E. (Elizabeth) Prentiss.

The Masculine cross, or, A history of ancient and modern crosses, and their connection with the mysteries of sex worship : also an account of the kindred phases of phallic faiths and practices online

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those which the law of nature had taught this people, the lessons
of Christianity would thereby have become more easy and
familiar, and not seemed so far estranged from the principles of
their own Gentilism.

This cross is again mentioned in another part of the Royal
Commentaries, and two travellers are described as being filled
with admiration at seeing crosses erected on the top of the high
pinnacles of the temples and palaces ; the which, it is said, were
introduced from the time that Pedro de Candia, being in Tumpiz,
charmed or tamed the wild beasts which were let loose to devour
him, and which, simply by virtue of the cross which he held in his
hand, l)ecame gentle and domestic. This was recounted with
such admiration by the Indians, who carried the news of the
miracle to Cozco, that when the inhabitants of the city under-
stood it they went immediately to the sanctuary where the jasper
cross already mentioned stood, and, having brought it forth, they
with loud acclamations adored and worshipped it, conceiving
that though the sign of the cross had for many ages been con-
served by them in high esteem and veneration yet it was not
entertained with such devotion as it deserved, because they were
not as yet acquainted with its virtues. Believing that the sign
of the cross had tamed and shut the mouths of the wild beasts,
they imagined that it had a like power to deliver them out of the
hands of their enemies.

Masculine Cross. 13

On both the northern and southern continents of America the
cross was beheved to possess the pow^r of restraining evil spirits,
and was the common symbol of the god of rain and of health.
The people prayed to it when their country needed water, and the
Aztec goddess of rains held one in her hand. At the feast cele-
brated to her honour in the spring, when the genial shower was
needed to promote fertilisation, they were wont to conciliate the
favour of Centeotl, the daughter of heaven and goddess of corn,
by nailing a boy or girl to a cross, and after they had been so sus-
pended for awhile piercing them with arrows shot from a bow.
The Muyscas, less sanguinary than the Mexicans in sacrificing to
the god of the waters, extended a couple of ropes transversely
•over some lake or stream, thus forming a gigantic cross, and at
the point of intersection threw in their offerings of food, gems,
and precious oils.

Quetyalcoatl, god of the winds, bore as his sign of office a
mace like the cross of a bishop ; his robe was covered with the
symbol, and its adoration was connected throughout with his

There is, of course, no doubt whatever that the Spaniards
took the cross with them to America, and scattered it about so
much in such varied directions that their own became so inter-
mingled with the native ones as to make it difficult to distinguish
one from the other ; but the fact remains that what there was of
cordiality in the reception they met with from the aborigines,
was due in no small degree to their use of the same emblem on
their standards ; when this became apparent the astonishment
was mutual. Many travellers have told us of these ancient
crosses, and some of them while expressing doubts as to their
antiquity, have yet supplied us with evidence of the same. Mr.
Stephens is one of these. In his Incidents of Travel in Central
America, he supplies us with some wonderful Altar Tablets found

14 Masculine Cross.

at Palenque, the principal subject in one of which is the cross.
It is surmounted by a strange bird, and loaded with indescribable
ornaments. There are two human figures, one on either side of
the cross, evidently of important personages ; both are looking
towards the cross, and one seems in the act of making an offering.
The traveller says: — ''All speculations on the subject are of
course entitled to Httle regard, but perhaps it would not be wrong
to ascribe to those personages a sacerdotal character. The hiero-
glyphics doubtless explain all. Near them are other hieroglyphics
which remind us of the Egyptian mode of recording the name,
history, office, or character of the persons represented. This
tablet of the cross has given rise to more learned speculations
than perhaps any others found at Palenque. Dupaix and his
commentators, assuming for the building a very remote antiquity,
or at least, a period long antecedent to the Christian era, account
for the appearance of the cross by the argument that it was
known and had a symbolical meaning among ancient nations
long before it was established as the eml)lem of the Christian

Near Miztla, " the city of the moon," is a cavern temple ex-
cavated from the solid rock in the form of a cross, 123 feet in
length and breadth, the limbs being about 25 feet in width.

Other relics have been found in abundance in the same j)art
of the world, proving how well known this emljlem was before the
advent of Christianity. In the Mexican Tribute Tables, we were
told a few years ago by a writer in the Historical Magazine, small
pouches or bags frequently occur. Api)endages to dress, they
are tastefully formed and ornamented with fringe and tassels.
A cross of the Maltese or more ordinary form (Greek or Latin)
is conspicuously woven or painted on each. They appear to
have been in great demand, a thousand bundles being the usual
Pueblo tax.

Masculine Cross. 15

The practice of marking the cross on their persons and wear-
ing it in their garments was once common 'with some if not with
all the occupants of the Southern Continent. The Abipones of
Paraguay tatooed themselves by pricking the skin with a thorn.
They all wore the form of a cross impressed on their foreheads,
and two small lines at the corner of each eye, extending towards
the ears, besides four transverse lines at the root of the nose,
between the eyebrows, as national marks. What these figures
signified no one was able to tell. The people only knew this,
that the custom had been handed down to them by their ancestors.
Not only were crosses marked on their foreheads, but woven in
the red woollen garments of many of them. This was long before
they knew anything of the Christian religion.

The " hot cross bun," eaten in this country on Good Friday,
is supposed by many to be exclusively Christian in its origin ;
whereas it is no more than a reproduction of a cake marked with
a cross which was duly offered in the heathen temples to such
living idols as the serpent and the bull. It was made of flour,
honey and milk, or oil, and at certain times was eaten with much
ceremony by both priests and people.

There was also used in the Pagan times the monogram of a
cross upon a heart, the meaning of which was according to
Egyptologists, *' goodness." " This figure," says Sir G. Wilkinson,
" enclosed in a parallelogram, in which form it would signify
' the abode of good,' was depicted or sculptured upon the front of
several houses in Memphis and Thebes."

A very ancient Phoenician medal was found many years ago
in the ruins of Citium, on which were inscribed the cross, the
rosary, and the lamb. An engraving of this may be seen in
Higgins' Celtic Druids and in Dr. Clark's Travels.

The connection of the cross with Paganism originally, and its
ultimate assumption by the Christian church, is curiously and

1 6 Masculine Cross.

strikingly brought out by Tertullian in his Apologcticus and Ad
Nationcs. These treatises, we may observe, are so much alike
that the former has sometimes been regarded as a first draft of
the latter, which is nearly double the length. Probably, however,
they are entirely different productions, one being addressed to
the general public and the other to the rulers and magistrates.

Charged with worshijztping a cross, he says : — " As for him who
affirms that we are the priesthood of a cross, we shall claim him
as our co-religionist. A cross is in its material a sign of wood ;
amongst yourselves also the object of worship is a wooden figure.
Only, whilst with you the figure is a human one, with us the wood
is its own figure. Never mind for the present what is the shape,
provided the material is the same ; the form, too, is of no impor-
tance, if so be it be the actual body of a god. If, however, there
arises a question of difference on this point, what, let me ask, is
the difference between the Athenian Pallas or the Pharia Ceres,
and wood formed into a cross, when each is represented by a
rough stock without form, and by the merest rudiment of a statue
of unformed wood ? Every piece of timber which is fixed in the
ground in an erect position is a part of a cross, and indeed the
greater portion of its mass. But an entire cross is attributed to
us, with its transverse beam, of course, and its projecting seat.
Now you have the less to excuse you, for you dedicate to religion
only a mutilated imperfect piece of wood, while others consecrate
to the sacred purpose a complete structure. The truth however,
after all, is that your religion is all cross, as I shall show. You
are indeed unaware that your gods in their origin have proceeded
from this hated cross. Now every image, whether carved out of
wood or stone, or molten in metal, or produced out of any other
richer material, must needs have had plastic hands engaged in its
formation. Well then, this modeller, before he did anything else,
hit upon the form of a wooden cross, because even our own body

Masculine Cross. 17

assumes as its natural position the latent and concealed outline of
a cross. Since the head rises upwards and the back takes a
straight direction and the shoulders project laterally, if you
simply place a man with his arms and hands out-stretched, you
will make the general outline of a cross. Starting then from
this rudimental form and prop, as it were, he applies a covering
of clay, and so gradually completes the limbs and forms the body,
and covers the cross within with the shape which he meant to
impress upon the clay ; then from this design, with the help of
compasses and leaden moulds, he has got all ready for his image
which is to be brought out into marble, or clay, or metal, or what-
ever the material be of which he has determined to make his god.
This then is the process : after the cross-shaped frame the clay ;
after the clay the god. In a well-understood routine the cross
passes into a god through the clayey medium. The cross then
you consecrate, and from it the consecrated deity begins to derive
its origin. By way of example let us take the case of a tree
which grows up into a system of branches and foliage, and is a
reproduction of its own kind, whether it springs from the kernel
of an olive, or the stone of a peach, or a grain of pepper which
has been duly tempered under ground. Now if you transplant
it or take a cutting off its branches for another plant, to what
will you attribute what is produced by the propagation ? Will it
not be to the grain, or the stone, or the kernel ? Because as the
third stage is attributable to the second, and the second in like
manner to the first, so the third will have to be referred to the
first, through the second as the mean. We need not stay any
longer in the discussion of this point, since by a natural law
every kind of produce throughout nature refers back its growth
to its original source ; and just as the product is comprised in its
primal cause, so does that cause agree in character with the thing
produced. Since then, in the production of your gods, you

1 8 Masculine Cross.

worship the cross which originates them, here will be the original
kernel and grain from which are propagated the wooden materials
of your idolatrous images. Examples are not far to seek. Your
victories you celebrate with religious ceremony as deities, and
they are more august in proportion to the joy they bring you.
The frames on which you hang up your crosses — these are as it
were the very core of your pageants. Thus in your victories the
religion of your camp makes even crosses objects of worship ;
your standards it adores, your standards are the sanction of its
oaths, your standards it prefers before Jupiter himself. But all
that parade of images and that display of pure gold, are as so
many necklaces of the crosses. In like manner also in the
banners and ensigns, which your soldiers guard with no less
sacred care, you have the streamers and vestments of your
crosses. You are ashamed, I suppose, to worship unadorned and
simple crosses."

We give this passage at length because it emphasises what we

are urging in connection with this subject, viz., that the cross is

common to both Christianity and Paganism, that the latter

' possessed it ages before the former, and is therefore more likely

" to have originated it. We speak with some reserve on this latter

• point for want of proper and full evidence. It may of course be

possible that in a purer and more enlightened age the cross was

known and used ; we shall probably, however, find our researches

stop short in Pagan times, in which we shall have to look for the

generally recognised meaning of the symbol.

It is remarkable in the quotation just made, that Tertullian
never attempts to refute the charge brought by the Pagans
against the Christians of his time of worshipping the cross ; he
merely retaliates by asserting that they did the very same thing
in a somewhat different manner. " As for him," he says, " who
affirms that we are the priesthood of a cross, we shall claim him

Masculine Cross. 19

as our co-religionist What, let me ask, is the difference

between the Athenian Pallas or the Pharian Ceres, and wood
formed into a cross ?"

He further identifies himself and his religion with the Pagans
in this particular by saying : — " In all our movements, our travels,
our going out and coming in, putting on our shoes, at the bath,
at the table, in lighting our candles, in lying down, in sitting
down : whatever employment occupies us, we mark our forehead
with the sign of the cross." How much all this reminds us of
the universality of the symbol in pre-Christian times. We can
scarcely point to an age or to a century in which it did not in
some way enter into its history, its theology, its social and
domestic life. Again and again have monuments been dis-
covered which put the date of its use further back than had been
imagined, and some have been brought to light which carry the
story back into very remote antiquity indeed. In the wilds of
Central India, for instance, a little over twenty years back, the
late Mr. Mulheran, C.E., discovered two of the oldest crosses
ever met with. They were granite monoliths, perfect in structure,
and very much like those to be found here and there in the
western parts of Cornwall. One was ten feet nine inches in
height, and the other eight feet six inches ; each being in the
midst of a group of cairns and cromlechs or dolmens, which
Colonel Taylor describes as similar in character to some which
he formerly surveyed near the village of Rajunkolloor, within
the Principality of Shorapoor, in the Deccan. Their extreme
antiquity is inferred from the fact, as stated by the European
officer who first discovered them, that the vicinity of the groups
of cromlechs and crosses had, at some remote period, been cul-
tivated ; that parts of the hills had been cut into terraces, and
supported by large stone banks or walls ; but that the country
for miles in every direction was, and had been for centuries and

20 Masculine Cross.

centuries, entirely uninhabited, and was grown over with dense
forests. It has been estimated that, as this elevated and long-
neglected region has been the possession of the low castes, or
non-Aryan helots, from time immemorial, we may confidently
assume that the monoliths in question were erected by the
aboriginal population of the soil — a population which was driven,
not improbably three thousand years, at the least, before the
advent of Christ, from the richer plains below by the first Aryan
invader who had crossed the five streams, and found a temporary
refuge in the nearest range of hills to the west of Chandar, until
another foe — the Mogul — appeared upon the scene, and finally
subdued both the conqueror and his victims. " Here then," says
a reviewer, " amongst these now fragmentary people from the
debris of a widely-spread primeval race (to borrow a phrase from
a recent writer on the non-Aryan languages of the Continent), we
find the symbol of the cross, not only expressing the same mys-
tery as in all other parts of the world, but its erection, doubtless,
dating from one of the very earliest migrations of our species."
It is impossible to adduce any clearer or stronger proof of its
primitive antiquity than this.

It has been suggested by some writers, who, for some reason
or other, objected to the recognition of the cross as an emblem
of great antiquity, that the stone structures which were erected
in the British Islands by the Druids, Saxons, and Danes, owed
their cruciform character to the necessities of the situation rather
than to any other cause ; that the stones were placed across each
other as a matter of mere convenience, and not v.-ith the view of
forming a cross, and that these monuments, which served as
instruments of Druidical superstition before the implanting of
the Gospel in Britain, were afterwards appropriated to the use
of Christian memorials by being formed in the figure of a cross
or marked with this emblem. It is admitted, of course, that

Masculine Cross. 21

those cruciform structures were thus appropriated, but of what
use will it be to repudiate the antiquity of examples whose age
has been far surpassed in other parts of the world. The crosses
of India, just alluded to, remain to be accounted for, and even
when they have been as summarily disposed of as the British
ones, there are the crosses suspended from the necks of the
Assyrian kings, whose existence cannot possibly be accounted
for by the above hypothesis. It was not necessity or convenience
that designed a Maltese cross, a thousand years before the Chris-
tian era, of precisely the same form as that which is worn by
men and women in this nineteenth century, nor probably was it
a merely ornamental taste ; we are rather disposed to believe
that the secret lies in the symbolical meaning, which has ever
been attached to the form.

The universality of the cross as a religious symbol is certainly '
a most astounding fact, and the more so because it has evidently
always represented the same fundamental idea in connection with
the theological systems, in all ages, of the Old and New Worlds.
If but one of these mythologies possessed it, there might be little
difficulty in tracing out the significance of the coincidence be-
tween its existence there and in Christian theology, but prevail-
ing as it does universally, and destined as it is to retain its con-
nection with the religion of man, it excites feelings of the most
profound wonderment and surprise. Lipsius and other early
writers, in reference to this matter, declared their sincere belief
that the numerous cruciform figures to be found on the monu-
ments of antiquity were of a typical character, and expressed a
sentiment which looked forward to the cross of Christ; a few
others doubted this, and suggested difficulties, while Gibbon
ridiculed the whole matter, as it thus stood, from beginning to
end. The belief, however, that the cross in Pagan lands was in
some incomprehensible manner connected with the same object

2 2 Masculine Cross.

or idea as in the Christian church was not easily got rid of, and
was considerably deepened by the testimony of missionaries to
the New World that amongst people of apparently different
origin and of altogether different attributes, the cross was
common as an object of worship and veneration. So universal
has the presence of this symbol and its attendant worship been
found that it has been said to form a complete zone about the
habitable globe, extending as it does from Assyria into Egypt,
and India, and Anahuac, in their ruined temples; to the
pyramidal structures of East and West, and to those in Polynesia,
especially the islands of Tonga, Viti, and Easter; " as it appears
upon numberless vases, medals, and coins of the earliest known
types, centuries anterior to the introduction of Christianity ; and
as its teaching is expressed in the concordant customs, rites, and
traditions of former nations and communities, who were widely
separated from, and for the most part ignorant of, the existence
of each other, and who possessed, so far as we are aware, no
other emblematical figure in common." Egypt, Assyria, Britain,
India, China, Scandinavia, the two Americas — all were alike
its home, and in all of them was there analogy in the teaching
respecting its meaning.


Forms of ihc Cross — Ancient Maltese Cross — Fhallic Character of
some Crosses — Offensive Forms of the Cross in Ktrusean and
Pompeian Monuments — Thorns Battle-axe — The Buddhist Cross
— Indian Crosses — TJie Fylfot or Four-footed Cross — Danish
Poem of the Thors of Asgard — Legend of Thorns Loss of his
Golden Hammer — Original Meaning of these Crosses — Recep-
tion of Christianity amongst the Britons — Plato and the Cross
— The Mexican Tree of Life — Rain Makers — The Winds — -
Various Meanings attributed to the Cross — The Crux Ansata —
Phallic Attributes — Coins, Gaulish and Jewish — Roman Coins
— The Lake Dwellings — The Cross in the Patriarchal Age.

TN studying the origin and signification of the pre-Christian
-■- cross, we, naturally of course, turn our attention to the
forms in which it is delineated ; these are both numerous and
varied — so varied indeed that a writer, some years ago, in the
Fdinhurgh Review stated that his commonplace-book contained
nearly two hundred representations, which he had found com-
l)ined as often as not with other emblems of a sacred character, .
and which had been collected from all parts of the world. We
may notice a few of the principal which are really, general ly
speaking, types of all.

Most people are familiar with the Maltese cross — that consisting
of four triangles meeting in a central circle, or as it is generally
described, the cross with the four delta-like arms conjoined to
or issuing from the nave of a wheel or a diminutive circle. , It
derives its name from its discovery on the island of Malta, and
from its adoption by the Knights of St. John for their coat-of-'
arms. There is no doubt it is one of the most ancient forms of
the cross we are acquainted with, as it is found, as we have
already stated, on the sculptures of the Assyrian monarchs long
before the Christian era, and may be seen on the sculptures in

24 Masculine Cross.

the British Museum. In some of the Nineveh monuments repre-
senting subject-people bringing tribute to the king, it occurs in
the form of ear-rings.

In Assyria, it is beUeved to have been the emblem of royalty,
as it is found on the breasts of the most powerful of the rulers.
As it was known originally in Malta, it was of a very different
character to the ornament worn either by the Assyrian monarch
or by the modern inhabitants of civilised nations. It was indeed
of so gross a character, that the Knights of St. John soon set to
work to make something more decent of it — something which
while not altogether discarding the old form, should yet be in-
offensive to the eye of the more modest onlooker. It was made
up, in fact, of four gigantic phalli carved out of the solid granite,
similar to the form in which it is found in the island of Gozyo,
and on some of the Etruscan and Pompeian monuments.

The reason why it assumed a phallic character in the localitv
which gives it its name, is not perhaps clear, but the study of
Assyrian antiquities has revealed the meaning attached to it in
the palmy days of Nineveh and Babylon ; it referred to the four
great gods of the Assyrian pantheon — Ra, and the first triad —
Ana, Belus, and Hea ; and when inserted in a roundlet, as may
be seen in the British Museum, it signified Sansi, or the sun
ruling the earth as well as the heavens. It was therefore the
symbol of royalty and dominion, which accounts for its i)resence
on the breasts of kings.

On the Etruscan and Pompeian monuments generally, this
cross is as gross and offensive in form as in ancient Malta, but it
is found in a character as unobjectionable as in Assyria, on the
official garments of the Etruscan priesthood. It has been found
in Asia Minor, Cyprus, and Sicily; and Dr. Schliemann dis-

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Online LibraryE. (Elizabeth) PrentissThe Masculine cross, or, A history of ancient and modern crosses, and their connection with the mysteries of sex worship : also an account of the kindred phases of phallic faiths and practices → online text (page 2 of 11)