The Gnostics and Their Remains, by Charles William King, , at sacred-texts.com
Foremost in the rank of Words of Power stands the "Mystery of the Seven Vowels," so important as to demand a separate section for its discussion with befitting reverence. Though inferior to these, great no doubt was the virtue of those interminable strings of letters that fill both faces of many a Gnostic stone--later refinements upon the celebrated Ἐφέσια Γράμματα, as Clemens aptly remarks. Amongst these interminable formulae lurk, no doubt, those potent spells composed by Solomon himself; by repeating which and at the same time applying to the sufferer's nose his ring (under whose gem was placed the herb prescribed by the same oracle of wisdom) the Jew Eleazar drew out through their nostrils the devils possessing many people, in the presence of Vespasian, his tribunes and chief officers. The sapient Josephus adds, that to make sure of the exit of the diabolical occupant, the exorcist commanded him to overturn in his flight a basin of water placed at a considerable distance, which was forthwith done, to the consternation and conviction of all the heathen spectators. The Ephesian Spell, the mystic words graven on the zone of the Great Diana, were commonly used by the Magi of Plutarch's times for the same purpose.
And there can be no doubt that such invocations were often efficacious. Demoniacal possession was nothing more than epilepsy (its very name, signifying possession, being derived from that same belief); for Galen, after rationally discussing the natural causes of the malady, remarks that the vulgar universally attributed it to the agency of devils. Now our experience of Mesmerism (so far as there is any reality in that pet science of charlatans) clearly shows what inexplicable effects can be produced upon persons labouring under nervous derangement by words of command authoritatively pronounced. How much greater the effect of those words in old times, when uttered in an unknown tongue by a person of imposing presence,
and over patients already filled with the belief of his power to relieve them! Hence the Casting-out of devils became the grand staple of their trade with all the Thaumaturgists, both old and new, of the ages with which we are dealing. That the cure should be permanent was a thing perfectly immaterial, it sufficed the exorcist's purpose if the manifestation of his power should be successful for the moment, to the edification of the awestruck crowd of believers, and to the confusion of the few Rationalistic doubters amongst the crowd.
Such spells gave power likewise over demons ranging about unconfined in fleshly prison. Eucrates, in Lucian's amusing 'Philopseudes,' boasts that he is so accustomed to meet thousands of them roving about, that he has come not to mind them at all, more especially since "The Arabian has given me a ring made out of the nail from a cross, and taught me the spell composed of many Names." The last remark is valuable for our purpose: it proves that the legends in an unknown tongue on our talismans are sometimes to be explained from the Arabic, * and also may consist of strings of titles of the one deity invoked. Virgil's--
distinctly refers to the same superstition, for Servius explains these "three hundred gods" in the spells of Dido's Massylian sorceress, as not meaning so many different deities, but only so many epithets of Hecate herself; whose very names he, for the same reason, fancifully derives from the numeral ἕκατον. The same idea yet survives in the religious exercise of the devout Moslem, the mental repetition and reflection upon the Ninety-and-nine Arabic epithets of the One Almighty.
The great object of these adjurations was to address the Deity by the names under which he was known to all the nations of Earth; in this way making sure of addressing him by the appellation wherein he most delighted. This is the fundamental principle of, and sufficient explanation of, the entire class of these talismanic legends; and of their syncretism No. 10 of the 'Magic Papyrus' affords a most valuable illustration. "I call upon thee that didst create the Earth, and bones, and all flesh, and all spirit, that didst establish the Sea, and that shakest the Heavens, that didst divide the Light from the Darkness; Thou, the Great, Directing Mind, that disposest all things, Eye of the world! Genius of genii (δαίμων δαιμονίων), God of gods, the Lord of spirits, ΙΑΩ ΟΥΗΙ, hearken unto my voice! I call upon Thee, the Master of the gods, O loud thundering Zeus, O sovereign Zeus, Adonai! Lord ΙΑΩ ΟΥΗΕ! I am he that calleth upon thee in the Syrian tongue, the great God Ζααλαηρ Ιφ φου; and do not thou disregard my voice in the Hebrew language, Αβλαναθαναλβα Αβρασιλωα. For I am σιλθωχωουχ λαιλαμ βλασαλωθ Ιαω Ιαω νεβουθ σαβιοθαρ βωθ αρβαθ Ιαω Ιαωθ σαβαωθ παγουρη ραγουρη βαρουχ Αδωναι Ελωαι ιαβρααμ βαρβαραυω ναυ σιφ. O lofty-minded, ever-living Crown of the world; containing all, Σιεπησακτι ετη βιου = σφη = νουοι = σιεθυ = χθεθωνηρυγχ ΩΗΑΗΗΩΑΤ Α ΩΗΙΑΩ ασιαλ σααπηαλσω εθμουρησινι σεμ λαυ λου λουριγχ. (This spell) looses fetters, causes blindness (i.e. makes one invisible), procures dreams, gives favour, for whatsoever purpose thou wishest."
One circumstance, very unaccountable, connected with these Inscriptions is wherefore the Pehlevi character, the national writing of the Magi in those times, should never be used in formulæ so often embodying the doctrines of that profession. Neither are any complete legends to be found written in Punic, although that character with the last mentioned was at the time universally employed, in various modifications, all over Asia and Africa. In the latter country Punic was not superseded by Latin until a very late period of the Empire, for in the second century Apuleius ('Apology') wishing to prove the neglect of his stepson's education by the boy's uncle who had taken charge of him (the family belonged to the large city Madaura in
[paragraph continues] Numidia), declares that though arrived at the age of sixteen he could speak nothing but Punic and the little Greek he had picked up from his mother, "praeter Punicè, et siquid adhuc a matre Græcissat." "And some years later, the emperor Severus, a descendant of Hannibal's, had to blush for his sister when she came from his native place Leptis to Court, "vix Latine loquens." It is true the characters which, are often scattered over the field of these gems have much the look of Punic; others again of Palmyrene Syriac; whilst some are obviously the same with the strange Nubian characters to be seen in abundance graven on the rocks at Silsilis, upon the upper Nile. As for the square (modern) Hebrew, all works presenting them are mere fabrications of the astrologers and Rosicrucians of the 16th and 17th centuries. Hieroglyphical writing, though naturally to be looked for in the manufacture of Alexandria, hardly occurs at all; it is probable that even its modification the Demotic had long before been superseded (in that capital at least) by the Greek alphabet. The only exception known to me is the agate published by Caylus ('Rec. d’Ant.' viii. pl. 8), presenting the common four-winged Priapic genius in the sacred boat, the reverse bearing a long vertical line of neatly cut genuine hieroglyphics. The Arabic "Kamar" Moon, sometimes found in these formulæ, illustrates Pliny's remark, that the Magi ordered the Name of the Sun or Moon to be engraved on emeralds or amethysts, in order to convert them into amulets against witchcraft, and giving success at Court. An emerald (Praun) of very bad quality, however, inscribed ΙΑΩ ΣΑΒΑΩΘ ΑΒΡΑΣΑΖ, may represent the very kind of amulet alluded to. But that Alexandria was the grand fabrique of talismans is equally apparent to the mineralogist from the materials, as to the archæologist from the lettering employed in their construction. Nevertheless it still remains unexplained why the Magi should not have written their own spells in the character then solely current in the vast dominions of the Sassanian kings.
The language of these inscriptions is never Latin, rarely Greek, frequently Syriac, but most commonly corrupt Hebrew. For this choice the sufficient reason is given by Iamblichus in a
letter to Porphyrius, where he expressly states that, "The gods are well pleased with prayers addressed unto them in the Egyptian or Assyrian tongues, as being ancient and cognate languages to their own, and moreover those in which prayer was first made unto them; and therefore they have stamped as sacred the entire speech of those holy nations." It is a singular coincidence that Justinus Kerner, in his extraordinary work, 'Die Seherin von Prevorst' (in reading which one continually fluctuates between the conviction of its being an impudent fiction, and the uncomfortable suspicion that it may be a revelation of the profoundest truth), assigns a similar reason for the writing used by the visitant from the spirit-world so greatly resembling Arabic, "because that had the best claim to be considered the primitive language of mankind." This "Seer" was a peasant girl, worn out by long sickness to that degree as to belong more to the next world than to this. Consequently she had become sensible of the presence of spiritual visitors, and acted as a medium of communication between them and those in the flesh. Kerner, a physician, took her into his own house the better to observe these singular phenomena, and kept a regular diary of her health and of her disclosures during several months until her death, with a minuteness of which only a German is capable. He writes evidently in all good faith, and, amidst heaps of nonsense, puts down some startling occurrences beyond the flights of forgery and confirmed by one's own experience.
But as concerns the "Language of the other world," in every country "Opine ignotum pro magnifico" has ever been the maxim of priestcraft, the soundness of which has been demonstrated by the experience of all time. More particularly does this apply to forms of prayer. Thus Orpheus:
Of such mystic invocations it will be advisable to adduce examples from writers contemporary with their use, before proceeding to the consideration of actual remains of similar nature. Of the numerous specimens cited, the following are the
most noteworthy. The 'Pistis-Sophia' (§ 358) makes the Saviour "standing upon the shore of the sea, the ocean, call upon God with this prayer, saying, Hear me, O Father, thou Father of all fatherships, Infinite Light, Αενιουω Ιαω Αωι ωια ψινωθερ θερινωψ νωψιθερ ζαγνουρη παγουρη μεθμομαωθ νεψιομαωθ μαραχαχθα θωβαρραβαθ θαρναχαχαν ροροκοθορα Ιεου Σαβαωθ." And again (§ 375) in this valuable description of the gnostic Sacrament: "Then said Jesus, bring me fire and vine-branches. And they brought them unto him, and he, placing upon them an offering, set two vessels of wine, the one on the right, the other on the left of the offering. He set before them the offering: he put also a cup of water before the vessel of wine which was on the right hand, and he set a cup of wine before the vessel of wine that was on the left; and he set loaves of bread, according to the number of his disciples in the middle between the cups. He set likewise a cup of water behind the loaves. And Jesus, standing before the offering, made all the disciples to stand behind him, being all clothed in linen garments, having all of them in their hands the number * of the Name of the Father of the Treasury of Light. And he cried aloud, saying, Hear me, O Father, Father of all fatherships, Boundless Light, Ιαω Ιουω Ιαω αωι ωια ψινωθερ θερινωψ νωψιθερ νεφθομαραχθα ιηαναμεναμαν αμανηι of heaven! Ισραι αμην αμην σουβαι βαι αππααη αμην αμην δερρα αραι απαοι αμην αμην σασαρσαρτου αμην αμην κουκαιμην μαι αμην αμην ιαι ιαι τουαπ αμην αμην μαινμαρι μαριν μαρει αμην αμην αμην." Again Irenæus copies out a formula "couched in Hebrew words, to inspire greater awe into the Gallic neophyte (at Lugdunum)," as used by certain Gnostics there in administering baptism: βασσεμα χαμοσσε βα αιανομα ματαδια ρουαδα κουστα βαβαφορ κολαχθαι, "I invoke Thee, Supreme over every virtue, the Light of the Father by name, the Good Spirit, the Life, because thou hast reigned in the body." Another of their formulæ was--Μεσσια ου φαρεγ ναμεμψαιμεν χαλδαιαν μοσεμεδια ακφραναι ψαουα Ιησου Ναζαρια. "I do not separate the Spirit, the Head, and the Supercelestial
[paragraph continues] Virtue, the Merciful One. May I prosper in thy name, O Saviour of Truth."
But as regards the expression of divine mysteries by means of letters of the alphabet, Marcus stands pre-eminently first amongst the Gnostics, as the following extracts from his "Revelation" will conclusively attest. "The supreme Tetrad came down unto me from that region which cannot be seen nor named, in a female form because the world would have been unable to bear their appearing in a male figure, and revealed to me the generation of the universe, untold before either to gods or men. When first the Father, the Inconceivable, Beingless, * sexless, began to be in labour he desired that his Ineffable should be born, and his invisible should be clothed with form. He therefore opened his mouth and uttered the Word like unto himself. This word standing before him showed that he was manifesting himself as the form or type of the Invisible One. Now the uttering of the Name came to pass in this wise. He (the Supreme) spake the first word of his name, the which is a syllable of four letters. He then added the second syllable, also of four letters. Then the third, composed of ten letters. Finally the fourth, made up of twelve letters. Thus the utterance of the whole name consists of thirty letters, and of four syllables. Each letter has a form-pronunciation and writing of its own, but neither understands nor beholds that of the whole Name; nay, not even the power of the letter standing next to itself. Now these sounds united make up the Beingless unbegotten Æon, and these are the Angels that always behold the face of the Father. Thus the Father knowing himself to be incomprehensible gives unto each of the letters, called Æons, its own proper sound, inasmuch
as none of them singly is competent to utter the entire Name." *
The substance of the revelation brought down to Marcus by Truth is to be found in the Kabbala, which makes the mystic names of God to consist of four, twelve, forty-two and seventy-two letters respectively. The Kabbalists go so far as to assert that the forty-two victims offered by Balaam in order to obtain a favourable response, were consecrated to one of these great names. If indeed Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, the magic virtues of numerals would have formed an essential part of his learning, as we see from the doctrine of Pythagoras, confessedly derived from Egypt. It looks very much like as if the framers of the genealogy of Jesus had the same object in view, when they forced the generations to the required number by omitting three of the kings in the second division, being able to deal with the third in whatever manner they pleased. On counting the number of the vowels that evidently have some deep purpose in occurring without consonants on so many talismans of the age of Marcus, we should, I expect, often find it tally with that of one or the other of these Holy Names. †
A subsequent revelation of the same Tetrad to Marcus, serves to account for the frequent appearance of the naked woman, the Venus Anadyomene of earlier times, upon Gnostic monuments. "After having declared these things, the Tetrad added: I will shew unto thee Truth, whom I have brought
down from the celestial mansions that thou shouldest behold her naked, acknowledge her beauty, hear her speaking, and be astonished at her wisdom. Look up therefore at her head Α and Ω, at her neck Β and Ψ, at her shoulders with her hands Γ and Χ, at her breasts Δ and Ρ, at her chest Ε and ϒ, at her back Ζ and Τ, at her belly Π and Σ, at her thighs Θ and Ρ, at her knees Ι and Π, at her legs Κ and Ο, at her ankles Λ and Ξ, at her feet Μ and Ν. This is the body of Truth, this the form of the letters, this the character of the writing. Whereupon Truth looked upon me (Marcus) and opened her mouth, and uttered a word, and that word became a Name, a name which we know and speak--Christ Jesus: and having named him she held her peace." *
This "figure of Truth" is made up, it will be perceived, by taking successive pairs of letters from each extremity of the alphabet; perhaps, thereby constituting them male and female, and thus making them types of so many Æons. All this suggests a rational question, whether the primary application of the name "Logos" to the Divine Emanation, was not at first a mere interpretation of the Rabbinical Synonym "Name, or Word," the respectful substitute for the ineffable Name Jehovah, the Shem Hak Kodesh; and that later, the secondary meaning of Logos, "Reason" suggested to the Platonising Jews of Alexandria its analogy to their own Sophia-Achamoth, the first-born of the Supreme Cause. And finally, the composition of this Holy Name, extending to thirty letters, illustrates the purport of that interminable polysyllabic title which runs either in one unbroken circle, or sometimes in the outline of an erect serpent, around the margin of so many Gnostic gems, and circumscribes the mystic device engraved in the centre. In the latter arrangement of the inscription, one is tempted to recognise that "Good and Perfect Serpent" of the
[paragraph continues] Naaseni--that Messias whose visible type in the heavens their eyes, sharpened by faith, discovered and adored in the Constellation Draco.
To come now to the actual remains of Gnostic manufacture, which preserve to us formulæ of the nature just considered, the most important, to judge from its frequent occurrence, and the evident care bestowed upon its engraving, is the one here transcribed. My copy is taken from an example formerly in the State collection, probably the finest talisman known. It is a thick plaque, somewhat heart-shaped, of dark garnet, 2¾ x 1½ inches in its greatest dimensions, bearing on the one side 14 lines, on the other 11, neatly cut in the Greek character in the third century but making no distinction between the Α and the Λ.
[paragraph continues] Amongst the titles on the obverse several familiar names may be detected, such as Alon, Shemesh Eilam, Abrasax. The long style filling the fourth line is clearly the correct spelling of the abbreviated Agrammaeamereg addressed in another part of the "Prayers of the Saviour," as the first of the "Invisible Gods." The next line Shemgensalpharanges, "they who stand before the mount of Paradise," can be no other than the Æons just described by Marcus as the "Angels who always behold the Father's face": whilst in this Jewish hierarchy of heaven the old god of Egypt, Anubis, oddly intrudes himself under his Coptic title of Ambo.
Both inscriptions agree literally with those upon the large oval calcedony figured by Chiflet (fig. 69) except the addition in the letter of a few words inclosed within a coiled serpent placed at the top of the obverse. Out of these inscriptions his friend Wendelin, by taking the language as good Greek, had contrived to elicit a most orthodox invocation to the Trinity, which however was evidently far from satisfactory to the sceptical and more sagacious Canon. Amongst the Townley gems is a large sard, agreeing in all except a few letters with Chiflet's specimen--convincing attestation to the supposed virtue of the formula. For the purpose of comparison I insert another, lately discovered, engraved on a much more minute scale than any of the preceding (Whelan's copy).
Dark red agate, 1 x 7/9 in.: sent me by Mr. Whelan, Nov. 25, 1881.
Doubtless such immense and overcharged pieces of mystery served in their time the purpose of pocket prayer books, out of which the owner recited the due invocations at the sacred rites. To some such manual of devotion, the pseudo-Orpheus possibly alludes by
The Orientalist desirous of exercising his ingenuity upon the decyphering of these, for the most part unexplained monuments will find an immense collection of them in Raspe (Nos. 433-633) copied with scrupulous accuracy. The reason he there gives for the attention he has paid to a class previously so
neglected is a very sound one. "All these sects have evidently borrowed their symbols, and probably also their respective explanations, from the iconology and mysteries of the Egyptians and other nations of the East. If as regards the meaning of hieroglyphics and symbols they had no better information, the Gnostics of Egypt and Syria had at least national tradition to depend upon--a point assuredly of some weight. If therefore the more recent sects of Gnostics with their symbolical learning have established new opinions and fresh modifications of religion upon the basis of the old, we are not therefore to conclude that they knew nothing about, and wantonly gave a new meaning to, the symbols which they thus misapplied. This is the only rational point of view in which these amulets and engravings ought to be studied."
Raspe's collection I shall now proceed to supplement by copies of several unpublished examples--the most interesting that have come under my notice in a long course of study, and such as serve best to illustrate the theories proposed in the foregoing pages. And to show the curious and puzzling nature of the whole class, they often present the critical examiner with signs and siglæ, now supposed the exclusive property of national religions, the most diverse from one another, as they were remote from the recognised metropolis of Gnosticism. Intermingled with the regular Greek characters appear strange signs analogous in form, often identical with, the Caste-marks of the Hindoos, and which in their turn became the parents of those used by the mediæval alchemists and Rosicrucians, and (during the same ages) of the true professors of Masonry. The consideration of these Sigla, of which I have collected a large series belonging to all ages and countries, has proved sufficiently fruitful to supply materials for a separate and important subdivision of this Treatise. One example, described under "talismans and amulets," presents unmistakeable evidence of the use of Runes in the Alexandrine studio, whilst another, shortly to be noticed, demonstrates that the Gnosis may dispute with Hibernia her supposed peculiar invention of the mysterious Oghams.
A tablet of aquamarine (?) communicated to me by the
[paragraph continues] Rev. Greville Chester, bears the inscriptions in well-formed characters
[paragraph continues] A string of titles ending with "Lord of hosts! defend me."
Sapphirine calcedony, the size of a pigeon's egg.--(Forman Collection.)
The concluding word φύλαξον, "Do thou protect," clearly evinces that this elegantly engraved invocation was addressed to some one deity rejoicing in many titles, and styled "propitious" by its opening ἰλέω.
A very thick stone of sapphirine calcedony. This is purely Jewish, perhaps the ware of some "Magna sacerdos arboris" sold to the Roman ladies, for it puts the buyer under the
protection of the Archangels. "Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, who stand before the Mount of Paradise of Jehovah."
A remarkable exemplification of the mixture of two opposing creeds is found in the ΟΡΩΡΙΟΥΘ, "Light of lights," accompanying the figure of a globose vase with bands hanging from the neck. This is evidently "the small golden vessel shaped like a cow's udder, containing the libations of milk" mentioned by Apuleius as carried in the Isiac procession by the same official who bore aloft the Hand of Justice. The gridiron-like object often laid upon it, is the regular Egyptian door-key, made of wood. In one example figured by Matter (Pl. vi. 6), the key is shown of the regular Roman form in the same position, which places the meaning of the more usual figure entirely out of doubt. This shows the reason for κλειδοῦχος, "the keybearer," being a priestly title.
Other types purely Egyptian, offer some curious improvements upon the old "qualia demens Ægyptus portenta colat." For example, one (Praun) exhibits Anubis, but now equipped, with two heads and four hands holding torches and daggers; styled on the reverse ΠΕΡΑ--ΑΜΒΟ--ΥΒΑΚΑ--ΚΞΙΚ--ΥΚ. In another (Nelthropp) the Cat-headed goddess, Taf-Neith stands lotus-crowned, and is addressed as ΚVΧΒΑ--ΚΥΧΒΑ *--ΚΑΧΥΑ--ΒΑΖΑΚΑΧ--ΚΧ. Again Anubis with the superadded heads of Pan (Mendes) and a cock (Phre), with arms outstretched in the form of a cross; his body supported upon the legs of an ibis, has over the heads respectively written the initials Θ, Π, Χ. On the reverse ΛΙΗΒ--ΩΠCΧ--CVΝΟ--ΧΡΑ. But the most curious composition of this nature known to me is presented by a large elliptical mottled jasper, measuring 1⅛ + 1¾ inch, very boldly cut, and better drawn than usual--apparently a Solar talisman (Mr. Topham, Rome). The obverse shows a gryllas in the outline of a cock having the head of Pan, scorpions for tail-feathers, and the whip of Sol stuck in his rump to complete that appendage, standing upon a serpent--overhead are the sun-star and crescent, on his back rests a tailed globe (a comet?) in front Α, in the field below the astral siglæ. On the reverse, ΟΓ (73?) over
the Agathodæmon serpent uncoiled, and crawling, a star and Α. Below the serpent, ΕΔΩΓ ΗΙΗΩ, the letters inverted, then another line ΗΙVΟΜCΟΙ. Below this again the triple S on the bar that always accompanies the Agathodæmon, ΙΑΗΙΕΩ--ΙΕΟVΩΗ, reading thus in the impression. In the last word "the Great Ιεου"--special title of the Supreme Being in the Pistis-Sophia may easily be detected; whilst the triple-headed deity previously described, very probably expresses the conception of those mighty Τριδυνάμεις θεοὶ, who play so important a part in the theology of the same book of wonder.
The following examples are the more genuine offspring of the Kabbala, consisting of letters alone, uncontaminated by the presence of the idols of Misraim. First for beauty of material and engraving stands a large citrine (occidental topaz) formerly in the Praun cabinet, now in the Gnostic Series, British Museum.
On one side is an oval enclosing ΗΙ (perhaps denoting the Ogdoad and Decad, the base of Marcus’ scheme; see Hep. vi. 52); an eye, emblem of Osiris, a square bisected, and Δ, which last letter may also numerically represent the Tetrad of the same Doctor.
The other face of the gem presents,
The next is a legend which, with trivial variations, frequently occurs. Caylus (VI. Pl. 11) gives it very rudely added, upon the reverse of a female portrait. The present copy is from a large calcedony, somewhat coarsely executed, having on its other face the triple S and bar (Praun)--
The Hebrew Patriarch figures in this legend, and in many more of the same kind, as the divinely inspired founder of a
[paragraph continues] Gnosis, a reputation he enjoyed even amongst the heathen, who put him in the same category with Orpheus, first institutor of Mysteries. "Sev. Alexander in larario suo--omnes sanctiores in quibus Apollonium, et (quantum scriptor horum temporum dicit) Christum, Abraham, et Orpheum, et ejusmodi cæteros habebat." (Lampridius 29.)
To the same family belongs a yellow jasper. (Maskelyne) displaying a perforated quatrefoil over the name ΙΑΩ, then the mystic vowels ΑΕΙΗΟΥΩΑΙ, then ΓΑΒΑΩΘ (sic) and on reverse . The quatrefoil is originally the symbol of Sitala, the Tenth Trithakoor, or deified Jaina saint; whence it found its way along with the other Buddhistic machinery, into Mediæval symbolism, in which it resembles an angel. *
Very remarkable on account of its adjuncts, is a green jasper (Praun) bearing a long neatly-cut legend, the central portion of which is circumscribed by two lines, cut by short strokes at different angles, exactly after the fashion of the Irish Oghams. In the latter, as is well known, all the letters of the Roman alphabet are represented by the different positions of very short lines in relation to one continuous line in the middle; and it is impossible to imagine any other purpose subserved by the similar contrivance on our talisman. The Ogham is supposed to be an invention of the first missionaries to Ireland, it was used as late as the Civil War by Lord Glamorgan in his correspondence with Charles I. It is, however, very possible that the monks carried this simple stenography from Rome to their Celtic mission. †
A minute figure of Abraxas, green jasper (Praun) takes a new title "Abrachars" in the invocation ΑΒΡΑΧΑΡC--ΑΓΡΑΩΑ--ΩΑΡΙΩΝΙΕ.
Thoth's caduceus within a wreath, is accompanied by the legend on the reverse ΑΚΡΙΩΦΙ’ on a brown calcedony in my collection.
Of all Agathodæmon talismans, no more elegant specimen has come to my knowledge than a large emerald-like plasma (Bosanquet) displaying the serpent "the Good and Perfect One" erect above his invariable concomitant sigla, and whom the reverse propitiates by the beautifully cut address ΟCΟΡ--ΜΕΡΦ--ΦΕΡΓΑΜΑΡΑ--ΦΡΙΔΥΡΙC--ΧΝΟΥΦΙC--ΝΑΒΙC--ΚΙCΝΥΘ. True green jade, very convex on back (Rev. S. S. Lewis.) In the field, each side of serpent . "With me, with me?" in pure Chaldee. Reverse in two lines, round the usual symbol.
[paragraph continues] All cut with unusual precision and neatness of work. The legend has many words in common with Mr. Bosanquet's plasma.
Jerome's "Pater Bromius" of the Mithraic Cave has probably some share in the title "Sabbaoth," so often coupled with "Adonai," for Bacchus rejoiced in the epithet "Sabazius," derived from the shout "Sabbaoi" raised by the celebrants of his Orgies--a word identical with the Hebrew "Sabi" glory! Certain sectaries of our own day who bellow out the same word at their "Revivals," are little aware what an ancient and congenial authority they have for their vociferation.
"Adonai," our Lord, is converted by the Greek into Adoneus, a synonym for Pluto, and Orpheus, as already quoted, points out the identity of Bacchus, Pluto, and Sol. This is the foundation for the ancient exposition of the Syrian rite, the Mourning for Adonis ("The women weeping for Thammuz") as really applying to the sun's loss of power at the winter quarter. Adoneus or Aïdoneus, becoming interpreted according to Greek etymology, was supposed to signify him "that walketh unseen," whence spring the "helmet of Adoneus," that rendered the
wearer invisible; and Catullus's application of the title to the intrigue-loving Cæsar.
The same Adonis had the name "Sal-Anbo" (which often occurs in Gnostic legends) as appears from the statement in Lampridius, "that Heliogabalus exhibited Salanbo with all the lamentation and tossing of head proper to the Syrian ceremony,"--whereby he gave the omen of his own impending fate.
The Delphic Ε has already been noticed--but its importance demands further particulars of its history, which have been preserved by Plutarch in his curious treatise upon the subject. The Greeks with their usual fondness for explaining all mysteries rationistically, considered the letter as the simple numeral, Five, set up in the Temple to denote the original and proper number of the far-famed "Wise Men;" but which in later times had been raised to seven, by the addition of two more who had small claims to the honour. The legend went that these Five Wise Men, to commemorate the accidental meeting of them all in Delphi at the same festival, had dedicated the numeral carved in wood, which, decaying through age, the Corinthians replaced by a facsimile in bronze; which last was finally transmuted by Livia Augusta into another of gold, as more consistent with the dignity of the god of the place, whose son her husband claimed to be, and whose received image he represented in his features.
Others, more profoundly, interpreted the letter as representing by its proper sound in the Greek alphabet the declaration Εἶ "Thou art" as addressed to the Godhead--thus making it equivalent to the title ὁ ὦν, "the living God," so frequently given to Jehovah.
But it is much more consistent with the simplicity of antique times, to understand the figure as merely standing for the number Five, a number sacred for itself, not for its reference to the fabled sages of a later period. The idea of its virtue may have come from an Indian source, where it is the cause of the five-headed shape assigned to Brahma. From India it would find its way to
[paragraph continues] Delphi in company with the Gorgon-heads, themselves masks of Bhavana the Destroyer, which guarded the actual oracle--a singular connexion, noticed by Euripides in his 'Ion.' But it should be remembered that the Hyperboreans, reputed founders of the Oracle, were placed between the Caspian and the frontiers of India. The Omphalos itself "shaded with garlands, and encompassed with Gorgons" was no other than the Brahminical Lingam, as its figure demonstrates, whether as repictured in the early vase paintings when embraced by Orestes seeking sanctuary there from the pursuing Eumenides, or with Apollo seated thereon, stamped on the money of the Seleucidae--direct descendants of the god. In form reduced to an obtuse cone, the emblem had nothing obscene in appearance, its hidden meaning being a matter of revelation to the initiated few. The same conically-shaped stone was the solo representative of Venus in her most ancient temples--Paphos for example. Again that earliest of all statues of Apollo, the Amyclæan, described by Pausanias, was a veritable Hindoo Lat--a bronze column 50 cubits high, to which later art had added a head, hands holding bow and spear, and toes (ἀκροι πόδες). But his throne, in the middle of which the idol stood erect, was an after-thought of the best times of Greece, covered with elaborate figures and reliefs, the work of Bathyeles, or of Myron, with his scholars.
And in truth this very lunar-shaped seems to belong to the same class of Indian importations, and to have been originally a mere Caste-mark--indeed, if placed horizontally , it becomes at once the badge of the sectaries of Vishnu. What strongly confirms this explanation is the fact, that this symbol had been consecrated at Delphi many centuries before that shape of the letter came into the Greek alphabet--a change only dating from the age of Antony and Cleopatra, upon whose modals, struck in Asia Minor, the lunar-shaped is first observable.
In the earliest dawn of Grecian philosophy we find Pythagoras * building his whole system upon the mystic properties of
[paragraph continues] Numbers, and declared by tradition to have been taught the science in Egypt; nay more, Plato himself has penned in his Republic a certain section in the same line, worthy of any Alexandrian Kabbalist. In our own day, with the Sikhs to hold a "Punch," or council of Five, was the formal mode of deliberating upon all matters of State. And inasmuch as the most serious things have a ludicrous side, this sacred Numeral only preserves its reputation amongst ourselves from haying given the name to the well-known beverage, by reason of the five ingredients that go to its concoction--perhaps too, because its brewing was the inevitable result of the coming together of the same number of Englishmen in the times when our language was enriched by so many loans from the Hindostanee. *
A remarkable feature in the theogony of Valentinus is curiously illustrated by a Praun Calcedony, elegantly engraved, and mounted in a gold frame by some later Oriental owner, who justly deemed the gem a talisman of uncommon power. "The Father at last sent forth a mighty Æon, called the Cross, and who contained within himself all the other thirty Æons. The same was likewise denominated Terminus, inasmuch as he served for Boundary between the Fulness (Pleroma) and the Deficiency (Hysteroma)." Our gem presents the Egyptian Tau, as a Deus Terminus, topped with a human head, and surrounded by a continuous legend composed of vowels interspersed with rare consonants; probably expressing the thirty Æons contained within the sigil's self. On the base of the Terminus is the legend ΝΙΧΑΡΟΠΛΗC, often occurring on talismans. The same words are found at the foot of a cruciform trophy, above which is the Christian Χ upon a stone in the French Cabinet (No. 2222) also followed by ΙΩΑ upon the back of a gem (silex) published in the 'Göttingische Anzeiger,' Nos. 35 a, b, which clearly emanates from Mithraic notions, for it represents the usual lion-headed, serpent-girt man, a torch in one hand, in the other a sword, serpent, and crown of victory, soaring aloft from the back of a lion, under which lies a prostrate corpse.
A very curious instance of the employment of Gnostic figures in the art of Medicine is offered by the stone which Matter has published (Pl. II., C. 4). The obverse displays the Agathodæmon serpent placed between Phre (Sol) and a female in the act of adoration. Overhead are the mystic Vowels; below the undershaped vase, already noticed, placed upon a low altar, the whole encompassed by a legend in some unknown tongue. But the other side explains in lucid Greek the object of the composition. ΤΑCCΟΝ ΤΗΝ ΜΗΤΡΑΝ ΤΗC ΔΕΙΝΑ ΕΙC ΤΟΝ ΙΔΙΟΝ ΤΟΠΟΝΟΤΟΝ ΚΥΚΛΟΝ ΤΟΥ ΗΛΙΟΥ, "Place the womb of such or such a one into its proper region, Ο, the circle of the sun." Matter, in his explanation, has fallen into a ludicrous mistake, by interpreting μητρὰν as μητέρα he converts the words into a prayer for the soul of the mother of a certain Dina! But the real translation shows that the gem was made for any purchaser, to be worn as a preservative against the "prolapsus uteri," a female complaint very common in ancient times, owing to the abuse of the hot bath, so relaxing to the internal muscles, and also to the general employment of "abortiva," whenever thought desirable. In fact the very definite expression of the object, ΜΗΡΙΚΟΝ, uterine, is found on other gems, and places the correctness of the attribution of the former one quite out of doubt.
The "circle of the sun" means the navel, which marks the natural position of the organ concerned, for the navel in the microcosm was supposed to coincide with the sun in the universe. This idea produced the far-famed hallucination of the Byzantine anchorites, respecting the mystical Light of Tabor, which shone upon the devotee in virtue of long-continued fasting, and. unintermitted fixing of the eyes upon the region of the navel, whence at length it streamed forth, as from a focus, the "true creation of an empty brain and an empty stomach." *
Another circumstance bearing upon this employment of the sigil is that Isis, the peculiar goddess of maternity, is often figured in Roman sculpture, holding up in her hand a conical object, pouch shaped, exhibiting a triangular orifice. This object some have taken for the Persia plum; much more probably does it represent the organ in question, the most natural and expressive symbol of that divinity's peculiar function. In her mystic coffer were carried the distinctive marks of both sexes, the lingam and yoni of the Hindoos. Their Isis, Parvati, who in this character takes the name of Deva "the goddess" pre-eminently, bears in her hand for distinctive badge the yoni, or bhaga, often a precious stone carved into that shape. Similarly her consort, Siva, carries the lingam or phallus. For example, the Nizam's diamond, the largest stone of its kind known certainly to exist, exhibits evident traces of the native lapidary's clumsy endeavours to reduce the native crystal to the proper shape for the hand of the great goddess. Ugly omen to happen under a female reign, this diamond was accidentally broken in two just before the outbreak of the Sepoy revolt.
Deva's Mark, as borne upon their foreheads by Parvati's sectaries, is formed by three strokes, the two outside white or yellow, the centre always red. It is interpreted as representing the womb, methra, of Bhavani (another of Parvati's names) out of which proceeded all that exists. The close relationship between the Egyptian and Hindoo goddesses cannot fail to strike the observer; Isis carries the very same attributes with Parvati--the kid and cobras--upon the talisman--published by Caylus (IV., Pl. 16). But the Egyptian goddess, having but one pair of hands, is forced to clasp in each the several attributes borne singly by her many-handed Indian prototype.
A singular union of two contrary deities in one body, is presented by a hematite (Praun), representing Anubis, who, besides his proper jackal's head, is equipped with another, maned on the neck, and unmistakably that of an ass; as Typhon, * the evil one, was depicted; moreover, one of the feet,
too, of the figure is clearly hoofed, so as to leave no doubt as to the ownership of the second head. The same discordance of characters is still further set forth by what he bears in his hands, the two of Anubis holding up torches, the two of the malignant Typhon, swords. This odd combination probably expressed the same idea as did the Anubis seen by Apuleius, who exhibited at one time a face black as the night, at another golden as the day, in order to express his functions exercised both in heaven and in hell. The reverse bears an inscription containing the Coptic name of the god, ΠΕΡΑ--ΑΜΒΩ--ΥΒΑΙΑ--ΚΞΙΚ--Λ.
281:* In fact, the "unknown characters" sometimes occurring in the field of these talismans are unmistakeably Himyaritic letters, belonging to that primitive alphabet of Arabia. Osiander and Levy have published gems bearing intagli, of good execution, of Persian deities (therefore long anterior to Gnostic times), and neatly engraved Himyaritic legends. This character is perfectly vertical, handsome, and well defined in its differences; it is a modification of the Palmyrene, and the parent of the modern Ethiopic.
285:* Meaning, perhaps, having their fingers arranged so as to express this number; for Pliny mentions a very old statue of Janus displaying the fingers in such manner as to indicate his own numeral, that of the days in the year.
286:* The Kabbalistic "En-Soph." In this boundlessness, or as the En-Soph, God cannot be comprehended by the intellect, nor described by words, for there is nothing that can grasp or define Him to us; and as such He is a certain sense non-existent, in because as far as our minds are concerned that which is perfectly incomprehensible does not exist. To make this existence perceptible, and to render himself comprehensible, the En-soph had to become active and creative. But the En-Soph cannot be the direct Creator, for he has neither will, intention, desire, thought, language, nor action, as these properly imply limit, and belong to finite beings, whereas the En-Soph is Boundless."
287:* This is a regular Talmudic notion as the Rabbins propound. "At first the Name of twelve letters was communicated to every one; but when the profane multiplied it was only communicated to the most pious of the priests, and these pre-eminently pious priests absorbed it from their fellow-priests in the chant. It is recorded that Rabbi Tarphon said: I once went up the orchestra in the Temple after my maternal uncle, and bending forward my ear to a priest I heard how he absorbed it from his fellow-priests in the chant. R. Jehudah said in the time of Rab the divine name of forty-two letters is only communicated to such as are pious, not easily provoked, not given to drinking, and are not self-opinionated. He who knows that name and preserves it in purity, is beloved above, cherished below, respected by every creature, and is new to both worlds."--(Babylon. Mid. 71 a.).
287:† This explains the Σενγα Βαρφαρανγες, "those who stand before the Mount" so commonly following angelic names upon our talismans; where also the long strings of letters may be designed to express their Æon unbegotten.
288:* Similarly in the Kabbalistic diagram of the Sephiroth, the Crown is the head; Wisdom, the brain; Intelligence, the heart; Love, the right arm; Gentleness, the left arm; Beauty, the chest; Firmness, the right leg; Splendour, the left leg; Foundation, the genitals; Kingdom, or Shekinah, the union of the whole body. The Venus Anadyomene so often seen on our talismans was probably adopted by the Gnostics in this spiritualised sense; and thereby still continues to personify, the virtue, Truth.
289:* Probably meant ἀλεζετέ με "Defend me!"--of exactly similar sound in the spoken language.
293:* Chaldee, "The Star, the Star."
295:* One of the heaviest charges against the mediæval Manichæans was the adoration of an Octagon, as the figure of God.
295:† The talisman-makers loved to press into their service all the strange characters that came to their knowledge. Even the Runic of the farthest north added its virtue to the Praun hepatic amulet to be fully noticed in its proper section.
298:* Who is constantly affirmed to have visited India, Apuleius stating of him, Sed nec his artibus animi expletum mox Chaldæas, inde Brachmanas, eorum ergo Brachmanum Gymnosophistas adiisse."--('Florida.')
299:* For example caste and dam. The latter is the probable source of the common English expression that emphasises the small value of a thing, which ignorance softens into curse. Similarly used is rap, the smallest of the Swiss money.
300:* A neatly engraved ring-stone, hæmatite, lately communicated to me, has a line of several of the common siglae, followed by two more containing ΙΑΩ ΑΡΙΗΛ ΒΙΚΤΟΡΙΝΑ, "Jehovah, Lion of God (protect) Victorina!" When proper names can be deciphered on these talismans they are always those of women. A Praun gem, similarly opening with a line of siglae and the names Iao and Gabriel, was made for a certain Sabinia Quinta.
301:* The ass was sacred to Typhon. Plutarch (De Iside, 31) quotes an Egyptian legend that this deity fled from the "Battle of the Gods" upon p. 302 the back of an ass for over seven days’ space without stopping, until he came into Judæa, where he begat two sons, Hierosolymus and Palæstinus. Sir G. Wilkinson has met (although but rarely) with the figure of an ass-headed deity, or demon, in Egyptian sculptures.