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The Golden Bough by Sir James George Frazer

Part 10 out of 19

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his worshippers in historical times. They had left the nomadic life
of the wandering hunter and herdsman far behind them; for ages they
had been settled on the land, and had depended for their subsistence
mainly on the products of tillage. The berries and roots of the
wilderness, the grass of the pastures, which had been matters of
vital importance to their ruder forefathers, were now of little
moment to them: more and more their thoughts and energies were
engrossed by the staple of their life, the corn; more and more
accordingly the propitiation of the deities of fertility in general
and of the corn-spirit in particular tended to become the central
feature of their religion. The aim they set before themselves in
celebrating the rites was thoroughly practical. It was no vague
poetical sentiment which prompted them to hail with joy the rebirth
of vegetation and to mourn its decline. Hunger, felt or feared, was
the mainspring of the worship of Adonis.

It has been suggested by Father Lagrange that the mourning for
Adonis was essentially a harvest rite designed to propitiate the
corngod, who was then either perishing under the sickles of the
reapers, or being trodden to death under the hoofs of the oxen on
the threshing-floor. While the men slew him, the women wept
crocodile tears at home to appease his natural indignation by a show
of grief for his death. The theory fits in well with the dates of
the festivals, which fell in spring or summer; for spring and
summer, not autumn, are the seasons of the barley and wheat harvests
in the lands which worshipped Adonis. Further, the hypothesis is
confirmed by the practice of the Egyptian reapers, who lamented,
calling upon Isis, when they cut the first corn; and it is
recommended by the analogous customs of many hunting tribes, who
testify great respect for the animals which they kill and eat.

Thus interpreted the death of Adonis is not the natural decay of
vegetation in general under the summer heat or the winter cold; it
is the violent destruction of the corn by man, who cuts it down on
the field, stamps it to pieces on the threshing-floor, and grinds it
to powder in the mill. That this was indeed the principal aspect in
which Adonis presented himself in later times to the agricultural
peoples of the Levant, may be admitted; but whether from the
beginning he had been the corn and nothing but the corn, may be
doubted. At an earlier period he may have been to the herdsman,
above all, the tender herbage which sprouts after rain, offering
rich pasture to the lean and hungry cattle. Earlier still he may
have embodied the spirit of the nuts and berries which the autumn
woods yield to the savage hunter and his squaw. And just as the
husband-man must propitiate the spirit of the corn which he
consumes, so the herdsman must appease the spirit of the grass and
leaves which his cattle munch, and the hunter must soothe the spirit
of the roots which he digs, and of the fruits which he gathers from
the bough. In all cases the propitiation of the injured and angry,
sprite would naturally comprise elaborate excuses and apologies,
accompanied by loud lamentations at his decease whenever, through
some deplorable accident or necessity, he happened to be murdered as
well as robbed. Only we must bear in mind that the savage hunter and
herdsman of those early days had probably not yet attained to the
abstract idea of vegetation in general; and that accordingly, so far
as Adonis existed for them at all, he must have been the _Adon_ or
lord of each individual tree and plant rather than a personification
of vegetable life as a whole. Thus there would be as many Adonises
as there were trees and shrubs, and each of them might expect to
receive satisfaction for any damage done to his person or property.
And year by year, when the trees were deciduous, every Adonis would
seem to bleed to death with the red leaves of autumn and to come to
life again with the fresh green of spring.

There is some reason to think that in early times Adonis was
sometimes personated by a living man who died a violent death in the
character of the god. Further, there is evidence which goes to show
that among the agricultural peoples of the Eastern Mediterranean,
the corn-spirit, by whatever name he was known, was often
represented, year by year, by human victims slain on the
harvest-field. If that was so, it seems likely that the propitiation
of the corn-spirit would tend to fuse to some extent with the
worship of the dead. For the spirits of these victims might be
thought to return to life in the ears which they had fattened with
their blood, and to die a second death at the reaping of the corn.
Now the ghosts of those who have perished by violence are surly and
apt to wreak their vengeance on their slayers whenever an
opportunity offers. Hence the attempt to appease the souls of the
slaughtered victims would naturally blend, at least in the popular
conception, with the attempt to pacify the slain corn-spirit. And as
the dead came back in the sprouting corn, so they might be thought
to return in the spring flowers, waked from their long sleep by the
soft vernal airs. They had been laid to their rest under the sod.
What more natural than to imagine that the violets and the
hyacinths, the roses and the anemones, sprang from their dust, were
empurpled or incarnadined by their blood, and contained some portion
of their spirit?

"I sometimes think that never blows so red
The Rose as where some buried Caesar bled;
That every Hyacinth the Garden wears
Dropt in her Lap from some once lovely Head.

"And this reviving Herb whose tender Green
Fledges the River-Lip on which we lean--
Ah, lean upon it lightly, for who knows
From what once lovely Lip it springs unseen?"

In the summer after the battle of Landen, the most sanguinary battle
of the seventeenth century in Europe, the earth, saturated with the
blood of twenty thousand slain, broke forth into millions of
poppies, and the traveller who passed that vast sheet of scarlet
might well fancy that the earth had indeed given up her dead. At
Athens the great Commemoration of the Dead fell in spring about the
middle of March, when the early flowers are in bloom. Then the dead
were believed to rise from their graves and go about the streets,
vainly endeavouring to enter the temples and dwellings, which were
barred against these perturbed spirits with ropes, buckthorn, and
pitch. The name of the festival, according to the most obvious and
natural interpretation, means the Festival of Flowers, and the title
would fit well with the substance of the ceremonies if at that
season the poor ghosts were indeed thought to creep from the narrow
house with the opening flowers. There may therefore be a measure of
truth in the theory of Renan, who saw in the Adonis worship a dreamy
voluptuous cult of death, conceived not as the King of Terrors, but
as an insidious enchanter who lures his victims to himself and lulls
them into an eternal sleep. The infinite charm of nature in the
Lebanon, he thought, lends itself to religious emotions of this
sensuous, visionary sort, hovering vaguely between pain and
pleasure, between slumber and tears. It would doubtless be a mistake
to attribute to Syrian peasants the worship of a conception so
purely abstract as that of death in general. Yet it may be true that
in their simple minds the thought of the reviving spirit of
vegetation was blent with the very concrete notion of the ghosts of
the dead, who come to life again in spring days with the early
flowers, with the tender green of the corn and the many-tinted
blossoms of the trees. Thus their views of the death and
resurrection of nature would be coloured by their views of the death
and resurrection of man, by their personal sorrows and hopes and
fears. In like manner we cannot doubt that Renan's theory of Adonis
was itself deeply tinged by passionate memories, memories of the
slumber akin to death which sealed his own eyes on the slopes of the
Lebanon, memories of the sister who sleeps in the land of Adonis
never again to wake with the anemones and the roses.

XXXIII. The Gardens of Adonis

PERHAPS the best proof that Adonis was a deity of vegetation, and
especially of the corn, is furnished by the gardens of Adonis, as
they were called. These were baskets or pots filled with earth, in
which wheat, barley, lettuces, fennel, and various kinds of flowers
were sown and tended for eight days, chiefly or exclusively by
women. Fostered by the sun's heat, the plants shot up rapidly, but
having no root they withered as rapidly away, and at the end of
eight days were carried out with the images of the dead Adonis, and
flung with them into the sea or into springs.

These gardens of Adonis are most naturally interpreted as
representatives of Adonis or manifestations of his power; they
represented him, true to his original nature, in vegetable form,
while the images of him, with which they were carried out and cast
into the water, portrayed him in his later human shape. All these
Adonis ceremonies, if I am right, were originally intended as charms
to promote the growth or revival of vegetation; and the principle by
which they were supposed to produce this effect was homoeopathic or
imitative magic. For ignorant people suppose that by mimicking the
effect which they desire to produce they actually help to produce
it; thus by sprinkling water they make rain, by lighting a fire they
make sunshine, and so on. Similarly, by mimicking the growth of
crops they hope to ensure a good harvest. The rapid growth of the
wheat and barley in the gardens of Adonis was intended to make the
corn shoot up; and the throwing of the gardens and of the images
into the water was a charm to secure a due supply of fertilising
rain. The same, I take it, was the object of throwing the effigies
of Death and the Carnival into water in the corresponding ceremonies
of modern Europe. Certainly the custom of drenching with water a
leaf-clad person, who undoubtedly personifies vegetation, is still
resorted to in Europe for the express purpose of producing rain.
Similarly the custom of throwing water on the last corn cut at
harvest, or on the person who brings it home (a custom observed in
Germany and France, and till lately in England and Scotland), is in
some places practised with the avowed intent to procure rain for the
next year's crops. Thus in Wallachia and amongst the Roumanians in
Transylvania, when a girl is bringing home a crown made of the last
ears of corn cut at harvest, all who meet her hasten to throw water
on her, and two farm-servants are placed at the door for the
purpose; for they believe that if this were not done, the crops next
year would perish from drought. At the spring ploughing in Prussia,
when the ploughmen and sowers returned in the evening from their
work in the fields, the farmer's wife and the servants used to
splash water over them. The ploughmen and sowers retorted by seizing
every one, throwing them into the pond, and ducking them under the
water. The farmer's wife might claim exemption on payment of a
forfeit, but every one else had to be ducked. By observing this
custom they hoped to ensure a due supply of rain for the seed.

The opinion that the gardens of Adonis are essentially charms to
promote the growth of vegetation, especially of the crops, and that
they belong to the same class of customs as those spring and
mid-summer folk-customs of modern Europe which I have described
else-where, does not rest for its evidence merely on the intrinsic
probability of the case. Fortunately we are able to show that
gardens of Adonis (if we may use the expression in a general sense)
are still planted, first, by a primitive race at their sowing
season, and, second, by European peasants at midsummer. Amongst the
Oraons and Mundas of Bengal, when the time comes for planting out
the rice which has been grown in seed-beds, a party of young people
of both sexes go to the forest and cut a young Karma-tree, or the
branch of one. Bearing it in triumph they return dancing, singing,
and beating drums, and plant it in the middle of the village
dancing-ground. A sacrifice is offered to the tree; and next morning
the youth of both sexes, linked arm-in-arm, dance in a great circle
round the Karma-tree, which is decked with strips of coloured cloth
and sham bracelets and necklets of plaited straw. As a preparation
for the festival, the daughters of the headman of the village
cultivate blades of barley in a peculiar way. The seed is sown in
moist, sandy soil, mixed with turmeric, and the blades sprout and
unfold of a pale-yellow or primrose colour. On the day of the
festival the girls take up these blades and carry them in baskets to
the dancing-ground, where, prostrating themselves reverentially,
they place some of the plants before the Karma-tree. Finally, the
Karma-tree is taken away and thrown into a stream or tank. The
meaning of planting these barley blades and then presenting them to
the Karma-tree is hardly open to question. Trees are supposed to
exercise a quickening influence upon the growth of crops, and
amongst the very people in question--the Mundas or Mundaris--"the
grove deities are held responsible for the crops." Therefore, when
at the season for planting out the rice the Mundas bring in a tree
and treat it with so much respect, their object can only be to
foster thereby the growth of the rice which is about to be planted
out; and the custom of causing barley blades to sprout rapidly and
then presenting them to the tree must be intended to subserve the
same purpose, perhaps by reminding the tree-spirit of his duty
towards the crops, and stimulating his activity by this visible
example of rapid vegetable growth. The throwing of the Karma-tree
into the water is to be interpreted as a rain-charm. Whether the
barley blades are also thrown into the water is not said; but if my
interpretation of the custom is right, probably they are so. A
distinction between this Bengal custom and the Greek rites of Adonis
is that in the former the tree-spirit appears in his original form
as a tree; whereas in the Adonis worship he appears in human form,
represented as a dead man, though his vegetable nature is indicated
by the gardens of Adonis, which are, so to say, a secondary
manifestation of his original power as a tree-spirit.

Gardens of Adonis are cultivated also by the Hindoos, with the
intention apparently of ensuring the fertility both of the earth and
of mankind. Thus at Oodeypoor in Rajputana a festival is held in
honour of Gouri, or Isani, the goddess of abundance. The rites begin
when the sun enters the sign of the Ram, the opening of the Hindoo
year. An image of the goddess Gouri is made of earth, and a smaller
one of her husband Iswara, and the two are placed together. A small
trench is next dug, barley is sown in it, and the ground watered and
heated artificially till the grain sprouts, when the women dance
round it hand in hand, invoking the blessing of Gouri on their
husbands. After that the young corn is taken up and distributed by
the women to the men, who wear it in their turbans. In these rites
the distribution of the barley shoots to the men, and the invocation
of a blessing on their husbands by the wives, point clearly to the
desire of offspring as one motive for observing the custom. The same
motive probably explains the use of gardens of Adonis at the
marriage of Brahmans in the Madras Presidency. Seeds of five or nine
sorts are mixed and sown in earthen pots, which are made specially
for the purpose and are filled with earth. Bride and bridegroom
water the seeds both morning and evening for four days; and on the
fifth day the seedlings are thrown, like the real gardens of Adonis,
into a tank or river.

In Sardinia the gardens of Adonis are still planted in connexion
with the great midsummer festival which bears the name of St. John.
At the end of March or on the first of April a young man of the
village presents himself to a girl, and asks her to be his _comare_
(gossip or sweetheart), offering to be her _compare._ The invitation
is considered as an honour by the girl's family, and is gladly
accepted. At the end of May the girl makes a pot of the bark of the
cork-tree, fills it with earth, and sows a handful of wheat and
barley in it. The pot being placed in the sun and often watered, the
corn sprouts rapidly and has a good head by Midsummer Eve (St.
John's Eve, the twenty-third of June). The pot is then called _Erme_
or _Nenneri._ On St. John's Day the young man and the girl, dressed
in their best, accompanied by a long retinue and preceded by
children gambolling and frolicking, move in procession to a church
outside the village. Here they break the pot by throwing it against
the door of the church. Then they sit down in a ring on the grass
and eat eggs and herbs to the music of flutes. Wine is mixed in a
cup and passed round, each one drinking as it passes. Then they join
hands and sing "Sweethearts of St. John" (_Compare e comare di San
Giovanni_) over and over again, the flutes playing the while. When
they tire of singing they stand up and dance gaily in a ring till
evening. This is the general Sardinian custom. As practised at
Ozieri it has some special features. In May the pots are made of
cork-bark and planted with corn, as already described. Then on the
Eve of St. John the window-sills are draped with rich cloths, on
which the pots are placed, adorned with crimson and blue silk and
ribbons of various colours. On each of the pots they used formerly
to place a statuette or cloth doll dressed as a woman, or a
Priapus-like figure made of paste; but this custom, rigorously
forbidden by the Church, has fallen into disuse. The village swains
go about in a troop to look at the pots and their decorations and to
wait for the girls, who assemble on the public square to celebrate
the festival. Here a great bonfire is kindled, round which they
dance and make merry. Those who wish to be "Sweethearts of St. John"
act as follows. The young man stands on one side of the bonfire and
the girl on the other, and they, in a manner, join hands by each
grasping one end of a long stick, which they pass three times
backwards and forwards across the fire, thus thrusting their hands
thrice rapidly into the flames. This seals their relationship to
each other. Dancing and music go on till late at night. The
correspondence of these Sardinian pots of grain to the gardens of
Adonis seems complete, and the images formerly placed in them answer
to the images of Adonis which accompanied his gardens.

Customs of the same sort are observed at the same season in Sicily.
Pairs of boys and girls become gossips of St. John on St. John's Day
by drawing each a hair from his or her head and performing various
ceremonies over them. Thus they tie the hairs together and throw
them up in the air, or exchange them over a potsherd, which they
afterwards break in two, preserving each a fragment with pious care.
The tie formed in the latter way is supposed to last for life. In
some parts of Sicily the gossips of St. John present each other with
plates of sprouting corn, lentils, and canary seed, which have been
planted forty days before the festival. The one who receives the
plate pulls a stalk of the young plants, binds it with a ribbon, and
preserves it among his or her greatest treasures, restoring the
platter to the giver. At Catania the gossips exchange pots of basil
and great cucumbers; the girls tend the basil, and the thicker it
grows the more it is prized.

In these midsummer customs of Sardinia and Sicily it is possible
that, as Mr. R. Wünsch supposes, St. John has replaced Adonis. We
have seen that the rites of Tammuz or Adonis were commonly
celebrated about midsummer; according to Jerome, their date was

In Sicily gardens of Adonis are still sown in spring as well as in
summer, from which we may perhaps infer that Sicily as well as Syria
celebrated of old a vernal festival of the dead and risen god. At
the approach of Easter, Sicilian women sow wheat, lentils, and
canaryseed in plates, which they keep in the dark and water every
two days. The plants soon shoot up; the stalks are tied together
with red ribbons, and the plates containing them are placed on the
sepulchres which, with the effigies of the dead Christ, are made up
in Catholic and Greek churches on Good Friday, just as the gardens
of Adonis were placed on the grave of the dead Adonis. The practice
is not confined to Sicily, for it is observed also at Cosenza in
Calabria, and perhaps in other places. The whole custom--sepulchres
as well as plates of sprouting grain--may be nothing but a
continuation, under a different name, of the worship of Adonis.

Nor are these Sicilian and Calabrian customs the only Easter
ceremonies which resemble the rites of Adonis. "During the whole of
Good Friday a waxen effigy of the dead Christ is exposed to view in
the middle of the Greek churches and is covered with fervent kisses
by the thronging crowd, while the whole church rings with
melancholy, monotonous dirges. Late in the evening, when it has
grown quite dark, this waxen image is carried by the priests into
the street on a bier adorned with lemons, roses, jessamine, and
other flowers, and there begins a grand procession of the multitude,
who move in serried ranks, with slow and solemn step, through the
whole town. Every man carries his taper and breaks out into doleful
lamentation. At all the houses which the procession passes there are
seated women with censers to fumigate the marching host. Thus the
community solemnly buries its Christ as if he had just died. At last
the waxen image is again deposited in the church, and the same
lugubrious chants echo anew. These lamentations, accompanied by a
strict fast, continue till midnight on Saturday. As the clock
strikes twelve, the bishop appears and announces the glad tidings
that 'Christ is risen,' to which the crowd replies, 'He is risen
indeed,' and at once the whole city bursts into an uproar of joy,
which finds vent in shrieks and shouts, in the endless discharge of
carronades and muskets, and the explosion of fire-works of every
sort. In the very same hour people plunge from the extremity of the
fast into the enjoyment of the Easter lamb and neat wine."

In like manner the Catholic Church has been accustomed to bring
before its followers in a visible form the death and resurrection of
the Redeemer. Such sacred dramas are well fitted to impress the
lively imagination and to stir the warm feelings of a susceptible
southern race, to whom the pomp and pageantry of Catholicism are
more congenial than to the colder temperament of the Teutonic

When we reflect how often the Church has skilfully contrived to
plant the seeds of the new faith on the old stock of paganism, we
may surmise that the Easter celebration of the dead and risen Christ
was grafted upon a similar celebration of the dead and risen Adonis,
which, as we have seen reason to believe, was celebrated in Syria at
the same season. The type, created by Greek artists, of the
sorrowful goddess with her dying lover in her arms, resembles and
may have been the model of the _Pietà_ of Christian art, the Virgin
with the dead body of her divine Son in her lap, of which the most
celebrated example is the one by Michael Angelo in St. Peters. That
noble group, in which the living sorrow of the mother contrasts so
wonderfully with the languor of death in the son, is one of the
finest compositions in marble. Ancient Greek art has bequeathed to
us few works so beautiful, and none so pathetic.

In this connexion a well-known statement of Jerome may not be
without significance. He tells us that Bethlehem, the traditionary
birthplace of the Lord, was shaded by a grove of that still older
Syrian Lord, Adonis, and that where the infant Jesus had wept, the
lover of Venus was bewailed. Though he does not expressly say so,
Jerome seems to have thought that the grove of Adonis had been
planted by the heathen after the birth of Christ for the purpose of
defiling the sacred spot. In this he may have been mistaken. If
Adonis was indeed, as I have argued, the spirit of the corn, a more
suitable name for his dwelling-place could hardly be found than
Bethlehem, "the House of Bread," and he may well have been
worshipped there at his House of Bread long ages before the birth of
Him who said, "I am the bread of life." Even on the hypothesis that
Adonis followed rather than preceded Christ at Bethlehem, the choice
of his sad figure to divert the allegiance of Christians from their
Lord cannot but strike us as eminently appropriate when we remember
the similarity of the rites which commemorated the death and
resurrection of the two. One of the earliest seats of the worship of
the new god was Antioch, and at Antioch, as we have seen, the death
of the old god was annually celebrated with great solemnity. A
circumstance which attended the entrance of Julian into the city at
the time of the Adonis festival may perhaps throw some light on the
date of its celebration. When the emperor drew near to the city he
was received with public prayers as if he had been a god, and he
marvelled at the voices of a great multitude who cried that the Star
of Salvation had dawned upon them in the East. This may doubtless
have been no more than a fulsome compliment paid by an obsequious
Oriental crowd to the Roman emperor. But it is also possible that
the rising of a bright star regularly gave the signal for the
festival, and that as chance would have it the star emerged above
the rim of the eastern horizon at the very moment of the emperor's
approach. The coincidence, if it happened, could hardly fail to
strike the imagination of a superstitious and excited multitude, who
might thereupon hail the great man as the deity whose coming was
announced by the sign in the heavens. Or the emperor may have
mistaken for a greeting to himself the shouts which were addressed
to the star. Now Astarte, the divine mistress of Adonis, was
identified with the planet Venus, and her changes from a morning to
an evening star were carefully noted by the Babylonian astronomers,
who drew omens from her alternate appearance and disappearance.
Hence we may conjecture that the festival of Adonis was regularly
timed to coincide with the appearance of Venus as the Morning or
Evening Star. But the star which the people of Antioch saluted at
the festival was seen in the East; therefore, if it was indeed
Venus, it can only have been the Morning Star. At Aphaca in Syria,
where there was a famous temple of Astarte, the signal for the
celebration of the rites was apparently given by the flashing of a
meteor, which on a certain day fell like a star from the top of
Mount Lebanon into the river Adonis. The meteor was thought to be
Astarte herself, and its flight through the air might naturally be
interpreted as the descent of the amorous goddess to the arms of her
lover. At Antioch and elsewhere the appearance of the Morning Star
on the day of the festival may in like manner have been hailed as
the coming of the goddess of love to wake her dead leman from his
earthy bed. If that were so, we may surmise that it was the Morning
Star which guided the wise men of the East to Bethlehem, the
hallowed spot which heard, in the language of Jerome, the weeping of
the infant Christ and the lament for Adonis.

XXXIV. The Myth and Ritual of Attis

ANOTHER of those gods whose supposed death and resurrection struck
such deep roots into the faith and ritual of Western Asia is Attis.
He was to Phrygia what Adonis was to Syria. Like Adonis, he appears
to have been a god of vegetation, and his death and resurrection
were annually mourned and rejoiced over at a festival in spring. The
legends and rites of the two gods were so much alike that the
ancients themselves sometimes identified them. Attis was said to
have been a fair young shepherd or herdsman beloved by Cybele, the
Mother of the Gods, a great Asiatic goddess of fertility, who had
her chief home in Phrygia. Some held that Attis was her son. His
birth, like that of many other heroes, is said to have been
miraculous. His mother, Nana, was a virgin, who conceived by putting
a ripe almond or a pomegranate in her bosom. Indeed in the Phrygian
cosmogony an almond figured as the father of all things, perhaps
because its delicate lilac blossom is one of the first heralds of
the spring, appearing on the bare boughs before the leaves have
opened. Such tales of virgin mothers are relics of an age of
childish ignorance when men had not yet recognized the intercourse
of the sexes as the true cause of offspring. Two different accounts
of the death of Attis were current. According to the one he was
killed by a boar, like Adonis. According to the other he unmanned
himself under a pine-tree, and bled to death on the spot. The latter
is said to have been the local story told by the people of Pessinus,
a great seat of the worship of Cybele, and the whole legend of which
the story forms a part is stamped with a character of rudeness and
savagery that speaks strongly for its antiquity. Both tales might
claim the support of custom, or rather both were probably invented
to explain certain customs observed by the worshippers. The story of
the self-mutilation of Attis is clearly an attempt to account for
the self-mutilation of his priests, who regularly castrated
themselves on entering the service of the goddess. The story of his
death by the boar may have been told to explain why his worshippers,
especially the people of Pessinus, abstained from eating swine. In
like manner the worshippers of Adonis abstained from pork, because a
boar had killed their god. After his death Attis is said to have
been changed into a pine-tree.

The worship of the Phrygian Mother of the Gods was adopted by the
Romans in 204 B.C. towards the close of their long struggle with
Hannibal. For their drooping spirits had been opportunely cheered by
a prophecy, alleged to be drawn from that convenient farrago of
nonsense, the Sibylline Books, that the foreign invader would be
driven from Italy if the great Oriental goddess were brought to
Rome. Accordingly ambassadors were despatched to her sacred city
Pessinus in Phrygia. The small black stone which embodied the mighty
divinity was entrusted to them and conveyed to Rome, where it was
received with great respect and installed in the temple of Victory
on the Palatine Hill. It was the middle of April when the goddess
arrived, and she went to work at once. For the harvest that year was
such as had not been seen for many a long day, and in the very next
year Hannibal and his veterans embarked for Africa. As he looked his
last on the coast of Italy, fading behind him in the distance, he
could not foresee that Europe, which had repelled the arms, would
yet yield to the gods, of the Orient. The vanguard of the conquerors
had already encamped in the heart of Italy before the rearguard of
the beaten army fell sullenly back from its shores.

We may conjecture, though we are not told, that the Mother of the
Gods brought with her the worship of her youthful lover or son to
her new home in the West. Certainly the Romans were familiar with
the Galli, the emasculated priests of Attis, before the close of the
Republic. These unsexed beings, in their Oriental costume, with
little images suspended on their breasts, appear to have been a
familiar sight in the streets of Rome, which they traversed in
procession, carrying the image of the goddess and chanting their
hymns to the music of cymbals and tambourines, flutes and horns,
while the people, impressed by the fantastic show and moved by the
wild strains, flung alms to them in abundance, and buried the image
and its bearers under showers of roses. A further step was taken by
the Emperor Claudius when he incorporated the Phrygian worship of
the sacred tree, and with it probably the orgiastic rites of Attis,
in the established religion of Rome. The great spring festival of
Cybele and Attis is best known to us in the form in which it was
celebrated at Rome; but as we are informed that the Roman ceremonies
were also Phrygian, we may assume that they differed hardly, if at
all, from their Asiatic original. The order of the festival seems to
have been as follows.

On the twenty-second day of March, a pine-tree was cut in the woods
and brought into the sanctuary of Cybele, where it was treated as a
great divinity. The duty of carrying the sacred tree was entrusted
to a guild of Tree-bearers. The trunk was swathed like a corpse with
woollen bands and decked with wreaths of violets, for violets were
said to have sprung from the blood of Attis, as roses and anemones
from the blood of Adonis; and the effigy of a young man, doubtless
Attis himself, was tied to the middle of the stem. On the second day
of the festival, the twenty-third of March, the chief ceremony seems
to have been a blowing of trumpets. The third day, the twenty-fourth
of March, was known as the Day of Blood: the Archigallus or
highpriest drew blood from his arms and presented it as an offering.
Nor was he alone in making this bloody sacrifice. Stirred by the
wild barbaric music of clashing cymbals, rumbling drums, droning
horns, and screaming flutes, the inferior clergy whirled about in
the dance with waggling heads and streaming hair, until, rapt into a
frenzy of excitement and insensible to pain, they gashed their
bodies with potsherds or slashed them with knives in order to
bespatter the altar and the sacred tree with their flowing blood.
The ghastly rite probably formed part of the mourning for Attis and
may have been intended to strengthen him for the resurrection. The
Australian aborigines cut themselves in like manner over the graves
of their friends for the purpose, perhaps, of enabling them to be
born again. Further, we may conjecture, though we are not expressly
told, that it was on the same Day of Blood and for the same purpose
that the novices sacrificed their virility. Wrought up to the
highest pitch of religious excitement they dashed the severed
portions of themselves against the image of the cruel goddess. These
broken instruments of fertility were afterwards reverently wrapt up
and buried in the earth or in subterranean chambers sacred to
Cybele, where, like the offering of blood, they may have been deemed
instrumental in recalling Attis to life and hastening the general
resurrection of nature, which was then bursting into leaf and
blossom in the vernal sunshine. Some confirmation of this conjecture
is furnished by the savage story that the mother of Attis conceived
by putting in her bosom a pomegranate sprung from the severed
genitals of a man-monster named Agdestis, a sort of double of Attis.

If there is any truth in this conjectural explanation of the custom,
we can readily understand why other Asiatic goddesses of fertility
were served in like manner by eunuch priests. These feminine deities
required to receive from their male ministers, who personated the
divine lovers, the means of discharging their beneficent functions:
they had themselves to be impregnated by the life-giving energy
before they could transmit it to the world. Goddesses thus
ministered to by eunuch priests were the great Artemis of Ephesus
and the great Syrian Astarte of Hierapolis, whose sanctuary,
frequented by swarms of pilgrims and enriched by the offerings of
Assyria and Babylonia, of Arabia and Phoenicia, was perhaps in the
days of its glory the most popular in the East. Now the unsexed
priests of this Syrian goddess resembled those of Cybele so closely
that some people took them to be the same. And the mode in which
they dedicated themselves to the religious life was similar. The
greatest festival of the year at Hierapolis fell at the beginning of
spring, when multitudes thronged to the sanctuary from Syria and the
regions round about. While the flutes played, the drums beat, and
the eunuch priests slashed themselves with knives, the religious
excitement gradually spread like a wave among the crowd of
onlookers, and many a one did that which he little thought to do
when he came as a holiday spectator to the festival. For man after
man, his veins throbbing with the music, his eyes fascinated by the
sight of the streaming blood, flung his garments from him, leaped
forth with a shout, and seizing one of the swords which stood ready
for the purpose, castrated himself on the spot. Then he ran through
the city, holding the bloody pieces in his hand, till he threw them
into one of the houses which he passed in his mad career. The
household thus honoured had to furnish him with a suit of female
attire and female ornaments, which he wore for the rest of his life.
When the tumult of emotion had subsided, and the man had come to
himself again, the irrevocable sacrifice must often have been
followed by passionate sorrow and lifelong regret. This revulsion of
natural human feeling after the frenzies of a fanatical religion is
powerfully depicted by Catullus in a celebrated poem.

The parallel of these Syrian devotees confirms the view that in the
similar worship of Cybele the sacrifice of virility took place on
the Day of Blood at the vernal rites of the goddess, when the
violets, supposed to spring from the red drops of her wounded lover,
were in bloom among the pines. Indeed the story that Attis unmanned
himself under a pine-tree was clearly devised to explain why his
priests did the same beside the sacred violet-wreathed tree at his
festival. At all events, we can hardly doubt that the Day of Blood
witnessed the mourning for Attis over an effigy of him which was
afterwards buried. The image thus laid in the sepulchre was probably
the same which had hung upon the tree. Throughout the period of
mourning the worshippers fasted from bread, nominally because Cybele
had done so in her grief for the death of Attis, but really perhaps
for the same reason which induced the women of Harran to abstain
from eating anything ground in a mill while they wept for Tammuz. To
partake of bread or flour at such a season might have been deemed a
wanton profanation of the bruised and broken body of the god. Or the
fast may possibly have been a preparation for a sacramental meal.

But when night had fallen, the sorrow of the worshippers was turned
to joy. For suddenly a light shone in the darkness: the tomb was
opened: the god had risen from the dead; and as the priest touched
the lips of the weeping mourners with balm, he softly whispered in
their ears the glad tidings of salvation. The resurrection of the
god was hailed by his disciples as a promise that they too would
issue triumphant from the corruption of the grave. On the morrow,
the twenty-fifth day of March, which was reckoned the vernal
equinox, the divine resurrection was celebrated with a wild outburst
of glee. At Rome, and probably elsewhere, the celebration took the
form of a carnival. It was the Festival of Joy (_Hilaria_). A
universal licence prevailed. Every man might say and do what he
pleased. People went about the streets in disguise. No dignity was
too high or too sacred for the humblest citizen to assume with
impunity. In the reign of Commodus a band of conspirators thought to
take advantage of the masquerade by dressing in the uniform of the
Imperial Guard, and so, mingling with the crowd of merrymakers, to
get within stabbing distance of the emperor. But the plot
miscarried. Even the stern Alexander Severus used to relax so far on
the joyous day as to admit a pheasant to his frugal board. The next
day, the twenty-sixth of March, was given to repose, which must have
been much needed after the varied excitements and fatigues of the
preceding days. Finally, the Roman festival closed on the
twenty-seventh of March with a procession to the brook Almo. The
silver image of the goddess, with its face of jagged black stone,
sat in a waggon drawn by oxen. Preceded by the nobles walking
barefoot, it moved slowly, to the loud music of pipes and
tambourines, out by the Porta Capena, and so down to the banks of
the Almo, which flows into the Tiber just below the walls of Rome.
There the high-priest, robed in purple, washed the waggon, the
image, and the other sacred objects in the water of the stream. On
returning from their bath, the wain and the oxen were strewn with
fresh spring flowers. All was mirth and gaiety. No one thought of
the blood that had flowed so lately. Even the eunuch priests forgot
their wounds.

Such, then, appears to have been the annual solemnisation of the
death and resurrection of Attis in spring. But besides these public
rites, his worship is known to have comprised certain secret or
mystic ceremonies, which probably aimed at bringing the worshipper,
and especially the novice, into closer communication with his god.
Our information as to the nature of these mysteries and the date of
their celebration is unfortunately very scanty, but they seem to
have included a sacramental meal and a baptism of blood. In the
sacrament the novice became a partaker of the mysteries by eating
out of a drum and drinking out of a cymbal, two instruments of music
which figured prominently in the thrilling orchestra of Attis. The
fast which accompanied the mourning for the dead god may perhaps
have been designed to prepare the body of the communicant for the
reception of the blessed sacrament by purging it of all that could
defile by contact the sacred elements. In the baptism the devotee,
crowned with gold and wreathed with fillets, descended into a pit,
the mouth of which was covered with a wooden grating. A bull,
adorned with garlands of flowers, its forehead glittering with gold
leaf, was then driven on to the grating and there stabbed to death
with a consecrated spear. Its hot reeking blood poured in torrents
through the apertures, and was received with devout eagerness by the
worshipper on every part of his person and garments, till he emerged
from the pit, drenched, dripping, and scarlet from head to foot, to
receive the homage, nay the adoration, of his fellows as one who had
been born again to eternal life and had washed away his sins in the
blood of the bull. For some time afterwards the fiction of a new
birth was kept up by dieting him on milk like a new-born babe. The
regeneration of the worshipper took place at the same time as the
regeneration of his god, namely at the vernal equinox. At Rome the
new birth and the remission of sins by the shedding of bull's blood
appear to have been carried out above all at the sanctuary of the
Phrygian goddess on the Vatican Hill, at or near the spot where the
great basilica of St. Peter's now stands; for many inscriptions
relating to the rites were found when the church was being enlarged
in 1608 or 1609. From the Vatican as a centre this barbarous system
of superstition seems to have spread to other parts of the Roman
empire. Inscriptions found in Gaul and Germany prove that provincial
sanctuaries modelled their ritual on that of the Vatican. From the
same source we learn that the testicles as well as the blood of the
bull played an important part in the ceremonies. Probably they were
regarded as a powerful charm to promote fertility and hasten the new

XXXV. Attis as a God of Vegetation

THE ORIGINAL character of Attis as a tree-spirit is brought out
plainly by the part which the pine-tree plays in his legend, his
ritual, and his monuments. The story that he was a human being
transformed into a pine-tree is only one of those transparent
attempts at rationalising old beliefs which meet us so frequently in
mythology. The bringing in of the pine-tree from the woods, decked
with violets and woollen bands, is like bringing in the May-tree or
Summer-tree in modern folk-custom; and the effigy which was attached
to the pine-tree was only a duplicate representative of the
tree-spirit Attis. After being fastened to the tree, the effigy was
kept for a year and then burned. The same thing appears to have been
sometimes done with the May-pole; and in like manner the effigy of
the corn-spirit, made at harvest, is often preserved till it is
replaced by a new effigy at next year's harvest. The original
intention of such customs was no doubt to maintain the spirit of
vegetation in life throughout the year. Why the Phrygians should
have worshipped the pine above other trees we can only guess.
Perhaps the sight of its changeless, though sombre, green cresting
the ridges of the high hills above the fading splendour of the
autumn woods in the valleys may have seemed to their eyes to mark it
out as the seat of a diviner life, of something exempt from the sad
vicissitudes of the seasons, constant and eternal as the sky which
stooped to meet it. For the same reason, perhaps, ivy was sacred to
Attis; at all events, we read that his eunuch priests were tattooed
with a pattern of ivy leaves. Another reason for the sanctity of the
pine may have been its usefulness. The cones of the stone-pine
contain edible nut-like seeds, which have been used as food since
antiquity, and are still eaten, for example, by the poorer classes
in Rome. Moreover, a wine was brewed from these seeds, and this may
partly account for the orgiastic nature of the rites of Cybele,
which the ancients compared to those of Dionysus. Further,
pine-cones were regarded as symbols or rather instruments of
fertility. Hence at the festival of the Thesmophoria they were
thrown, along with pigs and other agents or emblems of fecundity,
into the sacred vaults of Demeter for the purpose of quickening the
ground and the wombs of women.

Like tree-spirits in general, Attis was apparently thought to wield
power over the fruits of the earth or even to be identical with the
corn. One of his epithets was "very fruitful": he was addressed as
the "reaped green (or yellow) ear of corn"; and the story of his
sufferings, death, and resurrection was interpreted as the ripe
grain wounded by the reaper, buried in the granary, and coming to
life again when it is sown in the ground. A statue of him in the
Lateran Museum at Rome clearly indicates his relation to the fruits
of the earth, and particularly to the corn; for it represents him
with a bunch of ears of corn and fruit in his hand, and a wreath of
pine-cones, pomegranates, and other fruits on his head, while from
the top of his Phrygian cap ears of corn are sprouting. On a stone
urn, which contained the ashes of an Archigallus or high-priest of
Attis, the same idea is expressed in a slightly different way. The
top of the urn is adorned with ears of corn carved in relief, and it
is surmounted by the figure of a cock, whose tail consists of ears
of corn. Cybele in like manner was conceived as a goddess of
fertility who could make or mar the fruits of the earth; for the
people of Augustodunum (Autun) in Gaul used to cart her image about
in a waggon for the good of the fields and vineyards, while they
danced and sang before it, and we have seen that in Italy an
unusually fine harvest was attributed to the recent arrival of the
Great Mother. The bathing of the image of the goddess in a river may
well have been a rain-charm to ensure an abundant supply of moisture
for the crops.

XXXVI. Human Representatives of Attis

FROM INSCRIPTIONS it appears that both at Pessinus and Rome the
high-priest of Cybele regularly bore the name of Attis. It is
therefore a reasonable conjecture that he played the part of his
namesake, the legendary Attis, at the annual festival. We have seen
that on the Day of Blood he drew blood from his arms, and this may
have been an imitation of the self-inflicted death of Attis under
the pine-tree. It is not inconsistent with this supposition that
Attis was also represented at these ceremonies by an effigy; for
instances can be shown in which the divine being is first
represented by a living person and afterwards by an effigy, which is
then burned or otherwise destroyed. Perhaps we may go a step farther
and conjecture that this mimic killing of the priest, accompanied by
a real effusion of his blood, was in Phrygia, as it has been
elsewhere, a substitute for a human sacrifice which in earlier times
was actually offered.

A reminiscence of the manner in which these old representatives of
the deity were put to death is perhaps preserved in the famous story
of Marsyas. He was said to be a Phrygian satyr or Silenus, according
to others a shepherd or herdsman, who played sweetly on the flute. A
friend of Cybele, he roamed the country with the disconsolate
goddess to soothe her grief for the death of Attis. The composition
of the Mother's Air, a tune played on the flute in honour of the
Great Mother Goddess, was attributed to him by the people of
Celaenae in Phrygia. Vain of his skill, he challenged Apollo to a
musical contest, he to play on the flute and Apollo on the lyre.
Being vanquished, Marsyas was tied up to a pine-tree and flayed or
cut limb from limb either by the victorious Apollo or by a Scythian
slave. His skin was shown at Celaenae in historical times. It hung
at the foot of the citadel in a cave from which the river Marsyas
rushed with an impetuous and noisy tide to join the Maeander. So the
Adonis bursts full-born from the precipices of the Lebanon; so the
blue river of Ibreez leaps in a crystal jet from the red rocks of
the Taurus; so the stream, which now rumbles deep underground, used
to gleam for a moment on its passage from darkness to darkness in
the dim light of the Corycian cave. In all these copious fountains,
with their glad promise of fertility and life, men of old saw the
hand of God and worshipped him beside the rushing river with the
music of its tumbling waters in their ears. At Celaenae, if we can
trust tradition, the piper Marsyas, hanging in his cave, had a soul
for harmony even in death; for it is said that at the sound of his
native Phrygian melodies the skin of the dead satyr used to thrill,
but that if the musician struck up an air in praise of Apollo it
remained deaf and motionless.

In this Phrygian satyr, shepherd, or herdsman who enjoyed the
friendship of Cybele, practised the music so characteristic of her
rites, and died a violent death on her sacred tree, the pine, may we
not detect a close resemblance to Attis, the favourite shepherd or
herdsman of the goddess, who is himself described as a piper, is
said to have perished under a pine-tree, and was annually
represented by an effigy hung, like Marsyas, upon a pine? We may
conjecture that in old days the priest who bore the name and played
the part of Attis at the spring festival of Cybele was regularly
hanged or otherwise slain upon the sacred tree, and that this
barbarous custom was afterwards mitigated into the form in which it
is known to us in later times, when the priest merely drew blood
from his body under the tree and attached an effigy instead of
himself to its trunk. In the holy grove at Upsala men and animals
were sacrificed by being hanged upon the sacred trees. The human
victims dedicated to Odin were regularly put to death by hanging or
by a combination of hanging and stabbing, the man being strung up to
a tree or a gallows and then wounded with a spear. Hence Odin was
called the Lord of the Gallows or the God of the Hanged, and he is
represented sitting under a gallows tree. Indeed he is said to have
been sacrificed to himself in the ordinary way, as we learn from the
weird verses of the _Havamal,_ in which the god describes how he
acquired his divine power by learning the magic runes:

"I know that I hung on the windy tree
For nine whole nights,
Wounded with the spear, dedicated to Odin,
Myself to myself."

The Bagobos of Mindanao, one of the Philippine Islands, used
annually to sacrifice human victims for the good of the crops in a
similar way. Early in December, when the constellation Orion
appeared at seven o'clock in the evening, the people knew that the
time had come to clear their fields for sowing and to sacrifice a
slave. The sacrifice was presented to certain powerful spirits as
payment for the good year which the people had enjoyed, and to
ensure the favour of the spirits for the coming season. The victim
was led to a great tree in the forest; there he was tied with his
back to the tree and his arms stretched high above his head, in the
attitude in which ancient artists portrayed Marsyas hanging on the
fatal tree. While he thus hung by the arms, he was slain by a spear
thrust through his body at the level of the armpits. Afterwards the
body was cut clean through the middle at the waist, and the upper
part was apparently allowed to dangle for a little from the tree,
while the under part wallowed in blood on the ground. The two
portions were finally cast into a shallow trench beside the tree.
Before this was done, anybody who wished might cut off a piece of
flesh or a lock of hair from the corpse and carry it to the grave of
some relation whose body was being consumed by a ghoul. Attracted by
the fresh corpse, the ghoul would leave the mouldering old body in
peace. These sacrifices have been offered by men now living.

In Greece the great goddess Artemis herself appears to have been
annually hanged in effigy in her sacred grove of Condylea among the
Arcadian hills, and there accordingly she went by the name of the
Hanged One. Indeed a trace of a similar rite may perhaps be detected
even at Ephesus, the most famous of her sanctuaries, in the legend
of a woman who hanged herself and was thereupon dressed by the
compassionate goddess in her own divine garb and called by the name
of Hecate. Similarly, at Melite in Phthia, a story was told of a
girl named Aspalis who hanged herself, but who appears to have been
merely a form of Artemis. For after her death her body could not be
found, but an image of her was discovered standing beside the image
of Artemis, and the people bestowed on it the title of Hecaerge or
Far-shooter, one of the regular epithets of the goddess. Every year
the virgins sacrificed a young goat to the image by hanging it,
because Aspalis was said to have hanged herself. The sacrifice may
have been a substitute for hanging an image or a human
representative of Artemis. Again, in Rhodes the fair Helen was
worshipped under the title of Helen of the Tree, because the queen
of the island had caused her handmaids, disguised as Furies, to
string her up to a bough. That the Asiatic Greeks sacrificed animals
in this fashion is proved by coins of Ilium, which represent an ox
or cow hanging on a tree and stabbed with a knife by a man, who sits
among the branches or on the animal's back. At Hierapolis also the
victims were hung on trees before they were burnt. With these Greek
and Scandinavian parallels before us we can hardly dismiss as wholly
improbable the conjecture that in Phrygia a man-god may have hung
year by year on the sacred but fatal tree.

XXXVII. Oriental Religions in the West

THE WORSHIP of the Great Mother of the Gods and her lover or son was
very popular under the Roman Empire. Inscriptions prove that the two
received divine honours, separately or conjointly, not only in
Italy, and especially at Rome, but also in the provinces,
particularly in Africa, Spain, Portugal, France, Germany, and
Bulgaria. Their worship survived the establishment of Christianity
by Constantine; for Symmachus records the recurrence of the festival
of the Great Mother, and in the days of Augustine her effeminate
priests still paraded the streets and squares of Carthage with
whitened faces, scented hair, and mincing gait, while, like the
mendicant friars of the Middle Ages, they begged alms from the
passers-by. In Greece, on the other hand, the bloody orgies of the
Asiatic goddess and her consort appear to have found little favour.
The barbarous and cruel character of the worship, with its frantic
excesses, was doubtless repugnant to the good taste and humanity of
the Greeks, who seem to have preferred the kindred but gentler rites
of Adonis. Yet the same features which shocked and repelled the
Greeks may have positively attracted the less refined Romans and
barbarians of the West. The ecstatic frenzies, which were mistaken
for divine inspiration, the mangling of the body, the theory of a
new birth and the remission of sins through the shedding of blood,
have all their origin in savagery, and they naturally appealed to
peoples in whom the savage instincts were still strong. Their true
character was indeed often disguised under a decent veil of
allegorical or philosophical interpretation, which probably sufficed
to impose upon the rapt and enthusiastic worshippers, reconciling
even the more cultivated of them to things which otherwise must have
filled them with horror and disgust.

The religion of the Great Mother, with its curious blending of crude
savagery with spiritual aspirations, was only one of a multitude of
similar Oriental faiths which in the later days of paganism spread
over the Roman Empire, and by saturating the European peoples with
alien ideals of life gradually undermined the whole fabric of
ancient civilisation. Greek and Roman society was built on the
conception of the subordination of the individual to the community,
of the citizen to the state; it set the safety of the commonwealth,
as the supreme aim of conduct, above the safety of the individual
whether in this world or in the world to come. Trained from infancy
in this unselfish ideal, the citizens devoted their lives to the
public service and were ready to lay them down for the common good;
or if they shrank from the supreme sacrifice, it never occurred to
them that they acted otherwise than basely in preferring their
personal existence to the interests of their country. All this was
changed by the spread of Oriental religions which inculcated the
communion of the soul with God and its eternal salvation as the only
objects worth living for, objects in comparison with which the
prosperity and even the existence of the state sank into
insignificance. The inevitable result of this selfish and immoral
doctrine was to withdraw the devotee more and more from the public
service, to concentrate his thoughts on his own spiritual emotions,
and to breed in him a contempt for the present life which he
regarded merely as a probation for a better and an eternal. The
saint and the recluse, disdainful of earth and rapt in ecstatic
contemplation of heaven, became in popular opinion the highest ideal
of humanity, displacing the old ideal of the patriot and hero who,
forgetful of self, lives and is ready to die for the good of his
country. The earthly city seemed poor and contemptible to men whose
eyes beheld the City of God coming in the clouds of heaven. Thus the
centre of gravity, so to say, was shifted from the present to a
future life, and however much the other world may have gained, there
can be little doubt that this one lost heavily by the change. A
general disintegration of the body politic set in. The ties of the
state and the family were loosened: the structure of society tended
to resolve itself into its individual elements and thereby to
relapse into barbarism; for civilisation is only possible through
the active co-operation of the citizens and their willingness to
subordinate their private interests to the common good. Men refused
to defend their country and even to continue their kind. In their
anxiety to save their own souls and the souls of others, they were
content to leave the material world, which they identified with the
principle of evil, to perish around them. This obsession lasted for
a thousand years. The revival of Roman law, of the Aristotelian
philosophy, of ancient art and literature at the close of the Middle
Ages, marked the return of Europe to native ideals of life and
conduct, to saner, manlier views of the world. The long halt in the
march of civilisation was over. The tide of Oriental invasion had
turned at last. It is ebbing still.

Among the gods of eastern origin who in the decline of the ancient
world competed against each other for the allegiance of the West was
the old Persian deity Mithra. The immense popularity of his worship
is attested by the monuments illustrative of it which have been
found scattered in profusion all over the Roman Empire. In respect
both of doctrines and of rites the cult of Mithra appears to have
presented many points of resemblance not only to the religion of the
Mother of the Gods but also to Christianity. The similarity struck
the Christian doctors themselves and was explained by them as a work
of the devil, who sought to seduce the souls of men from the true
faith by a false and insidious imitation of it. So to the Spanish
conquerors of Mexico and Peru many of the native heathen rites
appeared to be diabolical counterfeits of the Christian sacraments.
With more probability the modern student of comparative religion
traces such resemblances to the similar and independent workings of
the mind of man in his sincere, if crude, attempts to fathom the
secret of the universe, and to adjust his little life to its awful
mysteries. However that may be, there can be no doubt that the
Mithraic religion proved a formidable rival to Christianity,
combining as it did a solemn ritual with aspirations after moral
purity and a hope of immortality. Indeed the issue of the conflict
between the two faiths appears for a time to have hung in the
balance. An instructive relic of the long struggle is preserved in
our festival of Christmas, which the Church seems to have borrowed
directly from its heathen rival. In the Julian calendar the
twenty-fifth of December was reckoned the winter solstice, and it
was regarded as the Nativity of the Sun, because the day begins to
lengthen and the power of the sun to increase from that
turning-point of the year. The ritual of the nativity, as it appears
to have been celebrated in Syria and Egypt, was remarkable. The
celebrants retired into certain inner shrines, from which at
midnight they issued with a loud cry, "The Virgin has brought forth!
The light is waxing!" The Egyptians even represented the new-born
sun by the image of an infant which on his birthday, the winter
solstice, they brought forth and exhibited to his worshippers. No
doubt the Virgin who thus conceived and bore a son on the
twenty-fifth of December was the great Oriental goddess whom the
Semites called the Heavenly Virgin or simply the Heavenly Goddess;
in Semitic lands she was a form of Astarte. Now Mithra was regularly
identified by his worshippers with the Sun, the Unconquered Sun, as
they called him; hence his nativity also fell on the twenty-fifth of
December. The Gospels say nothing as to the day of Christ's birth,
and accordingly the early Church did not celebrate it. In time,
however, the Christians of Egypt came to regard the sixth of January
as the date of the Nativity, and the custom of commemorating the
birth of the Saviour on that day gradually spread until by the
fourth century it was universally established in the East. But at
the end of the third or the beginning of the fourth century the
Western Church, which had never recognised the sixth of January as
the day of the Nativity, adopted the twenty-fifth of December as the
true date, and in time its decision was accepted also by the Eastern
Church. At Antioch the change was not introduced till about the year
375 A.D.

What considerations led the ecclesiastical authorities to institute
the festival of Christmas? The motives for the innovation are stated
with great frankness by a Syrian writer, himself a Christian. "The
reason," he tells us, "why the fathers transferred the celebration
of the sixth of January to the twenty-fifth of December was this. It
was a custom of the heathen to celebrate on the same twenty-fifth of
December the birthday of the Sun, at which they kindled lights in
token of festivity. In these solemnities and festivities the
Christians also took part. Accordingly when the doctors of the
Church perceived that the Christians had a leaning to this festival,
they took counsel and resolved that the true Nativity should be
solemnised on that day and the festival of the Epiphany on the sixth
of January. Accordingly, along with this custom, the practice has
prevailed of kindling fires till the sixth." The heathen origin of
Christmas is plainly hinted at, if not tacitly admitted, by
Augustine when he exhorts his Christian brethren not to celebrate
that solemn day like the heathen on account of the sun, but on
account of him who made the sun. In like manner Leo the Great
rebuked the pestilent belief that Christmas was solemnised because
of the birth of the new sun, as it was called, and not because of
the nativity of Christ.

Thus it appears that the Christian Church chose to celebrate the
birthday of its Founder on the twenty-fifth of December in order to
transfer the devotion of the heathen from the Sun to him who was
called the Sun of Righteousness. If that was so, there can be no
intrinsic improbability in the conjecture that motives of the same
sort may have led the ecclesiastical authorities to assimilate the
Easter festival of the death and resurrection of their Lord to the
festival of the death and resurrection of another Asiatic god which
fell at the same season. Now the Easter rites still observed in
Greece, Sicily, and Southern Italy bear in some respects a striking
resemblance to the rites of Adonis, and I have suggested that the
Church may have consciously adapted the new festival to its heathen
predecessor for the sake of winning souls to Christ. But this
adaptation probably took place in the Greek-speaking rather than in
the Latin-speaking parts of the ancient world; for the worship of
Adonis, while it flourished among the Greeks, appears to have made
little impression on Rome and the West. Certainly it never formed
part of the official Roman religion. The place which it might have
taken in the affections of the vulgar was already occupied by the
similar but more barbarous worship of Attis and the Great Mother.
Now the death and resurrection of Attis were officially celebrated
at Rome on the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth of March, the latter
being regarded as the spring equinox, and therefore as the most
appropriate day for the revival of a god of vegetation who had been
dead or sleeping throughout the winter. But according to an ancient
and widespread tradition Christ suffered on the twenty-fifth of
March, and accordingly some Christians regularly celebrated the
Crucifixion on that day without any regard to the state of the moon.
This custom was certainly observed in Phrygia, Cappadocia, and Gaul,
and there seem to be grounds for thinking that at one time it was
followed also in Rome. Thus the tradition which placed the death of
Christ on the twenty-fifth of March was ancient and deeply rooted.
It is all the more remarkable because astronomical considerations
prove that it can have had no historical foundation. The inference
appears to be inevitable that the passion of Christ must have been
arbitrarily referred to that date in order to harmonise with an
older festival of the spring equinox. This is the view of the
learned ecclesiastical historian Mgr. Duchesne, who points out that
the death of the Saviour was thus made to fall upon the very day on
which, according to a widespread belief, the world had been created.
But the resurrection of Attis, who combined in himself the
characters of the divine Father and the divine Son, was officially
celebrated at Rome on the same day. When we remember that the
festival of St. George in April has replaced the ancient pagan
festival of the Parilia; that the festival of St. John the Baptist
in June has succeeded to a heathen midsummer festival of water: that
the festival of the Assumption of the Virgin in August has ousted
the festival of Diana; that the feast of All Souls in November is a
continuation of an old heathen feast of the dead; and that the
Nativity of Christ himself was assigned to the winter solstice in
December because that day was deemed the Nativity of the Sun; we can
hardly be thought rash or unreasonable in conjecturing that the
other cardinal festival of the Christian church--the solemnisation
of Easter--may have been in like manner, and from like motives of
edification, adapted to a similar celebration of the Phrygian god
Attis at the vernal equinox.

At least it is a remarkable coincidence, if it is nothing more, that
the Christian and the heathen festivals of the divine death and
resurrection should have been solemnised at the same season and in
the same places. For the places which celebrated the death of Christ
at the spring equinox were Phrygia, Gaul, and apparently Rome, that
is, the very regions in which the worship of Attis either originated
or struck deepest root. It is difficult to regard the coincidence as
purely accidental. If the vernal equinox, the season at which in the
temperate regions the whole face of nature testifies to a fresh
outburst of vital energy, had been viewed from of old as the time
when the world was annually created afresh in the resurrection of a
god, nothing could be more natural than to place the resurrection of
the new deity at the same cardinal point of the year. Only it is to
be observed that if the death of Christ was dated on the
twenty-fifth of March, his resurrection, according to Christian
tradition, must have happened on the twenty-seventh of March, which
is just two days later than the vernal equinox of the Julian
calendar and the resurrection of Attis. A similar displacement of
two days in the adjustment of Christian to heathen celebrations
occurs in the festivals of St. George and the Assumption of the
Virgin. However, another Christian tradition, followed by Lactantius
and perhaps by the practice of the Church in Gaul, placed the death
of Christ on the twenty-third and his resurrection on the
twenty-fifth of March. If that was so, his resurrection coincided
exactly with the resurrection of Attis.

In point of fact it appears from the testimony of an anonymous
Christian, who wrote in the fourth century of our era, that
Christians and pagans alike were struck by the remarkable
coincidence between the death and resurrection of their respective
deities, and that the coincidence formed a theme of bitter
controversy between the adherents of the rival religions, the pagans
contending that the resurrection of Christ was a spurious imitation
of the resurrection of Attis, and the Christians asserting with
equal warmth that the resurrection of Attis was a diabolical
counterfeit of the resurrection of Christ. In these unseemly
bickerings the heathen took what to a superficial observer might
seem strong ground by arguing that their god was the older and
therefore presumably the original, not the counterfeit, since as a
general rule an original is older than its copy. This feeble
argument the Christians easily rebutted. They admitted, indeed, that
in point of time Christ was the junior deity, but they triumphantly
demonstrated his real seniority by falling back on the subtlety of
Satan, who on so important an occasion had surpassed himself by
inverting the usual order of nature.

Taken altogether, the coincidences of the Christian with the heathen
festivals are too close and too numerous to be accidental. They mark
the compromise which the Church in the hour of its triumph was
compelled to make with its vanquished yet still dangerous rivals.
The inflexible Protestantism of the primitive missionaries, with
their fiery denunciations of heathendom, had been exchanged for the
supple policy, the easy tolerance, the comprehensive charity of
shrewd ecclesiastics, who clearly perceived that if Christianity was
to conquer the world it could do so only by relaxing the too rigid
principles of its Founder, by widening a little the narrow gate
which leads to salvation. In this respect an instructive parallel
might be drawn between the history of Christianity and the history
of Buddhism. Both systems were in their origin essentially ethical
reforms born of the generous ardour, the lofty aspirations, the
tender compassion of their noble Founders, two of those beautiful
spirits who appear at rare intervals on earth like beings come from
a better world to support and guide our weak and erring nature. Both
preached moral virtue as the means of accomplishing what they
regarded as the supreme object of life, the eternal salvation of the
individual soul, though by a curious antithesis the one sought that
salvation in a blissful eternity, the other in a final release from
suffering, in annihilation. But the austere ideals of sanctity which
they inculcated were too deeply opposed not only to the frailties
but to the natural instincts of humanity ever to be carried out in
practice by more than a small number of disciples, who consistently
renounced the ties of the family and the state in order to work out
their own salvation in the still seclusion of the cloister. If such
faiths were to be nominally accepted by whole nations or even by the
world, it was essential that they should first be modified or
transformed so as to accord in some measure with the prejudices, the
passions, the superstitions of the vulgar. This process of
accommodation was carried out in after ages by followers who, made
of less ethereal stuff than their masters, were for that reason the
better fitted to mediate between them and the common herd. Thus as
time went on, the two religions, in exact proportion to their
growing popularity, absorbed more and more of those baser elements
which they had been instituted for the very purpose of suppressing.
Such spiritual decadences are inevitable. The world cannot live at
the level of its great men. Yet it would be unfair to the generality
of our kind to ascribe wholly to their intellectual and moral
weakness the gradual divergence of Buddhism and Christianity from
their primitive patterns. For it should never be forgotten that by
their glorification of poverty and celibacy both these religions
struck straight at the root not merely of civil society but of human
existence. The blow was parried by the wisdom or the folly of the
vast majority of mankind, who refused to purchase a chance of saving
their souls with the certainty of extinguishing the species.

XXXVIII. The Myth of Osiris

IN ANCIENT EGYPT the god whose death and resurrection were annually
celebrated with alternate sorrow and joy was Osiris, the most
popular of all Egyptian deities; and there are good grounds for
classing him in one of his aspects with Adonis and Attis as a
personification of the great yearly vicissitudes of nature,
especially of the corn. But the immense vogue which he enjoyed for
many ages induced his devoted worshippers to heap upon him the
attributes and powers of many other gods; so that it is not always
easy to strip him, so to say, of his borrowed plumes and to restore
them to their proper owners.

The story of Osiris is told in a connected form only by Plutarch,
whose narrative has been confirmed and to some extent amplified in
modern times by the evidence of the monuments.

Osiris was the offspring of an intrigue between the earth-god Seb
(Keb or Geb, as the name is sometimes transliterated) and the
sky-goddess Nut. The Greeks identified his parents with their own
deities Cronus and Rhea. When the sun-god Ra perceived that his wife
Nut had been unfaithful to him, he declared with a curse that she
should be delivered of the child in no month and no year. But the
goddess had another lover, the god Thoth or Hermes, as the Greeks
called him, and he playing at draughts with the moon won from her a
seventy-second part of every day, and having compounded five whole
days out of these parts he added them to the Egyptian year of three
hundred and sixty days. This was the mythical origin of the five
supplementary days which the Egyptians annually inserted at the end
of every year in order to establish a harmony between lunar and
solar time. On these five days, regarded as outside the year of
twelve months, the curse of the sun-god did not rest, and
accordingly Osiris was born on the first of them. At his nativity a
voice rang out proclaiming that the Lord of All had come into the
world. Some say that a certain Pamyles heard a voice from the temple
at Thebes bidding him announce with a shout that a great king, the
beneficent Osiris, was born. But Osiris was not the only child of
his mother. On the second of the supplementary days she gave birth
to the elder Horus, on the third to the god Set, whom the Greeks
called Typhon, on the fourth to the goddess Isis, and on the fifth
to the goddess Nephthys. Afterwards Set married his sister Nephthys,
and Osiris married his sister Isis.

Reigning as a king on earth, Osiris reclaimed the Egyptians from
savagery, gave them laws, and taught them to worship the gods.
Before his time the Egyptians had been cannibals. But Isis, the
sister and wife of Osiris, discovered wheat and barley growing wild,
and Osiris introduced the cultivation of these grains amongst his
people, who forthwith abandoned cannibalism and took kindly to a
corn diet. Moreover, Osiris is said to have been the first to gather
fruit from trees, to train the vine to poles, and to tread the
grapes. Eager to communicate these beneficent discoveries to all
mankind, he committed the whole government of Egypt to his wife
Isis, and travelled over the world, diffusing the blessings of
civilisation and agriculture wherever he went. In countries where a
harsh climate or niggardly soil forbade the cultivation of the vine,
he taught the inhabitants to console themselves for the want of wine
by brewing beer from barley. Loaded with the wealth that had been
showered upon him by grateful nations, he returned to Egypt, and on
account of the benefits he had conferred on mankind he was
unanimously hailed and worshipped as a deity. But his brother Set
(whom the Greeks called Typhon) with seventy-two others plotted
against him. Having taken the measure of his good brother's body by
stealth, the bad brother Typhon fashioned and highly decorated a
coffer of the same size, and once when they were all drinking and
making merry he brought in the coffer and jestingly promised to give
it to the one whom it should fit exactly. Well, they all tried one
after the other, but it fitted none of them. Last of all Osiris
stepped into it and lay down. On that the conspirators ran and
slammed the lid down on him, nailed it fast, soldered it with molten
lead, and flung the coffer into the Nile. This happened on the
seventeenth day of the month Athyr, when the sun is in the sign of
the Scorpion, and in the eight-and-twentieth year of the reign or
the life of Osiris. When Isis heard of it she sheared off a lock of
her hair, put on a mourning attire, and wandered disconsolately up
and down, seeking the body.

By the advice of the god of wisdom she took refuge in the papyrus
swamps of the Delta. Seven scorpions accompanied her in her flight.
One evening when she was weary she came to the house of a woman,
who, alarmed at the sight of the scorpions, shut the door in her
face. Then one of the scorpions crept under the door and stung the
child of the woman that he died. But when Isis heard the mother's
lamentation, her heart was touched, and she laid her hands on the
child and uttered her powerful spells; so the poison was driven out
of the child and he lived. Afterwards Isis herself gave birth to a
son in the swamps. She had conceived him while she fluttered in the
form of a hawk over the corpse of her dead husband. The infant was
the younger Horus, who in his youth bore the name of Harpocrates,
that is, the child Horus. Him Buto, the goddess of the north, hid
from the wrath of his wicked uncle Set. Yet she could not guard him
from all mishap; for one day when Isis came to her little son's
hiding-place she found him stretched lifeless and rigid on the
ground: a scorpion had stung him. Then Isis prayed to the sun-god Ra
for help. The god hearkened to her and staid his bark in the sky,
and sent down Thoth to teach her the spell by which she might
restore her son to life. She uttered the words of power, and
straightway the poison flowed from the body of Horus, air passed
into him, and he lived. Then Thoth ascended up into the sky and took
his place once more in the bark of the sun, and the bright pomp
passed onward jubilant.

Meantime the coffer containing the body of Osiris had floated down
the river and away out to sea, till at last it drifted ashore at
Byblus, on the coast of Syria. Here a fine _erica_-tree shot up
suddenly and enclosed the chest in its trunk. The king of the
country, admiring the growth of the tree, had it cut down and made
into a pillar of his house; but he did not know that the coffer with
the dead Osiris was in it. Word of this came to Isis and she
journeyed to Byblus, and sat down by the well, in humble guise, her
face wet with tears. To none would she speak till the king's
handmaidens came, and them she greeted kindly, and braided their
hair, and breathed on them from her own divine body a wondrous
perfume. But when the queen beheld the braids of her handmaidens'
hair and smelt the sweet smell that emanated from them, she sent for
the stranger woman and took her into her house and made her the
nurse of her child. But Isis gave the babe her finger instead of her
breast to suck, and at night she began to burn all that was mortal
of him away, while she herself in the likeness of a swallow
fluttered round the pillar that contained her dead brother,
twittering mournfully. But the queen spied what she was doing and
shrieked out when she saw her child in flames, and thereby she
hindered him from becoming immortal. Then the goddess revealed
herself and begged for the pillar of the roof, and they gave it her,
and she cut the coffer out of it, and fell upon it and embraced it
and lamented so loud that the younger of the king's children died of
fright on the spot. But the trunk of the tree she wrapped in fine
linen, and poured ointment on it, and gave it to the king and queen,
and the wood stands in a temple of Isis and is worshipped by the
people of Byblus to this day. And Isis put the coffer in a boat and
took the eldest of the king's children with her and sailed away. As
soon as they were alone, she opened the chest, and laying her face
on the face of her brother she kissed him and wept. But the child
came behind her softly and saw what she was about, and she turned
and looked at him in anger, and the child could not bear her look
and died; but some say that it was not so, but that he fell into the
sea and was drowned. It is he whom the Egyptians sing of at their
banquets under the name of Maneros.

But Isis put the coffer by and went to see her son Horus at the city
of Buto, and Typhon found the coffer as he was hunting a boar one
night by the light of a full moon. And he knew the body, and rent it
into fourteen pieces, and scattered them abroad. But Isis sailed up
and down the marshes in a shallop made of papyrus, looking for the
pieces; and that is why when people sail in shallops made of
papyrus, the crocodiles do not hurt them, for they fear or respect
the goddess. And that is the reason, too, why there are many graves
of Osiris in Egypt, for she buried each limb as she found it. But
others will have it that she buried an image of him in every city,
pretending it was his body, in order that Osiris might be worshipped
in many places, and that if Typhon searched for the real grave he
might not be able to find it. However, the genital member of Osiris
had been eaten by the fishes, so Isis made an image of it instead,
and the image is used by the Egyptians at their festivals to this
day. "Isis," writes the historian Diodorus Siculus, "recovered all
the parts of the body except the genitals; and because she wished
that her husband's grave should be unknown and honoured by all who
dwell in the land of Egypt, she resorted to the following device.
She moulded human images out of wax and spices, corresponding to the
stature of Osiris, round each one of the parts of his body. Then she
called in the priests according to their families and took an oath
of them all that they would reveal to no man the trust she was about
to repose in them. So to each of them privately she said that to
them alone she entrusted the burial of the body, and reminding them
of the benefits they had received she exhorted them to bury the body
in their own land and to honour Osiris as a god. She also besought
them to dedicate one of the animals of their country, whichever they
chose, and to honour it in life as they had formerly honoured
Osiris, and when it died to grant it obsequies like his. And because
she would encourage the priests in their own interest to bestow the
aforesaid honours, she gave them a third part of the land to be used
by them in the service and worship of the gods. Accordingly it is
said that the priests, mindful of the benefits of Osiris, desirous
of gratifying the queen, and moved by the prospect of gain, carried
out all the injunctions of Isis. Wherefore to this day each of the
priests imagines that Osiris is buried in his country, and they
honour the beasts that were consecrated in the beginning, and when
the animals die the priests renew at their burial the mourning for
Osiris. But the sacred bulls, the one called Apis and the other
Mnevis, were dedicated to Osiris, and it was ordained that they
should be worshipped as gods in common by all the Egyptians, since
these animals above all others had helped the discoverers of corn in
sowing the seed and procuring the universal benefits of

Such is the myth or legend of Osiris, as told by Greek writers and
eked out by more or less fragmentary notices or allusions in native
Egyptian literature. A long inscription in the temple at Denderah
has preserved a list of the god's graves, and other texts mention
the parts of his body which were treasured as holy relics in each of
the sanctuaries. Thus his heart was at Athribis, his backbone at
Busiris, his neck at Letopolis, and his head at Memphis. As often
happens in such cases, some of his divine limbs were miraculously
multiplied. His head, for example, was at Abydos as well as at
Memphis, and his legs, which were remarkably numerous, would have
sufficed for several ordinary mortals. In this respect, however,
Osiris was nothing to St. Denys, of whom no less than seven heads,
all equally genuine, are extant.

According to native Egyptian accounts, which supplement that of
Plutarch, when Isis had found the corpse of her husband Osiris, she
and her sister Nephthys sat down beside it and uttered a lament
which in after ages became the type of all Egyptian lamentations for
the dead. "Come to thy house," they wailed. "Come to thy house. O
god On! come to thy house, thou who hast no foes. O fair youth, come
to thy house, that thou mayest see me. I am thy sister, whom thou
lovest; thou shalt not part from me. O fair boy, come to thy house.
. . . I see thee not, yet doth my heart yearn after thee and mine
eyes desire thee. Come to her who loves thee, who loves thee,
Unnefer, thou blessed one! Come to thy sister, come to thy wife, to
thy wife, thou whose heart stands still. Come to thy housewife. I am
thy sister by the same mother, thou shalt not be far from me. Gods
and men have turned their faces towards thee and weep for thee
together. . . . I call after thee and weep, so that my cry is heard
to heaven, but thou hearest not my voice; yet am I thy sister, whom
thou didst love on earth; thou didst love none but me, my brother!
my brother!" This lament for the fair youth cut off in his prime
reminds us of the laments for Adonis. The title of Unnefer or "the
Good Being" bestowed on him marks the beneficence which tradition
universally ascribed to Osiris; it was at once his commonest title
and one of his names as king.

The lamentations of the two sad sisters were not in vain. In pity
for her sorrow the sun-god Ra sent down from heaven the
jackal-headed god Anubis, who, with the aid of Isis and Nephthys, of
Thoth and Horus, pieced together the broken body of the murdered
god, swathed it in linen bandages, and observed all the other rites
which the Egyptians were wont to perform over the bodies of the
departed. Then Isis fanned the cold clay with her wings: Osiris
revived, and thenceforth reigned as king over the dead in the other
world. There he bore the titles of Lord of the Underworld, Lord of
Eternity, Ruler of the Dead. There, too, in the great Hall of the
Two Truths, assisted by forty-two assessors, one from each of the
principal districts of Egypt, he presided as judge at the trial of
the souls of the departed, who made their solemn confession before
him, and, their heart having been weighed in the balance of justice,
received the reward of virtue in a life eternal or the appropriate
punishment of their sins.

In the resurrection of Osiris the Egyptians saw the pledge of a life
everlasting for themselves beyond the grave. They believed that
every man would live eternally in the other world if only his
surviving friends did for his body what the gods had done for the
body of Osiris. Hence the ceremonies observed by the Egyptians over
the human dead were an exact copy of those which Anubis, Horus, and
the rest had performed over the dead god. "At every burial there was
enacted a representation of the divine mystery which had been
performed of old over Osiris, when his son, his sisters, his friends
were gathered round his mangled remains and succeeded by their
spells and manipulations in converting his broken body into the
first mummy, which they afterwards reanimated and furnished with the
means of entering on a new individual life beyond the grave. The
mummy of the deceased was Osiris; the professional female mourners
were his two sisters Isis and Nephthys; Anubis, Horus, all the gods
of the Osirian legend gathered about the corpse." In this way every
dead Egyptian was identified with Osiris and bore his name. From the
Middle Kingdom onwards it was the regular practice to address the
deceased as "Osiris So-and-So," as if he were the god himself, and
to add the standing epithet "true of speech," because true speech
was characteristic of Osiris. The thousands of inscribed and
pictured tombs that have been opened in the valley of the Nile prove
that the mystery of the resurrection was performed for the benefit
of every dead Egyptian; as Osiris died and rose again from the dead,
so all men hoped to arise like him from death to life eternal.

Thus according to what seems to have been the general native
tradition Osiris was a good and beloved king of Egypt, who suffered
a violent death but rose from the dead and was henceforth worshipped
as a deity. In harmony with this tradition he was regularly
represented by sculptors and painters in human and regal form as a
dead king, swathed in the wrappings of a mummy, but wearing on his
head a kingly crown and grasping in one of his hands, which were
left free from the bandages, a kingly sceptre. Two cities above all
others were associated with his myth or memory. One of them was
Busiris in Lower Egypt, which claimed to possess his backbone; the
other was Abydos in Upper Egypt, which gloried in the possession of
his head. Encircled by the nimbus of the dead yet living god,
Abydos, originally an obscure place, became from the end of the Old
Kingdom the holiest spot in Egypt; his tomb there would seem to have
been to the Egyptians what the Church of the Holy Sepulchre at
Jerusalem is to Christians. It was the wish of every pious man that
his dead body should rest in hallowed earth near the grave of the
glorified Osiris. Few indeed were rich enough to enjoy this
inestimable privilege; for, apart from the cost of a tomb in the
sacred city, the mere transport of mummies from great distances was
both difficult and expensive. Yet so eager were many to absorb in
death the blessed influence which radiated from the holy sepulchre
that they caused their surviving friends to convey their mortal
remains to Abydos, there to tarry for a short time, and then to be
brought back by river and interred in the tombs which had been made
ready for them in their native land. Others had cenotaphs built or
memorial tablets erected for themselves near the tomb of their dead
and risen Lord, that they might share with him the bliss of a joyful

XXXIX. The Ritual of Osiris

1. The Popular Rites

A USEFUL clue to the original nature of a god or goddess is often
furnished by the season at which his or her festival is celebrated.
Thus, if the festival falls at the new or the full moon, there is a
certain presumption that the deity thus honoured either is the moon
or at least has lunar affinities. If the festival is held at the
winter or summer solstice, we naturally surmise that the god is the
sun, or at all events that he stands in some close relation to that
luminary. Again, if the festival coincides with the time of sowing
or harvest, we are inclined to infer that the divinity is an
embodiment of the earth or of the corn. These presumptions or
inferences, taken by themselves, are by no means conclusive; but if
they happen to be confirmed by other indications, the evidence may
be regarded as fairly strong.

Unfortunately, in dealing with the Egyptian gods we are in a great
measure precluded from making use of this clue. The reason is not
that the dates of the festivals are always unknown, but that they
shifted from year to year, until after a long interval they had
revolved through the whole course of the seasons. This gradual
revolution of the festal Egyptian cycle resulted from the employment
of a calendar year which neither corresponded exactly to the solar
year nor was periodically corrected by intercalation.

If the Egyptian farmer of the olden time could get no help, except
at the rarest intervals, from the official or sacerdotal calendar,
he must have been compelled to observe for himself those natural
signals which marked the times for the various operations of
husbandry. In all ages of which we possess any records the Egyptians
have been an agricultural people, dependent for their subsistence on
the growth of the corn. The cereals which they cultivated were
wheat, barley, and apparently sorghum (_Holcus sorghum,_ Linnaeus),
the _doora_ of the modern fellaheen. Then as now the whole country,
with the exception of a fringe on the coast of the Mediterranean,
was almost rainless, and owed its immense fertility entirely to the
annual inundation of the Nile, which, regulated by an elaborate
system of dams and canals, was distributed over the fields, renewing
the soil year by year with a fresh deposit of mud washed down from
the great equatorial lakes and the mountains of Abyssinia. Hence the
rise of the river has always been watched by the inhabitants with
the utmost anxiety; for if it either falls short of or exceeds a
certain height, dearth and famine are the inevitable consequences.
The water begins to rise early in June, but it is not until the
latter half of July that it swells to a mighty tide. By the end of
September the inundation is at its greatest height. The country is
now submerged, and presents the appearance of a sea of turbid water,
from which the towns and villages, built on higher ground, rise like
islands. For about a month the flood remains nearly stationary, then
sinks more and more rapidly, till by December or January the river
has returned to its ordinary bed. With the approach of summer the
level of the water continues to fall. In the early days of June the
Nile is reduced to half its ordinary breadth; and Egypt, scorched by
the sun, blasted by the wind that has blown from the Sahara for many
days, seems a mere continuation of the desert. The trees are choked
with a thick layer of grey dust. A few meagre patches of vegetables,
watered with difficulty, struggle painfully for existence in the
immediate neighbourhood of the villages. Some appearance of verdure
lingers beside the canals and in the hollows from which the moisture
has not wholly evaporated. The plain appears to pant in the pitiless
sunshine, bare, dusty, ash-coloured, cracked and seamed as far as
the eye can see with a network of fissures. From the middle of April
till the middle of June the land of Egypt is but half alive, waiting
for the new Nile.

For countless ages this cycle of natural events has determined the
annual labours of the Egyptian husbandman. The first work of the
agricultural year is the cutting of the dams which have hitherto
prevented the swollen river from flooding the canals and the fields.
This is done, and the pent-up waters released on their beneficent
mission, in the first half of August. In November, when the
inundation has subsided, wheat, barley, and sorghum are sown. The
time of harvest varies with the district, falling about a month
later in the north than in the south. In Upper or Southern Egypt
barley is reaped at the beginning of March, wheat at the beginning
of April, and sorghum about the end of that month.

It is natural to suppose that the various events of the agricultural
year were celebrated by the Egyptian farmer with some simple
religious rites designed to secure the blessing of the gods upon his
labours. These rustic ceremonies he would continue to perform year
after year at the same season, while the solemn festivals of the
priests continued to shift, with the shifting calendar, from summer
through spring to winter, and so backward through autumn to summer.
The rites of the husbandman were stable because they rested on
direct observation of nature: the rites of the priest were unstable
because they were based on a false calculation. Yet many of the
priestly festivals may have been nothing but the old rural festivals
disguised in the course of ages by the pomp of sacerdotalism and
severed, by the error of the calendar, from their roots in the
natural cycle of the seasons.

These conjectures are confirmed by the little we know both of the
popular and of the official Egyptian religion. Thus we are told that
the Egyptians held a festival of Isis at the time when the Nile
began to rise. They believed that the goddess was then mourning for
the lost Osiris, and that the tears which dropped from her eyes
swelled the impetuous tide of the river. Now if Osiris was in one of
his aspects a god of the corn, nothing could be more natural than
that he should be mourned at midsummer. For by that time the harvest
was past, the fields were bare, the river ran low, life seemed to be
suspended, the corn-god was dead. At such a moment people who saw
the handiwork of divine beings in all the operations of nature might
well trace the swelling of the sacred stream to the tears shed by
the goddess at the death of the beneficent corn-god her husband.

And the sign of the rising waters on earth was accompanied by a sign
in heaven. For in the early days of Egyptian history, some three or
four thousand years before the beginning of our era, the splendid
star of Sirius, the brightest of all the fixed stars, appeared at
dawn in the east just before sunrise about the time of the summer
solstice, when the Nile begins to rise. The Egyptians called it
Sothis, and regarded it as the star of Isis, just as the Babylonians
deemed the planet Venus the star of Astarte. To both peoples
apparently the brilliant luminary in the morning sky seemed the
goddess of life and love come to mourn her departed lover or spouse
and to wake him from the dead. Hence the rising of Sirius marked the
beginning of the sacred Egyptian year, and was regularly celebrated
by a festival which did not shift with the shifting official year.

The cutting of the dams and the admission of the water into the
canals and fields is a great event in the Egyptian year. At Cairo
the operation generally takes place between the sixth and the
sixteenth of August, and till lately was attended by ceremonies
which deserve to be noticed, because they were probably handed down
from antiquity. An ancient canal, known by the name of the Khalíj,
formerly passed through the native town of Cairo. Near its entrance
the canal was crossed by a dam of earth, very broad at the bottom
and diminishing in breadth upwards, which used to be constructed
before or soon after the Nile began to rise. In front of the dam, on
the side of the river, was reared a truncated cone of earth called
the '_arooseh_ or "bride," on the top of which a little maize or
millet was generally sown. This "bride" was commonly washed down by
the rising tide a week or a fortnight before the cutting of the dam.
Tradition runs that the old custom was to deck a young virgin in gay
apparel and throw her into the river as a sacrifice to obtain a
plentiful inundation. Whether that was so or not, the intention of
the practice appears to have been to marry the river, conceived as a
male power, to his bride the cornland, which was so soon to be
fertilised by his water. The ceremony was therefore a charm to
ensure the growth of the crops. In modern times money used to be
thrown into the canal on this occasion, and the populace dived into
the water after it. This practice also would seem to have been
ancient, for Seneca tells us that at a place called the Veins of the
Nile, not far from Philae, the priests used to cast money and
offerings of gold into the river at a festival which apparently took
place at the rising of the water.

The next great operation of the agricultural year in Egypt is the
sowing of the seed in November, when the water of the inundation has
retreated from the fields. With the Egyptians, as with many peoples
of antiquity, the committing of the seed to the earth assumed the
character of a solemn and mournful rite. On this subject I will let
Plutarch speak for himself. "What," he asks, "are we to make of the
gloomy, joyless, and mournful sacrifices, if it is wrong either to
omit the established rites or to confuse and disturb our conceptions
of the gods by absurd suspicions? For the Greeks also perform many
rites which resemble those of the Egyptians and are observed about
the same time. Thus at the festival of the Thesmophoria in Athens
women sit on the ground and fast. And the Boeotians open the vaults
of the Sorrowful One, naming that festival sorrowful because Demeter
is sorrowing for the descent of the Maiden. The month is the month
of sowing about the setting of the Pleiades. The Egyptians call it
Athyr, the Athenians Pyanepsion, the Boeotians the month of Demeter.
. . . For it was that time of year when they saw some of the fruits
vanishing and failing from the trees, while they sowed others
grudgingly and with difficulty, scraping the earth with their hands
and huddling it up again, on the uncertain chance that what they
deposited in the ground would ever ripen and come to maturity. Thus
they did in many respects like those who bury and mourn their dead."

The Egyptian harvest, as we have seen, falls not in autumn but in
spring, in the months of March, April, and May. To the husbandman
the time of harvest, at least in a good year, must necessarily be a
season of joy: in bringing home his sheaves he is requited for his
long and anxious labours. Yet if the old Egyptian farmer felt a
secret joy at reaping and garnering the grain, it was essential that
he should conceal the natural emotion under an air of profound
dejection. For was he not severing the body of the corn-god with his
sickle and trampling it to pieces under the hoofs of his cattle on
the threshing-floor? Accordingly we are told that it was an ancient
custom of the Egyptian corn-reapers to beat their breasts and lament
over the first sheaf cut, while at the same time they called upon
Isis. The invocation seems to have taken the form of a melancholy
chant, to which the Greeks gave the name of Maneros. Similar
plaintive strains were chanted by corn-reapers in Phoenicia and
other parts of Western Asia. Probably all these doleful ditties were
lamentations for the corn-god killed by the sickles of the reapers.
In Egypt the slain deity was Osiris, and the name _Maneros,_ applied
to the dirge, appears to be derived from certain words meaning "Come
to thy house," which often occur in the lamentations for the dead

Ceremonies of the same sort have been observed by other peoples,
probably for the same purpose. Thus we are told that among all
vegetables corn, by which is apparently meant maize, holds the first
place in the household economy and the ceremonial observance of the
Cherokee Indians, who invoke it under the name of "the Old Woman" in
allusion to a myth that it sprang from the blood of an old woman
killed by her disobedient sons. After the last working of the crop a
priest and his assistant went into the field and sang songs of
invocation to the spirit of the corn. After that a loud rustling
would be heard, which was thought to be caused by the Old Woman
bringing the corn into the field. A clean trail was always kept from
the field to the house, "so that the corn might be encouraged to
stay at home and not go wandering elsewhere." "Another curious
ceremony, of which even the memory is now almost forgotten, was
enacted after the first working of the corn, when the owner or
priest stood in succession at each of the four corners of the field
and wept and wailed loudly. Even the priests are now unable to give
a reason for this performance, which may have been a lament for the
bloody death of Selu," the Old Woman of the Corn. In these Cherokee
practices the lamentations and the invocations of the Old Woman of
the Corn resemble the ancient Egyptian customs of lamenting over the
first corn cut and calling upon Isis, herself probably in one of her
aspects an Old Woman of the Corn. Further, the Cherokee precaution
of leaving a clear path from the field to the house resembles the
Egyptian invitation to Osiris, "Come to thy house." So in the East
Indies to this day people observe elaborate ceremonies for the
purpose of bringing back the Soul of the Rice from the fields to the
barn. The Nandi of East Africa perform a ceremony in September when
the eleusine grain is ripening. Every woman who owns a plantation
goes out with her daughters into the cornfields and makes a bonfire
of the branches and leaves of certain trees. After that they pluck
some of the eleusine, and each of them puts one grain in her
necklace, chews another and rubs it on her forehead, throat, and
breast. "No joy is shown by the womenfolk on this occasion, and they
sorrowfully cut a basketful of the corn which they take home with
them and place in the loft to dry."

The conception of the corn-spirit as old and dead at harvest is very
clearly embodied in a custom observed by the Arabs of Moab. When the
harvesters have nearly finished their task and only a small corner
of the field remains to be reaped, the owner takes a handful of
wheat tied up in a sheaf. A hole is dug in the form of a grave, and
two stones are set upright, one at the head and the other at the
foot, just as in an ordinary burial. Then the sheaf of wheat is laid
at the bottom of the grave, and the sheikh pronounces these words,
"The old man is dead." Earth is afterwards thrown in to cover the
sheaf, with a prayer, "May Allah bring us back the wheat of the

2. The Official Rites

SUCH, then, were the principal events of the farmer's calendar in
ancient Egypt, and such the simple religious rites by which he
celebrated them. But we have still to consider the Osirian festivals
of the official calendar, so far as these are described by Greek
writers or recorded on the monuments. In examining them it is
necessary to bear in mind that on account of the movable year of the
old Egyptian calendar the true or astronomical dates of the official
festivals must have varied from year to year, at least until the
adoption of the fixed Alexandrian year in 30 B.C. From that time
onward, apparently, the dates of the festivals were determined by
the new calendar, and so ceased to rotate throughout the length of
the solar year. At all events Plutarch, writing about the end of the
first century, implies that they were then fixed, not movable; for
though he does not mention the Alexandrian calendar, he clearly
dates the festivals by it. Moreover, the long festal calendar of
Esne, an important document of the Imperial age, is obviously based
on the fixed Alexandrian year; for it assigns the mark for New
Year's Day to the day which corresponds to the twenty-ninth of
August, which was the first day of the Alexandrian year, and its
references to the rising of the Nile, the position of the sun, and
the operations of agriculture are all in harmony with this
supposition. Thus we may take it as fairly certain that from 30 B.C.
onwards the Egyptian festivals were stationary in the solar year.

Herodotus tells us that the grave of Osiris was at Sais in Lower
Egypt, and that there was a lake there upon which the sufferings of
the god were displayed as a mystery by night. This commemoration of
the divine passion was held once a year: the people mourned and beat
their breasts at it to testify their sorrow for the death of the
god; and an image of a cow, made of gilt wood with a golden sun
between its horns, was carried out of the chamber in which it stood
the rest of the year. The cow no doubt represented Isis herself, for
cows were sacred to her, and she was regularly depicted with the
horns of a cow on her head, or even as a woman with the head of a
cow. It is probable that the carrying out of her cow-shaped image
symbolised the goddess searching for the dead body of Osiris; for
this was the native Egyptian interpretation of a similar ceremony
observed in Plutarch's time about the winter solstice, when the gilt
cow was carried seven times round the temple. A great feature of the
festival was the nocturnal illumination. People fastened rows of
oil-lamps to the outside of their houses, and the lamps burned all
night long. The custom was not confined to Sais, but was observed
throughout the whole of Egypt.

This universal illumination of the houses on one night of the year
suggests that the festival may have been a commemoration not merely
of the dead Osiris but of the dead in general, in other words, that
it may have been a night of All Souls. For it is a widespread belief
that the souls of the dead revisit their old homes on one night of
the year; and on that solemn occasion people prepare for the
reception of the ghosts by laying out food for them to eat, and
lighting lamps to guide them on their dark road from and to the
grave. Herodotus, who briefly describes the festival, omits to
mention its date, but we can determine it with some probability from
other sources. Thus Plutarch tells us that Osiris was murdered on
the seventeenth of the month Athyr, and that the Egyptians
accordingly observed mournful rites for four days from the
seventeenth of Athyr. Now in the Alexandrian calendar, which
Plutarch used, these four days corresponded to the thirteenth,
fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth of November, and this date
answers exactly to the other indications given by Plutarch, who says
that at the time of the festival the Nile was sinking, the north
winds dying away, the nights lengthening, and the leaves falling
from the trees. During these four days a gilt cow swathed in a black
pall was exhibited as an image of Isis. This, no doubt, was the
image mentioned by Herodotus in his account of the festival. On the
nineteenth day of the month the people went down to the sea, the
priests carrying a shrine which contained a golden casket. Into this
casket they poured fresh water, and thereupon the spectators raised
a shout that Osiris was found. After that they took some vegetable
mould, moistened it with water, mixed it with precious spices and
incense, and moulded the paste into a small moon-shaped image, which
was then robed and ornamented. Thus it appears that the purpose of
the ceremonies described by Plutarch was to represent dramatically,
first, the search for the dead body of Osiris, and, second, its
joyful discovery, followed by the resurrection of the dead god who
came to life again in the new image of vegetable mould and spices.
Lactantius tells us how on these occasions the priests, with their
shaven bodies, beat their breasts and lamented, imitating the
sorrowful search of Isis for her lost son Osiris, and how afterwards
their sorrow was turned to joy when the jackal-headed god Anubis, or
rather a mummer in his stead, produced a small boy, the living
representative of the god who was lost and was found. Thus
Lactantius regarded Osiris as the son instead of the husband of
Isis, and he makes no mention of the image of vegetable mould. It is
probable that the boy who figured in the sacred drama played the
part, not of Osiris, but of his son Horus; but as the death and
resurrection of the god were celebrated in many cities of Egypt, it
is also possible that in some places the part of the god come to
life was played by a living actor instead of by an image. Another
Christian writer describes how the Egyptians, with shorn heads,
annually lamented over a buried idol of Osiris, smiting their
breasts, slashing their shoulders, ripping open their old wounds,
until, after several days of mourning, they professed to find the
mangled remains of the god, at which they rejoiced. However the
details of the ceremony may have varied in different places, the
pretence of finding the god's body, and probably of restoring it to
life, was a great event in the festal year of the Egyptians. The
shouts of joy which greeted it are described or alluded to by many
ancient writers.

The funeral rites of Osiris, as they were observed at his great
festival in the sixteen provinces of Egypt, are described in a long
inscription of the Ptolemaic period, which is engraved on the walls
of the god's temple at Denderah, the Tentyra of the Greeks, a town
of Upper Egypt situated on the western bank of the Nile about forty
miles north of Thebes. Unfortunately, while the information thus
furnished is remarkably full and minute on many points, the
arrangement adopted in the inscription is so confused and the
expression often so obscure that a clear and consistent account of
the ceremonies as a whole can hardly be extracted from it. Moreover,
we learn from the document that the ceremonies varied somewhat in
the several cities, the ritual of Abydos, for example, differing
from that of Busiris. Without attempting to trace all the
particularities of local usage I shall briefly indicate what seem to
have been the leading features of the festival, so far as these can
be ascertained with tolerable certainty.

The rites lasted eighteen days, from the twelfth to the thirtieth of
the month Khoiak, and set forth the nature of Osiris in his triple
aspect as dead, dismembered, and finally reconstituted by the union
of his scattered limbs. In the first of these aspects he was called
Chent-Ament (Khenti-Amenti), in the second Osiris-Sep, and in the
third Sokari (Seker). Small images of the god were moulded of sand
or vegetable earth and corn, to which incense was sometimes added;
his face was painted yellow and his cheek-bones green. These images
were cast in a mould of pure gold, which represented the god in the
form of a mummy, with the white crown of Egypt on his head. The
festival opened on the twelfth day of Khoiak with a ceremony of
ploughing and sowing. Two black cows were yoked to the plough, which
was made of tamarisk wood, while the share was of black copper. A
boy scattered the seed. One end of the field was sown with barley,
the other with spelt, and the middle with flax. During the operation
the chief celebrant recited the ritual chapter of "the sowing of the
fields." At Busiris on the twentieth of Khoiak sand and barley were
put in the god's "garden," which appears to have been a sort of
large flower-pot. This was done in the presence of the cow-goddess
Shenty, represented seemingly by the image of a cow made of gilt
sycamore wood with a headless human image in its inside. "Then fresh
inundation water was poured out of a golden vase over both the
goddess and the 'garden,' and the barley was allowed to grow as the
emblem of the resurrection of the god after his burial in the earth,
'for the growth of the garden is the growth of the divine
substance.'" On the twenty-second of Khoiak, at the eighth hour, the
images of Osiris, attended by thirty-four images of deities,
performed a mysterious voyage in thirty-four tiny boats made of
papyrus, which were illuminated by three hundred and sixty-five
lights. On the twenty-fourth of Khoiak, after sunset, the effigy of
Osiris in a coffin of mulberry wood was laid in the grave, and at
the ninth hour of the night the effigy which had been made and
deposited the year before was removed and placed upon boughs of
sycamore. Lastly, on the thirtieth day of Khoiak they repaired to
the holy sepulchre, a subterranean chamber over which appears to
have grown a clump of Persea-trees. Entering the vault by the
western door, they laid the coffined effigy of the dead god
reverently on a bed of sand in the chamber. So they left him to his
rest, and departed from the sepulchre by the eastern door. Thus
ended the ceremonies in the month of Khoiak.

In the foregoing account of the festival, drawn from the great
inscription of Denderah, the burial of Osiris figures prominently,
while his resurrection is implied rather than expressed. This defect
of the document, however, is amply compensated by a remarkable
series of bas-reliefs which accompany and illustrate the
inscription. These exhibit in a series of scenes the dead god lying
swathed as a mummy on his bier, then gradually raising himself up
higher and higher, until at last he has entirely quitted the bier
and is seen erect between the guardian wings of the faithful Isis,
who stands behind him, while a male figure holds up before his eyes
the _crux ansata,_ the Egyptian symbol of life. The resurrection of
the god could hardly be portrayed more graphically. Even more
instructive, however, is another representation of the same event in
a chamber dedicated to Osiris in the great temple of Isis at Philae.
Here we see the dead body of Osiris with stalks of corn springing
from it, while a priest waters the stalks from a pitcher which he
holds in his hand. The accompanying inscription sets forth that
"this is the form of him whom one may not name, Osiris of the
mysteries, who springs from the returning waters." Taken together,
the picture and the words seem to leave no doubt that Osiris was
here conceived and represented as a personification of the corn
which springs from the fields after they have been fertilised by the
inundation. This, according to the inscription, was the kernel of
the mysteries, the innermost secret revealed to the initiated. So in
the rites of Demeter at Eleusis a reaped ear of corn was exhibited
to the worshippers as the central mystery of their religion. We can
now fully understand why at the great festival of sowing in the
month of Khoiak the priests used to bury effigies of Osiris made of
earth and corn. When these effigies were taken up again at the end
of a year or of a shorter interval, the corn would be found to have
sprouted from the body of Osiris, and this sprouting of the grain
would be hailed as an omen, or rather as the cause, of the growth of
the crops. The corn-god produced the corn from himself: he gave his
own body to feed the people: he died that they might live.

And from the death and resurrection of their great god the Egyptians
drew not only their support and sustenance in this life, but also
their hope of a life eternal beyond the grave. This hope is
indicated in the clearest manner by the very remarkable effigies of
Osiris which have come to light in Egyptian cemeteries. Thus in the
Valley of the Kings at Thebes there was found the tomb of a royal
fan-bearer who lived about 1500 B.C. Among the rich contents of the
tomb there was a bier on which rested a mattress of reeds covered
with three layers of linen. On the upper side of the linen was
painted a life-size figure of Osiris; and the interior of the
figure, which was waterproof, contained a mixture of vegetable
mould, barley, and a sticky fluid. The barley had sprouted and sent
out shoots two or three inches long. Again, in the cemetery at
Cynopolis "were numerous burials of Osiris figures. These were made
of grain wrapped up in cloth and roughly shaped like an Osiris, and
placed inside a bricked-up recess at the side of the tomb, sometimes
in small pottery coffins, sometimes in wooden coffins in the form of
a hawkmummy, sometimes without any coffins at all." These
corn-stuffed figures were bandaged like mummies with patches of
gilding here and there, as if in imitation of the golden mould in
which the similar figures of Osiris were cast at the festival of
sowing. Again, effigies of Osiris, with faces of green wax and their
interior full of grain, were found buried near the necropolis of
Thebes. Finally, we are told by Professor Erman that between the
legs of mummies "there sometimes lies a figure of Osiris made of
slime; it is filled with grains of corn, the sprouting of which is
intended to signify the resurrection of the god." We cannot doubt
that, just as the burial of corn-stuffed images of Osiris in the
earth at the festival of sowing was designed to quicken the seed, so
the burial of similar images in the grave was meant to quicken the
dead, in other words, to ensure their spiritual immortality.

XL. The Nature of Osiris

1. Osiris a Corn-god

THE FOREGOING survey of the myth and ritual of Osiris may suffice to
prove that in one of his aspects the god was a personification of
the corn, which may be said to die and come to life again every
year. Through all the pomp and glamour with which in later times the

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