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The Gnostics and Their Remains, by Charles William King, [1887], at

p. 245


Having in the preceding sections cleared the ground of the innumerable usurpers of the title "Abraxas gems," we can conveniently proceed to consider the wondrous Sigil, the invention whereof is universally ascribed to Basilides himself. And for this assumption there are very good grounds, for it is certain that such a Sigil never occurs executed in a style that bespeaks a date anterior to the grand heresiarch's, the first years of the second century.

This figure, which has given its name to the whole family, is designed to represent the god "Abraxas," for so his name is written invariably on the gems, although the Latin Fathers to suit the genius of their own language have transposed the final letters. The etymology and value of the name require a whole section to themselves, so deep are the mysteries that they contain.

The purpose of the composition was to express visibly, and at once, the 365 Æons, emanations from the First Cause, whose number was probably first suggested by its own numerical signification, and consequently the figure may be taken as a speaking type of the Pleroma, the one embracing all within itself, an idea fittingly embodied in a name containing the sum of all its component powers. To shadow forth therefore this grand doctrine, the image in question is a "Pantheus," or combination of many discordant attributes expressing the amalgamation of many different ideas in one and the same figure. Hence he is depicted with the head of a cock, sacred to Phœbus, or else of a Lion, symbol of Mithras and Belus; his body, human and clad in armour, indicates his guardian power, for he is a Virtue Militant "putting on the whole armour of God"; his legs are the sacred asps, types of the Agathodæmon, likewise indicating swiftness; for in this way, says Pausanias, was Boreas pictured upon the Coffer of Cypselus: in his right hand he brandishes a scourge, the Egyptian badge of sovereignty; on

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his left arm a shield, usually emblazoned with some word of power, declaring his perpetual warfare against the rebellious Angels, the "Gods of death." Bellermann has proposed with much ingenuity an interpretation of this Pantheus in the more spiritual sense better consonant with the esoteric teaching of its inventor. According to him, the whole represents the Supreme Being, with his Five great Emanations, each one pointed out by means of an expressive emblem. Thus, from the human body, the usual form assigned to the Deity, forasmuch as it is written that God created man in his own image, issue the two supporters, Nous and Logos, symbols of the inner sense and the quickening understanding, as typified by the serpents, for the same reason that had induced the old Greeks to assign this reptile for an attribute to Pallas. His head--a cock's--represents Phronesis, the fowl being emblematical of foresight and vigilance. His two hands bear the badges of Sophia and Dynamis, the shield of Wisdom, and the scourge of Power.

This Pantheus is invariably inscribed with his proper name, ΙΑΩ, and his epithets, ΑΒΡΑΣΑΞ and ΣΑΒΑΩΘ, and often accompanied with invocations such as, ΣΕΜΕΣ ΕΙΛΑΜ, "The Eternal Sun"; ΑΒΛΑΝΑΘΑΝΑΛΒΑ, "Thou art our Father" (sometimes curtailed, but generally so arranged as to read the same both ways); or ΑΔΟΝΑΙ, "The Lord." *

In all this a further relationship to the ancient idea of the Sun-god is readily to be discovered. Phœbus, as the god of day, is similarly furnished with a whip, and the serpent, according to the Egyptians, hieroglyphically expressed his tortuous course through the Zodiac. "Adonai" was the Syrian title of the Sun, whence Adonis or Thammuz denoted that luminary at the winter solstice. Moreover, the Gnostic epithets above are the very words composing that "short prayer," from the use of which at all sacrifices Macrobius (I. 23) makes out that the influence of the Sun is the Power supreme over all: "O Sun, Father of All, Spirit of the world, Strength of the world, Light of the world!" But the God adored under the name of

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[paragraph continues] "Abrasax" is clearly shown by the Bosanquet jasper (more particularly described elsewhere), exhibiting the Pantheus in the very car, and attitude of Phœbus, and by the Alexandrian coin of Hadrian presenting Serapis similarly engaged. That the latter was the Solar deity, all mythologists were agreed; and this identity of action would lead one to suspect that "Abrasax" was no more than the mystic name of the tutelary god of Alexandria.

The older Chnuphis was occasionally (though rarely) erected with Abraxas on the same talisman; an example of which is offered in one of the most remarkable of the class ever brought under my notice. It was brought from Bombay by a Jew (1874), and sold to M. Gaston Feuardent, whence it came into the possession of the Rev. S. S. Lewis.

Red jasper of fine quality, 1¾ × 1¼ inch, with figure of Abraxas, holding whip and shield, engraved in unusually good style upon the convex face. Round the edge, beginning over the head, runs continuously,

at the back of the head, Ρ; under beak, Ι; over right shoulder, (probably nexus of ΑΒΛΑΝ); across the field, each side of waist,

Again, across field on a level with his loins, on each side,

[paragraph continues] (perhaps Eoia, "The Serpent," in Syriac).

[paragraph continues] Between the serpent legs,

[paragraph continues] On the other side, which is almost flat, is the Chnuphis Serpent, erect, with the Seven Vowels inserted between the rays of his head. Across the middle of the field,

ΝΛ        ΕΙΧ ("Thy God.")

[paragraph continues] Over his head, three scarabei in a row; to the right, three goats, and three crocodiles above each other; to the left, as many ibises and serpents so arranged.


246:* Besides these regular titles, others are occasionally used, of unknown import. Thus a well-engraved Abraxas figure (John Evans) has over his head ΒΙCΤΥC, below his feet ΕΙCΙΤ.

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