Bible Myths and their Parallels in other Religions Being a Comparison of the Old and New Testament Myths and Miracles with those of the Heathen Nations of Antiquity Considering also their Origin and Meaning
Page: 233The "Sacred Heart," was a great mystery with the ancients.
Horus, the Egyptian virgin-born Saviour, was represented carrying the sacred heart outside on his breast. Vishnu, the Mediator and Preserver of the Hindoos, was also represented in that manner. So was it with Bel of Babylon.[405:1] In like manner, Christ Jesus, the Christian Saviour, is represented at the present day.
The amulets or charms which the Roman Christians wear, to drive away diseases, and to protect them from harm, are other relics of paganism. The ancient pagans wore these charms for the same purpose. The name of their favorite god was generally inscribed upon them, and we learn by a quotation from Chrysostom that the Christians at Antioch used to bind brass coins of Alexander the Great about their heads, to keep off or drive away diseases.[405:2] The Christians also used amulets with the name or monogram of the god Serapis engraved thereon, which show that it made no difference whether the god was their own or that of another. Even the charm which is worn by the Christians at the present day, has none other than the monogram of Bacchus engraved thereon, i. e., I. H. S.[405:3]
The ancient Roman children carried around their necks a small ornament in the form of a heart, called Bulla. This was imitated by the early Christians. Upon their ancient monuments in the Vatican, the heart is very common, and it may be seen in numbers of old pictures. After some time it was succeeded by the Agnus Dei, which, like the ancient Bulla, was supposed to avert dangers from the children and the wearers of them. Cardinal (an eminent Roman Catholic ecclesiastical historian, born at Sora, in Naples, A. D. 1538) says, that those who have been baptized carry pendent from their neck an Agnus Dei, in imitation of a devotion of the Pagans, who hung to the neck of their children little bottles in the form of a heart, which served as preservatives against charms and enchantments. Says Mr. Cox:
"That ornaments in the shape of a vesica have been popular in all countries as preservatives against dangers, and especially from evil spirits, can as little be questioned as the fact that they still retain some measure of their ancient popularity in England, where horse-shoes are nailed to walls as a safeguard against unknown perils, where a shoe is thrown by way of good-luck after newly-married couples, and where the villagers have not yet ceased to dance round the May-pole on the green."[405:4]
All of these are emblems of either the or Yoni.
The use of amulets was carried to the most extravagant excess [Pg 406]in ancient Egypt, and their Sacred Book of the Dead, even in its earliest form, shows the importance attached to such things.[406:1]
We can say with M. Renan that:
"Almost all our superstitions are the remains of a religion anterior to Christianity, and which Christianity has not been able entirely to root out."[406:2]
Baptismal fonts were used by the pagans, as well as the little cisterns which are to be seen at the entrance of Catholic churches. In the temple of Apollo, at Delphi, there were two of these; one of silver, and the other of gold.[406:3]
Temples always faced the east, to receive the rays of the rising sun. They contained an outer court for the public, and an inner sanctuary for the priests, called the "Adytum." Near the entrance was a large vessel, of stone or brass, filled with water, made holy by plunging into it a burning torch from the altar. All who were admitted to the sacrifices were sprinkled with this water, and none but the unpolluted were allowed to pass beyond it. In the center of the building stood the statue of the god, on a pedestal raised above the altar and enclosed by a railing. On festival occasions, the people brought laurel, olive, or ivy, to decorate the pillars and walls. Before they entered they always washed their hands, as a type of purification from sin.[406:4] A story is told of a man who was struck dead by a thunderbolt because he omitted this ceremony when entering a temple of Jupiter. Sometimes they crawled up the steps on their knees, and bowing their heads to the ground, kissed the threshold. Always when they passed one of these sacred edifices they kissed their right hand to it, in token of veneration.
In all the temples of Vishnu, Crishna, Rama, Durga, and Kali, in India, there are to be seen idols before which lights and incense are burned. Moreover, the idols of these gods are constantly decorated with flowers and costly ornaments, especially on festive occasions.[406:5] The ancient Egyptian worship had a great splendor of ritual. There was a morning service, a kind of mass, celebrated by a priest, shorn and beardless; there were sprinklings of holy water, &c., &c.[406:6] All of this kind of worship was finally adopted by the Christians.
The sublime and simple theology of the primitive Christians [Pg 407]was gradually corrupted and degraded by the introduction of a popular mythology, which tended to restore the reign of polytheism.
As the objects of religion were gradually reduced to the standard of the imagination, the rites and ceremonies were introduced that seemed most powerfully to affect the senses of the vulgar. If, in the beginning of the fifth century, Tertullian, or Lactantius, had been suddenly raised from the dead, to assist at the festival of some popular saint or martyr, they would have gazed with astonishment and indignation on the profane spectacle, which had succeeded to the pure and spiritual worship of a Christian congregation.[407:1]