Abbildungen der Seite

Here we find Iao explained to mean one of the names of the Supreme Deity, whose physical representative is the Sun. Again, we have Dionysius (Bacchus) added to this list in the following oracle of Orpheus:—

"Jove, Pluto, Phoebus, Bacchus, all are one."

Thus we see that Iao is an epithet of the Sun, who, in the philosophical explanation of the old religion, is regarded as synonymous with Bacchus. Hence originated the prevalent belief of antiquity that the Jehovah of the Jews, a name rendered in Greek by Iaq, was the Egyptian Bacchus—a notion supported in their minds by the golden vines which formed the sole visible decoration of the Temple, and iu the Jewish custom of celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles in huts made of boughs, and attended with many of the ceremonies used at the Greek Dionysia. This opinion as to the real origin of the Jewish worship is mentioned by Tacitus as prevalent in his time, although he does not agree with it, but solely on the ground that the gloomy and morose character of the Hebrew religion proved but badly its relationship to the rites of the merry god of wine.

Serapis, the representative of Universal Nature (according to his response to Nicocreon), may also have been signified by the names Iao and Abraxas, and thus have been taken as a type of Christ as the Creator of the worlds, which would serve to explain the strange assertion of Hadrian, that all the Christians of Alexandria were worshippers of Serapis, and that Christ and Serapis were one and the same god; for Alexandria was the very hotbed of Gnosticism, and the largest and earliest portion of the gems we are now considering, by their style of execution and the symbols upon them, clearly show their Egyptian origin. A most singular amulet of this date, in the Herz Collection, was a heart-shaped piece of basalt, engraved on the one side with seated figures of Animon and Ra (Jupiter and the Son), between them the mystic Asp, and on the reverse this legend:—

"etc Borr etc \&»p fua rmr /3ia €is S( .\\apt.

\<uj( wartp nxrfiov X""^ Tptttafxfx Ofos.'' *
"Athor and Bait, one power, with Achor one,
Hail Father of the world, hail triple God."

This amulet was probably made about the time of Hadrian, both the execution of the figures and of the letters being neat and careful, and such as characterised that epoch.


Tr.jw De.:y witb Cpow legend. Greco Jasper

A large ivory ring, found at Aries, bears the monogram of Christ between A and U), as it appears on the coins of the Gallic princes of the fourth century, Magnentius and Decentius, but accompanied by the title Abpacaz, a sufficient proof of the identity of the two personages in the estimation of its owner. Mithras (Abraxas) was easily admitted as the type of Christ, the Creator and Maintainer of the Universe, from the circumstance that in the Persian religion, to which the Jews owed all the spiritual portion of their creed,10 he was declared to be the first emanation of Ornnizd the Good Principle, and his representative to the world.1 The Mithraic rites bore a great resemblance to many subsequently introduced among the Christians, as well as to the initiatory ceremonies of the Freemasons of the present day. The believers were admitted by the rite of baptism; they had a species of Eucharist; and the courage and endurance of the neophyte were tested by twelve successive trials called tortures, undergone within a cave constructed for the purpose, before ho was admitted to a full knowledge of their mysteries. These initiatory rites are thus alluded to by Justin Martyr (Apol. II.): "The Apostles, in the commentaries written by themselves, which we call Gospels, have delivered down to us that Jesus thus commanded them: 'He having taken bread after that he had given thanks, said, Do this in commemoration of me; this is my body. And having taken a cup and returned thanks, he said, This is my blood; and delivered it to them alone.' Which thing indeed the evil spirits have taught to be done out of imitation, in the mysteries and initiatory rites

"The unity of three deities, or Angels and Evil Spirits, &c. rather the expression of the same '"Who being the brightness (or

deity in three persons, was a very rather a reflection) of his glory, and

favourite Egyptian type. the express image of his person, and

in Such as the belief in a Future upholding all things by the word of

State of rewards and punishments, his power "—" Being wade so much

the Immortality of the Soul, the better than the Angels," &c.—fft

Final Judgment, the existence of brews, I.


Mitbratc Symbol*. The Two Principles. Altar with the Sacred Wafers, LuBtral Water, Raven, &c. Plasma.

of Mithras. For there a cup of water and bread2 are set forth, with the addition of certain words, in the sacrifice or act of worship of the person about to be initiated: a thing which ye either know by personal experience or may learn by enquiry." Again, ,on this point Tertullian (Praescript) says, "The devil, whose business it is to pervert the truth, mimics the exact circumstances of the Divine sacraments in the mysteries of idols. He himself baptizes some, that is to say his believers aud followers; he promises forgiveness of sins from the sacred fount, and thus initiates them into the religion of Mithras; he there marks on the forehead his own soldiers; he also celebrates the oblation of bread, he brings in the symbol of the Resurrection, and wins the crown with the sword." This last phrase he thus explains:—" Blush, ye Roman fellow-soldiers, even if ye are not to be judged by Christ, but by any soldier of Mithras; who, when he is being initiated in the cave, the very camp of the powers of darkness, when the wreath is offered to him (a sword being placed between, as if in mimicry of martyrdom), and then about to be set upon his head, he is warned to put out his hand and push the wreath away, and transfer it to, perchance, his shoulder, saying at the same time, 'My only crown is Mithras.' And thenceforth he never wears a wreath ;3 and this is a mark he has for a test, whenever tried as to his initiation, for he is immediately proved to be a soldier of Mithras, if he throws down the wreath and says that'his crown is in his god.' Let us therefore acknowledge the craft of the devil, who mimics certain things of those that are divine, in order that he may confound and judge us by the faith of his own followers." But a dispassionate examiner will remark that these two zealous fathers somewhat beg the question, in asserting that the Mithraic rites were invented in mimicry of the Christian sacraments, having been in reality in existence long before the promulgation of the Christian religion. On the contrary, there is very good reason to believe that the simple commemorative rites established by

5 In this round cake, termed of the designation Missa, applied to Mizd, we have the prototype of the the Bloodless Sacrifice. Host, and the much-disputed origin

3 Tho universal custom of the the being without one would of itself ancients at all festivities: so that be a most remarkable sintrularitv.

Christ himself were invested with the mystic and supernatural attributes afterwards insisted upon as articles of faith, by the unscrupulous missionaries, in order to outbid the attractions of ancient ceremonies of a similar nature, and to offer to the convert, by the performance as it were of certain magical formulae, all those spiritual advantages of which the rites themselves were merely the symbols.

The worship of Mithras subsisted at Rome for a long period under the Christian emperors. Jerome, writing to Laeta, says: "A few years ago your kinsman Gracchus, a name the very echo of patrician nobility, when he held the office of Prefect of the City, did he not upset, break, and burn the Cave of Mithras, and all those monstrous images that served in the initiatory rites, the figures of Corax, Niphus, the Soldier, the Lion, the Persian, Helios, and Father Bromius?"

In the representations here enumerated we recognise symbols of constant recurrence upon the gems under consideration: Corax the raven; Niphus, probably Chneph, the lion-headed serpent; the armed man; the lion; the youth in the Persian dress; the sun, typified by the star; Bromius or Bacchus, by the large bowl. Many of these also contribute portions of themselves to make up the composite deity called Abraxas, who unites in himself Corax, Niphus, Miles, and Helios. The gem given by Chiflet, pi. xv., 62, appears to me to present a picture of the rites of initiation into the Mithraic religion, and in it all the above-named figures and symbols are introduced. Two serpents erect form a sort of frame for the composition, at the top of which we see the busts of Sol and Luna face to face, between them is a hawk with expanded wings, at the back of each is a raven. In the field are two crowned and naked men on horseback trampling upon two dead bodies: between these

« ZurückWeiter »