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Title: Bible Studies - Essays On Phallic Worship And Other Curious Rites And Customs
Author: Wheeler, Joseph M.
Language: English
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By J. M. Wheeler

     "There is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that
     esteemeth anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean."
     --Paul (Romans xiv. 14).


Printed and Published By G. W. Foote


My old friend Mr. Wheeler asks me to launch this little craft, and I do
so with great pleasure. She is not a thunderous ironclad, nor a gigantic
ocean liner; but she is stoutly built, well fitted, and calculated to
weather all the storms of criticism. My only fear is that she will not
encounter them.

During the sixteen years of my friend's collaboration with me in
many enterprises for the spread of Freethought and the destruction of
Superstition, he has written a vast variety of articles, all possessing
distinctive merit, and some extremely valuable. From these he and I have
made the following selection. The articles included deal with the Bible
from a special standpoint; the standpoint of an Evolutionist, who reads
the Jewish Scriptures in the light of anthropology, and finds infinite
illustrations in them of the savage origin of religion.

Literary and scientific criticism of the Old Testament have their
numerous votaries. Mr. Wheeler's mind is given to a different study
of the older half of the Bible. He is bent on showing what it really
contains; what religious ideas, rites, and customs prevailed among the
ancient Jews and find expression in their Scriptures. This is a fruitful
method, especially in _our_ country, if it be true, as Dr. Tylor
observes, that "the English mind, not readily swayed by rhetoric, moves
freely under the pressure of facts."

Careful readers of this little book will find it full of precious
information. Mr. Wheeler has a peculiarly wide acquaintance with the
literature of these subjects. He has gathered from far and wide, like
the summer bee, and what he yields is not an undigested mass of facts,
but the pure honey of truth.

Many readers will be astonished at what Mr. Wheeler tells them. We
have read the Bible, they will say, and never saw these things. That is
because they read it without knowledge, or without attention. Reading
is not done with the eyes only, but also with the brain; and the same
sentences will make various impressions, according as the brain is rich
or poor in facts and principles. Even the great, strong mind of Darwin
had to be plentifully stored with biological knowledge before he could
see the meaning of certain simple facts, and discover the wonderful law
of Natural Selection.

Those who have studied the works of Spencer, Tylor, Lubbock, Frazer, and
such authors, will _not_ be astonished at the contents of this volume.
But they will probably find some points they had overlooked; some
familiar points presented with new force; and some fresh views, whose
novelty is not their only virtue: for Mr. Wheeler is not a slavish
follower of even the greatest teachers, he thinks for himself, and shows
others what he has seen with his own eyes.

I hope this little volume will find many readers. Its doing so will
please the author, for every writer wishes to be read; why else, indeed,
should he write? Only less will be the pleasure of his friend who pens
this Preface. I am sure the book will be instructive to most of those
into whose hands it falls; to the rest, the few who really study and
reflect, it will be stimulating and suggestive. Greater praise the
author would not desire; so much praise cannot often be given with

G. W. Foote.


     "The hatred of indecency, which appears to us so natural as
     to be thought innate, and which is so valuable an aid to
     chastity, is a modern virtue, appertaining exclusively, as
     Sir G. Staunton remarks, to civilised life. This is shown by
     the ancient religious rites of various nations, by the
     drawings on the walls of Pompeii, and by the practices of
     many savages."--C. Darwin, "Descent of Man" pt. 1, chap.
     iv., vol. i., p. 182; 1888.

The study of religions is a department of anthropology, and nowhere is
it more important to remember the maxim of the pagan Terence, _Homo sum,
nihil humani a me alienum puto_. It is impossible to dive deep into any
ancient faiths without coming across a deal of mud. Man has often been
defined as a religious animal. He might as justly be termed a dirty and
foolish animal. His religions have been growths of earth, not gifts from
heaven, and they usually bear strong marks of their clayey origin.*

     * The Contemporary Review for June 1888, says (p. 804) "when
     Lord Dalhousie passed an Act intended to repress obscenity
     (in India), a special clause in it exempted all temples and
     religious emblems from its operation."

I am not one of those who find in phallicism the key to all the
mysteries of mythology. All the striking phenomena of nature--the
alternations of light and darkness, sun and moon, the terrors of the
thunderstorm, and of pain, disease and death, together with his
own dreams and imaginations--contributed to evoke the wonder and
superstition of early man. But investigation of early religion shows it
often nucleated around the phenomena of generation. The first and final
problem of religion concerns the production of things. Man's own body
was always nearer to him than sun, moon, and stars; and early man,
thinking not in words but in things, had to express the very idea of
creation or production in terms of his own body. It was so in Egypt,
where the symbol, from being the sign of production, became also
the sign of life, and of regeneration and resurrection. It was so in
Babylonia and Assyria, as in ancient Greece and Troy, and is so till
this day in India.

Montaigne says:

"Fifty severall deities were in times past allotted to this office. And
there hath beene a nation found which to allay and coole the lustful
concupiscence of such as came for devotion, kept wenches of purpose in
their temples to be used; for it was a point of religion to deale
with them before one went to prayers. _Nimirum propter continentiam
incontinentia neces-saria est, incendium ignibus extinguitur_: 'Belike
we must be incontinent that we may be continent, burning is quenched by
fire.' In most places of the world that part of our body was deified.
In that same province some flead it to offer, and consecrated a peece
thereof; others offered and consecrated their seed."

It is in India that this early worship maybe best studied at the present
day. The worshippers of Siva identify their great god, Maha Deva, with
the linga, and wear on their left arm a bracelet containing the linga
and yoni. The rival sect of followers of Vishnu have also a phallic
significance in their symbolism. The linga yoni (fig. 1) is indeed one
of the commonest of religious symbols in India. Its use extends from the
Himalayas to Cape Comorin. Major-General Forlong says the ordinary Maha
Deva of Northern India is the simple arrangement shown in fig. 2, in
which we see "what was I suspect the first Delphic tripod supporting a
vase of water over the Linga in Yona. Such may be counted by scores in
a day's march over Northern India, and especially at ghats or river
ferries, or crossings of any streams or roads; for are they not Hermæ?"
The Linga Purana tells us that the linga was a pillar of fire in which
Siva was present. This reminds one of Jahveh appearing as a pillar of
cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.

[Illustration: Fig. 1.--The Hindu Maha Deva, or Linga-Yoni]

So astounded have been many writers at the phenomena presented by
phallic worship that they have sought to explain it, not only by the
story of the fall and the belief in original sin, but by the direct
agency of devils.* Yet it may be wrong to associate the origin of
phallic worship with obscenity. Early man was rather unmoral than
immoral. Obliged to think in things, it was to him no perversion to
mentally associate with his own person the awe of the mysterious power
of production. The sense of pleasure and the desire for progeny of
course contributed. The worship was indeed both natural and inevitable
in the evolution of man from savagery. When, however, phallic worship
was established, it naturally led to practices such as those which
Herodotus, Diodorus, and Lucian tell us took place in the Egyptian,
Babylonian, and Syrian religions.

     * See Gougenot des Mousseaux's curious work Dieu et les
     Dieux, Paris, 1854. When the Luxor monument was erected in
     Rome, Pope Sixtus V. deliberately exorcised the devils out
     of possession of it.

[Illustration: Fig. 2.--Rural Hindu Lingam.]

Hume's observation that polytheism invariably preceded monotheism has
been confirmed by all subsequent investigation. The belief in one god or
supreme spirit springs out of the belief in many gods or spirits. That
this was so with the Jews there is sufficient evidence in the Bible,
despite the fact that the documents so called have been frequently
"redacted," that is corrected, and the evidence in large part erased.
An instance of this falsification may be found in Judges xviii. 30 (see
Revised Version), where "Manasseh" has been piously substituted for
Moses, in order to conceal the fact that the direct descendants of Moses
were image worshippers down till the time of the captivity. The Rabbis
gave what Milton calls "this insulse rule out of their Talmud; 'That all
words, which in the Law are written obscenely, must be changed to more
civil words.' Fools who would teach men to read more decently than God
thought good to write."* Instances of euphemisms may be traced in the
case of the "feet" (Judges iii. 24, Song v. 3, Isaiah vii* 20); "thigh"
(Num. v. 24); "heel" (Gen, iii. 15); "heels" (Jer. xiii. 22); and "hand"
(Isaiah lvii. 7). This last verse is translated by Dr. Cheyne, "and
behind the door and the post hast thou placed thy memorial, for apart
from me thou hast uncovered and gone up; thou hast enlarged thy bed, and
obtained a contract from them (?); thou hast loved their bed; thou hast
beheld the phallus." In his note Dr. Cheyne gives the view of the Targum
and Jerome "that 'memorial' = idol (or rather idolatrous symbol--the

     * "Apology for Smectymnus," Works, p.84.

The priests, whose policy it was to keep the nation isolated, did their
best to destroy the evidence that the Jews shared in the idolatrous
beliefs and practices of the nations around them. In particular the cult
of Baal and Asherah, which we shall see was a form of phallic worship,
became obnoxious, and the evidence of its existence was sought to be
obliterated. The worship, moreover, became an esoteric one, known only
to the priestly caste, as it still is among Roman Catholic initiates,
and the priestly caste were naturally desirous that the ordinary
worshipper should not become "as one of us."

It is unquestionable that in the earliest times the Hebrews worshipped
Baal. In proof there is the direct assertion of Jahveh himself (Hosea
ii. 16) that "thou shalt call me _Ishi_ [my husband] and shalt call
me no more _Baali_." The evidence of names, too, is decisive. Gideon's
other name, Jerubbaal (Jud. vi. 32, and 1 Sam. xii. 11), was
evidently the true one, for in 2 Sam. xi. 21, the name Jerubbesheth is
substituted. Eshbaal (1 Chron. viii. 33) is called Ishbosheth (2 Sam.
ii. 8, 10). Meribbaal (1 Chron. viii. 34) is Mephibosheth (2 Sam. iv.
4).* Now _bosheth_ means v "shame," or "shameful thing," and as Dr.
Donaldson points out, in especial, "sexual shame," as in Gen. ii. 25.
In the Septuagint version of 1 Kings xviii. 25, the prophets of Baal
are called "the prophets of that shame." Hosea ix. 10 says "they went
to Baal-peor and consecrated themselves to Bosheth and became abominable
like that they loved." Micah i. 11 "having thy Bosheth naked." Jeremiah
xi. 5, "For according to the number of thy cities were thy gods, O
Judah; and according to the number of the streets of Jerusalem have ye
set up altars to Bosheth, altars to burn incense unto Baal."

     * So Baaljadah [1 Chron. xiv. 7] is Eliada [2 Sam. v. 161.]
     In 1 Chron. xii. 6, we have the curious combination,
     Baaljah, i.e. Baal is Jah, as the name of one of David's

The place where the ark stood, known afterwards as Kirjath-jearim, was
formerly named Baalah, or place of Baal (I Chron. xiii. 6). The change
of name took place after David's time, since the writer of 2 Sam. vi. 2
says merely that David went with the ark from "Baale of Judah."* Colenso
notices that when the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal are said
to have been destroyed by Elijah, nothing is said of the four hundred
prophets of the Asherah. "Also these same '400 prophets,' apparently,
are called together by Ahab as prophets of JHVH, and they reply in the
name of JHVH, 1 Kings xxii. 5-6."

That phallicism was an important element in Baal and Asherah worship is
well known to scholars, and will be made clear to discerning readers.
The frequent allusion to "groves" in the Authorised Version must have
puzzled many a simple student. The natural but erroneous suggestion of
"tree worship" does not fit in very well with the important statement (2
Kings xxiii. 6) that Josiah "brought out the grove from the house of
the Lord."** A reference to the Revised Version will show that this
misleading word is intended to conceal the real nature of the worship of
Asherah. The door of life, the conventional form of the Asherah with its
thirteen flowers or measurements of time, is given in fig. 3.

     * The "Baal" was afterwards taken out of all such names of
     places, and instead of Baal Peor, Baal Meon, Baal Tamar,
     Baal Shalisha, etc., we find Beth Peor, Beth Meon, Beth
     Tamar, etc.

     ** Verse vii. says, "he brake down the houses of the
     sodomites that were by the house of the Lord, where the
     women wove hangings for the grove." A reference to the Revised
     Version shows that it was "in the house of the Lord, where
     the women wove hangings [or tents] for the Asherah." See
     also Ezek. xvi. 16.

This worship certainly lasted from the earliest historic times until
the seventeenth year of Josiah, B.C. 624. We read how in the days of the
Judges they "served Baalim and the groves" (R.V., "the Asheroth"; Judges
iii, 7; see ii. 12, "Baal and Ash-taroth.) We find that Solomon himself
"went after Ashtoreth (1 Kings xi. 5) and that he builded the mount of
corruption (margin, i.e., the mount of Olives) for that "abomination
of the Zidonians" (2 Kings xxiii. 13). All the distinctive features
of Solomon's Temple were Phoenician in character. What the Phoenician
temples were like Lucian tells us in his treatise on the goddess
of Syria. The great pillars Jachin, "the establisher," and Boaz,
"strength"; the ornamentation of palm trees, pomegranates, and lotus
work; are all Phoenician and all phallic. The bells and pomegranates
on the priests' garment were emblematic of the paps and full womb.
The palm-tree, which appears both in Solomon's temple and in Ezekiel's
vision, was symbolical, as may be seen in the Assyrian monument (fig.
4), and which finds a place in Eastern Christian symbolism, with the
mystic alpha and omega (fig. 5).

The worship of Astoreth, the Assyrian Ishtar, and Greek Astarte, was
widespread. The Phoenicians took it with them to Cyprus and Carthage. In
the days of Abraham there was a town called after her (Gen. xiv. 5), and
to this day her name is preserved in Esther.

[Illustration: Fig. 3.--Asherah.]

It is she who is called the Queen of Heaven, to whom the women made
moon-shaped cakes and poured libations (Jer. vii. 18, xliv. 17.) Baal
represented the generative, Astoreth the productive power. The pillars
and asherah, so often alluded to in the Bible, were the palm-tree, with
male and female animals frolicking around the tree of life, the female
near the fleur de lis and the male near the yoni. Tall and straight
trees, especially the palm, were reverenced as symbols. Palm branches
carried in procession were signs of fruitfulness and joy.

[Illustration: Fig. 4.--From Layard, Culte de Venus, plate I, fig. 20,
depicts the mystic signs of their worship, and Dr. Oort* says of the
name Ashera, "This word expressed originally a pillar on, or near--not
only the altars of Baal--but also the altars of JHVH."]

Bishop Colenso in his notes to Dr. Oort's work remarks, "It seems plain
that the Ashera (from _ashar_, be straight, erect) was in reality a
phallus, like the _Linga_ or _Lingam_ of the Hindoos, the sign of the
male organ of generation."**

     * The Worship of Baalim and Israel, p. 46.

     ** Asher was the tutelary god of Assyria. His emblem was the
     winged circle.

[Illustration: Fig. 5.--The Eastern Christian palm, on which is placed
the cross and banners with the Alpha and Omega.]

There can be little doubt on the matter in the mind of anyone acquainted
with ancient faiths and the inevitable phases of human evolution, We
read (1 Kings xv. 13, Revised Version), that Maachah, the queen mother
of Asa, "made an abominable image for an Asherah." This the Vulgate
translates "Priape" and Movers _pudendum_. Jeremiah, who alludes to the
same thing (x. 5), tells that the people said, "to a stock, Thou art my
father, and to a stone, Thou hast brought me forth" (ii. 27), that they
"defiled the land and committed adultery with stones and with stocks"
(iii. 9), playing the harlot "under every green tree" (ii. 20, iii. 6,
13; see also Hosea iv. 13). Isaiah xvii. 8, alludes to the Asherim as
existing in his own days, and alludes to these religions in plain terms
(lvii. 5--8). Micah also prophesies against the "pillars" and "Asherim"
(v. 13, 14). Ezekiel xvi. 17, says "Thou hast also taken thy fair
jewels, of my gold and of silver, which I have given thee, and madest to
thyself images of men, and didst commit whoredom with them." The margin
more properly reads images "Heb. of a male" [tsalmi zachar], a male
here being an euphemism. As Gesenius says of the metaphor in Numbers
xxiv. 7 these things are "ex nostra sensu obscoena, sed Orientalibus

These images are alluded to and prohibited in Deut. iv. 16. It is thus
evident that some form of phallic worship lasted among the Jews-from the
earliest times until their captivity in Babylon.

It is a most significant fact that the Jews used one and the same word
to signify both "harlot" and "holy." "There shall be no _kedeshah_ of
the daughters of Israel" (Deut. xxiii. 17) means no female consecrated
to the temple worship. Kuenen says "it is natural to assume that this
impurity was practised in the worship of Jahveh, however much soever the
lawgiver abhors it." It must be noticed, too, that there is no absolute
prohibition. It only insists that the slaves of desire shall not be of
the house of Israel, and stipulates that the money so obtained shall
not be dedicated to Jahveh. That this was the custom both in Samaria and
Jerusalem, as in Babylon, may be gathered from Micah i. 7, and Hosea iv.

Dr. Kalisch, by birth a Jew and one of the most fair-minded of biblical
scholars, says in his note on Leviticus xix. 29: "The unchaste worship
of Ashtarte, known also as Beltis and Tanais, Ishtar, Mylitta, and
Anaitis, Asherah and Ashtaroth, flourished among the Hebrews at
all times, both in the kingdom of Judah and Israel; it consisted in
presenting to the goddess, who was revered as the female principle
of conception and birth, the virginity of maidens as a first-fruit
offering; and it was associated with the utmost licentiousness.
This-degrading service took such deep root, that in the Assyrian period
it was even extended by the adoption of new rites borrowed from Eastern
Asia, and described by the name of 'Tents of the Maidens' (Succoth
Benoth); and it left its mark in the Hebrew language itself, which
ordinarily expressed the notion courtesan by 'a consecrated woman'
(Kadeshah), and that of sodomite by 'consecrated man' (Kadesh)."

The Succoth Benoth in 2 Kings xvii. 30, may be freely rendered
Tabernacles of Venus. Venus is plausibly derived from Benoth, whose
worship was at an early time disseminated from Carthage and other parts
of Africa to the shores of Italy. The merriest festival among the Jews
was the Feast of Tabernacles. Plutarch (who suggests that the pig was
originally worshipped by the Jews, a position endorsed by Mr. J. G.
Frazer, in his _Golden Bough_, vol. ii., pp. 52, 53) says the Jewish
feast of Tabernacles "is exactly agreeable to the holy rites of
Bacchus."* He adds, "What they do within I know not, but it is very
probable that they perform the rites of Bacchus."

     * Symposiacs, bk. iv., queat. 6, p. 310, vol. iii.,
     Plutarch's Morals, 1870.

Dr. Adam Clarke, in his Commentary on 2 Kings xvii. 30, gives the
following:--"Succoth-benoth maybe literally translated, _The Tabernacle
of the Daughters, or Young Women_; or if _Benoth_ be taken as the name
of a female idol, from birth, _to build up, procreate, children_, then
the words will express the tabernacles sacred to the productive powers
feminine. And, agreeably to this latter exposition, the rabbins say that
the emblem was a hen and chickens. But however this may be, there is
no room to doubt that these _succoth_ were _tabernacles_, wherein young
women exposed themselves to prostitution in honor of the Babylon goddess
Melitta." Herodotus (lib. i., c. 199; Rawlinson) says: "Every woman born
in the country must once in her life go and sit down in the precinct of
Venus, and there consort with a stranger. Many of the wealthier sort,
who are too proud to mix with the others, drive in covered carriages to
the precinct, followed by a goodly train of attendants, and there take
their station. But the larger number seat themselves within the holy
enclosure with wreaths of string about their heads; and here there is
always a great crowd, some coming and others going; lines of cord mark
out paths in all directions among the women, and the strangers pass
along them to make their choice. A woman who has once taken her seat
is not allowed to return home till one of the strangers throws a silver
coin into her lap, and takes her with him beyond the holy ground. When
he throws the coin he says these words--'The goddess Mylitta prosper
thee" (Venus is called Mylitta by the Assyrians). The silver coin may
be of any size; it cannot be refused, for that is forbidden by the law,
since once thrown it is sacred. The woman goes with the first man who
throws her money, and rejects no one. When she has gone with him, and
so satisfied the goddess, she returns home, and from that time forth
no gift, however great, will prevail with her. Such of the women as are
tall and beautiful are soon released, but others who are ugly have to
stay a long time before they can fulfil the law. Some have waited three
or four years in the precinct. A custom very much like this is also
found in certain parts of the island of Cyprus." This custom is alluded
to in the Apocryphal Epistle of Jeremy (Barch vi. 43): "The women also
with cords about them sitting in the ways, burnt bran for perfume;
but if any of them, drawn by some that passeth by, lie with him, she
reproacheth her fellow, that she was not thought as worthy as herself,
nor her cord broken." The Commentary published by the S. P. C. K. says,
"Women with cords about them," the token that they were devotees
of Mylitta, the Babylonian Venus, called in 2 Kings xvii. 30,
'Succoth-benoth,' the ropes denoting the obligation of the vow which
they had taken upon themselves." Valerius Maximus speaks of a temple
of Sicca Venus in Africa, where a similar custom obtained. Strabo also
mentions the custom (lib. xvi., c. i., 20), and says, "The money is
considered as consecrated to Venus." In book xi., c. xiv., 16, Strabo
says the Armenians pay particular reverence to Anaïtes. "They dedicate
there to her service male and female slaves; in this there is nothing
remarkable, but it is surprising that persons of the highest rank in the
nation consecrate their virgin daughters to the goddess. It is customary
for these women, after being prostituted a long period at the temple of
Anaites, to be disposed of in marriage, no one disdaining a connection
with such persons. Herodotus mentions something similar respecting the
Lydian women, all of whom prostitute themselves." Of the temple of Venus
at Corinth, Strabo says "it had more than a thousand women consecrated
to the service of the goddess, courtesans, whom men and women had
dedicated as offerings to the goddess"; and of Comana, in Cappadocia, he
has a similar relation (bk. xii., c. iii., 36).

Dr. Kalisch also says Baal Peor "was probably the principle of
generation _par excellence_, and at his festivals virgins were
accustomed to yield themselves in his honor. To this disgraceful
idolatry the Hebrews were addicted from very early times; they are
related to have already been smitten on account of it by a fearful
plague which destroyed 24,000 worshippers, and they seem to have clung
to its shameful practices in later periods."* Jerome says plainly that
Baal-Peor was Priapus, which some derive from Peor Apis. Hosea says (ix.
10, Revised Version) "they came to Baal-Peor and consecrated themselves
unto the shameful thing, and became abominable like that which they
loved"; see, too, Num. xxvi. 1, 3. Amos (ii. 7,8) says a son and a
father go in unto the same maid in the house of God to profane Jahveh's
holy name, so that it appears this "maid" was regarded as in the service
of Jahveh. Maimonides says it was known that the worship of Baal-Peor
was by uncovering of the nakedness; and this he makes the reason why God
commanded the priests to make themselves breeches to wear at the time of
service, and why they might not go up to the altar by steps that their
nakedness might not be discovered.** Jules Soury says*** "The tents of
the sacred prostitutes were generally erected on the high places."

     * Leviticus, p. 364.

     ** That even more shameful practices were once common is
     evident from the narratives in Genesis xix. and Judges xix.

     *** Religion of Israel chap. ix., p. 71.

     **** Leviticus, part i., p. 383. Kork, Die Gotter Syrian, p.
     103, says the pillars and Asherah stood in the adytum, that
     is the holy of holies, which represented the genetrix.

In the temple at Jerusalem the women wove hangings for the Asherah (2
Kings xxiii. 7), that is for concealment in the worship of the genetrix,
and in the same precincts were the houses of prostitute priests (see
also 1 Kings xiv. 24; xv. 12; xxii. 46. Luther translates "_Hurer_").
Although Josiah destroyed these, B.C. 624, Kalisch says "The image of
Ashtarte was probably erected again in the inner court (Jer. xxxii. 34;
Ezek. viii. 6)." Ezekiel says (xvi. 16), "And of thy garments thou didst
take, and deckedst thy high places with divers colors and playedst
the harlot thereupon," and (v. 24) "Thou hast also built unto thee an
eminent place, and hast made thee a high place in every street," which
is plainly translated in the Roman Catholic Douay version "Thou didst
also build thee a common stew and madest thee a brothel house in every
street." The "strange woman," against whom the Proverbs warns, practised
her profession under cover of religion (see Prov. vii. 14). The "peace
offerings" there alluded to were religious sacrifices.

Together with their other functions the Kadeshah, like the eastern
nautch girls and bayaderes, devoted themselves to dancing and music (see
Isaiah xxiii. 16). Dancing was an important part of ancient religious
worship, as may be noticed in the case of King David, who danced before
the ark, clad only in a linen ephod, probably a symbolic emblem (see
Judges viii. 27), to the scandal of his wife, whom he had purchased by
a trophy of two hundred foreskins from the uncircumcised Philistines (1
Sam. xviii. 27; 2 Sam. vi. 14-16). When the Israelites worshipped the
golden calf they danced naked (Exodus xxxii. 19, 25). They sat down to
eat and to drink, and rose up to _play_, the word being the same as that
used in Gen. xxvi. 8. The word _chag_ is frequently translated "feast,"
and means "dance." In the wide prevalence of sacred prostitution
Sir John Lubbock sees a corroboration of his hypothesis of communal
marriage. Mr. Wake, however, refers it to the custom of sexual
hospitality, a practice widely spread among all savage races, the rite
like that of blood covenanting being associated with ideas of kinship
and friendliness.

We have seen that the early Jews shared in the phallic worship of the
nations around them. Despite the war against Baal and Asherah worship
by the prophets of Jahveh, it was common in the time of the Judges (iii.
7). Solomon himself was a worshipper of Ashtoreth, a faith doubtless
after the heart of the sensual sultan (1 Kings xi. 5). The people of
Judah "built them high places and phalli and ashera on every high hill
and under every green tree. And there were also Sodomites in the land"
(1 Kings xiv. 23, 24). The mother of Asa made "an abominable image for
an Asherah" (1 Kings xv. 13).* The images of Asherah were kept in the
house of Jahveh till the time of Josiah (2 Kings xxiii. 6). Dr. Kuenen
says (_Religion of Israel_, vol. i., p. 80), "the images, pillars and
asheras were not considered by those who worshipped them as antagonistic
to the acknowledgment of Jahveh as the God of Israel." The same writer
contends that Jeroboam exhibiting the calves or young bulls could truly
say "These be thy gods, O Israel." Remembering, too, that every Jew
bears in his own body the mark of a special covenant with the Lord, the
reader may take up his Bible and find much over which pious preachers
and commentators have woven a pretty close veil. I will briefly notice
a few particulars.

     * Larousse, in his Grande Dictionnaire Universelle, says:
     "Le phallos hébraique fut pedant neuf cent ans le rival
     souvent victorieux de Jéhovah."

Without going into the question of the translation of Genesis i. 2, it
is evident from v. 27 that God is hermaphrodite. "So God created man
in his own image, in the image of God created he him, male and female
(zakar and nekaba) created he them."

It is not difficult to find traces of phallicism in the allegory of
the Garden of Eden. This has been noticed from the earliest times. The
rabbis classed the first chapters of Genesis with the Song of Solomon
and certain portions of Ezekiel as not to be read by anyone under
thirty. The Manichæans and other early Christians held the phallic view.
Clement of Alexandria (Strom iii.) admits the sin of Adam consists in
a premature indulgence of the sexual appetite. This view explains why
knowledge was prohibited and why the first effect of the fall was the
perception of nakedness. Basilides contended that we should reverence
the serpent because it induced Eve to share the caresses of Adam,
without which the human race would never have existed. Many modern
writers, notably Beverland and Dr. Donaldson, have sustained the phallic
interpretation. Archbishop Whately is also said to have advocated a
similar opinion in an anonymous Latin work published in Germany. Dr.
Donaldson, who was renowned as a scholar, makes some curious versions
of the Hebrew. His translation of the alleged "Messianic promise"
in Genesis iii. 15, his adversary, Dr. Perowne, the present Dean of
Peterborough, says, is "so gross that it will not bear rendering into
English." A good Hebraist, a Jew by birth, who had never heard of Dr.
Donaldson's _Jashar_, gave me an exactly similar rendering of this
verse--which makes it a representation of coition--and instanced the
phrase "the serpent was more subtle than the other beasts of the field,"
as an illustration of early Jewish humor.

The French physician, Parise, eloquently says: "This sublime gift of
transmitting life--fatal perogative, which man continually forfeits--at
once the mainstay of morality by means of family ties, and the powerful
cause of depravity--the energetic spring of life and health--the
ceaseless source of disease and infirmity--this faculty involves
almost all that man can attain of earthly happiness or misfortune, of
earthly pleasure or of pain; and the tree of knowledge, of good and evil,
is the symbol of it, as true as it is expressive."

Dr. Adam Clarke was so impressed by the difficulty of the serpent having
originally gone erect, that he thinks that _nachash_ means "a creature
of the ape or ourang-outang kind." Yet it has been suggested that a
key to the word may be found in Ezekiel xvi. 36, where it is translated
"filthiness." There is nothing whatever in the story to show that the
serpent is the Devil. This was an after idea when the Devil had become
the symbol of passion and the instigator of lust. De Gubernatis, in his
_Zoological Mythology_ (vol. ii., p. 399), says "The phallical serpent
is the cause of the fall of the first man." Many other difficulties in
the story become less obscure when it is viewed as a remnant in which a
phallic element is embodied.

Some have detected a phallic signification in the story of the ark and
the deluge, a legend capable of many interpretations. The phallic view
is represented in the symbols in fig. 6, taken from Jacob Bryant's
Mythology, vol. iv., p. 286, in which the rainbow overshadows the mystic
ark, which carries the life across the restless flood of time, which
drowns everything that has life, and promises that seed-time and harvest
shall endure, and the Ruach broods over the waters. Gerald Massey
devotes a section of his _Natural Genesis_ to the typology of the
Ark and the Deluge. M. Clermont-Ganneau holds that the Ruach was the
feminine companion of Elohim, and that this idea was continued under the
name of Kodesh the Euach Kodesh or Holy Ghost, which with the Jews and
early Nazarene Christians was feminine.

[Illustration: Fig. 6.--The Mystic Ark.]

Another point to be briefly noticed is Jacob's anointing of the stone
which he slept on, and then erected and called Beth El, or "house of
God," the residence of the creative spirit. This was a phallic rite.
Exactly the same anointing of the linga is performed in India till this
day. It is evident that Jacob's worship of the pillar was orthodox at
the time the narrative was written, for God sends him back to the pillar
to perform his vow (see Gen. xxxv.), and again he goes through phallic
rites (v. 14). When Paul says, "Flee fornication. Know ye not that your
body is the temple of the Holy Ghost?" he elevates and spiritualises the
conception which lay in the word Bethel. According to Philo Byblius, the
huge stones common in Syria, as in so many lands, were called Baetylia.
Kalisch says it is not extravagant to suppose that the words are
identical. From this custom of anointing comes the conception of the
Messiah, or Christ the Anointed. Kissing the stone or god appears also
to have been a religious rite. Thus we read of kissing Baal (1 Kings
xix. 18) and kissing the "calves" (Hos. xiii. 2). Epi-phanius said that
the Ophites kissed the serpent which this wretched people called the
Eucharist. They concluded the ceremonies by singing a hymn through him
to the Supreme Father. (See Fergusson's _Tree and Serpent Worship_, p.
9.) The kissing of the Mohammedan saint's member and of the Pope's toe
are probably connected. Amalarius, who lived in the age of Charlemagne,
says that on Friday (_Dies Veneris_) the Pope and cardinals crawl on all
fours along the aisles of St. Peter's to a cross before an altar which
they salute and kiss.

Mr. Grant Allen, in an article on Sacred Stones in the _Fortnightly
Review_, Jan., 1890, says:

"Samuel judged Israel every year at Bethel, the place of Jacob's sacred
pillar; at Gilgal, the place where Joshua's twelve stones were set
up; and at Mizpeh, where stood the cairn surmounted by the pillars of
Laban's servant. He, himself, 'took a stone and set it up between Mizpeh
and Shen'; and its very name, Ebenezer, 'the stone of help,' shows that
it was originally worshipped before proceeding on an expedition, though
the Jehovistic gloss, 'saying Hitherto the Lord hath helped us,' does
its best, of course, to obscure the real meaning. It was to the stone
circle of Gilgal that Samuel directed Saul to go down, saying; 'I
will come down unto thee, to offer burnt offerings, and to sacrifice
sacrifices of peace offerings.' It was at the cairn of Mizpeh that Saul
was chosen king; and after the victory over the Ammonites, Saul went
once more to the great Stonehenge at Gilgal to 'review the kingdom,'
and 'There they made Saul king before Jahveh in Gilgal; and there they
sacrificed sacrifices of peace offerings before Jahyeh.'"

This last passage, as Mr. Allen points out, is very instructive, as
showing that in the opinion of the writer, Jahveh was then domiciled at

M. Soury, in his note to chap. ii. of his _Religion of Israel_, says:
"It is needful to point out, with M. Schrader, that the most ancient
Babylonian inscriptions in the Accadian tongues, those of Urukh and
of Ur Kasdim, preserved in the British Museum, were engraved on clay
phalii. We have here the origin of the usages and customs of religion
so long followed among the Oanaanites and Hebrews (Y. Movers, _Die
Phonizer_, I., 591, _et passim_)."

In the old hymn embodied in Deut. xxxii., God is frequently called
_Tsur_, "The Rock which begat thee," etc. Major-General Forlong believes
"that the Jews had a Phallus or phallic symbol in their 'Ark of the
Testimony' or Ark of the Eduth, a word which I hold tries to veil the
real objects" (_Rivers of Life_, vol. i., p. 149). He does not scruple
to say this was "the real God of the Jews; that God of the Ark or the
Testimony, but surely not of Europe" (vol. i., p. 169). This contention
is forcibly suggested by the picture of the Egyptian Ark found in Dr.
Smith's _Bible Dictionary_, art.

"Ark of the Covenant." The Ark of the Testimony, or significant thing,
the tabernacle of the testimony and the veil of the testimony alluded to
in Exodus are never mentioned in Deuteronomy. The Rev. T. Wilson, in his
_Archaeological Dictionary_, art. "Sanctum," observes that "the Ark of
the Covenant, which was the greatest ornament of the first temple, was
wanting in the second, but a stone of three inches thick, it is said,
supplied its place, which they [the Jews] further assert is still in
the Mahommedan mosque called _the temple of the Stone_, which is erected
where the Temple of Jerusalem stood." This forcibly suggests that the
nature of the "God in the box" which the Jews carried about with them
was similar to that carried in the processions of Osiris and Dionysos.
According to 1 Kings viii. 9 the Ark contained two stones, but the much
later writer of Heb. ix. 4 makes it contain the golden pot with manna,
Aaron's rod, and the tables of the covenant.

Mr. Sellon, in the papers of the Anthropological Society of London,
1863-4, p. 327, argues: "There would also now appear good ground for
believing that the ark of the covenant, held so sacred by the Jews,
contained nothing more nor less than a phallus, the ark being the
type of the Argha or Yoni (Linga worship) of India." Hargrave Jennings
(_Phallicism_, p. 67) says: "We know from the Jewish records that the
ark contained a table of stone.... That stone was phallic, and yet
identical with the sacred name Jehovah, which, written in unpointed
Hebrew with four letters, is JEVE, or JHVH (the H being merely an
aspirate and the same as E). This process leaves us the two letters I
and V (in another form, U); then, if we place the I in the V, we have
the 'Holy of Holies'; we also have the Linga and Yoni and Argha of the
Hindus, the Isvara and 'Supreme Lord'; and here we have the whole secret
of its mystic and arc-celestial import confirmed in itself by being
identical with the Ling-yoni of the Ark of the Covenant."

In Hosea, who finds it quite natural that the Lord should tell him "Go
take unto thee a wife of whoredoms," we find the Lord called his _zakar_
(translated memorial, xii. 5). In the same prophet we read that Jahveh
declares thou shalt call me _Ishi_ (my husband); and shalt no more
call me Baali (ii. 16). Again he says to his people "I am your husband"
(Hosea iii. 14); "Thy maker is thine husband; Jahveh Sabaoth is his
name" (Isaiah liv. 5). I was an husband to them, saith Jahveh (Jer.
xxxi. 32. See also Jer. iii. 20 and Ezek. xvi. 32). God even does not
scruple to represent himself in Ezekiel xxiii. as the husband of two
adulterous sisters. Taking to other deities is continually called
whoring and adultery. See Exod. xxxiv. 15, 16; Lev. xx. 5; Num. xxv.
1-3; Deut. xxxi. 16; xxxii. 16-21; Jud. ii. 17; viii. 27; 1 Chron.
v. 25; Ps. lxxiii. 27; cvi. 39; Jer. iii. 1, 2, 6; Ezek. xvi. 15, 17;
xxiii. 3; Hos. i. 2; ii. 4, 5; iv. 13, 15; v. 3, 4; ix. 7. In the
Wisdom of Solomon (xiv. 12), we read: "For the devising of idols was
the beginning of _spiritual_ fornication, and the invention of them the
corruption of life." Here the word "spiritual" is deliberately inserted
to pervert the meaning. Let any one reflect how such coarse expressions
could continually be used unless the writers were used to phallic
worship. Further consider the narrative in Numbers xxxi., where the
Lord takes a maiden tribute out of 32,000 girls, who must all have been
examined. Vestal virgins and nuns are all consecrated like the kadeshim
to the god, and the god is personified by the priest. In this sense
phallicism is the key of all the creeds.

[Illustration: Fig. 7. Fig. 8]

That some remnants of phallicism may be traced even in Christianity,
will be evident to the readers of _Anacalypsis_, by Godfrey Higgins;
_Ancient Faiths Embodied in Ancient Names_, by Dr. Thomas Inman, and
_Ancient Pagan and Modern Christian Symbolism Exposed and Explained_,
by the same author; the valuable _Rivers of Life_, by Major-General
Forlong; a little book on _Idolomania_, by "Investigator Abhorrens";
and another on _The Masculine Cross_, by Sha Rocco (New York, 1874). The
sign of the cross, certainly long pre-Christian in the Egyptian sign for
life, is specially dealt with in the last two works. In fig. 7 we see
the connection of the Egyptian tau with the Hermæ. Of fig. 8 General
Forlong (_Rivers of Life_, vol i., p 65) says: "The Samaritan cross,
which they stamped on their coins, was No. 1, but the Norseman preferred
No. 2 (the circle and four stout arms of equal size and weight), and
called it Tor's hammer. It is somewhat like No. 3, which the Greek
Christians early adopted, though this is more decidedly phallic, and
shows clearly the meaning so much insisted on by some writers as to all
meeting in the centre."

The custom of eating fish on Friday (_Dies Veneris_) is considered a
survival of the days when a peculiar sexual signification was given to
the fish, which has such a prominent place in Christian symbolism. Fig.
9 illustrates the origin of the bishop's mitre.

The _vescica piscis_, or fish's bladder (fig. 10), is a well-known
ecclesiastical emblem of the virgin, often used in church windows,
seals, etc. The symbol is equally known in India. Its real nature
is shown in fig. 11, discovered by Layard at Nineveh, depicting its
worshipper seated on a lotus. The vescica piscis is conspicuously
displayed in fig. 12, copied from a Rosary of the Blessed Virgin,
printed at Venice 1582, with the license from the Inquisition, in which
the Holy Dove darts his ray, fecundating the Holy Virgin. Many instances
of Christ in an elliptical aureole may be seen in Didron's _Christian
Iconography_, fig. 71, p. 281, vol. i. strikingly resembles our figure.

[Illustration: Fig. 9.; Fig. 10.; Fig. 11.]

[Illustration: Fig. 12.]


Among the many traces that the Jews were once savages I place the
distinguishing mark of their race, circumcision. Many explanations have
been given of this curious custom. The account, in Genesis xvii. that
God commanded it to Abraham, at the ripe age of 99, critics agree was
written after the exile--that is, thirteen hundred years after the death
of the patriarch. Now, there is evidence from the Egyptian monuments
that circumcision was known long before Abraham's time. This constrains
Dr. Kitto to say, "God might have selected a practice already in use
among other nations." If so, God must have had a curious taste and an
uninventive mind. Why, having made people as they are, he should order
his chosen race to be mutilated, must be a puzzle to the orthodox. Some
writers have absurdly argued that the Egyptians borrowed from the Jews,
whom they despised (see Genesis xliii. 32). Apart from the evidence of
Herodotus and of monuments and mummies to the contrary, this view is
never suggested in the Bible, but the testimony of the book of Joshua
(v. 9) implies the reverse.

The narrative of the Lord's attempted assassination of Moses (Exodus iv.
24-26), which we shall shortly examine, has the most archaic complexion
of any of the biblical references to circumcision, and from it Dr. T. K.
Cheyne argues that the rite is of Arabian origin.* If instituted in the
time of Abraham under the penalty of death, it is curious that Moses
never circumcised his own son, nor saw to its performance in the
wilderness for forty years, so that Joshua had personally to circumcise
over a million males at Gilgal.

Let us now look at the various theories of the origin and purpose of
circumcision. Rationalising Jews say it is of a sanatory character. This
view, though found in Philo, may be dismissed as an after theory to
meet a religious difficulty. Most Asiatic nations are uncircumcised. The
Philistines did not practice the rite, nor did the Syrians in the time
of Josephus. Even if in a few cases it might possibly be beneficial,
that would be no sufficient reason for imposing it on a whole nation
under penalty of death. The fact is, the rite is a religious one.
Indeed, upon its retention the early controversy between Jews and
Christians largely turned.

The view that it is an imposed mutilation of a subject race is suggested
in Dr. Remondino's _History of Circumcision_, and has the high authority
of Herbert Spencer. He instances the trophy of foreskins taken by David
as a dowry for Saul's daughter (1 Sam. xviii. 27), and that Hyrcanus
having subdued the Idumeans, made them submit to circumcision. This,
however, may have been a part of the policy of making them one with the
Jewish race in being tributary to Jahveh. It is not easy to see how a
mutilation imposed from without should ever become a part of the pride
of race and be enjoined when all other mutilations were forbidden.

     * Encyclopaedia Britannica, article "Circumcision."

I incline to a view which, although in accord with early sociological
conditions, I have never yet seen stated. It was suggested to me by the
passage where Tacitus alludes to this custom among the Jews. It is that
circumcision is of the nature of savage totem and tattoo marks--a device
to distinguish the tribal division from other tribes, and to indicate
those with whom the tribe might marry.* If, as has been suggested, the
meaning of Genesis xxxiv. 14 is "one who is uncircumcised is as a woman
to us," this view is confirmed. The Jewish abhorrence to mixed marriages
and "the bed of the uncircumcised" is well known.

     * What Tacitus says is, "They do not eat with strangers or
     make marriages with them, and this nation, otherwise most
     prone to debauchery, abstains from all strange women. They
     have introduced circumcision in order to distinguish
     themselves thereby."

The Hebrew distinguishing term for male--_zachar_, which also means
record or _memorial_--will agree with this view, as also with that
of Dr. Trumbull, which associates circumcision with that of
blood-covenanting. It seems evident from the narrative in Exodus iv.,
where Zipporah, after circumcising her son, says--not as generally
understood to Moses--"A bloody husband art thou to me," but to
Jahveh, "Thou art a _Kathan_ of blood"--i.e., one made akin by
circumcision--that this idea of a blood-covenant became interwoven with
the rite. It is to be noticed that in the covenant between God and the
Jews women had no share.

Dr. Kuenen holds that circumcision is of the nature of a substitute
for human sacrifice. No doubt the Jews had such sacrifices, and were
familiar with the idea of substitution; but with this I rather connect
the Passover observance. If a sacrifice, it was doubtless phallic--an
offering to the god on whom the fruit of the womb depended; possibly a
substitution for the barbarous rites by which the priests of Cybele
were instituted for office. Ptolemy's Tetrabibles, speaking of the
neighboring nations, says: "Many of them devote their genitals to their
divinities." According to Gerald Massey, "it was a dedication of the
first-fruits of the male at the shrine of the virgin mother and child,
which was one way of passing the seed through the fire to Moloch."

Westrop and Wake (_Phallicism in Ancient Religion_, p. 37) say
"Circumcision, in its inception, is a purely phallic rite, having for
its aim the marking of that which from its associations is viewed with
peculiar veneration, and it converts the two phases of this superstition
which have for their object respectively the _instrument_ of generation
and the _agent_."

General Forlong, who maintains the phallic view, also holds that "truth
compels us to attach an Aphrodisiacal character to the mutilations of
this highly sensual Jewish race." This view will not be hastily rejected
by those who know of the many strange devices resorted to by barbarous
peoples. Some have believed that circumcision enhances fecundity.

With the exception of the two first views, which I dismiss as not
explaining the religious and permanent character of the rite, all these
views imply a special regard being paid to the emblem of generation.
This is further confirmed by the manner of oath-taking customary among
the ancient Jews. When Abraham swore his servant, he said, "Put, I pray
thee, thy hand under my thigh" (Gen. xxiv. 2). The same euphemism
is used in the account of Jacob swearing Joseph (xlvii. 29), and the
custom, which has lasted among Arabs until modern days, is also alluded
to in the Hebrew of 1 Chronicles xxix. 24. The Latin testiculi seems
to point to a similar custom. In the law that no uncircumcised or
sexually-imperfect person might appear before the shrine of the Lord, we
may see yet further evidence that Jewish worship was akin to the phallic
rites of the nations around them.


And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the lord met him, and
sought to kill him. Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the
foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said,

     Surely a bloody husband art thou to me.
     So he let him go: then she said,
     A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision.
     --Exodus iv. 24-26.

Anyone who wishes to note the various shifts to which orthodox people
will resort in their attempts to pass off the barbarous records of the
Jews as God's holy word, should demand an explanation of the attempted
assassination of Moses by Jehovah, as recorded in the above verses. Some
commentators say that by the Lord is meant "the angel of the Lord," as
if Jehovah was incapable of personally conducting so nefarious a piece
of business. Bishop Patrick says "The Schechinah, I suppose, appeared
to him--appeared with a drawn sword, perhaps, as he did to Balaam and
David." Some say it was Moses's firstborn the Lord sought to kill. Some
say it was at the child's feet the foreskin was cast, others at those of
Moses, but the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem more properly represent
that it was at the feet of God, in order to pacify him.

The story certainly presents some difficulties. Moses had just had one
of his numerous interviews with Jehovah, who had told him to go back to
Egypt, for all those are dead who sought his life. He is to tell Pharaoh
that Israel is the Lord's firstborn, and that if Pharaoh will not let
the Israelites go he will slay Pharaoh's firstborn. Then immediately
follows this passage. Why this sudden change of conduct towards Moses,
whose life Jehovah was apparently so anxious to save?

Adam Clarke says the meaning is that the son of Moses had not been
circumcised, and therefore Jehovah was about to have slain the child
because not in covenant with him by circumcision, and thus he intended
[after his usual brutal fashion] to punish the disobedience of the
father by the death of the son. Zip-porah getting acquainted with the
nature of the case, and the danger to which her firstborn was exposed,
took a sharp stone and cut off the foreskin of her son. By this act
the displeasure of the Lord was turned aside, and Zipporah considered
herself as now allied to God because of this circumcision. Old Adam
tries to gloss over the attempted assassination of Moses by pretending
it was only a child's life that was in danger. But we beg the reader
to notice that no _child_ is mentioned, but only a son whose age is
unspecified. Dr. Clarke can hardly have read the treatise of John
Frischl, _De Circumcisione Zipporo_, or he would surely have admitted
that the person menaced with death was Moses, and not his son.

Other commentators say that Zipporah did not like the snipping business
(although she seems to have understood it at once), and therefore
addressed her husband opprobriously. Circumcision, we may remark, was
anciently performed with stone. The Septuagint version records how the
flints with which Joshua circumcised the people at Gilgal were buried in
his grave.

A nice specimen of the modern Christian method of semi-rationalising may
be found in Dr. Smith's _Bible Dictionary_, to which the clergy usually
turn for help in regard to any difficulties in connection with the
sacred fetish they call the word of God. Smith says:

"The most probable explanation seems to be, that at the caravanserai
either Moses or Gershom was struck with what seemed to be a mortal
illness. In some way, not apparent to us, this illness was connected
by Zipporah with the fact that her son had not been circumcised. She
instantly performed the rite, and threw the sharp instrument, stained
with the fresh blood, at the feet of her husband, exclaiming in the
agony of a mother's anxiety for the life of her child, 'A bloody husband
thou art, to cause the death of my son.' Then when the recovery from the
illness took place (whether of Moses or Gershom), she exclaims again, 'A
bloody husband still thou art, but not so as to cause the child's death,
but only to bring about his circumcision.'"

We have no hesitation in saying that this most approved explanation is
the worst. In seeking to make the story rational, it utterly ignores the
primitive ideas and customs by which alone this ancient fragment can be
interpreted. One little fact is sufficient to refute it. The Jews never
use the word _Khathan_, improperly translated "husband," after marriage.
The word may be interpreted spouse, betrothed or bridegroom, but
not husband. The Revised Version, which always follows as closely as
possible the Authorised Version, translates "a bridegroom of blood." But
this makes it evident that Moses was not addressed, for no woman having
a son calls her husband "bridegroom." We may now see the true meaning
of the incident--that by the blood covenant of circumcision, Zipporah
entered into kinship with Jehovah and thereby claimed his friendship
instead of enmity. In ancient times only the good-will of those who
recognise the family bond or ties of blood could be relied on. Herbert
Spencer, in his _Ceremonial Institutions_, contends that bloody
sacrifices arise "from the practice of establishing a sacred bond
between living persons by partaking of each other's blood: the derived
conception, being that those who give some of their blood to the ghost
of a man just dead and lingering near, effect with it a union which on
the one side implies submission, and on the other side friendliness."

Dr. T. K. Oheyne, in his article on Circumcision in the _Encyclopaedia
Britannica_, takes the story of Moses at the inn as a proof that
circumcision was of Arabic origin. He says; "Khathan meant originally
not 'husband,' but 'a newly admitted member of the family.' So that 'a
khathan of blood' meant one who has become a _khathan_, not by marriage,
but by circumcision," a meaning confirmed by the derived sense of the
Arabic _khatana_, "to circumcise"--circumcision being performed in
Arabia at the age of puberty.

The English of the Catholic Douay version is not so good as the
Authorised Version, but it brings us nearer the real meaning of the
story. It runs thus:

"And when he was in his journey, in the inn, the Lord met him and
would have killed him. Immediately Sephora took a very sharp stone, and
circumcised the foreskin of her son, and touched his feet, and said: A
bloody spouse art thou to me. And he let him go after she had said: A
bloody spouse art thou unto me, because of the circumcision."

Here it is evidently the feet of the Lord that are touched, as was the
ancient practice in rendering tribute, and we see that the foreskin was
a propitiatory offering.

Dr. Trumbull in his interesting book on the Blood Covenant, says:
"The Hebrew word _Khathan_ has as its root idea, the binding
through severing, the covenanting by blood; an idea that is in the
marriage-rite, as the Orientals view it, and that is in the rite of
circumcision also." Dr. Trumbull omits to say that the term is not used
after marriage, and consequently that it must be taken as applied to the
Lord. Zipporah, being already married, did not need to enter into the
blood covenant with Moses, but with Jehovah, so that to her and hers the
Lord might henceforth be friendly.

We do not make much of the inn. There were no public-houses between
Midian and Egypt. Probably the reference is only to a resting-place or
caravanserai. We would, therefore, render the passage thus:

The Lord met him [Moses] at a halting place and sought to kill him. Then
Zipporah took a flint, and cut off the foreskin of her son and cast it
at [made it touch] his [the Lord's] feet, and she said: Surely a kinsman
of blood [one newly bound through blood] art thou to me. So he [the
Lord] let him [Moses] alone.

Kuenen considers the passage, in connection with the place where it
is inserted, indicated that circumcision was a substitute for child
sacrifice. Any way, it may safely be said that the mark which every Jew
bears on his own body is a sign that his ancestry worshipped a deity who
sought to assassinate Moses, and was only to be appeased by an offering
of blood.


Hahnemann, the founder of homoeopathy, is usually credited with the
introduction of the medical maxim, _similta similibus ourantur_--like
things are cured by like. Those who would dispute his originality need
not refer to the ancient saying familiar to all topers, of "taking
a hair of the dog that bit you"; they may find the origin of the
homoeopathic doctrine in the great source of all inspiration--the holy

The book of Numbers contains several recipes which would be invaluable
if divine grace would enable us to re-discover and correctly employ
them. There is, for instance, the holy water described in chap. v., the
effects of which will enable any jealous husband to discover if his wife
has been faithful to him or not, and in the case of her guilt enable him
to dispense with the services of Sir James Hannen.

But perhaps the most curious prescription in the book is that recorded
in the twenty-first chapter. The Israelites wandering about for forty
years, without travelling forty miles, got tired of the heavenly manna
with which the "universal provider" supplied them. They looked back on
the fried fish, which they "did eat in Egypt freely," the cucumbers,
melons, leeks, onions and garlic, wherein the Jewish stomach delighteth,
and they longed for a change of diet. Upon remonstrating with Moses,
and stating their preference for Egyptian lentils rather than celestial
mushrooms, the Lord of his tender mercy sent "fiery serpents" (the word
is properly translated "seraphim"), and they bit the people; and much
people of Israel died. Then the people prayed Moses to intercede for
them, saying, "We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and
against thee;" and Jahveh, in direct opposition to his own commandment,
directed Moses to "make a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole, and it
shall come to pass that every one that is bitten when he looketh upon it
shall live." Moses accordingly made a serpent of brass, we presume from
some of that stolen from the Egyptians, which had the desired effect.
Instead of being but one monster more, the sight immediately cured the
wounds, and these seraphim sent by the Lord, ashamed of being beaten by
their brazen brother, skedaddled. Of course it may be contended that a
seraph is neither in the likeness of anything in heaven above, in
earth beneath, or in the water, or fire, under the earth, and that
consequently Moses in no wise infringed the Decalogue.

Commentators have been puzzled to account for this evident relic of
serpent worship in a religion so abhorrent of idolatry as that of
the Jews. These gentry usually shut their eyes very close to the many
evidences that the god-guided people were always falling into the
idolatries of the surrounding nations. Now we know that the Babylonians,
in common with all the great nations of antiquity, worshipped the
serpent. It has been thought, indeed, that the name Baal is an
abbreviation of Ob-el, "the serpent god." In the Apocryphal book of Bel
and the Dragon, to be found in every Catholic Bible, it says (v. 23):
"And in that same place there was a great dragon, which they of Babylon
worshipped. And the king said unto Daniel, Wilt thou also say that this
is of brass? Lo, he liveth, he eateth and drinketh, thou canst not say
that he is no living god; therefore worship him." Serpent worship is
indeed so widely spread, and of such great antiquity, that it has
been conjectured to have sprung from the antipathy between our monkey
ancestors and snakes. In this legend the brazen serpent is benevolent,
but more usually that reptile represents the evil principle. Thus
a story in the Zendavesta (which is clearly allied to, and may have
suggested that in Genesis) says that Ahriman assumed a serpent's form
in order to destroy the first of the human race, whom he accordingly
poisoned. In the Saddu we read: "When you kill serpents you shall repeat
the Zendavesta, whereby you will obtain great merit; for it is the same
as if you had killed so many devils." It is curious that the serpent
which is the evil genius of Genesis is the good genius in Numbers, and
that Jesus himself is represented as comparing himself to it (John iii.
14). An early Christian sect, the Ophites, found serpent worshipping
quite consistent with their Christianity.

It seems likely that this story of the brazen serpent having been made
by Moses, was a priestly invention to account for its being an object
of idolatry among the Jews, as we know from 2 Kings xviii. 4, it was
worshipped down to the time of Hezekiah, that is 700 years after the
time of Moses. Hezekiah, we are told, broke the brazen serpent in
pieces, but it must have been miraculously joined again, for the
identical article is still to be seen, for a consideration, in the
Church of St. Ambrose at Milan. Some learned rabbis regard the brazen
serpent as a talisman which Moses was enabled to prepare from his
knowledge of astrology. Others say it was a form of amulet to be copied
and worn as a charm against disease. Others again declare it was only
set up _in terrorem_, as a man who has chastised his son hangs up the
rod against the wall as a warning. Rationalising commentators have
pretended that it was but an emblem of healing by the medical art, a
sort of sign-post to a camp hospital, like the red cross flag over an
ambulance. These altogether pervert the text, and miss the meaning of
the passage. The resemblance of the object set up was of the essence of
the cure, as may be seen in 1 Sam. vi. 5. In truth, the doctrine of
like curing like, instead of being a modern discovery is a very ancient
superstition. The old medical books are full of prescriptions, or rather
charms, founded on this notion.* It is, indeed, one of the recognised
principles in savage magic and medicine that things like each other,
however superficially, affect each other in a mystic way, and possess
identical properties. Thus in Melanesia, according to Mr. Codrington,**
"a stone in the shape of a pig, of a bread fruit, of a yam, was a most
valuable find," because it made pigs prolific, and fertilised bread,
fruit trees, and yam plots.

     * See Myths in Medicine and Old Time Doctors, by Alfred C.
     Garratt, M.D.

     **  Journal Anthropological Institute, February, 1881.

In Scotland, too, "stones were called by the names of the limbs they
resembled, as 'eye-stanes, head-stane.'" A patient washed the affected
part of his body, and rubbed it well with the stone corresponding. In
precisely the same way the mandrake* root, being thought to resemble
the human body, was supposed to be of wondrous medical efficacy, and was
credited with human and super-human powers.** The method of cure, when
the Philistines were smitten with emerods and mice, was to make
images of the same (1 Sam. vi. 5), and the same idea was found in the
well-known superstition of sorcerers making "a waxen man" to represent
an enemy, injuries to the waxen figure being supposed to affect the
person represented.

     * Gregor, Folk-lore of North-East Counties, p. 40.

     ** See the paper on "Moly and Mandragora," in A. Lang's
     Custom and Myth; 1884.

Many curious customs and superstitions may be traced to this belief. In
old medical works one may still read that to eat of a lion's heart is
a specific to ensure courage, while other organs and certain bulbous
plants are a remedy for sterility. The virtue of all the ancient
aphrodisiacs resided in their shape. This notion, which largely affected
the early history of medicine, is known as the doctrine of signatures.

Certain plants and other natural objects were believed to be so marked
or stamped that they presented visibly the indications of the diseases,
or diseased organs, for which they were specifics; these were their
signatures. Hence a large portion of the ancient art of medicine
consisted in ascertaining what plants were analogous to the symptoms of
disease, or to the organ diseased. To this doctrine we owe some popular
names of plants, such as eye-bright, liver-wort, spleen-wort, etc. The
mandrake, from its supposed resemblance to the human form, was credited
with marvellous powers, and anyone who will take the trouble to inquire
into the folk-lore concerning plants and disease will find that much
depends upon the appearance of the remedy.

One of the most curious peculiarities of Christianity is its doctrine of
a God crucified for sinners. So strange, so repugnant to reason as such
a doctrine is, it was quite consonant to the thoughts of those who held
the belief in salvation by similars. If Paul said, since by man came
death by man came also the resurrection of the dead, the development of
the doctrine necessitated that if it is God who damns it is also God who
saves. Any casual reader of Paul must have been struck by the antithesis
which he constantly draws between the law and the Gospel, works and
faith, the fall of man, and the redemption through "the second Adam."
The very phrase "second Adam" implies this doctrine, which is summed
up in the statement that "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the
law, being made a curse for us" (Gal. iii. 13).

God, in order to redeem man, had to take on sinful flesh and be himself
the curse in order to be the cure. Hence we read in the _Teaching of the
Twelve Apostles_, chap. xvi., that "they who endure in their faith shall
be saved by the very curse." Thus may we understand that which modern
Christians find so difficult of explanation, viz., that the whole
Christian world for the first thousand years from St. Justin to St.
Anselm believed that Christ paid the ransom for sinners to the Devil,
their natural owner. Christ in order to become the Savior had to become
the curse, had to die and had to descend to hell, though of course,
being God, he could not stay there. Hence his being likened to the
brazen serpent, that remnant of early Jewish fetichism which was smashed
by Hezekiah (2 Kings xviii. 4). John makes Jesus himself teach that "as
Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness [as a cure for serpent
bites] even so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever
believeth in him should not perish but have eternal life."

So Irenæus says (bk. iv., chap. 2), "men can be saved in no other way
from the old wound of the serpent than by believing in him, who in the
likeness of sinful flesh, is lifted up from the earth on the tree of
martyrdom, and draws all things to himself and vivified the dead." That
is, Christ was made sinful flesh to be the curse itself, just as the
innocent brass appeared a serpent, because the form of the curse was
necessary to the cure. Paul dwells on the passage of the law "Cursed is
he that hangeth on a tree," with the very object of showing that Christ,
cursed under the law, was a blessing under his glad tidings. The Fathers
were never tired of saying that man was lost by a tree (in Eden) and
saved by a tree (on Calvary), that as the curse came in child-birth* and
thorns, so the world was saved by the birth of Christ and his crown of
thorns. Justin says, "As the curse came by a Virgin, so by a Virgin the
salvation," and this antithesis between Eve and Mary has been carried on
by Catholic writers down to our own day.

     * Notice too 1 Tim. 15, where women are said to be saved by
     child birth, their curse.

As the Christian doctrine of salvation through the blood of Christ has
certainly no more foundation in fact than the efficacy of liver-wort
in liver diseases, we suggest it may have no better foundation than the
ancient superstition of salvation by similars.


"New Presbyter," says Milton, "is but old priest writ large." Old
priest, it may be said, is but older sorcerer in disguise. In early
times religion and magic were intimately associated; indeed, it may be
said they were one and the same. The earliest religion being the
belief in spirits, the earliest worship is an attempt to influence or
propitiate them by means that can only be described as magical; the
belief in spirits and in magic both being founded on dreams. Medicine
men and sorcerers were the first priests. Herbert Spencer says
(_Principles of Sociology_, sec. 589): "A satisfactory distinction
between priests and medicine men is difficult to find. Both are
concerned with supernatural agents, which in their original form are
ghosts; and their ways of dealing with these supernatural agents are
so variously mingled, that at the outset no clear classification can be
made." Among the Patagonians the same men officiate in the "threefold
capacity of priests, magicians and doctors"; and among the North
American Indians the functions of "sorcerer, prophet, physician,
exorciser, priest, and rain doctor" are united.

Everywhere we find the priests are magicians. Their authority rests on
imagined and dreaded power.

They are supposed by their spells and incantations to have power over
nature, or rather the spirits supposed to preside over it. Hence they
became the rulers of the people. The modern priest, who is supposed by
muttering a formula to change the nature of consecrated elements or by
his prayers to bring blessings on the people, betrays his lineal descent
from the primitive rain-makers and sorcerers of savagery.

The Bible is full of magic and sorcery. Its heroes are magicians, from
Jahveh Elohim, who puts Adam into a sleep and then makes woman from his
rib, to Jesus who casts out devils and cures blindness with clay and
spittle, and whose followers perform similar works by the power of his
name. The most esteemed persons among the Jews were magicians. Pious
Jacob cheats his uncle by a species of magic with peeled rods. Joseph
not only tells fortunes by interpreting dreams but has a divining cup
(Gen. xliv. 5), doubtless similar to the magic bowls used to the present
day in Egypt, in which, as described by Lane in his _Modern Egyptians_,
a boy looks and pretends to see images of the future in water.

The fourth chapter of Exodus gives the initiation of Moses into the
magician's art by Jahveh, the great adept, who changes the rod of
Moses into a serpent and back again into a rod; suddenly makes his hand
leprous, and as suddenly restores it. Moses and Aaron show themselves
superior magicians to those at the court of Pharaoh, who, when Aaron
cast down his magic rod and it became a serpent, did in like manner with
their rods, which also became serpents, though Aaron's rod swallowed up
their rods (Exodus vii. 11,12). Upon this passage the learned Methodist
commentator, Dr. Adam Clarke, writing at an age when the belief in
witchcraft was almost extinct, after remarking that such feats evidently
required something more than jugglery, observes: "How much more rational
at once to allow that these magicians had familiar spirits who could
assume all shapes, change the appearance of the subjects on which they
operated, or suddenly convey one thing away and substitute another in
its place."

Aaron also used his rod to change _all_ the water into blood, a feat
which the Egyptian magicians also contrived to perform--we presume with
the aid of spirits. If you believe in spirits, there is no end to the
supposition of what they might do. The magic rod of Moses is used to
divide the water of the Red Sea, so that the children went through the
midst of the sea on dry ground (Ex. xiv. 16), and to draw water from
a rock (Num. xx. 8). Aaron's rod blossoms miraculously to show the
superiority of the tribe of Levi (Num. xvii. 8).

The Urim and Thummin of Aaron's breastplate were also magical articles
used in divination (see Num. xxviii. 21; 1 Sam. xxiii. 9, and xxx. 7,
8). Casting lots was another method of divination often referred to in
the Bible. Prov. xvi. 31, says "The lot is cast into the lap, but the
whole disposing thereof is with the Lord." It was because "when Saul
inquired of Jahveh, Jahveh answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by
Urim, nor by prophets" (1 Sam. xxviii. 6), that he resorted to the witch
of Endor. The ephod and holy plate (Ex. xxviii.), and the phylacteries
worn as frontlets between the eyes (Deut. vi. 8), were magical amulets.
Modern Arabs wear scraps of the Koran in a similar way. The holy oil
(Ex. xxx.) and the water of jealousy (Num. v.) were magical, as was
also the brazen serpent, adored down to the days of Hezekiah. The great
Wizard's ark was also endowed with magical powers, bringing with it
victory and punishing those who infringed its tabu; it was taken
into battle. His sanctuary was also called an oracle where the priest
"inquired of the Lord" (2 Sam. xvi. 23; 1 Kings vi. 16).

The teraphim were also magical, as we learn from Ezek. xxi. 21, where
the word is translated "images." The prophet Hosea, one of the very
earliest of the Old Testament writers (about 740), announced as a
misfortune that "the children of Israel shall abide many days without
a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an
image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim." Laban, although a
believer in Elohim, calls the teraphim "his gods" (Genesis xxxi. 29,
30), and so does Micah (Judges xviii. 18-24). The latter chapter shows
that the teraphim were worshipped and served by the descendants of Moses
down to the time of David (see Revised Version). David's wife Michal
kept one in the house (1 Sam. xix. 13). It was evidently a fetish
in human shape. How comes it, then, one may ask, that divination and
sorcery are denounced in Deuteronomy xviii.? The answer is simple. The
Deutoronomic law was first found in the time of Josiah, B.C. 641 (see
2 Kings xxii. 8-11), and there is abundant evidence it was not known
before that time. Josiah, as we learn from 2 Kings xxiii. 24, put away
"the familiar spirits, and the wizards and the teraphim and the idols,"
as Hezekiah (b.c. 726) had destroyed the brazen serpent. Not only had
Jezebel practised witchcraft (2 Kings ix. 22), but Manasseh, the son
of Hezekiah, "dealt with a familiar spirit and with wizards" (2 Chron.
xxxiii. 6). These, it may be said, were wicked persons.

Yet another piece of evidence is derived from the fact that _Nashon_,
the chief of the tribe of Judah and one of the ancestry of the blessed
Savior, signifies "enchanter." Zechariah (b.c. 580) shows the great
advance made from the time of Hosea by declaring that "the teraphim have
spoken vanity, and the diviners have seen a lie, and have told false
dreams" (x. 2).

Samuel, like other early priests, was ruler and weather doctor, Elijah
was a corpse restorer and rain com-peller. Elisha not only inherited
his mantle, but also raised the dead and multiplied food. His very
bones proved magical. Jesus Christ was a great wonderworker or magician,
casting out devils, turning water into wine, healing diseases even by
the touch of his magical robe, and finally levitating from earth.

The charge brought against Jesus by the Jews was that he had stolen
the sacred Word and by it wrought miracles. We read in the Gospels that
Jesus "cast out spirits with his word" (Matt. viii. 16). Jesus promised
that in his _name_ his disciples should cast out devils, and Peter
declared that his name healed the lame (Acts iii. 16). When the Jews
asked, "By what power, or by what name have we done this" (Acts iv. 7),
Peter answered, "By the name of Jesus Christ." Paul says, "God hath...
given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus
every knee should bow in heaven and in earth and under the earth"
(Philip ii. 9, 10).

Any careful reader of the Bible must have been struck with the frequency
with which "the name of the Lord" is mentioned, and the care not to
profane that name. "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in
vain" is the second commandment, and Christians still speak of God "in
a bondsman's key with bated breath and whispering humbleness," for no
better reason than this old superstition. In Leviticus xxiv. 11 and
16, the word translated by us "blasphemeth" was by the Jews rendered
"pronounces," so that the son of the Israelitish woman was stoned to
death for pronouncing the ineffable name of J.H.V.H. The Talmud say "He
who attempts to pronounce it shall have no part in the world to come."
Once a year only, on the day of Atonement, was the high priest allowed
to whisper the word, even as at the present day "the word" is whispered
in Masonic lodges. The Hebrew Jehovah dates only from the Massoretic
invention of points. When the Rabbis began to insert the vowel-points
they had lost the true pronunciation of the sacred name. To the letters
J. H. V. H. they put the vowels of Edonai or Adonai, _lord_ or _master_,
the name which in their prayers they substitute for Jahveh. Moses wanted
to know the name of the god of the burning bush. He was put off with the
formula I am that I am. Jahveh having lost his name has become "I was
but am not." When Jacob wrestled with the god, angel, or ghost, he
demanded his name. The wary angel did not comply (Gen. xxxii. 29.) So
the father of Samson begs the angel to say what is his name. "And the
angel of the Lord said unto him, why asketh thou thus after my name
seeing it is _secret_" (Judges xiii. 18). All this superstition can be
traced to the belief that to know the names of persons was to acquire
power over them.

In process of time the priest displaces the sorcerer, while still
retaining certain of his functions. The gods of a displaced religion are
regarded as devils and their worship as sorcery. Much of the persecution
of witchcraft which went on in the ages when Christianity was dominant
was really the extirpation of the surviving rites of Paganism. It is
curious that it is always the more savage races that are believed to
have the greatest magical powers. Dr. E. B. Tylor says: "In the Middle
Ages the name of Finn was, as it still remains among seafaring men,
equivalent to that of sorcerer, while Lapland witches had a European
celebrity as practitioners of the black art. Ages after the Finns
had risen in the social scale, the Lapps retained much of their old
half-savage habit of life, and with it naturally their witchcraft, so
that even the magic-gifted Finns revered the occult powers of a people
more barbarous than themselves."

The same writer continues*: "Among the early Christians, sorcery was
recognised as illegal miracle; and magic arts, such as turning men into
beasts, calling up familiar demons, raising storms, etc., are mentioned,
not in a sceptical spirit, but with reprobation. In the changed
relations of the state to the church under Constantine, the laws against
magic served the new purpose of proscribing the rites of the Greek and
Roman religion, whose oracles, sacrifices and auguries, once carried on
under the highest public sanction, were put under the same ban with the
low arts of the necromancer and the witch. As Christianity extended its
sway over Europe, the same antagonism continued, the church striving
with considerable success to put down at once the old local religions,
and the even older practices of witchcraft; condemning Thor and Woden
as demons, they punished their rites in common with those of the
sorceresses who bewitched their neighbors and turned themselves into
wolves or cats. Thus gradually arose the legal persecution of witches
which went on through the Middle Ages under ecclesiastical sanction both
Catholic and Protestant."

     * Encyclopedia Britannica, article "Magic."

But the religion of Christendom contained scarcely less elements of
magical practices than that of Paganism. In the early Christian Church
a considerable section of its ministry was devoted to the casting out of
devils. Regulations concerning the same were contained in the canons
of the Church of England. The magical power of giving absolution and
remission of sins is still claimed in our national Church. Throughout
the course of Christianity, indeed, magical effects have been ascribed
to religious rites and consecrated objects.

Viktor Rydberg, the Swedish author of an interesting work on _The Magic
of the Middle Ages_, says (p. 85): "Every monastery has its master
magician, who sells _agni Dei_, conception billets, magic incense,
salt and tapers which have been consecrated on Candlemas Day, palms
consecrated on Palm Sunday, flowers besprinkled with holy water on
Ascension Day, and many other appliances belonging to the great magical
apparatus of the Church."

Bells are consecrated to this day, because they were supposed to have a
magical effect in warding off demons. Their efficacy for this purpose is
specifically asserted by St. Thomas Aquinas, the greatest doctor of the
Church, who lays it down that the changeableness of the weather is owing
to the constant conflict between good and bad spirits.

Baptism is another magical process. There are people still in England
who think harm will come to a child if it is not christened. In
Christian baptism we have the magical invocation of certain names, those
of the ever-blessed Trinity. The names of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
were used as spells to ward off demons. The process is supposed to have
a magical efficacy, and is as much in the nature of a charm as making
the sign of the cross with holy water, or the unction with holy oil, as
a preparation for death. So important was it considered that the saving
water should prevent demoniac power, that holy squirts were used to
bring magical liquid in contact with the child before it saw the light!

The doctrine of salvation through blood is nothing but a survival of the
faith in magic. Volumes might be written on the belief in the magical
efficacy of blood as a sacrifice, a cementer of kinship, and a means of
evoking protecting spirits. Blood baths for the cure of certain diseases
were used in Egypt and mediæval Europe. Longfellow alludes to this
superstition in his _Golden Legend_:

    The only remedy that remains
    Is the blood that flows from a maiden's veins,
    Who of her own free will shall die,
    And give her life as the price of yours!
    This is the strangest of all cures,
    And one I think, you will never try.

The changing of the bread and wine of the Christian sacrament into the
body and blood of God is evidently a piece of magic, dependent on the
priestly magical formula. The affinities of the Christian communion with
savage superstition are so many that they deserve to be treated in a
separate article. Meanwhile let it be noticed that priests lay much
stress upon the Blessed Sacrament, for it is this which invests them
with magical functions and the awe and reverence consequent upon belief

Formulated prayers are of the nature of magical spells or invocations.
A prayer-book is a collection of spells for fine weather, rain, or other
blessings. The Catholic soldier takes care to be armed with a blessed
scapular to guard off stray bullets, or, in the event of the worst
coming, to waft his soul into heaven. The Protestant smiles at this
superstition, but mutters a prayer for the self-same purpose. In essence
the procedure is the same. The earliest known Egyptian and Chaldean
psalms and hymns are spells against sorcery or the influence of evil
spirits, just as the invocation taught to Christian children--

     Matthew, Mark, Luke And John
     Bless The Bed That I Lie On.

The belief in magic, though it shows a survival in Theosophy, as ghost
belief does in Spiritism, is dying slowly; and with it, in the long run,
must die those religious doctrines and practices founded upon it. No
magic can endure scientific scrutiny. Almost expelled from the physical
world, it takes refuge in the domain of psychology; but there, too, it
is being gradually ousted, though it still affords a profitable area for

Lucian has a story how Pancrates, wanting a servant, took a door-bar
and pronounced over it magical words, whereon he stood up, brought him
water, turned a spit, and did all the other tasks of a slave. What
is this, asks Emerson, but a prophecy of the progress of art? Moses
striking water from the rock was inferior to Sir Hugh Middleton bringing
a water supply to London.

Jesus walking on the water was nothing to crossing the Atlantic by
steam. The only true magic is that of science, which is a conquest of
the human mind, and not a phantasy of superstition.


Viscount Amberley, in his able _Analysis of Religious Belief_ points
out that everywhere the religious instinct leads to the consecration of
certain actions, places, and things. If this instinct is analysed, it is
found at bottom to spring from fear. Certain places are to be dreaded as
the abode of evil spirits; certain actions are calculated to propitiate
them, and certain things are dangerous, and are therefore tabooed.

From Polynesia was derived the word _taboo_ or _tapu_, and the first
conception of its importance as an element lying at the bottom of many
of our religious and social conventions; though this is not as yet by
any means sufficiently recognised.

The term _taboo_ implies something sacred, reserved, prohibited by
supernatural agents, the breaking of which prohibition will be visited
by supernatural punishment. This notion is one of the most widely
extended features of early religion. Holy places, holy persons, and holy
things are all founded on this conception. Prof. W. Robertson Smith,*
says: "Rules of holiness in the sense just explained, i.e., a system of
restrictions on man's arbitrary use of natural things enforced by the
dread of supernatural penalties, are found among all primitive peoples."

     * Religion of the Semites, p. 142.

The holy ark of the North American Indians was deemed "so sacred and
dangerous to be touched" that no one except the war chief and his
attendant will touch it "under the penalty of incurring great evil. Nor
would the most inveterate enemy touch it in the woods for the very same

     * Adair, History of the American Indians, p. 162.

In Numbers iv. 15 we read of the Jewish ark, "The sons of Kohath shall
come to bear it; but they shall not touch any holy thing lest they die."
In 2 Sam. vi. 6, 7, we are told how the Lord smote Uzzah so that he
died, simply for putting his hand on the ark to steady it. So the Lord
punished the Philistines for keeping his ark, and smote fifty thousand
and seventy men of Bethshemesh, "because they had looked into the ark of
the Lord" (1 Sam. v. 6).

Disease and death were so constantly thought of as the penalties of
breaking taboo that cases are on record of those who, having unwittingly
done this, have died of terror upon recognising their error. Mr. Frazer,
in his _Golden Bough_, instances a New Zealand chief, who left the
remains of his dinner by the way side. A slave ate it up without asking
questions. Hardly had he finished when he was told the food was the
chief's, and taboo. "No sooner did he hear the fatal news than he was
seized by the most extraordinary convulsions and cramp in the stomach,
which never ceased till he died, about sundown the same day."

All the old temples had an adytum, sanctuary, or holy of holies--a place
not open to the profane, but protected by rigid taboos. This was the
case with the Jews. It was death to enter the holy places, or even to
make the holy oil of the priests. Even the name of the Lord was taboo,
and to this day cannot be pronounced.

Take off your sandals, says God to Moses, for the place whereon you
stand is taboo. The whole of Mount Horeb was taboo, and we continually
read of the holy mountain. The ideas of taboo and of holiness are
admitted by Prof. Robertson Smith to be at bottom identical.

Some taboos are simply artful, as the prohibition of boats to
South Pacific women, lest they should escape to other islands. When
Tamehameha, the King of the Sandwich Islands, heard that diamonds had
been found in the mountains near Honolulu, he at once declared the
mountains taboo, in order that he might be the sole possessor.

In Hawai the flesh of hogs, fowls, turtle, and several kinds of fish,
cocoa-nuts, and nearly everything offered in sacrifice, were reserved
for gods and men, and could not, except in special cases, be consumed
by women* Some taboos of animals being used for food seem to have been
dictated by dread or aversion, but others had a foundation of prudence
and forethought. Thus there is little doubt that the prohibition of the
sacred cow in India has been the means of preserving that animal from
extermination in times of famine.

Various reasons have been assigned for the taboos upon certain kinds of
food found in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. As we have these laws they seem
to represent a rough attempt at classifying animals it was beneficial
or hurtful to eat. Some ridiculous mistakes were made by the divine
tabooist. The hare, a rodent, was declared to "chew the cud" (Lev. xi.
6, Deut. xiv. 7). The camel was excluded because it does not divide the
hoof; yet in reality it has cloven feet. But doubtless it was seen it
might be disastrous to kill the camel for food. Mr. Frazer is of opinion
that the pig was originally a sacred animal among the Jews.

The cause of the custom of tabooing certain kinds of food, which was
in existence long before the Levitical laws were written, perhaps arose
partly from reverence, partly from aversion. It may, too, have been
connected with the totemism of early tribes. No less than one hundred
and eighty Bible names have a zoological signification. Caleb, the dog
tribe; Doeg, the fish tribe; may be instanced as specimens.

Touching the carcass of a dead animal was taboo, and the taboo was
contagious. In Lev. xi. 21--25 we find rigorous laws on the subject.
Whoever carries the carcass of an unclean animal must wash his garments.
The objects upon which a carcass accidentally falls, must be washed, and
left in water till the evening, and if of earthenware the defilement is
supposed to enter into the pores, and the vessel, oven, or stove-range
must be broken.

Touching a corpse was taboo among the Greeks,* Romans,** Hindoos,***
Parsees,**** and Phoenicians.(v) If a Jew touched a dead body--even a
dead animal (Lev. xi. 89)--he became unclean, and if he purified not
himself, "that soul shall be cut off from Israel" (Num. xix. 13). So
"those who have defiled themselves by touching a dead body are regarded
by the Maoris as in a very dangerous state, and are sedulously shunned
and isolated."(v*) Doubtless it was felt that death was something which
could communicate itself, as disease was seen to do.

     * Eurip. Alcest, 100.

     ** Virgil Æn., vi. 221; Tacit. Annal., 162.

     *** Manu, y. 59, 62, 74-79.

     **** Vendid iii. 25-27.

     (v) Lucian Dea Syr., 523

     (v*) J. Gk Frazer, Golden Bough, vol. i., p. 169.

When iron was first discovered it was invested with mystery and held as
a charm. It was tabooed. The Jews would use no iron tools in building
the temple or making an altar (Ex. xx. 25, 1 Kings vi. 7). Roman and
Sabine priests might not be shaved with iron but only with bronze, as
stone knives were used in circumcision (Ex. iv. 25, Josh. v. 2). To
this day a Hottentot priest never uses an iron knife, but always a sharp
splint of quartz in sacrificing an animal or circumcising a boy. In the
boys' game of touch iron we may see a remnant of the old belief in its
charm. When Scotch fishermen were at sea and one of them happened to
take the name of God in vain, the first man who heard him called out
"Cauld airn," at which every man of the crew grasped the nearest bit of
iron and held it between his hand for a while.*

     * E. B. Guthrie, Old Scottish Customs, p. 149. Charles
     Rogers, Social Life in Scotland, iii. 218.

Women were especially tabooed after childbirth and during menstruation
(Lev. xii. and xv.) Among the Indians of North America, women at this
time are forbidden to touch men's utensils, which would be so defiled by
their touch that their subsequent use would be attended with misfortune.
They walk round the fields at night dragging their garments, this being
considered a protection against vermin. Among the Eskimo, of Alaska, no
one will eat or drink from the same cup or dishes used by a woman at her
confinement until it has been purified by certain incantations.

In the Church of England Service, what is now called the "Thanksgiving
of Women after Childbirth, commonly called the Churching of Women," was
formerly known as _The Order of the Purification of Women_, and was
read at the church door before the "unclean" creatures were permitted to
enter the "holy" building. This should be known by all women who think
it their duty to be "churched" after fulfilling the sacred office of

In Hebrew the same word signifies at once a holy person, a harlot and a
sodomite--sacred prostitution having been common in ancient times. Mr.
Frazer, noticing that the rules of ceremonial purity observed by divine
kings, priests, homicides, women in child-births, and so on, are in some
respects alike, says: "To us these different classes of persons appear
to differ totally in character and condition; some of them we should
call holy, others we might pronounce unclean and polluted. But the
savages make no such moral distinction between them; the conceptions of
holiness and pollution are not yet differentiated in his mind. To him
the common feature of all these persons is that they are dangerous and
in danger, and the danger in which they stand and to which they expose
others is what we should call spiritual or supernatural--that is,

Few would suspect it, but it is likely that the custom of wearing Sunday
clothes comes from certain garments being tabooed in the holy places.
Among the Maoris "A slave or other person would not enter a _wahi tapu_,
or sacred place, without having first stripped off his clothes; for the
clothes, having become sacred the instant they entered the precincts
of the _wahi tapu_, would ever after be useless to him in the ordinary
business of life."** According to the Rabbins, the handling of
the scriptures defiles the hands--that is, entails a washing of
purification. This because the notions of holiness and uncleanness
are alike merged in the earlier conception of taboo. Blood, the great
defilement, is also the most holy thing. Just as with the Hindus to this
day, the excrements of the cow are the great means of purification.

     * Golden Bough, vol. i., p. 171.

     ** Shortland's Southern Districts of New Zealand, p. 293.

Dr. Kalisch says, "Next to sacrifices purifications were the most
important of Hebrew rituals."* The purpose was to remove the stain
of contact either with the holy or unclean taboos. A holy, or taboo
water--or, as it is called in the Authorised Version, "water of
separation"--was prepared. First, an unblemished red heifer was slain by
the son of the high priest outside the camp, then burnt, and as the ash
mingled with spring water, which was supposed to have a magical effect
in removing impurities when the tabooed person was sprinkled with it on
the third and again on the seventh day. It was called a "purification
for sin" (Num. xix. 9), and was doubtless good as the blood of the Lamb,
if not equal to Pear's soap.

     * Leviticus, pt. ii., p. 187.

In the ninth edition of the _Encylopedia Britannica_, Mr. J. G. Frazer
says: "Amongst the Jews the vow of the Nazarite (Num. vi. 1--21)
presents the closest resemblance to the Polynesian taboo. The meaning
of the word Nazarite is 'one separated or consecrated,' and this is
precisely the meaning of taboo. It is the head of the Nazarite that is
especially consecrated, and so it was in the taboo. The Nazarite might
not partake of certain meats and drinks, nor shave his head, nor touch a
dead body--all rules of taboo." Mr. Frazer points out other particulars
in the mode of terminating the vow. Secondly that some of the rules of
Sabbath observance are identical with the rules of strict taboo; such
are the prohibitions to do any work, to kindle a fire in the house, to
cook food and to go out of doors.

We still have some remnant of the Sabbath taboo, and many a child's
life is made miserable by being checked for doing what is tabooed on the
Lord's Day. Other taboos abound. We must not, for instance, question
the sacred books, the sacred character of Jesus, or the existence of the
divine being. These subjects are tabooed. For reverence is a virtue much
esteemed by solemn humbugs.


     "Without shedding of blood is no remission,"
     --Heb. ix. 22.

     There is a fountain filled with blood
        Drawn from Immanuel's veins,
     And sinners plunged beneath that flood
        Lose all their guilty stains.

Judaism was a religion of blood and thunder. The Lord God of Israel
delighted in blood. His worshippers praised him as a god of battles
and a man of war. All his favorites were men of blood. The Lord God
was likewise very fond of roast meat, and the smell thereof was a sweet
savor unto his nostrils. He had respect to Abel and his bloody offering,
but not to Cain and his vegetables. He ordered that in his holy temple
a bullock and a lamb should be killed and hacked to pieces every morning
for dinner, and a lamb for supper in the evening. To flavor the repast
he had twelve flour cakes, olive oil, salt and spice; and to wash it
down he had the fourth part of a hin of wine (over a quart) with a lamb
twice a day, the third part of a hin with a ram, and half a hin with a
bullock (Exodus xxix. 40, Numbers xv. 5-11, xxviii. 7). But his great
delight was blood, and from every victim that was slaughtered the blood
was caught by the priest in a bason and offered to him upon his altar,
which daily reeked with the sanguine stream from slaughtered animals.
The interior of his temple was like shambles, and a drain had to be made
to the brook Oedron to carry off the refuse.* Incense had to be used to
take away the smell of putrifying blood.

     * Smith's Bible Dictionary, article "Blood."

[Illustration: The Altar of Jehovah.]

The most characteristic customs of the Jews, circumcision and the
Passover, alike show the sanguinary character of their deity. Because
Moses did not mutilate his child, the Lord met him at an inn and sought
to kill him (Exodus iv. 25). The Passover, according to the Jews' own
account, commemorated the Lord's slaying all the first-born of Egypt,
and sparing those of the Jews upon recognising the blood sprinkled upon
the lintels and sideposts of the doors; more probably it was a survival
of human sacrifice. God's worshippers were interdicted from tasting,
though not from shedding, the sacred fluid; yet we read of Saul's
army that "the people flew upon the spoil, and took sheep and oxen and
calves, and slew them on the ground, and the people did eat them with
the blood" (1 Sam, xiv. 32), much as the Abyssinians cut off living
steaks to this day.

Christianity is a modified gospel of gore. The great theme of the
Epistle to the Hebrews is that the blood and sacrifice of Christ is so
much better than that of animals. The substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus
Christ is the great inspiration of emotional religion. Revivalists revel
in "the blood, the precious blood":

     Just as I am, without one plea,
     But that thy blood was shed for me,
     And that thou bidd'st me come to thee,
     Oh! Lamb of God, I come, I come!

     Chorus--Jesus paid it all,
     All to him I owe;
     Sin had left a crimson stain;
     He washed it white as snow.

Jesus Christ says, "He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood
dwelleth in me, and I in him," and the most holy sacrament of the
Christian Church consists in this cannabalistic communion.

To understand this fundamental rite of communion, or, indeed, the
essence of any other part of the Christian religion, we must go back to
those savage ideas out of which it has evolved. It is easy to account
for savage superstitions in connection with blood. The life of the
savage being largely spent in warfare, either with animals or his fellow
men, the connection between blood and life is strongly impressed upon
his mind. He sees, moreover, the child formed from the mother, the flow
of whose blood is arrested. Hence the children of one mother are termed
"of the same blood." In a state of continual warfare the only safe
alliances were with those who recognised the family bond. Those who
would be friends must be sharers in the same blood. Hence we find all
oyer the savage world rites of blood-covenanting, of drinking together
from the same blood, thereby symbolising community of nature. Like
eating and drinking together, it was a sign of communion and the
substitution of bread and wine for flesh and blood is a sun-worshipping
refinement upon more primitive and cannibalistic communion.

Dr. Trumbull, in his work on _The Blood Covenant_, has given many
instances of shedding blood in celebrating covenants and "blood
brotherhood." The idea of substitution is widespread in all early
religions. One of the most curious was the sacrament of the natives of
Central America, thus noticed by Dr. Trumbull:

"Cakes of the maize sprinkled with their own blood, drawn from 'under
the girdle,' during the religions worship, were 'distributed and eaten
as blessed bread.' Moreover an image of their god, made with certain
seeds from the first fruits of their temple gardens, with a certain
gum, and with the blood of human sacrifices, were partaken of by them
reverently, under the name, 'Food of our Soul.'"

Here we have, no doubt, a link between the rude cannibal theory of
sacrifice and the Christian doctrine of communion.

Millington, in his _Testimony of the Heathen_, cites as illustration of
Exodus xxii. 8, the most telling passages from Herodotus in regard to
the Lydians and Arabians confirming alliances in this fashions. The
well-known case of Cataline and his fellow conspirators who drank from
goblets of wine mixed with blood is of course not forgotten, but Dr.
Trumbull overlooks the passage in Plutarch's "Life of Publicola," in
which he narrates that "the conspirators (against Brutus) agreed to
take a great and horrible oath, by drinking together of the blood, and
tasting the entrails of a man sacrificed for that purpose." Mr. Wake
also in his _Evolution of Morality_, has drawn attention to the
subject, and, what is more, to its important place in the history of
the evolution of society. Herbert Spencer points out in his "Ceremonial
Institutions," that blood offerings over the dead may be explained as
arising in some cases "from the practice of establishing a sacred bond
between living persons by partaking of each other's blood: the derived
conception being that those who give some of their blood to the ghost of
a man just dead and lingering near, effect with it a union which on the
one side implies submission, and on the other side, friendliness."

The widespread custom of blood-covenanting illustrates most clearly, as
Dr. Tylor points out, "the great principle of old-world morals, that man
owes friendship, not to mankind at large, but only to his own kin; so
that to entitle a stranger to kindness and good faith he must become a
kinsman by blood."* That any sane man seated at a table ever said, "Take
eat, this is my body," and "Drink, this is my blood," is ridiculous. The
bread and wine are the fruits of the the Sun. Justin Martyr, one of the
earliest of the Christian fathers, informs us that this eucharist was
partaken in the mysteries of Mithra. The Christian doctrine of partaking
of the blood of Christ is a mingling of the rites of sun-worshippers
with the early savage ceremony of the blood covenant.

     * The origin of the mystery of the Rosy Gross may have been
     in the savage rite of initiation by baptism with arms
     outstretched in a cruciform pool of blood. See Nimrod, vol.


In the sixteenth chapter of Leviticus is found a description of the
rites ordained for the most solemn Day of Atonement. Of these, the
principal was the selection of two goats. "And Aaron shall cast
lots upon the two goats; one lot for the Lord and the other for the
scapegoat"--(Heb. _Azazel_). The goat on whom Jahveh's lot fell was
sacrificed as a sin offering, but all the iniquities of the children of
Israel were put on the head of Azazel's goat, and it was sent into the
wilderness. The parallelism makes it clear that Azazel was a separate
evil spirit or demon, opposed to Jahveh, and supposed to dwell in the
wilderness. The purification necessary after touching the goat upon
whose head the sins of Israel were put corroborates this.* Yet how often
has Azazel been instanced as a type of the blessed Savior! And indeed
the chief purpose to which Jesus is put by orthodox Christians at the
present day is that of being their scapegoat, the substitute for their

     * Azazel appears to mean the goat god. The goat, like some
     other animals, seems to have had a sacred character among
     the Jews. (See Ex. xxiii. 19, Lev. ix. 3-15, x. 16, xvii.
     17, Jud. vi. 19, xiii. 15, 1 Sam. xix 18-16, 2 Chron. xi. 15.)

The doctrine of the transference of sin was by no means peculiar to the
Jews. Both Herodotus and Plutarch tells us how the Egyptians cursed the
head of the sacrifice and then threw it into the river. It seems likely
that the expression "Your blood be on your own head" refers to this
belief. (See Lev. xx. 9-11, Psalms vii. 16, Acts xviii. 6.)

At the cleansing of a leper and of a house suspected of being tainted
with leprosy, the Jews had a peculiar ceremony. Two birds were taken,
one killed in an earthern vessel over running water, and the living bird
after being dipped in the blood of the killed bird let loose into the
open air (Lev. xiv. 7 and 53). The idea evidently was that the bird by
sympathy took away the plague. The Battas of Sumatra have a rite
they call "making the curse to fly away." When a woman is childless
a sacrifice is offered and a swallow set free, with a prayer that
the curse may fall on the bird and fly away with it. The doctrine
of substitution found among all savages flows from the belief in
sympathetic magic. It arises, as Mr. Frazer says, from an obvious
confusion between the physical and the mental. Because a load of stones
may be transferred from one back to another, the savage fancies it
equally possible to transfer the burden of his pains and sorrows to
another who will suffer then in his stead. Many instances could be given
from peasant folk-lore. "A cure current in Sunderland for a cough is
to shave the patient's head and hang the hair on a bush. When the
birds carry the hair to the nests, they will carry the cough with it. A
Northamptonshire and Devonshire cure is to put a hair of the patient's
head between two slices of buttered bread and give it to a dog. The dog
will get the cough and the patient will lose it."

Mr. Frazer, after showing that the custom of killing the god had been
practised by peoples in the hunting, pastoral, and agricultural stages
of society, says (vol. ii., p. 148): "One aspect of the custom still
remains to be noticed. The accumulated misfortunes and sins of the whole
people are sometimes laid upon the dying god, who is supposed to bear
them away for ever, leaving the people innocent and happy." He gives
many instances of scapegoats, of sending away diseases in boats, and of
the annual expulsion of evils, of which, I conjecture, our ringing-out
of the old year may, perhaps, be a survival. Of the divine scapegoat, he

"If we ask why a dying god should be selected to take upon himself and
carry away the sins and sorrow of the people, it may be suggested
that in the practice of using the divinity as a scapegoat, we have
a combination of two customs which were at one time distinct and
independent. On the one hand we have seen that it has been customary to
kill the human or animal god in order to save his divine life from being
weakened by the inroads of age. On the other hand we have seen that it
has been customary to have a general expulsion of evils and sins once
a year. Now, if it occurred to people to combine these two customs, the
result would be the employment of the dying god as scapegoat. He was
killed not originally to take away sin, but to save the divine life from
the degeneracy of old age; but, since he had to be killed at any rate,
people may have thought that they might as well seize the opportunity to
lay upon him the burden of their sufferings and sins, in order that he
might bear it away with him to the unknown world beyond the grave."*

     * Golden Bough, vol. ii., p. 206.

The early Christians believed that diseases were the work of devils, and
that cures could be effected by casting out the devils by the spell of
a name (see Mark ix. 25-38, etc.) They believed in the transference of
devils to swine. We need not wonder, then, that they explained the death
of their hero as the satisfaction for their own sins. The doctrine of
the substitutionary atonement, like that of the divinity of Christ,
appears to have been an after-growth of Christianity, the foundations
of both being laid in pre-Christian Paganism. Both doctrines are alike
remnants of savagery.


The fifth chapter of the Book of Numbers (11--31) exhibits as gross a
specimen of superstition as can be culled from the customs of any
known race of savages. The divine "law of jealousy," to which I allude,
provides that a man who is jealous of his wife may, simply to satisfy
his own suspicions, and without having the slightest evidence against
her, bring her before the priest, who shall take "holy water," and
charge her by an oath of cursing to declare if she has been unfaithful
to her husband. The priest writes out the curse and blots it into the
water, which he then administers to the woman. The description of the
effects of the water is more suitable to the pages of the holy Bible
than to those of a modern book. Sufficient to say, if faithful, the holy
water has only a beneficial effect on the lady, but if unfaithful,
its operation is such as to dispense with the necessity of her husband
writing out a bill of divorcement.

The absurdity and atrocity of this divine law only finds its parallel in
the customs of the worst barbarians, and in the ecclesiastical laws of
the Dark Ages, that is of the days when Christianity was predominant and
the Bible was considered as the guide in legislation.

A curious approach to the Jewish custom is that which found place among
the savages at Cape Breton. At a marriage feast two dishes of meat were
brought to the bride and bridegroom, and the priest addressed himself to
the bride thus:

"Thou that art upon the point of entering the marriage state, know that
the nourishment thou art going to take forebodes the greatest calamities
to thee if thy heart is capable of harboring any ill design against thy
husband or against thy nation; should thou ever be led astray by the
caresses of a stranger; or shouldst thou betray thy husband or thy
country, the victuals in this vessel will have the effect of a slow
poison, with which thou wilt be tainted from this very instant. If, on
the other hand, thou art faithful to thy husband and thy country, thou
wilt find the nourishment agreeable and wholesome."*

     * Genuine Letters and Memoirs Relating to the Isle of Cape
     Breton. By T. Pichon. 1760.

This custom manifestly was, like the Christian doctrine of hell,
designed to restrain crime by operating upon superstitious fear. It was
devoid of the worst feature of the Jewish law--the opportunity for crime
disguised under the mask of justice. For this we must go to the tribes
of Africa.

Dr. Kitto, in his _Bible Encyclopedia_ (article Adultery), alludes thus
to the trial by red water among African savages, which, he says, is so
much dreaded that innocent persons often confess themselves guilty in
order to avoid it.

"The person who drinks the red water invokes the Fetish to destroy him
if he is really guilty of the offence of which he is charged. The drink
is made by an infusion in water of pieces of a certain tree or of herbs.
It is highly poisonous in itself; and if rightly prepared, the only
chance of escape is the rejection of it by the stomach, in which case
the party is deemed innocent, as he also is if, being retained, it has
no sensible effect, which can only be the case when the priests,
who have the management of the matters, are influenced by private
considerations, or by reference to the probabilities of the case, to
prepare the draught with a view to acquittal."*

     * In like manner Maimonides, the great Jewish commentator,
     said that innocent women would give all they had to escape
     it, and reckoned death preferable (Moreh Nevochim, pt. iii.,
     ch. xlix.)

Dr. Livingstone says the practice of ordeal is common among all the
negro natives north of the Zambesi:

"When a man suspects that any of his wives have bewitched him, he sends
for the witch-doctor, and all the wives go forth into the field, and
remain fasting till the person has made an infusion of the plant called
'go ho.' They all drink it, each one holding up her hand to heaven
in attestation of her innocence. Those who vomit it are considered
innocent, while those whom it purges are pronounced guilty, and are put
to death by burning."

In this case, be it noticed, there is no provision for the woman who
thinks her husband has bewitched her, as in the holy Bible there is
no law for the woman who conceives she has cause for jealousy; nor,
although she is supernaturally punished, is there any indication of any
punishment falling on the male culprit who has perhaps seduced her from
her allegiance to her lord and master.

Throughout Europe, when under the sway of Christian priests, trials by
ordeal were quite common. It was held as a general maxim that God would
judge as to the righteousness or unrighteousness of a cause. The chief
modes of the Judicium Dei, as it was called, was by walking on or
handling hot iron; by chewing consecrated bread, with the wish that the
morsel might be the last; by plunging the arm in boiling water, or by
being thrown into cold water, to swim being considered a proof of guilt,
and to sink the demonstration of innocence. Pope Eugenius had the
honor of inventing this last ordeal, which became famous as a trial for

Dr. E. B. Tylor, whose information on all such matters is only equalled
by his philosophical insight, says of ordeals:

"As is well known, they have always been engines of political power in
the hands of unscrupulous priests and chiefs. Often it was unnecessary
even to cheat, when the arbiter had it at his pleasure to administer
either a harmless ordeal, like drinking cursed water, or a deadly
ordeal, by a dose of aconite or physostigma. When it comes to sheer
cheating, nothing can be more atrocious than this poison ordeal. In West
Africa, where the Oalabar bean is used, the administers can give the
accused a dose which will make him sick, and so prove his innocence; or
they can give him enough to prove him guilty, and murder him in the
very act of proof. When we consider that over a great part of that great
continent this and similar drugs usually determine the destiny of
people inconvenient to the Fetish man and the chief--the constituted
authorities of Church and State--we see before us one efficient cause of
the unprogressive character of African society."

Trial by ordeal was in all countries, whether Pagan or Christian, under
the management of the priesthood. That it originated in ignorance
and superstition, and was maintained by fraud, is unquestionable.
Christians, when reading of ordeals among savages, deplore the ignorance
and barbarity of the unenlightened heathen among whom such customs
prevail, quite unmindful that in their own sacred book, headed with
the words "And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying," occurs as gross an
instance of superstitious ordeal as can be found among the records of
any people.


     "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" (Ex. xxii. 18).

     "If there had been no witches, such a law as this had never
     been made. The existence of the law, given under the
     direction of the Spirit of God, proves the existence of the
     thing... that witches, wizards, those who dwelt with
     familiar spirits, etc., are represented in the sacred
     writing as actually possessing a power to evoke the dead, to
     perform supernatural operations, and to discover hidden or
     secret things by spells, charms, incantations, etc., is
     evident to every unprejudiced reader of the Bible."--_Dr.
     Adam Clarice_, Commentary on the above passage.

Thus wrote the great Methodist theologian. His master, John Wesley,
had previously declared, "It is true that the English in general, and,
indeed, most of the men of learning in Europe have given up all accounts
of witches and apparitions as mere old wives' fables. I am sorry for
it, and I willingly take this opportunity of entering my solemn protest
against this violent compliment which so many that believe the Bible pay
to those who do not believe it. I owe them no such service. They well
know (whether Christians know it or not) that the giving up witchcraft
is in effect giving up the Bible."*

     * Journal, May 25, 1768, p. 308? vol. iii., Works, 1856. The
     earlier volumes of the Methodist Magazine abound with tales
     of diabolical possession.

That Wesley was right is a fact patent to all who have eyes. From the
Egyptian magicians, who performed like unto Moses and Aaron with their
enchantments, to the demoniacs of the Gospels and the "sorcerers" of the
fifteenth verse of the last chapter of Revelation, the Bible abounds in
references to this superstition.

Matthew Henry, the great Bible commentator, writing upon our text, at a
time when the statutes against witchcraft were still in force, said: "By
our law, consulting, covenanting with, invoking, or employing, any evil
spirit to any intent whatsoever, and exercising any enchantment, charm,
or sorcery, whereby hurt shall be done to any person whatsoever, is made
felony without benefit of clergy; also, pretending to tell where goods
lost or stolen may be found, or the like, is an iniquity punishable by
the judge, and the second offence with death. The justice of our law
herein is supported by the law of God here."

The number of innocent, helpless women who have been legally tortured
and murdered by this law of God is beyond computation.

In Suffolk alone sixty persons were hung in a single year. The learned
Dr. Zachary Grey states that between three and four thousand persons
suffered death for witchcraft from the year 1640 to 1660.*

     * Note on Butler's Hudibras, part ii., canto 8, line 143.

In Scotland the Bible-supported superstition raged worse than in
England. The clergy there had, as part of their duty, to question their
parishioners as to their knowledge of witches. Boxes were placed in the
churches to receive the accusations, and when a woman had fallen under
suspicion the minister from the pulpit denounced her by name, exhorted
his parishioners to give evidence against her, and prohibited any one
from sheltering her.* A traveller casually notices having seen nine
women burning together in Leith, in 1664.

"Scotch witchcraft," says Lecky, "was but the result of Scotch
Puritanism, and it faithfully reflected the character of its parent."**

On the Continent it was as bad. Catholics and Protestants could unite
in one thing--the extirpation of witches and infidels. Papal bulls were
issued against witchcraft as well as heresy. Luther said: "I would have
no compassion on these witches--I would burn them all."*** In Catholic
Italy a thousand persons were executed in a single year in the province
of Como.

     * See The Darker Superstitions of Scotland, by Sir John
     Graham Dalyell, chap. xviii. Glasgow, 1835.

     ** History of the Rise and Influence of Rationalism in
     Europe, vol. i., p. 144.

     *** Colloquia de Fascinationibus.

In one province of Protestant Sweden 2,500 witches were burnt in 1670.
Stories of the horrid tortures which accompanied witch-finding, stories
that will fill the eyes with tears and the heart with raging fire
against the brutal superstition which provoked such \ barbarities, may
be found in Dalyell, Lecky, Michelet, and the voluminous literature of
the subject. And all these tortures and executions were sanctioned and
defended from the Bible. The more pious the people the more firm their
conviction of the reality of witchcraft. Sir Matthew Hale, in hanging
two men in 1664, took the opportunity of declaring that the reality of
witchcraft was unquestionable; "for first, the Scripture had affirmed so
much; and, secondly, the wisdom of all nations had provided laws against
such persons."

Witch belief and witch persecutions have existed from the most savage
times down to the rise and spread of medical science, but nothing is
more striking in history than the fact of the great European outburst
against witchcraft following upon the Reformation and the translations
of God's Holy Word, This was no mere coincidence, but a necessary
consequence. "It was not until after the Reformation that there was any
systematic hunting out of witches," says J. R. Lowell.*

     * Among my Books, p. 128. Macmillan, 1870.

If the Bible teaches not witchcraft, then it teaches nothing.

Science and scepticism having made Christians ashamed of this biblical
doctrine, as usual they have sought a new interpretation. They say it is
a mistranslation; that _poisoners_ are meant, and not _witches_. Now, in
the first place, poisoners were really dealt with by the command, "Thou
shalt not kill." In the second place, not a single Hebrew scholar
of repute would venture to so render the word of our text. Its root,
translated "witch," is given by Gesenius as "to use enchantment."
Fuerst, Parkhurst, Frey, Newman, Buxtorf, in short, all Hebrew
lexicographers, agree. Not one suggests that "poisoner" could be
considered an equivalent. The derivatives of this word are translated
with this meaning wherever they occur. Thus Exodus vii. 11, "the wise
men and the sorcerers." Deuteronomy xviii., 10,11, "There shalt not be
found among you anyone that useth divination, or an observer of times,
or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with
familiar spirits, or a wizard or a necromancer." 2 Kings ix. 22, "her
witchcrafts." 2 Chronicles xxxiii. 6, Manesseh "used enchantments, and
used witchcraft, and dealt with a familiar spirit and with wizards."
Isaiah xlvii. 9 and 12, "thy sorceries." Jeremiah xxvii. 9, "your
sorcerers." Daniel ii. 2, "the magicians, and the astrologers, and
the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans." Micah v. 12, "And I will cut
off witchcrafts, and thou shalt have no soothsayers." Nahum iii. 4,
"witchcrafts." Malachi iii. 5, "I will be a swift witness against the
sorcerers." The only pretence for this rendering of _poisoner_ is the
fact that Josephus (_Antiquities_, bk. iv., ch. viii., sec. 34) gives a
law against keeping poisons. As there is no such law in the Pentateuch,
Whiston tried to kill two difficulties with one note, by saying that
what we render a _witch_ meant a poisoner. The Septuagint has also been
appealed to, but Sir Charles Lee Brenton, in his translation of the
Septuagint, has not thought proper to render our text other than, "Ye
shall not save the lives of sorcerers."

But apart from texts (of which I have only given those in which occurs
one word out of the many implying the belief), the _thing_ itself
is woven into the structure of the Bible. Not only do the Egyptian
enchanters work miracles and the witch of Endor raise Samuel, but the
power of evil spirits over men is the occasion of most of the miracles
of Jesus. The very doctrine of the inspiration of the Bible, so
cherished by Protestant Christians, is but a part of that doctrine of
men being possessed by spirits, good and evil, which is the substratum
of belief in witchcraft.

Even yet this belief is not entirely extinct in England; and Dr. Buckley
says that in America a majority of the citizens believe in witchcraft.
The modern Roman Catholic priest is cautioned in the rubric concerning
the examination of a possessed patient "not to believe the demon if
he profess to be the soul of some saint or deceased person, or a good
angel." As late as 1773 the divines of the Associated Presbytery passed
a resolution declaring their belief in witchcraft, and deploring the
scepticism that was general. In the Church Catechism, explained by the
Rev. John Lewis, minister of Margate in Kent--a work which went through
many editions, and received the sanction of the Society for Promoting
Christian Knowledge--a copy of which lies before me, published in
1813, reads (p. 18): "Q. What is meant by renouncing the Devil?--A.
The refusing of all familiarity and contracts with the Devil, whereof
witches, conjurors, and such as resort to them are guilty."

Let it never be forgotten that this belief which has not only been the
cause of the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent women, but has
sent far more into the worst convulsions of madness and despair, is the
evident and unmistakable teaching of the Bible.


"Our own time has revived a group of beliefs and practices which
have their roots deep in the very stratum of early philosophy, where
witchcraft makes its first appearance. This group of beliefs and
practices constitutes what is now commonly known as Spiritualism."--Dr.
E. B. Tylor, "Primitive Culture" vol. i., p. 128.

The oldest portion of the Old Testament scriptures are imbedded in the
Book of Judges and the Books of Samuel. Few indeed of these narratives
throw more light on the early belief of the Jews than the story of Saul
and the witch of Endor. It is hardly necessary to recount the story,
which is told with a vigor and simplicity showing its antiquity and
genuineness. Saul, who had incurred Samuel's enmity by refusing to slay
the king Agag, after the death of the prophet, found troubles come
upon him. Alarmed at the strength of his enemies, the Philistines, he
"inquired of the Lord." But the Lord was not at home. At any rate, he
"answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets."
The legitimate modes of learning one's fortune being thus shut up, Saul
sought in disguise and by night a woman who had an _ob_. or familiar
spirit. Now Saul had done his best to suppress witchcraft, having "put
away those who had familiar spirits, and the wizards out of the land."
So when he said to the witch, "I pray thee divine unto me by the
familiar spirit and bring him up whom I shall name unto thee," the woman
was afraid, and asked if he laid a snare for her. Saul swore hard and
fast he would not hurt her, and it is evident from his question he
believed in her powers of necromancy by the aid of the familiar spirit.
This alone shows that the Jews, like all uncivilised people, and many
who call themselves civilised, believed in ghosts and the possibility of
their return, but, as we shall see, it does not imply that they
believed in future rewards and punishments. Saul's expectations were
not disappointed. He asked to see Samuel, and _up_ Samuel came. He asked
what she saw, and she said _Elohirn_, or as we have it, "gods ascending
out of the earth." In this fact that the same word in Hebrew is used
for _ghosts_ and for _gods_, we have the most important light upon the
origin of all theology.

The modern Christian of course believes that Samuel as a holy prophet
dwells in heaven above, and may wonder, if he thinks of the narrative at
all, why he should be recalled from his abode of bliss and placed under
the magic control of this weird, not to say scandalous, female. But
Samuel came up, not down from heaven, in accordance, of course, with the
old belief that Sheol, or the underworld, was beneath the earth.

Christian commentators have resorted to a deal of shuffling and
wriggling to escape the difficulties of this story, and its endorsement
of the superstition of witchcraft. The _Speakers' Commentary_ suggests
that the Witch of Endor was a female ventriloquist, but, disingenuously,
does not explain that ventriloquists in ancient times were really
supposed to have a spirit rumbling or talking inside their bodies.
As Dr. E. B. Tylor says in that great storehouse of savage beliefs,
_Primitive Culture_, "To this day in China one may get an oracular
response from a spirit apparently talking out of a medium's stomach, for
a fee of about twopence-halfpenny."

Some make out, because Saul at first asked the woman what she saw, that,
as at many modern seances, it was only the medium, who saw the ghost,
and Saul only knew who it was through her, else why should he have asked
her what form Samuel had?--which elicited the not very detailed reply
of "an old man cometh up; and he is covered with a mantle"--that is,
we suppose, with the ghost of a mantle. She did the seeing and he the
hearing. But it says "Saul perceived it was Samuel," and prostrated
himself, which he would hardly have done at a description. Indeed, the
whole narrative is inconsistent with the modern theory of imposture on
the part of the witch. Had this been the explanation, the writer should
have said so plainly. He should have said her terror was pretended, that
the apparition was unreal, and that Saul trembled at the woman's words,
whereas it is plainly declared that "he was sore afraid because of the
words of Samuel." Moreover, and this is decisive, the spirit utters
a prophecy--not an encouraging, but a gloomy one--which was exactly

All this shows the writer was saturated in supernaturalism. He never
uses an expression indicating a shadow of a ghost of a doubt of the
ghost. He might easily have said the whole thing was deceit. He does
not, for he believed in witchcraft like the priests who ordered "Thou
shalt not suffer a witch to live." One little circumstance shows his
sympathy. Samuel says: "Why hast thou disquieted me to bring me up?"
This is quite in consonance with savage belief that spirits should not
be disturbed. Here was Samuel quietly buried in Ramah, some fifty miles
off, taking his comfortable nap, may be for millenniums in Sheol, when
the old woman's incantations bustle him out of his grave and transport
him to Endor. No wonder he felt disquieted and prophesied vengeance to
Saul and to his sons, "because thou obeyedst not the voice of the Lord
nor executedest his fierce wrath upon Amalek."

Matthew Henry and other commentators think that the person who presented
himself to Saul was not Samuel, but Satan assuming his appearance. Those
who believe in Satan, and that he can transform himself into an angel of
light (2 Cor. xi. 14), cannot refuse to credit the possibility of this.
Folks with that comfortable belief can credit anything. To sensible
people it is scarcely necessary to say there is nothing about Satan in
the narrative, nor any conceivable reason why he should be credited
with a true prophecy. The words uttered are declared to be the words of

     * The seventeenth verse stupidly reads, "The Lord hath done
     to him as he spake by me." The LXX and Vulgate more sensibly
     reads to thee.

Much is said of Saul's wickedness, but the only wickedness attributed to
him is his mercy in not executing God's fierce wrath. If it was wicked
to seek the old woman, it is curious God should grant the object he was
seeking, by raising up one of his own holy servants. Why did the Lord
employ such an agency? It looks very much like sanctioning necromancy.
And further, if a spirit returned from the dead to tell Saul he should
die and go to Sheol--where Samuel was, for he says "to-morrow shalt thou
and thy sons be _with me_"--why should not spirits now return to tell
us we are immortal? If the witch of Endor could raise spirits, why not
Lottie Fowler or Mr. Eglinton? Such are the arguments of the spiritists.
We venture to think they cannot be answered by the orthodox. To
us, however, the fact that the beliefs of the spiritists find their
countenance in the beliefs of savages like the early Jews is their
sufficient refutation. Spiritism, as Dr. Tylor says, is but a revival of
old savage animism.


     No sacrifice to heaven, no help from heaven;
     That runs through all the faiths of all the world.

The origin and meaning of sacrifices constitute a central problem
of ancient religion. It links indeed the stronghold of orthodox
Christianity--its doctrine of the Atonement--with the most barbarous
customs of primitive savages. When we hear of the Lamb slain for
sinners, the very phrase takes us back to the time when sins were
formally placed upon the heads of unconscious animals that they might
be held accursed instead of man; and to the yet older notion of human
sacrifice as a most acceptable offering to the gods.

Sacrifices were primarily meals offered to the spirits of the dead. It
is not hard to understand how they arose. The Hindoos who placed upon
the grave of an English officer the brandy and cheroots which he loved
in life in order to propitiate his spirit illustrated a prominent
aspect. Just as men were appeased with gifts, usually of substances
which minister to life, so were spirits supposed to be, and the general
form which the offering took was something in the shape of what the
Americans call a square meal. The Romans never sat down to eat without
placing a portion aside for the Lares and Penates. Professor Smith, in
his _Lectures on the Religion of the Semites_, gives abundant evidence
that the early sacrifices of the Semitic people were animals offered
at a meal partaken by the worshippers. The sacrifice, he holds, was
originally a nourishing of the common life of the kindred and their
god by a common meal. The primary communion with deity was communion of
food. This may not be very poetical, but it is natural and true. Eating
and drinking together were primarily signs of fraternity. Only to his
own kin did early man own duty, and his god was always of his own kin.
Jehovah was, as we are often told, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
He was their father and their king. When Ruth said to Naomi, "Thy people
shall be my people, and thy God my God," the exclamation showed that
taking up new kindred involved a change of worship. Professor Smith
says: "It cannot be too strongly insisted on that the idea of kinship
between gods and men was originally taken in a purely physical sense."
The modern Christian's explanations of biblical anthropomorphisms may be
dismissed as unfounded assumptions. The story in Genesis of the sons
of God going with the daughters of men is one of the remnants of early
myths unexplained by later editors.

The Bible God, as any careful reader will perceive, was very partial to
roast meat. One of the earliest items recorded of him is that he had
no respect for Cain and his offering of vegetables, while to Abel who
brought him the firstlings of his flock, and of the fat thereof, he
had respect. He much prefered mutton to turnips. When Noah offered a
sacrifice, we are told "He smelt a sweet savor" (Gen. vii. 21). But
the Lord was by no means content with the smell. On his altars huge
hecatombs of animals were continually being slaughtered, and the
choicest portions set aside as the Lord's. The Lord God seems to have
been extremely fond of fat, especially that about the rump. As the
richest part of the animal, it was reserved with "the two kidneys and
the fat that is upon them" especially for the Lord (Lev. iii. 9-11). Let
it be noticed that the Lord God required no sacrifices except of eatable
animals, oxen, rams, goats, lambs, and kids. Fishes he had no regard
for, and of birds only turtle doves and pigeons were his favorite
dishes. Wine and oil he took to wash them down, but never mentioned
water. Like his ministers, he lived on the fat of the land,* claiming as
his own the firstlings of the flock. From his claim to the first born,
it appears that Jahveh was originally given to "long pig," but in
the case of Abraham's son, he took a ram instead. He was, however,
so partial to blood that he interdicted the sacred fluid to his
worshippers, but demanded that it should be poured out upon his altar
(Deut. xii.) Even the early Christians made it a fundamental rule of
the Church that disciples should abstain from blood, and from things
strangled (Acts xv. 20). The blood was supposed to be especially the

     * To "eat the fat" seems, as in Neh. viii. 10, to have been
     a biblical expression for good living.

Let not the serious reader suppose we are jesting. Hear what Prof.
Robertson Smith says.

"All sacrifices laid upon the altar were taken by the ancients as
being literally the food of the gods. The Homeric deities 'feast on
hecatombs,' nay particular Greek gods have special epithets designating
them as the goat-eater, the ram-eater, the bull-eater, even 'cannibal,'
with allusion to human sacrifices. Among the Hebrews the conception that
Jehovah eats the flesh of bulls and drinks the blood of goats, against
which the author of Psalm 1. protests so strongly, was never eliminated
from the ancient technical language of the priestly ritual, in which the
sacrifices are called _lechem Elohim_, 'the food of the deity.'"*

     * Religion of the Semites, p. 207.

Our translators of the passages where this phrase occurs (Lev. xxi. 8,
17, 21, 22; Num. xxviii. 2) have done their best to conceal the meaning,
but like the phrase "wine which cheereth God and man" (Judges ix. 13),
it takes us back to the time when gods were supposed, like men, to eat,
drink, and be refreshed.

It was a fundamental rule of the Jewish faith that no one should appear
before the Lord empty handed (Exodus xxiii. 15.) Not to take him an
offering was as improper as in the East it still is to approach a chief
or great man without some present. A sacrifice was as imperative as it
now is to put something in the church plate. When God made a call on
Abraham, with Eastern hospitality the patriarch procured water to wash
his feet and killed a calf for the entertainment of his visitor. The
Lord God was not a vegetarian but a stout kreophagist. In Numbers (xxix.
13) he orders as a sacrifice "of a sweet savor unto the Lord, thirteen
young bullocks, two rams and fourteen lambs of the first year."

From the frequent mention of the "sweet savor," it seems likely that the
original idea of the god partaking of the food, developed into that of
his taking only the essence of the food. As God got less anthropomorphic
he lost his teeth and had, poor spirit, to be content with the smell of
the good things offered up to him. We gather from Lev. vii. 6 that the
kidneys, fat and other delicacies really fell to the lot of the priests,
and some people have found a sufficient reason for the sacrifices to God
in the fact that the priests liked mutton.

In 1 Samuel ii. 13-16 we are told how it was the custom of the priests
that when any man offered sacrifice, "the priest's servant came, while
the flesh was in seething, with a fleshhook of three teeth in his hand.
And he struck it into the pan or kettle, or caldron or pot; all that the
fleshhook brought up the priest took for himself."

In the time of David the Lord had a table of shew-bread set before
him--that is, a table spread with food in the temple, where he was
supposed to come and take it when he desired, just as Africans place
meal and liquor in their fetish houses. Such tables were set in the
great temple of Bel at Babylon, and the story of Bel and the Dragon in
the Apocrypha explains how the priests and their women and children
came in by a secret door and ate up the things which were supposed to be
consumed by the God.

While the Lord and the priests were certainly not vegetarians, neither
did they insist on a vegetable diet for their people. The Lord's table
of fare is set out in Leviticus xi., and a very curious _menu_ it is.
The hare is expressly excluded "because he cheweth the cud," although
he does nothing of the kind; but "the locust after his kind, the
bald locust after his kind, and the beetle after his kind, and the
grasshopper after his kind," are freely permitted. Another divine
regulation, and one which throws much light on the divine methods, is
recorded in Deut. xvi. 21--"Thou shalt not eat of anything that dieth
of itself: thou shalt give it unto the stranger that is within thy gates
that he may eat it, or thou mayest sell it unto an alien." To this day
the Jews are particular in observing this godly method of disposing of
diseased meat.

To arrive at the truth in regard to the question whether human sacrifice
was at one time a portion of the Jewish religion, or whether it was,
as the orthodox generally assert, simply a corruption copied from the
surrounding heathen nations, it is necessary to bear in mind that every
portion of the Jewish law is of later date than the prophets. The book
of the law was only found in the time of King Josiah, who opposed this
very practice (2 Kings xxiii. 10), and there is no evidence of its
existence before that date. There is reason to believe that the priestly
code of Leviticus is later still, dating only from the time of Ezra.
Instead of reflecting the ideas of the age of Moses, it reflects those
of almost a thousand years later. It is therefore only in the historical
books that we can expect to find traces of what the actual religion
of Israel was. There is ample evidence that human sacrifice formed a
conspicuous element. Ahaz, King of Judah, "burnt his children in the
fire" (2 Chron. xxviii. 3); Mannasseh, King of Judah, was guilty of the
same atrocity (2 Chron. xxxiii. 6); Jeremiah denounces the children of
Judah for having "built the high place of Tophet, which is in the valley
of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the
fire" (vii. 31); Micah remonstrates against both animal and human
sacrifice--"Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams; shall I
give my first-born for my transgression; the fruit of my body for the
sin of my soul?" (vi. 7). In the well-known story of Abraham and
Isaac, as in the Greek story of Iphigenia, and the Roman one of Valeria
Luperca, we have an account of the transition to a less barbarous stage
in the substitution of animal for human sacrifice. It was natural
that this legend should be ascribed to the time of the father of the
faithful, but there is, as we have seen, abundant evidence of the
practice existing long subsequent to the time of Abraham, who was by no
means surprised at and in no way demurred to the divine command, "Take
now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee unto
the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of
the mountains which I will tell thee of" (Genesis xxii. 2). Anyone
who at the present day should exhibit a faith like unto that of the
patriarchal saint would be in jeopardy of finding himself within the
walls of a criminal lunatic asylum.

That human sacrifices lasted long after the time of Abraham we have an
instance in the case of Jephthah, who vowed that if Jahveh would deliver
the children of Ammon into his hand, he would offer up for a burnt
offering whosoever came forth from his house to meet him upon his return
from his expedition (Judges xi. 30, 31). In order to tone this down the
Authorised Version reads "whatsoever" instead of "whosoever," which
is supplied in the margin of the Revised Version. Despite the emphatic
statement that Jephthah did with her according to his vow, it has been
alleged that because his daughter petitioned to be allowed to bewail her
virginity for two months, she was only condemned to a life of celibacy.
This is preposterous. Jahveh, unlike Jesus, had no partiality for
the unmarried state. He liked a real sacrifice of blood. To lament
childlessness was a common ancient custom, and even the Greek and Latin
poets have represented their heroines who were similarly doomed to an
early death, such as Antigone, Polyxena, and Iphigenia, as actually
lamenting in a very similar manner their virginity or unmarried
condition. There is no single instance in the Old Testament of a woman
being set apart as a virgin, though, as we have seen, there are numerous
indications of human sacrifices.

Even in the Levitical law sanction is given to human sacrifice. "None
devoted, which shall be devoted of men, shall be ransomed; he shall
surely be put to death" (Lev. xxvii. 29). Jahveh insisted on the
sacrifice being completed. David sent seven sons of Saul to be hung
before the Lord to stay a famine.

That a party remained in Israel who considered human sacrifice a part of
their religion is evident also from Jeremiah, who says: "They have built
also the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire for burnt
offerings unto Baal, which I commanded not, nor spake it, neither came
it into my mind" (xix. 5). These strong asseverations were evidently
called forth by assertions made by persons addicted to such practices,
and those persons had the support of Ezekiel, who, in contradiction
to the statements of Jeremiah, contended that Jahveh gave them up to
pollution, even as he hardened the heart of Pharaoh that they might know
that he was the Lord (Ezek. xx. 25-26).


     "_Christ our passover is sacrificed for us_."
     --Paul (1 Cor. v. 7.)

The Passover is the most important and impressive festival of the Jews,
instituted, it is said, by God himself, and a type of the sacrifice of
his only son. Its observance was most rigorously enjoined under penalty
of death, and although the circumstances of the Jews have prevented
their carrying out the sacrificial details, they still, in the custom of
each head of the family assuming _pro tem_, the _rôle_ of high priest,
preserve the most primitive type of priesthood known.

The Bible account of the institution of the Passover is utterly
incredible. After afflicting the Egyptians with nine plagues, God still
hardens Pharaoh's heart (Exodus x. 27), and tells Moses that "about
midnight" he will go into the midst of Egypt and slay all the firstborn.
But in order that he shall make no mistake in carrying out his atrocious
design, he orders that each family of the children of Israel shall take
a lamb and kill it in the evening, and smear the doorposts of the
house with blood, "and when I see the blood I will pass over you." The
omniscient needed this sign, that he might not make a mistake and slay
the very people he meant to deliver. One cannot help wondering what
would have been the result if some Egyptian, like Morgiana in "The
Forty Thieves," had wiped off the blood from the Israelite doorposts and
sprinkled the doorposts of the Egyptians. Moses received this command on
the very day at the close of which the paschal lambs were to be killed.
This was very short notice for communicating with the head of each
family about to start on a hurried flight. As the people were two
million in number and the lambs had to be all males, without blemish, of
one year old, this supposes, on the most moderate computation, a flock
of sheep as numerous as the people. Who can credit this monstrous libel
on the character of God and on the intelligence of those to whom such a
story is proffered?

What, then, is the correct version of the origin of the Passover? Dr.
Hardwicke, in his _Popular Faith Unveiled_, following Sir Wm. Drummond
and Godfrey Higgins, says it meant "nothing more or less than the
pass-over of the sun across the equator, into the constellation Aries,
when the astronomical lamb was consequently obliterated or sacrificed by
the superior effulgence of the sun." It is noticeable that the principal
festivals of the Jews, as of other nations, were in spring and autumn,
at the time of lambing and sowing and when the harvest ripened. But
while allowing that this may have determined the time of the festival, I
cannot think it covers the ground of its significance. The story relates
that when Moses first asked Pharaoh to let the Israelites go, it
was that they might celebrate a feast in the wilderness which was
accompanied by a sacrifice (see Exodus v. i. and iii. 19). This may be
taken as indicating that there was known to be a festival at this season
prior to the days of Pharaoh. And at the festival of the spring increase
of flocks the god must of course have his share.

Epiphanius declares that the Egyptians marked their sheep with red,
because of the general conflagration which once raged at the time when
the sun passed over into the sign of Aries, thereby to symbolise the
fiery death of those animals who were not actually offered up. Von
Bohlen says the ancient Peruvians marked with blood the doors of the
temples, royal residences, and private dwellings, to symbolise the
triumph of the sun over the winter.

The suggestion that owing to peculiarities of diet or of constitution
some pestilence afflicted the Egyptians which passed over and spared the
Jews, is a very plausible one, and deserves more attention than it
has yet received, since it would account for many features in the
institution. But there remains another signification, which seems
indicated in the thirteenth chapter of Exodus in connection with the
institution of the Passover. There we read the order, "Thou shalt set
apart [the margin more properly reads "cause to pass over"] unto the
Lord, all that openeth the matrix" (verse 12). "And every firstling of
an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb; and if thou will not redeem it,
then thou shalt break his neck: and all the firstborn of man among thy
children shalt thou redeem."* Professor Huxley asks upon this passage:
"Is it possible to avoid the conclusion that immolation of their
firstborn sons would have been incumbent on the worshippers of Jahveh,
had they not been thus specially excused?"** In one of the oldest
portions of the Pentateuch (Exodus xxii. 29) the command stands simply,
"the firstborn of thy sons shalt thou give unto me." In Exodus xii. 27,
xxiii. 18, xxxiv. 25; and Numbers ix. 13, the Passover is spoken of as
particularly the Lord's own sacrifice.

     * Why is the ass only mentioned besides man? One cannot but
     suspect that his introduction is an interpolation by the
     reformed Jews, who had outgrown the custom of human
     sacrifice, betrayed by the phrase "thou shalt break his

     ** Nineteenth Century, April, 1886.

The law proceeds to enjoin that the father shall tell his son as the
reason for the festival, how the Lord "slew all the firstborn in the
land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of beasts:
therefore I sacrifice to the Lord all that openeth the matrix being
males; but all the firstborn of my children I redeem." Evidently here is
the notion of a substitutionary offering, although the reason given is
not the true reason. In Exodus xxxiv. 18-20, the festival is brought
into the same connection with immediate reference to the redemption of
the firstborn. In the story of Abraham and Isaac we have the same idea.
God commands the patriarch to offer up his only son as a burnt sacrifice
(Gen. xxii. 2), an order which he receives without astonishment, and
proceeds to execute as if it were the most ordinary business imaginable,
without the slightest sign of reluctance. A messenger from Jahveh,
however, intervenes and a ram is substituted.* I do not doubt that this
story, like similar ones found in Hindu and Greek mythology, indicates
an era when animal sacrifices were substituted for human ones.**

     * Observe that Elohim, the old gods, claim the sacrifice and
     Jahveh, the new Lord, prevents it.

     ** It may help us to understand how the sacrifice of an
     animal may atone for human life, if we notice how in South
     Africa a Zulu will redeem a lost child from the finder by a

The legend is of course far older than the record of it which reaches
us. In a notable passage in Ezekiel xx. 25, 26, the Lord declares that
he had given his people "statutes that were not good, and judgments
whereby they should not live." And he continues, "I polluted them in
their own gifts in that they cause to pass through _the fire_ all that
openeth the womb, that I might make them desolate, to the end that they
might know that I am the Lord." The fact that the very same words are
used in Ezekiel which are found in Exodus xiii. 12, at once suggests
that originally the passover was a human sacrifice, and that of the most
abominable kind--the offering of the firstborn--and that the story of
the Lord slaying the firstborn of Egypt was an invention to account for
the relics of the custom. We know that such sacrifices did remain as
part of the Jewish religion. Ezekiel himself says that when they had
slain their children to their idols, they came the same day in the
sanctuary to profane it (xxiii. 39). Micah argues against the barbarous
practice: "Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of
my body for the sin of my soul?" (vi. 6). Two kings of Judah, Ahaz
and Manasseh, are recorded to have offered up their children as burnt
offerings (2 Chron. xxviii. 3, xxxiii. 6), as upon one occasion did the
king of Moab (2 Kings iii. 27). 2 Chron. xxx., in relating how Hezekiah
commanded all Israel to keep the Passover, says that "they had not done
it of a long time in such sort as it was written," and relates how the
Levites were ashamed and many yet did eat the Passover otherwise than
it was written. And in the account of how Josiah broke down the altars
which had been set up by Ahaz and Manasseh one reads "surely there was
not held such a Passover from the days of the judges." In other words,
it had never been kept in the same fashion within human memory. The
keeping of the Passover had been different before this reformation, just
as until the age of Hezekiah the Jews worshipped a brazen serpent, which
they afterwards accounted for by ascribing it to Moses, the law-giver
who had prohibited all idolatry. On the eve of the Passover, to the
present day, the firstborn son among the Jews, who is of full age--i.e.,
thirteen--fasts. This we take to be a rudimentary survival.

If then we interpret the offering of the paschal lamb as being
substituted for a human sacrifice, we shall understand how it is at
once a thank-offering and yet eaten with "the bread of affliction," the
motzahs, or unleavened cakes, and bitter herbs, which are the remaining
features of the festival, and this may help to explain the accusation
which in all ages has been brought against the Jews, viz., that once in
seven years at least they required their Passover to be celebrated with
human blood. It is true the accusation has been often brought without
evidence, but the Jews themselves profess astonishment at the unanimity
with which their opponents have fixed upon this charge. Further, we
shall see that in adopting the paschal lamb as the type of Christ,
the substitutionary sacrifice for our sins, the Christians were simply
reverting to the early savage notion that deities are only to be
appeased with blood, and to this degraded belief they have added the
absurdity that Christ himself was God, thus making God sacrifice himself
in order to appease himself!


In the beginning when men created gods they made them in their own
image, cruel, unrestrained and vacillating, All the early religions give
evidence of the savage nature of ancient man. The departed gods, viewed
in the light of modern ideals, were all ugly devils. The boasted God of
the Jews is no exception. Although the books of the Old Testament do
not give us the earliest and doubtless still more savage beliefs of the
Israelites, the oldest portions, such as the legends embodied in Genesis
and the historical books, sufficiently betray that Jahveh was no better
than his compeers. It is evident that originally he was only one of many
gods. He is always spoken of as a family deity--the God of Abraham, of
Isaac and of Jacob. Human sacrifices were at one time offered to him
(see Genesis xxii., Leviticus xxvii. 29, Numbers xxv. 4, Judges xi.
31-39,1 Samuel xv. 23, Micah vi. 6,7). He is anthropomorphic, yet
anything but a gentleman. In his decalogue he describes himself as "a
jealous god, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children
until the third and fourth generation." He delights in blood and
sacrifice. He is entitled "a god of battles," "Lord of hosts," and "a
man of war." He has the form, the movements, and the imperfections of a
human being. Man is said to be made in his image and after his likeness.
It is plain these words must be taken in their literal significance,
since, a little further on, Adam is described, in the same language, as
having begotten Seth "in his own likeness and after his image" (Genesis
v. 3).

Jahveh walks in the garden in the cool of the day. He has come down to
see the tower of Babel (Gen. xi. 5). He covers Moses with "his hand" so
that he should not see "his face"; and while Moses stands in a clift of
the rock Jahveh shows him "his back parts" (Exodus xxxiii. 23). He makes
clothes for Adam and Eve, and writes his laws with his own finger. After
six days' work we are told that "on the seventh day he rested and was
refreshed" (Exodus xxxi. 17). When Noah sacrificed we are told that
"Jahveh smelled a sweet savor" (Gen. vii. 21). He creates mankind and
then regrets their creation--"It repented Jahveh that he had made man
on the earth and it grieved him at his heart" (Genesis vi. 6). He puts
a bow in the clouds in order to remember his vow, and again and again he
repents of the evil which he thought to do unto his people (see Exodus
xxxii. 14; Numbers xiv.; 2 Sam. xxiv. 16; Jonah iii. 10; etc.)

Jacob wrestles with him; and when things do not go as they wish, Moses,
Joshua, David and Job no more hesitate to remonstrate with their deity
than the African hesitates to chide the fetish that does not answer his

In the early books Jahveh is irascible and unjust. His temper is soon
up, and his vengeance usually falls on the wrong parties. Eve eats the
forbidden fruit and all her female descendants are condemned to pains
at childbirth. Pharaoh refuses to let the Hebrews go and the firstborn
child of every Egyptian family is slain, and other dreadful afflictions
are poured on the innocent people. David, like a wise king, takes
a census of his nation, and Jahveh punishes him by slaying seventy
thousand of the people by a pestilence (1 Chron. xxi. 1--17). He
slaughters fifty thousand inhabitants of the village of Bethshemesh
for innocently looking into his travelling-trunk on its return from
captivity (1 Samuel vi. 19). He smites Uzzah for putting his hand to
save the ark from falling (2 Samuel vi. 6, 7), and withers Jeroboam's
hand for venturing to put it upon the altar (1 Kings xiii. 4). He sends
bears to kill forty-two little children for calling Elisha "bald-head"
(2 Kings ii. 23, 24), and his general conduct is that of a barbarous,
bloodthirsty and irresponsible tyrant. We say nothing here of the
character of his favorite people. "Man paints himself in his gods," said

The captivity of the Jews and their consequent contact with other
nations led to their own refinement and an enlarged ideal of their
divinity. He improves much in his character, tastes and propensities.
Nehemiah addressed Jahveh in the elevated tone the Persians addressed
Ahura-Mazda. Whereas in the old days Jahveh ordered whole hecatombs of
sheep and oxen to be sacrificed to him, doubtless because his priests
liked beef and mutton (they had the meat and he had the smell)--the
prophet Isaiah in his first chapter writes, "To what purpose is the
multitude of your sacrifices unto me?" saith Jahveh. "Wash you, make you
clean; put away the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do
evil; learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge
the fatherless, plead for the widow." Similarly, Micah gives worship an
ethical instead of a ceremonial character: "Will Jahveh be pleased with
thousands of rams, or with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I give my
firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my
soul? He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth Jahveh
require of thee but to do justly and love mercy, and to walk humbly with
thy God." Ezekiel bluntly contradicts Moses, and declares that "the son
shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear
the iniquity of the son" (xviii. 20).

The second Isaiah even looks forward to the time when Gentiles will
acknowledge the Jewish Jahveh, and Zechariah declares "Thus saith Jahveh
of hosts: In those days it shall come to pass that the ten men shall
take hold of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the
skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have
heard that God is with you" (viii. 23).

Jewish vanity did not permit tolerance to extend beyond this. Even in
the New Testament God only offers salvation to those who believe, and
mercilessly damns all the rest. "An honest God is the noblest work of
man," and theists of all kinds have found great difficulty in supplying
the article.

Herbert Spencer, in a paper on "Religion" in the _Nineteenth Century_*
well says: "If we contrast the Hebrew God described in primitive
tradition, manlike in appearance, appetites and emotions, with the
Hebrew Gods as characterised by the prophets, there is shown a widening
range of power along with a nature increasingly remote from that of man.
And on passing to the conceptions of him which are now entertained,
we are made aware of an extreme transfiguration. By a convenient
obliviousness, a deity who in early times is represented as hardening
men's hearts so that they may commit punishable acts, and as employing
a lying spirit to deceive them, comes to be mostly thought of as an
embodiment of virtues transcending the highest we can imagine." And so
the idea of God developes

     "Till by broad spreading it disperse to nought."

     * January, 1884.

For the process is not simply from the savage to the civilised--it is
from the definite to the dim. As man advances God retires. With each
increase of our knowledge of nature the sphere of the supernatural is
lessened till all deities and devils are seen to be but reflections of
man's imagination and symbols of his ignorance.


Savages fail to recognise the limits of their power over nature. Things
which the experience of the race shows us to be obviously impossible
are not only attempted but believed to be performed by persons in a low
stage of culture. Miracles always accompany ignorance. No better proof
of the barbarous and unintelligent state whence we have emerged could be
given than the stories of the supernatural which are found embodied in
all religions, and also in the customs of savages and the folk-lore of

Primitive man thinks of all phenomena as caused by spirits. Hence to
control the spirits is to control the phenomena. Herodotus (iv., 173)
tells a curious tale how once in the land of Psylii, the modern Tripoli,
the wind blowing from the Sahara dried up all the water-tanks. So the
people took counsel and marched in a body to make war on the south wind.
But when they entered the desert, the simoon swept down on them and
buried them. It is still said of the Bedouins of Eastern Africa that "no
whirlwind ever sweeps across the path without being pursued by a dozen
savages with drawn creeses, who stab into the centre of the dusty
column, in order to drive away the evil spirit that is believed to be
riding on the blast." The Chinese beat gongs and make other noises at an
eclipse, to drive away the dragon of darkness. At an eclipse, too, the
Ojibbeways used to think the sun was being extinguished, so they shot
fire-tipped arrows in the air, hoping thus to re-kindle his expiring
light. At the present day Theosophists seek to compass magical powers
which in early times were supposed to be generally possessed by

Rain-making was one of the most common of these supposed powers.
Instances are found in the Bible. Samuel says: "I will call unto the
Lord and he shall send thunder and rain," and he does so (1 Sam. xii.
17, 18). So Elijah, by prayer (which in early times meant a magical
spell), obtained rain. Jesus controls the winds and the waves, walks on
the water, and levitates through the air.

Mr. J. G. Frazer, in his splendid work _The Golden Bough_ gives many
instances of savages making sunshine and staying the sun. Thus "the
Melanesians make sunshine by means of a mock sun. A round stone is wound
about with red braid and stuck with owl's feathers to represent rays; it
is then hung on a high tree." "In a pass of the Peruvian Andes stand two
ruined towers on opposite hills. Iron hooks are clamped into their walls
for the purpose of stretching a net from one tower to another. The net
is intended to catch the sun." Numerous other methods are resorted to by
different tribes. Jerome, of Prague, travelling among the Lithuanians,
who early in the fifteenth century were still Pagans, found a tribe who
worshipped the sun and venerated a large iron hammer. "The priests told
him at once the sun had been invisible for several months because a
powerful king had shut it up in a strong tower; but the signs of the
zodiac had broken open the tower with this very hammer and released the
sun. Therefore they adored the hammer."* Mr. Frazer gives reasons for
thinking that the fire festivals solemnised at Midsummer in ancient
times were really sun-charms.

The phenomena of nature were supposed to be at the service of the pious.
The thunderbolts of Zeus fell upon the heads of perjurers. Some people
still wonder the earth does not open when a man announces himself an
Atheist. Jahveh just before stopping the sun, pelted the enemies of
Israel with hailstones (Joshua x. 11). So Diodorus Siculus (xi. 1)
relates how the Persians when on their way to spoil the temple at
Delphi, were deterred by "a sudden and incredible tempest of wind and
hail, with dreadful thunder and lightning, by which great rocks were
rent to pieces and cast upon the heads of the Persians, destroying them
in heaps." Herodotus too (ii. 142) tells how "The Egyptians asserted
that the sun had four times deviated from his ordinary course."
Clergymen cite this as a corroboration of the fact that all ancient
peoples have similar absurd legends displaying their ignorance of nature
and consequent superstition. The power of arresting the stars in their
courses, and lengthening the days and nights was imputed to witches.
Thus Tibullus says of a sorceress (i. eleg. 2)--

     I've seen her tear the planets from the sky,
     Seen lightning backward at her bidding fly.

And Lucan in his Pharsalia (vi. 462)--

     Whene'er the proud enchantress gives command,
     Eternal motion stops her active hand;
     No more Heav'n's rapid circles joarney on,
     But universal nature stands foredone;
     The lazy God of day forgets to rise,
     And everlasting night pollutes the skies.

     * The Golden Bough, vol. i., pp. 24, 25.

No modern poet would think of saying like Statius that the sun stood
still at the unnatural murder of Atreus. Such an idea found its way into
poetry because it had previously been conceived as a fact.

Hence we find numerous similar stories to that of Joshua. Thus it is
related of Bacchus in the Orphic hymns that he arrested the course of
the sun and the moon. Mr. Spence Hardy in his _Legends and Theories
of Buddhists_, shows that arresting the course of the sun was a common
thing among the disciples of Buddha. We need not be surprised to find
that men were once believed to be able to control the sun when we
reflect that to this day the majority of people fancy there is some
magnified non-natural man, they call God, who is able to do the same.
Seeing the legend of Joshua in its true form as one of numerous similar
instances illustrating the barbarity and ignorance of the past, we see
also that the whole merit and instruction of the story is taken away by
those modern Christians, who speak of it as poetry, or who endeavor to
reconcile it with the conclusions of science. These explanations were
never sought for while miracles were generally credible. Josephus speaks
of the miracle as a literal one, and the author of Ecclesiasticus xlvi.
5 says the Lord "stopped the sun in his anger and made one day as two."

"Rationalistic" explanations of miracles are often the most irrational,
because they fail to take into account the vast difference between the
state of mind which gave rise to the stories, and that which seeks to
rationalise them.


Anyone who has read an account of the mystery men among savages, will
have the clue to the original nature and functions of the inspired
prophets of Jahveh. These persons occupied a rôle somewhat similar to
that of Brian the hermit, the highland seer described by Sir Walter
Scott in his "Lady of the Lake." They were a sort of cross between the
bard and the fortuneteller. Divination, though forbidden by the law of
Moses, was continually resorted to by the superstitious Jews.

The mysterious Urim and Thummim clearly represented some method of
divination. In 1 Kings vi. 16 and Psalms xxviii. 2, the adytum of the
temple is called the "oracle." Numerous references are to be found in
the Bible to the practice of casting lots, the disposing of which is
said to be "of the Lord" (see Num. xxvi. 55, Joshua xiii. 6, 1 Sam. xiv.
41, Prov. xiv. 33, xviii. 18, and Esther iii. 7), and also to "inquiring
of God," which was equivalent to divination. Thus in Judges xviii. 5
five Danites ask the Levite, who became Micah's priest, to "ask counsel
of God" whether they shall prosper on their way.

The ninth chapter of the first book of Samuel gives an instructive
glimpse into the nature of the prophets. Saul, sent to recover his
father's asses, and, unable to find them, is told by his servant that
there is in the city a man of God, and all what he saith cometh surely
to pass. Saul, perhaps guessing the lucre-loving propensities of men of
God, complains that he has no present to offer. The servant, however,
had the fourth part of a shekel of silver (about 8d.) wherewith to cross
the seer's palms; and Saul, seeking for asses, is made king over Israel
by the prophet Samuel. The custom of making a present to the prophet is
also alluded to in 1 Kings xiv. 3. Jereboam, when his son falls sick,
sends his wife to Ahijah the prophet with ten loaves and cracknels and a
cruse of honey, to inquire his fate. Later on, Micah (iii. 11) complains
that "the prophets divine for money." See also Nehe-miah vi. 12. As with
the oracles of ancient Greece and Rome (the inspiration of which was
believed by the early Christian fathers, with the proviso that they were
inspired not by deities, but by devils), the prophets were especially
consulted in times of war. Thus, in 1 Kings xxii., Ahab consults 400
prophets about going to battle against Ramoth-Gilead. He is told to go
and prosper, for the Lord shall deliver it into the king's hand. Micaiah
the prophet, however, explains that he had seen the Lord in counsel with
all the host of heaven, and the Lord sent a lying spirit to the prophets
in order to persuade Ahab to go to his destruction. This is quite in
accordance with the declaration in Ezekiel xiv. 9, that "if the prophet
be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the Lord hath deceived that
prophet." David on one occasion (1 Sam. xxiii. 9) "took counsel of God,"
as this divination was called, by means of the ephod, probably connected
with the Urim and Thummim. He sought to know if he would be safe from
his enemy, Saul, if he stayed at Keilah. On receiving an unfavorable
response David decamped. Inquiring of the Lord on another occasion,
David got more particular instructions than were usually imparted by
oracles. He was told not to go up against the Philistines, but to fetch
a compass behind them and come on them over against the mulberry trees
(2 Sam. v. 23).

We read, 1 Sam. xxviii. 6, that "when Saul inquired of the Lord, the
Lord answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets."
This, presumably, was because (verse 3) "Saul had put away those that
had familiar spirits, and the wizards out of the land." He therefore had
to seek out the witch of Endor to raise the spirit of Samuel.

The Lord is said to have declared through Moses, "If there be a prophet
among you I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and
will speak unto him in a dream" (Num. xii. 6). This method of divine
revelation is alluded to in Job xxxiii. 14-16, "For God speaketh once,
yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not. In a dream, in a vision of the
night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed;
then he openeth the ears of men and sealeth his instruction." God came
to Abimelech in a dream by night and threatened him for taking Abraham's
wife (Gen. xx. 3). So he revealed himself and his angels to his favorite
Jacob (Gen. xxviii. 12). "God came to Laban, the Syrian, in a dream
by night" (Gen. xxxi. 24) to warn him against touching juggling Jacob.
Joseph dreams of his own future advancement and of the famine in Egypt,
and interprets the dreams of others. Gideon was visited by the Lord in
the night, and encouraged by some other person's dream (Judges vii.)
Jahveh appeared also to his servant, Sultan Solomon, "in a dream
by night" (1 Kings iii. 5). Daniel, too, was a dreamer and dream
interpreter (Dan. ii. 19, vii. 1). God promises through Joel that he
will pour his spirit upon all flesh, "and your sons and your daughters
shall prophecy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall
see visions" (chap. ii. 28).

The original meaning of the Hebrew word _cohen_ or priest is said to be
"diviner." It is, I believe, still so in Arabic. Prophets and dreamers
are frequently classed together in the Bible, as in Deut. xiii. 1: "If
there arise among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams." Jer. xxvii. 9:
"Therefore hearken ye not to your prophets, nor to your diviners, nor to
your dreamers." Zech. x. 2: "The diviners have seen a lie, and have told
false dreams." When religion is organised the dreamers and interpreters
of dreams, who are an irresponsible class, fall into the background
before the priests.

No one can read the account of Balaam's falling, and lying prostrate
with his eyes open while prophesying (Numbers xxiv.); and of Saul when,
after an evil spirit from God had come upon him (1 Sam. xviii. 10), "he
stripped off his clothes also and prophesied in like manner, and lay
down naked all that day and all that night; wherefore they say, Is Saul
also among the prophets" (1 Sam. xix. 24), without calling to mind
the exhibitions of ecstatic mania among semi-savages. The Shamans
of Siberia, for instance, work themselves up into fury, supposing or
pretending that in this condition they are inspired by the spirit in
whose name they speak, and through whose inspiration they are enabled
to answer questions as well as to foretell the future. The root of the
Hebrew word for prophet--_Nabi_, said to mean a bubbling up--confirms
this view. The vehement gestures and gushing current of speech which
accompanied their improvisations suggested a fountain bubbling up.
Insanity and inspiration are closely allied. Various methods were
resorted to among the ancients to attain the state of ecstacy, when the
excited nerves found significance in all around. The Brahmans used the
intoxicating Soma. At Delphi the Pythia inhaled an incense until she
fell into a state of delirious intoxication; and the sounds she uttered
in this state were believed to contain the revelations of Apollo. In
David dancing with all his might and scantily clad before the ark of
Jahveh, we are forcibly reminded of the dervishes and other religious
dancers. From the mention of music in connection with prophesying (1
Sam. x. 5, xvi. 23, 2 Kings iii. 5), it has been conjectured the Jewish
prophets anticipated the Salvationists in this means of producing or
relieving excitement. In the Mysteries of Isis, in Orphic Cory-bantian
revels, music was employed to work the worshippers into a state of
orgiastic frenzy.

The passage about Saul suggests the nudity or scanty costume of the
prophets. Isaiah the elder--for the poet who wrote from chap. xl. to
lxvi. must be distinguished from his predecessor--alleges a commandment
from Jahveh to walk naked and barefoot for three years (Isaiah xx. 3).
Apollos, or whoever wrote the epistle to the Hebrews (xi. 37), speaks
of them wandering about in sheepskins and goatskins. A girdle of leather
seems to have been the sole costume of Elijah (2 Kings i. 8). Micah (i.
8) says "I will wail and howl, I will go stripped and naked." Zechariah
speaks of the prophets who "wear a rough garment to deceive," and "say
I am no prophet I am an husbandman" (Zech. xiii. 45), which is like what
Amos (vii. 14) says: "I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet's son;
but I was an herdman and a gatherer of sycamore fruit."

Isaiah (xxviii. 7) says, "the priest and the prophet have erred through
strong drink; they are swallowed up of wine." Jahveh tells Jeremiah
"The prophets prophesy lies in my name, I sent them not, neither have I
commanded them, neither spake unto them; they prophesy unto you a false
vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their
heart" (xiv. 14). Further on he says, "O Lord thou hast deceived me and
I was deceived" (xx. 7). The prophets of Jerusalem, Jeremiah declares,
"commit adultery and walk in lies" (xxiii. 14). Ezekiel too, prophesies
against the prophets and their lying divination (xiii. 2-7). Hosea (ix.
7) says, "the prophet is a fool, the spiritual man is mad."*

     * See too Isaiah lvi. 11-12; Jer. xxvii. 10-15, xxix. 8-9;
     Micah iii 5-7.

Some of the prophets can only be described as silly. Such are the two
in 1 Kings xiii. 5 the prophet who asks to be smitten (1 Kings xii.);
Zedekiah, who makes himself horns of iron; and Micaiah, who opposes him
when a lying sprit comes from the Lord (1 Kings xxii.) To these may be
added the man of God (2 Chron. xxv. 7), who made Amaziah dismiss his
"hundred thousand mighty men of valor," who in consequence fell upon the
cities of Judah and took much spoil.

The student of comparative religion in reading of the Hebrew prophets,
is forcibly reminded of the Hindu sunnyasis and Mussulman fakirs. In the
east insanity is confounded with inspiration, and Dr. Maudsley, in his
_Responsibility in Mental Disease_, has given his opinion that several
of the Hebrew prophets were insane. The dread and respect in which they
were held is evinced in the legend of the forty-two children who
were slain by bears for calling Elisha bald-head. Their arrogance and
ferocity were exhibited by Samuel, who made Saul king till he found a
more serviceable tool in David, and "hewed Agag in pieces before the
Lord" (1 Sam. xv. 30); and by Elijah, who destroyed 102 men for obeying
the order of their king (2 Kings ii. 9-13), and at another time slew
850 for a difference of opinion (1 Kings xviii. 19--40). Elisha was
unscrupulous enough to send Hazael to his master saying he should
certainly recover; though at the time he knew he would certainly die (2
Kings viii. 10). Judging by such examples we may congratulate ourselves
that the race of prophets is almost extinct.

It must in fairness be said that some of the prophets used their
influence in protecting the people against their priests and rulers, and
that the greater prophets like Isaiah did much to elevate the religion
of Israel, which in its modern form is largely their creation.


"Marriage," says Goethe, "is the beginning and end of all culture."
Too often the end of all culture, the cynic may say. It may safely be
affirmed that marriage is the chief cause and product of civilisation.
Like other institutions, it has passed through various stages of growth
among all nations, the Jews included. It has been said "Motherhood is
a matter of observation, fatherhood a matter of opinion." Certain it is
that in early society kinship was reckoned through mothers only. Of this
we have some evidence in the Bible. Abraham, the father of the faithful,
married Sarah, "the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my
mother" (Gen. xx. 12). His brother Nahor took the daughter of his other
brother, Haran, to wife (Gen. ix. 27-29). Such marriages could not have
occurred except when relationship through males was not sufficiently
acknowledged for a bar to marriage to have been raised upon it. Jacob
had two sisters to wife at once. Amram, the father of Moses, married his
own aunt (Exodus ii. 1 and 1 Chron. vii. 3). Even in the time of pious
King David marriage with half-sisters was not considered improper, for
when Ammon wished to force his sister Tamar, she said unto him, "Speak
unto the king; for he will not withhold me from thee" (2 Samuel xiii.
13). Brothers by the same mother are specially distinguished (Deut.
xiii. 6, Judges viii. 19). The child, moreover, in early times, was
thought rather to belong to the mother than the father. Thus we find
that Ishmael was turned adrift with Hagar, and Hannah, one of the wives
of Elkanah the Levite, had the right of presenting or devoting her son
Samuel to Jahveh.

A survival of consanguine marriage is found in Deut. xxv., where it is
expressly ordered that when a brother's widow is left childless "her
husband's brother shall go in unto her and take her to him to wife"; and
in the event of his refusing to do so he has to have his shoe loosed and
his face spat upon. Of the antiquity of this usage we have evidence in
Genesis xxxviii. When Er, Judah's firstborn, died, the father commanded
his second son, "Go in unto thy brother's wife, and marry her, and raise
up seed to thy brother." The second son refusing, the thing which he did
displeased the Lord, wherefore he slew him. Judah now putting Tamar
off from taking his next son, she disguised herself and made her
father-in-law do his son's duty, he acknowledging "she hath been more
righteous than I." The custom is also referred to in the story of Ruth.
Ewald amends Ruth iv. 5: "Thou must buy also Ruth the Moabitess." The
Bible reader will remember that the disgusting story of the patriarch
Lot and his daughters is related without the slightest token of
disapproval. The daughters justified themselves by the plea that they
would "preserve seed of our father." To understand these narratives,
the reader must remember that in the early history of the family it was
desirable, in the struggle for existence, that its numbers should not be
diminished. Many instances are found in the Bible of the blessing of a
large family. "Happy is the man who has his quiver full." The blessing
on the typical servant of Jahveh is that "he shall see his seed," It
was the duty of the next of kin to see that the family stock did not
diminish. We find at the beginning of Genesis that, when Abel was
slain, God gave Seth "instead." In patriarchal life, as exhibited by the
Bedouins, the "next of kin," the _goel_, is a most important personage.
To him the tribe looks to avenge or redeem a kinsman's death or
misfortune. On him the widow and fatherless depend for support. He is,
above all, the blood-balancer, who sees that the house is kept in its
normal strength, and who seeks to recruit it as far as possible from
the same blood--a state of things implying feud with surrounding tribes.
Job, in his anguish, can find no stronger consolation this--"I know
that my _goel_ liveth." According to the morality of that time, not only
Tamar, but the family was grossly wronged by Onan. By refusing to allow
Shelah to take the duties of _goel_, on the ground of his youth, Judah
himself incurred the responsibilities of that office. It was his duty to
see that seed was raised. Tamar resorted to cunning, the weapon of the
weak, and Judah's confession is the real moral of what, to a modern,
must be considered the very disgusting story in Genesis xxxviii.

All the Old Testament heroes, from Lamech downwards, were polygamists.
Indeed, both polygamy and concubinage were practised by those Hebrew
saints who were most distinguished by their piety, faith, and communion
with Jahveh. Abraham not only took Hagar as a secondary wife, but
turned her adrift in the wilderness when it suited his own goodwill and
pleasure. Jacob, who lived under the special guidance of God, married
two sisters at the same time, and each of them presented him with
concubines. David, the man after God's own heart, had many wives and
concubines (2 Samuel iii. 2-5, v. 13), while Solomon, who was wiser than
all men, boasted of seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines
(1 Kings xi. 5). Jahveh, while denouncing intermarriage with women of
foreign races, never says a word against either polygamy or concubinage.
On the contrary, both are sanctioned and regulated by the Mosaic law
(Deut. xxi. 10-15). More than this, God himself is said to have married
two sisters, Aholah and Aholibah (Ezekiel xxiii.), and although this
is figurative, the figure would never have been used had the fact been
considered sinful.

A Hebrew father might sell his daughter to be a wife, concubine, or
maid-servant to an Israelite, and her master might put her away if she
pleased him not (Exodus xxi. 7-11). Women taken captives in war might be
used as wives and dismissed at pleasure (Deut. xxi. 10-14). In the case
of the Midianites only virgins were preserved. Moses indignantly asked,
Have ye saved all the women alive? "Now therefore kill every male among
the little ones and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with
him. But all the women children, that hath not known man by lying with
him, keep alive for yourselves." And the Lord took shares in this maiden
tribute (Numb, xxxi.)

Woman in the Bible is treated as merchandise. In Jacob's time she was
bought by seven years' service, but in the time of the prophet Hosea she
was valued only at fifteen pieces of silver and a homer and a half of
barley. In the Decalogue it is prohibited to covet a man's wife on the
same ground as his man slave, his maid slave, his ox, or his ass, or
anything that is his. Her lord and master could say with Petruchio:

     She is my goods, my chattels; she is my house,
     My household stuff, my field, my barn,
     My horse, my ox, my ass, my anything.

By God's law a man was permitted to dismiss a wife when she found "no
favor in his eyes," by simply writing out a bill of divorcement. There
is no mention of the woman having any similar power of getting quit of
her lord and master. If he suspected her fidelity he could compel her to
go through an ordeal in which the priest administered to her the water
of jealousy, which if guilty would cause her to rot, but which was
harmless if she was innocent. No doubt this was a potent means in
securing wifely devotion and a ready remedy for any hated spouse. In
the hands of a friendly priest the concoction would be little likely
to fail, and even should it prove innocuous there was the expedient of
writing a bill of divorcement.

It is usually said that God "winked at" (Acts xvii. 30) these
proceedings, because of the hardness of the old Jews' hearts, and that
from the beginning it was not so. In proof of this is cited the passage
in Genesis which says, "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his
mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh."
The proper interpretation of this passage illustrates a very early form
of marriage still found in some tribes, and known in Ceylon as beenah
marriage. Mr. McLennan, one of the highest authorities on primitive
marriage, says:

"In beenah marriage the young husband leaves the family of his birth and
passes into the family of his wife, and to that he belongs as long as
the marriage subsists. The children born to him belong, not to him, but
to the family of their mother. Living with, he works for, the family
of his wife; and he commonly gains his footing in it by service. His
marriage involves usually a change of village; nearly always (where the
tribal system is in force) a change of tribe, but always a change of
family. So that, as used to happen in New Zealand, he may be bound even
to take part in war against those of his father's house. The man
leaves father and mother as completely as with the Patriarchal Family
prevailing, a bride would do; and he leaves them to live with his wife
and her family. That this accords with the passage in Genesis will not
be disputed.*

"Marriage by purchase of the bride and her issue can hardly be thought
to have been primeval practice. When we find beenah marriage and
marriage by purchase as alternatives, therefore it is not difficult to
believe that the former is the older of the two, and it was once in sole
possession of the field."**

     * The Patriarchal Theory, p. 43; 1885.

     ** Ibid, p. 45.

It was a beenah marriage which Jacob made into the family of Laban, and
we find from Genesis xxiv. 1-8 that it was thought not improbable that
Isaac might do the same. In beenah marriage the children belong to the
mother's clan, and we thus find that Laban says: "These daughters are my
daughters, and these children my children." It was exactly against such
a marriage as that of Jacob, viz., with two women at one time that the
text (Lev. xvii. 18) was directed which is so much squabbled about by
both opponents of and advocates for marriage with a deceased wife's
sister. The custom of the Levirate mentioned in Deut. xxv. possibly
indicates pre-existent polyandry. Lewis, in his _Hebrew Republic_,
says: "In the earliest ages the Levir had no alternative but to take the
widow; indeed, she was his wife without any form of marriage."

Casting off a shoe, it may be said, is a symbol of foregoing a right;
thus the relatives of a bride still "throw slippers." The Arabs have
preserved the ceremony intact. A proverb among them, when a young man
foregoes his prescriptive right to marry his first cousin, is, "She was
my slipper; I have cast her off" (Burckhardt, Bedouins and Wahabys, i.
113). Among the Caribs of Venezuela and in Equatorial West Africa, the
eldest son inherits all the wives of his deceased father with the sole
exception of his own mother. Schweinfurth relates that the same custom
obtains in Central Africa. On the Gold Coast the throne is occupied by
the prince, who gains possession of the paternal harem before his other
brothers. Thus Absalom took David's harem in the sight of all Israel
before the old man had gone to glory, as a proof he wished his reign
to be considered over; and when Adonijah asks his brother Solomon for
Abishag, the comforter of David's old age, the wise Solomon kills him,
as thus betraying designs on the throne. In the custom that widows
passed to the heir with other property, and hence that marriage with the
widow grew to be a sign of a claim to the deceased person's possessions,
we have a reasonable explanation of what must otherwise appear
irrational crime. The custom of inheriting widows is adverted to in the
Koran; and Bendhawi, in his commentary, gives the whole ceremony, which
consists in the relative of the deceased throwing his cloak over the
widow and saying, "I claim her." The Mormons always defended their
plurality of wives from the divine book, and polygamy has been defended
by various Christian ministers, from the Lutheran divine, Joannes Lyser,
author of _Discoursus Politicus de Polygamia_, and the Rev. Martin
Madan, author of _Thelyphthora_ to the Rev. Mercer Davies, author of
_Hangar_, and Ap Richard, M.A., who urges a biblical plea for polygamy
under the title of _Marriage and Divorce_. Such works have done little
to bring into favor the divine ordinance of polygamy, but they have done
much to show how unsuited is the morality of "the word of God" to
the requirements of modern civilisation. Surely it is time that the
Christians were ashamed of appealing to polygamous Jews for any laws to
regulate social institutions.


Although there is no book with which students of divinity are better
acquainted than with the "Song of Songs," there is also none of the same
dimensions over which theologians have expressed so much diversity
of opinion. Its authorship has been ascribed to Solomon for no better
reason than because that sensual sultan is one of the subjects of its
story. It is true it is one of the oldest books of the Old Testament,
and begins by calling itself "the Song of Songs, which is Solomon's";
but the book of Ecclesiastes, which is one of the latest in the Hebrew
collection, is also ascribed to Solomon, and possibly with as much
reason. It has been credited with unfolding the sublime mysteries of
the relation of Christ to his Church. It has been called an epithalamium
upon the marriage of Solomon with the daughter of Pharaoh. According to
a distinguished commentator, De Lyra, the first portion describes the
history of Israel from the time of the Exodus to the birth of Christ,
while from chapter vii. to the end gives the history of the Christian
Church to Constantine. The Roman Catholic theologian, Hug, makes it
treat of the ten tribes and Hezekiah. Cocceius, in accordance with his
principle that holy scripture meant whatever it could be made to mean,
found in the Canticle the history of the Church from its origin to its
final judgment. Hahn sees in it a prediction of the victory obtained
over the heathen, by the love of Israel, and finds the conversion of the
negro in the passage which says, "We have a little sister, and she
hath no breasts." In short, nearly every possible explanation has
been offered of this portion of the Word of God except the obvious and
natural one, that it is an erotic poem. That there is any allegory in
the piece is a pure assumption. The theory was unknown before the time
of the Talmud. The Canticles are never referred to in the New Testament.
There is not the slightest indication in the work itself that there is
any such object. Not the most delicate hint, save in the headings of the
chapters made by King James's bishops, that by the secret charms of the
young lady we are to understand the mysterious graces of the Christian
Church. In all allegories it is necessary the subject should be in
some way indicated. The parables of Jesus often proved puzzles to his
disciples, but they had no doubt they were parables. Moreover, the
allegory--if it is one--is absurd or blasphemous. Why should the Church
say of God: "His head is as the most fine gold, his locks are bushy
and black as a raven"? or compare his legs to pillars of marble,
or celebrate other parts of his divine person which are not usually
mentioned in polite society? Nor is it easy to see why Christ should say
to the Church: "Thy teeth are like a flock of sheep that are even shorn,
which came up from the washing; whereof every one bear twins, and none
is barren among them"; or why he should declare, "Thy neck is as a tower
of ivory; thine eyes like the fish-pools in Heshbon, by the gate of
Bath-rabbim; thy nose is as the Tower of Lebanon, which looketh towards
Damascus." Of course, to parody a phrase of Voltaire's, the Holy Ghost
was not bound to write like Alfred Tennyson, but, if intended for human
guidance, one would think the divine meaning should be a little more

The truth of the matter is, an allegorical interpretation has been
forced into the Song of Solomon in order to relieve the Holy Ghost from
a charge of indecency. Grotius ventured to call the Song of Songs a
libertine work. Even the orthodox Methodist commentator, Adam Clarke,
earnestly exhorted young ministers not to found their sermons on its
doubtful phrases. He knew how apt religious people are to mix up carnal
desire and appetite with love to their blessed Savior, and was perhaps
aware that a number of Christian hymns might appropriately have been
addressed to Priapus.*

     * See Rimini's History of the Moravians and Southey's Life
     of Wesley* vol. i. pp. 188, 387.

In the Jewish Church no one under the age of thirty was permitted to
read the Song of Songs, a prohibition which may have assisted to give it
its sacred character. It is, nevertheless, not more indelicate than many
other portions of God's Holy Word, and viewed in its proper light as
an Oriental dramatic love poem, although it cannot be acquitted of
outraging modern notions of decency, it is not, I think, so much,
as some other portions of the Bible, open to the charge of teaching
immorality. On the contrary, its purpose is commendable. An attentive
reading of the Revised Version, which is without the misleading
headlines, and is divided to indicate the different speakers in the love
drama, will make this apparent, and show this little scrap of the Jewish
national literature to possess a certain natural beauty which has been
utterly obscured by the orthodox commentators who, from the time of the
early fathers to Hengstenberg and Keil, have sought to associate it with
Christ and his Church.

Sir William Jones, in his essay on the mystical poetry of Persia
and India, called attention to the sensuous images in which Oriental
religious poetry expresses itself. This connection will surprise no
one who has discovered from the history of religion that women and wine
formed important features in ancient worship. The readiness with which
ungratified sexual passion runs into religious emotion has frequently
been marked by physicians, and finds much corroboration in the
devotional works of monks and nuns. But the Song of Songs has nothing
religious about it. Even the personages are not religious, as in the
Hindu erotic _Gita Govinda_, by Jayadeva, which tells of the loves of
Badha and the god Krishna in the guise of a shepherd. Christ and his
Church only appear in the headings given to the chapters.

Though to be classed among erotic poems, the Song of Songs cannot fairly
be called immoral or obscene. The character of the interlocutors and
the division of the scenes is a little uncertain. It is, for instance,
dubious whether the first speaker is Solomon or the Shulamite. If we
take the version of M. Réville, the piece opens with the yearnings of
the heroine, whom "the king hath brought into his chambers," for her
absent lover. "Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, for thy
love is better than wine." She is black but comely; swarthy, because
having to tend the vineyards she has been scorched by the sun. She is a
Shulammite, or native of Shulam, now Solma, near Carmel--a part renowned
for the beauty of its women. It was Abishag, a Shulamite, who was chosen
when they sought for a fair damsel throughout all the coasts of Israel
to warm the bed of old King David. Solomon had seen the fair maid of
Shulam, and, when she went down into the garden of nuts "to see the
green plants of the valley," or ever she was aware, she was abducted. In
vain, however, does the monarch offer her the best place in his harem.
Amid the glories of the court she sighs for the shepherd lover from whom
she is separated. She tells how early one spring morning her beloved
engaged her to go out with him. "For, lo, the winter is past, the rain
is over and gone, the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the
singing of birds is come. And the voice of the turtle is heard in our
land and now, although she seeks and finds him not," she declares
"my beloved is mine and I am his." Her constant burden to her harem
companions is, "I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes and
by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up nor awaken love until
it please."* Love must be spontaneous, she declares, and she refuses to
yield to the wishes of the libidinous monarch. When Solomon praises her
she replies with praises of her beloved peasant swain. She longs for
him by day and seeks him in dreams by night. Solomon offers to place
her above his "threescore queens and fourscore concubines and virgins
without number"; but she is home-sick, and prefers the embraces of her
lover to those of the lascivious king. Her humble vineyard is more to
her than all the king's riches. The moral is, "Many waters cannot quench
love, neither can the floods drown it: If a man would give all the
substance of his house for love he would utterly be condemned." And a
far better one too than most morals to be drawn from the pages of the
Old Testament.

     * Revised Version. The Authorised Version changes the whole
     purpose of the piece by reading "that ye stir not up nor
     awaken my love till he please."

The Song of Songs, which is _not_ Solomon's, is a valuable relic of
antiquity, both because it utterly refutes the orthodox notion of
biblical inspiration, and because it deals with the old old story of
human passion which surges alike in peasants and in princes, and which
animated the hearts of men and maidens two thousand years ago even as it
does to-day.


It was natural that in the early ages of human intelligence man should
attach a superstitious reverence to numbers. The mystery attached to the
number seven has been variously accounted for. Some have explained it by
the figures of the square and triangle, others by the stars of the Great
Bear nightly seen overhead. Gerald Massey says: "The Constellation of
the Seven Great Stars (Ursa Major) was probably the primordial figure of
Seven. Seven was often called the perfect number. Its name as Hept (Eg.)
is also the name for Plenty--a heap of food and good luck. The Seven
were the great heap or cluster of stars, an image of plenty, or a lot
that revolved together."* My own opinion is that the superstition arose
in connection first with the menstrual period, and then with the phases
of the moon as a measurer of time. Its period of twenty-eight days could
be twice divided until the week of seven days was reached, and
then further division was impossible. Hence we everywhere find the
superstition linked to the days of the week and the seven planets
supposed to preside over these days.

     * Natural Genesis, ii., 219.

The Egyptians worshipped the seven planets, and Herodotus tells us of
their seven castes. So with the Babylonians. From them was derived the
Jewish week. Hesiod, according to Eusebius, said "The seventh is the
sacred day." What he says in his _Works and Days_ is, "On the seventh
day Latona brought forth Apollo"; and Æschylus, in his _Seven Against
Thebes_, says the number Seven was sacred to Apollo. The moon periods
were sacred as measuring time and also in connection with female
periodicity. Man discovered the month before the year. Hence the moon
was widely worshipped. The worship of the queen of heaven in Palestine
is alluded to in Jer. vii. 18 and xliv. 17. The superstition of the
new moon bringing luck has descended to our own time. When the year was
reckoned by thirteen moons of twenty-eight days, thirteen was the lucky
number; but when this was changed for the twelve months of solar time,
thirteen became one too many. The Parsee Bundahisli, according to Gerald
Massey, exhibits seven races of men--(1) the earth-men, (2) water-men,
(3) breast-eared men, (4) breast-eyed men, (5) one-legged men, (6)
batwinged men, (7) men with tails.

Section 7 of the Kabbalistic Sepher Yezirah* says, "The seven planets
in the world are Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sun, Venus, Mercury, Moon. Seven
days in the year are the seven days of the week; seven gates in man,
male and female, are two eyes, two ears, two nostrils and the mouth."
Again, section 15 says, "By the seven double consonants were also
designed seven worlds, seven heavens, seven lands, seven seas, seven
rivers, seven deserts, seven days a week, seven weeks from Passover to
Pentecost, there is a cycle of seven years, the seventh is the release
year, and after seven release years is jubilee. Hence God loves the
number seven under the whole heaven."

     * Trans, by Dr. I. Kalisch, pp. 27 and 81.

The Bible, it has been remarked, begins in Genesis with a seven, and
ends in the Apocalypse with a series of sevens. God himself took a rest
on the seventh day and was refreshed, or, as the Hebrew reads, took
breath. The Passover and other festivals lasted seven days; Jacob
bowed seven times; Solomon's temple was seven years in building; the
tabernacle had seven lamps, a candlestick with seven arms, etc. In a
variety of passages it seems, like 40, to have been a sort of round
number--as people sometimes say a dozen for an indeterminate quantity.
Thus in Daniel iii. 19 the fiery furnace was to be heated seven times
more than it was wont to be heated. In Proverbs (xxiv. 16) we are told
a just man falleth seven times and rises up again. One of the Psalmists
says (cix. 164), "Seven times a day do I praise thee because of thy
righteous judgments" (see too Lev. xxvi. 18, 28; Dent, xxviii. 7, 35;
Job ix; Psalm xii. 6, lxxix. 12; Isaiah iv. 1, xi. 15, xxx. 26; Jer. xv.
9, Matt. xii. 45). The week induced reckoning by sevens, and led to
such enactments as that the Jews on the seventh day of the seventh month
should feast seven days and remain seven days in tents.

The root idea of the number is that of religious periodicity. We find
it not only in the Sabbath, but in all other sacred periods. Thus the
seventh month is ushered in by the Feast of Trumpets, and signalised by
the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles and Yom Kippur. Seven weeks
is the interval between Passover and Pentecost. The seventh is the
Sabbatical year, when bondsmen were to be released and debts go free.
With this custom is connected the binding of youths for seven years
apprenticeship, and of punishing incorrigible offenders for 7, 14, or
21 years. The year succeeding seven times seven is the Jubilee. The
earliest form, that of the menstrual period, is shown in the duration of
various kinds of legal uncleanness, as after childbirth, after contact
with a corpse, etc. So we have the sprinkling of the house seven times
with the water of purification (Lev. xiv. 51), the command of Elisha
to Naaman to wash in Jordan seven times (2 Kings v. 10). Hezekiah, in
cleansing the temple, offered seven bullocks, seven rams, and seven
he-goats for a sin offering. Septuple actions and agents abound. Thus
the blood of sacrifices were sprinkled seven times (Lev. iv. 6, 17; xiv.
7, 16, 27; xvi. 14, 15). So Jacob bowed to his brother Esau seven times
(Gen. xxxiii. 3). Balak built for Balaam seven altars, and prepares
seven oxen and seven rams (Num. xxiii. 1, 4, 14, 29), and Abraham
employed seven victims for sacrifice (Gen. xxi. 28, 30). We are reminded
of the lines in Virgil's Æneid (vi. 58).

     Seven bullocks, yet unyoked, for Phoebus choose,
     And for Diana, seven unspotted ewes.

The Hebrew verb _Shaba_, to swear, is evidently derived from _Sheba_
seven, and denoted a sevenfold affirmation. Herodotus (xiii. 8), tells
us the manner of swearing among the ancient Arabians included smearing
seven stones with blood. Sheba is allied to the Egyptian Seb-ti (5-2),
the Zend Hapta, Greek Epta, Latin septem. The Pythagoreans said that
Heptad came from the Greek _Sebo_ to venerate, but Egyptian and other
African dialects suffice to prove it is far earlier.

The writer of the Apocalypse had the mystic number on the brain. Dr.
Milligan has explained the 666 number of the beast, as a fall below the
sacred seven John of Patmos gives us seven golden candlesticks, (i. 1),
seven stars (i. 20), seven spirits and churches (iii. 1), seven seals
(v. 1), trumpets (viii. 2), thunders (x. 34), vials (xvi. 1), and seven
angels with seven plagues (xvi.) The beast has seven heads, horns and
crowns (xii. 3, xiii. 1, xvii. 7). The Lamb with seven horns and seven
eyes (v. 1 ). There are seven spirits before the throne of God (Rev. i.
4, etc.) like the seven Dhyani Chohans emanating from Parabrahm in Hindu

So Christians have kept up legends of seven wise men, seven wonders of
the world, seven champions of Christendom, seven cardinal virtues, seven
deadly sins, seven devils in Mary Magdalene, etc. Of course there is no
better reason why there should be seven than the old idea of mystery and
completion attached to the number.

Modern Theosophists, too, go in largely for the number seven. There are
seven planets, seven rounds on each planet and seven races. Every ego
is composed of seven principles--Atma, Buddhi, Manas, Kamarupa, Linga
Sharira, Prana, and Sthula Sharira. It may seem strange that a lady of
Madame Blavatsky's undoubted powers of imagination should run in the old
rut. But the well-worn superstitions work the easiest, although to every
instructed person this one carries the mind back to the days when men
knew only of seven planets and measured their time by the moon.

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