Page images
PDF
EPUB

SUCH were those wondrous men who first from far
Look'd up, and saw Fates hanging at each Star:
Their thoughts extended did at once comprise
Ten thousand revolutions of the skies;

They mark'd the influence, and observ'd the power
Of every Sign, and every fatal Hour;

What Tempers they bestow'd, what Fortunes gave,
And who was doom'd a King, who born a Slave;
How aspects vary, and their change creates,
Though little, great variety in fates.

Thus when the Stars their mighty round had run
And all were fix'd whence first their race begun,
What hints Experience did to search impart
They join'd, and Observation grew to Art;
Thus rules were fram'd, for by example shown
They knew what would be, from what had been done;
They saw the stars their constant round maintain,
Perform their course, and then return again;
They on their Aspects saw the Fates attend,
Their change or their Variety depend,
And thence they fix'd unalterable laws,
Settling the same effect on the same cause.

.

·

e

.

The God or Reason which the Orbs doth move,
Makes things below depend on signs above;
Though far remov'd, though hid in shades of night,
And scarce to be descried by their own light;
Yet nations own, and men their influence feel;
They rule the public and the private Will.

Landseer (Sabæan Researches, pp. 54, 60) supposes that many of the ancient engraved Babylonian or Chaldean Signets, still preserved in the cabinets of the curious, were originally designed as horoscopical representations of the heavens at the time of the birth of the original possessor, though destitute of any astral or magical influence. But although Landscer and some others suppose, that the ancient Chaldeans or Babylonians attributed no special or amuletic influence to these Signets; it is certain that extraordinary

• Manilius, B. I. p. 4, and B. II. p. 52, London, 1697, Bro.

power or influence was attributed, generally, to images or figures formed or fabricated according to astrological principles. Tradition states that Terah, the father of Abraham, was a maker of "Talismans, or little images framed in some planetary hour;" and to which were attributed certain occult and mysterious influences, as is evidenced by the tale connected with this traditon, and frequently related by writers on Hebrew Antiquities, from the Bereshith Rabba, and other collections of Rabbinical Traditions.*

The following is the elegant version of it given by Hurwitz, in his interesting collection of Jewish Apologues and “ Hebrew Tales :”

"TERAH, the father of Abraham, was not only an idolater, but a manufacturer of idols, which he used to expose for public sale. Being obliged one day to go out on particular business, he desired Abraham to superintend for him. Abraham obeyed reluctantly." What is the price of that god ?," asked an old man who had just entered the place of sale, pointing to an ido】 to which he took a fancy.-"Old man," said Abraham, "may I be permitted to ask thine age!"-" Three-score years," replied the age-stricken idolater." Three-score years!" exclaimed Abraham,—“and thou wouldest worship a thing that has been fashioned by the hands of my father's slaves within the last four-and-twenty hours!-Strange! that a man of sixty should be willing to bow down his grey head to a creature of a day!"-The man was overwhelmed with shame, and went away. After this, there came a sedate and grave matron, carrying in her hand a large dish with flour. "Here," said she, "have I brought an offering to the gods. Place it before them, Abraham, and bid them be propitious to me."-" Place it before them thyself, foolish woman !," said Abraham: "thou wilt soon see how greedily they will devour it." She did so. In the mean time, Abraham took a hammer, broke the idols in pieces; all excepting the largest, in whose hands he placed the instrument of destruction. TERAH returned, and, with the utmost surprise and consternation, beheld the havoc amongst his favourite gods. "What is all this, Abraham? What profane wretch has dared to use our gods in this manner?," exclaimed the infatuated and indignant TERAH.-"Why should I conceal any thing from my father?," replied the pious son. "During thine absence, there came a woman with yonder offering to the gods. She placed it before them. The younger gods, who, as may well be supposed, had not tasted food for a long time, greedily stretched forth their hands, and began to eat before the old god had given them permission. Enraged at their boldness, he rose, took the hammer, and punished them for their want of respect."-" Dost thou mock me ? Wilt thou deceive thy aged father?," exclaimed Terah, in a vehement rage." Do I then not know that

The learned Gregory supposes, that Telisms or magical images owed their origin to the false views entertained by the Gentile nations respecting the Brazen Serpent erected in the Wilderness :-"The Astrologers," says he, "had perceived that this God" (i. e. the God of the Jews) "had been pleased with the Brazen Serpent, which Moses the Talisman (so they would account him) set up upon a pole in the wilderness, (Numbers xxi. 8.,) and I need not stick to affirm, that the Brazen Serpent against the Fiery Serpents was the first occasion (I say not given, but) taken of all these Talismanical practices."*-But whether this erudite writer be correct or not in his conjectures, as to the origin of Telesms or Talismans, it is certain such images, constructed under certain positions of the heavens, were very generally used amongst the ancient nations, as the means of protection and safety, both to cities and persons. The Rabbis affirm that the Blind and the Lame mentioned 2 Sam. v. 6-8, were images written upon with the oath which Abraham and Isaac made to Abimelech, and that they were called "Blind" and "Lame," because "they had eyes and saw not, they had feet and walked not." They were, therefore, most probably "Stoichioda or Constillated Images of Brass, set up in the recess of the fort, called in scorn, (as they were hated by David's soul,) the Blind and the Lame; yet so surely entrusted with the keeping of the place, that if they did not hold it out, the Jebusites said they should not come into the house, that is, they would

they can neither eat, nor stir, nor move?"-" And yet," rejoined Abraham,
"thou payest them divine honours-adorest them-and wouldest have me
worship them!" It was in vain Abraham thus reasoned with his idolatrous
parent. Superstition is ever both deaf and blind. His unnatural father
delivered him over to the cruel tribunal of the equally idolatrous NIMROD.
But a more merciful Father-the gracious and blessed Father of us all-
protected him against the threatened danger; and Abraham became the father
of the faithful." (Hurwitz's Hebrew Tales, p. 139: London, 1826, 8vo.)
Gregory's (John) Works, c. viii. p. 41, London, 1671, 4to.
+Ibid, c. vii. p. 34.

[ocr errors]

never again commit the safety of the fort to such Palladiums as these."* The images of Emerods and Mice, sent with the Ark of JEHOVAH by the Philistines, (1 Sam. vi. 4, 5, 11, 17, 18,) appear to have been such Telesms or Talismanic figures, formed according to astrological rules.Gregory details many instances of a similar nature. (Works c. vii., viii.) Dr. Adam Clarke observes, "It was a very common usage when a plague or other calamity infested a country, city, &c., for the magicians to form an image of the destroyer, or of the things on which the plague particularly rested, in gold, silver, ivory, wax, clay, &c. under certain configurations of the heavens; and to set this up in some proper place, that the evils thus represented might be driven away. These consecrated images were the same that are called Talismans, or rather Telesms, among the Asiatics. Mr. Locke" (and he might have added Gregory) "calls the diviners Talismans! but this is a pitiful mistake: the image, not the fabricator, was called by this name. -I have seen several of these Talismans of different countries; and such images were probably the origin of all the forms of gods, which, in after times, were the objects of religious worship. It is well known that Ireland is not infected with any venomous creatures; no serpent of any kind is found in it :

"No poison there infects, no scaly snake
Lurks in the grass, nor toad annoys the lake.

"This has been attributed to a Telesm, formed with certain rites, under the sign Scorpio. Such opinions have been drawn from very ancient Pagan sources: e. g.-A stone engraved with the figure of a Scorpion, while the moon is in the sign Scorpio, is said to cure those who are stung by this animal. Apollonius Tyanaus is said to have prevented flies from infesting Antioch; and storks from appearing in

* Ibid, p. 34.

Byzantium, by figures of those animals formed under certain constellations. A brazen scorpion, placed on a pillar in the city of Antioch, is said to have expelled all such animals from that country: and a crocodile of lead is also said to have preserved Cairo from the depredations of those monsters. Virgil refers to this custom, (Eclogue viii. p. 80,) where he represents a person making two images, or Telesms, one of wax, another of clay; which were to represent an absent person, who was to be alternately softened or hardened as the wax or clay image was exposed to the fire.

"Limus ut hic durescit, et hæc ut cera liquescit
Uno et eodem igni ; sic nostro Daphnis amore.

“As this clay hardens, and this wax softens, by one and the same fire; so may Daphnis, by my love.

"A beautiful marble figure of Osiris, about four inches and a quarter high, now stands before me, all covered over with hieroglyphics: he is standing, and holds in each hand a scorpion and a snake by the tails, and with each foot he stands on the neck of a crocodile. This, I have no doubt, was a Telesm, formed under some peculiar configuration of the heavens, intended to drive away both scorpions and crocodiles. This image is of the highest antiquity, and was formed probably long before the Christian æra."*

"Pliny notices the figures of eagles and beetles carved on emeralds, and Marcellus Empiricus the virtue of these beetles, especially for diseases of the eye. The most revered sort were those made according to the Samothracian mysteries. They were pieces of metal, with certain figures of stars, commonly set in rings, but not always. The Arabians in Spain spread them all over Europe, though the use

Clarke's Commentary, 1 Sam. vi. in fine

« PreviousContinue »