Ancient Pagan and Modern Christian Symbolism Part 4

Fig. 9 is a well-known Egyptian symbol, borne in the hand of almost every divinity. It is a cross, with one limb made to represent the female element in creation. The name that it technically bears is _crux ansata_, or "the cross with a handle." A reference to Fig. 4 serves to verify the idea which it involves.

Fig. 10 is from Pugin, plate x.x.xv. In this figure the cross is made by the intersection of two ovals, each a _vesica piscis_, an emblem of the yoni. Within each limb a symbol of the trinity is seen, each of which is a.s.sociated with the central ring.

Fig. 11 is from Pugin, plate xix., and represents the _arbor vitae_, the _branch_, or tree of life, as a triad, with which the ring is united.

It has been said by some critics that the figures above referred to are mere architectural fancies, which never had pretensions to embody a mystery; and that any designer would pitch upon such a style of ornamentation although profoundly ignorant of the doctrine of the trinity and unity. But this a.s.sumption is not borne out by fact; the ornaments on Buddhist topes have nothing in common with those of Christian churches; whilst in the ruined temple of the sun at Marttand, India, the trefoil emblem of the trinity is common. Grecian temples were profusely ornamented therewith, and so are innumerable Etruscan sculptures, but they do not represent the trinity and unity. It has been reserved for Christian art to crowd our churches with the emblems of Bel and Astarte, Baalim and Ashtoreth, linga and yoni, and to elevate the phallus to the position of the supreme deity, and a.s.sign to him a virgin as a companion, who can cajole him by her blandishment, weary him by wailing, or induce him to change his mind by her intercessions.

Christianity certainly requires to be purged of its heathenisms.


[Ill.u.s.tration: Plate XII. 091]

Contains both pagan and Christian emblems.

Fig. 1 is from Pugin, plate xviii., and is a very common finial representing the trinity. Its shape is too significant to require an explanation; yet with such emblems our Christian churches abound, that the Trinity may never be absent from the minds of man or woman!

Fig. 2 is from Pugin, plate xxi. It is a combination of ideas concealing the union patent in Fig. 4, Plate xi., _supra_.

Fig. 3 is from Moor's _Hindu Pantheon_. It is an ornament borne by Devi, and symbolises the union of the triad with the unit.

Fig. 4 is from Pugin, plate x.x.xii. It is a double cross made up of the male and female emblems. It is a conventionalised form of Fig. 4, Plate xi., _supra_. Such eight-rayed figures, made like stars, seem to have been very ancient, and to have been designed to indicate the junction of male and female.

Fig. 5 is from Pugin, plate xvii., and represents the trinity and the unity.

Fig. 6 is a Buddhist emblem from Birmah, _Journal of Royal Asiatic Society_, vol. xviii., p. 392, plate i., fig. 62. It represents the short sword, _le bracquemard_, a male symbol.

Fig. 7. is from Pagin, plate xvii. See Plate xi., Fig. 3, _supra_.

Figs. 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 are Buddhist (see Fig. 6, supra), and symbolise the triad.

Figs. 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 are from Pugin, and simply represent the trinity.

Figs. 18 and 19 are common Grecian emblems. The first is a.s.sociated with Neptune and water, the second with Bacchus. With the one we see dolphins, emblems of the womb, the name of the two being a.s.sonant in Greek; with the other, the saying, _sine Baccho et Cerere friget Venus_, must be coupled.


[Ill.u.s.tration: Plate XIII. 094]

Consists of varions emblems of the triad and the unit, drawn almost exclusively from Grecian, Etruscan, Roman, and Indian gems, figures, coins, or sculptures, Maffei's _Gemme Antiche Figurate_, Raponi's _Recueil_, and Moor's _Hindu Pantheon_, being the chief authorities.


[Ill.u.s.tration: Plate XIV. 096]

Is a copy of a small Hindoo statuette in the Mayer Collection in the Free Museum, Liverpool. It probably represents Parvati, the Hindoo virgin, and her child. The right hand of the figure makes the symbol of the yoni with the forefinger and thumb, the rest of the fingers typifying the triad. In the palm and on the navel is a lozenge, emblematic of woman. The child, perhaps Crishna, equivalent to the Egyptian Horus and the Christian Jesus, bears in its hand one of the many emblems of the linga, and stands upon a lotus. The monkey introduced into the group plays the same part as the cat, cow, lioness, and ape in the Egyptian mythology, being emblematic of that desire which eventuates in the production of offspring.


[Ill.u.s.tration: Plate XV. 099]

Fig. 1, the cupola, is well known in modern Europe; it is equally so in Hindostan, where it is sometimes accompanied by pillars of a peculiar shape. In one such compound the design is that of a cupola, supported by closely placed pillars, each of which has a "capital," resembling "the glans" of physiologists; in the centre there is a door, wherein a nude female stands, resembling in all respects Figure 61, except in dress and the presence of the child. This was copied by the late Mr. Sellon, from a Buddhist Dagopa in the Jumnar Cave, Bombay Presidency, a tracing of his sketch having been given to me by William Simpson, Esq., London.

The same emblem may be found amongst the ancient Italians. Whilst I was staying in Malta during the carnival time in 1872, I saw in all directions men and women selling cakes shaped like the yoni shown in Fig. 1. These sweetmeats had no special name, but they came in and went out with the carnival.

Fig. 2 represents Venus standing on a tortoise, whose symbolic import will be seen by referring to Fig. 74, _infra_. It is copied from Lajard, _Sur le Culte de Venus_, plate iiia., fig. 5, and is stated by him to be a drawing of an Etruscan candelabrum, existing in the Royal Museum at Berlin. In his account of Greece, Pausanias mentions that he saw one figure of Venus standing on a tortoise, and another upon a ram, but he declines to give the reason of the conjunction.

Is a representation of Siva, taken from Moor's _Hindu Pantheon_, plate xiii. Siva is supposed to be the oldest of the Indian deities, and to have been worshipped by the aborigines of Hindostan, before the Aryans invaded that country. It is thought that the Vedic religion opposed this degrading conception at the first, but was powerless to eradicate it.

Though he is yet the most popular of all the G.o.ds, Siva is venerated, I understand, chiefly by the vulgar. Though he personifies the male principle, there is not anything indecent in pictorial representations of him. In one of his hands is seen the trident, one of the emblems of the masculine triad; whilst in another is to be seen an oval sistram-shaped loop, a symbol of the feminine unit. On his forehead he bears an eye, symbolic of the Omniscient, the sun, and the union of the s.e.xes.

As it has been doubted by some readers, whether I am justified in regarding the sistrum as a female emblem, I append here a quotation from Socrates' _Ecclesiastical History_, Bohn's translation, p. 281, seq.

In Rome, in the early time of Theodosius, "when a woman was detected in adultery.... they shut her up in a narrow brothel, and obliged her to prost.i.tute herself in a most disgusting manner; causing little bells to be rang at the time.... As soon as the emperor was apprised of this indecent usage, he would by no means tolerate it; but having ordered the _Sistra_ (for so these places of penal prost.i.tution were denominated) to be pulled down," &c. One can as easily see why a female emblem should mark a brothel in Rome as a male symbol did at Pompeii.


[Ill.u.s.tration: Plate XVI. 101]

[Ill.u.s.tration: 104]

This Figure represents a.s.syrian priests offering in the presence of what is supposed to be Baal--or the representative of the sun G.o.d and of the grove. The first is typified by the eye, with wings and a tail, which make it symbolic of the male triad and the female unit. The eye, with the central pupil, is in itself emblematic of the same. The grove represents mystically _le verger de Cypris_. On the right stands the king; on the left are two priests, the foremost clothed with a fish's skin, the head forming the mitre, thus showing the origin of modern Christian bishops' peculiar head-dress. Arranged about the figures are, the sun; a bird, perhaps the sacred dove, whose note, _coa_ or _coo_, has, in the Shemitic, some resemblance to an invitation to amorous gratification; in Latin _coi_, _coite_; the oval, symbol of the yoni; the basket, or bag, emblematic of the s.c.r.o.t.u.m, and apparently the lotus.

The trinity and unity are carried by the second priest.

Figure 2 is copied from an ancient copper vase, covered with Egyptian hieroglyphic characters, found at Cairo, and figured in a book ent.i.tled _Explication des divers monument singuliers, qui ont rapport a la religion des plus anciens peuples_, par le R. P. Dom.......a Paris, 1739.

[Ill.u.s.tration: 105]

The group of figures represents Isis and Horns in an unusual att.i.tude.

They are enclosed in a framework of the flowers of the Egyptian bean, or of the lotus. This framework may be compared to the a.s.syrian "grove,"

and another in which the Virgin Mary stands. The bell was of old a symbol of virginity, for Eastern maidens wore them until marriage (see Isa. iii. 16). The origin of this custom was the desire that every maiden should have at her marriage, or sale, that which is spoken of in the Pentateuch as "the token of virginity." It was supposed that this membrane, technically called "the _hymen_" might be broken by too long a stride in walking or running, or by clambering over a stile or wall.

To prevent such a catastrophe, a light chain or cord was worn, under or over the dress, at the level of the knees or just above. Its length only permitted a short step and a mincing gait. Slight bells were used as a sort of ornament, and when the bearer was walking their tinkling was a sort of proclamation that the lady who bore them was in the market as a virgin. After "the flower" had been plucked, the bells were no longer of use. They were a.n.a.logous to the virgin snood worn on the head of Scotch maidens. Isis bears the horns of a cow, because that animal is equally noted for its propensity to seek the male and its care to preserve the offspring. As the bull with a human head, so a human being with cow's horns, was made to represent a deity. The solar orb between the horns, and the serpent round the body, indicate the union with the male; an incongruous conjunction with the emblem of the sacred Virgin, nevertheless a very common one. In some of the coins pictured by E. P.

Knight, in _Worship of Priapus_, etc., a cow caressing her sucking calf replaces Isis and Horns, just as a bull on other coins replaces Dionysus. The group is described in full in _Ancient Faiths_, second edition, Vol. i., pp. 53, 54.

[Ill.u.s.tration: 106]

Figures 3, 4, are taken from Ginsburg's _Kabbalah_, and ill.u.s.trate that in the arrangement of "potencies" two unite, like parents, to form a third. Sometimes we see also how three such male attributes as splendour, firmness, and solidity join with beauty to form the mystic _arba_, the trinity and unity.

[Ill.u.s.tration: 107]

Figures 5, 6, are copies from figures found in Carthage and in Scotland, from Forbes Leslie's Early _Races of Scotland_, vol. i., plate vi., p. 46 (London, 1866). This book is one to which the reader's attention should be directed. The amount of valuable information which it contains is very large, and it is cla.s.sified in a philosophical, and, we may add, attractive manner. The figures represent the _arbor vitae_.

Figure 7 is from Bonomi, page 292, _Nineveh and its Palaces_ (London, 1865). It apparently represents the mystic yoni, door, or delta; and it may be regarded as an earlier form of the framework in Plate iv. It will be remarked, by those learned in symbols, that the outline of the hands of the priests who are nearest to the figure is a suggestive one, being a.n.a.logous to the figure of a key and its shank, whilst those who stand behind these officers present the pine cone and bag, symbolic of Ann, Hea, and their residence.

[Ill.u.s.tration: 108]

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