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OF  A 





Ilapa  iravri  t&v  vofu%ofi'ev(ov  7rap’  vpuv  Oedv,  "O^IS  avp,(3o\ov  fxiya, 
fcai  fivarripiov,  dvaypatyerai. — Justin  Martyr,  Apol.  lib.  i.  p.  (30. 



J.  G.  & F.  RIVINGTON, 

st.  Paul’s  church  yard,  and  Waterloo  place,  pall  mall. 




sr.  John’s  square. 
















The  deception  of  Eve  by  Satan,  through  the 
instrumentality  of  a serpent , has  ever  been  an 
object  of  ridicule  with  the  profane,  who,  reading 
without  reflection,  or  reflecting  without  reading, 
deem  that  “ a foolishness  ” which  they  cannot 
understand,  or  that  “a  stumbling-block”  which 
they  cannot  explain  away.  Thus  faith,  which 
had  defied  the  sophistry  of  the  acutest  sceptic, 
has  been  sometimes  shaken  by  an  incredulous 
sneer  : and  Christians,  who  would  have  scorned 
to  be  argued  out  of  their  religion,  have  not  been 
ashamed  to  be  laughed  out  of  it. 

To  establish  by  the  testimony  of  heathen 
authorities  the  credibility  of  the  Temptation 
and  Fall  of  Man  in  Paradise,  through  the  agency 
of  Satan  in  a serpent' s form,  is  my  endeavour  in 
the  following  Treatise  : nor  is  it  with  a vain 
confidence  that  every  argument  adduced  is  either 
new  or  conclusive.  Many  have  gone  before  me 



in  the  same  path  of  inquiry,  though  not  to  the 
same  extent ; and  whatever  I have  found  either 
useful  in  their  arguments,  or  apt  in  their 
illustrations,  I have  unhesitatingly  adopted 
and  as  readily  acknowledge.  But  where  no 
reference  records  the  author  of  any  opinion,  I 
am  content  to  take  the  responsibility  upon  my- 
self ; desiring  only  that  the  whole  theory  may 
not  be  pronounced  untenable  on  account  of  the 
deficiency  of  any  inconsiderable  portion  of  it. 
For  the  force  of  the  argument  consists  not  in  the 
independent  importance  of  every  individual  in- 
ference, but  in  the  aggregate  effect  of  all.  Facts 
in  themselves  apparently  insignificant,  and  coin- 
cidences which  singly  might  be  deemed  for- 
tuitous, often  assume  in  connexion  a character 
and  a consistency  which  amount  to  the  weight 
of  irresistible  evidence.  If,  therefore,  by  the 
aggregate  testimony  of  facts  inconsiderable  in 
themselves,  and  only  considerable  through  the 
consistency  with  which  they  mutually  support 
each  other,  the  main  object  of  this  treatise — the 
universality  of  Ophiolatreia — can  be  proved,  the 
point  is  gained  ; the  proposition  is  demonstrated. 

Many  writers  have  remarked  that  the  worship 
of  the  serpent  by  the  ancient  heathen  is  a con- 



elusive  proof  of  the  Fall  of  Man  by  the  seduction 
of  a serpent-tempter : but  failing  to  show  its 
universal  prevalence,  have  reaped  but  half  the 
advantages  of  their  argument.  They  have  left 
the  multitude  either  doubtful  of  its  force,  or 
relying  for  the  truth  of  it  upon  their  authority 
only ; while  habitual  unbelievers,  who  never 
search  for  themselves,  deeming  all  such  authorities 
suspicious,  because  interested,  and  interested  be- 
cause, for  the  most  part,  ecclesiastical , reject  the 
reasoning  and  renounce  the  conclusion. 

I have  therefore  endeavoured  to  establish  the 
fact , while  I appeal  to  the  argument : to  'prove 
the  universality  of  Serpent-worship,  while  I 
adduce  the  universal  worship  of  the  Serpent  as  a 
testimony  to  the  Temptation  and  Fall  of  Man. 

Of  all  the  writers  who  have  treated  of  this 
subject,  Bryant  and  Faber  may  be  regarded 
as  the  chief.  But  even  these  learned  men 
have  only  considered  it  in  the  course  of  a 
System  of  Analysis  of  Pagan  Idolatry.  With 
either  of  these  authors  the  worship  of  the 
serpent  forms  but  a part  of  a more  comprehen- 
sive work ; and  their  observations,  of  necessity, 
have  been  circumscribed.  To  them,  however,  I 
am  indebted  for  a great  part  of  my  information, 

\ 111 


and  only  do  not  praise  them  so  highly  as  I 
honour  them,  because  one  is  beyond,  and  both 
above  all  praise. 

To  the  kindness  of  the  latter  I have  been  still 
more  indebted  since  the  publication  of  the  first 
edition  of  this  treatise.  Many  valuable  correc- 
tions, noticed  as  they  occur,  have  been  volun- 
tarily communicated  by  Mr.  Faber ; and  it  is  to 
me  a source  of  no  little  gratification,  that  in 
my  first  effort  to  be  useful,  I have  obtained 
the  encouragement  of  the  first  of  Christian 

The  Worship  of  the  Serpent  had  already 
attracted  the  notice  of  the  learned,  when  Bryant 
and  Faber,  each  improving  upon  the  discoveries 
of  his  predecessors,  fixed  its  data  upon  a lasting 
basis.  It  was  deemed  a fit  field  for  the  recrea- 
tion of  the  unwearied  genius  of  Dr.  Stukeley, 
whose  work  upon  Abury  is  a masterpiece  of 
ingenuity,  and  a key  to  the  most  obscure  part 
of  Ophiolatreia — the  figure  of  the  serpent  tem- 
ples. On  this  interesting  subject  nothing  was 
even  guessed  at , until  his  master-hand  evoked,  as 
by  the  wave  of  a magician’s  wand,  the  Python 
of  Delphi  in  the  wilds  of  Wiltshire. 

Other  eminent  writers,  among  whom  Bishop 



Stillingfleet  should  have  honourable  mention, 
have  cursorily  noticed  the  serpent-worship  of 
the  ancients.  In  the  works  of  Mr.  Maurice, 
also,  much  may  be  found  interesting  and  useful, 
as  connecting  Ophiolatreia  with  the  super- 
stitions of  the  Brahmins  of  Hindustan.  Cap- 
tain Franklin  has  likewise  entered  upon  the 
subject  in  a chapter  of  his  History  of  the 
Jains  and  Budhists,  in  which  he  gives  a short, 
but  excellent,  analysis  of  the  prevalence  of 
Ophiolatreia  in  the  ancient  world.  The 
plan  of  this  analysis  is  so  nearly  the  same 
as  the  one  adopted  in  the  following  treatise, 
that  I shall  probably  find  some  difficulty  in 
persuading  the  reader  that  it  was  not  the  pro- 
totype of  the  present  volume.  But  I can  assure 
him  that  I never  even  heard  of  the  existence  of 
Captain  Franklin’s  book,  until  twelve  months 
after  the  publication  of  my  own.  It  is  only, 
however,  in  the  general  outline  that  they  are 
similar.  This  treatise  enters  more  minutely  into 
the  subject,  and  follows  the  serpent-god  into 
more  regions  of  the  world.  The  application  of 
the  subject  is  also  more  extensively  theological, 
and  the  scope  of  the  inquiry  considerably  greater. 

I shall  therefore  be  secure  from  the  charge  of 



plagiarism  with  every  one  who  compares  the 
two  volumes  together. 

Among  foreigners,  Bochart,  Vossius,  Kircher, 
and  Heinsius  may  be  profitably  consulted. 
There  is  also  a tract  “ De  Cultu  Serpentum ,” 
written  by  M.  Koch,  but  valuable  chiefly,  as 
proving  the  idolatry  in  Scandinavia.  Bryant 
mentions  a treatise  by  Philip  Olearius,  entitled 
“ Ophiolatreia  but  I cannot  find  it  in  any  of 
the  public  libraries  which  I have  searched. 

I am  not  aware  of  any  other  important  work 
upon  the  subject.  I have  made  full  use  of  all 
the  foregoing  authors ; avoiding  only,  as  much 
as  possible,  the  etymological  conjectures  of 
Bryant,  which  are  considered  by  some  critics  as 
open  to  objection.  In  this  I have  followed 
rather  the  taste  of  the  age  than  my  own  con- 
viction ; for  these  conjectures  are  at  all  times 
ingenious,  frequently  plausible,  and  sometimes 
incontrovertible.  Whenever  they  have  appeared 
to  be  as  coming  under  the  last  class,  I have  not 
hesitated  to  use  them. 

The  plan  of  this  work  is  simple.  It  professes 
to  prove  the  existence  of  Ophiolatreia  in  almost 
every  considerable  country  of  the  ancient  world  ; 
and  to  discover,  in  the  mythology  of  every 



civilized  nation,  evidences  of  a recollection  of 
the  events  in  Paradise.  If  these  facts  can  be 
established,  the  conclusion  is  obvious — that  all 
such  traditions  must  have  had  a common  origin  ; 
and  that  the  most  ancient  record,  which  con- 
tains their  basis,  must  be  the  authentic  history. 
The  most  ancient  record  containing  this  basis, 
is  the  Book  of  Genesis,  composed  by  Moses. 
The  Book  of  Genesis,  therefore,  contains  the 
history  upon  which  the  fables,  rites,  and  su- 
perstitions of  the  mythological  serpent  are 

I cannot  close  these  remarks  without  record- 
ing my  obligation  to  a gentleman  whose  sound 
and  varied  learning  is  equalled  by  the  kindness 
with  which  he  imparts  it ; and  from  whom  no 
writer  departs  without  encouragement,  whose 
object  is  to  promote  or  to  protect  the  truth.  The 
Rev.  Lancelot  Sharpe  will,  I trust,  pardon  this 
allusion,  as  due  to  one  who  kindly  looked  over 
the  MSS.  of  the  first  edition  of  this  treatise ; 
and  as  one  to  whom  I am  indebted  for  many 
valuable  suggestions. 

Neither  can  I,  in  justice  to  my  own  sense  of 
obligations,  omit  the  mention  of  my  esteemed 
friend,  P.  C.  Delagarde,  Esq.  of  Exeter,  to 



whose  ingenuity  I owe  much  that  is  novel  and 
interesting  in  the  present  volume  ; especially  the 
discovery  of  the  origin  of  columnar  architecture 
in  the  avenues  of  the  Dracontium. 

In  conclusion,  I must  remark,  that  the  present 
edition  of  this  treatise,  although  very  superior 
to  the  last,  both  as  to  correctness  of  informa- 
tion, and  quantity  of  new  matter,  is  still  only 
an  introduction  to  what  may  be  written  on  “ the 
Worship  of  the  Serpent,”  as  connected  with  the 
Fall  and  Redemption  of  Man.  And  I shall  hail 
the  day  with  pleasure,  when  “some  person  of 
true  learning  and  a deep  insight  into  antiquity 
shall  go  through  (ivith  this  view ) with  the  his- 
tory of  the  serpent5.”  It  would  be,  indeed,  as 
Bryant  most  justly  observes,  “ a noble  under- 
taking, and  very  edifying  in  its  consequences  ;” 
and  if  this  short  syllabus  shall  be  in  any  degree 
instrumental  to  a work  so  desired,  it  will  not 
have  been  written  in  vain. 



July  12,  1833. 

1 Bryant,  Anal.  2.  219. 



Preliminary  Observations  on  the  Fall  of  Man 1 — 36 

Chap.  I. — Serpent  Worship  in  Asia  39 — 115 

Sect.  1.  Babylon  41 

2.  Persia 47 

3.  Hindustan  60 

4.  Ceylon 66 

5.  China  and  Japan 69 

6.  Burmah  74 

7.  Java 76 

8.  Arabia 77 

9.  Syria  78 

10.  Asia  Minor 99 

11.  The  Islands  of  Asia  Minor 109 

Chap.  II. — Serpent  Worship  in  Africa 119 — 179 

Sect.  1.  Egypt  119 

2.  Ethiopia  160 

3.  Whidah  and  Congo  162 

Chap.  III. — Serpent  Worship  in  Europe 183 — 290 

Sect.  1.  Greece 183 

2.  Epirus 229 

3.  Italy 235 

4.  Northern  Europe  242 — 253 

1.  Sarmatia  244 

2.  Scandinavia  247 

5.  Western  Europe 253 — 290 

1.  Britain  253 

2.  Ireland  270 

3.  Gaul  272 

4.  Britany  278 

Chap.  IV. — Serpent  Worship  in  America  293 — 308 

Sect.  1.  Mexico 293 

2.  Peru 301 




Chap.  V. — Heathen  Fables,  illustrative  of  the  Fall  of 

Man 311—355 

Sect.  1.  Egypt — Typhon 313 

2.  Greece 

1.  Python  329 

2.  The  Dragon  of  the  Hesperides 331 

3.  Melampus,  Helenus,  and  Cassandra 335 

4.  Ceres  and  Proserpine 337 

5.  Saturn  and  Ops 338 

3.  Persia 

1.  Ahriman  340 

2.  Ophiuchus 342 

4 Arabia — Legend  of  the  Fall ib. 

5.  Hindustan — Crishna 343 

6.  Teutonic  Fables. — Midgard, — Thor, — Hela 347 

7.  America. 

1.  Mexican  Paintings 351 

2.  Remarkable  Legend  in  New  Zealand  . ....  355 

Chap.  YI. — Serpent  Temples  359 — 410 

Sect.  1.  Carnac 367 

2.  Abury 375 

3.  Stanton  Drew 383 

4.  Temples  on  Dartmoor  386 

5.  Shap  389 

6.  Palmyra  and  Geraza 392 

7.  The  Dragon  of  Colchis  • 405 

8.  Popular  Traditions  respecting  the  Celtic  circles  . . 408 

Chap.  VII. — The  Decline  of  Serpent  Worship. . . .413 — 438 

Sect.  1.  Babylon 419 

2.  Persia .' 420 

3.  Hindustan  422 

4.  China,  &c 424 

5.  Arabia 425 

6.  Syria  ib. 

7.  Egypt 426 

8.  Abyssinia  427 

9.  Whidah  ..:.... 428 

10.  Greece ib. 

11.  Thrace,  &c 429 

12.  Italy 431 

13.  Colchos  432 

14.  Britain,  &c 433 

15.  America 434 

Chap.  YIII. — Summary  441 — 458 

Concluding  Remarks  on  the  Redemption  of  Man  461 — 475 







I.  That  man,  in  his  present  state  of  ignorance, 
infirmity  and  wickedness,  is  not  the  Adam  of 
God’s  hand — the  similitude  of  his  Creator — the 
being  which  he  was  when  God  4 ‘breathed  into 
his  nostrils  the  breath  of  life,”  placed  him  in 
Paradise,  and  pronounced  him  “good,” — is  an 
observation  not  resulting  from  metaphysical  re- 
search, but  obvious  to  the  most  simple,  unlet- 
tered mind.  To  the  truth  of  it  responds  every 
feeling  of  our  nature,  and  every  voice  from 
the  Scriptures ; and  whether  we  look  into 
ourselves  or  into  them , we  read  the  same  writing, 




indited  by  the  same  Spirit  : “ There  is  not  a 
just  man  upon  earth , that  doeth  good  and  sinneth 
not h” 

Whence  then  this  corruption,  so  great,  so  uni- 
versal ? Whence  this  unsparing  and  appalling 
ruin  ? “ By  one  man  sin  entered  into  the  world , 

and  death  by  sin  2.”  “ By  the  offence  of  one, 

judgment  came  upon  all  men  to  condemnation* .” 
“By  one  man’s  disobedience , mankind  (ot  7 roXAoi) 
were  made  sinners 4.” 

But  consequences  so  ruinous  as  the  corrup- 
tion of  the  body  and  soul  of  all  his  posterity, — 
the  dissolution  of  the  one,  and  the  eternal  ba- 
nishment of  the  other  from  the  presence  of 
God, — could  not  have  resulted  from  the  disobe- 
dience of  one  man,  had  the  sin  which  he  com- 
mitted fallen  short  of  the  most  aggravated 
which  he  could  commit.  Scripture  and  reason 
declare  God  to  be  “ just he  would  not  there- 
fore have  “ visited  the  sin  of  the  father  upon 
the  children,”  had  not  that  sin  been  of  a 
nature  the  most  odious  in  his  sight.  This 
necessary  conclusion  from  established  premises, 
has  induced  many  a well-meaning  but  ill- 

1 Eccl.  vii.  20.  2 Rom.  v.  12. 

3 Rom.  v.  18.  4 Rom.  v.  19. 



reflecting  Christian  to  represent  the  history  of 
the  fall  of  man  as  an  allegory.  But  alle- 
gorizing Scripture  is  at  all  times  a hazardous, 
and  sometimes  a dangerous,  practice.  It  is  so 
in  the  case  before  us  : for  if  the  narrative  of  the 
Fall  be  allegorical,  the  promise  of  the  Redemp- 
tion must  be  allegorical  likewise,  since  the  serpent 
enters  personally  into  the  one,  as  well  as  the 
other.  But  the  promise  of  Redemption,  though 
figuratively  expressed,  assumes  the  real  agency 
of  the  Serpent  in  the  Fall : we  conclude,  there- 
fore, that  not  only  did  the  serpent  bring  about 
this  calamity  upon  man,  but  that  he  brought  it 
about  in  the  very  manner  in  which  it  is  described 
by  the  woman  : “ the  serpent  beguiled  me , and 
I did  eat” 

Having  stated  this,  the  sacred  historian  says 
no  more ; leaving  it  to  the  understanding  and 
common  sense  of  the  children  of  Israel  to  con- 
clude that  the  serpent’s  form  must  have  been 
assumed  by  a spirit  of  extraordinary  power  and 
malignity,  the  better  to  accomplish  his  object  of 
seduction.  That  this  powerful  and  malignant 
spirit  was  the  Devil,  we  are  expressly  informed 
by  St.  John,  who  calls  the  dragon  of  the  Apo- 
calypse “ that  old  serpent  called  the  Devil  and 

b 2 



Satan,  that  deceiveth  the  whole  world  V*  The 
author  of  the  Book  of  Wisdom  attributes  the 
fall  of  man  to  the  agency  of  the  Devil:  “God 
created  man  to  be  immortal,  and  made  him  to 
be  an  image  of  his  own  eternity ; but  through 
envy  of  the  Devil  came  death  into  the  world  2.” 
St.  Paul,  alluding  to  the  same  event,  ascribes  it 
to  the  serpent : — “ But  I fear  lest  by  any  means, 
as  the  serpent  beguiled  Eve  through  his  subtilty, 
so  your  minds  should  be  corrupted  from  the 
simplicity  that  is  in  Christ 3.” 

These  incidental  allusions  to  the  agency  of 
the  Devil  under  the  form  of  a serpent,  are  per- 
haps more  valuable  in  corroborating  the  account 
of  Moses,  than  if  the  whole  narrative  of  the 
Fall  were  in  so  many  words  recapitulated  by  the 
other  sacred  writers  : for  these  writers,  being 
Jews,  had  no  reason  for  enforcing  the  assent  of 
their  contemporaries  to  facts  which  were  uni- 
versally admitted.  Hence  incidental  allusions 
as  to  a fact  well  known,  are  all  that  we  can 
expect  to  find  in  the  sacred  writings  respecting 
the  agency  of  Satan  and  the  Serpent,  in  the  ruin 
of  mankind.  These  are  abundant;  and  from 
the  event  which  they  assume,  arose  the  meta- 

1 Rev.  xii.  9.  2 Wisd.  ii.  23 — 24.  3 2 Cor.  xi.  3. 



phor  under  which  the  enemies  of  God  and  the 
wicked  are  described.  These  are  represented 
under  the  image  of  iC  a serpent “a  dragon2 ,” 
<£  a leviathan , a crooked  serpent 3 ,”  &c. ; expres- 
sions which  are  strong  presumptive  evidences  of 
the  intimate  connexion  between  the  serpent  and 


Though  the  circumstances  of  the  seduction 
and  fall  of  man  are  objects  of  no  difficulty  to 
the  faith  of  a Christian,  yet  it  must  be  confessed 
that  an  obscurity  surrounds  them,  which  is  not 
easily  penetrable  to  the  rash  or  unreflecting. 
Hence  some  have  argued  that  the  whole  is  alle- 
gorical, and  others  have  pronounced  the  whole 
to  be  an  invention  : for  a sceptical  mind  solves 
every  difficulty  by  disbelief.  Against  either  of 
these  opinions  I will  endeavour  to  show,  that 
the  seduction  of  man  by  the  agency  of  the  ser- 
pent is  no  allegory ; that  the  fall  of  man  by 
eating  of  the  forbidden  tree  is  no  allegory : that 
nothing  could  be  more  natural  than  that  Adam 
and  Eve  should  fall  by  such  a simple  act : and 
that  no  method  of  seduction  could  be  so  effective 
as  the  one  employed  by  Satan. 

1 Isaiah  xiv.  29.  2 Isaiah  xxvii.  1. 

3 Isaiah  xxvii.  1. 



First  then,  let  us  consider  the  sin  ; and  se- 
condly, THE  TEMPTER. 

“ The  Lord  God  said  unto  the  woman , what  is 
this  that  thou  hast  done1?” — The  offence  of  which 
she  had  been  guilty  was  the  eating  of  a tree,  of 
which  God  had  said,  4 4 Thou  shalt  not  eat  of  it ; 
for  in  the  day  that  thou  eatest  thereof  thou  shalt 
surely  die  V’ 

Here  we  perceive,  amidst  a general  indul- 
gence, one  particular  restriction , and  a penalty 
attached  to  the  violation  of  it.  It  is  argued 
against  the  probability  of  such  a condition, 

First,  That  the  restriction  is  umvorthy  of  God. 

Secondly,  That  the  punishment  is  more  than 
adequate  to  the  offence. 

Both  of  which  objections  I will  endeavour  to 

1.  From  the  narrative  of  Moses  we  learn, 
that  at  the  time  of  this  sin,  Adam  and  his  wife 
Eve  were  the  only  human  creatures  in  exist- 
ence— that  44  they  twain  were  one  flesh” — and 
that  they  were  without  those  natural  propen- 
sities to  wickedness,  which  now,  unhappily, 
characterize  their  descendants.  A positive  com- 

Gen.  iii.  13. 

2 Gen.  ii.  17- 



mand  was  given  to  them,  under  a very  severe 
penalty  in  case  of  disobedience  ; and  this  com- 
mand was,  that  they  should  not  eat  the  fruit  of 
a particular  tree. 

If,  instead  of  so  simple  a command  as  this, 
they  had  been  enjoined,  like  the  Jews  and 
Christians  after  them,  to  observe  inviolate  the 
Commandments  of  the  two  tables,  would  that 
have  been  a more  reasonable  injunction — more 
worthy  of  God — more  suitable  to  the  condition  of 
Adam  and  JEvel  We  apprehend  not.  The 
injunction  would  have  been  so  far  unreasonable 
and  unworthy  of  God,  as  the  violation  of  it  was 
impossible  on  the  part  of  Adam  and  Eve.  For 
being  themselves  the  immediate  work  of  the 
Creator,  and  maintaining  with  him  a continual 
and  direct  communion l,  is  it  possible  that  they 
could  have  worshipped  any  strange  gods  or 
idols — taken  the  name  of  God  in  vain — or  by 
any  act  of  irreverence  profaned  the  Sabbath? 
Commandments  which  would  restrict  them 
from  such  sins  as  these,  would  have  been  un- 
reasonable, and  unworthy  of  God ; for  they 
could  not  be  broken.  The  first  table  of  the  de- 
calogue would  therefore  have  been  unneces- 

Gen.  iii.  8. 



sary  ; and  if  unnecessary,  “ unworthy  of  God” 
to  ordain. 

In  like  manner,  Adam  and  Eve  could  not 
have  violated  any  commandment  of  the  second. 
The  second  table  of  the  decalogue  is  for  a state 
of  society : Adam  and  his  wife  were  alone.  How 
could  they,  therefore,  honour  their  father  and 
mother,  who  had  none  ? How  could  they  com- 
mit adultery  or  theft  against  each  other  ? How 
could  they  have  borne  false  witness  against 
their  neighbour , or  coveted  his  goods?  And 
can  we  suppose  that  they  would  so  far  forget 
the  sense  of  their  common  interest  as  to  kill 
either  the  other,  since  the  commission  of  such 
a crime  would  have  left  the  survivor  the  only 
creature  in  the  universe  without  its  kind  ? 
They  would  not,  therefore,  have  committed 
murder , even  had  they  known  (which  is  doubtful) 
the  nature  and  the  means  of  death.  Command- 
ments, therefore,  which  would  restrict  them  from 
such  sins  as  these,  would  have  been  unreason- 
able, and  unworthy  of  God  ; for  they  could  not, 
by  any  probability,  be  broken.  Besides , the 
violation  of  them  pre-supposes  that  tendency  to 
sin — that  corruption  of  their  nature , which  did 
not  exist  in  them  until  after  the  Fall. 



The  offence  by  which  Adam  fell  must,  there- 
fore, have  been  a simple  one : so  simple,  that  it 
might  be  committed  without  inherent  depra- 
vity ; and  yet  so  obnoxious  to  God,  as  to  de- 
mand his  instant  and  severest  visitation.  Now 
what  offence  can  we  imagine  more  simple,  more 
free  from  innate  depravity,  than  that  of  eating 
the  fruit  of  a forbidden  tree  ? The  inducements 
to  eat  of  it  were  powerful ; and  such  as,  in  the 
absence  of  a prohibitory  command,  would  have 
been  not  only  natural,  but  laudable.  It  was  a 
desire  to  become  as  intelligent  as  the  angels  : 
a desire  which,  in  Adam  and  Eve,  was  natural ; 
for  by  the  gratification  of  it,  they  would  know 
more  of  God  and  of  themselves  : and  as  “ the 
knowledge  of  God”  is  perfect  happiness,  it  was 
natural  that  they  should  wish  to  perfect  their 
enjoyments.  Springing  from  such  an  origin,  the 
desire  was  sinless ; and  only  sinful  when  indulged 
in  opposition  to  a prohibitory  command. 

But  this  command  was  wrritten  by  the  finger 
of  God  upon  their  hearts  : — “ Thou  shalt  not  eat 
of  it.”  And  this  command  they  violated  ! 

Simple , of  necessity,  was  the  outward  act  by 
which  they  incurred  the  displeasure  of  their 
Maker  : but  the  moral  offence  involved  all  the 



guilt  which  attaches  to  unnecessary  disobedience, 
incredulity  of  God’s  word,  and  defiance  of  his 
power ; and  under  this  view  we  may  regard  the 
sin  of  Adam  to  have  been  as  great  as  if  we  were 
to  violate  the  whole  of  the  decalogue:  for  the 
whole  commandment  which  was  given  to  them, 
they  broke. 

2.  But,  if  the  prohibition  was  not  unworthy 
of  the  dignity  of  God,  was  not  the  punishment 
which  followed  disobedience  more  than  adequate 
to  the  offence  ? Certainly  not.  Entire  disobe- 
dience, being  entire  unrighteousness,  is  mani- 
festly obnoxious  to  the  severest  penalty.  The 
greatness  of  the  punishment  can  prove  nothing 
but  the  greatness  of  the  sin  which  preceded 
it,  when  the  parties  concerned  are  man  and 
God.  But  even  had  the  punishment  been 
“ more  than  adequate  to  the  offence,”  it  would 
not  have  been  an  act  of  injustice  to  inflict  it.  For 
Adam  and  Eve,  as  they  knew  the  means  of 
obedience , knew  the  penalty  which  would  follow 
disobedience ; they  sinned,  therefore,  with  all  the 
consequences  of  sin  before  them.  Their  eyes 
were  sufficiently  “ open”  to  know  the  truth 
which  was  afterwards  revealed  to  the  children 



of  disobedience,  that  “ God  is  not  a man,  that 
he  should  lie  ; neither  the  son  of  man,  that  he 
should  repent : hath  he  said,  and  shall  he  not 
do  it  ? or  hath  he  spoken,  and  shall  he  not  make 
it  good  J?  ” 

We  see,  then,  that  neither  was  the  prohibition 
of  the  tree  of  knowledge  of  good  and  evil  an 
unworthy  condition  on  the  part  of  God  to  make 
with  Adam,  nor  the  punishment  which  over- 
took the  disobedient  man  too  great  for  the 

But  here  it  may  be  objected,  upon  the  very 
principle  of  our  argument,- — if  Adam  committed 
sin  in  consequence  of  a natural  instinct— a de- 
sire of  enlarging  his  understanding — with  this 
desire  about  him,  prompting  him  to  sin , — can  he 
be  said  to  have  been  created  pure  ? And  if  he 
had  not  been  created  pure , there  is  no  necessity 
for  believing  that  he  ever  fell,  in  the  peculiar 
manner  related  by  Moses ; for  the  sinfulness  of 
man  would  be  sufficiently  accounted  for  by  the 
imperfection  of  his  origin.  To  this  we  may  reply, 
that  the  desire  of  enlarging  his  understanding 
did  not  necessarily  induce  Adam  to  sin  : sin 
was,  indeed,  the  consequence  of  his  indulging 
1 Num.  xxiii.  19. 



this  desire,  but  not  the  necessary  consequence. 
He  might  have  indulged  it  by  communion  with 
God,  instead  of  finding  its  gratification  by  com- 
munion with  Satan.  That  Adam,  by  too  great 
a thirst  after  knowledge,  fell,  does  not  prove  that 
he  was  prone  to  sin  ; but  it  certainly  does  prove 
that  he  was  liable  to  it : and  while  we  deny  the 
proneness,  we  not  only  admit,  but  maintain  his 
liability  to  fall.  Being  created,  expressly,  for 
the  greatest  glory  of  God,  it  follows  that  Adam 
was  created  with  that  nature  which  was  best 
adapted  to  this  purpose.  He  was,  therefore, 
created  pure , perfect , and  free.  For  Omni- 
potence itself  cannot  produce  a nobler  being 
than  one  in  God's  own  spiritual  likeness ; per- 
fectly sinless,  and  perfectly  a free  agent.  But, 
however  free  and  pure,  such  a person  cannot  be 
without  a liability  to  sin  : for  if  he  be  without  a 
liability,  he  is  without  responsibility , which  is  an 
attribute  suited  to  the  Creator  alone,  and  incom- 
municable to  a creature.  It  could  not,  there- 
fore, be  otherwise,  than  thaf  Adam  should  have 
been  liable , though  not  prone , to  sin  : for  that 
would  have  made  his  nature  imperfect,  and  an- 
ticipated the  corruption  which  did  not  exist  in 
him  until  after  his  fall.  What,  before  the  fall, 



was  only  a liability , became  afterwards  a prone 
ness  to  sin.  Had  Adam  been  placed  in  Paradise 
in  any  other  state,  he  would  either  not  have 
been  a free  agent,  or  too  free  to  be  responsible. 
If  not  a free  agent,  the  gift  of  reason  was  super- 
fluous, and  every  superfluity  detracts  from  per- 
fection. If  too  free  to  be  responsible,  he  would 
not  have  been  a creature ; for  to  be  a creature 
implies  subordination,  and  subordination  implies 
responsibility.  The  only  condition,  therefore,  in 
which  Adam  could  have  been  placed,  was  that 
of  a free  agent,  responsible  for  his  actions  ; with 
obedience  or  disobedience,  and  their  respective 
consequences,  before  his  eyes,  and  with  the 
power  to  choose  either.  Being  a free  agent,  it 
was  necessary  that  he  should  be  placed  in  a 
state  of  trial.  For  his  free  agency  consisting  in 
a capability  of  choice  between  obedience  and 
disobedience,  his  happiness  would  consist  in 
a wise  employment  of  this  power1.  And  since 
real  happiness  is  inseparable  from  holiness, 
Adam,  to  be  happy,  must  have  been  holy.  But 
holy  or  obedient  (for  it  is  the  same  thing,)  he 
could  not  be,  unless  something  were  enjoined  to 
which  he  might  be  disobedient.  Adam,  there- 
1 Kennicot.,  Dissert,  on  the  Tree  of  Life , 33. 



fore,  being  a free  agent,  was  necessarily  placed 
in  a state  of  trial. 

It  appears,  then,  that  the  fall  of  man  may  be 
rationally  explained,  without  having  recourse  to 
any  allegorical  interpretation ; indeed,  what  al- 
legory can  render  the  circumstances  more  intel- 
ligible l or  of  what  can  the  eating  of  a forbidden 
tree  be  allegorical  ? The  only  mysterious  part 
of  the  transaction,  after  the  assumption  of  the 
serpent’s  form  by  Satan,  was  the  communication 
of  intellectual  knowledge  by  the  taste  of  a tree. 
That  the  fruit  of  the  forbidden  tree  did  not  affect 
the  body , seems  evident  from  the  circumstance 
of  God’s  dooming  the  body  to  corruption,  after 
the  fruit  had  been  tasted,  and  <fc'  the  eyes  were 
opened.”  “ The  return  to  dust”  was  an  effect 
of  the  curse  of  God , and  not  of  any  poisonous 
quality  in  the  tree.  The  poison  of  the  tree  in- 
fected the  mind  alone  : but  the  manner  is  a 

There  is,  however,  a method  of  explaining 
away  the  difficulty  of  the  communication  of  know- 
ledge by  means  of  a tree , of  which  the  advocate 
of  literal  interpretation  may  avail  himself.  With 
the  learned  and  acute  Kennicot,  he  may  consi- 
der that  the  tree  in  question  was  not  to  make 



any  change  in  the  intellectual  faculties  of  the 
recipient.  By  substituting  the  word  44  test ” for 
44  knowledge ” —a  substitution  which,  he  contends, 
the  original  will  allow — the  text  will  become, 
44  and  the  tree  which  is  the  test  of  good  and 
evil that  is,  44  the  tree  by  which  God  would 
try  them,  and  by  which  it  should  appear  whether 
or  no  they  would  own  the  sovereignty  of  their 
Maker,  and  obey  or  disobey  his  commands1.” 
Notwithstanding  this  ingenious,  and  not  unsatis- 
factory, explanation,  I prefer  the  received  ver- 
sion, because  it  is  more  in  accordance  with  the 
context.  The  effect  produced  upon  the  guilty 
pair  is  described  under  the  metaphor,  44  their 
eyes  were  opened.”  This  certainly  implies  that 
their  minds  had  undergone  a change  ; for  their 
corporeal  eyes  could  have  seen  44  their  naked- 
ness” as  easily  before  the  Fall,  as  after ; but  the 
mind  conceived  no  shame  from  the  circumstance. 
This  effect  was  produced  by  the  fruit  of  the  tree  ; 
for  44  when  the  woman  saw  that  the  tree  was 
good  for  food,  and  that  it  was  pleasant  to  the 
eyes,  and  a tree  to  he  desired  to  make  one  wise , 
she  took  of  the  fruit  thereof,  and  did  eat , and 
gave  also  to  her  husband  with  her,  and  he  did 
1 Dissert,  on  the  Tree  of  Life,  p.  36. 



eat : And  their  eyes  were  opened  V’  Between  the 
action,  “ they  did  eat”  and  the  effect,  “ their 
eyes  were  opened ,”  there  is  no  room  for  interpo- 
lating any  other  cause  for  the  illumination,  than 
the  eating  the  fruit  of  the  tree  of  knowledge. 
The  copulative  conjunction  and  points  out  the 
cause — namely,  the  fruit  of  the  tree . 

The  seduction  of  Eve  by  the  serpent  is 
as  far  from  being  allegorical  as  the  other  cir- 
cumstances of  the  Fall.  Satan  had  determined 
to  bring  about  the  destruction  of  man,  and, 
therefore,  would  approach  to  the  accomplish- 
ment of  it  in  the  most  subtil  manner.  For  this 
purpose,  we  are  taught  to  believe  that  he  as- 
sumed the  form  of  the  serpent,  probably  because 
the  nature  of  that  animal  most  nearly  resembled 
his  own  : for  “ the  serpent  was  more  subtil  than 
all  the  beasts  of  the  field.”  His  own  form  was 
spiritual;  he  could  not,  therefore,  have  shown 
himself  to  Eve  as  he  really  was.  He  appeared, 
consequently,  under  a disguise  to  which  she  had 
been  accustomed,  and  at  which  she  would  not 
be  startled. 

A beautiful  but  mute  animal  crossed  her  path, 
ascended  the  tree  of  knowledge,  and  plucked 
1 Gen.  iii.  6,  7. 



its  fruit ; and  in  an  instant  appeared  gifted  with 
the  powers  of  reason  and  of  speech1.  He  spoke 
to  her ; desired  her  to  taste  the  same  fruit  which 
had  opened  his  mind;  and  when,  at  length, 
having  overcome  her  first  astonishment,  she 
refused,  on  the  plea  that  God  had  forbidden 
her  to  touch  it,  he  said  unto  her,  “ Yea!  hath 
God  said , Ye  shall  not  eat  of  every  tree  of  the 

If  such  should  appear  to  have  been  the  nature 
of  the  temptation  which  assailed  Eve,  who  shall 
deny,  that  it  was  the  most  powerful  which  could 
be  presented  to  the  human  mind  ? A mute  and 
irrational  creature,  having  tasted  the  fruit  of  this 
forbidden  tree,  became  gifted  with  speech  and 
reason  ; and  how  surpassing  must  be  the  know- 
ledge  which  they  would  acquire  by  following  the 
same  course  ! Well,  then,  might  she  believe 
“ that  they  would  be  as  gods,  knowing  good 
and  evil.” 

Such  an  interpretation  of  the  temptation  of 
Eve  appears  not  only  the  most  reasonable  which 
can  be  offered  to  our  belief,  but  it  is,  probably, 
the  most  correct,  from  the  very  language  of  the 
Scripture  which  describes  the  Fall.  The  third 

1 Delany,  “ Revel.  Examined,” 




chapter  of  Genesis  opens  in  an  abrupt  manner  ; 
and  the  first  words  of  the  serpent  induce  the 
inference,  that  something  had  previously  passed 
between  him  and  Eve,  which  is  not  mentioned 
in  the  narrative.  The  words,  “ Yea ! hath  God 
said?”  appear  to  be  the  continuation  of  a con- 
versation already  begun.  This  will  explain  the 
reason  why  the  woman  expresses  no  surprise  in 
hearing,  for  the  first  time,  a brute  animal  speak 
with  the  voice  of  a man — an  explanation  more 
natural  than  that  adopted  by  Bishop  Patrick. 
He  was  of  opinion  that  the  tempter  assumed  the 
form  of  a beautiful  winged  serpent,  whose  bright 
golden  colour  made  him,  when  flying,  to  be  re- 
splendent like  fire.  Of  this  kind,  he  informs 
us,  were  the  serpents  in  the  wilderness  which 
destroyed  the  rebellious  Israelites1.  They  are 
called  seraphim , from  a root  which  signifies  “ to 
burn”  “ The  angels  of  the  presence”  were  also 
called  seraphim , from  a similar  glorious  appear- 
ance2. The  advocates  of  this  opinion  suppose 
that  Eve  took  the  serpent-tempter  for  one  of 
these  heavenly  messengers,  come  down  to  en- 
lighten her;  “ for  she  was  not  so  simple  as  to 
think  that  beasts  could  speak3.”  This  opinion  is 
1 Numb.  xxi.  6 — 8.  * Isaiah  vi.  2 — 6.  3 Bishop  Patrick. 



defended  by  the  expression  of  St.  Paul  (2  Cor. 
xi.  14), — “ Satan  is  transformed  into  an  angel 
of  light”  In  the  same  chapter,  he  previously 
expresses  his  fears  lest,  “ as  the  serpent  beguiled 
Eve  through  his  subtilt^,”  so  the  Corinthians 
“ should  be  corrupted  from  the  simplicity  which 
is  in  Christ.”  It  is  contended  that  St.  Paul,  in 
noticing  the  transformation  of  Satan  into  an 
“ angel  of  light,”  alludes  to  the  deception  of 
Eve  by  the  serpent.  But  this  does  not  neces- 
sarily appear  from  the  argument  of  the  apostle  : 
it  is  quite  as  likely  that  he  refers  to  the  tempta- 
tion of  our  Lord,  when  Satan  did  probably  ap- 
pear as  “ an  angel  of  light.” 

But  if  Eve  took  the  serpent  for  a seraph — a 
divine  messenger  sent  to  remove  the  prohibition 
from  the  tree  of  knowledge — how  happened  it 
that,  when  questioned  by  her  Creator,  “ What 
is  this  that  thou  hast  done?”  she  answered, 
unhesitatingly,  “ the  serpent  beguiled  me,  and  I 
did  eat.”  A reply  which  amounts  to  conclusive 
evidence  that  she  believed  the  tempter  to  be  a 
real  serpent.  As  a terrestrial  animal,  the  de- 
ceiver is  cursed — “ Upon  thy  belly  thou  shalt 
go,  and  dust  shalt  thou  eat  all  the  days  of  thy 
life.”  This  curse  applies  not  to  a spiritual  being. 

c 2 



Moreover  the  word,  which  we  translate  “ ser- 
pent,” is,  in  the  original,  not  “ seraph ,”  but 
“ nachash ” throughout.  Conformably  to  which, 
the  Septuagint  employ  the  word  ocjng. 

There  is  every  ground,  therefore,  for  accepting 
the  temptation  and  fall  of  man  in  the  literal. 
sense  of  the  Scripture,  which  reveals  them  to 
our  faith. 

That  the  devil,  on  this  occasion,  assumed  the 
form  of  one  of  the  angelic  seraphim,  was  a tra- 
dition of  the  East,  adopted  or  invented  by  the 
Doctors  of  the  Jewish  Church.  Rabbi  Bechai, 
on  Gen.  iii.  14,  observes  : “ This  is  the  secret 
(or  mystery)  of  the  holy  language,  that  a serpent 
is  called  saraph , as  an  angel  is  called  saraph ;” 
and  “ hence  the  Scriptures  called  serpents  sera- 
phim (Numb.  xxi.  6 — 8),  because  they  were  the 
offspring  of  this  old  saraph1  ” The  seraphim  of 
the  wilderness  are  proved  by  Bochart  to  have 
been  the  same  as  those  called  in  Isaiah  (xix.  29. 
and  xxx.  6),  <c  fiery  flying  serpents.”  Whether 
the  epithet  “ flying  ” was  a metaphor  for  velocity, 
or  whether  it  meant  that  these  creatures  had 
actually  wings , is  uncertain  ; it  is  certain,  how- 
ever, that  tradition  had  invested  both  the  celestial 
1 Bishop  Patrick  in  loc. 



and  terrestrial  seraphim  with  wings  : and  hence 
the  notion  that  the  Paradisiacal  serpent  was  a 
“ winged”  creature.  Hence,  also,  the  poetical 
fiction  of  winged  dragons , as  guardians  of  treasure 
and  protectors  of  female  innocence.  For,  singu- 
larly enough,  the  malevolent  actions  of  the 
Paradisiacal  serpent  had  a colouring  given  by 
heathen  mythologists  diametrically  opposite  to 
the  reality.  The  seducer  of  Eve  is  thus  per- 
versely termed  the  protector  of  maiden  virtue  ; 
and  the  tempter,  who  induced  her  to  pluck  the 
forbidden  fruit,  is  the  guardian  of  the  golden 
apples  in  the  Garden  of  the  Hesperides.  So 
powerful  is  “ the  Prince  of  this  World”  to  de- 
lude his  victims  ! 

Adam,  then,  was  free , as  created  for  God’s 
glory ; pure , as  the  similitude  of  his  spotless 
nature  ; perfect , as  the  temple  of  his  Holy  Spirit. 
Of  created  things,  the  last  and  best  on  earth, 
he  came  into  existence  on  the  eve  of  God’s  holy 
rest ; and  the  first  duty  to  which  he  was  called, 
was  the  celebration  of  the  Sabbath.  Consti- 
tuted, as  he  was,  with  the  capacity  to  compre- 
hend, and  the  inclination  to  adore  his  Maker, 
he  was  created  to  be  happy.  The  most  perfect 
soul  in  the  most  perfect  body,  and  each  endued 



with  ability  to  enjoy  the  most  perfect  happiness 
of  its  nature,  characterized  the  noblest  of  ter- 
restrial beings.  Had  he  continued  in  obedience, 
he  would  have  continued  in  happiness ; but, 
alas  ! the  union  of  excellence,  which  conciliated 
the  goodwill  of  the  good  angels,  excited  and  ex- 
asperated the  envy  of  the  bad.  In  an  hour  of 
weakness,  the  tempter  came  : with  the  voice 
of  kindness,  he  insinuated  distrust  in  God ; the 
insidious  appeal  was  heard  ; the  forbidden  tree 
was  tasted: — “ the  eyes”  of  man  “were  opened” 
— but  his  soul  was  lost ! And  in  this  state  it 
continued,  until,  by  the  sacrifice  of  the  Re- 
deemer— by  the  bruising  of  his  heel,  who 
should  bruise  the  serpent’s  head — that  which 
had  been  “ dead”  was  “alive  again;”  that 
which  had  been  “ lost”  was  “ found.” 

II.  Allusions  to  the  original  Innocence , and  subse- 
quent Fall  of  Man , by  Heolhen  Authors. 

We  have  regarded  the  Fall  of  Man  as  an  his- 
torical fact,  demonstrable  by  reason.  We  may, 
therefore,  very  properly  require  traces  of  this 



event  in  the  opinions  and  traditions  of  people 
upon  whom  the  light  of  revelation  never  shone. 
All  are  descended  from  the  same  family  in  the 
ark,  and  it  is  more  than  probable  that  some 
vestiges  of  the  original  history  of  man  were  pre- 
served in  the  traditions  of  the  more  enlightened 
Gentiles.  Such  is  the  conclusion  of  unprejudiced 
reason ; and,  in  full  accordance,  it  has  been  as- 
certained, that  the  philosopher,  the  mythologist, 
and  the  uneducated  idolater  of  every  nation,  bears 
witness  in  his  writings,  in  his  fables,  or  in  his 
religion,  to  the  truth  of  the  Mosaic  history. 

It  is  unnecessary  to  remind  the  classical  reader, 
that  the  degeneracy  of  mankind  is  a common 
topic  of  complaint  with  the  philosophers  of  Greece 
and  Rome.  But  a few  brief  references  to  esta- 
blish this  position  may  not  be  deemed  super- 
fluous, as  they  will  greatly  illustrate  the  argu- 
ments of  the  subsequent  pages. 

1 . The  writings  of  Plato  abound  with  allusions 
to  the  degeneracy  of  mankind.  So  closely  do 
his  ideas  on  this  subject  approach  the  truth,  that 
Bishop  Stillingfleet  has  not  scrupled  to  affirm, 
“ he  must  have  known  more  of  the  lapse  of 
mankind  than  he  would  openly  discover1:”  and 
1 Orig.  Sacr.  1.  3.  c.  3. 



Gale  was  so  persuaded  of  the  same  thing,  that 
he  made  it  the  chief  object  of  his  elaborate  work 
to  show  that  the  Gentile  philosopher  had  drank 
deeply  of  the  fountain  of  sacred  truth.  He  cites 
with  approbation  a saying  of  Numenius,  the  Py- 
thagorean, T 1 yap  earl  ITXarwv  r)  Mwutnjc  arrifa£wv  j 
“ What  is  Plato , hut  Moses  speaking  the  language 
of  Athens ?”  Led  away  by  the  glare  of  this  strong 
resemblance,  the  learned  Gale  ascribed  the  agree- 
ment to  plagiarism : but  it  is  more  than  probable 
that  the  fountain  at  which  Plato  drank  the  truth, 
was  the  broad  but  troubled  stream  of  patriarchal 
tradition,  which  irrigated  alike  the  fertile  and 
the  barren  mind,  in  every  region  of  the  globe. 

Among  other  striking  passages  in  the  writings 
of  that  philosopher,  is  the  following: — “ These 
causes  of  our  wickedness  are  derived  from  our  pa- 
rents, and  from  our  constitutions,  rather  than  from 
ourselves ; for  while  we  recoil  from  the  works  of 
our  ancestors  they  are  not  idle1:”  as  much  as  to 
say,  that  there  is  within  us,  by  inheritance,  a 
principle  of  sin,  continually  at  war  with  the 
principle  of  righteousness  ; “ a law  in  our  mem- 
bers warring  against  the  law  of  our  minds,  and 
bringing  us  into  captivity  to  the  law  of  sin, 

1 Timseus,  103. 



which  is  in  our  members1.”  This  notion  is  very 
nearly  allied  to  the  dogma  of  the  Persians  con- 
cerning the  two  innate  principles,  the  good  and 
the  evil,  of  which  we  read  in  the  very  interest- 
ing story  of  Araspes  and  Panthea,  related  by 

This  state  of  the  soul  the  philosopher  terms 
“ a moral  or  spiritual  death;”  and  upon  the  au- 
thority of  “ wise  men”  by  whom  Gale  conjectures 
that  he  must  have  meant  “ Jewish  priests:”  more 
probably,  perhaps,  Egyptian , with  whom  he  is 
known  to  have  conversed  familiarly. — “ I have 
heard  from  wise  men , that  we  are  now  dead , and 
that  the  body  is  our  sepulchre3 .” 

The  change  of  nature  which  ensued  imme- 
diately after  the  fall  of  man,  may  be  alluded  to 
by  the  same  philosopher  in  his  discourse  of  the 
imaginary  island  of  Atlantis,  which,  upon  the 
division  of  the  earth  between  the  gods,  fell  to 
the  lot  of  Vulcan  and  Minerva4.  There  they 
created  mortals  of  a superior  mould,  who  lived 
in  the  unbounded  enjoyment  of  happiness  and 
peace. — “ For  many  ages,  as  long  as  they  were 
under  the  influence  of  this  divine  nature , they  were 

2 Cyrop.  lib.  8. 

4 Critias. 

Rom.  vii.  23. 
Georgias,  493. 



obedient  to  the  laws,  and  well-affected  to  the 

gods,  to  whom  they  were  kindred . . . . but 

when  the  divine  nature , which  was  in  them , became 
frequently  mingled  with  the  mortal , and  the  hu- 
man inclination  prevailed , being  unable  to  bear 
present  calamities,  they  disgraced  themselves  : 
and,  to  those  who  could  see  them,  appeared 
base,  having  lost  the  most  beautiful  of  their 

precious  possessions The  Jupiter,  the  god 

of  gods, perceiving  this  honourable  race 

lying  in  a state  of  depravity,  and  being  desirous 

of  punishing  them called  together  all  the 

gods,”  &c. 

In  the  Atlantis  of  Plato,  we  may,  I think, 
discover  the  Eden  of  Scripture ; and  in  the 
lapse  of  the  Atlantians  from  virtue  and  the 
divine  nature,  the  fall  of  Adam  from  purity 
and  the  image  of  God.  The  state  of  mankind, 
at  the  time  of  the  deluge,  is,  doubtless,  blended 
with  the  tradition  ; for  we  find  that  the  island 
Atlantis  was  submerged  in  the  ocean.  But  the 
want  of  authentic  records  of  the  period  interme- 
diate between  the  fall  and  the  deluge,  left  the 
heathen,  in  a great  measure,  ignorant  of  ante- 
diluvian history.  Hence  their  frequent  confu- 
sion of  the  characters  of  Adam  and  Noah,  and 



the  identification  of  their  histories  in  mythology. 
Of  these  we  have  constant  proofs  in  the  fables 
which  have  been  transmitted  to  us,  as  we  shall 
observe  in  the  progress  of  this  volume.  In  the 
council  of  Jupiter,  to  consider  the  depravity  of 
the  Atlantians,  we  may  recognize  a similarity  to 
the  council  of  the  Holy  Trinity  : “ Behold  the  man 
is  become  as  one  of  us,  to  know  good  and  evil.” 

The  corruption  thus  acknowledged  by  Plato 
to  exist  in  mankind,  is  elsewhere  represented 
by  him  as  “a  general  depravation  of  the  under- 
standing, the  will , and  the  affections”  The  cor- 
ruption of  the  understanding  he  describes  under 
the  allegory  of  “ a person  who,  from  his  infancy, 
lay,  neck  and  heels  together,  in  a dark  dun- 
geon, where  he  could  only  see  some  imperfect 
shadows,  by  means  of  a fire  kindled  at  the 
top.”  Whence  he  concludes  that  “ the  eye  of 
the  soul  is  immersed  in  the  barbaric  gulf  of 
ignorance1  ” 

2.  To  the  testimony  of  Plato  may  be  added 
that  of  Hierocles,  a disciple  of  the  Platonic 
school,  whose  Commentary  on  the  Golden 
Verses  of  Pythagoras  very  closely  approaches 
Scripture  truth. — “ Most  men  are  bad,  and  under 

1 Gale.  Court  of  the  Gentiles , 1.  3.  63. 



the  influence  of  their  passions ; and,  from  their 
propensity  to  earth,  are  grown  impotent  of  mind. 
But  this  evil  they  have  brought  upon  themselves 
by  their  wilful  apostasy  from  God , and  by  with- 
drawing themselves  from  that  communion  with 
him , which  they  once  enjoyed  in  pure  light1 .” 

3.  If  we  ascend  to  authority  of  more  remote 
date,  we  shall  find  in  “ the  Golden  Verses” 
themselves  this  remarkable  sentiment:  “Men 
are  grown  miserable  through  their  own  fault”  An 
expression  which  argues  in  Pythagoras,  as  well 
as  Plato,  “ more  acquaintance  with  the  truth 
than  he  is  inclined  to  discover.” 

4.  If,  from  the  meditations  of  philosophers, 
we  pass  to  the  imaginations  of  poets,  we  shall 
find  that  neither  Homer  nor  Hesiod  were  igno- 
rant of  the  degeneracy  of  mankind.  In  the 
poetic  fiction  of  “ the  Golden  Age”  we  shall 
recognize  a clear  trace  of  the  original  purity  of 
man,  whose  fall  and  corruption  may  be  as  clearly 
traced  in  the  subsequent  ages  of  deterioration. 
The  opinion  of  Homer,  that  “ few  children  are 
like  their  fathers,  the  majority  worse 2,”  illustrates 
the  poetical  conceit  so  beautifully  imagined  by 

1 Cited  by  Stillingfleet.  Orig.  Sac.  book  iii.  c.  3.  s.  15. 

2 Odyss.  ii.  27 6. 



Hesiod  : — “ Dreadfully  did  the  second  race  de- 
generate from  the  virtues  of  the  first.  They  were 
men  of  violence  ; they  had  no  pleasure  in  wor- 
shipping the  immortal  gods ; they  experienced 
no  delight  in  offering  up  to  them  those  sacrifices 
which  duty  required1.” 

So  clearly  did  the  mind  of  Hesiod  apprehend 
the  real  state  of  mankind,  that,  in  his  fable  of 
Pandora,  he  seems  but  to  paraphrase  the  story 
of  Adam  and  Eve.  Pandora  was  a female  to 
whom  every  god  and  goddess  imparted  a virtue 
or  an  accomplishment : she  was  made  from  clay , 
to  he  the  wife  of  the  man  Prometheus , whose  na- 
ture and  origin  were  of  a more  elevated  caste. 
He  was  the  son  of  Japetus,  a demigod,  who  was 
the  son  of  Ccelus — i.  e.  heaven  deified.  Prome- 
theus is  represented  as  irreverent  towards  the  gods. 
Among  other  things,  Pandora  was  presented 
with  a beautiful  casket  by  Jupiter,  which  she 
was  to  offer  as  a nuptial  dowry  to  her  husband  ; 
but  ordered,  at  the  same  time,  on  no  account  to 
open  it.  Prometheus  did  not  marry  her,  being 
suspicious  of  the  design  of  Jupiter  ; but  sent  her 
to  his  brother,  whose  wife  she  became.  Through 
inordinate  curiosity , he  opened  the  casket,  and 
1 Oper.  et  Dier.  i.  126. 



from  it  issued  all  the  evils  which  have  ever  since 
afflicted  mankind.  Hope  alone  remained  at  the 
bottom,  to  assuage  the  sorrows  which  Evil  had 

In  this  fable  we  perceive,  with  a little  varia- 
tion, a beautifully  wrought  description  of  the  fall 
of  Adam,  with  a delicately  poetical  allusion  to 


5.  The  Latin  writers  are  as  explicit  in  their 
opinion  of  the  corruption  of  man  as  the  Greek. 
Among  the  philosophers,  Cicero  and  Seneca  ; 
among  the  poets,  Virgil,  Ovid,  Horace,  Juvenal, 
Lucretius,  Catullus, — agree  in  representing  the 
present  state  of  man  as  degenerate.  It  would 
be  tedious  to  transcribe,  or  even  enumerate,  their 
testimonies,  since  many  of  the  passages  are  fa- 
miliar to  the  classical  reader.  We  may,  howr- 
ever,  remark,  that  no  Christian  scholar  should 
fail  to  impress  upon  his  memory  the  splendid 
description  of  “ The  Four  Ages,”  which  is  pre- 
sented in  the  first  book  of  “ the  Metamor- 
phoses,” by  Ovid.  If  anything  can  add  to  its 
beauty  and  elegance,  it  is  the  close  relation  which 
it  bears  to  Scriptural  truth. 

That  man  had  fallen  from  a condition  of  greater 
purity,  was,  therefore,  the  belief  of  the  mytholo- 



gist,  poet,  and  philosopher,  of  Greece  and  Rome. 
It  was,  moreover,  the  belief  of  every  nation 
whose  religion  was  moulded  into  system,  or  the 
system  of  whose  religion  is  not  altogether  unin- 
telligible. It  was  the  belief  of  the  Celts  and 
Druids  ; and  “ the  Brahmins  of  Hindostan  have 
an  entire  Purana  on  the  subject : the  story  is 
there  told  as  related  by  Moses ; the  facts  uni- 
formly correspond,  and  the  consequences  are 
equally  tremendous1.”  It  was  the  belief  of  all 
the  nations  surrounding  Syria  ; it  penetrated 
into  the  remote  regions  of  the  Persian  monarchy ; 
and  it  may  be  recognized  in  the  mythology  of 
Egypt.  Of  these  I shall  adduce  proofs  in  the 
sequel.  But  if  there  were  no  other  indication 
of  this  Scriptural  doctrine,  the  universal  pre- 
valence of  expiatory  sacrifices  would  declare 
it.  “ For  unless  an  idea  of  lost  integrity  had 
pervaded  the  whole  world,  and  unless  the  doc- 
trine of  such  an  aberration  had  been  handed 
down  from  the  most  remote  antiquity,  it  is  im- 
possible to  account  for  the  universal  establish- 
ment of  so  very  peculiar  an  ordinance2.” 

It  is  not  only  to  the  existence  of  a natural 

1 Faber.  Hor.  Mos.  i.  66,  citing  Maurice  Ind.  Antiq. 

2 Faber.  Hor.  Mos.  i.  59. 




corruption  in  man,  that  the  philosophy  of  hea- 
thenism so  strongly  alludes ; but  minuter  traces 
of  the  fall  are  to  be  recognized  in  the  tradi- 
tionary legends  of  heathen  mythology.  The 
most  remarkable  corroboration,  however,  of  the 
Mosaic  history,  is  to  be  found  in  those  fables 
which  involve  the  mythological  serpent,  and 
in  the  worship  which  was  so  generally  offered 
to  him  throughout  the  world. 

The  worship  of  the  serpent  may  be  traced 
in  almost  every  religion  through  ancient  Asia, 
Europe,  Africa,  and  America.  The  progress 
of  the  sacred  serpent  from  Paradise  to  Peru  is 
one  of  the  most  remarkable  phenomena  in 
mythological  history ; and  to  be  accounted 
for  only  upon  the  supposition  that  a corrupted 
tradition  of  the  serpent  in  Paradise  had  been 
handed  down  from  generation  to  generation. 
But  how  an  object  of  abhorrence  could  have 
been  exalted  into  an  object  of  veneration, 
must  be  referred  to  the  subtilty  of  the  arch 
enemy  himself,  whose  constant  endeavour  has 
been  rather  to  corrupt  than  obliterate  the  true 
faith,  that,  in  the  perpetual  conflict  between 
truth  and  error,  the  mind  of  man  might  be  more 
surely  confounded  and  debased.  Among  other 



devices,  that  of  elevating  himself  into  an  object 
of  adoration,  has  ever  been  the  most  cherished. 
It  was  this  which  he  proposed  to  our  Lord  : 
“ All  these  things  will  I give  thee,  if  thou  wilt 
fall  down  and  worship  me  V’  We  cannot  there- 
fore wonder  that  the  same  being  who  had  the 
presumption  to  make  such  a proposal  to  the  Son 
of  God,  should  have  had  the  address  to  insinuate 
himself  into  the  worship  of  the  children  of  men. 
In  this  he  was,  unhappily,  but  too  well  seconded 
by  the  natural  tendency  of  human  corruption. 
The  unenlightened  heathen,  in  obedience  to  the 
voice  of  nature,  acknowledged  his  dependence 
upon  a superior  being.  His  reason  assured  him 
that  there  must  be  a God ; his  conscience 
assured  him  that  God  was  good ; but  he  felt 
and  acknowledged  the  prevalence  of  evil,  and 
attributed  it,  naturally,  to  an  evil  agent.  But 
as  the  evil  agent  to  his  unillumined  mind 
seemed  as  omnipotent  as  the  good  agent,  he 
worshipped  both ; the  one , that  he  might  pro- 
pitiate his  kindness  ; the  other , that  he  might 
avert  his  displeasure.  The  great  point  of  devil- 
worship  being  gained — namely,  the  acknowledg- 
ment of  the  evil  spirit  as  God — the  transition  to 
1 Matt.  iv.  9. 




idolatry  became  easy.  The  mind  once  darkened 
by  the  admission  of  an  allegiance  divided  be- 
tween God  and  Satan,  became  gradually  more 
feeble  and  superstitious,  until  at  length  sensible 
objects  were  called  in  to  aid  the  weakness  of 
degraded  intellect ; and  from  their  first  form  as 
symbols , passed  rapidly  through  the  successive 
stages  of  apotheosis,  until  they  were  elevated 
into  gods.  Of  these  the  most  remarkable  was 
the  serpent  ; upon  the  basis  of  tradition,  re- 
garded, first,  as  the  symbol  of  the  malignant 
being  ; subsequently,  considered  talismanic  and 
oracular ; and,  lastly,  venerated  and  worshipped 
as  DIVINE. 

As  a symbol,  the  serpent  was  by  some  nations 
attributed  to  the  good,  and  by  others  to  the 
evil  deity.  Among  the  Egyptians  it  was  an 
emblem  of  the  good  daemon ; while  the  mythology 
of  Hindustan,  Scandinavia,  and  Mexico,  consi- 
dered it  as  characteristic  of  the  evil  spirit. 

That  in  the  warmer  regions  of  the  globe, 
where  this  creature  is  the  most  formidable 
enemy  which  man  can  encounter,  the  serpent 
should  be  considered  the  mythological  attendant 
of  the  evil  being,  is  not  surprising  : but  that  in 
the  frozen  or  temperate  regions  of  the  earth, 




where  lie  dwindles  into  the  insignificance  of  a 
reptile  without  power  to  create  alarm,  he  should 
be  regarded  in  the  same  appalling  character,  is 
a fact  which  cannot  be  accounted  for  by  natural 
causes.  Uniformity  of  tradition  can  alone  satis- 
factorily explain  uniformity  of  superstition,  where 
local  circumstances  are  so  discordant. 

The  serpent  is  the  symbol  which  most  generally 
enters  into  the  mythology  of  the  world.  It  may 
in  different  countries  admit  among  its  fellow- 
satellites  of  Satan,  the  most  venomous  or  the 
most  terrible  of  the  animals  in  each  country ; 
but  it  preserves  its  own  constancy,  as  the  only 
invariable  object  of  superstitious  terror  throughout 
the  habitable  world.  4 4 Wherever  the  Devil 
reigned,”  remarks  Stillingfleet,  44  the  serpent 
was  held  in  some  peculiar  veneration.”  The 
universality  of  this  worship,  I propose  to  show 
in  the  subsequent  pages  : and  having  shown  it, 
shall  feel  justified  in  drawing  the  conclusion, 
that  the  narrative  of  Moses  is  most  powerfully 
corroborated  by  the  prevalence  of  this  singular 
and  irrational,  yet  natural  superstition.  Irrational 
— for  there  is  nothing  in  common  between  deity 
and  a reptile,  to  suggest  the  notion  of  serpent- 
worship  ; and  natural , because  allowing  the 

n 2 



truth  of  the  events  in  Paradise,  every  probability 
is  in  favour  of  such  a superstition  springing  up. 
For  it  is  more  than  probable  that  Satan  should 
erect  as  the  standard  of  idolatry  the  stumbling- 
block  ascertained  to  be  fatal  to  man.  By  so 
doing,  he  would  not  only  receive  the  homage 
which  he  so  ardently  desired  from  the  beginning, 
but  also  be  perpetually  reminded  of  his  victory 
over  Adam,  than  which  no  gratification  can  be 
imagined  more  fascinating  to  his  malignant 
mind.  It  was  his  device,  therefore,  that  since 
by  the  temptation  of  the  serpent  man  fell,  by 
the  adoration  of  the  serpent  he  should  continue 
to  fall. 







The  worship  of  the  serpent  is  supposed  by 
Bryant  to  have  commenced  in  Chaldsea  ; and  to 
have  been  the  “ first  variation  from  the  purer 
Zabaism  V* 

That  it  was  intimately  connected  with  Zabaism 
cannot  be  doubted ; for  the  most  prevailing 
emblem  of  the  solar  god  was  the  serpent  2 : and 
wherever  the  Zabsean  idolatry  was  the  religion, 
the  serpent  was  the  sacred  symbol.  But  the 
universality  of  serpent-worship,  and  the  strong 
traces  which  it  has  left  in  astronomical  mytho- 
logy, seem  to  attest  an  origin  coeval  with  Zabaism 

The  earliest  authentic  record  of  serpent- 
worship  is  to  be  found  in  the  astronomy  of 
Chaldaea  and  China  ; but  the  extensive  diffusion 
of  this  remarkable  superstition  through  the  re- 

1 Analysis  of  Anc.  Myth.  ii.  458. 

2 Macrobius  Saiurnal.  lib.  i.  c.  20. 



maining  regions  of  the  globe,  where  Chinese 
wisdom  never  penetrated,  and  Chaldsean  philo- 
sophy was  but  feebly  reflected,  authorizes  the 
inference  that  neither  China  nor  Chaldsea  was 
the  mother,  but  that  both  were  the  children  of 
this  idolatry.  That  accidental  circumstances 
very  materially  affected  the  religions  of  the  early 
heathen  at  different  times,  by  introducing  inno- 
vations both  in  gods  and  altars,  worship  and 
sacrifices,  cannot  be  denied ; but  it  is  equally 
true,  that  uniformly  with  the  progress  of  the  first 
deviation  from  the  truth,  has  advanced  the  sacred 
serpent  from  Paradise  to  Peru.  To  follow  the 
traces  of  this  sacred  serpent  is  the  intention  of 
the  following  treatise  : and  it  is  confidently  ex- 
pected that  few  ancient  nations  of  any  celebrity 
will  be  found  which  have  not,  at  some  time  or 
other,  admitted  the  serpent  into  their  religion, 
either  as  a symbol  of  divinity , or  a charm , or  an 
oracle , or  a god1.  Into  the  creed  of  some  he 

1 The  universality  of  serpent-worship  is  alluded  to  by  Lucan 
in  these  memorable  lines  : — 

“ Vos  quoque,  qui  cunctis  innoxia  Numina  terris 
Serpitis,  aurato  nitidi  fulgore,  Dracones.” 

Phars.  lib.  ix.  727. 

Draco  is  the  general  term  to  signify  all  large  serpents. 



has  insinuated  himself  in  all  these  characters, 
and  is  so  mixed  up  with  their  traditions  of  the 
origin  and  end  of  evil,  that  we  cannot,  without 
violence  to  all  rules  of  probability,  reject  the 
consequence — that  the  prototype  of  this  idolatry 

1.  Babylon. — In  tracing  the  progress  of  the 
sacred  serpent,  we  commence  with  Asia,  as  the 
mother  country  of  mankind  ; and  in  Asia,  with 
Babylon,  as  the  most  ancient  seat  of  an  esta- 
blished priesthood. 

The  information  which  we  possess  concerning 
the  minute  features  of  Babylonian  idolatry,  is 
from  various  causes  very  narrowly  circumscribed. 
Either  the  classical  writers  who  visited  Babylon 
were  not  admitted  into  the  arcana  of  the  Chal- 
daean  worship,  or  they  were  contented  with 
giving  a short  and  summary  account  of  it ; ex- 
pending the  chief  strength  of  their  descriptive 
powers  upon  the  history,  policy,  and  magni- 
ficence of  the  mother  of  cities.  Herodotus, 
whose  diffuseness  on  the  history  and  customs  of 
the  Babylonians  is  considerable,  enters  but  little 
into  their  religion;  and  Diodorus  Siculus,  minute 
in  his  measurements  of  the  walls  and  gardens, 



comprises  his  description  of  the  temple  of  Belus 
in  a few  sentences.  Ophiolatreia,  as  a recognized 
religion,  was  nearly  extinct  when  Diodorus 
visited  Babylon,  for  the  city  was  almost  de- 
serted by  its  inhabitants,  and  the  public  edifices 
were  crumbling  to  decay.  But  the  silence  of 
Herodotus  is  the  more  remarkable,  since  he 
mentions  the  serpent-worship  of  both  Egypt  and 
Greece,  which  was  prevalent  in  his  time.  The 
idolatry  could  scarcely  be  obsolete  in  Babylon 
at  that  period,  since  it  existed  in  full  vigour  but 
seventy  years  before,  in  the  days  of  Daniel;  and 
though  it  received  a signal  overthrow  from  its 
exposure  by  that  prophet,  yet  the  tumultuous 
conduct  of  the  Babylonians  on  that  occasion,  as 
it  evinces  their  attachment  to  the  idolatry,  war- 
rants the  inference  that  they  would  cling  to  it 
long  after  its  abolition,  even  by  a royal  decree  \ 
But  most  probably  Herodotus  did  not  take  the 
trouble  to  inquire  into  the  superstitions  of  the 
common  people,  being  content  to  describe  what 
was  the  established  religion ; and  even  this  he 
notices  in  a very  cursory  manner. 

From  Diodorus,  however,  we  learn  what  is 
sufficient  to  assure  us,  that  the  serpent,  as  an 

1 Bel  and  the  Dragon,  v.  28. 



object  of  worship,  was  not  altogether  forgotten 
in  Babylon,  though  disguised  under  the  more 
specious  appearance  of  symbolical  sanctity.  He 
informs  us,  that  in  the  temple  of  Bel,  or  Belus, 
was  44  an  image  of  the  goddess  Rhea,  sitting  on 
a golden  throne  ; at  her  knees  stood  two  lions, 
and  near  her  very  large  serpents  of  silver, 
thirty  talents  each  in  weight.”  There  was  also 
4 4 an  image  of  Juno,  holding  in  her  right  hand 
the  head  of  a serpent1.” 

The  name  of  the  national  god  Bel  is  supposed 
to  signify  nothing  more  than  44  Lord ;”  and  was 
also  sometimes  appropriated  to  deified  heroes 2. 
It  is  more  probably  an  abbreviation  of  OB-EL  3, 
— 44  The  Serpent-god '.”  The  Greeks,  remarks 
Bryant,  called  him  Beliar,  which  is  singularly 
interpreted  by  Hesychius  to  signify  a dragon,  or 
great  serpent  4.  From  which  we  may  conclude 

1 Diod.  Sic.  lib.  ii.  s.  70. 

2 Kircher.  CEdip.  iEgyptiac.  i.  262. 

3 See  “ Serpent-worship  in  Syria.” 

4 Clemens  Alexandrinus  writes  BEAIAP  in  the  text.  2 Cor. 

vi.  15.  There  are  several  MSS.  of  this  epistle,  in  which  /SeXiap 
is  found  instead  of  — such  as  those  of  Lincoln,  Magdalen, 

and  New  Colleges,  in  Oxford,  and  Emmanuel  College  in  Cam- 
bridge.— Allwood.  Lit.  Antiq.  of  Greecey  244. 

Beliar  appears  to  be  a compound  of  BEL  and  AUR,  the 



that  the  serpent  was,  at  least , an  emblem  or 
symbol  of  Bel.  But  if  the  apocryphal  history 
of  “ Bel  and  the  Dragon”  be  founded  upon 
any  tradition,  we  must  conclude  that  the  dragon, 
or  serpent,  (for  the  words  are  synonymous,)  was 
something  more  than  a mere  symbol : we  must 
conclude,  that  live  serpents  were  kept  at 
Babylon  as  objects  of  adoration  ; or,  at  least , of 
veneration,  as  oracular  or  talismanic.  This 
custom  was  observed  at  Thebes  in  Egypt and 
at  Athens 2 ; and  therefore  there  is  nothing  in- 
credible in  the  fact  at  Babylon.  However 
suspiciously  then  we  may  regard  the  apocryphal 
writings  in  general,  we  are  constrained  to  admit 
that  the  author  of  “ Bel  and  the  Dragon,” 
though  he  may  have  embellished  the  narrative, 
has  given  us  a true  picture  of  Babylonian  super- 

“ In  that  same  place  there  was  a great 
dragon,  which  they  of  Babylon  worshipped. 
And  the  king  said  unto  Daniel,  ‘ Wilt  thou  say 
that  this  is  of  brass  ? lo  ! he  eateth  and  drinketh  : 

solar  deity , from  “ON,  light.  Belial  has  a similar  significa- 
tion, being  compounded  of  Bel  and  Al,  deus.  “ Iaul”  in 
the  Breton  language,  is  the  name  of  the  solar  deity. 

1 Herod,  ii.  74.  2 Herod,  viii.  41. 



thou  canst  not  say  he  is  no  living  god  : therefore 
worship  him.’  ” 

From  the  Chaldaeans,  we  are  told,  that  the 
Hebrews  obtained  the  word  Abadon,  as  a title 
of  the  “Prince  of  Darkness.”  This  word  may 
signify  “the  serpent-lord.”  Heinsius1  (cited 
by  Bryant)  makes  Abadon  to  be  the  same  as  the 
Grecian  Python.  “It  is  not  to  be  doubted  that 
the  Pythian  Apollo  is  that  evil  spirit  whom  the 
Hebrews  call  Ob  and  Abadon  ; the  Hellenists, 
Apollyon  ; and  the  other  Greeks,  Apollo. 
This  is  corroborated  by  the  testimony  of  St. 
John,  who  says,  “ They  had  a king  over  them 
which  is  the  angel  of  the  bottomless  pit,  whose 
name  in  the  Hebrew  tongue  is  Abadon ; but  in 
the  Greek  (Hellenistic)  tongue  hath  his  name 
Apollyon2.”  This  same  “angel  of  the  bottom- 
less pit,”  is  in  another  place  called  by  the 
Evangelist,  “ the  dragon , that  old  serpent  which 
is  the  Devil  and  Satan  3.” 

Subject  to  the  king  of  Babylon  was  Assyria  ; 
and  the  people  of  this  country  are  said  to  have 
borne  “a  dragon”  upon  their  standard4.  It  is 
observed  by  Bryant,  that  in  most  countries  the 

1 Aristarchus,  p.  11.  2 Rev.  ix.  11.  3 Rev.  xx.  1,2. 

4 Koch,  de  Cultu  Serpentum,  s.  7.  p.  30. 



original  military  standard  was  descriptive  of  the 
deity  they  worshipped.  It  is  certain  that  the 
Roman  soldiers  paid  great  veneration  to  their 
military  insignia,  almost  amounting  to  worship  : 
from  which  we  may  infer,  that  the  devices  on 
them  were,  originally,  emblems  of  the  gods. 
Their  chief  ensign,  the  eagle , was  sacred  to 
Jupiter.  From  the  practice  of  the  Romans,  we 
may  obtain  an  insight  into  that  of  the  other 
nations  of  antiquity ; for  in  matters  of  super- 
stition it  is  astonishing  how  nearly  people,  geo- 
graphically the  most  remote,  approached  each 

From  the  Assyrians,  the  emperors  of  Con- 
stantinople are  said  to  have  borrowed  the  dragon 
standard1.  The  same  standard  was  also  borne 
by  the  Parthians2,  Scythians3,  Saxons4,  Chinese, 
Danes 5,  and  Egyptians, — people  who  were  in  a 
greater  or  less  degree  addicted  to  serpent-worship. 
We  may  therefore  infer,  that  the  dragon  ensign 
of  the  Assyrians  denoted  their  devotion  to  the 
same  idolatry. 

1 Yossius  de  Idol.  lib.  iv.  c.  54,  citing  Codinus. 

2 Salmasius  Hist.  Aug.  Script.  96. 

3 Koch,  ut  supra. — Suidas. 

4 Stukely.  Abury.  56.  5 Koch. 



II.  Persia. — The  serpent-worship  of  Persia 
is  more  noticed  by  authors  than  that  of  Baby- 
lonia. The  dracontic  standard  distinguished 
the  Persians  as  well  as  the  Assyrians ; for 
among  the  spoils  taken  by  Aurelian  from  Ze- 
nobia  were  “ Persici  Dracones  1 which  were 
doubtless  military  ensigns,  for  the  Persians  as- 
sisted the  queen  of  Palmyra  on  that  occasion. 
This,  according  to  our  hypothesis,  would  denote 
that  the  Persians  venerated  the  serpent ; an  in- 
ference which  is  abundantly  proved  from  their 

In  the  mythology  of  Persia  we  may  look  for 
the  remnant  of  the  ancient  Chaldaean  philo- 
sophy : and  in  proportion  as  we  establish  the 
prevalence  of  ophiolatreia  in  Persia,  in  the 
same  proportion,  at  least , we  may  infer  that  it 
once  obtained  in  Babylon. 

So  strongly  marked  was  this  character  of 
idolatry  in  the  Persian  religion,  that  Eusebius 
does  not  hesitate  to  affirm,  “ they  all  worshipped 
the  first  principles  under  the  form  of  serpents, 
having  dedicated  to  them  temples  in  which  they 
performed  sacrifices,  and  held  festivals  and  orgies, 

Vopiscus  Hist.  Aug.  Script.  218. 



esteeming  them  the  greatest  of  gods,  and 


“ The  first  principles”  were  Ormuzd  and 
Ahriman,  the  good  and  evil  deity,  whose  con- 
tention for  the  universe  was  represented  in 
Persian  mythology,  by  two  serpents  contending 
for  the  mundane  egg.  They  are  standing  upon 
their  tails,  and  each  of  them  has  fastened  upon 
the  object  in  dispute  with  his  teeth.  The  egg 
for  which  they  contend,  represented  the  universe 
in  the  mythologies  of  India,  Egypt,  and  Persia. 
An  engraving  of  this  may  be  seen  in  Montfaucon. 
But  the  evil  principle  was  more  particularly 
represented  by  the  serpent,  as  we  may  infer 
from  a fable  in  the  Zenda  Vesta,  in  which  that 
deity  is  described  as  having  assumed  a serpent’s 
form  to  destroy  the  first  of  the  human  species , 
whom  he  accordingly  poisoned 2 . 

A similar  proof  occurs  in  the  Sadder  s,  where 
we  find  the  following  precept  : — “ When  you 
kill  serpents,  you  shall  repeat  the  Zenda  Vesta, 
and  thence  you  will  obtain  great  merit  : for  it  is 
the  same  as  if  you  had  killed  so  many  devils .” 
The  Zenda  Vesta  to  be  here  “ repeated”  might, 

1 Praep.  Evang.  i.  42.  2 Faber,  Hor.  Mos.  1.  72. 

3 Porta  47.  Apud  Hyde.  Rel.  Vet.  Pers.  478. 



perhaps,  be  that  portion  of  it  above  alluded  to — 
the  assumption  of  the  serpent’s  form  by  Ahri- 
man.  Connected  with  which,  doubtless,  was 
the  popular  belief  of  the  Persians,  that  in  the 
place  of  torment  in  the  other  world,  scorpions 
and  serpents  gnaw  and  sting  the  feet  of  the 
wicked  h 

The  God  Mithras  was  represented  encircled 
by  a serpent : and  in  his  rites  a custom  was 
observed  similar  to  that  practised  in  the  Mys- 
teries of  Sebazius 2 — a serpent  was  thrown  into 
the  bosom  of  the  initiated,  and  taken  out  at  the 
lower  parts  of  his  garments3.  In  Montfaucon, 
vol.  v.  are  some  plates  of  Mithras,  with  a lion’s 
head  and  a human  body ; and  round  him  is 
coiled  a large  winged  serpent.  In  the  Supple- 
ment to  vol.  i.  Montfaucon  gives  us  a representa- 
tion of  a stone  found  at  Lyons.  It  is  a rude 
stone,  exhibiting  the  head  of  a young  and  beard- 
less man.  Under  it  is  the  inscription,  “ Deo 
invicto  Mithir,  secundinus  dat  and  under 

1 This  creed  is  inculcated  in  the  Ardivaraf  Nameh,  a work 
on  the  ancient  religion  of  Persia. 

2 Maurice  Ind.  Ant.  iii.  199. 

3 Amobius,  lib.  v.  p.  171.  Jul.  Firm.  p.  23. 




the  inscription,  the  raised  figure  of  a large  ser - 
pent.  Mithras  was  styled  “ invictus,”  and  often 
represented  with  a youthful  countenance,  like 
that  of  Apollo. 

Mandelsoe,  who  visited  an  ancient  temple  at 
Mardasch,  saw  in  one  of  the  recesses,  “ a square 
pillar,  with  the  figure  of  a king  upon  it,  wor- 
shipping the  sun,  fire,  and  a serpent1.”  “On 
the  front  of  some  ancient  Persian  grottoes,  sa- 
cred to  the  solar  deity,  was  figured  a princely 
personage  approaching  an  altar,  on  which  the 
sacred  fire  is  burning.  Above  all  is  the  sun, 
and  the  figure  of  the  deity  in  a cloud,  with 
sometimes  a sacred  bandage,  at  other  times  a 
serpent  entwined  round  his  middle2.” 

This  is  the  God  Azon,  whose  name,  according 
to  Bryant,  signifies  “ the  sun.”  The  sacred 
girdle  round  his  waist  was  esteemed  an  emblem 
of  the  orbit  described  by  Zon,  the  sun.  Hence 
girdles  were  called  by  the  Greeks,  zones 3. 

This  deity  is  sometimes  represented  differ- 
ently 4,  as  a young  man  in  profile,  round  whose 

1 Mandelsoe,  Travels,  chap.  i. 

2 Bryant.  Anal.  i.  276  ; plate  in  vol.  ii.  406. 

3 Ibid.  ii.  407.  ‘ Ibid,  plate  406. 

Z onion.  J'ubfofieibvJ.G.  ScZJ?ivini7ton.  StPauls  Ocurck  Kiri,  & Waterbo  Hacz.  i/933 



waist  is  drawn  a ring  loosely  dependent.  Through 
the  lower  part  of  this  ring  passes  a serpent.  At 
the  upper  limb  of  the  circle,  behind  the  figure, 
is  a kind  of  mantle,  composed  of  expanded 

In  Koempfer’s  Amoenit.  Exot.  the  same  deity 
is  described  in  a third  form.  He  appears  termi- 
nating at  the  waist  in  a circle , which  is  composed 
of  a serpent : from  each  side  of  this  circle  proceed 
four  wings.  In  his  left  hand  he  holds  another 
circle,  or  ring,  composed,  like  the  former,  of  a 
serpent  biting  his  own  tail.  This  painting  was  at 
Persepolis.  Here  is  also,  in  Kcempfer,  p.  312, 
a figure  of  a priest  of  this  god,  who  appears  to 
be  approaching  an  altar  with  a serpent  in  his  left 
hand.  In  the  sky  above  is  a representation  of 
his  deity,  and  behind  the  God  is  the  Sun. 

The  hierogram  of  the  circle  wings  and  ser- 
pent is  one  of  the  most  curious  emblems  of 
Ophiolatreia,  and  may  be  recognised  in  almost 
every  country  where  Serpent- Worship  prevailed. 
It  forms  a prominent  feature  in  the  Persian, 
Egyptian,  and  Mexican  hieroglyphics.  China, 
Hindustan,  Greece,  Italy,  and  Asia  Minor,  as 
distinctly,  though  more  rarely,  exhibit  it ; and 
it  has  even  been  found  in  Britain.  It  seems  to 



have  been  a general  symbol  of  consecration , and 
as  such  is  alluded  to  by  the  poet  Persius  : 

Pinge  duos  angues ; pueri  sacer  est  locus. 

Sat.  I.  113. 

Here  two  snakes  are  mentioned,  which  is  the 
hierogram  of  the  worshippers  of  the  Two  Prin- 
ciples, each  of  whom  is  represented  by  a ser- 
pent. Often,  however,  only  one  serpent  appears 
issuing  from  the  winged  circle,  and  sometimes 
the  circle  is  shorn  of  its  wings.  As  a symbol  of 
consecration,  the  ophite  hierogram  appears  over 
the  portals  of  the  Egyptian  temples,  and  may  be 
recognised  even  in  those  of  Java.  The  Druids, 
however,  with  the  consistent  magnificence  wdiich 
characterized  their  religion,  transferred  the  sym- 
bol from  the  portal  to  the  whole  temple ; and 
instead  of  placing  the  circle  and  serpent  over  the 
entrance  into  their  sanctuaries,  erected  the  entire 
building  itself  in  the  form  of  the  ophite  hierogram. 
Abury  in  Wiltshire,  and  Stanton  Drew  in  Somer- 
setshire, are  interesting  examples  of  this  con- 
struction. The  former  represents  the  ophite 
hierogram  with  one  serpent,  the  latter  with  two ; 
the  circle  in  each  case  being  destitute  of  wings. 

On  the  ruins  of  Naki  Rustan,  in  Persia,  is  a 
beautiful  specimen  of  the  serpent  and  winged 



circle.  In  Egypt  the  hierogram  underwent  va- 
rious transformations,  of  which  the  annexed  plate 
gives  a description.  One  of  them,  No.  2,  is 
perhaps  the  device  from  which  Malachi  borrowed 
his  elegant  metaphor  of  “ the  Sun  of  Righte- 
ousness arising  with  healing  in  his  wings.” 

Selden  remarks,  that  the  figure  in  abbre- 
viated writing  among  the  Greeks,  signified 
Aaijuwv,  the  deity1.  The  same  figure,  according 
to  Kircher,  was  in  use  among  the  Brahmins  of 
Hindustan,  as  the  “ character  mundi  intelligi- 
bilis” ” — that  is,  of  the  Deity;  for  the  universe 
and  its  Creator  were  often  confounded  by  the 
ancient  heathen.  The  emblem  is  evidently  the 
globe  and  serpents  of  Egyptian  mythology.  In 
the  same  form  was  erected  the  celebrated  temple 
of  the  Druids  at  Abury  in  Wiltshire.  The  up- 
right stones  which  constituted  the  Adytum  and 
its  approaches,  correctly  delineated  the  circle, 
with  the  serpent  passing  through  it 3. 

In  China,  this  sacred  emblem  assumed  a form 

1 Seld.  on  Arund.  Marbles,  133,  cited  by  Stukely, 
Abury,  56. 

2 (Edip.  iEgyp.  vol.  iii.  p.  23. 

3 For  an  account  of  this  temple,  see  the  Chapter  on  Ophite 



unknown  in  other  countries.  The  serpents  were 
separated  from  the  annulus,  being  placed  on  each 
side  of  it,  regarding  each  other.  This  was  pro- 
bably a representation  of  the  two  principles 
claiming  the  universe.  This  sacred  ring  be- 
tween two  serpents,  is  very  common  on  the 
triumphal  arches  of  Pekin.  In  Table  XV.  of 
Baron  Vischer’s  Ancient  Architecture  \ is  an 
engraving  of  such  an  arch,  and  on  it  is  this 
hierogram  twice  depicted. 

But  the  most  remarkable  of  all  is  the  Mexican 
symbol.  Here  the  two  serpents,  intertwining, 
form  the  circle  with  their  own  bodies,  and  in  the 
mouth  of  each  of  them  is  a Human  head ! 

A similar  figure  was  assumed  by  the  Ophite 
hierogram  wdien  it  appeared  on  the  staff  of  Mer- 
cury, and  constituted  the  Caduceus.  The  ser- 
pents intertwining  formed  the  circle. 

The  origin  of  this  symbol  is  to  be  found  in  the 
deification  of  the  serpent  of  Paradise.  Its  real 
meaning  is  involved  in  much  mystery.  In  the 
former  edition  of  this  treatise  I advanced  the 
opinion,  that  it  meant  nothing  more  than  the 
icing ed  serpent  once  coiled.  But  further  consider- 
ation has  induced  me  to  give  up  this  conjecture 
2 Stukely,  Abury,  56. 




as  irreconcileable  with  the  connection  of  the  Ser- 
pent and  Globe.  The  most  probable  meaning 
may  be  that  which  I have  assigned  in  the  chap- 
ter on  Serpent  Temples  : namely,  that  it  is  the 
hierogram  of  the  Solar  Ophite  God  Ophel  or 
Apollo  ; and  assumed  its  present  shape  from 
the  union  of  the  two  idolatries  of  the  Serpent  and 
the  Sun.  For  the  grounds  of  this  conjecture  I 
refer  to  the  chapter  cited. 

At  all  events  it  is  certain,  that  the  tripartite 
emblem  of  the  Serpent , Wings , and  Circle , was  an 
hieroglyphic  of  the  Deity  ; and  this  is  sufficient 
for  the  purposes  of  my  argument. 

The  Egyptian  priests  of  a later  and  more  me- 
taphysical age,  understanding  this  to  be  the 
signification  of  the  hierogram,  addressed  them- 
selves to  the  task  of  discovering  the  mystery. 
A most  ingenious  theory  was  accordingly  devised 
by  Hermes  Trismegistus,  who  was  probably  the 
high-priest  of  the  God  Thoth,  or  “ Thrice-great 
Hermes,”  whose  name  he  assumed  in  compli- 
ance with  the  universal  custom  of  the  religion. 
The  God  Thoth  was  believed  to  have  been  the 
author  of  the  Egyptian  hieroglyphics. 

According  to  this  theory,  the  globe  typified 
the  simple  essence  of  God,  which  he  indiffer- 



ently  called  the  Father,  the  First  Mind,  the 
Supreme  W isdom . The  Serpent  emerging  from 
the  globe  was  the  vivifying  power  of  God, 
which  called  all  things  into  existence.  This  he 
named  the  Word. 

The  wings  implied  the  moving  or  penetra- 
tive power  of  God,  which  pervaded  all  things. 
This  he  called  love. 

The  whole  emblem  was  interpreted  to  repre- 
sent the  Supreme  Being  in  his  character  of 
Creator  and  Preserver1. 

The  definition  of  the  Deity  by  Trismegistus 
is  poetically  sublime  : “ God  is  a circle  whose 
centre  is  everywhere,  and  circumference 


The  above  description  of  the  ophite  hierogram, 
as  may  well  be  imagined,  has  persuaded  many 
an  ardent  friend  of  revelation  to  recognise  in 
this  symbol  of  the  hieroglyphical  learning  of 
Egypt,  the  mystery  of  the  Holy  Trinity.  Kir- 
cher,  Cudworth,  and  Maurice  have  all  embraced 
this  opinion ; but  the  more  cautious  Faber  3, 
with  the  arguments  of  all  before  him,  has  come 
to  the  conclusion,  that  the  doctrine  of  the  Tri- 

1 Kircher,  Pamph.  Obel.  399.  2 Ibid.  380. 

3 Dissert,  on  the  Cabiri,  1.  31G. 



nity,  in  its  Christian  sense,  was  unknown  to  the 

That  there  has  been  but  one  essential  religion 
among  the  servants  of  the  living  God,  from  the 
fall  to  the  present  hour,  no  reasonable  reader  of 
the  Holy  Scriptures  can  deny.  There  never 
has  been  a time  in  which  true  religion  has 
been  wholly  lost.  Some  few,  if  not  “ sqven 
thousand,”  have  always  been  “ left”  who  “ have 
not  bowed  the  knee  to  Baal.”  But  for  these 
few,  who  have  had  a right  knowledge  and  clear 
conception  of  the  Deity  as  revealed  to  Adam,  we 
must  look  among  the  holy  “ remnant,”  who 
were  at  one  time  confined  to  the  family  of 
Noah,  and  at  another  to  that  of  Abraham.  The 
rapidity  with  which  the  descendents  of  Noah  fell 
into  Polytheism  forbids  our  being  too  sanguine 
in  the  hope  of  discovering  the  doctrine  of  the 
Trinity  among  the  Gentiles.  This  doctrine  itself  \ 
corruptly  remembered , perhaps  gave  rise  to  that 
very  Polytheism  which  at  length  obliterated  almost 
every  trace  of  rational  religion  in  the  world. 

If  then  “ the  globe,  wings,  and  serpent,”  was 
among  the  Egyptians  the  hieroglyphic  of  the 
Trinity,  we  must  suppose  that  the  priests  ac- 
quired this  doctrine  from  their  intercourse  with 



the  Israelites,  rather  than  from  any  tradition  of 
their  ancestors.  In  this  case,  Joseph  would  be 
the  Hermes  Trismegistus,  so  lauded  in  Egyptian 
history,  (as  Bryant , indeed , supposes  he  was.) 
Joseph  is  said  to  have  “ taught”  the  Egyptian 
“ senators  wisdom  l:”  but  not , I apprehend,  in  a 
religious  sense.  The  edict  of  Pharaoh,  to  which 
this  probably  alludes,  is  of  a political  nature 2. 
It  would  have  been  the  extreme  of  indiscretion 
for  Joseph  to  have  attempted,  without  a divine 
command,  to  instruct  the  Egyptians  in  the  mys- 
teries of  religion  : and  had  such  a command  been 
issued,  it  would  have  been  recorded  by  Moses. 
So  far  from  the  Egyptians  having  acquired  reli- 
gious instruction  from  the  Israelites,  every 
journey  in  the  wilderness  performed  by  the 
latter,  proves  that  they  learned  idolatry  from  the 
Egyptians.  “ The  golden  calf”  is  a memorable 
instance,  as  copied  from  the  rites  of  the  sacred 
ox  Apis. 

Besides,  it  is  more  likely  that  Joseph,  in  his 
instructions  on  the  mysteries  of  religion,  would 
have  begun  with  his  own  people,  who  seem  not 
only  to  have  been  ignorant  of  the  doctrine  of  the 

1 Psalm  cv. 

Gen.  xli.  44. 



trinity,  but  of  every  rational  idea  of  the  unity 
of  God,  when  Moses  was  commissioned  to  lead 
them  from  Egypt.  Of  this  we  have  abundant 
proof  in  the  diffidence  with  which  he  accepted 
the  commission  h 

So  gross  was  their  ignorance,  and  so  deep- 
rooted  their  prejudices,  that  the  doctrine  of  the 
Trinity  was  never,  indeed,  fully  explained  to 
them,  even  by  Moses.  He  deemed  it  a doctrine 
too  dangerous  for  their  idolatrously  inclined 
minds  to  bear,  lest  in  their  ardour  for  the  Poly- 
theism which  it  was  his  object  to  eradicate,  they 
should  separate  the  Unity,  and  dishonour  the 
Trinity — lest  in  their  proneness  to  worship  the 
many,  they  should  forget  that  “ Jehovah  their 
God  is  one  Jehovah2.” 

I cannot  therefore  see  that  there  is  any  con- 
clusive testimony  that  the  Egyptian  hierogram 
of  globe,  wings,  and  serpent,  denoted  the  Tri- 
nity, in  our  sense  of  the  term.  Indeed,  it  may 
be  doubted  whether  the  definition  of  Hermes 
Trismegistus,  adduced  by  Kircher,  may  not  have 
been  a “ pious  fraud”  of  some  Egyptian  Christ- 
ian of  the  second  or  third  century,  whose  imagi- 

1 See  his  conversation  with  God  in  Horeb,  Exod.  iii.  13. 

2 Deut.  vi.  4. 



nation  seized  upon  this  popular  emblem  as  a fit 
instrument  for  inculcating  the  truth. 

But,  whatever  may  have  been  the  origin  or 
meaning  of  this  hierogram,  one  thing  is  clear, 
that  the  serpent  attached  to  it  was  a type  of 
divinity  ; and  this  is  enough  to  support  the 
theory  of  the  present  volume, — that  The  Serpent 
of  Paradise  was  the  Serpent-God  of  the  Gentiles. 

III.  Hindustan. — As  an  emblem  of  divinity , 
the  serpent  enters  deeply  into  the  religion  of  the 
Brahmins ; and,  from  the  popular  superstitions 
of  the  present  race  of  Hindus,  we  may  infer  that 
he  was  at  one  time  an  object  of  religious  wor- 
ship. The  well  known  reluctance  of  the  natives 
of  Hindustan  to  kill  a snake,  cannot  be  referred 
entirely  to  the  doctrine  of  transmigration  of 
souls.  In  Forbes’s  “ Oriental  Memoirs,”  we 
read  of  certain  gardeners  in  Guzerat  who  would 
never  suffer  the  snakes  to  be  molested,  calling 
them  “ father,”  “ brother,”  and  other  endearing 
names,  and  looking  upon  them  as  something 
divine.  The  head-gardener,  however,  “ paid 
them  religious  honours  V’ 

1 This  is  one  of  numerous  similar  anecdotes  recorded  of 
the  Hindus  by  different  writers. 



Here  we  observe  a mixture  of  the  original 
serpent-worship,  with  the  more  modern  doctrine 
of  transmigration. 

But  a more  tangible  proof  that  ophiolatreia 
did  indeed  exist  in  Hindustan  in  former  times, 
is  furnished  in  the  following  fact,  noticed  in 
Purchas’s  Pilgrims.  A king  of  Calicut  “ built 
cottages”  for  live  serpents , whom  he  tended  with 
peculiar  care,  and  made  it  a capital  crime  for 
any  person  in  his  dominions  to  destroy  a snake. 
“ The  natives  looked  upon  serpents  as  endued  with 
divine  spirits1 .” 

From  some  such  a notion  may  have  been  de- 
rived a custom  which  prevails  in  certain  parts 
of  Hindustan  to  this  day.  The  natives  have  a 
festival  called  “ The  Feast  of  the  Serpents,”  at 
which  every  Hindu  sets  by  a portion  of  his  rice 
for  the  hooded  snake  on  the  outside  of  his  house. 
By  this  offering  he  expects  to  propitiate  those 
reptiles  during  the  remainder  of  the  year. 

A further  proof  of  the  ancient  prevalence  of 
ophiolatreia  in  those  countries,  is  afforded  by 
the  sculptures  in  the  celebrated  caverns  of  Sal- 
sette  and  Elephanta ; where  the  deities  either 

2 Purch.  Pilg.  part  i.  p.  565. 



grasp  serpents  in  their  hands,  or  are  enfolded 
by  them.  Serpents  are  also  sculptured  on  the 
cornices  surrounding  the  roofs  of  those  caverns, 
and  similarly  delineated  in  the  more  modern 
pagodas1.  The  god  Sani,  of  the  Hindus,  is 
represented  on  a raven,  and  encircled  by  two 
serpents,  whose  heads  meet  over  that  of  the 

Maurice  supposes  that  by  the  serpentine  circle 
over  Sani,  who  is  the  Saturn  of  the  Hindus,  the 
ring  of  that  planet  is  denoted.  If  so,  the  disco- 
veries of  modern  astronomy  are  little  more  than 
revivals  of  the  ancient  philosophy.  But  whether 
Sani  be  Saturn  or  the  Sun,  he  is  equally  illus- 
trative of  our  theory — that  serpents  were  early 
emblems  of  divinity  in  Hindustan.  As  such  we 
find  them  employed  in  the  religious  festivals  of 
the  Hindus3,  symbolizing  some  of  their  most 
awful  deities. 

Boodh  and  Jeyne  are  both  adorned  with  the 
same  emblem.  The  statue  of  Jeyne,  who  is  said 
to  be  the  Indian  iEculapius,  is  turbaned  by  a 
seven-headed  snake  : the  rim  of  the  pedestal  is 

1 Maurice,  Ind.  Ant.  ii.  192.  2 Ibid.  iii.  203. 

3 Ibid.  iii.  119. 



embossed  with  serpents’  heads.  The  same  ser- 
pent also  symbolizes  Parus  Nauth1. 

On  a rock  in  the  Ganges,  in  the  province  of 
Bahar,  is  a sculpture  of  Veshnu  reposing  on  a 
coiled  serpent,  whose  numerous  folds  are  made 
to  form  a canopy  over  the  sleeping  god2.  This 
serpent  is  fabled  to  have  been  the  goddess  Devi 
or  Isi,  who  assumed  the  figure  to  carry  Veshnu 
over  the  waters  of  the  Deluge3.  The  sleep  of 
Veshnu  indicates  the  period  between  the  two 
worlds.  A similar  sculpture  is  to  be  seen  among 
the  ruins  of  Mavalipuram,  on  the  coast  of  Coro- 
mandel4. Veshnu  himself  is  sometimes  repre- 
sented encompassed  in  the  folds  of  a serpent ; 
and  Twashta,  the  great  artificer  of  the  universe, 
who  corresponds  in  Hindu  mythology  with  the 
Cneph  or  Ptha  of  the  Egyptians,  is  supposed  to 
have  borne  the  form  of  a serpent5.  Jagan-Nath 
(Juggernaut)  is  said  to  be  sometimes  worshipped 
under  the  form  of  a seven-headed  dragon6.  The 
Hindu  Deonaush  (the  Dionusus  of  the  Greeks,) 
was  metamorphosed  into  a snake7 : hence,  pro- 

1 Francklin  on  the  tenets  of  the  Jeynes  and  Boodhists. 

2 Moor.  Hindu  Pantheon.  3 Faber,  Pag.  Idol.  i.  456. 

4 Asiat.  Res.  i.  150.  5 Faber.  P.  I.  i.  451. 

6 Faber.  P.  I.  i.  452.  7 Ibid.  453. 



bably  the  prominent  figure  which  the  serpent 
bore  in  the  mysteries  of  Bacchus. 

Mahadeva  (a  name  of  Siva,)  is  sometimes  re- 
presented with  a snake  entwined  about  his  neck  ; 
one  round  his  hair,  and  armlets  of  serpents  upon 
both  arms1. 

Bhairava  (an  Avatar  of  Siva,)  sits  upon  the 
coils  of  a serpent,  whose  head  rises  above  that 
of  the  god 2. 

Parvati,  the  consort  of  Siva,  is  represented 
with  snakes  about  her  neck  and  waist 3. 

Hence  we  perceive  that  the  serpent  was  an 
emblem  not  confined  to  one  god,  but  common 
to  many.  “ The  fifth  day  of  the  bright  half  of 
the  month  Sravana  is  also  sacred  to  the  demi- 
gods in  the  forms  of  serpents  4.” 

This  reptile,  though  the  attribute  of  many  of 
the  Hindu  deities,  both  benevolent  and  malig- 
nant, belonged  more  properly  to  the  evil  spirit, 
of  whom  it  is  a sacred  and  terrific  emblem.  The 
king  of  the  evil  daemons  is  called,  in  Hindu  my- 
thology, “ the  king  of  the  serpents .”  His  name 
is  Naga,  and  he  is  the  prince  of  the  Nagas,  or 

1 Moor.  Hind.  Panth.  plates  17,  18,  20. 

2 Ibid.  pi.  47.  3 Ibid.  pi.  27. 

4 Ibid.  p.  22. 



Naigs.  “ In  which  Sanscrit  appellation,”  ob- 
serves Maurice,  “ we  plainly  trace  the  Hebrew 
nachash , which  is  the  very  word  for  the  particu- 
lar serpentine  tempter,  and,  in  general,  for  all 
serpents  throughout  the  Old  Testament1.”  The 
Hindu  Naraka,  or  hell , is  fabled  to  consist  of 
poisonous  “ snakes  folded  together  in  horrible 

The  malignant  serpent  Caliya,  who  was  slain 
by  Veshnu,  (in  his  incarnation  of  Crishna), 
because  he  poisoned  the  air,  and  destroyed  the 
herds  on  the  banks  of  the  Yamuna,  was  deified 
and  worshipped  by  the  Hindus  “in  the  same 
manner  as  Python  was  adored  at  Delphi 2.” 

To  the  evil  daemon,  in  the  form  of  a great 
serpent,  the  Hindus  attributed  the  guardianship 
of  treasures.  A remarkable  instance  of  this 
superstition  occurs  in  Forbes’s  Oriental  Memoirs. 
Having  once  the  curiosity  to  open  a vault  in  a 
deserted  tower,  in  which  treasure  was  reported 
to  be  concealed,  under  the  guardianship  of  a 
daemon  in  the  form  of  a snake,  he  prevailed, 
with  much  difficulty,  upon  two  men  to  descend  ; 
when,  in  strict  accordance  with  the  popular 

1 Maurice,  Hist,  of  Hindostan,  i.  343. 

2 Asiat.  Res.  viii.  65. 




belief,  they  found  a large  serpent  in  a torpid 
state.  The  two  men  were  drawn  up,  and  the 
reptile  destroyed  by  fire ; but  nothing  could 
induce  the  natives  again  to  enter  a place,  which 
they  now  regarded  more  than  ever  as  the  re- 
sidence of  the  evil  spirit. 

In  Hindustan  prevailed,  also,  the  general 
opinion  which  accompanied  ophiolatreia  in  all 
its  progress — that  the  serpent  was  of  a prophetic 
nature 1 . 

The  decay  of  ophiolatreia  in  Hindustan  may 
be  readily  accounted  for  by  the  exterminating 
religious  wars  which  so  long  raged  between  the 
followers  of  Crishna  and  Budha.  Budha  was 
the  serpent  who  carried  off  Ella  the  daughter  of 
Ichswaca,  the  son  of  Manu — and  hence  the 
animosity  against  him.  The  children  (i.  e.  the 
worshippers)  of  Budha,  were  the  real  Hindus, 
and  preserved  the  ophite  sign  of  their  race. 
They  were  distinguished  by  the  banner  of  the 
serpent.  The  worshippers  of  Crishna  adopted 
the  eagle. 

The  worshippers  of  Crishna,  Budha,  and 
Surya  ( the  sun ) form  the  three  idolatrous  classes 
of  India  from  the  Ganges  to  the  Caspian  sea. 

1 Maurice,  Hist,  of  Hindostan,  v.  343. 



The  children  of  Surya  joined  with  those  of 
Crishna  against  the  Budhists,  and  at  length 
almost  exterminated  the  race.  The  Mahabharat 
records  constant  wars  from  “ ancient  times”  be- 
tween the  worshippers  of  the  Sun  and  the  Tak 
or  Takshac  races.  The  word  Takshac  is  fre- 
quently rendered  “ snake  but  Tak  is  the  name 
of  a mountain  in  the  range  west  of  India,  and 
Hak  was  the  word  which  designated  a serpent. 
Alexander’s  ally  Taxiles  was  doubtless  an  Ophite 
chief  of  this  country,  for  he  took  him  to  see  an 
enormous  dragon,  the  object  of  worship  among 
his  subjects1..  The  name  Taxiles  was  probably 
titular,  since  he  was  called  Onuphis  until  his 
father’s  death.  He  was  then  the  priest  and  king 
of  the  Ophites  of  Tak,  and  from  that  very  cir- 
cumstance called  Onuphis  by  the  Greeks,  who 
had  acquired  the  knowledge  of  this  title  from 
their  intercourse  with  Egypt,  and  her  priesthood 
of  On  and  Oph  2. 

Pursuing  our  inquiries,  we  find  that  ophio- 
latreia  prevailed  to  an  equal  extent  in  Cachmere, 
where  there  were  no  less  than  seven  hundred 

1 Quintus  Curtius,  lib.  viii.  c.  12. 

2 For  the  above  valuable  facts,  I am  indebted  to  the  elegant 
work  of  Col.  Tod,  on  the  Antiquities  and  Annals  of  Rajahstan. 



places  in  which  carved  images  of  serpents  were 
worshipped  \ And  even  in  Tibet  may  be  often 
seen,  the  great  Chinese  dragon  ornamenting  the 
temples  of  the  Grand  Lama 2.  But  the  chief 
seats  of  ophiolatreia  in  this  quarter  of  the  modern 
world  were  in  China  and  Japan. 

IV.  Ceylon. — The  religion  of  the  natives  of 
Ceylon  is  the  Boodh,  which  is  a corruption  of  the 
ancient  ophiolatreia.  “ The  Singalese,”  says  Dr. 
Davy  3,  “in  general  rather  venerate  than  dread 
the  hooded  snake.  They  conceive  that  it  belongs 
to  another  world , and  that  when  it  appears  in  this 
is  only  a visitor.  They  imagine  that  it  possesses 
great  power,  and  is  somewhat  akin  to  the  gods , 
and  superior  to  man.  In  consequence  they  super- 
stitiously  refrain  from  killing  it.”  This  is  the 
snake  made  use  of  by  the  serpent  charmers. 
Its  image  is  also  seen  round  the  necks  of  some 
of  the  gods.  The  mythological  history  of  this 
serpent  is  curious.  They  live  in  the  world  of 
spirits  in  a place  peculiarly  devoted  to  them- 
selves, and  are  said  to  have  a faculty  of  locomo- 
tion, and  a splendour  of  appearance  like  the  gods. 

1 Maur.  Hist.  Hind.  i.  291.  2 Embassy  to  Tibet. 

3 Account  of  Ceylon,  p.  83. 



Nevertheless,  they  are  supposed  to  have  been 
once  human  beings,  who  forfeited  their  estate  by 
indulging  the  sin  of  malice. 

V.  China  and  Japan.— The  great  Chinese 
dragon,  so  conspicuous  in  every  public  and 
private  edifice,  was  the  symbolical  serpent  of 
ancient  mythology,  under  a more  fanciful  and 
poetic  form.  “ It  was  the  genial  banner  of  the 
empire,  and  indicated  every  thing  that  was 
sacred  in  it1.”  “ It  was  not  only  the  stamp 

and  symbol  of  royalty,  but  is  sculptured  in  all 
the  temples,  blazoned  on  the  furniture  of  the 
houses,  and  interwoven  with  the  vestments2”  of 
the  chief  nobility.  The  emperor  bears  a dragon 
as  his  armorial  device  ; and  the  same  figure  is 
engraved  on  his  sceptre  and  diadem,  as  well  as 
on  all  the  vases  of  the  imperial  palace. 

The  dragon  is  also  mixed  up  with  many  of 
their  religious  legends.  The  Chinese  believe 
that  “ there  is  a dragon  of  extraordinary  strength 
and  sovereign  power,  ivhich  is  in  heaven , in  the 
air,  on  the  waters,  and  on  the  mountains 3.”  A 
property  so  divine  must  have  originated  in  the 

1 Stukeley,  Abury,  56.  2 Maur.  Hist.  Hind.  i.  210. 

3 Lecompte,  China,  94. 



attribution  of  this  sacred  animal  to  the  Creator 
of  the  universe.  For  though  it  might  apply 
partly  to  the  spiritual  presence  of  the  evil  one, 
yet  in  China  this  religious  emblem  belonged 
rather  to  the  Agathodsemon . At  the  sacred 
washing  of  Confucius,  soon  after  his  birth,  two 
dragons  were  fabled  to  have  attended  1,  to  in- 
timate probably  that  the  young  philosopher  was, 
in  an  especial  manner,  under  the  protection  of 
the  deity2. 

Father  Martin,  one  of  the  Jesuits  who  obtained 
a settlement  in  China,  says,  that  “ the  Chinese 
delight  in  mountains  and  high  places,  because 
there  lives  the  dragon  upon  whom  their  good 
fortune  depends.  They  call  him  £ the  Father  of 
happiness.’  To  this  dragon  they  erect  temples 
shaded  with  groves  3.” 

Here  we  perceive  the  union  of  two  primeval 

1 Koempfer,  Japan,  246. 

2 A somewhat  similar  story  is  told  by  Pindar,  Olymp.  6,  of 
Iamus,  the  son  of  Apollo  and  Evadne  : though  in  this  case 
the  two  serpents,  sent  by  the  gods,  fed  the  foundling  with  wild 

Svo  de  yXavjcwTrec  clvtov 

Aa ifiovuiv  (lovXalcriv  e- 
dpixpavro  SpaKovreQ' 

3 Cambry  Monumens  Celtiques.  163. 



superstitions,  Serpent-worship  and  Grove- worship, 
each  of  them  commemorative  of  the  Fall  in 

The  Chinese  god,  Fohi,  is  said  to  have  had 
the  form  of  a man,  terminating  in  the  tail  of  a 
snake : which  is  not  only  a proof  of  the  early 
existence  of  serpent-worship  in  China,  but  also 
shows  that  the  dragon  and  the  snalce  of  Chinese 
mythology  were  cognate.  Such  a form,  also, 
had  the  Athenian  Cecrops  and  Erectheus,  and 
the  Egyptian  Typhon  *. 

There  was  a remarkable  superstition  in  regard 
to  a serpent  of  enormous  hulk  which  girded  the 
world , current  in  the  mythology  of  almost  every 
nation  where  ophiolatreia  prevailed  : nor  was 
China  exempt  from  the  general  credulity.  This 
idea,  perhaps,  originated  in  the  early  consecra- 
tion of  the  serpent  to  the  sun  : and  the  subsequent 
conversion  of  a serpent  biting  his  tail , into  an 
emblem  of  the  Sun’s  path.  This  hierogram 
was  again  considered  as  typical  of  eternity , 
partly  from  the  serpent  being  a symbol  of  Deity; 
partly  from  the  perfect  figure  of  a circle  thus 
formed,  without  beginning  or  end  ; and  partly 
from  an  opinion  of  the  eternity  of  matter. 

1 Vide  infra.  “ Serpent- worship  in  Greece  and  Egypt.” 



In  countries  where  the  two  principles  were 
represented  by  two  serpents,  instead  of  the 
ecliptic,  the  solstitial  colures  were  described  under 
these  symbols.  Thus,  in  Egyptian  hierogly- 
phics, two  serpents  intersecting  each  other  at 
right  angles,  upon  a globe,  denoted  the  earth . 
These  rectangular  intersections  were  at  the  sol- 
stitial points  l. 

The  genius  of  superstition  soon  resolved  the 
imaginary  into  real  serpents  ; of  which  meta- 
morphosis we  have  an  instance  in  the  fictions  of 
the  Chinese,  who  are  said  to  be  “ superstitious 
in  choosing  a plot  of  ground  to  erect  a dwelling- 
house  or  sepulchre  : conferring  it  with  the  head , 
tail , and  feet  of  divers  dragons  which  live  under  our 
earth,  whence  depends  all  good  or  bad  fortunes 2.” 

The  same  poetical  fiction  was  current  in  Hin- 
dustan, where  there  is  a tradition  that  the 
founder  of  Delhi,  when  about  to  lay  the  foun- 
dation of  that  city,  was  told  by  a Brahmin,  that 
“ provided  he  placed  the  seat  of  his  government 
on  the  head  of  the  serpent  that  supports  the  world 
his  throne  and  kingdom  would  last  for  ever3.” 

1 Jablonski,  Panth.  iEg.  lib.  i.  c.  4. 

2 Purchas.  Pilg.  part  iii.  p.  395. 

3 “Tour  through  the  Upper  Provinces,”  p.  166. 



In  Hindu  mythology,  the  serpent  Asootee 
enfolds  the  globe  1 ; and  on  every  eclipse  the 
Hindus  believe  that  the  sun  or  moon  is  seized 
by  a large  serpent  or  dragon.  The  same  notion 
obtains  in  China 2.  This  is  the  imaginary  ser- 
pent of  the  constellation  Draco,  and  the  super- 
stition may  be  a remnant  of  the  tradition  of 
“the  war  in  heaven,  when  Michael,  and  his 
angels  fought  against  the  dragon  3 .”  The  dragon 
and  the  serpent  are  the  fifth  and  sixth  signs  of 
the  Chinese  Zodiac. 

The  superstition  of  Japan  was  in  every  respect 
similar  to  that  of  China.  The  dragon  was  held 
in  equal  veneration  in  both  countries.  “The 
chronicles  and  histories  of  the  gods  and  heroes 
of  Japan  are  full  of  fabulous  stories  of  this 
animal.  They  believe  that  it  dwells  at  the 
bottom  of  the  sea 4,  as  its  proper  element.  They 
represent  it  in  their  books  as  a huge,  long,  four- 

footed  snake Some  of  the  Japanese  emperor’s 

cloth,  his  arms,  scimetars,  knives,  and  the  like  ; 

1 Maur.  Ind.  Ant.  ii.  192. 

2 Maur.  Ind.  Ant.  194,  195. 

3 Rev.  xii.  7. 

4 A similar  notion  prevailed  in  tlie  Mythology  of  Scandi- 
navia. See  infra,  c.  3. 



as  also  the  furniture  and  hangings  of  the  imperial 
palace,  are  adorned  with  figures  of  this  dragon  V’ 
The  Japanese  soldiers  eat  the  flesh  of  the  serpent 
called  Fitakutz,  “ believing  firmly  that  it  has  the 
virtue  of  making  them  bold  and  courageous2.” 

There  is  reason  to  believe  that  temple-wor- 
ship was  formerly  paid  to  the  dragon  in  Japan. 
Koempfer  being  once  on  a journey,  a temple  was 
pointed  out  to  him  which,  his  guides  said,  had 
been  erected  in  memory  of  a victory  gained  on 
the  shores  of  the  lake  Oitz,  by  a famous  dragon 
over  a scolopendra  3. 

VI.  Burmah. — The  neighbouring  countries  of 
Siam  and  Burmah,  partaking  with  the  Chinese 
in  the  religion  of  Budh,  partook  with  them  also 
in  the  adoration  of  the  serpent : such,  at  least, 
was  the  case  in  former  times. 

I have  a Burmese  illuminated  manuscript  in 
my  possession,  exhibiting,  apparently  in  the 
successive  order  of  events,  the  life  of  some  deity 
— probably  Guadma.  One  of  the  first  pictures 
in  the  series  represents  this  good  genius  attacked 
by  the  evil  spirit.  The  next  compartment  pre- 

1 Koempfer,  Japan,  124. 

3 Ibid.  491. 

2 Ibid.  128. 



sents  two  men  with  a basket  hanging  from  a 
pole  between  them,  and  proceeding  through  a 
wood,  as  if  on  an  important  errand.  We  see 
the  same  men,  with  the  same  basket,  in  the  next 
picture.  It  is  now  deposited  on  the  ground,  and 
the  two  bearers  upon  their  knees,  in  the  attitude 
of  supplication,  before  an  enormous  dragon  enve- 
loped in  flames ! On  a mound  before  him  are 
two  trees ; and  the  votaries  hold  up  each  a bough 
in  his  hand. 

Adoration  is,  unquestionably,  intended  in  this 
representation : and,  reasoning  from  the  con- 
nection of  this  picture  with  the  preceding,  which 
describes  the  assault  of  the  evil  spirit  upon  the 
passive  and  praying  image  of  the  good  daemon, 
we  cannot  be  charged  with  extraordinary  credu- 
lity if  we  refer  the  whole  to  some  dark  tradition 
respecting  the  events  in  Paradise. 

The  attitude  of  the  two  worshippers  of  the 
dragon,  and  the  boughs  in  their  hands,  illustrate 
the  scene  in  the  beginning  of  the  CEdipus  Ty- 
rannus  of  Sophocles,  where  the  attendants  of  the 
priest  of  Thebes  appear,  [kt^p'loiq  kXcl^oigiv  e^eare/uL- 
ptvoi,  with  the  boughs  of  supplication  in  their 
hands.  The  scene  is  at  Thebes,  an  ophite 



VII.  Java. — A worship  compounded  of  the 
Brahminical  and  Budh  superstitions,  prevailed 
originally  in  Java.  Sir  Stamford  Raffles,  in  ex- 
ploring the  ruined  temples,  found  many  images 
which  were  adorned  with  the  sacred  serpent. 
Gigantic  figures,  placed  at  the  portals,  were 
armed  with  a club  in  one  hand,  and  a writhing 
snake  in  the  other.  Small  twisted  snakes  also 
formed  their  armlets ; and  one,  passing  diago- 
nally across  the  body,  represented  a belt  \ In 
the  temple  of  Kedal  is  an  idol,  on  one  side  of 
which  are  three  serpents  of  an  enormous  magni- 
tude, intertwining  over  the  head  of  the  image. 
A female  figure,  with  a serpent  also,  reclines 
over  it2. 

Over  the  portal  of  the  great  temple  of  Chandi 
Sewu  is  “ a very  large  and  terrible  gorgon 
visage* .”  These  gorgon  visages  are  not  uncom- 
mon, and  are  probably  a form  of  the  ophite 
hierogram,  denoting  consecration , such  as  we 
see  over  the  portals  of  some  of  the  Egyptian 

All  the  Javanese  temples  are  pyramidal:  which 
is  a figure  dedicated  to  the  solar  deity  : and  the 

1 Java,  i.  9,  10.  15.  17. 

3 Ibid.  21,  22. 

2 Ibid.  47. 



same  gorgon  visages,  as  emblems  of  consecra- 
tion, appear  over  the  niches  which  contain  the 

The  symbolical  serpent,  at  least,  was  therefore 
once  worshipped  in  Java. 

VIII.  Arabia. — Returning  towards  the  centre 
and  source  of  ophiolatreia,  we  arrive  in  Arabia  : 
and  here  also  are  traces,  though  almost  oblite- 
rated, of  the  ancient  serpent-worship.  Of  the 
Caaba  of  Mecca,  as  connected  with  this  idola- 
try, we  shall  have  occasion  to  speak  hereafter. 
But  in  this  place  we  may  observe,  that  the  lan- 
guage of  the  country  retains  an  expression  of  its 
original  religion,  which  is  not  a little  remark- 
able. The  same  word  is  employed  to  denote 
both  “ adoration ” and  “ the  serpent from  whence 
Dickinson  infers,  that  “ the  Arabians  formei'ly 
worshipped  serpents  V’ 

We  may  observe,  also,  that  Philostratus 2 attri- 
butes the  same  superstitious  practice,  with  the 
same  views,  to  the  natives  of  Arabia  and  Hin- 
dustan : viz.  that  of  “ eating  the  heart  and  liver 
of  serpents,  for  the  purpose  of  acquiring  a know- 

1 Delph.  Phcen.  c.  2.  p.  10. 

2 De  Vita  Apollonii,  lib.  i.  c.  14,  and  lib.  iii.  c.  3. 



ledge  of  the  thoughts  and  languages  of  animals.'" 
This  notion,  perhaps,  originated  in  the  tradi- 
tionary account  of  the  prophetic  serpent,  the 
memory  of  whose  oracle  is  so  strongly  impressed 
upon  the  page  of  antiquity. 

IX.  Syria. — From  Arabia  we  pass  into  the 
Land  of  Canaan,  for  so  many  ages  the  theatre 
upon  which  truth  and  superstition  contended  for 
the  ascendancy.  The  country  which  we  include 
under  the  general  name  of  Syria  extends  from 
the  Euphrates  to  the  Mediterranean  sea,  on  one 
side ; and  from  Mount  Taurus  to  Arabia,  on  the 
other.  It  includes,  therefore,  the  whole  of  Phoe- 
nicia and  Palestine,  the  territories  of  Damascus, 
and  the  possessions  of  Solomon. 

The  Phoenicians,  according  to  Sanchoniathon, 
cited  by  Eusebius  l,  were  among  the  earliest  of 
the  nations  that  embraced  ophiolatreia ; and 
the  author  of  this  idolatry  is  said  to  have  been 
Taautus.  Sanchoniathon  calls  him  “ a God2,” 
and  says,  that  he  first  made  an  image  of  Coelus, 
and  afterwards  of  Saturn  ; and  then  invented 
hieroglyphics  3.  He  is  supposed  to  be  the  same 

1 Praep.  Evang.  40.  2 Ibid.  39. 

3 2roex«W.  See  Warburton  Div.  Leg.  of  Moses , iii.  213. 



as  the  Hermes  Trismegistus  of  Egypt,  where  he 
was  called  Thoth,  and  deified.  The  words  of 
Sanchoniathon  are  the  following  : “ Taautus  con- 
secrated the  species  of  dragons  and  serpents ; and 
the  Phoenicians  and  Egyptians  followed  him  in  this 
superstition .” 

Hence  we  may  infer,  that  Taautus  was  the 
first  person  who  introduced  into  Phoenicia  both 
zabaism  and  serpent-worship.  For  such  must  be 
the  meaning  of  the  expressions  that  he  was 
“ the  first  who  made  an  image  of  Ccelus,” — 
that  is,  represented  “ the  heavenly  host”  by 
visible  symbols,  and  “ consecrated  dragons  and 


The  union  of  these  two  superstitions,  intimated 
by  the  attribution  of  them  to  the  same  inventor, 
proves  the  origin  of  the  serpent-worship  to  be 
co-ordinate  with  that  of  the  sun,  or  of  the  celestial 
bodies.  From  which  we  may  argue,  that  Taautus 
was  the  leader  of  the  first  colony  after  the  flood 
which  settled  in  Phoenicia  ; out  of  which  he  may 
have  passed  easily  into  Egypt,  if  we  take  the 
word  Phoenicia  in  its  most  extended  sense,  as 
including  the  whole  land  of  Canaan.  There  is 
then  no  difficulty  in  conceiving  that  the  Phoe- 
nician Taut  and  the  Egyptian  Thoth  were  the 



same  person.  The  intimate  connexion  of  the 
latter  with  the  serpent-worship  of  Egypt  we  shall 
observe  in  the  sequel. 

The  prevalence  of  ophiolatreia  in  the  land  of 
Canaan,  is  therefore  directly  shown  upon  his- 
torical testimony  : it  is  proved,  collaterally,  by 
the  traditions  of  the  country,  and  the  remains  of 
serpent-worship  which  was  occasionally  visible 
in  the  sacred  and  classical  writings.  The  name 
of  the  sacred  serpent,  according  to  Bryant1, 
(who  has  taken  great  pains  to  arrive  at  accuracy 
in  this  statement,)  was  in  the  ancient  language 
of  Canaan,  variously  pronounced  Aub,  Ab  ; 
Oub,  Ob  ; Oph,  Op  ; Eph,  Ev all  refer- 
able to  the  original  or  2N  ; which  being 

derived  from  nN  (inflare),  was,  perhaps,  applied 
to  the  serpent  from  his  peculiarity  of  inflation 
when  irritated. 

The  first  oracle  mentioned  in  history  was 
dedicated  to  the  serpent-god,  who  wTas  knowm 
in  Canaan  by  the  name  of  Ob,  or  Aub  : hence 
arose  the  notion  that  the  oracular  response  of 
the  priestess  of  these  serpent  temples  must  be 
always  preceded  by  a mysterious  inflation , as  if 
actuated  by  the  internal  presence  of  the  divine 
1 Ant.  Myth.  i.  58  et  'passim. 



Spirit.  Thus  Virgil  describes  the  Pythian 
priestess — 

Ait,  “ Deus,  ecce  Deus !”  cui  talia  fanti 

pectus  anhelum, 

Et  rabie  fera  corda  tument,  majorque  videri, 

Nec  mortale  sonans  : adjiata  est  Numine  quando 
Jam  propiore  Dei. 

JEneid . vi.  46,  &c. 

The  whole  of  this  notion  of  necessary  inflation 
was  taken  up  by  the  Greeks,  from  mistaking 
the  word  Ob,  (the  name  of  the  Deity,)  for  the 
word  ob,  that  property  of  inflation , from  whence 
the  name  was  derived  : ob  signifying  both  the 
serpent , and  his  property  of  inflation  \ 

The  first  mention  of  the  God  Ob  occurs  in  the 
Scriptures.  Moses  refers  to  his  oracle,  when  he 
commands  every  Aub,  Ab,  or  Ob,  to  be  put  to 
death  : 

“ A man  also,  or  woman,  that  hath  a familiar 
spirit , (21N,)  shall  surely  be  put  to  death.” 
(Levit.  xx.  27.  Deut.  xviii.  11.) 

The  word  UN  is  translated  by  the  Septuagint, 
ventriloquist , — one  that  speaks  from  his  belly.  This 
is  the  Greek  notion  of  inflation , adopted  by  the 

Ob  is  the  same  as  Ab,  with  a prolonged  pronunciation. 



Septuagint  in  accommodation  to  the  received 
opinions  respecting  the  Pythian  priestess.  The 
English  version  “ who  hath  a familiar  spirit ,”  is 
too  indefinite  ; and  the  septuagint,  “ who  is  a 
ventriloquist ,”  too  paraphrastic,  to  express  the 
meaning  of  Moses.  We  must  therefore  look  for 
another.  In  doing  so,  we  may  remark,  that  it 
was  not  an  unusual  custom  of  the  Gentiles  for 
the  priest  or  priestess  of  any  God  to  take  the 
name  of  the  deity  they  served.  Thus  Clemens 
Alexandrinus  calls  the  priest  of  Cnuphis  in 
Egypt,  Secnuphis.  This  was  the  priest  with 
whom  Plato  conversed  l,  and  his  god  was  the 
same  as  the  Ob  of  Canaan  ; that  is,  the  serpent- 
god  of  the  country.  We  read  also  of  Oinuphis, 
a priest  of  Heliopolis,  from  whom  Pythagoras  is 
said  to  have  learned  astronomy  2.  Heliopolis, 
“ the  city  of  the  sun,”  was  called  in  Egypt  On, 
which  was  a title  of  the  solar  deity.  Oinuphis 
therefore,  (or  rather  Onuphis,)  was  the  solar 
deity  On,  symbolized  by  the  sacred  serpent  Oph. 
In  this  case  therefore,  as  in  the  former,  the 
priest  assumed  the  cognomen  of  his  God.  Again, 
Eudoxus  was  taught  astronomy  by  another  priest 

1 Jablonski  Pantheon.  ./Egypt.  lib.  i.  c.  4.  s.  11. 

2 Plutarch.  De  Iside  et  Osiride  632.  Edit.  Steph. 



of  Heliopolis,  whose  name  was  Conuphis,  or 
C’nuphis  \ 

For  these  examples  I am  indebted  to  Jablonski, 
who  says  that  Secnuphis  means  literally  Se-ich- 
Cnuphis,  “ the  servant  of  the  god  Cnuphis .” 

In  like  manner  we  find  that  the  priestess 
of  Delphi  was  called  Pythia,  from  her  deity 
Python  : and  the  Druid  who  was  the  minister 
of  the  British  god  Hu,  was  called  “ an  adder 
because  adders  were  symbolical  of  the  god  whom 
he  served,  whose  chief  title  was  “ Hu,  the 
dragon-ruler  of  the  world  2.” 

It  is  a curious  coincidence,  that  as  the  witch 
of  Endor  is  called  ouh , and  the  African  sor- 
ceress obi,  from  the  serpent  deity  Oub  ; so  the 
old  English  name  of  a witch,  hag , bears  appa- 
rent relationship  to  the  word  hah,  the  ancient 
British  name  of  a species  of  snake. 

These  examples  I have  taken,  exclusively, 
from  the  worshippers  of  the  serpent-god  in 
Egypt,  Greece,  and  Britain  among  whom  the 
custom  seems  to  have  been  more  prevalent  than 
among  the  votaries  of  the  other  heathen  deities. 
To  these  we  may  add  the  example  of  the  em- 

1 Clem.  Alex.  Strom.  1.  p.  303. 

2 Davies.  Myth,  of  Druids,  122. 

G 2 



peror  Elagabalus  assuming  the  name  of  the 
Syrian  god  of  Emesa,  at  whose  shrine  he  offici- 
ated before  he  was  invested  with  the  Roman 
purple.  We  shall  find  in  the  sequel,  that  this 
deity  was  identical,  or  nearly  so,  with  the  deity 
whose  worship  we  are  now  investigating.  The 
difference  being,  that  Ob  was  simply  the  serpent- 
god  ; whereas  Elagabalus  was  the  solar  deity 
symbolized  by  the  serpent. 

From  these  parallels  we  may  infer,  that  the 
priest  or  priestess  of  Ob,  in  Canaan,  assumed 
the  appellation  of  the  deity  whom  they  served. 

We  may  therefore  render  Levit.  xx.  27 — 44  A 
man  also,  or  woman  among  you,  who  is  an  Ob, 
(i.  e.  a priest  or  priestess  of  Ob,)  shall  be  surely 
put  to  death  :”  and  similarly  in  Deut.  xviii.  11. 
the  expression,  44  a consulter  with  familiar 
spirits,”  may  be  rendered  “ a consulter  of  the 
priests  of  Ob.” 

Again,  the  woman  of  Endor,  to  whom  Saul 
applied  for  an  oracle,  is  called  nwrbya ; the 
literal  meaning  of  which  is  4 4 one  that  hath  Ob,” 
which  is  synonymous  with  44  a priestess  of  Ob.” 

The  serpent  Ob,  thus  worshipped  in  Canaan 
as  oracular,  was  called,  44  the  good  d^mon,” 
as  we  learn  from  Eusebius,  citing  Sanchonia- 



tlion — 4 4 The  Phoenicians  called  this  animal 
( the  sacred  serpent ) Agathod^emon  : the  Egyp- 
tians likewise  called  him  Cneph,  and  added  to 
him  the  head  of  a hawk,  because  of  its  ac- 
tivity b” 

The  title  Ob,  or  Ab,  was  frequently  com- 
pounded with  On,  a name  of  the  sun,  because 
the  serpent  was  considered  symbolical  of  that 
deity.  This  symbolical  worship  was  of  very 
ancient  date  in  Phoenicia,  as  we  learn  from 
Sanchoniathon 2,  who  tells  us,  44  The  son  of 
Thabion  was  the  first  hierophant  of  Phoenicia.” 

Prophets  and  priests  are  frequently  called  in 
mythology  the  sons  of  the  God  whom  they  wor- 
shipped. The  son  of  Thabion,  therefore,  was 
the  priest  of  Thabion.  Now  Thahion  is  a com- 
pound word,  Th’-ab-ion  : of  which  the  initial 
letters  44  Th’  ” signify  44  God.”  They  are  an 
abbreviation  of  the  word  44  Theuth,”  44  from 
which  the  Greeks  formed  0EO2,  which  with 
that  nation  was  the  most  general  name  of  the 
Deity  3.”  44  Thabion,”  therefore  implies,  44  the 

god  Abion,” — the  serpent-solar  god. 

The  primitive  serpent-worshippers  of  Canaan 

1 Praep.  Evang.  lib.  i.  41  2 Ibid  .iv.  39. 

3 Bryant.  Anal.  1.  13. 



against  whom  Moses  cautioned  the  children  of 
Israel,  were  the  Hivites.  This  word,  accord- 
ing to  Bochart l,  is  derived  from  Hhivia , a ser- 
pent : the  root  of  which  is  Eph  or  Ev — one  of 
the  variations  of  the  original  Aub.  Ephites  or 
Evites,  being  aspirated,  would  become  He- 
vites  or  Hivites — whence  comes  the  word 
Ophites,  by  which  the  Greek  historians  desig- 
nated the  worshippers  of  the  serpent.  The 
Greek  word  0(fne,  a serpent , is  derived  from  Oph , 
the  Egyptian  name  for  that  reptile 2 ; the  same 
as  Eph . The  Hivites  who  were  left  “ to  prove 
Israel3,”  inhabited  Mount  Lebanon,  “from  Mount 
Baalhermon  unto  the  entering  in  of  Hamath.” 
The  children  of  Israel  intermarried  with  them, 
“ and  served  their  gods”  These  were  called 
Baalim,  which  being  in  the  plural  number, 
may  mean  the  god  Baal  or  Bel,  under  different 
forms  of  worship ; of  which  that  of  the  serpent 
was  one  ; as  we  have  seen  under  the  article 
“ Ophiolatreia  in  Babylon.” 

The  extent  to  which  this  worship  prevailed, 
may  be  estimated  by  the  fact  of  its  surviving  to 
the  time  of  Hezekiah,  when  the  Jews  “ burned 

2 Bryant.  Anal.  ii.  199. 

3 Judges  iii.  3. 

Geog.  Sacr. 



incense”  to  the  brazen  serpent  which  had  been 
laid  up  among  the  sacred  relics,  as  a memorial 
of  their  deliverance  from  the  serpents  in  the 
wilderness.  Hezekiah  “ removed  the  high 
places,  and  cut  down  the  groves,  and  brake 
in  pieces  the  brazen  serpent  that  Moses  had 
made ; for  unto  those  days  the  children  of 
Israel  did  burn  incense  to  it  : and  he  called  it 
Nehustan1,” — i.  e.  a piece  of  brass , by  way  of 

But  the  worship  of  the  serpent  was  not  so 
easily  suppressed  in  Canaan.  The  Jewish 
polity  being  broken  up,  the  lurking  ophites 
crept  out  of  their  obscurity  ; and  in  the  second 
century  brought  dishonour  on  the  Christian  re- 
ligion, by  claiming  an  affinity  of  faith  with  the 
worshippers  of  Jesus. 

These  Christian  heretics  were  exposed  by 
Epiphanius  2,  under  the  name  of  Ofiruu  Clemens 
Alexandrinus  also  mentions  them  ; and  Tertul- 
lian  describes  their  tenets — “ Accesserunt  his 
haeretici  etiam  qui  ophitae  nuncupantur  : nam 
serpentem  magnificant  in  tantum  ut  ilium  etiam 
ipsi  Christo  praeferant.  Ipse  enim,  inquiunt, 
scientiae  nobis  boni  et  mali  originem  dedit. 

1 2 Kings  xviii.  4. 

2 Haeres.  xxxvii.  p.  267. 



Hujus  animadvertens  potentiam  et  majestatem, 
Moyses  sereum  posuit  serpentem,  et  quicunque 
in  eum  aspexerunt,  sanitatem  consecuti  sunt. 
Ipse,  aiunt,  prseterea,  in  Evangelio  imitatur 
serpentis  ipsius  sacram  potestatem  dicendo,  ‘ et 
sicut  Moyses  exaltavit  serpentem  in  deserto, 
ita  exaltari  oportet  Filium  Hominis.’  Ipsum  in- 
troducunt  ad  benedicenda  Eucharistia  h” 

A more  ingenious  perversion  of  Scripture 
than  the  foregoing,  may  scarcely  be  found  in 
the  annals  of  heresy. 

Epiphanius  says,  that  “ the  Ophites  sprung 
out  of  the  Nicolaitans  and  Gnostics,  and  were 
so  called  from  the  serpent  which  they  worship- 
ped.” The  Gnostics,  he  informs  us  in  another 
place2,  “ taught  that  the  ruler  of  this  world 
was  of  a dracontic  form”  “ The  Ophites,”  he 
observes,  “ attribute  all  wisdom  to  the  serpent 
of  paradise,  and  say  that  he  was  the  author  of 
knowledge  to  men.”  “ They  keep  a live  ser- 
pent in  a chest ; and  at  the  time  of  the  mysteries 
entice  him  out  by  placing  bread  before  him 
upon  a table.  Opening  his  door  he  comes  out, 

1 De  Prescript.  Haeret.  c.  xlvii.  p.  221.  Cited  by  Bryant, 
Anal.  ii.  218. 

2 P.  91. 



and  having  ascended  the  table,  folds  himself 
about  the  bread.  This  they  call  a perfect  sacri- 
fice. They  not  only  break  and  distribute  this 
among  the  votaries,  but  whosoever  will,  may 
kiss  the  serpent  \ This  the  wretched  people  call 
the  eucharist.  They  conclude  the  mysteries 
by  singing  an  hymn  through  him  to  the  su- 
preme Father1  2 . 

The  above  account  of  Epiphanius  forcibly 
reminds  us  of  the  mysteries  of  Bacchus,  in 
which  serpents  were  carried  in  covered  baskets ; 
and  in  which  cakes  and  new  bread  were  given  to 
the  votaries.  Demosthenes,  in  one  of  his  most 
splendid  passages  of  sarcasm,  describes  his  an- 
tagonist iEschines  under  the  ludicrous  character 
of  a Bacchans,  “ pressing  tight  in  his  hands 
the  Parian  serpents,  and  brandishing  them  over 
his  head,  and  shouting  ‘ Euoi,  Saboi  !’  dancing 
meantime,  and  crying  £ Hyes  Attes  !’  £ Attes 
Hyes  !’  ” He  calls  him,  contemptuously,  ££  a 
chief  leader  ” of  the  mysteries,  and  chest-bearer , 
that  is,  carrying  the  snake-basket.  For  which 

1 It  was  a common  practice  of  the  Heathen  to  kiss  their 

2 Epiph.  lib.  i.  tom.  3.  p.  268,  &c. 



extravagancies  he  receives  his  reward  in  “ cakes 
and  NEW  BREAD1.” 

In  the  Bacchanalian  Mysteries,  also,  there 
was  a consecrated  cup  of  wine,  handed  round 
after  supper,  called  “ the  cup  of  the  Agatho- 
dsemon  which  was  received  with  much  shout- 
ing2. The  Christian  Ophites,  therefore,  pre- 
serving the  memory  of  their  Bacchanalian  orgies, 
would  naturally  confound  the  observances  of  the 
Lord’s  Supper  with  the  practices  incident  to  their 
heathen  festival.  The  hymn  with  which  they 
concluded  their  idolatrous  ceremonies,  addressed 
through  the  serpent  to  the  Supreme  Father,  is  a 
memorial  of  the  hymn  sung  to  Python  on  every 
seventh  day  at  Delphi 3. 

These  opinions  of  the  Gnostic  Ophites  were 
blended  with  the  old  Magian  superstition  of 
Persia  by  Manes,  a celebrated  heretic  of  the 
third  century ; who  revived  ophiolatreia,  in  his 
native  country,  under  the  name  of  Christianity. 
He  taught,  that  “ Christ  was  an  incarnation  of 
the  great  serpent,  who  glided  over  the  cradle  of 

1 Demosth.  pro  Corona,  s.  79. 

2 Nicola : de  ritu  Bacch.  apud  Gronov.  vii.  186. 

3 Prolegomena  to  the  Pythia,  of  Pindar,  cited  by  Bryant, 
Anal.  ii.  147. 



the  Virgin  Mary,  when  she  was  asleep,  at  the 
age  of  a year  and  a half1.” 

Traces  of  ophiolatreia  are  visible  in  the  neigh- 
bourhood of  Damascus,  where  there  were  two 
ophite  temples,  converted,  with  the  usual  licence 
of  poets,  into  “ dragons 2.” 

The  whole  region  of  Trachonitis  is  supposed 
by  Bryant  to  have  received  its  name  from  the 
worship  of  the  dragon,  so  common  in  those 
parts.  The  mistake  of  Tpaywv  for  A paKuv  is 

The  subject  of  ophite  temples  is  so  full  of  curi- 
ous information,  that  I shall  reserve  what  I have 
gleaned  upon  it  for  a separate  chapter.  We 
may  remark,  however,  in  this  place,  that  there 
is  reason  for  supposing  that  the  celebrated  grove 
of  Daphne,  near  Antioch,  was  ( at  least  in  part) 
devoted  to  the  mysteries  of  the  serpent.  Its 
consecration  to  Apollo,  the  solar  god  of  antiquity, 
who  united  in  his  rites  the  worship  of  the  serpent, 
gives  countenance  to  this  opinion  ; but  the  cor- 
roboration is  derived  from  a remarkable  legend 
preserved  in  Strabo.  It  is  said  that  the  Mace- 
donian kings  of  Syria  first  established  the  oracles, 

1 Faber.  Pag.  Idol.  ii.  433.  citing  Asiat.  Res.  vol.  x. 

2 Bryant,  Anal.  ii.  142. 



and  planted  the  grove  of  Daphne 1 ; but  the 
legend  in  question  would  argue  for  that  secluded 
and  voluptuous  sanctuary  a much  higher  anti- 
quity. The  Macedonian  kings,  in  all  proba- 
bility, patronized  the  ancient  grove-worship 
mentioned  in  Judges  iii.  7,  in  connexion  with 
the  service  of  Baalim,  into  which  the  children 
of  Israel  were  seduced  by  the  Hivites.  The 
legend  of  Strabo  informs  us  that  the  original 
name  of  the  river  Orontes  was  Typhon  ; for 
there  the  serpent  Typhon  being  struck  by  the 
lightning  of  Jupiter,  in  escaping  cut  the  earth 
with  his  body  as  he  writhed  along ; and  springs 
of  water  issuing  from  the  ground,  formed  the 
river,  which,  after  him,  was  called  Typhon2. 

Had  ophiolatreia  never  existed  in  Daphne, 
such  a legend  as  this  would  hardly  have ' been 
recorded  of  the  river  which  flowed  by  it.  At 
Daphne  there  was  a temple  of  Apollo,  and  a 
grove  sacred  to  Diana ; and  it  is  a remarkable 
circumstance,  that  in  almost  every  place  where 
there  was  either,  some  legend  of  a serpent  gene- 
rally prevailed. 

The  serpent-worship  of  Syria  is  strongly 

1 Gibbon,  Dec.  and  Fall  of  Rom.  Emp.  iv.  113. 

2 Strabo,  lib.  xvi.  750. 



marked  in  the  religion  of  the  people  of  Tyre. 
The  Phoenicians  of  Tyre  consecrated  an  image 
of  the  serpent,  and  suspended  it  in  their  tem- 
ples, encircling  in  its  folds  the  Mundane  egg1, 
the  symbol  of  the  universe.  The  serpent  de- 
noted the  Supreme  Being,  in  his  character  of  the 
vivifying  principle.  Macrobius  informs  us,  that 
the  Phoenicians  worshipped  Janus  under  the 
figure  of  a serpent,  forming  a circle,  with  his 
tail  in  his  mouth  ; typifying  the  self-existence 
and  eternity  of  the  world 2. 

The  serpent  was  deemed  particularly  sacred 
to  iEsculapius  ; and  in  his  temples  live  serpents 
were  kept  for  the  purposes  of  adoration.  There 
was  a grove  of  iEsculapius  near  Sidon,  on  the 
banks  of  the  Tamyras3.  From  which  we  may 
infer  that  here  also  were  kept  live  serpents,  and 

The  emperor  Elagabalus  was  high  priest  of 
the  god  of  that  name,  who  had  a temple  at 
Emesa.  “ He  imported  into  Rome  small  ser- 
pents of  the  Egyptian  breed,  which  were  called 
in  that  country  Agathodcemons these  he  wor- 

1 Plate  in  Maurice  and  Bryant.  2 Lib.  i.  c.  9. 

s Strabo,  756. 



shipped  \ Hence  we  may  infer  that  this  young 
emperor  had  been  educated  in  the  mysteries  of 
ophiolatreia  ; an  inference  which  is  strengthened 
by  the  decomposition  of  his  name,  or  rather  that 
of  his  god. 

Elagabal  is  perhaps  El-og-ob-el  ; that  is, 
“ the  god  Og,  the  serpent-god2.”  This  was 
the  deity  whose  worship  was  conveyed  into 
western  Europe,  under  the  title  of  Ogham  or 
Ogmius,  by  the  Phoenician  mariners,  and  esta- 
blished in  Gaul  and  Ireland,  as  we  shall  see  in 
the  chapters  which  treat  of  serpent-worship  in 
those  countries.  He  was  a compound  character 
between  Hercules  and  Mercury,  bearing  as  his 
symbol  the  club  of  the  former,  surmounted  by 
the  caduceus  of  the  latter. 

The  first  mention  of  this  name  in  history  is  in 
the  Scriptures,  where  it  appears  as  the  cogno- 
men of  the  celebrated  king  of  Bashan,  over- 
thrown by  Joshua.  He  reigned  over  the  terri- 
tory of  Argob  3,  which  was  afterwards  called  by 
the  Greeks,  Trachonitis.  Trachonitis  we  have 

1 Lampridius,  cited  by  Jablonski  Panth.  iEgypt.  89. 

2 Obel  is  probably  the  same  as  Bel — the  great  god  of  the 

3 Deut.  iii.  4. 



already  resolved  into  the  “ country  of  the  dra- 
gon and  the  propriety  of  this  resolution  will 
appear  from  decomposing  the  word  Argob  into 
its  component  parts,  Aur-og-ob  ; of  which  the 
first  signifies  light ; the  second  is  the  name  of 
the  deity ; the  third  that  of  his  symbol,  the  ser- 
pent. Faber  thinks  that  Og  is  the  deluge 
deified ; whence  is  derived  Oc  and  Oceanus. 
This,  I believe  is  the  general  opinion.  But 
whoever  Og  may  have  been,  the  word  Argob  is 
his  title  ; and  this  title  bears  allusion  to  the  solar 
deity  Aur,  and  the  serpent-deity  Aub.  And 
“ the  region  of  Argob”  in  his  holy  land.  Upon 
this  hypothesis  the  king  of  Bashan  (Og)  would 
be  hierarch  and  king  of  Argob,  assuming  the 
name  of  his  tutelar  god — 

“ Rex  Anius,  rex  idem  hominum,  Phcebique  sacerdos.” 

Sandford,  Dickiuson,  Vossius,  and  Gale,  concur 
in  identifying  “ Og,  king  of  Bashan,”  with  the 
Typhon  or  Python  of  mythology  l.  I cannot  say 
that  the  same  arguments  which  weighed  with 
these  learned  men  have  brought  me  to  the  same 
conclusion  ; but  this  much  cannot,  I think,  be 
denied,  that  there  is  a strong  connexion  between 

1 See  Gale.  Court  of  Gentiles , v.  i.  b.  ii.  58. 




the  worship  of  Og,  and  Ophiolatreia.  Be- 
yond this,  I would  not  desire  to  press  the  argu- 
ment— but  up  to  this  point  I would  urge  it.  For 
even  upon  the  supposition  of  Og  being  the 
deluge,  the  serpent  would  be  his  emblem  ; being 
in  this  character  considered  in  all  mythology — 
Asiatic,  Egyptian,  or  Scandinavian.  Elagabalus, 
therefore,  was  probably  the  same  at  Emesa,  as 
Og,  the  king  of  Bashan,  in  Argob — the  royal 
priest  of  the  serpent  solar  god. 

But  the  serpent-worship  of  Syria,  has  left 
stronger  records  of  its  original  prevalence  than 
verbal  coincidences.  The  coins  of  the  Tyrians, 
as  engraved  in  Maurice’s  Indian  Antiquities, 
vol.  6,  bear  testimony  to  the  existence  and  pre- 
valence of  this  superstition  in  Phoenicia,  in  cha- 
racters which  it  is  impossible  to  mistake.  It  is 
true  that  these  medals  are  of  comparatively 
recent  date,  the  oldest  of  them  being  posterior 
to  Alexander  the  Great : but  still  they  recognise 
the  local  superstition  of  that  oera ; and  we  know 
that  the  local  religions  of  the  Asiatics  were  rarely 
susceptible  of  innovation.  Besides,  we  have 
already  possessed  ourselves  of  data  which  iden- 
tify ophiolatreia  as  indigenous  in  the  land  of 



The  following  is  a description  of  these  interest- 
ing medals. 

No.  1 represents  a tree  between  two  rude 
stones,  which  are  erect : round  the  trunk  of  the 
tree  is  coiled  a serpent.  At  the  lower  part  of 
the  medal,  in  one  corner,  is  an  altar,  denoting 
that  the  medal  is  descriptive  of  religious  rites . 
The  two  rude  stones  are  the  Petrce  Ambrosice,  so 
well  known  to  antiquaries,  and  of  the  kind  of 
which  the  Celtic  temples  were  composed.  The 
two  stones  here  are  intended,  doubtless,  as  a 
representation  of  an  Ophite  temple. 

No.  2 represents  a burning  altar.  Two  ser- 
pents are  rising  from  the  two  front  angles  of  the 
base.  On  the  left,  is  the  celebrated  caduceus, 
without  wings. 

No.  3 exhibits  a naked  man  standing  between 

two  serpents,  which  are  erect  upon  one  coil,  and 

turning  from  him.  This  is  a medal  of  Berytus — 

the  rest  are  Tvrian. 


No.  4 represents  the  Tyrian  Hercules  ( Og- 
mius ) contending  with  a serpent.  The  man 
has  a large  stone  in  his  right  hand,  and  is  in  the 
act  of  throwing  it.  The  serpent  is  erect  upon 
one  coil.  Behind  the  man  is  a sea  shell,  de- 
noting Tyre. 




No.  5 presents  us  with  a very  large  Petra 
Ambrosia , round  which  is  entwined  a large  ser- 
pent in  a defensive  posture.  On  the  right  is  a 
sea  shell,  on  the  left  a palm  tree. 

No.  6 represents  an  altar  with  a burning  sacri- 
fice. In  front  is  a serpent  with  a radiated  head, 
gazing  upon  the  altar. 

Besides  these  medals,  there  is  a Tyrian  coin 
engraved  in  Bryant’s  Analysis,  plate  7.  vol.  iii. 
In  this  we  observe  a tree  between  two  Petrce 
Ambrosice.  A serpent  is  twined  about  the  trunk 
of  a tree.  At  the  base  of  the  coin  is  a sea  shell 
and  a wolf,  emblems  of  Tyre. 

The  serpent-worship  of  Phoenicia,  thus  clearly 
proved,  is  further  illustrated  by  the  very  accurate 
tradition  of  the  rebellion  and  fall  of  Satan  from 
heaven,  preserved  in  the  legend  of  Ophioneus. 
Ophioneus  was  a giant  who  headed  an  insurrec- 
tion in  heaven,  against  the  gods,  and  being  over- 
come, was  cast  down  to  earth.  The  name  of 
this  celestial  rebel  is  compounded  of  Oph  and 
on.  It  was  the  name  of  the  serpent  solar 
god,  who  united  in  his  mysteries  the  two  ancient 
superstitions  of  Zabaism  and  Ophiolatreia.  The 
celestial  origin  of  Satan  is  preserved  in  the  ter- 
mination of  his  name,  On  ; while  his  Paradisiacal 



incarnation  is  intimated  in  the  first  syllable,  Oph. 
This  deity  was  probably  the  Thabion  of  whom 
we  spoke  above. 

So  accurately  did  the  legend  of  Ophioneus 
coincide  with  the  history  of  Satan,  that  Celsus, 
the  champion  of  Paganism,  adduced  it  is  a 
proof  that  the  account  of  Moses  was  borrowed 
from  the  fables  of  the  heathens.  An  accusation 
which  is  triumphantly  answered  by  Origen 
who  charges  his  opponent  with  gross  ignorance 
of  antiquity,  in  supposing  the  fables  of  his  own 
corrupt  mythology  to  be  more  ancient  than  the 
writings  of  Moses. 

X.  Asia  Minor. — So  universal  was  ophiola- 
treia  in  this  part  of  the  Roman  empire,  that  “ a 
female  figure,  holding  a serpent  in  her  right  hand , 
and  in  her  left  the  rostrum  of  a ship,”  was  the 
symbol  of  Asia1 2.  But  the  provinces  of  Asia 
Minor,  which  exhibited  the  strongest  and  most 
unquestionable  vestiges  of  serpent-worship,  were 
Phrygia  and  Troas. 

At  Hierapolis,  in  Phrygia,  a living  serpent  of 

1 Cited  by  Stillingfleet.  Orig.  Sac.  book  iii.  c.  3.  s.  18. 

2 Beger  de  Num.  Creten.  Serpentif.  8. 

H 2 



great  size  was  kept  and  worshipped,  when 
Philip  the  Apostle  converted  the  inhabitants  to 
Christianity.  The  tradition  is,  that  he  de- 
stroyed this  animal  by  his  prayers  1 ; and  the 
people  overpowered  by  the  miracle,  embraced 
the  Gospel. 

As  a “ genius  loci,”  the  serpent  entered 
deeply  into  the  religion  of  the  Phrygians.  An 
example  of  this  may  be  seen  in  the  fifth  iEneid 
of  Virgil,  in  the  sacrifices  of  iEneas  at  the  tomb 
of  Anchises. 

The  libations  of  wine,  new  milk , and  sacred 
blood , having  been  poured  out,  the  pious  son 
proceeds  with  reverential  feeling,  to  address  the 
departed  spirit  of  his  father  : but  the  scarcely- 
commenced  requiem  is  interrupted  by  a phe- 
nomenon, which  fills  him,  at  first,  with  unmixed 
astonishment,  and  then  overwhelms  him  with 
religious  awe.  A large  and  beautiful  serpent 
glides  from  the  tumulus — ascends  the  altars — 
consumes  the  offerings — and  returns  to  his  abode. 
The  Trojan,  upon  recovering  his  self-possession, 
immediately  concludes  that  this  beautiful  and 
mysterious  visitant  must  either  be  the  tutelary 

1 Nelson,  Fasts  and  Festivals. 



deity  of  the  place,  or  the  attendant  minister  of 
his  father’s  soul  : — 

Incertus  Genium  ne  Loci,  famulum  ve  parentis. 

Under  either  possibility,  he  hesitates  not  to 
offer  to  the  holy  being  the  tribute  of  adoration. 
Two  sheep,  two  sows,  and  two  bullocks,  attest 
his  piety  with  their  sacrificial  blood. 

That  the  Phrygians  were  Ophites  is  to  be 
inferred  from  the  device  upon  the  shield  of 
Hector,  as  represented  on  the  Canino  vases  \ 
The  vase  No.  MCXIL  discovers  Hector  setting 
out  to  fight  with  Achilles.  He  bears  a serpent 
upon  his  shield.  He  is  again  represented  with 
the  same  device  on  another  vase. 

As  a “ genius  loci,”  however,  the  serpent  was 
not  confined  to  Phrygia  and  Troas.  It  was,  in 
this  character,  stamped  upon  the  coins  and 
medals  of  many  towns  of  Asia  Minor.  Cyzicum , 
Pergamus , Marcianopolis , in  Mysia  ; Abonitei- 
chos  and  Amastris  in  Paphlagonia  ; Nice  and 
Nicomedia  in  Bithynia  ; Tomos  and  Dionysopolis 
in  Pontus ; and  Mindus  in  Caria,  exhibit  as 
their  ensign  the  sacred  serpent 2.  On  the  medals 
of  Troas,  Nicomedia,  Amastris,  and  Mindus, 

1 Archaeol.  vol.  xxiii.  2 See  Spanheim,  212,  &c. 



the  serpent  is  seen  encircling  a prophetic  tripod; 
on  which  Spanheim  remarks,  that  “ serpents 
were  not  only  the  common  symbols  of  the  Py- 
thian worship,  but  also  the  domestic  prophets  of 
these  places.” 

Other  traces  of  ophiolatreia  may  be  recognised 
in  the  names  of  many  places  in  Asia  Minor.  As 
in  the  names  of  the  ancient  cities  may  be  fre- 
quently discovered  those  of  the  gods  to  whose 
worship  they  were  peculiarly  devoted  : and  as 
the  title  of  the  sacred  serpent  (Ab,  or  Pethen)  is 
frequently  involved  in  the  local  designations  of 
Asia  Minor,  Bryant  concluded  that  the  super- 
stition of  ophiolatreia  must  have  generally  pre- 
vailed through  this  idolatrous  region.  An  island 
of  the  Propontis  was  called  Ophiusa : this  name 
was  common  to  many  islands  and  places,  and 
denoted,  according  to  Bryant,  their  former  ad- 
diction to  the  worship  of  the  serpent  Oph.  In 
the  present  case,  this  hypothesis  may  seem  to  be 
corroborated  by  the  fact,  that  on  the  opposite 
point  of  the  Asiatic  continent,  there  prevailed  a 
tradition  of  a serpent-race — Ophiogenje,  who 
were  said  to  be  descen dents  of  a father,  who  was 
formerly  “ changed  from  a serpent  into  a man  V’ 

1 Strabo,  lib.  13. 




The  locus  of  this  legend  was  called  Parium ; 
whence,  perhaps,  the  Greeks  may  have  derived 
the  epithet  tt apuai,  which  was  bestowed  upon  the 
serpents  of  the  Bacchanalian  mysteries.  The 
usual  interpretation  of  this  word,  from  the  swell- 
ing cheeks  of  the  reptile  when  irritated,  is  less 

iElian  1 also  speaks  of  a race  of  Ophiogenae 
in  Phrygia,  the  offspring  of  a dragon  sacred  to 
Diana,  and  a woman  who  accidentally  entered 
the  grove. 

Uniting  these  fables,  we  may  draw  the  con- 
clusion, that  a colony  of  Ophites,  migrating 
from  Phrygia,  settled  at  Parium.  Strabo  sup- 
poses that  they  were  the  Psylli  of  Africa,  so 
famous  for  the  art  of  charming  serpents  : but 
adduces  no  reason  or  authority  for  the  hypo- 

Besides  these  inferential  evidences  of  serpent- 
worship,  we  have  more  certain  ones  in  the  re- 
cords of  authentic  history,  which  have  fixed  the 
temples  of  Apollo  and  iEsculapius  in  various 
cities  of  Asia  Minor.  We  may  remark,  that  the 
serpent  invariably  entered  into  the  mysteries  of 
the  Pythian  worship  ; and  that  live  serpents  were 

De  Animal,  lib.  xii.  c.  39. 



always  preserved  in  the  sanctuaries  of  JEscula- 
pius.  There  is,  therefore,  strong  reason  for  be- 
lieving, that  wherever  there  was  a temple  to 
either  of  these  deities,  ophiolatreia,  in  some  mo- 
dification, existed.  Pythian  games1 2  were  held 
at  Tralles , Miletus , Magnesia , Side,  and  Perga 
• — all  in  Asia  Minor.  Chalcedon , Chrysa , and 
Patara,  were  celebrated  for  the  temples  which 
were  dedicated  in  them  to  Apollo. 

The  most  celebrated  temple  of  iEsculapius 
in  Asia  Minor  was  at  Pergamus 2 : and  all  the 
Pergamean  coins,  according  to  Spanheim,  bore 
the  figure  of  a serpent.  The  iEsculapian  wor- 
ship may  be  traced  in  several  other  places  in  this 
country  : but  to  avoid  prolixity,  I relinquish  the 
search  to  the  more  curious  and  minute  investi- 
gator. Enough  has  been  said  on  the  local  indi- 
cations of  ophiolatreia,  to  establish  the  point, 
that  vestiges  of  the  superstition  may  be  found  in 
Asia  Minor. 

But  before  we  take  leave  of  this  interesting 

1 Gronov.  vii.  869,  on  the  Arundelian  Marbles  and  Stone 
found  at  Megara . 

2 It  is  remarkable  that  this  city  is  particularly  stigmatized 
in  Scripture  as  “ Satan's  seat — “ where  Satan  dwelleth .” — 
Rev.  ii.  13. 



region,  there  are  two  places  which  demand, 
though  in  different  degrees,  our  attention,  as 
memorable  abodes  of  the  sacred  serpent — Col- 
chos  and  Aboniteichos.  The  story  of  the  Col- 
chian  Dragon,  overcome  by  Jason,  is  too  well 
known  to  require,  in  this  place,  a particular  nar- 
ration. It  relates  to  the  destruction  of  an  ophite 
temple,  and  would  be  better  deferred  to  a sub- 
sequent chapter,  which  will  treat  exclusively  on 
that  part  of  our  subject.  The  superstition  of 
Aboniteichos,  however,  comes  immediately  under 
our  notice,  as  a remarkable  exhibition  of  the 
oracular  serpent.  To  the  description  of  a revival 
of  this  superstition  in  the  reign  of  Marcus  Aure- 
lius, I will  therefore  devote  the  remainder  of  this 

From  Lucian  we  learn,  that  a native  of  Abo- 
niteichos, Alexander  by  name,  being  involved  in 
pecuniary  difficulties  while  left  in  Greece,  de- 
termined to  practise  upon  the  credulity  of  his 
contemporaries  in  the  character  of  a magician. 
For  this  purpose  he  went  with  a chosen  compa- 
nion to  Pella,  in  Macedonia ; a place  remark- 
able for  a singular  custom,  (which,  however,  had 
existed  from  time  immemorial,)  that  of  nourish- 
ing tame  serpents  of  prodigious  size,  to  be  play- 



fellows  and  companions  of  their  infant  children. 
Having  purchased  one  of  these  animals,  he  sailed 
to  Chalcedon  ; and  there,  among  the  ruins  of  an 
old  temple  of  Apollo,  pretended  to  dig  up  two 
brazen  tablets,  “ which  had  been  deposited  by 
iEsculapius,”  and  which  bore  this  inscription  : 
“ Aesculapius,  and  his  father  Apollo , intend  to 
come  into  Pontus,  and  take  up  their  abode  at 
Aboniteichos .”  To  Aboniteichos  accordingly  the 
impostors  went,  with  their  Macedonian  serpent : 
but  before  they  arrived  there,  the  companion  of 
Alexander  died.  This  event,  however,  by  no 
means  disconcerted  him.  The  natives,  fore- 
warned, had  prepared  a temple  for  his  reception, 
and  in  this  he  took  up  his  abode.  On  an  ap- 
pointed day  he  proposed  to  exhibit  the  god  Aescu- 
lapius to  the  people, — having  previously  enclosed 
a small  snake  in  an  egg-shell,  and  concealed  it 
in  a convenient  place.  When  the  multitude  had 
assembled  in  eager  expectation,  he  approached 
the  spot  where  the  egg-shell  had  been  deposited  ; 
and  muttering  certain  “ Hebrew  and  Phoenician 
words  f unintelligible  to  the  people,  (who  could 
only  catch  the  words  “ Apollo ,”  “ Aesculapius ,” 
occasionally  introduced,)  he  plunged  in  his  hand, 
and  producing  the  egg-shell,  exclaimed  that 



“ the  god  was  within .”  Breaking  the  shell,  he 
drew  out  the  young  snake,  which  was  unani- 
mously hailed  as  the  expected  god.  From  that 
day,  his  reputation  as  the  familiar  servant  of 
iEsculapius  was  established.  In  a few  days 
afterwards  he  exhibited  the  large  serpent  within 
his  vest , as  the  same  god  iEsculapius  whom  they 
had  seen  in  his  first  state.  The  admiration  of 
the  people  at  the  rapid  growth  of  the  god  con- 
firmed their  original  impression  of  his  divinity. 
For  this  serpent,  the  impostor  contrived  a mask 
with  a human  face  made  of  linen,  and  persuaded 
the  votaries  that  such  was  the  form  under  which 
iEsculapius  chose  to  appear.  He  gave  the  ser- 
pent the  name  of  Glycon,  and  declared  that  he 
was  “ the  third  child  of  Jupiter , and  the  light  of 
men”  Henceforward  he  pretended  that  Glycon 
was  oracular , and  by  ventriloquism  caused  him 
to  give  responses.  Thousands  of  inquirers 
flocked  from  all  parts  of  the  Roman  Empire  to 
this  second  Delphi ; and,  Alexander  having  car- 
ried on  the  gainful  imposture  for  many  years, 
left  a memorial  of  it  upon  the  coins  and  medals 
of  Aboniteichos.  Engravings  of  Glycon,  as  he 
appeared  on  these  coins,  are  given  by  Span- 
heim,  p.  212. 



From  this  curious  narrative  we  may  reason- 
ably infer,  that  had  the  notion  of  ophiolatreia 
been  extinct  in  Paphlagonia,  Alexander  would 
not  have  selected  Aboniteichos  as  the  theatre  of 
his  fraud.  That  ophiolatreia  did,  indeed , once 
flourish  in  this  city,  is  evident  from  its  name, — 
Aj3(vvov  ruyog, — the  city  of  Ab-on,  the  serpent 
solar  god.  It  is  probable,  therefore,  that  some 
traces  of  it  remained  to  the  time  of  Alexander, 
who  skilfully  improved  the  superstitions  of  the 
people  to  his  own  advantage. 

There  are  proofs  also  of  his  acquaintance  with 
the  arcana  of  serpent-worship,  in  the  story  itself. 
The  enclosing  of  the  snake  in  the  egg  indicates 
his  knowledge  of  the  mythological  conceit  of 
the  sacred  serpent  and  mundane  egg.  The 
placing  of  the  great  serpent  in  his  bosom  within 
his  garments , was  a revival  of  the  old  Sebazian 
mysteries,  described  in  a preceding  chapter. 
And  the  very  name  of  Glycon,  involving  the 
title  of  the  solar  deity  On,  and  illustrated  by  the 
epithet  “the  light  of  men,”  seems  to  have  an 
allusion  to  ophiolatreia,  in  its  connexion  with 

Putting  together  these  coincidences,  we  may 
conclude  that  the  impostor  had  acquired  his 



knowledge  of  these  ancient  mysteries  from  some 
person  or  persons  then  in  existence,  capable  of 
teaching  him  : in  other  words,  that  primitive 
serpent-worship  was  still  to  be  found  in  Asia 
Minor  in  the  days  of  Marcus  Aurelius. 

XI.  The  Islands  of  Asia  Minor. — From  the 
continent  of  Asia  Minor,  we  pass  naturally  to 
the  islands  which  are  scattered  along  its  shores  ; 
from  Cyprus  through  the  Carpathian  and  Icarian 
Seas  to  the  Hellespont.  In  this  passage  we 
follow  the  tract  of  one  of  the  most  renowned  of 
Ophite  leaders,  who  carried  the  superstitions  of 
his  native  country  first  into  the  islands  which 
lay  near  it ; and  from  thence,  ultimately,  into 
Greece.  It  is  conjectured  by  Bochart,  that  the 
first  migration  of  the  Hivites,  who  fled  before 
Joshua,  was  that  of  the  Cadmonites  of  Mount 
Hermon,  whose  leader  was  Cadmus,  so  called 
from  the  name  of  the  people  whom  he  com- 
manded. It  is  not  likely  that  all  the  actions 
attributed  to  the  adventurer  Cadmus  were  per- 
formed by  one  person  ; for  it  is  the  genius  of 
fable  to  bestow  upon  one  person  the  honours  ac- 
quired, and  the  labours  undergone  by  many,  who 
may  have  issued  from  the  same  country.  The 



celebrated  Cadmus  was,  therefore,  a fictitious 
personage,  who  united  in  his  history  the  real 
actions  of  others,  whose  separate  achievements 
would  not  have  been  sufficiently  marvellous  for 

Under  the  guidance  of  this  hero — that  is, 
under  the  guidance  of  a Cadmonite  from  Mount 
Hermon — colonies  of  Ophites  were  settled  in 
Cyprus,  Rhodes,  Samos,  Chios,  Icaria,  &c.  in 
those  islands  of  the  Archipelago  which  were 
adjacent  to  Asia  Minor,  if  not  in  those  which 
were  nearer  to  Greece. 

1 . The  island  of  Cyprus  was  originally  called 
Ophiusa 1 — that  is,  “the  place  of  serpents:”  a 
name  which  was  very  generally  given  to  the 
settlements  of  the  worshippers  of  the  serpent 
Oph2.  The  tradition  was,  that  formerly  these 
places  swarmed  with  serpents : which,  from  the 
insular  situation  of  most  of  them,  is  not  very 
probable.  At  Paphos,  in  Cyprus,  there  was  a 
tradition  of  serpents  who  had  two  legs . This, 
remarks  Bryant,  related  to  men , and  not  to 
snakes 3. 

2.  Rhodes  was  also  called  Ophiusa 4 : and,  ac- 

1 Pliny.  2 Bryant,  Anal.  ii.  207. 

3 Anal.  ii.  209.  4 Strabo,  6,53. 



cording  to  Bochart1,  still  retains  its  designation 
in  the  Syrian  Rhod  (a  serpent.)  At  Rhodes 
there  was  a tradition  of  a number  of  serpents 
who  desolated  the  country,  and  destroyed  many 
of  its  inhabitants.  The  survivors  sent  to  Delphi, 
to  consult  the  oracle,  and  were  desired  to  bring 
over  Phorbas,  who,  taking  up  his  residence  in 
the  island,  soon  exterminated  the  reptiles.  He 
wras  exalted  after  death  into  the  constellation 
Ophiuchus  2,  which  is  the  same  with  the  Ophi- 
oneus  of  Phoenicia.  There  are  some  curious 
coincidences  with  serpent-worship,  in  the  history 
of  this  Phorbas.  He  was  the  grandson  of  Apollo, 
and  father  of  Iphis,  in  which  word  we  recognise 
the  root  Eph  or  Oph.  Apollo  is  the  solar  deity 
symbolized  by  the  serpent  Oph  ; and  “ Phorbas” 
may  be  decomposed  into  Phi-or-ab  ; i.  e.  “ The 
oracle  of  the  solar  serpent 3.”  It  appears,  also, 
that  Phorbas  married  Hermyne — which  may 
mean  “ a woman  of  Hermonf  where  the  Hivites 

In  the  legend  before  us,  we  trace  a confusion 

1 Geog.  Sacr.  Part  2.  lib.  i.  c.  7. 

2 Geog.  Sacr.  Part  2.  lib.  i.  c.  7.  citing  Diod.  and  Hygin. 

3 Faber  derives  Phorbas  from  Ph’-or-ob-as,  “ the  burning 
solar  serpent .”  (Cabiri.  i.  351.) 


of  ideas,  by  which  the  oracle  of  the  serpent- 
god,  established  perhaps  at  Rhodes  by  the 
Hivites  of  Hermon,  is  converted  into  a man , 
Phorbas,  who  delivered  the  island  from  serpents. 
The  whole  story  might  have  originated  in  a 
colony  of  Hivites  from  the  continent,  dispossess- 
ing the  natives  ( Ophites  also ) of  their  country. 
The  translation  of  Phorbas  into  the  constellation 
Ophiuchus,  or  Ophioneus,  corroborates  the  con- 
nexion of  this  legend  with  ophiolatreia. 

3.  In  the  island  of  Icaria  was  a temple  of 
Diana,  called  Tauropolium;  and  a small  town 
named  Draconum  stood  upon  a promontory  of 
the  same  name l.  Tauropolium,  according  to 
Bryant,  is  Tor-op-el — the  tower  of  the  god  Oph. 
We  may  infer,  therefore,  from  the  connexion  of 
Draconum  (thedown  of  the  dragon)  with  Tauro- 
polium, (the  temple  of  the  serpent-god ,)  that  the 
Hivites  of  Phoenicia  settled  also  in  the  island  of 

4.  A coin  of  Samos  represents  an  erect  serpent 
before  a naked  man  holding  a ring  in  his  hand.  It 
is  probable,  therefore,  according  to  the  hypo- 
thesis before  laid  down,  that  the  worship  of  the 
serpent  once  prevailed  at  Samos. 

1 Strabo,  659. 



5.  At  Chios,  there  was  another  settlement  of 
Hi  vites,  as  the  name  of  the  island,  and  a tra- 
dition preserved  in  it,  would  import.  £C  Chios ” 
is  derived  from  “ Hhivia,”  the  same  root  from 
whence  comes  “Hivite  the  meaning  of  which 
word  is  ascertained  to  be  “a  serpent .”  The 
Hivites  who  settled  in  this  island  were  finally 
exterminated,  according  to  the  probable  import 
of  the  following  legend  : — At  Chios  was  a moun- 
tain called  Pelineus  ; i.  e.  according  to  Bochart, 
Peli-naas — the  stupendous  serpent.  “ Under  this 
mountain,”  says  iElian 2,  “ there  lived  an  immense 
dragon , whose  voice  was  so  terrific  that  no  one 
could  ever  approach  his  cave  to  see  him.  He 
was  at  length  destroyed  by  setting  fire  to  piles  of 
wood  placed  at  the  mouth  of  the  cavern.”  This 
relates,  probably,  to  the  destruction  of  a vast 
temple,  which  the  Hivites  had  erected  on  that 
mountain,  or  at  the  foot  of  it.  Why  this  Hivite 
temple  should  be  called  an  immense  dragon, 
will  be  shown  in  the  chapter  which  treats  of 
“ Ophite  temples.” 

These  were  the  chief  settlements  of  the  ophites 
in  Asia  Minor ; and  with  these  notices  we  con- 

1 Bochart.  Geog.  Sac.  Part.  2.  lib.  i.  c.  9. 

2 Cited  by  Bochart,  ut  supra. 




elude  our  investigation  of  serpent-worship  in 

The  Syrian  Ophites  were  the  Hivites  of  Scrip- 
ture, and  the  Cadmians  of  mythology.  But  the 
name  of  “ Cadmians”  was  rather  general  than 
particular — it  was  bestowed  indiscriminately  upon 
the  authors  of  this  superstition,  whether  proceed- 
ing from  Lebanon  or  Egypt.  “ They  were  a 
two-fold  colony  which  came  both  from  Egypt 
and  Syria1.”  The  Syrian  Cadmians  colonized 
the  islands  above  mentioned.  The  Egyptian 
adventurers  settled  first  in  Crete,  and  afterwards 
in  the  Cyclades,  Peloponnesus,  Greece,  Samo- 
thrace,  Macedonia,  Illyrium,  &c.  as  we  shall 
hereafter  find. 

It  appears,  then,  from  a review  of  what  has 
been  already  ascertained,  that  the  worship  of 
the  serpent  pervaded  Babylonia,  Assyria,  Me- 
sopotamia, Persia,  India,  Cachmere,  China, 
Japan,  Java,  Ceylon,  Arabia,  Syria,  Colchis, 
and  Asia  Minor — a tract  of  country  over  which 
(the  worship  of  the  sun  alone  excepted)  no  other 
superstition  was  so  uniformly  spread . It  entered 
also  into  the  religion  of  the  Scythian  tribes,  who 

Bryant,  Anal.  ii.  460. 



bore  for  their  banner  the  sacred  dragon  1 : and 
was  carried  with  them,  probably,  to  the  river 
Obi — a river,  in  whose  name  is  preserved  to  the 
present  day,  a memorial  of  the  sacred  serpent 
Ob.  It  might  indeed  have  been  called  £C  the  ser- 
pent river,”  from  its  winding  course  ; but  this  is 
not  a peculiarity  of  any  river — it  is  common  to 
all : and  the  recorded  fact  that  the  Ostiackes, 
who  inhabited  the  banks  of  the  Obi,  among  their 
other  idols,  worshipped  the  image  of  a serpent  2, 
tends  strongly  to  corroborate  our  hypothesis. 

1 Koch  de  Cultu  Serpentum,  p.  30  ; also  Suidas. 

2 New  Memoirs  of  Literature . Anno  1725,  vol.  i.  421. 







I.  Egypt. — Of  all  the  nations  of  antiquity, 
none  was  so  infamous  for  idolatry,  as  Egypt. 
She  was  the  alma  mater  of  every  superstition  ; 
conveying,  with  her  colonists,  wherever  they 
were  settled,  some  corruption  of  the  truth,  which, 
under  the  fostering  care  of  her  established  priest- 
hood, assumed  a form  of  consistency  and  allure- 
ment. Among  the  rest,  the  worship  of  the  ser- 
pent was  in  her  early  history  an  important  and 
conspicuous  part  of  her  idolatry.  The  serpent 
entered  into  the  Egyptian  religion  under  all  his 
characters,  of  an  emblem  of  divinity,  a charm, 
an  oracle,  and  a God. 

1.  As  an  emblem  of  divinity,  the  sacred  ser- 
. pent  was  particularly  symbolical  of  the  gods 
Cneph  and  Thoth,  and  of  the  goddess  Isis  : 
though  he  entered,  more  or  less,  into  the  sym- 
bolical worship  of  all  the  gods. 



Harpocrates,  a very  ancient  god  of  the 
Egyptians,  was  symbolized  by  the  serpent.  He 
is  generally  represented  with  his  left  hand  on  a 
staff,  surmounted  by  a cornucopia  : round  the 
staff  is  twined  a serpent  \ He  is  the  god  of 
silence ; to  denote  which  the  forefinger  of  the 
right  hand  is  on  his  mouth.  He  is  supposed  by 
some  to  be  the  same  as  Horus. 

Cneph  was  considered  by  the  Egyptian 
priests  as  “ the  architect  of  the  universe,”  and 
was  adored  as  “ the  good  daemon.”  He  was 
sometimes  represented  as  a serpent  with  an 
egg  in  his  mouth.  The  egg  denoted  the  mun- 
dane elements  as  proceeding  from  him.  The 
serpent  in  a circle,  passing  diametrically  and 
horizontally  from  circumference  to  circumference, 
was  his  hieroglyphical  emblem.  This  became 
the  ninth  letter  of  the  Egyptian  alphabet,  and 
was  called  Thita  2;  from  which  the  Greeks  bor- 
rowed both  the  form  and  name  of  their  Theta. 
The  name  of  this  letter  was  derived  from  that  of 
its  inventor  Thoth,  the  reformer  of  the  religion 
and  manners  of  Egypt,  and  the  supposed  author 

1 Montfaucon,  ii.  191. 

2 Kircher  CEdip.  iEgypt.  vol.  iii.  p,  4(3,  who  calls  it  the 
thirteenth  letter. 



of  the  hieroglyphic  system.  He  is  said  by  San- 
choniathon  to  have  introduced  ophiolatreia ; and 
was,  as  we  observed  in  a former  part  of  this 
volume,  most  probably  the  founder  of  the  first 
colonies  after  the  flood  which  were  established 
in  Phoenicia  and  Egypt.  He  taught  the  Egyp- 
tians (or  rather  that  part  of  his  colony  which 
was  settled  in  Egypt)  a religion,  which  partaking 
of  Zabaism  and  Ophiolatreia,  had  some  mixture 
also  of  primeval  truth.  The  divine  Spirit  he 
denominated  Cneph,  and  described  him  as  “ the 
original , eternal  Spirit , pervading  all  creation  *,” 
whose  symbol  was  a serpent. 

For  his  many  services  to  the  people,  in  teach- 
ing them  letters,  hieroglyphics,  astronomy,  and 
morals,  Taautus  or  Thoth  was  deified  after 
death  as  “ the  god  of  health,”  or  of  “ healing,” 
and  became  the  prototype  of  the  god  iEscuLA- 
pius  2.  He  was  also  identified  with  Hermes  or 

As  “ the  god  of  healing,”  Thoth  was  him- 
self symbolized  by  the  serpent,  which  he  had 
taught  the  Egyptians  to  consider  as  a general 
emblem  of  divinity.  The  seventh  letter  of  the 

1 Jablonski  Panth.  iEgypt.  c.  iv.  p.  81. 

2 Ibid.  lib.  v.  c.  6. 



Egyptian  alphabet,  called  zeuta , or  “ life,”  was 
sacred  to  him1,  and  expressed  by  a serpent  stand - 
mg  upon  his  tail.  Hence  the  name  and  the 
form  of  the  corresponding  letter  in  the  Grecian 
alphabet,  Z £. 

Thoth,  as  the  god  of  healing,  is  represented 
leaning  upon  a knotted  stick,  which  is  enfolded 
by  a serpent  : and  a female  deity,  corresponding 
with  the  Grecian  goddess  Hygeia,  is  encircled  by 
a serpent  who  drinks  out  of  a chalice  in  her 
hand 2. 

The  serpent  was  also  symbolical  of  Isis,  and 
formed  a conspicuous  feature  in  her  mysteries. 
The  Isiac  table  3,  which  describes  these  mysteries, 
is  charged  with  serpents  in  every  part,  as  em- 
blems of  the  goddess. 

The  species  of  serpent  peculiarly  dedicated  to 
Isis  was  the  asp.  This  is  seen  on  the  heads  of 
her  statues,  and  on  the  bonnets  and  sashes  of  her 

1 Kircher.  CEdip.  JEg.  iii.  36 ; who  calls  it  the  12th 

2 Montfaucon,  vol.  5. 

3 This  was  a celebrated  plate  of  brass  overlaid  with  black 
enamel,  intermixed  with  plates  of  silver.  It  was  destroyed 
at  the  taking  of  Mantua,  1630.  See  Montfaucon , who  has 
engraved  it,  vol.  2. 



priests.  The  tiara  of  the  kings  of  Egypt  was 
ornamented  with  the  figures  of  the  same  reptile. 
“ When  the  Egyptians  wished  to  represent  Isis 
as  an  angry  avenger  of  crimes,  they  placed  an 
asp  on  her  head,  which  was  designated  by  the 
peculiar  name  of  Thermuthis , i.  e.  deadly' ” We 
learn  also  from  iElian1  2 : “ The  asp,  to  which  the 
Egyptians  gave  the  name  of  Thermuthis,  they 
say  is  sacred,  and  worship  it  there  ; and  they 
crown  the  images  of  Isis  with  it,  as  with  a royal 
diadem.”  There  is  a fragment  in  the  Elgin 
collection  of  marbles  in  the  British  Museum, 
which  appears  to  be  a leonine  head  of  Isis, 
crowned  with  a coronet  of  asps.  Ovid,  (Met.  ix. 
690,  &c.)  describing  the  dream  of  Telethusa,  the 
mother  of  Iphis,  represents  Isis  as  appearing  with 
her  constant  companion  the  serpent ; which  he 
thus  characterizes  : — 

“ Plena  que  somniferi  serpens  peregrina  veneni.” 

A character  which  answers  to  that  of  the 
Thermuthis.  The  same  poet  again  mentions  the 
asp  of  Isis,  when  he  imprecates  that  goddess  in 
the  following  words  — 

1 Jablonski,  P.  Mg.  119.  See  also  Bryant  ii.  200. 

2 De  Anim.  x.  31. 



Per  tua  sistra  precor,  per  Anubidis  ora  verendi, 

(Sic  tua  sacra  pius  semper  Osiris  amet, 


From  which  we  may  infer  that  living  asps 
were  kept  in  the  temples  of  Isis,  and  employed, 
perhaps,  to  glide  about  the  offerings , to  sanctify 
them.  This  will  throw  a light  on  the  practice 
of  the  Syrian  ophites  mentioned  in  the  pre- 
ceding chapter  ; namely,  the  hallowing  of  the 
Eucharist  by  the  gliding  of  the  sacred  serpent 
about  the  bread.  This  custom  obtained  also,  as 
we  shall  observe  in  the  sequel,  among  the 
Britons  and  Scandinavians  in  their  most  solemn 

The  asp  of  Isis  was  not  a reptile  of  Egyptian 
production.  Ovid,  we  may  remark,  describes 
her  as  accompanied  by  a “ peregrina  serpens,” 
a foreign  serpent ; and  all  the  representations  of 
the  asp  describe  it  as  having  a large  expanded 
head,  unlike  any  snake  which  has  ever  been 
found  in  Egypt.  It  was  probably  the  hooded 
serpent  of  India,  which  is  invariably  the  sacred 
snake  of  that  country.  But  how  it  became  an 
emblem  of  divinity  in  Egypt  it  is  not  easy  to 
prove  ; for  the  native  two-horned  snake  of  the 
1 Lib.  2.  Amor.  Eleg.  13. 



temple  of  Jupiter  at  Thebes,  was  also  held  in 
great  reverence.  It  is  possible  that  the  worship 
of  Isis  may  find  its  prototype  in  the  adoration  of 
the  Indian  Isi.  The  sacred  asp  of  the  hiero- 
glyphics, is  different  from  the  common  asp  of 
Egypt,  which  was  merely  a viper. 

The  serpent,  however,  was  not  confined  to 
Cneph,  Thoth  and  Isis,  though  more  peculiarly 
consecrated  to  their  worship.  There  is  scarcely 
an  Egyptian  deity  which  is  not  occasionally 
symbolized  by  it.  Several  of  these  deities  are 
represented  with  their  proper  heads  terminating 
in  serpents’  bodies.  In  Montfaucon,  vol.  2, 
plate  207,  there  is  an  engraving  of  Serapis, 
with  a human  head  and  serpentine  tail.  Two 
other  minor  gods  are  also  represented,  the 
one  by  a serpent  with  a bull’s  head,  the  other 
by  a serpent  with  the  radiated  head  of  the  lion. 
The  second  of  these,  which  Montfaucon  sup- 
poses to  be  an  image  of  Apis,  is  bored  through 
the  middle  : “ probably,”  remarks  that  learned 
antiquary,  “ with  a design  to  hang  about  the 
neck,  as  they  did  many  other  small  figures  of 
Gods,  by  way  of  ornaments  or  charms.” 

The  figure  of  Serapis,  encircled  by  serpents, 
is  found  on  tombs.  The  appearance  of  serpents 



on  tombs  was  very  general.  On  an  urn  of 
Egnatius  Nicephoras,  and  of  Herbasia  Cly- 
mene,  engraved  in  Montfaucon,  vol.  5,  a young 
man  entwined  by  a serpent  is  described  as  fall- 
ing headlong  to  the  ground.  In  the  urn  of 
Herbasia  Clymene  the  corners  are  ornamented 
with  figures  of  serpents.  It  is  a singular  coin- 
cidence that  the  creature  by  whom  came  death 
into  the  world  should  be  consecrated  by  the 
earliest  heathen  idolaters  to  the  receptacles  of 
the  dead.  It  is  remarkable  also,  that  Serapis 
was  supposed  by  the  Egyptians  “ to  have  domi- 
nion over  evil  daemons or  in  other  words,  was 
the  same  as  Pluto  or  Satan. 

As  an  emblem  of  dedication  to  the  service  or 
honour  of  the  Deity,  the  serpent  was  sculp- 
tured with  a globe  and  wings  on  the  porticoes 
of  most  of  the  Egyptian  temples,  and  on  the 
summits  of  some  of  the  obelisks.  The  temples 
of  Luxore,  Esnay,  Komombu,  Dendara,  and 
Apollinopolis,  are  surmounted  by  this  favourite 
symbol  of  consecration  2 ; and  it  appears  on  the 
top  of  each  compartment  of  the  Pamphylian 

1 Porphyry  in  Euseb.  cited  by  Montfaucon,  supplement, 
ii.  214. 

2 See  plates  in  Maurice  Ind.  Antiq.  Vols.  II.  III.  IV. 




obelisk  \ Two  serpents,  without  the  wings  and 

globe , are  sculptured  on  each  of  the  capitals  of 

the  pillars  in  the  temple  of  Gaya,  as  delineated 

by  Pococke 2.  On  the  Pamphylian  obelisk  the 

hieroglyphic  serpent  appears  in  all  his  forms, 

with  and  without  the  globe  or  wings,  fifty-two 

times ; and  is  seen  also  on  others. 


The  great  consideration  in  which  the  sym- 
bolical serpent  was  held  by  the  Egyptians, 
appears  in  the  variations  under  which  he  is 
found  on  monumental  remains.  The  reason  of 
these  has  been  assigned  by  authors  who  have 
undertaken  to  investigate  the  nature  and  object 
of  Egyptian  hieroglyphics.  The  serpent  was 
deemed  symbolical  of  the  divine  wisdom , power , 
and  creative  energy 3 ; of  immortality  and  regene- 
ration, from  the  shedding  of  his  skin  ; and  of 
eternity , when  represented  in  the  act  of  biting 
his  own  tail.  Besides  these  various  symboli- 
zations, we  are  informed  that  the  Egyptians 
represented  the  world  by  a circle,  intersected 
by  two  diameters  perpendicular  to  each  other  4. 
These  diameters  were  serpents , as  we  may 

1 See  plate  in  Kircher.  2 Desc.  of  East.  i.  70. 

3 Bryant,  Plagues  of  Egypt,  209. 

4 Jablonski,  P.  Mg.  lib.  i.  p.  86. 


gather  from  Eusebius  \ who  tells  us  that  “ the 
world  was  described  by  a circle  and  a serpent 
passing  diametrically  horizontally  through  it”  The 
circle  represented  the  terrestrial  globe,  and  the 
intersecting  serpents  the  solstitial  colures.  This 
emblem  was  more  common  than  that  mentioned 
by  Eusebius2.  Jablonski  seems  to  think  that 
the  circumference  only  was  a serpent,  and  the 
diameters  right  lines  ; but  the  passage  above 
referred  to  in  Eusebius  corrects  him. 

The  learned  Kircher  has  also  instructed  us 
that  the  several  elements  were  likewise  repre- 
sented by  serpents  in  various  positions.  Thus 
when  they  desired  to  depict  the  element  of 
earth,  “ which  was  animated  by  the  igneous 
power  of  Oph,  (the  genius  who  governed  all 
things,  and  was  symbolized  by  the  serpent,) 
they  drew  a prostrate  two-horned  snake.”  When 
they  wished  to  denote  the  element  of  water, 
they  described  a serpent  moving  in  an  undulated 
manner.  The  air  was  represented  by  an  erect 
serpent  in  the  act  of  hissing ; this  was  the 
figure  which  formed  the  letter  zeuta.  The  ele- 
ment of  fire  they  denoted  by  an  asp  standing 
on  his  tail,  and  bearing  upon  his  head  a globe  : 

1 Prsep.  Ev.  lib.  i.  p.  42.  2 Jablonski  lit  supra. 



while  “ the  igneous  quality” — the  “ aura’i  simplicis 
ignis” — the  divine  principle  of  animation  which 
pervades  all  things — they  represented  by  a circle 
with  a snake  horizontally  bisecting  it.  This  is  the 
letter  thita ; and  the  emblem  described  by 
Eusebius  as  the  “ character  mundi.” 

From  which  hieroglyphics  it  is  clear  that  the 
serpent  was  the  most  expressive  symbol  of 
divinity  with  the  Egyptians.  The  last  figure, 
the  emblem  of  the  “ Vis  ignea,”  was  peculiarly 
the  hieroglyphic  of  the  god  Cneph,  the  Aga- 
thodBemon  and  Demiurge  of  Egyptian  mytho- 
logy,  the  chief  god  of  their  original  worship. 

The  extent  to  which  the  veneration  of  the 
symbolical  serpent  prevailed  in  Egypt,  is  illus- 
trated by  a very  curious  plate  of  gold  discovered 
at  Malta,  in  the  year  1694,  in  the  old  wall  of 
the  city,  where  it  is  supposed  to  have  been 
concealed  by  its  former  possessor  in  the  days 
of  religious  fervour,  when  every  thing  idolatrous 
was  consumed  as  abominable.  This  interesting 
relic  is  engraved  in  Montfaucon,  vol.  ii.  p.  207, 
and  thus  described  : “ This  plate  was  rolled  up 
in  a golden  casket ; it  consists  of  two  long 
rows,  which  contain  a very  great  number  of 
Egyptian  deities,  most  of  which  have  the  head 




of  some  beast  or  bird.  Many  serpents  are  also 
seen  intermixed,  the  arms  and  legs  of  the  gods 
terminating  in  serpents’  tails.  The  first  figure 
has  upon  its  back  a long  shell,  with  a serpent 
upon  it : in  each  row  there  is  a serpent  extended 
upon  an  altar.  Among  the  figures  of  the  second 
row  there  is  seen  an  Isis,  of  tolerably  good 
form.  This  same  plate,  no  doubt,  contains  the 
most  profound  mysteries  of  the  Egyptian  super- 
stition.” It  is  a representation,  probably,  of  the 
mysteries  of  Isis. 

Among  the  curiosities  of  Egyptian  idolatry  were 
the  votive  hands  and  feet,  sometimes  found 
in  temples.  They  were  offered  up  in  the  same 
manner  as  the  church  of  Rome  consecrates 
waxen  images  of  hands  and  feet,  &c.  comme- 
morative of  preservations — a custom  derived, 
doubtless,  from  Pagans,  as  are  most  of  the 
religious  ceremonies  of  the  Romish  church. 
These  votive  hands  1 or  feet  are  charged  with 
figures  of  serpents , emblematic  of  recovered 

The  basilisk  or  royal  serpent,  so  called  as 
being  the  most  venomous  of  the  species,  and,  as 

1 In  the  British  Museum,  among  the  Grecian  Antiquities, 
are  two  votive  feet , encircled  by  serpents. 



it  were,  a king  of  snakes , was  named  Ob  or 
Oub  This,  as  we  observed  before,  was  the 
name  of  the  oracular  god  of  Canaan,  identical 
with  the  Python  of  Delphi.  The  Egyptians 
represented  this  serpent  upon  their  coins,  dart- 
ing rays  from  his  head,  as  if  adorned  with  a 
crown.  Round  the  coin  was  inscribed  “ Aga- 
thodjEMon.”  The  Roman  Emperor  Nero,  in 
the  madness  of  his  vanity,  caused  several  such 
coins  to  be  struck  with  the  inscription,  u The 
new  Agathod^mon” — meaning  himself2.  There 
was  a similar  medal  struck  by  the  Egyptian 
gnostics,  on  which  the  word  “ Cnuphis”  was 
stamped.  By  this  the  idolatrous  heretics  in- 
tended to  signify  JESUS  CHRIST  3. 

The  Egyptian  gnostics  of  the  school  of 
Basilides  were  much  addicted  to  magic  ; and 
among  their  amulets  had  certain  gems  called 
Abraxas . This  was  the  name  which  they  gave  to 
the  Almighty,  because,  said  they,  “ the  letters 
forming  the  word  c Abraxas ,’  in  Greek  numera- 
tion, would  make  up  the  number  three  hundred 
and  sixty-five  ; that  is,  the  number  of  the  days 
in  one  revolution  of  the  sun,  as  the  word 

1 Horus  Apollo,  c.  i.  p.  2.  2 Spanheim  De  Usu  Num.  188. 

3 Jablonski,  P.  M.  89. 

K 2 


Mithras,  or  Meithras,  also  contains  them.”  The 
name  of  the  deity  they  transferred  to  gems,  on 
which  his  mysteries  or  symbols  were  inscribed. 
Most  of  these  gems  had  the  figure  of  a serpent 
upon  them,  either  by  himself,  or  terminating 
the  legs  of  a god  with  a cock’s  head.  The 
leonine  serpent,  with  a circle  of  rays  about  his 
head,  was  commonly  engraved  upon  them.  The 
inscriptions  frequently  alluded  to  the  Jewish 
or  Christian  religions  in  the  words  “ Iao 
Sabaoth ,”  “ Adonai ,”  & c.  which  formed  them. 
A serpent  biting  his  own  tail,  to  represent  eter- 
nity, was  often  seen  on  those  gems  \ 

These  Abraxas,  in  which  Egyptian  idolatry 
and  Christian  revelation  were  so  inextricably 
interwoven,  are  existing  proofs  of  the  preva- 
lence of  ophiolatreia  in  the  first  ages  of  the 

The  Egyptians  held  basilisks  in  such  vene- 
ration, that  they  made  images  of  them  in  gold, 
and  consecrated  and  placed  them  in  the  tem- 
ples of  their  gods 1  2.  Bryant  thinks  that  they 
were  the  same  as  the  Thermuthis,  or  deadly 

1 See  Plates,  &c.  in  Montfaucon. 

3 Horus  Apollo,  c.  i.  p.  2. 



asp.  These  creatures  the  Egyptian  priests  are 
said  to  have  preserved  by  digging  holes  for 
them  in  the  corners  of  their  temples  1 * * ; and  it 
was  a part  of  their  superstition  to  believe  that 
whoever  was  accidentally  bitten  by  them  was 
divinely  favoured  \ 

The  serpent  is  sometimes  found  sculptured, 
and  attached  to  the  breasts  of  mummies  ; but 
whether  with  a view  to  talismanic  security,  or  as 
indicative  of  the  priesthood  of  Isis,  is  doubtful. 
A female  mummy,  opened  by  M.  Passalacqua 
at  Paris  a few  years  ago,  was  adorned  with  a 
necklace  of  serpents  carved  in  stone.  The  small 
figure  of  the  bull-headed  serpent,  mentioned 
above,  may  have  been  intended  for  a similar 
purpose.  Bracelets,  in  the  form  of  serpents , 
were  worn  by  the  Grecian  women  in  the  time  of 
Clemens  Alexandrinus,  who  thus  reproves  the 
fashion  : 4 ‘ The  women  are  not  ashamed  to  place 
about  them  the  most  manifest  symbols  of  the  evil 
one;  for  as  the  serpent  deceived  Eve,  so  the 
golden  trinket  in  the  fashion  of  a serpent  misleads 

1 Gesner,  Hist.  Anim.  p.  54,  citing  iElian.  To  some  such 

notion  may  possibly  be  referred  Cleopatra’s  choice  of  death. 

She  destroyed  herself  by  the  venom  of  a viper. 



the  women  h”  The  children  also  wore  chaplets 
of  the  same  kind 1  2. 

Between  Egypt  and  Greece  there  was  always 
a great  intercourse  ; and  many  of  the  customs, 
and  most  of  the  mythology  of  the  latter,  were 
derived  from  the  former.  It  is  not  improbable, 
therefore,  that  these  serpentine  trinkets  were 
worn  also  in  Egypt ; but  whether  as  merely 
ornamental,  or  as  talismanic,  or  as  indicative  of 
the  priesthood  of  Cneph  or  Isis,  I will  not  ven- 
ture to  decide. 

2.  But  a very  striking  example  of  the  tails - 
manic  serpent  may  be  seen  in  the  celebrated 
Caduceus,  which  was  usually,  though  not  ex- 
clusively, attributed  to  Hermes  or  Mercury.  It 
did  not  exclusively  belong  to  that  god,  for  we 
may  find  it  in  the  hand  of  Cybele,  “ the  Syrian 
goddess,”  the  mother  of  the  gods3.  Cybele  is 
the  same  as  Ops,  in  whose  history  the  serpent 
makes  a prominent  feature.  We  find  it  again, 

1 Psed.  lib.  ii.  245.  Edit.  Potter. 

2 Coel.  Rhodig.  cited  by  Gesner,  Hist.  Anim.  32.  Dr. 
Clarke,  Travels,  vol.  i.  p.  72,  describes  a very  beautiful 
bracelet  of  golden  serpents  which  was  found  in  a tumulus,  near 
the  Cimmerian  Bosphorus. 

3 Montfaucon,  Vol.  i.  plate,  p.  8. 



held  by  Minerva1;  and  again,  by  the  Egyptian 
Anubis  2.  It  is  seen  in  the  hands  of  Hercules 
Ogmius,  the  god  of  the  Celts ; and  of  the  per- 
sonified constellation  Virgo,  who  is  said  by 
Lucian  3 to  have  had  her  symbol  in  the  Pythian 
priestess  ; from  which  we  may  infer  that  the 
Caduceus  was  a sacred  badge  at  Delphi. 

The  Caduceus  was  represented  under  various 
forms,  according  to  the  fancy  of  the  sculptor, 
but  almost  always  preserved  the  original  design 
of  a winged  wand  entwined  by  two  serpents. 
Sometimes  it  was  described  without  the  wings, 
but  never,  properly,  without  the  serpents  : the 
variations  consisted  chiefly  in  the  number  of  the 
folds  made  by  the  serpents’  bodies  round  the 
wand,  and  the  relative  positions  of  the  wings, 
and  serpents’  heads.  The  Caduceus  was 
deemed  powerful  in  paralyzing  the  mind,  and 
raising  the  dead.  This  talismanic  character  was 
probably  inherent  in  the  serpents , rather  than  in 
any  other  part  of  the  Caduceus  ; for  though 
frequently  exhibited  without  the  wings,  it  is 
rarely,  if  ever,  seen  without  the  serpents.  The 

1 Montfaucon,  Yol.  i.  plate,  p.  85. 

2 Kircher,  Pamp.  Obel.  plate  of  Anubis. 

3 De  Astrolog.  p.  544,  Edit.  1615,  Paris. 




notion  of  the  charm  was  probably  derived  from 
an  obscure  traditionary  memorial  of  the  fascina- 
tion of  the  paradisiacal  serpent.  The  fascination 
of  the  serpent’s  eye  was  universally  believed  by 
the  ancients,  insomuch  that  “ a serpent's  eye” 
became  a proverb  among  the  Greeks  and 
Romans  to  denote  peculiar  acuteness  and  in- 
tentness of  mind  \ 

The  origin  of  the  Caduceus  has  been  elabo- 
rately developed  by  the  learned  Kircher,  in  his 
dissertation  on  the  Pamphylian  obelisk  2.  From 
him  we  learn  that  the  Caduceus  was  originally 
expressed  by  the  simple  figure  of  a cross,  by 
which  its  inventor,  Thoth,  is  said  to  have  sym- 
bolized the  four  elements  proceeding  from  a com- 
mon centre.  This  symbol,  after  undergoing 
some  alterations,  was  used  as  a letter  of  the 
Egyptian  alphabet,  and  called,  from  its  inventor, 
Taut.  It  was  the  corresponding  letter  to  the 
Hebrew  Tau,  though  different  in  shape.  It 
corresponded  with  it  also  in  its  mystic  signi- 

The  next  form  assumed  by  this  remarkable 
symbol  was  § : the  figure  of  the  sun  being 
superadded,  as  if  to  denote  that  the  sun  was 

1 Parkhurst,  Lex.  u^ic.  2 Lib.  iv.  Hierogr.  20. 



the  great  author  of  action  to  the  mundane  ele- 
ments. By  this  figure  was  symbolized  the 
deity  of  fecundity  and  generation  ; and  hence 
it  became,  subsequently,  a symbol  of  the  planet 
Venus.  Jablonski  thinks  that  it  was  nothing 
more  nor  less  than  the  infamous  Phallus ; but  the 
authority  of  Kircher  must  be  allowed  respect. 

The  moon  being  also  united  with  the  sun,  in 
the  opinion  of  the  Egyptians,  as  a parent  of  life 
and  heat  and  vegetation,  the  lunar  emblem  was 
added  to  the  solar.  The  sun  and  moon,  as  the 
father  and  mother  of  the  universe,  contributed, 
therefore,  their  conjoint  character  to  the  Taautic 
symbol,  which  in  its  new  form  was  described 
thus  This  was  the  complete  figure  which 
represented  the  supreme  deity.  It  was  called 
by  the  Egyptians  the  Taautic  emblem  ; and 
when  Thoth  was  elevated  into  the  rank  of  a god, 
by  the  name  of  Hermes  or  Mercury,  it  became 
his  hieroglyphic.  Hence  it  was  employed  as  a 
symbol  of  the  planet  Mercury  ; for  in  early 
mythology  every  deified  hero  was  changed  into 
a planet  or  constellation.  The  sun,  being  the 
great  object  of  primeval  idolatry,  was  wor- 
shipped with  the  highest  honours ; and  Thoth, 
being  the  great  prophet  and  reformer  of  the 



Egyptian  religion,  to  him  they  gave  the  post  of 
honour  next  to  the  sun.  Hence  the  planet  which 
revolves  nearest  to  the  sun  was  called  Hermes,  or 
Mercury,  and  regarded  as  the  celestial  mansion 
of  the  deified  Thoth  \ 

Thoth  first  taught  the  Egyptians  to  symbolize 
divinity  by  serpents  ; hence  the  two  chief  ob- 
jects of  Egyptian  idolatry,  the  sun  and  the 
moon,  were  represented  by  two  serpents,  male 
and  female.  Later  philosophers,  therefore,  not 
deeming  the  Taautic  emblem  sufficiently  ex- 
plicit of  its  own  meaning,  substituted  for  the 
lunar  crescent  and  the  solar  circle , two  serpents, 
the  representatives  of  these  deities,  each  of 
which  was  most  ingeniously  described  by  the 
intersecting  of  the  two  serpents , so  as  to  form  a 
circle  below , and  a crescent  above,  with  their 
bodies.  The  arms  of  the  cross  they  changed 
in  like  manner  into  wings,  which  were  em- 
blematical of  the  hovering  of  the  divine  spirit 

1 For  this  conjecture  I must  crave  indulgence  ; for  though 
only  a conjecture,  unsupported  by  authority,  I cannot  but 
consider  it  as  founded  on  probability.  The  reader  will  find, 
upon  reference  to  Kircher,  that  I have  taken  other  liberties 
with  his  argument  besides  this,  which  may  stand  or  fall  by 
its  own  merits. 



over  the  mundane  elements.  The  mundane 
elements  were  consequently  reduced  to  be  repre- 
sented by  the  shaft  of  the  cross. 

This  improved  form  of  the 
Taautic  emblem,  and  the  first 
form  of  the  Caduceus,  was  thus 
depicted.  In  this  form  it  is  seen 
in  the  hand  of  Anubis,  in  the 
plate  engraved  of  him  in  Her- 
wart’s  Hieroglyphic  Theatre,  from 
which  it  is  copied  by  Kircher. 

After  this,  the  Caduceus  underwent  many  va- 
riations. The  serpents  were  made  to  entwine 
about  the  shaft,  and  the  wings  were  placed  above 
the  serpents.  The  intersections  of  the  serpents, 
also,  became  more  frequent,  sometimes  amount- 
ing to  three  or  four  ; and  gave  rise  to  the  fable 
of  Jupiter  and  Rhea,  to  which  the  supposed  con- 
jugal union  of  the  sun  and  moon  (represented 
by  these  serpents)  gave  some  colour.  Sometimes 
the  point  of  intersection  was  a knot , which  was 
called  “ the  knot  of  Hercules  h” 

But  notwithstanding  all  these  variations,  the 
original  idea  was  never  lost.  The  symbol  was 

Macrob.  Saturnal.  lib.  i.  c.  19. 



always  in  the  hand  of  Mercury,  though  occa- 
sionally it  adorned  the  statues  and  medals  of 
other  deities ; and  it  was  always  a talisman 
of  extraordinary  power.  For  this  talismanic 
character  two  causes  may  be  assigned : the 
one , inherent  in  the  serpents,  from  a tradi- 
tionary recollection  of  the  “ subtilty”  of  the 
creature  who  seduced  our  first  mother ; the 
other , residing  in  the  simple  cross,  the  basis  of 
the  Taautic  emblem.  So  much  may  be  said  in 
favour  of  the  latter  opinion,  and  so  great  is  the 
probability  in  favour  of  the  former,  that  we  can- 
not err  in  combining  the  two  causes  to  complete  the 
talisman . 

Kircher  supposes  that  Thoth  received  the 
emblem  upon  which  he  founded  the  crux  ansata 
from  the  patriarchs  (before  the  flood,  I presume,) 
by  tradition.  Of  this  there  can  be  no  proof. 
Certain  it  is,  however,  that  by  the  descendents 
of  the  patriarchs  after  the  flood,  the  figure  of  a 
cross  was  ever  esteemed  a most  sacred  sign, 
whatever  may  have  been  its  origin  or  mystery, 
it  occurs,  according  to  Maurice,  among  the 
hieroglyphics  of  the  Brahmins,  and  is  stamped 
upon  the  most  magnificent  shrines  of  their 
deities.  On  the  Egyptian  obelisks  the  Taautic 



emblem  was  of  common  occurrence,  and  has 
been  found  on  monuments  among  the  ruins  of 
Axum  in  Abyssinia  \ It  is  the  same  figure 
which  has  been  called  “ the  Key  of  the  Nile.” 

Much  curious  learning  has  been  employed 
upon  the  origin  of  this  celebrated  character. 
The  Hebrew  n is  supposed  to  have  been  derived 
from  it,  though  ithas  lost  the  figure  of  the  original 
sign  which  is  more  accurately  preserved  in  the 
Greek  T ; and  still  more  so,  in  the  Coptic  dau. 

It  is  supposed  that  an  allusion  is  made  to  this 
mysterious  sign  in  Ezekiel  ix.  4,  where  God 
directs  “ the  man  clothed  in  linen,  which  had 
the  writing  inkhorn  by  his  side,”  to  set  “ a 
mark”  upon  the  foreheads  of  those  who  la- 
mented the  prevalence  of  idolatry  in  Jerusalem. 
In  the  original  the  phrase  is,  “ set  a tau  (in) 
upon  their  foreheads.”  The  vulgate  preserves 
the  real  meaning  of  the  command, — “ mark  with 
the  letter  tau  the  foreheads ,”  &c.  Upon 
which  Lowth  observes,  that  in  the  parallel  pas- 
sage in  the  Septuagint,  to  2v/ueiov  (a  mark) 
should  be  TAU  2i?/uaov  (the  mark  tau.)  It  has 
been  finally  determined  by  the  learned,  that  in 
1 See  Bruce’s  Travels — plate. 



the  Samaritan  character  (in  which  Ezekiel  wrote 0 
the  n was  formerly  cruciform,  in  the  shape  of 
our  T,  or  the  Coptic  dau  : from  whence  it  would 
appear  that  the  sign  T was  a very  sacred  sign 
in  the  days  of  Ezekiel ; an  hieroglyphic  denot- 
ing the  property  of  the  deity. 

Count  De  Gebelin,  cited  by  Maurice,  ( Hist. 
Hindost.)  observes  that  the  Greeks,  adding  to 
the  word  thau  the  particle  ma,  (which  in  San- 
scrit means  “ grand”)  formed  the  word  thau- 
ma  (9 avfjLa),  a sign  or  prodigy.  And  he  further 
remarks,  that  in  France,  during  the  early  ages 
of  Christianity,  the  officiating  priest  who  per- 
formed the  ceremony  of  baptism,  used  the  ex- 
pression <£  crucis  thaumate  notare 

It  is  probable  that  the  early  Christians,  per- 
ceiving how  aptly  this  ancient  symbol  of  dedi- 
cation to  the  deity  might  be  used  to  signify  the 
dedication  of  the  convert  to  Christ,  employed 
it  in  baptism  without  any  fear  of  scandal,  as  it 
symbolized  likewise  the  cross  upon  which  the 
Saviour  died. 

There  seems  to  be  an  allusion  to  this  ancient 
custom  of  setting  the  thau  upon  the  foreheads 
of  the  servants  of  God,  in  that  saying  of  our 



Lord,  4 4 If  any  man  will  come  after  me,  let  him 
take  up  his  cross  and  follow  me 

I grant  that  this  might  have  been  figuratively 
spoken,  in  reference  to  the  perils  which  the  dis- 
ciple would  undergo  : but  does  it  mean  nothing 
more  ? I cannot  but  think  that  it  does ; for  the 
subsequent  verses  represent  a picture  not  much 
dissimilar  to  that  in  the  9th  chapter  of  Ezekiel, 
where  the  expression  44  thau”  first  occurs.  Our 
Lord  goes  on  to  say,  4 4 For  whosoever  will  save 
his  life,  shall  lose  it : and  whosoever  will  lose 
his  life  for  my  sake,  shall  find  it  ...  . For  the 
Son  of  Man  shall  come  in  the  glory  of  his  Father 
with  his  angels  ; and  then  he  shall  reward  every 
man  according  to  his  works.”  Now,  comparing 
this  passage  with  the  9th  chapter  of  Ezekiel, 
we  shall  find  that  the  abstract  ideas  are  the 
same, — namely,  a divine  visitation  and  judg- 
ment, in  which  the  righteous  are  to  be  spared  in 
the  destruction  of  the  wicked.  Whoever  among 
the  inhabitants  of  the  polluted  city  should  be 
found  by  the  destroying  angel  with  the  thau 
(the  cross)  upon  his  forehead,  would  be  spared  ; 
whoever  among  the  millions  of  the  departed 
souls  shall  be  found  at  the  second  coming  of  the 

Matt.  xvi.  24. 



Lord  in  judgment,  with  his  mark  upon  them,  will 
be  saved  ; whoever  shall  have  earnestly  taken 
up  the  CROSS  of  Christ,  will  inherit  eternal 

St.  Paul  also  alludes  to  the  same  acknow- 
ledged sign  of  consecration  to  the  Deity,  when 
he  says,  “ Henceforth  let  no  man  trouble  me  ; 
for  I hear  in  iny  body  the  marks  of  the  Lord 
Jesus  V’ 

It  is  the  custom  of  the  Brahmins,  to  this  day, 
to  set  a mark  on  the  foreheads  of  the  votaries  of 
Veshnu  and  Seeva  ; and  the  Oriental  Christians 
were  accustomed  to  mark  crucifixes  on  their 
arms  and  other  parts  of  the  body.  The  phylac- 
teries of  the  Hebrews  are  also  well  known.  The 
Mahometans,  again,  write  the  word  “ Allah” 
(God)  upon  their  persons 2.  All  of  which  customs 
may  be  traced  to  one  common  origin,  which  I 
conceive  to  be  of  the  most  remote  antiquity. 
The  first  mention  of  a mark  is  of  that  set  upon 
Cain  ; and  though  this  may  at  first  sight  appear 
to  militate  against  the  argument  before  us,  yet 
upon  consideration  we  shall  find  that  it  confirms 

1 Gal.  vi.  17-  See  also  Rev.  xiii.  16.  and  xiv.  1. 

2 Burder’s  Oriental  Customs  on  Ezek.  ix.  4,  and  Gal. 
vi.  17. 



it.  Whatever  might  have  been  the  nature  of 
the  mark  set  upon  Cain,  one  thing  is  clear — 
that  it  denoted  the  hearer  of  it  to  be  placed  under 
the  immediate  protection  of  God , so  that  no  one 
should  dare  to  slay  him 1 . 

Very  pertinent  to  our  question  is  the  remark, 
that  when  the  Greeks  intimated  the  condemna- 
tion of  a criminal  to  death,  they  marked  his 
name  in  the  judicial  tablet,  with  the  letter  0 ; 
and  on  the  contrary,  when  they  wished  to  ex- 
press his  acquittal , with  a T 2.  The  former  is 
said  to  have  been  the  initial  letter  of  0 dvarog — 
death  : but  of  the  latter  we  have  received  no 
satisfactory  explanation  from  the  ancients.  It 
is  probably  derived  from  the  original  symbol  of 
dedication  to  the  Deity,  which  we  have  been 
considering,  borrowed  by  the  Greeks  from  the 
Egyptians,  and  used  in  ignorance  of  its  mystic 
meaning.  The  T which  was  to  be  set  upon  the 
foreheads  of  the  servants  of  God  in  Jerusalem, 

1 Some  learned  men,  as  Mr.  Faber,  doubt  the  Rabbinical 
legend,  and  even  whether  there  was  any  mark  at  all  upon 
Cain.  They  translate  the  text,  “ And  the  Lord  appointed  a 
sign  unto  Cain,  that  no  one  finding  him  should  kill  him.” 

2 Alexander  ab  Alex.  lib.  iii.  c.  5,  cum  notis  Tiraquelli. 
See  also  Persius , Sat.  iv.  12. 




was  of  the  same  nature  as  the  blood  sprinkled 
upon  the  door-posts  of  the  Israelites  in  Egypt, 
to  signify  to  the  destroying  angel  those  whom 
God  had  taken  under  his  immediate  protection, 
and  who  were  to  be  saved  in  the  destruction  of 
the  wicked.  It  was,  in  effect,  a symbol  of 
acquittal ; God  having  acquitted  or  justified 
them ; and  therefore  they  were  to  be  spared. 
From  this  original  emblem  of  divine  protection, 
the  Greeks  derived  the  notion  of  marking  the 
names  of  acquitted  persons  with  a T,  without, 
however,  knowing  its  real  signification.  The  0, 
as  a sign  of  condemnation,  was  plausibly  ex- 
plained as  the  initial  letter  of  the  word  Gdvaroc ; 
and  it  is  perhaps  under  this  character  that  we 
find  it  impressed  upon  tombs  \ But  it  is  a sin- 
gular fact,  and  worthy  of  consideration,  that 
this  letter  0 was  invented  by,  and  named 
after,  the  same  Thoth,  who  is  said  to  have 
introduced  the  mystic  Tau  into  the  Egyptian 
alphabet ; and  as  Gav^a  implied  “ a wonder so 
Gr)ra\a  implied  Gav/daGTa,  “ WOnderfiul ” — "Fti/Secriv 
opioid , says  Hesy chius,  “ like  lies.”  Now  in 
Scripture,  idolatry  is  uniformly  described  as  a 
lie.  “ Is  there  not  a lie  in  my  right  hand?” 

1 Montf.  Supplent.  vol,  v.  p.  42. 



is  the  question  which  the  prophet  Isaiah  would 
have  the  maker  of  graven  images  ask  himself, 
while  he  is  fabricating  a god.  Hence,  perhaps, 
as  the  mystic  Thau  denoted  him  who  was  marked 
with  it  to  be  the  servant  of  God,  the  mystic 
Theta  might  in  opposition  signify,  the  votary 
of  idolatry  : and  hence,  when  T was  adopted 
as  a symbol  of  acquittal , 0 would  be  received  as 
a sign  of  condemnation. 

Cal  met  ( Comment  sur  Ezek.  c.  9)  has  a note 
explanatory  of  the  mystic  Thau,  and  brings 
forward  the  original  text  of  Job  xxxi.  35,  as 
another  instance  of  its  application — “ Behold, 
here  is  my  Thau  ! let  the  Almighty  answer 
me.”  This  he  contends  is  the  right  translation. 
“ Behold  my  sign  !”  is  the  marginal  reading  of 
our  authorized  version.  The  whole  context  evi- 
dently refers  to  some  distinctive  badge , worn  by 
Job.  The  very  next  verse  alludes  to  it — “ Surely 
I would  take  it  upon  my  shoulder , and  bind  it  as  a 
crown  to  me.” 

A very  curious  form  of  the  Taautic  symbol  is 
sometimes  presented  in  Egyptian  hieroglyphics 
— that  of  a hawk-headed  serpent  issuing  from  a 
circle  which  surmounts  the  cross,  and  having 
another  smaller  circle  at  the  extremity  of  his 

l 2 



tail.  The  haivk-headed  serpent  was  a favourite 
emblem  of  the  divine  mind,  with  the  Egyptians, 
according  to  Sanchoniathon — “ Their  most  divine 
symbol  was  a serpent  having  the  face  of  a hawk. 
When  he  opens  his  eyes,  the  whole  of  first-born 
space  is  filled  with  light  : when  he  shuts  them, 
it  is  darkness1.”  This  hieroglyphic  was  a per- 
fect symbol  of  the  Supreme  Being. 

In  concluding  this  long  and  desultory  article, 
we  may  remark,  that  all  the  planets  known  to 
the  ancients  were  distinguished  by  the  mystic 
Taautic  Cross,  in  conjunction  with  the  solar  or 
lunar  symbols  : — Thus, 

Saturn  was  denoted  by  the  lunar  emblem, 
surmounted  by  the  Taautic  cross. 

^ Jupiter,  by  the  lunar  emblem,  surmounting 
the  Qavfxa. 

$ Mars,  by  its  combination  with  the  solar 

§ Venus  was  distinguished  by  the  same 
combination,  but  the  Taautic  cross  was  below  the 

§ Mercury  united  all  the  symbols. 

Whatever  may  be  the  mystic  meaning  of 
these  astronomical  signs,  their  connexion  with 
1 Euseb.  Praep.  Evang.  i.  41. 



the  solar  and  lunar  idolatry,  and  their  claim  upon 
Thoth,  as  the  author  of  their  existence,  seem 
manifest — the  same  Thoth,  or  Taautus,  who 
promoted  Ophiolatreia. 

3.  Ophiolatreia  had  taken  such  deep  root  in 
Egypt,  that  the  serpent  was  not  merely  regarded 
as  an  emblem  of  divinity,  but  even  held  in  esti- 
mation as  the  instrument  of  an  oracle.  The  priests 
of  the  temple  of  Isis  had  a silver  image  of  a ser- 
pent so  constructed  as  to  enable  a person  in 
attendance  to  move  its  head  without  being  ob- 
served by  the  supplicating  votary.  Juvenal 
refers  to  it  in  his  sixth  Satire,  v.  537. 

“ Et  movisse  caput  visa  est  argentea  serpens 

Perhaps  this  was  the  same  as  the  hawk-headed 
basilisk  whose  eyes  were  mechanically  contrived 
to  open  or  shut,  according  as  the  offering  pre- 
sented by  the  suppliant  was  received  or  rejected  k 
This  contrivance  was  intended,  probably,  as  a 
type  of  what  was  supposed  to  pass  in  the  regions 
of  “ first-born  space,”  upon  the  opening  or 
closing  of  the  eyes  of  the  god  Cneph.  Under 
the  symbol  of  a hawk-headed  serpent,  this  god 
was  adored,  and  a temple  was  erected  to  him  in 

1 Gesner.  Hist.  Anim.  lib.  v.  p.  59. 



the  island  of  Elephantina  in  the  upper  Nile.  He 
was  esteemed  prophetic,  and  his  shrine  resorted 
to  as  oracular. 

4.  But  Egyptian  superstition  was  not  con- 
tented with  worshipping  divinity  through  its 
emblem  the  serpent.  The  senseless  idolater  soon 
bowed  in  adoration  before  the  symbol  itself ; and 
worshipped  this  reptile,  the  representative  of 
man’s  enemy,  as  a God. 

This  idolatry  was  certainly  older  than  the 
Exodus  of  the  Israelites  from  Egypt.  For  the 
author  of  the  Book  of  Wisdom  tells  us,  that 
when  the  Egyptians  refused  to  let  the  children 
of  Israel  go,  they  were  punished  by  plagues  of 
the  same  animals  which  they  had  been  accustomed 
to  venerate  as  gods.  Among  these,  the  chief 
were  serpents  : — 

“ But  for  the  foolish  devices  of  their  wicked- 
ness, wherewith  being  deceived,  they  worshipped 
serpents  devoid  of  reason , and  wild  beasts  : thou 
didst  send  a multitude  of  unreasonable  beasts 
upon  them  for  vengeance,  that  they  might  know, 
that  wherewithal  a man  sinneth,  by  the  same  also 
shall  he  be  punished1.” 

Our  elegant  and  learned  etymologist,  Bryant, 

1 Wisd.  c.  xi.  v.  15. 



following  up  this  idea,  has  elaborately  and 
beautifully  shown,  in  his  “ Essay  on  the  Plagues 
of  Egypt,”  that  “ wherewithal  the  Egyptians 
had  sinned,  by  the  same  were  they  punished.” 
The  objects  of  their  idolatry  became  the  instru- 
ments of  their  punishment. 

Another  proof  of  the  superior  antiquity  of 
Ophiolatreia  is  afforded  by  the  divining  cup  of 
Joseph  mentioned  in  Gen.  xliv.  The  mention 
of  this  superstition  in  connection  with  such  a 
name  is  not  a little  remarkable  ; and  commen- 
tators have  accordingly  exerted  themselves  to 
explain  away  the  inference  that  Joseph  practised 
the  heathen  art  of  divination.  I am  as  unwilling  as 
any  of  them  to  believe  that  the  Hebrew  Patriarch 
was  an  idolater;  but  that  the  “ divining  cup” 
here  mentioned  was  similar  to  the  Poculum  Bom 
Bcemonis  of  the  Bacchanalian  orgies,  which  so 
closely  corresponded  with  those  of  Isis,  cannot 
well  be  doubted  by  any  one  who  examines  the 
phraseology  of  the  original  text.  Such  a cup 
was  preserved  in  the  collection  of  the  late  Earl  of 
Besborough,  and  is  described  by  Mr.  Pownall  in 
the  seventh  volume  of  the  Archoeologia.  Upon 
the  lid  of  it  are  two  serpents,  and  on  the  cup 
itself  near  the  rim,  the  Ophite  hierogram  of 



Medusa’s  head.  The  divining  cup  of  Joseph 
may  not  have  been  so  decorated  ; but  it  may 
have  been  originally  or  ostensibly  kept  for  a 
similar  purpose.  For  it  should  be  recollected 
that  Joseph  married  the  daughter  of  Potipherah, 
the  priest  of  On  : of  the  priest,  namely,  who 
presided  in  the  temple  of  the  Sun  at  Heliopolis, 
with  which  deity  the  Ophite  hierogram  was 
intimately  connected.  Nothing  is  more  natural, 
therefore,  than  that  the  daughter  of  an  Ophite 
priest  should  introduce  into  the  household  of  her 
husband  an  instrument  of  Ophite  idolatry.  It 
does  not  follow  that  Joseph  used  it  as  such  ; but 
it  follows  from  his  whole  conduct  that  he  wished 
to  pass  as  an  Egyptian  with  his  brethren,  and 
the  claiming  such  a cup  as  among  his  most 
valued  property  would  only  be  acting  in  accord- 
ance with  the  character  he  had  assumed. 

It  may  be  objected  that  the  cup  in  question 
was  not  a divining  cup,  in  the  idolatrous  applica- 
tion of  that  expression  ; but  only  a means  by 
which  Joseph  divined  or  discovered  that  he  had 
been  robbed  ; namely,  by  missing  it  at  his 
accustomed  meal.  But  the  phraseology  of  the 
original  will  lead  to  another  inference.  Joseph 
says,  “ know  yet  not  that  such  a man  as  1 am 



divineth  by  divination  ?”  The  expression  is 

ttfm  which  the  Septuagint  rendered  literally 
oiwviafUi)  ouiiveirai.  Now  $rD  and  oiwvoc;  are  the 
peculiar  words  by  which  the  serpent  used  in  divina- 
tion ivas  designated  \ 

I hesitated  to  deliver  this  conjecture  respecting 
the  cup  of  Joseph  in  the  former  edition  of  this 
treatise;  but  the  opinion  of  Mr.  Faber  kindly 
communicated  to  me  since  its  publication  has 
determined  me  to  advance  it.  He  remarks  that 
“ the  peculiar  phraseology  of  Gen.  xliv.  15. 
implies  the  worship  of  the  Nachash.”  I argue, 
therefore,  that  the  serpent  was  an  object  of 
veneration  in  Egypt  before  the  Exodus  of  the 

Besides  the  great  temple  of  the  serpent-god 
Cneph,  at  Elephantina,  there  was  a celebrated 
one  of  Jupiter  at  Thebes,  where  the  practice  of 
Ophiolatreia  was  carried  to  a great  length.  We 
are  informed,  by  Herodotus,  that  “ At  Thebes 
there  are  two  serpents,  by  no  means  injurious 
to  men  ; small  in  size,  having  two  horns  spring- 
ing up  from  the  top  of  the  head.  They  bury 
these  when  dead  in  the  temple  of  Jupiter  : for 
they  say  that  they  are  sacred  to  that  God  2.” 

1 Hesychius  on  oiojvoq.  2 Herod,  ii.  74. 



iElian  1 also  tells  us,  that  in  the  time  of  Ptolemy 
Euergetes,  a very  large  serpent  was  kept  in  the 
temple  of  iEsculapius  at  Alexandria.  He  also 
mentions  another  place  in  which  a live  serpent 
of  great  magnitude  was  kept  and  adored  with 
divine  honours.  He  calls  this  place  Melite  ; 
it  ought  to  be  Metele.  This  latter  place  is 
fixed  by  D’Anville  in  the  Delta,  not  far  from 
Onuphis.  This  serpent,  we  are  told,  had  priests 
and  ministers,  a table  and  bowl.  The  priests, 
every  day,  carried  into  the  sacred  chamber  a 
cake  made  of  flour  and  honey,  and  retired. 
Returning  the  next  day,  they  always  found  the 
bowl  empty.  On  one  occasion,  one  of  the  elder 
priests  being  extremely  anxious  to  see  the  sacred 
serpent,  went  in  alone,  and  having  deposited  the 
cake,  retired.  When  the  serpent  had  ascended 
the  table  to  his  feast,  the  priest  came  in,  throwing 
open  the  door  with  great  violence  : upon  which 
the  serpent  departed  in  great  indignation.  But 
the  priest  was  shortly  after  seized  with  a mental 
malady,  and  having  confessed  his  crime,  became 
dumb,  and  wasted  away,  until  he  died  2. 

Among  the  prefectures  of  Egypt,  we  find  one 

1 De  Animal,  lib.  xvi.  c.  39. 

2 iElian.  Var.  Hist.  lib.  xi<  c.  17. 




called  Onuphis,  from  the  city  which  was  the 
capital  of  it : upon  which  Kircher  has  the  fol- 
lowing remark  : “ In  the  Coptic  language  this 
city  was  called  Pihof  or  Nouphion,  which 
signifies  a serpent.  I think  this  is  the  same 
city  as  the  Noph  of  the  Hebrews,  by  which 
name  Memphis  was  also  called.  This  prefec- 
ture is  called  Onuphis,  because  here  they  wor- 
shipped the  asp ; as  Pausanias,  when  speaking 
of  the  worship  of  animals  in  Bceotia,  says,  “ As 
in  the  city  of  Onuphis , in  Egypt , they  worship  the 

In  Montfaucon,  plate  46,  vol.  ii.  we  have  an 
engraving  of  an  ancient  Egyptian  marble  found 
at  Rome,  anno  1709,  in  which  there  is  a repre- 
sentation of  a priest  kneeling  down  before  an  idol, 
which,  instead  of  a head  of  its  own,  has  three 
serpents  rising  up  out  of  the  shapeless  block. 

In  Herwart’s  tables  of  Egyptian  hieroglyphics, 
we  see  a priest  offering  adoration  to  a serpent . 
The  same  occurs  in  the  Isiac  table. 

That  these  denoted  something  more  than  a 
mere  worship  of  an  idol,  is  evident  from  the 
foregoing  instances  of  actual  worship  paid  to  the 

In  a tomb  at  Biban  al  Malook  is  a beautiful 



painting,  descriptive  of  the  rites  of  Ophiolatreia. 
The  officiating  priest  is  represented  with  a sword 
in  his  hand,  and  three  headless  victims  are 
kneeling  before  an  immense  serpent.  Isis  is 
seen  sitting  under  the  arch  made  by  the  serpent’s 
body,  and  the  sacred  asp,  with  a human  face 
is  behind  her,  seated  on  the  serpent’s  tail.  This 
picture  proves  that  the  serpent  was  propitiated 
by  human  victims. 

The  art  by  which  the  Egyptians  charmed 
snakes,  and  which  is  still  practised  by  jugglers 
in  that  country  and  in  some  parts  of  Barbary, 
was  probably  first  learned  in  the  serpent  temples. 
The  most  celebrated  artists  were  the  Psylli  of 
Africa.  The  charming  of  serpents  is  a very 
old  art,  and  is  alluded  to  by  David,  Psalm  lviii. 
Jeremiah  viii.  17,  and  in  Ecclus.  xii.  13. 

The  stupidity  of  the  Egyptians  was  in  no 
wise  less  favourable  to  this  idolatry  than  the 
cunning  of  their  priests.  Plutarch  has  re- 
corded an  anecdote  which  confirms  the  truth  of 
this  remark.  “ I once  saw  in  Egypt  two  men 
quarrelling,  each  of  whom,  upon  the  approach 
of  a snake,  called  him  his  Agathod^mon, 
and  requested  him  to  embrace  his  cause l.” 

1 Amator,  p.  755. 



5.  Nor  did  the  worship  of  the  serpent  in 
Egypt,  any  more  than  in  Phoenicia,  fly  before 
the  face  of  advancing  Christianity,  to  return  no 
more.  The  gnostic  heretics,  as  we  have  seen, 
united  Ophiolatreia  with  the  religion  of  the 
cross ; and  the  remains  of  their  superstition 
were  observed  in  Egypt  by  Bishop  Pococke, 
when  he  visited  the  banks  of  the  Nile.  The 
narrative  is  so  curious,  and  so  apposite  to  our 
inquiry,  that  I cannot  be  contented  with  a mere 
reference  to  it.  <£  The  next  day,”  says  the 
Bishop,  “ we  came  to  Raigny,  where  the  reli- 
gious sheikh  of  the  famous  serpent  Heredy , 
was  at  the  side  of  the  river  to  meet  us  ....  He 
went  with  us  to  the  grotto  of  the  serpent,  that 
has  been  so  much  talked  of  under  the  name  of 
the  Sheikh  Heredy,  of  which  I shall  give  a 
particular  account,  in  order  to  show  the  folly, 
credulity,  and  superstition  of  these  people  ; for 
the  Christians  have  faith  in  it  as  well  as  the 
Turks.  We  went  ascending  between  the  rocky 
mountain  for  half  a mile,  and  came  to  a part 
where  the  valley  opens  wider.  On  the  right  is 
a mosque,  built  with  a dome  over  it,  against  the 
side  of  the  rock,  like  a sheikh’s  burial-place. 
In  it  there  is  a large  cleft  in  the  rock,  out  of 



which  they  say  the  serpent  conies.  There  is  a 
tomb  in  the  mosque,  in  the  Turkish  manner  ; 
that , they  say,  is  the  tomb  of  Heredy ; which 
would  make  one  imagine  that  one  of  their  saints 
is  buried  there,  and  that  they  suppose  his  soul 
may  be  in  the  serpent ; for  I observed  that  they 
went  and  kissed  the  tomb  with  much  devotion, 
and  said  their  prayers  at  it.<  Opposite  to  this 
cleft  there  is  another,  which  they  say  is  the 
tomb  of  Ogli  Hassan,  that  is,  of  Hassan  the 
son  of  Heredy : there  are  two  other  clefts, 
which  they  say  are  inhabited  by  saints  or 
angels.  The  sheikh  told  me  there  were  two 
of  these  serpents,  but  the  common  notion  is, 
that  there  is  only  one.  He  said  it  had  been 
there  ever  since  the  time  of  Mahomet.  The  shape 
of  it  is  like  that  of  other  serpents  of  the  harm- 
less breed.  He  comes  out  only  during  the  four 
summer  months,  and  it  is  said  that  they  sacrifice 
to  it.  This  the  sheikh  denied,  and  affirmed 
they  only  brought  sheep,  lambs,  and  money,  to 
buy  oil  for  the  lamps — but  I saw  much  blood  and 
entrails  of  beasts  lately  killed  before  the  door.  The 
stories  are  so  ridiculous  that  they  ought  not  to 
be  repeated,  if  it  were  not  to  give  an  instance 
of  their  idolatry  in  those  parts  in  this  respect ; 



though  the  Mahometan  religion  seems  to  he  very 
far  from  it  in  other  things.  They  say  the  virtue 
of  this  serpent  is  to  cure  all  diseases  of  those 
who  go  to  it,  &c.  They  are  also  full  of  a story, 
that  when  a number  of  women  go  there  once 
a year , he  passes  hy  and  looks  on  them , and  goes 
and  twines  about  the  neck  of  the  most  beautiful. 

I was  surprised  to  hear  a grave  and 

sensible  Christian  say  that  he  always  cured  any 
distempers,  but  that  worse  followed.  Aud  some 
Christians  really  believe  that  he  works  miracles , 
and  say  it  is  the  devil  mentioned  in  Tobit , whom 
the  angel  Gabriel  drove  into  the  utmost  parts  of 

Egypt,”  &C1. 

Bishop  Pococke  thinks  (and  justly)  that  the 
above  superstition  is  a remnant  of  the  ancient 
Ophiolatreia.  The  annual  visit  of  the  women 
is  similar  to  the  customs  observed  in  Epirus, 
and  at  Lanuvium,  of  which  we  shall  see  a full 
account  in  the  sequel. 

With  these  notices  we  close  our  remarks  on 
the  serpent-worship  in  Egypt ; from  whence, 
however,  it  spread  far  and  wide,  until  almost 
every  nation  of  Africa  became  devoted  to  the 
same  idolatry. 

1 Pococke,  Desc.  of  East,  vol.  i. 



II.  Ethiopia. — The  superstition  of  the  serpent 
travelled  into  Ethiopia,  a country  whose  very 
name  according  to  Bryant1,  denotes  “ the  land 
of  the  solar-serpent  worship.”  Be  this  as  it 
may,  the  chronicles  of  Abyssinia  and  the  local 
traditions  of  that  country,  abundantly  establish 
the  Ophiolatreia  of  the  Ethiopians.  The  first 
king  of  Ethiopia  is  said  to  have  been  a serpent 2 ; 
he  conquered  the  province  of  Tigre,  and  reigned 
over  it.  He  was  called  Arwe,  which  in  the 
Abyssinian  language  meant  “ a serpent.”  It 
is  remarkable  that  the  word  Nagash  (which  is 
evidently  the  same  as  the  Naig  of  Hindustan, 
and  derived  from  the  Hebrew  Nachash , a snake) 
was  a title  of  the  ancient  Abyssinian  kings.  The 
Arabs  called  them  Nagashi 3,  in  the  same  man- 
ner as  the  kings  of  Egypt  were  called  Pharaoh  : 
and  in  the  writings  of  our  early  voyagers,  we 
frequently  meet  with  “ the  Negus ” of  Abys- 
sinia, a title  which  sounded  strange,  and  some- 
what ludicrous,  in  English  ears. 

An  Abyssinian  monk  named  Gregory,  visited 
Germany  a short  time  before  Ludolf  published 
his  “ Ethiopic  History,”  and  the  way  in  which 

1 Anal.  ii.  206.  2 Ludolf.  Ethiop.  Hist. 

3 Ludolf.  lib.  ii.  c.  i.  p.  23.  32. 



he  accounted  for  the  tradition  of  a “ serpent 
king,”  is  highly  interesting.  “ Being  asked 
about  king  Arwe,  he  said,  that  there  was  an 
ancient  tradition  among  his  countrymen,  that 
the  very  early  Ethiopians  worshipped  a great 
serpent  as  a god;  and  hence  the  name  of  the 
king  Arwe,  6 a snake.’  That  this  serpent  was 
slain  by  Angabus,  who  for  this  bold  deed  was 
elected  king,  and  handed  down  the  throne  to 
his  posterity  h” 

The  worship  of  the  serpent  prevailed  at 
Axum  until  the  Abyssinians  were  converted  to 
Christianity.  The  glory  of  this  conversion  is 
ascribed  to  nine  saints,  who  are  reported  to  have 
succeeded  by  the  instrumentality  of  miracles. 
Ludolf 2 citing  father  Mendez,  thus  enumerates 
their  triumphs.  “ These  did  great  miracles 
when  they  converted  a great  part  of  Ethiopia ; 
and  among  others,  it  is  reported  that  ‘ a great 
dragon  who  lived  near  Axum,  and  devoured 
many  men  and  cattle,  was  burst  asunder  by  their 
prayers.’  An  Abyssinian  poet  celebrated  the 
praises  of  these  Christian  Missionaries,  in  a 
poem  which  Ludolf  quotes.  The  founder  of 
Ophiolatreia,  or  rather  the  leader  of  the  first 
1 Ludolf.  lib.  ii.  c.  3.  2 Ludolf.  Comment,  lib.  iii.  p.  284. 




Ophite  Colony  into  these  remote  countries, 
was  probably  the  same  Thoth  who  planted  this 
religion  in  Phoenicia  and  Egypt.  For  we  find 
the  word  Tot,  still  curiously  employed  in  Abys- 
sinia to  denote  an  idol,  and  what  is  remarkable, 
“ A naked  figure  of  a man  is  not  a Tot ; but 
if  he  have  the  head  of  a dog  or  a serpent,  instead 
of  a human  head,  he  becomes  a Tot  V’ 

Although  the  seven  Christian  saints  overcame 
the  Dragon  of  Axum,  they  did  not  succeed  in 
destroying  his  whole  family.  The  Shangalla, 
a race  of  Negroes  on  the  northern  frontier  of 
Abyssinia,  retain  to  this  day  their  primitive 
superstitions  ; they  worship  serpents,  trees , and 
the  heavenly  host2.  And  the  Agaazi,  a tribe 
of  Ethiopian  shepherds,  still  dwell  in  the  moun- 
tains, called  (probably  in  reference  to  the  Ophite 
superstitions  there  practised  in  former  times) 
Habab  : which  means  “ a serpent This  word 
looks  very  like  a reduplication  of  the  universal 
Ab,  which  was  the  name  of  the  Serpent-god  in 
most  primitive  countries  which  had  any  con- 
nection with  Phoenicia. 

III.  Whidah  and  Congo. — The  worship  of 
the  serpent  was  not  confined  to  the  north-eastern 
1 Bruce,  vol.  i.  411.  2 Bruce,  vol.  ii.  554. 



portion  of  Africa.  Later  discoveries  have  de- 
tected, in  other  parts  of  the  peninsula,  unknown 
to  the  ancients,  not  merely  vestiges , but  the 
actual  existence  and  practice  of  Ophiolatreia, 
in  its  worst  and  most  degraded  forms. 

The  kingdom  of  Whidah,  and  the  adjacent 
regions,  may  have  derived  their  adoration  of  the 
serpent  from  the  original  settlers.  For  the  negro 
character  of  the  people  is  so  totally  distinct  from 
the  features  of  the  Egyptians,  or  any  other  known 
race,  that  they  could  have  had  none,  or  very 
little,  subsequent  intercourse  with  foreign  nations. 
The  serpent-worship  of  western  Africa  was,  there- 
fore, most  probably  aboriginal ; that  is,  propa- 
gated at  the  same  period  with  that  of  Egypt 
and  Phoenicia,  by  the  earliest  descendants  of 

Another  argument  for  its  originality  may  be 
derived  from  the  purity,  or  rather  unity,  of  its 
character.  It  did  not  mix  itself  up,  like  the 
superstition  of  other  countries,  with  the  solar 
worship,  of  which  the  serpent  was  always  a 
favourite  and  important  feature  ; but  displayed 
itself  to  the  eyes  of  the  first  European  discoverers 
in  all  its  nakedness  of  serpent-worship,  retain- 
ing only  a name , which  marks  the  migration  of  the 

m 2 



sacred  serpent  from  the  Euphrates  to  the  Congo  ; 
and  serves  to  resolve  the  whole  of  ophiolatreia 
into  the  fall  of  man  in  Paradise. 

The  following  curious  particulars  respecting 
the  serpent-worship  of  Whidah  are  chiefly  ex- 
tracted from  vol.  xvi.  p.  411,  of  the  “ Modern 
Universal  History,”  which  is  indebted  for  its 
information  to  the  works  of  De  Marchais,  Barbot, 
Atkyns,  and  Bosman  ; the  last  of  which  may  be 
seen  in  Acta  Eruditor , Lipsice , 1705,  p.  265,  under 
the  form  of  an  “ Essay  on  Guinea  A In  Astley’s 
Collection  of  Voyages  there  is  also  an  account 
compiled  from  every  authority  then  known  ; and 
a very  interesting  description  of  the  rites  and  cere- 
monies connected  with  this  superstition. 

The  gods  of  Whidah  may  be  divided  into 
three  classes, — the  serpent , tall  trees , and  the 
sea  : of  these  the  serpent  is  the  most  celebrated 
and  honoured,  the  other  two  being  subordinate 
to  this  deity.  The  snake,  which  the  Whidanese 
thus  honour  and  worship,  is  perfectly  harmless, 
and  to  be  seen  in  all  the  houses  of  the  natives, 
leaving  its  young  in  their  very  beds,  from  which 
it  is  the  height  of  impiety  to  dislodge  them. 

This  serpent  they  invoke  under  all  the  diffi- 
culties and  emergencies  of  life.  For  this  pur- 



pose  they  make  rich  offerings  to  it  of  money, 
silks,  live  cattle,  and  indeed  all  kinds  of  Euro- 
pean or  African  commodities.  The  king,  espe- 
cially, at  the  instigation  of  the  priests,  under 
every  national  visitation,  makes  great  offerings 
and  entertainments  at  the  serpent’s  shrine.  The 
most  celebrated  temple  in  the  kingdom  they 
call  “ the  serpent’s  house  to  which  pro- 
cessions and  pilgrimages  are  often  made,  and 
victims  daily  brought,  and  at  which  oracles  are 
inquired1.  Here  there  is  a vast  establishment 
of  priests  and  priestesses,  with  a pontiff  at  their 
head.  The  priestesses  call  themselves  “ the 
children  of  God,”  and  have  their  bodies  marked 
with  the  figure  of  the  serpent.  The  kings  of 
Whidah  used  formerly  to  make  annual  proces- 
sions to  this  temple  ; but  the  expense  was  so 
great,  that  the  sovereign  who  governed  the 
country  when  Bosnian  visited  it,  discontinued 
the  practice,  and  gave  great  offence  thereby  to 
the  priests,  who  revenged  themselves  by  pro- 
curing his  daughter  to  be  possessed  hy  the  serpent , 
which  is  a part  of  their  superstition  no  less 
lucrative  than  atrocious.  It  was  said  that  the 

1 Bosnian  on  Guinea , Acta  Erud.  Lip.  1705,  p.  265. 



king  countenanced  this  attack  upon  his  daugh- 
ter ; but,  considering  the  heavy  expense  in 
which  it  would  involve  him  to  release  her,  this 
is  hardly  credible.  The  manner  of  this  prac- 
tice was  the  following  : — At  the  time  of  harvest, 
the  priests  of  the  serpent  pretended  that  their 
god  prowled  nightly  about  the  fields  in  search 
of  victims,  which  were  always  females.  When- 
ever he  met  any  of  these,  he  instantly  seized 
them,  and  upon  their  shrieks  and  resistance 
vanished  ; but  not  until  he  had,  by  his  super- 
natural influence,  deprived  them  of  the  use  of 
reason . Upon  the  arrival  of  their  friends,  these 
women  were  found  to  be  in  a frantic  state  ; and 
being  quite  beyond  control  at  home,  were 
conveyed  to  one  of  the  hospitals  appointed  for 
this  purpose  by  the  king,  where  they  remained 
under  the  care  of  the  priests  of  the  serpent 
until  they  were  cured.  This  did  not  take  place 
until  their  residence  in  the  hospital  had  swelled 
the  account  for  board  and  medical  attendance 
to  the  highest  pitch  to  which  it  would  be  pru- 
dent for  the  priests  to  carry  them.  They  were 
then  sent  back ; and  whoever  mentioned  a 
single  circumstance  of  what  had  happened  in 
these  dens  of  villany,  was  secretly  poisoned  or 



dispatched  by  some  violent  means.  Such 
deaths,  or  murders,  were  always  looked  upon  as 
the  just  visitation  of  the  serpent  for  divulging 
his  mysteries.  The  fraud  of  the  priests,  their 
menaces  and  promises,  frequently  induced  the 
women  to  accede  to  their  iniquitous  designs  ; and 
in  most  cases,  the  possession  was  a concerted  plan 
between  the  priest  and  the  woman,  to  plunder 
her  husband  or  parents,  under  the  plea  of  alimony 
and  fees  for  the  miraculous  cure. 

The  traditions  of  the  natives  respecting  the 
origin  and  antiquity  of  this  superstition  are 
curious.  They  assert  that  the  worship  is  of  very 
ancient  date,  and  that  the  first  serpent  of  this 
sacred  species  came  to  them  from  a foreign  and 
remote  country,  “ where  the  people  pretended 
to  worship  him,  but  were  in  truth  unworthy  of  his 
sacred  protection,  on  account  of  their  vices  and 
crimes.”  Their  ancestors,  delighted  with  the 
preference  thus  shown  to  them,  received  the 
sacred  serpent  with  every  mark  of  veneration. 
They  carried  him  in  a silken  carpet  to  a temple, 
and  offered  him  a worship  due  to  his  divinity. 
This  venerable  snake,  the  ancestor  of  those  now 
worshipped  in  Whidah,  they  believed  was  still 
alive  somewhere , and  grown  to  an  enormous  hulk. 



The  temple  which  had  been  prepared  for  him 
not  being  sufficiently  splendid,  another  was 
built ; the  same  in  which  he  was  worshipped 
when  Bosman  visited  Whidah,  anno  1697.  So 
sacred  were  the  descendents  of  this  venerated 
serpent,  that  no  native,  on  pain  of  death,  dared 
injure  or  molest  them,  however  troublesome 
or  mischievous.  Even  Europeans  were  in  great 
danger  of  massacre,  who  maltreated  any  of  these 
holy  and  domestic  gods.  An  anecdote  is  re- 
corded by  Bosman  and  Barbot,  of  the  severe 
revenge  taken  by  the  natives  on  the  first  English 
visitors  of  Guinea,  who  happened  accidentally 
to  meet  with  and  kill  one  of  these  snakes  in  their 
magazine.  The  inhabitants,  when  they  heard 
that  the  English  had  destroyed  one  of  their  most 
holy  fetiches,  set  fire  to  the  magazine,  and 
having  massacred  the  unfortunate  owners,  burnt 
their  bodies  and  their  goods  in  the  same  fire.  A 
similar,  but  a less  tragical  act  of  fanaticism  was 
at  another  time  perpetrated,  at  the  instigation  of 
the  priests,  and  by  order  of  the  king  : — A hog 
having  once  killed  one  of  the  sacred  serpents,  a 
thousand  Whidanese,  armed  with  swords,  were 
sent  through  the  country,  destroying  every  ani- 
mal of  the  proscribed  race  which  they  chanced 



to  meet,  until  the  multitude  of  these  useful  and 
harmless  creatures  was  reduced  to  a very  small 
number.  A seasonable  fit  of  reflection  on  the 
part  of  the  king  saved  the  remainder.  This 
anecdote  is  more  interesting  to  the  inquirer  into 
the  native  superstitions  than  the  former,  inas- 
much as  no  feeling  but  that  of  religious  fana- 
ticism could  have  given  occasion  to  it ; whereas, 
many  hostile  feelings  might  have  conspired  in 
their  animosity  against  the  English,  besides  that 
of  vengeance  for  sacrilege. 

Other  anecdotes  similar  to  this  are  told  in 
Astley’s  Collection  of  Voyages. 

The  worship  of  the  snake  continued  in  Whidah 
until  the  year  1726,  when  the  country  was  con- 
quered by  the  Dahomeys,  and  the  sacred  snakes 
destroyed.  The  Dahomeys  having  seized  every 
reptile  of  this  species  which  they  could  find, 
“ held  them  up  by  the  middle,  and  said  to  them, 
4 If  you  are  gods , speak  and  save  yourselves ; — 
which  the  poor  snakes  not  being  able  to  do,  the 
Dahomeys  cut  their  heads  off,  ripped  them  open, 
broiled  them,  and  eat  them  V’ 

Such  is  the  account  of  Captain  Snellgrave, 

1 Astley,  vol.  iii.  p.  489. 



who  visited  the  country  three  weeks  after  the 

The  worship  of  the  serpent  was  derived  by 
the  Whidanese  from  their  neighbours,  the  people 
of  Ardrah  ; but  with  them  all  clue  to  its  origin  is 
lost,  except  such  as  I will  endeavour  presently 
to  trace. 

A similar  superstition  prevailed  in  the  king- 
dom of  Congo,  when  first  visited  by  the  Por- 
tuguese. It  was  reprobated  by  the  Roman 
Catholic  priests,  and,  at  their  request,  forbidden 
by  an  edict  of  Alphonso,  king  of  Portugal,  on 
pain  of  death.  The  following  we  read  in  Pur- 
chas’s  Pilgrims,  part  i.  p.  768. 

“ The  negroes  of  Congo  worshipped  serpents , 

which  they  fed  with  their  daintiest  provisions 

Snakes  and  adders  envenomed  their  souls  with  a 
more  deadly  poison  than  they  did  their  bodies .” 

Of  the  interior  of  Africa  we  have  had  little 
authentic  information  until  lately  ; by  which 
time,  the  irruption  of  the  Mohamedans  (Moors 
and  Arabs)  had,  for  the  most  part,  effaced  the 
superstitions  of  the  natives.  There  are,  how- 
ever, even  now,  many  idolatrous  tribes  of  which 
we  have  no  account  at  all.  When  time  and 
science  shall  have  laid  open  their  superstitions, 




we  shall  probably  meet  with  many  more  vota- 
ries of  the  sacred  serpent  in  that  region  of 
mystery  \ 

But  from  this  prospect,  perhaps  visionary,  of 
future  discoveries,  let  us  turn  to  the  knowledge 
which  we  already  possess  of  the  superstitions  of 
the  Gold  Coast.  We  have  ascertained  that  the 
serpent  was  in  reality  worshipped  there ; that 
temples,  priests,  and  sacrifices  were  appointed 
to  him  ; and  that  there  is  a tradition,  that  this 
worship  came  originally  from  a foreign  country. 
But,  moreover,  we  are  in  possession  of  facts 
which  unequivocally  demonstrate  whence  that 
worship  came. 

In  the  kingdom  of  Whidah  there  is  still  a 
tribe  of  people  known  by  the  name  of  Eboes, 
who  are  addicted  to  a worship  which  may  be 
considered  as  little  more  than  a variation  of 
Ophiolatreia.  They  worship  the  guana,  a species 
of  lizard. 

1 The  worship  of  the  snake  still  prevails  in  Central 
Africa1,  although  in  danger  of  being  shortly  superseded  by 
Islamism.  Among  the  idols  in  a temple  of  the  Yaribeans  is  one 
with  the  image  of  a snake  upon  his  head  ; which  reminds 
us  of  the  Egyptian  priest  with  the  asp  of  Isis. 

Lander’s  Records.  Preface,  and  vol.  ii.  p.  198. 



A neighbouring  tribe,  the  Koromantynes, 
are  said  to  adore  a spiritual  deity,  called  Oboni, 
who  is  a malicious  spirit,  pervades  heaven,  and 
earth,  and  sea,  and  is  the  author  of  all 
evil  h 

From  these  two  tribes  chiefly  were  the  negroes 
of  Jamaica  and  the  West  Indian  islands  formerly 
taken  ; and  the  addiction  of  these  people  to  the 
Obeafi-worship  is  well  known  by  melancholy 

The  word  obeah  may  be  the  feminine  adjective 
of  the  substantive  obi , which,  in  the  native 
language  of  the  negroes,  signifies  a charm. 
By  means  of  this  charm  the  professors  of  Obi, 
who  were  all  natives  of  Africa , held  their  unhappy 
votaries  in  such  awe,  that  against  whomsoever 
the  charm  was  laid,  or  as  they  termed  it,  “ obi 
was  setf  that  person  invariably  became  the 
victim  of  his  own  horror,  and  died  a miserable 
death.  The  usual  practice  was  to  set  this  charm 
(which  consisted  of  several  ingredients  2 mixed 

1 Bryan  Edwards’s  Hist,  of  the  West  Indies,  vol.  ii.  pp. 
75  and  466. 

2 One  of  these  was  crocodiles'  teeth,  perhaps  a substitute 
for  serpents'1 ; the  rest  were  bits  of  rags , feathers , &c.  A 
practice  somewhat  similar  to  this  may  be  discovered  in  the 



up  into  the  form  of  a cake)  at  the  door,  or  in  the 
path  of  the  victim,  who  having  once  fixed  his 
eyes  upon  it,  rarely  recovered  from  the  shock. 
An  irresistible  horror  overcame  him  in  an  in- 
stant ; a gradual  decay  of  mind  and  body 
ensued,  and  a few  days  sufficed  to  carry  him 
to  his  grave. 

From  these  premises  we  may  conjecture  what 
relation  the  Obeah-worship  bears  to  the  Ophio- 
latreia  of  the  ancients.  The  origin  of  the  terms 
Obeah  and  Obi  may  be  traced  to  the  Canaanitish 
superstition  of  the  Ob  or  Oub,  which  Bryant  has 
so  ingeniously  detected  in  his  remarks  upon  the 
witch  of  Endor  \ 

“ The  woman  at  Endor,”  observes  Bryant, 
“ who  had  a familiar  spirit,  is  called  Oub , 

philtres,  or  love-charms,  of  the  Greeks  and  Romans.  These 
consisted,  among  other  things,  of  the  hones  of  snakes , screech 
owls'  feathers,  and  hands  of  wool  twisted  upon  a wheel  V’ 

The  connexion  of  serpents  and  charms  is  noticed  by  Horace, 

Epod.  v.  14. 

Canidia  brevibus  implicata  viperis 
Crines  et  incomptum  caput,  &c.  &c. 

1 Anal.  vol.  i.  pp.  59,  60. 

Potter,  Archaeol.  Graeca,  ii.  251. 



or  Ob  ; and  it  is  interpreted  Pythonissa.  The 
serpent  was  also  in  the  Egyptian  language  called 
Ob  or  Aub.  We  are  told  by  Horus  Apollo,  that 
the  basilisk,  or  royal  serpent,  was  named  oubaios : 
it  should  have  been  rendered  oubos  for  oubaios  is 
a possessive,  and  not  a proper  name.”  Oubos  is, 
therefore,  the  name  of  the  serpent  Oub,  with 
a Greek  termination — a practice  universally 
adopted  by  Grecian  writers,  when  speaking  of 
foreign  appellatives.  Besides,  Kircher  remarks, 
that  Obion  is  still,  among  the  people  of  Egypt, 
the  name  of  a serpent.  “ The  same  occurs  in 
the  Coptic  Lexicon1.”  Obion,  in  its  original 
signification,  was  a sacred  title,  applied  to  the 
solar  god,  who  was  symbolized  by  the  serpent 
Ob.  It  is  compounded  of  ob  and  on.  On  is  a 
title  of  the  Sun — thus  the  city  of  On,  in  Egypt, 
was  called  by  the  Greeks  Heliopolis . 

It  is  observable,  that  the  woman  of  Endor  is 
called  Oub  or  Ob ; and  she  was  applied  to  as 
oracular . Similarly,  whenever  a negro  was  de- 
sirous of  detecting  a thief,  or  of  recovering  lost 
property,  he  applied  to  the  obi-man  or  obi-woman , 
for  an  oracle. 

1 Bryant,  ut  supra. 



The  argument  that  the  Obeah-worship  was 
originally  connected  with  Ophiolatreia,  may  be 
further  corroborated  by  the  inferences  which 
result  from  the  following  facts  : — 

1.  The  natives  of  Whidah  worshipped  the  ser- 
pent down  to  the  year  1726. 

2.  A tribe  of  the  Whidanese  is  called  Eboes  ; 
which  has  the  same  signification  as  Oboes  — 
for  they  may  be  traced  to  the  same  original 
word  UN,  which  has  successively  undergone  the 
variations,  oph , oh , eph , eh , or  ev.  The  term 
Eboes  may,  therefore,  without  any  great  violence 
to  probability,  be  interpreted,  “ the  worshippers 
of  Eph.” 

3.  These  people  (the  Eboes)  are  still  addicted 
to  a species  of  serpent-worship  : they  worship 
the  guana. 

4.  A neighbouring  tribe,  the  Koromantynes, 
adore  and  propitiate  as  the  evil  spirit,  a god 
whom  they  call  Oboni. 

From  these  facts  we  may  infer,  that  the  deity 
Oboni  was  the  original  evil  deity  of  the  Negro 
nations  of  that  part  of  Africa ; — that  he  was 
originally  worshipped  under  the  symbol  of  a 
serpent , as  his  name  imports ; that  his  peculiar 
worshippers  (perhaps  his  priesthood)  were  called 



Oboes 1 ; — that  the  word  oboes  implies  worship- 
pers of  Ob  ; — and  lastly,  that  Oboni  is  no  other 
than  the  Ophion  of  Phoenicia,  and  the  Obion  of 
Egypt ; each  of  which  was  a title  of  the  same 
solar  god,  who  was  symbolized  by  the  serpent  Ob. 
Hence  there  is  room  for  one  of  these  two  infer- 
ences ; that  the  Gold  Coast  was  either  colonized 
from  Canaan,  or  from  Egypt  : the  former  of 
which  is  perhaps  the  more  probable,  from  the 
greater  facility  afforded  to  the  Phoenicians  by 
navigation  than  to  the  Egyptians,  who  would 
have  to  cross  deserts,  and  overcome  many  other 
physical  difficulties  in  their  distant  march.  The 
period  at  which  this  emigration  took  place,  must 
be  referred  to  a very  remote  age,  not  only  be- 
cause of  the  totally  distinct  physical  character- 
istics of  the  Negroes,  but  also  of  the  simplicity  of 
their  worship.  They  had  neither  the  multi- 
tudinous host  of  the  Egyptian  Pantheon,  nor 
the  absorbing  adoration  of  the  Syrian  god- 
dess : they  had  neither  mythology  nor  image- 

1 The  name  of  the  king  of  the  Eboes  in  1831  was  Obi. 
The  people  described  by  Lander  are  far  less  barbarous  than 
the  Eboes  of  Edwards.  The  Slave  Trade,  which  generally 
barbarizes  Europeans,  appears  in  this  instance  to  have  conferred 
a comparative  civilization  upon  Africans. 



worship  i ; but  preserved  the  simple,  original 
veneration  of  the  serpent  in  his  living  form.  The 
name  of  the  evil  deity,  Oboni,  it  is  true,  indicates 
a relation  to  the  solar  worship  ; but  as  they  had 
neither  obelisks  nor  pyramids,  nor  any  of  the 
other  adjuncts  of  this  peculiar  religion,  it  is  pro- 
bable that  the  name  Oboni  was  introduced  at  a 
later  period.  However  that  may  be,  it  is  certain 
that  the  worship  of  the  serpent  prevailed  in  this 
part  of  Africa  from  the  earliest  times. 

That  the  Koromantynes  should  worship  Oboni 
as  a spirit , while  the  Eboes,  or  Oboes,  adored 
him  under  the  emblem  of  the  guana,  and  so 
degraded  mental  into  sensual  worship,  is  by  no 
means  surprising.  For  while  history  represents 
the  Koromantynes  as  a peculiarly  quick  and 
noble-minded  race,  it  describes  the  Eboes  as  the 
most  degraded  among  the  Negro  tribes,  appa- 
rently susceptible  of  no  generous  feeling2.  It 
was  therefore  to  be  expected  that  the  Koroman- 
tynes would  first  emancipate  themselves  from  the 
superstition  of  their  common  ancestors.  Hence, 

1 Their  only  idol — if  it  may  be  called  one — was  the  Argoye> 
a human  figure  crowned  with  serpents  and  lizards.  It  was  a 
subordinate  fetiche. 

Bryan  Edwards,  ut  supra. 




while  their  religion  became  more  intellectual, 
that  of  the  Eboes  would  retain  its  original 
character,  with  very  little  change ; especially , 
if  these  were  (as  there  is  reason  to  suppose) 
the  descendants  of  the  priesthood . So  that 
while  the  former  would  worship  Oboni  as  a 
spirit , the  latter  would  worship  him  under  his 
emblem  the  guana. 

In  one  respect,  however,  (and  it  is  an  important 
and  very  remarkable  coincidence  of  opinion,) 
they  agreed.  The  Eboes  affirmed  that  the  most 
acceptable  offering  at  the  shrine  of  the  guana  was 
a human  victim  : and  the  Koromantynes  main- 
tained, that  when  Oboni  was  angry,  nothing 
could  appease  him  but  a human  sacrifice  ! So 
striking  a coincidence  as  this  cannot  but  remind 
us  of  the  great  and  eternal  truth,  that  victory 
over  the  serpent  could  only  be  obtained  by  the 
“ woman’s  seed  and  it  is  another  link  in  the 
chain  of  the  universal  faith,  that  before  mankind 
could  be  reconciled  to  God — “ It  was  expe- 

With  these  remarks  I take  leave  of  Africa — a 

John  xviii.  14. 



country  in  which  the  serpent  was  remarkably 
venerated.  The  course  of  the  Nile — the  shores 
of  the  Mediterranean — the  coasts  of  Guinea — 
and  even  Central  Africa  itself,  furnish  proofs  of 
the  prevailing  idolatry ; and  many  tribes,  even 
yet  unknown,  may  probably  be  discovered  which 
uphold  the  same  superstition.  Thus  Africa, 
which  remains  a mystery  to  the  geographer,  and 
little  more  than  a sandy  desert  to  the  merchant, 
maybe  a mine  of  knowledge  to  the  Christian 
scholar,  who  believes  the  Scriptures,  and  expects 
the  promises  of  God. 








I.  Greece.- — Whether  the  learned  and  inge- 
nious Bryant 1 be  correct  or  not,  in  deriving  the 
very  name  of  Europe  from  HN"T)N  (aur-ab), 
the  solar  serpent , it  is  certain  that  Ophiolatreia 
prevailed  in  this  quarter  of  the  globe  at  the 
earliest  period  of  idolatry 2. 

Of  the  countries  of  Europe,  Greece  was  first 
colonized  by  Ophites,  but  at  separate  times, 
both  from  Egypt  and  Phoenicia ; and  it  is  a 
question  of  some  doubt,  though  perhaps  of  little 
importance,  whether  the  leader  of  the  first  colony, 
the  celebrated  Cadmus,  was  a Phoenician  or  an 
Egyptian.  Bochart  has  shown  that  Cadmus 

1 Faber  approves  this  derivation. — Cabiri,  vol.  i.  180. 

2 The  first  inhabitants  of  Europe  are  said  to  have  been 
the  offspring  of  a woman,  partly  of  the  human,  and  partly  of 
the  dracontic  figure,  a tradition  which  alludes  to  their  Ophite 



was  the  leader  of  the  Canaanites  who  fled  before 
the  arms  of  the  victorious  Joshua ; and  Bryant 
has  proved  that  he  was  an  Egyptian , identical 
with  Thoth.  But  as  mere  names  of  individuals 
are  of  no  importance,  when  all  agree  that  the 
same  superstition  existed  contemporaneously  in 
the  two  countries,  and  since  Thoth  is  declared 
by  Sanchoniathon  to  have  been  the  father  of  the 
Phoenician  as  well  as  Egyptian  Ophiolatreia ; 
we  may  endeavour,  without  presumption,  to  re- 
concile the  opinions  of  these  learned  authors,  by 
assuming  each  to  be  right  in  his  own  line  of 
argument ; and  by  generalizing  the  name  Cad- 
mus, instead  of  appropriating  it  to  individuals. 
By  the  word  Cadmus,  therefore,  we  may  under- 
stand the  leader  of  the  Cadmonites,  whether  of 
Egypt  or  Phoenicia.  There  would,  consequently, 
be  as  many  persons  of  this  name,  as  colonies  of 
this  denomination. 

The  first  appearance  of  these  idolaters  in 
Europe  is  mythologically  described  under  the 
fable  of  “ Cadmus  and  Europa;”  according  to 
which,  the  former  came  in  search  of  the  latter, 
who  was  his  sister,  and  had  been  carried  off  to 
Europe  by  Jupiter  in  the  form  of  a bull. 

If  Europa  be  but  a personification  of  the 



solar  serpent- worship,  and  Cadmus  a leader 
of  serpent-worshippers,  the  whole  fable  is  easily 

Europa  was  carried  by  Jupiter  to  Crete,  where 
she  afterwards  married  Asterius  : that  is,  the 
solar  serpent-worship  was  established  in  Crete, 
and  afterwards  united  with  the  worship  of  the 
heavenly  host  : Asterius  being  derived  from 
acrrrjp , CL  Star. 

For  the  explanation  of  that  portion  of  the  fable 
which  relates  to  the  bull,  the  reader  is  referred 
to  Bryant,  Anal.  vol.  ii.  455,  who  thinks  that  it 
bore  an  allusion  to  the  god  apis  of  Egypt,  by 
whose  oracular  advice  the  migration  was  under- 
taken. A similar  worship,  however,  prevailed 
in  Syria ; for  we  find  that  the  Phoenician 
Cadmus,  ( Cadmus  the  son  of  Phoenix ),  when 
he  went  in  search  of  his  sister,  followed  a cow. 
This  latter  colony  is  said  to  have  settled  in 
Euboea ; to  which  they  gave  the  name  of  their 
tutelary  deity,  Aub  ; for  Euboea  is,  according  to 
Bryant,  Aub-Aia,  4 4 the  land  of  Aub 

The  history  of  Cadmus  is  full  of  fables  about 
serpents.  He  slew  a dragon,  planted  its  teeth, 
and  hence  arose  armed  men,  who  destroyed 

Anal.  ii.  200. 



each  other  until  five  only  remained.  These 
assisted  him  in  building  the  city  of  Thebes. 
One  of  these  five  builders  of  Thebes  was  named 
after  the  serpent-god  of  the  Phoenicians,  Ophion. 

Cadmus,  and  his  wife  Harmonia,  finished 
their  travels  at  Enchelise  in  Illyricum,  where, 
instead  of  dying  a natural  death,  they  were 
changed  into  serpents.  This  conclusion  of  the 
story  throws  a light  upon  the  whole.  The  leader 
of  these  Ophites  after  death  was  deified , and 
adored  under  the  symbol  of  a serpent . He  be- 
came, in  fact,  the  serpent-god  of  the  country, 
as  Thoth  had  become  the  serpent-god  of  Egypt. 
Having  been  the  author,  he  became  the  object 
of  the  idolatry. 

Besides  the  Cadmian  colony,  which  settled 
chiefly  in  Boeotia,  a second  irruption  of  Ophites 
is  noticed  in  history,  as  coming  from  Egypt 
under  the  guidance  of  Cecrops.  These  took 
possession  of  Attica,  and  founded  Athens,  whose 
first  name  was,  in  consequence,  Cecropia.  In 
this  word,  also,  we  trace  the  involution  of  the 
name  Ob,  or  Ops,  the  serpent-god  of  antiquity ; 
and  accordingly,  Cecrops 1 himself  is  said  to 

1 Allwood,  Lit.  Antiq.  of  Greece,  p.  259,  derives  the  name 
Cecrops  from  Ca-cur-ops,  “ The  Temple  of  the  Supreme 




have  been  of  twofold  form,  human  and  serpen- 
tine \ It  was  also  said,  that  from  a serpent  he 
was  changed  into  a man2.  We  read  too  of 
Draco  (Apa/cwv,  a dragon ) being  the  first  king 
of  Athens.  All  these  relate  to  the  introduction 
of  serpent-worship  from  Egypt  into  Attica,  the 
leader  of  which  colony,  by  a fabulous  meto- 
nyme,  wTas  called  a <£  dragon ,”  or  serpent.  The 
first  altar  erected  by  Cecrops  at  Athens,  was  to 
Ops,  the  serpent-deity 3 ; a circumstance  which 
confirms  the  inference  deduced  by  Bryant ; 
namely,  that  he  introduced  Ophiolatreia  into 
Attica.  Cecrops  and  Draco  were  probably  the 
same  person. 

2.  The  symbolical  worship  of  the  serpent  was 
so  common  in  Greece,  that  Justin  Martyr  accuses 
the  Greeks  of  introducing  it  into  the  mysteries 
of  all  their  gods. 

Ops.”  Ca-cur-ops,  with  the  use  of  the  Attic  dialect,  and  by 
contraction  would  become  Ce-c’r-ops.  From  the  temple  he 
thinks  originated  the  legend  of  Cecrops,  through  the  com- 
mon transmutation  of  temples  into  deities,  in  mythological 

1 Bryant,  ii.  210,  citing  Apollodorus. 

3 Ibid.  p.  211,  citing  Eustathius. 

3 Macrob.  Saturnal.  lib.  i.  c.  x.  p.  162. 



Ilapd  7 ravri  rwy  vo/lu^o/uleviov  7rap  vpiv  Oeiov  'Oipig 

a uju/3o\ov  pEya  Kai  pvarripiov  avaypcKpETcu  l. 

This  was  especially  true  in  regard  to  the  mys- 
teries of  Bacchus.  The  people  who  assisted  at 
them  were  crowned  with  serpents,  and  carried 
them  in  their  hands,  brandishing  them  over 
their  heads,  and  shouting  with  great  vehemence, 
Evia,  Evict2;  “ which  being  roughly  aspirated,” 
remarks  Clemens  Alexandrinus,  “ will  denote 
the  female  serpent3.”  A consecrated  serpent 
was  a sign  of  the  Bacchic  orgies 4 ; a very  im- 
portant part  of  which  consisted  in  a procession 
of  noble  virgins,  carrying  in  their  hands  golden 
baskets,  which  contained  sesamum,  small  pyra- 
mids, wool,  honey-cakes , (having  raised  lumps 
upon  them  like  navels ),  grains  of  salt,  and  a 
serpent  5. 

Three  ingredients  in  these  baskets  are  remark- 

1 Apolog.  lib.  i.  p.  60. 

2 Some  of  the  ancient  fathers  supposed  that  the  word  evia 
was  an  ejaculation  of  the  name  Eve  ; and  (the  serpent  being 
simultaneously  held  up)  that  the  whole  of  the  orgies  were  a 
celebration  of  the  fall  of  the  first  woman. 

3 Apud.  Euseb.  P.  E.  64. 

4 Ibid.  62. 

5 Clemens  Alex,  cited  by  Castellan,  apud  Gronov.  643. 



able,  as  connected  with  the  worship  of  the 


1.  The  pyramids , which  were  intended  as 
representations  of  the  suns  rays , and  are  some- 
times seen  in  the  hands  of  priests  kneeling 
before  the  sacred  serpent  of  Egypt 1 . The  sup- 
plicating minister  of  the  god  offers  a p}>ramid  in 
his  left  hand,  while  the  right  is  held  up  in  adora- 
tion. On  his  head  is  the  deadly  asp. 

2.  The  honey -cakes  marked  with  the  sacred 
omphalos.  These  were  also  offerings  made  at 
the  shrine  of  the  sacred  serpent ; for  we  read 
in  Herodotus,  that  in  the  Acropolis  at  Athens 
was  kept  a serpent  who  was  considered  the 
guardian  of  the  city.  He  was  fed  on  cakes  of 
honey  once  a month 2.  The  serpent  of  Metele  was 
presented  with  the  same  food  or  offering 3. 

Medicated  cakes,  in  which  honey  was  a chief 
ingredient,  were  at  once  the  food  and  the  offer- 
ing to  the  dragon  of  the  Hesperides — 


Hesperidum  templi  custos,  epulasque  draconi 

1 No.  4.  room  ix.  Egypt.  Antiq.  in  the  British  Museum. 

2 viii.  41. 

3 See  “ Ophiolatreia  in  Egypt.” 


Quce  dabat , et  sacros  servabat  in  arbore  ramos, 

Spargens  humida  mella , soporiferumque  papaver. 

Virgil,  iEn.  iv.  483. 

A similar  offering  was  made  to  Cerberus,  by 
the  prophetess  who  conducted  iEneas — 

Cui  vates  horrere  videns  jam  colla  colubris 
Melle  soporatam  et  medicalis  frugibus  offam 

iEn.  vi.  419. 

Honey  cakes  were  also  carried  by  the  initiated 
into  the  cave  of  Trophonius  to  appease  the 
guardian  serpents1.  So  that  this  offering  was 
universally  peculiar  to  Ophiolatreia. 

The  honey-cake,  however,  when  properly  pre- 
pared, was  marked  with  the  sacred  Omphalos 
— a remarkable  peculiarity  on  which  it  may  be 
proper  to  make  a few  observations. 

The  superstition  of  the  Omphalos  was  exten- 
sively prevalent.  It  entered  into  the  religions 
of  India  and  Greece,  and  is  one  of  the  most 
figurative  and  obscure  parts  of  mythology.  The 
omphalos  is  a boss,  upon  which  is  described 
a spiral  line  ; but  whether  or  not  this  spiral  line 
may  have  been  originally  designed  to  represent 

1 Philostratus,  Vita  Apollon.  1.  viii.  c.  15. 



a coiled  serpent , I will  not  pretend  to  determine  ; 
though  such  a meaning  has  been  affixed  to  it  by 
an  ingenious  writer1  upon  the  antiquities  of  New 
Grange  in  Ireland.  In  describing  similar  lines 
upon  some  rude  stones  discovered  at  this  place, 
he  tells  us,  “ they  appear  to  be  the  representa- 
tions of  serpents  coiled  up,  and  probably  were 
symbols  of  the  Divine  being.”  “ Quintus  Cur- 
tius  confirms  this  hypothesis,  when  he  says, 
that  the  temple  of  Jupiter  Ammon  in  Africa  had 
a rude  stone,  whereon  was  drawn  a spiral  line, 
the  symbol  of  the  deity.” 

Whatever  may  have  been  the  meaning  of 
this  spiral  line,  which  Quintus  Curtius  calls  a 
navel , one  thing  is  evident,  that  the  omphalos , 
umbilicus , or  navel , was  sacred  to  the  serpent-god : 
for  it  not  only  occurs  in  the  mystic  baskets  of 
the  Bacchic  orgies,  but  was  also  kept  at 
Delphi  2,  “ because ,”  says  Pausanias,  “ this  was 
the  middle  of  the  earth”  The  absurdity  of  this 
notion  at  once  refers  us  to  some  better  reason  ; 
but  absurd  as  it  is,  the  same  idea  seems  to  have 

1 Beauford  in  Vallancey’s  Collectan.  de  reb.  Hibern. 
vol.  ii.  p.  174. 

2 Strabo,  lib.  vi.  Pausan.  lib.  10.  Pindar,  Pyth.  Ode  iv. 
and  vi. 



prevailed  generally  ; for  we  read  of  an  omphalos 
of  the  Peloponnesus  at  Phlius,  in  Achaia  : “ if 
it  be  as  they  say”  adds  the  incredulous  topo- 
grapher l. 

Near  the  latter  omphalos  was  a temple  of 
Bacchus,  another  of  Apollo,  and  another  of 
Isis,  to  each  of  which  deities  the  serpent  was 
sacred.  The  sacred  omphalos,  therefore,  would 
seem  to  bear  very  much  upon  the  adoration  of 
the  serpent ; and  it  is  a question  whether  or  not 
it  w7as  originally  intended  to  represent  a coiled 
serpent  as  symbolical  of  divinity. 

The  esoteric  tradition  of  the  omphalos,  accord- 
ing to  Diodorus1,  is,  that  when  the  infant  Jupiter 
was  nursed  by  the  Curetes,  his  navel  fell  at  the 
river  Triton  in  Crete  : whence  that  territory  was 
called  Omphalos.  But  this  legend  is  evidently 
invented  from  the  ambiguity  of  the  word.  Bryant 
derives  omphalos  from  Omphiel,  “ the  oracle  of 
the  sun  2.”  Such  an  oracle  would  not  be  unaptly 
represented  by  a coiled  serpent,  a serpent  being 
the  most  popular  emblem  of  the  sun,  and  also 
of  an  oracle. 

3.  The  third  feature,  and  the  most  remarkable 

1 Pausan.  lib.  ii.  p.  109. 

2 Anal.  i.  307. 

2 Lib.  v.  s.  70. 



of  all,  in  the  Bacchic  orgies,  was  the  mystic 
serpent.  This  was,  undoubtedly,  the  avufioXov 
Htya  Kai  ju varrjpiov  of  the  festival.  The  MYSTERY 
of  religion  was,  throughout  the  world,  concealed 
in  a chest  or  box.  As  the  Israelites  had  their 
sacred  ark,  every  nation  upon  earth  had  some 
holy  receptacle  for  sacred  things  and  symbols. 
The  story  of  Ericthonius  is  illustrative  of  this 
remark.  He  was  the  fourth  king  of  Athens, 
and  his  body  terminated  in  the  tails  of  serpents , 
instead  of  human  legs.  He  was  placed  by 
Minerva  in  a basket , which  she  gave  to  the 
daughters  of  Cecrops,  with  strict  injunctions 
not  to  open  it.  Here  we  have  a fable  made  out 
of  the  simple  fact  of  the  mysterious  basket , in 
which  the  sacred  serpent  was  carried  at  the 
orgies  of  Bacchus.  The,  whole  legend  relates  to 

In  accordance  with  the  general  practice,  the 
worshippers  of  Bacchus  carried  in  their  conse- 
crated baskets  or  chests,  the  mystery  of  their 
God,  together  with  the  offerings. 

Catullus,  (Nuptice  Pel.  et  Thetidis , 256,)  in 
describing  these  Bacchanals,  says  : 

Pars  sese  tortis  serpentibus  incingebant, 

Pars  obscura  cavis  celebrabant  orgia  cistis. 




The  contents  of  the  basket  were,  therefore,  the 
mystery  ; and  especially  the  serpent . Arch- 
bishop Potter  says  as  much  : “ In  these  con- 
sisted the  most  mysterious  part  of  the  solemnity 
but  he  adds,  inconsiderately,  “ and  therefore  to 
amuse  the  common  people  (!)  serpents  were  put 
into  them,  which  sometimes  crawling  out  of 
their  places,  astonished  the  beholders  \7  What- 
ever might  have  been  the  astonishment  of  the 
beholders,  that  of  the  priests  would  not  have 
been  little,  to  have  been  told  that  their  sacred 
Serpent,  the  <rv/uj3oXov  /isyu  Kai  /awTripiov,  was 
nothing  more  than  a device  to  amuse  the  com- 
mon people. 

It  is  observable  that  the  Christian  Ophites, 
who  were  of  the  school  of  the  Egyptian  gnostics, 
kept  their  sacred  serpent  in  a chest ; and  the  orgies 
of  Bacchus  were  derived  from  the  same  source 
of  Egyptian  gnosticism — the  mysteries  of  Isis. 

So  great  was  the  veneration  of  the  Cretans 
for  their  Bacchic  baskets,  that  they  frequently 
stamped  the  figures  of  them  upon  their  coins. 
Nor  were  these  baskets  confined  to  the  orgies  of 
Bacchus.  They  were  employed  also  in  the 
mysteries  of  Ceres,  Isis,  and  Osiris 2. 

1 Archaeol.  Graec.  ii.  383.  9th  Edit.  2 Montfaucon,  i.  164. 



Another  custom  of  the  Bacchantes  is  remark- 
able for  its  connexion  with  Ophiolatreia.  After 
the  banquet,  they  were  accustomed  to  carry 
round  a cup,  which  they  called  4 4 the  cup  of 
the  good  daemon. ” 44  Ingenti  clamore  bonum 

deum  invocant  venerantes  Bacchum,  cujus  quo- 
que  in  memoriam  poculum,  sublatis  mensis, 
circumferunt,  quod  poculum  boni  d^emonis 
appellant  V’ 

The  symbol  of  the  44  good  daemon”  was  a 
serpent,  as  may  be  proved  from  a medal  of  the 
town  of  Dionysopolis,  in  Thrace.  On  one  side 
of  the  coin  were  the  heads  of  Gordian  and 
Serapis,  on  the  other  a coiled  serpent 2.  Diony- 
sopolis was  named  from  Dionusus,  a name  which 
was  borne  by  the  Indian  Bacchus,  who  in  his 
own  country  was  called  Deonaush. 

In  the  collection  of  the  Earl  of  Besborough, 
was  a beautiful  antique  drinking  cup  cut  out  of 
a solid  piece  of  rock  crystal,  on  the  lid  of  which 
are  two  serpents,  and  upon  the  cup  near  the 
rim,  the  Ophite  hierogram  in  the  form  of  a 
Medusa’s  head.  Mr.  Pownall,  in  the  seventh 
volume  of  the  Archaeologia,  proves  that  this  cup 
was  consecrated  to  religious  uses  ; and  supposes 
1 Nicol  de  ritu  Bacch.  apud  Gronov.  vii.  186.  2 Ibid, 

o 2 


that  it  might  have  been  employed  in  drinking  to 
the  Tria  Numina,  after  a feast.  One  of  the  “ Tria 
Numina”  was  called  Agathod^mon.  I con- 
jecture therefore,  that  this  was  the  “ poculum 
Boni  Dsemonis,”  used  in  the  Bacchanalian 

The  following  lines  from  Martial,  prove  that 
the  impress  of  a serpent  upon  a cup,  was  a sign 
of  consecration  : — 

Caelatus  tibi  cum  sit  Ammiane 
Serpens  in  patera  Myronis  arte, 

Vaticana  bibis ! 

Lib.  vi.  Epig.  92. 

The  serpent  entered  into  the  symbolical  wor- 
ship of  many  others  of  the  Grecian  deities. 

Minerva  was  sometimes  represented  with  a 
dragon ; her  statues  by  Phidias  were  decorated 
with  this  emblem  h In  plate,  p.  85,  vol.  i.  of 
Montfaucon,  are  several  medals  of  Minerva  ; in 
one  of  them  she  holds  a caduceus  in  the  right 
hand  ; in  another,  a staff,  round  which  a ser- 
pent is  twisted  ; in  a third,  a large  serpent 
appears  marching  before  her.  Other  medals 
represent  her  crest  as  composed  of  a serpent. 
So  that  this  was  a notorious  emblem  of  the 

Gesner,  Hist.  Anim.  lib.  v.  p.  84. 



goddess  of  wisdom  : so  applied,  perhaps,  from 
a legendary  memorial  of  “ the  subtilty”  which 
the  serpent  displayed  in  Paradise  ; whereas,  his 
attribution  to  the  god  of  drunkenness  may  be 
accounted  for  from  a traditionary  recollection  of 
the  prostration  of  mind  sustained  by  our  first 
parents,  through  communion  with  the  serpent 

The  city  of  Athens  was  peculiarly  consecrated 
to  the  goddess  Minerva  ; and  in  the  Acropolis 
was  kept  a live  serpent,  who  was  generally  con- 
sidered as  the  guardian  of  the  place.  The 
emperor  Hadrian  built  a temple  at  Athens  to 
Jupiter  Olympius,  and  “ placed  in  it  a dragon 
which  he  caused  to  be  brought  from  India1.” 
Upon  the  walls  of  Athens  was  sculptured  a 
Medusa’s  head,  whose  hair  was  intertwined  with 
snakes.  In  the  temple  of  Minerva,  at  Tegea, 
there  was  a similar  sculpture,  which  was  said  to 
have  been  given  by  the  goddess  herself,  to  pre- 
serve that  city  from  being  taken  in  war2.  The 
virtue  supposed  to  reside  in  this  head  was  of  a 
talismanic  power,  to  preserve  or  destroy. 

1 Xiphilin.  Rom.  Hist.  Script,  iii.  358. 

Pausan.  lib.  viii.  p.  531.  Edit.  Hanoviae  1013. 


The  same  author  1 who  records  the  preceding 
fact,  tells  us  of  a priestess,  who,  going  into  a 
sanctuary  of  Minerva  in  the  dead  of  the  night, 
saw  a vision  of  that  goddess,  who  held  up  her 
mantle,  upon  which  was  impressed  a Medusa’s 
head.  The  sight  of  this  fearful  talisman  instan- 
taneously converted  the  intruder  into  stone.  The 
same  Gorgon  or  Medusa’s  head,  was  on  the 
aegis  and  breastplate  of  the  goddess2,  to  induce 
a terrific  aspect  in  the  field  of  battle.  The 
terror  resided  in  the  snakes ; for  the  face  of 
Medusa  was  “ mild  and  beautiful3 .”  From  some 
such  notion  of  a talismanic  power,  perhaps,  the 
Argives,  Athenians,  and  Ionians,  after  the  taking 
of  Tanagra  from  the  Lacedaemonians,  erected  a 
statue  of  victory  in  the  grove  of  Jupiter  Olympius, 
on  whose  shield  was  engraved  a Medusa's  head*. 
The  same  symbolical  figure  may  be  frequently 
seen  on  sepulchral  urns.  This  general  impres- 
sion of  a powerful  charm  inherent  in  the  Gorgon, 
must  be  attributed  to  some  forgotten  tradition 
respecting  the  serpents  in  the  hair ; for  all 
agree  that  the  face  of  Medusa  was  far  from 

2 Virgil,  viii.  435. 

4 Paus.  lib.  v.  304. 

1 Paus.  lib.  ix.  p.  593. 
Montfaucon,  i.  88. 

To  face  p.  lgg 



being  terrific.  Some  engravings  of  this  head, 
preserved  in  Montfaucon,  explain  the  mystery. 
From  these  we  may  infer,  that  this  celebrated 
talisman  was  no  other  than  the  still  more  cele- 
brated emblem  of  consecration,  the  circle, 
wings,  and  serpent  ; whose  history,  use,  and 
probable  origin  we  considered  in  the  first  chap- 
ter of  this  treatise.  In  the  plate  in  Montfaucon, 
above  referred  to1,  are  representations  of  Me- 
dusa’s head,  from  either  side  of  whose  forehead 
proceeds  a wing  ; and  two  serpents,  inter- 
secting one  another  below  the  chin  in  a nodus 
Herculis , appear  over  the  forehead,  looking  at 
each  other. 

Take  away  the  human  face  in  the  centre, 
with  its  remaining  snaky  locks,  and  you  have 
the  Egyptian  emblem  of  consecration,  the 
serpents  and  winged  circle  ; the  circle  being 
formed  by  the  bodies  of  the  snakes.  The  Gor- 
gon is,  therefore,  nothing  more  than  the  cadu- 
ceus  without  its  staff. 

The  intimate  connexion  of  this  emblem  with 
the  serpent-worship,  we  have  already  observed  : 
and  it  is  worthy  of  remark,  that  the  Ar gives, 

Montf.  i.  88. 



Athenians , and  Ionians , who  erected  the  statue 
of  victory  at  Tanagra  with  a Gorgon-shield, 
were  descendants  of  serpent  worshippers. 

This  celebrated  hierogram  of  the  Ophites  was 
painted  on  the  shield  of  Perseus,  an  Argive , who 
was  distinguished  by  the  device  of  “ Medusa’s 
head.”  And  Hippomedon,  an  Argive  also , one 
of  the  seven  chiefs  before  Thebes1,  bore  the 
same  hierogram,  if  I rightly  understand  these 
lines  of  iEschylus  : — 

,rO^)£WV  $£  7r\£KTavai(Jl  7T£pl$pOfjlOV  KVTOg 
IIpocrrjSacpKJTai  KoiXoyaaropog  kvk\ov. 

E7rra  £7 rt  Qrjfiag.  501,  502. 

The  poet  is  describing  the  devices  upon  the 
shields  of  the  besiegers,  and  the  above  are  the 
“ armorial  bearings”  of  Hippomedon.  “ The  hol- 
low circumference  of  the  concave  shield  was 
carried  towards  the  ground  (jpoariScKpKjTai)  in  the 
folds  of  serpents.”  By  which  I understand  the 
poet  to  mean,  that  the  centre  of  the  shield  was  a 
little  raised,  and  a circular  cavity  ran  round  be- 
tween it  and  the  rim  of  the  shield.  In  this  cavity 

1 Alcmaon  also,  who  was  present  at  this  siege,  was  distin- 
guished by  the  cognizance  of  a serpent  upon  his  shield. — 
Pindar  Pythia , 8. 



( towards  the  lower  part  of  it)  were  folded  serpents 
— which  would  accurately  describe  the  ophite 
hierogram  1 ; the  raised  part  of  the  shield  repre- 
senting the  mystic  circle  or  globe — for  we  must 
observe,  that  the  shield  was  “ hollow -bellied 
i.  e.  concave  to  the  hearer  ; and,  consequently, 
convex  to  the  enemy. 

The  people  of  Argos  had  a tradition  which 
indicates  their  ophite  origin  also.  The  city  was 
said  to  have  “ been  infested  with  serpents,  until 
Apis  came  from  Egypt  and  settled  in  it.  To 
him  they  attribute  the  blessing  of  having  their 
country  freed  from  this  evil ; but  the  brood  came 
from  the  very  quarter  from  whence  Apis  was 
supposed  to  have  come.  They  were  certainly 
Hivites  from  Egypt2.” 

The  breastplate  and  baldrick  of  Agamemnon, 
king  of  Argos,  exhibited  the  device  of  a triple- 
headed serpent 8.  His  brother  Menelaus,  king  of 
Sparta,  was  similarly  distinguished  by  a serpent 
upon  his  shield.  The  Spartans,  as  well  as  the 
Athenians,  believed  in  their  serpentine  origin,  and 
called  themselves  ophiogence . 

1 See  ch.  i.  “ Ophiolatreia  in  Persia.”  Plate. 

2 Bryant,  Anal.  ii.  212. 

3 Homer,  Iliad,  A.  38. 



In  Argolis,  moreover,  was  the  town  of  Epi- 
daurus,  famous  for  the  temple  of  iEsculapius? 
where  that  god  was  worshipped  under  the 
symbol  of  a serpent.  We  read  in  Pausanias 1 
that  live  serpents  were  kept  here,  and  fed  regu- 
larly by  servants,  who  laid  their  food  upon  the 
floor,  but  dared  not  approach  the  sacred  rep- 
tiles. This  must  have  been  only  through  reli- 
gious awe  ; for  the  serpents  of  Epidaurus  were 
said  to  be  harmless 2.  The  statue  of  iEsculapius 
at  this  temple,  represented  him  leaning  upon  a 
staff,  and  resting  one  hand  upon  the  head  of  a 
serpent 3.  His  sister,  the  goddess  Hygeia,  was 
represented  with  a large  serpent  twisted  about 
her,  and  drinking  out  of  a chalice  in  her  hand. 
Sometimes  it  was  coiled  up  in  her  lap  ; at  others, 
held  in  the  hand  4. 

The  serpent  was  sacred  to  iEsculapius  and 
Hygeia,  as  a symbol  of  health ; but  how  he  came 
to  be  a symbol  of  health  is  not  very  satisfactorily 
explained.  It  is  said  by  Pliny,  that  the  flesh  of 
this  creature  is  sometimes  used  in  medicine,  and 
that  this  was  the  reason  of  his  consecration  to 
“ health.”  Others  again  inform  us,  that  the 

1 Paus.  lib.  ii.  106.  2 Pausan.  lib.  ii.  136. 

3 Montf.  i.  180.  4 Ibid.  181. 



serpent  changes  his  skin  periodically,  and  thus 
becomes  an  emblem  of  renewed  vigour  in  a sick 
man.  These,  however,  can  only  be  considered 
as  the  surmises  of  a warm  imagination  The 
use  of  animals  of  the  reptile  kind  in  medicine 
was  not  confined  to  the  serpent ; or,  if  it  were, 
from  whence  could  the  idea  itself  originate,  that 
the  serpent’s  flesh  was  sanatory  ? The  changing 
of  his  skin  being  periodical , can  scarcely  denote 
recovered  health,  which  is  seldom  renewed  at 
given  intervals.  In  the  absence  of  every  other 
probable  reason,  we  may  refer  this  notion  to  the 
ejfect  produced  upon  Adam  and  Eve,  when,  at 
the  instigation  of  the  serpent,  they  “ took  and 
ate,”  and  “ their  eyes  were  opened .”  Another 
derivation  has  indeed  been  assigned,  which  has 
much  plausibility  attached  to  it ; but  chronology 
confutes  the  opinion.  Many  authors  have  be- 
lieved that  the  erection  of  the  brazen  serpent  in 
the  wilderness  by  Moses,  might  have  given 
cause  for  the  attribution  of  the  serpent  to  the 

1 It  must  be  confessed,  however,  that  this  notion  made  a 
very  strong  impression  upon  antiquity — for  “ to  eat  snakes” 
became  a proverb,  denoting  a man’s  feeding  on  what  renewed 
his  vigour. 



god  of  health  ; especially  as  he  is  represented 
very  often,  under  this  character,  encircling  a 
stick  or  pole  in  the  hand  of  iEsculapius.  I 
acknowledge  the  affinity  of  the  ideas  ; but  being 
persuaded  that  the  iEsculapian  worship  was  of 
Egyptian  origin,  and  having  already  shown  from 
Wisdom , ch.  xi.  ver.  15,  that  the  worship  of  the 
serpent  prevailed  in  Egypt  before  the  Exodus  of 
the  Israelites,  I cannot  believe  that  an  Egyptian 
superstition  owes  its  beginning  to  any  incident 
in  Israelitish  history. 

A tradition  is  recorded  by  Pausanias 1 of 
one  Nicagora,  the  wife  of  Echetimus,  who 
conveyed  the  god  iEsculapius  to  Sicyon  under 
the  form  of  a serpent.  The  Sicyonians  erected 
statues  to  him ; one  of  which  represented  a 
woman  sitting  upon  a serpent.  An  anecdote 
of  the  deportation  of  iEsculapius  to  Rome, 
similar  to  the  preceding,  is  related  by  Livy, 
Ovid,  Florus,  Valerius  Maximus,  and  Aurelius 
Victor.  From  whom  it  appears,  that  a pesti- 
lence having  arisen  in  Rome,  the  oracle  of 
Delphi  advised  an  embassy  to  Epidauriis,  to 
fetch  the  god  iEsculapius  ; Quintus  Ogulnius 

1 Paus.  lib.  ii.  103. 



and  ten  others  were  accordingly  sent  with  the 
humble  supplications  of  the  senate  and  people 
of  Rome.  While  they  were  gazing  in  admiration 
at  the  superb  statue  of  the  god,  a serpent, 
“ venerable,  not  horrible,”  which  rarely  ap- 
peared but  when  he  intended  to  confer  some 
extraordinary  benefit,  glided  from  his  lurking 
place  ; and  having  passed  through  the  city,  went 
directly  to  the  Roman  vessel,  and  coiled  himself 
up  in  the  berth  of  Ogulnius.  The  ambassadors, 
“ carrying  the  god,”  set  sail ; and  being  off 
Antium,  the  serpent  leaped  into  the  sea,  and 
swam  to  the  nearest  temple  of  Apollo,  and  after 
a few  days  returned.  But  when  they  entered 
the  Tiber,  he  leaped  upon  an  island,  and  disap- 
peared. Here  the  Romans  erected  a temple  to 
him  in  the  shape  of  a ship  ; and  the  plague  was 
stayed  “with  wonderful  celerity.” 

Ovid,  (Met.  15,  665,)  gives  an  animated  de- 
scription of  this  embassy,  which  is  well  worthy 
of  attention,  as  illustrative  of  the  deification  of 
the  serpent. 

Postera  sidereos  aurora  fugaverat  ignes ; 

Incerti  quid  agant  proceres,  ad  templa  petiti 
Conveniunt  operosa  Dei : quaque  ipse  morari 
Sede  velit,  signis  coelestibus  indicet,  orant. 


Vix  bene  desierant  cum  cristis  aureus  altis 
In  serpente  DEUS  praenuntia  sibila  misit : 

Adventuque  suo  signumque  arasque  foresque 
Marmoreumque  solum,  fastigiaque  aurea  movit : 
Pectoribusque  tenus  media  sublimis  in  aede 
Constitit ; atque  oculos  circumtulit  igne  micantes. 

Territa  turba  pavet,  cognovit  Numina  custos, 

Evinctus  vitta  crines  albente  sacerdos. 

Et  “ Deus  en  ! Deus  en ! linguisque  animisque  favete 
Quisquis  ades,”  dixit.  “ Sis,  O pulcberrime,  visus 
Utiliter:  populosque  jnves  tua  sacra  colentes.” 

The  god  having  passed  through  the  temple 
and  city,  arrives  at  the  port : 

Restitit  hie  ; agmenque  suum,  turbaeque  sequentis 
Officium  placido  visus  dimittere  vultu, 

Corpus  in  Ausonia  posuit  rate. 

When  the  vessel  entered  the  Tiber,  the 
whole  city  of  Rome  was  poured  out  to  meet 
the  god  : 

Obvia  turba  ruit 

laetoque  clamore  salutant. 

Quaque  per  adversas  navis  cita  ducitur  undas, 

Thura  super  ripas,  arisque  ex  ordine  factis, 

Parte  ab  utraque  sonant : et  adorant  aera  fumis, 

Ictaque  conjectos  incalfacit  hostia  cultros. 

These  spirited  lines  alone,  without  any  other 



support  from  history,  would  prove  the  extent  to 
which  the  worship  of  the  serpent  was  carried  by 
the  ancients. 

The  incarnation  of  deity  in  a serpent  was  not 
an  uncommon  event  in  Grecian  mythology.  We 
read  of  Olympias,  Nicotelea,  and  Aristodamia, 
mothers,  of  Alexander,  Aristomenes,  and  Aratus, 
respectively,  by  some  god  who  had  changed 
himself  into  the  form  of  a serpent1.  The  con- 
version of  Jupiter  and  Rhea  into  snakes,  gave 
occasion  to  a fable  respecting  the  origin  of  the 
Caduceus  ; which  is  so  far  pertinent  to  our  theory, 
that  it  implies  the  divine  character  of  those  sacred 
serpents,  which  formed  in  that  talisman  the  circle 
and  crescent. 

Jupiter  again  metamorphosed  himself  into  a 
dragon,  to  deceive  Proserpine.  These,  and  all 
other  similar  fables  in  mythology,  are  founded 
upon  the  deception  of  Eve  by  a spiritual  being, 
who  assumed  the  form  of  a serpent. 

Dragons  were  sacred  to  the  goddess  Ceres ; 
her  car  was  drawn  by  them. 

They  were  symbolical  also  of  the  Ephesian 
Diana,  and  of  Cybele,  the  mother  of  the  gods, 

Pausan.  lib.  iv.  243. 



as  we  may  see  in  the  engravings  of  Mont- 
faucon  \ 

Of  all  the  places  in  Greece,  Bceotia  seems  to 
have  been  the  most  favourite  residence  of  the 
Ophites.  The  Thebans  boasted  themselves  to 
be  the  descendants  of  the  warriors  who  sprung 
from  the  dragon’s  teeth  sown  by  Cadmus.  “ The 
history  of  this  country,”  says  Bryant,  “ had  con- 
tinual reference  to  serpents  and  dragons  ; they 
seem  to  have  been  the  national  insigne  at  least 
of  Thebes.  Hence  we  find  upon  the  tomb  of 
Epaminondas,  the  figure  of  a serpent,  to  signify 
that  he  was  an  Ophite  or  Theban2.”  In  like 
manner  the  Theban  Hercules  bore  upon  his 
shield  the  sacred  hierogram  by  which  the  war- 
riors of  the  Cadmian  family  were  distinguished 
— “ As  he  went,  his  adamantine  shield  sounded 
in  a circle  two  dragons  were  sus- 
pended, lifting  up  their  heads  3.” 

At  Thespiae,  in  Bceotia,  they  worshipped 
Jupiter  Saotas ; the  origin  of  whose  worship  is 
thus  related  : — “ When  a dragon  had  once 
laid  waste  the  town,  Jupiter  directed  that 

1 Vol.  i. 

2 Anal.  ii.  465,  citing  Pausanias. 

3 Hesiod,  cited  by  Stukeley,  A bury,  69. 



every  year  a young  man,  chosen  by  lot,  should 
be  offered  to  the  serpent.  The  lot  fell  at 
length  on  Cleostrus,  when  his  friend,  Menes- 
tratus,  having  made  a brazen  breastplate  and 
studded  it  with  hooks,  put  it  on,  and  presented 
himself  to  the  dragon.  Thus  they  both  perished 
together.  From  that  time  the  Thespians  erected 
an  altar  to  Jupiter  Saotas  V’ 

But  the  most  celebrated  seat  of  Ophiolatreia 
in  Greece  was  at  Delphi.  The  original  name 
of  this  place,  according  to  Strabo,  was  Pytho  ; 
supposed  to  be  so  called  from  the  serpent 
Python,  slain  there  by  Apollo.  The  con- 
nexion of  such  a legend  with  the  place,  and  the 
derivation  of  its  original  name  from  the  serpent 
Python,  which  is  thought  to  be  the  Pethen  of 
the  Hebrews,  might  well  induce  the  learned 
Heinsius  to  conclude  that  “ the  god  Apollo 
was  first  worshipped  at  Delphi,  under  the  symbol 
of  a serpent.”  Hyginus  2 says,  that  the  dragon 
Python  formerly  gave  oracles  in  Mount  Parnassus 
— “ Python,  Terrae  filius,  draco  ingens.  Hie 
ante  Apollinem  ex  oraculo  in  monte  Parnasso 
responsa  dare  solitus  erat.”  The  same  says 

1 Hoffman,  Lexicon. 

2 Fab.  140. 



iElian  1 ; and  Plutarch  2 affirms,  that  the  contest 
between  Apollo  and  Python  was  respecting  the 
oracle.  66  Python  was,  therefore,  in  reality,  the 
deity  of  the  place  3.” 

The  public  assemblies  at  Delphi  were  called 
Pythia.  These  were  doubtless,  originally  in- 
tended for  the  adoration  of  Python 4.  Seven 
days  after  the  victory  of  Apollo  over  Python, 
the  Pythian  games  were  instituted,  on  the 
seventh  day  of  which,  an  hymn  called  Psean  was 
sung  to  Apollo  in  honour  of  his  victory  5.  Hence 
the  expression  of  Hesiod — tflSofiov  Ispov  — 
which  so  singularly  corresponds  with  our  sab- 

When  the  priestess  of  Apollo  delivered  her 
oracles,  she  stood,  or  sat,  upon  a tripod.  This 
was  a name  commonly  given  to  any  sort  of 
vessel,  seat,  or  table,  supported  upon  three  feet. 
The  tripod  of  the  Pythian  priestess  was  distin- 
guished by  a base  emblematical  of  her  god.  It 
was  a triple-headed  serpent  of  brass,  whose  body, 

1 Var.  Hist.  lib.  iii.  c.  1.  2 De  defectuOrac.  i.  417. 

3 Bryant,  ii.  147.  The  same  is  intimated  by  Hyginus 

(Introd.  Fab.)  when  he  calls  Python,  “ Draco  divinus.” 

4 Euseb.  P.  E.  72. 

5 Stnkeley,  Abury,  69,  citing  Proleg.  to  Pindar.  Pyth. 



folded  in  circles  growing  wider  and  wider  to- 
wards the  ground,  formed  a conical  column.  The 
cone , it  should  be  remembered  was  sacred  to 
the  solar  deity.  The  three  heads  were  disposed 
triangularly,  in  order  to  sustain  the  three  feet 
of  the  tripod,  which  was  of  gold.  Herodotus  1 
tells  us,  that  it  was  consecrated  to  Apollo  by 
the  Greeks,  out  of  the  spoils  of  the  Persians 
after  the  battle  of  Platsea.  He  describes  it 
accurately.  Pausanias2,  who  mentions  it  also, 
omits  the  fact  of  the  three  heads.  He  records 
a tradition  of  a more  ancient  tripod,  which  was 
carried  off  by  the  Tyrinthian  Hercules,  but 
restored  by  the  son  of  Amphitryon.  An  en- 
graving of  the  serpentine  column  of  the  Delphic 
tripod  may  be  seen  in  Montfaucon,  vol.  ii.  p.  86. 
The  golden  portion  of  this  tripod  wras  carried 
away  by  the  Phocians  when  they  pillaged  the 
temple  of  Delphi  ; an  outrage  which  involved 
them  in  the  sacred  war  which  terminated  in  their 
ruin.  The  Thebans,  who  were  the  foremost 
among  the  avengers  of  Delphi,  were  the  most 
notorious  Ophites  of  antiquity. 

Athenseus  calls  this  tripod,  <£  the  tripod  of 

2 Lib.  x.  p.  633. 

p 2 

ix.  81. 


truth1  ” — a most  singular  perversion  of  the  fact 
upon  which  the  oracle  was  founded — the  con- 
versation of  the  serpent  in  Paradise. 

According  to  Gibbon,  the  serpentine  column 
was  transported  from  Delphi  to  Constantinople, 
by  the  founder  of  the  latter  city,  and  set  up  on 
a pillar  in  the  Hippodrome 2.  He  cites  Zosimus, 
who  is  also  cited  by  Montfaucon  on  the  same 
subject : but  the  latter  thinks  that  Constantine 
only  caused  a similar  column  to  be  made,  and 
did  not  remove  the  original  from  Delphi.  It  is 
most  probable,  however,  that  Gibbon  is  right 3. 

This  celebrated  relic  of  Ophiolatreia  is  still  to 
be  seen  in  the  same  place,  where  it  was  set  up 
by  Constantine  ; but  one  of  the  serpents’  heads 
is  mutilated.  This  was  done  by  Mahomet  the 
second,  the  Turkish  conqueror  of  Constanti- 
nople, when  he  entered  the  city.  The  story  is 
thus  related  by  Leunclavius : — “ When  Mahomet 
came  to  the  Atmeidan,  he  saw  there  a stone 
column,  on  which  was  placed  a three-headed 
brazen  serpent.  Looking  on  it,  he  asked,  4 What 
idol  is  that  V and  at  the  same  time,  hurling  his 

1 Montf.  ii.  86. 

2 Decline  and  Fall  of  the  Rom.  Emp.  iii.  21. 

3 See  Gibbon’s  note . 



iron  mace  with  great  force,  knocked  off  the  lower 
jaw  of  one  of  the  three  serpents’  heads.  Upon 
which , immediately , a great  number  of  serpents 
began  to  be  seen  in  the  city.  Whereupon  some 
advised  him  to  leave  that  serpent  alone  from 
henceforth  ; since  through  that  image  it  happened 
that  there  were  no  serpents  in  the  city.  Wherefore 
that  column  remains  to  this  day.  And  although, 
in  consequence  of  the  lower  jaw  of  the  brazen 
serpent  being  struck  off , some  serpents  do  come  into 
the  city , yet  they  do  no  harm  to  any  one  h” 

This  traditionary  legend,  preserved  by  Leun- 
clavius,  marks  the  strong  hold  which  Ophiola- 
treia  must  have  taken  upon  the  minds  of  the 
people  of  Constantinople,  so  as  to  cause  this 
story  to  be  handed  down  to  so  late  an  sera  as 
the  seventeenth  century.  Among  the  Greeks 
who  resorted  to  Constantinople  were  many 
idolaters  of  the  old  religion,  who  would  wilfully 
transmit  any  legend  favourable  to  their  own 
superstition.  Hence,  probably,  the  charm  men- 
tioned above,  was  attached  by  them  to  the 
Delphic  serpent  on  the  column  in  the  Hippo- 
drome ; and  revived  (after  the  partial  mutilation 
of  the  figure)  by  their  descendants,  the  common 

Annales  Turcici,  s.  130. 



people,  who  are  always  the  last  in  every  country 
to  forget  or  forego  an  ancient  superstition. 
Among  the  common  people  of  Constantinople, 
there  were  always  many  more  pagans  than 
Christians  at  heart.  With  the  Christian  re- 
ligion, therefore,  which  they  professed,  would 
be  mingled  many  of  the  pagan  traditions  which 
were  attached  to  the  monuments  of  antiquity 
that  adorned  Byzantium,  or  were  imported  into 

There  is  another  kind  of  serpentine  tripod, 
which  is  supposed  to  have  belonged  to  Delphi, 
usually  represented  on  medals.  This  is  a vase 
supported  on  three  brazen  legs,  round  one  of 
which  is  twined  a serpent  \ 

Lucian 2 says,  that  44  the  dragon  under  the 
tripod  spoke  3.”  This  was,  very  probably,  the 

1 Montf.  ii.  86. 

2 DeAstrolog.  cited  by  Bulengerde  Orac.  apud  Gronov.  vii.  15. 

3 The  words  of  Lucian  are,  “ At  Delphi  a virgin  delivers 
the  oracle,  being  a symbol  of  the  constellation  virgo  ; and 
a dragon  speaks  from  under  the  tripod , because  the  con- 
stellation draco  appears  among  the  stars.”  (De  Astrolog. 
p.  544,  Edit.  Paris,  1615.)  This  extract  from  Lucian  con- 
nects the  mythological  with  the  actual  serpent-worship  at 
Delphi,  identifying  the  serpent  Python,  with  the  polar  dragon 
— the  Apa/covra  airoararriv  of  the  Septuagint.  For  the 



popular  belief,  founded  originally  upon  the  his- 
torical fact  to  which  I have  so  often  alluded — the 
speaking  of  the  serpent  in  Paradise  with  a human 
voice  ; and  the  delusion  was  probably  kept  up 
by  the  ventriloquism  of  the  Pythian  priestess,  as 
she  sat  upon  the  tripod,  over  the  serpent. 

That  the  serpent  was  the  original  god  of 
Delphi,  may  be  further  argued  from  the  circum- 
stance that  live  serpents  were  kept  in  the  adytum 
of  the  temple  l.  A story  is  related  by  Diogenes 
Laertius,  lib.  v.  c.  91,  of  a Pythian  priestess,  who 
was 'accidentally  killed  by  treading  upon  one  of 
these  reptiles,  which  immediately  stung  her. 

At  Delos,  the  next  place  in  rank  after  Del- 
phi for  an  oracle  of  Apollo,  there  was  an  image 
erected  to  him  “ in  the  shape  of  a dragon  2.” 
Here  there  was  likewise  an  oracular  fountain, 
called  Inopus.  “ This  word,”  remarks  Bryant 3, 
“ is  compounded  of  Ain-opus  ; i.  e.  Fons  Py- 
thonis dedicated  to  the  serpent-god  Oph. 
Fountains  sacred  to  this  deity  were  not  uncom- 

reason  assigned  by  Lucian,  we  see  a caduceus  in  the  hand  of 
the  personified  constellation  Virgo,  in  Hygin.  Poet.  Astron. 

1 Bulenger,  ut  supra. 

2 Potter,  Archaeol.  Graec.  ii.  283. 

1 Bryant,  i.  257. 



mon.  Maundrel  mentions  a place  in  Palestine, 
called  “ the  serpent’s  fountain  and  there  was 
a celebrated  stream  at  Colophon,  in  Ionia, 
which  communicated  prophetic  inspiration  to 
the  priest  of  Apollo,  who  presided  over  it. 
Colophon,  is  col-oph-on  ; that  is,  “ collis  ser- 
pentis  soils  V’ 

In  Pausanias  (lib.  ix.  557)  we  read  of  a foun- 
tain near  the  river  Ismenus  at  Thebes,  which 
was  placed  under  the  guardianship  of  a dragon. 
Near  this  place  was  the  spot  where  Cadmus 
slew  the  dragon,  from  whose  teeth  arose  the 
Ophiogenes,  the  builders  of  Thebes.  It  is  pro- 
bable, therefore,  that  instead  of  being  sacred  to 
Mars , as  Pausanias  affirms,  this  fountain  was 
sacred  to  the  serpent-god , called  Mars  in  this 
place,  because  of  the  conflict  between  the  Ophi- 
ogenes. A conclusion  the  more  probable  from 
the  fact,  that  the  Ismenian  hill  was  dedicated 
to  Apollo.  The  whole  territory  was  (we  may 
say)  the  patrimony  of  Oph — all  the  local  legends 
confirm  it 2. 

There  were  many  other  oracles  of  Apollo 
besides  those  of  Delphi  and  Delos,  but  of  infe- 

Bryant,  i.  256. 

3 See  Pausanias  in  loc. 



rior  celebrity  and  various  rites.  It  is  remarkable, 
however,  that  the  names  of  several  of  these  places 
involve  the  title  Aub  or  Ab,  the  designation 
of  the  serpent-god.  But  not  desiring  to  lay 
too  much  stress  upon  etymology,  I pass  them 
by,  as  I have  many  other  places  involving  a 
similar  evidence.  I cannot,  however,  neglect 
a famous  oracle  which  was  in  connexion  with 
Delphi,  and  bears  many  internal  marks  of 
Ophiolatreia.  This  was  the  celebrated  cave  of 
Trophonius,  in  Phocis. 

That  this  was  a dracontic  oracle  will,  I think, 
appear  from  the  following  considerations.  In 
the  grove  of  Trophonius,  near  Lebadea  in 
Phocis,  was  a cave,  in  which  were  two  figures, 
male  and  female,  holding  in  their  hands  scep- 
tres encircled  by  serpents.  They  were  said  to 
be  the  images  of  AEsculapius  and  Hygeia  ; but 
Pausanias 1 conjectures  that  they  belonged 
rather  to  Trophonius  the  god  of  the  place,  and 
Hercyna,  the  female  who  discovered  the  cave  ; 
for  he  says,  “ the  serpent  was  not  more  sacred  to 
JEsculapius  than  to  Trophonius .”  Trophonius  was 
an  oracular  god,  and  his  attributes  and  name 
indicate  the  solar  serpent  Oph.  Trophon  is, 
1 Page  60 2.  Edit.  Hanoviae,  1613. 



most  probably,  Tor-oph-on,  the  temple  of  the 
solar  serpent  \ The  later  Greeks,  with  their  usual 
mythological  confusion  of  places  and  persons, 
conjectured  the  name  of  the  temple  to  be  that 
of  the  god;  and  so  converted  “ Tor-oph-on” 
into  “ Trophonius.” 

In  corroboration  of  these  remarks,  we  find  that 
one  of  the  builders  of  the  temple  of  Apollo, 
at  Delpi,  was  Trophonius. 

Pausanias  informs  us,  that  whoever  would 
inquire  an  oracle  of  Trophonius,  must  pre- 
viously (in  a small  temple  near  his  cave , dedi- 
cated to  the  good  genius)  sacrifice  to  Apollo, 
Saturn,  Jupiter,  Juno,  and  Ceres.  Now 
it  is  remarkable  that  each  of  these  deities  had 
some  connexion  with  the  mythological  serpent. 
Apollo  was  pre-eminently  the  solar  serpent- 
god  ; and  is,  therefore,  first  to  be  appeased. 
Apollo  I take  to  be  no  other  than  Opel, 
(Oph-el)  Pytho-sol,  whose  name  occurs  so 
frequently  in  composition-  with  the  names  of 
places  as  Torophel,  Opheltin,  &c.  Saturn 
was  married  to  Ops  ; under  which  disguise  is 
concealed  the  deity  Oph.  Jupiter  changed 
himself  into  a serpent  twice,  to  deceive  Rhea 
8 Bryant,  ii.  162. 




and  Proserpine.  The  serpent  Python  was  an 
emissary  of  Juno,  to  persecute  Latona,  the 
mother  of  Apollo ; and  the  car  of  Ceres  was 
drawn  by  serpents.  Serpents  also  entered  into 
the  Eleusinian  mysteries  as  symbolical  of  that 
goddess.  Thus  the  history  of  each  of  these 
deities  was,  more  or  less,  connected  with  the 
mythological  serpent — the  very  deity  whom  the 
frequenters  of  this  oracle  would  be  called  upon 
to  propitiate  before  they  entered  the  cave,  on 
the  supposition  that  Trophonius  was  the  Ophite 

But  this  is  not  all.  In  the  cave  of  Tropho- 
nius live  serpents  w^ere  kept ; and  those  who 
entered  it  were  obliged  to  appease  them  by 
cakes — which  we  know  were  offered  to  the 
sacred  serpent  at  Athens,  and  were  carried  in 
the  mysterious  baskets  at  the  Bacchanalian 
orgies.  They  were,  in  fact,  sacrifices  or  offerings 
to  these  serpents,  as  objects  of  worship. — 
Another  proof  that  the  serpents  were  the  real 
gods  of  the  place,  is  found  in  the  saying,  that 
“ no  one  ever  came  out  of  the  cave  of  Tropho- 
nius smiling  ” — and  why  ? rr)v  rwv 

iK7c\l&  iv — because  of  the  stupor  occasioned  by  the 



serpents 1 / The  same  expression  is  employed 
by  Plutarch,  in  describing  the  effect  produced 
by  the  Bacchanalian  serpents  upon  the  specta- 
tors of  the  mysteries — zZsttXiittov  rove  avopag  2 : — 
which  must  mean  that  they  inspired  the  be- 
holders with  religious  awe ; for  it  can  scarcely 
mean  “frightened ,”  because  he  is  speaking  of 
the  processions  of  Olympias,  at  Pella , where 
serpents  were  so  familiar  that  they  lived  in  the 
dwellings  of  the  inhabitants,  among  their  chil- 
dren 3,  and  therefore  could,  under  no  ordinary 
circumstances,  become  an  object  of  terror.  Hence 
it  was,  probably,  a religious  dread  which  seized 
the  spectators,  both  at  the  orgies  of  Bacchus,  and 
in  the  cave  of  Trophonius. 

But  we  may  approach  even  nearer  to  the  de- 
duction which  I would  draw  ; namely,  that  the 
serpents  in  the  cave  were  the  real  gods  of  the 
place , by  recollecting  two  fables  which  we  have 
before  considered  : the  stupefaction  and  ultimate 
death  of  the  priest  who  intruded  upon  the  pri- 
vacy of  the  dragon  of  Metele  ; and  the  conver- 

1 Bulenger  de  Orac.  apud  Gronov.  vii.  44. 

3 Alexander,  665. 

3 Lucian’s  Alexander  the  Impostor. 



sion  of  the  priestess  of  Minerva  into  stone,  for 
her  presumption  in  entering  into  the  presence 
of  that  goddess  uncalled.  These  fables  would 
prove  that  an  affection  of  the  senses  was  believed 
to  be  the  result  always  attending  upon  a sight  of 
the  local  deity. 

The  serpents  were  therefore,  probably,  the 
original  objects  of  divine  worship  in  the  cave  of 

The  origin  of  the  notion  of  an  oracular  God 
symbolized  by  a serpent,  we  have  frequently 
referred  to  the  ambiguously  prophetic  conver- 
sation of  the  serpent  with  Eve  in  paradise. 
The  consequent  affection  and  depravation  of 
her  mind,  and  that  of  her  husband,  are  not 
obscurely  remembered  in  the  of  the 

votaries  of  Trophonius. 

4.  The  worship  of  the  serpent  prevailed 
equally  in  the  Peloponnesus.  Peloponnesus  is 
said  to  have  been  so  called  from  being  the 
“ island  of  the  Pelopidse,”  descendants  of  Pelops. 
The  emigration  of  this  mythological  hero  from 
Phrygia,  forms  an  interesting  epoch  in  Grecian 
story,  and  relates  to  the  passage  of  the  sacred 
serpent  from  Canaan,  the  land  of  his  first  resting- 



place  after  the  flood.  Pelops  is  p’-el-ops, 
the  serpent-god l. 

We  have  already  seen  that  the  Argives  and 

Spartans  were  Ophites,  and  that  from  the  cele- 

brated  temple  of  iEsculapius,  at  Epidaurus,  the 
sacred  serpent  was  conveyed  to  Sicyon.  In 
addition  to  these  facts,  we  learn  from  Pausa- 
nias  that  Antinoe,  the  foundress  of  Mantinea, 
was  guided  to  that  place  by  a serpent,  from 
whom  the  river,  which  was  near  the  town,  was 
called  Ophis  2. 

The  first  prophet  of  Messene  was  said  to 
have  been  Ophioneus  ; from  which  we  may 
infer,  that  the  first  colony  which  introduced 
religious  rites  into  Messenia  was  Ophite.  A 
similar  colony  was  established  at  Epidaurus 
Limera,  in  Laconia,  under  the  auspices  of  a 
sacred  serpent  brought  from  Epidaurus,  in 
Argolis  3. 

Statius  4 describes  a serpent,  the  object  of 
religious  reverence  at  Nemsea  : — 

1 Allwood,  Lit.  Antiq.  of  Greece , p.  182,  and  Faber, 
Cabiri,  ii.  p.  212. 

2 Paus.  469.  3 Paus.  208. 

4 Thebaid,  v.  p.  239,  Edit.  Paris,  1618. 



Interea  campis  nemoris  sacer  horror  Achaei, 

Terrigenae  erigitur  serpens 

This  is  the  serpent  which  slew  the  child 
Opheltes.  Statius  goes  on  to  describe  him  : — 

Inachio  sanctum  dixere  tonanti 
Agricolae,  cut  cura  loci  et  sylvestribus  aris 
Pauper  honos. 

The  “ pauper  honos ” was  occasioned  by  the 
drought  then  raging,  when  the  scene  described 
by  the  poet  took  place.  It  was  in  search  of  food 
that  the  serpent  sallied  from  the  sacred  grove 
when  he  saw  and  slew  the  sleeping  child. 

Bryant 1 assures  us  that  Opheltes,  or  rather 
Opheltin,  is  the  name  of  a place,  and  not  of  any 
person  : and  that  this  place  was  nothing  more 
nor  less  than  an  inclosure  sacred  to  the  god 
Ophel,  the  serpent-solar  deity.  Hence  the 
legend  respecting  the  serpent. 

It  will  be  shown  in  a subsequent  chapter,  that 
such  inclosures  were  frequently  formed  in  the 
shape  of  a serpent.  If  such  was  the  form  of 
“ Opheltin ,”  the  fable  explains  itself.  It  means 
nothing  more  than  that  human  victims  were 
immolated  at  this  shrine  of  Ophel. 

ii.  185,  also  i.  117. 



5.  The  islands  of  the  iEgean  sea  were  en- 
tirely overrun  by  Ophites.  They  colonized 
Delos,  Tenos,  Cos,  and  Seriphus,  in  such 
numbers  as  to  mark  their  abode  by  traditions. 
The  oracle  of  Delos  we  have  ascertained  to 
have  been  Dracontian.  Tenos  was  called 
Ophiusa l,  as  also  Cythnus.  A coin  of  Cos 
presents  the  figure  of  a serpent,  with  the  word 
2QTHP  inscribed.  The  same  figure  and  in- 
scription appear  on  the  coins  of  Epidaurus 2 : 
and  we  find  that  there  was  a temple  of  iEscu- 
lapius  at  Cos 3.  Seriphus  is,  according  to 
Bryant,  Sar-Iph  (petra  Pythonis,)  “ the  ser- 
pent’s rock.”  Here  was  a legend  of  Perseus 
bringing  Medusa’s  head,  and  turning  the  inha- 
bitants into  stone 4.  The  island  was  called 
Saxum  Seriphium  by  the  Romans ; and  by 
Virgil,  “ serpentifera”  Natural  ruggedness  is 
not  peculiar  to  Seriphus ; it  seems  to  be  cha- 
racteristic of  the  greater  number  of  the  Grecian 
islands  ; and  therefore,  connecting  the  epithet 
“ serpentifera  ” with  the  legend  respecting  Per- 
seus, we  may  reasonably  infer  that  a colony  of 
Ophites  were  once  settled  in  Seriphus,  and  had 

2 Spanheim,  212. 

4 Ibid.  746. 

1 Bryant,  Anal.  ii.  215. 
3 Strabo,  657. 



a temple  there  of  the  dracontic  kind,  whose 
upright  columns  of  stone  may  have  given  rise  to 
the  tradition  that  the  inhabitants  of  the  island 
were  petrified  by  the  talismanic  serpents 1 of 
Perseus.  Such  a tradition  was  not  unfrequently 
attached  to  these  Ophite  temples.  Stonehenge 
was  thus  called  “ Chorea  Gigantum and  a 
Druids’  circle  in  Cumberland,  “ Long  Meg  and 
her  Daughters  ” from  a belief  that  the  giants  and 
the  fairies  were  respectively  metamorphosed  into 
stone,  in  the  mazes  of  a dance. 

Of  all  the  islands  in  the  neighbourhood  of 
the  Peloponnesus,  Crete  was  most  celebrated 
for  its  primitive  Ophiolatreia.  Here  the  Egyp- 
tians first  established  those  religious  rites  which 
were  called  by  the  Greeks  the  mysteries  of 
Dionusus  or  Bacchus.  The  Cretan  medals  were 
usually  impressed  with  the  Bacchic  basket, 
and  the  sacred  serpent  creeping  in  and  out. 
Beger  has  written  a treatise  on  these  coins  : the 
following  is  a description  of  three  which  he  has 

1.  A Bacchic  basket,  with  the  sacred  serpent. 
On  the  reverse,  two  serpents  with  their  tails 

1 See  article  on  the  Caduceus  in  the  preceding  chapter. 



intertwined,  on  each  side  of  a quiver — for  the 
Cretans  were  famous  archers. 

2.  The  Bacchic  basket  and  serpent.  On  the 
reverse  a temple  between  two  serpents.  In  the 
middle  of  the  temple,  a lighted  altar. 

3.  The  Cretan  Jupiter  between  two  serpents. 

The  inhabitants  of  Crete  are  also  said  to 

have  worshipped  the  Pythian  Apollo.  They 
had  a Pythium  ; and  the  inhabitants  were  called 
Pythians  \ 

6.  We  see,  then,  that  serpent- worship  very 
generally  prevailed  through  Greece  and  its 
dependencies.  Memorials  of  it  have  been  pre- 
served in  many  coins  and  medals,  and  pieces  of 
ancient  sculpture  ; and  the  only  reason  why 
we  have  not  more  records  of  this  superstition 
is,  that  it  was  superseded  by  the  fascination  of 
the  Polytheistic  idolatry,  which  overwhelmed 
with  a multitude  of  sculptured  gods  and  god- 
desses the  traditionary  remains  of  the  original 

There  are,  however,  some  few  reliques  of 
sculpture  which  bear  interesting  testimony  to 
the  worship  of  the  serpent.  Engravings  of  three 

Gesner,  Hist.  Anim.  lib.  v.  p.  59. 



are  preserved  by  Fabretti  \ which  are  worthy  of 

No.  1 represents  a tree  encircled  by  a ser- 
pent ; an  altar  appears  in  front,  and  a boy  on 
horseback  is  seen  approaching  it.  The  inscrip- 
tion states  this  to  be  a monument  dedicated  by 
Glycon  to  his  infant  son  Euhemerus. 

No.  2,  an  equestrian  approaching  an  altar  at 
the  foot  of  a tree,  about  the  branches  of  which 
a serpent  is  entwined.  A priestess  stands  by 
the  altar. 

No.  3.  In  the  centre  is  a tree  with  a ser- 
pent enfolding  it.  To  the  right  of  the  tree  is  a 
naked  female,  holding  in  her  hand  a chalice 
under  the  serpent’s  mouth,  and  near  her  a man 
in  the  attitude  of  supplication  to  the  serpent. 
On  the  left  is  Charon  leading  Cerberus  towards 
the  tree. 

These  are  perhaps  funeral  monuments,  and 
the  serpent  emblematic  of  the  manes  of  the 
departed,  as  Montfaucon  would  lead  us  to 
believe.  But  the  third  sculpture  (in  spite  of 
Charon)  seems  rather  to  allude  to  the  annual 
custom  at  Epirus  of  soliciting  the  sacred  ser- 
pent for  a good  harvest.  The  narrative  is  in 
1 Inscript.  Antiq.  p.  61,  &c. 

Q 2 


iElian,  Hist.  Anim.  lib.  xi.  2,  by  which  we  learn 
that  the  husbandmen  of  the  country  proceeded 
annually  to  the  temple  where  live  serpents  were 
kept,  and  approached  hy  naked  priestesses.  If  the 
serpent  received  the  proffered  food,  the  omen  was 
a good  one,  and  vice  versa. 

7.  Under  the  head  of  “ Ophiolatreia  in 
Greece,”  we  may  class  Ophiomancy — divination 
hy  serpents.  This  superstition  was  sometimes 
resorted  to  by  the  Greeks,  but  was  more 
common  among  the  Romans  : both  of  them 
borrowed  it  from  earlier  nations.  For,  the 
same  word  in  Hebrew,  Arabic,  and  Greek, 
which  denotes  “ divination ,”  denotes  “ a ser- 
pent.”  “ Nachash” — “ alahat 1 ” — oiam&o-Gai — 

have  the  same  double  significations.  The  Greek 
word,  according  to  Hesychius,  is  derived  from 
oiuvog,  a snake  ; “ because  they  divined  by  means 
of  a snake,  which  they  called  oiwvoc.” 

This  is  a coincidence  which  implies  that 
Ophiomancy  was  th e first  species  of  divination  : 
as  it  ought  to  have  been,  since  Ophiolatreia  was 
the  first  species  of  idolatry. 

A remarkable  instance  of  Grecian  Ophiomancy 
occurs  in  the  divination  of  Calchas  at  Aulis  in 

1 Dickinson,  Delph.  Phcenic. 



Bceotia,  before  the  confederate  chiefs  sailed  for 
the  siege  of  Troy. 

While  the  chieftains  were  assembled  under  a 
tree,  having  sacrificed  a hecatomb  to  the  gods 
for  the  success  of  their  enterprise,  on  a sudden 
a great  sign — fitya  a r\fxa — appeared.  A serpent 
gliding  from  the  base  of  an  altar  ascended  the 
tree,  and  devouring  a sparrow  and  her  eight 
young  ones,  came  down  again,  and  was  con- 
verted into  stone  \ The  omen  was  interpreted 
to  mean  a nine  years’  continuance  of  the  war, 
and  victory  in  the  tenth. 

In  mentioning  this  anecdote  we  may  remark, 
that  the  scene  of  the  transaction  was  in  Bceotia, 
one  of  the  most  celebrated  loci  of  Ophiolatreia  ; 
and  that  Calchas,  the  soothsayer,  acquired  the 
gift  of  divination  from  Apollo,  or  in  other  words, 
was  a priest  of  the  Ophite  god. 

II.  Epirus. — 1.  Following  the  Ophites  from 
Greece  into  Epirus,  we  find  that  their  traces, 
though  few,  are  decisive.  In  this  country,  we 
are  informed  by  iElian 2,  there  was  a circular 
grove  of  Apollo  enclosed  within  a wall,  where 
sacred  serpents  were  kept.  At  the  great  annual 

1 Homer,  Iliad,  fi.  308,  &c. 

2 Hist.  Anim.  lib.  xi.  2. 



festival,  the  virgin  priestess  approached  them 
naked,  holding  in  her  hand  the  consecrated 
food.  If  they  took  it  readily,  it  was  deemed  an 
augury  of  a fruitful  harvest,  and  healthy  year ; 
if  not,  the  contrary  omen  dismissed  the  anxious 
expectants  in  despondence.  These  serpents 
were  said  to  be  descended  from  the  Python  of 
Delphi, — a tradition  which  amounts  to  positive 
proof  that  the  original  religion  of  Delphi  was 

2.  From  Epirus  the  superstition  passed  into 
Illyria.  It  was  at  Encheliee  that  Cadmus  and 
his  wife  were  changed  into  serpents.  A temple 
was  erected  to  them  in  commemoration  of  this 
event ; the  probable  form  and  dedication  of 
which  will  be  considered  in  the  chapter  on 
Ophite  Temples. 

Cadmus,  who  was  the  author  of  Ophiolatreia 
in  Bceotia,  Epirus,  and  Illyria,  from  having 
been  the  promoter,  became  the  object  of  this 
idolatry.  Like  Thoth  in  Egypt,  he  was  deified 
after  death  as  the  serpent-god,  whose  worship  he 
had  been  so  zealous  to  establish. 

3.  The  superstition  so  generally  received  in 
Greece,  passed  rapidly  into  Macedonia,  where  the 
inhabitants  of  Pella  became  its  chief  votaries. 



Of  them  it  is  said  1,  that  they  kept  domestic  ser- 
pents, which  were  brought  up  among  their  chil- 
dren, and  frequently  nursed  together  with  them, 
by  the  Macedonian  mothers.  The  coins  of  Pella 
bore  the  impress  of  a serpent2. 

The  idea  of  divine  incarnation  in  a serpent 
must  have  appeared  reasonable  in  that  country 
to  enable  Olympias  to  invent  the  story  of  her 
son  Alexander’s  dracontic  origin.  The  queen 
was  extravagantly  fond  of  the  Bacchanalian 
mysteries,  at  which  she  officiated  in  the  charac- 
ter of  a Bacchans.  It  is  said  by  Plutarch  3,  that 
she  and  her  husband  were  initiated  into  them  at 
Samothrace,  when  very  young  ; and  that  she 
imitated  the  frantic  gestures  of  the  Edonian  wo- 
men in  traversing  the  wilds  of  Mount  Haemus. 
When  Olympias  celebrated  the  orgies  of  Dio- 
nusus,  attendants  followed  her,  carrying  Thyrsi 
encircled  with  serpents,  having  serpents  also  in 
their  hair  and  chaplets. 

4.  The  island  of  Samothrace  was  the  Holy 
Isle  of  the  ancients,  and  celebrated  for  the  wor- 
ship of  the  Cabiri,  the  most  mysterious  and 
awful  of  all  the  gods,  whose  name,  even,  it  was 

1 Lucian.  Alexander  Pseudomant. 

2 Spanheim,  221.  3 Alex.  665. 



unlawful  to  pronounce  lightly.  The  word  “ ca- 
biri  ” is  said  to  mean  “ the  mighty  ones.”  If 
it  mean  no  more  w7e  may  as  vainly  seek  to  pene- 
trate into  their  hallowed  abode  for  the  illustration 
of  our  subject  as  the  awe-struck  Greeks  them- 
selves ; but  wdiile  probability  opens  a road  to 
conjecture,  w^e  may  be  allowed  to  hazard  one  for 
its  elucidation. 

“ Cabiri”  is  evidently  a noun  in  the  plural 
number,  of  which  the  singular  is  to  be  found  in 

“ CABIR.” 

Now  cabir  is  probably  a compound  word, 
whose  component  parts  may  be  ca-ab-ir.  If  so, 
the  interpretation  is  easy,  ca-ab-ir  resolving 
itself  at  once  into  ca  or  cha,  domus1 ; ab  or 
aub,  Pythonis ; ir  or  ur,  Lucis  vel  Solis.  “ Ca- 
bir” will  therefore  mean  “ the  temple  of  the  ser- 
pent of  the  sun2;”  and  “ cabiri  ” will  bear  the 
same  signification,  either  as  denoting  more  than 
one  such  temple,  or  a temple  dedicated  to  two 
deities,  Aub  and  the  Sun. 

1 Bryant,  Anal.  i.  122. 

2 The  first  syllable  may  possibly  be  “ ca  ” or  “ ga ,”  illus- 
trious. (Faber  on  the  Cabiri , i.  p.  28;  who  does  not,  how- 
ever, apply  any  other  meaning  to  the  word  “cabiri”  than 
“ the  mighty  ones.”)  In  this  case  “cabiri  ” would  be  “ the 
illustrious  Abiri.” 



Of  the  same  kind  I take  to  have  been  the 
caaba  of  Mecca,  which  should  be  written 
caabir.  Here  we  find  the  chief  object  of 
idolatry  to  have  been  a conical  stone , which  we 
know  was  an  emblem  of  the  solar  god,  being 
the  image  of  a sun’s  ray.  Another  temple  of 
this  dedication  was  at  Abury  in  Wiltshire, 
whose  name,  “ Abury,”  is  evidently  “Abiri,” 
or  “ Ab-ir,”  expressed  in  the  plural  number  ; 
the  only  difference  1 being,  that  in  the  name  of 
this  place  the  adjunct  “ ca  ” signifying  “the 
temple,”  was  dropped,  and  the  names  of  the 
deity  alone  retained — Abir,  quasi , “ serpens 
solis.”  This  temple  we  shall  see  hereafter  was 
formed  in  the  shape  of  a serpent.  The  sub- 
stitution of  gods  for  temples  was  of  common 
occurrence  in  mythology,  as  we  have  seen  in 
the  case  of  Trophonius,  where  the  tor  (or  temple) 
of  Ophon  was  changed  into  Trophonius  (the 
god.)  It  is  not  surprising,  therefore,  that  “ caa- 
bir,” the  temple  of  Abir , should  be  changed  into 
“ Cabir,”  the  god:  and  by  natural  consequence, 
“ Cabiri”  would  imply  a plurality  of  gods  of  the 
same  name. 

1 “ Abury , so  called  from  being  dedicated  to  the  Abiri,  who 
were  the  same  as  the  Cabiri”  Faber  on  the  Cabiri,  i.  210. 


The  above  conjecture,  founded  primarily  upon 
etymology,  is  corroborated  by  facts. 

Olympias,  we  have  been  informed  by  Plu- 
tarch, was  initiated  into  the  mysteries  of  Dio- 
nusus  at  Samothrace.  Now  Dionusus,  the  Orphic 
Bacchus,  was  symbolized  by  a serpent.  This 
alone  would  be  sufficient  to  support  our  con- 
jecture on  the  etymology  of  “ Cabin.”  But  we 
learn  further,  that  the  Orphic  Cures,  the  chief 
of  the  cabiri,  assumed  a dracontic  form ; and 
that  the  Orphic  Cronus  and  Hercules  are  also 
described  either  as  compounded  of  a man,  a 
lion,  and  a serpent ; or,  simply,  as  a winding 
snake  1.  It  was  a common  opinion  among  the 
Greeks  that  Ceres , Proserpine , and  Bacchus  were 
the  Cabiri.  To  each  of  these  deities,  it  is  to  be 
observed,  the  serpent  was  sacred,  and  formed  a 
prominent  feature  in  their  mysteries. 

1 leave,  therefore,  to  the  candid  consideration 
of  the  reader,  the  probability  of  the  derivation 
wffiich  has  been  assigned  to  the  word  “ Cabiri .” 

Between  the  religion  of  Samothrace  and  that 
of  the  Thracian  continent,  there  was  a strong 
similarity,  or  rather  union.  The  great  prophet 
of  this  common  religion  was  Orpheus,  who  re- 

1 Faber,  Pagan  Idol.  i.  453. 



sided  chiefly  at  Thrace,  and  was  to  that  country 
what  Thoth  was  to  Egypt,  and  Cadmus  to 
Greece, — the  promoter  of  Ophiolatreia  : but  it 
was  Ophiolatreia  in  conjunction  with  the  solar 
idolatry.  It  seems  that  the  original  worship  of 
the  serpent  had  been  already  corrupted  by  the 
adoption  of  the  mysteries  of  Dionusus.  Thus 
Dionysopolis  was  “ the  city  of  Dionusus  and 
consequently  we  find  a coiled  serpent  impressed 
upon  its  coins.  The  same  appeared  on  the 
medals  of  Pantalia,  another  city  in  Thrace ; 
upon  which  Spanheim  remarks,  “ Istud  vero  ex 
iis  nummis  colligas,  in  Macedonia,  Thracid , 
Paphlagonia,  Ponto,  Bithynia,  Cilicia,  et  vicinis 
regionibus,  haud  alios  locorum  genios  et  custodes 
gratiores,  id  genus  draconibus  extitisse1.” 

The  priestesses  of  the  superstition  of  Dionusus 
were  no  longer  Pythonesses  or  Ouhs , but  Bac- 
chantes : and  many  other  innovations  mark  the 
decline  of  Ophiolatreia  before  Orpheus  succeeded 
(but  in  succeeding  lost  his  life)  in  uniting  it  to 
the  sun-worship. 

III.  Italy. — We  come  now  to  the  traces  of 
Ophiolatreia  in  Italy. 

1 Page  221. 



In  this  country  the  principal  colony  of  Ophites 
settled  in  Campania,  and  were  called  Opici  or 
Ophici,  from  the  object  of  their  idolatry, — 
0(piKoi  euro  Ttjjv  ofauv,  say  Stephanus  Byzantinus  \ 
The  same  people  were  called  Pitanatce , as 
testified  by  Strabo 2.  Pitanatce ,”  remarks  Bryant, 
u is  a term  of  the  same  import  as  Opici,  and 
relates  to  the  votaries  of  Pitan , the  serpent- 
deity,  which  was  adored  by  the  people.  Mene- 
laus  was,  of  old,  styled  Pitanates , as  we  learn 
from  Hesychius  ; and  the  reason  of  it  may  be 
known  from  his  being  a Spartan,  by  which  was 
intimated  one  of  the  Serpentigence , or  Ophites. 
Hence  he  was  represented  with  a serpent  on  his 
shield3.”  This  word  Pitan  is  derived  from  the 
same  root  as  Python : namely,  the  Hebrew  ]DH) 
serpens , vel,  aspis. 

Many  representations  of  warriors  with  the  ser- 
pent on  their  shields,  may  be  seen  on  the 
Etruscan  vases,  discovered  on  the  estate  of 
Canino  in  Etruria,  which  is  supposed  to  have 
been  the  ancient  Vitulonia  4. 

Jerome  Colonna  attributes  the  name  of  Opici 
to  the  people  of  Campania,  from  a former  king 

1 Cited  by  Bryant,  ii.  214.  2 383. 

5 Bryant,  Anal.  ii.  216.  4 Archaeol.  vol.  xxiii. 



bearing  upon  his  standard  the  figure  of  a ser- 
pent1. But  this  would  be  the  necessary  con- 
sequence of  his  being  an  Ophite  ; for  the  mili- 
tary ensigns  of  most  ancient  nations  were  usually 
the  images  of  the  gods  whom  they  worshipped. 
Thus  a brigade  of  infantry  among  the  Greeks 
was  called  7riravar??c  2 ; and  the  Romans,  in  the 
age  of  Marcus  Aurelius,  had  a dragon  standard 
at  the  head  of  each  cohort,  ten  in  every  legion. 
The  legion  marched  under  the  eagle  3.  These 
dragons  were  not  woven  upon  any  fabric  of 
cloth,  but  were  real  images  carried  on  poles4. 
Some  say  (as  Casauhon  not . in  Vopis.  Hist. 
Aug.  231 .)  that  the  Romans  borrowed  the  dragon 
standard  from  the  Parthians  : but  their  vicinity 
to  the  Opici  of  Campania  may  perhaps  suggest 
a more  probable  origin.  The  use  of  them  by 
the  Parthians  may  have  induced  the  emperor 
Aurelius  to  extend  them  in  his  own  army ; but 
this  extension  was  perhaps  rather  a revival  than 
an  introduction  of  the  dragon  ensign.  They  are 

1 Ennii  Vita,  xv. 

2 Hesychius. 

3 Salmasius,  Not.  in  Jul.  Capitol.  Hist.  August.  Script. 

4 See  Description  in  Ammianus  Marcellinus,  lib.  xv. 



mentioned  by  Claudian  in  his  Epithalamium  of 
Honorius  and  Maria,  v.  193. 

Stent  bellatrices  aquilae,  saevique  dracones. 

He  mentions  them  again  in  his  panegyric  on 
Ruffinus  and  Honorius.  Some  of  his  lines  are 
highly  pictorial ; such  as  : — 

Surgere  purpureis  undantes  anguibus  hastas, 
Serpentumque  vago  coelum  ssevire  volatu. 

Ruff.  lib.  ii. 

hi  picta  draconum 

Colla  levant,  multusque  tumet  per  nubila  serpens , 

Iratus,  stimulante  noto,  vivitque  receptis 
Flatibus,  et  vario  mentitur  sibula  tractu. 


Prudentius  and  Sidonius  Apollinaris  also 
mention  them. 

The  bearers  of  these  standards  were  called 
draconarii ; and  it  is  not  improbable  that  hence 
might  have  been  derived  our  own  expression  of 
“ dragoons,”  to  designate  a certain  description 
of  cavalry,  though  the  original  meaning  of  the 
word  is  altogether  lost.  This  word  we  have 
borrowed  from  the  French,  who  received  it 
probably  from  the  Romans. 

From  Campania  the  Ophites  passed  into  La- 




tium,  and  established  the  chief  seat  of  their 
religion  at  Lanuvium.  The  medals  of  this  city 
bore  the  figure  of  a dragon  or  a large  serpent ; 
which,  according  to  Spanheim,  would  denote 
that  this  animal  represented  the  tutelary  god 
of  the  place  : an  opinion  which  is  proved  cor- 
rect by  the  following  extracts  from  iElian 1 and 
Propertius.  From  the  former  we  learn,  that 
“ at  Lanuvium  is  a large  and  dark  grove,  and 
near  it  a temple  of  the  Argive  Juno.  In  the 
same  place  is  a large  deep  cave,  the  den  of  a 
great  serpent.  To  this  grove  the  virgins  of 
Latium  are  taken  annually  to  ascertain  their 
chastity,  which  is  indicated  by  the  dragon.” 
Propertius,  describing  this  annual  custom  speaks 
thus  : — 

Disce  quid  Esquilias  hac  nocte  fugavit  aquosas, 

Cum  vicina  novis  turba  cucurrit  agris. 

Lanuvium  annosi  vetus  est  tutela  draconis  ; 

Hie  ubi  tarn  rarae  non  perit  hora  morae, 

Qua  sacer  abripitur  caeco  descensus  hiatu, 

Qua  penetral,  (virgo,  tale  iter  omne  cave  !) 

Jejuni  serpentis  honos,  cum  pabula  poscit 
Annua,  et  ex  ima  sibila  torquet  humo. 

Talia  demissae  pallent  ad  sacra  puellae  : 

Cum  tenera  anguino  traditur  ore  manus. 

1 Var.  Hist.  lib.  ix.  16. 



Ille  sibi  admotas  a virgine  corripit  escas ; 

Yirginis  in  palmis  ipsa  canistra  tremunt. 

Si  fuerint  castae,  redeunt  in  colla  parentum, 
Clamantque  agricolae  “ fertilis  annus  erit 1 !” 

There  is  great  similarity  between  the  above 
scene,  and  that  mentioned  in  a former  part  of 
this  chapter,  as  taking  place  annually  in  Epirus  ; 
and  there  can  be  no  doubt  that  they  belonged 
to  the  same  superstition. 

The  Ophites  who  settled  in  Campania  and 
Lanuvium,  left  a colony  also  in  Crotona,  and 
at  Lilyboeum  in  Sicily  : for  both  these  places 
were  remarkable  for  the  dracontic  medal,  which 
generally  denoted  the  consecration  of  a city  to 
the  serpent-god2. 

The  Marsi  who  settled  at  the  lake  Fucinus 
are  said  by  Virgil,  JEn.  vii.  750.  to  have  been 
“ charmers  of  serpents,”  which  is  tantamount  to 
calling  them  Ophites. 

Montfaucon  3 has  an  engraving  from  a silver 
medal  of  Lepidus,  on  which  is  a tripod  :■ — “ A 
serpent  of  vast  length  raises  itself  over  the  vase, 
twisting  his  body  into  a great  many  folds  and 

1 Eleg.viii.  lib.  4.  2 Spanheim  212. 

3 Suppl.  vol.  i.  162. 



knots The  serpent’s  head  darts 

rays;  which  seems  to  show  that  this  part  of 
the  Egyptian  Theology  (relating  to  the  solar 
serpent)  had  spread  itself  among  the  Romans ; 
and  that  they  represented  the  sun  by  a ser- 

Ophiomancy  prevailed  among  the  Romans, 
when  Ophiolatreia  had  decreased  through  the 
influence  of  time  and  civilization.  The  acci- 
dental sight  of  a serpent  was  sometimes  esteemed 
a good  and  sometimes  a bad  omen.  The 
death  of  Tiberius  Gracchus  was  denoted  by  a 
serpent  found  in  his  house 1  2.  Sylla  was  more 
fortunate  in  his  divination  from  a serpent  which 
glided  from  beneath  an  altar,  while  he  was 
sacrificing  at  Nola  : as  also  was  Roscius,  whose 
future  successful  career  was  foretold,  from  his 
being  found,  when  an  infant,  sleeping  in  his 
cradle,  enfolded  by  a snake.  In  each  of  these 
cases  Haruspices  were  sent  for,  who  interpreted 
the  omen. 

A serpent  was  accounted  among  the  pedestria 
auspicia , and  is  alluded  to  by  Horace,  lib.  iii. 

1 Val.  Max.  lib.  i.  c.  6. 

2 Cicero  de  Divin.  lib.  i. 




ode  27 ; who  seems  to  consider  it  a sinister 
omen  : — 

Rumpat  et  serpens  iter  institutum, 

Si  per  obliquum,  similis  sagittae, 

Terruit  Mannos. 

Terence 1 also  considers  it  in  the  same  light — 

Monstra  evenerunt  mihi : 

Introit  in  aedes  ater  alienus  canis, 

Anguis  per  impluvium  decidit  de  tegulis. 

The  Sardinians  also,  as  we  are  informed  by 
De  Lacepede,  domesticated  the  serpent,  as  an 
animal  of  auspicious  omen.  This  notion  may 
have  reached  them  either  from  Italy  or  Africa. 

IV.  Northern  Europe. — The  Romans  being, 
comparatively,  a modern  people,  had  not  among 
them  those  strong  traces  of  Ophiolatreia  which 
we  have  observed  in  Phoenicia,  Egypt,  and 
Greece.  But  if  we  now  follow  the  northward 
march  of  the  sacred  serpent  from  the  plains  of 
Shinar,  we  shall  find  that  he  entered  deeply  into 
the  mythology  of  the  tribes  who  penetrated  into 
Europe  through  the  Oural  mountains.  Of  these, 
the  Sarmatian  horde,  as  being  nearest  to  the  seat 
of  their  original  habitation,  first  claims  attention. 

1 Phormio,  Act.  iv.  seen.  4,  24. 



An  unlettered  race  of  wandering  barbarians 
cannot  be  expected  to  have  preserved  many 
records  of  their  ancient  religion  ; but  to  the  en- 
terprising missionaries  of  the  Christian  faith  we 
are  indebted  for  sufficient  notices  to  assure  us 
that  the  worship  of  the  serpent  was  their 
primitive  idolatry.  To  this  conclusion  we  are, 
indeed,  led  by  the  few  fragments  of  tradition  in 
the  classical  writers  who  have  noticed  the  reli- 
gion of  the  remote  Hyperboreans.  These  peo- 
ple were  devoted  to  the  solar  superstition  \ of 
which  the  most  ancient  and  most  general  sym- 
bol was  the  serpent.  We  may  therefore  expect 
to  find  traces  of  the  pure  serpent-worship,  also, 
in  their  religion.  They  had  a priestess  called 
Opis , who  came  with  another  priestess  (Argis ) 
to  Delos,  bringing  offerings  to  Lucina,  in  grati- 
tude for  the  safe  delivery  of  some  distinguished 
females  of  their  own  country  2.  These,  accord- 
ing to  Faber 3,  were  priestesses  of  Oph  and 
Arg  (the  deified  personification  of  the  Ark.) 
Bryant 4 also  cites  a line  from  Callimachus, 

1 See  Bryant  on  the  Amazonians  and  Hyperboreans,  Anal. 
vol.  v.  These  were  the  same  people. 

2 Herod,  lib.  iv.  c.  35.  3 Cabiri,  i.  208. 

* Anal.  ii.  206. 

R 2 



which  gives  the  name  of  three  priestesses  of  the 
Hyperboreans,  two  of  whom  are  Owpisand  Evaion. 
The  latter  word  he  decomposes  into  eva-on , 
serpens  sol.  So  that  they  were  representatives  of 
the  two  superstitions — the  simple  and  primitive 
serpent-worship,  and  the  worship  of  the  solar 
serpent.  Other  obscure,  though  not  altogether 
uncertain,  notices  are  to  be  found  in  Diodorus 
Siculus,  Hecateus,  &c.  which  lead  to  the  con- 
clusion that  the  Ophite  religion  was  once  preva- 
lent in  the  north  of  Europe  2.  These  inferences 
are  corroborated  by  indisputable  facts  of  modern 
discovery,  which  I now  proceed  to  detail. 

1.  Sarmatia.  From  Ouzel1  we  learn  that 
the  serpent  was  one  of  the  earliest  objects  of 
worship  in  Sarmatia.  He  cites  Erasmus  Stella 
de  Antiq.  Borussice . “ For  some  time,”  says  this 
author,  “ they  had  no  sacred  rites  ; at  length 
they  arrived  at  such  a pitch  of  wickedness, 
that  they  worshipped  serpents  and  trees.”  The 
connexion  between  serpents  and  trees  we  have 
had  occasion  to  notice  more  than  once.  They 

1 Not.  in  Minuc.  Fel.  p.  267. 

1 The  story  of  Abaris,  the  Hyperboreans,  who  made  the 
Palladium  of  Troy  from  the  bones  of  Pelops , is  that  of  an 
Ophite  priest.  Abaris  is  probably  a compound  of  ab,  and  aur. 



are  united  on  the  sepulchral  monuments  of  the 
Greeks  and  Romans,  on  the  coins  of  Tyre,  and 
among  the  Fetiches  of  Whidah.  We  shall  find 
them,  in  the  same  union,  pervading  the  religion 
of  the  Hyperboreans  of  every  description,  the 
superstition  of  the  Scandinavians,  and  the  wor- 
ship of  the  Druids.  They  are  closely  connected 
in  the  mythology  of  the  Heathens  of  almost 
every  nation  : and  the  question  is  not  unnatural 
— “ whence  arose  this  union?”  The  coin- 
cidences are  too  remarkable  to  be  unmeaning  • 
and  I have  no  hesitation  in  affirming  my  belief 


tree  of  knowledge,  are  the  prototypes  of  the 

The  Samogitae  (Muscovites)  partook  of  the 
same  superstition  \ They  worshipped  the  ser- 
v pent  as  a god  ; and  if  any  adversity  befell  them, 
concluded  that  their  domestic  serpents  (which,  like 
the  people  of  Pella,  they  kept  in  their  houses,) 
had  been  negligently  served . 

From  Muscovy  we  may  follow  the  same 
superstition  into  Lithuania,  the  modem  Poland. 
These  people,  we  are  informed  by  Guaguin 2, 

1 Ouzel,  ut  sujwa,  citing  Sigismund  Liber.  Comment,  in 
Muscov.  2 Ouzel,  ut  supra . 



44  believed  vipers  and  serpents  to  be  gods , and 
worshipped  them  with  great  veneration.  Every 
householder,  whether  citizen,  husbandman,  or 
noble,  kept  a serpent  in  his  house,  as  a house- 
hold god  : and  it  was  deemed  so  deadly  an 
offence  to  injure  or  dishonour  these  serpents,  that 
they  either  deprived  of  property  or  of  life  every 
one  who  was  guilty  of  such  a crime.” 

In  Koch  ( De  cultu  Serpentum , p.  39  : a valu- 
able, though  short  and  superficial  treatise,)  we 
read  the  following  passage  : — 44  That  these 
wretched  idolaters  offered  sacrifices  to  serpents, 
Jerome  of  Prague  ( teste  Sylvio  de  Europd , c.  26.) 
saw  with  his  own  eyes Every  house- 

holder had  a snake  in  a corner  of  his  house,  to 
which  he  gave  food  and  offered  sacrifice,  as  he 
lay  upon  the  hay.  Jerome  commanded  all  these 
to  be  killed,  and  publicly  burnt.  Among  such 
as  were  brought  out  for  this  purpose,  one  was 
found  larger  than  the  rest,  which,  though  often 
thrown  into  the  fire,  could  not  be  consumed.” 

The  serpent-worship  of  the  Lithuanians  is 
also  noticed  by  Cromer1,  who  charges  the 
Prussians  likewise  with  the  same  idolatry. 
Guaguin  relates  an  anecdote  of  a serpent  wor- 
1 De  reb.  Polon.  lib.  iii.  p.  43. 



shipper  of  Lithuania,  who  was  persuaded  to 
destroy  his  domestic  god ; and  subsequently 
losing  all  his  bees,  (by  whose  labour  he  sub- 
sisted,) attributed  the  calamity  to  his  apostacy, 
and  relapsed  into  his  former  superstition.  The 
scene  of  this  anecdote  was  a village  near  Troki, 
six  miles  from  Vilna ; upon  which  Masius 1 
remarks,  “ Est  quatuor  a Vilna  miliaribus,  La- 
variski,  villa  regia  ; in  qua  a multis  adhuc  ser- 
pentes  coluntur 

The  Lithuanians  were  the  last  of  the  Europeans 
who  were  converted  to  Christianity  ; an  event 
which  did  not  take  place  until  the  fourteenth 
century.  Jagello,  the  last  heathen  duke,  was 
baptized  anno  1386  2. 

The  inhabitants  of  Livonia  were  also  addicted 
to  this  gross  idolatry,  and  carried  it  to  a bar- 
barous length.  It  is  said  that  they  were  accus- 
tomed to  sacrifice  the  most  beautiful  of  their  cap- 
tives to  their  dragon-gods  3.  The  same  custom 
we  have  observed  to  exist  at  Whidah. 

2.  Scandinavia.  The  second  great  northern 

1 De  Diis  German,  c.  29. 

2 Mosheim,  Ecc.  Hist.  ii.  449. 

5 Koch,  c.  39,  citing  Trog.  Arnkiel.  Cymbrische  Heiden. 
Rel.  p.  123. 



family  of  Europe,  was  the  Scandinavian,  inha- 
biting the  country  now  occupied  by  the  Lap- 
landers, Fins,  Norwegians,  Swedes,  and  Danes. 
To  these  were  allied  the  Vandals  and  Lombards, 
not  only  by  ties  of  consanguinity  but  religion. 
These  were  well  addicted  to  the  worship  of  the 
serpent ; and  some  of  them  retained  in  their 
traditionary  mythology,  traces,  not  obscure,  of 
the  fall  of  man. 

We  are  informed  by  Olaus  Magnus1,  that 
domestic  serpents  were  considered  as  penates  in 
the  extreme  parts  of  the  north  of  Europe  ; and 
that  they  were  fed  on  cows’  milk,  or  that  of 
sheep,  together  with  the  children.  They  played 
freely  in  the  houses,  and  it  was  an  offence  of  the 
first  magnitude  to  hurt  them. 

Among  the  Ophites  of  the  north,  the  most 
conspicuous  were  the  Danes,  who  exhibited 
the  sacred  dragon  upon  their  royal  standard. 
Pontanus  2 alluding  to  it,  expresses  himself 
thus  : — 

Hinc  rigidos  Sclavos  effert  pernicibus  alis, 

Et  loca  propugnat  sanguinolenta  draco. 

Hist.  Gent.  Septentrion.  lib.  xxi.  c.  48. 
Cited  by  Koch,  39. 



The  dragon  standard  of  the  Danes  was  carried 
by  their  piratical  brethren,  the  Normans,  into 
France ; and  was  for  many  years  the  ensign  of 
the  Dukes  of  Normandy.  Du  Fresne  cites  a 
charter  granted  to  one  of  the  family  of  Bertran, 
to  bear  “ the  dragon  standard.” 

But  this  custom,  so  commonly  observed  by 
the  Ophites,  would  not  have  pre-eminently  dis- 
tinguished the  Danes  as  worshippers  of  the 
sacred  serpent,  had  there  not  been  discovered 
a sacrificial  vessel  of  their  primitive  idolatry, 
which  is  at  once  a confirmation  of  their  super- 
stition, and  a key  to  its  mysteries.  It  is,  indeed, 
a most  valuable  interpreter  of  the  Celtic  faith, 
as  it  respected  the  tradition  of  the  fall  of  man, 
and  an  eloquent  index  to  the  religion  of  the 

This  relic  of  idolatry  is  the  celebrated  horn 
found  by  a female  peasant,  near  Tundera  \ in 
Denmark,  in  the  year,  1639.  It  is  of  gold,  and 
embossed  in  parallel  circles,  of  rude  workman- 
ship. These  circular  compartments  are  seven 
in  number,  and  in  five  out  of  the  seven  cir- 
cles, the  figure  of  a serpent  is  seen  in  various 

1 Perhaps  Tonder  in  the  Duchy  of  Sleswick. 



Circle  1 represents  a naked  boy  or  woman 
kneeling.  The  extended  arms  are  held  up  to 
heaven.  On  each  side  of  this  figure  is  a large 
serpent  in  the  attitude  of  attack. 

In  the  second  compartment  of  this  circle, 
the  same  naked  figure  appears  flying  from  a 
serpent  which  pursues.  The  third  compart- 
ment represents  the  serpent  with  his  face 
averted  from  the  figure,  who  holds  up  both 
hands,  as  if  in  gratitude  for  deliverance. 

Circle  2 exhibits  a naked  boy  or  woman  (for 
the  figure  has  no  beard)  seated  upon  the  ground, 
with  the  hands  brought  together,  as  if  in  the 
action  of  prayer  to  a serpent.  Another  serpent  is 
coiled  behind  the  figure,  with  his  head  and  the 
upper  part  of  his  body  erect.  The  next  com- 
partment of  this  circle  contains  the  same  human 
figure  in  conversation  with  the  serpent. 

The  serpent  appears  in  three  others  of  the 
seven  circles,  but  not  in  so  historical  a form. 
In  these  it  is  probably  a representation  of  the 
constellation  Draco,  for  some  of  the  remaining 
figures  seem  to  belong  to  the  zodiac. 

It  may  be  rash  to  conjecture  that  the  first 
two  circles  allude  to  the  history  of  man  in 
paradise,  persecuted  by  the  serpent , and  saved 



from  his  extreme  violence  : but,  nevertheless,  the 
compartment  which  describes  the  human  figure 
in  conversation  with  its  dracontic  enemy,  seems 
to  point  to  this  event. 

Koch  considers  the  hieroglyphics  as  explana- 
tory of  the  ancient  practice  of  the  country,  which 
devoted  human  victims  to  serpent-gods.  4 4 Nos 
exinde  conjecimus,  a tenera  setate  infantes  ser- 
pentibus  vovisse,  superstitiosos  veteres  l.”  Olaus 
Wormius  is  of  opinion  that  the  serpent  referred 
to  the  serpent-tempter  and  destroyer. 

But  whichever  be  correct,  (and  for  our  theory 
it  matters  not  which ,)  it  is  evident  that  the 
figures  have  a sacred  signification,  either  as 
connected  with  the  religious  rites,  superstitions, 
or  fables  of  the  original  possessors. 

Now  we  know,  from  unquestionable  authority, 
that  not  only  did  Ophiolatreia  prevail  through- 
out the  whole  of  this  and  the  neighbouring 
countries,  but  also  that  the  tradition  of  the  ser- 
pent in  paradise  was  preserved  in  the  mythology 
of  Scandinavia,  with  an  accuracy  equal  to  that 
of  the  Greeks  and  Phoenicians.  Hence  it 
matters  not,  whether  the  horn  be  descriptive 
of  the  fall  of  man,  of  the  Ophite  rites  of  the 
1 Page  50. 



Scandinavians,  or  simply  of  the  zodiac,  as  deli- 
neated by  the  northern  astronomers.  For  the 
astronomical  mythology  which  relates  to  the 
serpent  or  dragon,  was  entirely  borrowed  from 
the  events  in  Paradise,  to  which  also  may  be 
referred  the  whole  of  the  Ophite  worship. 

The  Vandals  worshipped  their  principal  deity 
under  the  form  of  a flying  dragon  ; and,  like  the 
rest  of  their  northern  brethren,  kept  domestic 
serpents.  It  is  said  that  their  women  also  kept 
snakes  in  hollow  oaks,  to  whom  they  made 
offerings  of  milk  \ and  whom  they  adored  with 
the  most  abject  humility.  They  prayed  to 
them  for  blessings,  for  the  health  of  their  hus- 
bands, and  family,  &c.  2 — in  a word,  adored 
them  as  gods. 

The  Lombards  also  cherished  the  same  super- 

1 Milk  was  frequently  offered  in  libations  to  the  heathen 
gods  *.  Apollo  had  for  one  of  his  titles  Galaxius , “ the 
milky.”  A festival  called  Galaxia  was  held  to  him,  in  which 
the  votaries  partook  of  a feast  of  barley  pulse,  boiled  in  milk. 
Quaere — might  not  the  Romish  practice  of  eating  frumenty  in 
Lent  have  arisen  from  this  custom  ? 

2 Koch,  citing  Olaus  Magnus,  lib.  ii.  c.  24 ; and  Hartno- 
chius  de  reb.  Pruss. 

* Potter.  Arch.  Graec.  i.  213  ; and  ii.  236. 



stition,  for  they  carried  it  with  their  victorious 
arms  into  Italy.  When  Barbatus  lived  at  Bene- 
vento,  A.D.  688,  he  discovered  that  some  of 
the  inhabitants,  who  were  Lombards,  worshipped 
a golden  viper  and  a tree , on  which  the  skin  of 
a wild  beast  was  hung.”  He  suppressed  this 
idolatry,  and  being  made  Bishop  of  Benevento, 
cut  down  the  tree,  and  melted  the  golden  viper 
for  a sacramental  chalice  \ 

V.  Western  Europe. 

1.  Britain.  Our  British  ancestors,  under 
the  tuition  of  the  venerable  Druids,  were  not  only 
worshippers  of  the  solar  deity,  symbolized  by 
the  serpent,  but  held  the  serpent,  independent  of 
his  relation  to  the  sun,  in  peculiar  veneration. 
Cut  off  from  all  intimate  intercourse  with  the 
civilized  world,  partly  by  their  remoteness2, 
and  partly  by  their  national  character 3,  the 
Britons  retained  their  primitive  idolatry  long 
after  it  had  yielded  in  the  neighbouring  coun- 
tries to  the  polytheistic  corruptions  of  Greece 
and  Egypt.  In  process  of  time,  however,  the 

1 Milner,  Hist,  of  the  Church,  iii.  113. 

2 “ Etpenitus  toto  divisos  orbe  Britannos.” — Virg. 

3 “ Britannos  hospitibus  feros,” — Hor. 



gods  of  the  Gaulish  Druids  penetrated  into  the 
sacred  mythology  of  the  British,  and  furnished 
personifications  for  the  different  attributes  of 
the  dracontic  god  Hu.  This  deity  was  called 


his  car  was  drawn  by  serpents  2.  His  priests, 
in  accommodation  with  the  general  custom  of 
the  ministers  of  the  Ophite  god,  were  called 
after  him,  Adders  3. 

In  a poem  of  Taliessin,  translated  by  Davies, 
in  his  Appendix,  No.  6,  is  the  following  enume- 
ration of  a Druid’s  titles  : — 

“ I am  a Druid;  I am  an  architect ; I am  a prophet ; 

I am  a serpent” — ( Gnadr.) 

From  the  word  Gnadr  is  derived  “ adder,” 
the  name  of  a species  of  snake.  Gnadr  was 
probably  pronounced  like  “ adder  ’ with  a nasal 

The  mythology  of  the  Druids  contained  also 
a goddess  Ceridwen,  whose  car  was  drawn  by 
serpents.  It  is  conjectured  that  this  was  Gre- 
cian Ceres  ; and  not  without  reason,  for  the  in- 
creasing intercourse  between  the  British  and 

1 Davies’  Mythol.  of  the  Druids,  p.  116. 

2 Ibid.  p.  122.  3 Ibid,  p.210. 



Gaulish  Druids  introduced  into  the  purer  reli- 
gion of  the  former  many  of  the  corruptions 
ingrafted  upon  that  of  the  latter  by  the  Greeks 
and  Romans.  The  Druids  of  Gaul  had  among 
them  many  divinities  corresponding  with  those 
of  Greece  and  Rome.  They  worshipped  Ogmius, 
(a  compound  deity  between  Hercules  and  Mer- 
cury,) and,  after  him,  Apollo , Mars , Jupiter , and 
Minerva , or  deities  resembling  them  \ Of  these 
they  made  images ; whereas  hitherto  the  only 
image  in  the  British  worship  was  the  great  wicker 
idol,  into  which  they  thrust  human  victims 
designed  to  be  burnt  as  an  expiatory  sacrifice 
for  the  sins  of  some  chieftain.  The  wicker  idol, 
though  formed  in  the  shape  of  a man,  was  per- 
haps rather  a sacrificial  ornament  than  a god  ; 
emblematic  of  the  nature  of  the  victims  within 
it.  The  whole  sacrifice  was  but  an  ignorant 
expression  of  the  primeval  and  universal  faith  in 


The  following  translation  of  a Bardic  poem, 
descriptive  of  one  of  their  religious  rites,  identi- 
fies the  superstition  of  the  British  Druids  with 
the  aboriginal  Ophiolatreia,  as  expressed  in  the 
mysteries  of  Isis  in  Egypt.  The  poem  is  entitled, 
1 Caesar.  Comment,  de  bello  Gallico,  lib.  v.  c.  17. 




“ The  Elegy  of  Uther  Pendragon  that  is,  of 
Uther,  “ The  Dragons  Head and  it  is  not  a 
little  remarkable  that  the  word  “ Draig”  in  the 
British  language,  signifies,  at  the  same  time, 
“ a fiery  serpent , a dragon , and  the  supreme 
god  k” 

In  the  second  part  of  this  poem  is  the  follow- 
ing description  of  the  sacrificial  rites  of  Uther 

“ With  solemn  festivity  round  the  two  lakes  ; 

With  the  lake  next  my  side  ; 

With  my  side  moving  round  the  sanctuary  ; 

While  the  sanctuary  is  earnestly  invoking 
The  gliding  king,  before  whom  the  fair  one 
Retreats,  upon  the  veil  that  covers  the  huge  stones ; 
Whilst  the  dragon  moves  round  over 
The  places  which  contain  vessels 
Of  drink  offering  : 

Whilst  the  drink  offering  is  in  the  golden  horns  ; 
Whilst  the  golden  horns  are  in  the  hand  ; 

Whilst  the  knife  is  upon  the  chief  victim  ; 

Sincerely  I implore  thee,  O victorious  Beli,  &c.  &c. 

This  is  a most  minute  and  interesting  account 
of  the  religious  rites  of  the  Druids,  proving  in 
clear  terms  their  addiction  to  Ophiolatreia : 

1 Owen’s  Diet.  Art.  Draig. 



for  we  have  not  only  the  history  of  “ the  glid- 
ing king,”  who  pursues  “ the  fair  one,”  de- 
picted upon  “ the  veil  which  covers  the  huge 
stones” — a history  which  reminds  us  most  for- 
cibly of  the  events  in  Paradise,  under  a poetic 
garb  ; but  we  have,  likewise,  beneath  that  veil, 
within  the  sacred  circle  of  “ the  huge  stones,” 

ing round  the  places  which  contain  the  vessels 
of  drink-offering  or,  in  other  words,  moving 
round  the  altar  stone,  in  the  same  manner  as 
the  serpent  in  the  Isiac  mysteries  passed  about 
the  sacred  vessels  containing  the  offerings  : 

“ Pigraque  labatur  circa  donaria  serpens  V’ 

The  golden  horns,  which  contained  the 
drink  offerings,  were  very  probably  of  the  same 
kind  as  that  found  in  Tundera,  in  Denmark, 
and  described  in  a preceding  page  of  this  chap- 
ter : a probability  which  confirms  the  Ophiolatreia 
of  the  Danes,  argued  in  the  same  section  from 
historical  documents.  And  conversely,  the  ex- 
istence of  the  Danish  horn  proves  that  in  the 
mysteries  of  Druidical  worship,  the  serpent  was 
a prominent  character. 

1 Ovid.  Amor.  lib.  ii.  Eleg.  13. 


If  we  refer  to  the  description  of  the  horn  of 
Tundera  \ we  shall  find  upon  it  precisely  the 
same  impressed  history  which  was  pictured 
44  upon  the  veil  that  covered  the  huge  stones.” 
The  dragon,  44  the  gliding  king,”  is  seen  in  the 
same  attitude  of  pursuing  a naked  figure,  which 
might  be  mistaken,  from  the  rude  workmanship 
of  the  horn,  for  a boy ; but  which  is  proved  by 
the  Bardic  poem,  above  cited,  to  be  a female ; 
44  the  fair  one,”  as  she  is,  by  a figure  of  poetry, 

The  god  to  whom  these  offerings  were  made 
and  whose  sacrifices  were  here  celebrated,  was 
Beli  ; perhaps  the  Bel  of  the  Babylonians, 
and  the  Obel  of  primitive  worship ; the  archi- 

1 This  horn,  now  a drinking  cup,  is  said  to  have  been  ori- 
ginally a musical  instrument : but  it  will  still  illustrate  my 
theory,  for  tiorns  are  supposed  to  have  been  used  by  the  Scalds 
or  Runic  priests  to  call  together  the  congregation  to  sacrifice. 
Such  horns  would  probably  bear  upon  them  devices  appertain- 
ing to  their  religion.  Homs  were  sometimes  used  for  both 
purposes,  being  furnished  with  a cap,  and  so  convertible  into 
drinking  cups  *.  The  “ golden  horns  which  contained  the 
drink  offerings”  above  described,  might  thus  have  been  used 
also  as  sacrificial  trumpets. 

* Pegge  on  Charter  Homs.  Archseol.  v.  3. 



type  of  Apollo  in  the  name  and  rites.  To  Bel, 
the  Babylonians  consecrated,  as  we  have  seen, 
a living  serpent ; and  living  serpents  were  also 
preserved  in  the  Fane  of  Delphi,  and  in  many 
other  places  where  the  deity  Oph  or  Ob  was 
worshipped.  The  fabulous  hero  himself,  in 
whose  honour  these  sacrifices  are  celebrated, 
was  distinguished  by  the  title  of  “ The  Won- 
derful Dragon.”  Every  circumstance,  there- 
fore, combines  to  strengthen  the  conclusion,  that 
the  Druids  thus  engaged  were  Ophites  of  the 
original  stock. 

The  learned  Celtic  scholar,  from  whose  trans- 
lation the  above  poem  is  taken,  explains  it  in 
these  words  : — “ These  ceremonies  are  per- 
formed at  a public  and  solemn  festival,  whilst 
the  sanctuary,  or  assembly  of  priests  and  votaries, 
invoke  the  dragon  king.  The  place  of  consecra- 
tion is  on  the  sacred  mound,  within  the  stone 
circle  and  mount  which  represent  the  world, 
and  near  the  consecrated  lakes1.  At  this  time 

1 The  scene  of  these  rites  might  have  been  Stonehenge, 
which  is  said  by  tradition  to  have  been  erected  in  honour  of 
Uther  Pendragon.  The  only  difficulty  in  this  conjecture  is 
the  mention  of  “ lakes  ” near  the  temple.  But  an  attentive 
survey  of  the  spot  has  convinced  me  that  a piece  of  water 

s 2 


the  huge  stones  of  the  temple  were  covered  with 
a veil,  on  which  was  delineated  the  history  of 
the  dragon  king.  There  seems  also  to  have 
been  a living  serpent  as  a symbol  of  the  god , who 
is  gliding  from  place  to  place,  and  tasting  the 
drink-offerings  in  the  sacred  vessels  V’ 

The  sanctity  of  the  serpent  showed  itself  in 
another  very  curious  part  of  the  superstition  of 
the  British  Druids,  namely,  in  that  which  related 
to  the  formation  and  virtues  of  the  celebrated 
anguinum , as  it  is  called  by  Pliny,  or  gleinen 
nadroeth , that  is,  snake-stones , as  they  were 
called  by  the  Britons.  Sir  Richard  Colt  Hoare 

once  existed  under  the  hill  upon  which  Stonehenge  stands. 
On  the  side  towards  Amesbury  there  are  evident  traces  of  the 
bed  of  a river  running  north  and  south.  Perhaps,  by  means 
of  this  winding  water,  the  stupendous  stones  which  form  the 
temple  were  conveyed  on  rafts  to  the  spot  of  their  erection. 
That  such  means  of  conveyance  were  used  by  the  Druids, 
appears  from  the  fact  that  a large  stone,  in  every  respect  like 
those  at  Stonehenge,  now  lies  in  the  river  Avon  at  Bulford, 
not  far  from  hence.  It  would  be  an  interesting  research  to 
trace  the  course  of  this  apparent  river-bed,  and  might  throw 
much  light  on  the  disputed  question — “ whence,  and  how 
came  these  stones  to  Stonehenge?”  I believe  that  they  came 
from  the  valley  of  the  Grey  Wethers,  near  Abury. 

1 Davies’  Myth,  of  the  Brit.  Druids,  Appendix,  No.  11. 



gives  an  engraving  of  one  in  his  “ Modern 
Wiltshire,  Hundred  of  Amesbury,”  p.  56.  “ This 
is  a head  of  imperfect  vitrification,  representing 
two  circular  lines  of  opaque  sky  blue  and  white, 
which  seem  to  represent  a snake  twined  round  a 
centre  which  is  perforated.”  Many  beads  of 
this  kind  have  been  found  in  various  parts  of  the 
island  of  Great  Britain.  Mr.  Lhwyd,  the  cele- 
brated Welsh  antiquary,  thus  describes  them  in 
a letter  to  Ralph  Thoresby : — “ I am  fully 
satisfied  that  they  were  amulets  of  the  Druids. 

I have  seen  one  of  them  that  had 

nine  small  snakes  upon  it There  are 

others  that  have  one  or  two  or  more  snakes 

These,  we  are  informed  by  the  Roman  na- 
turalist, were  worn  about  the  neck  as  charms, 
and  were  deemed  efficacious  in  rendering  their 
possessors  fortunate  in  every  difficult  emergency. 
He  records  an  anecdote  of  a Roman  knight,  who 
was  put  to  death  by  Claudius  for  entering  a 
court  of  justice  with  an  anguinum  on  his  neck, 
in  the  belief  that  its  virtue  would  overrule  the 
judgment  in  his  favour. 

The  word  anguinum  is  obviously  derived  from 

1 Thoresby ’s  Correspondence,  i.  413. 



anguis , a snake  ; and  the  formation  of  it  is  thus 
described  by  Pliny  : — “An  infinite  number  of 
snakes,  entwined  together  in  the  heat  of  sum- 
mer, roll  themselves  into  a mass,  and  from  the 
saliva  of  their  jaws,  and  the  froth  of  their  bodies, 
is  engendered  an  egg,  which  is  called  c anguinum.' 
By  the  violent  hissing  of  the  serpents  the  egg  is 
forced  into  the  air,  and  the  Druid,  destined  to 
secure  it,  must  catch  it  in  his  sacred  vest  before 
it  reaches  the  ground.” 

This  singular  superstition  was  still  extant  in 
Wales  and  Cornwall  in  the  time  of  Camden,  as 
we  find  from  the  following  passage  in  his 
Britannia,  page  815.  “In  most  parts  of  Wales, 
throughout  all  Scotland,  and  in  Cornwall,  we 
find  it  a common  opinion  of  the  vulgar,  that 
about  Midsummer-eve  it  is  usual  for  snakes  to 
meet  in  company,  and  that  by  their  joining 
heads  together  and  hissing,  a kind  of  bubble  is 
formed,  which  the  rest  by  continual  hissing 
blow  on  till  it  passes  quite  through  the  body, 
and  then  it  immediately  hardens,  and  resembles 
a glass  ring,  which  whoever  finds  will  prosper 
in  all  undertakings.  The  rings  thus  generated 
are  called  gleinen  nadroeth ; in  English,  snake- 
stones They  are  small  glass  amulets,  com- 



monly  half  as  wide  as  finger  rings,  but  much 
thicker,  and  of  a green  colour  usually,  though 
sometimes  blue,  and  waved  with  red  and 

The  anguinum  continued  to  be  venerated  in 
Cornwall  in  the  time  of  Dr.  Borlase,  but  the 
tradition  of  its  formation  was  somewhat  different 
from  the  above.  “ The  country  people  have 
a persuasion,  that  the  snakes  here  breathing 
upon  a hazel  wand,  produce  a stone  ring  of  a 
blue  colour,  in  which  there  appears  the  yellow 
figure  of  a snake ; and  that  beasts  bit  and  en- 
venomed, being  given  some  of  the  water  to  drink 
wherein  this  stone  has  been  infused,  will  per- 
fectly recover  of  the  poison1.” 

These  charms  were  usually  called  “ glains  ;” 
and,  according  to  Davies2,  £ 4 were  some  blue, 
some  white,  a third  sort  green,  and  a fourth 
variegated  with  all  these  colours,  but  still  pre- 
serving the  appearance  of  glass.  Others  again 
were  made  of  earth,  and  only  glazed  over.” 

The  “egg”  of  which  Pliny  speaks  was  only 
an  envelope,  the  interior  and  real  glain  being 
either  a circle  or  a lunette  : the  latter  referring 

1 Borlase,  Antiq.  of  Cornwall,  137. 

2 Davies’  Myth,  of  Druids,  211. 



probably  to  the  lunar  deity,  or  according  to 
Davies,  to  the  arkite  worship,  the  ark  being 
sometimes  described  under  the  form  of  a lunette. 
These  stones  have  been  frequently  found  in 
Wales,  Northamptonshire1,  and  in  many  other 
parts  of  England.  Dr.  Stukeley,  in  his  descrip- 
tion of  the  Druidical  temple  of  Abury  in  Wilt- 
shire, mentions  having  bought  two  British  beads 
of  the  inhabitants,  “ one  large,  of  a light  blue, 
and  ribbed  ; and  the  other  less,  of  a dark  blue 
which  had  been  dug  up  out  of  one  of  the  bar- 
rows  on  Hakpen  Hill,  a promontory  upon  which 
rested  the  head  of  the  serpent  which  formed  the 
avenues  to  the  temple  of  Abury.  Beads  of  this 
kind  have  been  found  in  the  barrows  near 
Stonehenge,  and  are  probably  most  of  them  the 
“ gleinen  nadroeth,”  deposited  in  the  sepulchres 
of  the  dead  as  talismanic  securities  ; the  same 
perhaps  which  had  been  worn  by  the  deceased 
in  their  lifetime. 

Analogous  to  this  is  the  superstition  of  the 
Malabarians,  who  venerate  the  Pedra  del  Cobra, 
or  serpent-stone,  which  the  Brahmins  persuade 
them  is  taken  from  the  head  of  the  hooded  ser- 

1 Morton,  Nat.  Ilist.  of  North,  c.  x. 



pent,  and,  when  consecrated  by  the  priests,  an 
effective  charm  against  the  bite  of  venomous 

This  is  the  serpent-stone  to  which  Pliny 
alludes,  as  being  held  in  high  estimation  by  the 
eastern  kings.  “ It  must  be  cut  out  of  the 
brain  of  a living  serpent,  where  it  grows ; for  if 
the  serpent  die,  the  stone  dissolves.  The  natives, 
therefore,  first  charm  the  serpent  to  sleep  with 
herbs ; and  when  he  is  lulled,  make  a sudden 
incision  in  his  head,  and  cut  out  the  stone  h” 

The  superstition  of  the  anguinum  prevailed 
also  in  Scandinavia,  as  we  learn  from  Olaus 
Magnus:  tc  Creduntur  (sc.  serpentes)  veterum 
relatione,  lapidem  flatu  suo  gignere1 2.” 

Between  the  religion  of  the  Druids  and  that 
of  the  Scandinavians  there  was  a strong  simi- 
larity, though  not  in  every  respect  an  identity. 
The  same  sacrificial  rites  to  the  dracontic  god, 
and  the  same  circular  temples,  may  be  observed 
in  Britain  and  the  Scandinavian  countries 3 ; 
and  a branch  of  the  same  idolatry  flourished 

1 Gesner.  Hist.  Anim.  lib.  iii.  p.  85. 

2 Hist.  Gent.  Septent.  lib.  xxi.  c.  48. 

3 See  Olaus  Wormius,  de  Mon.  Danor. 



in  Ireland — so  extensively  was  Ophiolatreia 
spread  over  Europe. 

Mr.  Faber  is  of  opinion  that  “ the  many  stories 
in  England  of  the  destruction  of  huge  serpents, 
relate  ultimately  to  the  destruction  of  the  living 
serpents  worshipped  by  the  Druids.”  He  in- 
stances the  cave  of  the  dragon  of  Wharncliff  in 
Yorkshire,  as  precisely  similar  by  legendary 
description  to  the  cave  of  Cadmus’s  dragon  ; 
and  remarks  that  “ the  manor  of  Sockburne  is 
still  held  by  the  tenure  of  exhibiting  to  the 
Bishop  of  Durham  a sword  with  which  a mon- 
strous serpent  is  said  to  have  been  slain.”  The 
presentation  of  the  sword  to  the  Bishop , would 
seem  to  imply  that  a religious  service  had  been 
rendered  by  its  former  owner.  This  might  have 
been  the  destruction  of  an  Ophite  temple.  For 
in  most  countries  the  overthrow  of  the  serpent- 
worshippers  is  allegorized  into  a victory  over 
some  monstrous  dragon,  who  infested  the  neigh- 
bourhood. That  the  votaries  of  Ophiolatreia 
penetrated  into  every  part  of  Britain,  is  probable 
from  the  vestiges  of  some  such  idolatry  even 
now  to  be  found  in  Scotland  and  the  western 
isles.  Several  obelisks  remain  in  the  vicinity 
of  Aberdeen,  Dundee,  and  Perth,  upon  which 



are  devices  strongly  indicative  of  Ophiolatreia. 
They  are  engraved  in  Gordon’s  Itinerarium 
Septentrionale.  The  serpent  is  a frequent  and 
conspicuous  hieroglyphic.  From  the  Runic 
characters  traced  upon  some  of  these  stones, 
it  is  conjectured  that  they  were  erected  by  the 
Danes.  Such  might  have  been  the  case ; but 
the  Danes  themselves  were  a sect  of  Ophites, 
and  had  not  the  people  of  the  country  been 
Ophites  also,  they  might  not  have  suffered  these 
monuments  to  remain.  Dr.  Ingram  pronounces 
some  of  these  stones  to  be  Phoenician,  especially 
one  on  which  the  figure  of  a serpent  is  seen 
with  the  sun  and  moon  revolving  about  his 
head.  He  considers  this  figure  to  be  a record 
of  “ the  old  serpent.” 

An  obelisk  near  Dundee,  is  very  remarkable. 
It  is  plain  on  every  side  but  one,  on  which  is 
carved  the  representation  of  a man  on  horseback 
pursuing  a dragon.  The  tradition  is  that  the  hero 
lived  on  the  skirts  of  a forest  where  the  dragon 
concealed  himself,  and  preyed  upon  the  human 
race.  Among  other  victims,  he  devoured  the 
nine  daughters  of  this  chieftain,  who  thereupon 
mounted  his  horse,  and  plunging  into  the  forest, 
attacked  the  monster.  The  dragon  fled  before 



him,  but  was  overtaken  and  slain  upon  the  spot 
where  the  obelisk  above  mentioned  now  stands 
to  record  the  deed.  The  track  through  which 
the  dragon  and  his  pursuer  passed  is  called 
“ the  den  of  Bal  Dragon  V’ 

It  is  possible  that  this  story  may  also  allude 
to  the  destruction  of  an  Ophite  temple. 

British  Ophiolatreia  sunk  beneath  the  unspar- 
ing sword  of  the  Romans.  But  a symbol  of  the 
idolatry  survived  its  overthrow  ; and  under  the 
form  of  “the  Dragon  standard,”  not  only  sus- 
tained the  nationality  of  the  Welsh,  but  also 
became  the  idol  of  the  Anglo-Saxons. 

The  origin  of  this  standard  is  curiously  though 
apocryphally  explained  by  Matthew  of  West- 
minster. “ The  brother  of  the  British  king  Aure- 
lius beheld  a vision — a fiery  meteor  in  the  form 
of  a great  dragon,  illumined  the  heavens  with  a 
portentous  glare.  The  astrologers  unanimously 
expounded  the  omen  to  signify  that  the  seer 
would  one  day  sit  upon  the  throne  of  Britain. 
Aurelius  died,  and  his  brother  became  king. 
His  first  royal  act  was  to  cause  the  fabrication  of 
two  dragons  in  gold,  like  the  figure  which 
the  meteor  assumed.  One  of  these  he  placed 
1 Pinkerton,  Lit.  Corresp.  ii.  426. 



in  Winchester  Cathedral ; the  other  he  re- 
served to  be  carried  before  him  in  his  military 
expeditions.  And  hence  the  custom  which  the 
kings  of  England  have  ever  since  observed — that 
of  having  the  Dragon  standard  borne  before 
them  in  battle.”  The  dragon  standard  was 
borne  before  Richard  in  Palestine,  and  two 
noble  knights  disputed  the  honour  of  carrying 
it.  “ When  the  king  had  planted  his  standard 
in  the  middle,”  says  Hoveden,  “ he  gave  his 
dragon  to  be  borne  by  Peter  de  Pratellis, 
contrary  to  the  claim  of  Robert  de  Trussebut? 
who  demanded  that  honour  as  his  hereditary 

In  the  hands  of  the  standard-bearer  of  Henry 
the  Third,  the  dragon  was  avowedly  the  har- 
binger of  destruction.  In  the  Welsh  campaign, 
“ so  great  was  the  indignation  of  Henry,”  says 
Knighton,  “ that  having  raised  the  dragon  stand- 
ard., he  ordered  his  troops  to  advance  and  give 
no  quarter.”  The  same,  says  Matthew  of  Paris — 
“ animating  his  troops  he  marched  daily  clad 
in  armour,  and  unfolding  his  royal  ensign,  the 
dragon  which  knows  not  how  to  spare,  he  threat- 
ened extermination  to  the  Welsh.”  With  similar 
ferocity  and  with  the  same  terrific  standard,  he 


marched  against  his  rebellious  barons.  The 
dragon  was  always  the  herald  of  “ no  quarter .” 

In  camp  this  standard  was  planted  in  the 
front  of  the  king’s  pavilion,  to  the  right  of  the 
other  ensigns,  and  was  kept  unfurled  day  and 
night  \ 

The  dragon  was  introduced  by  Henry  the 
Seventh,  as  a supporter  of  the  royal  arms.  He 
brought  it  from  Wales,  and  it  is  still  the  king’s 
crest  as  sovereign  of  that  principality.  It  gave 
place,  at  the  Union,  to  the  Unicorn  of  Scotland  ; 
but  the  heraldic  dragon  is  as  different  an  animal 
from  the  poetic,  as  the  poetic  is  from  the  reli- 
gious, which  last  was  merely  a large  serpent. 

2.  Ireland. — The  prevalence  of  the  Celtic 
superstition  in  Ireland  is  marked,  even  now,  by 
stupendous  monuments  : but  the  Druids  of  this 
nation  assimilated  themselves  rather  to  those  of 
Gaul  than  of  Britain.  The  chief  object  of  their 
adoration  was  Ogham  or  Ogmius,  the  same  as 
the  deity  Og  of  Trachonitis.  His  images  were 
represented  as  holding  in  their  hands  the  club 
of  Hercules,  surmounted  by  the  caduceus  of 
Mercury,  the  wings  of  which  were  attached  to 

Du  Fresne. 



the  club.  The  staff  of  the  caduceus  terminated 
in  a ring. 

At  New  Grange,  in  the  county  of  Meath,  has 
been  discovered  a grand  cruciform  cavern, 
whose  consecration  to  Mithras  is  indisputable. 
This  Persian  deity  was  symbolized  by  a ser- 
pent, and  is  the  corresponding  god  to  Apollo  in 
Grecian  mythology.  Here  were  dug  up  three 
remarkable  stones,  on  which  mystical  figures, 
like  spiral  lines,  or  coiled  serpents , rudely  carved, 
have  been  observed.  “ These  lines,”  says 
Mr.  Beauford,  who  describes  the  cavern,  “ ap- 
pear to  be  the  representation  of  serpents  coiled 
up,  and  were  probably  symbols  of  the  Divine 
Being1.”  The  relation  of  these  relics  to  the 
celebrated  Omphalos  we  have  considered  in  a 
former  part  of  this  volume,  to  which,  therefore, 
the  reader  is  referred. 

For  the  paucity  of  the  remains  of  the  ancient 
Ophiolatreia  in  Ireland,  we  are  perhaps  in- 
debted to  the  renowned  St.  Patrick,  whose 
popular  legend  may  not,  after  all,  be  so  ridi- 
culous or  so  groundless  as  Englishmen  and 
Protestants  are  accustomed  to  imagine.  It  is 
said,  and  believed  by  the  lower  order  of  Irish 
1 Vallancey,  Collect,  de  reb.  Hibern.  vol.  ii.  174. 




to  this  day,  that  St.  Patrick  banished  all  snakes 
from  Ireland  by  his  prayers.  May  not  this 
imply  that  St.  Patrick,  in  evangelizing  that 
country,  overthrew  the  superstition  of  the  ser- 
pent-worshippers ? Such  an  inference  is  drawn 
by  Bryant,  from  similar  stories  of  the  destruc- 
tion of  serpents  in  the  Grecian  Archipelago  and 
Peloponnesus  ; and  I see  no  reason  why  a similar 
line  of  argument  should  not  be  adopted  in  regard 
to  the  achievements  of  St.  Patrick  in  Ireland. 
Such  fables  are  general  in  Christian  countries 
which  were  ever  devoted  to  Ophiolatreia1. 

3.  Gaul. — The  ancient  religion  of  Gaul, 
though  established  by  Druids,  was  not  so  pure 
as  that  of  Britain  ; neither  did  it  retain  so  strong 
a hold  upon  the  affections  of  the  people.  There 
was  in  it  more  of  idolatry,  and  less  of  priest- 
craft ; so  that  when  the  Romans  subjugated  the 
country,  the  natives  passed  rapidly  into  the 
superstitions  of  their  conquerors.  To  render 
this  transition  the  more  easy,  their  primitive 
religion  had  already  been  corrupted  by  the  in. 
roads  of  Egyptian  theology ; but  at  what  period 
or  through  what  channel,  is  involved  in  mystery. 

1 See  infra , “ Britany.” 



The  well-known  figures  of  Gallic  deities,  de- 
corated with  the  caduceus  of  Hermes,  are  monu- 
ments of  the  fact.  This  god  was  probably  the 
Theutates  of  Celtic  mythology,  the  Theuth  or 
Thoth  of  the  Egyptian  1 ; and  identical  with  the 
Gothic  Teut  or  Tuisto2.  “ The  name  Tat , 
Tatk,  or  Tait ,”  remarks  Faber,  “ was'  well 
known  to  the  ancient  Irish,”  (whose  priests  we 
have  observed  were  probably  of  the  Gallic  tribe 
of  Druids.)  “ By  this  word  they  designated  the 
first  day  of  the  month  August,  that  being  the 
month  of  harvest,  and  Tait  being  the  god  who 
presided  over  agriculture.  The  month  which 
among  the  Egyptians  corresponded  with  August 
was  called  by  the  name  of  the  god  Thoth  3.” 

This  remark  of  Faber  brings  to  mind  the  sin- 
gular connexion  of  the  sacred  serpent  with 
agriculture , in  the  mythology  of  the  Greeks. 
There  we  have  Ceres,  the  goddess  of  corn , sit- 
ting in  a chariot  drawn  by  serpents.  Triptole- 
mus,  the  founder  of  the  Eleusinian  mysteries, 
was  no  sooner  instructed  by  Ceres  in  the  arts 
of  agriculture,  than  he  was  presented  with  the 
dracontic  chariot  to  carry  him  through  the  world, 

1 Yossius  in  Caesar.  Comment,  lib.  vi.  p.  223. 

2 Faber,  Pagan  Idol.  ii.  362.  3 Ibid.  365. 



to  dispense  the  same  blessings  among  mankind 
which  he  had  bestowed  upon  his  own  country- 
men. And  both  in  the  Pythian  temple  of 
Epirus,  and  at  Lanuvium  in  Italy  were  sacred 
serpents  to  whom  the  farmers  of  the  vicinity  re- 
sorted for  an  omen  of  a good  or  bad  harvest. 

When  we  consider  that  Thoth  was  the  great 
promoter  of  Ophiolatreia  in  Phoenicia  and  Egypt, 
the  coincidence  will  be  remarkable,  as  obliquely 
bearing  upon  the  great  question  in  hand — the 
derivation  of  all  mythology  relating  to  the  ser- 
pent, from  the  events  in  Paradise. 

For,  independently  of  the  connexion  of  the 
serpent- tempter  with  the  tree  and  its  fruit , the 
memory  of  which  has  been  wonderfully  pre- 
served throughout  the  world,  one  of  the  imme- 
diate consequences  of  the  serpent’s  success  in 
seducing  our  first  parents,  was  a general  dete- 
rioration of  the  properties  of  the  earth1.  Hence, 
in  the  confusion  of  truth  and  error,  of  which 
heathen  mythology  is  almost  entirely  composed, 
would  naturally  arise  the  opinion  that  the  serpent 
was  in  some  mysterious  manner  influential  upon 
agriculture : and  the  genius  of  superstition  would 

1 Gen.  iii.  17,  18. 



very  readily  invest  the  reptile  with  the  attribute 
of  a god  oracular  to  husbandmen. 

To  Teutates,  or  Mercury,  the  Druids  of  Gaul 
were  accustomed  to  immolate  human  victims. 
There  is  nothing  peculiar  in  this  sacrificial  ob- 
servance, except  its  connexion  with  a singular 
opinion  which  borders  so  closely  upon  the  doc- 
trine of  the  atonement,  that  I cannot  pass  it 
by.  It  is  thus  expressed  by  Caesar  1 : — “ Pro 


placari,  arbitrantur.”  The  sacrifice  of  hu- 
man victims  was  at  one  time  universal,  but  in 
no  religion  has  been  preserved  so  clear  a con- 
ception of  the  truth.  The  people  who  enter- 
tained it  must  have  separated  very  early  from  the 
rest  of  the  heathen,  and  retained  their  primeval 
errors  almost  unbroken. 

In  the  Druids,  then,  we  behold  some  of  the 
first  deviators  from  the  faith  of  Noah ; and  the 
purer  the  druidism,  the  nearer  the  truth. 

The  other  leading  doctrines  of  the  Druids 
correspond  in  simplicity  with  this  remarkable 
opinion : the  unity  of  the  Godhead , and  the 
immortality  of  the  soul , being  the  foundation 

1 De  Bello  Gall.  lib.  vi.  s.  16. 

T 2 



of  their  creed,  before  it  was  corrupted  by  the 
polytheism  of  Egypt  transmitted  through  Phoe- 
nicia. It  was  in  this  corrupted  state  that  the 
Romans  found  it. 

The  solar-serpent-worship  of  the  Persians 
seems  to  have  penetrated  into  Gaul  ; for  “ there 
is  a mixed  symbolic  image  at  Arles,  the  prin- 
cipal part  of  which  is  that  of  a human  person 
clothed  with  a veil,  on  which  are  wrought  in 
relievo,  the  figures  of  the  zodiac.  Round  this 
person  the  dragon  serpent  winds  his  flexile 
course  V’ 

But  the  most  curious  relic  of  the  religion  of 
the  Gauls  has  been  preserved  in  a piece  of 
sculpture  on  the  front  of  a temple  at  Montmo- 
rillon  in  Poitou,  of  which  Montfaucon  has  given 
us  an  engraving  2.  It  is  thus  described  by  this 
ingenious  antiquary — “ Over  the  gate  of  the 
temple  are  eight  human  figures  of  rude  work- 
manship, which  are  probably  deities.  Of  these 
eight  there  are  six  images  of  men  placed  in  two 

1 Cradock’s  Literary  Memoirs,  ii.  163.  The  Ophite  hiero- 
gram  also  has  been  recognized  in  Gaul.  A sculpture  of  the 
circle , wings , and  two  serpents , exhibiting  a Medusa’s  face, 
was  found  by  Simeoni  in  the  sixteenth  century,  at  Clermont,  in 
Auvergne. — Marcel , Hist,  des  Gaules. 

2 Suppl.  to  vol.  ii.  249. 



groups,  three  and  three  together the 

figures  terminating  the  sides  are  women.  One 
of  them  has  long  hair  hanging  down  before  her, 
and  is  dressed  very  like  the  women  now-a-days. 
She  holds  her  hands  on  her  sides,  and  wears 
gloves  like  those  now  used.  That  on  the  other 
end  is  naked , and  has  two  serpents  twisting 
round  her  legs , fyc.  Now  these  figures  being 
all  clothed,  except  the  last  mentioned,  in  gar- 
ments apparently  of  a sacerdotal  character, 
were  probably  intended  to  represent  the  habits 
of  the  priests  and  priestesses  of  the  eight  prin- 
cipal gods  of  the  Gauls.  For  we  have  other 
images  of  the  Gallic  gods  very  differently 
habited  from  these.  We  may  infer,  therefore, 
that  the  naked  female,  with  the  two  serpents, 
was  the  priestess  of  the  deity  to  whom  the  ser- 
pent was  more  particularly  sacred.  A conclu- 
sion which  is  rendered  reasonable  by  the  fact, 
that  the  Ophite  deity  of  the  Egyptians  was 
known  to  the  Druids  of  Britain,  and  conse- 
quently must  have  been  known  to  those  of 
Gaul.  Our  inference,  thus  corroborated,  is  still 
farther  illustrated  by  the  customs  prevalent  at 
the  Pythian  temples  of  Epirus  and  Lanuvium, 
in  which  the  god  was  a serpent,  and  the  officiating 
priestess  naked. 



It  is  difficult  to  ascertain  the  connecting  link 
between  the  several  chains  of  Ophiolatreia 
through  the  world  ; but  it  is  probable  that  some 
intercourse,  unremembered  in  history,  existed 
between  the  Grecian  and  Gallic  states  at  a very 
early  period  ; by  means  of  which  the  religions 
of  Egypt  and  Greece  may  have  been  partially 
transmitted  to  Gaul.  To  strengthen  such  a 
conjecture,  Csesar  informs  us,  that  the  Druids 
of  Gaul  were  acquainted  with  the  Greek  lan- 
guage, or  at  least  the  Greek  alphabet: — pub- 
licis  privatisque  rationibus  Gr^cis  literis 
utuntur  V’ 

The  chief  seat  of  the  Druidical  religion,  how- 
ever, was  Britain,  as  the  same  writer  assures 
us  ; to  which  country  the  young  Druids  of  Gaul 
were  sent  for  their  education 2. 

4.  Britany.  Connected  with  Gaul,  if  not 
itself  a part  of  Gaul,  is  the  interesting  country  of 
Britany  ; a country  in  which  the  ancient  religion 
of  the  Celts  found  refuge  when  banished  from 
almost  every  other  by  the  Roman  arms.  Many 
vestiges  of  Ophiolatreia  are  still  visible  among 
the  antiquities  and  customs  of  Britany.  The 

1 Comm.  lib.  vi.  s.  xiv.  p.  219. 

2 Lib.  vi.  p.  218. 



dragon  and  the  serpent  are  favorite  ornaments 
upon  the  walls  of  the  churches,  of  which  that  of 
Landevan  is  a curious  example ; as  if  they  had 
been  carved  by  the  early  Christians  upon  the 
exterior  of  their  sanctuaries,  to  invite  the  hesi- 
tating Ophite  to  enter  the  portals  of  a consecrated 
building ; serpents  upon  the  wall  being  the  sign 
of  consecration l. 

But  whether  this  was  really  the  case  or  not,  it 
is  certain  that  the  first  inhabitants  of  Britany 
were  worshippers  of  the  god  Bel,  whose  name 
may  be  still  recognized  in  that  of  the  Christian 
priesthood  which  has  succeeded  to  his  holy 
places.  In  the  Breton  language  the  word 
“ Priest  ” is  rendered  “ Belebh”  which  appears 
to  be  the  same  as  the  Balak  of  Scripture,  who 
was  the  priest  and  king  of  Moab.  It  has  been 
already  remarked  that,  in  the  Ophite  religion,  it 
was  the  general  custom  to  name  the  priesthood 
after  the  god  of  their  adoration.  Thus  the 
priestess  of  Oub  was  also  called  Oub ; the 
priestess  of  Python,  Pythia ; the  high-priest  of 
C’neph,  Icnuphis , See.  Balak  or  Belech  may 
similarly  indicate  a priest  of  Bel-the-dragon. 
Bel  and  the  Dragon  are  always  united,  and 
1 Persius,  Sat.  i.  113. 



Balak  would  bear  this  signification  if,  as  Stukeley 
asserts,  the  ancient  name  of  a serpent  in  the 
Celtic  language  was  “ Hak This  word  is 
now  obsolete  ; but  an  ancient  casuistical  writer 
of  Britany  cited  by  Pelletier  in  his  dictionary 
of  the  Breton  language,  has  the  following  pas- 
sage : — 

Henvell  an  diaoul  hac  an  aerouant. 
i.  e.  “ As  the  devil  Hac  the  serpent 

Pelletier  translates  hac  as  if  it  were  only  the 
conjunction  “ and but  it  may  be  the  old  word 
“ Hac”  a snake,  which  was  known  to  the 
ancient  Persians,  and  enters  into  the  name 
“ Takshac,”  of  the  serpent-tribes  of  the  mountain 

General  de  Penhouet,  in  his  memoir  on  Ophi- 
olatreia,  lately  read  before  the  Academy  of 
Nantes,  mentions  a curious  custom  which  pre- 
vailed in  the  bourg  of  Serent  in  the  Morbihan, 
before  the  French  Revolution,  which  seems  to 
have  been  the  relic  of  an  Ophite  ceremony.  This 
was  a procession  of  the  villagers,  in  which  they 
carried  a Gwiber  or  snake,  crying  as  they  ad- 
vanced, “ Let  him  beware  who  will  of  the  Gwiber 
Draig1,  peace  to  Molac !”  The  tradition  of  the 
1 Gwiber  Draig ; i.  e.  serpent-dragon. 



neighbourhood  stated  that  in  former  times,  a 
monster  lived  in  the  woods  adjoining,  who 
devoured  infants.  He  was  slain  by  a gentleman 
of  the  place,  and  hence  the  cry,  “ Peace  (or 
silence)  to  Molac."  A Breton  family  still  bears 
the  name  of  Molac  with  the  motto  “ Gric  a 
Molac  en  bon  espoir M.  de  Penhouet  thinks 
that  the  word  Molac  should  be  rather  Moloc ; 
and  alludes  to  the  heathen  deity  of  that  name 
to  whom  the  idolatrous  Ammonites  offered  their 
children.  But  he  adds,  that  in  the  immediate 
vicinity  of  Serent,  where  the  procession  was 
held,  is  a commune  called  Molac.  I will  not 
pretend  to  determine  whether  or  not  Moloch, 
the  god  of  the  Ammonites,  ever  had  an  altar  in 
Britany  ; but  it  is  certainly  remarkable,  that 
many  Breton  customs,  and  not  a few  of  the  idols 
found  in  the  district,  have  a strong  resemblance  to 
those  of  Oriental  countries.  Thus  a rock  in  the 
Morbihan  is  carved  into  a form  exactly  pourtray- 
ing  the  head  of  the  Egyptian  Anubis.  A statue 
of  the  Syrian  goddess  Lilith,  whose  head-dress 
resembles  that  of  Isis,  is  still  standing,  almost 
in  its  primitive  perfection,  at  the  chateau  of 
Quinipili  in  the  parish  of  Baud,  and  for  many 
ages  has  furnished  the  pattern  for  the  caps  of 



the  female  peasantry  of  the  commune  : while 
the  male  portion  of  the  villagers,  throughout 
lower  Britany,  wear  round  their  loins  a chequered 
linen  sash,  which  they  call  a “ turban ,”  induc- 
ing the  conjecture  that  they  were  of  oriental 
descent,  and  upon  adopting  the  customs  of 
Europe,  removed  their  turbans  from  the  head 
to  the  waist,  without  laying  aside  their  forms 
or  names.  Other  indications  of  an  eastern 
origin  are  strongly  marked  among  the  peasantry 
of  Lower  Britany  \ It  is  therefore  not  impro- 
bable that  the  Moloch  of  the  Ammonites  might 
also  have  had  an  altar  at  Serent. 

But  the  most  indisputable  memorial  of  “the 
dragon,”  is  to  be  found  in  those  eternal  columns 
which  have  stamped  his  image  upon  the  plains 
of  Erdeven  and  Carnac,  and  display  to  the  eyes 
of  admiring  ages  the  remains  of  a dracontium 
which  must  once  have  covered  a territory  at 
least  eight  miles  in  length.  The  description  of 
this  temple,  which  was  certainly  one  of  the  most 
stupendous  in  the  world,  I reserve  for  the 
chapter  especially  dedicated  to  the  subject  of 
Dracontia.  Other  indications  of  Ophiolatreia 
claim  our  attention  which  are  better  suited  to 

1 See  Penhouet  Arched.  Armoric.  passim. 




this  part  of  our  inquiry.  Among  these  we  may 
consider  the  oracle  of  bel,  which  has  left  a 
sufficient  record  of  its  existence  in  the  name  of 
the  parish  in  which  it  is  situated,  which  is  still 
called  Belz  or  B els,  being  evidently  a contraction 
of  the  Roman  word  Belus.  This  spot  I visited 
in  August  and  September  1831,  in  company 
with  General  de  Penhouet,  a gentleman  of 
Rennes,  well  known  for  his  antiquarian  know- 
ledge and  ingenious  writings  on  the  antiquities 
of  Armorica.  Among  other  interesting  places, 
he  directed  me  to  the  island  of  St.  Cado,  to 
the  oracle  of  bel.  This  is  a small  rectangular 
inclosure,  about  three  feet  in  length  and  two  in 
height,  contained  by  four  slabs  of  stone.  Over 
it  is  built  a chapel  dedicated  to  St.  Cado,  who 
is  said  to  have  landed  upon  this  spot  when  he 
came  to  evangelize  this  part  of  Britany.  The 
chapel  and  oracle  stand  upon  a small  island  in 
the  river  Estel,  which  is  joined  to  the  main 
land  by  a causeway.  The  architect  of  this 
causeway,  tradition  states,  was  no  less  a person- 
age than  Satan  himself,  who  undertook  to  build 
it  at  the  request  of  St.  Cado,  on  condition  that 
he  should  have  the  first  living  thing  that  passed 
over  it — hoping,  as  the  saint  was  the  only  human 



being  on  the  island,  he  might  himself  be  the 
unlucky  passenger.  By  the  assistance  of  his 
wife , who  carried  many  of  the  materials  in  her 
apron,  the  Devil  accomplished  his  task  in  a 
single  night : and  for  his  reward  received  the 
next  morning  a cal , which  the  cunning  saint 
sent  over  before  himself.  To  the  chapel  of  St. 
Cado,  many  of  the  devout  peasants  of  the  Mor- 
bihan  resort  in  the  faithful  expectation  of  being 
miraculously  cured  of  deafness  by  thrusting 
their  heads  into  the  consecrated  hole  above  men- 
tioned. The  guide  who  conducted  us  was  an 
implicit  believer  in  the  miraculous  powers  of  the 
holy  corner,  and  declared,  upon  putting  in  his 
head,  that  he  distinctly  heard  a sound  ! This 
was  mere  imagination — but  it  is  probable  that 
the  purpose  to  which  the  place  was  formerly 
devoted,  namely,  the  oracular  responses  of  the 
priestess  of  Bel,  may  have  left  this  superstition 
as  a feeble  record  of  the  once  famous  Oracle. 

It  is  remarkable  that  St.  Cado  is  said  to  have 
been  the  Christian  missionary,  who,  landing 
upon  this  spot,  expelled  from  it  a colony  of 
serpents ! by  which  tradition  I understand  the 
conversion  to  Christianity,  of  the  serpent  wor- 
shippers of  Belz. 



Similar  stories  are  told  of  other  Breton  saints. 
St.  Maudet  established  himself  in  an  island 
near  Treguier  which  bears  his  name,  and  cleared 
it  in  like  manner  of  serpents.  A St.  Paul 
likewise  settled  in  the  lie  de  Bas,  which  at 
that  time  was  infested  by  an  enormous  dragon. 
Being  solicited  by  the  people  to  deliver  them 
from  this  monster,  “ he  passed  his  stole  under 
his  neck,  and  plunged  him  into  the  sea;”  and 
the  place  of  this  achievement  is  still  pointed  out 
as  “ the  dragon’s  leap.”  “ How  are  we  to  under- 
stand these  things,”  ingeniously  demands  M.  de 
Penhouet,  “ if  we  do  not  look  upon  them  as  a 
transparent  veil  through  which  we  perceive  the 
efficacy  of  baptism  administered  to  the  followers  of 
serpent-worship , who  upon  their  conversion  were 
plunged  into  the  water  1 ?” 

It  is  extremely  probable  that  these  and  all 
similar  traditions  relate  solely  to  the  success  of 
the  first  Christian  missionaries  over  the  votaries 
of  the  serpent.  But  the  means  by  which  they 
effected  this  desirable  change  in  the  religion  of 
the  idolaters  were  perhaps  more  politic  than 
scriptural ; more  like  the  founders  of  a temporal 
than  a spiritual  kingdom.  Finding  the  difficulty 

Arch.  Armoric. 



of  a complete  conversion,  they  were  contented 
with  a partial,  and  rather  than  not  gain  any 
converts,  they  sacrificed  the  consistency  and 
simplicity  of  the  Christian  religion.  They  per- 
mitted the  Ophites  to  retain  many  of  their 
idolatrous  opinions  and  practices  even  after  bap- 
tism, considering,  perhaps,  that  half  a Christian 
was  better  than  an  entire  Pagan,  and  hoping  that 
though  the  father  might  be  only  an  accommo- 
dating, the  son  would,  in  time,  become  a sincere 
believer  in  the  Gospel.  Hence  we  see  the  ser- 
pent, the  emblem  of  consecration,  carved  upon 
the  exterior  of  churches ; such  as  Landevan, 
Dinan,  and  others.  Hence,  also,  the  introduc- 
tion of  the  sun  and  the  serpent  into  ecclesias- 
tical processions.  But  while  they  thus  blended 
the  old  religion  with  the  new,  they  endeavoured 
to  remove  scandal  from  the  Christian  congrega- 
tion, by  prominently  exhibiting  in  a well-under- 
stood allegory,  the  triumph  of  Christianity  over 
Ophiolatreia.  Thus  the  church  of  Landevan, 
near  Belz,  which  might  have  invited  the  Ophite 
to  enter  its  gates  by  the  serpent  carved  upon  its 
exterior  wall,  showed  the  Christian,  at  its  altar, 
a statue  of  St.  Michael  trampling  under  foot 
“ the  apostate  dragon.”  And  thus,  also,  the 



Solar  Mount  of  Carnac,  beneath  which  the 
dragon-temple  winds  his  course,  bears  on  its 
summit  a chapel  of  the  Archangel,  the  destroyer 
of  that  dragon’s  spiritual  prototype.  There 
was,  therefore,  much  of  the  serpent’s  subtilty  in 
the  method  which  undermined  the  serpent’s 

Du  Fresne,  in  his  glossary  upon  the  word 
“ Draco,”  explains  the  part  which  was  borne  by 
the  dragon  in  the  ecclesiastical  processions  of  the 
Church  of  Rome.  “ An  effigy  of  a dragon  is  wont 
to  be  carried,  by  which  is  designated  the  devil 
himself,  or  heresy,  over  both  of  which  the  Church 
triumphs.”  Again,  in  speaking  of  the  customs 
of  a particular  monastery,  he  says,  “ On  Palm 
Sunday  there  are  two  processions,  in  which  the 
standard  and  the  dragon  precede.  Holy  water 
and  a censer  without  fire  ; a cross  and  dragon 
on  a pole  are  borne  in  procession.  One  of  the 
boys,  however,  carries  a lighted  candle  in  a 
lantern,  that  fire  may  be  at  hand  in  case  the  light 
which  is  in  the  dragons  mouth  should  be  ex- 

In  these  customs  there  are  strong  traces  of 
Ophiolatreia  as  connected  with  the  worship  of 
the  sun.  “ The  fire  in  the  dragon’s  mouth,” 



which  they  were  so  careful  to  keep  alive,  reminds 
us  of  the  holy  fire  so  reverently  cherished  by  the 
children  of  the  sun  ; and  “ the  dragon  upon  the 
pole  ” recalls  the  standard  of  the  Ophites  in  every 
country  where  they  reigned  : while  the  whole 
ceremony  may  be  considered  as  a lively  repre- 
sentation of  an  Ophite  procession  as  it  advanced 
through  the  sinuous  parallelitha  of  Carnac. 

Carnac,  however,  is  not  the  only  dracontium 
of  Britany.  The  whole  of  the  department  of  the 
Morbihan  may  be  considered  as  the  terra  sancta 
of  Bel.  Fragments  of  serpent  temples  may  be 
seen  in  many  communes,  surrounding  the  great 
dracontium  of  Carnac,  like  village  churches  about 
the  cathedral  of  their  diocese.  Even  the  islands 
upon  the  coasts  not  unfrequently  present  some 
striking  memorial  of  the  same  prevailing  wor- 
ship. An  island  in  the  Morbihan  which  con- 
tains the  relics  of  a dracontium,  still  commemo- 
rates, by  its  name,  its  ancient  dedication.  It  is 
called  “ the  Island  of  the  Monks  f probably 
from  having  been  colonized  in  remote  ages  by 
the  Druids  who  officiated  in  the  dracontium  : 
for  I believe  there  are  no  remains  of  any 
Christian  monastery  from  which  it  may  have 
derived  the  appellation.  At  the  western  ex- 



tremity  of  the  dracontium  is  a long  barrow,  one 
end  of  which  being  broken,  disclosed  a very 
beautiful  kistvaen.  This  spot  is  singularly  called 
Penab : i.  e.  “the  head  of  Ab  and  as  there 
is  no  vestige  of  a house  upon  the  site  so  desig- 
nated, the  name  of  Penab  must  have  belonged 
to  the  temple,  and  indicated  that  part  of  it  which, 
like  the  “ Hakpen  ” of  Abury,  was  the  “ serpent’s 

A more  minute  examination  of  the  antiquities 
ofBritany,  assisted  by  a knowledge  of  the  Breton 
language,  would  throw  much  light  upon  the 
ancient  religion  of  that  interesting  country,  which 
I cannot  but  think,  was,  at  the  least,  a modifica- 
tion of  that  Ophiolatreia  which,  in  almost  every 
region  of  the  world,  had  its  altars,  its  dragon 
temples,  and  its  human  victims1. 

A longer  stay  in  Britany  might  have  enabled 
me  to  bring  forward  many  more  proofs  of  its 
aboriginal  worship  of  the  serpent : but  the  temple 
of  Carnac,  which  I shall  describe  in  a subsequent 
chapter,  will  abundantly  establish  the  argument 

1 For  a description  of  the  sacrificial  altar  of  the  temple  of 
Carnac,  and  for  proofs  of  the  barbarous  custom  of  human  sacri- 
fices in  Britany,  I beg  to  refer  the  reader  to  my  paper  on 
Dracontia,  in  the  25th  vol.  of  the  Archseologia. 




which  I have  undertaken.  This  temple  I have 
minutely  and  thoroughly  investigated ; and  the 
plan  published,  both  in  the  Archseologia,  and  in 
this  volume  (in  which  a restoration  has  been 
attempted,)  will  convince  any  but  those  against 
whose  previously  expressed  theories  it  may  mili- 
tate, that  it  was  truly  a dracontium — a temple 
of  the  SOLAR  SERPENT. 







I.  Mexico. — Every  feature  in  the  religion  of 
the  New  World,  discovered  by  Cortez  and 
Pizarro,  indicates  an  origin  common  to  the 
superstitions  of  Egypt  and  Asia.  The  same 
solar  worship,  the  same  pyramidal  monuments, 
and  the  same  concomitant  Ophiolatreia  distin- 
guish them  all. 

From  Acosta1  we  learn,  that  44  the  temple  of 
Vitziliputzli  was  built  of  great  stones  in  fashion  of 
snakes  tied  one  to  another , and  the  circuit  was 
called  4 the  circuit  of  snakes ,’  ” because  the 
walls  of  the  enclosure  were  covered  with  the 
figures  of  snakes2.  This  god,  Vitziliputzli, 

4 4 held  in  his  right  hand  a staff  cut  in  the  form 
of  a serpent ; and  the  four  corners  of  the  ark,  in 
which  he  was  seated,  terminated  each  with 

Ch.  xiii.  London , 1604. 

2 Herrera. 



a carved  representation  of  the  head  of  a ser- 
pent V’ 

Vitziliputzli  was  an  azure  figure,  from  whose 
sides  projected  the  heads  of  two  serpents  : his 
right  hand  leaned  upon  a staff  shaped  like  a 
serpent  \ 

The  Mexican  century  was  represented  by  a 
circle,  having  the  sun  in  the  centre,  surrounded 
by  the  symbols  of  the  years.  The  circumference 
was  a serpent  twisted  into  four  knots  at  the 
cardinal  points 1 2  3. 

The  Mexican  month  was  divided  into  twenty 
days ; the  serpent  and  dragon  symbolized  two 
of  them.  In  Mexico  there  was  also  a temple 
dedicated  to  “ the  god  of  the  air  and  the  door 
of  it  was  formed  so  as  to  resemble  a serpent's 
mouth 4. 

The  Mexicans,  however,  were  not  contented 
with  the  symbolical  worship  of  the  sacred  ser- 
pent. Like  many  other  nations  of  the  Ophite 

1 Faber,  P.  I.  v.  455,  citing  Purchas’s  Pilgrims. 

2 Gottfrid.  Hist.  Antipod.  part  i.  p.  31,  apud  Gronovium. 

3 Clavigero,  vol.  i.  p.  296. 

4 Faber,  P.  I.  ii.  285,  citing  Purchas. — It  is  a curious 
coincidence  of  ideas,  that  in  Ephesians  ii.  2,  the  devil  is 
styled  “ the  'prince  of  the  power  of  the  air.” 




family,  they  kept  live  serpents  as  household 
gods  in  their  private  dwellings.  An  intelligent 
traveller1,  to  whom  the  literary  republic  is  much 
indebted  for  his  observations  on  the  Mexican 
idolatry,  informs,  us,  that  “the  rattle-snake  was 
an  object  of  veneration  and  worship  among 
them  :”  and  that  “ representations  of  this  rep- 
tile, and  others  of  its  species,  are  very  commonly 
met  with  among  the  remains  of  their  ancient 
idolatry.”  “ The  finest  that  is  known  to  exist 
is  to  be  seen  in  a deserted  part  of  the  cloister 
of  the  Dominican  convent,  opposite  to  the  palace 
of  the  inquisition.  It  is  coiled  up  in  an  irritated, 
erect  position,  with  the  jaws  extended,  and  in  the 
act  of  gorging  an  elegantly  dressed  female,  who 
appears  in  the  mouth  of  this  enormous  reptile, 
crushed  and  lacerated.” 

A cast  of  this  terrific  idol  was  brought  over 
to  England  by  Mr.  Bullock,  and  fully  corrobo- 
rates the  reiterated  assertions  of  the  Spaniards 
who  first  invaded  Mexico,  that  the  people  of 
that  country  worshipped  an  idol  in  the  form  of 
a serpent.  Bernal  Dias  del  Castillo,  who  ac- 
companied Cortez,  was  introduced  by  Monte- 

Mr.  Bullock. 



zuma  into  the  interior  of  the  principal  temple, 
the  description  of  which  he  gives  in  the  follow- 
ing manner  : — “ When  we  had  ascended  to  the 
summit  of  the  temple,  we  observed  on  the 
platform,  as  we  passed,  the  large  stones  whereon 
were  placed  the  victims  who  were  to  be  sacri- 
ficed. Here  was  a great  figure  which  repre- 
sented a dragon,  and  much  blood  spilt 

Cortez  then  addressed  Montezuma,  and  re- 
quested that  he  would  do  him  the  favour  to 
show  us  his  gods.  Montezuma  having  first  con- 
sulted the  priests,  led  us  into  a tower  where 
was  a kind  of  saloon.  Here  were  two  altars, 
highly  adorned  with  richly-wrought  timbers  on 
the  roof ; and  over  the  altars,  gigantic  figures, 
representing  fat  men.  The  one  on  the  right 
hand  was  Huitzilopochtli,  their  war  god,  with 
a great  face  and  terrible  eyes.  This  figure  was 
entirely  covered  with  gold  and  jewels,  and  his 
body  bound  with  golden  serpents.  Before  the  idol 
was  a pan  of  incense,  with  three  hearts  of  human 
victims,  which  were  burning,  mixed  with  copal. 

On  the  left  was  the  other  great  figure, 

with  a face  like  a bear He  was  the  god  of 

the  infernal  regions his  body  was  covered 

with  figures  representing  devils  with  tails  of 



serpents In  this  place  they  had  a drum 

of  most  enormous  size,  the  head  of  which  was 

made  of  the  skins  of  large  serpents At  a 

little  distance  from  this  temple  stood  a tower 

at  the  door  stood  frightful  idols 

like  serpents  and  devils  ; and  before  them  were 
tables  and  knives  for  sacrifice.” 

For  this  extract  I am  indebted  to  a work  of 
Mr.  Bullock,  which,  under  the  unassuming  form 
of  a descriptive  pamphlet,  contains  much  that 
is  instructive,  both  in  references  and  original 
remarks.  He  tells  us,  that  from  the  great  ser- 
pent, above  mentioned,  smaller  ones  were  mo- 
delled in  stone,  and  probably  kept  by  the  Mexi- 
cans as  Penates.  One  of  these  he  brought  over 
to  England.  Such  miniature  copies  of  their 
gods  were  frequently  taken  in  Egypt,  and  the 
custom  prevails  in  other  places — the  Burmese 
universally  follow  it. 

Mr.  Bullock  brought  over  also  from  Mexico 
a cast  of  an  idol,  which  he  calls  “ the  goddess 
of  war,”  and  thus  describes  it  : — 

“ This  monstrous  idol  is,  with  its  pedestal, 

twelve  feet  high,  and  four  feet  wide Its 

form  is  partly  human,  and  the  rest  composed  of 
rattle-snakes  and  the  tiger.  The  head,  enor- 



mously  wide,  seems  that  of  two  rattlesnakes 
united  ; the  fangs  hanging  out  of  the  mouth,  on 
which  the  still  palpitating  hearts  of  the  unfor- 
tunate victims  were  rubbed  as  an  act  of  the 
most  acceptable  oblation.  The  body  is  that  of  a 
deformed  human  frame,  and  the  place  of  arms 
supplied  by  the  heads  of  rattlesnakes , placed  on 
square  plinths,  and  united  by  fringed  ornaments. 
Round  the  waist  is  a girdle,  which  was  origi- 
nally covered  with  gold ; and  beneath  this, 
reaching  nearly  to  the  ground,  and  partly  cover- 
ing its  deformed  cloven  feet,  a drapery  entirely 
composed  of  wreathed  rattlesnakes , which  the 
natives  call  ‘ a garment  of  serpents.'  . . . Between 
the  feet,  descending  from  the  body,  another 
wreathed  serpent  rests  his  head  upon  the 

We  learn  from  Acosta1,  that  the  Mexicans 
sacrificed  human  victims  to  the  god  Virachoca ; 
and  that  the  head  of  the  unhappy  creature 
about  to  be  sacrificed  was  held  back  in  a wooden 
collar  “ wrought  in  form  of  a snake." 

Peter  Martyr 2 also  mentions  a large  serpent- 
idol  at  Campeachy,  made  of  stones  and  bitumen, 
in  the  act  of  devouring  a marble  lion.  An 

1 382. 

2 De  Orbe  Novo,  291. 



engraving  of  this  idol  is  given  in  Ogilby’s 
America,  p.  77.  When  first  seen  by  the 
Spaniards  it  was  warm  with  the  blood  of  human 

But  of  all  the  works  which  may  be  consulted 
upon  this  subject,  that  of  M.  Aglio,  on  “ Mexi- 
can Antiquities,”  is  most  deserving  of  notice. 
It  contains  fac-similes  of  nearty  all  the  Azteck 
paintings  known  to  be  in  Europe,  together  with 
lithographic  representations  of  sculptures,  and 
other  monuments  of  this  interesting  people. 
These  paintings  and  sculptures  abound  with 
evidences  of  Mexican  Ophiolatreia,  and  prove 
that  there  was  scarcely  a Mexican  deity  who 
was  not-  symbolized  by  a serpent  or  a dragon. 
Many  deities  appear  holding  serpents  in  their 
hands  ; and  small  figures  of  priests  are  repre- 
sented with  a snake  over  each  head . This  reminds 
us,  forcibly,  of  the  priests  of  the  Egyptian  Isis, 
who  are  described  in  sculpture,  with  the  sacred 
asp  upon  the  head,  and  a cone  in  the  left  hand. 
And  to  confirm  the  original  mutual  connexion 
of  - all  the  serpent-worshippers  throughout  the 
world — the  Mexican  paintings,  as  well  as  the 
Egyptian  and  Persian  hieroglyphics,  describe 
the  Ophite  hierogram  of  the  intertwined 



serpents,  in  almost  all  its  variations  \ A very 
remarkable  one  occurs  in  M.  Allard’s  collection 
of  sculptures ; in  which  the  dragons,  forming  it, 
have  each  a mans  head  in  his  mouth  ! The  gods 
of  Mexico  are  frequently  pictured  fighting  with 
serpents  and  dragons ; and  gods,  and  some- 
times men,  are  represented  in  conversation  with 
the  same  loathsome  creatures.  There  is  scarcely, 
indeed,  a feature  in  the  mystery  of  Ophiolatreia, 
which  may  not  be  recognised  in  the  Mexican 

We  perceive,  therefore,  that  in  the  kingdom 
of  Mexico  the  serpent  was  sacred,  and  emblema- 
tic of  more  gods  than  one : an  observation  which 
may  be  extended  to  almost  every  other  nation 
which  adored  the  symbolical  serpent.  This  is  a 
remarkable  and  valuable  fact ; and  it  discovers 
in  Ophiolatreia  another  feature  of  its  aboriginal 
character.  For  it  proves  the  serpent  to  have 
been  a symbol  of  intrinsic  divinity , and  not  a 
mere  representative  of  peculiar  properties  which 
belong  to  some  gods,  and  not  to  others. 

The  serpent  also  entered  into  the  religion  of 

1 Aglio,  vol.  iii.  Borgian  Collection , plates  36,  38,  &c. — 
Yol.  iv.  pi.  13.  Sculpture  in  the  Collection  of  M.  Latour 
Allard , Paris . 



the  Mexicans  as  a charm.  Whenever  a person 
was  ill,  a priest  was  immediately  sent  for,  “ who, 
having  perfumed  the  patient,  and  shaved  off  his 
hair,  hung  snakes  hones  about  his  neck  V’ 

In  Couliacan,  Nunnez  de  Gusman  found,  in 
the  year  1531,  the  houses  filled  with  “ thousands 
of  serpents  mingled  together.”  And  we  are  told 
that  “ the  inhabitants  showed  great  reverence  to 
these  serpents  because,  as  they  said,  the  devil 
often  appeared  to  them  in  that  form  2.” 

II.  Peru. — The  Peruvians  are  charged  with 
the  same  superstition  of  serpent-worship  as  the 
Mexicans.  “ They  worshipped,”  says  Vossius, 
“ the  goddess  Isis,  and  were  accustomed  to 
represent  her  with  two  serpents  at  her  side  3.” 

Whether  this  image  represented  Isis,  or  some 
other  deity,  it  is  certain  that  actual  as  well  as 
symbolical  Ophiolatreia  prevailed  in  Peru.  For, 
“ in  the  temple  of  Pachamana,  near  Lima,  tradi- 
tion states  that  the  devil  did  speak  visibly , and 
gave  answer  by  his  oracles  ; and  that  some- 
times they  did  see  a spotted  snake* .” 

Of  this  kind  was  the  “ nachash”  of  the 

1 Ogilby,  p.  277. 

3 Voss,  de  Idol.  1.  iii.  c.  13. 

2 Ibid.  286. 

4 Acosta,  c.  5. 



Hebrews,  and  the  “ purple-backed  snake”  of  the 
Greeks,  both  used  in  divination.  The  tradition 
of  Pachamana  forcibly  reminds  us  of  the  story 
of  the  i^Esculapian  serpent  of  Epidaurus,  who 
on  important  occasions  glided  from  his  sanctuary, 
and  showed  himself  to  his  votaries. 

In  the  province  of  Topira  in  Peru,  the 
Spaniards  saw  a temple,  in  front  of  which  was 
a moat  containing  a vast  image  of  “ a serpent  of 
divers  metals,  with  his  tayle  in  his  mouth.  A 
man  was  sacrificed  before  it  every  year1.” 

In  another  part  of  the  work,  from  which  the 
above  information  is  derived,  we  read  that  £c  the 
Peruvians  worshipped  snakes , and  kept  them  pic- 
tured in  their  temples  and  houses2 .” 

The  worship  of  the  serpent  in  Peru  was  even- 
tually superseded  by  the  Solar  Superstition  of 
the  Incas.  Having  suppressed  it  in  their  own 
country  they  carried  on  a war  of  proselytism  in 
the  neighbouring  states.  Tupac  Yupanqui,  the 
eleventh  Inca,  conquered  the  Chacapuyans,  and 
“ killed  their  deity — a snake .”  This  province  lay 
eastward  of  Cassamarca.  He  next  overcame  the 
Huacrachuca,  who  also  “ worshipped  snakes  and 

1 Purchas,  part  iv.  p.  1560. 

2 Ibid.  p.  1478. 



kept  them  always  pictured  in  their  houses  and 
temples  V’ 

The  people  of  Manta  who  were  conquered  by 
Huayna  Capac,  among  other  things  “ wor- 
shipped serpents  of  prodigious  bigness2.” 

“ Bias  Valeras,  an  author,  who  in  loose  papers 
wrote  of  the  Indies,  describes  those  who  live  in 
Antis  as  more  brutal  than  the  beasts  themselves; 
for  they  have  neither  God,  nor  law,  nor  virtue,  nor 
have  they  any  idols  or  worship,  unless  sometimes 
when  the  Devil  presents  himself  in  the  form  of  a 
serpent  or  other  animal , they  then  worship  and 
adore  him  3.” 

From  these  incidental  notices,  scattered  up 
and  down  among  the  writings  of  the  Spaniards, 
who  rather  accidentally  alluded  to,  than  design- 
edly investigated  the  religion  of  the  New  World, 
we  find  that  the  worship  of  the  sacred  serpent 
had  its  votaries  in  almost  every  place  where 
man  had  a domicile. 

With  these  cursory  notices,  we  must  take 
leave  of  Spanish  America — more  in  astonish- 
ment that  so  much  information,  valuable  to 

1 Harris’s  Collec.  of  Voyages,  i.  784. 

2 Garcilasso  de  la  Vega,  book  ix.  c.  8. 

3 Ibid,  book  i.  c.  4. 



literature  and  Christian  theology,  has  escaped 
the  barbarism  of  the  church  of  Rome,  than  in 
disappointment  that  so  little  of  authentic  history 
has  been  preserved  for  our  instruction. 

English  America  being  in  a state  of  extreme 
rudeness  when  the  first  settlers  occupied  it ; 
and  these  settlers  being  either  illiterate  them- 
selves, or  engrossed  by  a religion  so  exclusively 
severe  as  to  despise  or  abhor  inquiry  into  any 
other  ; we  have  little  or  no  account  of  the  super- 
stitions of  the  native  Indians  upon  which  we 
can  rely.  I have  seen,  indeed,  a book,  printed 
about  that  period,  purporting  to  be  an  account 
of  the  religion  of  the  Virginians,  in  which  these 
people  are  represented  as  worshipping  graven 
images  ; and,  among  the  rest,  that  of  a serpent 
upon  a pillar.  But  the  whole  work  is  written 
in  a manner  so  extravagantly  credulous,  that  I 
did  not  care  to  preserve  even  the  memory  of  its 
title-page.  Besides,  the  rude  state  of  the  arts 
among  these  Indians  could  not  have  per- 
mitted them  to  arrive  at  such  a perfection  in 
sculpture  as  is  there  represented.  The  book  is 
to  be  found  in  Sion  College  library. 

A more  respectable  authority,  however, 
occurs  in  Purchas’s  Pilgrims,  who,  by  the  inci- 



dental  mention  of  a trivial  circumstance,  would 
indnce  us  to  infer,  that  the  worship  of  the  ser- 
pent was  not  altogether  unknown  even  in  these 
inhospitable  wilds.  The  chief  priest  among  the 
Virginians  was  observed  to  wear  on  his  head 
a sacerdotal  ornament  of  u snake  skins  tied  toge- 
ther hy  the  tails  V’ 

Now  this  circumstance,  though  apparently 
trivial,  is  not  to  be  overlooked  ; for  it  brings  to 
recollection  an  Egyptian  custom  which  cer- 
tainly prevailed  among  the  votaries  of  the  sacred 
serpent.  The  priests  of  Isis  were,  in  particular, 
notified  by  the  figure  of  an  asp  upon  their 
bonnets  ; and  we  sometimes  see  a priest  repre- 
sented in  sculpture  with  a small  serpent  upon  his 
hare  head.  Again,  serpents  in  the  hair  were  a 
necessary  part  of  the  ornaments  of  a bacchanal. 
A similar  ornament  is  observed  on  the  heads  of 
the  priests  in  M.  Aglio’s  Mexican  antiquities  ; 
and  the  Mexicans  were  certainly  serpent-wor- 
shippers. Is  it  not,  therefore,  possible,  that  the 
head-dress  of  the  chief  priest,  among  the  wild 
Virginians,  may  have  had  a similar  respect  to 
the  god  of  his  adoration,  or  to  the  symbol  of 
that  deity  ? 

Purchas,  part  4,  p.  1701. 



The  accompanying  plate,  which  represents  an 
Indian  of  the  country  N.  W.  of  Louisiana,  ex- 
hibits a priest  of  the  Solar-Ophite  religion.  The 
Sun  and  Serpent  tattooed  upon  his  breast,  and 
pictured  upon  the  instrument  in  his  hand  are 
curious  illustrations  of  ancient  customs.  The 
former  especially  remind  us  of  the  “ stigmata 1” 
alluded  to  by  Job , and  St.  Paul , which  were 
borne  on  the  body  of  the  priests  of  all  the  old 
religions  ; and  are  still  used  to  distinguish  the 
Brahminical  sects. 

There  is  also  an  obscure  Canadian  tradition 
which  seems  to  have  belonged  to  the  superstition 
of  the  Serpent.  Whenever  it  thundered  the 
natives  believed  “ that  the  Devil  was  endeavour- 
ing to  vomit  a horrible  serpent,  and  by  straining 
to  evacuate  the  same,  rent  the  clouds  and  caused 
thunder  2.” 

Among  the  islands  of  the  Southern  Ocean  we 
can  hardly  expect  to  find  any  traces  of  this 
idolatry.  It  is  curious,  however,  to  observe  that 
in  New  Zealand  there  is  a tradition  that  the 
serpent  once  spoke  with  a human  voice  3. 

These  islanders  also  believed,  that  in  the  in- 

1 See  the  remarks  on  the  Thauma , chap.  ii. 

2 Ogilby,  p.  132.  3 Christian  Observer,  1810,  p.  724. 

To  /ace  p.  3oT 

london.  Prdht/ud  M J.6.  S-FJUi  in  <//t  n Sffi ndi  f/a  rch  Tard.  .Waterloo  Place,  j#3$ 

Jf£asv'e.  sc. 



terior  of  the  island  is  an  enormous  Lizard,  ani- 
mated by  an  Evil  Spirit,  who  preys  upon  the 
human  race.  The  Lizard  worship  prevails  also 
in  Africa,  and  is  kindred  to  that  of  the  serpent. 

The  inhabitants  of  the  Tonga  islands  also 
believe  that  “ the  primitive  gods  sometimes 
come  into  the  bodies  of  lizards,  porpoises,  and 
sea  snakes — and  hence  these  animals  are  much 
respected  k” 

There  is  a remarkable  passage  in  Tasman’s 
voyage  to  the  South  Seas ; which,  if  it  does  not 
actually  prove  the  original  Ophiolatreia  of  these 
islanders,  yet  tends  to  corroborate  the  hypothesis. 
Speaking  of  Rotterdam  island  he  says,  that  the 
inhabitants  know  nothing  about  religion  or 
divine  worship  ; they  have  no  idols,  relics,  or 
priests,  but  they  have  nevertheless  superstitions  : 
for  I saw  a man  take  up  a water  snake  which  was 
near  his  boat , and  put  it  respectfully  on  his  head , 
and  then  again  into  the  water  ” 

I will  not  insist  that  this,  and  the  preceding 
facts  are  irrefragable  proofs  of  original  Ophiola- 
treia : — but  I cannot  help  thinking  it  possible 
that  such  may  be  the  case.  The  Polynesians 
are  apparently  derived  from  Malaya,  and  the 
1 Dillon’s  Discovery  of  La  Perouse,  ii.  p.  12. 
x 2 



Ophite  superstition  was  once  very  prevalent  in 
all  the  neighbouring  countries  of  Asia.  But 
beyond  this  possibility  I would  not  press  the 
argument.  Valeat  quantum  valet. 












Haying  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  con- 
siderable 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 

In  the  progress  of  corrupt  religion,  whatever 
was  originally  a pure  patriarchal  tradition  be- 
came gradually  less  pure,  not  only  by  the  addi- 
tion 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,  there- 
fore, 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 

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  imagina- 
tion. “Non  res  ipsas  gestas  finxerunt  poetse,  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 

One  of  the  most  remarkable  of  these  com- 
pound heathen  fables  is  that  of  Typhon.  And 
this  has  been  made  subservient  to  several  ex- 
planations, 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 

De  falsa  relig.  lib.  i.  c.  2. 



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  sepa- 
rating one  truth  from  the  fable ; but  another 
remains,  of  far  more  importance  to  the  individual 
interests  of  mankind,  and  this  also  I will  endea- 
vour 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  em- 
bellished by  the  traditions  of  the  deluge  ; but 
for  its  origin  we  must  look  higher.  All  tradition 
cannot  be  supposed  to  have  centered  in  the  de- 
luge ; 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  angel1,” — would  form  natural 
and  interesting  subjects  for  the  paternal  in- 
struction 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  remem- 
brance of  which,  probably,  formed  part  of  their 
religious  service  of  praise  and  thanksgiving? 
Is  it  not  rather  probable  that  they  would  them- 
selves transmit  them  to  their  children’s  chil- 
dren ? 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  ob- 
scured 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 

1 Gen.  xlviii.  16. 



seduction  of  our  first  parents  under  the  form  of 


Typhon  was  the  evil  spirit  of  the  Egyptians. 
Jablonski  derives  his  name  from  the  two  Coptic 
words,  Theu-ph-ou , “ spiritus-malus  a deri- 
vation which  corresponds  with  the  remark  of 
Plutarch  : “ The  Egyptians  commonly  called 
Typhon  K cucov  Aalfiova  V’  The  history  of  this 
daemon  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  iEtna  was  placed  upon  him. 
Tartarus  ex  Terra  procreavit  Typhonem,  immani 
magnitudine,  specieque  portentosa,  cui  centum 
capita  draconum  ex  humeris  enata  erant.  Hie 
Jovem  provocavit,  si  vellet  secum  de  regno  certare. 
Jovis  fulmine  ardenti  pectus  ejus  percussit.  Cui 
cum  flagraret,  montem  iEtnam,  qui  est  in  Sicilia, 
super  eum  imposuit : qui  ex  eo  adhuc  ardere 
dicitur. — Hyginus , fab.  152. 

Pindar  tells  us,  that  “ Typhon,  the  hun- 

1 De  Iside  et  Osiride,  p.  380. 


dred-headed  enemy  of  the  gods , lies  in  Tar- 
tarus V’ 

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  him2.” 

Under  the  same  character,  of  a rebel  against 
the  gods , Typhon  is  celebrated  in  Grecian  my- 
thology 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 

This  remarkable  tradition,  of  “a  war  in 
heaven,”  is  preserved  also  in  the  mythologies  of 
the  Persians,  Hindus,  and  Celts. 

Pythia,  1. 

2 Rev.  xii.  7,  &c. 

3 Hesiod.  Theogon. 



The  terrestrial  history  of  Typhon,  which 
Plutarch  records,  is  briefly  this.  Being  en- 
vious 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 muti- 
lated state  ; for  the  fable  admits  of  either  con- 

The  principal  features  in  this  fable  are, 

1st,  The  envy  of  Typhon. 

2dly,  The  murder  of  his  brother  in  conse- 

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  pre- 
servation 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 personifica- 
tion of  the  deluge  ; and  the  third  I will  endea- 
vour 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  beginning2.”  This,  of  course,  alludes 
more  particularly  to  the  spiritual  murder  of 
Adam  ; but  his  loss  of  immortality,  in  conse- 
quence of  following  the  suggestions  of  the  devil, 
might  very  naturally  form  the  foundation  of  a 
fable,  in  wdiich  things  spiritual  would  be  accom- 
modated 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  cha- 
racteristics, relative  to  the  transaction  and  the 
agents , common  to  both  the  historical  and  my- 
thological 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 
1 Wisd.  ii.  24.  2 John  viii.  44. 



devil  deceived  Eve  under  the  figure  of  a ser- 
pent : such  a figure  was  also  attributed  to 
Typhon,  at  least  in  part;  and  a partial  resem- 
blance, 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  l,  “ 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 

1 Lib.  i.  c.  6.  s.  3. 

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. 


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  how- 
ever, 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  de- 
scribed in  the  sculptured  images  of  his  counter- 
part 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  coin- 
cide. We  can,  however,  pursue  the  parallel  a 
little  farther.  The  fall  of  Adam  being  pro- 
duced by  the  agency  of  the  serpent,  his  reco- 
very 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  l.  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  in- 
volved, 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,  repre- 
sented by  Osiris  and  Isis  ; the  serpent- 
tempter,  by  Typhon  ; and  the  victorious 
“ woman's  seed,”  by  Orus.  A conclusion 

1 Herodot.  ii.  156. 



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  7)N,  (light)  ; or  with  Ja- 
blonski,  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  world2 ;”  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  daemon  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 

1 Herodot.  ii.  144.  Plutarch,  Diodorus,  &c. 

2 John  i.  9.  3 John  i.  3. 

4 Jablonski,  Panth.  Mg.  1.  ii.  p.  204. 



he  derived  his  name  from  the  word  TervyupEvoQ, 
for,  being  puffed  up  through  ignorance  and  error, 
he  destroys  and  annuls  rov  Aoyov — 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  ver- 
sion 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 


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  tarifu — 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,  ap- 
proved by  Jablonski,  is  I-si,  abundantia  perma- 
nans ; from  a notion  that  Isis  was  the  personi- 
fication of  nature.  This  idea  is  suggested  by 
the  following  inscription,  copied  by  Plutarch 

1 De  Isid.  et  Osirid.  in  principio. 

2 2 Cor.  xi.  3.  3 Luke  viii.  12. 

Y 2 


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  Hindustan  1 : 
the  name  of  her  consort  is  Isa.  May  not  these 
two  names  have  been  originally  derived  from 
and  nm,  the  names  of  Adam  and  Eve  in  the 
second  chapter  of  Genesis  ? The  transposition 
of  the  words  does  not  militate  against  the  hy- 
pothesis— such  permutations  being  allowed  to 
mythology.  These  words  are  derived  from  the 
root  7W\  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  Faber3, 
and  other  learned  men,  that  Osiris  and  Isis  are 
the  creator  of  the  universe,  under  the 
mystical  character  of  husband  and  wife — “ The 

1 Faber’s  Pagan  Idol.  i.  167. 

3 Pag.  Idol.  i.  165. 

2 Parkhurst. 



Great  Creator  being  sometimes  esteemed  in 
mythology,  the  animating  soul,  and  sometimes 
the  husband  of  the  universe  ; while  the  uni- 
verse, on  the  other  hand,  is  sometimes  reck- 
oned 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  no- 
tion of  conjugal  unity) — we  are  not  deprived  of 
the  hypothesis  that  Osiris  and  Isis  were  originally 
Adam  and  Eve . On  the  contrary,  we  may  con- 
jecture 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  sub- 
stitution 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  Mutli , which  Plutarch  ( rightly ? 
according  to  Jablonski,)  interprets  “ Mother .” 
The  word  Muth , j"HQ,  in  Hebrew,  signifies  death ; 
and  the  coincidence  is  not  a little  remarkable, 
when  we  remember  that  it  was  Eve  who  intro- 
duced “ death”  into  the  world. 

The  Phoenicians  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  Phoenicians  called  Death, 
or  Pluto1.”  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  illus- 
tration we  have  had  recourse  to  Phoenician  and 
Egyptian  fable  ; but  it  should  be  remembered 
that  Thoth,  the  author  of  Egyptian  learning,  was 
likewise  the  founder  of  Phoenician  theology. 

“ Muth”  signifying  in  the  Egyptian  language 
“ Mother,”  is  probably  the  parent  of  our  Eng- 
lish word  expressing  the  same  idea  : and  if 
ever  there  was  a period  in  the  primitive  lan- 
guage 2,  in  which  the  word  Muth  signified  both 
mother  and  death , how  elegant  is  the  combina- 
tion, and  how  expressive  its  simplicity  ! “ Mo- 
ther” is  a sound  which  brings  with  it  the 
remembrance  of  affectionate  solicitude  from  the 

1 Euseb.  Praep.  Evang.  i.  38. 

2 In  the  Coptic  language,  the  words  which  express  “ mo- 
therand  “ to  die approach  very  near  each  other. 



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  ad- 
mitted 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  ob- 
ject, that  therefore  they  lose  their  original  cha- 


racter,  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,  independ- 
ently 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  typifi- 
cation  of  the  serpent  in  paradise , by  being  em- 
ployed 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  con- 
founded, 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,  Terrse  films,  Draco  ingens.  Hie 
ante  Apollinem,  ex  oraculo  in  monte  Parnasso 
responsa  dare  solitus  erat.  Huic  ex  Latonce 

partu  interitus  erat  fato  futurus Python 

ubi  sensit  Latonam  ex  Jove  gravidam  esse, 

persequi  coepit  ut  earn  interficeret Latona 

oleam  tenens  parit  Apollinem  et  Dianam 

Apollo  Pythonem  sagittis  interfecit.” Hy- 

ginus, Fab.  140. 

In  this  fable  we  recognise  some  remarkable 
features  corresponding  with  the  Fall  and  Re- 
demption 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  \ 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 ; Adaman- 
tius  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 

1 Ovid,  Met.  i.  438. 

2 Faber,  Pag.  Idol.  i.  441,  who  cites  Olaus  Wormius  de 
aureo  cornu. 




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  Phoebus — i.  e.  pure  ; and  obtain  posses- 
sion 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  righte- 
ousness ; and  his  second  advent , as  the  Lord  of 
the  universal  temple. 

2.  The  Dragon  of  the  Hesperides. — Hy- 
ginus , Fab.  30. — Apollodorus — Ovid  Met.  Hesiod , 

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  con- 
sidered 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 god- 
dess, 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 *,  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 constella- 
tion of  the  northern  hemisphere,  where  he  ap- 
pears, in  astronomical  mythology,  between  the 
greater  and  lesser  bear.  Hercules  is  depicted 
upon  the  sphere  as  pressing  the  dragons  head 
with  his  left  foot — “ Sinistro  autem  toto  caput 
draconis  opprimere  conatur2” — 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 

1 Hygin.  Fab.  30. 

2 Hygin.  Poet.  Astron.  422. 



gods  was  opposed  to  Minerva,  who  “ hurled  him, 
contorted  as  he  was,  to  the  skies,  and  fixed  him 
to  the  axis  of  the  heavens  V’ 

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  de- 
scribed. 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  Sep- 
tuagint. “ By  his  hand  he  has  slain  the  apos- 
tate 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 
1 Hygin.  Poet.  Astron.  362. 

2 “ Apaicoyra  aTrooTtmjv.” 


with  stories  of  serpents  vanquished  hy  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  Lernsean  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 


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  writh  the 
woman  seems  to  be  remembered  in  the  tradi- 
tionary property  attributed  to  this  dragon — 
*X?^TO  ^ <p(*jvaig  Travrolaig — so  says  Apollodorus 3 : 
— “ He  used  all  kinds  of  voices — of  which,  in 

1 Montfaucon,  i.  plate  64.  2 Stukeley,  Abury,  69. 

3 Lib.  ii.  s.  2. 



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  *,  who,  discoursing  of  the  primitive  con- 
dition 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  recol- 
lection of  the  conversation  of  Eve  with  the  ser- 
pent. 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, 

Polit.  fol.  272.  Edit.  Steph. 


and  the  opening  of  her  eyes  in  consequence, 
may  be  detected  under  the  fables  of  “ Melam- 
pus,”  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  dis- 
covered, moreover,  that  he  was  gifted  with  pro - 

Helenus  and  Cassandra  were  asleep  in  the 
temple  of  Apollo  \ when  they  acquired  the 
power  of  prophecy — “ the  passages  of  their 
senses  being  cleansed  by  the  tongues  of  ser- 
pents.” 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  un- 
derstand the  counsels  of  the  gods,  and  became 
very  excellent  prophets2.”  To  these  we  may 
add  the  case  of  Plutus,  mentioned  by  Aristo- 
phanes, p.  76.  Two  serpents  licking  the  eyelids 

1 Homer,  Iliad,  H.  Scholiast. 

2 Bochart.  Hieroz.  lib.  i.  fol.  21. 



of  this  personage,  who  was  blind , restored  him 
to  eyesight,  and  made  his  eyes  “ more  than 
humanly  acute  V’ 

Those  who  ate  serpents'  flesh  were  also  sup- 
posed to  acquire  the  gift  of  understanding  the 
languages  of  the  brute  creation — consult  Philos- 
tratus  de  vita  Apollonii,  lib.  iii.  c.  3, — wherein 
he  says,  that  the  Paracoe,  a people  of  India,  are 
said  to  have  “ understood  the  thoughts  and  lan- 
guages 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  evi- 
dently 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  mo- 
ther Ceres  obtains  permission  to  see  her,  and  is 
carried  thither  in  a car  drawn  by  serpents.  For 
“ Jupiter ,”  in  the  first  instance,  substitute 
“ Pluto  f and  the  story  will  be  scarcely  fabulous. 

1 Spanheim,  212. 


The  ruler  of  hell  will  then  appear  as  first  se- 
ducing 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  ser- 
pentine caduceus  in  his  hand  J.  The  transforma- 
tion of  heathen  deities  into  serpents , for  the  pur- 
pose of  deceiving  women,  is  of  constant  occur- 
rence 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 

1 Cerberus  himself,  the  watch-dog  of  Tartarus,  had  a 
dragon's  tail,  and  his  skin  was  studded  with  serpents'  heads 1. 




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  De- 
luge. It  is  the  natural  result  of  tradition  sup- 
plying the  place  of  written  documents,  when  the 
discriminating  power  of  the  true  religion  is  with- 
drawn 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 

z 2 


confounded  with  the  woman,  invests  her  at  once 
with  his  name  and  his  power.  Saturn  is  de- 
ceived by  a serpent-wife.  In  the  name  of  the 
stone , also,  which  was  devoured  by  the  de- 
ceived husband,  is  preserved  a memorial  of 
the  real  author  of  the  Fall.  This  stone  is  called 
Abadir,  the  signification  of  which  may  be 


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  Faher  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 bull ; 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  him- 
self 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  machina- 
tions 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  evil1.” 

In  this  legend  we  have,  in  fact,  hut  one  fa- 
bulous 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 

1 Faber,  Hor.  Mos.  i.  72 


deluge  checked  the  progress,  but  left  untouched 
the  seat,  of  evil,  which  could  only  he  “ 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, 
(accordingto  Dr.  Hyde,)  Azacha. — “The  serpent 
who  devours  men  and  beasts1.”  The  conten- 
tion of  the  Archangel  with  Satan  is  probably 
shadowed  out  in  the  hierogram  of  the  two  ser- 
pents, 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 

Maurice,  Hist,  of  Hind.  i.  315. 



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  V’ 

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 camel2.” 


A tradition  of  the  Brahmins  of  Hindustan. 

The  two  sculptures  of  Crishna  suffering , 
and  Crishna  triumphant , of  which  beau- 
tiful 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 

1 Sale’s  Koran,  ch.  ii.  note. 

2 Maimonides,  More  Nevoch.  281. 

3 Hist.  Hind.  vol.  ii. 


enormous  serpent,  ivho  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  con- 
quers a dragon , into  which  the  Assoor  Aghe 
had  transformed  himself  to  swallow  him  up  \ 
He  defeats  also  Kalli  Naga,  ( the  black  or  evil 
spirit  with  a thousand  heads,)  who,  placing  him- 
self 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. 

1 Maurice,  Hist.  Hind.  ii.  272. 



Since  I have  engaged  with  thee , thy  name  shall 
remain  through  all  the  period  of  time  : and  de- 
vatars  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 l. 


At  another  period  of  his  history  we  discover 
Crishna  destroying  the  daemon  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,  des- 
cribed in  the  Canino  catalogue,  in  the  Archseo- 
logia,  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 , 

1 Maurice,  Hist.  Hind.  ii.  276. 

2 Ibid.  ii.  89.  140.  3 Ibid.  iii.  88. 


and  her  human-divine  son,  who  was  only  vulner- 
able 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  Hindu  mytho- 
logy  by  the  votaries  of  the  latter,  who  first  em- 
braced Christianity  in  India.  The  only  plau. 
sible  ground  for  such  a conclusion  is  the  simi- 
larity 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  Hindus.  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  Hindu 

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 
hooks  of  science  and  religion  with  which  he  had 
fled1.  The  same  serpent  is  also  said  to  have 

Tod,  Rajasthan  i.  537. 



carried  off  Ella  the  daughter  of  Ichswaca  the 
son  of  Manu,  and  so  provoked  the  hostility  of 

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 , Nag  as,  or  Serpents , 
introduced  letters  into  India1.” 


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  Lore. 

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 


“ He  is  beautiful  in  figure,  but  his  mind  is  evil, 

1 Asiatic  Transactions,  vol.  ii.  p.  563. 


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 
hy  the  god  Thor  : and  Hela  shall  he  banished  into 
the  lower  regions1 .” 

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 — 

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  ser- 
pent 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 

1 Mallet,  Northern  Antiq.  i.  100.  Bishop  Percy's  transla- 



vomited  out  of  the  mouth  of  the  noxious 
reptile  h” 

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  gene- 
ral 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  pierc- 
ing serpent,  even  Leviathan  that  crooked  ser- 
pent : 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 

1 Faber  Pag.  Idol.  i.  442,  citing  the  Edda;  and  Hor. 
Mos.  i.  77. 

2 The  translation  ef  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  which  may 

mean  a whale,  or  a sea  serpent.  I follow  the  Septuagint. 


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  particu- 
larly, adored  him  under  the  former  ; the  Nor- 
thern 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  Scandi- 
navia 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  re- 
motest corner  of  the  globe. 




Hence  the  superstition  in  Mexico  and  Peru, 
where  the  serpent  was  adored  with  the  most  re- 
volting worship,  and  where  even  the  memory  of 
the  fall  of  man  by  the  instrumentality  of  the  ser- 
pent was  preserved. 

Baron  Humboldt,  in  his  44  Researches  concern- 
ing the  Antiquities  of  America ,”  gives  an  engrav- 
ing 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  ques- 
tion, “ whether  or  not  the  Mexicans  retained 
any  tradition  of  the  fall  of  man.” 

In  this  painting  is  described  a female  in  con- 
versation with  a serpent  who  is  erect.  This 
female,  we  are  assured,  is  called,  by  the  Mexi- 
cans, 44  woman  of  our  flesh”  and  is  considered 

as  44  THE  MOTHER  OF  THE  HUMAN  RACE.”  She 
is  always  represented  with  a great  serpent 1. 
44  The  serpent  represented  in  the  company  of 
4 the  mother  of  men’  is  the  genius  of  evil  ; 
and  is  also  described  as  4 crushed,’  and  some- 

Humboldt,  Res.  vol.  i.  p.  195. 


times  cut  to  pieces,  by  the  great  spirit 

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  Collection2, 
in  which  we  distinguish  a deity  in  human  form 
contending  with  a dragon.  The  god  is  victori- 
ous, and  in  the  act  of  thrusting  a sword  into 
the  dragons  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 

1 Humboldt,  Res.  vol.  i.  p.  228.  2 Mex.  Ant.  vol.  iii. 

2 Mex.  Ant.  vol.  iii. 



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  paint- 
ing, 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 

a a 


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  Chris- 
tian doctrines  in  the  garb  of  the  ancient  ido- 
latry. 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  pre- 
served 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” 

1 Purchas,  Pilgrims,  pt.  iv.  p.  1478. 

2 America,  vol.  iii.  p.  5. 



which  44  overcame  1 the  serpent,”  and  redeemed 

The  conversation  of  Eve  with  the  serpent  seems 
to  have  made  more  impression  upon  the  me- 
mory of  man  than  almost  any  other  event  in 
primeval  history  : as  from  the  singularity  of  the 
circumstance  we  might  expect.  It  is  remem- 
bered in  the  mythologies  of  Egypt,  Greece, 
Syria,  Hindustan,  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  44  these  people 
have  a tradition,  that  the  serpent  once  spoke 


1 “ They  overcame  him  by  the  blood  of  the  Lamb.” — Rev. 
xii.  11. 

2 Faber,  Pag.  Idol.  i.  274,  citing  Marsden  in  the  Chr.  Obs. 
Nov.  1810,  p.  724. 

a a 2 






I.  The  intimate  connexion  between  the  solar 
and  serpent  worship  has  already  been  ascer- 
tained. From  which  it  appears,  that,  in  the 
confusion  of  Pagan  idolatry,  these  superstitions, 
originally  independent,  became  so  closely  inter- 
woven, that  from  their  union  sprung  up  a new 
kind  of  idolatry,  and  a new  god,  who,  partaking 
of  the  attributes  of  the  sun  and  of  the  ser- 
pent, united  their  names , and  was  worshipped 
as  Apollo  l.  The  union  of  the  two  religions 
is,  not  obscurely,  intimated  in  the  legend  of 
Apollo  Pythius  ; in  which  this  deity  is  repre- 
sented as  taking  possession  of  a temple  which 

1 ’ AttoWiov  may  be  decomposed  into  Ap,  or  Ab,  serpens ; 
El,  deus ; and  On,  sol : so  that  serpens-deus-sol  is  the  name 
of  the  deity,  whose  other  title,  Phcebus,  (Phi-oub)  denote^ 
the  oracular  serpent. 



had  been  originally  dedicated  to  the  serpent 

The  same  god,  Apollo,  was  sometimes  called 
Ophel,  which  is  nearly  the  same  name,  drop- 
ping only  the  syllable  On,  which  signifies  the 
sun ; for  by  this  time  the  word  El  had  arrived 
at  the  same  signification.  El  means  god , from 
the  Hebrew  ; and  when  the  sun  came  to  be 
deified,  he  was  naturally  called  El,  whence 
the  Greeks  obtained  the  word  ''HAioc,  to  denote 
“ the  sun ” 

Apollo,  then,  being  the  serpent-solar 
deity,  his  temples  will  be  those  in  which  we 
must  look  for  the  temples  of  the  serpent  ; for 
though  in  a few  instances  we  may  find  the  ser- 
pent adored  alone,  yet  in  no  place  shall  we  find 
a serpent-temple,  in  which  the  rites  of  the  sun 
were  not  also  partially  celebrated. 

1.  Upon  the  introduction  of  images  to  express 
objects  of  worship,  the  solar  deity  was  not  un- 
frequently  represented  by  conical  stones  in  an 
upright  position.  These  were  called  by  the 
Greeks  fiaiTvXia — derived  probably  from  the 
Hebrew,  “ the  house”  or  “ dwelling-place 

of  God  ” The  earliest  mention  of  such  a stone 
occurs  in  Gen.  xxviii.  where  Jacob  erects  one 



as  a pillar,  in  remembrance  of  his  celebrated 
dream,  and,  consecrating  it  to  God,  calls  the 
name  of  the  place  Bethel.  In  process  of  time  the 
stone  itself  was  called  Bethel , and  similar  pillars 
were  hence  named  fiaiTv\ia,  and  supposed  to  be 
animated  with  the  presence  of  the  deity  \ The 
Ophites  called  them  Abadir1 2,  from  the  name  of 
the  serpent-solar  god  : and  they  were  conical , 
as  representing  a ray  of  the  sun. 

These  conical  pillars  gave  the  first  notion  of 
an  obelisk,  which  is  a similar  monument  on  a 
larger  scale.  The  word  obelisk , according  to 
Bryant,  is  derived  from  Obel,  the  name  of  the 
god  to  whom  they  were  dedicated.  This  was 
hellenized  into  bpeXioicoq.  Obel  was  the  Apollo 
of  Syria ; and,  probably,  Heliogabalus  was 
the  same  deity  ; for  this  god  was  represented 
by  a black  stone  of  conical  form,  which  was 

1 See  Bochart.  Geog.  Sacr.  1.  i.  p.  38 ; also  Maurice,  Ind. 
Antiq.  ii.  347*  Sanchoniathon  in  his  Cosmogony  has  the 
following  passage  : “ Moreover  they  say  that  the  god 
Ouranus  invented  the  Baitulia,  having  made  stones  which 
were  animated .”  It  is  possible  that  the  rocking  stones  of  the 
Druids  may  have  been  erected  to  perpetuate  the  same 

a Bryant,  Anal.  i.  60,  and  ii.  201. 



said  to  have  dropped  from  heaven,  and  was 
revered  as  an  image  of  the  sun,  at  Emesa. 

In  the  Caaba  of  Mecca  there  is  also  a black 
stone,  said  to  have  fallen  from  heaven.  The 
Mahometans  generally  hold  it  in  great  venera- 
tion \ This  was,  probably,  of  the  same  kind 
as  the  Heliogabalus  of  Emesa — a probability 
which  is  strengthened  by  the  name  of  the  tem- 
ple— Caaba : for  this  word  may  be  a corruption 
of  Ca-ab-ir , which  means  “ the  temple  of  Abir,” 
the  solar  serpent1  2 . 

Pyramids  were  obelisks  of  the  most  mag- 
nificent order ; but  it  is  supposed  by  Bryant 
that  the  obelisk  originally  represented  the  deity , 
of  whom  the  pyramid,  in  times  of  improved 
architecture,  was  the  temple 3.  As  the  obelisk 
was  an  improvement  upon  the  original  Baitulia, 
it  preserved  the  pointed  form  of  these  sacred 
stones  in  its  apex — every  obelisk  terminating  in 
a small  pyramidal  figure,  which,  like  the  Baitu- 
lia, was  intended  to  be  the  representation  of  a 

1 Sale’s  Prelim.  Disc,  to  the  Koran,  p.  156. 

2 See  Ch.  iii.  s.  2,  “ Ophiolatreia  in  Samothrace.” 

3 Pyramids  were  however,  frequently  used  as  sepulchres. 
The  Mexican  temples  which  were  pyramidal,  united  both  the 
templar  and  sepulchral  character. 



suns  ray.  The  word  pyramid  itself  means  “ a 
ray  of  the  sun  V’  from  the  Coptic  Pi-ra-mu-e. 

2.  An  aggregate  of  Baitulia  formed  the 
first  temples  which  were  erected  : and  these 
temples  were  generally  built  in  the  figures  of  the 
hierograms  of  their  respective  gods.  Thus  the 
worshippers  of  the  sun  arranged  their  Baitulia  in 
a circle , to  represent  the  suns  disk . Many  such 
temples  are  scattered  through  Europe,  especially 
in  Britain.  Stonehenge  is  of  this  description  ; but 
from  the  transverse  stones  which  rest  upon  the 
columns,  and  the  evident  signs  of  art  and  the 
chisel,  this  temple  seems  to  be  of  a much  more 
recent  date  than  any  other  Druidical  structure 
now  extant.  It  is  observable  however  that  even 
in  Stonehenge  the  upright  columns  are  somewhat 
of  the  pyramidal  figure- — thus  preserving  the 
memory  of  their  original  consecration  to  the  sun. 

As  the  worshippers  of  the  sun  collected  their 
Baitulia  into  circular , so  the  votaries  of  the  ser- 
pent formed  theirs  into  a serpentine  figure. 
Examples  of  this  structure  may  be  seen  in  several 
parts  of  England,  but  more  especially  at  Carnac 
in  Britany ; which  is  the  most  extensive  and 
most  remarkable  relic  of  the  Celtic  religion  in 
1 Jablonski  Panth.  iEgyp.  Prolegom.  82. 




the  world.  Of  this  kind  also  was  the  Ophite 
temple  described  in  Ovid,  as  passed  by  Medea 
in  her  flight  from  Attica  to  Colchis — 



That  the  ancient  Ophite  temples  were  built  of 
single  and  separate  stones  arranged  after  the 
manner  of  the  avenues  of  Carnac  is  probable 
from  the  devices  which  appear  on  Tyrian  coins, 
where  a serpent  is  seen  between  two  upright 
unhewn  columns. 

3.  In  process  of  time,  however,  the  simple  ser- 
pentine avenues  underwent  a great  and  elegant 
change.  Instead  of  the  solitary  snake,  moving 
in  graceful  sinuosities  over  hill  and  dale,  or 
lying  dormant  in  an  uniform  straight  line,  the 
serpent  was  made  to  wind  his  majestic  form 
through  the  centre  of  a circle  or  globe.  The 
sinuosities  were  still  characteristically  preserved, 
and  the  circular  area  as  well  as  the  serpentine 
avenues  was  still  formed  of  the  sacred  Baitulia. 
The  temple  of  Abury  in  Wiltshire  was  a beauti- 
ful specimen  of  this  order  of  Ophite  sanctuaries. 
This  description  of  temple  may,  I conceive,  have 
arisen  from  the  union  of  the  Solar  and  Ophite 
religions,  after  the  suppression  of  the  latter  by 



the  votaries  of  the  former.  The  constant  wars 
of  the  sun  and  serpent,  and  the  general  over- 
throw of  the  Ophite  worship,  have  been  alluded 
to  in  the  course  of  this  volume  : but  in  the  next 
chapter  I shall  enter  into  a more  minute  account. 
From  the  details  it  will  appear  that  the  wor- 
shippers of  the  Sun,  being  victorious,  every 
where  took  possession  of  the  Ophite  temples. 
It  is  probable  that  in  so  doing,  they  did  not  at 
once  destroy  them : but  building  their  own 
circular  temples  in  the  centre,  formed  the  ori- 
ginal serpent  into  avenues  and  approaches  to  the 
Sanctuary  of  the  sun.  This  compound  temple 
was  called  a dracontium  : from  which  is  derived 
the  name  and  the  idea  of  a dragon,  which  is  a 
fabulous  monster  frequently  mentioned  but  little 
understood  by  the  poets  who  employed  it  to 
decorate  a tale  of  wonder.  “ Dracontium”  has 
been  ingeniously  imagined  by  my  friend  the 
Rev.  George  Andrews,  to  be  a derivation  from 
( Derech  On) — “an  avenue  of  On:' 
on  being  the  title  of  the  sun  in  Egypt  and 
Phoenicia.  This  derivation  is  the  most  expres- 
sive that  can  be  assigned,  and  accounts  at  once 
for  the  origin  of  the  fabulous  dragon , which  is 
said  to  have  been  a large  serpent  peculiar  to 



temples.  Thus  Servius  in  his  Commentary 
on  Virgil,  defining  the  different  kinds  of  ser- 
pents, says,  4 4 Angues  aquarum,  serpentes  ter- 
rarum,  Dracones  templorum  sunt  — not  that 
Servius  understood  the  word  “ Draco”  in  the 
sense  above  given,  but  that  he  recorded  the 
language  of  tradition , and  tradition  preserved 
the  memory  of  the  fact.  The  word  “ Dracon- 
tium  ” as  significant  of  a solar  Ophite  temple, 
would  be  readily  adopted  even  by  the  Ophites 
themselves.  For  while  the  sun-worshippers  un- 
derstood by  it  “ an  avenue  of  the  Sun,”  the 
serpent-worshippers  would  merge  the  circle  in 
the  avenues,  and  call  the  whole  a dragon — a 
large  serpent.  Hence  the  origin  and  the 
superstition  of  the  dragon. 

The  Dracontia  of  the  Solar-Ophites  were  of 
various  forms,  embracing  every  figure  of  the 
Ophite  hierogram 1.  Some  were  straight — 
others  were  formed  by  one  serpent  passing 
through  the  circle  ; and  others  again  consisted 
of  a circle  and  two  issuing  serpents. 

The  temples  of  Merivale  on  Dartmoor  ; Abury 
in  Wiltshire  ; and  Stanton  Drew  in  Somerset- 

See  plate  1 . 

m Tubbs/.rxl by  J.G>  i JlMrin? 

• Ouuxh  IcuiL  & Waterloo Tiace.  1 



shire,  respectively  illustrate  the  above  figures. 
These  I shall  describe  in  their  order.  But  first 
it  may  be  proper  to  consider  the  more  simple, 
before  we  describe  the  complex  dracontium.  I 
will  therefore  begin  with  the  temple  of 


1.  The  dracontium  of  Carnac  is  one  of  the 
most  interesting  remains  of  the  Celtic  religion. 
It  is  situated  half  a mile  from  the  village  of  that 
name,  in  the  department  of  the  Morbihan  in 
Britany ; nine  miles  from  the  beautifully  situated 
town  of  Auray,  and  approaches  to  within  a mile 
of  the  Bay  of  Quiberon. 

I visited  this  temple  in  the  summer  of  1831, 
and  again  in  the  spring  of  1832.  In  my  first 
visit  I was  accompanied  by  General  de  Pen- 
houet,  an  antiquary  highly  esteemed  in  his 
native  Britany,  who  had  inquired  deeply  into 
the  nature  and  figure  of  the  temple.  He  pro- 
nounced it  to  be  a Dracontium  : — an  opinion 
which  has  been  confirmed  by  my  subsequent 
survey  of  it  made  in  company  with  Mr.  Murray 
Vicars,  a landsurveyor  of  Exeter ; by  whose 
exertions  I have  been  furnished  with  a beautiful 



and  accurate  plan  of  the  whole  temple  upon  the 
scale  of  nine  inches  to  a mile. 

The  temple  known  as  “The  Stones  of  Carnac,” 
begins  at  the  village  of  Erdeven,  passes  midway 
by  Carnac,  and  terminates  at  a narrow  part  of 
the  Marine  lake  of  La  Trinite.  The  whole 
length  of  the  temple,  following  its  sinuosities, 
is  eight  miles.  The  average  width  from  Erdeven 
to  Lemaenac,  is  200  feet ; and  from  Lemaenac 
to  the  end,  350  feet.  The  highest  stones  are  at 
Kerzerho,  Lemaenac,  Kermario,  and  Kerlescant; 
at  which  points  they  average  from  15  to  17  feet 
high,  and  from  30  to  40  feet  in  circumference. 
The  vacant  spaces,  noticed  below,  have  been 
cleared  to  build  the  adjacent  villages  of  Plou- 
harnel  and  Carnac,  and  the  numerous  walls 
which  intersect  the  country  : — 

From  a to  h the  stones  have  been  removed ; 
from  h to  c they  reappear. 

From  c to  d there  is  a vacancy ; from  d to  e a 

From  e to  f no  stones  are  visible ; from  f to  g 
a few. 

From  g to  h is  a dreary  waste  ; at  h there  may 
have  been  an  area  similar  to  Lemaenac  ; from 
h to  k is  a continuation  of  stones. 



From  k to  l is  another  vacancy  ; at  Z,  m,  n,  o , 
are  a few  stones  ; the  intermediate  spaces  void. 

From  Lemaenac  to  p is  a beautiful  con- 

From  jo  to  q are  only  a few  scattered  stones. 

From  q to  r the  parallelitha  are  preserved  ; 
from  r to  s broken. 

From  Kerlescant  to  the  end  the  Dracontium  is 
perfect  h 

The  labour  of  its  erection  may  be  imagined 
from  the  fact,  that  it  originally  consisted  of 
eleven  rows  of  stones , about  ten  thousand  in 
number,  of  which,  more  than  three  hundred 
averaged  from  fifteen  to  seventeen  feet  in  height , 
and  from  sixteen  to  twenty  or  thirty  feet  in  girth  : 
— one  stone  even  measuring  forty -two  feet  in  cir- 

From  the  accompanying  plate  it  will  be  seen 
that  the  course  of  the  avenues  is  sinuous , de- 
scribing the  figure  of  an  enormous  serpent 
moving  over  the  ground.  But  this  resemblance 
is  more  striking  upon  an  actual  inspection  of 
the  original.  Then  the  alternations  of  the  high 

1 For  a more  detailed  description,  see  Archaeol.  vol.  xxv. 
b b 



and  low  stones,  regularly  disposed,  mark  with 
sufficient  accuracy  the  swelling  of  the  serpent's 
muscles  as  he  moves  along:  and  a spectator 
standing  upon  one  of  the  Cromlech  hills,  round 
which  the  serpent  sweeps,  cannot  but  be  struck 
by  the  evidence  of  design  which  appears  in  the 
construction  of  the  avenues. 

In  the  course  of  the  Dracontium  there  are  two 
regularly  defined  areas  ; one,  near  the  village 
of  Carnac,  which  is  of  the  shape  of  a horse  shoe, 
or  a hell;  the  other  towards  the  eastern  ex- 
tremity, which  approaches  the  figure  of  a rude 
circle,  being  a parallelogram  with  rounded  cor- 
ners. There  are  appearances  also,  but  too  ill- 
defined  to  be  noticed,  of  other  areas  of  a similar 

The  circle  and  the  horse  shoe  were  both  sacred 
figures  in  the  Druidical  religion,  as  may  be  seen 
in  Stonehenge  where  they  are  united  ; the  outer 
circles  inclosing  inner  horse  shoes.  I cannot 
find  any  connection  between  the  latter  symbol 
and  the  tenets  of  the  Celtic  religion,  unless  it  be 
intended  as  a representation  of  the  moon.  The 
torques  (of  which  a splendid  collection,  twelve 
in  number,  and  £1000  sterling  in  value  in  pure 


37  I 

gold,  was  found  in  Britany  in  1832,)  were  of  the 
lunar  form.  And,  perhaps,  from  this  symbol 
(whatever  it  may  have  expressed)  was  derived 
the  superstition  so  prevalent  in  Britain,  of 
nailing  a horse  shoe  over  a door  to  scare  away 
evil  spirits,  in  the  same  manner  as  the  sign  of 
the  cross  is  supposed  to  be  efficacious  by  super- 
stitious Roman  Catholics.  The  worshippers  of 
Carnac  may,  on  this  supposition,  have  been 
lunar  Ophites  ; but  this  is  mere  conjecture. 

It  is  curious,  however,  that  at  Erdeven,  where 
the  temple  commences,  an  annual  dance,  de- 
scribing the  Ophite  hierogram  of  the  circle  and 
serpent , is  still  kept  up  by  the  peasants  at  the 
Carnival.  But  the  only  tradition  which  I could 
find  respecting  the  stones,  was  the  universal 
superstition  that  they  once  possessed  life , and  were 
petrified  as  they  stand.  Some  of  the  peasants 
believe  that  they  were  the  Roman  army  who 
pursued  the  centurion  Cornelius  on  account  of 
his  conversion  to  Christianity  ; and  wTere  petrified 
through  his  prayers.  Others  imagine  that  certain 
supernatural  dwarfs  erected  them  in  one  night, 
and  still  inhabit , each  the  stone  which  he  erected. 
Both  these  opinions  have  their  remote  origin 

b b 2 



in  the  animated  Baitulia ; and  are  paralleled  by 
similar  traditions  in  England,  &c.  respecting  the 
Solar  and  Ophite  temples. 

Near  that  part  of  the  dracontium  which  ap- 
proaches Carnac  is  a singular  mound  of  great 
elevation,  which  was  once  evidently  conical — 
the  upper  portion  of  it  being  artificial.  It  is 
analogous  to  the  remarkable  hill  of  Silbury, 
which  is  similarly  connected  with  the  dracon- 
tium of  Abury.  These  mounds  were  probably 
raised  for  the  purpose  oh  altars,  upon  which  the 
perpetual  fire  kindled  by  the  sun,  was  kept 
burning,  in  conformity  with  the  rites  of  the  Solar 
religion.  They  are  very  common  in  Persia, 
and  may  be  alluded  to  in  Scripture  under  the 
name  of  “ the  high  places,”  upon  which  idolatry 
performed  her  rites.  The  conical  mound  near 
Carnac,  which  is  so  situated  as  to  be  seen  for 
many  miles,  and  from  every  part  of  the  temple, 
has  been  consecrated  by  the  Christians  to  the 
Archangel  Michael  : to  whom  also  is  sacred 
almost  every  natural  or  artificial  cone  in  Britany. 
The  reason  of  this  dedication  may  be  readily 
assigned.  St.  Michael  is  the  destroyer  of  the 
spiritual  dragon  of  the  Apocalypse  ; whose 



mutilated  image  lies  prostrate  below  the  mound, 
and  whose  worshippers  were  converted  to  the 
faith  of  the  triumphant  religion,  which,  in 
token  of  its  victory,  erected  upon  the  solar 
mount  a chapel  dedicated  to  the  destroyer  of 
“ the  apostate  serpent.”  By  this  consecration 
then  is  indicated  the  triumph  of  Christianity 
over  Ophiolatreia  : and  it  is  but  consistent  that 
the  people  who  allegorized  the  conversion  of  the 
Ophites  by  the  metaphor  of  a victory  over  ser- 
pents should,  in  token  of  this  victory,  erect  upon 
the  high  places  of  idolatry,  chapels  to  the  Arch- 
angel, the  enemy  and  the  victor  of  the  serpent- 

This  mound  may  possibly  have  given  name 
to  the  adjacent  village  which  may  be  called 
Carn-ac,  from  “ Cairn”  a hill,  and  “ hac ,”  a 
snake.  The  “ serpent’s  hill”  would  be  an  ap- 
propriate title  for  Mont  St.  Michel.  In  the 
same  manner  the  collection  of  columns  called 
Lemaenac , may  have  been  named  from  maen , 
“ stones,”  and  “ hac,”  a snake. 

In  illustration  of  the  dracontium  of  Car- 
nac  may  be  adduced  a small  but  interesting 
Ophite  temple  in  the  lie  aux  Moines,  in  the 
Morbihan.  The  only  part  of  this  temple  now 



perfect  is  the  lunar  or  campanula  area,  cor- 
responding to  that  in  the  dracontium  of  Carnac, 
which  seems  to  have  occupied  the  centre  of  the 
sanctuary.  Some  few  of  the  stones  which  com- 
posed the  avenues  are  standing,  but  very  scat- 
tered. Many  have  been  removed  within  the 
last  twenty  years  to  build  walls  and  houses.  At 
the  southern  extremity  of  the  avenues  the  dra- 
contium terminated  in  an  oblong  tumulus  of 
considerable  dimensions  : one  end  of  which  being 
opened,  has  exposed  to  view  a very  beautiful 
Kistvaen.  There  was  also  an  obelisk  at  the  head 
of  the  tumulus.  But  the  most  remarkable  cir- 
cumstance attending  this  tumulus  is  its  name — 
it  is  called  Pen-Ab — that  is,  “ the  head  of  Ab,” 
the  sacred  serpent  ! Now,  although  this  coin- 
cidence, without  the  knowledge  of  the  temple’s 
course,  would  prove  little  or  nothing ; yet  com- 
bined with  the  fact,  that  parallel  and  sinuous 
avenues  have  once  existed,  running  from  Penab 
towards  the  middle  of  the  island,  and  calling  to 
mind  the  general  custom  of  the  ancient  world 
which  involved  the  name  of  the  deity  in  that  of 
the  temple — we  may  fairly  infer  that  this  temple 
of  the  lie  aux  Moines  was  a dracontium  sacred 
to  the  Ophite  deity  Ab. 





Ora  fort  HHL 



liatli  Road- 



The  name  of  the  island  itself — “ the  Isle  of  the 
Monks  f records  probably  some  early  establish- 
ment of  Druids,  the  recollection  of  whom  has 
been  thus  preserved. 

There  are,  I believe,  other  dracontia  in 
Britany  and  Gaul ; but  not  having  examined 
them  personally,  I pass  on  to  those  in  our  own 
country,  which  bear  the  most  evident  marks  of 
their  Ophite  dedication. 

2.  The  most  remarkable  dracontium  in  Eng- 
land is  that  of  Abury  in  Wiltshire,  about  five  miles 
west  of  Marlborough,  on  the  Bath  road ; over 
which  thousands  of  travellers  pass  without  dream- 
ing that  the  ground  upon  which  they  tread  was 
once  esteemed  the  most  holy  in  Britain.  Of 
the  temple  of  Abury  an  invaluable  account  has 
been  left  by  the  learned  and  ingenious  Dr. 
Stukeley,  in  a volume  replete  with  deep  research 
and  interesting  facts.  Having  perused  this 
volume  with  the  attention  which  it  demands, 
the  reader  should  next  have  recourse  to  the 
splendid  work  of  Sir  Richard  Colt  Hoare  on 
“ the  History  of  Ancient  Wiltshire ,”  in  which 
he  will  discover  Abury  as  it  is,  in  the  ruins  of 
its  magnificence.  The  theory  of  Stukeley  is 
here  sanctioned  by  an  indisputable  authority, 



and  his  errors  corrected  with  a judicious 

The  temple  of  Abury  may  be  thus  succinctly 
described  : — From  a circle  of  upright  stones, 
(without  imposts,)  erected  at  equal  distances, 
proceeded  two  avenues  in  a wavy  course,  in 
opposite  directions.  These  were  the  fore  and 
hinder  parts  of  the  serpent’s  body,  and  they 
emerged  from  the  lower  segment  of  the  circle, 
through  which  the  serpent  appeared  to  be  pass- 
ing from  west  to  east.  Within  this  great  circle 
were  four  others,  considerably  smaller,  two  and 
two,  described  about  two  centres,  but  neither 
of  them  coincident  with  the  centre  of  the  great 
circle.  They  lay  in  the  line  drawn  from  the 
north-west  to  the  south-east  points,  passing 
through  the  centre  of  the  great  circle.  The 
great  outer  circle  surrounded  the  chief  part  of 
the  village  of  Abury  or  Avebury  ; and  was  itself 
encompassed  by  a mound  and  moat.  The  head 
of  the  serpent  was  formed  of  two  concentric 
ovals,  and  rested  on  an  eminence  called  Overton 
Hill.  This  part  of  the  temple,  as  long  as  it 
stood,  was  traditionally  named  in  the  neigh- 
bourhood, the  sanctuary.  It  was  destroyed  1 in 

1 The  following  extract  from  Pepys’s  Diary,  proves  that  the 



the  seventeenth  century,  through  the  rapacity 
of  the  farmers,  who  converted  the  stones  into 
materials  for  building,  and  repairing  the  roads. 
Overton  Hill,  upon  which  the  head  of  the  ser- 
pent rested,  is  the  southern  promontory  of  the 

sanctuary  was  perfect  in  1688.  “ In  the  afternoon  came  to 

Abury,  where  seeing  great  stones  like  those  of  Stonehenge 
standing  up,  I stopped,  and  took  a countryman  of  that  town, 
and  he  carried  me  and  showed  me  a place  trenched  in  like  Old 
Sarum  almost,  with  great  stones  pitched  in  it,  some  bigger  than 
those  at  Stonehenge  in  figure,  to  my  great  admiration  : and  he 
told  me  that  most  people  of  learning  coming  by  do  come  and 

view  them,  and  that  the  king  (Charles  II.)  did  so : 

I gave  this  man  one  shilling.  So  took  coach  again,  seeing  one 
place  with  great  high  stones  pitched  round,  which  I believe  was 
once  a particular  building  in  some  measure  like  that  of  Stone- 
henge. But  about  a mile  off,  it  was  prodigious  to  see  how 
full  the  downes  are  of  great  stones  ; and  all  along  the  valley 
stones  of  considerable  bigness,  most  of  them  growing  certainly 
out  of  the  ground  : which  makes  me  think  the  less  of  the  won- 
der of  Stonehenge,  for  hence  they  might  undoubtedly  supply 
themselves  with  stones  as  well  as  those  of  Abury.”  Vol.  iv. 
p.  131. 

To  a person  acquainted  with  the  localities  of  Abury,  Kennet, 
and  the  Grey  Wethers,  it  is  needless  to  remark,  that  the  “ place 
with  great  high  stones  pitched  round — like  that  of  Stonehenge ,” 
which  the  traveller  saw  very  soon  after  getting  into  his  car- 
riage, and  about  a mile  before  he  reached  “ the  stones  in  the 
valley,”  was  the  sanctuary  upon  Overton  hill. 



Hakpen  hills ; and  Dr.  Stukeley  supposes,  that 
from  the  serpent's  head  the  range  was  so  named  ; 
for  Hakpen  is  a compound  word,  which,  in  the 
British  language,  bore  that  signification — Hak , 
a snake  ; and  Pen , the  head.  This  conjecture 
he  illustrates  by  the  pertinent  remark,  that  “to 
this  day,  in  Yorkshire,  the  peasants  call  snakes, 
hags  and  hag  worms1." 

The  tail  of  the  serpent  terminated  in  a valley 
towards  Beckhampton ; and  the  whole  figure 
was  so  contrived,  as  to  have  the  appearance  of 
a vast  snake  creeping  over  hill  and  dale.  From 
the  circle  to  the  head,  the  avenue  consisted  of 
one  hundred  stones  on  each  side.  The  head 
was  composed  of  a double  oval,  the  outer  con- 
taining forty,  and  the  inner  eighteen,  stones. 
The  tail  consisted  likewise  of  one  hundred  stones 
on  each  side,  and  was,  as  well  as  the  avenue  to 
the  head,  a mile  in  length.  The  area  enclosed 
by  the  circular  rampart,  which  surrounds  the 
great  circle,  is  twenty-eight  acres,  seventeen 
perches,  as  measured  by  Sir  R.  C.  Hoare. 

Midway  between  the  extremities  of  the  two 
serpentine  avenues,  where  a horizontal  line,  con- 

1 Stukeley,  Abury,  32. 



necting  them,  would  meet  a perpendicular  let 
fall  from  the  centre  of  the  great  circle,  is  a 
remarkable,  artificial,  conical  mound,  called  Sil- 
bury  Hill,  of  very  great  elevation.  This  is 
supposed,  by  Stukeley,  to  be  a sepulchral  mo- 
nument ; but  Sir  R.  C.  Hoare,  with  more  pro- 
bability, considers  it  to  be  a part  of  the  temple. 
It  is,  doubtless,  a mound  dedicated  to  the  solar 
deity,  like  the  pyramids  of  ancient  Greece  and 
Egypt ; and  corresponds  with  the  Opheltin  of 
classical  mythology,  and  the  Mont  St.  Michel  of 
Carnac.  In  connexion  with  the  serpent-temple, 
it  identifies  the  whole  structure  as  sacred  to  the 
deity  known  by  the  Greeks  as  Apollo.  Its  very 
name  imports  “ the  hill  of  the  sun.” 

A more  stupendous  monument  of  heathen 
idolatry,  than  Abury,  is  not  to  be  found  in 
England.  Many  of  the  stones  were  remaining 
in  their  positions,  when  Stukeley  surveyed  the 
temple  in  1723  ; but  a great  number  were 
destroyed  by  the  farmers  in  his  time,  and  many 
more  have  been  broken  up,  and  carried  away 
since.  The  work  of  devastation,  it  is  to  be 
feared,  is  not  yet  finished;  such  is  the  igno- 
rance and  barbarism  of  cupidity. 



There  are  now  remaining,  of  the  serpentine 
figure,  only  eleven  stones  of  the  avenue  between 
Abury  and  Kennet  : that  is,  of  the  avenue  which 
passing  through  West  Kennet  terminated  in  the 
serpent’s  head  on  Overton  Hill.  Marks  in  the 
ground  contiguous  to  eight  of  these  eleven  stones, 
show  the  original  position  of  four  others , which 
have  been  taken  away.  So  that  from  the  turn- 
pike gate  at  Avebury,  to  that  point  of  the  Bath 
road  which  passes  through  Kennet,  the  avenue 
may  be  traced  without  much  difficulty.  One 
very  large  stone  stands  near  the  entrance  of  the 
circle  ; and  between  two  others  the  road  passes 
as  it  approaches  Kennet ; the  remaining  eight , 
and  the  four  vacant  loci,  are  found  together  in 
a field  on  the  right.  The  large  stone  by  the 
circle,  and  the  two  which  are  nearest  to  the 
Bath  road,  are  accurate  guides  to  the  eye  in 
tracing  the  whole  avenue. 

Besides  these,  I observed  (Sept.  3,  1829), 
four  subverted  stones  in  the  descent  and  bottom 
of  the  hill  beyond  Kennet,  to  the  south  of  the 
Bath  road,  at  the  point  where  the  neck  of  the 
serpent  is  supposed  to  have  risen  on  Overton 
Hill.  These  are,  evidently,  the  remains  of  the 



avenue  from  Kennet  to  “the  sanctuary.”  Of 
“ the  sanctuary”  itself,  not  a single  stone  re- 

Of  the  Beckhampton  avenue,  only  two  stones 
retain  their  original  position ; and  these  are  in  the 
middle  of  the  avenue  \ I had  not  time  to  look 
for  the  loci  of  the  others  ; and  I therefore  refer 
the  reader  to  the  elaborate  descriptions  of  Dr. 
Stukeley  and  Sir  R.  C.  Hoare,  with  them 
lamenting,  that  in  a country  like  this  such  bar- 
barism should  have  been  permitted  as  would 
disgrace  the  most  uncivilized  of  the  hordes  of 
Tartary — destroying  piecemeal,  for  the  sake  of 
a few  tons  of  stone  or  a few  yards  of  barren 
ground,  one  of  the  most  interesting  and  vener- 
able monuments  of  antiquity  in  the  world. 

Some  of  these  stones,  however,  resisted  the 
utmost  efforts  of  the  destroyers,  who,  unable  to 
break,  sunk  them  in  the  ground  by  digging  pits 
about  them.  Two  of  these  stones  lie  six  feet 
under  ground  in  the  premises  of  Mr.  Butler, 
the  landlord  of  the  Kennet  Inn,  and  over 
another  the  Bath  road  passes. 

In  the  time  of  Dr.  Stukeley,  the  peasants  of 

1 Sir.  R.  C.  Hoare,  Ancient  North  Wilts,  p.  78. 



the  neighbourhood  had  a tradition  that  “ no 
snakes  could  live  within  the  circle  of  Abury.” 
This  notion  may  have  descended  from  the  times 
of  the  Druids,  through  a very  natural  supersti- 
tion that  the  unhallowed  reptile  was  divinely 
restrained  from  entering  the  sanctuary,  through 
which  the  mystic  serpent  passed. 

There  have  been  found  at  Abury  the  usual 
Druidical  relics  of  Celts,  Anguina,  &c.  : and  a 
proof  that  this  was  once  a temple  of  very  great 
resort,  is  afforded  by  the  immense  quantities  of 
burnt  bones,  horns  of  oxen,  and  charcoal  which 
have  been  discovered  in  the  agger  of  the  vallum. 
These  are  indications  of  great  sacrifices.  Dr. 
Stukeley  was  doubtful  of  the  derivation  of  the 
word  Abury  ; but  I think  that  a probable  solu- 
tion may  be  found  in  the  compound  title  "HiTON 
serpens  soils , for  here  are  all  the  data  required. 
The  temple  was  the  Ophite  hierogram  • the 
officiating  priests  were  Druids,  whose  religion 
recognised  the  sun  as  a deity,  and  the  serpent 
as  a sacred  emblem  ; the  name  of  that  mystic 
serpent  was  Aub , and  a title  of  the  solar  deity? 
Aur  or  Ur : the  whole  temple  represented  the 
union  of  the  serpentine  with  the  circular  sanc- 
tuaries, that  is,  of  the  temples  of  the  Ophite  and 



To  face-  p. 

JlJtasde  sc. 

British  Dracontia. 

lorulort.Tuih.fhed  fry  J.C.&T.Jhvznpton,  StPauls  Church lanl  K.  7fatrr7oo Place. iS33. 



Solar  superstition.  What  name  then  could  be 
more  expressive  than  Aubur,  or  Abur,  “ the 
serpent  of  the  sun  ?”  The  present  name  of  the 
village  is  Avebury,  which  the  first  describer  of 
the  temple  (Mr.  Aubrey,  who  lived  in  the  seven- 
teenth century)  says,  should  have  been  written 
Aubury ; and  this  reading  he  found  in  the  legier- 
book  of  Malmesbury  Abbey  b 

3.  Stanton  Drew.  The  second  British  dra- 
contium  in  order  of  beauty,  is  that  of  Stanton 
Drew,  in  Somersetshire.  It  is  situated  near  the 
village  of  Pensford,  about  five  miles  west  of 

This  temple,  which  is  much  dilapidated, 
originally  consisted  of  one  large  circle  connected 
by  avenues  wTith  two  smaller  ; and  thus  described 
the  second  order  of  the  Ophite  hierogram — 
the  circle  and  two  serpents.  In  Egyptian 

hieroglyphics,  when  two  serpents  are  seen 

in  connection,  one  typifies  the  Good  and 

the  other  the  Evil  Principle.  For  the  first 

knowledge  of  this  temple  as  a dracontium,  wre 
are  indebted  to  Sir  Richard  Colt  Hoare.  I 

1 See  Mr.  Aubrey’s  interesting  account  in  Sir  R.  C. 
Hoare’s  “Ancient  Wiltshire.” 



visited  it  in  1831,  and  made  the  following 

The  great  circle  is  at  present  contained  by 
only  thirteen  stones,  and  these  are  generally 
small,  and  much  worn  by  the  weather.  It  is 
probable  that  the  original  number  was  thirty. 
The  dimensions  of  this  circle  or  rather  oval, 
are  126  yards  by  115. 

A small  circle  of  eight  stones,  32  feet  in 
diameter,  was  connected  with  its  eastern  limb 
by  an  avenue  of,  perhaps,  twenty  stones.  The 
length  of  this  avenue  is  about  100  yards,  and 
it  is  remarkable  for  its  very  great  curvature, 
returning  at  a sharp  angle  towards  the  large 
circle,  as  if  to  represent  a snake  throwing  back 
his  head.  Only  ten  stones  of  this  avenue  remain. 
The  western  circle  is  at  the  distance  of  150 
yards ; and  consisted  of  ten  or  twelve  stones. 
Its  diameter  is  forty-three  yards,  but  I could 
trace  no  avenue  between  it  and  the  oval.  The 
ground  is  much  broken  in  this  part.  A wall 
intersects  it,  and  a road  to  a farm-yard  passes 
through  it.  So  that  the  removal  of  the  stones  may 
be  accounted  for  without  difficulty.  I have  no 
doubt  whatever  that  an  avenue  connecting  this 
smaller  circle  with  the  great  one,  once  existed — 



for  analogy  is  in  favour  of  the  hypothesis, 
although  no  traces  of  the  avenue  remain. 

I am  confirmed  in  my  opinion  by  a tradition 
of  the  neighbourhood,  which  almost  universally 
accompanies  Ophite  temples.  By  this  it  appears 
that  Keyna,  the  daughter  of  a Welsh  prince, 
who  lived  in  the  fifth  century,  having  left  her 
country  and  crossed  the  Severn  for  the  purpose 
of  finding  some  secluded  spot,  where  she  might 
devote  herself,  without  interruption,  to  religious 
contemplations,  arrived  in  the  neighbourhood  of 
Stanton  Drew.  She  requested  permission  from 
the  prince  of  the  country,  to  fix  her  residence 
at  Keynsham,  which  was  then  an  uncleared 
wood.  The  prince  replied,  that  he  would  readily 
give  the  permission  required  ; but  it  was  impos- 
sible for  any  one  to  live  in  that  place  on  account 
of  the  serpents , of  the  most  venomous  species, 
which  infested  it.  Keyna,  however,  confident 
in  her  saintly  gifts,  accepted  the  permission, 
notwithstanding  the  warning  : and  taking  pos- 
session of  the  wood,  “ converted  by  her  prayers 
all  the  snakes  and  vipers  of  the  place  into 
stones.  And  to  this  day,”  remarks  Capgrave, 
the  recorder  of  the  legend,  “ the  stones  in 
that  country  resemble  the  windings  of  serpents, 

c c 



through  all  the  fields  and  villages,  as  if  they 
had  been  so  formed  by  the  hand  of  the 

The  transformation  of  the  serpents  into  stone 
is  the  fable  which  almost  always  denotes  the 
neighbourhood  of  a Dracontium,  as  we  may  see 
in  the  legend  of  Cadmus  and  Harmonia,  Python, 
and  others.  The  remark  of  Capgrave  may 
allude  to  the  anguina , or  serpent-stones,  so  often 
found  in  the  vicinity  of  Druidical  temples  : or 
even  to  the  specimens  of  the  Cornua  Ammonis, 
which  I believe  are  sometimes  found  in  the 

4.  Dartmoor.  At  Merivale  bridge  on  Dart- 
moor,  four  miles  from  Tavistock,  is  an  interesting 
group  of  temples,  two  of  the  dracontian,  and 
two  of  the  circular  kind.  The  temples  on  Dart- 
moor are  usually  in  pairs.  Whenever  these 
are  circles  we  may  suppose  that  one  of  them  was 
sacred  to  the  sun,  and  the  other  to  the  moon, 
like  the  double  circles  within  the  great  circular 
area  of  Abury.  At  Merivale,  the  four  temples 
are  within  a few  yards  of  each  other ; and 
though  small,  are  tolerably  perfect — one  of  the 
circles  only  being  destroyed. 



The  avenues,  which  are  straight , run  parallel 
to  each  other,  east  and  west.  They  are  105 
feet  apart,  the  longer  is  1143  feet  in  length: 
the  shorter  792.  The  larger  of  these  temples  is 
of  the  same  order  as  that  of  Stanton  Drew, 
having  a central  circle,  and  two  avenues,  each 
terminated  by  a circle.  These  avenues  are 
straight : but  this  makes  no  difference  of  mo- 
ment from  the  theory  of  serpent  temples  ; for 
they  are  equally  Dracontia , i.  e.  “ Avenues  of 
the  sun .”  The  second  temple  has  but  one  circle, 
which  is  at  the  head,  and  corresponds  to  the 
Celtic  temple  of  Callernish,  in  the  island  of 
Lewis  ; but  the  latter  is  far  more  magnificent. 
Dr.  Stukeley  pronounced  Callernish  to  be  a 
Dracontium  ; but  from  the  descriptions  of  it  by 
Dr.  Borlase  and  others,  it  can  only  be  considered 
such,  if  that  title  be  extended  to  straight  avenues , 
as  well  as  those  which  are  sinuous. 

Of  this  rectilinear  order  there  are  other 
Dracontia  on  Dartmoor,  although  not  so  exten- 
sive as  those  of  Merivale.  On  the  brook  side 
below  Black  Tor,  are  two  avenues  parallel  to 
each  other,  and  running  east  and  west ; one  of 
which  may  be  traced  for  300  feet,  and  the 
other  for  180  feet.  They  are  forty  feet  apart, 

c c 2 



and  each  is  terminated  by  a circle  thirty  feet 
in  diameter  enclosing  a cairn.  The  stones 
average  the  same  height  as  those  at  Merivale, 
being  from  three  to  four  feet  in  elevation. 

Similar  avenues,  but  running  north  and  south, 
occur  on  Gidleigh  common,  of  which  the  stones 
are  three  feet  and  a half  high  and  triangular. 
They  may  be  traced  for  432  and  120  feet 

Other  monuments  of  the  same  nature  are 
scattered  over  Dartmoor,  which  from  the  multi- 
tude of  such  and  similar  British  remains  must 
at  one  time  have  been  very  thickly  inhabited. 
Vestiges  of  circular  huts  are  not  unfrequently 
seen  on  the  sides  of  hills,  now  seldom  pressed 
by  the  foot  of  man,  and  are  melancholy  me- 
morials of  unknown  ages,  nameless  tribes,  and 
generations  long  since  mingled  with  the  dust. 
It  is  probable  that  the  early  inhabitants  of 
Dartmoor,  were  driven  into  these  bleak  and 
barren  regions  from  pleasanter  and  more  fertile 
lands  by  the  pressure  of  the  Romans,  Saxons 
and  Danes  : and  that  the  parallelitha  and  circles 
above  described  were  built  in  humble  imitation 
of  more  splendid  temples  in  the  lower  country. 
All  the  works  on  Dartmoor  are  those  of  a 




feeble  and  impoverished  people,  but  amply 
illustrative  of  the  religion  which  they  exercised 
in  happier  times. 

5.  Shap.  The  longest  dracontium  in  Britain, 
and  the  only  one  that  in  extent  could  compete 
with  Carnac,  was  at  Shap  in  Westmorland. 
The  stones  were,  however,  small  as  compared 
with  those  of  Abury  ; the  largest  now  remaining, 
measures  only  eight  feet  in  height.  The  temple 
of  Shap  begins  at  about  half  a mile  south  of  the 
village  of  that  name,  in  a field  adjoining  the 
Kendal  road  ; and  from  this  point  proceeds  in 
a northerly  course,  crossing  the  road  near  Shap 
in  two  rows.  The  greatest  width  of  the  avenue 
is  at  the  head  in  the  field  above  mentioned, 
and  measures  eighty-eight  feet.  At  this  extre- 
mity it  is  bounded  by  a slightly  curved  line  of 
six  stones  placed  at  irregular  intervals ; but 
they  appear  to  have  been  never  erected.  Near 
Shap  the  two  rows  converge  to  the  width  of 
fifty-nine  feet,  and  again  separating,  but  not 
so  much  as  to  destroy  the  appearance  of  par- 
allelism, proceed  in  a northerly  direction,  in 
which  course  they  may  be  traced  at  intervals 
for  a mile  and  a half.  The  avenue  throughout 
preserves  the  sinuosities  of  the  serpent-temple. 



Although  scarcely  two  miles  of  the  temple 
are  now  recoverable,  yet  tradition  states  it  once 
extended  to  Moor  Dovey,  a distance  of  seven 
miles  from  Skap  ! In  this  respect  it  almost  rivals 
the  celebrated  Carnac,  which  can  only  be  traced 
for  eight  miles  ; but  in  the  number  and  magni- 
tude of  its  columns,  it  must  have  fallen  very 
short  of  the  grandeur  of  that  magnificent  dracon- 
tium.  Indeed  nothing  in  Britain  can  compete 
with  this  pride  of  Britany.  All  our  parallelitha 
contain  but  two  rows  of  stones,  whereas  the 
temple  of  Carnac  has  eleven  ! 

About  a mile  to  the  N.  E.  of  Shap  is  a circle 
composed  of  large  stones,  in  tolerable  preserva- 
tion ; but  whether  it  was  connected  with  the 
parallelithon  or  not,  I am  unable  to  determine. 
The  probability  of  the  connection  is  however 
great ; but  I fear  the  temple  is  in  too  dilapidated 
a state  to  solve  this  question. 

Dr.  Stukeley,  who  also  saw,  but  did  not  sur- 
vey the  temple  of  Shap,  pronounced  it  at  once 
to  be  a dracontium.  The  indications  must,  at 
that  time,  (one  hundred  years  since,)  have  been 
much  stronger  than  they  are  now.  A traveller 
in  these  days  would  hardly  notice  the  few  stones 
which  lie  by  the  side  of  the  Kendal  road.  Dr. 
Stukeley,  in  a letter  to  an  eminent  antiquary  of 



his  day,  mentions  with  approbation  a plan  of  the 
temple  of  Shap  as  drawn  by  a gentleman  of 
Carlisle ; but  I have  not  been  able  to  find  this 
document,  which  now  that  the  dracontium  is 
nearly  destroyed,  would  be  almost  invaluable. 

II.  The  above  are  the  principal  known  dra- 
contia  in  Europe.  Many  more  may  be  perhaps 
discovered  upon  diligent  inquiry.  Parallelitha, 
as  such , have  been  seen  by  thousands  of  travel- 
lers. The  majority  have  looked,  and  passed  on 
with  indifference  : better  informed  persons  have 
considered  them  as  merely  relics  of  the  Druidical 
superstition ; and  the  covetous  farmer  has  con- 
verted, with  a ruthless  hand,  their  venerable 
columns  into  materials  for  building  walls  or 
repairing  houses  ! But  a more  enlightened  age 
may  even  yet  rescue  from  annihilation  monu- 
ments which  have  been  at  once  the  work  and 
the  admiration  of  ages.  The  light  which  has 
been  thrown  upon  remote  antiquity  by  these 
venerable  ruins  is  too  strong  to  be  extinguished. 
It  is  like  their  own  perpetual  fire,  which,  though 
quenched  upon  Silbury  and  Mount  St.  Michael, 
still  burns  in  the  rites  of  the  ceremonial  religion 
which,  at  the  ashes  of  Baal,  has  kindled  the 
tapers  of  the  Church  of  Rome. 



Among  the  interesting  discoveries  which  re- 
sult from  the  theory  of  dracontia,  is  the  view 
which  it  developes  of  the  origin  of  columnar 
architecture.  We  admire  the  beauties  and  the 
grandeur  of  the  Parthenon  : we  gaze  with  rap- 
ture on  the  isolated  pillars  of  exquisite  work- 
manship, which  standing  upon  the  barren  and 
desolated  plains  of  Greece  or  Asia  Minor,  fill  us 
alternately  with  admiration  of  the  art  which 
executed,  and  indignation  at  the  barbarism 
which  defaced  them.  But  we  little  think  that 
in  the  rude  and  rugged  columns  of  Abury,  or 
Carnac,  we  see  a prototype  of  the  most  admired 
pillars  of  the  most  splendid  temples  of  ancient 
Greece  or  Asia  ! And  yet  there  can  be  little 
doubt  but  that  such  is  the  fact. 

The  temples  of  the  sun  at  Palmyra  and 
Geraza,  both  in  the  country  formerly  devoted 
to  the  worship  of  Oub,  the  serpent  god  of  Ca- 
naan, are  illustrations  in  point.  An  examina- 
tion of  their  columns,  which  supported  no  roof 
will  justify  the  inference  that  they  were  substi- 
tuted for  those  of  some  ancient  dracontia  occu- 
pying the  same  sites.  The  avenues  of  Palmyra 
particularly  illustrate  this  theory  by  their  sinuous 
course,  although  sinuosity  as  we  have  before 
observed,  is  not  indispensably  necessary  to  a dra- 

The  Temple  of  the  Sun  _ Ge?~aza.  Tllzeslralinp  the  projrre/s of  Columnar  Sl?'chileclure. 



contium,  several  (such  as  Callernish  and  the 
temples  on  Dartmoor)  being  straight.  The 
majority  of  serpent  temples  were  however  sinu- 
ous ; and  such  was  the  temple  of  the  sun  at 
Palmyra.  A long  avenue  of  two  double  rows  of 
columns  connected  the  portal  with  the  sanctuary 
which  was  in  the  shape  of  a parallelogram. 

The  sanctuary  of  Geraza  was  formed  by  a 
circle  of  columns,  connected  like  those  of  Stone- 
henge by  transverse  stones  resting  upon  their 
summits.  A straight  avenue  of  two  rows  led  to 
this  circle,  and  threw*  out  near  it  two  arms  of  a 
cross.  The  plan  of  the  temple  is  almost  a fac- 
simile of  the  dracontium  of  Callernish  ; while 
the  resemblance  of  its  circle  to  the  outer  one  of 
Stonehenge  would  almost  persuade  us  that  the 
architects  of  the  one  had  either  had  communi- 
cation with  those  of  the  other,  or  had  copied 
their  design. 

Nothing  is  more  probable  than  that  the  first 
step  in  templar  architecture  being  to  group 
together  the  isolated  baitulia,  the  second  would 
be  to  polish  and  carve  the  columns  already 
existing  in  a rude  state ; or  to  substitute  for 
them  others  of  a more  finished  kind.  Thus,  by 
degrees,  the  rough  “ pe tree  ambrosice  ” of  Greece 
or  Canaan  would  be  fashioned  into  the  elegance 



of  the  Parthenon,  or  of  the  temple  of  the  sun 
at  Palmyra.  And  although  the  one  had  no 
avenues,  and  the  other  no  circle,  yet  both  being 
columnar , may  be  referred  for  their  origin  to  the 
same  standard  of  early  architecture,  the  dracon- 
tium : for  the  varieties  of  the  dracontium  include 
every  figure  of  the  classical  temple.  The  dra- 
contium had  its  avenues,  straight  and  sinuous  ; 
its  circles  ; its  lunes ; its  ovals,  and  its  parallel- 
ograms. Merivale,  Abury,  and  Carnac,  exem- 
plify them  all. 

Many  may  deem  these  notions  crude  and 
extravagant  ; but  I confess  that  the  impression 
which  they  leave  upon  my  mind  is  great ; 
neither  can  I consent  to  efface  it  until  other  ex- 
planations, more  satisfactory  than  any  hitherto 
advanced,  supply  me  with  a better  theory  l. 

III.  Another  discovery  still  more  interesting 
and  useful  arises  from  the  doctrine  of  dracontia. 
By  this  may  be  obtained  a key  to  the  many 
absurd  and  incredible  histories  of  Pagan  mytho- 
logy respecting  enormous  serpents  and  dragons 

1 This  theory  was  first  suggested  to  me  by  my  friend  P.  C* 
Delagarde,  Esq.  of  Exeter  : to  whose  kindness  and  ingenuity  I 
am  indebted  for  many  improvements  in  this  edition. 



covering  acres  of  ground ; which  could  have  been 
nothing  but  vast  dracontia.  Dr.  Stukeley,  the 
inventor  of  the  theory,  has  himself  applied  it  to 
this  purpose ; and  as  a few  more  cases  may  be 
adduced  in  corroboration  of  his  opinion,  I will 
add  them.  The  facts  are  curious  ; but  the  prin- 
ciple upon  which  this  treatise  was  undertaken, 
is  altogether  independent  of  their  probability, 
although  it  may  be  greatly  illustrated  by  it. 
For  the  universal  prevalence  of  the  worship  of  the 
serpent , which  it  was  my  object  to  prove,  has,  I 
trust,  been  satisfactorily  shown. 

It  is  remarked  by  Stukeley,  that  the  cele- 
brated Python  was,  originally,  nothing  more 
nor  less  than  a serpentine  temple,  like  that  of 
Abury.  Python  is  described  by  Ovid  (Met.  i. 
459,)  as  covering  several  acres,— “ tot  jugera 
ventre  premen  tern.”  Of  the  same  kind,  Dr. 
Stukeley  thinks,  was  the  Tityus  of  Virgil,  who 
covered  nine  acres  of  ground. 

— “ Per  tota  novem  cui  jugera  corpus 


JEneid , vi.  596. 

In  corroboration  of  the  first  of  these  opinions 



we  may  observe  that  Homer  describes  Apollo  as 
building  a temple  1 on  the  spot  where  he  had  slain 
Python.  The  stones  of  which  it  was  composed 
were  “ broad  and  very  long.”  He  wTas  assisted 
by  Trophonius , who  laid  u the  threshold-stone 
and  a multitude  of  labourers  built  the  temple . 
Its  figure  was  circular  in  this  part ; for  such  I 
take  to  be  the  meaning  of  the  word  ’A^i,  in  the 
line  which  describes  the  labour1  2.  For  it  can 
hardly  mean  that  they  built  the  temple  “ round ” 
the  “ threshold .”  This,  then,  was  the  sanctum , 
and  may  have  corresponded  with  the  great  circle 
of  Abury. 

The  description  of  the  building  here  ceases ; 
and  the  confused  legend  makes  a transition  from 
the  temple  to  the  serpent  who  was  slain  there  by 
Apollo,  and  at  his  command  putrefied  upon  the 
spot  by  the  sun.  But  in  a few  lines  afterwards 
Apollo  is  described  as  meditating  what  sort  of 
men  he  shall  put  as  priests  into  his  “ stony 
Pytho3.”  By  the  same  epithet  he  describes 
Pytho  in  other  parts  of  his  works  ; and  Pinder  4 
makes  use  of  the  same  designation.  It  is  true 

2 ’A /ui(pl  vrjov  ’ivarraav. 
4 Olymp.  Ode  6. 

1 Hymn  to  Apollo,  294. 

3 WvQo~i  kv'i  7rerpr]£ffcrri.  1.  390. 



that  this  epithet  may  allude  only  to  the  rocky 
nature  of  the  soil  ; but  it  may  allude  also  to  the 
stones  of  the  temple,  and  would  be  employed 
probably  for  that  purpose,  on  the  supposition 
that  the  temple  was  of  the  serpentine  kind. 
There  is  something  remarkable  in  the  circum- 
stance that  Trophonius  should  be  concerned  in 
laying  the  chief  stone  ; and  though  Agamedes  is 
joined  with  him  in  the  office,  yet  Trophonius 
is,  assuredly,  not  a builder  of  the  temple,  but 
the  temple  itself.  For  we  have  already  seen  that 
Trophonius  is  no  other  than  Tor-oph-on,  “ the 
temple  of  the  solar  serpent .”  Here  then  we  have 
the  serpent  again  ! and  putting  all  these  detached 
facts  together,  making  also  due  allowance  for 
poetical  imagery  and  mythological  exaggeration, 
we  may,  not  unreasonably,  conclude,  that  the 
whole  history  relates  to  the  erection  of  a serpent- 
temple,  like  that  of  Abury. 

If  Ovid,  in  describing  Python,  alludes  to  the 
serpentine  figure  of  the  temple,  he  comes  nearer 
to  facts  when  he  represents  serpents  changed  into 
stone.  (Met.  xi.  56  : xii.  23.) 

In  these  instances  of  metamorphosis,  the  coin- 
cident features  of  the  story  indicate  Ophiolatreia. 
Thus  Apollo  is  the  person  who  petrifies  the  Les- 



bian  dragon  (Met.  xi.)  ; and  the  scene  of  the 
second  story  is  Boeotia,  a country  where  serpent- 
worship  was  peculiarly  prevalent. 

But  the  poet  comes  still  more  closely  to  the 
mark,  when  he  describes  the  flight  of  Medea 
from  Attica  to  Colchis.  Her  chariot  was  drawn 
by  dragons , and  she  was  passing  from  one  Ophite 
colony  to  another.  In  her  passage, 

“ iEoliam  Pitanem  laeva  de  parte  reliquit, 

Factaque  de  Saxo  longi  simulachra  Draconis 

When  we  consider  that  the  word  Pitane  may 
be  immediately  derived  from  serpens , we 
have  a presumptive  evidence  that  the  serpent  was 
worshipped  there : and  the  above  lines  from 
Ovid,  corroborating  the  conjecture,  describe  the 
temple ; which  was,  in  truth,  Longi  simulachra 
Draconis.  Had  the  poet  intended  to  describe 
Abury  or  Carnac,  he  could  not  have  represented 
them  more  accurately. 

Dr.  Stukeley  thinks  that  the  fable  of  Cadmus, 
“ sowing  serpents’  teeth,”  alluded  to  “ his 
building  a serpentine  temple which  is  not 
unlikely  : for  under  such  an  imagery  might  the 

1 Ovid.  Met.  vii.  357. 



stones  of  the  temple  be  poetically  described, 
the  order  of  teeth  being  that  in  which  such 
stones  were  erected,  single  and  upright,  at  equal 

Cadmus  and  Harmonia  were  changed  into 
serpents  at  Enchelise,  in  Illyria,  where  “ stones 
and  a temple  ” were  erected  to  their  memory. 
Scylax  Caryandensis,  cited  by  Bryant *,  says, 

Ka Sfiov  Kal  'Apfioviag  ol  \1O01  eloiv  evravda , ral  lepov. 

The  situation  of  this  temple  is  “ half  a day’s 
sail  from  the  river  Arion  V’  No  such  river 
occurs  in  the  maps  of  the  country ; and  Vos- 
sius  corrects  it  into  “ Drylo  but  Scylax,  who 
notices  so  few  things,  and  only  the  most  remark- 
able, in  his  brief  memoranda,  could  hardly 
have  been  mistaken  in  so  important  a matter  as 
the  name  of  a river.  The  temple  was  Ophite ; 
and  it  is  very  probable  that  the  nearest  river 
would  be  sacred  to  the  solar  deity.  For 
“ Arion”  compounds  the  two  titles  of  the  sun, 
Aur  and  On. 

“ The  temple,”  observes  Bryant,  “ was  an 
Ophite  Petra,  which  induced  people  to  believe 

1 Anal.  ii.  471. 

2 Scylax,  Periplus.  p.  9.  cum  notis  Vossii. 



that  there  were  in  these  temples  serpents  petri- 
fied l.  It  is  possible  that  in  later  times  the  deity- 
may  have  been  worshipped  under  this  form ; 
whence  it  might  be  truly  said  of  Cadmus  and 
Harmonia,  that  they  would  one  day  be  exhibited 
in  stone.”  Bryant  here  refers  to  Nonnus  Dionu- 
siac . 1.  xliv.  p.  1144,  who  says  of  Cadmus  and 

AaLverjv  ri/izWov  lyziv  bfjmbbta  popfprjv. 

This  line,  however,  I cannot  find  in  Nonnus  : 
but  one  not  much  unlike  it  occurs  in  lib.  xliv. 
line  367,  of  that  writer  : 

oic  %povoc  lp7rwv 

y'Q,7rao£  7r£rp^£0-(Tav  b(j>i<ljbea  fioptyriv. 

In  which  the  allusion  to  the  serpentine  form  of 
the  temple  appears  evident.  The  conversion  of 
temples  into  gods  is  of  common  occurrence  in 
mythology  ; and  I have  no  doubt  but  that  the 
line  from  Nonnus,  above  cited,  describes  the 
figure  of  the  XlOoi  kcu  lepov,  remarked  by  Scylax. 
Bryant  seems  to  think  that  “ the  stones ” sacred 
to  Cadmus  and  Harmonia  were  merely  styles — 

1 This  notion  was  derived  from  the  serpentine  figures  of  the 
temples  themselves. 



commemorative  pillars ; and  consequently  in- 
troduces the  word  44  two ” into  his  translation, 
which  is  not  in  the  original.  The  words  of  Scylax 
are,  44  Here  are  the  stones  and  temple  of  Cadmus 
and  Harmonia From  which  it  does  not  neces- 
sarily appear  that  44  the  stones'"  and  4 4 the  temple ” 
were  not  identical.  I believe  they  were  ; and  that 
they  constituted  a serpent-temple  like  Abury  : 
or,  as  Bryant  elsewhere  employs  the  word,  a 

For  the  origin  of  this  word,  44  dracontiumf  he 
adduces  a derivation  by  no  means  indicative  of 
his  usual  penetration.  Thus  he  tells  us,  that 
‘4  toward  each  extremity  of  the  oval  temples  of 
the  Phoenicians  were  erected  mounds,  on  which 
were  towers.  These  towers  were  generally  royal 
edifices,  and  at  the  same  time  held  sacred. 
They  were  termed  Tarchon , like  Tarchonium 
in  Hetruria,  which,  by  a corruption,  was  in 

latter  times  rendered  Trachon The 

term  Trachon  seems  to  have  been  still  further 
sophisticated  by  the  Greeks,  and  expressed 

A paKU)v\” 44  When  the  Greeks 

understood  that  in  these  temples  the  people 
worshipped  a serpent  deity,  they  concluded  that 
1 Anal.  ii.  132. 

d d 



Trachon  was  a serpent ; and  hence  came  the 
name  of  draco  to  be  appropriated  to  such  an 
animal  V’ 

How  much  more  simple  and  probable  is  the 
inference  of  Dr.  Stukeley,  who  reasons  from  a 
fact  ? Verbal  coincidences  can  never  be  put  in 
competition  with  historical  facts ; but  in  the 
case  before  us,  these  coincidences  are  strained, 
and  the  fact  of  the  existence  of  a serpentine 
temple  at  Abury  placed  beyond  all  doubt2. 
This  error  of  Bryant  leads  him  into  another, 
when  he  talks  about  the  “ windows 3”  of  a 
dracontium.  We  should  be  startled  at  a theory 
founded  upon  the  windows  of  Abury,  or  Stone- 

That  the  conjecture  of  Bryant,  in  deriving 
the  legends  of  the  mythological  dragons  from 
the  word  Tar  chon,  is  inadmissible,  appears 
again  by  an  extract  from  Pausanias,  which 
(curiously  enough)  he  himself  quotes  to  corro- 
borate his  position,  whereas  it  tends  directly  to 
confirm  that  of  Stukeley.  “ In  the  road  be- 

1 Anal.  ii.  141. 

2 The  real  meaning  of  the  word  dracontium  is,  probably, 
“ an  avenue  of  the  sun as  I have  before  stated. 

3 Anal.  ii.  148. 



tween  Thebes  and  Glisas,  you  may  see  a place 
encircled  by  select  stones , which  the  Thebans  call 
THE  serpent’s  HEAD  V’ 

Dr.  Stukeley  also  cites  this  remarkable  pas- 
sage, to  illustrate  his  observations  upon  the 
head  of  the  Abury  serpent,  which  rested  upon 
a promontory,  called,  in  like  manner,  Snakes- 
head.  (Hakpen.)  This  was  also  “ a place  encir- 
cled by  select  stones .”  And  to  complete  the 
resemblance,  there  is  near  this  Theban  temple, 
a lofty  hill  corresponding  to  Silbnry , upon  which 
a temple  was  erected  to  Jupiter2. 

But,  though  the  premises  of  Bryant  were  con- 
jectural, his  conclusions  were  for  the  most  part 
correct,  and  his  illustrations  ingenious.  I pro- 
ceed to  subjoin  some  of  them  as  equally  appli- 
cable to  our  theory. 

“ Iphicrates  related  that  in  Mauritania  there 
were  dragons  of  such  extent  that  grass  grew 
upon  their  backs.  What  can  be  meant  under 
this  representation  but  a dracontium,  within 
whose  precincts  they  encouraged  verdure  3 ?” 

Again : “ It  is  said  (by  Maximus  Tyrius, 
Dissert.  8,  c.  vi.  p.  85,)  that  Taxiles,  a mighty 
prince  of  India,  carried  Alexander  the  Great  to 
1 Paus.  570.  2 570.  3 Anal.  ii.  135. 

D d 2 



see  a dragon,  which  was  sacred  to  Dionusus, 
and  itself  esteemed  a god.  It  was  of  a stupen- 
dous size,  being  in  extent  equal  to  jive  acres , 
and  resided  in  a low,  deep  place,  walled  round 
to  a great  height.  The  Indians  offered  sacrifices 
to  it,  and  it  was  daily  fed  by  them  from  their 
flocks  and  herds.”  . . . . “ Two  dragons  of  the 
like  nature  are  mentioned  by  Strabo,  (lib.  xv. 
p.  1022)  which  are  said  to  have  resided  in  the 
mountains  of  Abisares,  in  India  ; the  one  was 
eighty  cubits  in  length,  the  other  one  hundred 
and  forty.  Similar  to  the  above,  is  the  account 
given  by  Posidonius  of  a serpent  which  he  saw 
in  the  plains  of  Macra  in  Syria  ....  He  says 
that  it  was  about  an  acre  in  length,  and  of  a 
thickness  so  remarkable,  that  two  persons  on 
horseback,  when  they  rode  on  opposite  sides, 
could  not  see  one  another.  Each  scale  was  as 
big  as  a shield,  and  a man  might  ride  in  at  its 
mouth.  What  can  this  description  allude  to,” 
says  Bryant,  “ but  the  ruins  of  an  Ophite  tem- 
ple, which  is  represented  in  this  enigmatical 
manner  to  raise  admiration  ? The  plains  of 
Macra  were  not  far  from  Lebanon  and  Hermon, 
where  the  Hivites  resided,  and  where  serpent- 
worship  particularly  prevailed.  The  Indian 



dragon  above  mentioned  seems  to  have  been  of 
the  same  nature.  It  was,  probably,  a temple 
and  its  environs,  where  a society  of  priests  re- 
sided, who  were  maintained  by  the  public,  and 
who  worshipped  the  deity  under  the  semblance 
of  a serpent  h” 

Besides  these  Ophite  temples,  Bryant  dis- 
covered a legend  of  two  others  in  the  neigh- 
bourhood of  Damascus2.  These  dragons , ac- 
cording to  Nonnus,  were  overcome  by  the  hero 
Damascenus,  an  earthborn  giant.  “ One  of  the 
monsters  with  which  he  fought  is  described  of 
an  enormous  size — a serpent,  in  extent  of  fifty 
acres:  which  certainly  must  have  a reference 
to  the  grove  and  garden,  wherein  such  Ophite 
temple  stood,  at  Damascus.  For  the  general 
measurement  of  these  wonderful  beings  by 
acres , proves  that  such  an  estimate  could  not 
relate  to  any  thing  of  solid  contents,  but  to  an 
inclosure  of  that  superficies.” 

The  dragon  of  Colchos,  which  guarded  the 
golden  fleece,  is  also  considered  by  Bryant  to 
have  been  a dracontic  temple.  There  was  a 
settlement  of  Ophites  in  Colchis,  which  is  in- 
dicated by  the  name  of  the  river  Ophis.  This 
1 Bryant.  Anal.  ii.  105,  &c.  2 Ibid.  142. 



river  was  so  named  from  a body  of  people,  who 
settled  upon  its  banks,  and  were  said  to  be  con- 
ducted by  a serpent  \ 

An  attentive  perusal  of  Diodorus  Siculus,  lib. 
iv.  s.  47,  will  perhaps  incline  the  reader  to  ac- 
quiesce in  the  conclusion  of  Bryant  respecting 
the  Colchian  dragon.  Diodorus  himself  resolves 
the  legend  into  a story  about  a temple , where 
the  treasure,  the  golden  fleece,  was  kept  under 
the  guardianship  of  Tauric  soldiers.  These,  he 
contends,  were  the  bulls,  who  were  associated 
with  the  dragon  in  guarding  the  treasure.  The 
dragon  was  their  commander,  an  officer  named 
Draco . The  legend  is,  that  the  golden  fleece 
deposited  there  by  Phryxus,  was  guarded  by  a 
sleepless  dragon  ; and  bulls,  breathing  fire  from 
their  nostrils,  lay  by  the  altar  of  the  temple. 
Jason,  having  first  subdued  the  bulls,  compelled 
them  to  the  yoke,  and  ploughed  up  the  ground  ; 
in  which,  like  Cadmus,  he  sowed  serpents'  teeth. 
These  teeth,  becoming  animated  in  the  form  of 
armed  men,  fought  together  and  destroyed  one 
another.  He  then  lulled  the  dragon,  and  bore 
away  the  fleece  2. 

The  explanation  of  Diodorus  is  simple,  and 
1 Bryant,  Anal.  ii.  208. 

2 Ovid  Met.  7. 



in  default  of  a better,  not  unreasonable.  But 
the  word  “ Tor”  which  he  supposes  to  have 
been  misunderstood  for  “ bulls  ” when  in  reality 
it  alluded  to  men  who  came  from  Taurica , is 
much  more  likely  to  have  been  the  Chaldee 
T)tD,  a tower , mistaken  by  Greeks,  who  were 
ignorant  of  the  language  of  the  country,  for  -yin, 
a bull.  Hence  the  whole  error.  The  “ bulls” 
were  towers — perhaps  fortified  lighthouses  ; and 
the  light  which  burned  in  them  gave  occasion  to 
the  fable  of  “ fire  breathing  bulls  V’ 

Having  resolved  the  “ bulls”  into  “ towers,” 
we  may  reasonably  conjecture  that  the  “ dra- 
gon” was  stone.  The  temple  will  thus  become 
a dracontium.  This  dracontium  was  stormed 
by  Jason,  who,  having  first  taken  the  towers 
which  protected  the  temple,  moved  against  the 
latter,  compelling  the  garrisons  of  the  former 
into  his  service  : and  having  by  some  stratagem 
— perhaps  a nocturnal  assault — set  the  defenders 
of  the  dracontium  against  each  other,  succeeded 
in  his  enterprise  of  plundering  it  of  the  treasure. 
The  sowing  of  the  serpents'  teeth , I conceive 
to  be  an  expression  which  has  crept  into  the 
fable,  from  a confused  recollection  of  the  figure 
1 Bryant,  Anal.  ii.  106. 



of  the  temple,  and  the  manner  of  its  formation , 
by  upright,  equidistant  stones.  This  incident, 
so  violently  and  uselessly  introduced,  seems  an 
index  to  the  whole  fable,  and  identifies  it  as 
relating  to  the  plundering  of  a dracontium. 

In  turning  over  the  pages  of  Pausanias  and 
Strabo,  we  frequently  meet  with  passages  which 
may  naturally  be  interpreted  into  descriptions  of 
Ophite  temples.  Thus  near  the  river  Chimarrus 
in  Argolis  was  a circular  inclosure  “ marhing  the 
spot  where  Pluto  descended  into  Tartarus  with 
Proserpine .”  This  legend  indicates  the  temple  to 
be  a dracontium  of  which  the  central  circle  only 
remained.  Other  temples  occur  which  might 
admit  the  same  inference ; but  they  are  for  the 
most  part  too  obscurely  described  to  adduce  as 
illustrations.  I cannot,  however,  pass  by,  with- 
out a remark,  “ the  stones  of  Amphion  f men- 
tioned by  Pausanias,  (568,)  because  the  legend 
attached  to  them  corresponds  with  a tradition 
very  common  in  England,  respecting  the  circu- 
lar, druidical  temples  : — “ The  stones  which  lie 
near  the  tomb  of  Amphion  (in  Bceotia ) are  rude 
and  not  laboured  by  art.  They  say  that  they 
were  the  stones  which  followed  the  music  of 



A similar  fable  is  related  of  Orpheus,  who,  it 
will  be  remembered,  was  the  high  priest  of 
Ophiolatreia  in  Thrace. 

Respecting  the  druidical  circles,  it  was  a 
common  tradition  that  the  stones  which  com- 
posed them  were  once  animated  beings,  and 
petrified  in  the  mazes  of  a dance.  Thus  Stone- 
henge was  called  “ the  dance  of  the  giants and 
Rowldrich,  a Druids’  temple,  near  Chipping 
Norton  in  Oxfordshire,  is  supposed  to  have  been 
a king  and  his  nobles  similarly  metamorphosed. 
The  same  is  reported  of  Stanton  Drew,  in 
Somersetshire,  which  is  vulgarly  called  “ the 
weddings being  supposed  to  have  been  a 
company  of  friends  at  a nuptial  festival,  who 
were  petrified  in  the  midst  of  a dance. 

Another  Druids’  temple,  in  Cumberland,  is 
called  “ Long  Meg  and  her  daughters'1 ’ from  a 
similar  tradition  \ 

If  these  coincidences  prove  nothing  else,  they 
prove  that  “ the  stones  of  Amphion,”  and  <£  Or- 
pheus,” were  circular  temples  of  the  druidical 
structure.  The  stones  of  Amphion  were  pro- 
bably a temple  of  the  sun  ; “ Amphion”  being 


Stukeley,  Abury,  83. 



nothing  more  than  Am-phi-on1,  “ the  oracle  of 
Ham  the  sun and  Orpheus  itself  may  be 
resolved  into  a similar  meaning — Or-phi,  “ soils 
oraculum .” 

The  frequent  mention  of  the  serpent-deity 
Ops,  in  connexion  with  stones,  is  a remarkable 
feature  in  remote  mythology.  It  was  Ops  who 
deceived  Saturn  with  the  stone  Ahadir ; and 
“ the  heathen  philosophers  explained  Ops  as  the 
divine  power  pervading  mountains  and  stony 
places2 .”  Might  not  this  connexion  have  arisen 
from  the  peculiar  construction  of  the  Ophite 
temples  ? 

These  circumstances  may  appear  trivial ; but 
trifles  not  unfrequently  lead  to  important  results. 
In  every  walk  of  science,  a trifle,  disregarded 
by  incurious  thousands,  has  repaid  the  inquisi- 
tiveness of  a single  observer  with  unhoped-for 
knowledge.  And  what  has  been  in  science, 
may  be  in  history.  Little  events,  and  accidental 
allusions,  in  themselves  insignificant,'  may  form 
a link  in  the  chain  of  obscure  mythology,  which 
shall  act  as  a conductor  to  scriptural  truth. 

1 See  Bryant  on  the  word  “ Amphi .”  Anal.  i.  316. 

2 Euseb.  Praep.  Evang.  109. 







Having  traced  the  origin  and  progress  of 
Ophiolatreia,  it  may  be  useful  to  ascertain 
the  causes  and  periods  of  its  decline.  Such  an 
inquiry,  though  little  more  than  a recapitulation 
of  facts  already  mentioned,  will  tend  to  give  a 
clearer  view  of  the  subject  as  a whole ; and  to 
meet  an  objection  which  might  be  urged  against 
the  legitimacy  of  some  of  the  preceding  in- 
ferences. The  argument  of  Ophiolatreia  may 
in  some  cases  appear  to  have  been  grounded 
upon  insufficient  data  : facts  may  have  been 
appealed  to  in  support  of  the  theory  which  may 
seem  to  have  had  their  origin  in  accident,  or  in 
superstitions  apparently  unconnected  with  the 
worship  of  the  serpent.  But  if  reasons  can  be 
assigned  for  the  partial  prevalence  of  Ophiola- 
treia in  some  countries,  and  its  non-appearance 
in  others,  and  its  total  suppression  in  all  where- 



ever  it  once  reigned  in  plentitude  of  power,  the 
argument  of  this  treatise  will  be  restored  and 

It  is  not  to  be  expected  that  the  worship  of 
the  serpent  should  be  found  prevailing  with  the 
same  degree  of  intensity  in  every  country.  Local 
circumstances,  at  this  distance  of  years  impos- 
sible to  be  estimated,  may  have  caused  many 
modifications,  even  if  the  idolatry  had  been 
originally  uniformly  diffused.  But  I do  not 
contend  for  uniform  diffusion,  the  argument  is 
universality , and  not  uniformity. 

The  prevalence  of  this  idolatry  has  been 
proved  to  be  so  general,  that  we  have  a reason- 
able ground  for  considering  it  as  at  one  time 
or  other  universal.  The  principal  causes  to 
which  the  decline  of  serpent-worship  may  be  re- 
ferred are  religious  wars — hostile  invasions — 
mental  improvement — the  progress  of  Christianity 
— and  the  Mohammedan  conquests. 

In  the  infancy  of  mankind  true  religion  was 
limited  to  the  descendants  of  Seth.  The  chil- 
dren of  Cain  carried  with  them  from  Paradise 
all  that  the  Tree  of  Knowledge  could  teach — the 
knowledge  of  worldly  “ good,"  and  of  moral 
“ evil."  The  rapid  development  of  the  human 


mind  in  every  science  which  tended  to  the  promo- 
tion of  earthly  comforts  was  strongly  exemplified 
in  this  apostate  family,  and  proved  that  “the 
children  of  this  world  ” were  always  “ in  their 
generation  wiser  than  the  children  of  light  ” in 
things  which  concern  the  gratification  of  the 

Of  the  family  of  Seth  little  is  recorded  besides 
their  names,  and  that  little  assures  us  that  they 
were  “ not  of  this  world.”  But  scarcely  had  Cain 
departed  from  the  garden  of  Eden  before  “he 
built  him  a city,  and  called  the  name  of  the  city 
after  the  name  of  his  son  Enoch1.”  When  the 
increase  of  his  family  suggested  separation,  new 
inventions  arose  from  the  new  necessity.  Jabal, 
his  descendant  in  the  fifth  degree,  introduced 
the  use  of  tents,  and  the  arts  of  agricultural  and 
pastoral  life.  “ He  was  the  father  of  such  as 
dwell  in  tents,  and  of  such  as  have  cattle2.”  At 
the  same  time,  as  if  to  show  that  simplicity  of 
manners  was  not  essentially  the  characteristic  of 
a pastoral  life,  his  brother  Jubal  invented  the 
elegant  art  of  music.  “ He  was  the  father  of 
them  that  handle  the  harp  and  organ3.”  And 

Gen.  iv.  17. 

2 Tb.  20. 

3 lb.  21. 


to  complete  the  picture  of  worldly  ease  and 
comfort,  as  enjoyed  by  the  more  godless  of  the 
sons  of  Adam,  another  brother,  Tubalcain,  be- 
came “ an  instructer  of  every  artificer  in  brass 
and  iron  V’  So  that  probably  in  less  than  three 
hundred  years  from  the  creation  of  man  civiliza- 
tion had  arrived  at  such  a degree  of  perfection, 
that  not  only  the  necessaries,  but  even  the 
luxuries  of  life  were  to  be  found  in  the  family  of 
the  fugitive  Cain. 

Nothing  like  this  is  recorded  of  the  posterity 
of  Seth.  All  that  we  know  of  them  is  the  simple 
but  interesting  fact,  that  “ Enoch  walked  with 
God,  and  was  not,  for  God  took  him2.”  How 
different  from  that  Enoch,  the  son  of  Cain,  re- 
membered only  by  the  city  which  bore  his  name  ! 

The  awful  extent  of  idolatry  in  those  “ days 
of  rebuke  and  blasphemy”  is  strongly  depicted 
in  the  short  but  memorable  record — “ In  those 
days  began  men  to  call  upon  the  name  of  the 
Lord 3.”  Not  that  they  had  never  called  upon 
this  name  before , but  that,  induced  by  the  wick- 
edness which  was  increasing  around  them,  they 
“ gave  themselves  then  more  earnestly  to  prayer.” 

1 Gen.  iv.  22. 

2 lb.  v.  29. 

3 lb.  iv.  26. 


Architecture,  invented  by  their  ungodly  kins- 
men, had  been  abused  to  the  erection  of  heathen 
temples.  “ Brass  and  iron,”  introduced  for 
domestic  purposes,  had  been  prostituted  to  the 
service  of  an  insane  idolatry  : while  a delirious 
multitude  were  dancing  before  its  altars  to  the 
sounds  of  licentious  music,  It  was  high  time, 
then,  for  the  remnant  of  the  sons  of  Seth  to 
“ call  upon  the  name  of  the  Lord,”  when  rival 
superstitions  disputed  the  dominion  once  held  by 
the  religion  of  Jehovah. 

At  that  time,  probably,  commenced  the  reigns 
of  the  two  great  Apostasies  which,  for  so  many 
ages,  divided  and  desolated  the  heathen  world. 
The  worship  of  the  sun  and  the  worship  of  the 
serpent — the  one  a superstition  of  nature,  the 
other  a superstition  of  tradition — then,  probably, 
usurped  the  throne  of  true  religion. 

We  have  seen  that  these  two  were  the  most 
ancient  of  false  religions,  and  that  there  is  every 
ground  of  conjecture  for  assigning  to  each  an 
antediluvian  origin.  The  very  form  of  the  ex- 
pression, “ Then  began  men  to  call  upon  the 
name  of  the  lord,”  intimates  that  some  men  had 
called  upon  other  names.  This  distinction  be- 
tween truth  and  falsehood  would  hardly  have 

e e 


been  drawn  had  there  been  no  false  religions  to 
furnish  the  distinction.  That  some  kinds  of 
idolatry  must  have  prevailed  before  the  flood,  is 
probable,  from  the  consideration  that  moral  tur- 
pitude only , would  scarcely  have  been  sufficient 
to  draw  down  the  curse  of  God  upon  a whole 
world.  Immorality,  doubtless,  was  awfully 
prevalent  : but  ungodliness  also  must  have  pre- 
vailed to  an  equal  or  greater  degree.  God 
would  scarcely  have  been  so  provoked,  had  not 
men  prostituted  their  souls  to  Satan  as  well  as 
their  bodies  to  carnal  lusts. 

Such  being  the  case,  no  superstitions  were 
more  natural  than  the  worship  of  the  sun,  the 
source  of  life  and  strength  and  vegetation  ; and 
the  worship  of  the  serpent,  the  recorded  au- 
thor of  the  most  wonderful  revolution  in  the 
moral  world,  which  the  tongues  of  men  and 
angels  could  ever  record.  A creature  which, 
under  the  agency  of  an  indwelling  spirit,  could 
destroy  the  best  work  of  God  upon  earth, 
seemed,  to  the  ignorant  and  carnal  mind,  pos- 
sessed of  a power  almost,  if  not  altogether, 
divine.  Hence  the  origin  of  serpent-worship. 

Among  the  many  arguments  wdiich  prove  the 
priority  of  these  two  superstitions,  not  the  least 


available  is  their  constant  hostility  in  every 
country  in  the  world.  Such  an  hostility  would 
be  the  natural  result  of  the  position  which  they 
occupied  as  the  two  earliest  of  superstitions. 
True  religion  being  obscured,  (as  we  have  every 
reason  to  believe  it  was,)  the  worshippers  of  the 
sun  would  naturally  arrogate  to  themselves  the 
privilege  of  the  truth  : and  the  Fall  of  Man 
being  remembered  as  the  work  of  the  serpent, 
they  would  as  naturally  regard  the  Ophites  as 
worshippers  of  the  Devil , and  feel  themselves 
under  a bond  of  eternal  enmity  against  them. 

Hence  the  whole  struggle,  originating  in  the 
aggressions  of  the  worshippers  of  the  sun,  and 
carried  on  by  the  retaliation  of  the  worship- 
pers of  the  serpent.  Tradition  is  full  of  their 
perpetual  feuds.  They  enter  into  almost  every 
leading  fable ; are  depicted  upon  some  of  the 
most  ancient  works  of  art,  and  recorded  in  some 
of  the  oldest  histories  of  man.  For  the  verifica- 
tion of  these  assertions,  it  will  be  expedient  to 
take  a survey  of  those  countries  in  which  Ophio- 
latreia  has  principally  prevailed. 

1.  Babylon.  Of  Babylon  we  know  little 
beyond  the  fact,  that  “ they  of  the  city  worshipped 


a dragon ,”  whom  Daniel  the  prophet  destroyed 
by  his  prayers.  In  consequence  of  this  triumph, 
the  idolatry  was  prohibited  by  a royal  decree. 
The  date  of  this  prohibition  is  assigned  to  the 
first  year  of  king  Cyrus.  The  symbolical  wor- 
ship, however,  continued  for  many  years  after- 
wards, Diodorus  Siculus  having  seen  in  the 
ruined  temple  of  Bel,  images  of  silver  serpents 
associated  with  the  ordinary  gods  of  the 

2.  Persia.  Less  accurate  information  as  to 
circumstances,  but  equally  certain  as  to  the 
principal  fact,  is  found  in  the  history  of  Persia. 
How  far  the  worship  of  the  Host  of  Heaven  may 
have  superseded  that  of  the  serpent  in  the  time 
of  Cyrus,  who  governed  both  Babylon  and 
Persia,  is  unknown.  It  is  probable  that  the 
decree  which  suppressed  Ophiolatreia  in  the 
former,  suppressed  it  also  in  the  latter  country. 
But  the  rise  of  Zoroaster  and  the  decisive  success 
of  his  doctrines,  unquestionably  overthrew  every 
other  false  religion  in  the  Persian  empire.  If 
this  philosopher  was,  as  some  suppose,  a servant 
of  the  prophet  Daniel,  the  influence  acquired  by 
the  master  over  the  minds  of  the  nation  would 



naturally  impart  some  power  to  the  disciple ; 
and  the  royal  decree  having  opportunely  abo- 
lished Ophiolatreia,  an  opening  was  made  for 
any  new  system  of  religion  which  an  artful  and 
influential  teacher  might  desire  to  inculcate. 
Zoroaster  seized  the  favourable  moment  and  met 
with  no  resistance.  His  success  was  the  more 
assured,  since  he  appeared  rather  as  a reformer 
than  an  originator.  The  old  Magian  idolatry 
assumed,  under  his  hand,  a more  alluring  appear- 
ance. Some  of  its  metaphysical  absurdities 
were  removed,  and  its  simplicity  of  worship  put 
on  the  gorgeous  apparel  of  a faith  which  appealed 
to  the  senses  rather  than  to  the  imagination. 
Fire  temples  arose  above  the  naked  “ hill  altars” 
of  their  ruder  ancestors  ; and  the  sacred  flame 
which  his  hallowed  or  daring  hand  was  supposed 
to  have  brought  down  from  heaven,  was  religiously 
guarded  by  an  appointed  priesthood.  So  awful 
were  the  sanctions  of  this  new  religion,  that  the 
whole  nation  gave  way  to  the  irresistible  evidence 
of  its  divine  authority.  The  worshippers  of  the 
serpent,  if  any  remained,  quailed  under  the 
genius  of  a prophet  who  had  gazed  upon  the 
true  Schechinah  ; and  the  portion  of  fire  which 
he  exhibited,  in  token  of  his  ascent  to  heaven, 


led  captive  the  minds  of  a trembling  people 
prepared  to  believe  any  thing  of  the  servant  of 
Daniel.  The  worship  of  the  serpent,  therefore, 
fell,  and  there  was  no  blood  upon  the  sword  of 
the  triumphant  religion. 

3.  Hindustan.  Far  different  was  the  case  in 
Hindustan.  There  fable  and  history  alike  teem 
with  the  perpetual  conflicts  of  the  sun  and  serpent. 
Surya  is  ever  the  enemy  of  Budha.  The  latter, 
under  the  hateful  form  of  a serpent , had  carried 
off  the  daughter  of  the  son  of  Manna,  and  stolen 
the  sacred  books  of  Crishna,  the  incarnate  son 
of  Brahma.  One  of  his  family  had  also  seized 
upon  a horse  which  the  son  of  Ramah  had  de- 
signed to  be  sacrificed  to  the  sun  \ The  race  of 
Budha  was  therefore  proscribed  ; and  the  child- 
ren of  Surya,  i.  e.  the  worshippers  of  the  sun , 
and  the  children  of  Crishna,  i.  e.  the  votaries 
of  the  incarnate  Son  of  God , felt  themselves 
called  upon  to  execute  the  sentence.  The 
offences  imputed  to  the  serpent  Budha  are  re- 
markable. The  abduction  of  the  woman , and  the 
stealing  of  the  sacred  books  of  the  incarnate  God , 

1 Tod’s  Rajahstan,  535. 


indicate  the  events  in  Paradise  as  the  remote 
and  traditional  cause  of  the  animosity. 

The  effects  of  this  hostility  were  soon  appa- 
rent. Long  before  the  fatal  irruption  of  the 
Mohammedans  the  vengeance  of  the  allies  had 
sw^ept,  like  a simoom,  over  the  cities  of  the 
Ophites.  Alexander  the  Great  found  this  un- 
happy  remnant  isolated  in  the  range  of  moun- 
tains which  lie  to  the  west  of  the  Indus,  in 
Caubul.  Upon  the  mountain  Tak , under  their 
king  and  priest  Taxiles , a tribe  of  Hindus  se- 
curely worshipped  the  abomination  of  Paradise. 
The  Macedonian  monarch  was  shown  an  enor- 
mous dragon,  “ five  acres  in  extent,”  which  was 
the  object  of  their  adoration.  This  dragon,  we 
have  seen,  could  have  been  nothing  but  a dra- 
contium , for  it  is  measured  by  its  superficial  ex- 
tent in  land  measure , which  was  the  universal 
method  of  describing  serpent  temples  both  in 
poetry  and  historical  prose.  In  these  idolaters 
the  invader  of  India  found  natural  and  faithful 
allies  against  the  common  enemy  Porus.  But 
his  retirement  left  them  at  the  mercy  of  their 
exasperated  foes,  who  were  not  slow  in  exacting- 
vengeance.  In  the  process  of  time  they  were 
expelled  from  the  fastnesses  of  Zabulistan  and 


and  scattered  through  the  Punjab.  They  re- 
mained in  this  broken  condition  until  the  Mo- 
hammedan Afghans  bursting  in  among  them 
with  the  terrible  alternative  of  “ the  sword  or 
the  Koran,”  completed  their  destruction. 

The  ferocity  with  which  the  wars  of  Surya  and 
Budha  had  been  carried  on,  may  be  estimated 
by  the  recital  of  a single  fact.  The  Takshacs 
had  slain  a king  of  Delhi,  and  his  successor,  in 
revenge,  sacrificed  in  one  campaign  twenty 
thousand  of  this  small  but  devoted  race  l. 

It  ceases,  therefore,  to  be  a matter  of  surprise, 
that  the  idolatry  of  the  serpent  very  soon  de- 
generated into  the  mere  mythic  and  symbolical 
worship  which  now  characterizes  the  religion  of 
the  Brahmins. 

4.  China,  Burmah,  and  Siam.  These  coun- 
tries retain  but  few  impressions  of  their  primeval 
superstitions.  They  were  more  under  the  influ- 
ence of  Budhism  than  Hindustan  ; but  their 
present  religions  are  so  different  from  the  sim- 
plicity of  Ophiolatreia,  that  we  cannot  help  sus- 
pecting the  alterations  to  have  been  produced  by 

1 Tod’s  Rajahstan,  536. 


the  gradual  encroachments  of  the  Brahminical 
doctrines.  It  is  difficult,  at  this  distance  of  time, 
to  assign  all  the  reasons  of  the  decline  of  the  ser- 
pent worship  which,  from  the  adoration  of  the 
mystical  dragon,  we  conclude  must  have  once 
overspread  these  countries.  In  China,  however, 
the  celebrated  Confucius  might  have  reformed 
the  old  idolatry,  and  perhaps  left  it  in  its  present 
form.  That  Confucius  was  born  a serpent-wor- 
shipper, is  probable  from  the  fable  that  two  ser- 
pents attended  his  mystical  washing  l. 

5.  In  Arabia,  the  worship  of  the  serpent  was 
very  early  overthrown,  and  gave  way  to  the 
adoration  of  the  Host  of  Heaven.  But  if  any 
traces  of  this  superstition  lingered  among  the 
innumerable  idolatries  of  a land  which  was  once 
divided  between  Aur  and  Aub,  the  sword  and 
the  Koran  made  an  equal  end  of  all. 

6.  Syria.  The  Syrian  Ophites  when  scat- 
tered by  the  victorious  arms  of  Joshua2,  preferred, 
for  the  most  part,  to  resign  their  country  rather 
than  forsake  their  creed.  Those  of  the  Hivites 

1 Koempfer  Japan,  246. 

2 Bochart.  See  also  ch.  iii.  Greece. 


of  Mount  Libanus,  who  could  not  hide  them- 
selves among  their  native  rocks  (and  thus  fulfil 
the  divine  decree  of  being  “ left  to  prove  ” Israel), 
carried  their  religion  into  the  islands  of  the  Archi- 
pelago, into  Thrace,  into  Macedonia,  into  Greece. 
Their  subsequent  history  is  to  be  found  in  the 
fables  of  mythology,  in  which  the  synchronous 
march  of  Cadmus  to  the  Hellespont  may  indi- 
cate the  retreat  of  a party  of  Kadmonites  in  that 
direction.  Thus  was  the  Ophiolatreia  of  the 
Canaanites  overthrown,  and  the  small  remnant 
which  remained,  had  their  revenge  by  tempting 
the  Israelites  to  worship 1 the  brazen  serpent  of 
Moses,  which  had  been  preserved  as  one  of  the 
memorials  of  their  deliverances  in  the  Wilder- 
ness. This  small  remnant  of  Hivites,  avowedly 
left  by  Jehovah  to  “ prove  Israel,”  was  never 
entirely  exterminated  : for  the  spirit  of  Ophio- 
latreia again  manifested  itself  in  the  early  ages 
of  Christianity  in  the  form  of  the  Ophite  heresy, 
against  which  the  pens  of  Epiphanius,  Clemens 
Alexandrinus,  and  Tertullian,  were  so  powerfully 
directed 2. 

7.  Egypt.  Ophiolatreia  was  never  predo- 
1 2 Kings  xviii.  4.  2 See  ch.  i.  Syria. 


minant  in  Egypt.  It  formed  but  one  of  a 
multitude  of  superstitions,  which  divided  that 
country  into  as  many  religions  as  there  were 
districts.  Their  mutual  animosity  is  well  de- 
scribed by  Juvenal  in  his  nineteenth  Satire. 
The  “ immortale  odium  et  nunquam  sanabile 
vulnus”  of  religious  antipathy  is  illustrated  by 
a tale  of  a battle  between  the  Ombi,  and  the 
people  of  Tentyra  : — and  doubtless  the  same 
spirit  of  discord  was  universal.  It  was,  however, 
all  hushed  by  the  hermetic  seal  of  the  preachers 
of  the  Koran. 

8.  Abyssinia.  More  distinct  traces  of  the 
state  of  serpent- worship  were  left  in  ^Ethiopia. 
On  the  borders  of  Abyssinia  the  serpent  is  still 
worshipped  by  the  Shangalla  Negroes  ; but  the 
glory  of  its  overthrow  in  the  more  civilized 
portions  of  the  land  of  Habesh,  is  ascribed  to 
nine  missionaries  of  the  Christian  church  of 
Alexandria.  Few  facts  in  history  are  more 
clearly  recorded  than  the  conversion  of  the 
Abyssinian  Ophites.  It  occurred  during  the 
Episcopacy  of  Athanasius,  about  the  middle  of 
the  fourth  century. 


9.  Whidah.  Equally  circumstantial  is  the 
narrative  of  the  suppression  of  Ophiolatreia  in 
Whidah.  The  fatal  blow  was  given  in  1726, 
by  the  Dahomeys,  who  destroyed  all  the 
serpents  which  had  been  kept  for  religious  pur- 
poses. Captain  Snelgrave  visited  the  place  only 
three  weeks  after  the  event.  In  other  parts  of 
Africa  the  superstition  sunk  beneath  the  scyme- 
tars  of  the  Mohammedan  Arabs  : but  if  it  still 
continue  to  linger  among  the  mountains  of  the 
interior,  the  same  fatal  enemy  will  find  it  out1. 

10.  The  worshippers  of  the  serpent  had  as 
little  rest  in  Europe.  The  unremitting  hostility 
of  the  children  of  the  sun  is  indelibly  stamped 
upon  the  annals  of  Grecian  fable.  The  contest 
of  Apollo  and  Python  for  the  temple  of  Delphi, 
was  a struggle  of  the  sun-worshippers,  for  an 
Ophite  sanctuary.  One  remarkable  feature, 
however,  distinguishes  the  fable.  The  promise 
of  Paradise  finds  a singular  parallel  in  the 
history  of  Apollo  2 : and  this  very  circumstance 
throws  a light  upon  the  cause  of  the  hostility 
against  the  serpent.  It  would  appear  by  the 

1 Lander’s  Preface.  2 See  “ Fables,”  ch.  v. 


fable  that  the  Zabeans  took  possession  of  the 
Dracontium  of  Delphi,  and  substituted  their 
own  rites  for  those  of  the  Ophites.  But  whether 
the  country  was  still  favourably  disposed  towards 
the  old  religion,  or  whether  the  usurpers  desired 
to  innovate  gradually  without  too  much  violence 
to  the  prejudices  of  the  votaries  of  the  serpent, 
they  preserved  the  general  form  and  figure  of 
the  temple,  together  with  some  of  its  peculiar 
customs.  The  serpentine  avenue  was  therefore 
only  so  far  disturbed  as  to  admit  a central 
circular  temple  in  honour  of  the  Sun  1 ; the 
Pythoness  still  gave  her  oracles  from  the  dracontic 
tripod  ; and  live  serpents  were  still  kept  in  the 
subterranean  recesses.  A similar  policy  was 
observed  by  the  triumphant  children  of  the  sun 
in  other  parts  of  Europe. 

11.  The  idolatry  of  the  serpent  lost  its 
integrity  in  Thrace,  Macedonia,  and  Epirus, 
in  a more  peaceable  manner.  It  gradually 
subsided  into  the  mysteries  of  Dionusus.  There 
is  a mention  of  an  attempt  to  unite  it  with  the 
idolatry  of  the  $un  by  a reformer  whom  history 
has  agreed  to  call  “ Orpheus.*’  The  real  mean- 

1 See  ch.  vi. 


in  g of  this  word  is  probably,  “ The  oracle  of  Ok,” 
(Or-phi.)  Or  was  the  same  as  the  Orus  of 
the  Egyptians,  and  the  Ur  of  the  Chaldees  ; 
and  was  a title  of  the  sun  taken  from  his 
attribute  of  light.  Orpheus,  then,  might  have 
been  some  remarkable  priest  of  the  sun,  who 
introduced  many  innovations  into  the  religion 
of  Thrace.  On  this  account  he  was  probably 
murdered  by  the  Bacchantes  in  the  horrible 
manner  described  by  the  poets.  The  Bac- 
chantes were  priestesses  of  the  Dionusan  Ophio- 
latreia,  which  he  attempted  to  reform. 

The  persecution  of  Orpheus  by  the  worship- 
pers of  the  serpent,  is  corroborated  by  a curious 
tradition  preserved  by  Ovid,  Metam.  lib.  xi. 
which  mentions  the  fate  of  his  detruncated  head. 
It  was  carried  by  the  Hebrus  into  the  sea,  and 
thrown  upon  the  sands  of  the  island  of  Lesbos, 
where  a serpent  endeavouring  to  lacerate  it  was 
changed  by  Apollo  into  stone  ! This  metamor- 
phosis relates  probably  to  a dracontium  at  Lesbos, 
which  was  an  Ophite  settlement : and  the 
inference  from  the  fable  is  this — that  the  rem- 
nant of  the  followers  of  Orpheus,  escaping  from 
the  Thracian  massacre,  and  landing  at  Lesbos, 
were  inhospitably  treated  by  the  Ophites  of  that 


island,  but  had  the  good  fortune  to  elude  their 
violence.  The  fable  of  Orpheus  speaks  also 
of  his  wife  Eurydice  having  been  previously 
slain  by  a serpent.  This  incident  may  mean 
that  some  Orphic  rite,  personified  by  this 
name,  was  destroyed  by  the  serpent-worshippers. 
Orpheus,  however,  seems  to  have  regarded  the 
general  policy  of  the  Zabeans.  His  Institutes, 
which  have  been  preserved  under  the  title  of 
the  “ Orphic  Hymns,”  enrol  the  serpent  as  the 
chief  symbol  of  the  Cabiri. 

12.  The  constant  animosity  of  the  rival  reli- 
gions of  the  sun  and  serpent  is  strikingly  illus- 
trated by  the  Etruscan  Vases,  which  have  been 
lately  found  at  Canino,  on  the  supposed  site  of 
the  ancient  Vitulonia.  Whether  these  vases 
were  of  native  manufacture  or  not,  the  histories 
which  they  record  belong  to  Greece.  The  sub- 
jects seem  chiefly  to  be  borrowed  from  the 
Grecian  Mythology  and  the  Trojan  war.  Upon 
several  of  the  vases  are  warriors  fighting,  some 
of  whose  shields  are  charged  with  an  eagle , the 
device  of  the  sun-worshippers  l,  and  others  with 
a serpent , the  emblem  of  the  Ophites.  In  all 

Tod’s  Rajahstan,  535. 


of  them  the  warrior  with  the  eagle  shield  is  re- 
presented as  victorious. 

One  of  the  vases  bears,  what  is  named,  a 
representation  of  Hector  : and,  curiously  enough, 
his  device  is  a serpent.  Now  we  know  from  other 
sources  that  the  Phrygians  were  Ophites,  and 
this  picture  opportunely  illustrates  the  fact.  Is 
it  possible  that  the  Trojan  war  may  have  been 
undertaken  upon  a religious  quarrel  ? It  is  cer- 
tainly strange  that  in  all  these  historic  pictures 
the  Grecian  warriors  are  denoted  by  the  emblem 
of  the  sun , and  the  Trojan  by  that  of  the  mystic 
serpent.  The  very  cause  of  the  quarrel  assigned 
by  tradition  remarkably  coincides  with  the  Indian 
story  of  the  wars  of  Surya  and  Budha.  The 
abduction  of  a woman  is  stated  to  have  been  the 
origin  of  both  the  Indian  and  the  Trojan  feuds. 

13.  Colchos.  But  whatever  may  have  been 
the  true  nature  of  the  Trojan  war,  another  event 
in  Grecian  history,  almost  as  celebrated,  was 
undoubtedly  an  expedition  against  the  odious 
race  of  the  serpent. 

The  voyage  of  the  Argonauts  had  avowedly  a re- 
ligious object ; and  the  storming  of  the  Dracon- 
tium  of  Colchos  cannot  be  mistaken.  The  crew  of 
the  Argo  might  indeed  have  been  what  Bryant 


supposes  they  were — Arkites — worshippers  of 
the  personified  ark  of  Noah  : but  according  to 
the  principles  of  his  own  analysis,  Jason , the 
leader  was  the  same  name  as  JEson , and  iEson 
was  a compound  of  iEs,  “ fire”  and  On  the 
Solar  God.  The  Argonauts  may  therefore  have 
been  under  the  guidance  of  a warrior  of  the  Sun 
— an  inveterate  and  universal  enemy  of  the 
family  of  the  Serpent. 

It  matters  not,  however,  what  was  the  religion 
of  the  navigators  of  the  Argo.  Their  expedition 
proves  the  custom  of  religious  wars  against  the 
Ophites  ; and  their  success  determines  the  epoch 
of  the  overthrow  of  Ophiolatreia  in  Colchis. 

14.  Britain — Gaul — Britany,  &c.  Chang- 
ing the  country  we  change  only  the  manner  of 
telling  the  same  story.  The  destruction  of 
Ophiolatreia  in  the  west  and  north  of  Europe, 
though  as  complete  as  in  the  east,  was  brought 
about  in  a more  peaceable  manner.  In  Britain, 
Gaul,  Germany,  and  Scandinavia,  the  original 
worship  of  the  serpent  had  been  much  modified 
by  civilization  before  it  was  subverted  by  the 
missionaries  of  Christian  Rome. 

In  Britany , however,  the  idolaters  maintained 
f f 


a more  determined  opposition  : and  if  we  may- 
judge  from  some  of  the  present  superstitions  of 
the  peasantry,  were  never  thoroughly  converted. 
The  old  Zabean  policy  of  gradual  conversion  was 
adopted  by  the  first  missionaries  of  the  Christian 
church.  Instead  of  striking  a decisive  blow  at 
once  they  deemed  it  more  prudent  to  wink 
at  a few  errors,  than  by  precipitation  incur  the 
danger  of  a total  failure.  Hence  in  the  vicinity 
of  Carnac,  which  may  be  called  the  “ Tracho- 
nitis”  of  Europe,  the  oracle  of  Belus  is  to  be 
found  in  the  parish  of  Bels  ; the  serpent , the 
universal  emblem  of  consecration,  decorates  the 
exterior  of  some  of  the  oldest  churches.  The 
sacred  mount  of  Fire  near  the  avenues  of  the  Dra- 
contium  is  a consecrated  spot : the  ancient  dance 
of  Baal,  descriptive  of  the  Ophite  hierogram  is 
annually  exhibited  at  the  carnival  of  Erdeven  : 
while  the  peasant  still  turns  his  face  in  prayer  to 
the  Kebla  of  the  Ophites — the  Serpent’s  head  at 
Kerzerho — which  bears  accordingly  the  expres- 
sive name  of  “ the  place  of  the  stones  of  prayer  V’ 

15.  There  remains,  then,  only  one  portion  of 

1 These  two  latter  facts  were  communicated  to  me  by  my 
friend  General  de  Penhouet. 



the  globe  in  which  we  have  not  accounted  for 
the  decline  of  serpent- worship.  But,  remarkable 
as  is  the  coincidence — we  find  in  America  the 
same  agent  at  work  which  overthrew  Ophiolatreia 
in  Hindustan,  in  Persia,  in  Greece — nay,  in 
almost  every  country  of  the  known  world. 

We  have  remarked  the  prevalence  of  serpent 
worship  in  Peru  : history  has  preserved  the 
cause  of  its  extinction. 

Tupac  Yupanqui,  the  eleventh  Inca,  marched 
against  the  Ophites  who  resided  on  the  borders 
of  his  dominions,  with  the  avowed  object  of  ex- 
termination or  conversion.  His  success  against 
two  tribes  of  Indians  is  recorded  in  Harris’s 
Collection  of  Voyages,  vol.  i.  p.  784. 

Huayna  Capac,  the  twelfth  Inca,  in  like  man- 
ner suppressed  the  Ophiolatreia  of  the  people  of 
Manta  l.  It  is  probable  that  at  one  time  the 
worship  of  the  serpent  was  the  general  religion 
of  Mexico  and  Peru.  The  Mexican  hierogly- 
phics and  statues  abundantly  illustrate  this  fact: 
and  the  popular  traditions  of  the  Peruvians  res- 
pecting Manco  Capac  relate  probably  to  the 
first  successful  missionary  of  the  Sun2  who 

1 Garcilasso,  lib.  ix.  c.  8. 

2 Robertson’s  America , ii.  293. 

F f 2 


arrived,  as  the  legends  state,  from  a foreign 

The  triumphant  children  of  the  Sun  could 
never,  however,  succeed  in  abolishing  all  traces 
of  serpent-worship.  Like  the  rest  of  the  Zabeans 
in  other  parts  of  the  world,  they  were  compelled 
to  tolerate  what  they  could  not  extirpate.  Many 
Ophite  superstitions  and  practices  were  therefore 
retained  in  the  religions  of  Mexico  and  Peru,  as 
we  have  seen  under  the  head  of  Ophiolatreia  in 
those  countries. 

The  victorious  sun-worshippers  could  not  even 
gain  the  absolute  ascendancy  over  the  barbarous 
people  of  North  America.  The  High  Priest  of  the 
Virginians  wore,  even  to  the  days  of  Christian 
conquest,  a sacerdotal  ornament  of  snakes  skins 
upon  his  head,  analogous  to  the  customs  of  the 
priests  of  the  Egyptian  Isis  ; while  the  natives  of 
the  country  N.W.  of  Louisiana,  (even  down  to 
the  year  1741)  had  his  body  tattooed  with  the 
united  emblems  of  the  sun  and  the  serpent,  and 
carried  in  his  hand  a sacrificial  instrument 
carved  with  the  representation  of  a serpent 
upon  the  sun  M 

We  have  now  taken  a general  and  cursory 

See  the  Plate. 


survey  of  the  causes  which  produced  the  decline 
of  serpent-worship  : the  chief  of  which  appears 
to  have  been  the  uniform  hostility  of  the  wor- 
shippers of  the  sun.  Whatever  this  hostility 
spared,  was  almost  annihilated  by  the  preaching 
of  the  early  Christians  or  the  sword  and  the 
Koran  of  the  inflexible  Mohammedans.  The 
Mohammedans  in  the  east,  and  the  Christians 
in  the  west,  completed  what  had  been  begun  by 
the  children  of  Surya,  and  carried  on  by  the 
votaries  of  Crishna  or  Apollo, — the  adventurers 
of  the  heroic  ages,  and  the  arms  of  the  host  of 
Joshua.  So  that  few  and  almost  imperceptible 
are  the  traces  now  existing  of  an  idolatry  which 
once  called  the  world  its  own.  The  subjects  of 
the  poetical  apostrophe  of  Lucan, — 

“ Yos  quoque  qui  cunctis  innoxia  Numina  terris 
Serpitis  aurato  nitidi  fulgore  Dracones,” 

are  now  coiled  obscurely  in  the  woods  of  the 
Abyssinian  Shangalla,  or  the  almost  inaccessible 
mountains  of  central  Africa,  protected  only  by 
the  impossibility  or  inutility  of  the  pursuit. 

But  it  is  not  for  us  to  lament  the  feeble  traces 
of  a superstition  which  only  commemorates  the 
victory  of  the  evil  spirit  over  the  soul  of  the 
fallen  man.  Idolatry  has  been  permitted  long 


enough  to  prove  the  divine  origin  of  Christianity  ; 
and  this  point  being  established,  it  becomes  every 
believer  in  the  Gospel  of  Christ,  to  pray  that 
“ the  whole  earth  may  be  filled  with  the  know- 
ledge of  the  Lord,  as  the  waters  cover  the  sea 
and  that  “ the  kingdoms  of  this  world  may  be- 
come the  kingdoms  of  God  and  of  His  Christ 
and  “ that  they  may  reign,”  with  the  Holy 
Spirit,  in  one  undivided  Godhead,  “ for  ever 

and  ever. 







I.  In  the  preceding  pages  we  have  traced 
the  worship  of  the  serpent  from  Babylonia , 
east  and  west,  through  Persia , Hindustan , 
China , Mexico , Britain , Scandinavia , Italy , Illy- 
ricum , Thrace , Greece , Asia  Minor , and  Phoe- 
nicia. Again,  we  have  observed  the  same  idol- 
atry prevailing  north  and  south,  through  Scythia 
on  the  one  hand,  and  Africa  on  the  other. 
The  worship  of  the  serpent  was,  there- 
fore, universal.  For  not  only  did  the  sacred 
serpent  enter  into  the  symbolical  and  ritual 
service  of  every  religion  which  recognised  the 
sun  ; but  we  even  find  him  in  countries  where 
solar  worship  was  altogether  unknown — as  in 
Sarmatia , Scandinavia , and  the  Gold  Coast  of 



Africa.  In  every  known  country  of  the  ancient 
world  the  serpent  formed  a prominent  feature 
in  the  ordinary  worship,  and  made  no  incon- 
siderable figure  in  their  Hagiographa,  entering 
alike  into  legendary  and  astronomical  mytho- 

Whence,  then,  did  this  only-universal 
idolatry  originate  ? That  it  preceded  poly- 
theism, is  indicated  by  the  attribution  of  the 
title  Ops,  and  the  consecration  of  the  symbol- 
ical serpent  to  so  many  of  the  heathen  deities. 
The  title  Ops  was  conferred  upon  Terra,  Vesta, 
Rhea,  Cybele,  Juno,  Diana — and  even  Vulcan 
is  called  by  Cicero,  Opas  \ 

In  Grecian  mythology,  the  symbolical  ser- 
pent was  sacred  to  Saturn,  Jupiter,  Apollo, 
Bacchus,  Mars,  iEsculapius,  Rhea,  Juno,  Mi- 
nerva, Diana,  Ceres,  and  Proserpine — that  is, 
the  serpent  was  a sacred  emblem  of  nearly  all 
the  gods  and  goddesses  2 . 

The  same  remark  may  be  extended  to  the 
Theogonies  of  Egypt,  Hindustan,  and  Mexico — 
in  all  of  which  we  find  the  serpent  emblematic, 
not  of  one  deity,  but  of  many . 

Bryant,  i.  61. 

Just.  Mart.  Apol  i.  60. 



What  then,  is  the  inference  ? — That  the  ser- 
pent was  the  most  ancient  of  the  heathen  gods  ; and 
that  as  his  attributes  were  multiplied  by  super- 
stitious devotion,  new  names  were  invented  to 
represent  the  new  personifications  which,  in  the 
progress  of  time,  dividing  the  unity,  destroyed 
the  integrity  of  the  original  worship.  Yet  each 
of  these  schismatic  superstitions  bore  some  faint 
trace  of  its  dracontic  origin,  in  retaining  the 
symbolical  serpent.  Some  of  these  deifications 
may  be  easily  traced,  though  others  are  obscure 
and  difficult. 

The  mystic  serpent  entered  into  the  mytho- 
logy of  every  nation ; consecrated  almost  every 
temple ; symbolized  almost  every  deity ; was 
imagined  in  the  heavens,  stamped  upon  the 
earth,  and  ruled  in  the  realms  of  everlasting 
sorrow.  His  suhtilty  raised  him  into  an  emblem 
of  wisdom  ; he  was  therefore  pictured  upon  the 
aegis  of  Minerva,  and  crowned  her  helmet.  The 
knowledge  of  futurity  which  he  displayed  in  Para- 
dise exalted  him  into  a symbol  of  vaticination  ; 
he  was  therefore  oracular , and  reigned  at  Delphi. 
The  “ opening  of  the  eyes  ” of  our  deluded  first 
parents  obtained  him  an  altar  in  the  temple  of 
the  god  of  healing ; he  is  therefore  the  constant 




companion  of  iEsculapius.  In  the  distribution 
of  his  qualities  the  genius  of  mythology  did  not 
even  gloss  over  his  malignant  attributes.  The 
fascination  with  which  he  intoxicated  the  souls 
of  the  first  sinners,  depriving  them  at  once  of 
purity  and  immortality,  of  the  image  of  God  and 
of  the  life  of  angels,  was  symbolically  remem- 
bered and  fatally  celebrated  in  the  orgies  of 
Bacchus,  where  serpents  crowned  the  heads  of  the 
Bacchantes,  and  the  “ Poculum  Boni  Dsemonis” 
circulated  under  the  auspices  of  the  Ophite 
hierogram  chased  upon  its  rim  \ But  the  most 
remarkable  remembrance  of  the  power  of  the 
paradisiacal  serpent  is  displayed  in  the  position 
which  he  retains  in  Tartarus.  A cunodracontic 
Cerberus  guards  the  gates  ; serpents  are  coiled 
upon  the  chariot  wheels  of  Proserpine  ; serpents 
pave  the  abyss  of  torment ; and  even  serpents 
constitute  the  caduceus  of  Mercury,  the  talis- 
man which  he  holds  when  he  conveys  the 
soul  to  Tartarus.  The  image  of  the  serpent  is 
stamped  upon  every  mythological  fable  con- 
nected with  the  realms  of  Pluto.  Is  it  not  then 
probable , that  in  the  universal  symbol  of  hea- 

See  Archaeol.  vol.  7. 



then  idolatry  we  recognize  the  universal  object 
of  primitive  worship — the  serpent  of  para- 

But  this  inference  depends  not  on  mere 
symbolical  worship : for  we  trace  the  sacred 
serpent,  by  the  lamp  of  tradition,  through  the 
waters  of  the  deluge  to  the  world  which  they 
overwhelmed.  In  the  mythological  systems  of 
Hindustan  and  Egypt,  we  find  him,  as  the 
cause  of  that  awful  calamity,  moving  in  the 
waters,  and  troubling  the  deep  : and  a Brah- 
minical  legend  indicates  his  existence  even  be- 
fore that  visitation . In  the  channel  of  the  river 
Ganges,  in  the  province  of  Bahar,  is  a remark- 
able rock,  upon  which  is  sculptured  a figure  of 
Veshnu  reposing  upon  a serpent.  This  serpent 
is  fabled  to  have  been  the  goddess  Devi  or  Isi, 
who  assumed  the  form  to  carry  Veshnu  over 
the  deluge.  The  sleep  of  Veshnu  indicates  the 
period  between  the  two  worlds l.  May  we  not 
then  infer  that  this  legend  alludes  to  the  exist- 
ence of  the  sacred  serpent  in  the  world  before 
the  flood  ? And  further,  is  it  not  probable,  since 
this  sacred  serpent  is  confounded  with  Isi, 

See  “ Ophiol.  in  Hindustan.” 



(the  Isis  of  Egypt — the  Eve  of  Scripture '), 
that  the  tradition  recognises  the  serpent  of 


The  only  worship  which  can  vie  with  that 
of  the  serpent  in  antiquity  or  universality, 
is  the  adoration  of  the  sun.  But  uniformly 
with  the  progress  of  the  solar  superstition,  has 
advanced  the  sacred  serpent  from  Babylon 
to  Peru.  If  the  worship  of  the  sun,  there- 
fore, was  the  first  deviation  from  the  truth  ; 
the  worship  of  the  serpent  was  one  of  the 
first  innovations  of  idolatry.  Whatever  doubt 
may  exist  as  to  which  was  the  first  error,  little 
doubt  can  arise  as  to  the  primitive  and  antedi- 
luvian character  of  both.  For  in  the  earliest 
heathen  records  we  find  them  inexplicably  inter- 
woven as  the  first  of  superstitions.  Thus 
Egyptian  mythology  informs  us,  that  Helius 
( the  sun)  was  the  first  of  the  Egyptian  gods ; 
for  in  early  history,  kings  and  gods  are  gene- 
rally confounded.  But  Helius  married  Ops, 
the  serpent  deity ! and  became  father  of  Osiris, 
Isis,  Typhon,  Apollo,  and  Venus1 2:  a tradition 

1 See  “ Fables” — Typon. 

2 Euseb.  Praep.  Evang.  p.  45,  citing  Manetho. 



which  would  make  the  superstitions  coeval. 
This  fable  being  reduced  to  more  simple  terms, 
informs  us,  that  the  sun,  having  married  the 
serpent,  became,  by  this  union,  the  father  of 
Adam  and  Eve , the  evil  spirit,  the  serpent- 
solar  deity , and  lust  ; which  appears  to  be  a 
confusion  of  scriptural  truths,  in  which  chrono- 
logical order  is  sacrificed  from  the  simplification 
of  a fable.  But — ex  pede  Herculem — from  the 
small  fragments  of  the  truth  which  are  here 
combined,  we  may  judge  of  the  original  dimen- 
sions of  the  knowledge  whose  ruins  are  thus 
heaped  together.  We  may  conclude,  that 
since  idolatry , lust , the  serpent , and  the  evil  spirit , 
are  here  said  to  have  been  synchronous  with 
the  first  man  and  woman,  the  whole  fable 
is  little  more  than  a mythological  version  of  the 
events  in  Paradise. 

The  first  sinners  and  the  first  sin  are  well 
placed  in  the  same  family  with  the  author  of 
all  evil  : and  as,  through  the  serpent,  he  was 
introduced  into  Paradise  ; and  through  the 
serpent,  they  died  from  righteousness,  and 
were  born  anew  in  sin, — the  serpent  may 
well  be  allegorically  represented  as  the  parent 
of  each. 



The  reviver  of  Ophiolatreia,  after  the  flood, 
must  have  been  one  of  the  family  of  Noah  ; 
for  so  high  can  we  trace  its  post-diluvian  his- 
tory. Sanchoniathon  tells  us,  that  “ Saturn, 
coming  into  the  south  country,  gave  the  whole 
of  Egypt  to  the  god  Taautus  for  his  king- 
dom V’ 

Now  Taautus  was  the  inventor  of  post-diluvian 
Ophiolatreia 2 ; and  since  Saturn  was  Noah, 
according  to  every  system  for  the  interpretation 
of  mythology,  it  is  historically  certain  that, 
during  the  lifetime  of  this  patriarch,  or  shortly 
after  his  death,  the  worship  of  the  serpent 
was  revived  in  Egypt. 

But  not  only  in  Egypt  must  we  look  for  its 
early  revival.  We  have  traced  it  in  countries 
which  never  could  have  had  intercourse  w7ith 
the  kingdom  of  Taautus,  until  the  voyages  of 
the  Phoenicians,  or  the  conquests  of  the  Romans, 
opened  a passage  for  its  mysteries.  And  then 
— here , in  the  remotest  regions  of  the  earth 
— amidst  the  fastnesses  of  Wales  and  the  wilds 
of  Wiltshire, — were  found  a people  who  adored 
the  same  god,  symbolized  by  the  same  serpent, 

1 Apud.  Euseb.  Praep.  Ev.  p.  39.  2 Ibid. 



and  propitiated  with  the  same  sacrifice — a 
human  victim  ! Who  remembered  in  their 
mythology  the  same  primeval  tradition  of 


dragon  ; and  blended  with  their  fables  such 
records  of  the  Fall  of  Man  as  could  hardly 
have  been  devised  by  their  own  invention,  irre- 
lative as  they  are  to  every  other  part  of  their 

Thus  the  veneration  of  the  oak  (which  did 
not  conduce  to  any  national  utility,  as  they  never 
cut  it  down,)  was  totally  unconnected  with  their 
theological  system,  and  must  therefore  have  been 
handed  down  to  them  by  immemorial  custom, 
the  meaning  of  which  had  been  lost  in  the  dark- 
ness of  ages. 

The  same  adoration  of  trees , in  conjunction 
with  serpent-worship,  prevailed  in  the  still 
darker  regions  of  Sarmatia,  and  among  the  infi- 
nitely more  degraded  natives  of  the  coast  of 
Africa.  And  who  can  have  the  hardihood  to  ven- 
ture an  assertion,  that  such  a superstition  was  the 
invention  of  one  polished  nation,  and  conveyed, 
by  their  commercial  or  warlike  enterprises,  into 
countries  cut  off  by  trackless  oceans  or  immea- 
surable deserts  ? Who  can  assert,  with  any 



hope  of  making  good  his  hypothesis,  that  the 
Egyptian  philosopher,  or  Phoenician  merchant, 
or  Assyrian  conqueror,  instructed  in  the  same 
worship  the  grovelling  Whidanese,  the  erratic 
Sarmatian,  or  the  inaccessible  Briton  ? 

The  inland  progress  of  the  sacred  serpent 
might  have  been  conducted  by  Chaldsean  colo- 
nies into  some  of  the  neighbouring  districts  ; but 
in  ages  when  the  exploits  of  a single  traveller 
furnished  matter  for  fables  as  numerous  as  they 
were  marvellous,  it  is  not  at  all  likely  that  a 
Chaldsean  colony  would  penetrate  on  the  one 
side  beyond  the  Oural,  or  on  the  other  beyond 
the  Himaleh  mountains,  in  sufficient  force  to 
revolutionize  the  religion  of  those  regions.  And 
yet  in  remote  China,  and  secluded  Scandinavia, 
the  same  serpent  holds  his  dominion  in  the 
sea,  and  his  reign  upon  the  land  ! But  if  to 
these  distant  dwellings  of  the  sacred  dragon 
we  add  his  immemorial  habitation  in  Peru  and 
Mexico,  the  improbability  that  Ophiolatreia 
was  a Chaldsean  invention  increases  with  ad- 
ditional force  : and  if  Chaldsea  be  deprived  of 
the  sceptre  of  universal  proselytism,  where 
is  the  nation  that  can  contend  for  the  dis- 
tinction ? 



With  respect  to  the  introduction  of  Ophio- 
latreia  into  Britain,  it  is  historically  certain 
that  the  Phoenicians  were  the  only  people  of 
antiquity  who  pushed  their  adventurous  barques 
into  these  remote  latitudes  : and  although  in 
some  particulars  the  languages  and  religions 
coincide,  yet  we  cannot  imagine  that  such  a 
priesthood  as  the  Druids  could  have  sprung 
from  the  slow  and  solitary  vessels  which,  creep- 
ing along  the  coasts  of  Africa  and  Gaul,  dis- 
charged their  ballast  upon  the  desert  Cassite- 
rides ; and,  unconscious  of  any  object  but  that 
of  accumulating  wealth,  returned  home  with  the 
tin  ore  of  those  valuable  islands.  That  acci- 
dental circumstances,  in  the  lapse  of  ages,  intro- 
duced many  innovations  into  the  religion  of  the 
West,  we  can  readily  believe  : but  to  recognize 
in  the  Druids,  the  magi  of  Chaldea,  the  philo- 
sophers of  Egypt,  or  the  Brahmins  of  Hindustan, 
(except  inasmuch  as  they  are  all  probably  de- 
scended from  the  original  idolatrous  priesthood 
dispersed  at  Babel,)  is  a refinement  of  conjecture 
which  requires  more  substantial  proofs  than  have 
hitherto  been  advanced.  Identity  of  remote 
origin  will  satisfactorily  account  for  identity  of 
opinions  in  countries  so  separated  by  land  and 




sea,  without  supposing  any  subsequent  inter- 
course by  colonies  or  navigation. 

It  appears,  then,  that  no  nations  were  so  geo- 
graphically remote,  or  so  religiously  discordant, 
but  that  one — and  only  one  1 — superstitious 
characteristic  was  common  to  all : that  the  most 
civilized  and  the  most  barbarous  bowed  down 
with  the  same  devotion  to  the  same  engrossing 
deity  ; and  that  this  deity  either  was , or  was 
represented  by , the  same  sacred  serpent. 

It  appears  also  that  in  most,  if  not  all,  the 
civilized  countries  where  this  serpent  wras  wor- 
shipped, some  fable  or  tradition  which  involved 
his  history,  directly  or  indirectly,  alluded  to  the 
fall  of  man  in  Paradise,  in  which  the  serpent 
was  concerned. 

1 It  is  but  justice  to  the  reader  to  state  that  Mr.  Faber 
objects  to  this  exclusiveness  which  I have  attributed  to  the 
universality  of  serpent- worship  : — “It  formed  part  of  a regular 
system,”  he  observes,  “ which  system  was  universal ; but  ser- 
pent-worship was  not  universal  as  opposed  to  hero-worship 
and  Sabianism.”  My  assertion  was  founded  upon  the  argu- 
ment, that  in  some  parts  of  A frica , and  in  Sarmatiar  where 
the  living  serpent  was  the  supreme  deity,  there  are  no  traces 
of  any  daemon- worship  or  Sabianism.  Whereas  in  every 
country  where  the  sun  was  an  object  of  idolatry,  the  serpent 
was  also  venerated  as  divine. 



What  follows,  then,  but  that  the  most  ancient 
account  respecting  the  cause  and  nature  of  this 
seduction  must  be  the  one  from  which  all  the 
rest  are  derived  which  represent  the  victorious 
serpent, — victorious  over  man  in  a state  of  inno- 
cence, and  subduing  his  soul  in  a state  of  sin, 
into  the  most  abject  veneration  and  adoration  of 

This  account  we  have  in  the  writings  of 
Moses, — confessedly  the  most  ancient  histo- 
rical records  which  exist  in  the  world.  The 
writings  of  Moses,  therefore,  contain  the  true 
history  ; and  the  serpent  of  Paradise  is  the  pro- 
totype of  the  serpent  of  all  the  superstitions. 
From  his  “ sub tilty”  arose  the  adoption  of  the 
serpent  as  an  emblem  of  “wisdom;”  from  his 
revealing  the  hidden  virtue  of  the  forbidden 
fruit,  the  use  of  the  same  reptile  in  divination ; 
from  his  conversation  with  Eve,  the  notion  that 
the  serpent  was  oracular : and,  after  this,  the 
transition  from  a symbol,  a talisman,  and  an 
oracle,  to  a GOD,  was  rapid  and  impercep- 
tible, and  would  naturally  have  taken  place 
even  had  there  been  no  tradition  of  the  celestial 
origin  of  the  fallen  spirit,  who  became  the  ser- 



II.  In  reviewing  the  hopes  and  traditions 
of  the  Gentiles,  we  find  that  they  not  only  pre- 
served in  their  mythological  writings  a memo- 
rial of  the  fall,  but  also  a strong  vestige  of 
the  promise  of  redemption.  The  “ bruising  of 
the  serpent ” was  equally  known  in  the  mytho- 
logies of  Egypt,  Hindustan,  Greece,  Persia, 
Scandinavia,  and  Mexico.  In  each  of  these  we 
recognize  a triumphant  god,  and  a vanquished 
serpent.  Neither  can  this,  any  more  than  the 
remembrance  of  the  fall,  be  a casual  coincidence. 
There  is  nothing  in  the  belief  which  would 
naturally  suggest  itself  to  the  imaginations  of 
people  so  remote  and  so  unconnected.  In 
respect  of  this  expectation,  therefore,  we  may 
similarly  conclude,  that  wThere  so  many  inde- 
pendent traditions  coincide,  the  most  ancient 
must  be  the  one  from  which  all  the  rest  were 
originally  derived.  This  will  again  bring  us  to 
the  Promise  of  Redemption,  in  the  curse  upon 
the  serpent,  as  revealed  to  Adam.  But  it  will 
do  more  : — it  will  teach  us  in  what  light  the 
first  of  men  who  fell,  and  to  whom  first  it  was 
announced  that  “ the  wages  of  sin  is  death,’ ’ 
looked  forward  to  “the  gift  of  God,  which  is 
eternal  life,  THROUGH  JESUS  CHRIST, 



OUR  LORD.”  It  will  teach  us  that  neither 
Adam,  any  more  than  ourselves,  “ looked  for 
transitory  promises that  the  redemption, 
which  was  the  object  of  his  ardent  faith,  was 
not  temporal , but  spiritual  ; that  the  agent  of 
that  redemption,  in  his  heaven-directed  eye, 
was  not  a mere  man , heir  of  his  infirmities, 
his  sins,  and  his  mortality,  but  “ God  manifest 
in  the  flesh  and  that,  through  the  sufferings 
of  this  just  one,  in  his  conflict  with  the  evil 
spirit,  he  expected  to  “ bruise  the  serpent' s head 

That  such  was  the  faith  of  Adam,  the  faith  of 
all  the  world  declares.  For  what  was  this  faith 
in  respect  of  the  vanquished  serpent,  and  the 
triumphant  god  ? — Apollo  slays  Python ; Her- 
cules, the  Hesperian  dragon ; Crishna,  the 
king  of  the  Nagas ; and  Thor,  “ the  serpent  which 
is  cast  into  the  sea."  But  Apollo  for  his  victory 
is  doomed  “ to  depart  from  the  world 1 Hercules 
and  Crishna  are  bitten  by  the  serpent ; the  former 
in  the  heel  ! while  Thor  gains  the  victory  only 
with  his  life.  Yet  Apollo,  Hercules,  Crishna, 
and  Thor,  are  all  incarnate  deities  ! 

If,  therefore,  the  legends  which  represent 
their  triumphs  be  derived  from  the  promise  of 

1 Plutarch  de  def.  Orac. 



Redemption  in  Paradise,  the  idea  of  their  incar- 
nation must  have  been  derived  from  the  same 
source.  It  is  evident,  therefore,  that  Adam,  or 
(which  is  the  same  thing)  Noah,  must  have  con- 
sidered the  promise  to  imply  a Redemption, 
which  would  be  wrought  by  the  sufferings  of 
“ God  manifest  in  the  flesh.” 

That  Adam  “ did  not  look  for  transitory  pro- 
mises,” is  further  evident  from  the  condition  in 
which  he  was  left  by  the  Fall ; which,  if  not 
alleviated  by  some  abiding  hope,  must  have  ac- 
celerated his  death  by  accumulated  miseries. 

To  the  serpent  God  said,  “ I will  put  enmity 
between  thee  and  the  woman , and  between  thy  seed 
and  her  seed ; it  shall  bruise  thy  head , and  thou 
shalt  bruise  his  heel  h”  Darkly  as  this  promise 
may  have  conveyed  the  hope,  that  a hope  of 
redemption  was  effectually  conveyed  by  it,  we 
have  every  reason  to  believe,  from  the  mere  fact 
that  “ the  days  of  Adam  were  nine  hmidred  and 
thirty  years , and  he  died2”  He  died  at  an  age 
to  which  he  could  not,  humanly  calculating, 
have  arrived,  had  his  life  been  so  wretched  as  the 
fall  from  innocence  and  the  curse  of  God  would 
have  made  it,  had  that  fall  been  irrecoverable,  and 

Gen.  iii.  15. 

2 Gen.  v.  5. 



that  curse  irremovable.  For  when  we  consider 
that  through  this  protracted  period,  he  sustained 
the  trials  of  an  “accursed”  soil,  of  children 
given  but  to  be  taken  away,  of  an  anxious  mind 
and  an  afflicted  body, — anxiety  and  affliction 
being  the  necessary  result  of  his  lapse  from 
innocence  ; when  we  consider  that  his  memory, 
however  impaired,  was  not  destroyed,  but  could 
carry  back  his  mind  to  a period  of  happiness  now 
no  longer  existing  ; and  that  his  body,  however 
fresh,  and  beautiful,  and  vigorous,  must  one  day 
“ return  to  the  earth  as  it  was  — we  must  be  as- 
sured that  he  had  something,  beyond  his  present 
hopes , to  comfort  and  support  him  in  his  pil- 
grimage upon  earth  ; that  he  had  some  well- 
grounded  and  abiding  faith  in  another  existence, 
more  suitable  to  the  energies,  and  more  con- 
soling to  the  necessities  of  the  soul.  The  only 
comfort  which  revelation  has  announced  for  his 
support,  is  the  promise  contained  in  the  curse 
upon  the  serpent ; and  as  it  would  be  the  extreme 
of  absurdity  to  interpret  this  literally , we  must 
look  for  a figurative  and  spiritual  interpretation. 
Such  an  interpretation  has  been  put  upon  it  by 
Scripture  ; but  we  can  arrive  at  the  same  con- 
clusion by  independent  arguments.  And  as  such 



a line  of  reasoning  is  sometimes  admitted  by 
those  who  will  “ hear  neither  Moses  nor  the  pro- 
phets,” neither  Christ  nor  the  evangelists,  it  may 
not  be  irrelevant  to  the  object  of  the  present 
treatise,  as  we  began  with  “ observations  on  the 
fall,”  to  conclude  with  similar  remarks  on  the 










From  the  moment  in  which  Adam,  by  trans- 
gression, fell,  it  became  apparent  that,  of  him- 
self\ he  could  never  rise  again.  The  cause  of 
his  fall  being  entire  disobedience , the  effects  of 
that  cause  could  only  be  alleviated  by  entire 
obedience , — and  this  he  was  not  in  a condition  to 
pay.  His  nature  had  become  corrupt ; his 
mind,  his  will,  and  his  affections,  were  de- 
praved ; and  “ the  imaginations  of  the  thoughts 
of  his  heart  were  only  evil  continually.”  In 
his  inability,  therefore,  to  pay  perfect  obedi- 
ence in  his  own  person,  he  was  compelled  to 
rely,  for  the  redemption  of  his  soul,  on  the  per- 
fect obedience  of  another  being.  For  the  law  of 
God  was  to  be  kept ; and  some  one  must  keep 
it,  to  justify  man , and  glorify  God. 



But  even  this  would  not  have  been  sufficient 
for  the  redemption  of  the  soul  of  man ; since 
no  obedience , however  perfect,  can  cancel  the 
previous  act  of  disobedience ; and  therefore  can 
never,  of  itself,  remove  the  guilt.  It  may 
indeed  recommend  the  guilty  to  mercy,  but  can 
never  make  satisfaction  for  the  sin. 

It  was  utterly  impossible,  therefore,  for 
Adam,  by  any  repentance  or  amendment,  to 

recover  his  lost  communion  with  God.  Some- 


thing  more  than  entire  obedience  was  necessary 
to  satisfy  the  justice  of  God,  before  his 
mercy  could  be  shown  ; and  nothing  less  than 
the  sacrifice  of  the  Redeemer,  as  well  as  his 
entire  obedience  to  the  law,  could  fulfil  the  con- 
ditions of  human  redemption.  Thus,  and  thus 
alone,  “ Mercy  and  Truth  would  meet  together ; 
Righteousness  and  Peace  would  kiss  each 
other  V’ 

But  these  conditions  could  not  be  fulfilled  by 
a mere  child  of  Adam,  though  “ the  seed  of  the 
woman”  was  ordained  “ to  bruise  the  serpent’s 
head.”  For  the  subject  of  atonement  being 
the  sins  of  the  whole  world,  and  the  Being  to 
be  appeased  God  Almighty,  the  Mediator 

1 Psalm  lxxxv.  10. 




must  be  such  as  could  “ speak  face  to  face” 
with  both.  This  could  not  be  a man,  born  in 
the  course  of  natural  generation,  for  such  an  one 
could  not  approach  God  to  satisfy  the  prelimi- 
naries of  his  justice.  The  insurmountable 
barrier  of  human  imperfection  would  interpose 
between  the  sin  and  the  atonement. 

But  as,  by  the  sinful  disobedience  of  man 
was  forfeited  the  earthly  Paradise,  by  the  sin- 
less obedience  of  man  must  the  heavenly  Para- 
dise be  entered. 

What  the  natural  man  could  not,  by  reason  of 
his  corruption,  accomplish,  an  incarnate  angel, 
though  born  of  “ the  seed  of  the  woman,” 
could  not  effect.  For  however  superior  the 
ministers  of  God,  in  heaven,  may  be  to  his 
fallen  creatures  on  earth,  their  purity  is  not 
sufficiently  proof  against  temptation  to  make 
the  offering  of  a sinless  body.  For  God 
“ chargeth  even  his  angels  with  folly;”  and 
these  in  their  spiritual  forms  may  err,  as  the 
angels  erred  who  “ kept  not  their  first  estate 
how  much  more , then,  would  they  be  liable  to 
sin,  if  clothed  with  the  infirmities  of  human 
nature ! 

Since,  then,  neither  man,  nor  an  incarnate 



angel,  could  offer  a suitable  and  sufficient  sa- 
crifice for  the  sin  of  Adam,  there  remained  but 
one  atonement,  suitable  and  sufficient , — incar- 
nate divinity. 

To  this,  and  to  no  other,  could  Adam  have 
looked  with  any  reasonable  ground  for  “ the 
hope  that  was  in  him.”  That  he  did  look  for 
this  spiritual  redemption  is  evident,  from  the 
universal  expectation  of  the  Gentile  world,  that 
an  INCARNATE  GOD  would  destroy  the 
spiritual  serpent. 

To  Him,  as  the  true  sacrifice  for  “ the 
propitiation  of  sins,"  was  the  eye  of  every 
Pagan,  though  dimly,  directed,  when,  in  ac- 
cordance with  the  belief  and  practice  of  Abel, 
the  blood  of  the  atoning  victim  was  poured  out 
upon  the  altar.  On  Him,  as  “ the  womans  seed , 
who  would  bruise  the  serpent's  head,"  was  the 
faith  of  every  Pagan,  though  ignorantly,  re- 
posed, when  the  fabled  heroes  of  heathen  my- 
thology were  exalted  into  the  heavens  for  their 
services  to  man  on  earth.  To  Him,  as  “ the 
ransom  of  our  souls " from  death,  was  the  hope 
of  every  Pagan,  though  blindly,  turned,  when 
oppressed  under  a sense  of  the  terrors  of  divine 
vengeance,  he  imagined  no  atonement  so  avail- 



able,  to  avert  the  wrath  of  God,  as  the  blood 

KNOWN God”  of  all  the  world,  whom  every 
nation,  actually,  though  “ ignorantly  worshipped ,” 
in  their  fables,  and  in  their  sacrifices,  and  in 
their  deified  heroes. 

The  tradition  of  “ the  woman’s  seed”  was 
handed  down  by  the  three  patriarchs  who 
peopled  the  earth,  after  the  deluge,  to  their 
children’s  children  : and  however  corrupted  by 
the  lapse  of  time,  or  the  blindness  of  idolatry, 
the  same  tradition  may  be  recognized  in  the 
mythology  of  every  nation  which  has  arrived  at 
the  comprehension  of  a religious  system.  Else, 
why  that  universal  prevalence  of  animal  sacri- 
fice in  propitiation  of  sins , which  has  obtained 
among  the  most  enlightened,  and  the  most 
barbarous  of  mankind?  Why  that  more  ex- 
traordinary opinion  reduced  to  practice,  that  no 
blood  is  so  available  to  avert  the  wrath  of  God 
as  that  of  a human  victim?  Why  are  these 
opinions  found  in  all  the  world,  if  man 
never  fell ; if  the  Redeemer  was  never  pro- 
mised ; if  God  never  said,  “ I have  given 



H h 




for  the  soul1?”  Why,  moreover,  was  that 
wonderful  superstition  of  serpent-worship  so 
generally  resorted  to  by  all  the  world,  if  the 
evil  spirit  never  triumphed  in  the  serpent’s 
form  ? And  why  were  those  fables  so  current 
in  mythology,  which  represent  the  serpent, 
the  emblem  of  the  evil  spirit , as  finally  to  be  over- 
come by  a hero,  born  of  a celestial  father 
and  a terrestrial  mother,  who,  after  his 
victory,  shall  be  enrolled  among  the  gods , if  reve- 
lation never  promised  that  “ the  seed  of  the 
woman  should  bruise  the  serpent’s  head  ?” 
And,  finally,  why  should  it  have  entered  into 
the  imagination  of  mythologists  to  represent  this 
victorious  hero  as  slain  by  his  dragon  enemy, 
if  redemption  were  not  promised  at  the  price  of 
the  Redeemer  s life  ; if  Jehovah  never  said  to  the 
apostate  serpent,  “ Thou  shalt  bruise  his  heel?” 

These  are  phsenomena,  to  be  reconciled 
by  no  rule  but  that  of  faith  in  the  word  of 
God,  which  present  to  the  contemplation  of 
the  untrembling  sceptic  a path  of  the  most 
rugged  and  unbounded  difficulty,  through  the 
mazes  of  which  the  Christian,  with  the  Bible  in 

1 Levit.  xvii.  11. 



his  hand,  can  alone  securely  travel.  But,  in- 
terpreted by  the  Scriptures,  they  are  facts  of 
the  most  solemn  and  engrossing  interest,  to 
which  history  and  fable,  religion  and  super- 
stition, bear  equal  testimony ; which  instruct 
while  they  admonish,  and  satisfy  while  they 
amaze  the  mind  of  the  inquirer  : and  he  that 
would  be  wise,  “ wise  unto  salvation,”  will 
“ ponder  them  in  his  heart.” 

The  humble-minded  Christian  will  consider 
them  with  the  seriousness  which  they  solemnly 
demand.  He  will  consider,  that  the  agreement 
of  the  whole  world  upon  a subject,  which 
could  not  have  suggested  itself  spontaneously 
to  the  mind,  especially  of  people  most  remote 
and  most  dissimilar,  and  placed  under  circum- 
stances in  every  other  respect  discordant,  can- 
not be  the  result  of  conspiracy  or  chance ; but 
that  what  has  been  the  belief  of  all  mankind, 
however  ignorantly  expressed,  must  have  had 
for  its  origin  one  faith,  which  was  founded 
upon  one  promise,  which  was  accepted  upon 
one  assurance — namely,  that  it  was  the  truth, 
and  the  revelation  of  God. 

Thus  if  the  Redeemer  of  mankind  was  “ the 
shiloh”  of  the  Jews,  “ the  desire  of  all 

h h 2 



nations  \ ” “ the  unknown  god”  of  every 
worship,  and  the  typified  victim  of  every 
altar, — we  are  not  only  justified  in  referring  this 
coincidence  of  belief  and  practice,  but  peremp- 
torily called  upon  to  refer  it  to  the  original  reve- 
lation made  by  God  to  Adam,  and  through  him 
to  all  mankind. 

2.  It  is  unnecessary  to  prove  what 1 * *  4 ‘ holy 
men  of  God,”  by  “ the  word  of  prophecy  ;” 
evangelists,  by  the  pen,  under  the  guidance 
of  the  Holy  Spirit ; and  martyrs,  by  their 
blood — have  testified  in  characters,  “ which  he 
may  read  who  runs,”  that  the  “ Shiloh”  of  the 
Jews,  “ the  desire  of  all  nations,”  “ the  unknown 
God”  of  every  worship,  whom  all  mankind 
really , though  “ ignorantly,”  adored,  is  JESUS 
CHRIST.  It  could  have  been  no  other.  For 
He  alone  of  all  men  lived  without  sin,  and  died 
without  requiring  the  mercy  of  God.  He  “ went 

1 This  expression  is  first  made  use  of  in  the  Septuagint, 
Gen.  xlix.  10  ; where  the  word  “ Shiloh”  is  most  wonderfully 
paraphrased — tt poaboKia  ’E Ovuv.  So  that  by  the  confession  of 

seventy-two  elders  chosen  for  their  learning  out  of  the  twelve 
tribes  of  Israel,  the  Redeemer  of  man,  was  “ The  expecta- 

tion of  the  Gentiles,”  nearly  three  centuries  before  he  was 

born  ! 



about  doing  good ;”  and  he  only  “ had  the 
words”  and  the  power  “ of  eternal  life.”  By 
his  patience,  by  his  innocence,  by  his  labours, 
and  by  his  resignation,  he  showed  himself  to  be 
more  than  an  ordinary  man  ; and  by  his  wisdom, 
by  his  preaching,  by  his  prophecies,  and  by  his 
miracles,  he  evinced  himself  “ a prophet,  yea 
more  than  a prophet ;”  while  the  consummating 
miracles  of  his  resurrection  from  the  grave,  and 
ascension  into  glory,  declared  him  to  be  “ GOD 

This  was  the  true  victim,  the  sinless,  the 
sufficient  sacrifice  ; by  the  shedding  of 
whose  blood  the  sin  of  Adam  was  atoned  for, 
and  Adam  restored  to  the  communion  which  he 
had  lost.  That  the  atonement  might  be  com- 
plete, it  was  indispensably  necessary  that  the 
victim  should  be  divine ; in  Jesus  we  behold 
the  divine  victim,  and  in  his  blood  the 
complete  atonement.  For  not  only  the 
miracles  which,  in  fulfilment  of  prophecy , he 
wrought ; not  only  the  authority,  equivalent  to 
that  of  God , which  he  assumed,  and  success- 
fully exercised  ; but  even  the  confession  of  the 

1 Rom.  ix.  5. 



evil  spirits  themselves,  declared  Jesus  to  be 
“ the  Christ,  the  Son  of  the  living  God.” 

To  be,  however,  a suitable,  as  well  as  a 
sufficient,  sacrifice  for  the  sins  of  men,  it  was 
necessary  that  he  should  be  human.  In  Jesus 
we  recognize  this  human  victim,  and  point  him 
out  like  Pilate,  though  with  far  different  feelings, 


But  while  sufficiency  for  the  end  required  the 
victim  to  be  divine , and  suitableness  to  the 
object  demanded  a human  sacrifice,  the  eternal 
necessity  that  “ all  righteousness  should  be 
fulfilled,”  as  peremptorily  required  the  two 
natures  to  he  united.  Without  the  man  to  suffer 
God  would  not  be  satisfied  : without  the  God 
to  qualify , the  man  could  not  be  perfect.  In 
Jesus,  therefore,  we  behold  the  mysterious 
union  of  God  and  man.  “ In  him  it  pleased  the 
Father  that  all  fulness  should  dwell 1 and  “ in 

BODILY  2.” 

3.  This  was  the  Redeemer,  and  this  the  re- 
demption, in  anticipation  of  which,  Adam 
repined  not  at  the  sentence  which  consigned 
him  to  toil  and  sorrow  ; which  had  driven  him 

1 Col.  i.  19. 

2 Col.  ii.  9. 



from  a life  of  ease  to  labour — from  “ a garden 
of  pleasure”  to  a field  of  thorns.  Though  every 
morsel  of  bread,  and  every  drop  of  pure  water, 
brought  with  it  the  recollection  of  his  sin  and 
fall : though,  “ for  his  sake,”  the  very  ground 
which  he  tilled  was  “ cursed,”  and  “ in  sorrow,” 
he  was  doomed  to  “ eat  of  it  all  the  days  of  his 
life  ;”  though  the  partner  of  his  affliction  was 
still  more  afflicted,  and,  through  “ sorrow,”  was 
condemned  to  pass  to  the  blessedness  of  a 
mother — yet  did  the  faith  of  Adam  sustain  his 
sinking  spirit — yet  did  he  “eat  the  bread  of 
labour  with  thanksgiving  ;”  and  yet  did  his  loved 
partner  “forget  the  sorrow  for  joy  that  a man 
was  born  into  the  world.”  For  in  that  bread  of 
labour  he  recognized  the  gift  of  an  indulgent 
Father ; and  in  that  man-child  she  expected  the 
redemption  and  consolation  of  their  souls.  Thus, 
though  that  consolation  and  redemption  were 
remote  ; though  ages  must  roll  on  ages,  and 
individuals  become  nations , before  that  desired 
Holy  One  could  enter  into  his  kingdom — so 
firm , so  constant , and  so  confident  was  the  hope  of 
Adam,  that,  in  the  glance  of  his  prospective 
faith,  he  gathered  ages  into  a moment,  and  na- 
tions" into  an  individual,  when  the  voice  of  his 



loved  partner  exclaimed  with  holy  transport — 
“ I have  gotten  the  man  from  the  Lord  1 /”  And 
though  fond  expectation  might  have  given  place 
to  despair,  when  the  “ child  of  their  many 
prayers”  left  them  childless  in  the  world,  by 
the  murder  of  his  brother,  and  the  banishment 
of  himself — yet  still  did  Adam  hope  against 
hope,  that  “ the  seed  of  the  woman  would 
bruise  the  serpent’s  head.”  And  hence,  when 
instead  of  him  who  had  been  branded  with  the 
curse  of  God,  another  child  was  given,  on  him 
they  bestowed  the  name  of  Seth — that  is 
“ substituted  :”  for  in  their  hearts  they  be- 
lieved that  he  was  “ substituted ” for  their  first- 
born ; in  his  place  to  console  them  through 
their  pilgrimage  upon  earth,  and  in  his  place  to 
redeem  them  from  the  last  penalty  of  sin.  Thus 
Adam  “ died  in  faith , not  having  received  the 
promises .”  He  “ died  in  the  faith”  of  a spi- 

In  the  same  faith  had  died  Abel  ; and  he 
evinced  it  in  that  sacrifice  unto  which  “ God 
had  had  respect,”  as  offered  in  assurance  of  the 
blood  which  should  be  shed,  “ once  for  all,” 
at  Calvary. 


1 Gen.  iv.  1 . See  Faber,  Hor.  Mos.  ii.  55. 



In  the  same  faith  died  Noah,  the  second 
father  of  mankind,  and  bequeathed  it  as  the 
best  blessing  of  a departing  parent  to  a sur- 
viving child.  ££  God  shall  enlarge  Japheth ,” 
was  his  inspired  promise  to  the  son  whom  tem- 
poral prosperity  would  magnify  : but  “ he  shall 
dwell  in  the  tents  of  Shem,”  was  the  spiritual 
and  eternal  blessing.  In  the  family  of  Shem  was 
the  Messiah  born,  and  lived,  and  died.  He 
££  dwelt ” as  in  a tent  u among  them  V’ 

For  ages  after  the  deluge  the  tradition  was 
handed  down  by  each  dying  patriarch  to  that 
son  who  was  destined  to  be  the  progenitor  of 
££  the  hope  of  Israel  but  the  time  in  which 
this  Holy  One  would  enter  into  his  kingdom 
being  still  uncertain,  it  was  not  until  upon  his 
death-hed  that  the  pious  patriarch  perceived  that 
salvation  was  still  distant.  Then  did  the  pro- 
phetic spirit  which  was  imparted  to  the  dying 
saint,  open  the  dim  eye  to  pierce  into  futurity. 
As  the  body  decayed,  the  soul  gathered  strength: 
as  earth  receded,  heaven  approached : as  all 
around  him  grew  dark,  all  above  him  was 
bright.  And,  ££  the  sun  of  righteousness, 

1 John  i.  14 — “ dwelt  among  us” — literally , “ lived  as  in 
a tent^  or,  “ pitched  his  tent.” — kai cr'ivojaev  kv  rjfMv. 



arising  with  healing  on  his  wings,”  disclosed, 
through  the  dark  clouds  of  advancing  ages,  life, 
and  immortality,  and  JESUS  CHRIST. 

Thus  “ Abraham  rejoiced  to  see  the  day  of 
Christ : he  saw  it , and  was  glad1 .”  Thus  “ Isaac 
blessed  Jacob  concerning  things  to  come2.”  Thus 
Jacob  declared  his  hope  and  expectation — “ I 
have  waited  for  thy  salvation , O Lord 3 !”  Each 
in  his  own  life-time  looked  anxiously  for  the 
redemption,  which  each  on  his  death-bed  “ saw, 
but  not  nigh”  In  the  prophetic  spirit  which 
afterwards  inspired  the  unworthy  Balaam,  they 
perceived  that  “ a star  would  come  out  of  Jacob, 
and  a sceptre  would  arise  out  of  Judah  but,  like 
him,  they  were  assured — “ I shall  see  Him  ; but 
not  now;  I shall  behold  Him,  but  not  nigh*.” 
“ These  all  died  in  faith,  not  having  received  the 
promises ; but  having  seen  them  afar  off,  and  being 
persuaded  of  them,  and  embracing  them,  and  con- 
fessing that  they  were  strangers , and  pilgrims  on 
the  earth 5.”  “ They  did  all  eat  the  same  spiritual 

meat ; they  did  all  drink  the  same  spiritual  drink ; 
for  they  drank  of  the  spiritual  rock  that  followed 
them,  and  that  rock  was  Christ  6.” 

1 John  viii.  56.  2 Heb.  xi.  20.  3 Gen.  xlix.  18. 

4 Numb.  xxiv.  17.  5 Heb.  xi.  13.  c 1 Cor.  x'  3. 



Dwelling  in  tents  soon  pitched  and  soon  re- 
moved ; wandering  from  place  to  place,  as  men 
without  a country,  they  w^eaned  themselves  from 
the  follies  and  fascinations  of  the  world,  and  fixed 
their  hearts  firmly  on  that  place  alone,  44  where 
true  joys  only  are  to  be  found.”  The  only 
heritage  which  they  possessed  was  the  promise  ; 
the  only  land  which  they  purchased  was  a burial 
place  : the  only  rest  for  their  bodies  was  the 
grave  ; the  only  home  of  their  souls  was  heaven. 
“ Wherefore  God  was  not  ashamed  to  be  called 
their  God  ; for  he  hath  prepared  for  them  a city  ” 
— “ a city  which  hath  foundations,  whose  builder 
and  maker  is  God  b” 

May  all,  who  are  partakers  of  the  same 
abiding  hope,  partake  with  them  in  the  fruition 
of  the  same  unfading  glory  ! 

1 Heb.  xi.  16,  and  10. 




sr.  John’s  square.