By B.L. Freeborn © 2013, updated Nov. 2018
Some things we know as plain as day and other things we see and do not comprehend. Let us return to the debate surrounding the Decalogue Stone. Two events were occurring in 1860. Mormonism, a newly created religion by the dubious con man Joseph Smith, was seeking legitimacy and the 84-year-old predominantly Christian nation of the United States was on the brink of collapse into civil war. A religion was rising, a nation was falling and for those involved in these issues life and faith hung in the balance. Their world became myopic and they could not recall that this is the way of things. History was repeating itself. Just as Scientology rises today, Mormonism rose then and before that Islam rose, and before that it was Christianity. And there we tend to stop. We know that with the rise of the United States a people and their land was conquered. We know that Islam today vows to conquer all. We know that young men in white shirts and ties come to our doors and attempt to persuade us to join their religion. They are subtle conquerors as all peaceful missionaries before them.
Do we recall a time when Christianity swept north through Europe with the advance of Roman soldiers and conquered the Pagans? And from whence did the Christians come? They arose as followers of Paul’s church who distorted Judaism to suit his needs. From whence did the Jews come? They tell us they came out of Egypt and were allowed to return to their homeland. To Canaan they went where the cities of Ugarit lay buried beneath the soil. Or did they come out of Babylon in 485 BC. The priests of Babylon had been massacred by the Greeks. This is the story of another conquered people and the fall of a great religion that had lasted for centuries. And eventually Paganism, after fighting a long and hard battle, vanished in the middle ages in the burning and torture of its last beholders. We forget how very much history we lost as a result of the Greeks killing the intellectuals of their era followed by the killing of the Pagan priests in later centuries. The Pagan and Babylonian Priests were the keepers of their history. As victor, the Greeks wrote history and in that history they usurped achievements of bygone eras. But they could not lay claim to that which they could not comprehend such as measurement of longitude. The Pagan priests did not vanish in total, nor did the Babylonian Priests. They left us something as plain as day and yet we do not see it.
The monks of Ireland, newly Christian, laced their beliefs into their art as they decorated their new doctrine. From the art in the Book of Kells we see their beliefs have passed through time to us. And what is this image? We see a cross curled round and around the cross are circles. Does the art depict Christian or Pagan beliefs?
Does Jewish history reveal anything of the Pagans? Or perhaps we should call them Baalists, worshipers of Baal. This deity is little understood. Baal was the most significant god in the Canaanite pantheon.1 The religion conflicted with Judaism. The Book of Kings I tells how Elijah met the priests of Baal and had 450 of them killed. Book of Kings II relates that the “cult” arose again and was put down once more. This “cult” arose yet again and was again put down.
“Cult” makes it sound so small, trivial and such a local phenomena. Yet according to 17th century historian Geoffrey Keating at each Beltane in medieval Ireland there was a sacrifice made to a god named Beil. Some doubt the veracity of Keating’s facts.2 Either way, Beltane is a festival celebrated on May Day that involves the union of male and female, and this is symbolized by the maypole and the cords woven around it. Very little ancient information is available on the significance of Beltane except that it involved bonfires and blessings. Martin Brennan in his book “The Stones of Time: Calendars, Sundials, and Stone Chambers of Ancient Ireland” relates that “Baal or Bel is another name for the sun and forms part of many place names in Ireland including Bel-ain, which means ‘Bel’s ring’ or the sun’s circuit.” 3 The name is similarly found in place names in the area of Israel.
Brennan also tells of the old native Irish god Dagda who was all-powerful and omniscient. This deity was considered to be the good god and Lord of Great Knowledge. In the distant Mediterranean archaeologists have uncovered the Temple of Dagon in Ugarit. Whereas Baal, “the King,” was the son of El; Dagon was the god of fertility and wheat.4 So we have two gods of similar names in these two distant lands. Is this the roots of Paganism, the religion that Judaism in its rise to power in the Middle East sought to conquer? Or were the Jews Baalists all along pretending to be someone else to avoid persecution by the Greeks? Perhaps this was not a small cult but a religion that spanned all of Europe and was finally annihilated by the Christians rather recently.
The beauty in the Book of Kells cannot be argued. Do the images conceal Pagan beliefs? Is that the cross of Christ or the intersection of longitude and latitude in the first image? Is that diamond square a decoration or does it mean something significant? Is that backwards L a measuring square? Is that the maypole of Beltane next to it and the cords wrapping around it? In the next image, is that a serpent winding and twisting about in the monogram which is to remind us of something important, just as the Great Serpent Mound that graces southern Ohio?
When we look at the Decalogue stone and the little bowl found with it, are we looking at a piece of long forgotten history? Judaism was not always the seamless religion it appears to be today. It had its own battles as the Book of Kings I tells us to gain prominence, just as the religions we see rising into acceptance currently. Did the Baalists continue on by hiding their beliefs from those in power? Did Dagas/Dagon and Baal play a role in Newark, Ohio?
We return to Ohio and the mysteries of the mounds laid out there for us to ponder across time.
- Douglas, J.D., and Tenney, Merrill C., “NIV Compact Dictionary of the Bible,” Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1989.
- Wikipedia article: Beltane. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beltane
- Brennan, Martin, “The Stones of Time: Calendars, Sundials, and Stone Chambers of Ancient Ireland,” Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions International, 1994.
- Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ugarit
- Book of Kells, Chi Rho Page Image. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:KellsFol034rChiRhoMonogram.jpg
- Book of Kells, Incipit to the Gospel of Matthew Image. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:KellsFol029rIncipitMatthew.jpg