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Full text of "Ophiolatreia : an account of the rites and mysteries connected with the origin, rise and development of serpent worship in various parts of the world, enriched with interesting traditions, and a full description of the celebrated serpent mounds & temples, the whole forming an exposition of one of the phases of phallic, or sex worship"

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Oph Ophiolatreia or 
1889 serpent worship 

No. 2839 





C. G. Jung Institute of San Francisco 

2040 Gough Street 

San Francisco, CA 94109 

Ophiolatreia : 







Serpent flfeounbs & {Temples, 


Phallic, or Sex Worship. 




/~\UR words by way of 'preface and introduction need be but 
few. The following volume forms a companion to one 
already issued bearing the title " Phallism." That work, though 
complete in itself meets in this a further elucidation of its 
subject, since, in the opinion of many, Ophiolatreia, the wor- 
ship) of the Serpent, is of Phallic origin. Such a view, and 
others of a contrary nature, have been honestly set forth, and 
the best and most trustworthy authorities have been consulted 
for history, arguments, and illustrations by which they may be 
understood. No attempt has been made to insist upon any 
one method of interpretation as undoubtedly correct, but simple 
facts have been stated, and the reader has been left to form his 
own independent judgment. 



Chapter 1 1 

Ophiolatreia an extraordinary subject — Of mysterious origin — Of 
universal prevalence — The Serpent, a common symbol in mytho- 
logy — Serpent Worship, natural but irrational — Bacchic orgies — 
Olympias, mother of Alexander, and the Serpent Emblem — Ther- 
muthis, the sacred Serpent — Asps — Saturn and his children — 
Sacrifices at altar of Saturn — Abaddon — Eitual of Zoroaster — 
Vulcan — Theology of Ophion — The Cuthites — The Ophiogeneis — 
The Ophionians — Greek Traditions— Cecrops — Various Serpent 

Chapter II 10 

Supposed Phallic Origin of Serpent Worship — The idea of life — 
Adoration of the principle of generation — The Serpent as a sym- 
bol of the Phallus — Phallic Worship at Benares — The Serpent and 
Mahadeo — Festival of the "Nag panchami " — Snakes and Women 
— Traces of Phallic Worship in the Kumaon Bock Markings — The 
Northern Bulb-stones — Professor Stephens on the Snake as a 
Symbol of the Phallus — The " Dionysiak Myth " — Brown on the 
Serpent as a Phallic Emblem — Mythology of the Aryan Nations — 
Sir G. W. Cox and the Phallic theory — Athenian Mythology. 

Chapter III 17 

Mythology of the Ancients — Characteristics of the Pagan Deities 
— Doctrine of the Beciprocal Principles of Nature — Creation and 
the Egg — Creation and the Phallus — The Lotus— Osiris as the ac- 
tive, dispensing, and originating energy — Hesiod and the genera- 
tive powers — Growth of Phallic Worship. 

Chapter IV 21 

Ancient Monuments of the West — The valley of the Mississippi — 
Numerous earth-works of the Western States — Theories as to the 
origin of the mounds — " The Defence " Theory — The Beligious 
Theory — Earth-work of the " Great Serpent " on Bush Creek — 
The <f Alligator," Ohio — The " Cross," Pickaway County — Struc- 
tures of Wisconsin — Mr. Pigeon's drawings — Significance of earth- 
mounds — The Egg and Man's primitive ideas — The Egg as a 
symbol — Birth of Brahma — Aristophanes and his " Comedy of the 
Birds " — The hymn to Protogones — The Chinese and Creation — 
The Mundane or Orphic Egg— Kneph — Mr. Gliddon's replies to 
certain inqniries— The Orphic Theogony and the Egg — The Great 

viii. Contents. 

Chapter V 38 

The Sun and Fire as emblems-Tbe Serpent and the Sun-Taut and 
the Serpent — Horapollo and the Serpent Symbol — Sanchoniathon 
and the Serpent — Ancient Mysteries of Osiris, &c. — Rationale of 
the connection of Solar, Phallic, and Serpent Worship — The Aztec 
Pnntheon — Mexican Gods — The Snake in Mexican Theology — The 
Great Father and Mother— Quetzalcoatl, the Feathered Serpent — 
Researches of Stephens and Catherwood — Discoveries of Mr. 

Chapter VI 60 

Mexican Temple of Montezuma — The Serpent emblem in Mexico 
— Pyramid of Cholula — Tradition of the giants of Auahuac — The 
temple of Quetzalcoatl— North American Indians and the Rattle- 
snake — Indian Tradition of a Great Serpent — Serpents in the 
Mounds of the West — Bigotry and folly of the Spanish Con- 
querors of the West — Wide prevalence of Mexican Ophiolatreia. 

Chapter VII 77 

Egypt as the home of Serpent Worship — Thoth said to be the 
founder of Ophiolatreia — Cneph the architect of the universe — 
Mysteries of Isis — The Isiac table — Frequency of the Serpent 
symbol — Serapis — In the temples at Luxore, etc. — Discovery 
at Malta — The Egyptian Basilisk — Mummies — Bracelets — 
The Caduceus — Temple of Cneph at Elephantina — Thebes — 
Story of a priest — Painting in a tomb at Biban at Malook — 
Pococke at Raigny. 

Chapter VIII 84 

Derivation of the name " Europe" — Greece colonized by Ophites 
■ — Numerous traces of the Serpent in Greece — Worship of 
Bacchus — Story of Ericthonias — Banquet of the Bacchantes — 
Minerva — Armour of Agamemnon — Serpents at Epidaurus — 
Story of the pestilence in Rome — Delphi — Mahomet at Atmeidan. 

Chapter IX 89 

Ophiolatreia in Britain — The Druids — Adders— Poem of Taliessin 
— The goddess Ceridwen — A Bardic poem — Snake stones — The 
anguinum — Execution of a Roman Knight — Remains of the ser- 
pent temple at Abury — Serpent vestiges in Ireland of great 
rarity— St. Patrick. 

Chapter X 94 

India conspicuous in the history of Serpent Worship — Nagpur — 
Confessions of a snake worshipper — The gardeners of Guzerat — 
Cottages for snakes at Calicut— The Feast of the Serpents — The 
deity Hari — Garuda — The snake as an emblem of immortality. 

Chapter XI 99 

Mr. Bullock's exhibition of objects illustrating Serpent Worship. 



Ophiolatreia an extraordinary subject — Of mysterious origin — 
Of universel 'prevalence — The Serpent a common symbol in 
mythology — Serpent-worship natural but irrational — Bacchic 
orgies — Olympias, mother of Alexander, and the Serpent emblem 
— Thermuthis, the Sacred Serpent — Asp>s — Saturn and his children 
— Sacrifices at altar of Saturn — Abaddon — Ritual of Zoroaster — 
Theologo of Ophion — The Cuthites — The Ophiogeneis — The Ophio- 
mans — Greek Traditions — Cecrops — Various Serpent worshippers. 

OPHIOLATREIA, the worship of the serpent, next to the 
adoration of the phallus, is one of the most remarkable, 
and, at first sight, unaccountable forms of religion the world has 
ever known. Until the true source from whence it sprang can 
be reached and understood, its nature will remain as mysterious 
as its universality, for what man could see in an object so repul- 
sive and forbidding in its habits as this reptile, to render worship 
to, is one of the most difficult of problems to find a solution to. 
There is hardly a country of the ancient world, however, where 
it cannot be traced, pervading every known system of mythology, 
and leaving proofs of its existence and extent in the shape of 
monuments, temples, and earthworks of the most elaborate and 
curious character. Babylon, Persia, Hindostan, Ceylon, China, 
Japan, Burmah, Java, Arabia, Syria, Asia Minor, Egypt, Ethio- 
pia, Greece, Italy, Northern and Western Europe, Mexico, Peru, 
America — all yield abundant testimony to the same effect, and 
point to the common origin of Pagan systems wherever found. 
Whether the worship was the result of fear or respect is a 
question that naturally enough presents itself, and in seeking to 
answer it we shall be confronted with the fact that in some 
places, as Egypt, the symbol was that of a good demon, while in 
India, Scandinavia, and Mexico, it was that of an evil one. It 
has been remarked that in the warmer regions of the globe, 
where this creature is the most formidable enemy which man can 
encounter, the serpent should be considered the mythological 
attendant of an evil being is not surprising, but that in the 



frozen or temperate regions of the earth, where he dwindles into 
the insignificance of a reptile without power to create alarm, he 
should be regarded in the same appalling character, is a fact 
which cannot be accounted for by natural causes. Uniformity of 
tradition can alone satisfactorily explain uniformity of super- 
stition, where local circumstances are so discordant. 

" The serpent is the symbol which most generally enters into 
the mythology of the world. It may in different countries admit 
among its fellow-satellites of Satan the most venomous or the 
most terrible of the animals in each country, but it preserves its 
own constancy, as the only invariable object of superstitious 
terror throughout the habitable world. 'Wherever the Devil 
reigned,' remarks Stillingfleet, ' the serpent was held in some 
peculiar veneration.' The universality of this singular and 
irrational, yet natural, superstition it is now proposed to show. 
Irrational, for there is nothing in common between deity and a 
reptile, to suggest the notion of Serpent-worship; and natural, 
because, allowing the truth of the events in Paradise, every 
probability is in favour of such a superstition springing up."* 

It may seem extraordinary that the worship of the serpent 
should ever have been introduced into the world, and it must 
appear still more remarkable that it should almost universally 
have prevailed. As mankind are said to have been ruined 
through the influence of this being, we could little expect that it 
would, of all other objects, have been adopted as the most sacred 
and salutary symbol, and rendered the chief object of adoration. 
Yet so we find it to have been, for in most of the ancient rites 
there is some allusion to it. In the orgies of Bacchus, the 
persons who took part in the ceremonies used to carry serpents 
in their hands, and with horrid screams call upon " Eva, Eva." 
They were often crowned with serpents while still making the 
same frantic exclamation. One part of the mysterious rites of 
Jupiter Sabazius was to let a snake slip down the bosom of the 
person to be initiated, which was taken out below. These 
ceremonies, and this symbolic worship, are said to have begun 
among the Magi, who were the sons of Chus, and by them they 
were propagated in various parts. Epiphanius thinks that the 
invocation "Eva, Eva," related to the great mother of mankind, 
who was deceived by the serpent, and Clemens of Alexandria is 
>f the same opinion. Others, however, think that Eva was the 

# Deane. 


same as Eph, Epha, Opha, which the Greeks rendered Ophis, and 
by it denoted a serpent. Clemens acknowledges that the term 
Eva, properly aspirated, had such a signification. 

Olympias, the mother of Alexander, was very fond of these 
orgies, in which the serpent was introduced. Plutarch mentions 
that rites of this sort were practised by the Edonian women near 
Mount Haemus in Thrace, and carried on to a degree of madness. 
Olympias copied them closely in all their frantic manoeuvres. 
She used to be followed with many attendants, who had each a 
thyrsus with serpents twined round it. They had also snakes in 
their hair, and in the chaplets which they wore, so that they 
made a most fearful appearance. Their cries also were very 
shocking, and the whole was attended with a continual repetition 
of the words, Evoe, Saboe, Hues Attes, Attes Hues, which were 
titles of the god Dionusus. He was peculiarly named Hues, and 
his priests were the Hyades and Hyautes. He was likewise 
styled Evas. 

In Egypt was a serpent named Thermuthis, which was looked 
upon as very sacred ; and the natives are said to have made use 
of it as a royal tiara, with which they ornamented the statues of 
Isis. We learn from Diodorus Siculus that the kings of Egypt 
wore high bonnets, which terminated in a round ball, and the 
whole was surrounded with figures of asps. The priests, likewise, 
upon their bonnets had the representation of serpents. The 
ancients had a notion that when Saturn devoured his own 
children, his wife Ops deceived him by substituting a large stone 
in lieu of one of his sons, which stone was called Abadir. But 
Ops and Opis, represented here as a feminine, was the serpent 
deity, and Abadir is the same personage under a different 
denomination. Abadir seems to be a variation of Ob-Adur, and 
signifies the serpent god Orus. One of these stones, which 
Saturn was supposed to have swallowed instead of a child, stood, 
according to Pausanias, at Delphi. It was esteemed very sacred, 
and used to have libations of wine poured upon it daily; and 
upon festivals was otherwise honoured. The purport of the 
above was probably this : it was for a long time a custom to offer 
children at the altar of Saturn ; but in process of time they 
removed it, and in its room erected a stone pillar, before which 
they made their vows, and offered sacrifices of another nature. 
This stone which they thus substituted was called Ab-Adar, 
from the deity represented by it. The term Ab generally signi- 
fies a father, but in this instance it certainly relates to a serpent, 


which was indifferently styled Ab, Aub, and Ob. Some regard 
Abadon, or, as it is mentioned in the Book of the Revelation, 
Abaddon, to have been the name of the same Ophite god, with 
whose worship the world had been so long infected. He is 
termed Abaddon, the angel of the bottomless pit — the prince of 
darkness. In another place he is described as the dragon, that 
old serpent, which is the devil, and Satan. Hence the learned 
Heinsius is supposed to be right in the opinion which he has 
given upon this passage, when he makes Abaddon the same 
as the serpent Pytho. 

It is said that in the ritual of Zoroaster the great expanse of 
the heavens, and even nature itself, was described under the 
symbol of a serpent.* The like was mentioned in the Octateuch 
of Ostanes ; and moreover, in Persia and in other parts of the 
East they erected temples to the serpent tribe, and held festivals 
to their honour, esteeming them the supreme of all Gods, and the 
superintendents of the whole world. The worship began among 
the people of Chaldea. They built the city Opis upon the Tigris, 
and were greatly addicted to divination and to the worship 
of the serpent. From Chaldea the worship passed into Egypt,, 
where the serpent deity was called Canoph, Caneph, and C'neph. 
It had also the name of Ob, or Oub, and was the same as the 
Basilicus, or Royal Serpent ; the same also as the Thermuthis, 
and in like manner was made use of by way of ornament to the 
statues of their Gods. The chief Deity of Egypt is said to have 
been Yulcan, who was also styled Opas, as we learn from Cicero. 
He was the same as Osiris, the Sun ; and hence was often called 
Ob-El, or Pytho Sol ; and there were pillars sacred to him, with 
curious hieroglyphical inscriptions, which had the same name. 
They were very lofty, and narrow in comparison of their length ; 
hence among the Greeks, who copied from the Egyptians, every- 
thing gradually tapering to a point was styled Obelos, and 
Obeliscus. Ophel (Oph-El) was a name of the same purport,, 
and many sacred mounds, or Tapha, were thus denominated from 
the serpent Deity, to whom they were sacred. 

Sanchoniathon makes mention of a history which he once 
wrote upon the worship of the serpent. The title of this work, 
according to Eusebius, was Ethothion, or Ethothia. Another 
treatise upon the same subject was written by Pherecydes Tyrus, 
which was probably a copy of the former ; for he is said to have 

* Eusebius. 


composed it from some previous accounts of the Phoenicians. 
The title of his book was the Theology of Ophion, styled Ophi- 
oneus, and his worshippers were called Ophioniche. Thoth and 
Athoth were certainly titles of the Deity in the Gentile world ; 
and the book of Sanchoniathon might very possibly have been 
from hence named Ethothion, or more truly, Athothion. But, 
from the subject upon which it was written, as well as from the 
treatise of Pherecydes, we have reason to think that Athothion, 
or Ethothion, was a mistake for Ath-Ophion, a title which more 
immediately related to that worship of which the writer treated. 
Ath was a sacred title, as we have shewn, and we imagine that 
this dissertation did not barely relate to the serpentine Deity, 
but contained accounts of his votaries, the Ophitre, the principal 
of which were the sons of Chus. The worship of the serpent 
began among them, and they were from thence denominated 
Ethiopians, and Aithopians, which the Greeks rendered Aithiopes. 
They did not receive this name from their complexion, as has 
sometimes been surmised, for the branch of Phut and the Luhim, 
■were probably of a deeper dye ; but they were most likely so 
called from Ath-Ope, and Ath-Opis, the God which they wor- 
shipped. This may be shewn from Pliny. He says that the 
country Ethiopia (and consequently the people), had the name of 
.ZEthiop, from a personage who was a Deity — ab J'Jthiope Vulcani 
Jilio. The ^Ethiopes brought these rites into Greece, and called 
the island where they first established them Ellopia, Solis Ser- 
pentis insula. It was the same as Eubcea, a name of the like 
purport, in which island was a region named Ethiopium. Euboea 
is properly Oub-Aia, and signifies, the Serpent Island. The 
same worship prevailed among the Hyperboreans, as we may 
judge from the names of the sacred women who used to come 
annually to Delos ; they were priestesses of the Tauric Goddess. 
Hercules was esteemed the chief God, the same as Chronus, and 
was said to have produced the Mundane egg. He was repre- 
sented in the Orphic theology under the mixed symbol of a 
lion and a serpent, and sometimes of a serpent only. 

The Cuthites, under the title of Heliadse, having settled at 
Rhodes, as they were Hivites, or Ophites, the island was in 
consequence named Ophiusa. There was likewise a tradition 
that it had once swarmed with serpents. (Bochart says the 
island is said to have been named Rhodus from JRhad, a Syriac 
word for a serpent.) The like notion prevailed almost in every 
place where they settled. They came under the more general 


titles of Leleges and Pelasgi ; but more particularly of Elopians, 
Europians, Oropians, Asopians, Inopians, Ophionians, and .ZEthi- 
opes, as appears from the names which they bequeathed ; and in 
most places where they resided there were handed down traditions 
which alluded to their original title of Ophites. In Phrygia, 
and upon the Hellespont, whither they sent out colonies very 
early, was a people styled the Ophiogeneis, or the serpent breed, 
who were said to retain an affinity and correspondence with 
serpents ; and a notion prevailed that some hero, who had 
conducted them, was changed from a serpent to a man. In 
Colchis was a river Ophis, and there was another of the same 
name in Arcadia. It was so named from a body of people who 
settled upon its banks, and were said to have been conducted by 
a serpent. 

It is said these reptiles are seldom found in islands, but that 
Tenos, one of the Cyclades, was supposed to have once swarmed 
with them.* 

Thucydides mentions a people of .iEtotia, called Ophionians ; 
and the temple of Apollo at Petara, in Lycia, seems to have had 
its first institution from a priestess of the same name. The 
island of Cyprus was called Ophiusa, and Ophiodes, from the 
serpents with which it was supposed to have abounded. Of what 
species they were is nowhere mentioned, excepting only that 
about Paphos there was said to have been a kind of serpent with 
two legs. By this is meant the Ophite race, who came from 
Egypt, and from Syria, and got footing in this island. They 
settled also in Crete, where they increased greatly in numbers ; 
so that Minos was said by an unseemly allegory, opheis ouresai, 
serpenteSj minxisse. The island Seriphus was one vast rock, by 
the Romans called saxum seriphium, and made use of as a large 
kind of prison for banished persons. It is represented as having 
once abounded with serpents, and it is styled by Virgil, serpent- 
ifera, as the passage is corrected by Scaliger. 

It is said by the Greeks that Medusa's head was brought 
by Perseus ; by this is meant the serpent Deity, whose worship 
was here introduced by people called Peresians. Medusa's head 
denoted divine wisdom, and the island was sacred to the serpent, 
as is apparent from its name. The Athenians were esteemed 
Serpentigince, and they had a tradition that the chief guardian of 
their Acropolis was a serpent. 

* Aristoph. 


It is reported of the goddess Ceres that she placed a dragon 
for a guardian to her temple at Eleusis, and appointed another to 
attend upon Erectheus. ^Egeus of Athens, according to Andro- 
tion, was of the serpent breed, and the first king of the country 
is said to have been a dragon. Others make Cecrops the first 
who reigned. He is said to have been of a two-fold nature, 
being formed with the body of a man blended with that of a 
serpent. Diodorus says that this was a circumstance deemed by 
the Athenians inexplicable ; yet he labours to explain it by 
representing Cecrops as half a man and half a brute, because he 
had been of two different communities. Eustathius likewise tries 
to solve it nearly upon the same principles, and with the like 
success. Some have said of Cecrops that he underwent a meta- 
morphosis, being changed from a serpent to a man. By this was 
meant, according to Eustathius, that Cecrops by coming into 
Hellas divested himself of all the rudeness and barbarity of his 
country, and became more civilised and human. This is declared 
by some to be too high a compliment to be paid to Greece in its 
infant state, and detracts greatly from the character of the 
Egyptians. The learned Marsham therefore animadverts with 
great justice, "it is more probable that he introduced into Greece 
the urbanity of his own country, than that he was beholden 
to Greece for anything from thence." In respect to the mixed 
character of this personage, we may easily account for it. Cecrops 
was certainly a title of the Deity, who was worshipped under 
this emblem. Something of the like nature was mentioned of 
Triptolemus and Ericthonius, and the like has been said of 
Hercules. The natives of Thebes in Bceotia, like the Athenians, 
esteemed themselves of the serpent race. The Lacedemonians 
likewise referred themselves to the same original. Their city is 
said of old to have swarmed with serpents. The same is said of 
the city Amyela? in Italy, which was of Spartan origin. They 
came hither in such abundance that it was abandoned by the 
inhabitants. Argos was infested in the same manner till Apis 
came from Egypt and settled in that city. He was a prophet, 
the reputed son of Apollo, and a person of great skill and 
sagacity, and to him they attributed the blessing of having their 
country freed from this evil. Thus the Argives gave the credit 
to this imaginary personage of clearing their land of this 
grievance, but the brood came from the very quarter from whence 
Apis was supposed to have arrived. They were certainly Hivites 
from Egypt, and the same story is told of that country. It is 



represented as having been of old over-run with serpents, and 
almost depopulated through their numbers. Diodorus Siculus 
seems to understand this literally, but a region that was annually 
overflowed, and that too for so long a season, could not well be 
liable to such a calamity. They were serpents of another nature 
with which it was thus infested, and the history relates to the 
Cuthites, the original Ophitte, who for a long time possessed that 
country. They passed from Egypt to Syria, and to the Euphra- 
tes, and mention is made of a particular breed of serpents upon 
that river, which were harmless to the natives but fatal to 
anybody else. This can hardly be taken literally ; for whatever 
may be the wisdom of the serpent it cannot be sufficient to make 
these distinctions. These serpents were of the same nature as 
the birds of Diomedes, and the dogs in the temple of Vulcan ; 
and the histories relate to Ophite priests, who used to spare their 
own people and sacrifice strangers, a custom which prevailed at 
one time in most parts of the world. The Cuthite priests are 
said to have been very learned ; and, as they were Ophites, who- 
ever had the advantage of their information was said to have 
been instructed by serpents. 

As the worship of the serpent was of old so prevalent, many 
places, as well as people, from thence received their names. 
Those who settled in Campania were called Opici, which some 
would have changed to Ophici, because they were denominated 
from serpents. They are in reality both names of the same 
purport, and denote the origin of the people. 

We meet with places called Opis, Ophis, Ophitsea, Ophionia, 
Ophioessa, Ophiodes, and Ophiusa. This last was an ancient 
name by which, according to Stephanus, the islands Rhodes, 
Cynthus, Besbicus, Tenos, and the whole continent of Africa, 
were distinguished. There were also cities so called. Add to 
these places denominated Oboth, Obona, and reversed, Onoba, 
from Ob, which was of the same purport. 

Clemens Alexandrinus says that the term Eva signified a 
serpent if pronounced with a proper aspirate, and Epiphanius 
says the same thing. We find that there were places of this 
name. There was a city Eva in Arcadia, and another in Mace- 
donia. There was also a mountain Eva, or Evan, taken notice of 
by Pausanias, between which and Ithome lay the city Messene. 
He mentions also an Eva in Argolis, and speaks of it as a large 
town. Another name for a serpent, which we have not yet 
noticed, was Patau, or Pitan. Many places in different parts 


were denominated from this term. Among others was a city in 
Laconia, and another in Mysia, which Stephanus styles a city of 
.ZEolia. They were undoubtedly so named from the worship of 
the serpent, Pitau, and had probably Dracontia, which were 
figures and devices relative to the religion which prevailed. 
Ovid mentions the latter city, and has some allusions to its 
ancient history when he describes Medea as flying through the 
air from Athea to Colchis. The city was situate upon the ruin 
Eva, or Evan, which the Greeks rendered Evenus. According 
to Strabo it is compounded of Eva-Ain, the fountain or river of 
Eva the serpent. 

It is remarkable that the Opici, who are said to have been 
named from serpents, had also the name of Pitanatre ; at least, 
one part of that family was so called. Pitanatre is a term of the 
same purport as Opici, and relates to the votaries of Pitan, the 
serpent Deity, which was adored by that people. Menelaus was 
of old called Pitanates, as we learn from Hesychius, and the 
reason of it may be known from his being a Spartan, by which 
he was intimated one of the Serpentigena?, or Ophites. Hence 
he was represented with a serpent for a device upon his shield. 
It is said that a brigade, or portion of infantry, was among some 
of the Greeks named Pitanates, and the soldiers in consequence 
of it must have been termed Pitanatae, undoubtedly, because they 
had the Pitan, or serpent, for their standard. Analogous to 
this, among other nations there were soldiers called Draconarii. 
In most countries the military standard was an emblem of the 
Deity there worshipped. 

What has already been said has thrown some light upon the 
history of this primitive idolatry, and we have shewn that 
wherever any of these Ophite colonies settled, they left behind 
from their rites and institutions, as well as from the names which 
they bequeathed to places, ample memorials, by which they may 
be clearly traced out. 




Supposed Phallic origin of Serpent-worship — The Idea of Life — 
Adoration of the Principle of Generation — The Serpent as a Sym- 
bol of the Phallus — Phallic Worship at Benares — The Serpent and 
Mahadeo — Festival of the "Nag pauchamV — Snakes and Women 
— Traces of Phallic Worship in the Kumaon Rock-markings — The 
Northern Bulb Stones — Professor Stephens on the Snake as a 
Symbol of the Phallus — The " Dionysiak Myth " — Brown on the 
Serpent as a Phallic emblem — Mythology of the Aryan Nations — 
Sir G. W. Cox and the Phallic Theory — Athenian Mythology. 

SOME persons are disposed to attribute to the Serpent, as a 
religious emblem, an origin decidedly phallic. Mr. C. S. 
Wake takes a contrary view, and says : — " So far as I can make 
out the serpent symbol has not a direct Phallic reference, nor is 
its attribute of wisdom the most essential. The idea most inti- 
mately associated with this animal was that of life, not present 
merely, but continued, and probably everlasting. Thus the 
snake Bai was figured as Guardian of the doorways of the 
Egyptian Tombs which represented the mansions of heaven. A 
sacred serpent would seem to have been kept in all the Egyptian 
temples, and we are told that many of the subjects, in the tombs 
of the kings at Thebes in particular, show the importance it was 
thought to enjoy in a future state. Crowns, formed of the Asp 
or sacred Thermuthis, were given to sovereigns and divinities, 
particularly to Isis, and these no doubt were intended to symbolise 
eternal life. Isis was a goddess of life and healing and the ser- 
pent evidently belonged to her in that character, seeing that it 
was the symbol also of other deities with the like attributes. 
Thus, on papyri it encircles the figure of Harpocrates, who was 
identified with iEsculapius ; while not only was a great serpent 
kept alive in the great temple of Serapis, but on later monuments 
this god is represented by a great serpent with or without a 
human head. Mr. Fergusson, in accordance with his peculiar 
theory as to the origin of serpent worship, thinks this super- 
stition characterised the old Turanaian (or rather let us say 
Akkadian) empire of Chaldea, while tree-worship was more a 
characteristic of the later Assyrian Empire. This opinion is no 
doubt correct, and it means really that the older race had that 
form of faith with which the serpent was always indirectly- 


connected — adoration of the male principle of generation, the 
principal phase of which was probably ancestor worship, while 
the latter race adored the female principle, symbolised by the 
sacred tree, the Assyrian ' grove.' The ' tree of life,' however, 
undoubtedly had reference to the male element, and we may well 
imagine that originally the fruit alone was treated as symbolical 
of the opposite element." 

Mr. J. H. Rivett-Carnac, in his paper printed in the journal of 
the Asiatic Society of Bengal, entitled "The Snake Symbol in 
India," suggests that the serpent is a symbol of the phallus. 
He says : — " The serpent appears on the prehistoric cromlechs 
and menhirs of Europe, on which I believe the remains of phallic 
worship may be traced. What little attention I have been able 
to give to the serpent-symbol has been chiefly in its connection 
with the worship of Mahadeo or Siva, with a view to ascertain 
whether the worship of the snake and that of Mahadeo or the 
phallus may be considered identical, and whether the presence of 
the serpent on the prehistoric remains of Europe can be shown to 
support my theory, that the markings on the cromlechs and men- 
hirs are indeed the traces of this form of worship, carried to 
Europe from the East by the tribes whose remains are buried 
beneath the tumuli. 

During my visits to Benares, the chief centre of Siva worship 
in India, I have always carefully searched for the snake-symbol. 
On the most ordinary class of " Mahadeo," a rough stone placed 
on end supposed to represent the phallus, the serpent is not 
generally seen. But in the temples and in the better class of 
shrines which abound in the city and neighbourhood the snake is 
generally found encircling the phallus. The tail of the snake is 
sometimes carried down the Yoni, and in one case I found two 
snakes on a shrine thus depicted. 

In the Benares bazaar I once came across a splendid metal 
cobra, the head erect and hood expanded, so made as to be placed 
around or above a stone or metal " Mahadeo." It is now in 
England. The attitude of the cobra when excited and the ex- 
pansion of the head will suggest the reason for this snake repre- 
senting Mahadeo and the phallus. 

Although the presence of the snake in these models cannot be 
said to prove much, and although from the easy adaptability of 
its form the snake must always have been a favourite subject in 
ornament, still it will be seen that the serpent is prominent in 
connection with the conventional shape under which Mahadeo is 


worshipped at Benares and elsewhere, that it sometimes takes 
the place of the Linga, and that it is to be found entwined with 
almost every article connected with this worship." 

Further on the same writer says : — " The Nag panchami or 
fifth day of the moon in Sawan is a great fete in the city of 
Nagpiir, and more than usual license is indulged in on that day. 
Rough pictures of snakes in all sorts of shapes and positions are 
sold and distributed, something after the manner of valentines. 
I cannot find any copies of these queer sketches, and if I could 
they would hardly be fit to be reproduced. Mr. J. W. Neill, the 
present Commissioner of Nagpiir, was good enough to send me 
some superior valentines of this class, and I submit them now for 
the inspection of the Society. It will be seen that in these 
paintings, some of which are not without merit either as to 
design or execution, no human figures are introduced. In the 
ones I have seen in days gone by the positions of the women 
with the snakes were of the most indecent description and left no 
doubt that, so far as the idea represented in these sketches was 
concerned, the cobra was regarded as the phallus. In the pictures 
now sent the snakes will be seen represented in congress in the 
well-known form of the Caduceus Esculapian rod. Then the 
many-headed snake, drinking from the jewelled cup, takes me 
back to some of the symbols of the mysteries of bygone days. The 
snake twisted round the tree and the second snake approaching it 
are suggestive of the temptation and fall. But I am not un- 
mindful of the pitfalls from which Wilford suffered, and I quite 
see that it is not impossible that this picture may be held to be 
not strictly Hindu in its treatment. Still the tree and the 
serpent are on the brass models which accompany this paper, 
and which I have already shewn are to be purchased in the 
Benares Brass Bazaar of to-day — many hundreds of miles away 
from Nagpiir where these Valentines were drawn. 

In my paper on the Kumaon Rock Markings, besides noting 
the resemblance between the cup markings of India and Europe, 
I hazarded the theory that the concentric circles and certain 
curious markings of what some have called the "Jew's harp " 
type, so common in Europe, are traces of Phallic worship carried 
there by tribes whose hosts decended into India, pushed forward 
into the remotest corners of Europe, and, as their traces seem to 
suggest, found their way on to the American Continent too. 
Whether the markings really ever were intended to represent the 
Phallus and the Yoni must always remain a matter of opinion. 


But I have no reason to be dissatisfied with the reception with 
which this, to many somewhat pleasant theory, has met in some 
of the Antiquarian Societies of Europe. 

No one who compares the stone Yonis of Benares, sent here- 
with, with the engravings on the first page of the work on the 
Rock Markings of Northumberland and Argyleshire, published 
privately by the Duke of Northumberland, will deny that there 
is an extraordinary resemblance between the conventional sym- 
bol of Siva worship of to-day and the ancient markings on the 
rocks, menhirs and cromlechs of Northumberland, of Scotland, of 
Brittany, of Scandinavia and other parts of Europe. 

And a further examination of the forms of the cromlechs 
and tumuli and menhirs will suggest that the tumuli them- 
selves were intended to indicate the symbols of the Mahadeo 
and Yoni, conceived in no obscene sense, but as representing 
regeneration, the new life, "life out of death, life everlasting," 
which those buried in the tumuli, facing towards the sun in its 
meridian, were expected to enjoy in the hereafter. Professor 
Stephens, the well-known Scandinavian Antiquary, writing to 
me recently, speaks of the symbols as follows: — -"The pieces 
(papers) you were so good as to send me were very valuable and wel- 
come. There can be no doubt that it is to India we have to look 
for the solution of many of our difficult archaeological questions." 

" But especially interesting is your paper on the Ancient Rock- 
Sculpturings. I believe that you are quite right in your views. 
Nay, I go further. I think that the northern Bulb-stones are 
explained by the same combination. I therefore send you the 
Swedish Archaeological Journal for 1876, containing Baron 

Herculius' excellent dissertation on these objects You can 

examine the many excellent woodcuts. I look upon these things 
as late conventionalized abridgments of the Linga and Yoni, life 
out of death, life everlasting — thus a fitting ornament for the 
graves of the departed." 

The author further says : — " Many who indignantly repudiate 
the idea of the prevalence of Phallic Worship among our remote 
ancestors hold that these symbols represent the snake or the sun. 
But admitting this, may not the snake, after all, have been but a 
symbol of the phallus 1 And the sun, the invigorating power of 
nature, has ever, I believe, been considered to represent the same 
idea, not necessarily obscene, but the great mystery of nature, the 
life transmitted from generation to generation, or, as Professor 
Stephen puts it, 'life out of death, life everlasting.'" The same 


idea, in fact, which, apart from any obscene conception, causes 
the rude Mahadeo and Yoni to be worshipped daily by hundreds 
of thousands of Hindus. 

Brown, in his " Great Dionysiak Myth," says : — " The Serpent 
has six principal points of connection with Dionysos : 1 — As a 
symbol of, and connected with, wisdom. 2. — As a solar emblem. 
3. — As a symbol of time and eternity. 4. — As an emblem of the 
earth, life. 5. — As connected with fertilizing moisture. 6. — As a 
phallic emblem." 

Referring to the last of these, he proceeds — " The serpent being 
connected with the sun, the earth life and fertility must needs be 
also a phallic emblem, and so appropriate to the cult of Dionysos 
Priapos. Mr. Cox after a review of the subject, observes, 
1 Finally, the symbol of the Phallus suggested the form of the 
serpent, which thus became the emblem of life and healing. 
There then we have the key to that tree and serpent worship 
which has given rise to much ingenious speculation.' The myth 
of the serpent and the tree is not, I apprehend, exhausted by any 
merely phallic explanation, but the phallic element is certainly 
one of the most prominent features in it, as it might be thought 
any inspection of the carvings connected with the Topes of Sanchi 
and Amravati would show. It is hard to believe, with Mr. Fer- 
gusson, that the usefulness and beauty of trees gained them the 
payment of divine honours. Again, the Asherah or Grove-cult 
(Exod. 34, 13; 1 Kings 17, 16; Jer. 17, 2; Micah 5, 14) was 
essentially Phallic, Asherah being the Upright. It seems also to 
have been in some degree connected with that famous relic, the 
brazen serpent of Nehushtan (2 Kings 18, 4). Donaldson considers 
that the Serpent is the emblem of desire. It has also been 
suggested that the creature symbolised sensation generally." 

The Sir G. W. Cox referred to above, in his " Mythology of 
Argai Nations," says : — " If there is one point more certain than 
another it is that wherever tree and serpent worship has been 
found, the cultus of the Phallos and the Ship, of the Linga and 
Yoni, in connection with the worship of the sun, has been found 
also. It is impossible to dispute the fact, and no explanation can 
be accepted for one part of the cultus which fails to explain the 
other. It is unnecessary, therefore, to analyze theories which 
profess to see in it the worship of the creeping brute or the wide- 
spreading tree. A religion based on the worship of the venomous 
reptile must have been a religion of terror ; in the earliest glimpses 
which we have of it, the serpent is a symbol of life and of love. 


Nor is the Phallic cultus in any respect a cultus of the full-grown 
and branching tree. In its earliest form the symbol is every- 
where a mere stauros, or pole ; and although this stock or rod 
budded in the shape of the thyrsus and the shepherd's staff, yet, 
even in its latest developements, the worship is confined to small 
bushes and shrubs and diminutive plants of a particular kind. 
Nor is it possible again to dispute the fact that every nation, at 
some stage or other of its history, has attached to this cultus 
precisely that meaning which the Brahman now attaches to the 
Linga and the Yoni. That the Jews clung to it in this special 
sense with vehement tenacity is the bitter complaint of the 
prophets ; and the crucified serpent adored for its healing powers 
stood untouched in the Temple until it was removed and destroyed 
by Hezekiah. This worship of serpents, "void of reason," con- 
demned in the Wisdom of Solomon, probably survived even the 
Babylonish captivity. Certainly it was adopted by the Christians 
who were known as Ophites, Gnostics, and Nicolaitans. In 
Athenian mythology the serpent and the tree are singularly 
prominent. Kekrops, Erechtheus, and Erichthonios, are each 
and all serpentine in the lower portion of their bodies. The 
sacred snake of Athene had its abode in the Akropolis, and her 
olive trees secured for her the victory in her rivalry with Poseidon. 
The health-giving serpent lay at the feet of Asklepios and snakes 
were fed in his temple at Epidauros and elsewhere. That the 
ideas of mere terror and death suggested by the venomous or the 
crushing reptile could never have given way thus completely 
before those of life, healing, and safety, is obvious enough ; and 
the latter ideas alone are associated with the serpent as the object 
of adoration. The deadly beast always was, and has always 
remained, the object of the horror and loathing which is expressed 
for Ahi, the choking and throttling snake, the Vritra whom 
Indra smites with his unerring lance, the dreadful Azidahaka of 
the A vesta, the Zohak or Biter of modern Persian mythology, the 
serpents whom Heraktes strangles in his cradle, the Python, or 
Fafnir, or Grendel, or Sphinx whom Phoibos, or Sigurd, or Beo- 
wulf, or Oidipous smite and slay. That the worship or the Ser- 
pent lias nothing to do with these evil beasts is abundantly clear 
from all the Phallic monuments of the East or West. In the 
topes of Sanchi and Amravati the disks which represent the 
Yoni predominate in every part of the design j the emblem is 
worn with unmistakeable distinctness by every female figure, 
carved within these disks, while above the multitude are seen, on 


many of the disks, a group of women with their hands resting on 
the linga, which they uphold. It may, indeed, be possible to 
trace out the association which connects the Linga with the bull 
in Sivaison, as denoting more particularly the male power, while 
the serpent in Jainaison and Vishnavism is found with the female 
emblem, the Yoni. So again in Egypt, some may discern in the 
bull Apis or Mnevis the predominance of the male idea in that 
country, while in Assyria or Palestine the Serpent or Agathos 
Dai m on is connected with the altar of Baal. 



Mythology of the Ancients — Characteristics of the Pagan Deities — 
Doctrine of the Reciprocal Principles of Nature — Creation of the 
Egg — Creation and the Phallus — The Lotus — Osiris as the active, 
dispensing, and originating energy — Hesiod and the generative 
powers — Growth of Phallic Worship. 

" ~T3 Y comparing all the varied legends of the East and West 
I) in conjunction," says a learned author, " we obtain the 
following outline of the mythology of the Ancients : It recognises, 
as the primary elements of things, two independent principles of 
the nature of Male and Female ; and these, in mystic union, as 
the soul and body, constitute the Great Hermaphrodite Deity, 
THE ONE, the universe itself, consisting still of the two sepa- 
rate elements of its composition, modified though combined in one 

individual, of which all things are regarded but as parts 

If we investigate the Pantheons of the ancient nations, we shall 
find that each, notwithstanding the variety of names, acknow- 
ledged the same deities and the same system of theology ; and, 
however humble any of the deities may appear, each who has any 
claim to antiquity will be found ultimately, if not immediately, 
resolvable into one or other of the Primeval Principles, the Great 
God and Goddess of the Gentiles."* 

" We must not be surprised," says Sir William Jones, " at 
finding, on a close examination, that the characters of all the 
Pagan deities, male and female, melt into each other, and at last 
into one or two, for it seems a well-founded opinion that the 
whole crowd of gods and goddesses in ancient Rome and modern 
Varanes mean only the Powers of Nature, and principally those 
of the Sun, expressed in a variety of ways and by a multitude of 
fanciful names." 

The doctrine of the Reciprocal Principles of Nature, designated 
as active and passive, male and female, and often symbolized as 
the Sun and Moon, or the Sun and the Earth, was distinctly 
recognised in the mythological systems of America. It will be 
well to notice the rationale of this doctrine, and some of the more 
striking forms which, in the developement of human ideas, it has 

* Cory's Ancient Fragments, Intro. 34. 


assumed ; for it may safely be claimed that under some of its 
aspects or modifications it has entered into every religious system, 
if, indeed, it has not been the nucleus of every mythology. 

The idea of a creation, suggested by the existence of things, 
was, no doubt, the first result of human reasoning. The mode of 
the event, the manner in which it was brought about, was, it is 
equally unquestionable, the inquiry which next occupied the mind, 
and man deduced from the operations of nature around him his 
first theory of creation. From the egg, after incubation, he saw 
emerging the living bird, a phenomenon which, to his simple 
apprehension, was nothing less than an actual creation. How 
naturally then, how almost of necessity, did that phenomenon, 
one of the most obvious in nature, associate itself with his ideas 
of creation — a creation which he could not help recognising, but 
which he could not explain. The extent to which the egg, 
received as a symbol, entered into the early cosmogonies will ap- 
pear in another and more appropriate connection. 

By a similar process did the creative power come to be sym- 
bolized under the form of the Phallus, in it was recognised the 
cause of reproduction, or, as it appeared to the primitive man, of 
creation. So the Egyptians, in their refinement upon this idea, 
adopted the scarabieus as a symbol of the First Cause, the great 
hermaphrodite Unity, for the reason that they believed that insect 
to be both male and female, capable of self-inception and singular 
production, and possessed of the power of vitalizing its own work. 

It is well known that the Xymphoe, Lotus, or Water- Lily is 
held sacred throughout the East, and the various sects of that 
quarter of the globe represent their deities, either decorated with 
its flowers, holding it as a sceptre, or seated on a lotus throne or 
pedestal. " It is," says Maurice, " the sublime and hallowed 
symbol that perpetually occurs in oriental mythology, and not 
without substantial reason ; for it is itself a lovely prodigy, and 
contains a treasure of physical instruction." The reason of its 
adoption as a symbol is explained by Mr. Payne Knight, and 
affords a beautiful illustration of the rationale of symbolism, and 
of the profound significance often hidden beneath apparently in- 
significant emblems. "This plant," observes Mr. Knight, "grows 
in the water, and amongst its broad leaves puts forth a flower, 
n the centre of which is formed its seed vessel, shaped like a bell 
or inverted cone, and punctured on the top with little cavities or 
cells, in which the seeds grow. The orifice of these cells being too 
snxall to let the seeds drop out when ripe, they shoot forth into 


new plants in the places where they are formed ; the bulb of the 
vessel serving as a matrix to nourish them until large enough to 
burst it open and release themselves, after which, like other 
aquatic plants, they take root wherever the current deposits 
them. The plant, therefore, being thus productive of itself, and 
vegetating from its own matrix, without being fostered in the 
earth, was naturally adopted as a symbol of the productive power 
of waters upon which the active Spirit of the Creator acted in 
giving life and vegetation to matter. We accordingly find it em- 
ployed in every part of the northern hemisphere where the sym- 
bolical religion, improperly called idolatry, existed." 

Examples quoted illustrate the inductive powers by which un- 
aided reason arrives at its results, as well as the means by which 
it indicates them in the absence of a written language or of one 
capable of conveying abstract ideas. The mythological symbols 
of all early nations furnish ample evidence that it was thus they 
embodied or shadowed forth their conceptions, — the germ of a 
symbolic system, which was afterwards extended to every mani- 
festation of nature and every attribute of Divinity. 

We may in this manner rationally and satisfactorily account 
for the origin of the doctrine of the reciprocal principles. Its 
universal acceptance establishes that it was deduced from the 
operations of that law so obviously governing all animated nature 
— that of reproduction or procreation. 

In the Egyptian mythology, the Divine Osiris was venerated as 
the active, dispensing, or originating energy, and was symbolized 
as the Sun ; Iris as terrene nature, the passive recipient, the 
producer ; their annual offspring was Horus, the vernal season or 
infant year. The poet Hesiod, in the beginning of his Theogony, 
distinguishes the male and female, or generative and productive 
powers of Nature, as Ouranus and Gaia, Heaven and Earth. 
The celestial emblems of these powers were usually, as we have 
said, the Sun and Moon ; the terrestrial, Fire and Earth. They 
were designed as Father and Mother ; and their more obvious 
symbols, as has already been intimated, were the Phallus and 
Kteis, or the Lingham and Yoni of Hindustan. 

That the worship of the phallus passed from India or from 
Ethiopia into Egypt, from Egypt into Asia Minor, and into 
Greece, is not so much a matter of astonishment, — these nations 
communicated with each other ; but that this worship existed in 
countries a long time unknown to the rest of the world — in many 
parts of America, with which the people of the Eastern Continent 


had formerly no communication — is an astonishing but well 
attested fact. When Mexico was discovered, there was found in 
the city of Panuco, the particular worship of the Phallus well 
established, its image was adorned in the temples ; there were in 
the public places bas reliefs, which like those of India, represented 
in various manners the union of the two sexes. At Tlascalla, 
another city of Mexico, they revered the act of generation under 
the united symbols of the characteristic organs of the two sexes. 
Garcilasso de la Vega says — " that according to Bias Valera, the 
God of Luxury was called Tiazolteuli," but some writers say, 
" this is a mistake." One of the goddesses of the Mexican Pan- 
theon was named Tiazolteotl, which Boturini describes as Venus 
unchaste, low, and abominable, the hieroglyphic of these men and 
women who are wholly abandoned, mingling promiscuously one 
with another, gratifying their bestial appetites like animals. 
Boturini is said to be not entirely correct in his apprehensions of 
the character of this goddess. She is Cinteotl, the goddess of 
Maize, under another aspect. Certain of the temples of India 
abound with sculptured representations of the symbols of Phallic 
Worship, and if we turn to the temples of Central America, 
which in many respects exhibit a strict correspondence with those 
of India, we find precisely the same symbols, separate and in 



Ancient Monuments of the West — The Valley of the Mississippi — 
Numerous Earthworks of the Western States — Theory as to origin 
of the mounds — The "Defence" Theory — The Religious Theory 
— Earthwork of the " Great Serpent " on Bush Creek — The 
" Alligator " Ohio — The "Cross" Pickaway County — Structures 
of Wisconsin — Mr. Pigeon's Drawings — Significance of the Earth- 
mounds — The Egg and Man's Primitive Ideas — The Egg as a 
Symbol — Birth of Brahma — Aristophanes and his " Comedy of 
the Birds" — The Hymn to Protogones — The Chinese and Creation 
— The Mundane or Orphic Egg — Knejrii — Mr. Gliddon's replies 
to certain enquiries — The Orphic Theogony and the Egg — The 

Great Unity. 

THE ancient monuments of the Western United States 
consist for the most part of elevations and embankments 
of earth and stone, erected with great labour and manifest 
design. In connection with these, more or less intimate, are 
found various minor relics of art, consisting of ornaments and 
implements of many kinds, some of them composed of metal but 
most of stone. 

These remains are spread over a vast amount of country. 
They are found on the sources of the Alleghany, in the western 
part of the state of New York on the east ; and extend thence 
westwardly along the southern shore of Lake Erie, and through 
Michigan and Wisconsin, to Iowa and the Nebraska territory 
on the west. Some ancient works, probably belonging to the 
same system with those of the Mississippi valley and erected by 
the same people, occur upon the Susquehanna river as far down as 
the Valley of Wyoming in Pennsylvania. The mound builders 
seem to have skirted the southern border of Lake Erie, and 
spread themselves in diminished numbers over the western part 
of the State of New York, along the shores of Lake Ontario to 
the St. Lawrence river. They penetrated into the interior, east- 
ward, as far as the county of Onondaga, where some slight 
vestiges of their work still exist. These seem to have been their 
limits at the north-east. We have no record of their occurrence 
above the great lakes. Carner mentions some on the shores of 
Lake Pepin, and some are said to occur near Lake Travers, under 
the 46th parallel of latitude. Lewis and Clarke saw them on 


the Missouri river, one thousand miles above its junction with 
the Mississippi ; and they have been observed on the Kanzas and 
Platte and on other remote western rivers. They are found all 
over the intermediate country, and spread over the valley of the 
Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico. They line the shores of the 
Gulf from Texas to Florida, and extend in diminished numbers 
into South Carolina. They occur in great numbers in Ohio, 
Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, 
Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida and 
Texas. They are found in less numbers in the Western portions 
of New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and North and South 
Carolina ; as also in Michigan, Iowa, and in the Mexican 
territory beyond the Rio Grande del Norte. In short, they 
occupy the entire basin of the Mississippi and its tributaries, as 
also the fertile plains along the Gulf. 

Although possessing throughout certain general points of 
resemblance going to establish a kindred origin, these works, 
nevertheless, resolve themselves into three grand geographical 
divisions, which present in many respects striking contrasts, yet 
so gradually merge into each other that it is impossible to deter- 
mine where one series terminates and the other begins. In the 
region bordering upon the upper lakes, to a certain extent in 
Michigan, Iowa and Missouri, but particularly in Wisconsin, we 
find a succession of remains, entirely singular in their form and 
presenting but slight analogy to any others of which we have in 
any portion of the globe. The larger proportion of these are 
structures of earth bearing the forms of beasts, birds, reptiles, 
and even of men ; they are frequently of gigantic dimensions, 
constituting hugh basso-relievos upon the face of the country. 
They are very numerous and in most cases occur in long and 
apparently dependent ranges. In connection with them are found 
many conical mounds and occasional short lines of embankment, 
in rare instances forming enclosures. These animal effigies are 
mainly confined to Wisconsin, and extend across that territory 
from Ford du Lac in a south-western direction, ascending the 
Fox river and following the general course of Rock and Wisconsin 
rivers to the Mississippi. They may be much more extensively 
disseminated ; but it is here only that they have been observed 
in considerable numbers. In Michigan, as also in Iowa and 
Missouri, similar elevations of more or less outline are said to 
occur. They are represented as dispersed in ranges like the 
buildings of a modern city, and covering sometimes an arc of 
many acres. 


The number of these ancient remains is well calculated to excite 
surprise, and has been adduced in support of the hypothesis that 
they are most if not all of them natural formations, " the result 
of diluvial action," modified perhaps in some instances, but never 
erected by man. Of course no such suggestion was ever made by 
individuals who had enjoyed the opportunity of seeing and in- 
vestigating them. Simple structures of earth could not possibly 
bear more palpable evidences of an artificial origin than do most 
of the western monuments. The evidences in support of this 
assertion, derived from the form, structure, position and contents 
of these remains, sufficiently appear in the pages of this work. 

The structure, not less than the form and position of a large 
number of the Earthworks of the West, and especially of the 
Scioto valley, render it clear that they were erected for other than 
defensive purposes. The small dimensions of most of the circles, 
the occurrence of the ditch interior to the embankments, and the 
fact that many of them are completely commanded by adjacent 
heights, are some of the circumstances which may be mentioned 
as sustaining this conclusion. We must seek, therefore, in the 
connection in which these works are found and in the character 
of the mounds, if such there be within their walls, for the secret 
of their origin. And it may be observed that it is here we 
discover evidences still more satisfactory and conclusive than are 
furnished by their small dimensions and other circumstances 
above mentioned, that they were not intended for defence. Thus, 
when we find an enclosure containing a number of mounds, all 
of which it is capable of demonstration were religious in their 
purposes or in some way connected with the superstitions of the 
people who built them, the conclusion is irresistible that the 
enclosure itself was also deemed sacred and thus set apart as 
" tabooed " or consecrated ground — especially where it is obvious 
at the first glance that it possesses none of the requisites of a 
military work. But it is not to be concluded that those 
enclosures alone, which contain mounds of the description here 
named, were designed for sacred purposes. We have reason to 
believe that the religious system of the mound builders, like that 
of the Aztecs, exercised among them a great if not controlling 
influence. Their government may have been, for aught we know, 
a government of priesthood ; one in which the priestly and civil 
functions were jointly exercised, and one sufficiently powerful to 
have secured in the Mississippi valley, as it did in Mexico, the 
erection of many of those vast monuments which for ages will 


continue to challenge the wonder of men. There may have been 
certain superstitious ceremonies, having no connection with the 
purposes of the mounds, carried on in the enclosures specially 
dedicated to them. It is a conclusion which every day's investi- 
gation and observation has tended to confirm, that most, perhaps 
all, of the earthworks not manifestly defensive in their character 
were in some way connected with the superstitious rights of the 
builders, though in what manner, it is, and perhaps ever will be, 
impossible satisfactorily to determine. 

By far the most extraordinary and interesting earthwork 
discovered in the West is the Great Serpent, situate on Brush 
Creek at a point known as the "Three Forks," near the north 
line of Adams county, Ohio. It occupies the summit of a high 
crescent-form hill or spur of land, rising a hundred and fifty feet 
above the level of Brush Creek, which washes its base. The 
side of the hill next the stream presents a perpendicular wall of 
rock, while the other slopes rapidly, though it is not so steep as 
to preclude cultivation. The top of the hill is not level but 
slightly convex, and presents a very even surface one hundred 
and fifty feet wide by one thousand long, measuring from its 
extremity to the point where it connects with the table land. 
Conforming to the curve of the hill and occupying its very 
summit is the serpent, its head resting near the point and its 
body winding back for seven hundred feet in graceful undulations, 
terminating in a triple coil at the tail. The entire length, if 
extended, would be not less than one thousand feet. The neck 
of the serpent is stretched out and slightly curved, and its mouth 
is opened wide as if in the act of swallowing or ejecting an oval 
figure which rests partially within the distended jaws. This oval 
is formed by an embankment of earth, without any perceptible 
opening, four feet in height, and is perfectly regular in outline, 
its transverse and conjugate diameters being one hundred and 
sixty and eighty feet respectively. The ground within the oval 
is slightly elevated : a small circular elevation of large stones 
much burned once existed in its centre, but they have been 
thrown down and scattered by some ignorant visitor, under the 
prevailing impression probably that gold was hidden beneath 
them. The point of the hill within which this egg-shaped figure 
rests seems to have been artificially cut to conform to its outline, 
leaving a smooth platform, ten feet wide and somewhat inclin- 
ing inwards, all around it. 

Upon either side of the serpent's head extend two small 


triangular elevations ten or twelve feet over. They are not high, 
and although too distinct to be overlooked, are yet much too 
much obliterated to be satisfactorily traced. 

An effigy in the form of an alligator occurs, near Granville, 
Licking county, Ohio, upon a high hill or headland ; in connec- 
tion with which there are unmistakable evidences of an altar, 
similar to that in conjunction with the work just named, It is 
known in the vicinity as "the Alligator," which designation has 
been adopted for want of a better, although the figure bears as 
close a resemblance to the lizard as any other reptile. It is 
placed transversly to the point of land on which it occurs, the 
head pointing to the south-west. The total length from the 
point of the nose following the curve of the tail to the tip is 
about two hundred and fifty feet, the breadth of the body forty 
feet, and the length of the feet or paws each thirty-six feet. The 
ends of the paws are a little broader than the remaining portions 
of the same, as if the spread of the toes had been originally 
indicated. Some parts of the body are more elevated than others, 
an attempt having evidently been made to preserve the propor- 
portions of the object copied. The outline of the figure is clearly 
defined ; its average height is not less than four feet ; at the 
shoulders it is six feet in altitude. Upon the inner side of the 
effigy is an elevated circular space covered with stones which 
have been much burned. This has been denominated an altar. 

It seems more than probable that this singular effigy, like that 
last described, had its origin in the superstition of its makers. 
It was perhaps the high place where sacrifices were made on 
stated or extraordinary occasions, and where the ancient people 
gathered to celebrate the rites of their unknown worship. Its 
position and all the circumstances attending it certainly favour 
such a conclusion. 

The same is true of a work in the form of a cross, occupying a 
like situation near the village of Tarlton, Pickaway County, Ohio. 
From these premises, we are certainly justified in concluding that 
these several effigies had probably a cognate design, possessed a 
symbolical significance, and were conspicuous objects of religious 
regard, and that on certain occasions sacrifices were made on the 
altars within or near them. 

The only structures sustaining any analogy to these are found 
in Wisconsin and the extreme North-west. There we find great 
numbers of mounds bearing the forms of animals of various kinds, 
and entering into a great variety of combinations w T itheach other, 


and with conical mounds and lines of embankments, which are 
also abundant. They are usually found on the low, level, or un- 
dulating prairies, and seldom in such conspicuous positions as 
those discovered in Ohio. Whether they were built by the same 
people with the latter, and had a common design and purpose, it 
is not undertaken to say, nor is it a question into which we pro- 
pose to enter. 

It is an interesting fact that amongst the animal effigies of 

o o o 

Wisconsin, structures in the form of serpents are of frequent 

Some years ago, Mr. Pigeon, of Virginia, made drawings of a 
number of these, and he stated that near the junction of the St. 
Peter's with the Mississippi River were a large number of mounds 
and monuments, consisting — 1st, of a circle and square in com- 
bination, as at Circleville, in Ohio, the sole difference being a 
large truncated mound in the centre of the square, as well as in 
the centre of the circle, with a platform round its base ; 2nd, 
near by, the effigy of a gigantic animal resembling the elk, in 
length one hundred and ninety-five feet ; 3rd, in the same 
vicinity, a large conical mound, three hundred feet in diameter 
at the base, and thirty feet in height, its summit covered with 
charcoal. This mound was surrounded by one hundred and 
twenty smaller mounds, disposed in the form of a circle. Twelve 
miles to the westward of these, and within sight of them, was a 
large conical truncated mound, sixty feet in diameter at the 
bottom, and eighteen feet high, built upon a raised platform or 
bottom. It was surrounded by a circle three hundred and sixty- 
five feet in circumference. Entwined around this circle, in a 
triple coil, was an embankment, in the form of a serpent, two- 
thousand three hundred and ten feet in length. This embank- 
ment, at the centre of the body, was eighteen feet in diameter, 
but diminished towards the head and tail in just proportion. The 
elevation of the head was four feet, of the body six feet, of the 
tail two feet. The central mound was capped with blue clay, be- 
neath which was sand mixed with charcoal and ashes. 

Mounds arranged in serpentine form have also been found in 
Iowa, at a place formerly known as Prairie La Porte, afterwards 
called Gottenburgh. Also at a place seven miles north of these 
on Turkey River, where the range was two and a half miles long, 
the mounds occurring at regular intervals. Twenty miles to the 
westward of this locality was the eftigy of a great serpent with 
that of a tortoise in front of its mouth. This structure was 


found to be one thousand and four feet long, eighteen feet broad 
at its widest part, and six feet high ; the tortoise was eighteen 
by twelve feet. 

Mr. Pigeon gave accounts of many other structures, tending 
to illustrate and confirm the opinions advanced respecting the 
religious and symbolical character and design of many, if not all, 
the more regular earth- works of the Western States. Thirty 
miles west of Prairie Du Chien, he found a circle enclosing a pen- 
tagon, which in its turn enclosed another circle, within which 
was a conical truncated mound. The outer circle was twelve 
hundred feet in circumference, the embankment twelve feet broad 
and from three to five feet high. The entrance was on the east. 
The mound was thirty-six feet in diameter by twelve feet high. 
Its summit was composed of white pipe-clay, beneath which was 
found a large quantity of mica in sheets. It exhibited abundant 
traces of fire. 

Four miles distant from this, on the lowlands of the Kickapoo 
River, Mr. Pigeon discovered a mound with eight radiating points, 
undoubtedly designed to represent the Sun. It was sixty feet in 
diameter at the base, and three feet high. The points extended 
outwards about nine feet. Surrounding this mound were five 
crescent-shaped mounds so arranged as to constitute a circle. 
Many analagous structures were discovered at other places, both 
in Wisconsin and Iowa. At Cappile Bluffs, on the Mississippi 
River, was found a conical, truncated mound, surrounded by nine 
radiating effigies of men, the heads pointing inwards. 

Probably no one will hesitate in ascribing to work just described, 
some extraordinary significance. It cannot be supposed to be 
the offspring of an idle fancy or a savage whim. It bears, in its 
position and the harmony of its structure, the evidences of design, 
and it seems to have been begun and finished in accordance with 
a matured plan, and not to have been the result of successive 
and unmeaning combinations. It is probably not a work for de- 
fence, for there is nothing to defend ; on the contrary, it is clearly 
and unmistakably, in form and attitude, the representation of a 
serpent, with jaws distended, in the act of swallowing or ejecting 
an oval figure, which may be distinguished, from the suggestions of 
analogy, as an egg. Assuming for the entire structure a religious 
origin, it can be regarded only as the recognised symbol of some 
grand mythological idea. What abstract conception was thus 
embodied ; or what vast event thus typically commemorated, we 
have no certain means of knowing ! Analogy, however, although 


too often consulted on trivial grounds, furnishes us with gleams 
of light, of greater or less steadiness, as our appeals to its 
assistance happen to be conducted, on every subject connected 
with man's beliefs. We proceed now to discover what light 
reason and analogy shed upon the singular structure before us. 

Naturally, and almost of necessity, the egg became associated 
with man's primitive idea of a creation. It aptly symbolised that 
primordial, quiescent state of things which preceded their vitali- 
zation and activity — the inanimate chaos, before life began, when 
"the earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon 
the face of the deep." It was thus received in the early cos- 
mogonies, in all of which the vivincation of the Mundane Egg 
constituted the act of creation ; from it sprang the world resplen- 
dent in glory and teeming with life. 

Faber says — "The ancient pagans, in almost every part of the 
globe, were wont to symbolize the world by an Egg. Hence this 
symbol is introduced into the cosmogonies of nearly all nations, 
and there are few persons even among those who have not made 
mythology their study, to whom the Mundane Egg is not perfectly 
familiar. It was employed, not only to represent the earth, but 
also the Universe in its largest extent."* 

"The world," says Menu, "was all darkness, undiscernible, 
undistinguii-hable, altogether in a profound sleep, till the Self- 
Existent, Invisible God (Brahm), making it manifest with five 
elements and other glorious forms, perfectly dispelled the gloom. 
Desiring to raise up creatures by an emanation from his own 
essence, he first created the waters, and inspired them with power 
of motion ; by that power was produced a golden egg, blazing 
like a thousand stars, in which was born Brahma, the great 
parent of national beings, that which is the invisible cause, self- 
existent, but unperceived. This divinity having dwelt in the 
Egg through revolving years, himself meditating upon himself, 
divided into two equal parts, and from these halves he framed the 
heavens and the earth, placing in the midst the subtil ether, the 
eight points of the world, and the permanent receptacle of the 

The above is Maurice's translation. Sir William Jones renders 
it:— "The sole, self-existent power, having willed to produce 
various beings from his own divine substance, first, with a thought 
created the waters, and placed in them a productive seed. That 

* Origin Pagan Idol., Vol I., p. 175. 


seed became an egg, bright as gold, blazing like the luminary 
with a thousand beams, and in that egg was born himself, in the 
form of Brahma, the great forefather of all spirits." 

Aristophanes, in his Comedy of the Birds, is thought to have 
given the notions of cosmogony, ancient even in his days. "Chaos, 
Night, black Erebus, and wide Tartarus first existed : there was 
neither earth, nor air, nor heaven ; but in the bosom of Erebus 
black-winged Night produced an Aerial Egg, from which was 
born golden- pinioned Love (Phanes), and he, the Great Universal 
Father, begot our race out of dark Chaos, in the midst of wicle- 
spreading Tartarus, and called us into light." 

We find this conception clearly embodied in one of the Orphic 
fragments, the Hymn to Protogones, who is equivalent to Phanes, 
the Life-giver, Priapus, or Generator. 

" I invoke thee, oh Protogones, two-fold, great, wandering through 

the ether ; 
Egg- Born rejoicing in thy golden wings ; 

Bull-faced, the Generator of the blessed and of mortal men ; 
The much-renowned Light, the far celebrated Ericapaeus ; 
Ineffable, occult, impetuous all-glittering strength ; 
Who scatterest the twilight cloud of darkness from the eyes, 
And roam'st through the world upon the Might of thy wings, 
Bringing forth the brilliant and all-pure light; wherefore I invoke 

thee, as Phanes, 
As Priapus the King, and as the dark-faced splendour, — 
Come, thou blessed being, full of Metis (wisdom) and generation, 

come in joy 
To thy sacred, ever- varying mysteries." 

We have, according to these early notions, the egg represent- 
ing Being simply; Chaos, the great void from which, by the will 
of the superlative Unity, proceeds the generative or creative in- 
fluence, designated among the Greeks as " Phanes," " Golden- 
pinioned Love," "The Universal Father," "Egg-born Protogones" 
(the latter Zeus or Jupiter) ; in India as " Brahma," the " Great 
Parent of Rational Creatures," the " Father of the Universe ;" 
and in Egypt as " Ptha," the " Universal Creator." 

The Chinese, whose religious conceptions correspond generally 
with those of India, entertained similar notions of the origin of 
things. They set forth that Chaos, before the creation, existed in 
the form of a vast egg, in which was contained the principles of 
all things. Its vivilication, among them also, constituted the act 
of creation. 

According to this and other authorities, the vivification of the 


Mundane Egg is allegorically represented in the temple of 
Daibod, in Japan, by a nest egg, which is shown floating in an 
expanse of waters against which a bulb (everywhere an emblem 
of generative energy, and prolific heat, the Sun) is striking with 
his horns. 

" Near Lemisso, in the Island of Cyprus, is still to be seen a 
gigantic egg-shaped vase, which is supposed to represent the 
Mundane or Orphic Egg. It is of stone, and measures thirty 
feet in circumference. Upon one side, in a semi-circular niche, 
is sculptured a bull, the emblem of productive energy. This 
figure is understood to signifiy the Tauric constellation, " The 
Stars of Abundance," with the heliacal or cosmical rising of 
which was connected the return of the mystic reinvigorating 
principle of animal fecundity."* 

In the opinions above mentioned, many other nations of the 
ancient world, the Egyptians, the Assyrians, the Phoenicians, and 
the Indo-Scythiac nations of Europe participated. They not only 
supported the propriety of the allegory, says Maurice, from the 
perfection of its external form, but fancifully extended the allusion 
to its interior composition, comparing the pure white shell to the 
fair expanse of heaven ; the fluid, transparent white, to the cir- 
cumambient air, and the more solid yolk to the central earth. 

Even the Polynesians entertained the same general notions. 
The tradition of the Sandwich Islanders is that a bird (with 
them it is an emblem of Deity) laid an egg upon the waters 
which burst of itself and produced the Islands. 

The great hemaphrodite first principle in its character of 
Unity, the Supreme Monad, the highest conception of Divinity 
was denominated Kneph or Cnuphis among the Egyptians. 
According to Plutarch this god was without beginning and with- 
out end, the One, uncreated and eternal, above all, and compre- 
hending all. And as Brahm, "the Self-existent Incorruptible" 
Unity of the Hindus, by direction of His energetic will upon the 
expanse of chaos, " with a thought" (say Menu) produced a 
"golden egg blazing like a thousand stars," from which sprung 
Brahma, the Creator ; so according to the mystagogues, Kneph, 
the Unity of Egypt, was represented as a serpent thrusting from 
his mouth an egg, from which proceeds the divinity Phtha, the 
active creative power, equivalent in all his attributes to the 
Indian Brahma. 

* Landseer's Sabgcan Ees. 


That Kneph was symbolized by the ancient Egyptians under 
the form of a serpent is well known. It is not, however, so well 
established that the act of creation was allegorically represented 
in Egypt by the symbolic serpent thrusting from its mouth an 
•esfgr although no doubt of the fact seems to have been entertained 
by the various authors who have hitherto written on the Cos- 
mogony and Mythology of the primitive nations of the East. 
With the view of ascertaining what new light has been thrown 
upon the subject by the investigations of the indefatigable 
Ohampollion and his followers — whose researches among the 
monuments and records of Ancient Egypt have been attended 
with most remarkable results — the following inquiries were 
addressed to Mr. G. R. Gliddon (U.S. Consul at Cairo), a gentle- 
man distinguished for his acquaintance with Egyptian science, 
and his zeal in disseminating information on a subject too little 
understood : — 

" Do the serpent and the egg, separate or in combination, 
occur among the Egyptian symbols and if they occur what signi- 
ficance seem to have been assigned them 1 Was the serpent in 
any way associated with the worship of the sun or the kindred 
worship of the Phallus ?" 

To these inquiries Mr. Gliddon replied as follows : — " In 
respect to your first inquiry ; I concede at once that the general 
view of the Greco-Roman antiquity, the oriental traditions 
collected, often indiscriminately, by the Fathers and the con- 
curring suffrages of all occidental Mythologists, attribute the 
compound symbol of the Serpent combined with the Mundane 
Egg to the Egyptians. Modern criticism however, coupled with 
the application of the tests furnished by Champollion le-Jeune 
and his followers since 1827 to the hieroglyphics of Egypt, has 
recognised so many exotic fables and so much real ignorance of 
Egyptology in the accounts concerning that mystified country, 
handed down to us from the schools of Alexandria and Byzan- 
tium, that at the present hour science treads doubtingly, where 
but a few years ago it was fashionable to make the most sweep- 
ing assertions ; and we now hesitate before qualifying, as 
Egyptian in origin, ideas that belong to the Mythologies of other 
eastern nations. Classical authority, correct enough when treat- 
ing on the philosophy and speculative theories of Ptolemaic and 
Roman Alexandria, is generally at fault when in respect to 
questions belonging to anterior or Pharaonic times. Whatever 
we derive through the medium of the Alexandrines, and 


especially through their successors, the Gnostics, must by the 
Archaeologist be received with suspicion. 

After this, you will not be surprised if I express doubts as to 
existence of the myth of the Serpent and Egg in the Cosmogony 
of the early Egyptians. It is lamentably true that, owing to 
twenty centuries of destruction, so fearfully wrought out by 
Mohammed Ali, we do not up to this day possess one tithe of the 
monuments or papyri bequeathed to posterity by the recording 
genius of the Khime. It is possible that this myth may have 
been contained in the vast amount of hieroglyphical literature 
now lost to us. But the fact that in no instance whatever, amid 
the myriads of inscribed or sculptured documents extant, does the 
symbol of the Serpent and the Egg occur, militates against the 
assumption of this, perhaps Phoenician myth, as originally 
Egyptian. " The worship of the Serpent," observes Ampere, 
" by the Ophites may certainly have a real connection with the 
choice of the Egyptian symbol by which Divinity is designated 
in the paintings and hieroglyphics, and which is the Serpent 
Uraeus (Basilisk royal, of the Greeks, the seraph set up by 
Moses. Se Ra Ph is the singular of seraphim, meaning Semitice, 
splendour, fire, light ; emblematic of the fiery disk of the sun 
and which, under the name of Nehushtan — "Serpent Dragon" — 
was broken up by the reforming Hezekiah. 2 Kings, 18, -i) ; or 
with the serpent with wings and feet, which we see represented 
in the Funeral Rituals ; but the serpent is everywhere in the 
Mythologies and Cosmogonies of the East, and we cannot be 
assured that the serpent of the Ophites (any more than that 
emitting or encircling the Mundane Egg) was Egyptian rather 
than Jewish, Persian, or Hindustanee." 

" No serpents found in the hieroglyphics bear, so far as I can 
perceive, any direct relation to the Ouine Myth, nor have Egyp- 
tian Eggs any direct connection with the Cosmogonical Serpent. 
The egg, under certain conditions, seems to denote the idea of a 
human body. It is also used as a phonetic sign S, and when 
combined with T, is the determinative of the feminine gender ; 
in which sense exclusively it is sometimes placed close to a 
serpent in hieroglyphical legends." 

" My doubts apply in attempting to give a specific answer to 
your specific question ; i.e., the direct connection, in Egyptian 
Mythology, of the Serpent and the Cosmogonical Egg. In the 
" Book of the Dead," according to a M.S. translation favoured 
me by the erudite Egyptologist, Mr. Birch, of the British 


Museum, allusion is made to the " great mundane egg " addressed 
by the deceased, which seems to refer to the winds or the atmos- 
phere — again the deceased exclaims ' I have raised myself up in 
the form of the great Hawk which comes out of the Egg (i.e., 
the Sun).' 

" I do not here perceive any immediate allusion to the duplex 
emblem of the egg combined with the serpent, the subject of 
your query. 

"Yet a reservation must be made in behalf of your very con- 
sistent hypothesis — supported, as I allow, by all oriental and 
classical authority, if not possibly by the Egyptian documents 
yet undeciphered — which hypothesis is Euclidean. ' Things 
which are equal to the same are equal to one another.' Now if 
the ' Mundane Egg ' be in the papyric rituals the equivalent to 
Sun and that by other hieroglyphical texts we prove the Sun to 
be, in Egypt as elsewhere, symbolized by the figure of a Serpent, 
does not the ' ultima ratio ' resolve both emblems into one ? 
Your grasp of this Old and New World Question renders it 
surperfluous that I should now posite the syllogism. I content 
myself by referring you to the best of authorities. One point 
alone is what I would venture to suggest to your philosophical 
acumen, in respect to ancient ' parallelisms ' between the meta- 
physical conceptions of radically distinct nations (if you please 
1 species ' of mankind, at geographically different centres of 
origins, compelled of necessity in ages anterior to alphabetical 
record to express their ideas by pictures, figurative or symbolical). 
It is that man's mind has always conceived, everywhere in the 
same method, everything that relates to him : because the inability, 
in which his intelligence is circumscribed, to figure to his mind's 
eye existence distinct from his own, constrains him to devolve, 
in the pictorial or sculptural delineation of his thoughts, within 
the same circle of ideas ; and, ergo, the figurative representa- 
tive of his ideas must ever be, in all ages and countries, the reflex 
of the same hypotheses, material or physical. May not the 
emblem of the Serpent and Egg, as well in the New as in the 
Old World, have originated from a similar organic law without 
thereby establishing intercourse ? Is not your serpent a "rattle- 
snake " and, ergo, purely American 1 Are not Egyptian Serpents 
all purely Nilotic ? The metaphysical idea of the Cosmogonical 
Serpent may be one and the same ; but does not the zoological 
diversity of representation prove that America, three thousand 
years ago, could have no possible intercourse with Egypt, 
Phoenicia, or vice versa 1 D 


"Such being the only values attached to Serpents and eggs in 
Egyptian hieroglyphics it is arduous to speculate whether an 
esoteric significance did or did not exist between those emblems 
in the, to us, unknown Cosmogony of the Theban and Memphite 
Colleges. I, too, could derive inferences and deduce analogies 
between the attributes of the God Knuphis, or the God Ptha, 
and the ' Mundane Egg ' recorded by Eusebius, Jamblichus, 
and a wilderness of classical authorities, but I fear with no very 
satisfactory result. It is, however, due to Mr. Bonomi, to cite 
his language on this subject. Speaking of the colossal statue of 
Barneses Sesostris at Metraheni, in a paper read before the 
Royal Society of Literature, London, June, 1845, he observes, 
1 There is one more consideration connected with the hiero- 
glyphics of the great oyal of the belt, though not affecting the 
preceding argument ; it is the oval or egg which occurs between 
the figure of Ptha and the staff of which the usual signification 
is Son or Child, but which by a kind of two-fold meaning, 
common in the details of sculpture of this period (the 18th or 19th 
Dynasty, say B.C. 1500 or 1200), I am inclined to believe refers 
also to the myth or doctrine preserved in the writings of the 
Greek authors, as belonging to Yulcan and said to be derived 
from Egypt, viz., the doctrine of the Mundane Egg. Xow, 
although in no Egyptian sculpture of the remote period of this 
statue has there been found any allusion to this doctrine, it is 
most distinctly hinted at in one of the age of the Ptolomies ; and 
I am inclined to think it was imported from the East by 
Sesostris, w 7 here, in confirmation of its existence at a very remote 
period, I would quote the existence of those egg-shaped basaltic 
stones, embossed with various devices and covered with cuneatic 
inscriptions, which are brought from some of the ancient cities 
of Mesopotamia. 

" In respect to your final inquiry, I may observe that I can 
produce nothing from the hieroglyphics to connect, directly, 
Phallic Worship with the solar emblem of the Serpent. In 
Semitic tongues, the same root signifies Serpent and Phallus ; 
both in different senses are solar emblems." 

In the Orphic Theogony a similar origin is ascribed to the 
egg, from which springs " the Egg-born Protogones," the Greek 
counterpart of the Egyptian Phtha. The egg in this instance 
also proceeds from the pre-eminent Unity, the Serpent God, the 
" Incomparable Cronus," or Hercules. (Bryant, quoting Athena- 
goras, observes — " Hercules was esteemed the chief god, the 


same as Cronus, and was said to have produced the Mundane 
Egg. He is represented in the Orphic Theology, under the 
mixed symbol of a lion and a serpent, and sometimes of a serpent 

Cronus was originally esteemed the Supreme, as is manifest 
from his being called II or Ilus, which is the same with the 
Hebrew El and, according to St. Jerome, one of the ten names of 
God. Damascius, in the life of Isidorus, mentions distinctly 
that Cronus was worshipped under the name of El, who, accord- 
ing to Sanchoniathon, had no one superior or antecedent to 

Brahm, Cronus, and Kneph each represented the mystical 
union of the reciprocal or active and passive principles. Most, 
if not all, the primitive nations recognised this Supreme Unity, 
although they did not all assign him a name. He was the 
Creator of Gods, who were the Demiurgs of the Universe, the 
creators of all rational beings, angels and men, and the architects 
of the world. 

The early writers exhaust language in endeavours to express 
the lofty character and attributes, and the superlative power and 
dignity of this great Unity, the highest conception of which man 
is capable. He is spoken of in the sacred book of the Hindus as 
the "Almighty, infinite, eternal, incomprehensible, self-existent 
Being ; he who see everything, though never seen ; he who is not 
to be compassed by description ; he from whom the universe 
proceeds ; who reigns supreme, the light of all lights ; whose 
power is too infinite to be imagined ; is Brahm, the One Being, 
True and Unknown."* 

The supreme God of Gods of the Hindus was less frequently 
expressed by the name Brahm than by the mystical syllable 
O'M, which corresponded to the Hebrew Jehovah. Strange as 
the remark may seem to most minds, it is nevertheless true, that 
the fundamental principles of the Hindu religion were those of 
pure Monotheism, the worship of one supreme and only God. 
Brahm was regarded as too mighty to be named j and, while his 
symbolized or personified attributes were adored in gorgeous 
temples, not one was erected to him. The holiest verse of the 
Vedas is paraphrased as follows : 

" Perfect truth ; perfect happiness ; without equal ; immortal ; 
absolute unity ; whom neither speech can describe nor mind 

# Coleman's Hind. Mythology. 


comprehend ; all-pervading ; all-transcending ; delighted by his 
own boundless intelligence, not limited by space or time ; without 
feet, moving swiftly ; without hands, grasping all worlds ; with- 
out ears, all-hearing, understanding all ; without cause, the first 
of all causes ; all-ruling ; all-powerful ; the Creator, Preserver, 
and Transformer of all things ; such is the Great One, Brahm." 

The character and power of Kneph are indicated in terms no 
less lofty and comprehensive than those applied to the 
omnipotent Brahm. He is described in the ancient Hermetic 
books as the " first God, immovable in the solitude of his Unity, 
the fountain of all things, the root of all primary, intelligible, 
existing forms, the God of Gods, before the etherial and empyrean 
Gods and the celestial." 

In America this great Unity, this God of Gods, was equally 
recognised. In Mexico as Teotl, "he who is all in himself" 
(Tloque Nahuaque) ; in Peru as Varicocha, the " Soul of the 
Universe "; in Central America and Yucatan as Stunah Ku or 
Hunab Ku, " God of Gods, the incorporeal origin of all things." 
And as the Supreme Brahm of the Hindus, "whose name was 
unutterable," was worshipped under no external form and had 
neither temples nor altars erected to him, so the Supreme Teotl 
and the corresponding Varicocha and Hunab Ku, "whose names," 
says the Spanish conquerors, "were spoken only with extreme 
dread," were without an image or an outward form of worship 
for the reason, according to the same authorities, that each was 
regarded as the Invisible and Unknown God. 

The Mundane Egg, received as a symbol of original, passive, 
unorganized, formless nature, became associated, in conformity 
with primitive notions, with other symbols referring to the 
creative force or vitalizing influence. Thus in the Hindu cos- 
mogany Brahma is represented, after long inertia, as arranging 
the passive elements, "creating the world and all visible things." 
Under the form of the emblematic bull the generative energy 
was represented breaking the quiescent egg. Encircled by the 
folds of the agatho-demon, a type of the active principle, it was 
suspended aloft at the temples of Tyre. For the serpent, like 
the bull, was an emblem of the sun or of the attributes of that 
luminary — itself the celestial emblem of the "Universal Father," 
the procreative poAver of nature. " Everywhere," says Faber, 
" we find the great father exhibiting himself in the form of 
a serpent, and everywhere we find the serpent invested with the 


attributes of the Great Father and partaking of the honours 
which were paid him."* 

Under this view, therefore, we may regard the compound 
symbol of the serpent and the egg, though specifically allusive to 
the general creation, as an illustration of the doctrine of the 
recriprocal principles which, as we have already seen, enters 
largely into the entire fabric of primitive philosophy and 

Thus have we shewn that the grand conception of a Supreme 
Unity and the doctrine of the reciprocal principles existed in 
America in a well defined and easily recognised form. 

Our present inquiry relates to the symbols by which they were 
represented in both continents. That these were not usually 
arbitrary, but resulted from associations, generally of an obvious 
kind, will be readily admitted. 

* Origin Pagan Idol., vol. 1, p. 45. 



The Sun and Fire as emblems — The Serpent and the Sun — Taut 
and the Serpent — Horapollo and the Serpent symbol — Sanchonia- 
thon and the Serpent — Ancient Mysteries of Osiris, &c. — Rationale 
of the connection of Solar, Phallic, and Serpent Worship — The 
Aztec Pantheon — Mexican Gods — The Snake in Mexican Mytho- 
logy — The Great Father and Mother — Quetzalcoatl, the Feathered 
Serpent — Researches of Stephens and Catherwood — Discoveries of 
Mr. Stephens. 

THAT fire should be taken to be the physical, of what the 
sun is the celestial emblem, is sufficiently apparent ; we can 
readily understand also how the bull, the goat, or ram, the 
phallus, and other symbols should have the same import ; also 
how naturally and almost inevitably and universally the sun 
came to symbolize the active principle, the vivifying power, and 
how obviously the egg symbolized the passive elements of nature, 
but how the serpent came to possess, as a symbol, a like 
significance with these is not so obvious. That it did so, how- 
ever, cannot be doubted, and the proofs will appear as we proceed; 
likewise that it sometimes symbolized the great hermaphrodite 
first principle, the Supreme Unity of the Greeks and Egyptians. 

Altough generally, it did not always symbolize the sun, or the 
power of which the sun is an emblem ; but, invested with various 
meanings, it entered widely into the primitive mythologies. It 
typified wisdom, power, duration, the good and evil principles, 
life, reproduction — in short, in Egypt, Syria, Greece, India, 
China, Scandinavia, America, everywhere in the globe it has 
been a prominent emblem. In the somewhat poetical language 
of a learned author, " It entered into the mythology of every 
nation, consecrated almost every temple, symbolized almost every 
deity, was imagined in the heavens, stamped on the earth, and 
ruled in the realms of everlasting sorrow." Its general accep- 
tance seems to have been remarked at a very early period. It 
arrested the attention of the ancient sages, who assigned a variety 
of reasons for its adoption, founded upon the natural history of 
the reptile. Among these speculations, none are more curious 
than those preserved by Sanchoniathon, who says : — "Taut first 
attributed something of the Divine nature to the Serpent, in 
which he was followed by the Phoenicians and Egyptians. For 
this animal was esteemed by him to be the most inspirited of all 


reptiles, and of a fiery nature, inasmuch as it exhibits an in- 
credible celerity, moving by its spirit, without hands or feet, or 
any of the external members by which the other animals effect 
their motion ; and, in its progress, it assumes a variety of forms, 
moving in a spiral course, and darting forward with whatever 
degree of swiftness it pleases." 

It is, moreover, long lived, and has the quality not only of put- 
ting off its old age, and assuming a second youth, but of receiving 
at the same time an augmentation of its size and strength ; and 
when it has filled the appointed measure of its existence, it con- 
sumes itself, as Taut has laid down in the Sacred Books, upon 
which account this animal is received into the sacred rites and 

Horapollo, referring to the serpent symbol, says of it : — " When 
the Egyptians would represent the Universe they delineate a 
serpent bespeckled with variegated scales, devouring its own tail, 
the scales intimating the stars in the Universe. The animal 
is extrenely heavy, as is the earth, and extremely slippery like 
the water, moreover, it every year puts off its old age with its 
skin, as in the Universe the annual period effects a corresponding 
change and becomes renovated, and the making use of its own body 
for food implies that all things whatever, which are generated by 
divine providence in the world, undergo a corruption into them 

Nothing is more certain than that the serpent at a very remote 
period was regarded with high veneration as the most mysterious 
of living creatures. Its habits were imperfectly understood, and 
it was invested, as we perceive from the above quotations, with 
the most extraordinary qualities. Alike the object of fear, 
admiration, and wonder, it is not surprising that it became early 
connected with man's superstitions, but how it obtained so general 
a predominance it is difficult to understand. 

Perhaps there is no circumstance in the natural history of the 
serpent more striking than that alluded to by Sanchoniathon, viz.: 
the annual sloughing of its skin, or supposed rejuvenation. 

" As an old serpent casts his sealy vest, 
Wreaths in the sun, in youthful glory dressed, 
So when Alcides' mortal mould resign'd, 
His better part enlarged, and grew refin'd." — Ovid. 

It was probably this which connected it with the idea of an 
eternal succession of forms, constant reproduction and dissolution, 



a process which was supposed by the ancients to have been for 
ever going on in nature. This doctrine is illustrated in the 
notion of a succession of Ages which prevailed among the Greeks, 
corresponding to the Yugs of the Hindus, and Suns of the ab- 
original Mexicans. It is further illustrated by the annual dis- 
solution and renovation exhibited, in the succession of the 
seasons, and which was supposed to result from the augmenta- 
tion and decline of the active principle, the Sun. 

The mysteries of Osiris, Isis, and Horus, in Egypt ; Atys and 
Cybele, in Phrygia ; Ceres and Proserpine, at Eleusis ; of Venus 
and Adonis in Phoenicia ; of Bona Dea, and Priapus, in Rome, 
are all susceptible of one explanation. They all set forth and 
illustrated, by solemn and impressive rites and mystical symbols, 
the grand phenomena of nature, especially as connected with the 
creation of things and the perpetuation of life. In all, it is worthy 
of remark, the serpent was more or less conspicuously introduced, 
always as symbolical of the invigorating or active energy of 
nature. In the mysteries of Ceres and Proserpine, the grand 
secret communicated to the initiated was thus enigmatically 
expressed : Taurus Draconem genuit, et Taurum Draco ; " The 
bull has begotten a serpent, and the serpent a bull." The bull, as 
already seen, was a prominent emblem of generative force, the 
Bacchus Zagreus, or Tauriformis. 

The doctrine of an unending succession of forms was not 
remotely connected with that of regeneration, or new birth, which 
was part of the phallic system, and which was recognised in a 
form more or less distinct in nearly all the primitive religions. 
In Hindustan, this doctrine is still enforced in the most un- 
equivocal manner, through the medium of rites of portentous 
solemnity and significance to the devotees of the Hindu religion. 
"For the purpose of regeneration," says Wilford, "it is directed 
to make an image of pure gold of the female powers of nature in 
the shape of either a woman or a cow. In this statue the person 
to be regenerated is enclosed, and afterwards dragged out through 
the usual channel. As a statue of pure gold, and of proper 
dimensions would be too expensive, it is sufficient to make an 
image of the sacred Yoni, through which the person to be re- 
generated is to pass. 

We have seen the serpent as a symbol of productive energy 
associated with the egg as a symbol of the passive elements of 
nature. The egg does not, however, appear except in the earlier 
cosmogonies. " As the male serpent," says Faber, " was employed 


to symbolize the Great Father, so the female serpent was equally 
used to typify the Great Mother. Such a mode of representation 
may be proved by express testimony, and is wholly agreeable to 
the analogy of the entire system of Gentile mythology. In the 
same manner that the two great parents were worshipped under 
the hieroglyphics of a bull and cow, a lion and lioness, &c., so 
they were adored under the cognate figures of a male and female 

Nearly every inquirer into the primitive superstitions of men 
has observed a close relationship, if not an absolute identity, in 
what are usually distinguished as Solar, Phallic, and Serpent 
Worship, yet the rationale of the connection has been rarely 
detected. They really are all forms of a single worship. " If (as 
it seems certain) they all three be identical," observes Mr. 
O'Brien, " where is the occasion for surprise at our meeting the 
sun, phallus, and serpent, the constituent symbols of each, occur- 
ring in combination, embossed upon the same table, and grouped 
upon the same architrave." 

We turn again to America. The principal God of the Aztecs, 
subordinate to the great Unity, was the impersonation of the 
active, creative energy, Tezcatlipoca or Tonacatlecoatl. He was 
also called Tonacatenctli. 

Like the Hindu Brahma, the Greek Phanes, and the Egyptian 
Phtha, he was the " Creator of heaven and earth," " the Great 
Father," " the God of Providence," who dwells in heaven, earth, 
and hades, and attends to the government of the world. To de- 
note this unfailing power and eternal youth, his figure was that 
of a young man. His celestial emblem was Tonatiuh, the Sun. 
His companion or wife was Cihuacohuatl or Tonaeacihua, "the 
Great Mother " both of gods and men. 

The remaining gods and goddesses of the Aztec Pantheon re- 
solve themselves into modified impersonations of these two 
powers. Thus, we have Ometuctli and Omecihuatl, the adorable 
god and goddess who preside over the celestial paradise, and 
which, though generally supposed to be distinct divinities, are, 
nevertheless, according to the Codex Vaticanus, bnt other names 
for the deities already designated. We have also Xiuhteuctli, 
" Master of the Year," " the God of Fire," the terrestrial symbol 
of the active principle, and Xochitli, " the Goddess of Earth and 
'Corn ;" Tlaloc and Cinteotl, or Chalchiuhcueije, " the god and 
goddess of the waters ;" Mictlanteuctli and Mictlancihuatl, " the 
god and goddess of the dead ;" the terrible Mexitli or Huitzli- 


pochtli, corresponding to the Hindu Siva, in his character of 
destroyer, and his wife Teoyamiqui, whose image, like that of 
Kali, the consort of Siva, was decorated with the combined em- 
blems of life and death. 

In the simple mythology and pure Sabianism of Peru, we have 
already shown the existence of the primeval principles sym- 
bolized, the first by the Sun and the second by his wife and sister 
the Moon. That the sun was here regarded as symbolizing the 
intermediate father, or demiurgic creator, cannot be doubted. 
The great and solemn feast of Raimi was instituted in acknow- 
ledgment of the Sun as the great father of all visible things, by 
whom all living things are generated and sustained. The cere- 
monies of this feast were emblematical, and principally referred 
to the sun as the reproductive and preserving power of nature. 
In Mexico, where the primitive religion partook of the fiercer 
nature of the people, we find the Raimaic ceremonies assuming a 
sanguinary character, and the acknowledgment of the reproduc- 
tive associated with the propitiation of its antagonist principle, 
as we see in the orgies of Huitzlipochtli in his character of the 
Destroyer. The same remarks hold true of Central America, the 
religion and mythology of which country correspond essentially 
with those of the nations of Anahuac. 

We have said that the principal god of the Aztec pantheon, 
subordinate only to the Unity and corresponding to the Hindu 
Brahma, was Tezcatlipoea, Tonacatlecoalt, or Tonacateuctli. If 
we consult the etymology of these names we shall find ample 
confirmation of the correctness of the deductions already drawn 
from the mythologies of the East. Thus Tonacateuctli embodied 
Lord Sun from Tonatiuh, Sun, nacayo or catl, body or person, 
and teuctli, master or lord. Again, Tonacatlcoatl, the Serpent 
Sun, from Tonctiah and catl, as above, and coatl, serpent. If 
we adopt another etymology for the names (and that which 
seems to have been most generally accepted by the early writers) 
we shall have Tonacateuctli, Lord of our Flesh, from to, the 
possessive pronoun plural, nacatl, flesh or body, and teuctli, 
master or lord. We shall also have Tonacatlecoatl, Serpent of 
our Flesh, from to and nacatl, and coatl, serpent. 

According to Sahagim, Tezcatlipoea, in his character of the 
God of Hosts, was addressed as follows by the Mexican High 
Priest : — " We entreat that those who die in war may be received 
by thee, our Father the Sun, and our Mother the Earth, for thou 
alone reignest." The same authority informs us that in the 


prayer of thanks, returned to Tezcatlipoca by the Mexican kings 
on the occasion of their coronation, God was recognised as the 
God of Fire, to whom Xiuthteuctli, Lord of Vegetation, and 
specifically Lord of Fire, bears the same relation that Suyra does 
to the first person of the Hindu Triad. The king petitions that 
he may act " in conformity with the will of the ancient God, the 
Father of all Gods, who is the God of Fire ; whose habitation is 
in the midst of the waters, encompassed by battlements, sur- 
rounded by rocks as it were with roses, whose name is Xiuteuctli," 

Tonacateuctli, or Tezcatlipoca, is often, not to say generally, 
both on the monuments and in the paintings, represented as 
surrounded by a disc of the sun. 

The name of the primitive goddess, the wife of Tezcatlipoca, 
was Cihuacohuatl or Tonacacihua. She was well known by 
other names, all referring to her attributes. The etymology of 
Cihuacohuatl is clearly Cihua, woman or female, and coatl, ser- 
pent — Female Serpent. And Tonacacihua is Female Sun, from 
Tonatiuh nacatl (as before) and cihua, woman or female. Adopt- 
ing the other etymology, it is Woman of our Flesh. 

Gama, who is said to be by far the most intelligent author 
who has treated with any detail of the Mexican Gods, referring 
to the serpent symbols belonging to the statue of Teoyaomiqui, 
says — " These refer to another Goddess named Cihuacohuatl, or 
Female Serpent, which the Mexicans believe gave to the light, at 
a single birth, two children, one male and the other female, to 
whom they refer the origin of mankind ; and hence twins, among 
the Mexicans, are called cohuatl or coatl, which is corrupted in 
the pronunciation by the vulgar into coate." 

Whichever etymology we assign to Tonaca in these combina- 
tions, the leading fact that the Great Father was designated as 
the male serpent, and the Great Mother as the female servant, 
remains unaffected. Not only were they thus designated, but 
Cinacoatl or Cihuacohuatl w T as generally if not always repre- 
sented, in the paintings, accmpanied by a great snake or feather- 
headed serpent (Tonacatlecoatl " serpent sun ") in which the 
monkish interpreters did not fail to discover a palpable allusion 
to Eve and the tempter of the garden. 

Pursuing the subject of the connection of the Serpent Symbol 
with American Mythology, we remark, the fact that it was a con- 
spicuous symbol and could not escape the attention of the most 
superficial of observers of the Mexican and Central American 


monuments, and mythological paintings. The early Spaniards 
were particularly struck with its prominence. 

"The snake," says Dupaix, "was a conspicuous object in the 
Mexican mythology, and we find it carved in various shapes and 
sizes, coiled, extended, spiral or entwined with great beauty, and 
somtimes represented with feathers and other ornaments. These 
different representatives," he continues, "no doubt denoted its 
different attributes." 

The editor of Kingsborough's great work observes : — " Like 
the Egyptian Sphynx, the mystical snake of the Mexicans had 
its enigmas, and both are beyond our power to unravel ;" this, 
however, is a matter of opinion, and the conclusion is one from 
which many will strongly dissent. 

In almost every primitive mythology we find, not only a Great 
Father and Mother, the representatives of the reciprocal 
principles, and a Great Hemaphrodite Unity from whom the 
first proceed and in whom they are both combined, but we find 
also a beneficial character, partaking of a divine and human 
nature, who is the Great Teacher of Men, who instructs them in 
religion, civil organization and the arts, and who, after a life of 
exemplary usefulness, disappears mysteriously, leaving his people 
impressed with the highest respect for his institutions and the 
profoundest regard for his memory. This demi-god, to whom 
divine honours are often paid after his withdrawal from the 
earth, is usually the Son of the Sun, or of the Demiurgic Creator, 
the Great Father, who stands at the head of the primitive 
pantheons and subordinate only to the Supreme Unit} 7 ; he is 
born of an earthly mother, a virgin, and often a vestal of the 
Sun, who conceives in a mysterious manner, and who, after 
giving birth to her half-divine son, is herself sometimes elevated 
to the rank of a goddess. In the more refined and systematized 
mythologies he appears clearly as an incarnation of the Great 
Father and partaking of his attributes, his terrestial representa- 
tive, and the mediator between him and man. He appears as 
Buddha in India ; Fohi in China ; Schaka in Thibet ; Zoroasta 
in Persia ; Osiris in Egypt ; Taut in Phoenicia ; Hermes or Cad- 
mus in Greece; Romulus in Rome; Odin in Scandinavia; and 
in each case is regarded as the Great Teacher of Men, and the 
founder of religion. 

In the mythological systems of America, this intermediate 
demi-god was not less clearly recognised than in those of the 
Old World ; indeed, as these systems were less complicated 


because less modified from the original or primitive forms, the 
Great Teacher appears here with more distinctness. Among the 
savage tribes his origin and character were, for obvious reasons, 
much confused ; but among the more advanced nations he 
occupied a well-defined position. 

Among the nations of Anahuac, he bore the name of 
Quetzalcoatl (Feathered Serpent) and was regarded with the 
highest veneration. His festivals were the most gorgeous of the 
year. To him it is said the great temple of Cholula was 
dedicated. His history, drawn from various sources, is as 
follows: — The god of the "Milky Way" — in other words, of 
Heaven — the principal deity of the Aztec Pantheon, and the 
Great Father of gods and men, sent a message to a virgin of 
Tulan, telling her that it was the will of the gods that she should 
conceive a son, which she did without knowing any man. This 
son was Quetzalcoatl, who was figured as tall, of fair complexion, 
open forehead, large eyes and a thick beard. He became high 
priest of Tulan, introducted the worship of the gods, established 
laws displaying the profoundest wisdom, regulated the calendar. 
and maintained the most rigid and exemplary manners in his life, 
He was averse to cruelty, abhorred war, and taught men to 
cultivate the soil, to reduce metal from their ores, and many 
other things necessary to their welfare. Under his benign 
administration the widest happiness prevailed amongst men. 
The corn grew to such a size that a single ear was a load for a 
man ; gourds were as long as a man's body ; it was unnecessary 
to dye cotton for it grew of all colours ; all fruits were in the 
greatest profusion and of extraordinary size ; there were also 
vast numbers of beautiful and sweet singing birds. His reign 
was the golden age of Anahuac. He however disappeared 
suddenly and mysteriously, in what manner is unknown. Some 
say he died on the sea-shore, and others say that he wandered 
away in search of the imaginary kingdom of Tlallapa. He was 
deified ; temples were erected to him, and he was adored through- 
out Anahuac. 

Quetzalcoatl is, therefore, but an incarnation of the " Serpent 
Sun " Tonacatlecoalt, and, as is indicated by his name, the 
feathered serpent was his recognised symbol. He was thus 
symbolized in accordance with a practice which (says Gama) pre- 
vailed in Mexico, of associating or connecting with the repre- 
sentatives of a god or goddess, the symbols of the other deities 
from whom they are derived, or to whom they sustain some 


relation. His temples were distinguished as being circular, 
and the one dedicated to his worship in Mexico, was, according 
to Gomera, entered by a door " like unto the mouth of a serpent, 
which was a thing to fear by those who went in thereat, 
especially by the Christians, to whom it represented very hell." 

The Mayas of Yucatan had a demi-god corresponding entirely 
with Quetzalcoatl, if he was not the same under a different name 
— a conjecture very well sustained by the evident relationship 
between the Mexican and Mayan mythologies. He was named 
Itzamna or Zamna, and was the only son of the principal God, 
Kinchanan. He arrived from the East, and instructed the 
people in all that was essential to their welfare. " He," says 
Cogolludo, "invented the characters which they use as letters, 
and which are called after him, Itzamna, and they adore him as 
a god. 

There was another similar character in Yucatan, called Ku 
Kulcan or Cuculcan, another in Nicaragua named Theotbilake, 
son of their principal god Thomathoyo, and another in Colombia 
bering the name of Bochia. Peru and Guatemala furnish similar 
traditions, as do also Brazil, the nations of the Tamanac race, 
Florida, and various savage tribes of the West. 

The serpent, as we show elsewhere, was an emblem both of 
Quetzalcoatl and of Ku Kulcan — a fact which gives some 
importance to the statement of Cabrera that Votan of Guatemala 
as above was represented to be a serpent, or of serpent origin. 

Torquemada states, that the images of Huitzlipochtli of Mexico, 
Quetzalcoatl, and Tlaloc were each represented with a golden 
serpent, bearing different symbolical sacrifical allusions. He also 
assures us that serpents often entered into the symbolical sacri- 
ficial ceremonies of the Mexicans, and presents the following 
example : — 

" Among the many sacrifices which these Indians made, there 
was one which they performed in honour of the mountains, by 
forming serpents out of wood or of the roots of the trees, to which 
the} r affixed serpents' heads, and also dolls of the same, which they 
called Ecatotowin, which figures of serpents and fictitious children 
they covered with dough, named by them Tzoalli, composed of the 
seeds of Bledos, and placed them on supports of wood, carved in 
the representation of hills or mountains, on the tops of which 
they fixed them. This was the kind of offering which they made 
to the mountains and high hills. 

The mother of Huitzlipochtli was a priestess of Tezcatlipoca 


(a cleanser of the temple, says Gama) named Coatlantona, Coatlcue, 
or Coatlcyue (serpent of the temple or serpent woman). She was 
extremely devoted to the gods, and one day when walking in the 
temple, she beheld, descending in the air, a ball made of variously 
coloured feathers. She placed it in her girdle, became at once 
pregnant, and afterwards was delivered of Mexith or Huitzli- 
pochtli, full armed, with a spear in one hand, a shield in the 
other, and a crest of green feathers on his head. He became, 
according to some, their leader into Anahuac, guiding them to 
the place where Mexico is built. His statue was of gigantic size, 
and covered with ornaments each one of which had its significance. 
He was depicted placed upon a seat, from the four corners of 
which issued four large serpents. " His body," says Gomeza, 
"was beset with pearls, precious stones and gold, and for collars 
and chains around his neck ten hearts of men made of gold. It 
had also a counterfeit vizard, with eyes of glass, and in its neck 
death painted, all of which things had their considerations and 
meanings." It was to him in his divine character of the destroyer 
that the bloodiest sacrifices of Mexico were performed. His wife, 
Teoyaomiqui (from Teo, sacred or divine ; Yaoyotl, war ; and 
Miqui, to kill) was represented as a figure bearing the full breasts 
of a woman, literally enveloped in serpents, and ornamented with 
feathers, shells, and the teeth and claws of a tiger. She had a 
necklace composed of six hands. Around her waist is a belt to 
which death's heads are attached. One of her statues, a horrible 
figure, still exists in the city of Mexico. It is carved from a 
solid block of vasalt, and is nine feet in height and five and a 
half in breadth. 

It is not improbable that the serpent-mother of Huitzlipochtli 
was an impersonation of the great female serpent Cinacohuatl, 
the wife of Tonacatlecoatl, the serpent-father of Quetzalcoatl. 
However this may be, it is clear that a more intimate connection 
exists between the several principal divinities of Mexico, than 
appears from the confused and meagre accounts which have been 
left us of their mythology. Indeed, we have seen that the 
Hindu Triad, Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva, has very nearly its 
counterpart in Tezcatlipoca, Tlaloc, and the celestial Huitzli- 
pochtli, the Creator, Preserver, and Destroyer and Reproducer. 
In the delineations of Siva or Mahadeo, in his character of the 
destroyer, he is represented as wrapped in tiger skins. A hooded 
snake is twisted around him and lifts its head above his shoulder, 
and twisted snakes form his head-dress. In other cases he holds 


a spear, a sword, a serpent, and a skull, and has a girdle of skulls 
around his waist. The bull Nandi (emblem of generative force), 
as also the lingham, are among his emblems. To him were dedi- 
cated the bloodiest sacrifices of India. Durga, or Kali (an im- 
personation of Bhavin, goddess of nature and fecundity) corres- 
ponds with the Mexican Tesyaomiqui, and is represented in a 
similar manner. She is a war goddess and her martial deeds 
give her a high position in the Hindu pantheon. As Kali, her 
representatives are most terrible. The emblems of destruction 
are common to all ; she is entwined with serpents ; a circlet of 
flowers surrounds her head ; a necklace of skulls ; a girdle of 
dissevered human hands ; tigers crouching at her feet — indeed 
every combination of the horrible and the loathsome is invoked 
to portray the dark character which she represents. She delights 
in human sacrifices and the ritual prescribes that, previous to the 
death of the victim, she should be invoked as follows : " Let the 
sacrificer first repeat the name of Kali thrice, Hail, Kali ! Kali ! 
Hail, Devi ! Hail, Goddess of Thunder ! iron-sceptered, hail, 
fierce Kali ! Cut, slay, destroy ! bind, secure ! Cut with the 
axe, drink blood, slay, destroy!" "She has four hands," says 
Patterson, " two of which are employed in the work of death ; 
one points downwards, allusive to the destruction which sur- 
rounds her, and the other upwards, which seems to promise the 
regeneration of nature by a new creation. " On her festivals," 
says Coleman, " her temples literally stream with blood." As 
Durga, however, she is often represented as the patroness of 
Virtue and her battles with evil demons form the subject of 
many Hindu poems. She is under this aspect the armed Phallas. 

We have seen that the Creator of the World, the Great 
Father of the Aztecs, Tonacatlecoatl or Tezcatlipoca, and his 
wife Cihuacohuatl, were not only symbolized as the Sun and 
Moon, but also that they were designated as the male and female 
serpent, and that in the mythological pictures the former w r as 
represented as a feather-headed snake. We have also seen that 
the incarnate or human representative of this deity Quetzalcoatl, 
was also symbolized as a feathered serpent. This was in accord- 
ance with the system of the Aztecs, who represented cognate 
symbols, and invested the impersonations or descendants of the 
greater gods w ith their emblems. 

These facts being well established, many monuments of 
American antiquity, otherwise inexplicable, become invested with 
significance. In Mexico, unfortunately, the monumental records 


of the ancient inhabitants have been so ruthlessly destroyed or 
obliterated that now they afford us but little aid in our re- 
searches. Her ancient paintings, although there are some which 
have escaped the general devastation, are principally beyond 
our reach and cannot be consulted particularly upon these points. 
In Central America, however, we find many remains which, 
although in a ruined state, are much more complete and much 
more interesting than any others concerning which we possess 
any certain information. 

The researches and explorations of Messrs. Stephens and 
Catherwood have placed many of these before us in a form 
which enables us to detect their leading features. Ranking first 
among the many interesting groups of ruins discovered by these 
gentlemen, both in respect to their extent and character, are 
those of Chichen-itza. One of the structures comprising this group 
is described as follows : — " The building called the Castillo is the 
first which we saw, and is, from every point of view, the grandest 
and most conspicuous object that towers above the plain. The 
mound upon which it stands measures one hundred and ninety- 
seven feet at the base, and is built up, apparently solid, to the 
height of seventy-five feet. On the west side is a stairway 
thirty-seven feet wide ; on the north another, forty-four feet 
wide, and containing ninety steps. On the ground at the foot 
of the stairway, forming a bold, striking, and well-conceived 
commencement, are two collossal serpents' heads (feathered) ten 
feet in length, with mouths wide open and tongues protruding." 

" No doubt they were emblematic of some religious belief, and, 
in the minds of the imaginative people passing between them, 
must have excited feelings of solemn awe. The platform on the 
mound is about sixty feet square and is crowned by a building 
measuring forty-three by forty-nine feet. Single doorways face 
the east, south and west, having massive lentils of zapote wood, 
covered with elaborate carvings, and the jambs are ornamented 
with sculptured figures. The sculpture is much worn, but the 
bead-dress of feathers and portions of the rich attire still remain. 
The face is well preserved and has a dignified aspect. All the 
other jambs are decorated with sculptures of the same general 
character, and all open into a corridor six feet wide, extending 
around three sides of the building. The interior of this building 
was ornamented with very elaborate but much obliterated 

"The sacred character of this remarkable structure is apparent 



at the first glance, and it is equally obvious that the various 
sculptures must have some significance. The entrance between 
the two colossal serpents' heads remind us at once of Gomera's 
description of the entrance to the temple of Quetzalcoatl in 
Mexico, which ' was like unto the mouth of a serpent and which 
was a thing to fear by those who entered in thereat.' " 

The circumstance that these heads are feathered seems further 
to connect this temple with the worship of that divinity. But 
in the figures sculptured upon the jambs of the entrances, and 
which, Mr. Stephens observes, were of the same general character 
throughout, we have further proof that this structure was dedi- 
cated to a serpent divinity. Let it be remembered that the 
dignified personage there represented is accompanied by a 
feathered serpent, the folds of which are gracefully arrayed 
behind the figure and the tail of which is marked by the rattles 
of the rattle-snake — the distinguishing mark of the monumental 
serpent of the continent, whether represented in the carvings of 
the mounds or in the sculptures of Central America. This 
temple, we may therefore reasonably infer, was sacred to the 
benign Quetzalcoatl, or a character corresponding to him, whose 
symbolical serpent guarded the ascent to the summit, and whose 
imposing representation was sculptured on its portals. This in- 
ference is supported by the fact that in Mexican paintings the 
temples of Quetzalcoatl are indicated by a serpent entwined 
around or rising above them, as may be seen in an example from 
the Codex Borgianus in Kingsborough. 

But this is not all. We have already said that amongst the 
Itzaes — " holy men " — the founders of Chichen-itza and after- 
wards of Mayapan, there was a character, corresponding in 
many respects with Quetzalcoatl, named Ku Kulcan or Cuculcan. 
Torquemada, quoted by Cogolludo, asserts that this was but 
another name for Quetzalcoatl. Cogolludo himself speaks of Ku 
Kulcan as "one who had been a great captain among them," 
and * T as afterwards worshipped as a god. Herrara states that 
he ruled at Chichen-itza ; that all agreed that he came from the 
westward, but that a difference exists as to whether he came 
before or afterwards or with the Itzaes. " But " he adds, " the 
name of the structure at Chichen-itza and the events of that 
country after the death of the lords, shows that Cuculcan 
governed with them. He was a man of good disposition, not 
known to have had wife or children, a great statesman, and 
therefore looked upon as a god, he having contrived to build 


another city in which business might be managed. To this pur- 
pose they pitched upon a spot eight leagues from Merida, where 
they made an enclosure of about an eighth of a league in circuit, 
being a wall of dry stone with only two gates. They built 
temples, calling the greatest of them Cuculcan. Near the en- 
closures were the houses of the prime men, among whom 
Cuculcan divided the land, appointing towns to each of them. 

" This city was called Mayapan (the standard of Maya), the 
Mayan being the language of the country. Cuculcan governed 
in peace and quietness and with great justice for some years, 
when, having provided for his departure and recommended to 
them the good form of government which had been established, 
he returned to Mexico the same way he came, making some stay 
at Chanpotan, where, as a memorial of his journey, he erected a 
structure in the sea, which is to be seen to this day."* 

We have here the direct statement that the principal structure 
at Mayapan was called Cuculcan ; and from the language of 
Herrara the conclusion is irresistible that the principal structure 
of Chichen-itza was also called by the same name. These are 
extremely interesting facts, going far to show that the figure 
represented in the " Castillo," and which we have identified upon 
other evidence as being that of a personage corresponding to 
Quetzalcoatl, is none other than the figure of the demi-god Ku 
Kulcan, or Cuculcan, to whose worship the temple was dedicated 
and after whom it was named. 

If we consult the etymology of the name Ku Kulcan we shall 
have further and striking evidence in support of this conclusion. 
Ku in the Mayan language means God, and can serpent. We 
have, then, Ku Kulcan, God — Kul, Serpent, or Serpent-God. 
What Kul signifies it is not pretended to say, but we may reason- 
ably conjecture that it is a qualifying word to can serpent. 
Kukum is feather, and it is possible that by being converted into 
an adjective form it may change its termination into Kukul. 
The etymology may therefore be Kukumcan Feather-Serpent, or 
Kukulcan Feathered Serpent. We, however, repose on the first 
explanation, and unhesitatingly hazard the opinion that, when 
opportunity is afforded of ascertaining the value of Kul, the 
correctness of our conclusions will be fully justified. 

And here we may also add that the etymology of Kinchahan, 
the name of the principal god of the Mayas and corresponding to 

* Herrara, Hist. America, vol. iv., pp. 162-3. 


Tonacatlcoatl of Mexico, is precisely the same as that of the 
latter. Kin is Sun in the Mayan language, and Chahan, as 
every one acquainted with the Spanish pronunciation well knows, 
is nothing more than a variation in orthography for Cacin or 
Can, serpent. Kin Chahan, Kincaan, or Kincan is, therefore, 

The observation that Quetzalcoatl might be regarded as the 
incarnation of Tezcatlipoca, or Tonacatlcoatl, corresponding to 
the Buddha of the Hindus, was based upon the coincidences in 
their origin, character, and teachings, but there are some remark- 
able coincidences between the temples dedicated to the worship 
of these two great teachers — or perhaps we should say, between 
the religious structures of Central America and Mexico and 
Hindustan and the islands of the Indian Archipelago, which 
deserve attention. 

From the top of the lofty temple at Chichen-itza, just 
described, Mr. Stephens saw, for the tirst time, groups of columns 
or upright stones which, he observes, proved upon examination 
to be among the most remarkable and unintelligible remains he 
he had yet encountered. " They stood in rows of three, four 
and five abreast, many rows continuing in the same direction, 
when they collectively changed and pursued another. They 
were low, the tallest not more than six feet high. Many had 
fallen, in some places lying prostrate in rows, all in the same 
direction, as if thrown intentionally. In some cases they ex- 
tended to the bases of large mounds, on which were ruins of 
buildings and large fragments of sculptures, while in others they 
branched off and terminated abruptly. I counted three hundred 
and eighty, and there were many more ; but so many were 
broken and lay so irregularly that I gave up counting them." 

Those represented by Mr. Stephens, in his plate, occur in 
immediate connection with the temple above described, and 
enclose an area nearly four hundred feet square. 

In the third volume of the "Transactions of the Royal Asiatic 
Society " is an account of the mixed temples of the ancient city 
of Anarajapura (situated in the centre of the island of Ceylon) 
by Captain Chapman, of the British Army. The remarkable 
character of these ancient structures and the decided resem- 
blances which they sustain to those of Central America, and 
particularly to the group of Chichen-itza, justify a somewhat 
detailed notice of them. 

According to native records, Anarajapura was, for a period of 


thirteen hundred years, both the principal seat of the religion of 
the country and the residence of its kings. It abounded in 
magnificent buildings, sculptures and other works of art, and 
was, as it still is, held in the greatest veneration by the followers 
of Buddha as the most sacred spot in the island. 

"At this time," says Captain Chapman, "the only remaining 
traces of the city consist of nine temples ; of two very extensive 
banks ; of several smaller ones in ruins ; of groups of pillars, 
and of portions of walls, which are scattered over an extent of 
several miles. The nine temples are still held in great reverence, 
and are visited periodically by the Buddhists. They consist first 
of an enclosure, in which are the sacred trees called the Bogaha ; 
the Thousand Pillars called Lowa Mali a Paya; and the seven 
mounds or Dagobas, each one of which has a distinct name given 
it by its founder." 

The temple of Bo Malloa, especially sacred to Buddha, is of 
granite and consists of a series of four rectangular terraces, faced 
with granite, rising out of each other and diminishing both in 
height and extent, upon which are situated the altars and the 
sacred Bogaha trees, or trees of Buddha. The total height of 
the terraces is about twenty feet and the extent of the largest 
thirty paces by fifteen. These terraces are ascended by flights 
of steps. At the foot of the principal flight are slabs of granite, 
placed perpendicularly, upon which figures are boldly sculptured ; 
and between is a semi-circular stone with simple mouldings let in 
the ground. Upon the east of the building projects a colossal 
figure of Buddha. Another similar, but smaller, structure is 
placed a little to the eastward of that first described. Both are 
surrounded by a wall, enclosing a space one hundred and twenty 
five paces long by seventy-five wide, within which are planted 
a variety of odoriferous trees. 

A few paces to the eastward of this enclosure are the ruins of 
the "Thousand Pillars." These consisted originally of 1600 
pillars, disposed in a square. The greater part are still standing ; 
they consist, with a few exceptions, of a single piece of gneiss in 
the rough state in which they were quarried. They are ten or 
twelve feet above the ground ; twelve inches by eight square, 
and about four feet from each other ; but the two in the centre 
of the outer line differ from the rest in being of hard blue 
granite, and in being more carefully finished. These pillars 
were said to have been covered with chunam (plaster) and thus 
converted into columns having definite forms and proportions. 


There is a tradition that there was formerly in the centre of this 
square a brazen chamber, in which was contained a relic held 
in much veneration. A few paces from this was a single pillar 
of gneiss in a rough state, which was from fourteen to sixteen 
feet high. 

Captain Chapman observes that structures, accompanied by 
similar groups of columns, exist on the opposite or continental 
coast. The temples of Ramiseram, Madura, and the celebrated 
one of Seringham, have each their ' ; Thousand Pillars." In 
Ramiseram the pillars are arranged in colonnades of several 
parallel rows, and these colonnades are separated by tanks or 
spaces occupied by buildings in the manner indicated by Mr. 
Stephens at Chichen-izta. Some of these pillars are carved ; 
others are in their rough state or covered with plaster. In 
Madura the pillars are disposed in a square of lines radiating in 
such a manner that a person placed in the centre can see through 
in every direction. This square is on a raised terrace, the pillars 
rude and only about eight feet high. At Seringham the pillars 
also form a square. 

The dagobas, occurring in connection with the temple of 
Buddha and the " Thousand Pillars" at Anarajapura, deserve a 
notice, as they correspond in many respects with some of the 
structures at Chichen. They are of various dimensions and con- 
sist generally of raised terraces or platforms of great extent, 
surrounded by mounds of earth faced with brick or stone, and 
often crowned with circular, dome-shaped structures. The base 
is usually surrounded by rows of columns. They vary from 
fifty to one hundred and fifty feet in height. The dagobas, of 
intermediate size, have occasionally a form approaching that of 
a bubble, but in general they have the form of a bell. They 
constitute part of the Buddhist Temples, almost without exception. 
We have, in the character of these singular columns and their 
arrangement in respect to each other and the pyramidal 
structures in connection with which they are found, a most strik- 
ing resemblance between the ruins of Chichen-itza in Central 
America, and Anarajapura in Ceylon — between the temples of 
Buddha and those of Quetzalcoatl, or some corresponding 
character. The further coincidences which exist between the 
sacred architecture of India and Central America will be reserved 
for another place. We cannot, however, omit to notice here the 
structure at Chichen-itza designated as the " Caracol," both from 
its resemblance to the dagobas of Ceylon and its connection with 


the worship of the Serpent Deity. Mr. Stephens describes it as 
follows : — 

" It is circular in form and is known by the name of the 
Caracol, or Winding Staircase, on account of its interior arrange- 
ments. It stands on the upper of two terraces. The lower one 
measuring in front, from north to south, two hundred and twenty- 
three feet, and is still in good preservation. A grand staircase, 
forty-five feet wide, and containing twenty steps, rises to the 
platform of this terrace. On each side of the staircase, forming 
a sort of balustrade, rest the entwined bodies of two gigantic 
serpents, three feet wide, portions of which are still in place ; and 
amongst the ruins of the staircase a gigantic head, which had 
terminated, at one side the foot of the steps. The platform of 
the second terrace measured eighty feet in front and fifty-five 
in depth, and is reached by another staircase forty-two feet wide 
and having forty-two steps. In the centre of the steps and 
against the wall of the terrace are the remains of a pedestal six 
feet high, on which probably once stood an idol. On the plat- 
form, fifteen feet from the last step, stands the building. It is 
twenty-two feet in diameter and has four small doorways facing 
the cardinal points. Above the cornice the roof sloped off so as 
to form an apex. The height, including the terraces, is little 
short of sixty feet. The doorways give entrance to a circular 
corridor five feet wide. The inner wall has four doorways, smaller 
than the others, and standing intermediately with respect to 
them. These doors give entrance to a second circular corridor, 
four feet wide, and in the centre is a circular mass, apparently of 
solid stone, seven feet six inches in diameter ; but in one place, 
at the height of eleven feet from the floor, was a small square 
opening, which I endeavoured to clear out but without success. 
The roof was so tottering that I could not discover to what this 
opening led. The walls of both corridors were plastered and 
covered with paintings, and both were covered with a triangular 

Mr. Stephens also found at Mayapan, which city, as we have 
seen, was built by Ku Kulcan, the great ruler and demi-god of 
Chichen-itza, a dome-shaped edifice of much the same character 
with that here described. It is the principal structure here, and 
stands on a mound thirty feet high. The walls are ten feet high 
to the top of the lower cornice, and fourteen more to the upper 
one. It has a single entrance towards the west. The outer wall 
is five feet thick, within which is a corridor three feet wide, 


surrounding a solid cylindrical mass of stone, nine feet in thick- 
ness. The walls have four or five coats of stucco and were 
covered with remains of paintings, in which red, yellow, blue 
and white were distinctly visible. On the south-west of the 
building was a double row of columns, eight feet apart, though 
probably from the remains around, there had been more, and by 
clearing away the trees others might be found. They were two 
feet and a half in diameter. We are not informed upon the 
point bnt presumably the columns were arranged, in respect to 
the structure, in the same manner as those accompanying the 
dagobas of Ceylon, or the mounds of Chichen-itza. 

Among the ruins of Chichen are none more remarkable than 
that called by the natives " Egclesia " or the Church. It is de- 
scribed by Mr. Stephens as consisting of " two immense parallel 
walls each two hundred and seventy-five feet long, thirty feet 
thick, and placed one hundred and twenty feet apart. One hun- 
dred feet from the northern extremity, facing the space between 
the walls, stands, on a terrace, a building thirty-five feet long, 
containing a single chamber, with the front fallen, and rising 
among the rubbish the remains of two columns elaborately orna- 
mented, the whole interior wall being exposed to view, covered 
from top to bottom with sculptured figures in bas-relief much 
worn and faded. At the southern end also, placed back a hun- 
dred feet and corresponding in position, is another building 
eighty-one feet long, in ruins, but also exhibiting the remains of 
this column richly sculptured. In the centre of the great stone 
walls, exactly opposite each other, and at the height of thirty feet 
from the ground, are two massive stone rings, four feet in 
diameter and one foot one inch thick, the diameter of the hole 
is one foot seven inches. On the rim and border are sculptured 
two entwined serpents ; one of them is feather-headed, the other 
is not." May we regard them as allusive to the Serpent God and 
the Serpent Goddess of the Aztec mythology ? Mr. Stephens is 
disposed to regard the singular structure here described as a 
Gymnasium or Tennis Court, and supports his opinion by a quo- 
tation from Herrara. It seems to others much more probable 
that, with the other buildings of the group, this had an exclu- 
sively sacred origin. However that may be, the entwined ser- 
pents are clearly symbolical, inasmuch as we find them elsewhere, 
in a much more conspicuous position, and occupying the first 
place among the emblematic figures sculptured on the aboriginal 


Immediately in connection with this singular structure and 
■constituting part of the eastern wall, is a building, in many re- 
spects the most interesting visited by Mr. Stephens, and respect 
ing which it is to be regretted he has not given us a more complete 
account. It requires no extraordinary effort of fancy to discover 
in the sculptures and paintings with which it is decorated the 
pictured records of the teachings of the deified Ku Kulcan, who 
instructed men in the arts, taught them in religion, and instituted 
government. There are represented processions of figures, covered 
with ornaments, and carrying arms. " One of the inner cham- 
bers is covered," says Mr. Stephens, "from the floor to the arched 
roof, with designs in painting, representing, in bright and vivid 
colours, human figures, battles, horses, boats, trees, and various 
scenes in domestic life." These correspond very nearly with the 
representations on the walls of the ancient Buddhist temples of 
Java, which are desrcribed by Mr. Crawfurd as being covered 
with designs of "a great variety of subjects, such as processions, 
audiences, religious worship, battles, hunting, maritime and other 

Among the ruins of Uxmal is a structure closely resembling the 
Egclesia of Chichen. It consists of two massive walls of stone, 
•one hundred aud twenty-eight feet long, and thirty in thickness, 
and placed seventy feet apart. So far as could be made out, they 
are exactly alike in plan and ornament. The sides facing each 
•other are embellished with sculpture, and upon both remain the 
fragments of entwined colossal serpents which run the whole 
length of the walls. In the centre of each facade, as at Chichen, 
were the fragments of a great stone ring, which had been broken 
•off and probably destroyed. It would therefore seem that the 
•emblem of the entwined serpents was significant of the purposes 
to which these structures were dedicated. The destruction of 
these stones is another evidence of their religious character ; for 
the conquerors always directed their destroying zeal against those 
monuments, or parts of monuments, most venerated and valued 
by the Indians, and which were deemed most intimately connected 
with their superstitions. 

Two hundred feet to the south of this edifice is another large 
and imposing structure, called Casa de las Monjas, House of the 
Nuns. It stands on the highest terraces, and is reached by a 
iiight of steps. It is quadrangular in form, with a courtyard in 
the centre. This is two hundred and fourteen by two hundred 
and fifty-eight. " Passing through the arched gateway," says 


Mr. Stephens, " we enter this noble courtyard, with four great 
facades looking down upon it, each ornamented from one end to 
the other with the richest and most elaborate carving known in 
the art of the builders. The facade on the left is most richly 
ornamented, but is much ruined. It is one hundred and sixty 
feet long, and is distinguished by two colossal serpents entwined, 
running through and encompassing nearly all the ornaments 
throughout its entire length. At the north end, where the facade 
is most entire, the tail of one serpent is held up nearly over the 
head of the other, and has an ornament upon it like a turban with 
a plume of feathers. There are marks upon the extremity of the 
tail, probably intended to represent the rattlesnake, with which 
the country abounds. The lower serpent has its monstrous jaws 
wide open, and within there is a human head, the face of which 
is distinctly visible in the stone. The head and tail of the two 
serpents at the south end of the facade are said to have corres- 
ponded with those at the north, and when the whole was entire, 
in 1836, the serpents were seen encircling every ornament of the 
building. The bodies of the serpents are covered with feathers. 
Its ruins present a lively idea of the large and many well-con- 
structed buildings of lime and stone, which Bernal Diaz saw at 
Campeachy, with figures of serpents and idols painted on their 
walls." Mr. Norman mentions that the heads of the serpents were 
adorned with plumes of feathers, and that the tails showed the 
peculiarity of the rattlesnake.* 

The eastern facade, opposite that just described, is less 
elaborately, but more tastefully ornamented. Over each door- 
way is an ornament representing the Sun. In every instance 
there is a face in the centre, with the tongue projected, sur- 
mounted by an elaborate head-dress ; between the bars there is 
also a range of many lozenge-shaped ornaments, in which the re- 
mains of red paint are distinctly visible, and at each end is a 
serpent's head with the mouth open. The ornament over the 
principal doorway is much more complicated and elaborate, and 
of that marked and peculiar style which characterizes the highest 
efforts of the builders. 

The central figure, with the projecting tongue, is probably that 
of the Sun, and in general design coincides with the central figure 
sculptured on the great calendar stone of Mexico, and with that 
found by Mr. Stephens on the walls of Casa No. 3 at Palenque,. 

* Trav. in Yucatan. 


where it is represented as an object of admiration. The protru- 
sion of the tongue signified, among the Aztecs, ability to speak, 
and denoted life or existence. Among the Sclavonian nations, the 
idea of vitality was conveyed by ability to eat, as it is by to 
breathe among ourselves, and to walk among the Indians of the 
Algonquin stock. 

Although Central America was occupied by nations indepen- 
dent of those of Mexico proper, yet some of them (as those in- 
habiting the Pacific coast, as far south as Nicaragua) were 
descended directly from them, and all had striking features in 
common with them. Their languages were in general different, 
but cognate ; their architecture was essentially the same ; and 
their religion, we have every reason for believing, was not widely 
different, though doubtless that of the south was less ferocious 
in its character, and not so generally disfigured by human 

We may therefore look with entire safety for common mytho- 
logical notions, especially when we are assured of the fact that, 
whatever its modifications, the religion of the continent is 
essentially the same ; and especially when we know that whatever 
differences may have existed amongst the various nations of 
Mexico and Central America, the elements of their religion were 
derived from a common Tottecan root. 



Mexican Temple of Montezuma — The Serpent Emblem in Mexico 
— Pyramid of Cholula — Tradition of the Giants of Anahuac — 
The Temple of Quetzalcoatl — North American Indians and the 
Rattlesnake — Indian Tradition of a Great Serpent — Serpents in 
the Mounds of the West — Bigotry and Folly of the Spanish Con- 
querors of the West — Wide prevalence of Mexican Ophiolatreia. 

THE monuments of Mexico representing the serpent are very 
numerous, and have been specially remarked by nearly 
every traveller in that interesting country. The symbol is equally 
conspicuous in the ancient paintings. 

"The great temple of Mexico," says Acosta, "was built of 
great stones in fashion of snakes tied one to another, and the 
circuit was called coate-pantli which is circuit of snakes." Duran 
informs us that this temple was expressly built by the first Monte- 
zuma " for all the gods," and hence called Coatlan, literally " ser- 
pent place." It contained, he also informed us, the temple or 
shrine of Tezcatlipoca, Huitzlipochtli, and Tlaloc, called Coateo- 
calli, "Temple of the Serpent." 

Says Bernal Diaz, in his account of the march of Cortes to 
Mexico, " We to-day arrived at a place called Terraguco, which 
we called the town of the serpents, on account of the enormous 
figures of those reptiles which we found in their temples, and 
which they worshipped as gods." 

It cannot be supposed that absolute serpent worship — a simple 
degraded adoration of the reptile itself, or Fetishism, such as is 
said to exist in some parts of Africa — prevailed in Mexico. The 
serpent entered into their religious systems only as an emblem. 
It is nevertheless not impossible, on the contrary it is extremely 
probable, that a degree of superstitious veneration attached to the 
reptile itself. According to Bernal Diaz, living rattlesnakes were 
kept in the great temple of Mexico as sacred objects. He says, 
"Morever, in that accursed house they kept vipers and venomous 
snakes, who had something at their tails which sounded like 
morris-bells, and these are the worst of vipers. They were kept 
in cradles and barrels, and in earthen vessels, upon feathers, and 
there they laid their eggs, and nursed up their snakelings, and 
they were fed with the bodies of the sacrificed, and with dogs' 


Charlevaix in the History of Paraguay, relates " that Alvarez, 
in one of his expeditions into that country, found a town in which 
was a large tower or temple the residence of a monstrous serpent 
which the inhabitants had chosen for a divinity and which they 
fed with human flesh. He was as thick as an ox, and seven and 
twenty feet long." This account has been regarded as somewhat 
apocryphal, although it is likely enough that Serpent Worship 
may have existed among some of the savage tribes of South 

It has been said " it should be remarked that Diaz was little 
disposed to look with complacency upon the religion of the Mexi- 
cans, or whatever was connected with it. and that his prejudices 
were not without their influence on his language. His relation, 
nevertheless, may be regarded as essentially reliable." 

Mr. Mayer, in his Description of Mexico, gives an interesting 
account of the ancient and extraordinary Indian Pyramid of 
Cholula, an erection intimately connected with the Quetzalcoatl 
we have been speaking of. 

This is one of the most remarkable relics of the aborigines on 
the continent, for, although it was constructed only of the adobes 
or common sun-dried brick, it still remains in sufficient distinct- 
ness to strike every observer with wonder at the enterprise of its 
Indian builders. What it was intended for, whether tomb or 
temple, no one has determined with certainty, though the wisest 
antiquarians have been guessing since the conquest. In the 
midst of a plain the Indians erected a mountain. The base still 
remains to give us its dimensions ; but what was its original 
height ? Was it the tomb of some mighty lord, or sovereign 
prince ; or was it alone a place of sacrifice 1 

Many years ago in cutting a new road toward Puebla from 
Mexico it became necessary to cross a portion of the base of this 
pyramid. The excavation laid bare a square chamber, built of 
stone, the roof of which was sustained by cypress beams. In it 
were found some idols of basalt, a number of painted vases, and 
the remains of two dead bodies. No care was taken of these 
relics by the discoverers, and they are lost to us for ever. 

Approaching the pyramid from the east, it appears so broken 
and overgrown with trees that it is difficult to make out any out- 
line distinctly. From the west, however, a very fair idea may be 
obtained of this massive monument as it rises in solitary grandeur 
from the midst of the wide-spreading plain. A well-paved road 


with steps at regular intervals, obliquing first on the west side to 
the upper bench of the terrace, and thence returning toward the 
same side until it is met by a steep flight rising to the front of the 
small dome-crowned chapel, surrounded with its grave of cypress 
and dedicated to the Virgin of Remedies. 

The summit is perfectly level, and protected by a parapet wall, 
whence a magnificent view extends on every side over the level 
valley. Whatever this edifice may have been, the idea of thus 
attaining permanently an elevation to which the people might re- 
sort for prayer — or even for parade or amusement — was a sublime 
conception and entitles the men who, centuries ago, patiently 
erected the lofty pyramid, to the respect of posterity. 

There remain at present but four stories of the Pyramid of 
Cholula, rising above each other and connected by terraces. 
These stories are formed, as already said, of sun-dried bricks, inter- 
spersed with occasional layers of plaster and stone work. " And 
this is all," says Mr. Mayer, "that is to be told or described. Old 
as it is — interesting as it is— examined as it has been by anti- 
quaries of all countries — the result has ever been the same. The 
Indians tell you that it was a place of sepulture, and the Mexicans 
give you the universal reply of ignorance in this country : Quien 
Sabe 1 — who knows 1 who can tell ?" 

Baron Humboldt says : — " The Pyramid of Cholula is exactly 
the same height as that of Tonatiuh Ylxaqual, at Teotihuacan. 
It is three metres higher than that of Mycerinus, or the third of 
the great Egyptian pyramids of the group of Djizeh. Its base, 
however, is larger than that of any pyramid hitherto discovered 
by travellers in the old world, and is double of that known as the 
Pyramid of Cheops. Those who wish to form an idea of the im 
mense mass of this Mexican monument by the comparison of 
objects best known to them, may imagine a square four times 
greater than that of the Place Vendome in Paris, covered with 
layers of bricks rising to twice the elevation of the Louvre. 
Some persons imagine that the whole of the edifice is not artificial, 
but as far as explorations have been made there is no reason to 
doubt that it is entirely a work of art. In its present state (and 
we are ignorant of its perfect original height) its perpendicular 
proportion is to its base as eight to one, while in the three great 
pyramids of Djizeh the proportion is found to be one and six- 
tenths to one and seven-tenths to one ; or nearly as eight to five." 

May not this have been the base of some mighty temple de- 
stroyed long before the conquest, and of which even the tradition 
no longer lingers among the neighbouring Indians? 


In continuation Humboldt observes that "that the inhabitants 
of Anahauc apparently designed giving the Pyramid of Cholula 
the same height, and double the base of the Pyramid of Teotihua- 
can, and that the Pyramid of Asychis, the largest known of the 
Egyptians, has a base of 800 feet, and is like that of Cholula 
built of brick. The cathedral of Strasburgh is eight feet, and the 
cross of St Peter's at Rome forty-one feet lower than the top 
of the Pyramid of Cheops. Pyramids exist throughout Mexico ; 
in the forests of Papantla at a short distance above the level of 
the sea ; on the plains of Cholula and of Teotihuacan, at the 
elevations which exceed those of the passes of the Alps. In the 
most widely distant nations, in climates the most different, man 
seems to have adopted the same style of construction, the same 
ornaments, the same customs, and to have placed himself under 
the government of the same political institutions." 

Is this an argument ? it has been asked ; that all men have 
sprung from one stock, or that the human mind is the same 
everywhere, and, affected by similar interests or necessities, 
invariably comes to the same result, whether pointing a pyramid 
or an arrow, in making a law or a ladle 1 

" Much as I distrust," says Mayer, " all the dark and groping 
efforts of antiquarians, I will nevertheless offer you some sketches 
and legends which may serve at least to base a conjecture upon 
as to the divinity to whom this pyramid was erected, and to 
prove, perhaps, that it was intended as the foundation of a temple 
and not the covering of a tomb." 

A tradition, which has been recorded by a Dominician monk 
who visited Cholula in 1566, is thus related from his work, by 
the traveller already quoted. 

" Before the great inundation which took place 4,800 years 
after the erection of the world, the country of Anahuac was in- 
habited by giants, all of whom either perished in the inundation 
or were transformed into fishes, save seven who fled into caverns. 

"When the waters subsided, one of the giants, called Xelhua, 
surnamed the ' Architect,' went to Cholula, where as a memorial 
of the Tlaloc which had served for an asylum to himself and his 
six brethern, he built an artificial hill in the form of a pyramid. 
He ordered bricks to be made in the province of Tlalmanalco, at 
the foot of the Sierra of Cecotl, and in order to convey them to 
Cholula he placed a file of men who passed them from hand to 
hand. The gods beheld, with wrath, an edifice the top of which 
was to reach the clouds. Irritated at the daring attempt of 


Xelhua, they hurled fire on the pyramid. Numbers of the work- 
men perished. The work was discontinued, and the monument 
was afterwards dedicated to Quetzalcoatl." Of this god we have 
already given a description in these pages. 

The following singular story in relation to this divinity and 
certain services of his temple, is to be found in the " Natural and 
Moral History of Acosta," book 5, chap. 30. 

"There was at this temple of Quetzalcoatl, at Cholula, a court 
of reasonable greatness, in which they made great dances and 
pastimes with games and comedies, on the festival day of this 
idol, for which purpose there was in the midst of this court a 
theatre of thirty feet square, very finely decked and trimmed — 
the which they decked with flowers that day — with all the art 
and invention that might be, being environed around with arches 
of divers flowers and feathers, and in some places there were tied 
many small birds, conies, and other tame beasts. After dinner, 
all the people assembled in this place, and the players presented 
themselves and played comedies. Some counterfeited the deaf 
and rheumatic, others the lame, some the blind and crippled which 
came to seek for cure from the idol. The deaf answered con- 
fusedly, the rheumatic coughed, the lame halted, telling their 
miseries and griefs, wherewith they made the people to laugh. 
Others came forth in the form of little beasts, some attired like 
snails, others like toads, and some like lizards ; then meeting 
together they told their offices, and, everyone retiring to his place, 
they sounded on small flutes which was pleasant to hear. They 
likewise counterfeited butterflies and small birds of divers colours 
which were represented by the children who were sent to the 
temple for education. Then they went into a little forest, planted 
there for the purpose, whence the priests of the temple drew them 
forth with instruments of music. In the meantime they used 
many pleasant speeches, some in propounding, others in defending, 
wherewith the assistants were pleasantly entertained. This done, 
they made a masque or mummery with all the personages, and so 
the feast ended." 

From these traditions we derive several important facts. First, 
that Quetzalcoatl was " god of the air ; second, that he was 
represented as a "feathered serpent;" third, that he was the 
great divinity of the Cholulans ; and fourth, that a hill was 
raised by them upon which they erected a temple to his glory 
where they celebrated his festivals with pomp and splendour. 

Combining all these, is it unreasonable to believe that the 


Pyramid of Cholula was the base of this temple, and that he was 
there worshipped as the Great Spirit of the Air — or of the sea- 
sons ; the God who produced the fruitfulness of the earth, 
regulated the Sun, the wind, and the shower, and thus spread 
plenty over the land. It has been thought too, that the serpent 
might not improbably typify lightning, and the feathers swift- 
ness, thus denoting one of the attributes of the air— and that the 
most speedy and destructive. 

Mr. Mayer says : — " I constantly saw serpents, in the city of 
Mexico, carved in stone, and in the various collections of anti- 
quities," and he gives drawings of several of the principal, notably 
one carved with exquisite skill and found in the court-yard of the 

Vasquez Coronado, Governor of New Gallicia, as the northern 
territories of Spain were then called, wrote to the Viceroy Men- 
doza in 1539, concerning the unknown regions still beyond him 
to the northward. His account was chiefly based upon the fabu- 
lous relation of the Friar Marco Niza, and is not entirely to be 
relied upon. In this letter he mentions that " in the province of 
Topira there were people who had great towers and temples 
covered with straw, with small round windows, filled with human 
skulls, and before the temple a great round ditch, the brim of 
which was compassed with a serpent, made of various metals, 
which held its tail in its mouth, and before which men were 

Du Paix has given many examples of the carving representing 
the snake, which he found in his Antiquarian Explorations in 
Mexico. One found near the ancient city of Chochimilco represents 
a snake artificially coiled carved from a block of porphry. "Its long 
body is gracefully entwined, leaving its head and tail free. There 
is something showy in the execution of the figure. Its head is 
elevated and curiously ornamented, its open mouth exhibits two 
long and pointed fangs, its tongue (which is unusually long) is 
cloven at the extremity like an anchor, its body is fancifully 
scaled, and its tail (covered with circles) ends with three rattles. 
The snake was a frequent emblem with the Mexican artists. The 
flexibility of its figure rendering it susceptible of an infinite diver- 
sity of position, regular and irregular; they availed themselves of 
this advantage and varied their representations of it without 
limit and without ever giving it an unnatural attitude." 

Near Quauhquechula, Du Paix found another remarkable sculp- 
ture of the serpent carved in black basalt, and so entwined that 



the space within the folds of its body formed a font sufficiently 
large to contain a considerable quantity of water. The body of 
the reptile was spirally entwined, and the head probably served 
as a handle to move it. It was decorated with circles, and the 
tail was that of a rattlesnake. 

Du Paix also found at Tepeyaca, in a quarter of the town called 
St. Michael Tlaixegui (signifying in the Mexican language the 
cavity of the mountain) a serpent carved in red porphry. It is 
of large dimensions, in an attitude of repose, and coiled upon it- 
self in spiral circles so as to leave a hollow space or transverse 
axis in the middle. The head, which has a fierce expression, is 
armed with two long and sharp fangs, and the tongue is double 
being divided longitudinally. The entire surface of the body is 
ornamented or covered with broad and long feathers, and the tail 
terminates in four rattles. Its length from the head to the 
extremity of the tail is about twenty feet, and it gradually 
diminishes in thickness. "This reptile," Du Paix says, "was the 
monarch or giant of its species, and in pagan times was a deity 
greatly esteemed under the name Quetzalcoatl, or Feathered Ser- 
pent. It is extremely well sculptured, and there are still marks 
of its having been once painted with vermillion." 

But the symbolical feathered serpent was not peculiar to Mexico 
and Yucatan. Squier, in his Explorations in Nicaragua, several 
times encountered it. Near the city of Santiago cle Managua, the 
capital of the Republic, situated upon the shores of Lake Managua 
or Leon, and near the top of the high volcanic ridge which 
separates the waters flowing into the Atlantic from those running 
into the Pacific, is an extinct crater, now partially filled with 
water, forming a lake nearly two miles in circumference, called 
Nihapa. The sides of this crater are perpendicular rocks ranging 
from five hundred to eight hundred feet in height. There is but 
one point where descent is possible. It leads to a little space, 
formed by the fallen rocks and debris which permits a foothold 
for the traveller. Standing here, he sees above him, on the smooth 
face of the cliff, a variety of figures, executed by the aborigines, 
in red paint. Most conspicuous amongst them, is a feathered 
serpent coiled and ornamented. It is about four feet in diameter. 
Upon some of the other rocks were found paintings of the serpent, 
perfectly corresponding with the representations in the Dresden 
MS. copied by Kingsborough and confirming the conjectures of 
Humboldt and other investigators that this MS. had its origin to 
the southward of Mexico. The figure copied was supposed by the 


natives who had visited it to represent the sun. Some years ago, 
large figures of the sun and moon were visible upon the cliffs, but 
the section upon which they were painted was thrown down by 
the great earthquake of 1838. Parts of the figures can yet be 
traced upon the fallen fragments. 

It is a singular fact that many of the North American Indian 
tribes entertain a superstitious regard for serpents, and parti- 
cularly for the rattlesnake. Though always avoiding, they never 
destroyed it, " lest," says Bartram, " the spirit of the reptile 
should excite its kindred to revenge." 

According to Adair, this fear was not unmingled with venera- 
tion. Charlevoix states that the Natchez had the figure of a 
rattlesnake, carved from wood, placed among other objects upon 
the altar of their temple, to which they paid great honours. 
Heckwelder relates that the Linni Linape, called the rattlesnake 
11 grandfather " and would on no account allow it to be destroyed. 
Henney states that the Indians around Lake Huron had a similar 
superstition, and also designated the rattlesnake as their "grand- 
father." He also mentions instances in which offerings of tobacco 
were made to it, and its parental care solicited for the party per- 
forming the sacrifice. Carver also mentions an instance of similar 
regard on the part of a Menominee Indian, who carried a rattle- 
snake constantly with him, "treating it as a deity, and calling it 
his great father." 

A portion of the veneration with which the reptile was regarded 
in these cases may be referred to that superstition so common 
among the savage tribes, under the influence of which everything 
remarkable in nature was regarded as a medicine or mystery, and 
therefore entitled to respect. Still there appears to be, linked be- 
neath all, the remnant of an Ophite superstition of a different 
character which is shown in the general use of the serpent as a 
symbol of incorporeal powers, of " Manitous " or spirits. 

Mr. James, in his MSS. in the possession of the New York 
Historical Society, states, "that the Menominees translate the 
manitou of the Chippeways by ahiuahtoke" which means emphati- 
cally a snake. "Whether," he continues, "the word was first 
formed as a name for a surprising or disgusting object, and thence 
transferred to spiritual beings, or whether the extension of its 
signification has been in an opposite direction, it is difficult to 
determine." Bossu also affirms that the Arkansas believed in the 
existence of a great spirit, which they adore under form of a ser- 
pent. In the North-west it was a symbol of evil power. 


Here we may suitably introduce the tradition of a great ser- 
pent, which is to this day, current amongst a large portion of the 
Indians of the Algonquin stock. It affords some curious 
parallelisms with the allegorical relations of the old world. The 
Great Teacher of the Algonquins, Manabozho, is always placed in 
antagonism to a great serpent, a spirit of evil, who corresponds 
very nearly with the Egyptian Typhon, the Indian Kaliya, and 
the Scandinavian Midgard. He is also connected with the Algon- 
quin notions of a deluge ; and as Typhon is placed in opposition 
to Osiris or Apollo, Kaliya to Surya or the Sun, and Midgard to 
Wodin or Odin, so does he bear a corresponding relation to M ana- 
bozho. The conflicts between the two are frequent ; and although 
the struggles are sometimes long and doubtful, Manabozho is 
usually successful against his adversary. One of these contests 
involved the destruction of the earth by water, and its reproduc- 
tion by the powerful and beneficent Manabozho. The tradition in 
which this grand event is embodied was thus related by Kah-ge- 
ga-gah-boowh, a chief of the Ojibway. In all of its essentials, it 
is recorded by means of the rude pictured signs of the Indians, 
and scattered all over the Algonquin territories. 

One day returning to his lodge, from a long journey, Mana- 
bozho missed from it his young cousin, who resided witli him, he 
called his name aloud, but received no answer. He looked 
around on the sand for the tracks of his feet, and he there, for 
the first time, discovered the trail of Meshekenabek, the serpent. 
He then knew that his cousin had been seized by his great 
enemy. He armed himself, and followed on his track, he passed 
the great river, and crossed mountains and valleys to the shores 
of the deep and gloomy lake now called Manitou Lake, Spirit 
Lake, or the Lake of Devils. The trail of Meshekenabek led to 
the edge of the water. 

At the bottom of this lake was the dwelling of the serpent, and 
it was filled with evil spirits — his attendants and companions. 
Their forms were monstrous and terrible, but most, like their 
master, bore the semblance of serpents. In the centre of this 
horrible assemblage was Meshekenabek himself, coiling his volumes 
around the hapless cousin of Manabozho. His head was red as 
with blood, and his eyes were fierce and glowed like fire. His body 
was all over armed with hard and glistening scales of every shade 
and colour. 

Manabozho looked down upon the writhing spirits of evil, and 
he vowed deep revenge. He directed the clouds to disappear 


from the heavens, the winds to be still, and the air to become 
stagnant over the lake of the manitous, and bade the sun shine 
upon it with all its fierceness ; for thus he sought to drive his 
enemy forth to seek the cool shadows of the trees, that grew upon 
its banks, so that he might be able to take vengeance upon him. 

Meanwhile, Manabozho, seized his bow and arrows and placed 
himself near the spot where he deemed the serpents would 
come to enjoy the shade. He then transferred himself into the 
broken stump of a withered tree, so that his enemies might not 
discover his presence. 

The winds became still, and the sun shone hot on the lake of 
the evil manitous. By and by the waters became troubled, and 
bubbles rose to the surface, for the rays of the sun penetrated to 
the horrible brood within its depths. The commotion increased, 
and a serpent lifted its head high above the centre of the lake 
and gazed around the shores. Directly another came to the sur- 
face, and they listened for the footsteps of Manabozho but they 
heard him nowhere on the face of the earth, and they said one to 
the other, " Manabozho sleeps." And then they plunged again 
beneath the waters, which seemed to hiss as they closed over 

It was not long before the lake of manitous became more 
troubled than before, it boiled from its very depths, and the hot 
waves dashed wildly against the rocks on its shores. The com- 
motion increased, and soon Meshekenabek, the Great Serpent, 
emerged slowly to the surface, and moved towards the shore. 
His blood-red crest glowed with a deeper hue, and the reflection 
from his glancing scales was like the blinding glitter of a sleet 
covered forest beneath the morning sun of winter. He was 
followed by the evil spirits, so great a number that they covered 
the shores of the lake with their foul trailing carcases. 

They saw the broken, blasted stump into which Manabozho had 
transformed himself, and suspecting it might he one of his dis- 
guises, for they knew his cunning, one of them approached, and 
wound his tail around it, and sought to drag it down. But 
Manabozho stood firm, though he could hardly refrain from cry- 
ing aloud, for the tail of the monster tickled his sides. 

The Great Serpent wound his vast folds among the trees of the 
forest, and the rest also sought the shade, while one was left to 
listen for the steps of Manabozho. 

When they all slept, Manabozho silently drew an arrow from 
his quiver, he placed it in his bow, and aimed it where he saw the 


heart beat against the sides of the Great Serpent. He launched 
it, and with a howl that shook the mountains and startled the 
wild beasts in their caves, the monstre awoke, and, followed by 
its frightful companions, uttering mingled sounds of rage and 
terror, plunged again into the lake. Here they vented their fury 
on the helpless cousin of Manabozho, whose body they tore into a 
thousand fragments, his mangled lungs rose to the surface, and 
covered it with whiteness. And this is the origin of the foam on 
the water. 

When the Great Serpent knew that he was mortally wounded, 
both he and the evil spirits around him were rendered tenfold 
more terrible by their great wrath and they rose to overwhelm 
Manabozho. The water of the lake swelled upwards from its 
dark depths, and with a sound like many thunders, it rolled 
madly on its track, bearing the rocks and trees before it with 
resistless fury. High on the crest of the foremost wave, black as 
the midnight, rode the writhing form of the wounded Meshekena- 
bek, and red eyes glazed around him, and the hot breaths of the 
monstrous brood hissed fiercely above the retreating Manabozho. 
Then thought Manabozho of his Indian children, and he ran by 
their villages, and in a voice of alarm bade them flee to the 
mountains, for the Great Serpent was deluging the earth in his 
expiring wrath, sparing no living thing. The Indians caught up 
their children, and wildly sought safety where he bade them. 
But Manabozho continued his flight along the base of the western 
hills, and finally took refuge on a high mountain beyond Lake 
Superior, far towards the north. There he found many men and 
animals who had fled from the flood that already covered the 
valleys and plains, and even the highest hills. Still the waters 
continued to rise, and soon all the mountains were overwhelmed 
save that on which stood Manabozho. Then he gathered together 
timber, and made a raft, upon which the men and women, and the 
animals that were with him, all placed themselves. No sooner 
had they done so, than the rising floods closed over the mountain 
and they floated alone on the surface of the waters ; and thus 
they floated for many days, and some died, and the rest became 
sorrowful, and reproached Manabozho that he did not disperse 
the waters and renew the earth that they might live. But though 
he knew that his great enemy was by this time dead, yet could 
not Manabozho renew the world unless he had some earth in his 
hands wherewith to begin the work. And this he explained to 
those that were with him, and he said that were it ever so little, 


even a few grains of earth, then could he disperse the waters and 
renew the world. Then the beaver volunteered to go to the 
bottom of the deep, and get some earth, and they all applauded 
her design. She plunged in, they waited long, and when she re- 
turned she was dead ; they opened her hands but there was no 
earth in them. " Then," said the otter, " will I seek the earth :" 
and the bold swimmer dived from the raft. The otter was gone 
still longer than the beaver, but when he returned to the surface 
he too was dead, and there was no earth in his claws. " Who 
shall find the earth ?" exclaimed all those left on the raft, " now 
that the beaver and the otter are dead ?" and they desponded 
more than before, repeating, " Who shall find the earth?" "That 
will I," said the muskrat, and he quickly disappeared between the 
logs of the raft. The muskrat was gone very long, much longer 
than the otter, and it was thought he would never return, when 
he suddenly rose near by, but he was too weak to speak, and he 
swam slowly towards the raft. He had hardly got upon it when 
he too died from his great exertion. They opened his little hands 
and there, clasped closely between the lingers, they found a few 
grains of fresh earth. These Manabozho carefully collected and 
dried them in the sun, and then he rubbed them into a fine 
powder in his palms, and, rising up, he blew them abroad upon 
the waters. No sooner was this done than the flood began to 
subside, and soon the trees on the mountains and hills emerged 
from the deep, and the plains and the valleys came in view and 
the waters disappeared from the land leaving no trace but a thick 
sediment, which was the dust that Manabozho had blown abroad 
from the raft. 

Then it was found that Meshekenabek, the Great Serpent, was 
dead, and that the evil manitous, his companions, had returned to 
the depths of the lake of spirits, from which, for the fear of 
Manabozho, they never more dared to come forth. And in 
gratitude to the beaver, the otter, and the muskrat, those animals 
were ever after held sacred by the Indians, and they became their 
brethren, and they never killed nor molested them until the 
medicine of the stranger made them forget their relations and 
turned their hearts to ingratitude. 

In the mounds of the West have been found various sculptures 
of the serpent, and amongst them one as follows : — It represents 
a coiled rattlesnake, and is carved in a very compact cinnamon- 
coloured sandstone. It is six and a quarter inches long, one and 
three-eighths broad, and a quarter of an inch thick. The work- 


manship is delicate, and the characteristic features of the rattle- 
snake are perfectly represented, the head, unfortunately, is not 
entire, but enough remains to show that it was surmounted by 
some kind of feather-work resembling that so conspicuously repre- 
sented in the sculptured monuments of the South. It was 
found carefully enveloped in sheet copper, and under circum- 
stances which render it certain that it was an object of high 
regard and probably of worship. 

Notwithstanding the striking resemblances which have been 
pointed out, in the elementary religions of the old and new worlds, 
and the not less remarkable coincidences in their symbolical 
systems, we are scarcely prepared to find in America that specific 
combination which fills so conspicuous a place in the early cos- 
mogonies and mythologies of the East, and which constitute the 
basis of these investigations, namely, the compound symbol of the 
Serpent and the Egg. It must be admitted that, in the few 
meagre and imperfect accounts which we have of the notions of 
cosmogony entertained by the American nations, we have no dis- 
tinct allusion to it. The symbolism is far too refined and abstract 
to be adopted by wandering, savage tribes, and we can only look 
for it, if at all, among the more civilized nations of the central 
part of the continent, where religion and mythology ranked as an 
intelligible system. And here we have at once to regret and 
reprobate the worse than barbarous zeal of the Spanish conquerors, 
who, not content with destroying the pictured records and over- 
turning and defacing the primitive monuments of those remark- 
able nations ; distorted the few traditions which they recorded, 
so as to lend a seeming support to the fictions of their own 
religion, and invested the sacred rites of the aborigines with 
horrible and repulsive features, so as to furnish, among people like 
minded with themselves, some apology for their savage cruelty. 
Not only were orders given by the first Bishop of Mexico, the in- 
famous Zumanaga, for the burning of all the Mexican MSS. 
which could be procured, but all persons were discouraged from 
recording the traditions of the ancient inhabitants. 

So far, therefore, from having a complete and consistent 
account of the beliefs and conceptions of those nations, to which 
reference may be had in inquiries of this kind, we have only 
detached and scattered fragments, rescued by later hands from 
the general destruction. Under such circumstances we cannot 
expect to find parallel evidences of the existence of specific con- 
ceptions j that is to say, we may find certain representations 


clearly symbolical and referring to the cosmogony, mythology, or 
religion of the primitive inhabitants and yet look in vain among 
the scanty and distorted traditions and few mutilated pictured 
records which are left us for collateral support of the significance 
which reason and analogy may assign to them. 

It is not assumed to say that any distinct representation of 
the Serpent and the Egg exists amongst the monuments of 
Mexico or Central America ; what future investigations may 
disclose remains to be seen. If, until the present time, we have 
remained in profound ignorance of the existence of the grand 
monument under notice, in one of the best populated states, 
what treasures of antiquity may yet be hidden in the fastnesses 
of the central part of the continent ! 

It has often been said that every feature in the religion of 
the New World, discovered by Cortez and Pizarro, indicates an 
origin common to the superstitions of Egypt and Asia. The 
same solar worship, the same pyramidal monuments, and the 
same Ophiolatreia distinguish them all. 

Acosta says "the temple of Vitziliputzli was built of great 
stones in fashion of snakes tied one to another, and the circuit 
was called ' the circuit of snakes ' because the walls of the en- 
closure were covered with the figures of snakes. Vitziliputzli 
held in his right hand a staff cut in the form of a serpent, and 
the four corners of the ark in which he was seated terminated 
each with a carved representation of the head of a serpent. 
From the sides of the god projected the heads of two serpents 
and his right hand leaned upon a staff like a serpent. The 
Mexican century was represented by a circle, having the sun in 
the centre, surrounded by the symbols of the years. The circum- 
ference was a serpent twisted into four knots at the cardinal 

The Mexican month was divided into twenty days; the serpent 
and dragon symbolized two of them. In Mexico there was also a 
temple dedicated to the God of the Air, and the door of it was 
formed so as to resemble a serpent's mouth, f 

Amongst other things, Peter Martyr mentions a large serpent- 
idol at Campeachy, made of stones and bitumen, in the act of 
devouring a marble lion. When first seen by the Spaniards it 
was warm with the blood of human victims. 

11 Ancient painting and sculptures abound with evidences of 

* Clavigero, vol. 1. f Faber. 


Mexican Ophiolatreia, and prove that there was scarcely a 
Mexican deity who was not symbolized by a serpent or a dragon. 
Many deities appear holding serpents in their hands, and small 
figures of priests are represented with a snake over each head. 
This reminds us forcibly of the priests of the Egyptian Isis, who 
are described in sculpture with the sacred asp upon the head and 
a cone in the left hand. And to confirm the original mutual 
connexion of all the serpent-worshippers throughout all the 
world — the Mexican paintings, as well as the Egyptian and 
Persian hieroglyphics, describe the Ophite Hierogram of the in- 
tertwined serpents in almost all its varieties. A very remarkable 
one occurs in M. Allard's collection of sculptures ; in which the 
dragons forming it have each a man's head in his mouth. The 
gods of Mexico are frequently pictured fighting witli serpents and 
dragons ; and gods, and sometimes men, are represented in 
conversation with the same loathsome creatures. There is 
scarcely, indeed, a feature in the mystery of Ophiolatreia which 
may not be recognised in the Mexican superstitions. 

We perceive, therefore, that in the kingdom of Mexico the 
serpent was sacred, and emblematic of more gods than one : an 
observation which may be extended to almost every other 
nation which adored the symbolical serpent. This is a remark- 
able and valuable fact, and it discovers in Ophiolatreia another 
feature of its aboriginal character. For it proves the serpent to 
have been a symbol of intrinsic divinity, and not a mere repre- 
sentative of peculiar properties which belong to some gods and 
not to others."* 

From what has been presented, it will be seen that the serpent 
symbol was of general acceptance in America, particularly among 
the semi-civilized nations ; that it entered widely into their 
symbolic representations, and this significance was essentially the 
same with that which attached to it among the early nations of 
the old continent. Upon the basis, therefore, of the identity 
which we have observed in the elementary religious conceptions 
of the Old and New World, and the striking uniformity in their 
symbolical systems, we feel justified in ascribing to the emble- 
matic Serpent and Egg of Ohio a significance radically the same 
with that which was assigned to the analogous compound 
symbol among the primitive nations of the East. This conclusion 
is further sustained by the character of some of the religious 

* Deane. 


structures of the old continent, in which we find the symbolic 
serpent and the egg or circle represented on a most gigantic 
scale. Analogy could probably furnish no more decisive sanction, 
unless by exhibiting other structures, in which not only a general 
correspondence, but an absolute identity should exist. Such an 
identity it would be unreasonable to look for, even in the works 
of the same people, constructed in accordance with a common 

It may seem hardly consistent with the caution which should 
characterize researches of this kind, to hazard the suggestion that 
the symbolical Serpent and Egg of Ohio are distinctly allusive to 
the specific notions of cosmogony which prevailed among the 
nations of the East, for the reason that it is impossible to bring 
positive collateral proof that such notions were entertained by 
any of the American nations. The absence of written records 
and of impartially preserved traditions we have already had 
ample reason to deplore ; and unless further explorations shall 
present us with unexpected results, the deficiency may always 
exist. But we must remember that in no respect are men more 
tenacious than in the preservation of their rudimental religious 
beliefs and early conceptions. In the words of a philosophical 
investigator — " Of all researches that most effectually aid us to 
discover the origin of a nation or people whose history is involved 
in the obscurity of ancient times, none perhaps are attended with 
such important results as the analysis of their theological dogmas 
and their religious practices. To such matters mankind adhere 
with the greatest tenacity, which, though modified and corrupted 
in the revolution of ages, still retain features of their original 
construction, when language, arts, sciences and political establish- 
ments no longer preserve distinct lineaments of their ancient 

A striking example of the truth of these remarks is furnished 
in the religion of India, which, to this day, notwithstanding the 
revolution of time and empire, the destructions of foreign and 
of civil wars, and the constant addition of allegorical fictions 
(more fatal to the primitive system than all the other causes 
combined), still retains its original features, which are easily 
recognisable, and which identify it with the religions which pre- 
vailed in monumental Egypt, on the plains of Assyria, in the 
valleys of Greece, among the sterner nations around the Caspian, 

# McCulloch's American Researches, p. 225. 


and among their kindred tribes on the rugged shores of 

This tenacity is not less strikingly illustrated in the careful 
perpetuation of rites, festivals and scenic representations which 
originated in notions which have long since become obsolete, and 
are now forgotten. Very few of the attendants on the annual 
May-day festival, as celebrated a few years back in this country, 
and very few of those who have read about the same are aware 
that it was only a perpetuation of the vernal solar festival of 
Baal, and that the garlanded pole was anciently a Phallic 



Egypt as the Rome of Serpent Worship — Thoth said to be the 
founder of Ophiolatreia — Cneph, the Architect of the Universe — 
Mysteries of Isis — The Isaic Table — -Frequency of the Serpent 
Symbol — Serapis — In the Temples at Luxore, etc. — Discovery at 
Malta — The Egyptian Basilisk — - Mummies — Bracelets — The 
Caduceus — Temple of Cneph at Elephantina — Thebes — Story of a 
Priest— Painting in a Tomb at Biban at Malook — Pococke at 


EGYPT, of all ancient nations the most noted for its idolatry, 
was in its earliest days the home of the peculiar worship we 
are contemplating. A learned writer on the subject says " the 
serpent entered into the Egyptian religion under all his characters 
— of an Emblem of Divinity, a Charm or Oracle, and a God." 
Cneph, Thoth and Isis were conspicuous and chief among the 
gods and goddesses thus symbolized, though he is said to have 
entered more or less into the symbolical worship of all the gods. 

Sanchoniathon describes Thoth as the founder of Serpent 
Worship in Egypt, and he is generally regarded as the planter of 
the earliest colonies in Phoenicia and Egypt after the Deluge. 
He has been called the Reformer of the Religions of Egypt, and 
Deane says : " He taught the Egyptians (or rather that part of his 
colony which was settled in Egypt) a religion, which, partaking of 
Zabaism and Ophiolatreia, had some mixture also of primeval 
truth. The Divine Spirit he denominted Cneph, and described 
him as the Original, Eternal Spirit, pervading all creation, 
whose symbol was a serpent." 

Cneph was called by the priests the architect of the universe, 
and has been represented as a serpent with an egg in his mouth ; 
the serpent being his hieroglyphical emblem, and the egg setting 
forth the mundane elements as proceeding from him. 

After his death Thoth was, in return for services rendered to 
the people, made a god of — the god of health, or of healing, and 
so became the prototype of ^Esculapius. His learning appears 
to have been great, and he instructed the people in astronomy, 
morals, hieroglyphics and letters. He is generally represented 
leaning upon a knotted stick which has around it a serpent. 

The mysteries of the worship of Isis abounded in allusions to 
the serpent, and Montfaucon says that the Isaic table, a plate of 


brass overlaid with brass enamel, intermixed with plates of 
silver, which described the mysteries, was charged with serpents 
in every part as emblems of the goddess. The particular serpent 
thus employed was that small one well know as the instrument 
used in her suicide by the celebrated Cleopatra, the asp. This 
creature is pictured and carved on the priestly robes, the tiaras 
of the kings, the image of the goddess. The British Museum 
possesses a head of this divinity wearing a coronet of them. Not 
only so, the living reptiles were kept in her temple and were 
supposed to sanctify the offerings by crawling about amongst them. 

As we have said the serpent entered largely into the symbolical 
worship of all the Egyptian deities, and Cneph, Thoth and Isis 
can only be regarded as three of the chief. 

Deane says there is scarcely an Egyptian deity which is not 
occasionally symbolized by it. Several of these deities are repre- 
sented with their proper heads terminating in serpents' bodies. 
In Montfaucon, vol. 2, plate 207, there is an engraving of 
Serapis with a human head and serpentine tail. Two other 
minor gods are also represented, the one by a serpent with a 
bull's head, the other by a serpent with the radiated head of the 
lion. The second of these, which Montfaucon supposes to be an 
image of Apis, is bored through the middle : probably with a 
design to hang about the neck, as they did many other small 
figures of gods, by way of ornament or charms. 

The figure of Serapis encircled by serpents is found on tombs. 
The appearance of serpents on tombs was very general. On an 
urn of Egnatius, Nicephoras, and of Herbasia C'lymene, engraved 
in Montfaucon, vol. 5, a young man entwined by a serpent is 
described as falling headlong to the ground. In the urn of 
Herbasia Clymene the corners are ornamented with figures of 
serpents. It is a singular coincidence that the creature by whom 
it is believed came death into the world should be consecrated by 
the earliest heathen idolaters to the receptacles of the dead. It 
is remarkable also that Serapis was supposed by the Egyptains 
to have dominion over evil demons, or in other words was the 
same as Pluto or Satan." 

On some of the Egyptian temples the serpent has been con- 
spicuously figured as an emblem consecrated to the Divine 
service. Thus it is found at Luxore, Komombu, Dendara, 
Apollinopolis and Esnay. The Pamphylian obelisk also bears it 
many times — fifty-two it is said — and according to Pococke each 
of the pillars of the temple of Gava has it twice sculptured. 


All writers on the subject have noticed the variations of form 
under which the serpent has appeared on Egyptian monuments, 
and have laid stress upon it as indicating the great consideration 
in which he was held. There is little to be wondered at in this 
when we remember that he was regarded as symbolical of divine 
wisdom, power, and creative energy ; of immortality and regener- 
ation, from the shedding of his own skin ; and of eternity, when 
represented in the act of biting his own tail. 

One writer says the world was represented by a circle, inter- 
sected by two diameters perpendicular to each other, which 
diameters, according to Eusebius, were serpents. Jablonski says 
the circumference only, was a serpent. 

Kircher says that the elements (or rather what were so 
considered in ancient times) were represented by serpents. 
Earth was symbolized by a prostrate two-horned snake ; water, 
by a serpent moving in an undulated manner ; air, by an erect 
serpent in the act of hissing ; fire, by an asp standing on its tail 
and bearing upon his head a globe. " From these hieroglyphics," 
remarks Deane, "it is clear that the serpent was the most 
expressive symbol of divinity with the Egyptians." 

An engraving in Montfaucon, vol. 2, p. 237, calls for notice 
here, as illustrating the great extent to which the veneration of the 
serpent once prevailed in Egypt. In the year 1694, in an old wall 
of Malta, was discovered a plate of gold, supposed to have 
been concealed there by its possessors at a time when every- 
thing idolatrous was destroyed as abominable. Montfaucon 
says : " This plate was rolled up in a golden casket ; it consists 
of two long rows which contain a very great number of Egyptian 
deities, most of which have the head of some beast or bird. 
Many serpents are also seen intermixed, the arms and legs of the 
gods terminating in serpents' tails. The first figure has upon its 
back a long shell with a serpent upon it ; in each row there is a 
serpent extended upon an altar. Among the figures of the 
sacred row there is seen an Isis of tolerably good form. This 
same plate, no doubt, contains the most profound mysteries of 
the Egyptian superstition." 

It hardly matters where we look in Egypt, this same serpent 
symbol is found entering into the composition of everything, 
whether ornamental, useful or ecclesiatical. The basilisk, the 
most venomous of all snakes, and so regarded as the king of the 
species and named after the oracular god of Canaan OB or OUB, 
was represented on coins with rays upon his head like a crown ; 


around the coin was inscribed " Agathodsemon." The emperor 
Nero in the "madness of his vanity," it is said, caused a number 
of such coins to be struck with the inscription " The New 
AgathocUemon," meaning himself. 

The Egyptians held basilisks in such veneration that they 
made images of them in gold and consecrated and placed them in 
the temples of their gods. Bryant thinks that they were the 
same as the Therm uthis, or deadly asp. These creatures the 
Egyptian priests are said to have preserved by digging holes for 
them in the corners of their temples, and was a part of their 
superstition to believe that whosoever was accidentally bitten by 
them was divinely favoured.* 

Deane further mentions that the serpent is sometimes found 
sculptured, and attached to the breasts of mummies ; but whether 
with a view to talismanic security, or as indicative of the priest- 
hood of Isis, is doubtful. A female mummy, opened by M. 
Passalacqua at Paris some years ago, was adorned with a neck- 
lace of serpents carved in stone. 

Bracelets, in the form of serpents, were worn by the Grecian 
women in the time of Clemens Alexdrinus, who thus reproves the 
fashion : — " The women are not ashamed to place about them the 
most manifold symbols of the evil one ; for as the serpent 
deceived Eve, so the golden trinket in the fashion of a serpent 
misleads the women." The children also wore chaplets of the 
same kind. 

We must not omit to notice the Caduceus, which forms, it is 
said, one of the most striking examples of the talismanic serpent. 
According to Montfaucon, Kirchen and others, the notion that 
this belonged exclusively to Hermes or Mercury is erroneous, as 
it can be seen in the hand of Cybele, Minerva Amebis, Hercules 
Ogmius and the personified constellation Virgo, said by Lucian 
to have had her symbol in the Pythian priestess. 

Variously represented in the main, the Caduceus always 
preserved the original design of a winged wand entwined by two 
serpents. It is found sometimes without the wings, but never 
without the serpents ; the varieties consisting chiefly in the 
number of folds made by the serpents' bodies round the wand, 
and the relative positions of the wings and serpents' heads. It 
was regarded as powerful in paralyzing the mind and raising the 

Kirchen says that the Caduceus was originally expressed by 

# Gesner, Hist. Anim. p. 54, citing JElian. 


the simple figure of a cross, by which its inventor, Thoth, is said 
to have symbolized the four elements proceeding from a common 

"Ophiolatreia," says Deane, "had taken such deep root in 
Egypt that the serpent was not merely regarded as an emblem of 
divinity, but even held in estimation as the instrument of an 
oracle. The priests of the temple of Isis had a silver image of a 
serpent so constructed as to enable a person in attendance to 
move its head without being observed by the supplicating 

" But Egyptian superstition was not contented with worship- 
ping divinity through its emblem the serpent. The senseless 
idolater soon bowed before the symbol itself, and worshipped this 
reptile, the representative of man's energy, as a god." 

In addition to the temple of the great serpent-god Cneph at 
Elephantina, there was a renowned one of Jupiter at Thebes, 
where the practice of Ophiolatreia was carried to a great length. 
Herodotus writes : " At Thebes there are two serpents, by no 
means injurious to men ; small in size, having two horns spring- 
ing up from the top of the head. They bury these when dead in 
the temple of Jupiter : for they say that they are sacred to that 
god." ^Elian says : " In the time of Ptolemy Euergetes, a very 
large serpent was kept in the temple of iEsculapius at 
Alexandria, and in another place a live one of great magnitude 
was kept and adored with divine honours ; the name of this 
place he called Melite." He gives the following story : — " This 
serpent had priests and ministers, a table and a bowl. The 
priests every day carried into the sacred chamber a cake made of 
flour and honey and then retired. Returning the next day they 
always found the bowl empty. On one occasion, one of the 
priests, being extremely anxious to see the sacred serpent, went 
in alone, and having deposited the cake retired. When the 
serpent had ascended the table to his feast, the priest came in, 
throwing open the door with great violence : upon which the 
serpent departed with great indignation. But the priest was 
shortly after seized with a mental malady, and, having confessed 
his crime, became dumb and wasted away until he died." 

In Hewart's tables of Egyptian hieroglyphics we see a priest 
offering adoration to a serpent. The same occurs on the Isiac 

11 In a tomb at Biban, at Malook, is a beautiful painting de- 
scriptive of the rites of Ophiolatreia. The officiating priest is 



represented with a sword in his hand, and three headless victims 
are kneeling before an immense serpent. Isis is seen sitting under 
the arch made by the serpent's body, and the sacred asp, with a 
human face, is behind her seated on the serpent's tail. This pic- 
ture proves that the serpent was propitiated by human victims."* 

It is noteworthy that in Egypt as in Phoenicia and other places 
serpent worship was not immediately destroyed by the advance of 
Christianity. The Gnostics united it with the religion of the 
cross, and a quotation from Bishop Pococke will, just here, be 
most appropriate and interesting. 

" We came to Raigny, where the religious sheikh of the famous 
Heredy was at the side of the river to meet us. He went with 
us to the grotto of the serpent that has been so much talked of 
under the name of the Sheikh Heredy, of which I shall give you 
a particular account, in order to show the folly, credulity, and 
superstition of these people ; for the Christians have faith in it as 
well as the Turks. We went ascending between the rocky moun- 
tain for half a mile, and came to a part where the valley opens 
wider. On the right is a mosque, built with a dome over it, 
against the side of the rock, like a sheikh's burial-place. In it 
there is a large cleft in the rock out of which they say the serpent 
comes. There is a tomb in the mosque, in the Turkish manner, 
that they say is the tomb of Heredy, which would make one 
imagine that one of their saints is buried there, and that they 
suppose his soul ntay be in the serpent, for I observed that they 
went and kissed the tomb with much devotion and said their 
prayers at it. Opposite to this cleft there is another, which they 
say is the tomb of Ogli Hassan, that is of Hassan, the son of 
Heredy ; there are two other clefts which they say are inhabited 
by saints or angels. The sheikh told me there were two of these 
serpents, but the common notion is that there is only one. He 
said it had been there ever since the time of Mahomet. The 
shape of it is like that of other serpents of the harmless breed. 
He comes out only during the four summer months, and it is said 
that they sacrifice to it. This the sheikh denied, and affirmed 
they only brought lambs, sheep, and money to buy oil for the 
lamps — but I saw much blood and entrails of beasts lately killed 
before the door. 

" The stories are so ridiculous that they ought not to be repeated, 
if it were not to give an instance of their idolatry in those parts 

# Deane. 


in this respect, though the Mahometan religion seems to be very 
far from it in other things. They say the virtue of this serpent is 
to cure all diseases of those who go to it. 

" They are also full of a story, that when a number of women 
go there once a year, he passes by and looks on them, and goes 
and twines about the neck of the most beautiful. 

" I was surprised to hear a grave and sensible Christian say 
that he always cured any distempers, but that worse followed. 
And some really believe that he works miracles, and say it is the 
devil mentioned in Tobit, whom the angel Gabriel drove into the 
utmost parts of Egypt." 

The bishop is of opinion (in which he is joined by others) that 
the above superstition is a remnant of the ancient Ophiolatreia. 



Derivation of the name "Europe" — Greece colonized by Ophites 
— Numerous Traces of the Serpent in Greece — Worship of 
Bacchus — Story of Ericthonias — Banquets of the Bacchants — 
Minerva — Armour of Agamemnon — Serpents at Epidaurus — 
Story of the pestilence in Rome — Delphi — Mahomet at Atmeidan. 

BRYANT and Faber both derive the name of "Europe" 
from "Aur-ab, the solar serpent." "Whether this be 
correct or not," says Deane, "it is certain that Ophiolatreia 
prevailed in this quarter of the globe at the earliest period of 
idolatry. The first inhabitants of Europe are said to have been 
the offspring of a woman, partly of the human and partly of the 
dracontic figure, a tradition which alludes to their Ophite origin. 

" Of the countries of Europe, Greece was first colonized by 
Ophites, but at separate times, both from Egypt and Phoenicia ; 
and it is a question of some doubt, though perhaps of little 
importance, whether the leader of the first colony, the celebrated 
Cadmus, was a Phoenician or an Egyptian. Bochart has shown 
that Cadmus was the leader of the Canaanites who fled before 
the arms of the victorious Joshua ; and Bryant has proved that 
he was an Egyptian, identical with Thoth. But as mere names 
of individuals are of no importance, when all agree that the 
same superstition existed contemporaneously in the two countries, 
and since Thoth is declared by Sanchoniathan to have been the 
father of the Phoenician as well as Egyptian Ophiolatreia ; we 
may endeavour without presumption to reconcile the opinions of 
these learned authors by assuming each to be right in his own 
line of argument." 

In Greece there are numerous traces of the worship of the 
serpent — it was so common indeed at one time that Justin 
Martyr declared the people introduced it into the mysteries of all 
their gods. In the mysteries and excesses of Bacchus it is well- 
known, of course, to have played a conspicuous part. The people 
bore them entwined upon their heads, and carrying them in their 
hands, swung them about crying aloud, " enia, enia." The sign 
of the Bacchic ceremonies was a consecrated serpent, and in the 
processions a troop of virgins of noble family carried the reptile 
with golden baskets containing sesamum, honey cakes, and grains 
of salt, articles all specially connected with serpent worship. The 


first may be seen in the British Museum, in the hands of priests 
kneeling before the sacred serpent of Egypt. Honey cakes, ac- 
cording to Herodotus, were presented once a month as food to the 
sacred serpent in the Acropolis at Athens. 

The most remarkable feature of all in the Bacchic orgies is said 
to have been the mystic serpent. " The mystery of religion was 
throughout the world concealed in a chest or box. As the 
Israelites had their sacred ark, every nation upon earth had some 
holy receptacle for sacred things and symbols. The story of 
Ericthonius is illustrative of this remark. He was the fourth 
King of Athens, and his body terminated in the tails of serpents, 
instead of legs. He was placed by Minerva in a basket, which 
she gave to the daughter of Cecrops, with strict injunctions not 
to open it. Here we have a fable made out of the simple fact of 
the mysterious basket, in which the sacred serpent was carried at 
the orgies of Bacchus. The whole legend relates to Ophiolatreia. 
In accordance with the general practice, the worshippers of 
Bacchus carried in their consecrated baskets or chests the 
Mystery of their God, together with the offerings."* 

At the banquets of the Bacchantes, or rather, after them, it 
was usual to carry round a cup, which was called the " cup of the 
good daemon." The symbol of this daemon was a serpent, as seen 
on the medals of the town of Dionysopolis in Thrace. On one 
side were the heads of Gordian and Serapis on the other a coiled 

The serpent was mixed up to a considerable extent with the 
worship of many other of the Grecian deities. The statues, by 
Phidias, of Minerva, represent her as decorated with this emblem. 
In ancient medals, as shown by Montfaucon, she sometimes holds 
a caduceus in her right hand ; at other times she has a staff 
around which a serpent is twisted, and at others, a large serpent 
appears going in front of her ; while she is sometimes seen with 
her crest composed of a serpent. It is remarkable too, that in 
the Acropolis at Athens was kept a live serpent who was gene- 
rally considered the guardian of the place, and Athens was a city 
specially consecrated to Minerva. 

Examples of Grecian Ophiolatreia might easily be multiplied 
to a considerable extent, but we have space for little more than 
a brief glance. It is known that upon the walls of Athens was 
a sculptured head of Medusa, whose hair was intertwined with 

# Deane. 


snakes, and in the temple at Tega was a similar figure which was 
supposed to possess talismanic power to preserve or destroy. The 
print in Montfaucon represents the face of Medusa as mild and 
beautiful, but the serpents as threatening and terrible. There is 
a story current, that a priestess going into a sanctuary of Minerva 
in the dead of the night, saw a vision of that goddess, who held 
up her mantle upon which was impressed a Medusa's head, and 
that the sight of this fearful object instantaneously converted the 
intruder into stone. 

The armour of Agamemnon, king of Argos, was ornamented 
with a three headed serpent ; Menelaus, king of Sparta, had one 
on his shield, and the Spartan people, with the Athenians, 
affirmed they were of serpentine origin and called themselves 

At Epidaurus, according to Pausanias, live serpents were kept 
and fed regularly by servants, who, on account of religious awe, 
were fearful of approaching the sacred reptiles which in them- 
selves were of the most harmless character. The statue of 
.ZEsculapius, at this temple, represented him resting one hand 
upon the head of a serpent, while his sister, Hygeia, had one 
twisted about her. It is reported that the god .iEsculapius was 
conveyed by a woman named Nicagora, the wife of Echetimus, 
to Sicyon under the form of a serpent. 

Livy, Ovid, Florus, Valerius Maximus, and Aurelius Victor, 
relate that a pestilence of a violent and fatal character once broke 
out in Rome, and that the oracle of Delphi advised an embassy 
to Epidaurus to fetch the god .ZEsculapius. This advice was 
taken, and a company of eleven were sent with the humble suppli- 
cations of the senate and people of Rome. While they were 
gazing at the statue of the god, a serpent, " venerable, not 
horrible," say these authors, which rarely appeared but when he 
intended to confer some extraordinary benefit, glided from his 
lurking place, and having passed through the city went directly 
to the Roman vessel and coiled himself up in the berth of Ogul- 
nius the principal ambassador. Setting sail with the god, they 
duly arrived off Antium, when the serpent leaped into the sea, 
and swam to the nearest temple of Apollo, and after a few days 
returned. But when they entered the Tiber, he leaped upon an 
island, and disappeared. Here the Romans erected a temple to 
him in the shape of a ship, and the plague was stayed with won- 
derful celerity. 

Delphi appears to have been the principal stronghold of serpent 


worship in Greece. Strabo says its original name was Pytho — 
derived from the serpent Python, slain there by Apollo. From 
this story Heinsius concludes that the god Apollo was first wor- 
shipped at Delphi, under the symbol of a serpent. It is known 
that the public assemblies at Delphi were called Pythia, these 
were originally intended for the adoration of the Python. 

In Gibbon and the Annales Turcici we have interesting 
matter about the serpentine column. The former says it was 
taken from Delphi to Constantinople by the founder of the latter 
city and set up on a pillar in the Hippodrome. Montfaucon, 
however, thinks that Constantine only caused a similar column to 
be made, and that the original remained in its place. Deane 
says, " this celebrated relic of Ophiolatreia is still to be seen in 
the same place, where it was set up by Constantine, but one of 
the serpent's heads is mutilated." 

From the Annales we get the following explanation of this in- 
quiry. " When Mahomet came to Atmeidan he saw there a 
stone column, on which was placed a three-headed brazen serpent. 
Looking at it, he asked, ' What idol is that V and, at the same 
time, hurling his iron mace with great force knocked off the lower 
jaw of one of the serpent's heads. Upon which, immediately, a 
great number of serpents began to be seen in the city. Where- 
upon some advised him to leave that serpent alone from hence- 
forth, since through that image it happened that there were no 
serpents in the city. Wherefore that column remains to this 
day. And although in consequence of the lower jaw of the brazen 
serpent being struck off, some serpents do come into the city, yet 
they do harm to no one." 

Commenting upon this story Deane remarks — " This tradi- 
tionary legend, preserved by Leunclavius, marks the stronghold 
which Ophiolatreia must have taken upon the minds of the people 
of Constantinople, so as to cause this story to be handed down 
to so late an era as the seventeenth century. Among the Greeks 
who resorted to Constantinople were many idolators of the old 
religion, who would wilfully transmit any legend favourable to 
their own superstition. Hence, probably, the charm mentioned 
above, was attached by them to the Delphic serpent on the 
column in the Hippodrome, and revived (after the partial mutila- 
tion of the figure) by their descendants, the common people, who 
are always the last in every country to forego an ancient super- 
stition. Among the common people of Constantinople, there 
were always many more Pagans than Christians at heart. With 


the Christian religion, therefore, which they professed, would be 
mingled many of the pagan traditions which were attached to the 
monuments of antiquity that adorned Byzantium, or were im- 
ported into Constantinople. 



Ophiolatreia in Britain — The Druids — Adders — Poem of 
Taliessin — The Goddess Ceridwen — A Bardic Poem — Snake 
Stones — The Anyuinum — Execution of a Roman Knight — 
Remains of the Serpent-temjrie at Abury — Serpent vestiges in 
Ireland of great rarity — St. Patrick. 

IT will probably be a matter of surprise to many, but it is 
a fact that even in Britain in ancient times Ophiolatreia 
largely prevailed. Deane says : " Our British ancestors, under 
the tuition of the venerable Druids, were not only worshippers of 
the solar deity, symbolized by the serpent, but held the serpent, 
independent of his relation to the sun, in peculiar veneration. 
Cut off from all intercourse with the civilized world, partly by 
their remoteness and partly by their national character, the 
Britons retained their primitive idolatry long after it had 
yielded in the neighbouring countries to the polytheistic corrup- 
tions of Greece and Egypt. In process of time, however, the 
gods of the Gaulish Druids penetrated into the sacred mythology 
of the British and furnished personifications for the different 
attributes of the dracontic god Hu. This deity was called "The 
Dragon Ruler of the World " and his car was drawn by serpents. 
His priests in accommodation with the general custom of the 
Ophite god, were called after him "Adders."* 

In a poem of Taliessin, translated by Davies, in his Appendix, 
No. 6, is the following enumeration of a Druid's titles : — 

" I am a Druid ; I am an architect ; I am a prophet ; I am a 
serpent" (Gnadr). 

From the word "Gnadr" is derived "adder," the name of a 
species of snake. Gnadr was probably pronounced like "adder" 
with a nasal aspirate. 

The mythology of the Druids contained also a goddess 
"Ceridwen," whose car was drawn by serpents. It is conjectured 
that this was the Grecian "Ceres;" and not without reason, for 
the interesting intercourse between the British and Gaulish 
Druids introduced into the purer religion of the former many of 
the corruptions ingrafted upon that of the latter by the Greeks 
and Romans. The Druids of Gaul had among them many 

* Davies' Mythol. of Druids. 


divinities corresponding with those of Greece and Rome. They 
worshipped Ogmius (a compound deity between Hercules and 
Mercury), and after him, Apollo, Mars, Jupiter, and Minerva, or 
deities resembling them. Of these they made images ; whereas 
hitherto the only image in the British worship was the great 
wicker idol into which they thrust human victims designed to be 
burnt as an expiatory sacrifice for the sins of some chieftain. 

The following translation of a Bardic poem, descriptive of one 
of their religious rites, identifies the superstition of the British 
Druids with the aboriginal Ophiolatreia^ as expressed in the 
mysteries of Isis in Egypt. The poem is entitled "The Elegy of 
TJther Pendragon ;" that is, of Uther, "The Dragon's Head;" 
and it is not a little remarkable that the word "Draig" in the 
British language singnifies, at the same time, a fiery serpent, a 
dragon, and the Supreme God." 

In the second part of this poem is the following sacrificial 
rites of Uther Pendragon : — 

" With solemn festivity round the two lakes : 

With the lake next my side ; 

With my side moving round the sanctuary ; 

While the sanctuary is earnestly invoking 

The Gliding King, before whom the Fair One 

Retreats upon the veil that covers the huge stones ; 

Whilst the Dragon moves round over 

The places which contain vessels 

Of drink offering : 

Whilst the drink offering is in the Golden Horns ; 

Whilst the golden horns are in the hand ; 

Whilst the knife is upon the chief victim ; 

Sincerely I implore thee, victorious Bell, etc., etc." 

This is a most minute and interesting account of the religious 
rites of the Druids, proving in clear terms their addiction to 
Ophiolatreia : for we have not only the history of the " Gliding 
King," who pursues " The Fair One," depicted upon " the veil 
which covers the huge stones "- — a history which reminds us most 
forcibly of the events in Paradise, under a poetic garb ; but we 
have, likewise, beneath that veil, within the sacred circle of "the 
huge stones," the " Great Dragon, a Living Serpent," moving 
round the places which contain the vessels of drink-offering ; or 
in other words, moving round the altar stone in the same manner 
as the serpent in the Isiac mysteries passed about the sacred 
vessels containing the offerings. 

* Owen's Diet. Art. Draig. 


The Golden Horns which contained the drink offerings were 
very probably of the same kind as that found in Tundera, in 

The sanctity of the serpent showed itself in another very 
curious part of the superstition of the British Druids, namely, 
in that which related to the formation and virtues of the 
celebrated anguinum, as it is called by Pliny, or gleinen nadroeth, 
that is, " snake-stones," as they were called by the Britons." Sir 
R. C. Hoare in his Modern Wiltshire, Hundred of Amesbury, 
gives an engraving of one, and says : " This is a head of imper- 
fect vitrification representing two circular lines of opaque skylight 
and white, which seem to represent a snake twined round a 
centre which is perforated." Mr. Lhwyd, the Welsh antiquary, 
writing to Ralph Thornley says : — " I am fully satisfied that 
they were amulets of the Druids. I have seen one of them that 
had nine small snakes upon it. There are others that have one 
or two or more snakes." 

A story comes to us, on Roman authority (that of Pliny), that 
a knight entering a court of justice wearing an anguinum about 
his neck was ordered by Claudius to be put to death, it being 
believed that the influence would improperly wrest judgment in 
his favour. 

Of this anguinum (a word derived from unguis, a snake,) Pliny 
says : " An infinite number of snakes, entwined together in the 
heat of summer, roll themselves into a mass, and from the saliva 
of their jaws and the froth of their bodies is engendered an egg, 
which is called 'anguinum.' By the violent hissing of the ser- 
pents the egg is forced into the air, and the Druid destined to 
secure it, must catch it in his sacred vest before it reaches the 

Information relative to the prevalence of this superstition in 
England will be found in Davies' Myths of the Druids, Camden's 
Britannia, and Borlase's Cornwall. 

Perhaps the most remarkable of all British relics of this 
worship are to be found on the hills overlooking the village of 
Abury, in the county of Wiltshire. There, twenty-six miles from 
the celebrated ruins of Stonehenge, are to be found the remains 
of a great Serpentine Temple — one of the most imposing, as it 
certainly is one the most interesting, monuments of the British 
Islands. It was first accurately described by Dr. Stukeley in 
1793 in his celebrated work entitled Abury, a Temple of the 
British Druids. It was afterwards carefully examined by Sir 


R. C. Hoare and an account published in bis elaborate work 
Ancient Wiltshire. Dr. Stukeley was the first to detect the 
design of the structure and his conclusions have been sustained 
by the observations of every antiquary who has succeeded him. 

The temple of Abury consisted originally of a grand circum- 
vallation of earth 1,400 feet in diameter, enclosing an area of 
upwards of twenty-two acres. It has an inner ditch and the 
height of the embankment, measuring from the bottom of the 
ditch, is seventeen feet. It is quite regular, though not an exact 
circle in form, and has four entrances at equal distances apart, 
though nearly at right angles to each other. Within this grand 
circle were originally two double or concentric circles composed 
of massive upright stones : a row of large stones, one hundred in 
number, was placed upon the inner brow of the ditch. Extending 
upon either hand from this grand central structure were parallel 
lines of huge upright stones, constituting, upon each side, 
avenues upwards of a mile in length. These formed the body 
of the serpent. Each avenue consisted of two hundred stones. 
The head of the serpent was represented by an oval structure 
consisting of two concentric lines of upright stones ; the outer 
line containing forty, the inner eighteen stones. This head rests 
upon an eminence known as Overton, or Hakpen Hill, from 
which is commanded a view of the entire structure, winding 
back for more than two miles to the point of the tail, towards 

Hakpen in the old British dialects signified Hak, serpent, and 
pen, head, i.e., Head of the Serpent. " To our name of Hakpen" 
says Stukeley, "alludes ochim, called 'doleful creatures' in our 
translation." Isa. (13 v. 21), speaking of the desolation of 
Babylon, says : Wild beasts of the desert shall lie there, and 
their houses shall be full of ochim, and owls shall dwell there, 
and satyrs shall dance there." St. Jerome translates it "ser- 
pents." The Arabians call a serpent Haie, and wood-serpents 
Hageshin ; and thence our Hakpen ; Pen is "head" in British. 

" That the votaries of Ophiolatreia penetrated into every part 
of Britain is probable from the vestiges of some such idolatry 
even now to be found in Scotland and the western isles. Several 
obelisks remain in the vicinity of Aberdeen, Dundee and Perth, 
upon which appear devices strongly indicative of Ophiolatreia. 
They are engraved in Gordon's Itinerarium Septentrionale. The 
serpent is a frequent and conspicuous hieroglyphic. From the 
Runic characters traced upon some of these stones it is con- 


jectured that they were erected by the Danes. Such might 
have been the case ; but the Danes themselves were a sect of 
Ophites, and had not the people of the country been Ophites also, 
they might not have suffered these monuments to remain."* 

Remains indicating the presence of Serpent Worship in 
Ireland are extremely scarce, but we must remember the story 
prevalent in the country, accepted as truthful by a large majority 
of its inhabitants, that St. Patrick banished all snakes from 
Ireland by his prayers. After all, this may mean nothing more 
than that by his preaching he overturned and uprooted the 
superstitious practices of the serpent worshippers of his times. 



India conspicuous in the history of Serpent Worship — Nagpur 
— Confessions of a Snake Worshipper — The gardeners of Guzerat 
— Cottages for Snakes at Calicut — The Feast of Serpents — The 
Deity Hari — Garuda — The Snake as an emblem of immortality. 

IN the course of this work we have had occasion frequently to 
allude to India as the home of the peculiar worship before 
us, and perhaps that country may fairly be placed side by side 
with Egypt for the multitude of illustrations it affords of what 
we are seeking to elucidate. 

Mr. Rivett-Carnac from whose paper in the journal of the 
Bengal Asiatic Society we have already quoted, says: — "The 
palace of the Bhonslahs at Benares brings me to Nagpur, where, 
many years ago, I commenced to make, with but small success, 
some rough notes on Serpent Worship. Looking up some old 
sketches, I find that the Mahadeo in the oldest temples at Nag- 
pur is surmounted by the Nag as at Benares. And in the old 
temple near the palace of the Nagpur, or city of the Nag or 
cobra, is a five-headed snake, elaborately coiled. The Bhonslahs 
apparently took the many-coiled Nag with them to Benares. A 
similar representation of the Nag is found in the temple near the 
Itwarah gate at Nagpur. Here again the Nag or cobra is cer- 
tainly worshipped as Mahadeo or the phallus, and there are 
certain obvious points connected with the position assumed by 
the cobra when excited and the expansion of the hood, which 
suggest the reason for this snake in particular being adopted as 
a representation of the phallus and an emblem of Siva. 

" The worship of the snake is very common in the old Nagpur 
Province where, especially among the lower class, the votaries of 
Siva or Nag Bhushan, 'he who wears snakes as his ornaments,' 
are numerous. It is is likely enough that the city took its name 
from the Nag temple, still to be seen there, and that the river 
Nag, perhaps, took its name from the city or temple, and not the 
city from the river, as some think. Certain it is that many of 
the Kunbi or cultivating class worship the snake and the snake 
only, and that this worship is something more than the ordinary 
superstitious awe with which all Hindus regard the snake. I 
find from my notes that one Kunbi whom I questioned in old 
days, when I was a Settlement Officer in camp in the Nagpur 


Division, stated that he worshipped the Nag and nothing else ; 
that he worshipped clay images of the snake, and when he could 
afford to pay snake-catchers for a look at a live one, he wor- 
shipped the living snake ; that if he saw a Nag on the road he 
would worship it, and that he believed no Hindu would kill a 
Nag or cobra if he knew it were a Nag. He then gave me the 
following list of articles he would use in worshipping the snake, 
when he could afford it ; and I take it, the list is similar to what 
would be used in ordinary Siva Worship. 1 — Water. 2 — 
Gandh, pigment of sandal-wood for the forehead or body. 3 — 
Cleaned rice. 4 — Flowers. 5 — Leaves of the Bail tree. 6 — 
Milk. 7 — Curds. 8— A thread or piece of cloth. 9 — Red 
powder. 10— Saffron. 11 — Abir, a powder composed of fragrant 
substances. 12 — Garlands of flowers. 13 — Buttemah or grain 
soaked and parched. 14 — Jowarri. 15 — Five lights. 16 — 
Sweetmeats. 17 — Betel leaves. 18 — Cocoa nut. 19 — A sum 
of money (according to means). 20 — Flowers offered by the 
suppliant, the palms of the hands being joined. 

" All these articles, my informant assured me, were offered to 
the snake in regular succession, one after the other, the wor- 
shipper repeating the while certain mantras or incantations. 
Having offered all these gifts, the worshipper prostrates himself 
before the snake, and, begging for pardon if he has ever offended 
against him, craves that the snake will continue his favour upon 
him and protect him from every danger." 

In the Oriental Memoirs by Forbes, we are told of the 
gardeners of Guzerat who would never allow the snakes to be 
disturbed, calling them "father," "brother," and other familiar 
and endearing names. The head gardener paid them religious 
honours. As Deane says, " here we observe a mixture of the 
original Serpent Worship, with the more modern doctrine of 

Still more striking is the information in Purchas's Pilgrims, 
that a king of Calicut built cottages for live serpents, whom he 
tended with peculiar care, and made it a capital crime for any 
person in his dominions to destroy a snake. "The natives," he 
says, " looked upon serpents as endued with divine spirits." 

Then there is the festival called "The Feast of the Serpents," 
at which every worshipper, in the hope of propitiating the reptiles 
during the ensuing year, sets by a portion of his rice for the 
hooded snake on the outside of his house. 

The deities of India and the wonderful temples and caves, as 


those at Salsette and Elephanta, as may be seen in Maurice's 
Indian Antiquities, Moor's Hindu Pantheon, The Asiatic He- 
searches, Faber's Pagan Idolatry and numerous other works, are 
universally adorned with, or represented by this great symbol. 
Thus we have the statue of Jeyne, the Indian iEsculapius, 
turbaned by a seven-headed snake ; that of Vishnu on a rock in 
the Ganges, reposing on a coiled serpent whose numerous folds 
form a canopy over the sleeping god ; Parus Nautli symbolized 
by a serpent ; Jagan-Nath worshipped under the form of a seven- 
headed dragon. 

Hari, appears to be one of the titles of Vishnu — that of the 
deity in his preserving quality —and his appearance on the rock, 
as just mentioned, is thus noticed in Wilkins' Hitopadesa : 
"Nearly opposite Sultan Ganj, a considerable town in the 
province of Bahar, there stands a rock of granite, forming a 
small island in the Ganges, known to Europeans by the name of 
1 the rock of Ichangiri,' which is highly worthy of the traveller's 
notice for the vast number of images carved upon every part of 
its surface. Among the rest there is Hari, of a gigantic size, recum- 
bent upon a coiled serpent, whose heads (which are numerous) 
the artist has contrived to spread into a kind of canopy over the 
sleeping god ; and from each of its mouths issues a forked tongue, 
seeming to threaten instant death to any whom rashness might 
prompt to disturb him. The whole lies almost clear of the block 
on which it is hewn. It is finely imagined and is executed with 
great skill. The Hindus are taught to believe that at the end 
of every Catya (creation or formation) all things are absorbed in 
the Deity, and that in the interval of another creation, he re- 
poseth himself upon the serpent Sesha (duration) who is also 
called Ananta (endlessness)." 

Moor says Garuda was an animal — half bird, half man — and 
was the vahan or vehicle of Vishnu, also Arun's younger brother. 
He is sometimes described in the manner that our poets and 
painters describe a griffin or a cherub ; and he is placed at the 
entrance of the passes leading to the Hindu garden of Eden, and 
there appears in the character of a destroying angel in as far as 
he resists the approach of serpents, which in most systems of 
poetical mythology appears to have been the beautiful, deceiving, 
insinuating form that sin originally assumed. Garuda espoused 
a beautiful woman ; the tribes of serpents, alarmed thereat, lest 
his progeny should, inheriting his propensities, overpower them, 
waged fierce war against him ; but he destroyed them all, save 


one, which he placed as an ornament about his neck. In the 
Elephanta cave Garuda is often seen with this appendage ; and 
some very old gold coins are in existence depicting him with 
snakes or elephants in his talons and beaks. Destroyer of 
serpents, Naganteka, is one of his names. 

He was of great use to Krishna in clearing the country round 
Dwarka (otherwise Dravira) from savage ferocious animals and 
noxious reptiles. Vishnu had granted to Garuda the power of 
destroying his as well as Siva's enemies ; also generally those 
guilty of constant uncleanness, unbelievers, dealers in iniquity, 
ungrateful persons, those who slander their spiritual guides, or 
defiled their beds ; but forebade him to touch a Brahman, what- 
ever was his guilt, as the pain of disobedience would be a scorch- 
ing pain in his throat, and any attack on a holy or pious person 
would be followed by a great diminution of strength. By 
mistake, however, Garuda sometimes seized a priest or a religious 
man, but was admonished and punished in the first case by the 
scorching flame, and was unable, even when he had bound him in 
his den, to hurt the man of piety. * To Rama also, in the war of 
Lauka, Garuda was eminently useful : in Rama's last conflict 
with Ravana the latter was not overcome without the aid of 
Garuda, sent by Vishnu to destroy the serpent-arrows of Ravana. 
These arrows are called " Sharpa-vana" (in the current dialect 
Sarpa a snake, is corrupted into Saap or Samp, and vana, an 
arrow, into ban) and had the faculty of separating, between the 
bow and the object, into many parts, each becoming a serpent. 
Viswamitra conferred upon Rama the power of transforming his 
arrows into " Garuda-vanas," they similarly separating themselves 
into " Garuda's," the terror and destroyer of the Saiya. 

Some legends make Garuda the offspring of Kasyapa and Diti. 
This all-prolific dame laid an egg, which, it was predicted, would 
preserve her deliverer from some great affliction. After a lapse 
of five hundred years Garuda sprung from the egg, flew to the 
abode of Jndra, extinguished the fire that surrounded it, con- 
quered its guards, the devatas, and bore off the amrita (ambrosia), 
which enabled him to liberate his captive mother. A few drops 
of this immortal beverage falling on the species of grass called 
" Kusa," it became eternally consecrated ; and the serpents 
greedily licking it up so lacerated their tongues with the sharp 
grass that they have ever since remained forked ; but the boon 

* Asiatic Res., vol. 5, p. 514. 


of eternity was ensured to them by their thus partaking of the 
immortal fluid. This cause of snakes having forked tongues is 
still popularly in the tales of India attributed to the above 
greediness j and their supposed immortality may have originated 
in some such stories as these ; a small portion of amrita, as in 
the case of Rahu, would ensure them this boon. 

In all mythological language the snake is an emblem of 
immortality : its endless figure when its tail is inserted in its 
mouth, and the annual renewal of its skin and vigour, afford 
symbols of continued youth and eternity ; and its supposed 
medicinal or life-preserving qualities may also have contributed 
to the fabled honours of the serpent tribe. In Hindu mythology 
serpents are of universal occurence and importance ; in some 
shape or other they abound in all directions ; a similar state of 
things prevails in Greece and Egypt. Ingenious and learned 
authors attribute this universality of serpent forms to the early 
and all pervading prevalence of sin, which, in this identical 
shape, they tell us, and as indeed we all know, is as old as the 
days of our greatest grandmother : thus much as to its age, 
when there was but one woman ; its prevalence, now there are so 
many, this is no place to discuss. 

If such writers were to trace the allegories of Sin and Death , 
and the end of their empire, they might discover further allusions 
to the Christian dispensation in the traditions of the Hindus than 
have hitherto been published — Krishna crushing, but not destroy- 
ing, the type of Sive, has often been largely discussed. Garuda 
is also the proverbial, but not the utter destroyer of serpents, for 
he spared one, they and their archetype being, in reference to 
created beings, eternal. His continual and destined state of war- 
fare with serpent, a shape mostly assumed by the enemies of the 
virtuous incarnations or deified heroes of the Hindus, is a con- 
tinued allegory of the conflicts between Vice and Virtue so in- 
finitely personified. Garuda, at length, appears the coadjutor of 
all virtuous sin-subduing efforts, as the vehicle of the chastening 
and triumphant party, and conveys him on the wings of the winds 
to the regions of eternal day. 

# Moor's Hindu Pantheon 342. 



Mr. Bullock's Exhibition of Objects illustrating Serpent Worship. 

UPWARDS of sixty years ago, there was opened at the 
Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly, what was described as the 
"Unique Exhibition called Ancient Mexico; collected on the 
spot in 1823, by the assistance of the Mexican Government, by 
W. Bullock, F.L.S., &c, &c." The illustration attached to a 
published description of this collection shows that it contained 
reproductions of some of the most remarkable of the serpent 
deities to be found in the temples of the western parts of America, 
aud the following extract will prove interesting to our readers. 

"The rattlesnake appears to have been the most general object 
of worship, veneration, and fear ; indeed it occurs in some manner 
combined with almost every other, and is still found in many of 
the Indian villages. It remains at Tezcuco, quite perfect at the 
present time. Broken fragments may be met in the exterior of 
the houses in Mexico in several places ; the great head placed at 
the left of the sacrificial stone is cast from one in the corner of 
the fine building used for the Government Lottery Office, and ex- 
posed to the street. It must have belonged to an idol at least 
seventy feet long, probably in the great temple, and broken and 
buried at the Conquest. They are generally in a coiled up state, 
with the tail or rattle on the back, but they vary in their size 
and position. The finest that is known to exist, I discovered in 
the deserted part of the Cloister of the Dominican Convent oppo- 
site the Palace of the Inquisition. It is coiled up in an irritated 
erect position, with the jaws extended, and in the act of gorging 
an elegantly dressed female, who appears in the mouth of the 
enormous reptile, crushed and lacerated, a disgusting detail withal 
too horrible for description. 

" Turning to a letter from Cortes to Charles V., as given by 
Humboldt, we read, ' From the square we proceeded to the great 
temple, but before we entered it we made a circuit through a 
number of large courts, the smallest of which appeared to me to 
contain more ground than the great square in Salamanca, with 
double enclosures built of lime and stone, and the courts paved 
with large white cut stone, very clean ; or, where not paved, they 
were plastered and polished. When we approached the gate of 
the great temple, to which the ascent was by a hundred and four- 


teen steps, and before we had mounted one of them, Montezuma 
sent down to us six priests and two of his noblemen to carry 
Cortes up, as they had done their sovereign, which he politely de- 
clined. When we had ascended to the summit of the temple, we 
observed on the platform as we passed the large stone whereon 
were placed the victims who were to be sacrificed. Here was a 
great figure which resembled a dragon, and much blood fresh spilt. 
Cortes then addressing himself to Montezuma requested that he 
would do him the favour to show us his gods. Montezuma, hav- 
ing first consulted his priests, led us into a tower where there was 
a kind of saloon. Here were two altars highly adorned, with 
richly wrought timbers on the roof, and over the altars gigantic 
figures resembling very fat men. The one on the right was 
Huitzilopochtli their war god, with a great face and terrible 
eyes, this figure was entirely covered with gold and jewels, and 
his body bound with golden serpents, in his right hand he held a 
bow, and in his left a bundle of arrows. The little idol which 
stood by him represented his page, and bore a lance and target 
righly ornamented with gold and jewels. The great idol had 
round his neck the figures of human heads and hearts made of 
pure gold and silver, ornamented with precious stones of a blue 
colour. Before the idol was a pan of incense, with three hearts 
of human victims which were then burning, mixed with copal. 
The whole of that apartment, both walls and floor, w T as stained 
with human blood in such quantity as to give a very offensive 
smell. On the left was the other great figure, with a countenance 
like a bear, and great shining eyes of the polished substance 
whereof their mirrors are made. The body of this idol was also 
covered with jewels. These two deities it was said were brothers ; 
the name of the last was Tezcatepuca, and he was the god of the 
infernal regions. He presided, according to their notions, over 
the souls of men. His body was covered with figures represent- 
ing little devils with tails of serpents, and the walls and pavement 
of this temple were so besmeared with blood that they gave off a 
worse odour than all the slaughter-houses of Castille. An offering 
lay before him of five human hearts. In the summit of the 
temple, and in a recess the timber of which was highly orna- 
mented, we saw a figure half human and the other half resem- 
bling an alligator, inlaid with jewels, and partly covered with a 
mantle. This idol was said to contain the germ and origin of all 
created things, and was the god of harvests and fruits. The walls 
and altars were bestained like the rest, and so offensive that we 
thought we never could get out soon enough. 


11 'In this place they had a drum of most enormous size, the 
"head of which was made of the skins of large serpents. This in- 
strument when struck resounded with a noise that could be heard 
to the distance of two leagues, and so doleful that it deserved to 
be named the music of the infernal regions ; and with their 
horrible sounding horns and trumpets, their great knives for 
sacrifice, their human victims, and their blood besprinkled altars, 
I devoted them and all their wickedness to God's vengeance, and 
thought that the time would never arrive that I should escape 
from this scene of butchery, horrible smells, and more detestable 

" ' On the site of the church, called St. Jago el Taltelulco, was 
a temple, which, we have already observed, was surrounded with 
courts as large as the square of Salamanca. At a little distance 
from it stood a tower, a true hell or habitation for demons, with 
a mouth, resembling that of an enormous monster, wide open, 
and ready as it were to devour those who entered. At the door 
stood frightful idols ; by it was a place for sacrifice, and within, 
boilers and pots full of water to dress the flesh of the victims 
which were eaten by the priests. The idols were like serpents 
and devils, and before them were tables and knives for sacrifice, 
the place being covered with the blood which was spilt on those 
occasions. The furniture was like that of a butcher's stall, and 
I never gave this accursed building any name except that of hell. 
Having passed this, we saw great piles of wood, and a reservoir 
of water supplied by a pipe from the great aqueduct ; and cross- 
ing a court we came to another temple, wherein were the tombs 
of the Mexican nobility, it was begrimed with soot and blood. 
Next to this was another, full of skeletons and piles of bones, 
each kept apart, but regularly arranged. In each temple were 
idols, and each had also its particular priests, who wore long 
vestments of black, their long hair was clotted together, and their 
ears lacerated in honour of their gods.' " 

Mr. Bullock then proceeds to describe a cast of the great idol 
of the goddess of war, which he had brought to England with him. 

11 This monstrous idol, before which thousands of human victims 
were annually sacrificed on the altar, is, with its pedestal, about 
twelve feet high and four feet wide, it is sculptured out of one 
solid piece of grey basalt. Its form is partly human, and the rest 
composed of rattlesnakes and the tiger. The head, enormously 
wide, seems that of two rattlesnakes united, the fangs hanging 
out of the mouth, on which the still palpitating hearts of the un- 
fortunate victims were jrubbed as an act of the most acceptable 


oblation. The body is that of a deformed human frame, and the 
place of arms supplied by the heads of rattlesnakes placed on 
square plinths and united by fringed ornaments. Round the 
waist is a girdle, which was originally covered with gold, and be- 
neath this, reaching nearly to the ground and partly covering its 
deformed cloven feet, a drapery entirely composed of wreathed 
rattlesnakes which the nations call cohuatlicuye or garments of 
serpents, on each side of which is a winged termination of the 
feathers of the vulture. Between the feet, descending from the 
body, another wreathed serpent rested its head on the ground, and 
the whole composition of this deity is strictly appropriate to the 
infernal purpose for which it was used, and with which the per- 
sonal ornaments too well accord. From the neck, spreading over 
its deformed breast, is a necklace composed of human hands, 
hearts, and skulls — fit emblems of the sanguinary rites daily per- 
formed in its honour. 

" The death's head and mutilated hands, four of which sur- 
round the bosom of the goddess, remind us of the terrible sacrifices 
of Teoquawhquat, celebrated in the fifteenth century period of 
thirteen days after the summer solstice, in honour of the god of 
war and his female companion, Teoyamiqui. The mutilated 
hands alternate with the figure of certain vases in which incense 
was burnt. These vases were called Topxicalli, bags in the form 
of calabashes. This idol was sculptured on every side, even be- 
neath where was represented Mictlanteuchtli, the Lord of the 
place of the dead ; it cannot be doubted, but that it was sup- 
ported in the air by means of two columns, on which rested the 
arms. According to this whimsical arrangement, the head of the 
idol w T as probably elevated five or six metres above the pavement 
of the temple, so that the priests dragging their unfortunate vic- 
tims to the altar made them pass under the figure of Mictlan- 
teuchtli. The Viceroy of Mexico transported this monument to 
the University which he thought the most proper place to pre 
serve one of the most curious remains of American antiquity. 
The Professors of the University, monks of the Order of St. 
Dominic, were unwilling to expose this idol to the sight of the 
Mexican youth, and caused it to be reburied in one of the passages 
of the College. But Mr. Humboldt had it disinterred at the re- 
quest of the Bishop of Monterey. 

" A highly curious specimen of Mexican sculpture is an exceed- 
ing hard stone resembling hornstein, a coarse kind of jade, it is a 
species of compact tale, of most elaborate workmanship, and the 
bust of a priest, or perhaps of the idol representing the Sun. The 


head is crowned with a high mitre-shaped cap, decorated with 
jewels and feathers, it has long pendant earrings. The hands are 
raised, the right sustains something resembling a knotted club, 
while the left takes hold of a festoon of flowers which descends 
from the head; all the other parts are covered with the great 
rattlesnake, whose enormous head and jaws are on the right side 
of the figure, while the backs and sides are covered with the 
scales and rattles of the deadly reptile." 

Our prescribed limits are now reached, and we are able to add 
but little to what has already been advanced exhibiting the wide- 
spread prevalence of this singular form of worship. Again and 
again has wonderment been expressed that it should e^er be 
possible for a creature so disgusting to become an object of wor- 
ship, but so it has been, and no age or country seems to have been 
strange to it. Very early indeed in history men began to worship 
a serpent, that brazen one of the Exodus, which Hezekiah de- 
stroyed on account of the idolatry into which it led the people. 
But if that object was put away, the hope that the worship would 
cease was vain, for it started up amongst the Assyrians, the Chal- 
deans, the Phoenicians, the Egyptians, and spread into Greece, 
Esthonia, Finland, Italy, Persia, Hindustan, Ceylon, China, 
Japan, Burmah, Java, Arabia, Syria, Ethiopia, Britain, Mexico, 
and Peru. 

Such was its extent — wide as the world itself, and vast beyond 
estimate or description was its influence over the minds of those 
who came within its reach. Let the curious reader who would 
know more, and who would make himself acquainted with the 
multitudinous forms in which the emblem was depicted, study the 
works of such writers as Kingsford and Montfaucon, with their 
numerous and well executed plates, and he will meditate with 
astonishment upon the singular fascination which this repulsive 
reptile seems to have exercised over the human mind. He is said, 
we know, so to fascinate the victim he is about to seize as his 
prey that the unhappy creature is deprived of all power of resis- 
tance, a fascination no less overwhelming seems to have paralyzed 
the human mind and caused it to adopt from some cause or other 
such a repelling reptile as an object of worship. The spell is 
broken now, however, and but little remains of what was once so 
universal, beyond the earth mounds where its temples stood and 
the half ruined sculptures collected in the museums of civilized 

The End.