The DRUIDS were the priests and judges of Gaul before it was Romanized and of Britain before it was Christianized. Caesar, whose account is the most important, found their religion much like the Roman one; he says they worshipped Dis, Mercury, Apollo, Mars, Jupiter, and Minerva (under other names, of course), but differed in preaching transmigration. They offered human sacrifice, burning their victims in wicker cages. They held the oak sacred, and worshipped in oak groves, cutting the rare mistletoe with a golden knife. By Blake’s time, the Druids had become thoroughly romanticized. They were confused with the bards, as in Gray’s ode. They were supposed to have erected Stonehenge, the temple at Avebury, and all other prehistoric remains, which were actually much earlier. The mythagogues speculated wildly where the British and their priests had come from. Of course they had to be descendants of Noah. William Stukeley considered them Phoenicians who had preserved the religion of Abraham uncorrupted. Edward Davies put them still earlier: they were descendants of Ashkenaz, eldest son of Gomer and great-grandson of Noah. Richard Brothers believed they were of the ten Lost Tribes. The climax came when the unfortunate Francis Wilford actually placed the Biblical patriarchs in Britain, and apparently was about to reveal that Britain itself was the original seat of Biblical history, when in 1805, he was obliged to reveal the forgeries of his Hindu assistants, who had provided for him what they thought he wanted. Blake seized upon Wilford’s theory with patriotic zeal, and gave it full expression. “All things begin & end in Albion’s ancient Druid rocky shore” (Mil 6:25; J 32:15). Adam, Noah, and the others were Druids, and Britain was “the Primitive Seat of the Patriarchal Religion” as the Druid Temples and Oak Groves “over the whole Earth witness to this day” (J 27; 70:16; 79:66; 89:23; 98:50). For this belief Blake had classical authority. Richard of Cirencester wrote (and Holinshed quoted him): “The doctrine of the druids is said to have been first invented in Britain, and from thence carried into Gaul; on which account Pliny says (in his thirtieth book), ‘But why should I commemorate these things with regard to an art which has passed over the sea, and reached the bounds of nature? Britain even at this time celebrates it with so many wonderful ceremonies, that she seems to have taught it to the Persians.’” Julius Caesar affirms much the same in his Commentaries. Wilfred’s retraction of 1805 did not deter Blake from using his theory: is not poetry truer than history? Blake was an enthusiast but no fool; and his claim of the British origin of everything is to be taken in precisely the same spirit which led him to put Gothic churches as well as druidic ruins in the land of Uz during the days of Job, and to assert that the Lamb of God in ancient times lived in England’s pleasant pastures, and that Jerusalem was built there among the mills. But to Blake, Druidism, far from being the pure faith of Abraham, symbolized Deism, the religion of the Natural Man, the savage, which was originally universal, and which (however modified) still exists. It is the Covering Cherub itself, the “Druid Spectre” which is the last enemy to be overcome. It is the whole system of Good and Evil, of the Accuser of Sin and human sacrifice for sin, the invention of “Albion’s Spectre, the Patriarch Druid” (J 98:46–50). It was the religion of the patriarchs from Adam, until Abraham shrank from sacrificing his first born, substituting the ram. It overspread the earth “in patriarchal pomp & cruel pride” (J 79:67). Blake describes the building of Stonehenge “of Reasonings, of unhewn Demonstrations in labyrinthine arches (Mighty Urizen the Architect) thro’ which the Heavens might revolve & Eternity be bound in their chain. Labour unparallell’d! a wondrous rocky World of cruel destiny, rocks piled on rocks reaching the stars, stretching from pole to pole. The Building is Natural Religion & its Altars Natural Morality, a building of eternal death, whose proportions are eternal despair” (J 66:3). Stukeley (1740) believed that the temples were erected for serpent worship and that the sanctuary at Avebury was actually laid out in the form of a snake. To Blake, the serpent was the symbol of Nature. So he described the imaginary temple at Verulam as “serpent-form’d,” with “oak-surrounded pillars”; it was made of “massy stones, uncut with tool . . . plac’d in order of the stars.” It was built when the senses had been closed. Then “Thought chang’d the infinite to a serpent, that which pitieth to a devouring flame”; consequently the serpent temple was “image of infinite shut up in finite revolutions, and man became an Angel, Heaven a mighty circle turning, God a tyrant crown’d” (Eur 10:1–23). Elsewhere Blake refers to the “Serpent Temples” ( J 42:76; 80:48) and even calls them “Dragon Temples” ( J 25:4; 47:6), because Deism promotes war. He represented the Avebury temple as a serpent on the last plate of Jerusalem, but with simple coils in place of head and tail. Human sacrifice, for Blake, was the keynote of Druidism. Twice he referred to the wicker idol in which human beings, innocent as well as guilty, were burned alive (Mil 37:11; J 43:65); but his attention was centered on the altar, the “slaughter stone” of Stonehenge (J 66:13, 19), on which the victims were presumably sacrificed (Mil 12: 8; J 27:30–32; 63:39; 65:63; 78:29; 83:12; 94:25; 98:48). Blake credits the Druids with inventing “Female chastity” (J 17:14; 63:25), so that they become slaughterers of men. (It is quite possible that the mythagogues had developed some theory of vestal virgins, of the type of Bellini’s Norma.) The enormous rocks of these temples are their most impressive feature, and Blake constantly connects rocks and stones with the Druids, meaning that their religion is a petrifaction of human feelings. He uses their architecture symbolically, as in the illustrations to Job. There is a magnificent trilithon, far huger than anything actually erected, on Plate 70 of Jerusalem; others appear in Milton, Plates 4 and 6. There are many prehistoric stone circles in Britain. “The Druids rear’d their Rocky Circles to make permanent Remembrance of Sin, & the Tree of Good & Evil sprang from the Rocky Circle & Snake of the Druid” (J 92:24). Blake refers to circles in Malden, Strathness, and Dura (J 90:62), and refers again to Hants, Devon, and Wilts, “surrounded with masses of stone in order’d forms” (J 83:10). Rocking Stones were also supposed to have been erected by the Druids. Blake refers to them once (J 90:59) and depicts one in Milton, Plate 6. He also refers to the sacred mistletoe as a parasite. “As the Mistletoe grows on the Oak, so Albion’s Tree on Eternity” (J 66:55). The various pillars which the patriarchs erected were druidic (J 27:40). Greek philosophy was “a remnant of Druidism” (J 52)—possibly a reminiscence of the mythagogues’ theory that Pythagoras learned of transmigration from the Druids. Jerusalem, fainting at the cross, hears a voice: “Wilt thou make Rome thy Patriarch Druid & the Kings of Europe his Horsemen?” (J 61:50). Druid architecture is seen in the head of the Covering Cherub (J 89:22). But “the whole Druid Law [Jesus] removes away” (J 69:39).