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Category: Nectanebus

The Five Epagomenal Days

“But to the three hundred and sixty days given in the calendars of lucky and unlucky days must be added the five epagomenal days which were considered to be of great importance and had each its peculiar name.

On the first Osiris was born, on the second Heru-ur (Aroueris), on the third Set, on the fourth Isis, and on the fifth Nephthys; the first, third, and fifth of these days were unlucky, and no work of any kind was to be undertaken on them.

The rubric which refers to these days (See Chabas, op. cit., p. 104) states that whosoever knoweth their names shall never suffer from thirst, that he shall never be smitten down by disease, and that the goddess Sekhet (the Eye of Sekhet seems to have taken the form of noxious vapours in the fields at sunrise; see Chabas, op. cit., p. 78) shall never take possession of him; it also directs that figures of the five gods mentioned above shall be drawn with unguent and ânti scent upon a piece of fine linen, evidently to serve as an amulet.

From the life of Alexander the Great by Pseudo-Callisthenes (I. 4) we learn that the Egyptians were skilled in the art of casting nativities, and that knowing the exact moment of the birth of a man they proceeded to construct his horoscope.

Nectanebus employed for the purpose a tablet made of gold and silver and acacia wood, to which were fitted three belts. Upon the outer belt was Zeus with the thirty-six decani surrounding him; upon the second the twelve signs of the Zodiac were represented; and upon the third the sun and moon (quote from my History of Alexander the Great, Cambridge, 1889, p. 5).

He set the tablet upon a tripod, and then emptied out of a small box upon it models of the seven stars (i.e., Sun, Moon, Zeus, Kronos, Aphrodite, and Hermes; we must add Mars according to Meusel’s Greek text) that were in the belts, and put into the middle belt eight precious stones; these he arranged in the places wherein he supposed the planets which they represented would be at the time of the birth of Olympias, and then told her fortune from them.”

E.A. Wallis Budge, Egyptian Magic, London, 1901. Pp. 228-9.

The Seven Hathors

“The Seven Hathor goddesses also could predict the future of a human being, for in the well-known “Tale of Two Brothers” it is related that, when the god Khnemu, at the request of Râ-Harmachis, had created for Bata a wife “who was more beautiful in her person than any other woman in all the earth, for the essence of every god was contained in her,” they came to see her, and that they spake with one voice, saying, “Her death will be caused by the knife.”

And this came to pass, for, according to the story, when the king whose wife she became heard from her first husband that she had left him and had wrought evil against him, he entered into judgment with her in the presence of his chiefs and nobles, and “one carried out their decree,” i.e., they sentenced her to death and she was executed.

Similarly, in another story, the Seven Hathors came to see the son who had been born to a certain king in answer to his prayers to the gods, and when they had seen him they said, “He shall die by means of a crocodile, or a serpent, or a dog.”

The Seven Hathors The story goes on to say how he escaped from the crocodile and the serpent, and though the end is wanting, it is quite clear that he was wounded by an accidental bite of his dog and so died. (See Maspero, Contes Égyptiens, pp. 29-46).

The moral of all such stories is that there is no possibility of avoiding fate, and it is most probable that the modern Egyptian has only inherited his ancestors’ views as to its immutability. (The uneducated Muhammadan believes that man’s fate is written upon his skull, and that the sutures are the writing. No man, however, can read them. See the words of Zayn al-Mawasif in Burton’s Alf Laylah wa Laylah, vol. viii., p. 237).

A man’s life might, however, be happy or unhappy according as the hour of the day or the day itself was lucky or unlucky, and every day of the Egyptian year was divided into three parts, each of which was lucky or unlucky.

When Olympias was about to give birth to Alexander the Great, Nectanebus stood by her making observations of the heavenly bodies, and from time to time he besought her to restrain herself until the auspicious hour had arrived; and it was not until he saw a certain splendour in the sky and knew that all the heavenly bodies were in a favourable position that he permitted her to bring forth her child.

And when he had said, “O queen, now thou wilt give birth to a governor of the world,” the child fell upon the ground while the earth quaked, and the lightnings flashed, and the thunder roared. (See Pseudo-Callisthenes, I. 12). Thus it is quite evident that the future of a child depended even upon the hour in which he was born.”

E.A. Wallis Budge, Egyptian Magic, London, 1901. Pp. 223-4.

On Nectanebus, the Last Native King of Egypt, BC 318

“But of all the Egyptians who were skilled in working magic, Nectanebus, the last native king of Egypt, about B.C. 318, was the chief, if we may believe Greek tradition.

According to Pseudo-Callisthenes, and the versions of his works which were translated into Pehlevi, Arabic, Syriac, and a score of other languages and dialects, this king was famous as a magician and a sage, and he was deeply learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians.

He knew what was in the depths of the Nile and of heaven, he was skilled in reading the stars, in interpreting omens, in casting nativities, in telling fortunes, and in predicting the future of the unborn child, and in working magic of every kind, as we shall see; he was said to be the lord of the earth, and to rule all kings by means of his magical powers.

Whenever he was threatened with invasion by sea or by land he succeeded in destroying the power of his enemies, and in driving them from his coasts or frontiers; and this he did by the following means.

If the enemy came against him by sea, instead of sending out his sailors to fight them, he retired into a certain chamber, and having brought forth a bowl which he kept for the purpose, he filled it with water, and then, having made wax figures of the ships and men of the enemy, and also of his own men and ships, he set them upon the water in the bowl, his men on one side, and those of the enemy on the other.

He then came out, and having put on the cloak of an Egyptian prophet and taken an ebony rod in his hand, he returned into the chamber, and uttering words of power he invoked the gods who help men to work magic, and the winds, and the subterranean demons, which straightway came to his aid.

By their means the figures of the men in wax sprang into life and began to fight, and the ships of wax began to move about likewise; but the figures which represented his own men vanquished those which represented the enemy, and as the figures of the ships and men of the hostile fleet sank through the water to the bottom of the bowl, even so did the real ships and men sink through the waters to the bottom of the sea.”

E.A. Wallis Budge, Egyptian Magic, London, 1901. Pp. 91-2.

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