Monuments Of The Deluge

Our attention was yesterday given to the consideration of the direct traditions of the deluge, as existing among all or  nearly all the nations of mankind. But there is another kind of tradition, not less significant and impressive, which commemorated the same great event in names, and buildings, and ceremonies; and by means of which the memorials of the deluge were wrought into the entire structure of heathenism.

We cannot undertake to present to the reader a tithe of the copious information which exists on this subject; but it may be in our power to indicate its general purport.

It appears, then, to be very certain that the prominent features of the life and character of Noah are incorporated with the history and attributes of many of the deities worshipped in the heathen world. As it is not our intention to occupy our space with a branch of the subject which has been so often indicated as this, we shall be content to point out the names of Osiris, Bacchus, Saturn, Uranus, Deucalion, Minos, Janus, and the northern Bore; and recommend the reader to explore the points of resemblance for himself, the materials being easy of access.

In looking to the mere external monuments of the deluge, it is a curious confirmation of the view which identifies the Egyptian Osiris with Noah, to find that the most famous temple of this god was at Theba (Thebes), or rather that the temple itself was so called, and the city was then named from it. Now Theba is, as we have already shown, the very name of the ark, by which it may appear, that the temple itself was meant to represent the ark in which Osiris was shut up by Typhon, and cast upon the waters. With this should be connected the boat-like shrine, which appears to have been the most sacred object in most of the Egyptian temples, and which has an obvious connection with this tradition.

The same kind of memorial is to be observed in other countries, where some kind of ark or ship was introduced in the mysteries, and carried about in procession upon the sacred festivals. In a series of pictures representing ceremonies in honor of Bacchus, found in the lava-whelmed city of Herculaneum, appears, what may be supposed with some probability, to offer the form which the ancients supposed the ark  to have; and which agrees well enough with the idea we have been led to form of it. A woman is carrying upon her shoulder a square box, having a projecting roof, and at the end a door. Being carried in a commemorative procession, it is clearly a sacred Thebet or ark. Its door at the side, and projecting roof, declare that it was not a mere chest; while the absence of the usual characteristics and the occasion of its use, show that it is not a model house or a votive offering.

More striking still, as a direct memorial of the deluge, is the famous Apamaean medal. It was struck during the reign of Philip the Elder, at the town of Apamea in Phrygia. The city is known to have been formerly called Kibotos, or “the ark;” and it is also known that the coins of cities in that age exhibited some leading point in their mythological history. The medal in question represents a kind of square vessel floating in the water. Through an opening in it, are seen two persons, a man and a woman, the latter wearing a veil. Upon the upper verge of this chest or ark, is perched a bird, and over against it another, which seems to flutter with its wings, and bears a branch, with which it approaches the ark. Before the vessel is a man following a woman, who, by their attitude, seem to have just quitted it, and to have got upon the dry land. These are doubtless the same pair, shown in a different action. Whatever doubt might be entertained as to the purport of this representation, seems to be removed by the letters engraved upon the ark itself, beneath the persons enclosed therein. These represent the word nΩe, Noe—being the very name of Noah in its Greek form—which form is the one it bears in the New Testament. This is a most surprising circumstance—not the representation, for we have others nearly as distinct, but that the very name of Noah should have been so long preserved among the heathen, in nearly its original form.

There seems to be little doubt that the various sacred mountains which we find in various lands, are commemorative of the mountain on which the ark rested. and which was  venerated as the spot of ground, once isolated among the waters, to which the nations of mankind may all trace their origin. We find such sacred mountains not only in America, but in Polynesia, Africa, India, Arabia, and among the Jews. The “high places” on which the latter were wont to offer their worship appear to have had the same reference. So strong was the veneration for the holy mountain, that those who in the course of their dispersion came to extensive and unbroken plains, erected enormous masses of building designed to represent or symbolize the mountain from which their fathers had gone forth—hence, probably, the pyramids of Egypt, and hence, still more assuredly, the tall masses of broken masonry that still appear in the Babylonian plains, whether or not the tower of Babel is to be reckoned among the number.

It was a natural consequence of this veneration for mountains, by which they were thus appropriated to purposes of religion, that imitations of them in miniature should be constructed to answer the same purpose, with the advantage of greater convenience. Hence arose those sacred heaps of earth or stones, in valleys as well as on the heights, denominated by the Hebrews Bamoth, by the Greeks Bomoi, and by the British Cairns.

Kern or Karn signifies, in Arabic, the top of a mountain higher than the rest. They could only therefore be so called mystically and emblematically, when they were constructed, as they frequently were, on plains. In fact, they were more needed in level tracts of country by those who wished to have sacred places, and continue the rites to which they had been accustomed among the mountains. Having no natural hills to which they could resort, they were under the necessity of making them in miniature near the places of their residence; and then it may be supposed that every tribe, and almost every distinguished family, would have an oratory, or place of worship, of its own. The vast number of them which appear in such situations, needs no other explanation. They are mostly of a conical shape, unless in such situations  or of such materials as to have been worn down by the weather; and the most perfect of those which have in different countries fallen under our own notice, bear considerable resemblance to the summit of Ararat—the whole figure of which is deeply impressed upon our memory, having had it constantly in view for many days. They are found everywhere in the old world, and are scarcely less frequent in the new—not less than three thousand of them having been counted in North America alone, the smallest of which are twenty feet high. It has been thought that the circles of stones, commonly called druidical circles, have the same reference. The circle marks the limit of the space enclosed to represent the diluvian mountain, while the larger stone in the center indicates the summit itself. In some cases, these stones actually do encircle a mound, upon the top of which the central stone is placed, or some other stone objects, such as cromlechs, kistvaens, or shapeless rocks, the separate diluvian or arkite Note: A word used to denote the various forms of worship or veneration connected with the traditions and monuments of the ark and the deluge.] import of which we may now consider.

Cromlechs, as most of our readers know, are composed of a large flat stone, supported in a horizontal position by others that stand upright. They are generally placed on elevated grounds; sometimes on the natural soil; sometimes on the top of cairns, or artificial mounts; sometimes in a circle of upright stones. The kistvaen, or “stone-chest,” as the name means, differs only from the cromlech by the upright stones being broader, so as to have the covered space less open—enclosing it, in fact, like a chest. These are much rarer than cromlechs. The most perfect specimen in this country (Kits Coty House, near Aylesford, in Kent) is of oblong figure, the back stone being the broadest, and it is open in front. But in examples of similar structures, which are found in Palestine, beyond the Jordan, the front is also closed by a large stone in which there is a door. In all cases, they are of rough unhewn stones; and the whole are kept in form by the great weight of the covering stone. The kistvaens have  been often supposed to be tombs; but this is disproved by their interior length being less than that of a man. The general belief is, that they were designed to represent the ark of Noah, and we regret that space does not allow us to produce the reasons which are supposed to establish that opinion.

Cromlechs have been conceived to be altars by many who admit the kistvaens to have been arkite memorials. But many of them are, from their form and height, so utterly unsuited to the purposes of an altar, that it is much safer to regard them as a somewhat different mode of representing the ark. Both were not only monuments but instruments of ritual service. In the ark, mankind passed, as it were, from the old sinful world, to a new world, unpolluted by sin. Hence, in process of time, when the traditions of the deluge became mixed up with human inventions, the ark was regarded as a symbol of purification from sin. It is on record, that devotees, remaining cramped up in the purposely narrowed bounds of these stone arks for a period of time, supposed to represent that of Noah’s confinement, came forth expurgated from the taints of their former condition. We think it might be shown that, commencing with those that were most close and narrow, the devotees progressed through a series of these arkite enclosures, till at last they passed merely through some one of those that were more open, to signify their final passage out of their old into their new condition.
There seems some evidence to show that the isolated hollow towers which are found in various parts of the world are, in like manner, symbols of the mount and the ark, and that a sojourn within their narrow bounds, followed by the passage out, was regarded as an act of purgation, if not of regeneration. The round towers of Ireland have received many worse explanations. Natural caverns have in many lands been esteemed sacred under the same ideas. In all these cases—under all these varieties of circumstances—it appears that the sojourn in the ark was regarded as a state of death to the old man; and of the coming out through the door of the ark  a passage to a new life in a regenerated condition. The ancients, stumbling among the dark mountains, sought thus to express their obscure traditions and obscurer hopes, in matters which have, through God’s mercy, become noontide facts to us.