Myths and Legends of Ancient Egypt

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Students of myth and Egyptology, as well as the general reader drawn to the subjects by the glamour of the mystic atmosphere which, let us hope, will ever surround them, will find that I have not hesitated to attack hypotheses concerning the character and attributes of certain deities the mythological type of which may have been regarded by many as ultimately fixed. This applies especially to my attempted reconstruction of the natures of Osiris, Isis, Thoth, and several other[Pg ix] divinities. My remarks, too, upon totemism in Egypt may engender opposition, though I believe that the rank of the authorities I can call to my aid will succeed in disarming criticism of my arguments.

No one can rightly comprehend the trend and currents of Egyptian faith who does not possess some acquaintance with Egyptian history, manners, and customs. I have therefore provided brief synopses of these, as well as some account of Egyptian archæology. To Mr. W.G. Blaikie Murdoch, whose works and influence on modern art are well known to its more serious students, I am obliged for the greatest possible assistance and guidance in the section dealing with the art of ancient Egypt. To my assistants, Miss Mavie Jack and Miss Katherine Nixey, I am much beholden for the collection and arrangement of valuable material and for many suggestions.



(Extended TOC, added by transcribers.)


The Presentation of Ani to Osiris Frontispiece
The Egyptian Symbol of the Soul
Pylon, Karnak
The Pyramids of Gizeh
Model of a Funeral Boat
Canopic Jars representing the Four Sons of Horus
Temple of Horus at Edfû
Scene representing the driving of a Herd of Cattle
Rāhetep, a Priest
Osiris beguiled into the Chest
Isis and the Baby Prince
The Departure of Isis from Byblos
A Shrine of Osiris
Winged Isis
Cippus of Horus
Horus in Battle
The Weighing of the Heart
Isis and Ra
Mut and Ptah
Sekhmet and Bast
Khnemu, I-em-hetep and Nefer-Tem
The Maiden of Bekhten
The Goddesses as Dancing-girls
Thoth and the Chief Magician
"Who are you?"
The Treasure-Chamber of Rhampsinites
Isis conjured Ra to tell his Name
Amulet of Hathor
Procession of the Sacred Bull
Rameses II accompanied by a Lion
Mummied Cats
Horus the Child
Hauling Blocks of Stone for the Pyramids
Temple of Isis at Philæ

[Pg 1]


The group of beliefs which constituted what for convenience' sake is called the Egyptian religion in an existence of some thousands of years passed through nearly every phase known to the student of comparative mythology. If the theologians of ancient Egypt found it impossible to form a pantheon of deities with any hope of consistency, assigning to each god or goddess his or her proper position in the divine galaxy as ruling over a definite sphere, cosmic or psychical, it may be asked in what manner the modern mythologist is better equipped to reduce to order elements so recondite and difficult of elucidation as the mythic shapes of the divinities worshipped in the Nile Valley. But the answer is ready. The modern science of comparative religion is extending year by year, and its light is slowly but certainly becoming diffused among the dark places of the ancient faiths. By the gleam of this magic lamp, then—more wonderful than any dreamt of by the makers of Eastern fable—let us walk in the gloom of the pyramids, in the cool shadows of ruined temples, aye, through the tortuous labyrinth of the Egyptian mind itself, trusting that by virtue of the light we carry we shall succeed in unravelling to some extent the age-long enigma of this mystic land.