This universality of the goddess was more concisely represented in other figures of her, by the mystic instrument called a Systrum, which she carried in her hand. Plutarch has given an explanation of it, 1 which may serve to show that the mode here adopted of explaining the ancient symbols is not founded merely upon conjecture and analogy, but also upon the authority of one of the most grave and learned of the Greeks. The curved top, he says, represented the lunar orbit, within which the creative attributes of the deity were exerted, in giving motion to the four elements, signified by the four rattles below. 2 On the centre of the curve was a cat, the emblem of the moon; who, from her influence on the constitutions of women, was supposed to preside particularly over the passive powers of generation; 3 and below, upon the base, a head of Isis or Nepthus; instead of which, upon that which I have had engraved, as well as upon many others now extant, are the male organs of generation, representing the active powers of the creator, attributed to Isis with the
passive. The clattering noise, and various motions of the rattles being adopted as the symbols of the movement and mixture of the elements from which all things are produced; the sound of metals in general became an emblem of the same kind. Hence, the ringing of bells, and clattering of plates of metal, were used in all lustrations, sacrifices, &c. 1 The title Priapus, applied to the characteristic attribute of the creator, and sometimes to the Creator himself, is probably a corruption of Βριαπυοε (clamorous or loud); for the Β and Π being both labials, the change of the one for the other is common in the Greek language. We still find many ancient images of this symbol, with bells attached to them. 2 as they were to the sacred robe of the high priest of the Jews, in which he administered to the Creator. 3 The bells in both were of a pyramidal form, 4 to show the ætherial igneous essence of the god. This form is still retained in those used in our churches, as well as in the little ones rung by the Catholic priests at the elevation of the host. The use of them was early adopted by the Christians, in the same sense as they were employed
by the later heathens; that is, as a charm against evil daemons; 1 for, being symbols of the active exertions of the creative attributes, they were properly opposed to the emanations of the destructive. The Lacedemonians used to beat a pan or kettle-drum at the death of their king, 2 to assist in the emancipation of his soul at the dissolution of the body. We have a similar custom of tolling a bell on such occasions, which is very generally practised, though the meaning of it has been long forgotten. This emancipation of the soul was supposed to be finally performed by fire; which, being the visible image and active essence of both the creative and destructive powers, was very naturally thought to be the medium through which men passed from the present to a future life. The Greeks, and all the Celtic nations, accordingly, burned the bodies of the dead, as the Gentoos do at this day; while the Egyptians, among whom fuel was extremely scarce, placed them in pyramidal monuments, which were the symbols of fire; hence come those prodigious structures which still adorn that country. The soul which was to be emancipated was the divine emanation, the vital spark of heavenly flame, the principle of reason and perception, which
was personified into the familiar daemon, or genius, supposed to have the direction of each individual, and to dispose him to good or evil, wisdom or folly, and all their consequences of prosperity and adversity. 1 Hence proceeded the doctrines, so uniformly inculcated by Homer and Pindar. 2 of all human actions depending immediately upon the gods; which were adopted, with scarcely any variations, by some of the Christian divines of the apostolic age. In the Pastor of Hermas, and Recognitions of Clemens, we find the angels of justice, penitence, and sorrow, instead of the genii, or daemons, which the ancients supposed to direct men's minds and inspire them with those particular sentiments. St. Paul adopted the still more comfortable doctrine of grace, which served full as well to emancipate the consciences of the faithful from the shackles of practical morality. The familiar daemons, or divine emanations, were supposed to reside in the blood; which was thought to contain the principles of vital heat, and was therefore forbidden by Moses. 3 Homer, who seems to have
collected little fragments of the ancient theology, and introduced them here and there, amidst the wild profusion of his poetical fables, represents the shades of the deceased as void of perception, until they had tasted of the blood of the victims offered by Ulysses; 1 by which their faculties were renewed by a reunion with the divine emanation, from which they had been separated. The soul of Tiresias is said to be entire in hell, and to possess alone the power of perception, because with him this divine emanation still remained. The shade of Hercules is described among the other ghosts, though he himself, as the poet says, was then in heaven; that is, the active principle of thought and perception returned to its native heaven, whilst the passive, or merely sensitive, remained on earth, from whence it sprung. 2 The final separation of these two did not take place till the body was consumed by fire, as appears from the ghost of Elpenor, whose body being still entire, he retained both, and knew Ulysses before he had tasted of the blood. It was from producing this separation, that the universal Bacchus, or double Apollo, the creator and destroyer, whose essence was fire, was
also called Λιχνιτης, the purifier, 1 by a metaphor taken from the winnow, which purified the corn from the dust and chaff, as fire purified the soul from its terrestrial pollutions. Hence this instrument is called by Virgil the mystic winnow of Bacchus. 2 The Ammonian Platonics and Gnostic Christians thought that this separation, or purification, might be effected in a degree even before death. It was for this purpose that they practised such rigid temperance, and gave themselves up to such intense study; for, by subduing and extenuating the terrestrial principle, they hoped to give liberty and vigour to the celestial, so that it might be enabled to ascend directly to the intellectual world, pure and unincumbered. 3 The clergy afterwards introduced Purgatory, instead of abstract meditation and study; which was the ancient mode of separation by fire, removed into an unknown country, where it was saleable to all such of the inhabitants of this world as had sufficient wealth and credulity.
It was the celestial or ætherial principle of the human mind, which the ancient artists represented under the symbol of the butterfly, which may be
considered as one of the most elegant allegories of their elegant religion. This insect, when hatched from the egg, appears in the shape of a grub, crawling upon the earth, and feeding upon the leaves of plants. In this state, it was aptly made the emblem of man, in his earthly form, in which the ætherial vigour and activity of the celestial soul, the divine particula mentis, was supposed to be clogged and incumbered with the material body. When the grub was changed to a chrysalis, its stillness, torpor, and insensibility seemed to present a natural image of death, or the intermediate state between the cessation of the vital functions of the body and the final releasement of the soul by the fire, in which the body was consumed. The butterfly breaking from the torpid chrysalis, and mounting in the air, was no less natural an image of the celestial soul bursting from the restraints of matter, and mixing again with its native æther. The Greek artists, always studious of elegance, changed this, as well as other animal symbols, into a human form, retaining the wings as the characteristic members, by which the meaning might be known. The human body, which they added to them, is that of a beautiful girl, sometimes in the age of infancy, and sometimes of approaching maturity. So beautiful an allegory as this would naturally be a favourite subject of art among a people whose taste
had attained the utmost pitch of refinement. We accordingly find that it has been more frequently and more variously repeated than any other which the system of emanations, so favourable to art, could afford.
Although all men were supposed to partake of the divine emanation in a degree, it was not supposed that they all partook of it in an equal degree. Those who showed superior abilities, and distinguished themselves by their splendid actions, were supposed to have a larger share of the divine essence, and were therefore adored as gods, and honoured with divine titles, expressive of that particular attribute of the deity with which they seemed to be most favoured. New personages were thus enrolled among the allegorical deities; and the personified attributes of the sun were confounded with a Cretan and Thessalian king, an Asiatic conqueror, and a Theban robber. Hence Pindar, who appears to have been a very orthodox heathen, says, that the race of men and gods is one, that both breathe from one mother, and only differ in power. 1 This confusion of epithets and titles contributed, as much as any thing, to raise that vast and extravagant fabric of poetical mythology, which, in a manner, overwhelmed the ancient theology,
which was too pure and philosophical to continue long a popular religion. The grand and exalted system of a general first cause, universally expanded, did not suit the gross conceptions of the multitude; who had no other way of conceiving the idea of an omnipotent god, but by forming an exaggerated image of their own despot, and supposing his power to consist in an unlimited gratification of his passions and appetites. Hence the universal Jupiter, the aweful and venerable, the general principle of life and motion, was transformed into the god who thundered from Mount Ida, and was lulled to sleep in the embraces of his wife; and hence the god whose spirit moved 1 upon the face of the waters, and impregnated them with the powers of generation, became a great king above all gods, who led forth his people to smite the ungodly, and rooted out their enemies from before them.
189:1 De Is. & Os.
189:2 see Plate X. Fig. 4, engraved from one in the collection of R. Wilbraham, Esq.
189:3 Cic. de Nat. Deor. lib. ii. c. 46.
190:1 Clem. Alex. Προτζ. p. 9. Schol in Theocrit. Idyll. II. ver. 36.
190:2 Bronzi dell' Hercol. Tom. vi. Plate XCVIII.
190:3 Exod. ch. xxviii.
190:4 Bronzi dell' Hercol. Tom. vi. Plate XCVIII. Maimonides in Patrick's Commentary on Exodus, ch. xxviii.
191:1 Ovid. Fast. lib. v. ver. 441. Schol. in Theocrit Idyll. ii. ver. 36.
191:2 Schol. in Theocrit. Idyll. II. ver. 36.
192:1 Pindar. Pyth. v. ver. 164. Sophocl. Trachin. ver. 922. Hor. lib. ii. epist. ii. ver. 187.
192:2 Εκ Θεων μαχαναι ηγσαι Βροτεαις αρεταις, και σοποι, και χερσι Βιαται, Περιγλωσσοι τ᾽ εφ Ιν. Pindar Pyth. i. ver. 79 Passages to the same purpose occur in almost every page of the Iliad and Odyssey.
192:3 Levit. ch. xvii. ver. 11 & 14.
193:1 Odyss. ζ, ver. 152.
193:2 Those who wish to see the difference between sensation and perception clearly and fully explained, may be satisfied by reading the Essai analytique sur l'Ame, by Mr. Bonnet.
194:1 Orph. Hymn. 45.
194:2 Mystica vannus Iacchi. Georg. i. ver. 166.
194:3 Plotin. Ennead. vi. lib. IV. ch. 16. Mosheim, Not y in Cudw. Syst. Intell. ch. v. sect. 20.
196:1 Nem. v. ver. 1.