Envy of Seth – 2


Part 1 See here




The gods which personify the sun and sky stand apart in their essential idea from those already described, although they were largely mixed and combined with other classes of gods. So much did this mixture pervade all the later views that some writers have seen nothing but varying forms of sun-worship in Egyptian religion. It will have been noticed however in the previous chapters what a large body of theology was entirely apart from the sun-worship, while here we treat the latter as separate from the other elements with which it was more or less combined.

_Ra_ was the great sun-god, to whom every king pledged himself, by adopting on his accession a motto-title embodying the god’s name, such as _Ra-men-kau_, ‘Ra established the kas,’ _Ra-sehotep-ab_, ‘Ra satisfies the heart,’ _Ra-neb-maat_, ‘Ra is the lord of truth’; and these titles were those by {51} which the king was best known ever after. This devotion was not primitive, but began in the fourth dynasty, and was established by the fifth dynasty being called sons of Ra, and every later king having the title ‘son of Ra’ before his name.

The obelisk was the emblem of Ra, and in the fifth dynasty a great obelisk temple was built in his honour at Abusir, followed also by others. Heliopolis was the centre of his worship, where Senusert I, in the twelfth dynasty, rebuilt the temple and erected the obelisks, one of which is still standing. But Ra was preceded there by another sun-god Atmu, who was the true god of the nome; and Ra, though worshipped throughout the land, was not the aboriginal god of any city.

In Heliopolis he was attached to Atmu, at Thebes attached to Amen. These facts point to Ra having been introduced into Egypt by a conquering people, after the theologic settlement of the whole land. There are many suggestions that the Ra worshippers came in from Asia, and established their rule at Heliopolis. The title of the ruler of that place was the _heq_, a Semitic title; and the _heq_ sceptre was the sacred treasure of the temple. The ‘spirits of Heliopolis’ were specially honoured, an idea more Babylonian than Egyptian. This city was a centre of literary {52} learning and of theologic theorising which was unknown elsewhere in Egypt, but familiar in Mesopotamia. A conical stone was the embodiment of the god at Heliopolis, as in Syria. _On_, the native name of Heliopolis, occurs twice in Syria, as well as other cities named Heliopolis there in later times. The view of an early Semitic principate of Heliopolis, before the dynastic age, would unify all of these facts: and the advance of Ra worship in the fifth dynasty would be due to a revival of the influence of the eastern Delta at that time.

The form of Ra most free from admixture is that of the disk of the sun,
sometimes figured between two hills at rising, sometimes between two
wings, sometimes in the boat in which it floated on the celestial ocean
across the sky. The winged disk has almost always two cobra serpents
attached to it, and often two rams’ horns; the meaning of the whole
combination is that Ra protects and preserves, like the vulture
brooding over its young, destroys like the cobra, and creates like the
ram. This is seen by the modification where it is placed over a king’s
head, when the destructive cobra is omitted, and the wings are folded
together as embracing and protecting the king.


This disk form is connected with the hawk-god, by being placed over the
head of the hawk; and this in turn is connected with the human form by
the disc resting on the hawk-headed man, which is one of the most usual
types of Ra. The god is but seldom shown as being purely human, except
when identified with other gods, such as Atmu, Horus, or Amon.

The worship of Ra outshone all others in the nineteenth dynasty.
United to the god of Thebes as Amon Ra, he became ‘king of the gods’;
and the view that the soul joined Ra in his journey through the hours
of the night absorbed all other views, which only became sections of
this whole (see chap. xi). By the Greek times this belief seems to
have largely given place to others, and it had practically vanished in
the early Christian age.

+Atmu+ (Tum) was the original god of Heliopolis and the Delta side,
round to the gulf of Suez, which formerly reached up to Ismailiyeh.
How far his nature as the setting sun was the result of his being
identified with Ra, is not clear. It may be that he was simply a
creator-god, and that the introduction of Ra led to his being unified
with him. Those who take the view that the names of gods are connected
with tribes, as {54} Set and Suti, Anuke and Anak, might well claim
that Atmu or Atum belonged to the land of Aduma or Etham.

+Khepera+ has no local importance, but is named as the morning sun. He
was worshipped about the time of the nineteenth dynasty.

+Aten+ was a conception of the sun entirely different to Ra. No human
or animal form was ever attached to it; and the adoration of the
physical power and action of the sun was the sole devotion. So far as
we can trace, it was a worship entirely apart, and different from every
other type of religion in Egypt; and the partial information that we
have about it does not, so far, show a single flaw in a purely
scientific conception of the source of all life and power upon earth.
The Aten was the only instance of a ‘jealous god’ in Egypt, and this
worship was exclusive of all others, and claims universality. There
are traces of it shortly before Amonhotep in. He showed some devotion
to it, and it was his son who took the name of Akhenaten, ‘the glory of
the Aten,’ and tried to enforce this as the sole worship of Egypt. But
it fell immediately after, and is lost in the next dynasty. The sun is
represented as radiating its beams on all things, and every beam ends
in a hand which imparts life and power to {55} the king and to all
else. In the hymn to the Aten the universal scope of this power is
proclaimed as the source of all life and action, and every land and
people are subject to it, and owe to it their existence and their
allegiance. No such grand theology had ever appeared in the world
before, so far as we know; and it is the forerunner of the later
monotheist religions, while it is even more abstract and impersonal,
and may well rank as a scientific theism.

+Anher+ was the local god of Thinis in Upper Egypt, and Sebennytos in
the Delta, a human sun-god. His name is a mere epithet, ‘he who goes
in heaven’; and it may well be that this was only a title of Ra, who
was thus worshipped at these places.

+Sopdu+ was the god of the eastern desert, and he was identified with
the cone of glowing zodiacal light which precedes the sunrise. His
emblem was a mummified hawk, or a human figure.

+Nut+, the embodiment of heaven, is shown as a female figure dotted
over with stars. She was not worshipped nor did she belong to any one
place, but was a cosmogonic idea.

+Seb+, the embodiment of the earth, is figured as lying on the ground
while Nut bends over him. He was the ‘prince of the gods,’ the power
that {56} went before all the later gods, the superseded Saturn of
Egyptian theology. He is rarely mentioned, and no temples were
dedicated to him, but he appears in the cosmic mythology. It seems,
from their positions, that very possibly Seb and Nut were the primaeval
gods of the aborigines of Hottentot type, before the Osiris worshippers
of European type ever entered the Nile valley.

+Shu+ was the god of space, who lifted up Nut from off the body of Seb.
He was often represented, especially in late amulets; possibly it was
believed that he would likewise raise up the body of the deceased from
earth to heaven. His figure is entirely human, and he kneels on one
knee with both hands lifted above his head. He was regarded as the
father of Seb, the earth having been formed from space or chaos. His
emblem was the ostrich feather, the lightest and most voluminous object.

+Hapi+, the Nile, must also be placed with Nature-gods. He is figured
as a man, or two men for the Upper and Lower Niles, holding a tray of
produce of the land, and having large female breasts as being the
nourisher of the valley. A favourite group consists of the two Nile
figures tying the plants of Upper and Lower Egypt around the {57}
emblem of union. He was worshipped at Nilopolis, and also at the
shrines which marked the boating stages, about a hundred in number all
along the river. Festivals were held at the rising of the Nile, like
those still kept up at various stages of the inundation. Hymns in
honour of the river attribute all prosperity and good to its benefits.



Besides the classes of gods already described there are others who
stand apart in their character, as embodying abstract ideas. Of these
some are probably tribal gods; but the principle of each is so clearly
marked that they must have been idealised by people who were at a
relatively high level of mind. Others are frankly abstractions of
artificial ideas devised in a civilised state, much like the deities
Flora or the Genius of the Roman Emperor. The general inference is
that these gods all belong to the latest of the peoples who contributed
to the mythology, the dynastic rulers of the land.

+Ptah+ the creator was especially worshipped at Memphis. He is figured
as a mummy; and we know that full length burial and mummifying begin
with the dynastic race. He was identified with the earlier
animal-worship of the bull Apis; {59} but it is not likely that this
originated his creative aspect, as he creates by moulding clay, or by
word and will, and not by natural means. He became united with the old
Memphite god of the dead, Seker, and with Osiris, as Ptah-Seker-Osiris.
Thus we learn that he belonged neither to the animal worshippers, the
believers in Seker, nor to the Osiride race, but to a fourth people.
The compound god Ptah-Seker is shown as a bandy-legged dwarf, with wide
flat head, a known aberration of growth. It seems as if we should
connect this with the _pataikoi_ who were worshipped by Phoenician
sailors as dwarf figures, the name being similar. This points to a
connection of the Phoenician race with the dynastic Egyptians. Ptah
was worshipped in all ages down to Greek times.

+Min+ was the male principle. He was worshipped mainly at Ekhmim and
Koptos, and was there identified with Pan by the Greeks. He also was
the god of the desert, out to the Red Sea. The oldest statues of gods
are three gigantic limestone figures of Min found at Koptos; these bear
relief designs of Red Sea shells and sword fish. It seems, then, that
he was introduced by a people coming across from the east. His worship
continued till Roman times.


+Hat-hor+ was the female principle whose animal was the cow; and she is
identified with the mother Isis. She was also identified with other
earlier deities; and her forms are very numerous in different
localities. There were also seven Hathors who appear as Fates,
presiding over birth. Thus this goddess has a position different from
any other, more generalised, more widely spread, and identified with
many places and ideas. The similarity of such a position, with that of
the Madonna in Italy in relation to earlier worships, suggests that the
widespread devotion to her was of later introduction and superimposed
on varied beliefs. The figure of Hathor sometimes has the cow’s head,
and often has cow’s ears. The myth of Horus striking off the head of
his mother Isis and replacing it by a cow’s head, points to the Horus
worshippers uniting Hathor with Isis. Statuettes of Hathor are not
common; the head was used for an architectural capital and in the form
of the sistrum, a rattle which was employed in her worship.

+Maat+ was the goddess of truth. She is always of human form, and
shown as seated holding the _ankh_, emblem of life, in her hands. She
was never worshipped, and had no temples or shrines, but was
represented as being offered by the kings {61} to the gods. She also
occurs in the names of several kings, and appears in the judgment scene
of the weighing of the heart. She was the only idea of the older
religion which was preserved by Akhenaten in his reformation; he always
names himself as ‘living in truth,’ but as an abstraction and without
the notion of any actual goddess. She is linked with Ptah, Thōth,
and Ra, on different occasions.

+Nefertum+ is a god of late times, in human form, as a youth with a
lotus flower on his head. He appears to have represented growth and
vegetation; and is systematised as a son of Ptah and Sekhet. No temple
of his remains; but his figures, usually of bronze, are common.

+Safekh+ was the goddess of writing. She is named in the pyramid
times, and appears in scenes of the eighteenth and nineteenth
dynasties. Four pairs of elemental gods were worshipped at Hermopolis,
each pair male and female; _Heh_, Eternity; _Kek_, Darkness; _Nu_, the
heavenly ocean; _Nenu_, the Inundation. They are shown as human
figures with the heads of frogs and serpents. There were also
personifications of Seeing, Hearing, Taste, Perception, Strength, and
the ‘true voice’ necessary to intone the magic formulae.



Besides the incorporation into purely Egyptian usage of all the gods
that we have noticed, there were others who always retained a foreign
character. It is true that Bast, Neit, and Taurt are counted by some
as foreign; but deities who are found from the pyramid times to the
Roman age, and who were the patrons of capitals and of dynasties, must
be counted as Egyptian; and of Taurt we do not know of any foreign
source, nor should we look for any, as the hippopotamus abounded in
Egypt itself.

+Bēs+, though figured from the eighteenth dynasty to Roman times,
yet retained a foreign character. He is a dwarfish, clumsy figure,
wearing a feline skin on his back, with the tail hanging down to his
heels. A female figure wearing the feline skin similarly is known from
the twelfth dynasty. Rarely female forms of Bēs {63} occur in late
times. The source of this type is the Sudany dancer, such as may still
be seen performing in Egypt, and we know that even in the fifth dynasty
dancers called Denga (=Dinka tribe?) were brought as curiosities to
Egypt. Bēs was often figured as dancing with a tambourine; he was
the god of the dance, and protected infants from evil and witchcraft;
hence he appears on the imposts of the capitals of the birth-house at
Dendereh. The animal whose skin he wears is the _cynaelurus guttatus_,
whose name is _bes_. Possibly Bastet, the feline goddess, was
originally a female form of Bēs.

+Dedun+ was a Nubian god, who appears to have been a creative
earth-god. He was unified with Ptah, and is often named in the
nineteenth dynasty.

+Sati+ was a goddess of the cataract region, similar to Hathor, with
cow’s horns. She is called queen of the gods, and seems to have been
the great deity of a frontier tribe.

+Anqet+ was the goddess of the cataract island of Seheyl, and is
figured wearing a high crown of feathers.

+Sutekh+ must not be confounded with the purely Egyptian god Set or
Setesh, though the two were identified. Probably they were one in {64}
prehistoric ages; but Set was the god known to the Egyptians, while
Sutekh was the god of the Hittites from Armenia, where he was
worshipped in their home cities.

+Baal+ was another Syrian god also identified with Set, and sometimes
combined with Mentu as a war-god in the nineteenth dynasty, when Syrian
ideas prevailed so largely in Egypt.

+Reshpu+, or +Reseph+, was occasionally worshipped as a war-god in the
Syrianised age; but no statues or temples are known to him or to Baal.

+Anta+, or +Anaitis+, was a goddess of the Hittites, who appears fully
armed on horseback in the Ramesside times. Ramessu II called his
daughter Bant-anta, ‘daughter of Anta.’

+Astharth+, +Ashtaroth+, or +Astarte+, was another Syrian goddess, who
was worshipped mainly at Memphis, where the tomb of a priestess of hers
is known. Ramessu II named a son of his Merastrot, ‘loved of

+Qedesh+, ‘the holy one,’ is shown as a nude goddess standing on a
lion; she may be a form of Ashtaroth, as patroness of the _qedosheth_
girls attached to her service. The position on a lion is a well-known
one of Hittite goddesses.


Figures of foreign goddesses are often found in Egypt; they are of
pottery, coarsely made, nude, and with the breasts held in the hands.
They probably represent Ashtaroth.

We may also here mention some theories about the foreign connections of
the Egyptian gods. The early Sumerians of Babylonia worshipped Asari,
‘the strong one,’ ‘the prince who does good to men.’ This has a strong
resemblance in name and character to Asar, Osiris, of Egypt. But the
connection which is proposed, from both names being written with the
signs of an eye and a place, seems baseless, as the syllabic values of
the signs were reversed in the two languages; either the writing or the
sound of the name must be only a coincidence. Istar, another Sumerian
deity, became softened in Semitic speech to Athtar, the moon-goddess of
Southern Arabia; and the connection of this moon- and cow-goddess with
the similar Hathor of Egypt seems very probable. Ansar was another
Sumerian god, meaning ‘the sky,’ or the spirit world of the sky; and
this might have passed into Anhar, the sky-god, known both in Upper and
Lower Egypt. These connections are all with Sumerian gods, but may
have been derived through their later Semitic forms. They have a
general {66} probability from the names and nature in each instance;
but until we can trace some point of connection in place and in period,
we can only bear these resemblances in mind as material for some larger
view of early history.



Man in all times and places has speculated on the nature and origin of
the world, and connected such questions with his theology. In Egypt
there are not many primitive theories of creation, though some have
various elaborated forms. Of the formation of the earth there were two
views. (1) That it had been brought into being by the word of a god,
who when he uttered any name caused the object thereby to exist.
Thōth is the principal creator by this means, and this idea probably
belongs to a period soon after the age of the animal gods. (2) The
other view is that Ptah framed the world as an artificer, with the aid
of eight _Khnumu_, or earth-gnomes. This belongs to the theology of
the abstract gods. The primitive people seem to have been content with
the eternity of matter, and only personified nature when they described
space (Shu) as separating the sky (Nut) from the earth (Seb). This
{68} is akin to the separation of chaos into sky and sea in Genesis.

The sun is called the egg laid by the primeval goose; and in later time
this was said to be laid by a god, or modelled by Ptah. Evidently this
goose egg is a primitive tale which was adapted to later theology.

The sky is said to be upheld by four pillars. These were later
connected with the gods of the four quarters; but the primitive four
pillars were represented together, with the capitals one over the
other, in the sign _dad_, the emblem of stability. These may have
belonged to the Osiris cycle, as he is ‘lord of the pillars’ (_daddu_),
and his centre in the Delta was named Daddu from the pillars. The
setting up of the pillars or _dad_ emblem was a great festival in which
the kings took part, and which is often represented.

The creation of life was variously attributed to different great gods
where they were worshipped. Khnumu, Osiris, Amen, or Atmu, each are
stated to be the creator. The mode was only defined by the theorists
of Heliopolis; they imagined that Atmu self-produced Shu and Tefnut,
they produced Seb and Nut, and they in turn other gods, from whom at
last sprang mankind. But this is merely later theorising to fit a
theology in being.


The cosmogonic theories, therefore, were by no means important articles
of belief, but rather assumptions of what the gods were likely to have
done similar to the acts of men. The creation by the word is the most
elevated idea, and is parallel to the creation in Genesis.

The conception of the nature of the world was that of a great plain,
over which the sun passed by day, and beneath which it travelled
through the hours of night. The movement of the sun was supposed to be
that of floating on the heavenly ocean, figured by its being in a boat,
which was probably an expression for its flotation. The elaboration of
the nature of the regions through which the sun passed at night
essentially belongs to the Ra theology, and only recognises the kingdom
of Osiris by placing it in one of the hours of night. The old
conception of the dim realm of the cemetery-god Seker occupies the
fourth and fifth hours; the sixth hour is an approach to the Osiride
region, and the seventh hour is the kingdom of Osiris. Each hour was
separated by gates, which were guarded by demons who needed to be
controlled by magic formulae.



The accounts which we have of the temple ritual are of the later periods, and we must look to the buildings themselves to trace differences in the system. The oldest form of shrine was a wicker hut, with tall poles forming the sides of the door; in front of this extended an enclosure which had two poles with flags on either side of the entrance. In the middle of the enclosure or court was a staff bearing the emblem of the god. This type of shrine and open court was kept up always, and is like the Jewish type. We find stone used for
the doors in the sixth dynasty, and stone-built temples in the twelfth dynasty. The earlier type of temple was essentially a resting-place for the god between the excursions of the festivals. It was open at both front and back, and a processional way led through it, so that the
priests walked through, taking up the ark of the god, {71} carrying it
in procession, and then returning and depositing it again in the temple
as they passed. This form lasted till the middle of the eighteenth
dynasty; but the fixed shrine was already coming into use then, and
seems to have become the only type after that age. This was emphasised
still more in the twenty-sixth dynasty by the great monolith boxes of
granite which contained not only precious statuettes, but even
life-sized statues of granite. It seems that the processional form of
ritual had been supplanted by the service of a more mysterious Holy of Holies.

The course of daily service by the priests was of seven parts. 1st.
_Fire-making_–rubbing the fire sticks, taking the censer, putting
incense in it, and lighting it. 2nd. _Opening the Shrine_–going up to
the shrine, loosening the fastening, and breaking the seal, opening the
door, seeing the god. 3rd. _Praise_–various prostrations, and then
singing a hymn to the god. 4th. _Supplying food and incense_–offering
oil and honey and incense, retiring from the shrine for a prayer,
approaching and looking on the god, various prostrations, again
incense, and then prayers and hymns, a figure of Maat (goddess of
truth) was then presented to the god, and, lastly, more incense for all
the companions of the god. {72} 5th. _Purifying_–cleansing the figure
and its shrine, and pouring out pitchers of water, and fumigating with
incense. 6th. _Clothing_–dressing the god with white, green, bright
red, and dark red sashes, and supplying two kinds of ointment and black
and green eye paint, and scattering clean sand before him. The priest
then walked four times round the shrine. 7th. _Purifying_–with
incense, natron of the south and north, and two other kinds of incense.
Probably such a ritual was a gradual growth of successive ages. Where
a living animal was maintained as sacred, the feeding of it was a
considerable service. A court was built at Memphis for the sacred Apis
bull to take his exercise, and special bundles of fodder were provided.
A large tank was made for the sacred crocodile in the Fayum, and the
priests used to follow the reptile around the tank with the offerings
brought by devotees. Similarly at Epidauros is a deep circular trench
cut in the rock, with a central niche; in this a sacred serpent could
be visited and fed without its being able to escape.

The priesthood was elaborated in many different kinds, and varied
grades in each. There were the ‘servants of the god,’ who had charge
of the worship and ritual; the ‘pure men,’ who were {73} occupied with
the acts of offerings and service; the ‘divine fathers,’ who had charge
of the property of a god and the providing for the services; the
‘reciters’; the ‘female singers’; and others; and there were four
grades of most of the classes.

A special divine gift was the _sa_, an essence which was imparted to
the king when he knelt with his back to the god and the divine hand was
placed on him. This was also imparted to a class of priests or
initiated who were described as ‘impregnated with the sa’ of four
different grades. This seems to have been a kind of ordination
imparting special powers.

A fundamental idea was that the king was the priest of the land, and
that all offerings (especially those for the dead) were made by him.
Even though the king could not physically perform all the offerings,
yet when others did so they were only acting on behalf of the priestly
king of the nation. So strongly was this held that the regular formula
for all offerings for the dead was ‘A royal giving of offerings of such
and such things for the _ka_ of such an one,’ or it may be rendered
‘May the king give an offering.’ The act itself is shown on some
funeral tablets, where the king appears as making the offering, {74}
while the person for whom he acts stands behind him.

Much light on the sources of the rise of the priesthood is given by the
titles borne by the priests of the various capitals of the provinces or
nomes. Many of these refer to what were purely secular occupations in
later times, and we thus learn that the priestly character was attached
to the principal person, be he king, or leader in other ways. In one
city it was the King and His Loved Son who were the priests, in another
it was the General, in another the Warrior who became the priest;
elsewhere it was the Great Constructor, in another city the Great
Commander of Workmen; one city raised the Manager of the Inundation to
the priesthood, and very naturally the Great Physician or medicine man
became priest in another place. The Eldest Son was the title of
another priesthood, much as the later kings made their eldest son high
priest. A very curious view of the priestess preceding the
establishment of a priest is given by some cities; one where she was
called the Nurse, and the priest was the Youth, and another city names
the priestess the ‘Appeaser of the Spirit’ and the priest the
‘Favourite Child.’

Purely religious functions are only a minority {75} of the priestly
titles in the Delta, such as the Seer, the Great Seer, the Chief of the
Feast, and the Opener of the Mouth, referring to enabling the statue of
the god to speak, or opening the mouth of the mummy to enable it to
live. A full analysis of the priestly titles would give a picture of
the society in which priesthood arose, but it is a subject which has
not been systematically studied.



In the latest age of ancient Egypt the religious writings were largely
translated into Greek, at a time when they were studied and collected
as embodying the ideas of a world which was already fading away. This
venerated past kept its hold on the imagination as containing mystic
powers of compelling the unseen, and strange travesties of ancient
formulae, the efficacy of which could not be rivalled by any later
writings which were baldly intelligible. There were four main classes
of writings, on theology, ritual, science, and medicine. Though the
late compilations have almost entirely perished, yet we can gather
their nature from the portions of the original documents which are
preserved from earlier times.

The most popular work in the later dynasties was that which has been
called the _Book of the Dead_ by modern writers. We must not conceive
{77} of it as a bound up whole, like our Bible; but rather as an
incongruous accumulation of charms and formulae, parts of which were
taken at discretion by various scribes according to local or individual
tastes. No single papyrus contains even the greater part of it, and
the choice made among the heterogeneous material is infinitely varied.
The different sections have been numbered by modern editors, starting
with the order found in some of the best examples, and more than two
hundred such chapters are recognised. Every variety of belief finds
place in this large collection; every charm or direction which could
benefit the dead found a footing here if it attained popularity. From
prehistoric days downward it formed a religious repertory without
limits or regulation. Portions known in the close of the old kingdom
entirely vanish in later copies, while others appear which are
obviously late in origin. The incessant adding of notes, incorporation
of glosses, and piling of explanations one on the other, has increased
the confusion. And to add to our bewilderment, the scribes were
usually quite callous about errors in a writing which was never to be
seen or used by living eyes; and the corruptions, which have been in
turn made worse, have left hardly any sense in many parts. At {78}
best it is difficult to follow the illusions of a lost faith, but amid
all the varieties of idea and bad readings superposed, the task of
critical understanding is almost hopeless. The full study of such a
work will need many new discoveries and occupy generations of critical
ingenuity. We can distinguish certain groups of chapters, an Osirian
section on the kingdom of Osiris and the service of it, a theological
section, a set of incantations, formulae for the restoration of the
heart, for the protection of the soul from spirits and serpents in the
hours of night, charms to escape from perils ordained by the gods, an
account of the paradise of Osiris, a different version of the kingdom
and judgment of Osiris, a Heliopolitan doctrine about the _ba_, and its
powers of transformation entirely apart from all that is stated
elsewhere, the account of the reunion of soul and body, magic formulae
for entering the Osirian kingdom, another account of the judgment of
Osiris, charms for the preservation of the mummy and for making
efficacious amulets, together with various portions of popular beliefs.

In contrast to the mainly Osirian character above described, we see the
solar religion dominant in the Book of Am Duat, or that which {79} is
in the underworld. This describes the successive hours of the night,
each hour fenced off with gates which are guarded by monsters. At each
gate the right spells must be uttered to subdue the evil powers, and so
pass through with the sun. The older beliefs in Seker, the god of the
silent land, and Osiris, the king of the blessed world, are fitted in
to the newer system by allotting some hours to these other realms as a
part of the solar journey. A variant of this work is the _Book of
Gates_, describing the gates of the hours, but omitting Seker and
making Osiris more important. These books represent the fashionable
doctrines of the kings in the Ramesside times, and are mainly known
from the royal tombs on which they are inscribed.

Another branch of the sacred books survives in the formal theology of
the schools which grouped gods together in trinities or enneads. These
were certainly very ancient, having been formed under the Heliopolitan
supremacy before the rise of the first dynasty. And if the artificial
co-ordinating of the gods of varied sources is thus ancient, we have a
glimpse of the much greater age of the Osiride gods, and still further
of the primitive gods Seb and Nut, and the earliest worship of animals.
{80} The great ennead of Heliopolis consisted of Shu, Tefnut, Seb, Nut,
Osiris, Isis, Set, Nebhat, and Horus; there were also secondary and
tertiary enneads of lesser gods. When the sun-god Atmu became
prominent, Horus was omitted and the eight other gods were called
children of Atmu, who headed the group, as in the Pyramid texts. The
nine are not composed of three triads, but of four pairs and a leader.
This is on the same type as the four pairs of elemental gods at
Hermopolis under the chief god Tahuti. The triads were usual at most
cities, but were in many cases clearly of artificial arrangement, in
order to follow a type, the deities being of very unequal importance.
At Thebes, Amon, Mut, and Khonsu; at Memphis, Ptah, Sekhet, and the
deified man Imhotep; and in general Osiris, Isis, and Horus, were the
principal triads.



A people so deeply imbued with religious ideas as the Egyptians doubtless carried their habits of worship beyond the temple gates. But unfortunately we have no graphic or connected view of their private devotions. At the present day a few natives will scrupulously follow the daily ritual of Islam; many keep up some convenient portion, such as the religious aspect of an evening bath after the day’s work; but most of the peasantry have little or no religious observances. Perhaps the average of mankind does not differ very greatly, in various countries, in its extent of religious observance: and most likely the ancient Egyptian varied in usages much like the modern.

The funeral offerings for the deceased ancestors certainly filled a
large place in observances; the drink offerings poured out upon the
altar in the {82} chapel, and the cakes brought for the _ka_ to feed
upon, were the main expression of family piety. How serious were such
services is seen by their expansion into endowments for great tombs,
extending to the great temples and priesthoods for the kings. The
eldest son was the sacrificing priest for his progenitors, as in China
and India at present; he was called the _an-mut-f_, or ‘support of his
mother,’ and is figured as leading the worship in the adoration of
deceased kings. But all the sons took part in the sacrifices, and
trapped the birds (_Medum_, x, xiii), or slaughtered the ox for the
_ka_ of their father. Such family sacrifices were the occasions of
social feasts and family reunions; of later times the remains of the
feasts were found strewing the cemetery at Hawara in the tomb chapels;
and to this day both Copts and Mohammedans hold family feasts and spend
the night at the tombs of their ancestors.

All offerings were considered to be presented only by the king, as the
great high-priest of all the land. Every formula of offering began
‘May the king give an offering’; and the figure of the king making the
offering, while the offerer stands behind him, is actually shown as
late as the eighteenth dynasty.


The primitive belief in the tree-goddess, the Hathor who dwelt in the
thick sycomore tree, and showered sycomore figs abundantly on her
devotees, was a popular worship. It was by no means bound up with the
tomb service, as in one case a red recess in a dwelling room had a
panel picture at the top of it showing the tree goddess giving
blessings to her worshipper (_Ramesseum_, xx).

The latter instance gives the meaning of a curious domestic feature in
the well-to-do houses of the bureaucracy at Tell-el-Amarna. In the
central hall of the house was a recess in the wall painted bright red.
It varied from twenty-three to fifty-one inches wide, and was at least
five or six feet high. Sometimes there is an inner recess in the
middle twenty-five to thirty-three inches wide. From the religious
scene over such a recess it seems that these were the foci for family worship.

The abundance of little statuettes of gods of glazed pottery, and often
of bronze, silver, and even of gold, show how common was the custom of
wearing such devotional objects. Children especially wore figures of
Bes, and less commonly Taurt, the protecting genii of childhood.

Another feature of popular religion was the {84} harvest festival. The
grain was heaped, the winnowing shovels and rakes stuck upright in it,
and then holding up the boards (which were used to scrape up the grain)
in each hand, adoration was paid to Rannut, the serpent-goddess of the harvest.

The observance of lucky and unlucky days was prevalent. The fragment
of a calendar shows each day marked good or evil, or triply good or evil.

The household amulets in the prehistoric days were the great serpent
stones with figures of the coiled serpent; much suggesting an earlier
use of large ammonites. In later times the image of Horus subduing the
powers of evil seems to have been the protective figure of the house.

When we reach Roman times we have a fuller view of the popular worship
in the terra-cotta figures. At Ehnasya, for instance, we find the
following proportions–five of Serapis, five Isis, twenty-four Horus,
four Bes, one goddess of palm trees. It was especially the worship of
Horus that was developed in this line. The kind of shrines used in the
houses are also shown by the terra-cottas. These were wooden framed
cupboards, with doors below, over them a recess between two pillars to
hold the image, and a lamp burning {85} before it, and the whole
crowned with a cornice of uræi. Smaller little lamp holders were also
made to hang up, and very possibly to place with a lamp on a grave. At
present mud hutches are made to place lamps in on holy sites in Egypt.

The terra-cottas have also preserved the forms of the wayside shrines.
These were certainly influenced in their architecture by Greek models,
but the idea is probably much older. The shrines were sometimes a
little chamber, with a domed top, like a modern _wely_ or saint’s tomb,
or sometimes a roof on four pillars with a dwarf wall or lattice work
around three sides. Such were the places for wayside devotions and
passing prayers, as among the Egyptians of the present day.



Fortunately we have preserved to us a considerable body of the maxims
of conduct from the Pyramid times; and these show very practically what
were the ideals and the motives of the early people. This is only a
small side of the present subject, but it will be found fully stated in
_Religion and Conscience in Ancient Egypt_.

The repudiation of sins before the judgment of Osiris is the earliest
code of morals, and it is striking that in this there are no family
duties. Such an exclusion points to the family being unimportant in
early times, the matriarchate perhaps then excluding the responsibility
of the man. In the earliest form the prominence of duties is in the
order of those to equals, to inferiors, to gods, and to the man’s own
character. In later times the duties to inferiors have almost
vanished, and the inner duties to character are {87} greatly extended,
being felt to lie at the root of all else.

The ideal character was drawn in the maxims as being strong, steadfast,
commanding, direct, self-respecting, avoiding inferior companionships,
active, and above all truthful and straightforward. Discretion,
quietness, and reserve were enforced, and a dignified endurance without
pride was to be attained.

In material things energy and self-reliance were held up, and a
judicious respect for, and imitation of, successful men. Covetousness
was specially reprobated, and luxury and self-indulgence were looked on
as a course which ends in bitterness.

The aspect of marriage depended essentially on property. Where a woman
had property of her own she was mistress of the house, and her husband
was but a kind of permanent boarder. Though in early times, and among
the priestesses later, the choice by a woman was scarcely regarded as
permanent. Where, however, the household depended on the work of the
man, he naturally took the leading part. But the code of abstract
morality, and the dictates of common prudence, between men and women,
were of as high a standard as in any ancient or modern peoples. No
reasonable legislator would wish to {88} add more, although six
thousand years and Christianity have intervened since the Egyptian
framed his life. The family sense of duty in training and advancing a
man’s sons was strongly urged.

In the general interchange of social life perhaps the main feature was
that of consideration for others. A higher standard of good feeling
and kindliness existed than any that we know of among ancient peoples,
or among most modern nations. The council-hall of the local ruler was
the main theatre for ability; and the injunctions to be fearless, and
at the same time gentle and cautious, would improve the character of
any modern assembly. The greater number of precepts however relate to
the judicious conduct toward inferiors. Justice and good discipline
were the necessary basis, but they were to be always tempered by
respect for the feelings and comfort of the servants.

The religious aspect of ethics was almost confined to the respect for
the property and offerings of the gods. But the more spiritual side
was touched in the precept, ‘That which is detestable in the sanctuary
of god are noisy feasts; if thou implore him with a loving heart, of
which all the words are mysterious, he will do thy {89} matters, he
hears thy words, he accepts thine offerings.’

The permanence of the Egyptian character will strike any one who knows
the modern native. The essential mode of justification in the judgment
was by the declaration of the deceased that he had not done various
crimes; and to this day the Egyptian will rely on justifying himself by
sheer assertion that he has not done wrong, in face of absolute proofs
to the contrary. The main fault of character that was condemned was
covetousness, and it is the feeling which wrecks the possibility of
Egyptian independence at present. The intrusion of scheming underlings
between the master and his men is noted as a failing; and exactly this
trouble continually occurs now, when every servant tries to turn his
position to an advantage over those who do business with his master.
The dominance of the scribe in managing affairs and making profits was
familiar in ancient as in modern times. And recent events in Egypt
have reminded us of the old fickleness shown in the saying, ‘Thy
entering into a village begins with acclamations; at thy going out thou
art saved by thy hand.’



How far Egypt in its earlier days had influenced the faiths of other
countries we cannot trace, owing to our ignorance of the early
civilisations of the world. But in the later times the extension of
the popular religion of Egypt can only be paralleled by the spread of
Christianity or Islam. Isis was worshipped in Greece in the fourth
century B.C., and in Italy in the second century. Soon after she won
her way into official recognition by Sulla, and immediately after the
death of Julius a temple to Isis was actually erected by the
government. Once firmly established in Rome, the spread of Imperial
power carried her worship over the world; emperors became her priests,
and the humble centurion in remote camps honoured her in the wilds of
France, Germany, Yorkshire, or the Sahara.

Not only Isis but also Osiris claimed the world’s {91} worship. In the
new form of the Osir-hapi of Memphis, or Serapis, the Ptolemies
identified him with Zeus, both in appearance and by attributes. And,
by the time of Nero, Isis and Osiris were said to be the deities of all
the world. An interesting outline of this subject will be found in
Professor Dill’s _Roman Society from Nero to Aurelius_.

Besides these parent gods their son Horus also conquered the world with
them. Isis and Horus, the Queen of Heaven and the Holy Child, became
the popular deities of the later age of Egypt, and their figures far
outnumber those of all other gods. Horus in every form of infancy was
the loved _bambino_ of the Egyptian women. Again Horus appears carried
on the arm of his mother in a form which is indistinguishable from that
adopted by Christianity soon after.

We see, then, throughout the Roman world the popular worship of the
Queen of Heaven, _Mater Dolorosa_, Mother of God, patroness of sailors,
and her infant son Horus the child, the benefactor of men, who took
captive all the powers of evil. And this worship spread and increased
in Egypt and elsewhere until the growing power of Christianity
compelled a change. The old worship continued; for the Syrian maid
became {92} transformed into an entirely different figure, Queen of
Heaven, Mother of God, patroness of sailors, occupying the position and
attributes already belonging to the world-wide goddess; and the Divine
Teacher, the Man of Sorrows, became transformed into the entirely
different figure of the Potent Child. Isis and Horus still ruled the
affections and worship of Europe with a change of names.

Egypt also exercised an immense influence upon the Church in the
Trinitarian controversy. That was a purely Egyptian dispute, between
two presbyters brought up in the atmosphere of intricacies about the
_ka_, the _khu_, the _khat_, the _ba_, the _sahu_, the _khaybat_, and
the various other entities which constituted man. To carry forward
similar refinements concerning the Divine Nature was as congenial to
such minds as it was incomprehensible to the Western. And the dispute
finally rested on the question of whether ‘before time’ was the same as
‘from eternity.’ Such was the struggle which Arius and Athanasius
thrust upon the Church; a dispute which would never have been heard of
in such a shape but for their Egyptian origin.

In another direction Egypt was also dominant. From some
source–perhaps the Buddhist mission {93} of Asoka–the ascetic life of
recluses was established in the Ptolemaic times, and monks of the
Serapeum illustrated an ideal to man which had been as yet unknown in
the West. This system of monasticism continued, until Pachomios, a
monk of Serapis in Upper Egypt, became the first Christian monk in the
reign of Constantine. Quickly imitated in Syria, Asia Minor, Gaul, and
other provinces, as well as in Italy itself, the system passed into a
fundamental position in mediaeval Christianity, and the reverence of
mankind has been for fifteen hundred years bestowed on an Egyptian institution.

We thus see how the religious ideas of six thousand years or more have still survived and continued their power over civilised man, renamed but scarcely changed; and it is shown how new religious ideas can but transform, but not eradicate, the ancestral beliefs of past ages.

Text from: http://egyptian-gods.org/the-religion-of-ancient-egypt/



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One thought on “Envy of Seth – 2

  1. Envy of Set – 1 | The Seven Worlds June 12, 2017 at 5:03 pm Reply

    […] See part 2 for Next chapters […]

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