1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Abraxas
|←Abraum Salts||1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 1
|See also Abraxas on Wikipedia; and our 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica disclaimer.|
ABRAXAS, or Abrasax, a word engraved on certain antique stones, called on that account Abraxas stones, which were used as amulets or charms. The Basilidians, a Gnostic sect, attached importance to the word, if, indeed, they did not bring it into use. The letters of ἀβραξάς, in the Greek notation, make up the number 365, and the Basilidians gave the name to the 365 orders of spirits which, as they conceived, emanated in succession from the Supreme Being. These orders were supposed to occupy 365 heavens, each fashioned like, but inferior to that above it; and the lowest of the heavens was thought to be the abode of the spirits who formed the earth and its inhabitants, and to whom was committed the administration of its affairs. Abraxas stones are of very little value. In addition to the word Abraxas and other mystical characters, they have often cabalistic figures engraved on them. The commonest of these have the head of a fowl, and the arms and bust of a man, and terminate in the body and tail of a serpent.