Saint Machar

Interior of Cathedral Church of St. Machar, Old Aberdeen.

St Machor was one of the disciples of St Columba, the famous apostle of the Northern Picts and founder of the celebrated monastery of Iona. According to the ‘Aberdeen Breviary,’ “sanctum virum gignit Hibernia, educavit illum Albania, cujus corpus in reverentia Turonensis tenet ecclesia.” He was the son of Syaconus or Fiachna, an Irish kingling, and Synchena or Finchœmia, his wife, both of whom appear to have been Christians. At baptism, a rite which, according to the ‘Aberdeen Breviary’ was performed for him by St Colman, he received the name of Mocumma. St Colman was also his first instructor. Proofs and indications of his sanctity were vouchsafed while he was yet a child. Angels visited him, and hovered around his home and cradle; at the touch of his body his dead brother was restored to life, and twice he was miraculously delivered from death by drowning and by fire. Sent by his father to be instructed by St Columba, he soon became a most devoted scholar and disciple of that saint. When Columba was about to leave Ireland for Scotland, Mocumma refused to be left behind, and resolved to leave his country and home and friends in order to be with him. Overjoyed with the zeal and attachment of his disciple, Columba changed his name from Mocumma to Machor or Machar. When they landed on the island of Iona, Machor was carried ashore by a certain Melluma. After the cells had been built and the community thoroughly established in their new home, St Columba sent Machor to evangelise the island of Mull. There he preached the Gospel over the whole land and healed seven lepers. Returning to Iona after the completion of his work in Mull, he devoted himself to study and to the copying of the Scriptures, one of the chief works in which the disciples of Columba were engaged. One day as he wrote the light failed him, but blowing on “his fyngre-end,” a bright light immediately issued from it, and lighted him until his task was done. The fame which this and other miracles brought him, soon caused great companies to gather around him, offering him gifts, all of which, however, he refused to accept. On the other hand, his fellow-disciples were moved with jealousy, and attempted to poison him. Alarmed for the personal safety of his favourite disciple, Columba advised him to withdraw from the island, and preach the Gospel elsewhere. Machor accepted his advice, and Columba gave him seven, or, according to another account, twelve companions, a bishop’s staff, a girdle, two coats, and a number of books, and then sent him away in a “galay” or boat, but not before his fellow-disciples who had made the attempt on his life had been reconciled to him. Machor landed in the north of Scotland, where a Christian man named Farcare resided, who received him with great joy, and allowed him to choose any portion of his land on which to build his cell. After much searching, he selected a piece in the shape of a bishop’s staff, which answered to the description Columba had given him of the place where he was to fix his dwelling. Here he caused a “costly kirk” to be built, and miraculously provided a supply of water for the thirsty workmen. Here also he collected round him a great company of disciples. St Devenick came to visit him, and the two agreed that St Devenick should preach the Gospel in Caithness, and that St Machor should confine himself to the Picts. St Machor threw himself into his work with great earnestness, and converted a large number of Picts and wrought numerous miracles. He changed a bear, which was destroying the harvest, into a stone; he overcame a heathen sorcerer named Dinon or Dron, and then converted and baptised him; he gave sight to a man that was born blind, and raised Synchenus, who belonged to the kindred of St Columba, from death to life; two young Irishmen, attracted by his fame, having mocked him, came by a violent end; having ploughed a large field which was lean and dry, and seed failing him with which to sow it, he sent to borrow some from St Teman, who sent instead a sack of sand — but sowing this, it sprang up and bore an abundant harvest; a bone which had stuck in the throat of a man Avho had despised him, he safely extracted, and received in return a piece of land on which to build a church. One day St Teman came to visit him; he entertained him, and the two held a long conversation on heavenly things, Machor becoming the instructor of his visitor, and causing him to marvel at his wisdom. As he lay on the point of death St Devenick besought his disciples to carry his dead body to one of the churches of St Machor for burial, and, instructed by a vision, the latter went to meet the funeral procession. He met it near the Hill of Croscan, and accompanied it to Banchory-Devenick, where the saint was buried, and a church erected over his tomb. When St Columba proceeded on his pilgrimage to Rome, Machor accompanied him. Both were graciously received by Gregory the Great, who appointed Machor bishop of the Picts, or, according to another account, bishop of Tours, changed his name to Morice or Mauritius, and instructed him in the duties of a bishop. On their return journey Columba and Machor visited Tours. The clergy of that city were then searching for the body of St Martin. On applying to St Columba for assistance, he promised to help them on the condition that he should have whatever he found with the body. His search was successful and along with the body he found a missal or “a book of the Gospel,” which he treasured all the remainder of his life as a precious relic. St Columba then took his way home, but left Machor, much against his will, though at the earnest request of the people of Tours. For the space of three years and a half St Machor occupied the Chair of St Martin, by whom he was visited. His deathbed was visited by St Martin from heaven, by St Columba from Iona, and by the Son of God, and ever and around it were the company of the Apostles, and a great host of heavenly beings.

The old Latin life from which the six lections in the ‘Aberdeen Breviary,’ November 12, and the passages in Colgan’s ‘Trias Thaumaturga,’ 318, 514, appear to have been taken, is now lost. Besides these, cf. Reeves, ‘Life of St Columba by Adamnan’; Forbes, ‘Kal. of Scottish Saints,’ sub Mauritius; J. Smith, ‘Life of St Columba.’ The narrative given in the Legend is the longest and fullest and most important known. Machor is mentioned in the Arbuthnott and Aberdeen Calendars, and in Adam King’s, where he is said to have lived during the reign of ‘King Soluathius in Scotland.” The ‘Menologium Scotium’ refers to him, January 15 and November 12. and in the Calendar of David Camerarius he occurs under November 13.

His day is November 12.

— John Barbour, Legends of the Saints, ed. W. M. Metcalfe, Vol. III, Edinburgh: Wm. Blackwood and Sons, 1896.

Vercingetorix Stater

Vercingetorix_stater_CdM
Gold Stater of Vercingetorix.

Vachères Warrior

The Vachères warrior, a statue of a Gaulish warrior; Museum Calvet, Avignon, France. ca. I century B.C. Note the torc and Roman clothing/armour.

Gallia Est Omnis Divisa in Partes Tres

Gaul on the eve of the Gallic Wars. Roman ethnography divides Gaul into five parts, Gallia Cisalpina, Gallia Narbonensis, Gallia Aquitania, Gallia Celtica (largely corresponding to the later province Gallia Lugdunensis) and Gallia Belgica.

The first day of second year Latin class:

Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres, quarum unam incolunt Belgae, aliam Aquitani, tertiam qui ipsorum lingua Celtae, nostra Galli appellantur. Hi omnes lingua, institutis, legibus inter se differunt. Gallos ab Aquitanis Garumna flumen, a Belgis Matrona et Sequana dividit. Horum omnium fortissimi sunt Belgae, propterea quod a cultu atque humanitate provinciae longissime absunt, minimeque ad eos mercatores saepe commeant atque ea quae ad effeminandos animos pertinent important, proximique sunt Germanis, qui trans Rhenum incolunt, quibuscum continenter bellum gerunt. Qua de causa Helvetii quoque reliquos Gallos virtute praecedunt, quod fere cotidianis proeliis cum Germanis contendunt, cum aut suis finibus eos prohibent aut ipsi in eorum finibus bellum gerunt. Eorum una, pars, quam Gallos obtinere dictum est, initium capit a flumine Rhodano, continetur Garumna flumine, Oceano, finibus Belgarum, attingit etiam ab Sequanis et Helvetiis flumen Rhenum, vergit ad septentriones. Belgae ab extremis Galliae finibus oriuntur, pertinent ad inferiorem partem fluminis Rheni, spectant in septentrionem et orientem solem. Aquitania a Garumna flumine ad Pyrenaeos montes et eam partem Oceani quae est ad Hispaniam pertinet; spectat inter occasum solis et septentriones.

— Gaius Julius Cæsar, De Bello Gallico, Book I, Chapter 1.

Carnyx

Carnyx found in the Gallic sanctuary of Tintignac (Corrèze). Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie (Paris), “Les Gaulois, une expo renversante”, from 19-10-2011 to 02-09-2012.

Their trumpets again are of a peculiar barbarian kind; they blow into them and produce a harsh sound which suits the tumult of war.

— Diodorus Siculus around 60-30 BC (Histories, 5.30).

The word “carnyx” is derived from the Gaulish root, “carn-” or “cern-” meaning “antler” or “horn,” and the same root of the name of the god, Cernunnos (Delmarre, 1987 pp. 106–107). This is the name the Romans gave to the instrument. The original Celtic name is unknown.

Three carnyx players are depicted on plate E of the Gundestrup cauldron.

Alii Immani Magnitudine Simulacra Habent

Engraving of a Wicker Man; possibly XVIII century?

Natio est omnis Gallorum admodum dedita religionibus, atque ob eam causam, qui sunt adfecti gravioribus morbis quique in proeliis periculisque versantur, aut pro victimis homines immolant aut se immolaturos vovent administrisque ad ea sacrificia druidibus utuntur, quod, pro vita hominis nisi hominis vita reddatur, non posse deorum immortalium numen placari arbitrantur, publiceque eiusdem generis habent instituta sacrificia. Alii immani magnitudine simulacra habent, quorum contexta viminibus membra vivis hominibus complent; quibus succensis circumventi flamma exanimantur homines. Supplicia eorum qui in furto aut in latrocinio aut aliqua noxia sint comprehensi gratiora dis immortalibus esse arbitrantur; sed, cum eius generis copia defecit, etiam ad innocentium supplicia descendunt.

– Gaius Julius Cæsar, De Bello Gallico, Book 6, Chapter 16.

Cæsar on the Druids

Druid’s Oak at Burnham Beeches.

Chapter XIII

Throughout all Gaul there are two orders of those men who are of any rank and dignity: for the commonality is held almost in the condition of slaves, and dares to undertake nothing of itself, and is admitted to no deliberation. The greater part, when they are pressed either by debt, or the large amount of their tributes, or the oppression of the more powerful, give themselves up in vassalage to the nobles, who possess over them the same rights without exception as masters over their slaves. But of these two orders, one is that of the Druids, the other that of the knights. The former are engaged in things sacred, conduct the public and the private sacrifices, and interpret all matters of religion. To these a large number of the young men resort for the purpose of instruction, and they [the Druids] are in great honor among them. For they determine respecting almost all controversies, public and private; and if any crime has been perpetrated, if murder has been committed, if there be any dispute about an inheritance, if any about boundaries, these same persons decide it; they decree rewards and punishments; if any one, either in a private or public capacity, has not submitted to their decision, they interdict him from the sacrifices. This among them is the most heavy punishment. Those who have been thus interdicted are esteemed in the number of the impious and the criminal: all shun them, and avoid their society and conversation, lest they receive some evil from their contact; nor is justice administered to them when seeking it, nor is any dignity bestowed on them. Over all these Druids one presides, who possesses supreme authority among them. Upon his death, if any individual among the rest is pre-eminent in dignity, he succeeds; but, if there are many equal, the election is made by the suffrages of the Druids; sometimes they even contend for the presidency with arms. These assemble at a fixed period of the year in a consecrated place in the territories of the Carnutes, which is reckoned the central region of the whole of Gaul. Hither all, who have disputes, assemble from every part, and submit to their decrees and determinations. This institution is supposed to have been devised in Britain, and to have been brought over from it into Gaul; and now those who desire to gain a more accurate knowledge of that system generally proceed thither for the purpose of studying it.

Chapter XIV

The Druids do not go to war, nor pay tribute together with the rest; they have an exemption from military service and a dispensation in all matters. Induced by such great advantages, many embrace this profession of their own accord, and [many] are sent to it by their parents and relations. They are said there to learn by heart a great number of verses; accordingly some remain in the course of training twenty years. Nor do they regard it lawful to commit these to writing, though in almost all other matters, in their public and private transactions, they use Greek characters. That practice they seem to me to have adopted for two reasons; because they neither desire their doctrines to be divulged among the mass of the people, nor those who learn, to devote themselves the less to the efforts of memory, relying on writing; since it generally occurs to most men, that, in their dependence on writing, they relax their diligence in learning thoroughly, and their employment of the memory. They wish to inculcate this as one of their leading tenets, that souls do not become extinct, but pass after death from one body to another, and they think that men by this tenet are in a great degree excited to valor, the fear of death being disregarded. They likewise discuss and impart to the youth many things respecting the stars and their motion, respecting the extent of the world and of our earth, respecting the nature of things, respecting the power and the majesty of the immortal gods.

– Gaius Julius Cæsar, De Bello Gallico, Book 6, Chapters 13 & 14.

* * *

13. In omni Gallia eorum hominum, qui aliquo sunt numero atque honore, genera sunt duo. Nam plebes paene servorum habetur loco, quae nihil audet per se, nullo adhibetur consilio. Plerique, cum aut aere alieno aut magnitudine tributorum aut iniuria potentiorum premuntur, sese in servitutem dicant nobilibus: in hos eadem omnia sunt iura, quae dominis in servos. Sed de his duobus generibus alterum est druidum, alterum equitum. Illi rebus divinis intersunt, sacrificia publica ac privata procurant, religiones interpretantur: ad hos magnus adulescentium numerus disciplinae causa concurrit, magnoque hi sunt apud eos honore. Nam fere de omnibus controversiis publicis privatisque constituunt, et, si quod est admissum facinus, si caedes facta, si de hereditate, de finibus controversia est, idem decernunt, praemia poenasque constituunt; si qui aut privatus aut populus eorum decreto non stetit, sacrificiis interdicunt. Haec poena apud eos est gravissima. Quibus ita est interdictum, hi numero impiorum ac sceleratorum habentur, his omnes decedunt, aditum sermonemque defugiunt, ne quid ex contagione incommodi accipiant, neque his petentibus ius redditur neque honos ullus communicatur. His autem omnibus druidibus praeest unus, qui summam inter eos habet auctoritatem. Hoc mortuo aut si qui ex reliquis excellit dignitate succedit, aut, si sunt plures pares, suffragio druidum, nonnumquam etiam armis de principatu contendunt. Hi certo anni tempore in finibus Carnutum, quae regio totius Galliae media habetur, considunt in loco consecrato. Huc omnes undique, qui controversias habent, conveniunt eorumque decretis iudiciisque parent. Disciplina in Britannia reperta atque inde in Galliam translata esse existimatur, et nunc, qui diligentius eam rem cognoscere volunt, plerumque illo discendi causa proficiscuntur.

14. Druides a bello abesse consuerunt neque tributa una cum reliquis pendunt; militiae vacationem omniumque rerum habent immunitatem. Tantis excitati praemiis et sua sponte multi in disciplinam conveniunt et a parentibus propinquisque mittuntur. Magnum ibi numerum versuum ediscere dicuntur. Itaque annos nonnulli vicenos in disciplina permanent. Neque fas esse existimant ea litteris mandare, cum in reliquis fere rebus, publicis privatisque rationibus Graecis litteris utantur. Id mihi duabus de causis instituisse videntur, quod neque in vulgum disciplinam efferri velint neque eos, qui discunt, litteris confisos minus memoriae studere: quod fere plerisque accidit, ut praesidio litterarum diligentiam in perdiscendo ac memoriam remittant. In primis hoc volunt persuadere, non interire animas, sed ab aliis post mortem transire ad alios, atque hoc maxime ad virtutem excitari putant metu mortis neglecto. Multa praeterea de sideribus atque eorum motu, de mundi ac terrarum magnitudine, de rerum natura, de deorum immortalium vi ac potestate disputant et iuventuti tradunt.

— C. Iuli Cæsaris, Commentariorum de Bello Gallico, Liber Sextus, xiii & xiv.

Omnium Consensu ad Eum Defertur Imperium

Vercingetorix (82 BC – 46 BC) was the chieftain of the Arverni tribe, who united the Gauls in an ultimately unsuccessful revolt against Roman forces during the last phase of Julius Caesar’s Gallic Wars.

There in like manner, Vercingetorix the son of Celtillus the Arvernian, a young man of the highest power (whose father had held the supremacy of entire Gaul, and had been put to death by his fellow-citizens, for this reason, because he aimed at sovereign power), summoned together his dependents, and easily excited them. On his design being made known, they rush to arms: he is expelled from the town of Gergovia, by his uncle Gobanitio and the rest of the nobles, who were of opinion, that such an enterprise ought not to be hazarded: he did not however desist, but held in the country a levy of the needy and desperate. Having collected such a body of troops, he brings over to his sentiments such of his fellow-citizens as he has access to: he exhorts them to take up arms in behalf of the general freedom, and having assembled great forces he drives from the state his opponents, by whom he had been expelled a short time previously. He is saluted king by his partisans; he sends embassadors in every direction, he conjures them to adhere firmly to their promise. He quickly attaches to his interests the Senones, Parisii, Pictones, Cadurci, Turones, Aulerci, Lemovice, and all the others who border on the ocean; the supreme command is conferred on him by unanimous consent. On obtaining this authority, he demands hostages from all these states, he orders a fixed number of soldiers to be sent to him immediately; he determines what quantity of arms each state shall prepare at home, and before what time; he pays particular attention to the cavalry. To the utmost vigilance he adds the utmost rigor of authority; and by the severity of his punishments brings over the wavering: for on the commission of a greater crime he puts the perpetrators to death by fire and every sort of tortures; for a slighter cause, he sends home the offenders with their ears cut off, or one of their eyes put out, that they may be an example to the rest, and frighten others by the severity of their punishment.

— Gaius Julius Cæsar, De Bello Gallico, Book 7, Chapter 4.