Myths and Legends of Ancient Egypt
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MYTHS AND LEGENDS
Author of "The Myths of Mexico and Peru,"
"The Civilisation of Ancient Mexico," "The Popol Vuh,"
"The Myths of the North American Indians"
DAVID D. NICKERSON & COMPANY
The Presentation of Ani to Osiris From the
Papyrus of Ani
Reproduced from the Facsimile
by Permission of the Director of the British Museum
In this volume the religious history of ancient Egypt has been reviewed in the light of the science of modern mythology. Few Egyptologists are well informed regarding the basic laws of that science, and much misapprehension regarding the character and attributes of many of the deities worshipped in the Nile Valley in times past has thereby resulted. The statement that Egyptian religious ideas cannot be collated with barbarian and savage conceptions simply because they are Egyptian and therefore 'classic' and inviolate will no longer remain unquestioned among that section of the public accustomed to think for itself, and such pronouncements as that the animal gods of Egypt have no connexion with totemic origins will shortly assume their proper perspective.
In advancing ideas so iconoclastic—which all will remember were adumbrated by the late Mr. Andrew Lang and strongly buttressed by Sir James Frazer—it is essential that I should at the outset protect myself against any charges of lack of acquaintance with the science of Egyptology. Such a work as this, which attempts to further recent views concerning a well-worn subject, must by the very circumstances of its effort be cast and written in popular style. That such a treatment is sufficient to prejudice it in the eyes of a certain type of critic I am well aware. A long series of handbooks and articles had prepared critics for my work in this series upon Mexican and Peruvian myth, and it was generally admitted that I spoke upon these subjects out of the authority of long experience.
I find it necessary to state, then, that the study of Egyptian hieroglyphs is not new to me. For several years I laboured at these assiduously, studying the[Pg viii] languages, Semitic and African, including Coptic, which are cognate with the Egyptian. In the study of hieroglyphic systems I was attracted toward the wonderful system of writing which prevailed among the Maya of Central America, and through it to the consideration of Mexican archæology in general. My grounding in the Egyptian language has also stood me in good stead, and if for reasons connected with the necessity for popular presentation my pages are not littered with hieroglyphs, I can lay claim to such a knowledge of Egyptian linguistic origins as can control any derivations here attempted—which, however, have not been ventured upon without the countenance of other and higher authorities. If I have differed from Egyptologists of standing in matters mythological, I have been sedulously careful not to attempt the impertinence of contradicting them in matters linguistic.
Their lifelong acquaintance with original texts gives them, of course, authority to which I gladly bow, but I feel, on the other hand, that my own close studies of mythological problems, which are as vital to the interests of the science as its linguistic and archæological sides, entitle me to advance my personal views upon such, even when these are opposed to those of authorities whose reputation in the field of Egyptology stands deservedly high.