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Tag: The Literature of the Ancient Egyptians

Hypocephalus

Now the cow is, of course, Isis-Hathor, and both the words and the picture refer to some event in the life of Râ, or Horus. It is quite evident that the words of power, or charm, uttered by Isis-Hathor delivered the god out of some trouble, and the idea is that as it delivered the god, and was of benefit to him, even so will it deliver the deceased and be of benefit to him. The words of power read:—

“O Amen, O Amen, who art in heaven, turn thy face upon the dead body of thy son, and make him sound and strong in the underworld.”

And again we are warned that the words are “a great mystery” and that “the eye of no man whatsoever must see it, for it is a thing of abomination for [every man] to know it. Hide it, therefore; the Book of the lady of the hidden temple is its name.”

An examination of mummies of the late period shews that the Egyptians did actually draw a figure of the cow upon papyrus and lay it under the head of the deceased, and that the cow is only one figure among a number of others which were drawn on the same papyrus.

With the figures magical texts were inscribed and in course of time, when the papyrus had been mounted upon linen, it superseded the gold figure of the cow which was fastened to the neck of the deceased, and became, strictly speaking an amulet, though its usual name among archaeologists is “hypocephalus.” The figure on the opposite page well illustrates the object. It will be noticed that the hypocephalus is round; this is due to the fact that it represents the pupil of the Eye of Horus, which from time immemorial in Egypt was regarded as the source of all generative power, and of reproduction and life.

Ancient Egyptian Tomb Hypocephalus

Hypocephalus or object placed under the head.

 Hypocephalus or object placed under the head 
of the deceased Shai-enen to keep warmth in the body.

The first group of gods are:—

Nehebka offering to Horus his Eye, a goddess with the Eye of Horus for a head, the cow of Isis-Hathor described above, the four children of Horus, two lions, a member of the human body, the pylon of heads of Khnemu the god of reproduction, and Horus-Râ.

In the second are the boat of the Sun being poled along by Horus, and the boat of the Moon, with Harpocrates in the bow. In the other scenes we have the god Khepera in his boat, Horus in his boat, and Horus-Sept in his boat.

The god with two faces represents the double aspect of the sun in setting and rising, and the god with the rams’ heads, who is being adored by apes, is a mystical form of Khnemu, one of the great gods of reproduction, who in still later times became the being whose name under the form of Khnumis or Khnoubis occupied such an important position among the magical names which were in use among the Gnostics.

The two following prayers from the hypocephalus will illustrate the words of power addressed to Amen, i.e., the Hidden One, quoted above:—

1. “I am the Hidden One in the hidden place. I am a perfect spirit among the companions of Râ, and I have gone in and come forth among the perfect souls. I am the mighty Soul of saffron-coloured form.

“I have come forth from the underworld at pleasure. I have come. I have come forth from the Eye of Horus. I have come forth from the underworld with Râ from the House of the Great Aged One in Heliopolis.

“I am one of the spirits who come forth from the underworld: grant thou unto me the things which my body needeth, and heaven for my soul, and a hidden place for my mummy.”

2. “May the god, who himself is hidden, and whose face is concealed, who shineth upon the world in his forms of existence, and in the underworld, grant that my soul may live for ever!

“May the great god in his disk give his rays in the underworld of Heliopolis! Grant thou unto me an entrance and an exit in the underworld without let or hindrance.”

Chapter CLXIII. of the Book of the Dead was written to prevent the body of a man mouldering away in the underworld, and to deliver him from the souls which were so unfortunate as to be shut in the various places thereof, but in order to make it thoroughly efficacious it was ordered to be recited over three pictures:

(1) a serpent with legs, having a disk and two horns upon its head;

(2) an utchat, (see above, p. 55) or Eye of Horus, “in the pupil of which shall be a figure of the God of the lifted hand with the face of a divine soul, and having plumes and a back like a hawk”;

(3) an utchat, or Eye of Horus, “in the pupil of which there shall be a figure of the God of the lifted hand with the face of the goddess Neith, and having plumes and a back like a hawk.”

If these things be done for the deceased “he shall not be turned back at any gate of the underworld, he shall eat, and drink, and perform the natural functions of his body as he did when he was upon earth; and none shall rise up to cry out against him; and he shall be protected from the hands of the enemy for ever and ever.” (See Chapters of Coming Forth by Day, p. 292).

E.A. Wallis Budge, Egyptian Magic, London, 1901. Pp. 115-21.

Getting Laid in the Afterlife

“The texts inscribed on them contain extracts from the Heliopolitan Recension of the Book of the Dead, of which we know so much from the selections given in the Pyramids of Unas, Teta, and other kings, but side by side with these are copies of chapters belonging to Books of the Dead, which seem to have been originally composed at some anterior period, and which were intended to reflect the more popular and more materialistic religious views and beliefs.

Among such books must be mentioned the “Book of Two Ways,” or the “Two Ways of the Blessed Dead,” of which a version inscribed on a coffin in the Berlin Museum has been recently published. (Schack-Schackenburg, Das Buch von den Zwei Wegen des Seligen Toten, Leipzig, 1903).

The rubrical directions of this work show that it was compiled when implicit belief existed in the minds of the Egyptians as to the efficacy of certain “words of power” (hekau ) and of pictures of the gods, and it is clear that many portions of it are purely magical, and were intended to produce very material results. Thus concerning one passage a rubric says, “Whosoever knoweth this Chapter may have union with women by night or by day, and the heart (or, desire) of the woman shall come to him whensoever he would enjoy her.”

This rubric follows a text in which the deceased is made to pray for power of generation similar to that possessed by the god Beba, and for the will and opportunity of overcoming women, and it was to be written on a bandlet which was to be attached to the right arm. Moreover, the soul which had knowledge of certain sections of the work would “live among the living ones,” and would “see Osiris every day,” and would have “air in his nostrils, and death would never draw nigh unto him.”

The illustrations which accompany the texts on the coffins from Al-Barsha make it evident that under the XIth Dynasty the Egyptian theologian had not only divided the Under-world in his mind into sections, with doors, &c., but that he was prepared to describe that portion of it which belonged to the blessed dead, and to supply a plan of it!”

E.A. Wallis Budge, The Egyptian Heaven and Hell, 1905, pp. 12-4.

The Ancient Egyptian Book of Gates

“The BOOK OF GATES.

–This book was also written to be a Guide to the Tuat, and has much in common with the Book of the Two Ways and with the Book Am Tuat.

In it also the Tuat is divided into ten sections and has two vestibules, the Eastern and the Western, but at the entrance to each section is a strongly fortified Gate, guarded by a monster serpent-god and by the gods of the section.

The Sun-god of night, as in the Book Am Tuat, makes his journey in a boat, and is attended by a number of gods, who remove all opposition from his path by the use of words of power.

As he approaches each Gate, its doors are thrown open by the gods who guard them, and he passes into the section of the Tuat behind it, carrying with him light, air, and food for its inhabitants.

The Book of Gates embodies the teaching of the priests of the cult of Osiris, and the Book Am Tuat represents the modified form of it that was promulgated by the priests of Amen.

From the Book of Gates we derive much information about the realm of Osiris, and the Great Judgment of souls, which took place in his Hall of Judgment once a day at midnight.

Then all the souls that had collected during the past twenty-four hours from all parts of Egypt were weighed in the Balance; the righteous were allotted estates in perpetuity in the “land of souls,” and the wicked were destroyed by Shesmu, the executioner of the god, and by his assistants.

The texts that describe the various “Gates” of the Book of Gates, explain who are the beings represented in the pictures, and state why they were there.

And the Book proves conclusively that the Egyptians believed in the efficacy of sacrifices and offerings, and in the doctrine of righteous retribution; liars and deceivers were condemned, and their bodies, souls, spirits, doubles, and names destroyed, and the righteous were rewarded for their upright lives and integrity upon earth by the gift of everlasting life and happiness.

The most complete copy of this interesting work in England is cut on the alabaster sarcophagus of Seti I, about 1350 B.C.

This unique sepulchral monument is exhibited gratis in Sir John Soane’s Museum at 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, and every student of the religion of the Egyptians should examine it.”

—E.A. Wallis Budge, The Literature of the Ancient Egyptians, p. 111-2.

The Ancient Egyptian “Song of the Harper”

“More interesting than any of the above songs is the so-called “Song of the Harper,” of which two copies are known: the first is found in the papyrus Harris 500, already mentioned, and the second in a papyrus at Leyden.

Extracts of this poem are also found on the walls of the tomb of Nefer-hetep at Thebes. The copy in the papyrus reads:

THE POEM THAT IS IN THE HALL OF THE TOMB OF [THE KING OF THE SOUTH, THE KING OF THE NORTH], ANTUF, [He was one of the kings of the eleventh dynasty, about 2700 B.C.] WHOSE WORD IS TRUTH, [AND IS CUT] IN FRONT OF THE HARPER.

“O good prince, it is a decree, And what hath been ordained thereby is well, That the bodies of men shall pass away and disappear, Whilst others remain.

Since the time of the oldest ancestors, The gods who lived in olden time, Who lie at rest in their sepulchres, The Masters and also the Shining Ones, Who have been buried in their splendid tombs, Who have built sacrificial halls in their tombs, Their place is no more. Consider what hath become of them!

I have heard the words of Imhetep [A high official of Tcheser, a king of the third dynasty] and Herutataf, [Son of Khufu, the builder of the Great Pyramid (fourth dynasty)].

Which are treasured above everything because they uttered them. Consider what hath become of their tombs! Their walls have been thrown down; Their places are no more; They are just as if they had never existed.

Not one [of them] cometh from where they are. Who can describe to us their form (or, condition), Who can describe to us their surroundings, Who can give comfort to our hearts, And can act as our guide To the place whereunto they have departed?

Give comfort to thy heart, And let thy heart forget these things; What is best for thee to do is To follow thy heart’s desire as long as thou livest.

Anoint thy head with scented unguents. Let thine apparel be of byssus Dipped in costly [perfumes], In the veritable products (?) of the gods.

Enjoy thyself more than thou hast ever done before, And let not thy heart pine for lack of pleasure.

Pursue thy heart’s desire and thine own happiness. Order thy surroundings on earth in such a way That they may minister to the desire of thy heart; [For] at length that day of lamentation shall come, Wherein he whose heart is still shall not hear the lamentation. Never shall cries of grief cause To beat [again] the heart of a man who is in the grave.

Therefore occupy thyself with thy pleasure daily, And never cease to enjoy thyself.

Behold, a man is not permitted To carry his possessions away with him. Behold, there never was any one who, having departed, Was able to come back again.”

–E.A. Wallis Budge, The Literature of the Ancient Egyptians, pp. 109-10.

The Moral Precepts of Ptah-hetep

Moral Precepts of Ptah-hetep, Governor of Memphis, Advisor to King Pharaoh Assa, 5th Dynasty, 3500 BCE

CHAPTER XIII
MORAL AND PHILOSOPHICAL LITERATURE

Side by side with the great mass of literature of a magical and religious character that flourished in Egypt under the Ancient Empire, we find that there existed also a class of writings that are remarkably like those contained in the Book of Proverbs, which is attributed to Solomon, the King of Israel, and in “Ecclesiasticus,” and the “Book of Wisdom.”

The priests of Egypt took the greatest trouble to compose Books of the Dead and Guides to the Other World in order to help the souls of the dead to traverse in safety the region that lay between this world and the next, or Dead Land, and the high officials who flourished under the Pharaohs of the early dynasties drew up works, the object of which was to enable the living man to conduct himself in such a way as to satisfy his social superiors, to please his equals, and to content his inferiors, and at the same time to advance to honours and wealth himself.

These works represent the experience, and shrewdness, and knowledge which their writers had gained at the Court of the Pharaohs, and are full of sound worldly wisdom and high moral excellence. They were written to teach young men of the royal and aristocratic classes to fear God, to honour the king, to do their duty efficiently, to lead strictly moral, if not exactly religious, lives, to treat every man with the respect due to his position in life, to cultivate home life, and to do their duty to their neighbours, both to those who were rich and those who were poor.

The oldest Egyptian book of Moral Precepts, or Maxims, or Admonitions, is that of Ptah-hetep, governor of the town of Memphis, and high confidential adviser of the king; he flourished in the reign of Assa, a king of the fifth dynasty, about 3500 B.C. His work is found, more or less complete, in several papyri, which are preserved in the British Museum and in the National Library in Paris, and extracts from it, which were used by Egyptian pupils in the schools attached to the temples, and which are written upon slices of limestone, are to be seen in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and elsewhere.

The oldest copy of the work contains many mistakes, and in some places the text is unintelligible, but many parts of it can be translated, and the following extracts will illustrate the piety and moral worth, and the sagacity and experience of the shrewd but kindly “man of the world” who undertook to guide the young prince of his day. The sage begins his work with a lament about the evil effects that follow old age in a man–

“Depression seizeth upon him every day, his eyesight faileth, his ears become deaf, his strength declineth, his heart hath no rest, the mouth becometh silent and speaketh not, the intelligence diminisheth, and it is impossible to remember to-day what happened yesterday.

“The bones are full of pain, the pursuit that was formerly attended with pleasure is now fraught with pain, and the sense of taste departeth. Old age is the worst of all the miseries that can befall a man. The nose becometh stopped up and one cannot smell at all.”

At this point Ptah-hetep asks, rhetorically, “Who will give me authority to speak? Who is it that will authorise me to repeat to the prince the Precepts of those who had knowledge of the wise counsels of the learned men of old?”

“In answer to these questions the king replies to Ptah-hetep, “Instruct thou my son in the words of wisdom of olden time. It is instruction of this kind alone that formeth the character of the sons of noblemen, and the youth who hearkeneth to such instruction will acquire a right understanding and the faculty of judging justly, and he will not feel weary of his duties.”

Immediately following these words come the “Precepts of beautiful speech” of Ptah-hetep, whose full titles are given, viz. the Erpa, the Duke, the father of the god (i.e. the king), the friend of God, the son of the king. Governor of Memphis, confidential servant of the king.

These Precepts instruct the ignorant, and teach them to understand fine speech; among them are the following:

“Be not haughty because of thy knowledge. Converse with the ignorant man as well as with him that is educated.

“Do not terrify the people, for if thou dost, God will punish thee. If any man saith that he is going to live by these means, God will make his mouth empty of food. If a man saith that he is going to make himself powerful (or rich) thereby, saying, ‘I shall reap advantage, having knowledge,’ and if he saith, ‘I will beat down the other man,’ he will arrive at the result of being able to do nothing. Let no man terrify the people, for the command of God is that they shall enjoy rest.

“If thou art one of a company seated to eat in the house of a man who is greater than thyself, take what he giveth thee [without remark]. Set it before thee. Look at what is before thee, but not too closely, and do not look at it too often. The man who rejecteth it is an ill-mannered person.

“Do not speak to interrupt when he is speaking, for one knoweth not when he may disapprove. Speak when he addresseth thee, and then thy words shall be acceptable.

“When a man hath wealth he ordereth his actions according to his own dictates. He doeth what he willeth…. The great man can effect by the mere lifting up of his hand what a [poor] man cannot. Since the eating of bread is according to the dispensation of God, a man cannot object thereto.

“If thou art a man whose duty it is to enter into the presence of a nobleman with a message from another nobleman, take care to say correctly and in the correct way what thou art sent to say; give the message exactly as he said it. Take great care not to spoil it in delivery and so to set one nobleman against another. He who wresteth the truth in transmitting the message, and only repeateth it in words that give pleasure to all men, gentleman or common man, is an abominable person.

“If thou art a farmer, till the field which the great God hath given thee. Eat not too much when thou art near thy neighbours…. The children of the man who, being a man of substance, seizeth [prey] like the crocodile in the presence of the field labourers, are cursed because of his behaviour, his father suffereth poignant grief, and as for the mother who bore him, every other woman is happier than she. A man who is the leader of a clan (or tribe) that trusteth him and followeth him becometh a god.

“If thou dost humble thyself and dost obey a wise man, thy behaviour will be held to be good before God. Since thou knowest who are to serve, and who are to command, let not thy heart magnify itself against the latter. Since thou knowest who hath the power, hold in fear him that hath it….

“Be diligent at all times. Do more than is commanded. Waste not the time wherein thou canst labour; he is an abominable man who maketh a bad use of his time. Lose no chance day by day in adding to the riches of thy house. Work produceth wealth, and wealth endureth not when work is abandoned.

“If thou art a wise man, beget a son who shall be pleasing unto God.

“If thou art a wise man, be master of thy house. Love thy wife absolutely, give her food in abundance, and raiment for her back; these are the medicines for her body. Anoint her with unguents, and make her happy as long as thou livest. She is thy field, and she reflecteth credit on her possessor. Be not harsh in thy house, for she will be more easily moved by persuasion than by violence. Satisfy her wish, observe what she expecteth, and take note of that whereon she hath fixed her gaze. This is the treatment that will keep her in her house; if thou repel her advances, it is ruin for thee. Embrace her, call her by fond names, and treat her lovingly.

“Treat thy dependants as well as thou art able, for this is the duty of those whom God hath blessed.

“If thou art a wise man, and if thou hast a seat in the council chamber of thy lord, concentrate thy mind on the business [so as to arrive at] a wise decision. Keep silence, for this is better than to talk overmuch. When thou speakest thou must know what can be urged against thy words. To speak in the council chamber [needeth] skill and experience.

“If thou hast become a great man having once been a poor man, and hast attained to the headship of the city, study not to take the fullest advantage of thy situation. Be not harsh in respect of the grain, for thou art only an overseer of the food of God.

“Think much, but keep thy mouth closed; if thou dost not how canst thou consult with the nobles? Let thy opinion coincide with that of thy lord. Do what he saith, and then he shall say of thee to those who are listening, ‘This is my son.'”

The above and all the other Precepts of Ptah-hetep were drawn up for the guidance of highly-placed young men, and have little to do with practical, every-day morality. But whilst the Egyptian scribes who lived under the Middle and New Empires were ready to pay all honour to the writings of an earlier age, they were not slow to perceive that the older Precepts did not supply advice on every important subject, and they therefore proceeded to write supplementary Precepts.

–E.A. Wallis Budge, The Literature of the Ancient Egyptians, pp. 101-3.

The Ancient Egyptian Maxims of Ani

The Maxims of Ani

A very interesting collection of such Precepts is found in a papyrus preserved in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo. They are generally known as the “Maxims of Ani,” and the following examples will illustrate their scope and character:

“Celebrate thou the festival of thy God, and repeat the celebration thereof in its appointed season. God is wroth with the transgressor of this law. Bear testimony [to Him] after thy offering….

“The opportunity having passed, one seeketh [in vain] to seize another.

“God will magnify the name of the man who exalteth His Souls, who singeth His praises, and boweth before Him, who offereth incense, and doeth homage [to Him] in his work.

“Enter not into the presence of the drunkard, even if his acquaintance be an honour to thee.

“Beware of the woman in the street who is not known in her native town. Follow her not, nor any woman who is like her. Do not make her acquaintance. She is like a deep stream the windings of which are unknown.

“Go not with common men, lest thy name be made to stink.”

“When an inquiry is held, and thou art present, multiply not speech; thou wilt do better if thou holdest thy peace. Act not the part of the chatterer.

“The sanctuary of God abhorreth noisy demonstrations. Pray thou with a loving heart, and let thy words be hidden (or secret). Do this, and He will do thy business for thee. He will hearken unto thy words, and He will receive thy offering.

“Place water before thy father and thy mother who rest in their tombs…. Forget not to do this when thou art outside thy house, and as thou doest for them so shall thy son do for thee.”

“Frequent not the house where men drink beer, for the words that fall from thy mouth will be repeated, and it is a bad thing for thee not to know what thou didst really say. Thou wilt fall down, thy bones may be broken, and there will be no one to give thee a hand [to help thee]. Thy boon companions who are drinking with thee will say, ‘Throw this drunken man out of the door.’ When thy friends come to look for thee, they will find thee lying on the ground as helpless as a babe.

“When the messenger of [death] cometh to carry thee away, let him find thee prepared. Alas, thou wilt have no opportunity for speech, for verily his terror will be before thee. Say not, ‘Thou art carrying me off in my youth.’ Thou knowest not when thy death will take place. Death cometh, and he seizeth the babe at the breast of his mother, as well as the man who hath arrived at a ripe old age.

Observe this, for I speak unto thee good advice which thou shalt meditate upon in thy heart. Do these things, and thou wilt be a good man, and evils of all kinds shall remove themselves from thee.”

“Remain not seated whilst another is standing, especially if he be an old man, even though thy social position (or rank) be higher than his.

“The man who uttereth ill-natured words must not expect to receive good-natured deeds.

“If thou journeyest on a road [made by] thy hands each day, thou wilt arrive at the place where thou wouldst be.

“What ought people to talk about every day? Administrators of high rank should discuss the laws, women should talk about their husbands, and every man should speak about his own affairs.

“Never speak an ill-natured word to any visitor; a word dropped some day when thou art gossiping may overturn thy house.

“If thou art well-versed in books, and hast gone into them, set them in thy heart; whatsoever thou then utterest will be good. If the scribe be appointed to any position, he will converse about his documents. The director of the treasury hath no son, and the overseer of the seal hath no heir. High officials esteem the scribe, whose hand is his position of honour, which they do not give to children….

“The ruin of a man resteth on his tongue; take heed that thou harmest not thyself.

“The heart of a man is [like] the store-chamber of a granary that is full of answers of every kind; choose thou those that are good, and utter them, and keep those that are bad closely confined within thee. To answer roughly is like the brandishing of weapons, but if thou wilt speak kindly and quietly thou wilt always [be loved].

“When thou offerest up offerings to thy God, beware lest thou offer the things that are an abomination [to Him]. Chatter not [during] his journeyings (or processions), seek not to prolong (?) his appearance, disturb not those who carry him, chant not his offices too loudly, and beware lest thou…. Let thine eye observe his dispensations. Devote thyself to the adoration of his name. It is he who giveth souls to millions of forms, and he magnifieth the man who magnifieth him….

“I gave thee thy mother who bore thee, and in bearing thee she took upon herself a great burden, which she bore without help from me. When after some months thou wast born, she placed herself under a yoke, for three years she suckled thee…. When thou wast sent to school to be educated, she brought bread and beer for thee from her house to thy master regularly each day. Thou art now grown up, and thou hast a wife and a house of thy own. Keep thine eye on thy child, and bring him up as thy mother brought thee up. Do nothing whatsoever that will cause her (i.e. thy mother) to suffer, lest she lift up her hands to God, and He hear her complaint, [and punish thee].

“Eat not bread, whilst another standeth by, without pointing out to him the bread with thy hand….

“Devote thyself to God, take heed to thyself daily for the sake of God, and let to-morrow be as to-day. Work thou [for him]. God seeth him that worketh for Him, and He esteemeth lightly the man who esteemeth Him lightly.

“Follow not after a woman, and let her not take possession of thy heart.

“Answer not a man when he is wroth, but remove thyself from him. Speak gently to him that hath spoken in anger, for soft words are the medicine for his heart.

“Seek silence for thyself.”

–E.A. Wallis Budge, The Literature of the Ancient Egyptians, pp. 103-5.

THE LEGEND OF THE WANDERINGS OF ISIS

“The god Osiris, as we have seen in the chapter on the Egyptian Religion in the accompanying volume, lived and reigned at one time upon earth in the form of a man. His twin-brother Set was jealous of his popularity, and hated him to such a degree that he contrived a plan whereby he succeeded in putting Osiris to death.

Set then tried to usurp his brother’s kingdom and to make himself sole lord of Egypt, and, although no text states it distinctly, it is clear that he seized his brother’s wife, Isis, and shut her up in his house.

Isis was, however, under the protection of the god Thoth, and she escaped with her unborn child, and the following Legend describes the incidents that befell her, and the death and revivification of Horus.

It is cut in hieroglyphs upon a large stone stele which was made for Ankh-Psemthek, a prophet of Nebun in the reign of Nectanebus I, who reigned from 373 B.C. to 360 B.C. The stele was dug up in 1828 at Alexandria, and was given to Prince Metternich by Muhammad Ali Pasha; it is now commonly known as the “Metternich Stele.”

The Legend is narrated by the goddess herself, who says:

“I am Isis. I escaped from the dwelling wherein my brother Set placed me. Thoth, the great god, the Prince of Truth in heaven and on earth, said unto me:

“Come, O goddess Isis [hearken thou], it is a good thing to hearken, for he who is guided by another liveth. Hide thyself with thy child, and these things shall happen unto him. His body shall grow and flourish, and strength of every kind shall be in him. He shall sit upon his father’s throne, he shall avenge him, and he shall hold the exalted position of ‘Governor of the Two Lands.’”

I left the house of Set in the evening, and there accompanied me Seven Scorpions, that were to travel with me, and sting with their stings on my behalf. Two of them, Tefen and Befen, followed behind me, two of them, Mestet and Mestetef, went one on each side of me, and three, Petet, Thetet, and Maatet, prepared the way for me.

I charged them very carefully and adjured them to make no acquaintance with any one, to speak to none of the Red Fiends, to pay no heed to a servant (?), and to keep their gaze towards the ground so that they might show me the way.

And their leader brought me to Pa-Sui, the town of the Sacred Sandals, [These places were in the seventh nome of Lower Egypt (Metelites)] at the head of the district of the Papyrus Swamps. When I arrived at Teb I came to a quarter of the town where women dwelt.

And a certain woman of quality spied me as I was journeying along the road, and she shut her door in my face, for she was afraid because of the Seven Scorpions that were with me. Then they took counsel concerning her, and they shot out their poison on the tail of Tefen. As for me, a peasant woman called Taha opened her door, and I went into the house of this humble woman.

Then the scorpion Tefen crawled in under the door of the woman Usert [who had shut it in my face], and stung her son, and a fire broke out in it; there was no water to put it out, but the sky sent down rain, though it was not the time of rain. And the heart of Usert was sore within her, and she was very sad, for she knew not whether her son would live or die; and she went through the town shrieking for help, but none came out at the sound of her voice.

And I was sad for the child’s sake, and I wished the innocent one to live again. So I cried out to her, saying, Come to me! Come to me! There is life in my mouth. I am a woman well known in her town. I can destroy the devil of death by a spell which my father taught me. I am his daughter, his beloved one.

Then Isis laid her hands on the child and recited this spell:

“O poison of Tefent (sic), come forth, fall on the ground; go no further. O poison of Befent (sic), come forth, fall on the ground. I am Isis, the goddess, the mistress of words of power. I am a weaver of spells, I know how to utter words so that they take effect. Hearken to me, O every reptile that biteth (or stingeth), and fall on the ground. O poison of Mestet, go no further. O poison of Mestetef, rise not up in his body. O poison of Petet and Thetet, enter not his body. O poison of Maatet, fall on the ground.

Ascend not into heaven, I command you by the beloved of Ra, the egg of the goose which appeareth from the sycamore. My words indeed rule to the uttermost limit of the night. I speak to you, O scorpions. I am alone and in sorrow, and our names will stink throughout the nomes….

The child shall live! The poison shall die! For Ra liveth and the poison dieth. Horus shall be saved through his mother Isis, and he who is stricken shall likewise be saved.”

Meanwhile the fire in the house of Usert was extinguished, and heaven was content with the utterance of Isis. Then the lady Usert was filled with sorrow because she had shut her door in the face of Isis, and she brought to the house of the peasant woman gifts for the goddess, whom she had apparently not recognized.

The spells of the goddess produced, of course, the desired effect on the poison, and we may assume that the life of the child was restored to him. The second lot of gifts made to Isis represented his mother’s gratitude.

Exactly when and how Isis made her way to a hiding place cannot be said, but she reached it in safety, and her son Horus was born there.

The story of the death of Horus she tells in the following words:

“I am Isis. I conceived a child, Horus, and I brought him forth in a cluster of papyrus plants (or, bulrushes). I rejoiced exceedingly, for in him I saw one who would make answer for his father. I hid him, and I covered him up carefully, being afraid of that foul one [Set], and then I went to the town of Am, where the people gave thanks for me because they knew I could cause them trouble.

I passed the day in collecting food for the child, and when I returned and took Horus into my arms, I found him, Horus, the beautiful one of gold, the boy, the child, lifeless! He had bedewed the ground with the water of his eye and with the foam of his lips. His body was motionless, his heart did not beat, and his muscles were relaxed.”

Then Isis sent forth a bitter cry, and lamented loudly her misfortune, for now that Horus was dead she had none to protect her, or to take vengeance on Set. When the people heard her voice they went out to her, and they bewailed with her the greatness of her affliction. But though all lamented on her behalf there was none who could bring back Horus to life.

Then a “woman who was well known in her town, a lady who was the mistress of property in her own right,” went out to Isis, and consoled her, and assured her that the child should live through his mother.

And she said, “A scorpion hath stung him, the reptile Aunab hath wounded him.” Then Isis bent her face over the child to find out if he breathed, and she examined the wound, and found that there was poison in it, and then taking him in her arms, “she leaped about with him like a fish that is put upon hot coals,” uttering loud cries of lamentation.

During this outburst of grief the goddess Nephthys, her sister, arrived, and she too lamented and cried bitterly over her sister’s loss; with her came the Scorpion-goddess Serqet.

Nephthys at once advised Isis to cry out for help to Ra, for, said she, it is wholly impossible for the Boat of Ra to travel across the sky whilst Horus is lying dead.

Then Isis cried out, and made supplication to the Boat of Millions of Years, and the Sun-god stopped the Boat. Out of it came down Thoth, who was provided with powerful spells, and, going to Isis, he inquired concerning her trouble.

“What is it, what is it, O Isis, thou goddess of spells, whose mouth hath skill to utter them with supreme effect? Surely no evil thing hath befallen Horus, for the Boat of Ra hath him under its protection. I have come from the Boat of the Disk to heal Horus.”

Then Thoth told Isis not to fear, but to put away all anxiety from her heart, for he had come to heal her child, and he told her that Horus was fully protected because he was the Dweller in his disk, and the firstborn son of heaven, and the Great Dwarf, and the Mighty Ram, and the Great Hawk, and the Holy Beetle, and the Hidden Body, and the Governor of the Other World, and the Holy Benu Bird, and by the spells of Isis and the names of Osiris and the weeping of his mother and brethren, and by his own name and heart.

Turning towards the child Thoth began to recite his spells and said, “Wake up, Horus! Thy protection is established. Make thou happy the heart of thy mother Isis. The words of Horus bind up hearts and he comforteth him that is in affliction. Let your hearts rejoice, O ye dwellers in the heavens. Horus who avenged his father shall make the poison to retreat.

That which is in the mouth of Ra shall circulate, and the tongue of the Great God shall overcome [opposition]. The Boat of Ra standeth still and moveth not, and the Disk (i.e. the Sun-god) is in the place where it was yesterday to heal Horus for his mother Isis.

Come to earth, draw nigh, O Boat of Ra, O ye mariners of Ra; make the boat to move and convey food of the town of Sekhem (i.e. Letopolis) hither, to heal Horus for his mother Isis….

Come to earth, O poison! I am Thoth, the firstborn son, the son of Ra. Tem and the company of the gods have commanded me to heal Horus for his mother Isis.

O Horus, O Horus, thy Ka protecteth thee, and thy Image worketh protection for thee. The poison is as the daughter of its own flame; it is destroyed because it smote the strong son. Your temples are safe, for Horus liveth for his mother.”

Then the child Horus returned to life, to the great joy of his mother, and Thoth went back to the Boat of Millions of Years, which at once proceeded on its majestic course, and all the gods from one end of heaven to the other rejoiced.

Isis entreated either Ra or Thoth that Horus might be nursed and brought up by the goddesses of the town of Pe-Tep, or Buto, in the Delta, and at once Thoth committed the child to their care, and instructed them about his future.

Horus grew up in Buto under their protection, and in due course fought a duel with Set, and vanquished him, and so avenged the wrong done to his father by Set.”

–E. A. Wallis Budge, The Literature of the Ancient Egyptians, 1914, pp. 43-5.

Another Version of The Legend of Ra and Isis

THE LEGEND OF RA AND ISIS

“This Legend is found written in the hieratic character upon a papyrus preserved in Turin, and it illustrates a portion of the preceding Legend.

We have seen that Ra instructed Thoth to draw up a series of spells to be used against venomous reptiles of all kinds, and the reader will perceive from the following summary that Ra had good reason for doing this.

The Legend opens with a list of the titles of Ra, the “self-created god,” creator of heaven, earth, breath of life, fire, gods, men, beasts, cattle, reptiles, feathered fowl, and fish, the King of gods and men, to whom cycles of 120 years are as years, whose manifold names are unknown even by the gods.

The text continues: “Isis had the form of a woman, and knew words of power, but she was disgusted with men, and she yearned for the companionship of the gods and the spirits, and she meditated and asked herself whether, supposing she had the knowledge of the Name of Ra, it was not possible to make herself as great as Ra was in heaven and on the earth?

Meanwhile Ra appeared in heaven each day upon his throne, but he had become old, and he dribbled at the mouth, and his spittle fell on the ground. One day Isis took some of the spittle and kneaded up dust in it, and made this paste into the form of a serpent with a forked tongue, so that if it struck anyone the person struck would find it impossible to escape death. This figure she placed on the path on which Ra walked as he came into heaven after his daily survey of the Two Lands (i.e. Egypt).

Soon after this Ra rose up, and attended by his gods he came into heaven, but as he went along the serpent drove its fangs into him. As soon as he was bitten Ra felt the living fire leaving his body, and he cried out so loudly that his voice reached the uttermost parts of heaven. The gods rushed to him in great alarm, saying, “What is the matter?” At first Ra was speechless, and found himself unable to answer, for his jaws shook, his lips trembled, and the poison continued to run through every part of his body. When he was able to regain a little strength, he told the gods that some deadly creature had bitten him, something the like of which he had never seen, something which his hand had never made.

He said, “Never before have I felt such pain; there is no pain worse than this.” Ra then went on to describe his greatness and power, and told the listening gods that his father and mother had hidden his name in his body so that no one might be able to master him by means of any spell or word of power. In spite of this something had struck him, and he knew not what it was.

“Is it fire?” he asked. “Is it water? My heart is full of burning fire, my limbs are shivering, shooting pains are in all my members.” All the gods round about him uttered cries of lamentation, and at this moment Isis appeared.

Going to Ra she said, “What is this, O divine father? What is this? Hath a serpent bitten thee? Hath something made by thee lifted up its head against thee? Verily my words of power shall overthrow it; I will make it depart in the sight of thy light.”

Ra then repeated to Isis the story of the incident, adding, “I am colder than water, I am hotter than fire. All my members sweat. My body quaketh. Mine eye is unsteady. I cannot look on the sky, and my face is bedewed with water as in the time of the Inundation.” [i.e. in the period of Summer. The season Shemmu began in April and ended about July 15.]

Then Isis said, “Father, tell me thy name, for he who can utter his own name liveth.”

Ra replied, “I am the maker of heaven and earth. I knit together the mountains and whatsoever liveth on them. I made the waters. I made Mehturit [An ancient Cow-goddess of heaven] to come into being. I made Kamutef [A form of Amen-Ra]. I made heaven, and the two hidden gods of the horizon, and put souls into the gods. I open my eyes, and there is light; I shut my eyes, and there is darkness. I speak the word[s], and the waters of the Nile appear. I am he whom the gods know not. I make the hours. I create the days. I open the year. I make the river [Nile]. I create the living fire whereby works in the foundries and workshops are carried out. I am Khepera in the morning, Ra at noon, and Temu in the evening.”

Meanwhile the poison of the serpent was coursing through the veins of Ra, and the enumeration of his works afforded the god no relief from it. Then Isis said to Ra, “Among all the things which thou hast named to me thou hast not named thy name. Tell me thy name, and the poison shall come forth from thee.”

Ra still hesitated, but the poison was burning in his blood, and the heat thereof was stronger than that of a fierce fire. At length he said, “Isis shall search me through, and my name shall come forth from my body and pass into hers.”

Then Ra hid himself from the gods, and for a season his throne in the Boat of Millions of Years was empty. When the time came for the heart of the god to pass into Isis, the goddess said to Horus, her son, “The great god shall bind himself by an oath to give us his two eyes (i.e. the sun and the moon).”

When the great god had yielded up his name Isis pronounced the following spell: “Flow poison, come out of Ra. Eye of Horus, come out of the god, and sparkle as thou comest through his mouth. I am the worker. I make the poison to fall on the ground. The poison is conquered. Truly the name of the great god hath been taken from him. Ra liveth! The poison dieth! If the poison live Ra shall die.” These were the words which Isis spoke, Isis the great lady, the Queen of the gods, who knew Ra by his own name.

In late times magicians used to write the above Legend on papyrus above figures of Temu and Heru-Hekenu, who gave Ra his secret name, and over figures of Isis and Horus, and sell the rolls as charms against snake bites.”

–E. A. Wallis Budge, The Literature of the Ancient Egyptians, 1914, pp. 37-8.

The Oldest Prayer in the World?

“Another prayer of special interest is that which forms Chapter XXXB.

This is put into the mouth of the deceased when he is standing in the Hall of Judgment watching the weighing of his heart in the Great Scales by Anubis and Thoth, in the presence of the Great Company of the gods and Osiris.

He says: “My heart, my mother. My heart, my mother. My heart whereby I came into being. Let none stand up to oppose me at my judgment. May there be no opposition to me in the presence of the Tchatchau [The chief officers of Osiris, the divine Taskmasters]. Mayest thou not be separated from me in the presence of the Keeper of the Balance. Thou art my Ka (i.e. Double, or vital power), that dwelleth in my body; the god Khnemu who knitteth together and strengthened my limbs.

Mayest thou come forth into the place of happiness whither we go. May the Shenit officers who decide the destinies of the lives of men not cause my name to stink [before Osiris]. Let it (i.e. the weighing) be satisfactory unto us, and let there be joy of heart to us at the weighing of words (i.e.  the Great Judgment). Let not that which is false be uttered against me before the Great God, the Lord of Amentet (i.e. Osiris). Verily thou shalt be great when thou risest up [having been declared] a speaker of the truth.”

In many papyri this prayer is followed by a Rubric, which orders that it is to be said over a green stone scarab set in a band of tchamu metal (i.e. silver-gold), which is to be hung by a ring from the neck of the deceased. Some Rubrics order it to be placed in the breast of a mummy, where it is to take the place of the heart, and say that it will “open the mouth” of the deceased.

A tradition which is as old as the twelfth dynasty says that the Chapter was discovered in the town of Khemenu (Hermopolis Magna) by Herutataf, the son of Khufu, in the reign of Menkaura, a king of the fourth dynasty. It was cut in hieroglyphs, inlaid with lapis-lazuli on a block of alabaster, which was set under the feet of Thoth, and was therefore believed to be a most powerful prayer.

We know that this prayer was recited by the Egyptians in the Ptolemaic Period, and thus it is clear that it was in common use for a period of nearly four thousand years. It may well be the oldest prayer in the world.

–E.A. Wallis Budge, The Literature of the Ancient Egyptians, 1914, pp. 26-7.

From the Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Text of Unas, and the Text of Teta

“The skies lower, the Star-gods tremble, the Archers [names of groups of stars] quake, the bones of the Akeru [more names of groups of stars] gods tremble, and those who are with them are struck dumb when they see Unas rising up as a soul, in the form of the god who liveth upon his fathers, and who turneth his mothers into his food.

Unas is the lord of wisdom, and his mother knoweth not his name. The adoration of Unas is in heaven, he hath become mighty in the horizon like Temu, the father that gave him birth, and after Temu had given him birth Unas became stronger than his father. The Doubles (i.e. vital strength) of Unas are behind him, the soles of his feet are beneath his feet, his gods are over him, his serpents are [seated] upon his brow, the serpent-guides of Unas are in front of him, and the spirit of the flame looketh upon [his] soul.

The powers of Unas protect him. Unas is a bull in heaven. He directeth his steps where he willeth. He liveth upon the form which each god taketh upon himself, and he eateth the flesh of those who come to fill their bellies with the magical charms in the Lake of Fire. Unas is equipped with power against the spirit-souls thereof, and he riseth in the form of the mighty one, the lord of those who dwell in power (?).

Unas hath taken his seat with his back turned towards Keb (the Earth-god). Unas hath weighed his words [entered into judgement] with the hidden god (?) who hath no name, on the day of hacking in pieces the firstborn. Unas is the lord of offerings, the untier of the knot, and he himself maketh abundant the offerings of meat and drink. Unas devoureth men, and liveth upon the gods, he is the lord of envoys whom he sendeth forth on his missions. ‘He who cutteth off hairy scalps,’ who dwelleth in the fields, tieth the gods with ropes. Tcheser-tep shepherdeth them for Unas and driveth them unto him; and the Cord-master hath bound them for slaughter. Khensu, the slayer of the wicked, cutteth their throats, and draweth out their intestines, for it is he whom Unas sendeth to slaughter [them], and Shesmu [the executioner of Osiris] cutteth them in pieces, and boileth their members in his blazing caldrons of the night.

Unas eateth their magical powers, and he swalloweth their spirit-souls. The great ones among them serve for his meal at daybreak, the lesser serve for his meal at eventide, and the least among them serve for his meal in the night. The old gods and the old goddesses become fuel for his furnace. The mighty ones in heaven light the fire under the caldrons wherein are heaped up the thighs of the firstborn; and he who maketh those who live in heaven to go about for Unas lighteth the fire under the caldrons with the thighs of their women; he goeth about the Two Heavens in their entirety, and he goeth round about the two banks of the Celestial Nile.

Unas is the Great Power, the Power of Powers, and Unas is the Chief of the gods in visible forms. Whatsoever he findeth upon his path he eateth forthwith, and the magical might of Unas is before that of all the spirit-bodies who dwell in the horizon. Unas is the firstborn of the firstborn gods. Unas is surrounded by thousands, and oblations are made unto him by hundreds; he is made manifest as the Great Power by Saah (Orion), the father of the gods.

Unas repeateth his rising in heaven, and he is crowned lord of the horizon. He hath reckoned up the bandlets and the arm-rings [of his captives], he hath taken possession of the hearts of the gods. Unas hath eaten the Red Crown, and he hath swallowed the White Crown; the food of Unas is the intestines, and his meat is hearts and their words of power. Behold, Unas eateth of that which the Red Crown sendeth forth, he increaseth, and the words of power of the gods are in his belly; his attributes are not removed from him.

Unas hath eaten the whole of the knowledge of every god, and the period of his life is eternity, and the duration of his existence is everlastingness. He is in the form of one who doeth what he wisheth, and who doth not do what he hateth, and he abideth on the horizon for ever and ever and ever. The Soul of the gods is in Unas, their spirit-souls are with Unas, and the offerings made unto him are more than those that are made unto the gods. The fire of Unas is in their bones, for their soul is in Unas, and their shades are with those who belong unto them. Unas hath been with the two hidden (?) Kha (?) gods, …; the seat of the heart of Unas is among those who live upon this earth for ever and ever and ever.”

–E.A.W. Budge, The Literature of the Ancient Egyptians, 1914, p. 13.

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