The lamb – innocent, pure, benign – has been a symbol used by various religions since early times. The lamb was the sin offering of ancient pagans. Greeks and Egyptians venerated the lam or ram, the ram’s horns often a centerpiece on the foreheads of their gods.
The Persians (Zoroastrians) used the lamb as the first sign of their zodiac. Varak (Aries in the west) was the ram, marking the day of the vernal equinox, the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere.
Members of Freemasonry wear a lambskin apron representing purification, the first step towards spirituality. It is a badge, the first gift to the Freemason candidate and is buried with the Freemason in his grave. Here, the lamb signifies the ‘purified’ candidate with its seven horns representing the divisions of illuminated reason and in seven eyes, the chakras, the perfected sense-perceptions. In Scandinavia, the god Thor wielded a hammer (Mjolnir) made from ram’s horns. The lamb was used in preference to the ram because of its purity and gentleness. As ‘The Creator’ was symbolised by Aries, his son would, in Christianity be seen as the little ram or lamb.
|Adoration of the Mystic Lamb (Agnus Dei)
Jan van Eyck
In Christian art, the Paschal (Passover) lamb (Agnus Dei) first appeared in the 6th century and was adopted as a symbol by the Knights Templar. During the early centuries of the Christian Church, it had been the lamb that was recognized as the symbol of Christ. After the fifth synod of Constantinople (Quintisext Synod-697 AD), the figure of the crucified man took the place of the ‘Agnus Dei’. Many ancient civilizations venerated the sheep or lamb. In Sumeria, Duttur was the goddess of sheep and flocks. In the Greek colony of Kyrene (modern day Libya), this was the job of the god Aristaios.
In Egypt, Khnum was the god of the source of the Nile, was self-created and made the first egg from which all creation arose. Khnum had the head of a ram. The Egyptian god Heryshaf also had the head of a ram. In ancient Greece, the tale of Jason and the Golden Fleece, the fleece of the winged ram Chryomallos was needed for Jason to take the throne of Iolcus in Thesally.
In the ancient Jewish tradition of Passover, the doorposts and lintels of each household were smeared with the blood of a sacrificial lamb, the lamb being a valuable and prized possession so as the angel of death would pass over these marked homes.
|Jason and the Golden fleece|
In Islam, a sheep is sacrificed during Eid-al Ahda, representing the animal sacrifice by Abraham in place of his own son (Ishmael in Islam; Isaac in the Jewish/Christian tradition).
*Religious symbols: subject of research for the novel The Tao of the Thirteenth God – Amazon Kindle.