Chapter VII

Considerations respecting the origin of Phallic worship—Comparisons between Indian and Egyptian practices and doctrines.

For the bulk of the evidence respecting Phallic or Nature Worship, and for illustrations of its original character and ultimate developments, it is evident that India is the land to which we must chiefly look for information: for this reason the majority of the preceding pages deal with that part of the world. Historically perhaps there is considerable difficulty in deciding as to where this worship originated; its antiquity is so great, and its diffusion throughout various countries so general and extensive, that it appears impossible to say whether Greece, Rome, India, or Egypt was its earliest home or birthplace.

There are some considerations, however, which render it probable that it was in India where its earliest manifestations were exhibited. Whatever impurities and abominations may have clustered round it in comparatively modern times, the fact must not be lost sight of, that in its earlier phases in that country nothing was associated with it that was calculated to cause any offence to the most refined and modest of minds. Very little judgment is needed to understand that the tendency of practices thus appealing to the most easily excited of the animal passions would be downward rather than upward, that instead of growing pure and free from the taint of lustful desires, the almost inevitable fruit would be impurity and licentious indulgence; it is not likely therefore that the more respectable worship of early India would be the product of the gross practices of the other nations we have named. We can see clearly enough, we think, the origin of this worship resting upon the highest aspirations of the human soul. In endeavouring to frame a theological system and arrange a method of worship to meet the cravings of the mind for intercourse with the creative powers of the universe, men would be sure to fix their thoughts upon those means and agents by which living beings and things were brought into existence, and which, to say the least of it, acted as secondary causes in the creative work. These, of course, would be the generative organs of men and animals in general, and for want of better and more exalted teaching, they would easily enough persuade themselves that it was a {89} proper thing to worship the power symbolized by such objects, if they did not actually worship the objects themselves. Perhaps originally, the first of these two ideas was all that was intended or contemplated, for it is undeniable that many cases have come under our notice in which men were really rendering adoration to an unknown spiritual power when they appeared to be doing nothing but worshipping a graven image.

There is no doubt the religious system of the Hindus is very ancient, and it has been supposed by some that it was formed about the same time as that of the Egyptians, from which that of the Greeks and other western nations was in some measure derived. Many points of resemblance have been observed between them, too many, and too striking, to have been fortuitous. Even some of the inhabitants of Ethiopia appear to have been of the same origin with those of Hindostan, and both the Ethiopians and Egyptians seem to have had some connection or intercourse with the Hindoos; but of what kind it was, or when it subsisted, we have no certain account; and they appear to have been so long separated, that at present they are in total ignorance of each other.

According to Eusebius and Syncellus, some people from the river Indus settled in the neighbourhood of Egypt in the reign of Amenophis, the father of Sesostris, and many Egyptians, banished by their princes, settled in other countries and went as far as India. It is also supposed that many of the priests of Egypt left the country on the invasion of it by Cambyses. But such circumstances as these are not sufficient to account for the great resemblance between the two systems. The Hindoos themselves say that their sacred books came from the West, but they themselves, no doubt, as well as their books, came from that quarter, and their sacred books, it is supposed, were probably composed while the seat of the empire was in Persia.

There are a few Egyptian words similar to those in the ancient language of Hindostan, which seem to shew that the two people had some affinity to each other. Brama, pronounced birouma in Malabar, signifies man, and so did pirouma in the language of Egypt. The name of the river of Egypt, Nile, is probably Sanscrit, since nila in that language, signifies blue, and the ancients say it had its name from that colour.

But circumstances of much more importance than these discover some early connection between Hindostan and Egypt. The names and figures of the twelve signs of the Zodiac among the {90} Hindoos are nearly the same with ours, which came from Egypt through Greece, and each of these signs is divided into thirty degrees. Both the Egyptians and Hindoos had also the same division of time into weeks, and they denominated each of the days by the names of the same planets.

The resemblance between the Oriental and Occidental systems extends much farther than Egypt. The office and power of the Druids in the northern parts of Europe, did not differ much from those of the Brahmins; and the Etruscans, from whom the Romans derived the greatest part of their learning and religion, had a system which had a near affinity with that of the Persians and Indians, and they wrote alternately to the right hand and the left.

Several remarkable general principles were held alike by the ancient Egyptians and the Hindoos. They both believed that the souls of men existed in a prior state, and went into other bodies after death. They had the same ideas of the body being a prison to the soul, and imagined that they could purify and exalt the soul by the mortification of the body; and from the idea of the great superiority of spiritual to corporeal substances, they held all matter in great contempt. They also believed (according to La Croze) that plants had a principle of animation.

Several religious ideas and customs were common to both countries. The Egyptians of Thebais represented the world under the figure of an egg, which came from the mouth of Cneph, and this resembled the first production according to the Hindoo system. Several of the Egyptian deities were both male and female, which corresponds with the figure of the lingam with the Hindoos. This obscene figure, at least the phallus, was much used in the Egyptian worship, and from Egypt it was carried into Greece, where it was used in the mysteries of Bacchus. As the Hindoos worshipped their god Siva under this figure, and carried it in procession, the Egyptians and Greeks did the same with the phallus. Also, the lascivious postures of the Egyptian women before their god Apis, were the same as those of the Hindoo women before their idols. The Hindoos also chose their sacred bulls by the same marks as were used by the Egyptians.

Then, again, the account of the flight of the Egyptian gods, as given by the Greeks, and their concealing themselves under the forms of animals, bears some resemblance to the various transformations of Vishnu. Also, the Egyptians worshipped the Nile and the Hindoos the Ganges. Some of the Hindoo temples have the same remarkable form, viz., that of a pyramid, or cone. That the {91} pyramids of Egypt had some religious use can hardly be doubted. All the pagodas are in that form, or have towers of that form in the buildings which surround them. The temples in Pegu are also of a conical form. Sir William Jones says that the pyramids of Egypt, as well as those discovered in Ireland, and probably also the tower of Babel, seem to have been intended for images of Mahadeva, or Siva. One other thing, the onion, which was held in veneration by the Egyptians, is not eaten by the Hindoos.

Not only do we find the same general principles, and the same, or similar, religious customs, but some of the same gods among the Hindoos, Egyptians, and Greeks. The Egyptian Cneph was the Supreme intelligence, which was never lost sight of by the Hindoos. With the Egyptians, Isis represented not only the moon, but sometimes the powers of Nature, which were supposed to have been in a great measure derived from the moon; and in Bengal and Japan, also, the same is called Isari, or Isi, and is described as a goddess with many arms. According to Sir William Jones, Iswara of the Hindoos is the Osiris of the Egyptians, and Nared, a distinguished son of Brahma, resembles Hermes, or Mercury. A statue of Jupiter had a third eye in its forehead, and Siva has three eyes. Diodorus Siculus and Plutarch say that Osiris signifies a person that has many eyes, and Siva is drawn with an additional eye in his forehead, though the phallus is his usual form. Osiris was said to have been killed by Typhon, and Chib cut off the head of Brahma.

Indra of the Hindoos, called also Divespiter, is Jupiter, or Diespiter; the bull of Iswara is the Apis, or Ap, of Egypt. Cartraya, with six faces and many eyes, was the Egyptian Orus, and the Mars of Italy. Sri, or Iris, called also Pedna, and Camala, was Ceres, and according to Herodotus, she was the Egyptian Isis. Ganesu was Janus. Visuacarman, the Indian forger of arms for the gods, was Vulcan. The Rama of India is Dyonisus, called also Bromius by the Greeks: Krishnu or Vishnu, is Apollo, and in Irish, it signifies the sun. According to the Vedas and other sacred works, a bad genius, or giant, seizes on the sun and moon when they are eclipsed, and the Egyptians ascribed the same thing to their Typhon, who was said even to have swallowed their god Horus, or the Sun.

The Egyptians at certain festivals carried the images of their gods in procession. Herodotus says they drew one of them in a carriage with four wheels, and the same was done by the Hindoos. The Egyptians held cows in much greater veneration than any {92} other animals; they were sacred to Isis, and never sacrificed. Some superstitious respect was also paid to horned cattle by the Persians. In an account of the Zendavesta, Ormusd, the Supreme Being, directs Zerdusht to render worship and praise to the Supreme Ox, and to the rain, of which the angel Jashter, who subsists in the form of an ox, is the distributor. The Hindoos made some use of the image of a bull, as Mr. Sonnerat relates in his account of some of their Temples, though they never carried their superstition in this respect so far as the Egyptians, who made live bulls the immediate objects of their worship.

It may be said that in all this there is a great deal of mere conjecture, and therefore of uncertainty; the evidence, however, upon which it is founded, coming from a number of independent sources from writers of repute, learning, and veracity—is not easily disposed of. It seems conclusive that systems very like one another indeed prevailed in different parts of the world, and though similar situations may lead to similar sentiments, and corresponding practices, the above mentioned similarity is too great, and extends to too many particulars, to be thus accounted for. It is not at all extraordinary that men who had no communication with each other should be equally worshippers of the sun, moon, and stars, that they should fancy deep caverns, or thick woods, to be haunted with spirits, that particular rivers should have their several genii, or deities dispensing their waters at their pleasure, as the sun, they might suppose, did his heat, and the moon, the stars, and the planets their peculiar influences; but that they should adopt the same rites in the worship of these natural deities, and especially that they should give them attributes, and even names, so nearly alike, is beyond the effect of accident.

The conclusion we come to, and which we think is fully warranted by all the circumstances, is, that the great mass of phallic worship existing in different parts of the world began in India, and gradually found its way into the western nations, becoming, as was perfectly natural with such a system, more and more depraved as time went on, and as it was found that it could be made subservient to the desires and passions of licentious men.

Our frontispiece represents a pious female propitiating Mahadeva or Siva in his generative character, indicated by the Linga, inserted in its appropriate receptacle, the Argha, or Yoni. The engraving is taken from a picture which Moor describes as being delicately executed, the female being young, handsome, and elegantly dressed. She is performing the ceremony of Linga puja, {93} to which such frequent references is made in these pages, and she has spread out in front of her the various objects required in that service. The symbol is placed in one of the many domestic temples, common at one time in India, known as Dewal, or Devel, from Deva, a deity, and havela, a house, literally a house of God. It is this erection which is ordinarily written pagoda, by the English, a word not used in India. The stone of the building is white, its lines gold, and it is surmounted by a gold spire, called Sekra; when temples, or other things have a conical, or pine-apple shaped termination, such ornament is called Kalasa. The exterior of the temple is white, its interior, ash coloured, like its patron deity, the Linga and Asgha are of black stone with gilt edges: the Linga (the upright conical stone), which has mystical orange coloured lines traced on it, is crowned with encircled folds of Bilva flowers; and a chaplet of three strings of them, white with yellow buds at regular distances, hangs pendent from the top of the Linga, falling towards the termination or spout of the Argha. The Bilva is a shrub consecrated to Mahadeva, who alone wears a chaplet of its flowers, which are offered in sacrifice to no other deity. The various implements used in the puja to Siva are, five lighted lamps; (or one lamp with five wicks) a spouted vessel holding lustral water; a cup for ghee; another cup for water with which to sprinkle the flowers; and a bell rung at certain times to scare away evil spirits.

The woman sits on an embroidered carpet, called Asana: her right hand is in a bag of gold brocade, the hand being supposed to hold a rosary of round beads, 108 in number without the connecting ones.

This picture admirably illustrates the true character of the original lingam-worship of India, and fully bears out all that has been said respecting its original freedom from the indecencies which afterwards became so flagrant and universal.

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