Page images
PDF
EPUB

by the antients to Ethiopia'; and that, in fact, from their ignorance of the geography of the higher Asia, India and Ethiopia were sometimes considered as the same country. The reader will recollect, that one of the idols, in the pagoda of Jaggernaut, is described by Captain Hamilton as A HUGE BLACK STONE, OF A PYRAMIDAL FORM; and the SOMMONACODOM, being the representative of the Egyptian god and prophet Boodh among the Siamese, is of the same sable complexion. In the description from the Ayeen Akbery, inserted in a preceding page, of an immense temple erected to . the sun by an antient rajah, the reader has been made acquainted, that in the front of the gate there stood a pillar of black stone, of an octagonal form, fifty cubits high: he will hereafter be informed, from Tavernier, that, in the pagoda of Benares, that traveller likewise observed a conspicuous idol of black stone; and that the statue of Creeshna, in his celebrated temple of MATHURA, is of black marble. It is very

remarkable, that one of the principal ceremonies incumbent upon the priests of these stone deities, according to Tavernier, is to anoint them daily with odoriferous oils, a circumstance which immediately brings to our remembrance the similar practice of Jacob, who, after the famous vision of the celestial

ladder,

1

1

ladder, recorded in Scripture, took the stone which he had put for his pillows, and set it up for & PILLAR, and poured oil upon the top of it. It is added, that he called the name of that place BETH-EL, that is, the house of God, as the patriarch himself explains the word; for this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be called God's HOUSE. Gen. xxviii. 18. This

passage evinces of how great antiquity is the custom of considering stones in a sacred light, as well as the anointing them with consecrated oil. From this conduct of Jacob and this Hebrew appellative, the learned Bochart, with great ingenuity and reason, insists that the name and veneration of the sacred stones, called BATYLI, so celebrated in all pagan antiquity, were derived. *

These Bætyli were stones of a round form; they were supposed to be animated, by means of magical incantations, with a portion of the Deity ; they were consulted, on accasions of great and pressing emergency, as a kind of divine oracles, and were suspended either round the neck, or on some other part of the body, of the enraptured devotee. Of these consecrated stones, some were dedicated to Jupiter and others to the Sun; but they were considered as in a more particular mari

[ocr errors][merged small]

* Vide Bocharti, Sacra Geograph. lib. i. p. 38.

ller

ner sacred to SATURN, who is fabled to have swallowed one of these stones in the place of Jupiter, when he was seised with the sanguinary furor of devouring his children. The fable proceeeds to affirm, that the god having found his mistake, and vomitted it up again, this stone was preserved near the temple of Delphi, where care was taken to anoint it daily with oil, and to cover it with wool that had grown on the days of the SATURNALIAN festi

The above relation affords a very remarkable proof (and it is very far from being the only one of the kind which these volumes will exhibit) how closely the pagan world imi- . tated, and how basely they perverted, the religious rites of the antient and venerable patriarchs. Thus, the setting up of a stone, by this holy person, in grateful memory of the celestial vision vouchsafed him from above, and as a monument of the divine goodness, which had so conspicuously guarded him in his journey, probably became the occasion of all the idolâtry paid, in succeeding ages, to those shapeless masses of unhewn store, of

val. *

* See Stephanus on the word Thaumasius, and also Pausanias, who more amply relates the story. The meaning of this curious fable seems to be, that Saturn, or Time, (as the word Chronos, elegantly called by Horace, Tempus edar rerum, signifies,) devours whatever he produces. His offspring are the revolving years.

which so many astonishing remains are scaltered up and down the Asiatic, and, I may add, the European, world.

These idol-representations of Deity, it has been observed, were at first rugged and shapeless as the rock from which they were torn: and I am of opinion this argument may be fairly urged in favour of the high antiquity of many of those rude and formless blocks, both of wood and stone, that are at present honoured with adoration in the most venerated pagodas of Hindostan, As mankind themselves grew more polished, and as statuary improved, their deities were represented under forms less hideous and disgusting; and those forms were accommodated to the new notions of Deity which their earliest speculations in physics and their increasing knowledge of astronomy inspired. The massy unhewn stones soon shot up in graceful pyramids and lofty obelisks, after the model of the solar ray and the ascending flame. The pyramidal form, however, did not universally prevail. . Some of those mighty masses were hewn into square columns, obtuse at the summit, whose four polished sides symbolised the four elements, or were carved to face the four cardinal points. The earth, says Eusebius, was represented by a cylindrical stone. The octagon black co

lumn,

lumn, mentioned in the preceding page, "might possibly have been fabricated in allusion 10

ome sinilar notion deriving its birth from physics and astronomy. Even the form of the cross, as allusive to the four elements, was no unusual symbol in the pagan world; and indeed Tavernier, as we shall hereafter see, describes two of the principal pagodas of India, Benares and Mathura, as erected in the form of VAST CROSSES, of which each wing is equal in extent.

Let not the piety of the catholic Christian be offended at the preceding assertion, that the CROSS was one of the most usual symbols among the hieroglyphics of Egypt and India. Equally honoured in the Gentile and the Christian world, this emblem of universal nature, of that world to whose four quarters its diverging radii pointed, decorated the hands of most of the sculptured images in the former country; and, in the latter, stamped its form upon the most majestic of the shrines of their deities. It repeatedly occurs on the Pamphylian and other obelisks; and the antiquaries Kircher and Mountfaucon have both honoured it with particular notice. The CRUX ANSATA of Hermes is represented by the former as a most sublime hieroglyphic, as a most mysterious and powerful amulet, endowed with an astonishing vir

tue,

1

« PreviousContinue »