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Stonehenge, a prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, England, 2 mi (3 km) west of Amesbury, consists of a ring of standing stones -- each one around 13 feet (4.0 m) high, 7 feet (2.1 m) wide, weighing around 25 tons -- set within earthworks. It may have been constructed in the 3rd millennium BCE. It may have been a burial ground or an astronomical marker since the great trilithon, the encompassing horseshoe arrangement of the 5 central trilithons, the heel stone, and the embanked avenue are aligned to the sunset of the winter solstice and the sunrise of the summer solstice. In the "De gestis Britonum" (On the Deeds of the Britons), better known as the "Historia Regum Britanniae" (History of the Kings of Britain), in 1136 Galfridus Monemutensis (Gruffudd ap Arthur, "Geoffrey of Monmouth"), Merlin advised the 5th-century king Ambrosius Aurelianus (later believed to be the brother of king Arthur's father Uther Pendragon) to send troops to Mt. Killarus in Ireland to retrieve magical stones to construct a royal tomb and then personally constructed the machinery to remove them;2 decades later the Normand poet Wace adapted the book into French ("Roman de Brut") and claimed that Merlin had ordered a giant to build Stonehenge. In ca. 1640 the archaeologist/folklorist John Aubrey made the 1st scientific study of the site; he claimed the Druids were responsible for its construction, and the clergyman William Stukeley popularized Aubrey's theory in 1722, though he suggested that the Druid religion was "Patriarchal Christianity" inherited from Biblical patriarchs and that the stone circles symbolized the Trinity.
Druids (oak-knowers, "derwydd" in Welsh) were Celtic religious leaders, legal authorities, physicians, and political advisors; 1st-century Roman emperors Tiberius Caesar Divi Augusti filius Augustus and Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus actived suppressed them, and they disappeared from the historical record in the 2nd century. Though they reportedly literate, their belief system prevented them from recording their theology or methods, which they learned via oral poetry which, in his "Commentarii de Bello Gallico," Gaius Iulius Caesar claimed took 20 years to learn. "With regard to their actual course of studies, the main object of all education is, in their opinion, to imbue their scholars with a firm belief in the indestructibility of the human soul, which, according to their belief, merely passes at death from one tenement to another; for by such doctrine alone, they say, which robs death of all its terrors, can the highest form of human courage be developed. Subsidiary to the teachings of this main principle, they hold various lectures and discussions on astronomy, on the extent and geographical distribution of the globe, on the different branches of natural philosophy, and on many problems connected with religion." He also claimed that they practiced human sacrifice, burning the bodies of slaves and dependents of the elites as part of his funerary rites and that criminals and others were also sacrificed to the gods by being burned alive in large wooden effigies. His contemporary Diodorus Siculus wrote that they "predict the future by observing the flight and calls of birds and by the sacrifice of holy animals: all orders of society are in their power... and in very important matters they prepare a human victim, plunging a dagger into his chest; by observing the way his limbs convulse as he falls and the gushing of his blood, they are able to read the future." By the 12h century Irish monks, such as the author of "Táin Bó Cúailnge" (The Cattle Raid of Cooley) portrayed them as sorcerers who opposed the coming of Christianity. Amergin Glúingel was a legendary Druid, one of the 7 sons of the ancestor of the Irish, Míl Espáine. They led the Milesian conquest of Ireland. When the defenders of the island sent a magical storm to prevent them from making landfall Amergin dissipated it with the following invocation (as translated by Augusta, Lady Gregory, in her "Gods and Fighting Men," 1904): I am the wind on the sea; I am the wave of the sea; I am the bull of seven battles; I am the eagle on the rock I am a flash from the sun; I am the most beautiful of plants; I am a strong wild boar; I am a salmon in the water; I am a lake in the plain; I am the word of knowledge; I am the head of the spear in battle; I am the god that puts fire in the head; Who spreads light in the gathering on the hills? Who can tell the ages of the moon? Who can tell the place where the sun rests? After the conquest he renamed the island after a local triumvirate of goddesses Ériu ("Eire"), and Banba and Fódla, which became poetic synonyms for it. He divided the island between his 2 surviving brothers Eber Finn and Érimón, and they made him Ollamh Érenn, the chief bard, who had equal status with the kings.
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