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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 9 of 11)
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be aflfirmed of it, that it has been held ' semper, ubique, et ab
omnibus,' being universal as the phenomenon to which it owes its
existence.

" How essential to the consistency of the Catholic system is
this doctrine of duality you may judge by the shortcomings of the
theologies which reject it. Unitarianism blunders alike in regard
to the Trinity and the Duality. Affecting to see in God a Father,
it denies him the possibility of having either spouse or offspring.
More rational than such a creed as this was the primitive worship
of sex, as represented by the male and female principles in nature.
In no gross sense was the symbolism of such a system conceived,
gross as its practice may have become, and as it would appear
to the notions of modern conventionalism. For no religion is



I02 Masculine Cross.

founded upon intentional depravity. Searching back for the
origin of life, men stopped at the earliest point to which they
could trace it, and exalted the reproductive organs into symbols
of the Creator. The practice was at least calculated to procure
respect for a side of nature liable under an exclusively spiritual
regime to be relegated to undue contempt.

'' It appears certain that the names of the Hebrew deity bear
the sense I have indicated ; El, the root of Elhoim, the name
under which God was known to the Israelites prior to their entry
into Canaan, signifying the masculine sex only ; while Jahveh, or
Jehovah, denotes both sexes in combination. The religious rites
practised by Abraham and Jacob prove incontestably their adhe-
rence to this, even then, ancient mode of symbolising deity ; and
though after the entry into Canaan, the leaders and reformers of
the Israelites strove to keep the people from exchanging the wor-
ship of their own divinity for that of the exclusively feminine
principle worshipped by the Canaanites with unbridled licence
under the name of Ashera, yet the indigenous religion became
closely incorporated with the Jewish ; and even Moses himself fell
back upon it when, yielding to a pressing emergency, he gave his
sanction to the prevailing Tree and Serpent worship by his eleva-
tion of a brazen serpent upon a pole or cross. For all portions
of this structure constitute the most universally accepted symbols
of sex in the world.

" It is to India that we must go for the earliest traces of these
things. The Jews originated nothing, though they were skilful
appropriators and adapters of other men's effects. Brahma, the
first person in the Hindoo Triad, was the original self-existent
being, inappreciable by sense, who commenced the work of crea-
tion by creating the waters with a thought, as described in the
Institutes of Manu. The waters, regarded as the source of all
subsequent life, became identified with the feminine principle in



Masculine Cross. 103

nature — whence the origin of the mystic rite of baptism — and the
atmosphere was the divine breath or spirit. The description in
Genesis of the Spirit of God moving upon the face of the waters,
indicates the influence upon the Jews of the Hindoo theogony to
which they had access through Persia.

" The twofold name of Jehovah also finds a correspondence
in the Arddha-Nari, or incarnation of Brahma, who is represented
in sculptures as containing in himself the male and female
organisms. And the worship of the implements of fecundity
continues popular in India to this day. The same idea underlies
much of the worship of the ancient Greeks, finding expression in
the symbols devoted to Apollo or the sun, and in their an-
drogynous sculptures. Aryan, Scandinavian, and Semitic re-
ligions were alike pervaded by it, the male principle being repre-
sented by the sun, and the female by the moon, which was
variously personified by the virgins, Ashtoreth or Astarte, Diana,
and others, each of whom, except in the Scandinavian mythology,
where the sexes are reversed, had the moon for her special
symbol. Similarly, the allegory of Eden finds one of its keys
in the phenomena of sex, as is demonstrated by the ancient
Syrian sculptures of Ashera, or the Grove ; and ' the tree of life
in the midst of the garden ' forms the point of departure for
beliefs which have lasted thousands of years, and which have
either spread from one source over, or been independently origin-
ated in, every part of the habitable globe." *

It is evident that this worship is of the most extremely ancient
character and that it was based originally upon ideas that had
nothing gross and debasing in them. It is true that it at various
times assumed indelicate forms and was associated with much
that was of the most degrading character, but the first idea was
only to use for religious purposes that which seemed the most

* Keys of the Creeds, V.



I04 ■ Masculine Cross.

apt emblem of creation and regeneration. " Is it strange," asks
a lady writer, '' that they regarded with reverence the great
mystery of human birth ? Were they impure thus to regard it ?
Or, are we impure that we do not so regard it? Let us not smile
at their mode of tracing the infinite and incomprehensible cause
throughout all the mysteries of nature, lest by so doing we cast
the shadow of our own grossness on their patriarchal simplicity."

It became with this very much as it does with all symbolism,
more or less, that is to say from the worship of that which was
symbolised, it degenerated to the worship of the emblem itself.

But the ancient Egyptians exerted themselves considerably to
restrain within certain bounds of propriety the natural tendency
of this worship and we find them allowing it to embrace only the
masculine side of humanity, afterwards, as was perhaps only to
be expected, the feminine was introduced. Then, as particularly
exhibited in the case of India, it gradually became nothing more
or less than a vehicle for satisfying the licentious desires of the
most degrading of both sexes.

It is wonderful, however, the extraordinary hold these ideas
attained upon the human mind, whether they entered into the
religious conceptions of the people, or pandered to vicious desires
under the mere cloak of religion. The Tetrabiblos of Ptolemy
(four books relative to Starry Influences), speaking of the coun-
tries India, Ariana, Gedrosia, Parthia, Media, Persia, Babylon,
Mesopotamia, and Assyria, says : — " Many of them practise
divination, and devote their genitals to their divinities because
the familiarity of these planets renders them very libidinous."

Nor must we forget the peculiar sacredness with which in the
early Jewish Church these organs were always regarded, — that is,
the male organs. Injury of them disqualified the unfortunate
victim from ministering in the congregation of the Lord, and the
severest punishment was meted out to the (Timinal who should



Masculine Cross. 105

be guilty of causing such injury. Thus in the book of Deuter-
onomy, chap. XXV., II, 12, we read : — " When men strive together
one with another, and the wife of the one draweth near for to
deliver her husband out of the hand of him that smiteth him,
and putteth forth her hand, and taketh him by the secrets : then
thou shalt cut off her hand, thine eye shall not pity her." And
this was not to be an act of revenge on the part of the injured
man, but was to be the legal penalty duly enforced by the civil
magistrate. It is very extraordinary, for it appears that such an
injury inflicted upon an enemy — and evidently it meant the dis-
ablement of the man from the act of sexual intercourse — was
regarded as even more serious than the actual taking of life in
self-defence. The degradation attached to the man thus mutilated
was greater than could otherwise be visited upon him — all respect
for him vanished and he was henceforward regarded as an abom-
ination.

Such mutilation has always been common in heathen nations
— similarly regarded as amongst the Hebrews, but used as the
greatest mark of indignity possible to inflict upon an enemy —
some of the Egyptian bas-reliefs represent the King (Rameses II.)
returning in triumph with captives, many of whom are undergoing
the operation of castration, while in the corners of the scene are
heaped up piles of the genital organs which have been cut off by
the victors. Some of the North American Indians, particularly
the Apaches of California and Arizona, have been noted for their
frequent use of the same barbarous practice on the prisoners
taken in war and upon the bodies of the slain.

We get a similar instance in Israelitish history as recorded
in the first book of Samuel, where Saul being afraid of David,
sought a favourable opportunity to get him slain by the Philistines.
There is the story of the love of Michal, Saul's daughter, for
David, and the use Saul endeavoured to make of that fact in



io6 Masculine Cross.

carrying out his evil designs. The news that Michal had thus
fallen in love, pleased Saul, and he said, " I will give him her,
that she may be a snare to him and that the hand of the Philis-
tines may be against him." So David was told that the King
would make him his son-in-law. But it was customary in those
times for the bridegroom to give a dowry instead of as at other
times and in other places, to receive one, and David immediately
raised the objection that this was out of his power as he was but
a poor man. This was Saul's opportunity and his message was,
" the King desireth not any dowry, but an hundred foreskins of
the Philistines. But Saul thought to make David fall by the hand
of the Philistines." Of course this involved the slaughter of a
hundred of the enemy, and Saul made sure in attempting such a
task, David would fall before odds so terribly against him. In
commanding the foreskins to be brought to him Saul made sure
that they would be Philistines who were slain, they being almost
the only uncircumcised people about him. This proposal, how-
ever, it seems, did not alarm David in the least, he went forth at
once on his terrible mission and actually brought back thrice the
number of foreskins required of him by the King. This is not
the only case on record of such a mutilation ; mention is made by
Gill the commentator of an Asiatic writer who speaks of a people
that cut off the genital parts of men, and gave them to their wives
for a dowry.

So sacred was the organ in question deemed in ancient times,
esj)ecially in Israel, that it was used as the means of administering
the most binding form of oath then known. It is described as
putting the hand upon the thigh, and instances are found in
Genesis xxiv., 2, and xlvii., 29. In the former of these passages
Abraham requires his elder servant to put his hand under his
thigh and take an oath respecting the wife he would seek for his
son Isaac. In the second passage, it is Jacob requiring his son



Masculine Cross. 107

Joseph to perform a similar action ; in each case what is meant
is that the genital organ, the symbol of the Creator and the object
of worship among all ancient nations was to be touched in the act
of making the promise.

But, as we have pointed out, there is another side to this
matter, the worship of the male organ was only one part ; the
female organs of generation were revered as symbols of the genera-
tive power of God. They are usually represented emblematically
by the shell, or Concha Veneris, which was therefore worn by
devout persons of antiquity, as it still continues to be by pilgrims
and many of the common women of Italy. The union of both
was expressed by the hand, mentioned in Sir William Hamilton's
letter, which, being a less explicit symbol, has escaped the atten-
tion of the reformers, and is still worn as well as the shell by
women of Italy, though without being understood. It repre-
sented the act of generation, which was considered as a solemn
sacrament in honour of the Creator.

Some of the foms used to represent the sacti or female
principle, are very peculiar yet familiar to many who may not
understand them. Indeed, as Inman says, "the moderns, w^ho
have not been initiated in the sacred mysteries, and only know
the emblems considered sacred, have need of both anatomical
knowledge and physiological lore ere they can see the meaning
of many a sign."

As already stated, the triangle with its apex uppermost repre-
sents the phallic triad ; with its base uppermost, the Mons
Veneris, the Delta, or the door by which all come into the world.
Dr. Inman says : — "As a scholar, I had learned that the Greek
letter Delta (A.) is expressive of the female organ both in shape
and idea. The selection of name and symbol was judicious, for
the word Daleth and Delta signify the door of a house and the
outlet of a river, while the figure reversed (V) represents the



io8 Masculine Cross.

fringe with which the human Delta is overshadowed " — this
Delta is simply another word for the part known as Concha, a
shell. This Concha or Shank is one of the most important of the
Eastern symbols, and is found repeated again and again in
almost everything connected with the Hindu Pantheon. Plate
vi. of Moor's elaborately illustrated work on the Indian deities
represents it as seen in the hands of Vishnu and his consort.
The god is represented like all the solar deities with four hands,
and standing in an arched doorway. The head-dress is of ser-
pents ; in one of the right hands is the diamond form the symbol
of the Creator ; in one of the left hands is the large Concha and
in the other right hand, the great orb of the day; the shell is
winged and has a phallic top.

This shell is said to have been the first priestly bell, and it
is even now the Hindoo church-bell, in addition to gongs and
trumpets. It comes specially into use when the priest performs
his ceremonies begore the Lingam ; it is blown when he is about
to anoint the emblem, like a bell is used in some Christian
churches in the midst of ceremonies of particular importance and
solemnity.

The female principle, or sacred Sacti, is also represented by a
figure like that called a sistrum, a Hebrew musical instrument,
sometimes translated cornet. Inman contends in spite of much
opposition from his friends that this represents the mother who is
still virgo intacta. He points out that in some things it embodies
a somewhat different idea to the Yoni, the bars across it being
bent so that they cannot be taken out, this showing that the door
is closed.

The secret of this peculiar worship seems to lie in the fact,
ever so prominent in all that has to do with the social and
religious life of the Eastern, of an intense desire for offspring.
In harmony with this is the frequent promise in the Scriptures



Masculine Cross. 109

of an abundance of children and the declaration of happiness of
the man so blessed. One instance may be noted as recorded in
Genesis xiii., 16, the promise to Abram : "I will make thy seed
as the dust of the earth : so that if a man can number the dust
of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered." None the
less fervent — perhaps even more so — is the desire of the Indian
to possess and leave behind him a progeny who shall not only
succeed to his worldly acquisitions, but by religious exercises
help forward his happiness in the region of the departed.

It is said that in this part of the world, a constant topic of
conversation amongst the men is their physical power to propa-
gate their race, and that upon this matter physicians are more
frequently consulted than upon any other. " Not only does the
man think thus, but the female has her thoughts directed to the
same channel, and there has been a special bell invented by
Hindoo priests for childless females. Some kindred belief seems
to be held or suggested by the practices of the Mormon com-
munity, in which large numbers of women are united in marriage
to one man. In Genesis xxx., Rachel seeing that she bore no
children is described as envying her sister, and saying to Jacob,
"Give me children, or else I die." Again i Samuel i., 10, 11 :
" And she (Hannah) was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto
the Lord, and wept sore. And she vowed a vow, and said, ' O
Lord of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine
handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid,
but will give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give
him unto the Lord, &c.' " And so on ; instances could be multi-
plied largely, but it is unnecessary.

With many of the eastern women it was a matter of the
highest consequence that they have children, as failing to do so
it was strictly within the legal rights of the husband at once to
put away his wife by a summary divorce, or at any rate to take a



no Masculine Cross.

concubine into his home in order that he might not go childless ;
the woman who proved hopelessly barren became an object of
contempt or commiseration to all about her, and her life a scene
of prolonged shame and misery. And so, in certain parts of the
world, arose sex worship, the idea being that by the worship of
the organs of generation the misfortune of barrenness might be
avoided. The priests were not slow to avail themselves of a
ready means of adding to their reputation and influence and in-
creasing their revenues, and women, who for some cause or an-
other had hitherto been without offsi:)ring, were encouraged to
visit the temples and make their proper offerings, and go through
the prescribed ceremonies for curing their sterility. As willing
as the women were for all this, were the men, and though some-
times the defect lay in themselves j)hysically, it is said that the
arrangements at the temples were such as almost invariably
succeeded in making the wives mothers.

" If abundance of offspring was promised as a blessing," says
Dr. Inman, '' it is clear to the physiologist that the pledge
implies abundance of vigour in the man as well as in the woman.
With a husband incompetent, no wife could be fruitful. The
condition, therefore, of the necessary organs was intimately as-
sociated with the divine blessing or curse, and the impotent man
then would as naturally go to the priest to be cured of his
infiimity as we of to-day go to the ])hysician. We have evidence
that masses have been said, saints invoked, and offerings i)re-
sented, for curing the debility we refer to, in a church in Chris-
tianised Italy (luring the last hundred years, and in France so
late as the sixteenth century, — evident relics of more ancient
times."

" Whenever a votary applied to the oracle for help to enable
him to perform his duties as a prospective father, or to remove
that frigidity which he had been taught to believe was a proof of



Masculine Cross. hi

Divine displeasure, or an evidence of his being bewitched by a
maUgnant demon, it is natural to believe that the priest would
act partly as a man of sense, though chiefly as a minister of God.
He would go through, or enjoin attendance on certain religious
ceremonies — would sell a charmed image, or use some holy oil,
invented and blessed by a god or saint, as was done at Isernia —
or he would do something else."

Intimately connected with the worship of the male and female
powers' of generation is the sacred prostitution which was prac-
tised so generally by some of the ancient nations, and of which
we have details in the classics. The information given by
Herodotus respecting the women of Babylonia reads strange
indeed to those who are acquainted only with modern codes of
morals, and to whom the special and essential features of phallic
faiths are unknown. This author describes it as a shameful
custom, but he informs us of it as an indisputable fact, that every
woman born in the country was compelled at least once in her
life to go and sit in the precinct of Venus, and there consort w^ith
a stranger. Rich and poor alike had to conform to this rule —
the ugly and the beautiful, the attractive and the repulsive. A
peculiarity of the custom was that once having entered the sacred
enclosure, the woman was not allowed to return home until she
had paid the debt which the law prescribed as due from her to
the state ; the result of this was that those who were the happy
possessors of personal charms seldom were detained very long,
while the plain-featured and unattractive ones were sometimes
several years before they could obtain their release. We are told
that the wealthier women, too proud to associate with the lower
class, though obliged to undergo the same ordeal, would drive to
the appointed place in covered carriages with a considerable
retinue of servants, there making as much display as possible of
their rank and wealth in order to overawe the commoner class



112 Masculine Cross.

of men, and drive them to females of humbler rank ; they sat in
their carriages while crowds of poorer people sat within the holy
enclosure with wreaths of string about their heads. The scene
was at once strange and animated ; numbers of both sexes were
coming and going; and lines of cords marked out paths in all
directions in which the women sat, and along which the strangers
passed in order to make their choice. Patiently or impatiently,
as the case may be, the female waited till some visitor, taking a
fancy to her, fixed upon her as his chosen sacrifice by throwing
a piece of silver into her lap and saying, " The goddess Mylitta
prosper thee." (Mylitta being the Assyrian name for Venus).
The coin need not be of any particular size or value, but it is
obligatory upon her to receive it, because when once thrown it
is sacred. Nor could the woman exercise any choice as to whom
she could go with, the first who threw the coin had a legal title
to her, and the law compelled her submission. But having once
obeyed the law, she was free for the rest of her life, and nothing
in the shape of a bribe, however extensive, would persuade her
to grant further favours to any one.

There is an allusion to this custom in the book of Baruch
(vi., 43), where it is said : — "The women also with cords about
them, sitting in the ways, burn bran for perfume ; but if any
of them, drawn by some that passeth by, lie with him, she re-
proaches her felloAV that she was not thought worthy as herself,
nor her cords broken." Strabo in his sixteenth book testifies to
the same effect, and he says that the custom dated from the
foundation of the city of Babylon. The same writer states also
that both Medes and Armenians adopted all the sacred rites of
the Persians, but that the Armenians paid particular reverence
to Anaitis, and built temples to her honour in several places,
especially in Acilisene. They dedicated there to her service
male and female slaves, and in this, Strabo savs, there was no-



Masculine Cross. 113

thing remarkable, but that it was surprising that persons of the
highest rank in the nation consecrated their virgin daughters to
the goddess. It was customary for these women, after being
prostituted a long time at the temple of Anaitis, to be disposed of
in marriage, no one disdaining a connection with such a person.
He mentions what Herodotus says about the Lydian women,
all of whom, he adds, prostituted themselves. But they treated
their paramours with much kindness, entertaining them hospit-
ably and frequently, making a return of more presents than they
received, being amply supplied with means derived from their
wealthy connexions. The Lydians indeed appear to have de-
voted themselves with the most shameless effrontery, for they not
only attended the sacred fetes occasionally for the purpose, but
practised prostitution for their own benefit. A splendid monu-
ment to Alyattes, the father of Croesus, built by the merchants,
the artizans, and the courtesans, was chiefly paid for by the con-
tributions of the latter, which far exceeded those of the others
put together.

It has been asserted by some writers that sacred prostitution
was not practised in Egypt, but so much is known of the character
of certain acts of worship in that country that the statement is
regarded as of little worth. The worship of Osiris and Isis, which
was very much like that of Venus and Adonis, was attended with
excesses that indicate a very abandoned state of things. It is
known that when the pilgrims were on their way to the fetes of
Isis at Bubastis, the females indulged in the most indecent dances
as the vessels passed the riverside villages, and historians declare
that those obscenities were only such as were about to happen
at the temple, which was visited each year by seven hundred
thousand pilgrims, who gave themselves up to incredible excesses.

It cannot be shewn that the motive leading to what is called


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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 9 of 11)