Seal of Solomon
The Seal of Solomon or the Shield of David, for under both names the same thing was denoted, is a hexagonal figure consisting of two interlaced triangles, thus forming the outlines of six-pointed star. Upon it was inscribed one of the sacred names of God, from which inscription it was opposed principally to derive its talismanic powers.
These powers were very extensive, for it was believed that it would extinguish fire, prevent Wounds in a anfliet, and perform many other wonders. The sews called it the Shield of David in reference to the protection which it gave to its Possessors. But to we other Orientalists it was more familiarly known s the Seal of Solomon. Among these imaginative people, there was a very prevalent belief in the magical character of the King of Israel. He was esteemed rather as a great magician than as a great monarch, and by the signet which he wore, on which this talismanic seal was engraved, he is supposed to have acomplished the most extraordinary actions, and by it to have enlisted in his service the labors of the genil for the construction of his celebrated Temple. Robinson Crusoe and the Thousand and One Nights are two books which every child has read, and which no man or woman ever forgets. In the latter are many allusions to Solomon's Seal. Especially is there a story of an unlucky fisherman who fished up in his net a bottle secured by a leaden stopper, on which this seal was impressed. On opening it, a fierce Afrite, or evil genii, came forth, who gave this account of the cause of his imprisonment. Solomon," said he, "the son of David, exhorted me to embrace the faith and submit to his authority; but I refused; upon which he called for this bottle, and confined me in it, and closed it upon me with the leaden stopper and stamped upon it his seal, with the great name of God engraved upon it. Then he gave the vessel to one of the genii, who submitted to him, with orders to cast me into the sea."
Of all talismans, there is none, except, perhaps, the cross, which was so generally prevalent among the ancients as this Seal of Solomon or Shield of David. It has been found in the cave of Elephanta, in India, accompanying the image of the Deity, and many other places celebrated in the Brahmanical and the Buddhist religions. Hay, in an exploration into Western Barbary, found it in the harem of a Moor, and in a Jewish synagogue, where it was suspended in front of the recess in which the sacred rolls were deposited. In fact, the interlaced triangles or Seal of Solomon may be considered as par excellence, by merit, the Creat Oriental talisman.
In time, with the progress of the new religion, it ceased to be invested with a magical reputation, although the Hermetic philosophers of the Middle Ages did employ it as one of their mystical symbols; but true to the theory that superstitions may be repudiated but never will be forgotten, it was adopted by the Christians as one of the emblems of their faith, but with varying interpretations. The two triangles were said sometimes to be symbols of fire and water, sometimes of prayer and remission, sometimes of creation and redemption, or of life and death, or of resurrection and judgment. But at length the ecclesiologists seem to have settled on the idea that the figure should be considered as representing the two natures of our Lord--His Divine and His human nature.
Thus we find the Seal of Solomon dispersed all over Europe, in medallions, made at a very early period, on the breasts of the recumbent effigies of the dead as they lie in their tombs, and more especially in churches, w here it is presented to us either carved on the walls or painted in the windows. Everywhere in Europe and now in the United States, where ecclesiastics architecture is beginning at length to find a development of taste, is this old Eastern talisman to be found doing its work as a Christian emblem. The spirit of the old talismanic faith is gone, but the form remains, to be nourished by us as the natural homage of the present to the past.
Among the old Cabalistic Hebrews, the Seal of Solomon was, as a talisman, of course deemed to be a sure preventive against the danger of fire. The more modern Jews, still believing in its talismanic virtues placed it as a safeguard on their houses and on other buildings, because they were especially liable to the danger of fire. The common people, seeing this figure affixed always to brew-houses, mistook it for a sign, and in time, in Upper Germany, the hexagon, or Seal of Solomon, was adopted by German innkeepers as the sign of a beer house, just as the ehequers have been adopted in England, though with a different history, as the sign of a tavern (see Magic Squares).
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