Perhaps the most widespread and universal
among the symbols in the old astronomical systems, which
have passed down the stream of time to our century, and
have left traces everywhere in the Christian religion as elsewhere, are
the Cross and the Fire the latter, the emblem of the Sun.
The ancient Aryans had them both as the symbols of Agni.
Whenever the ancient Hindu devotee desired to worship Agni says
E. Burnouf (Science des Religions, c. 10) he arranged two pieces of wood in the form of a cross,
and, by a peculiar whirling and friction obtained fire
for his sacrifice. As a symbol, it is called Swastica,
and, as an instrument manufactured out of a sacred
tree and in possession of every Brahmin, it is known as
The Scandinavians had the same sign and called it Thor's Hammer,
as bearing a mysterious magneto-electric relation to Thor,
the god of thunder, who, like Jupiter armed with
his thunderbolts, holds likewise in his hand this ensign
of power, over not only mortals but also the mischievous
spirits of the elements, over which he presides.
In Masonry it appears in the form of the grand master's mallet;
at Allahabad it may be seen on the Fort as the Jaina Cross,
or the Talisman of the Jaina Kings; and the gavel of the
modern judge is no more than this crux dissimulata as
de Rossi, the archæologist calls it; for the
gavel is the sign of power and strength, as the hammer
represented the might of Thor, who, in the Norse
legends splits a rock with it, and kills Medgar.
Dr. Schliemann found it in terra cotta disks,
on the site, as he believes, of ancient Troy,
in the lowest strata of his excavations; which indicated,
according to Dr. Lundy, "an Aryan civilization
long anterior to the Greek say from two to three thousand years
B.C." Burnouf calls it
the oldest form of the cross known, and affirms that it
is found personified in the ancient religion of the Greeks under
the figure of Prometheus "the fire-bearer," crucified
on mount Caucasus, while the celestial bird the Cyena
of the Vedic hymns, daily devours his entrails.
Boldetti, (Osservazioni I., 15, p.
60) gives a copy from the painting in the cemetery of St.
Sebastian, representing a Christian convert and grave-digger,
named Diogenes, who wears on both his legs and right arm
the signs of the Swastica. The Mexicans and the
Peruvians had it, and it is found as the sacred Tau in
the oldest tombs of Egypt.
It is, to say the least, a strange coincidence,
remarked even by some Christian clergymen, that Agnus
Dei, the Lamb of God, should have the symbols,
identical with the Hindu God Agni. While Agnus Dei expiates
and takes away the sins of the world, in one religion,
the God Agni, in the other, likewise expiates
sins against the gods, man, the manes, the
soul, and repeated sins; as shown in the six prayers
accompanied by six oblations. (Colebrooke Essays,
Vol. I, p. 190.)
If, then, we find these two the Cross and the Fire so
closely associated in the esoteric symbolism of nearly every nation,
it is because on the combined powers of the two rests the whole
plan of the universal laws. In astronomy, physics,
chemistry, in the whole range of natural philosophy,
in short, they always come out as the invisible cause and
the visible result; and only metaphysics and alchemy or
shall we say Metachemistry, since we prefer coining
a new word to shocking sceptical ears? can fully and conclusively
solve the mysterious meaning. An instance or two will suffice
for those who are willing to think over hints.
The Central Point, or the great central sun of the Kosmos,
as the Kabalists call it, is the Deity. It is the
point of intersection between the two great conflicting powers the
centripetal and centrifugal forces, which drive the planets
into their elliptical orbits, that make them trace a cross
in their paths through the Zodiac. These two terrible,
though as yet hypothetical and imaginary powers, preserve
harmony and keep the Universe in steady, unceasing motion;
and the four bent points of the Swastica typify the revolution
of the Earth upon its axis. Plato calls the Universe a
"blessed god" which was made in a circle and decussated
in the form of the letter X. So much for astronomy.
In Masonry the Royal Arch degree retains the cross as the triple
Egyptian Tau. It is the mundane circle with the astronomical
cross upon it rapidly revolving; the perfect square of
the Pythagorean mathematics in the scale of numbers, as
its occult meaning is interpreted by Cornelius Agrippa.
Fire is heat, the central point; the perpendicular
ray represents the male element or spirit; and the horizontal
one the female element or matter. Spirit vivifies and
fructifies the matter, and everything proceeds from the
central point, the focus of Life, and Light,
and Heat, represented by the terrestrial fire. So
much, again, for physics and chemistry, for
the field of analogies is boundless, and Universal Laws
are immutable and identical in their outward and inward applications.
Without intending to be disrespectful to any one, or to
wander far away from truth, we think we may say that there
are strong reasons to believe that in their original sense the
Christian Cross as the cause, and Eternal torment by Hell
Fire as the direct effect of negation of the former have more
to do with these two ancient symbols than our Western theologians
are prepared to admit. If Fire is the Deity with some heathens,
so in the Bible, God is likewise the Life and the Light
of the World; if the Holy Ghost and Fire cleanse and purify
the Christian, on the other hand Lucifer is also Light,
and called the "Son of the morning star."
Turn wherever we will, we are sure to find these conjoint
relics of ancient worship with almost every nation and people.
from the Aryans, the Chaldeans, the Zoroastrians,
Peruvians, Mexicans, Scandinavians, Celts,
and ancient Greeks and Latins, it has descended in its
completeness to the modern Parsi. The Phnician Cabiri
and the Greek Dioscuri are partially revived in every temple,
cathedral, and village church; while, as
will now be shown, the Christian Bulgarians have even preserved
the sun worship in full.
It is more than a thousand years since this people, who,
emerging from obscurity, suddenly became famous through
the late Russo-Turkish war, were converted to Christianity.
And yet they appear none the less pagans than they were before,
for this is how they meet Christmas and the New Year's day.
To this time they call this festival Sourjvaki, as it falls
in with the festival in honour of the ancient Slavonian god Sourja.
In the Slavonian mythology this deity Sourja or Sourva, evidently
identical with the Aryan Surya . . . sun
. . . is the god of heat, fertility,
and abundance. The celebration of this festival is of an
immense antiquity, as, far before the days of Christianity,
the Bulgarians worshipped Sourva, and consecrated New Year's
day to this god, praying him to bless their fields with
fertility, and send them happiness and prosperity.
This custom has remained among them in all its primitive heathenism,
and though it varies according to localities, yet the rites
and ceremonies are essentially the same.
On the eve of New Year's day the Bulgarians do no work and are
obliged to fast. Young betrothed maidens are busy preparing
a large platiy (cake) in which they place roots and young
shoots of various forms, to each of which a name is given
according to the shape of the root. Thus, one means
the "house," another represents the "garden";
others again, the mill, the vineyard, the
horse, a cat, a hen, and so on, according
to the landed property and worldly possessions of the family.
Even articles of value such as jewellery and bags of money are
represented in this emblem of the horn of abundance. Besides
all these, a large and ancient silver coin is placed inside
the cake; it is called bábka and is tied
two ways with a red thread, which forms a cross.
This coin is regarded as the symbol of fortune.
After sunset, and other ceremonies, including prayers
addressed in the direction of the departing luminary, the
whole family assemble about a large round table called paralyà,
on which are placed the above-mentioned cake, dry vegetables,
corn, wax taper, and, finally, a large
censer containing incense of the best quality to perfume the god.
The head of the household, usually the oldest in the family either
the grandfather, or the father himself taking up the censer
with the greatest veneration, in one hand, and the
wax taper in the other, begins walking about the premises,
incensing the four corners, beginning and ending with the
East; and reads various invocations, which close
with the Christian "Our Father who art in Heaven,"
addressed to Sourja. The taper is then laid away to be
preserved throughout the whole year, till the next festival.
It is thought to have acquired marvellous healing properties,
and is lighted only upon occasions of family sickness,
in which case it is expected to cure the patient.
After this ceremony, the old man takes his knife and cuts
the cake into as many slices as there are members of the household
present. Each person, upon receiving his or her
share, makes haste to open and search the piece.
The happiest of the lot, for the ensuing year, is
he or she who gets the part containing the old coin crossed with
the scarlet thread; he is considered the elect of Sourja,
and every one envies the fortunate possessor. Then in order
of importance come the emblems of the house, the vineyard,
and so on; and according to his finding, the finder
reads his horoscope for the coming year. Most unlucky he
who gets the cat; he turns pale and trembles. Woe
to him and misery, for he is surrounded by enemies,
and has to prepare for great trials.
At the same time, a large log which represents a flaming
altar, is set up in the chimney-place, and fire
is applied to it. This log burns in honour of Sourja and
is intended as an oracle for the whole house. If it burns
the whole night through till morning without the flame dying out,
it is a good sign; otherwise, the family prepares
to see death that year, and deep lamentations end the festival.
Neither the momtzee (young bachelor), nor the mommee
(the maiden), sleep that night. At midnight
begins a series of sooth-saying, magic, and various
rites, in which the burning log plays the part of the oracle.
A young bud thrown into the fire and bursting with a loud snap
is a sign of happy and speedy marriage, and vice versa.
Long after midnight, the young couples leave their
respective homes, and begin visiting their acquaintances,
from house to house, offering and receiving congratulations,
and rendering thanks to the deity. These deputy couples
are called the Souryakari, and each male carries
a large branch ornamented with red ribbons, old coins,
and the image of Sourja, and as they wend along sing in
chorus. Their chant is as original as it is peculiar and
merits translation, though, of course, it
must lose in being rendered into a foreign language. The
following stanzas are addressed by them to those they visit:
Sôurvá, Soúrvá, Lord of the Season,
Happy New Year mayst thou send;
Health and fortune on this household,
Success and blessings till next year.
With good crops and full ears,
With gold and silk, and grapes and fruits;
With barrels full of wine, and stomachs full,
You and your house be blessed by the God . . .
His blessing on you all. Amen! Amen! Amen!
The singing Souryakari, recompensed for their good wishes
with a present at every house, go home at early dawn.
. . . And this is how the symbolical exoteric Cross and Fire
worship of old Aryavart go hand in hand in Christian Bulgaria. . . .
Theosophist, November, 1879
H. P. Blavatsky