Ancient Pagan and Modern Christian Symbolism
by Thomas Inman, M.D. (1874)
Pagan and Christian symbolism
Figure 124 is copied from Maffei's Gemme Antiche Figurate, vol. 8, plate xl. In the original, the figure upon the pillar is very conspicuously phallic, and the whole composition indicates what was associated with the worship of Priapus.
This so-called god was regarded much in the same light as 'St. Cosmo and St. Damian were at Iseraia, and St. Foutin in Christian France. And it is not at all surprising that a church, which has deified or made saints of a spear and cloak, under the names Longinus and Amphibolus, should also adopt the "god of the gardens," and consecrate him as an object for Christian worship, and give him an appropriate name and emblem. But the patron saint of Lampsacus was not really a deity, only a sort of saint, whose business it was to attend to certain parts.
The idea of guardian angels was once common, see Matt, xviii. 10, where we read, that each child has a guardian in heaven, who looks after his infantile charge. As the pagan Hymen and Lucina attended upon weddings and parturitions, so the Christian Cosmo and Damian attended to spouses, and assisted in making them fruitful. To the last two were offered, by sterile wives, wax effigies of the part left out from the nude figure in our plate. To the heathen saint, we see a female votary offer quince leaves, equivalent to la feuille de sage
, egg-shaped bread, apparently a cake; also an ass's head; whilst her attendant offers a pine cone. This amongst the Greeks was sacred to Cybele, as it was in Assyria to Astarte or Ishtar, the name given there to 'the mother of all saints.' The basket contains apples and phalli, which may have been made of pastry. See Martial's Epigrams
, b. xiv. 69. This gem is valuable, inasmuch as it assists us to understand the signification of the pine cone offered to the 'grove,' the equivalent of le Verger de Cypris
. The pillar and its base are curiously significant, and demonstrate how completely an artist can appear innocent, whilst to the initiated he unveils a mystery.