Images de page

enim, inquiunt, scientiæ nobis boni et mali originem dedit. Hujus animadvertens potentiam et majestatem, Moyses æream posuit serpentem, et quicunque in eum aspexerunt, sanitatem consecuti sunt. Ipse, aiunt, præterea, in Evangelio imitatur serpentis ipsius sacram potestatem dicendo, 'et sicut Moyses exaltavit serpentem in deserto, ita exaltari oportet Filium Hominis.' Ipsum introducunt ad benicenda Eucharistia."

A more ingenious perversion of Scripture than the foregoing, may scarcely be found in the annals of heresy.-Pp. 86, 87.

Passing into Africa, all the principal kingdoms present us with similar phenomena. Our attention, however, is more especially directed towards Egypt, the country famed, above all others, in the annals of idolatry and superstition. It is not, therefore, to be wondered at, that we find the serpent combined with every part of her religious system. It was the symbolic representative of their deities Cneph, Thoth, and Isis; to the former of whom a celebrated temple was erected at Elephantina, in which the worship of the serpent formed a conspicuous part of the ceremonies; it was also emblematic of Serapis and Apis, and, indeed, almost all the Egyptian gods were occasionally symbolized by it. The serpent was also the emblem of dedication on many of their temples; and it was the medium of talismanic and magical influence, of which the Caduceus, transferred from Egypt into the Grecian mythology, is an illustrious example; it was sculptured on tombs, and attached to the breasts of mummies; it formed the device on trinkets and amulets; and it is frequently found upon their medals and coins. The following legend is a fair specimen of the rites with which that worship was accompanied:→

Besides the great temple of the serpent-god CNEPH, at Elephantina, there was a celebrated one of Jupiter at Thebes, where the practice of Ophiolatra was carried to a great length. We are informed, by Herodotus, that "At Thebes there are two serpents, by no means injurious to men; small in size, having two horns springing up from the top of the head. They bury these when dead in the temple of Jupiter: for they say that they are sacred to that God." Ælian also tells us, that in the time of Ptolemy Euergetes, a very large serpent was kept in the temple of Esculapius at Alexandria. He also mentions another place in which a live serpent of great magnitude was kept and adored with divine honours. He calls this place MELITE; it ought to be METELE. This latter place is fixed by D'Anville in the Delta, not far from ONUPHIS. This serpent, we are told, had priests and ministers, a table and bowl. The priests every day, carried into the sacred chamber a cake made of flour and honey, and retired. Returning the next day, they always found the bowl empty. On one occasion, one of the elder priests being extremely anxious to see the sacred serpent, went in alone, and having deposited the cake, retired. When the serpent had ascended the table to his feast, the priest came in, throwing open the door with great violence: upon which the serpent departed in great indignation. But the priest was shortly after seized with a mental malady, and having confessed his crime, became dumb, and wasted away until he died.-Pp. 148, 149.

Among the European nations, ancient Greece and Rome claim our principal attention; and their classical mythologies are sufficiently marked by the prevalence of this idolatry. The serpent was sacred

to Saturn, Jupiter, Apollo, Bacchus, Mars, Esculapius, Rhea, Juno, Minerva, Diana, Ceres, and Proserpine; i. e. to nearly all the heathen gods and goddesses. In Epirus also, and in the northern provinces. of Sarmatia and Scandinavia, in Lombardy, and in Gaul, traces of this species of idolatry abound; nor were our Druidical ancestors distinguished from their more civilized neighbours, in withholding their worship from a serpentine god.

Our British ancestors, under the tuition of the venerable Druids, were not only worshippers of the solar deity, symbolized by the serpent, but held the serpent, independent of his relation to the sun, in peculiar veneration. Cut off from all intimate intercourse with the civilized world, partly by their remoteness, and partly by their national character, the Britons retained their primitive idolatry long after it had yielded in the neighbouring countries to the polytheistic corruptions of Greece and Egypt. In process of time, however, the gods of the Gaulish Druids penetrated into the sacred mythology of the British, and furnished personifications for the different attributes of the dracontic god Hu. This deity was called "THE DRAGON RULER OF THE WORLD," and his car was drawn by SERPENTS. His priests, in accommodation with the general custom of the ministers of the Ophite god, were called after him, ADDERS.-P. 240.

The following translation of a Bardic poem, descriptive of one of their religious rites, identifies the superstition of the British Druids with the aboriginal Ophiolatreia, as expressed in the mysteries of Isis in Egypt. The poem is entitled, "The Elegy of Uther Pendragon;" that is, of Uther," The Wonderful Dragon :" and it is not a little remarkable that the word "Draig," in the British language, signifies, at the same time, "a fiery serpent, a dragon, and the supreme GOD."

In the second part of this poem is the following description of the sacrificial rites of Uther Pendragon.

"With solemn festivity round the two lakes;
With the lake next my side;

With my side moving round the sanctuary;
While the sanctuary is earnestly invoking

THE GLIDING KING, before whom the FAIR ONE
Retreats, upon the veil that covers the huge stones;
Whilst THE DRAGON moves round over

The places which contain vessels

Of drink offering:

Whilst the drink offering is in THE GOLDEN Horns;

Whilst the golden horns are in the hand;

Whilst the knife is upon the chief victim;

Sincerely I implore thee, O victorious BELI, &c. &c."


This is a most minute and interesting account of the religious rites of the Druids, proving in clear terms their addiction to Ophiolatreia: for we have not only the history of "THE GLIDING KING," who pursues THE FAIR ONE," depicted upon "the veil which covers the huge stones"-a history which reminds us most forcibly of the events in Paradise, under a poetic garb; but we have, likewise, beneath that veil, within the sacred circle of " the huge stones," THE GREAT DRAGON, A LIVING SERPENT, "moving round the places which contain the vessels of drink offering;” or, in other words, moving round the altar stone, in the same manner as the serpent in the Isaic mysteries passed about the sacred vessels containing the offerings :

"Pigraque labatur circa donaria serpens."

The GOLDEN HORNS, which contained the drink offerings, were very probably of the same kind as that found at Tundera, in Denmark, a probability which confirms the Ophiolatreia of the DANES. And conversely, the existence of the

Danish horn proves that in the mysteries of Druidical worship, the serpent was a prominent character.-Pp. 243–245.

The god to whom these offerings were made, and whose sacrifices were here celebrated, was BELI; perhaps the BEL of the Babylonians, and the OBEL of primitive worship; the architype of APOLLO in name and rites. To BEL, the Babylonians consecrated, as we have seen, a living serpent; and living serpents were also preserved in the Fane of Delphi, and in many other places where the deity OPH or Oв was worshipped. The fabulous hero himself, in whose honour these sacrifices are celebrated, was distinguished by the title of "The Wonderful Dragon." Every circumstance, therefore, combines to strengthen the conclusion, that the Druids thus engaged were OPHITES of the original stock.→ P. 246.

The sanctity of the serpent showed itself in another very curious part of the superstition of the British Druids, namely, in that which related to the formation and virtues of the celebrated anguinum, as it is called by Pliny, or gleinen nadroeth, that is, snake stones, as they were called by the Britons.


These, we are informed by the Roman naturalist, were worn about the neck as charms, and were deemed efficacious in rendering their possessors fortunate every difficult emergency. He records an anecdote of a Roman knight, who was put to death by Claudius for entering a court of justice with an anguinum on his neck, in the belief that its virtue would overrule the judgment in his favour.

The word anguinum is obviously derived from anguis, a snake; and the formation of it is thus described by Pliny :-" An infinite number of snakes, entwined together in the heat of summer, roll themselves into a mass, and from the saliva of their jaws, and the froth of their bodies, is engendered an EGG, which is called 'anguinum.' By the violent hissing of the serpents the egg is forced into the air, and the Druid, destined to secure it, must catch it in his sacred vest before it reaches the ground."-Pp. 248, 249.

The Ophiolatreia, which forms also a conspicuous feature in the religion of the new world, indicates a common origin with the superstitions of Egypt and of Asia. In Mexico, the rattlesnake is an object of veneration and worship; and Peter Martyr mentions a huge serpent-idol at Campeachy, which is represented in the act of devouring a lion. The Peruvians are charged with similar superstitions; and the chief priest among the Virginians wears on his head a sacerdotal ornament of snake-skins, tied together by their tails. What, then, is the inference to be drawn from the universal prevalence of the worship in question?

It appears, 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?

[ocr errors]

This account we have in the writings of MOSES,-confessedly the most ancient historical record 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 forbidden fruit, the use of the 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 serpenttempter.-Pp. 367, 368.

Such is the general outline of Mr. Deane's interesting and useful treatise. As collateral with the subject under discussion, he has introduced a collection of heathen traditions relative to the fall of man, and a chapter on "serpent temples;" concluding the whole with some excellent observations on the promise of a Redeemer. Many other illustrations, which our limits would not even allow us to specify, are peculiarly apposite and amusing; and we would recommend an especial attention to the remarks on the Caduceus, and the origin of the Tauutic emblem; at the same time, we think that he has not always made the most of his materials. He has scarcely mentioned, even cursorily, the singular Persic tradition of the god AHRIMAN; and we could point out other instances in which he has been equally incommunicative. We anticipate, however, a second edition with " additions;"" corrections," we will venture to say, are scarcely necessary.

ART. III.-Creation: a Poem. By WILLIAM BALL. London: Bull. 1830. Pp. viii. 295. Price 10s. 6d.

THE labours of Mr. Ball have been expended on a subject, which gave ample room and verge enough for the most ambitious mind to develop its faculties and powers, and for the most pious to erect a fitting altar of Christian gratitude and love to the great Author of the universe, and the great Redeemer of the human race. But if the design of the work before us be defective, so also is its execution. A sort of vague and undefined idea of the wonders of the material world runs through the poem, and a grandiloquism of language betrays that the contemplation of them has failed to awaken that sublimity and simpleness of expression, which great minds have ever given utterance to, when in the presence of the Creator's glories. The author seems to have written for the sake of writing, despising the regulations of his better judgment, and aiming after such a sickly popularity as high-sounding words and incommunicable fancies may give him in the estimation of that class of readers, who weigh sense, like lead, by the pound, and measure poetry, like timber, by the foot. The epic muse,

moreover, despises that egotistical allusion to the sentiments of a writer, which is now-a-days so great a part of the machinery of our extant versifiers. In the simpler and tenderer styles, this identifying of the writer is very graceful and affecting; but the severe majesty of the heroic strain rejects that unseemly familiarity and intrusion of self which constitutes, with many, the principal claim to the respect of their admirers. The object of the muse is to instruct, and poetry that teaches a moral lesson should be respected, even if it offends by its want of polish and rudeness of expression; but of what consequence can it be, to be told that Mr. A. or Mr. B., the author of this poem or that, when he commenced canto I. or canto II., was sitting with his head upon his hand, looking out of a third-story window upon the Boeotian plains of Bagshot, or the Parnassian summit of Shooter's Hill? or that he was just recovered from a nervous headache, brought on by too close an attention to the sinuous beauties of the Thames between Rotherhithe and Billingsgate? Yet something like this we have seen so frequently, that we take it for granted that it is allowed in the canons of the new ars poetica, to introduce an author upon the stage, to give effect to his allusions and descriptions, as if no one but the imaginative personage himself were capable of appreciating either. We merely refer our readers to pp. 5, 6, 47, 48.

Mr. Ball appears to have as much of the cockneyish fancy here alluded to, as any author we have met with; and it seems in his case to have worked him up to a melancholy grandeur of self-esteem. Lord Byron himself, in his most bilious mood, never vented more independent snarls than these:

[ocr errors]

The struggle then is ME-I know no more;
This struggle lasts though hast'ning to its close:
Meantime 'tis good that, on this dusky shore,
I leave some trace of him whom no one knows;
But who, unnoticed by this lab'ring age,
In secret, strives to pen a solemn song,
That shall exist upon the letter'd page
Haply in honour, unforgotten long:
That shall exist when he, commix'd with clay,
To undistinguishable dust returns,
Remember'd though invisible; while they,
Who from him stand aloof, shall in their turns
Be nameless and unheeded; lost their power,
Forfeit their wealth, their titles vain forgot;
Then, though they scorned me in their happy hour,
Mine shall, belike, be the more envied lot.

Thus far resentment for their long neglect,
Unmerited I hope, inspires my voice;
I leave them now, and turn me to reflect
Upon the theme, unbidden, of my choice.
Unseen with Solitude I rove, and ask
Wherein I am a debtor to this earth:

« PrécédentContinuer »