The Story of Auset and Ausar
By Egyptian Myths (edited)
In the days before Re had left the earth, before he had begun to grow old, his great wisdom told him that if the goddess Nut bore children, one of them would end his reign among men. So Re laid a curse upon Nut – that she should not be able to bear any child upon any day in the year.
Full of sorrow, Nut went for help to Tehuti, the thrice-great god of wisdom and magic and learning, Re’s son, who loved her. Tehuti knew that the curse of Re, once spoken, could never be recalled, but in his wisdom he found a way of escape. He went to Khonsu, the Moon-god, and challenged him to a contest at draughts. Game after game they played and always Tehuti won. The stakes grew higher and higher, but Khonsu wagered the most, for it was some of his own light that he risked and lost.
At last Khonsu would play no more. Then Tehuti the thrice-great in wisdom gathered up the light which he had won and made it into five extra days which for ever after were set between the end of the old year and the beginning of the new. The year was of three hundred and sixty days before this, but the five days which were added, which were not days of any year, were ever afterwards held as days of festival in old Egypt.
But, since his match with Tehuti, Khonsu the moon has not had enough light to shine throughout the month, but dwindles into darkness and then grows to his full glory again; for he had lost the light needed to make five whole days.
On the first of these days Ausar was born, and the second day was set aside to be the birthday of Heru the Elder. On the third day red Set, the lord of evil, was born. On the fourth Auset first saw the light, and Nebthet on the fifth. In this way the curse of Re was both fulfilled and defeated: for the days on which the children of Nut were born belonged to no year.
When Ausar was born many signs and wonders were seen and heard throughout the world. Most notable was the voice which came from the holiest shrine in the temple at Thebes on the Nile, which today is called Karnak, speaking to a man called Pamyles bidding him proclaim to all men that Ausar, the good and mighty king, was born to bring joy to all the earth. Pamyles did as he was bidden, and he also attended on the Divine Child and brought him up as a man among men.
When Ausar was grown up he married Auset. For a god could marry only a goddess. And Set married Nebthet: for he too being a god could marry only a goddess.
After Auset by her craft had learned the Secret Name of Re, Ausar became sole ruler of Kemet and reigned on earth as Re had done. He found the people in Lower Egypt both savage and brutish, fighting among themselves and killing one another. But Auset discovered the grains wheat and barley, which grew wild over the land with the other plants still unknown to man. Ausar taught them how to plant the seeds when the Nile and rivers had risen in the yearly inundation and sunk again leaving fresh fertile mud over the fields; how to tend and water the crops; how to cut the corn when it was ripe, and how to thresh the grain on the threshing floors, dry it and grind it to flour and make it into bread. He showed them also how to plant vines and make the grapes into wine.
When the people had learned to make bread and cut only the flesh of such animals as he taught them were suitable, Ausar, went on to teach them laws, and how to live peacefully and happily together, delighting themselves with music and poetry. As soon as Lower Egypt was filled with peace and plenty, Ausar set out over the world to bring his blessings upon other nations. While he was away, Auset ruled over the land, which she did both wisely and well.
But Set the Evil One, envied Ausar and hated Auset. The more the people loved and praised Ausar, the more Set hated him; and the more good he did and the happier mankind became, the stronger grew Set’s desire to kill his brother and rule in his place. Auset, however, was so full of wisdom and so watchful that Set could make no attempt to seize the throne.
When Ausar returned from his travels, Set was among the first to welcome him back and kneel in reverence before “the good god Netcher Ausar”. Yet he had made his plans, aided by seventy-two of his wicked friends and Aso the evil queen of Ethiopia. Secretly Set obtained the exact measurements of the body of Ausar, and caused a beautiful chest to be made that would fit only him. It was fashioned of the rarest and most costly woods: cedar brought from Lebanon, and ebony from Punt at the south end of the Red Sea.
Set gave a great feast in honour of Ausar – but the other guests were the two-and-seventy conspirators. When the heart of Ausar had been made glad with feasting and song the chest was brought in, and all were amazed at its beauty. He marveled at the rare cedar inlaid with ebony and ivory, with less rare gold and silver, and painted inside with figures of gods and birds and animals, and he desired it greatly.
“I will give this chest to whosoever fits it most exactly!” cried Set. And at once the conspirators began in turn to see if they could win it. But one was too tall and another too short; one was too fat and another too thin – and all tried in vain.
“Let me see if I will fit into this marvelous piece of work,” said Ausar, and he laid himself down in the chest while all gathered round breathlessly. “I fit exactly, and the chest is mine!” cried Ausar.
“It is yours indeed, and shall be so forever!” hissed Set as he banged down the lid.
Then in desperate haste he and the conspirators nailed it shut and sealed every crack with molten lead, so that Ausar the man died in the chest and his spirit went west across the Nile into Duat the Place of Testing; but, beyond it to Amenti, where those live for ever who have lived well on earth and passed the judgments of Duat, he could not pass as yet.
Set and his companions took the chest which held the body of Ausar and cast it into the Nile; and Hapi the Nile-god carried it out into the Great Green Sea where it was tossed for many days until it came to the shore of Phoenicia near the city of Byblos. Here the waves cast it into a tamarisk tree that grew on the shore; and the tree shot out branches and grew leaves and flowers to make a fit resting place for the body of the good Netcher Ausar and very soon that tree became famous throughout the land.
Presently King Malcander heard of it, and he and his wife, Queen Astarte, came to the seashore to gaze at the tree. By now the branches had grown together and hidden the chest which held the body of Ausar in the trunk itself. King Malcander gave orders that the tree should be cut down and fashioned into a great pillar for his palace. This was done, and all wondered at its beauty and fragrance: but none knew that it held the body of a god.
Meanwhile, Auset was in great fear. She had always known that Set was filled with evil and jealousy, but kindly Ausar would not believe in his brother’s wickedness. But she knew as soon as her husband was dead, though no one told her, and fled into the marshes of the delta carrying the baby Heru with her. [Version of Auset as Mother not Virgin.] She found shelter on a little island where the goddess Buto lived, and entrusted the divine child to her. And as a further safeguard against Set, Auset loosed the island from its foundations, and let it float so that no one could tell where to find it.
Then she went to seek for the body of Ausar. For, until he was buried with all the needful rites and charms, even his spirit could go no farther to the west than Duat, the Testing-Place; and it could not come to Amenti. She wandered back and forth over the lands of Lower Egypt and Kemet, but never a trace could she find. She asked all whom she met, but no one had seen the chest – and in this matter her magic powers could not help her.
At last she questioned the children who were playing by the riverside, and at once they told her that just such a chest as she described had floated past them on the swift stream and out into the Great Green Sea.
Then Auset wandered on the shore, and again and again it was the children who had seen the chest floating by and told her which way it had gone. And because of this, Auset blessed the children and decreed that ever afterwards children should speak words of wisdom and sometimes tell of things to come.
At length Auset came to Byblos and sat down by the seashore. Presently the maidens who attended on Astarte came down to bathe at that place; and when they returned out of the water Auset taught them how to plait their hair – which had never been done before. When they went up to the palace a strange and wonderful perfume seemed to cling to them; and Astarte marveled at it, and at their plaited hair, and asked them how it came to be so.
The maidens told her of the wonderful woman who sat by the seashore, and Astarte sent for Auset, and asked her to serve in the palace and tend her children, the little Prince Maneros and the baby Dictys, who was ailing sorely. For she did not know that the strange woman who was wandering alone at Byblos was the greatest of all the gods of Kemet.
Auset agreed to this, and very soon the baby Dictys was strong and well though she did no more than give him her finger to suck. But presently she became fond of the child, and thought to make him immortal, which she did by burning away his mortal parts while she flew round and round him in the form of a swallow.
Astarte, however, had been watching her secretly; and when she saw that her baby seemed to be on fire she rushed into the room with a loud cry, and so broke the magic. Then Auset took on her own form, and Astarte crouched down in terror when she saw the shining goddess and learned who she was.
Malcander and Astarte offered her gifts of all the richest treasures in Byblos, but Auset asked only for the great tamarisk pillar which held up the roof, and for what it contained. When it was given to her, she caused it to open and took out the chest of Set. But the pillar she gave back to Malcander and Astarte; and it remained the most sacred object in Byblos, since it had once held the body of a god.
When the chest which had become the coffin of Ausar was given to her, Auset flung herself down on it with so terrible a cry of sorrow that little Dictys died at the very sound. [Plutarch: “For the tale that Dictys, the nurseling of Isis, in reaching for a clump of onions, fell into the river and was drowned is extremely incredible.”] But Auset at length caused the chest to be placed on a ship which King Malcander provided for her, and set out for Kemet.
With her went Maneros, the young prince of Byblos: but he did not remain with her for long, since his curiosity proved his undoing. For as soon as the ship had left the land Auset retired to where the chest of Set lay, and opened the lid. Maneros crept up behind her and peeped over her shoulder: but Auset knew he was there and, turning, gave him one glance of anger – and he fell backwards over the side of the ship into the sea.
Auset came safely to Egypt, and hid the chest in the marshes of the Nile delta while she hastened to the floating island where Buto was guarding Heru.
It chanced that Set came hunting wild boars with his dogs, hunting by night after his custom, since he loved the darkness in which evil things abound. By the light of the Moon he saw the chest of cedar wood inlaid with ebony and ivory, with gold and silver, and recognized it. He tore open the chest, took the body of Ausar, and rent it into fourteen pieces which, by his divine strength, he scattered up and down the whole length of the Nile so that the crocodiles might eat them.
Now Auset had to begin her search once more. This time she had helpers, for Nebthet left her wicked husband Set and came to join her sister. And Anpu, the son of Ausar and Nebthet, taking the form of a jackal, assisted in the search. When Auset traveled over the land she was accompanied and guarded by seven scorpions. But when she searched on the Nile and among the many streams of the delta she made her way in a boat made of papyrus: and the crocodiles, in their reverence for the goddess, touched neither the rent pieces of Ausar nor Auset herself.
Slowly, piece by piece, Auset recovered the fragments of Ausar. And wherever she did so, she formed by magic the likeness of his whole body and caused the priests to build a shrine and perform his funeral rites. And so there were thirteen places in Kemet which claimed to be the burial place of Ausar. In this way also she made it harder for Set to meddle further with the body of the dead god.
One piece only she did not recover, for it had been eaten by certain impious fishes; and their kind were accursed ever afterwards, and none would touch or eat them. Auset, however, did not bury any of the pieces in the places where the tombs and shrines of Ausar stood. She gathered the pieces together, rejoined them by magic, and by magic made a likeness of the missing member so that Ausar was complete. Then she caused the body to be embalmed and hidden away in a place of which she alone knew. And after this the spirit of Ausar passed into Amenti to rule over the dead until the last great battle, when Heru should slay Set, and Ausar would return to earth once more.
Source: http://www.egyptianmyths .net/mythisis.htm