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Title: Ophiolatreia - An Account of the Rites and Mysteries Connected with the - Origin, Rise, and Development of Serpent Worship in Various - Parts of the World
Author: Anonymous
Language: English
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  Serpent Worship




  Serpent Mounds & Temples,





_Our words by way of preface and introduction need be but few. The
following volume forms a companion to one already issued bearing the title
"Phallism." That work, though complete in itself, meets in this a further
elucidation of its subject, since, in the opinion of many, Ophiolatreia,
the worship of the Serpent, is of Phallic origin. Such a view, and others
of a contrary nature, have been honestly set forth, and the best and most
trustworthy authorities have been consulted for history, arguments, and
illustrations by which they may be understood. No attempt has been made to
insist upon any one method of interpretation as undoubtedly correct, but
simple facts have been stated, and the reader has been left to form his
own independent judgment._



  CHAPTER I.                                                             1

  Ophiolatreia an extraordinary subject--Of mysterious origin--
  Of universal prevalence--The Serpent, a common symbol in
  mythology--Serpent Worship, natural but irrational--Bacchic
  orgies--Olympias, mother of Alexander, and the Serpent Emblem--
  Thermuthis, the sacred Serpent--Asps--Saturn and his children--
  Sacrifices at altar of Saturn--Abaddon--Ritual of Zoroaster--
  Vulcan--Theology of Ophion--The Cuthites--The Ophiogeneis--The
  Ophionians--Greek Traditions--Cecrops--Various Serpent

  CHAPTER II.                                                           10

  Supposed Phallic Origin of Serpent Worship--The idea of life--
  Adoration of the principle of generation--The Serpent as a
  symbol of the Phallus--Phallic Worship at Benares--The Serpent
  and Mahadeo--Festival of the "Nag panchami"--Snakes and Women--
  Traces of Phallic Worship in the Kumaon Rock Markings--The
  Northern Bulb-stones--Professor Stephens on the Snake as a
  Symbol of the Phallus--The "Dionysiak Myth"--Brown on the
  Serpent as a Phallic Emblem--Mythology of the Aryan Nations--
  Sir G. W. Cox and the Phallic theory--Athenian Mythology.

  CHAPTER III.                                                          17

  Mythology of the Ancients--Characteristics of the Pagan Deities--
  Doctrine of the Reciprocal Principles of Nature--Creation and the
  Egg--Creation and the Phallus--The Lotus--Osiris as the active,
  dispensing, and originating energy--Hesiod and the generative
  powers--Growth of Phallic Worship.

  CHAPTER IV.                                                           21

  Ancient Monuments of the West--The valley of the Mississippi--
  Numerous earth-works of the Western States--Theories as to the
  origin of the mounds--"The Defence" Theory--The Religious
  Theory--Earth-work of the "Great Serpent" on Bush Creek--The
  "Alligator," Ohio--The "Cross," Pickaway County--Structures of
  Wisconsin--Mr. Pigeon's drawings--Significance of earth-mounds--
  The Egg and Man's primitive ideas--The Egg as a symbol--Birth of
  Brahma--Aristophanes and his "Comedy of the Birds"--The hymn to
  Protogones--The Chinese and Creation--The Mundane or Orphic
  Egg--Kneph--Mr. Gliddon's replies to certain inquiries--The
  Orphic Theogony and the Egg--The Great Unity.

  CHAPTER V.                                                            38

  The Sun and Fire as emblems--The Serpent and the Sun--Taut and the
  Serpent--Horapollo and the Serpent Symbol--Sanchoniathon and the
  Serpent--Ancient Mysteries of Osiris, &c.--Rationale of the
  connection of Solar, Phallic, and Serpent Worship--The Aztec
  Pantheon--Mexican Gods--The Snake in Mexican Theology--The Great
  Father and Mother--Quetzalcoatl, the Feathered Serpent--Researches
  of Stephens and Catherwood--Discoveries of Mr. Stephens.

  CHAPTER VI.                                                           60

  Mexican Temple of Montezuma--The Serpent emblem in Mexico--Pyramid
  of Cholula--Tradition of the giants of Auahuac--The temple of
  Quetzalcoatl--North American Indians and the Rattlesnake--Indian
  Tradition of a Great Serpent--Serpents in the Mounds of the West--
  Bigotry and folly of the Spanish Conquerors of the West--Wide
  prevalence of Mexican Ophiolatreia.

  CHAPTER VII.                                                          77

  Egypt as the home of Serpent Worship--Thoth said to be the
  founder of Ophiolatreia--Cneph the architect of the universe--
  Mysteries of Isis--The Isiac table--Frequency of the Serpent
  symbol--Serapis--In the temples at Luxore, etc.--Discovery at
  Malta--The Egyptian Basilisk--Mummies--Bracelets--The Caduceus--
  Temple of Cneph at Elephantina--Thebes--Story of a priest--
  Painting in a tomb at Biban at Malook--Pococke at Raigny.

  CHAPTER VIII.                                                         84

  Derivation of the name "Europe"--Greece colonized by Ophites--
  Numerous traces of the Serpent in Greece--Worship of Bacchus--
  Story of Ericthonias--Banquet of the Bacchantes--Minerva--Armour
  of Agamemnon--Serpents at Epidaurus--Story of the pestilence in
  Rome--Delphi--Mahomet at Atmeidan.

  CHAPTER IX.                                                           89

  Ophiolatreia in Britain--The Druids--Adders--Poem of Taliessin--
  The goddess Ceridwen--A Bardic poem--Snake stones--The anguinum--
  Execution of a Roman Knight--Remains of the serpent temple at
  Abury--Serpent vestiges in Ireland of great rarity--St. Patrick.

  CHAPTER X.                                                            94

  India conspicuous in the history of Serpent Worship--Nágpúr--
  Confessions of a snake worshipper--The gardeners of Guzerat--
  Cottages for snakes at Calicut--The Feast of the Serpents--The
  deity Hari--Garuda--The snake as an emblem of immortality.

  CHAPTER XI.                                                           99

  Mr. Bullock's exhibition of objects illustrating Serpent Worship.



    _Ophiolatreia an extraordinary subject--Of mysterious origin--Of
    universal prevalence--The Serpent a common symbol in
    mythology--Serpent-worship natural but irrational--Bacchic
    orgies--Olympias, mother of Alexander, and the Serpent
    emblem--Thermuthis, the Sacred Serpent--Asps--Saturn and his
    children--Sacrifices at altar of Saturn--Abaddon--Ritual of
    Zoroaster--Theologo of Ophion--The Cuthites--The Ophiogeneis--The
    Ophionians--Greek Traditions--Cecrops--Various Serpent worshippers._

Ophiolatreia, the worship of the serpent, next to the adoration of the
phallus, is one of the most remarkable, and, at first sight, unaccountable
forms of religion the world has ever known. Until the true source from
whence it sprang can be reached and understood, its nature will remain as
mysterious as its universality, for what man could see in an object so
repulsive and forbidding in its habits as this reptile, to render worship
to, is one of the most difficult of problems to find a solution to. There
is hardly a country of the ancient world, however, where it cannot be
traced, pervading every known system of mythology, and leaving proofs of
its existence and extent in the shape of monuments, temples, and
earthworks of the most elaborate and curious character. Babylon, Persia,
Hindostan, Ceylon, China, Japan, Burmah, Java, Arabia, Syria, Asia Minor,
Egypt, Ethiopia, Greece, Italy, Northern and Western Europe, Mexico, Peru,
America--all yield abundant testimony to the same effect, and point to the
common origin of Pagan systems wherever found. Whether the worship was the
result of fear or respect is a question that naturally enough presents
itself, and in seeking to answer it we shall be confronted with the fact
that in some places, as Egypt, the symbol was that of a good demon, while
in India, Scandinavia, and Mexico, it was that of an evil one. It has been
remarked 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 an evil being is not surprising,
but that in the frozen or temperate regions of the earth, where he
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 satisfactorily 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.
'Wherever the Devil reigned,' remarks Stillingfleet, 'the serpent was held
in some peculiar veneration.' The universality of this singular and
irrational, yet natural, superstition it is now proposed to show.
_Irrational_, for there is nothing in common between deity and a reptile,
to suggest the notion of Serpent-worship; and _natural_, because, allowing
the truth of the events in Paradise, every probability is in favour of
such a superstition springing up."[1]

It may seem extraordinary that the worship of the serpent should ever have
been introduced into the world, and it must appear still more remarkable
that it should almost universally have prevailed. As mankind are said to
have been ruined through the influence of this being, we could little
expect that it would, of all other objects, have been adopted as the most
sacred and salutary symbol, and rendered the chief object of adoration.
Yet so we find it to have been, for in most of the ancient rites there is
some allusion to it. In the orgies of Bacchus, the persons who took part
in the ceremonies used to carry serpents in their hands, and with horrid
screams call upon "Eva, Eva." They were often crowned with serpents while
still making the same frantic exclamation. One part of the mysterious
rites of Jupiter Sabazius was to let a snake slip down the bosom of the
person to be initiated, which was taken out below. These ceremonies, and
this symbolic worship, are said to have begun among the Magi, who were the
sons of Chus, and by them they were propagated in various parts.
Epiphanius thinks that the invocation "Eva, Eva," related to the great
mother of mankind, who was deceived by the serpent, and Clemens of
Alexandria is of the same opinion. Others, however, think that Eva was
the same as Eph, Epha, Opha, which the Greeks rendered Ophis, and by it
denoted a serpent. Clemens acknowledges that the term Eva, properly
aspirated, had such a signification.

Olympias, the mother of Alexander, was very fond of these orgies, in which
the serpent was introduced. Plutarch mentions that rites of this sort were
practised by the Edonian women near Mount Hæmus in Thrace, and carried on
to a degree of madness. Olympias copied them closely in all their frantic
manoeuvres. She used to be followed with many attendants, who had each a
thyrsus with serpents twined round it. They had also snakes in their hair,
and in the chaplets which they wore, so that they made a most fearful
appearance. Their cries also were very shocking, and the whole was
attended with a continual repetition of the words, Evoe, Saboe, Hues
Attes, Attes Hues, which were titles of the god Dionusus. He was
peculiarly named Hues, and his priests were the Hyades and Hyautes. He was
likewise styled Evas.

In Egypt was a serpent named Thermuthis, which was looked upon as very
sacred; and the natives are said to have made use of it as a royal tiara,
with which they ornamented the statues of Isis. We learn from Diodorus
Siculus that the kings of Egypt wore high bonnets, which terminated in a
round ball, and the whole was surrounded with figures of asps. The
priests, likewise, upon their bonnets had the representation of serpents.
The ancients had a notion that when Saturn devoured his own children, his
wife Ops deceived him by substituting a large stone in lieu of one of his
sons, which stone was called Abadir. But Ops and Opis, represented here as
a feminine, was the serpent deity, and Abadir is the same personage under
a different denomination. Abadir seems to be a variation of Ob-Adur, and
signifies the serpent god Orus. One of these stones, which Saturn was
supposed to have swallowed instead of a child, stood, according to
Pausanias, at Delphi. It was esteemed very sacred, and used to have
libations of wine poured upon it daily; and upon festivals was otherwise
honoured. The purport of the above was probably this: it was for a long
time a custom to offer children at the altar of Saturn; but in process of
time they removed it, and in its room erected a stone pillar, before which
they made their vows, and offered sacrifices of another nature. This stone
which they thus substituted was called Ab-Adar, from the deity represented
by it. The term Ab generally signifies a father, but in this instance it
certainly relates to a serpent, which was indifferently styled Ab, Aub,
and Ob. Some regard Abadon, or, as it is mentioned in the Book of the
Revelation, Abaddon, to have been the name of the same Ophite god, with
whose worship the world had been so long infected. He is termed Abaddon,
the angel of the bottomless pit--the prince of darkness. In another place
he is described as the dragon, that old serpent, which is the devil, and
Satan. Hence the learned Heinsius is supposed to be right in the opinion
which he has given upon this passage, when he makes Abaddon the same as
the serpent Pytho.

It is said that in the ritual of Zoroaster the great expanse of the
heavens, and even nature itself, was described under the symbol of a
serpent.[2] The like was mentioned in the Octateuch of Ostanes; and
moreover, in Persia and in other parts of the East they erected temples to
the serpent tribe, and held festivals to their honour, esteeming them _the
supreme of all Gods, and the superintendents of the whole world_. The
worship began among the people of Chaldea. They built the city Opis upon
the Tigris, and were greatly addicted to divination and to the worship of
the serpent. From Chaldea the worship passed into Egypt, where the serpent
deity was called Canoph, Caneph, and C'neph. It had also the name of Ob,
or Oub, and was the same as the Basilicus, or Royal Serpent; the same also
as the Thermuthis, and in like manner was made use of by way of ornament
to the statues of their Gods. The chief Deity of Egypt is said to have
been Vulcan, who was also styled Opas, as we learn from Cicero. He was the
same as Osiris, the Sun; and hence was often called Ob-El, or Pytho Sol;
and there were pillars sacred to him, with curious hieroglyphical
inscriptions, which had the same name. They were very lofty, and narrow in
comparison of their length; hence among the Greeks, who copied from the
Egyptians, everything gradually tapering to a point was styled Obelos, and
Obeliscus. Ophel (Oph-El) was a name of the same purport, and many sacred
mounds, or Tapha, were thus denominated from the serpent Deity, to whom
they were sacred.

Sanchoniathon makes mention of a history which he once wrote upon the
worship of the serpent. The title of this work, according to Eusebius, was
Ethothion, or Ethothia. Another treatise upon the same subject was written
by Pherecydes Tyrus, which was probably a copy of the former; for he is
said to have composed it from some previous accounts of the Phoenicians.
The title of his book was the Theology of Ophion, styled Ophioneus, and
his worshippers were called Ophionidæ. Thoth and Athoth were certainly
titles of the Deity in the Gentile world; and the book of Sanchoniathon
might very possibly have been from hence named Ethothion, or more truly,
Athothion. But, from the subject upon which it was written, as well as
from the treatise of Pherecydes, we have reason to think that Athothion,
or Ethothion, was a mistake for Ath-Ophion, a title which more immediately
related to that worship of which the writer treated. Ath was a sacred
title, as we have shewn, and we imagine that this dissertation did not
barely relate to the serpentine Deity, but contained accounts of his
votaries, the Ophitæ, the principal of which were the sons of Chus. The
worship of the serpent began among them, and they were from thence
denominated Ethiopians, and Aithopians, which the Greeks rendered
Aithiopes. They did not receive this name from their complexion, as has
sometimes been surmised, for the branch of Phut and the Luhim, were
probably of a deeper dye; but they were most likely so called from
Ath-Ope, and Ath-Opis, the God which they worshipped. This may be shewn
from Pliny. He says that the country Ethiopia (and consequently the
people), had the name of Æthiop, from a personage who was a Deity--_ab
Æthiope Vulcani filio_. The Æthiopes brought these rites into Greece, and
called the island where they first established them Ellopia, _Solis
Serpentis insula_. It was the same as Euboea, a name of the like
purport, in which island was a region named Ethiopium. Euboea is
properly Oub-Aia, and signifies, the Serpent Island. The same worship
prevailed among the Hyperboreans, as we may judge from the names of the
sacred women who used to come annually to Delos; they were priestesses of
the Tauric Goddess. Hercules was esteemed the chief God, the same as
Chronus, and was said to have produced the Mundane egg. He was represented
in the Orphic theology under the mixed symbol of a lion and a serpent, and
sometimes of a serpent only.

The Cuthites, under the title of Heliadæ, having settled at Rhodes, as
they were Hivites, or Ophites, the island was in consequence named
Ophiusa. There was likewise a tradition that it had once swarmed with
serpents. (Bochart says the island is said to have been named Rhodus from
_Rhad_, a Syriac word for a serpent.) The like notion prevailed almost in
every place where they settled. They came under the more general titles
of Leleges and Pelasgi; but more particularly of Elopians, Europians,
Oropians, Asopians, Inopians, Ophionians, and Æthiopes, as appears from
the names which they bequeathed; and in most places where they resided
there were handed down traditions which alluded to their original title of
Ophites. In Phrygia, and upon the Hellespont, whither they sent out
colonies very early, was a people styled the Ophiogeneis, or the serpent
breed, who were said to retain an affinity and correspondence with
serpents; and a notion prevailed that some hero, who had conducted them,
was changed from a serpent to a man. In Colchis was a river Ophis, and
there was another of the same name in Arcadia. It was so named from a body
of people who settled upon its banks, and were said to have been conducted
by a serpent.

It is said these reptiles are seldom found in islands, but that Tenos, one
of the Cyclades, was supposed to have once swarmed with them.[3]

Thucydides mentions a people of Ætotia, called Ophionians; and the temple
of Apollo at Petara, in Lycia, seems to have had its first institution
from a priestess of the same name. The island of Cyprus was called
Ophiusa, and Ophiodes, from the serpents with which it was supposed to
have abounded. Of what species they were is nowhere mentioned, excepting
only that about Paphos there was said to have been a kind of serpent with
two legs. By this is meant the Ophite race, who came from Egypt, and from
Syria, and got footing in this island. They settled also in Crete, where
they increased greatly in numbers; so that Minos was said by an unseemly
allegory, _opheis ouresai, serpentes, minxisse_. The island Seriphus was
one vast rock, by the Romans called _saxum seriphium_, and made use of as
a large kind of prison for banished persons. It is represented as having
once abounded with serpents, and it is styled by Virgil, _serpentifera_,
as the passage is corrected by Scaliger.

It is said by the Greeks that Medusa's head was brought by Perseus; by
this is meant the serpent Deity, whose worship was here introduced by
people called Peresians. Medusa's head denoted divine wisdom, and the
island was sacred to the serpent, as is apparent from its name. The
Athenians were esteemed _Serpentiginæ_, and they had a tradition that the
chief guardian of their Acropolis was a serpent.

It is reported of the goddess Ceres that she placed a dragon for a
guardian to her temple at Eleusis, and appointed another to attend upon
Erectheus. Ægeus of Athens, according to Androtion, was of the serpent
breed, and the first king of the country is said to have been a dragon.
Others make Cecrops the first who reigned. He is said to have been of a
two-fold nature, being formed with the body of a man blended with that of
a serpent. Diodorus says that this was a circumstance deemed by the
Athenians inexplicable; yet he labours to explain it by representing
Cecrops as half a man and half a brute, because he had been of two
different communities. Eustathius likewise tries to solve it nearly upon
the same principles, and with the like success. Some have said of Cecrops
that he underwent a metamorphosis, being changed from a serpent to a man.
By this was meant, according to Eustathius, that Cecrops by coming into
Hellas divested himself of all the rudeness and barbarity of his country,
and became more civilised and human. This is declared by some to be too
high a compliment to be paid to Greece in its infant state, and detracts
greatly from the character of the Egyptians. The learned Marsham therefore
animadverts with great justice, "it is more probable that he introduced
into Greece the urbanity of his own country, than that he was beholden to
Greece for anything from thence." In respect to the mixed character of
this personage, we may easily account for it. Cecrops was certainly a
title of the Deity, who was worshipped under this emblem. Something of the
like nature was mentioned of Triptolemus and Ericthonius, and the like has
been said of Hercules. The natives of Thebes in Boeotia, like the
Athenians, esteemed themselves of the serpent race. The Lacedæmonians
likewise referred themselves to the same original. Their city is said of
old to have swarmed with serpents. The same is said of the city Amyelæ in
Italy, which was of Spartan origin. They came hither in such abundance
that it was abandoned by the inhabitants. Argos was infested in the same
manner till Apis came from Egypt and settled in that city. He was a
prophet, the reputed son of Apollo, and a person of great skill and
sagacity, and to him they attributed the blessing of having their country
freed from this evil. Thus the Argives gave the credit to this imaginary
personage of clearing their land of this grievance, but the brood came
from the very quarter from whence Apis was supposed to have arrived. They
were certainly Hivites from Egypt, and the same story is told of that
country. It is represented as having been of old over-run with serpents,
and almost depopulated through their numbers. Diodorus Siculus seems to
understand this literally, but a region that was annually overflowed, and
that too for so long a season, could not well be liable to such a
calamity. They were serpents of another nature with which it was thus
infested, and the history relates to the Cuthites, the original Ophitæ,
who for a long time possessed that country. They passed from Egypt to
Syria, and to the Euphrates, and mention is made of a particular breed of
serpents upon that river, which were harmless to the natives but fatal to
anybody else. This can hardly be taken literally; for whatever may be the
wisdom of the serpent it cannot be sufficient to make these distinctions.
These serpents were of the same nature as the birds of Diomedes, and the
dogs in the temple of Vulcan; and the histories relate to Ophite priests,
who used to spare their own people and sacrifice strangers, a custom which
prevailed at one time in most parts of the world. The Cuthite priests are
said to have been very learned; and, as they were Ophites, whoever had the
advantage of their information was said to have been instructed by

As the worship of the serpent was of old so prevalent, many places, as
well as people, from thence received their names. Those who settled in
Campania were called Opici, which some would have changed to Ophici,
because they were denominated from serpents. They are in reality both
names of the same purport, and denote the origin of the people.

We meet with places called Opis, Ophis, Ophitæa, Ophionia, Ophioessa,
Ophiodes, and Ophiusa. This last was an ancient name by which, according
to Stephanus, the islands Rhodes, Cynthus, Besbicus, Tenos, and the whole
continent of Africa, were distinguished. There were also cities so called.
Add to these places denominated Oboth, Obona, and reversed, Onoba, from
Ob, which was of the same purport.

Clemens Alexandrinus says that the term Eva signified a serpent if
pronounced with a proper aspirate, and Epiphanius says the same thing. We
find that there were places of this name. There was a city Eva in Arcadia,
and another in Macedonia. There was also a mountain Eva, or Evan, taken
notice of by Pausanias, between which and Ithome lay the city Messene. He
mentions also an Eva in Argolis, and speaks of it as a large town. Another
name for a serpent, which we have not yet noticed, was Patan, or Pitan.
Many places in different parts were denominated from this term. Among
others was a city in Laconia, and another in Mysia, which Stephanus styles
a city of Æolia. They were undoubtedly so named from the worship of the
serpent, Pitan, and had probably Dracontia, which were figures and devices
relative to the religion which prevailed. Ovid mentions the latter city,
and has some allusions to its ancient history when he describes Medea as
flying through the air from Athea to Colchis. The city was situate upon
the ruin Eva, or Evan, which the Greeks rendered Evenus. According to
Strabo it is compounded of Eva-Ain, the fountain or river of Eva the

It is remarkable that the Opici, who are said to have been named from
serpents, had also the name of Pitanatæ; at least, one part of that family
was so called. Pitanatæ is a term of the same purport as Opici, and
relates to the votaries of Pitan, the serpent Deity, which was adored by
that people. Menelaus was of old called Pitanates, as we learn from
Hesychius, and the reason of it may be known from his being a Spartan, by
which he was intimated one of the Serpentigenæ, or Ophites. Hence he was
represented with a serpent for a device upon his shield. It is said that a
brigade, or portion of infantry, was among some of the Greeks named
Pitanates, and the soldiers in consequence of it must have been termed
Pitanatæ, undoubtedly, because they had the Pitan, or serpent, for their
standard. Analogous to this, among other nations there were soldiers
called Draconarii. In most countries the military standard was an emblem
of the Deity there worshipped.

What has already been said has thrown some light upon the history of this
primitive idolatry, and we have shewn that wherever any of these Ophite
colonies settled, they left behind from their rites and institutions, as
well as from the names which they bequeathed to places, ample memorials,
by which they may be clearly traced out.


    _Supposed Phallic origin of Serpent-worship--The Idea of
    Life--Adoration of the Principle of Generation--The Serpent as a
    Symbol of the Phallus--Phallic Worship at Benares--The Serpent and
    Mahadeo--Festival of the "Nág panchami"--Snakes and Women--Traces of
    Phallic Worship in the Kumaon Rock-markings--The Northern Bulb
    Stones--Professor Stephens on the Snake as a Symbol of the
    Phallus--The "Dionysiak Myth"--Brown on the Serpent as a Phallic
    emblem--Mythology of the Aryan Nation--Sir G. W. Cox and the Phallic
    Theory--Athenian Mythology._

Some persons are disposed to attribute to the Serpent, as a religious
emblem, an origin decidedly phallic. Mr. C. S. Wake takes a contrary view,
and says:--"So far as I can make out the serpent symbol has not a direct
Phallic reference, nor is its attribute of wisdom the most essential. The
idea most intimately associated with this animal was that of life, not
present merely, but continued, and probably everlasting. Thus the snake
_Bai_ was figured as Guardian of the doorways of the Egyptian Tombs which
represented the mansions of heaven. A sacred serpent would seem to have
been kept in all the Egyptian temples, and we are told that many of the
subjects, in the tombs of the kings at Thebes in particular, show the
importance it was thought to enjoy in a future state. Crowns, formed of
the Asp or sacred _Thermuthis_, were given to sovereigns and divinities,
particularly to Isis, and these no doubt were intended to symbolise
eternal life. Isis was a goddess of life and healing and the serpent
evidently belonged to her in that character, seeing that it was the symbol
also of other deities with the like attributes. Thus, on papyri it
encircles the figure of Harpocrates, who was identified with Æsculapius;
while not only was a great serpent kept alive in the great temple of
Serapis, but on later monuments this god is represented by a great serpent
with or without a human head. Mr. Fergusson, in accordance with his
peculiar theory as to the origin of serpent worship, thinks this
superstition characterised the old Turanaian (or rather let us say
Akkadian) empire of Chaldea, while tree-worship was more a characteristic
of the later Assyrian Empire. This opinion is no doubt correct, and it
means really that the older race had that form of faith with which the
serpent was always indirectly connected--adoration of the male principle
of generation, the principal phase of which was probably ancestor worship,
while the latter race adored the female principle, symbolised by the
sacred tree, the Assyrian 'grove.' The 'tree of life,' however,
undoubtedly had reference to the male element, and we may well imagine
that originally the fruit alone was treated as symbolical of the opposite

Mr. J. H. Rivett-Carnac, in his paper printed in the journal of the
Asiatic Society of Bengal, entitled "The Snake Symbol in India," suggests
that the serpent is a symbol of the phallus. He says:--"The serpent
appears on the prehistoric cromlechs and menhirs of Europe, on which I
believe the remains of phallic worship may be traced. What little
attention I have been able to give to the serpent-symbol has been chiefly
in its connection with the worship of Mahádeo or Siva, with a view to
ascertain whether the worship of the snake and that of Mahádeo or the
phallus may be considered identical, and whether the presence of the
serpent on the prehistoric remains of Europe can be shown to support my
theory, that the markings on the cromlechs and menhirs are indeed the
traces of this form of worship, carried to Europe from the East by the
tribes whose remains are buried beneath the tumuli.

During my visits to Benares, the chief centre of Siva worship in India, I
have always carefully searched for the snake-symbol. On the most ordinary
class of "Mahádeo," a rough stone placed on end supposed to represent the
phallus, the serpent is not generally seen. But in the temples and in the
better class of shrines which abound in the city and neighbourhood the
snake is generally found encircling the phallus. The tail of the snake is
sometimes carried down the _Yoni_, and in one case I found two snakes on a
shrine thus depicted.

In the Benares bazaar I once came across a splendid metal cobra, the head
erect and hood expanded, so made as to be placed around or above a stone
or metal "Mahádeo." It is now in England. The attitude of the cobra when
excited and the expansion of the head will suggest the reason for this
snake representing Mahádeo and the phallus.

Although the presence of the snake in these models cannot be said to prove
much, and although from the easy adaptability of its form the snake must
always have been a favourite subject in ornament, still it will be seen
that the serpent is prominent in connection with the conventional shape
under which Mahádeo is worshipped at Benares and elsewhere, that it
sometimes takes the place of the Linga, and that it is to be found
entwined with almost every article connected with this worship."

Further on the same writer says:--"The Nág panchami or fifth day of the
moon in Sawan is a great fete in the city of Nágpúr, and more than usual
license is indulged in on that day. Rough pictures of snakes in all sorts
of shapes and positions are sold and distributed, something after the
manner of valentines. I cannot find any copies of these queer sketches,
and if I could they would hardly be fit to be reproduced. Mr. J. W. Neill,
the present Commissioner of Nágpúr, was good enough to send me some
superior valentines of this class, and I submit them now for the
inspection of the Society. It will be seen that in these paintings, some
of which are not without merit either as to design or execution, no human
figures are introduced. In the ones I have seen in days gone by the
positions of the women with the snakes were of the most indecent
description and left no doubt that, so far as the idea represented in
these sketches was concerned, the cobra was regarded as the phallus. In
the pictures now sent the snakes will be seen represented in congress in
the well-known form of the Caduceus Esculapian rod. Then the many-headed
snake, drinking from the jewelled cup, takes me back to some of the
symbols of the mysteries of bygone days. The snake twisted round the tree
and the second snake approaching it are suggestive of the temptation and
fall. But I am not unmindful of the pitfalls from which Wilford suffered,
and I quite see that it is not impossible that this picture may be held to
be not strictly Hindu in its treatment. Still the tree and the serpent are
on the brass models which accompany this paper, and which I have already
shewn are to be purchased in the Benares Brass Bazaar of to-day--many
hundreds of miles away from Nágpúr where these Valentines were drawn.

In my paper on the Kumáon Rock Markings, besides noting the resemblance
between the cup markings of India and Europe, I hazarded the theory that
the concentric circles and certain curious markings of what some have
called the "jew's harp" type, so common in Europe, are traces of Phallic
worship carried there by tribes whose hosts decended into India, pushed
forward into the remotest corners of Europe, and, as their traces seem to
suggest, found their way on to the American Continent too. Whether the
markings really ever were intended to represent the Phallus and the Yoni
must always remain a matter of opinion. But I have no reason to be
dissatisfied with the reception with which this, to many somewhat pleasant
theory, has met in some of the Antiquarian Societies of Europe.

No one who compares the stone Yonis of Benares, sent herewith, with the
engravings on the first page of the work on the Rock Markings of
Northumberland and Argyleshire, published privately by the Duke of
Northumberland, will deny that there is an extraordinary resemblance
between the conventional symbol of Siva worship of to-day and the ancient
markings on the rocks, menhirs and cromlechs of Northumberland, of
Scotland, of Brittany, of Scandinavia and other parts of Europe.

And a further examination of the forms of the cromlechs and tumuli and
menhirs will suggest that the tumuli themselves were intended to indicate
the symbols of the Mahádeo and Yoni, conceived in no obscene sense, but as
representing regeneration, the new life, "life out of death, life
everlasting," which those buried in the tumuli, facing towards the sun in
its meridian, were expected to enjoy in the hereafter. Professor Stephens,
the well-known Scandinavian Antiquary, writing to me recently, speaks of
the symbols as follows:--"The pieces (papers) you were so good as to send
me were very valuable and welcome. There can be no doubt that it is to
India we have to look for the solution of many of our difficult
archæological questions."

"But especially interesting is your paper on the Ancient
Rock-Sculpturings. I believe that you are quite right in your views. Nay,
I go further. I think that the northern Bulb-stones are explained by the
same combination. I therefore send you the Swedish Archæological Journal
for 1876, containing Baron Herculius' excellent dissertation on these
object.... You can examine the many excellent woodcuts. I look upon these
things as late conventionalized abridgments of the Linga and Yoni, life
out of death, life everlasting--thus a fitting ornament for the graves of
the departed."

The author further says:--"Many who indignantly repudiate the idea of the
prevalence of Phallic Worship among our remote ancestors hold that these
symbols represent the snake or the sun. But admitting this, may not the
snake, after all, have been but a symbol of the phallus? And the sun, the
invigorating power of nature, has ever, I believe, been considered to
represent the same idea, not necessarily obscene, but the great mystery of
nature, the life transmitted from generation to generation, or, as
Professor Stephen puts it, 'life out of death, life everlasting.'" The
same idea, in fact, which, apart from any obscene conception, causes the
rude Mahádeo and Yoni to be worshipped daily by hundreds of thousands of

Brown, in his "Great Dionysiak Myth," says:--"The Serpent has six
principal points of connection with Dionysos: 1.--As a symbol of, and
connected with, wisdom. 2.--As a solar emblem. 3.--As a symbol of time and
eternity. 4.--As an emblem of the earth, life. 5.--As connected with
fertilizing moisture. 6.--As a phallic emblem."

Referring to the last of these, he proceeds--"The serpent being connected
with the sun, the earth life and fertility must needs be also a phallic
emblem, and so appropriate to the cult of Dionysos Priapos. Mr. Cox after
a review of the subject, observes, 'Finally, the symbol of the Phallus
suggested the form of the serpent, which thus became the emblem of life
and healing. There then we have the key to that tree and serpent worship
which has given rise to much ingenious speculation.' The myth of the
serpent and the tree is not, I apprehend, exhausted by any merely phallic
explanation, but the phallic element is certainly one of the most
prominent features in it, as it might be thought any inspection of the
carvings connected with the Topes of Sanchi and Amravati would show. It is
hard to believe, with Mr. Fergusson, that the usefulness and beauty of
trees gained them the payment of divine honours. Again, the Asherah or
Grove-cult (Exod. 34, 13; 1 Kings 17, 16; Jer. 17, 2; Micah 5, 14) was
essentially Phallic, Asherah being the Upright. It seems also to have been
in some degree connected with that famous relic, the brazen serpent of
Nehushtan (2 Kings 18, 4). Donaldson considers that the Serpent is the
emblem of desire. It has also been suggested that the creature symbolised
sensation generally."

The Sir G. W. Cox referred to above, in his "Mythology of Argai Nations,"
says:--"If there is one point more certain than another it is that
wherever tree and serpent worship has been found, the cultus of the
Phallos and the Ship, of the Linga and Yoni, in connection with the
worship of the sun, has been found also. It is impossible to dispute the
fact, and no explanation can be accepted for one part of the cultus which
fails to explain the other. It is unnecessary, therefore, to analyze
theories which profess to see in it the worship of the creeping brute or
the wide-spreading tree. A religion based on the worship of the venomous
reptile must have been a religion of terror; in the earliest glimpses
which we have of it, the serpent is a symbol of life and of love. Nor is
the Phallic cultus in any respect a cultus of the full-grown and branching
tree. In its earliest form the symbol is everywhere a mere stauros, or
pole; and although this stock or rod budded in the shape of the thyrsus
and the shepherd's staff, yet, even in its latest developements, the
worship is confined to small bushes and shrubs and diminutive plants of a
particular kind. Nor is it possible again to dispute the fact that every
nation, at some stage or other of its history, has attached to this cultus
precisely that meaning which the Brahman now attaches to the Linga and the
Yoni. That the Jews clung to it in this special sense with vehement
tenacity is the bitter complaint of the prophets; and the crucified
serpent adored for its healing powers stood untouched in the Temple until
it was removed and destroyed by Hezekiah. This worship of serpents, "void
of reason," condemned in the Wisdom of Solomon, probably survived even the
Babylonish captivity. Certainly it was adopted by the Christians who were
known as Ophites, Gnostics, and Nicolaitans. In Athenian mythology the
serpent and the tree are singularly prominent. Kekrops, Erechtheus, and
Erichthonios, are each and all serpentine in the lower portion of their
bodies. The sacred snake of Athênê had its abode in the Akropolis, and her
olive trees secured for her the victory in her rivalry with Poseidôn. The
health-giving serpent lay at the feet of Asklêpios and snakes were fed in
his temple at Epidauros and elsewhere. That the ideas of mere terror and
death suggested by the venomous or the crushing reptile could never have
given way thus completely before those of life, healing, and safety, is
obvious enough; and the latter ideas alone are associated with the serpent
as the object of adoration. The deadly beast always was, and has always
remained, the object of the horror and loathing which is expressed for
Ahi, the choking and throttling snake, the Vritra whom Indra smites with
his unerring lance, the dreadful Azidahaka of the Avesta, the Zohak or
Biter of modern Persian mythology, the serpents whom Heraktes strangles in
his cradle, the Python, or Fafnir, or Grendel, or Sphinx whom Phoibos, or
Sigurd, or Beowulf, or Oidipous smite and slay. That the worship of the
Serpent has nothing to do with these evil beasts is abundantly clear from
all the Phallic monuments of the East or West. In the topes of Sanchi and
Amravati the disks which represent the Yoni predominate in every part of
the design; the emblem is worn with unmistakeable distinctness by every
female figure, carved within these disks, while above the multitude are
seen, on many of the disks, a group of women with their hands resting on
the linga, which they uphold. It may, indeed, be possible to trace out the
association which connects the Linga with the bull in Sivaison, as
denoting more particularly the male power, while the serpent in Jainaison
and Vishnavism is found with the female emblem, the Yoni. So again in
Egypt, some may discern in the bull Apis or Mnevis the predominance of the
male idea in that country, while in Assyria or Palestine the Serpent or
Agathos Daimon is connected with the altar of Baal.


    _Mythology of the Ancients--Characteristics of the Pagan
    Deities--Doctrine of the Reciprocal Principles of Nature--Creation of
    the Egg--Creation and the Phallus--The Lotus--Osiris as the active,
    dispensing, and originating energy--Hesiod and the generative
    powers--Growth of Phallic Worship._

"By comparing all the varied legends of the East and West in conjunction,"
says a learned author, "we obtain the following outline of the mythology
of the Ancients: It recognises, as the primary elements of things, two
independent principles of the nature of Male and Female; and these, in
mystic union, as the soul and body, constitute the Great Hermaphrodite
Deity, THE ONE, the universe itself, consisting still of the two separate
elements of its composition, modified though combined in one individual,
of which all things are regarded but as parts.... If we investigate the
Pantheons of the ancient nations, we shall find that each, notwithstanding
the variety of names, acknowledged the same deities and the same system of
theology; and, however humble any of the deities may appear, each who has
any claim to antiquity will be found ultimately, if not immediately,
resolvable into one or other of the Primeval Principles, the Great God and
Goddess of the Gentiles."[4]

"We must not be surprised," says Sir William Jones, "at finding, on a
close examination, that the characters of all the Pagan deities, male and
female, melt into each other, and at last into one or two, for it seems a
well-founded opinion that the whole crowd of gods and goddesses in ancient
Rome and modern Váránes mean only the Powers of Nature, and principally
those of the Sun, expressed in a variety of ways and by a multitude of
fanciful names."

The doctrine of the Reciprocal Principles of Nature, designated as active
and passive, male and female, and often symbolized as the Sun and Moon, or
the Sun and the Earth, was distinctly recognised in the mythological
systems of America. It will be well to notice the _rationale_ of this
doctrine, and some of the more striking forms which, in the developement
of human ideas, it has assumed; for it may safely be claimed that under
some of its aspects or modifications it has entered into every religious
system, if, indeed, it has not been the nucleus of every mythology.

The idea of a creation, suggested by the existence of things, was, no
doubt, the first result of human reasoning. The mode of the event, the
manner in which it was brought about, was, it is equally unquestionable,
the inquiry which next occupied the mind, and man deduced from the
operations of nature around him his first theory of creation. From the
egg, after incubation, he saw emerging the living bird, a phenomenon
which, to his simple apprehension, was nothing less than an actual
creation. How naturally then, how almost of necessity, did that
phenomenon, one of the most obvious in nature, associate itself with his
ideas of creation--a creation which he could not help recognising, but
which he could not explain. The extent to which the egg, received as a
symbol, entered into the early cosmogonies will appear in another and more
appropriate connection.

By a similar process did the creative power come to be symbolized under
the form of the Phallus, in it was recognised the cause of reproduction,
or, as it appeared to the primitive man, of creation. So the Egyptians, in
their refinement upon this idea, adopted the scarabæus as a symbol of the
First Cause, the great hermaphrodite Unity, for the reason that they
believed that insect to be both male and female, capable of self-inception
and singular production, and possessed of the power of vitalizing its own

It is well known that the Nymphoe, Lotus, or Water-Lily is held sacred
throughout the East, and the various sects of that quarter of the globe
represent their deities, either decorated with its flowers, holding it as
a sceptre, or seated on a lotus throne or pedestal. "It is," says Maurice,
"the sublime and hallowed symbol that perpetually occurs in oriental
mythology, and not without substantial reason; for it is itself a lovely
prodigy, and contains a treasure of physical instruction." The reason of
its adoption as a symbol is explained by Mr. Payne Knight, and affords a
beautiful illustration of the _rationale_ of symbolism, and of the
profound significance often hidden beneath apparently insignificant
emblems. "This plant," observes Mr. Knight, "grows in the water, and
amongst its broad leaves puts forth a flower, in the centre of which is
formed its seed vessel, shaped like a bell or inverted cone, and punctured
on the top with little cavities or cells, in which the seeds grow. The
orifice of these cells being too small to let the seeds drop out when
ripe, they shoot forth into new plants in the places where they are
formed; the bulb of the vessel serving as a matrix to nourish them until
large enough to burst it open and release themselves, after which, like
other aquatic plants, they take root wherever the current deposits them.
The plant, therefore, being thus productive of itself, and vegetating from
its own matrix, without being fostered in the earth, was naturally adopted
as a symbol of the productive power of waters upon which the active Spirit
of the Creator acted in giving life and vegetation to matter. We
accordingly find it employed in every part of the northern hemisphere
where the symbolical religion, improperly called idolatry, existed."

Examples quoted illustrate the inductive powers by which unaided reason
arrives at its results, as well as the means by which it indicates them in
the absence of a written language or of one capable of conveying abstract
ideas. The mythological symbols of all early nations furnish ample
evidence that it was thus they embodied or shadowed forth their
conceptions,--the germ of a symbolic system, which was afterwards extended
to every manifestation of nature and every attribute of Divinity.

We may in this manner rationally and satisfactorily account for the origin
of the doctrine of the reciprocal principles. Its universal acceptance
establishes that it was deduced from the operations of that law so
obviously governing all animated nature--that of reproduction or

In the Egyptian mythology, the Divine Osiris was venerated as the active,
dispensing, or originating energy, and was symbolized as the Sun; Isis as
terrene nature, the passive recipient, the producer; their annual
offspring was Horus, the vernal season or infant year. The poet Hesiod, in
the beginning of his Theogony, distinguishes the male and female, or
generative and productive powers of Nature, as Ouranus and Gaia, Heaven
and Earth. The celestial emblems of these powers were usually, as we have
said, the Sun and Moon; the terrestrial, Fire and Earth. They were
designed as Father and Mother; and their more obvious symbols, as has
already been intimated, were the Phallus and Kteis, or the Lingham and
Yoni of Hindustan.

That the worship of the phallus passed from India or from Ethiopia into
Egypt, from Egypt into Asia Minor, and into Greece, is not so much a
matter of astonishment,--these nations communicated with each other; but
that this worship existed in countries a long time unknown to the rest of
the world--in many parts of America, with which the people of the Eastern
Continent had formerly no communication--is an astonishing but well
attested fact. When Mexico was discovered, there was found in the city of
Panuco, the particular worship of the Phallus well established, its image
was adorned in the temples; there were in the public places bas reliefs,
which like those of India, represented in various manners the union of the
two sexes. At Tlascalla, another city of Mexico, they revered the act of
generation under the united symbols of the characteristic organs of the
two sexes. Garcilasso de la Vega says--"that according to Blas Valera, the
God of Luxury was called Tiazolteuli," but some writers say, "this is a
mistake." One of the goddesses of the Mexican Pantheon was named
Tiazolteotl, which Boturini describes as Venus unchaste, low, and
abominable, the hieroglyphic of these men and women who are wholly
abandoned, mingling promiscuously one with another, gratifying their
bestial appetites like animals. Boturini is said to be not entirely
correct in his apprehensions of the character of this goddess. She is
Cinteotl, the goddess of Maize, under another aspect. Certain of the
temples of India abound with sculptured representations of the symbols of
Phallic Worship, and if we turn to the temples of Central America, which
in many respects exhibit a strict correspondence with those of India, we
find precisely the same symbols, separate and in combination.


    _Ancient Monuments of the West--The Valley of the Mississippi--Numerous
    Earthworks of the Western States--Theory as to origin of the
    mounds--The "Defence" Theory--The Religious Theory--Earthwork of the
    "Great Serpent" on Bush Creek--The "Alligator," Ohio--The "Cross,"
    Pickaway County--Structures of Wisconsin--Mr. Pigeons Drawings--
    Significance of the Earth-mounds--The Egg and Man's Primitive
    Ideas--The Egg as a Symbol--Birth of Brahma--Aristophanes and his
    "Comedy of the Birds"--The Hymn to Protogones--The Chinese and
    Creation--The Mundane or Orphic Egg--Kneph--Mr. Gliddon's replies to
    certain enquiries--The Orphic Theogony and the Egg--The Great Unity._

The ancient monuments of the Western United States consist for the most
part of elevations and embankments of earth and stone, erected with great
labour and manifest design. In connection with these, more or less
intimate, are found various minor relics of art, consisting of ornaments
and implements of many kinds, some of them composed of metal but most of

These remains are spread over a vast amount of country. They are found on
the sources of the Alleghany, in the western part of the state of New York
on the east; and extend thence westwardly along the southern shore of Lake
Erie, and through Michigan and Wisconsin, to Iowa and the Nebraska
territory on the west. Some ancient works, probably belonging to the same
system with those of the Mississippi valley and erected by the same
people, occur upon the Susquehanna river as far down as the Valley of
Wyoming in Pennsylvania. The mound builders seem to have skirted the
southern border of Lake Erie, and spread themselves in diminished numbers
over the western part of the State of New York, along the shores of Lake
Ontario to the St. Lawrence river. They penetrated into the interior,
eastward, as far as the county of Onondaga, where some slight vestiges of
their work still exist. These seem to have been their limits at the
north-east. We have no record of their occurrence above the great lakes.
Carner mentions some on the shores of Lake Pepin, and some are said to
occur near Lake Travers, under the 46th parallel of latitude. Lewis and
Clarke saw them on the Missouri river, one thousand miles above its
junction with the Mississippi; and they have been observed on the Kanzas
and Platte and on other remote western rivers. They are found all over the
intermediate country, and spread over the valley of the Mississippi to the
Gulf of Mexico. They line the shores of the Gulf from Texas to Florida,
and extend in diminished numbers into South Carolina. They occur in great
numbers in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, Arkansas,
Kentucky, Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida and
Texas. They are found in less numbers in the Western portions of New York,
Pennsylvania, Virginia, and North and South Carolina; as also in Michigan,
Iowa, and in the Mexican territory beyond the Rio Grande del Norte. In
short, they occupy the entire basin of the Mississippi and its
tributaries, as also the fertile plains along the Gulf.

Although possessing throughout certain general points of resemblance going
to establish a kindred origin, these works, nevertheless, resolve
themselves into three grand geographical divisions, which present in many
respects striking contrasts, yet so gradually merge into each other that
it is impossible to determine where one series terminates and the other
begins. In the region bordering upon the upper lakes, to a certain extent
in Michigan, Iowa and Missouri, but particularly in Wisconsin, we find a
succession of remains, entirely singular in their form and presenting but
slight analogy to any others of which we have in any portion of the globe.
The larger proportion of these are structures of earth bearing the forms
of beasts, birds, reptiles, and even of men; they are frequently of
gigantic dimensions, constituting huge _basso-relievos_ upon the face of
the country. They are very numerous and in most cases occur in long and
apparently dependent ranges. In connection with them are found many
conical mounds and occasional short lines of embankment, in rare instances
forming enclosures. These animal effigies are mainly confined to
Wisconsin, and extend across that territory from Ford du Lac in a
south-western direction, ascending the Fox river and following the general
course of Rock and Wisconsin rivers to the Mississippi. They may be much
more extensively disseminated; but it is here only that they have been
observed in considerable numbers. In Michigan, as also in Iowa and
Missouri, similar elevations of more or less outline are said to occur.
They are represented as dispersed in ranges like the buildings of a modern
city, and covering sometimes an arc of many acres.

The number of these ancient remains is well calculated to excite surprise,
and has been adduced in support of the hypothesis that they are most if
not all of them natural formations, "the result of diluvial action,"
modified perhaps in some instances, but never erected by man. Of course no
such suggestion was ever made by individuals who had enjoyed the
opportunity of seeing and investigating them. Single structures of earth
could not possibly bear more palpable evidences of an artificial origin
than do most of the western monuments. The evidences in support of this
assertion, derived from the form, structure, position and contents of
these remains, sufficiently appear in the pages of this work.

The structure, not less than the form and position of a large number of
the Earthworks of the West, and especially of the Scioto valley, render it
clear that they were erected for other than defensive purposes. The small
dimensions of most of the circles, the occurrence of the ditch interior to
the embankments, and the fact that many of them are completely commanded
by adjacent heights, are some of the circumstances which may be mentioned
as sustaining this conclusion. We must seek, therefore, in the connection
in which these works are found and in the character of the mounds, if such
there be within their walls, for the secret of their origin. And it may be
observed that it is here we discover evidences still more satisfactory and
conclusive than are furnished by their small dimensions and other
circumstances above mentioned, that they were not intended for defence.
Thus, when we find an enclosure containing a number of mounds, all of
which it is capable of demonstration were religious in their purposes or
in some way connected with the superstitions of the people who built them,
the conclusion is irresistible that the enclosure itself was also deemed
sacred and thus set apart as "tabooed" or consecrated ground--especially
where it is obvious at the first glance that it possesses none of the
requisites of a military work. But it is not to be concluded that those
enclosures alone, which contain mounds of the description here named, were
designed for sacred purposes. We have reason to believe that the religious
system of the mound builders, like that of the Aztecs, exercised among
them a great if not controlling influence. Their government may have been,
for aught we know, a government of priesthood; one in which the priestly
and civil functions were jointly exercised, and one sufficiently powerful
to have secured in the Mississippi valley, as it did in Mexico, the
erection of many of those vast monuments which for ages will continue to
challenge the wonder of men. There may have been certain superstitious
ceremonies, having no connection with the purposes of the mounds, carried
on in the enclosures specially dedicated to them. It is a conclusion which
every day's investigation and observation has tended to confirm, that
most, perhaps all, of the earthworks not manifestly defensive in their
character were in some way connected with the superstitious rights of the
builders, though in what manner, it is, and perhaps ever will be,
impossible satisfactorily to determine.

By far the most extraordinary and interesting earthwork discovered in the
West is the Great Serpent, situate on Brush Creek at a point known as the
"Three Forks," near the north line of Adams county, Ohio. It occupies the
summit of a high crescent-form hill or spur of land, rising a hundred and
fifty feet above the level of Brush Creek, which washes its base. The side
of the hill next the stream presents a perpendicular wall of rock, while
the other slopes rapidly, though it is not so steep as to preclude
cultivation. The top of the hill is not level but slightly convex, and
presents a very even surface one hundred and fifty feet wide by one
thousand long, measuring from its extremity to the point where it connects
with the table land. Conforming to the curve of the hill and occupying its
very summit is the serpent, its head resting near the point and its body
winding back for seven hundred feet in graceful undulations, terminating
in a triple coil at the tail. The entire length, if extended, would be not
less than one thousand feet. The neck of the serpent is stretched out and
slightly curved, and its mouth is opened wide as if in the act of
swallowing or ejecting an oval figure which rests partially within the
distended jaws. This oval is formed by an embankment of earth, without any
perceptible opening, four feet in height, and is perfectly regular in
outline, its transverse and conjugate diameters being one hundred and
sixty and eighty feet respectively. The ground within the oval is slightly
elevated: a small circular elevation of large stones much burned once
existed in its centre, but they have been thrown down and scattered by
some ignorant visitor, under the prevailing impression probably that gold
was hidden beneath them. The point of the hill within which this
egg-shaped figure rests seems to have been artificially cut to conform to
its outline, leaving a smooth platform, ten feet wide and somewhat
inclining inwards, all around it.

Upon either side of the serpent's head extend two small triangular
elevations ten or twelve feet over. They are not high, and although too
distinct to be overlooked, are yet much too much obliterated to be
satisfactorily traced.

An effigy in the form of an alligator occurs near Granville, Licking
county, Ohio, upon a high hill or headland; in connection with which there
are unmistakable evidences of an altar, similar to that in conjunction
with the work just named. It is known in the vicinity as "the Alligator,"
which designation has been adopted for want of a better, although the
figure bears as close a resemblance to the lizard as any other reptile. It
is placed transversly to the point of land on which it occurs, the head
pointing to the south-west. The total length from the point of the nose
following the curve of the tail to the tip is about two hundred and fifty
feet, the breadth of the body forty feet, and the length of the feet or
paws each thirty-six feet. The ends of the paws are a little broader than
the remaining portions of the same, as if the spread of the toes had been
originally indicated. Some parts of the body are more elevated than
others, an attempt having evidently been made to preserve the proportions
of the object copied. The outline of the figure is clearly defined; its
average height is not less than four feet; at the shoulders it is six feet
in altitude. Upon the inner side of the effigy is an elevated circular
space covered with stones which have been much burned. This has been
denominated an altar.

It seems more than probable that this singular effigy, like that last
described, had its origin in the superstition of its makers. It was
perhaps the high place where sacrifices were made on stated or
extraordinary occasions, and where the ancient people gathered to
celebrate the rites of their unknown worship. Its position and all the
circumstances attending it certainly favour such a conclusion.

The same is true of a work in the form of a cross, occupying a like
situation near the village of Tarlton, Pickaway County, Ohio. From these
premises, we are certainly justified in concluding that these several
effigies had probably a cognate design, possessed a symbolical
significance, and were conspicuous objects of religious regard, and that
on certain occasions sacrifices were made on the altars within or near

The only structures sustaining any analogy to these are found in Wisconsin
and the extreme North-west. There we find great numbers of mounds bearing
the forms of animals of various kinds, and entering into a great variety
of combinations with each other, and with conical mounds and lines of
embankments, which are also abundant. They are usually found on the low,
level, or undulating prairies, and seldom in such conspicuous positions as
those discovered in Ohio. Whether they were built by the same people with
the latter, and had a common design and purpose, it is not undertaken to
say, nor is it a question into which we propose to enter.

It is an interesting fact that amongst the animal effigies of Wisconsin,
structures in the form of serpents are of frequent occurrence.

Some years ago, Mr. Pigeon, of Virginia, made drawings of a number of
these, and he stated that near the junction of the St. Peter's with the
Mississippi River were a large number of mounds and monuments,
consisting--1st, of a circle and square in combination, as at Circleville,
in Ohio, the sole difference being a large truncated mound in the centre
of the square, as well as in the centre of the circle, with a platform
round its base; 2nd, near by, the effigy of a gigantic animal resembling
the elk, in length one hundred and ninety-five feet; 3rd, in the same
vicinity, a large conical mound, three hundred feet in diameter at the
base, and thirty feet in height, its summit covered with charcoal. This
mound was surrounded by one hundred and twenty smaller mounds, disposed in
the form of a circle. Twelve miles to the westward of these, and within
sight of them, was a large conical truncated mound, sixty feet in diameter
at the bottom, and eighteen feet high, built upon a raised platform or
bottom. It was surrounded by a circle three hundred and sixty-five feet in
circumference. Entwined around this circle, in a triple coil, was an
embankment, in the form of a serpent, two thousand three hundred and ten
feet in length. This embankment, at the centre of the body, was eighteen
feet in diameter, but diminished towards the head and tail in just
proportion. The elevation of the head was four feet, of the body six feet,
of the tail two feet. The central mound was capped with blue clay, beneath
which was sand mixed with charcoal and ashes.

Mounds arranged in serpentine form have also been found in Iowa, at a
place formerly known as Prairie La Porte, afterwards called Gottenburgh.
Also at a place seven miles north of these on Turkey River, where the
range was two and a half miles long, the mounds occurring at regular
intervals. Twenty miles to the westward of this locality was the effigy of
a great serpent with that of a tortoise in front of its mouth. This
structure was found to be one thousand and four feet long, eighteen feet
broad at its widest part, and six feet high; the tortoise was eighteen by
twelve feet.

Mr. Pigeon gave accounts of many other structures, tending to illustrate
and confirm the opinions advanced respecting the religious and symbolical
character and design of many, if not all, the more regular earth-works of
the Western States. Thirty miles west of Prairie Du Chien, he found a
circle enclosing a pentagon, which in its turn enclosed another circle,
within which was a conical truncated mound. The outer circle was twelve
hundred feet in circumference, the embankment twelve feet broad and from
three to five feet high. The entrance was on the east. The mound was
thirty-six feet in diameter by twelve feet high. Its summit was composed
of white pipe-clay, beneath which was found a large quantity of mica in
sheets. It exhibited abundant traces of fire.

Four miles distant from this, on the lowlands of the Kickapoo River, Mr.
Pigeon discovered a mound with eight radiating points, undoubtedly
designed to represent the Sun. It was sixty feet in diameter at the base,
and three feet high. The points extended outwards about nine feet.
Surrounding this mound were five crescent-shaped mounds so arranged as to
constitute a circle. Many analagous structures were discovered at other
places, both in Wisconsin and Iowa. At Cappile Bluffs, on the Mississippi
River, was found a conical, truncated mound, surrounded by nine radiating
effigies of men, the heads pointing inwards.

Probably no one will hesitate in ascribing to work just described, some
extraordinary significance. It cannot be supposed to be the offspring of
an idle fancy or a savage whim. It bears, in its position and the harmony
of its structure, the evidences of design, and it seems to have been begun
and finished in accordance with a matured plan, and not to have been the
result of successive and unmeaning combinations. It is probably not a work
for defence, for there is nothing to defend; on the contrary, it is
clearly and unmistakably, in form and attitude, the representation of a
serpent, with jaws distended, in the act of swallowing or ejecting an oval
figure, which may be distinguished, from the suggestions of analogy, as an
egg. Assuming for the entire structure a religious origin, it can be
regarded only as the recognised symbol of some grand mythological idea.
What abstract conception was thus embodied; or what vast event thus
typically commemorated, we have no certain means of knowing! Analogy,
however, although too often consulted on trivial grounds, furnishes us
with gleams of light, of greater or less steadiness, as our appeals to its
assistance happen to be conducted, on every subject connected with man's
beliefs. We proceed now to discover what light reason and analogy shed
upon the singular structure before us.

Naturally, and almost of necessity, the egg became associated with man's
primitive idea of a creation. It aptly symbolised that primordial,
quiescent state of things which preceded their vitalization and
activity--the inanimate chaos, before life began, when "the earth was
without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep." It was
thus received in the early cosmogonies, in all of which the vivification
of the Mundane Egg constituted the act of creation; from it sprang the
world resplendent in glory and teeming with life.

Faber says--"The ancient pagans, in almost every part of the globe, were
wont to symbolize the world by an Egg. Hence this symbol is introduced
into the cosmogonies of nearly all nations, and there are few persons even
among those who have not made mythology their study, to whom the Mundane
Egg is not perfectly familiar. It was employed, not only to represent the
earth, but also the Universe in its largest extent."[5]

"The world," says Menu, "was all darkness, undiscernible,
undistinguishable, altogether in a profound sleep, till the Self-Existent,
Invisible God (Brahm), making it manifest with five elements and other
glorious forms, perfectly dispelled the gloom. Desiring to raise up
creatures by an emanation from his own essence, he first created the
waters, and inspired them with power of motion; by that power was produced
a golden egg, blazing like a thousand stars, in which was born Brahma, the
great parent of national beings, that which is the invisible cause,
self-existent, but unperceived. This divinity having dwelt in the Egg
through revolving years, himself meditating upon himself, divided into two
equal parts, and from these halves he framed the heavens and the earth,
placing in the midst the subtil ether, the eight points of the world, and
the permanent receptacle of the waters."

The above is Maurice's translation. Sir William Jones renders it:--"The
sole, self-existent power, having willed to produce various beings from
his own divine substance, first, with a thought created the waters, and
placed in them a productive seed. That seed became an egg, bright as
gold, blazing like the luminary with a thousand beams, and in that egg was
born himself, in the form of Brahma, the great forefather of all spirits."

Aristophanes, in his Comedy of the Birds, is thought to have given the
notions of cosmogony, ancient even in his days. "Chaos, Night, black
Erebus, and wide Tartarus first existed: there was neither earth, nor air,
nor heaven; but in the bosom of Erebus black-winged Night produced an
Aerial Egg, from which was born golden-pinioned Love (Phanes), and he, the
Great Universal Father, begot our race out of dark Chaos, in the midst of
wide-spreading Tartarus, and called us into light."

We find this conception clearly embodied in one of the Orphic fragments,
the Hymn to Protogones, who is equivalent to Phanes, the Life-giver,
Priapus, or Generator.

  "I invoke thee, oh Protogones, two-fold, great, wandering through the
  Egg-Born rejoicing in thy golden wings;
  Bull-faced, the Generator of the blessed and of mortal men;
  The much-renowned Light, the far celebrated Ericapæus;
  Ineffable, occult, impetuous all-glittering strength;
  Who scatterest the twilight cloud of darkness from the eyes,
  And roam'st through the world upon the flight of thy wings,
  Bringing forth the brilliant and all-pure light; wherefore I invoke
        thee, as Phanes,
  As Priapus the King, and as the dark-faced splendour,--
  Come, thou blessed being, full of Metis (wisdom) and generation, come in
  To thy sacred, ever-varying mysteries."

We have, according to these early notions, the egg representing Being
simply; Chaos, the great void from which, by the will of the superlative
Unity, proceeds the generative or creative influence, designated among the
Greeks as "Phanes," "Golden-pinioned Love," "The Universal Father,"
"Egg-born Protogones" (the latter Zeus or Jupiter); in India as "Brahma,"
the "Great Parent of Rational Creatures," the "Father of the Universe;"
and in Egypt as "Ptha," the "Universal Creator."

The Chinese, whose religious conceptions correspond generally with those
of India, entertained similar notions of the origin of things. They set
forth that Chaos, before the creation, existed in the form of a vast egg,
in which was contained the principles of all things. Its vivification,
among them also, constituted the act of creation.

According to this and other authorities, the vivification of the Mundane
Egg is allegorically represented in the temple of Daibod, in Japan, by a
nest egg, which is shown floating in an expanse of waters against which a
bull (everywhere an emblem of generative energy, and prolific heat, the
Sun) is striking with his horns.

"Near Lemisso, in the Island of Cyprus, is still to be seen a gigantic
egg-shaped vase, which is supposed to represent the Mundane or Orphic Egg.
It is of stone, and measures thirty feet in circumference. Upon one side,
in a semi-circular niche, is sculptured a bull, the emblem of productive
energy. This figure is understood to signify the Tauric constellation,
"The Stars of Abundance," with the heliacal or cosmical rising of which
was connected the return of the mystic reinvigorating principle of animal

In the opinions above mentioned, many other nations of the ancient world,
the Egyptians, the Assyrians, the Phoenicians, and the Indo-Scythiac
nations of Europe participated. They not only supported the propriety of
the allegory, says Maurice, from the perfection of its external form, but
fancifully extended the allusion to its interior composition, comparing
the pure white shell to the fair expanse of heaven; the fluid, transparent
white, to the circumambient air, and the more solid yolk to the central

Even the Polynesians entertained the same general notions. The tradition
of the Sandwich Islanders is that a bird (with them it is an emblem of
Deity) laid an egg upon the waters which burst of itself and produced the

The great hemaphrodite first principle in its character of Unity, the
Supreme Monad, the highest conception of Divinity was denominated Kneph or
Cnuphis among the Egyptians. According to Plutarch this god was without
beginning and without end, the One, uncreated and eternal, above all, and
comprehending all. And as Brahm, "the Self-existent Incorruptible" Unity
of the Hindus, by direction of His energetic will upon the expanse of
chaos, "with a thought" (say Menu) produced a "golden egg blazing like a
thousand stars" from which sprung Brahma, the Creator; so according to the
mystagogues, Kneph, the Unity of Egypt, was represented as a serpent
thrusting from his mouth an egg, from which proceeds the divinity _Phtha_,
the active creative power, equivalent in all his attributes to the Indian

That Kneph was symbolized by the ancient Egyptians under the form of a
serpent is well known. It is not, however, so well established that the
act of creation was allegorically represented in Egypt by the symbolic
serpent thrusting from its mouth an egg, although no doubt of the fact
seems to have been entertained by the various authors who have hitherto
written on the Cosmogony and Mythology of the primitive nations of the
East. With the view of ascertaining what new light has been thrown upon
the subject by the investigations of the indefatigable Champollion and his
followers--whose researches among the monuments and records of Ancient
Egypt have been attended with most remarkable results--the following
inquiries were addressed to Mr. G. R. Gliddon (U.S. Consul at Cairo), a
gentleman distinguished for his acquaintance with Egyptian science, and
his zeal in disseminating information on a subject too little

"Do the serpent and the egg, separate or in combination, occur among the
Egyptian symbols and if they occur what significance seem to have been
assigned them? Was the serpent in any way associated with the worship of
the sun or the kindred worship of the Phallus?"

To these inquiries Mr. Gliddon replied as follows:--"In respect to your
first inquiry; I concede at once that the general view of the Greco-Roman
antiquity, the oriental traditions collected, often indiscriminately, by
the Fathers and the concurring suffrages of all occidental Mythologists,
attribute the compound symbol of the Serpent combined with the Mundane Egg
to the Egyptians. Modern criticism however, coupled with the application
of the tests furnished by Champollion le-Jeune and his followers since
1827 to the hieroglyphics of Egypt, has recognised so many exotic fables
and so much real ignorance of Egyptology in the accounts concerning that
mystified country, handed down to us from the schools of Alexandria and
Byzantium, that at the present hour science treads doubtingly, where but a
few years ago it was fashionable to make the most sweeping assertions; and
we now hesitate before qualifying, as Egyptian in origin, ideas that
belong to the Mythologies of other eastern nations. Classical authority,
correct enough when treating on the philosophy and speculative theories of
Ptolemaic and Roman Alexandria, is generally at fault when in respect to
questions belonging to anterior or Pharaonic times. Whatever we derive
through the medium of the Alexandrines, and especially through their
successors, the Gnostics, must by the Archæologist be received with

After this, you will not be surprised if I express doubts as to existence
of the myth of the Serpent and Egg in the Cosmogony of the early
Egyptians. It is lamentably true that, owing to twenty centuries of
destruction, so fearfully wrought out by Mohammed Ali, we do not up to
this day possess one tithe of the monuments or papyri bequeathed to
posterity by the recording genius of the Khime. It is possible that this
myth may have been contained in the vast amount of hieroglyphical
literature now lost to us. But the fact that in no instance whatever, amid
the myriads of inscribed or sculptured documents extant, does the symbol
of the Serpent and the Egg occur, militates against the assumption of
this, perhaps Phoenician myth, as originally Egyptian. "The worship of
the Serpent," observes Ampêre, "by the Ophites may certainly have a real
connection with the choice of the Egyptian symbol by which Divinity is
designated in the paintings and hieroglyphics, and which is the Serpent
Uraeus (Basilisk royal, of the Greeks, the seraph set up by Moses. Se Ra
Ph is the singular of seraphim, meaning Semiticé, splendour, fire, light;
emblematic of the fiery disk of the sun and which, under the name of
Nehushtan--"Serpent Dragon"--was broken up by the reforming Hezekiah. 2
Kings, 18, 4); or with the serpent with wings and feet, which we see
represented in the Funeral Rituals; but the serpent is everywhere in the
Mythologies and Cosmogonies of the East, and we cannot be assured that the
serpent of the Ophites (any more than that emitting or encircling the
Mundane Egg) was Egyptian rather than Jewish, Persian, or Hindustanee."

"No serpents found in the hieroglyphics bear, so far as I can perceive,
any direct relation to the Ouine Myth, nor have Egyptian Eggs any direct
connection with the Cosmogonical Serpent. The egg, under certain
conditions, seems to denote the idea of a human body. It is also used as a
phonetic sign =S=, and when combined with =T=, is the determinative of the
feminine gender; in which sense exclusively it is sometimes placed close
to a serpent in hieroglyphical legends."

"My doubts apply in attempting to give a specific answer to your specific
question; _i.e._, the direct connection, in Egyptian Mythology, of the
Serpent and the Cosmogonical Egg. In the "Book of the Dead," according to
a MS. translation favoured me by the erudite Egyptologist, Mr. Birch, of
the British Museum, allusion is made to the "great mundane egg" addressed
by the deceased, which seems to refer to the winds or the
atmosphere--again the deceased exclaims 'I have raised myself up in the
form of the great Hawk which comes out of the Egg (_i.e._, the Sun).'

"I do not here perceive any immediate allusion to the duplex emblem of the
egg combined with the serpent, the subject of your query.

"Yet a reservation must be made in behalf of your very consistent
hypothesis--supported, as I allow, by all oriental and classical
authority, if not possibly by the Egyptian documents yet
undeciphered--which hypothesis is Euclidean. 'Things which are equal to
the same are equal to one another.' Now if the 'Mundane Egg' be in the
papyric rituals the equivalent to Sun and that by other hieroglyphical
texts we prove the Sun to be, in Egypt as elsewhere, symbolized by the
figure of a Serpent, does not the 'ultima ratio' resolve both emblems into
one? Your grasp of this Old and New World Question renders it superfluous
that I should now posit the syllogism. I content myself by referring you
to the best of authorities. One point alone is what I would venture to
suggest to your philosophical acumen, in respect to ancient 'parallelisms'
between the metaphysical conceptions of radically distinct nations (if you
please 'species' of mankind, at geographically different centres of
_origins_, compelled of necessity in ages anterior to alphabetical record
to express their ideas by pictures, figurative or symbolical). It is that
man's mind has always conceived, everywhere in the same method, everything
that relates to him; because the inability, in which his intelligence is
circumscribed, to figure to his mind's eye existence distinct from his
own, constrains him to devolve, in the pictorial or sculptural delineation
of his thoughts, within the same circle of ideas; and, ergo, the
figurative representative of his ideas must ever be, in all ages and
countries, the reflex of the same hypotheses, material or physical. May
not the emblem of the Serpent and Egg, as well in the New as in the Old
World, have originated from a similar organic law without thereby
establishing intercourse? Is not your serpent a "rattlesnake" and, ergo,
purely American? Are not Egyptian Serpents all purely Nilotic? The
metaphysical idea of the Cosmogonical Serpent may be one and the same; but
does not the zoological diversity of representation prove that America,
three thousand years ago, could have no possible intercourse with Egypt,
Phoenicia, or _vice versa_?

"Such being the only values attached to Serpents and eggs in Egyptian
hieroglyphics it is arduous to speculate whether an esoteric significance
did or did not exist between those emblems in the, to us, unknown
Cosmogony of the Theban and Memphite Colleges. I, too, could derive
inferences and deduce analogies between the attributes of the God Knuphis,
or the God Ptha, and the 'Mundane Egg' recorded by Eusebius, Jamblichus,
and a wilderness of classical authorities, but I fear with no very
satisfactory result. It is, however, due to Mr. Bonomi, to cite his
language on this subject. Speaking of the colossal statue of Rameses
Sesostris at Metraheni, in a paper read before the Royal Society of
Literature, London, June, 1845, he observes, 'There is one more
consideration connected with the hieroglyphics of the great oval of the
belt, though not affecting the preceding argument; it is the oval or egg
which occurs between the figure of Ptha and the staff of which the usual
signification is Son or Child, but which by a kind of two-fold meaning,
common in the details of sculpture of this period (the 18th or 19th
Dynasty, say B.C. 1500 or 1200), I am inclined to believe refers also to
the myth or doctrine preserved in the writings of the Greek authors, as
belonging to Vulcan and said to be derived from Egypt, viz., the doctrine
of the Mundane Egg. Now, although in no Egyptian sculpture of the remote
period of this statue has there been found any allusion to this doctrine,
it is most distinctly hinted at in one of the age of the Ptolomies; and I
am inclined to think it was imported from the East by Sesostris, where, in
confirmation of its existence at a very remote period. I would quote the
existence of those egg-shaped basaltic stones, embossed with various
devices and covered with cuneatic inscriptions, which are brought from
some of the ancient cities of Mesopotamia.

"In respect to your final inquiry, I may observe that I can produce
nothing from the hieroglyphics to connect, directly, Phallic Worship with
the solar emblem of the Serpent. In Semitic tongues, the same root
signifies Serpent and Phallus; both in different senses are solar

In the Orphic Theogony a similar origin is ascribed to the egg, from which
springs "the Egg-born Protogones," the Greek counterpart of the Egyptian
Phtha. The egg in this instance also proceeds from the pre-eminent Unity,
the Serpent God, the "Incomparable Cronus," or Hercules. (Bryant, quoting
Athenagoras, observes--"Hercules was esteemed the chief god, the same as
Cronus, and was said to have produced the Mundane Egg. He is represented
in the Orphic Theology, under the mixed symbol of a lion and a serpent,
and sometimes of a serpent only.")

Cronus was originally esteemed the Supreme, as is manifest from his being
called Il or Ilus, which is the same with the Hebrew El and, according to
St. Jerome, one of the ten names of God. Damascius, in the life of
Isidorus, mentions distinctly that Cronus was worshipped under the name of
El, who, according to Sanchoniathon, had no one superior or antecedent to

Brahm, Cronus, and Kneph each represented the mystical union of the
reciprocal or active and passive principles. Most, if not all, the
primitive nations recognised this Supreme Unity, although they did not all
assign him a name. He was the Creator of Gods, who were the Demiurgs of
the Universe, the creators of all rational beings, angels and men, and the
architects of the world.

The early writers exhaust language in endeavours to express the lofty
character and attributes, and the superlative power and dignity of this
great Unity, the highest conception of which man is capable. He is spoken
of in the sacred book of the Hindus as the "Almighty, infinite, eternal,
incomprehensible, self-existent Being; he who see everything, though never
seen; he who is not to be compassed by description; he from whom the
universe proceeds; who reigns supreme, the light of all lights; whose
power is too infinite to be imagined; is Brahm, the One Being, True and

The supreme God of Gods of the Hindus was less frequently expressed by the
name Brahm than by the mystical syllable =O'M=, which corresponded to the
Hebrew Jehovah. Strange as the remark may seem to most minds, it is
nevertheless true, that the fundamental principles of the Hindu religion
were those of pure Monotheism, the worship of one supreme and only God.
Brahm was regarded as too mighty to be named; and, while his symbolized or
personified attributes were adored in gorgeous temples, not one was
erected to him. The holiest verse of the Vedas is paraphrased as follows:

"Perfect truth; perfect happiness; without equal; immortal; absolute
unity; whom neither speech can describe nor mind comprehend;
all-pervading; all-transcending; delighted by his own boundless
intelligence, not limited by space or time; without feet, moving swiftly;
without hands, grasping all worlds; without ears, all-hearing,
understanding all; without cause, the first of all causes; all-ruling;
all-powerful; the Creator, Preserver, and Transformer of all things; such
is the Great One, Brahm."

The character and power of Kneph are indicated in terms no less lofty and
comprehensive than those applied to the omnipotent Brahm. He is described
in the ancient Hermetic books as the "first God, immovable in the solitude
of his Unity, the fountain of all things, the root of all primary,
intelligible, existing forms, the God of Gods, before the etherial and
empyrean Gods and the celestial."

In America this great Unity, this God of Gods, was equally recognised. In
Mexico as Teotl, "he who is all in himself" (Tloque Nahuaque); in Peru as
Varicocha, the "Soul of the Universe"; in Central America and Yucatan as
Stunah Ku or Hunab Ku, "God of Gods, the incorporeal origin of all
things." And as the Supreme Brahm of the Hindus, "whose name was
unutterable," was worshipped under no external form and had neither
temples nor altars erected to him, so the Supreme Teotl and the
corresponding Varicocha and Hunab Ku, "whose names," says the Spanish
conquerors, "were spoken only with extreme dread," were without an image
or an outward form of worship for the reason, according to the same
authorities, that each was regarded as the Invisible and Unknown God.

The Mundane Egg, received as a symbol of original, passive, unorganized,
formless nature, became associated, in conformity with primitive notions,
with other symbols referring to the creative force or vitalizing
influence. Thus in the Hindu cosmogany Brahma is represented, after long
inertia, as arranging the passive elements, "creating the world and all
visible things." Under the form of the emblematic bull the generative
energy was represented breaking the quiescent egg. Encircled by the folds
of the agatho-demon, a type of the active principle, it was suspended
aloft at the temples of Tyre. For the serpent, like the bull, was an
emblem of the sun or of the attributes of that luminary--itself the
celestial emblem of the "Universal Father," the procreative power of
nature. "Everywhere," says Faber, "we find the great father exhibiting
himself in the form of a serpent, and everywhere we find the serpent
invested with the attributes of the Great Father and partaking of the
honours which were paid him."[8]

Under this view, therefore, we may regard the compound symbol of the
serpent and the egg, though specifically allusive to the general creation,
as an illustration of the doctrine of the reciprocal principles which, as
we have already seen, enters largely into the entire fabric of primitive
philosophy and mythology.

Thus have we shewn that the grand conception of a Supreme Unity and the
doctrine of the reciprocal principles existed in America in a well defined
and easily recognised form.

Our present inquiry relates to the symbols by which they were represented
in both continents. That these were not usually arbitrary, but resulted
from associations, generally of an obvious kind, will be readily


    _The Sun and Fire as emblems--The Serpent and the Sun--Taut and the
    Serpent--Horapollo and the Serpent symbol--Sanchoniathon and the
    Serpent--Ancient Mysteries of Osiris, &c.--Rationale of the connection
    of Solar, Phallic, and Serpent Worship--The Aztec Pantheon--Mexican
    Gods--The Snake in Mexican Mythology--The Great Father and
    Mother--Quetzalcoatl, the Feathered Serpent--Researches of Stephens
    and Catherwood--Discoveries of Mr. Stephens._

That fire should be taken to be the physical, of what the sun is the
celestial emblem, is sufficiently apparent; we can readily understand also
how the bull, the goat, or ram, the phallus, and other symbols should have
the same import; also how naturally and almost inevitably and universally
the sun came to symbolize the active principle, the vivifying power, and
how obviously the egg symbolized the passive elements of nature, but how
the serpent came to possess, as a symbol, a like significance with these
is not so obvious. That it did so, however, cannot be doubted, and the
proofs will appear as we proceed; likewise that it sometimes symbolized
the great hermaphrodite first principle, the Supreme Unity of the Greeks
and Egyptians.

Although generally, it did not always symbolize the sun, or the power of
which the sun is an emblem; but, invested with various meanings, it
entered widely into the primitive mythologies. It typified wisdom, power,
duration, the good and evil principles, life, reproduction--in short, in
Egypt, Syria, Greece, India, China, Scandinavia, America, everywhere in
the globe it has been a prominent emblem. In the somewhat poetical
language of a learned author, "It entered into the mythology of every
nation, consecrated almost every temple, symbolized almost every deity,
was imagined in the heavens, stamped on the earth, and ruled in the realms
of everlasting sorrow." Its general acceptance seems to have been remarked
at a very early period. It arrested the attention of the ancient sages,
who assigned a variety of reasons for its adoption, founded upon the
natural history of the reptile. Among these speculations, none are more
curious than those preserved by Sanchoniathon, who says:--"Taut first
attributed something of the Divine nature to the Serpent, in which he was
followed by the Phoenicians and Egyptians. For this animal was esteemed
by him to be the most inspirited of all reptiles, and of a fiery nature,
inasmuch as it exhibits an incredible celerity, moving by its spirit,
without hands or feet, or any of the external members by which the other
animals effect their motion; and, in its progress, it assumes a variety of
forms, moving in a spiral course, and darting forward with whatever degree
of swiftness it pleases."

It is, moreover, long lived, and has the quality not only of putting off
its old age, and assuming a second youth, but of receiving at the same
time an augmentation of its size and strength; and when it has filled the
appointed measure of its existence, it consumes itself, as Taut has laid
down in the Sacred Books, upon which account this animal is received into
the sacred rites and mysteries.

Horapollo, referring to the serpent symbol, says of it:--"When the
Egyptians would represent the Universe they delineate a serpent bespeckled
with variegated scales, devouring its own tail, the scales intimating the
stars in the Universe. The animal is extremely heavy, as is the earth, and
extremely slippery like the water, moreover, it every year puts off its
old age with its skin, as in the Universe the annual period effects a
corresponding change and becomes renovated, and the making use of its own
body for food implies that all things whatever, which are generated by
divine providence in the world, undergo a corruption into them again."

Nothing is more certain than that the serpent at a very remote period was
regarded with high veneration as the most mysterious of living creatures.
Its habits were imperfectly understood, and it was invested, as we
perceive from the above quotations, with the most extraordinary qualities.
Alike the object of fear, admiration, and wonder, it is not surprising
that it became early connected with man's superstitions, but how it
obtained so general a predominance it is difficult to understand.

Perhaps there is no circumstance in the natural history of the serpent
more striking than that alluded to by Sanchoniathon, viz.: the annual
sloughing of its skin, or supposed rejuvenation.

  "As an old serpent casts his sealy vest,
  Wreaths in the sun, in youthful glory dressed,
  So when Alcides' mortal mould resign'd,
  His better part enlarged, and grew refin'd."--OVID.

It was probably this which connected it with the idea of an eternal
succession of forms, constant reproduction and dissolution, a process
which was supposed by the ancients to have been for ever going on in
nature. This doctrine is illustrated in the notion of a succession of Ages
which prevailed among the Greeks, corresponding to the Yugs of the Hindus,
and Suns of the aboriginal Mexicans. It is further illustrated by the
annual dissolution and renovation exhibited, in the succession of the
seasons, and which was supposed to result from the augmentation and
decline of the active principle, the Sun.

The mysteries of Osiris, Isis, and Horus, in Egypt; Atys and Cybéle, in
Phrygia; Ceres and Proserpine, at Eleusis; of Venus and Adonis in
Phoenicia; of Bona Dea, and Priapus, in Rome, are all susceptible of one
explanation. They all set forth and illustrated, by solemn and impressive
rites and mystical symbols, the grand phenomena of nature, especially as
connected with the creation of things and the perpetuation of life. In
all, it is worthy of remark, the serpent was more or less conspicuously
introduced, always as symbolical of the invigorating or active energy of
nature. In the mysteries of Ceres and Proserpine, the grand secret
communicated to the initiated was thus enigmatically expressed: _Taurus
Draconem genuit, et Taurum Draco_; "The bull has begotten a serpent, and
the serpent a bull." The bull, as already seen, was a prominent emblem of
generative force, the Bacchus Zagreus, or Tauriformis.

The doctrine of an unending succession of forms was not remotely connected
with that of regeneration, or new birth, which was part of the phallic
system, and which was recognised in a form more or less distinct in nearly
all the primitive religions. In Hindustan, this doctrine is still enforced
in the most unequivocal manner, through the medium of rites of portentous
solemnity and significance to the devotees of the Hindu religion. "For the
purpose of regeneration," says Wilford, "it is directed to make an image
of pure gold of the female powers of nature in the shape of either a woman
or a cow. In this statue the person to be regenerated is enclosed, and
afterwards dragged out through the usual channel. As a statue of pure
gold, and of proper dimensions would be too expensive, it is sufficient to
make an image of the sacred Yoni, through which the person to be
regenerated is to pass."

We have seen the serpent as a symbol of productive energy associated with
the egg as a symbol of the passive elements of nature. The egg does not,
however, appear except in the earlier cosmogonies. "As the male serpent,"
says Faber, "was employed to symbolize the Great Father, so the female
serpent was equally used to typify the Great Mother. Such a mode of
representation may be proved by express testimony, and is wholly agreeable
to the analogy of the entire system of Gentile mythology. In the same
manner that the two great parents were worshipped under the hieroglyphics
of a bull and cow, a lion and lioness, &c., so they were adored under the
cognate figures of a male and female serpent."

Nearly every inquirer into the primitive superstitions of men has observed
a close relationship, if not an absolute identity, in what are usually
distinguished as Solar, Phallic, and Serpent Worship, yet the _rationalé_
of the connection has been rarely detected. They really are all forms of a
single worship. "If (as it seems certain) they all three be identical,"
observes Mr. O'Brien, "where is the occasion for surprise at our meeting
the sun, phallus, and serpent, the constituent symbols of each, occurring
in combination, embossed upon the same table, and grouped upon the same

We turn again to America. The principal God of the Aztecs, subordinate to
the great Unity, was the impersonation of the active, creative energy,
Tezcatlipoca or Tonacatlecoatl. He was also called Tonacatenctli.

Like the Hindu Brahma, the Greek Phanes, and the Egyptian Phtha, he was
the "Creator of heaven and earth," "the Great Father," "the God of
Providence," who dwells in heaven, earth, and hades, and attends to the
government of the world. To denote this unfailing power and eternal youth,
his figure was that of a young man. His celestial emblem was Tonatiuh, the
Sun. His companion or wife was Cihuacohuatl or Tonaeacihua, "the Great
Mother" both of gods and men.

The remaining gods and goddesses of the Aztec Pantheon resolve themselves
into modified impersonations of these two powers. Thus, we have Ometuctli
and Omecihuatl, the adorable god and goddess who preside over the
celestial paradise, and which, though generally supposed to be distinct
divinities, are, nevertheless, according to the Codex Vaticanus, but other
names for the deities already designated. We have also Xiuhteuctli,
"Master of the Year," "the God of Fire," the terrestrial symbol of the
active principle, and Xochitli, "the Goddess of Earth and Corn;" Tlaloc
and Cinteotl, or Chalchiuhcueije, "the god and goddess of the waters;"
Mictlanteuctli and Mictlancihuatl, "the god and goddess of the dead;" the
terrible Mexitli or Huitzlipochtli, corresponding to the Hindu Siva, in
his character of destroyer, and his wife Teoyamiqui, whose image, like
that of Kali, the consort of Siva, was decorated with the combined emblems
of life and death.

In the simple mythology and pure Sabianism of Peru, we have already shown
the existence of the primeval principles symbolized, the first by the Sun
and the second by his wife and sister the Moon. That the sun was here
regarded as symbolizing the intermediate father, or demiurgic creator,
cannot be doubted. The great and solemn feast of Raimi was instituted in
acknowledgment of the Sun as the great father of all visible things, by
whom all living things are generated and sustained. The ceremonies of this
feast were emblematical, and principally referred to the sun as the
reproductive and preserving power of nature. In Mexico, where the
primitive religion partook of the fiercer nature of the people, we find
the Raimaic ceremonies assuming a sanguinary character, and the
acknowledgment of the reproductive associated with the propitiation of its
antagonist principle, as we see in the orgies of Huitzlipochtli in his
character of the Destroyer. The same remarks hold true of Central America,
the religion and mythology of which country correspond essentially with
those of the nations of Anahuac.

We have said that the principal god of the Aztec pantheon, subordinate
only to the Unity and corresponding to the Hindu Brahma, was Tezcatlipoca,
Tonacatlecoalt, or Tonacateuctli. If we consult the etymology of these
names we shall find ample confirmation of the correctness of the
deductions already drawn from the mythologies of the East. Thus
Tonacateuctli embodied Lord Sun from Tonàtiuh, Sun, _nacayo_ or catl, body
or person, and teuctli, master or lord. Again, Tonacatlcoatl, the Serpent
Sun, from Tonctiah and catl, as above, and coatl, serpent. If we adopt
another etymology for the names (and that which seems to have been most
generally accepted by the early writers) we shall have Tonacateuctli, Lord
of our Flesh, from to, the possessive pronoun plural, nacatl, flesh or
body, and teuctli, master or lord. We shall also have Tonacatlecoatl,
Serpent of our Flesh, from to and nacatl, and coatl, serpent.

According to Sahagim, Tezcatlipoca, in his character of the God of Hosts,
was addressed as follows by the Mexican High Priest:--"We entreat that
those who die in war may be received by thee, our Father the Sun, and our
Mother the Earth, for thou alone reignest." The same authority informs us
that in the prayer of thanks, returned to Tezcatlipoca by the Mexican
kings on the occasion of their coronation, God was recognised as the God
of Fire, to whom Xiuthteuctli, Lord of Vegetation, and specifically Lord
of Fire, bears the same relation that Suyra does to the first person of
the Hindu Triad. The king petitions that he may act "in conformity with
the will of the ancient God, the Father of all Gods, who is the God of
Fire; whose habitation is in the midst of the waters, encompassed by
battlements, surrounded by rocks as it were with roses, whose name is
Xiuteuctli," etc.

Tonacateuctli, or Tezcatlipoca, is often, not to say generally, both on
the monuments and in the paintings, represented as surrounded by a disc of
the sun.

The name of the primitive goddess, the wife of Tezcatlipoca, was
Cihuacohuatl or Tonacacihua. She was well known by other names, all
referring to her attributes. The etymology of Cihuacohuatl is clearly
Cihua, woman or female, and coatl, serpent--Female Serpent. And
Tonacacihua is Female Sun, from Tonatiuh nacatl (as before) and cihua,
woman or female. Adopting the other etymology, it is Woman of our Flesh.

Gama, who is said to be by far the most intelligent author who has treated
with any detail of the Mexican Gods, referring to the serpent symbols
belonging to the statue of Teoyaomiqui, says--"These refer to another
Goddess named Cihuacohuatl, or Female Serpent, which the Mexicans believe
gave to the light, at a single birth, two children, one male and the other
female, to whom they refer the origin of mankind: and hence twins, among
the Mexicans, are called cohuatl or coatl, which is corrupted in the
pronunciation by the vulgar into coate."

Whichever etymology we assign to Tonaca in these combinations, the leading
fact that the Great Father was designated as the male serpent, and the
Great Mother as the female servant, remains unaffected. Not only were they
thus designated, but Cinacoatl or Cihuacohuatl was generally if not always
represented, in the paintings, accompanied by a great snake or
feather-headed serpent (Tonacatlecoatl "serpent sun") in which the monkish
interpreters did not fail to discover a palpable allusion to Eve and the
tempter of the garden.

Pursuing the subject of the connection of the Serpent Symbol with American
Mythology, we remark, the fact that it was a conspicuous symbol and could
not escape the attention of the most superficial of observers of the
Mexican and Central American monuments, and mythological paintings. The
early Spaniards were particularly struck with its prominence.

"The snake," says Dupaix, "was a conspicuous object in the Mexican
mythology, and we find it carved in various shapes and sizes, coiled,
extended, spiral or entwined with great beauty, and sometimes represented
with feathers and other ornaments. These different representatives," he
continues, "no doubt denoted its different attributes."

The editor of Kingsborough's great work observes:--"Like the Egyptian
Sphynx, the mystical snake of the Mexicans had its enigmas, and both are
beyond our power to unravel;" this, however, is a matter of opinion, and
the conclusion is one from which many will strongly dissent.

In almost every primitive mythology we find, not only a Great Father and
Mother, the representatives of the reciprocal principles, and a Great
Hemaphrodite Unity from whom the first proceed and in whom they are both
combined, but we find also a beneficial character, partaking of a divine
and human nature, who is the Great Teacher of Men, who instructs them in
religion, civil organization and the arts, and who, after a life of
exemplary usefulness, disappears mysteriously, leaving his people
impressed with the highest respect for his institutions and the
profoundest regard for his memory. This demi-god, to whom divine honours
are often paid after his withdrawal from the earth, is usually the Son of
the Sun, or of the Demiurgic Creator, the Great Father, who stands at the
head of the primitive pantheons and subordinate only to the Supreme Unity;
he is born of an earthly mother, a virgin, and often a vestal of the Sun,
who conceives in a mysterious manner, and who, after giving birth to her
half-divine son, is herself sometimes elevated to the rank of a goddess.
In the more refined and systematized mythologies he appears clearly as an
incarnation of the Great Father and partaking of his attributes, his
terrestial representative, and the mediator between him and man. He
appears as Buddha in India; Fohi in China; Schaka in Thibet; Zoroasta in
Persia; Osiris in Egypt; Taut in Phoenicia; Hermes or Cadmus in Greece;
Romulus in Rome; Odin in Scandinavia; and in each case is regarded as the
Great Teacher of Men, and the founder of religion.

In the mythological systems of America, this intermediate demi-god was not
less clearly recognised than in those of the Old World; indeed, as these
systems were less complicated because less modified from the original or
primitive forms, the Great Teacher appears here with more distinctness.
Among the savage tribes his origin and character were, for obvious
reasons, much confused; but among the more advanced nations he occupied a
well-defined position.

Among the nations of Anahuac, he bore the name of Quetzalcoatl (Feathered
Serpent) and was regarded with the highest veneration. His festivals were
the most gorgeous of the year. To him it is said the great temple of
Cholula was dedicated. His history, drawn from various sources, is as
follows:--The god of the "Milky Way"--in other words, of Heaven--the
principal deity of the Aztec Pantheon, and the Great Father of gods and
men, sent a message to a virgin of Tulan, telling her that it was the will
of the gods that she should conceive a son, which she did without knowing
any man. This son was Quetzalcoatl, who was figured as tall, of fair
complexion, open forehead, large eyes and a thick beard. He became high
priest of Tulan, introducted the worship of the gods, established laws
displaying the profoundest wisdom, regulated the calendar, and maintained
the most rigid and exemplary manners in his life. He was averse to
cruelty, abhorred war, and taught men to cultivate the soil, to reduce
metal from their ores, and many other things necessary to their welfare.
Under his benign administration the widest happiness prevailed amongst
men. The corn grew to such a size that a single ear was a load for a man;
gourds were as long as a man's body; it was unnecessary to dye cotton for
it grew of all colours; all fruits were in the greatest profusion and of
extraordinary size; there were also vast numbers of beautiful and sweet
singing birds. His reign was the golden age of Anahuac. He however
disappeared suddenly and mysteriously, in what manner is unknown. Some say
he died on the sea-shore, and others say that he wandered away in search
of the imaginary kingdom of Tlallapa. He was deified; temples were erected
to him, and he was adored throughout Anahuac.

Quetzalcoatl is, therefore, but an incarnation of the "Serpent Sun"
Tonacatlecoalt, and, as is indicated by his name, the feathered serpent
was his recognised symbol. He was thus symbolized in accordance with a
practice which (says Gama) prevailed in Mexico, of associating or
connecting with the representatives of a god or goddess, the symbols of
the other deities from whom they are derived, or to whom they sustain
some relation. His temples were distinguished as being circular, and the
one dedicated to his worship in Mexico, was, according to Gomera, entered
by a door "like unto the mouth of a serpent, which was a thing to fear by
those who went in thereat, especially by the Christians, to whom it
represented very hell."

The Mayas of Yucatan had a demi-god corresponding entirely with
Quetzalcoatl, if he was not the same under a different name--a conjecture
very well sustained by the evident relationship between the Mexican and
Mayan mythologies. He was named Itzamna or Zamna, and was the only son of
the principal God, Kinchanan. He arrived from the East, and instructed the
people in all that was essential to their welfare. "He," says Cogolludo,
"invented the characters which they use as letters, and which are called
after him, Itzamna, and they adore him as a god."

There was another similar character in Yucatan, called Ku Kulcan or
Cuculcan, another in Nicaragua named Theotbilake, son of their principal
god Thomathoyo, and another in Colombia bearing the name of Bochia. Peru
and Guatemala furnish similar traditions, as do also Brazil, the nations
of the Tamanac race, Florida, and various savage tribes of the West.

The serpent, as we show elsewhere, was an emblem both of Quetzalcoatl and
of Ku Kulcan--a fact which gives some importance to the statement of
Cabrera that Votan of Guatemala as above was represented to be a serpent,
or of serpent origin.

Torquemada states, that the images of Huitzlipochtli of Mexico,
Quetzalcoatl, and Tlaloc were each represented with a golden serpent,
bearing different symbolical sacrificial allusions. He also assures us
that serpents often entered into the symbolical sacrificial ceremonies of
the Mexicans, and presents the following example:--

"Among the many sacrifices which these Indians made, there was one which
they performed in honour of the mountains, by forming serpents out of wood
or of the roots of the trees, to which they affixed serpents' heads, and
also dolls of the same, which they called Ecatotowin, which figures of
serpents and fictitious children they covered with dough, named by them
Tzoalli, composed of the seeds of Bledos, and placed them on supports of
wood, carved in the representation of hills or mountains, on the tops of
which they fixed them. This was the kind of offering which they made to
the mountains and high hills."

The mother of Huitzlipochtli was a priestess of Tezcatlipoca (a cleanser
of the temple, says Gama) named Coatlantona, Coatlcué, or Coatlcyue
(serpent of the temple or serpent woman). She was extremely devoted to the
gods, and one day when walking in the temple, she beheld, descending in
the air, a ball made of variously coloured feathers. She placed it in her
girdle, became at once pregnant, and afterwards was delivered of Mexith or
Huitzlipochtli, full armed, with a spear in one hand, a shield in the
other, and a crest of green feathers on his head. He became, according to
some, their leader into Anahuac, guiding them to the place where Mexico is
built. His statue was of gigantic size, and covered with ornaments each
one of which had its significance. He was depicted placed upon a seat,
from the four corners of which issued four large serpents. "His body,"
says Gomeza, "was beset with pearls, precious stones and gold, and for
collars and chains around his neck ten hearts of men made of gold. It had
also a counterfeit vizard, with eyes of glass, and in its neck death
painted, all of which things had their considerations and meanings." It
was to him in his divine character of the destroyer that the bloodiest
sacrifices of Mexico were performed. His wife, Teoyaomiqui (from Teo,
sacred or divine; Yaoyotl, war; and Miqui, to kill) was represented as a
figure bearing the full breasts of a woman, literally enveloped in
serpents, and ornamented with feathers, shells, and the teeth and claws of
a tiger. She had a necklace composed of six hands. Around her waist is a
belt to which death's heads are attached. One of her statues, a horrible
figure, still exists in the city of Mexico. It is carved from a solid
block of vasalt, and is nine feet in height and five and a half in

It is not improbable that the serpent-mother of Huitzlipochtli was an
impersonation of the great female serpent Cinacohuatl, the wife of
Tonacatlecoatl, the serpent-father of Quetzalcoatl. However this may be,
it is clear that a more intimate connection exists between the several
principal divinities of Mexico, than appears from the confused and meagre
accounts which have been left us of their mythology. Indeed, we have seen
that the Hindu Triad, Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva, has very nearly its
counterpart in Tezcatlipoca, Tlaloc, and the celestial Huitzlipochtli, the
Creator, Preserver, and Destroyer and Reproducer. In the delineations of
Siva or Mahadeo, in his character of the destroyer, he is represented as
wrapped in tiger skins. A hooded snake is twisted around him and lifts its
head above his shoulder, and twisted snakes form his head-dress. In other
cases he holds a spear, a sword, a serpent, and a skull, and has a girdle
of skulls around his waist. The bull Nandi (emblem of generative force),
as also the lingham, are among his emblems. To him were dedicated the
bloodiest sacrifices of India. Durga, or Kali (an impersonation of Bhavin,
goddess of nature and fecundity) corresponds with the Mexican Tesyaomiqui,
and is represented in a similar manner. She is a war goddess and her
martial deeds give her a high position in the Hindu pantheon. As Kali, her
representatives are most terrible. The emblems of destruction are common
to all: she is entwined with serpents; a circlet of flowers surrounds her
head; a necklace of skulls; a girdle of dissevered human hands; tigers
crouching at her feet--indeed every combination of the horrible and the
loathsome is invoked to portray the dark character which she represents.
She delights in human sacrifices and the ritual prescribes that, previous
to the death of the victim, she should be invoked as follows: "Let the
sacrificer first repeat the name of Kali thrice, Hail, Kali! Kali! Hail,
Devi! Hail, Goddess of Thunder! iron-sceptered, hail, fierce Kali! Cut,
slay, destroy! bind, secure! Cut with the axe, drink blood, slay,
destroy!" "She has four hands," says Patterson, "two of which are employed
in the work of death; one points downwards, allusive to the destruction
which surrounds her, and the other upwards, which seems to promise the
regeneration of nature by a new creation." "On her festivals," says
Coleman, "her temples literally stream with blood." As Durga, however, she
is often represented as the patroness of Virtue and her battles with evil
demons form the subject of many Hindu poems. She is under this aspect the
armed Phallas.

We have seen that the Creator of the World, the Great Father of the
Aztecs, Tonacatlecoatl or Tezcatlipoca, and his wife Cihuacohuatl, were
not only symbolized as the Sun and Moon, but also that they were
designated as the male and female serpent, and that in the mythological
pictures the former was represented as a feather-headed snake. We have
also seen that the incarnate or human representative of this deity
Quetzalcoatl, was also symbolized as a feathered serpent. This was in
accordance with the system of the Aztecs, who represented cognate symbols,
and invested the impersonations or descendants of the greater gods with
their emblems.

These facts being well established, many monuments of American antiquity,
otherwise inexplicable, become invested with significance. In Mexico,
unfortunately, the monumental records of the ancient inhabitants have
been so ruthlessly destroyed or obliterated that now they afford us but
little aid in our researches. Her ancient paintings, although there are
some which have escaped the general devastation, are principally beyond
our reach and cannot be consulted particularly upon these points. In
Central America, however, we find many remains which, although in a ruined
state, are much more complete and much more interesting than any others
concerning which we possess any certain information.

The researches and explorations of Messrs. Stephens and Catherwood have
placed many of these before us in a form which enables us to detect their
leading features. Ranking first among the many interesting groups of ruins
discovered by these gentlemen, both in respect to their extent and
character, are those of Chichen-itza. One of the structures comprising
this group is described as follows:--"The building called the Castillo is
the first which we saw, and is, from every point of view, the grandest and
most conspicuous object that towers above the plain. The mound upon which
it stands measures one hundred and ninety-seven feet at the base, and is
built up, apparently solid, to the height of seventy-five feet. On the
west side is a stairway thirty-seven feet wide; on the north another,
forty-four feet wide, and containing ninety steps. On the ground at the
foot of the stairway, forming a bold, striking, and well-conceived
commencement, are two collossal serpents' heads (feathered) ten feet in
length, with mouths wide open and tongues protruding."

"No doubt they were emblematic of some religious belief, and, in the minds
of the imaginative people passing between them, must have excited feelings
of solemn awe. The platform on the mound is about sixty feet square and is
crowned by a building measuring forty-three by forty-nine feet. Single
doorways face the east, south and west, having massive lentils of zapote
wood, covered with elaborate carvings, and the jambs are ornamented with
sculptured figures. The sculpture is much worn, but the head-dress of
feathers and portions of the rich attire still remain. The face is well
preserved and has a dignified aspect. All the other jambs are decorated
with sculptures of the same general character, and all open into a
corridor six feet wide, extending around three sides of the building. The
interior of this building was ornamented with very elaborate but much
obliterated carvings.

"The sacred character of this remarkable structure is apparent at the
first glance, and it is equally obvious that the various sculptures must
have some significance. The entrance between the two colossal serpents'
heads remind us at once of Gomera's description of the entrance to the
temple of Quetzalcoatl in Mexico, which 'was like unto the mouth of a
serpent and which was a thing to fear by those who entered in thereat.'"

The circumstance that these heads are feathered seems further to connect
this temple with the worship of that divinity. But in the figures
sculptured upon the jambs of the entrances, and which, Mr. Stephens
observes, were of the same general character throughout, we have further
proof that this structure was dedicated to a serpent divinity. Let it be
remembered that the dignified personage there represented is accompanied
by a feathered serpent, the folds of which are gracefully arrayed behind
the figure and the tail of which is marked by the rattles of the
rattle-snake--the distinguishing mark of the monumental serpent of the
continent, whether represented in the carvings of the mounds or in the
sculptures of Central America. This temple, we may therefore reasonably
infer, was sacred to the benign Quetzalcoatl, or a character corresponding
to him, whose symbolical serpent guarded the ascent to the summit, and
whose imposing representation was sculptured on its portals. This
inference is supported by the fact that in Mexican paintings the temples
of Quetzalcoatl are indicated by a serpent entwined around or rising above
them, as may be seen in an example from the Codex Borgianus in

But this is not all. We have already said that amongst the Itzaes--"holy
men"--the founders of Chichen-itza and afterwards of Mayapan, there was a
character, corresponding in many respects with Quetzalcoatl, named Ku
Kulcan or Cuculcan. Torquemada, quoted by Cogolludo, asserts that this was
but another name for Quetzalcoatl. Cogolludo himself speaks of Ku Kulcan
as "one who had been a great captain among them," and was afterwards
worshipped as a god. Herrara states that he ruled at Chichen-itza; that
all agreed that he came from the westward, but that a difference exists as
to whether he came before or afterwards or with the Itzaes. "But" he adds,
"the name of the structure at Chichen-itza and the events of that country
after the death of the lords, shows that Cuculcan governed with them. He
was a man of good disposition, not known to have had wife or children, a
great statesman, and therefore looked upon as a god, he having contrived
to build another city in which business might be managed. To this purpose
they pitched upon a spot eight leagues from Merida, where they made an
enclosure of about an eighth of a league in circuit, being a wall of dry
stone with only two gates. They built temples, calling the greatest of
them Cuculcan. Near the enclosures were the houses of the prime men, among
whom Cuculcan divided the land, appointing towns to each of them.

"This city was called Mayapan (the standard of Maya), the Mayan being the
language of the country. Cuculcan governed in peace and quietness and with
great justice for some years, when, having provided for his departure and
recommended to them the good form of government which had been
established, he returned to Mexico the same way he came, making some stay
at Chanpotan, where, as a memorial of his journey, he erected a structure
in the sea, which is to be seen to this day."[9]

We have here the direct statement that the principal structure at Mayapan
was called Cuculcan; and from the language of Herrara the conclusion is
irresistible that the principal structure of Chichen-itza was also called
by the same name. These are extremely interesting facts, going far to show
that the figure represented in the "Castillo," and which we have
identified upon other evidence as being that of a personage corresponding
to Quetzalcoatl, is none other than the figure of the demi-god Ku Kulcan,
or Cuculcan, to whose worship the temple was dedicated and after whom it
was named.

If we consult the etymology of the name Ku Kulcan we shall have further
and striking evidence in support of this conclusion. _Ku_ in the Mayan
language means God, and _can_ serpent. We have, then, Ku _Kul_can,
God--_Kul_, Serpent, or Serpent-God. What _Kul_ signifies it is not
pretended to say, but we may reasonably conjecture that it is a qualifying
word to _can_ serpent. _Kukum_ is feather, and it is possible that by
being converted into an adjective form it may change its termination into
Kukul. The etymology may therefore be Kukumcan Feather-Serpent, or
Kukulcan Feathered Serpent. We, however, repose on the first explanation,
and unhesitatingly hazard the opinion that, when opportunity is afforded
of ascertaining the value of _Kul_, the correctness of our conclusions
will be fully justified.

And here we may also add that the etymology of Kinchahan, the name of the
principal god of the Mayas and corresponding to Tonacatlcoatl of Mexico,
is precisely the same as that of the latter. _Kin_ is Sun in the Mayan
language, and _Chahan_, as every one acquainted with the Spanish
pronunciation well knows, is nothing more than a variation in orthography
for _Cään_ or _Can_, serpent. Kin Chahan, Kincaan, or Kincan is,
therefore, Sun-serpent.

The observation that Quetzalcoatl might be regarded as the incarnation of
Tezcatlipoca, or Tonacatlcoatl, corresponding to the Buddha of the Hindus,
was based upon the coincidences in their origin, character, and teachings,
but there are some remarkable coincidences between the temples dedicated
to the worship of these two great teachers--or perhaps we should say,
between the religious structures of Central America and Mexico and
Hindustan and the islands of the Indian Archipelago, which deserve

From the top of the lofty temple at Chichen-itza, just described, Mr.
Stephens saw, for the first time, groups of columns or upright stones
which, he observes, proved upon examination to be among the most
remarkable and unintelligible remains he had yet encountered. "They stood
in rows of three, four and five abreast, many rows continuing in the same
direction, when they collectively changed and pursued another. They were
low, the tallest not more than six feet high. Many had fallen, in some
places lying prostrate in rows, all in the same direction, as if thrown
intentionally. In some cases they extended to the bases of large mounds,
on which were ruins of buildings and large fragments of sculptures, while
in others they branched off and terminated abruptly. I counted three
hundred and eighty, and there were many more; but so many were broken and
lay so irregularly that I gave up counting them."

Those represented by Mr. Stephens, in his plate, occur in immediate
connection with the temple above described, and enclose an area nearly
four hundred feet square.

In the third volume of the "Transactions of the Royal Asiatic Society" is
an account of the mixed temples of the ancient city of Anarajapura
(situated in the centre of the island of Ceylon) by Captain Chapman, of
the British Army. The remarkable character of these ancient structures and
the decided resemblances which they sustain to those of Central America,
and particularly to the group of Chichen-itza, justify a somewhat detailed
notice of them.

According to native records, Anarajapura was, for a period of thirteen
hundred years, both the principal seat of the religion of the country and
the residence of its kings. It abounded in magnificent buildings,
sculptures and other works of art, and was, as it still is, held in the
greatest veneration by the followers of Buddha as the most sacred spot in
the island.

"At this time," says Captain Chapman, "the only remaining traces of the
city consist of nine temples; of two very extensive banks; of several
smaller ones in ruins; of groups of pillars, and of portions of walls,
which are scattered over an extent of several miles. The nine temples are
still held in great reverence, and are visited periodically by the
Buddhists. They consist first of an enclosure, in which are the sacred
trees called the Bogaha; the Thousand Pillars called Lowá Mahá Payá; and
the seven mounds or Dagobas, each one of which has a distinct name given
it by its founder."

The temple of Bo Malloa, especially sacred to Buddha, is of granite and
consists of a series of four rectangular terraces, faced with granite,
rising out of each other and diminishing both in height and extent, upon
which are situated the altars and the sacred Bogaha trees, or trees of
Buddha. The total height of the terraces is about twenty feet and the
extent of the largest thirty paces by fifteen. These terraces are ascended
by flights of steps. At the foot of the principal flight are slabs of
granite, placed perpendicularly, upon which figures are boldly sculptured;
and between is a semi-circular stone with simple mouldings let in the
ground. Upon the east of the building projects a colossal figure of
Buddha. Another similar, but smaller, structure is placed a little to the
eastward of that first described. Both are surrounded by a wall, enclosing
a space one hundred and twenty five paces long by seventy-five wide,
within which are planted a variety of odoriferous trees.

A few paces to the eastward of this enclosure are the ruins of the
"Thousand Pillars." These consisted originally of 1600 pillars, disposed
in a square. The greater part are still standing; they consist, with a few
exceptions, of a single piece of gneiss in the rough state in which they
were quarried. They are ten or twelve feet above the ground; twelve inches
by eight square, and about four feet from each other; but the two in the
centre of the outer line differ from the rest in being of hard blue
granite, and in being more carefully finished. These pillars were said to
have been covered with _chunam_ (plaster) and thus converted into columns
having definite forms and proportions. There is a tradition that there
was formerly in the centre of this square a brazen chamber, in which was
contained a relic held in much veneration. A few paces from this was a
single pillar of gneiss in a rough state, which was from fourteen to
sixteen feet high.

Captain Chapman observes that structures, accompanied by similar groups of
columns, exist on the opposite or continental coast. The temples of
Rámiseram, Madura, and the celebrated one of Seringham, have each their
"Thousand Pillars." In Rámiseram the pillars are arranged in colonnades of
several parallel rows, and these colonnades are separated by tanks or
spaces occupied by buildings in the manner indicated by Mr. Stephens at
Chichen-itza. Some of these pillars are carved; others are in their rough
state or covered with plaster. In Madura the pillars are disposed in a
square of lines radiating in such a manner that a person placed in the
centre can see through in every direction. This square is on a raised
terrace, the pillars rude and only about eight feet high. At Seringham the
pillars also form a square.

The dagobas, occurring in connection with the temple of Buddha and the
"Thousand Pillars" at Anarajapura, deserve a notice, as they correspond in
many respects with some of the structures at Chichen. They are of various
dimensions and consist generally of raised terraces or platforms of great
extent, surrounded by mounds of earth faced with brick or stone, and often
crowned with circular, dome-shaped structures. The base is usually
surrounded by rows of columns. They vary from fifty to one hundred and
fifty feet in height. The dagobas, of intermediate size, have occasionally
a form approaching that of a bubble, but in general they have the form of
a bell. They constitute part of the Buddhist Temples, almost without
exception. We have, in the character of these singular columns and their
arrangement in respect to each other and the pyramidal structures in
connection with which they are found, a most striking resemblance between
the ruins of Chichen-itza in Central America, and Anarajapura in
Ceylon--between the temples of Buddha and those of Quetzalcoatl, or some
corresponding character. The further coincidences which exist between the
sacred architecture of India and Central America will be reserved for
another place. We cannot, however, omit to notice here the structure at
Chichen-itza designated as the "Caracol," both from its resemblance to the
dagobas of Ceylon and its connection with the worship of the Serpent
Deity. Mr. Stephens describes it as follows:--

"It is circular in form and is known by the name of the Caracol, or
Winding Staircase, on account of its interior arrangements. It stands on
the upper of two terraces. The lower one measuring in front, from north to
south, two hundred and twenty-three feet, and is still in good
preservation. A grand staircase, forty-five feet wide, and containing
twenty steps, rises to the platform of this terrace. On each side of the
staircase, forming a sort of balustrade, rest the entwined bodies of two
gigantic serpents, three feet wide, portions of which are still in place;
and amongst the ruins of the staircase a gigantic head, which had
terminated, at one side the foot of the steps. The platform of the second
terrace measured eighty feet in front and fifty-five in depth, and is
reached by another staircase forty-two feet wide and having forty-two
steps. In the centre of the steps and against the wall of the terrace are
the remains of a pedestal six feet high, on which probably once stood an
idol. On the platform, fifteen feet from the last step, stands the
building. It is twenty-two feet in diameter and has four small doorways
facing the cardinal points. Above the cornice the roof sloped off so as to
form an apex. The height, including the terraces, is little short of sixty
feet. The doorways give entrance to a circular corridor five feet wide.
The inner wall has four doorways, smaller than the others, and standing
intermediately with respect to them. These doors give entrance to a second
circular corridor, four feet wide, and in the centre is a circular mass,
apparently of solid stone, seven feet six inches in diameter; but in one
place, at the height of eleven feet from the floor, was a small square
opening, which I endeavoured to clear out but without success. The roof
was so tottering that I could not discover to what this opening led. The
walls of both corridors were plastered and covered with paintings, and
both were covered with a triangular arch."

Mr. Stephens also found at Mayapan, which city, as we have seen, was built
by Ku Kulcan, the great ruler and demi-god of Chichen-itza, a dome-shaped
edifice of much the same character with that here described. It is the
principal structure here, and stands on a mound thirty feet high. The
walls are ten feet high to the top of the lower cornice, and fourteen more
to the upper one. It has a single entrance towards the west. The outer
wall is five feet thick, within which is a corridor three feet wide,
surrounding a solid cylindrical mass of stone, nine feet in thickness. The
walls have four or five coats of stucco and were covered with remains of
paintings, in which red, yellow, blue and white were distinctly visible.
On the south-west of the building was a double row of columns, eight feet
apart, though probably from the remains around, there had been more, and
by clearing away the trees others might be found. They were two feet and a
half in diameter. We are not informed upon the point but presumably the
columns were arranged, in respect to the structure, in the same manner as
those accompanying the dagobas of Ceylon, or the mounds of Chichen-itza.

Among the ruins of Chichen are none more remarkable than that called by
the natives "Egclesia" or the Church. It is described by Mr. Stephens as
consisting of "two immense parallel walls each two hundred and
seventy-five feet long, thirty feet thick, and placed one hundred and
twenty feet apart. One hundred feet from the northern extremity, facing
the space between the walls, stands, on a terrace, a building thirty-five
feet long, containing a single chamber, with the front fallen, and rising
among the rubbish the remains of two columns elaborately ornamented, the
whole interior wall being exposed to view, covered from top to bottom with
sculptured figures in bas-relief much worn and faded. At the southern end
also, placed back a hundred feet and corresponding in position, is another
building eighty-one feet long, in ruins, but also exhibiting the remains
of this column richly sculptured. In the centre of the great stone walls,
exactly opposite each other, and at the height of thirty feet from the
ground, are two massive stone rings, four feet in diameter and one foot
one inch thick, the diameter of the hole is one foot seven inches. On the
rim and border are sculptured two entwined serpents; one of them is
feather-headed, the other is not." May we regard them as allusive to the
Serpent God and the Serpent Goddess of the Aztec mythology? Mr. Stephens
is disposed to regard the singular structure here described as a Gymnasium
or Tennis Court, and supports his opinion by a quotation from Herrara. It
seems to others much more probable that, with the other buildings of the
group, this had an exclusively sacred origin. However that may be, the
entwined serpents are clearly symbolical, inasmuch as we find them
elsewhere, in a much more conspicuous position, and occupying the first
place among the emblematic figures sculptured on the aboriginal temples.

Immediately in connection with this singular structure and constituting
part of the eastern wall, is a building, in many respects the most
interesting visited by Mr. Stephens, and respecting which it is to be
regretted he has not given us a more complete account. It requires no
extraordinary effort of fancy to discover in the sculptures and paintings
with which it is decorated the pictured records of the teachings of the
deified Ku Kulcan, who instructed men in the arts, taught them in
religion, and instituted government. There are represented processions of
figures, covered with ornaments, and carrying arms. "One of the inner
chambers is covered," says Mr. Stephens, "from the floor to the arched
roof, with designs in painting, representing, in bright and vivid colours,
human figures, battles, horses, boats, trees, and various scenes in
domestic life." These correspond very nearly with the representations on
the walls of the ancient Buddhist temples of Java, which are described by
Mr. Crawfurd as being covered with designs of "a great variety of
subjects, such as processions, audiences, religious worship, battles,
hunting, maritime and other scenes."

Among the ruins of Uxmal is a structure closely resembling the Egclesia of
Chichen. It consists of two massive walls of stone, one hundred and
twenty-eight feet long, and thirty in thickness, and placed seventy feet
apart. So far as could be made out, they are exactly alike in plan and
ornament. The sides facing each other are embellished with sculpture, and
upon both remain the fragments of entwined colossal serpents which run the
whole length of the walls. In the centre of each facade, as at Chichen,
were the fragments of a great stone ring, which had been broken off and
probably destroyed. It would therefore seem that the emblem of the
entwined serpents was significant of the purposes to which these
structures were dedicated. The destruction of these stones is another
evidence of their religious character; for the conquerors always directed
their destroying zeal against those monuments, or parts of monuments, most
venerated and valued by the Indians, and which were deemed most intimately
connected with their superstitions.

Two hundred feet to the south of this edifice is another large and
imposing structure, called Casa de las Monjas, House of the Nuns. It
stands on the highest terraces, and is reached by a flight of steps. It is
quadrangular in form, with a courtyard in the centre. This is two hundred
and fourteen by two hundred and fifty-eight. "Passing through the arched
gateway," says Mr. Stephens, "we enter this noble courtyard, with four
great facades looking down upon it, each ornamented from one end to the
other with the richest and most elaborate carving known in the art of the
builders. The facade on the left is most richly ornamented, but is much
ruined. It is one hundred and sixty feet long, and is distinguished by two
colossal serpents entwined, running through and encompassing nearly all
the ornaments throughout its entire length. At the north end, where the
facade is most entire, the tail of one serpent is held up nearly over the
head of the other, and has an ornament upon it like a turban with a plume
of feathers. There are marks upon the extremity of the tail, probably
intended to represent the rattlesnake, with which the country abounds. The
lower serpent has its monstrous jaws wide open, and within there is a
human head, the face of which is distinctly visible in the stone. The head
and tail of the two serpents at the south end of the facade are said to
have corresponded with those at the north, and when the whole was entire,
in 1836, the serpents were seen encircling every ornament of the building.
The bodies of the serpents are covered with feathers. Its ruins present a
lively idea of the large and many well-constructed buildings of lime and
stone, which Bernal Diaz saw at Campeachy, with figures of serpents and
idols painted on their walls." Mr. Norman mentions that the heads of the
serpents were adorned with plumes of feathers, and that the tails showed
the peculiarity of the rattlesnake.[10]

The eastern facade, opposite that just described, is less elaborately, but
more tastefully ornamented. Over each doorway is an ornament representing
the Sun. In every instance there is a face in the centre, with the tongue
projected, surmounted by an elaborate head-dress; between the bars there
is also a range of many lozenge-shaped ornaments, in which the remains of
red paint are distinctly visible, and at each end is a serpent's head with
the mouth open. The ornament over the principal doorway is much more
complicated and elaborate, and of that marked and peculiar style which
characterizes the highest efforts of the builders.

The central figure, with the projecting tongue, is probably that of the
Sun, and in general design coincides with the central figure sculptured on
the great calendar stone of Mexico, and with that found by Mr. Stephens on
the walls of Casa No. 3 at Palenque, where it is represented as an object
of admiration. The protrusion of the tongue signified, among the Aztecs,
ability to speak, and denoted life or existence. Among the Sclavonian
nations, the idea of vitality was conveyed by ability to eat, as it is by
to breathe among ourselves, and to walk among the Indians of the Algonquin

Although Central America was occupied by nations independent of those of
Mexico proper, yet some of them (as those inhabiting the Pacific coast, as
far south as Nicaragua) were descended directly from them, and all had
striking features in common with them. Their languages were in general
different, but cognate; their architecture was essentially the same; and
their religion, we have every reason for believing, was not widely
different, though doubtless that of the south was less ferocious in its
character, and not so generally disfigured by human sacrifices.

We may therefore look with entire safety for common mythological notions,
especially when we are assured of the fact that, whatever its
modifications, the religion of the continent is essentially the same; and
especially when we know that whatever differences may have existed amongst
the various nations of Mexico and Central America, the elements of their
religion were derived from a common Tottecan root.


    _Mexican Temple of Montezuma--The Serpent Emblem in Mexico--Pyramid of
    Cholula--Tradition of the Giants of Anahuac--The Temple of
    Quetzalcoatl--North American Indians and the Rattlesnake--Indian
    Tradition of a Great Serpent--Serpents in the Mounds of the
    West--Bigotry and Folly of the Spanish Conquerors of the West--Wide
    prevalence of Mexican Ophiolatreia._

The monuments of Mexico representing the serpent are very numerous, and
have been specially remarked by nearly every traveller in that interesting
country. The symbol is equally conspicuous in the ancient paintings.

"The great temple of Mexico," says Acosta, "was built of great stones in
fashion of snakes tied one to another, and the circuit was called
coate-pantli which is circuit of snakes." Duran informs us that this
temple was expressly built by the first Montezuma "for all the gods," and
hence called Coatlan, literally "serpent place." It contained, he also
informed us, the temple or shrine of Tezcatlipoca, Huitzlipochtli, and
Tlaloc, called Coateocalli, "Temple of the Serpent."

Says Bernal Diaz, in his account of the march of Cortes to Mexico, "We
to-day arrived at a place called Terraguco, which we called the town of
the serpents, on account of the enormous figures of those reptiles which
we found in their temples, and which they worshipped as gods."

It cannot be supposed that absolute serpent worship--a simple degraded
adoration of the reptile itself, or Fetishism, such as is said to exist in
some parts of Africa--prevailed in Mexico. The serpent entered into their
religious systems only as an emblem. It is nevertheless not impossible, on
the contrary it is extremely probable, that a degree of superstitious
veneration attached to the reptile itself. According to Bernal Diaz,
living rattlesnakes were kept in the great temple of Mexico as sacred
objects. He says, "Moreover, in that accursed house they kept vipers and
venomous snakes, who had something at their tails which sounded like
morris-bells, and these are the worst of vipers. They were kept in cradles
and barrels, and in earthen vessels, upon feathers, and there they laid
their eggs, and nursed up their snakelings, and they were fed with the
bodies of the sacrificed, and with dogs' meat."

Charlevaix in the History of Paraguay, relates "that Alvarez, in one of
his expeditions into that country, found a town in which was a large tower
or temple the residence of a monstrous serpent which the inhabitants had
chosen for a divinity and which they fed with human flesh. He was as thick
as an ox, and seven and twenty feet long." This account has been regarded
as somewhat apocryphal, although it is likely enough that Serpent Worship
may have existed among some of the savage tribes of South America.

It has been said "it should be remarked that Diaz was little disposed to
look with complacency upon the religion of the Mexicans, or whatever was
connected with it, and that his prejudices were not without their
influence on his language. His relation, nevertheless, may be regarded as
essentially reliable."

Mr. Mayer, in his Description of Mexico, gives an interesting account of
the ancient and extraordinary Indian Pyramid of Cholula, an erection
intimately connected with the Quetzalcoatl we have been speaking of.

This is one of the most remarkable relics of the aborigines on the
continent, for, although it was constructed only of the adobes or common
sun-dried brick, it still remains in sufficient distinctness to strike
every observer with wonder at the enterprise of its Indian builders. What
it was intended for, whether tomb or temple, no one has determined with
certainty, though the wisest antiquarians have been guessing since the
conquest. In the midst of a plain the Indians erected a mountain. The base
still remains to give us its dimensions; but what was its original height?
Was it the tomb of some mighty lord, or sovereign prince; or was it alone
a place of sacrifice?

Many years ago in cutting a new road toward Puebla from Mexico it became
necessary to cross a portion of the base of this pyramid. The excavation
laid bare a square chamber, built of stone, the roof of which was
sustained by cypress beams. In it were found some idols of basalt, a
number of painted vases, and the remains of two dead bodies. No care was
taken of these relics by the discoverers, and they are lost to us for

Approaching the pyramid from the east, it appears so broken and overgrown
with trees that it is difficult to make out any outline distinctly. From
the west, however, a very fair idea may be obtained of this massive
monument as it rises in solitary grandeur from the midst of the
wide-spreading plain. A well-paved road cut by the old Spaniards, ascends
from the north-west corner with steps at regular intervals, obliquing
first on the west side to the upper bench of the terrace, and thence
returning toward the same side until it is met by a steep flight rising to
the front of the small dome-crowned chapel, surrounded with its grave of
cypress and dedicated to the Virgin of Remedies.

The summit is perfectly level, and protected by a parapet wall, whence a
magnificent view extends on every side over the level valley. Whatever
this edifice may have been, the idea of thus attaining permanently an
elevation to which the people might resort for prayer--or even for parade
or amusement--was a sublime conception and entitles the men who, centuries
ago, patiently erected the lofty pyramid, to the respect of posterity.

There remain at present but four stories of the Pyramid of Cholula, rising
above each other and connected by terraces. These stories are formed, as
already said, of sun-dried bricks, interspersed with occasional layers of
plaster and stone work. "And this is all," says Mr. Mayer, "that is to be
told or described. Old as it is--interesting as it is--examined as it has
been by antiquaries of all countries--the result has ever been the same.
The Indians tell you that it was a place of sepulture, and the Mexicans
give you the universal reply of ignorance in this country: _Quien
Sabe?_--who knows? who can tell?"

Baron Humboldt says:--"The Pyramid of Cholula is exactly the same height
as that of Tonatiuh Ylxaqual, at Teotihuacan. It is three metres higher
than that of Mycerinus, or the third of the great Egyptian pyramids of the
group of Djizeh. Its base, however, is larger than that of any pyramid
hitherto discovered by travellers in the old world, and is double of that
known as the Pyramid of Cheops. Those who wish to form an idea of the
immense mass of this Mexican monument by the comparison of objects best
known to them, may imagine a square four times greater than that of the
Place Vendôme in Paris, covered with layers of bricks rising to twice the
elevation of the Louvre. Some persons imagine that the whole of the
edifice is not artificial, but as far as explorations have been made there
is no reason to doubt that it is entirely a work of art. In its present
state (and we are ignorant of its perfect original height) its
perpendicular proportion is to its base as eight to one, while in the
three great pyramids of Djizeh the proportion is found to be one and
six-tenths to one and seven-tenths to one; or nearly as eight to five."

May not this have been the base of some mighty temple destroyed long
before the conquest, and of which even the tradition no longer lingers
among the neighbouring Indians?

In continuation Humboldt observes that "that the inhabitants of Anahauc
apparently designed giving the Pyramid of Cholula the same height, and
double the base of the Pyramid of Teotihuacan, and that the Pyramid of
Asychis, the largest known of the Egyptians, has a base of 800 feet, and
is like that of Cholula built of brick. The cathedral of Strasburgh is
eight feet, and the cross of St Peter's at Rome forty-one feet lower than
the top of the Pyramid of Cheops. Pyramids exist throughout Mexico; in the
forests of Papantla at a short distance above the level of the sea; on the
plains of Cholula and of Teotihuacan, at the elevations which exceed those
of the passes of the Alps. In the most widely distant nations, in climates
the most different, man seems to have adopted the same style of
construction, the same ornaments, the same customs, and to have placed
himself under the government of the same political institutions."

Is this an argument? it has been asked; that all men have sprung from one
stock, or that the human mind is the same everywhere, and, affected by
similar interests or necessities, invariably comes to the same result,
whether pointing a pyramid or an arrow, in making a law or a ladle?

"Much as I distrust," says Mayer, "all the dark and groping efforts of
antiquarians, I will nevertheless offer you some sketches and legends
which may serve at least to base a conjecture upon as to the divinity to
whom this pyramid was erected, and to prove, perhaps, that it was intended
as the foundation of a temple and not the covering of a tomb."

A tradition, which has been recorded by a Dominican monk who visited
Cholula in 1566, is thus related from his work, by the traveller already

"Before the great inundation which took place 4,800 years after the
erection of the world, the country of Anahuac was inhabited by giants, all
of whom either perished in the inundation or were transformed into fishes,
save seven who fled into caverns.

"When the waters subsided, one of the giants, called Xelhua, surnamed the
'Architect,' went to Cholula, where as a memorial of the Tlaloc which had
served for an asylum to himself and his six brethern, he built an
artificial hill in the form of a pyramid. He ordered bricks to be made in
the province of Tlalmanalco, at the foot of the Sierra of Cecotl, and in
order to convey them to Cholula he placed a file of men who passed them
from hand to hand. The gods beheld, with wrath, an edifice the top of
which was to reach the clouds. Irritated at the daring attempt of Xelhua,
they hurled fire on the pyramid. Numbers of the workmen perished. The work
was discontinued, and the monument was afterwards dedicated to
Quetzalcoatl." Of this god we have already given a description in these

The following singular story in relation to this divinity and certain
services of his temple, is to be found in the "Natural and Moral History
of Acosta," book 5, chap. 30.

"There was at this temple of Quetzalcoatl, at Cholula, a court of
reasonable greatness, in which they made great dances and pastimes with
games and comedies, on the festival day of this idol, for which purpose
there was in the midst of this court a theatre of thirty feet square, very
finely decked and trimmed--the which they decked with flowers that
day--with all the art and invention that might be, being environed around
with arches of divers flowers and feathers, and in some places there were
tied many small birds, conies, and other tame beasts. After dinner, all
the people assembled in this place, and the players presented themselves
and played comedies. Some counterfeited the deaf and rheumatic, others the
lame, some the blind and crippled which came to seek for cure from the
idol. The deaf answered confusedly, the rheumatic coughed, the lame
halted, telling their miseries and griefs, wherewith they made the people
to laugh. Others came forth in the form of little beasts, some attired
like snails, others like toads, and some like lizards; then meeting
together they told their offices, and, everyone retiring to his place,
they sounded on small flutes which was pleasant to hear. They likewise
counterfeited butterflies and small birds of divers colours which were
represented by the children who were sent to the temple for education.
Then they went into a little forest, planted there for the purpose, whence
the priests of the temple drew them forth with instruments of music. In
the meantime they used many pleasant speeches, some in propounding, others
in defending, wherewith the assistants were pleasantly entertained. This
done, they made a masque or mummery with all the personages, and so the
feast ended."

From these traditions we derive several important facts. First, that
Quetzalcoatl was "god of the air;" second, that he was represented as a
"feathered serpent;" third, that he was the great divinity of the
Cholulans; and fourth, that a hill was raised by them upon which they
erected a temple to his glory where they celebrated his festivals with
pomp and splendour.

Combining all these, is it unreasonable to believe that the Pyramid of
Cholula was the base of this temple, and that he was there worshipped as
the Great Spirit of the Air--or of the seasons; the God who produced the
fruitfulness of the earth, regulated the Sun, the wind, and the shower,
and thus spread plenty over the land. It has been thought too, that the
serpent might not improbably typify lightning, and the feathers swiftness,
thus denoting one of the attributes of the air and that the most speedy
and destructive.

Mr. Mayer says:--"I constantly saw serpents, in the city of Mexico, carved
in stone, and in the various collections of antiquities," and he gives
drawings of several of the principal, notably one carved with exquisite
skill and found in the court-yard of the University.

Vasquez Coronado, Governor of New Gallicia, as the northern territories of
Spain were then called, wrote to the Viceroy Mendoza in 1539, concerning
the unknown regions still beyond him to the northward. His account was
chiefly based upon the fabulous relation of the Friar Marco Niza, and is
not entirely to be relied upon. In this letter he mentions that "in the
province of Topira there were people who had great towers and temples
covered with straw, with small round windows, filled with human skulls,
and before the temple a great round ditch, the brim of which was compassed
with a serpent, made of various metals, which held its tail in its mouth,
and before which men were sacrificed."

Du Paix has given many examples of the carving representing the snake,
which he found in his Antiquarian Explorations in Mexico. One found near
the ancient city of Chochimilco represents a snake artificially coiled
carved from a block of porphry. "Its long body is gracefully entwined,
leaving its head and tail free. There is something showy in the execution
of the figure. Its head is elevated and curiously ornamented, its open
mouth exhibits two long and pointed fangs, its tongue (which is unusually
long) is cloven at the extremity like an anchor, its body is fancifully
scaled, and its tail (covered with circles) ends with three rattles. The
snake was a frequent emblem with the Mexican artists. The flexibility of
its figure rendering it susceptible of an infinite diversity of position,
regular and irregular; they availed themselves of this advantage and
varied their representations of it without limit and without ever giving
it an unnatural attitude."

Near Quauhquechúla, Du Paix found another remarkable sculpture of the
serpent carved in black basalt, and so entwined that the space within the
folds of its body formed a font sufficiently large to contain a
considerable quantity of water. The body of the reptile was spirally
entwined, and the head probably served as a handle to move it. It was
decorated with circles, and the tail was that of a rattlesnake.

Du Paix also found at Tepeyaca, in a quarter of the town called St.
Michael Tlaixegui (signifying in the Mexican language the cavity of the
mountain) a serpent carved in red porphry. It is of large dimensions, in
an attitude of repose, and coiled upon itself in spiral circles so as to
leave a hollow space or transverse axis in the middle. The head, which has
a fierce expression, is armed with two long and sharp fangs, and the
tongue is double being divided longitudinally. The entire surface of the
body is ornamented or covered with broad and long feathers, and the tail
terminates in four rattles. Its length from the head to the extremity of
the tail is about twenty feet, and it gradually diminishes in thickness.
"This reptile," Du Paix says, "was the monarch or giant of its species,
and in pagan times was a deity greatly esteemed under the name
Quetzalcoatl, or Feathered Serpent. It is extremely well sculptured, and
there are still marks of its having been once painted with vermillion."

But the symbolical feathered serpent was not peculiar to Mexico and
Yucatan. Squier, in his Explorations in Nicaragua, several times
encountered it. Near the city of Santiago de Managua, the capital of the
Republic, situated upon the shores of Lake Managua or Leon, and near the
top of the high volcanic ridge which separates the waters flowing into the
Atlantic from those running into the Pacific, is an extinct crater, now
partially filled with water, forming a lake nearly two miles in
circumference, called Nihapa. The sides of this crater are perpendicular
rocks ranging from five hundred to eight hundred feet in height. There is
but one point where descent is possible. It leads to a little space,
formed by the fallen rocks and debris which permits a foothold for the
traveller. Standing here, he sees above him, on the smooth face of the
cliff, a variety of figures, executed by the aborigines, in red paint.
Most conspicuous amongst them, is a feathered serpent coiled and
ornamented. It is about four feet in diameter. Upon some of the other
rocks were found paintings of the serpent, perfectly corresponding with
the representations in the Dresden MS. copied by Kingsborough and
confirming the conjectures of Humboldt and other investigators that this
MS. had its origin to the southward of Mexico. The figure copied was
supposed by the natives who had visited it to represent the sun. Some
years ago, large figures of the sun and moon were visible upon the cliffs,
but the section upon which they were painted was thrown down by the great
earthquake of 1838. Parts of the figures can yet be traced upon the fallen

It is a singular fact that many of the North American Indian tribes
entertain a superstitious regard for serpents, and particularly for the
rattlesnake. Though always avoiding, they never destroyed it, "lest," says
Bartram, "the spirit of the reptile should excite its kindred to revenge."

According to Adair, this fear was not unmingled with veneration.
Charlevoix states that the Natchez had the figure of a rattlesnake, carved
from wood, placed among other objects upon the altar of their temple, to
which they paid great honours. Heckwelder relates that the Linni Linape,
called the rattlesnake "grandfather" and would on no account allow it to
be destroyed. Henney states that the Indians around Lake Huron had a
similar superstition, and also designated the rattlesnake as their
"grandfather." He also mentions instances in which offerings of tobacco
were made to it, and its parental care solicited for the party performing
the sacrifice. Carver also mentions an instance of similar regard on the
part of a Menominee Indian, who carried a rattlesnake constantly with him,
"treating it as a deity, and calling it his great father."

A portion of the veneration with which the reptile was regarded in these
cases may be referred to that superstition so common among the savage
tribes, under the influence of which everything remarkable in nature was
regarded as a medicine or mystery, and therefore entitled to respect.
Still there appears to be, linked beneath all, the remnant of an Ophite
superstition of a different character which is shown in the general use of
the serpent as a symbol of incorporeal powers, of "Manitous" or spirits.

Mr. James, in his MSS. in the possession of the New York Historical
Society, states, "that the Menominees translate the _manitou_ of the
Chippeways by _ahwahtoke_," which means emphatically a snake. "Whether,"
he continues, "the word was first formed as a name for a surprising or
disgusting object, and thence transferred to spiritual beings, or whether
the extension of its signification has been in an opposite direction, it
is difficult to determine." Bossu also affirms that the Arkansas believed
in the existence of a great spirit, which they adore under form of a
serpent. In the North-west it was a symbol of evil power.

Here we may suitably introduce the tradition of a great serpent, which is
to this day, current amongst a large portion of the Indians of the
Algonquin stock. It affords some curious parallelisms with the allegorical
relations of the old world. The Great Teacher of the Algonquins,
Manabozho, is always placed in antagonism to a great serpent, a spirit of
evil, who corresponds very nearly with the Egyptian Typhon, the Indian
Kaliya, and the Scandinavian Midgard. He is also connected with the
Algonquin notions of a deluge; and as Typhon is placed in opposition to
Osiris or Apollo, Kaliya to Surya or the Sun, and Midgard to Wodin or
Odin, so does he bear a corresponding relation to Manabozho. The conflicts
between the two are frequent; and although the struggles are sometimes
long and doubtful, Manabozho is usually successful against his adversary.
One of these contests involved the destruction of the earth by water, and
its reproduction by the powerful and beneficent Manabozho. The tradition
in which this grand event is embodied was thus related by
Kah-ge-ga-gah-boowh, a chief of the Ojibway. In all of its essentials, it
is recorded by means of the rude pictured signs of the Indians, and
scattered all over the Algonquin territories.

One day returning to his lodge, from a long journey, Manabozho missed from
it his young cousin, who resided with him, he called his name aloud, but
received no answer. He looked around on the sand for the tracks of his
feet, and he there, for the first time, discovered the trail of
Meshekenabek, the serpent. He then knew that his cousin had been seized by
his great enemy. He armed himself, and followed on his track, he passed
the great river, and crossed mountains and valleys to the shores of the
deep and gloomy lake now called Manitou Lake, Spirit Lake, or the Lake of
Devils. The trail of Meshekenabek led to the edge of the water.

At the bottom of this lake was the dwelling of the serpent, and it was
filled with evil spirits--his attendants and companions. Their forms were
monstrous and terrible, but most, like their master, bore the semblance of
serpents. In the centre of this horrible assemblage was Meshekenabek
himself, coiling his volumes around the hapless cousin of Manabozho. His
head was red as with blood, and his eyes were fierce and glowed like fire.
His body was all over armed with hard and glistening scales of every shade
and colour.

Manabozho looked down upon the writhing spirits of evil, and he vowed deep
revenge. He directed the clouds to disappear from the heavens, the winds
to be still, and the air to become stagnant over the lake of the manitous,
and bade the sun shine upon it with all its fierceness; for thus he sought
to drive his enemy forth to seek the cool shadows of the trees, that grew
upon its banks, so that he might be able to take vengeance upon him.

Meanwhile, Manabozho, seized his bow and arrows and placed himself near
the spot where he deemed the serpents would come to enjoy the shade. He
then transferred himself into the broken stump of a withered tree, so that
his enemies might not discover his presence.

The winds became still, and the sun shone hot on the lake of the evil
manitous. By and by the waters became troubled, and bubbles rose to the
surface, for the rays of the sun penetrated to the horrible brood within
its depths. The commotion increased, and a serpent lifted its head high
above the centre of the lake and gazed around the shores. Directly another
came to the surface, and they listened for the footsteps of Manabozho but
they heard him nowhere on the face of the earth, and they said one to the
other, "Manabozho sleeps." And then they plunged again beneath the waters,
which seemed to hiss as they closed over them.

It was not long before the lake of manitous became more troubled than
before, it boiled from its very depths, and the hot waves dashed wildly
against the rocks on its shores. The commotion increased, and soon
Meshekenabek, the Great Serpent, emerged slowly to the surface, and moved
towards the shore. His blood-red crest glowed with a deeper hue, and the
reflection from his glancing scales was like the blinding glitter of a
sleet covered forest beneath the morning sun of winter. He was followed by
the evil spirits, so great a number that they covered the shores of the
lake with their foul trailing carcases.

They saw the broken, blasted stump into which Manabozho had transformed
himself, and suspecting it might be one of his disguises, for they knew
his cunning, one of them approached, and wound his tail around it, and
sought to drag it down. But Manabozho stood firm, though he could hardly
refrain from crying aloud, for the tail of the monster tickled his sides.

The Great Serpent wound his vast folds among the trees of the forest, and
the rest also sought the shade, while one was left to listen for the steps
of Manabozho.

When they all slept, Manabozho silently drew an arrow from his quiver, he
placed it in his bow, and aimed it where he saw the heart beat against
the sides of the Great Serpent. He launched it, and with a howl that shook
the mountains and startled the wild beasts in their caves, the monstre
awoke, and, followed by its frightful companions, uttering mingled sounds
of rage and terror, plunged again into the lake. Here they vented their
fury on the helpless cousin of Manabozho, whose body they tore into a
thousand fragments, his mangled lungs rose to the surface, and covered it
with whiteness. And this is the origin of the foam on the water.

When the Great Serpent knew that he was mortally wounded, both he and the
evil spirits around him were rendered tenfold more terrible by their great
wrath and they rose to overwhelm Manabozho. The water of the lake swelled
upwards from its dark depths, and with a sound like many thunders, it
rolled madly on its track, bearing the rocks and trees before it with
resistless fury. High on the crest of the foremost wave, black as the
midnight, rode the writhing form of the wounded Meshekenabek, and red eyes
glazed around him, and the hot breaths of the monstrous brood hissed
fiercely above the retreating Manabozho. Then thought Manabozho of his
Indian children, and he ran by their villages, and in a voice of alarm
bade them flee to the mountains, for the Great Serpent was deluging the
earth in his expiring wrath, sparing no living thing. The Indians caught
up their children, and wildly sought safety where he bade them. But
Manabozho continued his flight along the base of the western hills, and
finally took refuge on a high mountain beyond Lake Superior, far towards
the north. There he found many men and animals who had fled from the flood
that already covered the valleys and plains, and even the highest hills.
Still the waters continued to rise, and soon all the mountains were
overwhelmed save that on which stood Manabozho. Then he gathered together
timber, and made a raft, upon which the men and women, and the animals
that were with him, all placed themselves. No sooner had they done so,
than the rising floods closed over the mountain and they floated alone on
the surface of the waters; and thus they floated for many days, and some
died, and the rest became sorrowful, and reproached Manabozho that he did
not disperse the waters and renew the earth that they might live. But
though he knew that his great enemy was by this time dead, yet could not
Manabozho renew the world unless he had some earth in his hands wherewith
to begin the work. And this he explained to those that were with him, and
he said that were it ever so little, even a few grains of earth, then
could he disperse the waters and renew the world. Then the beaver
volunteered to go to the bottom of the deep, and get some earth, and they
all applauded her design. She plunged in, they waited long, and when she
returned she was dead; they opened her hands but there was no earth in
them. "Then," said the otter, "will I seek the earth:" and the bold
swimmer dived from the raft. The otter was gone still longer than the
beaver, but when he returned to the surface he too was dead, and there was
no earth in his claws. "Who shall find the earth?" exclaimed all those
left on the raft, "now that the beaver and the otter are dead?" and they
desponded more than before, repeating, "Who shall find the earth?" "That
will I," said the muskrat, and he quickly disappeared between the logs of
the raft. The muskrat was gone very long, much longer than the otter, and
it was thought he would never return, when he suddenly rose near by, but
he was too weak to speak, and he swam slowly towards the raft. He had
hardly got upon it when he too died from his great exertion. They opened
his little hands and there, clasped closely between the fingers, they
found a few grains of fresh earth. These Manabozho carefully collected and
dried them in the sun, and then he rubbed them into a fine powder in his
palms, and, rising up, he blew them abroad upon the waters. No sooner was
this done than the flood began to subside, and soon the trees on the
mountains and hills emerged from the deep, and the plains and the valleys
came in view and the waters disappeared from the land leaving no trace but
a thick sediment, which was the dust that Manabozho had blown abroad from
the raft.

Then it was found that Meshekenabek, the Great Serpent, was dead, and that
the evil manitous, his companions, had returned to the depths of the lake
of spirits, from which, for the fear of Manabozho, they never more dared
to come forth. And in gratitude to the beaver, the otter, and the muskrat,
those animals were ever after held sacred by the Indians, and they became
their brethren, and they never killed nor molested them until the medicine
of the stranger made them forget their relations and turned their hearts
to ingratitude.

In the mounds of the West have been found various sculptures of the
serpent, and amongst them one as follows:--It represents a coiled
rattlesnake, and is carved in a very compact cinnamon-coloured sandstone.
It is six and a quarter inches long, one and three-eighths broad, and a
quarter of an inch thick. The workmanship is delicate, and the
characteristic features of the rattlesnake are perfectly represented, the
head, unfortunately, is not entire, but enough remains to show that it was
surmounted by some kind of feather-work resembling that so conspicuously
represented in the sculptured monuments of the South. It was found
carefully enveloped in sheet copper, and under circumstances which render
it certain that it was an object of high regard and probably of worship.

Notwithstanding the striking resemblances which have been pointed out, in
the elementary religions of the old and new worlds, and the not less
remarkable coincidences in their symbolical systems, we are scarcely
prepared to find in America that specific combination which fills so
conspicuous a place in the early cosmogonies and mythologies of the East,
and which constitute the basis of these investigations, namely, the
compound symbol of the Serpent and the Egg. It must be admitted that, in
the few meagre and imperfect accounts which we have of the notions of
cosmogony entertained by the American nations, we have no distinct
allusion to it. The symbolism is far too refined and abstract to be
adopted by wandering, savage tribes, and we can only look for it, if at
all, among the more civilized nations of the central part of the
continent, where religion and mythology ranked as an intelligible system.
And here we have at once to regret and reprobate the worse than barbarous
zeal of the Spanish conquerors, who, not content with destroying the
pictured records and overturning and defacing the primitive monuments of
those remarkable nations; distorted the few traditions which they
recorded, so as to lend a seeming support to the fictions of their own
religion, and invested the sacred rites of the aborigines with horrible
and repulsive features, so as to furnish, among people like minded with
themselves, some apology for their savage cruelty. Not only were orders
given by the first Bishop of Mexico, the infamous Zumanaga, for the
burning of all the Mexican MSS. which could be procured, but all persons
were discouraged from recording the traditions of the ancient inhabitants.

So far, therefore, from having a complete and consistent account of the
beliefs and conceptions of those nations, to which reference may be had in
inquiries of this kind, we have only detached and scattered fragments,
rescued by later hands from the general destruction. Under such
circumstances we cannot expect to find parallel evidences of the existence
of specific conceptions; that is to say, we may find certain
representations clearly symbolical and referring to the cosmogony,
mythology, or religion of the primitive inhabitants and yet look in vain
among the scanty and distorted traditions and few mutilated pictured
records which are left us for collateral support of the significance which
reason and analogy may assign to them.

It is not assumed to say that any distinct representation of the Serpent
and the Egg exists amongst the monuments of Mexico or Central America;
what future investigations may disclose remains to be seen. If, until the
present time, we have remained in profound ignorance of the existence of
the grand monument under notice, in one of the best populated states, what
treasures of antiquity may yet be hidden in the fastnesses of the central
part of the continent!

It has often been said that 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 Ophiolatreia distinguish them all.

Acosta says "the temple of Vitziliputzli was built of great stones in
fashion of snakes tied one to another, and the circuit was called 'the
circuit of snakes' because the walls of the enclosure were covered with
the figures of snakes. Vitziliputzli 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 a carved representation of the head of a
serpent. From the sides of the god projected the heads of two serpents and
his right hand leaned upon a staff 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."[11]

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.[12]

Amongst other things, Peter Martyr mentions a large serpent-idol at
Campeachy, made of stones and bitumen, in the act of devouring a marble
lion. When first seen by the Spaniards it was warm with the blood of human

"Ancient painting 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 represented 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 all 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 varieties. A very remarkable one occurs in M. Allard's collection of
sculptures; in which the dragons forming it have each a man's head in his
mouth. The gods of Mexico are frequently pictured fighting with serpents
and dragons; and gods, and sometimes 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 emblematic 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."[13]

From what has been presented, it will be seen that the serpent symbol was
of general acceptance in America, particularly among the semi-civilized
nations; that it entered widely into their symbolic representations, and
this significance was essentially the same with that which attached to it
among the early nations of the old continent. Upon the basis, therefore,
of the identity which we have observed in the elementary religious
conceptions of the Old and New World, and the striking uniformity in their
symbolical systems, we feel justified in ascribing to the emblematic
Serpent and Egg of Ohio a significance radically the same with that which
was assigned to the analogous compound symbol among the primitive nations
of the East. This conclusion is further sustained by the character of some
of the religious structures of the old continent, in which we find the
symbolic serpent and the egg or circle represented on a most gigantic
scale. Analogy could probably furnish no more decisive sanction, unless by
exhibiting other structures, in which not only a general correspondence,
but an absolute identity should exist. Such an identity it would be
unreasonable to look for, even in the works of the same people,
constructed in accordance with a common design.

It may seem hardly consistent with the caution which should characterize
researches of this kind, to hazard the suggestion that the symbolical
Serpent and Egg of Ohio are distinctly allusive to the specific notions of
cosmogony which prevailed among the nations of the East, for the reason
that it is impossible to bring positive collateral proof that such notions
were entertained by any of the American nations. The absence of written
records and of impartially preserved traditions we have already had ample
reason to deplore; and unless further explorations shall present us with
unexpected results, the deficiency may always exist. But we must remember
that in no respect are men more tenacious than in the preservation of
their rudimental religious beliefs and early conceptions. In the words of
a philosophical investigator--"Of all researches that most effectually aid
us to discover the origin of a nation or people whose history is involved
in the obscurity of ancient times, none perhaps are attended with such
important results as the analysis of their theological dogmas and their
religious practices. To such matters mankind adhere with the greatest
tenacity, which, though modified and corrupted in the revolution of ages,
still retain features of their original construction, when language, arts,
sciences and political establishments no longer preserve distinct
lineaments of their ancient constitutions."[14]

A striking example of the truth of these remarks is furnished in the
religion of India, which, to this day, notwithstanding the revolution of
time and empire, the destructions of foreign and of civil wars, and the
constant addition of allegorical fictions (more fatal to the primitive
system than all the other causes combined), still retains its original
features, which are easily recognisable, and which identify it with the
religions which prevailed in monumental Egypt, on the plains of Assyria,
in the valleys of Greece, among the sterner nations around the Caspian,
and among their kindred tribes on the rugged shores of Scandinavia.

This tenacity is not less strikingly illustrated in the careful
perpetuation of rites, festivals and scenic representations which
originated in notions which have long since become obsolete, and are now
forgotten. Very few of the attendants on the annual May-day festival, as
celebrated a few years back in this country, and very few of those who
have read about the same are aware that it was only a perpetuation of the
vernal solar festival of Baal, and that the garlanded pole was anciently a
Phallic emblem.


    _Egypt as the Home of Serpent Worship--Thoth said to be the founder of
    Ophiolatreia--Cneph, the Architect of the Universe--Mysteries of
    Isis--The Isaic Table--Frequency of the Serpent Symbol--Serapis--In
    the Temples at Luxore, etc.--Discovery at Malta--The Egyptian
    Basilisk--Mummies--Bracelets--The Caduceus--Temple of Cneph at
    Elephantina--Thebes--Story of a Priest--Painting in a Tomb at Biban at
    Malook--Pococke at Raigny._

Egypt, of all ancient nations the most noted for its idolatry, was in its
earliest days the home of the peculiar worship we are contemplating. A
learned writer on the subject says "the serpent entered into the Egyptian
religion under all his characters--of an Emblem of Divinity, a Charm or
Oracle, and a God." Cneph, Thoth and Isis were conspicuous and chief among
the gods and goddesses thus symbolized, though he is said to have entered
more or less into the symbolical worship of all the gods.

Sanchoniathon describes Thoth as the founder of Serpent Worship in Egypt,
and he is generally regarded as the planter of the earliest colonies in
Phoenicia and Egypt after the Deluge. He has been called the Reformer of
the Religions of Egypt, and Deane says: "He taught the Egyptians (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 denominted Cneph, and described him
as the Original, Eternal Spirit, pervading all creation, whose symbol was
a serpent."

Cneph was called by the priests the architect of the universe, and has
been represented as a serpent with an egg in his mouth; the serpent being
his hieroglyphical emblem, and the egg setting forth the mundane elements
as proceeding from him.

After his death Thoth was, in return for services rendered to the people,
made a god of--the god of health, or of healing, and so became the
prototype of Æsculapius. His learning appears to have been great, and he
instructed the people in astronomy, morals, hieroglyphics and letters. He
is generally represented leaning upon a knotted stick which has around it
a serpent.

The mysteries of the worship of Isis abounded in allusions to the serpent,
and Montfaucon says that the Isaic table, a plate of brass overlaid with
brass enamel, intermixed with plates of silver, which described the
mysteries, was charged with serpents in every part as emblems of the
goddess. The particular serpent thus employed was that small one well know
as the instrument used in her suicide by the celebrated Cleopatra, the
asp. This creature is pictured and carved on the priestly robes, the
tiaras of the kings, the image of the goddess. The British Museum
possesses a head of this divinity wearing a coronet of them. Not only so,
the living reptiles were kept in her temple and were supposed to sanctify
the offerings by crawling about amongst them.

As we have said the serpent entered largely into the symbolical worship of
all the Egyptian deities, and Cneph, Thoth and Isis can only be regarded
as three of the chief.

Deane says 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 supposes to be an image of Apis, is
bored through the middle: probably with a design to hang about the neck,
as they did many other small figures of gods, by way of ornament or

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 Clymene, engraved in Montfaucon, vol. 5, a
young man entwined by a serpent is described as falling headlong to the
ground. In the urn of Herbasia Clymene the corners are ornamented with
figures of serpents. It is a singular coincidence that the creature by
whom it is believed 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
dominion over evil demons, or in other words was the same as Pluto or

On some of the Egyptian temples the serpent has been conspicuously figured
as an emblem consecrated to the Divine service. Thus it is found at
Luxore, Komombu, Dendara, Apollinopolis and Esnay. The Pamphylian obelisk
also bears it many times--fifty-two it is said--and according to Pococke
each of the pillars of the temple of Gava has it twice sculptured.

All writers on the subject have noticed the variations of form under which
the serpent has appeared on Egyptian monuments, and have laid stress upon
it as indicating the great consideration in which he was held. There is
little to be wondered at in this when we remember that he was regarded as
symbolical of divine wisdom, power, and creative energy; of immortality
and regeneration, from the shedding of his own skin; and of eternity, when
represented in the act of biting his own tail.

One writer says the world was represented by a circle, intersected by two
diameters perpendicular to each other, which diameters, according to
Eusebius, were serpents. Jablonski says the circumference only, was a

Kircher says that the elements (or rather what were so considered in
ancient times) were represented by serpents. Earth was symbolized by a
prostrate two-horned snake; water, by a serpent moving in an undulated
manner; air, by an erect serpent in the act of hissing; fire, by an asp
standing on its tail and bearing upon his head a globe. "From these
hieroglyphics," remarks Deane, "it is clear that the serpent was the most
expressive symbol of divinity with the Egyptians."

An engraving in Montfaucon, vol. 2, p. 237, calls for notice here, as
illustrating the great extent to which the veneration of the serpent once
prevailed in Egypt. In the year 1694, in an old wall of Malta, was
discovered a plate of gold, supposed to have been concealed there by its
possessors at a time when everything idolatrous was destroyed as
abominable. Montfaucon says: "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 sacred row there is seen an Isis of tolerably
good form. This same plate, no doubt, contains the most profound mysteries
of the Egyptian superstition."

It hardly matters where we look in Egypt, this same serpent symbol is
found entering into the composition of everything, whether ornamental,
useful or ecclesiastical. The basilisk, the most venomous of all snakes,
and so regarded as the king of the species and named after the oracular
god of Canaan OB or OUB, was represented on coins with rays upon his head
like a crown; around the coin was inscribed "Agathodæmon." The emperor
Nero in the "madness of his vanity," it is said, caused a number of such
coins to be struck with the inscription "The New Agathodæmon," meaning

The Egyptians held basilisks in such veneration that they made images of
them in gold and consecrated and placed them in the temples of their gods.
Bryant thinks that they were the same as the Thermuthis, or deadly asp.
These creatures the Egyptian priests are said to have preserved by digging
holes for them in the corners of their temples, and was a part of their
superstition to believe that whosoever was accidentally bitten by them was
divinely favoured.[15]

Deane further mentions that 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 some years ago, was
adorned with a necklace of serpents carved in stone.

Bracelets, in the form of serpents, were worn by the Grecian women in the
time of Clemens Alexdrinus, who thus reproves the fashion: "The women are
not ashamed to place about them the most manifold symbols of the evil one;
for as the serpent deceived Eve, so the golden trinket in the fashion of a
serpent misleads the women." The children also wore chaplets of the same

We must not omit to notice the Caduceus, which forms, it is said, one of
the most striking examples of the talismanic serpent. According to
Montfaucon, Kirchen and others, the notion that this belonged exclusively
to Hermes or Mercury is erroneous, as it can be seen in the hand of
Cybele, Minerva Amebis, Hercules Ogmius and the personified constellation
Virgo, said by Lucian to have had her symbol in the Pythian priestess.

Variously represented in the main, the Caduceus always preserved the
original design of a winged wand entwined by two serpents. It is found
sometimes without the wings, but never without the serpents; the varieties
consisting chiefly in the number of folds made by the serpents' bodies
round the wand, and the relative positions of the wings and serpents'
heads. It was regarded as powerful in paralyzing the mind and raising the

Kirchen says that the Caduceus was originally expressed by the simple
figure of a cross, by which its inventor, Thoth, is said to have
symbolized the four elements proceeding from a common centre.

"Ophiolatreia," says Deane, "had taken such deep root in Egypt that the
serpent was not merely regarded as an emblem of divinity, but even held in
estimation as the instrument of an oracle. The priests of the temple of
Isis had a silver image of a serpent so constructed as to enable a person
in attendance to move its head without being observed by the supplicating

"But Egyptian superstition was not contented with worshipping divinity
through its emblem the serpent. The senseless idolater soon bowed before
the symbol itself, and worshipped this reptile, the representative of
man's energy, as a god."

In addition to the temple of the great serpent-god Cneph at Elephantina,
there was a renowned one of Jupiter at Thebes, where the practice of
Ophiolatreia was carried to a great length. Herodotus writes: "At Thebes
there are two serpents, by no means injurious to men; small in size,
having two horns springing 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." Ælian says: "In the time of Ptolemy Euergetes, a very large
serpent was kept in the temple of Æsculapius at Alexandria, and in another
place a live one of great magnitude was kept and adored with divine
honours; the name of this place he called Melité." He gives the following
story:--"This serpent had priests and ministers, a table and a bowl. The
priests every day carried into the sacred chamber a cake made of flour and
honey and then retired. Returning the next day they always found the bowl
empty. On one occasion, one of the 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 with 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."

In Hewart's tables of Egyptian hieroglyphics we see a priest offering
adoration to a serpent. The same occurs on the Isiac table.

"In a tomb at Biban, at 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."[16]

It is noteworthy that in Egypt as in Phoenicia and other places serpent
worship was not immediately destroyed by the advance of Christianity. The
Gnostics united it with the religion of the cross, and a quotation from
Bishop Pococke will, just here, be most appropriate and interesting.

"We came to Raigny, where the religious sheikh of the famous 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 you 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 comes. 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 harmless 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 lambs,
sheep, 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 be 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.

"They are also full of a story, that when a number of women go there once
a year, he passes by 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. And some 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."

The bishop is of opinion (in which he is joined by others) that the above
superstition is a remnant of the ancient Ophiolatreia.


    _Derivation of the name "Europe"--Greece colonized by Ophites--Numerous
    Traces of the Serpent in Greece--Worship of Bacchus--Story of
    Ericthonias--Banquets of the Bacchants--Minerva--Armour of Agamemnon--
    Serpents at Epidaurus--Story of the pestilence in Rome--Delphi--Mahomet
    at Atmeidan._

Bryant and Faber both derive the name of "Europe" from "Aur-ab, the solar
serpent." "Whether this be correct or not," says Deane, "it is certain
that Ophiolatreia prevailed in this quarter of the globe at the earliest
period of idolatry. 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 origin.

"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 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
Sanchoniathan to have been the father of the Phoenician as well as
Egyptian Ophiolatreia; we may endeavour without presumption to reconcile
the opinions of these learned authors by assuming each to be right in his
own line of argument."

In Greece there are numerous traces of the worship of the serpent--it was
so common indeed at one time that Justin Martyr declared the people
introduced it into the mysteries of all their gods. In the mysteries and
excesses of Bacchus it is well-known, of course, to have played a
conspicuous part. The people bore them entwined upon their heads, and
carrying them in their hands, swung them about crying aloud, "enia, enia."
The sign of the Bacchic ceremonies was a consecrated serpent, and in the
processions a troop of virgins of noble family carried the reptile with
golden baskets containing sesamum, honey cakes and grains of salt,
articles all specially connected with serpent worship. The first may be
seen in the British Museum, in the hands of priests kneeling before the
sacred serpent of Egypt. Honey cakes, according to Herodotus, were
presented once a month as food to the sacred serpent in the Acropolis at

The most remarkable feature of all in the Bacchic orgies is said to have
been the mystic serpent. "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 legs. He was placed by Minerva in a basket, which she gave to the
daughter 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 Ophiolatreia. In accordance with the general practice, the
worshippers of Bacchus carried in their consecrated baskets or chests the
Mystery of their God, together with the offerings."[17]

At the banquets of the Bacchantes, or rather, after them, it was usual to
carry round a cup, which was called the "cup of the good dæmon." The
symbol of this dæmon was a serpent, as seen on the medals of the town of
Dionysopolis in Thrace. On one side were the heads of Gordian and Serapis
on the other a coiled serpent.

The serpent was mixed up to a considerable extent with the worship of many
other of the Grecian deities. The statues, by Phidias, of Minerva,
represent her as decorated with this emblem. In ancient medals, as shown
by Montfaucon, she sometimes holds a caduceus in her right hand; at other
times she has a staff around which a serpent is twisted, and at others, a
large serpent appears going in front of her; while she is sometimes seen
with her crest composed of a serpent. It is remarkable too, that in the
Acropolis at Athens was kept a live serpent who was generally considered
the guardian of the place, and Athens was a city specially consecrated to

Examples of Grecian Ophiolatreia might easily be multiplied to a
considerable extent, but we have space for little more than a brief
glance. It is known that upon the walls of Athens was a sculptured head of
Medusa, whose hair was intertwined with snakes, and in the temple at Tega
was a similar figure which was supposed to possess talismanic power to
preserve or destroy. The print in Montfaucon represents the face of Medusa
as mild and beautiful, but the serpents as threatening and terrible. There
is a story current, that a priestess 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, and that the sight of
this fearful object instantaneously converted the intruder into stone.

The armour of Agamemnon, king of Argos, was ornamented with a three headed
serpent; Menelaus, king of Sparta, had one on his shield, and the Spartan
people, with the Athenians, affirmed they were of serpentine origin and
called themselves _ophiogenæ_.

At Epidaurus, according to Pausanias, live serpents were kept and fed
regularly by servants, who, on account of religious awe, were fearful of
approaching the sacred reptiles which in themselves were of the most
harmless character. The statue of Æsculapius, at this temple, represented
him resting one hand upon the head of a serpent, while his sister, Hygeia,
had one twisted about her. It is reported that the god Æsculapius was
conveyed by a woman named Nicagora, the wife of Echetimus, to Sicyon under
the form of a serpent.

Livy, Ovid, Florus, Valerius Maximus, and Aurelius Victor, relate that a
pestilence of a violent and fatal character once broke out in Rome, and
that the oracle of Delphi advised an embassy to Epidaurus to fetch the god
Æsculapius. This advice was taken, and a company of eleven were sent with
the humble supplications of the senate and people of Rome. While they were
gazing at the statue of the god, a serpent, "venerable, not horrible," say
these authors, which rarely appeared 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 principal ambassador. Setting sail with the
god, they duly arrived off Antium, when 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
disappeared. Here the Romans erected a temple to him in the shape of a
ship, and the plague was stayed with wonderful celerity.

Delphi appears to have been the principal stronghold of serpent worship
in Greece. Strabo says its original name was Pytho--derived from the
serpent Python, slain there by Apollo. From this story Heinsius concludes
that the god Apollo was first worshipped at Delphi, under the symbol of a
serpent. It is known that the public assemblies at Delphi were called
Pythia, these were originally intended for the adoration of the Python.

In Gibbon and the _Annales Turcici_ we have interesting matter about the
serpentine column. The former says it was taken from Delphi to
Constantinople by the founder of the latter city and set up on a pillar in
the Hippodrome. Montfaucon, however, thinks that Constantine only caused a
similar column to be made, and that the original remained in its place.
Deane says, "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
serpent's heads is mutilated."

From the _Annales_ we get the following explanation of this inquiry. "When
Mahomet came to Atmeidan he saw there a stone column, on which was placed
a three-headed brazen serpent. Looking at it, he asked, 'What idol is
that?' and, at the same time, hurling his iron mace with great force
knocked off the lower jaw of one of the serpent's 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 harm to no one."

Commenting upon this story Deane remarks--"This traditionary legend,
preserved by Leunclavius, marks the stronghold which Ophiolatreia 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 era as the seventeenth century.
Among the Greeks who resorted to Constantinople were many idolators of the
old religion, who would wilfully transmit any legend favourable to their
own superstition." Hence, probably, the charm mentioned above, was
attached by them to the Delphic serpent on the column in the Hippodrome,
and revived (after the partial mutilation of the figure) by their
descendants, the common people, who are always the last in every country
to forego an ancient superstition. Among the common people of
Constantinople, there were always many more Pagans than Christians at
heart. With the Christian religion, 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


    _Ophiolatreia in Britain--The Druids--Adders--Poem of Taliessin--The
    Goddess Ceridwen--A Bardic Poem--Snake Stones--The Anguinum--Execution
    of a Roman Knight--Remains of the Serpent-temple at Abury--Serpent
    vestiges in Ireland of great rarity--St. Patrick._

It will probably be a matter of surprise to many, but it is a fact that
even in Britain in ancient times Ophiolatreia largely prevailed. Deane
says: "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 intercourse with the civilized world, partly
by their remoteness and partly by their national character, the Britons
retained their primitive idolatry long after it had yielded in the
neighbouring countries to the polytheistic corruptions of Greece and
Egypt. In process of time, however, the 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 "The Dragon Ruler of the World" and his car was
drawn by serpents. His priests in accommodation with the general custom of
the Ophite god, were called after him "Adders."[18]

In a poem of Taliessin, translated by Davies, in his Appendix, No. 6, is
the following enumeration of a Druid's titles:--

  "I am a Druid; I am an architect; I am a prophet; I am a serpent"

From the word "Gnadr" is derived "adder," the name of a species of snake.
Gnadr was probably pronounced like "adder" with a nasal aspirate.

The mythology of the Druids contained also a goddess "Ceridwen," whose car
was drawn by serpents. It is conjectured that this was the Grecian
"Ceres;" and not without reason, for the interesting intercourse between
the British and Gaulish Druids introduced into the purer religion 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 Mercury), 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 following translation of a Bardic poem, descriptive of one of their
religious rites, identifies the superstition of the British Druids with
the aboriginal Ophiolatreia, as expressed in the mysteries of Isis in
Egypt. The poem is entitled "The Elegy of Uther Pendragon;" that is, of
Uther, "The Dragon's 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."[19]

In the second part of this poem is the following sacrificial rites of
Uther Pendragon:--

  "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 Bell, etc., etc."

This is a most minute and interesting account of the religious rites of
the Druids, proving in clear terms their addiction to Ophiolatreia: for we
have not only the history of the "Gliding King," who pursues "The Fair
One," depicted upon "the veil which covers the huge stones"--a history
which reminds us most forcibly of the events in Paradise, under a poetic
garb; but we have, likewise, beneath that veil, within the sacred circle
of "the huge stones," the "Great Dragon, a Living Serpent," moving 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.

The Golden Horns which contained the drink offerings were very probably of
the same kind as that found in Tundera, in Denmark.

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 R. C. Hoare in his _Modern Wiltshire_, Hundred of
Amesbury, gives an engraving of one, and says: "This is a head of
imperfect vitrification representing two circular lines of opaque skylight
and white, which seem to represent a snake twined round a centre which is
perforated." Mr. Lhwyd, the Welsh antiquary, writing to Ralph Thornley
says:--"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."

A story comes to us, on Roman authority (that of Pliny), that a knight
entering a court of justice wearing an anguinum about his neck was ordered
by Claudius to be put to death, it being believed that the influence would
improperly wrest judgment in his favour.

Of this anguinum (a word derived from _anguis_, a snake,) Pliny says: "An
infinite number of snakes, entwined together in the heat of summer, 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 '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."

Information relative to the prevalence of this superstition in England
will be found in Davies' _Myths of the Druids_, Camden's _Britannia_, and
Borlase's _Cornwall_.

Perhaps the most remarkable of all British relics of this worship are to
be found on the hills overlooking the village of Abury, in the county of
Wiltshire. There, twenty-six miles from the celebrated ruins of
Stonehenge, are to be found the remains of a great Serpentine Temple--one
of the most imposing, as it certainly is one the most interesting,
monuments of the British Islands. It was first accurately described by Dr.
Stukeley in 1793 in his celebrated work entitled _Abury, a Temple of the
British Druids_. It was afterwards carefully examined by Sir R. C. Hoare
and an account published in his elaborate work _Ancient Wiltshire_. Dr.
Stukeley was the first to detect the design of the structure and his
conclusions have been sustained by the observations of every antiquary who
has succeeded him.

The temple of Abury consisted originally of a grand circumvallation of
earth 1,400 feet in diameter, enclosing an area of upwards of twenty-two
acres. It has an inner ditch and the height of the embankment, measuring
from the bottom of the ditch, is seventeen feet. It is quite regular,
though not an exact circle in form, and has four entrances at equal
distances apart, though nearly at right angles to each other. Within this
grand circle were originally two double or concentric circles composed of
massive upright stones: a row of large stones, one hundred in number, was
placed upon the inner brow of the ditch. Extending upon either hand from
this grand central structure were parallel lines of huge upright stones,
constituting, upon each side, avenues upwards of a mile in length. These
formed the body of the serpent. Each avenue consisted of two hundred
stones. The head of the serpent was represented by an oval structure
consisting of two concentric lines of upright stones; the outer line
containing forty, the inner eighteen stones. This head rests upon an
eminence known as Overton, or Hakpen Hill, from which is commanded a view
of the entire structure, winding back for more than two miles to the point
of the tail, towards Bekhampton.

_Hakpen_ in the old British dialects signified _Hak_, serpent, and _pen_,
head, _i.e._, Head of the Serpent. "To our name of _Hakpen_," says
Stukeley, "alludes _ochim_, called 'doleful creatures' in our
translation." Isa. (13 v. 21), speaking of the desolation of Babylon,
says: "Wild beasts of the desert shall lie there, and their houses shall
be full of _ochim_, and owls shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance
there." St. Jerome translates it "serpents." The Arabians call a serpent
_Haie_, and wood-serpents _Hageshin_; and thence our _Hakpen_; _Pen_ is
"head" in British.

"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 appear 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."

Remains indicating the presence of Serpent Worship in Ireland are
extremely scarce, but we must remember the story prevalent in the country,
accepted as truthful by a large majority of its inhabitants, that St.
Patrick banished all snakes from Ireland by his prayers. After all, this
may mean nothing more than that by his preaching he overturned and
uprooted the superstitious practices of the serpent worshippers of his


    _India conspicuous in the history of Serpent Worship--Nagpur--
    Confessions of a Snake Worshipper--The gardeners of Guzerat--Cottages
    for Snakes at Calicut--The Feast of Serpents--The Deity
    Hari--Garuda--The Snake as an emblem of immortality._

In the course of this work we have had occasion frequently to allude to
India as the home of the peculiar worship before us, and perhaps that
country may fairly be placed side by side with Egypt for the multitude of
illustrations it affords of what we are seeking to elucidate.

Mr. Rivett-Carnac from whose paper in the journal of the Bengal Asiatic
Society we have already quoted, says:--"The palace of the Bhonslahs at
Benares brings me to Nágpúr, where, many years ago, I commenced to make,
with but small success, some rough notes on Serpent Worship. Looking up
some old sketches, I find that the Mahádeo in the oldest temples at Nágpúr
is surmounted by the Nág as at Benares. And in the old temple near the
palace of the Nágpúr, or city of the Nág or cobra, is a five-headed snake,
elaborately coiled. The Bhonslahs apparently took the many-coiled Nág with
them to Benares. A similar representation of the Nág is found in the
temple near the Itwarah gate at Nágpúr. Here again the Nág or cobra is
certainly worshipped as Mahádeo or the phallus, and there are certain
obvious points connected with the position assumed by the cobra when
excited and the expansion of the hood, which suggest the reason for this
snake in particular being adopted as a representation of the phallus and
an emblem of Siva.

"The worship of the snake is very common in the old Nágpúr Province where,
especially among the lower class, the votaries of Siva or Nág Bhushan, 'he
who wears snakes as his ornaments,' are numerous. It is likely enough that
the city took its name from the Nág temple, still to be seen there, and
that the river Nág, perhaps, took its name from the city or temple, and
not the city from the river, as some think. Certain it is that many of the
Kunbi or cultivating class worship the snake and the snake only, and that
this worship is something more than the ordinary superstitious awe with
which all Hindus regard the snake. I find from my notes that one Kunbi
whom I questioned in old days, when I was a Settlement Officer in camp in
the Nágpúr Division, stated that he worshipped the Nág and nothing else;
that he worshipped clay images of the snake, and when he could afford to
pay snake-catchers for a look at a live one, he worshipped the living
snake; that if he saw a Nág on the road he would worship it, and that he
believed no Hindu would kill a Nág or cobra if he knew it were a Nág. He
then gave me the following list of articles he would use in worshipping
the snake, when he could afford it; and I take it, the list is similar to
what would be used in ordinary Siva Worship. 1--Water. 2--Gandh, pigment
of sandal-wood for the forehead or body. 3--Cleaned rice. 4--Flowers.
5--Leaves of the Bail tree. 6--Milk. 7--Curds. 8--A thread or piece of
cloth. 9--Red powder. 10--Saffron. 11--Abir, a powder composed of fragrant
substances. 12--Garlands of flowers. 13--Buttemah or grain soaked and
parched. 14--Jowarri. 15--Five lights. 16--Sweetmeats. 17--Betel leaves.
18--Cocoa nut. 19--A sum of money (according to means). 20--Flowers
offered by the suppliant, the palms of the hands being joined.

"All these articles, my informant assured me, were offered to the snake in
regular succession, one after the other, the worshipper repeating the
while certain _mantras_ or incantations. Having offered all these gifts,
the worshipper prostrates himself before the snake, and, begging for
pardon if he has ever offended against him, craves that the snake will
continue his favour upon him and protect him from every danger."

In the _Oriental Memoirs_ by Forbes, we are told of the gardeners of
Guzerat who would never allow the snakes to be disturbed, calling them
"father," "brother," and other familiar and endearing names. The head
gardener paid them religious honours. As Deane says, "here we observe a
mixture of the original Serpent Worship, with the more modern doctrine of

Still more striking is the information in Purchas's _Pilgrims_, that 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," he says, "looked upon serpents as
endued with divine spirits."

Then there is the festival called "The Feast of the Serpents," at which
every worshipper, in the hope of propitiating the reptiles during the
ensuing year, sets by a portion of his rice for the hooded snake on the
outside of his house.

The deities of India and the wonderful temples and caves, as those at
Salsette and Elephanta, as may be seen in Maurice's _Indian Antiquities_,
Moor's _Hindu Pantheon_, _The Asiatic Researches_, Faber's _Pagan
Idolatry_ and numerous other works, are universally adorned with, or
represented by this great symbol. Thus we have the statue of Jeyne, the
Indian Æsculapius, turbaned by a seven-headed snake; that of Vishnu on a
rock in the Ganges, reposing on a coiled serpent whose numerous folds form
a canopy over the sleeping god; Parus Nauth symbolized by a serpent;
Jagan-Nath worshipped under the form of a seven-headed dragon.

Hari, appears to be one of the titles of Vishnu--that of the deity in his
preserving quality--and his appearance on the rock, as just mentioned, is
thus noticed in Wilkins' _Hitopadesa_: "Nearly opposite Sultan Ganj, a
considerable town in the province of Bahar, there stands a rock of
granite, forming a small island in the Ganges, known to Europeans by the
name of 'the rock of Ichangiri,' which is highly worthy of the traveller's
notice for the vast number of images carved upon every part of its
surface. Among the rest there is Hari, of a gigantic size, recumbent upon
a coiled serpent, whose heads (which are numerous) the artist has
contrived to spread into a kind of canopy over the sleeping god; and from
each of its mouths issues a forked tongue, seeming to threaten instant
death to any whom rashness might prompt to disturb him. The whole lies
almost clear of the block on which it is hewn. It is finely imagined and
is executed with great skill. The Hindus are taught to believe that at the
end of every _Calpa_ (creation or formation) all things are absorbed in
the Deity, and that in the interval of another creation, he reposeth
himself upon the serpent Sesha (duration) who is also called Ananta

Moor says Garuda was an animal--half bird, half man--and was the _vahan_
or vehicle of Vishnu, also Arun's younger brother. He is sometimes
described in the manner that our poets and painters describe a griffin or
a cherub; and he is placed at the entrance of the passes leading to the
Hindu garden of Eden, and there appears in the character of a destroying
angel in as far as he resists the approach of serpents, which in most
systems of poetical mythology appears to have been the beautiful,
deceiving, insinuating form that sin originally assumed. Garuda espoused a
beautiful woman; the tribes of serpents, alarmed thereat, lest his progeny
should, inheriting his propensities, overpower them, waged fierce war
against him; but he destroyed them all, save one, which he placed as an
ornament about his neck. In the Elephanta cave Garuda is often seen with
this appendage; and some very old gold coins are in existence depicting
him with snakes or elephants in his talons and beaks. Destroyer of
serpents, Naganteka, is one of his names.

He was of great use to Krishna in clearing the country round Dwarka
(otherwise Dravira) from savage ferocious animals and noxious reptiles.
Vishnu had granted to Garuda the power of destroying his as well as Siva's
enemies; also generally those guilty of constant uncleanness, unbelievers,
dealers in iniquity, ungrateful persons, those who slander their spiritual
guides, or defiled their beds; but forebade him to touch a Brahman,
whatever was his guilt, as the pain of disobedience would be a scorching
pain in his throat, and any attack on a holy or pious person would be
followed by a great diminution of strength. By mistake, however, Garuda
sometimes seized a priest or a religious man, but was admonished and
punished in the first case by the scorching flame, and was unable, even
when he had bound him in his den, to hurt the man of piety.[20] To Rama
also, in the war of Lauka, Garuda was eminently useful: in Rama's last
conflict with Ravana the latter was not overcome without the aid of
Garuda, sent by Vishnu to destroy the serpent-arrows of Ravana. These
arrows are called "Sharpa-vana" (in the current dialect _Sarpa_ a snake,
is corrupted into _Saap_ or _Samp_, and _vana_, an arrow, into _ban_)
and had the faculty of separating, between the bow and the object, into
many parts, each becoming a serpent. Viswamitra conferred upon Rama the
power of transforming his arrows into "Garuda-vanas," they similarly
separating themselves into "Garuda's," the terror and destroyer of the

Some legends make Garuda the offspring of Kasyapa and Diti. This
all-prolific dame laid an egg, which, it was predicted, would preserve her
deliverer from some great affliction. After a lapse of five hundred years
Garuda sprung from the egg, flew to the abode of Indra, extinguished the
fire that surrounded it, conquered its guards, the _devatas_, and bore off
the _amrita_ (ambrosia), which enabled him to liberate his captive mother.
A few drops of this immortal beverage falling on the species of grass
called "Kusa," it became eternally consecrated; and the serpents greedily
licking it up so lacerated their tongues with the sharp grass that they
have ever since remained forked; but the boon of eternity was ensured to
them by their thus partaking of the immortal fluid. This cause of snakes
having forked tongues is still popularly in the tales of India attributed
to the above greediness; and their supposed immortality may have
originated in some such stories as these; a small portion of _amrita_, as
in the case of Rahu, would ensure them this boon.

In all mythological language the snake is an emblem of immortality: its
endless figure when its tail is inserted in its mouth, and the annual
renewal of its skin and vigour, afford symbols of continued youth and
eternity; and its supposed medicinal or life-preserving qualities may also
have contributed to the fabled honours of the serpent tribe. In Hindu
mythology serpents are of universal occurence and importance; in some
shape or other they abound in all directions; a similar state of things
prevails in Greece and Egypt. Ingenious and learned authors attribute this
universality of serpent forms to the early and all pervading prevalence of
sin, which, in this identical shape, they tell us, and as indeed we all
know, is as old as the days of our greatest grandmother: thus much as to
its age, when there was but one woman; its prevalence, now there are so
many, this is no place to discuss.

If such writers were to trace the allegories of Sin and Death, and the end
of their empire, they might discover further allusions to the Christian
dispensation in the traditions of the Hindus than have hitherto been
published--Krishna crushing, but not destroying, the type of Sive, has
often been largely discussed. Garuda is also the proverbial, but not the
utter destroyer of serpents, for he spared one, they and their archetype
being, in reference to created beings, eternal. His continual and destined
state of warfare with serpent, a shape mostly assumed by the enemies of
the virtuous incarnations or deified heroes of the Hindus, is a continued
allegory of the conflicts between Vice and Virtue so infinitely
personified. Garuda, at length, appears the coadjutor of all virtuous
sin-subduing efforts, as the vehicle of the chastening and triumphant
party, and conveys him on the wings of the winds to the regions of eternal


    _Mr. Bullock's Exhibition of Objects illustrating Serpent Worship._

Upwards of sixty years ago, there was opened at the Egyptian Hall,
Piccadilly, what was described as the "Unique Exhibition called Ancient
Mexico; collected on the spot in 1823, by the assistance of the Mexican
Government, by W. Bullock, F.L.S., &c., &c." The illustration attached to
a published description of this collection shows that it contained
reproductions of some of the most remarkable of the serpent deities to be
found in the temples of the western parts of America, and the following
extract will prove interesting to our readers.

"The rattlesnake appears to have been the most general object of worship,
veneration, and fear; indeed it occurs in some manner combined with almost
every other, and is still found in many of the Indian villages. It remains
at Tezcuco, quite perfect at the present time. Broken fragments may be met
in the exterior of the houses in Mexico in several places; the great head
placed at the left of the sacrificial stone is cast from one in the corner
of the fine building used for the Government Lottery Office, and exposed
to the street. It must have belonged to an idol at least seventy feet
long, probably in the great temple, and broken and buried at the Conquest.
They are generally in a coiled up state, with the tail or rattle on the
back, but they vary in their size and position. The finest that is known
to exist, I discovered in the deserted part of the Cloister of the
Dominican Convent opposite 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 the
enormous reptile, crushed and lacerated, a disgusting detail withal too
horrible for description.

"Turning to a letter from Cortes to Charles V., as given by Humboldt, we
read, 'From the square we proceeded to the great temple, but before we
entered it we made a circuit through a number of large courts, the
smallest of which appeared to me to contain more ground than the great
square in Salamanca, with double enclosures built of lime and stone, and
the courts paved with large white cut stone, very clean; or, where not
paved, they were plastered and polished. When we approached the gate of
the great temple, to which the ascent was by a hundred and fourteen
steps, and before we had mounted one of them, Montezuma sent down to us
six priests and two of his noblemen to carry Cortes up, as they had done
their sovereign, which he politely declined. When we had ascended to the
summit of the temple, we observed on the platform as we passed the large
stone whereon were placed the victims who were to be sacrificed. Here was
a great figure which resembled a dragon, and much blood fresh spilt.
Cortes then addressing himself to Montezuma requested that he would do him
the favour to show us his gods. Montezuma, having first consulted his
priests, led us into a tower where there was a kind of saloon. Here were
two altars highly adorned, with richly wrought timbers on the roof, and
over the altars gigantic figures resembling very fat men. The one on the
right 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, in his right hand he held a bow, and in his
left a bundle of arrows. The little idol which stood by him represented
his page, and bore a lance and target richly ornamented with gold and
jewels. The great idol had round his neck the figures of human heads and
hearts made of pure gold and silver, ornamented with precious stones of a
blue colour. Before the idol was a pan of incense, with three hearts of
human victims which were then burning, mixed with copal. The whole of that
apartment, both walls and floor, was stained with human blood in such
quantity as to give a very offensive smell. On the left was the other
great figure, with a countenance like a bear, and great shining eyes of
the polished substance whereof their mirrors are made. The body of this
idol was also covered with jewels. These two deities it was said were
brothers; the name of the last was Tezcatepuca, and he was the god of the
infernal regions. He presided, according to their notions, over the souls
of men. His body was covered with figures representing little devils with
tails of serpents, and the walls and pavement of this temple were so
besmeared with blood that they gave off a worse odour than all the
slaughter-houses of Castille. An offering lay before him of five human
hearts. In the summit of the temple, and in a recess the timber of which
was highly ornamented, we saw a figure half human and the other half
resembling an alligator, inlaid with jewels, and partly covered with a
mantle. This idol was said to contain the germ and origin of all created
things, and was the god of harvests and fruits. The walls and altars were
bestained like the rest, and so offensive that we thought we never could
get out soon enough.

"'In this place they had a drum of most enormous size, the head of which
was made of the skins of large serpents. This instrument when struck
resounded with a noise that could be heard to the distance of two leagues,
and so doleful that it deserved to be named the music of the infernal
regions; and with their horrible sounding horns and trumpets, their great
knives for sacrifice, their human victims, and their blood besprinkled
altars, I devoted them and all their wickedness to God's vengeance, and
thought that the time would never arrive that I should escape from this
scene of butchery, horrible smells, and more detestable sights.

"'On the site of the church, called St. Jago el Taltelulco, was a temple,
which, we have already observed, was surrounded with courts as large as
the square of Salamanca. At a little distance from it stood a tower, a
true hell or habitation for demons, with a mouth, resembling that of an
enormous monster, wide open, and ready as it were to devour those who
entered. At the door stood frightful idols; by it was a place for
sacrifice, and within, boilers and pots full of water to dress the flesh
of the victims which were eaten by the priests. The idols were like
serpents and devils, and before them were tables and knives for sacrifice,
the place being covered with the blood which was spilt on those occasions.
The furniture was like that of a butcher's stall, and I never gave this
accursed building any name except that of hell. Having passed this, we saw
great piles of wood, and a reservoir of water supplied by a pipe from the
great aqueduct; and crossing a court we came to another temple, wherein
were the tombs of the Mexican nobility, it was begrimed with soot and
blood. Next to this was another, full of skeletons and piles of bones,
each kept apart, but regularly arranged. In each temple were idols, and
each had also its particular priests, who wore long vestments of black,
their long hair was clotted together, and their ears lacerated in honour
of their gods.'"

Mr. Bullock then proceeds to describe a cast of the great idol of the
goddess of war, which he had brought to England with him.

"This monstrous idol, before which thousands of human victims were
annually sacrificed on the altar, is, with its pedestal, about twelve feet
high and four feet wide, it is sculptured out of one solid piece of grey
basalt. Its form is partly human, and the rest composed of rattlesnakes
and the tiger. The head, enormously wide, seems that of two rattlesnakes
united, the fangs hanging out of the mouth, on which the still palpitating
hearts of the unfortunate 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 originally covered with gold, and beneath this, reaching nearly
to the ground and partly covering its deformed cloven feet, a drapery
entirely composed of wreathed rattlesnakes which the nations call
cohuatlicuye or garments of serpents, on each side of which is a winged
termination of the feathers of the vulture. Between the feet, descending
from the body, another wreathed serpent rested its head on the ground, and
the whole composition of this deity is strictly appropriate to the
infernal purpose for which it was used, and with which the personal
ornaments too well accord. From the neck, spreading over its deformed
breast, is a necklace composed of human hands, hearts, and skulls--fit
emblems of the sanguinary rites daily performed in its honour.

"The death's head and mutilated hands, four of which surround the bosom of
the goddess, remind us of the terrible sacrifices of Teoquawhquat,
celebrated in the fifteenth century period of thirteen days after the
summer solstice, in honour of the god of war and his female companion,
Teoyamiqui. The mutilated hands alternate with the figure of certain vases
in which incense was burnt. These vases were called Topxicalli, bags in
the form of calabashes. This idol was sculptured on every side, even
beneath where was represented Mictlanteuchtli, the Lord of the place of
the dead; it cannot be doubted, but that it was supported in the air by
means of two columns, on which rested the arms. According to this
whimsical arrangement, the head of the idol was probably elevated five or
six metres above the pavement of the temple, so that the priests dragging
their unfortunate victims to the altar made them pass under the figure of
Mictlanteuchtli. The Viceroy of Mexico transported this monument to the
University which he thought the most proper place to preserve one of the
most curious remains of American antiquity. The Professors of the
University, monks of the Order of St. Dominic, were unwilling to expose
this idol to the sight of the Mexican youth, and caused it to be reburied
in one of the passages of the College. But Mr. Humboldt had it disinterred
at the request of the Bishop of Monterey.

"A highly curious specimen of Mexican sculpture is an exceeding hard stone
resembling hornstein, a coarse kind of jade, it is a species of compact
tale, of most elaborate workmanship, and the bust of a priest, or perhaps
of the idol representing the Sun. The head is crowned with a high
mitre-shaped cap, decorated with jewels and feathers, it has long pendant
earrings. The hands are raised, the right sustains something resembling a
knotted club, while the left takes hold of a festoon of flowers which
descends from the head; all the other parts are covered with the great
rattlesnake, whose enormous head and jaws are on the right side of the
figure, while the backs and sides are covered with the scales and rattles
of the deadly reptile."

Our prescribed limits are now reached, and we are able to add but little
to what has already been advanced exhibiting the widespread prevalence of
this singular form of worship. Again and again has wonderment been
expressed that it should ever be possible for a creature so disgusting to
become an object of worship, but so it has been, and no age or country
seems to have been strange to it. Very early indeed in history men began
to worship a serpent, that brazen one of the Exodus, which Hezekiah
destroyed on account of the idolatry into which it led the people. But if
that object was put away, the hope that the worship would cease was vain,
for it started up amongst the Assyrians, the Chaldeans, the Phoenicians,
the Egyptians, and spread into Greece, Esthonia, Finland, Italy, Persia,
Hindustan, Ceylon, China, Japan, Burmah, Java, Arabia, Syria, Ethiopia,
Britain, Mexico, and Peru.

Such was its extent--wide as the world itself, and vast beyond estimate or
description was its influence over the minds of those who came within its
reach. Let the curious reader who would know more, and who would make
himself acquainted with the multitudinous forms in which the emblem was
depicted, study the works of such writers as Kingsford and Montfaucon,
with their numerous and well executed plates, and he will meditate with
astonishment upon the singular fascination which this repulsive reptile
seems to have exercised over the human mind. He is said, we know, so to
fascinate the victim he is about to seize as his prey that the unhappy
creature is deprived of all power of resistance, a fascination no less
overwhelming seems to have paralyzed the human mind and caused it to adopt
from some cause or other such a repelling reptile as an object of worship.
The spell is broken now, however, and but little remains of what was once
so universal, beyond the earth mounds where its temples stood and the half
ruined sculptures collected in the museums of civilized countries.



[1] Deane.

[2] Eusebius.

[3] Aristoph.

[4] Cory's Ancient Fragments, Intro. 34.

[5] Origin Pagan Idol., Vol. 1, p. 175.

[6] Landseer's Sabæan Res.

[7] Coleman's Hind. Mythology.

[8] Origin Pagan Idol., vol. 1, p. 45.

[9] Herrara, Hist. America, vol. iv., pp. 162-3.

[10] Trav. in Yucatan.

[11] Clavigero, vol. 1.

[12] Faber.

[13] Deane.

[14] McCulloch's American Researches, p. 225.

[15] Gesner, Hist. Anim. p. 54, citing Ælian.

[16] Deane.

[17] Deane.

[18] Davies' Mythol. of Druids.

[19] Owen's Dict. Art. Draig.

[20] Asiatic Res., vol. 5, p. 514.

[21] Moor's Hindu Pantheon 342.

Transcriber's Notes:

Passages in italics are indicated by _italics_.

Characters in larger font are indicated by =large=.

Foonote 21 appears on page 98 of the text, but there is no corresponding
marker on the page.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Ophiolatreia - An Account of the Rites and Mysteries Connected with the - Origin, Rise, and Development of Serpent Worship in Various - Parts of the World" ***

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Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.