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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covered many examples of it (with other crosses) on the vases
which he dug from the seat of ancient Trov. It was also found

Masculine Cross. 25

in what was described as a " magnificent cruciform mosaic pave-
ment, discovered about thirty years ago in the ruins of a Gallo-
Roman villa at Pont d'Oli (Pons Aulas), near Pau, in the Basses-
Pyrenees, accompanied by several other varieties of the cross,
including the St. George and the St. Andrew, all glowing in
colours richly dight, and surrounding a colossal bust of Proteus,
settled in the midst of his sea monsters."

The cross generally regarded as the most notable type of that
emblem, because it is said to have figured in the religious
svstems of more peoples than any other, is that known as " Thor's
hammer," or " Thor's battle-axe." It may, perhaps, also be set
down as the most ancient of the crosses — how many years back
it dates we cannot say, several thousands evidently. It con-
sisted of the last letter of the Samaritan alphabet, the tau or tav
in its decussated or most primitive form, and may be described,
as it has been sometimes, as a cruciform hammer.

It derived its name from being borne in the hand of Thor, as
the all-powerful instrument by means of which his deeds recorded
in the Eddas were accomplished. " It was venerated by the
heroes of the north as the magical sign which thwarted the power
of death over those who bore it ; and the Scandinavian devotee
placed it upon his horn of mead before raising it to his lips, no
doubt for the purpose of imparting to it the life-giving virtues."
To this hour it is employed by the women of India and of the
north-eastern parts of Africa as a mark of possession or taboo,
w^hich they generally impress upon the vessels containing their
stores of grain, &:c.

A writer in the Kdinhurgli Review of January, 1870, hazards
the opinion that this was the mark which the prophet was com-
manded to impress upon the foreheads of the faithful in Judah,
as recorded in Ezekiel ix. 4. He gives no reason or authority
for this statement, but probably derived it from St. Jerome and

26 Masculine Cross.

others of his time, who said that the letter tan was that which was
ordered to be placed on the foreheads of those mourners. Jerome
says that the Hebrew letter /cw was formerly written like a cross.
As to the name of this cross, the popular designation is
clearly a mistake, since its origin dates back centuries before the
mythology of the north was developed. In India it was known
as the swastika of the Buddhists, and served as the monograms
of Vishnu and Siva. Such are its associations and uses at the
present day, and, no doul)t, they have l)een the same from the
very advent of the religions of these respective deities. The
enquirer has, however, not even here measured the limit of its
antiquity, for in China it was known as the Leo-tsen long before
the Sakya-Buddha era, and was portrayed upon the walls of their
pagodas and upon the lanterns used to illumine their most sacred
precints. It has ever been the symbol of their heaven. In the
great temple of Rameses II.. at Thebes, it is represented fre-
quently with such associations as conclusively prove that its
significance was the same in the land of the Nile as in China.
All over the East it is the magic symbol of the Buddhist heaven ;
the chief ornament on the sceptres and crowns of the Bompa
deities of Thibet, who dispute the palm of antiquitv with all other
divinities ; and is beautifully pressed in the Artee, or musical
bell, borne by the figure of Balgovina, the herald or messenger
of heaven. The universality of the use of this svmbol is proved
by its prevalence as well in Euro])e as in Asia and Afri(\a. Among
the Etruscans it was used as a religious sign, as is shown bv its
appearance on urns exhumed from ancient lake-beds situated
between Parma and Pac^enza. Th(^se taken from the Lacustrine
cemeteries are thought to date back to looo B.C. On the terra-
cotta vases of Alba Tonga the same sign is impressed, and served
as the symbol of Persephone, the awful queen of the shades, the
arbiter of mortal fate ; while on the roll of the Roman soldier it

Masculine Cross. 27

was the sign of life. On the old Runic monuments it is ever
present. Even in Scotland it is found on sculptured stones of
unknown age. The most numerous examples of this form, how-
ever, are found in the sculptures of Khorsabad, and in the ivories
from Nimroud ; here occur almost all the known varieties. It
has been observed, too, in Persia ; and is used to this day in
Northern India to mark the jars of sacred water taken from the
Indus and Ganges. It is especially esteemed by the inhabitants
of Southern India as the emblem of disembodied Jaina saints.
Very remarkable illustrations of it, carved in the most durable
rock, and inserted in the exterior walls of temples and other
edifices of Mexico and Central America, also occur, which may
be seen in Lord Kingsborough's Mexican Ajitiquitics. It is
found on innumerable coins and medals of all times and of all
peoples ; from the rude mintages of ^gina and Sicily, as well
as from the more skilful hands of the Bactrian and Continental
Greeks. It is noteworthy, too, in reference to its extreme popu-
larity, or superstitious veneration in which it has been almost uni-
versally held, that the cross-patee, or cruciform hammer, w'as one
of the very last of purely pagan symbols which were religiously
preserved in Europe long after the establishment of Christianity.
To the close of the INIiddle Ages the stole, or Isian mantle, of the
Cistercian monk was usually adorned with it ; and men wore it
suspended from their necklaces in precisely the same manner as
did the vestal-virgins of pagan Rome. It may be seen upon the
bells of many of our parish churches in the northern, midland,
and eastern counties, as at Appleby, Mexborough, Hathersage,
Waddington, Bishop's Norton, West Barkwith, and other places,
where it was placed as a magical sign to subdue the vicious spirit
of the tempest. It is said to be still used for the like purpose,
during storms of wind and rain, by the peasantry in Iceland and
in the southern parts of Germanv."^

* Edin. Rev.. 1870, p. 239.

28 Masculine Cross.

This cross is also known as the •" Fylfot," or " Fytfot " (four-
footed cross), or " Gammadion '" — •' the dissembled cross under
the discipline of the secret." Jewitt, who has written in an in-
teresting manner upon the subject, supports what we have already
stated in the foregoing pages with the observation that this is
one of the most singular, most ancient, and most interesting of
the whole series of crosses. Some say it is composed of four
gammas, conjoined in the centre, which as numerals expressed
the Holy Trinity, and by its rectangular form symbolised the
chief corner-stone of the Church. We mentioned that it was
known in India as the swastika of the Buddhists ; we note fur-
ther that it is said to be formed of the two words " su " (well)
and " asti " (it is), meaning " it is," or '' it is well ; " equal to " so
be it," and implying complete resignation. " From this the
Swastikas, the opponents of the Brahmins, who denied the im-
mortality of the soul, and affirmed that its existence was finite
and connected only with the body upon earth, received their
name ; their monogrammatic enblem, or symbol, being the mystic
cross formed by the combination of two syllables, su + // = siifi\
or swasti.""^

The connection of this cross with Thor, the Thunderer, is not
without its signification and importance, in considering the forms
and origin of these emblems and their transmission from the
Pagan to the Christian world. Thor was said to be the bravest
of the sons of Odin, or Woden, and Fria, or Friga, the goddess
of earth. (From Thor, of course, we get our Thursday ; from
Woden, Wednesday ; and from Friga, Friday). " He was be-
lieved to be of the most marvellous power and might ; yea, and
that there were no people throughout the whole world that were
not subjected unto him, and did not owe him divine honour and
service ; and that there was no puissance comparable to his.

* Jewiu.

Masculine Cross. 29

His dominion of all others most farthest extending itself, both in
heaven and earth. That, in the aire he governed the winds and
the clouds ; and being displeased did cause lightning, thunder,
and tempest, with excessive raine, haile, and all ill weather. But
being well pleased by the adoration, sacrifice, and service of his
suppliants, he then bestowed upon them most faire and season-
able weather ; and caused corne abundantly to grow, as all sorts
of fruits, &c., and kept away the plague and all other evil and
infectious diseases."

Thor's emblem was a hammer of gold, represented as a fylfot,
and with it he destroyed his enemies the Jotuns, crushed the head
of the great Mitgard serpent, killed numbers of giants, restored
the dead goats to life that drew his car, and consecrated the pyre
of Baldur. This hammer, boomerang like, had the property,
when thrown, of striking the object aimed at and then returning
to the thrower's hand. Mr. Jewitt thinks we have, in this, a
curious insight into the origin of the form of the emblem itself.
He says: — '' I have remarked that the fylfot is sometimes des-
cribed as being formed of four gammas conjoined in the centre.
When the form of the boomerang — a missile instrument of bar-
baric nations, much the shape of the letter V with a rounded
instead of acute bottom, which, on being thrown, slowly ascends
in the air, whirling round and round, till it reaches a considerable
height, and then returns until it finally sweeps over the head of
the thrower and strikes the ground behind him — is taken into
consideration, and the traditional returning power of the hammer
is remembered in connection with it, the fylfot may surely be not
inappropriately described as a figure composed of four boomer-
angs, conjoined in the centre. This form of fylfot is not un-
common in early examples, and even on a very ancient specimen
of Chinese porcelain it occurs at the angles of the pattern — it is
the ordinary fylfot, with the angles curved or rounded.


Masculine Cross.

Ancient literature abounds in curious and sensational stories
about the wonders accomplished by Thor with the assistance of
this hammer. Once he lost his weapon, or tool, and with it his
power, bv stratagem however he regained both.

The Danish poem, called the "• Thorr of Asgard," as translated
by De Prior, says : —

"There rode the mighty of Asgard, Thor,
His journey across the plain ;
And there his hammer of gold he lost,
And sought so long in vain,

"Twas then the mighty of Asgard, Thor,

His brother his bidding told —
Up thou and off to the Northland Fell,

And seek my hammer of gold.

He spake, and Loki, the serving-man,

His feathers upon him drew;
And launching over the salty sea,

Away to the Northland flew."'

Greeting the Thusser king, he informed him of the cause of
his visit, viz., that Thor had lost his golden hammer. Then the
king replied that Thor would never again see his hammer until he
had given him the maiden Fredenborg to wife. Loki took back
this message to Thor, who disguised himself as the maiden in
woman's clothes, and was introduced to the king as his future
bride. After expressing his astonishment at the wonderful appe-
tite of the maiden, he ordered eight strong men to bring in the
hammer and lay it across the lap of the bride. Thor immediately
threw off his disguise and seized the hammer, with which, after
he had slain the king, he returned home.

The fylfot cross is frequently found on Roman pottery in
various parts of England, as for instance on the famous Colchester
vase, on which is depicted a gladiatorial combat, the cross being
distinctly marked on the shields of the combatants. Another
fine example is found on a Roman altar of Minerva at High

Masculine Cross. 31

Rochester. '' The constant use of the symbol,"' says Jewitt,
'' through so many ages, and by so many and such varied peoples,
gives it an importance which is peculiarly striking."

To sum up this part of the subject then, we have amongst
numerous others the following chief forms of the cross common
in all parts of the world. The Latin, a long upright with shorter
cross beam ; the Greek, an upright and bar of equal lengths ; the
St. Andrews, in the form of a letter X; the Maltese, four triangles
conjoined to a circular centre ; the Hammer of Thor ; and the
Crux Ansata, or handled cross.

The question now arises, what was the origin or original mean-
ing of these crosses ? Uninformed Christians are generally under
the impression that all refer to one and the same thing, viz., the
instrument of the death of Jesus Christ : historical evidence just
produced, however, clearly disproves that, and what we may say
further will add additional weight to the argument.

It has been noticed that the Britons received Christianity with
remarkable readiness, and this has been attributed to the follow-
ing among other circumstances, viz., the impression which they
held in common with the Platonists and Pythagoreans, that the
Second Person of the Deity was imprinted on the universe in the
form of a cross. We have already explained that the Druids in
their groves were accustomed to select the most stately and
beautiful tree as an emblem of the Deitv thev adored, and having
cut off the side branches, affixed two of them to the highest part
of the trunk in such a manner as that those branches, extending
on each side like the arms of a man, together with the body,
should present to the spectator the appearance of a huge cross,
and that on the bark of the tree, in various places, was actually
inscribed the letter T, — Tau.

'•' Some have gone so far as to suppose a Celtic origin for the
word cross, and have derived it from Cnigli and Criiacli, which

32 Masculine Cross.

signify a cross in that language, though others suppose these
have a much more probable origin in the Hebrew and Chaldee.
Chrussh, signifies boards or pieces of timber fastened together,
as we should say, cross-wise ; the word is so used in Exodus
xxvii. 6. This seems a very natural and probable etymology for
the term, but it may also allude more to the agony suffered on
such an erection, and then its origin perhaps may be traced to
Chrutz, ' agitation.' This word also means to be ' kneaded,' and
broken to pieces like clay in the hands of a potter. Chrotshi,
in Chaldee, we are told by Parkhurst, means accusations, charges,
revilings, reproach, all of them terms applied to Jesus Christ in
his sufferings. Pliny shows that the punishment of the cross
among the Romans was as old as Tarquinus Prisons ; how much
older it is perhaps difficult to say.

'' Plato, born 430 years before Christ, had advocated the idea
of a Trinity, and had expressed an opinion that the form of the
Second Person of it was stamped upon the universe in the form
of a cross. St. Augustine goes so far as to say that it was by
means of the Platonic system that he was enabled to understand
properly the doctrine of the Trinity."

Perhaps, originally, the cross had but one meaning, whatever
its form ; it is probable that it was so. However that may be, it
is certain that as time went on and its form varied, different
significations were attached to it. It represented creative power
and eternity in Egypt, Assyria, and Britain ; it was emblematical
of heaven and immortality in India, China, and Scandinavia ; it'
was the sign of freedom from physical suffering in the Americas ;
all over the world it symbolised the Divine Unity — resurrection
and life to come.

'' In the Mexican tongue it bore the significant and worthy
name, ' Tree of our Life,' or ' Tree of our Flesh.' It represented
the god of rains and of health, and this was everywhere its simple

Masculine Cross. 33

meaning. ' Those of Yucatan,' say the chroniclers, ' prayed to
the cross as the god of rains when they needed water.' The
Aztec goddess of rains bore one in her hand, and at the feast
celebrated to her honour in the early spring (as we have pre-
viously noted) victims were nailed to a cross and shot with
arrows. Quetzalcoatl, god of the winds, bore as his sign of
office a mace like the cross of a bishop ; his robe was covered
with them strewn like flowers, and its adoration was throughout
connected with his worship."

We have mentioned that " when the Muyscas would sacrifice
to the goddess of waters, they extended cords across the tranquil
depths of some lake, thus forming a gigantic cross, and that at
the point of intersection threw in their offerings of gold, emeralds
and precious oils. The arms of the cross were designed to point
to the cardinal points, and represent the four winds, the rain
bringers. To confirm this explanation, let us have recourse to
the simpler ceremonies of the less cultivated tribes, and see the
transparent meaning of the symbol as they employed it.

" When the rain maker of the Lenni Lenape would exert his
power, he retired to some secluded spot and drew upon the earth
the figure of a cross, placed upon it a piece of tobacco, a gourd,
a bit of some red stuff, and commenced to cry aloud to the spirits
of the rains. The Creeks at the festival of the Busk, celebrated
to the four winds, and according to the legends instituted by them,
commenced with making the new fire. The manner of this was
to place four logs in the centre of the square, end to end, forming
a cross, the outer ends pointing to the cardinal points; in the
centre of the cross the new fire is made." *

" As the emblem of the winds which disperse the fertilising
showers," says Brinton, " it is emphatically the tree of our life,

* Hawkins' Sketch of the Creek Country.

34 ^Masculine Cross.

our subsistence, and our health. It never had any other mean-
ing in America, and if, as has been said, the tombs of the
Mexicans were cruciform, it was perhaps with reference to a
resurrection and a future life as portrayed under this symbol,
indicating that the buried body would rise by the action of the
four spirits of the world, as the buried seed takes on a new exist-
ence when watered by the vernal showers. It frequently recurs
in the ancient Egyptian writings, where it is interpreted life;
doubtless, could we trace the hieroglyph to its source, it would
likewise prove to be derived from the four winds." t

The Buddhist cross to which allusion has been made was
exactly the cross of the Manicheans, with leaves and flowers
springing from it, and placed upon a Mount Calvary as among
the Roman Catholics. The tree of life and knowledge, or the
Jambu tree, in their maps of the world, is always represented in
the shape of a Manichean cross 84 yojanas, or 423 miles high, in-
cluding the three steps of the Calvary. This cross, putting forth
leaves and flowers (and fruit also. Captain Wilford was informed),
is called the divine tree, the tree of the gods, the tree of life and
knowledge, and productive of whatever is good and desirable, and
is placed in the terrestrial Paradise. Agapius, according to
Photius, maintained that this divine tree, in Paradise, was Christ
himself. In their delineation of the heavens, the globe of the
earth is filled with this cross and its Calvary. The divines of
Thibet, says Captain Wilford, place it to the S.W. of Meru, to-
wards the source of the Ganges. The Manicheans always repre-
sented Christ crucified upon a tree, among the foliage. The
Christians of India, though they did not admit of images, still
entertained the greatest veneration for the cross. They placed
it on a Calvary in public places and at the meeting of cross
roads, and even the heathen Hindus in these parts paid also

great regard to it.

t Myths of the Xew World.

Masculine Cross. 35

Captain Wilford was presented by a learned Buddhist with a
book, called the Cshetra-samasa, which contained several draw-
ings of the cross. Some of these his friend was unable to explain
to him, but whatever the variations of the cross were in other
particulars, they were declared to be invariable as regards the
shaft and two arms ; the Calvary was sometimes omitted. One
of these crosses seemed to puzzle the Buddhist completely, or he
would not say either what he thought or knew about it. It con-
sisted of the ordinary cross with shaft and cross-bar, pointed at
the ends, but with two other bars intersecting the right angles
formed by the shaft and cross-bar, thus giving six points. No
one can look at this cross, and not at once discern its phallic
character. Some writers affect to laugh at this, but we have
ample evidence that at times such a meaning has been attributed
to the cross. In connection with this. Dr. Inman makes some
remarks which we shall do well to consider, whether we receive
them or not ; there may be nothing in them, and there may be
much. He says : — '' There can be no doubt, I think, in the
mind of any student of antiquity, that the cross is not originally
a Christian emblem ; nay, the very fact that the cross was used
as a means of executing criminals shows that its form was familiar
to Jews and Romans. It was used partly as an ornament, and
partly in certain forms of religious worship. The simple cross,
with perpendicular and transverse arms of equal length, repre-
sented the nave and spokes of the solar wheel, or the sun darting
his rays on all sides. As the wheel became fantastically developed
so did the cross, and each limb became so developed at the outer
end as to symbolise the triad. Sometimes the idea was very
coarsely represented; and I have seen, amongst some ancient
Etruscan remains, a cross formed of four phalli of equal length,
their narrow end pointing inwards ; and in the same work an-
other was portrayed, in which the phallus was made of inordinate

36 Masculine Cross.

length so as to support the others high up from the ground;
each was in itself a triad. The same form of cross was probably
used by the Phoenicians, who appear to have colonised Malta at
a very early period of their career ; for they have left a form of
it behind them in the shape of a cross similar to that described
above, but which has been toned down by the moderns, who could
not endure the idea of an union between grossness and the cruci-
fix, and the phalli became as innocent as we see them in the
Maltese cross of to-day."

So many traces of the cross, as used in ancient in all
parts of the world, meet us on every hand that we find it difficult
within the limited space at our command even to enumerate
them ; we have already traversed in our account a greater part
of the known world, and still vast numbers of instances remain
unnoticed. Almost as varied as its principal forms are the ex-
planations offered respecting its origin and significance. We are
told by some that for its origin we must go to the Buddhists and
to the Lama of Thibet, who is said to take his name from the
cross, called in his language Lamh. Higgins quotes Vallence
as saying that the Tartars call the cross Lama, from the Scythian
Lamh, a hand, synonymous to the Yod of the Chaldeans ; and
that it thus became the name of a cross, and of the high priest
with the Tartars ; and with the Irish, Luarn, signifying the head
of the church, an abbot, &c.

The last form of cross to which we shall here allude is that
known as the Crux Ansata, or Handled Cross. Whatever may be
the signification of that instrument, or ornament, it is certain
that no other has ever been so variously explained, or has been
so successful in puzzling those who have sought to give it a
meaning. Some have said it was a Kilometer, or measure of the
rise of the Nile ; one — a bishop — thought it was a setting stick
for planting roots; another said it represented the Law of

Masculine Cross. 37

Gravitation. Don ^lartin said it was a winnowing fan ; Herwart
said it was a compass ; Pococke said it represented the four
elements. Others, again, suggest that it may be only a key.
" It opened," says Borwick, " the door of the sacred chest. It
revealed hidden things. It was the hope of life to come." And
he continues, '' However well the cross fit the mathematical lock,
the phallic lock, the gnostic lock, the philosophical lock, the
religious lock, it is quite likely that this very ancient and almost
universal symbol was at first a secret in esoteric holding, to the
meaning of which, with all our guessing, we have no certain clue."
This cross has certainly a most remarkable connection with
the ancient history of Egypt, being found universally represented

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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 3 of 11)