Ancient Pagan and Modern Christian Symbolism
by Thomas Inman, M.D. (1874)
Pagan and Christian symbolism
Figure 61. In modern Christian art this symbol is called vesica piscis, and is sometimes surrounded with rays. It commonly serves as a sort of framework in which female saints are placed, who are generally the representatives of the older Juno, Ceres, Diana, Venus, or other impersonations of the feminine element in creation. We should not feel obliged to demonstrate the truth of this assertion if decency permitted us to reproduce here designs which naughty youths so frequently chalk upon walls to the disgust of the proper part of the community. We must, therefore, have resort to a religious book, and in a subsequent figure demonstrate the meaning of the symbol unequivocally.
Figure 62 represents one of the forms assumed by the sistrum of Isis. Sometimes the instrument is oval, and occasionally it terminates below in a horizontal line, instead of in an acute angle. The inquirer can very readily recognise in the emblem the symbol of the female creator. If there should be any doubt in his mind, he will be satisfied after a reference to Maffei's Gemme Antiche Figurate (Rome, 1707), vol. ii., plate 61, wherein Diana of the Ephesians is depicted as having a body of the exact shape of the sistrum figured in Payne Knight's work on the remains of the worship of Priapus, etc. The bars across the sistrum show that it denotes a pure virgin (see Ancient Faiths, second edition, Vol. n., pp. 743-746). On its handle is seen the figure of a cat—a sacred animal amongst the Egyptians, for the same reason that Isis was figured sometimes as a cow—viz., for its salacity and its love for its offspring.