W. L. Fawcette,  Atlantic Monthly -  1874

According to tradition, Melcarthus, a Tyrian
navigator and explorer, sailing in search of
fabled Atlantis or dimly rumored Britain, had
paused in a bay at the western extremity of
the land beyond the straits, and set up there
two pillars as a memorial, building over them
the temple of Hercules. A colony of Tyre was
established there, and the place grew into
the ancient Gades, the modern Cadiz. As the
temple increased in wealth, through the
votive offerings of passing voyagers, it
became more splendid, and the first rude
pillars of stone were replaced by others made
of precious metals. As late as the second
century this temple existed in its greatest
splendor. Flavius Philostratus, who visited
it, testifies to its magnificence, and in his
Life of Apollonius of Tyana gives the
following description of the pillars:

"The pillars in the temple were composed of
gold and silver, and so nicely blended were
the metals as to form but one color. They
were more than a cubit high, of a
quadrangular form, like anvils, whose
capitals were inscribed with characters
neither Indian nor Egyptian, nor such as
could be deciphered. These pillars are the
chains which bind together the earth and sea.
The inscriptions on them were executed by
Hercules in the house of the Parcae, to
prevent discord arising among the elements
and that friendship being disturbed which
they have for each other."

These pillars were the nucleus of the ancient
Gades, and naturally became the metropolitan
emblem of the modern city, as the horse's
head was of Carthage.

The tradition of the Freemasons in regard to
the two pillars, which are a prominent emblem
of their Craft, is, that they represent the
pillars Jachin and Boz which Hiram of Tyre
made for Solomon, and set one on either side
of the entrance to the Temple, to commemorate
the pillar of cloud by day and of fire by
night which guided the Israelites in their
forty years' wanderings in the wilderness.
Whatever significance the Hebrews may have
attached to these pillars, there is good
reason for believing that they received the
material emblem from the Tyrians at the time
of the building of the Temple. The Scriptures
give a minute account of the dimensions and
designs of the pillars, (2 Kings, vii, and 2
Chronicles, iii,) but are silent as to their
significance; and there is nothing in the
whole Scriptural account of them to forbid
the conclusion that the ideas symbolized by
them were as much Tyrian as Jewish. Tyre had
been a rich and prosperous city for over two
hundred years, when Solomon undertook the
building of the Temple. The Tyrians had been
skilled in architecture and other arts to a
degree that implied a high state of mental
culture, while the Hebrews were yet nomadic
tribes living in tents. The tabernacle was
only a tent, and in this first Hebrew
endeavor to give it a more enduring structure
of wood and stone, Solomon naturally appealed
to the greater skill of the subjects of the
friendly Hiram, King of Tyre. When the
Hebrews began to build the Temple, they
ceased their wanderings, they became
permanently established, and, as a memorial
of this fact, they embodied in the
architectural design of the Temple a symbol
which, by the Tyrians and many other nations
descended from the ancient Aryan stock, was
considered emblematic of a divine leadership
that had conducted them to a new and
permanent home; this was the true
significance of the two pillars.

As long as the Hebrews were wanderers, the
pillars of cloud by day and of fire by night
were merely a metaphor, to express their
belief in a divine direction of their
movements. When they came at last to the
promised land, the figurative pillars of
cloud and fire became the two pillars in the
porch of the Temple, as the symbol of the
establishment of the nation.

Having thus traced the story of the emblems
back through two lines of descent to a common
point in Tyre, we must take a look into the
remoter past to find the origin of the symbol
in the earliest recorded ideas of the human
race in connection with the Deity, and from
that point we may follow its descent again
through the two independent routes of Greek
and Scandinavian mythology.

The ancient Aryans who composed the Vedas had
not then arrived at the stage of intellectual
development in which they could entertain the
idea of an abstract principle as the one
universal law, or of any god except a risible
one. To them it seemed impossible that there
could be a spiritual essence without some
material form. Fire, the most inexplicable
and striking of the agencies of nature, was
accepted by them as this first and
all-pervading force which controlled the
universe; and the sun, the grandest and most
brilliant mass of fire, as the embodiment of
the Deity.

Here are two verses of the Vedas, as
translated by Max Muller, which may be called
the Genesis of the Brahmins, and in them are
two words around which have crystallized
fancies growing. into myths, and myths
growing into monuments of wood and stone, and
again into ideal beings, until the original
conceptions. have been almost lost. Yet
through all these changes some
characteristics of the original meaning have
been so stamped upon each new form, that the
thread of connection, from those ancient days
when the first peoples of the human race
worshiped the sun on the plains of Central
Asia, down through all the ages to the
comparatively modern symbol of the Pillars of
Hercules, is unmistakable:

1. "In the beginning there arose the golden
Child. He was one born lord of all that is.
He established the earth and this sky;- Who
is the God to whom we shall offer our

2. "He who gives life, he who gives strength,
whose command all the bright gods revere,
whose shadow is immortality; whose shadow is
death; Who is the God to whom we shall offer
our sacrifice?"

If there were nothing but the coincidence of
the two words italicized in the foregoing
verses, with the names of the two pillars in
Solomon's Temple - Boaz meaning strength,
and Jachin to establish - if there were nothing
but this to establish the connection of the
two pillars as well as the Pillars of
Hercules and also the Greek myth of Castor
and Pollux, with these ancient expressions,
the identity or all these myths and symbols
might be more doubtful than it is; but there
is more.

In the Vedas the sun is called the "runner,"
the "quick racer;" he is called Arvat, the
horse; Agni, the fire; Arusha, the red one,
the strong one, the son of Heaven and Earth;
Indra, the god of all gods. He is represented
as drawn in a chariot over his daily course
through the heavens by "the harits," "the
rohits," and "the arushas," i.e., the
gleaming, the ruddy, and the gold-colored
horses of the dawn, which are the first rays
of the morning sun.

The flexibility of the idea, within a certain
range of expressions seems to be acknowledged
by the poets of the Vedas in the following

"Hear thou, the brilliant Agni, my prayer,
whether the two black horses bring thy car,
or the two ruddy, or the two red horses."

Notwithstanding all the interchanging of
names, numbers, and genders, and the changing
of forms from animal to human, and vice
versa, there is an adherence to the idea of
beings endowed with supernatural strength and
brightness, and of a contest between, and
alternating supremacy of, light and darkness!

It requires no great stretch of the
imagination to conceive how, in the Greek
modification of this many-sided plastic myth
of the sun-god, Indra should be the prototype
of Jove, and Arusha of Apollo, and also of
Heracles. Indeed, it seems probable that, out
of the numerous names of this one object of
adoration, the sun, grew nearly all the
wonderful and fantastic system of both Greek
and Scandinavian mythology.

In the Vedic myths, the phenomena which
attended the rising and setting of the sun,
the clouds, same black, some ruddy, and some
shining like molten gold or silver, and also
his first and last beams darting through,
were spoken of as horses or cattle, or beings
with human forms, almost invariably in pair.

In some places the ruddy clouds that precede
his rising are called the bright cows." The
two horses which the sun is said to harness
to his car are called the "Arusha," the red
ones; in other places they are called the
"two Asvins," the shining mares; and in
others the idea is modified still more, and
they are called the "two sisters," and, at
last, we find, are named Day and Night, the
"daughters of Arusha," the one gleaming with
the brightness of her father, and the other
decked with stars. Professor Whitney, in his
Essay on the Vedas, introduces the "two
Asvins" as "enigmatical divinities," whose
vocation or province in Aryan mythology he
does not discover, though, at the same time
he intimates the probability that they may be
identical with the Dioscuri of the Greeks;
and Professor Muller hints at the same
identity, but with no more reference to their
true character of divine forerunners or
guides for families, tribes, or races of men
wandering about the world in search of new
homes. It is related of the Dioscuri that,
when Castor for was killed, Pollux,
inconsolable for his loss, besought Jove to
let him give his own life for that of his
brother. To this Jove so far consented as to
allow the two brothers to each pass alternate
days under the earth pad in the celestial
abodes, their alternate daily deaths and
ascensions to the heavens being only another
version of the story of Day and Night, the
daughters of Arusha. The twin brothers,
Castor and Pollux, are represented as always
clad in shining armor, and mounted on snow-
white steeds, thus reproducing the chief
characteristics of the "two Asvins," the
shining mares of the Vedas, and showing that
all these metamorphoses are only variations
of the same idea.

The Hebrew metaphor of the pillar of cloud by
day and of fire by night, to express the idea
of a divine leadership, points to the same
natural objects - clouds and fire - that to
the earlier Aryans were symbols of the
presence of the Deity; and the whole idea
might seem a reproduction or elaboration of
that expressed in the following verses of the
Rig-Veda, written a thousand years before:

Wherever the mighty water-clouds went, where
they placed the seed and lit the fire, thence
arose He who is the sole life of the bright
gods; - Who is the God to whom we shall offer
our sacrifice?

"He who by His might looked even over the
water clouds, the clouds which gave strength
and lit the sacrifice; He who alone is God
above all gods."

The fact that nearly every manifestation of
the presence of the Deity recorded in Hebrew
history down to the time of the building of
the Temple was in a cloud, shows at least a
remarkable resemblance to the Aryan
conceptions of the divine presence.

The further elaboration of the idea in
symbolizing the presence of the Deity by two
pillars of wood or stone, and particularly of
such presence in the character of a leader
through long wanderings to a place of
permanent establishment, was not exclusive
with the Hebrews. Other races with whom the
Hebrews could not have come in contact had
precisely the same symbol of two pillars of
wood or stone, a fact which makes it a
reasonable presumption that the two pillars,
one of cloud, one of fire, which were their
prototypes, were not more exclusively a
Hebrew idea.

In Sparta the twin Dioscuri are said to have
been represented by two pillars of stone,
which were sometimes joined by a smaller
horizons bar to represent their twinship.
Frequently the top of one of these posts was
carved in the semblance of a human head. The
Spartans may have borrowed the emblem from
the Tyrians; the fact that the ancient
Northmen employed the two pillars to
symbolize precisely the same ideas as those
connected with them by the Hebrews and
Greeks, makes it quite likely that the
Spartans derived the symbol from the same
original source as the Tyrians.

A column of stone was in fact a common symbol
of the Deity among many ancient nations.
Venus was worshiped at Paphos under the fond
of a stone. Juno of the Thespians and Diana
of the Icarians were worshiped under the same
form. The most famous of the Syrian deities
was El Gabal, (the stone,) a name to which is
akin the modern Arabic gebel, a mountain, or
a rock. The very name of Gibraltar, one of
the mountains to which poetry has transferred
the title of Pillars of Hercules, is from
Gebel Tarik, the mountain, or the rock, of
Tarik, one of the first Moors who set foot on
the northern side of the straits, and after
whom came those who established in Spain the
brilliant and romantic empire of these
successors of the ancient Phoenicians.

There is good ground for the presumption that
Heracles of the Greeks was only another
version of the myth of the Dioscuri. The
Hebrews gave each of the pillars a name,
though they received the emblem from the
Tyrians, who employed them as the emblem of
one deity; and as the Tyrians were earlier
than the Greeks, this phrase of the
monotheistic significance of the pillars must
have come down from the same ancient source
as the myth of the Dioscuri.

With both Greeks and Tyrians "Heracles,"
transformed by the Latins into "Hercules,"
seemed to be a transferable honorary title.
The proper name of the Tyrian Heracles was
Melcarthus, whose mother was said to be
Asteria, the starry heavens; while the proper
name of the Greek Heracles was Alcaeus, who
was said to be the son of Jove by a mortal
mother, Alcmena, as the Dioscuri were said to
be the twin sons of Jove by a mortal mother
Leda. The Heracles of the Tyriaus and the
Castor and Pollux of the Greeks were the
patron deities of seamen and navigators, as
well as of feats of strength and agility.

Turning now to the mythology of the
Scandinavians, we find in the character of
Thor one which corresponds in all these
particulars. He was said to he the son of
Odin, the eldest of the gods by Jord, (the
earth.) Not only do the stories of his feats
of strength with his hammer correspond to
those of Heracles with his club, but he was
the patron deity of the early Norse
navigators, who were as daring as even the

The "sacred columns" of the Norse mythology
were two high wooden posts, or pillars,
fashioned by hewing. These stood on either
aide of the "high seat" of the master of the
household, and hence were called "the pillars
of the high seat," and were a sort of
household symbol of Thor. The upper end of
one of the pillars being, like the Spartan
symbol, carved in the semblance of a human
head, the setting up of these pillars was the
sign of the establishment of the household on
that spot. When a Northman moved, no matter
how far, he took his sacred pillars with him;
and where these were set up, there was his
home until he made a formal change of
domicile by moving them to some new spot.

When the Northmen discovered Iceland, and
began to emigrate there, the sacred pillars
of each Norse family were thrown overboard
when the ship came near the land, and on the
nearest habitable spot to where they ere cast
ashore by the waves, they were set up, by
planting the ends in the ground, as a symbol
of possession, being in some respect a formal
act of "entry," having something of the same
significance as the act of the emigrant in
the Western States who has "staked out a

When the pillars were set up, the house was
built around them, and, though the pillars
and the domicile might be moved to new
locations, the place where the pillars were
first cast ashore always retained a peculiar
significance and sacredness to the family.
Thus it is related of Throd Hrappsson, that
his pillars, when cast overboard, were
carried away by the waves and currents and
apparently lost. He settled, however, on the
eastern side of Iceland, and had been living
there ten or fifteen years when it was
discovered that his pillars had been cast
ashore on the western coast, upon which he
straightway sold his estate, and moved to the
locality where his pillars had been found.

Many other instances of the casting of the
sacred columns into the sea, in order that
they might guide Northmen in their selection
of homes in Iceland, are related in Rudolph
Keyser's Religion of the Northmen.

Of Eirik the Red it is told, that, having
loaned his posts of honor (possibly as a
pledge of some promise to be fulfilled) to
another Icelander, he could not get them
back, which gave occasion for a long feud,
into which many other families were drawn,
and many of the adherents of both parties
were slain.

"When the Norse chieftain Thorolf
Mostrarskegg left Norway to settle in
Iceland, he tore down the temple of Thor,
over which he had presided, in which he
seemed to have some kind of proprietary right
from having built it chiefly at his own
expense for the use of the worshipers of
Thor, and took with him the most of the
timber, together with the earth beneath the
platform on which Thor's statue had been

When he came in view of Iceland, the two
sacred columns of the temple were thrown into
the sea; and where these were cast on shore
by the waves, he called the place Thorsnes,
and built the temple of Thor, placing the two
sacred columns, one on either side, just
within the doorway.

The incidents in which the two columns thus
appear in the earliest history of the Norse
people are, it is true, of modern date, when
compared with their appearance at the
building of Solomon's Temple, of the erection
of the Pillars of Hercules by Melcarthus,
near the straits of Gibraltar; but their
later appearance in history as the "Pillars
of Thor" does not argue that they were copied
from the Pillars of Hercules, but only that
written history, or even chronology of any
kind, was not known in Scandinavia until a
much later period than in Syria and Greece.
The Germanic race, however, of which the
Northmen were a branch, had its origin in the
centre of Asia near the Caspian Sea. From
there they had brought the same tradition as
the Syrians and Greeks; and the religious
myths, out of which the Greeks afterwards
elaborated their fanciful system of
mythology, were by the Northmen, whose rude
climate gave imagination a gloomier turn,
fashioned into the more barbarous, grotesque,
and sanguinary "Asa faith." The cosmogony of
the Greeks and the Northmen corresponds so
nearly as to leave no doubt of a common
origin, and yet the details were so different
as to show that for ages the ancient stories
must have been handed down from one
generation to another by people possessed of
a vastly different degree of refinement, and
surrounded by a different aspect of nature.

The Asa faith was as ancient as the cosmogony
of the Phoenicians and the Greeks, and the
sacred columns of Thor were not an idea
borrowed from the Pillars of Heracles, but an
independent perpetuation of the same mystic

The facts that the two pillars were a sacred
symbol in three ancient and contemporaneous
religions, and that they occupied the same
position and significance in the temples of
Thor of the Scandinavians, Heracles of the
Tyrians, and Jehovah of the Hebrews, help to
confirm the theory of a common mythology as
the foundation and the source of the ideas of
all the later faiths. The fervid spirit of
the Hebrews gave to their version of this and
other ancient conceptions a diviner mould. As
the solar ray of light, split up by the
prism, yields three groups of rays, one of
which carries with it the main portion of the
heat, another the greater part of all the
light, and another nearly all the actinic
qualities, and each of these groups embracing
two or more of the seven prismatic colors, so
the rays of that ancient Aryan sun, the first
and most natural emblem of the Deity, falling
on the human mind, have been elaborated to a
great variety of faiths, each carrying with
it some of the divine light, but in other
characteristics as different as the groups in
the spectrum of the analyzed solar ray. With
one race the predominant traits of religious
thought are brilliant, but merely sentimental
corruscations of poetic fancy; with another,
cold, practical maxims of thrift; with
another, the fervid, but sombre, enthusiasm,
the zealous dogmatism that overturns empires.

But in all there is the acknowledgment that
the regular alternation of day and night is
the work of God, the phenomena indicating his
presence to guide man around the habitable
portion of the world.

"Sun and moon go in regular succession, that
we may see Indra and believe," writes one of
the poets of the Rig-Veda.

"The day is thine, the night also is thine:
thou hast prepared the light and the sun,"
sings the poet of Israel.





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