« AnteriorContinuar »
of both we propose to give a short account in the next or some subsequent number of this Journal.
P. D. V.
ON THE TAU, OR THE CRUX ANSATA.
The Hermetic or Ansated Cross has for many ages supplied food for the contemplation of the mystic, and employment for the research of the antiquary. But, it appears to me that, without excepting the “ learned visionary” Kircher, very little novelty has been elicited from the subject, since the age of Alexandrian philosophy. The celebrated Dr. Clarke is the last person of note who has attempted its illustration. He has pronounced it to be a key an opinion which, whatever other merit it may possess, has certainly no claim to originality, as it is shared with Denon' and others.?..
A variety of reasons induce me to object to this hypothesis, though with proper deference for the opinion of a gentleman who has - united the tact of taste with the lima labor of graceful composition, and the acumen of judgment which results froni correcily disciplined erudition. And I must allow (fatebor enim) that there is considerable ingenuity in his application of the text: “ the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder.” But I believe there is no instance of the crux ansata so placed, though there are repeated examples of such a position, conferred on the flail and the pastoral crook, which are known scriptural emblems of the gathering and separation of judgment. That the allusion to the keys of death and hell in the Revelations are of Mythraic3 or Egyptian original, there can scarcely remain a doubt. But it does not follow that the crux ansata is a key of that description. Tam not aware that there are any keys extant among Roman or other antiquities of a similar construction; and certainly those generally seen in the hands of Diana Triformis, are of a form approximating to the modern.
In reality there appears to be as little foundation for this suppo
i Plate 58.
Norden, Pocock, &c. 13 The Abbé Martin gives a plate of Mythras the mediator holding two keyş like St. Peter: they are of the common kind. See also plate of a statue of Mythras dug up at Rome, exhibited by Montfaucon, Vol. 1. P.932.
sition, as for another propounded by the Bishop of Clogher, that it is merely a sowing instrument: a supposition which at least has this advantage; that religious mysticism was closely connected with the agricultural pursuits of the Egyptians, and the act of sowing itself, is highly calculated for an emblematical allusion. “ Thou fool, says St. Paul, “ that which thou sowest is not quickened except it die.” But I am persuaded that an examination of the instrument will leave little room for either of the above mentioned conclusions. 1 can state one circumstance, which goes in my opinion to refute them entirely; and I believe it has never before been remarked : the Tau in the hands of the lion-headed Sphynges at the British Museum, could neither have performed the operation of planting, nor that of opening a lock. Those figures grasp a ring in their hands, to which a square plate is attached, and on that in slight relief appears the triformed cross.
The safest way, perhaps, to arrive at a conclusion is to go back to tradition. It appears that the Egyptians, when called upon to explain it, merely affirmed that the Tau was a divine mystery. One opinion is, that it is the type of a resurrection or a future life; ariother that it signified unity;- but the most generals opinion is, that it preshadowed the mystery of the Christian Atonement : an opinion which seems partly related to the second. - My owri opinion is, in some degree, connected with them allthat it was a type of Horus Mediator, the dyadic principle of the Platonists: and that it preshadowed some great regenerative blessing traditionally expected from that divinity. There seems, however, little reason to consider it a Lignam with some latter writers,* an idea apparently borrowed from Indian research. The figure is pure: and it may be called geometrical; but it is not impossible that it may have been partly suggested by the outward - seals of the intellectual and generative faculties on man. Add, that Horus, like Bacchus, was a type of revivification.
That an antient tradition, such as I have hiuted, did exist, is by no means improbable. I shall not go over the usually beaten tracks to prove it. There would be more improbability in the
| Horus Apollo.
2 Clemens Alex. 3 Ruffinus B. 11. Ch. 29. Nicephorus B. 21. Ch. 16. Origen 3 Ch. Isiodorus B 1. Socrates B. 5. Ch. 17.
4 Maurice, &c. or the Phallus, with Jablonski. So Savary thinks it, Vol. 2. p. 40.
5 See Proclus, Plotinus, &c.
6 Bryant, Warburton, Cumberland, Kircher's Edipus. The Latin Vulgate translates Ezekiel ix, 4. I will mark them on the forehead with the letter Tuu. Many figures so distinguished appear among the bieroglyphics.
supposition, that Ham and the immediate descendants of Noah did not preserve some graven memento of their promised and expected redemption, than that they did. Nor will it excite wonder, if the first pure stream of tradition was subsequently muddied by superstition.
I proceed, therefore, without delay to my proofs; which in fact are of a nature rather to disarrange that order which the subject requires by their multiplicity, than to weaken it by their paucity; they grow around me on every side. The first and most striking evidence, that the Tau was a religious memento like the Christian Cross, is apparent from this singular fact, that the form enters into the ground plan of a great proportion of the Egyptian temples; that many of the sekoi were modelled from this figure; and lastly, that the general arrangement of the sepulchral chambers' implies an established religious rule in copying and combining it. That keys and other instruments of a mixed character, that is to say, partly typical and partly instrumental, may have been constructed from veneration of the Archetypal character is not unlikely. But to argue that they originated the form, appears to me as perverted a mode of reasoning, as if some stranger to our religion were to refer the ground plan of our churches to the Cross.
There are besides some representations of altars modelled in the form of the Crur Ansata, (a form of structure which appears to have extended from the Egyptians to the Druids,) and as these figures have nothing in common with either a key or an agricultural instrument, the fact annibilates both those inferences at once. Looking at my argument, therefore, in the most sceptical point, granting that the same model was applied to objects so very dissimilar, still the fair inference is, that the form of the temple, of the altar, and the tomb, among a people so scrupulously religious as the Égyptians, preceded, if not originated, the shape of the key and the drill; and it is most probable that the figure einployed was a religious symbol, applied to arts, inventions and employments, wbich were fancifully conceived to be of a religious character. That the cross is a key or a drill, is at all events a surmise ; but that the figures I allude to are altars no one can doubt. (See Denon, plate 35. 4to Ed)
Indeed, the improbability of the Crux Ansata being any thing but an abstract syinbol is increased by a farther investigation of the subject. And it is not a little curious, that this cross in antient times was evidently borne as an ensign, like that of the latter
! Witness those at Lycopolis. The temples of Benares and Maltra are built in this form,
Roman Empire, or those of modern Christian princes. With the lower limb extended it was the Egyptian banner, and served as a support to the ciest or device of their various cities, as a Lion for Leontopolis, a Goat for Panopolis, &c. &c.; (a circumstance which, by the way, proves that this singular people was the inventor of this as well as almost of every other art. The old banner of Persia, as appears from the sculptures at Shapour, was also a cross with the addition of a globe to each of the three upper arms, by which no doubt some piece of theology similar to that of the globe, the wing, and the serpent, was implied. The Lombards adopted a banner in every respect similar; a fact, which would seem to imply some remote connexion between the two races. It also appears upon some reverses of Saxon coins; and has descended from the Lombards to their descendants, the Pawnbrokers, whose device it is. On all occasions but the latter, it seems to have preserved its religious character. Banners have always been consecrated things : perhaps originally they were talismans or palladia, stamped with the sign of the place or person's tutelary deity; but that, among the Egyptians, they were of a description decisively religious cannot be doubted. For, there is extant in Kircher, (I believe copied from the Pamphilian Obelisk at Rome,) a prolonged Crur Ansata, with a horned serpent suspended upon it; which, as is well known, was a symbol of creative wisdom or the demiurgic deity. Indeed, this representation is almost in all respects similar to the model adopted by modern artists in portraying the brazen serpent in the wilderness, a circumstance, in truth, of very extraordinary coincidence : as that symbol is admitted to have been a type of the great Christian Atonement.
From a collation of the above evidences, I think it will be manifest that the sign, however differently applied, was the memento of a religious mystery; most probably, from its peculiar veneration, the most antique in the antient world. And without entering into all the mysticism of Kircher and his disciples, there is sufficient ground for supposing, that it pointed at a mystery not very dissimilar from that of the Christian cross. The latter, however, is the record of an historical miracle; the crux ansata must be considered as the memento of some predicted benefit to man.
It is not a little singular, that the veneration demonstrated for both kinds of cross, but expressed at such distant periods of time, should have displayed itself with features so strikingly similar. The numerous modes in which the Christian cross has been combined in old architectural ornaments and early coins, are sufficiently notorious. Much the same result occurred to the Crux Ansata. It is the origin of those beautiful scrolls, by eminence called Greek and Etruscan, but in reality Egyptian ; in some of which
it appears in' a simple uncompounded state ; in others more con plicated and combined.
The same figure also insinuates itself into many of the earliest symbols of heraldry, an art, which I have before suggested bears strong proof of having been originally derived from Egypt. Ini fact, the cross potence, worn to this day by the Greek priests upon their garments, and first introduced by the Egyptian Anchorite St. Anthony, is without doubt the Crux Ansata. With its lower limb elongated, it appears to have been used by that saint as a crutch. The episcopal pedium, a symbol, which may also be traced to Egypt, as well as the mitre, appears sometimes upon escutcheons, with its lower extremity in the shape of the Tau. "Nor is it unfrequent to meet with the latter symbols on the reverse of Saxon coins, placed in threes after the manner of heraldic achievements, and without doubt representing the arms of some Saxon prince. Some may indeed be inclined to think that the latter figures represent the hammer of Thor, and this supposition will not violate my theory, as there is great reason to believe that the hammer itself was a crur ansata, which is a more reasonable supposition than that the latter was a key. Be this as it will, it is certain that the Scandinaviaus venerated the same symbol as the Egyptians, representing their god Thor or rather their triple divinity under the form of a gigantic tau constructed from the trunk and branches of a tree. Nor is it unworthy of remark that on one of the coins of Adulf, king of the East Angles, there appears a cross potence with a serpent hanging upon it after the Egyptian fashion. Heraldry also preserves thie-sacred symbol in question in that species of fanciful emblazonry which is called Creppy Varry. “When transferred from Egypt to the alphabets of the surrounding nations, the tau preserved its sacred character. In Hebrew it retains its name (thau), and its meaning (a terminus or cross); and though the figure has at present undergone à chauge, it is curious that originally, it was writteu as the Greek 7, and in the Samaritan alphabet as an actual cross, which is another stumbling block in the way of those who consider it to be an implement. • Indeed, wherever the symbol extended, there is a remarkable uniformity in the interpretation attached to it, and in all casės it appears devoted to the same deity as the Egyptians called Taut : The termini of Mercury were modelled from it; and the Scandinavian Mercury, as I have before remarked, was represented under that form. With regard to the last superstition, there are several "curious circumstances, which certainly imply a glimmering and confused notion of the great promise to the seed of Adam; for to the cruciform tree in question human sacrifices were devoted, and the god Thor himself, of which it was the type, and whose name