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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

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(See MAZZAROTH). Planet-worship is a prominent constructive feature in all mystic systems of antiquity. Thus the primitive worship of all objects like Osiris (q.v.) may be contemplated under two aspects, differing somewhat from each other, but incapable of any rigorous or formal separation. That worship seems to be in some localities directly solar. Fortunes of Osiris have been interwoven or identified with those of the great orb of the day. His votaries have an eye exclusively to periodic motions of the sun and the vicissitudes of the seasons; not so much in reference to the increase or the decrease of his luminous functions as to seeming changes in his fructifying, fertilizing power. In winter he appears to the imagination of the worshipper as languishing and dying; and all nature, ceasing to put forth her buds and blossoms, is believed to suffer with him; while at other seasons of the year the majesty of this great king of heaven is reasserted in the vivifying of creation and the gladdening of the human heart.

There is an annual resurrection of all nature, for the sun- god is himself returning from the under-world-the region of the dead. Or, if we study the same representation in its more telluric aspect, what is there depicted as a mourning for Osiris is no longer emblematic merely of prostration in the sun-god: it imports more frequently the loss of vital forces in the vegetable kingdom as the consequence of the withdrawal of the celestial heat. The earth herself becomes the principal sufferer; and the cause of all her passionate and despairing lamentations is the influence that dries up the fountains of her own vitality. Now, whichever be adjudged the primitive form or the correct interpretation of this old Osirian myth, we must remember that, historically speaking, the substance of the myth itself is not by any means peculiar to the valley of the Nile. It recurs in nearly all countries bordering on' the Mediterranean. It can often be directly traced to Asia, and as often to the agency of those Phoenician colonists who, scattered thickly in the islands to the west of Syria, were importing to far distant havens not their amber only, but their civilization and religious knowledge. In the mother country of Phoenicia, the Osirian worship had its ancient counterpart in the mysteries of Adonis and the annual weeping for Tammuz" (Ezekiel 8:14).

There, again, the fate of the divinity was rigorously identified with periodic changes in the aspect of external nature. The idea of an Adonis in the prime of life was the most vivid image which the Syrian mind could fashion of all fertilizing and benignant powers. At length, however, the divinity sinks down oppressed and overwhelmed; his heart is pierced by some mysterious arrow: he dies, and in the sacred month, "the month of Tammuz," when the scorching blasts of summer are well-nigh exhausted, a large crowd of Syrian maids and matrons flock together from all quarters; they bemoan the loss of Tammuz; but their vehement ejaculations are all quickly followed by a series of impure and diabolic orgies; symptoms of returning life in nature are to them a signal for festivity as frantic as their former grief. Vitality is coming back to earth; and in its advent they perceive another "finding" of their lost Adonis, εὕρεσις Ἀδώνιδος . Nor is this the only instance of some close affinity between the old mythographers of Egypt and Phoenicia. Mingling with the other progeny of Ptah, or the Egyptian Vulcan, stand the great Cabirian brothers, whose repute and worship were extensively diffused in various provinces of the West. The word Cabeiri is itself immediately explainable, if we resort to the Shemitic languages; for there it means the "Great" or "Mighty Ones;" and thus is pointing in the same direction as the ancient dwarf gods, which were also sacred images of Cabeiri, and were venerated with a kindred fervor by the rude Phoenician pilot and the polished priest of Memphis. The Cabeiri seem to have been eight in number, or, excluding Esmun (literally the eighth), that one of the fraternity who was regarded as the chief or aggregate expression for the whole, we limit them to seven; which strongly indicates, in the opinion of some writers, an original identity of the Cabeiri with the more conspicuous of the heavenly bodies. In the sacred books of China the "seven brilliant ones" deemed worthy of peculiar homage are the sun, the moon, and the five planets; while the planets, when regarded singly, have been made to bear the corresponding title of the "five heavenly chiefs." The Greek had similarly his seven θεοὶ μεγάλοι, and the Persian his seven ministers of the highest; examples which appear to be suggestive of the early spread of planet-worship, if they do not absolutely prove that astronomical principles had entered largely into the construction of all mythic systems, that of Egypt not excepted. See Hardwick, Christ and other Masters, 2, 264-267; Uhlemann, Aegypt. Alterthü mer, 2, 162 sq.; Movers, Die Religion und die Gottheiten der Phonizier (Bonn, 1841), p. 12 sq.; Lucian, De Dea Syria, c. 6 sq.; Bunsen, Egypt's Place, 1, 144; Journal of Asiatic Society, 1864, p. 53 so.

Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Planet'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​p/planet.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.