St. Patrick, And The Primitive Irish Church -- By: Enoch Pond
BSac 28:109 (Jan 1871) p. 21
St. Patrick, And The Primitive Irish Church1
Ireland, called originally Hibernia and Scotia,2 was almost a terra incognita to the ancients. Lying outside of Britain and Gaul, the Roman conquests did not reach it; and although some traditions of its fertility and beauty came to the knowledge of the Grecian mariners, it was, as to all useful purposes, an unknown country.
Its first settlers, like those of Gaul and Britain, were Celts. We know but little of the early history of this people. They seem to have constituted the first wave of immigration which rolled over from Asia into northern and western Europe. Through all their vicissitudes the Celts have been a peculiar people. Impulsive, light-hearted, fond of poetry, revelry, and song, they differ widely from the Sclaves, the Saxons, the Teutons, and the original inhabitants of Germany. They still occupy, as they have ever done, Wales, Ireland, and a considerable part of France.
The religion of this people, in their heathen state, was that of the Druids. This was a frightful, awful system, involved in deep mystery, inspiring terror, and well fitted to hold in subjection a turbulent and reckless people. It permeated their whole political and social state, forming their minds, their customs, and laws, and causing its influence to be felt everywhere, from the cottage to the throne.
BSac 28:109 (Jan 1871) p. 22
The Druidical priests secluded themselves as much as possible from the view of others. They dwelt in impenetrable forests, dens, and caverns, and practised their religious rites in the ‘greatest secrecy. They are said to have been worshippers of the oak, and when their sacred tree was cut down, would deify its shapeless stump. The misseltoe, a parasite clinging to the boughs of the oak, was also an object of high veneration. Their sacrifices were offered in thick groves of oak, and on some occasions in temples or more properly enclosures, formed of massy stones. Several of these cromlechs or enclosures are still standing in- different parts of England and Ireland. It will give us a sufficiently dreadful idea of the rites of the Druids to know that they were in the frequent, if not constant, practice of offering human sacrifices. The victims were generally selected from among criminals; but when these were Wanting, they did not scruple to sacrifice innocent persons. Lucan describes a grove in which the Druids performed their rites; and, after stating that the trees were so thick and interwoven that the rays of the sun could scarcely penetrate them, he adds: “There was nothing to be seen there but a multitude of altars, upon whi...
Click here to subscribe