THE monolith, talisman, mysterious pillar, or stone memorial, raised in attestation of the fire-tradition, and occupying the principal square or place, Forum, or middle-most or navel-point of the city in ancient times, is the original of our British market-crosses. The cromlech, or bilithon, or trilithon; the single, double, or grouped stones found in remote places--in Cornwall, in Wales, in various counties of England, in by-spots in Scotland, in the Scottish Isles, in the Isle of Man, and in Ireland--all these stones of memorial--older than history--speak the secret faith of the ancient peoples. These stones are also to be found in Brittany, in various parts of France and Spain; nay, throughout Europe, and occurring to recognition, in fact, in all parts of the world--old and new.
Stonehenge, with its inner and outer circles of stones, enclosing the central mythic object, or altar; all the Druidic or Celtic remains; stones on the tops of mountains, altar-tables in the valley; the centre measuring, or obelisk, stones, in market-places or centre-spaces in great towns, from which the highways radiated, spaced--in mileage--to distance; that time-honoured relic, 'London Stone', still extant in Cannon Street, London; the Scottish 'sacred stone', with its famous oracular gifts, vulgarly called Jacob's Pillow, transported to England by the dominant Edward the First, and preserved in the seat of the Coronation Chair in Westminster Abbey; even the
placing of upright stones as tombstones, which is generally accepted as a mere means of personal record--for, be it remembered, the ancients placed tablets against their walls by way of funeral register; all follow the same rule. We consider all these as variations of the upright commemorative pillar.
The province of Brittany, in France, is thickly studded with stone pillars, and the history and manners of its people teem with interesting, and very curious, traces of the worship of them. In these parts, and elsewhere, they are distinguished by the name of Menhirs and Peulvans. The superstitious veneration of the Irish people for such stones is well known. M. de Fréminville says in his Antiquités du Finisterre, p. 106: 'The Celts worshipped a divinity which united the attributes of Cybele and Venus'. This worship prevailed also in Spain--as, doubtless, throughout Europe--inasmuch as we find the Eleventh and Twelfth Councils of Toledo warning those who offered worship to stones that they were sacrificing to devils.
We are taught that the Druidical institution of Britain was Pythagorean, or patriarchal, or Brahminical. The presumed universal knowledge which this order possessed, and the singular customs which they practised, have afforded sufficient analogies and affinities to maintain the occult and remote origin of Druidism. A Welsh antiquary insists that the Druidical system of the Metempsychosis was conveyed to the Brahmins of India by a former emigration from Wales. But, the reverse may have occurred, if we trust the elaborate researches which would demonstrate that the Druids were a scion of the Oriental family. The reader is referred to Toland’s History of the Druids, in his Miscellaneous Works, vol. ii, p. 163; also to a book published in London in 1829, with the title The Celtic Druids; or, An Attempt
to show that the Druids were the Priests of Oriental Colonies, who emigrated from India, by Godfrey Higgins. A recent writer confidently intimated that the knowledge of Druidism must be searched for in the Talmudical writings; but another, in return, asserts that the Druids were older than the Jews.
Whence and when the British Druids transplanted themselves to this lone world amid the ocean, no historian can write. We can judge of the Druids simply by the sublime monuments which are left of them, surviving, in their majestic loneliness, through the ages of civilization. Unhewn masses or heaps of stones tell alone their story; such are their cairns, and cromlechs, and corneddes, and that wild architecture, whose stones hang on one another, still frowning on the plains of Salisbury.
Among the most remarkable ancient remains in Wales (both North and South) are the Druidical stones: poised in the most extraordinary manner--a real engineering problem--the slightest touch will sometimes suffice to set in motion the Logan, or rocking, stones, whether these balanced masses are found in Wales or elsewhere. We think that there is very considerable ground for concluding that all these mounted stones were oracular, or, so to express it, speaking; and that, when sought for divine responses, they were caused first to tremble, then to heave, and finally, like the tables of the modern (so-called) Spiritualists, to tip intelligibly. To no other reason than this could we satisfactorily refer the name under which they are known in Wales: namely, 'bowing-stones'. For the idea that they were denominated 'bowing-stones' because to the people they formed objects of adoration is a supposition infinitely less satisfactory. The reader will perceive that we admit the phenomenon, when the mysterious rapport is effected,
of the spontaneous sensitiveness and ultimate sympathetic motion of solid objects. No one who has witnessed the strange, unexplained power which tables, after proper preparation, acquire of supplying intelligent signals--impossible as it may seem to those who have not witnessed and tested these phenomena--but will see that there is great likelihood of these magic stones having been reared and haunted by the people for this special sensitive capacity. This idea would greatly increase the majesty and the wonder of them; in other respects, except for some extraordinary and superstitious use, these mysterious, solitary stones appear objectless.
The famous 'Round Table' of King Arthur--in regard to which that mystic hero is understood to have instituted an order of knighthood 1--may have been a magical consulting-disc, round which he and his peers sat for oracular directions. As it is of large dimensions, it presents a similarity not only to some of the prophesying-stones, but also, in a greater degree, to the movable enchanted drums of the Lapps and Finns, and to the divining-tables of the Shamans of Siberia. There lies an unsuspected purpose, doubtless of a mysterious (very probably of a superstitious and supernatural) character, in this exceedingly ancient memorial of the mythic British and heroic time at Winchester.
When spires or steeples were placed on churches, and succeeded the pyramidal tower, or square or round towers, these pointed erections were only the perpetuations of the original monolith. The universal signal was reproduced through the phases of architecture. The supposition that the object of the steeple was to point out the church to the surrounding
country explains but half its meaning. At one period of our history, the signal-lights abounded all over the country as numerously as church-spires do in the present days. Exalted on eminences, dotting hills, spiring on cliffs, perched on promontories--from sea inland, and from the interior of the country to broad river-side and to the sea-shore--rising from woods, a universal telegraph, and a picturesque landmark--the tower, in its meaning, spoke the identical, unconscious tradition with the blazing Baal, Bael, or Beltane Fires: those universal votive torches, which are lost sight of in the mists of antiquity, and which were so continual in the Pagan countries, so reiterated through the early ages, and which still remain so frequent in the feudal and monastic periods--these were all connected closely with religion. The stone tower was only, as it were, a 'stationary flame'. The origin of beacons may be traced to the highest antiquity. According to the original Hebrew (which language as the Samaritan, is considered by competent judges as the very oldest), the word 'beacon' may be rendered a mark, monolith, pillar, or upright. At one time the ancient Bale, Bel, or religious fires of Ireland were general all over the country. They have been clearly traced to a devotional origin, and are strictly of the same character as the magic, or Magian, fires of the East. During the political discontents of 1831 and 1832, the custom of lighting these signal-fires was very generally revived amidst the party-distractions in Ireland. In the ancient language of this country, the month of May is yet called 'nic Beal tienne', or the month of Beal (Bel or Baal's) fire. The Beltane festival in the Highlands has been ascribed to a similar origin. Druidical altars are still to be traced on many of the hills in Ireland, where Baal (Bel or Beal) fires were lighted. Through the countries, in the present
day, which formed the ancient Scandinavia, and in Germany, particularly in the North, on the first of May, as in celebration of some universal feast or festival, fires are even now lighted on the tops of the hills. How closely this practice accords with the superstitious usages of the Bohemians, or 'Fire-kings,' of Prague, is discoverable at a glance. All these western flames are representative of the early fire, which was as equally the object of worship of the Gubhs, Guebres, or Gaurs of Persia, as it is the admitted natural principle of the Parsees. Parsees, Bohemians, the Gipsies or Zingari, and the Guebres, all unite in a common legendary fire-worship.
Beside the ancient market-crosses and wayside Gothic uprights, of which so many picturesque specimens are yet to be found in England, Wales, and Scotland, we may enumerate the splendid funeral-crosses raised by the brave and pious King Edward to the memory of his wife. Holinshed writes: 'In the ninetéenth yeare of King Edward, quéene Elianor, King Edward's wife, died, upon saint Andrew's euen, at Hirdebie, or Herdelie (as some haue), neere to Lincolne. In euerie towne and place where the corpse rested by the waie, the King caused a crosse of cunning workmanship to be erected in remembrance of hir'. Two of the like crosses were set up at London--one at 'Westcheape' (the last but one), 'and the other at Charing', which is now Charing Cross, and where the last cross was placed.
The final obsequies were solemnized in the Abbey Church at Westminster, on the Sunday before the day of St. Thomas the Apostle, by the Bishop of Lincoln; and the King gave twelve manors and hamlets to the Monks, to defray the charges of yearly obits, and of gifts to the poor, in lasting commemoration of his beloved consort.
Some writers have stated. the number of crosses raised as above at thirteen. These were, Lincoln, Newark, Grantham,, Leicester, Stamford, Geddington, Northampton, Stoney-Stratford, Woburn, Dunstable, St. Alban’s, Waltham, Westcheape (Cheapside), not far from where a fountain for a long time took the place of another erection, and where the statue of Sir Robert Peel now stands. The last place where the body rested, whence the memorial-cross sprung, and which the famous equestrian statue of King Charles the First now occupies, is the present noisy highway of Charing Cross; and, as then, it opens to the royal old Abbey of Westminster. What a changed street is this capital opening at Charing Cross, Whitehall, and Parliament Street from the days--it almost then seeming a river-bordered country road--when the cross spired at one end, and, the old Abbey closed the views southwards.
In regard to the royal and sumptuous obsequies of Queen Eleanor, Fabian, who compiled his Chronicles towards the latter part .of the reign of Henry VII, speaking of her burial-place, has the following remark: 'She hathe II wexe tapers brennynge upon her tombe both daye and nyght. Which so hath contynned syne the day of her buryinge to this present daye'.
The beacon-warning, the Fiery Cross of Scotland, the universal use of fires on the tops of mountains, on the seashore, and on the highest turrets of castles, to give the signal of alarm, and to telegraph some information of importance, originated in the first religious flames. Elder to these summoning or notifying lights was the mysterious worship to which fire rose as the, answer. From religion the beacon passed into military use. On certain set occasions, and on special Saints’ Days, and at other times of observance, as the traveller in Ireland well knows,
the multitude of fires on the tops of the hills, and in any conspicuous situation, would gladden the eyes of the most devout Parsee. The special subject of illumination, however We may have become accustomed to regard it as the most ordinary expression of triumph, and of mere joyous celebration, has its origin in a much more abstruse and sacred source. In Scotland, particularly, the reverential ideas associated with these mythic fires are strong. Perhaps in no country have the impressions of superstition deeper hold than in enlightened, thoughtful, educated, and (in so many respects) prosaic Scotland; and in regard to these occult and ancient fires, the tradition of them, and the ideas concerning their origin, are preserved as a matter of more than cold speculation. Country legendary accounts and local usages--obtained from we know not whence--all referring to the same myth, all pointing to the same Protean superstition, are traceable, to the present, in all the English counties. Cairns in Scotland; heaps of stones in by-spots in England, especially--solitary or in group--to be found on the tops of hills; the Druidical mounds; the raising of crosses on the Continent, in Germany, amongst the windings of the Alps, in Russia (by the roadside, or at the entrance of villages), in Spain, in Poland, in lonely and secluded spots; probably even the first use of the 'sign-post' at the junction of roads; all these point, in strange, widely radiant suggestion, to the fire-religion.
Whence obtained is that word 'sign' as designating the guide, or. direction, post, placed at the intersection of cross-roads? Nay, whence gained we that peculiar idea of the sacredness, or of the 'forbidden', attaching to the spot where four roads meet? It is sacer, as sacred, in the Latin; 'extra-church', or 'heathen', supposedly 'unhallowed', in the modern
acceptation. The appellative ob in the word 'obelisk' means occult, secret; or magic. Ob is the biblical name for sorcery. It is also found as a word signifying converse with forbidden spirits; among the negroes on the coast of Africa, from whence--and indicating the practices marked out by it--it was transplanted to the West Indies, where it still exists.
It is well known that a character resembling the Runic alphabet was once widely diffused throughout Europe. 'A character, for example, not unlike the hammer of Thor, is to be found in. various Spanish inscriptions, and lurks in many magical books. Sir William Jones', proceeds our author--we quote from the Times of the 2nd of February 1859, in reviewing a work upon Italy by the late Lord Broughton--'has drawn a parallel between the deities of Meru and Olympus; and an enthusiast might perhaps maintain that the vases of Alba Longa were a relic of the times when one religion prevailed in Latium and Hindustan. It is most singular that the Hindoo cross is precisely the hammer of Thor.' All our speculations tend to the same conclusion. One day, it is a discovery of cinerary vases; the next, it is etymological research; yet again, it is ethnological investigation; and, the day after, it is the publication of unsuspected tales from the Norse; but all go to heap up the proofs of our consanguinity with the peoples of History--and of an original general belief, we might add.
What meaneth the altar, with its mysterious lights? What mean the candles of the Catholic worship, burning even by day, borne in the sunshine, blazing at noon? What meaneth this visible fire, as an element at Mass, or at service at all? Wherefore is this thing, Light, employed as a primal witness and attestation in all worship? To what end, and expressive of what mysterious meaning--surviving through the
changes of the faiths and the renewal of the Churches, and as yet undreamt--burn the solemn lamps in multitude, in their richly worked, their highly wrought, cases of solid gold or of glowing silver, bright-glancing in the mists of incense, and in the swell or fall of sacredly melting or of holily entrancing music? Before spiry shrine and elaborate drop-work tabernacle; in twilight hollow, diapered as into a 'glory of stone', and in sculptured niche; in the serried and starry ranks of the columned wax, or in rows of bossy cressets--intertwine and congregate the perfumed flames as implying the tradition eldest of time! What meaneth, in the Papal architectural piles, wherein the Ghostly Fire is enshrined, symbolic real fire, thus before the High Altar? What speak those constellations of lights? what those 'silvery stars of Annunciation'? What signifieth fire upon the altar? What gather we at all from altars and from sacrifice--the delivering, as through the gate of fire, of the first and the best of this world, whether of the fruits, whether of the flocks, whether of the primal and perfectest of victims, or the rich spoil of the 'world-states'? What mean the human sacrifices of the Heathen; the passing of the children through the fire to Moloch; the devotion of the consummate, the most physically perfect, and most beautiful, to the glowing Nemesis, in that keenest, strangest, yet divinest fire-appetite; the offered plunder, the surrendered lives, of the predatory races? What signifies the sacrifice of Iphigenia, the burning of living people among the Gauls, the Indian fiery immolations? What is intended even by the patriarchal sacrifices? What is the meaning of the burnt offerings, so frequent in the Bible? In short, what read we, and what seem we conclusively to gather, we repeat, in this mystic thing, and hitherto almost meaningless, if not contradictory and silencing
institution of sacrifice by fire? What gather we, otherwise than in the explanation of the thing signified, by it? We speak of sacrifice as practised in all ages, enjoined in all holy books, elevated into veneration, as a necessity of the highest and most sacred kind. We, find it in all countries--east, west, north, and south; in the Old equally as in the New World. From whence should this strange and unexplainable rite come, and what should it mean? as, indeed, what should mean the display of bright fire at all in the mysteries, Egyptian, Cabiric, Scandinavian, Eleusinian, Etrurian, Indian, Persian, Primal American, Tartarian, Phœnician, or Celtic, from the earliest of time until this very modern, instant, English day of candles on altars, and of the other kindred religious High-Church lightings?--respecting which there rankleth such scandal, and intensifieth such purposeless babble, such daily dispute! What should all this inveterate ritualistic (as it is absurdly called) controversy, and this ill-understood bandying, be about? Is it that, even at this day, men do not understand anything about the symbols of their religion, and that the things for which they struggle are mere words? really that the principles of their wonderful and supernatural faith are perfectly unknown, and that they reason with the inconclusiveness, but with nothing of the simplicity of children--nothing of the divine light of children?
But, we would boldly ask, what should all this wealth of fire-subjects mean, of which men guess so little, and know less? What should this whole principle of fire and of sacrifice be? What should it signify but the rendering over, and the surrender-up, in all abnegation, of the state of man, of the best and most valued 'entities' of this world, past and through the fire, which is the boundary and border and wall
between this world and the next?--that last element of all, on which is all--Fire--having most of the light of matter in it, as it hath most of the blackness of matter in it, to make it the fiercer; and both being copy, or shadow, of the Immortal and Ineffable Spirit-Light, of which, strange as it may sound, the sun is the very darkness! because that, and the whole Creation--as being Degree, or even, in its wonders, as Greater or Less--beautiful and godlike as it is to man, is as the shadow of God, and hath nothing of Him; but is instituted as the place of purification, 'being', or punishment: the opposite of God, the enemy of God, and, in its results, apart from the Spirit of God--which rescues supernaturally from it--the denier of God! This world and its shows--nay, Life--stands mystically as the Devil, Serpent, Dragon, or 'Adversary', typified through all time; the world terrestrial being the ashes of the fire celestial.
The torches borne at funerals are not alone for light; they have their mystic meaning. They mingle largely, as do candles on altars, in all solemn celebrations. The employment of light in all religious rites, and in celebration in the general sense, has an overpoweringly great meaning. Festival, also, claims flame as its secret signal and its password to the propitious Invisible. Lights and flambeaux and torches carried in the hand were ever the joyous accompaniment of weddings. The torch of Hymen is a proverbial expression. The ever-burning lamps of the ancients; the steady, silent tomb-lights (burning on for ages), from time to time discovered among the mouldering monuments of the past in the hypogea, or sepulchral caves, and buildings broken in upon by men in later day; the bonfires of the moderns; the fires on the tops of hills; the mass of lamps disposed
about sanctuaries, whether encircling the most sacred point of the mosque of the Prophet, the graded and cumulative Grand Altar in St Peter's, of the saint-thrones in the churches of the Eternal City, or elsewhere, wherever magnificence riseth into expansion, and intensifieth and overpowereth in the sublimity which shall be felt; the multitudinous grouped lamps in the Sacred Stable--the Place of the Holy Nativity, meanest and yet highest--at Bethlehem; the steady, constant lights ever burning in mystic, blazing attestation in Jerusalem, before the tomb of the Redeemer; the chapelle ardente in the funeral observances of the ubiquitous Catholic Church; the congregated tapers about the bed of the dead--the flames in mysterious grandeur (and in royal awe), placed as in waiting, so brilliant and striking, and yet so terrible, a court, and surrounding the stately catafalque; the very word falcated, as bladed, sworded, or scimitared (as with the guard of waved or sickle-like flames); the lowly, single candle at the bedside of the poverty-attenuated dead--thus by the single votive light only allied (yet in unutterably mystic and godlike bond) as with the greatest of the earth; the watch-lights everywhere, and in whatever country; the crosses (spiry memorials, or monoliths) which rose as from out the earth, in imitation of the watching candle, at whatever point rested at night, in her solemn journey to her last home, the body of Queen Eleanor, as told in the English annals (which flame-memorials, so raised by the pious King Edward in the spiry, flame-imitating stone, are all, we believe, obliterate or put out of things, but the well-known, magnificent, restored cross at Waltham); all these, to the keen, philosophic eye, stand as the best proofs of the diffusion of this strange Fire-Dogma: mythed as equally, also, in that 'dark veiled Cotytto':
'She', this blackest of concealment in the mysteries, Isis, Io, Ashtaroth, or Astarte; or Cybele- or Proserpine; 'he', this Baal, Bel, 'Baalim', Foh, Brahm, or Bhudd; 'it'--for the Myth is no personality, but sexless--Snake, Serpent, Dragon, or Earliest at all of Locomotion, under whatever 'Letter of the Alphabet'--all these symbols, shapes, or names, stand confessed in that first; absolutely primal, deified element, Fire, which the world, in all religions, has worshipped, is worshipping, and will worship to the end of time, unconsciously; we even in the Christian religion, and in our modern day, still doing it--unwitting the meaning of the mysterious symbols which pass daily before our eyes: all which. point, as we before have said, to Spirit-Light as the soul of the World--otherwise, to the inexpressible mystery of the Holy Ghost.
Little is it suspected what is the myth conveyed in the Fackeltanz and Fackelzug of Berlin, of which so much was heard, as a curious observance, at the time of the marriage of the Princess Royal of England with the Prince Frederick William of Prussia. This is the Teutonic perpetuation of the 'Bacchic gloryings', of the Saturnian rout and flame-brandishing of the earliest and last rite.
The ring of light, glory, nimbus, aureole, or circle of rays, about the heads of sacred persons; the hand (magnetic and mesmeric) upon sceptres; the open hand borne in the standards of the Romans; the dragon crest of Maximin, of Honorius, and of the Barbarian Leaders; the Dragon of China and of Japan; the Dragon of Wales; the mythic Dragon trampled by St. George; the 'crowned serpent' of the Royal House of Milan; the cairns, as we have already
affirmed, and the Runic Monuments; the Round Towers of Ireland (regarding which there hath been so much, and so diverse and vain speculation); the memorial piles, and the slender (on seashore and upland) towers left by the Vikinghs, or Sea-Kings, in their adventurous and predatory voyages; the legends of the Norsemen or the Normans; the vestiges so recently, in the discovery of the forward-of-the-old-time ages, exposed to the light of criticism, in the time-out-of-mind antique and quaint cities of the extinct peoples and of the forgotten religions in Central America: the sun or fire-worship of the Peruvians, and their vestal or virgin-guardians of the fire; the priestly fire-rites of the Mexicans, quenched by Cortez in the native blood, and, the context of their strange, apparently incoherently wild, belief; the inscriptions of amulets, on rings and on talismans; the singular, dark, and in many respects, uncouth arcana of the Bohemians, Zingari, Gitanos, or Gipsies; the teaching of the Talmud; the hints of the Cabala: also that little-supposed thing, even, meant in the British golden collar of 'S.S.', which is worn as a relic of the oldest day (in perpetuation of a mythos long ago buried--spark-like--and forgotten in the dust of ages) by some of our officials, courtly and otherwise, and which belongs to no known order of knighthood, but only to the very highest order of knighthood, the Magian, or to Magic; all these point, as in the diverging radii of the greatest of historical light-suns, to the central, intolerable ring of brilliancy, or the phenomenon--the original God’s revelation, eldest of all creeds, survivor, almost, of Time--of the Sacred Spirit, or Ghostly Flame-the baptism of Fire of the Apostles!
In this apparently strange--nay, to some minds, alarming--classification, and throwing under one head, of symbols diametrically opposed, as holy and unholy,
benign and sinister, care must be taken to notice that the types of the 'Snake' or the 'Dragon' stand for the occult 'World-Fire', by which we mean the 'light of the human reason', or 'manifestation' in the general sense, as opposed to the spiritual light, or unbodied light; into which, as the reverse--although the same--the former transcends. Thus, shadow is the only possible means of demonstrating light. It is not reflected upon that we must have means whereby to be lifted. After all, we deal only with glyphs, to express inexpressible things. Horns mean spirit-manifestation; Radius signifies the glorying absorption (into the incomprehensible) of that manifestation. Both signify the same: from any given point, the One Spirit working downwards, and also transcending upwards. From any given point, in height, that the intellect is able to achieve, the same spirit downwards intensifies into Manifestation; upwards, dissipates into God. In other words, before any knowledge of God can be formed at all, it must have a shape. God is an abstraction; Man is an entity.
118:1 It was also something else--to which we make reference in other parts of our book.