Ancient Pagan and Modern Christian Symbolism
by Thomas Inman, M.D. (1874)
Pagan and Christian symbolism
Figures 72, 73, represent an ancient Christian bishop, and a modern nun wearing the emblem of the female sex. In the former, said (in Old England Pictorially Illustrated, by Knight) to be a drawing of St. Augustine, the amount of symbolism is great. The "nimbus" and the tonsure are solar emblems; the pallium, the feminine sign, is studded with phallic crosses; its lower end is the ancient T the mark of the masculine triad; the right hand has the forefinger extended, like the Assyrian priests whilst doing homage to the grove, and within it is the fruit, tappuach, which is said to have tempted Eve. When a male dons the pallium in worship, he becomes the representative of the trinity in the unity, the arba, or mystic four. See Ancient Faiths, second edition, Vol. n., pp. 915-918.
I take this opportunity to quote here a pregnant page of King's Gnostics and their Remains, (Bell & Daldy, London, 1864). To this period belongs a beautiful sard in my collection representing Serapis,... whilst before him stands Isis, holding in one hand the sistrum, in the other a wheatsheaf, with the legend... 'Immaculate is our lady Isis,' the very terms applied afterwards to that personage who succeeded to her form (the 'Black Virgins,' so highly reverenced in certain French Cathedrals during the middle ages, proved, when examined critically, basalt figures of Isis), her symbols, rites, and ceremonies.... Her devotees carried into the new priesthood the former badges of their profession, the obligation to celibacy, the tonsure, and the surplice, omitting, unfortunately, the frequent ablutions prescribed by the ancient creed. The sacred image still moves in procession as when Juvenal laughed at it, vi. 530.
Escorted by the tonsured surpliced train. Her proper title, Domina, the exact translation of Sanscrit Isi, survives with slight change in the modern Madonna, Mater Domina.
By a singular permutation the flower borne by each, the lotus—ancient emblem of the sun and fecundity—now re-named the lily, is interpreted as significant of the opposing quality. The tinkling sistrum... is replaced by... the bell, taken from Buddhist usages.... The erect oval symbol of the Female Principle of Nature became the Vesica Piscis, and the Crux Ansata, testifying the union of the male and female in the most obvious manner, is transformed into the orb surmounted by the cross, as an ensign of royalty. Pp. 71, 72.