crosses One of the oldest amulets in the world, pre- dating Christianity by many centuries. In the common- est form of a cross, all four arms are of equal length rather than in a T-shape. Crosses have been associated with sun deities and the heavens, and in ancient times they may have represented divine protection and prosperity. Crosses also are represented by the Y-shaped Tree of Life, the world-axis placed in the center of the universe, the bridge between the earth and the cosmos, the physical and the spiritual.
In Christianity, the cross transcends the status of amulet to become symbolic of the religion and of the suffering of Christ’s crucifixion; yet, it still retains aspects of an amulet, protecting against the forces of evil. Even before the crucifixion of Christ, the cross was a weapon against the dark forces. According to legend, when Lucifer declared war upon God in an attempt to usurp his power, his army scattered God’s angels twice. God sent to his angels a Cross of Light on which were inscribed the names of the Trinity. Upon seeing this cross, Lucifer’s forces lost strength and were driven into hell.
Early Christians made the sign of the cross for divine protection and as a means of identification to each other. In the fourth century, Christ’s wooden cross was allegedly found in excavations in Jerusalem by Empress Helena, mother of Constantine I. It is said that Helena found three buried crosses at the site of the crucifixion but did not know which belonged to Christ. She tested all three with the corpse of a man. Two crosses had no effect upon the body, but the third caused it to come to life. Helena sent part of the cross to Constantine, who sent a portion to Rome, where it is still preserved in the Vatican. The rest of the cross Helena reburied. Bits of the cross that were fashioned into amulets became highly prized.
As the Church grew in power, so did its symbol, the cross. According to belief, nothing unholy can stand up to its presence. The cross, and the sign of the cross, will help exorcise Demons and devils (see exorcism), ward off incubi and succubi, prevent bewitchment of man and beast, protect crops from being blasted by witches (see blasting), and force vampires to flee. During the Inquisition, inquisitors wore crosses or made the sign of the cross while in the presence of accused witches, in order to ward off any evil spells they might cast. People crossed themselves routinely, before the smallest task, just in case an evil presence was near.
- Thomas, Keith. Religion and the Decline of Magic. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1971.