BOOKS ON EGYPT AND CHALDEA BY E. A. WALLIS BUDGE, M. A., LITT D., D. LIT. Keeper of the Egyptian and Assyrian Antiquities in the British Museum AND L. W. KING, M. A. Assistant in the Department of Egyptian and Assyrian Antiquities in the British Museum
Crown 8vo, 3S, 6d, net each
Vol I—EGYPTIAN RELIGION. Egyptian Ideas of the Future Life By E. A. WALLIS BUDGE
Vol II—EGYPTIAN MAGIC. By E. A. WALLIS BUDGE
Vol. III—EGYPTIAN LANGUAGE. Easy Lessons in Egyptian Hieroglyphics By E. A. WALLIS BUDGE
Vol IV—BABYLONIAN RELIGION. Babylonian Religion and Mythology. By L. W. King
Vol V—ASSYRIAN LANGUAGE. Easy Lessons in the Cuneiform Texts By L. W. KING, M. A.
Vols VI, VII, VIII—THE BOOK OF THE DEAD. an English Translation of the Chapters, Hymns, &c., of the Theban Recension With Introduction, Notes, and numerous Illustrations By E. A. WALLIS BUDGE, Litt. D.
Vols IX-XVI—A HISTORY OF EGYPT. from the end of the Neolithic Period to the Death of Cleopatra VII, B.C. 30 By E. A. WALLIS BUDGE, Litt. D. 8 vols. Illustrated.
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EGYPTIAN IDEAS OF THE FUTURE LIFE
In the year 1894, Dr. Wallis Budge prepared for Messrs. Kegan Paul, Trench, Truebner & Co. an elementary work on the Egyptian language, entitled "First Steps in Egyptian," and two years later the companion volume, "An Egyptian Reading Book," with transliterations of all the texts printed in it, and a full vocabulary. The success of these works proved that they had helped to satisfy a want long felt by students of the Egyptian language, and as a similar want existed among students of the languages written in the cuneiform character, Mr. L.W. King, of the British Museum, prepared, on the same lines as the two books mentioned above, an elementary work on the Assyrian and Babylonian languages ("First Steps in Assyrian"), which appeared in 1898. These works, however, dealt mainly with the philological branch of Egyptology and Assyriology, and it was impossible in the space allowed to explain much that needed explanation in the other branches of those subjects—that is to say, matters relating to the archaeology, history, religion, etc., of the Egyptians, Assyrians, and Babylonians. In answer to the numerous requests which have been made, a series of short, popular handbooks on the most important branches of Egyptology and Assyriology have been prepared, and it is hoped that these will serve as introductions to the larger works on these subjects. The present is the first volume of the series, and the succeeding volumes will be published at short intervals, and at moderate prices.
EGYPTIAN IDEAS OF THE FUTURE LIFE BY E.A. WALLIS BUDGE, M. A., LITT. D., D. LIT. KEEPER Of THE EGYPTIAN AND ASSYRIAN ANTIQUITIES OF THE BRITISH MUSEUM
WITH EIGHT ILLUSTRATIONS
To SIR JOHN EVANS, K. C. B., D. C. L., F. R. S., ETC., ETC., ETC. IN GRATEFUL REMEMBRANCE OF MUCH FRIENDLY HELP AND ENCOURAGEMENT
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The following pages are intended to place before the reader in a handy form an account of the principal ideas and beliefs held by the ancient Egyptians concerning the resurrection and the future life, which is derived wholly from native religious works. The literature of Egypt which deals with these subjects is large and, as was to be expected, the product of different periods which, taken together, cover several thousands of years; and it is exceedingly difficult at times to reconcile the statements and beliefs of a writer of one period with those of a writer of another. Up to the present no systematic account of the doctrine of the resurrection and of the future life has been discovered, and there is no reason for hoping that such a thing will ever be found, for the Egyptians do not appear to have thought that it was necessary to write a work of the kind. The inherent difficulty of the subject, and the natural impossibility that different men living in different places and at different times should think alike on matters which must, after all, belong always to the region of faith, render it more than probable that no college of priests, however powerful, was able to formulate a system of beliefs which would be received throughout Egypt by the clergy and the laity alike, and would be copied by the scribes as a final and authoritative work on Egyptian eschatology. Besides this, the genius and structure of the Egyptian language are such as to preclude the possibility of composing in it works of a philosophical or metaphysical character in the true sense of the words. In spite of these difficulties, however, it is possible to collect a great deal of important information on the subject from the funereal and religious works which have come down to us, especially concerning the great central idea of immortality, which existed unchanged for thousands of years, and formed the pivot upon which the religious and social life of the ancient Egyptians actually turned. From the beginning to the end of his life the Egyptian's chief thought was of the life beyond the grave, and the hewing of his tomb in the rock, and the providing of its furniture, every detail of which was prescribed by the custom of the country, absorbed the best thoughts of his mind and a large share of his worldly goods, and kept him ever mindful of the time when his mummified body would be borne to his "everlasting house" in the limestone plateau or hill.
The chief source of our information concerning the doctrine of the resurrection and of the future life as held by the Egyptians is, of course, the great collection of religious texts generally known by the name of "Book of the Dead." The various recensions of these wonderful compositions cover a period of more than five thousand years, and they reflect faithfully not only the sublime beliefs, and the high ideals, and the noble aspirations of the educated Egyptians, but also the various superstitions and childish reverence for amulets, and magical rites, and charms, which they probably inherited from their pre-dynastic ancestors, and regarded as essentials for their salvation. It must be distinctly understood that many passages and allusions in the Book of the Dead still remain obscure, and that in some places any translator will be at a difficulty in attempting to render certain, important words into any modern European language. But it is absurd to talk of almost the whole text of the Book of the Dead as being utterly corrupt, for royal personages, and priests, and scribes, to say nothing of the ordinary educated folk, would not have caused costly copies of a very lengthy work to be multiplied, and illustrated by artists possessing the highest skill, unless it had some meaning to them, and was necessary for the attainment by them of the life which is beyond the grave. The "finds" of recent years in Egypt have resulted in the recovery of valuable texts whereby numerous difficulties have been cleared away; and we must hope that the faults made in translating to-day may be corrected by the discoveries of to-morrow. In spite of all difficulties, both textual and grammatical, sufficient is now known of the Egyptian religion to prove, with certainty, that the Egyptians possessed, some six thousand years ago, a religion and a system of morality which, when stripped of all corrupt accretions, stand second to none among those which have been developed by the greatest nations of the world.
E. A. WALLIS BUDGE. LONDON, August 21st, 1899.
I. THE BELIEF IN GOD ALMIGHTY
II. OSIRIS THE GOD OF THE RESURRECTION
III. THE "GODS" OF THE EGYPTIANS
IV. THE JUDGMENT OF THE DEAD
V. THE RESURRECTION AND IMMORTALITY
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
I. THE CREATION
II. ISIS SUCKLING HORUS IN THE PAPYRUS SWAMP
III. THE SOUL OF OSIRIS AND THE SOUL OF RĀ MEETING IN TATTU. RĀ, IN THE FORM OF A CAT, CUTTING OFF THE HEAD OF THE SERPENT OF DARKNESS
IV. THE JUDGMENT OF THE DEAD IN THE HALL OF MAĀTI
V. THE DECEASED BEING LED INTO THE PRESENCE OF OSIRIS
VI. THE SEKHET-AARU OR "ELYSIAN FIELDS"—
(1) FROM THE PAPYRUS OF NEBSENI (2) FROM THE PAPYRUS OF ANI (3) FROM THE PAPYRUS OF ANILAI
THE BELIEF IN GOD ALMIGHTY.
A study of ancient Egyptian religious texts will convince the reader that the Egyptians believed in One God, who was self-existent, immortal, invisible, eternal, omniscient, almighty, and inscrutable; the maker of the heavens, earth, and underworld; the creator of the sky and the sea, men and women, animals and birds, fish and creeping things, trees and plants, and the incorporeal beings who were the messengers that fulfilled his wish and word. It is necessary to place this definition of the first part of the belief of the Egyptian at the beginning of the first chapter of this brief account of the principal religious ideas which he held, for the whole of his theology and religion was based upon it; and it is also necessary to add that, however far back we follow his literature, we never seem to approach a time when he was without this remarkable belief. It is true that he also developed polytheistic ideas and beliefs, and that he cultivated them at certain periods of his history with diligence, and to such a degree that the nations around, and even the stranger in his country, were misled by his actions, and described him as a polytheistic idolater. But notwithstanding all such departures from observances, the keeping of which befitted those who believed in God and his unity, this sublime idea was never lost sight of; on the contrary, it is reproduced in the religious literature of all periods. Whence came this remarkable characteristic of the Egyptian religion no man can say, and there is no evidence whatsoever to guide us in formulating the theory that it was brought into Egypt by immigrants from the East, as some have said, or that it was a natural product of the indigenous peoples who formed the population of the valley of the Nile some ten thousand years ago, according to the opinion of others. All that is known is that it existed there at a period so remote that it is useless to attempt to measure by years the interval of time which has elapsed since it grew up and established itself in the minds of men, and that it is exceedingly doubtful if we shall ever have any very definite knowledge on this interesting point.
But though we know nothing about the period of the origin in Egypt of the belief in the existence of an almighty God who was One, the inscriptions show us that this Being was called by a name which was something like Neter, [Footnote: There is no e in Egyptian, and this vowel is added merely to make the word pronounceable.] the picture sign for which was an axe-head, made probably of stone, let into a long wooden handle. The coloured picture character shews that the axe-head was fastened into the handle by thongs of leather or string, and judging by the general look of the object it must have been a formidable weapon in strong, skilled hands. A theory has recently been put forward to the effect that the picture character represents a stick with a bit of coloured rag tied to the, but it will hardly commend itself to any archaeologist. The lines which cross the side of the axe-head represent string or strips of leather, and indicate that it was made of stone which, being brittle, was liable to crack; the picture characters which delineate the object in the latter dynasties shew that metal took the place of the stone axe-head, and being tough the new substance needed no support. The mightiest man in the prehistoric days was he who had the best weapon, and knew how to wield it with the greatest effect; when the prehistoric hero of many fights and victories passed to his rest, his own or a similar weapon was buried with him to enable him to wage war successfully in the next world. The mightiest man had the largest axe, and the axe thus became the symbol of the mightiest man. As he, by reason of the oft-told narrative of his doughty deeds at the prehistoric camp fire at eventide, in course of time passed from the rank of a hero to that of a god, the axe likewise passed from being the symbol of a hero to that of a god. Far away back in the early dawn of civilization in Egypt, the object which I identify as an axe may have had some other signification, but if it had, it was lost long before the period of the rule of the dynasties in that country.
Passing now to the consideration of the meaning of the name for God, neter, we find that great diversity of opinion exists among Egyptologists on the subject. Some, taking the view that the equivalent of the word exists in Coptic, under the form of Nuti, and because Coptic is an ancient Egyptian dialect, have sought to deduce its meaning by seeking in that language for the root from which the word may be derived. But all such attempts have had no good result, because the word Nuti stands by itself, and instead of being derived from a Coptic root is itself the equivalent of the Egyptian neter, [Footnote: The letter r has dropped out in Coptic through phonetic decay.] and was taken over by the translators of the Holy Scriptures from that language to express the words "God" and "Lord." The Coptic root nomti cannot in any way be connected with nuti, and the attempt to prove that the two are related was only made with the view of helping to explain the fundamentals of the Egyptian religion by means of Sanskrit and other Aryan analogies. It is quite possible that the word neter means "strength," "power," and the like, but these are only some of its derived meanings, and we have to look in the hieroglyphic inscriptions for help in order to determine its most probable meaning. The eminent French Egyptologist, E. de Rouge, connected the name of God, neter, with the other word neter, "renewal" or "renovation," and it would, according to his view, seem as if the fundamental idea of God was that of the Being who had the power to renew himself perpetually—or in other words, "self-existence." The late Dr. H. Brugsch partly accepted this view, for he defined neter as being "the active power which produces and creates things in regular recurrence; which bestows new life upon them, and gives back to them their youthful vigour." [Footnote: Religion und Mythologie, p. 93.] There seems to be no doubt that, inasmuch as it is impossible to find any one word which will render neter adequately and satisfactorily, "self-existence" and "possessing the power to renew life indefinitely," may together be taken as the equivalent of neter in our own tongue, M. Maspero combats rightly the attempt to make "strong" the meaning of neter (masc.), or neterit (fem.) in these words: "In the expressions 'a town neterit 'an arm neteri,' ... is it certain that 'a strong city,' 'a strong arm,' give us the primitive sense of neter? When among ourselves one says 'divine music,' 'a piece of divine poetry,' 'the divine taste of a peach,' 'the divine beauty of a woman,' [the word] divine is a hyperbole, but it would be a mistake to declare that it originally meant 'exquisite' because in the phrases which I have imagined one could apply it as 'exquisite music,' 'a piece of exquisite poetry,' 'the exquisite taste of a peach,' 'the exquisite beauty of a woman.' Similarly, in Egyptian, 'a town neterit is 'a divine town;' 'an arm netsri' is 'a divine arm,' and neteri is employed metaphorically in Egyptian as is [the word] 'divine' in French, without its being any more necessary to attribute to [the word] neteri the primitive meaning of 'strong,' than it is to attribute to [the word] 'divine' the primitive meaning of 'exquisite.'" [Footnote: La Mythologie Egyptienne, p. 215.] It may be, of course, that neter had another meaning which is now lost, but it seems that the great difference between God and his messengers and created things is that he is the Being who is self-existent and immortal, whilst they are not self-existent and are mortal.
Here it will be objected by those who declare that the ancient Egyptian idea of God is on a level with that evolved by peoples and tribes who stand comparatively little removed from very intelligent animals, that such high conceptions as self-existence and immortality belong to a people who are already on a high grade of development and civilization. This is precisely the case with the Egyptians when we first know them. As a matter of fact, we know nothing of their ideas of God before they developed sufficiently to build the monuments which we know they built, and before they possessed the religion, and civilization, and complex social system which their writings have revealed to us. In the remotest prehistoric times it is probable that their views about God and the future life were little better than those of the savage tribes, now living, with whom some have compared them. The primitive god was an essential feature of the family, and the fortunes of the god varied with the fortunes of the family; the god of the city in which a man lived was regarded as the ruler of the city, and the people of that city no more thought of neglecting to provide him with what they considered to be due to his rank and position than they thought of neglecting to supply their own wants. In fact the god of the city became the centre of the social fabric of that city, and every inhabitant thereof inherited automatically certain duties, the neglect of which brought stated pains and penalties upon him. The remarkable peculiarity of the Egyptian religion is that the primitive idea of the god of the city is always cropping up in it, and that is the reason why we find semi-savage ideas of God side by side with some of the most sublime conceptions, and it of course underlies all the legends of the gods wherein they possess all the attributes of men and women. The Egyptian in his semi-savage state was neither better nor worse than any other man in the same stage of civilization, but he stands easily first among the nations in his capacity for development, and in his ability for evolving conceptions concerning God and the future life, which are claimed as the peculiar product of the cultured nations of our time.
We must now, however, see how the word for God, neter, is employed in religious texts and in works which contain moral precepts. In the text of Unas, [Footnote: Ed Maspero, Pyramides de Saqqarah; p. 25.] a king who reigned about B.C. 3300, we find the passage:—"That which is sent by thy ka cometh to thee, that which is sent by thy father cometh to thee, that which is sent by Rā cometh to thee, and it arriveth in the train of thy Rā. Thou art pure, thy bones are the gods and the goddesses of heaven, thou existest at the side of God, thou art unfastened, thou comest forth towards thy soul, for every evil word (or thing) which hath been written in the name of Unas hath been done away." And, again, in the text of Teta, [Footnote: Ibid., p. 113.] in the passage which refers to the place in the eastern part of heaven "where the gods give birth unto themselves, where that to which they give birth is born, and where they renew their youth," it is said of this king, "Teta standeth up in the form of the star...he weigheth words (or trieth deeds), and behold God hearkeneth unto that which he saith." Elsewhere [Footnote: Ed. Maspero, Pyramides da Saqqarah, p. 111.] in the same text we read, "Behold, Teta hath arrived in the height of heaven, and the henmemet beings have seen him; the Semketet [Footnote: The morning boat of the sun.] boat knoweth him, and it is Teta who saileth it, and the Māntchet [Footnote: The evening boat of the sun.] boat calleth unto him, and it is Teta who bringeth it to a standstill. Teta hath seen his body in the Semketet boat, he knoweth the uraeus which is in the Māntchet boat, and God hath called him in his name...and hath taken him in to Rā." And again [Footnote: Ibid., p. 150.] we have: "Thou hast received the form (or attribute) of God, and thou hast become great therewith before the gods"; and of Pepi I., who reigned about B.C. 3000, it is said, "This Pepi is God, the son of God." [Footnote: Ibid., p. 222.] Now in these passages the allusion is to the supreme Being in the next world, the Being who has the power to invoke and to obtain a favourable reception for the deceased king by Rā, the Sun-god, the type and symbol of God. It may, of course, be urged that the word neter here refers to Osiris, but it is not customary to speak of this god in such a way in the texts; and even if we admit that it does, it only shows that the powers of God have been attributed to Osiris, and that he was believed to occupy the position in respect of Rā and the deceased which the supreme Being himself occupied. In the last two extracts given above we might read "a god" instead of "God," but there is no object in the king receiving the form or attribute of a nameless god; and unless Pepi becomes the son of God; the honour which the writer of that text intends to ascribe to the king becomes little and even ridiculous.
Passing from religious texts to works containing moral precepts, we find much light thrown upon the idea of God by the writings of the early sages of Egypt. First and foremost among these are the "Precepts of Kaqemna" and the "Precepts of Ptah-hetep," works which were composed as far back as B.C. 3000. The oldest copy of them which we possess is, unfortunately, not older than B.C. 2500, but this fact in no way affects our argument. These "precepts" are intended to form a work of direction and guidance for a young man in the performance of his duty towards the society in which he lived and towards his God. It is only fair to say that the reader will look in vain in them for the advice which is found in writings of a similar character composed at a later period; but as a work intended to demonstrate the "whole duty of man" to the youth of the time when the Great Pyramid was still a new building, these "precepts" are very remarkable. The idea of God held by Ptah-hetep is illustrated by the following passages:—
1. "Thou shalt make neither man nor woman to be afraid, for God is opposed thereto; and if any man shall say that he will live thereby, He will make him to want bread."
2. "As for the nobleman who possesseth abundance of goods, he may act according to his own dictates; and he may do with himself that which he pleaseth; if he will do nothing at all, that also is as he pleaseth. The nobleman by merely stretching out his hand doeth that which mankind (or a person) cannot attain to; but inasmuch as the eating of bread is according to the plan of God, this cannot be gainsaid."
3. "If thou hast ground to till, labour in the field which God hath given thee; rather than fill thy mouth with that which belongeth to thy neighbours it is better to terrify him that hath possessions [to give them unto thee]."
4. "If thou abasest thyself in the service of a perfect man, thy conduct shall be fair before God."
5. "If thou wouldst be a wise man, make thou thy son to be pleasing unto God."
6. "Satisfy those who depend upon thee as far as thou art able so to do; this should be done by those whom God hath favoured."
7. "If, having been of no account, thou hast become great; and if, having been poor, thou hast become rich; and if thou hast become governor of the city, be not hard-hearted on account of thy advancement, because thou hast become merely the guardian of the things which God hath provided."
8. "What is loved of God is obedience; God hateth disobedience."
9. "Verily a good son is of the gifts of God." [Footnote: The text was published by Prisse d'Avennes, entitled Facsimile d'un papyrus egyptien en caracteres hieratiques, Paris, 1847. For a translation of the whole work, see Virey, etudes sur le Papyrus Prisse, Paris, 1887.]
The same idea of God, but considerably amplified in some respects, may be found in the Maxims of Khensu-Hetep, a work which was probably composed during the XVIIIth dynasty. This work has been studied in detail by a number of eminent Egyptologists, and though considerable difference of opinion has existed among them in respect of details and grammatical niceties, the general sense of the maxims has been clearly established. To illustrate the use of the word neter, the following passages have been chosen from it:[Footnote: They are given with interlinear transliteration and translation in my Papyrus of Ani, p. lxxxv. ff., where references to the older literature on the subject will be found.]—
1. "God magnifieth his name."
2. "What the house of God hateth is much speaking. Pray thou with a loving heart all the petitions which are in secret. He will perform thy business, he will hear that which thou sayest and will accept thine offerings."
3. "God decreeth the right."
4. "When thou makest an offering unto thy God, guard thou against the things which are an abomination unto him. Behold thou his plans with thine eye, and devote thyself to the adoration of his name. He giveth souls unto millions of forms, and him that magnifieth him doth he magnify."
5. "If thy mother raise her hands to God he will hear her prayers [and rebuke thee]."
7. "Give thyself to God, and keep thou thyself daily for God."
Now, although the above passages prove the exalted idea which the Egyptians held of the supreme Being, they do not supply us with any of the titles and epithets which they applied to him; for these we must have recourse to the fine hymns and religious meditations which form so important a part of the "Book of the Dead." But before we quote from them, mention must be made of the neteru, i.e., the beings or existences which in some way partake of the nature or character of God, and are usually called "gods." The early nations that came in contact with the Egyptians usually misunderstood the nature of these beings, and several modern Western writers have done the same. When we examine these "gods" closely, they are found to be nothing more nor less than forms, or manifestations, or phases, or attributes, of one god, that god being Rā the Sun-god, who, it must be remembered, was the type and symbol of God. Nevertheless, the worship of the neteru by the Egyptians has been made the base of the charge of "gross idolatry" which has been brought against them, and they have been represented by some as being on the low intellectual level of savage tribes. It is certain that from the earliest times one of the greatest tendencies of the Egyptian religion was towards monotheism, and this tendency may be observed in all important texts down to the latest period; it is also certain that a kind of polytheism existed in Egypt side by side with monotheism from very early times. Whether monotheism or polytheism be the older, it is useless in our present state of knowledge to attempt to enquire. According to Tiele, the religion of Egypt was at the beginning polytheistic, but developed in two opposite directions: in the one direction gods were multiplied by the addition of local gods, and in the other the Egyptians drew nearer and nearer to monotheism. [Footnote: Geschiedenis van den Godedienst in de Oudheid, Amsterdam, 1893, p. 25. A number of valuable remarks on this subject are given by Lieblein in Egyptian Religion, p. 10.] Dr. Wiedemann takes the view that three main elements may be recognized in the Egyptian religion: (1) A solar monotheism, that is to say one god, the creator of the universe, who manifests his power especially in the sun and its operations; (2) A cult of the regenerating power of nature, which expresses itself in the adoration of ithyphallic gods, of fertile goddesses, and of a series of animals and of various deities of vegetation; (3) A perception of an anthropomorphic divinity, the life of whom in this world and in the world beyond this was typical of the ideal life of man [Footnote: Le Livre dei Moris (Review in Museon, Tom. xiii. 1893).]—this last divinity being, of course, Osiris. But here again, as Dr. Wiedemann says, it is an unfortunate fact that all the texts which we possess are, in respect of the period of the origin of the Egyptian religion, comparatively late, and therefore in them we find these three elements mixed together, along with a number of foreign matters, in such a way as to make it impossible to discover which of them is the oldest. No better example can be given of the loose way in which different ideas about a god and God are mingled in the same text than the "Negative Confession" in the hundred and twenty-fifth chapter of the Book of the Dead. Here, in the oldest copies of the passages known, the deceased says, "I have not cursed God" (1. 38), and a few lines after (1. 42) he adds, "I have not thought scorn of the god living in my city." It seems that here we have indicated two different layers of belief, and that the older is represented by the allusion to the "god of the city," in which case it would go back to the time when the Egyptian lived in a very primitive fashion. If we assume that God (who is mentioned in line 38) is Osiris, it does not do away with the fact that he was regarded as a being entirely different from the "god of the city" and that he was of sufficient importance to have one line of the "Confession" devoted to him. The Egyptian saw no incongruity in setting references to the "gods" side by side with allusions to a god whom we cannot help identifying with the Supreme Being and the Creator of the world; his ideas and beliefs have, in consequence, been sadly misrepresented, and by certain writers he has been made an object of ridicule. What, for example, could be a more foolish description of Egyptian worship than the following? "Who knows not, O Volusius of Bithynia, the sort of monsters Egypt, in her infatuation, worships. One part venerates the crocodile; another trembles before an ibis gorged with serpents. The image of a sacred monkey glitters in gold, where the magic chords sound from Memnon broken in half, and ancient Thebes lies buried in ruins, with her hundred gates. In one place they venerate sea-fish, in another river-fish; there, whole towns worship a dog: no one Diana. It is an impious act to violate or break with the teeth a leek or an onion. O holy nations! whose gods grow for them in their gardens! Every table abstains from animals that have wool: it is a crime there to kill a kid. But human flesh is lawful food."
[Footnote: Juvenal, Satire XV. (Evans' translation in Bohn's Series, p. 180). Led astray by Juvenal, our own good George Herbert (Church Militant) wrote:—
"At first he (i.e., Sin) got to Egypt, and did sow Gardens of gods, which every year did grow Fresh and fine deities. They were at great cost, Who for a god clearly a sallet lost. Ah, what a thing is man devoid of grace, Adoring garlic with an humble face, Begging his food of that which he may eat, Starving the while he worshippeth his meat! Who makes a root his god, how low is he, If God and man be severed infinitely! What wretchedness can give him any room, Whose house is foul, while he adores his broom?"]
The epithets which the Egyptians applied to their gods also bear valuable testimony concerning the ideas which they held about God. We have already said that the "gods" are only forms, manifestations, and phases of Rā, the Sun-god, who was himself the type and symbol of God, and it is evident from the nature of these epithets that they were only applied to the "gods" because they represented some qualify or attribute which they would have applied to God had it been their custom to address Him. Let us take as examples the epithets which are applied to Hāpi the god of the Nile. The beautiful hymn [Footnote: The whole hymn has been published by Maspero in Hymns au Nil, Paris, 1868.] to this god opens as follows:—
"Homage to thee, O Hāpi! Thou comest forth in this land, and dost come in peace to make Egypt to live, O thou hidden one, thou guide of the darkness whensoever it is thy pleasure to be its guide. Thou waterest the fields which Rā hath created, thou makest all animals to live, thou makest the land to drink without ceasing; thou descendest the path of heaven, thou art the friend of meat and drink, thou art the giver of the grain, and thou makest every place of work to flourish, O Ptah! ... If thou wert to be overcome in heaven the gods would fall down headlong, and mankind would perish. Thou makest the whole earth to be opened (or ploughed up) by the cattle, and prince and peasant lie down to rest.... His disposition (or form) is that of Khnemu; when he shineth upon the earth there is rejoicing, for all people are glad, the mighty man (?) receiveth his meat, and every tooth hath food to consume."
After praising him for what he does for mankind and beasts, and for making the herb to grow for the use of all men, the text says:—
"He cannot be figured in stone; he is not to be seen in the sculptured images upon which men place the united crowns of the South and the North furnished with uraei; neither works nor offerings can be made to him; and he cannot be made to come forth from his secret place. The place where he liveth is unknown; he is not to be found in inscribed shrines; there existeth no habitation which can contain him; and thou canst not conceive his form in thy heart."
First we notice that Hapi is addressed by the names of Ptah and Khnemu, not because the writer thought these three gods were one, but because Hapi as the great supplier of water to Egypt became, as it were, a creative god like Ptah and Khnemu. Next we see that it is stated to be impossible to depict him in paintings, or even to imagine what his form may be, for he is unknown and his abode cannot be found, and no place can contain him. But, as a matter of fact, several pictures and sculptures of Hāpi have been preserved, and we know that he is generally depicted in the form of two gods; one has upon his head a papyrus plant, and the other a lotus plant, the former being the Nile-god of the South, and the latter the Nile-god of the North. Elsewhere he is portrayed in the form of a large man having the breasts of a woman. It is quite clear, then, that the epithets which we have quoted are applied to him merely as a form of God. In another hymn, which was a favourite in the XVIIIth and XIXth dynasties, Hāpi is called "One," and is said to have created himself; but as he is later on in the text identified with Rā the epithets which belong to the Sun-god are applied to him. The late Dr. H. Brugsch collected [Footnote: Religion and Mythologie, pp. 96-99.] a number of the epithets which are applied to the gods, from texts of all periods; and from these we may see that the ideas and beliefs of the Egyptians concerning God were almost identical with those of the Hebrews and Muhammadans at later periods. When classified these epithets read thus:—
"God is One and alone, and none other existeth with Him; God is the One, the One Who hath made all things.
"God is a spirit, a hidden spirit, the spirit of spirits, the great spirit of the Egyptians, the divine spirit.
"God is from the beginning, and He hath been from the beginning; He hath existed from of old and was when nothing else had being. He existed when nothing else existed, and what existeth He created after He had come into being. He is the father of beginnings.
"God is the eternal One, He is eternal and infinite; and endureth for ever and aye; He hath endured for countless ages, and He shall endure to all eternity.
"God is the hidden Being, and no man hath known His form. No man hath been able to seek out His likeness; He is hidden, from gods and men, and He is a mystery unto His creatures.
"No man knoweth how to know Him, His name remaineth hidden; His name is a mystery unto His children. His names are innumerable, they are manifold and none knoweth their number.
"God is truth, and He liveth by truth, and he feedeth thereon. He is the King of truth, He resteth upon truth, He fashioneth truth, and He executeth truth throughout all the world.
"God is life, and through Him only man liveth, He giveth life to man, and He breatheth the breath of life into his nostrils.
"God is father and mother, the father of fathers, and the mother of mothers. He begetteth, but was never begotten; He produceth, but was never produced He begat Himself and produced Himself. He createth, but was never created; He is the maker of His own form, and the fashioner of His own body.
"God Himself is existence He liveth in all things, and liveth upon all things. He endureth without increase or diminution, He multiplieth Himself millions of times, and He possesseth multitudes of forms and multitudes of members.
"God hath made the universe, and He hath created all that therein is: He is the Creator of what is in this world, of what was, of what is, and of what shall be. He is the Creator of the world, and it was He Who fashioned it with His hands before there was any beginning; and He stablished it with that which went forth from Him. He is the Creator of the heavens and the earth; the Creator of the heavens, and the earth, and the deep; the Creator of the heavens, and the earth, and the deep, and the waters, and the mountains. God hath stretched out the heavens and founded the earth. What His heart conceived came to pass straightway, and when He had spoken His word came to pass, and it shall endure for ever.
"God is the father of the gods, and the father of the father of all deities; He made His voice to sound, and the deities came into being, and the gods sprang into existence after He had spoken with His mouth. He formed mankind and fashioned the gods. He is the great Master, the primeval Potter Who turned men and gods out of His hands, and He formed men and gods upon a potter's table.
"The heavens rest upon His head, and the earth supporteth His feet; heaven hideth His spirit, the earth hideth His form, and the underworld shutteth up the mystery of Him within it. His body is like the air, heaven resteth upon His head, and the new inundation [of the Nile] containeth His form.
"God is merciful unto those who reverence Him, and He heareth him that calleth upon Him. He protecteth the weak against the strong, and He heareth the cry of him that is bound in fetters; He judgeth between the mighty and the weak, God knoweth him that knoweth Him, He rewardeth him that serveth Him, and He protecteth him that followeth Him."
We have now to consider the visible emblem, and the type and symbol of God, namely the Sun-god Rā, who was worshipped in Egypt in prehistoric times. According to the writings of the Egyptians, there was a time when neither heaven nor earth existed, and when nothing had being except the boundless primeval [Footnote: See Brugsch, Religion, p. 101.] water, which was, however, shrouded with thick darkness. In this condition the primeval water remained for a considerable time, notwithstanding that it contained within it the germs of the things which afterwards came into existence in this world, and the world itself. At length the spirit of the primeval water felt the desire for creative activity, and having uttered the word, the world sprang straightway into being in the form which had already been depicted in the mind of the spirit before he spake the word which resulted in its creation. The next act of creation, was the formation of a germ, or egg, from which sprang Rā, the Sun-god, within whose shining form was embodied the almighty power of the divine spirit.
Such was the outline of creation as described by the late Dr. H. Brugsch, and it is curious to see how closely his views coincide with a chapter in the Papyrus of Nesi Amsu preserved in the British Museum. [Footnote: No. 10,188. See my transcript and translation of the whole papyrus in Archaeologia vol. 52, London, 1801.] In the third section of this papyrus we find a work which was written with the sole object of overthrowing Āpep, the great enemy of Rā, and in the composition itself we find two versions of the chapter which describes the creation of the earth and all things therein. The god Neb-er-tcher is the speaker, and he says:—
"I evolved the evolving of evolutions. I evolved myself under the form of the evolutions of the god Khepera, which were evolved at the beginning of all time. I evolved with the evolutions of the god Khepera; I evolved by the evolution of evolutions—that is to say, I developed myself from the primeval matter which I made, I developed myself out of the primeval matter. My name is Ausares (Osiris), the germ of primeval matter. I have wrought my will wholly in this earth, I have spread abroad and filled it, I have strengthened it [with] my hand. I was alone, for nothing had been brought forth; I had not then emitted from myself either Shu or Tefnut. I uttered my own name, as a word of power, from my own mouth, and I straightway evolved myself. I evolved myself under the form of the evolutions of the god Khepera, and I developed myself out of the primeval matter which has evolved multitudes of evolutions from the beginning of time. Nothing existed on this earth then, and I made all things. There was none other who worked with me at that time. I performed all evolutions there by means of that divine Soul which I fashioned there, and which had remained inoperative in the watery abyss. I found no place there whereon to stand. But I was strong in my heart, and I made a foundation for myself, and I made everything which was made. I was alone. I made a foundation for my heart (or will), and I created multitudes of things which evolved themselves like unto the evolutions of the god Khepera, and their offspring came into being from the evolutions of their births. I emitted from myself the gods Shu and Tefnut, and from being One I became Three; they , the Sun-god, who is accompanied by a number of deities. In the upper portion of the scene is the region of the underworld which is enclosed by the body of Osiris, on whose head stands the goddess Nut with arms stretched out to receive the disk of the sun.] sprang from me, and came into existence in this earth. ...Shu and Tefnut brought forth Seb and Nut, and Nut brought forth Osiris, Horus-khent-an-maa, Sut, Isis, and Nephthya at one birth."
The fact of the existence of two versions of this remarkable Chapter proves that the composition is much older than the papyrus [Footnote: About B.C. 300.] in which it is found, and the variant readings which occur in each make it certain that the Egyptian scribes had difficulty in understanding what they were writing. It may be said that this version of the cosmogony is incomplete because it does not account for the origin of any of the gods except those who belong to the cycle of Osiris, and this objection is a valid one; but in this place we are only concerned to shew that Rā, the Sun-god, was evolved from the primeval abyss of water by the agency of the god Khepera, who brought this result about by pronouncing his own name. The great cosmic gods, such as Ptah and Khnemu, of whom mention will be made later, are the offspring of another set of religious views, and the cosmogony in which these play the leading parts is entirely different. We must notice, in passing, that the god whose words we have quoted above declares that he evolved himself under the form, of Khepera, and that his name is Osiris, "the primeval matter of primeval matter," and that, as a result, Osiris is identical with Khepera in respect of his evolutions and new births. The word rendered "evolutions" is kheperu, literally "rollings"; and that rendered "primeval matter" is paut, the original "stuff" out of which everything was made. In both versions we are told that men and women came into being from the tears which fell from the "Eye" of Khepera, that is to say from the Sun, which, the god says, "I made take to up its place in my face, and afterwards it ruled the whole earth."
We have seen how Rā has become the visible type and symbol of God, and the creator of the world and of all that is therein; we may now consider the position which he held with, respect to the dead. As far back as the period of the IVth dynasty, about B.C. 3700, he was regarded as the great god of heaven, and the king of all the gods, and divine beings, and of the beatified dead who dwelt therein. The position of the beatified in heaven is decided by Rā, and of all the gods there Osiris only appears to have the power to claim protection for his followers; the offerings which the deceased would make to Rā are actually presented to him by Osiris. At one time the Egyptian's greatest hope seems to have been that he might not only become "God, the son of God," by adoption, but that Rā would become actually his father. For in the text of Pepi I, [Footnote: Ed. Maspero, line 570.] it is said: "Pepi is the son of Rā who loveth him; and he goeth forth and raiseth himself up to heaven. Rā hath begotten Pepi, and he goeth forth and raiseth himself up to heaven. Rā hath conceived Pepi, and he goeth forth and raiseth himself up to heaven. Rā hath given birth, to Pepi, and he goeth forth and raiseth himself up to heaven." Substantially these ideas remained the same from the earliest to the latest times, and Rā maintained his position as the great head of the companies, notwithstanding the rise of Amen into prominence, and the attempt to make Aten the dominant god of Egypt by the so-called "Disk worshippers." The following good typical examples of Hymns to Rā are taken from the oldest copies of the Theban Recension of the Book of the Dead.
I. FROM THE PAPYRUS OF ANI. [Footnote: See The Chapters of Coming Forth by Day, p. 3.]
"Homage to thee, O thou who hast come as Khepera, Khepera the creator of the gods. Thou risest and thou shinest, and thou makest light to be in thy mother Nut (i.e., the sky); thou art crowned king of the gods. Thy mother Nut doeth an act of homage unto thee with both her hands. The laud of Manu (i.e., the land where the sun sets) receiveth thee with satisfaction, and the goddess Maāt embraceth thee both, at morn and at eve. [Footnote: i.e., Maāt, the goddess of law, order, regularity, and the like, maketh the sun to rise each day in his appointed place and at his appointed time with absolute and unfailing regularity.] Hail, all ye gods of the Temple of the Soul, [Footnote: i.e., the soul referred to above in the account of the creation; see p. 24.] who weigh heaven and earth in the balance, and who provide divine food in abundance! Hail, Tatunen, thou One, thou Creator of mankind and Maker of the substance of the gods of the south and of the north, of the west and of the east! O come ye and acclaim Rā, the lord of heaven and the Creator of the gods, and adore ye him in his beautiful form as he cometh in the morning in his divine bark.
"O Rā, those who dwell in the heights and those who dwell in the depths adore thee. The god Thoth and the goddess Maāt have marked out for thee [thy course] for each and every day. Thine enemy the Serpent hath been given over to the fire, the serpent-fiend Sebau hath fallen down headlong; his arms have been bound in chains, and thou hast hacked off his legs; and the sons of impotent revolt shall nevermore rise up against thee. The Temple of the Aged One [Footnote: i.e., Rā of Heliopolis.] (i.e., Rā) keepeth festival, and the voice of those who rejoice is in the mighty dwelling. The gods exult when they see thy rising, O Rā, and when thy beams flood the world with light. The Majesty of the holy god goeth forth and advanceth even unto the land of Manu; he maketh brilliant the earth at his birth each day; he journeyeth on to the place where he was yesterday."
II. FROM THE PAPYRUS OF HUNEFER. [Footnote: From the Papyrus of Hunefer (Brit. Mus. No. 9901).]
"Homage to thee, O thou who art Rā when thou risest and Temu when thou settest. Thou risest, thou risest, thou shinest, thou shinest, O thou who art crowned king of the gods. Thou art the lord of heaven, thou art the lord of earth; thou art the creator of those who dwell in the heights, and of those who dwell in the depths. Thou art the One God who came into being in the beginning of time. Thou didst create the earth, thou didst fashion man, thou didst make the watery abyss of the sky, thou didst form Hapi (i.e., the Nile), thou didst create the great deep, and thou dost give life unto all that therein is. Thou hast knit together the mountains, thou hast made mankind and the beasts of the field to come into being, thou hast made the heavens and the earth. Worshipped be thou whom the goddess Maat embraceth at morn and at eve. Thou dost travel across the sky with thy heart swelling with joy; the great deep of heaven is content thereat. The serpent-fiend Nak [Footnote: A name of the Serpent of darkness which Rā slew daily.] hath fallen, and his arms are cut off. The Sektet [Footnote: The boat in which Rā sailed from noon to sunset.] boat receiveth fair winds, and the heart of him that is in the shrine thereof rejoiceth.
"Thou art crowned Prince of heaven, and thou art the One [dowered with all sovereignty] who appearest in the sky. Rā is he who is true of voice. [Footnote: i.e., whatsoever Rā commandeth taketh place straightway; see the Chapter on the Judgment of the Dead, p. 110.] Hail, thou divine youth, thou heir of everlastingness, thou self-begotten One! Hail, thou who didst give thyself birth! Hail, One, thou mighty being, of myriad forms and aspects, thou king of the world, prince of Annu (Heliopolis), lord of eternity, and ruler of everlastingness! The company of the gods rejoice when thou risest and dost sail across the sky, O thou who art exalted in the Sektet boat."
"Homage to thee, O Amen-Rā, [Footnote: On the god Amen, see the chapter, "The Gods of the Egyptians."] who dost rest upon Maat; [Footnote: i.e., "thy existence, and thy risings and settings are ordered and defined by fixed, unchanging, and unalterable law."] thou passest over heaven and every face seeth thee. Thou dost wax great as thy Majesty doth advance, and thy rays are upon all faces. Thou art unknown, and no tongue can declare thy likeness; thou thyself alone [canst do this]. Thou art One... Men praise thee in thy name, and they swear by thee, for thou art lord over them. Thou hearest with thine ears, and thou seest with thine eyes. Millions of years have gone over the world. I cannot tell the number of those through which thou hast passed. Thy heart hath decreed a day of happiness in thy name of 'Traveller.' Thou dost pass over and dost travel through untold spaces [requiring] millions and hundreds of thousands of years [to pass over]; thou passest through them in peace, and thou steerest thy way across the watery abyss to the place which thou lovest; this thou doest in one little moment of time, and then thou dost sink down and dost make an end of the hours."
III. FROM THE PAPYRUS OF ANI. [Footnote: Plate 20.]
The following beautiful composition, part hymn and part prayer, is of exceptional interest.
"Hail, thou Disk, thou lord of rays, who risest on the horizon day by day! Shine thou with thy beams of light upon the face of Osiris Ani, who is true of voice; for he singeth hymns of praise unto thee at dawn, and he maketh thee to set at eventide with words of adoration, May the soul of Ani come forth with thee into heaven, may he go forth in the Mātet boat, may he come into port in the Sektet boat, and may he cleave his path among the never-resting stars in the heavens.
"Osiris Ani, being in peace and triumph, adoreth his lord, the lord of eternity, saying, 'Homage to thee, O Heru-Khuti (Harmachis), who art the god Khepera, the self-created one; when thou risest on the horizon and sheddest thy beams of light upon the lands of the North and of the South, thou art beautiful, yea beautiful, and all the gods rejoice when they behold thee, the king of heaven. The goddess Nebt-Unnut is stablished upon thy head; and her uraei of the South and of the North are upon thy brow; she taketh up her place before thee. The god. Thoth is stablished in the bows of thy boat to destroy utterly all thy foes. Those who are in the Tuat (underworld) come forth to meet thee, and they bow low in homage as they come towards thee, to behold thy beautiful form. And I have come before thee that I may be with thee to behold thy Disk each day. May I not be shut up [in the tomb], may I not be turned back, may the limbs of my body be made new again when I view thy beauties, even as [are those of] all thy favoured ones, because I am one of those who worshipped thee upon earth. May I come unto the land of eternity, may I come even unto the everlasting land, for behold, O my lord, this hast thou ordained for me.'
"'Homage to thee, O thou who risest in thy horizon as Rā, thou restest upon Maāt, [Footnote: i.e., unchanging and unalterable law.] Thou passest over the sky, and every face watcheth thee and thy course, for thou hast been hidden from their gaze. Thou dost show thyself at dawn and at eventide day by day. The Sektet boat, wherein, is thy Majesty, goeth forth with might; thy beams are upon [all] faces; thy rays of red and yellow cannot be known, and thy bright beams cannot be told. The lands of the gods and the eastern lands of Punt [Footnote: i.e., the east and west coasts of the Red Sea, and the north-east coast of Africa.] must be seen ere that which, is hidden [in thee] may be measured. [Footnote: I am doubtful about the meaning of this passage.] Alone and by thyself thou, dost manifest thyself [when] thou comest into being above Nu. May I advance, even as thou dost advance; may I never cease [to go forward], even as thy Majesty ceaseth not [to go forward], even though it be for a moment; for with strides dost thou in one brief moment pass over spaces which [man] would need hundreds of thousand; yea, millions of years to pass over; [this] thou doest, and then thou dost sink to rest. Thou puttest an end to the hours of the night, and thou dost count them, even thou; thou endest them in thine own appointed season, and the earth, becometh light, Thou settest thyself before thy handiwork in the likeness of Rā; thou risest in the horizon.'
"Osiris; the scribe Ani, declareth his praise of thee when thou shinest, and when thou risest at dawn he crieth in his joy at thy birth, saying:—
"'Thou art crowned with the majesty of thy beauties; thou mouldest thy limbs as thou dost advance, and thou bringest them forth without birth-pangs in the form of Rā, as thou dost rise up in the celestial height. Grant thou that I may come unto the heaven which is everlasting, and unto the mountain where dwell thy favoured ones. May I be joined unto those shining beings, holy and perfect, who are in the underworld; and may I come forth with them to behold thy beauties when thou shinest at eventide, and goest to thy mother Nut. Thou dost place thyself in the west, and my hands adore [thee] when thou settest as a living being. [Footnote: i.e., "because when thou settest thou dost not die."] Behold, thou art the everlasting creator, and thou art adored [as such when] thou settest in the heavens. I have given my heart to thee without wavering, O thou who art mightier than the gods.'
"A hymn of praise to thee, O thou who risest like unto gold, and who dost flood the world with light on the day of thy birth. Thy mother giveth thee birth, and straightway thou dost give light upon the path of [thy] Disk, O thou great Light who shinest in the heavens. Thou makest the generations of men to flourish through the Nile-flood, and thou dost cause gladness to exist in all lands, and in, all cities, and in all temples. Thou art glorious by reason of thy splendours, and thou makest strong thy KA (i.e. Double) with, divine foods, O thou mighty one of victories, thou Power of Powers, who dost make strong thy throne against evil fiends—thou who art glorious in Majesty in the Sektet boat, and most mighty in the Ātet [Footnote: The Sun's evening and morning boats respectively.] boat!" This selection may be fittingly closed by a short hymn [Footnote: From the Papyrus of Nekht (Brit. Mus. No. 10,471).] which, though, of a later date, reproduces in a brief form all the essentials of the longer hymns of the XVIIIth dynasty (about B.C. 1700 to 1400).
"Homage to thee, O thou glorious Being, thou who art dowered [with all sovereignty]. O Temu-Harma-chis, [Footnote: The evening and morning sun respectively.] when thou risest in the horizon of heaven, a cry of joy cometh forth, to thee from the mouth of all peoples, O thou beautiful Being, thou dost renew thyself in thy season in the form of the Disk within thy mother Hathor; [Footnote: Like Nut, a goddess of the sky, but particularly of that portion of it in which the sun rises.] therefore in every place every heart swelleth with joy at thy rising for ever. The regions of the North and South come to thee with homage, and send forth, acclamations at thy rising in the horizon of heaven; thou illuminest the two lands with rays of turquoise light. Hail, Rā, thou who art Rā-Harmachis, thou divine man-child, heir of eternity, self-begotten and self-born, king of the earth, prince of the underworld, governor of the regions of Aukert (i.e. the underworld)! Thou didst come forth, from the water, thou hast sprung from the god Nu, who cherisheth thee and ordereth thy members. Hail, god of life, thou lord of love, all men live when thou shinest; thou art crowned king of the gods. The goddess Nut doeth homage unto thee, and the goddess Maāt embraceth thee at all times. Those who are in thy following sing unto thee with joy and bow down their foreheads to the earth when they meet thee, thou lord of heaven, thou lord of earth, thou king of Right and Truth, thou lord of eternity, thou prince of everlastingness, thou sovereign of all the gods, thou god of life, thou creator of eternity, thou maker of heaven, wherein thou art firmly established. The company of the gods rejoice at thy rising, the earth is glad when it beholdeth thy rays; the peoples that have been long dead come forth with cries of joy to see thy beauties every day. Thou goest forth each day over heaven and earth, and art made strong each day by thy mother Nut. Thou passest through the heights of heaven, thy heart swelleth with joy; the abyss of the sky is content thereat. The Serpent-fiend hath fallen, his arms are hewn off, and the knife hath cut asunder his joints, Rā liveth in Maāt the beautiful. The Sektet boat draweth on and cometh into port; the South and the North, the West and the East, turn, to praise thee, O thou primeval substance of the earth who didst come into being of thine own accord, Isis and Nephthys salute thee, they sing unto thee songs of joy at thy rising in the boat, they protect thee with their hands. The souls of the East follow thee, the souls of the West praise thee. Thou art the ruler of all the gods, and thou hast joy of heart within thy shrine; for the Serpent-fiend Nak hath been condemned to the fire, and thy heart shall be joyful for ever."
From the considerations set forth in the preceding pages, and from the extracts from religious texts of various periods, and from the hymns quoted, the reader may himself judge the views which the ancient Egyptian held concerning God Almighty and his visible type and symbol Rā, the Sun-god. Egyptologists differ in their interpretations of certain passages, but agree as to general facts. In dealing with the facts it cannot be too clearly understood that the religious ideas of the prehistoric Egyptian were very different from those of the cultured priest of Memphis in the IInd dynasty, or those of the worshippers of Temu or Atum, the god of the setting sun, in the IVth dynasty. The editors of religious texts of all periods have retained many grossly superstitious and coarse beliefs, which they knew well to be the products of the imaginations of their savage, or semi-savage ancestors, not because they themselves believed in them, or thought that the laity to whom they ministered would accept them, but because of their reverence for inherited traditions. The followers of every great religion in the world have never wholly shaken off all the superstitions which they have in all generations inherited from their ancestors; and what is true of the peoples of the past is true, in a degree, of the peoples of to-day. In the East the older the ideas, and beliefs, and traditions, are, the more sacred they become; but this has not prevented men there from developing high moral and spiritual conceptions and continuing to believe in them, and among such must be counted the One, self-begotten, and self-existent God whom the Egyptians worshipped.
OSIRIS THE GOD OF THE RESURRECTION.
The Egyptians of every period in which they are known to us believed that Osiris was of divine origin, that he suffered death and mutilation at the hands of the powers of evil, that after a great struggle with these powers he rose again, that he became henceforth the king of the underworld and judge of the dead, and that because he had conquered death the righteous also might conquer death; and they raised Osiris to such an exalted position in heaven that he became the equal and, in certain cases, the superior of Rā, the Sun-god, and ascribed to him the attributes which belong unto God. However far back we go, we find that these views about Osiris are assumed to be known to the reader of religious texts and accepted by him, and in the earliest funeral book the position of Osiris in respect of the other gods is identical with that which he is made to hold in the latest copies of the Book of the Dead. The first writers of the ancient hieroglyphic funeral texts and their later editors have assumed so completely that the history of Osiris was known unto all men, that none of them, as far as we know, thought it necessary to write down a connected narrative of the life and sufferings upon earth of this god, or if they did, it has not come down to us. Even in the Vth dynasty we find Osiris and the gods of his cycle, or company, occupying a peculiar and special place in the compositions written for the benefit of the dead, and the stone and other monuments which belong to still earlier periods mention ceremonies the performance of which assumed the substantial accuracy of the history of Osiris as made known to us by later writers. But we have a connected history of Osiris which, though not written in Egyptian, contains so much that is of Egyptian origin that we may be sure that its author drew his information from Egyptian sources: I refer to the work, De Iside et Osiride, of the Greek writer, Plutarch, who flourished about the middle of the first century of our era. In it, unfortunately, Plutarch identifies certain of the Egyptian gods with the gods of the Greeks, and he adds a number of statements which rest either upon his own imagination, or are the results of misinformation. The translation [Footnote: Plutarchi de Iside et Osirids liber: Graece et Anglice. By S. Squire, Cambridge, 1744.] by Squire runs as follows:—
"Rhea, [Footnote: i.e., Nut.] say they, having accompanied Saturn [Footnote: i.e., Seb.] by stealth, was discovered by the Sun, [Footnote: i.e., Rā.] who hereupon denounced a curse upon her, 'that she should not he delivered in any month or year'—Mercury, however, being likewise in love with the same goddess, in recompense of the favours which he had received from her, plays at tables with the Moon, and wins from her the seventieth part of each of her illuminations; these several parts, mating in the whole five days, he afterwards joined together, and added to the three hundred and sixty, of which the year formerly consisted, which days therefore are even yet called by the Egyptians the Epact or superadded, and observed by them as the birthdays of their gods. For upon the first of them, say they, was OSIRIS born, just at whose entrance into the world a voice was heard, saying, 'The lord of all the earth is born.' There are some indeed who relate this circumstance in a different manner, as that a certain person, named Pamyles, as he was fetching water from the temple of Jupiter at Thebes, heard a voice commanding him to proclaim aloud that 'the good and great king Osiris was then born'; and that for this reason Saturn committed the education of the child to him, and that in memory of this event the Pamylia were afterwards instituted, a festival much resembling the Phalliphoria or Priapeia of the Greeks. Upon the second of these days was AROUERIS [Footnote: i.e., Hera-ur, "Horus the Elder."] born, whom some call Apollo, and others distinguish by the name of the elder Orus. Upon the third Typho [Footnote: i.e., Set.] came into the world, being born neither at the proper time, nor by the proper place, but forcing his way through a wound which he had made in his mother's side. ISIS was born upon the fourth of them in the marshes of Egypt, as NEPTHYS was upon the last, whom some call Teleute and Aphrodite, and others Nike—Now as to the fathers of these children, the two first of them are said to have been begotten by the Sun, Isis by Mercury, Typho and Nepthys by Saturn; and accordingly, the third of these superadded days, because it was looked upon as the birthday of Typho, was regarded by the kings as inauspicious, and consequently they neither transacted any business on it, or even suffered themselves to take any refreshment until the evening. They further add, that Typho married Nepthys; and that Isis and Osiris, having a mutual affection, loved each other in their mother's womb before they were born, and that from this commerce sprang Aroueris, whom the Egyptians likewise call the elder Orus, and the Greeks Apollo.
"Osiris, being now become king of Egypt, applied himself towards civilizing his countrymen, by turning them from their former indigent and barbarous course of life; he moreover taught them how to cultivate and improve the fruits of the earth; he gave them a body of laws to regulate their conduct by, and instructed them in that reverence and worship which they were to pay to the gods. With the same good disposition he afterwards travelled over the rest of the world inducing the people everywhere to submit to his discipline; not indeed compelling them by force of arms, but persuading them to yield to the strength of his reasons, which were conveyed to them in the most agreeable manner, in hymns and songs, accompanied by instruments of music: from which last circumstance the Greeks conclude him to have been the same with their Dionysius or Bacchus—During Osiris' absence from his kingdom, Typho had no opportunity of making any innovations in the state, Isis being extremely vigilant in the government, and always upon her guard. After his return, however, having first persuaded seventy-two other persons to join with him in the conspiracy, together with a certain queen of Ethiopia named Aso, who chanced to be in Egypt at that time, he contrived a proper stratagem to execute his base designs. For having privily taken the measure of Osiris' body, he caused a chest to be made exactly of the same size with it, as beautiful as may be, and set off with all the ornaments of art. This chest he brought into his banqueting-room; where, after it had been much admired by all who were present, Typho, as it were in jest, promised to give it to any one of them whose body upon trial it might be found to fit. Upon this the whole company one after another, go into it; but as it did not fit any of them, last of all Osiris lays himself down in it, upon which the conspirators immediately ran together, clapped the cover upon it, and then fastened it down on the outside with nails, pouring likewise melted lead over it. After this they carried it away to the river side, and conveyed it to the sea by the Tanaitic mouth of the Nile; which, for this reason, is still held in the utmost abomination by the Egyptians, and never named by them but with proper marks of detestation. These things, say they, were thus executed upon the 17th [Footnote: In the Egyptian calendar this day was marked triply unlucky.] day of the month Athyr, when the sun was in Scorpio, in the 28th year of Osiris' reign; though there are others who tell us that he was no more than 28 years old at this time.
"The first who knew the accident which had befallen their king were the Pans and Satyrs who inhabited the country about Chemmis (Panopolis); and they immediately acquainting the people with the news gave the first occasion to the name Panic Terrors, which has ever since been made use of to signify any sudden affright or amazement of a multitude. As to Isis, as soon as the report reached her she immediately cut off one of the locks of her hair, [Footnote: The hair cut off as a sign of mourning was usually laid in the tomb of the dead.] and put on mourning apparel upon the very spot where she then happened to be, which accordingly from this accident has ever since been called Koptis, or the city of mourning, though some are of opinion that this word rather signifies deprivation. After this she wandered everywhere about the country full of disquietude and perplexity in search, of the chest, inquiring of every person she met with, even, of some children whom she chanced to see, whether they knew what was become of it. Now it happened that these children had seen what Typho's accomplices had done with the body, and accordingly acquainted her by what mouth of the Nile it had been conveyed into the sea—For this reason therefore the Egyptians look upon children as endued with a kind of faculty of divining, and in consequence of this notion are very curious in observing the accidental prattle which they have with one another whilst they are at play (especially if it be in a sacred place), forming omens and presages from it—Isis, during this interval, having been informed that Osiris, deceived by her sister Nepthys who was in love with him, had unwittingly united with her instead of herself, as she concluded from the melilot-garland, [Footnote: i.e., a wreath of clover.] which he had left with her, made it her business likewise to search out the child, the fruit of this unlawful commerce (for her sister, dreading the anger of her husband Typho, had exposed it as soon as it was born), and accordingly, after much pains and difficulty, by means of some dogs that conducted her to the place where it was, she found it and bred it up; so that in process of time it became her constant guard and attendant, and from hence obtained the name of Anubis, being thought to watch and guard the gods, as dogs do mankind.
"At length she receives more particular news of the chest, that it had been carried by the waves of the sea to the coast of Byblos, [Footnote: Not the Byblos of Syria (Jebel) but the papyrus swamps of the Delta.] and there gently lodged in the branches of a bush of Tamarisk, which, in a short time, had shot up into a large and beautiful tree, growing round the chest and enclosing it on every side, so that it was not to be seen; and farther, that the king of the country, amazed at its unusual size, had cut the tree down, and made that part of the trunk wherein the chest was concealed, a pillar to support; the roof of his house. These things, say they, being made known to Isis in an extraordinary manner by the report of Demons, sue immediately went to Byblos; where, setting herself down by the side of a fountain, she refused to speak to anybody, excepting only to the queen's women who chanced to be there; these indeed she saluted and caressed in the kindest manner possible, plaiting their hair for them, and transmitting into them part of that wonderfully grateful odour which issued from her own body. This raised a great desire in the queen their mistress to see the stranger who had this admirable faculty of transfusing so fragrant a smell from herself into the hair and skin of other people. She therefore sent for her to court, and, after a further acquaintance with her, made her nurse to one of her sons. Now the name of the king who reigned at this time at Byblos, was Meloarthus, as that of his queen was Astarte, or, according to others, Saosis, though some call her Nemanoun, which answers to the Greek name Athenais.
"Isis fed the child by giving it her finger to suck instead of the breast; she likewise put him every night into the fire in order to consume his mortal part, whilst transforming herself into a swallow, she hovered round the pillar and bemoaned her sad fate. Thus continued she to do for some time, till the queen, who stood watching her, observing the child to be all in a flame, cryed out, and thereby deprived him of that immortality which would otherwise have been conferred upon him. The Goddess upon this, discovering herself, requested that the pillar, which supported the roof, might be given her; which she accordingly took down, and then easily cutting it open, after she had taken, out what she wanted, she wrapped up the remainder of the trunk in fine linnen, and pouring perfumed oil upon it, delivered it again into the hands of the king and queen (which piece of wood is to this day preserved in the temple of Isis, and worshipped by the people of Byblos). When this was done, she threw herself upon the chest, making at the same time such a loud and terrible lamentation over it, as frightened the younger of the king's sons, who heard her, out of his life. But the elder of them she took with, her and set sail with the chest for Egypt; and it being now about morning, the river Phaedrus sending forth a rough and sharp air, she in her anger dried up its current.
"No sooner was she arrived at a desart place, where she imagined herself to be alone, but she presently opened the chest, and laying her face upon her dead husband's, embraced his corpse, and wept bitterly; but, perceiving that the little boy had silently stolen behind her, and found out the occasion of her grief, she turned herself about on the sudden, and in her anger gave him so fierce and stern a look that he immediately died of the affright. Others indeed say that his death did not happen in this manner, but, as was hinted above, that he fell into the sea, and afterwards received the greatest honours on account of the Goddess; for that the Maneros, [Footnote: A son of the first Egyptian king, who died in his early youth; see Herodotus, ii. 79.] whom the Egyptians so frequently call upon in their banquets, is none other than this very boy. This relation is again contradicted by such as tell us that the true name of the child was Palaestinus, or Pelusius, and that the city of this name was built by the Goddess in memory of him; adding farther, that the Maneros above mentioned is thus honoured by the Egyptians at their feasts, because he was the first who invented music. There are others, again, who affirm that Maneros is not the name of any particular person, but a mere customary form, and complimental manner of greeting made use of by the Egyptians one towards another at their more solemn feasts and banquets, meaning no more by it, than to wish, that what they were then about might prove fortunate and happy to them, for that this is the true import of the word. In like manner, say they, the human skeleton, which at these times of jollity is carried about in a box, and shewn to all the guests, is not designed, as some imagine, to represent the particular misfortunes of Osiris, but rather to remind them of their mortality, and thereby to excite them freely to make use of and to enjoy the good things which are set before them, seeing they must quickly become such as they there saw; and that this is the true reason of introducing it at their banquets—but to proceed in the narration.
"Isis intending a visit to her son Orus, who was brought up at Butus, deposited the chest in the meanwhile in a remote and unfrequented place: Typho however, as he was one night hunting by the light of the moon, accidentally met with it; and knowing the body which was enclosed in it, tore it into several pieces, fourteen, in all, dispersing them up and down, in different parts of the country—Upon being made acquainted with this event, Isis once more sets out in search of the scattered fragments of her husband's body, making use of a boat made of the reed Papyrus in order the more easily to pass thro' the lower and fenny parts of the country—For which, reason, say they, the crocodile never touches any persons, who sail in this sort of vessels, as either fearing the anger of the goddess, or else respecting it on account of its having once carried her. To this occasion therefore is it to be imputed, that there are so many different sepulchres of Osiris shewn, in Egypt; for we are told, that wherever Isis met with any of the scattered limbs of her husband, she there buried it. There are others however who contradict this relation, and tell us, that this variety of Sepulchres was owing rather to the policy of the queen, who, instead of the real body, as was pretended, presented these several cities with the image only of her husband: and that she did this, not only to render the honours, which would by this means be paid to his memory, more extensive, but likewise that she might hereby elude the malicious search of Typho; who, if he got the better of Orus in the war wherein they were going to be engaged, distracted by this multiplicity of Sepulchres, might despair of being able to find the true one—we are told moreover, that notwithstanding all her search, Isis was never able to recover the member of Osiris, which having been thrown into the Nile immediately upon its separation from the rest of the body, had been devoured by the Lepidotus, the Phagrus, and the Oxyrynchus, fish which of all others, for this reason, the Egyptians have in more especial avoidance. In order however to make some amends for the loss, Isis consecrated the Phallus made in imitation of it, and instituted a solemn festival to its memory, which is even, to this day observed by the Egyptians.
"After these things, Osiris returning from the other world, appeared to his son Orus, encouraged him to the battle, and at the same time instructed him in the exercise of arms. He then asked him, 'what he thought was the moat glorious action a man could perform?' to which Orua replied, 'to revenge the injuries offered to his father and mother.' He then asked him, 'what animal he thought most serviceable to a soldier?' and being answered 'a horse'; this raised the wonder of Osiris, so that he farther questioned him, 'why he preferred a horse before a lion?' because, adds Orus, 'tho' the lion be the more serviceable creature to one who stands in need of help, yet is the horse [Footnote: The horse does not appear to have been known in Egypt before the XVIIIth dynasty; this portion of Plutarch's version of the history of Osiris must, then, be later than B.C. 1500.] more useful in overtaking and cutting off a flying adversary.' These replies much rejoiced Osiris, as they showed him that his son was sufficiently prepared for his enemy—We are moreover told, that among the great numbers who were continually deserting from Typho's party was his concubine Thueris, and that a serpent pursuing her as she was coming over to Orus, was slain by her soldiers—the memory of which action, say they, is still preserved in that cord which is thrown into the midst of their assemblies, and then chopt into pieces—Afterwards it came to a battle between, them which lasted many days; but victory at length inclined to Orus, Typho himself being taken prisoner. Isis however, to whose custody he was committed, was so far from putting him to death, that she even loosed his bonds and set him at liberty. This action of his mother so extremely incensed Orus, that he laid hands upon her, and pulled off the ensign of royalty which she wore on her head; and instead thereof Hermes clapt on an helmet made in the shape of an oxe's head—After this, Typho publicly accused Orus of bastardy; but by the assistance of Hermes (Thoth) his legitimacy was fully established by the judgment of the Gods themselves—After this; there were two other battles fought between them, in both of which Typho had the worst. Furthermore, Isis is said to have accompanied with Osiris after his death, and in consequence hereof to have brought forth Harpocrates, who came into the world before his time, and lame in his lower limbs."
When we examine this story by the light of the results of hieroglyphic decipherment, we find that a large portion of it is substantiated by Egyptian texts: e.g., Osiris was the son of Seb and Nut; the Epact is known in the Calendars as "the five additional days of the year"; the five gods, Osiris, Horus, Set, Isis, and Nephthys, were born on the days mentioned by Plutarch; the 17th day of Athyr (Hathor) is marked as triply unlucky in the Calendars; the wanderings and troubles of Isis are described, and "lamentations" which she is supposed to have uttered are found in the texts; lists of the shrines of Osiris are preserved in several inscriptions; the avenging of his father by Horus is referred to frequently in papyri and other documents; the conflict between Set and Horus is described fully in a papyrus in the British Museum (No. 10,184); a hymn in the papyrus of Hunefer relates all that Thoth performed for Osiris; and the begetting of Horus by Osiris after death is mentioned in a hymn to Osiris dating from the XVIIIth dynasty in the following passage:—
"Thy sister put forth her protecting power for thee, she scattered abroad those who were her enemies, she drove away evil hap, she pronounced mighty words of power, she made cunning her tongue, and her words failed not. The glorious Isis was perfect in command and in speech, and she avenged her brother. She sought him without ceasing, she wandered round and round the earth uttering cries of pain, and she rested (or alighted) not until she had found him. She overshadowed him with her feathers, she made air (or wind) with her wings, and she uttered cries at the burial of her brother. She raised up the prostrate form of him whose heart was still, she took from him of his essence, she conceived and brought forth a child, she suckled it in secret, and none knew the place thereof; and the arm of the child hath waxed strong in the great house of Seb. The company of the gods rejoice, and are glad at the coming of Osiris's son Horus, and firm of heart and triumphant is the son of Isis, the heir of Osiris." [Footnote: This remarkable hymn was first made known by Chabas, who published a translation of it, with notes, in Revue Archeologique, Paris, 1857, t. xiv. p. 65 ff.]
presenting the symbol of "life" to Isis. 4. The goddess Nekhebet presenting years, and life, stability, power, and sovereignty to the son of Osiris. 5. The goddess Sati presenting periods of years, and life, stability, power, and sovereignty to the son of Osiris.]
What form the details of the history of Osiris took in the early dynasties it is impossible to say, and we know not whether Osiris was the god of the resurrection to the predynastic or prehistoric Egyptians, or whether that role was attributed to him after Mena began to rule in Egypt. There is, however, good reason for assuming that in the earliest dynastic times he occupied the position of god and judge of those who had risen from the dead by his help, for already in the IVth dynasty, about B.C. 3800, king Mea-kau-Rā (the Mycerinus of the Greeks) is identified with him, and on his coffin not only is he called "Osiris, King of the South and North, Men-kau-Rā, living for ever," but the genealogy of Osiris is attributed to him, and he is declared to be "born of heaven, offspring of Nut, flesh and bone of Seb." It is evident that the priests of Heliopolis "edited" the religious texts copied and multiplied in the College to suit their own views, but in the early times when they began their work, the worship of Osiris was so widespread, and the belief in him as the god of the resurrection so deeply ingrained in the hearts of the Egyptians, that even in the Heliopolitan system of theology Osiris and his cycle, or company of gods, were made to hold a very prominent position. He represented to men the idea of a man who was both god and man, and he typified to the Egyptians in all ages the being who by reason of his sufferings and death as a man could sympathize with them in their own sickness and death. The idea of his human personality also satisfied their cravings and yearnings for intercourse with a being who, though he was partly divine, yet had much in common with themselves. Originally they looked upon Osiris as a man who lived on the earth as they lived, who ate and drank, who suffered a cruel death, who by the help of certain gods triumphed over death, and attained unto everlasting life. But what Osiris did they could do, and what the gods did for Osiris they must also do for them, and as the gods brought about his resurrection so they must bring about theirs, and as they made him the ruler of the underworld so they must make them to enter his kingdom and to live there as long as the god himself lived. Osiris, in some of his aspects, was identified with the Nile, and with Rā, and with several other "gods" known to the Egyptians, but it was in his aspect as god of the resurrection and of eternal life that he appealed to men in the valley of the Nile; and for thousands of years men and women died believing that, inasmuch as all that was done for Osiris would be done for them symbolically, they like him would rise again, and inherit life everlasting. However far back we trace religious ideas in Egypt, we never approach a time when it can be said that there did not exist a belief in the Resurrection, for everywhere it is assumed that Osiris rose from the dead; sceptics must have existed, and they probably asked their priests what the Corinthians asked Saint Paul, "How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?" But beyond doubt the belief in the Resurrection was accepted by the dominant classes in Egypt. The ceremonies which the Egyptians performed with the view of assisting the deceased to pass the ordeal of the judgment, and to overcome his enemies in the next world, will be described elsewhere, as also will be the form in which the dead were raised up; we therefore return to the theological history of Osiris.