The God-Idea of the Ancients (or Sex in Religion)
By Eliza Burt Gamble

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Chapter XIII. Christianity a Continuation of Paganism

By comparing the sacred writings of the Persians with the history of the events connected with the conception and birth of the mythical Christ as recorded in the New Testament, the fact is observed that the latter appears to be closely connected with the central figure of Persian mythology. It has been found that the visit of the Magi, who, following a star, were guided to the spot where the young child lay, was the fulfilment of a Persian prophecy, which is to be found in the life of Zarathustra as recorded in the Zendavesta, while the subsequent history of the same personage is seen to be almost identical with that of the Hindoo Sun-god Chrishna.

According to the sacred books of the Persians, three sons of the great Zarathustra were to appear at three successive periods of time. These sons were to be incarnations of the sun, and the result of immaculate conceptions.

“The first is named Oschederbami. He will appear in the last millennium of the world. He will stop the sun for ten days and ten nights, and the second part of the human race will embrace the law, of which he will bring the 22d portion.

“The second posthumous son of Zoroaster is Oschedermah. He will appear four hundred years after Oschederbami. He will stop the sun twenty days and twenty nights, and he will bring the 23d part of the law, and the third part of the world will be converted.

“The third is named Sosiosch. He will be born at the end of the ages. He will bring the 24th part of the law; he will stay the sun thirty days and thirty nights, and the whole earth will embrace the law of Zoroaster. After him will be the resurrection."[123] This last named son was to be born of a pure and spotless virgin, whereupon a star would appear blazing even at noonday with undiminished lustre.

[123] Quoted by Waite, History of the Christian Religion, p. 168.

“You, my sons,” exclaimed the seer, “will perceive its rising before any other nation. As soon, therefore, as you shall behold the star, follow it, withersoever it shall lead you; and adore that mysterious child, offering your gifts to him, with profound humility. He is the Almighty Word, which created the heavens."[124]

[124] Ibid., 169.

Waite notices the conclusion of Faber that this prediction was long before the birth of Christ, and states that one of the reasons for such a conclusion was, that in the old Irish history a similar prophecy appears–a prophecy which was delivered by a “Druid of Bokhara.” The identity of this Irish prophecy with the one in the East ascribed to Zarathustra or Zoroaster, is so singular that Faber thinks it can be accounted for only on the hypothesis “of an ancient emigration from Persia to Ireland by the northwest passage, which carried the legend with it.”

By those who have investigated the origin of the early gospels, it is stated that the story of the Magi and the star appeared in the Gospel of the Infancy early in the second century, and was subsequently incorporated into the preparatory chapters of Luke and Matthew. According to Waite, there was a sect of Christians called Prodiceans whose leader, Prodicus, about A.D. 120, boasted that they had the sacred books of Zoroaster. From an extant fragment of the Chronography of Africanus is the following:

“Christ first of all became known from Persia. For nothing escapes the learned jurists of that country, who investigated all things with the utmost care. The facts, therefore, which are inscribed upon the golden plates, and laid up in the royal temples, I shall record; for it is from the temples there, and the priests connected with them, that the name of Christ has been heard of. Now, there is a temple there to Juno, surpassing the royal palace, which temple Cyrus, that prince instructed in all piety, built, and in which he dedicated, in honor of the gods, golden and silver statues, and adorned them with precious stones. . . . Now about that time [as the records on the plates testify], the king having entered the temple, with the view of getting an interpretation of certain dreams, was addressed by the priest Prupupius thus: ’I congratulate thee, master: Juno has conceived.’ ’And the king, smiling, said to him: ’Has she who is dead conceived?’ And he said: ’Yes, she who was dead has come to life again, and begets life.’ And the king said: ’What is this? explain it to me.’ And he replied: ’In truth, master, the time for these things is at hand. For during the whole night the images, both of gods and goddesses, continued beating the ground, saying to each other, Come, let us congratulate Juno. And they say to me, Prophet, come forward, congratulate Juno, for she has been embraced. And I said, How can she be embraced who no longer exists? To which they reply, She has come to life again, and is no longer called Juno, but Urama. For the mighty Sol has embraced her.’ “[125]

[125] Hyppolytus, vol. ii., p. 196.

There is a tradition which asserts that during the early part of the second century, St. Thomas went as a missionary to Parthia; that after he had visited the various countries of the Parthian Empire, tarrying for a time at Balkh, the capital of Bactria, and the ancient residence of the Magi, he went to India. Soon after the visit of Thomas to Persia and India, there appeared in Palestine and the adjacent countries a gospel of Thomas, in which were set forth various stories closely resembling the legends found in the Hindoo sacred writings. After comparing various passages of the Bhagavat Purana with those of the Infancy, and after furnishing conclusive evidence that the latter must have been copied from the former, Waite says:

“The conclusion must be, that while for some of the salient points of the Gospels of the Infancy, the authors were indebted to Zoroaster, and the legends of Persia, the outline of the story was largely filled up from the history of Crishna, as sent back to Palestine, by the Apostle Thomas, from the land of the Brahmins.”

Concerning the story of Herod and his order to slay all the male infants, there has been discovered in a cavern at Elephanta, in India, a sculptured representation of a huge and ferocious figure, bearing a drawn sword and surrounded by slaughtered children, while mothers appear weeping for their slain. This figure is said to be of great antiquity.

Mary, the Mother of Jesus, like Mai, the Mother of Gatama Buddha, was regarded by certain sects in the earlier ages of Christianity as an Immortal Virgin whose birth had been announced by an angel.[126] She was in fact the ancient Virgin of the Sphere–the Mother of the Gods–the Queen of Heaven.

[126] See Gospels of Mary and the Protovangelion.

As soon as Christ was born he conversed with Mary, as did also Crishna with his mother, informing her of his divine mission.

Crishna was cradled among shepherds, so was Christ. Cansa, fearing the loss of his kingdom, sought to destroy the life of the divine infant in the same manner as did Herod in the case of Christ. Both children are carried away by night, after which an order is issued by the ruler of the country that all the young children throughout the kingdom be slaughtered.

When Joseph and Mary arrived in Egypt, they visited the temple of Serapis, where “all the magistrates and priests of the idols were assembled.” Upon the image being interrogated concerning the “consternation and dread which had fallen upon all our country," it answered them as follows: “The unknown god has come hither, who is truly God; nor is there anyone besides him, who is worthy of divine worship; for he is truly the son of God.” And at the same instant this idol fell down, and at his fall all the inhabitants of Egypt, besides others, ran together.[127] A similar story is related of Crishna. This Indian god, the same as Christ, cured a leper. A woman, after having poured a box of precious ointment on the head of Crishna, was healed; so also a woman anointed the head of Jesus. Crishna when but a lad displayed remarkable mental powers and the most profound wisdom before the tutor who was sent to instruct him. Christ astonished the school-master Zaccheus with his great learning.[128]

[127] Gospel of the Infancy, ch. iv.

[128] Gospel of the Infancy, ch. xx.

Crishna had a terrible encounter with the serpent Calinaga; the infant Christ had also a dreadful adventure with a serpent. Now this Calinaga which Crishna encountered was a serpent goddess who was worshipped by the sect in India which was opposed to the adoration of the male principle. The early Christians, however, being ignorant of the allegorical meaning of the legend, transferred it to Christ literally.

The mother of Crishna looked in his mouth and beheld all the nations of the earth. The same story is reported of Christ and his mother. Finally Christ, like Crishna, was crucified, and like him was buried. He descended into hell and on the third day arose and ascended into heaven.[129]

[129] It will doubtless be urged that I am quoting from the Apocryphal Gospels–that the genuine books of the New Testament are silent concerning many of these Eastern legends. We must bear in mind, however, that during the earlier ages of Christianity, these finally rejected gospels were, equally with the canonical books, considered as the word of God. The Infancy is thought to be one of the earliest gospels. Justin Martyr was acquainted with it, A.D. 150 to 160. It is referred to by Irenaeus, A.D. 190.

In the poetical myths of the ancients the sun is yearly overpowered by cold or by the destructive agencies in Nature. Astronomically, or astrologically, it wanders in darkness and desolation during the winter months; in fact dies, and descends into hell in order that he may rise at the Easter season to gladden and make all things new again. Mythologically, this new sun becomes incarnate; enters again his mother’s womb, and is born into the world in the form of a man whose mission is to renew human life. Hence we have an explanation of the Eastern Buddhas and Crishnas, all of which were born of virgins at the winter solstice.

The new sun which at the close of each cycle was believed by the more ancient people of the globe to “issue forth from the womb of Nature to renew the world,” now that the truths underlying Nature-worship were lost, became a redeemer or mediator between earth and heaven, or between spirit and matter. It is stated that at the time of the appearance of Christ not alone the Jews, but the Persians, the Romans, the ancient Irish, and in fact all the nations of the globe, were anxiously awaiting the event of another incarnation of the solar Deity; and that maidens of all classes and conditions were in a state of eager expectation, the more pious, or at least the more ambitious among them, being in almost constant attendance at the temples and sacred shrines, whither they went to pay homage to the male emblem of generation, thereby hoping to be honored as a Mai or Mary.

On the wall of the temple at Luxor are a series of sculptures,

“in which the miraculous annunciation, conception, birth, and adoration of Amunoph III., the son of the Virgin Queen Mautmes, is represented in a manner similar to what is described in St. Luke’s Gospel (ch. 1 and 2) of Jesus Christ, the son of the Virgin Mary, and which is found also in the Gospel of St. Matthew (ch. 1) as an addition not met with in the earliest manuscripts,"[130] which fact has caused Sharpe, from whom the above is quoted, to suggest that both accounts may have been of Egyptian origin.

[130] Barlow, Symbolism, p. 127.

The titles “lamb,” “anointed,” etc., which were applied to Christ, all appear attached to former in- carnations of the sun, the first named standing for the sun in Aries. The effigies of a crucified savior found in Ireland and Scotland in connection with the figure of a lamb, a bull, or an elephant, the latter of which is not a native of those countries, shows that they do not represent Christ, but a crucified sun-god worshipped by the inhabitants of the British Islands ages before the birth of the great Judean philosopher and teacher.

It is plain that Crishna of India and the Persian Mithra furnished the copy for the Jesus of the Romish Church, all of whom mean one and the same thing–the second person in the Solar Trinity. By the Jews, who attempted to ignore the female principle, this God is called the “Lord of Hosts” and “God of Sabaoth,” which astronomically means God of the stars and constellations, and astrologically the creator or producer of the multitudes. Of this God, ieue, I H S, the author of Anacalypsis says that he was the son of the celestial virgin, which she carries in her arms; the Horus, Lux, of the Egyptians, the Lux of St. John.

“It is from this infant that Jesus took his origin; or at least it is from the ceremonies and worship of this infant that this religion came to be corrupted into what we have of it. This infant is the seed of the woman who, according to Genesis, was to bruise the head of the serpent, which, in return, was to bruise his foot or heel, or the foot or heel of her seed as the figure of the Hindoo Crishna proves. From the traditionary stories of this god Iao, which was figured annually to be born at the winter solstice, and to be put to death and raised to life on the third day at the vernal equinox, the Roman searchers after the evangelion or gospel made out their Jesus. The total destruction of everything at Jerusalem and in Judea–buildings, records, everything–prevented them from coming to any absolute certainty respecting this person who, they were told by tradition, had come to preach the gospel of peace, to be their savior, in fulfilment of the prophecy which their sect of Israelites found in their writings, and who had been put to death by the Jews. From all these circumstances he came to have applied to him the monogram of I H S. . . . and to him at last all the legendary stories related of the god Iao were attributed."[131]

[131] Godfrey Higgins, Anacalypsis, book vi., ch. iv., p. 455.

According to Faber, Jesus was not originally called Jesus Christ, but Jescua Hammassiah–Jescua meaning Joshua, and Jesus, Savior. Ham is the Om of India, and Messiah, the anointed. Commenting on this Higgins remarks: “It will then be, The Savior Om the Anointed, precisely as Isaiah had literally foretold; or reading in the Hebrew made, The Anointed Om the Savior. This was the name of Jesus of Bethlehem.”

We have observed the fact that at the time of the birth of Christ the entire world was expecting a Savior–a new incarnation of the sun. The end of a cycle had come and the entire earth was to undergo a process of renovation.

In a poem by Virgil, who was a Druid, the birth of a wonderful child is celebrated, and the prophecy of a heathen Sibyl is seen to be identical with that of Isaiah.

“The last period sung by the Sibylline prophetess is now arrived; and the grand series of ages. That Series which recurs again and again in the course of our mundane revolution begins afresh. Now the Virgin Astrea returns from heaven; and the primeval reign of Saturn recommences; now a new race descends from the celestial realms of holiness. Do thou, Lucina, smile propitious on the birth of a boy who will bring to a close the present age of iron and introduce throughout the whole world, a new age of gold. Then shall the herds no longer dread the fury of the lion, nor shall the poison of the serpent any longer be formidable. Every venomous animal and every deleterious plant shell perish together. The fields shall be yellow with corn, the grape shall hang its ruddy clusters from the bramble, and honey shall distil spontaneously from the rugged oak. The universal globe shall enjoy the blessings of peace, secure under the mild sway of its new and divine sovereign.”

There is no lack of evidence to prove that for several centuries great numbers of Christians regarded Christ as a solar incarnation similar to those which from time to time were born in the valleys of the Nile and the Ganges. By the fathers in the church Jesus Christ was named the New Sun, and in the early days of Christianity the Egyptians struck a coin representing O. B. or the holy Basilisk, with rays of light darting from his head, on the reverse side of which was figured “Jesus Christ as the New Solar Deity.”

The similarity if not the actual identity of the religion of Christ and that of the pagans in the second century is shown by various writers. The Emperor Hadrian writing to his friend Servianus says:

“Those who worship Serapis are also Christians; even those who style themselves the Bishops of Christ are devoted to Serapis. . . . There is but one God for them all; him do the Christians, him do the Jews, him do all the Gentiles also worship.”

It has been said that the head of Serapis supplied the first idea of the portrait of Christ. Before the figure of Serapis, in his temple, used to stand Isis, the Celestial Virgin, with the inscription “Immaculate is our Lady Isis.” In her hand she bore a sheaf of grain.

As Serapis, or Pan, finally became Christ, so Isis, or the Queen of Heaven, became his mother, and to the latter were transferred all the titles, ceremonies, festivals, and seasons which from the earliest time had belonged to the great Goddess of Nature. Subsequently, probably about the close of the second century, Christianity began slowly to emerge from the worship of Mithras and Serapis, “changing the names but not the substance.”

Upon the coinage of Constantine appears Soli Invicto Comita–"To the invincible sun my companion or guardian,” and when the Greek and Roman Christians finally separated themselves from the great body of pagan worshippers they apologized for celebrating the birthday of their Savior on the 25th of December, saying that “they could better perform their rites when the heathen were busy with theirs.” We are assured that the early Christians no less than the Maji acknowledged Mithras as the first emanation from Ormuzd, or the God of Light. He was the Savior which in an earlier age had represented returning life–that which follows the cold of winter. It was doubtless while they worshipped the Persian Mithras that many of the so-called Christians gathered their first ideas concerning the immortality of the soul and of future rewards and punishments.

The analogy existing between the festivals, seasons, mythoses, etc., of the various incarnations of the sun which were worshipped by the early historic nations and those belonging to Christianity is too striking to be the result of chance.

Buddha originally represented the sun in Taurus. Crishna was the sun in Aries. The laborings and sufferings of Hercules, a god who was an incarnation of the latter, portrays the history of the passage of the sun through the signs of the Zodiac.

All the principal events of Christ’s life correspond to certain solar phases; or, in other words, all ecclesiastical calendars are arranged with reference to the festivals which commemorate the important events of his life from his conception and birth to his ascension and reception in heaven. Each and every one of the solar deities has been born at midnight, on the 25th of December, at the time when the sun has reached its lowest position and begins to ascend. Macrobius, a learned Roman writer, observes that the early historic nations “believed that the sun comes forth as a babe from its cradle at the winter solstice.” Neith is made to say, “The sun is the fruit of my womb.”

The 15th of August, assumption day, the time when Mary, the mother of Jesus, ascends to heaven is the day when the Zodiacal constellation Virgo, “the Greek Astrea, leaves the European horizon,” and the “8th of September, when Virgo emerges from the sun’s rays, is held sacred as the Nativity of the Queen of Heaven.”

Of the mid-winter festival, Bede says: “The Pagans of these isles began their year on the eighth of the Kalends of January, which is now our Christmas Day. The night before that (24th Dec. eve) was called by them the Medre-Nak, or Night of Mothers, because of the ceremonies which were performed on that night."[132]

[132] Rivers of Life, vol. i., p. 430.

Among Christians as among Pagans the Christmas season was in honor of “returning light,” the vernal equinox of “growing light" and St. John’s day of “perfected light.”

In England, among pagan Saxons, the midwinter festival lasted twelve days, during which time light, fire, the sun, huge stones and other similar manifestations of the Deity were adored. Christian and pagan alike worshipped these objects. They called Christmas “the birthday of the god who is light.” The Savior, or the New Sun, was the true light which lighteth every man who cometh into the world. According to the testimony of various writers, the festival held by Christians on Christmas eve used to resemble the Feast of Lights, celebrated in Egypt in honor of Neith. The tokens distributed among friends were cakes made of paste in the form of babies. These cakes were called yuledows. Dow means to “grow bigger,” or, “to increase.”

The Kalends of January at Rome were sacred to Janus and Juno to whom sacrifices were offered. The Etruscans also worshipped Janus who was the god (or goddess) of the year. Although this Deity does not appear among the twelve gods it is said to be the parent of them all. It was represented as having two faces. Upon one were the letters representing 365, and upon the other were the keys of life and death. According to Bryant this Deity was called Junonius, from the goddess Juno, whose name resolves itself into Juneh, a dove. In the Hebrew this name is identical with Yoni or Yuni–the female principle. On the coins of this god (which was subsequently regarded as male) is usually figured a boat, although a dove with an olive branch is sometimes observed.[133]

[133] See Faber, Pagan Idolatry.

Juno is thought to be the same as Jana, which came from Jah of the Hebrews. Diana was Diva Jana or “Dea Jana who is the same as Astarte or Ashtaroth of the Sidonians.”

Regarding the transference of the mid-winter festival of the pagans to the Christian calendar, Forlong says:

“The early Christians undoubtedly selected this Roman Saturnalia as an important period in the life of Christ, at first calling it the time of his conception, and later of his birth, this last best suiting the views and feelings of their Solo- Christian flocks. The Jews called the day of the Winter Solstice The Fast of Tebet. The previous time was one of darkness, and on the 28th began their Feast of Lights."[134]

[134] Rivers of Life, vol. i., p. 430.

In France the ancient name for Christmas is Noel, a term which until recently has baffled all antiquarian research. It is now thought that it is formed from Nuadh and Vile which together mean All Heal.

Although every possible effort has been put forward to give to this date (the 25th of December) the appearance of authenticity as the birth of Christ, still, so far as I am able to find, no one accredited with any degree of trustworthiness has ever been rash enough to attempt its ratification as a matter of history.

Tylor calls attention to the fact that in the religious symbolism of the material and spiritual sun Augustine and Gregory of Nyssa discourse on the “growing light and dwindling darkness that follow the nativity,” and cites the instance of Leo the Great who, in a sermon, rebukes the “pestiferous persuasion, that this solemn day is to be honored not for the birth of Christ, but for the rising of the New Sun.”

On the authority of this same prelate it is found that in the fifth century, the faithful, before entering the Basilica of St. Peter, were wont to turn and salute the shining orb of day.

The Roman winter solstice which was connected with the worship of Mithra, and which was named the “Birthday of the Unconquered Om," was adopted by the western churches some time during the fourth century. From the west it passed to the eastern churches, where it finally became “the solemn anniversary of the birth of Christ.”

In Ireland the ceremonies attending the mid-winter festival were formerly regarded as exceedingly important. A short time before the approach of the winter solstice, voices were heard throughout the island proclaiming: “The New Year is at hand! Gather the Mistletoe!” The mistletoe wreaths which formed the principal decorations of Venus’ temple were at first proscribed by the Christian preachers, but, in process of time they not only found their way into the sanctuary, but were given a place over the altars, their final signification being “good will to men."[135]

[135] Rivers of Life, vol. i., p. 81.

Although the tokens of friendship which were distributed by the pagans at the season of the mid- winter festival differed somewhat from those which at the present time are exchanged among Christians at the same season of the year, still, there can be no doubt that the Christmas tree, loaded with gifts, is a remnant of that worship under which the sun was recognized as the source whence all blessings flow. Down to a late date, fire was a conspicuous element at the festival of the winter solstice. As the yule-log blazed upon the hearth, our ancestors set up huge stones and danced round them, thus worshipping the god of fertility.

On the 20th and 21st of March the sun illumines exactly half the earth. At this time the Day has conquered the Night. Light has dethroned Darkness, a complete victory has been gained over Typhon and the new god comes forth “with healing in his wings.” On Lady’s day, the 25th of March, the Virgin conceives. In Phoenicia numerous fetes were instituted to rejoice with Astarte in her conception. During the months preceding the birth of the young sun-god the Queen of Heaven receives marked homage.

In a former portion of this work we have observed that the festival which celebrated the return of spring was instituted by the inventors of the Neros thousands of years prior to the beginning of the Christian era, to celebrate the vernal equinox and to commemorate a return of Nature’s bounties; but, after male reproductive power began to be regarded as the creator, when passion came to be considered as the moving force in the universe, and when the operations of Nature began to be typified by a dead man on a cross who was to rise again, Easter was celebrated in commemoration of a risen savior or sun-god.

The following is an account given in Ramsay’s Travels of Cyrus, concerning the vernal equinox festivals in the East. When Cyrus entered the temples he found the public clad in mourning. In a cavern lay the image of a young man (the dying savior) on a bed of flowers and odoriferous herbs Nine days were spent in fasting, prayers, and lamentations, after which the public sorrow ceased and was changed into gladness. Songs of joy succeeded weeping (for Tamuz), the whole assembly singing hymns: “Adonis is returned to life, Urania weeps no more, he has ascended to heaven, he will soon return to earth and banish hence all crimes and miseries forever.” This scene, it will be remembered, was presented 500 years prior to the birth of Christ. In Rome, throughout the months preceding the winter solstice, Hilaria or Ceres, was especially honored. Apollo and Diana rose on the 7th of the Julian April and on the 10th their religious festivals began.

On Easter morn, during the earlier ages of the church, the observances of Christians were exactly the same as were those of the so called pagans, all together hurried out long before the break of day that they might behold the sun ascend, or “dance” as they called it, for on this morning he was to “make the earth laugh and sing.” Pagan and Christian alike greeted each other with the salutation “The Lord is risen,” and the reply was “The Lord is risen indeed.” On Easter morning the peasants of Saxony and Brandenburg still climb to the hilltops “to see the sun give his three joyful leaps.”

In Buckland’s Land and Water it is stated that on the first of May all the choristers of Magdalene College, Oxford, still meet on the summit of their tower, 150 feet high, and sing a Latin hymn as the sun rises, during which time ten bells are rung “to welcome the gracious Apollo.” Formerly, high mass was celebrated here and early mass for Sol was held in the College chapel, but, as at the time of the Reformation this service was forbidden, “it has since been performed on the top of the tower.” After the hymn is sung “boys blow loud blasts to Sol through bright new tin horns.”

Perhaps none of the ideas which enter into present religious rites and ceremonies proclaims its eastern origin more forcibly than do those connected with the veneration of fire. The testimony of all writers upon this subject agrees that in Europe, down to a late date in the Christian era, fire was still adored, and in some mysterious manner was connected with the Creator.

Upon the subject of the continuation of sun and fire worship to modern times, it is stated that the ancient bonfires with which the North German hills used to be ablaze mile after mile are not altogether given up by local custom. In Ireland as late as the year 1829, the ancient Canaanitish and Jewish rite of passing children through fire as a cleansing or regenerating process was still in operation. It is related that at stated seasons great fires were lighted in public places, on which occasions, fathers, taking their children in their arms, would leap and run through the flames. At the same time, two large fires were kindled a short distance from each other through which the cattle were driven. It was believed that by means of this ceremony, fecundity is imparted both to man and beast. May, the month in which all Nature revives, and in which life starts anew, is the time selected for the lighting of those sacred fires. May is the month of the fires of Baal. According to Maurice in his work on the Antiquities of India, the festival and the May-pole of Great Britain are the remnants of a religious ceremony once common in Egypt, India, and Phoenicia, which nations all worshipping the same Deity, celebrated the entrance of the sun into the sign of Taurus at the vernal equinox, but which in consequence of the precession of the equinoxes is removed far in the year from its original situation. This festival is thought to be coeval with a time when the equinox actually took place at that time. It was formerly in honor of the goddess Bhavania, who, under various names, was once worshipped in every country of the globe. “She is identical with the Dea Syria of Chaldea, and the Venus Urania of Persia.”

At the present time there is direct and indisputable evidence that sacred fires once flamed over the whole of Britain. A few days prior to Bealtine season, every flame was ordered extinguished, to be relighted on the first of May by holy fire drawn directly from the sun. Of fire-worship Toland observes:

“On May-day the Druids made prodigious fires on these cairns, which being every one in sight of some other could not but afford a glorious show over a whole nation. These fires were in honor of Beal, or Bealan, Latinized by the Roman writers into Belanus, by which name the Gauls and their colonies understood the sun, and therefore, to this hour, the first of May is, by the aboriginal Irish, called la Bealtine, or the day of Belan’s fires. May-day is likewise called la Bealtine by the Highlanders of Scotland, who are no contemptible part of the Celtic offspring. So it is with the Isle of Man: and in Armorica a priest is called Belee, or the servant of Bel, and the priesthood Belegieth."[136]

[136] Quoted by Godfrey Higgins, Celtic Druids, ch. v., p. 181.

Down to a comparatively recent time, in the British Isles, the youth of both sexes used to arise long before daybreak on May-day, and in large companies set out for the woods, there to gather flowers, boughs, and branches, which, on returning at night, were used to decorate their homes. This festival is said to be the most ancient of any known, and during the earlier and purer ages of human faith was celebrated in honor of returning spring. In later ages, however, after passion had become the only recognized god, May-day was celebrated with “all manner of obscenity and lewdness.”

Although the uneducated masses among the Gauls worshipped Apollo, Mercury, and Mars without understanding their true significance, the Druids, who are thought to be Pythagorians, invoked one great power, the animating force which pervades the universe, the essence of which they believed resides in fire.

It is related that although after the introduction of Romish Christianity, May fires still continued to be lighted on Bealtine day, the more impressive ceremonies took place on the 23d of June, on the eve of the nativity of St. John. The early preachers, wishing to defer to the prejudices and usages of the people, “yet not so as to interfere with the celebration of Easter at the vernal equinox, retained the Bealtine ceremonial, only transferring it to the saint’s day.” Of these fire festivals and their adoption by the Christian church Tylor says:

“The solar Christmas festival has its pendant at mid-summer. The summer solstice was the great season of fire festivals throughout Europe on the heights, of dancing round and leaping through the fires, of sending blazing fire-wheels to roll down from the hills into the valleys, in sign of the sun’s descending course. These ancient rites attached themselves in Christendom to St. John’s Eve.

“It seems as though the same train of symbolism which had adapted the mid-winter festival to the Nativity, may have suggested the dedication of the mid-summer festival to John the Baptist, in clear allusion to his words ’He must increase but I must decrease.’ “[137]

[137] Tylor, Primitive Culture, vol. ii., p. 271.

In a description recently given of the “moral, religious, and social disease” which broke out A.D. 1374, in the lower Rhine region, and which was denominated as the “greatest, perhaps, of all manifestations of possession,” Andrew D. White says: “The immediate origin of these manifestations seems to have been the wild revels of St. John’s Day."[138]

[138] Pop. Science, vol. xxxv., p. 3.

Upon this subject Toland observes that he has seen the people of Ireland running and leaping through the St. John’s fire proud of passing through it unsinged. Although ignorant of the origin of this ceremony, they nevertheless regarded it as some kind of a lustration by means of which they were to be specially blessed.

To every domestic hearth was carried the seed of Bealtine, or St. John’s fire, which during the year was not permitted to go out.[139]

[139] Although the preservation of holy fire upon every hearth was clearly a religious observance, still, as in those days there were no matches, the material benefit to be derived from this precaution doubtless had a significance apart from that connected with worship.

According to the testimony of Tylor, the festival of John the Baptist was celebrated in Germany down to a late date. This writer quoting from a low German book of the year 1859, refers to the “nod fire” which was sawed out of wood to light the St. John’s bonfire “through which the people leapt and ran and drove their cattle.”

With regard to the worship of Fire and Light it is related that in Jerusalem, at the present time, the Easter service is performed by the bishop of the church emerging from a tomb with lighted tapers “from which all crave lights.”

On the authority of Peter Martyr, Bishop of Alexandria in the third century, we are informed that the place in Egypt where Christ was banished, which is called Maturea, a lamp is kept constantly burning in remembrance of this event. Although the story of this banishment is doubtless borrowed from the life of the Hindoo god Crishna, the fact is evident that those who appropriated it, and used it in furbishing the mythical history of Christ, had no scruples against fire worship–a religion which we have been taught to regard as belonging exclusively to the pagans.

In the ecclesiastical processions of the Church of Rome is frequently to be observed the figure of a dragon, in the mouth of which “holy and everlasting fire” is observed to be burning. A boy follows the procession with a lighted taper, so that in case the fire is extinguished it may be relighted. In referring to this subject the Rev. J. B. Deane says:

“The whole ceremony may be considered as a lively representation of an ophite procession as it advanced through the sinuous paralleiths of Karnak. So that no wonder the illiterate races were deceived into thinking that there was no harm in calling themselves Christians, for all their dear old faiths are here–fire, arks, poles, and fire in an ark.”

Almost innumerable instances are given by various writers upon this subject, showing that the sun worship of the ancients has been continued to the present time by the so called followers of Christ, in the shrines of the East, with no change even of names to distinguish it from that of the Christian faith. By those who have spent much time in investigating the Holy Land, it is related that nearly all the spots in and about Jerusalem, sacred to Greek and Romish Christians as connected with the life and death of their risen Lord, are equally sacred to the pagans as commemorating the life and death of their Savior–the New Sun. Even Gethsemane is marked by characteristics which prove that it is no less interesting to pagans, or, more properly speaking, to the pagan followers of Christ, than it is to those of the Greek and Romish churches. Here is a holy tree, and not far distant is a cave of Mithras. There is also to be seen a trinity of stones “those of Janus (Chemosh), Petros and Ion, all solar terms and connected with the sitting or sinking down to rest of the Kuros.”

Messrs. Maundrell and Sandys, who in 1697 visited all the holy places in and around Jerusalem, state that the entire city, but especially the sites of Moriah, Zion, and suburbs were hotbeds of fire and phallic worship as usually developed still in the East.

The topography of ancient Delphi, on the site of which was built the village of Kastri, and at which place excavations are now being made under the direction of the American School of Archaeology, has ever been a place of peculiar interest to the mystic. Here are to be found all the natural features and objects which gladden the heart and stimulate the imagination of a solo-phallic worshipper. The holy Mt. Parnassus, the fountain of Kastali, the deep cave said to be Pythian, and the remnants of huge sepulchres hewn in the rocks all conspire to make of this spot a perfect abode for the god, or goddess, of fertility. Here, too, is a beautiful lake and near it a sacred fig-tree which has been struck by lightning, or, “touched by holy fire.” Of this sacred place Forlong writes:

“Christianity has never neglected this so-called Pagan shrine, nor yet misunderstood it, if we may judge by the saint she has located here, for Mr. Hobhouse found in the rocky chasm dipped in the dews of Castaly, but safe in a rocky niche, a Christian shrine; and close by a hut called the church of St. John; yea verily of Ione, she who had once reigned here supreme; whilst on a green plot a few yards below the basin, in a little grove of olive trees, stood the monastery of Panhagia or Holy Virgin, so that here we still have and beside her sacred form in the cleft, men who have consecrated their manhood to the old Mother and Queen of Heaven, just as if she of Syria had never been heard of.

Doubtless they knew little of what civilized Europe calls Christianity, for I have spent many days conversing with such men, and seen little difference between them and those similarly placed in the far East–fervid Christians though Greeks and Syrians are.”

Perhaps nothing shows the extent to which the religion of the pagans has been retained by Christianity more than does the worship of the serpent. It has been said that this reptile enters into every mythology extant. Ferguson is authority for the statement that “he is to be found in the wilderness of Sinai, the groves of Epidaurus, and in Samothracian huts.” He constitutes a prominent factor in the religious worship of India, Assyria, Palestine, and Egypt, and, notwithstanding the fact that he is not a native of Ireland, in an earlier age representations of him appear in profusion among the symbols of that country. It has been said that there is scarcely an Egyptian sculpture known in which this reptile does not figure. The serpent whenever it appears as a religious emblem always typifies desire–creative energy–which, proceeding from the sun, is manifested in man and in animals. Whether it be a veritable snake in a box, a serpent connected with the figure of a woman, or as a carved representation on monuments or stones, or as chains or wreaths on columns, bas-reliefs or friezes, the signification is the same.

The sacred character of this reptile among the Gnostics is shown by the accounts given of their religious rites and ceremonies. By many of these sects this holy creature was kept in a box, ark, or chest, and when the eucharistic service was to be performed, he was enticed forth from his resting- place by a bit of bread. So soon as his holiness had wound himself about the offering, the sacrifice was complete and the service was concluded by “singing a hymn to Almighty God, and praying for acceptance in and through the serpent.”

In later ages when the attempt was made to abolish serpent worship from the Christian church, it was declared by the leaders in the movement that Ophiolatry had been imported from Persia–that it had been brought in by ignorant devotees who were too weak to renounce their former faith.[140]

[140] Forlong, Rivers of Life.

The extent to which the symbols representing Serpent, Sun, Tree, and Plant worship are still retained as part and parcel of the symbolism of Christianity is shown by the following report regarding the adoption of a seal by the Presbyterian Church which appeared in the daily press only a few years ago.

“After the assembly opened, the committee for the selection of a seal made a report recommending: That the general assembly hereby adopts as its official seal the device of a serpent suspended upon a cross, uplifted within a wilderness, in form as represented upon the official seal of the trustees of the general assembly, and displayed upon a circular field of the same proportions. In addition thereto the figure of a rising sun appearing above the margin of the wilderness, whose out-shooting beams shall occupy the centre of the field. Further, the decoration of a demi-wreath of two palm branches (in the form of the wreath upon the seal of the Westminster assembly of divines), placed around the margin of the upper hemisphere of the field; and on the lower hemisphere of the field a demi-wreath composed of a branch of oak united with an olive branch. Further, that the words of the motto, ’Christus Exaltus Salvatar,’ shall be displayed in a semi-circle upon the upper part of the field, on either side of the standard of the cross, and, encompassing the whole in a bordure, the following words, in full or in proper abbreviation thereof, ’The Seal of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America.’ “

The origin of the rite of Baptism as performed at the present time in Christian churches, may be traced directly to the worship of the sun, within which were supposed to reside the reproductive powers of Nature. All nations have had ceremonies corresponding to our baptism and confirmation rites, such baptism being either by fire or water. When we remember that for ages fertility, or the power to reproduce, constituted the idea of the Deity, we are not surprised to find that the original signification of the rite of baptism had, and still has, in some of the oriental countries, special reference to the child’s sexual obligations.

In India, the religious rites performed upon the individual occur at birth or soon after; at betrothal, which takes place in childhood; at puberty; at marriage, and at death. The fact will be noticed that all sexual (spiritual) obligations and seasons fall within the domain of priestly supervision and surveillance. The child at baptism is dedicated to Vesta, or Hestia, the Queen of Hearths and Homes, a divinity who is supposed to assist him in securing the special evidence of divine favor, namely, fruitfulness of body.

Among Hindoos and Jews, excessive reproduction was the Lord’s mark of favor. In India there has been a special hell provided for childless women, and with Jewesses no curse was equal to barrenness.

Baptism, or the ceremony connected with the naming of children in Christian countries, is seen to be identical with that performed in Mexico among the Aztecs. After the lips and bosom of the infant had been sprinkled with water, the Lord was implored to “permit the holy drops to wash away the sin that was given to it before the foundation of the world, so that the child might be born anew.”

Among the petitions which are offered to the Deity is the following: “Impart to us, out of thy great mercy, thy gifts which we are not worthy to receive through our own merit.” In their moral code appear these maxims: “Keep peace with all; bear injuries with humility; God who sees, will avenge you.” “He who looks too curiously on a woman, commits adultery with his eyes."[141]

[141] Quoted by Prescott from Sahagun. Conquest of Mexico, book i., chap 3.


Preface  •  Introduction  •  Chapter I. Sex the Foundation of the God-Idea  •  Chapter II. Tree, Plant, and Fruit Worship  •  Chapter III. Sun-Worship--Female and Male Energies in the Sun  •  Chapter IV. The Dual God of the Ancients a Trinity Also  •  Chapter V. Separation of the Female and Male Elements in the Deity  •  Chapter VI. Civilization of an Ancient Race  •  Chapter VII. Concealment of the Early Doctrines  •  Chapter VIII. The Original God-Idea of the Israelites  •  Chapter IX. The Phoenician and Hebrew God Set or Seth  •  Chapter X. Ancient Speculations Concerning Creation  •  Chapter XI. Fire and Phallic Worship  •  Chapter XII. An Attempt to Purify the Sensualized Faiths  •  Chapter XIII. Christianity a Continuation of Paganism  •  Chapter XIV. Christianity a Continuation of Paganism–(Continued)  •  Chapter XV. Christianity in Ireland  •  Chapter XVI. Stones or Columns as the Deity  •  Chapter XVII. Sacrifices  •  Chapter XVIII. The Cross and a Dying Savior

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