THE WICKER MAN Tradition in Scotland
THE WICKER MAN
From the Book of Glasgow Cathedral, Glasgow, 1898
Fullest of all, however, in his description of the worship
carried on in these Druidic temples, is Caesar himself. The whole
Celtic race, he declares, was given over to religion, and it was
the custom for those afflicted with grievous sicknesses, and those
engaged in battles and dangerous enterprises, either to sacrifice
other men as victims, or to vow themselves to the sacrifice. At
these oblations the Druids were the ministers. They judged it
impossible to appease the mind of the gods for the life of one
man except by the offering up of the life of another.
Sacrifices of this sort were publicly offered. Some of the tribes were in
the habit of weaving wicker images of huge size ; the interior of these was
filled with living persons, fire was kindled below, and the whole reduced
to ashes. Such sacrifices they deemed highly pleasing to the immortal gods.
The sacrificed were generally persons taken in the act of murder or theft,
but when these proved scarce they even made use of innocent folk.
The priests acted both as the judges and teachers of the people. Among
other things, they taught that the souls of men did not perish,
but passed at deatli from one body to another, a belief which
spurred the warriors to the greatest bravery, and brought them
to scorn the terrors of death. To the young, the historian adds,
they taught many things besides, concerning the stars and their
movement, the universe, and the size of worlds, natural history,
and the strength and powers of the immortal gods.
Diodorus Siculus, again, who wrote a few years later than
Csesar, and is said to have visited personally every place he
described, furnishes some testimony. He relates how the priests
of the north practised the arts of divination. They watched the
entrails of sacrifices for signs of good or ill fortune to the offerers.
They studied, for similar purposes, the flight of birds, the cry of
fowls, the look of growing things, the fall of lots, and the omens
of storms and comets. And they decided the actions of chiefs on great
occasions by the contortions of a man slain at a single blow.
1 See Elton's " Origins of English History," pp. 23-25. - Diodorus Siculus, ii. 47.
2 Caesar, " De Bello Gallico," vi. 13-17.