Eternitas, an Emblem from Henry Peacham’s Minerva Britanna (1612)

October 19, 2013

Eternitas, an Emblem from Henry Peacham's Minerva Britanna (1612)

I was gratified to find a printout I did on 21/05/2002 of pages from The Minerva Britanna Project (http://f01.middlebury.edu/FS010A/students/n141.htm), because the site no longer exists, and I’d been searching in vain for this particular image. (Even so, the whole book can be seen here, the relevant page reproduced below). I first encountered a version of this image (Emblem 141 in Peacham’s book) as an illustration in Michael Dames’ The Avebury Cycle, the follow-up to The Silbury Treasure.


Michael Dames describes it as a late form of the henge image, carrying a related meaning, seeing in the two orbs in the superhuman female’s hands an echo of the North and South Circles within Avebury henge: ‘The henge was the goddess of love, described formally’ (1977: 135). The motif of two balls within a hoop was ‘still carried on May Day by the Irish peasantry. Suspended within a hoop, the two balls represent the sun and moon, and are sometimes covered with gold and silver paper,’ wrote Lady Wilde (136).


Avebury, early September 2010

Michael Dames 1976 The Silbury Treasure London: Thames and Hudson

Michael Dames 1977 The Avebury Cycle London: Thames and Hudson

Image (34)

A superhuman female, holding within the great circle of her body two smaller orbs, ‘do expresse Eternitie’ in Peacham’s Minerva Britanna, 1612, a late form of the henge image, and carrying a related meaning (Michael Dames, The Avebury Cycle, 1977, p.136).


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