Myths and Legends of Ancient Egypt

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Winged Isis (The wings are in the attitude of protecting Horus)—Photo W.A. Mansell & Co.

Isis may also typify the wind of morning, from which the sun is born. In most countries at the moment of sunrise a wind springs up which may be said to usher the sun into existence. In her myth, too, we find that on leaving the house where she had been imprisoned by Set (the summer dwelling of the[Pg 83] wind, which during that season leaves Egypt altogether) she is preceded by seven scorpions, the fierce-stinging blasts of winter. They show her the way through swamps and marshes. Women shut the doors in her face; a child is stung by one of the scorpions, but Isis restores it to life—that is, the child recovers with the approach of better weather. Her own son Horus is stung by a scorpion—that is, the heat of the sun is rendered weak by the cold of winter until it is restored by Isis, the genial spring wind.

Manifold Attributes of Isis

The myth of Isis became so real to the people of Egypt that they came to regard her very intimately indeed, and fully believed that she had once been a veritable woman. In a more allegorical manner she was of course the great feminine fructifier of the soil. She was also a powerful enchantress, as is shown by the number of deities and human beings whom she rescued from death. Words of great and compelling power were hers. Her astronomical symbol was the star Sept, which marked the spring and the approach of the inundation of the Nile, an added evidence that in one of her phases she was goddess of the winds of spring. As the light-giver at this season of the year she was called Khut, and as goddess of the fruitful earth Usert. As the force which impelled the powers of spring and sent forth the Nile flood she was Sati, and as the goddess of fertile waters she was Anqet. She was further the deity of cultivated lands and fields, goddess of harvest and goddess of food. So that from first to last she personified the forces which make for growth and nourishment. She personifies the power of the spring season, the power of the earth to grow and yield grain, motherhood and all the attributes and

Cippus of Horus—Photo W.A. Mansell & Co.


As we have seen, the god Ra was depicted as a falcon, but there was another god of similar form who had been worshipped before him in the land of Egypt. This was the god Heru, or Horus, 'He who is above.' This god had many shapes. As Horus the Elder he is delineated as a man with the head of a falcon, and was believed to be the son of Geb and Nut. Horus proper was perhaps regarded as the face of heaven, the countenance of the sky, and as Horus the Elder he represented the face by day in contradistinction to Set, who was the face by night. Horus the Younger, or Harpocrates as he was called by the Greeks to distinguish him from Horus the Elder, is represented as a youth, and was the son of a Horus-god and the goddess Rat-Tauit, who appears to have been worshipped at Hermonthis in the form of a hippopotamus. Horus the Younger represented the earliest rays of the rising sun, and had no fewer than seven aspects or forms. To detail all the variants of Horus would be foreign to the purpose of this work, so it must suffice to enumerate the more important of them. The Horus of the Two Horizons, the Harmachis of the Greeks, was one

Horus in Battle—Evelyn Paul

The Dream of Thothmes

There was a king in Egypt called Thothmes, a mighty monarch, skilled in the arts of war and of the chase. He was good to look upon, too, with a beauty like unto that of Horus, whom Isis bare in the Northern Marshes, and greatly was he loved by gods and men.

He was wont to hunt in the burning desert, alone, or with only a few companions, and this is told of one of his hunting expeditions.

One day, before he had ascended the throne of Egypt, he was hunting unattended in the desert. It was noontide, and the sun beat fiercely down upon him, so that he was fain to seek the shadow of the mighty Harmachis, the Sphinx. Great and powerful was the god, and very majestic was his image, with the face of a man and the body of a lion, a snake upon his brow. In many temples were sacrifices made to him, in many towns did men worship with their faces turned toward him.