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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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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 7 of 11)
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nation upon earth ? "

Inman without hesitation declares " the trinity of the ancients
is unquestionably of phallic origin." Others have either pre-
ceded this writer or have followed suit, contending that the male
symbol of generation in divine creation was three in one, as the
cross, &c., and that the female symbol was always regarded as
the Triangle, the accepted symbol of the Trinity. The number
three, was employed with mystic solemnity, and in the emblem-
atical hands which seem to have been borne on the top of a staff
or sceptre in the Isiac processions, the thumb and two fore-
fingers are held up to signify the three primary and general
personifications. This form of priestly blessing, thumb and two
fingers, is still acknowledged as a sign of the Trinity.

The ancients tell us plainly enough that they are derived from
the cosmogonic elements. They are primarily the material and



76 Masculine Cross.

elementary types of the spiritual trinity of revelation — types
established by revelation itself, and the only resource of
materialism to preserve the original doctrine. The spirit,
whether physical or spiritual, is equally the pneuma ; and the
light, whether physical or spiritual, equally the pJios of the Greek
text : so that the materialist of antiquity had little difficulty in
preserving their analogies complete.

The Dahomans are said by Skertchley to deny the corporeal
existence of the deity, but to ascribe human passions to him ;
a singular medl-ey. " Their religion," he says, " must not be con-
founded with Polytheism, for they only worship one god, Mau,
but propitiate him through the intervention of the fetiches. Of
these, there are four principal ones, after whom come the second-
ary deities. The most important of these is Bo, the Dahoman
Mars ; then comes Legba, the Dahoman Priapus, whose little
huts are to be met with in every street. This deity is of either
sex, a male and female Legba often residing in the same temple.
A squat swish image, rudely moulded into the grossest carica-
ture on the human form, sitting with hands on knees, with gaping
mouth, and the special attributes developed to an ungainly size.
Teeth of cowries usually fill the clown-like mouth, and ears
standing out from the head, like a bat's, are only surpassed in
their monstrosity by the snowshoe-shaped feet. The nose is
broad, even for a negro's, and altogether the deity is anything
but a fascinating object. Round the deity is a fence of knobbed
sticks, daubed with filthy slime, and before the god is a flat
saucer of red earthenware, which contains the offerings. When
a person wishes to increase his family, he calls in a Legba priest
and gives him a fowl, some cankie, water, and palm oil. A fire
is lighted, and the cankie, water, and palm oil mixed together
and put in the saucer. The fowl is then killed by placing the
head between the great and second toes of the priest, who severs



Masculine Cross. 77

it from the body by a jerk. The head is then swung over the
person of the worshipper, to allow the blood to drop upon him,
while the bleeding body is held over a little dish, which catches
the blood. The fowl is then semi-roasted on a fire lighted near,
and the priest, taking the dish of blood, smears the body of the
deity with it, finally taking some of the blood into his mouth and
sputtering it over the god. The fowl is then eaten by the priest,
and the wives of the devotees are supposed to have the children
they crave for."

The principal Dahoman gods, described by Skertchley, are
thus mentioned by Forlong : —

Legba, the Dahoman Priapus, and special patron of all w^ho
desire larger families.

Zoo, the god of fire, reminding us of Zoe, life.

Demen, he who presides over chastity.

Akwash, he who presides over childbirth.

Gbwejeh, he or she who presides over hunting.

Ajarama, the tutelary god of foreigners, symbolised by a
whitewashed stump under a shed, apparently a Sivaic or white
Lingam, no doubt called foreign because Ashar came from
Assyria, and Esir from the still older Ethiopians.

Hoho, he who presides over twins.

Af a, the name of the dual god of wisdom.

Aizan, the god who presides over roads, and travellers, and
bad characters, and can be seen on all roads as a heap of clay
surmounted by a round pot, containing kanki, palm oil, &c.

'"So that we have Legba, the pure and simple phallus ; Ajar-
ama, ' the whitened stump,' so well known to us in India amidst
rude aboriginal tribes ; and Ai-zan, the Hermes or Harmonia,
marking the ways of life, and symbolised by a mound and round
pot, and considering that this is the universal form of tatooing
shown on every female's stomach, — Mr. Skertchley says, a series



78 Masculine Cross.

of arches, the meaning is also clearly the omphi. Mr. S. says
that Afa, our African Androgynous Minerva, is very much
respected by mothers, and has certain days sacred to mothers,
when she or he is specially consulted on their special subjects,
as well as on all matters relating to marrying, building a house,
sowing corn, and such like." ^

Some years ago a writer, speaking of the Sacred Triads of
various nations, said : " From all quarters of the heathen world
came the trinity," what we have already revealed shows that the
doctrine has been held in some form or other from the far east
to the extreme verge of the western hemisphere. Some of the
forms of this Triad are as follows: — India — Brahma, Vishnu,
Siva : Egypt — Knef, Osiris as the first ; Ptha, Isis as the second ;
Phree, Horus as the third : the Zoroastrians — The Father, Mind,
and Fire : the Ancient Arabs — Al-Lat, Al Uzzah, Manah :
Greeks and Latins — Zeus or Jupiter, Neptune, Pluto : the Syrians
— Monimus, Azoz, Aries or Mars : the Kaldians — The One ; the
Second, who dwells with the First ; the Third, he who shines
through the universe : China — the One, the Second from the
First, the Third from the Second: the Boodhists — Boodhash,
the Developer; Darmash, the Developed; Sanghash, the Hosts
Developed : Peruvians — Apomti, Charunti, Intiquaoqui : Scan-
dinavia — Odin, Thor, Friga : Pythagoras — Monad, Duad, Triad :
Plato — the Infinite, the Finite, that which is compounded of the
Two: Phenicia — Belus, the Sun; Urama, the Earth; Adonis,
Love : Kalmuks — Tarm, Megozan, Bourchan : Ancient Greece —
Om, or On ; Dionysus, or Bacchus ; Herakles : Orpheus — God,
the Spirit, Kaos : South American Indians — Otkon, Messou,
Atahanto.

* Rivers of Life.



CHAPTER V.

The Golden Calf of Aaron — Was it a Cone or an Animall —
The Prayer to Priapus — Hymn to Priafus — The Complaint
of Priapus.

T N the thirty-second chapter of the Book of Exodus we have
-L the following remarkable account of certain Israelitish pro-
ceedings in the time of Moses and Aaron: — "When the people
saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the
people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto
him, up, make us gods, which shall go before us ; for as for this
Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we
wot not what is become of him. And Aaron said unto them,
break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives,
of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me.
And all the people brake off the golden earrings which were in
their ears, and brought them unto Aaron ; and he received them
at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had
made it a molten calf, and they said, ' These le thy gods O Israel,
which brought thee out of the land of Egypt.' And when Aaron
saw it, he built an altar before it ; and Aaron made proclamation,
and said, ' To-morrow is a feast to the Lord.' And they rose up
early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings, and brought
offerings, and brought peace offerings ; and the people sat down
to eat and to drink, and rose up to play."

There is no doubt this is a most remarkable, and, for the most
part, inexplicable transaction. That it was an act of the grossest
idolatry is clear, but the details of the affair are not so readily
disposed of, and some amount of discussion has in consequence
arisen, which has cast imputations upon the conduct of the ancient
Jews not very favourably regarded by the moderns.



8o Masculine Cross.

The conduct of Aaron is certainly startling, to say the least of
it, for when the people presented their outrageous demand,
coupled with their insolent and contemptuous language about the
man Moses, he makes no remonstrance, utters no rebuke, but
apparently falls in at once with their proposal and prepares to
carry it out. The question is, however, what was it that was
really done? What was the character of the image or idol,
he fashioned out of the golden ornaments which he requested
them to take from the ears of their wives, their sons, and their
daughters ?

The suggestion that anything of a phallic nature is to be.
attributed to this transaction has been loudly ridiculed and
indignantly spurned by some who have had little acquaintance
with that species of worship, but it is by no means certain that
the charge can be so easily disposed of. That phallic practises
prevailed, more or less, amongst the Jews is certain, and however
this matter of the golden image may be explained, it will be
difficult to beheve they were not somehow concerned in it.

It may be a new revelation to some to be told that in the
opinion of some scholars the idol form set up by those foolish
idolators was not that of a calf at all, but of a cone. The Hebrew
word cgcl or ghegd has been usually taken to mean calf, but, say
these gentlemen, erroneously so, its true signification being alto-
gether different. It is pleaded that it was not at all likely that the
Israelites should, so soon after their miraculous deliverance from
the house of bondage, have so far forgotten what was due from
them in grateful remembrance of that, as to have ])lunged into
such gross and debased idolatry as the adoration of deitv under
the form of an animal. Also that it would have been inconsistent
with their exclamation when they saw the image, '' This is thv
God, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of I^gypt,"
and with Aaron's proclamation, after he had built an altar before



Masculine Cross. 8i

the idol for the people to sacrifice burnt offerings on, " To-
morrow is a feast to the Lord." It is urged from these expres-
sions that the only reasonable and legitimate inference is, that the
golden idol was intended to be the similitude or symbol of the
Eternal Himself, and not of any other God.

Certainly it is, as we have said, remarkable, and presents a
problem not at all easy of solution. Dr. Beke contends that in
any case, it is inconceivable that the figure of a calf should have
been chosen to represent the invisible God — he concludes, there-
fore, that the word cgel has been wrongly translated.

With regard to the etymology of the word, its root dgal is
declared to be doubtful, Fiirst taking it to mean to run, to hasten,
to leap, and Gesenius suggesting that its primary signification in
the Ethiopic, '' egel denoting, like golem, something rolled or
wrapped together, an unformed mass ; and hence embryo, foetus,
and also the young, as just born and still unshapen."

It is inferred from this, supposing it to be correct, that the
primary idea of this and kindred roots, is that of roundness, so
that egel may readily mean any rounded figure, such as a globe,
cylinder, or cone. " Adopting this," says Dr. Beke, — " a cone,
as the true meaning of the Hebrew word in the text, the sense of
the transaction recorded will be, that Moses having delayed to
come down from the Mount, the Israelites, fearing that he was
lost, and looking on the Eternal as their true deliverer and leader,
required Aaron to make for them Elohim — that is to say, a visible
similitude or symbol of their God who had brought them up out
of the land of Mitzraim. Aaron accordingly made for them a
golden cone, as an image of the flame of fire seen by Moses in the
burning bush, and of the fire in which the Eternal had descended
upon Sinai, this being the only visible form in which the Almighty
had been manifested. Of such a representation or symbol, a
sensuous people like the Israelites might without inconsistency



82 Masculine Cross.

say, ' This is thy God, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the
land of Mitzraim ; ' at the same time that Aaron, after having
built an altar before it, could make proclamation and say, ' To-
morrow is the feast to the Eternal,' that is to say, to the invisible
God, whose eidolon or visible image this cgcl was."

It is admitted by the advocates of this theory that there are
certain things in the English version which appear adverse to it.
For instance, it is said that all the people broke off the golden
earrings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron ;
and he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a
graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf, from which it
might be inferred, it is said, that the idol was first roughly moulded
and cast by the founder, and then finished by the sculptor.

It is urged however, that it is generally admitted by scholars
that the original does not warrant this rendering, the words
" after he had," which are not in the text, having been added for
the purpose of making sense of the passage, which, if translated
literally, would read, " He formed it with a graving tool, and
made it a golden calf," a statement, says Dr. Beke, which in spite
of all the efforts made to explain it, is inconsistent with the rest of
the narrative, which repeatedly says, in express terms, that the
idol was a molten image.

In order to get rid of this difficulty, several learned commen-
tators have interpreted the word lihcrcih (graving-tool) as meaning
like hharith, a bag, pocket, or purse, causing the passage to read,
" He received them at their hands, and put it (the gold) into a
bag, and made it a golden calf." Dr. Beke thinks this untenable
on the ground that as Aaron must necessarily have collected the
golden earrings together before casting them into the fire, it is
hardly likely that express mention would be made of so trivial a
circumstance as that of his putting them into a bag merely for
the purpose of immediately taking them out again.



Masculine Cross. 83

The root hharath, according to Gesenius, has the meaning of
to cut in, to engrave ; and one of the significations of the kindred
root pharaiz is to cut to a point, to make pointed. " Hharithim,
the plural of hhereth, is said to mean purses, bags for money, so
called from their long and round shape, perhaps like an inverted
cone ; whence it is that Bochart and others acquired their notion
that Aaron put the golden earrings of the Israelites into a bag." *

Dr. Beke remarks : — '' If the word hhereth signifies a bag, on
account of its resemblance to an inverted cone, it may equally
signify any other similarly-shaped receptacle or vessel, such as a
conical fire-pot or crucible; and if the golden earrings were
melted in such a vessel, the molten metal, when cool, would of
course have acquired therefrom its long and round form, like an
inverted cone, which is precisely the shape of the egel made by
Aaron, on the assumption that this was intended to represent the
flame of fire. Consequently, we may now read the passage in
question literally, and without the slightest violence of con-
struction, as follows : ' And all the people brake off the golden
earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron.
And he received them at their hands, and placed it (the gold) in
a crucible, and made it a molten cone;' this cone having taken
the long and rounded form of the crucible in which it was melted
and left to cool."

An argument in favour of this reading is certainly supplied by
Exodus xxxii. 24, where Aaron is represented as saying to Moses,
when trying to excuse his action, " I said unto them, Whosoever
hath any gold, let them break it off. So they gave it me : then I
cast it into the fire, and there came out this calf [or cone?] It is
contended that " the whole tenour of the narrative goes to show
that the operation of making the idol for the children of Israel to
worship must have been a most simple, and, at the same time, a

* Dr. Beke.



84 Masculine Cross.

very expeditious one, such as the melting of the gold in a crucible
would be, but which the moulding and casting of the figure of a
calf, however roughly modelled and executed, could not possibly
have been."

This cone or phallic theory met with a by no means ready re-
ception by Jewish scholars ; it had not been broached many days
before it was energetically attacked and its destruction sought
both by ridicule and argument. It has been admitted, however,
that philologically there is something in it, more even, says Dr.
Benisch, than its advocate Dr. Beke has made out. The former
goes so far as to state that its root, not only in Hebrew, but also
in Chaldee and Arabic, primarily designates roundness ; and
secondarily, that which is the consequence of a round shape,
facility of being rolled, speed, and conveyance ; consequently,
that it may therefore be safely concluded that it would be in
Hebrew a very suitable designation for a cone. '' Moreover, the
same root in the same signification is also found in some of the
Aryan languages. Compare the German ' kugel " (ball) and
' kegel ' (cone).' "

The chief objection lies in the fact that there are various pas-
sages in the Scriptures where the word occurs, whose contexts
clearly show that the idea intended was that of a living creature,
and that the unbroken usage of language, from the author of
Genesis to that of Chronicles, shows that the term had never
changed its signification, viz. : that of calf, bullock, or heifer. In
Levit. ix. 2, 3, 8 ; i Sam. xxviii. 26; Ps. xxix. 6; Isa. xi. 6; Isa.
xxvii. 10; Mic. vi. 6, for instance, there can be no mistake that
the reference is to the living animal, and a reference to the
Hebrew concordance shows that the term, inclusive of the feminine
(heifer), occurs fifty-one times in the Bible, in twenty-nine cases
of which the word indisputably means a living creature. Dr.
Benisch therefore asks, " Is it admissible that one and the same



Masculine Cross. 85

writer (for instance, the Deuteronomist) should have used four
times this word in the sense of heifer (xxii. 4 and 6 ; xxi. 3), and
once in that of cone (ix. 16) without implying by some adjective,
or some turn of language, that the word is a homonyme ? Or
that Hosea, in x. 11, should clearly employ it in the sense of
heifer, and, in viii. 5, in that of cone ? A glance at the concord-
ance will show that, in every one of the more important books,
the word in question occurs most clearly in the sense of calf, and
never in a passage which should render a different translation in-
admissible. On what ground, therefore, can it be maintained
that, in the days of the author of the io6th Psalm, the supposed
original meaning of cone had been forgotten, and that of calf
substituted ? "

The reply to the objection that one and the same word is not
likely to have been used by the same or contemporaneous writers
in two different senses, and that the word has a uniform traditional
interpretation, is that in the Hebrew, as in the English, consider-
able ambiguity occurs, and that the same word sometimes has two
meanings of the most distinct and irreconcilable character. As
regards the second objection, says Dr. Bake, which is based on
the unbroken chain of tradition for about two thousand years, it
can only hold good on the assumption that the originators of the
tradition were infallible. If not, an error, whether committed in-
tentionally or unintentionally in the first instance, does not be-
come a truth by dint of repetition ; any more than truth can be-
come error by being as persistently rejected. The Doctor con-
tends that w^hen the Jews became intimately connected with
Egypt, and witnessed there the adoration of the sacred bull Apis,
they fell into the error of regarding as a golden calf the egel, or
conical representation of the flame of fire, which their forefathers,
and after them the Ten Tribes, had w^orshipped as the similitude
of the Eternal, but of which they themselves, as Jews, had lost



86 Masculine Cross.

the signification. If this was the case, it is only natural that the
error should have been maintained traditionally until pointed out.

So stands the argument with regard to the theory of its being
a golden cone, and not the figure of a calf that Aaron made out
of the people's ornaments, and the worship of which so naturally
provoked the wrath of Moses. There is much to be said in its
favour, though not enough, perhaps, to make it conclusive. The
propounder of it expressed his regret that he was under the neces-
sity of protesting against the allegation that he had imputed to the
Israelites what he calls the obscene phallic worship. '' Most ex-
pressly," he says, " did I say that the molten golden image made
by Aaron at Mount Sinai was a plain conical figure, intended to
represent the God who had delivered the people from their bond-
age in the land of Mitzraim, in the form in which alone He
had been manifested to them and to their inspired leader and
legislator, namely that of the flame of fire." This is perfectly
true, but those who are intimately acquainted with the phallic
faiths of the world will find it difficult to disassociate the conical
form of idol from those representations of the human physical
organ which have been found as objects of adoration in so many
parts of both the eastern and western hemispheres.

Supposing the philological argument to possess any weight —
and that it does has been admitted even by those who regret the
cone theory, — there are other circumstances which certainly may
be adduced in confirmation thereof. For instance, the word
cheret translated graving-tool, may mean also a mould. Again,
it does not appear at all likely that the quantity of gold supplied
by the ear-rings of the people would be sufficient to make a solid
calf of the size. True, it may have been manufactured of some
other material and covered with gold ; but the easier solution of
the difficulty certainly seems that which suggests that Aaron took
these ornaments and melted them in a crucible of the ordinary



Masculine Cross. 87

form, afterwards turning out therefrom, when cold, the golden
cone to which the people rendered idolatrous worship.

The whole subject is surrounded wdth difficulty, and men of
equal learning and ability have taken opposite sides in the dis-
cussion, supporting and refuting in turn. Passing over the dispute
as to whether Aaron simply received the ear-rings in a bag or
whether he graved them with an engraving tool, — the first warmly
argued by Bochart, and the latter by Le Clerc — a dispute we can
never settle owing to the remarkable ambiguity of the language,
we may briefly notice the question, supposing it was a calf made
by Aaron, what induced and determined the choice of such a
figure ? Nor must it be supposed that here we are upon unde-
1 )atable ground ; on the contrary, the same divergence of opinion
prevails as with respect to the previous question. Fr. Moncseus
said that Aaron got his idea on the mountain, where he was once
admitted with Moses ; and on another occasion with Nadab and
Abihu, and the seventy elders. This writer and others tell us
that God appeared exalted on a cherub which had the form of
an ox.

Patrick says that Aaron seems to him to have chosen an ox to
be the symbol of the Divine presence, in hope that people would
never be so sottish as to worship it, but only be put in mind by it
of the Divine power, which was hereby represented, — an ox's
head being anciently an emblem of strength, and horns a common
sign of kingly power. He contends that the design was simply
to furnish a hieroglyphic of the energy and power of God.

The usual explanation is that Aaron chose a calf because that
animal was worshipped in Egypt. That the Israelites were tainted
with Egyptian idolatry is plain from Joshua's exhortation: —
" Now therefore, fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in
truth ; and put away the gods which your fathers served on the
other side of the flood, and in Egypt, and serve ye the Lord"



88 Masculine Cross.

(Josh, xxiv., 14). Also Ezekiel xx., 7 and 8: — ''They did not
every man cast away the abominations of their eyes, neither did
they forsake the idols of Egypt."


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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 7 of 11)