Ancient Egyptian Legends
THE NAME OF RA
NOW the Majesty of Ra was the creator of heaven and earth, of gods, men, and cattle, of fire, and the breath of life; and he ruled over gods and men. And Isis saw his might, the might that reached over heaven and earth, before which all gods and men bowed; and she longed in her heart for that power, that thereby she should be greater than the gods and have dominion over men.
There was but one way to obtain that power. By the knowledge of his own name did Ra rule, and none but himself knew that secret name. Whosoever could learn the secret, to that one--god or man--would belong the dominion over all the world, and even Ra himself must be in subjection. Jealously did Ra guard his secret, and kept it ever in his breast, lest it should be taken from him, and his power diminished.
Every morning Ra came forth in his glory at the head of his train from the horizon of the East, journeying across the sky, and in the
evening they came to the horizon of the West, and the Majesty of Ra sank in his glory to lighten the thick darkness of the Duat. Many, many times had Ra made the journey, so many times that now he had waxed old. Very aged was Ra, and the saliva ran down from his mouth and fell upon the earth.
Then Isis took earth and mixed it with the saliva, and she kneaded the clay and moulded it, and formed it into the shape of a snake, the shape of the great hooded snake that is the emblem of all goddesses, the royal serpent which is upon the brow of the Kings of Egypt. No charms or magic spells did she use, for in the snake was the divine substance of Ra himself. She took the snake and laid it hidden in the path of Ra, the path on which he travelled in journeying from the eastern to the western horizon of heaven.
In the morning came Ra and his train in their glory journeying to the western horizon of heaven, where they enter the Duat and lighten the thick darkness. And the serpent shot out its pointed head which was shaped like a dart, and its fangs sank into the flesh of Ra, and the fire of its poison entered into the God, for the divine substance was in the serpent.
Ra cried aloud, and his cry rang through the heavens from the eastern to the western horizon; across the earth it rang, and gods and men alike heard the cry of Ra. And the gods who follow
in his train said to him, "What aileth thee? What aileth thee?"
But Ra answered never a word, he trembled in all his limbs, and his teeth chattered, and naught did he say, for the poison spread over his body as Hapi spreads over the land, when the waters rise above their banks at the time of the overflowing of the river.
When he had become calm, he called to those who followed him and said, "Come to me, ye whom I created. I am hurt by a grievous thing. I feel it, though I see it not, neither is it the creation of my hands, and I know not who has made it. Never, never have I felt pain like this, never, never has there been an injury worse than this. Who can hurt me? For none know my secret name, that name which was spoken by my father and by my mother, and hidden in me that none might work witchcraft upon me. I came forth to look upon the world which I had made, I passed across the Two Lands when something--I know not what--struck me. Is it fire? Is it water? I burn, I shiver, I tremble in all my limbs. Call to me the children of the gods, they who have skill in healing, they who have knowledge of magic, they whose power reaches to heaven."
Then came all the gods with weeping and mourning and lamentations; their power was of no avail against the serpent, for in it the divine substance
was incorporated. With them came Isis the Healer, the Mistress of Magic, in whose mouth is the Breath of Life, whose words destroy disease and awake the dead.
She spoke to the Majesty of Ra and said. "What is this, O divine Father? what is this? Has a snake brought pain to thee? Has the creation of thy hand lifted up its head against thee? Lo, it shall be overthrown by the might of my magic, I will drive it out by means of thy glory."
Then the Majesty of Ra answered, "I passed along the appointed path, I crossed over the Two Lands, when a serpent that I saw not struck me with its fangs. Was it fire? Was it water? I am colder than water, I am hotter than fire, I tremble in all my limbs, and the sweat runs down my face as down the faces of men in the fierce heat of summer."
And Isis spoke again, and her voice was low and soothing, "Tell me thy Name, O divine Father, thy true Name, thy secret Name, for he only can live who is called by his name."
Then the Majesty of Ra answered, "I am the Maker of heaven and earth, I am the Establisher of the mountains, I am the Creator of the waters, I am the Maker of the secrets of the two Horizons, I am Light and I am Darkness, I am the Maker of Hours, the Creator of Days, I am the Opener of Festivals, I am the Maker of running streams,
[paragraph continues] I am the Creator of living flame. I am Khepera in the morning, Ra at noontide, and Atmu in the evening."
But Isis held her peace; never a word did she speak, for she knew that Ra had told her the names that all men know; his true Name, his secret Name, was still hidden in his breast. And the power of the poison increased, and ran through his veins like burning flame.
After a silence she spoke again. "Thy Name, thy true Name, thy secret Name, was not among those. Tell me thy Name that the poison may be driven out, for only he whose name I know can be healed by the might of my magic." And the power of the poison increased, and the pain was as the pain of living fire.
Then the Majesty of Ra cried out and said, "Let Isis come with me, and let my Name pass from my breast to her breast."
And he hid himself from the gods that followed in his train. Empty was the Boat of the Sun, empty was the great throne of the God, for Ra had hidden himself from his Followers and from the creations of his hands.
When the Name came forth from the heart of Ra to pass to the heart of Isis, the goddess spoke to Ra and said, "Bind thyself with an oath, O Ra, that thou wilt give thy two eyes unto Horus." Now the two Eyes of Ra are the sun and the moon, and men call them the Eyes of Horus to this day.
Thus was the Name of Ra taken from him and given to Isis, and she, the great Enchantress, cried aloud the Word of Power, and the poison obeyed, and Ra was healed by the might of his Name.
And Isis, the great One, Mistress of the Gods, Mistress of magic, she is the skilful Healer, in her mouth is the Breath of Life, by her words she destroys pain, and by her power she awakes the dead.