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Egyptian Magic

Chapter VII - Demoniacal Possession, Dreams, Ghosts, Lucky And Unlucky Days, Horoscopes, Prognostications, Transformations, And The Worship Of Animals

[Page 206] THE Egyptians, in common with many other Eastern nations, believed that certain sicknesses and diseases might be cured by certain medicaments pure and simple, but that others needed not only drugs but the recital of words of power to effect their cure. There is good reason for thinking that some diseases were attributed to the action of evil spirits or demons, which had the power of entering into human bodies and of vexing them in proportion to their malignant nature and influence, [1] but the texts do not afford much information on the matter.

Incidentally, however, we have one interesting proof that foreign peoples believed that the Egyptians were able to cure the diseases caused by demoniacal possession, and the exercise of their power [Page 207] on the occasion described was considered to be so noteworthy that the narrative of it was inscribed upon a stele [2] and setup in the temple [3] of the god Khonsu at Thebes, so that all men might read and know what a marvellous cure his priests had effected.

It appears that king Rameses II. was in Mesopotamia "according to his wont, year by year," and all the chiefs of the countries round about came to pay their respects to him, and they sought to obtain his goodwill and protection, probably even an alliance, by bringing to him gifts of gold, and lapis-lazuli, and turquoise, and of every kind of valuable thing which the land produced, [Page 208] and every man sought to outdo his neighbour by the lavishness of his gifts.

20900image right: Stele recording the casting out of the devil from the Princess of Bekhten. On the right the king is offering Incense to Khonsu Nefer-hetep, and on the left a priest is offering incense to Khonsu, "the great god who driveth away devils."
(From Prisse, Monuments, plate 24.)

Among others there came the Prince of Bekhten, and at the head of all the offerings which he presented to His Majesty he placed his eldest daughter, who was very beautiful. When the king saw her he thought her the most beautiful girl he had ever seen, and he bestowed upon her the title of "Royal spouse, chief lady, Râ-neferu" (i.e., "the beauties of Râ," the Sun-god), and took her to Egypt; and when they arrived in that country the king married her. One day during the fifteenth year of the king's reign, when His Majesty was in Thebes celebrating the festival of Amen-Râ, a messenger came to the king and reported the arrival of an ambassador from the Prince of Bekhten who had brought rich gifts for the royal lady Râ-neferu.

When he had been led into the king's presence, he did homage before him, saying,

"Glory and praise be unto thee, O thou Sun of the nations; grant that we may live before thee!"

Having said these words be bowed down and touched the ground with his head three times, and said,

"I have come unto thee, O my sovereign Lord, on behalf of the lady Bent-ent-resht, the younger sister of the royal spouse Râ-neferu, for, behold, an evil disease hath laid hold upon her body; I beseech thy Majesty to send a physician [4] to see her."

Then the king straightway ordered the books of the "double house [Page 209] [Page 211] of life" to be brought and the learned men to appear, and when they had come into his presence he ordered them to choose from among their number a man "wise of heart and cunning of finger," that he might send him to Bekhten; they did so, and their choice fell upon one Tehuti-em-heb. This sage having come before the king was ordered to set out for Bekhten in company with the ambassador, and he departed; and when they had arrived there the Egyptian priest found the lady Bent-ent-resht to be possessed of a demon or spirit over which he was powerless. The Prince of Bekhten, seeing that the priest was unable to afford relief to his daughter, sent once again to the king, and entreated him to send a god to his help.

When the ambassador from Bekhten arrived in Egypt the king was in Thebes, and on hearing what was asked he went into the temple of Khonsu Nefer-hetep, and besought that god to allow his counterpart Khonsu to depart to Bekhten and to deliver the daughter of the prince of that country from the power of the demon that possessed her. It seems as if the sage Tehuti-em-heb had been sent to Bekhten by the advice of the god, for the king says, in addressing, the god, "I have come once again into thy presence"; but in any case Khonsu Nefer-hetep agreed to his request, and a fourfold measure of magical power was imparted to the statue of the god which was to go to Bekhten.

The god, seated in his boat, and five other [Page 212] boats with figures of gods in them, accompanied by chariots and horses on the right hand and on the left, set out from Egypt, and after travelling for seventeen months arrived in Bekhten, where they were received with great honour. The god Khonsu went to the place where Bent-ent-resht was, and, having performed a magical ceremony over her, the demon departed from her and she was cured straightway.

Then the demon addressed the Egyptian god, saying,

"Grateful and welcome is thy coming unto us, O great god, thou vanquisher of the hosts of darkness! Bekhten is thy city, the inhabitants thereof are thy slaves, and I am thy servant; and I will depart unto the place whence I came that I may gratify thee, for unto this end hast thou come thither. And I beseech thy Majesty to command that the Prince of Bekhten and I may hold a festival together."

To the demon's request Khonsu agreed, and he commanded his priest to tell the Prince of Bekhten to make a great festival in honour of the demon; this having been done by the command of Khonsu the demon departed to his own place.

When the Prince of Bekhten saw that Khonsu was thus powerful, he and all his people rejoiced exceedingly, and he determined that the god should not be allowed to return to Egypt, and as a result Khonsu remained in Bekhten for three years, four months, and five days. On a certain day, however, the Prince was [Page 213] sleeping., and he dreamed a dream in which he saw the god Khonsu come forth from his shrine in the form of a hawk of gold, and having mounted into the air he flew away to Egypt.

The Prince woke up in a state of great perturbation, and having inquired of the Egyptian priest was told by him that the god had departed to Egypt, and that his chariot must now be sent back. Then the Prince gave to Khonsu great gifts, and they were taken to Egypt and laid before the god Khonsu Nefer-hetep in his temple at Thebes. In early Christian literatures we find a number of examples of demoniacal possession in which the demon who has entered the body yields it up before a demon of greater power than himself, but the demon who is expelled is invariably hostile to him that expels him, and he departs from before him with every sign of wrath and shame.

The fact that it was believed possible for the demon of Bekhten and the god Khonsu to fraternize, and to be present together at a festival made by the Prince of the country, shews that the people of Bekhten ascribed the same attributes to spirits or demons as they did to men. The demon who possessed the princess recognized in Khonsu a being who was mightier than himself, and, like a vanquished king, he wished to make the best terms he could with his conqueror, and to be on good terms with him.

The Egyptians believed that the divine powers frequently made known their will to them by means of [Page 214] dreams, and they attached considerable importance to them; the figures of the gods and the scenes which they saw when dreaming seemed to them to prove the existence of another world which was not greatly unlike that already known to them. The knowledge of the art of procuring dreams and the skill to interpret them were greatly prized in Egypt as elsewhere in the East, and the priest or official who possessed such gifts sometimes rose to places of high. honour in the state, as we may see from the example of Joseph, [5] for it was universally believed that glimpses of the future were revealed to man in dreams.

As instances of dreams recorded in the Egyptian texts may be quoted those of Thothmes IV., king of Egypt about B.C. 1450, and Nut-Amen, king of the Eastern Sûdân and Egypt, about B.C. 670. A prince, according to the stele which he set up before the breast of the Sphinx at Gizeh, was one day hunting near this emblem of Râ-Harmachis, and he sat down to rest under its shadow and fell asleep and dreamed a dream. In it the god appeared to him, and, having declared that he was the god Harmachis-Khepera-Râ-Temu, promised him that if he would clear away from the Sphinx, his own image, the drift sand in which it was becoming buried, he would give to him the sovereignty of the lands of the South and of the North, i.e., of all Egypt.

In due course the prince became king of Egypt under the title of Thothmes IV., and the stele [Page 215] which is dated on the 19th day of the month Hathor of the first year of Thothmes IV. proves that the royal dreamer carried out the wishes of the god. [6] Of Nut-Amen, the successor of the great Piânkhi who came down from Gebel Barkal and conquered all Egypt from Syene to the sea, we read that in the first year of his reign he one night dreamed a dream wherein he saw two serpents, one on his right hand and the other on his left; when he awoke they had disappeared.

Having asked for an interpretation of the dream he was told:--

"The land of the South is thine, and thou shalt have dominion over the land of the North: the White Crown and the Red Crown shall adorn thy head. The length and the breadth of the land shall be given unto thee, and the god Amen, the only god, shall be with thee." [7]

The two serpents were the symbols of the goddesses Nekhebet and Uatchet, the mistresses of the South and North respectively. As the result of his dream Nut-Amen invaded Egypt successfully and brought back much spoil, a portion of which he dedicated to the service of his god Amen.

Since dreams and visions in which the future might be revealed to the sleeper were greatly desired, the Egyptian magician set himself to procure such for his clients by various devices, such as drawing magical pictures and reciting magical words. The following [Page 216] are examples of spells for procuring a vision and dreams, taken from British Museum Papyrus, No. 122, lines 64 ff. and 359 ff. [8]

"To obtain a vision from [the god] Bes. Make a drawing of Besa, as shewn below, on your left hand, and envelope your hand in a strip of black cloth that has been consecrated to Isis (?) and lie down to sleep without speaking a word, even in answer to a question. Wind the remainder of the cloth round your neck.

The ink with which you write must be composed of the blood of a cow, the blood of a white dove, fresh (?) frankincense, myrrh, black writing-ink, cinnabar, mulberry juice, rain-water, and the juice of wormwood and vetch.

With this write your petition before the setting sun, [saying], c Send the truthful seer out of the holy shrine, I beseech thee, Lampsuer, Sumarta, Baribas, Dardalam, Iorlex:

'O Lord send the sacred deity Anuth, Anuth, Salbana, Chambré, Breïth, now, now, quickly, quickly. Come in this very night.'" [9]

"To procure dreams: Take a clean linen bag and write upon it the names given below. Fold it up and make it into a lamp-wick, and set it alight, pouring pure oil over it.

The word to be written is this:

'Armiuth, Lailamchoüch, Arsenophrephren, Phtha, Archentechtha.'

Then in the evening, when you are [Page 217] going to bed, which you must do without touching food [or, pure from all defilement], do thus. Approach the lamp and repeat seven times the formula given below: then extinguish it and lie down to sleep.

The formula is this:

'Sachmu . . . epaëma Ligotereënch: the Aeon, the Thunderer, Thou that hast swallowed the snake and dost exhaust the moon, and dost raise up the orb of the sun in his season, Chthetho is thy name; I require, O lords of the gods, Seth, Chreps, give me the information that I desire.'"

The peculiar ideas which the Egyptians held about the composition of man greatly favoured the belief in apparitions and ghosts. According to them a man consisted of a physical body, a shadow, a double, a soul, a heart, a spirit called the khu, a power, a name, and a spiritual body. When the body died the shadow departed from it, and could only be brought back to it by the performance of a mystical ceremony; the double lived in the tomb with the body, and was there visited by the soul whose habitation was in heaven. The soul was, from one aspect, a material thing, and like the ka, or double, was believed to partake of the funeral offerings which were brought to the tomb; one of the chief objects of sepulchral offerings of meat and drink was to keep the double in the tomb and to do away with the necessity of its wandering about outside the tomb in search of food.

It is clear from many texts that, unless the double was supplied with sufficient food, [Page 218] it would wander forth from the tomb and eat any kind of offal and drink any kind of dirty water which it might find in its path. But besides the shadow, and the double, and the soul, the spirit of the deceased, which usually had its abode in heaven, was sometimes to be found in the tomb. There is, however, good reason for stating that the immortal part of man which lived in the tomb and had its special abode in the statue of the deceased was the "double."

This is proved by the fact that a special part of the tomb was reserved for the ka, or double, which was called the "house of the ka," and that a priest, called the "priest of the ka," was specially appointed to minister therein. The double enjoyed the smell of the incense which was offered at certain times each year in the tomb, as well as the flowers, and herbs, and meat, and drink; and the statue of the deceased in which the double dwelt took pleasure in all the various scenes which were painted or sculptured on the walls of the various chambers of the tomb, and enjoyed again all the delights which his body had enjoyed upon earth.

The ka, or double, then, in very early times was, to all intents and purposes, the ghost of the Egyptians. In later times the khu, or "spirit," seems to have been identified with it, and there are frequent allusions in the texts to the sanctity of the offerings made to the khu, and to their territories, i.e., the districts in which their mummified bodies lie.

Whether there was any general belief that the ka [Page 219] or khu could or did hold intercourse with his relatives or friends whom he left alive upon earth cannot be said, but an instance is known in which a husband complains to his wife, who has been dead for three years, of the troubles which she has brought upon him since her death. He describes his own merits and the good treatment which he had vouchsafed to her when she was alive, and declares that the evil with which she is requiting him is not to be endured.

To make his complaint to reach her he first reduced it to writing upon papyrus, then went to her tomb and read it there, and finally tied the papyrus to a statue or figure of his wife which was therein; since her double or spirit lived in the tomb she would, of course, read the writing and understand it. [10] It is a pity that we have no means of knowing what was the result of the husband's complaint.

Elsewhere [11] we have a fragment of a conversation which a priest of Amen called Khonsu-em-heb, who was searching for a suitable place in which to build his tomb, holds with the. double or spirit of some person whom he has disturbed, and the spirit of the dead tells some details of his life to the living man. The cemeteries were regarded with awe by the ancient Egyptians because of the spirits of the dead [Page 220] who dwelt in them, and even the Arabic-speaking peoples of Egypt and the Sûdân, if we exclude the "antiquity grubber," have them in great respect for the same reason. [12]

The modern peoples of the Sûdân firmly believe that the spirits of those slain in battle dwell on the field where they fell, or where their bodies are buried, and the soldiers in the tenth battalion of Lord Kitchener's army declare that the grave of the gallant Major Sidney, who was shot while charging at the head of his regiment, in the battle of Abû Hamed, August 7th, 1897,

"is watched regularly every night by the ghosts of the native soldiers who were killed at Abû Hamed, and who mount guard over their dead commander's tomb, challenging, with every military detail, all passers-by. So implicitly is this legend credited by the blacks that none of [Page 221] them will, after dusk, approach the grave.

Any one doing so is believed to be promptly halted by a phantom sentry, and even the words (in Arabic), 'Guard, turn out!' are often (so the story goes) plainly heard repeated at some distance off across the desert." [13]

[Page 222] The Egyptians believed that a man's fate or destiny was decided before he was born, and that he had no power whatever to alter it. Their sages, however, professed to be able to declare what the fate might be, provided that they were given certain data, that is to say, if they were told the date of his birth, and if they were able to ascertain the position of the planets and stars at that time.

The goddess of fate or destiny was called "Shai," and she is usually accompanied by another goddess called "Renenet," who is commonly regarded as the lady of fortune; they both appear in the Judgment Scene, where they seem to watch the weighing of the heart on behalf of the deceased. But another goddess, Meskhenet, is sometimes present, and she also seems to have had influence over a man's future; in any case she was able to predict what that future was to be.

Thus we read that she and Isis, and Nephthys, and Heqet, disguised as women, went to the house of Râ-user, whose wife Râ-Tettet was in travail; when they had been taken into her room they assisted her in giving birth to triplets, and as each child was born Meskhenet declared,

"He shall be a king who shall have dominion over the whole land."

[Page 223] And this prophecy was fulfilled, for the three boys became three of the kings of the Vth dynasty. [14] The Seven Hathor goddesses also could predict the future of a human being, for in the well-known "Tale of Two Brothers" it is related that, when the god Khnemu, at the request of Râ-Harmachis, had created for Bata a wife

"who was more beautiful in her person than any other woman in all the earth, for the essence of every god was contained in her,"

they came to see her, and that they spake with one voice, saying,

"Her death will be caused by the knife."

And this came to pass, for, according to the story, when the king whose wife she became heard from her first husband that she had left him and had wrought evil against him, he entered into judgment with her in the presence of his chiefs and nobles, and "one carried out their decree," i.e., they sentenced her to death and she was executed. Similarly, in another story, the Seven Hathors came to see the son who had been born to a certain king in answer to his prayers to the gods, and when they had seen him they said,

"He shall die by means of a crocodile, or a serpent, or a dog."

The story goes on to say how be escaped from the crocodile and the serpent, and though the end is wanting, it is quite clear that he was wounded by an accidental bite of his dog and so died. [15] The moral of all such stories [Page 224] is that there is no possibility of avoiding fate, and it is most probable that the modern Egyptian has only inherited his ancestors' views as to its immutability. [16]

A man's life might, however, be happy or unhappy according as the hour of the day or the day itself was lucky or unlucky, and every day of the Egyptian year was divided into three parts, each of which was lucky or unlucky.

When Olympias was about to give birth to Alexander the Great, Nectanebus stood by her making observations of the heavenly bodies, and from time to time he besought her to restrain herself until the auspicious hour had arrived; and it was not until he saw a certain splendour in the sky and knew that all the heavenly bodies were in a favourable position that he permitted her to brine, forth her child.

And when he had said,

"O queen, now thou wilt give birth to a governor of the world,"

the child fell upon the ground while the earth quaked, and the lightnings flashed, and the thunder roared. [17] Thus it is quite evident that the future of a child depended even upon the hour in which he was born.

22500In magical papyri we are often told not to perform certain magical ceremonies on such and such days, the idea being that on these days hostile powers will make them to be powerless, and that gods mightier than [Page 225] those to which the petitioner would appeal will be in the ascendant. There have come down to us, fortunately, papyri containing copies of the Egyptian calendar, in which each third of every day for three hundred and sixty days of the year is marked lucky or unlucky, and we know from other papyri why certain days were lucky or unlucky, and why others were only partly so [18]. Taking the month Thoth, which was the first month of the Egyptian year, and began, according to the Gregorian Calendar, on August 29th, we find that the days are marked as follows:--

[Page 226] Now the sign 22600 means "lucky," and 22601 means "unlucky"; thus at a glance it could be seen which third of the day is lucky or unlucky, and the man who consulted the calendar would, of course, act accordingly. It must be noted that the priests or magicians who drew up the calendar had good reasons for their classification of the days, as we may see from the following example.

The 19th day of Thoth is, in the above list, marked wholly lucky, i.e., each third of it is lucky, and the papyrus Sallier IV. [19] also marks it wholly lucky, and adds the reason:--

"It is a day of festival in heaven and upon earth in the presence of Râ. It is the day when flame was hurled upon those who followed the boat containing the shrine of the gods; and on this day the gods gave praises being content,"

etc. But in both lists the 26th day is marked wholly unlucky, the reason being, "This was the day of the fight between Horus and Set." They first fought in the form of men, then they took the form of bears, and in this state did battle with each other for three days and three nights. Isis aided Set when he was getting the worst in the fight, and Horus thereupon cut off his mother's head, which Thoth transformed by his words of power into that of a cow and put on her body.

On this day offerings are to be made to Osiris and Thoth, but work of any kind is absolutely forbidden. The calendars of lucky [Page 227] and unlucky days do not, however, always agree as to a given day. Thus in the list given above the 20th day of Thoth is marked wholly unlucky, but in the papyrus Sallier IV. it is wholly lucky, but the reader is told not to do any work in it, nor to slay oxen, nor to receive a stranger; on this day the gods who are in the following of Râ slew the rebels.

Concerning the fourth day of the next month, Paophi, the papyrus Sallier IV. says,

"Go not forth from thy house from any side of it; whosoever is born on this day shall die of the disease aat."

Concerning the fifth day it says,

"Go not forth from thy house from any side of it, and hold no intercourse with women. This is the day wherein all things were performed in the divine presence, and the majesty of the god Menthu was satisfied therein. Whosoever is born on this day shall die of excessive venery."

Concerning the ninth day it says,

"Whosoever is born on this day shall die of old age,"

and concerning the fifteenth,

"Go not forth from thy dwelling at eventide, for the serpent Uatch, the son of the god, goeth forth at this time, and misfortunes follow him; whosoever shall see him shall lose his eye straightway."

Again, the twenty-sixth day of Paophi was a lucky day for making the plan of a house; on the fifth day of Hathor no fire was to be kindled in the house; on the sixteenth day it was forbidden to listen to songs of joy because on this day Isis and Nephthys wept for Osiris at Abydos; [Page 228] a man born on the twenty-third day would die by drowning; and so on. But to the three hundred and sixty days given in the calendars of lucky and unlucky days must be added the five epagomenal days which were considered to be of great importance and had each its peculiar name.

On the first Osiris was born, on the second Heru-ur (Aroueris), on the third Set, on the fourth Isis, and on the fifth Nephthys; the first, third, and fifth of these days were unlucky, and no work of any kind was to be undertaken on them. The rubric which refers to these days [20] states that whosoever knoweth their names shall never suffer from thirst, that he shall never be smitten down by disease, and that the goddess Sekhet [21] shall never take possession of him; it also directs that figures of the five gods mentioned above shall be drawn with unguent and ânti scent upon a piece of fine linen, evidently to serve as an amulet.

From the life of Alexander the Great by Pseudo-Callisthenes [22] we learn that the Egyptians were skilled in the art of casting nativities, and that knowing the exact moment of the birth of a man they proceeded to construct his horoscope. Nectanebus employed for the purpose a tablet made of gold and silver and acacia wood, to which were fitted three belts.

Upon the [Page 229] outer belt was Zeus with the thirty-six decani surrounding him; upon the second the twelve signs of the Zodiac were represented; and upon the third the sun and moon. [23] He set the tablet upon a tripod, and then emptied out of a small box upon it models of the seven stars [24] that were in the belts, and put into the middle belt eight precious stones; these he arranged in the places wherein he supposed the planets which they represented would be at the time of the birth of Olympias, and then told her fortune from them.

But the use of the horoscope is much older than the time of Alexander the Great, for to a Greek horoscope [25] in the British Museum is attached

"an introductory letter from some master of the art of astrology to his pupil, named Hermon, urging him to be very exact and careful in his application of the laws which he ancient Egyptians, with their laborious devotion to the art, had discovered and handed down to posterity."

Thus we have good reason for assigning the birthplace of the horoscope to Egypt. In connexion with the horoscope must be mentioned the "sphere" or "table" of Democritus as a means of making predictions as to life and death. 

23000_2In a magical [Page 230] papyrus [26] we are told to

"ascertain in what month the sick man took to his bed, and the name he received at his birth. Calculate the [course of] the moon, and see how many periods of thirty days have elapsed; then note in the table the number of days left over, and if the number comes in the upper part of the table, he will live, but if in the lower part, he will die."

Both from the religious and profane literature of Egypt we learn that the gods and man in the future life were able at will to assume the form of any animal, or bird, or plant, or living thing, which they pleased, and one of the greatest delights to which a man looked forward was the possession of that power. This is proved by the fact that no less than twelve [27] of the chapters of the Book of the Dead are devoted to [Page 231] providing the deceased with the words of power, the recital of which was necessary to enable him to transform himself into a "hawk of gold," a "divine hawk," "the governor of the sovereign princes," "the god who giveth light in the darkness," a lotus, the god Ptah, a bennu bird (i.e., phœnix), a heron, a "living soul," a swallow, the serpent Sata, and a crocodile; and another chapter [28] enabled him to transform himself into "whatever form he pleaseth."

Armed with this power he could live in the water in the form of a crocodile, in the form of a serpent he could glide over the rocks and ground, in the form of the birds mentioned above he could fly through the air, and soar up and perch himself upon the bow of the boat of Râ, in the form of the lotus he had mastery over the plants of the field, and in the form of Ptah he became

"more powerful than the lord of time, and shall gain the mastery over millions of years."

The bennu bird, it will be remembered, was said to be the "soul of Râ," and by assuming this form the deceased identified himself with Khepera, the great god of creation, and thus acquired the attributes of the soul of the Sun-god. In the Elysian Fields he was able to assume any form and to swim and fly to any distance in any direction. It is noteworthy that no beast of the field or wild animal is mentioned as a type of his possible transformations into animals.

[Page 232] Now the Egyptians believed that as the souls of the departed could assume the form of any living thing or plant, so the "gods," who in many respects closely resembled them, could and did take upon themselves the forms of birds and beasts; this was the fundamental idea of the so-called "Egyptian animal worship," which provoked the merriment of the cultured Greek, and drew down upon the Egyptians the ridicule and abuse of the early Christian writers. But if the matter be examined closely its apparent stupidity disappears.

The Egyptians paid honour to certain birds, and animals, and reptiles, because they considered that they possessed certain of the characteristics of the gods to whom they made them sacred. The bull was a type of the strength and procreative power of the god of reproduction in nature, and the cow was the type of his female counterpart; every sacred animal and living thing possessed some quality or attribute which was ascribed to some god, and as each god was only a form of Râ, the quality or attribute ascribed to him was that of the Sun-god himself.

The educated Egyptian never worshipped an animal as an animal, but only as an incarnation of a god, and the reverence paid to animals in Egypt was in no way different from that paid to the king, who was regarded as "divine" and as an incarnation of Râ the Sun-god, who was the visible symbol of the Creator. The relation of the king to Râ was identical with that of Râ to God. The [Page 233] Hebrews, Greeks, and Romans never understood the logical conception which underlay the reverence with which the Egyptians regarded certain animals, and as a result they grossly misrepresented their religion.

The ignorant people, no doubt, often mistook the symbol for what it symbolized, but it is wrong to say that the Egyptians worshipped animals in the ordinary sense of the word, and this fact cannot be too strongly insisted on. Holding the views he did about transformations there was nothing absurd in the reverence which the Egyptian paid to animals. When a sacred animal died the god whom it represented sought out another animal of the same species in which to renew his incarnation, and the dead body of the animal, inasmuch as it had once been the dwelling-place of a god, was mummified and treated in much the same way as a human body after death, in order that it might enjoy immortality.

These views seem strange, no doubt, to us when judged by modern ideas, but they formed an integral part of the religious beliefs of the Egyptians, from the earliest to the latest times. What is remarkable, however, is the fact that, in spite of invasions, and foreign wars, and internal dissensions, and external influences of all kinds, the Egyptians clung to their gods and the sometimes childish and illogical methods which they adopted in serving them with a conservatism and zeal which have earned for them the reputation of being at once the most religious and most superstitious nation of [Page 234] antiquity.

Whatever literary treasures may be brought to light in the future as the result of excavations in Egypt, it is most improbable that we shall ever receive from that country any ancient Egyptian work which can properly be classed among the literature of atheism or freethought; the Egyptian might be more or less religious according to his nature and temperament, but, judging, from the writings of his priests and teachers which are now in our hands, the man who was without religion and God in some form or other was most rare, if not unknown.

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- Footnotes:

1.

As recently as 1895 this belief existed in Ireland, for according to the Times of April 2, 3, 6, and 8, Michael Cleary was charged on April 1 at Clonmel with having, on March 14, burnt his wife Bridget, aged 27, for being a witch, thus causing her death, at Baltyvadhen, p. 207 county Tipperary. Johanna Burke swore that boiling herbs out of a saucepan on the fire were forced down the throat of the deceased, her husband asking her in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, if she was his wife. He then stripped her naked, threw her on the floor, and pouring paraffin over her, set her on fire. Cleary, assisted by J. Dunne, P. Kennedy, W. Kennedy, and others, next took her to the fire and forced her to sit upon it in order to "drive out the witch" which possessed her. She was next laid upon the bed and shaken, while her husband recited the words "Away with you," meaning the evil spirit, or spirits, and at six o'clock on the morning of the 15th of March the priest was sent for to exorcise the spirits with which the house was thought to be filled. A herbalist called Denis Ganey was present at the time, being charged as an accessory before the fact. The prisoners were found guilty and were sentenced to terms of imprisonment as follows:--M. Cleary 20 years, J. Dunne 3 years, P. Kennedy 5 years, W. Kennedy 18 months, J. Kennedy 18 months, Boland Kennedy 6 months, Michael Kennedy 6 months.

2.

Originally published by Prisse, Monuments Égyptiens, Paris, 1817, pl. 24.

3.

It is now preserved in the Bibliotèque Nationale at Paris; for a full description and translation of it see E. de Rougé, Étude sur une stele Égyptienne, Paris, 1858.

4.

Bekh khet, "knower of things."

5.

See Genesis, Chapters xi., xii.

6.

See Vyse, Appendix, London, 1842, vol. iii., p. 114 ff.

7.

See Brugsch, Egypt under the Pharaohs, Vol. ii., p. 259.

8.

See Catalogue of Greek Papyri, vol. i. p. 118.

9.

A sketch of the god Besa is given at the end of the papyrus. See the description of the "Metternichstele" above, p. 147 ff.

10.

For the text see Leemans, Monuments Égyptiens, Partie IL, pll. 183, 184, Leyden, 1846, fol.; for a transcript into hieroglyphics see Maspero, Journal Asiatique, Sér. 7, tom. 15, May and June, 1880, pp. 365-420.

11.

See Golénischeff in Recueil de Travaux, tom. iii., pp. 3-7.

12.

When I visited the Pyramids of Meroë in 1898 1 took with me the local shêkh, and a man and a boy to look after the donkeys. Having come to within half a mile of the pyramids the three stopped and wished me to ride on by myself, and when I asked them why they did not want to come up the hill to the pyramids with me the shêkh replied that they had been built by kings whose spirits still dwelt there, and that it would not be seemly for him and his companions to "trouble" them. I pressed him to come, but he answered "It is not the custom of our country to go there," so I walked on by myself. When I had been in the pyramid field for about two hours taking photographs and measurements, the shêkh arrived with the boy, but nothing would persuade him to walk about there, and having seated himself be recited prayers from the Koran in an undertone, and at intervals urged me to return to his straw house on the river bank as soon as possible. He was firmly convinced that the prismatic compass which I used was a talisman, and when he reached home he thanked God fervently that he had not been molested by the spirits of the dead.

13.

See the illustrated paper The Sketch, No. 332, June 7, 1899, p. 277. The following from the Times of July 7, 1899, is worth quoting:--

"THE GRAVE OF A BRITISH NAVAL OFFICER IN JAPAN.--Recently a report came to the ears of the British Consul at Hiogo that the grave of a British naval officer existed near a village on the island of Hiroshima, in the Inland Sea of Japan-a place rarely visited by any foreigner-and that, for some reason, it was carefully kept in order by the peasants in the neighbourhood. The Consul accordingly communicated with the Governor of the prefecture in which the island is situated; inquiries were made, and the Governor was able to send to the Consul a history of the lonely grave. The story was appended by the Governor to a formal despatch of his own, and was obviously drawn up by the village headman or some equally humble official, and it is worth giving in full.

The Sylvia, the vessel mentioned, was for many years engaged in surveying off the coasts of Japan:--

'In the first year of Meiji, corresponding to A.D. 1868, H.B.M.S. Sylvia was proceeding on a voyage through the Inland Sea when an officer on board, named Lake, fell ill. He was landed on the island of Hiroshima, at the village of Hiroshima, in the district of Naka, province of Sanuki, and prefecture of Kagawa.

The Sylvia proceeded along the coast of Hiroshima and cast anchor at Enoura Bay, to await the officer's recovery. In a few days, however, he died, and Captain St. John buried his remains in ground belonging to the temple of Ikwoji above Enoura shrine, and, having set up a wooden cross to mark the grave, departed.

Several years afterwards, when this monument had almost decayed from the effects of wind and rain, frost and snow, Awaburi Tokwan, Superior of Ikwoji Temple, and others said:--

"Truly it would be too sad if the grave of our solitary guest from afar, who has become a spirit in a strange land, were suffered to pass out of all knowledge."

Thereupon Terawaki Kaemon, head of a village guild, and other sympathisers, such as Oka Ryohaku, set on foot a scheme for the erection of a stone monument, and, the shore folk all with one accord p. 222 lending their help, the work was finally brought to completion. This was on the 7th day of the eleventh month of the fourth year of Meiji--that is, 1871.

Since then nearly 30 winters have passed, during which time the islanders have not neglected to take good care of the tomb. In particular, from the 10th to the 16th day of the seventh month, old style, there are still persons found who every year clean and sweep the grave, and, offering up flowers and incense, mourn for and console the spirit of the dead.'"

14.

See Erman, Westcar Papyrus, Berlin, 1890, hieroglyphic transcript, pll. 9 and 10.

15.

See Maspero, Contes Égyptiens, pp. 29-46.

16.

The uneducated Muhammadan believes that man's fate is written upon his skull, and that the sutures are the writing. No man, however, can read them. See the words of Zayn al-Mawasif in Burton's Alf Laylah wa Laylah, vol. viii., p. 237.

17.

See Pseudo-Callisthenes, I. 12.

18.

See Brit. Mus. Papyrus, No. 10,474.

19.

See Chabas, Le Calendrier, p. 24.

20.

See Chabas, op. cit., p. 104.

21.

The Eye of Sekhet seems to have taken the form of noxious vapours in the fields at sunrise; see Chabas, op. cit., p. 78.

22.

I. 4.

23.

quote from my History of Alexander the Great, Cambridge, 1889, p. 5.

24.

I.e., Sun, Moon, Zeus, Kronos, Aphrodite, and Hermes; we must add Mars according to Meusel's Greek text.

25.

Published for the first time by Kenyon, Catalogue of Greek Papyri vol. i. p. 132 ff.

26.

Leyden Pap. V. (ed. Leemans), col. xi., 1. 1 ff.

27.

I.e., Chapters LXXVII. to LXXXVIII.

28.

I.e., Chapter LXXVI.

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