Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/800

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

double fascicle of six or eight arrows, which, held between the thumb and forefinger, is used by the lamas and bonzes in blessing the faithful and exorcising demons.

By the side of the improvements due to the aspirations of artists must be placed the deformations produced by the ignorance or unskillfulness of copyists. Sometimes a new type springs from these deteriorations to succeed the old one in somewhat the same manner as in the dissolving views, where the outlines of two pictures succeeding one another are confounded into an indistinct image which is neither one nor the other. The ansate cross of the Egyptians seems thus to have engendered certain types of the Ephesian Diana, with veiled face, arms half opened, and body inclosed in a sheath; as also the sacred triangle of the Semites, frequently surmounted by a disk and two horizontal bars, inspired in the Greeks, according to Francois Lenormant, representations of Harmony or of Aphrodite under the form of a cone crowned with a tiara and supplied with two rudimentary arms. As a counterpart to these metamorphoses changing a linear symbol into a representation of the human figure, may be cited some images sculptured on the paddles of the New-Irelanders, which were exhibited at the meeting of the British Association in 1872. There was revealed in them a series of deformations gradually changing a human face into a crescent couchant on the point of an arrow. Except for the presence of the intermediate forms, no one would have inferred the relationship of the extreme terms.

When the symbol is composed of several images grouped together, there is no reason why it should not keep its physiognomy as a whole, although one or more of its constituent elements may be modified, the better to answer to the religious traditions, the national preferences, and the geographical peculiarities of a new medium. Thus the lily, as M. de Gubernatis remarks in his Mythologie des Plantes, has taken the place of the lotus in the symbolic combinations borrowed by the West from the East. One of the most characteristic examples of these local variations with persistence of the type is presented to us by the figured representations of the sacred trees, in which we believe we can recognize the tree of life which is mentioned in both the Semitic and the Aryan traditions. From the most remote antiquity, the Chaldeans gave it the appearance of the date-palm, sometimes attended by a vine or an asclepiad similar to the plant that yields the soma of the Hindoos. The Assyrians made of it a wholly conventional tree, in which palm-leaves were associated with a cone-fruit, and the horns of the wild goat formed a kind of capital to the trunk. The Phœnicians exaggerated the artificial character of the representation by grafting the flowers of the lotus upon it. The Greeks introduced it into their ornamentation under the abbreviated