Ancient Pagan and Modern Christian Symbolism
by Thomas Inman, M.D. (1874)
Pagan and Christian symbolism
Figure 117 is a Buddhist symbol, or rather a copy of Maityna Bodhisatwa, from the monastery of Gopach, in the valley of Nepaul.
It is taken from Journal of Royal Asiatic Society, vol. xviii., p. 894. The horse-shoe, like the vesica piscis of the Roman church, indicates the yoni; the last, taken from some cow, mare, or donkey, being used in eastern parts where we now use their shoes, to keep off the evil eye. It is remarkable that some nations should use the female organ, or an effigy thereof, as a charm against ill luck, whilst others adopt the male symbol. In Ireland, as we have previously remarked, a female shamelessly exhibiting herself, and called Shelah-na-gig, was to be seen in stone over the door of certain churches, within the last century.
From the resemblance in the shape of the horse-shoe to the "grove" of the Assyrian worshippers, and from the man standing within it as the symbolic pine tree stands in the Mesopotamian, "Asherah," I think we may fairly conclude that the Indian, like the Shemitic emblem, typifies the union of the sexes—the androgyne creator.
That some Buddhists have mingled sexuality with their ideas of religion, may be seen in plate ii. of Emil Schlagintweit's Atlas of Buddhism in Tibet, wherein Vajarsattva, "The God above all," is represented as a male and female conjoined. Rays, as of the sun, pass from the group; and all are enclosed in an ornate oval, or horse-shoe, like that in this figure. Few, however, but the initiated would recognise the nature of the group at first sight.
I may also notice, in passing, that the goddess Doljang (a.d. 617-98) has the stigmata in her hands and feet, like those assigned to Jesus of Nazareth and Francis of Assisi.