Myths and Legends of Ancient Egypt
Page: 122The astrological knowledge of the Egyptians appears to have been exercised chiefly in the casting of horoscopes. Certain gods presided over certain periods of time, while others were identified with the heavenly bodies, and all were supposed to have power over the events which occurred in the periods subject to their control. In the later papyri spheres or tables of nativity are found, by means of which the fate of a[Pg 273] man could be calculated from such data as the hour of his birth and so forth. As among most Oriental peoples, astrological calendars, stating which days were auspicious or otherwise, were greatly in vogue, and these were to some extent founded on mythological events which had taken place on such and such a date, thus lending to it a certain significance for all time.
Dreams were also greatly relied upon in the affairs of life. These were believed to be sent by the gods, and it is probable that the Egyptian who was exercised over his private affairs sought his repose in the hope of being vouchsafed a dream which would guide him in his conduct. Such a practice is in vogue amongst certain North American Indian tribes to-day. Savage man goes to sleep trusting that his totem will grant him a vision for the regulation of his future affairs. If the ancient Egyptian desired such illumination, he considered it wiser to sleep within a temple famous as the seat of an oracle. A class of professional interpreters existed whose business it was to make clear the enigmatic portions of dreams. It was thought that diseases might be cured by nostrums communicated by the gods during sleep.
The treatment of the mummy and the various ceremonies in connexion with embalmment were undoubtedly magical in origin. As each bandage was laid in its exact position certain words of power were uttered which were supposed to be efficacious in the preservation of the part swathed. After consecration the priest uttered an invocation to the deceased and then took a vase of liquid containing ten perfumes, with which he[Pg 274] smeared the body twice from head to foot, taking especial care to anoint the head thoroughly. The internal organs were at this juncture then placed on the body, and the backbone immersed in holy oil, supposed to be an emanation from the gods Shu and Geb. Certain precious stones were then laid on the mummy, each of which had its magical significance. Thus crystal lightened his face, and carnelian strengthened his steps. A priest who personified the jackal-headed god Anubis then advanced, performed certain symbolical ceremonies on the head of the mummy, and laid certain bandages upon it. After a further anointing with oil the deceased was declared to have "received his head." The mummy's left hand was then filled with thirty-six substances used in embalming, symbolical of the thirty-six forms of the god Osiris. The body was then rubbed with holy oil, the toes wrapped in linen, and after an appropriate address the ceremony was completed.