, they were the more open to settlers from the North and East, from the circumstance that Persia was situated on the great highway of nations, by which the human race spread itself from East to West. All that is meant to be asserted is, that the various races who successively had dominion in these parts, all belonged to the same original stock.

“This fact, which the observations of the best modern travellers tend to confirm, may explain how it has come to pass that many districts, anciently celebrated for their fertility, are at present barren[Pg 182] and unproductive. A single invasion, by destroying the water-courses, is sufficient to reduce, in a short time, a fertile and flourishing country to an arid desert; and to how many such disastrous contingencies has not Persia at all times been exposed!”

“Another fact, suggested by the languages of Asia and the ancient dialects of Persia, is too important to be passed over in silence. Not only in the Persian territory but in other parts of Eastern Asia, particularly the two Indian peninsulas, we find languages which still subsist, mixed up with others which are preserved to us only in a few written names. To this class belong, in Persia, the Zend and Pahlivi, already mentioned; in Hindustan, the celebrated Sanscrit, as well as the Pali in the Burman peninsula.

“Accordingly, we shall venture to consider as the same parent stock the race which bore rule in Iran, comprehending all the inferior races, and which may be termed in general the Persian or Medo-Persian, inasmuch as the countries in its occupation were termed, in a wider sense, the land of Persia.

“They have been denominated by Rhode (Heilige sagen, etc.) the people of Zend, not improperly, if we consider the Zend as the original language of all the race ... not confined to Persis, properly so called, but extending over the steppes of Carmania and to the shores of the Caspian. Even at the present day they are comprised under the general name of Persia, though Farsistan, the original country of the Persians, forms a very small part of this territory.

“The Semitic and the Persian were, therefore, the principal languages of Asia; the latter being spoken as far as the Indus. Our knowledge of the languages prevalent on the other side of that river is as yet too[Pg 183] defective to enable us to speak with anything like certainty. Possibly it may be reserved for our own age to arrive at important conclusions on this subject, if the affinity between the Zend and the Sanscrit, the sacred languages of Persia and Hindustan, should be established,—if the spirit of discovery which characterises the British nation should succeed in rescuing from oblivion some more remains of ancient Indian literature, and a second Anquetil Duperron present the public with the sacred books of the Brahmans, with the same success that his predecessor has illustrated those of the Parsees.”

Though I cannot avoid concurring in the laudable hope that “our own age” may witness important conclusions on this subject, still it strikes me,—and I earnestly urge it as worthy of the notice of a Reform Ministry, that until the Irish Language be raked from its ashes, no accuracy can ever be obtained either in the Zend, Pahlavi, or Sanscrit dialects, which are but emanations from it, or in the subject matter, historical or religious, which they profess to pourtray.

“In the interior of these districts is situated a considerable lake, called the Lake Zevora, unquestionably the Aria Palus of antiquity. A large river, anciently bearing the same name, at present called the Ilmend, empties itself into this inland sea from the deserts to the south-east, and Christie fell in with another stream farther to the north, called the Herat, near a town of the same name.

“I consider (with Kinneir) the city of Herat to be same with the ancient Aria, or, as it was also called, Artacoana. We are told that Alexander on his march to Bactriana inclined to the south to visit Aria. We must carefully distinguish between the terms Aria[Pg 184] and Ariana, as used by the Greeks. The former was applied to a province which we shall have occasion to describe in the sequel. The latter is equivalent to Iran, and appears to have been formed from the ancient term in the Zend language, Eriene. The whole of Iran composes a sort of oblong, the Tigris and Indus forming its sides to the east and west; the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean bounding it to the south; and the Caspian, with Mount Taurus and the river Oxus, shutting it in to the north. These were also the limits of the ancient Ariana (see Strabo, p. 1048), except that, towards the west, its boundary was an imaginary line separating it from Persia Proper. Of this more extensive district, Aria (according to Strabo) formed only a part, distinguished by its superior fertility. Herodotus appears to have been unacquainted with the term Aria; he merely mentions the Arii as a nation allied to the Medes.

“Aria, lying to the east of Media, derived its name from the river Arius, the modern Heri: and the Arians and Medes were originally the same race; the Medes, according to Herodotus, having originally borne the name Arians. It is apparent, from the same place (Herod. vii. 62) that what were called the Median habits were not confined to Media Proper, but extended to the countries lying eastward, and as these touch on Bactria, we cannot be surprised at the conformity which prevailed.”

These latter quotations I have thought fit to introduce to show the ignorance of the modern Greeks,—those of Cyrus and Herodotus’s days—compared with their Pelasgic predecessors—Iran, the real name for all those countries of higher Asia as far as the Indus,[210][Pg 185] being called, in the Zend, Eriene, the Greeks, whose intercourse with the East now for the first time began, without troubling their brains to ascertain what the word in either form meant, transmuted this latter into Ariana, whereas their forefathers, the Pelasgi, a literary and a religious tribe, changed its namesake in the West, our own Iran—which in the Pahlavi dialect was called Erin, and in the Zend would also be called Eriene—into Ierne, thereby evincing their knowledge of the import of the term, and registering their subscription in its sacred attributes.[211]

The following, however, is more to the point, and in itself sufficient to redeem the professor’s entire work from any occasional inclination to Grecian subserviency.

“It cannot be doubted that at some remote period antecedent to the commencement of historical records, one mighty race possessed these vast plains.

“The traditions of this race preserve some very important particulars respecting their descent, their ancient abodes, and their gradual dissemination through the land of Iran. These traditions are preserved in the beginning of the Vendidat, the most important, and it is probable, the most ancient of all their sacred books, the collection of which is styled the Zendavasta, to which we shall have occasion to refer hereafter. The first two chapters of this work, entitled Fargards, contain the above traditions,[Pg 186] not wrapt up in allegory, but so evidently historical as to demand nothing more than the application of geographical knowledge to explain them. With the exception of the Mosaical Scriptures, we are acquainted with nothing which so plainly wears the stamp of remote antiquity, ascending beyond the times within which the known empires of the East flourished; in which we catch, as it were, the last faint echo of the history of a former world, anterior to that great catastrophe of our planet, which is attested in the vicinity of the parent country of these legends, by the remains of the elephant, the rhinoceros, and the mammoth, and other countries properly belonging to the countries of the South. It would be a fruitless labour to attempt to assign dates to these remains, but if the compiler of the Vendidat himself, who was long anterior to the Persian, and as we shall have occasion to show, probably also to the Median dynasty, as known to us, received them as the primeval traditions of his race, our opinion of their importance may be fully justified.

“These legends describe as the original seat of the race, a delicious country, named Eriene-Veedjo, which enjoyed a climate singularly mild, having seven months summer and five of winter. Such was the state at first, as created by the power of Ormuzd; but the author of evil, the death-dealing Ahriman, smote it with the plague of cold, so that it came to have ten months of winter and only two of summer. Thus the nation began to desert the paradise they at first occupied, and Ormuzd successively created for their reception sixteen other places of benediction and abundance, which are faithfully recorded in the legend.

[Pg 187]“What then was the site of the Eriene referred to? The editors and commentators on the Zendavesta are inclined to discover it in Georgia, or the Caucasian district; but the opinion must necessarily appear unsatisfactory to anyone who will take into account the whole of the record, and the succession of places there mentioned as the abodes of the race. On the contrary, we there trace a gradual migration of the nation from east to west, not as this hypothesis would tend to prove, from west to east. The first abode which Ormuzd created for the exiled people was Soghdi, whose identity with Sogdiana is sufficiently apparent; next Môore, or Maroo, in Khorasan; then Bakhdi, or Balkh (Bactriana), and so on to Fars itself, and the boundaries of Media or India. The original country of Eriene must therefore lie to the east of Leed, and thus we are led, by the course of tradition, to those regions which we have already referred to as the scene of the traditions and fables of the nation, viz. the mountainous tracts on the borders of Bucharia, the chain of Mustag and Beloorland, as far as the Paropamisan range on the confines of Hindustan, and extending northwards to the neighbourhood of the Altain chain. This savage and ungenial region enjoys at present only a short summer, at the same time that it contains the relics of an ancient world, which confirm, by positive proof, the legend of the Vendidat, that anciently the climate was of a totally different character. When the altered nature of their original seats compelled the race to quit them, Ormuzd prepared for them other places of repose and abundance, within the precincts of that territory which has preserved to the present day the appellation of Iran; the nation carrying with them the[Pg 188] name of Eriene, which is obviously the same with Iran.

“Jemshid, the father of his people, the most glorious of mortals whom the sun ever beheld. In his day animals perished not: there was no want either of water or of fruit-bearing trees, or of animals fit for the food of mankind. During the light of his reign there was neither frost nor burning heat, nor death, nor unbridled passions, nor the work of the Deevs. Man appeared to retain the age of fifteen; the children grew up in safety as long as Jemshid reigned the father of his people.[212]

“The restoration of such a golden age was the end of the legislation of Zoroaster, who, however, built his code on a religious foundation agreeably to the practice of the East; and the multifarious ceremonies he prescribed had all reference to certain doctrines intimately associated with his political dogmata; and it is absolutely necessary to bear in mind their alliance, if we would not do injustice to one part or other of his system.

“On these principles Zoroaster built his laws for the improvement of the soil by means of agriculture, by tending of cattle and gardening, which he perpetually inculcates, as if he could not sufficiently impress his disciples with a sense of their importance.

“According to his own professions he was only the restorer of the doctrine which Ormuzd himself had promulgated in the days of Jemshid: this doctrine, however, had been misrepresented, a false and delusive magia, the work of Deevs, had crept in, which[Pg 189] was first to be extinguished, in order to restore the pure laws of Ormuzd.

“Even Plato, the first Grecian writer who mentions Zoroaster, speaks of him as a sage of remote antiquity; and the same is established by the evidence of Hermippus and Eudoxus, which Pliny has preserved. The second Zoroaster, supposed by Toucher to have flourished under Darius Hystaspes, is the mere figment of some later Grecian authors of little credit.

“On the whole, we are compelled to carry back Zoroaster to the period when Bactriana was an independent monarchy, a period anterior to the very commencement of the Median empire, as related by Herodotus, ascending beyond the eighth century before the Christian era. Whether we must refer him to a still more ancient epoch, prior to the Assyrian monarchy, the chronological notices we have already given are all that can be afforded, except we be prepared to transport the sage beyond the utmost limits of recorded history.”

As I have no longer occasion, however, for the sage than to show that he was a reformer; and though at least “eight (more likely eighteen) hundred years before the Christian era,”—yet was he even then, comparatively, a modern,—I shall now turn to other sources to ascend to the dynasties that had preceded him.

“The rare and interesting tract on twelve religions,” says Sir W. Jones, “entitled the Dabistan, and composed by a Mohammedan traveller, a native of Cashmere, named Moshan, but distinguished by the assumed surname of Fani, or Perishable, begins with a wonderfully curious chapter on the religion of Hushang, which was long anterior to Zeradust [Pg 190](Zoroaster), but had continued to be secretly professed by many learned Persians, even to the author’s time; and several of the most eminent of these dissenting, in many points, from the Ghabres, and persecuted by the ruling powers of their country, had retired to India, where they compiled a number of books, now extremely scarce, which Moshan had perused, and with the writers of which, or with many of them, he had contracted an intimate friendship. From them he learned that a powerful monarchy had been established for ages in Iran for the accession of Cayemurs; that it was called the Mahabadean dynasty, for a reason which will soon be mentioned; and that many princes, of whom seven or eight only are named in the Dabistan, and among them Mahbul, or Maha Beli, had raised the empire to the zenith of human glory. If we can rely on this evidence,—which to me appears unexceptionable,—the Iranian monarchy must have been the oldest in the world.”

Sir John Malcolm had some scruples as to the authenticity of this production, and entered upon a very severe analysis of its contents; merely because the idols which the ancient Persians are therein stated to have adored, and the mode of their adoration, were dissimilar to those of India! Was it necessary that they should be alike? It is true, that from Persia everything Indian flowed; but there, on its importation, it partook of the peculiarities of the soil and climate; while, even in Persia itself, a great degeneracy occurred; and the deterioration and moral laxity, thus superinduced, was what the virtuous Zeradust so deplored, and what kindled his fervour to new model the system.

But “the introduction of the angel Gabriel,” he[Pg 191] says, “appears of itself enough to discredit the whole work.” Was Sir John sure that this rendering was literal? He himself admits that he was “following a Mohammedan author, who has certainly made a free translation of the Pahlavi text.” And, if so in one case, why not in another? But even admitting that there was no freedom at all used in the matter; and that Gabriel is the rigid version of the name of the messenger employed, this should not, in the least, affect our reliance upon the Dabistan, as I shall adduce a greater coincidence than this, nay, a downright identity, not only of name but of essence, between the divine dispensation in all previous ages, and the spiritual form of it with which we are at present blessed.

But you will say, perhaps, that Moshan Fani’s authorities were, in a great measure, floating, and dependent upon histories of a merely oral stamp, which—wanting as they do, the impress of lettered perpetuity, and subject, as they are, to variation, both of curtailment and of addition, besides the colour of depreciation or enhancement, which they must furthermore undergo, according to the nature of the successive media through which they pass,—cannot, after repeated transfusions, retain much similarity with the original truth, nor afford to a rational and thinking mind, however they may gratify selfish or national love, much stability for conviction or satisfactory acquiescence?

To the first I shall reply that it seems not correct, as the manuscripts by which he was guided appear still in existence; and this was not without its influence on Sir John’s own scepticism, when he declares, that “the doubtful authority of this work[Pg 192] has received some support from the recent discovery of a volume in the ancient Pahlivi, called the Dussadeer, or Zemarawatseer, to which its authors refer.”

Then, as to the vanity alluded to, the compiler may well be acquitted of any, as being of a different creed, and proverbially intolerant, he could not, did not truth oversway, have felt much communion of pleasure in celebrating the glories of a defunct religion. And though I concede that that species of information, which arises from the traditions of successive races of men, cannot be so satisfactory as that which is stereotyped in alphabetic characters; nay, that, according as it diverges from its first outlet, it is likely to diverge also from exactness; still I do insist, that the prevalence of those traditions, wherever they occur, argues some alliance with fact and reality; just as idolatry itself, in all its ramifications, is but the corrupt transmission of original pure religion.



[Pg 193]


The objections against the Dabistan being thus superseded, and the idea of its being an “invention”[213] having never crossed anyone’s thoughts, I shall now give a bird’s-eye view of its tenour in Sir John’s own summary thereof.

“It has been before observed,” says he, “that the idolatrous religion which Mohsin Fani ascribes to the ancient Persians, bears no resemblance to the worship of the Hindoos: it seems nearest that which was followed by a sect of Sabians, who, we are told, believed in God, but adored the planets, whom they deemed his vicegerents, that exercised an influence over all created things in the world. This sect of Sabians were said to follow the ancient Chaldeans, and to inherit their skill in astronomy, a science built upon the same foundation as the adoration of the planets.[214] And this leads us to remark, that the very title of the work from which Mohsin Fani gives an account of this worship, appears more like that of[Pg 194] a treatise upon astrology, than upon religion. He calls it Akheristan, or the region of the stars. It is, however, impossible to enter into any minute comparison of the religion he ascribes to the ancient Persians, and the sect of Sabians that have been noticed, because we have only a very general account of the tenets of the latter.”

As to the impossibility here complained of, it is obvious that there is none: whoever has digested even the early part of this essay will own it was but ideal. With this I should have contented myself, but that I feel called upon to correct another misconception, which the above may have produced.

That Sabaism meant idolatry in the way there insinuated, I utterly and altogether repudiate. It was the religion of the early Greeks before their degenerate mythology had loaded it with so many absurdities;[215] and that it was so, is evident from the term in their language, which expresses “to worship,” viz. σεβομαι, an evident derivation, from which is anglicised, Sabaism.[216] The object of this religion was the host of heaven, meaning the sun, moon, and stars. The names assigned to the reputed idols, viz. Uranus, i.e. Heaven, and Gea, i.e. Earth, with the energies of the sky and nature typified under the names of the “Cyclops” and “Giants,” incontrovertibly demonstrate the truth of this position.

[Pg 195]I have said that the name Cyclops, in this religious code, was meant to figure forth the energies of the atmosphere; I need but mention their denominations to establish my proof. They are “Steropes,” from στεροπη, lightning; Argues, from αργης, quick-flashing; and Brontes, from βροντη, thunder. Even the celebrated name of Hercules[217] himself, and the twelve labours poetically ascribed to him,—who, we must observe, many ages before the Tirynthian hero is fabled to have performed his wonders, or his mother Clymena to have been born, had temples raised to him in Phœnicia and Egypt, as well as at Cadiz and the Isle of Thasos,—are nothing more than a figurative denotation of the annual course of the solar luminary through the signs of the Zodiac.

In support of this I shall quote the authority of Porphyry, who was himself born in Phœnicia, and who assures us that “they there gave the name of Hercules to the sun, and that the fable of the twelve labours represents the sun’s annual path in the heavens.” Orpheus, or the author of the hymns that pass under his name, says that Hercules is “the god who produced time, whose forms vary, the father of all things and destroyer of all; he is the god who brings back by turns Aurora and the night, and who moving onwards from east to west, runs through the career of his twelve labours; the valiant Titan, who chases away maladies, and delivers man from the evils which afflict him.” The scholiast on Hesiod likewise remarks, “The zodiac in which the sun performs his annual course is the true career which Hercules traverses in the fable of the twelve labours;[Pg 196] and his marriage with Hœbe, the goddess of youth, whom he espoused after he had ended his labours, denotes the renewal of the year at the end of each solar revolution.” While the poet Nonnas, adverting to the sun as adored by the Tyrians, designates him Hercules Astrokiton (αστροχιτων), or the god clothed in a mantle of stars; following up this description by stating that “he is the same god whom different nations adore, under a multitude of different names—Belus, on the banks of the Euphrates; Ammon, in Libya; Apis, at Memphis; Saturn, in Arabia; Jupiter, in Assyria; Serapis, in Egypt; Helios, among the Babylonians; Apollo, at Delphi; Æsculapius, throughout Greece,” etc. etc.

Even the father of history himself, the great Colossus of the Greeks, whilst claiming for his countrymen the honour of instituting their own theogony, evinces in the attempt more of misgiving and doubt than was consistent with the possession of authentic information. His words are these: “As for the gods whence each of them was descended, or whether they were always in being, or under what shape or form they existed, the Greeks knew nothing till very lately. Hesiod and Homer were, I believe, about four hundred years older than myself, and no more, and these are the men who made a theogony for the Greeks; who gave the gods their appellations, defined their qualities, appointed their honours, and described their forms; as for the poets, who are said to have lived before these men, I am of opinion they came after them.”

But even this assumption, were it conceded to the utmost, would not militate against the doctrine which I have laid down; for Homer’s education was received[Pg 197] in Egypt, and India was the medium which illuminated the latter country; nothing, therefore, prevents our yielding to the stream of general authority in ascribing the introduction to the Pelasgi. The word χρονος itself, or “the father of Jove,” was nothing more than an equivalent with the Latin tempus; and for the very best possible reason, because the revolutions of this planet, as of the other celestial orbs, came, from their periodical and regular appearances, to be considered the ordinary measurements of the parts of duration or time.

It must, no doubt, appear a contradiction that Chronos—the “son of Uranus, and Terra,” as we were told at school, and the first person, as somewhere else stated, who was honoured with a crown—should be called an “orb,” and have “periodical appearances”; and that those appearances should regulate our estimate of days, weeks, years, and seasons. The difficulty, however, will cease, when we consider that though the sun, moon, and stars were the primary objects of false worship, the deification of dead men, deceased heroes, afterwards crept in, the consequence of which was a mixed kind of idolatry, consisting of stars and heroes, or heroines, deceased—a planet being assigned to each as the greatest possible honour. “That whom men could not honour in presence, because they dwelt far off, they took the counterfeit of his visage from far, and made an express image of a king, whom they honoured, to the end that by their forwardness they might flatter him that was absent, as if he was present.”[218]

Let us now see how the religion of the ancient Irish harmonises with that of the Dabistan, as illustrated[Pg 198] in the composition of some of our ancient names. Here Baal, or Moloch, and Astarte are obviously in the foreground; whilst the popular and vernacular names for those luminaries amongst the peasantry themselves, namely, Grian for the sun, Luan for the moon, Righ for king, and Rea for queen, in their appropriation to several localities throughout the country, indicate but too plainly the melancholy tale of their former deification.

To instance some few of those names, that strike me as demonstrative of this Sabian worship, I shall begin with

Baltinglas.[219]—This name of a town and mountain[Pg 199] in the county of Wicklow, and province of Leinster, is equivalent to Baal-tinne-glass, that is, “Baal’s-fire-green,” alluding to the colour of the grass at the spring season. These igneous betrayals of human frailty and superstition were celebrated throughout Ireland at both the vernal and autumnal equinoxes, in honour of the twin divinities so often adverted to in the course of this book. The eve of the vernal one was called Aiche Baal-tinne, that is, the night of Baal’s fire, the eve of the autumnal, Aiche Shamain, that is, the night of the moon’s solemnity; on both which occasions fires were lighted on all “the high places” dedicated to their worship.

The return of these respective seasons gave rise to various superstitions amongst the illiterate populace, one of which was that of borrowing a piece of money at the first sight of the new-moon, if they had it not themselves, as an omen of plenty throughout the month.[220] And their praying to that luminary, when first seen after its change, is so well known as to be mentioned even by a French writer, whom Selden, De Diis Syriis, quotes in these words:—“Se mittent a genoux en voyant la lune nouvelle, et disent en parlant a lune, laise nous ausi sains que tu nous as trouvé.”[221]

The new moon nearest to the winter solstice was[Pg 200] celebrated with peculiar ceremonies. On that night the chief Druid, attended by crowds of the people, used to go into the woods, and cut with a golden sickle a branch of the mistletoe of the oak, which he would carry in procession to the sacred grove. This golden sickle or crescent corresponded in form and nature with that which Aurelius Antoninus, the Roman emperor, wore at his coronation, to intimate his adherence to the Phœnician doctrines in which he had been early instructed—his adopted name still further intimating that he had been, what it literally signifies, Heliogabalus, that is, priest of the sun.[222] The crescent itself is the favourite badge of Sheevah, the matrimonial deity of the Indians, which he is represented as wearing in front of his crown.

After the introduction of Christianity, its first preachers wishing to defer to the prejudices of the inhabitants, yet not so as to interfere with the celebration of Easter at the vernal equinox, with an accommodating policy, retained the Baal-tinne ceremonial, only transferring it to the saints’ days; thus diverting their attention from their former devotion, and fixing it upon those who, in their zealous propagation of the gospel truths, may be considered as Christian stars;—conformably to that gracious character of “a burning and shining light,” which our Saviour Himself applied to His precursor, St. John.

In honour of this apostle, June 24th, the day of his nativity, was substituted, in the old ecclesiastical calendar, for the pagan solstice festival, and called solstitium vulgi, the vulgar solstice.

The intention of the transfer was, however, lost sight of by the illiterate; and when they would[Pg 201] kindle their fires on the tops of mountains on those occasions, they used to blend with them the features of the pagan institution, by passing children and cattle between them for the purpose of purification.

The propriety, therefore, of thus subserving to deep-rooted prejudices, has by some been impugned; but “surely,” after all, to use the words of a very able writer, “they were much wiser and better who, in those early times, grafted the evangelical upon the druidical culture, than they who, in subsequent times, instituted a system of extirpation in order to regenerate.”

The other pagan solemnities were similarly metamorphosed, and partook of similar transmutations. The 1st of May alone retained the name and characteristics of its original appropriation, being still called “La Beuil-tinne,” that is, the day of Baal’s fire, as familiarly as the name Christmas is given to the 25th of December. On it, too, fires are kindled on “high places,” as before; and children and cattle purified by passing between them;—

————“Yet, oh! remember
Oft I have heard thee say, the secret heart
Is fair Devotion’s temple: there the saint
Even on that living altar lights the flame
Of purest sacrifice, which burns unseen,
Not unaccepted.”[223]

I next turn to Killmalloch, the ancient name of which, as given by Ptolemy, was Macollicon,—a metathesis for Mallochicon; and the final, icon, which is only a Greek termination, being taken away, leaves Malloch, that is, Moloch, the Apollo or great divinity of the ancient universe.

To divert the natives from this misplaced enthusiasm, one of the early converts to Christianity[Pg 202] assumed to himself the name of Maloch; and then prefixing to it the adjunct Kill, made it the church of Maloch, instead of the city of Moloch.

Here is still to be seen, careering towards the skies, one of those “singular temples of round form,” of the existence of which Vitruvius was so ignorant, but whose dogmatic enunciation of “monopteres” and “peripteres,” sounds as feebly in my ears, as Montmorency’s assumption that the round towers were dungeons!—and the violence which this structure has latterly undergone—by the effort made to incorporate it with the Christian cathedral, built beside it in rivalship, after an interval of nearly three thousand years—is one of the most triumphant evidences which truth can produce in suppression of error. My soul burned with earnestness to visit this hallowed scene, upon which I had revolved so much, and which I associated in my fancy with the recorded glories of Apollo. I have, at last, seen it; and he must be indeed a slave to faction, or the dupe of prejudice, who will not subscribe to that evidence which the very stones proclaim.

Apollo’s Temple, or the Round Tower, stands at the corner of the cathedral, subsequently built half-around it: and, as you ascend the parapet of the latter, by an intermural staircase, having to pass, afterwards, from one side of this parapet to the other, just at the very corner by which the Tower is girt, the pass being very narrow, and almost terrific in dimensions, wholly defenceless besides, on the right hand which looks down into the body of the cathedral, the constructors of this latter edifice were obliged, in their desire to intermarry Christianity with paganism, to scoop off, or rather to file, about six inches of the ancient rotund structure, all along, on the left, to the[Pg 203] height of the human figure, so as to allow more room; yet even thus mutilated, I could not but reverence and bow down before the Tower.

“For, even the faintest relics of a shrine,
Of any worship, wake some thoughts divine.”[224]

After this transformation, Kilmalloch assumed an entirely Christian aspect; and the monastic buildings that crowded the town surpassed, in their style, anything similar throughout the island. The materials, however, of which those were constructed, being inferior in quality to the Tuathan composition, did not long keep place; so that now, whilst the Round Tower still maintains its bold preoccupancy, the Christian churches exhibit but a pile of ruins!

The dreariness of this once imperial site is a moving instance of worldly vicissitudes; and one can scarcely avoid, when passing by the loneliness of its dilapidated mansions, applying the apposite and melancholy apostrophe attributed to Ossian, “Why dost thou build the hall, son of the winged days? Thou lookest from thy towers to-day; yet a few years, and the blast of the desert comes, it howls in thy empty courts.”

Ard-Mulchan, the name of a village in the barony of Duleck, county Meath, comes from Ard, the high place, or mound, Mulchan of Moloch. And, however extraordinary it may appear to some readers, I cannot but hazard my opinion, that the name of the individual to whom St. Patrick had been sold during his captivity in this island, viz. Milco-Mac-Huanan, that is, Milco, the son-of-Huanan, originated in the circumstance of the family’s devotion to the service of this idol; and if a doubt remained as to[Pg 204] the justness of this conclusion, it will, methinks, be removed, when we consider the close of his mortal career, and the unfortunate blindness with which he clung to his fatuity.

He was a petty prince of that part of the country, afterwards called Dalruadia, or the principality of the Dalruads, from the prevalence of that demi-tribe, in Ulster; and when Patrick—in prosecution of that mission of grace, to which he had been deputed by divine interposition; and impelled, perhaps, moreover, by a compassionate zeal and Christian recollection of his previous bondage—undertook, amongst other conversions, that of his former master, we find that the sentiment was not reciprocated on his part; but that, either ashamed of allowing himself to be persuaded, in his old age, to abandon the religion in which he had been early initiated; or marked out by Providence as an awful victim to the prevailing superstition, he plunged himself into a fire which had accidentally broken out in his castle, and so was consumed by that element which he had before worshipped as his God!

Athlone,—or as anciently and correctly written, Ath-luain,—the name of a town situated on the river Shannon, where it is fordable, bounding Leinster in Westmeath, and Connaught in Galway, is compounded of the words Ath, which signifies a ford, and luain, of the moon. The common people still call it Blah-luin, an evident corruption of Baile-ath-luin, that is, the village of the ford of the moon; equivalent to Moon-ford-town. This name establishes the analogy of the Syrian Astarte with the worship here paid to the “queen of night,” and the many lunettes, or gold crescents, found buried in the neighbourhood, are “confirmation strong” of the inference deduced.

[Pg 205]The moon, whose course through the heavens regulated the months of the early lunar year, and whose influence was regarded by the ancients, in common with that of the sun, as one of the fertilising principles of nature, and as exerted chiefly amid wilds and woods, at a distance from the crowded abodes of man, had in this spot, apparently, a peculiar claim for her special appropriation. For here the aged majesty of the river Shannon, the Ganges of Ireland,—as we find reciprocally that Shannon is one of the Gangian names, and Saor, or Suir, the name of another Irish river, meaning “sacred” water, belongs also to the Indus itself,—displays its imposing grandeur in all the varieties of sublime and delightful scenery. Not far off is one of those beautiful lakes into which this monarch of waters expands himself, to bask, as it were, in repose, from the tiresome gaze attending the crowded path of his ordinary travels—

“Tho’ deep, yet clear; tho’ gentle, yet not dull;
Strong without rage; without o’erflowing full.”[225]

Lough Rea is the name of the lake above referred to, which, from its proximity to Athlone, gives concurrent sanction to the derivation above assigned. For Rea, in Irish, corresponds to Malcoth, or Astarte, i.e. queen, that is, Shamaim, of the heavens; as Righ does to Baal, or Molock, master, or king of the same; and both re-echoed in the regina and rex of the Latins.[226]

I should further notice, that in the Barony of Castle-reagh—a name, which, though prefaced by[Pg 206] a modern adjunct, still testifies its devotion, at one time, to the moon—there has been, some years ago, dug up one of those beautiful plates of gold, shaped like a half-moon, at once confirmatory of the propriety of the local name, and of the nature of the worship of its primitive incumbents having been lunar or Sabian. This relic is now in the possession of the Downshire family.

In reference to Shannon, to which I have before adverted, as being one of the names of the Ganges, it is not a little curious that Durga, the supposed divinity of this water, and whose festival is annually solemnised all through Hindoostan, should be represented by Derg, the supposed divinity of the Shannon, and should have its name still more perpetuated in the Irish word Dearg-art, that is, the abode of Derg, in Lough Derg, the lower lake upon this river.

From its mouth to its source this noble stream is characterised with relics of primeval worship, corresponding, in form and tendency, with those on the banks of its Indian namesake. Scattery Island, or, as it should more properly be called, Inis Catty, situated very near where it discharges itself into the sea, retains a beautiful Round Tower, to which has been afterwards appended, in the Christian times, the mystical number of seven churches, and the ruins of which are still perceptible. The circumstance of an early professor of our heaven-taught religion having taken up his secluded residence within the precincts of this spot, has led many moderns to suppose that the river obtained its name from him, whereas the word Shannon is derived from Shan Aoun, that is, the “aged river”; and the saint received his name[Pg 207] from that pious policy before explained, as well as from the constancy of his abode in its vicinity—not vice versâ.[227]

Killeshandra, the name of a town in the county of Leitrim, on the borders of the county of Cavan, signifies, in Irish, “the temple of the moon’s cycle,” or circle. In Sanscrit, which is a dialect of the aboriginal Irish,[228] it denotes exactly the same. We find besides Herodotus making mention, B. xi. c. 98, of a city in Egypt, during the Persian dominion, called Archandra, that is, “the city of the moon.” He asserts that it is not Egyptian, neither derived from the wife of Danaus, the daughter of Archander: yet the opposite may be well supported without at the same time injuring this derivation, for the daughters of Danaus were certainly initiated in the Phallic rites; nay, they were the persons who first imported them into Attica: and it is eminently worth notice, that this was the very spot[229] where the Tuath-de-danaan kings happened to be stationed upon the first Scythian deluge; the word “Kill”[Pg 208] having been prefixed to it only upon the introduction of Christianity.

Granard, the name of a town in the county of Longford, is compounded of the words Grian, the sun, and ard, a height, that is, the sun’s high-place. Nor, I suspect, will it be deemed an over-effort of criticism, if I repeat, that in our Irish Grian is to be found the root of that epithet of Apollo, Grynæus,[230] which was also the name of a city of Asia Minor, consecrated to his worship, and favoured, as Strabo informs us, with a grove, a temple, and an oracle of that deity. The river Granicus, too, was derived therefrom, because its source lay in Mount Ida, sacred to Grian, or the sun, whereon was situated the Idean stone, upon which, we are told, Hector was wont to sacrifice; and corresponding to the Cromleachs, so common throughout this island. The word Carne, also, meaning a heap of stones, on which an inferior order of clergy, thence called Carneach, used to officiate, belongs to the same root, as both Ovid and Macrobius declare that it was called, by the ancients, Grane.[231]

As Lough Rea had been dedicated to the moon, so was the other luminary also honoured with a [Pg 209]lake,—called after his name,—which we find in the adjoining country, where Lough Grany signifies the Lake of the Sun; as we do also Beal-ath, or Ath-en-righ, that is, the Ford of Baal, or the Ford of the King, i.e. the Sun; corresponding to Ath-lone, or Ford of the Moon.

The above are but a few of those imperishable memorials intertwined round those haunts which our forefathers have trod; the import of which, however, has been so perverted by modern scribblers, as to give occasion to O’Flaherty to give up their solution in despair, and, as a cover to his retreat, to pronounce them “as outlandish in their sound as the names of the savages in some of the American forests.”[232] In this rhodomontade, however, he was much more fortunate than he had intended, or, as the Englishmen say of our countrymen, “he blundered himself into the right.” Little did he suspect how near a connection there existed between the two people whom he affected, thus ridiculously, to associate; and anyone who attends to the position which I subjoin, independently of many others that could be brought in support of it, will admit the happiness of this unintentional coincidence. The Algan Kinese are the most influential and commanding people in the whole of North America; their name in Irish indicates as much, namely, Algan-Kine, or Kine Algan,[233] a noble community. The language of this people is the master one of the whole country; and, what is truly remarkable, understood, as Baron de Humboldt asserts, by all the Indian nations except two. What then are we to infer from this obvious affinity?[Pg 210] Most undoubtedly, that a colony of the same people who first inhabited Ireland, and assigned to its several localities those characteristic names which so disconcerted the harmony of Mr. O’Flaherty’s acoustic organs, had fixed themselves, at an early date, in what has been miscalled the New World.

Small, however, as is the number of the names here selected, they are enough, I flatter myself, to establish the prevalence of our Sabian ritual. But what puts this matter beyond anything like a question is the inscription upon a stone, still extant, in the county of Dublin, evidently a symbol of the Sun and Moon, which, like Osiris and Isis of Egypt, were considered by the ancient Irish as united in matrimony.

“God, in the nature of each being, founds
Its proper bliss, and sets its proper bounds:
But as He framed a whole the whole to bless,
On mutual wants built mutual happiness;
So from the first, eternal order ran,
And creature linked to creature, man to man.
Whate’er of life all quickening ether keeps,
Or breathes through air, or shoots beneath the deeps,
Or pours profuse on earth, one nature feeds
The vital flame, and swells the genial seeds.
Not man alone, but all that roam the wood,
Or wing the sky, or roll along the flood,
Each loves itself, but not itself alone,
Each sex desires alike, till two are one.”—Pope.



[Pg 211]


“Woman, the poetry of Nature,” says an elegant writer of the present day, “has ever been the theme of the minstrel, and the idol of the poet’s devotion. The only ideas we entertain of a celestial nature are associated with her; in her praise the world has been exhausted of its beauties, and she is linked with the stars and the glories of the universe, as if, though dwelling in a lowlier sphere, she belonged to a superior world.”

This deification of the female character was the true substance of those imaginary goddesses, so sadly disfigured by the circumscribed stupidity of Greek and Roman mythologists. Juno, Baaltis, Diana, Babia, Venus, Aphrodite, Derceto, Militta, Butsee, Semiramis, Astarte, Io, Luna, Rimmon, Lucina, Genitalis, Ourania, Atargatis, etc. etc., were all but fictitious and ideal forms, resolving themselves into one and the same representation of that sweetest ornament of the creation, woman; and the same terms being applied to the moon, with the same symbolic force and the same typical significance, illustrates the aptitude of that tributary quotation, with which this chapter has commenced, and to the beauty of which the heart of every “man that is born of woman” must feelingly respond.

Europa itself, now geographically appropriated, as a denomination, to one of the quarters of the globe,[Pg 212] was originally synonymous with any of the above-mentioned names; and partook in the acquiescence paid by adoring millions to the all-fascinating object of so refined an allegory.

Of all those various epithets, however vitiated by time, or injured by accommodation to different climates and languages, the import—intact and undamaged—is still preserved in the primitive Irish tongue, and in that alone; and with the fertility of conception whereby it engendered all myths, and kept the human intellect suspended by its verbal phantasmagoria, we shall find the drift and the design, the type and the thing typified, united in the ligature of one appellative chord, which to the enlightened and the few presented a chastened yet sublime and microscopic moral delineation; but to the profane and the many was an impenetrable night producing submission the most slavish, and mental prostration the most abject; or, whenever a ray of the equivoque did happen to reach their eyes—perverted, with that propensity which we all have to the depraved, into the most reckless indulgence and the most profligate licentiousness.

In the limits here prescribed for the development of our outline—which even the most heedless must have observed, instead of being compressed, as intended within the compass of one volume could more easily have been dilated to the magnitude of four—it cannot be supposed that I could dwell, with much minuteness, upon the several collateral particulars to which I may incidentally refer. As, however, that twofold tenour to which I have above alluded, may require something more in the way of illustration, I shall take any two of the aggregate of[Pg 213] names there collected, and in them exemplify what has been said.

Suppose them to be Militta and Astarte. Of these, then, the first means appetency, such as is natural between the sexes; and the second dalliance, of the same mutual sort; and while both alike typify the delights of love, they both equally personate the mistress of the starry firmament whose influence was courted for the maturity of all such connection, as the season of her splendour is the most suitable for its gratification.

From Astarte (Ασταρτη), the Greeks formed Aster (Αστηρ) a star, thereby retaining but one branch of this duplicity. The Irish deduced from it the well-known endearment, Astore; and I believe I do not exaggerate when I affirm that, in the whole circuit of dialectal enunciations, there exists not another sound calculated to convey to a native of this country so many commingling ideas of tender pathos, and of exalted adventure, as this syllabic representation of the lunar deity.[234]

Such was Sabaism,—composed of love, religion, and astrology: such too was Budhism, as I have already shown; and Phallism being but another name, equivalent with this latter, it follows that the whole three—Sabaism, Budhism, and Phallism—are, to all intents and purposes, but identically one.

This being about to be demonstrated, a few pages forwards, as the oldest species of worship recognised upon earth, it were needless, one would hope, to enter into a comparison in point of antiquity between[Pg 214] it and any of its living derivatives. But as many learned men, misled by that cloud which heretofore enveloped the subject, have promulgated the belief that Brahminism was the parent stock, whence Budhism, with its adjuncts, diverged as a scion, I shall, omitting others, address myself to the consideration of Mr. Colebrooke’s arguments, which I select from the mass in deference to a character so honourably interwoven with the revival of Eastern literature.

“The mythology of the orthodox Hindus,” says this venerable and good man, “their present chronology, adapted to astronomical periods, their legendary tales, and their mystical allegories, are abundantly extravagant, but the Jains and the Bauddhas surpass them in monstrous exaggerations of the same kind. In this rivalship of absurd fiction it would not be unreasonable to pronounce that to be the most modern which has outgone the rest.”

His second position is, that “the Greek writers who mention the Bramins, speak of them as a flourishing society, whereas the Budhists they represent as an inconsiderable handful: therefore,” etc.

To the first I shall oppose Dr. Buchanan’s testimony, who states that “however idle and ridiculous the legends and notions of the worshippers of Bouddha may be, they have been in a great measure adopted by the Brahmins, but with all their defects monstrously aggravated.”

And even had we not this rebutting evidence the inference in itself is decidedly weak; for it would go equally to establish that Romanism is more recent than Protestantism, as containing a greater number of ceremonial observances than this latter does: whereas the reverse is what reason would lead us to conclude,[Pg 215] namely, that ritual multiplications are the growth of longevity, and that the retrenchment of their number is what reformation aspires to.

I make a free-will offering, unrestricted and unimpeded, of all the value that can belong to Grecian historians—the Greeks, whom their own countryman, Lucian, so justly banters as distinguished for nothing so much as a total indifference to truth! But admitting them to be as veracious as they were notoriously not so, the intercourse, of the very earliest of them, with India and its dependencies, was much too modern, to allow their statements to be further conclusive, than as refers to the time being: and I am very ready to allow that, at the particular moment described, the Budhists were in the wane, while the Brahmins ruled ascendant—nay, that there were but a few straggling votaries of the former creed then existing at all in that country, the latter, though schismatics from the ecclesiastical root, having, by gaining over the civil power on their side, effected their expulsion many ages before.

The subterranean temples of Gyah, Ellora, Salsette, Elephanta, and those other monuments of piety and civil eminence which still shed a lustre over India, and which no subsequent state of the arts could rival, much less eclipse, owe their existence to an era anterior to this catastrophe. The Budhists were the architects when in the zenith of human power. The sculptures and devices establish this fact: for of the whole list of deities personated in those inscriptions, the Brahmins have retained none but such as suited their purpose. These, in all conscience, were numerous enough; and as the Brahmins, when at the helm, permitted not the introduction of[Pg 216] “strange gods,” it is evident that those, which they have in common with the Budhists, are but cullings from the “mother-church,” ill-understood and worse interpreted; the similarity, however, being still so great as, after a lapse of centuries, to give rise to the question of, whether the stem or the branch, the sire or the offspring, had the priority in point of time!

“J’ai remarqué,” says the philosopher Bailly, “que les Brames aimaient à être appellés Paramènes, par respect pour la mémoire de leurs ancêtres, qui portoient ce nom.”[235] Monsieur Gebelin is more explicit. “Pausanias nous dit, que Mercure, le même que Butta, ou Budda, un des fondateurs de la doctrines des Paramènes, ou Brames, est appellé Paramon.”[236]

This Paramon, who had seceded from the Budhist doctrine, and placed himself at the head of that sect who still bear his name, was the son of Budh-dearg, a religious denomination, most painfully inexplicable to inquirers into those matters, but which one, at least, from his acquaintance with the Irish language, should have better known. “I think,” says Vallancey, “dearg is a contraction for darioga, rex supremus, which corresponds with the Chaldæan darag, dux, an epithet given to Budya!”

All those words, in fact, dearg, darioga, and darag, are one and the same, adjuncts, it is true, of Budya, but meaning neither dux, rex, nor supremus, except inasmuch as they were his epithets, the correct rendering being red, which, added to Budh, signifies the Red Lingam, the Sardana-palus, the Eocad, the[Pg 217] Penis sanctus, the god of nature, the ruber palus, the Helio-go-balus, the corporeal spirit, the agent of production, the type of life, as it is also the concurrent symbol of universal dissolution.

These several terms, which are, each and all, convertible, pourtray not only the procreative powers of the male world personified, but likewise its symbols, which were the Round Towers; and not these only, but Obelisks[237] also, and naturally erect stones,[238] which though not circularly fashioned, yet typified, in their ascension, the upward bent of all vegetable growth.

This is the true solution of those enigmatical lithoi, by which the ancients represented the bounty of Providence. Maghody was the name appropriated to him under this character; and the import of this word conveying, literally, the idea of the Good God, shows the philosophic feeling, no less than it does the religious seriousness, of the grateful contrivers.[239] And while reminded by the thought, perhaps I may be [Pg 218]permitted, with humble deference, to suggest to literary gentlemen occupied in the translation of Eastern manuscripts, that whenever they meet with any proper name of the inconceivable Godhead, or of any place or temple devoted to his use, and beginning with the word Magh; such as Magh-Balli-Pura;[240] they should not render Magh by great,—which hitherto had been the practice,—but by good; as it is not the power of the divinity that is thereby meant to be signified, but his bounty: such as his votaries chiefly supplicated, and such as was most influential to ensure their fealty.

“Christnah, the Indian Apollo, is the darling,” says Archer, “of the Hindoo ladies; and in his pranks, and the demolishing pitchers of milk, or milk-pitchers, has acquired a fame infinitely surpassing that enjoyed by the hero of the agreeable ditty entitled Kitty of Coleraine!”

I confess I do not understand the levity of temperament which betrays itself in this witticism. For my part I cannot contemplate any form of religion without a sensation of awe. There may be much imposture, much also of hypocrisy, and no small share of self-delusion amongst individuals of every sect, but sincerity will be found in the aggregate of each: and where certainty is not attainable by finite comprehensions, nay, where unity is incompatible with freedom of thought and will, it would more become us, methinks, to make allowance for each other’s weaknesses, than to vilify any worship, which, after all, may only differ from our own as to mode. Christianity, beyond a question, does not inculcate such intolerance. The true follower of that faith recognises[Pg 219] in every altar an evidence of common piety; perceives in every articulation of the name of Lord, a mutual sense of dependence and a similar appeal for succour; and taking these as inlets into the character of the supplicant, he traces an approximation to that hope whereby he is himself sustained, and rejoices in the discovery: yet it is no less true, that, when superadded to these generalities, he beholds the “image” of his Creator, acknowledging the mission of the second Godhead, and, by reliance on the all-fulness of his immaculate atonement, immersed in the waters of regenerating grace, his bosom expands with more gladness, and he welcomes the stranger as a brother.

That the rebuke here intended is not gratuitous or uncalled for, I refer to the testimony of Sir William Jones, who, with some infusion, I regret, of the same irony and incredulity, offers the following portrait, the result of tardy conviction of the superhuman qualifications of this identical Christnah, viz.: “The prolix accounts of his life are filled with narratives of a most extraordinary kind, and most strangely variegated. This incarnate deity of Sanscrit romance was not only cradled, but educated among shepherds. A tyrant, at the time of his birth, ordered all the male infants to be slain. He performed amazing, but ridiculous miracles, and saved multitudes partly by his miraculous powers, and partly by his arms: and raised the dead, by descending for that purpose into the infernal regions. He was the meekest and best tempered of beings; washed the feet of the Brahmans, and preached indeed sublimely, but always in their favour. He was pure and chaste in reality, but exhibited every appearance of libertinism. Lastly, he was benevolent and tender, and yet fomented and conducted a terrible war.”

[Pg 220]Mahony, also, is a reluctant witness to the same effect. “The religion of Bhoodha,” says he, “as far as I have had any insight into it, seems to be founded on a mild and simple morality. Bhoodha has taken for his principles wisdom, justice, and benevolence; from which principles emanate ten commandments, held by his followers as the true and only rule of their conduct. He places them under three heads, thought, word, and deed; and it may be said that the spirit of them is becoming and well-suited to him, whose mild nature was first shocked at the sacrifice of cattle.”[241]

I have already shown that Budha is but a title, embodying an abstract; that, therefore, it was not limited to one individual, but applied indiscriminately to a series. As I shall soon bring this succession nearer to our own fire-hearths, and, in a way, perhaps, which may, else, electrify over-sensitive nerves, it may be prudent that I should premise another citation, descriptive of an answer, made by a dignitary of their creed, to the last-mentioned author upon his enunciating a principle of the Hindoo doctrine. “The Hindoos,” rejoined the priest, “must surely be little acquainted with this subject, by this allusion to only one (incarnation). Bhoodha, if they mean Bhoodha Dhannan Raja, became man, and appeared as such in the world at different periods, during ages before he had qualified himself to be a Bhoodha. These various incarnations took place by his supreme will and pleasure, and in consequence of his superior qualifications and merits. I am therefore inclined[Pg 221] to believe, that the Hindoos, who thus speak of the incarnation of a Bhoodha, cannot allude to him whose religion and law I preach, who is now a resident of the hall of glory, situated above the twenty-sixth heaven.”

Now it is stated in the Puranas, that a giant, named Sancha-mucha-naga, in the shape of a snake, with a mouth like a shell, and whose abode was in a shell, having two countenances, was killed by Christnah; and as this irresistibly directs our reflection to the early part of the Book of Genesis, I shall adduce what Mr. Deane has set forth on this latter head.

“The tradition of the serpent,” says he, “is a chain of many links, which, descending from Paradise, reaches, in the energetic language of Homer,

‘Τοσσον ἕνερθ’ ἀϊδεω, ὅσον ουρανός ἐστ’ ἀπο γαίης,’

but conducts, on the other hand, upwards to the promise, that ‘the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head.’... The mystic serpent entered into the mythology of every nation, consecrated almost every temple, symbolised almost every deity, was imagined in the heavens, stamped upon the earth, and ruled in the realms of everlasting sorrow.... This universal concurrence of traditions proves a common source of derivation, and the oldest record of the legend must be that upon which they are all founded. The most ancient record of the history of the serpent-tempter is the Book of Genesis! In the Book of Genesis, therefore, is the fact from which almost every superstition connected with the mythological serpent is derived.”[242]

That “the oldest record of the legend must be that[Pg 222] upon which they are all founded,” no one can gainsay, inasmuch as the parent is always senior to the offspring: but it is not quite such a truism that “the most ancient record of the history of the serpent-tempter is the Book of Genesis.” Before a line of it was ever written, or its author even conceived, the allegory of the serpent was propagated all over the world. Temples, constructed thousands of years prior to the birth of Moses, bear the impress of its history. “The extent and permanence of the superstition,” says the erudite ex-secretary of the Asiatic Society, now Professor of Sanscrit in the University of Oxford, “we may learn from Abulfazl, who observes that in seven hundred places there are carved figures of snakes, which they worship. There is, likewise, reason to suppose that this worship was diffused throughout the whole of India, as, besides, the numerous fables and traditions relating to the Nagas, or snake-gods, scattered through the Puranas, vestiges of it still remain in the actual observances of the Hindus.”

To explore the origin, however, of this Ophite veneration, all the efforts of ingenuity have hitherto miscarried: and the combination of solar symbols with it, in some places of its appearance, has, instead of facilitating, augmented the difficulty. “The portals of all the Egyptian temples,” observes the Gentleman’s Magazine, “are decorated with the same hierogram of the circle and the serpent. We find it also upon the temple of Naki Rustan, in Persia; upon the triumphal arch at Pechin, in China; over the gates of the great temple of Chaundi Teeva, in Java; upon the walls of Athens; and in the temple of Minerva, at Tegea—for the Medusa’s head, so[Pg 223] common in Grecian sanctuaries, is nothing more than the Ophite hierogram, filled up by a human face. Even Mexico, remote as it was from the ancient world, has preserved, with Ophiolatreia, its universal symbol.”[243]

How would Mr. Deane account for this commixture? “The votaries of the sun,” says he, “having taken possession of an Ophite temple, adopted some of its rites, and thus in process of time arose the compound religion, whose god was named Apollo.”

But, sir, the symbols are coeval, imprinted together upon those edifices at the very moment of their construction; and, therefore, “no process of time” was required to amalgamate a religion whose god (it is true) was Apollo, but which was already inseparable, and, though compound, one.



I have before established the sameness of design which belonged, indifferently, to solar worship and to[Pg 224] phallic. I shall, ere long, prove that the same characteristic extends equally to ophiolatreia; and if they all three be identical, as it thus necessarily follows, where is the occasion for surprise at our meeting the sun, phallus, and serpent, the constituent symbols of each, embossed upon the same table, and grouped under the same architrave?

“Here,” says a correspondent in the supplement to the Gentleman’s Magazine of August last, “we have the umbilicated moon in her state of opposition to the sun, and the sign of fruitfulness. She was also, in the doctrines of Sabaism, the northern gate, by which Mercury conducted souls to birth, as mentioned by Homer in his description of the Cave of the Nymphs, and upon which there remains a commentary by Porphyry. Of this cave Homer says—

‘Fountains it had eternal, and two gates,
The northern one to men admittance gives;
That to the south is more divine—a way
Untrod by men, t’ immortals only known.’

“The Cross, in Gentile rites, was the symbol of reproduction and resurrection. It was, as Shaw remarks, ‘the same with the ineffable image of eternity that is taken notice of by Suidas.’ The Crescent was the lunar ship or ark that bore, in Mr. Faber’s language, the Great Father and the Great Mother over the waters of the deluge; and it was also the emblem of the boat or ship which took aspirants over the lakes or arms of the sea to the Sacred Islands, to which they resorted for initiation into the mysteries: and over the river of death to the mansions of Elysium; the Cockatrice was the snake-god. It was also the basilisk or cock-adder. ‘Habet[Pg 225] caudem ut coluber, residuum vero corpus ut gallus.’ The Egyptians considered the basilisk as the emblem of eternal ages: ‘esse quia vero videtur ζωῆς κυριεύειν καὶ θανάτον, ex auro conformatum capitibus deorum appingebant Ægyptii.’ What relation had this with the Nehustan or Brazen Serpent, to which the Israelites paid divine honours in the time of Hezekiah? What is the circle with the seasons at the equinoxes and solstices marked upon it?—the signs of the four great pagan festivals celebrated at the commencement of each of these seasons? The corner of the stone which is broken off probably contained some symbol. I am not hierophant enough to unriddle and explain the hidden tale of this combination of hieroglyphics. We know that the sea-goat and the Pegasus on tablets and centeviral stones, found on the walls of Severus and Antoninus, were badges of the second, and the boar of the twentieth legion; but this bas-relief seems to refer, in some dark manner, to matters connected with the ancient heathen mysteries. The form of the border around them is remarkable. The stone which bears them was, I apprehend, brought in its present state from Vindolana, where, as I have observed, an inscription to the Syrian goddess was formerly found. The station of Magna also, a few years since, produced a long inscription to the same goddess in the Iambic verse of the Latin comedians; and a cave, containing altars to Mithras, and a bust of that god, seated between the two hemispheres and surrounded by the twelve signs of the Zodiac, besides other signa and ἄγαλματα of the Persian god, was opened at Borcovicus only about ten years since. These, therefore, and other similar remains, found in the Roman [Pg 226]stations in the neighbourhood of Vindolana, induce me to think that the symbols under consideration, and now for the first time taken notice of, were originally placed near the altars of some divinity in the station of the Bowers-in-the-Wood. I know of no establishment that the Knights Templars had in this neighbourhood.”

The modesty of “V. W.” is not less than his diligence; and both, I consider, exemplary and great. But he will excuse me when I tell him that the Cross, the Crescent, and the Cockatrice, are still maiden subjects after his hands. Neither Faber, Shaw, nor Suidas, pretend even to approach those matters, save in their emblematic sense; and, as every emblem must have a substratum, I for one, cannot content myself with that remote and secondary knowledge which is imparted by the exoteric type, but must enter the penetralia, and explore the secrets of the eisoteric temple.

“As an old serpent casts his scaly vest,
Wreaths in the sun in youthful glory dress’d;
So, when Alcides’ mortal mould resign’d,
His better part enlarg’d, and grew refin’d;
August his visage shone; almighty Jove
In his swift car his honoured offspring drove:
High o’er the hollow clouds the coursers fly,
And lodge the hero in the starry sky.”[244]



[Pg 227]


“Chilly as the climate of the world is growing—artificial and systematic as it has become—and unwilling as we are to own the fact, there are few amongst us but who have had those feelings once strongly entwined around the soul, and who have felt how dear was their possession when existing, and how acute the pang which their severing cost. Fewer still were the labyrinths unclosed in which their affections lay folded, but in whose hearts the name of woman would be found, although the rough collision with the world may have partially effaced it.”

This instinctive influence, which the daughters of Eve universally exercise over the sons of Adam, is not more irresistible in the present day, than it proved in the case of their great progenitor. Love, however disguised—and how could it be more beautifully than by the scriptural penman?—love, in its literal and all-absorbing seductiveness, was the simple but fascinating aberration couched under the figure of the forbidden apple.

All the illusions of fancy resolve themselves into this sweet abyss. The dreams of commentators may, therefore, henceforward be spared; the calculations of bookmakers, on this topic, dispensed with: [Pg 228]whatever be my fate, one consolation, at least, awaits me, that in addition to the Towers, I shall have expounded the mysteries of Genesis.

In the Irish language, which, as being that of ancient Persia, or Iran, must be the oldest in the world, and of which the Hebrew, brought away by Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees,[245] is but a distant and imperfect branch,—well, in this primordial tongue, the nursery at once of science, of religion, and of philosophy, all mysteries, also, have been matured: and it will irrefutably manifest itself, that in it, exclusively, was woven that elegantly-wrought veil, of colloquial illusiveness, which shrouds the nature of our first parents’ downfall.

How, think you, was this accomplished? By assigning to certain terms a twofold signification, of which one represented a certain passion, quality, or virtue, and the other its sensible index. To the latter alone had the multitude any access; while the sanctity of the former was guarded against them by all the terrors of religious interdicts.

For instance, in the example before us, Budh, or Fiodh,—which is the same thing,—means, primarily, lingam, and secondarily, a tree. Of these, the latter, which was the popular acceptation, was only the outward signal of the former, which was the inward mystified passion, comprehended only by the initiated. When, therefore, we are told that Eve was desired not to taste of the tree, i.e. Budh, we are to understand that she was prohibited what Budh meant in its true signification, viz. lingam: in other words, that when cautioned against the[Pg 229] Budh, it was not an insensible tree, its symbolic import, that was meant thereby, but the vital phallus, its animate prototype:—that, in short, “missis ambagibus,” the word Budh was to be taken, not figuratively, but literally.[246]




Again, in this cradle of literary wonders—the Irish language—every letter in its alphabet expresses some particular tree; but its second, Beth,—whence the Beta of the Greeks, and a formative only of Budh, the radix,—signifies in addition to the tree which it represents[247]knowledge also! And here, obvious as light, and impregnable to contradiction, you have the tree of knowledge, in natural nakedness, divested of all the mystery of pomiferous verbiage, and identified in attributes, as in prolific import, with the name and essence of the sacred Budh![248]

[Pg 230]Here then we have, at length, arrived at the fountain-head and source of the mystery of Budhism. Eve herself, I emphatically affirm, was the very first Budhist. And, accordingly, we find that, in former ages, women universally venerated the Budh, and carried images of it, as a talisman, around their necks and in their bosoms![249]

But if Eve was the first Budhist, the first priest of the Budhist order was her first-born, but apostate son Cain: and in his acknowledging the bounty of Budh, the sun, who matures the fruits of the earth,—and thereby recognising Jehovah only as the God of nature and of increase,—rather than in looking forward by faith to the redemption by blood, as a different sacrifice would have intimated, consisted “the whole front and bearing” of his treason and offence.[250]

“If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? And if thou doest not well, a sin offering lieth at the door”[251]—the means of propitiation are within your immediate reach.

[Pg 231]The endearing tone in which this is conveyed bespeaks an appeal to some usage familiar to the party. It betokens indisputably, that on previous occasions, when Cain had acted “well,” he had met with no rejection. And for the truth of this Jehovah refers to the defendant’s own experience and self-convincing consciousness.

Cain, therefore, was a priest under a former dispensation, and a favoured one, too, and his being deprived of this office, or, in other words, “cast off from the presence of the Lord,” was the great source and origin of his present wretchedness.

But if a priest, he must have been so to a larger congregation than his father, mother, and brother: and besides, he, as well as Abel, must have had wives; but the Scriptures do not tell us that Adam and Eve, as individuals, had any daughters; it follows, therefore, that the consorts of the two brothers must have sprung from some other parents. There, then, were more men and women on the earth than Adam and Eve: and this is still further confirmed by the apprehensions expressed by Cain himself, after the murder of Abel, lest he might be slain by someone meeting him.

Yes, in the paradisaical state, before “sin entered into the world,” the earth was as crowded with population as it is at present, and Adam and Eve are only put as representatives, male and female, of the entire human species all over the globe.[252]

[Pg 232]Here I cannot do better than set the reader right as to the rendering of a subsequent text, which says that “God set a mark upon Cain lest any one meeting him should kill him”; nor can I recollect another instance wherein human ingenuity, while struggling after truth, has been more directly instrumental in the dissemination of error.

One would suppose that the setting “a mark upon” a person, instead of allaying his fears of being molested by those meeting him, should, on the contrary, aggravate them, from its extraordinary aspect. Besides, in the innumerable fantasies which commentators have conjured up as specifications of this “mark,” no vestige whatsoever has been yet traced on the human form to justify the inference.

We are obliged, therefore, at last, to recur to the truth, and it fortunately happens that this is accessible by only translating the original as it should properly be, thus, viz. “And God gave Cain a sign lest any meeting him, should kill him.”

The only question now is what that sign was, which God gave to Cain? And to resolve this, we have but to bethink ourselves of his dereliction,—namely, the offering worship to Budh, i.e. nature, or the sun: and his refusing to sacrifice, in consequence of such devotion, anything endowed with life, of which Budh, i.e. Lingam,—according to the double acceptation of the word,—was the type, as it is also the sign of Budh, the sun,—and we have infallibly developed the answer and the secret.

Stamping the nature of his crime, and at the same time indicating that, in the now fallen condition of man, this badge of his revolt would be rather a security against trespass, and a passport to acceptance[Pg 233] than an inducement to annoyance, God shows to Cain, as much in derision as in anger, the substantial image of that deity to which he had but just before done homage, viz. Budh; and thereupon, Cain goes, and, on “the land a wanderer,” he erects this sign into a deified Round Tower.

Perhaps the reader would like to have some collateral proofs for these startling interpretations. I shall give them, as convincing as the solution itself is irrefutable and true.

The Maypole festival, which the Rev. Mr. Maurice has so satisfactorily shown to be but the remains of an ancient institution of India and Egypt (he should have added Persia, and, indeed, placed it first), was, in fact, but part and parcel of this Round Tower worship. May the 1st is the day on which its orgies were celebrated; nor is the custom, even now, confined to the British Isles alone, but as naturally prevails universally throughout the East, whence it emanated of old to us. Lest, too, there should be any mistake as to the object of adoration, we are told in the second volume of the Asiatic Researches, in a letter from Colonel Pearce, that Bhadani, i.e. Astarte, i.e. Luna, i.e. Venus, i.e. “Mollium mater cupidinum,” was the goddess in whose honour those festivities were raised.

Now as astronomy was connected with all the ceremonies of the ancients, the sun’s entrance into Taurus, which in itself bespeaks the vigour of reanimated productiveness at the vernal equinox, was the symbol in the heavens associated by the worshippers with this allegorical gaiety. But this event takes place a little earlier every year than the preceding one, by reason of what astronomers call the precession,[Pg 234] so that at present it occurs at a season far more advanced than it did at first.

Theory and observation both concur in establishing that 72 years is the period which the equinox will take to precede 1 degree of the 360 into which the heavens are divided,—2160 years 30 degrees, that is, one sign,—and 25,920, 360 degrees, or the twelve signs of the Zodiac. If, therefore, we compute at this rate the precise year at which the vernal equinox must have coincided with the 1st of May,—which must certainly have been the fact at the origin of the institution,—it will prove to have been about the four thousandth before the Christian era, which exactly corresponds with the time of Cain, and irrefutably confirms the origin which I have assigned to the worship of the Budh, Tower, Phallus, or Maypole.

Mr. Maurice’s position deserves to be remarked. “I have little doubt, therefore,” says he, “that May-day, or at least the day on which the sun entered Taurus, has been immemorially kept as a sacred festival from the creation of the earth and man, originally intended as a memorial of that auspicious period and that momentous event.”

It is with extreme reluctance that I would dissent from a writer who has contributed so largely as the gentleman before us towards the restoration of literature; but since we agree as to the era of the origin of the festival, and substantially as to its design, I have the less hesitation in recording my belief that it was not the creation of the earth or of man that was intended to be commemorated, but the commencement of a new dispensation, consequent upon man’s defection.[253]

[Pg 235]Lord, from the Shaster, quotes the following abstract, marking the opinion of the Easterns themselves, as to Adam and Eve having had many contemporaries. This relates an interview between a different couple. “Being both persuaded that God had a hand in this their meeting, they took council from this book, to bind themselves in the inviolable bond of marriage, and with the courtesies interceding between man and wife, were lodged in one another’s bosoms: for joy whereof the sun put on his nuptial lustre, and looked brighter than ordinary, causing the season to shine upon them with golden joy; and the silver moon welcomed the evening of their repose, whilst music from heaven, as if God’s purpose in them had been determinate, sent forth a pleasing sound, such as useth to fleet from the loud trumpet, together with the noise of the triumphant drum. Thus proving the effects of generation together, they had fruitful issue, and so peopled the East, and the woman’s name was Sanatree.”

This Maypole ceremony, under the name of Phallica, Dionysia, or Orgia, which last word, though sometimes applied to the mysteries of other deities, belongs more particularly to those of Bacchus,[254][Pg 236] was celebrated, at one time, throughout Attica with all the extravagance of religio-lascivious pomp. Archer, in his Travels in Upper India, arrived at a village just a few hours only after the May gaieties were over, and found the pole still standing. “The occasion,” says he, “was one of festivity, for all had strings of flowers about their heads, and they spoke of the matter as one of great pleasure and amusement.” As, however, he did not come in for the actual observances, I shall supply the omission by detailing the form of its celebration in our own country.

“Anciently,” says M‘Skimin, in his History of Carrickfergus, “a large company of young men assembled each May-day, who were called May-boys. They wore above their other dress white linen shirts, which were covered with a profusion of various coloured ribbons, formed into large and fantastic knots. One of the party was called King, and the other Queen, each of whom wore a crown, composed of the most beautiful flowers of the season, and was attended by pages who held up the train. When met, their first act was dancing to music round the pole, planted the preceding evening; after which they went to the houses of the most respectable inhabitants round about, and having taken a short jig in front of each house, received a voluntary offering from those within. The sum given was rarely less than five shillings. In the course of this ramble the King always presented a rich garland of[Pg 237] flowers to some handsome young woman, who was hence called ‘the Queen of May’ till the following year.”

With this compare the description given by the author of the Rites and Ceremonies of all Nations, of a similar worship as celebrated amongst the Banians. “Another god,” says he, “much esteemed and worshipped by these people, is called Perimal, and his image is that of a pole, or the large mast of a ship. The Indians relate the following legend concerning this idol. At Cydambaran, a city in Golcondo, a penitent having accidentally pricked his foot with an awl, let it continue in the wound for several years together; and although this extravagant method of putting himself to excessive torture was displeasing to the god Perimal, yet the zealot swore he would not have it pulled out till he saw the god dance. At last, the indulgent god had compassion on him, and danced, and the sun, moon, and stars danced along with him. During this celestial movement, a chain of gold dropped from either the sun or the god, and the place has been ever since called Cydambaran. It was also in memory of this remarkable transaction that the image of the god was changed from that of an ape to a pole, thereby intimating (adds the good-natured expositor of himself) that all religious worship should reach up towards heaven, that human affections should be placed on things above.”

Now, this mysterious Peri-Mal is but a euphony for Peri-Bal, that is, the Baal-Peor before explained: and when you remember the destination which I have there assigned him, you will perceive the propriety of his having been represented by a[Pg 238] mast or May-pole. As to the Indian legend, it only shows the antiquity of the rite, superadded to that religious investment which was meant as a shield against profanation.

Vallancey also mentions the following additional custom, which he himself witnessed in the county of Waterford:—“On the first day of May, annually, a number of youths, of both sexes, go round the parish to every couple married within the year, and oblige them to give a ball. This is ornamented with gold or silver coin. I have been assured, they sometimes expended three guineas on this ornament. The balls are suspended by a thread, in two hoops placed at right angles, decorated with festoons of flowers. The hoops are fastened to the end of a long pole, and carried about in great solemnity, attended with singing, music, and dancing.

The mummers, in like manner, who went about upon this day, demanding money, and with similar solemnities, as if for the moon in labour, were derived from the same origin. In Ceylon this practice is confined to “women alone,”[255] who, as the editor of the Rites and Ceremonies, etc., informs us, “go from door to door with the image of Buddu in their hands, calling out as they pass, ‘Pray, remember Buddu.’[256] The meaning is, that will enable them to sacrifice to the god. Some of the people give them money, others cotton thread, some[Pg 239] rice, and others oil for the lamps. Part of these gifts they carry to the priests of Buddu, and the remainder they carry home for their own use.”

The money collected in Ireland, on the same occasion, would appear to have been somewhat similarly expended, having been “mostly sacrificed to the jolly god; the remainder given to the poor in the neighbourhood.”

“Here, for a while, my proper cares resigned,
Here let me sit in sorrow for mankind;
Like yon neglected shrub, at random cast,
That shades the steep, and sighs at every blast.”[257]



[Pg 240]


When I cast back my eye upon this narrative, through the long perspective of ages which it involves, I confess I feel incommoded by some misgivings of self-distrust. When I consider the mighty individuals, of transcendent powers and almost inexhaustible resources, who, having reconnoitred its coast, either perished in the impotency of effecting a landing, or, more wisely, receded from it as impregnable, I am thrown back, as it were, upon myself, and impeded by the comparison of my own littleness.

But if “God has often chosen the small things of the earth to confound the great”; and if success in past undertakings be any guarantee against the illusiveness of inward promise; if the roads be all chalked, the posts lighted, and the sentinels faithful, why, then, allow the influence of petty fears to mar, at all events, the project of an ennobling enterprise?

In that cherished volume, whence our first lessons upon religion have been deduced, and which, as embodying the principles of our happiness here, and our hopes hereafter, has been honoured with the pre-eminent and distinctive appellation of the Bible, or Book, there occur numerous phrases of mysterious import, but pregnant significancy, which pious men, unable to solve, have contented themselves with classifying as under the head of “above [Pg 241]reason”—“contrary,” and “according to,” being the two other constituents of their predicamental line.

Those conventional terms which expediency alone has invented are, to say the least, arbitrary; and as all men have an equal right to form a specification of their subject-matter, I shall, without disconcerting the order of the above division, endeavour only to rescue the points to which I refer from immersion in the first class;[258] or—if allowed the latitude of parliamentary elocution—to take them out from the condemnation of Schedule A.

To begin, then, with the following text, viz. “The sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair, and they took them wives of all which they chose.”[259]

What do you understand by the expression “sons of God”?

His peculiar people, you reply; such, for instance, as called upon His name;[260] or, perhaps, Seth’s descendants in opposition to those of Cain, the unrighteous.

Turn, sir, to the beginning of the first and second chapters of Job, and read what you are there informed of.

“Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them.” And, “Again, there was a day, when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the Lord.”

Well, what is your answer now? or will it not be different from what it was before? Can you seriously[Pg 242] imagine that it was any race of ordinary human beings that was thus denominated? And are you not compelled to associate the idea with some one of the other superior productions of omnipotent agency?

I will make you, sir, if you have candour in your constitution, acknowledge the fact. Listen—“Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare if thou hast understanding: when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.”[261]

Here allusion is made to a period antecedent to the existence of either Cain or Seth. The myriads of revolving ages suggested by the interrogatory set even fancy at defiance; nor are their limits demarked by the vague and indefinite exordium of even the talented and otherwise highly-favoured legislator, Moses himself.[262] And yet, in this incomprehensible inane of time, do we see the sons of God shouting for joy, before the species of man—at least in his degenerate sinfulness—had appeared upon this surface!

It is manifest, therefore, that some emanation of the Godhead, distinct from mere humanity, is couched under the phrase of “the sons of God”; and accordingly we perceive that, when they “went in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them,” it is emphatically noticed, as an occurrence of unusual impress, that “the same became mighty men, which were of old, men of renown.”[263]

At the commencement of the verse, whence the last extract has been taken, you will find the name of giant[Pg 243] mentioned; and instantly after, as if in juxtaposition, nay, as if synonymous with it in meaning, is repeated “the sons of God”: thereby identifying both in nature and in character, and proving their sameness by their convertibility.

The Hebrew word from which giant has been translated, signifies to fall: and what, do you suppose, constituted this apostasy? In sooth, nothing else than that carnal intercourse, which they could not resist indulging with the “daughters of men,” when their senses told them they were lovely.[264] Thus do both names corroborate my truth; while both reciprocally illustrate each other.

“It may seem strange,” says Wilford, “that the posterity of Cain should be so much noticed in the Puranas, whilst that of the pious and benevolent Ruchi is in a great measure neglected. But little is said of the posterity of Seth, whilst the inspired penman takes particular notice of the ingenuity of the descendants of Cain, and to what a high degree of perfection they carried the arts of civil life. The charms and accomplishments of the women are particularly mentioned. ‘The same became mighty men, which were of old, men of renown.’”

And again,—“We have been taught to consider the descendants of Cain as a most profligate and abominable race. This opinion, however, is not countenanced, either by sacred or profane history. That they were not entrusted with the sacred deposit[Pg 244] of religious truths, to transmit to future ages, is sufficiently certain. They might, in consequence of this, have deviated gradually from the original belief, and at last fallen into a superstitious system of religion, which seems, also, a natural consequence of the fearful disposition of Cain, and the horrors he must have felt, when he recollected the atrocious murder of his brother Abel.”

This, so far as it goes, is satisfactory enough; but it is groping in the dark, and without a pilot. A few pages, in the distance, will, however, bring us to the right understanding of these points also; meanwhile, I return to the Mosaical record, for the insight therein afforded into the history of Cain.

We are told then that he “knew his wife, and she conceived and bare Enoch”: and as this name signifies initiation in sacred rites, as well as it does an assembly of congregated multitudes,—in which latter sense it was accurately applied to the “city” which he had “builded,”—it shows that the new religion bade fair for perpetuity.

Irad, the name of Enoch’s son, proves the crowning finish of the matured ceremonial, for intimating, as it does, consecrated to God, we are naturally led to connect its bearer with the profession of that worship which his name represented.

As Irad signifies consecrated to God, so Iran does the land of those so consecrated; and accordingly we may be assured that it was in that precise region that the Budhists had first established the insignia of their empire.[265]

[Pg 245]Let us now inquire what light will the Dabistan afford to our labours. It is known that Sir John Malcolm was no ready convert to its merits; his abridgment of it, therefore, cannot be suspected of any colouring; and, as I like the testimony of reluctant witnesses, I shall even make him the interpreter of its recondite contents.

“In almost all the modern accounts of Persia,” says he, “which have been translated from Mahomedan authors, Kaiomurs is considered the first king of that country; but the Dabistan, a book professedly compiled from works of the ancient Guebrs, or worshippers of fire, presents us with a chapter on a succession of monarchs and prophets who preceded Kaiomurs. According to its author the Persians, previous to the reign of Kaiomurs, and consequently long before the mission of Zoroaster, venerated a prophet called Mah-abad, or the Great (rather the Good) Abad, whom they considered as the father of men. We are told in the Dabistan that the ancient Persians deemed it impossible to ascertain who were the first parents of the human race. The knowledge of man, they alleged, was quite incompetent to such a discovery; but they believed, on the authority of their books, that Mah-abad was the person left at the end of the last great cycle, and consequently the father of the present world. The only particulars they relate of him are, that he and his wife, having survived the former cycle, were blessed with a numerous progeny, who inhabited caves and clefts of rocks, and were[Pg 246] uninformed of both the comforts and luxuries of life; that they were at first strangers to order and government, but that Mah-abad, inspired and aided by Divine Power, resolved to alter their condition; and, to effect that object, planted gardens, invented ornaments, and forged weapons. He also taught men to take the fleece from the sheep, and to make clothing; he built cities, constructed palaces, fortified towns, and introduced among his descendants all the benefits of art and commerce.

“Mah-abad had thirteen successors of his own family; all of whom are styled Abad, and deemed prophets. They were at once the monarchs and the high priests of the country; and during their reigns, the world, we are informed, enjoyed a golden age, which was, however, disturbed by an act of Azer-abad, the last prince of the Mahabadean dynasty, who abdicated the throne, and retired to a life of solitary devotion.

“By the absence of Azer-abad his subjects were left to the free indulgence of their passions, and every species of excess was the consequence. The empire became a scene of rapine and of murder. To use the extravagant expression of our author (the Dabistan), the mills, from which men were fed, were turned by the torrents of blood that flowed from the veins of their brothers; every art and science fell into oblivion; the human race became as beasts of prey, and returned to their former rude habitations in caverns and mountains.

“Some sages, who viewed the state of the empire with compassion, intreated Iy-Affram, a saint-like, retired man, to assume the government. This holy man, who had received the title of Iy (pure), from his[Pg 247] pre-eminent virtues, refused to attend to their request, till a divine command, through the angel Gabriel, led him to consent to be the instrument of restoring order, and of reviving the neglected laws and institutions of Mah-abad. Iy-Affram founded a new dynasty, which was called the Iy-abad; who, after a long and prosperous reign, suddenly disappeared, and the empire fell again into confusion. Order was restored by his son, Shah Kisleer, who was with difficulty prevailed upon to quit his religious retirement to assume the reigns of government. His successors were prosperous till the elevation of the last prince of the dynasty, whose name was Mahabool. This monarch, we are told, was compelled by the increasing depravity of his subjects to resign his crown.

“He was succeeded by his eldest son, Yessan, who, acting under divine influence, supported himself in that condition which his father had abandoned. This prince founded a new dynasty, which terminated in his descendant, Yessan-Agrin. At the end of his reign the general wickedness of mankind exceeded all bounds, and God made their mutual hostility the means of the Divine vengeance, till the human race was nearly extinct. The few that remained had fled to woods and mountains, when the all-merciful Creator called Kaiomurs, or Gilshah, to the throne.”

We only now want a key to unlock the portals of this Magh-abadean household; and I flatter myself that this, which I am about to tender, will consummate to an accuracy that very desirable purpose.

Cain’s immediate progeny are they which are included under the above denomination. Their faith and worship are exactly symbolised under its derivative dress. Magh, as before explained, is good; and[Pg 248] Abad, a unit; that is, when combined, the Good One, or Unit, the author of fruitfulness and productiveness—in which light alone, as all-bountiful and all-generous, was he recognised by this family.

This unity of the Godhead was what was religiously comprehended under the Phallic configuration of the Round Tower erections; and this, furthermore, elucidates that heretofore enigmatical declaration of the Budhists themselves, viz. that the pyramids, in which the sacred relics are deposited, “be their shape what it will, are an imitation of the worldly temple of the Supreme Being.”[266]

But if Magh-abadean was the name adopted by them with this spiritual tendency, Tuath-de-danaan was that which pictured them a sacerdotal institution. The last member of this compound I have already expounded. It remains that I develop what the two first parts conceal.

Tuath, then, is neither more nor less than a dialectal modification for Budh, which, according to the licence of languages, transformed itself, otherwise and indifferently, into Butt, Butta, Fiod, Fioth, Thot, Tuath, Duath, Suath, Pood, Woad; and in the two last forms—of which one is Gothic, and the other Tamulic—admitted a final syllable,—which was but an insignificant termination,—namely, en, making Pooden and Woad-en; or Poden and Woden.

In these several variations, and the innumerable others which branch therefrom, while the sensible idea is preserved underneath, there is superinduced another of a more refined complexion. Thus, Budh,[Pg 249] while it primarily represents the sun, its type, the penis; and again, its sign, a tree, expresses also the attributes of magic, science, divination, and wisdom.

These were the consequences of that mysterious garb in which the priests invested the true elements of their religion. Being themselves the sole possessors of its inward secrets, and all literature and erudition going hand in hand also therewith, it was so dexterously managed, that a sort of reverential feeling attached, not only to those qualities in the abstract, but to the consecrated personages who were their depositories. Hence, while Budh came to signify divination and wisdom, Budha, its professor, did a divine and wise man; and Tuath, being only a modification of the former epithet, Tuatha is the corresponding transmutation of the latter.

Tuatha, therefore, signifies magicians;[267] and so we have the first component of Tuath-de-danaans elucidated. The second requires no Œdipus to solve it, De being but the vernacular term whereby was expressed the Deity; and as I have previously established the import of Danaans to have been Almoners, it follows that the aggregate tenour of this religious-compound-denomination is the Magician-god-almoners, or the Almoner-magicians of the Deity.

[Pg 250]As from Budh was formed Fiodh, so from Fiodh arose Fidhius; and as I have before shown that Hercules and Deus were synonymous terms, and both personifications of the Sun, so, accordingly, we find that this symbolical adjunct was reciprocally appropriated to one as to the other.

I dwell upon those terms with the more impressive force, because that the spirit of no one of them has ever before been developed. Me Deus Fidhius, and Me Hercules Fidhius, we where taught at school to consider as appeals to the God of Truth, and the Hercules of Honour. Most assuredly those virtues are comprehended under the radix of the great mysterious Original; but the dictionaries and lexicons that gave us those significations knew no more of what that Original was than they did of the connection between soul and body.

Deus Fidhius, then, means God the Budha, and as such the All-wise, the All-sacred, the All-amiable, and the All-hospitable; and Hercules Fidhius, that is, Hercules the Budha, is, in sense and meaning, exactly the same.

The Latin word Fides, and the English Faith, are but direct emanations from the same communion. A thousand other analogies must suggest themselves now in consequence. In a word, if you go through the circle of natural religion and artificial science,—if you analyse the vocabulary of conventional taste and of modish etiquette, you will find the constituent particles of all the leading outlines resolve themselves into the physical symbolisation of the radical Budh.

What inference, I ask my reader, would he draw from the above facts? Unquestionably that at the[Pg 251] outset of social life, mankind at large had used but one lingual conversation; and as the Irish is the only language in which are traced the germs of all the diverging radii,—nay, as it is the focus in which all amicably meet,—it follows inevitably that it must have been the universal language of the first human cultivators—the nursery of letters, and the cradle of revelation.

“How charming is divine Philosophy!
Not harsh and crabbed, as dull fools suppose,
But musical as is Apollo’s lute,
And a perpetual feast of nectared sweets
Where no crude surfeit reigns.”



[Pg 252]


The Tuath-de-danaans, or Mahabadeans, being thus far proved as the first occupiers of Iran, it may be asked, How happens it that no Persian historians, anterior to Mohsan Fani, have noticed their existence? In the first place, I answer that they all have mentioned them, however unconsciously by themselves, or inadvertently by others. And even had this not been the fact—had not a single syllable been recorded, bearing reference to their name, the remote era, in itself, of their detachment from that country, would be the best possible apology for the omission.

The professed writers upon Persia belong all to a recent period; and the magazines which they consulted, for the scanty information which they furnish, were either Arabs or Greeks—the former a body of predatory warriors, whose only insight into letters arose from the opportunities which their rapines had supplied them; and the latter, a community who, insensible to the beauties of moral truth, took delight in distorting even the most commonplace occurrences into the most unnatural incredibilities and misshapen incongruities.

But independently of these causes, another more powerful one had before long co-operated. A rival dynasty, starting up from amongst themselves, succeeded, by the issue of a religious revolution, to effect their expulsion; and that once ascertained—the doors[Pg 253] of admission ever after closed against their return—the victors were not satisfied with the monopoly of civil power, but they must wreak their vengeance still more, by the erasure of every vestige of the former sway.

In this devastating course, the Round Towers, as the temples of their figurative veneration, were particularly obnoxious; and, accordingly, we may be assured, that it was owing to the durability of those edifices, and not to the clemency of the assailants, that any one of them has been able to survive the hurricane.

Who, you will ask, were those destroyers? They were the Pish-de-danaans. And so energetically did they prosecute their extinguishing plan, aided, besides, by the antiquity of its remote occurrence, that all writers upon that country, before the compilers of the Dabistan, have set them down as its first dynasty, making the Kaianians, the Askanians, and the Sassanians, their successors.

Here I am obliged, in compliance with the justice of my subject, to expose an error of a gentleman, whom I would rather have overlooked.

“The Tuatha-dadan of the Irish,” says Vallancey, “are the Pish-dadan of the Persians”; which he pretends to prove as follows:—“First, then,” says he, “Tuath and Pish are synonymous in the Chaldee, and both signify mystery, sorcery, prophets, etc.; they are both of the same signification in the Irish; therefore by Pish-dadan and Tuatha-dadan, I understand the Dadanites, descended of Dedan, who had studied the necromantic art, which sprang from the Chesdim, or Chaldeans.”

Of a piece with this was his assertion that Nuagha[Pg 254] Airgiodlamh of the Irish, was Zerdust of the Persians! And wherefore, think you, reader? Because, forsooth, Airgiodlamh signifies silver-hand, and Zerdust, gold-hand! Yes, but he made out another analogy, and it is worth while to hear it, viz. that Nuagha had his hand cut off by a Fir-Bolg general; while Zerdust’s life was taken away by a Turanian chieftain!!!

This is but an item in that great ocean of incertitude in which that enterprising etymologist had, unfortunately, been swallowed up. Having perceived by the perusal of the manuscripts of our country, that there must have been a time when it basked in the sunshine of literary superiority; yet unable tangibly to grapple with it, having no clue into the origin of its sacred repute, or the collateral particulars of its date, nature, or promoters, he was tossed about by the ferment of a parturient imagination, without the saving ballast of a discriminating faculty.

The General’s work, accordingly, is one which must be read with great reserve; not because that it does not offer many valuable hints, but because that its plan is so crude, and its matter so ill-digested,—the same thing being contradicted in one place, which was affirmed in another, or else repeated interminably, without regard to method or to style,—that when you have waded through the whole, you feel you have derived from it no other benefit than that of whetting your avidity for a correct insight into those subjects, of which the author, you imagine, must have had some idea, but which also, it is evident, however indefatigable he was in the attempt, he had not, himself, the power to penetrate.

The great praise, therefore, which I would award[Pg 255] to this writer, is that, with one leg almost in the grave, he sat down, in the enthusiasm of a youthful aspirant, to master the difficulties of the Irish tongue, which, mutilated though it be, and begrimed by disuse, he knew was, notwithstanding, the only sure inlet to the genius of the people, as well as to the arcana of their antiquities, the most precious, as they are, and fruitful, of any country on the surface of the globe.

But though his perseverance had rendered him the best Irishian of his age, and of many ages before him, yet has he committed innumerable blunders, even in the exposition of the most simple words; and the question now in point will verify this declaration, with as much exactitude as any other that could be adduced.

Tuath, then, and pish are by no means synonymous; neither do they signify mystery or prophets, except in a secondary light. In their original acceptation, they are the antipodes of each other, as much as male is to female, and as relative is to correlative.[268]

They are the distinctive denominations for the genital organs of both sexes, respectively—Tuath signifying Lingam; and Pish, Yoni.

I have already explained that Tuath is but a modification of the word Budh—the final dh of the latter having been changed into the final th of the former, only for euphony; because that prefixed to de-danaan the collision of the two d’s—as Bud-de-danaan—would not sound well; it was, therefore, made Buth-de-danaan; and—the initials b and[Pg 256] t being always convertible,—hence became Tuath-de-danaan.

The case was exactly opposite with respect to pish: I mean so far as the alteration of two of its letters is concerned. Pith is the usual method of pronouncing that term: nor is it, except when followed by a d, that it assumes the other garb. But as dh, in the former instance, was commuted into th, so th, in this latter, is still further into sh; therefore, instead of Pith-de-danaan, we make it Pish-de-danaan.

To screen those two ligaments of sexual familiarity from the peril of profane and irreverent acceptations, all the investiture of magic was shrouded upon them. The vocabulary of love and of religion became one and the same: mystery and enchantment were identified, and the negotiations of the earth, and the revolutions of the heavens, were blended with the witchery of amative sway.

In this universality of domain, no one of those dear helpmates had a greater portion of honour assigned to it than the other. They were equal in power, and alike in attributes. And to set this equality beyond the contingencies of doubt, it was withal arranged, that while each, primarily, retained its distinct sexual interpretation, they should both, secondarily, harmonise under another mutual exposition; and what more appropriate one could be devised than that of the influence which they exercised? and of the veil with which they were guarded?

Magic, therefore, and mystery, were the two secondary imports, in which both were united; and the ambiguity thus occasioned was what cast Vallancey[Pg 257] upon that shoal, which proved similarly fatal to many a preceding speculator.

To exemplify—Budh, or Tuath, in its literal and substantive acceptation, implies the Lingam; collaterally, magic; and by convention, mystery, prophets, legislators, etc. Pish, in like manner, or Pith, denotes, literally, the Yoni; collaterally, magic; and by convention, mystery, prophets, legislators, etc. And the offshoots of either, in an inferior and deteriorated view, such as Budh-og from the former, and Pish-og from the latter, intimate, indiscriminately, witchcraft, wizard, or witch.

Now the words De-danaans, having been already illustrated as meaning God-Almoners, if we prefix to them, severally, Tuath and Pish, they will become Tuath-de-danaans, and Pish-de-danaans; the former expressing, literally, Lingam-God-Almoners; and the latter, literally, Yoni-God-Almoners; and both equally, by convention, Magic-God-Almoners.

As we have had exhibited numerous representations of the homage paid to the paternal member of this theocracy, perhaps I may be permitted to adduce a single quotation demonstrative of the honours shown to his maternal colleague.

“The Chinese,” says the author of Rites and Ceremonies, “worship a goddess, whom they call Puzza, and of whom their priests give the following account:—They say that three nymphs came down from heaven to wash themselves in a river, but scarce had they got into the water before the herb Lotos[269] appeared on one of their garments, with its coral[Pg 258] fruit upon it. They were surprised to think whence it could proceed; and the nymph upon whose garment it was could not resist the temptation of indulging herself in tasting it. But by thus eating some of it, she became pregnant, and was delivered of a boy, whom she brought up, and then returned to heaven. He afterwards became a great man, a conqueror and legislator, and the nymph was afterwards worshipped under the name of Puzza.”[270]

And thus we see that Budh and Pish were the actual regulators of the solar universe.

Time, however, dissolved the chain which linked together those mysterious absolutes: or, rather, the zealots of each contrived to sever an attachment, which was intended by nature to be reciprocal and mutual.[271] War, devastating, desecrating war, spread abroad over the plain! Human energies were evoked into an unknown activity! Men’s passions, always inflammable by the jealousy of partisanship, were here furthermore stimulated by the rancour of religion! And hearts were lacerated, and countries were depopulated in sustainment of the consequences of a physiological disquisition!!!

But what do you conceive to have been the topic at issue? Verily, it was whether the male or the female contributed more largely to the act of generation!—those who voted for the female side ranging themselves under the banners of Pish, and those for the male under the standard of Budh, while both equally[Pg 259] appealed to heaven for adjudication of their suit, by arrogating to themselves the adjunct of De-danaans, or God-Almoners.

“Not but the human fabric from its birth
Imbibes a flavour of its parent earth,
As various tracts enforce a various toil,
The manners speak the idiom of the soil.”

Whether or not, however, the result is to be considered as decisive of the matter in dispute, one thing at least is certain, namely, that the Pish-God-Almoners obtained the victory; and the Budh-God-Almoners were thrown upon the ocean; over whose bosom, wafted to our genial shores, they did not only import with them all the culture of the East, with its accompanying refinement and polished civilisation; but they raised the isle to that pinnacle of literary and religious beatitude which made it appear to the fancies of distant and enraptured hearers more the day-dream of romance than the sober outline of an actual locality.

I shall now illustrate a part of those truths by the Indian history of the circumstances, as copied from their Puranas, by one who had no anticipation of my differently-drawn conclusions, and one, in fact, who did not know either the scene or the substance of the occurrence which he thus transcribes.

“Yoni, the female nature, is also,” says Wilford, “derived from the same root (yu, to mix). Many Pundits insist the Yavanas were so named from their obstinate assertion of a superior influence in the female over the linga or male nature, in producing a perfect offspring. It may seem strange that a question of mere physiology should have occasioned not only a vehement religious contest, but even a bloody war;[Pg 260] yet the fact appears to be historically true, though the Hindu writers have dressed it up, as usual, in a veil of historical allegories and mysteries, which we should call obscene, but which they consider as awfully sacred.

“There is a legend in the Servarasa, of which the figurative meaning is more obvious. When Sati, after the close of her existence as the daughter of Dascha, sprang again to life in the character of Parvati, or Mountain Spring, she was reunited in marriage to Mahadeva. This divine pair had once a dispute on the comparative influence of the sexes in producing animated beings, and each resolved, by mutual agreement, to create apart a new race of men.[272] The race produced by Mahadeva were very numerous, and devoted themselves exclusively to the worship of the male deity; but their intellects were dull, their bodies feeble, their limbs distorted, and their complexions of many different hues. Parvati had, at the same time, created a multitude of human beings, who adored the female power only, and were all well shaped, with sweet aspects and fine complexions. A furious contest ensued between the two races, and the Lingajas were defeated in battle; but Mahadeva, enraged against the Yonijas, would have destroyed them with the fire of his eye, if Parvati had not interposed and spared them;[273] but he would spare[Pg 261] them only on condition that they should instantly leave the country, with a promise to see it no more; and from the Yoni, which they adored as the sole cause of their existence, they were named Yavanas.”

It is evident that a mistake has been committed in the above narrative, making the victors the persons who were obliged to quit! and we know from testimony, adduced upon a different occasion, that instances of such confusion were neither unfrequent nor uncommon.[274] But even admitting it to be accurate, the apparent contradiction is easily reconciled; as it is probable that the contest was protracted for a long period of time, before it was ultimately decided in favour of one party; and, in the alternations of success, one side being up to-day, and another uppermost to-morrow, what could be more natural than that a colony of the Yavanas, or Pish-de-danaans,—which is the same,—should have fled for shelter to India, before that the auspices of their arms, propelled by the fair cause which they vindicated, had, at length, accomplished the overthrow of their adversaries.

This object, however, once obtained,—full masters of their wishes, and sole arbiters of Iran,—they were not satisfied with the mere extinction of all the symbols of their predecessors,—save and except the Towers which stood proof to their attacks,—but they established there instead a code, as well political as moral, more consonant with their own prejudices: and the wonder would be great, indeed, if, after this[Pg 262] triumphant assertion of female power, gratitude and religion should not both combine in making the type of that influence—the sacred crescent, or yoni—the personification of their doctrines; and woman herself, all-lovely and all-attractive, the concentrated temple of their divinity upon earth!

Such was the commencement of the Pish-de-danaan dynasty in Persia; and its influence still operating, after a long interval of time, is what the historian unconsciously describes in the following terms, viz.:—

“If we give any credit to Ferdosi, most of the laws of modern honour appear to have been understood and practised with an exception in favour of the ancient Persians, whose duels, or combats (which were frequent), were generally with the most distinguished among the enemies of their country or the human race. The great respect in which the female sex was held was, no doubt, the principal cause of the progress they had made in civilisation. These were at once the cause of generous enterprise and its reward. It would appear that in former days the women of Persia had an assigned and honourable place in society; and we must conclude that an equal rank with the male creation, which is secured to them by the ordinances of Zoroaster, existed long before the time of that reformer, who paid too great attention to the habits and prejudices of his countrymen, to have made any serious alterations in so important a usage. We are told by Quintus Curtius, that Alexander would not sit in the presence of Sisy-gambis till told to do so by that matron, because it was not the custom in Persia for sons to sit in presence of their mothers. There can be no[Pg 263] stronger proof than this anecdote affords, of the great respect in which the female sex were held in that country at the period of his invasion.”[275]

“Without thee, what were unenlightened man?
A savage roaming through the woods and wilds
In quest of prey; and with the unfashioned fur
Rough clad; devoid of every finer art,
And elegance of life. Nor happiness
Domestic, mixed of tenderness and care,
Nor moral excellence, nor social bliss,
Nor grace, nor love, were his.”[276]



[Pg 264]


But you will say that I have ventured nothing like proof, of the paradoxical affirmation propounded a short while ago, as to the Tuath-de-danaans having been mentioned, by all Eastern writers, in connection with Persia; and yet unnoticed, the while, by themselves, not less than unheeded by their readers?

True: I but awaited the opportunity which has just arrived.

Are you not aware, then, how that all Oriental writers, when referring to Budha, who was born at Maghada, in South Bahar, state that he was the son of Suad-dha-dana? And have I not already shown you that Suadh and Tuath were but disguises of each other, and both resolvable into Budh?

Those first components, therefore, in each being the same, look at the entire compound words, Tuath-de-danaan, and Suad-dha-dana, and are not the rest, also, infallibly identical?

Admitting this, you reply, how could they, in that early age, make their way to Ireland? which, from its extreme position, must have been the very last place they would have thought of!

If the question refers to the route pursued, I decline its solution, as not necessary for my design. “A piece of sugar, or a morsel of pepper, in a neglected corner of a village inn, would be a certain[Pg 265] proof,” says Heeren, “of the trade with either Indies, even if we possessed no other evidences of the commerce of the Dutch and English with those countries.” And when I have already made the coincidences between the two Irans and their inhabitants, their forms of worship, their language and mode of life, to be historical axioms, I surely cannot be expected to waste labour upon such a trifle, which sinks into nothing against evidences of the actual fact.[277]

But if the length of the voyage be the obstacle insinuated, then would I find some difficulty to—do what?—keep my muscles grave: as if, forsooth, the adventurous sons of man could only, slowly and imperceptibly, and like so many ants pushing a load before them, introduce themselves, inch by inch, and in measured succession, into the diversified terraqueous globe spread abroad for their enjoyment!—when we have direct demonstration that such was far from having been the case in the instance of a colony which, starting from Tyre, and leaving behind on all sides the most inviting and delicious countries, planted itself down, perhaps from the mere spirit of romance, in the circumscribed little island of Cadiz, long before Carthage or Utica had existence even in name!

No, sir; we must not be so fond of derogating from the ancients all participation in those embellishments which promote society. Asia was the cradle of the whole human race; and thence, as its population overflowed, migratory herds in different states of[Pg 266] civilisation, and with different forms of religious culture, poured in their successive colonies with multitudinous inundation into the other continental lands; but with more zeal, and with stronger preference, into those compact little nests which have been significantly denominated the “Isles of the Gentiles.”

Vessels rode over the briny surges with as proud a canvas as now receives the gale.[278] The model of the ark would be lesson sufficient to instruct an enterprising generation in the science of naval architecture: and we may well suppose that, of all pursuits cultivated by human art, this would have occupied the very foremost regard by a people just rescued, through its salutary instrumentality, from the desolating scourge of an all-swallowing abyss.

“Well, then, at all events,”—I fancy I hear you exclaim,—“you admit the story of the deluge?”

Certainly; and that of Noah, and the ark, and the dove, and the raven. But did I not, also, concede the story of the giants, and of the serpent? of the sons of God, and of the tree of knowledge? Nay, have I not put the truth of those particulars beyond the possibility of scepticism, much more of denial? But, believe me, that the liquid which composed this “deluge” was more of the colour of claret than it was of water;—that there was no more of wood or timber in the construction of this “ark” than there was in that of the “tree of knowledge”—that those two latter were congenial and correspondent to each other,—in their configuration and intention,—and[Pg 267] that flesh and blood were the elements of which they were both composed.

“For all that meets the bodily sense, I deem
Symbolical, one mighty alphabet
For infant minds———”

Could the coincidence of measure[279] between the great Egyptian pyramid at its base, and that of the Noachic ark, in ancient cubits,[280] have been accidental, do you imagine? And if not, what community of purpose, do you think, had been subserved by such numerical analogy?

The triangle, in the old world, was a sacred form. It represented the properties—capacity and dilatation—of the female symbol. Lucian, in his Auction, states the following dialogue as having occurred between Pythagoras and a purchaser, viz.:—

Pyth. How do you reckon?

Pur. One, two, three, four.

Pyth. Do you see? What you conceive four, these are ten; and a perfect triangle, and our oath.

Now, Pythagoras, though a Samian, was educated in Egypt; and the religious mysteries, with which[Pg 268] he had been there imbued, are what is so profanely ridiculed by this infidel scoffer.

It is not my province to justify the ceremonial of the Egyptians, any further than as indicative of gratitude to the Godhead; but the reflection must suggest itself to every observant mind, that they are never called idolaters in any part of the Pentateuch; and Plutarch, in addition, positively asserts that “they had inserted nothing into their worship without a reason,—nothing merely fabulous,—nothing superstitious; but their institutions have reference either to morals or something useful in life, and bear a beautiful resemblance, many of them, to some facts in history, or some appearance in nature.”

If we investigate the secret of this Pythagorean asseveration, we shall find that the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, thrice joined, and touching each other, as it were, in three angles, in this manner—



constitute an equilateral triangle, and amount also, in calculation, to ten. While the inward mystery, couched under its figure, embraced all that was solemn in religion and in thought, being, in fact, the index of male and female united—the unit, in the centre, standing for the Lingam.

Look now at the form of the great Egyptian pyramid; and is it not precisely that of the above triangle? Is there not, also, an aperture into it, about[Pg 269] the middle as here?[281] And when to all, we add the notion of wells of water withinside, is not the demonstration complete, that the goddess of the Lotos, the soft promoter of desire, the arbitress of man, and the compeer of the angels, was the honoured object of its symbolical erection?[282]

In 1 Pet. iii. 20, it is asserted that only “eight persons” were preserved in the ark. Let us suppose them to have been Noah and his wife, with his three sons and their wives. At a comparatively short interval after the date assigned to this event,—at most but 352 years,—on Abraham’s arrival in the land of Egypt, we find a flourishing kingdom, an organised police, a systematic legislature, and comprehensive institutions, diffused over its surface. All the other parts of the world, we must be ready to presume, if not equally enlightened, were, at least, as populous; and I put it to your good sense to decide, whether eight individuals could, within that period, not only procreate so plentifully as to replenish the whole earth, but enlighten it, additionally, with such a coruscation of science, as no subsequent era has been since able to eclipse?

Indeed, the Scriptures themselves give us, elsewhere, to understand that St. Peter did not correctly interpret this history. “Come thou,” says Gen. vii. 1, “and all thy house, into the ark!” This[Pg 270] gracious invitation, at so critical a juncture, would have been too welcome a proffer to be lost sight of by anyone who could make it available; and must not we suppose that the domestics to whom the extension was addressed, with their several dependants and collateral offspring, would have been glad and happy to grasp at it with delight?

But the name of the type itself is worth a hundred deductions from equivocal premises. The coffer of the law, the coffin of Joseph, the money chest of the temple, are all severally translated ark, and recorded in Hebrew by the word ארון aron: but the “ark of Noah”[283] and Moses’s “ark of bulrushes”[284] are peculiarly designated, תבת Thebit, or תבה tebah.[285]

What is the meaning of these mysterious terms?

“Quo spectanda modo, quo sensu credis, et ore?”

As the Tau of the Hebrews is, indifferently, in power, T and Th, Thebit has as good a right to be spelled with, as without, an h at the end of it,—and, indeed, a better right, considering the elements whereof it is compounded. Thebith, then, is the proper and true sound, and the mystery of its import I thus unravel.

Its first syllable, The, signifies sacred or[Pg 271] consecrated;[286] and since the letters b and p are commutable—bith is the same as pith, that is, Cteis or Yoni. The words The-bith, then, together, in all the attraction of truth, intimate the consecrated Cteis; or the sacred Yoni![287]

But Pith, itself, is only a conversion of Fidh, the initial letters P and F being always interchangeable, and not more so than the penultimates t and d. And Fidh, in its abstract and original position, such as we have early seen it, is masculine, the plural of Budh, conveying variously the significations of Lingams, trees, and bulrushes. Here, however, where it is feminine, its sex reversed, and the anatomy of nature pourtrayed by the physics of language, the idea of the bulrushes alone presents itself; and the basket in which Moses was saved from the waters, and which was made of such reeds, was appropriately denominated by this mysterious symbol, as a type of the virginity in which the Messiah was to be incarnated, not less than of the redemption which was to accrue from His sufferings.

Another stage has been thus advanced; and lo! the beautiful union which subsists, as to design, between the results of our discoveries, and the consoling assurances of pure Christianity!

Let us now proceed a little farther in this course—

“Sanctos ausi recludere fontes,”[288]

and connect these truths with the Tuath-de-danaans and the Pish-de-danaans.

[Pg 272]“Noah was a just man,” observes the scriptural historian, “and perfect in his generations; and Noah walked with God.”[289]

The name of this patriarch implies literally a boat: the character assigned him is not so well understood.

To succeed in the investigation we must have recourse to the context: and here the first thing that strikes us is the observation “that the earth was corrupt before God, and filled with violence; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth.”[290]

A passage in the New Testament will be the best comment upon this subject, where the patience of God with the iniquities of mankind being at length exhausted, it is said, that He “gave them over to a reprobate mind,” “to dishonour their own bodies between themselves.”[291]

But Noah did not participate in those unhallowed abominations, and he accordingly “found grace in the eyes of the Lord.”[292]

We now, therefore, see the propriety of the name assigned to his ark;[293]—and the intimation of approval conveyed by the divine command of “Come thou and all thy house into it,” was but another form of the injunction elsewhere conveyed, to the same effect, in the words, “Be ye fruitful and multiply.”[294]

Noah, then, and Kaiomurs[295] were one and the same person, the reformer of the human species, and the[Pg 273] first monarch of the Pish-de-danaan dynasty. Yavana was another name appropriated to him, and equivalent with Noah, excepting only that the former is literal, and the latter figurative. An advantage, however, arises from this difference, for when we know that Yavana means the yoni, and Noah a boat, and that both were equally characteristic of the same individual character, we conclude that the latter denomination was but the symbol of the former—that, in fact, it was the lunar boat,[296] or the crescent, the concha Veneris, and the type of comfort[297] that was veiled under the mystery of this ambiguous device.



This fact once explained, you have the immediate solution of those “semicircular implements” so[Pg 274] universal throughout this island, and which Ledwich acknowledges “have created more trouble to the antiquarians to determine their use, than all the other antiquities put together.”

These are all made of the finest gold, and, as emblems of the yoni, which was the Raman palladium, used to have been worn as breast-plates by the priests and sovereigns. They would sometimes, also, exhibit them as ornaments to the head-dress: and when so designed the two terminating angles used to have been furnished with circular cups, whereby they would better adhere to the part: of such, likewise, we have the following specimen.[298]



Yun is the usual mode of pronouncing Yavana;[Pg 275] and as the veneration of posterity for the virtues of this legislator, at a moment when vice had threatened a general decay,[299] led them to consider him a god, he hence obtained the prefix of Deo or Deu, which along with that of Cali, whose champion he showed himself, make up the romantic, emblematic and nominal representation of Deucaliyun.[300]

“Safe o’er the main of life the vessel rides,
When passion furls her sails, and reason guides;
Whilst she who has that surest rudder lost,
Midst rocks and quicksands by the waves is tost;
No certain road she keeps, nor port can find,
Toss’d up and down by every wanton wind.”[301]

The struggles for ascendency between contending parties are not the growth of a day; still less are they unstained by the effusion of blood. Deluge was no very extravagant hyperbole to apply to such a carnage; for independently of our knowing that every visitation, whether by fire, water, or sword, was so denominated by the Easterns, we have the Scriptures themselves illustrating this use of the term in applying it to the description at a far later period of an equally severe and no less distressing catastrophe.

“Now, therefore, the Lord bringeth upon him the waters of the river, strong and many, even the King of Assyria and all his glory; and he shall come up over all his channels, and go over all his banks. And he shall pass through Judah; he shall overflow and[Pg 276] go over, he shall reach even to the neck; and the stretching out of his wings shall fill the breadth of Thy land, O Immanuel.”[302]

But how, you ask, account for the marine strata, and other remains, found within the earth’s recesses?

I answer they were there embedded and inanimate, before ever man was placed above them as a denizen.

“It is clearly ascertained,” says Cuvier “that the oviparous quadrupeds are found considerably earlier, or in more ancient strata than those of the viviparous class. Thus the crocodiles of Harfleur and of England are found immediately beneath the chalk. The great alligators and the tortoises of Maestricht are found in the chalk formation, but these are both marine animals. This earliest appearance of fossil bones seems to indicate that dry lands and fresh waters must have existed before the formation of the chalk strata; yet neither of that early epoch, nor during the formation of the chalk strata, nor even for a long period afterwards, do we find any fossil remains of mammiferous land quadrupeds. We begin to find the bones of the mammiferous sea animals, namely, of the lamantin and of seals, in the course of shell limestone which immediately covers the chalk strata in the neighbourhood of Paris. But no bones of the mammiferous land quadrupeds are to be found in that formation; and notwithstanding the most careful investigations I have never been able to discover the slightest trace of this class excepting in the formations which lie over the coarse limestone[Pg 277] strata: but on reaching these more recent formations, the bones of land quadrupeds are discovered in great abundance.

“As it is reasonable to believe that shells and fish did not exist at the period of the formation of the primitive rocks, we are also led to conclude that the oviparous quadrupeds began to exist along with the fishes, while the land quadrupeds did not begin to appear till long afterwards, and until the coarse shell limestone had been already deposited, which contains the greater part of our genera of shells, although of quite different species from those that are now found in a natural state. There is also a determinate order observable in the disposition of those bones with regard to each other, which indicates a very remarkable succession in the appearance of the different species.

“All the genera which are now unknown, as the Palæotheria, Anapalæotheria, and with the localities of which we are thoroughly acquainted, are found in the most ancient of the formations of which we are now treating, or those which are placed directly over the coarse limestone strata. It is chiefly they which occupy the regular strata which have been deposited from fresh waters, or certain alluvial beds of very ancient formation, generally composed of sand and rounded pebbles.

“The most celebrated of the unknown species belonging to known genera, or to genera nearly allied to those which are known, as the fossil elephant, rhinoceros, hippopotamos, and mastodon, are never found with the more ancient genera, but are only contained in alluvial formations. Lastly, the bones of species which are apparently the same with those[Pg 278] that still exist alive, are never found except in light and alluvial dispositions.”

From all which, this philosopher draws the following just conclusion, namely:—“Thus we have a collection of facts, a series of epochs anterior to the present time, and of which the successive steps may be ascertained with perfect certainty, though the periods which intervened cannot be determined with any degree of precision. These epochs form so many fixed points, answering as rules for directing our inquiries respecting this ancient chronology of the earth.”

To return—“God said unto Noah, the end of all flesh is come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.”[303]

Now, we see that the earth has not been destroyed, and this single circumstance, in itself, ought to have been enough to show us that the whole register was but figurative. The raven and the dove were indispensable auxiliaries to the structure of the allegory: the former typifies the massacre that prevailed during the period of the contest; and the latter, in its meek and its tender constancy, the invariable attendant, besides, of Venus and the boat, characteristically pourtrays the overtures made for an accommodation, until, after a second embassy, the olive-branch of peace was saluted, and the cessation of hostilities was the consequence.[304]

Behold, then, the folly of those dreamers who would make Thebith so called, as if the ark had rested upon it! Why, sir, in the entire catalogue of[Pg 279] local names, there is no one half so common as that of Thebith and Thebæ! And surely you will not claim for your ideal man-of-war, in addition to other properties, that of ubiquity also, by making it perch upon all those places, at one and the same time!

No, these scenes have been all denominated from the form of religion which they recognised, and of which the Pith, Yoni, or sacred Boat, was the conventional sign: as the countries of Phut, that is, But, and Buotan, were so designated likewise, from their adopting the opposite symbol, namely, the Budh, Phallus, or sacred Lingam!

Perplexed in this entanglement, and tossed about in “a sea of speculation,” Mr. Jacob Bryant, in some respects a clever man, after a fatiguing cruise of somewhat more than half a century, fell at last a victim in the general shipwreck.

“Your wise men don’t know much of navigation.”

The Gentiles, says he, worshipped Noah’s ark! Yes they did; but not in the sense in which he understood it.[305]

Another axiom of his is, that the Deluge must have really happened, because that the tradition of it is[Pg 280] universal! To this, also, I chime in my affirmative response, and proclaim, yea. But the tradition of the tree of knowledge is equally universal. And though the ground work of both occurred, and was substantively true, yet was the description of neither more than a graceful allegory; while the salutary alarm imparted under this guise, and the monitory lesson suggested by its horrors, in amusing the fancy, edified it, at the same moment, by keeping before it a picture of that spiritual desolation, which sin leaves in the citadel of the soul.[306]

“Moses,” says the apostle, “was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds.”[307]

Now Strabo assures us that the Egyptians of his day were as ignorant as he was himself of the origin of their religion, of the import of their symbols, and of their national history. They pretended to retain some evanescent traces thereof in the time of Diodorus; but so scrupulously exact were they in the concealment of their tenour, that to pry into them, profanely, was morally impossible.

Herodotus himself, who neglected no channel of information, found it no easy matter to glean a few initiatory scraps from them. And even these were accompanied with such solemn denunciations, that his embarrassment is betrayed when but alluding to their tendency.

If, during Moses’s residence at Pharaoh’s Court, his opportunities of insight were greater, it is still self-evident that the accomplishments which he obtained were more of a secular character than of a religious[Pg 281] cast—that the courtier was the first object of the young princess’s directions, and the qualifications of the statesman her next ambition for her charge. The mysteries of the priests were too awful, and too sanctified, to be debased to the routine of a schoolboy’s rehearsal; and even when ripening age did bespeak a more chastened mind, the communication of their contents was obscured by the interposition of an almost impenetrable umbrage.

Thus palliated by types, Moses did, however, imbibe from the Egyptians all the knowledge which they then possessed of the nature of their ceremonies; and the record of the Fall, the Deluge, and the Creation are the direct transcripts of the instruction so conveyed. But though it is undeniable, from their symbols, that the Egyptians must have been well apprised of the constitution of those rites, yet am I as satisfied as I am of my physical motion, that the foldings of that web, in which they were so mystically doubled, was lost to their grasp in the labyrinths of antiquity.

Moses, therefore, could not have learned from the Egyptians more than the Egyptians themselves had known. He related the allegory as he had received it from them: and it is, doubtless, to his ignorance of its ambiguous interpretation, accessible only through that language in which it was originally involved, that we are indebted for a transmission, so essentially Irish.

The Pish-de-danaan dynasty which rose upon the ruins of the Tuath-de-danaans, in Iran, was itself, in after ages, ejected from that country. Egypt was the retreat of their shattered fortunes; and there, during their abode, under the name of the Shepherd-kings,[Pg 282] they erected the Pyramids, in honour of Pith, or Padma-devi, but at an age long anterior to what may be presumed from Manetho.[308]

Previously, however, to their arrival in Egypt, Shinaar in Mesopotamia afforded them an asylum. Here it was that Nimrod broke in:[309] and as I have before but transiently glanced at that circumstance, I shall now revert to it with more precision.

Between the tenets of the Pish-de-danaans and those of their Tuath-de-danaan predecessors, there was but a single point of dissentient belief. The language, the customs, the manners and modes of life of both were the same. To all intents and purposes they were one identical people.

But as the former had imagined that the Yoni alone was the author of procreation, while the others claimed that honour for their own symbol, the Lingam, an animosity ensued, which was not allayed even by the consciousness, that each, secretly, worshipped the type of the other’s creed.

The goddess, however, prevailed in the struggle, and her glories in Iran were great and far spread. Monarchs bowed at the nod of her omnipotence, and the earth swelled with the gestations of her praise.[310][Pg 283]Sed ultima dies semper homini est expectanda.” A rude and a lawless swarm of stragglers, headed by an adventurer of commanding abilities and determined heroism, deluged, in turn, the Boatmen, or the Noachidæ,[311] and swamped them in a flood, as sanguinary and as disastrous as that which they had, themselves, before, brought upon the adversaries of their zeal.

But it was not the bloodshed of the scene that affected them half so much as the insult offered by the erection of the Tower![312] And as no clue can be so adequate for the analysis of this enigma as that which they themselves have bequeathed,—for it was from the Yavanas or Pish-de-danaans that Moses had been taught the fact,—I shall place such before your eyes, in all the eloquence of a self-interpreting dissyllable.

מנרל is the name by which the scriptural record[Pg 284] perpetuates this structure.[313] If you put this into English letters, and read them regularly, from left to right, it will be Lidgam. But the Hebrews read in the opposite direction, from right to left; and that is the very cause of the appearance of the d in the word; for as Magnil—reading backwards—would produce a cacophony, the n of the original was left out, and d substituted, making Magdil: reinstate, therefore, the n, and enunciate the Hebrew word, as you would the Irish or the Sanscrit, and it will not only unmask the secret of this long-disputed edifice, but be, sound, and personate, in all the nicety of accentuation, Lingam, and thus prevent all further controversy about the character of the Tower of Babel.

“The waies through which my weary steps I guide,
In this researche of old antiquitie,
Are so exceeding riche, and long, and wyde,
And sprinkled with such sweet varietie,
Of all that pleasant is to eare and eye,
That I, nigh ravisht with rare thought’s delight,
My tedious travel quite forgot thereby;
And when I gin to feel decay of might,
It strength to me supplies and cheers my dulled spright.”[314]



[Pg 285]


I have stated that it was from the Pish-de-danaans or Yavana philosophers of Egypt that Moses had learned the allegories of the Deluge and of the Fall. I now add, that it was by them also he had been instructed in that consolatory assurance which told him that the “Seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head.”[315]

In truth, it was this very promise made to the ancestors of those people in Paradise, which is but another name for Iran,[316] that gave rise to the schism between them and the Tuath-de-danaans.

“Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children: and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.”[317]

The nature of the crime is here clearly denoted by the suitableness of the punishment.[318] But the same over-ruling Judge, who, in conformity with His justice, could not but chastise the violation of His injunctions, yet, in mercy to man’s weakness, and seeing that “he also is flesh,” condescended to [Pg 286]promise that the instrument of his seduction should be also the vehicle of his redeeming triumph.

“I will put enmity between thee (the serpent) and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.”[319]

Pinning their faith upon the literal fulfilment of these terms, which told them that the female, as such, would be the unaided author of a being, whose healing effects would restore them to the inheritance so heedlessly forfeited, their veneration for that symbol of divine interposition became correspondingly unbounded; and their enthusiasm for the principle of its strict verification was what engendered the thought that in the general procreating scheme the yoni was the vivifier.

The Tuath-de-danaans or Lingajas, on the other hand, were not less satisfied in their security; but looking upon the terms with a more spiritual interpretation, and led by the operation of ordinary physics to consider the question as a deviation from the general rule, they erected the symbol of male capability as the standard of their doctrine. And thus, while the zeal of both parties shook the very framework of society, yet did they concur in all the essentials of their respective religions; and even the particulars of that prospect by which they were both sustained, instead of operating as an exception to the universality of this truth, only confirm its import.

The Jews, who were but newly brought forward upon the stage, and who, in the inscrutable councils of heaven, were selected as the objects of God’s[Pg 287] immediate superintendence, being informed of the tenour of the paradisaical hope, abused it more wantonly than ever did the Pish-de-danaans or the Tuath-de-danaans.

Unable to comprehend, from their narrow mental calibre, any agency in the form of a divine emanation, and yet fancying, each of them, that she would herself be the mother of the expected Redeemer, their women indulged in all the lusts of desire, and, where no opportunity offered for licensed gratification, revelled in the arms of incest.

This alone can apologise for that intensity of passion, exceeding even the dictates of natural thirst, and unrestrained by the consideration of decency or consanguinity, whereof we read in the Old Testament, respecting the Israelitish daughters;[320] while it also demonstrates that the carnality of their souls did not allow them thoroughly to understand the precise nature of the favour designed.

Far otherwise the case with the intellectual races, which they were now appointed to supersede.

“In order to reclaim the vicious, to punish the incorrigible, to protect the oppressed, to destroy the oppressor, to encourage and reward the good, and to show all spirits the path to their ultimate happiness, God has been pleased to manifest Himself, say the Brahmins, in a variety of ways, from age to age, in all parts of the habitable globe. When He acts immediately, without assuming a shape, or sending forth a new emanation, when a divine sound is heard from the sky, that manifestation of Himself is called acasavani, or an ethereal voice: when the voice [Pg 288]proceeds from a meteor or a flame, it is said to be agnarupi, or formed of fire; but an avatara is a descent of the Deity in the shape of a mortal; and an avantara is a similar incarnation of an inferior kind, intended to answer some purpose of less moment. The Supreme Being, and the celestial emanations from Him, are niracara, or bodiless, in which state they must be invisible to mortals; but when they are pratya-sha, or obvious to sight, they become sacara, or embodied, either in shapes different from that of any mortal, and expressive of the divine attributes, as Chrishna revealed himself to Arjun, or in a human form, which Chrishna usually bore, and in that mode of appearing the deities are generally supposed to be born of women without any carnal intercourse.”[321]

Is this repugnant to the spirit of Christianity? No; it is its counterpart. “I know,” says Job, in the moment of inspiration, “that my Redeemer liveth.”[322] Prophetically, you reply; and you back the opinion by our Saviour’s own appeal that “Abraham saw his day, and was glad.”[323]

Abraham certainly believed by anticipation, but Job by retrospection. And if you will not think my assertion decisive of the matter, I will produce an authority to which you will more readily subscribe.

“And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship Him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”[324]

It will be in vain for you to attempt to parry the evidence of this startling text. No visionary foresight will accomplish its defeat: no ideal substitutions will shake its validity.

[Pg 289]“How it came to pass,” says Skelton, “that the Egyptians, Arabians, and Indians, before Christ came among us, and the inhabitants of the extreme northern parts of the world, ere they had so much as heard of Him, paid a remarkable veneration to the sign of the cross, is to me unknown, but the fact itself is known. In some places this sign was given to men accused of a crime, but acquitted: and in Egypt it stood for the signification of eternal life.”[325]

“V. W.” has asserted something similar;[326] but neither one nor the other has attempted to fathom its origin.

“The Druids,” adds Schedius, “seek studiously for an oak tree, large and handsome, growing up with two principal arms, in form of a cross, beside the main stem upright. If the two horizontal arms are not sufficiently adapted to the figure, they fasten a cross-beam to it. This tree they consecrate in this manner. Upon the right branch, they cut in the back, in fair characters, the word Hesus: upon the middle or upright stem, the word Taramis: upon the left branch, Belenus: over this, above the going off of the arms, they cut the name of God, Thau: under all, the same repeated Thau.”[327]

“The form of the great temple,” observes Dr. Macculloch, “at Loch Bernera, in the Isle of Lewis the chief isle of the Hebrides, is that of a cross, containing, at the intersection, a circle with a central stone; an additional line being superadded on one side of the longest arms, and nearly parallel to it.[Pg 290] Were this line absent, its proportion would be nearly that of the Roman cross, or common crucifix.”

And then, in reply to the supposition of its having been converted by the Christians into this form, he avers that “the whole is too consistent, and too much of one age, to admit of such; while at the same time, it could not, under any circumstances, have been applicable to a Christian worship. Its essential part, the circular area, and the number of similar structures found in the vicinity, equally bespeak its ancient origin. It must, therefore, be concluded, that the cruciform shape was given by the original contrivers of the fabric; and it will afford an object of speculation to antiquaries, who, if they are sometimes accused of heaping additional obscurity on the records of antiquity, must also be allowed the frequent merit of eliciting light from darkness. To them I willingly consign all further speculations concerning it.[328]... “Yet it seems unquestionable that the figure of a cross was known to the Gothic nations, and also used by them before they were converted to Christianity.”[329]

I do not know whether or not would the Doctor deem me an “antiquary,” or if he did, in which class would he assign me a place. I will undertake, notwithstanding, to solve this difficulty with as much precision as I have the others before it.

The existence of the “cross,” and its worship, anterior to the Christian era, being no longer liable to dispute, it remains only that we investigate the cause which it commemorates.[330]

[Pg 291]Our first aid in this research will be the notice of its accompaniments; and when we find that it goes ever in the train of a particular divinity, are we not compelled to connect that divinity with the idea of a crucifixion?

Taut, amongst the Egyptians, is emblemised by three crosses.[331] The Scandinavians represent their Teutates by a cross. And a cross is the device by which the Irish Tuath is perpetuated.

But these are all one and the same name, varied by the genius of the different countries. The centre from which they diverge, as well as the focus to which they return, I have shown to be Budh: and as this symbol of his worship is universally recognised, does not the crucifixion thus implied identify his fate with that of the “Lamb slain from the beginning of the world”?[332]

The Pythonic allegory which the Greeks have so obscured, in reality originated in this religious transaction. For what is their fable? Is it not that Apollo slew with his arrow the serpent Python? And as Apollo means son of the Sun, is not the substance of the whole, that the offspring of a virgin’s womb—that is, an emanation of the Sun, or Budh—overcame by his[Pg 292] own death—typified by an arrow—sin and sensuality, of which the serpent, i.e. pith, is the symbol?

We are now prepared for the reception of that chronicle, transmitted through the Puranas, and noticed already at p. 221, viz. that a “giant, named Sancha-mucha-naga, in the shape of a snake, with a mouth like a shell, and whose abode was in a shell, having two countenances, was killed by Christnah.”

The very name of this allegoric “giant” indicates the mysterious snake—his being in the form of a snake is but the personification of sensuality; his having a mouth like a shell alludes to the concha Veneris, or the Pith; his having his abode in that shell denotes its being the seat of temptation; his having two countenances implies the disguise which sin assumes; and his being slain by Christnah denotes that the Son of God, by mortification and self-denial, and the most rigid abstinence from all worldly pleasures, verified in His own person the promise made in Paradise, and for the minor disquietudes which guilt entails—expressed by the “heel” being “bruised” by the “serpent,”—inflicted a blow, which laid low his empire, and stamped the signal of victory over his “head.”[333]

“Ye search the Scriptures,” says our Saviour “for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of Me.”[334]

Testification can be made only in the case of a past occurrence. It is never used in the way of prophecy. And in conformity with its true import, you will find, from Genesis to Revelation, the concurrent tenor of the Sacred Volume giving proof to the fact of Christ’s former appearance upon the earth as man!

But suppose me for a moment to descend from this[Pg 293] position, and view those previous manifestations as ordinary subjects of history, then hear an outline of what is transmitted to us respecting one of them.

Chanakya, Zacha, or, as our registers have it, Macha,[335] one of the personifications of Budh, the general appellative of those heaven-sent devotees, was so startling a paragon of human impeccability, as to inspire his followers with the conviction of his being an incarnation of the Godhead.

He is stated to have been the son of one of the most powerful of eastern kings; but, according to their preconceived notions of the future Redeemer, born of his mother without any knowledge of the other sex.

The circumstances attendant upon his infantine education, and the precocity of his parts, favoured an inauguration upon which their fancies had been long riveted. After a laborious ordeal of pious austerity, not without miraculous proofs and other intimations of Divine approval, he was duly admitted to the honour of canonisation, and entered, accordingly, upon his task of consigned Saviour of the world.

The encounters with which he had to contend, in this uphill work, against flesh and blood, were those which were, afterwards, again combated by the admitted Saviour whom he had personated. The same faults he reprehended; the same weakness he deplored; the same hypocrisy he rebuked; and the same virtues he inculcated. The purification of the inner spirit was the object which both professed, and the improvement of human morals in social intercourse and relation, the evidence in practice, upon which both equally insisted.

[Pg 294]If Christ promised a heaven to the votaries of His truths, Budha did a nirwana to his disciples and imitators: and though the former place, to our imagination, sounds replete with all delights, while the latter is merely figured as exempt from all painfulness, yet both agree in one particular, not a little soothing to wounded hope, in being essentially such, as where “the wicked cease from troubling, and where the weary are at rest.”

But great as was the resemblance which the personal example and the doctrinal lessons of Macha and Christ bore to one another, it was as nothing compared to the almost incredible similitude of their respective departures. They both died the inglorious death of the cross to reconcile man to his offended Creator; and in confident dependence upon the best authenticated assurance, exulted on the occasion, however galling the process, of expiating, by their own sufferings, the accumulated sins of humanity.

Is it to be wondered at, therefore, that the traces which they have left behind them, in their different ages, should bear an analogy to one another? Or would not the wonder rather be that they did not, in all respects, harmonise?

“Let not the piety of the Catholic Christian,” says the Rev. Mr. Maurice, “be offended at the preceding assertion, that the cross was one of the most usual symbols among the hieroglyphics of Egypt and India. Equally honoured in the Gentile and the Christian world, this emblem of universal nature, of that world to whose quarters its diverging radii pointed, decorated the hands of most of the sculptured images in the former country, and in the latter[Pg 295] stamped its form upon the most majestic of the shrines of their deities.”[336]

The fact alone is here attested to: not a syllable is said as to the reason why: and though I cannot but recognise the scruples of the writer, nor withhold my admiration from the rotundity in which the diction has been cast, yet the reader must have seen that, as to actual illustration, it is—like the Rev. Mr. Deane’s flourish about the worship of the serpent—“Vox et præterea nihil!”[337]

“You do err, not knowing the Scriptures,”[338] said a Master, without pride, and who could not err. If the remark applied in His day, it is not the less urgent in ours. So astounding did the correspondence between the Christian and the Budhist doctrines appear to the early missionaries to Thibet and the adjacent countries—a correspondence not limited to mere points of faith and preceptorial maxims, but exhibiting its operation in all the outward details of form, the inhabitants going even so far as to wear crosses around their necks—that Thevenot, Renaudot, Lacroze, and Andrada, have supposed in their ignorance of the cause of such affinity, that Budhism must have been a vitiation of Christianity before planted; whereas Budhism flourished thousands of years before it, or Brahminism either; and this cross was the symbol of Budha crucified.

“Our second illustration,” says the Dublin Penny Journal, referring to what I have here introduced, “belongs to a later period, and will give a good idea of the usual mode of representing the Saviour, whether[Pg 296] on stone crosses, or on bronze, which prevailed from the sixth to the twelfth century. Such remains however, are valuable, not only as memorials of the arts, but as preserving the Celtic costume of a portion of the inhabitants of our island in those remote ages. It will be seen that in this, as in one of the shrine-figures before given, the kilt, or philibeg, is distinctly marked, and controverts the erroneous assertion of Pinkerton, formerly noticed, that “it was always quite unknown amongst the Welsh and Irish.”[339]



[Pg 297]How others may receive it I do not know; but for myself, I confess, I find it no easy matter to maintain the composure of my countenance at this affected pomposity of censorial magniloquence. The self-complacency of the censor one could tolerate with ease, if the assumption of the historian had aught to support it. But alas! every position in the extract is the direct opposite of truth, with the exception of that which asserts another person’s error; and even this is beclouded with such egregious observations as to show, that leaving Pinkerton to P——[340] would be consigning the blind to a blinder conductor.

For, in the first place, the philibeg was not a Celtic costume at all, but belonged to the De-danaan, or Iranian colony,[341] who, on their overthrow here, took it with them to what is now called Scotland. The Firbolgs, who were Celts, and occupied this island before the Iranians, wore another style of dress altogether, which, on the reconquest of the country by the Scythian swarms, B.C. 1000, became again the national uniform. For the Firbolgs, having assisted the Scythians in dislodging the Iranians from the throne of the kingdom, and agreeing with them furthermore in point of worship and of garb, they did not only make their own habits, as well of religion as of dress, universal throughout the realm, but obliterated every vestige of the obnoxious costume, and cancelled every symptom of its characteristic [Pg 298]ceremonial, except alone those Round Temples of adamantine strength, which defied the assailment of all violence and batteries.

There was no remnant, therefore, of the kilt to be met with in Ireland, either in the sixth century, or in the twelfth, or indeed for many centuries before the Christian era at all. This effigy,[342] therefore, could not have been intended for our Saviour, wanting, besides, the I. N. R. I.,[343] and wearing the Iranian regal crown instead of the Jewish crown of thorns. Therefore are we justified in ascribing it to its owner, Budha, whom again we find imprinted in the same crucified form, but with more irresistibility of identification, over the monuments of his name—over the doors and lintels of the temples of his worship.

 [Pg 299]


Mr. Gough, describing this edifice, tells us that “On the west front of the tower (Brechin) are two arches, one within the other, in relief. On the point of the outermost is a crucifix, and between both, towards the middle, are figures of the Virgin Mary and St. John, the latter holding a cup with a lamb. The outer[Pg 300] arch is adorned with knobs, and within both is a slit or loop. At bottom of the outer arch are two beasts couchant. If one of them, by his proboscis, was not evidently an elephant, I should suppose them the supporters of the Scotch arms. Parallel with the crucifix are two plain stones, which do not appear to have had anything upon them.”[344]

Captain Mackenzie, in his Antiquities of the West and South Coast of Ceylon, which still professes adherence to Budhism, tells us that “at each side of the doorway (of the temple at Calane), inclosed in recesses cut in the wall, are two large figures, the janitors of the god (Budh).... A large elephant’s tooth and a small elephant of brass form the ornament of a lampstead.... A female figure of the natural size, decently and not ungracefully arrayed in the same garb, was represented standing in another quarter, holding a lamp in the extended hand. The gallery was entirely covered with paintings, containing an history of the life of Boodhoo—one of these seemed to represent the birth of the divine child. A large white elephant made a conspicuous figure in most of these assemblies.”[345]

Scotch arms, indeed! Why, Sir, those animals were recumbent there, in deified transfiguration, before ever Pict or Scot had planted a profane foot within their neighbourhood. What connection, let me ask, could this elephant and this bull have with Christianity, to entitle them to the honour of being grouped with our Saviour? Or, if any, how happens it that we never see them enter into similar combinations, in churches or chapels, or convents or cathedrals?[345]

[Pg 301]But if they belong not to the Christian ceremonial, they do to something else. They are the grand, distinctive, and indispensable adjuncts of Budhism; being the two animals into which, according to its doctrine of metempsychosis, the soul of Budha had entered after his death.

This was the origin of the Egyptian Apis: and who is not familiar with the honours lavished upon the sacred bull? To this day the elephant is worshipped in the Burman empire,[346] where the genius of Budhism still lingeringly tarries; and “Lord of the White Elephant” is the proudest ensign of power claimed by the successors to the throne of Pegu.

The human figures, then, of course, cannot be intended for “St. John or the Virgin Mary.” They represent Budha’s Virgin Mother, along with his favourite disciple, Rama. And thus does the testimony of Artemidorus, who flourished 104 years before Christ, a native himself of Ephesus, and who did not himself understand the mystery of that Virgin whom he historically records, receive illustration from my proof, while it gives it confirmation in return.

His words are—“Adjacent to Britain there stands an island, where sacred rites are performed to Ceres and the Virgin, similar to those in Samothrace.”

Initiation in the principles of this Samothracian ceremonial was thought so necessary an accomplishment[Pg 302] for every hero and every prince, that no aspirant to those distinctions ever ventured upon his destination, without first paying a visit to that religious rendezvous. The solemnity, attaching to the ritual there performed, was not greater than the veneration paid to the place itself. All fugitives found shelter within its privileged precincts, and the name of sacred was assigned it, as the ordinary characteristic of such sanctuaries.[347]

“There are,” says the Scholiast upon Aristophanes, “two orders of mysteries celebrated in the course of the year, in honour of Ceres and the Virgin—the lesser and the greater; the former being but a sort of purification and holy preparation for the latter.”[348]

Who the Virgin was, however, none but the initiated ever presumed to investigate, the practice observed in respect to her, being the same as that which influenced the other ordinances of antiquity: and which made Strabo himself declare, that “all that can be said concerning the gods must be by the exposition of old opinions and fables; it being the custom of the ancients to wrap up in enigma and allegory their thoughts and discourses concerning nature, which are, therefore, not easily explained.”[349]

Proclus also says: “In all initiations and [Pg 303]mysteries, the gods exhibit themselves under many forms, and with a frequent change of shape; sometimes as light defined to no particular figure; sometimes in a human form; and sometimes in that of some other creature.”[350]

With the clue, however, already afforded, we need not be deterred from approaching her fane. The allegorical name, under which they disguised her, was that of Proserpine: whom they represent “so beautiful that the father of the gods himself became enamoured of her, and deceived her by changing himself into a serpent, and folding her in his wreaths.”[351]

This was the Greek perversion of the narrative. They had received it from the Pelasgi, under the garb of a conception, by serpentine insinuation, in a virgin womb: and, the grossness of their intellects not allowing them to comprehend the possibility of an emanation, yet giving unqualified credence to the record, they degraded altogether the religiousness of the thought, and supposed that the Almighty, to effectuate his design, had actually assumed the cobra di capello form!

So austere was the rule, by which those mysteries were protected, that Æschylus but barely escaped discerption within the theatre, for an imagined disrespect to their tendency. Nor was it but on the plea of ignorance and un-initiation, that he did ultimately obtain pardon.[352]

This insuperable barrier to the curiosity of the profane, engendered in their conduct a corresponding[Pg 304] reaction, and, as the fox did to the grapes, what they could not themselves compass, they strove all they could to vituperate!

“Virtue, however, is its own reward,” and, as the authority of Cicero, having been himself a priest, ought to have some weight in the discussion, it is no small impetus to the cause of truth, to hear this pre-eminent man assign to the efficacy of the precepts, inculcated in those mysteries,—“the knowledge of the God of nature; the first, the supreme, the intellectual; by which men had been reclaimed from rudeness and barbarism, to elegance and refinement; and been taught, not only to live with more comfort, but to die with better hopes.”[353]

“Slave to no sect, who takes no private road,
But looks through Nature up to Nature’s God;
Pursues that chain which links the immense design,
Joins heaven and earth, and mortal and divine,
Sees that no being any bliss can know,
But touches some above, and some below;
Learns from this union of the rising whole,
The first, last purpose of the human soul;
And knows where faith, law, morals, all began,
All end in love of God and love of man.”[354]



[Pg 305]


I would have my reader pause upon the substance of the terms with which the last section concluded—“Not only to live with more comfort, but to die with better hopes!”

Have you read them? Have you digested them? And are you not ashamed of your illiberality?

From what pulpit in Christendom will you hear better or more orthodox truths? Where will you find the Gospel more energetically enunciated? And, with this testimony staring you in the face—in defiance of inner light—and imperiously subjugating the allegiance of rationality—will you still persist in limiting the benevolence of your “Father?” and in withholding every symptom of paternal regard from his own handiwork, until the beginning of the last two thousand years? that is, as it were, till yesterday?

“I tell you, that if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.”[355]

“On a bank near the shore,” says Cordiner, in his Antiquities of Scotland, “opposite to the ruins of a castellated house, called Sandwick (in Ross-shire), and about three miles east from Ferns, a very splendid obelisk is erected, surrounded at the base with[Pg 306] large, well-cut flag stones, formed like steps. Both sides of this column are elaborately covered with various enrichments, in well-finished carved work. The one face presents a sumptuous cross, with a figure of St. Andrew on each hand, and some uncouth animals and flowerings underneath. The central division, on the reverse, renders it a piece of antiquity well worthy of preservation; there is exhibited on that such a variety of figures, birds, and animals, as seemed what might prove a curious subject of investigation; I have, therefore, given a distinct delineation of them at the foot of the column, on a larger scale, that their shapes might be distinctly ascertained, and the more probable conjectures formed of their allusion.”



[Pg 307]What, on earth, business would St. Andrew have in company with “uncouth animals?” What have “birds,” “figures,” and “flowerings” to do with Christianity? If this “obelisk” had not been erected here, in commemorative deification, centuries upon centuries before the era of his Saintship’s birth, why should the “cross,” which “one face presents,” be decorated with “enrichments” brought all the way from Egypt?

Look at these hieroglyphics: and where will you find anything congenial to them within the empire of the Romans? Here is the Bulbul of Iran,[356] the boar of Vishnu, the elk, the fox, the lamb, and the dancers. All the other configurations, without going through them in detail, are not only, in their nature[Pg 308] and import, essentially eastern, but are actually the symbols of the various animal-forms under which they contemplated the properties of the Godhead. As the cross, however, is that to which we are more immediately directed, I shall confine myself, for the present, to the establishment of its antiquity.

No one will question but that Venus was antecedent to the days of St. Andrew; and she is represented with a cross and a circle![357] Jupiter also, it will be admitted, was anterior to his time; and we find him delineated with a cross and a horn! Saturn is said to have been sire to the last-mentioned god, and, by the laws of primogeniture, must have been senior to him; yet we find him also pictured with a cross and horn! The monogram of Osiris is a cross! On a medal of one of the Ptolemies is to be seen an eagle conveying a thunderbolt with the cross! In short, all through the ancient world this symbol was to be encountered, and wherever it presented itself, it was always the harbinger of sanctity and of peace.

Can we glean from their writings any confirmation to my development as to the origin of the rite? Plato asserts, that the form of the letter X was imprinted upon the universe.[358] I know how this has been interpreted as a reference to the Son of God,[Pg 309] and the second power of the Divinity. I will not make use of it in any such light, preferring to avoid everything that may seem equivocal, yet am I well convinced that, under the philosopher’s ratiocination, may be seen the twinkling trace of a previous incarnation of the λογος, and a crucifixion, likewise, as an atonement for the sins of humanity.

“Surely He hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

“But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of[Pg 310] our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.”[359]

This is all in the past tense; bearing reference, irrefutably, to a former occurrence, but including also, in the sequel, the idea of a future reappearance. And if you look back at the effigy, page 296, will it not sensitively prove him to have been “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief?”[360]

“The deity Harì,” says an inscription at Budda-gaya, in India, “the lord and possessor of all, appeared in this ocean of natural beings at the close of the Devapara and beginning of the Cali Yug. He who is omnipresent and everlastingly to be contemplated, the Supreme Being, the Eternal One, the Divinity worthy of mankind, appeared here, with a portion of His divine nature.”[361]

There is no term so vernacular in the Irish language as that of Budh-gaye. It is familiar to the ears of every smatterer in letters; and is in the mouth of every cowherd, from Cape Clear to the Giants’ Causeway. Neither class has, however, had so much as a glimpse of what it means: nor did they busy themselves much in the pursuit, but acquiesced in that example of commendable resignation once practised by Strabo—when he failed to ascertain anything about the Cabiri—by declaring that “the name was mysterious!”

A great personage, however, who was not only in his habits wise, but was in himself wisdom, has affirmed, that “there is nothing covered that shall not be revealed; nor hid that shall not be known.”[362] And as every sentence recorded as emanating from[Pg 311] His lips has with me a value more than what could serve to illustrate a momentary topic, I flatter myself that the result of the confidence, thus humbly inspired, will be additionally verified in the instance before us.

Budh-gaye, then of the Irish, or Budha-gaya of the Hindoos, means Phallus[363] telluris, i.e. the generativeness of the earth, or the earth’s prolific principle. This I have before demonstrated to have been the object of adoration to the ancients; and have furthermore shown, that one of the individuals, in whom this idea was personified, had suffered crucifixion as a mediator for sin.

A new disclosure suggests itself from this. Budh and Phallus being synonymous, if you add Gaye to each, then Budh-gaye and Gaye-phallus will be identical. But as the character who embodied the abstract virtue of the former had been crucified, his name came to stand, not only for that abstract virtue, but also for a cross,[364] or a crucified man; and of course, Gaye-phallus, its equivalent, represented the same ideas.

Now, as well the primary as secondary meaning of those two words was liable to misconstruction; and they were sure to obtain such from ignorance and from depravity. The pure and the sublime emotions, which the religiousness of the prolific principle had[Pg 312] comprehended, were perverted by malice into sensuality and debauchery; while the idea of a man crucified, however innocent of charge, could not be separated, by grovelling and servile dispositions, from the ordinary accompaniments of contempt and of crime.

Hence Budh-gaye and Gaye-phallus, after a succession of ages, when their proper acceptation was forgotten, were remembered only in their perverted sense. And accordingly we observe, that, when a Roman Emperor who had been brought up a priest in the East, assumed, on his being appointed to the Roman sceptre, the title of Helio-ga-balus, and thereby invested himself in all the attributes of Gaye-phallus, or Budh-gaye, that is, in other words, as the Vicegerent of the Sun, the licentiousness of his life, and the profligacy of his demeanour, having rendered him obnoxious to his subjects, they amputated the prefix of his Solar majesty, and branded him with the scorn of Ga-balus.

The disdain intended in this latter abbreviation is now, therefore, already solved. Gaye-phallus, for sound sake, having been made Ga-phallus, this latter was still further—by reason of the commutability of the letters ph and b—reduced into Ga-balus.

When the temple of Serapis, at Alexandria, was destroyed, we are told by Sozomen, that the monogram of Christ was discovered beneath the foundation. And, though neither party knew how to account for the sign, yet was it pleaded alike by the Gentiles as by the Christians, in support of the heavenliness of their respective religions.

The early Roman fathers, very pious but very illiterate men, unable to close their eyes against the proofs of the priority of the cross to the era of the advent,[Pg 313] did not scruple to assign it to the malicious foreknowledge of the prince of the lower world.[365]

But if this gentleman had been the author of the early cross, is it likely that God would have embraced it as the signal of His protection when dealing destruction to the objects of His divine vengeance?

“And the Lord said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof:

“And to the others he said in my hearing, Go ye after him through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity.

“Slay utterly old and young, both maids and little children, and women; but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at My sanctuary.”[366]

Now this “mark,” in the ancient Hebrew original, was the cross X. St. Jerome, the most learned by far of those “fathers,” has admitted the circumstance. And if this had been the device of the enemy of man, would the Author of all goodness so sanction his imposture, as to adopt it as the index of His saving love?

“Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?”[367]

But this was not the only invention which they attributed to the devil. Tertullian gravely assures us that he was the author of buskins also! And why,[Pg 314] good reader, would you suppose?—in sooth, for no other reason than because that our Saviour said, in His sermon upon the mountain, “Which of you, by taking thought, can add one cubit unto his stature?”[368]

In him, also, did they find an adequate excuse for those apertures, which I shall by and by notice, as excavated in rocks and mounds of clay, calling them, with some compliment it must be admitted to his gallantry, by the monopolising appellation of the Devil’s Yonies.[369]

But of all the puerilities which sully their zeal, there is no one half so calculated to injure vital religion, as the low quibbles and dishonest quotations which Justin Martyr had recourse to, as apologies for the cross!

Why, Sir, the greatest persecutor with which the Christians had ever been cursed, namely, the Emperor Decius, had imprinted the cross upon some of his coins!



Here, again, it is upon a medal found in the ruins of Citium, and proved by Dr. Clarke in his Travels[Pg 315] to have been Phœnician! It exhibits the lamb, the cross, and the rosary![370]

When John the Baptist first saw Jesus beyond the Jordan, in Bethabara, he exclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world.”[371]

This he did not apply as a novel designation; but as the familiar epithet, and the recognised denomination of the Son of God, whose prescribed office it was, in all the changes of past worlds, as it was now in this present, to redress the broken-hearted by taking away sin.

He adds: “This is He of whom I said, after me cometh a man which is preferred before me; for He was before me,”[372] not only in eternity, but on this earth.

“And I knew Him not; but that He should be made manifest to Israel,”[373] as He was before to other nations,—an event which was but the fulfilment of a prophecy ushered in many years before in these remarkable words—

“Behold, the former things are come to pass”:[374] not that the predictions formerly delivered had taken place, but the things, the events, the occurrences, which had been enacted before, were now re-enacted! that a renovation of the world was at hand, which the mouthpiece of the Lord commences by saying—“New things do I declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them.”

On turning the leaf you will see another of those[Pg 316] pillars which grace a land of heroes, “where stones were raised on high to speak to future times, with their grey heads of moss”;[375] and whose story, though “lost in the mist of years,” may yet be deciphered from off themselves.



[Pg 317]This costly relic of religion, erected solely in honour of the cross, is to be seen at Forres, in Scotland, and is thus described by Cordiner:—

“On the first division, under the Gothic ornaments at the top, are nine horses with their riders, marching in order; in the next division is a line of warriors on foot, brandishing their weapons, and appear to be shouting for the battle. The import of the attitudes in the third division very dubious, their expression indefinite.

“The figures which form a square in the middle of the column are pretty complex, but distinct; four serjeants, with their halberts, guard a canopy, under which are placed several human heads, which have belonged to the dead bodies piled up at the left of the division: one appears in the character of executioner, severing the head from another body; behind him are three trumpeters sounding their trumpets; and before him two pair of combatants fighting with sword and target.

“A troop of horse next appears, put to flight by infantry, whose first line have bows and arrows; the three following, swords and targets. In the lowermost division now visible, the horses seem to be seized by the victorious party, their riders beheaded, and the head of their chief hung in chains, or placed in a frame: the others being thrown together beside the dead bodies, under an arched cover.”

[Pg 318]With this compare the description given by Captain Head, of the devices sculptured upon one of the Egyptian antiquities.

“It would,” says he, “far exceed the limits of this work, to attempt a description of the ornaments of sculpture in this temple. The most interesting are on the north wall, where there are battle-scenes, with innumerable figures of military combatants, using their arms, consisting of bows and arrows, spears and bucklers—of prostrate enemies, of war-chariots and horses. The fiery action and elegant shape of the steeds are remarkable. It would require a first-rate living genius to rival the variety of position, the power of effect, and fidelity of execution, in which men and horses are exhibited in the dismay of the flight, the agony of the death-struggle, and the exultation of the triumph.”

Let us take a view, now, of the other side of this obelisk. “The greatest part of it,” says Cordiner, “is occupied by a sumptuous cross, and covered over with an uniform figure, elaborately raised, and interwoven with great mathematical exactness; of this, on account of its singularity, there is given a representation at the foot of the column. Under the cross are two august personages with some attendants, much obliterated, but evidently in an attitude of reconciliation; and if the monument was erected in memory of the peace concluded between Malcolm and Canute, upon the final retreat of the Danes, these larger figures may represent the reconciled monarchs.

“On the edge, below the fretwork, are some rows of figures, joined hand-in-hand, which may also imply the new degree of confidence and security which took place, after the feuds were composed, [Pg 319]which are characterised on the front of the pillar. But to whatever particular transaction it may allude, it can hardly be imagined, that in so early an age of the arts in Scotland as it must have been raised, so elaborate a performance would have been undertaken but in consequence of an event of the most general importance: it is, therefore, surprising, that no distincter traditions of it arrived at the era when letters were known.”



[Pg 320]As to “the era when letters were known,” I shall bestow upon that a sentence or two by and by. For the present I confine myself to the “surprise that no distincter traditions” of this monolith temple[376] has been handed down to us.

It was erected by the Tuath-de-danaans on their expulsion from Ireland. The inscriptions upon it are the irresistible evidence of their emblematic religion. After an interval of some centuries, the Picts poured in upon their quietude; and the barbarous habits of those marauders, being averse as much to the ritual as to the avocations of the Tuath-de-danaans, they effaced every vestige of the dominion of that people, and made them fly for shelter to the Highlands.

In the days of Malcolm, therefore, and of Canute, the history of this pyramid was as difficult of solution as it was in those of Pennant and of Cordiner. And there is no question but that the two monarchs looked, with as much wonder, upon the hieroglyphics along its sides, as did the two antiquarians, who would fain associate them with them.

It is to me marvellous, how persons, in the possession[Pg 321] of common reason could, contrary to all the evidence of observation and history, look upon the Danish invasion as the epoch of all enlightenment! and the Danes, themselves, as the heaven-sent importers of its blessings! Yet, whatever may have been the case with some hopeful scions of this order, Mr. Cordiner, at all events, appears to have been honest, and if he missed the direction of historical verity, it was less his fault than his misfortune.

Who can say so much for Ledwich?

The following extract will justify the tribute here paid to the sincerity of Mr. Cordiner’s investigations “These monuments,” says he, “are all said to have been erected in memory of defeats of the Danes, but there does not appear any reference that the hieroglyphics on them can have to such events. That they have been raised on interesting occasions there can be little doubt, perhaps in memory of the most renowned chieftains and their exploits who first embraced Christianity.”

They who first “embraced Christianity” were no “chieftains”; or such as were, had no “exploits” to record. But it was not so with the professors of the primevalcross,” in the revelation of Budhism, the transmigrations of which were but typically pourtrayed on this enduring column. And in confirmation hereof, Mr. Gordon affirms that he has “distinguished upon it several figures of a monstrous form, resembling four-footed beasts with human heads!”

Carnac, in Upper Egypt, retains a monolith of the same symbolic character. It is eighty feet high, composed of a single block of black granite, presenting a beautifully polished surface on each of its four sides. The hieroglyphics upon it represent the [Pg 322]lifetime of Thot, or Budda, until you at last see him enthroned in heaven, at the top.



[Pg 323]“He seems, indeed,” says Hamilton, “to have been considered either by himself, his subjects, or his successors, as a peculiar favourite of heaven. He is frequently on his knees, receiving from Isis and Osiris, together with their blessing, the insignia of royalty, and even of divinity. The hawk is always flying about him. Two priests are performing upon him the mysterious ceremony of pouring the cruces ansatas, or crosses with rings, over his head; at which time he wears a common dress and close cap. Hermes and Osiris are pointing out to him a particular line in a graduated scale, allusive it may be to the periodical inundation of the Nile, or the administration of strict justice: or (combined with the preceding scene) to the ceremony of ‘initiation into the religious mysteries.’”[377]

The number of feet in the pillar corresponds too, if I mistake not, with that of the years of his recorded pilgrimage.

Captain Head describes, in his splendid work, the avenue which leads to the temple to which this belongs, in the following terms:—“Fragments of sphinxes line the sides of the road at intervals of ten or twelve feet, and usher the visitor to the magnificent granite propylon, or gateway, whose grandeur for a time monopolises the attention, and makes him who gazes on it at a loss to decide whether he shall remain adoring its fine proportions, or advance and examine the carvings which embellish its front. Is[Pg 324] this ‘the land made waste by the hand of strangers, who destroy the walls, and cause the images to cease?’ The fragments of desolation that lie scattered around are identified with the predictions of the inspired historians, by whom we are enabled to estimate the ‘palmy state’ of this once mighty kingdom, whose gigantic monuments fully verify all that has been said or sung of its pristine splendour.”

After what has been said above, then, along with what may be added by and by, may I not safely proclaim that M‘Pherson’s prediction, that “the history of Caledonia, before the Roman eagles were displayed beyond the friths, must ever remain in impenetrable darkness,”[378] has now been falsified?

“What are ages and the lapse of time,
Matched against truths as lasting as sublime?
Can length of years on God Himself exact?
Or make that fiction which was once a fact?
No—marble and recording brass decay,
And like the graver’s memory pass away:
The works of man inherit, as is just,
Their author’s frailty, and return to dust;
But truth divine for ever stands secure,
Its head is guarded, as its base is sure;
Fixed in the rolling flood of endless years,
The pillar of the eternal plan appears,
The raving storm and dashing wave defies,
Built by that Architect who built the skies



[Pg 325]


A very industrious contributor to the Asiatic Researches has afforded scope for some jests at his expense, because of the attempt which he has made to identify the British islands with certain Western localities commemorated in the writings of the Hindoos. Had he but known, however, the coincidence of our monuments with those mysteries which the Puranas record, how they mutually support and dovetail into each other, he could not only have laughed to scorn the traducers of his services, but fixed his fame upon a pinnacle of literary pride which no undergrowl of envy could have subverted.

But as it is, unacquainted with the history of the places which he left behind him, and wading, therefore, through an ocean in which he had no compass for his guide, he has, in his puerile endeavours to wrest the text of the Puranas to external prejudices, effected more himself towards the disparagement of his reputation, than what the combined influence of interest and of scepticism could otherwise accomplish.

“There are,” say the Puranas, “many manifestations and forms of Bhagavan, O Muni, but the form which resides in the White Island is the primitive one. Vishnu,” says the author, “recalling all his emanations into the White Island, went into the womb,[Pg 326] in the house of Vasu-devi; and on this grand occasion he recalled all his emanations. Bama and Nrisinha are complete forms, O Muni; but Crishna, the most powerful king of the White Island, is the most perfect and complete of all Vishnu’s forms. For this purpose Vishnu, from Potola, rejoins the body of Radhiceswara, the lord of Radha, he who dwells in the White Island with the famous snake, a portion of his essence. The gods sent there portions of their own essences to be consolidated into the person of Crishna, who was going to be incarnated at Gocula.”[380]

The gist of the foregoing, Mr. Wilford would neutralise by this following extract, which he gives as the substance of another notice in the same documents, and which he considers himself as incredible:—

Bali, an antediluvian, and in the fifth generation from the creation, is introduced, requesting the god of gods, or Vishnu, to allow him to die by his hand, that he might go into his paradise in the White Island. Vishnu told him it was a favour not easily obtained; that he would however grant his request. But, says Vishnu, you cannot come into my paradise now; but you must wait till I become incarnate in the shape of a boar, in order to make the world undergo a total renovation, to establish and secure it upon a most firm and permanent footing: and you must wait a whole yuga till this takes place, and then you will accompany me into my paradise.”

“Ganesa, who is identified with Vishnu, and has also an inferior paradise in the White Island, and[Pg 327] another in the Euxine, or Jeshu sea, thus says to a king of Casi, or Benares, an antediluvian, and who, like Bali, wished much to be admitted into his elysium, “you cannot now enter my paradise in the White Island; you must wait 5000 years; but in the mean time you may reside in my other paradise, in the Euxine Sea.”

Now, all these monstrosities, as they presented themselves to Mr. Wilford, gauging them with the comparisons of dry rule and line on the application of the true touchstone, vanish into ether.

The most mysterious and religiously-occult name given to Ireland in the days of its pristine glory was Muc-Inis.

This word has three interpretations—firstly, the Boar Island; secondly, the White Island; and, thirdly, the Sacred, or rather the Divine, and Consecrated Island of God.[381]

Is it necessary that I should say one syllable more to authenticate the Puranas, and identify this hallowed spot with the paradise of their encomiums? No: I shall not affront your understanding by so supposing. The explanation of this single term has, more effectually than could a ship-load of folios, set to flight the hobgoblins of ignorance and of scepticism, and reared the castle of truth on the ruins of prostrated error.

I would by no means, however, be understood as intending an ungenerous trophy over Mr. Wilford’s mistakes. I respect the zeal with which he embarked in his undertaking; and, to speak over-board, the lapses which he has committed were to him ethically unavoidable.

[Pg 328]The sting, therefore, of the above, if any it convey, must be directed exclusively to the romancers of my own country: a specimen of whom I shall give you in the Rev. Dr. Keating, who, venturing to unveil the mystery of the name Muc-Inis, and account for its origin, tells us, with a serious face, that “when the Danaans found the Milesians attempted to land, by their magical enchantments they threw a cloud on the island, by which it appeared no bigger than a hog’s back!!!”

But Ireland, thank God, is rescued from the drivelling of such dotards. It will hold its place now amongst the nations of the earth; and the result is inevitable, however tardy your compliance, but that the truth will be revived from one pole of the universe to the other, that, in the primeval world, all sanctity and all happiness had here fixed their abode, that heaven was here personified, and that the irradiating focus of all moral enlightenment was here alone to be found.[382]

Look, Sir, what do you see before you? The solution of that all-healing arrow which Abaris was said to have brought with him from the island of the Hyperboreans, on his visit of religion to Greece!

Should you ever chance to travel as far as the county of Galway, inquire for the deserted village of Knockmoy. Though now dreary, inconsiderable, and forgotten, it was once the theatre of soul-stirring impressions!

 [Pg 329]


There in the remnant of an ancient Tuath-de-danaan Temple, vaulted with stone, and transformed, in[Pg 330] after ages, to a Christian Abbey, you will find, after a succession of, at least, three thousand revolving years, this pathetic representation of the youth Apollo slaying with his arrow the serpent Python[383]—in other words, overthrowing, by self-endurance, the dominion of sin! and, finally, by immolation upon a tree, to which you perceive him pinioned, establishing ascendency over the serpent and his wiles, and pointing out the road to eternity beyond the grave!



In an upper range, on the same compartment, you can trace this other line, consisting of three kings with[Pg 331] their eastern crowns, their eastern costume, and the dove of amity entwining all of them as they superintend the spectacle, while the solemnity of the whole is enhanced by the composure with which a Brehon sits by, in his turban of state, after reading from the Bana, or the Budhist gospel, the sentence of condemnation and of mysterious expiation, in one and the same breath.

“He was oppressed and He was afflicted; yet He opened not His mouth: He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before His shearers is dumb, so He openeth not His mouth.”[384]

But this is not the only incident which this treasure of antiquity pourtrays. Beside the three monarchs are skeleton delineations of the three other divinities, who, before this fourth, assumed the form of humanity, and went through the same ordeal of atoning passion to reclaim our species, through ages back in the distance![385]

It will readily be believed, that descriptions so mysterious, relating to events so momentous, must have attracted the observation of subsequent years. Generation after generation gazed upon them with wonder! Generation after generation spoke their ignorance in wonder! Mr. Ledwich, of course, must have a snap at them: and it would make a cat laugh, or Plutarch’s boar dance a hornpipe, to hear the contortions of history, the violations of nature, the perversions of fact, of date, and of philosophy,[Pg 332] which this blot upon letters has strung together into a melange, as if an exposition of the above hieroglyphics!

And yet, this is he who boasts of his having been “not sparing of ridicule” in those moments which he tells us, “he could steal from clerical and domestic avocations,”—to tell lies of his country!

The speculation took, however, and he was fostered in his malice—riches and honours were showered upon him!

Well, he died—a monitory pause accompanies the sound—but the party must have a successor!

They “have found him” amongst themselves!—the author of the Fine Arts in Ireland!

This fine gentleman has really exhibited some degree of tact, which shows him not unworthy of his appointment. He begins by denouncing, hoof and horn, every position of his predecessor! Calls him, as a salvo, “a learned man!” but insists upon his being a “most unskilful antiquary”; and though “dogmatic,” “altogether a visionary.”

These, you would suppose, were great liberties to take with the foster-child of patronage. They were so, in appearance, not in reality, for

“Mutato nomine, de te fabula narratur”—

he is a modern,[386] and though of a different school, it suits their purpose as well.

But let us see how he would decipher “the writing upon the wall.”

“If we might venture a conjecture,” he says, “it would be that the living figures represent the most distinguished native princes, who warred with the[Pg 333] adventurers in defence of their country; and that those of the deceased kings were the patriot monarchs of earlier times!”

Pray, what adventurers? what?—But the farce is too absurd to bestow discussion upon it.

Come, however, to the crucifixion scene, what would “P——” make of this?

“This appears,” he says, “to represent the death of the young son of Dermod MacMurrough, who was delivered up to Roderick O’Connor, as a hostage for his father’s fidelity, and who, according to Cambrensis, and, we believe, to our own annalists, was abandoned by that inhuman and ambitious parent to his fate!”

After the flourish of trumpets, with which Mr. P—— had proclaimed independence of Dr. Ledwich, one would have expected a new ascription, or, at least, a different one, from him. This, however, is but a servile transcript from his predecessor’s work, and that, too, without having the candour to quote him as his authority!

“But let us view those things with closer eyes.”

Had MacMurrough’s son been put to death by O’Connor, in that awful manner above delineated, with such external parade, and such mysterious pomp, think you that Cambrensis, who never omitted even the most trivial feature of a narrative, would have been blind to a particular, which must have interested all his readers? Yet, as to the reality of this—Mr. P——’s insinuation notwithstanding—Cambrensis is silent and mute as the grave!

A fact which was thought worthy to be commemorated in fresco must have been equally eligible as a phenomenon in writing. The O’Connors, [Pg 334]therefore, whom Mr. P—— would install as the authors of this device, must have retained some documentary register thereof: and, though it is well known, that there is not a family in the kingdom, who have preserved the records of their house with such industry or minuteness as they have, yet is there not so much as the semblance of an allusion to be traced amongst them, to this mysterious representation!

Nay, if O’Connor had put to death MacMurrough’s son, with such circumstances of torture and savage insensibility, is it probable that he would himself be the person to immortalise his disgrace, by depicting it upon such a chronicle? And if the virtue of the nation were not previously outraged by the hellishness of the crime itself, would it not now blaze forth in holy indignation at the infatuated vanity of the monster, who, not satisfied with the murder of his innocent victim, must deluge his country also in gore, by associating it, to forthcoming ages, with this outline of his barbarity?

Yes, sir, if they were silent as to the crime, they would be eloquent as to the painting! And it is not only that they would demolish the structure within which it was inscribed, but every quill within the realm would become a pen, every liquid be converted into ink, and every hand be made that of a writer to rescue the island’s fame from identity with the traitor’s cause; and confine to his own and his loathed head the withering execrations of posterity!

Instead of which, however, not a syllable is uttered, on paper or on parchment, allusive to the tragedy! Not a presage is imparted by mournful banshee! nor elegy sung by familiar mna-caointha! No historian records the heart-rending tale! nor does[Pg 335] gipsy retail it in itinerant ditty! But the mystery of sorrow, and the sanctity of truth, that hallowed the scene which this temple commemorates, has, still further, exerted its protecting instrumentality, and besides the moving evidences imprinted upon its interior, has added those also of exclusion from without, and prevented the iniquity of profane appropriation, by the occurrence of any equivocal record!

The devices upon places of worship are always of a religious kind. Would the perpetration of a faithless infanticide be considered an act of religion? And, if not, why emblazon it within the tabernacle of prayer, with all the circumstances of grace and of grandeur around it?—solemnised by kings! superintended by gods! and executed by judges!

Oh! sir, a dire plague of astringent benightment has lain brooding over history! and spread, like the upas, its baleful emaciation over everything of culture that fell within its shadow! But truth is immortal: and, however momentarily suppressed, will ultimately recover.

“It is a pleasure,” says Bacon, “to stand on the shore, and to see ships tossed upon the sea; a pleasure to stand in the window of a castle, and to see a battle, and the adventurers thereof below; but no pleasure is comparable to the standing on the vantage-ground of truth (a hill not to be commanded, and where the air is always clear and serene), and to see the errors, and wanderings and mists and tempests, in the vale below; so always that this prospect be with pity, and not with swelling or pride. Certainly it is heaven upon earth to have a man’s mind move in charity, rest in Providence, and turn upon the poles of truth.”

The very dresses, which adorn these venerable[Pg 336] delineations, are enough to redeem them from the turpitude which Mr. P—— would impute to them. O’Connor and MacMurrough were, neither of them, on this earth, for at least two thousand years after these were in vogue! neither are they by any means the habits which P—— would persuade us that “laws were subsequently enacted to abolish as barbarous!”

Behold! I show you a mystery![387]



What do you see here?[388] What do you make of[Pg 337] this Mr. P——. Or do you think that O’Connor went over into Nubia, and got the impress of his enormity canonised there also, in the form of a cross, within the temples and sanctuaries of the adoring Egyptians?

I copy this image from a work of great value, lately published in Paris by Monsieur Rifaud; which he designates by the title of Voyage en Egypte et en Nubie, et lieux circonvoisins. The plate under notice is but part of a larger one, which he describes as “Façade du petit temple de Kalabche (en Nubie) et ses détails intérieurs,” and of which I shall, by and by, treat you to two more compartments, as the exact correspondents of the six crowned figures at Knockmoy.

Meanwhile, I beg leave to introduce to you on the next page, some of the sculptures on the Tuath-de-danaan cross, at old Kilcullen, in the county of Kildare, Ireland. Here you distinguish nine Budhist priests in the Eastern uniform, with bonnet, tunic, and trouser—nay, with their very beards dressed after the Egyptian fashion.

Other figures I shall leave to your own research to unfold. But let me particularly fasten upon your faculty of comparing, the head-gear of the standing figure, in the second division, and that of the crucifixion upon the Nubian temple. Are they not critically, accurately, and identically the same?

Look next at the brute animals that take part in this group! Mind the grotesqueness of their positions, and the combination of their character with that of man! then lay your hand upon your breast, and, with the light now streaming in upon you, can you conscientiously believe that the cross[Pg 338] which exhibits itself at the other side, was ever the work of Christianity?[389]



But as you cannot imagine that O’Connor had gone over to Nubia, in the twelfth century of the Christian era, to get his murdered hostage deified in a pagan temple, built, perhaps, at the very lowest,[Pg 339] three thousand years before his time, so neither can you impose upon us, that the Budhists stole a march upon our Christian supineness, and, while our different sects were fighting for who should have most, and proclaiming “I am of Paul, and I of Apollos, and I of Cephas, and I of Christ,”[390] imprinted their complexity upon our boasted simplicity, and then suddenly again vanished without having been once seen, felt, heard, discovered, or understood!!!

What entanglements will not people plunge themselves into when supporting a bad cause! And how easy is the road which rectitude follows!

The Hindoo Puranas corroborate, to an iota, this our Knockmoy crucifixion.[391] Sulivahana is the name which they give to the deity there represented. The meaning of the word is tree-born, or, who suffered death upon a tree. He was otherwise called Dhanandhara, that is, the sacred almoner. And his fame, say the Puranas, reached even to the Sacred Island, in the sea of milk, that is, of Doghda, which signifies milk, and which was the title of the tutelar goddess of Ireland.[392]

Avaunt, then, evermore, to the humbug of back-reckoning, and the charge of imposture upon the[Pg 340] Brahmins! I flatter myself, I have laid an extinguisher, for ever, upon that pretext.

As I have before presumed to offer a suggestion to the translators of oriental manuscripts, I shall take the additional liberty of intimating, which I do with profound submission and respect, to the decipherers of all hieroglyphics, whether in Ireland or in the East, that those arrow-headed characters, to be met with at Persepolis, and resembling in their formation our Irish Oghams, bear reference, both of them, to this mysterious crucifixion! And that if Mr. Champollion, and other gentlemen interested in the prosecution of those useful points, will attend to this my advice, they will find it a more certain key to the attainment of their desired object, than all the labour and outlay of centuries heretofore!

“Knowing that Nature never did betray
The heart that loved her; ’tis her privilege,
Through all the years of this our life, to lead
From joy to joy: for she can so inform
The heart that is within us, so impress
With quietness and beauty, and so feed
With lofty thoughts
, that neither evil tongues,
Rash judgments, nor the sneers of selfish men,
Nor greetings where no kindness is, nor all
The dreary intercourse of daily life,
Shall e’er prevail against us, or disturb
Our cheerful faith, that all which we behold
Is full of blessings.”—Wordsworth.



[Pg 341]


The regal figures, which I promised, as belonging to the Nubian temple, and corresponding to the Knockmoy frescoes, are the following:—



You will, furthermore, observe how that they all wear the philibeg, like our crucified effigy at p. 296, and our war-god, Phearagh, at p. 138. Each[Pg 342] of them, also, is adorned with the cross, as the passport of their redemption: while the three divinities, delineated in the Irish scenes, have these as their counterparts in the temple of Nubia.



Abbe Pluché states, that “the figures of those gods brought from Egypt into Phœnicia, wore on their heads leaves and branches, wings and globes, which,” he adds, “appeared ridiculous to those who did not comprehend the signification of these symbols, as happened to Cambyses, King of Persia, but these represented Isis, Osiris, and Horus.”

“In the Gentleman’s Magazine for November, 1742, is an account,” says Vallancey, “of two silver images, found under the ruins of an old tower, which[Pg 343] had raised various conjectures and speculations amongst the antiquaries; they were about three inches in height, representing men in armour, with very high helmets on their heads, ruffs round their necks, and standing on a pedestal of silver, holding a small golden spear in their hands. The account is taken from the Dublin papers. The writer refers to Merrick’s translation of Tryphiodorus, an Egyptian, that composed a Greek poem on the destruction of Troy, a sequel to Homer’s Iliad, to show that it was customary with the ancients, at the foundation of a fort or city, to consecrate such images to some titular guardians, and deposit them in a secret part of the building; where he also inserts a judicious exposition of a difficult text of Scripture on that subject.”

The above extract was indited long before the publication of those Nubian antiquities; and, consequently, when neither the contributor to the magazine, nor the quoter from its columns, had any knowledge of their existence. Its production, therefore, must be valuable here, as showing not only the connection of the idols with the Round Tower ceremonial, but also that the helmets of the Nubian gods had been adopted in the effigies of some of those amongst us.

I terminate my proofs of the primeval crucifixion, by the united testimonies of the Budhists and the Free-Masons.

“Though the punishment of the cross,” says the Asiatic Researches, “be unknown to the Hindus, yet the followers of Buddha have some knowledge of it, when they represent Deva Thot (that is, the god Thot) crucified upon an instrument resembling a[Pg 344] cross, according to the accounts of some travellers to Siam.”

“Christianity,” says Oliver, “or the system of salvation through the atonement of a crucified Mediator, was the main pillar of Freemasonry ever since the fall.”

Let me point your notice now to some consequences of that mysterious fact. I begin by asking—

How happened it, that, of all places in the world, Ireland was that which gave the readiest countenance, and the most cheering support, to the Gospel of Christ, on its first promulgation?

This question you will consider of no trivial tendency. It is, in itself, worth a thousand other arguments. To solve it, I must premise that, besides the many ancient appellatives, already given you, for this country, there was one, which characterised it, as anticipating that event?

Crioch-na-Fuineadhach[393] was this name. Its meaning is, the asylum of the expectants: or, the retreat of those looking forward.

To what, you ask?—To the consummation, I reply, of that prophecy, which was imparted to Israel through another source, saying, “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come.”[394]

[Pg 345]Numerous intimations have, from time to time, been conveyed to man as harbingers of an event which was to crown their species with universal blessings. In the Puranas, it was prophesied, that “after three thousand and one hundred years of the Caliyuga are elapsed, will appear King Saca, to remove wretchedness from the world.”[395]

I have given an abstract of the history of this remarkable personage at pp. 293 and 294, and shortly after, at p. 296, I presented you with the effigy of his crucifixion. As to the era of his appearance, as deducible from the Yugas, I shall confine myself to the opinion advanced by Mr. Davis, in the Asiatic Researches, vol. ix. p. 243, where he states: “It may further with confidence be inferred, that Mons. Anquetil du Perron’s conclusion, with respect to the late introduction of Yugas, which are the component parts of the Calpa, into the Hindu astronomy, is unfounded; and that the invention of those periods, and the application of them to computations by the Hindus, must be referred to an antiquity which has not yet been ascertained.”

In another age was promised another Redeemer; and of him I copy what Mr. Wilford transmits, as follows, viz.:—

“A thousand years before that event, the goddess Cali had foretold him that he would reign, or rather his posterity, according to several learned commentators in the Dokhin, as mentioned by Major Mackenzie, till a divine child, born of a virgin, should put an end both to his life and kingdom, or to his dynasty, nearly in the words of Jacob, in Genesis,[Pg 346] chap. xlix. ver. 10. The Hindu traditions concerning this wonderful child are collected in a treatise called the Vicrama Chastra; or, History of Vicrama Ditya. This I have not been able to procure, though many learned pundits have repeated to me by heart whole pages from them. Yet I was unwilling to make use of their traditions till I found them in the large extracts made by the ingenious and indefatigable Major C. Mackenzie of the Madras establishment, and by him communicated to the Asiatic Society.”

In truth, it was to the certainty of this manifestation that the first couplet of an Arabic elegy, preserved by Mons. d’Herbelot in his account of Ibnuzaidun, a celebrated Andalusian poet, refers. In Roman letters, the lines run thus—

“Jekad heïn tenagikom dharmairna
Jacdha alaïna alassa laula tassina.”

That is, “The time will soon come when you will deliver us from all our cares; the remedy is assured, provided we have a little patience.”

The learned President of the Society of Bengal, unaware of the drift of this beautiful stanza, and without ever having so much as seen the original whence it was quoted, offers to alter its import to the following, viz.: “When our bosoms impart their secrets to you, anguish would almost fix our doom, if we were not mutually to console ourselves!” And the only reason he assigns for this novel interpretation is, that two individuals, neither of whom, he himself admits, knew anything about its meaning, happened, or rather pretended, to put it for him differently into Arabic words!

On the pillar at Buddal, this emanation of the godhead is thus characterised: “He did not exult[Pg 347] over the ignorant and ill-favoured: but spent his riches among the needy: in short, he was the wonder of all good men.”[396] Isaiah’s prophecy of the future Messiah would appear a verbatim, though more poetical transcript of this inscription, viz.: “He shall not cry, nor lift up; nor cause His voice to be heard in the street; a bruised reed shall He not break, and the smoking flax shall He not quench: He shall bring forth judgment unto truth.”[397]

At p. 110 of this volume, I have promised to explain the origin of the word Eleusinian, as applied to the celebration of certain religious rites. I have very little doubt but that, when reading the declaration, the reader looked upon its offer as, to say the least, gratuitous—satisfied that the term could have no possible other meaning, than as an adjective formed from the substantive Eleusis!

Well, the rashness of that judgment I very freely forgive; and repay it now by the verification of my contract.

Eleusis, the place, and Eleusinian, as descriptive of the mysteries therein solemnised, were both denominated in honour of that Advent, which all nations awaited; and the fulfilment of which, in the person of one of the Budhas, made him to be recognised on one occasion as the “source of the faith of the three epochs of the world.”[398]

[Pg 348]I have already redeemed the character of those ceremonies from the sinister imputations which attached to their secrecy. An apprehension that their publication would subvert the popular belief, or a supposed indelicacy in their tenour, were the mildest constructions which the uninitiated would afford them. Though secure in the sufficiency of my former proofs, I cannot avoid taking support from an article in a very talented publication of our day, in which the writer, wholly uninstructed, while he evidently is, as to the nature of those celebrations, yet confirms the fact of their worth and their purity.

“From the whole concurrent testimony of ancient history,” says he, “we must believe that the Eleusinian mysteries were used for good purposes, for there is not an instance on record that the honour of an initiation was ever obtained by a very bad man. The hierophants—the higher priests of the order—were always exemplary in their morals, and became sanctified in the eyes of the people. The high-priesthood of this order in Greece was continued in one family, the Eumolpidæ, for ages. In this they resembled both the Egyptians and the Jews.

“The Eleusinian mysteries in Rome took another form, and were called the rites of Bona Dea; but she was the same Ceres that was worshipped in Greece.[Pg 349] All the distinguished Roman authors speak of these rites and in terms of profound respect. Horace denounces the wretch who should attempt to reveal the secrets of these rites; Virgil mentions these mysteries with great respect; and Cicero alludes to them with a greater reverence than either of the poets we have named. Both the Greeks and Romans punished any insult offered to these mysteries with the most persevering vindictiveness. Alcibiades was charged with insulting these religious rites; and although the proof of his offence was quite doubtful, yet he suffered for it for years in exile and misery; and it must be allowed that he was the most popular man of his age.”[399]

Analogous to these were the solemnities at Carthage, designated by the name of Phiditia; and the import of which, as well in term as in substance, has been no less a riddle to antiquarians, than was the sanctified commemoration which it disguises. During the interval of their celebration, the youths received lessons from their elders of the state, as to the regulation of their conduct in after life; and the lustre of truth, and the comeliness of virtue, as they shone forth in Budha (which solves the mystery of the name), were the invariable ethics they propounded.

Public feasts were the scene for the delivery of those discourses. They found their way also to Rome, but the spirituality of Redemption not going hand-in-hand with its doctrine, or not duly comprehended, if accompanying, the joyousness of hope, was there sunk into the licentiousness of enjoyment, and the innocence of mirth and of moral hilarity was[Pg 350] superseded by the uproar of riot and of vice! Such were the Saturnalia.

How different was their celebration in our “Sacred Ireland!” The very letters of the epithet, by which our forefathers had solemnised them, show the spirituality of purpose which actuated their zeal. Nullog was that epithet—it is compounded of nua, new; and log (for bullog), a belly, meaning regeneration, or the putting aside of the old leaven of sin, and the assumption of the new investiture of righteousness, by justification.

As everything, however, in their religious procedure was transacted by symbols, so, in this instance, they did not content themselves with the inner consciousness of a new birth,[400] but the most go through the outer form of it by typification; and for this end it was that they excavated those apertures in the bodies of rocks, which I have noticed in page 314, as calling forth, from ignorance, the animadversion of the devil’s yonies, in order that, by passing themselves through them, they might represent the condition of one issuing, through the womb, to a new scope of life.[401]

A nobler method of symbolisation, and confined solely to the initiated, was that which characterised the construction of their subterranean temples. Here the sublimity of their worship breaks out in all the[Pg 351] grandeur and the majesty of awe.[402] The narrowness of the entrance, never larger than the girth of the ordinary human body, pourtrayed, as well the circular passage in their regenerating type,[403] as the circumvention of temptation by which the faithful are ever beset;[404] while the model of the cross, which regulates their architecture withinside, attests the mystery and the form of their master’s death.

The Mithratic temple, at New Grange, is exactly so constructed. After squeezing yourself, with much labour, through a long emblematic gallery, you arrive at a circular room, or rather an irregular polygon or octagon;[405] whence, at measured intervals, three other[Pg 352] apartments diverge, forming, with the inleading gut, a perfect cross; and presenting, altogether, to a susceptible mind, the most solemn combination of symbolical mysteries![406]

I wonder why do not our moderns confer these subterraneous cruciform edifices upon the industry of the early Christians, as they have striven to claim for them the corresponding structures above ground! and without half the probability of success! For if it may be stated, that the crucifixions upon the towers were an interpolation, with a view to Christianise what before was devoted to Paganism, no one, at all events, would maintain that the monks had gone down into the bowels of the earth, and after ejecting the inmates of old Alma Mater, converted their tabernacles into a magical cross!

Nay, a greater difficulty would still attach to this adventure. The Pagodas[407] of Benares and Mathura, the two principal ones in all India, are cruciformly built! and, in order to make both worlds harmonise, the advocates for the monks, or rather their beliers, would have to transport their mechanics to those regions also, and turn upside down, and sideways, and every way, whatever was the shape of the original[Pg 353] structures, until they moulded them at last into this mysterious cross!

Some blame, however, would seem attachable to the superintendents of this vision: and it is that, while imprinting this mark over the head of the principal figure in the cave, or Mithratic temple, at Elephanta,[408] they neglected to demolish the Lingam, appertaining to the previous worship; and which actually presents itself but a little from it in the front!

To be grave. There was nothing more natural than that those different symbols should be thus united. I have shown that in the various copies of our annals, the Round Towers, or overground temples, are designated by the name of Fidh-nemead, the meaning of which I have elucidated to be, the consecrated Lingams: the Mithratic caves, or underground temples, their correspondents, it was to be expected, should be known by a suitable denomination; and, accordingly, you will find this very one at New Grange mentioned in the Chronicon Scotorum by the title of Fiodh Aongusa; that is, the [Pg 354]Mysterious Cavern of Buddh; while the crucifixions upon the former, and the cruciform shape of the latter, are the reverential memorials of his atoning dissolution.

The mysteries celebrated within the recesses of those caverns were precisely of that character which are called Freemasonic, or Cabiric. The signification of this latter epithet is, as to written letters, a desideratum. Selden has missed it; so has Origen and Sophocles. Strabo, too, and Montfaucon, have been equally astray. Hyde was the only one who had any idea of its composition, when he declared “it was a Persian word somewhat altered from Gabri, or Guebri, and signifying fire-worshippers.”

It is true that Gabri now stands for fire-worshippers, but that is only because that they assumed to themselves this title, which belonged to another order of their ancestors. The word is derived from gabh, “a smith,” and ir, “sacred,” meaning the sacred smiths; and Cabiri being only a perversion of it is, of course, in substance, of the very same import.

Mount Caucasus,[409] also, which still, in our language, retains its original pronunciation, of Gaba-casan, or the Smith’s Path, was named from the same root; nor is the tradition of the reason altogether obliterated from those who dwell beside it, if we may judge from a ceremony described by a recent traveller, as performed by them, as follows:—

“The original founders of the Tartarian Mongolian Scythians, called Cajan and Docos, got embarrassed amongst those mountains, then uninhabited.[Pg 355] After a sojourn there of 450 years, having become so numerous as to require other settlements, they were at a loss to find a passage through the mountains, when a smith, pointing out to them a place very rich in iron ore, advised them to make great fires there, by which means the ore melted, and a broad passage was opened for them. In commemoration of which famous march, the Mongols to this day celebrate an annual feast, and observe the ceremony of heating a piece of iron red hot, on which the Ceann (that is, the chief) strikes one blow with a hammer, and all the persons of quality do the same after him.”

I shall close this chapter by the description given of the destruction of Cambyses’s army in the Nubian desert, after the insults offered by him to the Cabiri priests.

“Gnomes, o’er the waste, you led your myriad powers,
Climb’d on the whirls, and aim’d the flinty showers;
Onward resistless rolls the infuriate surge,
Clouds follow clouds, and mountains mountains urge;
Wave over wave the driving desert swims,
Burst o’er their heads, inhumes their struggling limbs;
Man mounts on man, on camels camels rush,
Hosts march o’er hosts, and nations nations crush:
Wheeling in air, the winged islands fall—
And one great sandy ocean covers all.”[410]



[Pg 356]


On the east side of the river Shannon, about ten miles distant from Athlone, in the barony of Garrycastle, and King’s County, is situated the Sanctuary of Clonmacnoise. Within the narrow limits of two Irish acres, are here condensed more religious ruins, of antiquarian value, than are to be found, perhaps, in a similar space in any other quarter of the habitable world.

Nine churches, built respectively by the individuals whose names they bear, namely: (1) that of Macarthy More; (2) that of Melaghlin; (3) that of MacDermott; (4) that of Hiorphan; (5) that of Kieran; (6) that of Gawney; (7) that of O’Kelly; and (8) that of O’Connor;—independently of the cathedral,—here moulder, in kindred mortality, with the ashes of nobles, of princes, and of kings, entombed beneath their walls; and who, at feud, mayhap, in life, are now content to sleep beside each other, “their warfare o’er,” in the levelling indistinction of death.

Your curiosity is, no doubt, excited to know how so circumscribed a little spot could have been chosen as the nucleus of such ecclesiastical ambition? The answer is found in the circumstance of this having[Pg 357] been one of the strongholds of Budhism, in the days of its corruscations, which made it now be singled out, in common with other places memorable for that creed, as the appropriate locality for Christian superincumbency.

Two Round Towers, the chief object of emulation, are, as you may have supposed, here to be encountered: and these are the very ones, which the reader may recollect have been alluded to at p. 38, as ridiculously claimed by Montmorency for Christian—because, forsooth, in the vagueness of popular titles, they are recently distinguished by the names of MacCarthy and O’Rourke!

The Eastern columns, denominated after Pompey[411] and Cleopatra,[412] have been equally productive of historical mistakes; until, at last, it has appeared that those celebrated lovers have had no more to do with such erections, than have had the O’Rourkes or MacCarthys with our Round Towers!

Here also are three crosses belonging to the same religion, to one of which only shall I now direct your observation. It is fifteen feet high, composed of a single stone, and sculptured with imagery of the most elegant execution.

The devices upon this sculpture are such as you would have expected from the authors of the [Pg 358]Allegory of the Paradisiacal Fall: and here, accordingly, it presents itself, just as in language they had clothed it, in all the mysteriousness of the figurative tree.



Immediately over the equestrian and chariot sports, which decorate the pedestal, you see Adam and Eve conversing at each side of this symbol of their dearly-bought knowledge! Farther up are other emblems of mythological allusion: while, in the centre above, you observe a Cabir priest, alias, a Freemason, holding the implements of his craft—a high honour—in[Pg 359] his hand;[413] and encompassed by a retinue of several more persons, all in the glow of joy!

The other sides, though less complex, are not less graceful, nor less significant, than the two which I have introduced. In them, also, everything bears reference to the Budhist ceremonial. Nor are the mouldings and the flowerings, the networks, and other ornaments which figure upon them, the least essential constituent of that fruitful code,[414]—while the personation of a dog,—an invariable accompaniment, as it is also amongst the sculptures at Persepolis, and other places in the East,—would, in itself be sufficient to fix the appropriation of those crosses, as that animal can have no possible relation to Christianity, whereas, by the Tuath-de-danaans, it was accounted sacred, and its maintenance enjoined by the ordinances of the state, as it is still in the Zend books, which remain after Zoroaster.

To Clondalkin Tower, represented at p. 101, there belongs also a stone cross, and bearing its own history upon its Tuath-de-danaan countenance. In Armagh is another. I cannot afford time to point out any more, but that at Finglas is too remarkable to be quite neglected.

Every body is acquainted with the legendary tale[Pg 360] of St. Patrick having banished all venomous reptiles from this island. Now, I am very willing, as has been shown, to give this apostle all the credit which he deserves; but I am a chronicler of truth, and from me he shall have no romances. Solinus, who flourished A.D. 190, that is, above two centuries before St. Patrick was born, has noticed the phenomenon of there being no vipers here. Isidore has repeated it in the seventh century; as has Bede in the eighth; and, in the ninth, Donatus, the famous bishop of Fesula. This exemption, therefore, cannot be attributable to St. Patrick, whose honour would be better consulted by his religious admirers in confining themselves to facts, which are numerous enough, than in shocking credibility by their pious frauds.

As to the local phenomenon, to which you perceive he can have no pretensions, I cannot resist bestowing upon it a passing observation. Bede, I think, has gone so far as to say that not only are there no snakes to be found in Ireland, but that they would not live, if imported: nay, that, when brought within sight of the shore, they expire! I should like to see this ascertained; if the fact be such, then the question is solved, the air or the soil is the cause.

But if the case be otherwise, then must we ascribe it to some human instrumentality; and, as there occur various texts in Scripture, allusive, it would seem, to a very prevailing opinion in the East, as to the manageableness of that species, by the power of charms,—such as, “I will send serpents, cockatrices, among you, which will not be charmed” (Jer. viii. 17); and “the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear, which will not hearken to the voice of charmers, charming never so wisely” (Ps. lvii. 4, 5);—and[Pg 361] as our Tuath-de-danaans, who were an Eastern people, are recorded by all our early ecclesiastical writers, and with no view to encomium, as so eminent for incantations, that the island seemed, during their sway, to have been one continuation of enchantment, it is past doubt, that, if practicable by man’s efficacy at all, the merit of extinction belongs solely to them. And it is well worth notice, that the island of Crete, where a colony of them also had settled, is said to be gifted with a similar exemption. “The professed snake-catchers in India,” says Johnson, “are a low caste of Hindoos, wonderfully clever in catching snakes, as well as in practising the art of legerdemain; they pretend to draw them from their holes by a song, and by an instrument resembling an Irish bagpipe, on which they play a plaintive tune.”[415]

Every legend, however, is founded upon reality, and I will unfold to you from what has Joceline concocted this about St. Patrick. All the crosses of the Tuath-de-danaans had snakes engraved upon them. Look back at that at Killcullen,[416] and you will see them there still, and more plainly, by and by, upon that at Kells. These to the Irish were objects of reverence, because of the passions which they symbolised; and accordingly the Saint, in order to obviate the recurrence of such contemplations, effaced them, when practicable, from off the stones.[417]

[Pg 362]The same precisely was the course, but with a less hallowed intention, which the Moslems had pursued in the dissemination of their creed. “Whenever,” says Archer, “these figures were introduced, the fanatic Moslem had hammered away all those within his reach; and when this process was too slow for the work of demolition, another mode of obliteration was requisite. Whole compartments of sculpture were plastered over to hide the profane imagery! In clearing away the rubbish, to bring these beautiful remains to light, the engineer stumbled on a long frieze, part of which had had the destroying mallet passed over it; but this method of despatch was not active enough, and that portion which had escaped violence, had been plastered over with a composition of the colour of the stone.”[418]

We read also in the Puranas, as an historical circumstance, that the whole serpent race had been destroyed by Janamijaya, the son of Parieshit, which, in truth, only implies, as the talented professor of Sanscrit in Oxford University has already remarked, “the subversion of the local and original [Pg 363]superstition, and the erection of the system of the Vedas upon its ruins.”

St. Patrick, in like manner, having established Christianity here, in supercedence of a religion, the most prominent symbols of which were snakes, cockatrices, and serpents, may be truly said to have extirpated their race from the country, but, as you see, in an acceptation heretofore unexplained.

The statement given by Major Archer of the symbolic representations upon one of the Indian temples, as well as the particulars of its fate, are so perfectly in unison with what I have been describing, that I must be excused if I give it a place here.

“Reached Burwah-Saugor,” says he. “Immediately on the right is a Hindoo temple, which I think one of the rarest sights, on the score of architecture and sculpture, which have gratified our curiosity. The work of the chisel would have immortalised the artist had he lived in the present day. I have never seen its execution rivalled, although tolerably conversant with similar objects of art. The elegance of design—the arrangement of the figures, which were too numerous to be computed—the position of them—the sharp and bold relief—and the elaborate ornaments of foliage and animals, render it one of the most remarkable monuments of art it is possible to conceive. There are compartments on the lintels of the doors and the entablature, four deep; figures of the subordinate deities in the voluminous code of Brahma, symbols of their attributes, sacred utensils, and animals. Two vases are on the threshold, which, for shape and execution, would compete the palm of excellence with Grecian art. Wreaths of snakes, and groups of men and women, are on the columns,[Pg 364] which also have their ornaments, and are well proportioned.

“I could not resist a second visit to this edifice, which, at the risk of appearing opinionative, I can seriously aver, I never saw equalled for richness and taste; but the hand of intolerant bigotry has marred the work of fair proportion. The fanatical Moslems, who overran the country in the time of Acbar, broke and defaced every image they saw; and, with few exceptions, the head of every figure, of any size or importance, has been demolished; and nothing remains but relics, which attest the advance of the arts at the time the structure was reared.”

The effects of fanaticism are the same in all ages. It desecrates alike human and divine laws. St. Patrick was no fanatic; and accordingly, in his course, what he could not himself comprehend, he was resolved, at all events, to have respected. Those crosses, therefore, which had previously been looked upon with an eye of veneration, though the cause had long ceased to be transmitted, he literally Christianised, by removing the sculpture; and thus were they made, in the ritual of the new religion, as hallowedly expressive as they were ever before.

Precisely similar was the system pursued by the missionaries in India.

“The island of Salsette,” says Captain Head, “abounds in mythological antiquities and pagan temples—two gigantic figures of Buddha, near twenty feet high, of complete preservation, which they owe to the zeal of the Portuguese, who painted them red, and converted the place they ornamented to a Catholic chapel.”

The Pantheon at Rome was new modelled in the[Pg 365] same manner. In a word, as Grotius has before affirmed, “infinite appropriations have been made.”

But, independently of this conversion, the conformity itself between the Christian and the Budhist religion was so great that the Christians, who rounded the Cape of Good Hope with Vasco de Gama, performed their devotions in an Indian temple, on the shores of Hindustan! Nay, “in many parts of the peninsula,” say the Asiatic Researches, “Christians are called, and considered as followers of Buddha, and their divine legislator, whom they confound with the apostle of India, is declared to be a form of Buddha, both by the followers of Brahma and those of Siva; and the information I had received on that subject is confirmed by F. Paulino.”

It was not so with those who made religion a trade, and only the auxiliary password to their selfish aggrandisement! When the “abomination of desolation”[419] swept over this country, and strewed the verdure of its surface with the indiscriminate fragments of cathedrals, of castles, and of towers, the crosses but as little escaped the scourge!

Having had occasion to pass through Finglas, on their march to the siege of Drogheda, and fancying the cross which stood there to have been necessarily the erection of obnoxious Romanism, they gave it an iconoclast blow, which broke its shaft into two! Thus decapitated, it fell. But the citizens, wishing to avoid further profanation, soon as ever the army evacuated the town, took the disjointed relic and buried it very decorously within the confines of the churchyard!

Here it remained, in consecrated interment, until[Pg 366] the beginning of the year 1816, when an old man of the parish, recounting anecdotes of bygone times, mentioned amongst others, the particulars of this tradition, and excited some curiosity by the narrative.



The Rev. Robert Walsh was then curate of Finglas, and this mysterious history having reached his ears, he determined forthwith to ascertain its evidences. His first step was to see the chronicler himself.—This personage’s name was Jack White. Jack, who was himself well stricken in years, told him that he[Pg 367] had learned, a long while ago, from his father, who was then himself rather elderly, that he had been shown by his still older grandfather the identical spot where the cross had been concealed, and could point it out now to anyone with certainty and preciseness.

The proposal was accepted; workmen were employed; and, after considerable perseverance, the cross was exhumed, its parts reunited by iron cramps, and re-erected, as opposite, within a short distance of the scene of its subterranean slumbers, as if in renascent triumph over the destroyer!

“Let such approach this consecrated land
And pass in peace along the magic waste:
But spare its relics—let no busy hand
Deface the scene, already how defaced!
Not for such purpose were those altars placed:
Revere the remnants nations once revered;
So may our country’s name be undisgraced,
So may’st thou prosper where thy youth was reared,
By every honest joy of love and life endeared.”[420]



[Pg 368]


It will be borne in mind that everything hitherto advanced on the various topics which we have been discussing, was the sheer result of internal reasoning and of personal circumspection—that, wherever extrinsic aid was brought forward in support of this unbeaten track, it was uniformly in the shape of conclusions deduced from the premises of reluctant witnesses. I rejoice, with delight unspeakable, that I have it at last in my power to range myself side by side with an author whose testimony in this matter must be considered decisive, but which, however, by some strange aberration of intellect, has never before been understood!

Cormac,[421] the celebrated bishop of Cashel, and one of the first scholars who ever flourished in any country, when defining the Round Towers in his Glossary of the Irish Language, under the name of Gaill[422] says, that they were “Cartha cloacha is aire bearor gall desucder Fo bith ro ceata suighedseat en Eire,”—that is, stone-built monuments within which noble judges used to enclose vases containing the relics of Fo (i.e. Buddh), and of which they had erected hundreds throughout Ireland!

[Pg 369]Knowing that the Ceylonese Dagobs, a name which literally signifies houses of relics, were appurtenances of Budhism, I intreated of a very intelligent native of that island, who attended the Vihara, at Exeter Hall, some time ago, that he would favour me with a written outline of his views of those structures. After a few days, he very civilly obliged me with the following:—

“Travellers to the Eastern countries often have their notice attracted by numerous buildings of a singular form and enormous sizes, both in ruins and in preserved states, about the origin and objects of which many inquiries have been made, and various conclusions drawn. These are monuments raised in ancient times to the memory of deified persons, and called Chaityas, to which places devotees used to resort for meditation, especially those who had any particular veneration for the deceased, whose relics are supposed to be deposited within, and on whose virtues they quietly reflect, availing themselves of the solitude of such places; and if in their own imaginations the personages are deified, they make offerings of lamplight, etc.

“In exploring the ruins of these pyramids, the inside of the globes are found to contain loose earth, merely filled up after the arches had been raised; in such loose earth are found ancient coins of various metals, supposed to be thrown in, in token of respect or veneration, whilst building; but in the very centre of the globe is always found a square well, paved with bricks, and the mouths covered by hewn granite, borne on granite supporters, standing in the four corners of the square (sometimes triangular). In this well, if the monument of a king (and if not robbed by[Pg 370] ancient invaders), will be found the urn containing the relics of the deceased, and treasure to a considerable worth. Sometimes there may be discovered a piece of beaten gold, or other metal, with engravings, mentioning the name and other circumstances of the deceased. If a Buddhist king, idols of Buddha might be found in it—but in others, sometimes earthen or metallic lamps, and heads of cobra de capellas.

“In similar monuments, erected for the relics of Buddha, are three different compartments or depositories; one in the bottom of the foundation, one in the heart of the globe, and one at the top of the globe within the column. This column always has its basis upon the granite covering of the well. In monuments of this description are supposed to be much buried treasure, especially in the foundations. The Paly book, Toopahwanse, gives account of the distribution of the Buddha’s relics to the different parts of the world, and the erection of such monuments over them.

“Monuments of eminent Buddhist high priests are sometimes erected very high, but no treasure is to be expected in them, excepting sometimes books engraved on metal; but the tomb of the poorest prince is never without (at least in models) a golden crown, a sword of the same metal, a pair of metallic shoes, and a similar parasol.

“Besides having learnt from tradition and ancient documents, the writer has seen the discovery of the tomb of a prince, in which these articles were found, with a plate of gold, stating the name of the prince, his age, death, etc., which he had the pleasure to[Pg 371] transcribe; the characters were in a different form from those now used in the same language, and hardly intelligible.

“The writer had also the pleasure of exploring the ruins of a very lofty Dagob that stood opposite to the establishment of the Church Missionaries in Ceylon. It was found to have been the tomb of a monarch, and had the appearance of having been robbed of the wealth it very likely contained, upwards of a century ago, as the trees that were growing on it indicated. A large quantity of ancient coins, and metal of different kinds, melted into various shapes (perhaps with burning of the corpse), were, however, collected.

“Ceylon contains many ancient pyramids of the kind in a preserved state, and protected by the people, which are supposed to contain much wealth, but the superstitious do not dare to explore, and others fear the laws, which will permit violence to no man’s feelings.”[423]

Having before shown how that the religion of the ancients was interwoven with their funeral observances, this ocular testimony was alone requisite to gain credence for my proofs. I can still further adduce the authority of Dr. Hurd,[424] to show that the Gaurs of India, to this day, make use of the Round Towers[425] in their neighbourhood as places of burial, lifting up the dead bodies to the elevated door by means of ladders and pulleys. None of those three writers have attempted anything more than a[Pg 372] statement of the actualities, therefore will I be excused if, in addition to what has been already detailed, I observe that, sublime and philosophic as was the intent of the phallic configuration of those edifices, applied to religion, it was incomparably more so, considered in reference to sepulture; for while, in the former, it merely typified the progress of generation and vitality, in the latter it suggested the more ennobling hope of a future renascence and a resurrection.

That the reader, now aware of the “secret” which directed the form and elevation of our Sabian Towers, should not be surprised at the affinity which I have before pointed out between them and the two “pillars” which stood at the door of Solomon’s temple,[426] I shall tell him that the whole internal construction of this latter edifice, as well as those outer and partial ornaments, bore direct relation to the anatomical organism of man himself.

[Pg 373]To instance only the most prominent of those analogies, you will find the “holy” and the “most holy” bear the same relation to each other, as the cerebrum and cerebellum of the human mechanism. Nor need this at all be wondered at, seeing that, from the very faintest reflection, it must suggest itself to the most indolent that the divine ingenuity most prominently shines forth in the human anatomy; and that, therefore, from the exalted sentiments which this is calculated to inspire of the Godhead, “the noblest study of mankind is man.”[427]

Viewing it in this light, and coupling it with that piety which is known to have animated the bosom of David’s anointed son, I cannot pass on without participating in that sublime exclamation, which bespoke at once his gratitude and his humility, after the consummation of his mighty task. “But will God,” said he, “indeed dwell on earth! Behold! the heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain Thee, how much less this house that I have builded!”[428]

Now to the era for the erection of our Round Towers. “As they have neither dates nor inscriptions,” say Sir John Ware, “and as history is silent on that head, it cannot be expected that I should point out the time when they were erected in this country.”[429] A very cheap way, certainly, of getting over a difficulty! The same was the mode adopted by him, and with equal candour, a few pages earlier, as to the development of their destination, when he says: “I confess it is much easier to combat and[Pg 374] overthrow everything that has been hitherto advanced by writers in favour of the Danish claim to these monuments of antiquity and the uses of them, than to substitute anything solid and satisfactory in their room.”[430] But inasmuch as the latter problem has been solved, one is led to conclude that the obstacles to the former are but imaginary also.

To begin then. Camden, speaking of them, in the thirteenth century, says he believes them to have been erected in the seventh, but does not know by whom! But I put it to any rational thinker to say whether, if they had been a creation of the seventh century, it would be possible for a writer of the thirteenth to have been ignorant of their origin, and that too at a time when tradition was universal? and every father made it a point to instil into his son the events and circumstances that happened in his own day? This writer’s testimony is sufficient, at all events, to show that they existed in the seventh century.

Bishop Cormac, we have seen before, has recorded them as objects of antiquity in his own time; and this being, at the latest, within the ninth century, they must have had existence before the seventh; else they could not well be deemed ancient two centuries after.

The Ulster annals record the destruction of fifty-seven of them by an earthquake, A.D. 448; they must, therefore, have existed before that century also. But the Royal Irish Academy say no; because that tradition connects a person called the Goban Saer, and “the historical notices relative to whom[Pg 375] have been collected into Mr. Petrie’s essay ... with the erection of this (the Antrim Tower), as well as others in the north of Ireland!”[431] As every notice, therefore, respecting so important a character must be eagerly sought after, I shall take leave to transcribe what the same high authority tells us of him, in the following words, namely:—

I have not learned the particular period at which he flourished, but tradition says that he was superior to all his contemporaries in the art of building; even in that dark age when so little communication existed between countries not so remotely situated, his fame extended to distant lands. A British prince, whose possessions were very extensive, and who felt ambitious of erecting a splendid palace to be his regal residence, hearing of the high attainments of the Goban Saer in his sublime science, invited him to court, and by princely gifts and magnificent promises induced him to build a structure, the splendour of which excelled that of all the palaces in the world. But the consummate skill of the artist had nearly cost him his life, for the prince, struck with the matchless beauty of the palace, was determined that it should stand unrivalled on the earth, by putting the architect to death, who alone was capable of constructing such another, after the moment the building received the finishing touches of his skilful hand.

“This celebrated individual had a son, who was grown up to man’s estate; and anxious that this only child should possess, in marriage, a young woman of sound sense and ready wit, he cared little for the factitious distinctions of birth or fortune, if he found her[Pg 376] rich in the gifts of heaven. Having killed a sheep, he sent the young man to sell the skin at the next market town, with this singular injunction, that he should bring home the skin and its price at his return. The lad was always accustomed to bow to his father’s superior wisdom, and on this occasion did not stop to question the good sense of his commands, but bent his way to town. In these primitive times it was not unusual to see persons of the highest rank engaged in menial employments, so the townsfolk were less surprised to see the young Goban expose a sheep-skin for sale, than at the absurdity of the term, ‘the skin and the price of it.’ He could find no chapman, or rather chapwoman (to coin a term), for it was women engaged in domestic business that usually purchased such skins for the wool. A young woman at last accosted him, and upon hearing the terms of sale, after pondering a moment agreed to the bargain. She took him to her house, and having stripped off all the wool, returned him the bare skin, and the price for which the young man stipulated. Upon reaching home, he returned the skin and its value to his father, who learning that a young woman became the purchaser, entertained so high an opinion of her talents, that in a few days she became the wife of his son, and sole mistress of Rath Goban.

“Some time after this marriage, and towards the period to which we before referred, when the Goban Saer and his son were setting off, at the invitation of the British prince, to erect his superb palace, this young woman exhibited considerable abilities, and the keenness of her expressions, and the brilliancy of her wit, far outdid, on many occasions, the acumen of the Goban Saer himself; she now cautioned him,[Pg 377] when his old father, who did not, like modern architects, Bianconi it along macadamised roads, got tired from the length of the journey, to shorten the road; and, secondly, not to sleep a third night in any house without securing the interest of a domestic female friend. The travellers pursued their way, and after some weary walking over flinty roads, and through intricate passages, the strength of the elder Goban yielded to the fatigue of the journey. The dutiful son would gladly shorten the road for the wayworn senior, but felt himself unequal to the task. On acquainting his father with the conjugal precept, the old man unravelled the mystery by bidding him commence some strange legend of romance, whose delightful periods would beguile fatigue and pain into charmed attention. Irishmen, I believe, are the cleverest in Europe at ‘throwing it over’ females in foreign places, and it is pretty likely that the younger Goban did not disobey the second precept of his beloved wife. On the second night of their arrival at the king’s court, he found in the person of a female of very high rank (some say she was the king’s daughter), a friend who gave her confiding heart to all the dear delights that love and this Irish experimentalist could bestow. As the building proceeded under the skilful superintendence of the elder Goban, the son acquaints him with the progress of his love, and the ardent attachment of the lady. The cautious old man bade him beware of one capable of such violent passion, and take care lest her jealousy or caprice might not be equally ungovernable, and display more fearful effects. To discover her temper, the father ordered him to sprinkle her face with water as he washed himself in the morning—that if she received the[Pg 378] aspersion with a smile, her love was disinterested, and her temper mild; but if she frowned darkly, her love was lust, and her anger formidable. The young man playfully sprinkled the crystal drops on the face of his lover—she smiled gently—and the young Goban rested calmly on that tender bosom, where true love and pitying mildness bore equal sway.

“The wisdom of the Goban Saer and his sapient daughter-in-law was soon manifested; for, as the building approached its completion, his lady-love communicated to the young man the fearful intelligence that the king was resolved, by putting them to death when the work was concluded, that they should erect no other such building, and, by that means, to enjoy the unrivalled fame of possessing the most splendid palace in the world. These tidings fell heavily on the ear of the Goban Saer, who saw the strong necessity of circumventing this base treachery with all his skill. In an interview with his majesty, he acquaints him that the building was being completed; and that its beauty exceeded everything of the kind he had done before, but that it could not be finished without a certain instrument which he unfortunately left at home, and he requested his royal permission to return for it. The king would by no means consent to the Goban Saer’s departure; but anxious to have the edifice completed, he was willing to send a trusty messenger into Ireland for that instrument upon which the finishing of the royal edifice depended. The other assured his majesty that it was of so much importance that he would not entrust it into the hands of the greatest of his majesty’s subjects. It was finally arranged that the king’s eldest son should proceed to Rath Goban, and, upon producing his [Pg 379]credentials to the lady of the castle, receive the instrument of which she had the keeping, and which the Goban Saer named ‘Cur-an-aigh-an-cuim.’ Upon his arrival in Ireland, the young prince proceeded to fulfil his errand; but the knowing mistress of Rath Goban, judging from the tenor of the message, and the ambiguous expressions couched under the name of the pretended instrument, that her husband and father-in-law were the victims of some deep treachery, she bad him welcome, inquired closely after her absent friends, and told him he should have the object of his mission when he had refreshed himself after the fatigues of his long journey. Beguiled by the suavity of her manners and the wisdom of her words, the prince complied with her invitation to remain all night at Rath Goban. But in the midst of his security, the domestics, faithful to the call of their mistress, had him bound in chains, and led to the dungeon of the castle. Thus the wisdom of the Goban Saer and the discrimination of his daughter completely baffled the wicked designs of the king, who received intimation that his son’s life would surely atone for the blood of the architects. He dismissed them to their native country laden with splendid presents; and, on their safe arrival at Rath Goban, the prince was restored to liberty.”[432]

Gentlemen of England, where is your knowledge of history? which of your famed monarchs was it that was going to play this scurvy trick upon our Goban, and earn for himself the infamous notoriety of a second Laomedon, by defrauding this architect, who no doubt was a Hercules, of his stipulated salary?[Pg 380] Ye shades of Alfred and of Ethelbert, I pause for a reply?

But this indignity, if offered to Goban, would be even greater than that offered by Laomedon to Hercules; for in the latter case the crime was only that of dishonesty—which is not uncommon in any age—superadded to a spice of impiety, in cheating a god; but in the former case, over and above all these, would weigh a consideration which our people would never forget, namely, a violation of the laws of gallantry, this same Goban “having been believed in this part of this country to have been a woman!”[433] And yet the same vehicle that puts forth this trash has told us, in the preceding extract, that he was a father and a husband! (I do not believe in hermaphrodites), and, to crown the climax of absurdity, gives us the following specimen of the heroism of his wife, namely:—

“The Goban Saer having been barbarously murdered, together with his journeymen, by twelve highwaymen, the murderers proceeded to his house, and told the Goban’s wife, with an air of triumph, that they had killed her husband. She appearing nowise concerned, asked them to assist her in drawing open the trunk of a tree, which the Goban had been cutting up into planks. They put in their hands for the purpose, when, drawing out a wedge, she left them literally in a cleft stick, and taking up an axe, cut off all their heads at a blow”![434]

But this is ludicrously trifling with the time of my readers. I am alive to the fact, and I most [Pg 381]submissively crave forgiveness, which I doubt not I shall receive, when I state that my sole object was to expose the flimsiness of that subterfuge by which the Royal Irish Academy, or rather their council! had hoped that they could blindfold the public as well as they had succeeded in sequestrating my prize!

I do not deny indeed but that there may have been in Ireland at one time such a person as the Goban Saer: but if ever he did belong thereto, it must have been at least sixteen hundred years before the epoch which the Academy sanction—and so sanction, be it observed, because that a weak-minded poor monk, when writing the biography of St. Abhan, and torturing his invention, in all quarters, for the purpose of conjuring up miracles to lay to his score, thought the similarity of sound between Abhan and Gobhan so inviting, that he must contrive an interview between the parties; and so, with “one fell swoop,” alias, dash of the pen, cutting off the centuries of separation, he treats himself and his pupils to the following burlesque:—

Quidam famossissimus in omni arte lignorum et lapidum erat in Hibernia nomine Gobbanus, cujus artis fama usque in finem sæculi erit in ea. Ipse jam postquam, aliis sanatis, in superflua artis suæ mercede lumen oculorum amisit, et erat cæcus. Hic vocatus est ad S. Abbanum et dixit ei: Volo ædificium in honorem Dei ædificare, et tu age illud. Et ille ait: Quomodo possum agere cum sim cæcus? dixit ei sanctus, Quamdiu illud operaberis lumen oculorum habebis, sed tibi postea non promitto. Et ita factum est, nam ille artifex apud sanctum Dei in lumine suo operatus est, et cum esset illud perfectum lumen[Pg 382] oculorum amisit”[435]—that is, in the true spirit of what my countrymen call a sceal Feeneechtha, or Phœnician story, i.e. an entertaining lie (a proof, by the way, that they claim no kindred with the Phœnicians, else they would not thus confirm the well-known epithet of Punica fides); however to put this sceal Feeneechtha into English, it runs thus: “Once upon a time there lived in Erin a man most celebrated for his universal mastery over wood and stone; and whose fame, accordingly, will live therein as long as grass shall grow or purling streams flow in its enchanting scenery. This good man’s name was Gobhan, who, wallowing in wealth from the meritorious exertions of his abilities, yet incapacitated from enjoying it by the deprivation of his sight, was summoned before St. Abhan, who had already healed the rest of the world by his miraculous gifts, and who thus addresses him: ‘I wish to build a house to the honour of God; and set you about it.’ ‘How can I,’ says Gobhan, ‘seeing that I am blind?’ ‘O very well,’ says Abhan, ‘I will settle that; long as ever you are engaged in the business, you shall have the use of your eyes; but I make no promises afterwards!’ And verily it was so, for long as ever he did work with the saint he had the use of his sight, but soon as ever the work was done he relapsed into his former blindness!”

Well, you may laugh if you chose, in future, at the simplicity of the monks; but here is one for you, who, in the very extravagance of his simplicity, and that while bursting almost with risibility himself at the speciousness of his conceit, has contrived to bamboozle a jury of umpires who pique themselves[Pg 383] upon their contempt for everything monkish, and who actually, in any other case, had they the sworn evidence of a monk, would go counter thereto; but here, where an old doting friar is drawing upon his ingenuity, every syllable that escapes him is taken for gospel!

Now, I as readily believe, as they would fain persuade me, that “long as Gobhan did work with Abhan he had the use of his sight,” and that “soon as ever the work was done he relapsed into his former blindness.” And why? because the two men, living in different ages, never laid eyes upon each other at all, and thus were they both, morally and literally, blind to each other!

The Scythians, who were masters of this country at the Christian era, and for many centuries preceding, had a sovereign contempt for everything like architecture. “They have no towns,” says Herodotus, “no fortifications; their habitations they always carry with them.”[436] The principle which actuated them, in this indifference to houses, was precisely that which governed the Britons in a similar taste—they were a race of warriors, and dreaded the imputation of cowardice more than they did the inclemency of the weather. It is not without reason, therefore, that we find Hollingshed, who wrote his Chronicles in Queen Elizabeth’s reign, complaining that “three things were altered for the worse in England: the multitude of chimneys lately erected, the great increase of lodgings, and the exchange of treen platters into pewter, and wooden spoons into silver and tin. Nothing but oak for building houses is now regarded: when houses were built with willow, then had we[Pg 384] oaken men; but now our houses are come to be built of oak, our men are not only become willow, but a great many altogether of straw.”[437]

St. Bernard, also, in reference to the Irish, having mentioned that Malachy O’Morgan, archbishop of Armagh, was the first (of the Scythian race) who had erected a stone house in the island, introduces a native upbraiding him with it, in these terms: “What wonderful work is this? why this innovation in our country? we are Scots, and not Gauls, what necessity have we for such durable edifices?”

St. Abhan, therefore, who belonged to the sixth century, at which time the Scythians had here absolute sway, never once dreamt of erecting a stone edifice, or of evoking from the grave the manes of Gobhan, who, if he ever existed, must have been a member of the former dynasty.

Those pious fabrications which the biographers of early saints had concocted, with a view to magnify the reverence due to their subjects, remind me of one which was invented for the benefit (but in reality to the detriment) of St. Patrick, and which, even at the risk of appearing tedious, I must detail.

“Whereas,”—you perceive the record begins with all the formalities of office,—“in the year of the world 1525, Noah began to admonish the people of vengeance to come by a generall deluge for the wickednesse and detestable sinne of man, and continued his admonition for 120 years, building an arke for the safeguard of himself and his family; one Cæsarea (say they), according unto others, Caisarea,[Pg 385] a niece of Noah (when others seemed to neglect this warning), rigging a navy, committed herself, with her adherents, to the seas, to seeke adventures and leave the plagues that were to befall. There arrived in Ireland with her three men, Bithi, Largria, and Fintan, and fifty women. Within forty days after her arrivall the universal flood came upon them, and those parts, as well as upon the rest of the world, and drowned them all; in which perplexity of mind and imminent danger, beholding the waves overflowing all things before their eyes, Fintan is said to have been transformed into a salmon, and to have swoome all the time of the deluge about Ulster; and after the fall of the water, recovering his former shape, to have lived longer than Adam, and to have delivered strange things to posterity, so that of him the common speech riseth, ‘If I had lived Fintan’s years I could say much.’”

Well, “to make a long story short,” this same Fintan, who was converted into a salmon, for the sole purpose of accounting for his appearance on the same theatre with St. Patrick, is introduced to the saint, when, after a very diverting episode upon his submarine adventures, a miracle, of course, is to be wrought; and, anon, we have the contemporary of Noah, and of Patrick, at once a salmon, a dolphin, and a man, renouncing his attachment to the waters and to the boat, and devoutly embracing Christianity!!!

The anachronism committed in the instance of the Goban Saer was precisely of the same character! and the very name assigned him, which is that of a class, not of an individual, exposes the counterfeit!

Gobhan Saer means the Sacred Poet, or the [Pg 386]Freemason Sage, one of the Guabhres, or Cabiri, such as you have seen him represented upon the Tuath-de-danaan cross at Clonmacnoise. To this colony, therefore, must he have belonged, and therefore the Towers traditionally associated with his erection must have been constructed anterior to the Scythian influx.

But we are not left to such inferences to determine the point. A more substantial ally, the imperishable landmarks of history stand forward as my vouchers.

To this hour the two localities,—whereon the Tuath-de-danaans had fought their two decisive battles with the Fir-Bolgs, their immediate predecessors in the occupation of this island,—one near Lough Mask, in the county Galway, and the other near Lough Arran, in the county Roscommon, are called by the name of Moy-tura, or more correctly, in Irish, Moye-tureadh!

The meaning of this compound, beyond the possibility of disputation, is The field of the Towers! And when in both those places are still traced the ruins of such edifices, are we not inevitably forced to connect, as well their erection as the imposition of the name, with the fortunes or with the feelings of some side of the above combatants?

You will say, then, that the Fir-Bolgs were as likely to have originated the name, and built those structures upon the site, in reliance upon their divinities, as that the Tuath-de-danaans should have been the authors in gratitude to theirs?

Our only mode, therefore, is to consider the vestiges of their respective religions: and when we perceive that in the isles of Aran, whither the Fir-Bolgs betook themselves after their first defeat, for the period [Pg 387]intervening between those two battles, commemorated by the above name, there appears not a vestige of architectural masonry approaching in character to a Columnar temple, while, on the contrary, they abound in specimens of Druidical veneration, is it not evident that they, at all events, have no claim thereto?

The worship, therefore, of the Fir-Bolgs differed altogether from that of the Tuath-de-danaans, and so they are excluded from those immortal memorials. Indeed the avidity with which they hailed the approach of a new conqueror, and tendered him their assistance for the reduction of the island, arose not so much from any fondly-cherished hope of their being themselves restored to the throne they had lost, or even allowed therein a participation, as from an illiberal aversion to the emblematic ritual of their temple-serving superiors, which their ignorant prejudices could not allow them to appreciate!

We are warranted, then, I presume, in assigning solely to the Tuath-de-danaans the affixing of the name Moy-tureadh to those two scenes of their success. And did there even a doubt remain on the mind of the most incredulous as to the accuracy of the inference, or the correctness of that reasoning, which would identify this people with the erections in general of those rotundities, it will hide its diminished head, and vanish with self-abasement, when I bring forward the testimony of Amergin, brother to Heremon and, Heber,—the immediate victors of this religious order—in the following graphic and pictorial treasure, as still religiously preserved in the Book of Leccan, viz.:—

“Aonoch righ Teambrach
Teamor Tur Tuatach
Tuath Mac Miledh
Miledh Long Libearne.”

[Pg 388]That is—

Noble is the King of Teamor,
Teamor the Tuathan Tower,
Tuaths were the sons of Miledh,
Miledh of the Libearn vessels.

Here, then,—a circumstance which I cannot imagine how it could have escaped all before me!—we have this disputed question at length settled, and incontrovertibly adjudicated by the very head of that body which Montmorency had assured us never alluded to those edifices as a subject of national boast—I mean the Bards. For, whether we admit this Amergin to have been the person above described,[438] the actual contemporary and successor of the Tuatha-de-danaans, or as the other of that name who belongs to the Christian age, and the time of St. Patrick, the supposition is equally valid, to prove the existence of those structures anterior to their respective eras! and the ascription in either case remains unshaken and irrefragable, which in the word Tuathan Tower unites the Tower erectors with the colony of the Tuatha!

[Pg 389]My opponents may now demolish, if they can, all my foregoing deductions, as speedily as they please,—nay, did the destructiveness of fire, or other untoward accident, deprive me of the deductions of my preceding labours, to this one stanza would I cling, as the palladium of my truth; to this landmark would I adhere as my “ne plus ultra” against error, in its encroachments upon history![439]

In the whole catalogue of Irish deposits, there exists not one of more intrinsic value to the lover of antiquities, so far as the right settlement of history is concerned, than what those four lines present. For, in the first place, we learn that the celebrity of Teamor[440] arose not from any gorgeous suit of palaces of a castellated outline. Its renown consisted in being the central convention for religious celebration to all the distant provincials once in every year; who, after attending the games in the adjoining district of Tailtine, now Telltown, adjourned, for legislative deliberations, to the Hill of Tarah, where they propounded their plans, not within the confined enclosures of any measured dome, but under the open canopy of the expanded firmament.

Teamor, then, was not a palace at all, but one of the Round Towers, or Budhist Temples, belonging to the Tuath-de-danaans; and this is further proved by the result of researches, made to explore the foundation of an edifice, confirmatory of a regal mansion, having all ended in the most confuting[Pg 390] disappointment—no vestiges could be found save those of the Round Tower!

The importance which attaches to the Tailtine games above noticed, makes it necessary that I should bestow upon them something more than a cursory glance. Let me, therefore, first state what other writers have said respecting them.

“We attribute,” says Abbé Mac Geoghegan, “to Lugha Lamh Fada, one of their ancient kings, the institution of military exercises at Tailton in Meath; those exercises consisted in wrestling, the combats of gladiators, tournaments, races on foot and on horseback, as we have seen them instituted at Rome a long time after by Romulus, in honour of Mars, which were called ‘Equitia.’ These games at Tailton, which Gratianus Lucius and O’Flaherty call ‘ludi Taltini,’ were celebrated every year, during thirty days, that is, fifteen days before, and fifteen days after, the first of our month of August. On that account, the first of August has been, and is still called in Ireland, ‘Lah Lugh-Nasa,’ which signifies a day in memory of Lugha. These olympiads always continued amongst the Milesians until the arrival of the English. We discover to this day some vestiges of them, without any other change than that of time and place. Wrestling, which we call in France ‘le tour du Breton,’ the exercises of gladiators, and races on foot, are still on festival days their common diversion in various districts of Ireland, and the conquerors generally receive a prize.”

Tailtean,” says Seward, “a place in the county of Meath, where the Druids sacrificed in honour of the sun and moon, and heaven and earth, on the first of August, being the fifth revolution of the moon[Pg 391] from the vernal equinox. At this time the states assembled, and young people were given in marriage, according to the custom of the eastern nations. Games were also instituted, resembling the Olympic games of the Greeks, and held fifteen days before and fifteen days after the first of August. This festival was frequently denominated Lughaid Naoislean, or the Matrimonial Assembly.”

“This chapter,” says Vallancey, “might have been lengthened many pages, with the description and etymology of the various ornaments of female dress, but enough has been said to convince the reader that the ancient Irish brought with them the Asiatic dress and ornaments of their ancestors, for they could not have borrowed these names of Spaniards, Britons, Danes, or Norwegians.

“Thus dressed and ornamented, the youthful females of Ireland appeared at Tailetan, or the mysteries of the sun, on the first day of August in each year, when the ceremony of the marriage of the sun and moon took place, and the females were exposed to enamour the swains. The day still retains the name of Luc-nasa, or the Anniversary of the Sun. And the name of the month of August, in Sanscrit, is Lukie, whom they make the wife of Veeshnu, the preserver and goddess of plenty. So the Irish poets have made this festival, named Lucaid-lamh-fada, i.e. the Festival of Love, the consecration of hands, to be the feast of Luigh-lamh-fada, or Luigh-longumans, to whom they have given Tailte for wife, who, after his death, was married to Duach.”

“The Taltenean sports,” says Sir James Ware, “have been much celebrated by the Irish historians. They were a sort of warlike exercises, something resembling the Olympic games, consisting of racing,[Pg 392] tilts, tournaments, or something like them, and other exercises. They were held every year at Talten, a mountain in Meath, for fifteen days before and fifteen days after the first of August. Their first institution is ascribed to Lugaid-lam-fadhe, the twelfth King of Ireland, who began his reign A.M. 2764, in gratitude to the memory of Tailte, the daughter of Magh Mor, a prince of some part of Spain, who, having been married to Eochaid, King of Ireland, took this Lugaidh under her protection, and had the care of his education in his minority. From this lady both the sports and the place where they were celebrated took their names. From King Lugaidh the first of August was called Lugnasa, or the memory of Lugaidh, nasa signifying memory in Irish.”

The truth is, that those games were called Tailtine (whence the English Tilts), and the place Tailton, from Tailte, which, in our language, signifies a wife; and the sports, there exhibited, made but a representation of the victory which Budha gained over Mara, the great tempter, who had attacked him on the day of his attaining to perfection, with an innumerable host of demons. The conflict is said to have lasted for fifteen days, at the end of which Budha reduced them to submission, and to the acknowledgment of his pretensions as the Son of God.

The battle-scenes, therefore, with which the Tuath-de-danaan crosses and obelisks are decorated, bear reference, all of them, to this religious achievement: and to this hour you will find those identical games celebrated in various parts of the east, and for the same number of days! In Egypt, also, there was a place called Tailtal,[441] and named from the same cause. Nay,[Pg 393] the name of the Eleusinian mysteries was Tailtine! but this the Greeks not comprehending, they bent it, as usual, to some conformity to their own language, and made Teletai of it! and then they were at no loss in making a reason for it in like manner, namely, that no one could be finished until initiated therein!

But it is not alone as assigning those edifices to their real proprietors that this “stanza” is of value; but as giving us an insight into that mysterious personage whom our modern chroniclers would fain represent as the father of Heber and Heremon. A greater error, whether voluntary or accidental, was never incurred. Heber and Heremon were the sons of Gallamh, and invaded this island at the head of a Scythian colony,[442] distinct in all respects, save that of language,[443] from their Tuathan predecessors.

These predecessors were headed by three brothers, Brien, Iuchordba, and Iuchor, the sons of King Miledh, a Fo-morian, by a queen of the Tuath-de-danaan race, agreeably to this record in the Book of Leccan, viz.:—

“D’Hine fine Fo-mora dosomh de shaorbh a athor, agus do Tuathabh Dadanann a mhathar”—that is, the father was of the race of the Fo-morians, and the mother a Tuath-de-danaan.

Again, in the Seabright Collection, this genealogy is prosecuted further, and from it, General Vallancey translates some lines, which are by no means irrelevant, as follows, viz.: “Cuill, Ceacht, and Grian,[Pg 394] were the children of little Touraine—and their descendants, Uar, Jurca, Jurcatha; and from Uar was descended Brian, who was named Touran; and many others not here enumerated.”

But the history of those events having been destroyed by time, the degenerate Pheeleas, wishing to flatter the vanity of the existing powers, did not hesitate to ascribe to the Scythian, or modern Irish, followers of Heber and Heremon, those brilliant features of primeval immortality which appertained exclusively to the Irish of another day—the Hyperborean or Iranian Irish!

The Tuath-de-danaans having been proved the authors of the Round Towers, my ambition in the investigation is already attained. But since we are told, that this people had claimed possession of the island as inheritors of an antecedent and preoccupying eastern colony, it may be worth while to inquire whether we can discover any traces to connect those predecessors with any of these edifices. Without bestowing upon it, however, more consideration than what the exigency demands, I will briefly observe, that we are likely to find such in the history of the Fo-moraice, who are represented in our chronicles, by the party who had ejected them, under the obnoxious character of monsters and giants.[444]

It is high time to give up those abuses in the import of words. Fo-moraic means literally the[Pg 395] mariners of Fo, that is, of Budh: and their religion being thus identified with that of the Tuath-de-danaans, what could be more natural than that they should have erected temples of the same shape with theirs?

This deduction will appear the more credible from the unanimity of all our historians, on the subject of this people having been perfect masters of masonry, as well as from the universally credited report in the days of Cambrensis, of some of the Towers being then visible beneath the inundation of Lough Neagh.[445]

I confess I am one of those persons who give faith to this tradition; for even my experience of the vicissitudes of all things earthly has enabled me to say, in the words of the philosophic poet, that—

“Where once was solid land seas have I seen,
And solid land where once deep seas have been,
Shells far from seas, like quarries in the ground,
As anchors have in mountain tops been found.
Torrents have made a valley of a plain,
High hills by floods transported to the main,
Deep standing lakes sucked dry by thirsty sand,
And on late thirsty earth now lakes do stand.”



[Pg 396]


Having promised early in this volume to identify our island with the Insula Hyperboreorum of antiquity, I shall, without further tarrying, produce the extract referred to, from Diodorus; and, lest I may be suspected of adapting it to my own peculiar views, it shall appear minutely in Mr. Booth’s translation, viz.:—

“Amongst them that have written old stories much like fables, Hecatæus and some others say, that there is an island in the ocean, over against Gaul, as big as Sicily, under the arctic pole, where the Hyperboreans inhabit, so called because they lie beyond the breezes of the north wind. That the soil here is very rich and very fruitful, and the climate temperate, insomuch as there are two crops in the year.

“They say that Latona was born here, and therefore that they worship Apollo above all other gods; and because they are daily singing songs in praise of this god, and ascribing to him the highest honours, they say that these inhabitants demean themselves as if they were Apollo’s priests, who has here a stately grove and renowned temple of round form, beautified with many rich gifts. That there is a city likewise consecrated to this god, whose citizens are most of them harpers, who, playing on the harp, chant sacred hymns to Apollo in the temple, setting forth[Pg 397] his glorious acts. The Hyperboreans use their own natural language, but, of long and ancient time, have had a special kindness for the Grecians; and more especially for the Athenians and them of Delos; and that some of the Grecians passed over to the Hyperboreans, and left behind them divers presents[446] inscribed with Greek characters; and that Abaris formerly travelled thence into Greece, and renewed the ancient league of friendship with the Delians.

“They say, moreover, that the moon in this island seems as if it were near to the earth, and represents, on the face of it, excrescences like spots on the earth; and that Apollo once in nineteen years comes into the island; in which space of time the stars perform their courses and return to the same point; and therefore the Greeks call the revolution of nineteen years the Great Year. At this time of his appearance they say that he plays upon the harp, and sings and dances all the night, from the vernal equinox[447] to the rising of the Pleiades,[448] solacing himself with the praises of his own successful adventures. The sovereignty of this city and the care of the temple, they say, belong to the Boreades, the posterity of Boreas, who hold the principality by descent in the direct line from that ancestor.”

When copying this narrative from the writings of Hecatæus, it is evident that Diodorus did not believe one single syllable it contained. He looked upon it as a romance; and so far was he from identifying it with any actual locality, that he threw over the whole an air of burlesque. We are, therefore, not at all obliged for the services he has rendered—yet shall[Pg 398] we make his labours subservient to the elucidation of truth. Little did he dream that Ireland, which he, by and by, expressly mentions by the name of Irin, and which he calumniates as cannibal, was one and the same with that isle of which he read such encomiums in the writings of former antiquaries; and, most unquestionably, it did require no small portion of research to reconcile the contradiction which the outline involves, and which is now further enhanced by his scepticism.

Unable to solve this difficulty, Mr. Dalton—wishing to retain, by all means, the Hyperborean isle, which, indeed, he could not well discard, yet not bring it in collision with the Iranian libel—does not hesitate to throw at once overboard into the depth of the Atlantic the island of Irin (alias Ireland), and affirm that it never was the place which the historian had specified. “It is not quite certain,” says he, “what place Diodorus means by Iris;[449] from the turn of the expression it would rather appear to be a part of Britain,—perhaps the Erne, for which Mr. James M‘Pherson contends in another place,—while the island which Diodorus does mention in the remarkable pages cited above, and which so completely agrees with Ireland, is never called Iris by him, nor does the name occur again in all his work, nor is it by any other author applied to Ireland.”[450]

Mind, now, reader, how easily I reconcile the conflicting fact of Diodorus’s incredulity with his positive defamation.

At the period when he flourished as an accredited historian, the occupancy of Ireland had passed into[Pg 399] new hands. The Scythians were the persons then possessed of the soil; and they being a warlike tribe, averse to letters, to religion, and to refinement,[451]—but overwhelming in numbers,—obliterated every vestige of that primeval renown in which the island had once gloried, and which afforded theme and material to the learned of all countries for eulogy and praise.

Hecatæus was one of those who depicted in glowing colours the primitive splendour and the ethereal happiness of Ireland’s first inhabitants. He belonged to an age which was well called antiquarian, even in the day in which Diodorus wrote, viz. B.C. 44; and when, therefore, this latter, looking over the pages of his venerable predecessor, saw them so replete with incidents,—at variance with our condition in his own degenerate day,—he did not only not dream of considering Ireland as the place described, but looked upon the whole story as the fiction of a dotard.

Let us, however, despite of Diodorus, establish the veracity of the antiquarian Hecatæus. Then behold the situation of this island, just opposite to France,—in size as large as Sicily,—at once corresponding to the locality and size of Ireland, and subversive of the claims of those who would fain make England, Anglesea, or one of the Hebrides, the island specified.

Considering further the prolificacy of its soil, and with that compare what the old poet has affirmed,—and[Pg 400] what we know to be true,—of our own country, viz.:—

“Illic bis niveum tondetur vellus in anno
Bisque die referunt ubera tenta greges.”

Then bring its propinquity to the “arctic pole,” and the high northern latitude which Strabo[452] and other ancients have assigned to Ireland, into juxtaposition with “Hyperborean,” the name given to its inhabitants from the very circumstance of their lying so far to the north, and the identity of the isle with that in which each true Irishman exults is infallibly complete when I quote from Marcianus Heracleotes—who wrote in the third century, and who, as he himself avows, only drew up a compendium from the voluminous works of Artemidorus, who flourished in the hundred and sixty-ninth Olympiad, or 104 years before Christ—the following description of this sacred island, viz. “Iuvernia, a British isle, is bounded on the north (ad Boream) by the ocean called the Hyperborean; but on the east by the ocean which is called the Hibernian; on the south by the Virginian ocean. It has sixteen nations and eleven illustrious cities, fifteen remarkable rivers, five remarkable promontories, and six remarkable islands.”

Here the sea, encompassing Ireland on the north, is called the Hyperborean Ocean;[453] and when we are told that the priests officiating at the round temples of[Pg 401] Apollo were called Boreades, we can readily understand the origin of the name, as derived from Boreas, the deity who presided over the north-east wind, to which they offered their vows,—just as we find the Emperor Augustus erecting a temple at Rome, many centuries after, to the wind called Circius.

To this deification of the energies of nature, which, as before affirmed, was but part and parcel of that form of worship called Sabaism, the author of the Book of Enoch has alluded in the following mysterious episode:—

“Then another angel, who proceeded with me, spoke to me; and showed me the first and last secrets in heaven above, and in the depths of the earth: in the extremities of heaven, and in the foundations of it, and in the receptacle of the winds. He showed me how their Spirits were divided; how they were balanced; and how both the springs and the winds were numbered according to the force of the Spirit. He showed me the power of the moon’s light, that its power is a just one; as well as the divisions of the stars, according to their respective names; that every division is divided; that the lightning flashes; that their Host immediately obey; and that a cessation takes place during thunder, in the continuance of its sound. Nor are the thunder and the lightning separated; neither do both of them move with one Spirit; yet are they not separated. For when the lightning lightens, the thunder sounds, and the Spirit, at a proper period, pauses, making an equal division between them; for the receptacle of their times is what sand is. Each of them at a proper season is restrained with a bridle, and turned by the power[Pg 402] of the Spirit; which thus propels them according to the spacious extent of the earth.”

Yet beautiful as is the above, it is not much more so than an almost inspired little poem, which appeared some time ago, in one of the public prints, as emanating from the pen of an American lady, named Goold, personifying this element, viz.:—

“We come! we come! and ye feel our might,
As we’re hastening on in our boundless flight;
And over the mountains and over the deep,
Our broad invisible pinions sweep.
Like the Spirit of Liberty, wild and free!
And ye look on our works, and own ’tis we;
Ye call us the winds; but can ye tell
Whither we go, or where we dwell?

Ye mark as we vary our forms of power,
And fell the forest or fan the flower,
When the hare-bell moves, and the rush is bent,
When the tower’s o’erthrown and the oak is rent,
As we waft the bark o’er the slumbering wave,
Or hurry its crew to a watery grave:
And ye say it is we! but can ye trace
The wandering winds to their secret place?

And whether our breath be loud and high,
Or come in a soft and balmy sigh,
Our threat’nings fill the soul with fear,
As our gentle whisperings woo the ear
With music aërial, still ’tis we,
And ye list, and ye look; but what do ye see?
Can ye hush one sound of our voice to peace,
Or waken one note when our numbers cease?

Our dwelling is in th’ Almighty’s hand,
We come and we go at His command;
Though joy or sorrow may mark our track,
His will is our guide, and we look not back;
And if, in our wrath, ye would turn us away,
Or win us in gentlest air to play,
Then lift up your hearts to Him who binds,
Or frees, as He will, the obedient winds!”

[Pg 403]And now, as to those “temples” themselves, “of round form,” sacred to Apollo, where will Borlasse in his championship for England, or Rowland in his claims for the island of Anglesea, or Toland and Carte for the little Hebrides isles, find a single vestige of a rotund edifice of antiquated consecration, appertaining to the age which Hecatæus described?—whereas, in Ireland, of the two hundred and upwards, with which its surface was, at one time, adorned, we have not only vestiges of each and all to this day; but, out of the sixty that survive,—after an interval of more than three thousand years standing,—about twenty still display their Grynean devotion and their Hyperborean tranquillity, and are likely so to do for three thousand years more, should this world, or our portion of it, but last so long!

To give soul to the solemnisation of this religious pomp, the Irish have ever cultivated the mysteries of music. The harp more particularly had enlisted the energies of their devotional regard, and their eminence in its management made Hecatæus well observe, that “the inhabitants were almost exclusively harpers.” This was a very suitable accompaniment to their worship of Apollo, who was himself the reputed inventor of this instrument; and accordingly we find that, even in the twelfth century, broken down and obliterated as every vestige of the real Irish then was, by the ungenial amalgamation of the Scythian and Danish intruders, the harp was still preserved as the last remnant of their glory; while the elegance of their compositions and performance upon it extorted this reluctant acknowledgment from the prejudiced Cambrensis:—

“The attention,” says he, “of this people to[Pg 404] musical instruments, I find worthy of commendation; their skill in which is, beyond comparison, superior to that of any nation I have seen. For in these the modulation is not slow and solemn, as in the instruments of Britain, to which we are accustomed, but the sounds are rapid and precipitate, yet, at the same time sweet and pleasing. It is wonderful how, in such precipitate rapidity of the fingers, the musical proportions are observed, and, by their art, faultless throughout.

“In the midst of their complicated modulations and most intricate arrangement of notes, by a rapidity so sweet, a regularity so irregular, a concord so discordant, the melody is rendered harmonious and perfect, whether the cords of the diatesseron or diapente are struck together. Yet they always begin in a soft mood, and end in the same, that all may be perfected in the sweetness of delicious sounds. They enter on, and again leave, their modulations with so much subtlety, and the tricklings of the small notes sport with so much freedom under the deep note of the bass; they delight with so much delicacy, and soothe so softly, that the excellency of their art seems to be in concealing it.”[454]

Clarsech and Cruit were both names which the Irish gave their harp, from the musical board and the warbling of the strings respectively. But the favourite designation was that of Orphean, an evident derivation from Orpheus, the divine musician of the ancients, who is said to have stayed the course of rivers, and lulled the listening woods,—to have moved the stones into prescribed positions, and tamed the savage propensities of man—all by the instrumentality of his speaking lyre!

[Pg 405]“As regards Orpheus himself,” says the learned Barker, “he is stated by some ancient authorities to have abstained from eating of flesh, and to have had an abhorrence of eggs, considered as food, from a persuasion that the egg was the principle of all being. Many other accounts are given of him, which would seem to assimilate his character to that of the ancient priests of India, or Brachmani. The ancients, however, unable to discover any mode by which he could have obtained his knowledge from any other source, pretended that he had visited Egypt, and had there been initiated in the mysteries of Isis and Osiris. This appears, however, to be a supposition purely gratuitous on the part of the ancient writers, since a careful examination of the subject leads directly to the belief that Orpheus was of Indian origin; that he was a member of one of those Sacerdotal Colonies, which professed the religion of Buddha; and who being driven from their home, in the northern parts of India, and in the plains of Tartary, by the power of the rival sect of Brahma, moved gradually onwards to the west, dispensing, in their progress, the benefits of civilisation and the mysterious tenets of their peculiar faith.”

We know little or nothing at this remote day of the ancient music of the Bardic order; that it was eminent, however, and transcendently superior to that of all other countries, is evident from the fact of its having maintained its character when all our other attributes had notoriously vanished. Caradoc admits that his countrymen, the Welsh, borrowed all their instruments, tunes, airs, and measures, from our favoured island. Carr additionally says, that “although the Welsh have been for ages celebrated[Pg 406] for the boldness and sweetness of their music, yet it appears that they were much indebted to the superior musical talents of their neighbours, the Irish.” Selden asserts “that the Welsh music, for the most part, came out of Ireland with Gruffydh ap Tenan, Prince of North Wales, who was cotemporary with King Stephen.” I know not whether our brethren of Scotland will be so ready to acknowledge the loan. But if anyone will compare the spirit of their music with that which pervades the melodies of our country, the identity will be as obvious as the inference is irresistible.

Fuller, in his account of the Crusade, conducted by Godfrey of Boulogne, says, “Yea, we might well think that all the concerts of Christendom in this war would have made no music if the Irish harp had been wanting.”

And this is the instrument which Ledwich asserts we borrowed from the Ostmen! Insolent presumption! Neither Ostman nor Dane ever laid eyes upon such, until they saw it in the sunny valleys of the Emerald Island. And had they the shadow of a claim either to it or to the Round Towers, to which its services were consecrated, Cambrensis could not fail ascertaining the fact from any of the stragglers of those uncouth marauders, who—having survived the carnage inflicted upon their army, in the plains of Clontarf, under the retributive auspices of the immortal Brien—were allowed to cultivate their mercantile avocations in the various maritime cities, where they would naturally be proud to perpetuate every iota of demonstrative civilisation which they could pretend to have imported. Alas! they imparted none, but exported a great deal; and, what is more to be lamented, annihilated its evidences!

[Pg 407]But it is not alone of the property of this national organ that the moderns would deprive us, but the very existence of the instrument they affirm to be of recent date! Why, sir, it is as old as the hills. Open the fourth chapter of the Book of Genesis, and you will find it there recorded that “Jubal was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ.”

And now to the empirics of the “Fine Arts,”[455] and the deniers of their antiquity, I shall quote the next verse, namely, “Zillah, she also bare a son, Tubal-Cain, an instructor of every artificer in brass and iron.”[456] And in Job xxviii. 2 it is said that “iron is taken out of the earth, and brass is molten out of the stone.”

“In the north of Europe,” says Herodotus, “there appears to be by far the greatest abundance of gold; where it is found I cannot say, except that the Arimaspians, a race of men having only one eye, are said to purloin it from the griffins.[457] I do not, however, believe that there exists any race of men born with only one eye!”

Had this esteemed author known the allegorical import of the word Arimaspians (from arima, one, and spia, an eye), such as it has been explained at page 86, he would not have committed himself by the observation with which the above extract has terminated.[Pg 408] No doubt he thought it extremely philosophical, because it is sceptical! but let us see if another instance of his scepticism will redound more to his philosophy:—“I cannot help laughing,” says he elsewhere, “at those who pretend that the ocean flows round our continent: no proof can be given of it.... I believe that Homer had taken what he believes about the ocean from a work of antiquity, but it was without comprehending anything of the matter, repeating what he had read, without well understanding what he had read!”[458]

Now, without disputing with Siberia the honour of possessing all this ancient gold, I will take the liberty of inserting an extract from one of Mr. Hamilton’s letters on the Antrim coast, which will show, at all events, the antiquity of our mining.

“About the year 1770,” says he, “the miners, in pushing forward an adit toward the bed of coal, at an unexplored part of the Ballycastle cliff, unexpectedly broke through the rock into a narrow passage, so much contracted and choked up with various drippings and deposits on its sides and bottom, as rendered it impossible for any of the workmen to force through, that they might examine it farther. Two lads were, therefore, made to creep in with candles, for the purpose of exploring this subterranean avenue. They accordingly pressed forward for a considerable time, with much labour and difficulty, and at length entered into an extensive labyrinth, branching off into numerous apartments, in the mazes and windings of[Pg 409] which they were completely bewildered and lost. After various vain attempts to return, their lights were extinguished, their voices became hoarse, and exhausted with frequent shouting; and, at length, wearied and spiritless, they sat down together, in utter despair of an escape from this miserable dungeon. In the meanwhile, the workmen in the adit became alarmed for their safety, fresh hands were incessantly employed, and, in the course of twenty-four hours, the passage was so opened as to admit some of the most active among the miners; but the situation of the two unhappy prisoners, who had sat down together in a very distant chamber of the cavern, prevented them from hearing altogether the noise and shouts of their friends, who thus laboured to assist them.

“Fortunately, it occurred to one of the lads (after his voice had become hoarse with shouting), that the noise of miners’ hammers was often heard at considerable distances through the coal works; in consequence of this reflection, he took up a stone, which he frequently struck against the sides of the cavern; the noise of this was at length heard by the workmen, who, in their turn, adopted a similar artifice; by this means each party was conducted towards the other, and the unfortunate adventurers extricated time enough to behold the sun risen in full splendour, which they had left the morning before just beginning to tinge the eastern horizon. On examining this subterranean wonder, it was found to be a complete gallery, which had been driven forward many hundred yards to the bed of coal: that it branched off into numerous chambers, where miners had carried on their different works: that these chambers were dressed in a [Pg 410]workmanlike manner: that pillars were left at proper intervals to support the roof. In short, it was found to be an extensive mine, wrought by a set of people at least as expert in the business as the present generation. Some remains of the tools, and even of the baskets used in the works, were discovered, but in such a decayed state, that on being touched, they immediately crumbled to pieces. From the remains which were found, there is reason to believe that the people who wrought these collieries anciently, were acquainted with the use of iron, some small pieces of which were found; it appeared as if some of their instruments had been thinly shod with that metal.”

There is no question but that the era when those collieries were before worked, was that in which the Tuath-de-danaans were masters of this island. Had it been at any later period, we could not fail having some traditions relating thereto. Iron, therefore, the last discovered of the metals, as stated at page 115, must have been known to this people: and the absence of any name for it in our vernacular language is accounted for on the same principle as that by which those excavations themselves had been so long concealed, namely, the distaste of their successors to such applications, or the reluctance entertained to make them acquainted with their worth.

It is probable, however, that the little minikin fineries of life were not then in fashion—that our loaves were not baked in tin shapes, as at present, nor our carriages constructed in so many different varieties of form, excluding altogether those worked by steam; that our gunlocks were not prepared with percussion caps, nor our sofas furnished with air-blown cushions; that the routine of etiquette was [Pg 411]differently negotiated, and that twenty, or more, several hands were not employed in the finish of a common pin, before it could be dignified with the honour of acting a useful part in adjusting the habiliments of a modern dandy:—but in all the grand essentials of life—in all its solid refinements and elegant utilities,—the scholar will confess that those who have gone before us have been fully our equals; and traces, too, are not wanting to countenance the belief that even those knick-knack frivolities on which we so pique ourselves in the present day, have not been at some period without a prototype,—so that the majority of those boasted patents for what are considered discoveries or inventions of something new, should more properly be for recoveries, or unfoldings of something old, and illustrative of the adage, as remarkable as it is correct, “that there is nothing new under the sun.”[459]



[Pg 412]


You ask me for the proofs of this early grandeur? I point you to the gold crowns, the gold and silver ingots, the double-headed pateræ or censers, the anklets, lunettes, bracelets, fibulæ, necklaces, etc., which have been repeatedly found throughout all parts of Ireland, evidently the relics of that “Sacred” colony who gave their name to this island, and who, to the refined taste which such possessions imply, united also the science which appears in their workmanship.[460]

But these are scanty and insufficient memorials? Pray, what greater can you produce of ancient Egypt? Her Pyramids? Our Round Towers are as old; are likely to be as permanent; and are really more beautiful. What are the vestiges of ancient Etruria? of Assyria? Troy? Chaldea? nay, of Babylon the Great, the queen of the world? A few consolidations of stone and mortar—disjointed rubbish—and incrusted pottery. All these we retain, in addition to the thousand other evidences which crowd upon the historian. And, while Britain can adduce no single vestige of the Romans—who subjugated[Pg 413] that country at their highest period of civilisation—but what, in the words of my adversaries themselves, are “only monuments of barbarism,” I answer—no wonder—for the Romans were never to be compared to the Iranian Budhists, who brought all the splendour of the East to the concentrated locality of this Hyperborean Island.

“Infant colonies, forsooth, do not carry a knowledge of the ‘Fine Arts’ along with them; they are only to be found where wealth, luxury, and power have fixed their abode.”[461] Most sapient remark! but unluckily out of place; for the authors of our Round Towers were not “an infant colony” at all; but the very heads and principals of the most polished and refined people on the bosom of the habitable earth—the Budhists of Iran. And, accordingly, in their train not only did “wealth, luxury, and power” abound, but they seemed exclusively to have taken up their abode amongst them.[462]

Analogous to the above was the rhodomontade of another pillar of the same order. “I, nevertheless,” says Montmorency, “am disinclined to believe that those same persons, had they to choose a residence between Syria and Ireland, would have taken the wintry and uncultivated wilds of Fidh-Inis, in preference to the sunny plains which gave them birth.”[463]

In both those cases, of which the former is but the echo, in all opinions, of the latter, our eastern extraction is only objected to, considered as Phœnician;[Pg 414] and there, I admit that the Colonel and his pupil may get an easy triumph over their adversaries. For had the Phœnicians been the erectors of those Round Towers, what was to prevent their raising similar structures in Cornwall? where it is indisputable that they had trafficked for tin. In Spain we are certain that they had established a home; and why does this appear as free from every evidence of columnar architecture as does the former place? The same may be said of other countries whither this people resorted, Citium, Crete, Cadiz, and all the islands in the Mediterranean. In no one of them is there to be found a single edifice approaching, either in design or form, the idea of a Round Tower![464]

The Phœnicians, therefore, can have no pretensions to the honour of those memorials; nor, indeed, can their connection with Ireland be at all recognised, further than that, as having been, at one time, masters of the sea, it is merely possible that the Tuath-de-danaans may have availed themselves of their geographical information, and even consigned themselves to their pilotage for a secure retreat, aloof from the persecution of intolerance.

But as we see from the stanza quoted at page 396, that the Tuath-de-danaans were themselves possessed of a navy; and as it is indisputable that, long before the Phœnicians, the dynasty of the Persians had swept the ocean in its widest breadth, there is no need for our giving the Phœnicians credit even for this service, which it now appears could be dispensed with.

An effort, however, has been advanced to identify[Pg 415] their language with ours, by the analysis of the fragment of a speech which occurs in one of the plays of Plautus.[465] The idea was ingenious, but totally unfounded. Affinity, undoubtedly, there does appear,—as there does between all the ancient languages,—but nothing like identity; and the very circumstance of its having a distinct denomination assigned to it in Ireland, viz. Bearla-na-Fene, or dialect of the Phœnicians (who traded here, it is admitted), proves it to be different from our local phraseology—the Iranian Pahlavi, the polished elocution of the Tuath-de-danaans.

The Phœnicians, besides being a mercantile people, never had any monuments of literary value, whereas the Irish are known to have abounded in such from the earliest era.[466]

[Pg 416]It is true that we have been denied the possession of alphabetic characters before the time of St. Patrick: but by whom? By Bolandus; on a false deduction from the writings of Ward, Colgan, Nennius, etc., who state that this apostle was the first who gave the “abjectoria,” or alphabet to our nation. Who says otherwise? But what alphabet was here meant? The Latin, certainly, and no other. Until then the Irish were strangers to the Roman letters;[467] but that they were not to written characters, or the cultivation of them in every variety of literature, is evident from the very fact of St. Patrick himself having committed to the flames no less than one hundred and eighty volumes of our ancient theology;[468] as well as from the recorded instance of his disciple, Benignus,—his successor also in the See of Armagh,—having, according to Ward, written a work on the virtues of the Saint, half Latin and half Irish, and which Jocelyne afterwards availed himself of, when more fully detailing his biography.

It has been the custom in all ages with those who[Pg 417] would pass as the luminaries of their respective generations, to maintain that letters and their application were but a recent discovery! Their antiquity, however, is an historical fact, than which there can be no other better authenticated. The Bible makes frequent allusion to the cultivation of alphabetic cyphers—thus in Ex. xxiv. 4, it is said, “And Moses wrote all the words of the Lord”; and in Josh. xxiv. 26, “And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God.”

Nor is it only to the elementary part of literature, but to the very highest and noblest department of literary research that we find the ancients had arrived. In the history of Job, an acquaintance with astronomy is quite apparent. The names of Arcturus, Orion, and the Pleiades,[469] are distinctly notified in that elaborate composition.[470] Could this have been without the aid of written characters? Could the abstruse calculations involved in that pursuit be possibly carried on without an intimate knowledge of notation and of numbers? Or, if superior memory may effect it in a few cases, without such characters or legible marks, how could the results arrived at, and the steps by which they had been attained, be for any length of time preserved, and their value handed down to successive experimentalists, unless by the instrumentality of expressive signs?

We find, accordingly, in the same treatise,[471] the art[Pg 418] of writing expressly named: Thus, “Oh that my words were now written! oh that they were printed in a book! that they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever!” And that it was of long-continued usage is evident from a preceding chapter,[472] where it is said, “Enquire, I pray thee, of the former age, and prepare thyself for the search of their fathers!”

The alphabet which we had here, before the Roman abjectorium, is still preserved, and called Beth-luis-nion,[473] from the names of its first three letters, just as the English is denominated A B C, from a similar cause, and the Greek Alpha-bet from a like consideration.

    Irish.   Latin.   English.
1 B   Beithe,   Betulla,   Birch.
2 L   Luis,   Ornus,   Wild ash.
3 N   Nion,   Fraxinus,   Ash.
4 S   Suil,   Salix,   Willow.
5 F   Fearn,   Alnus,   Alder.
6 H   Huath,   Oxiacanthus,   White thorn.
7 D   Duir,   Ilex,   Oak
8 T   Timne,   Genist. Spin.   Furze.
9 C   Coll,   Corylus,   Hazel.
10 M   Muin,   Vitis,   Vine.
11 G   Gort,   Hedera,   Ivy.
12 P   Peth-bhog   Beite, or B mollified,
13 R   Ruis,   Sambucus,   Elder.
14 A   Ailm,   Abies,   Fir tree.
15 O   Onn,   Genista,   Broom.
16 U   Ur,   Erix, or Erica,   Heath.
17 E   Eghadh,   Tremula,   Aspen.
18 I   Iodha,   Taxus,   Yew.

[Pg 419]This, you perceive, falls short, by eight letters, of the number of the Latin cyphers, which could not have occurred if borrowed from that people, and will therefore stand, independently and everlastingly, a self-evident proof of the reverse.



It is well known, that long prior to the arrival of Cadmus the Greeks were in possession of alphabetic writing.[474] Diodorus states so, but adds that a deluge had swept all away. One thousand five hundred and fifty before the era we count by, is agreed[Pg 420] upon as the year in which Cadmus visited Greece; and you have the authority of Pausanias, that he himself had read an inscription upon a monument at Megara, the date of which was 1678 before our epoch, that is, one hundred and twenty-eight years before Cadmus’s time.

Besides those ordinary letters of the Beth-luis-nion, the Irish made use of various other occult and secret forms of writing, which they called ogham,[475] and of which I insert some specimens.

Among these you perceive the arrow-headed figures whereof I have already advertised you; and the mysterious import of which reminded the initiated of the solemn purchase of salvation by the cross.

These are all peculiar and totally separate from any Phœnician alliance. Instead, therefore, of my being adverse to the moderns as to the Phœnician bubble, I am their auxiliary. But, Mr. Montmorency, are there not other places in the East besides Phœnicia? And may not a people leave the “sunny plains that gave them birth,” from other motives than those of “choice”? And may not “Fidh Inis,” instead of being a name of reproach, such as you affected, by associating it with “wintry and uncultivated wilds,” be one of distinction and of renown? And though to you its authors, as well as the mystery of its import, were an impenetrable secret, may it not, notwithstanding what you see verified now, be made one of the engines exercised in the recovery of truth, to prove the splendour and the refinement of our venerable ancestors?

It is to be hoped, therefore, that after this [Pg 421]explanation, we shall hear no more sarcasms upon this favoured spot. Nor would the anticipation be too great, that the whole infidel host, with the gallant colonel himself at their head, becoming alive to the injustice of their former disbelief, would now slacken their virulence, and if they will not join in the acclamations of regenerated history, at least decently withdraw, and let the lovers of truth, in security and happiness, celebrate its triumph.

“The appellation of Britain,” says another goodly (?) champion of this order, “has been tortured for ages by the antiquarians, in order to force a confession of origin and import for it. And erudition, running wild in the mazes of folly, has eagerly deduced it from every word of a similar sound, almost in every known language of the globe. But the Celtic is obviously the only one that can lay any competent claim to it—and the meaning of it may as easily be ascertained as its origin.”—And so, accordingly, he proceeds to show, that “Breatin, Brydain, or Britain,” is derived from a “Celtic word,” which signifies “separation or division!”[476]

It is more than probable that I should have left Mr. Whittaker to his vagaries, or rather his clerical recreations, if he had not been propelled by his all-illuminating reforms, to glance a ray upon us, here, across St. George’s Channel.—“This,” says he, “has equally given denomination to the tribes of Ireland, the nations of Caledonia, and two or three islands on our coasts!”

“The original world is still retained in the Welch, Britain; and the Irish, Breact,—anything divided or[Pg 422] striped; in the Irish Bricth, a fraction; the Irish Brisead, a rupture; and the Welch brig, a breach. And it was equally pronounced Brict, or Brit (as the Icitus of Cæsar, or the Itium of Strabo), Bris and Brig; and appears with this variety of terminations, in the usual appellation of the islanders, Britanni, in the present denomination of the Armorican Britons, and their language, Brez and Brezonic, and in the name of Brigantes. Brit is enlarged into Briton, or Brit-an in the plural, and Britan-ec in the relative adjective. And so forms the appellation Britones, Britani, and Britanici; as Brig is either changed into Briges, in the plural, and makes Allobroges, or Allo-broges, the name of a tribe on the continent, and of all the Belgæ in the island, is altered into Brigan and Brigants, and forms the denomination of Brigantes.” And again, “the original word appears to have been equally pronounced Brict, Brits, and Bricth, Breact, Breac, and Brig; and appears to be derived from the Gallic Bresche, a rupture, the Irish Bris, to break, and Brisead, a breach. And the word occurs with all this variety of termination in the Irish Breattain or Breatin, Bretam, and in Breathnach, Briotnach, and Breagnach, a Briton; in the Armorican names of Breton, Breiz, and Brezonnec, for an individual, the country, and the language of Armorica; in the Welch Brython and Brythoneg, the Britons and their language; and in the ancient synonymous appellations of Brigantes and Britanni.”

Doubtless the reader has been highly edified by this Britannic dissertation! He is, I am sure, as thorough master of the subject, now, as Mr. Whittaker himself!—can tell how many fractures, cross-lines, and diagonals have been made upon Britain[Pg 423] ever since Noah’s flood! And as he cannot fail, in consequence, being in love with the Reverend Author, I will indulge his fondness by another spark of enlightenment.

“At this period,” he resumes (three hundred years before Christ), “many of the natives relinquishing their ancient seats to the Belgæ, found all the central and northern parts of England already occupied, and transported themselves into the uninhabited isle of Ireland!”

I will now be understood as to the promise made some while ago,[477] in reference to a definition for the word modern. A modern then, be it known, is a philosopher (?), who fancies that until three hundred years before Christ, the whole world was in darkness! physical as well as metaphysical! that it was even in a great measure uninhabited! by other than the brute creation!—but that suddenly when ever any mighty feat was to be achieved (in other words, whenever a modern theory was to be bolstered up) innumerable myrmidons armed cap-à-pié! full accoutred, booted and spurred! used to gush forth from some obscure corner of the earth! A miracle of production, to which even Cadmus’s soldiers can bear no parallel; for while the latter are located to a particular place, and stated to have been generated by regular seed, even though that was nothing more than a tooth of a dragon,[478] the former burst forward, nobody knows whence, nor will their machiners condescend to tell even so much as what may have been the elements of their composition!

[Pg 424]To whom, however, is Mr. Whittaker beholden for this intellectual idea? Verily, to a half-senseless poor friar,[479] a few centuries deceased, who was no more competent—and no blame to him from his resources—to analyse this question, than he was to stop the revolutions of the celestial orbs!

Yet jejune and abortive as were Cirencester’s cerebral conceptions, he was not less dogmatic in the utterance of them than was his imitator. “It is most certain,” says he, “that the Damnii, Voluntii, Brigantes, Cangi, and other nations, were descended from the Britons, and passed over thither after Divitiacus, or Claudius, or Ostorius, or other victorious generals had invaded their original countries. Lastly, the ancient language, which resembles the old British and Gallic tongues, affords another argument, as is well known to persons skilled in both languages.”

Now, by what authority, may I ask, is all this “most certain?” And by authority I do not mean any quotation from previous historians. That I waive, and should not here require it, if either proof or probability were tendered of the occurrence. But as none such is vouchsafed—as all is mere assertion—and as I can prove the exact contrary to have been the actual fact, is not dogmatism too mild a name to apply to the scribbler who propounds such nonsense? And is not servility too dignified an epithet to brand upon the copyist, who takes such ipse dixit evidence upon so intricate a proposition as gospel truth? and that too when he must have absolute demonstration, and[Pg 425] canvas every other statement, emanating from that fraternity, with the very eye of a Lynceus!

In the first place, then, the name Damnii (to begin with the beginning) is but a monkish Latinisation for Danaans; and these I have established to have been an eastern race, totally and universally distinct from Britain, until upon their overthrow in Ireland they fled for shelter to Scotland, whither on their way some straggling parties, reduced and humiliated, took up their residence in the northern parts of England; where, accordingly, to this hour we find evidences of their worship, such as sculptured crosses,[480] and other emblematic devices, but never a Round Tower, their impoverished circumstances not being now adequate to such an expense.

The Brigantes, again, is another Latin metamorphosis for the inhabitants of Breo-cean, in Spain, where the Phœnicians had fixed a colony, and whence they doubtless had brought some portion with them to work the mines at Cornwall. This Breo-cean the Romans, in conformity with the genius of their language, changed into Bri-gantia, which, however, was a very allowable commutation, the letters c and g being always convertible, and tia nothing more than an ordinary termination.

Seneca well knew that the Brigantes thus imported were a very different extraction from the native Britons.

“Illi Britannos ultra noti littora ponti,
Et cœruleos Scuto-Brigantes dare Romuleis,”

[Pg 426]says he, in his satirical invective upon the death of Claudius. Here, you will observe, that the Britons and the Brigantes are opposed to one another, and marked out as distinct races. And to specify still further the origin of the Brigantes is the epithet Scuto[481] prefixed thereto, from Scuitte, the ancient mode of spelling Scythia.

Those Scoto-Brigantes were the persons who, having been driven from Spain by the conquests of Sesostris, poured in with multitudinous inundation upon the quietude of our Tuath-de-danaans, and wrested from them an island which, during their blissful reign, had eclipsed in sanctity even their former Iran.[482]

The language which they spoke differed in nothing from the Tuath-de-danaan, but that it was not quite so refined; and this feature of similarity silences at once the conjectures of Stillingfleet, Innes, and their followers, who would make those Scythians to be Scandinavians, merely because the letter S occurs as the initial and final of either name!

Why, sir, when the Scandinavians did really invade Ireland, which was not until the early centuries of the Christian era, the great obstruction to their progress was their ignorance of our tongue; whereas, when the Scythians arrived here, many ages earlier, our legends, our traditions, our histories, and our annals,[Pg 427] unanimously and universally attest, that they used the same conversable articulation with that of the established dynasty.[483]

Where is the wonder, then, that we should find all the ancient names in the north of England, correspond to a nicety with those of the Irish? And which made Lhuydh, the author of the Archæologia, himself an Englishman, declare, “how necessary the Irish language is to those who shall undertake to write of the antiquity of the isle of Britain.”

But if Lhuydh was thus candid in the avowal of his conviction, he was not equally successful in the discovery of the relationship. From want of the true touchstone, he went on hypothesising! and came at last to the supposition—“that the Irish must at one time have been in possession of those English localities, and thence removed themselves into Ireland”—the exact opposite having been the fact.

To atone for my long digression from Mr. Whittaker, and his breakages, I will supply to you the derivations, as well of Britain as of Brigantia. The former is compounded of Bruit, tin; and tan, a country abounding in that metal, and corresponding to Cassiteris, assigned to it by the Greeks: and Brigantia, as before explained, being but a formative from Breo-cean, is compounded of Breo, which signifies fire; and cean, a head or promontory, meaning the head-land of fires; or that whereon such used to have been lighted for the convenience of mariners lying out at sea.[484]

[Pg 428]Neither the Scythians, therefore, nor the Celts, had connection whatsoever, either of them, with the once-envied celebrity of this “island.”[485] The latter were the persons who, under the name of Fir-Bolgs, erected all the cromleachs spread over the country, the accomplishment of which bespeaks, it is true, an acquaintance with mechanics, of which the present artisans are altogether ignorant. And as the original of their denomination has never been elucidated, I embrace this opportunity of supplying the omission. It comes from bolog, which, in the Irish language signifies a paunch; and fir, a man; so that Fir-Bolg means the big-bellied man, being an evident allusion to their bodily configuration: and to this day Bolcaig is the epithet applied, vernacularly, to individuals of large girth or corpulent robustness, exactly corresponding to what we are told by Cæsar, when describing the tripartite division of Gaul, viz. that the Belgæ, who, in fact, were of the same stock as our Fir-Bolgs, were the stoutest bodied, and the bravest otherwise of all its inhabitants.

The Scythian religion, which was Druidical, accorded with that of the Fir-Bolgs, which was Celtic—not less as to modes of worship, than in mutual aversion to that of the Iranians; and, accordingly, we find, that when both conspired for the recovery of this country from the Iranians, who had themselves wrested it from the Fir-Bolgs, antecedently, these latter branching out into the septs of Cauci and Menapii, corresponding[Pg 429] to the kindred and cognominal tribes on the continent; and who, during the occupancy of the Iranians—the interval of Ireland’s Hyperborean renown—had retired to Arran[486] and the northern isles, were restored to a partnership in the possession of the island, in return for the assistance they lent the Scythians for its conquest: and this accounts for that diversity of races which Ptolemy records, but which antiquarian luminaries, unable to comprehend, took upon them to reject as altogether a chimera.

As to the Iranians, the real Hibernians—the true Hyperborean Tuath-de-danaans, or Magic-god Almoners—they were hurled from the throne, their sanctified ceremonials trampled in the dust, their sacred harps, which before used to swell to the praises of their Divinity, were now desecrated for the inspiration of the Scythian warriors; and their divine Boreades, who ere now composed canticles in adoration of Apollo, were degraded to the secular and half-military occupation of Scythian bards.

The name of the island itself, from “Irin,” or the “Sacred island,” was changed into Scuitte, that is, Scotia or Scythia, or the land of the Scythians. Nor was it until the eleventh century of the present era, that, to remove the ambiguity which arose from the circumstance of there being another country also called by this name, Ireland assumed its former name, Irin, as its people did Irenses, instead of Scoti.[487]

[Pg 430]Yet in the general transmutation which so great a revolution bespeaks, we behold the strictest regard paid to the literary fame and the mental acquirements of those sages who had been ejected. They were retained as the instructors of the new establishment; and their refined precepts tending gradually to soften the warlike propensities of this ferocious group, the amalgamation became so complete, and the aristocracy of intellect so recognised, that when religious dissensions were all cancelled in the grave, many of them were able to trace their steps backwards to the forfeited monarchy.

Of this number was Connachar-mor-mac-Nessan, that is, Connor the-great-son-of-Nessan, styled indifferently Feidlimidh and Ollamh Fodlah, i.e. the erudite man (the Budhist) and the Doctor of Budland; and Brien, who ascended the Irish throne, A.D. 1014; and who, after a succession of two thousand two hundred years, was the lineal descendant of Brien, head of the Tuath-de-danaans; and this very extraction, in the confusion of the names, was the circumstance which occasioned the popular belief, not yet exploded, of his having been the founder, by magic creation, in one single night, of those Round Towers of his inheritance! The mistake, however, is of value,[Pg 431] as it is a collateral evidence that those edifices have been attributed to their real authors; and the anachronism will be excused, seeing that there is nothing more common than to assign to one Hercules the exploits of another.

Others of this colony, who could not brook the yoke, betook themselves on their downfall to Scotland, and built there the two round temples of Brechin and Abernethy, besides others that have disappeared; from thence, however, they were again dislodged by the barbarous Picts, and obliged to fly for shelter to the Highland fastnesses. These are they whom Macculloch and others have misrepresented as Celts. During their sway in that country, they called it also by the name of Iran or Eran, as the Scotch language is, to this day, called Irish, or Erse. The name of Scoitte, i.e. Scotia, was given it afterwards by the Picts, in compliment to this island, which had furnished them with wives, and otherwise joined their fraternity.[488]



[Pg 432]


“The Scoto-Milesians,” says Dr. Hales,[489] “reckon twenty-three generations from Feni an fear soid, ‘the Phœnician wise man,’ their ancestor, to Heber and Heremon, who established the last settlement from Spain, as observed before; which, at the usual computation of three mean generations to a century, would give 766 years from Fenius to Heber. But we learn from Coemhain, that the sons of Milesius (this should have been Gallamh)[490] were coeval with Solomon, and that the Gadelians[491] came to Ireland in the middle of the reign of this illustrious prince,” B.C. 1002, according to the Irish chronology. Counting backwards, therefore, from this date, 766 years, we get the time of Fenius about B.C. 1768. And this agrees with sacred and profane history; for Joshua, whose administration began B.C. 1688, according to Hales’s Chronology, notices “the strong city of Tyre” (Josh. xix. 29); which maintained its independence even in David’s days (2 Sam. xxiv. 7); and in Solomon’s (1 Kings ix. 11-14). And Herodotus, that inquisitive traveller and intelligent historian, who visited Tyre about B.C. 448, saw there the temple of the Thasian Hercules; and another erected to him by the[Pg 433] Phœnicians at Thasus itself, an island on the coast of Thrace, while they were engaged in search of Europa, the daughter of Agenor, King of Tyre, who had been carried off by some Greeks; an event, says Herodotus, which happened five generations before the Grecian Hercules, the son of Amphitryon, B. ii. sec. 44; who flourished about 900 years before he wrote, sec. 145, or about B.C. 1348, to which adding 166 years for the five generations, we get the rape of Europa about B.C. 1514.

“But the deification of the Thasian Hercules must have been after his death, which may make him contemporary with Joshua, or even earlier. Herodotus relates that the Tyrians themselves boasted of the remote antiquity of their city, founded, as they said, 2300 years before (B. xi. 44), which would carry it higher than the deluge. The high antiquity, however, of Sidon and her daughter Tyre, was acknowledged by Xerxes, king of Persia, when he invaded Greece, B.C. 480; and in a council of his officers allowed her ambassadors the honour of precedence” (sec. 11).

He adds: “In order to determine the cardinal data of ancient Irish history, it is necessary to premise a synopsis of Coemhain’s System of Chronology.

    Y.   B.C.
Creation   1656   3952
Deluge   292   2296
Abraham born   942   2004
David, king   473   1062
Babylonish Captivity   589   589
Christian Era   3952   1

“In this table, the first column contains the years elapsed between the succeeding events: thus, from[Pg 434] the creation, 1656 years to the deluge; from the deluge, 292 years to the birth of Abraham, etc.; and their amount, 3952 years, gives the basis of the system, or the years elapsed from the creation to the vulgar Christian era. The second column gives the dates of these events before the Christian era.

“David began to reign B.C. 1062; from which subducting 60 years for the amount of his whole reign, 40 years, and 20 years, the half of Solomon’s, we get B.C. 1002, for the date of the expedition of Heber and Heremon to Ireland.

“This same number has been noticed by two earlier chronologers, Marcus Anchoreta, A.D. 647; and Nennius, A.D. 858; who both date the arrival of the Scoti in Ireland, ‘1002 years after the passage of the Red Sea by the Israelites, in which the Egyptians were drowned’ (O’Connor, Proleg. ii. pp. 15-45). The identity of the number 1002 proves the mistake in the reference to the exode of the Israelites, instead of to the Christian era, which depresses the arrival of the Scoti five centuries too low. For Coemhain reckons the exode 502 years after the birth of Abraham, or B.C. 1502; from which subtracting 1002 years, the arrival of the Scoti would be reduced to B.C. 500; or, following Usher’s date of the deluge, B.C. 1491. O’Connor reduces it still lower, to B.C. 489 (Proleg. ii. p. 45). Upon the superior authority of Coemhain, therefore, as a chronologer, we are warranted to rectify this important error of Nennius and Marcus Anchoreta, which even Dr. O’Connor has failed to correct; not adverting to the foregoing inference from Coemhain. But he has happily furnished himself the materials for proving the error.

[Pg 435]“He states, that one hundred and eighteen kings of the Scoti reigned, till the arrival of St. Patrick, B.C. 489 + A.D. 435 = 921 years in all, which, divided by 118, would give too short an average of reigns, only 7911 years a-piece; whereas the true interval, B.C. 1002 + A.D. 432 = 1434 years, would give the average of reigns above twelve years a-piece; which he justly represents as the standard, from Patrick to Malachy II., viz. forty-eight reigns in 590 years (Proleg. ii. p. 45).”[492]

The date of the Scythian invasion, then, being fixed as B.C. 1002, it is agreed on all hands that that of the Tuath-de-danaans was but two hundred years anterior, or B.C. 1202;[493] with this exactly corresponds the time at which Marsden, Kæmpfer, and Loubere date the arrival of the Buddists at Siam, viz. B.C. 1202. Among the Japanese also, they are stated by Klaproth to have arrived not very distant from that era, or B.C. 1029. Dé Guignes and Remusat suppose 1029 as the epoch at which they invaded China. B.C. 1000 is the epoch assigned by Symes for their descent upon the Burman empire; and B.C. 1029 is that fixed by Ozeray for their entrance into Ceylon; while the Mogul authors and the Bagwad Amrita (Sir W. Jones) recognise their appearance respectively at B.C. 2044 and B.C. 2099.

Now, the extreme concordance amongst the calculations of those various countries, one with the other, and their almost universal coincidence, nay, in the Siamese authorities, almost miraculous identifications, with our Irish registries, as to the influx,[Pg 436] amongst all, of this singular people, and their extraordinary ritual, makes us associate the phenomena with one common cause, and that was the expulsion of the Budhists from India, the Rajas having proclaimed, at the instigation of the rival Brahmins, that “from the bridge of Rama, even to the snow-capped Himala, no man should spare the Budhists, young or old, on pain of death” (Guigniaud’s Creuzer).

As to the Mogul dates, and those of the Bagwad Amrita, they evidently bear reference to former colonies; nor are we, in Ireland, without similar chronicles of an antecedent arrival, and precisely answering to the time of the first departure of the Tuath-de-danaans from the borders of Persia.[494]

It was, indeed, the tradition of this early invasion, long mystified by age, that we have seen so perverted at p. 385, for the sole purpose of effecting a miracle! Nor is this the only fable that fastens upon that narrative: we have that of Partholan and of Nemedius, and a thousand other reminiscences, all directing towards the centre of a common nucleus. The East is the point whither they all aim, and the era they assign is invariably that of the deluge! Is it not, therefore, inevitable, but that the object recorded is our reception of the Tuath-de-danaans when ejected by the arms of their Pish-de-danaan rivals?[495]

Amongst the Easterns themselves we find corresponding traditions, wrapt up, as usual, in allegory, of this primordial departure. The Phrygians, who were one of the most ancient and considerable nations of Asia Minor, complain of Apollo having wandered from them, in company with Cybele, to the land of[Pg 437] the Hyperboreans.[496] The costume of the archers upon our Knockmoy frescoes is strictly Phrygian, and confirms their testimony better than any written memorial! “Hercules,” says Cedrenus, “first taught philosophy in the western parts of the world.” This was our Ogham, which the Gauls had borrowed from us, as you will see by note, p. 420. “In Egypt,” says Ausonius, “they called him Osiris, but in the island of Ogygia they gave him the name of Bacchus.” If we will remember the form under which Osiris was worshipped, viz. that of our Round Towers,[497] and then recollect that the name of Bacchus is still found amongst our ancient inscriptions;[498] and in addition to all these, bear in mind that Plutarch[499] expressly designates the island, from its extreme antiquity, as Ogygia, all qualms as to the situation alluded to by Ausonius must for ever evaporate?

Let us now glance at the institutions of this island, the personal appearance of its inhabitants, and their popular customs, as compared with ancient Persia.

To begin with the aspect, which often proves decisive in more interesting applications, I refer you to our real figures at p. 330, as a fair outline of Irish contour; with this, if you will compare what Captain Head affirms, in reference to the settlers at Bombay, viz. that “the ancient inhabitants of Persia were superior, not inferior, in looks, to the present,[Pg 438] who belong to a hundred mixed races, which have poured upon that kingdom since the overthrow of Yezdijerd,” no disparity will present itself, at least in that quarter.

As to institutions, I will instance that of our ancient clans,[500] and place by them in juxtaposition what Sir John Malcolm delivers on the subject of Persia. “Jemsheed” (a prince of the Pish-de-danaan dynasty, founder of Persepolis, called after him, Tucht-e-jemsheed, which, in Irish, signifies the Couch-of-Jemsheed) “divided,” says he, “according to Persian authors, his subjects into four classes. The first was formed of learned and pious men, devoted to the worship of God; and the duty ascribed to them was to make known to others what was lawful and what otherwise. The second were writers, whose employment was to keep the records and accounts of the state. The third soldiers, who were directed to occupy themselves in military exercises, that they might be fitted for war. The fourth class were artificers, husbandmen, and tradesmen. The authorities on which we give the history of Jemsheed make no mention of Mah-abad; but, if we are to give credit to the Dabistan, the institution of Jemsheed can only be deemed a revival of that lawgiver.”[501]

[Pg 439]In respect to religion, Herodotus states that, “from his own knowledge, the Persians had neither statues, temples, nor altars, but offered on the tops of the highest mountains sacrifices to Jove, by which they meant the deity of the air; that they adored the sun, moon, earth, fire, water, and the winds, but that they sacrificed to these only from of old, according to ancient custom, and that they gave the preference to Trefoil, whereon they laid their offerings.”[502]

Now, two considerations are to be observed, as involved in this last quotation: one is, that the historian attributes the usages of this nation to two distinct periods of time. From ocular inspection, he avows that they had no temples, etc., because such were long exploded. And he knew not what to make of the Round Towers. Part, however, of the ceremonial appertaining to those edifices still remained, such as the worship of the sun, moon, earth, fire, water, and the winds; and “to these,” he frankly acknowledges, “they sacrificed only from of old,” or in deference to the practice of their predecessors—I will not say forefathers.

Contemplate now the reverence shown to the herb Trefoil, our national shamrock, and will you not see another link of that great concatenation uniting the two Irans, and triumphing at once over supposition and over scepticism? I have already deplumed St. Patrick of the serpent expulsion; or, rather, I have done honour to his memory, by saving it from the[Pg 440] fabrications of pious impostors. I now continue my course of justice, by showing that he had as little to do with the veneration paid to this plant. It was worshipped in the Emerald Island, and imported, you perceive, by the Tuath-de-danaans, centuries upon centuries before the apostle was born: and the cause of this devotion was, not alone that it symbolised the Trinity, which was an article of Budhist doctrine, even before the incarnation of Christ, but because that it blended with it, in mystery as well as in gratitude, the Alibenistic cross, the seal of their redemption, and their passport to eternity! Here then are the shamrocks, or Free-masonic devices, upon the crowns of our Irish kings explained; and those upon the Persian crowns, by and by to be inserted, are similarly expounded![503]

Lastly, the funerals of the Persians—after the soul’s liberation from its tenement of clay, at the summons of its God—are described by Herodotus[504] with so striking a similtude, that you would imagine he had witnessed, and expressly referred to, the like scenes in Ireland.[505]

[Pg 441]Oh! “if the human mind can ever flatter itself with having been successful in discovering the truth, it is when many facts, and these facts of different kinds unite in producing the same result.”[506]

In truth, the island was altogether an Oriental Asylum,[507] until, for a moment broken in upon by the[Pg 442] Fir-Bolgs, or Celts. Their usurpation, however, was only that of a day, amounting, by all records, but to[Pg 443] fifty-six years;[508] after which, a new army of the Tuath-de-danaans, driven now, not from Persia, but from India, by the Brahmins, laid claim to the sceptre to which their brethren had invited them, and reinstated themselves afresh in our kindred Iran.

It is not, therefore, you perceive, our individual history alone that is rectified by this investigation. It supplies a vacuum in the history of the world: which could not be said to have been correct, so long as there was nothing known on the various topics now explained.[509]

Professor Müller,[510] in a very elaborate treatise upon the Antiquities of the Dorians, has been pleased[Pg 444] to affect astonishment, through one of his notes, that Hecatæus should have believed in the existence of the Hyperboreans! It became him, unquestionably, so to do, because that the proofs of their existence were beyond his own reach. But though their reality, as well as locality, have been already put beyond disputation, I will, to justify the exclusiveness here proclaimed, enter again upon the subject, and, without following in detail, show, by the reverse of his positions, that his whole system of mythology is equally erroneous.

In this determination I will of course be acquitted of any intentional slight. Who could read Professor Müller’s work, and not be struck with the labour and the ingenuity which distinguish its every page? I yield to no man in my respect for his abilities, but I weep, from my soul, that his classic care was not bequeathed upon some other subject, rather than be split upon a rock by an ignis fatuus. I never saw such a waste of letters as his book exhibits! I never saw such learned research so miserably thrown away! And how could it be otherwise, his great object having been to make everything square to the reveries of the Grecians!—taking them as his clue, into a labyrinth of inextricability, through one inch of which neither conductor nor traveller could see their way!

Sweet pahlavi of the Hyperboreans, I will take you as my guide!

“———Nor be my thoughts
Presumptuous counted, if amid the calm
That soothes the vernal evening into smiles,
I steal impatient, from the sordid haunts
Of strife and low ambition, to attend
Thy sacred presence, in the sylvan shade,
By their malignant footstep ne’er profaned.”—Thomson.



[Pg 445]


Before we descend to language, I shall collect the historical concordances that bear upon this investigation.

Beo, a poetess of Delphi, mentions in the fragment of a poem, quoted by Pausanias, that three individuals, sons of Hyperboreans, and named Olen, Pagasus, and Agyeus, had founded the oracle of Delphi. Will it be credited that those three names are but representatives of three several orders of our Irish priests, viz. Ollam, Pagoes, and Aghois?[511]

At Delos the same tradition is to be encountered, with but a few local alterations: such as that of Latona having arrived there from the Hyperboreans, in the form of a she-wolf; Apollo and Diana, with the virgins Arge and Opis, following afterwards. Two other virgins, viz. Laodice and Hyperoche, succeeded, and with them five men, who were called peripherees, or carriers, from their bringing with them offerings of first-fruits, wrapt in bundles of wheaten straw.

But is this embassy altogether a fiction? “There is not a fact in all antiquity,” says Carte, “that made a greater noise in the world, was more universally known, or better attested by the gravest and most ancient authors among the Greeks, than this of the sacred embassies of the Hyperboreans to Delos, in[Pg 446] times preceding, by an interval of ages, the voyages of the Carthaginians to the north of the Straits of Gibraltar.” “No argument to the contrary,” says Müller, “can be drawn from its not being mentioned either in the Iliad or Odyssey, these poems not affording an opportunity for its introduction: moreover, the Hyperboreans were spoken of in the poem of the Epigoni, and by Hesiod.... Stephanus quotes here a supposed oracle of a prophetess named Asteria, that the inhabitants and priests of Delos came from the Hyperboreans.” So that we are by no means dependent, as implied before, upon Diodorus Siculus, for the narrative.

On this subject Herodotus says that “the suite of this Hyperborean embassy having been ill-treated by the Greeks, they took afterwards another method of sending their sacred presents to the temples of Apollo and Diana, delivering them to the nation that lay nearest to them on the continent of Europe, with a request that they might be forwarded to their next neighbour: and thus they were transmitted from one people to another, through the western regions, till they came to the Adriatic, and there, being put into the hands of the Dodoneans, the first of the Greeks that received them, they were conveyed thence by the Melian Bay, Eubœa, Carystus, Andras, and Tenos, till at last they arrived at Delos.”

Could he, I ask, more geographically pourtray their route from Ireland?

Alcæus, in a hymn to Apollo, says that “Jupiter adorned the new-born god with a golden fillet and lyre, and sent him in a chariot drawn by swans to Delphi, in order to introduce justice and law among the Greeks. Apollo, however, ordered the swans first[Pg 447] to fly to the Hyperboreans. The Delphians, missing the god, instituted a pæan and song, ranged choruses of young men around the tripod, and invoked him to come from the Hyperboreans. The god remained an entire year with that nation, and, at the appointed time, when the tripods of Delphi were destined to sound, he ordered the swans to resume their flight. The return of Apollo takes place exactly in the middle of summer; nightingales, swallows, and grasshoppers sang in honour of the god; and even Castalia and Cephisus heave their waves to salute him.”

Now Mr. Bryant assures us that—

“The Celtic sages a tradition hold,
That every drop of amber was a tear
Shed by Apollo, when he fled from heaven,—
For sorely did he weep,—and sorrowing passed
Through many a doleful region
, till he reached
The sacred Hyperboreans.”[512]

Words could not convey a more direct delineation of the first arrival of the Tuath-de-danaans amongst us, with their mysterious worship, after their ejectment from Iran, their paradise, or earthly heaven, for the loss of which they “sorely wept,” until at length they found a substitute in Irin. The lyre or harp which they brought with them, and solely for celebrating the praises of Apollo, continues still our national emblem; and those swans which are said to have drawn his chariot formed so essential a part of our ceremonial, that you shall be presented by and by with one of his magic implements, to which they are still attached, as they are similarly figured upon the painted vases, remaining after our allied Etrurians in the south of Italy.

As to the embassy of Abaris, the direct fact is so[Pg 448] completely authenticated by our ancient records, which narrate the circumstance, with no view to decide an historical controversy, but with indifference thereto, and as in ordinary course,—that it is inevitable but that, when the Greeks say that this philosopher had gone to them from the Hyperboreans,—and when we produce proofs to show that a man of the same name had repaired on the errand alluded to, from our country to Greece, it is inevitable, I say, but that, when both statements so perfectly tally, the island of the Hyperboreans and that of the Hibernians must be one and the same.

I shall now subjoin from General Vallancey’s works, as he translates it from an old Irish poem, the authentic narrative of this our Hyperborean embassy.

“The purport of the Tuath-de-danaans journey was in quest of knowledge,
And to seek a proper place where they should improve in Druidism.
These holy men soon sailed to Greece. The sons of Nirned, son of Adhnam,
Descendant of Baoth, from Bœotia sprung. Thence to the care of skilful pilots,
This Bœotian clan, like warlike heroes, themselves committed,
And after a dangerous voyage, the ships brought them to Loch Luar.
Four cities of great fame, which bore great sway,
Received our clan, in which they completed their studies.
Spotless Taleas, Goreas, majestic Teneas and Mhuiras,
For sieges famed, were the names of the four cities.
Morfios and Earus-Ard, Abhras, and Lemas, well-skilled in magic,
Were the names of our Druids; they lived in the reign of Garman the Happy.
Morfios was made Fele of Falias, Earus the poet in Gone dwelt,
Samias dwelt at Mhurias, but Abhras, the Tele-fionn, at Teneas.”

A quarrel, it would seem, ensued between them and the Fir-Bolgs on their return: and the Seanneachees, in their incapacity to separate any two events of a similar character from each other, [Pg 449]confounded the differences which arose herefrom with the battles fought six hundred years before, between the ancestors of both parties, on the plains of Moye-tureadh!

At page 67 I have stated that this event took place about B.C. 600. And this very circumstance it was—I mean the lateness of the date—which rendered the expedition at all needful.

The Tuath-de-danaans having been for a long time humiliated, and allowed but a mere nominal existence in a remote canton of the realm, their ritual got merged into that of the Druids. A corresponding decay had vitiated their taste for letters, while the Greeks, in proportion, rose in the scale.

Pythagoras had by this time returned from his tour to Egypt, and the fame of his acquirements had reached the Tuath-de-danaans. Naturally solicitous to court the acquaintance of an individual who had derived his information from the kindred of their ancestors,[513] they had address enough to obtain leave from the several States of the kingdom to repair to Greece, on the alleged plea of returning the visit[514] of[Pg 450] the Argonauts to our shores many ages previously,[515] but actually with a view to gratify their predilections by philosophical inquiry.

When the meteors met, it is difficult now to decide which orb it was that emitted the greater light. But without being too much biassed by the links of patriotism, I think we may very fairly aver that our countryman communicated, depressed even as was his order at that day, as much information as he had received.[516]

Who then can any longer doubt but that this was the island of the Hyperboreans? Even the peculiarity of our language mingles in the chain of proof; as Diodorus states that “the Hyperboreans use their own natural tongue.” But were all other arguments wanting, I would undertake to prove the identity by an admission from this transcriber himself. “The sovereignty of this city,” says he, “and the care of the temple belong to the Boreades.”[517]

[Pg 451]Now, nothing ever has puzzled etymologists so much to explore as the origin of the Irish term Bards.[518] The guesses which they have made thereat are so exceedingly amusing, that I will take leave to refresh myself, exhausted and languid as I now wellnigh am, with the outline of a few.

First, Bochart would derive it from parat, to speak!!! Wilford from the Sanscrit, varta!!! But “some learned friends of his are of opinion that it comes from bhardanan, to burthen!!! because burthened with the internal management of the royal household”!!!

I shall spare my reader any more of those caricatures, and submit to his own candour to adjudicate whether Bards could, by possibility, be anything else than the modern Englification for our ancient Boreades?

Doubtless, Professor Müller, your astonishment has now subsided as to Hecatæus’s credulity in the existence of the Hyperboreans. Diodorus Siculus, who,[Pg 452] though, as Granville Penn has affirmed, he “has transmitted to us many scattered and important truths,” yet does the same judicious commentator add, that it was in a condition “intermixed with much idle fiction, equivocation, and anachronism,”[519] was herein your guide! But the manes of the Hyperboreans now speak from the tomb, and vindicate their existence as well as their locality!

I come now to prove this by another mode.

Plato, in his Cratylus, represents Hermogenes as proposing several terms to Socrates for solution, when the following acknowledgment transpires:—

“I think,” says the philosopher, “that the Greeks, especially such of them as lived subject to the dominion of foreigners, adopted many foreign words; so that, if anyone should endeavour to resolve those words by reference to the Greek language, or to any other than that from which the word was received, he must needs be involved in error!”

The foreign extraction, then, of many of the Greek words being admitted, it devolves upon me to establish this extraction to be purely Irish.

To begin with Dodona—“In Eustathius and Steph. Byzantius,” says Vallancey, “we meet with three different conjectures in regard to the derivation of the name Dodona, which, they say, owes its origin either to a daughter of Jupiter and Europa, or one of the nymphs, the daughter of Oceanus; or, lastly, to a river in Epirus, called Dodon. But, as Mr. Potter observes, we find the Greek authors all differ, both as to the etymology of the name and the site of this oracle. In my humble opinion, Homer and Hesiod[Pg 453] have not only agreed that it was not in Greece, but in Ireland, or some island, at least, as far westward.”

The passages to which the General refers in those ancient poets are—

“Σευ ανα Δωδωναιε Πελασγικε τηλοθι ναιων
Δωδωνης μεδεων δυσχειμερου.”[520]

That is,—

Pelasgian Jove, who far from Greece resid’st
In cold Dodona.

“Δωδωνην Φηγονν τε Πελασγων εδρανων ηκεν.”[521]

That is,—

To Dodona he came, and the hallowed oak, the seat of the Pelasgi.

Valuable as are those authorities, the General needed not to have had recourse to them at all, had he but been apprised of the origin of the word Dodona.

One of the religious names of Ireland, which I have purposely left unexplained till now, was Totdana.[522] This it derived immediately from the Tuath-de-danaans, as indeed it did all its ancient names, with the exception of Scotia. Tuath-de-danaans I have shown to mean the Magic-God-Almoners,[523] and Totdana, by consequence, must denote the Magic-almonry.[524]

Now, the Greeks, having been initiated in all their religious mystery by the Irish, did not only enrich their language with the vocabulary of our ceremonial, but adopted the several epithets of our[Pg 454] island as the distinctive names for their various localities, so that our Muc-inis[525] became their Myc-ene, our Tot-dana, their Do-dona, etc. etc. And even the names of our lakes, with all their legends of hydras and enchantments, found their way to them also, so that from our Lough-Erne was formed, by a crasis, their L-Erna.

The change from Tot-dana to Do-dona is much more obvious than may seem at first sight. T and D being commutable, Tot-dana was at once made Dot-dana; the intermediate t was then left out for sound’s sake, making it Do-dana; and, lastly, the penultimate a was transformed into o for the “ore rotundo,”[526] completing the Grecism of Do-dona.

You see, therefore, from this that the origin of Dodona was exclusively Irish! that Dodona and Ireland were, in fact, one and the same!—a circumstance of which Homer was perfectly well assured when he styled it Δωδωνη δυσχειμερος, or the Hyperborean Tot-dana.[527]

Neither was it in name only, but in sanctity also, that the Greek Myc-ene strove to imitate our Muc-inis. To this hour is to be found one of the ancient Pelasgian temples, vulgarly termed the Treasury of Atreus, from the mere circumstance, as Dr. Clarke well remarks, “of there being found a few brass nails within it, and evidently for the purpose of fastening on something wherewith the interior surface was formerly lined, and that many a long year before[Pg 455] Atreus or Agamemnon!” The Doctor, however, was perfectly astray in supposing it a sepulchre! In form it is a hollow cone, fifty feet in diameter, and as many in height, composed of enormous masses of a very hard breccia, a sort of pudding-stone, the very material whereof most of our Round Towers are constructed, and the property of which is to indurate by time. The Dune of Dornadella in Scotland is identically the same kind of structure, built by our Tuath-de-danaans, and for the solemn purpose of religion alone. This is so accurately described in an article in the Edinburgh Magazine, copied into Pennant’s Tour, that I too will make free to transcribe it.

“It is,” says the reviewer, “of a circular form, and now nearly resembling the frustum of a cone: whether, when perfect, it terminated in a point, I cannot pretend to guess; but it seems to have been higher, by the rubbish which lies round it. It is built of stone, without cement, and I take it to be between twenty and thirty feet still. The entrance is by a low and narrow door, to pass through which one is obliged to stoop much; but perhaps the ground may have been raised since the first erection. When one is got in, and placed in the centre, it is open overhead. All round the sides of the walls are ranged stone shelves, one above another, like a circular beaufait, reaching from near the bottom to the top. The stones which compose these shelves are supported chiefly by the stones which form the walls, and which project all round, just in that place where the shelves are, and in no others; each of the shelves is separated into several divisions, as in a bookcase. There are some remains of an awkward staircase. What use the shelves could be applied to I cannot conceive. It could not be of any military use, from its situation[Pg 456] at the bottom of a sloping hill, which wholly commands it. The most learned amongst the inhabitants, such as the gentry and clergy, who all speak the Irish language, could give no information or tradition concerning its use, or the origin of its name.”

Now, our Round Towers have similar shelves, or recesses in the wall, and “reaching, like a circular beaufait, from near the bottom to the top”! Wherever these do not appear, their place is supplied by projecting stones, for the evident purpose of acting as supporters.[528] And as the Mycenian, the Caledonian, and the Hibernian edifices thus far correspond, the only thing that remains is to explain to what purpose could those recesses serve.

I thus solve the question—They were as so many cupboards for containing the idols of Budha, as the structures themselves for temples of his worship, etc. Nor is this their use yet forgotten, in the buildings of the like description in Upper India, as appears from the following statement by Archer. “In the afternoon,” says he, “I went to look at a Jain temple. It was a neat building, with an upper storey. The idol is Boadh. There is a lattice verandah of brick and mortar round the shrine, and there are small cupboards, in which numerous figures of the idol are ranged on shelves.”

Arguments crowd upon me to establish these particulars; the only difficulty is in the compression. I shall, however, continue to prove this from another source, even by showing that when Ezekiel declared, in allusion to Tyre, that “the men of Dedan were thy merchants,”[529] he meant the men of Ireland.

First let me refer you to page 4, by which you[Pg 457] will be reminded of our ancient possession of a naval equipment. Secondly, let me quote to you an extract from Vallancey, when directing the result to a different application. His words are: “Another proof of the ancient Irish being skilled in the art of navigation, I draw from a fragment of the Brehon laws in my possession, where the payment, or the reward, for the education of children, whilst under the care of fosterers, is thus stipulated to be paid to the ollamhs, or professors, distinguishing private tuition from that of public schools. The law says: ‘If youth be instructed in the knowledge of cattle, the payment shall be three eneaclann and a seventh; if in husbandry and farming, three eneaclann and three-sevenths; if in milrach, i.e. glais-argneadh as tear, that is, superior navigation, or the best kind of knowledge, the payment shall be five eneaclann and the fifth of an eanmaide; if in glais-argneadhistein, that is, second, or inferior (branch of) navigation, two eneaclann and a seventh.’ And this law is ordained because the pupils must have been previously instructed in letters, which is the lowest education of all.”

Thus you see, at all events, that we were qualified for the duties required. Now, I will demonstrate, and that too by the aid, or rather at the expense, of Mons. Heeren, that we were the actual persons pointed to by the prophet.

“Deden,” says the professor, “is one of the Bahrein, or rather more northerly one of Cathema. The proofs, which to detail here would be out of place, may be found in Assemani, Bib. Orient. tom. ii. par. ii. pp. 160, 564, 604, and 744. Difficulties arise here, not merely from want of maps, but also from the variation and confusion of names. Daden, or Deden,[Pg 458] is also frequently called Dirin; and it may be conjectured that from hence arose the name of Dehroon, which is given to one of the Bahrein islands in the map of Delisle. If that were the case, then Dedan would not be Cathema, as Assemani asserts, but the island mentioned above; and this is rendered probable by the resemblance of names, which is a certain guide.”

If the “resemblance of names” be “a certain guide,” identity of names must be still more certain; and then must my proofs already prevail, and the professor’s conjectures fall to the ground! Surely he cannot say that there is any even resemblance between D-Irin and Dehroon! But he admits that the place alluded to is called indifferently Dedan[530] and D-Irin; and have I not shown that each of those names, identical and unadulterated, belonged properly to Ireland? Ireland, therefore, alone can be the country alluded to by the inspired penman.

In denying, however, a Dodona to the Greeks, and an oracle also, General Vallancey was quite incorrect. What he should have maintained was, that both name and oracle had their prototypes in Ireland; but that, so remote was the date at which the transfer occurred, all insight into the mysteries had long since perished.

Indeed, their priests very frankly acknowledged the fact to Herodotus, when, in his thirst for information, he waited upon them at Dodona. “We do not,” said they, “know even the names of the deities to whom we make our offerings—we distinguish them, it is true, by titles and designations; but these[Pg 459] are all adventitious and modern in comparison of the worship, which is of great antiquity.” Upon which the historian very truly concludes, “that their nature and origin had been always a secret; and that even the Pelasgi, who first introduced them and their rites, had been equally unacquainted with their history.”

Like a true Greek, however, he must set about coining an origin for them; and so he tells us a cock-and-a-bull story of two pigeons (Peleiai) having taken flight from Thebes in Upper Egypt, and never stopped until they perched, one upon the top of Dodona, and the other God knows where; and then he flatters himself he has the allegory solved, by imagining that those pigeons were priestesses, or old women, carried off by Phœnician pirates, and sold into the land of Greece!

In this he has been followed by thousands of imitators, and quoted miraculously at all the public schools. Nay, his disciples would fain even improve upon the thing; and Servius has gone so far as to say that the old woman’s name was Pelias!

Now, here is the whole mystery unravelled for you.

When the Greeks established an oracle of their Dodona, subordinate to our master one, they adopted, at the same time, one of the orders of our priesthood. This was that of the Pheeleas, the meaning of which being to them an enigma, they bent it, as usual, to some similar sound in their own language.[531] This was that of Peleiai, in the accusative Peleias, which, in the dialect of Attica, signifies pigeons, and in that[Pg 460] of Epirus, old women; and so the whole metamorphosis was forthwith adjusted!



[Pg 461]“The very extraordinary piece of antiquity, represented in the annexed woodcut, was found,” says Mr. Petrie, “in a bog at Ballymoney, county of Antrim, and exhibited to the Royal Irish Academy, by the Lord Bishop of Down, in March 1829. Its material is that description of bronze of which all the ancient Irish weapons, etc., are composed, and its actual size is four times that of the representation. It is a tube, divided by joints at A and B into three parts, which, on separating, were found to contain brass wire, in a zigzag form, a piece of which is represented in Fig. G. This wire appears to have been originally elastic, but when found was in a state of considerable decomposition. At E and F are two holes, about one-eighth of an inch in diameter, and seem intended for rivets or pins to hold the instrument together. The birds move on loose pins, which pass through the tube, and on the other end are rings. The material and style of workmanship of this singular instrument leaves no doubt of its high antiquity. But we confess ourselves totally unable to form even a rational conjecture as to its probable use, and should feel obliged to any antiquary who would throw light upon it.”[532]

Had the antiquarian high-priest to this magnanimous assemblage been equally modest in former cases, and courted instruction, instead of erecting himself into a Pheelea, he would not cut the figure which he now does. Ignorance is no fault: it is only its vagaries that are so ridiculous!

However, he has said—I beg pardon, he is in the plural number—well, then, they have said, that[Pg 462] they would feel obliged to any antiquary who would throw light upon the subject.

To be sure, I am no antiquary. The Royal Irish Academy have made that as clear as the sun at noonday. Nay, they have even strove to make their brethren at this side of the water to think so also! But their brethren at this side of the water are too honest a people, and too noble in their purpose, to make history a trade, and to stifle truth at the unhallowed dictates of interest or partiality.

No matter; I will tell all what this piece of antiquity was. It was the actual instrument through which the oracle of Dodona was announced! You see upon it the swans by which Apollo was brought to the Hyperboreans! The bulbul of Iran also attends in the train; and the affinity of this latter bird to the species of pigeons, convinced the Greeks that they had really hit off the interpretation of the word Pheelea! and that pigeons were, in truth, the deliverers of the oracle.

This was the block upon which Abbé Bannier was stumbling. Having learned from some quarter, I believe from Aristotle, that there were some brass appendages contiguous to Dodona, he converts those appendages into kettles—a worthy friend of mine would add, of fish—“which,” says he, “being lashed with a whip, clattered against one another until the oracle fulminated”!!!

As to those oracles themselves, with the registries of which antiquity is so replete, I will here articulate my individual belief. No one who knows me can suppose that I am superstitious; and, for those who know me not, the sentiments herein delivered will scarcely foster the imputation. Yet am I as[Pg 463] thoroughly persuaded as I am of my personal consciousness, that some prescience they did possess, conducted partly by human fraud, and partly by spiritual co-operation.

There is no question but that there must have been some supernatural agency in the business; for human skill and human sagacity could never penetrate the deep intricacies of doubt, and the important pregnancies of time which they have foreshown.[533]

Porphyry, in his book De Dæmonibus, and Iamblichus in his De Mysteriis, expressly mention that demons were in every case the authors of oracles. Without going all this length, we may readily allow that they had perhaps a great share in them; neither will the ambiguity in which their answers were sometimes couched detract anything from this admission, because the spirits themselves, when ignorant of any contingency, would, of course, try to screen their defect by the vagueness of conjectures, in order that if the issue did not correspond with their advice, it may be supposed owing to misinterpretation. The instance of Crœsus and the Delphian oracle was an interesting event. He sent to all the oracles on the same day this question for solution,[Pg 464] viz. “What is Crœsus, the son of Alyattes, King of Lydia, now doing?” That of Delphi answered thus: “I know the number of the sand of Libya, the measure of the ocean—the secrets of the silent and dumb lie open to me—I smell the odour of a lamb and tortoise boiling together in a brazen cauldron; brass is under and brass above the flesh.”

Having heard this reply, Crœsus adored the god of Delphi, and owned the oracle had spoken truth; for he was on that day employed in boiling together a lamb and a tortoise in a cauldron of brass, which had a cover of the same metal. He next sent, enjoining his ambassadors to inquire whether he should undertake a war against the Persians? The oracle returned answer, “If Crœsus passes the Halys, he will put an end to a vast empire.”

Not failing to interpret this as favourable to his project, he again sent to inquire, “If he should long enjoy the kingdom?” The answer was, “That he should till a mule reigned over the Medes.” Deeming this impossible, he concluded that he and his posterity should hold the kingdom for ever. But the oracle afterwards declared that by “a mule” was meant Cyrus, whose parents were of different nations—his father a Persian, and mother a Mede. By which mule, says a facetious writer, the good man Crœsus was thus made an ass!

That the priests, however, used much deception in the business, and that this deception did not escape the notice of the learned men of the time, is evident from the charge which Demosthenes had brought against the Pythia, of her being accustomed to Philippise, or conform her notes to the tune of the Macedonian emperor. The knowledge of this circumstance[Pg 465] made the prudent at all times distrust their suggestions, whilst the rabble, without gainsay, acquiesced as blindly in the belief of their infallibility.

But it was not only as to the meaning of the word Pheelea that the Greeks were unapprised, they knew not the import of their own name Pelargi![534] It is compounded of this same term pheelea, an augur or a diviner; and argh, the symbolic boat, or yoni! And, mind you, that this was the great difference between the Pelargi—which is but another name for Pish-de-danaans—and the Tuath-de-danaans, that the latter venerated the male organ of energy, and the former the female; therefore in no country occupied by the former do you meet with Round Towers, though you invariably encounter those traces of art, which prove their descent from one common origin.

As presiding over the diviners of the symbolical boat, Jupiter was called Pelargicus.[535]

Agyeus was another term in their religious vocabulary, as applied to Apollo, of which the Greeks knew not the source. They could not, indeed, well mistake, that it was derived immediately from αγυια, via; but that did not expound the fact, and they were still in ignorance of its proper import. It is merely a translation of our Rudh-a-vohir, that is, Apollo-of-the high-roads, not, what the Greeks understood it, as stationary thereon, but, on the contrary, as itinerant;[Pg 466] and to whom Venus the stranger corresponded on the other side; the especial province of both being to ensure the comforts of hospitality, of protection, and of love, to all emigrants and all travellers.

Grunie was another epithet applied to Apollo, as we may read in a hymn composed by Orpheus, which they could not comprehend. It is derived from Grian, one of our names for the Sun.

But, beyond comparison, the most inexplicable of all the epithets applied to this divinity is Lycæus; which, though—as has been the case, you perceive, in every subject yet discussed—it can be explained only in the Irish!—yet, even there, it opposes some difficulties to discourage, but not more than what give way to sagacity and to perseverance.

At Glendalough, in the county Wicklow, one of the proudest abodes of Budhism, are found, amongst other sculptures, upon the dilapidated ruins, those which you see opposite.

The wolf is the most frequent in the multitude of those hieroglyphics. His character is exhibited in more attitudes than one—and all mysteriously significant of natural designs.

In one place you observe his tail gracefully interwoven with the long hair of a young man’s head. That represents the youth Apollo, controlling by his efficacy—alias, the sun’s genial rays—the most hardened hearts, and so revolutionising the tendency of the inborn system, as from antipathy often to produce affection and love!

 [Pg 467]


Of this illustration, the practical proof is afforded in Bakewell’s Travels in the Tarentaise, to the following purpose, viz.:—

“By way of enlivening the description of the [Pg 468]structure of animals, he (M. de Candolle, Lecturer on Natural History at Geneva), introduced many interesting particulars respecting what he called leur morale, or their natural dispositions, and the changes they underwent when under the dominion of man. Among other instances of the affection which wolves had sometimes shown to their masters, he mentioned one which took place in the vicinity of Geneva. A lady, Madame M——, had a tame wolf, which seemed to have as much attachment to its mistress as a spaniel. She had occasion to leave home for some weeks; the wolf evinced the greatest distress after her departure, and at first refused to take food. During the whole time she was absent, he remained much dejected: on her return, as soon as the animal heard her footsteps, he bounded into the room in an ecstasy of delight; springing up, he placed one paw on each of her shoulders, but the next moment he fell backwards and instantly expired.”

Elsewhere you discern two wolves unmercifully tearing at a human head! And this is symbolical of a species of disease, of which there is published an account in a work called The Hospitall of Incurable Fooles, translated from the Italian by Todd, to the following effect, viz.:—

“Amongst these humours of Melancholy, the phisitions place a kinde of madnes, by the Greeks called Lycanthropia, termed by the Latines Insania Lupina, or Wolves furie: which bringeth a man to this point (as Attomare affirmeth), that in Februarie he will goe out of the house in the night like a wolfe, hunting about the graves of the dead with great howling: and plucke the dead men’s bones out of the sepulchres, carrying them about the streets, to the great fear and[Pg 469] astonishment of all them that meete him: And the foresaide author affirmeth, that melancholike persons of this kinde have pale faces, soaked and hollow eies, with a weak sight, never shedding one tear to the view of the world,” etc.

And that this was epidemic amongst the Irish is proved by Spenser’s testimony, when, drawing a parallel between the Scythians and the Irish of his day, he says: “Also, the Scythians said, that they were once a year turned into wolves; and so it is written of the Irish: though Martin Camden, in a better sense, doth suppose it was a disease, called lycanthropia, so named of the wolf: and yet some of the Irish doe use to make the wolf their gossip.”

Thus it appears, that the Irish were not only acquainted with the nature of this sickness, but also with the knack of taming that animal of which it bore the name. All this was connected with the worship of Apollo, and with Eastern mythology. Nay, the very dogs, for which our country was once famous,[536] and which were destined as protectors against the ravages of the wolf, are clear, from Ctesias, to have had their correspondents in India.

The epithet Lyceus, I conceive, now elucidated; and so leave to yourself to penetrate the rest of those devices. But I shall not, at the same time, take leave of the “Valley of the Two Lakes.”[537]

On one of the loose stones, which remain after[Pg 470] this wreck of magnificence, you will see a full delineation of “The history of Dahamsonda, King of Baranes (modern Benares), who, as his name implies, was a zealous lover of religious knowledge; and was incarnated, in order to be tried between his attachment to religion and his zeal for the salvation of the world on the one side, and his love to his own life, and his attachment to his kingdom and wealth, as well as his kindred and friends, on the other; for which purpose the gods had gradually and completely withdrawn the light of religious knowledge from the world by the time of his accession to the throne.”[538]

This king, in his anxiety to regain the lost condition of mankind—to recover their literature and their ancient knowledge of religion, instructs his courtiers to proclaim the offer of a casket of gold, “as a reward to any person” who would instruct his majesty in the mysteries of the Bana,[539] that is, the Budhist Gospel, with a view to its salutary repropagation.

The officers proceeded in quest of such a phenomenon; but, in the extent of their own realms, he was not to be found!

This excites the uneasiness of the king, who “having by degrees increased his offers to thousands and millions of money, high titles, possessions of land and great privileges; and, at last, offering his own throne and kingdom, but still finding no instructor, leaves his court, resolved to become private traveller, and not to rest till he has found one who could communicate to him the desired knowledge. Having for a length of time travelled through many kingdoms, towns, and[Pg 471] villages, enduring hardships, he is, at last, by providential interference, led through a delightful valley (which affords him subjects for consideration and recreation of mind) into a dismal forest, the habitation of frightful demons, venomous reptiles, and beasts of prey.

Sekkraia having on the occasion come down from heaven, in the disguise of a Raksha, meets Bodhesat (the king) in the wilderness, who fearlessly enters into conversation with him, and informs him of the object of his wanderings. The disguised deity undertaking to satisfy the king, if he will sacrifice to him his flesh and blood in exchange for the sacred knowledge, Bodhesat cheerfully ascends a steep rock, shown him by the apparition, and throws himself headlong to the mouth of the Raksha. The king’s zeal being thus proved, Sekkraia, in his own heavenly form, receives him in his arms, as he is precipitating himself from the rock,” and has him initiated in the desired information.[540]

Now, waiving for a moment the latter part of this legend—every word of which, however, is still chronicled in our country, though transferred by the moderns to St. Kevin and the monks—I return to add, that, on the above-mentioned stone, you will see a representation of the ambassadors offering this caske of riches to a professor of letters seated in his “doctor’s chair”!!!

This stone itself is engraved in Ledwich’s Antiquities, where in his ignorance of its meaning, as well as of everything else which formed the subject[Pg 472] of his libellous farrago, he perverts it into the bribing of a Roman Catholic priest!—as if the priests would so emblazon themselves!—and quotes Chaucer to prove the fact, when he says of one them, that—

“He would suffer, for a quart of wine,
A good fellow to have his concubine”!

How inconsistent is error! Elsewhere this Reverend Doctor has asserted, and, accidentally, with truth, that there was no such thing at all to be met with at this place, as “Christian symbols.” I wonder was he one of those who consider Roman Catholics not to be Christians?

However, again from this he diverges! And, when called upon to decipher the hieroglyphics upon a stone-roofed Tuath-de-danaan chapel, of the same character as that at Knockmoy, and discovered here a few years ago, beneath the Christian piles which the early missionaries had built over it, by way of supersedence, he throws himself, in his embarrassment, into the arms of St. Kevin! associates him with the whole! and that, too, after he had fatigued himself, until half choked with spleen, in bellowing out the ideality and utter non-existence of such a personage!

On the front of the cathedral erected out of the fragments of the Tuath-de-danaan dilapidations, you will find Budha embracing the sacred tree, known in our registries, by the name of Aithair Faodha, which signifies literally the tree of Budha.[541]

[Pg 473]The pomegranate of Astarte—the medicinal apple of affection[542]—presents itself, also, in the foliage! The mouldings upon the arch of the western window refer likewise to her. And, to complete the union of Sabian symbolisation, the serpent mingles in the general tale! while the traditional story of the adjoining lake having been infested by the presence of that reptile, has a faithful parallel in one of the lakes of Syria!

Will it not be believed, therefore, that the valley at which Dohamsonda had alighted, after he had traversed many realms far away from his own, was that of Glendalough? And where, I ask, would he be more likely to obtain the object of his peregrination, viz. initiation into gospel truth, than in that country which, from its pre-eminent effulgence in its[Pg 474] beatitudes, was exclusively denominated the Gospel-land?

This, sir, is no rhetoric,—no declamatory exaggeration. I will reduce it for you, in its simple elements, to the perspicuity of vision.

Bana-ba is one of the names of our sacred island, which, like all the rest of our history, has been heretofore a mystery to literary inquirers!

The light bursts upon you!—does it not already? Need I proceed to separate for you the constituent parts of this word?

It is compounded, then, be it known, of Bana, which indicates good tidings, or gospel, and aba, land—meaning, in the aggregate, the Gospel-land! And accordingly the pilgrim, when he set out upon his journey in quest of the Bana, very naturally betook himself to Bana-ba, or the land of the Bana, where alone it was to be found!

And you presume to say that Christianity is a thing which only commenced last week?

“Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.”



[Pg 475]


“They shall be astonished, and shall humble their countenances: and trouble shall seize them, when they shall behold the Son of Woman sitting upon the throne of his glory. Then shall the kings, the princes, and all who possess the earth glorify him who has dominion over all things—him who was concealed: for, from the beginning, the Son of Man existed in secret, whom the Most High preserved in the presence of his power, and revealed to the elect.”[543]

So speaks one of the most extraordinary productions that has ever appeared in England, in the shape of literature! And the commentary of its translator[544] is as follows:—

“In both these passages,” says he, “the pre-existence of the Messiah is asserted in language which admits not the slightest shade of ambiguity—nor is it such a pre-existence as the philosophical cabalists attributed to him, who believed the souls of all men, and, consequently, that of the Messiah, to have been originally created together, when the world itself was formed; but an existence antecedent to all creation, an existence previous to the formation of the luminaries of heaven; an existence prior to all things visible[Pg 476] and invisible, before everything concealed.—It should likewise be remarked, that the pre-existence ascribed to him is a divine pre-existence.”[545]

As to the pre-existence of the Messiah, in the only way in which the Archbishop affirms, I did not think that the doctrine was so obscure as to require so much stress! Everybody acquiesces, who acquiesces in Christianity—that its Founder had existence and dominion with His Father before all worlds. And, therefore, when His Grace offers this as an illustration of our opening extract, he either unconsciously contradicts himself, or, else, by dealing in generalities, evades an exposition, which he was not at liberty to communicate!

I am quite ignorant as to whether or not Dr. Lawrence belongs to the order of Freemasons, but I confess that when first I glanced at the above remarks I fancied he did. The care with which the two words “secret” and “concealed” were distinguished by him in italics, led me to this conjecture. But the indefinite unsubstantiality into which he afterwards wandered, made the fact of his initiation become, itself, a secret.

Let me, however, prove the above dilemma.

His Lordship has asserted, that the uninspiration of “the author” will admit of no dispute:[546] and yet[Pg 477] that “author,” whom the Archbishop himself acknowledges to have written, at the very lowest, antecedently to the Advent, speaks of the Messiah as the “Son of Man” and the “Son of Woman.”[547]

Either, therefore, the author was inspired, speaking prospectively of an occurrence not then consummated! or else, uninspired, he historically transmits the record of an incarnation vouchsafed before his time.

I feel perfectly indifferent as to which horn of this alternative you may patronise. They both equally make for me. Nor do I want either, otherwise than to show, that else the Archbishop is already of my way of thinking, and restrained from avowing it, or unwillingly involved in a contradictory nodus, from a partial succumbing to education!

With this I leave Enoch! I have hitherto done without him! I shall continue still to do so! But while bidding adieu, I must disburthen myself of[Pg 478] the sentiments which his merits have inspired, and that after a very short personal familiarity.

Thou art, then, a GOODLY and a WISE book, Enoch, stored with many and recondite truths, but “few they be who find” them. Better for thee it were, however, that thou hadst slept a little longer in thy tranquil retirement, than obtrude thyself, unappreciated, upon an ungenial world—a cold, a calculating, an adamantine world—who fancy they know everything, but who, in truth, know nothing—to meet with nothing but their scorn! It is true, Enoch, that thy face hath been tarnished by many a blemish! And that the hand of time hath dealt with thee, as it doth with the other works of man! Yet, despite of the curtailments thus sustained, and the exotics incorporated, thy magnificent ruin still holds within it some gleams, which to the initiated and the sympathetic afford delight and gratification.

———“Sweet as the ecstatic bliss
Of souls that by intelligence converse!”

Doubtless, reader, you are acquainted with the Gospel of St. John?—and you have a heart?—and you have emotions?—and you have sensibilities?—and you have intellect? Well, then, tell me frankly, have not these all been brought into requisition, at the metaphysical sublimity and the oriental pathos of the opening part of that production?

“He was in the world, and the world was made by Him; and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.”[548]

You surely cannot suppose this said in reference to the late incarnation! Were it so, why should the[Pg 479] Evangelist deliver himself in terms so pointedly allusive to distant times? The interval between Christ’s disappearance and St. John’s registration was but as yesterday, and therefore the latter, when inculcating the divinity of the former, upon the belief of his countrymen, who were all contemporaries, as well of one as of the other, need not advertise them of an addition, of which they were themselves cognisant.

But to illustrate to you as light, that it was not the recent manifestation that was meant by the above text, he tells us in the sequel, when expressly narrating this latter fact, that “the Logos was made flesh and dwelt among us”;[549] where you perceive that “dwelling among us” is made a distinct thing from, and posterior in eventuation to “coming unto His own,” as before recorded![550]

Indeed, in the delineation, it is not only the order of time, but the precision of words, that we see most rigidly characteristic. The Jews, it is certain, could not be called “His own,” except by adoption; and, I am free to allow, that from them, “as concerning the flesh, Christ came”; but by “His own[551] are meant His real relations!—emanations from the Godhead, such as He was Himself! beings altogether separate from flesh and blood! and whose mysteriousness was perceptible most clearly to St. John, as you will perceive by the Greek words from which this is rendered, viz. τα ιδια, having been put in the neuter gender!

But suppose them, for an instant, to have been the Jews!—Then we are told that, “to as many as received Him, gave He power to become sons of God.”[552] Now, the apostles were they who did implicitly[Pg 480] receive Him: and why does not St. John refer to those, whether living or dead, as admitted to the privilege of becoming “sons of God”? I will tell you:—it was because that they did not answer to that order of beings “which were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”[553]

These were the persons to whom Christ came before—these were “His own,” because that, like Him, they also were of God.[554] These were they, who having lapsed into sin,[555] and vitiated their nature, drew down the vengeance of heaven upon them; and to the descendants of these it was that “the elect” and “the concealed one,” in mercy was made manifest, with proposals of redemption to regain their lost state!!!

“O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments, and how inscrutable His ways!”[556]

Seest thou not now, therefore, the propriety of St. John’s expression, when He says, “And I knew Him not, but that He should be made manifest to Israel”;[557] for when, before “He was in the world,” it was in secret and concealed—as still and always represented in the mysteries! The latter, he asserts, as a matter of revelation—for the former he appeals to the experience of his auditors, as a subject of history: and both epochs are confirmed by the “voice from heaven,” which replied to Christ’s own prayer, as thus, “I have both glorified it,” viz. at Thy former manifestation—“and will glorify it again,”[558] at this Thy present!!!

I was myself twelve years of age before ever I[Pg 481] saw a Testament in any language. The first I was then introduced to was the Greek. Being in favour with my tutor, he took an interest in my progress, and the consequence was, to my gratitude and his praise, that no deviation from the exactness of grammatical technicality could possibly escape my observation. Soon as I arrived at the text wherein τα ιδια occurs, its irregularity, at once, flashed across my mind. I sought for an explanation, but it was in vain; my imagination set to work, but it was equally abortive. At length, in despair, I relinquished the pursuit, and never again troubled myself with it, or its solution, until recalled by its connection with the present inquiry.

But it was not alone the peculiarity of gender that excited my circumspection, the phraseology, when translated, sounded so familiar to my ear, as to appear an old acquaintance under a new form. For, though I could then tolerably well express myself in English, the train of my reflections always ran in Irish. From infancy I spoke that tongue: it was to me vernacular. I thought in Irish, I understood in Irish, and I compared in Irish. My sentiments and my conceptions were filtrated therein!

As to dialectal idioms or lingual peculiarities, I had not, of course, the most remote idea. Whether, therefore, the expression coming to “His own” were properly a Greek or an English elocution, I did not, then, know either sufficiently well to determine; but that it was Irish I was perfectly satisfied; my ear and my heart, at once, told me so.

I now positively affirm that the phrase is neither Hebrew, Greek, nor English! And if you are not [Pg 482]disposed to admit the information which it conveys,[559] to be an immediate communication from the Omnipotent, I have another very adequate mode of accounting for St. John’s having acquired it, and expressed it too in a phraseology so essentially Oriental.



The three wise men—who came from the East to[Pg 483] Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen His star in the east, and are come to worship Him”[560]—to a mortal certainty imparted to him the intelligence!

Here you see them with crosses upon their crowns,[561] the religious counterparts of our Irish shamrocs![562] And surely, as Jesus was then but an infant, those mysterious devices were commemorative of His crucifixion, when “He came to His own,”—and not to that which occurred while He “dwelt among us,” a catastrophe which had not yet taken place!

Nor is it alone this single phrase (τα ιδια) that I claim as Oriental—the five first verses of this Gospel, as at present arranged, appertain also thereto. They speak the doctrine alike of the Budhists and of the Free-masons; but in diction, and in peculiarity, in tone, in point, and essence, they are irrefragably Irish.[563]

That St. John never wrote them is beyond all question! but having found them to his hand, existing after the circuit of centuries and ages, the composition seemed so pure, and so consonant with Christianity, nay, its very vitality and soul, he adopted it as the preface to his own production, which begins only at the sixth verse, opening with, “There was a man sent from God whose name was John”!

Having asserted that the preliminary part was inalienably Irish, I now undertake to prove a radical misconception, nay, a derogation from the majesty of[Pg 484] the Messiah, to have crept into the text, in consequence of its having been translated by persons unacquainted with that language!

The term logos, which you render word, means to an iota the spiritual flamelog, or logh, being the original denomination. The Greeks, who had borrowed all their religion from the Irish, adopted this also from their vocabulary; but its form not being suited to the genius of their language, they fashioned it thereto by adding the termination os, as loghos; and thus did it become identified in sound with the common logos, which they had before, and which merely expresses a word or term!

But though thus confounded, their philosophers, for a long time, kept both expressions distinct. The former they ever considered a foreign importation, rendering it, as we did, by the spiritual flame; as is evident from Zeno making use of the expression, δια του παντος λογος, that is, the spiritual flame, which is diffused through, and vivifies everything.

Pythagoras is so explicit upon this spiritual flame, that you would swear he was paraphrasing the first five verses of St. John.

“God,” says he, “is neither the object of sense, nor subject to passion, but invisible, only intelligible, and supremely intelligent. In His body, He is like the light, and in His soul He resembles truth. He is the universal spirit that pervades and diffuseth itself over all nature. All beings receive their life from Him. There is but one only God, who is not, as some are apt to imagine, seated above the world, beyond the orb of the universe; but being Himself all in all, He sees all the beings that fill His immensity, the only principle, the light of Heaven, the Father of[Pg 485] all. He produces everything, He orders and disposes everything; He is the reason, the life, and the motion of all being.”

Even the Latins having borrowed the idea from the Greeks, steered clear of the equivocation of the ridiculous word; and the immortal Maro, when describing the quickening influence of this ethereal logos through all the branches of nature, interprets it as above, literally, by the spiritual flame!

“Principio cœlum ac terras, camposque liquentes,
Lucentemque globum Lunæ, Titaniaque Astra,
Spiritus intus alit; totamque infusa per artus
Mens agitat molem, et magno se corpore miscet.
Inde hominum pecudumque genus, vitæque volantum,
Et quæ marmoreo fert monstra sub æquore pontus.”[564]

Am I, therefore, presumptuous in appealing to the community to reject this word as applied to the logos? A meaning, it is true, has been trumped up for this, as the communicating vehicle between God and His creatures! No doubt the Saviour is all that: but logos does not express it; and the duration of an abuse is no reason why it should be perpetuated after its exposure.

I have said that it degraded the dignity of the Godhead to render this expression by the form of word. I do not retract the charge: on the contrary, I add that, independently altogether of the former arguments, adduced to establish its inaccuracy, it would be revolting to common sense, were it not even thus incorrect!

For example—“In Him was life,” says the text, “and the life was the light of men.”

Now, how could there be life in a word? except by the most unnatural straining of metaphor. Or, [Pg 486]admitting that there was life, how could there be light, except by the same? Whereas, by substituting the proper term, then all is regular and easy; for what could be more natural, than that there should be life in spirit? and that this life should give light to men?

You will observe accordingly, that Jesus Himself, when describing His own character, exactly states what I here rectify, saying, “I am the light of the world”—not the word of the world—or any such nonsense. And He continues the idea by noting further, that “he that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”[565] Thus keeping up an uninterrupted reference to logos, or the spiritual flame!

I do, therefore, humbly, but strenuously, implore of the legislature that they restore this epithet to its divine interpretation! I entreat of the heads, as well of Church as of State, that they cancel the error; for error I unhesitatingly pronounce it to be,—a derogation from the Godhead, and a perversion of the attributes of the Messiah!

I will myself show the way—thus: “In the beginning was the spiritual flame: and the spiritual flame was with God, and the spiritual flame was God.”[566]

How beautiful! may I hope that it will never more be extinguished!

Now, there is another text in the same chapter, which, though not incorrectly translated, yet loses half its beauty as at present understood! It will startle you when I recite it! Yet here it comes. “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!”[567]

[Pg 487]By lamb, no doubt, you mean a young sheep: but let me ask you, what connection can you perceive between a young sheep and the taking away of sin? That of immolation, you answer, as typifying the grand offering. Well, then, why add “of God”? Why say, the young sheep of God, if it was an ordinary animal of the mere ovine species that was intended?

No, sir; recollect the “Lamb slain from the beginning of the world,” recorded in the Revelations, as quoted before.[568]

A deep mystery is involved in this expression, which the ingenuity of man could not evolve but through the Irish. In that language lambh is a word having three significations. The first is a hand; the second a young sheep; and the third a cross.[569]

Let us now, in rendering the text, substitute this latter instead of the intermediate; and it will be, “Behold the cross of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!” By which you perceive that when John the Baptist, by inspiration, pointed out Jesus Christ as the universal Saviour of the world, his very words establish a previous crucifixion!

You now see how it happened that ten, in numerals, came to be represented by a cross X. This being the number of fingers upon each person’s hands: and a hand and a cross being both prefigured in the sacred,[Pg 488] that is, in the Irish language,[570] by the same term, lambh, it hence occurred that in all reckoning and notation, a new score should be commenced therefrom—that its sanctity should be still further enhanced by the epithet of diag, or perfection, which characterises it as a submultiple, and that the mysteriousness of the whole should be additionally shrouded under the comprehensive symbol of a pyramid or triangle[571]

“Our Hibernian Druids,” says Vallancey, “always wore a key, like the doctors of law of the Jews, to show they alone had the key of the sciences, that is, that they alone could communicate the knowledge of the doctrine they preached. The name of this key was kire, or cire; and eo, a peg or pin, being compounded with it, forms the modern eo-cire, the key of a lock. The figure of this key resembled a cross; those of the Lacedæmonians and Egyptians were of the same form.”

Estimable and revered Vallancey, it pains me to say anything against you! but on those subjects you were quite at bay! It was not to “show that they alone had the key of the sciences,” that “the doctors of law of the Jews always wore a key,” but because that they had seen it in the ceremonial of the Egyptians, from whom, like the Lacedæmonians, they had borrowed its use, without either of them being able to penetrate its import![572]

The origin, then, of this badge appearing amongst[Pg 489] the habiliments of our ancient priests, is developed by the name which those priests themselves bore, viz. Luamh, which, being but a direct formative from lambh, a cross, unlocks the secret of their being its ministers.[573]

The Idæi-Dactyli, who superintended the mysteries of Ceres, obtained their designation from the very same cause, and corresponded literally with our Luamhs: for the Iod of the Chaldeans being equivalent to the lambh or hand of the Irish, the number of fingers thereon were made religiously significant of the X, or cross! And,—what cannot fail to excite astonishment, as to the immutability of a nation’s character,—to this very hour, the symbolical oath of the Irish peasant is a transverse placing of the forefinger of one hand over that of the other, and then uttering the words, “By the cross”!

Are not the opposers of my truths, then, as yet satisfied? or will they still persist in saying that it was the Pope that sent over our Tuath-de-danaan crosses?[574] in the ship Argho! some thousands of years before ever Pope was born. I wonder was it His Holiness that transported emissaries also to that ancient city in America, lately discovered in ruins, near Palenque; amongst the sculptures of which we discover a cross! And the priority of which to the times of Christianity is borne witness to by the gentleman who has published the “Description” of those ruins,[575] though glaringly ignorant as to what was commemorated thereby.

“Upon one point, however,” he says, “it is deemed essentially necessary to lay a stress, which is the[Pg 490] representation of a Greek cross, in the largest plate illustrative of the present work, from whence the casual observer might be prompted to infer that the Palencian city flourished at a period subsequent to the Christian era; whereas it is perfectly well known to all those conversant with the mythology of the ancients, that the figure of a cross constituted the leading symbol of their religious worship: for instance, the augural staff or wand of the Romans was an exact resemblance of a cross, being borne as the ensign of authority by the community of the augurs of Rome, where they were held in such high veneration that, although guilty of flagrant crimes, they could not be deposed from their offices; and with the Egyptians the staff of Bootes or Osiris is similar to the crosier of Catholic bishops, which terminated at the top with a cross.”

But if the Pope had so great a taste for beautifying our valleys with those costly specimens of art, whereof some are at least eighteen feet in height, composed of a single stone, and chiselled into devices of the most elaborate mysteries, is it not marvellous that he has not, in the plenitude of his piety, thought proper to adorn the neighbourhood of the Holy See with any similar trophies? And why has he not preserved in the archives of the Vatican any record of the bequest, as he has taken care to do in the case of the four palls?

But, transcendently and lastly, why did he deem it necessary to depict centaurs upon those crosses, with snakes, serpents, dogs and other animals, such as this following one exhibits, which is that at Kells, and which has been alluded to, by promise, some pages backwards.[576]

 [Pg 491]


I have now done with the appropriation of those columns; and shall just whisper into my adversaries’ ears—if they have but recovered from the downcrash of their fabric—that so far from laying claim to the honour of their erection, the Pope has actually excommunicated all such as revered them! and has otherwise disowned all participation therein, by the fulminating of bulls and of anathemas![577]

[Pg 492]Yet did the zealots of party, after the history of those crosses was forgotten, associate them individually with some favourite saint! “This notion,” says Mosheim, referring to such diversions, “rendered it necessary to multiply prodigiously their number, and to create daily new ones. The clergy set their invention at work, and peopled at discretion the invisible world with imaginary protectors; they invented the names and histories of saints that never existed; many chose their own patrons, either phantoms of their own creation or distracted fanatics whom they sainted.”

Here, however, the historian is as inaccurate as he is severe: for not only did the majority of those saints, if not all of them, exist, but the greater part also of those exploits ascribed to them have actually occurred! The imposition consisted in making them the heroes of events and legends belonging to former actors.[578]

I shall now give you, from the Book of Ballymote, my proof for the assertion before advanced as to the Goban Saer, whom they would fain appropriate, having been a member of the Tuath-de-danaans, viz.: “Ro gabsat sartain in Eirin Tuatha Dadann is deb ro badar na prem ealadhnaigh: Luchtand saer credne ceard: Dian ceachd liargh etan dan a hingeinsidhe: buime na filedh Goibneadh Gobha lug Mac Eithe Occai; ro badar na huile dana Daghadae in Righ: oghma brathair in Righ, is e ar arainic litri no Scot.” That is, The Tuath-de-danaans then ruled in Eirin. They were first in all sciences. Credne Ceard was of[Pg 493] this people; and his daughter Dean Ceachd, who presided over physic: she nursed the poet Gohne Gobha, the Free-mason (lug is the same as Saer), son of Occai Esthne. Daghdae the king was skilled in all sciences: his brother Ogmus taught the Scythians the use of letters.

Thus you see that he could not, by possibility, be on the same theatre with St. Abham; while the popular tradition is still substantially true which connects his name with the erection of the Round Towers!

The Church festivals themselves, in our Christian calendar, are but the direct transfers from the Tuath-de-danaan ritual. Their very names in Irish are identically the same as those by which they were distinguished by that earlier race. If therefore, surprise has heretofore been excited at the conformity observable between our Church institutions and those of the East, let it in future subside at the explicit announcement that Christianity, with us, was but the revival of a religion imported amongst us, many ages before, by the Tuath-de-danaans from the East, and not from any chimerical inundation of Greek missionaries—a revival upon which their hearts were longingly riveted, and which Fiech himself, the pupil of St. Patrick, and bishop of Sletty, unconsciously registers in the following couplet, viz.:—

Tuatha Heren, tarcaintais
Dos nicfead sith laithaith nua.”[579]

That is,—

The Budhists of Irin prophesied
That new times of peace would come.

What kind of peace, you ask? Is it of deliverance[Pg 494] from their Scythian oppressors? No, but that spiritual tranquillity, such as they enjoyed before, and at which even the angels of heaven rejoiced, while announcing the tidings to man[580]

“And sweet, and with rapture o’erflowing,
Was the song from that multitude heard,
Who their heav’n for a season foregoing,
To second the Angel appear’d.
‘All glory,’ the anthem resounding,
‘To God in the highest,’ began;
And the chant was re-echoed, responding,
Peace on earth, loving-kindness to man.’”[581]

You will remember that the Scriptures themselves record, how that the wise men of the East foresaw this epoch; and “Lo, the star which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.”[582]

Is it therefore to be wondered at that our Tuath-de-danaans, who were their brethren, should equally anticipate it?

Yes, from the commencement of time, and through all the changes of humanity, God had always witnesses to the truth in this nether world.

“And Melchizedec, King of Salem, brought forth bread and wine, and he was the priest of the most high God.

“And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth:

“And blessed be the most high God, which hath[Pg 495] delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.”[583]

“Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils.

“For this Melchizedec, King of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him:

“To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all: first being, by interpretation, king of righteousness, and after that also king of Salem, which is king of peace.

“Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God—abideth a priest continually.”[584]

Thus does the apostle proceed, in a strain of the closest argumentation, to point out the superiority of this king of peace, over Abraham and his lineage: after which Mr. Brown, in his Commentary upon the Bible, expresses himself as follows, viz.:—“Who this Melchizedec was, this priest of God among the Canaanites, greater than Abraham, the friend of God, who were his parents or his successors, is on purpose concealed by the Holy Ghost. And hence he is without father or mother, predecessor or successor, in his historical account, in order that he might typify the incomprehensible dignity, the amazing pedigree and unchangeable duration of Jesus Christ, our great High Priest.”

[Pg 496]Nobody can quarrel with the piety of this commentator: but piety is not the only requisite for a commentator upon the Scriptures: the absence of stupidity is an essential condition. It is not, however, as applied to this particular passage that I thus express myself: were this the only instance of accommodating oversight it should draw forth no critique from me. But the instances are innumerable, to verify the expression that “some persons see, but perceive not.”

Mr. Brown had no idea of an emanation! Mr. Brown did not comprehend the sons of God! Mr. Brown did not know the connection which existed between the peace of Christ and that which was represented by Melchizedec.[585]

“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of Him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth.”[586]

“These things have I spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”[587]

“If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.”[588]

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.”[589]

[Pg 497]“Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil;

“Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an High Priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.”[590]

“From our fathers to us the good tidings descend,
From us to our children agen;
Unrestrain’d as the sun, and as lasting, they blend
All the nations and ages of men.
Good news of great joy to all people, they speak
At once to the learn’d and the rude,
To barbarian and Scythian, the Jew and the Greek,
Nor country nor person exclude.

From the man who goes forth to his labour by day,
To the woman his help-meet at home;
From the child that delights in his infantine play,
To the old on the brink of the tomb;
From the bridal companions, the youth and the maid,
To the train on the death-pomp that wait;
From the rich in fine linen and purple array’d,
To the beggar that lies at his gate:

To all is the ensign of blessedness shown,
To the dwellers in vale or on hill,
Alike to the monarch who sits on his throne,
And the bond-man who toils at the mill;
High and low, rich and poor, young and old, one and all,
Earth’s sojourners, dead and alive,
Who perish’d by Adam, our forefather’s fall,
Shall in Jesus the Saviour revive.

Not an ear, that those tidings of welfare can meet,
But to it doth that welfare belong:
Then those tidings with rapture what ear shall not greet,
What tongue shall not echo the song?
All hail to the Saviour! all hail to the Lord!
God and Man in one person combined!
The Father’s Anointed! by Angels adored!
The Hope and Delight of mankind!”[591]



[Pg 498]


“Yet once I was blind, and could not see the light,
And straight to Jeru-salem I then took my flight;
They led me through a wilderness, with a multitude of care,
You may know me by the system, or badge I wear.

Twelve dazzling lights I saw, which did me surprise;
I stood in amaze where I heard a great noise;
A serpent came by me,—I fell unto the ground,
With joy, peace, and comfort the secret I found.”[592]

The principle of all mysteries having been already elucidated, it only remains, that in this concluding chapter, I point out a few more instances of their practical application.

In the Gospel, then, according to St. Matthew, I find the words, “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”[593] And in that according to St. John, the following, “We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.”[594]

The juxtaposition of these texts, one with another, and the comparison of them, mutually, with the explication of the serpent, given at p. 229, will not only confirm the truth of all the foregoing developments, but satisfy you further, what I am very certain you did not before identify, viz. that the phrases generation of vipers, and the being born of fornication, are one and the same—the viper, or[Pg 499] serpent, being the symbol of lustfulness, making the former equivalent to ye offspring of concupiscence; that is, in other words, ye born of fornication![595] And the very stress laid upon this mode of geniture, implies not only the possibility of a different sort, but its frequency also!

“In the Purana prophecies concerning the expected Saviour,” say the Asiatic Researches, “it is said, that he was the son, or rather the incarnation, of the great serpent: and his mother was also of that tribe, and incarnate in the house of a pot-maker. She conceived, at the age of one year and a half, the great serpent gliding over her while she was asleep in the cradle: and his mother, accordingly, is represented as saying to the child, once that she brought him to a place full of serpents—‘Go and play with them, they are your relations.’”

Here it will be seen that, under the form of a serpent, is personified the Deity, or the generative power.

Nunez de la Vega, Bishop of Chiapa, in Mexico, when describing Nagualism, in his Constitutions, as observed in that country, says: “The Nagualists practise it by superstitious calendars, wherein are inserted the proper names of all the Naguals, of stars, the elements, birds, beasts, fishes, and reptiles; with observations upon the months and days; in order that the children, as soon as they are born, may be dedicated to that which, in the calendar, corresponds with the day of their birth; this is preceded by some frantic ceremonies, and the express consent of parents, which is an explicit part between the infants and the Naguals that are to be given to[Pg 500] them. They then appoint the melpa, or place, where, after the completion of seven years, they are brought into the presence of the Nagual to ratify the engagement; for this purpose they make them renounce God and His blessed Mother, instructing them beforehand not to be alarmed, or sign themselves with the cross: they are afterwards to embrace the Nagual affectionately, which, by some diabolical art or another, appears very tame, and fondly attached to them, although it may be a beast of a ferocious nature, as a lion, a tiger, etc. They persuade the children, by their infernal cunning, that this Nagual is an angel sent by God to watch over their fortunes, to protect, assist, and accompany them; and that it must be invoked upon all occasions, business, or occurrences, in which they may require its aid!”

It is very clear, that the Nagualism above notified is but a degenerate offshoot of that serpent worship, which is coeval with the fall: yet, degenerate as it is, it is equally indisputable, that this good man’s zeal outsteps far his judgment, the exaggerations of his fancy even committing him so far, as to make him imperceptibly contradict himself!

Surely, were it a principle of action with those unfortunate beings to make their children, on their entrance upon active life, to renounce God, they would not teach them, at the same time, to reverence a brute creature, merely as being a subordinate servant of that God!

To reconcile the Bishop, therefore, to something like truth, I will suppose him to mean by the word God, where it first occurs, Christ, which is evident from the context, of “His blessed Mother”: and then the prohibition against the sign of “the cross,” must[Pg 501] be understood exclusively as in reference to him; a conclusion which is confirmed by an additional reference to that oath, which I have before mentioned, as still prevalent amongst the Irish.

By the cross is the oath, accompanied by a transverse location of the forefinger of one hand upon that of the other: and the addition alluded to is of Christ, which is never volunteered except when equivocation is suspected; and then it is exacted as a matter of distinction between His cross and the more antecedent one!

But no further proof is requisite to prove the Bishop’s want of candour than his withholding documents from the public eye, which would appear to illustrate the subject.—“Although in these tracts and papers there are,” says he, “many other things touching primitive paganism, they are not mentioned in this epitome, lest, in being brought into notice, they should be the means of confirming more strongly an idolatrous superstition.” He should have had more confidence in his own cause, and feel that—“If anything, in consequence of this scrutiny, totter and fall, it can only be the error which has attached itself to truth, encumbering and deforming it. Truth itself will remain unshaken, unsullied, fair, immortal!”

Now, in the description of the ancient city, near Palenque, quoted before, I find some words, which prove an affinity between the worship of the ancient inhabitants of America and those of Ireland, and which rescue both from the imputations of bigotry. “I am Culebra,” says Votan, one of the early princes, I believe, of Mexico, who wrote an historical tract in the Indian idiom, “because I am Chivim.”

The man’s name, you perceive, was Votan, but his[Pg 502] ambition was to be considered Culebra, or the snake, that is, the deity so personified: the mode whereby he sought to establish it is foreign from my inquiry.

The Gadelglas of the ancient Irish was precisely similar to this Culebra of the Americans: gad signifying a snake, or tortuosity: el, god; and glas, green—in all, the green snake-god! And conformably with this import, we are assured by a man who knew very little as to the reason why, but whose testimony is here valuable in a matter of record, not of opinion; namely, that the “Milesians, from the time they first conquered Ireland, down to the reign of Ollamh Fodhla, made use of no other arms of distinction in their banners than a serpent twisted round a rod, after the example of their Gadelian ancestors.”[596]

You have now the proof of “who puts the snakes upon our ancient crosses?” And, independently of such proof, the antiquity itself of all the traditions associating the serpent with the early memoirs of our ancestors was so great as to appal even the monks! And as they could not, in their system of transferring our history, bring down this serpent to the era of the saints, they resolved, at all events, to have him in their dispensation, and so made Moses the hero!

This they contrived by inventing the name of Gadel for one of our forefathers, and then transplanting him to the coast of the Red Sea, just as the Legislator of the Jews was conducting them out of Egypt! They then very unsacerdotally make a serpent bite him in some part of the heel, but very graciously afterwards restore him to sanity by Moses’s interposition! with a stipulation, however, that the[Pg 503] former sore should ever appear glass or green! And thus was he called Gadelglas, or Gadel the Green!!!

In truth, it was from this green snake-god, above explained, that the island obtained the designation of Emerald; and not from the verdure of its soil, which is not greater than that of other countries.

The Arabians have a tradition, that Enoch was the first who, after Enos, son of Seth, son of Adam, wrote with a pen, in the use of which he instructed his children, saying to them additionally, “O, my sons, know that ye are Sabians!”

Although the substance of the religion, couched under this designation, has been already explained, yet the origin of the name itself remains yet to be unfolded.

Then be it known, that in the sacred, i.e. Irish language, the word Sabh,[597] has three significations—firstly, voluptuousness, or the yoni; secondly, a snake, or sinuosity; and, thirdly, death or life! And in accordance with this triple import, if you roll back the leaves as far as p. 229, you will find in the plate inserted there, and which has been transcribed from the sculptures of the ancient Palencian city before alluded to, those three symbols, viz. the yoni, the serpent, and death, all united in design, and illustrating my development of that mysterious scene wherein—

“Eve tempting Adam by a serpent was stung.”[598]

The sculpture itself is intended to pourtray the[Pg 504] situation of those progenitors of the human species in the Garden of Eden. And yet, striking as it is, would its tendency remain ever a secret, were it not for the instrumentality of the Irish language!

“That the society of free and accepted Masons possess a grand secret among themselves is an undoubted fact. What this grand secret is, or of what unknown materials it consists, mankind in general, not dignified with the order, have made the most ridiculous suppositions. The ignorant form incoherencies, such as conferring with the devil, and many other contemptible surmises, too tedious to mention, and too dull to laugh at. While the better sort, and more polished part of mankind, puzzle themselves with reflections more refined, though equally absurd. To dispel the opinionative mist from the eye of general error is the author’s intention; and however rash the step may be thought, that he, a mere atom in the grand system, should attempt so difficult, so nice a task, yet he flatters himself that he shall not only get clear over it, but meet with the united plaudits both of the public and of his brethren. And he must beg leave to whisper to the ignorant, as well as the judicious, who thus unwarrantably give their judgment, that the truth of this grand secret is as delicately nice as the element of air; though the phenomenon continually surrounds us, yet human sensation can never feelingly touch it till constituted to the impression by the masonic art. The principal, similar to the orb of light, universally warms and enlightens the principles, the first of which, virtue, like the moon, is heavenly chaste, attended by ten thousand star-bright qualifications. The masonic system is perfectly the emblem of the astronomic;[Pg 505] it springs from the same God, partakes of the same originality, still flourishes in immortal youth, and but with nature will expire.”[599]

The contortions of the snake were easily transferred to the revolutions of the heavenly bodies. “When the ancients,” says Boulanger, “found out the true cycle of the sun, they coined names by a jeu de mots, or words, signifying its heat, or its course, that made up the number 365, as they had done before to make up 360. The name Sabasins, that has so much perplexed antiquaries and etymologists, is no more than a numerical name, which was given to Jupiter and to Bacchus as periodical deities. When the suppliant was initiated into the mysteries of Sabasins, a serpent, the symbol of revolution, was thrown upon his breast. Το ΣΑΒΟΕ, which the Greeks repeated so often in the feasts of Bacchus without understanding the meaning of the words, meant no more than the cycle of the year, from the Chaldean Sabb circuire vertere, etc. The ancient religion, which applied entirely to the motions of the heavens and periodical return of the stars, was for that reason named Sabianism, all derived from the Chaldee Seba, a revolution”; and this, though Boulanger knew it not, from the Irish Sabh, serpent, or pith.

Sabaism, therefore, and Ophiolatreia were all one with Gadelianism; and while, apparently, purporting to be the worship of the serpent and the stars, were in reality the worship of the Sabh or Yoni—so that the dialogue in Genesis between Eve and the serpent, was, in truth, a parley between Eve and the Yoni: and the materials for the allegory were afforded by[Pg 506] the fact of serpent and yoni being both expressed in the sacred, i.e. Irish language, by one and the same name, just as the Lingam and the Tree of Knowledge have been before identified.

The mystery, then, of our ancient escutcheon, viz. a serpent twisted round a rod, resolves itself into the Yoni embracing the Lingam.

Hence, too, it was that the portals of all the Egyptian temples were decorated with the impress of the circle and the serpent. You see also, why the seasons, at the equinoxes and solstices, should have been marked upon the circle at p. 225; and you further see the mysterious tendency of the Prophet’s injunction to his children, when he said, “Remember that ye are Sabians,” to have been equivalent with—Keep constantly in view that you are the offspring of concupiscence, and, by the suggestion of the serpent, begotten in sin, the penalty of which, as a breach of the Creator’s commandments, is inevitable death, from which you are only extricated through the promised Redeemer, emanating from the same source which was before instrumental in entailing your sorrow!

Every syllable of this is hieroglyphically expressed upon the plate inserted at p. 223, where you observe the cockatrice, or snake-god, placed at the bottom; over him the crescent, or mysterious boot, i.e. yoni, the object seduced; and, finally, the cross in triumph over both, intimating emancipation by the vicarious passion of God’s own Son.

This, then, is my answer to V. W.’s question at p. 225, where he asks, “What relation had this with the Nehustan, or brazen serpent, to which the Israelites paid divine honours in the time of Hezekiah?”

[Pg 507]From this Sabaism, or serpent worship, Ireland obtained the name of Tibholas or Tivolas; S and T being commutable letters, Tibholas is the same as Sibholas, and this being derived from sibal, a circle, shows the name to have been equivalent with the land of circles or revolutions, otherwise, both to the serpent and the planets.

Those prophetic women of Etruria, designated Sybils, were named from the same cause, being priestesses of the serpent, i.e. the Sabh or Yoni—allegorically represented as married to Apollo, and gifted with a longevity of a thousand years. Here, again, the same conversion of letters occurred, for the place which they inhabited was called from themselves, Tivola, corresponding to our Tivolas, the S and T being, as before explained, commutable, and b or bh being equivalent to v.

Pythia is exactly synonymous with Sybil, meaning the priestess who presided over the Pith, which, like Sabhus, means as well serpent as yoni: and the oracle which she attended was called Delphi, from de, divine, and phith, yoni—it being but a cave in the shape of that symbol,[600] over the orifice of which the priestess used to take her seat upon a sacred tripod, or the religiously emblematic pyramid,[601] while the inspiring vapour issued from beneath through a tube similar to that exhibited at p. 460, and one end of which, passing through the aperture, held fast the tripod to which the priestess had been secured, so that she should not, in her delirium, relinquish the position.

The great Samian philosopher, known as Pythagoras,[Pg 508] only assumed this name in deference to those rites: for Pyth-agoras means one who expounds the mysteries of the pith, viz. death from its weakness, and redemption from its virtue.

“Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call his name Immanuel,”[602] was the spiritual substance of those expositions: the only difference being in that Isaiah spoke prospectively towards a lately verified issue, whereas the initiated took the promise from the moment of the fall: and of its partial accomplishment prior to our era, there can be no doubt, even from the writings of this prophet.

On the opposite plate are three profile likenesses of Christ, as He appeared upon earth in human form—the first is a facsimile from a brass medal, found at Brein Owyn, in the Isle of Anglesey, and published in Rowland’s Mona Antiqua. The inscription upon it has been translated as meaning, “Jesus the Mighty, this is the Christ and the Man together.”

The second, likewise of brass, and found at Friar’s Walk, near Cork, is now in the possession of a Mr. Corlett.—Inscription upon one side, “The Lord Jesus.”—Upon the other, “Christ the King came in peace, and the light from the heaven was made life.”

You will please observe here, that he does not say the Word was made life, but the Light was made life.

The third is of silver, and the inscription means, “Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ—the Lord and the Man together.”

 [Pg 509]


[Pg 510]The originals of these inscriptions are all in Hebrew, and the likenesses which accompany them, although on different metals, appear almost copies one of another: whereas the cruciform figures herein already inserted, have no one feature of correspondence whatsoever with them, but prove themselves, on the contrary, in every particular, an antecedent generation.[603]

As everything else appertaining to the history of the Round Towers has already been explained, I[Pg 511] shall now account for the difference of appropriation noticed at p. 6. Having been all erected in honour of the Budh, they all partook of the phallic form; but as several enthusiasts personified this abstract, which, in consequence of the mysteries involved in the thought and the impenetrable veil which shrouded it from the vulgar, became synonymous with wisdom or wise man, it was necessary, of course, that the Towers constructed in honour of each should portray the distinctive attributes of the individuals specified. Hence the difference of apertures towards the præputial apex, the crucifixions over the doors, and the absence or presence of internal compartments.[604]

Those venerable piles vary in their elevation from fifty to one hundred and fifty feet. At some distance from the summit there springs out a sort of covering, which—accompanied as it sometimes is with a cornice, richly sculptured in foliage, in imitation, if you must have it, præputii humani, but such also was the pattern of the “nets of checker-work and wreaths of chain-work,” which graced “the chapiters which were upon the top of the two pillars belonging to Solomon’s temple”—terminates above in a sort of sugar-loaf crown, concave on the inside and convex on the outside.

Their diameter at the base is generally about[Pg 512] fourteen feet through, that inside measuring about eight, which decreases gradually, but imperceptibly, to the top, where it may be considered as about six feet in the interior.

The distance of the door from the level of the ground varies from four to twenty-four feet. The higher the door the more irrefragable is t