Religion in ancient Egypt

The Religion of the Egyptians

Next to its language the oldest possession of a nation is its religion. Living in a country of very distinct outlines and characteristic forms, where the regularity of external life is brought more prominently before the view than in other countries, the Egyptians at an early period arrived at a fixed expression of their religious feelings and of the forms of their gods. Their original conceptions are unknown to us. The oldest monuments, our earliest sources of information, present us with a numerous assemblage of gods, and the conclusions drawn from these carry us back to views far removed from primitive forms of worship. They indicate a system already developed in the circle of the priests. We can only attempt from the fragments of that system preserved in inscriptions and manuscripts, and the very late accounts of the Greeks, to deduce conclusions concerning the religious notions which originally predominated.

The distinction in the nature of the upper and lower valley, already referred to, cannot have been without influence upon the direction of civic life among the Egyptians, and the formation of their religious ideas. So far as we can tell, these developed independently at the same time in the upper and lower country. In both districts peculiar forms wereretained at the most prominent centres of religious worship, until after the union of the country they became amalgamated in all essential points.

Memphis worshipped the god Ptah. The great sanctuary of the god at that city was held to be as ancient as the city itself. So far back as our knowledge extends, the Pharaohs were occupied with the extension and adornment of this temple. Among the Greeks the god of Memphis was known as Hephæstus: they tell us he was represented in the temple by a dwarf-like image; and that similar images of the children of Ptah stood in a part of the temple only entered by the priests.[34] The name Hephæstus, and the further statement of the Greeks, that this god was the father of the Sun-god, prove that in Ptah the Egyptians worshipped not only fire, but the spirit of warmth and light generally; and that they must have regarded him as the origin and source of light.

Manetho puts Ptah at the head of the dynasties of the gods. He ruled for 9,000 years before the other gods. Inscriptions name Ptah "the lord of truth," the "father of truth," the "ruler of the sky," "the king of both worlds." As the god of the light which shows everything in its true form, he is the spirit of truth; as the spirit of the light in the sky, he is the lord of heaven. The inscriptions also say that Ptah "moves the egg of the sun and the moon;" he is called "the weaver of the beginnings," the "god who rolls his egg in the sky." Consequently, to the Egyptians Ptah was the mover of the luminaries, a formative, creative spirit, and as he is called in the inscriptions "the father of the father of the gods," he must have been to them the first and oldest god, the beginning of the gods and of all things.

The Egyptians believed that a kind of beetle peculiar to their country (scarabæus sacer ) was propagated without the female sex; they saw the mode of its reproduction in the balls of dung which the beetles occasionally pushed before them. Hence they consecrated this insect to their god of beginning and creation, and on monuments and records we find the god Ptah with a beetle on his shoulders, in the place of a human head. As the god of the beginning he appears on monuments in the shape of a child or dwarf; and again, as the unchangeable god, he is wrapped in the casings of a mummy, with the symbols of dominion, the whip and sceptre, or the so-called Nile-gauge, a ring with parallel cross bars, in his hand, in order to denote him as the god who gives to all things measure, order, and law. He is also coloured green, to signify, as it would seem, that lie is a god favourable to vegetation, and possessed of a fertilising power.

Thus Ptah was one of the forms under which the Egyptians invoked the creator, the highest god. On a pillar of Memphis, now in the Berlin Museum, belonging to the time of the nineteenth dynasty, he is called "the only unbegotten begetter in the heaven and on the earth," "the god who made himself to be god, who exists by himself, the double being, the begetter of the first beginning." Other inscriptions and records denote him as "the creator in heaven and on earth, who has made all things, the lord of all that is, and is not."[35]

Below Memphis lay On, the city of the sun (Heliopolis). Here the spirit of the sun, Ra, was the pre-eminent god. In Manetho's list Ra succeeds Ptah in the kingdom. "The Egyptians," says Plutarch, "regard the sun as the body of the beneficent power, the visible form of a being only comprehensible to thought. The morning sun they represented as a new-born child seated on a lotus leaf, and thrice each day—at sunrise, noon, and sunset—they offered incense to Helius."[36] We also find that the Egyptians represented the sun of the winter months as a little child, the sun of the vernal equinox as a youth, that of the summer solstice as a bearded man, and again, the sun of the autumnal equinox as an old man.[37] Hence they looked at the yearly course of the sun under the allegory of human life. Plutarch's remark about the morning sun shows that they regarded the daily course of the sun from the same point of view, and when he tells us that according to Egyptian story, Apopis made war against the god of the sky,[38] his statements are confirmed by the monuments. According to the inscriptions Ra is "revealed in the abyss of the sky," he is throned "in the orb of the sun," "he moves his egg." "A Supplication to Ra"—such are the words of a prayer—"who each day by himself brings himself to a new birth. Ra has created all that is in the abysses of the sky."[39] In the tombs of the Ramesids, at Thebes, the course of the sun is represented by the hour of the day and night. On the form of the blue outstretched goddess of the sky appears the boat of the sun, for the Egyptians conceived the sun as navigating the air in a skiff, as they navigated the Nile; and in the boat is Ra, a child with finger in mouth at the first hour of the morning. As the day goes on the child increases in size, and at every hour the spirits who lead the boat are changed. In the hours of the afternoon the evil serpent, Apep, the darkness, the Apopis of Plutarch, attempts to swallow the sun, but twelve spirits draw the serpent by ropes to the side. In the hours of the night the sun-god is inclosed in his shrine on the boat, which is carried along by spirits changing every hour over the waters of the under world to the east—just as the boats on the Nile are drawn against the stream—so that he may again shine out in the east on the next morning. The hieroglyphics accompanying the navigation of the night hours contain seventy-four invocations of Ra in Amenti, i. e. in his concealment. In a similar way the monuments of Edfu exhibit the growth of the sun-god through the twelve hours of the day from a child to a youth and a man, and an old man bowed with age, leaning upon a staff. This last is called in the inscriptions, "The old man who becomes again a child."[40]

The monuments exhibit Ra in red, with the sun's orb on his head, a sceptre in one hand, and the symbol of life in the other. The cat, the tawny bull, and the hawk are the chosen creatures of Ra; often he is found on the monuments with the head of a hawk in the place of the human head, or as a hawk carrying the sun's orb. All the entrances of the temple and the pylons display the symbolical form of the deity, the sun's orb, supported by two wings. From the sun-god the kings of Egypt derived their might and power. They generally call themselves "the sons of Ra," and they rule over Egypt as Ra rules over the world.

Hence we can assume that to the minds of the priests Ptah was essentially the deity of beginning, the first originator of creation. Ra again was the propagating and sustaining power of the divinity embodied in the sun.

At Hermopolis (Ashmunein), besides Thoth, whom the Greeks compared to their Hermes, and the inscriptions name the "Lord of divine truth," the "scribe of truth," to whom the white Ibis with black neck and beak is sacred, the "children of Ptah" were worshipped. These were eight gods in four pairs. Owing to this worship Hermopolis was known to the Egyptians as Pe-sesennu, i. e. "the city of reverence." These children of Ptah seem to have been spirits of the elements. In an inscription at Edfu we find, "The eight gods, the very great, who are from the beginning, created before the gods, the children of Ptah, arising through him, begotten of him, to take possession of the south and the north, to create in the Thebaid, and fashion in the land of Memphis. When they arose the stream flowed out from the young waters, the child of the lotus flower rose up in the boat, the beautiful one, making this earth bright by his beams."[41]

At Sais, at Buto, on the Sebennytic mouth, and at Bubastis (Tel Basta), on the Pelusiac arm of the Nile, female goddesses were worshipped. To the feast of the goddess of Sais, whom the Greeks called Athene, the Egyptians came from the whole country, as Herodotus tells us, to Sais, and lighted lamps on the appointed night, and even those who did not come to Sais lit lamps, so that lamps were burning throughout all Egypt.[42] Jamblichus and Proclus tell us that the goddess of Sais, the Neith of the Egyptians, was the mother of the sun-god; the inscriptions call Neith "the cow which bore the sun," "ancient mother of the sun," "mother of the gods." Hence we may assume that Neith was associated with Ptah, whose green colour she shares on the monuments; and that the creative power of nature was personified in her under a female form. The feast of lamps may have symbolised the birth of light, and its rise from the darkness.[43] The goddess of Buto, who was also worshipped at Letopolis, near Memphis, was compared by the Greeks with their goddess Leto, whose child was Apollo, the spirit of light, because at Buto the victorious god of light of the Egyptians, of whom we shall speak below, was said to have grown up.[44]

The sanctuary of the goddess at Bubastis was, according to Herodotus' account, the most delightful, though not the largest or most costly, in the whole of Egypt. It was situated in the middle of the city, and could be seen from every side. "Beyond the market-place a paved road, about forty feet in width, leads to the shrine, which is overshadowed by trees on both sides. The precincts, a place of about a stadium square, is surrounded with a trench one hundred feet broad; this is connected with the Nile, and also planted with trees. The portico is ten fathoms high, and adorned with statues six cubits in height, and well worth description. On the external walls pictures are everywhere engraved, and the temple in which the statue of the goddess stands is also surrounded by very lofty trees. At the festival of the goddess the Egyptians from all the land go down in boats to Bubastis: in every boat is a number of men and women; some of the men blow the flute; some of the women have castanets, and strike them; the rest sing and clap their hands. The boat touches at every city on the river bank; and here also the women sing and strike their castanets, while others follow the women of the city with shouts and raillery; others, again, dance; others expose themselves. On arriving at Bubastis, they bring large offerings to the goddess, and drink more wine at this festival than in all the rest of the year. According to the accounts of the Egyptians, about 700,000 men and women are collected at this festival, without counting children.[45]

Herodotus calls the goddess of Bubastis Artemis: her Egyptian name was Bast and Pacht; and the city was called after her Pa-Bast, i. e. "abode of Bast." On monuments this goddess has the sun's disk upon her head, or, in the place of a human head, the head of a cat, which animal was sacred to her. At Heliopolis there was a picture of Ra in the form of a he-cat;[46] and in the inscription Pacht is called the daughter of Ra. Ra was invoked to come to the help of his daughter, the holy she-cat, who was panic-stricken by the snake which approached heaven in order to tread upon the path of the sun-god, and to defile the limbs of the holy she-cat.[47] In the sketches in the "Book of the Dead" we find a she-cat, with the right forefoot upon the head of a serpent, and in the left a broad knife, with which she is cutting off the head of the serpent.[48] The account given by Herodotus of the customs observed at the festival are confirmed from other sources. The monuments exhibit musicians, whose music is accompanied by the audience with clapping of the hands; and Plutarch describes the castanets of the Egyptians adorned with the figure of a human-headed she-cat, the sound of which was intended to scare away the evil spirit.[49]

In the upper country other deities were worshipped. At Thebes, Amun, known to the Greeks as Ammon, took the place occupied by Ptah at Memphis. Hecatæus of Abdera relates that the Egyptians identified their supreme god with the universe, but the god was invisible and concealed.[50] Amun, as a fact, signifies "the concealed" or "veiled." The monuments of Thebes exhibit him as a creative god with the Phallus, as a ruling deity either standing or sitting on a throne; on his royal head-dress are two upright feathers, which to the Egyptians were the symbol of dominion over the upper and under world, and in his hand are the sceptre and the symbol of life. His colour is blue. By his side stands the goddess Mut; the "mother," the "lady of darkness," as the inscriptions [51] style her. She wears on her head the vulture, or the crown of Upper Egypt. She is also found on inscriptions with the head of a vulture, the bird sacred to her, instead of a human head; and in pictures of battles the vulture of Mut hovers over the Pharaoh as the symbol of protection. Theson of Ammon and Mut is Shu (Sosis, Sos), the spirit of the atmosphere, "the bearer of heaven," as the inscriptions name him.[52] This (Thinis) and Abydus were the chief seats of his worship. In Manetho's list the reign of Shu follows on those of Ptah and Ra.

In the place of Ammon we often find another divinity, Tum (Atmu.) This was the sun-god in a special form. In Upper Egypt the spirit of the sun was invoked under the names Tum and Mentu. Of these names the first signified the declining sun, the sun of the west, the sun of concealment, the sun in the under world; the second the rising sun, the sun of the east, the sun of the day, the bright sun-god. Tum also wears the double crown, and the two feathers of Ammon, or in the place of them the two royal serpents round his head-dress; he also is lord of both kingdoms. Like Ptah, he is "the father of beginnings, who begot himself," "the father of the gods;" like him also he is formed with the beetle in the place of the human head; as the creative god he is the creator of his name, i. e. of his properties; he is the primæval night, the darkness of the beginning, before light existed. To him also belonged the primæval water. According to Plutarch, the Egyptians believed that the sun arose out of moisture, that it sprang up out of water, and was nourished by it, and therefore water was the beginning and origin of things. This account is confirmed by the monuments. As light in the process of production, Tum is called "Ra in his egg;" and as the spirit of light arising out of darkness and water, the horologe and the sun-dial are his insignia.[53]

At Coptus, in Upper Egypt, a phallic god was worshipped under the name Chem, whom the Greeks compared to their god Pan, and at the falls of Syene a ram-headed god, Chnum (Chnemu, Chnuphis, Kneph), who in inscriptions is named the lord of the "inundations," of the "outpouring of the waters."[54] As a giver of fruits, the colour of his pictures on the monuments is generally green. In the eyes of the inhabitants of Upper Egypt Chnum was, according to the account of Plutarch, an uncreated eternal spirit.[55] We must therefore regard him as a peculiar form of the life-giving god. Chnum was often united with Ammon, inasmuch as the latter assumes the attributes of Chnum, the ram's horns or even head.[56] As the worship of Ammon passed beyond Egypt up the Nile as far as Meroe, so the worship of Ammon-Chnum spread westward in the Libyan desert as far as the oasis of Siwa, where the inhabitants were called by the Greeks Ammonians. Here, even now, in the vicinity of a clear pool surrounded by lofty palms, the remains of a considerable temple are to be seen, with hieroglyphic inscriptions, and the picture of the ram-headed deity.[57]

The worship of the goddess Hathor was widely diffused both in Upper and Lower Egypt. The most renowned seats of the cultus were Aphroditopolis, near Memphis; Edfu and Dendera, in Upper Egypt. She is called in the inscriptions "the lady of the dance and revel," and is represented on the monuments with fetters and a tambourine in her hands. From this and from her Grecian name we may conclude that she was the Egyptian goddess of love, of the enchaining passion; but though we find in her form hints of a more individual and lively fancy, the natural power of maternity in general is by far the most prominent conception. She is represented with the horns of a cow—her sacred animal—on her head, and between them the moon's disk; or entirely as a cow. In the rock-temple at Abusimbel, which the wife of Ramses II. dedicated to Hathor, she is represented as a cow in a boat, over which water-plants meet in arches. To this cow the king and queen offer flowers and fruits.[58] In the temple at Edfu, a structure of the Ptolemies, 360 local forms of Hathor are said to have been enumerated and among these seven were especially prominent.

It was the beneficent, creative, and life-giving powers of nature which the Egyptians worshipped in these divinities—water, light, the clear heaven, the sun, the powers of reproduction and birth. But the phenomena and the powers presented by nature were not in every case beneficent. Night swallowed up day, and death swallowed up life. Beside the waters and the black fruitful soil of Egypt lay the boundless yellow desert, from which storms blew the sand into the green valley. In the hot months, the sun blazed with a devouring and scorching heat, the flowers withered; and the powers of nature failed in the winter. Thus in the life of nature there was a strife between malignant and beneficent powers, a strife in which nevertheless the beneficent powers always gained the upper hand. Out of night arose a new day; out of the death of nature in winter blossomed forth new increase, fruitfulness, and life. Through this conception of a strife raging between the healing and destructive powers of nature, by regarding nature as moving in a circular course from life to death, and death to life, the Egyptians succeeded in making a great advance in their religious ideas. They personified this strife in certain divine forms. The beneficent power, the divinity of life was allowed to succumb, and then to rise from apparent death into a new life. Only for a moment could the evil powers vanquish the good; the eternal victory remained with the gods of beneficence.

After Helius, Hephæstus, Ammon, and Hermes, says Diodorus,[59] Cronos and his sister Rhea ruled. These became the parents of Isis and Osiris, of Typhon, Apollo, and Aphrodite. Plutarch tells us that, according to the legend of the Egyptians, Rhea and Cronos were the parents of Osiris and Isis, of Typhon and Nephthys. Osiris ruled happily over Egypt; but Typhon conspired against him with seventy-two associates; they inclosed Osiris in a chest and threw it into the Nile, and the stream carried it down to the sea. When Isis heard of it, she put on mourning, and sought with lamentation the body of Osiris. At last she found the chest in the neighbourhood of Byblus, where the sea had cast it up; she mourned over the corpse and carried it back to Egypt. And when Horus, the son of Isis and Osiris, who grew up in Buto, came to his full strength, he prepared to avenge the wrong which Typhon had done to his father and mother. Thrice he fought with Typhon; the battle raged for many days, and Horus conquered.[60]

According to the accounts of Herodotus and Diodorus, Osiris (Dionysus) and Horus (the Apollo of the Greeks) were the last rulers of the divine race.[61] In the list of Manetho, Ptah was followed in the kingdom by Ra and Shu (or, according to the Theban account, by Ammon, Tum, and Shu), Cronos, Osiris, Typhon, and Horus. These then are the younger gods; the evidence of the monuments shows that they were connected by race with each other, but not akin to the three gods who ruled before them. And as we also find that the five supplementary days added in the Egyptian year to the original number of 360 (p. 29 ) were dedicated to these gods, the first to Osiris, the second to Horus, the third to Typhon, the fourth to Isis, the fifth to Nephthys—the natural conclusion is that these gods were of later origin.[62] On the other hand it is clear that the belief in Osiris and his power had already arisen at the time when the great pyramids were erected.

The two gods at the head of this circle, whom Diodorus and Plutarch call Cronos and Rhea, were known to the Egyptians under the names Seb and Nut.[63] They are the spirits of the earth and sky. Osiris himself in the inscriptions and records is called "the king of the gods," "the lord of unnumbered days," "the king of life," "the regulator of eternity." The inscription on the lid of a coffin runs thus—"Ra gave thee the richly streaming light which gleams in thy eyes. Shu gave thee the pleasant air which in thy lifetime was inhaled in thy nostrils. Seb gave thee all fruits whereon thou livest. Osiris gave thee the Nile-water whereon thou livest."[64] As a life-giving god, the colour of Osiris is green; his sacred tree is the evergreen tamarisk; and his sacred bird a kind of heron, distinguished by two long feathers at the back of the head. Osiris is always represented in a human form, and with a human head.

The chief seats of the worship of Osiris were Philæ and Abydus, in Upper Egypt. In the temple on the island of Philæ, formed by the Nile above Syene, the history of the god was represented.[65] On a little island close by, where only the priests might tread, lay the grave of Osiris, overshadowed by tamarisks;[66] here were libations offered to him, and Diodorus tells us that in Upper Egypt no more sacred form of oath was known than the oath by Osiris who rests at Philæ.[67] In the temple of Osiris at Abydus (Arabat-el-Medfuneh) the wealthy Egyptians sought to be buried, that they might rest in the vicinity of the god's grave. In Lower Egypt Osiris [68] was worshipped in the cities of Memphis, Sais,[69] and Busiris. At Busiris (the name Pe-osiri meant "abode of Osiris"), on the Sebennytic arm of the Nile, in the middle of the Delta—it was the chief city of the district of Busiris—was situated the largest temple of Isis, as we learn from Herodotus, and here also, according to other evidence, the grave of Osiris was to be found.[70] Here the whole land worshipped this god and goddess.[71] Thousands of men and women assembled, according to Herodotus, made lamentation for Osiris, and brought an offering to the greatest goddess (Isis). Amid prayers the bull was flayed, the thighs and other parts cut out, and a part of the belly filled with bread, honey, and incense; these were drenched plentifully with oil, and set on fire, and so long as the sacrifice burned the people lamented. When the lamentation ended, the remainder of the sacrifice was eaten.[72] Plutarch says that with Osiris the Egyptians lamented the receding of the Nile, the ceasing of the cool north wind, the death of vegetation, and decrease in the length of the day. On the 17th Athyr, the day on which Typhon slew Osiris (on this day the sun passes through the Scorpion), the priests instituted rites of lamentation, and, among other things, as a sign of the sorrow of Isis, they exhibited for four days a gilded cow, covered with a black veil of byssus—for the cow was the Egyptian symbol of this goddess. On the 19th Athyr, in the night, they went down to the sea, and the priests brought out the chest, and the congregation cried, "Osiris is found!"[73] Moreover, according to Plutarch, the holy rites represented the burial of Osiris: in these the wood was cut for the chest, the linen torn for cerements, and libations poured. A serpent was also slain in effigy.[74] About the time of the winter solstice, as Plutarch tells us in another place, the Egyptians carried "the cow," i. e. Isis, seven times round the temple, and this procession was called the search for Osiris.[75] On the monuments the Isis worshipped with Osiris appears generally in a youthful shape, with the horns of a cow on her head, the moon's disk between the horns, with the flower-sceptre and symbol of life in her hands. The inscriptions denote her as the "royal consort," the "great goddess." An image in which she was represented in the form of a cow was seen by Herodotus in the royal palace of the last Pharaohs at Sais. "In a beautifully-adorned chamber lay the wooden image of a cow, resting on her knees, not larger than a full-grown cow. The body was covered with a purple robe; on the neck and head could be seen the thick gilding, and between the horns a golden disk. Every day incense was burned before the image; and at night a lamp was kindled before it. Once a year," continues Herodotus, "this cow was carried out into the open, when the Egyptians lamented the god, whose name I do not think proper to mention now."[76]

Osiris and Isis, the spirits of blessing and life, were attacked by Typhon. Plutarch observes that the Egyptians called Typhon Set,[77] and this statement is confirmed by the inscriptions. The colour of Set was burning red,[78] like the glowing sun in the dust of the desert; the ass was the sacred animal of this god, and a peculiarly-formed animal his symbol on the monuments. In poisonous serpents also the Egyptians saw this destructive deity, and they brought the crocodile and hippopotamus into association with him. The third of the five additional days of the year (p. 29 ), which belonged to Set, was to the Egyptians an unlucky day.[79] On a papyrus he is called "the almighty destroyer and blighter,"[80] and with this agrees the statement of Plutarch, that Typhon, according to the Egyptians, had filled the whole earth and sea—which they call "the foam of Typhon"—with evils; and they considered all animals, trees, and vegetables, all incidents of a harmful and destructive nature to be works, parts and actions of Typhon.[81]

The evil god can limit and overcome the beneficent power of nature, but not for ever. Osiris had left behind a young son, who could hold Typhon in check, though unable to suppress him entirely. Horus, as Plutarch tells us, was born about the time of the winter solstice, and the festival of the delivery of Isis was celebrated at the time of the vernal equinox.[82] On the monuments we find Horus (Har), "the avenger of his father Osiris," as the inscriptions call him, represented as a naked child, with finger on lip, sitting on a lotus-leaf, or on a crook, the symbol of dominion. Hence he is the young Horus, the Harpocrates of the Greeks, the Harpechruti—i. e., "Har, the child"—of the Egyptians. Then, according to the legend, he grows up at Buto; he becomes a handsome youth, the strong Horus (Har-ver, Arveris of the Greeks), the "great helper," the "pillar of the world." In the temple at Philæ we see him pouring libations before the bier of Osiris; on other monuments he guides the sun's bark through the hours of the day.[83] At Hermopolis, as Plutarch tells us, a hippopotamus was to be seen, on which a hawk—the sacred bird of Horus, in which form the god is often represented—fought with a serpent; and, according to the belief of the Egyptians, Typhon escaped from Horus in the shape of a crocodile.[84] The monuments represent Horus on the sun-boat in the act of stabbing a serpent with a human head,[85] i. e., Apopis, the serpent Apep; or standing on crocodiles with serpents in his hands; or as a winged sun's disk contending with a hippopotamus. In an invocation of Horus, belonging to the fourth century B.C., we find the following: "Come to me quickly on this day to guide the holy bark (the sun's-boat), to force back all lions to the land of Egypt, and all crocodiles into the Nile. Shamelessness and sin (?) come and appear upon earth; but when Horus is invoked he destroys them. All mankind rejoice when they see the sun. They praise the son of Osiris, and the serpent turns back."[86] Hence to the Egyptians Horus was the triumphant god of light (Har-phre, Horus-sun), who subdues gloom, and winter, and drought. As a victorious god arousing fresh life, he gives to the kings of Egypt life and victory. The Greeks called the Egyptian Ra Helius, and Horus Apollo; and these names correspond to the Egyptian conception of these deities. The chief seats of the worship of Horus were the two cities which the Greeks called the great and little cities of Apollo (Edfu and Kus) and Ombus. At Edfu Hathor was worshipped beside Horus (p. 52 ).

Plutarch tells us that Isis, in the minds of the Egyptians, was the female receptive part of nature. Osiris was the light, Typhon the darkness, the obscuration of the sun and the moon; Osiris was the fruit-giving Nile-water, Typhon the salt and barren sea; Osiris was moisture, Typhon drought, the parching wind, which overcomes and consumes moisture; Osiris was health, Typhon disease; Osiris was the orderly, unchanging; Typhon the passionate, irrational, and giant-like; disturbances, blight, and tempest.[87] It is incorrect, Plutarch observes, in conclusion, to call water, the sun, or the earth and sky Osiris and Isis; and not less so to call the glowing sun and hot wind Typhon. If we merely ascribe to Typhon all that is immoderate or irregular in these, whether in the way of excess or defect, and hold in reverence and honour all that is orderly and good and useful as the work of Isis, as the image, likeness, and essence of Osiris, we shall hardly go wrong.[88]

Thus there can be little doubt about the meaning of the myth. When the Nile receded and the sirocco from the south drove back the refreshing north wind, when the hot days—for these are the seventy-two fellow-conspirators of Typhon—parched up the soil; then had Typhon struck down Osiris. Then, as Plutarch says, "the Egyptians bewailed the decay of the fruits, and prayed the gods to send new in the place of those that were gone, and allow them to spring forth again." When the seed was cast into the ground, the Egyptians buried Osiris: but the sacred rites were an imitation of the sufferings of Isis, and the incidents which occurred when the body was deposited in the tomb. The progressive decay of productive power towards the north during the hot days, and the winter, which was indicated in the myth by the carrying of the corpse of Osiris to the sea, and the custom of carrying the chest to the coast (p. 57 ), is part of the Egyptian conception; that Isis discovers the body at Byblus on the Phenician coast is probably an invention of the Greeks, who confounded the Phenician horned goddess Astarte, Ashtaroth Karnaim, with Isis. When Egypt was againfertilised by the inundation, when the days began to lengthen after the winter solstice, when the sun shone with fresh brightness, and the new fruit budded forth, then Horus, the child born about the winter solstice, waxed strong at Buto in the north of Egypt—then he overcame Typhon. The renewed power of the sun, the returning life of nature, the fresh blessings of the new year—these are the avenging son of Osiris.

When the creative and receptive powers of nature had thus been comprehended in the forms of Osiris and Isis, the divinities in whom creative power and receptivity had hitherto been perceived naturally coalesced with these forms to a greater or less degree. Thus Ptah of Memphis, Tum of Thebes, the sun-god of Heliopolis, are combined with Osiris (the title Ptah-Osiris is not uncommon in the inscriptions,) though they are also retained as separate deities. Thus also Isis is identified with Neith of Sais, with Mut of Thebes, with Hathor, with Bast,[89] the goddess of Bubastis. Horus, again, is identified with Chem and Ra, though at the same time his personality as the youthful, vigorous spirit of light is strongly marked. Plutarch is certainly right in his remark that the Egyptians regard Osiris as the personification of everything in heaven and the under world.[90] All the other deities were transfigurations and manifestations of Osiris, mere modifications of his nature. When Osiris is called the soul of Ra,[91] this can hardly have any other meaning but this, that the appearance of the sun-god in the visible world is an incarnation of the invisible nature of Osiris.

The Egyptians often represented their deities with the heads, or in the shape of, the animals sacred to them; that is, they recognised the nature of the deities who were primarily conceived under the form of men, in the races of the beasts which they allotted to them. To the Egyptians these animals must have appeared so closely and intimately connected with the deity to which they belonged, that the nature of the deity was better expressed and made more visible in the shape of the beast than in the shape of man. We must assume that the predominance of a distinct mark or characteristic property in the races of animals, that their simple, uniformly instinctive life created this conception in the mind of the Egyptians, to whom a fixed and unalterable course of action, an unchanging and typical nature, was the ideal. The force of nature, the regular recurrence of certain phenomena, coalesced in the Egyptian mind with the blind, unchanging action of animals. Yet animals were also seen to possess freedom and movement, and an individual existence. This combination of the type and the individual must have seemed to the Egyptians to correspond to the nature of their deities. The mystery of life, the natural law, which lay at the base of their worship, must for them have reached its most distinct and lively realisation in these animals.

The bull is the sacred animal of the creative gods: the cow of the goddesses of birth and receptivity; the ram is sacred to Chnum; the hawk and the cat to the deities of light and the sun; the beetle to Ptah; a kind of heron to Osiris; the vulture to Ptah and Isis; a kind of ibis to Thoth; the dog-ape to Anubis, the "ruler in the west;[92]" the crocodile to the god Sebek, who was worshipped at Arsinoe, &c., &c. Herodotus tells us that when a cat died in a house, all the inhabitants shaved their eyebrows; and that at conflagrations the Egyptians directed all their attention to saving the cats, not to quenching the flames, and if, in spite of their efforts, a cat leapt into the flames and was burnt, the Egyptians made a great lamentation.[93] "To each of the races of the sacred animals," says Diodorus, "a certain piece of land is consecrated, the products of which suffice for the food and tending of the race. Those entrusted with the care of each race have to feed them. To feed the hawks they cut up pieces of flesh, and call loudly to the birds till they come and take their food. The cats they coax by giving them bread and milk, or chopped fish from the Nile, and thus provide them with suitable food. These duties they do not scruple to perform before the whole people; on the contrary, they are proud of them as of the highest offices which they can attain to in the service of the gods. With special symbols to distinguish them, they proceed through town and country, and as it is known from the symbols what animal it is whose servants are approaching, all who meet them bow the knee and pay homage. If one of the animals dies, it is wrapped in a costly covering, and, amid loud lamentations and beating of the breast, it is carried away to embalment. Steeped in oil of cedar, or any other kind remarkable for its scent and powers of preservation, the corpse is then buried in the holy sepulchres. Anyone who intentionally kills a sacred animal is punished with death; and everyone who has caused the death of an ibis or a cat, intentionally or unintentionally, must die, and is often killed in the most cruel manner, without any sentence passed upon him, by the collected mob. So deeply rooted is the reverence for sacred animals in the feeling of the people, so persistently does everyone cling to the worship of them, that even at the time when Ptolemy was not yet declared an ally by the Romans, and the nation was most anxious to pay respect to visitors from Italy, and to give no cause for war, when a Roman had unintentionally killed a cat, the mob gathered at his house, and neither the officers sent by the king to quiet them, nor the prevailing awe of the Romans, could protect him from their vengeance. This fact I have not received from hearsay: I was in Egypt and saw the occurrence. But what is done for the animals which are kept in the temples is easy to narrate, but difficult for anyone to believe who has not seen it."[94]

Among the races of animals which, according to Egyptian belief, shared in the nature of the deities to which they were sacred, were certain pre-eminent specimens. These were recognised by certain signs by the priests, and passed for a special incarnation of the deity. They were brought into his temple, and there worshipped and prayed to as his manifestation. The most sacred among these selected animals was Apis, the bull, in the temple of Ptah, at Memphis. According to the account of Herodotus, the Egyptians believed that a ray of light from heaven had impregnated the cow, which brought forth an Apis: by Plutarch, the impregnation is said to take place by a ray of the moon.[95] The priests recognized Apis in a black bull, which had a triangular white spot on the forehead, a fleshy growth under the tongue in the form of the sacred beetle of Ptah, white spots on his back in the shape of an eagle, and bi-coloured hairsin the tail.[96] When an Apis was found, he was, says Diodorus, in the first place brought for forty successive days to the meadow of the "city of the Nile" (Nilopolis), where women were shown to him, who were afterwards excluded from the sight of the Apis. Then he was conveyed on a boat in a golden shrine like a god to the temple of Ptah, at Memphis. There he was bathed in the holy place, and anointed, and the most precious frankincense was constantly burned before him. He received the most beautiful garments, the richest bedding-places, and the most handsome cows as his "bed-fellows"; the most distinguished men provided him with the best food at a very great expense. When the Apis died of old age he was honoured with a splendid funeral. "When, on the death of Alexander, Ptolemy, the son of Lagus, made himself master of Egypt, it happened that the Apis died, and the person entrusted with his care not only spent his own large fortune upon his burial, but borrowed, in addition, fifty talents from Ptolemy. Even in my own times certain feeders of the sacred animals have spent not less than one hundred talents on a single funeral."[97]

"The Egyptians," Diodorus remarks, "are of opinion that the soul of the dead Osiris passed into this bull, and thus continues among them, and will so continue among their descendants." Plutarch says that the Apis at Memphis was an image of the soul of Osiris. According to the usual account of the priests, Osiris and Apis were one; for they taught that the Apis was to be regarded as a fair image of the soul of Osiris. Strabo tells us, "The bull Apis, which is revered as a god, is the same as Osiris. The temple in which the Apis was kept stands beside the temple of Hephæstus (Ptah). There is also a temple of Serapis in that city, before which we saw sphinxes, buried in the sand, some to the middle, some to the neck."[98] Evidence from other sources, no less than the monuments, confirms these accounts of Diodorus and Plutarch. The monuments exhibit the Apis with the sun's disk and the royal serpent between his horns, and Greek papyri tell us that the keeper with whom the Apis was placed was known as the "Herdman of Osorapi," i. e. of Osiris-Apis (Osarhapi).[99] We may assume that this Osorapi was the Serapis or Sarapis of the Greeks, and the temple of Serapis a temple of Osorapi. The sphinxes buried in sand at Memphis have been discovered on the plateau on which the inhabitants buried their dead to the west of the ruins of this city. They are found here in two rows as often before the entrance of temples between Abusir and Sakkarah. It is by following this path of sphinxes that the discoverers were recently enabled to find the ruins of the temple of Serapis, i. e. the temple of the grave of Osiris-Apis, and the sepulchral chambers of the Apis-bulls hewn in the rocks around it. The oldest of the tombs hitherto opened belongs, according to the inscriptions, to an Apis buried in the time of Amenophis III. (1524-1488 B.C.). Above ground rises a massive structure, truncated at the top, and decorated with reliefs. This is the mortuary chapel. A sloping passage, the entrance to which lies before this structure, leads beneath the earth to a sepulchral chamber, where stands a sarcophagus with the mummy of the Apis. The relief on the structure above exhibits the king bringing a drink-offering to the Apis. Beside the picture of the bull we read, "The living Osiris, the lord of the sky: he is Tum (p. 51 ): his feathers are upon him: he gives life for evermore." On the sarcophagus of an Apis buried in a similar tomb in the reign of Horus (1455-1443 B.C.), we read:—"Apis-Osiris, the great deity who dwells in Amenti, the ever-living lord." King Ramses II. (1388-1322 B.C.), in the second half of his reign, caused a broad gallery to be excavated under the rock, on both sides of which chambers of about twenty feet high were subsequently cut out as occasion required; in these were placed the remains of the dead Apis-bulls in sarcophagi of basalt or granite. When the gallery of Ramses was no longer sufficient, Psammetichus I. caused a gallery still larger and more beautiful to be excavated, and provided with handsome cells. After Darius had extended this second gallery, the bodies of the bulls were buried in the chambers of it down to the times of the latest Ptolemies. As yet sixty-four tombs in all have been discovered; but of these only four were uninjured. All the rest had been already opened by the Arabs, plundered, and in part destroyed. The inscriptions on the tombs in the galleries give the same representation of the Apis as the older sepulchres. He is "the Osiris again restored to life," the "revived Apis of Ptah," "the living Apis, which is Osiris abiding in Amenti," the "second Ptah." On a sarcophagus we read:—"Here is Osiris Apis, who dwells in Amenti, the great God, the eternal Lord, the ruler for all time." Another inscription remarks "that he had been sought for three months in the valleys of Upper Egypt, and on the islands of Lower Egypt. When found he had been brought to his throne in the temple, to his father Ptah, in such and such a year, on such and such a day. The happy duration of his life had been six-and-twenty years; then the deity had been carried to burial, as he had established himself in the good Amenti in order to unite himself on his eternal throne with the house of centuries." Or, as it is said in another inscription, "the holiness of Apis has been brought to unite himself with the good Amenti."[100]

By this constantly renewed incarnation in the form of a bull, the emblem of generation, the god of life gave the Egyptians a guarantee for the continuance of his grace, and the perpetuation of their life in this world and the next. Whether other forms of incarnation beside this were ascribed to the god cannot be determined.

At the time when the Nile began to rise, or shortly before it, there appeared in Egypt from year to year a peculiar kind of heron, distinguished by two long feathers on the back of the head.[101] This was known to the Egyptians as Bennu. This bird, which announced or caused the fertilisation or new life of the land, could not but belong to the god of life. The whole race, or a select specimen, appears in special connection with Osiris, and the temple at Heliopolis. In the oldest portions of the Book of the Dead, which belong to the time of the Amenemha and Sesurtesen, we find, "I am that great Bennu of On" (Heliopolis); and the commentary adds, "Bennu is Osiris, viz., the Osiris in On."[102] The inscriptions say of the great Bennu that "it was self-begotten," that "it caused the divisions of time to arise."[103] This production of himself signifies the creative power of Osiris, and the origin of the seasons might well be attributed to the bird which regularly appeared announcing the return of the period of fertilization. With the cultus of the Bennu at Heliopolis is connected the story of the phœnix. Herodotus tells us that he was informed by the inhabitants of Heliopolis that a bird, which, if it resembled the pictures, was gold-coloured and red, and like an eagle in shape and size, came from Arabia to their city once in every 500 years, and buried the corpse of his father in myrrh in the sanctuary of the sun-god.[104] From later accounts we learn that the phœnix, on reaching the age of 500 years, prepared a funeral pile of spices, and burned himself upon it; then he recreated himself, and carried the remains of his old body to Heliopolis.[105] Tacitus says: "In the consulship of Paulus Fabius and Lucius Vitellius (i. e. in the year 34 A.D.) after a lapse of centuries, the phœnix appeared in Egypt. This bird, which was sacred to the sun, returned after an interval of 500 years, according to the most common accounts; according to others after an interval of 1461 years. The first phœnix appeared in the reign of Sesostris; the second under Amasis; the third in the time of the third Ptolemy; and as there was only a lapse of 250 years between this Ptolemy and the reign of Tiberius, some regarded the last phœnix as a spurious one."[106] Ælian remarks: "The Egyptians are not agreed when the 500 years are completed; and the priests were at variance whether the bird would appear then or later, and when he ought to come; but amid their dissensions the bird suddenly appeared at the right time."[107] Pliny informs us that the cycle of the great year was connected with the life of this bird, and with his return the stars came again into their old position.[108] Horapollo maintains that the phœnix was a symbol of the sun, and signified one who returned after a long time from a far country.[109] There is no doubt, therefore, that the alleged appearance of the phœnix signified to the Egyptians the close of an astronomical period. On the monuments the planet Venus is described as the "star of Bennu-Osiris." As the morning star announced the day, the light returning out of darkness, it could easily be appropriated to Osiris, and that period might be connected with the cycles of the planet Venus.[110]

The selected cats of the sun-god and his daughter, the goddess of Bubastis, the hawk of Horus, the ibis of Thoth, the vulture of Mut, were regarded by the Egyptians with no less veneration than the bulls of Osiris. In a hymn to a male cat, which was kept for Ra at Heliopolis—the hymn is to be found on a memorial pillar of the fourth century B.C.—we read: "Thy head is the head of the sun-god; thy nose is the nose of Thoth, the twice mighty lord of Hermopolis. Thy ears are the ears of Osiris, who hears the voice of all who call upon him; thy mouth is the mouth of the god Tum, the lord of life, he has preserved thee from every stain. Thy heart is the heart of Ptah; he has purified thee from every stain of evil in thy members: thy teeth are the teeth of the god Chunsu (the moon-god). Thy thighs are the thighs of the god Horus, the avenger of his father Osiris, who has retaliated upon Set the mischief he purposed against Osiris."[111] Selected crocodiles—and even the crocodile was worshipped, at least in some regions, as in the Thebais and around the lake of Moeris—were to be found at Thebes and Arsinoe. "For both these animals," says Herodotus "(and they are so tame that they allow themselves to be touched), the priests put ornaments of glass and gold in their ears, and bracelets on their fore-feet, and give them the best of food both of meal and from the sacrifices, and attend to them with the utmost care. When they die they are embalmed, and buried in the sacred tombs."[112] Strabo, who travelled through Egypt more than four hundred years later than Herodotus, narrates that a sacred crocodile was kept in the lake of Moeris, which was tame to the priests. He was fed with the bread, wine, and flesh brought to him by visitors. "Our host," Strabo continues, "a man of distinction at Arsinoe, who showed us the sacred things of the city, took cakes, roast meat, and a drink mixed with honey, and went with us to the lake. On the shore lay the crocodile; the priests went up to him, two of them opened his jaws; and the third put in first the cakes, then the meat, and last of all he gave him the drink. Then the crocodile ran into the water and swam to the opposite bank. Another stranger came with similar presents: the priests took them, ran round the lake and offered them to the crocodile, when they had found him, in the same manner as before."[113] Clement of Alexandria describes the glory of the Egyptian temples, and then continues thus: "The innermost shrine is veiled with a curtain of cloth of gold; when the priest removes the veil you see a cat, a crocodile, or a serpent of the land rolling on a purple coverlet."

According to the account of Herodotus, the dead cats were embalmed in sacred tombs at Bubastis, the hawks at Buto, the ibis at Hermopolis.[114] Mummies of cats have been discovered at Thebes and Sheikhassan; mummies of bulls, cows, jackals, dogs, and vultures at Thebes and Sioot; of hawks and ibises at Thebes, Hermopolis, Abydus, and Memphis; of crocodiles at Thebes and Manfalut.[115]

This reverence for beasts, the excessive regard for the nourishment of the sacred kinds and the preservation of their bodies, the offering of prayers to them, the worship of bulls, birds, and crocodiles as living gods, the royal honours with which these selected examples were buried, would of necessity be regarded as a very rude superstition or degraded fetichism, hardly compatible with the general level of civilisation and culture in the country, had not the Egyptians united a deeper feeling with their worship of animals. In the living and yet typical forms of beasts as contrasted with the deadness of nature, they saw not only creations of the deities, but manifestations of the divine life itself. The consecrated race of animals participated in the nature of the god to whom it belonged, and the specimens in the temples were an unbroken series of incarnations of the deity.

In a different sense from the sacred animals, man also was in the eyes of the Egyptians a manifestation of the divine life and nature. If we set aside the position of the kings (see below), we find no indication that man was regarded as the incarnation of particular deities or their attributes. Yet man had a share in the immortality of the gods; and he whostudied and desired the divine was thought by his bodily death to arrive at a complete divine existence. The primary result of this feeling was that the body must be preserved as the vehicle of personality even when life and soul have left it; it must be protected from decay and ruin and any external disturbance by nature or man. Beyond the reach of beasts of prey, safe from the enemy and the destroyer, the corpses must rest uncorrupted and uninjured in cool, secure, inaccessible, unpolluted, indestructible graves. No nation has devoted so much care and labour to the preservation of the corpses, whether of men or of sacred animals, as the Egyptians. It was almost the first duty of the living to attend to the dead. And with his body must be preserved all that the deceased person had done or acquired in life: his occupation, his actions must live on in the grave, like his corpse. Pictures in his tomb must represent his life, and inscriptions must give an account of it. "The Egyptians," says Diodorus, "speak of the dwellings of the living as a lodging; but of the tombs of the dead as eternal habitations, because the dead pass an endless time in Hades. Hence they bestow less toil upon their houses; but their tombs they furnish in a most extraordinary manner."[116]

The tombs are always turned towards the west, and are deeply hollowed out in soil, or hewn in the rocks of the Libyan mountains. Those of the wealthier sort generally consist of two chambers, an upper and a lower, or a front and a back one. The upper or front chamber is furnished with a description of the life of the dead person, his possessions, his office, his occupation, and the most important results of his life exhibited in relief and pictures. It served as a chapel in which the offerings to the dead were made. In the lower or hinder chamber lay the corpse. The corpses of the poorer inhabitants found their resting-place in the common sepulchres. The preservation of the corpse was accomplished in various ways. Either the entrails were taken out through an aperture and placed in separate vessels, or the corpse was protected against corruption by the injection of various substances; or finally it was allowed to lie for a considerable time in saltpetre.

Like the embalmment and the tomb, the cerements and the coffin were more or less costly, according to the rank and wealth of the deceased. The dead person was placed in a receptacle adapted to the shape of the corpse, provided with a mask to represent his face, and adorned with inscriptions and pictures. On the breast was generally depicted the beetle of Ptah, or an open eye, the symbol of Osiris. This receptacle was then placed in two or more coffins, each inclosing the other, which were made of more or less costly wood. Rich persons added to their coffins the stone sarcophagus, a hollow block of granite, the heavy lid of which was then made so fast to the lower part that it could not be opened without destroying the whole.

The sarcophagus was carried to the sepulchre in solemn procession, led by the temple-servants, with the necessary implements, and the bull destined for sacrifice to the dead. Next were seen the implements used by the deceased in his lifetime; the insignia of his order, if he had been a priest, or in any office; or, if he had held any military command, his chariot followed. After this came the waiting-women, hired for this purpose according to the custom of the East; and men with palm-branches, the servants of the dead, and the priests; last of all followed the sarcophagus on a boat—for the soul of the dead passed like the sun-god on a boat to the under world. This boat was on rollers, and drawn by oxen. The procession was closed by the mourners of the family and the friends. When the bull had been sacrificed and frankincense burned to the gods, libations were poured in honour of the dead. He was praised, as Diodorus assures us, not because he was born of a noble race, but because he had been carefully educated and well instructed, because he had been pious towards the gods, and had lived a just and sober life. Then the kinsfolk implored the gods to receive the dead into the society of the good. The accompanying multitude joined in the prayer, and extolled the faith of the deceased, who now would for ever pass his life in the company of the good.[117] The coffin was then brought into the upper chamber, and from thence, when the ceremonies were completed, it was carried to its proper resting-place, and placed on the west side of it; the place was then closed and sealed.

According to the Egyptian story, Osiris was not slain by Typhon. He did not die; he was only taken away from men, as Diodorus says;[118] he descended into the under world; he passed away into the invisible region, while in the visible world he continued to live and work in the vigorous strength of his son Horus. In the shape of Horus, or Ra, Osiris wandered through the visible world. He changed only his name and shape when, every evening, he went back to his distant home in order to be alone. Thus, by descending from earth and dying, he had received the sovereignty of the lower world, and left to the youthful Ra, his son Horus, the empire of this world. As the sun goes down every evening, and every morning awakes to new life, as the vegetation dies away in the heat of summer and in autumn, and again in the spring attains to new life, so to the minds of the Egyptians death, in all its shapes, was only death in appearance, in reality it was a transition to a new life. And as Osiris remained alive in death, and was the source of new life, so through him and in him the soul of man was aroused out of death to a new life. The sacred animals and men were of divine nature and origin; they could not, therefore, end with death; death could only carry them back to their divine origin, to that other world, from which they had come; and in that other world they must awake to a new life.

Owing to this power of awakening life out of death, Osiris became to the Egyptians the special god of the human soul. As lord of the under world, Osiris is often found on the monuments in the shape of a mummy. His colour was in this case black, like his bull in Memphis; his clothing was white;[119] his symbol, a wide-open eye, signifying the second beholding of light. In this form of Osiris the Greeks recognised the Dionysus of their Mysteries, whom they could also compare with Osiris as the giver of fruits.[120]

The Egyptians, says Herodotus, were the first to maintain that the soul of man was immortal.[121] Plutarch, as we have already seen, informs us that to the Egyptian Osiris was the embodiment not only of all that is in heaven, but also of all that is in the under world. "His soul," he continues, "was regarded by the Egyptians as eternal and indestructible, and, according to the doctrine of the priests, Osiris ruled over the dead, as Hades and Pluto among the Greeks. In reality, he was free and untouched by everything subject to change and death. When men are delivered from the body, and from pain, and pass into the eternal and invisible world, where pain is unknown, then Osiris becomes their king and leader. They are his retainers, who desire him, and are spectators of a beauty inconceivable and inexpressible to men. This is the explanation of the story most suitable to the deities."[122]

The inscriptions on the sarcophagi, the wraps round the corpses, but above all a papyrus roll placed in the coffin with the dead body, the so-called "Book of the Dead," enable us to ascertain with considerable accuracy the views of the Egyptians on the fate of the soul after death. The greater part of the known manuscripts of this book belong to the seventh or sixth century B.C. The contents show that rubrics and prayers of the same purport, but differently drawn up, proceeding from different times, and with different commentaries, are collected together in order to provide the dead person with everything he can want in the next world. All the prayers and invocations for that world are also given, in order that the most effective may be at hand, just as at the end of these manuscripts all the names under which Osiris can be invoked—and they are more than a hundred—are gathered together. But fragments of this Book of the Dead, or, more strictly, this Book of the Resurrection, which forms the core of the Egyptian doctrine of the world to come, are found hewn in sarcophagi—already with a triple commentary—which belong to a date previous to the year 2000 B.C.

After death the soul of man descends with the setting sun under the earth into the nether world. Here, on the day of the "valuation of words," the day of "justification," the soul is examined, and its actions weighed in the hall of double justice, i. e. the justice which rewards and the justice which punishes. Osiris, with a crown upon his head, and holding in his hand a crosier and a whip, sits upon a throne surrounded by the water of life, out of which spring up lotus-flowers. Beside him sit forty-two spirits; Anubis, the god with a jackal's head, the leader and keeper of the dead, and Horus, with a hawk's head, are busied with a balance; in one scale is the heart of the deceased, in the other an ostrich-feather, the symbol of truth and justice. The god with the head of an ibis, the scribe of truth, takes down the result of the weighing. As Osiris, according to the legend, was once justified by Horus and Thoth, so is every human soul justified by those deities. The deceased assures them that he has committed no sins; he enumerates forty-two errors into which he has not fallen. He has done no wickedness; he has not stolen, nor slain any one intentionally; he has not allowed his devotions to be seen; he has not been guilty of hypocrisy, or lying; he has not stolen the property of the gods, or the sacrificial food; he has not calumniated any one, or fallen into drunkenness or adultery; he has not turned away his ear from the words of truth; he has been no idle talker; he has not slighted the king or his father; he has not contemned the gods, or torn from the dead their linen wraps.

The departed spirit was not allowed to enter the other world in ignorance: he must know what awaits him there; the path which he has to tread, and the prayers which opened for him the gates of the various regions, which gave him power to overcome whatever spirits and monsters might meet him in the way and attempt to hold him back; he must know the charm which will at last unlock for him the fields of Ra. He must know and recognise the gods to whom he returns; the nature from which he has sprung, and which he now again assumes. As in him divinity has been made human, so is he now in turn deified. To secure this knowledge for the dead, the book is placed in his coffin, the important passages were written on the wraps, and engraved on the coffin.

If the heart of the dead man was not found too light and his soul was pure,[123] he was acquitted in the other world, he received back from the gods his heart and members renewed and deified, and the goddesses of life and the sky—Hathor and Nut—poured out upon him the water of life. His prayer opened for him the gates of the dwellings in the world to come; he was enabled to strike with his lance the evil spirits and monsters, the crocodiles, snakes, tortoises, the two vipers, and the serpent Apep, to keep at a distance all impurity, and finally to reach the fields of the sun-god.[124] Here the blessed planted the heavenly wheat—of which the ears were two cubits in length—wandered at will in shady avenues with odours in their hair, and bathed in pools of water.

Arrived among the gods, the soul receives the power of assuming various existences—that is, apparently, of entering into the bodies of men and beasts, and returning finally into the divine substance from which it sprang. Hence to the Egyptians death is the "going up to heaven," the "entrance into heaven," the "entrance into the place of the gods."[125]The first chapter of the Book of the Dead was to be pronounced by the deceased on the day of his burial when going forth from the grave at the western gate of the under-world, in order to find immediate entrance there. "By learning this chapter when on earth," so runs the close of it in the book, "or by setting it forth in writing on his tomb, he will emerge on the day, and on entering into his dwelling he will not be thrust back. Food and drink will be given to him, much flesh also on the table of Ra; he will work in the fields on the plain of Aanro (Paradise), where corn and wheat will be given to him; he will live happily as he lived upon earth." On the day of justification, the dead has to say: "I am one of the initiated; thy name I know; I know the names of thy forty-two gods, who dwell with thee in the hall of twofold justice." Then comes the answer: "Enter! thou knowest us."[126] On a sarcophagus of the time of the Amenemha and Sesurtesen the deceased utters the following words, which are found detailed at greater length and commented upon in the seventeenth chapter of the Book of the Dead. "I am Tum (p. 51 ), a being, which I alone am. I am Ra in his first sovereignty. I am the great self-existing god, the creator of his name, the ruler of all gods, whom none of the gods restrains. I was yesterday; I know the morrow. When I spoke a battle-field was prepared for the gods. I know the name of that great god who is there. Glory of Ra is his name. I am the great Bennu which is worshipped in On. I am Chem in his manifestation; on me have been placed the two feathers on my head; I have arrived at my land, I have arrived at my dwelling-place."[127] "The sun-mountain (horizon) of his father Tum is meant,"—so run the commentaries, both old and late, and at the same time they remark that the great god, existing by his own power, is Osiris; and the great Bennu also is Osiris (p. 69 ). By Chem is meant Chemhor, i. e., the Horus, who by his own power renews his own youth every day. On the cover of the sarcophagus we find the formula, "When this chapter has been pronounced, he (the dead man) enters into the western land at the time of his resurrection: if entirely unacquainted with it, he cannot enter; for him, as for one uninitiated, there is no resurrection."[128]

Thus we must assume that the Egyptians believed in man's return to his divine origin in the sense that a soul which was not found wanting in weight, and was conscious of its own true nature, was not only received, after the completion of the proper cycle, into the bosom of the godhead, and allowed to be absorbed into the divine power, but was so far deified that it could adopt divine attributes and power, and even assume a divine title.

According to the account of Herodotus, the Egyptians believed that the soul of the dead passed into an animal, born at the time; from this it wandered into all the other animals on earth, in the air and the sea, and after 3,000 years it was again born with a human body.[129] That this account is incorrect is proved by the records already quoted; it may perhaps have arisen from the Egyptian conception that the soul of the justified obtained the power to assume every shape. But a purification of the unclean and ignorant soul by passing through the bodies of all kinds of animals could never have been assumed by the Egyptians, since the sacred races were pre-eminent manifestations, and the selected animals continuous incarnations, of the gods. If a pilgrimage through the bodies of beasts was really regarded by the Egyptians as a course of punishment and amelioration, the beasts meant can only be such as were not sacred. But as yet the examination of the monuments and records has by no means completely cleared up the relation of the soul to the body it has left, nor has it attained to any result on the fate in store for the souls which were found wanting when weighed in the balance.


[34]Herod. 3, 37.

[35]De Rougé, "Revue archéolog." 1860, 1, 357.

[36]"De Isid." c. 51, 52; "De Pyth. Oraculis," p. 400.

[37]Macrob. "Sat." 6, 18.

[38]"De Isid." c. 36.

[39]De Rougé, "Zeitsch. d. d. m. Gesellschaft," after a sepulchral pillar in the Berlin Museum, 4, 375.

[40]Champollion, Monuments, pl. 123 seq. Dümichen, "Tempelinschriften." 1, 24. Lepsius, "Aelteste Texte des Todtenbuchs," s. 13.

[41]Lepsius, "Die Götter der vier Elemente;" Dümichen, in "Zeitsch. für ægyptische Sprache," 1869 s. 7.

[42]Herod. 2, 61.

[43]Plut. "De Isid." c. 38.

[44]The identification of Neith with Athene (Herod. 2, 62; Plat. "Tim." p. 21) rests on the similarity of the name, on the torch-races in honour of Pallas at Athens, and the feast of lamps at Sais. Gutschmid, "Beiträge zur Geschichte des alten Orients," s. 39, 45 ff., has shown that Neith and Athene cannot be brought into agreement in points of language. The inscription on the throne of Neith at Sais, given by Plutarch ("De Isid." c. 9), "I am all that has been, is, will be, and no mortal has lifted my robe," does not in the first part of it contradict certain applications of the oldest text of the "Book of the Dead" (see below). On the other hand, the second part is doubtful. In any case, the fact that the peplos  has not been raised does not refer to the inconceivable nature of the goddess, but to seclusion from sexual intercourse. It can only mean that Neith was born from her own creative force.

[45]Herod. 2, 60, 137, 138.

[46]Horapoll. 1, 10.

[47]Brugsch, "Zeitschr. d. d. morgenland. Gesellschaft," 10, 683.

[48]De Rougé, "Revue archéolog." 1860, 1, 339.

[49]Plutarch, "De Isid." c. 63; cf. Eber's "Gosen," s. 484.

[50]Plut. "De Isid." c. 9.

[51]Bunsen, "Ægypten," I, 446.

[52]Lepsius in "Zeitschrift für æg. Sprache," 1868, s. 127.

[53]Lepsius, "Aelteste Texte," s. 42, 48, 52; "Götterkreis," s. 31-43.

[54]Plut. "De Isid." c. 11.

[55]Ibid. c. 21.

[56]Wilkinson, 4, 237, 242, 246.

[57]Parthey, "Abh. der Berl. Akademie," 1863; Minutoli, "Reise zum Tempel des Ammon;" cf. Herod. 4. 181.

[58]Bunsen, "Ægypten," 1, 470; Lepsius, "Briefe," s. 105.

[59]Diod. 1, 13.

[60]Plut. "De Isid." c. 12-20.

[61]Herod. 2, 144; Diod. 1, 25, 44.

[62]Compare the beautiful explanation given by Lepsius of the game at dice between Hermes and Selene, narrated in Plutarch, loc. cit.

[63]Lepsius, "Chronol." 1, 91. As to the meaning of Seb, I should be inclined to give the preference to the view of Brugsch.

[64]Brugsch and Lepsius in "Zeitschrift für æg. Sprache," 1868, s. 122 ff.

[65]Wilkinson, "Ancient Egypt," 4, 189.

[66]Lepsius, "Götterkreis," s. 35; "Briefe," 106-111.

[67]Diod. 1, 22.

[68]Plut. "De Isid." c. 20

[69]Plut. ib. 12-20; Strab. p. 803.

[70]Herod. 2, 59; Plut. loc. cit. 21; Diod. 1, 88.

[71]Busiris was the name of several towns in Lower Egypt; we must assume that the chief town of the district of this name was the scene of the festival. How the Greeks turned the name of this town into a king Busiris who used to slay strangers, I cannot explain. Eratosthenes in Strabo, p. 802, says: "There never was a king Busiris; the story may have been invented owing to the inhospitality of the inhabitants of Busiris;" and Diodorus observes: "It was not a king who was called Busiris, but the grave of Osiris was so named in the native language" (1, 88), which is near the truth.

[72]Herod. 2, 40, 42, 144.

[73]Plut. "De Isid." c. 35, 39.

[74]Plut. loc. cit. 12, 21, 42.

[75]Plut. loc. cit. c. 52. The inscriptions on the temple at Dendera prescribe a seven days' lamentation for Osiris, beginning on the 24th Choiak, and give full directions for the burial. Lauth, in the "Zeitschr. f. æg. Sprache," 1866, s. 64 ff.

[76]Herod. 2, 41, 132.

[77]"De Isid." c. 42.

[78]Diod. 1, 88.

[79]Plutarch, loc. cit. c. 12.

[80]Lepsius, "Götterkreis," s. 53.

[81]Plut. loc. cit. c. 32, 40, 50.

[82]Plut. loc. cit. c. 65.

[83]Parthey, on Plut. "De Isid." c. 12.

[84]Plut. loc. cit. 50.

[85]Wilkinson, loc. cit. 4, 436.

[86]Brugsch in the "Zeitschr. d. d. m. Gesellschaft," 9, 10, 68 c. ff.

[87]Plut. "De Isid." c. 33, 39, 40, 49, 53, 65, 71.

[88]Plut. "De Isid." c. 64.

[89]Diod. 1, 27; Plut. "De Isid." c. 9, 56, 63.

[90]Plut. loc. cit. c. 61.

[91]Lepsius, "Aelteste Texte," s. 46.

[92]Birch. "Gall." 1, 24, 44.

[93]Herod. 2, 66.

[94]Diod. 1, 83, 84.

[95]Plut. "De Isid." c. 43.

[96]Herod. 3, 28; Ælian ("De Nat. Anim." 1, 10) speaks of twenty-nine marks of Apis; cf Plin. "Hist. Nat." 8, 184.

[97]Diod. 1, 84, 85.

[98]Diod. 1, 85; Plut. "De Iside." c. 29; Strabo, p. 807.

[99]"Mém. pres. à l'Acad. des Inscript." sér. 1, 2, p. 15.

[100]Mariette, "Bulletin de l'Athén-Français," Oct. 1856, p. 75; Juill. Nov. 1855, pp. 67, 96, 98.

[101]"Ardea purpurea;" Lepsius, "Aelteste Texte," s. 50.

[102]Lepsius, "Aelteste Texte," s. 43, 46, 51.

[103]Brugsch in "Zeitschr. d. d. m. G." 10, 651 ff.

[104]Herod. 2, 73.

[105]Plin. "Hist. Nat." 10, 2; cf. 13, 9; Pompon. Mela. 3, 8.

[106]"Annal." 6, 28.

[107]"De Nat. Anim." 6, 58.

[108]"Hist. Nat." 10, 5.

[109]Ibid. 1, 34, 35.

[110]Brugsch, "Zeitschr. d. d. m. G." 10, 651 ff.; Lepsius, "Aelteste Texte," s. 51; De Rougé, "Bulletin de l'Athén. Français," 1856, p. 25 seqq.

[111]Brugsch, "Zeitschr. d. d. m. G." 10, 683.

[112]Herod. 2, 69.

[113]Strabo, p. 811.

[114]Herod. 2, 65-67.

[115]Wilkinson, "Egypt," 5. 117, 123, 230 ff.

[116]Diod. 1, 51, cf. 92.

[117]Diod. 1, 92; Wilkinson, "Egypt," sec. ser. 2, 411.

[118]Diod. 1, 25.

[119]Plut. "De Iside," c. 33, 78.

[120]Herod. 2, 42; Diod. 1, 11, 13, 25.

[121]Ibid. 2, 123.

[122]"De Iside," c. 54, 61, 79, 80.

[123]Pierret, "Traduct. du Chap. I. du Livre des Morts;" "Zeitsch. für æg. Sprache," 1869, s. 135; 1870, s. 18 ff.

[124]De Rougé, "Revue archéolog." 1860, p. 79 ff.

[125]Lepsius, "Aelteste Texte," s. 4.

[126]Lepsius, "Aelteste Texte," s. 6, 9.

[127]Lepsius, loc. cit. s. 30 ff.

[128]Lepsius, "Aelteste Texte," s. 25.

[129]Herod. 2, 123.