Subjects (abstracts): Ancient Pagan and Modern Christian Symbolism; The Migration of Symbols; Sacred Symbols in Art; Sex Symbolism in Religion; Life Symbols; A Dictionary of Symbols; Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia
from: Ancient Pagan and Modern Christian Symbolism., Thomas Inman [1820 - 1876] M.D., Author of "Ancient Faiths Embodied in Ancient Names." Revised and Enlarged. With an Essay on Baal Worship, on the Assyrian Sacred "Grove," and other Allied Symbols. By John Newton, M.R.C.S.E., Etc., fourth Edition, with two Hundred Illustrations, New York: J.W. Bouton, 1884 (1869). [reprint (1874) available from: Ballantrae Reprint: 905/450-7998; e-mail: email@example.com].
"The devout Christian believes that all who venerate the Cross may hope for a happy eternity, without ever dreaming that the sign of his faith is as ancient as Homeric Troy, and was used by the Phoenicians probably before the Jews had any existence as a people; whilst an equally pious Mahometan regards the Crescent as the passport to the realms of bliss, without a thought that the symbol was in use long before the Prophet of Allah was born, and amongst those nations which it was the Prophet's mission to convert or to destroy. Letters and words mark the ordinary current of man's thought, whilst religious symbols show the nature of his aspirations. But all have this in common, viz., that they may be misunderstood." [ix].
"It is to me a melancholy thing to contemplate the manner in which mankind have, in every age and nation, made for themselves bugbears, and then have felt fear at them. We deride the African, who manufactures a Fetish, and then trembles at its power, but the learned know perfectly well that men made the devil, whom the pious fear, just as a negro dreads Mumbo Jumbo." [xv].
"Men can live peaceably together without religion, just as do the bisons, buffaloes, antelopes, and even wolves. The assumption that some form of faith is absolutely a necessity for man is only founded on the fancies of some religious fanatics who know little of the world.*" [xvii-xviii].
"Everything in creation that resembled in any way the presumed Creator, whether in name, in character, or in shape, was supposed to represent the deity. Hence a palm tree was a religious emblem, because it is long, erect, and round; an oak, for it is hard and firm; a fig-tree, because its leaves resemble the male triad. The ivy was sacred from a similar cause. A myrtle was also a type, but of the female, because its leaf is a close representation of the vesica piscis. Everything, indeed, which in any way resembles the characteristic organs of man and woman, became symbolic of the one or the other deity, Jupiter or Juno, Jehovah or Astarte, the Father or the Virgin. Sometimes, but very rarely, the parts in question were depicted au naturel, and the means by which creation is effected became the mundane emblem of the Almighty; and two huge phalli were seen before a temple, as we now see towers or spires before our churches, and minarets before mosques. (Lucian [c. 117 - c. 180], Dea Syria.)" [xxii].
'In the following pages the author has felt himself obliged to make use of words which are probably only known to those who are more or less "scholars." He has to treat of parts of the human body, and acts which occur habitually in the world, which in modern times are never referred to in polite society, but which, in the period when the Old Testament was written, were spoken of as freely as we now talk of our hands and feet. In those days, everything which was common was spoken of without shame, and that which occurred throughout creation, and was seen by every one, was as much the subject of conversation as eating and drinking is now. The Hebrew writers were extremely coarse in their diction, and although this has been softened down by subsequent redactors, much which is in our modern judgment improper still remains. For example, where we simply indicate the sex, the Jewish historians used the word which was given to the symbol by which male and female are known; for example, in Gen. i. 27, and v. 2, and in a host of other places, the masculine and feminine are spoken of as zachar and nekebah, which is best translated as "borers" and "bored." Another equally vulgar way of describing men is to be found in 1 Kings xiv. 10. But these observations would not serve us much in symbolism did we not know that they were associated with certain euphemisms by which when one thing is said another is intended; for an illustration let us take Isaiah vii. 20, and ask what is meant by the phrase, "the hair of the feet"? It is certain that the feet are never hairy, and consequently can never be shaved. Again, when we find in Gen. xlix. 10, "the sceptre shall not depart rom Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet," and compare this with Deut. xxviii. 57, and 2 Kings xviii. 27, where the words are, in the original, "the water of their feet," it is clear that symbolic language is used to express something which, if put into the vernacular, would be objectionable to ears polite. Again, in Genesis xxiv. 2 and xlvii. 29, and in Heb. xi. 21, it is well known to scholars that the word "thigh" and "staff" are euphemisms to express that part which represents the male. In deut. xxiii. 1, we have evidence, as in the last three verses quoted, of the sanctity of the part referred to, but the language is less refined. Now-a-days our ears are not attuned to the rough music which pleased our ancestors, and we have to use veiled language to express certain matters. In the following pages, the words which I select are drawn from the Latin, Greek, Sanscrit, Shemitic, or Egyptian. Hea, Anu, and Asher replace the parts referred to in Deut. xxiii. 1; Osiris, Asher, Linga, Mahadeva, Siva, Priapus, Phallus, etc., represent the Hebrew zachar; whilst Isis, Parvati, Yoni, Sacti, Astarte, Ishtar, etc., replace the Jewish nekebah. The junction of these parts is spoken of as Ashtoreth, Baalim, Elohim, the trinity and unity, the androgyne deity, the arba, or mystic four, and the like.' [xxx-xxxi].
'In prowess and learning, the Babylonians, with their religious prostitution, were superior to the "chosen people." Of the wealth and enterprise of the Phoenicians, Ancient History tells us abundance....
The existence of personal vice does not ruin a nation in its collective capacity. Nor does the most sensual form of religion stunt the prosperity of a people, so long as the latter do not bow their necks to a priesthood.
The greatest curse to a nation is not a bad religion, but a form of faith which prevents manly inquiry. I know of no nation of old that was priest-ridden which did not fall under the swords of those who did not care for hierarchs.
The greatest danger is to be feared from those ecclesiastics who wink at vice, and encourage it as a means whereby they can gain power over their votaries. So long as every man does to other men as he would that they should do to him, and allows no one to interfere between him and his Maker, all will go well with the world.' [xxxiv].
"No mater what the creed, whether Ancient or Modern, the main object of its exponents and supporters is to gain over the minds of the populace. This has never yet been done, and probably never will be attempted, by educating the mind of the multitude to think." [xxxvi].
• • •
from: The Migration of Symbols, by The Count Goblet d'Alviella [1846 - 1925], Senator and Member of the Royal Academy of Belgium. With an Introduction [Must See! High "specific gravity"!] by Sir George Birdwood, University Books, 1956 (1894).
'In 1925, when Count Eugene Goblet d'Alviella died in Brussels at the age of 79, he had been recognized for thirty years for what Sir George Birdwood calls him in the introduction of this book: "the greatest living exponent" of symbols. His successor at Brussel's University, R. Kreglinger, wrote about him:
"....His classical work The Migration of Symbols became...one of the foundations of religious archeology." ....
He was the first professor of the history of religions at the Brussels Free University. His scientific standpoint is better understood if one adds that he was also the Grand Master of Belgian Freemasonry and one must recall that in so completely a Catholic country freemasonry is indelibly associated with freethinking.' [dust jacket].
• • •
from: Sacred Symbols in Art, Elizabeth E. Goldsmith [1860 - ], With Fifty-Three Illustrations, Second Edition, Revised and Enlarged, G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1912.
- Symbols of the Saints
- Saints and Symbols
- Historical and Devotional Subjects
- General Symbols
- Colours as Emblems
- Symbols of God the Father, the Son, the Holy Ghost, the Trinity
- The Seven Archangels. The Three Archangels: St. Michael, St. Gabriel, and St Raphael
- Symbols and Attributes of the Virgin
- Legends of the Madonna as Represented in the Historical Series
- Devotional Representations of the Virgin Mary
- St. John Baptist
- The Four Evangelists
- Giving their legends and attributes from the earliest times. St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke, St. John.
- The Twelve Apostles
- St. Mary Magdalene
- The Last Supper
- The Four Latin Fathers
- Their legends and attributes. St. Jerome, St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, St. Gregory.
- The Patron Saints of Christendom
- The Four Great Virgins of the Latin Church
- Legends of the Saints Most Frequently Found in Art
- The Monastic Orders, and the Habits by which they may be Distinguished
"A symbol is an exterior formula, the representation of some dogma or belief. The lamb is the symbol of Christ, for the sacred texts relating to the Divine lamb oblige us to receive it as the necessary and dogmatical representation of Christ." .
"The Nimbus, Aureole, or Glory that is used in Christian art to distinguish holy personages was used by the pagans, who not only employed it as an attribute of divinity, but often gave it to the Emperors of Rome and the Kings of Eastern Europe and Asia. It expressed the radiance believed to emanate from the Divine Essence." .
"The Cross. About the tenth century the fish was superseded by the cross, which became the universal symbol of the Christian faith." .
"In the early pictures the divine Child is always clothed, and not until the beginning of the fifteenth century is he represented partially, then wholly, undraped." .
"St. Mark. Lat S. Marcus. Fr. St. Marc. Ital. San Marco Evangelista. Ger. Der Heilige Marcus.
According to the TRADITIONS accepted in the Roman Church, St. Mark was not one of the twelve apostles, but was a convert of St. Peter's and became his favourite disciple. While in Rome he wrote his Gospel for the use of the Roman converts--some say from the dictation of St. Peter. He founded the Church of Alexandria, the most renowned of all the early Christian churches, but the wrath of the heathen became so great, because of his miracles, that they seized him while he was worshipping one day and, binding him, dragged him up and down the streets and highways, and over the most stony and rocky places, until the breath left his suffering body. The legends relate that, as his soul departed, a terrific tempest of hail and lightning descended suddenly from the skies, by which his murderers were instantly scattered and destroyed.
The Christians of Alexandria buried his mangled remains, and his tomb there was held in reverence
for several centuries. But about 815 A.D. some Venetian merchants carried off the relics and
brought them to Venice, and the magnificent Church of St. Mark was built over them. Since
that time St. Mark has been honoured as the patron saint of Venice, and his legendary history
has supplied the Venetian painters with many beautiful and picturesque subjects.
When represented as
one of the Four Evangelists, alone or grouped with others, his symbol
is almost invariably the lion--winged or unwinged, but usually winged--distinguishing
him from St. Jerome [c. 345 - 420], who also has the lion
as a symbol, but always unwinged. In devotional pictures St. Mark
often wears the habit of bishop, as the first Bishop of Alexandria,
holding his Gospel in his hand." [140-141].
"In the earliest representations,
he [St. Peter] bears a scroll or book, later a cross in one
hand and book in the other. It is not until about the eighth century
that the keys become his peculiar symbol. Sometimes he has one great
key, but usually he carries two keys
[see my photograph: www.christianism.com] [for a view of the "two keys",
see: "This is Rome", Sheen, Karsh, Morton, 1960, 13 (photo of St. Peter, by Karsh)
(note: the anterior end of each key, resembles a stylized circumcised penis;
the posterior end of each key, resembles a stylized testicle
[sculpture, by Giuseppe de Fabris [1790 - 1860], 1838 (The Vatican, 1984, 4)]
[see Appendixes V, VI (passim), 750-777])],
one of gold and one of silver--to absolve and to bind--or according to another interpretation one is of gold for the gates of heaven, the other of iron for the gates of hell. The legend that makes St. Peter the keeper of the gate of Paradise, having power to grant or refuse admission, found its origin in the delivery of the keys [see 767] to St. Peter." .
Excursus: from: Dictionary of the Bible, John L. McKenzie, S.J., Bruce, 1965.
["key"] "These passages [see preceding discussion, in Dictionary of the Bible] are the background of Mt 16:19, in which Jesus gives Peter* the keys of the kingdom of heaven....
The key is here a symbol of the power to rule, as it is elsewhere....
The power to rule conferred upon Peter can have reference only [interesting!] to the temporal ["earthly life as contrasted with heavenly" (Webster's)] phase of the kingdom." [472-473].
[compare: the "divine right of kings"]. [See: 773]. [again, thoughts of Thomas Paine!].
'Although St. Paul was called to be an apostle after the ascension of Christ, yet he takes rank next to St. Peter as one of the "chief witnesses of the Christian faith." The history of the "great apostle of the Gentiles" is given fully in the Acts, and the Epistles and the legends have not added much to it. IT IS RELATED that he suffered martyrdom outside the Ostian Gate of Rome by being beheaded on the same day that St. Peter was crucified within the city. It is also said that a certain Roman matron, named Plautilla, a convert of St. Peter's, wishing to see St. Paul for the last time, placed herself on the road where he passed to his martyrdom. As she beheld him, she wept and implored his blessing. The apostle gave it and then asked for her veil, that he might bind his eyes before being beheaded. He promised to return it to her after his death. Plautilla gave it readily, thus showing her faith, although her attendants refrained not from mocking at so ridiculous a promise. After his martyrdom, however, her veil, stained with his blood, was restored to her in person by St. Paul. The spot where he was beheaded is still venerated as the Tre Fontane, tradition saying that the severed head made three bounds on the ground, and at each place that it touched a fountain gushed forth.' [152-153].
'The subject most often represented in art is the Vision of St. Augustine. While meditating on his "Discourse on the Trinity," he strolled along the seashore, and saw a little child attempting to fill a hole in the sand with water he was bringing from the sea. Augustine [354 - 430] inquired what he was doing, and the child replied he was going to empty all the waters of the sea into that hole. "That is impossible!" exclaimed St. Augustine. "Not more impossible," returned the child, "than for a finite mind to contain the Infinite"—and he vanished. The version of the child's reply more often given, is: "Not more impossible than for thee, O Augustine! to explain the mystery on which thou art now meditating."' [186-187].
• • •
from: Sex Symbolism in Religion, J.B. Hannay [1855 - 1931], With an Appreciation by Sir George Birdwood, Privately printed for The Religious Evolution Research Society, 2 volumes, Oakeshott, 1922.
'"The Hebrew language is but imperfectly known." "Untrustworthy," "inconsistencies," and like words and phrases, are freely scattered through the greatest and most recent work on Biblical criticism. Take a few out of the hundreds in the Encyclopaedia Biblica to show our most learned scholars opinions:—"Our knowledge of the Hebrew language is very imperfect" (column 3274). "Its meaning is often unintelligible" (column 3274). "An interpretation which is barely possible" (column 3274). "The grammatical form presents great difficulties" (column 3283). "Explanations do not agree—the question at issue is difficult" (column 3320). "A primitive name that had long since become unintelligible, far too abstract to be by any possibility correct" (column 3322). "There is just as little proof . . " (column 3325). "There is no less difference of opinion . . ." (column 3326). "We are no nearer a solution" (column 3326). "There is much difference of opinion" (column 3324). "It is not to be denied, nevertheless it seems precarious" (column 3323). "Difficult to explain" (column 3309). "The sense is obscure" (column 3290).' [137-138].
[Compare: this style, to: #3, 46; #4, 116].
'Paul is, of course, only known to us from the "Acts" and the Epistles attributed to him; and in a very learned analysis of the researches on this subject the Encyclopaedia Biblica says:—
Column 3627—"The principal Epistles cannot be the work of Paul," and A.D. Loman, of Amsterdam, "upholds the entirely symbolical character of the whole Gospel history." Column 3624—"We cannot regard the 'Acts' as a true and credible first-hand narrative of what had actually occurred. The Book bears in part a legendary historical and, in part, an edifying and apologetic character." Column 3625—With respect to the Pauline Epistles in the New Testament, "there are none of them by Paul." "Neither fourteen, nor thirteen, nor nine or ten, nor seven or eight, nor yet even the four so long universally regarded as unassailable. They are all, without distinction, pseudepigrapha." [van Manen] So PAUL, AS A WRITER, DISAPPEARS. Column 3630—"THE CONCLUSIONS OF CRITICISM ON OUR KNOWLEDGE OF THE LIFE AND ACTIVITY OF PAUL ARE OF A PURELY NEGATIVE CHARACTER." [NOT ONE POINT OF HIS HISTORY OR ACTIONS HAS BEEN PROVED, OR EVEN SHOWN TO BE PROBABLE; EVERYTHING STATED HAS BEEN SHOWN TO BE FALSE.] [these brackets, by J.B. Hannay] Column 3630—"Thus all the representations formerly current regarding the life and work of Paul must be set aside. These representations are very many and various and discrepant in character; far from showing any resemblance to one another, they exhibit the most inconsistent proportions and features. But, however different they were, they all of them have disappeared; they rested upon a foundation, not of solid rock, but of shifting sand. So, too, . . . the 'ideas,' the 'theology,' the 'system' of Paul" have "irrevocably passed away, the right foundation being wanting." ["]We possess no Epistle of Paul." Column 4145 says that the "Roman Church was not founded by Peter or Paul."' [260-262].
[See: #4, 105-151, passim ("Paul")].
"I INCLINE TO THE OPINION THAT JESUS WAS ENTIRELY A PEN CREATION." . [See: #25, 560]. [See: #3, 41-104, passim ("Jesus")].
'IN ALL SAVAGE NATIONS "INCREASE OF CHILDREN AND FLOCKS" IS THE ONE DESIDERATUM, and Jové is constantly promising all sorts of persons to make their seed "as the sands of the sea-shore which cannot be numbered," and we see in Dahomey the same emblem was worshipped for the same reason (Burton, see p. 529).' .
• • •
from: Life Symbols A brief study into the origin and significance of certain symbols which have been found in all civilisations, such as the cross, the circle, the serpent, the triangle, the tree of life, the swastika, and other solar emblems, showing the unity and simplicity of thought underlying their use as religious symbols, Elizabeth E. Goldsmith, With more than 100 illustrations, Second Edition Revised, G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1928 (c1924).
If you go to the Egyptian rooms of any of the large museums—the Louvre at Paris, the British Museum in London, the Metropolitan Museum of New York or that of Cairo—you will find graven on fragments of temple walls, and on tombs and sarcophagi that existed 4,000 years before Christ, various forms of the cross. You will see it portrayed thus X—still used as the sign of multiplication—and thus +—used to this day as the plus sign—and again thus T—the "Sacred Tau." You will then notice constantly repeated a figure like this...[symbol for Crux Ansata] the tau cross with a circle or ovoid above it. This is known as the Crux Ansata, the Egyptian Ankh, the Key of the Nile, the Key of Life or the Cross of Egypt. Although this form of the cross is more closely associated with Egypt, the crux ansata was also reverenced as the "hidden wisdom" by the Phoenicians, the Chaldeans, the Mexicans and all other ancient races of whom any records can be found.' .
"Used as a sign by primordial man, found in its different forms as a religious emblem among the most widely scattered races, and in every stage of civilisation, reverenced by the Incas, tattoed on their foreheads by the Patagonians, made a feature of their worship by the Druids, taken over by the Christians as their highest emblem of Life Everlasting, it is significant that the meaning of life attached to the cross has never been lost. Its prevalence, its undying vitality, the tenacity with which it has been preserved and referenced seems to be an instinct of race consciousness comparable to the instinct for life in the individual, which physicians tell us is the strongest instinct we possess. As a symbol of life it would have been impossible for the Christian religion not to have adopted it." [53-54].
"Set (Darkness) and Horus (Light) are the first two elemental powers."
—Churchward [Albert Churchward].' .
Excursus: from: Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, edited by James Hastings, Volume VIII, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1961 (1908).
"LIGHT AND DARKNESS.
Primitive (J.A. MacCulloch), p. 47. Hindu (A. Hillebrandt), p. 60.
Chinese (J. Dyer Ball), p. 51. Iranian (L.H. Gray), p. 61.
Christian (A.J. Maclean), p. 52. Semitic and Egyptian (W. Cruickshank),
Greek and Roman (J.S. Reid), p. 56. p. 62." .
"Light and Darkness (Primitive).—" .
"I. Primordial darkness.—A wide-spread idea seems to be that night precedes or gives rise to day, darkness precedes or gives rise to light...." .
"3. Succession of light and darkness, day and night.—In some instances light, not darkness, is primordial; or after creation, while day exists, night is still unknown...." .
"5. Regions of light and darkness.—As in the higher religions the beneficent or loftier gods are connected with light or dwell in the sky (cf. 1 Ti 616, 'dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto'), so it is also in savage belief...." .
"Light and Darkness (Christian).—The symbolical use of the words 'light' and 'darkness' is very common in early Christian literature, and in the main was derived from the OT [Old Testament], as will be seen by the references given below. As time went on, the metaphor of light served as one method of expressing the theological conception of the Persons of the Holy Trinity...." .
"4. Baptism and light.—In the early Church the symbolism of light was closely connected with the sacrament of initiation. Baptism was, especially by the Greeks, called 'illumination,'...." .
"Light and Darkness (Greek and Roman).—In the fields of the Hellenic and the Italic civilizations we have in historic times a divinity recognized as supreme, Zeus or Jupiter, who is a personification of the sky and the daylight that fills it. He has counterparts in the religious systems of kindred races. Among Greeks and Romans and peoples subjected to their influence there are two groups of contrasted divinities, those of the upper world...[4 Greek words] and those of the under world...[4 Greek words], the former the authors of life and increase and prosperity, the latter of death and waning and misery to mortal creatures...." .
"Light and Darkness (Semitic and Egyptian).—I. Peoples and period.—Babylonian (Assyrian), Egyptian, and Hebrew beliefs on the subject of light and darkness may all be taken together. Although in course of time they became widely divergent, at the outset and for a considerable period they showed many points of similarity—a fact to be ascribed to the contact and the common origin, in part if not in whole, of the peoples inhabiting the countries of the Near East. For the Babylonians and the Hebrews this affinity is generally admitted, both being of the Semitic stock...." .
"....other scholars admit that the mythological compositions of the Babylonians were derived from Sumerian sources.3 The upper limit of the period to be considered may therefore be placed in Sumerian times, about the middle of the fourth millennium B.C., and the lower limit may with propriety be fixed about the time of the Hebrew Exile [Babylonian captivity c. 597 - c. 539 (many did not return to Judah "until at least 100 years later") (Ox. Dict. C.C.)], before the influence of Persia, followed by Greece, could have been felt.1 THROUGHOUT THIS PERIOD OF THREE MILLENNIA THE PREDOMINANT FEATURE OF RELIGION IN BABYLONIA AND EGYPT IS THE CULT OF THE SUN-GOD...." [62-63].
"The rays of the sun were called by the old imagists the hair of the sun-god. The strength of the sun-god departs when he is shorn of his hair in winter. The Egyptians depicted the sun at the winter solstice as having but a single hair or ray. The Assyrians also had the same idea. The tuft of hair of the Mohammedans is derived from this ancient conception. The priest's tonsure represents the disk of the sun. The Arabs shaved their heads in a circle in imitation of the sun. Devotees of the sun would also voluntarily shave their heads to show their willingness to partake of the same sacrifice and undergo the same diminution of strength. The hair was sacred to the sun-god. Cutting the hair was a sacrificial offering. The priests of Egypt and India had shaven heads. Sakya-Muni when he retired from the world before becoming the Buddha cut off his hair. The hair as a source of strength in the biblical story of Samson and Delilah is clearly derived from this old fanciful conception of the rays of the sun. The story itself has been interpreted as a solar myth...." [195-196].
"The fish is also associated with the sun. It is one of the oldest and most widespread symbols of fertility. It also denoted knowledge, wisdom, intellect, water. In the first incarnation Vishnu returned as a fish. The fish thus becomes identified with a saviour." .
'In early mythology the dolphin "strongest and swiftest of fish, called by Gregory of Ny-ssa 'the most royal of swimmers'" was supposed to bear the soul of the deceased across the sea to the Island of the Blessed. Thus the symbolical use of the fish on ancient tombs.
Among the Latins and Greeks the dolphin was venerated as the saviour of the shipwrecked. Thus Christ is frequently symbolised by the early Christians as a dolphin.
In the catacombs Christ is represented by two fishes. Two fishes are the zodiacal sign of Pisces. The Trinity was sometimes symbolised by three fishes typifying regeneration....
In Egypt, according to Plutarch, the fish is a phallic emblem.' .
'It was the Chaldeans, those wise and learned men of the East—astronomers, astrologists, diviners—who developed the primitive worship paid to the sun, the moon and certain stars, into a lofty system of theology in which the Sun Lord of Life held supreme sway. SUN WORSHIP was not pantheism become scientific, which saw the gods as cosmic energies. It was the "logical result of paganism steeped in erudition." Even in THIS NEW RELIGION, however, which WAS TO SPREAD LATER TO GREECE AND ROME, the Babylonian theology never quite broke with the primitive reverence which all the Semitic tribes bestowed upon the mysterious forces that surrounded man, and they continued to combine in their worship the old festivals of nature with the ideas derived from astrology.' [218-219].
'Cumont [Franz Cumont 1868 - 1947] quotes from Jastrow [Morris Jastrow 1861 - 1921], "An astral theory of the universe is not an outcome of popular thought, but the result of a long process of speculative reasoning carried on in restricted learned circles."
When therefore the "Greeks conquered Mesopotamia under Alexander [357 -323 B.C.E.] they found above a deep substratum of mythology a learned theology founded on patient astronomical observations."16
Although the "whole spirit of the Hellenic religion, profoundly human, ideally aesthetic...was opposed to the deification of celestial bodies," the belief that the heavenly bodies were divine appealed profoundly to the Greek philosophers, notably Plato [c. 427 - c. 347 B.C.E.] and Aristotle [384 - 322 B.C.E.]. It influenced the stoics who in turn did much to reconcile it with popular beliefs. The Romans, who were said to know all religions while preferring none, ended by transferring their pagan worship to the skies. THE ROMAN EMPERORS lent it their interested support. They BASED THEIR CLAIM TO DIVINE RIGHTS UPON THE SUN.' . [See: 767].
"In the earliest days in Babylonia the moon was masculine and to the ancient astronomers Sin, the moon-god was a more powerful divinity than Shamash, the sun, and before the duration of the year was known, time was reckoned by the phases of the moon. The people of India also used the lunar year for ages before the solar year became the official measure of time." .
'The Round Table of King Arthur and his Twelve Knights typify the Sun the mighty King of Life, the round table in his disk, the twelve knights are the twelve months or twelve signs of the zodiac. TWELVE IS A NUMBER OF TREMENDOUS IMPORTANCE. There are the twelve labours of Herakles who is called a solar hero—one who "never gained victories for himself"; the twelve prophets, twelve tribes of the children of Israel, twelve disciples [apostles], a jury is still composed of twelve persons.' . [See: 200-203, 775, 811].
Excursus: from: That Old-Time Religion, The Story of Religious Foundations, Edited by Jordan Maxwell, Truth Seeker Foundation, 1997.
"The Solar Cult" [Jordan Maxwell]
"It is at this point we should look at the significance of the reoccurring number 12 in the Bible....
It would be well to get a Bible Concordance and look to see how many times the number 12 is used in the entire Bible. The following are but a few examples:
- The 12 months of the year 6. The 12 Great Patriarchs
- The 12 Apostles of the Sun 7. The 12 (O.T.) Prophets
- The 12 Tribes of Israel 8. The 12 Kings of Israel
- The 12 brothers of Joseph 9. The 12 Princes of Israel
- The 12 Judges of Israel 10. God's Sun in temple at 12" .
• • •
from: A Dictionary of Symbols, J.E. Cirlot, Translated from the Spanish by Jack Sage, Foreword by Herbert Read, Philosophical Library, 1983 (1962) (1958 Spain).
"Cock As the bird of dawn, the cock is a sun-symbol (4), and an emblem of vigilance and activity. Immolated to Priapus and Aesculapius, it was supposed to cure the sick (8). During the Middle Ages it became a highly important Christian image, nearly always appearing on the highest weathervane, on cathedral towers and domes, and was regarded as an allegory of vigilance and resurrection. Davy comments that vigilance in this context must be taken in the sense of 'tending towards eternity and taking care to grant first place to the things of the spirit, to be wakeful and to greet the Sun—Christ—even before it rises in the East'—illumination (14)." [51-52].
"TWELVE STRICTLY, OF ALL THE NUMBERS, TWELVE IS THE BROADEST IN SCOPE". . [See: 774, 811].
"....Other examples are: the twelve hours on the clock-face; the twelve months of the year; the twelve major gods of many mythologies". .
"....In our view, the symbolism of the Zodiac lies at the root of all these systems based upon the number twelve, that is, the idea that the four Elements may appear in three different ways (levels or grades), giving twelve divisions. It is for these reasons that Saint-Yves draws the sociological conclusion that, among groups of human beings in the line of symbolic tradition, 'the circle which comes highest and nearest to the mysterious centre, consists of twelve divisions representing the supreme initiation (the faculties, the virtues and knowledge) and corresponding, among their things, to the Zodiac'. Guénon (who quotes the above) adds that the twelve-formula is to be found in the 'circular council' of the Dalai Lama, and (quite apart from the twelve apostles) in the legendary knights of the Round Table and the historical Twelve Peers of France. Similarly, the Etruscan state was subdivided into twelve minor states; and Romulus [see #24, 527] created twelve lictors (28)." [354-355].
["Zodiac"] "....there is no conclusive evidence of the existence of a truly systematic understanding of Zodiacal symbolism before the time of king Sargon of Agade (2750 B.C.), who was known to possess a work of astrology containing forecasts of the eclipses of the sun. From the time of Hammurabi (2000 B.C.) man's study of he heavens began to assume a more scientific character. But the Zodiac, and the characteristic signs as we know them today, cannot, in the opinion of Berthelot, be traced back farther than the tablet of Cambyses (6th century B.C.); this, however, does not invalidate the theory that the separate elements that contributed to the symbolic pattern of the Zodiac as a whole were of much greater antiquity than this." .
• • •
from: Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia, An Illustrated Dictionary, Jeremy Black and Anthony Green, Illustrations by Tessa Rickards, University of Texas Press, 1997 (c1992 British Museum).
Both great rivers of Mesopotamia, the Tigris and the Euphrates, are prone to flood when swollen by the spring rains and the snow-melt. The Tigris especially can rise during the period February to May and cause destructive floods of immense proportions over a very wide area of the flat alluvial plain. These sudden, violent floods were a frequent feature of life in southern Mesopotamia until flood-control engineering in the 1950s. Archaeological excavations have revealed evidence of several extensive floods at various sites and at different periods.
So it was natural for floods to be a powerful literary image, and the destructive inundation was a favourite metaphor for the destructive power of a deity. Nor is it surprising that Mesopotamian mythology should include legends of one great Flood accompanied by torrential rainstorms that was more extensive than any other—that covered the whole world, in fact. The Sumerian King List gives the names of eight kings of five cities who ruled before the Flood (other sources mention nine or ten kings). The last of these was the father of Ziusura, the sage who with his family was chosen by the god Enki to survive the Flood, when the rest of mankind perished. In other Mesopotamian versions of the story he is called Atra-hasis or Ut-napisti.
FROM MESOPOTAMIA THE MYTH OF THE UNIVERSAL FLOOD SPREAD TO UGARIT, AND TO PALESTINE, WHERE IT WAS INCORPORATED INTO THE HEBREW BOOK OF GENESIS. Possibly the Greek flood myths of Deukalion, Ogyges and Dardanos are influenced by the Mesopotamian story also. Personified, 'Flood' (abubu) was the name of a winged cosmic monster.' [83-84].
[Illustration] "122 A female, perhaps the goddess Inna, stands in front of ring-post symbols and receives offerings from a procession of naked men, thought to be priests of her temple. Detail from a stone vase of the Late Uruk Period found at Uruk (modern Warka)." .
"prostitution and ritual sex
Herodotus, writing about Babylon in the fifth century BC, states that every woman once in her life had to go to the temple of 'Aphrodite', i.e. Ištar (Inana), and sit there waiting until a stranger cast a coin in her lap as the price of her favours. Then she was obliged to go with him outside the temple and have intercourse, to render her duty to the goddess. The story is probably highly imaginative [disagree! probably just another manifestation, of the sexual history of the world]. However, the second-century AD writer Lucian describes, apparently from personal knowledge, a very similar custom in the temple of 'Aphrodite' (probably Astarte) at Byblos in Lebanon.
Of course prostitution existed in ancient Mesopotamia (where marriage was an important legal contract), and is often referred to. A famous prostitute in Babylonian literature is Šamhat, who first seduces Enkidu in the Epic of Gilgameš. Later, on his deathbed, Enkidu curses ["sour grapes"!] her in a passage which implies that the normal places for prostitutes would be in the tavern, by the city walls, at the crossroads and in the desert...." [150-151].
[Illustrations] "124 Some items of a sexual nature from the Middle Assyrian temple of Ištar at Aššur. A lead figurine in the form of a scene of sexual intercourse, apparently taking place on an altar. Models of human sexual organs, with holes for attachment and suspension: phalli of stone, and a pubic triangle and vulva of baked clay." .
Ancient Faiths Embodied in Ancient Names: Or an Attempt to Trace the Religious Belief, Sacred Rites, and Holy Emblems of Certain Nations, by an interpretation of the names given to children by priestly authority, or assumed by prophets, kings, and hierarchs. Thomas Inman, M.D., 2 Volumes, Printed for the Author, London and Liverpool, 1868, 1869. [a Classic!].
The Migration of Symbols, and Their Relations to Beliefs and Customs, Donald A. Mackenzie, Author of Ancient Man in Britain, Myths of Pre-Columbian America, etc., Knopf, 1926.