Myths and Legends of Ancient Egypt

Page: 40

[Pg 86] down to rest, and sleep enchained his senses. And as he slept he dreamed, and behold! the Sphinx opened its lips and spoke to him; it was no longer a thing of motionless rock, but the god himself, the great Harmachis. And he addressed the dreamer thus:

"Behold me, O Thothmes, for I am the Sun-god, the ruler of all peoples. Harmachis is my name, and Ra, and Khepera, and Tem. I am thy father, and thou art my son, and through me shall all good come upon thee if thou wilt hearken to my words. The land of Egypt shall be thine, and the North Land, and the South Land. In prosperity and happiness shalt thou rule for many years."

He paused, and it seemed to Thothmes as if the god were struggling to free himself from the overwhelming sands, for only his head was visible.

"It is as thou seest," Harmachis resumed; "the sands of the desert are over me. Do that quickly which I command thee, O my son Thothmes."

Ere Thothmes could reply the vision faded and he awoke. The living god was gone, and in his place was the mighty image, hewn from the solid rock.

And here the story must perforce end. It is inscribed on a stele in the little temple which lies between the paws of the Sphinx, and the remainder of the inscription is so defaced as to be indecipherable.


One of the greatest and most important of all the forms of Horus is Heru-Behudeti, who typifies midday, and therefore the greatest heat of the sun. It was in this form that Horus waged war against Set. His principal shrines were at Edfû, Philæ, Mesen, Aat-ab, and Tanis, where he was worshipped under the form of a lion trampling upon its enemies. In general,[Pg 87] however, he is depicted as hawk-headed and bearing in his hand a weapon, usually a club or mace to symbolize his character as a destroyer. In the old Arthurian romances, and, indeed, in many mediæval tales which have a mythological ancestry, we read of how certain knights in combat with their enemies grew stronger as the sun waxed in the heavens, and when his beams declined their strength failed them. So was it with Sir Belin, with King Arthur, who in his frenzy slew thousands, and with St George, the patron saint of England, originally an Egyptian hero. These figures were all probably sun-gods at some early period of their development. They are obscure in birth and origin, as is the luminary they symbolize—that is, they spring from the darkness. Arthur's origin, for example, was unknown to him until the age of manhood, and the same holds good of Beowulf. As they grew in power, like the sun which they typify, the solar heroes frequently became insane, and laid about them with such pitiless fury that they slaughtered thousands in a manner of which no ordinary paladin would be capable. This is typical of the strength and fury of the sun at midday in Eastern climates. Heru-Behudeti, then, because he was god of the midday sun, was the pitiless warrior wielding the club, perhaps typifying sunstroke, and the bow and arrows, symbolizing his fierce beams which were to destroy the dragon of night and his fiendish crew. He was well represented as a lion, for what is so fierce as the tropical sun? At midday he was all-conquering and had trampled the night-dragon out of sight. In this manner, too, he represented the force of good against that of evil. The following is the myth of his battles with Set and the battalions of his evil companions.

[Pg 88]

The Myth of the Winged Disk

In the year 363 of the reign of Ra-Horakhti upon the earth it befell that the god was in Nubia with a mighty army. Set, the Evil One, had rebelled against him, for Ra was advanced in years, and Set was of all beings the most cunning and treacherous. He it was also who had slain his twin-brother Osiris, the great and good king; and for this reason Horus, the brother of Osiris, desired greatly to have his life.

With his chariots and horsemen and foot-soldiers Ra embarked on the Great River and came to Edfû, where Horus of Edfû joined him.

"O Ra," said Horus, "great are thine enemies, and cunningly do they conspire against thee!"

"My son," answered Ra, "arm thee and go forth against mine enemies, and slay them speedily."

Thereupon Horus sought the aid of the god Thoth, the master of all magic, by whose aid he changed himself into a great sun-disk, with resplendent wings outstretched on either side. Straight to the sun he flew, and from the heavens he looked so fiercely upon his enemies and Ra's, that they neither heard nor saw aright. Each man judged his neighbour to be a stranger, and a cry went up that the foe were upon them. Each turned his weapon against the other, the majority were slain, and the handful of survivors scattered. And Horus hovered for a while over the battle-plain, hoping to find Set, but the arch-enemy was not there; he was hiding in the North Country.

Then Horus returned to Ra, who embraced him kindly. And Horus took Ra and the goddess Astarte, and showed them the battlefield strewn with corpses.

Ra, king of the gods, said to those in his train: "Come, let us voyage to the Nile, for our enemies are[Pg 89] slain." But Set still had a large following, and some of his associates he commanded to turn themselves into crocodiles and hippopotami, so that they might swallow the occupants of the divine barque and yet remain invulnerable by reason of their thick hides. Horus, however, had gathered his band of smiths, each of whom made for himself an iron lance and a chain, on which Thoth bestowed some of his ever-powerful magic. Horus also repeated the formulæ in the Book of Slaying the Hippopotamus. So that when the fierce animals charged up the river the god was ready for them; many of them were pierced by the magic weapons and died, while the remainder fled. Those who fled to the south were pursued by Horus, and were at length overtaken. Another great conflict ensued, wherein the followers of Set were again vanquished. According to the desire of Ra, a shrine was raised to commemorate the victory, and his image placed therein. Yet another encounter, however, was to take place in the South Land ere the followers of Set were utterly destroyed.

The Slaughter of the Monsters

Then Horus and Ra sailed northward toward the sea in search of Set and his allies, hoping to slay all the crocodiles and hippopotami, which were the bodily forms of their foes. But the beasts kept under water, and four days had elapsed ere Horus caught sight of them. He at once attacked them, and wrought great havoc with his glittering weapons, to the delight of Ra and Thoth, who watched the conflict from the boat. A hundred and forty-two prisoners were taken on this occasion. Yet did Horus continue to pursue his enemies, always in the form of a burning disk with wings like unto the sunset, and attended by the goddesses Nekhbet and Uazet in the shape of two snakes.[Pg 90] Once more he overtook the allies of Set, this time at the Western Waters of Mert. On this occasion, as on the others, Horus was victorious, and nearly four hundred prisoners were brought to the boat of Ra and slain.