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Legends Of The Gods by E. A. Wallis Budge

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Produced by John B. Hare and Carrie R. Lorenz


The Egyptian Texts, edited with Translations

by E. A. Wallis Budge

London, 1912

[Editorial note: Throughout the text "####" represents images which
cannot be transcribed.]


The welcome which has been accorded to the volumes of this Series, and
the fact that some of them have passed into second and third editions,
suggest that these little books have been found useful by beginners in
Egyptology and others. Hitherto the object of them has been to supply
information about the Religion, Magic, Language, and History of the
ancient Egyptians, and to provide editions of the original texts from
which such information was derived. There are, however, many branches
of Egyptology which need treatment in a similar manner in this Series,
and it has been suggested in many quarters that the time has now
arrived when the publication of a series of groups of texts
illustrating Egyptian Literature in general might well be begun.
Seeing that nothing is known about the authors of Egyptian works, not
even their names, it is impossible to write a History of Egyptian
Literature in the ordinary sense of the word. The only thing to be
done is to print the actual works in the best and most complete form
possible, with translations, and then to put them in the hands of the
reader and leave them to his judgment.

With this object in view, it has been decided to publish in the Series
several volumes which shall be devoted to the reproduction in
hieroglyphic type of the best and most typical examples of the various
kinds of Egyptian Literature, with English translations, on a much
larger scale than was possible in my "First Steps in Egyptian" or in my
"Egyptian Reading Book." These volumes are intended to serve a double
purpose, i.e., to supply the beginner in Egyptian with new material and
a series of reading books, and to provide the general reader with
translations of Egyptian works in a handy form.

The Egyptian texts, whether the originals be written in hieroglyphic or
hieratic characters, are here printed in hieroglyphic type, and are
arranged with English translations, page for page. They are printed as
they are written in the original documents, i.e., the words are not
divided. The beginner will find the practice of dividing the words for
himself most useful in acquiring facility of reading and understanding
the language. The translations are as literal as can reasonably be
expected, and, as a whole, I believe that they mean what the original
writers intended to say. In the case of passages where the text is
corrupt, and readings are mixed, or where very rare words occur, or
where words are omitted, the renderings given claim to be nothing more
than suggestions as to their meanings. It must be remembered that the
exact meanings of many Egyptian words have still to be ascertained, and
that the ancient Egyptian scribes were as much puzzled as we are by
some of the texts which they copied, and that owing to carelessness,
ignorance, or weariness, or all three, they made blunders which the
modern student is unable to correct. In the Introduction will be found
brief descriptions of the contents of the Egyptian texts, in which
their general bearing and importance are indicated, and references
given to authoritative editions of texts and translations.


November 17,1911.













The History of Creation

I. Horus holding the Hippopotamus-fiend with chain and spear

II. Horus spearing the Hippopotamus-fiend

III. Horus spearing the Hippopotamus-fiend

IV. Horus and Isis capturing the Hippopotamus fiend

V. Horus on the back of the Hippopotamus-fiend

VI. The slaughter of the Hippopotamus-fiend

VII. Horus of Behutet and Ra-Harmakhis in a shrine

VIII. Horus of Behutet and Ra-Harmakhis in a shrine

IX. Ashthertet in her chariot

X. Horus holding captive foes and spearing Typhonic animals

XI. Horus spearing human foes

XII. Horus spearing the crocodile

XIII. Horus in the form of a lion

XIV. The Procreation of Horus, son of Isis.

XV. The Resurrection of Osiris.

XVI. The Bekhten Stele

XVII. The Metternich Stele--Obverse

XVIII. The Metternich Stele--Reverse




The text of the remarkable Legend of the Creation which forms the first
section of this volume is preserved in a well-written papyrus in the
British Museum, where it bears the number 10,188. This papyrus was
acquired by the late Mr. A. H. Rhind in 1861 or 1862, when he was
excavating some tombs on the west bank of the Nile at Thebes. He did
not himself find it in a tomb, but he received it from the British
Consul at Luxor, Mustafa Agha, during an interchange of gifts when Mr.
Rhind was leaving the country. Mustafa Agha obtained the papyrus from
the famous hiding-place of the Royal Mummies at Der-al-Bahari, with the
situation of which he was well acquainted for many years before it
became known to the Egyptian Service of Antiquities. When Mr. Rhind
came to England, the results of his excavations were examined by Dr.
Birch, who, recognising the great value of the papyrus, arranged to
publish it in a companion volume to Facsimiles of Two Papyri, but the
death of Mr. Rhind in 1865 caused the project to fall through. Mr.
Rhind's collection passed into the hands of Mr. David Bremner, and the
papyrus, together with many other antiquities, was purchased by the
Trustees of the British Museum. In 1880 Dr. Birch suggested the
publication of the papyrus to Dr. Pleyte, the Director of the Egyptian
Museum at Leyden. This savant transcribed and translated some passages
from the Festival Songs of Isis and Nephthys, which is the first text
in it, and these he published in Recueil de Travaux, Paris, tom. iii.,
pp. 57-64. In 1886 by Dr. Birch's kindness I was allowed to work at
the papyrus, and I published transcripts of some important passages and
the account of the Creation in the Proceedings of the Society of
Biblical Archaeology, 1886-7, pp. 11-26. The Legend of the Creation
was considered by Dr. H. Brugsch to be of considerable value for the
study of the Egyptian Religion, and encouraged by him[FN#1] I made a
full transcript of the papyrus, which was published in Archaeologia,
(vol. lii., London, 1891), with transliterations and translations. In
1910 I edited for the Trustees of the British Museum the complete
hieratic text with a revised translation.[FN#2]

[FN#1] Ein in moglichst wortgetreuer Uebersetzung vorglegter Papyrus-
text soll den Schlussstein meines Werkes bilden. Er wird den Beweis
fur die Richtigkeit meiner eigenen Untersuchungen vollenden, indem er
das wichtigste Zeugniss altagyptischen Ursprungs den zahlreichen, von
mir angezogenen Stellen aus den Inschriften hinzufugt. Trotz mancher
Schwierigkeit im Einzelnen ist der Gesammtinhalt des Textes, den zuerst
ein englischer Gelehrter der Wissenschaft zuganglich gemacht hat, such
nicht im geringsten misszuverstehen (Brugsch, Religion, p. 740). He
gives a German translation of the Creation Legend on pp. 740, 741, and
a transliteration on p. 756.

[FN#2] Egyptian Hieratic Papyri in the British Museum, London, 1910,

The papyrus is about 16 ft. 8 in. in length, and is 9 1/4 in. in width.
It contains 21 columns of hieratic text which are written in short
lines and are poetical in character, and 12 columns or pages of text
written in long lines; the total number of lines is between 930 and
940. The text is written in a small, very black, but neat hand, and
may be assigned to a time between the XXVIth Dynasty and the Ptolemaic
Period. The titles, catch-words, rubrics, names of Apep and his
fiends, and a few other words, are written in red ink. There are two
colophons; in the one we have a date, namely, the "first day of the
fourth month of the twelfth year of Pharaoh Alexander, the son of
Alexander," i.e., B.C. 311, and in the other the name of the priest who
either had the papyrus written, or appropriated it, namely, Nes-Menu,
or Nes-Amsu.

The Legend of the Creation is found in the third work which is given in
the papyrus, and which is called the "Book of overthrowing Apep, the
Enemy of Ra, the Enemy of Un-Nefer" (i.e., Osiris). This work
contained a series of spells which were recited during the performance
of certain prescribed ceremonies, with the object of preventing storms,
and dispersing rain-clouds, and removing any obstacle, animate or
inanimate, which could prevent the rising of the sun in the morning, or
obscure his light during the day. The Leader-in Chief of the hosts of
darkness was a fiend called Apep who appeared in the sky in the form of
a monster serpent, and, marshalling all the fiends of the Tuat,
attempted to keep the Sun-god imprisoned in the kingdom of darkness.
Right in the midst of the spells which were directed against Apep we
find inserted the legend of the Creation, which occurs in no other
known Egyptian document (Col. XXVI., l. 21, to Col. XXVII., l. 6).
Curiously enough a longer version of the legend is given a little
farther on (Col. XXVIII., l. 20, to Col. XXIX., l. 6). Whether the
scribe had two copies to work from, and simply inserted both, or
whether he copied the short version and added to it as he went along,
cannot be said. The legend is entitled: Book of knowing the evolutions
of Ra [and of] overthrowing Apep.

This curious "Book" describes the origin not only of heaven, and earth,
and all therein, but also of God Himself. In it the name of Apep is
not even mentioned, and it is impossible to explain its appearance in
the Apep Ritual unless we assume that the whole "Book" was regarded as
a spell of the most potent character, the mere recital of which was
fraught with deadly effect for Apep and his friends.

The story of the Creation is supposed to be told by the god Neb-er-
tcher. This name means the "Lord to the uttermost limit," and the
character of the god suggests that the word "limit" refers to time and
space, and that he was, in fact, the Everlasting God of the Universe.
This god's name occurs in Coptic texts, and then he appears as one who
possesses all the attributes which are associated by modern nations
with God Almighty. Where and how Neb-er-tcher existed is not said, but
it seems as if he was believed to have been an almighty and invisible
power which filled all space. It seems also that a desire arose in him
to create the world, and in order to do this he took upon himself the
form of the god Khepera, who from first to last was regarded as the
Creator, par excellence, among all the gods known to the Egyptians.
When this transformation of Neb-er-tcher into Khepera took place the
heavens and the earth had not been created, but there seems to have
existed a vast mass of water, or world-ocean, called Nu, and it must
have been in this that the transformation took place. In this
celestial ocean were the germs of all the living things which
afterwards took form in heaven and on earth, but they existed in a
state of inertness and helplessness. Out of this ocean Khepera raised
himself, and so passed from a state of passiveness and inertness into
one of activity. When Khepera raised himself out of the ocean Nu, he
found himself in vast empty space, wherein was nothing on which he
could stand. The second version of the legend says that Khepera gave
being to himself by uttering his own name, and the first version states
that he made use of words in providing himself with a place on which to
stand. In other words, when Khepera was still a portion of the being
of Neb-er-tcher, he spake the word "Khepera," and Khepera came into
being. Similarly, when he needed a place whereon to stand, he uttered
the name of the thing, or place, on which he wanted to stand, and that
thing, or place, came into being. This spell he seems to have
addressed to his heart, or as we should say, will, so that Khepera
willed this standing-place to appear, and it did so forthwith. The
first version only mentions a heart, but the second also speaks of a
heart-soul as assisting Khepera in his first creative acts; and we may
assume that he thought out in his heart what manner of thing be wished
to create, and then by uttering its name caused his thought to take
concrete form. This process of thinking out the existence of things is
expressed in Egyptian by words which mean "laying the foundation in the

In arranging his thoughts and their visible forms Khepera was assisted
by the goddess Maat, who is usually regarded as the goddess of law,
order, and truth, and in late times was held to be the female
counterpart of Thoth, "the heart of the god Ra." In this legend,
however, she seems to play the part of Wisdom, as described in the Book
of Proverbs,[FN#3] for it was by Maat that he "laid the foundation."

[FN#3] "The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his
works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or
ever the earth was. When there were no depths I was brought forth . .
. . . . . Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I
brought forth: while as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields,
nor the highest part of the dust of the world. When he prepared the
heavens I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth:
when he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the
fountains of the deep: when he gave to the sea his decree, . . . . . .
when he appointed the foundations of the earth: then I was by him, as
one brought up with him. . . . . . ." Proverbs, viii. 22 ff.}

Having described the coming into being of Khepera and the place on
which he stood, the legend goes on to tell of the means by which the
first Egyptian triad, or trinity, came into existence. Khepera had, in
some form, union with his own shadow, and so begot offspring, who
proceeded from his body under the forms of the gods Shu and Tefnut.
According to a tradition preserved in the Pyramid Texts[FN#4] this
event took place at On (Heliopolis), and the old form of the legend
ascribes the production of Shu and Tefnut to an act of masturbation.
Originally these gods were the personifications of air and dryness, and
liquids respectively; thus with their creation the materials for the
construction of the atmosphere and sky came into being. Shu and Tefnut
were united, and their offspring were Keb, the Earth-god, and Nut, the
Sky-goddess. We have now five gods in existence; Khepera, the creative
principle, Shu, the atmosphere, Tefnut, the waters above the heavens,
Nut, the Sky-goddess, and Keb, the Earth-god. Presumably about this
time the sun first rose out of the watery abyss of Nu, and shone upon
the world and produced day. In early times the sun, or his light, was
regarded as a form of Shu. The gods Keb and Nut were united in an
embrace, and the effect of the coming of light was to separate them. As
long as the sun shone, i.e., as long as it was day, Nut, the Sky-
goddess, remained in her place above the earth, being supported by Shu;
but as soon as the sun set she left the sky and gradually descended
until she rested on the body of the Earth-god, Keb.

[FN#4] Pepi I., l. 466.

The embraces of Keb caused Nut to bring forth five gods at a birth,
namely, Osiris, Horus, Set, Isis, and Nephthys. Osiris and Isis
married before their birth, and Isis brought forth a son called Horus;
Set and Nephthys also married before their birth, and Nephthys brought
forth a son named Anpu (Anubis), though he is not mentioned in the
legend. Of these gods Osiris is singled out for special mention in the
legend, in which Khepera, speaking as Neb-er-tcher, says that his name
is Ausares, who is the essence of the primeval matter of which he
himself is formed. Thus Osiris was of the same substance as the Great
God who created the world according to the Egyptians, and was a
reincarnation of his great-grandfather. This portion of the legend
helps to explain the views held about Osiris as the great ancestral
spirit, who when on earth was a benefactor of mankind, and who when in
heaven was the saviour of souls.

The legend speaks of the sun as the Eye of Khepera, or Neb-er-tcher,
and refers to some calamity which befell it and extinguished its light.
This calamity may have been simply the coming of night, or eclipses, or
storms; but in any case the god made a second Eye, i.e., the Moon, to
which he gave some of the splendour of the other Eye, i.e., the Sun,
and he gave it a place in his Face, and henceforth it ruled throughout
the earth, and had special powers in respect of the production of
trees, plants, vegetables, herbs, etc. Thus from the earliest times
the moon was associated with the fertility of the earth, especially in
connection with the production of abundant crops and successful

According to the legend, men and women sprang not from the earth, but
directly from the body of the god Khepera, or Neb-er-tcher, who placed
his members together and then wept tears upon them, and men and women,
came into being from the tears which had fallen from his eyes. No
special mention is made of the creation of beasts in the legend, but
the god says that he created creeping things of all kinds, and among
these are probably included the larger quadrupeds. The men and women,
and all the other living creatures which were made at that time,
reproduced their species, each in his own way, and so the earth became
filled with their descendants which we see at the present time.

Such is the Legend of Creation as it is found in the Papyrus of Nes-
Menu. The text of both versions is full of difficult passages, and
some readings are corrupt; unfortunately variant versions by which they
might be corrected are lacking. The general meaning of the legend in
both versions is quite clear, and it throws considerable light on the
Egyptian religion. The Egyptians believed in the existence of God, the
Creator and Maintainer of all things, but they thought that the
concerns of this world were committed by Him to the superintendence of
a series of subordinate spirits or beings called "gods," over whom they
believed magical spells and ceremonies to have the greatest influence.
The Deity was a Being so remote, and of such an exalted nature, that it
was idle to expect Him to interfere in the affairs of mortals, or to
change any decree or command which He had once uttered. The spirits or
"gods," on the other hand, possessing natures not far removed from
those of men, were thought to be amenable to supplications and
flattery, and to wheedling and cajolery, especially when accompanied by
gifts. It is of great interest to find a legend in which the power of
God as the Creator of the world and the sun and moon is so clearly set
forth, embedded in a book of magical spells devoted to the destruction
of the mythological monster who existed solely to prevent the sun from
rising and shining.



The text containing the Legend of the Destruction of Mankind is written
in hieroglyphs, and is found on the four walls of a small chamber which
is entered from the "hall of columns" in the tomb of Seti I., which is
situated on the west bank of the Nile at Thebes. On the wall facing
the door of this chamber is painted in red the figure of the large "Cow
of Heaven." The lower part of her belly is decorated with a series of
thirteen stars, and immediately beneath it are the two Boats of Ra,
called Semketet and Mantchet, or Sektet and Matet. Each of her four
legs is held in position by two gods, and the god Shu, with
outstretched uplifted arms, supports her body. The Cow was published
by Champollion,[FN#5] without the text. This most important
mythological text was first published and translated by Professor E.
Naville in 1874.[FN#6] It was republished by Bergmann[FN#7] and
Brugsch,[FN#8] who gave a transcription of the text, with a German
translation. Other German versions by Lauth,[FN#9] Brugsch,[FN#10] and
Wiedemann[FN#11] have appeared, and a part of the text was translated
into French by Lefebure.[FN#12] The latest edition of the text was
published by Lefebure,[FN#13] and text of a second copy, very much
mutilated, was published by Professor Naville, with a French
translation in 1885.[FN#14] The text printed in this volume is that of
M. Lefebure.

[FN#5] Monuments, tom. iii., p. 245.

[FN#6] Trans. Soc. Bibl. Arch., vol. iv., p. 1 ff.

[FN#7] Hieroglyphische Inschriften, Bl. 85 fl.

[FN#8] Die neue Weltordnung nach Vernichtung des sundigen
Menschengeschlechtes, Berlin, 1881.

[FN#9] Aus Aegyptens Vorzeit, p. 71.

[FN#10] Religion der alten Aegypter, p. 436.

[FN#11] Die Religion, p. 32.

[FN#12] A. Z., 1883, p. 32.

[FN#13] Tombeau de Seti I., Part IV., plates 15-18.

[FN#14] Trans. Soc. Bibl. Arch., vol. viii., p. 412 ft.

The legend takes us back to the time when the gods of Egypt went about
in the country, and mingled with men and were thoroughly acquainted
with their desires and needs. The king who reigned over Egypt was Ra,
the Sun-god, who was not, however, the first of the Dynasty of Gods who
ruled the land. His predecessor on the throne was Hephaistos, who,
according to Manetho, reigned 9000 years, whilst Ra reigned only 992
years; Panodorus makes his reign to have lasted less than 100 years.
Be this as it may, it seems that the "self-created and self-begotten"
god Ra had been ruling over mankind for a very long time, for his
subjects were murmuring against him, and they were complaining that he
was old, that his bones were like silver, his body like gold, and his
hair like lapis-lazuli. When Ra heard these murmurings he ordered his
bodyguard to summon all the gods who had been with him in the primeval
World-ocean, and to bid them privately to assemble in the Great House,
which can be no other than the famous temple of Heliopolis. This
statement is interesting, for it proves that the legend is of
Heliopolitan origin, like the cult of Ra itself, and that it does not
belong, at least in so far as it applies to Ra, to the Predynastic

When Ra entered the Great Temple, the gods made obeisance to him, and
took up their positions on each side of him, and informed him that they
awaited his words. Addressing Nu, the personification of the World-
ocean, Ra bade them to take notice of the fact that the men and women
whom his Eye had created were murmuring against him. He then asked
them to consider the matter and to devise a plan of action for him, for
he was unwilling to slay the rebels without hearing what his gods had
to say. In reply the gods advised Ra to send forth his Eye to destroy
the blasphemers, for there was no eye on earth that could resist it,
especially when it took the form of the goddess Hathor. Ra accepted
their advice and sent forth his Eye in the form of Hathor to destroy
them, and, though the rebels had fled to the mountains in fear, the Eye
pursued them and overtook them and destroyed them. Hathor rejoiced in
her work of destruction, and on her return was praised by Ra, for what
she had done. The slaughter of men began at Suten-henen
(Herakleopolis), and during the night Hathor waded about in the blood
of men. Ra asserted his intention of being master of the rebels, and
this is probably referred to in the Book of the Dead, Chapter XVII., in
which it is said that Ra rose as king for the first time in Suten-
henen. Osiris also was crowned at Suten-henen, and in this city lived
the great Bennu bird, or Phoenix, and the "Crusher of Bones" mentioned
in the Negative Confession.

The legend now goes on to describe an act of Ra, the significance of
which it is difficult to explain. The god ordered messengers to be
brought to him, and when they arrived, he commanded them to run like
the wind to Abu, or the city of Elephantine, and to bring him large
quantities of the fruit called tataat. What kind of fruit this was is
not clear, but Brugsch thought they were "mandrakes," the so-called
"love-apples," and this translation of tataat may be used
provisionally. The mandrakes were given to Sekti, a goddess of
Heliopolis, to crush and grind up, and when this was done they were
mixed with human blood, and put in a large brewing of beer which the
women slaves had made from wheat. In all they made 7,000 vessels of
beer. When Ra saw the beer he approved of it, and ordered it to be
carried up the river to where the goddess Hathor was still, it seems,
engaged in slaughtering men. During the night he caused this beer to
be poured out into the meadows of the Four Heavens, and when Hathor
came she saw the beer with human blood and mandrakes in it, and drank
of it and became drunk, and paid no further attention to men and women.
In welcoming the goddess, Ra, called her "Amit," i.e., "beautiful one,"
and from this time onward "beautiful women were found in the city of
Amit," which was situated in the Western Delta, near Lake
Mareotis.[FN#15] Ra also ordered that in future at every one of his
festivals vessels of "sleep-producing beer" should be made, and that
their number should be the same as the number of the handmaidens of Ra.
Those who took part in these festivals of Hathor and Ra drank beer in
very large quantities, and under the influence of the "beautiful
women," i.e., the priestesses, who were supposed to resemble Hathor in
their physical attractions, the festal celebrations degenerated into
drunken and licentious orgies.

[FN#15] It was also called the "City of Apis," (Brugsch, Dict. Geog.,
p. 491), and is the Apis city of classical writers. It is, perhaps,
represented by the modern Kom al-Hisn.

Soon after this Ra complained that he was smitten with pain, and that
he was weary of the, children of men. He thought them a worthless
remnant, and wished that more of them had been slain. The gods about
him begged him to endure, and reminded him that his power was in
proportion to his will. Ra was, however, unconsoled, and he complained
that his limbs were weak for the first time in his life. Thereupon the
god Nu told Shu to help Ra, and he ordered Nut to take the great god Ra
on her back. Nut changed herself into a cow, and with the help of Shu
Ra got on her back. As soon as men saw that Ra was on the back of the
Cow of Heaven, and was about to leave them, they became filled with
fear and repentance, and cried out to Ra to remain with them and to
slay all those who had blasphemed against him. But the Cow moved on
her way, and carried Ra to Het-Ahet, a town of the nome of Mareotis,
where in later days the right leg of Osiris was said to be preserved.
Meanwhile darkness covered the land. When day broke the men who had
repented of their blasphemies appeared with their bows, and slew the
enemies of Ra. At this result Ra was pleased, and he forgave those who
had repented because of their righteous slaughter of his enemies. From
this time onwards human sacrifices were offered up at the festivals of
Ra celebrated in this place, and at Heliopolis and in other parts of

After these things Ra declared to Nut that he intended to leave this
world, and to ascend into heaven, and that all those who would see his
face must follow him thither. Then he went up into heaven and prepared
a place to which all might come. Then he said, "Hetep sekhet aa,"
i.e., "Let a great field be produced," and straightway "Sekhet-hetep,"
or the "Field of peace," came into being. He next said, "Let there be
reeds (aaru) in it," and straightway "Sekhet Aaru," or the "Field of
Reeds," came into being. Sekhet-hetep was the Elysian Fields of the
Egyptians, and the Field of Reeds was a well-known section of it.
Another command of the god Ra resulted in the creation of the stars,
which the legend compares to flowers. Then the goddess Nut trembled in
all her body, and Ra, fearing that she might fall, caused to come into
being the Four Pillars on which the heavens are supported. Turning to
Shu, Ra entreated him to protect these supports, and to place himself
under Nut, and to hold her up in position with his hands. Thus Shu
became the new Sun-god in the place of Ra, and the heavens in which Ra
lived were supported and placed beyond the risk of falling, and mankind
would live and rejoice in the light of the new sun.

At this place in the legend a text is inserted called the "Chapter of
the Cow." It describes how the Cow of Heaven and the two Boats of the
Sun shall be painted, and gives the positions of the gods who stand by
the legs of the Cow, and a number of short magical names, or formulae,
which are inexplicable. The general meaning of the picture of the Cow
is quite clear. The Cow represents the sky in which the Boats of Ra,
sail, and her four legs are the four cardinal points which cannot be
changed. The region above her back is the heaven in which Ra reigns
over the beings who pass thereto from this earth when they die, and
here was situated the home of the gods and the celestial spirits who
govern this world.

When Ra had made a heaven for himself, and had arranged for a
continuance of life on the earth, and the welfare of human beings, he
remembered that at one time when reigning on earth he had been bitten
by a serpent, and had nearly lost his life through the bite. Fearing
that the same calamity might befall his successor, he determined to
take steps to destroy the power of all noxious reptiles that dwelt on
the earth. With this object in view he told Thoth to summon Keb, the
Earth-god, to his presence, and this god having arrived, Ra told him
that war must be made against the serpents that dwelt in his dominions.
He further commanded him to go to the god Nu, and to tell him to set a
watch over all the reptiles that were in the earth and in water, and to
draw up a writing for every place in which serpents are known to be,
containing strict orders that they are to bite, no one. Though these
serpents knew that Ra was retiring from the earth, they were never to
forget that his rays would fall upon them. In his place their father
Keb was to keep watch over them, and he was their father for ever.

As a further protection against them Ra promised to impart to magicians
and snake-charmers the particular word of power, hekau, with which he
guarded himself against the attacks of serpents, and also to transmit
it to his son Osiris. Thus those who are ready to listen to the
formulae of the snake-charmers shall always be immune from the bites of
serpents, and their children also. From this we may gather that the
profession of the snake-charmer is very ancient, and that this class of
magicians were supposed to owe the foundation of their craft to a
decree of Ra himself.

Ra next sent for the god Thoth, and when he came into the presence of
Ra, he invited him to go with him to a distance, to a place called
"Tuat," i.e., hell, or the Other World, in which region he had
determined to make his light to shine. When they arrived there he told
Thoth, the Scribe of Truth, to write down on his tablets the names of
all who were therein, and to punish those among them who had sinned
against him, and he deputed to Thoth the power to deal absolutely as he
pleased with all the beings in the Tuat. Ra loathed the wicked, and
wished them to be kept at a distance from him. Thoth was to be his
vicar, to fill his place, and "Place of Ra," was to be his name. He
gave him power to send out a messenger (hab), so the Ibis (habi) came
into being. All that Thoth would do would be good (khen), therefore
the Tekni bird of Thoth came into being. He gave Thoth power to
embrace (anh) the heavens, therefore the Moon-god (Aah) came into
being. He gave Thoth power to turn back (anan) the Northern peoples,
therefore the dog-headed ape of Thoth came into being. Finally Ra told
Thoth that he would take his place in the sight of all those who were
wont to worship Ra, and that all should praise him as God. Thus the
abdication of Ra was complete.

In the fragmentary texts which follow we are told how a man may benefit
by the recital of this legend. He must proclaim that the soul which
animated Ra was the soul of the Aged One, and that of Shu, Khnemu (?),
Heh, &c., and then he must proclaim that he is Ra himself, and his word
of power Heka. If he recites the Chapter correctly he shall have life
in the Other World, and he will be held in greater fear there than
here. A rubric adds that he must be dressed in new linen garments, and
be well washed with Nile water; he must wear white sandals, and his
body must be anointed with holy oil. He must burn incense in a censer,
and a figure of Maat (Truth) must be painted on his tongue with green
paint. These regulations applied to the laity as well as to the



The original text of this very interesting legend is written in the
hieratic character on a papyrus preserved at Turin, and was published
by Pleyte and Rossi in their Corpus of Turin Papyri.[FN#16] French and
German translations of it were published by Lefebure,[FN#17] and
Wiedemann[FN#18] respectively, and summaries of its contents were given
by Erman[FN#19] and Maspero.[FN#20] A transcript of the hieratic text
into hieroglyphics, with transliteration and translation, was published
by me in 1895.[FN#21]

[FN#16] Papyrus de Turin, pll. 31, 77, 131-138.

[FN#17] A. Z., 1883, p. 27 ff.

[FN#18] Die Religion, p. 29.

[FN#19] Aegypten, p. 359 ff.

[FN#20] Les Origines, V. 162-4.

[FN#21] First Steps in Egyptian, p. 241 ff.

It has already been seen that the god Ra, when retiring from the
government of this world, took steps through Thoth to supply mankind
with words of power and spells with which to protect themselves against
the bites of serpents and other noxious reptiles. The legend of the
Destruction of Mankind affords no explanation of this remarkable fact,
but when we read the following legend of Ra and Isis we understand why
Ra, though king of the gods, was afraid of the reptiles which lived in
the kingdom of Keb. The legend, or "Chapter of the Divine God," begins
by enumerating the mighty attributes of Ra as the creator of the
universe, and describes the god of "many names" as unknowable, even by
the gods. At this time Isis lived in the form of a woman who possessed
the knowledge of spells and incantations, that is to say, she was
regarded much in the same way as modern African peoples regard their
"medicine-women," or "witch-women." She had used her spells on men,
and was tired of exercising her powers on them, and she craved the
opportunity of making herself mistress of gods and spirits as well as
of men. She meditated how she could make herself mistress both of
heaven and earth, and finally she decided that she could only obtain
the power she wanted if she possessed the knowledge of the secret name
of Ra, in which his very existence was bound up. Ra guarded this name
most jealously, for he knew that if he revealed it to any being he
would henceforth be at that being's mercy. Isis saw that it was
impossible to make Ra declare his name to her by ordinary methods, and
she therefore thought out the following plan. It was well known in
Egypt and the Sudan at a very early period that if a magician obtained
some portion of a person's body, e.g., a hair, a paring of a nail, a
fragment of skin, or a portion of some efflux from the body, spells
could be used upon them which would have the effect of causing grievous
harm to that person. Isis noted that Ra had become old and feeble, and
that as he went about he dribbled at the mouth, and that his saliva
fell upon the ground. Watching her opportunity she caught some of the
saliva of the and mixing it with dust, she moulded it into the form of
a large serpent, with poison-fangs, and having uttered her spells over
it, she left the serpent lying on the path, by which Ra travelled day
by day as he went about inspecting Egypt, so that it might strike at
him as he passed along. We may note in passing that the Banyoro in the
Sudan employ serpents in killing buffaloes at the present day. They
catch a puff-adder in a noose, and then nail it alive by the tip of its
tail to the round in the middle of a buffalo track, so that when an
animal passes the reptile may strike at it. Presently a buffalo comes
along, does what it is expected to do, and then the puff-adder strikes
at it, injects its poison, and the animal dies soon after. As many as
ten buffaloes have been killed in a day by one puff-adder. The body of
the first buffalo is not eaten, for it is regarded as poisoned meat,
but all the others are used as food.[FN#22]

[FN#22] Johnston, Uganda, vol. ii., p. 584. The authority for this
statement is Mr. George Wilson, formerly Collector in Unyoro.

Soon after Isis had placed the serpent on the Path, Ra passed by, and
the reptile bit him, thus injecting poison into his body. Its effect
was terrible, and Ra cried out in agony. His jaws chattered, his lips
trembled, and he became speechless for a time; never before had be
suffered such pain. The gods hearing his cry rushed to him, and when
he could speak he told them that he had been bitten by a deadly
serpent. In spite of all the words of power which were known to him,
and his secret name which had been hidden in his body at his birth, a
serpent had bitten him, and he was being consumed with a fiery pain.
He then commanded that all the gods who had any knowledge of magical
spells should come to him, and when they came, Isis, the great lady of
spells, the destroyer of diseases, and the revivifier of the dead, came
with them. Turning to Ra she said, "What hath happened, O divine
Father?" and in answer the god told her that a serpent had bitten him,
that he was hotter than fire and colder than water, that his limbs
quaked, and that he was losing the power of sight. Then Isis said to
him with guile, "Divine Father, tell me thy name, for he who uttereth
his own name shall live." Thereupon Ra proceeded to enumerate the
various things that he had done, and to describe his creative acts, and
ended his speech to Isis by saying, that he was Khepera in the morning,
Ra at noon, and Temu in the evening. Apparently he thought that the
naming of these three great names would satisfy Isis, and that she
would immediately pronounce a word of power and stop the pain in his
body, which, during his speech, had become more acute. Isis, however,
was not deceived, and she knew well that Ra had not declared to her his
hidden name; this she told him, and she begged him once again to tell
her his name. For a time the god refused to utter the name, but as the
pain in his body became more violent, and the poison passed through his
veins like fire, he said, "Isis shall search in me, and my name shall
pass from my body into hers." At that moment Ra removed himself from
the sight of the gods in his Boat, and the Throne in the Boat of
Millions of Years had no occupant. The great name of Ra was, it seems,
hidden in his heart, and Isis, having some doubt as to whether Ra would
keep his word or not, agreed with Horus that Ra must be made to take an
oath to part with his two Eyes, that is, the Sun and the Moon. At
length Ra allowed his heart to be taken from his body, and his great
and secret name, whereby he lived, passed into the possession of Isis.
Ra thus became to all intents and purposes a dead god. Then Isis,
strong in the power of her spells, said: "Flow, poison, come out of Ra.
Eye of Horus, come out of Ra, and shine outside his mouth. It is I,
Isis, who work, and I have made the poison to fall on the ground.
Verily the name of the great god is taken from him, Ra shall live and
the poison shall die; if the poison live Ra shall die."

This was the infallible spell which was to be used in cases of
poisoning, for it rendered the bite or sting of every venomous reptile
harmless. It drove the poison out of Ra, and since it was composed by
Isis after she obtained the knowledge of his secret name it was
irresistible. If the words were written on papyrus or linen over a
figure of Temu or Heru-hekenu, or Isis, or Horus, they became a mighty
charm. If the papyrus or linen were steeped in water and the water
drunk, the words were equally efficacious as a charm against snake-
bites. To this day water in which the written words of a text from the
Kur'an have been dissolved, or water drunk from a bowl on the inside of
which religious texts have been written, is still regarded as a never-
failing charm in Egypt and the Sudan. Thus we see that the modern
custom of drinking magical water was derived from the ancient
Egyptians, who believed that it conveyed into their bodies the actual
power of their gods.



The text of this legend is cut in hieroglyphics on the walls of the
temple of Edfu in Upper Egypt, and certain portions of it are
illustrated by large bas-reliefs. Both text and reliefs were published
by Professor Naville in his volume entitled Mythe d'Horus, fol., plates
12-19, Geneva, 1870. A German translation by Brugsch appeared in the
Ahandlungen der Gottinger Akademie, Band xiv., pp. 173-236, and another
by Wiedemann in his Die Religion, p. 38 ff. (see the English
translation p. 69 ff.). The legend, in the form in which it is here
given, dates from the Ptolemaic Period, but the matter which it
contains is far older, and it is probable that the facts recorded in it
are fragments of actual history, which the Egyptians of the late period
tried to piece together in chronological order. We shall see as we
read that the writer of the legend as we have it was not well
acquainted with Egyptian history, and that in his account of the
conquest of Egypt he has confounded one god with another, and mixed up
historical facts with mythological legends to such a degree that his
meaning is frequently uncertain. The great fact which he wished to
describe is the conquest of Egypt by an early king, who, having subdued
the peoples in the South, advanced northwards, and made all the people
whom he conquered submit to his yoke. Now the King of Egypt was always
called Horus, and the priests of Edfu wishing to magnify their local
god, Horus of Behutet, or Horus of Edfu, attributed to him the
conquests of this human, and probably predynastic, king. We must
remember that the legend assumes that Ra, was still reigning on earth,
though he was old and feeble, and had probably deputed his power to his
successor, whom the legend regards as his son.

Horus holding the Hippopotamus-fiend with chain and spear. Behind
stand Isis and Heru Khenti-Khatti.

Horus driving his spear into the Hippopotamus-fiend; behind him stands
one of his "Blacksmiths".

Horus driving his spear into the belly of the Hippopotamus-fiend as he
lies on his back; behind stands on of his "Blacksmiths".

Horus and Isis capturing the Hippopotamus-fiend.

In the 363rd year of his reign Ra-Harmakhis[FN#23] was in Nubia with
his army with the intention of destroying those who had conspired
against him; because of their conspiracy (auu) Nubia is called "Uaua"
to this day. From Nubia Ra-Harmakhis sailed down the river to Edfu,
where Heru-Behutet entered his boat, and told him that his foes were
conspiring against him. Ra-Harmakhis in answer addressed Heru-Behutet
as his son, and commanded him to set out without delay and slay the
wicked rebels. Then Heru-Behutet took the form of a great winged Disk,
and at once flew up into the sky, where he took the place of Ra, the
old Sun-god. Looking down from the height of heaven he was able to
discover the whereabouts of the rebels, and he pursued them in the form
of a winged disk. Then he attacked them with such violence that they
became dazed, and could neither see where they were going, nor hear,
the result of this being that they slew each other, and in a very short
time they were all dead. Thoth, seeing this, told Ra that because
Horus had appeared as a great winged disk he must be called "Heru-
Behutet," and by this name Horus was known ever after at Edfu. Ra
embraced Horus, and referred with pleasure to the blood which he had
shed, and Horus invited his father to come and look upon the slain. Ra
set out with the goddess Ashthertet (`Ashtoreth) to do this, and they
saw the enemies lying fettered on the ground. The legend here
introduces a number of curious derivations of the names of Edfu, &c.,
which are valueless, and which remind us of the derivations of place-
names propounded by ancient Semitic scribes.

[FN#23] i.e., Ra on the horizon.

Horus standing on the back of the Hippopotamus-fiend, and spearing him
in the presence of Isis.

The "Butcher-priest" slicing open the Hippopotamus-fiend.

In gladness of heart Ra proposed a sail on the Nile, but as soon as his
enemies heard that he was coming, they changed themselves into
crocodiles and hippopotami, so that they might be able to wreck his
boat and devour him. As the boat of the god approached them they
opened their jaws to crush it, but Horus and his followers came quickly
on the scene, and defeated their purpose. The followers of Horus here
mentioned are called in the text "Mesniu," i.e., "blacksmiths," or
"workers in metal," and they represent the primitive conquerors of the
Egyptians, who were armed with metal weapons, and so were able to
overcome with tolerable ease the indigenous Egyptians, whose weapons
were made of flint and wood. Horus and his "blacksmiths" were provided
with iron lances and chains, and, baying cast the chains over the
monsters in the river, they drove their lances into their snouts, and
slew 651 of them. Because Horus gained his victory by means of metal
weapons, Ra decreed that a metal statue of Horus should be placed at
Edfu, and remain there for ever, and a name was given to the town to
commemorate the great battle that had taken place there. Ra applauded
Horus for the mighty deeds which be had been able to perform by means
of the spells contained in the "Book of Slaying the Hippopotamus."
Horus then associated with himself the goddesses Uatchet and Nekhebet,
who were in the form of serpents, and, taking his place as the winged
Disk on the front of the Boat of Ra, destroyed all the enemies of Ra
wheresoever he found them. When the remnant of the enemies of Ra, saw
that they were likely to be slain, they doubled back to the South, but
Horus pursued them, and drove them down the river before him as far as
Thebes. One battle took place at Tchetmet, and another at Denderah,
and Horus was always victorious; the enemies were caught by chains
thrown over them, and the deadly spears of the Blacksmiths drank their

After this the enemy fled to the North, and took refuge in the swamps
of the Delta, and in the shallows of the Mediterranean Sea, and Horus
pursued them thither. After searching for them for four days and four
nights he found them, and they were speedily slain. One hundred and
forty-two of them and a male hippopotamus were dragged on to the Boat
of Ra, and there Horus dug out their entrails, and hacked their
carcases in pieces, which he gave to his Blacksmiths and the gods who
formed the crew of the Boat of Ra. Before despatching the
hippopotamus, Horus leaped on to the back of the monster as a mark of
his triumph, and to commemorate this event the priest of Heben, the
town wherein these things happened, was called "He who standeth on the
back ever after."

The end of the great fight, however, was not yet. Another army of
enemies appeared by the North Lake, and they were marching towards the
sea; but terror of Horus smote their hearts, and they fled and took
refuge in Mertet-Ament, where they allied themselves with the followers
of Set, the Arch-fiend and great Enemy of Ra. Thither Horus and his
well-armed Blacksmiths pursued them, and came up with them at the town
called Per-Rerehu, which derived its name from the "Two Combatants," or
"Two Men," Horus and Set. A great fight took place, the enemies of Ra
were defeated with great slaughter, and Horus dragged 381 prisoners on
to the Boat of Ra, where he slew them, and gave their bodies to his

Horus of Behutet and Ra-Harmakhis in a shrine.

Horus of Behutet and Harmakhis in a shrine.


Ashthertet ('Ashtoreth') driving her chariot over the prostrate foe.

Left: Horus of Behutet spearing a Typhonic animal, and holding his
prisoners with rope.

Right: Horus of Behutet, accompanied by Ra-Harmakhis and Menu, spearing
the Hippopotamus-fiend.

Then Set rose up and cursed Horus because he had slain his allies, and
he used such foul language that Thoth called him "Nehaha-her," i.e.,
"Stinking Face," and this name clung to him ever after. After this
Horus and Set engaged in a fight which lasted a very long time, but at
length Horus drove his spear into the neck of Set with such violence
that the Fiend fell headlong to the ground. Then Horus smote with his
club the mouth which had uttered such blasphemies, and fettered him
with his chain. In this state Horus dragged Set into the presence of
Ra, who ascribed great praise to Horus, and special names were given to
the palace of Horus and the high priest of the temple in commemoration
of the event. When the question of the disposal of Set was being
discussed by the gods, Ra ordered that he and his fiends should be
given over to Isis and her son Horus, who were to do what they pleased
with them. Horus promptly cut off the heads of Set and his fiends in
the presence of Ra and Isis, and be dragged Set by his feet through the
country with his spear sticking in his head and neck. After this Isis
appointed Horus of Behutet to be the protecting deity of her son Horus.

The fight between the Sun-god and Set was a very favourite subject with
Egyptian writers, and there are many forms of it. Thus there is the
fight between Heru-ur and Set, the fight between Ra and Set, the fight
between Heru-Behutet and Set, the fight between Osiris and Set, and the
fight between Horus, son of Isis, and Set. In the oldest times the
combat was merely the natural opposition of light to darkness, but
later the Sun-god became the symbol of right and truth as well as of
light, and Set the symbol of sin and wickedness as well as of darkness,
and ultimately the nature myth was forgotten, and the fight between the
two gods became the type of the everlasting war which good men wage
against sin. In Coptic literature we have the well-known legend of the
slaughter of the dragon by St. George, and this is nothing but a
Christian adaptation of the legend of Horus and Set.

After these things Horus, son of Ra, and Horus, son of Isis, each took
the form of a mighty man, with the face and body of a hawk, and each
wore the Red and White Crowns, and each carried a spear and chain. In
these forms the two gods slew the remnant of the enemies. Now by some
means or other Set came to life again, and he took the form of a mighty
hissing or "roaring" serpent, and hid himself in the ground, in a place
which was ever after called the "place of the roarer." In front of his
hiding-place Horus, son of Isis, stationed himself in the form of a
hawk-headed staff to prevent him from coming out. In spite of this,
however, Set managed to escape, and he gathered about him the Smai and
Seba fiends at the Lake of Meh, and waged war once more against Horus;
the enemies of Ra were again defeated, and Horus slew them in the
presence of his father.

Horus of Behutet and Thoth spearing human victims with the assistance
of Isis.

Horus of Behutet and Thoth spearing Set in the form of a crocodile.

Horus, it seems, now ceased to fight for some time, and devoted himself
to keeping guard over the "Great God" who was in An-rut-f, a district
in or near Herakleopolis. This Great God was no other than Osiris, and
the duty of Horus was to prevent the Smai fiends from coming by night
to the place. In spite of the power of Horus, it was found necessary
to summon the aid of Isis to keep away the fiends, and it was only by
her words of power that the fiend Ba was kept out of the sanctuary. As
a reward for what he had already done, Thoth decreed that Horus should
be called the "Master-Fighter." Passing over the derivations of place-
names which occur here in the text, we find that Horus and his
Blacksmiths were again obliged to fight bodies of the enemy who had
managed to escape, and that on one occasion they killed one hundred and
six foes. In every fight the Blacksmiths performed mighty deeds of
valour, and in reward for their services a special district was
allotted to them to dwell in.

The last great fight in the North took place at Tanis, in the eastern
part of the Delta. When the position of the enemy had been located,
Horus took the form of a lion with the face of a man, and he put on his
head the Triple Crown. His claws were like flints, and with them he
dragged away one hundred and forty-two of the enemy, and tore them in
pieces, and dug out their tongues, which he carried off as symbols of
his victory.

Meanwhile rebellion had again broken out in Nubia, where about one-
third of the enemy had taken refuge in the river in the forms of
crocodiles and hippopotami. Ra counselled Horus to sail up the Nile
with his Blacksmiths, and when Thoth had recited the "Chapters of
protecting the Boat of Ra" over the boats, the expedition set sail for
the South. The object of reciting these spells was to prevent the
monsters which were in the river from making the waves to rise and from
stirring up storms which might engulf the boats of Ra and Horus and the
Blacksmiths. When the rebels and fiends who had been uttering, treason
against Horus saw the boat of Ra, with the winged Disk of Horus
accompanied by the goddesses Uatchet and Nekhebet in the form of
serpents, they were smitten with fear, and their hearts quaked, and all
power of resistance left them, and they died of fright straightway.
When Horus returned in triumph to Edfu, Ra ordered that an image of the
winged Disk should be placed in each of his sanctuaries, and that in
every place wherein a winged Disk was set, that sanctuary should be a
sanctuary of Horus of Behutet. The winged disks which are seen above
the doorways of the temples still standing in Egypt show that the
command of Ra, was faithfully carried out by the priests.

Horus of Behutet in the form of a lion slaying his foes.



The Procreation of Horus, son of Isis.

The text which contains this legend is found cut in hieroglyphics upon
a stele which is now preserved in Paris. Attention was first called to
it by Chabas, who in 1857 gave a translation of it in the Revue
Archeologique, p. 65 ff., and pointed out the importance of its
contents with his characteristic ability. The hieroglyphic text was
first published by Ledrain in his work on the monuments of the
Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris,[FN#24] and I gave a transcript of the
text, with transliteration and translation, in 1895.[FN#25]

[FN#24] Les Monuments Egyptiens (Cabinet des Medailles et Antiques),
In the Bibliotheque de l'Ecole des Hautes Etudes, Paris, 1879-1882,
plate xxii. ff.

[FN#25] First Steps in Egyptian, pp. 179-188.

The greater part of the text consists of a hymn to Osiris, which was
probably composed under the XVIIIth Dynasty, when an extraordinary
development of the cult of that god took place, and when he was placed
by Egyptian theologians at the head of all the gods. Though unseen in
the temples, his presence filled all Egypt, and his body formed the
very substance of the country. He was the God of all gods and the
Governor of the Two Companies of the gods, he formed the soul and body
of Ra, he was the beneficent Spirit of all spirits, he was himself the
celestial food on which the Doubles in the Other World lived. He was
the greatest of the gods in On (Heliopolis), Memphis, Herakleopolis,
Hermopolis, Abydos, and the region of the First Cataract, and so. He
embodied in his own person the might of Ra-Tem, Apis and Ptah, the
Horus-gods, Thoth and Khnemu, and his rule over Busiris and Abydos
continued to be supreme, as it had been for many, many hundreds of
years. He was the source of the Nile, the north wind sprang from him,
his seats were the stars of heaven which never set, and the
imperishable stars were his ministers. All heaven was his dominion,
and the doors of the sky opened before him of their own accord when he
appeared. He inherited the earth from his father Keb, and the
sovereignty of heaven from his mother Nut. In his person he united
endless time in the past and endless time in the future. Like Ra he
had fought Seba, or Set, the monster of evil, and had defeated him, and
his victory assured to him lasting authority over the gods and the
dead. He exercised his creative power in making land and water, trees
and herbs, cattle and other four-footed beasts, birds of all kinds, and
fish and creeping things; even the waste spaces of the desert owed
allegiance to him as the creator. And he rolled out the sky, and set
the light above the darkness.

The last paragraph of the text contains an allusion to Isis, the sister
and wife of Osiris, and mentions the legend of the birth of Horus,
which even under the XVIIIth Dynasty was very ancient, Isis, we are
told, was the constant protectress of her brother, she drove away the
fiends that wanted to attack him, and kept them out of his shrine and
tomb, and she guarded him from all accidents. All these things she did
by means of spells and incantations, large numbers of which were known
to her, and by her power as the "witch-goddess." Her "mouth was
trained to perfection, and she made no mistake in pronouncing her
spells, and her tongue was skilled and halted not." At length came the
unlucky day when Set succeeded in killing Osiris during the war which
the "good god" was waging against him and his fiends. Details of the
engagement are wanting, but the Pyramid Texts state that the body of
Osiris was hurled to the ground by Set at a place called Netat, which
seems to have been near Abydos.[FN#26] The news of the death of Osiris
was brought to Isis, and she at once set out to find his body. All
legends agree in saying that she took the form of a bird, and that she
flew about unceasingly, going hither and thither, and uttering wailing
cries of grief. At length she found the body, and with a piercing cry
she alighted on the ground. The Pyramid Texts say that Nephthys was
with her that "Isis came, Nephthys came, the one on the right side, the
other on the left side, one in the form of a Hat bird, the other in the
form of a Tchert bird, and they found Osiris thrown on the ground in
Netat by his brother Set." The late form of the legend goes on to say
that Isis fanned the body with her feathers, and produced air, and that
at length she caused the inert members of Osiris to move, and drew from
him his essence, wherefrom she produced her child Horus.

[FN#26] Pepi I., line 475; Pepi II., line 1263.

This bare statement of the dogma of the conception of Horus does not
represent all that is known about it, and it may well be supplemented
by a passage from the Pyramid Texts,[FN#27] which reads, "Adoration to
thee, O Osiris.[FN#28] Rise thou up on thy left side, place thyself on
thy right side. This water which I give unto thee is the water of
youth (or rejuvenation). Adoration to thee, O Osiris! Rise thou up on
thy left side, place thyself on thy right side. This bread which I
have made for thee is warmth. Adoration to thee, O Osiris! The doors
of heaven are opened to thee, the doors of the streams are thrown wide
open to thee. The gods in the city of Pe come [to thee], Osiris, at
the sound (or voice) of the supplication of Isis and Nephthys. . . . .
Thy elder sister took thy body in her arms, she chafed thy hands,
she clasped thee to her breast [when] she found thee [lying] on thy
side on the plain of Netat." And in another place we read:[FN#29] "Thy
two sisters, Isis and Nephthys, came to thee, Kam-urt, in thy name of
Kam-ur, Uatchet-urt, in thy name of Uatch-ur . . . . . . . Isis and
Nephthys weave magical protection for thee in the city of Saut, for
thee their lord, in thy name of 'Lord of Saut,' for their god, in thy
name of 'God.' They praise thee; go not thou far from them in thy name
of 'Tua.' They present offerings to thee; be not wroth in thy name of
'Tchentru.' Thy sister Isis cometh to thee rejoicing in her love for
thee.[FN#30] Thou hast union with her, thy seed entereth her. She
conceiveth in the form of the star Septet (Sothis). Horus-Sept issueth
from thee in the form of Horus, dweller in the star Septet. Thou
makest a spirit to be in him in his name 'Spirit dwelling in the god
Tchentru.' He avengeth thee in his name of 'Horus, the son who avenged
his father.' Hail, Osiris, Keb hath brought to thee Horus, he hath
avenged thee, he hath brought to thee the hearts of the gods, Horus
hath given thee his Eye, thou hast taken possession of the Urert Crown
thereby at the head of the gods. Horus hath presented to thee thy
members, he hath collected them completely, there is no disorder in
thee. Thoth hath seized thy enemy and hath slain him and those who
were with him." The above words are addressed to dead kings in the
Pyramid Texts, and what the gods were supposed to do for them was
believed by the Egyptians to have been actually done for Osiris. These
extracts are peculiarly valuable, for they prove that the legend of
Osiris which was current under the XVIIIth Dynasty was based upon
traditions which were universally accepted in Egypt under the Vth and
VIth Dynasties.

[FN#27] Mer-en-Ra, line 336; Pepi II., line 862.

[FN#28] I omit the king's names.

[FN#29] Teta, line 274; Pepi I., line 27; Mer-en-Ra, line 37; and Pepi
II., line 67.

[FN#30] Pyramid Text, Teta, l. 276.


The Stele recording the casting out of a devil from the Princess of

The hymn concludes with a reference to the accession of Horus, son of
Isis, the flesh and bone of Osiris, to the throne of his grandfather
Keb, and to the welcome which he received from the Tchatcha, or
Administrators of heaven, and the Company of the Gods, and the Lords of
Truth, who assembled in the Great House of Heliopolis to acknowledge
his sovereignty. His succession also received the approval of Neb-er-
tcher, who, as we saw from the first legend in this book, was the
Creator of the Universe.



[FN#31] In the headlines of this section, p. 106 ff., for Ptah
Nefer-hetep read Khensu Nefer-hetep.

The text of this legend is cut in hieroglyphics upon a sandstone stele,
with a rounded top, which was found in the temple of Khensu at Thebes,
and is now preserved in the Bibliotheque Nationale at Paris; it was
discovered by Champollion, and removed to Paris by Prisse d'Avennes in
1846. The text was first published by Prisse d'Avennes,[FN#32] and it
was first translated by Birch[FN#33] in 1853. The text was republished
and translated into French by E. de Rouge in 1858,[FN#34] and several
other renderings have been given in German and in English since that
date.[FN#35] When the text was first published, and for some years
afterwards, it was generally thought that the legend referred to events
which were said to have taken place under a king who was identified as
Rameses XIII., but this misconception was corrected by Erman, who
showed[FN#36] that the king was in reality Rameses II. By a careful
examination of the construction of the text he proved that the
narrative on the stele was drawn up several hundreds of years after the
events described in it took place, and that its author was but
imperfectly acquainted with the form of the Egyptian language in use in
the reign of Rameses II. In fact, the legend was written in the
interests of the priests of the temple of Khensu, who wished to magnify
their god and his power to cast out devils and to exorcise evil
spirits; it was probably composed between B.C. 650 and B.C. 250.[FN#37]

[FN#32] Choix de Monuments Egyptiens, Paris, 1847, plate xxiv.

[FN#33] Transactions of the Royal Society of Literature, New Series,
vol. iv., p. 217 ff.

[FN#34] Journal Asiatique (Etude sur une Stele Egyptienne), August,
1856, August, 1857, and August-Sept., 1858, Paris, 8vo, with plate.

[FN#35] Brugsch, Geschichte Aegyptens, 1877, p. 627 ff.; Birch,
Records of the Past, Old Series, vol. iv., p. 53 ff.; Budge, Egyptian
Reading Book, text and transliteration, p. 40 ff.; translation, p.
xxviii. ff.

[FN#36] Aeg. Zeit., 1883, pp. 54-60.

[FN#37] Maspero, Les Contes Populaires, 3rd edit., p. 166.

The legend, after enumerating the great names of Rameses II., goes on
to state that the king was in the "country of the two rivers," by which
we are to understand some portion of Mesopotamia, the rivers being the
Tigris and Euphrates, and that the local chiefs were bringing to him
tribute consisting of gold, lapis-lazuli, turquoise, and logs of wood
from the Land of the God. It is difficult to understand how gold and
logs of wood from Southern Arabia and East Africa came to be produced
as tribute by chiefs who lived so far to the north. Among those who
sent gifts was the Prince of Bekhten, and at the head of all his
tribute he sent his eldest daughter, bearing his message of homage and
duty. Now the maiden was beautiful, and the King of Egypt thought her
so lovely that be took her to wife, and bestowed upon her the name "Ra-
neferu," which means something like the "beauties of Ra." He took her
back with him to Egypt, where she was installed as Queen.

During the summer of the fifteenth year of his reign, whilst Rameses
II. was celebrating a festival of Amen-Ra in the Temple of Luxor, one
came to him and reported that an envoy had arrived from the Prince of
Bekhten, bearing with him many gifts for the Royal Wife Ra-neferu.
When the envoy had been brought into the presence, he addressed words
of homage to the king, and, having presented the gifts from his lord,
he said that he had come to beg His Majesty to send a "learned man,"
i.e., a magician, to Bekhten to attend Bent-enth-resh, His Majesty's
sister-in-law, who was stricken with some disease. Thereupon the king
summoned the learned men of the House of Life, i.e., the members of the
great College of Magic at Thebes, and the qenbetu officials, and when
they had entered his presence, he commanded them to select a man of
"wise heart and deft fingers" to go to Bekhten. The choice fell upon
one Tehuti-em-heb, and His Majesty sent him to Bekhten with the envoy.
When they arrived in Bekhten, Tehuti-em-heb found that the Princess
Bent-enth-resh was possessed by an evil spirit which refused to be
exorcised by him, and he was unable to cast out the devil. The Prince
of Bekhten, seeing that the healing of his daughter was beyond the
power of the Egyptian, sent a second envoy to Rameses II., and besought
him to send a god to drive out the devil. This envoy arrived in Egypt
in the summer of the twenty-sixth year of the reign of Rameses II., and
found the king celebrating a festival in Thebes. When he heard the
petition of the envoy, he went to the Temple of Khensu Nefer-hetep "a
second time,"[FN#38] and presented himself before the god and besought
his help on behalf of his sister-in-law.

[FN#38] Thus the king must have invoked the help of Khensu on the
occasion of the visit of the first envoy.

Then the priests of Khensu Nefer-hetep carried the statue of this god
to the place where was the statue of Khensu surnamed "Pa-ari-sekher,"
i.e., the "Worker of destinies," who was able to repel the attacks of
evil spirits and to drive them out. When the statues of the two gods
were facing each other, Rameses II. entreated Khensu Nefer-hetep to
"turn his face towards," i.e., to look favourably upon Khensu. Pa-ari-
sekher, and to let him go to Bekhten to drive the devil out of the
Princess of Bekhten. The text affords no explanation of the fact that
Khensu Nefer-hetep was regarded as a greater god than Khensu Pa-ari-
sekher, or why his permission had to be obtained before the latter
could leave the country. It is probable that the demands made upon
Khensu Nefer-hetep by the Egyptians who lived in Thebes and its
neighbourhood were so numerous that it was impossible to let his statue
go into outlying districts or foreign lands, and that a deputy-god was
appointed to perform miracles outside Thebes. This arrangement would
benefit the people, and would, moreover, bring much money to the
priests. The appointment of a deputy-god is not so strange as it may
seem, and modern African peoples are familiar with the expedient.
About one hundred years ago the priests of the god Bobowissi of
Winnebah, in the Tshi region of West Africa, found their business so
large that it was absolutely necessary for them to appoint a deputy.
The priests therefore selected Brahfo, i.e., "deputy," and gave out
that Bobowissi had deputed all minor matters to him, and that his
utterances were to be regarded as those of Bobowissi. Delegates were
ordered to be sent to Winnebah in Ashanti, where they would be shown
the "deputy" god by the priests, and afterwards he would be taken to
Mankassim, where he would reside, and do for the people all that
Bobowissi had done hitherto.[FN#39]

[FN#39] Ellis, Tshi-speaking Peoples, p. 55.

When Rameses II. had made his petition to Khensu Nefer-hetep, the
statue of the god bowed its head twice, in token of assent. Here it is
clear that we have an example of the use of statues with movable limbs,
which were worked, when occasion required, by the priests. The king
then made a second petition to the god to transfer his sa, or magical
power, to Khensu Pa-ari-sekher so that when he had arrived in Bekhten
he would be able to heal the Princess. Again the statue of Khensu
Nefer-hetep bowed its head twice, and the petition of the king was
granted. The text goes on to say that the magical power of the greater
god was transferred to the lesser god four times, or in a fourfold
measure, but we are not told how this was effected. We know from many
passages in the texts that every god was believed to possess this
magical power, which is called the "sa of life," or the "sa of the
god,".[FN#40] This sa could be transferred by a god or goddess to a
human being, either by an embrace or through some offering which was
eaten. Thus Temu transferred the magical power of his life to Shu and
Tefnut by embracing them,[FN#41] and in the Ritual of the Divine
Cult[FN#42] the priest says, The two vessels of milk of Temu are the "sa
of my limbs." The man who possessed this sa could transfer it to his
friend by embracing him and then "making passes" with his hands along
his back. The sa could be received by a man from a god and then
transmitted by him to a statue by taking it in his arms, and this
ceremony was actually performed by the king in the Ritual of the Divine
Cult.[FN#43] The primary source of this sa was Ra, who bestowed it
without measure on the blessed dead,[FN#44] and caused them to live for
ever thereby. These, facts make it tolerably certain that the magical
power of Khensu Nefer-hetep was transferred to Khensu Pa-ari-sekher in
one of two ways: either the statue of the latter was brought near to
that of the former and it received the sa by contact, or the high
priest first received the sa from the greater god and then transmitted
it to the lesser god by embraces and "passes" with his hands. Be this
as it may, Khensu Pa-ari-sekher received the magical power, and having
been placed in his boat, he set out for Bekhten, accompanied by five
smaller boats, and chariots and horses which marched on each side of

[FN#40] Text of Unas, line 562.

[FN#41] Pyramid Texts, Pepi I., l. 466.

[FN#42] Ed. Moret, p. 21.

[FN#43] Ibid., p. 99.

[FN#44] Pepi I., line 666.

When after a journey of seventeen months Khensu Pa-ari-sekher arrived
in Bekhten, he was cordially welcomed by the Prince, and, having gone
to the place where the Princess who was possessed of a devil lived, he
exercised his power to such purpose that she was healed immediately.
Moreover, the devil which had been cast out admitted that Khensu Pa-
ari-sekher was his master, and promised that he would depart to the
place whence he came, provided that the Prince of Bekhten would
celebrate a festival in his honour before his departure. Meanwhile
the Prince and his soldiers stood by listening to the conversation
between the god and the devil, and they were very much afraid.
Following the instructions of Khensu Pa-ari-sekher the Prince made
a great feast in honour of the supernatural visitors, and then the
devil departed to the "place which he loved," and there was general
rejoicing in the land. The Prince of Bekhten was so pleased with the
Egyptian god that he determined not to allow him to return to Egypt.
When the statue of Khensu Pa-ari-sekher had been in Bekhten for three
years and nine months, the Prince in a vision saw the god, in the form
of a golden hawk, come forth from his shrine, and fly up into the air
and direct his course to Egypt. Realizing that the statue of the god
was useless without its indwelling spirit, the Prince of Bekhten
permitted the priests of Khensu Pa-ari-sekher to depart with it to
Egypt, and dismissed them with gifts of all kinds. In due course they
arrived in Egypt and the priests took their statue to the temple of
Khensu Nefer-hetep, and handed over to that god all the gifts which the
Prince of Bekhten had given them, keeping back nothing for their own
god. After this Khensu Pa-ari-sekher returned to his temple in peace,
in the thirty-third year of the reign of Rameses II., having been
absent from it about eight years.



The text of this most interesting legend is found in hieroglyphics on
one side of a large rounded block of granite some eight or nine feet
high, which stands on the south-east portion of Sahal, a little island
lying in the First Cataract, two or three miles to the south of
Elephantine Island and the modern town of Aswan. The inscription is
not cut into the rock in the ordinary way, but was "stunned" on it with
a blunted chisel, and is, in some lights, quite invisible to anyone
standing near the rock, unless he is aware of its existence. It is in
full view of the river-path which leads from Mahallah to Philae, and
yet it escaped the notice of scores of travellers who have searched the
rocks and islands in the Cataract for graffiti and inscriptions. The
inscription, which covers a space six feet by five feet, was discovered
accidentally on February 6th, 1889, by the late Mr. C. E. Wilbour, a
distinguished American gentleman who spent many years in research in
Egypt. He first copied the text, discovering in the course of his work
the remarkable nature of its contents and then his friend Mr. Maudslay
photographed it. The following year he sent prints from Mr. Maudslay's
negatives to Dr. Brugsch, who in the course of 1891 published a
transcript of the text with a German translation and notes in a work
entitled Die biblischen sieben Jahre der Hungersnoth, Leipzig, 8vo.

The legend contained in this remarkable text describes a terrible
famine which took place in the reign of Tcheser, a king of the IIIrd
Dynasty, and lasted for seven years. Insufficient Nile-floods were, of
course, the physical cause of the famine, but the legend shows that the
"low Niles" were brought about by the neglect of the Egyptians in
respect of the worship of the god of the First Cataract, the great god
Khnemu. When, according to the legend, king Tcheser had been made to
believe that the famine took place because men had ceased to worship
Khnemu in a manner appropriate to his greatness, and when he had taken
steps to remove the ground of complaint, the Nile rose to its
accustomed height, the crops became abundant once more, and all misery
caused by scarcity of provisions ceased. In other words, when Tcheser
restored the offerings of Khnemu, and re-endowed his sanctuary and his
priesthood, the god allowed Hapi to pour forth his streams from the
caverns in the Cataract, and to flood the land with abundance. The
general character of the legend, as we have it here, makes it quite
certain that it belongs to a late period, and the forms of the
hieroglyphics and the spellings of the words indicate that the text was
"stunned" on the rock in the reign of one of the Ptolemies, probably at
a time when it was to the interest of some men to restore the worship
of Khnemu, god of the First Cataract. These interested people could
only have been the priests of Khnemu, and the probability that this was
so becomes almost a certainty when we read in the latter part of the
text the list of the tolls and taxes which they were empowered to levy
on the merchants, farmers, miners, etc., whose goods passed down the
Cataract into Egypt. Why, if this be the case, they should have chosen
to connect the famine with the reign of Tcheser is not clear. They may
have wished to prove the great antiquity of the worship of Khnemu, but
it would have been quite easy to select the name of some king of the
Ist Dynasty, and had they done this, they would have made the authority
of Khnemu over the Nile coaeval with Dynastic civilization. It is
impossible to assume that no great famine took place in Egypt between
the reign of Tcheser and the period when the inscription was made, and
when we consider this fact the choice by the editor of the legend of a
famine which took place under the IIIrd Dynasty to illustrate the power
of Khnemu seems inexplicable.

Of the famines which must have taken place in the Dynastic period the
inscriptions tell us nothing, but the story of the seven years' famine
mentioned in the Book of Genesis shows that there is nothing improbable
in a famine lasting so long in Egypt. Arab historians also mention
several famines which lasted for seven years. That which took place in
the years 1066-1072 nearly ruined the whole country. A cake of bread
was sold for 15 dinanir, (the dinar = 10s.), a horse was sold for 20, a
dog for 5, a cat for 3, and an egg for 1 dinar. When all the animals
were eaten men began to eat each other, and human flesh was sold in
public. "Passengers were caught in the streets by hooks let down from
the windows, drawn up, killed, and cooked."[FN#45] During the famine
which began in 1201 people ate human flesh habitually. Parents killed
and cooked their own children, and a wife was found eating her husband
raw. Baby fricassee and haggis of children's heads were ordinary
articles of diet. The graves even were ransacked for food. An ox sold
for 70 dinanir. [FN#46]

[FN#45] Lane Poole, Middle Ages, p. 146.

[FN#46] Ibid., p. 216.

The legend begins with the statement that in the 18th year of the reign
of King Tcheser, when Matar, the Erpa Prince and Ha, was the Governor
of the temple properties of the South and North, and was also the
Director of the Khenti men at Elephantine (Aswan), a royal despatch was
delivered to him, in which the king said: "I am in misery on my throne.
My heart is very sore because of the calamity which hath happened, for
the Nile hath not come forth[FN#47] for seven years. There is no
grain, there are no vegetables, there is no food, and every man is
robbing his neighbour. Men wish to walk, but they are unable to move;
the young man drags along his limbs, the hearts of the aged are crushed
with despair, their legs fail them, they sink to the ground, and they
clutch their bodies with their hands in pain. The councillors are
dumb, and nothing but wind comes out of the granaries when they are
opened. Everything is in a state of ruin." A more graphic picture of
the misery caused by the famine could hardly be imagined. The king
then goes on to ask Matar where the Nile is born? what god or goddess
presides over it? and what is his [or her] form? He says he would like
to go to the temple of Thoth to enquire of that god, to go to the
College of the Magicians, and search through the sacred books in order
to find out these things.

[FN#47] i.e., there have been insufficient Nile-floods.

When Matar had read the despatch, he set out to go to the king, and
explained to him the things which he wished to know. He told him that,
the Nile rose near the city of Elephantine, that it flowed out of two
caverns, which were the breasts of the Nile-god, that it rose to a
height of twenty-eight cubits at Elephantine, and to the height of
seven cubits at Sma-Behutet, or, Diospolis Parva in the Delta. He who
controlled the Nile was Khnemu, and when this god drew the bolt of the
doors which shut in the stream, and smote the earth with his sandals,
the river rushed forth. Matar also described to the king the form of
Khnemu, which was that of Shu, and the work which he did, and the
wooden house in which he lived, and its exact position, which was near
the famous granite quarries. The gods who dwelt with Khnemu were the
goddess Sept (Sothis, or the Dog-star), the goddess Anqet, Hap (or
Hep), the Nile-god, Shu, Keb, Nut, Osiris, Isis, Nephthys, and Horus.
Thus we see that the priests of Khnemu made him to be the head of a
Company of Gods. Finally Matar gave the king a list of all the stones,
precious and otherwise, which were found in and about Elephantine.

When the king, who had, it seems, come to Elephantine, heard these
things he rejoiced greatly, and he went into the temple of Khnemu.
The priests drew back the curtains and sprinkled him with holy water,
and then he passed into the shrine and offered up a great sacrifice of
bread-cakes, beer, geese, oxen, and all kinds of good things, to the
gods and goddesses who dwelt at Elephantine, in the place called "Couch
of the heart in life and power." Suddenly he found himself standing
face to face with the god Khnemu, whom he placated with a peace-
offering and with prayer. Then the god opened his eyes, and bent his
body towards the king, and spake to him mighty words, saying, "I am
Khnemu, who made thee. My hands knitted together thy body and made it
sound, and I gave thee thy heart." Khnemu then went on to complain
that, although the ground under the king's feet was filled with stones
and metal, men were too inert to work them and to employ them in
repairing or rebuilding of the shrines of the gods, or in doing what
they ought to do for him, their Lord and Creator. These words were, of
course, meant as a rebuke for the king, who evidently, though it is not
so stated in the text, was intended by Khnemu to undertake the
rebuilding of his shrine without delay. The god then went on to
proclaim his majesty and power, and declared himself to be Nu, the
Celestial Ocean, and the Nile-god, "who came into being at the
beginning, and riseth at his will to give health to him that laboureth
for Khnemu." He described himself as the Father of the gods, the
Governor of the earth and of men, and then he promised the king to make
the Nile rise yearly, regularly, and unceasingly, to give abundant
harvests, to give all people their heart's desire, to make misery to
pass away, to fill the granaries, and to make the whole land of Egypt
yellow with waving fields of full ripe grain. When the king, who had
been in a dream, heard the god mention crops, he woke up, and his
courage returned to him, and having cast away despair from his heart he
issued a decree by which he made ample provision for the maintenance of
the worship of the god in a fitting state. In this decree, the first
copy of which was cut upon wood, the king endowed Khnemu with 20
schoinoi of land on each side of the river, with gardens, etc. It was
further enacted that every man who drew water from the Nile for his
land should contribute a portion of his crops to the god. Fishermen,
fowlers, and hunters were to pay an octroi duty of one-tenth of the
value of their catches when they brought them into the city, and a
tithe of the cattle was to be set apart for the daily sacrifice. The
masters of caravans coming from the Sudan were to pay a tithe also, but
they were not liable to any further tax in the country northwards.
Every metal-worker, ore-crusher, miner, mason, and handicraftsman of
every kind, was to pay to the temple of the god one-tenth of the value
of the material produced or worked by his labour. The decree provided
also for the appointment of an inspector whose duty it would be to
weigh the gold, silver and copper which came into the town of
Elephantine, and to assess the value both of these metals and of the
precious stones, etc., which were to be devoted to the service of
Khnemu. All materials employed in making the images of the gods, and
all handicraftsmen employed in the work were exempted from tithing. In
short, the worship of the god and his company was to be maintained
according to ancient use and wont, and the people were to supply the
temple with everything necessary in a generous spirit and with a
liberal hand. He who failed in any way to comply with the enactments
was to be beaten with the rope, and the name of Tcheser was to be
perpetuated in the temple.



The magical and religious texts of the Egyptians of all periods contain
spells intended to be used against serpents, scorpions, and noxious
reptiles of all kinds, and their number, and the importance which was
attached to them, suggest that Egypt must always have produced these
pests in abundance, and that the Egyptians were always horribly afraid
of them. The text of Unas, which was written towards the close of the
Vth Dynasty, contains many such spells, and in the Theban and Saite
Books of the Dead several Chapters consist of nothing but spells and
incantations, many of which are based on archaic texts, against
crocodiles, serpents, and other deadly reptiles, and insects of all
kinds. All such creatures were regarded as incarnations of evil
spirits, which attack the dead as well as the living, and therefore it
was necessary for the well-being of the former that copies of spells
against them should be written upon the walls of tombs, coffins,
funerary amulets, etc. The gods were just as open to the attacks of
venomous reptiles as man, and Ra, himself, the king of the gods, nearly
died from the poison of a snake-bite. Now the gods were, as a rule,
able to defend themselves against the attacks of Set and his fiends,
and the poisonous snakes and insects which were their emissaries, by
virtue of the fluid of life, which was the peculiar attribute of
divinity, and the efforts of Egyptians were directed to the acquisition
of a portion of this magical power, which would protect their souls and
bodies and their houses and cattle, and other property, each day and
each night throughout the year. When a man cared for the protection of
himself only he wore an amulet of some kind, in which the fluid of life
was localized. When he wished to protect his house against invasion by
venomous reptiles he placed statues containing the fluid of life in
niches in the walls of various chambers, or in some place outside but
near the house, or buried them in the earth with their faces turned in
the direction from which he expected the attack to come.

The Metternich Stele--Obverse.

The Metternich Stele--Reverse.

Towards the close of the XXVIth Dynasty, when superstition in its most
exaggerated form was general in Egypt, it became the custom to make
house talismans in the form of small stone stelae, with rounded tops,
which rested on bases having convex fronts. On the front of such a
talisman was sculptured in relief a figure of Horus the Child
(Harpokrates), standing on two crocodiles, holding in his hands figures
of serpents, scorpions, a lion, and a horned animal, each of these
being a symbol of an emissary or ally of Set, the god of Evil. Above
his head was the head of Bes, and on each side of him were: solar
symbols, i.e., the lily of Nefer-Tem, figures of Ra and Harmakhis, the
Eyes of Ra (the Sun and Moon), etc. The reverse of the stele and the
whole of the base were covered with magical texts and spells, and when
a talisman of this kind was placed in a house, it was supposed to be
directly under the protection of Horus and his companion gods, who had
vanquished all the hosts of darkness and all the powers of physical and
moral evil. Many examples of this talisman are to be seen in the great
Museums of Europe, and there are several fine specimens in the Third
Egyptian Room in the British Museum. They are usually called "Cippi of
Horus." The largest and most important of all these "cippi" is that
which is commonly known as the "Metternich Stele," because it was given
to Prince Metternich by Muhammad `Ali Pasha; it was dug up in 1828
during the building of a cistern in a Franciscan Monastery in
Alexandria, and was first published, with a translation of a large part
of the text, by Professor Golenischeff.[FN#48] The importance of the
stele is enhanced by the fact that it mentions the name of the king in
whose reign it was made, viz., Nectanebus I., who reigned from B.C. 378
to B.C. 360.

[FN#48] See Metternichstele, Leipzig, 1877. The Stele was made for
Ankh-Psemthek, son of the lady Tent-Het-nub, prophet of Nebun, overseer
of Temt and scribe of Het (see line 87).

The obverse, reverse, and two sides of the Metternich Stele have cut
upon them nearly three hundred figures of gods and celestial beings.
These include figures of the great gods of heaven, earth, and the Other
World, figures of the gods of the planets and the Dekans, figures of
the gods of the days of the week, of the weeks, and months, and seasons
of the year, and of the year. Besides these there are a number of
figures of local forms of the gods which it is difficult to identify.
On the rounded portion of the obverse the place of honour is held by
the solar disk, in which is seen a figure of Khnemu with four ram's
heads, which rests between a pair of arms, and is supported on a lake
of celestial water; on each side of it are four of the spirits of the
dawn, and on the right stands the symbol of the rising sun, Nefer-Temu,
and on the left stands Thoth. Below this are five rows of small
figures of gods. Below these is Harpokrates in relief, in the attitude
already described. He stands on two crocodiles under a kind of canopy,
the sides of which are supported by Thoth and Isis, and holds Typhonic
animals and reptiles. Above the canopy are the two Eyes of Ra, each
having a pair of human arms and hands. On the right of Harpokrates are
Seker and Horus, and on his left the symbol of Nefer-Temu. On the left
and right are the goddesses Nekhebet and Uatchet, who guard the South
of Egypt and the North respectively. On the reverse and sides are
numerous small figures of gods. This stele represented the power to
protect man possessed by all the divine beings in the universe, and,
however it was placed, it formed an impassable barrier to every spirit
of evil and to every venomous reptile. The spells, which are cut in
hieroglyphics on all the parts of the stele not occupied by figures of
gods, were of the most potent character, for they contained the actual
words by which the gods vanquished the powers of darkness and evil.
These spells form the texts which are printed on p. 142 ff., and may be
thus summarized:--

The first spell is an incantation directed against reptiles and noxious
creatures in general. The chief of these was Apep, the great enemy of
Ra, who took the form of a huge serpent that "resembled the
intestines," and the spell doomed him to decapitation, and burning and
backing in pieces. These things would be effected by Serqet, the
Scorpion-goddess. The second part of the spell was directed against
the poison of Apep, and was to be recited over anyone who was bitten by
a snake. When uttered by Horus it made Apep to vomit, and when used by
a magician properly qualified would make the bitten person to vomit,
and so free his body from the poison.

The next spell is directed to be said to the Cat, i.e., a symbol of the
daughter of Ra, or Isis, who had the head of Ra, the eyes of the
uraeus, the nose of Thoth, the ears of Neb-er-tcher, the mouth of Tem,
the neck of Neheb-ka, the breast of Thoth, the heart of Ra, the hands
of the gods, the belly of Osiris, the thighs of Menthu, the legs of
Khensu, the feet of Amen-Horus, the haunches of Horus, the soles of the
feet of Ra, and the bowels of Meh-urit. Every member of the Cat
contained a god or goddess, and she was able to destroy the poison of
any serpent, or scorpion, or reptile, which might be injected into her
body. The spell opens with an address to Ra, who is entreated to come
to his daughter, who has been stung by a scorpion on a lonely road, and
to cause the poison to leave her body. Thus it seems as if Isis, the
great magician, was at some time stung by a scorpion.

The next section is very difficult to understand. Ra-Harmakhis is
called upon to come to his daughter, and Shu to his wife, and Isis to
her sister, who has been poisoned. Then the Aged One, i.e., Ra, is
asked to let Thoth turn back Neha-her, or Set. "Osiris is in the
water, but Horus is with him, and the Great Beetle overshadows him,"
and every evil spirit which dwells in the water is adjured to allow
Horus to proceed to Osiris. Ra, Sekhet, Thoth, and Heka, this last-
named being the spell personified, are the four great gods who protect
Osiris, and who will blind and choke his enemies, and cut out their
tongues. The cry of the Cat is again referred to, and Ra is asked if
he does not remember the cry which came from the bank of Netit. The
allusion here is to the cries which Isis uttered when she arrived at
Netit near Abydos, and found lying there the dead body of her husband.

At this point on the Stele the spells are interrupted by a long
narrative put into the mouth of Isis, which supplies us with some
account of the troubles that she suffered, and describes the death of
Horus through the sting of a scorpion. Isis, it seems, was shut up in
some dwelling by Set after he murdered Osiris, probably with the
intention of forcing her to marry him, and so assist him to legalize
his seizure of the kingdom. Isis, as we have already seen, had been
made pregnant by her husband after his death, and Thoth now appeared to
her, and advised her to hide herself with her unborn child, and to
bring him forth in secret, and he promised her that her son should
succeed in due course to his father's throne. With the help of Thoth
she escaped from her captivity, and went forth accompanied by the Seven
Scorpion-goddesses, who brought her to the town of Per-Sui, on the edge
of the Reed Swamps. She applied to a woman for a night's shelter, but
the woman shut her door in her face. To punish her one of the
Scorpion-goddesses forced her way into the woman's house, and stung her
child to death. The grief of the woman was so bitter and sympathy-
compelling that Isis laid her hands on the child, and, having uttered
one of her most potent spells over him, the poison of the scorpion ran
out of his body, and the child came to life again. The words of the
spell are cut on the Stele, and they were treasured by the Egyptians as
an infallible remedy for scorpion stings. When the woman saw that her
son had been brought back to life by Isis, she was filled with joy and
gratitude, and, as a mark of her repentance, she brought large
quantities of things from her house as gifts for Isis, and they were so
many that they filled the house of the kind, but poor, woman who had
given Isis shelter.

Now soon after Isis had restored to life the son of the woman who had
shown churlishness to her, a terrible calamity fell upon her, for her
beloved son Horus was stung by a scorpion and died. The news of this
event was conveyed to her by the gods, who cried out to her to come to
see her son Horus, whom the terrible scorpion Uhat had killed. Isis,
stabbed with pain at the news, as if a knife had been driven into her
body, ran out distraught with grief. It seems that she had gone to
perform a religious ceremony in honour of Osiris in a temple near
Hetep-hemt, leaving her child carefully concealed in Sekhet-An. During
her absence the scorpion Uhat, which had been sent by Set, forced its
way into the biding-place of Horus, and there stung him to death. When
Isis came and found the dead body, she burst forth in lamentations, the
sound of which brought all the people from the neighbouring districts
to her side. As she related to them the history of her sufferings they
endeavoured to console her, and when they found this to be impossible
they lifted up their voices and wept with her. Then Isis placed her
nose in the mouth of Horus so that she might discover if he still
breathed, but there was no breath in his throat; and when she examined
the wound in his body made by the fiend Aun-Ab she saw in it traces of
poison. No doubt about his death then remained in her mind, and
clasping him in her arms she lifted him up, and in her transports of
grief leaped about like fish when they are laid on red-hot coals. Then
she uttered a series of heartbreaking laments, each of which begins
with the words "Horus is bitten." The heir of heaven, the son of Un-
Nefer, the child of the gods, he who was wholly fair, is bitten! He
for whose wants I provided, he who was to avenge his father, is bitten!
He for whom I cared and suffered when he was being fashioned in my
womb, is bitten! He whom I tended so that I might gaze upon him, is
bitten! He whose life I prayed for is bitten! Calamity hath overtaken
the child, and he hath perished.

Whilst Isis was saying these and many similar words, her sister
Nephthys, who had been weeping bitterly for her nephew Horus as she
wandered about among the swamps, came, in company with the Scorpion-
goddess Serqet, and advised Isis to pray to heaven for help. Pray that
the sailors in the Boat of Ra may cease from rowing, for the Boat
cannot travel onwards whilst Horus lies dead. Then Isis cried out to
heaven, and her voice reached the Boat of Millions of Years, and the
Disk ceased to move onward, and came to a standstill. From the Boat
Thoth descended, being equipped with words of power and spells of all
kinds, and bearing with him the "great command of maa-kheru," i.e., the
WORD, whose commands were performed, instantly and completely, by every
god, spirit, fiend, human being and by every thing, animate and
inanimate, in heaven, earth, and the Other World. Then he came to Isis
and told her that no harm could possibly have happened to Horus, for he
was under the protection of the Boat of Ra; but his words failed to
comfort Isis, and though she acknowledged the greatness of his designs,
she complained that they savoured of delay. "What is the good," she
asks, "of all thy spells, and incantations, and magical formulae, and
the great command of maa-kheru, if Horus is to perish by the poison of
a scorpion, and to lie here in the arms of Death? Evil, evil is his
destiny, for it hath entailed the deepest misery for him and death."

In answer to these words Thoth, turning to Isis and Nephthys, bade them
to fear not, and to have no anxiety about Horus, "For," said he, "I
have come from heaven to heal the child for his mother." He then
pointed out that Horus was under protection as the Dweller in his Disk
(Aten), the Great Dwarf, the Mighty Ram, the Great Hawk, the Holy
Beetle, the Hidden Body, the Divine Bennu, etc., and proceeded to utter
the great spell which restored Horus to life. By his words of power
Thoth transferred the fluid of life of Ra, and as soon as this came
upon the child's body the poison of the scorpion flowed out of him, and
he once more breathed and lived. When this was done Thoth returned to
the Boat of Ra, the gods who formed its crew resumed their rowing, and
the Disk passed on its way to make its daily journey across the sky.
The gods in heaven, who were amazed and uttered cries of terror when
they heard of the death of Horus, were made happy once more, and sang
songs of joy over his recovery. The happiness of Isis in her child's
restoration to life was very great, for she could again hope that he
would avenge his father's murder, and occupy his throne. The final
words of Thoth comforted her greatly, for he told her that he would
take charge of the case of Horus in the Judgment Hall of Anu, wherein
Osiris had been judged, and that as his advocate he would make any
accusations which might be brought against Horus to recoil on him that
brought them. Furthermore, he would give Horus power to repulse any
attacks which might be made upon him by beings in the heights above, or
fiends in the depths below, and would ensure his succession to the
Throne of the Two Lands, i.e., Egypt. Thoth also promised Isis that Ra
himself should act as the advocate of Horus, even as he had done for
his father Osiris. He was also careful to allude to the share which
Isis had taken in the restoration of Horus to life, saying, "It is the
words of power of his mother which have lifted up his face, and they
shall enable him to journey wheresoever he pleaseth, and to put fear
into the powers above. I myself hasten [to obey them]." Thus
everything turned on the power of the spells of Isis, who made the sun
to stand still, and caused the dead to be raised.

Such are the contents of the texts on the famous Metternich Stele.
There appears to be some confusion in their arrangement, and some of
them clearly are misplaced, and, in places, the text is manifestly
corrupt. It is impossible to explain several passages, for we do not
understand all the details of the system of magic which they represent.
Still, the general meaning of the texts on the Stele is quite clear,
and they record a legend of Isis and Horus which is not found so fully
described on any other monument.


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