The Creator being both male and female, the emanations of his creative spirit, operating upon universal matter, produced subordinate ministers of both sexes, and gave, as companions to the fauns and satyrs, the nymphs of the waters, the mountains and the woods, signifying the passive productive powers
of each, subdivided and diffused. Of the same class are the Γενετυλλιδες, mentioned by Pausanias as companions to Venus, 1 who, as well as Ceres, Juno, Diana, Isis, &c., was only a personification of nature, or the passive principle of generation, operating in various modes. Apuleius invokes Isis by the names of the Eleusinian Ceres, Celestial Venus, and Proserpine; and, when the Goddess answers him, she describes herself as follows: "I am," says she, "nature, the parent of things, the sovereign of the elements, the primary progeny of time, the most exalted of the deities, the first of the heavenly Gods and Goddesses, the queen of the shades, the uniform countenance; who dispose, with my nod, the luminous heights of heaven, the salubrious breezes of the sea, and the mournful silence of the dead; whose single Deity the whole world venerates, in many forms, with various rites, and various names. The Egyptians, skilled in ancient learning, worship me with proper ceremonies, and call me by my true name, Queen Isis." 2
According to the Egyptians, Isis copulated with her brother Osiris in the womb of their mother; from whence sprung Arueris, or Orus, the Apollo of the
Click to view
COINS AND MEDALS
[paragraph continues] Greeks. 1 This allegory means no more than that the active and passive powers of creation united in the womb of night; where they had been implanted by the unknown father, Κρονος, or time, and by their union produced the separation or delivery of the elements from each other; for the name Apollo is only a title derived from απολνω, to deliver from. 2 They made the robes of Isis various in their colours and complicated in their folds, because the passive or material power appeared in various shapes and modes, as accommodating itself to the active; but the dress of Osiris was simple, and of one luminous colour, to show the unity of his essence, and universality of his power; equally the same through all things. 3 The luminous, or flame colour, represented the sun, who, in the language of the theologists, was the substance of his sacred power, and the visible image of his intellectual being. 4 He is called, in the Orphic Litanies, the chain which connects all things together (ο δ᾽ ανεδραμε δεσμος απαντων), 5 as being the principle of attraction; and the deliverer (λυσιος), 6 as giving liberty to the innate powers of
nature, and thus fertilising matter. These epithets not only express the theological, but also the physical system of the Orphic school; according to which the sun, being placed in the centre of the universe, with the planets moving round, was, by his attractive force, the cause of all union and harmony in the whole; and, by the emanation of his beams, the cause of all motion and activity in the parts. This system is alluded to by Homer in the allegory of the golden chain, by which Jupiter suspends all things; 1 though there is every reason to believe that the poet himself was ignorant of its meaning, and only related it as he had heard it. The Ammonian Platonics adopted the same system of attraction, but changed its centre from the sun to their metaphysical abstraction or incomprehensible unity, whose emanations pervaded all things, and held all things together. 2
Besides the Fauns, Satyrs, and Nymphs, the incarnate emanations of the active and passive powers of the Creator, we often find in the ancient sculptures
certain androgynous beings possessed of the characteristic organs of both sexes, which I take to represent organized matter in its first stage; that is, immediately after it was released from chaos, and before it was animated by a participation of the ethereal essence of the Creator. In a beautiful gem belonging to R. Wilbraham, Esq., 1 one of these androgynous figures is represented sleeping, with the organs of generation covered, and the egg of chaos broken under it. On the other side is Bacchus, the Creator, bearing a torch, the emblem of ethereal fire, and extending it towards the sleeping figure; whilst one of his agents seems only to wait his permission to begin the execution of that office, which, according to every outward and visible sign, he appears able to discharge with energy and effect. The Creator himself leans upon one of those figures commonly called Sileni; but which, from their heavy unwieldy forms, were probably intended as personifications of brute inert matter, from which all things are formed, but which, being incapable of producing anything of itself, is properly represented as the support of the creative power, though not actively instrumental in his work. The total baldness of this figure represents the exhausted, unproductive state of matter,
when the generative powers were separated from it; for it was an opinion of the ancients, which I remember to have met with in some part of the works of Aristotle, to which I cannot at present refer, that every act of coition produced a transient chill in the brain, by which some of the roots of the hair were loosened; so that baldness was a mark of sterility acquired by excessive exertion. The figures of Pan have nearly the same forms with that which I have here supposed to represent inert matter; only that they are compounded with those of the goat, the symbol of the creative power, by which matter was fructified and regulated. To this is sometimes added the organ of generation, of an enormous magnitude, to signify the application of this power to its noblest end, the procreation of sensitive and rational beings. This composition forms the common Priapus of the Roman poets, who was worshipped among the other personages of the heathen mythology, but understood by few of his ancient votaries any better than by the good women of Isernia. His characteristic organ is sometimes represented by the artists in that state of tension and rigidity, which it assumes when about to discharge its functions, 1 and at other times in that state of tumid languor, which immediately
succeeds the performance. 1 In the latter case he appears loaded with the productions of nature, the result of those prolific efforts, which in the former case he appeared so well qualified to exert. I have in Plate V. given a figure of him in each situation, one taken from a bronze in the Royal Museum of Portici, and the other from one in that of Charles Townley, Esq. It may be observed, that in the former the muscles of the face are all strained and contracted, so that every nerve seems to be in a state of tension; whereas in the latter the features are all dilated and fallen, the chin reposed on the breast, and the whole figure expressive of languor and fatigue.
If the explanation which I have given of these androgynous figures be the true one, the fauns and satyrs, which usually accompany them, must represent abstract emanations, and not incarnations of the creative spirit, as when in copulation with the goat. The Creator himself is frequently represented in a human form; and it is natural that his emanations should partake of the same, though without having any thing really human in their composition. It seems, however, to have been the opinion in some parts of Asia, that the Creator was really of a human form. The Jewish legislator says expressly, that God
made man in his own image, and, prior to the creation of woman, created him male and female, 1 as he himself consequently was. 2 Hence an ingenious author has supposed that these androgynous figures represented the first individuals of the human race, who, possessing the organs of both sexes, produced children of each. This seems to be the sense in which they were represented by some of the ancient artists; but I have never met with any trace of it in any Greek author, except Philo the Jew; nor have I ever seen any monument of ancient art, in which the Bacchus, or Creator in a human form, was represented with the generative organs of both sexes. In the symbolical images, the double nature is frequently expressed by some androgynous insect, such as the snail, which is endowed with the organs of both sexes, and can copulate reciprocally with either: but when the refinement of art adopted the human form, it was represented by mixing the characters of the male and female bodies in every part, preserving still the distinctive organs of the male. Hence Euripides calls Bacchus θηλυμορφος, 3 and the Chorus of Bachannals in the same tragedy address him by masculine and
feminine epithets. 1 Ovid also says to him,
------Tibi, cum sine cornibus adstas,
Virgineum caput est. 2
alluding in the first line to his taurine, and in the second to his androgynous figure.
The ancient theologists were, like the modern, divided into sects; but, as these never disturbed the peace of society, they have been very little noticed. I have followed what I conceive to be the true Orphic system, in the little analysis which I have here endeavoured to give. This was probably the true catholic faith, though it differs considerably from another ancient system, described by Aristophanes; 3 which is more poetical, but less philosophical. According to this, Chaos, Night, Erebus, and Tartarus, were the primitive beings. Night, in the infinite breast of Erebus, brought forth an egg, from which sprung Love, who mixed all things together; and from thence sprung the heaven, the ocean, the earth, and the gods. This system is alluded to by the epithet Ωογενος, applied to the Creator in one of the Orphic Litanies: 4 but this could never have been a part of the orthodox
faith; for the Creator is usually represented as breaking the egg of chaos, and therefore could not have sprung from it. In the confused medleys of allegories and traditions contained in the Theogony attributed to Hesiod, Love is placed after Chaos and the Earth, but anterior to every thing else. These differences are not to be wondered at; for Aristophanes, supposing that he understood the true system, could not with safety have revealed it, or even mentioned it any otherwise than under the usual garb of fiction and allegory; and as for the author of the Theogony, it is evident, from the strange jumble of incoherent fables which he has put together, that he knew very little of it. The system alluded to in the Orphic verses quoted in the Argonautics, is in all probability the true one; for it is not only consistent in all its parts, but contains a physical truth, which the greatest of the modern discoveries has only confirmed and explained. The others seem to have been only poetical corruptions of it, which, extending by degrees, produced that unwieldly system of poetical mythology, which constituted the vulgar religion of Greece.
75:1 Pausanias (lib. ii.) says he knew the meaning of this symbol, but did not choose to reveal It, it being a part of the mystic worship.
75:2 Plate III. Fig. 1.
76:1 Lib. i.
76:2 Metamorph. lib. xi.
79:1 Plutarch, de Is. et Os.
79:2 Damm. Lex. Etym.
79:3 Plutarch, de Is. et Os.
79:5 Hymn. xlvi.
79:6 Hymn. xlix. the initials of this epithet are with the bull on p. 80 a medal of Naples belonging to me The bull has a human countenance, and has therefore been called a minotaur by antiquarians; notwithstanding he is to be found on different medals, accompanied with all the symbols both of Bacchus and Apollo, and with the initials of most of the epithets to be found in the Orphic Litanies.
80:1 Il. Θ, ver. xix.
80:2 Proclus in Theol. Plat. lib. i. c. 21.
81:1 See Plate V. Fig. 3.
82:1 Plate V. Fig. 1, from a bronze in the Museum at Portici.
83:1 Plate V. Fig 2, from a bronze in the Museum of C. Townley, Esq.
84:1 Genes. c. i.
84:2 Philo. de. Leg. Alleg. lib. ii.
84:3 Bach. v. 358.
85:1 Ω Βρομιε, Πεδωνρθσνος ενοσι ποτνια. Vers. 504.
85:2 Metam. lib. iv. v. 18.
85:3 Ορνιθ. Vers. 693.
85:4 Hymn V.