Myths and Legends of Ancient Egypt

Page: 123

[1] Etudes de Mythologie et d'Archéologie Egyptienne, Paris, 1893, vol. i, p. 106.

[2] I hope to elaborate this theory more fully in a later work.

[3] For a very full account of Fetishism see my article in the Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics.

[4] Lefébure, La Vertu et la Vie du Nom en Egypte.

[5] This expression Maā kheru etymologically means 'acquitted,' and is a legal term.

[6] See Budge, Egyptian Magic, p. 20.

[7] See A. Waite, Hidden Church of the Holy Grail, pp. 533 et seq.

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Foreign Deities

The attitude of the Egyptians as a nation toward 'other gods' seems to have been singularly free from any bigotry for their native deities, though of course the priesthood, of necessity, were more jealous and conservative in this respect. But the middle and lower classes adopted foreign gods freely, and in time the widespread belief in certain of these compelled official recognition and consequent inclusion in the Egyptian pantheon. Various reasons for this lack of exclusiveness are quite apparent. The state religion was purely a matter of royal and priestly organization, of moment to the attendant court of nobles and officials, but having no permanent or deep-seated effect on the people generally, each district following its local cult. Polytheistic worship was thus a national tendency, and therefore, when the people came into contact with foreign deities who possessed desirable qualities and powers, there was no sufficiently restraining force in their own religion to prevent them from becoming devotees of the strange god. Again, the divinity of another nation's god never seems to have been disputed, for if a nation were powerful, then that itself was sufficient proof of the divine and magical nature of their deity, and by so much, therefore, his power was to be feared and propitiated. That an element of fear was present in much of this god-adoption cannot be doubted. This would hold true especially in the case of the soldiery, who would propitiate gods of war belonging to nations who had shown themselves savage and furious in warfare; also in that of merchants, who, convoying their precious[Pg 276] cargoes, would seek the gods who ruled the sea. There was yet another aspect of the question and an important one. According to Egyptian thought, war between peoples was in fact war between their respective deities, a trial of their powers; and as the vanquished king and people might be taken captive, so might the god. Indeed, it was a necessity, for without the possession of the god it could not be said that the conquest was completed and the kingdom won. We find traces of many of these adoptions, not to be found among the official deities, in the numerous small stelæ belonging to private people and dedicated by them to these strange gods; in the small images which stood in the people's houses; while many an inscription carven on the rocks of the desert yields its quota of evidence. Libya, Palestine, Phœnicia, and Syria, each furnished the Egyptians with new gods; Ethiopia also. It is considered probable by some authorities that the goddesses Bast and Neith were of Libyan origin, though of this no positive statement can be made. The worship of Bast and Neith was prevalent chiefly in the parts where the majority of the population were Libyan, and the latter was almost neglected where the people were of pure Egyptian race.