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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on the monuments, the tombs, the walls, and the wrapping cloths
of the dead; hence, evidently, the idea that it is peculiarly
Egyptian and its ascription of " Key of the Nile." From
Socrates, Sozomen, Theodoret, and Ruffinus, we learn that it
was known to the Egyi^tian Christians at the close of the fourth
century as the symbol of eternal life. Later on, Dr. Max Uhlman
wrote, " that the handle cross means life, is manifest from the
Rosetta inscription and other texts." Zdckler, another German
author, notices the opinion of Macrobius that it was the hiero-
glyphic sign of Osiris, or the sun, it being a fact that when the
ancient Egyptians wished to symbolise Osiris, they set up a staff
with an eye upon it, because in antiquity the sun was known as
the eye of God, and then claims that the round portion repre-
sented the orb of the sun, the perpendicular bar signifying the
rays of the high mid-day sun, and the shorter horizontal bar
symbolising the rays of the rising or setting sun. The discovery
of this emblem by M. Mariette in a niche of the holy of holies
in the ancient temple of Denderah, points significantly to its
importance and peculiar sacredness, and it has been thought
probable that it was the central object of interest in the inner
precincts of the temple.

38 ' Masculine Cross.

It seems that the Egyptian priests, when asked for an explana-
tion of this cross, evaded the question by replying that the Tau
was a " divine mystery.''

However varied the explanations offered may be, and what-
ever the mystery said to surround this object, the feature always
remains, — its symbolisation of life and regeneration. From this,
its phallic character was very easily inferred — its derivation
from the lingam-yoni symbol, said Barlow, seemed a very natural
process. The junction of the yoni with the cross, in Dr. Inman's
judgment, sufficiently proved that it had a phallic or male
signification ; a conclusion which certain unequivocal Etruscan
remains fully confirmed. " We conclude, therefore," says this
writer, '' that the ancient cross was an emblem of the belief in a
male creator, and the method by which creation was initiated."

Not the least remarkable exemplification of the universal
prevalence of the cross both as to time and country, is found
amongst coins and medals ; here as in other things it is ever
prominent. Take the ancient Gaulish coins, for instance, and
the fylfot and ordinary Greek cross abound ; take the ancient
British coins of the age long prior to Christianity, and the same
thing occurs. " On Scandinavian coins, as well as those of Gaul,
the fylfot cross appears, as it also does on those of Syracuse,
Corinth, and Chalcedon. On the coins of Byblos, Astarte is
represented holding a long staff, surmounted by a cross, and
resting her foot on the prow of a galley. On the coins of Asia
Minor, the cross is also to be found. It occurs as the reverse of
a silver coin, supposed to be of Cyprus, on several Cilician
coins; it is placed beneath the throne of Baal of Tarsus, on a
Phoenician coin of that time, bearing the legend ' Baal Tharz.'
A medal possibly of the same place, with partially obliterated
Phoenician characters, has the cross occupying the entire field of
the reverse side. Several, with inscriptions in unknown charac-

Masculine Cross. 39

ters, have a ram on one side and the cross and ring on the other.
Another has the sacred bull, accompanied by this symbol ;
others have a lion's head on obverse, and a cross and circle on
the reverse." *

Strangely enough, even Jewish money is marked with this
emblem, the shekel bearing on one side what is usually called a
triple lily or hyacinth ; the same forming a pretty floral cross.

On Roman coins the cross was of very frequent occurrence,
and illustrations of good examples may be seen in the pages of
the Aj^t Journal for the year 1874. An engraving of the quincunx,
or piece of five uncioe, is given, bearing on one side a cross, a Vj
and five pellets ; and on the other a cross only. This is an
example of the earlier periods ; of course when we come to the
later periods the emblem is still more frequent. These coins are
often found in ancient graves and sarcophagi, and these latter
again supply examples of various familiar forms of crosses of
very remote antiquity, — not simply the adornment of coffin and
gravecloths, but the actual construction of the tomb or grave-
mxOund in that form. Fine specimens of these have been dis-
covered at Stoney-Littleton, at New Grange, at Banwell, Somer-
set, at Adisham, at Hereford, at Helperthorpe, and in the Isle
of Lewis.

" Before the Romans, long before the Etruscans, there lived
in the plains of northern Italy a people to whom the cross was a
religious symbol, the sign beneath which they laid their dead to
rest ; a people of whom history tells nothing, knowing not their
name, but of whom antiquarian research has learned this, that
they lived in ignorance of the laws of civilisation, that they dwelt
in villages built on platforms over lakes, and that they trusted
in the cross to guard, and may be to revive their loved ones whom
they committed to the dust. Throughout Emilia are found re-

* Jewitt in Art Journal, 1876.

40 Masculine Cross.

mains of these people ; these remains form quarries whence
manure is dug by the peasants of the present day. These quarries
go by the name of icrramarcs. They are vast accumulations of
cinders, charcoal, bones, fragments of pottery, and other remains
of human industry. As this earth is very rich in phosphates it is
much appreciated by agriculturists as a dressing for their land.
In these icrramarcs there are no human bones. The fragments
of earthenware belong to articles of domestic use ; with them are
found querns, moulds for metal, portions of cabin floors, and
great quantities of kitchen refuse. They are deposits analogous
to those which have been discovered in Denmark and Switzer-
land. The metal discovered in the majority of these icrramarcs
is bronze ; the remains belong to three distinct ages. In the
first none of the fictile ware was turned on the wheel or fire-
baked. Sometimes these deposits exhibit an advance of civilisa-
tion. Iron came into use, and with it the potter's wheel was
discovered, and the earthenware was put in the furnace. When
in the same quarry these two epochs are found, the remains of
the second age are always superposed over those of the bronze
age. A third period is occasionally met with, but only occasion-
ally ; a period when a rude art introduced itself, and represent-
atives of animals or human beings adorned the pottery. Among
the remains of this period is found the first trace of money, rude
little bronze fragments without shape.

'"' Among other remains in these lake-dwellings, pottery has
been in many cases found, and these vessels bear, on the bottom,
crosses of various forms, as well also curious solid double cones.
That which characterises the cemeteries of Golasecca, says M. de
Mortillet, and gives them their highest interest, is this : — first,
the entire absence of all organic representations ; we only found
three and they were exceptional, in tombs not belonging to the
plateau; secondly, the almost invariable presence of the cross

Masculine Cross. 41

uiider the vases in the tombs. When we reversed the ossuaries,
the saucer-lids, or the accessory vases, we saw almost always, if
in good preservation, a cross traced thereon . . . the examination
of the tombs of Golasecca proves, in a most convincing, positive,
and precise manner, that which the tcrramarcs of Emilia had only
indicated, but which had been confirmed by the cemetery of
Villanova ; that above a thousand years before Christ, the cross
was already a religious emblem of frequent employment." "^

'' There is every reason to suppose that the cross was a symbol
of more import in the early patriarchal ages than is generally
imagined. It was not only the jirst letter, but it was also the
emblem, of Taut, the Mercury, the word, the messenger of the
gods, the angel, as we may say, of his presence, himself a god
among the Egyptians and the Britons, whose god Teutates was
analagous both in name and nature ; a winged messenger. M.
Le Clerc, one of the ablest mythologists who ever wrote, has
shown that the Teutates of the Gauls, the Hermes of the Greeks,
the Mercury of the Romans, were all one and the same.

The Ethiopic letter Taui, or Taw, says Lowth, still retains
the form of a cross, X; and the Samaritan T, which the Ethio-
pians are said to have borrowed from the Samaritans, was in the
form of a X cross. In several Samaritan coins, says Montfaucon,
to be found in the collections of medallists, the letter Tau is en-
graved in the form of a cross, or Greek Chi, and he gives as his
authority Origen and Jerome.

The Jewish High-priest, we are informed by the Rabbis, was
anointed on his investiture, while he who anointed him drew on
his forehead with his linger the figure of the Greek letter Chi,

* Quoted by Jewitt, in Art Journal, 1874.
+ Lysons, Our British Ancestors.


Heathen Ideas of a Trinity — The Magi — Ancient Tlicologies —
The Indiafi Trinity — • The Sculptures of Ele pliant a — The
Sacred. Zennar — Temples consecrated to Indian Trinities —
The Greek Trident — Attributes of Brahm — Tlie Hindu
Mem — Naravana — TJie Trimurti- — Gods of Egypt.

"~\ /r~ANY of the heathens are said to have had a notion of a
-*^^-^ Trinity," wrote a contributor to an encyclopgedia,

some eighty years ago. Xow that altogether fails to reach the
truth, for heathen nations are known to scholars to have had very
definite ideas indeed about a sacred Triad ; in fact, as another
writer has said, there is nothing in all theology more deeply
grounded, or more generally allowed by them, than the mystery
of the Trinity. The Chaldeans, Phoenicians, Greeks, and
Romans, both in their writings and their oracles, acknowledged
that the Supreme Being had begotten another Being from all
eternity, whom they sometimes called the Son of God, sometimes
the Word, sometimes the Mind, and sometimes the Wisdom of
God, and asserted to be the Creator of all things.

Aniong the sayings of the Magi, the descendants of Zoroaster,
was one as follows: — "The Father finished all things, and de-
livered them to the Second Mind.''

We learn from Dr. Cudworth that, besides the inferior gods
generally received by all the Pagans (viz. : animated stars,
demons, and heroes), the more refined of them, who accounted
not the world the Supreme Deity, acknowledged a Trinity of
divine hypostases superior to them all. This doctrine, according
to Plotinus, is very ancient, and obscurely asserted even by
Parmenides. Some have referred its origin to Pythagoreans,
and others to Orpheus, who adopted three j)rinciples, called
Phanes, Uranus, and Cronus. Dr. Cudworth a})prehends that

Masculine Cross. 43

Pythagoras and Orpheus derived this doctrine from the theology
of the Egyptian Hermes ; and, as it is not probable that it should
have been first discovered by human reason, he concurs with
Proclus in affirming that it was at first a theology of divine
tradition, or revelation, imparted first to the Hebrews, and from
them communicated to the Egyptians and other nations ; among
whom it was depraved and adulterated.

Plato, also, and his followers, speak of the Trinity in such
terms, that the primitive fathers have actually been accused of
borrowing the doctrine from the Platonic school.

In Indian theology there is no more prominent doctrine than
that of a Divine Triad governing all things, consisting of Brahma,
Vishnu, and Siva. By Brahma, they mean God, the Creator ; by
Vishnu (according to the Sanscrit), a preserver, a comforter, a
cherisher ; and by Siva, a destroyer and avenger. To these three
l^ersonages, different functions are assigned, in the Hindoo
system of mythologic superstition, corresponding to the different
significations of their names. They are distinguished, likewise,
besides these general titles, in the various sastras and puranas,
by an infinite variety of appellations descriptive of their office.

Whatever doubts may arise respecting the Indian Trinity,
they will very speedily be dispelled by a view of that wonderful
and magnificent piece of sculpture which is found in the cele-
brated cavern of Elephanta, which has so often been described
by travellers, and which has ever been such a source of amuse-
ment to them. This, it is said, proves that from the remotest
era, the Indian nations have adored a Triune Deity. In this
cavern, the traveller beholds, with awe and astonishment, carved
out of the solid rock, in the most conspicuous part of the most
ancient and venerable temple in the world, a bust nearly twenty
feet in breadth, and eighteen feet in altitude, gorgeously decor-
ated, the image of the great presiding Deity of that sacred temple.

44 Masculine Cross.

The bust has three heads united to one body, and adorned with
the oldest symbols of the Indian theology, is regarded as repre-
senting the Creator, the Preserver, and the Regenerator of man-
kind. Owing to the gross surroundings of these characters,
respectively denominated Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva, any com-
parison cannot be instituted with the Christian Trinity ; yet the
worship paid to that triple divinity incontestably evinces that, on
this point of faith, the sentiments of the Indians are congenial
with those of the Chaldeans and Persians. Nor is it only in this
great Deity with three heads that these sentiments are demon-
strated, their veneration for that sacred number strikingly displays
itself in their sacred books — the three original Vedas — as if each
had been delivered by one personage of the august Triad, being
confined to that mystic number ; by the regular and prescribed
offering up of their devotions three times a day ; by the immer-
sion of their bodies, during ablution, three times in the purifying
wave ; and by their constantly wearing next their skin the sacred
Zennar, or cord of three threads, the mystic symbol of their
belief in a divine all-ruling Triad.

The sacred Zennar, just mentioned, is of consequence enough
to demand a fuller notice. Its threads can be twisted by no
other hand than that of a Brahmin, and he does it with the
utmost solemnity and many mystic rites. Three threads, eacli
measuring ninety-six hands, are first twisted together ; then they
are folded into three, and twisted again, making it to consist of
nine, — that is three times three threads ; this is folded again into
three, but without any more twisting, and each end is then
fastened with a knot. Such is the Zennar, which being put upon
the left shoulder, passes to the right side, and hangs down as
low as the lingers can reach.

'• The Hindoos," says M. Sonnerat, " adore three principal
deities, Brouma, Chiven, and Vi(^henou, who are still but One;

Masculine Cross. 45

which kind of Trinity is there called Trimourti, or Tritvamz. and
signifies the reunion of three powers. The generality of modern
Indians adore only one of these three divinities, but some learned
men, besides this worship, also address their prayers to the Three
united. The representation of them is to be seen in many pa-
godas, under that of human figures with three heads, which, on
the coast of Orissa, they call Sariharabrama ; on the Coromandel
coast, Trimourti ; and Tretratreyam, in the Sanscrit. It is
affirmed by Maurice that this latter term would not have been
found in Sanscrit had not the worship of a Trinity existed in
those ancient times, fully two thousand five hundred years ago,
when Sanscrit was the current language of India."

There have been found temples entirely consecrated to this
kind of Trinity ; such as that of Parpenade, in the kingdom of
Travancore, where the three gods are worshipped in the form of
a serpent with a thousand heads. The feast of Anandavourdon,
which the Indians celebrate to their honour, on the eve of the
full moon, in the month of Pretachi, or October, always draws a
great number of people, " which would not be the case," says
Sonnerat, " if those that came were not adorers of the Three

Mr. Forster writing, in 1785, on the Mythology of the Hin-
doos, says: — "A circumstance which forcibly struck my atten-
tion, was the Hindoo belief in a Trinity. The persons are Sree
Mun Narrain, the Mhah Letchimy (a beautiful woman), and a
Serpent, which are emblematical of strength, love, and wisdom.
These persons, by the Hindoos, are supposed to be wholly
indivisible. The one is three, and the three are one. In the
beginning, they say that the Deity created three men to whom he
gave the names of Brimha, Vystnou, and Sheevah. To the first
was committed the power of creating mankind, to the second of
cherishing them, and to the third that of restraining and correct-
ing them." The sacred persons who compose this Trinity are

46 Masculine Cross.

verv remarkable ; for Sree Mun Xarrain, as Mr. Forster writes
the word, is Xarayen, the supreme God ; the beautiful woman is
the Imma of the Hebrews ; and the union of the sexes in the
Divinity, is perfectly consonant with that ancient doctrine main-
tained in the Cleeta, and propagated by Orpheus, that the Deity
is both male and female.

Damascius, treating of the fecundity of the divine nature,
cites Orpheus as teaching that the Deity was at once both male
and female, to show the generative power by which all things
were formed. Proclus upon the " Timaeus of Plato," among
other Orphic verses, cites the following : " Jupiter is a man,
Jupiter is also an immortal maid." In the same commentary,
and in the same page we read that all things were contained in
the womb of Jupiter.

The serpent is the ancient and usual Egyptian symbol for
the divine Logos.

M. Tavernier, on his entering one of the great pagodas,
observed an idol in the centre of the building, sitting cross-legged
in the Indian fashion, upon whose head was placed unc triple
coiu'onnc ; and from this triple crown four horns extended them-
selves, the symbol of the rays of glory, denoting the Deity to
whom the four quarters of the world were under subjection.
According to the same author, in his account of the Benares
pagoda, the deity of India is saluted by prostrating the body
three times, and he is not only adorned with a triple crown, and
worshipped by a triple salutation, but he bears in his hand a
three-forked sceptre, exhibiting the exact model of the trident
of the Greek Xeptune.

X'ow here we must allude to some very remarkable discoveries
respecting the Trident of X'eptune and the use of a similar symbol
of authority by the Indian gods.

Masculine Cross. 47

Mr. Maurice points out that the unsatisfactory reasons given
by mythologists for the assignment of the trident to the Grecian
deity, exhibit very clear evidence of its being a symbol that was
borrowed from some more ancient mythology, and did not
naturally, or originally belong to Xeptune. Its three points, or
tines, some of them affirm to signify the different qualities of the
three sorts of waters that are upon the earth, as the waters of the
ocean, which are salt; the water of fountains, which is sweet;
and the water of lakes and ponds, which, in a degree, partakes
of the nature of both. Others, again, insist that this three-
pronged sceptre alludes to Neptune's threefold power over the
sea, viz., to agitate, to assuage, and to preserve. These reasons
are, all of them, in his estimation, mighty frivolous, and amount
to a confession of their total ignorance of its real meaning.

The trident was, in the most ancient periods, the sceptre of
the Indian deity, and may be seen in the hands of that deity in
one of the plates (iv.) of M. d'Ancarville's third volume, and
among the sacred symbols sculptured in Elephanta cavern, as
I)ictured by Xiebuhr in his engravings of the Elephanta an-
tiquities. '^ It was, indeed," says Maurice, " highly proper, and
strictly characteristic, that a threefold deity should wield a triple
sceptre, and I have now a very curious circumstance to unfold to
the reader, which I am enabled to do from the information of
Mr. Hodges, relative to this mysterious emblem. The very
ancient and venerable edifices of Deogur, which are in the form
of immense pyramids, do not terminate at the summit in a
pyramidal point, for the apex is cut off at about one seventh of
what would be the entire height of the pyramid were it completed,
and, from the centre of the top, there rises a circular cone, that
ancient emblem of the sun. What is exceedingly singular to
these cones is, that they are on their summits decorated with
this very symbol, or usurped sceptre, of the Greek TlocruSiuv.

48 Masculine Cross.

Thus was the outside of the building decorated and crowned, as
it were, with a conspicuous emblem of the worship celebrated
within, which from the antiquity of the structure, raised in the
infancy of the empire after cavern-worship had ceased, was
probably that of Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva ; for we have seen
that Elephanta is, in fact, a temple to the Indian Triad,
evidenced in the colossal sculpture that forms the principal
figure of it, and excavated probably ere Brahma had fallen into
neglect among those who still acknowledge him as the creative
energy, or different sects had sprung up under the respective
names of Vishnu and Siva. Understood with reference to the
pure theology of India, such appears to me to be the meaning of
this mistaken symbol ; but a system of physical theology quickly
succeeded to the pure ; and the debased, but ingenious, progeny,
who invented it, knew too well how to adapt the s}TTibols and
images of the true and false devotion. The three sublime
hypostases of the true Trinity were degraded into three attributes ;
in physical causes the sacred mysteries of religion were attempted
to be explained away ; its doctrines were corrupted, and its
emblems perverted. They went the al;)surd length of degrading
a Creator (for such Brahma, in the Hindoo creed, confessedly is)
to the rank of a created Dewtah, which has been shewn to be a
glaring solecism in theology.

" The evident result then is, that, nothwithstanding all the
corruption of the purer theology of the Brahmins, by the base
alloy of human i)hilosophy, under the perverted notion of three
attributes, the Indians have immemorially worshipped a threefold
Divinity, who, considered apart from their physical notions, is
the Creator, the Preserver, and the Regenerator. We must
again repeat that it would be in the highest degree absurd to con-
tinue to affix the name of Destroyer to the third hypostasis in
their Triad, when it is notorious that the Brahmins deny that

Masculine Cross. 49

anything can be destroyed, and insist that a change alone in the
form of objects and their mode of existence takes place. One
feature, therefore, in that character, hostile to our system, upon
strict examination vanishes ; and the other feature, which creates
so much disgust and gives such an air of licentiousness to his
character, is annihilated by the consideration of their deep im-
mersion in philosophical speculations, of their incessant en-
deavours to account for the divine operations by natural causes,
and to explain them by palpable and visible symbols."

No image of the supreme Brahma himself is ever made ; but
in place of it his attributes are arranged, as in the temple of
Gharipuri, thus :





The Past






The Present






The Future


Captain Wilford in the loth vol. of the Asiatic Researches
writes of Meru or Moriah, the hill of God, and he says: —
" Polyaenus calls Mount Meru or Merius, Tri-coryphus. It is
true that he bestows improperly that epithet on Mount Meru,
near Cabul, which is inadmissible. Meru, with its three peaks
on the summit, and its seven steps, includes and encompasses
really the whole world, according to the notions of the Hindus
and other nations previously to their being acquainted with the
globular shape of the earth." Basnage, in his history of the
Jews, says " there are seven earths, whereof one is higher than
the other ; for the Holy Land is situated upon the highest earth,
and Mount Moriah (or Meru) is in the middle of that Holy Land.
This is the hill of God so often mentioned in the Old Testament,
the mount of the congregation where the mighty King sits in the
sides of the north, according to Isaiah, and there is the city of

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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 4 of 11)