Images de page
[ocr errors]

the same idolatry prevailing north and south, through Scythia on the one hand, and Africa on the other. The worship of the serpent was, therefore, universal. For not only did the sacred serpent enter into the symbolical and ritual service of every religion which recognized the sun, but we even find him in countries where solar worship was altogether unknown-as in Sarmatia, Scandinavia, and the Gold Coast of Africa. In every known country of the ancient world the serpent formed a prominent feature in the ordinary worship, and made no inconsiderable figure in their hagiographa, entering alike into legendary and astronomical mythology.

“Whence, then, did this only-universal idolatry originate? That it preceded polytheism, is indicated by the attribution of the title Ops, and the consecration of the symbolical serpent to so many of the heathen deities. The title Ops was conferred apon Terra, Vesta, Rhea, Cybele, Juno, Diana-and even Vulcan is called by Cicero, Opas.

“ In Grecian mythology, the symbolical serpent was sacred to Saturn, Jupiter, Apollo, Bacchus, Mars, Æsculapius, Rhea, Juno, Minerva, Diana, Ceres, and Proserpine—that is, the serpent was a sacred emblem of nearly all the gods and goddesses. The same remark may be extended to the Theogonies of Egypt, Hindůstan, and Mexico—in all of which we find the serpent emblematic, not of one deity, but of many.

“ What then is the inference?—That the serpent was the most ancient of the heathen gods; and that as his attributes were multiplied by superstitious devotion, new names were invented to represent the new personifications which, in the progress of time, dividing the unity, destroyed the integrity of the original worship. Yet each of these schismatic superstitions bore some faint trace of its dracontic origin, in retaining the symbolical serpent. Some of these deifications may be easily traced, though others are obscure and difficult. Thus the subtilty of the serpent became the goddess of wisdom; his knowledge of futurity, the god of vaticination; and, by a strange perversion of spiritual truth, his destructive influence, the god of healing'; his seductive fascination, the goddess of chastity; his malignity, which blasted even the produce of the earth, the goddess of agriculture; though the god of war’more aptly represented an attribute of the being who was a murderer from the beginning;' and the god of drunkenness not improperly personified the fascinations which, intoxicating the soul with sensual delight, deprived it at once of divine reason and immortality-of

the image of God,' and of the life of angels. These are preserved—at least in outward semblance the badge of their base origin : and Minerva, Apollo, Æsculapius, Diana, Ceres, Mars, and Bacchus, acknowledged in their symbol the sacred serpent -the serpent of paradise.

“ But this inference depends not on mere symbolical worship : for we trace the sacred serpent, by the lamp of tradition, through the waters of the deluge to the world which they overwhelmed. In the mythological systems of Hindustan and Egypt, we find him, as the cause of that awful calamity, moving in the waters, and troubling the deep: and a Brahminical legend indicates his existence even before that visitation. In the channel of the river Ganges, in the province of Bahar, is a remarkable rock upon which is sculptured a figure of Veshnu reposing upon a serpent. This serpent is fabled to have been the goddess Devi or Isi, who assumed the form to carry Veshnu over the deluge. The sleep of Veshnu indicates the period between the two worlds. May we not then infer that this legend alludes to the existence of the sacred serpent in the world before the flood? And further, is not probable, since this sacred serpent is confounded with Isi (the Isis of Egypt—the Eve of Scripture), that the tradition recognizes the serpent of paradise ?

“ The only worship which can vie with that of the serpent in antiquity or universality, is the adoration of the sun. But uniformly with the progress of the solar superstition, has advanced the sacred serpent from Babylon to Peru. If the worship of the sun, therefore, was the first deviation from the truth, the worship of the serpent was one of the first innovations of idolatry. Whatever doubt may exist as to which was the first error, little doubt can arise as to the primitive and antediluvian character of both. For in the earliest heathen records we find them inexplicably interwoven as the first of superstitions. Thus Egyptian mythology informs us, that Helius (the sun) was the first of the Egyptian gods; for in early history kings and gods are generally confounded. But Helius married Ops, the serpent deity, and became father of Osiris, Isis, Typhon, Apollo, and Venus : a tradition which would make the superstitions co-eval. This fable being reduced to more simple terms, informs us, that the sun, having married the serpent, became by this union, the father of Adam and Eve, the evil spirit, the serpent-solar deity, and sust; which appears to be a confusion of scriptural truths, in which chronological order is sacrificed for the simplification of the fable. But--er pede Herculem from the small fragments of the truth which we here perceive, we may judge of the original dimensions of the knowledge whose ruins are thus heaped together. We may conclude, that since idolatry, lust, the serpent, and the evil spirit, are here said to have been synchronous with the first man and woman, the whole fable is little more than a mythological version of the events in Paradise.

“ The first sinners and the first sin are well placed in the same family with the author of all evil : and as through the serpent he was introduced into paradise, and through the serpent they died from righteousness, and were born anew in sin, the serpent may well be allegorically represented as the parent of each.

- The reviver of Ophiolatreia, after the food, must have been one of the family of Noah ; for so high can we trace its postdiluvian history. Sanchoniathon tells us, that

Saturn, coming into the south country, gave the whole of Egypt to the god Taautus for his kingdom.' Now Taautus was the inventor of postdiluvian Ophioletreia; and since Saturn was Noah, according to every system for the interpretation of mythology, it is historically certain that, during the lifetime of this patriarch, or shortly after his death, the worship of the serpent was revived in Egypt.

“ But not only in Egypt must we look for its early revival. We have traced it in countries which never could bave had intercourse with the kingdom of Taautus until the voyages of the Phænicians, or the conquests of the Romans, opened a passage for its mysteries. And then-here, in the remotest regions of the earth-amidst the fortresses of Wales and the wilds of Wiltshire-were found a people who adored the same god, symbolized by the same serpent, and propitiated with the same sacrifice-a human victim; who remembered in their mythology the same primeval tradition of the woman persecuted by the malignant dragon, and blended with their fables such records of the Fall of man as could hardly have been devised by their own invention, irrelative as they are to every other part of their idolatry.

“ Thus the veneration of the oak (which did not conduce to any national utility, as they never cut it down) was totally unconnected with their theological system, and must therefore have been handed down to them by immemorial custom, the meaning of which had been lost in the darkness of ages.

“ The same adoration of trees, in conjunction with serpent-worship, prevailed in the still darker regions of Sarmatia, and among the infinitely more degraded natives of the coast of Africa. And wbo can have the hardihood to venture an assertion, that such a superstition was the invention of one polished nation, and conveyed, by their commercial or warlike enterprises, into countries cut off by trackless oceans or immeasurable deserts? Who can assert, with any hope of making good his hypothesis, that the Egyptian philosopher, or Phænician merchant, or Assyrian conqueror, instructed in the same worship the grovelling Whidanese, the erratic Sarmatian, or the inaccessible Briton ?

The inland progress of the sacred serpent might have been conducted by Chaldæan colonies into some of the neighbouring districts : but in ages when the exploits of a single traveller furnished matter for fables as numerous as they were marvellous, it is not at all likely that a Chaldæan colony would penetrate on the one side beyond the Oural, or on the other beyond the Himaleb mountains, in sufficient force to revolutionize the religion of those regions. And yet in remote China, and secluded Scandinavia, the same serpent holds his dominion in the sea, and his reign upon the land. But if to these distant dwellings of the sacred dragon we add his immemorial habitation in Peru and Mexico, the improbability that Ophiolatreia was a Chaldæan invention increases with additional force: and if Chaldzen be deprived of the sceptre of universal proselytism, where is the nation that can contend for the distinction ?

“ With respect to the introduction of Ophiolatreia into Britain, it is historically certain that the Phænicians were the only people of antiquity who pushed their adventurous barques into these remote latitudes : and though in some particulars the languages and religions coincide, yet we cannot imagine that such a priesthood as the Druids could have sprung from the slow and solitary vessels which, creeping along the coasts of Africa and Gaul, discharged their ballast upon the desert Cassiterides; and, unconscious of any object but that of accumulating wealth, returned home with the tin ore of those valuable islands. That accidental circumstances, in the lapse of ages, introduced many innovations into the religion of the West, we can readily believe; but to recognize in the Druids, the Magi of Chaldea, the Philosophers of Egypt, or the Brahmins of Hindůstan (except inasmuch as they are all probably descended from the original idolatrous priesthood dispersed at Babel), is a refinement of conjecture which requires more substantial proofs than have hitherto been advanced. Identity of remote origin will satisfactorily account for identity of opinions in countries so separated by land and sea, without supposing any subsequent intercourse by colonies or navigation.

It appears, then, that no nations were so geographically remote, or so religiously discordant, but that one—and only one—superstitious characteristic was common to all: that the most civilized and the most barbarous bowed down with the same devotion to the same engrossing deity; and that this deity either was, or was represented by, the same sacred serpent.

“ It appears also that in most, if not all, the civilized countries where this serpent was worshipped, some fable or tradition which involved his history, directly or indirectly, alluded to the Fall of man in Paradise, in which the serpent was concerned.

What follows, then, but that the most ancient account respecting the cause and nature of this seduction must be the one from which all the rest are derived which represent the victorious serpent-victorious over man in a state of innocence, and subduing his soul in a state of sin, into the most abject veneration and adoration of himself?

“ This account we have in the writings of Moses,-confessedly the most ancient historical records which ever existed in the world. The writings of Moses, therefore, contain the true history; and the serpent of paradise is the prototype of the serpent of all the superstitions. From his subtilty' arose the adoption of the serpent as an emblem of wisdom;' from his revealing the hidden virtue of the forbidded fruit, the use of the same reptile in divination ; from his conversation with Eve, the notion that the serpent was oracular : and, after this, the transition from a symbol, a talisman, and an oracle, to a god, was rapid and imperceptible, and would naturally have taken place even had there been no tradition of the celestial origin of the fallen spirit, who became the serpent-tempter.

“ But in reviewing the hopes and traditions of the Gentiles, we find that they not only preserved in their mythological writings a memorial of the Fall, but also a strong vestige of the promise of Redemption. The • bruising of the serpent' was equally known in the mythologies of Egypt, Hindústan, Greece, Persia, Scandinavia, and Mexico. In each of these we recognize a triumphant god, and a vanquished serpent. Neither can this, any more than the remembrance of the Fall, be a casual coincidence. There is nothing in the belief which would naturally suggest itself to the imaginations of people so remote and so unconnected. In respect to this expectation, therefore, we may similarly conclude, that where so many independent traditions coincide, the most ancient must be the one from which all the rest were originally derived. This will again bring us to the Promise of Redemption, in the curse upon the serpent, as revealed to Adam. But it will do more : it will teach us in what light the first of men who fell, and to whom first it was announced that the wages of sin is death,' looked forward to the gift of God, which is eternal life, through Jesus Christ, our Lord.' It will teach us that neither Adam, any more than ourselves, 'looked for transitory promises ;' that the Redemption, which was the object of bis ardent faith, was not temporal, but spiritual ; that the agent of that redemption, in his heaven-directed eye, was not a mere man, heir of his infirmities, his sins, and his mortality, but · God manifest in the flesh;' and that, through the sufferings of this Just One, in his conflict with the evil spirit, he expected to 'bruise the serpent's head.'.

“ That such was the faith of Adam, the faith of all the world declares. For what was this faith in respect of the vanquished serpent, and the triumphant God? - Apollo slays Python; Hercules, the Hesperian dragon; Creeshna, the king of the Nagas; and Thor, 'the serpent which is cast into the sea.' But Apollo for his victory is doomed 'to depart from the world;' Hercules and Creeshna are bitten by the serpent; the former in the heel! while Thor gains the victory only with his life. Yet Apollo, Hercules, Creeshna, and Thor, are all incarnate deities!

“ If, therefore, the legends which represent their triumphs be derived from the promise of Redemption in paradise, the idea of their incarnation must have been derived from the same source. It is evident, therefore, that Adam, or (which is the same thing) Noah, must have considered the promise to imply a redemption, which would be wrought by the sufferings of God manifest in the flesh.'

" That Adam did not look for transitory promises,' is further evident from the condition in which he was left by the Fall; which, if not alleviated by some abiding hope, must have accelerated his death by accumulated miseries.

“ To the serpent God said, I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her Seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.' Darkly as this promise may have conveyed the hope, that a hope of redemption was effectually conveyed by it we have every reason to believe from the mere fact that the days of Adam were nine hundred and thirty years, and he died.' He died at an age to which he could not, humanly calculating, have arrived, had his life been so wretched as the fall from innocence and the curse of God would have made it, had that fall been irrecoverable, and that curse irremovable. For when we consider that through this protracted period, he sustained the trials of an accursed 'soil, of children given but to be taken away, of an anxious mind and an afflicted body-anxiety and affliction being the necessary result of his lapse from innocence; when we consider that his memory, however impaired, was not destroyed, but could carry back his mind to a period of happiness now no longer existing ; and that his body, however fresh, and beautiful, and vigorous, must one day return to the earth as it was ;' we must be assured that he had something beyond his present hopes to comfort and support him in his pilgrimage upon earth; that he had some well-grounded and abiding faith in another existence, more suitable to the energies, and more consoling to the necessities, of the soul. The only comfort which revelation has announced for his support, is the promise contained in the curse upon the serpent; and as it would be the extreme of absurdity to interpret this literally, we must look for a figurative and spiritual interpretation. Such an interpretation has been put upon it by Seripture; but we can arrive at the same conclusion by independent arguments. And as such a line of reasoning is sometimes admitted by those who will hear neither Moses nor the Prophets,' neither Christ nor the Evangelists, it may not be irrelevant to the object of the present treatise, as we began with observations on the Fall,' to conclude with similar remarks on the Redemption.” pp. 357–373.

We think it impossible for any man calmly to weigh the acknowledged facts in this extract, without admitting that this remarkable extension of serpent worship is to be ascribed to some common source; and that this source was in all probability the temptation in the garden of Eden. But when Mr. Deane, or any of his learned predecessors in this track, advancing beyond this general truth, begin to find in the rites of Paganism the specific doctrines of Revelation in regard to the Fall and Redemption of mankind, we must say that the evidence becomes considerably attenuated; and as our present author very modestly professes chiefly to condense what in scattered forms others had collected, he will not feel displeased if we have not found in his pages that demonstration which those of Stukeley and Bryant, and, above all, the learned and pious Faber, could not afford us. We are little swayed by such etymological corroborations, as that on the attribution of the title Ops; and such lucus-a-non-lucendo arguments as that the serpent was the emblem of healing, because of his destructive influence; of chastity, for his seductions; and of agriculture, for his malignity ; unless indeed worshipped, as before remarked, as a wicked being in the way of deprecation, which we imagine was the fact. Nor do we find much solidity in many of the illustrations on which some of the alleged inferences are grounded. In justice both to ourselves and our author, and that the reader may judge between us, we will quote a few specimens. If any person think they really furnish serious evidence, illustrative or corroborative of facts revealed in Holy Writ, we are far from wishing to detract from the pleasure which such coincidences afford: but we certainly should not ourselves venture to present such passages with any confidence to an intidel; nor do we find our minds capable of receiving as evidence what has been urged by some good and learned men, to prove those coincidences. Let us first select an alleged allusion in a heathen poet

“ So clearly did the mind of Hesiod apprehend the real state of mankind, that in his fable of Pandora he seems but to paraphrase the story of Adam and Eve. Pandora was a female to whom every god and goddess imparted a virtue or an accomplishment: she was made from clay to be the wife of the man Prometheus, whose nature and origin were of a more elevated caste. He was the son of Japetus, a demigod, who was the son of Cælus—i. e. heaven deified. Prometheus is represented as irreverent towards the gods. Among other things, Pandora was presented with a beautiful casket by Jupiter, which she was to offer as a nuptial dowry to her husband; but ordered at the same time on no account to open it. Prometheus did not marry her, being suspicious of the design of Jupiter ; but sent her to his brother, whose wise she became. Through inordinate curiosity he opened the casket, and from it issued all the evils wbich have ever since afflicted mankind. Hope alone remained at the bottom, to assuage the sorrows which Evil had introduced. In this fable we perceive, with a little variation, a beautiful wrought description of the fall of Adam, with a delicately poetical allusion to the redemption.” pp. 29, 30.

When our readers have weighed this alleged allusion, let them examine the following:

“ The seraphim of the wilderness are proved by Bochart to have been the same as those called by Isaiah, (xix. 29, and xxx. 6.) • fiery flying serpents.' Whether the epithet, ' flying,' was metaphor for velocity, or whether it actually meant that these creatures had wings, is immaterial. Tradition had invested both the celestial and terrestrial seraphim with wings ; and hence the idea, that the paradisaical serpent was a 'winged 'creature. Hence, also, the poetical fiction of winged dragons, as guardians of treasure and protectors of female innocence. For, singularly enough, (singularly indeed!] the malevolent actions of the paradisaical serpent have had a colouring given to them by heathen mythologists, diametrically opposite to the reality. The seducer of Eve is thus perversely termed the protector of maiden virtue ; and the tempter who induced her to pluck the forbidden fruit, is the guardian of the golden apples in the garden of the Hesperides.' So powerful is the prince of this world to delude his victims !" p. 59.

We will next select a Hindoo and Chinese illustration :

[ocr errors]

“ In Hindu mythology, the serpent Asootee enfolds the globe; and on every eclipse the Hindus believe that the sun or moon is seized by a large serpent or dragon. The same notion obtains in China. This is the imaginary serpent of the constellation Draco, and the superstition may be a remnant of the tradition of the war in heaven,' when Michael and his angels fought against the dragon.” pp. 74, 75.

Let us now take the fable of Python “In this fable we recognize some remarkable features corresponding with the Fall and Redemption of mankind: the persecution of the woman by the serpent; his predicted destruction by the woman's Seed;' the olive branch of peace held in the hand of the mother who gave birth to the Prince of Peace ;' and, what is not the least significant portion of the legend, the heavenly attraction of the promised Avenger, uniting the Divine nature of the Father with the human nature of the mother.

“ The whole story of Python and Apollo is surprisingly parallel with that of the serpent-tempter and his conqueror, Christ. •It was ordained,' says Cleombrotus, (in Plutarch de defectu Orac. cited by Gesner, p. 92) that he who would slay Python, must be, not merely banished from the temple ten years, but even depart from the world; whence he should return after nine revolutions of the great year, expiated and purified: wherefore he should obtain the name of Phæbus—i. e. pure ; and obtain possession of the oracle at Delphi. Here is intimated, in terms not very obscure the death of the woman's Seed,' who should ‘bruise the serpent's head;' his perfect righteousness; and his second advent, as the Lord of the universal temple.” pp. 295 -297.

The fable of Hercules is illustrated in the same manner :

“ That Hercules was a personification of the Messiah, has been shown by several writers: but I do not recollect to have seen it observed, that his history is most surprisingly interwoven with stories of serpents vanquished by his arm, at different periods of his life. His first act in childhood was to strangle two serpents in the cradle. His second labour was the destruction of the Lernæan Hydra, and the clearing of the neighbourhood of Argos from serpents. And his consummating glory, the conquest of the dragon which guarded the golden fruit in the garden of the Hesperides. In his combat with Geryon, he slew a dragon; and in the wars of the giants against Jupiter, a monster, whose human body terminated in serpent-legs : while, to denote his connexion with the mystic serpent, he bore upon his shield the Ophite hierogram of the serpent and circle. All these coincidences can hardly have arisen from the unmeaning imagination of mythologists.” pp. 299, 300.

We will notice only one alleged allusion more, the narrative of Typhon. This fabled monster, Mr. Deane thinks, relates not merely to a tradition of the deluge, but ascends higher, to the creation of the world and man, with the seduction of our first parents, together with the war in heaven alluded to by St. Jude, and revealed to St. John. Such is the celestial history of Typhon.

“His terrestrial history, which Plutarch records, is briefly this. Being envious of his brother, Osiris, he put him to death, placed the dismembered body in a chest, and set him adrift on the Nile. But after some time Osiris was either restored to life, or recovered by his wife, Isis, in a mutilated state ; for the fable admits of either conclusion.

The principal features in this fable are, Ist, The envy of Typhon. 2dly, The murder of his brother in consequence. 3dly, His brother's restoration to life by means of his wife.

" It is extremely probable that, in this short fable, three independent patriarchal truths, at least, have been mixed together; the murder of Abel through the jealously of Cain ; the preservation of Noah in the ark; and the fall and redemption of man. The first is sufficiently obvious; the second has been adopted by those writers who look upon Typhon as a personification of the deluge; and the third I will endeavour to establish by such proofs as have occurred to me in the ordinary course of reading."

We cannot follow the detail, but the conclusion is, that

“Putting all these facts together, I cannot but be persuaded that the original characters of the fable were historical persons, and that these were no other than Adam and Eve, represented by Osiris and Isis; the serpent-tempter, by Typhon; and the victorious Woman's Seed,' by Orus.” P. 287.

Many of these allusions and analogies are grounded, as already stated, on etymological assumptions ; some of which appear to us quite as fanciful as several of the above historical illustrations : for instance, an alleged derivation of the name of the town of Amesbury, in Wiltshire, as mentioned in the following passage :

p. 283.

« PrécédentContinuer »