Billeder på siden

Then the bard, after further describing the excellence of his steed, adds that he himself had a circle of ruddy gems on his golden shield-Rhudd em fy nghylchwy; eur fy ysgwydrwy.

It cannot fail to have attracted the notice of the antiquary that the figure of a horse, in one shape or another, is on a great many of those pieces of gold and silver called British coins, and that the same animal is very frequently introduced in the imageries of the British bards; such as march gwelw gostrodwr (the grey pannel steed), march Mayang (the steed of Maia), march Genethawg (the steed of Proserpine), march Caradawc (the steed of Caractacus), march Arthur (the steed of Arthur), march Ceidio (the steed of Ceidio), and others mentioned in Taliesin's Canu y Meirch. Now, these horses were owned by the gods, and were all magical horses. They had appropriate names; and these names served to distinguish the different pieces of gold and silver upon which they were delineated, so that by those known names, as talismans, a particular piece could be dealt out to any person entitled to such a safeguard, according to his merit, degree, or choice; for there are reasons for thinking that the Druidical fferylltiaid made a market of these amulets. Some of these distinguishing names are preserved in Taliesin, such as Cornan Cynneifiog (the harbinger of the crescent), Pybyr Llai Llwynin (the vigour of the gloomy grove); Deu dich far Dichwant (apparently, a pair of horses in a chariot, rendered in the Welsh Archaeology, "the two hen-headed unbiassed steeds "); Carngraff (braced-hoof); Carn Gaffon (grasping hoofs); Carn Aflawg (forked-hoof); Cethin (frightful); Trychethin (most frightful), &c. The description of these magical and talismanic horses, by the bards, not only corresponds to their names, but also to their delineations on the coins. For example, in the talisman of Cynfelin, already noticed, the bard describes a horse of the most frightful form, with its haunches cut off, with ringed sticks for legs or hoofs, with a bird's beak, with short bones, and "shorter riders."

[blocks in formation]

precisely corresponding to the description we have on No. 8 of Camden's coins (Tab. I.), as well as on many of Borlase's Carnbre coins, the grotesque delineation of a horse with the head and beak of a bird, and with detached pieces of knotted sticks for legs, the whole presenting the most hideous and unnatural figure. Similar delineations are on Nos. 24 and 29. To this, or the like talisman, Taliesin refers in saying

Cethin march Ceidiaw,
Corn Avarn arpaw.

Terrible is the steed of Ceidiaw
With the horn of Avarn.

A great many more instances could be pointed out of the perfect agreement between the descriptions given by the British Bards of the talismanic horses and the delineations on the British coins.

The striking similarity between the hints given by the Bards of the mysteries of Druidism and the emblems on these coins cannot have been accidental, but must have been the result of the same knowledge in the bard and the coiner. Accordingly, Taliesin, as we have seen, describes the goddess Ceridwen as a mare and a hen, and on the coins we find a mare with the head and beak of a hen. Such an unnatural figure could not have been imagined by both the bard and the coiner, had not both known that such a figure was an emblem of the goddess. It cannot be urged that either the coins or the bardic doctrines are modern, or that either the former or the latter have recently been forged to illustrate the other. The indubitable antiquity of both is a double proof that they belong to one and the same system of religious superstition. On the other hand, the grotesqueness of these coins cannot be attributed to the rude state of the art of coining or engraving among the Britons at the time these pieces were executed; for on one side of many of them can be seen a human head executed with as much neatness as on coins of the present day, while on the other side the more simple parts of the horse, such as the head and legs, are delineated in the most fantastic manner imaginable. Also, on coins of apparently different dies, this disparity is evident; the human head, the beaded border, the crescent, the wheel and other symbols being executed with accuracy, while the figure of a horse is wrought with a bird's head, with a bent back, and with disjointed legs, representing pieces of knotty wood, and sometimes portions of the animal absent, but generally the head and beak of a bird conspicuous. This systematic deviation from nature must have been designed to represent some definite sentiments, in that age, well understood by those for whom the coins were intended. That they were so understood is clear from the fact that on some of the coins there are only portions of the emblems represented, such as only the legs of the horse, or a lunette for his hollow back. To us, however, in this distant age, Taliesin-who, when Druidism had been suppressed, appears to have considered himself so far released from the obligations of his oath of secrecy as to be able to divulge a little of its mysteries-affords the only explanation in his description of Ceridwen as a hen, a mare, a boat, &c. If we ask what is the whimsical figure on this or that coin in the shape of a mare, with a lunette for a back, a circle for a rump, pieces of detached sticks for legs, and the skull and beak of a fowl for a head,

Taliesin explains it in describing the goddess Ceridwen as a proud mare swelling out like a ship, and as a hen with a double crest; or in describing other talismanic equine figures of the most grotesque forms in his Canu Meirch, to be noticed anon. Thus are these coins explained by the mystical lore of Druidism, as we find it obscurely taught in the remains of the British Bards; and thus is this mystic lore explained by the coins; the one alternately elucidating the other.

Many, if not all of these pieces of gold and silver, which we now call coins, were regarded by the ancient Britons as charms or talismans, and granted by the Druids, under certain regulations, to those votaries that were entitled to them. They appear, as already noticed, to have been awarded as badges of honour and distinction in the Druidical degrees of the hierarchy; and most especially were they given to those who went to war for the defence of their country, as charms or talismans whose virtues were believed both to protect the wearer and slay his enemies. It is to such talismans as these Taliesin, in Cadeir Teyrn On, seems repeatedly to refer, calling these badges Arwyddion (ensigns):-

Pwy y tri chynweisad
A warchedwis gwlad?
Pwy y tri chyfarwydd,
A gedwis arwydd,
A ddaw wrth awydd
Erbyn eu harglwydd?

Who are the three field officers
That have defended the country?
Who are the three expert men,
That, having preserved their ensigns,
Come with zeal to meet their lord?

There are in this poem many other allusions to these gold and silver talismans, which are said to emanate from the crucible of Ogyrven (pair Ogyrwen), and dealt out by the priests to the votaries of Druidism; such as:

Pedair caer yssydd

Ym Mhrydain powyssedd
Rhieu merwerydd.

Four sanctuaries there are in Britain established
With chiefs who are alchymists.

There is also a remarkable passage in Cad Goddeu, where Taliesin says that, having been exorcised or charmed by Mâth -a name which appears to be the same with Bâth, signifying coinage-he adds:

A'm swynwys i Wydion
Mawr nwr o Brython,
O eurwys o eurwn,
O euron, o fedron,

O bump pumphwnt celfyddon,
Athrawon ail Mâth.

Which appears to mean that he was charmed or indued by

Gwidion (Woden or Mercury), the great British chemist, with gold rings, gold jewels, and gold gems, made by five times five hundred thousand scientific artists, the sons of Math, or the


These trinkets, which were manufactured by the fferylltiaid, or Druidical metallurgists, are represented in the Bards-just as we read of the talismans dealt out by the priests of Ceres in the sacred island of Samothrace, who were unquestionably a kind of Druids—as being certain to preserve the possessor from all evil, whether given as honorary badges, as signs of degrees in the Druidical order, as protection to warriors, or as amulets to the ordinary votaries of Druidism. Similar things were among many other ancient nations. Amulets were in great repute among the Arabians, who gave them the name, talisman. The Jews were very superstitious in regard to them; the early Christians made great use of them; and they were very prevalent among the. Greeks and Romans. The former, like the Britons, had coins or medals, on which the mare or the goddess Hippa, already noticed, was depicted in the most fantastic manner, having the body of a woman and the head of a mare-sometimes three such heads on the same body. The Egyptians had talismans on which, as on the British coins, there was the figure of a bull, accompanied with that of a lunette of stars, &c. On the reverse of a great many of the ancient coins of Syria, the goddess Cybele or Ceres is represented holding in her hand ears of corn, &c. A volume might be filled with the account of ancient nations who had the mysteries of their religion emblematically depicted on their amulets, which they believed efficient to preserve them from all evil. Read Philostratus, Icon. lib. ii.; Porph. De Antro Nymph. c. i. ; Diodorus Sic. lib. i. Gruter Inscript. vol. i. and especially Payne Knight's Symbolical Language and Worship of Priapus.

Of all talismans, however, that under the name Gwarchan Cynfelin (the talisman of Cunobelin) is perhaps, as described by the British bard, the most wonderful in its miraculous effects. The gem of gold awarded to the warrior would cause a gleam of light to direct him, inspire him with courage, and indue him with power to engage in the most perilous and daring enterprises, to overwhelm his enemies with disaster and cover them with clotted gore from the army of Cynfelin. It cannot be too often repeated that the Cynfelin mentioned here and the Cunobelin on the British coins have no reference to the British king, called by Latin writers Cunobelinus, and by Welsh writers Cynfelyn, who lived in the time of the emperors Augustus and Tiberius. For the real name of this king appears to have been Brân. He is said to have been the father of the illustrious Caractacus (Caradawc); and both the Bards and the

Triads tell us that the father of Caractacus was Brân. Neither Nennius nor Richard of Cirencester mentions Cunobelinus or Cynfelyn. Cunobelinus, meaning Lord Belin, or Dominus Sol, a title of Apollo, as already explained, must have been a divine. title assumed by or conferred on this king. The title of Belin or Belinus seems to have been assumed by other British rulers. Nennius, and also Geoffrey, call the British field-marshal who fought against Cæsar Belinus, which is evidently meant as a title. It was anciently a very common practice of the Assyrian, Jewish, and other monarchs to assume the titles of their deities. Hence Annibal, Asdrubal, Belshazzar, Jerubbaal, &c. (See Baxter's Glossary under "Caractacus.") But the description given of the Cynfelyn to whom the talisman under notice is attributed is not, any more than the representation of him on the coins, applicable to a human being. This Cunobelin is a focus of light (lug); this indignant Cunobelin is, the lofty source of wrath, the feeder of the birds of prey, who, with the divine allurer, Dyrreith, at the pace of Moryon, will go under the thighs of the brave:

Cynfelyn gasnar,
Ysgwn bryffwn bar,
Goborthiat adar,
A'r denin dwyar,
Dyrreith grad Voryon,
A dan vordwyt haelon.

Such is the Cunobelin of the talisman, and such the Cunobelin of the coins. Taliesin speaks of the fire of Cunobelin which is in the face of every mountain :—

Seith tân ufelin

Seith cad cyferbin

Seithfed Cynfelyn y pob cinhvan.

It is remarkable that on one side of almost all the British coins there is either the name or the symbol of the solar divinity Cunobelin, and that, on the other, there is some symbol of the lunar goddess Ceridwen; thus connecting the two principal deities of the Britons; particularly of the Druids, of whom Strabo (lib. 4), on the authority of Artemidorus, says that they celebrated the worship of Isis or the moon with the same rites as in Samothrace in their chief seat-the isle of Mona ("Shir Fôn"), which clearly has taken its present Welsh name Môn (Eng. Anglesea) from the worship of the moon, called in Greek Moen or Mene. The island was anciently called Menai; and, to this day, the frith between it and the main-land is called Aber-menai, or the Straits of Menai; and now we have Menai Bridge. The island may, as Rowlands says, have been called Ynys Dywyll (the Dark Island), when, anciently, it was one vast Druidical grove; and also called Ynys y Cedyrn (the Isle of the Mighty), from the power of the Druidical hierarchy; but it was

« ForrigeFortsæt »