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HAVING shown that THE SERPENT, as an emblem of divinity, as a charm, as an oracle, or as A GOD, entered into the worship of almost every considerable nation of the ancient world, I proceed to consider what traditionary evidence to the seduction of our first parents, by the serpent, is afforded in the remains of their respective mythologies.
In the progress of corrupt religion, whatever was originally a pure patriarchal tradition became gradually less pure, not only by the addition of circumstances entirely fabulous, but also by the admixture of other patriarchal traditions, so blended together, that every fable into which they entered became still more obscure and marvellous. The inquirer into truth is, therefore, frequently encumbered with the antecedent
necessity of separating fact from fact, before he can hope to extricate truth from error. The shades are so indistinctly thrown together, that he must first seek to separate one patriarchal tradition from another, before he can pronounce, with any degree of precision, where the light of revelation ends, and the darkness of mythology begins.
But, at the same time, the candid and patient inquirer has the satisfaction to feel assured that scarcely any leading fable of heathen mythology is altogether the offspring of a poetical imagination. "Non res ipsas gestas finxerunt poetæ, sed rebus gestis addiderunt quendam colorem," is the shrewd observation of Lactantius 1; and the more we read, the more convinced are we of its correctness.
One of the most remarkable of these compound heathen fables is that of TYPHON. And this has been made subservient to several explanations, more or less satisfactory as the writer has approached, or receded from, the only test of truth--the Scriptures.
Bryant and Faber have determined that the
fable of Typhon has reference to the deluge: there are, however, other characteristics which ought not to be overlooked. Of their valuable information I avail myself cheerfully, in separating one truth from the fable; but another remains, of far more importance to the individual interests of mankind, and this also I will endeavour to elucidate.
An Egyptian fable; chiefly preserved by Plutarch, in his dissertation on Isis and Osiris; noticed also by Hyginus, fab. 152, and by Apollodorus, lib. i. c. 6.
The fable of Typhon may have been embellished by the traditions of the deluge; but for its origin we must look higher. All tradition cannot be supposed to have centered in the deluge; for it is not probable that the sons and daughters of Noah, who survived the flood, would have been silent about the stupendous events which preceded it.
The creation of the world and of man; his happiness in paradise, and his expulsion from
it through sin; the cause of this sin, and its consequences; THE SERPENT TEMPTER and THE "REDEEMING ANGEL 1,"--would form natural and interesting subjects for the paternal instruction of these elders to their children. Is it surprising, then, that their children should preserve as sacred those oral traditions, from the recital of which they had received both instruction and amusement; and the remembrance of which, probably, formed part of their religious service of praise and thanksgiving? Is it not rather probable that they would themselves transmit them to their children's children? And if, in the lapse of ages, a poetic imagination, or a desire to excite astonishment, should envelope these truths in the robe of fiction, can we wonder at the circumstance? We have much more reason for wonder that so little fiction, rather than so much, has obscured the truth.
There are some circumstances interwoven with the attributes of Typhon, which would lead us to conjecture, that the first interference of this monster, in mundane affairs, was his
seduction of our first parents UNDER THE FORM OF A SERPENT.
Typhon was the EVIL SPIRIT of the Egyptians. Jablonski derives his name from the two Coptic words, Theu-ph-ou, "spiritus-malus:" a derivation which corresponds with the remark of Plutarch: "The Egyptians commonly called Typhon Κακὸυ Δαίμονα 1." The history of this dæmon will be found to be parallel with that of Satan in Scripture.
Hyginus informs us, that Typhon was the son of Tartarus (Hell) and the Earth: that he made war against Jupiter for dominion, and, being struck by lightning, was thrown flaming to the earth, where Mount Ætna was placed upon him. Tartarus ex Terrâ procreavit Typhonem, immani inagnitudine, specieque portentosa, cui centum capita draconum ex humeris errata erant. Hic Jovem provocavit, si vellet secum de regno certare. Jovis fulmine ardenti pectus ejus percussit. Cui cum flagraret, montem Ætnam, qui est in Siciliâ, super eum imposuit: qui ex eo adhuc ardere dicitur.--Hyginus, fab. 152.
Pindar tells us, that "Typhon, the hundred-headed
enemy of the gods, lies in Tartarus 1."
The war in heaven, for dominion, is evidently a version of the patriarchal tradition recorded by St. Jude, of which a vision was subsequently revealed to St. John. "There was war in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought, and his angels, and prevailed not, neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him 2."
Under the same character, of a rebel against the gods, Typhon is celebrated in Grecian mythology by the name of Typhoeus 3 and in the Syrian by the name of Ophioneus. The latter is the same as the serpent-god Ophion or Obion, whose worship we have traced in the preceding pages.
This remarkable tradition, of "a war in heaven," is preserved also in the mythologies of the Persians, Hindûs, and Celts.
The terrestrial history of Typhon, which Plutarch records, is briefly this. Being envious of his brother, Osiris, he put him to death, placed the dismembered body in a chest, and set him adrift on the Nile. But after some time Osiris was either restored to life, or recovered by his wife, Isis, in a mutilated state; for the fable admits of either conclusion.
The principal features in this fable are,
1st, The envy of Typhon.
2dly, The murder of his brother in consequence.
3dly, His brother's restoration to life by means of his wife.
It is extremely probable that, in this short fable, three independent patriarchal truths, at least, have been mixed together: the murder of Abel through the jealousy of Cain; the preservation of Noah in the ark; and the fall and redemption of man. The first is sufficiently obvious; the second has been adopted by those writers who look upon Typhon as a personification of the deluge; and the third I will endeavour to establish by such proofs as have occurred to me in the ordinary course of reading.
We are assured by the author of the Book of Wisdom, that "through envy of the devil came death into the world 1:" and our Lord informs us, that the devil "was a murderer from the beginning 2." This, of course, alludes more particularly to the spiritual murder of Adam; but his loss of immortality, in consequence of following the suggestions of the devil, might very naturally form the foundation of a fable, in which things spiritual would be accommodated to things temporal, in accordance with the genius and practice of mythology. All that we can therefore reasonably expect, in tracing an agreement between history and fable, is a common cause assigned by each to a fact which each professes to record; and a few leading characteristics, relative to the transaction and the agents, common to both the historical and mythological tradition.
In the history, and in the fable, "Envy" was the cause of the spiritual or the carnal murder. The same being, who made "a war in heaven," and was cast down "from thence upon the earth," was the agent in each: and in either case he is represented in a dracontic form. The
devil deceived Eve under the figure of a serpent: such a figure was also attributed to Typhon, at least in part; and a partial resemblance, such as this, is more satisfactory than a complete similitude. Typhon is a monster with a human head, and dracontic arms and legs. According to Apollodorus 1, "an hundred serpents' heads issued from his hands, and his legs 'terminated in two enormous snakes." Hyginus tells us, that "an hundred serpents' heads issued from his shoulders." The figure, therefore, was partly human, and partly dracontic; and in such we should have expected that the genius of mythology would clothe the serpent-tempter. For the tradition of the serpent, speaking with a human voice, would very naturally adorn the serpent of the fable with a human body 2.
The being, therefore, who deprived Adam and Osiris of life, was THE EVIL SPIRIT, and he was corporeally united with the serpent.
It should not be concealed, however, that Jablonski does not think that the Egyptian
[paragraph continues] Typhon was the same as the Greek Typhoeus, to whom the above description rather belongs. He says that Typhon was not a monster, human and dracontic. There can be little doubt however, but that the Grecian fable, and even name of Typhoeus, is borrowed from the Egyptian fable and name of Typhon. For if Typhon be derived, as Jablonski contends, from Theu-ph-ou, Typhoeus comes as near, or nearer, to the root. I conceive the fact to be simply this: that the Egyptian fable has been divided into two by the Greeks, and that whatever attribute of Typhon is wanting in Typhoeus, is to be found in PYTHON.
The fall of Adam is again graphically described in the sculptured images of his counterpart Osiris, who is sometimes represented in the midst of the volumes of a serpent, as we learn from Montfaucon.
So far, then, the history and the fable coincide. We can, however, pursue the parallel a little farther. The fall of Adam being produced by the agency of the serpent, his recovery was to be effected by "the woman's seed." This part of the truth is expressed in the fable by the restoration of Osiris to life through the instrumentality of his wife Isis,
and the vanquishing of Typhon by their son ORUS 1. It is a singular part of the fable, that Osiris, when restored to life, was restored in a mutilated condition; which may be an allusion, not obscure, to the imperfection of the redeemed man, compared with his perfection before the fall. The nature of the imperfection mentioned in the fable, may have been suggested by a corrupt tradition of the first consequences of the fall, as stated in Genesis iii. 7. Plutarch informs us, that when Orus was contending with Typhon, Thueris, the concubine of the latter, went over to the former, but was pursued by a serpent, which was, however, destroyed by the attendants of Orus. So that throughout the whole of this confused, but remarkable legend, THE SERPENT seems to be most singularly involved, as allied to TYPHON.
Putting all these facts together, I cannot but be persuaded that the original characters of the fable were historical persons, and that these were no other than ADAM and EVE, represented by OSIRIS and ISIS; the SERPENT-TEMPTER, by TYPHON; and the victorious ''WOMAN'S SEED," by ORUS. A conclusion
which is corroborated by the remarkable fact, that ORUS is considered by the Greek writers to have been the same as APOLLO 1; and Apollo, it is well known, was the destroyer of the serpent Python, which had persecuted his mother Latona. Whether with Gale, therefore, we derive ORUS from אור, (LIGHT); or with Jablonski, from the Coptic U-er, (THE CAUSE), the result will be the same; a correspondence with a title or an attribute of the "woman's seed," as "a Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world 2;" or as "the Word by whom all things were made, and without whom was not any thing made that was made 3."
Orus, after his victory over Typhon, is said to have reigned "happily," and was the last of the Egyptian dæmon kings 4; thus in every respect fulfilling the attributes of THE MESSIAH, who, having bruised the serpent's head, shall reign for ever and ever, when "all enemies are put under his feet."
Further, it is to be observed, that Plutarch calls Typhon "an enemy to Isis;" affirming that
he derived his name from the word τετυφωμένος, for, being puffed up through ignorance and error, he destroys and annuls τὸν ἱερὸν λόγον--THE HOLY WORD--which she collects, and arranges, and teaches to those who are initiated into her worship," &c. 1 What is this but a Pagan version of the Scripture truth, that "the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty 2;" and that "he who taketh the word out of the hearts of men, lest they should believe and be saved 3," is THE DEVIL?
Plutarch, with the vanity so conspicuous in Grecian writers of referring the origin of every thing to their native country, says, that Isis, as well as Typhon, is a word of Greek derivation, from ἴσημι--scio. The error is too preposterous to require a serious refutation--suffice it to say, that the Greek language, people, theology, and manners, were, for the most part, derived from Egyptian colonies. The derivation of Isis, approved by Jablonski, is I-SI, abundantia permanans; from a notion that Isis was the personification of nature. This idea is suggested by the following inscription, copied by Plutarch
from a temple of Isis at Sais: "I am all that hath been, and is, and shall be; and my veil no mortal hath ever removed."
But we may observe, that the Isis of Egypt is to be recognised in the ISI of Hindûstan 1: the name of her consort is ISA. May not these two names have been originally derived from איש and; אשה, the names of Adam and Eve in the second chapter of Genesis? The transposition of the words does not militate against the hypothesis--such permutations being allowed to mythology. These words are derived from the root ישה, signifying abstract existence 2--an idea which is not repugnant to that of I-si, abundantia permanans. The transition of ideas from "the mother of the human race," to the mother of the terrestrial globe--from the "abundantia permanans" of the habitable world, to the "abundantia permanans" of the universe, is in accordance with the genius of mythology.
When we are informed, therefore, by Faber 3, and other learned men, that Osiris and Isis are the CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE, under the mystical character of husband and wife--"The
[paragraph continues] Great Creator being sometimes esteemed in mythology, the animating soul, and sometimes the husband of the universe; while the universe, on the other hand, is sometimes reckoned the body and sometimes the wife of the Intelligent Being,"--(one theory representing the union of spirit and matter, under the idea of soul and body; and the other under the notion of conjugal unity)--we are not deprived of the hypothesis that Osiris and Isis were originally Adam and Eve. On the contrary, we may conjecture that the intimate union of Adam and Eve, and the mysterious creation of the latter from the former, might have suggested the notion of the father and mother of the universe in mystical union and separation. It is but the substitution of the father and mother of all things for the father and mother of all men.
One of the epithets by which Isis was known in Egypt was Muth, which Plutarch (rightly, according to Jablonski,) interprets "Mother." The word Muth, מות, in Hebrew, signifies death; and the coincidence is not a little remarkable, when we remember that it was EVE who introduced "death" into the world.
The Phœnicians taught that MUTH was a
man; the son of Saturn and Rhea (or OPS, the serpent.) The words of Eusebius are these:--"He consecrates his son Muth, whom he had by Rhea; whom the Phœnicians called DEATH, or PLUTO 1." DEATH, the offspring of THE SERPENT, is thus an epithet to designate the woman "by whom came death!" Can there be a closer affinity between truth and fable, or a more illustrative commentary of mythology upon Scripture? It is true, that for this illustration we have had recourse to Phœnician and Egyptian fable; but it should be remembered that Thoth, the author of Egyptian learning, was likewise the founder of Phœnician theology.
"Muth," signifying in the Egyptian language "Mother," is probably the parent of our English word expressing the same idea: and if ever there was a period in the primitive language 2, in which the word Muth signified both mother and death, how elegant is the combination, and how expressive its simplicity! "Mother" is a sound which brings with it the remembrance of affectionate solicitude from the
cradle to the grave; but accustomed as we are to its connexion with the former, how little are we sensible of its relation to the latter! how little do we imagine that from her who gave us life we inherit death.
Having made the above observations, I do not pretend to be ignorant that Osiris and Isis were the names under which the personified deities of the sun and moon were worshipped in Egypt; for I do not consider that this admitted fact militates in any degree against my hypothesis. The sun was the great god of the heathen world, and the moon was considered as his wife. So that the sun and moon of Egyptian worship, were THE CREATOR in the mystical character of husband and wife, under which he was expressed by many symbols and names. The sun and the moon; the male and female serpent; Osiris and Isis;--are in turn employed to denote the Intelligent Being, the Maker of all things, in conjugal unity; and it does not follow, that because two of these terms happen sometimes to be united to express two others, which are expressive of a common object, that therefore they lose their original character,
which is thus momentarily merged. Osiris and Isis, then, do not forfeit their original representation of Adam and Eve, when combined to express the sun and moon, which, independently convey the same idea of the mystical Creator; any more than the male and female serpent, though typical of Osiris and Isis, and of the sun and moon, lose their original typification of the serpent in paradise, by being employed to represent the abstract Deity.
OSIRIS and ISIS, then, are ADAM and EVE; and, though in the fable which records their history, other patriarchal truths may be confounded, yet I think there can be no doubt of its involving likewise the events in paradise. I have brought forward a few points of singular coincidence, and learning and ingenuity may find more. For such is the nature of heathen mythology, that if, under the heap of fabulous rubbish, we can perceive the least sparkling of a gem of truth, we may confidently affirm that the gem is not accidental, but that the rubbish has been heaped upon it.
A Grecian fable--noticed by Hyginus, Fab. 140, Ovid, Strabo, Pausanias, and Lucan.
"Python, Terræ filius, Draco ingens. Hic ante Apollinem, ex oraculo in monte Parnasso responsa dare solitus erat. Huic ex Latonæ partu interitus erat fato futurus. . . . . . . Python ubi sensit Latonam ex Jove gravidam esse, persequi cœpit ut eam interficeret. . . . . . Latona oleam tenens parit Apollinem et Dianam. . . . . . Apollo Pythonem sagittis interfecit." Hyginus, Fab. 140.
In this fable we recognise some remarkable features corresponding with the Fall and Redemption of mankind: the persecution of the woman by the serpent; his predicted destruction by "the woman's seed;" the olive branch of peace held in the hand of the mother who gave birth to "the Prince of Peace;" and, what is not the least significant portion of the legend, the heavenly extraction of the promised Avenger, uniting the divine nature of the Father with the human nature of the mother.
In the history of Python, his antiquity is to
be observed. He was produced by the slime which was left upon the earth at the subsiding of the deluge 1. This was an origin naturally enough attributed to him by the poets; for in heathen mythology the deluge was supposed to have been caused by the evil spirit, of whose dracontic form the legend of Python preserved the memorial. "Plutarch supposed that the serpent Python typified destruction; Adamantius conceived that he represented a race of demons to whom dragons and serpents perform the part of ministering attendants. Pierius teaches us, that by the serpent the ancients symbolized destruction, misfortune, and terror; and Diodorus Siculus asserts, that a serpent twisted in spiral volumes was the hieroglyphic of evil 2. All these symbolizations of Python intimate his connexion with the evil spirit.
The whole story of Python and Apollo is surprisingly parallel with that of the serpent-tempter and his conqueror, CHRIST. "It was ordained," says Cleombrotus, (Plutarch de defectu Orac. cited by Gesner, p. 92,) "that he
who would slay Python, must be, not merely banished from the temple ten years, but even depart from the world; whence he should return after nine revolutions of the great year, expiated and purified: wherefore he should obtain the name of Phœbus--i.e. pure; and obtain possession of the oracle at Delphi."
Here is intimated, in terms not very obscure, the death of "the woman's seed," who should "bruise the serpent's head;" his perfect righteousness; and his second advent, as the Lord of the universal temple.
2. THE DRAGON OF THE HESPERIDES.--Hyginus, Fab. 30.--Apollodorus--Ovid Met. Hesiod, &c.
That the events in paradise must have left a deep and indelible impression of their reality upon the minds of mankind, is apparent from the number and mutual independence of the fables into which they enter. The dragon which kept the garden of the Hesperides forms another legend allusive to the paradisiacal serpent; but it relates more particularly to the victory of the Redeemer. The garden of the Hesperides, and its forbidden fruit, have long been considered as the mythological memorials of the
garden and the fruit of Eden: the dragon, as the representative of the serpent-tempter; and Hercules, as the triumphant woman's seed." But the perverseness of paganism, having, in this instance, converted the woman into a goddess, converted likewise the seducing serpent into a guardian minister. Still, however, there are traces sufficiently strong, of the affinity which the fable bears to the truth. The dragon, the offspring of Typhon 1, was slain by Hercules, the son of Jupiter and Alcmena; that is, by a hero uniting in his person the divine and human natures. Being a servant of Juno, the slain dragon was translated into a constellation of the northern hemisphere, where he appears, in astronomical mythology, between the greater and lesser bear. Hercules is depicted upon the sphere as pressing the dragon's head with his left foot--"Sinistro autem toto caput draconis opprimere conatur 2"--while the mouth of the dragon is represented in the act of "bruising his heel."
Another version of the fable is, that this dragon, in the war of the giants against the
gods was opposed to Minerva, who "hurled him, contorted as he was, to the skies, and fixed him to the axis of the heavens 1'."
It is obvious, that in these two versions of the legend, the two great events in the history of Satan--his destruction by the woman's seed, and his overthrow by the archangel--are described. A proof that this celestial dragon was a representation of the serpent Satan, may be seen in Job xxvi. 13, as illustrated by the Septuagint. Speaking of the omnipotence of God, the prophet says, "By his spirit he hath garnished the heavens: his hand hath formed THE CROOKED SERPENT:" which expression is thus most remarkably paraphrased by the Septuagint. "By his hand he has slain THE APOSTATE SERPENT 2."
There can be no doubt, therefore, but that the seventy-two translators of the Hebrew Scriptures identified the dragon of the fable with the evil spirit who "kept not his first estate."
That Hercules was a personification of the Messiah, has been shown by several writers: but I do not recollect to have seen it observed, that his history is most surprisingly interwoven
with stories of serpents vanquished by his arm, at different periods of his life. His first act in childhood was to strangle two serpents in the cradle. His second labour was the destruction of the Lernæan Hydra, and the clearing of the neighbourhood of Argos from serpents. And his consummating glory, the conquest of the dragon which guarded the golden fruit in the garden of the Hesperides. In his combat with Geryon, he slew a dragon; and in the wars of the giants against Jupiter, a monster, whose human body terminated in serpent-legs 1: while, to denote his connexion with the mystic serpent, he bore upon his shield the Ophite hierogram of THE SERPENT AND CIRCLE 2.
All these coincidences can hardly have arisen from the unmeaning imagination of mythologists. The appearance of Satan in a dracontic form is clearly recognised in the fable of the dragon of the Hesperides; and his dialogue with the woman seems to be remembered in the traditionary property attributed to this dragon--ἐχρῆτο δὲ φωναῖς παντοίαις--so says Apollodorus 3:--"He used all hinds of voices;"--of which, in
accordance with the genius of mythology, we may suppose that the human voice was one.
To the same events there is an allusion in Plato 1, who, discoursing of the primitive condition of mankind, informs us, that at that time "they lived naked, in a state of happiness, and had an abundance of fruits, which were produced without the labour of agriculture; and that men and beasts could then converse together. But these things," he says, we must pass over until there appear SOME ONE meet to interpret them to us." Here is evidently a fragment of an original tradition of Adam in Paradise, in a state of happy innocence; and not an obscure recollection of the conversation of Eve with the serpent. For the philosopher confesses that the tradition involves a mystery; and intimates that there must come some highly-gifted person into the world to elucidate it.
It is not then too much to assume, that in this relic of tradition are involved and confused--the state of man in paradise; his fall through the serpent; and his future and final redemption.
3. The conversation of Eve with the serpent,
and the opening of her eyes in consequence, may be detected under the fables of "Melampus," and "Helenus and Cassandra;" who were all supposed to have had an insight into futurity, by means of serpents. Melampus having preserved two snakes from destruction, was one day asleep beneath an oak, when the reptiles crept up and licked his ears. When he awoke from sleep, he found himself able to understand the chirping of birds; and discovered, moreover, that he was gifted with prophecy.
Helenus and Cassandra were asleep in the temple of Apollo 1, when they acquired the power of prophecy--"the passages of their senses being cleansed by the tongues of serpents." The same, says the scholiast on Euripid, Hecuba, that "serpents approaching and licking their ears, made them so sharp of hearing, that they alone, of all men, could understand the counsels of the gods, and became very excellent prophets 2." To these we may add the case of Plutus, mentioned by Aristophanes, p. 76. Two serpents licking the eyelids
of this personage, who was blind, restored him to eyesight, and made his eyes "more than humanly acute 1."
Those who ate serpents' flesh were also supposed to acquire the gift of understanding the languages of the brute creation--consult Philostratus de vitâ Apollonii, lib. iii. c. 3,--wherein he says, that the Paracæ, a people of India, are said to have "understood the thoughts and languages of animals, by eating the heart and liver of serpents." The same author (lib. i. c. 14) says the same thing of the Arabians.
4. The story of Ceres and Proserpine is evidently a corruption of the events in paradise. Proserpine is deceived by Jupiter in the form of a dragon, or great serpent; but the prurient imagination of the Greek mythologists gave a colour to the tale suited to their licentious superstition. Subsequently, Pluto, the god of hell, becomes enamoured of Proserpine, and carries her off with him to Tartarus. Her mother Ceres obtains permission to see her, and is carried thither in a car drawn by serpents. For "Jupiter," in the first instance, substitute "Pluto," and the story will be scarcely fabulous.
[paragraph continues] The ruler of hell will then appear as first seducing the woman under the form of a serpent; and then carrying her away to hell. The fall of Eve, and the consequence of that fall--eternal death--might very easily be converted into such a fable. The connexion of the serpent with all that goes to Tartarus, is not a little remarkable. Serpents drew Ceres, and the bite of a serpent sent Eurydice to hell; while Mercury escorts every soul to the realms of Pluto, with the serpentine caduceus in his hand 1. The transformation of heathen deities into serpents, for the purpose of deceiving women, is of constant occurrence in mythology, and alludes to the deception of Eve by A SPIRITUAL BEING, who assumed for that purpose the dracontic form.
5. Though mythology has preserved more memorials of the seduction of Eve than that of Adam; yet the fall of Adam is not without its witness in heathen fable. Such a witness is the story of the deception of SATURN by his wife OPS. Saturn was deceived by OPS, who gave
him a stone to eat instead of his children, as Adam was deceived by his wife, who induced him to eat the forbidden fruit. The character of Saturn involves many particulars, both of Adam and of Noah; so that in "the father of the golden age" we recognize at once the first and second father of mankind. This confusion of times and characters is frequent in mythology, for want of an authentic history of the period which intervened between the Fall and the Deluge. It is the natural result of tradition supplying the place of written documents, when the discriminating power of the true religion is withdrawn or rejected. In the fable before us, there is a singular confusion between the woman and the serpent, such as could not have occurred but by corrupting the truth: and on that account we may consider it as one of the most valuable records of heathen mythology. The name of the wife and deceiver of Saturn is Rhea, or Ops--that is, OPH, the SERPENT-GOD of antiquity. The deception is therefore remembered, and the agents in the transaction; but true religion having withdrawn her discriminating light, the truth is discerned only "as through a glass, darkly:" and in the dimness, the serpent being
confounded with the woman, invests her at once with his name and his power. Saturn is deceived by a serpent-wife. In the name of the stone, also, which was devoured by the deceived husband, is preserved a memorial of the real author of the Fall. This stone is called ABADIR, the signification of which may be "SERPENS-DOMINUS-SOL."
The ABADIR-stone was regarded as the symbol of the solar deity, whose most favourite emblem was THE SERPENT; and as such assumed a conical figure to represent a sun's ray. The historical facts are sufficiently confused to create an agree-able fable; and the fable retains sufficient marks of its origin to show that it is a corruption of historical facts.
A Persian tradition, preserved in the Zendavesta, from which Faber derives the following account.
1. "After the world had been created in the course of five successive periods, man himself is said to have been formed during a sixth. The first of the human species was compounded of a man and a hull; and this mixed being was
the commencement of all generations. For some time after his production was a season of great innocence and happiness; and the man-bull himself resided in an elevated region which the deity had assigned to him. At last an EVIL ONE, denominated AHRIMAN, corrupted the world. After having dared to visit heaven, he descended to the earth, and assumed the form of a serpent. The man-bull was poisoned by his venom, and died in consequence of it. Meanwhile AHRIMAN threw the whole universe into confusion; for that enemy of good mingled himself with every thing, appeared everywhere, and sought to do mischief both above and below. His machinations produced a general corruption; and so deeply was the earth and every element tainted by his malignity, that the purifying ablution of a GENERAL DELUGE became necessary to wash out the inveterate stain of evil 1."
In this legend we have, in fact, but one fabulous circumstance--the compound character of the first man: all the rest is a correct picture of the Fall, and of its consequence--corruption through Satanic agency; until the waters of the
deluge checked the progress, but left untouched the seat, of evil, which could only be "washed white" in the blood of "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world."
2. The "war in heaven" is also remembered in Persian mythology, and appears, as in the fables of all other Gentiles, in the celestial signs. "The Polar Dragon" they denominated, (according to Dr. Hyde,) AZACHA.--"The serpent who devours men and beasts 1" The contention of the Archangel with Satan is probably shadowed out in the hierogram of the two serpents, representing the good and evil genius contending for the mundane egg, the symbol of the universe. The constellation serpentarius, to which Ahriman was exalted under the name of Azacha, is described in the hand of a human figure called Ophiuchus, which is the same as the Ophioneus of Syrian mythology, the rebel against the gods.
Respecting the seduction of our first parents, by the serpent, the Arabians have a tradition to
the following effect:--"That the devil, offering to get into Paradise to tempt Adam, was not admitted by the guard; whereupon he begged of all the animals, one after another, to carry him, that he might speak to Adam and his wife; but they all refused, except the serpent, who took him between two of his teeth, and so introduced him 1."
Hence probably was borrowed the rabbinical conceit, that "when Sammael (i.e. the devil) wished to deceive Eve, he entered Paradise riding upon a serpent, who was at that time shaped something like a camel 2."
A tradition of the Brahmins of Hindûstan.
The two sculptures of CRISHNA suffering, and CRISHNA triumphant, of which beautiful engravings are given by Maurice 3, are evident records of the fall and redemption of man. In the former, the god (a beautiful youthful figure,) is represented enfolded by an
enormous SERPENT, who bites his heel; in the latter, the god is represented as trampling upon the serpent's head.
The story of Crishna is very similar to that of Hercules in Grecian mythology, the serpent forming a prominent feature in both. He conquers a dragon, into which the Assoor Aghe had transformed himself to swallow him up 1. He defeats also Kalli Naga, (the black or evil spirit with a thousand heads,) who, placing himself in the bed of the river Jumna, poisoned the stream, so that all the companions of Crishna, and his cattle, who tasted of it, perished. He overcame Kalli Naga without arms, and in the form of a child. The serpent twisted himself about the body of Crishna, but the god tore off his heads, one after the other, and trampled them under his feet. Before he had completely destroyed Kalli Naga, the wife and children of the monster (serpents also,) came and besought him to release their relative. Crishna took pity on them, and, releasing. Kalli Naga, said to him, Begone quickly into the abyss; this place is not proper for thee.
[paragraph continues] Since I have engaged with thee, thy name shall remain through all the period of time: and devatars and men shall henceforth remember thee without dismay." So the serpent, with his wife and children, went into the abyss, and the water which had been infected by his poison became pure and wholesome 1.
At another period of his history we discover Crishna destroying the dæmon Sanchanaga, the serpent-king of Egypt, and his army of snakes 2. Crishna was vulnerable only in the sole of his foot 3. Similarly the hero Achilles was vulnerable only in the heel. The idea was probably borrowed from the tradition of "the woman's seed," whose "heel should be bruised" by the serpent Satan.
In corroboration of this inference we may adduce No. CLIV. of the Etruscan Vases, described in the Canino catalogue, in the Archæologia, vol. xxiii. p. 140. Here is represented the abduction of Thetis by Peleus. The goddess is defended by a serpent. The connection, to say the least, is curious, and may have arisen from some garbled tradition of the woman, the serpent,
and her human-divine son, who was only vulnerable in the heel.
The singular agreement of the history of CRISHNA with that of CHRIST, has driven sceptics to the conclusion, that the whole fable of the former was grafted upon Hindû mythology by the votaries of the latter, who first embraced Christianity in India. The only plausible ground for such a conclusion is the similarity of sound between "Crishna" and "Christ." But they, who argue upon this accidental resemblance, forget that the word "CHRIST" is purely Greek, and that the Apostles, being Jews, were not likely to talk of the Messiah by his Grecian appellation, in a country of Hindûs. It was much more likely that they would have preached JESUS, that word being one in their native language: and yet the word JESUS is not interwoven with Hindû mythology.
In the traditions of the wars of Crishna and Budh, the eagle of the former is represented as pursuing the serpent of the latter, to recover the books of science and religion with which he had fled 1. The same serpent is also said to have
carried off Ella the daughter of Ichswaca the son of Manu, and so provoked the hostility of Crishna.
The mythological connection of the Serpent with knowledge is remarkable. Col. Tod observes that "it is a singular fact that in every country THE SERPENT is the medium of communicating knowledge. The Takshacs, Nagas, or Serpents, introduced letters into India 1."
In the Teutonic mythology the assumption of the serpentine form by the devil is poetically described by representing THE GREAT SERPENT as an emanation from the evil spirit LOKE.
In the rebellion of Loke against the universal father, the serpent being overcome was thrown down into the ocean, where he encompasses the whole earth with his folds.
The evil principle of the Scandinavians is called in the Edda--"THE CALUMNIATOR OF THE GODS; THE GRAND CONTRIVER OF DECEITS AND FRAUDS; THE REPROACH OF GODS AND MEN." "He is beautiful in figure, but his mind is evil,
and his inclinations inconstant. Three monsters emanate from this evil being: the wolf Fenris, THE SERPENT Midgard, and HELA, or DEATH. All three are enemies to the gods, who, after various struggles, have chained the wolf till the last day, when he shall break loose and devour the sun. The serpent has been cast into the sea, where he shall remain until he is conquered by the god THOR: and Hela shall be banished into the lower regions 1."
This intimate connexion, between the EVIL SPIRIT, THE SERPENT, and DEATH, immediately suggests the conclusion, that the whole legend is but the original patriarchal tradition fabulized.
"Thor was esteemed A MIDDLE DIVINITY--A MEDIATOR BETWEEN GOD AND MAN. He is said to have bruised the head of the great serpent with his mace. It was further believed of him, that in his final engagement with the same serpent he would beat him to the earth and slay him; but that the victory would be obtained at the expense of his own life, for that he himself would be suffocated by the floods of poison
vomited out of the mouth of the noxious reptile 1."
The superstition of "the serpent in the sea" was known to the Chinese, as we observed in the chapter on the Serpent-worship of China. But it was, doubtless, at one time, a very general superstition among the heathen, for we find it mentioned by Isaiah, chap. xxvii. 1--"In that day the Lord, with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish Leviathan, the piercing serpent, even Leviathan that CROOKED SERPENT: and he shall slay THE DRAGON THAT IS IN THE SEA 2."
The prophet here represents, as I conceive, the triumph of the Messiah over Satan, who is pre-eminently THE SERPENT; and who, through
the blindness of idolatry, had been elevated into a constellation; or, through the influence of tradition corruptly remembered, had been clothed with the attributes of the author of the deluge. The Eastern nations, more particularly, adored him under the former; the Northern under the latter character. The prophecy of Isaiah may denote the triumph of the Messiah over both, in the conversion of these people to the knowledge of his gospel.
It is worthy of observation, that in Scandinavia the serpent rarely (I believe never) arrives at such a size as to become a formidable enemy to an unarmed man. Why then, should he be represented as symbolical of the great enemy of God and man? In the absence of every other reasonable hypothesis to account for this phenomenon, we must attribute the connexion of the Teutonic serpent with the evil spirit, and the notion of his natural hostility to the human race to the original tradition, preserved and handed down by the patriarchs after the flood, and conveyed by their descendants to the remotest corner of the globe.
Hence the superstition in MEXICO and PERU, where the serpent was adored with the most revolting worship, and where even the memory of the fall of man by the instrumentality of the serpent was preserved.
Baron Humboldt, in his "Researches concerning the Antiquities of America," gives an engraving of a very interesting hieroglyphic painting of the Aztecks (the original possessors of Mexico) which is preserved in the Vatican; and which, if genuine, is decisive of the long disputed question, "whether or not the Mexicans retained any tradition of the fall of man."
In this painting is described a female in conversation with a serpent who is erect. This female, we are assured, is called, by the Mexicans, "woman of our flesh," and is considered as "THE MOTHER OF THE HUMAN RACE." She is always represented with a great serpent 1. The serpent represented in the company of 'the mother of men' is the GENIUS OF EVIL; and is also described as 'crushed,' and sometimes
cut to pieces, by the great spirit Teotl 1."
In two of the paintings, preserved by M. Aglio 2, is seen a figure destroying a great serpent by smiting him on the head with a sword. In one of these pictures the figure is human, in the other a GOD.
A similar, but still more expressive, painting occurs in plate 74 of the Borgian Collection 3 in which we distinguish a deity in human form contending with a dragon. The god is victorious, and in the act of thrusting a sword into the dragon's head, while, singular to relate, the dragon has bitten off his foot at the heel!
The serpent, or dragon, are also, frequently seen, either as symbolical of the months, or of the signs of the zodiac. In one corner of two of these paintings, in vol. ii. is a dragon swallowing a man. There are also representations of gods encircled in the folds of a serpent; and, indeed, so many, and so various are these dracontic emblems, that the most casual observer would discover, at a glance, that serpents and dragons were grand symbols of the Mexican gods, and
in some mysterious manner connected with the history of man.
Respecting the origin of these hieroglyphic pictures there has been some discussion in the literary world, and many men of eminence have expressed their conviction that they were mostly painted after the arrival of the Spaniards in the country, and were intended to be descriptive of the religion which the Christians taught rather than of that which the Mexicans already held. Regarding the question theoretically, there seems to be some ground for the conclusion: but the recent exhibition of Mr. Bullock's collection of Mexican antiquities has practically settled the dispute. The stupendous idol of THE SERPENT DEVOURING A FEMALE, could not have been sculptured after the overthrow of the empire by Cortez; but is probably one of the idols which Bernal Dias del Castillo observed in the great temple. This agreement of sculpture and painting, among an unlettered people, may be deemed a testimony equivalent to written history.
There is, however, written history to show that the Peruvians worshipped snakes, and kept them PICTURED in their houses and
temples 1." It is probable, therefore, that the Mexicans did the same. Besides, we are informed by Robertson 2, that Zummaragua, the first bishop of Mexico, destroyed every Mexican painting he could discover, because he regarded them as fuel to keep alive the superstitions of the people. It is not very probable, therefore, that any future Spanish priests would be permitted to deck out Christian doctrines in the garb of the ancient idolatry. Until proof can be adduced that such a practice prevailed, we are authorized to believe that the traditions of the old world were not forgotten in the new.
The spiritual destruction of the woman by the serpent in Paradise is the great truth preserved in the memorial of the sculpture; while her previous conversation with him is depicted in the painting. The "crushing" of the serpent by Teotl is the victory of "the woman's seed;" and the blood of HUMAN VICTIMS, shed before the dracontic and serpentine idols in the great temple, is commemorative of "THE BLOOD"
which "overcame 1 the serpent," and redeemed mankind.
The conversation of Eve with the serpent seems to have made more impression upon the memory of man than almost any other event in primeval history: as from the singularity of the circumstance we might expect. It is remembered in the mythologies of Egypt, Greece, Syria, Hindûstan, Northern Europe, and North and South America. And it is one of the very few rays of truth discoverable in the darkness of the NEW ZEALANDER'S mind; for "these people have a tradition, that THE SERPENT ONCE SPOKE WITH A HUMAN VOICE 2!"
312:1 De falsâ relig. lib. i. c. 2.
314:1 Gen. xlviii. 16.
315:1 De Iside et Osiride, p. 380.
316:1 Pythia, 1.
316:2 Rev. xii. 7, &c.
316:3 Hesiod. Theogon.
318:1 Wisd. ii. 24.
318:2 2 John viii. 44.
319:1 Lib. i. c. 6. s. 3.
319:2 Thus in a Mexican painting, in the Borgian Collection, there is a god with two heads: one human, and the other a serpent's.--Aglio. Mex. Ant. vol. iii.
321:1 Herodot. ii. 156.
322:1 Herodot. ii. 144. Plutarch, Diodorus, &c.
322:2 John i. 9.
322:3 John i.
322:4 Jablonski, Panth. Æg. l. ii. p. 204.
323:1 De Isid. et Osirid. in principio.
323:2 2 Cor. xi. 3.
323:3 Luke viii. 12.
324:1 Faber's Pagan Idol. i. 167.
324:3 Pag. Idol. i. 165.
326:1 Euseb. Præp. Evang. i. 38.
326:2 In the Coptic language, the words which express "mother," and "to die," approach very near each other.
330:1 Ovid, Met. i. 438.
330:2 Faber, Pag. Idol. i. 441, who cites Olaus Wormius de aureo cornu.
332:1 Hygin. Fab. 30.
332:2 Hygin. Poet. Astron. 122.
333:1 Hygin. Poet. Astron. 362.
333:2 "Δράκοντα ἀποστάτην."
334:1 Montfaucon, i. plate 64.
334:2 Stukeley, Abury, 69.
334:3 Lib. ii. s. 2.
335:1 Polit. fol. 272. Edit. Steph.
336:1 Homer, Iliad, H. Scholiast.
336:2 Bochart. Hieroz. lib. i. fol. 21.
337:1 Spanheim, 212.
338:1 Cerberus himself, the watch-dog of Tartarus, had a dragon's tail, and his skin was studded with serpents' heads *.
341:1 Faber, Hor. Mos. i. 72.
342:1 Maurice, Hist. of Hind. i. 315,
343:1 Sale's Koran, ch. ii. note.
343:2 Maimonides, More Nevoch. 281.
343:3 Hist. Hind. vol. ii.
344:1 Maurice, Hist. Hind. ii. 272.
345:1 Maurice, Hist. Hind. ii. 276.
345:2 Ibid. ii. 89. 140.
345:3 Ibid. iii. 88.
346:1 Tod, Rajasthan i. 537.
347:1 Asiatic Transactions, vol. ii. p. 563.
348:1 Mallet, Northern Antiq. i. 100. Bishop Percy's translation.
349:1 Faber Pag. Idol. i. 442, citing the Edda; and Hor. Mos. i. 77.
349:2 The translation of Bishop Lowth is somewhat different; but the variation is immaterial.
"In that day shall Jehovah punish with his sword,
His well-tempered, and great, and strong sword,
Leviathan the rigid serpent,
And Leviathan the winding serpent:
And shall slay the monster that is in the sea."
The word here rendered "monster" is תנין, which may mean a whale, or a sea serpent. I follow the Septuagint.
351:1 Humboldt, Res. vol. i. p. 195.
352:1 Humboldt, Res. vol. i. p. 228.
352:2 Mex. Ant. vol. iii.
352:3 Mex. Ant. vol. iii.
354:1 Purchas, Pilgrims, pt. iv. p. 1478.
354:2 America, vol. iii. p. 5.
355:1 "They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb."--Rev. xii. 11.
355:2 Faber, Pag. Idol. i. 274, citing Marsden in the Chr. Obs. Nov. 1810, p. 724.
Next: Chapter VI. Serpent Temples