Myths and Legends of Ancient Egypt
Page: 73The circumstance, too, that the source of the River Nile was unknown to the Egyptians tended to add a mystery to the character of its presiding deity. The people of the country could not understand the rise and fall of the river, which appeared to them to take place under supernatural auspices.
On the occasion of the annual rise of the Nile a great festival was held in honour of Hapi, and statues of the god were carried about through the towns and[Pg 171] villages. It is noticeable in many mythologies that gods of fructification are those honoured by the circulation of their images throughout the region where they are worshipped, and it is a little difficult to see why this should be so. It cannot be said that none but deities with an agricultural significance were thus carried about, but it is noteworthy that these are by far the most numerous to receive such honours.
Isis was in a manner regarded as the female counterpart of Hapi, but we also find that in the north of Egypt the goddess Natch-ura was regarded as the female companion of Hapi, and that Nekhebet reigned in the south in a like capacity. The following hymn to Hapi, found in a papyrus of the Eighteenth or Nineteenth Dynasty, clearly shows the great importance of his worship in Egypt: "Homage to thee, O Hapi, thou appearest in this land, and thou comest in peace to make Egypt to live. Thou art the Hidden One, and the guide of the darkness on the day when it is thy pleasure to lead the same. Thou art the waterer of the fields which Ra hath created, thou givest life unto all animals, thou makest all the land to drink unceasingly as thou descendest on thy way from heaven. Thou art the friend of bread and of Tchabu, thou makest to increase and be strong Nepra, thou makest prosperous every workshop, O Ptah, thou lord of fish; when the Inundation riseth, the waterfowl do not alight upon the fields that are sown with wheat. Thou art the creator of barley, and thou makest the temples to endure, for millions of years repose of thy fingers hath been an abomination to thee. Thou art the lord of the poor and needy. If thou wert overthrown in the heavens the gods would fall[Pg 172] upon their faces and men would perish. He causeth the whole earth to be opened by the cattle, and princes and peasants lie down and rest.... Thy form is that of Khnemu. When thou shinest upon the earth shouts of joy ascend, for all people are joyful, and every mighty man receiveth food, and every tooth is provided with food. Thou art the bringer of food, thou art the mighty one of meat and drink, thou art the creator of all good things, the lord of divine meat, pleasant and choice.... Thou makest the herb to grow for the cattle, and thou takest heed unto what is sacrificed unto every god. The choicest incense is that which followeth thee, thou art the lord of the two lands. Thou fillest the storehouses, thou heapest high with corn the granaries, and thou takest heed unto what is sacrificed unto every god. The choicest incense is that which followeth thee, thou art the lord of the two lands. Thou fillest the storehouses, thou heapest high with corn the granaries, and thou takest heed to the affairs of the poor and needy. Thou makest the herb and green things to grow that the desires of all may be satisfied, and thou art not reduced thereby. Thou makest thy strength to be a shield for man."