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Legends Of The Gods The Egyptian Texts, edited with Translations

Page: 92

[FN#336] Plutarch refers to the vessel of water, with which the priest sprinkles the ground to purify it.

[FN#337] He seems to refer here to the olive-tree: Beqet, "olive land," was one of the names of Egypt.

[FN#338] Plutarch seems to be confounding Osiris with Menu, the god of generation, who is generally represented in an ithyphallic form. The festival of the phallus survived in Egypt until quite recently.

[Sec. XXXVIII. The Sun is consecrated to Osiris, and the lion is worshipped, and temples are ornamented with [figures] of this animal, because the Nile rises when the sun is in the constellation of the Lion. Horus, the offspring of Osiris, the Nile, and Isis, the Earth, was born in the marshes of Buto, because the vapour of damp land destroys drought. Nephthys, or Teleute, represents the extreme limits of the country and the sea-shore, that is, barren land. Osiris (i.e., the Nile) overflowed this barren land, and Anubis[FN#339] was the result.[FN#340]]

[FN#339] The Egyptian Anpu. The texts make one form of him to be the son of Set and Nephthys.

[FN#340] Plutarch's explanations in this chapter are unsupported by the texts.

[Sec. XXXIX. In the first part of this chapter Plutarch continues his identification of [Typhon] with drought, and his ally Aso, Queen of Ethiopia, he considers to be the Etesian or north winds, which blow for a long period when the Nile is falling. He goes on to say:—]

As to what they relate of the shutting up of Osiris in a box, this appears to mean the withdrawal of the Nile to its own bed. This is the more probable as this misfortune is said to have happened to Osiris in the month of Hathor, precisely at that season of the year when, upon the cessation of the Etesian or north winds the Nile returns to its own bed, and leaves the country everywhere bare and naked. At this time also the length of the nights increases, darkness prevails, whilst light is diminished and overcome. At this time the priests celebrate doleful rites, and they exhibit as a suitable representation of the grief of Isis a gilded ox covered with a fine black linen cloth. Now, the ox is regarded as the living image of Osiris. This ceremony is performed on the seventeenth and three following days,[FN#341] and they mourn: 1. The falling of the Nile; 2. The cessation of the north winds; 3. The decrease in the length of the days; 4. The desolate condition of the land. On the nineteenth of the month Pachons they march in procession to the sea, whither the priests and other officials carry the sacred chest, wherein is enclosed a small boat of gold; into this they first pour some water, and then all present cry out with a loud voice, "Osiris is found." This done, they throw some earth, scent, and spices into the water, and mix it well together, and work it up into the image of a crescent, which they afterwards dress in clothes. This shows that they regard the gods as the essence and power of water and earth.


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