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Legends Of The Gods The Egyptian Texts, edited with Translations

Page: 77

[FN#271] Called ANU in the Egyptian texts; it was the centre of the great solar cult of Egypt. It is the "On" of the Bible.

[FN#272] The Sun-god was called Ra.

VII. As to sea-fish, the Egyptians in general do not abstain from all kinds of them, but some from one sort and some from another. Thus, for example, the inhabitants of Oxyrhynchus[FN#273] will not touch any that have been taken with an angle; for as they pay especial reverence to the Oxyrhynchus Fish,[FN#274] from whence they derive their name, they are afraid lest perhaps the hook may be defiled by having been at some time or other employed in catching their favourite fish. The people of Syene[FN#275] in like manner abstain from the Phagrus Fish[FN#276]; for as this fish is observed by them to make his first appearance upon their coasts just as the Nile begins to overflow, they pay special regard to these voluntary messengers as it were of that most joyful news. The priests, indeed, entirely abstain from all sorts in general.[FN#277] Therefore, upon the ninth day of the first month, when all the rest of the Egyptians are obliged by their religion to eat a fried fish before the door of their houses, they only burn them, not tasting them at all. For this custom they give two reasons: the first and most curious, as falling in with the sacred philosophy of Osiris and Typhon, will be more properly explained in another place. The second, that which is most obvious and manifest, is that fish is neither a dainty nor even a necessary kind of food, a fact which seems to be abundantly confirmed by the writings of Homer, who never makes either the delicate Pheacians or the Ithacans (though both peoples were islanders) to feed upon fish, nor even the companions of Ulysses during their long and most tedious voyage, till they were reduced thereto by extreme necessity. In short, they consider the sea to have been forced out of the earth by the power of fire, and therefore to lie out of nature's confines; and they regard it not as a part of the world, or one of the elements, but as a preternatural and corrupt and morbid excrement.

[FN#273] The Per-Matchet.

[FN#274] Probably the pike, or "fighting fish."

[FN#275] In Egyptian, SUNU, the Seweneh of the Bible, and the modern
Aswan.

[FN#276] A kind of bream, the an of the Egyptian texts.

[FN#277] Compare Chap. CXXXVIIA of the Book of the Dead. "And behold, these things shall be performed by a man who is clean, and is ceremonially pure, one who hath eaten neither meat nor fish, and who hath not had intercourse with women" (ll. 52, 53).

VIII. This much may be depended upon: the, religious rites and ceremonies of the Egyptians were never instituted upon irrational grounds, never built upon mere fable and superstition, but founded with a view to promote the morality and happiness of those who were to observe them, or at least to preserve the memory of some valuable piece of history, or to represent to us some of the phenomena of nature. As concerning the abhorrence which is expressed for onions, it is wholly improbable that this detestation is owing to the loss of Diktys, who, whilst he was under the guardianship of Isis, is supposed to have fallen into the river and to have been drowned as he was reaching after a bunch of them. No, the true reason of their abstinence from onions is because they are observed to flourish most and to be in the greatest vigour at the wane of the moon, and also because they are entirely useless to them either in their feasts[FN#278] or in their times of abstinence and purification, for in the former case they make tears come from those who use them, and in the latter they create thirst. For much the same reason they likewise look upon the pig as an impure animal, and to be avoided, observing it to be most apt to engender upon the decrease of the moon, and they think that those who drink its milk are more subject to leprosy and such-like cutaneous diseases than others. The custom of abstaining from the flesh of the pig[FN#279] is not always observed, for those who sacrifice a sow to Typhon once a year, at the full moon, afterwards eat its flesh. The reason they give for this practice is this: Typhon being in pursuit of this animal at that season of the moon, accidentally found the wooden chest wherein was deposited the body of Osiris, which he immediately pulled to pieces. This story, however, is not generally admitted, there being some who look upon it, as they do many other relations of the same kind, as founded upon some mistake or misrepresentation. All agree, however, in saying that so great was the abhorrence which the ancient Egyptians expressed for whatever tended to promote luxury, expense, and voluptuousness, that in order to expose it as much as possible they erected a column in one of the temples of Thebes, full of curses against their king Meinis, who first drew them off from their former frugal and parsimonious course of life. The immediate cause for the erection of the pillar is thus given: Technatis,[FN#280] the father of Bocchoris, leading an army against the Arabians, and his baggage and provisions not coming up to him as soon as he expected, was therefore obliged to eat some of the very poor food which was obtainable, and having eaten, he lay down on the bare ground and slept very soundly. This gave him a great affection for a mean and frugal diet, and induced him to curse the memory of Meinis, and with the permission of the priests he made these curses public by cutting them upon a pillar.[FN#281]


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