The cross is said to have been made of four sorts of wood (palm, cedar, olive, and cypress), to signify the four quarters of the globe.

“Ligna crucis palma, cedrus, cupressus,oliva.”

We are accustomed to consider the sign of the cross as wholly a Christian symbol, originating with the crucifixion of our Redeemer. This is quite erroneous. In ancient Carthage it was used for ornamental purposes. Runic crosses were set up by the Scandinavians as boundary marks, and were erected over the graves of kings and heroes. Cicero tells us (De Divinatione, ii. 27, and 80, 81) that the augur's staff with which they marked out the heaven was a cross. The ancient Egyptians employed the same as a sacred symbol, and we see on Greek sculptures, etc., a cake with a cross; two such buns were discovered at Herculaneum.

It was a sacred symbol among the Aztecs long before the landing of Cortes. (Malinche. In Cozumel it was an object of worship; in Tabasco it symbolised the god of rain; in Palinque (the Palmyra of America) it is sculptured on the walls with a child held up adoring it.

“The cross is not only a Christian symbol, it was also a Mexican symbol. It was one of the emblems of Quetzalcoatl, as lord of the four cardinal points, and the four winds that blow therefrom.” —Fiske: Discovery of America, vol. ii. chap. viii. p. 250.)


(in heraldry). There are twelve crosses in heraldry, called (1) the ordinary cross; (2) the cross humetté, or couped; (3) the cross urdé, or pointed; (4) the cross potent; (5) the cross crosslet; (6) the cross botonné, or treflé; (7) the cross moline; (8) the cross potence; (9) the cross fleury; (10) the cross patê; (11) the Maltese cross (or eight-pointed cross); (12) the cross cleché and fitché. Some heraldic writers enumerate 285 different kinds of crosses.


(a mystic emblem) may be reduced to these four:

The Greek cross
found on Assyrian tablets, Egyptian and Persian monuments, and on Etruscan pottery. The crux decussata , generally called St. Andrew's cross. Quite common in ancient sculpture.

The Latin cross
or “crux immissa.” This symbol is also found on coins, monuments, and medals, long before the Christian era.

The tau cross
, or “crux commissa.” Very ancient indeed, and supposed to be a phallic emblem. The tau cross with a handle is common to several Egyptian deities, as Isis, Osiris, etc.; and is the emblem of immortality and life generally.

Everyone must bear his own cross.
His own burden or troubles. The allusion is to the law that the person condemned to be crucified was to carry his cross to the place of execution.

Get on the cross.
Get into bad ways; not go straight.

“It's hard lines to think a fellow must grow up and get on the cross in spite of himself, and come to the gallow's foot at last,whether he likes it or not.” —Boldrewood: Robbery Under Arms, chap. viii.

The judgment of the cross.
An ordeal instituted in the reign of Charlemagne. The plaintiff and defendant were required to cross their arms upon their breast, and he who could hold out the longest gained the suit.

On the cross.
Not “on the square,” not straightforward. To get anything “on the cross” is to get it unfairly or surreptitiously.

See Rosicrucians.



Cross it off or out.
Cancel it by running your pen across it. To cancel (q.v.) means to mark it with lattice lines.


ill-tempered, is the Anglo-Saxon crous.

“Azeyn [against] hem was he kene and crous.”

Cursor Mundi.

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894

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